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a condemned criminal. In this advanced stage of degeneration it is no wonder if the light of divinity suffered eclipse, and many should fail to detect the god in the malefactor. Yet the downward career of fallen deity does not stop here; even a criminal comes to be thought too good to personate a god on the gallows or in the fire; and then there is nothing left but to make up a more or less grotesque effigy, and so to hang, burn, or otherwise destroy the god in the person of this sorry representative. By this time the original meaning of the ceremony may be so completely forgotten that the puppet is supposed to represent some historical personage, who earned the hatred and contempt of his fellows in his life, and whose memory has ever since been held up to eternal execration by the annual destruction of his effigy. The figures of Haman, of the Carnival, and of Winter or Death which are or used to be annually destroyed in spring by Jews, Catholics, and the peasants of Central Europe respectively, appear to be all lineal descendants of those human incarnations of the powers of nature whose life and death were deemed essential to the welfare of mankind. But of the three the only one which has preserved a clear trace of its original meaning is the effigy of Winter or Death. In the others the ancient significance of the custom as a magical ceremony designed to direct the course of nature has been almost wholly obscured by a thick aftergrowth of legend and myth. The cause of this distinction is that, whereas the practice of destroying an effigy of Winter or Death has been handed down from time immemorial through generations of simple peasants, the festivals of Purim and the Carnival, as well as their Babylonian and Italian prototypes, the Sacaea and the Saturnalia, were for centuries domesticated in cities, where they were necessarily exposed to those thousand transforming and disintegrating currents of speculation and inquiry, of priestcraft and policy, which roll their turbid waters through the busy haunts of men, but leave undefiled the limpid springs of mythic fancy in the country.
If there is any truth in the analysis of the Saturnalia and kindred festivals which I have now brought to a close, it seems to point to a remarkable homogeneity of civilisation throughout Southern Europe and Western Asia in pre
historic times. How far such homogeneity of civilisation may be taken as evidence of homogeneity of race is a question for the ethnologist; it does not concern us here. But without discussing it, I may remind the reader that in the far east of Asia we have met with temporary kings whose magical functions and intimate relation to agriculture stand out in the clearest light; while India furnishes examples of kings who have regularly been obliged to sacrifice themselves at the end of a term of years.2 All these things appear to hang together; all of them may, perhaps, be regarded as the shattered remnants of a uniform zone of religion and society which at a remote era belted the Old World from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Whether that was so or not, I may at least claim to have made it probable that if the King of the Wood at Aricia lived and died as an incarnation of a sylvan deity, the functions he thus discharged were by no means singular, and that for the nearest parallel to them we need not go beyond the bounds of Italy, where the divine king Saturn-the god of the sown and sprouting seed-was annually slain in the person of a human representative at his ancient festival of the Saturnalia.
1 See above, vol. ii. p. 26 sqq.
2 See above, vol. ii. p. 14 sqq.
"Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.”—Faust.
§ 1. Between Heaven and Earth
At the outset of this book two questions were proposed for answer: Why had the priest of Aricia to slay his predecessor? And why, before doing so, had he to pluck the Golden Bough? Of these two questions the first has now been answered. The priest of Aricia, if I am right, embodied in himself the spirit, primarily, of the woods and, secondarily, of vegetable life in general. Hence, according as he was well or ill, the woods, the flowers, and the fields were believed to flourish or fade; and if he were to die of sickness or old age, the plant world, it was supposed, would simultaneously perish. Therefore it was necessary that this priest of the woodlands, this sylvan deity incarnate in a man, should be put to death while he was still in the full bloom of his divine manhood, in order that his sacred life, transmitted in unabated force to his successor, might renew its youth, and thus by successive transmissions through a perpetual line of vigorous incarnations might remain eternally fresh and young, a pledge and security that the buds and blossoms of spring, the verdure of summer woods, and the mellow glories of autumn would never fail.
But we have still to ask, What was the Golden Bough? and why had cach candidate for the Arician priesthood to pluck it before he could slay the priest? These questions I will now try to answer.
It will be well to begin by noticing two of those rules or taboos by which, as we have seen, the life of divine kings or priests is regulated. The first of the rules to which I desire to call the reader's attention is that the divine personage may not touch the ground with his foot. This rule was observed by the Mikado of Japan and by the supreme pontiff of the Zapotecs in Mexico. The latter profaned his sanctity if he so much as touched the ground with his foot.' For the Mikado to touch the ground with his foot was a shameful degradation; indeed, in the sixteenth century, it was enough to deprive him of his office. Outside his palace he was carried on men's shoulders; within it he walked on exquisitely wrought mats.2 The king and queen of Tahiti might not touch the ground anywhere but within their hereditary domains; for the ground on which they trod became sacred. In travelling from place to place they were carried on the shoulders of sacred men. They were always accompanied by several pairs of these sacred men; and when it became necessary to change their bearers, the king and queen vaulted on to the shoulders of their new bearers without letting their feet touch the ground.3 It was an evil omen if the king of Dosuma touched the ground, and he had to perform an expiatory ceremony. Within his palace the king of Persia walked on carpets on which no one else might tread; outside of it he was never seen on foot but only in a chariot or on horseback." In old days the king of Siam never set foot upon the earth, but was carried on a throne of gold from place to place. Formerly, neither the kings of Uganda nor their mothers might walk on foot outside the palace; they were always carried." The notion that contact
1 Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, ii. 142.
2 Memorials of Japan (Hakluyt Society, 1850), pp. 14, 141; Varenius, Descriptio regni Japoniae, p. 11; Caron, "Account of Japan," in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, vii. 613; Kaempfer, History of Japan," in id. vii. 716.
3 W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, iii. 102 sq.; James Wilson, Missionary Voyage to the Southern Pacific Ocean, p. 329.
4 Bastian, Der Mensch in Geschichte, iii. 81.
5 Athenaeus, xii. p. 514 c.
The Voiages and Travels of John Struys (London, 1684), p. 30.
7 This I have on the authority of my friend the Rev. J. Roscoe, missionary to Uganda. "Before horses had been introduced into Uganda, the king and his mother never walked, but always went about perched astride the shoulders of a slave-a most ludicrous sight. In this way they often travelled hundreds
with the ground carries with it pollution or danger may be applied to sacred animals. Thus some Victorian tribes regarded the fat of the emu as sacred, and in taking it from the bird or handing it about they treated it reverently. Any one who threw away the fat or flesh of the emu was held accursed. "The late Mr. Thomas observed on one occasion, at Nerre-nerre- Warreen, a remarkable exhibition of the effects of this superstition. An aboriginal child - one attending the school-having eaten some part of the flesh of an emu, threw away the skin. The skin fell to the ground, and this being observed by his parents, they showed by their gestures every token of horror. They looked upon their child as one utterly lost. His desecration of the bird was regarded as a sin for which there was no atonement." 1
The second rule to be here noted is that the sun may not shine upon the divine person. This rule was observed both by the Mikado and by the pontiff of the Zapotecs. The latter " was looked upon as a god whom the earth was not worthy to hold, nor the sun to shine upon." The Japanese would not allow that the Mikado should expose his sacred person to the open air, and the sun was not thought worthy to shine on his head.3 The Indians of Granada, in South America, "kept those who were to be rulers or commanders, whether men or women, locked up for several years when they were children, some of them seven years, and this so close that they were not to see the sun, for if they should happen to see it they forfeited their lordship, eating certain sorts of food appointed; and those who were their keepers at certain times went into their retreat or prison and scourged them severely." + Thus, for example, the heir to the throne of Bogota had to undergo a rigorous training from the age of sixteen; he lived in com
of miles" (L. Decle, Three Years in Savage Africa, p. 445 note). The use both of horses and of chariots by royal personages may often have been intended to prevent their sacred feet from touching the ground.
1 R. Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 450.
2 Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, ii. 142.
3 Kaempfer, "History of Japan," in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, vii. 717; Caron, "Account of Japan," ibid. vii. 613; Varenius, Descriptio regni Japoniae, p. 11: "Radiis solis caput nunquam illustrabatur: in apertum aërem non procedebat."
Herrera, General History of the vast Continent and Islands of America, trans. by Stevens, v. 88.