Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Balder The Beautiful, Vol. I. by Sir James George Frazer

Part 1 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download Balder The Beautiful, Vol. I. pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Million Book Project, papeters, David King, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team








J.G. FRAZER, D.C.L., LL.D., Litt.D.





In this concluding part of _The Golden Bough_ I have discussed the
problem which gives its title to the whole work. If I am right, the
Golden Bough over which the King of the Wood, Diana's priest at Aricia,
kept watch and ward was no other than a branch of mistletoe growing on
an oak within the sacred grove; and as the plucking of the bough was a
necessary prelude to the slaughter of the priest, I have been led to
institute a parallel between the King of the Wood at Nemi and the Norse
god Balder, who was worshipped in a sacred grove beside the beautiful
Sogne fiord of Norway and was said to have perished by a stroke of
mistletoe, which alone of all things on earth or in heaven could wound
him. On the theory here suggested both Balder and the King of the Wood
personified in a sense the sacred oak of our Aryan forefathers, and both
had deposited their lives or souls for safety in the parasite which
sometimes, though rarely, is found growing on an oak and by the very
rarity of its appearance excites the wonder and stimulates the devotion
of ignorant men. Though I am now less than ever disposed to lay weight
on the analogy between the Italian priest and the Norse god, I have
allowed it to stand because it furnishes me with a pretext for
discussing not only the general question of the external soul in popular
superstition, but also the fire-festivals of Europe, since fire played a
part both in the myth of Balder and in the ritual of the Arician grove.
Thus Balder the Beautiful in my hands is little more than a
stalking-horse to carry two heavy pack-loads of facts. And what is true
of Balder applies equally to the priest of Nemi himself, the nominal
hero of the long tragedy of human folly and suffering which has unrolled
itself before the readers of these volumes, and on which the curtain is
now about to fall. He, too, for all the quaint garb he wears and the
gravity with which he stalks across the stage, is merely a puppet, and
it is time to unmask him before laying him up in the box.

To drop metaphor, while nominally investigating a particular problem of
ancient mythology, I have really been discussing questions of more
general interest which concern the gradual evolution of human thought
from savagery to civilization. The enquiry is beset with difficulties of
many kinds, for the record of man's mental development is even more
imperfect than the record of his physical development, and it is harder
to read, not only by reason of the incomparably more subtle and complex
nature of the subject, but because the reader's eyes are apt to be
dimmed by thick mists of passion and prejudice, which cloud in a far
less degree the fields of comparative anatomy and geology. My
contribution to the history of the human mind consists of little more
than a rough and purely provisional classification of facts gathered
almost entirely from printed sources. If there is one general conclusion
which seems to emerge from the mass of particulars, I venture to think
that it is the essential similarity in the working of the less developed
human mind among all races, which corresponds to the essential
similarity in their bodily frame revealed by comparative anatomy. But
while this general mental similarity may, I believe, be taken as
established, we must always be on our guard against tracing to it a
multitude of particular resemblances which may be and often are due to
simple diffusion, since nothing is more certain than that the various
races of men have borrowed from each other many of their arts and
crafts, their ideas, customs, and institutions. To sift out the elements
of culture which a race has independently evolved and to distinguish
them accurately from those which it has derived from other races is a
task of extreme difficulty and delicacy, which promises to occupy
students of man for a long time to come; indeed so complex are the facts
and so imperfect in most cases is the historical record that it may be
doubted whether in regard to many of the lower races we shall ever
arrive at more than probable conjectures.

Since the last edition of _The Golden Bough_ was published some thirteen
years ago, I have seen reason to change my views on several matters
discussed in this concluding part of the work, and though I have called
attention to these changes in the text, it may be well for the sake of
clearness to recapitulate them here.

In the first place, the arguments of Dr. Edward Westermarck have
satisfied me that the solar theory of the European fire-festivals, which
I accepted from W. Mannhardt, is very slightly, if at all, supported by
the evidence and is probably erroneous. The true explanation of the
festivals I now believe to be the one advocated by Dr. Westermarck
himself, namely that they are purificatory in intention, the fire being
designed not, as I formerly held, to reinforce the sun's light and heat
by sympathetic magic, but merely to burn or repel the noxious things,
whether conceived as material or spiritual, which threaten the life of
man, of animals, and of plants. This aspect of the fire-festivals had
not wholly escaped me in former editions; I pointed it out explicitly,
but, biassed perhaps by the great authority of Mannhardt, I treated it
as secondary and subordinate instead of primary and dominant. Out of
deference to Mannhardt, for whose work I entertain the highest respect,
and because the evidence for the purificatory theory of the fires is
perhaps not quite conclusive, I have in this edition repeated and even
reinforced the arguments for the solar theory of the festivals, so that
the reader may see for himself what can be said on both sides of the
question and may draw his own conclusion; but for my part I cannot but
think that the arguments for the purificatory theory far outweigh the
arguments for the solar theory. Dr. Westermarck based his criticisms
largely on his own observations of the Mohammedan fire-festivals of
Morocco, which present a remarkable resemblance to those of Christian
Europe, though there seems no reason to assume that herein Africa has
borrowed from Europe or Europe from Africa. So far as Europe is
concerned, the evidence tends strongly to shew that the grand evil which
the festivals aimed at combating was witchcraft, and that they were
conceived to attain their end by actually burning the witches, whether
visible or invisible, in the flames. If that was so, the wide prevalence
and the immense popularity of the fire-festivals provides us with a
measure for estimating the extent of the hold which the belief in
witchcraft had on the European mind before the rise of Christianity or
rather of rationalism; for Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant,
accepted the old belief and enforced it in the old way by the faggot and
the stake. It was not until human reason at last awoke after the long
slumber of the Middle Ages that this dreadful obsession gradually passed
away like a dark cloud from the intellectual horizon of Europe.

Yet we should deceive ourselves if we imagined that the belief in
witchcraft is even now dead in the mass of the people; on the contrary
there is ample evidence to show that it only hibernates under the
chilling influence of rationalism, and that it would start into active
life if that influence were ever seriously relaxed. The truth seems to
be that to this day the peasant remains a pagan and savage at heart; his
civilization is merely a thin veneer which the hard knocks of life soon
abrade, exposing the solid core of paganism and savagery below. The
danger created by a bottomless layer of ignorance and superstition under
the crust of civilized society is lessened, not only by the natural
torpidity and inertia of the bucolic mind, but also by the progressive
decrease of the rural as compared with the urban population in modern
states; for I believe it will be found that the artisans who congregate
in towns are far less retentive of primitive modes of thought than their
rustic brethren. In every age cities have been the centres and as it
were the lighthouses from which ideas radiate into the surrounding
darkness, kindled by the friction of mind with mind in the crowded
haunts of men; and it is natural that at these beacons of intellectual
light all should partake in some measure of the general illumination. No
doubt the mental ferment and unrest of great cities have their dark as
well as their bright side; but among the evils to be apprehended from
them the chances of a pagan revival need hardly be reckoned.

Another point on which I have changed my mind is the nature of the great
Aryan god whom the Romans called Jupiter and the Greeks Zeus. Whereas I
formerly argued that he was primarily a personification of the sacred
oak and only in the second place a personification of the thundering
sky, I now invert the order of his divine functions and believe that he
was a sky-god before he came to be associated with the oak. In fact, I
revert to the traditional view of Jupiter, recant my heresy, and am
gathered like a lost sheep into the fold of mythological orthodoxy. The
good shepherd who has brought me back is my friend Mr. W. Warde Fowler.
He has removed the stone over which I stumbled in the wilderness by
explaining in a simple and natural way how a god of the thundering sky
might easily come to be afterwards associated with the oak. The
explanation turns on the great frequency with which, as statistics
prove, the oak is struck by lightning beyond any other tree of the wood
in Europe. To our rude forefathers, who dwelt in the gloomy depths of
the primaeval forest, it might well seem that the riven and blackened
oaks must indeed be favourites of the sky-god, who so often descended on
them from the murky cloud in a flash of lightning and a crash of

This change of view as to the great Aryan god necessarily affects my
interpretation of the King of the Wood, the priest of Diana at Aricia,
if I may take that discarded puppet out of the box again for a moment.
On my theory the priest represented Jupiter in the flesh, and
accordingly, if Jupiter was primarily a sky-god, his priest cannot have
been a mere incarnation of the sacred oak, but must, like the deity
whose commission he bore, have been invested in the imagination of his
worshippers with the power of overcasting the heaven with clouds and
eliciting storms of thunder and rain from the celestial vault. The
attribution of weather-making powers to kings or priests is very common
in primitive society, and is indeed one of the principal levers by which
such personages raise themselves to a position of superiority above
their fellows. There is therefore no improbability in the supposition
that as a representative of Jupiter the priest of Diana enjoyed this
reputation, though positive evidence of it appears to be lacking.

Lastly, in the present edition I have shewn some grounds for thinking
that the Golden Bough itself, or in common parlance the mistletoe on the
oak, was supposed to have dropped from the sky upon the tree in a flash
of lightning and therefore to contain within itself the seed of
celestial fire, a sort of smouldering thunderbolt. This view of the
priest and of the bough which he guarded at the peril of his life has
the advantage of accounting for the importance which the sanctuary at
Nemi acquired and the treasure which it amassed through the offerings of
the faithful; for the shrine would seem to have been to ancient what
Loreto has been to modern Italy, a place of pilgrimage, where princes
and nobles as well as commoners poured wealth into the coffers of Diana
in her green recess among the Alban hills, just as in modern times kings
and queens vied with each other in enriching the black Virgin who from
her Holy House on the hillside at Loreto looks out on the blue Adriatic
and the purple Apennines. Such pious prodigality becomes more
intelligible if the greatest of the gods was indeed believed to dwell in
human shape with his wife among the woods of Nemi.

These are the principal points on which I have altered my opinion since
the last edition of my book was published. The mere admission of such
changes may suffice to indicate the doubt and uncertainty which attend
enquiries of this nature. The whole fabric of ancient mythology is so
foreign to our modern ways of thought, and the evidence concerning it is
for the most part so fragmentary, obscure, and conflicting that in our
attempts to piece together and interpret it we can hardly hope to reach
conclusions that will completely satisfy either ourselves or others. In
this as in other branches of study it is the fate of theories to be
washed away like children's castles of sand by the rising tide of
knowledge, and I am not so presumptuous as to expect or desire for mine
an exemption from the common lot. I hold them all very lightly and have
used them chiefly as convenient pegs on which to hang my collections of
facts. For I believe that, while theories are transitory, a record of
facts has a permanent value, and that as a chronicle of ancient customs
and beliefs my book may retain its utility when my theories are as
obsolete as the customs and beliefs themselves deserve to be.

I cannot dismiss without some natural regret a task which has occupied
and amused me at intervals for many years. But the regret is tempered by
thankfulness and hope. I am thankful that I have been able to conclude
at least one chapter of the work I projected a long time ago. I am
hopeful that I may not now be taking a final leave of my indulgent
readers, but that, as I am sensible of little abatement in my bodily
strength and of none in my ardour for study, they will bear with me yet
a while if I should attempt to entertain them with fresh subjects of
laughter and tears drawn from the comedy and the tragedy of man's
endless quest after happiness and truth.


CAMBRIDGE, 17_th October_ 1913.


PREFACE, Pp. v-xii


Sec. 1. _Not to touch the Earth_, pp. 1-18.--The priest of Aricia and the
Golden Bough, 1 _sq._; sacred kings and priests forbidden to touch the
ground with their feet, 2-4; certain persons on certain occasions
forbidden to touch the ground with their feet, 4-6; sacred persons
apparently thought to be charged with a mysterious virtue which will run
to waste or explode by contact with the ground, 6 _sq._; things as well
as persons charged with the mysterious virtue of holiness or taboo and
therefore kept from contact with the ground, 7; festival of the wild
mango, which is not allowed to touch the earth, 7-11; other sacred
objects kept from contact with the ground, 11 _sq._; sacred food not
allowed to touch the earth, 13 _sq._; magical implements and remedies
thought to lose their virtue by contact with the ground, 14 _sq._;
serpents' eggs or snake stones, 15 _sq._; medicinal plants, water, etc.,
not allowed to touch the earth, 17 _sq._

Sec. 2. _Not to see the Sun_, pp. 18-21.--Sacred persons not allowed to see
the sun, 18-20; tabooed persons not allowed to see the sun, 20; certain
persons forbidden to see fire, 20 _sq._; the story of Prince Sunless,


Sec. 1. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in Africa_, pp. 22-32.--Girls at
puberty forbidden to touch the ground and see the sun, 22; seclusion of
girls at puberty among the Zulus and kindred tribes, 22; among the
A-Kamba of British East Africa, 23; among the Baganda of Central Africa,
23 _sq._; among the tribes of the Tanganyika plateau, 24 _sq._; among
the tribes of British Central Africa, 25 _sq._; abstinence from salt
associated with a rule of chastity in many tribes, 26-28; seclusion of
girls at puberty among the tribes about Lake Nyassa and on the Zambesi,
28 _sq._; among the Thonga of Delagoa Bay, 29 _sq._; among the Caffre
tribes of South Africa, 30 _sq._; among the Bavili of the Lower Congo,
31 _sq._

Sec. 2. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in New Ireland, New Guinea, and
Indonesia_, pp. 32-36.--Seclusion of girls at puberty in New Ireland,
32-34; in New Guinea, Borneo, Ceram, and the Caroline Islands, 35 _sq._

Sec. 3. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in the Torres Straits Islands and
Northern Australia_, pp. 36-41.--Seclusion of girls at puberty in
Mabuiag, Torres Straits, 36 _sq._; in Northern Australia, 37-39; in the
islands of Torres Straits, 39-41.

Sec. 4. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty among the Indians of North America_,
pp. 41-55.--Seclusion of girls at puberty among the Indians of
California, 41-43; among the Indians of Washington State, 43; among the
Nootka Indians of Vancouver Island, 43 _sq._; among the Haida Indians of
the Queen Charlotte Islands, 44 _sq._; among the Tlingit Indians of
Alaska, 45 _sq._; among the Tsetsaut and Bella Coola Indians of British
Columbia, 46 _sq._; among the Tinneh Indians of British Columbia, 47
_sq._; among the Tinneh Indians of Alaska, 48 _sq._; among the Thompson
Indians of British Columbia, 49-52; among the Lillooet Indians of
British Columbia, 52 _sq._; among the Shuswap Indians of British
Columbia, 53 _sq._; among the Delaware and Cheyenne Indians, 54 _sq._;
among the Esquimaux, 55 _sq._

Sec. 5. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty among the Indians of South America_,
pp. 56-68.--Seclusion of girls at puberty among the Guaranis,
Chiriguanos, and Lengua Indians, 56 _sq._; among the Yuracares of
Bolivia, 57 _sq._; among the Indians of the Gran Chaco, 58 _sq._; among
the Indians of Brazil, 59 _sq._; among the Indians of Guiana, 60 _sq._;
beating the girls and stinging them with ants, 61; stinging young men
with ants and wasps as an initiatory rite, 61-63; stinging men and women
with ants to improve their character or health or to render them
invulnerable, 63 _sq._; in such cases the beating or stinging was
originally a purification, not a test of courage and endurance, 65
_sq._; this explanation confirmed by the beating of girls among the
Banivas of the Orinoco to rid them of a demon, 66-68; symptoms of
puberty in a girl regarded as wounds inflicted on her by a demon, 68.

Sec. 6. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in India and Cambodia_, pp.
68-70.--Seclusion of girls at puberty among the Hindoos, 68; in Southern
India, 68-70; in Cambodia, 70.

Sec. 7. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in Folk-tales_, pp. 70-76.--Danish
story of the girl who might not see the sun, 70-72; Tyrolese story of
the girl who might not see the sun, 72; modern Greek stories of the maid
who might not see the sun, 72 _sq._; ancient Greek story of Danae and
its parallel in a Kirghiz legend, 73 _sq._; impregnation of women by the
sun in legends, 74 _sq._; traces in marriage customs of the belief that
women can be impregnated by the sun, 75; belief in the impregnation of
women by the moon, 75 _sq._

Sec. 8. _Reasons for the Seclusion of Girls at Puberty_, pp. 76-100.--The
reason for the seclusion of girls at puberty is the dread of menstruous
blood, 76; dread and seclusion of menstruous women among the aborigines
of Australia, 76-78; in Torres Straits Islands, New Guinea, Galela, and
Sumatra, 78 _sq._; among the tribes of South Africa, 79 _sq._; among the
tribes of Central and East Africa, 80-82; among the tribes of West
Africa, 82; powerful influence ascribed to menstruous blood in Arab
legend, 82 _sq._; dread and seclusion of menstruous women among the Jews
and in Syria, 83 _sq._; in India, 84 _sq._; in Annam, 85; among the
Indians of Central and South America, 85 _sq._; among the Indians of
North America, 87-94; among the Creek, Choctaw, Omaha and Cheyenne
Indians, 88 _sq._; among the Indians of British Columbia, 89 _sq._;
among the Chippeway Indians, 90 _sq._; among the Tinneh or Dene Indians,
91; among the Carrier Indians, 91-94; similar rules of seclusion
enjoined on menstruous women in ancient Hindoo, Persian, and Hebrew
codes, 94-96; superstitions as to menstruous women in ancient and modern
Europe, 96 _sq._; the intention of secluding menstruous women is to
neutralize the dangerous influences which are thought to emanate from
them in that condition, 97; suspension between heaven and earth, 97; the
same explanation applies to the similar rules of seclusion observed by
divine kings and priests, 97-99; stories of immortality attained by
suspension between heaven and earth, 99 _sq._


How Balder, the good and beautiful god, was done to death by a stroke of
mistletoe, 101 _sq._; story of Balder in the older _Edda_, 102 _sq._;
story of Balder as told by Saxo Grammaticus, 103; Balder worshipped in
Norway, 104; legendary death of Balder resembles the legendary death of
Isfendiyar in the epic of Firdusi, 104 _sq._; the myth of Balder perhaps
acted as a magical ceremony; the two main incidents of the myth, namely
the pulling of the mistletoe and the burning of the god, have perhaps
their counterpart in popular ritual, 105.


Sec. 1. _The Lenten Fires_, pp. 106-120.--European custom of kindling
bonfires on certain days of the year, dancing round them, leaping over
them, and burning effigies in the flames, 106; seasons of the year at
which the bonfires are lit, 106 _sq._; bonfires on the first Sunday in
Lent in the Belgian Ardennes, 107 _sq._; in the French department of the
Ardennes, 109 _sq._; in Franche-Comte, 110 _sq._; in Auvergne, 111-113;
French custom of carrying lighted torches (_brandons_) about the
orchards and fields to fertilize them on the first Sunday of Lent,
113-115; bonfires on the first Sunday of Lent in Germany and Austria,
115 _sq._; "burning the witch," 116; burning discs thrown into the air,
116 _sq._; burning wheels rolled down hill, 117 _sq._; bonfires on the
first Sunday in Lent in Switzerland, 118 _sq._; burning discs thrown
into the air, 119; connexion of these fires with the custom of "carrying
out Death," 119 _sq._

Sec. 2. _The Easter Fires_, 120-146.--Custom in Catholic countries of
kindling a holy new fire on Easter Saturday, marvellous properties
ascribed to the embers of the fire, 121; effigy of Judas burnt in the
fire, 121; Easter fires in Bavaria and the Abruzzi, 122; water as well
as fire consecrated at Easter in Italy, Bohemia, and Germany, 122-124;
new fire at Easter in Carinthia, 124; Thomas Kirchmeyer's account of the
consecration of fire and water by the Catholic Church at Easter, 124
_sq._; the new fire on Easter Saturday at Florence, 126 _sq._; the new
fire and the burning of Judas on Easter Saturday in Mexico and South
America, 127 _sq._; the new fire on Easter Saturday in the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, 128-130; the new fire and the burning of
Judas on Easter Saturday in Greece, 130 _sq._; the new fire at Candlemas
in Armenia, 131; the new fire and the burning of Judas at Easter are
probably relics of paganism, 131 _sq._; new fire at the summer solstice
among the Incas of Peru, 132; new fire among the Indians of Mexico and
New Mexico, the Iroquois, and the Esquimaux, 132-134; new fire in Wadai,
among the Swahili, and in other parts of Africa, 134-136; new fires
among the Todas and Nagas of India, 136; new fire in China and Japan,
137 _sq._; new fire in ancient Greece and Rome, 138; new fire at
Hallowe'en among the old Celts of Ireland, 139; new fire on the first of
September among the Russian peasants, 139; the rite of the new fire
probably common to many peoples of the Mediterranean area before the
rise of Christianity, 139 _sq._; the pagan character of the Easter fire
manifest from the superstitions associated with it, such as the belief
that the fire fertilizes the fields and protects houses from
conflagration and sickness, 140 _sq._; the Easter fires in Muensterland,
Oldenburg, the Harz Mountains, and the Altmark, 141-143; Easter fires
and the burning of Judas or the Easter Man in Bavaria, 143 _sq._; Easter
fires and "thunder poles" in Baden, 145; Easter fires in Holland and
Sweden, 145 _sq._; the burning of Judas in Bohemia, 146.

Sec. 3. _The Beltane Fires_, pp. 146-160.--The Beltane fires on the first
of May in the Highlands of Scotland, 146-154; John Ramsay of Ochtertyre,
his description of the Beltane fires and cakes and the Beltane carline,
146-149; Beltane fires and cakes in Perthshire, 150-153; Beltane fires
in the north-east of Scotland to burn the witches, 153 _sq._; Beltane
fires and cakes in the Hebrides, 154; Beltane fires and cakes in Wales,
155-157; in the Isle of Man to burn the witches, 157; in
Nottinghamshire, 157; in Ireland, 157-159; fires on the Eve of May Day
in Sweden, 159; in Austria and Saxony to burn the witches, 159 _sq._

Sec. 4. _The Midsummer Fires_, pp. 160-219.--The great season for
fire-festivals in Europe is Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Day, which the
church has dedicated to St. John the Baptist, 160 _sq._; the bonfires,
the torches, and the burning wheels of the festival, 161; Thomas
Kirchmeyer's description of the Midsummer festival, 162 _sq._; the
Midsummer fires in Germany, 163-171; burning wheel rolled down hill at
Konz on the Moselle, 163 _sq._; Midsummer fires in Bavaria, 164-166; in
Swabia, 166 _sq._; in Baden, 167-169; in Alsace, Lorraine, the Eifel,
the Harz district, and Thuringia, 169; Midsummer fires kindled by the
friction of wood, 169 _sq._; driving away the witches and demons, 170;
Midsummer fires in Silesia, scaring away the witches, 170 _sq._;
Midsummer fires in Denmark and Norway, keeping off the witches, 171;
Midsummer fires in Sweden, 172; Midsummer fires in Switzerland and
Austria, 172 _sq._; in Bohemia, 173-175; in Moravia, Austrian Silesia,
and the district of Cracow, 175; among the Slavs of Russia, 176; in
Prussia and Lithuania as a protection against witchcraft, thunder, hail,
and cattle disease, 176 _sq._; in Masuren the fire is kindled by the
revolution of a wheel, 177; Midsummer fires among the Letts of Russia,
177 _sq._; among the South Slavs, 178; among the Magyars, 178 _sq._;
among the Esthonians, 179 _sq._; among the Finns and Cheremiss of
Russia, 180 _sq._; in France, 181-194; Bossuet on the Midsummer
festival, 182; the Midsummer fires in Brittany, 183-185; in Normandy,
the Brotherhood of the Green Wolf at Jumieges, 185 _sq._; Midsummer
fires in Picardy, 187 _sq._; in Beauce and Perche, 188; the fires a
protection against witchcraft, 188; the Midsummer fires in the Ardennes,
the Vosges, and the Jura, 188 _sq._; in Franche-Comte, 189; in Berry and
other parts of Central France, 189 _sq._; in Poitou, 190 _sq._; in the
departments of Vienne and Deux-Sevres and in the provinces of Saintonge
and Aunis, 191 _sq._; in Southern France, 192 _sq._; Midsummer festival
of fire and water in Provence, 193 _sq._; Midsummer fires in Belgium,
194-196; in England, 196-200; Stow's description of the Midsummer fires
in London, 196 _sq._; John Aubrey on the Midsummer fires, 197; Midsummer
fires in Cumberland, Northumberland, and Yorkshire, 197 _sq._; in
Herefordshire, Somersetshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall, 199 _sq._; in
Wales and the Isle of Man, 200 _sq._; in Ireland, 201-205; holy wells
resorted to on Midsummer Eve in Ireland, 205 _sq._; Midsummer fires in
Scotland, 206 _sq._; Midsummer fires and divination in Spain and the
Azores, 208 _sq._; Midsummer fires in Corsica and Sardinia, 209; in the
Abruzzi, 209 _sq._; in Sicily, 210; in Malta, 210 _sq._; in Greece and
the Greek islands, 211 _sq._; in Macedonia and Albania, 212; in South
America, 212 _sq._; among the Mohammedans of Morocco and Algeria,
213-216; the Midsummer festival in North Africa comprises rites of water
as well as fire, 216; similar festival of fire and water at New Year in
North Africa, 217 _sq._; the duplication of the festival probably due to
a conflict between the solar calendar of the Romans and the lunar
calendar of the Arabs, 218 _sg._; the Midsummer festival in Morocco
apparently of Berber origin, 219.

Sec. 5. _The Autumn Fires_, pp. 220-222.--Festivals of fire in August, 220;
"living fire" made by the friction of wood, 220; feast of the Nativity
of the Virgin on the eighth of September at Capri and Naples, 220-222.

Sec. 6. _The Halloween Fires_, pp. 222-246.--While the Midsummer festival
implies observation of the solstices, the Celts appear to have divided
their year, without regard to the solstices, by the times when they
drove their cattle to and from the summer pasture on the first of May
and the last of October (Hallowe'en), 222-224; the two great Celtic
festivals of Beltane (May Day) and Hallowe'en (the last of October),
224; Hallowe'en seems to have marked the beginning of the Celtic year,
224 _sq._; it was a season of divination and a festival of the dead, 225
_sq._; fairies and hobgoblins let loose at Hallowe'en, 226-228;
divination in Celtic countries at Hallowe'en, 228 _sq._; Hallowe'en
bonfires in the Highlands of Scotland, 229-232; Hallowe'en fires in
Buchan to burn the witches, 232 _sq._; processions with torches at
Hallowe'en in the Braemar Highlands, 233 _sq._; divination at Hallowe'en
in the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, 234-239; Hallowe'en fires in
Wales, omens drawn from stones cast into the fires, 239 _sq._;
divination at Hallowe'en in Wales, 240 _sq._; divination at Hallowe'en
in Ireland, 241-243; Hallowe'en fires and divination in the Isle of Man,
243 _sq._; Hallowe'en fires and divination in Lancashire, 244 _sq._;
marching with lighted candles to keep off the witches, 245; divination
at Hallowe'en in Northumberland, 245; Hallowe'en fires in France, 245

Sec. 7. _The Midwinter Fires_, pp. 246-269.--Christmas the continuation of
an old heathen festival of the sun, 246; the Yule log the Midwinter
counterpart of the Midsummer bonfire, 247; the Yule log in Germany,
247-249; in Switzerland, 249; in Belgium, 249; in France, 249-255;
French superstitions as to the Yule log, 250; the Yule log at Marseilles
and in Perigord, 250 _sq._; in Berry, 251 _sq._; in Normandy and
Brittany, 252 _sq._; in the Ardennes, 253 _sq._; in the Vosges, 254; in
Franche-Comte, 254 _sq._; the Yule log and Yule candle in England,
255-258; the Yule log in the north of England and Yorkshire, 256 _sq._;
in Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire, 257 _sq._;
in Wales, 258; in Servia, 258-262; among the Servians of Slavonia, 262
_sq._; among the Servians of Dalmatia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro, 263
_sq._; in Albania, 264; belief that the Yule log protects against fire
and lightning, 264 _sq._; public fire-festivals at Midwinter, 265-269;
Christmas bonfire at Schweina in Thuringia, 265 _sq._; Christmas
bonfires in Normandy, 266; bonfires on St. Thomas's Day in the Isle of
Man, 266; the "Burning of the Clavie" at Burghead on the last day of
December, 266-268; Christmas procession with burning tar-barrels at
Lerwick, 268 _sq._

Sec. 8. _The Need-fire_, pp. 269-300.--Need-fire kindled not at fixed
periods but on occasions of distress and calamity, 269; the need-fire in
the Middle Ages and down to the end of the sixteenth century, 270 _sq._;
mode of kindling the need-fire by the friction of wood, 271 _sq_.; the
need-fire in Central Germany, particularly about Hildesheim, 272 _sq._;
the need-fire in the Mark, 273; in Mecklenburg, 274 _sq._; in Hanover,
275 _sq._; in the Harz Mountains, 276 _sq._; in Brunswick, 277 _sq._; in
Silesia and Bohemia, 278 _sq._; in Switzerland, 279 _sq._; in Sweden and
Norway, 280; among the Slavonic peoples, 281-286; in Russia and Poland,
281 _sq._; in Slavonia, 282; in Servia, 282-284; in Bulgaria, 284-286;
in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 286; in England, 286-289; in Yorkshire,
286-288; in Northumberland, 288 _sq._; in Scotland, 289-297; Martin's
account of it in the Highlands, 289; the need-fire in Mull, 289 _sq._;
in Caithness, 290-292; W. Grant Stewart's account of the need-fire, 292
_sq._; Alexander Carmichael's account, 293-295; the need-fire in
Aberdeenshire, 296; in Perthshire, 296 _sq._; in Ireland, 297; the use
of need-fire a relic of the time when all fires were similarly kindled
by the friction of wood, 297 _sq._; the belief that need-fire cannot
kindle if any other fire remains alight in the neighbourhood, 298 _sq._;
the need-fire among the Iroquois of North America, 299 _sq._

Sec. 9. _The Sacrifice of an Animal to stay a Cattle-plague_, pp.
300-327.--The burnt sacrifice of a calf in England and Wales, 300 _sq._;
burnt sacrifices of animals in Scotland, 301 _sq._; calf burnt in order
to break a spell which has been cast on the herd, 302 _sq._; mode in
which the burning of a bewitched animal is supposed to break the spell,
303-305; in burning the bewitched animal you burn the witch herself,
305; practice of burning cattle and sheep as sacrifices in the Isle of
Man, 305-307; by burning a bewitched animal you compel the witch to
appear, 307; magic sympathy between the witch and the bewitched animal,
308; similar sympathy between a were-wolf and his or her human shape,
wounds inflicted on the animal are felt by the man or woman, 308;
were-wolves in Europe, 308-310; in China, 310 _sq._; among the Toradjas
of Central Celebes, 311-313 _sq._; in the Egyptian Sudan, 313 _sq._; the
were-wolf story in Petronius, 313 _sq._; witches like were-wolves can
temporarily transform themselves into animals, and wounds inflicted on
the transformed animals appear on the persons of the witches, 315 _sq._;
instances of such transformations and wounds in Scotland, England,
Ireland, France, and Germany, 316-321; hence the reason for burning
bewitched animals is either to burn the witch herself or at all events
to compel her to appear, 321 _sq._; the like reason for burning
bewitched things, 322 _sq._; similarly by burning alive a person whose
likeness a witch has assumed you compel the witch to disclose herself,
323; woman burnt alive as a witch in Ireland at the end of the
nineteenth century, 323 _sq._; bewitched animals sometimes buried alive
instead of being burned, 324-326; calves killed and buried to save the
rest of the herd, 326 _sq_.


Sec. 1. _On the Fire-festivals in general_ pp. 328-331.--General
resemblance of the fire-festivals to each other, 328 _sq._; two
explanations of the festivals suggested, one by W. Mannhardt that they
are sun-charms, the other by Dr. E. Westermarck that they are
purificatory, 329 _sq._; the two explanations perhaps not mutually
exclusive, 330 _sq._

Sec. 2. _The Solar Theory of the Fire-festivals_, pp. 331-341.--Theory that
the fire-festivals are charms to ensure a supply of sunshine, 331;
coincidence of two of the festivals with the solstices, 331 _sq._;
attempt of the Bushmen to warm up the fire of Sirius in midwinter by
kindling sticks, 332 _sq._; the burning wheels and discs of the
fire-festivals may be direct imitations of the sun, 334; the wheel which
is sometimes used to kindle the fire by friction may also be an
imitation of the sun, 334-336; the influence which the bonfires are
supposed to exert on the weather and vegetation may be thought to be due
to an increase of solar heat produced by the fires, 336-338; the effect
which the bonfires are supposed to have in fertilizing cattle and women
may also be attributed to an increase of solar heat produced by the
fires, 338 _sq._; the carrying of lighted torches about the country at
the festivals may be explained as an attempt to diffuse the sun's heat,

Sec. 3. _The Purificatory Theory of the Fire-festivals_, pp.
341-346.--Theory that the fires at the festivals are purificatory, being
intended to burn up all harmful things, 341; the purificatory or
destructive effect of the fires is often alleged by the people who light
them, and there is no reason to reject this explanation, 341 _sq._; the
great evil against which the fire at the festivals appears to be
directed is witchcraft, 342; among the evils for which the
fire-festivals are deemed remedies the foremost is cattle-disease, and
cattle-disease is often supposed to be an effect of witchcraft, 343
_sq._; again, the bonfires are thought to avert hail, thunder,
lightning, and various maladies, all of which are attributed to the
maleficent arts of witches, 344 _sq._; the burning wheels rolled down
hill and the burning discs thrown into the air may be intended to burn
the invisible witches, 345 _sq._; on this view the fertility supposed to
follow the use of fire results indirectly from breaking the spells of
witches, 346; on the whole the theory of the purificatory or destructive
intention of the fire-festivals seems the more probable, 346.

[Transcriber's Note: The brief descriptions often found enclosed in
square brackets are "sidenotes", which appeared in the original book in
the margins of the paragraph following the "sidenote." Footnotes were
originally at the bottoms of the printed pages.]



Sec. 1. _Not to touch the Earth_

[The priest of Aricia and the Golden Bough]

We have travelled far since we turned our backs on Nemi and set forth in
quest of the secret of the Golden Bough. With the present volume we
enter on the last stage of our long journey. The reader who has had the
patience to follow the enquiry thus far may remember that at the outset
two questions were proposed for answer: Why had the priest of Aricia to
slay his predecessor? And why, before doing so, had he to pluck the
Golden Bough?[1] Of these two questions the first has now been answered.
The priest of Aricia, if I am right, was one of those sacred kings or
human divinities on whose life the welfare of the community and even the
course of nature in general are believed to be intimately dependent. It
does not appear that the subjects or worshippers of such a spiritual
potentate form to themselves any very clear notion of the exact
relationship in which they stand to him; probably their ideas on the
point are vague and fluctuating, and we should err if we attempted to
define the relationship with logical precision. All that the people
know, or rather imagine, is that somehow they themselves, their cattle,
and their crops are mysteriously bound up with their divine king, so
that according as he is well or ill the community is healthy or sickly,
the flocks and herds thrive or languish with disease, and the fields
yield an abundant or a scanty harvest. The worst evil which they can
conceive of is the natural death of their ruler, whether he succumb to
sickness or old age, for in the opinion of his followers such a death
would entail the most disastrous consequences on themselves and their
possessions; fatal epidemics would sweep away man and beast, the earth
would refuse her increase, nay the very frame of nature itself might be
dissolved. To guard against these catastrophes it is necessary to put
the king to death while he is still in the full bloom of his divine
manhood, in order that his sacred life, transmitted in unabated force to
his successor, may renew its youth, and thus by successive transmissions
through a perpetual line of vigorous incarnations may remain eternally
fresh and young, a pledge and security that men and animals shall in
like manner renew their youth by a perpetual succession of generations,
and that seedtime and harvest, and summer and winter, and rain and
sunshine shall never fail. That, if my conjecture is right, was why the
priest of Aricia, the King of the Wood at Nemi, had regularly to perish
by the sword of his successor.

[What was the Golden Bough?]

But we have still to ask, What was the Golden Bough? and why had each
candidate for the Arician priesthood to pluck it before he could slay
the priest? These questions I will now try to answer.

[Sacred kings and priests forbidden to touch the ground with their

It will be well to begin by noticing two of those rules or taboos by
which, as we have seen, the life of divine kings or priests is
regulated. The first of the rules to which I desire to call the reader's
attention is that the divine personage may not touch the ground with his
foot. This rule was observed by the supreme pontiff of the Zapotecs in
Mexico; he profaned his sanctity if he so much as touched the ground
with his foot.[2] Montezuma, emperor of Mexico, never set foot on the
ground; he was always carried on the shoulders of noblemen, and if he
lighted anywhere they laid rich tapestry for him to walk upon.[3] For
the Mikado of Japan to touch the ground with his foot was a shameful
degradation; indeed, in the sixteenth century, it was enough to deprive
him of his office. Outside his palace he was carried on men's shoulders;
within it he walked on exquisitely wrought mats.[4] The king and queen
of Tahiti might not touch the ground anywhere but within their
hereditary domains; for the ground on which they trod became sacred. In
travelling from place to place they were carried on the shoulders of
sacred men. They were always accompanied by several pairs of these
sanctified attendants; and when it became necessary to change their
bearers, the king and queen vaulted on to the shoulders of their new
bearers without letting their feet touch the ground.[5] It was an evil
omen if the king of Dosuma touched the ground, and he had to perform an
expiatory ceremony.[6] Within his palace the king of Persia walked on
carpets on which no one else might tread; outside of it he was never
seen on foot but only in a chariot or on horseback.[7] In old days the
king of Siam never set foot upon the earth, but was carried on a throne
of gold from place to place.[8] Formerly neither the kings of Uganda,
nor their mothers, nor their queens might walk on foot outside of the
spacious enclosures in which they lived. Whenever they went forth they
were carried on the shoulders of men of the Buffalo clan, several of
whom accompanied any of these royal personages on a journey and took it
in turn to bear the burden. The king sat astride the bearer's neck with
a leg over each shoulder and his feet tucked under the bearer's arms.
When one of these royal carriers grew tired he shot the king on to the
shoulders of a second man without allowing the royal feet to touch the
ground. In this way they went at a great pace and travelled long
distances in a day, when the king was on a journey. The bearers had a
special hut in the king's enclosure in order to be at hand the moment
they were wanted.[9] Among the Bakuba or rather Bushongo, a nation in
the southern region of the Congo, down to a few years ago persons of the
royal blood were forbidden to touch the ground; they must sit on a hide,
a chair, or the back of a slave, who crouched on hands and feet; their
feet rested on the feet of others. When they travelled they were carried
on the backs of men; but the king journeyed in a litter supported on
shafts.[10] Among the Ibo people about Awka, in Southern Nigeria, the
priest of the Earth has to observe many taboos; for example, he may not
see a corpse, and if he meets one on the road he must hide his eyes with
his wristlet. He must abstain from many foods, such as eggs, birds of
all sorts, mutton, dog, bush-buck, and so forth. He may neither wear nor
touch a mask, and no masked man may enter his house. If a dog enters his
house, it is killed and thrown out. As priest of the Earth he may not
sit on the bare ground, nor eat things that have fallen on the ground,
nor may earth be thrown at him.[11] According to ancient Brahmanic
ritual a king at his inauguration trod on a tiger's skin and a golden
plate; he was shod with shoes of boar's skin, and so long as he lived
thereafter he might not stand on the earth with his bare feet.[12]

[Certain persons on certain occasions forbidden to touch the ground with
their feet.]

But besides persons who are permanently sacred or tabooed and are
therefore permanently forbidden to touch the ground with their feet,
there are others who enjoy the character of sanctity or taboo only on
certain occasions, and to whom accordingly the prohibition in question
only applies at the definite seasons during which they exhale the odour
of sanctity. Thus among the Kayans or Bahaus of Central Borneo, while
the priestesses are engaged in the performance of certain rites they may
not step on the ground, and boards are laid for them to tread on.[13] At
a funeral ceremony observed by night among the Michemis, a Tibetan tribe
near the northern frontier of Assam, a priest fantastically bedecked
with tiger's teeth, many-coloured plumes, bells, and shells, executed a
wild dance for the purpose of exorcising the evil spirits; then all
fires were extinguished and a new light was struck by a man suspended by
his feet from a beam in the ceiling; "he did not touch the ground," we
are told, "in order to indicate that the light came from heaven."[14]
Again, newly born infants are strongly tabooed; accordingly in Loango
they are not allowed to touch the earth.[15] Among the Iluvans of
Malabar the bridegroom on his wedding-day is bathed by seven young men
and then carried or walks on planks from the bathing-place to the
marriage booth; he may not touch the ground with his feet.[16] With the
Dyaks of Landak and Tajan, two districts of Dutch Borneo, it is a custom
that for a certain time after marriage neither bride nor bridegroom may
tread on the earth.[17] Warriors, again, on the war-path are surrounded,
so to say, by an atmosphere of taboo; hence some Indians of North
America might not sit on the bare ground the whole time they were out on
a warlike expedition.[18] In Laos the hunting of elephants gives rise to
many taboos; one of them is that the chief hunter may not touch the
earth with his foot. Accordingly, when he alights from his elephant, the
others spread a carpet of leaves for him to step upon.[19] German
wiseacres recommended that when witches were led to the block or the
stake, they should not be allowed to touch the bare earth, and a reason
suggested for the rule was that if they touched the earth they might
make themselves invisible and so escape. The sagacious author of _The
Striped-petticoat Philosophy_ in the eighteenth century ridicules the
idea as mere silly talk. He admits, indeed, that the women were conveyed
to the place of execution in carts; but he denies that there is any deep
significance in the cart, and he is prepared to maintain this view by a
chemical analysis of the timber of which the cart was built. To clinch
his argument he appeals to plain matter of fact and his own personal
experience. Not a single instance, he assures us with apparent
satisfaction, can be produced of a witch who escaped the axe or the fire
in this fashion. "I have myself," says he, "in my youth seen divers
witches burned, some at Arnstadt, some at Ilmenau, some at Schwenda, a
noble village between Arnstadt and Ilmenau, and some of them were
pardoned and beheaded before being burned. They were laid on the earth
in the place of execution and beheaded like any other poor sinner;
whereas if they could have escaped by touching the earth, not one of
them would have failed to do so."[20]

[Sacred or tabooed persons apparently thought to be charged with a
mysterious virtue like a fluid, which will run to waste or explode if it
touches the ground.]

Apparently holiness, magical virtue, taboo, or whatever we may call that
mysterious quality which is supposed to pervade sacred or tabooed
persons, is conceived by the primitive philosopher as a physical
substance or fluid, with which the sacred man is charged just as a
Leyden jar is charged with electricity; and exactly as the electricity
in the jar can be discharged by contact with a good conductor, so the
holiness or magical virtue in the man can be discharged and drained away
by contact with the earth, which on this theory serves as an excellent
conductor for the magical fluid. Hence in order to preserve the charge
from running to waste, the sacred or tabooed personage must be carefully
prevented from touching the ground; in electrical language he must be
insulated, if he is not to be emptied of the precious substance or fluid
with which he, as a vial, is filled to the brim. And in many cases
apparently the insulation of the tabooed person is recommended as a
precaution not merely for his own sake but for the sake of others; for
since the virtue of holiness or taboo is, so to say, a powerful
explosive which the smallest touch may detonate, it is necessary in the
interest of the general safety to keep it within narrow bounds, lest
breaking out it should blast, blight, and destroy whatever it comes into
contact with.

[Things as well as persons can be charged with the mysterious quality of
holiness or taboo; and when so charged they must be kept from contact
with the ground.]

But things as well as persons are often charged with the mysterious
quality of holiness or taboo; hence it frequently becomes necessary for
similar reasons to guard them also from coming into contact with the
ground, lest they should in like manner be drained of their valuable
properties and be reduced to mere commonplace material objects, empty
husks from which the good grain has been eliminated. Thus, for example,
the most sacred object of the Arunta tribe in Central Australia is, or
rather used to be, a pole about twenty feet high, which is completely
smeared with human blood, crowned with an imitation of a human head, and
set up on the ground where the final initiatory ceremonies of young men
are performed. A young gum-tree is chosen to form the pole, and it must
be cut down and transported in such a way that it does not touch the
earth till it is erected in its place on the holy ground. Apparently the
pole represents some famous ancestor of the olden time.[21]

[Festival of the wild manog tree in British New Guinea.]

Again, at a great dancing festival celebrated by the natives of Bartle
Bay, in British New Guinea, a wild mango tree plays a prominent part.
The tree must be self-sown, that is, really wild and so young that it
has never flowered. It is chosen in the jungle some five or six weeks
before the festival, and a circle is cleared round its trunk. From that
time the master of the ceremonies and some eight to twenty other men,
who have aided him in choosing the tree and in clearing the jungle,
become strictly holy or tabooed. They sleep by themselves in a house
into which no one else may intrude: they may not wash or drink water,
nor even allow it accidentally to touch their bodies: they are forbidden
to eat boiled food and the fruit of mango trees: they may drink only the
milk of a young coco-nut which has been baked, and they may eat certain
fruits and vegetables, such as paw-paws (_Carica papaya_) and
sugar-cane, but only on condition that they have been baked. All refuse
of their food is kept in baskets in their sleeping-house and may not be
removed from it till the festival is over. At the time when the men
begin to observe these rules of abstinence, some six to ten women,
members of the same clan as the master of the ceremonies, enter on a
like period of mortification, avoiding the company of the other sex, and
refraining from water, all boiled food, and the fruit of the mango tree.
These fasting men and women are the principal dancers at the festival.
The dancing takes place on a special platform in a temporary village
which has been erected for the purpose. When the platform is about to be
set up, the fasting men rub the stepping posts and then suck their hands
for the purpose of extracting the ghost of any dead man that might
chance to be in the post and might be injured by the weight of the
platform pressing down on him. Having carefully extracted these poor
souls, the men carry them away tenderly and set them free in the forest
or the long grass.

[The wild mango tree not allowed to touch the ground.]

On the day before the festival one of the fasting men cuts down the
chosen mango tree in the jungle with a stone adze, which is never
afterwards put to any other use; an iron tool may not be used for the
purpose, though iron tools are now common enough in the district. In
cutting down the mango they place nets on the ground to catch any leaves
or twigs that might fall from the tree as it is being felled and they
surround the trunk with new mats to receive the chips which fly out
under the adze of the woodman; for the chips may not drop on the earth.
Once the tree is down, it is carried to the centre of the temporary
village, the greatest care being taken to prevent it from coming into
contact with the ground. But when it is brought into the village, the
houses are connected with the top of the mango by means of long vines
decorated with the streamers. In the afternoon the fasting men and women
begin to dance, the men bedizened with gay feathers, armlets, streamers,
and anklets, the women flaunting in parti-coloured petticoats and sprigs
of croton leaves, which wave from their waistbands as they dance. The
dancing stops at sundown, and when the full moon rises over the shoulder
of the eastern hill (for the date of the festival seems to be determined
with reference to the time of the moon), two chiefs mount the gables of
two houses on the eastern side of the square, and, their dusky figures
standing sharply out against the moonlight, pray to the evil spirits to
go away and not to hurt the people. Next morning pigs are killed by
being speared as slowly as possible in order that they may squeal loud
and long; for the people believe that the mango trees hear the
squealing, and are pleased at the sound, and bear plenty of fruit,
whereas if they heard no squeals they would bear no fruit. However, the
trees have to content themselves with the squeals; the flesh of the pigs
is eaten by the people. This ends the festival.

[Final disposition of the wild mango tree.]

Next day the mango is taken down from the platform, wrapt in new mats,
and carried by the fasting men to their sleeping house, where it is hung
from the roof. But after an interval, it may be of many months, the tree
is brought forth again. As to the reason for its reappearance in public
opinions are divided; but some say that the tree itself orders the
master of the ceremonies to bring it forth, appearing to him in his
dreams and saying, "Let me smell the smoking fat of pigs. So will your
pigs be healthy and your crops will grow." Be that as it may, out it
comes, conducted by the fasting men in their dancing costume; and with
it come in the solemn procession all the pots, spoons, cups and so forth
used by the fasting men during their period of holiness or taboo, also
all the refuse of their food which has been collected for months, and
all the fallen leaves and chips of the mango in their bundles of mats.
These holy relics are carried in front and the mango tree itself brings
up the rear of the procession. While these sacred objects are being
handed out of the house, the men who are present rush up, wipe off the
hallowed dust which has accumulated on them, and smear it over their own
bodies, no doubt in order to steep themselves in their blessed
influence. Thus the tree is carried as before to the centre of the
temporary village, care being again taken not to let it touch the
ground. Then one of the fasting men takes from a basket a number of
young green mangoes, cuts them in pieces, and places them with his own
hands in the mouths of his fellows, the other fasting men, who chew the
pieces small and turning round spit the morsels in the direction of the
setting sun, in order that "the sun should carry the mango bits over the
whole country and everyone should know." A portion of the mango tree is
then broken off and in the evening it is burnt along with the bundles of
leaves, chips, and refuse of food, which have been stored up. What
remains of the tree is taken to the house of the master of the
ceremonies and hung over the fire-place; it will be brought out again at
intervals and burned bit by bit, till all is consumed, whereupon a new
mango will be cut down and treated in like manner. The ashes of the holy
fire on each occasion are gathered by the people and preserved in the
house of the master of the ceremonies.[22]

[The ceremony apparently intended to fertilize the mango trees.]

The meaning of these ceremonies is not explained by the authorities who
describe them; but we may conjecture that they are intended to fertilize
the mango trees and cause them to bear a good crop of fruit. The central
feature of the whole ritual is a wild mango tree, so young that it has
never flowered: the men who cut it down, carry it into the village, and
dance at the festival, are forbidden to eat mangoes: pigs are killed in
order that their dying squeals may move the mango trees to bear fruit:
at the end of the ceremonies pieces of young green mangoes are solemnly
placed in the mouths of the fasting men and are by them spurted out
towards the setting sun in order that the luminary may carry the
fragments to every part of the country; and finally when after a longer
or shorter interval the tree is wholly consumed, its place is supplied
by another. All these circumstances are explained simply and naturally
by the supposition that the young mango tree is taken as a
representative of mangoes generally, that the dances are intended to
quicken it, and that it is preserved, like a May-pole of old in England,
as a sort of general fund of vegetable life, till the fund being
exhausted by the destruction of the tree it is renewed by the
importation of a fresh young tree from the forest. We can therefore
understand why, as a storehouse of vital energy, the tree should be
carefully kept from contact with the ground, lest the pent-up and
concentrated energy should escape and dribbling away into the earth be
dissipated to no purpose.

[Sacred objects of various sorts not allowed to touch the ground.]

To take other instances of what we may call the conservation of energy
in magic or religion by insulating sacred bodies from the ground, the
natives of New Britain have a secret society called the Duk-duk, the
members of which masquerade in petticoats of leaves and tall headdresses
of wickerwork shaped like candle extinguishers, which descend to the
shoulders of the wearers, completely concealing their faces. Thus
disguised they dance about to the awe and terror, real or assumed, of
the women and uninitiated, who take, or pretend to take, them for
spirits. When lads are being initiated into the secrets of this august
society, the adepts cut down some very large and heavy bamboos, one for
each lad, and the novices carry them, carefully wrapt up in leaves, to
the sacred ground, where they arrive very tired and weary, for they may
not let the bamboos touch the ground nor the sun shine on them. Outside
the fence of the enclosure every lad deposits his bamboo on a couple of
forked sticks and covers it up with nut leaves.[23] Among the Carrier
Indians of North-Western America, who burned their dead, the ashes of a
chief used to be placed in a box and set on the top of a pole beside his
hut: the box was never allowed to touch the ground.[24] In the Omaha
tribe of North American Indians the sacred clam shell of the Elk clan
was wrapt up from sight in a mat, placed on a stand, and never suffered
to come in contact with the earth.[25] The Cherokees and kindred Indian
tribes of the United States used to have certain sacred boxes or arks,
which they regularly took with them to war. Such a holy ark consisted of
a square wooden box, which contained "certain consecrated vessels made
by beloved superannuated women, and of such various antiquated forms, as
would have puzzled Adam to have given significant names to each." The
leader of a war party and his attendant bore the ark by turns, but they
never set it on the ground nor would they themselves sit on the bare
earth while they were carrying it against the enemy. Where stones were
plentiful they rested the ark on them; but where no stones were to be
found, they deposited it on short logs. "The Indian ark is deemed so
sacred and dangerous to be touched, either by their own sanctified
warriors, or the spoiling enemy, that they durst not touch it upon any
account. It is not to be meddled with by any, except the war chieftain
and his waiter, under the penalty of incurring great evil. Nor would the
most inveterate enemy touch it in the woods, for the very same reason."
After their return home they used to hang the ark on the leader's
red-painted war pole.[26] At Sipi, near Simla, in Northern India, an
annual fair is held, at which men purchase wives. A square box with a
domed top figures prominently at the fair. It is fixed on two poles to
be carried on men's shoulders, and long heavily-plaited petticoats hang
from it nearly to the ground. Three sides of the box are adorned with
the head and shoulders of a female figure and the fourth side with a
black yak's tail. Four men bear the poles, each carrying an axe in his
right hand. They dance round, with a swinging rhythmical step, to the
music of drums and a pipe. The dance goes on for hours and is thought to
avert ill-luck from the fair. It is said that the box is brought to
Simla from a place sixty miles off by relays of men, who may not stop
nor set the box on the ground the whole way.[27] In Scotland, when water
was carried from sacred wells to sick people, the water-vessel might not
touch the earth.[28] In some parts of Aberdeenshire the last bunch of
standing corn, which is commonly viewed as very sacred, being the last
refuge of the corn-spirit retreating before the reapers, is not suffered
to touch the ground; the master or "gueedman" sits down and receives
each handful of corn as it is cut on his lap.[29]

[Sacred food not allowed to touch the earth.]

Again, sacred food may not under certain circumstances be brought into
contact with the earth. Some of the aborigines of Victoria used to
regard the fat of the emu as sacred, believing that it had once been the
fat of the black man. In taking it from the bird or giving it to another
they handled it reverently. Any one who threw away the fat or flesh of
the emu was held accursed. "The late Mr. Thomas observed on one
occasion, at Nerre-nerre-Warreen, a remarkable exhibition of the effects
of this superstition. An aboriginal child--one attending the
school--having eaten some part of the flesh of an emu, threw away the
skin. The skin fell to the ground, and this being observed by his
parents, they showed by their gestures every token of horror. They
looked upon their child as one utterly lost. His desecration of the bird
was regarded as a sin for which there was no atonement."[30] The
Roumanians of Transylvania believe that "every fresh-baked loaf of
wheaten bread is sacred, and should a piece inadvertently fall to the
ground, it is hastily picked up, carefully wiped and kissed, and if
soiled, thrown into the fire--partly as an offering to the dead, and
partly because it were a heavy sin to throw away or tread upon any
particle of it."[31] At certain festivals in south-eastern Borneo the
food which is consumed in the common house may not touch the ground;
hence, a little before the festivals take place, foot-bridges made of
thin poles are constructed from the private dwellings to the common
house.[32] When Hall was living with the Esquimaux and grew tired of
eating walrus, one of the women brought the head and neck of a reindeer
for him to eat. This venison had to be completely wrapt up before it was
brought into the house, and once in the house it could only be placed on
the platform which served as a bed. "To have placed it on the floor or
on the platform behind the fire-lamp, among the walrus, musk-ox, and
polar-bear meat which occupy a goodly portion of both of these places,
would have horrified the whole town, as, according to the actual belief
of the Innuits, not another walrus could be secured this year, and there
would ever be trouble in catching any more."[33] But in this case the
real scruple appears to have been felt not so much at placing the
venison on the ground as at bringing it into contact with walrus

[Magical implements and remedies thought to lose their virtue by contact
with the ground.]

Sometimes magical implements and remedies are supposed to lose their
virtue by contact with the ground, the volatile essence with which they
are impregnated being no doubt drained off into the earth. Thus in the
Boulia district of Queensland the magical bone, which the native
sorcerer points at his victim as a means of killing him, is never by any
chance allowed to touch the earth.[35] The wives of rajahs in Macassar,
a district of southern Celebes, pride themselves on their luxuriant
tresses and are at great pains to oil and preserve them. Should the hair
begin to grow thin, the lady resorts to many devices to stay the ravages
of time; among other things she applies to her locks a fat extracted
from crocodiles and venomous snakes. The unguent is believed to be very
efficacious, but during its application the woman's feet may not come
into contact with the ground, or all the benefit of the nostrum would be
lost.[36] Some people in antiquity believed that a woman in hard labour
would be delivered if a spear, which had been wrenched from a man's body
without touching the ground, were thrown over the house where the
sufferer lay. Again, according to certain ancient writers, arrows which
had been extracted from a body without coming into contact with the
earth and laid under sleepers, acted as a love-charm.[37] Among the
peasantry of the north-east of Scotland the prehistoric weapons called
celts went by the name of "thunderbolts" and were coveted as the sure
bringers of success, always provided that they were not allowed to fall
to the ground.[38]

[Serpents eggs or Snake Stones.]

In ancient Gaul certain glass or paste beads attained great celebrity as
amulets under the name of serpents' eggs; it was believed that serpents,
coiling together in a wriggling, writhing mass, generated them from
their slaver and shot them into the air from their hissing jaws. If a
man was bold and dexterous enough to catch one of these eggs in his
cloak before it touched the ground, he rode off on horseback with it at
full speed, pursued by the whole pack of serpents, till he was saved by
the interposition of a river, which the snakes could not pass. The proof
of the egg being genuine was that if it were thrown into a stream it
would float up against the current, even though it were hooped in gold.
The Druids held these beads in high esteem; according to them, the
precious objects could only be obtained on a certain day of the moon,
and the peculiar virtue that resided in them was to secure success in
law suits and free access to kings. Pliny knew of a Gaulish knight who
was executed by the emperor Claudius for wearing one of these
amulets.[39] Under the name of Snake Stones (_glain neidr_) or Adder
Stones the beads are still known in those parts of our own country where
the Celtic population has lingered, with its immemorial superstitions,
down to the present or recent times; and the old story of the origin of
the beads from the slaver of serpents was believed by the modern
peasantry of Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland as by the Druids of ancient
Gaul. In Cornwall the time when the serpents united to fashion the beads
was commonly said to be at or about Midsummer Eve; in Wales it was
usually thought to be spring, especially the Eve of May Day, and even
within recent years persons in the Principality have affirmed that they
witnessed the great vernal congress of the snakes and saw the magic
stone in the midst of the froth. The Welsh peasants believe the beads to
possess medicinal virtues of many sorts and to be particularly
efficacious for all maladies of the eyes. In Wales and Ireland the beads
sometimes went by the name of the Magician's or Druid's Glass (_Gleini
na Droedh_ and _Glaine nan Druidhe_). Specimens of them may be seen in
museums; some have been found in British barrows. They are of glass of
various colours, green, blue, pink, red, brown, and so forth, some plain
and some ribbed. Some are streaked with brilliant hues. The beads are
perforated, and in the Highlands of Scotland the hole is explained by
saying that when the bead has just been conflated by the serpents
jointly, one of the reptiles sticks his tail through the still viscous
glass. An Englishman who visited Scotland in 1699 found many of these
beads in use throughout the country. They were hung from children's
necks to protect them from whooping cough and other ailments. Snake
Stones were, moreover, a charm to ensure prosperity in general and to
repel evil spirits. When one of these priceless treasures was not on
active service, the owner kept it in an iron box to guard it against
fairies, who, as is well known, cannot abide iron.[40]

[Medicinal plants, water, are not allowed to touch the earth.]

Pliny mentions several medicinal plants, which, if they were to retain
their healing virtue, ought not to be allowed to touch the earth.[41]
The curious medical treatise of Marcellus, a native of Bordeaux in the
fourth century of our era, abounds with prescriptions of this sort; and
we can well believe the writer when he assures us that he borrowed many
of his quaint remedies from the lips of common folk and peasants rather
than from the books of the learned.[42] Thus he tells us that certain
white stones found in the stomachs of young swallows assuage the most
persistent headache, always provided that their virtue be not impaired
by contact with the ground.[43] Another of his cures for the same malady
is a wreath of fleabane placed on the head, but it must not touch the
earth.[44] On the same condition a decoction of the root of elecampane
in wine kills worms; a fern, found growing on a tree, relieves the
stomach-ache; and the pastern-bone of a hare is an infallible remedy for
colic, provided, first, it be found in the dung of a wolf, second, that
it docs not touch the ground, and, third, that it is not touched by a
woman.[45] Another cure for colic is effected by certain hocus-pocus
with a scrap of wool from the forehead of a first-born lamb, if only the
lamb, instead of being allowed to fall to the ground, has been caught by
hand as it dropped from its dam.[46] In Andjra, a district of Morocco,
the people attribute many magical virtues to rain-water which has fallen
on the twenty-seventh day of April, Old Style; accordingly they collect
it and use it for a variety of purposes. Mixed with tar and sprinkled on
the door-posts it prevents snakes and scorpions from entering the house:
sprinkled on heaps of threshed corn it protects them from the evil eye:
mixed with an egg, henna, and seeds of cress it is an invaluable
medicine for sick cows: poured over a plate, on which a passage of the
Koran has been written, it strengthens the memory of schoolboys who
drink it; and if you mix it with cowdung and red earth and paint rings
with the mixture round the trunks of your fig-trees at sunset on
Midsummer Day, you may depend on it that the trees will bear an
excellent crop and will not shed their fruit untimely on the ground. But
in order to preserve these remarkable properties it is absolutely
essential that the water should on no account be allowed to touch the
ground; some say too that it should not be exposed to the sun nor
breathed upon by anybody.[47] Again, the Moors ascribe great magical
efficacy to what they call "the sultan of the oleander," which is a
stalk of oleander with a cluster of four pairs of leaves springing from
it. They think that the magical virtue is greatest if the stalk has been
cut immediately before midsummer. But when the plant is brought into the
house, the branches may not touch the ground, lest they should lose
their marvellous qualities.[48] In the olden days, before a Lithuanian
or Prussian farmer went forth to plough for the first time in spring, he
called in a wizard to perform a certain ceremony for the good of the
crops. The sage seized a mug of beer with his teeth, quaffed the liquor,
and then tossed the mug over his head. This signified that the corn in
that year should grow taller than a man. But the mug might not fall to
the ground; it had to be caught by somebody stationed at the wizard's
back, for if it fell to the ground the consequence naturally would be
that the corn also would be laid low on the earth.[49]

Sec. 2. _Not to see the Sun_

[Sacred persons not allowed to see the sun.]

The second rule to be here noted is that the sun may not shine upon the
divine person. This rule was observed both by the Mikado and by the
pontiff of the Zapotecs. The latter "was looked upon as a god whom the
earth was not worthy to hold, nor the sun to shine upon."[50] The
Japanese would not allow that the Mikado should expose his sacred person
to the open air, and the sun was not thought worthy to shine on his
head.[51] The Indians of Granada, in South America, "kept those who were
to be rulers or commanders, whether men or women, locked up for several
years when they were children, some of them seven years, and this so
close that they were not to see the sun, for if they should happen to
see it they forfeited their lordship, eating certain sorts of food
appointed; and those who were their keepers at certain times went into
their retreat or prison and scourged them severely."[52] Thus, for
example, the heir to the throne of Bogota, who was not the son but the
sister's son of the king, had to undergo a rigorous training from his
infancy: he lived in complete retirement in a temple, where he might not
see the sun nor eat salt nor converse with a woman: he was surrounded by
guards who observed his conduct and noted all his actions: if he broke a
single one of the rules laid down for him, he was deemed infamous and
forfeited all his rights to the throne.[53] So, too, the heir to the
kingdom of Sogamoso, before succeeding to the crown, had to fast for
seven years in the temple, being shut up in the dark and not allowed to
see the sun or light.[54] The prince who was to become Inca of Peru had
to fast for a month without seeing light.[55] On the day when a Brahman
student of the Veda took a bath, to signify that the time of his
studentship was at an end, he entered a cow-shed before sunrise, hung
over the door a skin with the hair inside, and sat there; on that day
the sun should not shine upon him.[56]

[Tabooed persons not allowed to see the sun; certain persons forbidden
to see fire.]

Again, women after childbirth and their offspring are more or less
tabooed all the world over; hence in Corea the rays of the sun are
rigidly excluded from both mother and child for a period of twenty-one
or a hundred days, according to their rank, after the birth has taken
place.[57] Among some of the tribes on the north-west coast of New
Guinea a woman may not leave the house for months after childbirth. When
she does go out, she must cover her head with a hood or mat; for if the
sun were to shine upon her, it is thought that one of her male relations
would die.[58] Again, mourners are everywhere taboo; accordingly in
mourning the Ainos of Japan wear peculiar caps in order that the sun may
not shine upon their heads.[59] During a solemn fast of three days the
Indians of Costa Rica eat no salt, speak as little as possible, light no
fires, and stay strictly indoors, or if they go out during the day they
carefully cover themselves from the light of the sun, believing that
exposure to the sun's rays would turn them black.[60] On Yule Night it
has been customary in parts of Sweden from time immemorial to go on
pilgrimage, whereby people learn many secret things and know what is to
happen in the coming year. As a preparation for this pilgrimage, "some
secrete themselves for three days previously in a dark cellar, so as to
be shut out altogether from the light of heaven. Others retire at an
early hour of the preceding morning to some out-of-the-way place, such
as a hay-loft, where they bury themselves in the hay, that they may
neither see nor hear any living creature; and here they remain, in
silence and fasting, until after sundown; whilst there are those who
think it sufficient if they rigidly abstain from food on the day before
commencing their wanderings. During this period of probation a man ought
not to see fire, but should this have happened, he must strike a light
with flint and steel, whereby the evil that would otherwise have ensued
will be obviated."[61] During the sixteen days that a Pima Indian is
undergoing purification for killing an Apache he may not see a blazing

[The story of Prince Sunless.]

Acarnanian peasants tell of a handsome prince called Sunless, who would
die if he saw the sun. So he lived in an underground palace on the site
of the ancient Oeniadae, but at night he came forth and crossed the
river to visit a famous enchantress who dwelt in a castle on the further
bank. She was loth to part with him every night long before the sun was
up, and as he turned a deaf ear to all her entreaties to linger, she hit
upon the device of cutting the throats of all the cocks in the
neighbourhood. So the prince, whose ear had learned to expect the shrill
clarion of the birds as the signal of the growing light, tarried too
long, and hardly had he reached the ford when the sun rose over the
Aetolian mountains, and its fatal beams fell on him before he could
regain his dark abode.[63]


[1] _The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings_, i. 44.

[2] H.H. Bancroft, _Native Races of the Pacific States_ (London,
1875-1876), ii. 142; Brasseur de Bourbourg, _Histoire des Nations
civilisees du Mexique et de l'Amerique-Centrale_ (Paris, 1857-1859),
iii. 29.

[3] _Manuscrit Ramirez, Histoire de l'origine des Indiens_, publie par
D. Charnay (Paris, 1903), p. 108; J. de Acosta, _The Natural and Moral
History of the Indies_, bk. vii. chap. 22, vol. ii. p. 505 of E.
Grimston's translation, edited by (Sir) Clements R. Markham (Hakluyt
Society, London, 1880).

[4] _Memorials of the Empire of Japon in the XVI. and XVII. Centuries_,
edited by T. Rundall (Hakluyt Society, London, 1850), pp. 14, 141; B.
Varenius, _Descriptio regni Japoniae et Siam_ (Cambridge, 1673), p. 11;
Caron, "Account of Japan," in John Pinkerton's _Voyages and Travels_
(London, 1808-1814), vii. 613; Kaempfer, "History of Japan," in _id._
vii. 716.

[5] W. Ellis, _Polynesian Researches_, Second Edition (London,
1832-1836), iii. 102 _sq._; Captain James Wilson, _Missionary Voyage to
the Southern Pacific Ocean_ (London, 1799), p. 329.

[6] A. Bastian, _Der Mensch in der Geschichte_ (Leipsic, 1860), iii. 81.

[7] Athenaeus, xii. 8, p. 514 c.

[8] _The Voiages and Travels of John Struys_ (London, 1684), p. 30.

[9] Rev. J. Roscoe, "Further Notes on the Manners and Customs of the
Baganda," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, xxxii. (1902) pp.
62, 67; _id., The Baganda_ (London, 1911), pp. 154 _sq._ Compare L.
Decle, _Three Years in Savage Africa_ (London, 1898), p. 445 note:
"Before horses had been introduced into Uganda the king and his mother
never walked, but always went about perched astride the shoulders of a
slave--a most ludicrous sight. In this way they often travelled hundreds
of miles." The use both of horses and of chariots by royal personages
may often have been intended to prevent their sacred feet from touching
the ground.

[10] E. Torday et T.A. Joyce, _Les Bushongo_ (Brussels, 1910), p. 61.

[11] Northcote W. Thomas, _Anthropological Report on the Ibo-speaking
Peoples of Nigeria_ (London, 1913), i. 57 _sq._

[12] _Satapatha Brahmana_, translated by Julius Eggeling, Part iii.
(Oxford, 1894) pp. 81, 91, 92, 102, 128 _sq. (Sacred Books of the East_,
vol. xli.).

[13] A.W. Nieuwenhuis, _Quer durch Borneo_ (Leyden, 1904-1907), i. 172.

[14] Letter of Missionary Krick, in _Annales de la Propagation de la
Foi_, xxvi. (1854) pp. 86-88.

[15] Pechuel-Loesche, "Indiscretes aus Loango," _Zeitschrift fuer
Ethnologie_, x. (1878) pp. 29 _sq._

[16] Edgar Thurston, _Ethnographic Notes in Southern India_ (Madras,
1906), p. 70.

[17] M.C. Schadee, "Het familieleven en familierecht der Dajaks van
Landak en Tajan," _Bijdragen tot de Taal-Land en Volkenkunde van
Nederlandsch-Indie_, lxiii. (1910) p. 433.

[18] James Adair, _History of the American Indians_ (London, 1775), p.
382; _Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner_ (London,
1830), p. 123. As to the taboos to which warriors are subject see _Taboo
and the Perils of the Soul_, pp. 157 _sqq._

[19] Etienne Aymonier, _Notes sur le Laos_ (Saigon, 1885), p. 26.

[20] _Die gestritgelte Rockenphilosophie_*[5] (Chemnitz, 1759), pp. 586

[21] Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central
Australia_ (London, 1899), pp. 364, 370 _sqq._, 629; _id., Across
Australia_ (London, 1912), ii. 280, 285 _sq._

[22] C.G. Seligmann, M.D., _The Melanesians of British New Guinea_
(Cambridge, 1910), pp. 589-599.

[23] George Brown, D.D., _Melanesians and Polynesians_ (London, 1910),
pp. 60 _sq._, 64. As to the Duk-duk society, see below, vol. ii. pp. 246

[24] John Keast Lord, _The Naturalist in Vancouver Island and British
Columbia_ (London, 1866), ii. 237.

[25] Edwin James, _Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky
Mountains_ (London, 1823), ii. 47; Rev. J. Owen Dorsey, "Omaha
Sociology," _Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology_
(Washington, 1884), p. 226.

[26] James Adair, _History of the American Indians_ (London, 1775), pp.

[27] (Sir) Henry Babington Smith, in _Folk-lore_, v. (1894) p. 340.

[28] Miss C.F. Gordon Cumming, _In the Hebrides_ (London, 1883), p. 211.

[29] W. Gregor, "Quelques coutumes du Nord-est du Comte d'Aberdeen,"
_Revue des Traditions populaires_, iii. (1888) p. 485 B. Compare
_Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild_, i. 158 _sq._

[30] R. Brough Smyth, _Aborigines of Victoria_ (Melbourne and London,
1878), i. 450.

[31] E. Gerard, _The Land beyond the Forest_ (Edinburgh and London,
1888), ii. 7.

[32] F. Grabowsky, "Der Distrikt Dusson Timor in Suedost-Borneo und seine
Bewohner," _Das Ausland_, 1884, No. 24, p. 470.

[33] _Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition made by Charles F.
Hall_, edited by Prof. J.E. Nourse (Washington, 1879), pp. 110 _sq._

[34] See _Taboo and Perils of the Soul_, pp. 207 _sqq._

[35] Walter E. Roth, _Ethnological Studies among the North-West-Central
Queensland Aborigines_ (Brisbane and London, 1897), p. 156, Sec. 265. The
custom of killing a man by pointing a bone or stick at him, while the
sorcerer utters appropriate curses, is common among the tribes of
Central Australia; but amongst them there seems to be no objection to
place the bone or stick on the ground; on the contrary, an Arunta wizard
inserts the bone or stick in the ground while he invokes death and
destruction on his enemy. See Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen, _Native
Tribes of Central Australia_ (London, 1899), pp. 534 _sqq.; id.,
Northern Tribes of Central Australia_ (London, 1904), pp. 455 _sqq._

[36] Hugh Low, _Sarawak_ (London, 1848), pp. 145 _sq._

[37] Pliny, _Naturalis Historia_ xxviii. 33 _sq._

[38] Rev. Walter Gregor, _Notes on the Folk-lore of the North-East of
Scotland_ (London, 1881), p. 184. As to the superstitions attaching to
stone arrowheads and axeheads (celts), commonly known as "thunderbolts,"
in the British Islands, see W.W. Skeat, "Snakestones and Stone
Thunderbolts," _Folklore_, xxiii. (1912) pp. 60 _sqq._; and as to such
superstitions in general, see Chr. Blinkenberg, _The Thunderweapon in
Religion and Folklore_ (Cambridge, 1911).

[39] Pliny, _Naturalis Historia_, xxix. 52-54.

[40] W. Borlase, _Antiquities, Historical and Monumental, of the County
of Cornwall_ (London, 1769), pp. 142 _sq._; J. Brand, _Popular
Antiquities of Great Britain_ (London, 1882-1883), i. 322; J.G. Dalyell,
_Darker Superstitions of Scotland_ (Edinburgh, 1834), pp. 140 _sq._;
Daniel Wilson, _The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_
(Edinburgh, 1851), pp. 303 _sqq._; Lieut.-Col. Forbes Leslie, _The Early
Races of Scotland and their Monuments_ (Edinburgh, 1866), i. 75 _sqq._;
J.G. Campbell, _Witchcraft and Second Sight in the Highlands and Islands
of Scotland_ (Glasgow, 1902), pp. 84-88; Marie Trevelyan, _Folk-lore and
Folk-stories of Wales_ (London, 1909), pp. 170 _sq._; J.C. Davies,
_Folk-lore of West and Mid-Wales_ (Aberystwyth, 1911), p. 76. Compare
W.W. Skeat, "Snakestones and Stone Thunderbolts," _Folk-lore,_ xxiii.
(1912) pp. 45 _sqq._ The superstition is described as follows by Edward
Lhwyd in a letter quoted by W. Borlase (_op. cit._ p. 142): "In most
parts of Wales, and throughout all Scotland, and in Cornwall, we find it
a common opinion of the vulgar, that about Midsummer-Eve (though in the
time they do not all agree) it is usual for snakes to meet in companies;
and that, by joining heads together, and hissing, a kind of bubble is
formed, which the rest, by continual hissing, blow on till it passes
quite through the body, and then it immediately hardens, and resembles a
glass-ring, which whoever finds (as some old women and children are
persuaded) shall prosper in all his undertakings. The rings thus
generated, are called _Gleineu Nadroeth_; in English, Snake-stones. They
are small glass amulets, commonly about half as wide as our
finger-rings, but much thicker, of a green colour usually, though
sometimes blue, and waved with red and white."

[41] Pliny, _Naturalis Historia_ xxiv. 12 and 68, xxv. 171.

[42] Marcellus, _De medicamentis_, ed. G. Helmreich (Leipsic, 1889),
preface, p. i.: "_Nec solum veteres medicinae artis auctores Latino
dumtaxat sermone perscriptos ... lectione scrutatus sum, sed etiam ab
agrestibus et plebeis remedia fortuita atque simplicia, quae
experimentis probaverant didici_." As to Marcellus and his work, see
Jacob Grimm, "Ueber Marcellus Burdigalensis," _Abhandlungen der
koniglichen Akademie der Wissenschaft zu Berlin_, 1847, pp. 429-460;
_id._, "Ueber die Marcellischen Formeln," _ibid._. 1855, pp. 50-68.

[43] Marcellus, _De medicamentis_, i. 68.

[44] Marcellus, _op. cit._ i. 76.

[45] Marcellus, _op. cit._ xxviii. 28 and 71, xxix. 35.

[46] Marcellus, _op. cit._ xxix. 51.

[47] Edward Westermarck, "Midsummer Customs in Morocco," _Folklore_,
xvi. (1905) pp. 32 _sq._; _id., Ceremonies and Beliefs connected with
Agriculture, certain Dates of the Solar Year, and the Weather in
Morocco_ (Helsingfors, 1913), pp. 75 _sq._

[48] E. Westermarck, "Midsummer Customs in Morocco," _Folk-lore_, xvi.
(1905) p. 35 _id., Ceremonies and Beliefs connected with Agriculture,
certain Dates of the Solar Year, and the Weather in Morocco_
(Helsingfors, 1913), pp. 88 _sq._

[49] Matthaeus Praetorius, _Deliciae Prussicae_, herausgegeben von Dr. W.
Pierson (Berlin, 1871), p. 54.

[50] H.H. Bancroft, _Native Races of the Pacific States_ (London,
1875-1876), ii. 142; Brasseur de Bourbourg, _Histoire des Nations
civilisees du Mexique et de l'Amerique Centrale_ (Paris, 1857-1859),
iii. 29.

[51] Kaempfer, "History of Japan," in J. Pinkerton's _Voyages and
Travels_, vii. 717; Caron, "Account of Japan," _ibid._ vii. 613; B.
Varenius, _Descriptio regni Japoniae et Siam_ (Cambridge, 1673), p. 11:
_"Radiis solis caput nunquam illustrabatur: in apertum acrem non

[52] A. de Herrera, _General History of the vast Continent and Islands
of America,_ trans, by Capt. John Stevens (London, 1725-1726), v. 88.

[53] H. Ternaux-Compans, _Essai sur l'ancien Cundinamarca_ (Paris,
N.D.), p. 56; Theodor Waitz, _Anthropologie der Naturvoelker_ iv.
(Leipsic, 1864) p. 359.

[54] Alonzo de Zurita, "Rapport sur les differentes classes de chefs de
la Nouvelle-Espagne," p. 30, in H. Ternaux-Compans's _Voyages, Relations
et Memoires originaux, pour servir a l'Histoire de la Decouvertede
l'Amerique_ (Paris, 1840); Th. Waitz, _l.c._; A. Bastian, _Die
Culturlaender des alten Amerika_ (Berlin, 1878), ii. 204.

[55] Cieza de Leon, _Second Part of the Chronicle of Peru_ (Hakluyt
Society, London, 1883), p. 18.

[56] _The Grihya Sutras_, translated by H. Oldenberg, Part ii. (Oxford,
1892) pp. 165, 275 (_Sacred Books of the East_, vol. xxx.). Umbrellas
appear to have been sometimes used in ritual for the purpose of
preventing the sunlight from falling on sacred persons or things. See W.
Caland, _Altindisches Zauberritual_ (Amsterdam, 1900), p. 110 note 12.
At an Athenian festival called Scira the priestess of Athena, the priest
of Poseidon, and the priest of the Sun walked from the Acropolis under
the shade of a huge white umbrella which was borne over their heads by
the Eteobutads. See Harpocration and Suidas, _s.v._ [Greek: Skiron];
Scholiast on Aristophanes, _Eccles._ 18.

[57] Mrs. Bishop, _Korea and her Neighbours_ (London, 1898), ii. 248.

[58] J.L. van Hasselt, "Eenige aanteekeningen aangaande de bewoners der
N. Westkust van Nieuw Guinea," _Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-Landen
Volkenkunde_, xxxi. (1886) p. 587.

[59] A. Bastian, _Die Voelker des oestlichen Asien_, v. (Jena, 1869) p.

[60] W.M. Gabb, "On the Indian Tribes and Languages of Costa Rica,"
_Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society held at
Philadelphia_, xiv. (Philadelphia, 1876), p. 510.

[61] L. Lloyd, _Peasant Life in Sweden_ (London, 1870), p. 194.

[62] H.H. Bancroft, _Native Races of the Pacific States_, i. 553. See
_Taboo and the Perils of the Soul_, p. 182.

[63] L. Heuzey, _Le Mont Olympe et l'Acarnanie_ (Paris, 1860), pp. 458



Sec. 1. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in Africa_

[Girls at puberty forbidden to touch the ground and to see the sun;
seclusion of girls at puberty among the A-Kamba; seclusion of girls at
puberty among the Baganda.]

Now it is remarkable that the foregoing two rules--not to touch the
ground and not to see the sun--are observed either separately or
conjointly by girls at puberty in many parts of the world. Thus amongst
the negroes of Loango girls at puberty are confined in separate huts,
and they may not touch the ground with any part of their bare body.[64]
Among the Zulus and kindred tribes of South Africa, when the first signs
of puberty shew themselves "while a girl is walking, gathering wood, or
working in the field, she runs to the river and hides herself among the
reeds for the day, so as not to be seen by men. She covers her head
carefully with her blanket that the sun may not shine on it and shrivel
her up into a withered skeleton, as would result from exposure to the
sun's beams. After dark she returns to her home and is secluded" in a
hut for some time.[65] During her seclusion, which lasts for about a
fortnight, neither she nor the girls who wait upon her may drink any
milk, lest the cattle should die. And should she be overtaken by the
first flow while she is in the fields, she must, after hiding in the
bush, scrupulously avoid all pathways in returning home.[66] A reason
for this avoidance is assigned by the A-Kamba of British East Africa,
whose girls under similar circumstances observe the same rule. "A girl's
first menstruation is a very critical period of her life according to
A-Kamba beliefs. If this condition appears when she is away from the
village, say at work in the fields, she returns at once to her village,
but is careful to walk through the grass and not on a path, for if she
followed a path and a stranger accidentally trod on a spot of blood and
then cohabited with a member of the opposite sex before the girl was
better again, it is believed that she would never bear a child." She
remains at home till the symptoms have ceased, and during this time she
may be fed by none but her mother. When the flux is over, her father and
mother are bound to cohabit with each other, else it is believed that
the girl would be barren all her life.[67] Similarly, among the Baganda,
when a girl menstruated for the first time she was secluded and not
allowed to handle food; and at the end of her seclusion the kinsman with
whom she was staying (for among the Baganda young people did not reside
with their parents) was obliged to jump over his wife, which with the
Baganda is regarded as equivalent to having intercourse with her. Should
the girl happen to be living near her parents at the moment when she
attained to puberty, she was expected on her recovery to inform them of
the fact, whereupon her father jumped over her mother. Were this custom
omitted, the Baganda, like the A-Kamba, thought that the girl would
never have children or that they would die in infancy.[68] Thus the
pretence of sexual intercourse between the parents or other relatives of
the girl was a magical ceremony to ensure her fertility. It is
significant that among the Baganda the first menstruation was often
called a marriage, and the girl was spoken of as a bride.[69] These
terms so applied point to a belief like that of the Siamese, that a
girl's first menstruation results from her defloration by one of a host
of aerial spirits, and that the wound thus inflicted is repeated
afterwards every month by the same ghostly agency.[70] For a like
reason, probably, the Baganda imagine that a woman who does not
menstruate exerts a malign influence on gardens and makes them
barren[71] if she works in them. For not being herself fertilized by a
spirit, how can she fertilize the garden?

[Seclusion of girls at puberty among the tribes of the Tanganyika

Among the Amambwe, Winamwanga, Alungu, and other tribes of the great
plateau to the west of Lake Tanganyika, "when a young girl knows that
she has attained puberty, she forthwith leaves her mother's hut, and
hides herself in the long grass near the village, covering her face with
a cloth and weeping bitterly. Towards sunset one of the older
women--who, as directress of the ceremonies, is called _nachimbusa_--
follows her, places a cooking-pot by the cross-roads, and boils therein
a concoction of various herbs, with which she anoints the neophyte. At
nightfall the girl is carried on the old woman's back to her mother's
hut. When the customary period of a few days has elapsed, she is allowed
to cook again, after first whitewashing the floor of the hut. But, by
the following month, the preparations for her initiation are complete.
The novice must remain in her hut throughout the whole period of
initiation, and is carefully guarded by the old women, who accompany her
whenever she leaves her quarters, veiling her head with a native cloth.
The ceremonies last for at least one month." During this period of
seclusion, drumming and songs are kept up within the mother's hut by the
village women, and no male, except, it is said, the father of twins, is
allowed to enter. The directress of the rites and the older women
instruct the young girl as to the elementary facts of life, the duties
of marriage, and the rules of conduct, decorum, and hospitality to be
observed by a married woman. Amongst other things the damsel must submit
to a series of tests such as leaping over fences, thrusting her head
into a collar made of thorns, and so on. The lessons which she receives
are illustrated by mud figures of animals and of the common objects of
domestic life. Moreover, the directress of studies embellishes the walls
of the hut with rude pictures, each with its special significance and
song, which must be understood and learned by the girl.[72] In the
foregoing account the rule that a damsel at puberty may neither see the
sun nor touch the ground seems implied by the statement that on the
first discovery of her condition she hides in long grass and is carried
home after sunset on the back of an old woman.

[Seclusion of girls at puberty among the tribes of British Central

Among the Nyanja-speaking tribes of Central Angoniland, in British
Central Africa, when a young girl finds that she has become a woman, she
stands silent by the pathway leading to the village, her face wrapt in
her calico. An old woman, finding her there, takes her off to a stream
to bathe; after that the girl is secluded for six days in the old
woman's hut. She eats her porridge out of an old basket and her relish,
in which no salt is put, from a potsherd. The basket is afterwards
thrown away. On the seventh day the aged matrons gather together, go
with the girl to a stream, and throw her into the water. In returning
they sing songs, and the old woman, who directs the proceedings, carries
the maiden on her back. Then they spread a mat and fetch her husband and
set the two down on the mat and shave his head. When it is dark, the old
women escort the girl to her husband's hut. There the _ndiwo_ relish is
cooking on the fire. During the night the woman rises and puts some salt
in the pot. Next morning, before dawn, while all is dark and the
villagers have not yet opened their doors, the young married woman goes
off and gives some of the relish to her mother and to the old woman who
was mistress of the ceremony. This relish she sets down at the doors of
their houses and goes away. And in the morning, when the sun has risen
and all is light in the village, the two women open their doors, and
there they find the relish with the salt in it; and they take of it and
rub it on their feet and under their arm-pits; and if there are little
children in the house, they eat of it. And if the young wife has a
kinsman who is absent from the village, some of the relish is put on a
splinter of bamboo and kept against his return, that when he comes he,
too, may rub his feet with it. But if the woman finds that her husband
is impotent, she does not rise betimes and go out in the dark to lay the
relish at the doors of her mother and the old woman. And in the morning,
when the sun is up and all the village is light, the old women open
their doors, and see no relish there, and they know what has happened,
and so they go wilily to work. For they persuade the husband to consult
the diviner that he may discover how to cure his impotence; and while he
is closeted with the wizard, they fetch another man, who finishes the
ceremony with the young wife, in order that the relish may be given out
and that people may rub their feet with it. But if it happens that when
a girl comes to maturity she is not yet betrothed to any man, and
therefore has no husband to go to, the matrons tell her that she must go
to a lover instead. And this is the custom which they call _chigango_.
So in the evening she takes her cooking pot and relish and hies away to
the quarters of the young bachelors, and they very civilly sleep
somewhere else that night. And in the morning the girl goes back to the
_kuka_ hut.[73]

[Abstinence from salt associated with a rule of chastity in many

From the foregoing account it appears that among these tribes no sooner
has a girl attained to womanhood than she is expected and indeed
required to give proof of her newly acquired powers by cohabiting with a
man, whether her husband or another. And the abstinence from salt during
the girl's seclusion is all the more remarkable because as soon as the
seclusion is over she has to use salt for a particular purpose, to which
the people evidently attach very great importance, since in the event of
her husband proving impotent she is even compelled, apparently, to
commit adultery in order that the salted relish may be given out as
usual. In this connexion it deserves to be noted that among the Wagogo
of German East Africa women at their monthly periods may not sleep with
their husbands and may not put salt in food.[74] A similar rule is
observed by the Nyanja-speaking tribes of Central Angoniland, with whose
puberty customs we are here concerned. Among them, we are told, "some
superstition exists with regard to the use of salt. A woman during her
monthly sickness must on no account put salt into any food she is
cooking, lest she give her husband or children a disease called _tsempo_
(_chitsoko soko_) but calls a child to put it in, or, as the song goes,
'_Natira nichere ni bondo chifukwa n'kupanda mwana_' and pours in the
salt by placing it on her knee, because there is no child handy. Should
a party of villagers have gone to make salt, all sexual intercourse is
forbidden among the people of the village, until the people who have
gone to make the salt (from grass) return. When they do come back, they
must make their entry into the village at night, and no one must see
them. Then one of the elders of the village sleeps with his wife. She
then cooks some relish, into which she puts some of the salt. This
relish is handed round to the people who went to make the salt, who rub
it on their feet and under their armpits."[75] Hence it would seem that
in the mind of these people abstinence from salt is somehow associated
with the idea of chastity. The same association meets us in the customs
of many peoples in various parts of the world. For example, ancient
Hindoo ritual prescribed that for three nights after a husband had
brought his bride home, the two should sleep on the ground, remain
chaste, and eat no salt.[76] Among the Baganda, when a man was making a
net, he had to refrain from eating salt and meat and from living with
his wife; these restrictions he observed until the net took its first
catch of fish. Similarly, so long as a fisherman's nets or traps were in
the water, he must live apart from his wife, and neither he nor she nor
their children might eat salt or meat.[77] Evidence of the same sort
could be multiplied,[78] but without going into it further we may say
that for some reason which is not obvious to us primitive man connects
salt with the intercourse of the sexes and therefore forbids the use of
that condiment in a variety of circumstances in which he deems
continence necessary or desirable. As there is nothing which the savage
regards as a greater bar between the sexes than the state of
menstruation, he naturally prohibits the use of salt to women and girls
at their monthly periods.

[Seclusion of girls at puberty among the tribes about Lake Nyassa and on
the Zambesi.]

With the Awa-nkonde, a tribe at the northern end of Lake Nyassa, it is a
rule that after her first menstruation a girl must be kept apart, with a
few companions of her own sex, in a darkened house. The floor is covered
with dry banana leaves, but no fire may be lit in the house, which is
called "the house of the Awasungu," that is, "of maidens who have no
hearts."[79] When a girl reaches puberty, the Wafiomi of Eastern Africa
hold a festival at which they make a noise with a peculiar kind of
rattle. After that the girl remains for a year in the large common hut
(_tembe_), where she occupies a special compartment screened off from
the men's quarters. She may not cut her hair or touch food, but is fed
by other women. At night, however, she quits the hut and dances with
young men.[80] Among the Barotse or Marotse of the upper Zambesi, "when
a girl arrives at the age of puberty she is sent into the fields, where
a hut is constructed far from the village. There, with two or three
companions, she spends a month, returning home late and starting before
dawn in order not to be seen by the men. The women of the village visit
her, bringing food and honey, and singing and dancing to amuse her. At
the end of a month her husband comes and fetches her. It is only after
this ceremony that women have the right to smear themselves with
ochre."[81] We may suspect that the chief reason why the girl during her
seclusion may visit her home only by night is a fear, not so much lest
she should be seen by men, as that she might be seen by the sun. Among
the Wafiomi, as we have just learned, the young woman in similar
circumstances is even free to dance with men, provided always that the
dance is danced at night. The ceremonies among the Barotse or Marotse
are somewhat more elaborate for a girl of the royal family. She is shut
up for three months in a place which is kept secret from the public;
only the women of her family know where it is. There she sits alone in
the darkness of the hut, waited on by female slaves, who are strictly
forbidden to speak and may communicate with her and with each other only
by signs. During all this time, though she does nothing, she eats much,
and when at last she comes forth, her appearance is quite changed, so
fat has she grown. She is then led by night to the river and bathed in
presence of all the women of the village. Next day she flaunts before
the public in her gayest attire, her head bedecked with ornaments and
her face mottled with red paint. So everybody knows what has

[Seclusion of girls at puberty among the Thonga on Delagoa Bay.]

Among the northern clans of the Thonga tribe, in South-Eastern Africa,
about Delagoa Bay, when a girl thinks that the time of her nubility is
near, she chooses an adoptive mother, perhaps in a neighbouring village.
When the symptoms appear, she flies away from her own village and
repairs to that of her adopted mother "to weep near her." After that she
is secluded with several other girls in the same condition for a month.
They are shut up in a hut, and whenever they come outside they must wear
a dirty greasy cloth over their faces as a veil. Every morning they are
led to a pool and plunged in the water up to their necks. Initiated
girls or women accompany them, singing obscene songs and driving away
with sticks any man who meets them; for no man may see a girl during
this time of seclusion. If he saw her, it is said that he would be
struck blind. On their return from the river, the girls are again
imprisoned in the hut, where they remain wet and shivering, for they may
not go near the fire to warm themselves. During their seclusion they
listen to lascivious songs sung by grown women and are instructed in
sexual matters. At the end of the month the adoptive mother brings the
girl home to her true mother and presents her with a pot of beer.[83]

[Seclusion of girls at puberty among the Caffre tribes of South Africa.]

Among the Caffre tribes of South Africa the period of a girl's seclusion
at puberty varies with the rank of her father. If he is a rich man, it
may last twelve days; if he is a chief, it may last twenty-four
days.[84] And when it is over, the girl rubs herself over with red
earth, and strews finely powdered red earth on the ground, before she
leaves the hut where she has been shut up. Finally, though she was
forbidden to drink milk all the days of her separation, she washes out
her mouth with milk, and is from that moment regarded as a full-grown
woman.[85] Afterwards, in the dusk of the evening, she carries away all
the objects with which she came into contact in the hut during her
seclusion and buries them secretly in a sequestered spot.[86] When the
girl is a chief's daughter the ceremonies at her liberation from the hut
are more elaborate than usual. She is led forth from the hut by a son of
her father's councillor, who, wearing the wings of a blue crane, the
badge of bravery, on his head, escorts her to the cattle kraal, where
cows are slaughtered and dancing takes place. Large skins full of milk
are sent to the spot from neighbouring villages; and after the dances
are over the girl drinks milk for the first time since the day she
entered into retreat. But the first mouthful is drunk by the girl's aunt
or other female relative who had charge of her during her seclusion; and
a little of it is poured on the fire-place.[87] Amongst the Zulus, when
the girl was a princess royal, the end of her time of separation was
celebrated by a sort of saturnalia: law and order were for the time
being in abeyance: every man, woman, and child might appropriate any
article of property: the king abstained from interfering; and if during
this reign of misrule he was robbed of anything he valued he could only
recover it by paying a fine.[88] Among the Basutos, when girls at
puberty are bathed as usual by the matrons in a river, they are hidden
separately in the turns and bends of the stream, and told to cover their
heads, as they will be visited by a large serpent. Their limbs are then
plastered with clay, little masks of straw are put on their faces, and
thus arrayed they daily follow each other in procession, singing
melancholy airs, to the fields, there to learn the labours of husbandry
in which a great part of their adult life will be passed.[89] We may
suppose, though we are not told, that the straw masks which they wear in
these processions are intended to hide their faces from the gaze of men
and the rays of the sun.

[Seclusion of girls at puberty in the Lower Congo.]

Among the tribes in the lower valley of the Congo, such as the Bavili,
when a girl arrives at puberty, she has to pass two or three months in
seclusion in a small hut built for the purpose. The hair of her head is
shaved off, and every day the whole of her body is smeared with a red
paint (_takulla_) made from a powdered wood mixed with water. Some of
her companions reside in the hut with her and prepare the paint for her
use. A woman is appointed to take charge of the hut and to keep off
intruders. At the end of her confinement she is taken to water by the
women of her family and bathed; the paint is rubbed off her body, her
arms and legs are loaded with brass rings, and she is led in solemn
procession under an umbrella to her husband's house. If these ceremonies
were not performed, the people believe that the girl would be barren or
would give birth to monsters, that the rain would cease to fall, the
earth to bear fruit, and the fishing to be successful.[90] Such serious
importance do these savages ascribe to the performance of rites which to
us seem so childish.

Sec. 2. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in New Ireland, New Guinea, and

[Seclusion of girls at puberty in New Ireland.]

In New Ireland girls are confined for four or five years in small cages,
being kept in the dark and not allowed to set foot on the ground. The
custom has been thus described by an eye-witness. "I heard from a
teacher about some strange custom connected with some of the young girls
here, so I asked the chief to take me to the house where they were. The
house was about twenty-five feet in length, and stood in a reed and
bamboo enclosure, across the entrance to which a bundle of dried grass
was suspended to show that it was strictly '_tabu_.' Inside the house
were three conical structures about seven or eight feet in height, and
about ten or twelve feet in circumference at the bottom, and for about
four feet from the ground, at which point they tapered off to a point at
the top. These cages were made of the broad leaves of the pandanus-tree,
sewn quite close together so that no light and little or no air could
enter. On one side of each is an opening which is closed by a double
door of plaited cocoa-nut tree and pandanus-tree leaves. About three
feet from the ground there is a stage of bamboos which forms the floor.
In each of these cages we were told there was a young woman confined,
each of whom had to remain for at least four or five years, without ever
being allowed to go outside the house. I could scarcely credit the story
when I heard it; the whole thing seemed too horrible to be true. I spoke
to the chief, and told him that I wished to see the inside of the cages,
and also to see the girls that I might make them a present of a few
beads. He told me that it was '_tabu_,' forbidden for any men but their
own relations to look at them; but I suppose the promised beads acted as
an inducement, and so he sent away for some old lady who had charge, and
who alone is allowed to open the doors. While we were waiting we could
hear the girls talking to the chief in a querulous way as if objecting
to something or expressing their fears. The old woman came at length and
certainly she did not seem a very pleasant jailor or guardian; nor did
she seem to favour the request of the chief to allow us to see the
girls, as she regarded us with anything but pleasant looks. However, she
had to undo the door when the chief told her to do so, and then the
girls peeped out at us, and, when told to do so, they held out their
hands for the beads. I, however, purposely sat at some distance away and
merely held out the beads to them, as I wished to draw them quite
outside, that I might inspect the inside of the cages. This desire of
mine gave rise to another difficulty, as these girls were not allowed to
put their feet to the ground all the time they were confined in these
places. However, they wished to get the beads, and so the old lady had
to go outside and collect a lot of pieces of wood and bamboo, which she
placed on the ground, and then going to one of the girls, she helped her
down and held her hand as she stepped from one piece of wood to another
until she came near enough to get the beads I held out to her. I then
went to inspect the inside of the cage out of which she had come, but
could scarcely put my head inside of it, the atmosphere was so hot and
stifling. It was clean and contained nothing but a few short lengths of
bamboo for holding water. There was only room for the girl to sit or lie
down in a crouched position on the bamboo platform, and when the doors
are shut it must be nearly or quite dark inside. The girls are never
allowed to come out except once a day to bathe in a dish or wooden bowl
placed close to each cage. They say that they perspire profusely. They
are placed in these stifling cages when quite young, and must remain
there until they are young women, when they are taken out and have each
a great marriage feast provided for them. One of them was about fourteen
or fifteen years old, and the chief told us that she had been there for
five years, but would soon be taken out now. The other two were about
eight and ten years old, and they have to stay there for several years
longer."[91] A more recent observer has described the custom as it is
observed on the western coast of New Ireland. He says: "A _buck_ is the
name of a little house, not larger than an ordinary hen-coop, in which a
little girl is shut up, sometimes for weeks only, and at other times for
months.... Briefly stated, the custom is this. Girls, on attaining
puberty or betrothal, are enclosed in one of these little coops for a
considerable time. They must remain there night and day. We saw two of
these girls in two coops; the girls were not more than ten years old,
still they were lying in a doubled-up position, as their little houses
would not admit of them lying in any other way. These two coops were
inside a large house; but the chief, in consideration of a present of a
couple of tomahawks, ordered the ends to be torn out of the house to
admit the light, so that we might photograph the _buck_. The occupant
was allowed to put her face through an opening to be photographed, in
consideration of another present."[92] As a consequence of their long
enforced idleness in the shade the girls grow fat and their dusky
complexion bleaches to a more pallid hue. Both their corpulence and
their pallor are regarded as beauties.[93]

[Seclusion of girls at puberty in New Guinea, Borneo, Ceram and Yap.]

In Kabadi, a district of British New Guinea, "daughters of chiefs, when
they are about twelve or thirteen years of age, are kept indoors for two
or three years, never being allowed, under any pretence, to descend from
the house, and the house is so shaded that the sun cannot shine on
them."[94] Among the Yabim and Bukaua, two neighbouring and kindred
tribes on the coast of German New Guinea, a girl at puberty is secluded
for some five or six weeks in an inner part of the house; but she may
not sit on the floor, lest her uncleanness should cleave to it, so a log
of wood is placed for her to squat on. Moreover, she may not touch the
ground with her feet; hence if she is obliged to quit the house for a
short time, she is muffled up in mats and walks on two halves of a
coconut shell, which are fastened like sandals to her feet by creeping
plants. During her seclusion she is in charge of her aunts or other
female relatives. At the end of the time she bathes, her person is
loaded with ornaments, her face is grotesquely painted with red stripes
on a white ground, and thus adorned she is brought forth in public to be
admired by everybody. She is now marriageable.[95] Among the Ot Danoms
of Borneo girls at the age of eight or ten years are shut up in a little
room or cell of the house, and cut off from all intercourse with the
world for a long time. The cell, like the rest of the house, is raised
on piles above the ground, and is lit by a single small window opening
on a lonely place, so that the girl is in almost total darkness. She may
not leave the room on any pretext whatever, not even for the most
necessary purposes. None of her family may see her all the time she is
shut up, but a single slave woman is appointed to wait on her. During
her lonely confinement, which often lasts seven years, the girl occupies
herself in weaving mats or with other handiwork. Her bodily growth is
stunted by the long want of exercise, and when, on attaining womanhood,
she is brought out, her complexion is pale and wax-like. She is now
shewn the sun, the earth, the water, the trees, and the flowers, as if
she were newly born. Then a great feast is made, a slave is killed, and
the girl is smeared with his blood.[96] In Ceram girls at puberty were
formerly shut up by themselves in a hut which was kept dark.[97] In Yap,
one of the Caroline Islands, should a girl be overtaken by her first
menstruation on the public road, she may not sit down on the earth, but
must beg for a coco-nut shell to put under her. She is shut up for
several days in a small hut at a distance from her parents' house, and
afterwards she is bound to sleep for a hundred days in one of the
special houses which are provided for the use of menstruous women.[98]

Sec. 3. _Seclusion of Girls at Puberty in the Torres Straits Islands and
Northern Australia_

[Seclusion of girls at puberty in Mabuiag, Torres Straits.]

In the island of Mabuiag, Torres Straits, when the signs of puberty
appear on a girl, a circle of bushes is made in a dark corner of the
house. Here, decked with shoulder-belts, armlets, leglets just below the

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest