Page images

theory is that the soul of a dead man goes out from its buried corpse and sucks the blood of living men. The victim becomes thin, languid, and bloodless, falls into a rapid decline and dies. Here again is actual experience, but a new fancy is developed to complete the idea. The corpse thus supplied by its returning soul with blood, is imagined to remain unnaturally fresh and supple and ruddy; and accordingly the means of detecting a vampire is to open his grave, where the reanimated corpse may be found to bleed when cut, and even to move and shriek. One way to lay a vampire is to stake down the corpse (as with suicides and with the same intention); but the more effectual plan is to behead and burn it. This is the substance of the doctrine of vampires. Still, as one order of demons is apt to blend into others, the vampire-legends are much mixed with other animistic folklore. Vampires appear in the character of the poltergeist or knocker, as causing those disturbances in houses which modern spiritualism refers in like manner to souls of the departed. Such was the ghost of a certain surly peasant who came out of his grave in the island of Mycone in 1700, after he had been buried but two days; he came into the houses, upset the furniture, put the lamps out, and carried on his tricks till the whole population went wild with terror. Tournefort happened to be there and was present at the exhumation; his account is curious evidence of the way an excited mob could persuade themselves, without the least foundation of fact, that the body was warm and its blood red. Again, the blood-sucker is very generally described under the Slavonic names of werewolf (wilkodlak, brukolaka, &c.); the descriptions of the two creatures are inextricably mixed up, and a man whose eyebrows meet, as if his soul were taking flight like a butterfly, to enter some other body, may be marked by this sign either as a werewolf or a vampire. A modern account of vampirism in Bulgaria well illustrates the nature of spirits as conceived in such beliefs as these. A sorcerer armed with a saint's picture will hunt a vampire into a bottle containing some of the filthy food that the demon loves; as soon as he is fairly inside he is corked down, the bottle is thrown into the fire, and the vampire disappears for ever.1

As to the savage visionary and the phantoms he beholds, the Greenlander preparing for the profession of sorcerer may stand as type, when, rapt in contemplation in his desert solitude, emaciated by fasting and disordered by fits, he sees before him scenes with figures of men and animals, which he believes to be spirits. Thus it is interesting to read the descriptions by Zulu converts of the dreadful creatures which they see in moments of intense religious exaltation, the snake with great eyes and very fearful, the leopard creeping stealthily, the enemy approaching with his long assagai in his hand—these coming one after another to the place where the man has gone to pray in secret, and striving to frighten him from his knees. Thus the visionary temptations of the Hindu ascetic and the mediæval saint are happening in our own day, though their place is now rather in the medical handbook than in the record of miracle. Like the disease-demons and the oracle-demons, these spiritual groups have their origin not in fancy, but in real phenomena interpreted on animistic principles. In the dark especially, harmful spirits swarm.

Round native Australian encampments, Sir George Grey used to see the bush dotted with little moving points of fire; these were the firesticks carried by the old women sent to look after the young ones, but who dared not quit the firelight without a brand to protect them from the evil spirits. So South American Indians would carry brands or torches for fear of evil demons when they ventured into the dark.

1 J. V. Grohmann, ‘Aberglauben aus Böhmen,' &c., p. 24 ; Calmet, ‘Diss. sur les Esprits,' vol. ii. ; Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 1048, &c. ; St. Clair and Brophy, ‘Bulgaria,' p. 49; see Ralston, ‘Songs of Russian People,' p. 409.

2 Cranz, ‘Grönland,' p. 268. Callaway, ‘Rel. of Amazulu,' p. 246, &c. 3 Grey, 'Australia,' vol. ii. p. 302. See also Bonwick, “Tasmanians,'

p. 180.

* Southey, ‘Brazil, part i. p. 238. See also Rochefort, p. 418; J. G.

Tribes of the Malay Peninsula light fires near a mother at childbirth, to scare away the evil spirits. Such notions extend to higher levels of civilization. In Southern India, where for fear of pervading spirits only pressing need will induce a man to go abroad after sundown, the unlucky wight who has to venture into the dark will carry a firebrand to keep off the spectral foes. Even in broad daylight, the Hindu lights lamps to keep off the demons, a ceremony which is to be noticed again at a Chinese wedding 3 In Europe, the details of the use of fire to drive off demons and witches are minute and explicit. The ancient Norse colonists in Iceland carried fire round the lands they intended to occupy, to expel the evil spirits. Such ideas have brought into existence a whole group of Scandinavian customs, still remembered in the country, but dying out in practice. Till a child is baptized, the fire must never be let out, lest the trolls should be able to steal the infant; a live coal must be cast after the mother as she goes to be churched, to prevent the trolls from carrying her off bodily or bewitching her; a live coal is to be thrown after a trollwife or witch as she quits a house, and so forth. Into modern times, the people of the Hebrides continued to protect the mother and child from evil spirits, by carrying fire round them. In modern Bulgaria, on the Feast of St. Demetrius, lighted candles are placed in the stables and the wood-shed, to prevent evil spirits from entering into


Müller, p. 273 (Caribs); Cranz, ‘Grönland,' p. 301 ; Schoolcraft, ‘Indian Tribes,' part iii. p. 140.

1 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. i. pp. 270, 298 ; vol. ii. ‘N. S.' p. 117.

2 Roberts, Oriental Illustrations,' p. 531 ; Colebrooke in 'As. Res.' vol. vii. p. 274.

Doolittle, ‘Chinese,' vol. i. p. 77. 4 Hylten-Cavallius, ‘Wärend och Wirdarne,' vol. i. p. 191 ; Atkinson, "Glossary of Cleveland Dial.' p. 597. [Prof. Liebrecht, in “Zeitschrift für Ethnologie,' vol. v. 1873, p. 99, adds a comparison of the still usual German custom of keeping a light burning in the lying-in room till the child is baptized (Wuttke, 2nd ed. No. 583), and the similar ancient Roman practice whence the goddess Candelifera had her name (note to 2nd ed.).]

5 Martin, Western Islands,' in Pinkerton, vol. iii. p. 612.

[ocr errors]

the domestic animals. Nor did this ancient idea remain a mere lingering notion of peasant folklore. Its adoption by the Church is obvious in the ceremonial benediction of candles in the Roman Ritual: 'Ut quibuscumque locis accensæ, sive positæ fuerint, discedant principes tenebrarum, et contremiscant, et fugiant pavidi cum omnibus ministris suis ab habitationibus illis, &c.' The metrical translation of Naogeorgus shows perfectly the retention of primitive animistic ideas in the middle ages :

... a wondrous force and might
Doth in these candels lie, which if at any time they light,
They sure beleve that neyther storm or tempest dare abide,
Nor thunder in the skies be heard, nor any devil's spide,
Nor fearefull sprightes that walke by night, nor hurts of frost or

haile.' Animals stare and startle when we see no cause; is it that they see spirits invisible to man? Thus the Greenlander says that the seals and wildfowl are scared by spectres, which no human eye but the sorcerer's can behold ; 3 and thus the Khonds hold that their flitting ethereal gods, invisible to man, are seen by beasts. The thought holds no small place in the folklore of the world. Telemachos could not discern Athene standing near him, for not to all do the gods visibly appear; but Odysseus saw her, and the dogs, and they did not bark, but with low whine slunk across the dwelling to the further side. So in old Scandinavia, the dogs could see Hela the deathgoddess move unseen by men ; 6 so Jew and Moslem, hearing the dogs howl, know that they have seen the Angel of Death come on his awful errand;7 while the

1 St. Clair and Brophy, ‘Bulgaria,' p. 44.

2 Rituale Romanum ; Benedictio Candelarum. Brand, ‘Popular Antiquities,' vol. i. p. 46. 3 Cranz, 'Grönland,' p. 267, see 296.

Macpherson, 'India,' p. 100. 5 Homer, Odyss, xvi. 160.

Grimm, ‘D. M.' p. 632. 7 Eisenmenger, 'Judenthum,' part i. p. 872. Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. ii. p. 56.


beliefs that animals see spirits, and that a dog's melancholy howl means death somewhere near, are still familiar to our own popular superstition.

Another means by which men may detect the presence of invisible spirits, is to adopt the thief-catcher's well-known device of strewing ashes. According to the ideas of a certain stage of animism, a spirit is considered substantial enough to leave a footprint. The following instances relate sometimes to souls, sometimes to other beings. The Philippine islanders expected the dead to return on the third day to his dwelling, wherefore they set a vessel of water for him to wash himself clean from the grave-mould, and strewed ashes to see footprints. A more elaborate rite forms part of the funeral customs of the Hos of North-East India. On the evening of a death, the near relatives perform the ceremony of calling the dead. Boiled rice and a pot of water are placed in an inner room, and ashes sprinkled from thence to the threshold. Two relatives go to the place where the body was burnt, and walk round it beating ploughshares and chanting a plaintive dirge to call the spirit home; while two others watch the rice and water to see if they are disturbed, and look for the spirit-footsteps in the ashes. If a sign appears, it is received with shivering horror and weeping, the mourners outside coming in to join. Till the survivors are thus satisfied of the spirit's return, the rite must be repeated.? In Yucatan there is mention of the custom of leaving a child alone at night in a place strewn with ashes; if the footprint of an animal were found next morning, this animal was the guardian deity of the child. Beside this may be placed the Aztec ceremony at the second festival of the Sun-god Tezcatlipoca, when they sprinkled maize-flour before his sanctuary, and his

1 Bastian, ‘Psychologie,' p. 162. Other localities in ‘Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. iv. p. 333.

2 Tickell in 'Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,' vol. ix. p. 795. The dirge is given above, p. 32.

3 De Brosses, ‘Dieux Fétiches,' p. 46.

« PreviousContinue »