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In this last festival the essential feature of the ceremony appears to be the passage of the image of the deity across the fire ; it may be compared to the passage of the straw effigy of Kupalo across the midsummer bonfire in Russia. As we shall sce presently, such customs are probably magical rites designed to produce light and warmth by subjecting the deity himself to the heat and glow of the furnace. Meantime we may conjecture that where, as at Barsana, priests or sorcerers have been accustomed in the discharge of their functions to walk through or over fire, they have sometimes done so as the living representatives or embodiments of deities, spirits, or other supernatural beings. Some confirmation of this view is furnished by the beliefs and practices of the Dosadhs, a low Indian caste in Behar and Chota Nagpur. On the fifth, tenth, and full-moon days of three months in the year, the priest walks over a narrow trench filled with smouldering wood ashes, and is supposed thus to be inspired by the tribal god Rahu, who becomes incarnate in him for a time. Full of the spirit and also, it is surmised, of drink, the man of god then mounts a bamboo platform, where he sings hymns and distributes to the crowd leaves of tulsi, which cure incurable diseases, and flowers which cause barren women to become happy mothers. The service winds up with a feast lasting far into the night, at which the line that divides religious fervour from drunken revelry cannot always be drawn with absolute precision.' Similarly the Bhuiyas, a Dravidian tribe of Mirzapur, worship their tribal hero Bir by walking over a short trench filled with fire, and they say that the man who is possessed by the hero does not feel any pain in the soles of his fcct." Ceremonics of this sort used to be observed in most districts of the Madras Presidency, sometimes in discharge of vows made in time of According 10 Mr. Schlegel, the con. Provinces and Omin, ii. 355. Accord. nection between this sestival and the ing to Mr. Risley, the irench filled with old custom of solemnly extinguishing smouldering ashes is so narrow (only a and relighting the fire in spring is span and a quarter wille) "that very unquestionable.
little dexterity would enable a man to " H. 11. Risley, Tribes and Castes walk with his feet on either edge, so as of bengal, Ethnographic Glossary, i. not to touch the smoukiering ashes at 255 s. Compare W. Crooke, Intro. the bottom.“ Auction 10 the Popular Religion and : W. Crooke, Tribes and Castes of Folklore of Northern India, p. 10; it.,
The North lliston Prozinies and Onih, Tribes ani Castes of the North-ll'estern ii. 82.
sickness or distress, sometimes periodically in honour of a deity. Where the ceremony was observed periodically, it generally occurred in March or June, which are the months of the vernal equinox and the summer solstice respectively. A narrow trench, sometimes twenty yards long and half a foot deep, was filled with small sticks and twigs, mostly of tamarind, , which were kindled and kept burning till they sank into a mass of glowing embers. Along this the devotees, often fifty or sixty in succession, walked, ran, or leaped barefoot. In 1854 the Madras Government instituted an inquiry into the custom, but found that it was not attended by danger or instances of injury sufficient to call for governmental interference. The French traveller Sonnerat has described how, in the eighteenth century, the Hindoos celebrated a firefestival of this sort in honour of the god Darma Rajah and his wife Drobedé. The festival lasted eighteen days, during which all who had vowed to take part in it were bound to fast, to practise continence, to sleep on the ground without a mat, and to walk on a furnace. On the eighteenth day the images of Darma Rajah and his spouse were carried in procession to the furnace, and the performers followed dancing, their heads crowned with flowers and their bodies smeared with saffron. The furnace consisted of a trench about forty feet long, filled with hot embers. When the images had been carried thrice round it, the worshippers
1 M. J. Walhouse, “ Passing through slightest danger to life. Some young the Fire," Indian Antiquary, vii. girl, whose soles were tender, might (1878), p. 126 sq. At Ikka timanully, next morning find that she had a blister, one of the many villages which help to but this would be the extent of harm make up the town of Bangalore in she could receive." See Indian IntiSouthern India, one woman at least quary, iii. (1874), pp. 6.S. But to fall from every house is expected to walk on the hot embers might result in inthrough the fire at the village festival. juries which would prove fatal, and Captain J. S. F. Mackenzie witnessed such an accident is known to have the ceremony in 1873. A trench, four occurred at a village in Bengal (II. J: feet long hy two feet wide, was filled Stokes, Walking through Fire, with live embers. The priest walked Indian Intiquary, ii. (1873), p. 190 through it thrice, and the women after. 54.). Accounts of similar rites pracwards passed through it in batches. tised in Fiji, Tonga, and other parts of Capt. Mackenzie remarks : " From the the world have been cited by Mr. description one reads of walking through Andrew Lang (l/odern Alythology, p. fire, I expected something sensational. 154 $94. ; Athenaeum, 26th August and
ng could be mo tame than the 14th October 1899), but these accounts ceremony we saw performed ; in which shed little light on the origin and there never was nor ever could be the meaning of the custom.
walked over the embers, faster or slower, according to the degree of their religious fervour, some carrying their children in their arms, others brandishing spears, swords, and standards. This part of the ceremony being over, the bystanders hastened to rub their foreheads with ashes from the furnace, and to beg from the performers the flowers which they had worn in their hair ; and such as obtained them preserved the flowers carefully. The rite was performed in honour of the goddess Drobedé. For she married five brothers all at once ; every year' she left one of her husbands to betake herself to another, but before doing so she had to purify herself by fire. There was no fixed date for the celebration of the rite, but it could only be held in one of the first three months of the year.'
Similar rites were performed in antiquity at Castabala in Cappadocia by the priestesses of an Asiatic goddess, whom the Greeks called Artemis Perasia ;? and at the foot of Mount Soracte, in Italy, there was a sanctuary of a goddess Feronia, where once a year the men of certain families walked barefoot, but unscathed, over the glowing embers and ashes of a great fire of pinewood in presence of a vast multitudc, who had assembled from all the country round about to pay their devotions to the deity or to ply their business at the fair. The families from whom these latter performers were drawn went by the name of Hirpi Sorani, or “ Soranian Wolves"; and in consideration of the services which they rendered the state by walking through the fire, they were exempted, by a special decree of the senate, from military service and all public burdens. In the discharge of their sacred function, if we can trust the testimony of Strabo, they were believed to be inspired by the goddess Feronia. The ceremony certainly took place in her sanctuary, which was held in the highest reverence alike by Latins and Sabines; but according to Virgil and Pliny the rite was performed in honour of the god of the mountain, whom they call by the Greek name of Apollo, but whose real name appears
i 'Sonneral, l'orage aux Indes ori. antalis in i la Chine (l'aris, 1782), i. 247 sq.
2 Strabo, xii. 2.7:0v tois kaotabalos εστί το της Περασίας 'Αρτέμιδος ιερόν, όπου φασι τας ιερείας γιμνοις τοις ποσί δι' ανθρακιάς βαδίζειν άπαθείς. .
to have been Soranus. If Soranus was a sun-god, as his name appears to indicate,' we might perhaps conclude that the passage of his priests through the fire was a magical ceremony designed to procure a due supply of light and warmth for the earth by mimicking the sun's passage across the firmament.
For so priceless a service, rendered at some personal risk, it would be natural that the magicians should be handsomely rewarded by a grateful country, and that they should be released from the common obligations of earth in order the better to devote themselves to their celestial mission. The neighbouring towns paid the first-fruits of their harvest as tribute to the shrine, and loaded it besides with offerings of gold and silver, of which, however, it was swept clean by Hannibal when he hung with his dusky army, like a storm-cloud about to break, within sight of the sentinels on the walls of Rome.3
The custom of leaping over the fire and driving cattle through it may be intended, on the one hand, to secure for man and beast a share of the vital energy of the sun, and, on the other hand, to purge them of all evil influences ; for to the primitive mind fire is the most powerful of all purihcatory agents. The latter idea is obviously uppermost in the minds of Greek women when they leap over the midsummer fire saying, “I leave my sins behind me." So in
Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 19; Virgil, Wolves" with the ceremonies performed Aen. xi. 784 599., with the comment by the brotherhood of the Green Wolf of Servius ; Strabo, v. 2. 9; Dionysius at Jumièges in Normandy. See above, Halicarnasensis, Intiquit. Rom. iii.
p. 281 549. 32. From a reference to the custom in Silius Italicus (s. 175 $49.) it
? L. Preller (Römische Mythologie, 3
i. 268), following G. Curtius, would that the men passed thrice through the furnace holding the en.
connect the first syllable of Soranus and
Soracte with the Latin soi,
W. Ridgeway points out to me that as hands.
r in Hirpi (" wolves ") answers to l in l'arro attributed their inmunity in the
luri, so r in Sorani probably answers fire to a drug with which they took
to 1 in sol. Thus the Ilirpi Sorani
would be “the solar wolves." before they planted them in the furnace. See Varro, cited by Servius, 3 Livy, xxvi. 11. About this time on Virgil, den. xi. 787. The whole the Carthaginian army encamped only subject has been treated by Mannhardt three miles from Rome and Hannibal (Antike Wald- und Feldkulli, p. 327 in person, at the head of two thousand 599.) and Mr. Andrew Lang (Modern cavalry, rode close up to the walls and Mythoiosy, p. 148 spy.). Mannhardt leisurely reconnoitred them. See compares the rites of these “Soranian Livy xxvi. 10.
Yucatan at a New Year's festival the people used to light a huge bonfire and pass through it, in the belief that this was
means of ridding themselves of their troubles. The custom of driving cattle through a fire is not confined to Europe. At certain times the Hottentots make a fire of chips, dry branches, and green twigs, so as to raise a great smoke. Through this fire they drive their sheep, dragging them through by force, if necessary. If the sheep make their escape without passing through the fire, it is reckoned a heavy disgrace and a very bad omen.
But if they pass readily through or over the fire, the joy of the Hottentots is indescribable.
The procession or race with burning torches, which so often forms a part of these fire-festivals, appears to be simply a means of diffusing far and wide the genial influence of the bonfire or of the sunshine which it represents. Hence on these occasions lighted torches are very frequently carried over the fields, sometimes with the avowed intention of fertilising them ;3 and for the same purpose live coals from the bonfire are sometimes placed in the field “to prevent blight.” On the eve of Twelfth Day in Normandy men, woinen, and children run wildly through the fields and orchards with lighted torches, which they wave about the branches and dash against the trunks of the fruit-trees for the sake of burning the moss and driving away the moles and field mice. “They believe that the ceremony fulfils the double object of exorcising vermin whose multiplication would be a real calamity, and of imparting fecundity to the trees, the fields, and even the cattle"; and they imagine that the more the ceremony is prolonged, the greater will be the crop of fruit next autumn.' In Bohemia they say that the corn will grow as high as they Aling the blazing besoms into the air. Vor are such notions confined to Europe. In