« PreviousContinue »
it is Unk-tahe the water-monster that drowns his victims in flood or rapid;- in New Zealand huge supernatural reptilemonsters, called Taniwha, live in river-bends, and those who are drowned are said to be pulled under by them;' the Siamese fears the Pnük or water-spirit that seizes bathers and drags them under to his dwelling;: in Slavonic lands it is. Topielec (the ducker) by whom men are always drowned; when some one is drowned in Germany, people recollect the religion of their ancestors, and say, “The river-spirit claims his yearly sacrifice,' or, more simply, The nix has taken him :'5
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen,
Am Ende Fischer und Kahn ;
Die Lorelei gethan.'
From this point of view it is obvious that to save a sinking man is to snatch a victim from the very clutches of the water-spirit, a rash defiance of deity which would hardly pass unavenged. In the civilized world the rude old theological conception of drowning has long been superseded by physical explanation; and the prejudice against rescue from such a death may have now almost or altogether disappeared. But archaic ideas, drifted on into modern folk-lore and poetry, still bring to our view an apparent connexion between the primitive doctrine and the surviving custom.
As the social development of the world goes on, the weightiest thoughts and actions may dwindle to mere survival. Original meaning dies out gradually, each gene ration leaves fewer and fewer to bear it in mind, till it fall: out of popular memory, and in after-days ethnography has to attempt, more or less successfully, to restore it by piecing
1 Eastman, ' Dacotah,' pp. 118, 125.
together lines of isolated or forgotten facts. Children's sports, popular sayings, absurd customs, may be practically unimportant, but are not philosophically insignificant, bearing as they do on some of the most instructive phases of early culture. Ugly and cruel superstitions may prove to be relics of primitive barbarism, for in keeping up such Man is like Shakespeare's fox,
•Who, ne'er so tame, so cherish'd, and lock'd up,
SURVIVAL IN CULTURE (continued).
Occult Sciences–Magical powers attributed by higher to lower races
Magical processes based on Association of Ideas--Omens-Augury, &c. -Oneiromancy-Haruspication, Scapulimancy, Chiromancy, &c.Cartomancy, &c.--Rhabdomancy, Dactyliomancy, Coscinomancy, &c. ---Astrology-Intellectual conditions accounting for the persistence of Magic-Survival passes into Revival-Witchcraft, originating in savage culture, continues in barbaric civilization ; its decline in early mediæval Europe followed by revival; its practices and counterpractices belong to earlier culture-Spiritualism has its source in early stages of culture, in close connexion with witchcraft-Spiritrapping and Spirit-writing-Rising in the air-Performances of tied mediums---Practical bearing of the study of Survival.
In examining the survival of opinions in the midst of conditions of society becoming gradually estranged from them, and tending at last to suppress them altogether, much may be learnt from the history of one of the most pernicious delusions that ever vexed mankind, the belief in Magic. Looking at Occult Science from this ethnographic point of view, I shall instance some of its branches as illustrating the course of intellectual culture. Its place in history is briefly this. It belongs in its main principle to the lowest known stages of civilization, and the lower races, who have not partaken largely of the education of the world, still maintain it in vigour. From this level it may be traced upward, much of the savage art holding its place sub stantially unchanged, and many new practices being in course of time developed, while both the older and newer developments have lasted on more or less among modern cultured nations. But during the ages in which progressive races have been learning to submit their opinions to closer and closer experimental tests, occult science has been breaking down into the condition of a survival, in which state we mostly find it among ourselves.
The modern educated world, rejecting occult science as a contemptible superstition, has practically committed itself to the opinion that magic belongs to a lower level of civilization. It is very instructive to find the soundness of this judgment undesignedly confirmed by nations whose education has not advanced far enough to destroy their belief in magic itself. In any country an isolated or outlying race, the lingering survivor of an older nationality, is liable to the reputation of sorcery. It is thus vith the Lavas of Burma, supposed to be the broken-down remains of an ancient cultured race, and dreaded as man-tigers;' and with the Budas of Abyssinia, who are at once the smiths and potters, sorcerers and were-wolves, of their district. But the usual and suggestive state of things is that nations who believe with the sincerest terror in the reality of the magic art, at the same time cannot shut their eyes to the fact that it more essentially belongs to, and is more thoroughly at home among, races less civilized than themselves. The Malays of the Peninsula, who have adopted Mohammedan religion and civilization, have this idea of the lower tribes of the land, tribes more or less of their own race, but who have remained in their early savage condition. The Malays have enchanters of their own, but consider them inferior to the sorcerers or poyangs belonging to the rude Mintira; to these they will resort for the cure of diseases and the working of misfortune and death to their enemies. It is, in fact, the best protection the Mintira have against their stronger Malay neighbours, that these are careful not to offend them for fear of their powers of magical revenge. The Jakuns, again, are a rude and wild race, whom the Malays despise as infidels and little higher than animals, but whom at the
1 Bastian, Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 119.
same time they fear extremely. To the Malay the Jakun seems a supernatural being, skilled in divination, sorcery, and fascination, able to do evil or good according to his pleasure, whose blessing will be followed by the most fortunate success, and his curse by the most dreadful consequences; he can turn towards the house of an enemy, at whatever distance, and beat two sticks together till that enemy will fall sick and die ; he is skilled in herbal physic; he has the power of charming the fiercest wild beasts. Thus it is that the Malays, though they despise the Jakuns, refrain, in many circumstances, from ill-treating them. In India, in long-past ages, the dominant Aryans described the rude indigenes of the land by the epithets of' possessed of magical powers,' 'changing their shape at will.': To this day, Hindus settled in Chota-Nagpur and Singbhum firmly believe that the Mundas have powers of witchcraft, whereby they can transform themselves into tigers and other beasts of prey to devour their enemies, and can witch away the lives of man and beast ; it is to the wildest and most savage of the tribe that such powers are generally ascribed. In Southern India, again, we hear in past times of Hinduized Dravidians, the Sudras of Canara, living in fear of the demoniacal powers of the slave-caste below them. In our own day, among Dravidian tribes of the Nilagiri district, the Todas and Badagas are in mortal dread of the Kurumbas, despised and wretched forest outcasts, but gifted, it is believed, with powers of destroying men and animals and property by witchcraft.Northern Europe brings the like contrast sharply into view. The Finns and Lapps, whose low Tatar barbarism was characterized by sorcery such as flourishes still among their Siberian kins
1 * Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. i. p. 328 ;. vol. ii. p. 273 ; see vol. iv. p. 425.
Muir, ‘Sanskrit Texts,' part ii. p. 435. 8 Dalton, 'Kols,' in 'Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. vi. p. 6; see p. 16. • Jas. Gardner, ' Faiths of the World,' s.v. 'Exorcism.'
Shortt, 'Tribes of Neilgherries,' in ‘Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. vii. pp. 247, 277 ; Sir W. Elliot in 'Trans. Congress of Prehistoric Archæology, 1868, p. 253.