« PreviousContinue »
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
i 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.
high-priest watched till he beheld the divine footprints, and then shouted to announce. “Our great god is come.” 1 Among such rites in the Old World, the Talmud contains a salient instance; there are a great multitude of devils, it is said ; and he who will be aware of them let him take sifted ashes and strew them by his bed, and in the early morning he shall see as it were marks of cocks' feet.? This is an idea that has widely spread in the modern world, as where in German folklore the little “ earthmen” make footprints like a duck's or goose's in the strewn ashes. Other marks, too, betoken the passage of spirit-visitors ; 8 and as for ghosts, our own superstition is among the most striking of the series. On St. Mark's Eve, ashes are to be sifted over the hearth, and the footprint will be seen of any one who is to die within the year; many a mischievous wight has made a superstitious family miserable by slily coming down stairs and marking the print of someone's shoe. Such details as these may justify us in thinking that the lower races are apt to ascribe to spirits in general that kind of ethereal materiality which we have seen they attribute to souls. Explicit statements on the subject are scarce till we reach the level of early Christian theology. The ideas of Tertullian and Origen, as to the thin yet not immaterial substance of angels and demons, probably represent the conceptions of primitive animism far more clearly than the doctrine which Calmet lays down with the weight of theological dogma, that angels, demons, and disembodied souls are pure immaterial spirit; but that when spirits appear, act, speak, walk, eat, and so forth, they must produce tangible bodies by either condensing the air, or substituting
other terrestrial solid bodies capable of performing these functions.
No wonder that men should attack such material beings by material means, and even sometimes try to rid themselves by a general clearance from the legion of ethereal beings hovering around them. As the Australians annually drive from their midst the accumulated ghosts of the last year's dead, so the Gold Coast negroes from time to time turn out with clubs and torches to drive the evil spirits from their towns; rushing about and beating the air with frantic howling, they drive the demons into the woods, and then come home and sleep more easily, and for a while afterwards enjoy better health. When a baby was born in a Kalmuk horde, the neighbours would rush about crying and brandishing cudgels about the tents, to drive off the harmful spirits who might hurt mother and child.3 Keeping up a closely allied idea in modern Europe, the Bohemians at Pentecost, and the Tyrolese on Walpurgisnacht, hunt the witches, invisible and imaginary, out of house and
Closely allied to the doctrine of souls, and almost rivalling it in the permanence with which it has held its place through all the grades of animism, is the doctrine of patron, guardian, or familiar spirits. These are beings specially attached to individual men, soul-like in their nature, and sometimes considered as actually being human souls. These beings have, like all others of the spiritual world as originally conceived, their reason and purpose. The special functions which they perform are twofold. First, while man's own proper soul serves him for the ordinary purposes of life and thought, there are times when powers and impressions out of the course of the mind's normal action, and words that seem spoken to him by a voice from without, messages of mysterious knowledge, of counsel or warning, seem to indicate the intervention of as it were a . second superior soul, a familiar demon. And as enthusiasts, seers, sorcerers, are the men whose minds most often show such conditions, so to these classes more than to others the informing and controlling patron-spirits are attached. Second, while the common expected events of daily life pass unnoticed as in the regular course of things, such events as seem to fall out with especial reference to an individual, demand an intervening agent; and thus the decisions, discoveries, and deliverances, which civilized men variously ascribe to their own judgment, to luck, and to special interposition of Pyovidence, are accounted for in the lower culture by the action of the patron-spirit or guardian-genius. Not to crowd examples from all the districts of animism to which this doctrine belongs, let us follow it by a few illustrations from the lower grades of savagery upward. Among the Watchandis of Australia, it is held that when a warrior slays his first man, the spirit of the dead enters the slayer's body and becomes his “woorie" or warning spirit; taking up its abode near his liver, it informs him by a scratching or tickling sensation of the approach of danger. In Tasmania, a native has been heard to ascribe his deliverance to the preserving care of his deceased father's spirit, now become his guardian angel. That the most important act of the North American Indian's religion is to obtain his individual patron genius or deity, is well known. Among the Esquimaux, the sorcerer qualifies for his profession by getting a “torngak" or spirit which will henceforth be his familiar demon, and this spirit may be the soul of a deceased parent. In Chili, as to guardian spirits, it has been re
i Tertulian. De Carno Christi, vi. ; Adv. Marcion. ii. ; Origen. De Princip. i. 7. See Horst, 1. c. Calmet, ‘Dissertatiou,' vol. i. ch. xlvi.
2 J. L. Wilson, ‘W. Afr.' p. 217. See Bosman, 'Guinea,' in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. p. 402.
3 Pallas, ‘Reisen,' vol. i. p. 360.
* Grimm, ‘D. M.' p. 1212; Wuttke, Volksaberglaube,' p. 119 ; see Hyltén-Cavallius, part i. p. 178 (Sweden).
marked that every Araucanian imagines he has one in his service; “I keep my amchi-malghen (guardian nymph) still,” being a common expression when they succeed in any undertaking. The Caribs display the doctrine well in both its general and special forms. On the one hand, there is a guardian deity for each man, which accompanies his soul to the next life; on the other hand, each sorcerer has his familiar demon, which he evokes in mysterious darkness by chants and tobacco-smoke ; and when several sorcerers call up their familiars together, the consequence is apt to be a quarrel among the demons, and a fight. In Africa, the negro has his guardian spirit-how far identified with what Europeans call soul or conscience, it may be hard to determine; but he certainly looks upon it as a being separate from himself, for he summons it by sorcery, builds a little fetish-hut for it by the wayside, rewards and propitiates it by libations of liquor and bits of food. In Asia, the Mongols, each with his patron genius, 4 and the Laos sorcerers who can send their familiar spirits into others' bodies to cause disease, are examples equally to the purpose.
Among the Aryan nations of Northern Europe, the old doctrine of man's guardian spirit may be traced, and in classic Greece and Rome it renews with philosophic eloquence and cultured custom the ideas of the Australian and the African. The thought of the spiritual guide and protector of the individual man is happily defined by Menander, who calls the attendant genius, which each man has from the hour of birth, the good mystagogue (i.e., the novice's guide to the mysteries) of this life.
Molina, “Chili,' vol. ii. p. 86. · Rochefort, “Iles Antilles,' p. 418 ; J. G. Müller, ‘Amer. Urrel.' p. 171, 217.
3 Waitz, vol. ii. p. 182; J. L. Wilson, «W. Afr.' p. 387; Steinhauser, l. c. p. 134. Compare Callaway, p. 327, etc.
* Bastian, “Psychologic,' p. 75.
6 Grimm, 'D. M.'p. 829; Rochholz, ‘Deutscher Glaube,' part i. p. 92; Hanusch, 'Slaw. Mythus,' p. 247.