The Golden Bough
Sir James George Frazer

Part 1 out of 19

This etext was produced by David Reed

The Golden Bough: a study of magic and religion

by Sir James George Frazer



Subject Index

Chapter 1. The King of the Wood
1. Diana and Virbius
2. Artemis and Hippolytus
3. Recapitulation

Chapter 2. Priestly Kings

Chapter 3. Sympathetic Magic
1. The Principles of Magic
2. Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic
3. Contagious Magic
4. The Magician's Progress

Chapter 4. Magic and Religion

Chapter 5. The Magical Control of the Weather
1. The Public Magician
2. The Magical Control of Rain
3. The Magical Control of the Sun
4. The Magical Control of the Wind

Chapter 6. Magicians as Kings

Chapter 7. Incarnate Human Gods

Chapter 8. Departmental Kings of Nature

Chapter 9. The Worship of Trees
1. Tree-spirits
2. Beneficent Powers of Tree-Spirits

Chapter 10. Relics of Tree Worship in Modern Europe

Chapter 11. The Influence of the Sexes on Vegetation

Chapter 12. The Sacred Marriage
1. Diana as a Goddess of Fertility
2. The Marriage of the Gods

Chapter 13. The Kings of Rome and Alba
1. Numa and Egeria
2. The King as Jupiter

Chapter 14. Succession to the Kingdom in Ancient Latium

Chapter 15. The Worship of the Oak

Chapter 16. Dianus and Diana

Chapter 17. The Burden of Royalty
1. Royal and Priestly Taboos
2. Divorce of the Spiritual from the Temporal Power

Chapter 18. The Perils of the Soul
1. The Soul as a Mannikin
2. Absence and Recall of the Soul
3. The Soul as a Shadow and a Reflection

Chapter 19. Tabooed Acts
1. Taboos on Intercourse with Strangers
2. Taboos on Eating and Drinking
3. Taboos on Showing the Face
4. Taboos on Quitting the House
5. Taboos on Leaving Food over

Chapter 20. Tabooed Persons
1. Chiefs and Kings tabooed
2. Mourners tabooed
3. Women tabooed at Menstruation and Childbirth
4. Warriors tabooed
5. Manslayers tabooed
6. Hunters and Fishers tabooed

Chapter 21. Tabooed Things
1. The Meaning of Taboo
2. Iron tabooed
3. Sharp Weapons tabooed
4. Blood tabooed
5. The Head tabooed
6. Hair tabooed
7. Ceremonies at Hair-cutting
8. Disposal of Cut Hair and Nails
9. Spittle tabooed
10. Foods tabooed
11. Knots and Rings tabooed

Chapter 22. Tabooed Words
1. Personal Names tabooed
2. Names of Relations tabooed
3. Names of the Dead tabooed
4. Names of Kings and other Sacred Persons tabooed
5. Names of Gods tabooed

Chapter 23. Our Debt to the Savage

Chapter 24. The Killing of the Divine King
1. The Mortality of the Gods
2. Kings killed when their Strength fails
3. Kings killed at the End of a Fixed Term

Chapter 25. Temporary Kings

Chapter 26. Sacrifice of the Kings Son

Chapter 27. Succession to the Soul

Chapter 28. The Killing of the Tree-Spirit
1. The Whitsuntide Mummers
2. Burying the Carnival
3. Carrying out Death
4. Bringing in Summer
5. Battle of Summer and Winter
6. Death and Resurrection of Kostrubonko
7. Death and Revival of Vegetation
8. Analogous Rites in India
9. The Magic Spring

Chapter 29. The Myth of Adonis

Chapter 30. Adonis in Syria

Chapter 31. Adonis in Cyprus

Chapter 32. The Ritual of Adonis

Chapter 33. The Gardens of Adonis

Chapter 34. The Myth and Ritual of Attis

Chapter 35. Attis as a God of Vegetation

Chapter 36. Human Representatives of Attis

Chapter 37. Oriental Religions in the West

Chapter 38. The Myth of Osiris

Chapter 39. The Ritual of Osiris
1. The Popular Rites
2. The Official Rites

Chapter 40. The Nature of Osiris
1. Osiris a Corn-god
2. Osiris a Tree-spirit
3. Osiris a God of Fertility
4. Osiris a God of the Dead

Chapter 41. Isis

Chapter 42. Osiris and the Sun

Chapter 43. Dionysus

Chapter 44. Demeter and Persephone

Chapter 45. Corn-Mother and Corn-Maiden in N. Europe

Chapter 46. Corn-Mother in Many Lands
1. The Corn-mother in America
2. The Rice-mother in the East Indies
3. The Spirit of the Corn embodied in Human Beings
4. The Double Personification of the Corn as Mother and Daughter

Chapter 47. Lityerses
1. Songs of the Corn Reapers
2. Killing the Corn-spirit
3. Human Sacrifices for the Crops
4. The Corn-spirit slain in his Human Representatives

Chapter 48. The Corn-Spirit as an Animal
1. Animal Embodiments of the Corn-spirit
2. The Corn-spirit as a Wolf or a Dog
3. The Corn-spirit as a Cock
4. The Corn-spirit as a Hare
5. The Corn-spirit as a Cat
6. The Corn-spirit as a Goat
7. The Corn-spirit as a Bull, Cow, or Ox
8. The Corn-spirit as a Horse or Mare
9. The Corn-spirit as a Pig (Boar or Sow)
10. On the Animal Embodiments of the Corn-spirit

Chapter 49. Ancient Deities of Vegetation as Animals
1. Dionysus, the Goat and the Bull
2. Demeter, the Pig and the Horse
3. Attis, Adonis, and the Pig
4. Osiris, the Pig and the Bull
5. Virbius and the Horse

Chapter 50. Eating the God
1. The Sacrament of First-Fruits
2. Eating the God among the Aztecs
3. Many Manii at Aricia

Chapter 51. Homeopathic Magic of a Flesh Diet

Chapter 52. Killing the Divine Animal
1. Killing the Sacred Buzzard
2. Killing the Sacred Ram
3. Killing the Sacred Serpent
4. Killing the Sacred Turtles
5. Killing the Sacred Bear

Chapter 53. The Propitiation of Wild Animals By Hunters

Chapter 54. Types of Animal Sacrament
1. The Egyptian and the Aino Types of Sacrament
2. Processions with Sacred Animals

Chapter 55. The Transference of Evil
1. The Transference to Inanimate Objects
2. The Transference to Animals
3. The Transference to Men
4. The Transference of Evil in Europe

Chapter 56. The Public Expulsion of Evils
1. The Omnipresence of Demons
2. The Occasional Expulsion of Evils
3. The Periodic Expulsion of Evils

Chapter 57. Public Scapegoats
1. The Expulsion of Embodied Evils
2. The Occasional Expulsion of Evils in a Material Vehicle
3. The Periodic Expulsion of Evils in a Material Vehicle
4. On Scapegoats in General

Chapter 58. Human Scapegoats in Classical Antiquity
1. The Human Scapegoat in Ancient Rome
2. The Human Scapegoat in Ancient Greece
3. The Roman Saturnalia

Chapter 59. Killing the God in Mexico

Chapter 60. Between Heaven and Earth
1. Not to touch the Earth
2. Not to see the Sun
3. The Seclusion of Girls at Puberty
4. Reasons for the Seclusion of Girls at Puberty

Chapter 61. The Myth of Balder

Chapter 62. The Fire-Festivals of Europe
1. The Fire-festivals in general
2. The Lenten Fires
3. The Easter Fires
4. The Beltane Fires
5. The Midsummer Fires
6. The Halloween Fires
7. The Midwinter Fires
8. The Need-fire

Chapter 63. The Interpretation of the Fire-Festivals
1. On the Fire-festivals in general
2. The Solar Theory of the Fire-festivals
3. The Purificatory Theory of the Fire-festivals

Chapter 64. The Burning of Human Beings in the Fires
1. The Burning of Effigies in the Fires
2. The Burning of Men and Animals in the Fires

Chapter 65. Balder and the Mistletoe

Chapter 66. The External Soul in Folk-Tales

Chapter 67. The External Soul in Folk-Custom
1. The External Soul in Inanimate Things
2. The External Soul in Plants
3. The External Soul in Animals
4. The Ritual of Death and Resurrection

Chapter 68. The Golden Bough

Chapter 69. Farewell to Nemi


THE PRIMARY aim of this book is to explain the remarkable rule which
regulated the succession to the priesthood of Diana at Aricia. When
I first set myself to solve the problem more than thirty years ago,
I thought that the solution could be propounded very briefly, but I
soon found that to render it probable or even intelligible it was
necessary to discuss certain more general questions, some of which
had hardly been broached before. In successive editions the
discussion of these and kindred topics has occupied more and more
space, the enquiry has branched out in more and more directions,
until the two volumes of the original work have expanded into
twelve. Meantime a wish has often been expressed that the book
should be issued in a more compendious form. This abridgment is an
attempt to meet the wish and thereby to bring the work within the
range of a wider circle of readers. While the bulk of the book has
been greatly reduced, I have endeavoured to retain its leading
principles, together with an amount of evidence sufficient to
illustrate them clearly. The language of the original has also for
the most part been preserved, though here and there the exposition
has been somewhat condensed. In order to keep as much of the text as
possible I have sacrificed all the notes, and with them all exact
references to my authorities. Readers who desire to ascertain the
source of any particular statement must therefore consult the larger
work, which is fully documented and provided with a complete

In the abridgment I have neither added new matter nor altered the
views expressed in the last edition; for the evidence which has come
to my knowledge in the meantime has on the whole served either to
confirm my former conclusions or to furnish fresh illustrations of
old principles. Thus, for example, on the crucial question of the
practice of putting kings to death either at the end of a fixed
period or whenever their health and strength began to fail, the body
of evidence which points to the wide prevalence of such a custom has
been considerably augmented in the interval. A striking instance of
a limited monarchy of this sort is furnished by the powerful
mediaeval kingdom of the Khazars in Southern Russia, where the kings
were liable to be put to death either on the expiry of a set term or
whenever some public calamity, such as drought, dearth, or defeat in
war, seemed to indicate a failure of their natural powers. The
evidence for the systematic killing of the Khazar kings, drawn from
the accounts of old Arab travellers, has been collected by me
elsewhere.[1] Africa, again, has supplied several fresh examples of
a similar practice of regicide. Among them the most notable perhaps
is the custom formerly observed in Bunyoro of choosing every year
from a particular clan a mock king, who was supposed to incarnate
the late king, cohabited with his widows at his temple-tomb, and
after reigning for a week was strangled.[2] The custom presents a
close parallel to the ancient Babylonian festival of the Sacaea, at
which a mock king was dressed in the royal robes, allowed to enjoy
the real king's concubines, and after reigning for five days was
stripped, scourged, and put to death. That festival in its turn has
lately received fresh light from certain Assyrian inscriptions,[3]
which seem to confirm the interpretation which I formerly gave of
the festival as a New Year celebration and the parent of the Jewish
festival of Purim.[4] Other recently discovered parallels to the
priestly kings of Aricia are African priests and kings who used to
be put to death at the end of seven or of two years, after being
liable in the interval to be attacked and killed by a strong man,
who thereupon succeeded to the priesthood or the kingdom.[5]

[1] J. G. Frazer, "The Killing of the Khazar Kings," _Folk-lore,_
xxviii. (1917), pp. 382-407.

[2] Rev. J. Roscoe, _The Soul of Central Africa_ (London, 1922), p.
200. Compare J. G. Frazer, &147;The Mackie Ethnological Expedition
to Central Africa," _Man,_ xx. (1920), p. 181.

[3] H. Zimmern, _Zum babylonischen Neujahrsfest_ (Leipzig, 1918).
Compare A. H. Sayce, in _Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,_ July
1921, pp. 440-442.

[4] _The Golden Bough,_ Part VI. _The Scapegoat,_ pp. 354 _sqq.,_
412 _sqq._

[5] P. Amaury Talbot in _Journal of the African Society,_ July 1916,
pp. 309 _sq.; id.,_ in _Folk-lore, xxvi._ (1916), pp. 79 _sq.;_ H.
R. Palmer, in _Journal of the African Society,_ July 1912, pp. 403,
407 _sq._

With these and other instances of like customs before us it is no
longer possible to regard the rule of succession to the priesthood
of Diana at Aricia as exceptional; it clearly exemplifies a
widespread institution, of which the most numerous and the most
similar cases have thus far been found in Africa. How far the facts
point to an early influence of Africa on Italy, or even to the
existence of an African population in Southern Europe, I do not
presume to say. The pre-historic historic relations between the two
continents are still obscure and still under investigation.

Whether the explanation which I have offered of the institution is
correct or not must be left to the future to determine. I shall
always be ready to abandon it if a better can be suggested. Meantime
in committing the book in its new form to the judgment of the public
I desire to guard against a misapprehension of its scope which
appears to be still rife, though I have sought to correct it before
now. If in the present work I have dwelt at some length on the
worship of trees, it is not, I trust, because I exaggerate its
importance in the history of religion, still less because I would
deduce from it a whole system of mythology; it is simply because I
could not ignore the subject in attempting to explain the
significance of a priest who bore the title of King of the Wood, and
one of whose titles to office was the plucking of a bough--the
Golden Bough--from a tree in the sacred grove. But I am so far from
regarding the reverence for trees as of supreme importance for the
evolution of religion that I consider it to have been altogether
subordinate to other factors, and in particular to the fear of the
human dead, which, on the whole, I believe to have been probably the
most powerful force in the making of primitive religion. I hope that
after this explicit disclaimer I shall no longer be taxed with
embracing a system of mythology which I look upon not merely as
false but as preposterous and absurd. But I am too familiar with the
hydra of error to expect that by lopping off one of the monster's
heads I can prevent another, or even the same, from sprouting again.
I can only trust to the candour and intelligence of my readers to
rectify this serious misconception of my views by a comparison with
my own express declaration.


June 1922.

I. The King of the Wood

1. Diana and Virbius

WHO does not know Turner's picture of the Golden Bough? The scene,
suffused with the golden glow of imagination in which the divine
mind of Turner steeped and transfigured even the fairest natural
landscape, is a dream-like vision of the little woodland lake of
Nemi-- "Diana's Mirror," as it was called by the ancients. No one
who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban
hills, can ever forget it. The two characteristic Italian villages
which slumber on its banks, and the equally Italian palace whose
terraced gardens descend steeply to the lake, hardly break the
stillness and even the solitariness of the scene. Diana herself
might still linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these woodlands

In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and
recurring tragedy. On the northern shore of the lake, right under
the precipitous cliffs on which the modern village of Nemi is
perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis,
or Diana of the Wood. The lake and the grove were sometimes known as
the lake and grove of Aricia. But the town of Aricia (the modern La
Riccia) was situated about three miles off, at the foot of the Alban
Mount, and separated by a steep descent from the lake, which lies in
a small crater-like hollow on the mountain side. In this sacred
grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day,
and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to
prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering
warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon
by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he
looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in
his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the
priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and
having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a
stronger or a craftier.

The post which he held by this precarious tenure carried with it the
title of king; but surely no crowned head ever lay uneasier, or was
visited by more evil dreams, than his. For year in, year out, in
summer and winter, in fair weather and in foul, he had to keep his
lonely watch, and whenever he snatched a troubled slumber it was at
the peril of his life. The least relaxation of his vigilance, the
smallest abatement of his strength of limb or skill of fence, put
him in jeopardy; grey hairs might seal his death-warrant. To gentle
and pious pilgrims at the shrine the sight of him might well seem to
darken the fair landscape, as when a cloud suddenly blots the sun on
a bright day. The dreamy blue of Italian skies, the dappled shade of
summer woods, and the sparkle of waves in the sun, can have accorded
but ill with that stern and sinister figure. Rather we picture to
ourselves the scene as it may have been witnessed by a belated
wayfarer on one of those wild autumn nights when the dead leaves are
falling thick, and the winds seem to sing the dirge of the dying
year. It is a sombre picture, set to melancholy music--the
background of forest showing black and jagged against a lowering and
stormy sky, the sighing of the wind in the branches, the rustle of
the withered leaves under foot, the lapping of the cold water on the
shore, and in the foreground, pacing to and fro, now in twilight and
now in gloom, a dark figure with a glitter of steel at the shoulder
whenever the pale moon, riding clear of the cloud-rack, peers down
at him through the matted boughs.

The strange rule of this priesthood has no parallel in classical
antiquity, and cannot be explained from it. To find an explanation
we must go farther afield. No one will probably deny that such a
custom savours of a barbarous age, and, surviving into imperial
times, stands out in striking isolation from the polished Italian
society of the day, like a primaeval rock rising from a
smooth-shaven lawn. It is the very rudeness and barbarity of the
custom which allow us a hope of explaining it. For recent researches
into the early history of man have revealed the essential similarity
with which, under many superficial differences, the human mind has
elaborated its first crude philosophy of life. Accordingly, if we
can show that a barbarous custom, like that of the priesthood of
Nemi, has existed elsewhere; if we can detect the motives which led
to its institution; if we can prove that these motives have operated
widely, perhaps universally, in human society, producing in varied
circumstances a variety of institutions specifically different but
generically alike; if we can show, lastly, that these very motives,
with some of their derivative institutions, were actually at work in
classical antiquity; then we may fairly infer that at a remoter age
the same motives gave birth to the priesthood of Nemi. Such an
inference, in default of direct evidence as to how the priesthood
did actually arise, can never amount to demonstration. But it will
be more or less probable according to the degree of completeness
with which it fulfils the conditions I have indicated. The object of
this book is, by meeting these conditions, to offer a fairly
probable explanation of the priesthood of Nemi.

I begin by setting forth the few facts and legends which have come
down to us on the subject. According to one story the worship of
Diana at Nemi was instituted by Orestes, who, after killing Thoas,
King of the Tauric Chersonese (the Crimea), fled with his sister to
Italy, bringing with him the image of the Tauric Diana hidden in a
faggot of sticks. After his death his bones were transported from
Aricia to Rome and buried in front of the temple of Saturn, on the
Capitoline slope, beside the temple of Concord. The bloody ritual
which legend ascribed to the Tauric Diana is familiar to classical
readers; it is said that every stranger who landed on the shore was
sacrificed on her altar. But transported to Italy, the rite assumed
a milder form. Within the sanctuary at Nemi grew a certain tree of
which no branch might be broken. Only a runaway slave was allowed to
break off, if he could, one of its boughs. Success in the attempt
entitled him to fight the priest in single combat, and if he slew
him he reigned in his stead with the title of King of the Wood (_Rex
Nemorensis_). According to the public opinion of the ancients the
fateful branch was that Golden Bough which, at the Sibyl's bidding,
Aeneas plucked before he essayed the perilous journey to the world
of the dead. The flight of the slave represented, it was said, the
flight of Orestes; his combat with the priest was a reminiscence of
the human sacrifices once offered to the Tauric Diana. This rule of
succession by the sword was observed down to imperial times; for
amongst his other freaks Caligula, thinking that the priest of Nemi
had held office too long, hired a more stalwart ruffian to slay him;
and a Greek traveller, who visited Italy in the age of the
Antonines, remarks that down to his time the priesthood was still
the prize of victory in a single combat.

Of the worship of Diana at Nemi some leading features can still be
made out. From the votive offerings which have been found on the
site, it appears that she was conceived of especially as a huntress,
and further as blessing men and women with offspring, and granting
expectant mothers an easy delivery. Again, fire seems to have played
a foremost part in her ritual. For during her annual festival, held
on the thirteenth of August, at the hottest time of the year, her
grove shone with a multitude of torches, whose ruddy glare was
reflected by the lake; and throughout the length and breadth of
Italy the day was kept with holy rites at every domestic hearth.
Bronze statuettes found in her precinct represent the goddess
herself holding a torch in her raised right hand; and women whose
prayers had been heard by her came crowned with wreaths and bearing
lighted torches to the sanctuary in fulfilment of their vows. Some
one unknown dedicated a perpetually burning lamp in a little shrine
at Nemi for the safety of the Emperor Claudius and his family. The
terra-cotta lamps which have been discovered in the grove may
perhaps have served a like purpose for humbler persons. If so, the
analogy of the custom to the Catholic practice of dedicating holy
candles in churches would be obvious. Further, the title of Vesta
borne by Diana at Nemi points clearly to the maintenance of a
perpetual holy fire in her sanctuary. A large circular basement at
the north-east corner of the temple, raised on three steps and
bearing traces of a mosaic pavement, probably supported a round
temple of Diana in her character of Vesta, like the round temple of
Vesta in the Roman Forum. Here the sacred fire would seem to have
been tended by Vestal Virgins, for the head of a Vestal in
terra-cotta was found on the spot, and the worship of a perpetual
fire, cared for by holy maidens, appears to have been common in
Latium from the earliest to the latest times. Further, at the annual
festival of the goddess, hunting dogs were crowned and wild beasts
were not molested; young people went through a purificatory ceremony
in her honour; wine was brought forth, and the feast consisted of a
kid cakes served piping hot on plates of leaves, and apples still
hanging in clusters on the boughs.

But Diana did not reign alone in her grove at Nemi. Two lesser
divinities shared her forest sanctuary. One was Egeria, the nymph of
the clear water which, bubbling from the basaltic rocks, used to
fall in graceful cascades into the lake at the place called Le Mole,
because here were established the mills of the modern village of
Nemi. The purling of the stream as it ran over the pebbles is
mentioned by Ovid, who tells us that he had often drunk of its
water. Women with child used to sacrifice to Egeria, because she was
believed, like Diana, to be able to grant them an easy delivery.
Tradition ran that the nymph had been the wife or mistress of the
wise king Numa, that he had consorted with her in the secrecy of the
sacred grove, and that the laws which he gave the Romans had been
inspired by communion with her divinity. Plutarch compares the
legend with other tales of the loves of goddesses for mortal men,
such as the love of Cybele and the Moon for the fair youths Attis
and Endymion. According to some, the trysting-place of the lovers
was not in the woods of Nemi but in a grove outside the dripping
Porta Capena at Rome, where another sacred spring of Egeria gushed
from a dark cavern. Every day the Roman Vestals fetched water from
this spring to wash the temple of Vesta, carrying it in earthenware
pitchers on their heads. In Juvenal's time the natural rock had been
encased in marble, and the hallowed spot was profaned by gangs of
poor Jews, who were suffered to squat, like gypsies, in the grove.
We may suppose that the spring which fell into the lake of Nemi was
the true original Egeria, and that when the first settlers moved
down from the Alban hills to the banks of the Tiber they brought the
nymph with them and found a new home for her in a grove outside the
gates. The remains of baths which have been discovered within the
sacred precinct, together with many terra-cotta models of various
parts of the human body, suggest that the waters of Egeria were used
to heal the sick, who may have signified their hopes or testified
their gratitude by dedicating likenesses of the diseased members to
the goddess, in accordance with a custom which is still observed in
many parts of Europe. To this day it would seem that the spring
retains medicinal virtues.

The other of the minor deities at Nemi was Virbius. Legend had it
that Virbius was the young Greek hero Hippolytus, chaste and fair,
who learned the art of venery from the centaur Chiron, and spent all
his days in the greenwood chasing wild beasts with the virgin
huntress Artemis (the Greek counterpart of Diana) for his only
comrade. Proud of her divine society, he spurned the love of women,
and this proved his bane. For Aphrodite, stung by his scorn,
inspired his stepmother Phaedra with love of him; and when he
disdained her wicked advances she falsely accused him to his father
Theseus. The slander was believed, and Theseus prayed to his sire
Poseidon to avenge the imagined wrong. So while Hippolytus drove in
a chariot by the shore of the Saronic Gulf, the sea-god sent a
fierce bull forth from the waves. The terrified horses bolted, threw
Hippolytus from the chariot, and dragged him at their hoofs to
death. But Diana, for the love she bore Hippolytus, persuaded the
leech Aesculapius to bring her fair young hunter back to life by his
simples. Jupiter, indignant that a mortal man should return from the
gates of death, thrust down the meddling leech himself to Hades. But
Diana hid her favourite from the angry god in a thick cloud,
disguised his features by adding years to his life, and then bore
him far away to the dells of Nemi, where she entrusted him to the
nymph Egeria, to live there, unknown and solitary, under the name of
Virbius, in the depth of the Italian forest. There he reigned a
king, and there he dedicated a precinct to Diana. He had a comely
son, Virbius, who, undaunted by his father's fate, drove a team of
fiery steeds to join the Latins in the war against Aeneas and the
Trojans. Virbius was worshipped as a god not only at Nemi but
elsewhere; for in Campania we hear of a special priest devoted to
his service. Horses were excluded from the Arician grove and
sanctuary because horses had killed Hippolytus. It was unlawful to
touch his image. Some thought that he was the sun. "But the truth
is," says Servius, "that he is a deity associated with Diana, as
Attis is associated with the Mother of the Gods, and Erichthonius
with Minerva, and Adonis with Venus." What the nature of that
association was we shall enquire presently. Here it is worth
observing that in his long and chequered career this mythical
personage has displayed a remarkable tenacity of life. For we can
hardly doubt that the Saint Hippolytus of the Roman calendar, who
was dragged by horses to death on the thirteenth of August, Diana's
own day, is no other than the Greek hero of the same name, who,
after dying twice over as a heathen sinner, has been happily
resuscitated as a Christian saint.

It needs no elaborate demonstration to convince us that the stories
told to account for Diana's worship at Nemi are unhistorical.
Clearly they belong to that large class of myths which are made up
to explain the origin of a religious ritual and have no other
foundation than the resemblance, real or imaginary, which may be
traced between it and some foreign ritual. The incongruity of these
Nemi myths is indeed transparent, since the foundation of the
worship is traced now to Orestes and now to Hippolytus, according as
this or that feature of the ritual has to be accounted for. The real
value of such tales is that they serve to illustrate the nature of
the worship by providing a standard with which to compare it; and
further, that they bear witness indirectly to its venerable age by
showing that the true origin was lost in the mists of a fabulous
antiquity. In the latter respect these Nemi legends are probably
more to be trusted than the apparently historical tradition, vouched
for by Cato the Elder, that the sacred grove was dedicated to Diana
by a certain Egerius Baebius or Laevius of Tusculum, a Latin
dictator, on behalf of the peoples of Tusculum, Aricia, Lanuvium,
Laurentum, Cora, Tibur, Pometia, and Ardea. This tradition indeed
speaks for the great age of the sanctuary, since it seems to date
its foundation sometime before 495 B.C., the year in which Pometia
was sacked by the Romans and disappears from history. But we cannot
suppose that so barbarous a rule as that of the Arician priesthood
was deliberately instituted by a league of civilised communities,
such as the Latin cities undoubtedly were. It must have been handed
down from a time beyond the memory of man, when Italy was still in a
far ruder state than any known to us in the historical period. The
credit of the tradition is rather shaken than confirmed by another
story which ascribes the foundation of the sanctuary to a certain
Manius Egerius, who gave rise to the saying, "There are many Manii
at Aricia." This proverb some explained by alleging that Manius
Egerius was the ancestor of a long and distinguished line, whereas
others thought it meant that there were many ugly and deformed
people at Aricia, and they derived the name Manius from _Mania,_ a
bogey or bugbear to frighten children. A Roman satirist uses the
name Manius as typical of the beggars who lay in wait for pilgrims
on the Arician slopes. These differences of opinion, together with
the discrepancy between Manius Egerius of Aricia and Egerius Laevius
of Tusculum, as well as the resemblance of both names to the
mythical Egeria, excite our suspicion. Yet the tradition recorded by
Cato seems too circumstantial, and its sponsor too respectable, to
allow us to dismiss it as an idle fiction. Rather we may suppose
that it refers to some ancient restoration or reconstruction of the
sanctuary, which was actually carried out by the confederate states.
At any rate it testifies to a belief that the grove had been from
early times a common place of worship for many of the oldest cities
of the country, if not for the whole Latin confederacy.

2. Artemis and Hippolytus

I HAVE said that the Arician legends of Orestes and Hippolytus,
though worthless as history, have a certain value in so far as they
may help us to understand the worship at Nemi better by comparing it
with the ritual and myths of other sanctuaries. We must ask
ourselves, Why did the author of these legends pitch upon Orestes
and Hippolytus in order to explain Virbius and the King of the Wood?
In regard to Orestes, the answer is obvious. He and the image of the
Tauric Diana, which could only be appeased with human blood, were
dragged in to render intelligible the murderous rule of succession
to the Arician priesthood. In regard to Hippolytus the case is not
so plain. The manner of his death suggests readily enough a reason
for the exclusion of horses from the grove; but this by itself seems
hardly enough to account for the identification. We must try to
probe deeper by examining the worship as well as the legend or myth
of Hippolytus.

He had a famous sanctuary at his ancestral home of Troezen, situated
on that beautiful, almost landlocked bay, where groves of oranges
and lemons, with tall cypresses soaring like dark spires above the
garden of Hesperides, now clothe the strip of fertile shore at the
foot of the rugged mountains. Across the blue water of the tranquil
bay, which it shelters from the open sea, rises Poseidon's sacred
island, its peaks veiled in the sombre green of the pines. On this
fair coast Hippolytus was worshipped. Within his sanctuary stood a
temple with an ancient image. His service was performed by a priest
who held office for life; every year a sacrificial festival was held
in his honour; and his untimely fate was yearly mourned, with
weeping and doleful chants, by unwedded maids. Youths and maidens
dedicated locks of their hair in his temple before marriage. His
grave existed at Troezen, though the people would not show it. It
has been suggested, with great plausibility, that in the handsome
Hippolytus, beloved of Artemis, cut off in his youthful prime, and
yearly mourned by damsels, we have one of those mortal lovers of a
goddess who appear so often in ancient religion, and of whom Adonis
is the most familiar type. The rivalry of Artemis and Phaedra for
the affection of Hippolytus reproduces, it is said, under different
names, the rivalry of Aphrodite and Proserpine for the love of
Adonis, for Phaedra is merely a double of Aphrodite. The theory
probably does no injustice either to Hippolytus or to Artemis. For
Artemis was originally a great goddess of fertility, and, on the
principles of early religion, she who fertilises nature must herself
be fertile, and to be that she must necessarily have a male consort.
On this view, Hippolytus was the consort of Artemis at Troezen, and
the shorn tresses offered to him by the Troezenian youths and
maidens before marriage were designed to strengthen his union with
the goddess, and so to promote the fruitfulness of the earth, of
cattle, and of mankind. It is some confirmation of this view that
within the precinct of Hippolytus at Troezen there were worshipped
two female powers named Damia and Auxesia, whose connexion with the
fertility of the ground is unquestionable. When Epidaurus suffered
from a dearth, the people, in obedience to an oracle, carved images
of Damia and Auxesia out of sacred olive wood, and no sooner had
they done so and set them up than the earth bore fruit again.
Moreover, at Troezen itself, and apparently within the precinct of
Hippolytus, a curious festival of stone-throwing was held in honour
of these maidens, as the Troezenians called them; and it is easy to
show that similar customs have been practised in many lands for the
express purpose of ensuring good crops. In the story of the tragic
death of the youthful Hippolytus we may discern an analogy with
similar tales of other fair but mortal youths who paid with their
lives for the brief rapture of the love of an immortal goddess.
These hapless lovers were probably not always mere myths, and the
legends which traced their spilt blood in the purple bloom of the
violet, the scarlet stain of the anemone, or the crimson flush of
the rose were no idle poetic emblems of youth and beauty fleeting as
the summer flowers. Such fables contain a deeper philosophy of the
relation of the life of man to the life of nature--a sad philosophy
which gave birth to a tragic practice. What that philosophy and that
practice were, we shall learn later on.

3. Recapitulation

WE can now perhaps understand why the ancients identified
Hippolytus, the consort of Artemis, with Virbius, who, according to
Servius, stood to Diana as Adonis to Venus, or Attis to the Mother
of the Gods. For Diana, like Artemis, was a goddess of fertility in
general, and of childbirth in particular. As such she, like her
Greek counterpart, needed a male partner. That partner, if Servius
is right, was Virbius. In his character of the founder of the sacred
grove and first king of Nemi, Virbius is clearly the mythical
predecessor or archetype of the line of priests who served Diana
under the title of Kings of the Wood, and who came, like him, one
after the other, to a violent end. It is natural, therefore, to
conjecture that they stood to the goddess of the grove in the same
relation in which Virbius stood to her; in short, that the mortal
King of the Wood had for his queen the woodland Diana herself. If
the sacred tree which he guarded with his life was supposed, as
seems probable, to be her special embodiment, her priest may not
only have worshipped it as his goddess but embraced it as his wife.
There is at least nothing absurd in the supposition, since even in
the time of Pliny a noble Roman used thus to treat a beautiful
beech-tree in another sacred grove of Diana on the Alban hills. He
embraced it, he kissed it, he lay under its shadow, he poured wine
on its trunk. Apparently he took the tree for the goddess. The
custom of physically marrying men and women to trees is still
practised in India and other parts of the East. Why should it not
have obtained in ancient Latium?

Reviewing the evidence as a whole, we may conclude that the worship
of Diana in her sacred grove at Nemi was of great importance and
immemorial antiquity; that she was revered as the goddess of
woodlands and of wild creatures, probably also of domestic cattle
and of the fruits of the earth; that she was believed to bless men
and women with offspring and to aid mothers in childbed; that her
holy fire, tended by chaste virgins, burned perpetually in a round
temple within the precinct; that associated with her was a
water-nymph Egeria who discharged one of Diana's own functions by
succouring women in travail, and who was popularly supposed to have
mated with an old Roman king in the sacred grove; further, that
Diana of the Wood herself had a male companion Virbius by name, who
was to her what Adonis was to Venus, or Attis to Cybele; and,
lastly, that this mythical Virbius was represented in historical
times by a line of priests known as Kings of the Wood, who regularly
perished by the swords of their successors, and whose lives were in
a manner bound up with a certain tree in the grove, because so long
as that tree was uninjured they were safe from attack.

Clearly these conclusions do not of themselves suffice to explain
the peculiar rule of succession to the priesthood. But perhaps the
survey of a wider field may lead us to think that they contain in
germ the solution of the problem. To that wider survey we must now
address ourselves. It will be long and laborious, but may possess
something of the interest and charm of a voyage of discovery, in
which we shall visit many strange foreign lands, with strange
foreign peoples, and still stranger customs. The wind is in the
shrouds: we shake out our sails to it, and leave the coast of Italy
behind us for a time.

II. Priestly Kings

THE questions which we have set ourselves to answer are mainly two:
first, why had Diana's priest at Nemi, the King of the Wood, to slay
his predecessor? second, why before doing so had he to pluck the
branch of a certain tree which the public opinion of the ancients
identified with Virgil's Golden Bough?

The first point on which we fasten is the priest's title. Why was he
called the King of the Wood? Why was his office spoken of as a

The union of a royal title with priestly duties was common in
ancient Italy and Greece. At Rome and in other cities of Latium
there was a priest called the Sacrificial King or King of the Sacred
Rites, and his wife bore the title of Queen of the Sacred Rites. In
republican Athens the second annual magistrate of the state was
called the King, and his wife the Queen; the functions of both were
religious. Many other Greek democracies had titular kings, whose
duties, so far as they are known, seem to have been priestly, and to
have centered round the Common Hearth of the state. Some Greek
states had several of these titular kings, who held office
simultaneously. At Rome the tradition was that the Sacrificial King
had been appointed after the abolition of the monarchy in order to
offer the sacrifices which before had been offered by the kings. A
similar view as to the origin of the priestly kings appears to have
prevailed in Greece. In itself the opinion is not improbable, and it
is borne out by the example of Sparta, almost the only purely Greek
state which retained the kingly form of government in historical
times. For in Sparta all state sacrifices were offered by the kings
as descendants of the god. One of the two Spartan kings held the
priesthood of Zeus Lacedaemon, the other the priesthood of Heavenly

This combination of priestly functions with royal authority is
familiar to every one. Asia Minor, for example, was the seat of
various great religious capitals peopled by thousands of sacred
slaves, and ruled by pontiffs who wielded at once temporal and
spiritual authority, like the popes of mediaeval Rome. Such
priest-ridden cities were Zela and Pessinus. Teutonic kings, again,
in the old heathen days seem to have stood in the position, and to
have exercised the powers, of high priests. The Emperors of China
offered public sacrifices, the details of which were regulated by
the ritual books. The King of Madagascar was high-priest of the
realm. At the great festival of the new year, when a bullock was
sacrificed for the good of the kingdom, the king stood over the
sacrifice to offer prayer and thanksgiving, while his attendants
slaughtered the animal. In the monarchical states which still
maintain their independence among the Gallas of Eastern Africa, the
king sacrifices on the mountain tops and regulates the immolation of
human victims; and the dim light of tradition reveals a similar
union of temporal and spiritual power, of royal and priestly duties,
in the kings of that delightful region of Central America whose
ancient capital, now buried under the rank growth of the tropical
forest, is marked by the stately and mysterious ruins of Palenque.

When we have said that the ancient kings were commonly priests also,
we are far from having exhausted the religious aspect of their
office. In those days the divinity that hedges a king was no empty
form of speech, but the expression of a sober belief. Kings were
revered, in many cases not merely as priests, that is, as
intercessors between man and god, but as themselves gods, able to
bestow upon their subjects and worshippers those blessings which are
commonly supposed to be beyond the reach of mortals, and are sought,
if at all, only by prayer and sacrifice offered to superhuman and
invisible beings. Thus kings are often expected to give rain and
sunshine in due season, to make the crops grow, and so on. Strange
as this expectation appears to us, it is quite of a piece with early
modes of thought. A savage hardly conceives the distinction commonly
drawn by more advanced peoples between the natural and the
supernatural. To him the world is to a great extent worked by
supernatural agents, that is, by personal beings acting on impulses
and motives like his own, liable like him to be moved by appeals to
their pity, their hopes, and their fears. In a world so conceived he
sees no limit to his power of influencing the course of nature to
his own advantage. Prayers, promises, or threats may secure him fine
weather and an abundant crop from the gods; and if a god should
happen, as he sometimes believes, to become incarnate in his own
person, then he need appeal to no higher being; he, the savage,
possesses in himself all the powers necessary to further his own
well-being and that of his fellow-men.

This is one way in which the idea of a man-god is reached. But there
is another. Along with the view of the world as pervaded by
spiritual forces, savage man has a different, and probably still
older, conception in which we may detect a germ of the modern notion
of natural law or the view of nature as a series of events occurring
in an invariable order without the intervention of personal agency.
The germ of which I speak is involved in that sympathetic magic, as
it may be called, which plays a large part in most systems of
superstition. In early society the king is frequently a magician as
well as a priest; indeed he appears to have often attained to power
by virtue of his supposed proficiency in the black or white art.
Hence in order to understand the evolution of the kingship and the
sacred character with which the office has commonly been invested in
the eyes of savage or barbarous peoples, it is essential to have
some acquaintance with the principles of magic and to form some
conception of the extraordinary hold which that ancient system of
superstition has had on the human mind in all ages and all
countries. Accordingly I propose to consider the subject in some

III. Sympathetic Magic

1. The Principles of Magic

IF we analyse the principles of thought on which magic is based,
they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first,
that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause;
and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each
other continue to act on each other at a distance after the
physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be
called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or
Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of
Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he
desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that
whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the
person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed
part of his body or not. Charms based on the Law of Similarity may
be called Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic. Charms based on the Law
of Contact or Contagion may be called Contagious Magic. To denote
the first of these branches of magic the term Homoeopathic is
perhaps preferable, for the alternative term Imitative or Mimetic
suggests, if it does not imply, a conscious agent who imitates,
thereby limiting the scope of magic too narrowly. For the same
principles which the magician applies in the practice of his art
are implicitly believed by him to regulate the operations of
inanimate nature; in other words, he tacitly assumes that the Laws
of Similarity and Contact are of universal application and are not
limited to human actions. In short, magic is a spurious system of
natural law as well as a fallacious guide of conduct; it is a false
science as well as an abortive art. Regarded as a system of natural
law, that is, as a statement of the rules which determine the
sequence of events throughout the world, it may be called
Theoretical Magic: regarded as a set of precepts which human beings
observe in order to compass their ends, it may be called Practical
Magic. At the same time it is to be borne in mind that the
primitive magician knows magic only on its practical side; he never
analyses the mental processes on which his practice is based, never
reflects on the abstract principles involved in his actions. With
him, as with the vast majority of men, logic is implicit, not
explicit: he reasons just as he digests his food in complete
ignorance of the intellectual and physiological processes which are
essential to the one operation and to the other. In short, to him
magic is always an art, never a science; the very idea of science
is lacking in his undeveloped mind. It is for the philosophic
student to trace the train of thought which underlies the
magician's practice; to draw out the few simple threads of
which the tangled skein is composed; to disengage the abstract
principles from their concrete applications; in short, to discern
the spurious science behind the bastard art.

If my analysis of the magician's logic is correct, its two great
principles turn out to be merely two different misapplications of
the association of ideas. Homoeopathic magic is founded on the
association of ideas by similarity: contagious magic is founded on
the association of ideas by contiguity. Homoeopathic magic commits
the mistake of assuming that things which resemble each other are
the same: contagious magic commits the mistake of assuming that
things which have once been in contact with each other are always in
contact. But in practice the two branches are often combined; or, to
be more exact, while homoeopathic or imitative magic may be
practised by itself, contagious magic will generally be found to
involve an application of the homoeopathic or imitative principle.
Thus generally stated the two things may be a little difficult to
grasp, but they will readily become intelligible when they are
illustrated by particular examples. Both trains of thought are in
fact extremely simple and elementary. It could hardly be otherwise,
since they are familiar in the concrete, though certainly not in the
abstract, to the crude intelligence not only of the savage, but of
ignorant and dull-witted people everywhere. Both branches of magic,
the homoeopathic and the contagious, may conveniently be
comprehended under the general name of Sympathetic Magic, since both
assume that things act on each other at a distance through a secret
sympathy, the impulse being transmitted from one to the other by
means of what we may conceive as a kind of invisible ether, not
unlike that which is postulated by modern science for a precisely
similar purpose, namely, to explain how things can physically affect
each other through a space which appears to be empty.

It may be convenient to tabulate as follows the branches of
magic according to the laws of thought which underlie them:

Sympathetic Magic
(Law of Sympathy)
| |
Homoeopathic Magic Contagious Magic
(Law of Similarity) (Law of Contact)

I will now illustrate these two great branches of sympathetic
magic by examples, beginning with homoeopathic magic.

2. Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic

PERHAPS the most familiar application of the principle that like
produces like is the attempt which has been made by many peoples in
many ages to injure or destroy an enemy by injuring or destroying an
image of him, in the belief that, just as the image suffers, so does
the man, and that when it perishes he must die. A few instances out
of many may be given to prove at once the wide diffusion of the
practice over the world and its remarkable persistence through the
ages. For thousands of years ago it was known to the sorcerers of
ancient India, Babylon, and Egypt, as well as of Greece and Rome,
and at this day it is still resorted to by cunning and malignant
savages in Australia, Africa, and Scotland. Thus the North American
Indians, we are told, believe that by drawing the figure of a person
in sand, ashes, or clay, or by considering any object as his body,
and then pricking it with a sharp stick or doing it any other
injury, they inflict a corresponding injury on the person
represented. For example, when an Ojebway Indian desires to work
evil on any one, he makes a little wooden image of his enemy and
runs a needle into its head or heart, or he shoots an arrow into it,
believing that wherever the needle pierces or the arrow strikes the
image, his foe will the same instant be seized with a sharp pain in
the corresponding part of his body; but if he intends to kill the
person outright, he burns or buries the puppet, uttering certain
magic words as he does so. The Peruvian Indians moulded images of
fat mixed with grain to imitate the persons whom they disliked or
feared, and then burned the effigy on the road where the intended
victim was to pass. This they called burning his soul.

A Malay charm of the same sort is as follows. Take parings of nails,
hair, eyebrows, spittle, and so forth of your intended victim,
enough to represent every part of his person, and then make them up
into his likeness with wax from a deserted bees' comb. Scorch the
figure slowly by holding it over a lamp every night for seven
nights, and say:

"It is not wax that I am scorching,
It is the liver, heart, and spleen of So-and-so that I scorch."

After the seventh time burn the figure, and your victim will die.
This charm obviously combines the principles of homoeopathic and
contagious magic; since the image which is made in the likeness of
an enemy contains things which once were in contact with him,
namely, his nails, hair, and spittle. Another form of the Malay
charm, which resembles the Ojebway practice still more closely, is
to make a corpse of wax from an empty bees' comb and of the length
of a footstep; then pierce the eye of the image, and your enemy is
blind; pierce the stomach, and he is sick; pierce the head, and his
head aches; pierce the breast, and his breast will suffer. If you
would kill him outright, transfix the image from the head downwards;
enshroud it as you would a corpse; pray over it as if you were
praying over the dead; then bury it in the middle of a path where
your victim will be sure to step over it. In order that his blood
may not be on your head, you should say:

"It is not I who am burying him,
It is Gabriel who is burying him."

Thus the guilt of the murder will be laid on the shoulders of the
archangel Gabriel, who is a great deal better able to bear it than
you are.

If homoeopathic or imitative magic, working by means of images, has
commonly been practised for the spiteful purpose of putting
obnoxious people out of the world, it has also, though far more
rarely, been employed with the benevolent intention of helping
others into it. In other words, it has been used to facilitate
childbirth and to procure offspring for barren women. Thus among the
Bataks of Sumatra a barren woman, who would become a mother, will
make a wooden image of a child and hold it in her lap, believing
that this will lead to the fulfilment of her wish. In the Babar
Archipelago, when a woman desires to have a child, she invites a man
who is himself the father of a large family to pray on her behalf to
Upulero, the spirit of the sun. A doll is made of red cotton, which
the woman clasps in her arms, as if she would suckle it. Then the
father of many children takes a fowl and holds it by the legs to the
woman's head, saying, "O Upulero, make use of the fowl; let fall,
let descend a child, I beseech you, I entreat you, let a child fall
and descend into my hands and on my lap." Then he asks the woman,
"Has the child come?" and she answers, "Yes, it is sucking already."
After that the man holds the fowl on the husband's head, and mumbles
some form of words. Lastly, the bird is killed and laid, together
with some betel, on the domestic place of sacrifice. When the
ceremony is over, word goes about in the village that the woman has
been brought to bed, and her friends come and congratulate her. Here
the pretence that a child has been born is a purely magical rite
designed to secure, by means of imitation or mimicry, that a child
really shall be born; but an attempt is made to add to the efficacy
of the rite by means of prayer and sacrifice. To put it otherwise,
magic is here blent with and reinforced by religion.

Among some of the Dyaks of Borneo, when a woman is in hard labour,
a wizard is called in, who essays to facilitate the delivery in a
rational manner by manipulating the body of the sufferer. Meantime
another wizard outside the room exerts himself to attain the same
end by means which we should regard as wholly irrational. He, in
fact, pretends to be the expectant mother; a large stone attached to
his stomach by a cloth wrapt round his body represents the child in
the womb, and, following the directions shouted to him by his
colleague on the real scene of operations, he moves this
make-believe baby about on his body in exact imitation of the
movements of the real baby till the infant is born.

The same principle of make-believe, so dear to children, has led
other peoples to employ a simulation of birth as a form of adoption,
and even as a mode of restoring a supposed dead person to life. If
you pretend to give birth to a boy, or even to a great bearded man
who has not a drop of your blood in his veins, then, in the eyes of
primitive law and philosophy, that boy or man is really your son to
all intents and purposes. Thus Diodorus tells us that when Zeus
persuaded his jealous wife Hera to adopt Hercules, the goddess got
into bed, and clasping the burly hero to her bosom, pushed him
through her robes and let him fall to the ground in imitation of a
real birth; and the historian adds that in his own day the same mode
of adopting children was practised by the barbarians. At the present
time it is said to be still in use in Bulgaria and among the Bosnian
Turks. A woman will take a boy whom she intends to adopt and push or
pull him through her clothes; ever afterwards he is regarded as her
very son, and inherits the whole property of his adoptive parents.
Among the Berawans of Sarawak, when a woman desires to adopt a
grownup man or woman, a great many people assemble and have a feast.
The adopting mother, seated in public on a raised and covered seat,
allows the adopted person to crawl from behind between her legs. As
soon as he appears in front he is stroked with the sweet-scented
blossoms of the areca palm and tied to a woman. Then the adopting
mother and the adopted son or daughter, thus bound together, waddle
to the end of the house and back again in front of all the
spectators. The tie established between the two by this graphic
imitation of childbirth is very strict; an offence committed against
an adopted child is reckoned more heinous than one committed against
a real child. In ancient Greece any man who had been supposed
erroneously to be dead, and for whom in his absence funeral rites
had been performed, was treated as dead to society till he had gone
through the form of being born again. He was passed through a
woman's lap, then washed, dressed in swaddling-clothes, and put out
to nurse. Not until this ceremony had been punctually performed
might he mix freely with living folk. In ancient India, under
similar circumstances, the supposed dead man had to pass the first
night after his return in a tub filled with a mixture of fat and
water; there he sat with doubled-up fists and without uttering a
syllable, like a child in the womb, while over him were performed
all the sacraments that were wont to be celebrated over a pregnant
woman. Next morning he got out of the tub and went through once more
all the other sacraments he had formerly partaken of from his youth
up; in particular, he married a wife or espoused his old one over
again with due solemnity.

Another beneficent use of homoeopathic magic is to heal or prevent
sickness. The ancient Hindoos performed an elaborate ceremony, based
on homoeopathic magic, for the cure of jaundice. Its main drift was
to banish the yellow colour to yellow creatures and yellow things,
such as the sun, to which it properly belongs, and to procure for
the patient a healthy red colour from a living, vigorous source,
namely, a red bull. With this intention, a priest recited the
following spell: "Up to the sun shall go thy heart-ache and thy
jaundice: in the colour of the red bull do we envelop thee! We
envelop thee in red tints, unto long life. May this person go
unscathed and be free of yellow colour! The cows whose divinity is
Rohini, they who, moreover, are themselves red (_rohinih_)--in their
every form and every strength we do envelop thee. Into the parrots,
into the thrush, do we put thy jaundice, and, furthermore, into the
yellow wagtail do we put thy jaundice." While he uttered these
words, the priest, in order to infuse the rosy hue of health into
the sallow patient, gave him water to sip which was mixed with the
hair of a red bull; he poured water over the animal's back and made
the sick man drink it; he seated him on the skin of a red bull and
tied a piece of the skin to him. Then in order to improve his colour
by thoroughly eradicating the yellow taint, he proceeded thus. He
first daubed him from head to foot with a yellow porridge made of
tumeric or curcuma (a yellow plant), set him on a bed, tied three
yellow birds, to wit, a parrot, a thrush, and a yellow wagtail, by
means of a yellow string to the foot of the bed; then pouring water
over the patient, he washed off the yellow porridge, and with it no
doubt the jaundice, from him to the birds. After that, by way of
giving a final bloom to his complexion, he took some hairs of a red
bull, wrapt them in gold leaf, and glued them to the patient's skin.
The ancients held that if a person suffering from jaundice looked
sharply at a stone-curlew, and the bird looked steadily at him, he
was cured of the disease. "Such is the nature," says Plutarch, "and
such the temperament of the creature that it draws out and receives
the malady which issues, like a stream, through the eyesight." So
well recognised among birdfanciers was this valuable property of the
stone-curlew that when they had one of these birds for sale they
kept it carefully covered, lest a jaundiced person should look at it
and be cured for nothing. The virtue of the bird lay not in its
colour but in its large golden eye, which naturally drew out the
yellow jaundice. Pliny tells of another, or perhaps the same, bird,
to which the Greeks gave their name for jaundice, because if a
jaundiced man saw it, the disease left him and slew the bird. He
mentions also a stone which was supposed to cure jaundice because
its hue resembled that of a jaundiced skin.

One of the great merits of homoeopathic magic is that it enables the
cure to be performed on the person of the doctor instead of on that
of his victim, who is thus relieved of all trouble and inconvenience,
while he sees his medical man writhe in anguish before him. For
example, the peasants of Perche, in France, labour under the
impression that a prolonged fit of vomiting is brought about by the
patient's stomach becoming unhooked, as they call it, and so falling
down. Accordingly, a practitioner is called in to restore the organ
to its proper place. After hearing the symptoms he at once throws
himself into the most horrible contortions, for the purpose of
unhooking his own stomach. Having succeeded in the effort, he next
hooks it up again in another series of contortions and grimaces,
while the patient experiences a corresponding relief. Fee five
francs. In like manner a Dyak medicine-man, who has been fetched in
a case of illness, will lie down and pretend to be dead. He is
accordingly treated like a corpse, is bound up in mats, taken out of
the house, and deposited on the ground. After about an hour the
other medicine-men loose the pretended dead man and bring him to
life; and as he recovers, the sick person is supposed to recover
too. A cure for a tumour, based on the principle of homoeopathic
magic, is prescribed by Marcellus of Bordeaux, court physician to
Theodosius the First, in his curious work on medicine. It is as
follows. Take a root of vervain, cut it across, and hang one end of
it round the patient's neck, and the other in the smoke of the fire.
As the vervain dries up in the smoke, so the tumour will also dry up
and disappear. If the patient should afterwards prove ungrateful to
the good physician, the man of skill can avenge himself very easily
by throwing the vervain into water; for as the root absorbs the
moisture once more, the tumour will return. The same sapient writer
recommends you, if you are troubled with pimples, to watch for a
falling star, and then instantly, while the star is still shooting
from the sky, to wipe the pimples with a cloth or anything that
comes to hand. Just as the star falls from the sky, so the pimples
will fall from your body; only you must be very careful not to wipe
them with your bare hand, or the pimples will be transferred to it.

Further, homoeopathic and in general sympathetic magic plays a great
part in the measures taken by the rude hunter or fisherman to secure
an abundant supply of food. On the principle that like produces
like, many things are done by him and his friends in deliberate
imitation of the result which he seeks to attain; and, on the other
hand, many things are scrupulously avoided because they bear some
more or less fanciful resemblance to others which would really be

Nowhere is the theory of sympathetic magic more systematically
carried into practice for the maintenance of the food supply than in
the barren regions of Central Australia. Here the tribes are divided
into a number of totem clans, each of which is charged with the duty
of multiplying their totem for the good of the community by means of
magical ceremonies. Most of the totems are edible animals and
plants, and the general result supposed to be accomplished by these
ceremonies is that of supplying the tribe with food and other
necessaries. Often the rites consist of an imitation of the effect
which the people desire to produce; in other words, their magic is
homoeopathic or imitative. Thus among the Warramunga the headman of
the white cockatoo totem seeks to multiply white cockatoos by
holding an effigy of the bird and mimicking its harsh cry. Among the
Arunta the men of the witchetty grub totem perform ceremonies for
multiplying the grub which the other members of the tribe use as
food. One of the ceremonies is a pantomime representing the
fully-developed insect in the act of emerging from the chrysalis. A
long narrow structure of branches is set up to imitate the chrysalis
case of the grub. In this structure a number of men, who have the
grub for their totem, sit and sing of the creature in its various
stages. Then they shuffle out of it in a squatting posture, and as
they do so they sing of the insect emerging from the chrysalis. This
is supposed to multiply the numbers of the grubs. Again, in order to
multiply emus, which are an important article of food, the men of
the emu totem paint on the ground the sacred design of their totem,
especially the parts of the emu which they like best to eat, namely,
the fat and the eggs. Round this painting the men sit and sing.
Afterwards performers, wearing head-dresses to represent the long
neck and small head of the emu, mimic the appearance of the bird as
it stands aimlessly peering about in all directions.

The Indians of British Columbia live largely upon the fish which
abound in their seas and rivers. If the fish do not come in due
season, and the Indians are hungry, a Nootka wizard will make an
image of a swimming fish and put it into the water in the direction
from which the fish generally appear. This ceremony, accompanied by
a prayer to the fish to come, will cause them to arrive at once. The
islanders of Torres Straits use models of dugong and turtles to
charm dugong and turtle to their destruction. The Toradjas of
Central Celebes believe that things of the same sort attract each
other by means of their indwelling spirits or vital ether. Hence
they hang up the jawbones of deer and wild pigs in their houses, in
order that the spirits which animate these bones may draw the living
creatures of the same kind into the path of the hunter. In the
island of Nias, when a wild pig has fallen into the pit prepared for
it, the animal is taken out and its back is rubbed with nine fallen
leaves, in the belief that this will make nine more wild pigs fall
into the pit, just as the nine leaves fell from the tree. In the
East Indian islands of Saparoea, Haroekoe, and Noessa Laut, when a
fisherman is about to set a trap for fish in the sea, he looks out
for a tree, of which the fruit has been much pecked at by birds.
From such a tree he cuts a stout branch and makes of it the
principal post in his fish-trap; for he believes that, just as the
tree lured many birds to its fruit, so the branch cut from that tree
will lure many fish to the trap.

The western tribes of British New Guinea employ a charm to aid the
hunter in spearing dugong or turtle. A small beetle, which haunts
coco-nut trees, is placed in the hole of the spear-haft into which
the spear-head fits. This is supposed to make the spear-head stick
fast in the dugong or turtle, just as the beetle sticks fast to a
man's skin when it bites him. When a Cambodian hunter has set his
nets and taken nothing, he strips himself naked, goes some way off,
then strolls up to the net as if he did not see it, lets himself be
caught in it, and cries, "Hillo! what's this? I'm afraid I'm
caught." After that the net is sure to catch game. A pantomime of
the same sort has been acted within the living memory in our
Scottish Highlands. The Rev. James Macdonald, now of Reay in
Caithness, tells us that in his boyhood when he was fishing with
companions about Loch Aline and they had had no bites for a long
time, they used to make a pretence of throwing one of their fellows
overboard and hauling him out of the water, as if he were a fish;
after that the trout or silloch would begin to nibble, according as
the boat was on fresh or salt water. Before a Carrier Indian goes
out to snare martens, he sleeps by himself for about ten nights
beside the fire with a little stick pressed down on his neck. This
naturally causes the fall-stick of his trap to drop down on the neck
of the marten. Among the Galelareese, who inhabit a district in the
northern part of Halmahera, a large island to the west of New
Guinea, it is a maxim that when you are loading your gun to go out
shooting, you should always put the bullet in your mouth before you
insert it in the gun; for by so doing you practically eat the game
that is to be hit by the bullet, which therefore cannot possibly
miss the mark. A Malay who has baited a trap for crocodiles, and is
awaiting results, is careful in eating his curry always to begin by
swallowing three lumps of rice successively; for this helps the bait
to slide more easily down the crocodile's throat. He is equally
scrupulous not to take any bones out of his curry; for, if he did,
it seems clear that the sharp-pointed stick on which the bait is
skewered would similarly work itself loose, and the crocodile would
get off with the bait. Hence in these circumstances it is prudent
for the hunter, before he begins his meal, to get somebody else to
take the bones out of his curry, otherwise he may at any moment have
to choose between swallowing a bone and losing the crocodile.

This last rule is an instance of the things which the hunter
abstains from doing lest, on the principle that like produces like,
they should spoil his luck. For it is to be observed that the system
of sympathetic magic is not merely composed of positive precepts; it
comprises a very large number of negative precepts, that is,
prohibitions. It tells you not merely what to do, but also what to
leave undone. The positive precepts are charms: the negative
precepts are taboos. In fact the whole doctrine of taboo, or at all
events a large part of it, would seem to be only a special
application of sympathetic magic, with its two great laws of
similarity and contact. Though these laws are certainly not
formulated in so many words nor even conceived in the abstract by
the savage, they are nevertheless implicitly believed by him to
regulate the course of nature quite independently of human will. He
thinks that if he acts in a certain way, certain consequences will
inevitably follow in virtue of one or other of these laws; and if
the consequences of a particular act appear to him likely to prove
disagreeable or dangerous, he is naturally careful not to act in
that way lest he should incur them. In other words, he abstains from
doing that which, in accordance with his mistaken notions of cause
and effect, he falsely believes would injure him; in short, he
subjects himself to a taboo. Thus taboo is so far a negative
application of practical magic. Positive magic or sorcery says, "Do
this in order that so and so may happen." Negative magic or taboo
says, "Do not do this, lest so and so should happen." The aim of
positive magic or sorcery is to produce a desired event; the aim of
negative magic or taboo is to avoid an undesirable one. But both
consequences, the desirable and the undesirable, are supposed to be
brought about in accordance with the laws of similarity and contact.
And just as the desired consequence is not really effected by the
observance of a magical ceremony, so the dreaded consequence does
not really result from the violation of a taboo. If the supposed
evil necessarily followed a breach of taboo, the taboo would not be
a taboo but a precept of morality or common sense. It is not a taboo
to say, "Do not put your hand in the fire"; it is a rule of common
sense, because the forbidden action entails a real, not an imaginary
evil. In short, those negative precepts which we call taboo are just
as vain and futile as those positive precepts which we call sorcery.
The two things are merely opposite sides or poles of one great
disastrous fallacy, a mistaken conception of the association of
ideas. Of that fallacy, sorcery is the positive, and taboo the
negative pole. If we give the general name of magic to the whole
erroneous system, both theoretical and practical, then taboo may be
defined as the negative side of practical magic. To put this in
tabular form:

| |
Theoretical Practical
(Magic as a (Magic as a
pseudo-science) pseudo-art)
| |
Positive Magic Negative Magic
or Sorcery or Taboo

I have made these remarks on taboo and its relations to magic
because I am about to give some instances of taboos observed by
hunters, fishermen, and others, and I wished to show that they fall
under the head of Sympathetic Magic, being only particular
applications of that general theory. Thus, among the Esquimaux boys
are forbidden to play cat's cradle, because if they did so their
fingers might in later life become entangled in the harpoon-line.
Here the taboo is obviously an application of the law of similarity,
which is the basis of homoeopathic magic: as the child's fingers are
entangled by the string in playing cat's cradle, so they will be
entangled by the harpoonline when he is a man and hunts whales.
Again, among the Huzuls of the Carpathian Mountains the wife of a
hunter may not spin while her husband is eating, or the game will
turn and wind like the spindle, and the hunter will be unable to hit
it. Here again the taboo is clearly derived from the law of
similarity. So, too, in most parts of ancient Italy women were
forbidden by law to spin on the highroads as they walked, or even to
carry their spindles openly, because any such action was believed to
injure the crops. Probably the notion was that the twirling of the
spindle would twirl the corn-stalks and prevent them from growing
straight. So, too, among the Ainos of Saghalien a pregnant woman may
not spin nor twist ropes for two months before her delivery, because
they think that if she did so the child's guts might be entangled
like the thread. For a like reason in Bilaspore, a district of
India, when the chief men of a village meet in council, no one
present should twirl a spindle; for they think that if such a thing
were to happen, the discussion, like the spindle, would move in a
circle and never be wound up. In some of the East Indian islands any
one who comes to the house of a hunter must walk straight in; he may
not loiter at the door, for were he to do so, the game would in like
manner stop in front of the hunter's snares and then turn back,
instead of being caught in the trap. For a similar reason it is a
rule with the Toradjas of Central Celebes that no one may stand or
loiter on the ladder of a house where there is a pregnant woman, for
such delay would retard the birth of the child; and in various parts
of Sumatra the woman herself in these circumstances is forbidden to
stand at the door or on the top rung of the house-ladder under pain
of suffering hard labour for her imprudence in neglecting so
elementary a precaution. Malays engaged in the search for camphor
eat their food dry and take care not to pound their salt fine. The
reason is that the camphor occurs in the form of small grains
deposited in the cracks of the trunk of the camphor tree.
Accordingly it seems plain to the Malay that if, while seeking for
camphor, he were to eat his salt finely ground, the camphor would be
found also in fine grains; whereas by eating his salt coarse he
ensures that the grains of the camphor will also be large. Camphor
hunters in Borneo use the leathery sheath of the leaf-stalk of the
Penang palm as a plate for food, and during the whole of the
expedition they will never wash the plate, for fear that the camphor
might dissolve and disappear from the crevices of the tree.
Apparently they think that to wash their plates would be to wash out
the camphor crystals from the trees in which they are imbedded. The
chief product of some parts of Laos, a province of Siam, is lac.
This is a resinous gum exuded by a red insect on the young branches
of trees, to which the little creatures have to be attached by hand.
All who engage in the business of gathering the gum abstain from
washing themselves and especially from cleansing their heads, lest
by removing the parasites from their hair they should detach the
other insects from the boughs. Again, a Blackfoot Indian who has set
a trap for eagles, and is watching it, would not eat rosebuds on any
account; for he argues that if he did so, and an eagle alighted near
the trap, the rosebuds in his own stomach would make the bird itch,
with the result that instead of swallowing the bait the eagle would
merely sit and scratch himself. Following this train of thought the
eagle hunter also refrains from using an awl when he is looking
after his snares; for surely if he were to scratch with an awl, the
eagles would scratch him. The same disastrous consequence would
follow if his wives and children at home used an awl while he is out
after eagles, and accordingly they are forbidden to handle the tool
in his absence for fear of putting him in bodily danger.

Among the taboos observed by savages none perhaps are more numerous
or important than the prohibitions to eat certain foods, and of such
prohibitions many are demonstrably derived from the law of
similarity and are accordingly examples of negative magic. Just as
the savage eats many animals or plants in order to acquire certain
desirable qualities with which he believes them to be endowed, so he
avoids eating many other animals and plants lest he should acquire
certain undesirable qualities with which he believes them to be
infected. In eating the former he practises positive magic; in
abstaining from the latter he practises negative magic. Many
examples of such positive magic will meet us later on; here I will
give a few instances of such negative magic or taboo. For example,
in Madagascar soldiers are forbidden to eat a number of foods lest
on the principle of homoeopathic magic they should be tainted by
certain dangerous or undesirable properties which are supposed to
inhere in these particular viands. Thus they may not taste hedgehog,
"as it is feared that this animal, from its propensity of coiling up
into a ball when alarmed, will impart a timid shrinking disposition
to those who partake of it." Again, no soldier should eat an ox's
knee, lest like an ox he should become weak in the knees and unable
to march. Further, the warrior should be careful to avoid partaking
of a cock that has died fighting or anything that has been speared
to death; and no male animal may on any account be killed in his
house while he is away at the wars. For it seems obvious that if he
were to eat a cock that had died fighting, he would himself be slain
on the field of battle; if he were to partake of an animal that had
been speared, he would be speared himself; if a male animal were
killed in his house during his absence, he would himself be killed
in like manner and perhaps at the same instant. Further, the
Malagasy soldier must eschew kidneys, because in the Malagasy
language the word for kidney is the same as that for "shot"; so shot
he would certainly be if he ate a kidney.

The reader may have observed that in some of the foregoing examples
of taboos the magical influence is supposed to operate at
considerable distances; thus among the Blackfeet Indians the wives
and children of an eagle hunter are forbidden to use an awl during
his absence, lest the eagles should scratch the distant husband and
father; and again no male animal may be killed in the house of a
Malagasy soldier while he is away at the wars, lest the killing of
the animal should entail the killing of the man. This belief in the
sympathetic influence exerted on each other by persons or things at
a distance is of the essence of magic. Whatever doubts science may
entertain as to the possibility of action at a distance, magic has
none; faith in telepathy is one of its first principles. A modern
advocate of the influence of mind upon mind at a distance would have
no difficulty in convincing a savage; the savage believed in it long
ago, and what is more, he acted on his belief with a logical
consistency such as his civilised brother in the faith has not yet,
so far as I am aware, exhibited in his conduct. For the savage is
convinced not only that magical ceremonies affect persons and things
afar off, but that the simplest acts of daily life may do so too.
Hence on important occasions the behaviour of friends and relations
at a distance is often regulated by a more or less elaborate code of
rules, the neglect of which by the one set of persons would, it is
supposed, entail misfortune or even death on the absent ones. In
particular when a party of men are out hunting or fighting, their
kinsfolk at home are often expected to do certain things or to
abstain from doing certain others, for the sake of ensuring the
safety and success of the distant hunters or warriors. I will now
give some instances of this magical telepathy both in its positive
and in its negative aspect.

In Laos when an elephant hunter is starting for the chase, he warns
his wife not to cut her hair or oil her body in his absence; for if
she cut her hair the elephant would burst the toils, if she oiled
herself it would slip through them. When a Dyak village has turned
out to hunt wild pigs in the jungle, the people who stay at home may
not touch oil or water with their hands during the absence of their
friends; for if they did so, the hunters would all be
"butter-fingered" and the prey would slip through their hands.

Elephant-hunters in East Africa believe that, if their wives prove
unfaithful in their absence, this gives the elephant power over his
pursuer, who will accordingly be killed or severely wounded. Hence
if a hunter hears of his wife's misconduct, he abandons the chase
and returns home. If a Wagogo hunter is unsuccessful, or is attacked
by a lion, he attributes it to his wife's misbehaviour at home, and
returns to her in great wrath. While he is away hunting, she may not
let any one pass behind her or stand in front of her as she sits;
and she must lie on her face in bed. The Moxos Indians of Bolivia
thought that if a hunter's wife was unfaithful to him in his absence
he would be bitten by a serpent or a jaguar. Accordingly, if such an
accident happened to him, it was sure to entail the punishment, and
often the death, of the woman, whether she was innocent or guilty.
An Aleutian hunter of sea-otters thinks that he cannot kill a single
animal if during his absence from home his wife should be unfaithful
or his sister unchaste.

The Huichol Indians of Mexico treat as a demi-god a species of
cactus which throws the eater into a state of ecstasy. The plant
does not grow in their country, and has to be fetched every year by
men who make a journey of forty-three days for the purpose.
Meanwhile the wives at home contribute to the safety of their absent
husbands by never walking fast, much less running, while the men are
on the road. They also do their best to ensure the benefits which,
in the shape of rain, good crops, and so forth, are expected to flow
from the sacred mission. With this intention they subject themselves
to severe restrictions like those imposed upon their husbands.
During the whole of the time which elapses till the festival of the
cactus is held, neither party washes except on certain occasions,
and then only with water brought from the distant country where the
holy plant grows. They also fast much, eat no salt, and are bound to
strict continence. Any one who breaks this law is punished with
illness, and, moreover, jeopardises the result which all are
striving for. Health, luck, and life are to be gained by gathering
the cactus, the gourd of the God of Fire; but inasmuch as the pure
fire cannot benefit the impure, men and women must not only remain
chaste for the time being, but must also purge themselves from the
taint of past sin. Hence four days after the men have started the
women gather and confess to Grandfather Fire with what men they have
been in love from childhood till now. They may not omit a single
one, for if they did so the men would not find a single cactus. So
to refresh their memories each one prepares a string with as many
knots as she has had lovers. This she brings to the temple, and,
standing before the fire, she mentions aloud all the men she has
scored on her string, name after name. Having ended her confession,
she throws the string into the fire, and when the god has consumed
it in his pure flame, her sins are forgiven her and she departs in
peace. From now on the women are averse even to letting men pass
near them. The cactus-seekers themselves make in like manner a clean
breast of all their frailties. For every peccadillo they tie a knot
on a string, and after they have "talked to all the five winds" they
deliver the rosary of their sins to the leader, who burns it in the

Many of the indigenous tribes of Sarawak are firmly persuaded that
were the wives to commit adultery while their husbands are searching
for camphor in the jungle, the camphor obtained by the men would
evaporate. Husbands can discover, by certain knots in the tree, when
the wives are unfaithful; and it is said that in former days many
women were killed by jealous husbands on no better evidence than
that of these knots. Further, the wives dare not touch a comb while
their husbands are away collecting the camphor; for if they did so,
the interstices between the fibres of the tree, instead of being
filled with the precious crystals, would be empty like the spaces
between the teeth of a comb. In the Kei Islands, to the southwest of
New Guinea, as soon as a vessel that is about to sail for a distant
port has been launched, the part of the beach on which it lay is
covered as speedily as possible with palm branches, and becomes
sacred. No one may thenceforth cross that spot till the ship comes
home. To cross it sooner would cause the vessel to perish. Moreover,
all the time that the voyage lasts three or four young girls,
specially chosen for the duty, are supposed to remain in sympathetic
connexion with the mariners and to contribute by their behaviour to
the safety and success of the voyage. On no account, except for the
most necessary purpose, may they quit the room that has been
assigned to them. More than that, so long as the vessel is believed
to be at sea they must remain absolutely motionless, crouched on
their mats with their hands clasped between their knees. They may
not turn their heads to the left or to the right or make any other
movement whatsoever. If they did, it would cause the boat to pitch
and toss; and they may not eat any sticky stuff, such as rice boiled
in coco-nut milk, for the stickiness of the food would clog the
passage of the boat through the water. When the sailors are supposed
to have reached their destination, the strictness of these rules is
somewhat relaxed; but during the whole time that the voyage lasts
the girls are forbidden to eat fish which have sharp bones or
stings, such as the sting-ray, lest their friends at sea should be
involved in sharp, stinging trouble.

Where beliefs like these prevail as to the sympathetic connexion
between friends at a distance, we need not wonder that above
everything else war, with its stern yet stirring appeal to some of
the deepest and tenderest of human emotions, should quicken in the
anxious relations left behind a desire to turn the sympathetic bond
to the utmost account for the benefit of the dear ones who may at
any moment be fighting and dying far away. Hence, to secure an end
so natural and laudable, friends at home are apt to resort to
devices which will strike us as pathetic or ludicrous, according as
we consider their object or the means adopted to effect it. Thus in
some districts of Borneo, when a Dyak is out head-hunting, his wife
or, if he is unmarried, his sister must wear a sword day and night
in order that he may always be thinking of his weapons; and she may
not sleep during the day nor go to bed before two in the morning,
lest her husband or brother should thereby be surprised in his sleep
by an enemy. Among the Sea Dyaks of Banting in Sarawak the women
strictly observe an elaborate code of rules while the men are away
fighting. Some of the rules are negative and some are positive, but
all alike are based on the principles of magical homoeopathy and
telepathy. Amongst them are the following. The women must wake very
early in the morning and open the windows as soon as it is light;
otherwise their absent husbands will oversleep themselves. The women
may not oil their hair, or the men will slip. The women may neither
sleep nor doze by day, or the men will be drowsy on the march. The
women must cook and scatter popcorn on the verandah every morning;
so will the men be agile in their movements. The rooms must be kept
very tidy, all boxes being placed near the walls; for if any one
were to stumble over them, the absent husbands would fall and be at
the mercy of the foe. At every meal a little rice must be left in
the pot and put aside; so will the men far away always have
something to eat and need never go hungry. On no account may the
women sit at the loom till their legs grow cramped, otherwise their
husbands will likewise be stiff in their joints and unable to rise
up quickly or to run away from the foe. So in order to keep their
husbands' joints supple the women often vary their labours at the
loom by walking up and down the verandah. Further, they may not
cover up their faces, or the men would not to be able to find their
way through the tall grass or jungle. Again, the women may not sew
with a needle, or the men will tread on the sharp spikes set by the
enemy in the path. Should a wife prove unfaithful while her husband
is away, he will lose his life in the enemy's country. Some years
ago all these rules and more were observed by the women of Banting,
while their husbands were fighting for the English against rebels.
But alas! these tender precautions availed them little; for many a
man, whose faithful wife was keeping watch and ward for him at home,
found a soldier's grave.

In the island of Timor, while war is being waged, the high-priest
never quits the temple; his food is brought to him or cooked inside;
day and night he must keep the fire burning, for if he were to let
it die out, disaster would be fall the warriors and would continue
so long as the hearth was cold. Moreover, he must drink only hot
water during the time the army is absent; for every draught of cold
water would damp the spirits of the people, so that they could not
vanquish the enemy. In the Kei Islands, when the warriors have
departed, the women return indoors and bring out certain baskets
containing fruits and stones. These fruits and stones they anoint
and place on a board, murmuring as they do so, "O lord sun, moon,
let the bullets rebound from our husbands, brothers, betrothed, and
other relations, just as raindrops rebound from these objects which
are smeared with oil." As soon as the first shot is heard, the
baskets are put aside, and the women, seizing their fans, rush out
of the houses. Then, waving their fans in the direction of the
enemy, they run through the village, while they sing, "O golden
fans! let our bullets hit, and those of the enemy miss." In this
custom the ceremony of anointing stones, in order that the bullets
may recoil from the men like raindrops from the stones, is a piece
of pure homoeopathic or imitative magic; but the prayer to the sun,
that he will be pleased to give effect to the charm, is a religious
and perhaps later addition. The waving of the fans seems to be a
charm to direct the bullets towards or away from their mark,
according as they are discharged from the guns of friends or foes.

An old historian of Madagascar informs us that "while the men are at
the wars, and until their return, the women and girls cease not day
and night to dance, and neither lie down nor take food in their own
houses. And although they are very voluptuously inclined, they would
not for anything in the world have an intrigue with another man
while their husband is at the war, believing firmly that if that
happened, their husband would be either killed or wounded. They
believe that by dancing they impart strength, courage, and good
fortune to their husbands; accordingly during such times they give
themselves no rest, and this custom they observe very religiously."

Among the Tshi-speaking peoples of the Gold Coast the wives of men
who are away with the army paint themselves white, and adorn their
persons with beads and charms. On the day when a battle is expected
to take place, they run about armed with guns, or sticks carved to
look like guns, and taking green paw-paws (fruits shaped somewhat
like a melon), they hack them with knives, as if they were chopping
off the heads of the foe. The pantomime is no doubt merely an
imitative charm, to enable the men to do to the enemy as the women
do to the paw-paws. In the West African town of Framin, while the
Ashantee war was raging some years ago, Mr. Fitzgerald Marriott saw
a dance performed by women whose husbands had gone as carriers to
the war. They were painted white and wore nothing but a short
petticoat. At their head was a shrivelled old sorceress in a very
short white petticoat, her black hair arranged in a sort of long
projecting horn, and her black face, breasts, arms, and legs
profusely adorned with white circles and crescents. All carried long
white brushes made of buffalo or horse tails, and as they danced
they sang, "Our husbands have gone to Ashanteeland; may they sweep
their enemies off the face of the earth!"

Among the Thompson Indians of British Columbia, when the men were on
the war-path, the women performed dances at frequent intervals.
These dances were believed to ensure the success of the expedition.
The dancers flourished their knives, threw long sharp-pointed sticks
forward, or drew sticks with hooked ends repeatedly backward and
forward. Throwing the sticks forward was symbolic of piercing or
warding off the enemy, and drawing them back was symbolic of drawing
their own men from danger. The hook at the end of the stick was
particularly well adapted to serve the purpose of a life-saving
apparatus. The women always pointed their weapons towards the
enemy's country. They painted their faces red and sang as they
danced, and they prayed to the weapons to preserve their husbands
and help them to kill many foes. Some had eagle-down stuck on the
points of their sticks. When the dance was over, these weapons were
hidden. If a woman whose husband was at the war thought she saw hair
or a piece of a scalp on the weapon when she took it out, she knew
that her husband had killed an enemy. But if she saw a stain of
blood on it, she knew he was wounded or dead. When the men of the
Yuki tribe in California were away fighting, the women at home did
not sleep; they danced continually in a circle, chanting and waving
leafy wands. For they said that if they danced all the time, their
husbands would not grow tired. Among the Haida Indians of the Queen
Charlotte Islands, when the men had gone to war, the women at home
would get up very early in the morning and pretend to make war by
falling upon their children and feigning to take them for slaves.
This was supposed to help their husbands to go and do likewise. If a
wife were unfaithful to her husband while he was away on the
war-path, he would probably be killed. For ten nights all the women
at home lay with their heads towards the point of the compass to
which the war-canoes had paddled away. Then they changed about, for
the warriors were supposed to be coming home across the sea. At
Masset the Haida women danced and sang war-songs all the time their
husbands were away at the wars, and they had to keep everything
about them in a certain order. It was thought that a wife might kill
her husband by not observing these customs. When a band of Carib
Indians of the Orinoco had gone on the war-path, their friends left
in the village used to calculate as nearly as they could the exact
moment when the absent warriors would be advancing to attack the
enemy. Then they took two lads, laid them down on a bench, and
inflicted a most severe scourging on their bare backs. This the
youths submitted to without a murmur, supported in their sufferings
by the firm conviction, in which they had been bred from childhood,
that on the constancy and fortitude with which they bore the cruel
ordeal depended the valour and success of their comrades in the

Among the many beneficent uses to which a mistaken ingenuity has
applied the principle of homoeopathic or imitative magic, is that of
causing trees and plants to bear fruit in due season. In Thüringen
the man who sows flax carries the seed in a long bag which reaches
from his shoulders to his knees, and he walks with long strides, so
that the bag sways to and fro on his back. It is believed that this
will cause the flax to wave in the wind. In the interior of Sumatra
rice is sown by women who, in sowing, let their hair hang loose down
their back, in order that the rice may grow luxuriantly and have
long stalks. Similarly, in ancient Mexico a festival was held in
honour of the goddess of maize, or "the long-haired mother," as she
was called. It began at the time "when the plant had attained its
full growth, and fibres shooting forth from the top of the green ear
indicated that the grain was fully formed. During this festival the
women wore their long hair unbound, shaking and tossing it in the
dances which were the chief feature in the ceremonial, in order that
the tassel of the maize might grow in like profusion, that the grain
might be correspondingly large and flat, and that the people might
have abundance." In many parts of Europe dancing or leaping high in
the air are approved homoeopathic modes of making the crops grow
high. Thus in Franche-Comté they say that you should dance at the
Carnival in order to make the hemp grow tall.

The notion that a person can influence a plant homoeopathically by
his act or condition comes out clearly in a remark made by a Malay
woman. Being asked why she stripped the upper part of her body naked
in reaping the rice, she explained that she did it to make the
rice-husks thinner, as she was tired of pounding thick-husked rice.
Clearly, she thought that the less clothing she wore the less husk
there would be on the rice. The magic virtue of a pregnant woman to
communicate fertility is known to Bavarian and Austrian peasants,
who think that if you give the first fruit of a tree to a woman with
child to eat, the tree will bring forth abundantly next year. On the
other hand, the Baganda believe that a barren wife infects her
husband's garden with her own sterility and prevents the trees from
bearing fruit; hence a childless woman is generally divorced. The
Greeks and Romans sacrificed pregnant victims to the goddesses of
the corn and of the earth, doubtless in order that the earth might
teem and the corn swell in the ear. When a Catholic priest
remonstrated with the Indians of the Orinoco on allowing their women
to sow the fields in the blazing sun, with infants at their breasts,
the men answered, "Father, you don't understand these things, and
that is why they vex you. You know that women are accustomed to bear
children, and that we men are not. When the women sow, the stalk of
the maize bears two or three ears, the root of the yucca yields two
or three basketfuls, and everything multiplies in proportion. Now
why is that? Simply because the women know how to bring forth, and
know how to make the seed which they sow bring forth also. Let them
sow, then; we men don't know as much about it as they do."

Thus on the theory of homoeopathic magic a person can influence
vegetation either for good or for evil according to the good or the
bad character of his acts or states: for example, a fruitful woman
makes plants fruitful, a barren woman makes them barren. Hence this
belief in the noxious and infectious nature of certain personal
qualities or accidents has given rise to a number of prohibitions or
rules of avoidance: people abstain from doing certain things lest
they should homoeopathically infect the fruits of the earth with
their own undesirable state or condition. All such customs of
abstention or rules of avoidance are examples of negative magic or
taboo. Thus, for example, arguing from what may be called the
infectiousness of personal acts or states, the Galelareese say that
you ought not to shoot with a bow and arrows under a fruit-tree, or
the tree will cast its fruit even as the arrows fall to the ground;
and that when you are eating water-melon you ought not to mix the
pips which you spit out of your mouth with the pips which you have
put aside to serve as seed; for if you do, though the pips you spat
out may certainly spring up and blossom, yet the blossoms will keep
falling off just as the pips fell from your mouth, and thus these
pips will never bear fruit. Precisely the same train of thought
leads the Bavarian peasant to believe that if he allows the graft of
a fruit-tree to fall on the ground, the tree that springs from that
graft will let its fruit fall untimely. When the Chams of
Cochinchina are sowing their dry rice fields and desire that no
shower should fall, they eat their rice dry in order to prevent rain
from spoiling the crop.

In the foregoing cases a person is supposed to influence vegetation
homoeopathically. He infects trees or plants with qualities or
accidents, good or bad, resembling and derived from his own. But on
the principle of homoeopathic magic the influence is mutual: the
plant can infect the man just as much as the man can infect the
plant. In magic, as I believe in physics, action and reaction are
equal and opposite. The Cherokee Indians are adepts in practical
botany of the homoeopathic sort. Thus wiry roots of the catgut plant
are so tough that they can almost stop a plowshare in the furrow.
Hence Cherokee women wash their heads with a decoction of the roots
to make the hair strong, and Cherokee ball-players wash themselves
with it to toughen their muscles. It is a Galelareese belief that if
you eat a fruit which has fallen to the ground, you will yourself
contract a disposition to stumble and fall; and that if you partake
of something which has been forgotten (such as a sweet potato left
in the pot or a banana in the fire), you will become forgetful. The
Galelareese are also of opinion that if a woman were to consume two
bananas growing from a single head she would give birth to twins.
The Guarani Indians of South America thought that a woman would
become a mother of twins if she ate a double grain of millet. In
Vedic times a curious application of this principle supplied a charm
by which a banished prince might be restored to his kingdom. He had
to eat food cooked on a fire which was fed with wood which had grown
out of the stump of a tree which had been cut down. The recuperative
power manifested by such a tree would in due course be communicated
through the fire to the food, and so to the prince, who ate the food
which was cooked on the fire which was fed with the wood which grew
out of the tree. The Sudanese think that if a house is built of the
wood of thorny trees, the life of the people who dwell in that house
will likewise be thorny and full of trouble.

There is a fruitful branch of homoeopathic magic which works by
means of the dead; for just as the dead can neither see nor hear nor
speak, so you may on homoeopathic principles render people blind,
deaf and dumb by the use of dead men's bones or anything else that
is tainted by the infection of death. Thus among the Galelareese,
when a young man goes a-wooing at night, he takes a little earth
from a grave and strews it on the roof of his sweetheart's house
just above the place where her parents sleep. This, he fancies, will
prevent them from waking while he converses with his beloved, since
the earth from the grave will make them sleep as sound as the dead.
Burglars in all ages and many lands have been patrons of this
species of magic, which is very useful to them in the exercise of
their profession. Thus a South Slavonian housebreaker sometimes
begins operations by throwing a dead man's bone over the house,
saying, with pungent sarcasm, "As this bone may waken, so may these
people waken"; after that not a soul in the house can keep his or
her eyes open. Similarly, in Java the burglar takes earth from a
grave and sprinkles it round the house which he intends to rob; this
throws the inmates into a deep sleep. With the same intention a
Hindoo will strew ashes from a pyre at the door of the house;
Indians of Peru scatter the dust of dead men's bones; and Ruthenian
burglars remove the marrow from a human shin-bone, pour tallow into
it, and having kindled the tallow, march thrice round the house with
this candle burning, which causes the inmates to sleep a death-like
sleep. Or the Ruthenian will make a flute out of a human leg-bone
and play upon it; whereupon all persons within hearing are overcome
with drowsiness. The Indians of Mexico employed for this maleficent
purpose the left fore-arm of a woman who had died in giving birth to
her first child; but the arm had to be stolen. With it they beat the
ground before they entered the house which they designed to plunder;
this caused every one in the house to lose all power of speech and
motion; they were as dead, hearing and seeing everything, but
perfectly powerless; some of them, however, really slept and even
snored. In Europe similar properties were ascribed to the Hand of
Glory, which was the dried and pickled hand of a man who had been
hanged. If a candle made of the fat of a malefactor who had also
died on the gallows was lighted and placed in the Hand of Glory as
in a candlestick, it rendered motionless all persons to whom it was
presented; they could not stir a finger any more than if they were
dead. Sometimes the dead man's hand is itself the candle, or rather
bunch of candles, all its withered fingers being set on fire; but
should any member of the household be awake, one of the fingers will
not kindle. Such nefarious lights can only be extinguished with
milk. Often it is prescribed that the thief's candle should be made
of the finger of a new-born or, still better, unborn child;
sometimes it is thought needful that the thief should have one such
candle for every person in the house, for if he has one candle too
little somebody in the house will wake and catch him. Once these
tapers begin to burn, there is nothing but milk that will put them
out. In the seventeenth century robbers used to murder pregnant
women in order thus to extract candles from their wombs. An ancient
Greek robber or burglar thought he could silence and put to flight
the fiercest watchdogs by carrying with him a brand plucked from a
funeral pyre. Again, Servian and Bulgarian women who chafe at the
restraints of domestic life will take the copper coins from the eyes
of a corpse, wash them in wine or water, and give the liquid to
their husbands to drink. After swallowing it, the husband will be as
blind to his wife's peccadilloes as the dead man was on whose eyes
the coins were laid.

Further, animals are often conceived to possess qualities of
properties which might be useful to man, and homoeopathic or
imitative magic seeks to communicate these properties to human
beings in various ways. Thus some Bechuanas wear a ferret as a
charm, because, being very tenacious of life, it will make them
difficult to kill. Others wear a certain insect, mutilated, but
living, for a similar purpose. Yet other Bechuana warriors wear the


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