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Title: Folklore as an Historical Science
Author: Gomme, George Laurence, 1853-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                           FOLKLORE AS AN
                         HISTORICAL SCIENCE

                       GEORGE LAURENCE GOMME


                             METHUEN & CO.
                         36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

                     _First Published in 1908_




I. HISTORY AND FOLKLORE                             _pages_  1-122

      INTRODUCTORY                             _pages_  1-13


      HISTORY AND FOLK-TALES                           46-84

      TRADITIONAL LAW                                 84-100

      MYTHOLOGY AND TRADITION                        100-110

      HISTORIANS AND TRADITION                       110-120

II. MATERIALS AND METHODS                                  123-179

      TRADITIONAL MATERIAL                           123-129

      MYTH, FOLK-TALE, AND LEGEND                    129-153

      CUSTOM, BELIEF, AND RITE                       154-179

III. PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITIONS                              180-207

IV. ANTHROPOLOGICAL CONDITIONS                             208-302

      PRIMITIVE INFLUENCES                           211-238

      EARLIEST TYPES OF SOCIAL EXISTENCE             238-261

          EVIDENCE                                   262-274

      TOTEM SURVIVALS IN BRITAIN                     274-296

          OF MALAY PENINSULA                         297-302

V. SOCIOLOGICAL CONDITIONS                                 303-319

VI. EUROPEAN CONDITIONS                                    320-337

VII. ETHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS                               338-366

INDEX                                                      367-371


1. PEDLAR'S SEAT, SWAFFHAM CHURCH, NORFOLK.             _Frontispiece_

         CHURCH                                                      8

         CHURCH                                                      8

      Nos. 1-3 are taken from photographs, and show how the
    story of the Pedlar of Swaffham has been interpreted in
    carving. The costume of the Pedlar is noticeable.

         Allen's _History of Lambeth_)                              20

         FOR DUCAREL'S _History of Lambeth_                         22

      Nos. 4 and 5 illustrate the traces of the Pedlar legend
    in Lambeth, and the costume of the Pedlar, though later
    than that shown in the Swaffham carving, exhibits analogous
    features which are of interest to the argument.

         NEAR ROYSTON, CAMBRIDGESHIRE (reprinted from
           _Archæologia_)                                           43

         _Archæologia_)                                             44

      Nos. 6 and 7 show the site and general appearance
    of this interesting relic of the Roman occupation of

          VILLAGE (reprinted from _Asiatic Researches_)             55

9. STONE SEATS AT A KASYA VILLAGE (reprinted from _Asiatic
         Researches_)                                               55

          (reprinted from _Asiatic Researches_)                     56

      No. 8 shows the practice among the primitive hill-tribes
    of India of erecting memorials in stone to tribal heroes,
    and No. 9 is a curious illustration of the stones used as
    seats by tribesmen at their tribal assemblies. No. 10 is a
    general view of the site occupied by these stone monuments.

          HAWICK (reprinted from Craig and Laing's
          _Hawick Tradition_)                                       98

12. THE HAWICK MOAT AT SUNRISE (reprinted from Craig and
          Laing)                                                    99

      The tribal gathering is well illustrated by No. 11, and
    the moat hill is shown in No. 12.

          GLEBE OF NYMPHSFIELD (reprinted from Sir William
          Wilde's _Lough Corrib_)                                  101

          from Wilde)                                              102

          FROM CONG TO CROSS (reprinted from Wilde)                102

      Nos. 13-15 are selected from Sir William Wilde's admirable
    account of the great conflict on the field of Moytura. They
    serve to show that the fight was an historical event.


      It is important to remember that the Romans recognised
    the gods of the conquered people, and this is one of the
    most important archæological proofs of the fact.

          A CAPTIVE                                                112

      To the evidence derived from classical writers as to the
    nakedness of some of the inhabitants of early Britain, it
    is possible to add the evidence of the memorial stone. This
    example is reproduced from Sir Arthur Mitchell's _Past in
    the Present_, and there is at least one other example.

          DINNER (from Derrick's _The Image of Ireland_,
          by kind permission of Messrs. A. & E. Black)             183

      This is reproduced from the very excellent reprint (1883)
    of this remarkable book, published originally in 1581. The
    whole book is historically valuable as showing the undeveloped
    nature of Irish culture. The flesh was boiled in the hide, the
    fire is lighted in the open camp, and the entire rudeness of
    the scene depicts the people "whose usages I behelde after the
    fashion there sette downe."

19. LONG MEG AND HER DAUGHTERS (from a photograph by
          Messrs. Frith)                                           193

         _Archæologia_)                                            193

      Nos. 19 and 20 are illustrations of two of the lesser-known
    circles about which the people hold such curious beliefs.

          FOR MUTUAL PROTECTION (from Moseley's _Notes by
          a Naturalist on H.M.S. Challenger_, by permission
          of Mr. John Murray)                                      242

          Blagden's _Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula_,
          by permission of Messrs. Macmillan)                      242

23. NEGRITO TYPE: SEMANG OF PERAK (from the same)                  243

24. SEMANG OF KEDAH HAVING A MEAL (from the same)                  244

          LUMPUR, SELANGOR (from the same)                         298

      The old-world traditions and the scientific observation
    of pygmy people are illustrated in No. 21 and Nos. 22-25
    respectively. Though much has been written about the
    Pygmies, Messrs. Skeat and Blagden's account of the Semang
    people is by far the most thorough and important.

          Romilly Allen's _Early Christian Symbolism_)             324

      The crude paganism on the sculptured stone is confirmatory
    of the pagan elements preserved in custom, and this
    illustration from Kent, one of the earliest centres of
    Christianity in Britain, is singularly interesting from
    this point of view.

          OF THE DEMONS                                       351, 352

      These two plates belong to a series of eight which
    illustrate the life of the saint. They are less primitive
    in form than the story which they illustrate. By contrast
    with the remaining six, however, which are purely
    ecclesiastical in character, they show how this early
    episode kept its place among the events of the saint's life.


If I have essayed to do in this book what should have been done by one
of the masters of the science of folklore--Mr. Frazer, Mr. Lang, Mr.
Hartland, Mr. Clodd, Sir John Rhys, and others--I hope it will not be
put down to any feelings of self-sufficiency on my part. I have
greatly dared because no one of them has accomplished, and I have so
acted because I feel the necessity of some guidance in these matters,
and more particularly at the present stage of inquiry into the early
history of man.

I have thought I could give somewhat of that guidance because of my
comprehension of its need, for the comprehension of a need is
sometimes half-way towards supplying the need. My profound belief in
the value of folklore as perhaps the only means of discovering the
earliest stages of the psychological, religious, social, and political
history of modern man has also entered into my reason for the attempt.

Many years ago I suggested the necessity for guidance, and I sketched
out a few of the points involved (_Folklore Journal_, ii. 285, 347;
iii. 1-16) in what was afterwards called by a friendly critic a sort
of grammar of folklore. The science of folklore has advanced far since
1885 however, and not only new problems but new ranges of thought have
gathered round it. Still, the claims of folklore as a definite
section of historical material remain not only unrecognised but
unstated, and as long as this is so the lesser writers on folklore
will go on working in wrong directions and producing much mischief,
and the historian will judge of folklore by the criteria presented by
these writers--will judge wrongly and will neglect folklore

I hope this book may tend to correct this state of things to some
extent. It is not easy to write on such a subject in a limited space,
and it is difficult to avoid being somewhat severely technical at
points. These demerits will, I am sure, be forgiven when considered by
the light of the human interest involved.

All studies of this kind must begin from the standpoint of a definite
culture area, and I have chosen our own country for the purpose of
this inquiry. This will make the illustrations more interesting to the
English reader; but it must be borne in mind that the same process
could be repeated for other areas if my estimate of the position is
even tolerably accurate. For the purpose of this estimate it was
necessary, in the first place, to show how pure history was intimately
related to folklore at many stages, and yet how this relationship had
been ignored by both historian and folklorist. The research for this
purpose had necessarily to deal with much detail, and to introduce
fresh elements of research. There is thus produced a somewhat unequal
treatment; for when illustrations have to be worked out at length,
because they appear for the first time, the mind is apt to wander from
the main point at issue and to become lost in the subordinate issue
arising from the working out of the chosen illustration. This, I
fear, is inevitable in folklore research, and I can only hope I have
overcome some of the difficulties caused thereby in a fairly
satisfactory manner.

The next stage takes us to a consideration of materials and methods,
in order to show the means and definitions which are necessary if
folklore research is to be conducted on scientific lines. Not only is
it necessary to ascertain the proper position of each item of folklore
in the culture area in which it is found, but it is also necessary to
ascertain its scientific relationship to other items found in the same
area; and I have protested against the too easy attempt to proceed
upon the comparative method. Before we can compare we must be certain
that we are comparing like quantities.

These chapters are preliminary. After this stage we proceed to the
principal issues, and the first of these deals with the psychological
conditions. It was only necessary to treat of this subject shortly,
because the illustrations of it do not need analysis. They are
self-contained, and supply their own evidence as to the place they

The anthropological conditions involve very different treatment. The
great fact necessary to bear in mind is that the people of a modern
culture area have an anthropological as well as a national or
political history, and that it is only the anthropological history
which can explain the meaning and existence of folklore. This subject
found me compelled to go rather more deeply than I had thought would
be necessary into first principles, but I hope I have not altogether
failed to prove that to properly understand the province of folklore
it is necessary to know something of anthropological research and its
results. In point of fact, without this consideration of folklore,
there is not much value to be obtained from it. It is not because it
consists of traditions, superstitions, customs, beliefs, observances,
and what not, that folklore is of value to science. It is because the
various constituents are survivals of something much more essential to
mankind than fragments of life which for all practical purposes of
progress might well disappear from the world. As survivals, folklore
belongs to anthropological data, and if, as I contend, we can go so
far back into survivals as totemism, we must understand generally what
position totemism occupies among human institutions, and to understand
this we must fall back to human origins.

The next divisions are more subordinate. Sociological conditions must
be studied apart from their anthropological aspect, because in the
higher races the social group is knit together far more strongly and
with far greater purpose than among the lower races. The social force
takes the foremost place among the influences towards the higher
development, and it is necessary not only to study this but to be sure
of the terms we use. Tribe, clan, family, and other terms have been
loosely used in anthropology, just as state, city, village, and now
village-community, are loosely used in history. The great fact to
understand is that the social group of the higher races was based on
blood kinship at the time when they set out to take their place in
modern civilisation, and that we cannot understand survivals in
folklore unless we test them by their position as part of a tribal
organisation. The point has never been taken before, and yet I do not
see how it can be dismissed.

The consideration of European conditions is chiefly concerned with the
all-important fact of an intrusive religion, that of Christianity,
from without, destroying the native religions with which it came into
contact, conditions which would of course apply only to the folklore
of European countries.

Finally, I have discussed ethnological conditions in order to show
that certain fundamental differences in folklore can be and ought to
be explained as the results of different race origins. We are now
getting rid of the notion that all Europe is peopled by the
descendants of the so-called Aryans. There is too much evidence to
show that the still older races lived on after they were conquered by
Celt, Teuton, Scandinavian, or Slav, and there is no reason why
folklore should not share with language, archæology, and physical type
the inheritance from this earliest race.

In this manner I have surveyed the several conditions attachable to
the study of folklore and the various departments of science with
which it is inseparably associated. Folklore cannot be studied alone.
Alone it is of little worth. As part of the inheritance from bygone
ages it cannot separate itself from the conditions of bygone ages.
Those who would study it carefully, and with purpose, must consider it
in the light which is shed by it and upon it from all that is
contributory to the history of man.

During my exposition I have ventured upon many criticisms of masters
in the various departments of knowledge into which I have penetrated;
but in all cases with great respect. Criticism, such as I have
indulged in, is nothing more than a respectful difference of opinion
on the particular points under discussion, and which need every light
which can be thrown upon them, even by the humblest student.

I am particularly obliged to Mr. Lang, Mr. Hartland, Dr. Haddon, and
Dr. Rivers, for kindly reading my chapter on Anthropological
Conditions, and for much valuable and kind help therein; and
especially I owe Mr. Lang most grateful thanks, for he took an immense
deal of trouble and gave me the advantage of his searching criticism,
always in the direction of an endeavour to perfect my faulty evidence.
I shall not readily part with his letters and MS. on this subject, for
they show alike his generosity and his brilliance.

To my old friend Mr. Fairman Ordish I am once more indebted for help
in reading my sheets, and I am also glad to acknowledge the fact that
two of my sons, Allan Gomme and Wycombe Gomme, have read my proofs and
helped me much, not only by their criticism, but by their knowledge.





It may be stated as a general rule that history and folklore are not
considered as complementary studies. Historians deny the validity of
folklore as evidence of history, and folklorists ignore the essence of
history which exists in folklore. Of late years it is true that Dr.
Frazer, Prof. Ridgeway, Mr. Warde Fowler, Miss Harrison, Mr. Lang, and
others have broken through this antagonism and shown that the two
studies stand together; but this is only in certain special
directions, and no movement is apparent that the brilliant results of
special inquiries are to bring about a general consideration of the
mutual help which the two studies afford, if in their respective
spheres the evidence is treated with caution and knowledge, and if the
evidence from each is brought to bear upon the necessities of each.

The necessities of history are obvious. There are considerable gaps in
historical knowledge, and the further back we desire to penetrate the
scantier must be the material at the historian's disposal. In any case
there can be only two considerable sources of historical knowledge,
namely, foreign and native. Looking at the subject from the points
presented by the early history of our own country, there are the Greek
and Latin writers to whom Britain was a source of interest as the most
distant part of the then known world, and the native historians, who,
witnessing the terribly changing events which followed the break-up of
the Roman dominion over Britain, recorded their views of the changes
and their causes, and in course of time recorded also some of the
events of Celtic history and of Anglo-Saxon history. Then for later
periods, no country of the Western world possesses such magnificent
materials for history as our own. In the vast quantity of public and
private documents which are gradually being made accessible to the
student there exists material for the illustration and elucidation of
almost every side and every period of national life, and no branch of
historical research is more fruitful of results than the comparison of
the records of the professed historian with the documents which have
not come from the historian's hands.

All this, however, does not give us the complete story. Necessarily
there are great and important gaps. Contemporary writers make
themselves the judges of what is important to record; documents
preserved in public or private archives relate only to such events as
need or command the written record or instrument, or to those which
have interested some of the actors and their families. Hence in both
departments of history, the historical narrative and the original
record, it will be found on careful examination that much is needed
to make the picture of life complete. It is the detail of everyday
thought and action that is missing--all that is so well known, the
obvious as it passes before every chronicler, the ceremony, the faith,
and the action which do not apparently affect the movements of
civilisation, but which make up the personal, religious and political
life of the people. It is always well to bear in mind that the
historical records preserved from the past must necessarily be
incomplete. An accident preserves one, and an accident destroys
another. An incident strikes one historian, and is of no interest to
another. And it may well be that the lost document, the unrecorded
incident, is of far more value to later ages than what has been
preserved. This condition of historical research is always present to
the scientific student, though it is not always brought to bear upon
the results of historical scholarship.[1] But the scope of the
historian is gradually but surely widening. It is no longer possible
to shut the door to geography, ethnography, economics, sociology,
archæology, and the attendant studies if the historian desires to work
his subject out to the full.[2] It is even getting to be admitted that
an appeal must be made to folklore, though the extent and the method
are not understood. After all that can be obtained from other realms
of knowledge, it is seen that there is a large gap left still--a gap
in the heart of things, a gap waiting to be filled by all that can be
learned about the thought, ideas, beliefs, conceptions, and
aspirations of the people which have been translated for them, but not
by them, in the laws, institutions, and religion which find their way
so easily into history.

The necessities of folklore are far greater than and of a different
kind from those of history. Edmund Spenser wrote three centuries ago
"by these old customs the descent of nations can only be proved where
other monuments of writings are not remayning,"[3] and yet the descent
of nations is still being proved without the aid of folklore. It is
certain that the appeal will not be made to its fullest extent unless
the folklorist makes it clear that it will be answered in a fashion
which commands attention. It appears to me that the preliminary
conditions for such an appeal must be ascertained from the folklore
side. History has not only justified its existence, but during the
long period of years during which it has been a specific branch of
learning it has shown its capacity for proceeding on strictly
scientific and ever-widening lines. Folklore has neither had a long
period for its study nor a completely satisfactory record of
scientific work. It is, therefore, essential that folklore should
establish its right to a place among the historical sciences. At
present that right is not admitted. It is objected to by scholars who
will not admit that history can proceed from anything but a dated and
certified document, and by a few who do not admit that history has
anything to do with affairs that do not emanate from the prominent
political or military personages of each period. It is silently, if
not contemptuously ignored by almost every historical inquirer whose
attention has not been specially directed to the evidence contained in
traditional material. Thus between the difficulties arising from the
interpretation of texts which, originating in oral tradition, have by
reason of their early record become literature, and the difficulties
arising from the objections of historians to accept any evidence that
is not strictly historical in the form they assume to be historical,
traditional material has not been extensively used as history. It has
also been wrongly defined by historians. Thus, to give a pertinent
example, so good a scholar as Mr. W. H. Stevenson, in his admirable
edition of Asser's _Life of King Alfred_, lays to the crimes of
tradition an error which is due to other causes. Indeed, he states the
cause of the error correctly, but does not see that he is
contradicting himself in so doing. It is worth quoting this case. It
has to do with the identification of "Cynuit," a place where the Danes
obtained a victory over the English forces, and Kenwith Castle in
Devonshire has been claimed as the site of the struggle and "a place
known as Bloody Corner in Northam is traditionally regarded as the
scene of a duel between two of the chieftains in 877, and a monument
recording the battle has been erected."[4] Mr. Stevenson's comment
upon this is: "We have in this an instructive example of the
worthlessness of 'tradition' which is here, as so frequently happens
elsewhere, the outcome of the dreams of local antiquaries, whose
identifications become gradually impressed upon the memory of the
inhabitants;" and he then proceeds to show that this particular
tradition was produced by the suggestion of Mr. R. S. Vidal in 1804.
Of course, the answer of the folklorist to this charge against the
value of tradition is that the example is not a case of tradition[5]
at all. On the contrary, it is a case of false history, started by the
local antiquary, adopted by the scholars of the day, perpetuated by
the government in its ordnance survey of the district, and kept alive
in the minds of the people not by tradition but by a duly certified
monument erected for the express purpose of commemorating the invented
incident. There is then no tradition in any one of the stages through
which the episode has passed. It is all history and false history.
Historians cannot shake off their responsibilities by looking upon the
local antiquary as the responsible author of tradition. They cannot
but admit that the local antiquary belongs to the historical school,
even though he is not a fully equipped member of his craft, and
because he blunders they must not class him as a folklorist. They must
bring better evidence than this to show the worthlessness of
tradition. In the meantime it is the constant definition of tradition
as worthless, the relegation of worthless history "to the realms of
folklore,"[6] which does so much harm to the study of folklore as a
science.[7] Because the historian misnames an historical error as
tradition, or fails to discover, at the moment he requires it, the
fact which lies hidden in tradition, he must not dismiss the whole
realm of tradition as useless for historical purposes.

Let us freely admit that the historian is not altogether to blame for
his neglect and for his ignorance of tradition as historical material.
He has nothing very definite to work upon. Even the great work of
Grimm is open to the criticism that it does not _prove_ the antiquity
of popular custom and belief--it merely states the proposition, and
then relies for proof upon the accumulation of an enormous number of
examples and the almost entire impossibility of suggesting any other
origin than that of antiquity for such a mass of non-Christian
material. Then the great work of Grimm, ethnographical in its methods,
has never been followed up by similar work for other countries. The
philosophy of folklore has taken up almost all the time of our
scholars and students, and the contribution it makes to the history of
the civilised races has not been made out by folklorists themselves.
It does not appear to me to be difficult to make out such a claim if
only scientific methods are adopted, and the solution of definite
problems is attempted;[8] and if too the difficulties in the way of
proof are freely admitted, and where they become insuperable, the
attempt at proof is frankly abandoned. I believe that every single
item of folklore, every folk-tale, every tradition, every custom and
superstition, has its origin in some definite fact in the history of
man; but I am ready to concede that the definite fact is not always
traceable, that it sometimes goes so far back as to defy recognition,
that it sometimes relates to events which have no place in the
after-history of peoples who have taken a position on the earth's
surface, and which, in the prehistory stage, belong to humanity rather
than to peoples. Folklore, too, is governed by its own laws and rules
which are not the laws and rules of history. These concessions,
however, do not mean the introduction of the term "impossible" to our
studies. They mean rather a plea for the steady and systematic study
of our material, on the ground that it has much to yield to the
historian of man, and to the historians of races, of peoples, of
nations, and of countries.


We cannot, however, show that this is so without facing many
difficulties created for the most part by folklorists themselves. In
the first place it is necessary to overtake some of the earlier
conclusions of the great masters of our science. The first rush, after
the discovery of the mine, led to the vortex created by the school
of comparative mythologists, who limited their comparison to the myths
of Aryan-speaking people, who absolutely ignored the evidence of
custom, rite, and belief, and who could see nothing beyond
interpretations of the sun, dawn, and sky gods in the parallel stories
they were the first to discover and value. We need not ignore all this
work, nor need we be ungrateful to the pioneers who executed it. It
was necessary that their view should be stated, and it is satisfactory
that it was stated at a time early in the existence of our science,
because it is possible to clear it all away, or as much of it as is
necessary, without undue interference with the material of which it is

The school of comparative mythologists did not, however, entirely
control the early progress of the study of folklore. There was always
a school who believed in the foundation of myth being derived from the
facts of life. Thus Dr. Tylor, in a remarkable study of historical
traditions and myths of observation,[9] long ago noted that many of
the traditions current among mankind were historical in origin.
Writing nearly forty years ago, he had to submit to the influence,
then at its height, of Adalbert Kuhn and Max Müller, and he conceded
that there were many traditions which were fictional myths. I think
this concession must now be much more narrowly scrutinised, and
preparation made for the conclusion that every genuine myth is a myth
of observation, the observation by men in a primitive state of
culture, of a fact which had struck home to their minds. The question
is, to what part of human history does the central fact appertain?
Here is undoubtedly a most difficult problem. What the student has to
do is to admit the difficulty, and to state, if necessary, that the
fact preserved by tradition is not in all cases possible to discover
with our present knowledge. This is a perfectly tenable position.
Human imagination cannot invent anything that is outside of fact. It
may, and of course too frequently does, misinterpret facts. In
attempting to explain and account for such facts with insufficient
knowledge, it gets far away from the truth, but this misinterpretation
of fact must not be confused with the fact itself. In a word, it must
be borne in mind by the student of tradition that every tradition
which has assumed the form of saga, myth, or story contains two
perfectly independent elements--the fact upon which it is founded, and
the interpretation of the fact which its founders have attempted.

There is further than this. The other branch of traditional material,
namely that relating to custom, belief, and rite, rests upon a solid
basis of historic fact; customs which are strange and irrational to
this age are not in consequence to be considered the mere worthless
following of practices which owe their origin to accident or freak;
beliefs which do not belong to the established religion are not in
consequence to be considered as mere superstition; rites which were
not established by authority are not in consequence to be classed as
mere specimens of popular ignorance. But the difficulties in the way
of getting all this accepted by the historian are many, and, again,
not a few of them are the creation of the folklorist himself. Not only
has he neglected to classify and arrange the scattered items of
custom, belief, and rite, and to ascertain the degree of association
which the scattered items have with each other, but he has set about
the far more difficult and complex task of comparative study without
having previously prepared his material.

The historian and the folklorist are thus brought face to face with
what is expected from both, in order that each may work alongside of
the other, using each other's materials and conclusions at the right
moment and in the right places. The folklorist has the most to do to
get his results ready, and to explain and secure his position. He has
been wandering about in a somewhat inconsequential fashion, bent upon
finding a _mythos_ where he should have sought for a _persona_ or a
_locus_, engaged in an extensive quest after parallels when he should
have been preparing his own material for the process of comparative
science, seeking for origins amidst human error when he should have
turned to human experience. He has to change all this waywardness for
systematic study, and this will lead him in the first place to
disengage from the results hitherto obtained those which may be
accepted and which may form the starting-point for future work. But
his greatest task will be the reconsideration of former results and
the rewriting of much that has been written on the wrong lines, and
when this is done we shall have the historian and folklorist meeting
together in the spirit which Edmund Spenser so finely and truly
described three centuries ago in his treatment of Irish history: "I do
herein rely upon those bards or Irish chronicles ... but unto them
besides I add mine own reading and out of them both together with
comparison of times likewise of manners and customs, affinity of words
and manner, properties of natures and uses, resemblances of rites and
ceremonies, monuments of churches and tombs and many other like
circumstances I do gather a likelihood of truth, not certainly
affirming anything, but by conferring of times language monuments and
such like I do hunt out a probability of things which I leave to your
judgment to believe or refuse."[10]

I shall of course not be able to undertake either of these tasks. I
shall attempt, however, to indicate their scope and importance; and as
a preliminary to the consideration of the definite departments into
which the subject falls, it is advisable, I think, to test the
relationship of tradition to history by means of one or two
illustrations. It may be that the illustrations I shall give are not
accepted by all students, that some better illustration is forthcoming
by further research. This is one of the drawbacks from which tradition
suffers, and must suffer, until our studies are much further advanced
than they are at present. But I am glad to accept this possibility of
error as part of the case for the study of tradition, because the
error of one student cannot be held to disqualify the whole subject.
It only amounts to saying that the particular fact which seems to me
to be discoverable in the examples dealt with has to be surrendered in
favour of another particular fact. My conclusions may be dismissed,
but that which is not dismissible is the discoverable fact, and it is
only when the true fact is discovered in each traditional item that
previous inferences may be neglected or ignored and inquiry cease.[11]


The evidence of historic events which enter into tradition relates
principally to the earliest periods, but much of it relates to periods
well within the domain of history and yet reveals facts which history
has either hopelessly neglected or misinterpreted. We shall find that
these facts, though frequently relating to minor events, often have
reference to matters of the highest national importance, and perhaps
nowhere more definitely is this the case than in the legends connected
with particular localities. Of one such tradition I will state what a
somewhat detailed examination tells in this direction. It will, I
think, serve as a good example of the kind of research that is
required in each case, and it will illustrate in a rather special
manner the value of these traditions to history.

The _locus_ of the legend centres round London Bridge. The earliest
written version of this legend is quoted from the MSS. of Sir Roger
Twysden, who obtained it from "Sir William Dugdale, of Blyth Hall, in
Warwickshire, in a letter dated 29th January, 1652-3." Sir William
says of it that "it was the tradition of the inhabitants as it was
told me there," and Sir Roger Twysden adds of it that: "I have since
learnt from others to be most true." This, therefore, is a very
respectable origin for the legend, and I will transcribe it from Sir
William Dugdale's letter which begins "the story of the Pedlar of
Swaffham-market is in substance this":--

      "That dreaming one night if he went to London he
      should certainly meet with a man on London Bridge
      which would tell him good news he was so perplext in
      his mind that till he set upon his journey he could
      have no rest; to London therefore he hasts and walk'd
      upon the Bridge for some hours where being espyed by a
      shopkeeper and asked what he wanted he answered you
      may well ask me that question for truly (quoth he) I
      am come hither upon a very vain errand and so told the
      story of his dream which occasioned the journey.
      Whereupon the shopkeeper reply'd alas good friend
      should I have heeded dreams I might have proved myself
      as very a fool as thou hast, for 'tis not long since
      that I dreamt that at a place called Swaffham Market
      in Norfolk dwells one John Chapman a pedlar who hath a
      tree in his backside under which is buried a pot of
      money. Now therefore if I should have made a journey
      thither to day for such hidden treasure judge you
      whether I should not have been counted a fool. To whom
      the pedlar cunningly said yes verily I will therefore
      return home and follow my business not heeding such
      dreams hence forward. But when he came home being
      satisfied that his dream was fulfilled he took
      occasion to dig in that place and accordingly found a
      large pot of money which he prudently conceal'd
      putting the pot amongst the rest of his brass. After a
      time it happen'd that one who came to his house and
      beholding the pot observed an inscription upon it
      which being in Latin he interpreted it that under that
      there was an other twice as good. Of this inscription
      the Pedlar was before ignorant or at least minded it
      not but when he heard the meaning of it he said 'tis
      very true in the shop where I bought this pot stood
      another under it which was twice as big; but
      considering that it might tend to his further profit
      to dig deeper in the same place where he found that he
      fell again to work and discover'd such a pot as was
      intimated by the inscription full of old coins:
      notwithstanding all which he so conceal'd his wealth
      that the neighbours took no notice of it."[12]

Blomefield thought it "somewhat surprising to find such considerable
persons as Sir William Dugdale and Sir Roger Twysden to patronise or
credit such a monkish legend and tradition savouring so much of the
cloister, and that the townsmen and neighbourhood should also believe
it," but I think we shall have reason to congratulate ourselves that
so good a folk-tale was preserved for us of this age.

The next and, it appears, an independent version, is given in the
_Diary of Abraham de la Pryme_, under the date November 10th, 1699:--

      "Constant tradition says that there lived in former
      times, in Soffham (Swaffham), _alias_ Sopham, in
      Norfolk, a certain pedlar, who dreamed that if he went
      to London bridge, and stood there, he should hear very
      joyfull newse, which he at first sleighted, but
      afterwards, his dream being dubled and trebled upon
      him, he resolv'd to try the issue of it, and
      accordingly went to London, and stood on the bridge
      there two or three days, looking about him, but heard
      nothing that might yield him any comfort. At last it
      happen'd that a shopkeeper there, hard by, haveing
      noted his fruitless standing, seeing that he neither
      sold any wares nor asked any almes, went to him and
      most earnestly begged to know what he wanted there, or
      what his business was; to which the pedlar honestly
      answer'd, that he had dream'd that if he came to
      London and stood there upon the bridg, he should hear
      good newse; at which the shopkeeper laught heartily,
      asking him if he was such a fool as to take a journey
      on such a silly errand, adding, 'I'll tell thee,
      country fellow, last night I dream'd that I was at
      Sopham, in Norfolk, a place utterly unknown to me,
      where methought behind a pedlar's house in a certain
      orchard, and under a great oak tree, if I digged I
      should find a vast treasure! Now think you,' says he,
      'that I am such a fool to take such a long jorney upon
      me upon the instigation of a silly dream? No, no, I'm
      wiser. Therefore, good fellow, learn witt of me, and
      get you home, and mind your business.' The pedlar,
      observeing his words, what he had sayd he had dream'd
      and knowing they concenterd in him, glad of such
      joyfull newse went speedily home, and digged and found
      a prodigious great treasure, with which he grew
      exceeding rich, and Soffham church being for the most
      part fal'n down he set on workmen and reedifyd it most
      sumptuously, at his own charges; and to this day there
      is his statue therein, cut in stone, with his pack at
      his back, and his dogg at his heels; and his memory is
      also preserved by the same form or picture in most of
      the old glass windows, taverns, and ale-houses of that
      town unto this day."[13]

Now this version from Abraham de la Pryme was certainly obtained from
local sources, and it shows the general popularity of the legend,
together with the faithfulness of the traditional version.[14] But
other evidence of the traditional force of the story is to be found.
Observing that De la Pryme's _Diary_ was not printed until 1870,
though certainly the MS. had been lent to antiquaries, it is curious
that the following almost identical account is told in the _St.
James's Chronicle_ of November 28th, 1786:--[15]

      "A Pedlar who lived many Years ago at Swaffham, in
      Norfolk, dreamt, that if he came up to London, and
      stood upon the Bridge, he should hear very joyful
      News; which he at first slighted, but afterwards his
      Dream being doubled and trebled unto him, he resolved
      to try the Issue of it; and accordingly to London he
      came, and stood on the Bridge for two or three Days,
      but heard nothing which might give him Comfort that
      the Profits of his Journey would be equal to his
      Pains. At last it so happened, that a Shopkeeper
      there, having noted his fruitless standing, seeing
      that he neither sold any Wares, or asked any Alms,
      went to him, and enquired his Business; to which the
      Pedlar made Answer, that being a Countryman, he had
      dreamt a Dream, that if he came up to London, he
      should hear good News: 'And art thou (said the
      Shopkeeper) such a Fool, to take a Journey on such a
      foolish Errand? Why I tell thee this--last Night I
      dreamt, that I was at Swaffham, in Norfolk, a Place
      utterly unknown to me, where, methought, behind a
      Pedlar's House, in a certain Orchard, under a great
      Oak Tree, if I digged there, I should find a mighty
      Mass of Treasure. Now think you, that I am so unwise,
      as to take so long a Journey upon me, only by the
      Instigation of a foolish Dream! No, no, far be such
      Folly from me; therefore, honest Countryman, I advise
      thee to make haste Home again, and do not spend thy
      precious Time in the Expectation of the Event of an
      idle Dream.' The Pedlar, who noted well his Words,
      glad of such joyful News, went speedily Home, and
      digged under the Oak, where he found a very large Heap
      of Money; with Part of which, the Church being then
      lately fallen down, he very sumptuously rebuilt it;
      having his Statue cut therein, in Stone, with his Pack
      on his Back and his Dog at his Heels, which is to be
      seen at this Day. And his Memory is also preserved by
      the same Form, or Picture, on most of the Glass
      Windows of the Taverns and Ale-houses in that Town."

The differences in these versions are sufficient to show independent
origin. The identities are sufficient to illustrate, in a rather
remarkable manner, how closely the words of the tradition were always
followed. It appears from the last words of the contributor to the
_St. James's Chronicle_, who signed himself "Z," that he heard it by
word of mouth about the time of his writing it down,[16] so that there
is more than a hundred years between him and the Dugdale version,
which was also recorded from "constant tradition."

In Glyde's _Norfolk Garland_ (p. 69), is an account of this legend,
but with a variant of one incident. The box containing the treasure
had a Latin inscription on the lid, which John Chapman could not
decipher. He put the lid in his window, and very soon he heard some
youths turn the Latin sentence into English:--

      "Under me doth lie
      Another much richer than I."

And he went to work digging deeper than before, and found a much
richer treasure than the former. Another version of this rhyme is
found in _Transactions of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society_ (iii.
318) as follows:--

      "Where this stood
      Is another as good."

And both these versions are given by Blomefield.

Now if there were no other places besides Swaffham in Norfolk to which
this legend is applied the interest in it would, of course, not be
very great. But there are many other places, and we will first note
those in Britain. The best is from Upsall, in Yorkshire, as follows:--

      "Many years ago there resided, in the village of
      Upsall, a man who dreamed three nights successively
      that if he went to London Bridge he would hear of
      something greatly to his advantage. He went,
      travelling the whole distance from Upsall to London on
      foot; arrived there, he took his station on the
      bridge, where he waited until his patience was nearly
      exhausted, and the idea that he had acted a very
      foolish part began to rise in his mind. At length he
      was accosted by a Quaker, who kindly inquired what he
      was waiting there so long for? After some hesitation,
      he told his dreams. The Quaker laughed at his
      simplicity, and told him that _he_ had had last night
      a very curious dream himself, which was, that if he
      went and dug under a certain bush in Upsall Castle, in
      Yorkshire, he would find a pot of gold; but he did not
      know where Upsall was, and inquired of the countryman
      if he knew, who, seeing some advantage in secrecy,
      pleaded ignorance of the locality, and then, thinking
      his business in London was completed, returned
      immediately home, dug beneath the bush, and there he
      found a pot filled with gold, and on the cover an
      inscription in a language which he did not understand.
      The pot and cover were, however, preserved at the
      village inn, where one day a bearded stranger like a
      Jew, made his appearance, saw the pot, and read the
      inscription on the cover, the plain English of which

          "'Look lower, where this stood
          Is another twice as good.'

      The man of Upsall hearing this resumed his spade,
      returned to the bush, dug deeper, and found another
      pot filled with gold, far more valuable than the
      first. Encouraged by this discovery, he dug deeper
      still, and found another yet more valuable.

      "This is the constant tradition of the neighbourhood,
      and the identical bush yet exists (or did in 1860)
      beneath which the treasure was found; a burtree, or
      elder, _Sambucus nigra_, near the north-west corner of
      the ruins of the old castle."[17]

It would be tedious to go through other English versions,[18] but I
must point out that it is connected with a London district. This is
shown not by the actual presence of the legend, which has died out in
London, but by its representation in the parish church of Lambeth. The
legend so strongly current at Swaffham, in Norfolk, is represented in
the church in the shape of a carving in wood of a figure to represent
the pedlar, and below him the figure of what is locally called a
dog.[19] A comparison of this carving with the representation of the
pedlar's window formerly existing in Lambeth Church, but which was
sacrilegiously removed in 1884 by the late vicar of the parish, shows
much the same general characteristics, and search among the parish
books shows it to relate to a pedlar known by the name of Dog Smith,
who left property still known by the name of the "Pedlar's Acre" to
the parish.[20] All this suggests that we have here the last relics of
the pedlar legend located in London.


The next stage in the history of this legend shows it to belong to the
world's collection of folk-tales. There is, however, a preliminary
fact of great significance to note, namely that two non-British
versions refer to London Bridge. Thus a Breton tale refers to London
Bridge, and the interest of this story is sufficiently great to quote
it here from its recorder straight from the Breton folk:--

      "Long ago, when the timbers of the most ancient of the
      vessels of Brest were not yet acorns, there were two
      men in a farmhouse in the Côtes du Nord disputing, and
      they were disputing about London Bridge. One said it
      was the most beautiful sight in the world, while the
      other very truly said, 'No! the grace of the good God
      was more beautiful still.' And as the dispute went on,
      'Let us,' said one of them, 'settle it once and for
      all, and in this way: let us now this moment go out
      along the high-road and let us ask the first three men
      we meet as to which is the most beautiful--London
      Bridge or the grace of the good God? And which ever
      way they decide, he who holds the beaten opinion shall
      lose to the other all his possessions, farm and cattle
      and horses, everything.' So each being confident he
      was right, they went out: and the first man they met
      declared that though the grace of the good God was
      beautiful, London Bridge was more beautiful still; and
      the second the same, and the third. And the man whose
      opinion was beaten, a rich farmer, gave up all he had
      and was a beggar.

      "'Now,' said he to himself when the other, taking his
      horse by the bridle, had left him--'now let me go and
      see this London Bridge which is so wonderfully
      beautiful;' and, being very manful and stout, he set
      out at once to walk, and walking on and on was there
      by nightfall. But, good Christian that he was, he
      could see in it nothing to shake his belief that the
      grace of the good God was more beautiful still.

      "Soon the bridge was silent, and the last to cross it
      had gone home; and he, notwithstanding his losses,
      tired out and sleepy, lay down and fell into a doze
      there; and, while he was dozing, there came by two
      men, and one of them, standing quite close by him,
      said to the other, 'The night is fine, the wind
      gentle, the stars clear! On such a night whoever were
      to collect the dew would be able to heal the blind.'
      'It is true,' answered the other; 'but none know of
      it.' And they passed on, quietly as they had come.
      Thereupon up rose the beggared farmer, and with basin
      and cup set about collecting the dew; and in a very
      short time performed with it the most wonderful cures;
      finally curing the daughter of a neighbouring Emperor
      who had been blind from her birth, and whom her
      grateful father gave to him at once in marriage, since
      directly she set eyes on him she loved him."[21]


The second non-British variant, which also attaches to London Bridge,
is to be found in the _Heimskringla_,[22] and I will quote William
Morris's translation:--

      "West in Valland was a man infirm so that he was a
      cripple and went on knees and knuckles. On a day he
      was abroad on the way and was asleep there. That
      dreamed he that a man came to him glorious of aspect
      and asked whither he was bound and the man named some
      town or other. So the glorious man spoke to him:
      Fare then to Olaf's church the one that is in London
      and thou wilt be whole. Thereafter he awoke, and fared
      to seek Olaf's church and at last he came to London
      bridge and there asked the folk of the city if they
      knew to tell him where was Olaf's church. But they
      answered and said that there were many more churches
      there than they might wot to what man they were
      hallowed. But a little thereafter came a man to him
      who asked whither he was bound and the cripple told
      him. And sithence said that man: We twain shall fare
      both to the church of Olaf for I know the way thither.
      Therewith they fared over the bridge and went along
      the street which led to Olaf's church. But when they
      came to the lich gate then strode that one over the
      threshold of the gate but the cripple rolled in over
      it and straightway rose up a whole man. But when he
      looked around him his fellow farer was vanished."

I shall have to refer again to these Breton and Norse versions,
because of their retention of London Bridge as the locale of the
story, in common with all the versions which have been found in
Britain. In the meantime it is to be noted that the remaining
non-British variants are told of other bridges and other places.
Holland, Denmark, Italy, Cairo, have their representative
variants;[23] and it thus presents to the student of tradition an
excellent example for inquiry as to the value to history of legends
world-wide in their distribution attaching themselves to historical

There are some obvious features about this group of traditions, which
at once lead to interesting questions. There is first the fact that
all the British variants of the treasure stories centre round London
Bridge; secondly, there is the extension beyond Britain to the Breton
variant and the Norse variant, both non-British legends, of which the
_locus_ is London Bridge. From these two facts it is clear that London
Bridge had some special influence at a period of its history which
dates before the separation of the Breton folk from their Celtic
brethren in Britain, for the Bretons would not after their separation
acquire a London Bridge tradition; and again at a period of its
history when Norse legend and saga were fashioning. In the one case
the myth-makers must have been Celts of the fourth century, and the
only bridge known to these Celts must have been that belonging to
Roman Lundinium; in the other case the myth-makers were Norsemen, and
the bridge known to them was the later bridge so frequently referred
to in the chronicle accounts of the Danish and Norse invasions of

It is not difficult, by a joint appeal to history and folklore, to
trace out from this very definite starting-point the events which
brought about this particular specialisation of the world-spread
treasure myths.

Obviously the first point to note is that London Bridge loomed out
greatly in the minds and understanding of people at two distinct
periods of its history.[24] That the first period relates to its
building is suggested by the date supplied by the evidence of the
Breton version. The people who wondered at its building, or the
results of its building, were certainly not the builders themselves,
and we thus see a distinction in culture between the bridge builders
and the wonder builders. This condition is exactly provided for by the
building of the earliest London Bridge. It was a work of the Romans of
Lundinium,[25] and the people who stood in wonder at this great
enterprise were not the Roman engineers and builders, accustomed to
such undertakings all over the then known world, and they must
therefore have been the surrounding non-Roman people, who were the
Celtic tribesmen. Now the culture-antagonism between the Romans of
Lundinium and the Celts of Britain is, I believe, a factor of great
importance,[26] though almost universally neglected by our historians,
because they do not study the facts of early history on
anthropological lines. Not only is it discoverable, as I think, from
the facts of history, but the facts of tradition confirm the facts of
history at all points. Thus I think it is important, if we can, to
obtain independent testimony of the attitude of the surrounding people
to the builders of London Bridge. We can do this by reference to the
peasant beliefs concerning bridges, as, for instance, in Ireland,
where on passing over a bridge they invariably pulled off their hats
and prayed for the soul of the builder of the bridge,[27] and to the
fact that the Romans themselves looked upon bridge-building as a
sacred function, and would no doubt use this part of their work to the
fullest extent, in order to impress the barbarism opposed to them.[28]
The extent of this impression may probably be contained in the old and
widely spread nursery rhyme of "London Bridge is Broken Down," an
examination of which has led Mrs. Gomme to conclude that it contains
reference to an ancient belief that the building of the bridge was
accompanied by human sacrifice.[29] This conclusion is confirmed by
the preservation in Wales of a bridge-sacrifice tradition. It relates
to the "Devil's Bridge" near Beddgelert. "Many of the ignorant people
of the neighbourhood believe that this structure was formed by
supernatural agency. The devil proposed to the neighbouring
inhabitants that he would build them a bridge across the pass, on
condition that he should have the first who went over it for his
trouble. The bargain was made, and the bridge appeared in its place,
but the people cheated the devil by dragging a dog to the spot and
whipping him over the bridge."[30] This is a distinct trace of a
substituted animal sacrifice for an original human sacrifice. But this
is a practice which sends us back to the most primitive times, and in
particular we are referred to an exact parallel in India, where, on
the governing English determining to build a bridge of engineering
proportions and strength over the Hoogley River at Calcutta, the
native Hindu tribesmen immediately believed that the first requirement
would be a human sacrifice for the foundation.[31] The traditions
attaching to London Bridge are therefore identical with the current
beliefs concerning the Hoogley Bridge, and the culture-relationship of
the bridge-builders to the surrounding people in both cases is that of
an advanced civilisation to tribesmen. Now if these conditions of
modern India are repetitions of the conditions of ancient Britain in
the days of Lundinium, and of this there can be but little doubt,
there is no difficulty in understanding to what part of history these
traditions have led us. We are again in the days when London Bridge
was a marvel--a marvel which sent travelling through the Celtic homes
of Britain a new application of the treasure myth which they had
inherited from remote ancestors. The marvel lived on through the ages
when London was in the unique position of being an undestroyed city in
Saxon times, times which witnessed the destruction of all other
cities of Roman foundation,[32] and the sending forth of the Celtic
refugees to Brittany.[33] The accumulation during a long-continuing
period of conceptions of treasure being found by way of the bridge
leading to London, would become the direct force for keeping the
tradition alive; and while the facts of history show us the important
position of London during the period which witnessed the departure of
the Celtic Bretons to their continental home,[34] the facts of
tradition show us the Celtic tribesmen deeming it a way to wealth
through the magic potency of dreamland. The Celtic tribesmen stood
outside Roman Lundinium. Its life was not their life, and their
conversion of its position into a mythic treasure house or a mythic
road to treasure, and their association of it with the bloody rites of
the foundation sacrifice, are in strict accord with the historical
relationship of the tribal life of Celtic Britain to the city life of
Roman Lundinium.

I may be permitted perhaps to emphasise this significant accordance of
history and tradition when working together. I have already alluded to
the fact that I have worked out the history of London independently,
and upon lines quite different from the present study. I have
therefore a wider grasp of the two currents of history and folklore in
this particular case than could in the ordinary way fall either to the
historian or to the folklorist. That I can find in both just the
complementary facts which help to realise the whole situation, to fill
in the gaps of history which nowhere directly tells of the
relationship of Roman Lundinium to the British Celts, to extend the
outlook of folklore which nowhere recognises that there was a great
Roman city of Lundinium which would dominate the minds of those not
trained to city life, is a fortunate circumstance which neither
historian nor folklorist is likely to repeat frequently, and I am
entitled, I think, to claim the utmost from it. I can at least claim
that it answers all the facts in a way that has not yet been
accomplished. Thus Sir John Rhys has discussed the treasure legend and
he can only account for it as part of the mythical trappings of Arthur
into which "London Bridge is introduced," because London Bridge
"formerly loomed very large in the popular imagination as one of the
chief wonders of London." Sir John Rhys refers for confirmation of
this to the "notion cherished as to London and London Bridge by the
country people of Wales even within my own memory," and then goes on
to say that "the fashion of selecting London Bridge as the opening
scene of a treasure legend had been set perhaps by a widely spread
English story," that of the Pedlar of Swaffham.[35] All this is very
unsatisfactory. Modern notions of this sort would not set the fashion
two centuries ago, nor extend it to Brittany. Nor is the suggestion in
accord with other evidence as to the extension of tradition. What has
happened is that the Arthur cycle has appropriated two London Bridge
traditions and has worked them up into the Arthur form, the traditions
themselves belonging to the far older period to which I have here
referred them--a period when the burial of treasure was a necessary
corollary to the events which were happening.[36] Buried treasure
legends are found all over the country. They belong to the period of
conquest and fighting. They are the evidence which tradition yields of
the unrest of the times which caused them to arise. They are the
fragments of history which tradition has preserved, while history has
coldly passed them by.[37]

With this in the background as the _corpus_ of a legend-covered
London Bridge, we come to the second period.

London Bridge to the Norsemen of the tenth and eleventh centuries was
a place of fierce fighting and struggle, a place of victory and death.
The saga takes pains to describe this wondrous bridge[38] before it
describes the great fight there and its capture by King Olaf, a fight
which produced a war-rhyme which, in Laing's version, begins with the
same words as the English nursery rhyme, "London Bridge is broken
down!"[39] and which Morris renders as a tribute to King Olaf, "thou
brakest down London Bridge." There is little wonder, then, that the
men of King Olaf took back with them to saga-land a great memory of
this bridge and this fight, transferred to it their own variant of the
world-wide treasure legend, and made a legend not of money treasure,
but of regained health to a crippled warrior. The corresponding
non-British version of Brittany helps us to understand that the cure
of disease was originally associated with the gains of treasure, and
in the Norse version the treasure incident is altogether dropped, but
in its place is the recovery of health, a treasure more in accord with
the sterner needs and recollections of a great fight. The Norse story
is helpful to us as showing how London Bridge could enter into the
legends of a people, and remain with them even after that people was
no longer living in Britain, and it becomes therefore a valuable
addition to the evidence for the more ancient transference from
Britain to Brittany of the original legend.

Altogether the piecing together of the items of historical value in
this legend is most complete. We have not only recovered for history
hitherto lost conceptions of the place held by Roman Lundinium among
the Celtic tribesmen, but we have recovered also evidence of the true
culture-position of the Celtic tribesmen towards their Roman
conquerors. The examination of this legend may have been long and
tedious, but the result is, I think, commensurate. It illustrates the
power of tradition to set historical data in their proper environment,
to restore the proportion which they bear to unrecorded history, and
if the student will but follow the evidence carefully, I think he will
find these results.

We will take a step forward, and turn from local to personal
attachments of tradition. There is a whole class of traditions
attached to personages about whose historical existence there can be
but little doubt, and just because of the accretion of tradition round
them their historical existence has oftentimes been denied. The most
famous example in our history is of course King Arthur, and so great
an authority as Sir John Rhys is obliged to resort to a special
argument to account for the problems he is faced with. He argues, and
argues strongly, for an historic Arthur--an Arthur who was the British
successor of the Roman emperor after Britain had ceased to be a part
of the Roman Empire.[40] But because of the myths which have grown
round him, he suggests that there must also have been "a Brythonic
divinity named Arthur," and we are thus introduced to a dual study of
history and myth which does not appear to me to take us very far, and
which, in fact, just separates history from myth, instead of showing
where they join hands. This dual conception of myth is indeed a rather
favourite resort of those scholars who cannot appreciate the evidence
that proves a character in a mythic tradition to be an actual
historical personage. It is the basis of the famous Sigfried-Arminius
controversy. It does duty in many less important cases,[41] and most
frequently in connection with northern mythology, where the line
between mythic and historical events gathering round a hero is
generally so finely drawn as to be almost imperceptible. But it is so
obviously a piece of special pleading on self-created lines that other
explanation is needed. And another explanation is to be obtained if
only students will rely upon the evidence of tradition itself instead
of appealing to every fancy derived from sources which have nothing to
do with tradition.

The history of King Arthur has been the subject of inquiry too
frequently for it to be possible in these pages to discuss the dual
theory as it has been applied to him, but I will attempt to show that
it is quite unnecessary thus to explain the history of King Arthur by
turning to the history of another of our great heroic figures, one of
the greatest to my mind, who, like Arthur, has secured not only a fair
share of special tradition belonging to himself personally, but a
larger share than others of that corpus of tradition which has
descended from our earliest unknown ancestors, and become attached to
the historical hero of later times--I mean, Hereward, the last of the
Saxon defenders of his land against William the Norman.[42] The
analysis of the Hereward legend affords a good example of the process
by which tradition is preserved by historical fact, and in its turn
helps to unravel the real history which lies at the source. Instead,
therefore, of attempting to travel over the voluminous literature
which is the outcome of the King Arthur story, I will use for the same
purpose the shorter story of Hereward the Englishman.

We start with the fact that Hereward is unknown to history until his
great stand in the Island of Ely against the might of William, the
conqueror of England. And yet to the banners of this "unknown"
chieftain there flocked the discontented heroism of England, men
ranking from the noble to the peasant, and including such great
figures as Morcar, Edwine, and Waltheof. I always think, too, that the
little band of Berkshire men, who started across the country to join
Hereward in the fens, and were intercepted and cut to pieces by a
Norman troop,[43] give us more than a passing glimpse at the
estimation in which Hereward was held by his countrymen. Such a man
commanding so much, in face of so much, could not have been the
unknown person which history makes him.

How then can we ascertain why he was held in such estimation? History
being quite silent, tradition steps into the gap. It is the tradition
recorded in post-Herewardian times, be it noted. In this great body of
tradition, contained in a Latin MS. of the twelfth century, he
journeys to Scotland, where he slew a bear and saved the people whom
it had oppressed; from thence to Cornwall, where he fought and slew a
great champion, the lover of the princess; from thence to Ireland,
where he assisted the King in war, and back again to Cornwall to
rescue again the princess from a distasteful wooer, and, finally, to
Flanders. Even in the camp of the Norman, which he visits in
traditional fashion, he has an adventure with witches which takes us
to the worship of wells. Much of his adventure is but the application
of well-known traditional events,[44] and it is important to note that
the geography of the supposed travels belongs to the very home of
tradition, the unknown territories of the Celts, Ireland, Cornwall,
and Scotland.

Now all this tradition is certainly not true of Hereward. But what it
does is to certify to his greatness in the eyes of his countrymen, to
show that his countrymen were anxious to explain why he was so great
in A.D. 1070, and why before that date he was unknown to them. This is
an important point to have gained. It shows the vacuum which was
occupied by tradition because contemporary, or nearly contemporary,
thought required it to be filled up. The popular mind abhors a vacuum
as much as the material world of nature does. It will fill it with its
own conceptions, if it cannot fill it with recognised facts. Hereward
must have been a famous man when he took his stand in the fens of Ely.
That his biographers explain his fame by the application of ancient
traditions is only saying that his countrymen reckoned his fame as of
the very highest; ordinary current events of the day would not suit
their ideas of the fitness of things. Hereward was as Alfred had been,
as Arthur had been, and so he must have his share of the national
tradition, even as these heroes had. To say less of him was to have
put him below the others. And history in this case could not help, for
it was in the hands of Hereward's enemies, and they were careful to
say nothing or very little of English heroes at this period. The great
battle of Hastings had been lost, but of all the English men who had
fought and died there we only know of three names beyond those of the
king and his house. Leofric the abbot of Peterborough, Godric the
sheriff of Berkshire, and Asgar the sheriff of London, have become
known by accident, as it were. All others are unnamed and unhonoured.
Therefore, when the great deeds of Hereward came to be chronicled, it
was not enough to say he was at Hastings; the deeds of old must be
chronicled of him as they had been chronicled of others.

This accretion of popular tradition to account for the fame of
Hereward when he took command at Ely, though it proclaims in the
strongest terms that Hereward was famous in the eyes of his
countrymen, displaces history therefore. Putting the case in this
way, we may proceed to examine what recorded history exactly has to
say of Hereward, and then by noting what it has left unsaid, we may
perhaps be able to fill the gap by a reasonable deduction from the
facts. In Domesday there are clearly two Herewards, one having lands
in Lincolnshire in the time of King Edward and _not_ at the date of
the survey, the other having lands in Warwickshire in the time of King
Edward and _also_ at the date of the survey. Here we have two widely
different counties and two widely different conditions, and it is
right with all the evidence to conclude that they relate to different
personages. The Lincolnshire Hereward is the hero of the fens. He held
of the abbot of Peterborough, and Ulfcytil, who was appointed in 1062,
was the abbot in question. This brings us to only four years before
the battle of Hastings, and another entry in Domesday, thanks to the
scholarship of Mr. Round, proves that Hereward was deprived of his
Lincolnshire lands not before but after the great fights at Hastings
and in the fens. Therefore the story shapes itself somewhat in this
fashion. Hereward was in England in 1062. He was then a man of the
abbot of Peterborough; that is to say, a tenant bound to perform
military service to his lord. His lord, the abbot, was at Hastings
with his tenants, and fought there. That Hereward of all the abbot's
tenants should have followed his lord to Hastings is more than likely;
the strange thing would be that he should not have done so. That going
thither nameless among the many, he should gain experience under
Harold, though no fame has come to him through the historians from a
field where Saxon fame was buried; that his own genius should make
him use his experience when need arose; that among the English all
survivors from that field who were still unwilling to bow the knee to
William would be reckoned as heroes by their depressed countrymen;
that on this account alone he would be given rank above Morcar, who
had kept away from Hastings--are the conclusions to be drawn
legitimately from the silence as well as the actual records of
history, compared with the story told by tradition. History and
tradition are in accord, not in conflict; the gaps of history are
filled by tradition--that tradition which was suitable and worthy of
so great a hero, namely the ancient tradition told of all heroes.
Reopening these gaps and putting in its right place the tradition
which had hitherto prevented them from being seen, we are able to
appeal to history to yield up the true story of one of the greatest of
English heroes, a story which shows him to have been at Hastings by
the side of Harold, to have won fame there, to have continued the
fight for English liberty as leader of the English patriots, and to
have earned a place in the unsung English epic.

But his place in English tradition helps us to understand the value
and position of tradition in such cases. The traditions clustering
round the name of Hereward do not compel us to interpret them as
Hereward facts. The historian, however, need not on this account fear
for Hereward. He should rather value the traditions as evidence of the
greatness of the English hero among the conquered English. They
applied to him the legends of their oldest heroes. All that was
delightful to them in tradition was attached to their present hero.
He was worthy of a place among their greatest. And thus the fact of
added tradition brings out the estimate of the worth of the hero to
those among whom he lived and for whom he fought.

The traditions themselves belong to far other times, and the facts
contained in them must be interpreted from the oldest ideas of our
race. It is only by thus disengaging the traditions which have grown
round the historical person that the correct interpretation of the
position can be attempted, and when that is done we are left, not with
a mass of uncertain and misleading testimony about a national hero,
but with certain definite historical facts belonging to Hereward, and
certain traditions attached to Hereward, certifying to his great place
in the popular estimation, telling of facts which do not, it is true,
belong to Hereward, but which, in a special sense, belong to the
people who were reverencing Hereward.

If I have made it clear from these examples that the explanation of
historic fact and mythic tradition in combination does not lead either
to the discrediting of history or to the creation of new mythic
realms, I need not dwell much longer on this class of illustrations of
the relationship between history and tradition. Over and over again,
in the local records, are examples to be found where history is in
close contact with tradition, and I am far more inclined to question
the evidence which proves the falseness of any authenticated tradition
than I am to trust all the statements which do duty for history. It is
not only the traditions looming largely in popular interest, but some
of the smallest local traditions which throw light on great
historical events. They may tell us not merely of the great historical
event, but of the peculiar relationship of parts of the kingdom to
that event, which no purely historical evidence could by any
possibility explain. One of the most striking examples is, perhaps,
the Sussex tradition of "Duke" William as a conqueror.[45] The title
Duke is here faithfully recorded of the great conqueror, who
everywhere else in England, both in historical documents and in the
popular language, is referred to as king. The explanation is, if the
identification of this tradition with the great Norman king is
correct, that Sussex being more or less separated from the rest of the
country by its great weald, carried its own tradition of the bloody
field at Hastings sufficiently long and uninterrupted for it to be
stamped upon the minds of the people in its original form, and thus to
remain. No better evidence could be found for the relationship of
Sussex to this great event. All the chapters in Mr. Freeman's great
history do not impress the imagination so strongly as this one fact,
that William the Conqueror has always been Duke William to the Sussex
folk. He was Duke William to the fen folk, too. They fought for their
belief and were compelled to accept his kingship. The Sussex folk
fought, too, and they handed down their conception of the great fight
to their children.

A good example of a slightly different kind occurs in connection with
Kett's rebellion in Norfolk. It was associated with a prophecy that
said, "there shulde lande at Walborne hope the proudest prince of
Christendome, and so shall come to Moshold heethe, and there shuld
mete with other ij kinges, and shall fyght and shalbe put down: and
the whyte lyon shuld optayne" the mastery. And yet this prophecy goes
much further back, for the Danes are said to have landed at Weybourne
Hope in their invasions, and the old rhyme is still remembered in the

      "He that would England win
      Must at Weybourn Hope begin."[46]

This is an example of the forcible revival of an ancient tradition to
suit a later fact, and is evidence of the enormous impression which
the event to which it refers had upon the locality. Kett's rebellion
was one thing to the nation at large and quite another thing to this
district of Norfolk, and the great events of the tenth century
preserved in legend were equated with the minor events of the
sixteenth century, thus enabling us to understand better the depth of
the local feeling which produced these events.


Both local and personal traditions are of interest in the unravelling
of the meaning of historical events, and the forces at the back of
them, and I will add a note of one or two examples of those humbler
traditions which confirm or enhance the value of the historical
record. They are of the greatest importance if correctly understood.
They include such examples, for instance, as Mr. Kemble notes when he
says, "I have more than once walked, ridden, or rowed, as land and
stream required, round the bounds of Anglo-Saxon estates, and have
learned with astonishment that the names recorded in my charter were
those still used by the woodcutter or the shepherd of the
neighbourhood."[47] This is remarkable testimony to the persistence of
tradition. It is the commencing point of a whole series of examples
which go to show that embedded in the memories of the people, and
supported by no other force but tradition, there are innumerable
traces of historic fact.[48]

A stage forward, in the same class of tradition, are those examples of
special names which indicate an important or impressive event, the
real nature of which is only revealed by modern discovery. Thus
perhaps the "White Horse Stone" at Aylesford, in Kent, the legend of
which is that one who rode a beast of this description was killed on
or about this spot,[49] may take us back to the great battle at
Crayford, where Horsa was killed. Another kind of local tradition is
perhaps more instructive. Immediately contiguous to the north side of
the Roman road at Litlington, near Royston, were some strips of
unenclosed, but cultivated, land, which in ancient deeds from time
immemorial had been called "Heaven's Walls." Traditional awe attached
to this spot, and the village children were afraid to traverse it
after dark, when it was said to be frequented by supernatural beings.
Here is subject for inquiry. Both words in the name are significant.
Why the allusion to Heaven; why is a field called walls? The problem
was solved in 1821, for in that year some labourers were digging for
gravel on this spot, and they struck upon an old wall composed of
flint and Roman brick. This accidental discovery was followed up by
Dr. Webb, and the wall was found to enclose a rectangular space
measuring about thirty-eight yards by twenty-seven, and containing
numerous deposits of sepulchral urns containing ashes of the dead. It
was clear from the results of the excavations that here was one of
those large plots of ground environed by walls to which the name of
_ustrinum_ was given by the Romans,[50] a fact which was preserved in
the name long after the site had lost every trace of its origin.

[Illustration: LITLINGTON FIELD]

I will refer to one more local example. In Dorsetshire and Wiltshire
fairs are held upon sites which are often marked by the remains of
ancient works, or distinguished by some dim tradition of vanished
importance.[51] One has only to refer to the history of the market as
"a contribution to the early history of human intercourse" as Mr.
Grierson puts it,[52] and to the extremely important and archaic
constitution of the market, a glimpse of which has been afforded by
Sir Henry Maine, alone among scholars who have investigated earliest
English institutions, to know how valuable such a note as this must be
if it can be confirmed by extended research. Local investigation of
these places and their traditions would, no doubt, lead to many points
in the tribal settlement of the district, an important fact of history
nowhere found in history.

No one, I think, taking into consideration this view of the
relationship of local and personal traditions to history will deny
that history is likely to gain much by the proper interpretation of
such traditions. Every yard of British territory has its historic
interest, and there are innumerable peaks above the general level
which should be worth much to national history. Every epoch of British
history has its great personage, who in popular opinion stands out
from among his fellows. When once it is understood that traditions
attaching to places and persons yield facts of a kind worth searching
for, there will arise the desire to obtain all that is now obtainable
from this source, and to add thereto the deductions to be drawn from
their geographical distribution.


If the accretion of myth around the lives of great historic
personages, and the persistence of tradition in historic localities,
may be accepted as one phase of the necessary relationship of
tradition to history, we may proceed to inquire how far the unattached
traditions, the folk-tales pure and simple, contain or are based upon
historic details. These details will not tell us of any one historic
personage, or relate to any one historic locality, but will relate to
the peoples before personages and localities figured in their history,
and will explain facts in culture-history rather than in political
history. We shall be approaching the period before written history had
begun, and for which, so far as written history is concerned, we are
dependent upon foreign or outside authority. I think, perhaps, Dr.
Karl Pearson has put the case for this view in the best form. "As we
read fairy stories to our children," he says,

      "we may study history for ourselves. No longer
      oppressed with the unreal and the _baroque_, we may
      see primitive human customs and the life of primitive
      man and woman cropping out at almost every sentence of
      the nursery tale. Written history tells us little of
      these things, they must be learnt, so to speak, from
      the mouths of babes. But there they are in the
      _Märchen_, as invaluable fossils for those who will
      stoop to pick them up and study them. Back in the far
      past we can build up the life of our ancestry--the
      little kingdom, the queen or her daughter as king
      maker, the simple life of the royal household, and the
      humble candidate for the kingship, the priestess with
      her control of the weather and her power over youth
      and maid. In the dimmest distance we can see traces of
      the earlier kindred group marriage, and in the near
      foreground the beginnings of that fight with
      patriarchal institutions which led the priestess to be
      branded by the new Christian civilization as the
      evil-working witch of the Middle Ages."[53]

I should not have ventured to quote this long passage if my own
studies, before Dr. Pearson's book was published in 1897, had not led
me to much the same conclusions.[54] But Dr. Pearson assists me in a
special way. His methods are scientific. He is not a folklorist
because he loves folklore, but because he sees in it the materials
for elucidating the early life of man. He is not, so to speak,
prejudiced in its favour. He brings to his aid the practical mind of
the statistician and the psychologist, and his conclusions may not,
therefore, be put on one side as easily as those of myself and other
students of folklore.

It is due to the folklorist, however, to say that this aspect of the
folk-tale had already been discovered by one of the greatest of the
earlier collectors of traditional lore, the late Mr. J. F. Campbell.
Thus, writing, in 1860, of his grand collection of "Highland Tales,"
Mr. Campbell very truly says: "The tales represent the actual everyday
life of those who tell them, with great fidelity. They have done the
same, in all likelihood, time out of mind, and that which is not true
of the present is, in all probability, true of the past; and therefore
something may be learned of forgotten ways of life."[55] Readers of
Mr. Campbell's books well know how he has traced out from these
traditions from the nursery, identical customs with Highland everyday
life, and relics also of a long-forgotten past state of things; how he
points to the records of the stone age and the iron age in these
representatives of the scientific memoirs of the past; how very
significantly he answers his own supposition, that if these tales "are
dim recollections of savage times and savage people, then other magic
gear, the property of giants, fairies, and bogles, should resemble
things which are precious now amongst savage or half-civilized tribes,
or which really have been prized amongst the old inhabitants of these
islands or of other parts of the world."[56]

This is an extremely important conclusion on the relationship of
history and tradition, and it will be well to illustrate it by turning
to some obvious details of primitive life, which are to be seen with
more or less clearness enshrined in the folk-tales which have been
preserved in our own country.

In Kennedy's _Fireside Stories of Ireland_, it is related in one of
the tales that there was no window to the mud-wall cabin, and the door
was turned to the north;[57] and then, again, we have this picture
given to us in another story: on a common that had in the middle of it
a rock or great pile of stones overgrown with furze bushes, there was
a dwelling-house, and a cow-house, and a goat's-house, and a pigsty
all scooped out of the rock; and the cows were going into the byre,
and the goats into their house, but the pigs were grunting and bawling
before the door.[58] This takes us to the surroundings of the
cave-dwelling people.

Then in other places we come across relics of ancient agricultural
life preserved in these stories. In the Irish story of "Hairy Rouchy"
the heroine is fastened by her wicked sisters in a pound,[59] an
incident not mentioned in the parallel Highland tale related by
Campbell.[60] Many Irish stories contain details of primitive life
that the Scottish variants do not contain. The field that was partly
cultivated with corn and partly pasture for the cow,[61] the grassy
ridge upon which the princess sat, and the furrows wherein her two
brothers were lying,[62] are instances.

A great question arises here. If the Scotch story does not mention
the primitive incident mentioned in the Irish story, does it mean that
the Irish story has retained for a longer time the details of its
primitive original? Or does it mean that it has absorbed more of
surrounding Irish life into it than the Scotch story has of
surrounding Scottish life?

These details must have a place in the elucidation of Irish
folk-tales, because they have a very distinct place indeed in
primitive institutions; and it hence becomes a question to folklorists
as to how they have entered into, or escaped from, the narrative of
traditional story. It appears to me that the appearance or
non-appearance of these phases of early life are typical of what has
been going on with the plot and structure of folk-tales as long as
they have remained the traditional treasures of the people. A story
identical in all the main outlines of plot will be varied in matters
of detail, according to the people who are using it in their daily
routine of story-telling. But this variation is always from the
primitive to the cultured, from the simple to the complex. The
mud-cabin or cave-dwelling in Irish story would have developed into
the palace in stories of a richer country like England; the old woman,
young girl, master and servant, would become perhaps the queen,
princess, king and vassal; just as in Spanish and Portuguese stories
the giant of other European tales is represented by "the Moor." If
this process of change is a factor in the life of the folk-tale, it
follows that those folk-tales which contain the greatest number of
primitive details are the most ancient, and come to us more directly
from the prehistoric times which they represent.

We may gather warrant for such a conclusion if we pass from small
details to a distinct institution. The institution which stands out
most clearly in early history is the tribe, and I will therefore turn
to an element of ancient tribal life, and an element which has to do
with the practical organisation of that life, namely, the tribal
assembly. We find that the folk-tale records under its fairy or
non-historic guise many important recollections of the assembly of the
tribe. One very natural feature of this assembly in early times was
its custom of meeting in the open air--a custom which in later times
still obtained, for reasons which were the outcome of the prejudices
existing in favour of keeping up old customs. These reasons are
recorded in the formula of Anglo-Saxon times, that meetings should not
be held in any building, lest magic might have power over the members
of the assembly.[63]

Before turning to the tales of our own country, I will first see
whether savage and barbaric tales have recorded anything on the
subject, for their picture of the tribal assembly, when revealed in
the folk-tale, belongs to the period which might have witnessed the
making of the story, and which certainly witnessed the tribal
organisation of the people as a living institution. Dr. Callaway, in
his _Nursery Tales and Traditions of the Zulus_, relates a story of
"the Girl-King." "Where there are many young women," says the story,
"they assemble on the river where they live, and appoint a chief over
the young women, that no young woman may assume to act for herself.
Well, then they assemble and ask each other, 'Which among the damsels
is fit to be chief and reign well?' They make many inquiries; one
after another is nominated and rejected, until at length they agree
together to appoint one, saying, 'Yes, so and so shall reign.'"[64]
However far this may be actually separated from the political assembly
of the Zulus, there is no doubt we have here a folk-tale adaptation of
events which were happening around the relators of the tale. This is
all I am anxious to state, indeed. What in the folk-tale was related
of the girl-king, was a reflex only of what happened when the
political chieftain himself was concerned.

This, perhaps, is still better illustrated if we turn to India. In the
story of "How the Three Clever Men outwitted the Demons," told by Miss
Frere in her _Old Deccan Days_, it is related how "a demon was
compelled to bring treasure to the pundit's house, and on being asked
why he had been so long away, answered, 'All my fellow-demons detained
me, and would hardly let me go, they were so angry at my bringing you
so much treasury; and though I told them how great and powerful you
are, they would not believe me, but will, as soon as I return, judge
me in solemn council for serving you.' 'Where is your council held?'
asked the pundit. 'Oh! very far, far away,' answered the demon, 'in
the depths of the jungle, where our rajah daily holds his court.' The
three men, the pundit, the wrestler, and the pearl-shooter, are taken
by the demon to witness the trial.... They reached the great jungle
where the durbar (council) was to be held, and there he (the demon)
placed them on the top of a high tree just over the demon rajah's
throne. In a few minutes they heard a rustling noise, and thousands
and thousands of demons filled the place, covering the ground as far
as the eye could reach, and thronging chiefly round the rajah's

A classical story told by Ælian gives us another interesting example
of this feature of early political life. It is said of the Lady
Rhodopis, who was alike fair and frail, that of all the beautiful
women in Egypt, she was by far the most beautiful; and the story goes
that one time when she was bathing, Fortune, which always was a lover
of whatever may be the most unlikely and unexpected, bestowed upon her
rank and dignity that were alone suitable for her transcendent charms;
and this was the way what I am now going to tell came to pass.
Rhodopis, before taking a bath, had given her robes in charge to her
attendants; but at the same time there was an eagle flying over the
bath, and it darted down and flew away with one of her slippers. The
eagle flew away, and away, and away, until it got to the city of
Memphis, where the Prince Psammetichus was sitting in the open air,
and administering justice to those subject to his sway; and as the
eagle flew over him it let the slipper fall from its beak, and it fell
down into the lap of Psammetichus. The prince looked at the slipper,
and the more he looked at it, the more he marvelled at the beauty of
the material and the dainty minuteness of its size; and then he
cogitated upon the wondrous way in which such a thing was conveyed to
him through the air by a bird; and then it was he sent forth a
proclamation to all parts of Egypt to try to discover the woman to
whom the slipper belonged, and solemnly promised that whoever she
might be he would make her his bride.[66]

A very beautiful legend, which has been preserved by the Rev. W. S.
Lach-Szyrma,[67] carries into its fairy narrative more of the
realities of tribal life. Mr. Lach-Szyrma obtained it from a peasant's
chap-book, but it professes to be an ancient Slovac folk-tale:--

"An orphan girl is left with a cruel stepmother, who has a daughter
who is bad-tempered and disagreeable, and extremely jealous of her.
She becomes the Cinderella of the house, is ill-treated and beaten,
but submits patiently. At last the harsh stepmother is urged by her
daughter to get rid of her. It is winter, in the month of January; the
snow has fallen, and the ground is frozen. The cruel stepmother in
this dreadful weather bids the poor girl to go out in the forest, and
not to come back till she brings some violets with her. After many
entreaties for mercy the orphan is driven out, and goes out in the
snow on the hopeless errand. As she enters the forest she sees a
little way on in the deep glade, under the leafless trees, a large
fire burning. As she draws near she perceives around the fire are
twelve stones, and on the stones sit twelve men. The chief of them,
sitting on the largest stone, is an old man with a long snowy beard,
and a great staff in his hand. As she comes up to the fire the old man
asks her what she wants. She respectfully replies by telling them,
with many tears, her sad story. The old man comforts her. 'I am
January; I cannot give you any violets, but brother March can.' So he
turns to a fine young man near him and says, 'Brother March, sit in my
place.' Presently the air around grows softer. The snows around the
fire melt. The green grass appears, the flower-buds are to be seen. At
the orphan girl's feet a bed of violets appear. She stoops and plucks
a beautiful bouquet, which she brings home to her astounded



How clearly this is a representation of the tribal assembly worked
into the folk-tale, where January and the months are the tribal
chiefs, may be illustrated by a comparison with the actual events of
Indian tribal life. Within the stockaded village of Supar-Punji, in
Bengal, are two or three hundred monuments, large and small, all
formed of circular, solid stone slabs, supported by upright stones,
set on end, which enclose the space below. On these the villagers sit
on occasions of state, each on his own stool, large or small,
according to his rank in the commonwealth.[68]

Now evidence such as this, showing how the folk-tale among primitive
people gets framed according to the social conditions within which it
originates, will help us to realise the peculiar value of similar
features which may be found in the folk-tales of our own country.
English tales are nearly destitute of such illustrations of primitive
tribal life as this. Some of the giant stories of Cornwall, such as
that relating to the loose, uncut stones in the district of Lanyon
Quoit, on whose tors "they do say the giants sit,"[69] may refer to
the tribal assembly place, but it is shorn of all its necessary
details, and we do not get many examples even in this shortened form.

Curiously enough, too, we find but little mention in the Scotch tales
of the open-air gatherings of the tribe. The following quotation may
refer to the custom perhaps, but it is not conclusive: "On the day
when O'Donull came out to hold right and justice...." (there were
twelve men with him).[70] Another story is more exact. Mr. Campbell
took it down from a fisherman in Barra (ii. 137). The hero-child
Conall tends the sheep of a widow with whom he lodged. "To feed these
sheep he broke down the dykes which guarded the neighbours' fields.
The neighbours made complaint to the king, and asked for justice. The
king gave foolish judgment, whereat his neck was turned awry, and the
judgment-seat kicked. Conall gave a correct decision and released the
king. He did this a second time, and the people said he must have
king's blood in him." This allusion to the kicking of the
judgment-seat is a very instructive illustration of tribal
chieftainship and comes within that branch of the subject with which
we are now dealing.

But when we pass from Britain to Ireland, there is at once a great
storehouse of examples to be given. In Dr. Joyce's _Old Celtic
Romances_ there are some remarkable passages, which give us a good
picture of the assemblies of primitive times. These passages, it
should be noted, occur quite incidentally during the course of the
story--they belong to the same era as the fairy-legend, the giant, and
the witch, and taken as types of what was going on everywhere in
prehistoric times, they tell us much that is very valuable.


A great fair-meeting was held by the King of Ireland, Nuada of the
Silver Hand, on the Hill of Usna. Not long had the people been
assembled, when they beheld a stately band of warriors, all mounted on
white steeds, coming towards them from the east, and at their head
rode a young champion, tall and comely. "This young warrior was Luga
of the Long Arms.... This troop came forward to where the King of Erin
sat surrounded by the Dedannans, and both parties exchanged friendly
greetings. A short time after this they saw another company
approaching, quite unlike the first, for they were grim and
surly-looking; namely, the tax-gatherers of the Fomorians, to the
number of nine nines, who were coming to demand their yearly tribute
from the men of Erin. When they reached the place where the king sat,
the entire assembly--the king himself among the rest--rose up before
them." Here, without following the story further, the assembling in
arms, the payment of the tributes at the council-hill, the sitting of
the king and his assembly, are all significant elements of the
primitive assembly. In a later part of the same story we have "the
Great Plain of the Assembly" mentioned (p. 48). Another graphic
picture is given a little later on, when the warrior Luga, above
mentioned, demands justice upon the slayers of his father, at the
great council on Tara hill. Luga asked the king that the chain of
silence should be shaken; and when it was shaken, when all were
listening in silence, he stood up and made his plea, which ended in
the eric-fine being imposed upon the three children of Turenn, the
accomplishment of which forms the basis of the fairy-tale which
follows (p. 54). Then, in another place in the same tale, when the
brothers are on their adventurous journey, fulfilling their eric-fine,
they come to the house of the King of Sigar; and it "happened that the
king was holding a fair-meeting on the broad, level green before the

In another story the hero Maildun asks the island queen how she passes
her life, and the reply is, "The good king who formerly ruled over
this island was my husband. He died after a long reign, and as he left
no son, I now reign, the sole ruler of the island. And every day I go
to the Great Plain, to administer justice and to decide causes among
my people."

The beginning of another story is--"Once upon a time, a noble, warlike
king ruled over Lochlann, whose name was Colga of the Hard Weapons. On
a certain occasion, this king held a meeting of his chief people, on
the broad, green plain before his palace of Berva. And when they were
all gathered together, he spoke to them in a loud, clear voice, from
where he sat high on his throne; and he asked them whether they found
any fault with the manner in which he ruled them, and whether they
knew of anything deserving of blame in him as their sovereign lord and
king. They replied, as if with the voice of one man, that they found
no fault of any kind."

The last example is also a valuable one. A dispute has occurred
respecting the enchanted horse, the Gilla Dacker, and "a meeting was
called on the green to hear the award." Speeches are made and the
awards are given.[71]

I think it will be admitted that the folk-tales of Britain refer back
in such cases to the organisation of the tribe in early times, and the
only possible conclusion to be drawn from this fact is that they too
belong to early times and that they have brought with them to modern
days these valuable fragments of history which are hardly to be
discovered in any other historical document.

We have thus shown that the folk-tale contains many fragmentary
details of ancient social conditions, and further that it contains
more than mere details in the larger place it assigns to important
features of tribal institutions. It now remains to see whether apart
from incident the very structure and heart of the folk-tale is founded
upon conceptions of life. I will take as an example the well-known
story of Catskin. This story contains one remarkable feature running
through many of the variants, and a second which is found in
practically all of them. Both these features are perfectly impossible
to modern creative fancy, and I venture to think we shall find their
true origin in the actual facts of primitive life, not in the wondrous
flight of primitive fancy.

The opening incidents of "Catskin" are thus related:--

"A certain king, having lost his wife, and mourned for her even more
than other men do, suddenly determines, by way of relieving his
sorrows, to marry his own daughter. The princess obtains a suspension
of this odious purpose by requiring from him three beautiful dresses,
which take a long time to prepare. These dresses are a robe of the
colour of the sky, a robe of the colour of the moon, a third robe of
the colour of the sun, the latter being embroidered with the rubies
and diamonds of his crown. The three dresses being made and presented
to her, the princess is checkmated, and accordingly asks for something
even more valuable in its way. The king has an ass that produces gold
coins in profusion every day of his life. This ass the princess asked
might be sacrificed, in order that she might have his skin. This
desire even was granted. The princess, thus defeated altogether, puts
on the ass's skin, rubs her face over with soot, and runs away. She
takes a situation with a farmer's wife to tend the sheep and turkeys
of the farm."

The remainder of the story much resembles Cinderella's famous
adventures, and I need not repeat it here. The pith of the story turns
upon the fact that a father purposes to marry his own daughter, or, in
some versions, his daughter-in-law; and the daughter, naturally, as we
say, objecting to this arrangement, runs away, and hence her many
adventures. This famous story, told by English nurses to English
children, long before literature stepped across the sacred precincts
of the nursery, is also told in Ireland and Scotland. It is also
current in France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Lithuania, and many other
nations; and throughout all these versions, differing, of course, in
some matters of detail, the selfsame incident is observable--the
father wishing to marry his own daughter, and the daughter running
away.[72] This incident, therefore, must be older than the several
nations who have preserved it from their common home, where the tale
was originally told with a special value that is now lost. It must
then belong to primitive man, and not to civilised man, and must be
judged by the standard of morals belonging to primitive man. It is not
sufficient, or, indeed, in any way to the point, to say that the idea
of marrying one's own daughter is horrible and detestable to modern
ideas; we must place ourselves in a position to judge of such a state
of affairs from an altogether different standpoint. And what do we
find in primitive society? We find that women were the property, not
the helpmates, of their husbands. And the question hence arises, in
what relation did the children stand in respect to their parents? The
answer comes from almost all parts of the primitive world that, in
certain stages of society, the children were related to their mother
only. It is worth while pausing one moment to give evidence upon the
fact. Thus McLennan says of the Australians, "it is not in quarrels
uncommon to find children of the same father arrayed against one
another, or indeed, against their father himself; for by their
peculiar law _the father can never be a relative of his
children_."[73] This is not the language, though it is the evidence,
of the latest research, and another phase of it is represented by the
custom, as among the Ahts of Vancouver Island, that in case of
separation while the children are young, the children go always with
the mother to their own tribe.[74]

Here we see that the relationship between father and daughter was in
no way considered in ancient society of the type to which Australians
and Ahts belonged, and it is now one of the accepted facts of
anthropology that at certain stages of savage life fatherhood was not
recognised. That this non-relationship of the father very often
resulted in the further stage of the father marrying his daughter, is
exemplified by many examples. The story of Lot and his daughters, for
instance, will at once occur to the reader, and upon this Mr. Fenton
has some observations, to which I may refer the student who wishes to
pursue this curious subject further,[75] while Mr. Frazer, in his
recent study of Adonis, has discussed the practice with his usual
extent of knowledge.[76] Again, it should be remembered that in our
own chronicle histories Vortigern is said to have married his own
daughter, though the legend and the supposed consequences of the
marriage have been twisted from their original primitive surroundings
by the monkish chroniclers, through whom we obtain the story.[77]
Turning next to the daughter-in-law, supposing that the difference
between "daughter" and "daughter-in-law" (query stepdaughter) in the
story variants is a vital difference, and not an accidental
difference, there is curious and important evidence from India. The
following custom prevails among certain classes of Sudras,
particularly the Vella-lahs in Koimbator: "A father marries a grown-up
girl eighteen or twenty years old to his son, a boy of seven or eight,
after which he publicly lives with his daughter-in-law, until the
youth attains his majority, when his wife is made over to him,
generally with half a dozen children. These children are taught to
address him as their father. In several cases this woman becomes the
common wife of the father and son. She pays every respect due to her
wedded husband, and takes great care of him from the time of her
marriage. The son, in his turn, hastens to celebrate the marriage of
his acquired son, with the usual pomps, ceremonies, and tumasha, and
keeps the bride for himself as his father had done."[78] But even
further than this, ancient Hindu law allowed the father, who had no
prospect of having legitimate sons, to "appoint" or nominate a
daughter who should bear a son to himself, and not to her own
husband.[79] Sir Henry Maine gives the formula for this remarkable
appointment, and then goes on to say that some customs akin to the
Hindu usage of appointing a daughter appear to have been very widely
diffused over the ancient world, and traces of them are found far down
in history.[80]

What we have before us, therefore, to guide us in the view we take of
the story incident of a father marrying his own daughter, may be
summarised as follows:--

1. The father is not related to his daughter, and hence examples occur
of fathers marrying daughters.

2. The custom of marrying a daughter-in-law.

3. The custom of nominating a daughter to bear a son.

From any one of these facts of primitive life we arrive at the central
incident in the story of Catskin: the father could marry his daughter
without specially shocking the society of the primitive world, simply
because, according to primitive ideas, father and daughter, as we call
her, were not related.

We now arrive at the second incident--the running away of Catskin.
This again is a very early form of marriage custom. Women of primitive
times often objected to the forced marriages, and they expressed their
objection very often by running away. In the instance of Catskin the
running away was successful, as we all know; but in most instances the
unwilling bride was captured and forced to surrender. Mr. Farrer, in
his _Primitive Manners and Customs_, quite clears the ground for the
refutation of an argument that might be applied if we did not know the
customs of primitive society. It might be asked, why did Catskin run
away if the custom was a usual one? For the same reason, we answer,
that the women of savage society often do run away--objection to the

Thus we have to note that the two principal features of our ordinary
Catskin story are explainable by a reference to primitive manners and
customs; and it seems to me much easier and much more reasonable to
thus explain the origin of the Catskin story, than first of all to
create a "lovely myth," as the mythologists would undoubtedly have a
right to call it, of the Sun pursuing the Dawn, and then to say that
the Catskin story is simply a relation of this myth.

The opening incident of the Catskin story, as thus interpreted, is not
an isolated case of the survival of primitive marriage customs in
popular stories. If it were so, there would be considerable difficulty
in the way of supporting this interpretation. But it is only saying of
Catskin what can be said of other stories. "There are traces," says
Mr. Campbell, speaking of his Highland stories, "of foreign or
forgotten laws and customs. A man buys a wife as he would a cow, and
acquires a right to shoot her, which is acknowledged as good law."[82]
Yes, this is good savage law and custom there is no doubt, and Lord
Avebury and Mr. McLennan have illustrated it by examples. But in the
Highland story of the "Battle of the Birds" the wife is sought to be
purchased for a hundred pounds (Campbell, i. 36), and in the Irish
story of the "Lazy Beauty and her Aunts" we find something like
bride-capture and purchase as well.[83] So, again, if we turn to India
the same kind of evidence is forthcoming of another part of the
primitive ceremony. "Do not think," retorted the Malee in a story
collected by Miss Frere, "that I'll make a fool of myself because I'm
only a Malee, and believe what you've got to say because you're a
great Rajah. If you mean what you say, if you care for my daughter and
wish to be married to her, come and be married; but I'll have none of
your new-fangled forms and court ceremonies hard to be understood; let
the girl be married by her father's hearth, and under her father's
roof."[84] And in another story of the "Chundun Rajah" we have "the
scattering rice and flowers upon their heads;"[85] the significance of
both of which customs are fully known.

These illustrations of the contact, the necessary contact, of
tradition and history show that contact to be equally true of the
folk-tale as it is of the local or personal legend. They all point to
the substratum of fact underlying tradition, to the absorption by
tradition of many features of the life by which it is surrounded, or
to the absorption by some great historic person or event of the living
tradition of his time or place. This contact is a fact equally
important to history and to folklore. It cannot be neglected by
either. It stands for something in the analysis which every student
must give of the material with which he is working, and that something
has a value, sometimes great and sometimes small, which must influence
the estimate of the material which both history and folklore supply in
the unravelling of man's past.

I will now finally give a more complicated example of the folk-tale as
illustrative of the connection between history and tradition. Mr.
J. F. Campbell printed a tale in the second volume of the
_Transactions of the Ethnological Society_ (p. 336), which had been
sent to him in Gaelic by John Davan, in December, 1862--that is, after
the publication of the fourth volume of his _Highland Tales_. The tale
is only in outline, but in quite sufficient fulness for my present
purpose, as follows:--

There was a man at some time or other who was well off, and had many
children. When the family grew up the man gave a well-stocked farm to
each of his children. When the man was old his wife died, and he
divided all that he had amongst his children, and lived with them,
turn about, in their houses. The sons and daughters got tired of him
and ungrateful, and tried to get rid of him when he came to stay with
them. At last an old friend found him sitting tearful by the wayside,
and learning the cause of his distress, took him home; there he gave
him a bowl of gold and a lesson which the old man learned and acted.
When all the ungrateful sons and daughters had gone to a preaching,
the old man went to a green knoll where his grandchildren were at
play, and pretending to hide, he turned up a flat hearthstone in an
old stance,[86] and went out of sight. He spread out his gold on a big
stone in the sunlight, and he muttered, "Ye are mouldy, ye are hoary,
ye will be better for the sun." The grandchildren came sneaking over
the knoll, and when they had seen and heard all that they were
intended to see and hear, they came running up with, "Grandfather,
what have you got there?" "That which concerns you not; touch it
not," said the grandfather; and he swept his gold into a bag and took
it home to his old friend. The grandchildren told what they had seen,
and henceforth the children strove who should be kindest to the old
grandfather. Still acting on the counsel of his sagacious old chum, he
got a stout little black chest made, and carried it always with him.
When any one questioned him as to its contents, his answer was, "That
will be known when the chest is opened." When he died he was buried
with great honour and ceremony, and then the chest was opened by the
expectant heirs. In it were found broken potsherds and bits of slate,
and a long-handled, white wooden mallet with this legend on its

      "So am favioche fiorum,
      Thabhavit gnoc annsa cheann,
      Do n'fhear nach gleidh maoin da' fein,
      Ach bheir a chuid go leir d'a chlann."

      "Here is the fair mall
      To give a knock on the skull
      To the man who keeps no gear for himself,
      But gives all to his bairns."

Wright, in his collection of Latin stories, published by the Percy
Society in 1842 (pp. 28-29), gives a variant of this tale under the
title of "De divite qui dedit omnia filio suo," and, so far as can be
judged by the abstract, the parallel between the two narratives,
separated by at least five centuries of time, is remarkably close. The
latter part is apparently different, for the Latin version tells how
the man pretended that the chest contained a sum of money, part of
which was to be applied for the good of his soul, and the rest to
dispose of as he pleased. But at the point of death his children
opened the chest. "Antequam totaliter expiraret, ad cistam currentes
nihil invenerunt nisi malleum, in quo Anglicè scriptum est:--

      "'Wyht suylc a betel be he smyten,
      That al the werld hyt mote wyten,
      That gyfht his sone al his thing,
      And goht hym self a beggyn.'"

Here, then, is a case whereby to test the problem of the position of
folk-tales as historical material. Did the people adopt this tale from
literature into tradition and keep it alive for five centuries; or did
some early and unconscious folklorist adapt it into literature? The
literary version has the flavour of its priestly influence, which does
not appear in the traditional version; and I make the preliminary
observation that if literature could have so stamped itself upon the
memory of the folk as to have preserved all the essentials of such a
story as this, it must have been due to some academic influence (of
which, however, there is no evidence), and this influence would have
preserved a nearer likeness to literary forms than the peasant's tale
presents to us. But the objection to this theory is best shown by an
analysis of the tale, and by some research into the possible sources
of its origin.

The story presents us with the following essential incidents:--

1. The gift of a well-stocked farm by a father to each of his

2. The surrender of all property during the owner's lifetime.

3. The living of the old father with each of his children.

4. The attempted killing of the old man.

5. The mallet bearing the inscription.

6. The rhyming formula of the inscription.

Mr. Campbell notes the first and third of these incidents in his
original abstract of the story,[87] but of the remaining second,
fourth, fifth, and sixth no note has hitherto been taken.

Of the first incident, the gift of a well-stocked farm by a father to
each of his children, Mr. Campbell says: "This subdivision of land by
tenants is the dress and declaration put on by a class who now tell
this tale." But it also represents an ancient system of swarming off
from the parent household when society was in a tribal stage. The
incident of the tale is exactly reproduced in local custom. In the
island of Skye the possessor of a few acres of land cut them up only a
few years ago into shreds and patches to afford a separate dwelling
for each son and daughter who married.[88] In Kinross, in 1797, the
same practice prevailed. "Among the feuars the parents are in many
instances disposed to relinquish and give up to their children their
landed possessions or the principal part of them, retaining only for
themselves some paltry pendicle or patch of ground."[89] In Ireland
and in Cornwall much the same evidence is forthcoming, and elsewhere I
have taken some pains to show that these local customs are the
isolated survivals in late times of early tribal practices.[90]

We next turn to the second essential incident of the tale--the
surrender of the estate during the owner's lifetime. This is a
well-marked feature of early custom, and Du Chaillu has preserved
something like the survival of the ritual observances connected with
it in his account of the Scandinavian practice. On a visit to Husum he
witnessed the ceremonial which attended the immemorial custom of the
farm coming into possession of the eldest son, the father still being
alive. The following is Mr. Du Chaillu's description, and the details
are important: "The dinner being ready, all the members of the family
came in and seated themselves around the board, the father taking, as
is customary, the head of the table. All at once, Roar, who was not
seated, came to his father and said, 'Father, you are getting old; let
me take your place.' 'Oh, no, my son,' was the answer, 'I am not too
old to work; it is not yet time: wait awhile.' Then, with an
entreating look, Roar said, 'Oh, father, all your children and myself
are often sorry to see you look so tired when the day's labour is
over: the work of the farm is too much for you; it is time for you to
rest and do nothing. Rest in your old age. Oh, let me take your place
at the head of the table.' All the faces were now extremely sober, and
tears were seen in many eyes. 'Not yet, my son.' 'Oh, yes, father.'
Then said the whole family, 'Now it is time for you to rest.' He rose,
and Roar took his place, and was then the master. His father,
henceforth, would have nothing to do, was to live in a comfortable
house, and to receive yearly a stipulated amount of grain or flour,
potatoes, milk, cheese, butter, meat, etc."[91] Without stopping to
analyse this singular ceremony in detail, it is important to note that
old age is the assigned cause of resignation by the father of his
estate; that the ceremony is evidently based upon traditional forms,
the meaning of which is not distinctly comprehended by the present
performers; that the father is supported by his successor. As a proof
that we have here a survival of very ancient practice, it may be
noticed that in Spiti, a part of the Punjab, an exact parallel occurs.
There the father retires from the headship of the family when his
eldest son is of full age, and has taken unto himself a wife; on each
estate there is a kind of dower-house with a plot of land attached, to
which the father in these cases retires.[92] In Bavaria and in
Würtemberg the same custom obtains,[93] and the sagas of the North
also confirm it as an ancient custom.[94]

Of the third incident in the tale, the living of the father with his
children, Mr. Campbell says this points to the old Highland cluster of
houses and to the farm worked by several families in common,[95] and I
think we have here the explanation why the father in Scotland did not
have his "dower-house," as he did in Scandinavia and in Spiti.

We next come to the fourth incident, the attempted killing of the old
father. Now, from some of the earliest accounts of travels in Britain,
we know that the death of the aged by violence was a signal element of
the native customs. "They die only when they have lived long enough;
for when the aged men have made good cheere and anoynted their bodies
with sweet ointments they leape off a certain rocke into the sea."
That we have in this episode of the story, remains of customs which
once existed in the North, Mr. Elton affords proof, both from
saga-history and from the practice of later times, when "the Swedes
and Pomeranians killed their old people in the way which was indicated
by the passage quoted above."[96] It is the custom of many savage
tribes, and the observances made use of are sometimes suggestive of
the facts of the tale we are now analysing. Thus, among the Todas of
the Nilgiri Hills, they place the old people in large earthen jars
with some food, and leave them to perish;[97] while among the
Hottentots, Kolben says, "when persons become unable to perform the
least office for themselves they are then placed in a solitary hut at
a considerable distance, with a small stock of provisions within their
reach, where they are left to die of hunger, or be devoured by the
wild beasts."[98]

The important bearing of these incidents of barbarous and savage life
upon our subject will be seen when we pass on to our fifth incident,
namely, the significant use of the mallet. Some curious explanations
have been given of this. Mr. Thorns once thought it might be
identified with Malleus, the name of the Devil.[99] Nork has attempted
with more reason to identify it with the hammer of Thor.[100] But the
real identification is closer than this. Thus, it is connected with
the Valhalla practices, already noted, by the fact that if an old
Norseman becomes too frail to travel to the cliff, in order to throw
himself over, his kinsman would save him the disgrace of dying "like a
cow in the straw," and would beat him to death with the family
club.[101] Mr. Elton, who quotes this passage, adds in a note that one
of the family clubs is still preserved at a farm in East
Gothland.[102] Aubrey has preserved an old English "countrie story" of
"the holy mawle, which (they fancy) hung behind the church dore,
which, when the father was seaventie, the sonne might fetch to knock
his father in the head, as effœte, & of no more use."[103] That
Aubrey preserved a true tradition is proved by what we learn of
similar practices elsewhere. Thus, in fifteenth-century MSS. of prose
romances found in English and also in Welsh, Sir Perceval, in his
adventures in quest of the Holy Grail, being at one time ill at ease,
congratulates himself that he is not like those men of Wales, where
sons pull their fathers out of bed and kill them to save the disgrace
of their dying in bed.[104] Keysler cites several instances of this
savage custom in Prussia, and a Count Schulenberg rescued an old man
who was being beaten to death by his sons at a place called
Jammerholz, or "Woful Wood;" while a Countess of Nansfield, in the
fourteenth century, is said to have saved the life of an old man on
the Lüneberg Heath under similar circumstances.

Our investigation of barbarous and savage customs, which connect
themselves with the essential incidents of this Highland tale, has at
this point taken us outside the framework of the story. The old father
in the tale was not killed by the mallet, but he is said to have used
it as a warning to others to stop the practice of giving up their
property during lifetime. We have already seen that this practice was
an actual custom in early times, appearing in local survivals both in
England and Scotland. Therefore the story must have arisen at a time
when this practice was undergoing a change. We must note, too, that
the whole story leads up to the finding of a mallet with the rhyming
inscription written thereon, connecting it with the instrument of
death to the aged, but only on certain conditions. If, then, we can
find that the rhyming inscription on the mallet has an existence quite
apart from the story, and if we can find that mallets bearing such an
inscription do actually exist, we may fairly conclude that the story,
which, in Scotland, is the vehicle of transmission of the rhyme, is of
later origin than the rhyme itself.

First of all, it is to be noted under this head that Wright, in a note
to the Latin story we have already quoted, gives from John of
Bromyard's _Summa Predicantium_ another English version of the verse--

      "Wit this betel the smieth
      And alle the worle thit wite
      That thevt the ungunde alle thing,
      And goht him selve a beggyng,"

which shows, I think, the popularity of the verse in the vernacular.
Clearly, then, the Latin version is a translation of this, and not
_vice versâ_. It must have been a rhyming formula in the vernacular,
which had a life of its own quite outside its adoption into

This inferential proof of the actual life of the English rhyming
formula is confirmed by actual facts in the case of the corresponding
German formula. Nork, in the volume I have already quoted, collects
evidence from Grimm, Haupt, and others, which proves that sometimes in
front of a house, as at Osnabrück, and sometimes at the city gate, as
in several of the cities of Silesia and Saxony, there hangs a mallet
with this inscription:--

      "Wer den kindern gibt das Brod
      Und selber dabei leidet Noth
      Den schlagt mit dieser keule todt"--

which Mr. Thoms has Englished thus:--

      "Who to his children gives his bread
      And thereby himself suffers need,
      With this mallet strike him dead."[105]

These rhymes are the same as those in the Scottish tale and its Latin
analogue, and that they are preserved on the selfsame instrument which
is mentioned in the story as bearing the inscription is proof enough,
I think, that the mallets and their rhyming formulæ are far older than
the story. They are not mythical, the story is; their history is
contained in the facts we have above detailed; the life of the
folk-tale commences when the use or formula of the mallet ceases to be
part of the social institutions.

To the rhyming formulæ, then, I would trace the rise of the mythic
tale told by the Highland peasant in 1862 to Mr. J. F. Campbell. The
old customs which we have detailed as the true origin of the mallet,
and its hideous use in killing the aged and infirm, had died out, but
the symbol of them remained. To explain the symbol a myth was created,
which kept sufficiently near to the original idea as to retain
evidence of its close connection with the descent of property; and
thus was launched the dateless, impersonal, unlocalised story which
Mr. Campbell has given as a specimen of vagrant traditions, which
"must have been invented after agriculture and fixed habitations,
after laws of property and inheritance; but it may be as old as the
lake-dwellings of Switzerland, or Egyptian civilisation, or Adam,
whose sons tilled the earth."[106] I would venture to rewrite the last
clause of this dictum of the great master of folk-tales, and I would
suggest that the story, whatever its age as a story, tells us of facts
in the life of its earliest narrators which do not belong to Teutonic
or Celtic history. The Teuton and the Celt, with their traditional
reverence for parental authority, at once patriarchal and priestly,
would retain, with singular clearness, the memory of traditions, or it
may be observations, of an altogether different set of ideas which
belonged to the race with which they first came into contact. But
whether the story is a mythic interpretation by Celts of pre-Celtic
practices, or a pre-Celtic tradition, varied as soon as it became the
property of the Celt to suit Celtic ideas, it clearly takes us back to
practices very remote, to use Mr. Elton's forcible words, from the
reverence for the parents' authority which might have perhaps been
expected from descendants of "the Aryan household."[107] These
practices lead us back to a period of savagery, of which we have to
speak in terms of race distinction if we would get at its root.[108]
The importance of such a conclusion cannot be overrated, for it leads
directly to the issue which must be raised whenever an investigation
of tradition leaves us with materials, which are promptly rejected as
fragments of Celtic history because they are too savage, but which
need not therefore be rejected as history, because they may be
referred further back than Celtic history.

If we proceed by more drastic methods, by the methods of statistics,
we shall arrive at much the same conclusion.[109] Taking the first
twelve stories in Grimm's great collection, we find that seven of them
yield elements which we are entitled to call savage, because they are
so far removed from the European culture amidst which the folk-tales
have lived, and because these elements belong not to the accidentals
of the stories but to the essentials. Thus, if we divide the folk-tale
into its components, we shall find that it consists of three

1. The story radicals, or essential plot;

2. The story accidentals, or illustrative points;

3. Modern gloss upon the events in the story--

and if we go on to allocate the various incidents of the stories to
these three heads, we get the following common results with regard to
seven out of the twelve first stories of Grimm's great collection:--


               |    Story     |    Story     |    Added     |   Modern
               |  radicals    | accidentals  |   features   |   gloss
               |Youngest      |              |              |
               |  daughter    |              |              |
               |Fountain or   |              |              |
               |  well the    |              |              |
               |  locality of |              |              |
               |  leading     |              |              |
               |  incident    |              |              |
               |Frog          |              |              |
1. Savage      |  prince=totem|              |              |
    elements   |Frog prince   |      --      |      --      |      --
               |  stays at the|              |              |
               |  house of his|              |              |
               |  future wife |              |              |
               |Exogamous     |              |              |
               |  marriage,   |              |              |
               |  the prince  |              |              |
               |  coming from |              |              |
               |  a foreign   |              |              |
               |  country     |              |              |
               |              |              |Faithful      |
2. Fantastic   |              |              |  servant     |
    element    |      --      |      --      |  whose heart |      --
               |              |              |  is bound by |
               |              |              |  iron bands  |
               |              |              |              |Kingly state
               |              |              |              |  and its
               |              |              |              |  trappings--
               |              |              |              |  the princess
               |              |              |              |  wears a
               |              |              |              |  crown on
3. Rank and    |      --      |      --      |      --      |  ordinary
    splendour  |              |              |              |  occasions,
               |              |              |              |  and yet
               |              |              |              |  opens the
               |              |              |              |  door to a
               |              |              |              |  visitor
               |              |              |              |  while at
               |              |              |              |  dinner


               |    Story     |    Story     |    Added     |   Modern
               |  radicals    | accidentals  |   features   |   gloss
               |              |Naked forest  |              |
               |              |  woman       |              |
1. Savage      |              |  captured    |              |
    elements   |      --      |  for wife    |      --      |      --
               |              |Suspicion that|              |
               |              |  she is a    |              |
               |              |  cannibal    |              |
               |              |              |              |Virgin Mary
               |              |              |              |  and heaven
3. Rank and    |              |              |              |  the central
    splendour  |      --      |      --      |      --      |  features
               |              |              |              |  of the
               |              |              |              |  heroine's
               |              |              |              |  adventures
4. Moral       |Punishment    |              |              |
characteristics|  for         |      --      |      --      |      --
               |  curiosity   |              |              |


               |    Story     |    Story     |    Added     |   Modern
               |  radicals    | accidentals  |   features   |   gloss
               |Winning of    |              |              |
               |  wife by     |              |              |
               |  service     |              |              |
               |Succession to |              |              |
1. Savage      |  kingship    |              |              |
    elements   |  through     |      --      |      --      |      --
               |  wife--female|              |              |
               |  kinship     |              |              |
               |Treasure      |              |              |
               |  guarded by  |              |              |
               |  spirits     |              |              |
               |              |The adventures|              |
2. Fantastic   |      --      |  in the      |      --      |      --
    element    |              |  haunted     |              |
               |              |  castle      |              |
               |              |              |              |
3. Rank and    |      --      |      --      |      --      |Kingly state
    splendour  |              |              |              |
               |              |              |              |
4. Moral       |Bravery       |      --      |      --      |      --
characteristics|              |              |              |


               |    Story     |    Story     |    Added     |   Modern
               |  radicals    | accidentals  |   features   |   gloss
               |Talking       |Criticism upon|              |
               |  animals     |  men as      |              |
               |Cutting open  |  compared    |              |
               |  of the      |  with        |              |
1. Savage      |  animal to   |  animals,    |      --      |      --
    elements   |  free the    |  'truly men  |              |
               |  swallowed   |  are like    |              |
               |  kids, and   |  that'       |              |
               |  refilling   |              |              |
               |  the stomach |              |              |
               |  with stones |              |              |


               |    Story     |    Story     |    Added     |   Modern
               |  radicals    | accidentals  |   features   |   gloss
               |Capture of    |              |              |
               |  bride       |              |              |
               |Talking of    |              |              |
               |  animals     |              |              |
               |Three taboos--|              |              |
               |  Horse       |              |              |
               |  Garment     |              |              |
1. Savage      |  Sucking of  |      --      |      --      |      --
    elements   |    breasts   |              |              |
               |Sacrifice of  |              |              |
               |  children and|              |              |
               |  sprinkling  |              |              |
               |  their blood |              |              |
               |  on a stone  |              |              |
               |Human origin  |              |              |
               |  stone pillar|              |              |
               |              |              |              |Kingly state
3. Rank and    |              |              |              |  and great
    splendour  |      --      |      --      |      --      |  wealth in
               |              |              |              |  gold and
               |              |              |              |  riches
               |              |              |              |
4. Moral       |      --      |Punishment for|      --      |      --
characteristics|              |  curiosity   |              |


               |    Story     |    Story     |    Added     |   Modern
               |  radicals    | accidentals  |   features   |   gloss
               |Going [causing|              |              |
               |  to go] away |              |              |
               |  of sons, so |              |              |
               |  that the    |              |              |
               |  inheritance |              |              |
               |  should fall |              |              |
1. Savage      |  to the      | Forest life  |              |
    elements   |  daughter    |              |      --      |      --
               |Change of     |              |              |
               |  brothers    |              |              |
               |  into ravens |              |              |
               |Life dependent|              |              |
               |  on an       |              |              |
               |  outside     |              |              |
               |  object      |              |              |
               |              |              |              |
3. Rank and    |      --      |      --      |      --      |Kingly state
    splendour  |              |              |              |
               |              |              |              |
4. Moral       |      --      |      --      |      --      |      --
characteristics|              |              |              |


               |    Story     |    Story     |    Added     |   Modern
               |  radicals    | accidentals  |   features   |   gloss
               |Transformation|              |              |
               |  of hero into|              |              |
1. Savage      |  roebuck     |      --      |      --      |      --
    elements   |  after       |              |              |
               |  drinking at |              |              |
               |  stream      |              |              |

There are thus savage elements in seven out of twelve stories, and
the question becomes an important one as to how this is. They are the
stories of the nursery, told by mothers to children, stories kept
alive by tradition, and the only possible answer to our question is
that they contain fragments of the early culture-history of the
ancestors, or at all events the predecessors, of those who have
preserved them for our use. An occasional savage incident might have
been considered a freak of the original narrator, or a borrowing by
one of the countless late narrators of these stories brought home from
savage countries; but statistics disprove both of these suppositions.
It is not accidental but persistent savagery we meet with in the
folk-tale. It is also the savagery to be found amongst modern peoples
still in the savage stage of culture.

This is proved in a very complete manner by Mr. MacCulloch, whose
study provides the material for a statistical survey of story
incidents founded on primitive custom and belief.[110] They are the
most ancient history to which we have access. That this history is
contained in the folk-tales of modern peasantry shows it to have come
from that far-off period which saw the earliest condition of these
people. It is still history, if it tells us of a life which preceded
the written record. It is history of the most valuable description,
for it is to be found nowhere else as relating to the remotest period
of European civilisation. The modern savage is better off in this
respect. He has an outside historian in the traveller and the
anthropologist of modern days. The savage who was ancestor to our own
people had no such means of becoming known to history, or had but very
limited means, and it is only in the deathless tradition that we can
trace him out.

These conclusions have been drawn from that great class of tradition
preserved by historic peoples in historic times, and yet unmistakably
pointing to prehistoric culture. We have been able to show the methods
to be adopted for, and the results of, disengaging the myth which has
gravitated to the historic person or place from the historic facts
which have become part of the legend, and to trace out in the
folk-tale facts which belong to a culture far removed from civilised
life. There are thus revealed two distinct centres of influence, the
traditional centre and the historic centre, and it is obvious that the
question must be asked--which is the more important? It seems to me
equally obvious that the answer must be given in favour of the
historic. History is indebted to tradition for preserving some of the
most remote facts of racial or national life, which but for tradition
would have been lost, and if we are content to use this tradition as a
storehouse from which we may provide ourselves with ancient historical
documents, we can trace out therefrom points in the history of any
given country wherever the traditions have been preserved.

The folk-tale, in point of fact, equally with the personal and local
legend, comes into close contact with history. The periods of history
in the folk-tales are different from those in the legends, but
together these periods reach from prehistoric culture to historic
event. We cannot, however, call this extent of time a continuous
period, and we cannot point to definite stages within the detached
periods. Much more research must be accomplished before it will be
possible to claim such results as these. I have indicated some points
of difficulty, some methods of treatment which appear to me to be
wrong, and to which I shall have again to refer later on; but in the
meantime, from the necessarily incomplete evidence which I have been
able to produce, it is, I think, abundantly clear that folklore has to
be studied from its historical surroundings if we would draw from it
all that it is capable of telling.


In the meantime it is well to bear in mind that there is one important
department of history which has always been frankly and unhesitatingly
accepted as history and yet which has no stronger foundation than
tradition, and tradition of the most formal kind. I allude to the
early laws of most of the peoples who have become possessed of an
historic civilisation. These laws have all been preserved by
tradition, are in rhyme or rhythm in order to assist the memory, have
become the sacred repository of a school or class of priests, and have
finally been reduced to writing by a great lawgiver, who by the act of
giving the people written laws has had attributed to him supernatural
origin and powers. That history should have accepted from tradition
such an important section of its material is worth consideration by
itself, apart from its bearing on the present study, and I shall
proceed, therefore, to set out some of the chief facts in this

There can be no doubt that in the tribal society of Indo-European
peoples the laws and rules which governed the various members of the
tribe were deemed to be sacred and were preserved by tradition. The
opening clauses of the celebrated Laws of Manu illustrate this position.
"The great sages approached Manu, who was seated with a collected mind,
and having worshipped him spoke as follows: Deign, divine one, to
declare to us precisely and in due order the sacred laws of each of the
four chief castes and of the intermediate ones. For thou, O Lord, alone
knowest the purport, the rites, and the knowledge of the soul taught in
this whole ordinance of the self-existent which is unknowable and
unfathomable."[111] They were not only sacred in origin but they dealt
with sacred things, and Sir Henry Maine has drawn the broad conclusion
that "there is no system of recorded law, literally from China to Peru,
which, when it first emerges into notice, is not seen to be entangled
with religious ritual and observance."[112] In Greece the lawgivers were
supposed to be divinely inspired, Minôs from Jupiter, Lykurgos from the
Delphic god, Zaleukos from Pallas.[113] The earliest notions of law are
connected with Themis the Goddess of Justice.[114] In Rome it is to
Romulus himself that is attributed the first positive law, and it is by
a college of priests that the laws were preserved.[115] In Scandinavia
the laws were in the custody and charge of the temple priests, and the
accumulated evidence for the sacred origin and connection of the laws is
to be found in the sagas.[116] Among the Celtic peoples it is well known
that the laws were preserved and administered by the Brehons, who are
compared with the Hindu Brahmins by Sir Henry Maine, "with many of their
characteristics altered, and indeed, their whole sacerdotal authority
abstracted by the influence of Christianity."[117] In the Isle of Man
the laws were deemed sacred and known only to the Deemsters.[118]

In all cases laws were preserved by tradition and not by writing and
evidence, and the superior value attached to the traditional record
appears everywhere. The oldest record of Hindu law agrees with the
best authority that it was not founded on writing but "upon immemorial
customs which existed prior to and independent of Brahminism."[119] In
Greece the very nature of the _themistes_ shows that they were
judgments dependent upon traditional custom. In Rome it is the subject
of definite research that the "greater part of Roman law was founded
on the _mores majorum_."[120] In Scandinavia the law speaker was
obliged to recite the whole law within the period to which the tenure
of his office was limited.[121] The Celtic laws are based upon customs
handed down from remote antiquity,[122] and late down in English law
it was admitted as a principle that if oral declarations came into
conflict with written instruments the former had the more binding

One of the means by which this sacred tradition was preserved was
through the medium of rhythm and verse. Thus, as Sir Henry Maine

      "The law book of Manu is in verse, and verse is one of
      the expedients for lessening the burden which the
      memory has to bear when writing is unknown or very
      little used. But there is another expedient which
      serves the same object. This is Aphorism or Proverb.
      Even now in our own country much of popular wisdom is
      preserved either in old rhymes or in old proverbs, and
      it is well ascertained that during the middle ages
      much of law, and not a little of medicine, was
      preserved among professions, not necessarily clerkly,
      by these two agencies."[124]

In Greece the same word, νόμος, was used for custom and law
as for song. The ῥήτρα (declared law) of Sparta and Taras
was in verse; the laws of Charondas were sung as σκόλια at
Athens,[125] and Strabo refers to the Mazacenes of Cappadocia as using
the laws of Charondas and appointing some person to be their
law-singer (νομωδός), who is among them the declarer of the

Sir Francis Palgrave, noticing the same characteristic of Teutonic
law, says:--

      "It cannot be ascertained that any of the Teutonic
      nations reduced their customs into writing, until the
      influence of increasing civilisation rendered it
      expedient to depart from their primeval usages; but an
      aid to the recollection was often afforded as amongst
      the Britons, by poetry or by the condensation of the
      maxim or principle in proverbial or antithetical
      sentences like the Cymric triads. The marked
      alliteration of the Anglo-Saxon laws is to be referred
      to the same cause, and in the Frisic laws several
      passages are evidently written in verse. From hence,
      also, may originate those quaint and pithy rhymes in
      which the doctrines of the law of the old time are not
      unfrequently recorded."[127]

Again, the editors of the Brehon Law Tracts point out that early laws
are handed down "in a rhythmical form; always in language condensed
and antiquated they assume the character of abrupt and sententious
proverbs. Collections of such sayings are found scattered throughout
the Brehon Law Tracts."[128] The sagas contain many verses which
partake of the character of legal formulæ, and in Beowulf there seems
to be a definite example. It occurs in the passage describing Beowulf
engaged in his fatal combat with the fiery dragon, when his
"companions," stricken with terror, deserted him, on which Wiglaf
pronounced the following malediction:--

      "Now shall the service of treasure,
      and the gifts of swords,
      all joy of paternal inheritance,
      all support
      of all your kin depart;
      every one of your family
      must go about
      deprived of his rights
      of citizenship;
      when far and wide
      the nobles shall learn
      your flight,
      your dishonourable deed.
      Death is better
      to every warrior
      than disgraced life."

Mr. Kemble remarks on this passage, that it is not improbable that the
whole denunciation is a judicial formula, such as we know early
existed, and in regular rhythmical measure.[129]

These early examples may be followed up by others preserved to modern
times. The most significant of these occurs in the Church ceremony of
marriage, which preserves in the vernacular the ancient rhythmical
formula of the marriage laws, and the antiquity of the Church ritual
is proved from the fact that it is accompanied and enforced by the old
rhythmical verse, which is indicative of early legal or ceremonious

      "With this rynge I the wed
      And this gold and silver I the geve,
      and with my body I the worshipe,
      and with all my worldely cathel I the endowe."[130]

Sir Francis Palgrave has noticed the subject, and points out that the
wife is taken

      "to have and to hold[131]
      from this day forward
      for better, for worse,
      for richer, for poorer,[132]
      in sickness and in health,
      to love and to cherish,
      till death us do part
      and thereto I plight thee my troth."

These words are inserted in our service according to the ancient canon
of England, and even when the Latin mass was sung by the tonsured
priest, the promises which accompany the delivery of the symbolical
pledge of union were repeated by the blushing bride in a more
intelligible tongue.[133] This is a curious and significant fact, and
as we trace out these rhythmical lines farther back in their original
vernacular, the more clearly distinct is their archaic nature.
According to the usage of Salisbury the bride answered:--

      "I take thee, John,
      to be my wedded husband,
      to have and to hold
      fro' this day forward
      for better, for worse,
      for richer, for poorer,
      in sycknesse, in hele,
      to be bonere and buxom [obedient]
      in bedde and at borde
      till death do us part
      and thereto I plight thee my trothe."[134]

The Welsh manual in the library of the Dean and Chapter of Hereford
has a slight variation in the form, and an older spelling:--

      "Ich N. take thee N.
      to my weddid wyf,
      for fayroure for foulore,
      for ricchere for porer,
      for betere for wers,
      in sicknesse and in helthe,
      forte deth us departe,
      and only to the holde
      and tharto ich plygtte my treuthe."[135]

To this may be added the many local examples of the preservation of
laws or legal formulæ by means of their form in verse. The most
interesting of these, perhaps, is that by which the Kentishman
redeemed his land from the lord by repeating, as it was said, in the
language of his ancestors:--

      "Nighon sithe yeld
      And nighon sithe geld,
      And vif pund for the were,
      Ere he become healdere."

The first verse,

      "Dog draw
      Stable stand
      Back berend
      And bloody hand"

justified the verderer in his punishment of the offender. In King
Athelstane's grant to the good men of Beverley, and inscribed beneath
his effigy in the Minster,

      "Als fre
      Mak I the
      As heart may think
      Or eigh may see,"

we have perhaps the ancient form of manumission or
enfranchisement,[136] just as we have the surrender by a freeman who
gave up his liberty by putting himself under the protection of a
master, and becoming his man, still preserved among children, when one
of them takes hold of the foretop of another and says:--

      "Tappie, tappie, tousie, will ye be my man?"[137]

All over the country we meet with these rhyming or rhythmical formulæ
which have legal significance. In the north the chief of the
Macdonalds gave grants in the following form:--

      "I, Donald, chief of the Macdonalds, give here, in my
      castle, a right to Mackay, to Kilmahumag, from this
      day till to-morrow and so on for ever."

          "Mise Donull nau Donull,
          Am shuidh air Dun Donuill,
          Toirt còir do Mhac-aigh air Kilmahumaig,
          O'n diugh gus a màireach
          'S gu la bhràth mar sin."[138]

At Scarborough there is an old proverbial saying as to "Scarborough
Warning," which has had various accounts given of its origin,[139] but
the true explanation of which is that it is the fragment of an ancient
legal formula of the kind we are investigating. Abraham De la Pryme
describes it in his seventeenth-century diary as follows:--

      "Scarburg Warning is a proverb in many places of the
      north, signifying any sudden warning given upon any
      account. Some think it arose from the sudden comeing
      of an enemy against the castle there, and haveing
      dischargd a broad side, then commands them to
      surrender. Others think that the proverb had it's
      original from other things, but all varys. However,
      this is the true origin thereof.

      "The town is a corporation town, and tho' it is very
      poor now to what it was formerly, yet it has a ... who
      is commonly some poor man, they haveing no rich ones
      amongst them. About two days before Michilmass day the
      sayd ... being arrayed in his gown of state he mounts
      upon horseback, and has his attendants with him, and
      the macebear[er] carrying the mace before him, with
      two fidlers and a base viol. Thus marching in state
      (as bigg as the lord mare of London) all along the
      shore side, they make many halts, and the cryer crys
      thus with a strange sort of a singing voyce, high and

          "'Whay! Whay! Whay!
          Pay your gavelage, ha!
          Between this and Michaelmas Day,
          Or you'll be fined I, say!'

      "Then the fiddlers begins to dance, and caper and
      plays, fit to make one burst with laughter that sees
      and hears them. Then they go on again and crys as
      before, with the greatest majesty and gravity
      immaginable, none of this comical crew being seen so
      much as to smile all the time, when as spectators are
      almost bursten with laughing. This is the true origin
      of the proverb, for this custome of gavelage is a
      certain tribute that every house pays to the ... when
      he is pleased to call for it, and he gives not above
      one day warning, and may call for it when he

Rhyming tenures have been frequently noted but never understood. They
occur in many parts of the country. The tithingman of Combe Keynes, in
Dorsetshire, is obliged to do suit at Winforth Court, and after
repeating the following incoherent lines, pays threepence and goes
away without saying another word:--

      "With my white rod
      And I am a fourth post
      That three pence makes three
      God bless the King, and the lord of the franchise
      Our weights and our measures are lawful and true
      Good morrow Mr. Steward I have no more to say to you."[141]

It is hardly necessary to quote more examples. They are not unknown to
the historian, but because they are in rhyme they have been hastily
assumed to be spurious or even burlesque.[142] But the evidence of a
rhyming formula is the opposite to this. It is evidence of their
genuineness, and if some of the words appear to be nonsensical it is
due to the fact that the sense of the old formula has been
misunderstood, and has then become gradually altered.

All these rhyming tenures, indeed, find their place among the
traditional examples of legal formulæ. They are the local offshoots
preserved because of their legal significance, preserved by those
interested from their legal side. Because they are not preserved in
the formal codes they need not be neglected, and they must not be
misunderstood. They are not to be put on one side by the historian as
freaks of local landowners. They are real descendants by traditional
lines from the times when laws were not written, but kept alive in the
memory by means of such assistance as rhyme could supply, and from the
tribesmen who thus treasured the law they obeyed.[143]

That this branch of recorded law is not only early but tribal is
undoubted, but perhaps it will be well to refer to tribal rhyming
formulæ of an independent kind in order to show by parallel evidence
the tribal characteristics. In 1884 Mr. Posnett drew attention to this
important subject, and noted that

      "Dr. Brown, in an attempt to sketch the origin of
      poetry--an attempt which attracted the attention of
      Bishop Percy in his remarks introductory to the
      _Reliques_--proposed more than one hundred years ago
      to discover the source of the combined dance, song,
      melody, and mimetic action of primitive compositions
      in the common festivals of clan life. The student of
      comparative literature will probably regard Dr.
      Brown's theory as a curious anticipation of the
      historical method in a study which, in spite of M.
      Taine's efforts, has made so little progress as yet.
      The clan ethic of inherited guilt and vicarious
      punishment has attracted considerable attention. But
      the clan poetry of the ancient Arabs and of the
      bard-clans, surviving in the Hebrew sons of Asaph or
      the Greek Homeridæ, has not received that light from
      comparative inquiry which the closely connected
      problems of primitive music and metre would alone
      amply deserve."[144]

Not much has been done since this was penned. Max Müller had
previously, in 1847, declared that the Rig Veda consisted of the clan
songs of the Hindu people,[145] but the importance of such a
conclusion has been entirely neglected. In the meantime evidence is
accumulating that in Britain there are still preserved many examples
of clan songs. Thus Lord Archibald Campbell has published, in the
first volume of his _Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition_, some
sixteen or seventeen sagas. Some of these are clan-traditions; and the
editor notes as evidence of their antiquity the fact that none of them
makes any mention of firearms. These clan-traditions all relate to
feuds and vendettas; and in one case it is expressly recorded that the
descendants of one of the foes of the clan, in their account of the
incident narrated, "altered this tradition and reversed the main
facts." This has been followed by a volume definitely devoted to
"clan-traditions,"[146] while in the _Carmina Gadelica_ and many of
the Highland incantations there are preserved specimens of ancient
clan songs.

The most interesting of the tribal songs is that preserved at the
Hawick Common riding. The burgh officers form the van of a pageant
which insensibly carries us back to ancient times, and in some verses
sung on the occasion there is a refrain which has been known for ages
as the slogan of Hawick. It is "Teribus ye teri Odin," which is
probably a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon, "Tyr habbe us, ye Tyr ye
Odin"--May Tyr uphold us, both Tyr and Odin.

Fortunately Dr. Murray has investigated this formula, and I will quote
what he says:--

      "A relic of North Anglian heathendom seems to be
      preserved in a phrase which forms the local slogan of
      the town of Hawick, and which, as the name of a
      peculiar local air, and the refrain, or 'owerword' of
      associated ballads, has been connected with the
      history of the town back to 'fable-shaded eras.'
      Different words have been sung to the tune from time
      to time, and none of those now extant can lay claim to
      any antiquity; but associated with all, and yet
      identified with none, the refrain '_Tyr-ibus ye Tyr ye
      Odin_,' Tyr hæb us, ye Tyr ye Odin! Tyr keep us, both
      Tyr and Odin! (by which name the tune also is known)
      appears to have come down, scarcely mutilated, from
      the time when it was the burthen of the song of the
      gleó-mann or scald, or the invocation of a heathen
      Angle warrior, before the northern Hercules and the
      blood-red lord of battles had yielded to the 'pale
      god' of the Christians."



And in a note Dr. Murray adds:--

      "The ballad now connected with the air of 'Tyribus'
      commemorates the laurels gained by the Hawick youth at
      and after the disastrous battle, when, in the words of
      the writer,

          "'Our sires roused by "Tyr ye Odin,"
          Marched and joined their king at Flodden.'

      Annually since that event the 'Common-Riding' has
      been held, on which occasion a flag or 'colour'
      captured from a party of the English has been with
      great ceremony borne by mounted riders round the
      bounds of the common land, granted after Flodden to
      the burgh; part of the ceremony consisting in a mock
      capture of the 'colour' and hot pursuit by a large
      party of horsemen accoutred for the occasion. At the
      conclusion 'Tyribus' is sung, with all the honours, by
      the actors in the ceremony, from the roof of the
      oldest house in the burgh, the general population
      filling the street below, and joining in the song with
      immense enthusiasm. The influence of modern ideas is
      gradually doing away with much of the parade and
      renown of the Common-Riding. But 'Tyr-ibus ye Tyr ye
      Odin' retains all its local power to fire the lieges,
      and the accredited method of arousing the burghers to
      any political or civil struggle is still to send round
      the drums and fifes, 'to play Tyribus' through the
      town, a summons analogous to that of the Fiery Cross
      in olden times. Apart from the words of the slogan,
      the air itself bears in its wild fire all the tokens
      of a remote origin."[147]

We could not get better evidence than this of the survival of tribal
custom, custom that is distinctly connected with tribes rather than
with places or individuals, with groups of people who, now bound
together by local considerations and influences, have only recently
passed away from the far more ancient influences of the tribe. Alike
in the forms of historical codes and in traditional local remains, we
have found evidence of the use of rhyme for the preservation of
unwritten rules and forms; and this use restores to tradition an
important branch of its material.

We have thus ascertained that there is direct and acknowledged
indebtedness of history to tradition. Its extent covers a wide area of
culture progress, and of unbroken continuity from tribal to historic
times. The legal codes of the barbaric tribes of Western Europe are
the direct successors of the traditional originals; and because these
legal codes, equally with their unwritten predecessors, cannot be
dispensed with by the historian, they find their place unquestioned
among genuine historical material. They are no more, and no less,
historical than other traditional material. They are part of the life
of the people rescued from prehistoric days, and they tell us of these
days by the same sanction and the same methods as the rest of the
traditional material which has been so strangely and so persistently
neglected by the historian. The whole of tradition, and not selected
parts of it, must be brought into use if we would follow scientific
method, and I claim this for the study of folklore on the strength of
the results which have now been brought together.


[Illustration: CARN-AN-CHLUITHE



Here, however, we are close up to an important point of controversy.
The mythologists claim tradition as theirs. It does not, they assert,
give us the history but the mythology of our race. It tells us not of
the men but of the gods. In explaining how this comes about, however,
they have fallen into errors which it is not only necessary to correct
but which are fundamental in their effects. We shall be better able
later on to discuss the extremely important question of the
position of the prehistoric tradition amidst historic life and
surroundings, if we try to understand what the mythologists have done
and not done in their attempts to claim exclusive property in the
folk-tale. They have entirely denied or ignored all history contained
in the folk-tale, and they have proceeded upon the assumption, the
bald assumption not accompanied by any kind of proof, that the
folk-tale contains nothing but the remnants of a once prevalent system
of mythology. They ignore all the proofs brought forward by
folklorists to the contrary, such proofs, for instance, as Mr.
Knowles, Sir Richard Temple and others have produced concerning the
Hindu folk-tale. What is not true of the Hindu folk-tale cannot be
true of its Celtic or Teutonic or Scandinavian parallel, and yet in
the most recent study of Celtic tradition, Mr. Squire takes its mythic
origin for granted, and works through his ingenious statement without
let or hindrance from other points of view. But even his
thorough-going methods compel him to stop short at certain points, and
to admit that he has come across historic fact. Thus he agrees that
the Fir-Bolgs "were not really gods but the pre-Aryan race which the
Gaels, when they landed in Ireland, found already in occupation,"[148]
and yet when he treats of the fight of the Fir-Bolgs with the Tuatha
dé Danann, and is confronted with Sir William Wilde's proofs that the
monuments on the plain of Moytura are in agreement with the traditions
concerning them, and point to the account of the battle being
historical,[149] all that Mr. Squire can admit is that "certainly the
coincidences are curious." He disposes of them on the ground that the
"people of the goddess Danu are too obviously mythical to make it
worth while to seek any standing ground for them in the world of
reality." That standing ground might be found connected with the
Tuatha dé Danann in many places, but Mr. Squire will have it that it
is impossible, because "it was about this period that the mythology of
Ireland was being rewoven into spurious history."[150] It is not,
however, upon the mistakes of other inquirers[151] that the
mythologists may rest a good claim for their own view. The _Historia
Britonum_ of Geoffrey of Monmouth disposes of neither the myths nor
the history of the Celts. It shows myth in its secondary position, in
the handling of those who would make it all history, just as now there
are scholars who would make it all myth. In front of the legends
attaching to persons and places is the history of these persons and
places. Behind these legends lies the domain of the unattached and
primitive folk-tale, Mr. Campbell's _Highland Tales_, Kennedy's
_Fireside Stories of Ireland_, and those English tales which have been
rescued by Mr. Clodd and others. This makes it impossible to see in
the hero-legends naught else than the intangible realm of Celtic gods
and goddesses.

Equally impossible is it to create for them a home in a system of
"state religion," and yet a state religion is a necessary part of the
evidence for mythological origins.[152] There was no Celtic state.
Emphatically this was so. Everything we know about the Celts of
Britain, both before and after the Roman conquest, both in Britain,
where the Roman power was upheld for four centuries, and in Ireland,
where the Roman power never penetrated, the Celts were possessed of a
tribal, not a state polity; lived in tribal strongholds, not in Celtic
cities; occupied tribal territories, not countries formed into states;
elected tribal chiefs in primitive fashion, and not kings with state
ceremonial; and when they come under the dominion of an incipient
state policy after the conquest of the English and the Northmen, their
laws are promulgated and codified, and show that both Welsh and Irish
codes are tribal, not state law.

Not only do I fail to discover a state religion of the Celts, but I do
not find it among the Teutons. There is greater evidence of
discrepancies than of agreement in all the European religions, but
these have not been dwelt upon by scholars. Professor York Powell, in
one of his illuminating studies on Teutonic heathendom, is the only
authority I know of who argues against the idea of a systematised
religion. "It is important that we should at once throw aside the idea
that there was any _system_, any organized pantheon in the religion of
these peoples. Their tribes were small and isolated, and each had its
own peculiar gods and observances, although the mould of each faith
was somewhat similar. Hence there were varieties of religious customs
among the Goths, Swedes, Saxons, and Angles."[153]


Now if there was no state there could be no state religion. What
existed of worship and religion was tribal. These are the historical
facts, which have been neglected by students of myth and saga. I
shall have to point out in greater detail presently what these tribal
conditions mean to studies in folklore, but the word of warning and
protest must come here, for it is unconsciously the conception of a
Celtic state religion which gives even the semblance of possibility
for Celtic mythology to be found in every hero-legend. It is, in
short, the neglect of this among other historical facts which has led
the folklorist into error of a somewhat magnificent kind. He attempts
to create out of the myths of a people a mythology which provides gods
to be worshipped, faiths to be organised, and beliefs to be the
standards of life and conduct. Thus, as I have pointed out
elsewhere,[154] Sir John Rhys has, in his acute identification of the
worship of the water-god Lud on the Thames and of Nod on the
Severn,[155] introduced the idea of a great Celtic worship established
on these two great rivers as parts of a definite system of Celtic
religion, whereas examination proves that the parallel faiths of two
perfectly distinct Celtic tribes, the Silures on the Severn and the
Trinovantes on the Thames, were welded into a common worship of the
god of the waters by the masters of Celtic Britain, the Romans. There
was no Celtic organisation which commanded both Severn and Thames
until the Romans occupied the country, and occupying the country they
adopted into their own religion the native gods and, fortunately for
us, recorded their adoption in the pavements of their houses or their

Mr. A. B. Cook goes much further than Sir John Rhys. He attempts to
dig out the European sky-god from all sorts of queer places, all sorts
of forgotten records, thereby producing a wealth of folklore parallels
for which every student must be profoundly thankful. But he does not
make it anywhere clear that this universal god was gloriously apparent
to his worshippers. There is no established connection between the
sky-god and those who worshipped the sky-god, and we seek in vain
amidst all the brilliant researches, which have been held to produce
evidence of the sky-god, for evidence that he was worshipped by the
Aryan-speaking Celt and Teuton. In point of fact, we never get at the
worshippers at all. There is the assumption of a state mythology
without any evidence for the existence of the state.

In place of this obvious necessity we get an immense abstraction,
worked out with all the subtle ingenuity and learning of the Cambridge
professor. Mr. Cook has, in fact, used the materials he has collected
with such amazing care to project therefrom just those mythological
conceptions which Celt and Teuton would have worked out for themselves
if they, like the Hindu and the Greek, had developed the state while
they were still free to develop their own native beliefs. This they
never did, and so their fire worship did not advance beyond its early
stages. It was separated from nature worship to become the servant of
the European tribes. It helped them to develop tribal and family
institutions. It produced for them a tribal and family worship. It did
not get beyond this, because Roman institutions and Christianity stood
in the way and prevented tribal fire worship from becoming
anthropomorphised into a mythology. This need not cause us to doubt
that the analogies claimed by these scholars are true analogies. There
were among the Celtic peoples, as among other branches of the race to
which Celt, Greek, Teuton, Scandinavian, and Hindu belonged, the
incipient elements which would go to make up a national or state
mythology, when the nation or the state emerged, as it did emerge in
the case of Greece and of Rome, from its tribal originals. But the
Celtic state did not emerge from tribalism in Britain; the Celtic
heroes were always tribal heroes. They were, as Hereward and Arthur
were, real human flesh and blood, fighting and raiding and loving and
feasting in their tribal fashion as the later heroes did in their
national fashion; because of their success as tribal heroes they had
attached to them the tribal myths; because they died as nobly as
Cuchulain died they left imperishable records among those for whom
they died. They were more than gods to the Celtic tribesman--they were

The false conception of a state religion before there was a state,
appears in other studies not primarily based upon folklore research,
and not having in view anthropological results. It is the basis of the
remarkable researches of Sir Norman Lockyer as to the astrological and
solar origin of Stonehenge and other circles, and in his chapter which
deals with the question, "Where did the British worship originate?" he
finds himself bound to the theory of a borrowed civilisation which
established the solar system.[157] This borrowed civilisation is
Egyptian, but it is too much to ask mythology to supply not only a
complete system of belief but a civilisation which belongs to it. What
is needed is independent evidence of the civilisation. Without such
independent evidence it is impossible to accept the deduction drawn
only from one sphere of information.

The error of transferring to the domain of mythology events and
occurrences which belong to history, is followed by an error of
another sort, namely, the transferring to some general department of
human belief the particular beliefs of a people, or of tribes of
people. It is wrong to continue to label particular cults as nature
myths, when they have already been transferred from that position to a
more definite position among the beliefs of a people. Thus even so
good a scholar as Mr. A. B. Cook, rightly interpreting Greek evidence
of the hill-top fires and of the house fire, yet denies to the exactly
corresponding Irish evidence the same interpretation, and argues that
"the ritual of Samain, at which all the hearths in Ireland were
supplied with fresh fire from a common centre at Tlachtga [is] almost
certainly solar," and that "we shall not be far wrong if we suppose
that the solar fires of Beltaine were the ritual of the sky god
connected with the Ash of Uisnech."[158] Mr. Frazer, too, has
interpreted these bonfires as mainly sun charms, and he sees in the
Balder myth, and in the peasant customs all over Europe, which he
asserts illustrate this myth, an ancient ritual which originally
marked the beginning of the new year, when the tree spirit, or spirit
of vegetation, was burned, the special reasons why the deity of
vegetation should die by fire being that as "light and heat are
necessary to vegetable growth, on the principle of sympathetic magic,
by subjecting the personal representative of vegetation to their
influence you secure a supply of these necessaries for trees and
crops."[159] Mr. Frazer goes far afield for evidence. He does not see
that the fire ceremonies which he collects from all Europe have a
specialised significance, even in their last stages of existence as
survivals, which is not found among the Incas, the African tribes, the
hill tribes of India, and the Chinese, whom he cites as providing the
required parallels. Parallel practices are not necessarily evidence of
parallels in culture, and it is the failure to locate properly the
several examples in relationship to each other which produces a loose
and inadequate conception of the relics of fire worship in European
countries, and the refusal to recognise its special place as the cult
of a tribal people.[160] Another example of this fundamental error
takes us in the very opposite direction to that of Dr. Frazer. Thus
Dr. Gummere, in a recent study dealing with Germanic origins,[161]
sees nothing in the fire cult of the Indo-European people but a
branch, and apparently an undeveloped branch, of general nature
worship, not specially Germanic or Indo-European, not specialised by
the tribes and clans of these people into a cult far more closely
connected with their doings and their life than mere participation in
the general primitive nature worship could have afforded.

The danger of searching for a general system of belief and worship
from the beliefs and rites of peoples not ethnically, geographically,
or politically connected is very great, and I venture to think that
even Mr. Frazer's remarkable researches into the agricultural rites of
European peoples do not take count of one important consideration. I
think his constructive hypothesis is too complex in process and too
systematic in form to have been the actual living faith of the varied
paganism of the European peoples. It would have meant as organised an
institution as the Christian Church itself, and of this there is no
evidence whatever. It would have meant an exclusive agricultural
ceremony, and of this there is strong evidence to the contrary. It
would have meant a deep system of philosophy, penetrating from the
highest to the lowest of the people, and of this there is no evidence.
The plain fact is that the historical conditions have been altogether
left out of consideration in these matters, and we consequently do not
get a complete study. We get the advocate's position. The case for the
mythological interpretation of folklore has been put with full
strength, but it is not the entire case.


This short survey of the relationship of tradition to history would
not answer its purpose if we did not consider the complementary
position which history bears to tradition. This may best be done by
reference to the period before that occupied by contemporary native
record. The history here alluded to is, properly speaking, only
derived from one source, namely, the works of foreign or outside
authorities. It is written by observers from a civilised country,
travelling among the more primitive peoples of another land, and the
Greek and Latin authors who relate particulars of early Britain were
of this class. Their narratives have to be compared with the
traditions written down as history by professed historians, who lived
long after the events happened to which the traditions are said to
relate, but who recorded the traditions of the people preserved in the
monasteries by devotees who were of the people, or by the songs and
rhymes which, as Henry of Huntingdon states explicitly, were used for
the purpose.

Both the observations of the foreign historians and travellers and the
recorded traditions from native sources have been treated with scant
courtesy whenever they cannot be explained according to the views of
each particular inquirer into the period to which they refer. They
have been alternatively the subject of dispute or neglect by students
for a long series of years. They consist of items which do not fit in
with Celtic or Teutonic institutions as we know them from other and
more detailed sources. They offend against the national pride because
they tell of a condition of savagery. They do not appeal to the
historian, because the historian knows little and cares nothing at all
about the condition of savagery. If, therefore, they are not rejected
as true history, they are purposely neglected. They are in any event
never taken into consideration by the right method, and they stand
over for examination by any one who will take the trouble to deal with
them by the light and test of modern research.

It is not my purpose to deal with these matters now, but it is
advisable that we should try to understand two things--first, how they
have been dealt with by the historian; secondly, their true place in

The Greek and Latin authors who have stated of peoples living in
Britain many characteristics which do not belong to civilisation or
even to the borders of civilisation, range from Pytheas the Greek in
the middle of the fourth century before our era down to the Latin
poets of the early fifth century anno Domini. They all refer to the
British savage. He is cannibalistic, incestuous, naked, possesses his
wives in common, lives on wild fruits and not cultivated cereals,
indulges in head-hunting, has no settled living-place which can be
called a house, and generally betrays the characteristics of pure
savagery.[162] Altogether there is a fairly substantial range of
material for the formation of a reasonable conception of the condition
of savagery in Britain.


We need not dwell long upon the earlier of our historians who have
neglected or contested the statements of the authorities they use.
They hardly possessed the material for scientific treatment, and
personal predilections were the governing factors of any opinion which
is expressed. John Milton, in his brave attempt to tell the story of
early England, does not so much as allude to these disagreeable
points. Hume disdainfully passes by the whole subject and practically
begins with the Norman conquest. Lappenberg says of the group marriage
of the Britons that it "is probably a mere Roman fable."[163] Innes
accepts the views of the classical authorities and argues from them in
his own peculiar way,[164] but Sullivan will have it that the
materials afforded from classical sources are worthless: "they consist
of mere hearsay reports without any sure foundation, and in many cases
not in harmony with the results of modern linguistic and archæological
investigations."[165] Neither Turner nor Palgrave has any doubt as to
the authority of these early accounts,[166] and Dr. Giles accepts the
accounts which he so usefully collected from the original

The modern historian cannot, however, be so incidentally treated. He
lives in the age of the comparative sciences and of anthropological
research. He sometimes uses, though in a half-hearted and incomplete
fashion, the results of inquirers in these fields of research, but he
nowhere deals with the problem fully. His sins are not general, but
special. He agrees with one statement of his original authority and
disagrees with another, and we are left with a chaos of opinion
founded upon no accepted principle. If the earlier historians accepted
or rejected historical records without much reason for either course,
the later historians have no right to follow them. The terms "savage"
and "barbarian," indulged in by the Greek and Roman writers, cannot be
rejected by modern authorities simply because they are too harsh. They
cannot be considered merely in the nature of accusations against the
standing and position of our ancestors, made by advocates anxious to
blacken the national character. Even scholars like Mr. Skene, Mr.
Elton, and Sir John Rhys, though inclined to weigh these passages by
the light of ethnographic research, throw something like doubt upon
the exact extent to which they may be taken as evidence. Mr. Elton,
though admitting that the early "romances of travel" afford some
evidence as to the habits of our barbarian ancestors, cannot quite get
as far in his belief as to think that the account of "the Irish tribes
who thought it right to devour their parents" is much more than a
traveller's tale.[168] Sir John Rhys is not quite sure that the
account by Cæsar of the communal marriages of the British is "not a
passage from some Greek book of imaginary travels among imaginary
barbarians which Cæsar had in his mind,"[169] though he notes
elsewhere that "the vocabulary of the Celts will be searched in vain
for a word for son or daughter as distinguished from boy or girl" as a
fact of no little negative importance in relation to Cæsar's "ugly
account;"[170] and he has similar doubts to express, noteworthy among
them being the passage from Pliny which illustrates the Godiva
story.[171] Mr. Skene lays stress upon the fact that Tacitus "neither
alludes to the practice of their staining their bodies with woad nor
to the supposed community of women among them;" and he offers some
kind of excuse for the Roman evidence as to the tattooing with
representations of animals,[172] evidence which Sir John Rhys, too, is
chary of accepting in its full sense. Mr. Pearson reluctantly accepts
Cæsar's account of the group marriage and the human sacrifice of the
Druids, but he ignores all else, including the attested cannibalism of
the Atticotti, though he mentions that tribe in another
connection.[173] Sir James Ramsay agrees that the Britons tattooed
their bodies with woad, recognises the fact that their matrimonial
customs were polyandric, and that brother-and-sister marriage
obtained, and generally accepts the prevalent ideas as to Celtic
Druidism with its sacrificial rites and the system of "state worship."
He rests his views for much of this upon the anthropological evidence
in support of it.[174] Mr. Lang on behalf of Scotland, and Dr. Joyce
on behalf of Ireland, have their say on the evidence. Mr. Lang seems
to accept Cæsar's evidence "if correctly reported," throws doubts upon
the ethnological value of such customs, and declares roundly that to
found theories upon such evidence as archæology provides "is the
province of another science, not of history."[175] Dr. Joyce says that
in early Greek and Roman writers there is not much reliable
information about Ireland, though he believes them when they talk of
students from Britain residing in Ireland and of books existing in
Ireland in the fourth century.[176]

This meagre result from the historians seems to me to be most
unfortunate. Even when the testimony of early writers is accepted, it
is accepted without the necessary filling in which such an acceptance
warrants. Bare acceptance does not tell us much. Each recorded fact
has a relationship to surrounding facts, should lead us to associated
facts which, escaping observation by early writers, can nevertheless
be restored. In history they are isolated and unconnected, because of
the faults of the historian who records them. Anthropologically they
belong to a wider grouping, reveal a connection with each other which
is otherwise unsuspected, and prepare themselves for treatment on a
larger platform. The historian has used them for the unprofitable
controversy ranging round the question of early Celtic civilisation,
whereas they clearly belong to the history of early man, and even the
folklorist does not disdain to cast them on one side when they do not
suit his purpose.[177]

It is still more unfortunate that Sir Henry Maine should have sought
to enhance the value of his Indian evidence by contrasting it with
what he calls "the slippery testimony concerning savages which is
gathered from travellers' tales,"[178] and that Mr. Herbert Spencer
should have replied to this in an angry note, declaring that he was
aware "that in the eyes of most, antiquity gives sacredness to
testimony, and that so what were travellers' tales when they were
written in Roman days have come in our days to be regarded as of
higher authority than like tales written by recent or living
travellers."[179] The scorn passed upon "travellers' tales," the
application of the term "romance" to the early descriptions of
voyages, have done the same amount of mischief to these early chapters
of history as the constant disbelief in the value of tradition has
done to the testimony of folklore.

Now I do not recall these controversies, or lay stress upon what
appear to me to be the shortcomings of the historian and folklorist in
their relationship to each other, for the purpose of reawakening old
antagonisms. I have merely selected a few illustrations of the present
position of the subject in order that it may be seen how essential it
is to proceed on other lines. All the items which have formed the
subject of dispute, together with others which have escaped
attention--items which have found their way into history by accident,
which are by nature fragmentary and isolated, which do not connect up
with anything that is distinctively Celtic or Teutonic, and which do
not apparently fit in with any standard common to themselves--must
command attention if only because they alone cannot be cut out of
history when items standing side by side with them are allowed to
remain, and in the end it can, I think, be shown that they command
attention because of their inherent value.

The method of investigation as to the importance and significance of
these earliest historical records must be anthropological. They are in
point of fact so much anthropological data relating to Britain. It is
no use calling them history, and then defining that history as bad
history simply because as history the recorded facts do not appear to
be credible. As a matter of fact they belong to the prehistory period
of Britain, and to test their value scientific methods are required.

In the first place, anthropology shows that there is no _primâ facie_
necessity for calling them Celtic, thus identifying them with that
portion of our ancestry which is Celtic in race; for there is evidence
of a non-Celtic race existing in prehistoric times, and existing down
to within historic times, if not to modern times. Mr. Willis Bund has
recently summarised the evidence from archæology, philology, and
tradition as it appears in a particularly valuable local study of
ancient Cardiganshire, stating it "to be agreed that there was more
than one race of early inhabitants, and two of the sources say that
there was an original race and at least two distinct races of
invaders," and further, "that whoever the original inhabitants were
they were not Celts."[180] These original inhabitants, who were not
Celts, have left their remains in the barrows and megalithic monuments
which still exist in various parts of the country, and anthropologists
show that they have not entirely disappeared from among the race
distinctions observable among the people of these islands. If it is
possible to proceed from this to another stage, and to show from the
British evidence what Mr. Risley has so well illustrated from the
Indian evidence, namely, that gradations of race types as shown by
anthropometrical indices correspond with gradations of social
precedence and social organisation,[181] it may yet be possible to
prove that the people who were not Celts were the people with whom
originated those recorded customs and beliefs which are rejected as
too savage for the Celt. Unfortunately, we know nothing about them,
except the isolated scraps which are to be picked up from the early
historians. This compels us to turn to other sources of information,
and when we do this we find that British folklore preserves in
traditional custom, rite, belief, and folk-tale, parallels to each and
every item of savagery mentioned by the early historians of Britain;
and further, that anthropology shows clearly enough that among the
customs and beliefs of primitive races there are to be found parallels
to every item of custom and belief recorded of early Britain. This
gets rid of one of our greatest difficulties, and disposes of Dr.
Sullivan's unwarranted assertion to the contrary (_ante_, p. 113). The
recorded customs and beliefs of early Britain are proved by this means
not to be impossible or improbable factors in the elements of the
British prehistoric race. It will not be possible to term them
inventions of romance or of false testimony, simply on the ground that
they are not found elsewhere. On the contrary it will, I think, be
difficult to resist the conclusion that inventions such as these,
covering a wide and ascertained area of sociological and early
religious development, could hardly have been made by historians
having the limited range of knowledge possessed by the native and
classical writers who are responsible for the facts. It is an easy,
but not a satisfactory method of criticism to declare what is not to
one's liking to be invention and romance, and it has until late years
been difficult to combat such an argument. The battle has raged round
wordy disputes, the merits of which are governed by the abilities of
the respective disputants; that this is no longer possible is due to
the fact that there have entered into the fray the methods and results
of folklore which prevent the terms invention and romance from being
applied, except where there is good independent reason for their use.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have now dealt with all the points which appear to be necessary in
order to show the inherent relationship of folklore to history, and I
have shown causes for resisting the claims of mythology to appropriate
what it chooses of folklore, and then to reject all the rest from
consideration. I have dealt (1) with examples of local traditions and
hero-traditions, in their relation to history and historical
conditions; (2) with the folk-tale in its retention of details of
early historic conditions, and of the picture of early tribal
organisation, and in that its structure is based upon the events of
savage social conceptions; (3) with the early laws and rules of tribal
society preserved by tradition and accepted in historical times; (4)
with the claims of mythology to interpret the meaning of folk-tales,
and the reasons for rejecting this claim; and (5) with the treatment
by historians of statements by classical writers as to the condition
of the peoples inhabiting Britain before the dawn of civilisation. I
think it will be admitted that, without pretending in any way to have
exhausted the evidence, or even to have thoroughly comprehended and
satisfactorily stated it under each of these heads, a very
considerable claim has been made out for the historical value of
folklore. If so much has been gained it will rest with folklorists to
pursue investigations on these lines, and it will remain with the
historian to consider the results wherever his research leads him into
domains where the evidence of folklore is obtainable.

It will be seen that the problems which the two sciences, history and
folklore, have to solve in conjunction are not a few and that they are
extremely complex. They cannot be solved if history and folklore are
separated; they may be solved if the professors in each work together,
both recognising what there is of value in the other. History in its
earliest stages is either entirely dependent upon foreign
authorities, or it has to follow the practice of the earlier and
unscientific historian and to deny that there is any history, or at
all events any history worth recording, before the advent, perhaps the
accidental advent, of an historian on native ground. History in its
later stages is dependent upon the personal tastes or ability of each
historian for the record of events and facts. Folklore in its earliest
stages has brought down from the most ancient times memories of
ancient polity, faith, custom, rite, and thought. In its later stages
it has preserved custom, rite, and belief amid the attacks of the
progressive civilisation which has been developed, and it has clothed
heroes of later times with the well-worn trappings of those of old.
Combined history and folklore can restore much of the picture of early
times, and can work through the fulness of later times with some
degree of success. There is needed for this work, however, a clear
conception of the position properly held by both sciences, together
with established rules of research. This is more particularly needed
in the department of folklore. I do not pretend to be able to
formulate these rules. In the subjects dealt with in this chapter I
have indicated a few of the points which must be raised, and my object
will be in the remaining chapters to set forth some of the conditions
which it appears to me necessary to consider in connection with the
problems with which folklore is concerned as one of the historical


[1] Mr. Kemble gives an important illustration of this proposition in
his _Saxons in England_, i. 331.

[2] I would refer the reader to Prof. York Powell's brilliant lecture
on "A Survey of Modern History," printed in his biography by Mr. Oliver
Elton, ii. 1-13, for an admirable summary of this view.

[3] _View of the State of Ireland_, 1595, p. 478.

[4] Asser's _Life of Alfred_, by W. H. Stevenson, 262.

[5] It is not worth while unduly emphasising this point, but the
peculiar habit of classing fictional literature as folklore and
thereupon condemning the value of tradition is very prevalent. Mr.
Nutt, in dealing with the Troy stories in British history, adopts this
method, and denies the existence of historic tradition on the strength
of it, _Folklore_, xii. 336-9.

[6] This expression was recently allowed in our old friend _Notes and
Queries_ in a singularly unsuitable case, 10th ser. vii. 344.

[7] I am not sure this is always the fault of those who are not
folklorists. I recently came across a dictum of one of the most
distinguished folklorists, Mr. Andrew Lang, which is certainly much in
the same direction. "As a rule tradition is the noxious ivy that creeps
about historical truth, and needs to be stripped off with a ruthless
hand. Tradition is a collection of venerable and romantic blunders. But
a tradition which clings to a permanent object in the landscape, a tall
stone, a grassy, artificial tumulus, or even an old tree, may be
unexpectedly correct."--_Morning Post_, 2 November, 1906.

[8] It is worth while referring to Mr. MacRitchie's article in _Trans.
International Folklore Congress_ on the historical aspect of Folklore;
but Professor York Powell has said the strongest word in its favour in
his all too short address as President of the Folklore Society, see
_Folklore_, xv. 12-23.

[9] Chapter xi. of Tylor's _Early History of Mankind_.

[10] Spenser, _View of the State of Ireland_, 1595 (Morley reprint),

[11] Perhaps the most remarkable testimony to the foundation of the
folk-tale and ballad in the events of history is to be found in a
statement made to the _Tribune_, 14 September, 1906, by Mr. Mitra, once
proprietor and editor of the _Deccan Post_, with regard to the
agitation against the partition of Bengal into two provinces. Mr. Mitra
deliberately states that "the best test of finding out Hindu feeling
towards the British Government is to see whether there are any ballads
or nursery rhymes in the Bengali language against the British. You can
have it from me, and I challenge contradiction, that there is no single
ballad or nursery rhyme in the Bengali language which is against the
British." This is where the soul of the people speaks out.

[12] It is printed, and I have used this print, in Blomefield's
_History of Norfolk_ (1769), iii. 506, from which source I quote the
facts concerning it. Sir William Dugdale's account goes on to connect
it with a monument in the church, but this part of the local version is
to be considered presently.

[13] See the _Diary_ printed by the Surtees Society, p. 220.

[14] The legend was also printed in that popular folk-book, _New Help
to Discourse_, so often printed between 1619 and 1656, and Mr. Axon
transcribed this version for the _Antiquary_, xi. 167-168; and see my
notes in _Gent. Mag. Lib. English Traditions_, 332-336.

[15] I happen to possess the original cutting of this version preserved
among my great-grandfather's papers.

[16] These words are, "I am not a Bigot in Dreams, yet I cannot help
acknowledging the Relation of the above made a strong Impression on

[17] _Leeds Mercury_, January 3rd, 1885, communicated by Mr. Wm.
Grainge of Harrogate.

[18] Mr. Axon says it is current in Lancashire and in Cornwall,
_Antiquary_, xi. 168; Sir John Rhys gives two Welsh versions in his
_Celtic Folklore_, ii. 458-462, 464-466; a Yorkshire version in ballad
form is to be found in Castillo's _Poems in the North Yorkshire
Dialect_ (1878), under the title of "T' Lealholm Chap's lucky dreeam,"
_Antiquary_, xii. 121; an Ayrshire variant relates to the building of
Dundonald Castle, and is given in Chambers's _Pop. Rhymes of Scotland_,

[19] Blomefield, _Hist. of Norfolk_, iii. 507, suggests that the animal
carving represents a bear. There is nothing to confirm this and readers
may judge for themselves by reference to the illustrations, which are
from photographs taken in Swaffham Church.

[20] I discussed the details in the _Antiquary_, vol. x. pp. 202-205.

[21] This story was communicated by "W.F." to the _St. James's
Gazette_, March 15th, 1888. Its continuation, in order to point a
moral, does not belong to the real story, which is contained in the
part I have quoted.

[22] _Saga Library_, _Heimskringla_, iii. 126.

[23] These have been collected and commented upon with his usual
learning and research, by Mr. Hartland in the _Antiquary_, xv. 45-48.
Blomefield, in his _History of Norfolk_, iii. 507, points out that the
same story is found in Johannes Fungerus' _Etymologicon Latino-Græcum_,
pp. 1110-1111, though it is here narrated of a man at Dort in Holland,
and in _Histoires admirables de nostre temps_, par Simon Goulart,
Geneva, 1614, iii. p. 366. Professor Cowell, in the third volume of the
_Cambridge Antiquarian Society Transactions_, p. 320, has printed a
remarkable parallel of the story which is to be found in the great
Persian metaphysical and religious poem called the Masnavi, written by
Jaláluddin, who died about 1260. J. Grimm discussed these
treasure-on-the-bridge stories in _Kleinere Schriften_, iii. 414-428,
and did not attach much value to them.

[24] It is not unimportant in this connection to find that London
itself assumes an exceptional place in tradition. Mr. Frazer notes a
German legend about London, _Golden Bough_ (2nd ed.), iii. 235;
Pausanias, v. 292. Mr. Dale has drawn attention to the Anglo-Saxon
attitude towards Roman buildings in his _National Life in Early English
Literature_, 35.

[25] See _Archæologia_, xxv. 600; xxix. 147; xl. 54; _Arch. Journ._, i.

[26] I have worked this point out in my _Governance of London_.

[27] Bishop Kennett, quoted in _Notes and Queries_, fourth series, ix.

[28] Mommsen's account of the Pontifex Maximus should be consulted,
_Hist. Rome_, i. 178; and _cf._ Fowler, _Roman Festivals_, 114, 147,

[29] Mrs. Gomme, _Traditional Games_, i. 347.

[30] Bingley, _North Wales_, 1814, p. 252.

[31] See my _Folklore Relics of Early Village Life_, 29; Tylor,
_Primitive Culture_, i. 97. This case was reported in the newspapers at
the time of its occurrence. It came to England from the _London and
China Telegraph_, from which the _Newcastle Chronicle_, 9 February,
1889, copied the following statement:--

"The boatmen on the Ganges, near Rajmenal, somehow came to believe that
the Government required a hundred thousand human heads as the
foundation for a great bridge, and that the Government officers were
going about the river in search of heads. A hunting party, consisting
of four Europeans, happening to pass in a boat, were set upon by the
one hundred and twenty boatmen, with the cry 'Gulla Katta,' or
cut-throats, and only escaped with their lives after the greatest

[32] I have worked out this fact in my _Governance of London_, 46-68,

[33] See Turner, _Hist. of Anglo-Saxons_, ii. 207-222; _Y Cymmrodor_,
xi. 61-101.

[34] A passage in William of Malmesbury points to the fact of the
Bretons in the time of Athelstan looking upon themselves as exiles
from the land of their fathers. Radhod, a prefect of the church at
Avranches, writes to King Athelstan as "Rex gloriose exultator
ecclesiæ ... deprecamur atque humiliter invocamus qui in exulatu et
captivitate nostris meritis et peccatis, in Francia commoramur" etc.,
_De Gestis Regum Anglorum_ (Rolls Ed.), i. 154.

[35] Rhys, _Celtic Folklore_, ii. 466. Sir John Rhys acknowledges his
indebtedness to me for lending him my Swaffham notes, but at that time
I had not formed the views stated above and Sir John Rhys confessed his
difficulty in classifying and characterising these stories (p. 456).

[36] In the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, anno 418, and in _Ethelward's
Chronicle_, A.D. 418, it is recorded that "those of the Roman race who
were left in Britain bury their treasures in pits, thinking that
hereafter they might have better fortune, which never was the case."

[37] Buried treasure legends are worth examining carefully, especially
with reference to their geographical distribution, with a view of
ascertaining how far they follow the direction of the Roman, English,
Danish and Norman Conquests. See Henderson, _Folklore of Northern
Counties_, 320, for Yorkshire examples, and _Folklore Record_, i. 16,
for an interesting Sussex example.

The Danish part of Lincoln, near Sleaford, has numerous treasure
legends, see Rev. G. Oliver, _Existing Remains of Ancient Britons
between Lincoln and Sleaford_, pp. 29 _et seq._

Mr. W. J. Andrew has proved in the _British Numismatic Journal_ (1st
ser. i. 9-59) that traditions of buried treasure may be verified a
thousand years after the laying down of the hoard. This has reference
to the famous Cuerdale find of coins. The people of Walton-le-Dale, on
the Ribble, had a legend that if you stood on a certain headland and
looked up the valley to Ribchester "you would gaze over the greatest
treasure that England had ever seen." The farmers tried excavations,
and the divining rod is said to have been used.

The tradition was true. In May, 1840, the hoard was accidentally found,
near Cuerdale Hall, within forty yards of the stream, by men who were
repairing the southern bank. A willow tree, still in its prime, was
planted to mark the spot. We do not know how much bullion was scattered
by the finders, but there was recovered a mass of ingots, armlets,
chains, rings, and so on, amounting to 1000 oz., with over 7000 silver
coins. They lay in a crumbling leaden case, within a decomposed chest
of wood. There were about 1060 English silver coins, whereof 919 were
of the reign of King Alfred. There were 2020 from Northumbrian
ecclesiastical mints, and 2534 of King Canute, with 1047 foreign coins,
mainly French. The treasure had belonged to the Scandinavian invaders
in the host of the Danish Kings of Northumbria, and very many bore the
mark of York, the Danish capital. The chest was the treasure-chest of
the Danes. The money had been seized in England, 890-897; on French
coasts, 897-910; and collected among the Danes of Northumbria about
911. In that year, we know, the Danes raided Mercia, and were followed
by the English King and thoroughly defeated. Their treasurer, Osberth,
was killed, and it is argued that the Danes fell back by the Roman
road, and were trying to cross into Northumbria by the ford at
Cuerdale, but that, the ford being dangerous, they were obliged to bury
their treasure-chest forty yards on the southern bank of the river.
They were unable to cross, were cooped up in a bend of the stream, and
were all put to the sword. Mr. Lang discussed this from the folklore
point of view in the _Morning Post_, 2nd November, 1906, and concludes
that "granting that none who knew the site of the deposit escaped, the
theory marches well, and quite accounts for the presence of the hoard
where it was found. The Danish rearguard defending the line of the
Darwen would know that their treasure was hurried forward and probably
concealed, but would not know the exact spot."

Another good example is recorded in the _Antiquary_, xiv. 228. Further
Henderson notes that the Borderers of England and Scotland entrusted
their buried treasure to the brownie (_Folklore of Northern Counties_,
248). This is exactly the same idea which exists throughout India.
"Hidden treasures are under the special guardianship of supernatural
beings. The Singhalese, however, divide the charge between demons and
cobra capellas. Various charms are resorted to by those who wish to
gain the treasures. A pujâ is sufficient with the cobras, but the
demons require a sacrifice. Blood of a human being is the most
important, but the Kappowas have hitherto confined themselves to a
sacrifice of a white cock, combining its blood with their own, drawn by
a slight puncture in the hand or foot. A Tamil, however, has resorted
to human sacrifice as instanced by a case reported in the _Ceylon
Times_."--_Indian Antiquary_, 1873. ii. p. 125.

[38] Morris, _Heimskringla_, ii. 13.

[39] Laing's _Heimskringla_, ii. 260.

[40] Rhys, _The Arthurian Legend_, 7. Squire, in his recent _Mythology
of the British Islands_, states the case for "the mythological coming
of Arthur" in cap. xxi. of his book.

[41] As, for instance, in the case of Taliesin and Ossian, see Squire,
_Mythology of the British Islands_, 318; Rhys, _Celtic Mythology_, 551;
Nutt's Notes to _Mabinogion_.

I suppose the most ancient example of the duplication process is that
of Dion Cassius (iii. 5), who suggests an earlier Romulus and Remus in
order to account for the early occupation of the Palatine Hill at Rome.
Middleton's _Anc. Rome_, 45.

[42] It is interesting to find that, with independent investigation,
Mr. Bury explains on the lines I adopt the traditional part of the life
of St. Patrick. See his _Life of St. Patrick_, p. 111.

[43] Freeman, _Hist. Norm. Conq._, iv. 467.

[44] Wright, _Essays_, i. 244, notes this point; see also Freeman,
_Hist. Norm. Conq._, iv. 828, and the preface to my edition of
Macfarlane's _Camp of Refuge_ (Historical Novels Series), where I have
discussed this subject at length.

[45] _Journ. Anthrop. Inst._, iii. 52.

[46] Russell, _Kett's Rebellion_, p. 6.

[47] Kemble's _Horæ Ferales_, 108.

[48] Perhaps the most interesting example in a minor way comes from
Shrewsbury. In the Abbey Church, forming part of a font, is the upper
stone of a cross (supposed to have been the Weeping Cross) which was
discovered at St. Giles's churchyard. It had been immemorially fixed in
the ditch bank, and all traces of its origin were quite lost, except
that an old lady, who was born in 1724, remembered having seen in her
youth, persons kneeling before this stone and praying. The transmission
of the tradition through very nearly three centuries proved correct,
for on its being loosened by the frosts of a severe winter, it fell,
and its religious distinction became immediately apparent from the
sculpture with which it was adorned.--_Eddowes' Shrewsbury Journal_,
5th October, 1889.

[49] _Gent. Mag. Lib. Popular Superstitions_, 121. The importance of
this tradition may be tested by reference to my book on the _Governance
of London_, 96-98.

[50] _Archæologia_, xxvi. 369-370. One could give many additional
examples from all parts of the country, and undoubtedly they are worth
collecting. I cannot refrain from quoting the following, as it is from
an out-of-the-way source. At Seagry, in Wilts, is an ancient farm, one
field of which was known as "Peter's Orchard." The author of a local
history records the following: "It has been handed down from generation
to generation that in a field on this farm a church was built on the
site of an ancient heathen burial ground. In order to test the accuracy
of this tradition, in the autumn of 1882 I had excavations made on the
spot, which I will now describe. The field contains about ten acres,
and presents a very singular appearance. In removing the sods, about
two feet from the surface we discovered extensive stone foundations,
extending for a considerable distance over the field. From the charred
appearance of the stones they had evidently suffered from fire, thus
supporting the tradition of some of the oldest inhabitants that the
ancient church had been destroyed by fire. On continuing the search we
found, about two feet below these foundations, a quantity of early
British pottery, the remains of broken urns, some charred bones, and
heads of small spears. The following is an extract from a letter which
I have received from a gentleman, whose family have been connected with
this parish for over two hundred years, and who has given me great
assistance. He says: My father was born at Startley in 1784, and
remained there until about 1840. Both he and my grandfather were deeply
imbued with old folklore. I well remember them constantly speaking of
the firm belief handed down to them of the heathen burial places at
Seagry, and of the supposed ruins of a church and some religious house
at Seagry. I think the discoveries made (on the very spot mentioned by
tradition) in August, 1882, are abundant proof that after the lapse of
more than nine centuries actual verification of the carefully
transmitted tradition has at last been found."--_Bath Herald_, 1st
September, 1883. If references to other examples were needed I should
like to note Sir William Wilde's illustration as to "how far the
legend, the fairy tale, the local tradition, or the popular
superstition may have been derived from absolute historic
fact."--_Lough Corrib_, 121, 123.

[51] _Echoes from the Counties_ (1880), p. 30.

[52] Grierson, _The Silent Trade_ (1903).

[53] Pearson's _Chances of Death_, ii. 90. The reader should consult
Dr. Pearson's entire study on this subject, chapters ix. and x., which
may be compared with Mr. MacCulloch's _Childhood of Fiction_, 5-15, and
more particularly with Mr. Hartland's _Science of Fairy Tales_.

[54] In 1881 I read a paper before the Folklore Society on "Some
Incidents in the story of the Three Noodles by means of reference to
facts," _Folklore Record_, iv. 211, and in 1883 I published in the
_Antiquary_, two papers on "Notes on Incidents in Folk-tales," based
upon the same idea.

[55] Introduction, p. lxix.

[56] Introduction, p. lxxvii.

[57] Page 12.

[58] _Ibid._, p. 26.

[59] _Ibid._, p. 5.

[60] _Tales of the Highlands_, i. p. 251.

[61] Kennedy, _loc. cit._, p. 77.

[62] _Ibid._, p. 90.

[63] See Beda, _Hist. Ecclesia_, lib. i. cap. 25.

[64] See vol. i. p. 253.

[65] Miss Frere's _Old Deccan Days_, p. 279.

[66] Ælian, _Var. Hist._, lib. xiii. cap. xxxiii.

[67] _Folklore Record_, vol. iv. p. 57.

[68] _Asiatic Researches_, xvii. p. 502.

[69] _Folklore Record_, vol. iii. p. 284.

[70] Campbell's _Popular Tales of the West Highlands_, i. 308.

[71] Joyce, _Old Celtic Romances_, 38, 75, 153, 177, 270. In the _Silva
Gadelica_, by Mr. Standish O'Grady, the assembly is described sitting
in a circle, vol. ii. p. 159, and Tara is also described, vol. ii. 264,
358, 360, 384.

[72] Miss Cox's admirable study and analysis of the Cinderella
group of stories includes the Catskin variants, which number
seventy-seven.--_Cinderella_, pp. 53-79.

[73] _Studies in Ancient History_, p. 62.

[74] Sproat's _Scenes and Studies of Savage Life_, p. 96.

[75] See his _Early Hebrew Life_, p. 85.

[76] Frazer, _Adonis, Attis, and Osiris_, 27-28.

[77] Todd and Herbert, _Irish Version of Nennius_, p. 89.

[78] _Indian Antiq._, iii. 32.

[79] _Laws of Manu_ (Bühler), ix. 127; _Apastamba Gautama_ (Bühler),
xxviii. 18.

[80] Sir Henry Maine in his _Early Law and Custom_, p. 91.

[81] A most remarkable instance of an actual case of running away from
a marriage, resulting in adventures which might easily become folk-tale
adventures if the story were once started on its traditional life, is
to be found in Shooter's _Kafirs of Natal and the Zulu Country_, pp.

[82] _West Highland Tales_, vol. i. p. lxix.

[83] Kennedy's _Fireside Stories of Ireland_, p. 64.

[84] _Old Deccan Days_, p. 52.

[85] _Ibid._, p. 233.

[86] "Standing-place."

[87] _Journ. Ethnol. Soc._, _loc. cit._

[88] _New Statistical Account of Scotland_, xiv. 273.

[89] Ure's _Agriculture of Kinross_, 57.

[90] _Archæologia_, l. 195-214.

[91] Du Chaillu's _Land of the Midnight Sun_, i. 393.

[92] Tupper, _Punjab Customary Law_, ii. 188.

[93] _Cobden Club Essays--Primogeniture._

[94] Morris, _Saga Library_, ii. 194.

[95] _Journ. Ethnol. Soc._, ii. 336.

[96] Elton, _Origins of English History_, 91; _cf._ Du Chaillu, _Land
of the Midnight Sun_, i. 393; Morris's _Sagas_, ii. 194.

[97] Breeks, _Hill Tribes of India_, 108.

[98] Mavor's _Collection of Voyages_, iv. 41.

[99] _Anecdotes and Traditions_ (Camden Soc.), 85.

[100] _Mythologie der Volkssagen und Volksmärchen._

[101] Geiger, _Hist. Sweden_, 31, 32.

[102] Elton, _Origins of English History_, 92.

[103] Aubrey, _Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme_, 14.

[104] Nutt, _Legend of the Holy Grail_, 44.

[105] _Gentleman's Magazine_, 1850, i. 250-252.

[106] _Journ. Ethnol. Soc._, ii. 337.

[107] Elton's _Origins_, 92.

[108] Mr. Jacobs (_Folklore_, i. 405) objected to my interpretation of
this story because--first, the Latin rhyme appearing in the Gaelic
tale, the twelfth-century Latin story and the German inscription "tell
for the origination of the story in one single place in historic
times;" and, secondly, because a Kashmir story (Knowles' _Folk-tales of
Kashmir_, 241), based on the same main incident, omits the minor
incident of the mallet altogether. The answer to the first objection is
that the Latin rhyme has been attached, in historic times, to the
ancient folk-tale; and to the second objection, that the Kashmir story
preserves the main incident of surrender of property upon reaching old
age, and omits the more savage incident of killing, because the Kashmir
people are in a stage of culture which still allowed of the surrender
of property, but, like the Scandinavians, did not allow of the killing
of the aged. Similarly, an English parallel to this form of the variant
is preserved by De la Pryme in his _Diary_ (Surtees Society), 162. It
must be remembered that the Kashmiris occupy a land which is referred
to by Herodotos (iii. 99-105) as in the possession of people who killed
their aged (_cf._ Latham, _Ethnology of India_, 199); and if my reading
of the evidence is correct, this is also the case of the Highland

[109] Dr. Pearson advocates statistical methods in his _Chances of
Death_, ii. 58, 75-77, and shows by examples the value of them.

[110] MacCulloch, _Childhood of Fiction_: "Some of the things which in
these old-world stories form their fascination, have had their origin
in sordid fact and reality" (p. vii).

[111] Bühler, _Laws of Manu_, i.: "In Vedic mythology Manu is the heros
eponymos of the human race and by his nature belongs both to gods and
to men" (p. 57). _Cf._ Burnell and Hopkins, _Ordinances of Manu_, p.

[112] _Early Law and Custom_, 5.

[113] Pausanias, iii. 2(4).

[114] Maine, _Ancient Law_, 4; Grote, _Hist. of Greece_, iii. 101.

[115] Ortolan, _Hist. Roman Law_, 50; Maine, _Early Law and Custom_, 6.

[116] Morris, _Saga Library_, i. p. xxx; Dasent, _Burnt Njal_, i. xlvi.

[117] _Early Law and Custom_, 162.

[118] Manx Society Publications, xviii. 21-22.

[119] Strabo, lib. xv. cap. 1, pp. 709, 717; J. D. Mayne, _Hindu Law
and Usage_, 4, 13.

[120] Mackenzie, _Roman Law_, 11; _cf._ Pais, _Anc. Legends of Roman
Hist._, 139.

[121] Dasent, _Burnt Njal_, i. p. lvii, and Vigfusson and Powell,
_Origines Islandicæ_, i. 348.

[122] _Anc. Laws of Ireland_, iv. p. vii.

[123] This appears very strongly in the famous twelfth-century law case
which Longchamp pleaded so successfully. _Rotuli curia Regis_, i. p.

[124] _Early Law and Custom_, 9; _cf._ Burnell and Hopkins, _Ordinances
of Manu_, pp. xx, xxxi. It is worth while quoting here the following
interesting note from a letter from the Marquis di Spineto printed in
Clarke's _Travels_, viii. 417:--

"From the most remote antiquity men joined together, and wishing either
to amuse themselves or to celebrate the praises of their gods sang
short poems to a fixed tune. Indeed, generally speaking, _the laws by
which they were governed_, the events which had made the greatest
impression on their minds, the praises which they bestowed upon their
gods or on their heroes were all sung long before they were written,
and I need not mention that according to Aristotle this is the reason
why the Greeks gave the same appellation to laws and to songs."

[125] The references are all given in Smith's _Dict. of Greek and Roman
Antiquities_ sub νόμος. Aristotle in the _Problems_, 19, 28,
definitely says, "Before the use of letters men sang their laws that
they might not forget them, as the custom continues yet among the

[126] Lib. xii. cap. ii. 9.

[127] _Hist. English Commonwealth_, 43.

[128] _Anc. Laws of Ireland_, iv. pp. viii, x.

[129] Hampson's _Origines Patriciæ_, 106-107; Kemble, line 5763 _et

[130] Proctor's _History of the Book of Common Prayer_, p. 410.

[131] _Hist. Eng. Commonwealth_, ii. p. cxxxvi. Littleton points out
the legal antiquity and importance of these words: "no conveyance can
be made without them." See Wheatley's _Book of Common Prayer_ (quoting
Littleton), p. 406.

[132] The York manual had the additional clause, "for fairer for
fouler." See Wheatley, _loc. cit._, p. 406.

[133] Palgrave, _loc. cit._

[134] _Ibid._

[135] _Manuale et processionale ad usum insiquis ecclesiæ Evoracensis_,
Surtees Society, 1875. See also _Gentleman's Magazine_, 1752, p. 171;
Proctor's _History of the Book of Common Prayer_, p. 409, for other

[136] Palgrave, _English Commonwealth_, i. 43.

[137] Chambers, _Popular Rhymes of Scotland_, 115.

[138] Sinclair's _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, x. 534.

[139] Chambers, _Book of Days_, January 19; Nichols, _Fuller's
Worthies_, 494.

[140] _Diary of De la Pryme_ (Surtees Society), 126. It may be noted
here that Kelly, _Curiosities of Indo-European Traditions_, 179, notes
the preservation of an ancient law for the preservation of the oak and
the hazel in a traditional proverbial rhyme.

[141] Hazlitt, _Tenures of Land_, 80; other examples refer to the
Hundred of Cholmer and Dancing, in Essex, 75; to Kilmersdon, in
Somersetshire, 182; to Hopton, in Salop, 165. John of Gaunt is
responsible for many of these curious and interesting remains of tribal
antiquity. Bisley's _Handbook of North Devon_, 28, refers to one
relating to the manor of Umberleigh, near Barnstaple, and I have a note
from Mr. Edmund Wrigglesworth, of Hull, of a parallel to this being
preserved by tradition only. There is a tradition respecting the estate
of Sutton Park, near Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, which states that it
formerly belonged to John of Gaunt, who gave it to an ancestor of the
present proprietor, one Roger Burgoyne, by the following grant:--

      "I, John of Gaunt,
      Do give and do grant,
      To Roger Burgoyne
      And the heirs of his loin
      Both Sutton and Potton
      Until the world's rotten."

Potton was a neighbouring village to Sutton. There is a moated site in
the park called "John o' Gaunt's Castle," see _Notes and Queries_,
tenth series, vi. 466. _Cf._ Aubrey, _Collections for Wilts_, 185, for
an example at Midgehall; Cowell's _Law Interpreter_, 1607, and the
_Dictionarum Rusticum_, 1704, for the custom of East and West Enborn,
in Berks, which was made famous by Addison's _Spectator_ in 1714.

[142] Sometimes these are called "burlesque conveyances." See an
example quoted in _Hist. MSS. Commission_, v. 459.

[143] It is well to bear in mind the great force of ancient tribal law,
which was personal, upon localities. Nottingham is divided into two
parts, one having primogeniture and the other junior right as the rule
of descent. Southampton and Exeter have also local divisions. But
perhaps the most striking example is at Breslau, where there
co-existed, until 1st January, 1840, five different particular laws and
observances in regard to succession, the property of spouses, etc., the
application of which was limited to certain territorial jurisdictions;
not unfrequently the law varied from house to house, and it even
happened that one house was situated on the borders of different laws,
to each of which, therefore, it belonged in part; Savigny, _Private
Int. Law_, cap. i. sect. iv.

[144] _Academy_, February, 1884; _Percy Reliques_, edit. Wheatley, i.

[145] _Trans. British. Association_, 1847, p. 321.

[146] Series No. V., published in 1895.

[147] _Philological Society Papers_, 1870-2, pp. 18, 248; Dr. Murray
gives the air in an appendix. See also a note by Mr. Danby Fry in the
_Antiquary_, viii. 164-6, 269-70; and _The Hawick Tradition_, by R. S.
Craig and Adam Laing, published at Hawick in 1898.

[148] Squire, _Mythology of the British Islands_, 69.

[149] Wilde, _Lough Corrib_, 210-248. Sir William Wilde has studied the
details of this great fight with great care, and it is impossible to
ignore his evidence as to the monuments of it being extant to this day
among the recorded antiquities of Ireland. The battle lasted four days.
The first day the Fir-Bolg had the best of the fighting, and
pillar-stones erected to the heroes who fell are still in situ.
Clogh-Fadha-Cunga, or long stone of Cong, which stood on the old road
to the east of that village and a portion of which, six feet long, is
still in an adjoining wall, being erected to Adleo of the Dananians,
and Clogh-Fadha-Neal, or long stone of the Neale, at the junction of
the roads passing northwards from Cross and Cong, commemorating the
place where the king stood during the battle. After the battle each
Fir-Bolg carried with him a stone and the head of a Danann to their
king who erected a great cairn to commemorate the event, and this must
be the cairn of Ballymagibbon which stands on the road passing from
Cong to Cross. The well of Mean Uisge is identified as that mentioned
in the MS. accounts of the battle, connected with a striking incident.
After a careful examination of the locality, says Sir William Wilde,
with a transcript of the ancient MS. in his hand, he was convinced of
the identity of a stone heap standing within a circle as the place
where the body of the loyal Fir-Bolg youth was burned. The second day's
battle surged northwards, and at the western shores of Lough Mask,
Slainge Finn, the king's son, pursuing the two sons of Cailchu and
their followers, slew them there, and "seventeen flag stones were stuck
in the ground in commemoration of their death," and by the margin of
the lake in the island of Inish-Eogan there stands this remarkable
monument to this hour. The line of the Fir-Bolg camp can still be
traced with wonderful accuracy. Caher-Speenan, the thorny fort, was a
part of this camp, and still exists. More to the south-east, on the
hill of Tongegee, are the remains of Caher-na-gree, the pleasant fort,
and still further to the east are Lisheen, or little earthen fort, and
Caher-Phætre, pewter fort. Other forts also exist to give evidence both
of the Fir-Bolg and the Danann lines. The Danann monuments are situate
in the fields opposite the glebes of Nymphsfield. Five remarkable stone
circles still remain within the compass of a square mile, and there are
traces of others. The Fir-Bolgs were defeated on the fourth day and
their king Eochy fell fighting to the last. "A lofty cairn was raised
over his body, and called Carn Eathach, from his name." On the grassy
hill of Killower, or Carn, overlooking Lough Mask, stands to this hour
the most remarkable cairn in the west of Ireland, and there is little
doubt this is the one referred to in the ancient tradition as
commemorating the death of the last Fir-Bolg king in Erin.

[150] Squire, _op. cit._, 76, 138.

[151] Squire, _op. cit._, 230.

[152] Squire, _Mythology_, 399.

[153] See _Life and Writings_ by Oliver Elton, ii. 224.

[154] _Governance of London_, 110-113.

[155] _Celtic Heathendom_, 125-133.

[156] See Bathurst, _Roman Antiquities of Lydney Park_, plates viii.,
xiii., for the famous example dealt with by Sir John Rhys; and Stuart,
_Caledonia Romana_, 309, plate ix. fig. 2, for a dedication to the
"Deities of Britain."

[157] See his _Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments_, chap.

[158] See _Folklore_, xv. 306-311, for the Greek evidence; and xvii.
30, 164, for the Irish evidence.

[159] Frazer, _Golden Bough_ (2nd ed.), iii. 236-316. Mr. Frazer,
however, is inclined to review his explanation of bonfires as
sun-charms; see his _Adonis, Attis and Osiris_, 151, note 4.

[160] The specialisation of the fire cult is illustrated by the Hindu
myth of the Angiras, see Wilson, _Rig Veda Sanhita_, i. p. xxix.

[161] Gummere, _Germanic Origins_, 400-2.

[162] It will be convenient to give the references for the various
details of savage life in Britain. The original extracts are all given
in _Monumenta Historica Britannica_ and in Giles' _History of Ancient
Britons_, vol. ii. Ireland--cannibalism: Strabo, iv. cap. 5, 4, p. 201,
Diodoros, v. 32; promiscuous intercourse: Strabo; birth ceremony:
Solinus, xxii. Scotland--human sacrifice: Solinus, xxii.; promiscuous
intercourse, Solinus, cap. xxii., Xiphilinus from Dio in _Mon. Brit.
Hist._, p. lx., and St. Jerome adv. Jovin., v. ii. 201; nakedness,
Herodian in _Mon. Brit. Hist._, p. lxiv, and Xiphilinus, _ibid._, p.
lx. Britain--head-hunting, Strabo, iv. 1-4, pp. 199-201, Diodoros, v.
29; tattooing, Cæsar, _De bello Gallico_, v. 12, Pliny, _Nat. Hist._,
xxii. i. (2); promiscuous intercourse, Cæsar, _ibid._, v. 14,
Xiphilinus in _Mon. Brit. Hist._, p. lvii.

[163] _History of England under the Anglo-Saxon Kings_, i. 14.

[164] Innes' _Critical Essay_, 45, 51, 56, 240.

[165] O'Curry's _Manners and Customs of Ancient Irish_, i. p. vi. Dr.
Whitley Stokes has criticised O'Curry's translations as bad, "not from
ignorance, but to a desire to conceal a fact militating against
theories of early Irish civilisation."--_Revue Celtique_, iii. 90-101.

[166] Turner, _Hist. of Anglo-Saxons_, i. 64-74; Palgrave, _Eng. Com._,
i. 467-8.

[167] Giles' _History of Anc. Britons_, i. 231, referring to parallel
customs among the Chinese.

[168] Elton, _Origins of English History_, 82.

[169] Rhys, _Celtic Britain_, 55.

[170] _Celtic Heathendom_, 320, note.

[171] I have dealt with this in my _Ethnology in Folklore_, 36-40.

[172] Skene, _Celtic Scotland_, i. 59, 84.

[173] Pearson, _Hist. of England during the Early and Middle Ages_, i.
15, 21, 35.

[174] Ramsay, _Foundations of England_, i. 9, 11, 30.

[175] Lang, _Hist. of Scotland_, i. 3-5.

[176] Joyce, _Social Hist. of Ireland_, i. 19.

[177] In addition to Mr. Lang and Dr. Joyce, who are folklorists as
well as historians, and who as we have seen do deal with these records
scientifically, the folklorist goes out of his way to reject these
records. Thus Mr. Squire says that "the imputation" which Cæsar makes
as to polyandrous customs "cannot be said to have been proved,"
_Mythology of the British Islands_, 30.

[178] _Village Communities_, 17.

[179] _Principles of Sociology_, i. 714.

[180] _Arch. Cambrensis_, 6th ser. v. 3.

[181] _Journ. Anthrop. Inst._, xx. 259.



The materials of folklore consist of traditional tales (so called) and
traditional customs and superstitions (so called), the feature of both
groups being that at the time of first being recorded and reduced to
writing they existed only by the force of tradition. There is no fixed
time for the record. It is sometimes quite early, as, for instance,
the examples which come to us from historians; it is generally quite
late, namely, the great mass of examples which, during the past
century or so, have been collected directly from the lips or
observances of the people, sometimes by the curious traveller or
antiquary, lately by the professed folklorist.

The consideration of the relationship of history and folklore has
cleared the ground for definitions and method. Before the material of
which folklore consists can be considered by the light of method, we
must get rid of definitions which are often applied to folklore in its
attributed sense. Folk-tales are not fiction or art, were not invented
for amusement, are not myth in the sense of being imaginative
only.[182] Customs and superstitions are not the result of ignorance
and stupidity. These attributes are true only if folk-tales, customs,
and superstitions are compared with the literary productions and with
the science and the culture of advanced civilisation; and this
comparison is exactly that which should never be undertaken, though
unfortunately it is that which is most generally adopted. The
folk-tale may be lent on occasion to the artist--to Mr. Lang, to Mr.
Jacobs, and their many copyists; and these artists may rejoice at the
wonderful results of the unconscious art that resides in these
products of tradition, but the folk-tale must not be wholly
surrendered. It does not belong to them. It does not belong to art at
all, but to science. That it is artistic in form is an addition to its
characteristics, but has nothing whatever to do with its fundamental
features. Similarly with legend. It may be lent to Malory, to
Tennyson, to Longfellow, to the literary bards of the romance period,
for the purpose of weaving together their story of the wonderful; but
it must not be surrendered to the romancist, and, above all things,
the romances must never be allowed to enter the domain of folklore.
Romances may be stripped of their legends so that the source of
legendary material may be fully utilised, but the romances themselves
belong to literature, and must remain within their own portals. And so
with customs. They may be pleasing and reveal some of the beauties of
the older joyousness of life which has passed away, it is to be
regretted, from modern civilisation; they may be revived in May-day
celebrations, in pageants, in providing our schools with games which
tell of the romance of living. But they do not belong to the lover of
the beautiful or to the revivalists. Equally with the folk-tale they
belong to science. And so also with superstitions. The Psychical
Research Society, the spiritualists, the professional successors of
the mediæval witch and wizard, may turn their attention to traditional
superstitions; but the folklorist refuses to hand them over, and
claims them for science.

This use of traditional material for modern purposes is not the only
danger to proper definitions. There is also its appearance in the
earlier stages of literature. The traditional narrative, the myth, the
folk-tale or the legend, is not dependent upon the text in which it
appears for the first time. That text, as we have it, was not written
down by contemporary or nearly contemporary authority. Before it had
become a written document it had lived long as oral tradition.[183] In
some cases the written document is itself centuries old, the record
of some early chronicler or some early writer who did not make the
record for tradition's sake. In other cases the written document is
quite modern, the record of a professed lover of tradition. This
unequal method of recording tradition is the main source of the
difficulty in the way of those who cannot accept tradition as a record
of fact. In all cases the test of its value and the interpretation of
its testimony are matters which need special study and examination
before the exact value of each tradition is capable of being
determined. The date when and the circumstances in which a tradition
is first reduced to literary form are important factors in the
evidence as to the credibility of the particular form in which the
tradition is preserved; but they are not all the factors, nor do they
of themselves afford better evidence when they are comparatively
ancient than forms of much later date and of circumstances far
different. It cannot be too often impressed upon the student of
tradition that the tradition itself affords the chief if not the only
sure evidence of its age, its origin, and its meaning; for the
preservation of tradition is due to such varied influences that the
mere fact of preservation, or the particular method or date of
preservation, cannot be relied upon to give the necessary authority
for the authenticity of the tradition. Tradition can never assume the
position of written history, because it does not owe its origin, but
only its preservation, to writing.

Documentary material is examined as to its palæographical features, as
to the testimony afforded by its author or assumed author, as to its
credibility in dealing with contemporary events or persons, as to its
date, and in other ways according to the nature of the document.
Traditional material has nothing to do with all this. It has no
palæography; it has no author, and if a personal author is assigned to
any given fragment or element it is generally safe to ignore the
tradition as the product of a later age; it does not deal with persons
nor, as a rule, with specific events; it has no date. It has therefore
to undergo a process of its own before it can be accepted as
historical evidence, and this process, if somewhat tedious, is all the
more necessary because of the tender material of which tradition is
composed. This will be made clearer if we understand exactly what the
different classes of tradition are and how they stand to each other.

Considering the materials of folklore in their true sense and not
their attributed sense then, we may proceed to say something as to
methods. Definitions and rules are needed. No student can attack so
immense a subject without the aid of such necessary machinery, and it
is because the attempt has been so often made ill-equipped in this
respect, that the science of folklore has suffered so much and has
remained so long unrecognised. Already, in dealing with the
relationship of history and folklore, one or two necessary
distinctions in terms have been anticipated. We have discovered that
the impersonal folk-tale is distinguished in a fundamental manner from
the personal or local legend, and that the growth of mythology is a
later process than the growth of myth. These distinctions need,
however, to be systematised and brought into relationship with other
necessary distinctions. The myth and the folk-tale are near
relations, but they are not identical, and it is clear that we need to
know something more about myth. Because mythic tradition has been
found to include many traditions, which of late years have been
claimed to belong to a definitely historical race of people, it must
not be identified with history. This claim is based upon two facts,
the presence of myth in the shape of the folk-tale and the
preservation of much mythic tradition beyond the stage of thought to
which it properly belongs by becoming attached to an historical event,
or series of events, or to an historical personage, and in this way
carrying on its life into historic periods and among historic peoples.
The first position has resulted in a wholesale appropriation of the
folk-tale to the cause of the mythologists; the second position has
hitherto resulted either in a disastrous appropriation of the entire
tradition to mythology, or in a still more disastrous rejection both
of the tradition and the historical event round which it clusters.
Historians doubting the myth doubt too the history; mythologists
doubting the history reject the myth from all consideration, and in
this way much is lost to history which properly belongs to it, and
something is lost to myth.

If, therefore, I have hitherto laid undue stress upon the foundation
of tradition in the actual facts of life, and upon the close
association of tradition with historic fact, it is because this side
of the question has been so generally neglected. Everything has been
turned on to the mythic side. Folk-tales have been claimed as the
exclusive property of the mythologists, and those who have urged their
foundation on the facts of real life have scarcely been listened to.
There is, however, no ground for the converse process to be
advocated. If tradition is not entirely mythology it is certainly not
all founded on sociology, and the mythic tradition in the possession
of a people advanced in culture has to be considered and accounted
for. It is myth in contact with history, and the contact compels
consideration of the result.


The first necessity is for definitions. Careful attention to what has
already been said will reveal the fact that tradition contains three
separate classes, and I would suggest definition of these classes by a
precise application of terms already in use: The _myth_ belongs to the
most primitive stages of human thought, and is the recognisable
explanation of some natural phenomenon, some forgotten or unknown
object of human origin, or some event of lasting influence; the
_folk-tale_ is a survival preserved amidst culture-surroundings of a
more advanced stage, and deals with events and ideas of primitive
times in terms of the experience or of episodes in the lives of
unnamed human beings; the _legend_ belongs to an historical personage,
locality, or event. These are new definitions, and are suggested in
order to give some sort of exactness to the terms in use. All these
terms--myth, folk-tale, and legend--are now used indiscriminately with
no particular definiteness. The possession of three such distinct
terms forms an asset which should be put to its full use, and this
cannot be done until we agree upon a definite meaning for each.

The first place must be given to mythic tradition. This is not
special to our own, or to any one branch of the human race. It belongs
to all--to the Hindu, the Greek, the Slav, the Teuton, the Celt, the
Semite, and the savage. It goes back to a period of human history
which has only tradition for its authority, in respect of which no
contemporary records exist, and which relates to a time when the
ancestors of now scattered peoples lived together, and when they were
struggling from the position of obedient slaves to all the fears which
unknown nature inflicted on them, to that of observers of the forces
of nature.

Traditions which are properly classed as myth are those which are too
ancient to be identified with historical personages, and too little
realistic to be a relation of historical episodes. They are rather the
explanations given by primitive philosophers of events which were
beyond their ken, and yet needed and claimed explanation. In this
class of tradition we are in touch with the struggles of the earliest
ancestors of man to learn about the unknown. Our own research in the
realms of the unknown we dignify by the name and glories of science.
The research of our remote ancestors was of like kind, though the
domain of the unknown was so different from our own. It was primitive

The best type of this class of myth is, I think, the creation
myth.[184] Everywhere, almost, man has for a moment stood apart and
asked himself the question, Whence am I?--stood apart from the
struggle for existence when that struggle was in its most severe
stages. The answer he has given himself was the answer of the Darwin
of his period. From the narrow observation of the natural man and his
surroundings, governed by the enormous impressions of his own life,
the answer has obviously not been scientific in our sense of the term.
But it was scientific. It was the science of primitive man, and if we
have to reject it as science not so good as our science, nay, as not
science at all judged by our standard, we must not deny to primitive
man the claim of having preceded modern man in his observation and
interpretation of the world of nature.

The range of the creation myth is almost world-wide. It includes
examples from all quarters, and examples of great beauty as well as of
singular, almost grotesque hideousness; the New Zealand myth is surely
the best type of the former, and perhaps the Fijian of the latter. As
Mr. Lang says: "all the cosmogonic myths waver between the theory of
construction, or rather of reconstruction and the theory of evolution
very rudely conceived."[185]

It is not necessary to quote a large number of examples, because I am
not concerned with their variety nor with their essentials. I am only
anxious to point out their existence as evidence of the scientific
character of primitive myth.[186] It is not to the point to say that
the science was all wrong. What is to the point is to say that the
attempt was made to get at the origin of man and his destiny. Mr. Lang
thinks that "the origin of the world and of man is naturally a problem
which has excited the curiosity of the least developed minds," but in
the use of the term "naturally," I think the stupendous nature of the
effort made by the least developed minds is entirely neglected, and we
miss the opportunity of measuring what this effort might mean.

When savages ask themselves, as they certainly _do_ ask themselves,
whence the sky, whence the winds, the sun, moon, stars, sea, rivers,
mountains and other natural objects, they reply in terms of good logic
applied to deficient knowledge. All the knowledge they possess is that
based upon their own material senses. And therefore, when they apply
that knowledge to subjects outside their own personality, they deal
with them in terms of their own personality. How did the sky get up
there, above their heads--the sky evidently so lovingly fond of the
earth, so intimately connected with the earth?

The New Zealand answer to these questions is a great one, by whatever
standard it is measured. Heaven and earth, they say, were husband and
wife, so locked in close embrace that darkness everywhere prevailed.
Their children were ever thinking amongst themselves what might be the
difference between darkness and light. At last, worn out by the
continued darkness, they consulted amongst themselves whether they
should slay their parents, Rangi and Papa, _i.e._ heaven and earth, or
whether they should rend them apart. The fiercest of their children
exclaimed, "Let us slay them!" but the forest, another of the sons,
said, "Nay, not so. It is better to rend them apart, and to let
heaven stand far above us and the earth to lie under our feet. Let the
sky become as a stranger to us, but the earth remain close to us as
our nursing-mother." The brothers consented to this proposal with the
exception of Tawhiri-ma-tea, the father of winds and storms; thus five
of the brothers consented and one would not agree. Then each of the
brothers tries to rend his parents, heaven and earth, asunder. First
the father of cultivated food tries and fails; then the father of fish
and reptiles; then the father of uncultivated food; then the father of
fierce human beings. Then at last slowly uprises Tane-mahuta, the
father of forests, birds, and insects, and he struggles with his
parents; in vain he strives to rend them apart with his hands and
arms. Lo, he pauses; his head is now firmly planted on his mother, the
earth; his feet he raises up and rests against his father, the skies;
he strains his back and limbs with mighty effort, and at last are rent
apart Rangi and Papa, who shriek aloud with cries and groans. But
Tane-mahuta pauses not, he regards not their shrieks and cries; far,
far beneath him he presses down the earth; far, far above him he
thrusts up the sky. Then were discovered a multitude of human beings
whom heaven and earth had begotten, and who had hitherto lain
concealed. But Tawhiri-ma-tea, the wind and storm, the brother who had
not consented, is angry at this rending apart of his parents, and he
rises and follows his father, the sky, and fights fiercely with the
earth and his brothers.[187]

The explanation of this myth is simple. Unaided by the facts of
science, the New Zealand savages could only think of the facts of
their own experience. Only two personalities could produce the various
products of the world; therefore the earth was the mother and the sky
the father. But they are now separated and apart. Only a personality
could have separated, and the forest, root-sown in the earth,
branch-up in the sky, is evidently the means of this separation. And
so, satisfactorily to their own minds, these rude savages settled the
question of the origin of heaven and earth.

The close similarity of this to the story of Kronos has frequently
been pointed out; but a Greek story is always worth repeating. Near
the beginning of things Earth gave birth to Heaven. Later, Heaven
became the husband of Earth, and they had many children. Some of these
became the gods of the various elements, among whom were Okeanos, and
Hyperion, the sun. The youngest child was Kronos of crooked counsel,
who ever hated his mighty sire. Now the children of Heaven and Earth
were concealed in the hollows of Earth, and both the Earth and her
children resented this. At last they conspired against their father,
Heaven, and, taking their mother into the counsels, she produced Iron
and bade her children avenge her wrongs. Fear fell upon all of them
except Kronos, and he determined to separate his parents, and with his
iron weapon he effected his object. All the brothers rejoiced except
one, Okeanos, and he remained faithful to his father.[188]

It would be well for the sake of the story itself to give a creation
myth from India, but I shall have other use for it than its particular

      "'In the beginning, when Twashtri came to the creation
      of woman, he found that he had exhausted his materials
      in the making of man, and that no solid elements were
      left. In this dilemma, after profound meditation, he
      did as follows. He took the rotundity of the moon, and
      the curves of creepers, and the clinging of tendrils,
      and the trembling of grass, and the slenderness of the
      reed, and the bloom of flowers, and the lightness of
      leaves, and the tapering of the elephant's trunk, and
      the glances of deer, and the clustering of rows of
      bees, and the joyous gaiety of sunbeams, and the
      weeping of clouds, and the fickleness of the winds,
      and the timidity of the hare, and the vanity of the
      peacock, and the softness of the parrot's bosom, and
      the hardness of adamant, and the sweetness of honey,
      and the cruelty of the tiger, and the warm glow of
      fire, and the coldness of snow, and the chattering of
      jays, and the cooing of the _kókila_, and the
      hypocrisy of the crane, and the fidelity of the
      _chakrawáka_, and compounding all these together, he
      made woman and gave her to man. But after one week,
      man came to him and said: Lord, this creature that you
      have given me makes my life miserable. She chatters
      incessantly and teases me beyond endurance, never
      leaving me alone; and she requires incessant
      attention, and takes all my time up, and cries about
      nothing, and is always idle; and so I have come to
      give her back again, as I cannot live with her. So
      Twashtri said: Very well; and he took her back. Then
      after another week, man came again to him and said:
      Lord, I find that my life is very lonely, since I
      gave you back that creature. I remember how she used
      to dance and sing to me, and look at me out of the
      corner of her eye, and play with me, and cling to me;
      and her laughter was music, and she was beautiful to
      look at, and soft to touch; so give her back to me
      again. So Twashtri said: Very well; and gave her back
      again. Then after only three days, man came back to
      him again and said: Lord, I know not how it is; but
      after all I have come to the conclusion that she is
      more of a trouble than a pleasure to me; so please
      take her back again. But Twashtri said: Out on you! Be
      off! I will have no more of this. You must manage how
      you can. Then man said: But I cannot live with her.
      And Twashtri replied: Neither could you live without
      her. And he turned his back on man, and went on with
      his work. Then man said: What is to be done? for I
      cannot live either with her or without her.'"[189]

Now this myth has, so far as its central fact is concerned, its
counterpart in Celtic folklore. In the Welsh Mabinogi of Math, son of
Mathonwy, it is related how Arianrod laid a destiny upon her son, whom
she would not recognise, that he should never have a wife of the race
that now inhabits the earth, and how Gwydion declared that he should
have a wife notwithstanding. "They went thereupon unto Math, the son
of Mathonwy, and complained unto him most bitterly of Arianrod. Well,
said Math, we will seek, I and thou, by charms and magic, to form a
wife for him out of flowers. So they took the blossoms of the oak, and
the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and
produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man
ever saw." No one can doubt that this interesting fragment of Welsh
tradition takes us back to a creation legend of the same order as the
Indian legend, and that the two widely separated parallels belong to
the period when men were carving out for themselves theories as to the
origin of women in relation to men.

It is impossible to deny a place among these myths of creation to the
Hebrew tradition of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The first
chapter of Genesis is the answer which the early Hebrews gave to the
scientific question as to the origin of man. How much it cost them to
arrive at this conclusion one cannot guess, one only knows that it has
become a glory to the ages of Hebrew history, as well as to the
civilisation of Christianity. Unfortunately it has become much more.
The science of the primitive Hebrew has been adopted as the God-given
revelation to all mankind. It is the function of folklore to correct
this error, to restore the Hebrew tradition to its proper place among
the myths of the world which have answered the cry of early man for
the knowledge of his origin. There is no degradation here. Science is
no longer in doubt as to the origin of man within the evolutionary
process of the natural world, and it rightly rejects the first chapter
of Genesis as of value to modern research. But science should accept
it as a chapter in the history of anthropology, a chapter which has
only proved not to be true, because of the limited range of early man
in the facts about man, but a chapter, nevertheless, which has the
inherent value of a faithful record of man's search after truth. This
is a great position. This is the revelation which is made to us from
the first chapter of Genesis, and when the theologian is bold and able
enough to step outside the formularies of his ancient faith, and reach
the magnificent world of thought which lies in front of him by the
revelations of scientific discovery, he will consider the
anthropological interpretation of the Hebrew Bible as one of the
necessary elements of his equipment. There is on present lines a
whole world of thought between science and religion, although they
both have the same object. They both seek the great unknown. Science,
however, gives up all efforts in the past which have proved futile and
erroneous, cheerfully surrenders all errors of research and
interpretation, starts investigation afresh, begins new discoveries,
and rewrites the story they have to tell. Religion, on the other hand,
comes to a full stop when once she has made or accepted a discovery,
when once she has pronounced that the great unknown has become known
to her votaries and supporters. She is skilful to use the results of
science up to the point where they serve her purpose, and to use the
terms of science in order to build up her shattering position. But she
does not advance. She does not accept the first chapter of Genesis as
a wonderful revelation of the early stages of human investigation into
the realms of the unknown, but still keeps to her old formula of a
revelation of the deity as to the origin of man, and she does not see
that by this attitude she is lessening every day her capacity for
teaching truth.

I think the attitude of science to the Hebrew tradition is only a
little less unfortunate than that of religion. Professor Huxley
employed all the resources of his great knowledge to disprove the
scientific accuracy of the tradition, and when one rereads his
chapters on this subject[190] one wonders at the absence of the sense
of proportion. Perhaps it was necessary, considering the place which
the Hebrew tradition occupies in civilised thought, to show its utter
inconsistency with the facts of nature, but it was equally necessary
to show that it has its place in the history of human thought. The
folklorist replaces it among the myths of creation, and then proceeds
to analyse and value it. The Hebrew is shown by the myth he adopted to
have frankly acknowledged that the origin of man and of the world was
undiscoverable by him. Whatever older myths he once possessed, he
discarded them in favour of a mythic God-creator, and this is only
another way of stating that the mystery of man's origin could not, to
the Hebrew mind, be met by such a myth as the New Zealander believed
in, or as the Kumis believed in, but could only be met by the larger
conception of a special creation. The Hebrew could not find his answer
in nature, so he appealed to super-nature. His God was the unknown
God, and the realm of the unknown God was the unknowable. Though in
terms this may not be the interpretation of the Hebrew creation myth,
its ultimate resolve is this; and because modern science has
penetrated beyond this confession of the unknown origin of man to the
evolution of man, it should not therefore treat contemptuously the
effort of early Hebrew science. Because it is not possible to admit
this effort as part of modern science, it must not be rejected from
the entire region of science. It must be respected as one of the many
efforts which have made possible the last effort of all which
proclaims that man has kinship with all the animal world.

These points illustrate the unsatisfactory attitude of science and
religion to myth. There is still to notice the unsatisfactory
attitude of the folklorist. Wrong interpretation of special classes of
myth is, of course, to be anticipated in the commencement of a great
study such as folklore; but there are also wrong interpretations of
the fundamental basis of myth. Thus even Mr. Frazer, with all his vast
research into savage thought and action, doubts the possession of good
logical faculty by mankind. If mankind, he says, had always been
logical and wise, history would not be a long chronicle of folly and
crime.[191] But surely we cannot doubt man's logical powers. They have
been too strong for his facts. He has applied mercilessly all the
powers of his logical faculties upon isolated observations of
phenomena, and it is this limited application which has produced the
folly and crime. I venture to think that civilised man shares with the
savage of to-day, and with the primitive ancestors of all mankind, the
charge of applying perfectly good logic to an insufficiency of facts,
and producing therefrom fresh chapters of folly and crime.

If myth is correctly defined as primitive science, as I have ventured
to suggest, it is important to know how it assumes a place among the
traditions of a people. Primitive science was also primitive belief.
If it accounted for the origin of mankind, of the sun, moon, and
stars, of the earth and the trees, it accounted for them as creations
of a higher power than man, or, at all events, of a great and
specially endowed man, and higher powers than man were of the unknown
realm. The unknown was the awful. Primitive science and primitive
belief were therefore on one and the same plane.[192] They were
subjects to be treated with reverence and with awe. The story into
which the myth was so frequently woven is not a story to those who
believe in the truth of the myth. It assumes the personal shape,
because the personal is the only machinery by which primitive man is
capable of expressing himself. It was held only by tradition, because
tradition was the only means of transmitting it, and it was of a
sacred character, because sacred things and beliefs were the only
forces which influenced primitive thought. When it was repeated to new
generations of learners, it was not a case of story-telling--it was a
matter of the profoundest importance. Everywhere among the lowest
savagery we find the secrets of the group kept from all but the
initiated, and these secrets are the traditions which have become
sacred, traditions expressed sometimes in ceremonial, sometimes in
rites, sometimes in narratives. Thus the mythological and religious
knowledge of the Bushmen is imparted in dances, and when a man is
ignorant of some myth, he will say, "I do not dance that dance,"
meaning that he does not belong to the group which preserves that
particular sacred chapter.[193] The Ashantees have an interesting
creation myth which is stated to be the foundation of all their
religious opinions.[194] Mr. Howitt, in his important chapter on
"Beliefs and Burial Practices,"[195] seems to me to exactly interpret
the savage mind. The first thing he notes is the belief--a belief that
"the earth is flat, surmounted by the solid vault of the sky," that
"there is water all round the flat earth," that the sun is a woman,
and that the moon was once a man who lived on earth, and so on. Then,
secondly, he notes the manner in which these beliefs are translated to
and held by the people, the myth in point of fact--unfortunately, Mr.
Howitt calls it a legend--wherein it is perfectly obvious that the
Australian is interpreting the facts of nature in the only language
known to him to be applicable, namely, that of his own personality.
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen produce much the same kind of
evidence,[196] and describe a ceremony among the northern tribes
connected with the myth of the sun, which ends in a newly initiated
youth being brought up, "shown the decorations, and had everything
explained to him."[197] Among the central tribes the same authorities
describe minutely the initiation ceremonies, during which the initiate
boy "is instructed for the first time in any of the sacred matters
referring to totems, and it is by means of the performances which are
concerned with certain animals, or rather, apparently with the
animals, but in reality with Alcheringa individuals who were the
direct transformations of such animals, that the traditions dealing
with this subject, which is of the greatest importance in the eyes of
the natives, are firmly impressed upon the mind of the novice, to whom
everything which he sees and hears is new and surrounded with an air
of mystery."[198] Sir George Grey, speaking of the traditions of the
Maori which he collected, says his reader will be in "the position of
one who listens to a heathen and savage high priest, explaining to him
in his own words and in his own energetic manner, the traditions in
which he earnestly believes, and unfolding the religious opinions upon
which the faith and hopes of his race rest."[199] This "school of
mythology and history," as it is significantly termed in John White's
_Ancient History of the Maori_, was "Whare-Kura, the sacred school in
which the sons of high priests were taught our mythology and history,"
and it "stood facing the east in the precincts of the sacred place of
Mua." The school was opened by the priests in the autumn, and
continued from sunset to midnight every night for four or five months
in succession. The chief priest sat next to the door. It was his duty
to commence the proceedings by repeating a portion of history; the
other priests followed in succession, according to rank. On the south
side sat the old and most accomplished priests, "whose duty it was to
insist on a critical and verbatim rehearsal of all the ancient
lore."[200] The American-Indian account, by the Iroquois, of how myths
were told to an ancient chief and an assembly of the people on a
circular open space in a deep forest, wherein was a large wheel-shaped
stone, from beneath which came a voice which told the tale of the
former world, and how the first people became what they are at
present,[201] is in exact accord with this evidence. The priestly
novice among the Indians of British Guiana is taught the traditions of
the tribe, while the medicine man of the Bororó in Brazil has to learn
certain ritual songs and the languages of birds, beasts, and

I do not want to press the point too far, because evidence is not easy
to get on account of the incomplete fashion in which it has been
collected and presented to the student. The records of native life are
divided off into chapters arranged, not on the basis of native ideas,
but on the basis of civilised ideas, and from this cause we get myth
and belief in different chapters as if they had no connection with
each other; we get myths treated as if they were but the
fancy-begotten amusements of the individual, instead of the serious
ideas of the collective people about the elements of nature to which
they have directed their attention. Mr. J. A. Farrer comes practically
to this correct conclusion,[203] while Mr. Jevons seems to me to have
arrived at the same result in spite of some false intermediate steps,
due to his failure to discriminate between myth and mythology.[204]
Failures of this kind are of almost infinite loss to scientific
research. They stop the results which might flow from the stages
correctly reached, and hide the full significance which arises from
the fact that man's aspirations are always so much in excess of his
accomplished acts. Poetry, philosophy, prayer, worship, are all short
of the ideal; and the question may surely arise whether the actual
accomplishments of man in civilisation, as compared with those of man
in savagery, afford any sort of indication of the distance between
man's accomplishment and his aspiration at any age. If man has never
travelled at one moment of time, or at one definite period of life,
all this distance in thought, it may still be possible to use this
distance between savage and cultured accomplishment as a standard of
measurement between accomplishment and ideal, wherever the material
for such a purpose is available. If folklorists will keep such a
possibility in mind, whenever they are called upon to investigate
myth, it will at all events save them from proceeding upon lines which
cannot lead to progress in the investigation of human history.

The primitive myth does not include all that properly comes within the
definition of myth. There must be included the myth formed to explain
a rite or ceremony, which originating in most ancient times has been
kept up at the instance of a particular religion or cult, but the
meaning and intent of which has been forgotten amidst the progress of
a later civilisation. Pausanias is the great storehouse of such myths
as this, and Mr. Lang has, more than any other scholar, examined and
explained the process which has gone on.

There is also included in this secondary class of myth, the myths upon
which are founded the great systems of mythology. The Hindu mythology,
in spite of all that has been done to place it on the pedestal of
primitive original thought, is definitely relegated to the secondary
position by its best exponents. The Vedic religion is tribal in form,
and in the pre-mythological stage.[205] In the Rámáyaná and
Mahábhárata, on the contrary, "we trace unequivocal indications of a
departure from the elemental worship of the Vedas, and the origin or
elaboration of legends which form the great body of the mythological
religion of the Hindus."[206] The pre-mythological and the
mythological stages of Hindu religion, therefore, are both
discoverable from the traditional literature which has descended from
both ages, and this fact is important in the classification of the
various phases of tradition. When once it is admitted that the
beginnings of mythology are to be traced in one section of the people
who are supposed to derive a common system of mythology from a common
home, future research will hesitate to interpret, as Kuhn and Max
Müller and their school have done, the traditions of Celts, Teutons,
and Scandinavians as the detritus of ancient mythologies instead of
the beginnings of what, under favourable conditions, might have grown
into mythologies. Mythological tradition is essentially a secondary
not a primary stage. This fact is overlooked by many authorities, and
I have noted some of the unfortunate results. It is not overlooked by
those who study the principles of their subject as well as the
details. Thus, as Robertson-Smith has so well explained, "mythology
was no essential part of ancient religion, for it had no sacred
sanction and no binding force on the worshippers.... Belief in a
certain series of myths was neither obligatory as a part of true
religion, nor was it supposed that by believing a man acquired
religious merit and conciliated the favour of the gods. What was
obligatory or meritorious was the exact performance of certain sacred
acts prescribed by religious tradition. This being so, it follows that
mythology ought not to take the prominent place that is too often
assigned to it in the scientific study of ancient faiths."[207] This
is exactly the position, and all that I have advanced for the purpose
of aiming at a classification of the various kinds of tradition is in
accord with this view.

All that I am anxious to prove, all that it is possible to prove, from
these considerations of the position occupied by myth, is that myths
constitute a part of the serious life of the people. They belong to
the men and women, perhaps some of them to the men only and others to
the women only, but essentially to the life of the people.

I do not think that even Mr. Hartland in his special study of the
subject has quite understood this. He begins at a later period in the
history of tradition, the period of story-telling proper, when myths
have become folk-tales,[208] and he treats this period as the earliest
instead of the secondary stage of myth. In this stage something has
happened to push myth back from the centre of the people's life to a
lesser position--a new religious influence, a new civilisation, a new
home, any one of the many influences, or any combination of
influences, which have affected peoples and sent them along the paths
of evolution and progress.

It is in this way that we come upon the folk-tale. The folk-tale is
secondary to the myth. It is the primitive myth dislodged from its
primitive place. It has become a part of the life of the people,
independently of its primary form and object and in a different
sense. The mythic or historic fact has been obscured, or has been
displaced from the life of the people. But the myth lives on through
the affections of the people for the traditions of their older life.
They love to tell the story which their ancestors revered as myth even
though it has lost its oldest and most impressive significance. The
artistic setting of it, born of the years through which it has lived,
fashioned by the minds which have handed it down and embellished it
through the generations, has helped its life. It has become the fairy
tale or the nursery tale. It is told to grown-up people, not as belief
but as what was once believed; it is told to children, not to men; to
lovers of romance, not to worshippers of the unknown; it is told by
mothers and nurses, not by philosophers or priestesses; in the
gathering ground of home life, or in the nursery, not in the hushed
sanctity of a great wonder.[209]

The influence of changing conditions upon the position of mythic
tradition is well illustrated by Dr. Rivers in his account of the
Todas. This people, he says, "are rapidly forgetting their folk-tales
and the legends of their gods [that is, their myths], while their
ceremonial remains to a large extent intact and seems likely to
continue so for some time." Dr. Rivers attributes this to the effect
of intercourse with other people. This intercourse has had no
missionary results and has not therefore affected their religious
rites and ceremonies, but has shown itself largely in the form of loss
of interest in the stories of the past.[210] In other words, and in
accordance with the definitions I am suggesting, the primitive myths
of the Todas have definitely assumed a secondary position as
folk-tale, and not a strong position at that, while religion has clung
to rite and formula.

Primitive myth dislodged in this fashion is sometimes preserved in a
special manner and for religious purposes in its ancient setting as a
belief, or as a tradition belonging to sacred places and appertaining
to sacred things. This is what has happened to the Genesis myth of the
Hebrews; it has also happened to some of the sacred myths of the
Hindus, and perhaps to some of the sacred myths of the Greeks. In this
position the myth may even be reduced to writing, and where this
happens all the sacredness appertaining to tradition is transferred to
the written instrument.

Thus in Arkadia, Pausanias tells us, was a temple of Demeter, and
every second year, when they were celebrating what they called the
greater mysteries, they took out certain writings which bore on the
mysteries, and having read them in the hearing of the initiated, put
them back in their place that same night.[211] In India examples occur
of land being held for telling stories at the Ucháos or festivals of
the goddess Dévi.[212] The colleges of Rome, composed of men specially
skilled in religious lore, and charged with the preservation of
traditional rules regarding the more general religious observances,
the proper fulfilment of which implied a certain amount of
information, and rendered it necessary for the state in its own
interest to provide the faithful transmission of that information,
have been described by Mommsen.[213]

I pass to the third class of tradition, namely, the legend, and this
need not detain us long. We have already illustrated it by the notes
on history and folklore, and by its very nature it belongs essentially
to the historic age. In dealing with legend, there is first to
determine whether its characters are historical, or are unknown to
history. If the former, there is next to disengage those parts of the
tradition which, by their parallels to other traditions, or by their
nature, may be safely certified as not belonging to the historical
hero or to the period of the historical hero. If the latter, the
details must be analysed to see what elements of culture are contained
therein. In both cases tradition will have served a purpose, and that
purpose must be sought. Tradition does not attach itself to an
historical personage without cause. There is necessity for it, and in
the case of Hereward the necessity was proved to have been the great
gap in the history of a national hero. Tradition does not preserve
details of primitive culture-history without cause, and in the
examples already quoted it has been shown that this cause rests upon
the indissoluble links which the uncultured peasant of to-day has with
the pre-cultured past of his race. He will have forgotten all about
his tribal life and its consequences, but will retain legends which
are founded upon tribal life. He will have lost touch with ideas which
proclaim that man or woman not of his tribe is an enemy to be feared
or attacked, but will gladly relate legends which deal with events
growing out of a state of perpetual strife among the ancestors of
people now in friendship. He will not understand the personal tie of
ancient times, but will listen to the legends attached to places in
such strange fashion as to make places seem to possess a personal life
full of events and happenings. He will know nothing of giants and
ogres, but will love the legends which tell of heroes meeting and
conquering such beings. The history of the school books is nothing to
him, but the history unknowingly contained in the legends is very
real, and is applied over and over again to such later events as by
force of circumstances become stamped upon the popular mind and thus
succeed in displacing the original. It would be an important
contribution to history to have these legends collected and examined
by a competent authority. They would be beacon lights of national
history preserved in legend.

It will be readily conceded, I think, that in attempting these
definitions of the various classes of tradition, and in illustrating
them from the records of man's life in various parts of the world, it
has been impossible for me to deal with certain points in the problem
before us. In particular I have not considered the favourite subject
of the diffusion of folk-tales. I do not believe in a general system
of diffusion, such a system, I mean, as would suffice to account for
the parallels to be found in almost all countries.[214] I think
diffusion occupies a very small part indeed of the problem, and that
it only takes place in late historical times. It is a large subject,
and I have virtually stated my answer to the theory of diffusion in
the definitions and classifications which I have ventured to put
forward. It may be considered by some that other facts in the
conditions of myth, folk-tale, and legend would not confirm the
general outline I have given of the three classes of tradition to
which I have applied these terms; and of course there are many side
issues in so great a problem. I would not urge the correctness of the
views I have put forward as applicable to every part of the world, or
to every phase in the history of tradition; but I would urge that in
the great centres of traditional life they are practically the only
means of arriving at the position occupied by tradition, and that in
all cases they form a working hypothesis upon which future inquirers
may well base their researches.


Of late years there have been placed alongside of the traditional
myth, folk-tale, and legend many other products of tradition--customs,
ceremonies, practices, and beliefs, and it has been argued, and argued
strongly and convincingly, that the tradition which has brought down
the saga and song as far-off echoes of an otherwise unrecorded past
has also brought down these other elements which must also belong to
the same distant past. This argument is now no longer seriously
disputed. But there still remains open for discussion the exact kind
of evidence which these elements of tradition supply, the particular
period or people from which they have descended, the particular
department of history to which they relate. All this is highly

Folklore has in this department been greatly aided by Dr. Tylor's
impressive terminology, whereby the custom, ceremony, practice, and
belief which have come down by tradition are classed as "survivals."
This term implies an ancient origin, and the necessary work of the
student is to get back to the original. Until very lately the fact of
survival has carried with it the presumption of ancient origin, but
Mr. Crawley has raised an objection which I think it is well to meet.
He urges that "the history of religious phenomena exemplifies in the
most striking manner the continuity of modern and primitive culture;
but there is a tendency on the part of students to underestimate this
continuity, and, by explaining it away on a theory of survivals, to
lose the only opportunity we have of deducing the permanent elements
of human nature."

This sentence at once prepares us for much that follows; but Mr.
Crawley leaves the point itself untouched, except by implication,
until he is in the middle of his book, and then we have his dictum
that "it may be finally asserted that nothing which has to do with
human needs ever survives as a mere survival."[215] It will at once be
seen that we have here a new estimate of the force which survivals
play in the evidence of human progress. They prove the continuity of
modern and primitive culture. They are part and parcel of modern life,
filling a vacuum which has not been filled by modern thought, carrying
on, therefore, the standard of religious belief and religious ideal
from point to point until they can be replaced by newer ideas and
concepts. This definition of survivals is very bold. It answers Mr.
Crawley's purpose and argument in a way which no other fact in human
history, so far as we can judge, could answer it. It is the basis upon
which his whole argument is founded. Occupying such an important
place, it should have received explicit investigation, instead of
being treated as a sort of side issue of incidental importance.

When explicit investigation is undertaken, Mr. Crawley's case must, I
think, break down. Survivals are carried along the stream of time by
people whose culture-status is on a level with the culture in which
the survivals originated. It matters not that these people are placed
in the midst of a higher civilisation or alongside of a higher
civilisation. When once the higher civilisation penetrates to them,
the survival is lost. There is not continuity between modern and
primitive thought here, but, on the contrary, there is strong
antagonism, ending with the defeat and death of the primitive
survival. This is the evidence wherever survivals can be studied,
whether in the midst of our own civilisation, or even of primitive
civilisations, which constantly exhibit traces of older beliefs and
ideas being pushed out of existence by newer. It is, indeed, a mistake
to suppose, as some authorities apparently do, that survivals can only
be studied when they are embedded in a high civilisation. It is almost
a more fruitful method to study them when they appear in the lower
strata; and even in such a case as the Australian aborigines I think
that it is the neglect of observing survivals that has led to some of
the erroneous theories which have recently been advanced against
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen's conclusions.

For the purpose of examining survivals in custom, rite, and belief, we
have nothing more than a series of notes of customs and beliefs
obtaining among the lower and lowest classes of the people, and not
being the direct teaching of any religious or academic body. These
notes are very unequal in value, owing to the manner in which they
have been made. They are often accidental, they are seldom if ever the
result of trained observation, and they are often mixed up with
theories as to their origin and relationship to modern society and
modern religious beliefs. To a great extent the two first of these
apparent defects are real safeguards, for they certify to the
genuineness of the record, a certificate which is more needed in this
branch of inquiry than perhaps in any other. But with regard to the
third defect there is considerable danger. An inquirer with an object
is so apt to find what he wishes to find, either by the exercise of
his own credulity or the ingenuous extension of inquiry into answer;
whereas the inquirer who is content to note with the simplicity of
those who occupy themselves by collecting what others have not
collected, may be deficient in the details he gives, but is seldom
wrong or violently wrong in what he has recorded. In every direction,
however, great caution is needed, and especially where any section of
custom and belief has already been the subject of inquiry. It is
indeed almost safe to say that all research into custom and belief,
even that of such masters as Tylor, Lang, Hartland, Frazer, and
others, needs re-examination before we can finally and unreservedly
accept the conclusions which have been arrived at.

Such an examination must be directed towards obtaining some necessary
points in the life-history of each custom, rite, and belief. We have
to approach this part of our work guided by the fact that folklore
cannot by any possibility develop. The doctrine of evolution is so
strong upon us that we are apt to apply its leading idea insensibly to
almost every branch of human history. But folklore being what it is,
namely the survival of traditional ideas or practices among a people
whose principal members have passed beyond the stage of civilisation
which those ideas and practices once represented, it is impossible for
it to have any development. When the original ideas and practices
which it represents were current as the standard form of culture,
their future history was then to be looked for along the lines of
development. But so soon as they dropped back behind the standard of
culture, whatever the cause and whenever the event happened, then
their future history could only be traced along the lines of decay and
disintegration. We are acquainted with some of the laws which mark the
development of primitive culture, but we have paid no attention to the
influences which mark the existence of survivals in culture. For this
purpose we must first ascertain what are the component parts of each
custom or superstition; secondly, we must classify the various
elements in each example; and thirdly, we must group the various
examples into classes which associate with each other in motif and

By this treble process we shall have before us examples of the changes
in folklore, and demonstrably they are changes of decay, not of
development. By grouping and arranging these changes it may be
possible to ascertain and set down the laws of change--for that there
are laws I am nearly certain. It is these laws which must be
discovered before we can go very far forward in our studies. Every
item of custom and superstition must be tested by analysis to find out
under which power it lives on in survival, and according to the result
in each case, so may we hope to find out something about the original
from which the survival has descended.

Each folklore item, in point of fact, has a life history of its own,
and a place in relationship to other items. Just as the biography of
each separate word in our language has been investigated in order to
get at Aryan speech as the interpretation of Aryan thought, so must
the biography of each custom, superstition, or story be investigated
in order to get at Aryan belief or something older than Aryan belief.
We must try to ascertain whether each item represents primitive belief
by direct descent, by symbolisation, or by changes which may be
discovered by some law equivalent to Grimm's law in the study of

Analysis of each custom, rite, or belief will show it to consist of
three distinct parts, which I would distinguish by the following

1. The formula.

2. The purpose.

3. The penalty or result.

It will be found that these three component parts are not equally
tenacious of their original form in all examples. In one example we
may find the formula either actually or symbolically perfect, while
the purpose and penalty may not be easily distinguishable. Or it may
happen that the formula remains fairly perfect; the purpose may be set
down to the desire of doing what has always been done, and the penalty
may be given as luck or ill-luck. Of course, further variations are
possible, but these are usually the more general forms.

I will give an example or two of these phases of change or degradation
in folklore. First, then, where the formula is complete, or nearly so,
and the purpose and penalty have both disappeared. At Carrickfergus it
was formerly the custom for mothers, when giving their child the
breast for the last time, to put an egg in its hand and sit on the
threshold of the outer door with a leg on each side, and this ceremony
was usually done on a Sunday. Undoubtedly I think we have here a very
nearly perfect formula; but what is its purpose, and what is the
penalty for non-observance? Upon both these latter points the example
is silent, and before they can be restored we must search among the
other fragments of threshold customs and see whether they exist either
separately from the formula or with a less perfect example. Secondly,
where the formula has disappeared and the purpose and penalty remain,
nearly the whole range of those floating beliefs and superstitions
which occupy so largely the collections of folklore would supply
examples. But I will select one example which will be to the point.
When the Manx cottager looks for the traces of a foot in the ashes of
his firegrate for the purpose of seeing in what direction the toes
point, the penalty being that, if they point to the door, a death will
occur, if to the fireplace, a birth,[216] there is no trace of the
ancient formula. It is true we may find the missing formula in other
lands; for instance, among some of the Indian tribes of Bombay. There
the formula is elaborate and complete, while the purpose and the
penalty are exactly the same as in the Isle of Man. But this hasty
travelling to other lands is not, I contend, legitimate in the first
place. We must begin by seeing whether there is not some other item of
folklore, perhaps now not even connected with the house-fire group of
customs and superstitions, whose true place is that of the lost
formula of this interesting Manx custom. And when once we have taught
ourselves the way to restore these lost formulæ to their rightful
places, the explanation of the mere waifs and strays of folklore will
be attended with some approach to scientific accuracy, and we shall
then be in a position to get rid of that shibboleth so dear to the
non-folklore critic, that all these things we deal with are "mere

Thirdly, when the formula is complete, or nearly so, and the purpose
and penalty become generalised. At St. Edmundsbury a white bull, which
enjoyed full ease and plenty in the fields, and was never yoked to the
plough or employed in any service, was led in procession in the chief
streets of the town to the principal gate of the monastery, attended
by all the monks singing and a shouting crowd. Knowing what Grimm has
collected concerning the worship of the white bull, knowing what is
performed in India to this day, there is no doubt that this formula of
the white bull at St. Edmundsbury has been preserved in very good
condition. The purpose of it was, however, not so satisfactory. It is
said to have taken place whenever a married woman wished to have a
child; and the penalty is lost in the obvious generalisation that not
to perform the ceremony is not to obtain the desired end.[217]

The second process, that of classification of the various elements in
each example, will reveal some characteristics of folklore, which, so
far as I know, have never yet been taken count of. One very important
characteristic is the prevalence of a particular belief attached to
different objects in different places. Thus Sir John Rhys in his
examination of Manx folklore stopped short in his explanation of the
superstition of the first-foot, because he had heard that, while in
the Isle of Man it was attached to a dark man, elsewhere it was
attached to a fair man. Of the examples where, on New Year's morning,
it is held to be unlucky to meet a dark person, I may mention
Lincolnshire, Durham, Yorkshire, and Northumberland. It is, on the
contrary, _lucky_ to meet, as first-foot, a dark-haired man in
Lancashire, the Isle of Man, and Aberdeenshire.[218] In these cases we
get the element of "dark" or "fair" as the varying factor of the
superstition; but instances occur in Sutherlandshire, the West of
Scotland, and in Durham, where the varying factor rests upon sex--a
man being lucky and a woman being unlucky.

Similarly of the well-known superstition about telling the bees of the
death of their owner, in Berkshire, Bucks, Cheshire, Cornwall,
Cumberland, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Monmouthshire, Notts,
Northumberland, Shropshire, Somersetshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex,
Wilts, Worcestershire, it appears that a relative may perform the
ceremony, or sometimes a servant merely, while in Derbyshire, Hants,
Northants, Rutland, and Yorkshire it must be the heir or successor of
the deceased owner. Again, while in the above places the death of the
owner is told to the bees, in other places it is told to the cattle,
and in Cornwall to the trees;[219] and, in other places, marriages as
well as death are told to the bees.[220]

In some cases the transfer from one object to another of a particular
superstition is a matter of absolute observation. Thus, the labourers
in Norfolk considered it a presage of death to miss a "bout" in corn
or seed sowing. The superstition is now transferred to the drill,
which has only been invented for a century. Again, in Ireland, it is
now considered unlucky to give any one a light for his pipe on
May-day--a very modern superstition, apparently. But the pipe in this
case has been the means of preserving the old superstition found in
many places of not giving a light from the homestead fire.

I will just refer to one other example, the well-known custom of
offering rags at sacred wells. Sir John Rhys thought that the object
of these scraps of clothing being placed at the well was for
transferring the disease from the sick person to some one else. But I
ventured to oppose this idea, and considered that they were offerings,
pure and simple, to the spirit of the well, and referred to examples
in confirmation. Among other items, I have come across an account of
an Irish "station," as it is called, at a sacred well, the details of
which fully bear out my view as to the nature of the rags deposited at
the shrine being offerings to the local deity. One of the devotees, in
true Irish fashion, made his offering accompanied by the following
words: "To St. Columbkill--I offer up this button, a bit o' the
waistband o' my own breeches, an' a taste o' my wife's petticoat, in
remimbrance of us havin' made this holy station; an' may they rise up
in glory to prove it for us in the last day."[221] I shall not attempt
to account for the presence of the usual Irish humour in this, to the
devotee, most solemn offering; but I point out the undoubted nature of
the offerings and their service in the identification of their
owners--a service which implies their power to bear witness in
spirit-land to the pilgrimage of those who deposited them during
lifetime at the sacred well.[222]

Now, in all these cases there is an original and a secondary, or
derivative, form of the superstition, and it is our object to trace
out which is which. Do the rags deposited at wells symbolise offerings
to the local deity? If so, they bring us within measurable distance of
a cult which rests upon faith in the power of natural objects to harm
or render aid to human beings. Does the question of first-foot rest
upon the colour of the hair or upon the sex of the person? I think,
looking at all the examples I have been able to examine, that colour
is really the older basis of the superstition, and, if so,
ethnological considerations are doubtless the root of it. Again, if
the eldest son of the deceased owner of bees appears in the earliest
form of the death-telling ceremony, we have an interesting fragment of
the primitive house-ritual of our ancestors.

When, however, we come upon the worship of local deities, when we can
suggest ethnological elements in folklore, and when we can speak of
the house-father, and can see that duties are imposed upon him by
traditional custom, unknown to any rules of civilised society, we are
in the presence of facts older than those of historic times. It is
thus that folklore so frequently points back to the past before the
age of history. Over and over again we pause before the facts of
folklore, which, however explained, always lead us back to some
unexplored epoch of history, some undated period, which has not
revealed its heroes, but which has left us a heritage of its mental

The method of using these notes of custom, rite, and belief for
scientific purposes is therefore a very important matter. It is
essential that each single item should be treated definitely and
separately from all other items, and, further, that the exact wording
of the original note upon each separate item should be kept intact.
There must be no juggling with the record, no emendations such as
students of early literary work are so fond of attempting. Whatever
the record, it must be accepted. The original account of every custom
and belief is a corpus, not to be tampered with except for the purpose
of scientific analysis, and then after that purpose has been effected
all the parts must be put together again, and the original restored to
its form.

The handling of each custom or belief and of its separate parts in
this way enables us, in the first place, to disentangle it from the
particular personal or social stratum in which it happens to have been
preserved. It may have become attached to a place, an object, a
season, a class of persons, a rule of life, and may have been
preserved by means of this attachment. But because every item of
folklore of the same nature is not attached to the same agent
wherever that particular item has been preserved, it is important not
to stereotype an accidental association as a permanent one. Moreover,
the modern association is not necessarily the ancient association, and
there is the further difficulty created by writers on folklore
classifying into chapters of their own creation the items they collect
or discuss.[223] In the second place, we are enabled to prepare each
item of folklore for the place to which it may ultimately be found to
belong. The first step in this preparation is to get together all the
examples of any one custom, rite, or belief which have been preserved,
and to compare these examples with each other, first as to common
features of likeness, secondly as to features of unlikeness. By this
process we are able to restore what may be deficient from the
insufficiency of any particular record--and such a restoration is
above all things essential--and to present for examination not an
isolated specimen but a series of specimens, each of which helps to
bring back to observation some portion of the original. The
reconstruction of the original is thus brought within sight.

Generally, it may be stated that the points of likeness determine and
classify all the examples of one custom or belief; the points of
unlikeness indicate the line of decay inherent in survivals.

This partial equation and partial divergence between different
examples of the same custom or belief allows a very important point to
be made in the study of survivals. We can estimate the value of the
elements which equate in any number of examples, and the value of the
elements which diverge; and by noting how these values differ in the
various examples we shall discover the extent of the overlapping of
example with example, which is of the utmost importance. A given
custom consists, say, of six elements, which by their constancy among
all the examples and by their special characteristics may be
considered as primary elements, in the form in which the custom has
survived. Let us call these primary elements by algebraical signs,
a, b, c, d, e, f. A second example of the same custom has
four of these elements, a, b, c, d, and two divergences, which
may be considered as secondary elements, and which we will call by the
signs g, h. A third example has elements a, b, and divergences
g, h, i, k. A further example has none of the primary elements,
but only divergences g, h, i, l, m. Then the statement of the case
is reduced to the following:--

      1 = a, b, c, d, e, f.
      2 =       a, b, c, d + g, h.
      3 =             a, b + g, h, i, k.
      4 =                  + g, h, i, l, m.

The first conclusion to be drawn from this is that the overlapping of
the several examples (No. 1 overlapping No. 2 at a, b, c, d,
No. 2 overlapping No. 3 at a, b + g, h, No. 3 overlapping No.
4 at + g, h, i) shows all these several examples to be but
variations of one original custom, example No. 4, though possessing
none of the elements of example No. 1, being the same custom as
example No. 1. Secondly, the divergences g to m mark the line of
decay which this particular custom has undergone since it ceased to
belong to the dominant culture of the people, and dropped back into
the position of a survival from a former culture preserved only by a
fragment of the people.[224]

The first of these conclusions is not affected by the order in which
the examples are arranged; whether we begin with No. 4 or with No. 1,
the relationship of each example to the others, thus proved to be in
intimate association, is the same. The second conclusion is
necessarily dependent upon what we take to be "primary elements" and
"secondary elements;" and the question is how can these be determined?
As a rule it will be found that the primary elements are the most
constant parts of the whole group of examples, appearing more
frequently, possessing greater adherence to a common form, changing
(when they do change) with slighter variations; while the secondary
elements, on the other hand, assume many different varieties of form,
are by no means of constant occurrence, and do not even amongst
themselves tend to a common form. The primary elements, therefore,
constitute the form of the custom which represents the oldest part of
the survival. They alone will help us to determine the origin of the
custom, whether by features represented in the elements thus brought
together or by comparison with ancient custom elsewhere or with
survivals elsewhere similarly reconstituted. Altogether these
elements, thus linked together by the tie of common attributes, are
parts of one organic whole, and it is on this reconstructed organism
we have to rely for the evidence from tradition.

When any given custom or belief has undergone this double process of
analysis of its component parts and classification of its several
elements, another process has to be undertaken, namely, to ascertain
its association with other customs or beliefs, in the same country or
among the same people, each of which customs or beliefs, being treated
in exactly the same manner, is found to exhibit some degree of
relationship in origin, condition, or purpose to the whole group under
examination. In this way classification, analysis, and association go
hand in hand as the necessary methods of studying survivals. Without
analysis we cannot properly arrive at a classification; without
classification we cannot work out the association of survivals.

The process is perhaps highly technical and complicated. It may not be
of interest to all to discuss the process by which results are
attained when what is most desired are the results themselves. But in
truth the two parts of this study cannot well be separated. To judge
of the validity of the results one must know what the process has
been, and too often results are jumped at without warrant; items of
custom and usage or of belief and myth are docketed as belonging to a
given phase of culture, a given group of people, when they have no
right to such a place in the history of man. It is not only
distasteful to the inquirer, but almost impossible to dislodge any
item of folklore once so placed, and thus much of the value of the
material supplied by folklore is lost or discounted.

Custom, rite, and belief treated in this fashion become veritable
monuments of history--a history too ancient to have been recorded in
script, too much an essential part of the folk-life to have been lost
to tradition. We may hope to restore therefrom the surviving mosaic of
ancient institutions, ancient law, and ancient religion, and we may
further hope, with this mosaic to work upon, to restore much of the
entire fabric which has been lying so many centuries beneath the
accumulated and accumulating mass of new developments representing the
civilisation of the Western world.


It is only here that we can discover the point where we may properly
commence the work of comparative folklore. An item of folklore which
stands isolated is practically of no use for scientific investigation.
It may be, as we have seen, that the myth is in its primary stage as a
sacred belief among primitive people, in its secondary or folk-tale
stage as a sacred memory of what was once believed, in its final or
legendary stage when it does duty in preserving the memory of a hero
or a place of abiding interest. It may be, as we have seen, that the
custom, rite, or belief is a mere formula without purpose or result, a
mere traditional expression of a purpose without formula or result, a
mere statement of result without formula or purpose. We must know the
exact position of each item before we begin to compare, or we may be
comparing absolutely unlike things. The exact position of each item of
folklore is not to be found from one isolated example. It has first to
be restored to its association with all the known examples of its
kind, so that the earliest and most complete form may be recorded.
That is the true position to which it has been reduced as a survival.
This restored and complete example is then in a position to be
compared either with similar survivals in other countries on the same
level of culture, or within the same ethnological or political sphere
of influence, or with living customs, rites, or beliefs of peoples of
a more backward state of culture or in a savage state of culture.
Comparison of this kind is of value. Comparison of a less technical or
comprehensive kind may be of value in the hands of a great master; but
it is often not only valueless but mischievous in the hands of less
experienced writers, who think that comparison is justified wherever
similarity is discovered.

Similarity in form, however, does not necessarily mean similarity in
origin. It does not mean similarity in motive. Customs and rites which
are alike in practice can be shown to have originated from quite
different causes, to express quite different motifs, and cannot
therefore be held to belong to a common class, the elements of which
are comparable. Thus to take a very considerable custom, to be found
both in folk-tales and in usage, the succession of the youngest son,
it is pretty clear that among European peoples it originated in the
tribal practice of the elder sons going out of the tribal household to
found tribal households of their own, thus leaving the youngest to
inherit the original homestead. But among savage peoples where the
youngest son inherits the homestead, he does not do so because of a
tribal custom such as that to be found in the European evidence. It is
because of the conditions of the marriage rites. Thus among the Kafir
peoples of South Africa

      "the young man of the commonality, who being a young
      man has had but little or no means of displaying his
      sagacity--a quality with them most frequently
      synonymous with cunning--commences for himself in a
      small way. Hence, too, being polygamous, and his wives
      being bought with cattle, his first wife is taken from
      a position accordant with that of a young, untried,
      and poor or comparatively poor man. Hence also it
      happens that his wives increase in number, and in--so
      to speak--position, in accordance with his wealth, and
      with his reputation for wisdom and sagacity, which may
      have raised him to the rank of headman of a district,
      and one of the Chief's counsellors. It is, therefore,
      only when old in years that he takes to himself his
      'great wife,' one of greater social and racial
      position than were his previous wives, and her son,
      that is, her eldest son, who is consequently the
      father's youngest or nearly his youngest, becomes his
      'great son,' and par excellence the heir. If the
      father be a Chief, this son becomes the Chief at his
      father's death.

      "As, however, subordinate heirs, the father after some
      consultation and ceremony chooses out of his other
      sons, secondly 'the son of his right hand,' and
      thirdly, 'the son of his grandfather.' If the father
      be a Chief, these two are after his death accounted as
      Chiefs in the tribe, subordinate to the 'great son,'
      and even if through their superior energy, the size of
      the tribe requiring emigration to pastures new, or
      other causes, one or both of them break off, and with
      their respective inheritance or following form a
      separate tribe or tribes, yet they are federally bound
      to their great brother, and their successors to his
      successors, and recognise him as their supreme or
      national Chief. Thus Krili, the Chief of the
      Amagcaleka tribe across the Kei, was also paramount
      Chief of all the Amaxosas, including his own tribe,
      and those this side the Kei, who are divided into the
      two great divisions--each of which includes several
      tribes--of the Amangquika and Amandhlambi, which
      latter has among it the Amagqunukwebi, a tribe of
      Caffre intermingled with Hottentot blood, and
      therefore rather looked down upon."[225]

Dr. Nicholson, from whom I quote this evidence, goes on to say that

      "custom then of the heirship of the youngest, appears
      to me to have not unlikely grown up among a polygamous
      race, and to have arisen both from considerations of
      self security and from those of race and rank."

Quite independently of Dr. Nicholson I had come to the same
conclusion;[226] and Dr. Nicholson, after handsomely acknowledging my
priority in the "discovery," very properly alludes to the not
unimportant fact of two workers in the same field coming to like
conclusions. It is remarkable that the same distinction between the
succession of the youngest son and of the son of the youngest wife
appears in folk-tales.[227] Now clearly it would be quite wrong to
suggest a parallel between the heirship of the youngest among the
Kafir peoples of Africa and heirship of the youngest among the tribal
people of early Europe. They are not comparable at all points, and it
is just where the point of comparison fails that it becomes so
important to science.[228]

I will take one other example, and this is the important practice of
human sacrifice which looms so largely in anthropological research,
and which is considered by so good an authority as Schrader to have
taken a prominent place among the Aryans,[229] though he takes his
examples, not from language, but from the unexamined customs of the
Greeks, Romans, northerns, Indians, and Persians. We know more about
the development of sacrifice now that Professor Robertson Smith has
dealt with the Semitic part of the evidence. Without resting on the
fact that the occurrence of human sacrifice in a country occupied by
Aryan-speaking people does not, of itself alone, imply that the rite
was Aryan, it is far more important to point out that among the higher
races "the feeling that the slaying involves a grave responsibility
and must be justified by divine permission" appears, and "care was
taken to slay the victim without bloodshed, or to make believe that it
had killed itself."[230] This feeling marks distinctly the Greek
sacrifice as at Thargelia and in the Leukadian ceremony, the Roman
sacrifice at the Tarpeian Rock, the sacrifice at the Valhalla rock of
the northerns, while among the Hindus there is much to show that the
idea of human sacrifice in some of the early writings is a literary
borrowing from the Hebrews; and that if it ever prevailed among the
Aryas of India it was very early superseded by the sacrifice of
animals.[231] Colonel Dalton has given good reasons for his views
"that the Hindus derived from the aboriginal races the practice of
human sacrifices."[232] Although, then, Greek ritual and Greek myth
are full of legends which tell of sacrifices once human, but
afterwards commuted into sacrifices where some other victim is slain
or the dummy of a man is destroyed;[233] although the significant
Hindu ceremonial of so throwing the limbs of an animal slaughtered to
be burnt with the dead that every limb lies upon a corresponding part
of the corpse;[234] although Teuton, Celt, and Norse[235] are credited
with the practice by authorities not to be questioned, it appears by
the evidence that the European form of human sacrifice has little in
common with the savage form except in the nature of the victim. It
occurred, as Grimm states, when some great disaster, some heinous
crime, had to be retrieved or purged, a kind of sacrifice, says Mr.
Lang, not necessarily savage except in its cruelty; and the victims
were not tribesmen, but captive enemies, purchased slaves, or great

These two examples will serve as warning against the too general
acceptance of the custom and belief of savage and barbaric races, as
identical with the custom and belief of early or primitive man. Such
identification is in the main correct; but it is correct not because
it has been proved by the best methods to be so, but because, of all
possible explanations, this is the only one that meets the general
position in a satisfactory manner. In many cases, however, it is
monstrously incorrect, and it is the incorrect conclusion which weighs
far more against the acceptance of the results of folklore than do the
correct conclusions in its favour.

The work which has to be accomplished by the comparative method of
research is of such magnitude that it needs to be considered. The
labour and research might in point of volume be out of proportion to
the results, and it may be questioned, as it has already been
questioned by inference, whether it is worth the while. The first
answer to this objection is that all historical investigation is
justified, however much the labour, however extensive the research.
Secondly, considering the very few results which the study of folklore
has hitherto produced upon the investigations into prehistoric Europe,
it must be worth while for the student of custom and belief to conduct
his experiments upon a recognised plan in order to get at the secret
of man's place in the struggle for existence, which is determined more
by psychological than by physical phenomena. Thirdly, if the psychical
anthropology of prehistoric times is to be sought for in the customs
and beliefs of modern savages, it is of vital importance to
anthropological science that this should be established by methods
exactly defined. Whatever of traditional custom and belief is capable
of bearing the test and of being definitely labelled as belonging to
prehistoric man, becomes thereafter the data for the psychical
anthropology of civilised man. Edmund Spenser understood this when his
official duties took him among the "wild" Irish. "All the customs of
the Irish," he says, "which I have often noted and compared with that
I have read, would minister occasion of a most ample discourse of the
original of them, and the antiquity of that people, which in truth I
think to be more ancient than most that I know in this end of the
world; so as if it were in the handling of some man of sound judgment
and plentiful reading, it would be most pleasant and profitable."[236]

Comparative folklore, then, to be of value must be based upon
scientific principles. The unmeaning custom or belief of the peasantry
of the Western world of civilisation must not be taken into the
domains of savagery or barbarism for an explanation without any
thought as to what this action really signifies to the history of the
custom or belief in question. No doubt the explanation thus afforded
is correct in most cases, and perhaps it was necessary to begin with
the comparative method in order to understand the importance and scope
of the study of apparently worthless material. A new stage in
comparative folklore must now be entered upon. It must be understood
what the effective comparison of a traditional peasant custom or
belief with a savage custom or belief really amounts to. The process
includes the comparison of an isolated custom or belief belonging,
perhaps secretly, to a particular place, a particular class of
persons, or perhaps a particular family or person, with a custom or
belief which is part of a whole system belonging to a savage race or
tribe; of a custom or belief whose only sanction is tradition, the
conservative instinct to do what has been done by one's ancestors,
with a custom or belief whose sanction is the professed and
established polity or religion of a people; of a custom or belief
which is embedded in a civilisation, of which it is not a part and to
which it is antagonistic, with a custom or belief which helps to make
up the civilisation of which it is part. In carrying out such a
comparison, therefore, a very long journey back into the past of the
civilised race has been performed. For unless it be admitted that
civilised people consciously borrow from savages and barbaric peoples
or constantly revert to a savage original type of mental and social
condition, the effect of such a comparison is to take back the custom
or belief of the modern peasant to a date when a people of savage or
barbaric culture occupied the country now occupied by their
descendants, the peasants in question, and to equate the custom or
belief of this ancient savage or barbaric culture with the custom or
belief of modern savage or barbaric culture. The line of comparison is
not therefore simply drawn level from civilisation to savagery; but it
consists, first, of two vertical lines from civilisation and savagery
respectively, drawn to a height scaled to represent the antiquity of
savage culture in modern Europe, and then the level horizontal line
drawn to join the two vertical lines. Thus the line of comparison is

      Ancient savagery                Ancient savagery
             |                               |
             |                               |
             |                               |
             |                               |
          Savagery                     Civilisation

We thus arrive at some conception of the work to be accomplished by
and involved in comparative folklore. The results are worth the work.
They relate to stages of culture in the countries of civilisation
which are recoverable by no other means. The stages of culture are
practically lost to history. In ancient Greek and Roman history, and
in ancient Scandinavian history, there are priceless fragments of
information which tell us much. But these fragments are not the
complete story, and they belong to relatively small areas of European
history. Every nation has the right to go back as far in its history
as it is possible to reach. It can only do this by the help of
comparative folklore. In our own country we have seen how history
breaks down, and yet historical records in Britain are perhaps the
richest in Europe. The traditional materials known to us as folklore
are the only means left to us, and we can only properly avail
ourselves of these when we have mastered the methods of science which
it is necessary to use in their investigation.


[182] Mr. MacCulloch, in the title of his interesting book, the
_Childhood of Fiction_, has emphasised this mischievous idea. I am not
convinced to the contrary by the evidence he gives as to the popularity
of the folk-tale among all peoples (p. 2). Indeed, the book itself is
an emphatic testimony against its title. Mr. MacCulloch evidently began
with the idea that the folk-tale belonged to the domain of fiction.
Thus the opening words of his book are: "Folk-tales are the earliest
form of romantic and imaginative literature--the unwritten fiction of
early man and of primitive people in all parts of the world;" whereas
as he nears the end of his study he observes: "Thus, in their origin,
folk-tales may have had some other purpose than mere amusement; they
may have embodied the traditions, histories, beliefs, ideas, and
customs of men at an early stage of civilisation" (p. 451). Mr.
MacCulloch himself proves this to be the case, and it is therefore all
the more unfortunate that he should have stamped his very important
study with the word "fiction."

[183] A folk-tale of the Veys, a North African people, explains this
view most graphically in its opening sentences. The narrator begins his
tale by saying: "I speak of the long time past; hear! It is written in
our old-time-palaver-books--I do not say _then_; in old time the Vey
people had no books, but the old men told it to their children and they
kept it; afterwards it was written" (_Journ. Ethnol. Soc._, N.S., vi.
354). A parallel to this comes from Ireland: "What I have told your
honour is true; and if it stands otherwise in books, it's the books
which are wrong. Sure we've better authority than books, for we have it
all handed down from generation to generation" (Kohl's _Travels in
Ireland_, 140).

[184] I am the more willing to take this as my illustration of myth
because, strangely enough, Mr. MacCulloch has omitted it from the
examples he uses in his _Childhood of Fiction_.

[185] _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_, i. 166.

[186] Mr. Jeremiah Curtin has collected and published the _Creation
Myths of Primitive America_ (London, 1899), and his introduction is a
specially valuable study of the subject. I printed the Fijian myth from
Williams' _Fiji and Fijians_, i. 204, and the Kumis myth from Lewin's
_Wild Races of South-east India_, 225-6, in my _Handbook of Folklore_,
137-139, and Mr. Lang, in cap. vi. of his _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_
deals with a sufficient number of examples. _Cf._ also Tylor,
_Primitive Culture_, cap. ix.

[187] Grey, _Polynesian Mythology_, 1-15. I have only summarised the
full legend on the lines adopted by Dr. Tylor.

[188] On the Kronos myth consult Farnell, _Cults of the Greek States_,
i. 23-31, who gives an admirable summary of the evidence as it at
present stands; Harrison and Verrall, _Mythology and Monuments of Anc.
Athens_, 192; Lang, _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_, i. 295-323.

[189] Mr. Crawley discovered this story in Mr. Bain's _A Digit of the
Moon_, 13-15, and printed it in his _Mystic Rose_, 33-34.

[190] "The Interpreters of Genesis and the Interpreters of Nature," and
"Mr. Gladstone and Genesis," in _Science and Hebrew Tradition_, cap.
iv. and v.

[191] _Adonis, Attis and Osiris_, 4, 25. Mr. Jevons, too, lays stress
upon "the source of errors in religion" as human reason gone astray,
_Introd. to Hist. of Religion_, 463.

[192] Mr. Jevons practically arrives at this conclusion from a
different standpoint. "Beliefs," he says, "are about facts, are
statements about facts, statements that certain facts will be found to
occur in a certain way or be of a certain kind" (_Introd. to Hist. of
Religion_, 402). Mr. Curtin, _Creation Myths of Primitive America_ (p.
xx), confirms the view I take.

[193] Orpen, _Cape Monthly Magazine_. Quoted in Lang's _Myth, Ritual,
and Religion_, i. 71.

[194] This myth is, I think, worth giving, because of its obvious
object to account for the difference between white and black races. It
is as follows: "In the beginning of the world God created three white
men and three white women, and three black men and three black women.
In order that these twelve human souls might not thenceforth complain
of Divine partiality and of their separate conditions, God elected that
they should determine their own fates by their own choice of good and
evil. A large calabash or gourd was placed by God upon the ground, and
close to the side of the calabash was also placed a small folded piece
of paper. God ruled that the black man should have the first choice. He
chose the calabash, because he expected that the calabash, being so
large, could not but contain everything needful for himself. He opened
the calabash, and found a scrap of gold, a scrap of iron, and several
other metals of which he did not understand the use. The white man had
no option. He took, of course, the small folded piece of paper, and
discovered that, on being unfolded, it revealed a boundless stock of
knowledge. God then left the black men and women in the bush, and led
the white men and women to the seashore. He did not forsake the white
men and women, but communicated with them every night, and taught them
how to construct a ship, and how to sail from Africa to another
country. After a while they returned to Africa with various kinds of
merchandise, which they bartered to the black men and women, who had
the opportunity of being greater and wiser than the white men and
women, but who, out of sheer avidity, had thrown away their chance."

[195] _Native Tribes of South-east Australia_, cap. viii.

[196] _Northern Tribes of Central Australia_, cap. xxii.; _Native
Tribes of Central Australia_, cap. xviii.

[197] Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes_, 624; _cf. Native Tribes of
Central Australia_, 564.

[198] Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_, 229.

[199] Grey, _Polynesian Mythology_, p. xi. _Cf._ Taylor, _Te Ika a
Maui_, where myths told by the priests are given in cap. vi. and vii.,
and _Trans. Ethnological Soc._, new series, i. 45.

[200] White's _Anc. Hist. of the Maori_, i. 8-13.

[201] Curtin, _Creation Myths of Primitive America_, p. xxi.

[202] Im Thurn, _Indians of Guiana_, 335; Landtman, _Origin of
Priesthood_, 117.

[203] _Primitive Manners and Customs_, cap. i. "Some Savage Myths and
Beliefs," and cap. viii., "Fairy Lore of Savages."

[204] _Introd. to Hist. of Religion_, 263. Of course I do not accept
Mr. J. A. Stewart's "general remarks on the μυθολογία or
story-telling myth" in his _Myths of Plato_, 4-17. All Mr. Stewart's
research is literary in object and result, though he uses the materials
of anthropology.

[205] H. H. Wilson, _Rig Veda Sanhita_, i. p. xvii.

[206] H. H. Wilson, _Vishnu Purana_, i. p. iv; _Rig Veda Sanhita_, i.
p. xlv.

[207] _Religion of the Semites_, 19.

[208] Mr. Hartland passes rapidly in his opening chapter from the myth
as primitive science to the myth as fairy tale, from the savage to the
Celt (_Science of Fairy Tales_, pp. 1-5), and I do not think it is
possible to make this leap without using the bridge which is to be
constructed out of the differing positions occupied by the myth and the
fairy tale.

[209] It will be interesting, I think, to preserve here one or two
instances of the actual practice of telling traditional tales in our
own country. Mr. Hartland has referred to the subject in his _Science
of Fairy Tales_, but the following instances are additional to those he
has noted, and they refer directly back to the living custom. They are
all from Scotland, and refer to the early part of last century. "In
former times, when families, owing to distance and other circumstances,
held little intercourse with each other through the day, numbers were
in the habit of assembling together in the evening in one house, and
spending the time in relating the tales of wonder which had been handed
down to them by tradition" (Kiltearn in Ross and Cromarty; Sinclair,
_Statistical Account of Scotland_, xiv. 323). "In the last generation
every farm and hamlet possessed its oral recorder of tale and song. The
pastoral habits of the people led them to seek recreation in listening
to, and in rehearsing the tales of other times; and the senachie and
the bard were held in high esteem" (Inverness-shire, _ibid._, xiv.
168). "In the winter months, many of them are in the habit of visiting
and spending the evenings in each other's houses in the different
hamlets, repeating the songs of their native bard or listening to the
legendary tales of some venerable senachie" (Durness in
Sutherlandshire, _ibid._, xv. 95).

[210] W. H. R. Rivers, _The Todas_, 3-4.

[211] Pausanias, viii. cap. xv. § 1.

[212] _Journ. Roy. Asiatic Soc._, ii. p. 218.

[213] _Hist. of Rome_, i. pp. 177-179. _Cf._ Gunnar Landtman, _Origin
of Priesthood_, p. 77.

[214] Perhaps Mr. Lang's study of "Cinderella and the Diffusion of
Tales" in _Folklore_, iv. 413 _et seq._, contains the best summary of
the position.

[215] Crawley, _Tree of Life_, 5, 144.

[216] Train, _Hist. of Isle of Man_, ii. 115.

[217] The ceremony is fully described in _Relics for the Curious_, i.
31; _Gentleman's Magazine_, 1784 (see _Gent. Mag. Library_, xxiii.
209), quoting from a tract first published in 1634; and see _Proc. Soc.
Antiq. Scot._, x. 669.

[218] See _Folklore_, iii. 253-264; Rhys, _Celtic Folklore_, i.

[219] Couch, _Hist. of Polperro_, 168.

[220] I have investigated the bee cult at some length, and it will form
part of my study on _Tribal Custom_ which I am now preparing for

[221] Carleton, _Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry_.

[222] Mr. Eden Phillpotts mentions in one of his Cornish stories
exactly this conception. Rags were offered. "Just a rag tored off a
petticoat or some such thing. They hanged 'em up around about on the
thorn bushes, to shaw as they'd 'a' done more for the good saint if
they'd had the power."--_Lying Prophets_, 60.

[223] I gave an example of this false classification of folklore in
accord with its apparent modern association in my preface to _Denham
Tracts_, ii. p. ix. The left-leg stocking divination is not associated
with dress, but with the left-hand as opposed to the right-hand augury,
and I pointed out that the district of the Roman wall, the _locus_ of
the Denham tracts, thus preserves the luck of the left, believed in by
the Romans, in opposition to the luck of the right believed in by the
Teutons. See Schrader, _Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples_,

[224] I elaborated this plan of comparative analysis in a report to the
British Association at Liverpool, in 1896 (see pp. 626-656),
illustrating it from the fire customs of Britain.

[225] _Archæological Review_, ii. 163-166; _cf._ the Rev. J. Macdonald
in _Folklore_, iii. 338.

[226] _Athenæum_, 29th December, 1883; _Archæologia_, vol. l. p. 213.

[227] See MacCulloch's _Childhood of Fiction_, chap. xiii., where this
distinction is noted, though its significance is not pointed out.

[228] Dr. Rivers has dealt with a very similar case of dual origin in
connection with bride capture, see _Journ. Roy. Asiatic Soc._, 1907, p.

[229] Schrader's _Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples_, 422.

[230] Robertson Smith's _Religion of the Semites_, 397.

[231] Monier Williams, _Indian Wisdom_, pp. 29-31. The word-equations
for sacrifice are given by Schrader, _op. cit._, 130, 415.

[232] _Journ. Asiatic Soc. Bengal_, xxxiv. p. 7. On the influence of
the aboriginal races _cf._ Monier Williams, _Indian Wisdom_, 312-313;
Steel and Temple's _Wide Awake Stories_, 395; Campbell, _Tales of West
Highlands_, l. p. xcviii.

[233] Lang, _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_, i. p. 271.

[234] H. H. Wilson, _Religion of the Hindus_, ii. 289. I compare this
with the custom of the cow following the coffin mentioned by Mannhardt,
_Die Gotterwelt_, 320, and the soul shot or gift of a cow at death
recorded by Brand, ii. 248.

[235] _Cf._ Olaus Magnus, pp. 168, 169, for the significant Norse

[236] Spenser, _View of the State of Ireland_, 1595 (Morley reprint),



Although the great mass of folklore rests upon tradition and tradition
alone, an important aid to tradition comes from certain psychological
conditions which we must now consider. At an early stage all students
of folklore will have discovered that it is not entirely to tradition
that folklore is indebted for its material. There are still people
capable of thinking, capable of believing, in the primitive way and in
the primitive degree. Such people are of course the descendants of
long ancestors of such people--people whose minds are not attuned to
the civilisation around them; people, perhaps, whose minds have been
to an extent stunted and kept back by the civilisation around them.
There can be no doubt that civilisation and all it demands of mankind
acts as a deterrent upon the minds of some living within the
civilisation zone, and belonging apparently to the civilised society.
This is the root cause of some of the lunacy and much of the crime
which apparently exists as a necessary adjunct of civilisation, and it
leads to various forms of thought inconsistent with the knowledge and
ideas of the age. When these forms of thought are not concentrated
into a new religious sect by the operation of social laws, they
become what is sometimes called mere superstition, that kind of
superstition which consists of using the same power of logic to a
narrow set of facts which primitive man was in the habit of using, and
thus repeating in this age the methods of primitive science. We cannot
quite understand this in the age of railways and schools and
inventions, but it will be understood better if we go back for only a
generation or two to those parts of our country which are most remote
from civilising influences, and obtain some information as to their

This cannot be better accomplished than by referring to a Scottish
author writing, in 1835, of the superstitions then prevailing in
Scotland. "Our whole genuine records," says Dalyell,

      "teem with the most repulsive pictures of the
      weakness, bigotry, turbulence, and fierce and
      treacherous cruelty of the populace. False and corrupt
      innovations of literature, a compound of facts and
      fiction, intermingling the old and the new in
      heterogeneous assemblage, would persuade us to think
      much more of our forefathers than they thought of
      themselves. Scotland, until the most modern date, was
      an utter stranger to civilisation, presenting a
      sterile country with a famished people, wasted by
      hordes of mendicants readier to seize than to
      solicit--void of ingenious arts and useful
      manufactures, possessed of little skill and learning,
      plunged in constant war and rapine, full of
      insubordination, disturbing public rule and private
      peace. For waving pendants, flowing draperies,
      brilliant colours, eagles' feathers, herons' plumes,
      feasts or festivals so splendid in imagination, let
      naked limbs, scanty, sombre garments to elude
      discovery by the foe, bits of heath stuck in bonnets
      if they had them, precarious sustenance, abject
      humility and all those hardships inseparable from
      uncultivated tribes and countries be instituted as a
      juster portrait of earlier generations."[237]

This statement as to Scotland is correctly drawn from social
conditions which have now passed away, but which, down to the
beginning of last century, belonged to the ordinary life of the
people. Thus it is recorded that

      "over all the highlands of Scotland, and in this
      county in common with others, the practice of building
      what are called head-dykes was of very remote
      antiquity. The head-dyke was drawn across the head of
      a farm, when nature had marked the boundary betwixt
      the green pastures and that portion of hill which was
      covered totally or partially with heath. Above this
      fence the young cattle, the horses, the sheep and
      goats were kept in the summer months. The milch cows
      were fed below, except during the time the farmer's
      family removed to the distant grazings called
      sheilings. Beyond the head-dyke little attention was
      paid to boundaries. These enclosures exhibit the most
      evident traces of extreme old age."[238]


In Ireland the same conditions obtained so late as the sixteenth
century; the native Irish retained their wandering habits, tilling a
piece of fertile land in the spring, then retiring with their herds to
the booleys or dairy habitations, generally in the mountain districts
in the summer, and moving about where the herbage afforded sustenance
to their cattle.[239] An eighteenth-century traveller in Ireland
was assured that the quarter called Connaught was "inhabited by a kind
of savages," and there is record of the capture of a hairy dwarf near
Longford, who appears hardly to belong to civilisation.[240] Similar
conditions obtained in the northern counties of England, and in other
parts.[241] Special circumstances kept the borderland outside the
influences of ordinary civilised thought and control, and these
circumstances have been recorded by an eighteenth-century observer,
from whom I will quote one or two facts as to the mode of life of
these people: "That they might be more invisible during their outrodes
and consequently less liable to the effects of their enemies'
vigilance, the colour of their cloathes resembled that of the scenes
of their employment or of their season of action, that is, of a brown
heath and cloudy evening. Thus examples of what might condemn their
conduct were never offered to them, and immemorial custom seemed as it
were to sanctify their wildness. Every border-man, almost without
exception, was brought up in a state which we would call unhappy, and
every circumstance of his life tended to confirm his partiality for an
uncertain bed and unprovided diet."[242]

The evidence which this acute observer collected led him to conclude
that the "almost uniform train of circumstances which affected these
countries from their border situation, and the little difference there
was between one of the dark ages and another, strongly induce me to
believe that the Northern people were little altered in manners from
very remote times to those immediately preceding the reign of Queen
Elizabeth," and this is confirmed by what we actually find from the
report of the Commissioners appointed to settle the peace of the
Marches by fixed and established ordinances, who collected "their
ordinances from the traditional accounts of ancient usages that had
been sanctified as laws by the length of time which they had endured.
These laws were different from most others, nay, almost peculiar to
the men to whom they belonged."[243]

I need not continue these notes as to the backwardness of portions of
the country compared with its general level of culture, because I have
dealt with the evidence elsewhere.[244] What I am anxious to point out
here is that the faculty of such people as these to think, not in
terms of modern science but in terms of their own psychological
conditions, must have been pronounced. If they ever put the question
to themselves as to the origin of things, they would answer themselves
according to the life impressions they were then receiving, and
according to the limited range of their actual knowledge. As with the
creators of the traditional myths, the scientific inquirers of
primitive times, so with these non-advanced people of later times,
they would deal with the problems they did not understand in fashions
suitable to their own understanding. It has always appeared to me that
the impressions of the surrounding life are not sufficiently regarded
in their influence upon primitive thought. They press down upon the
mind, and enclose it within barriers so that it can only act through
these surroundings. Child-life is, in this respect, much the same as
the life of primitive man. A child thinks and acts in terms of his
nursery, his school, or his playground. Thus a memory of my own is to
the point. When quite a child, probably about eight or nine years old,
I was entrusted with the changing of a small cheque drawn by my father
in a country town where we were staying. I had never seen a cheque
before. I remember the ceremony of writing it and the care with which
the necessary instructions were given to me, and I remember the
amazement with which I received the golden sovereigns. But my mind
dwelt upon this strange thing called a cheque, and after a time I
deliberately came to the conclusion that my father was allowed to get
money for these cheques on condition only that he wrote them without a
mistake and without a blot. The conception is absurd until we come to
analyse the cause of it. My young life at that time was receiving its
greatest impressions, its all-absorbing impressions, from my school
exercises in writing. It was a copybook life for the time being, and
when I turned to ask my question as to origins, as every human being
has asked himself in turn, I could express myself only in copybook
terms. It is so with the primitive mind. It can only express itself in
the terms of its greatest impressions, and it is in this way that
primitive animism, sympathetic magic and other conceptions obtained
from the results of anthropological research, are to be found in much
the same degree wherever humanity is found in primitive conditions.
As Mr. Hickson puts it so well: "Just as the little black baby of the
negro, the brown baby of the Malay, the yellow baby of the Chinaman,
are in face and form, in gestures and habits, as well as in the first
articulate sound they mutter, very much alike, so the mind of man,
whether he be Aryan or Malay, Mongolian or Negrito, has, in the course
of its evolution, passed through stages which are practically
identical. In the intellectual childhood of mankind natural phenomena,
or some other causes, of which we are at present ignorant, have
induced thoughts, stories, legends, and myths, that in their
essentials are identical among all the races of the world with which
we are acquainted;"[245] or to take one other example from the
experience of travellers, Mr. Mitchell, speaking of the Australians,
says: "I found a native still there, and on my advancing towards him
with a twig he shook another twig at me, waving it over his head, and
at the same time intimating with it that we must go back. He and the
boy then threw up dust at us with their toes (_cf._ 2 Sam. xvi. 13).
These various expressions of hostility and defiance were too
intelligible to be mistaken. The expressive pantomime of the man
showed the identity of the human mind, however distinct the races or
different the language."[246]

This identity is shown in many other ways to have been operating,
perhaps to be operating still, upon minds not attuned to the
civilisation around them. The resistance of agriculturists to change
is well known.[247] The crooked ridges of the open-field system were
believed to be necessary because they were supposed to deceive the
devil,[248] while a superstitious dislike was entertained against
winnowing machines, because they were supposed to interfere with the
elements.[249] This is nothing but a modern example of sympathetic
magic produced by the introduction of the new machine.

I need not go through the researches of the masters of anthropology to
explain what the psychological evidence exactly amounts to, and the
realms of primitive thought and experience which it connotes.[250] It
will, however, be useful for the purpose of our present study, if we
can find among the peasantry of our country (perchance from those
districts where we have noted conditions under which primitive thought
might retain a continuous hold) examples of belief or superstition
which belongs rather to psychological than to traditional influences.
The interpretation of dreams, the belief in spirit apparitions, the
practice of charms, all belong to this branch of our subject, though I
shall illustrate the points I wish to bring out by reference to less
common departments.

It was only in the seventeenth century that a learned divine of the
Church of England was shocked to hear one of his flock repeat the
evidence of his pagan beliefs in language which is as explicit as it
is amusing; and I shall not be accused of trifling with religious
susceptibilities if I quote a passage from a sermon delivered and
printed in 1659--a passage which shows not a departure from
Christianity either through ignorance or from the result of
philosophic study or contemplation, but a sheer non-advance to
Christianity, a passage which shows us an English pagan of the
seventeenth century.

"Let me tell you a story," says the Reverend Mr. Pemble, "that I have
heard from a reverend man out of the pulpit, a place where none should
dare to tell a lye, of an old man above sixty, who lived and died in a
parish where there had bin preaching almost all his time.... On his
deathbed, being questioned by a minister touching his faith and hope
in God, you would wonder to hear what answer he made: being demanded
what he thought of God, he answers that he was a good old man; and
what of Christ, that he was a towardly youth; and of his soule, that
it was a great bone in his body; and what should become of his soule
after he was dead, that if he had done well he should be put into a
pleasant green meadow."[251]

Of the four articles of this singular creed, the first two depict an
absence of knowledge about the central features of Christian belief,
the latter two denote the existence of knowledge about some belief not
known to English scholars of that time. If it had so happened that
the Reverend Mr. Pemble had thought fit to tell his audience only of
the first two articles of this creed, it would have been difficult to
resist the suggestion that they presented us merely with an example of
stupid, or, perhaps, impudent, blasphemy caused by the events of the
day. But the negative nature of the first two items of the creed is
counterbalanced by the positive nature of the second two items; and
thus this example shows us the importance of considering evidence as
to all phases of non-belief in Christianity.

Passing on to the two items of positive belief, it is to be noted that
the soul resident in the body in the shape of a bone is no part of the
early European belief, but equates rather with the savage idea which
identifies the soul with some material part of the body, such as the
eyes, the heart, or the liver; and it is interesting to note in this
connection that the backbone is considered by some savage races,
_e.g._, the New Zealanders, as especially sacred because the soul or
spiritual essence of man resides in the spinal marrow.[252] And there
is a well-known incident in folk-tales which seems to owe its origin
to this group of ideas. This is where the hero having been killed, one
of his bones tells the secret of his death, and thus acts the part of
the soul-ghost.

In the pleasant green fields we trace the old faiths of the
agricultural peasantry which, put into the words of Hesiod, tell us
that "for them earth yields her increase; for them the oaks hold in
their summits acorns, and in their midmost branches bees. The flocks
bear for them their fleecy burdens ... they live in _unchanged
happiness_, and need not fly across the sea in impious ships"--faiths
which are in striking contrast to the tribal warrior's conception as
set forth by the Saxon thane of King Eadwine of Northumbria. "This
life," said this poetical thane, "is like the passage of a bird from
the darkness without into a lighted hall where you, O King, are seated
at supper, while storms, and rain, and snow rage abroad. The sparrow
flying in at our door and straightway out at another is, while within,
safe from the storm; but soon it vanishes into the darkness whence it

Such faiths as these, indeed, show us primitive ideas at their very
roots. This seventeenth-century pagan depended upon himself for his
faith. He worked out his own ideas as to the origin of soul and heaven
and God and Christ. They were terms that had filtered down to him
through the hard surroundings of his life, and he set to work to
define them in the fashion of the primitive savage. We meet with other
examples. Thus among the superstitions of Lancashire is one which
tells us of the lingering belief in a long journey after death, when
food is necessary to support the soul. A man having died of apoplexy,
near Manchester, at a public dinner, one of the company was heard to
remark: "Well, poor Joe, God rest his soul! He has at least gone to
his long rest wi' a belly full o' good meat, and that's some
consolation," and perhaps a still more remarkable instance is that of
the woman buried in Cuxton Church, near Rochester, who directed by
her will that the coffin was to have a lock and key, the key being
placed in her dead hand, so that she might be able to release herself
at pleasure.[253]

These people simply did not understand civilised thought or civilised
religion. To escape from the pressure of trying to understand they
turned to think for themselves, and thinking for themselves merely
brought them back to the standpoint of primitive thought. It could
hardly be otherwise. The working of the human mind is on the same
plane wherever and whenever it operates or has operated. The
difference in results arises from the enlarged field of observation.
When the Suffolk peasant set to work to account for the existence of
stones on his field by asserting that the fields produced the stones,
and for the origin of the so-called "pudding-stone" conglomerate, that
it was a mother stone and the parent of the pebbles,[254] he was
beginning a first treatise on geology; and when the Hampshire peasant
attributes the origin of the tutsan berries to having germinated in
the blood of slaughtered Danes,[255] other counties following the same
thought, I am not at all sure that he is not beginning all over again
the primitive conception of the origin of plants.



This beginning shows the mark of the primitive mind, and that it was
operating in a country dominated by scientific thought is the
phenomenon which makes it so important to consider psychological
conditions among the problems of folklore. They account for some
beliefs which may not contain elements of pure tradition. When the
Mishmee Hill people of India affirm of a high white cliff at the foot
of one of the hills that approaches the Burhampooter that it is the
remains of the "marriage feast of Raja Sisopal with the daughter of the
neighbouring king, named Bhismak, but she being stolen away by Krishna
before the ceremony was completed, the whole of the viands were left
uneaten and have since become consolidated into their present
form,"[256] we can understand that the belief is in strict accord with
the primitive conditions of thought of the Mishmee people. Can we
understand the same conditions of the parallel English belief
concerning the stone circle known as "Long Meg and her daughters,"[257]
and of that at Stanton Drew;[258] or of the allied beliefs in Scotland
that a huge upright stone, Clach Macmeas, in Loth, a parish of
Sutherlandshire, was hurled to the bottom of the glen from the top of
Ben Uarie by a giant youth when he was only one month old;[259] and in
England that "the Hurlers," in Cornwall, were once men engaged in the
game of hurling, and were turned into stone for playing on the Lord's
Day; that the circle, known as "Nine Maidens," were maidens turned into
stone for dancing on the Lord's Day;[260] that the stone circle at
Stanton Drew represents serpents converted into stones by Keyna, a holy
virgin of the fifth century;[261] and that the so-called snake stones
found at Whitby were serpents turned into stones by the prayers of the
Abbess Hilda.[262] These are only examples of the kind of beliefs
entertained in all parts of the United Kingdom,[263] and they seem
based upon psychological, rather than traditional conditions.

The giant and the witch, or wizard, are terms applied to the unknown
personal agent. "The two standing stones in the neighbourhood of West
Skeld are said to be the metamorphosis of two wizards or giants, who
were on their way to plunder and murder the inhabitants of West Skeld;
but not having calculated their time with sufficient accuracy, before
they could accomplish their purpose, or retrace their steps to their
dark abodes, the first rays of the morning sun appeared, and they were
immediately transformed, and remain to the present time in the shape
of two tall moss-grown stones of ten feet in height."[264] This is
paralleled by the Merionethshire example of a large drift of stones
about midway up the Moelore in Llan Dwywe, which was believed to be
due to a witch who "was carrying her apron full of stones for some
purpose to the top of the hill, and the string of the apron broke, and
all the stones dropped on the spot, where they still remain under the
name of Fedogaid-y-Widdon."[265] Giant and witch in these cases are
generic terms by which the popular mind has conveyed a conception of
the origin of these strange and remarkable monuments, whether natural
or constructed by a long-forgotten people; and we cannot doubt that
such beliefs are generated by the peasantry of civilisation from a
mental conception not far removed from that of the primitive savage.
Neither their religion nor their education was concerned with such
things, so the peasants turned to their own realm and created a myth
of origins suitable to their limited range of knowledge.

It may perhaps be urged that such beliefs as these are on the
borderland of psychological and traditional influences. Witches and
giants certainly belong to tradition, but on the other hand they are
the common factors of the natural mind which readily attributes
personal origins to impersonal objects. I am inclined on the whole to
attribute the beliefs attachable to the unexplained boulders or
unknown monoliths to the eternal questionings in the minds of the
uncultured peasants of uncivilised countries similar to those of the
unadvanced savage. That the peasant of civilisation should confine his
questionings to the by-products of his surroundings and not to the
greater subjects which occupy the minds of savages, is only because
the greater subjects have already been answered for him by the
Christian Church.[266]

There is a point, however, where psychological and traditional
conditions are in natural conjunction, and I will just refer to this.
That matters of legal importance should be preserved by the agency of
tradition has already been shown to belong to that part of history for
which there are no contemporary records, and its importance in this
connection has been proved. Equally important from the psychological
side is the fact that law is also preserved by tradition where people
are unaccustomed to the use of writing, or by reason of their
occupation have little use for writing. To illustrate this, I will
quote an excellent note preserved by a writer on Cornish

      "There is an old 'vulgar error'--that no man can swear
      as a witness in a court of law to any thing he has
      seen through glass. This is based upon the formerly
      universal use of blown glass for windows, in which
      glass the constant recurrence of the greenish, and
      barely more than semi-transparent bull's eyes, so much
      distorted the view that it was unsafe for a spectator
      through glass to pledge his oath to what he saw going
      on outside. Now, through our present glass, this
      belief is relegated to the region of forgotten things,
      but nevertheless it has hold on Westcountry people
      still. I was, some years since, investigating the case
      of a derelict ship which had been found off the Scilly
      Islands, and towed by the pilots into a safe anchorage
      for the night. Next morning the pilots going out to
      complete their salvage, saw some men on board the
      derelict casting off the anchor rope by which they had
      secured her, but they distinctly declined to swear to
      the truth of what they had seen, and it turned out
      that they had seen through glass, by which they meant
      a telescope. In the same case I found that when these
      pilots (men intelligent much beyond the average, as
      all Scillonians are) had, on boarding the derelict
      (which had, of course, been deserted by her crew),
      found a living dog, they had deliberately thrown it
      overboard. They explained this act of cruelty to me by
      saying that a ship was not derelict if on board of her
      was found alive 'man, woman, child, dog, or cat.' And
      it turned out, on after-investigation, that these were
      the very words used in an obsolete Act of Parliament
      of one of the early Plantagenet kings, forgotten
      centuries ago by the English people, but borne in mind
      as a living fact by the Scillonians."[267]

In some special departments elementary psychological conditions
operate in a considerable degree--operate to produce not waifs and
strays of primitive thought and belief, but whole classes. Thus in the
curious accretion of superstition around the objects connected with
church worship, the same agencies are at work. The general
characteristic of popular beliefs which originated with, or have grown
up around the consecrated objects of the Church, is that such objects
are beneficent in their action when employed for any given purpose.
Thus, as Henderson says of the North of England, "a belief in the
efficacy of the sacred elements in the Eucharist for the cure of
bodily disease is widely spread." Silver rings, made from the
offertory money, are very generally worn for the cure of epilepsy.
Water that had been used in baptism was believed in West Scotland to
have virtue to cure many distempers; it was a preventive against
witchcraft, and eyes bathed with it would never see a ghost. Dalyell
puts the evidence very succinctly. "Everything relative to sanctity
was deemed a preservative. Hence the relics of saints, the touch of
their clothes, of their tombs, and even portions of structures
consecrated to divine offices were a safeguard near the person. A
white marble altar in the church of Iona, almost entire towards the
close of the seventeenth century, had disappeared late in the
eighteenth, from its demolition in fragments to avert shipwreck." And
so what has been consecrated, must not be desecrated. In
Leicestershire and Northamptonshire there is a superstitious idea that
the removal or exhumation of a body after interment bodes death or
some terrible calamity to the surviving members of the deceased's

In the West of Ireland there were usually found upon the altars of the
small missionary churches one or more oval stones, either natural
waterwashed pebbles or artificially shaped and very smooth, and these
were held in the highest veneration by the peasantry as having
belonged to the founders of the churches, and were used for a variety
of purposes, as the curing of diseases, taking oaths upon them,
etc.[269] Similarly the using of any remains of destroyed churches for
profane purposes was believed to bring misfortune,[270] while the land
which once belonged to the church of St. Baramedan, in the parish of
Kilbarrymeaden, county Waterford, "has long been highly venerated by
the common people, who attribute to it many surprising virtues."[271]
In 1849 the people of Carrick were in the habit of carrying away from
the churchyard portions of the clay of a priest's grave and using it
as a cure for several diseases, and they also boiled the clay from the
grave of Father O'Connor with milk and drank it.[272] One of the
superstitious fancies of the Connemara folk in 1825 was credulity with
respect to the gospels, as they are called, which "they wear round
their neck as a charm against danger and disease. These are prepared
by the priest, and sold by him at the price of two or three
tenpennies. It is considered sacrilege in the purchaser to part with
them at any time, and it is believed that the charm proves of no
efficacy to any but the individual for whose particular benefit the
priest has blessed it. The charm is written on a scrap of paper and
enclosed in a small cloth bag, marked on one side with the letters
I. H. S. On one side of the paper is written the Lord's Prayer, and
after it a great number of initial letters."[273]

Such examples could be multiplied indefinitely, but no folklorist has
properly classified such beliefs and endeavoured to ascertain their
place in the science of folklore.[274] It is clear they have arisen
not from tradition, but from a new force acting on minds which were
not yet free to receive new influences without going back to old
methods of thought.

How completely the sanctity of the church exercises a constant
influence upon the minds of men, thus substituting a new form of
belief when older forms were thrust on one side by the advance of the
new religion, is perhaps best illustrated by a practice in early
Christian times for giving sanctity to the oath. Among the Jews the
altar in the Temple was resorted to by litigants in order that the
oath might be taken in the presence of Yahveh himself, and "so
powerful was the impression of this upon the Christian mind, that in
the early ages of the Church there was a popular superstition that an
oath taken in a Jewish synagogue was more binding and more efficient
than anywhere else."[275] In exactly the same way the altar of the
Christian Church is used in popular belief after its use in Church
ceremonial has been discontinued. Thus, to get in beneath the altar of
St. Hilary Church, Anglesey, by means of an open panel and then turn
round and come out is to ensure life for the coming year,[276] and the
white marble altar in Iona which has been entirely demolished by
fragments of it being used to avert shipwreck has already been
referred to.[277] These are cases where there has been a throwing back
from the new religion to the objects connected with the old religion,
and they are paralleled by the practice of Protestants appealing to
the Roman Catholic priesthood for protection against witchcraft, and
of Nonconformists believing that the clergy of the Episcopal Church
possess superior powers over evil spirits.[278]

Psychological evidence is therefore important. One can never be quite
sure to what extent civilised man is free from creating fresh myths in
place of acquired scientific result, and to what extent this
influences the production of primitive beliefs, or allows of the
acceptance of traditional belief on new ground. The great mass of
traditional belief has come through the ages traditionally, that is,
from parent to child, from neighbour to neighbour, from class to
class, from locality to locality, generation after generation.
Occasionally this main current of the traditional life of a people is
swollen by small side streams from fresh psychological sources.
Individual examples, such as those I have cited, have perhaps always
been present, but their effect must have died away with the passing of
those with whom they originated. There are, however, stronger effects
than these, coming not from individuals, but from classes. Thus the
votaries and enemies of witchcraft produced a more lasting effect.
Witchcraft, as Dr. Karl Pearson, I think, conclusively proves, and as
I have helped to prove,[279] is founded upon traditional belief and
custom, but its remarkable revival in the Middle Ages was in the main
a psychological phenomenon. Traditional practices, traditional
formulæ, and traditional beliefs are no doubt the elements of
witchcraft, but it was not the force of tradition which produced the
miserable doings of the Middle Ages and of the seventeenth century
against witches. These were due to a psychological force, partly
generated by the newly acquired power of the people to read the Bible
for themselves, and so to apply the witch stories of the Jews to
neighbours of their own who possessed powers or peculiarities which
they could not understand, and partly generated by the carrying on of
traditional practices by certain families or groups of persons who
could only acquire knowledge of such practices by initiation or family
teaching. Lawyers, magistrates, judges, nobles, and monarchs are
concerned with witchcraft. These are not minds which have been crushed
by civilisation, but minds which have misunderstood it or have misused
it. It is unnecessary, and it is of course impossible on this occasion
to trace out the psychic issues which are contained in the facts of
witchcraft, but it may be advisable to illustrate the point by one or
two references.

I will note a few modern examples of the belief in witchcraft:--

      "In 1879 extraordinary stories were current among the
      populace of Caergwrle. Mrs. Braithwaite supplied a
      Mrs. Williams with milk, but afterwards refused to
      serve her, and the cause was as follows: Mrs.
      Braithwaite had up to that time been very successful
      in churning her butter, but about a month ago the
      butter would not come. She tried every known agency;
      she washed and dried her bats, but all to no purpose.
      The milk would not yield an ounce of butter. Under the
      circumstances she said Mrs. Williams had witched her.
      The neighbours believed it, and Mrs. Williams was
      generally called a witch. Hearing these reports, Mrs.
      Williams went to Mrs. Braithwaite to expostulate with
      her, when Mrs. Braithwaite said, 'Out, witch! If you
      don't leave here, I'll shoot you.' Mrs. Williams
      thereupon applied to the Caergwrle bench of
      magistrates for a protection order against Mrs.
      Braithwaite. She assured the Bench she was in danger,
      as every one believed she was a witch. The Clerk: What
      do they say is the reason? Applicant: Because she
      cannot churn the milk. Mr. Kryke: Do they see you
      riding a broomstick? Applicant (seriously): No, sir.
      The Bench instructed the police officer to caution
      Mrs. Braithwaite against repeating the threats."[280]

The next example is from Lancashire:--

      "At the East Dereham Petty Sessions, William Bulwer,
      of Etling Green, was charged with assaulting
      Christiana Martins, a young girl, who resided near the
      Etling Green toll-bar. Complainant deposed that she
      was 18 years of age, and on Wednesday, the 2nd inst.,
      the defendant came to her and abused her. The
      complainant, who looks scarce more than a child,
      repeated, despite the efforts of the magistrates'
      clerk to stop her, and without being in the least
      abashed, some of the worst language it was possible to
      conceive--conversation of the most gross description,
      alleged to have taken place between herself and the
      defendant. They appeared to have got from words to
      blows and, while trying to fasten the gate, the
      defendant hit her across the hand with a stick. She
      alleged that there was no cause for the abuse and the
      assault, so far as she knew, and in reply to rigid
      cross-examination as to the origin of the quarrel,
      adhered to this statement. Mrs. Susannah Gathercole
      also corroborated the statement as to the assault,
      adding that the defendant said the complainant's
      mother was a witch. Defendant then blazed forth in
      righteous indignation, and, when the witness said she
      knew no more about the origin of the quarrel, he said,
      'Mrs. Martins is an old witch, gentlemen, that is what
      she is, and she charmed me, and I got no sleep for her
      for three nights, and one night at half-past eleven
      o'clock, I got up because I could not sleep, and went
      out and found a "walking toad" under a clod that had
      been dug up with a three-pronged fork. That is why I
      could not rest; she is a bad old woman; she put this
      toad under there to charm me, and her daughter is just
      as bad, gentlemen. She would bewitch any one; she
      charmed me, and I got no rest day or night for her,
      till I found this "walking toad" under the turf. She
      dug a hole and put it there to charm me, gentlemen,
      that is the truth. I got the toad out and put it in a
      cloth, and took it upstairs and showed it to my
      mother, and "throwed" it into the pit in the garden.
      She went round this here "walking toad" after she had
      buried it, and I could not rest by day or sleep by
      night till I found it. The Bench: Do you go to church?
      Defendant: Sometimes I go to church, and sometimes to
      chapel, and sometimes I don't go nowhere. Her mother
      is bad enough to do anything; and to go and put the
      "walking toad" in the hole like that, for a man which
      never did nothing to her, she is not fit to live,
      gentlemen, to go and do such a thing; it is not as if
      I had done anything to her. She looks at lots of
      people, and I know she will do some one harm. The
      Chairman: Do you know this man, Superintendent Symons?
      Is he sane? Superintendent Symons: Yes, sir;

In Somerset belief in witchcraft still lingers in nooks and corners of
the west, as appears from a case brought before the magistrates of the
Wiveliscombe division.

      "Sarah Smith, the wife of a marine store dealer,
      residing at Golden Hill, was for some time ill and
      confined to her bed. Finding that the local doctor
      could not cure her, she sent for a witch doctor of
      Taunton. He duly arrived by train on St. Thomas's day.
      Smith inquired his charge, and was informed he usually
      charged 11s., remarking that unless he took it from
      the person affected his incantation would be of no
      avail. Smith then handed it to his wife, who gave it
      to the witch doctor, and he returned 1s. to her. He
      then proceeded to foil the witch's power over his
      patient by tapping her several times on the palm of
      her hand with his finger, telling her that every tap
      was a stab on the witch's heart. This was followed by
      an incantation. He then gave her a parcel of herbs
      (which evidently consisted of dried bay leaves and
      peppermint), which she was to steep and drink. She was
      to send to a blacksmith's shop and get a donkey's shoe
      made, and nail it on her front door. He then

Such examples as these may be added to from various parts of the
country, but they do not compare with the terrible case at Clonmel, in
county Tipperary, which occurred in 1895. The evidence showed that the
husband, father, and mother of the victim, together with several other
persons, were concerned in this matter, and one of the witnesses, Mary
Simpson, stated "that on the night of March 14th she saw Cleary
forcibly administer herbs to his wife, and when the woman did not
answer when called upon in the name of the Trinity to say who she was,
she was placed on the fire by Cleary and the others. Mrs. Cleary did
not appear to be in her right senses. She was raving."[283] The whole
record of the trial is of the most amazing description, pointing back
to a system of belief which, if based upon traditional practices, has
been fed by entirely modern influences. Such records as these stretch
back through the ages, and almost every village, certainly every
county in the United Kingdom, has its records of trials for
witchcraft, in which clergy and layman, judge, jury, and victim play
strange parts, if we consider them as members of a civilised
community. Superstition which has been preserved by the folk as sacred
to their old faiths, preserved by tradition, has remained the
cherished possession, generally in secret, of those who practise it.
The belief in witchcraft is a different matter. Though it has
traditional rites and practices it has been kept alive by a cruel and
crude interpretation of its position among the faiths of the Bible,
and it has thus received fresh life.

The miserable records of witchcraft illustrate in a way no other
subject can how the human mind, when untouched by the influences of
advanced culture, has the tendency to revert to traditional culture,
and they demonstrate how strongly embedded in human memory is the
great mass of traditional culture. The outside civilisation, religious
or scientific, has not penetrated far. Science has only just begun her
great work, and religion has been spending most of her efforts in
endeavouring to displace a set of beliefs which she calls
superstition, by a set of superstitions which she calls revelation.
Not only have the older faiths not been eradicated by this, but the
older psychological conditions have not been made to disappear. The
folklorist has to make note of this obviously significant fact, and
must therefore deal with both sides of the question, the traditional
and the psychological, and because by far the greater importance
belongs to the former it does not do to neglect the importance, though
the lesser importance, of the latter.

It assists the student of tradition in many ways. People who will
still explain for themselves in primitive fashion phenomena which they
do not understand, and who remain content with such primitive
explanations instead of relying upon the discoveries of science, are
just the people to retain with strong persistence the traditional
beliefs and ideas which they obtained from their fathers, and to
acquire other traditional beliefs and ideas which they obtain from
neighbours. One often wonders at the "amazing toughness" of tradition,
and in the psychological conditions which have been indicated will be
found one of the necessary explanations.


[237] Dalyell, _Darker Superstitions of Scotland_, 197-198.

[238] Robertson, _Agriculture of Inverness-shire_. For Argyllshire see
_New Stat. Account of Scotland_, vii. 346; Brown, _Early Descriptions
of Scotland_, 12, 49, 99.

[239] Wilde, _Catalogue of Museum of Royal Irish Academy_, 99; Joyce,
_Social Hist. of Anc. Ireland_, ii. 27.

[240] _Tour in Ireland_, 1775, p. 144; _Gent. Mag._, v. 680.

[241] Hutchinson, _Hist. of Cumberland_, i. 216.

[242] James Clarke, _Survey of the Lakes_, 1789, p. xiii; _Berwickshire
Nat. Field Club_, ix. 512.

[243] Clarke, _Survey of the Lakes_, pp. x, xv. Referring to the
statutes enacted as a result of the Commissioners' work the facts are
as follows: There were certain franchises in North and South Tynedale
and Hexhamshire, by virtue of which the King's writ did not run there.
[Tynedale, though on the English side of the border, was an ancient
franchise of the Kings of Scotland.] In 1293 Edward I. confirmed this
grant in favour of John of Balliol (1 Rot. Parl., 114-16), and the
inhabitants took advantage of this immunity to make forays and commit
outrages in neighbouring counties. In the year 1414, at the Parliament
holden at Leicester, "grievous complaints" of these outrages were made
"by the Commons of the County of Northumberland." It was accordingly
provided (2 Henry V., cap. 5) that process should be taken against such
offenders under the common law until they were outlawed; and that then,
upon a certificate of outlawry made to lords of franchises in North and
South Tynedale and Hexhamshire, the offender's lands and goods should
be forfeited. In 1421 the provisions of this statute were extended to
like offenders in Rydesdale, where also the King's writ did not run (9
Henry V., cap. 7). Still these excesses continued in Tynedale. By an
enactment of Henry VII. (2 Henry VII., cap. 9) this "lordship and
bounds" were annexed to the county of Northumberland. "Forasmuch," the
preamble sets forth, "as the inhabitants and dwellers within the
lordships and bounds of North and South Tyndale, not only in their own
persons, but also oftentimes accompanied and confedered with Scottish
ancient enemies to this realm, have at many seasons in time past
committed and done, and yet daily and nightly commit and do, great and
heinous murders, robberies, felonies, depredations, riots and other
great trespasses upon the King our Sovereign lord's true and faithful
liege people and subjects, inhabiters and dwellers within the shires of
Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, Exhamshire [_sic_], the
bishopric of Durham and in a part of Yorkshire, in which treasons,
murders, robberies, felonies, and other the premises, have not in time
past in any manner of form been punished after the order and course of
the common law, by reason of such franchise as was used within the same
while it was in the possession of any other lord or lords than our
Sovereign lord, and thus for lack of punishment of these treasons,
murders, robberies and felonies, the King's true and faithful liege
people and subjects, inhabiters and dwellers within the shires and
places before rehearsed, cannot be in any manner of surety of their
bodies or goods, neither yet lie in their own houses, but either to be
murdered or taken or carried into Scotland and there ransomed, to their
great destruction of body and goods, and utter impoverishing for ever,
unless due and hasty remedy be had and found," it is therefore provided
that North and South Tynedale shall from thenceforth be gildable, and
part of the shire of Northumberland, that no franchise shall stand good
there, and the King's writ shall run, and his officers and all their
warrants be obeyed there as in every other part of that shire. Further,
lessees of lands within the bounds are to enter into recognisances in
two sureties to appear and answer all charges.

[244] See my _Ethnology in Folklore_, cap. vi.

[245] Hickson, _North Celebes_, 240.

[246] Mitchell's _Australian Expeditions_, i. 246.

[247] See my _Village Community_, 18; Stewart's _Highlanders of
Scotland_, i. 147, 228.

[248] _Notes and Queries_, second series, iv. 487.

[249] Wild, _Highlands, Orcadia and Skye_, 196.

[250] The psychology of primitive races is now receiving scientific
attention, thanks chiefly to Dr. Haddon and the scholars who
accompanied him upon his Torres Straits expedition in 1898. The volume
of the memoirs of this expedition which relates to psychology has
already been published, and students should consult it as an example of
scientific method.

[251] One is reminded of the famous Shakespearian emendation whereby
Falstaff on his death-bed "babbled o' green fields."

[252] Shortland, _New Zealanders_, 107. An Algonquin backbone story is
quoted by MacCulloch, _Childhood of Fiction_, 92, and he says, "the
spine is held by many people to be the seat of life," 93 and _cf._ III.
_Cf._ Frazer, _Adonis, Attis, and Osiris_, 277.

[253] _Gent. Mag. Lib._, _Popular Superstitions_, 122.

[254] _County Folklore, Suffolk_, 2.

[255] _Hardwick's Science Gossip_, vi. 281; _cf._ Worsaae, _Danes and
Norwegians_, 25.

[256] _Journ. Asiatic Soc., Bengal_, xiv. 479.

[257] King, _Munimenta Antiqua_, i. 195-6; _Gent. Mag. Lib._,
_Archæology_, i. 319-321; Hutchinson, _Hist. Cumberland_, i. 226.

[258] _Arch. Journ._, xv. 204.

[259] Sinclair, _Stat. Acct. of Scotland_, xv. 191.

[260] _Journ. Anthrop. Inst._, i. 2; _Gent. Mag. Lib._, _Archæology_,
i. 21.

[261] _Archæologia_, xxv. 198.

[262] _Gent. Mag._, 1751, pp. 110, 182.

[263] Some Irish examples are collected in _Folklore Record_, v.

[264] Sinclair, _Stat. Acct. of Scotland_, xv. 111.

[265] _Trans. Cymmrodorion Soc._ (1822), i. 170.

[266] It is not worth while, perhaps, to pursue this part of our
subject into further regions. It is to be sought for in innumerable
pamphlets, such, for instance, as those relating to the Civil War.
Beesley, _Hist. of Banbury_, 334, mentions one, the title of which I
will quote: "A great Wonder in Heaven shewing the late Apparitions and
prodigious noyses of War and Battels seen on Edge Hill neere Keinton,"
and the contents are "Certified under the hands of William Wood Esq and
Justice for the Peace in the said Countie, Samuel Marshall, Preacher of
God's Word in Keinton, and other Persons of Qualitie." The date is
exactly three months after the battle of Edgehill, "London, printed for
Thomas Jackson, January 23rd, 1642-3."

[267] _West of England Magazine_, February, 1888.

[268] Henderson, _Folklore of the Northern Counties_, 146; Napier,
_Folklore of West of Scotland_, 140; Dalyell, _Darker Superstitions of
Scotland_, 142; _Choice Notes_ (_Folklore_), 8; Brand, iii. 300; Dyer,
_English Folklore_, 146, 153 (Hereford, Lincoln, and Yorks).

[269] Wilde, _Catalogue of Royal Irish Academy_, 131.

[270] _Folklore Record_, iv. 105.

[271] Rev. R. H. Ryland, _Hist. of Waterford_, 271.

[272] Wilde, _Beauties of the Boyne_, 45; Croker, _Researches in South
of Ireland_, 170; _Revue Celtique_, v. 358.

[273] Blake, _Letters from the Irish Highlands_, 130-131.

[274] _Church Folklore_, by Rev. J. E. Vaux, is a collection of
material, and does not attempt to give any indication of its value.

[275] Lea, _Superstition and Force_, 28.

[276] _Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc._, xxv. 142; Rev. W. Bingley, _North
Wales_, 216-217.

[277] Sacheverell, _Voyage to Isle of Man_, 132.

[278] Tylor, _Primitive Culture_, i. 115; Landt, _Origin of the
Priesthood_, 85; Henderson, _Folklore of Northern Counties_, 32-33;
_Folklore Record_, i. 46.

[279] Pearson's _Chances of Death_, ii. cap. ix., "Woman as Witch;"
Gomme, _Ethnology in Folklore_, 48-62.

[280] _Daily Chronicle_, 15th February, 1879.

[281] _Leigh Chronicle_, 19th April, 1879.

[282] _Somerset County Gazette_, 22nd January, 1881.

[283] _Standard_, 3rd April, 1895. The full details are reprinted in
_Folklore_, vi. 373-384.



In dealing with the folklore of any country, it is important to note
the general bearing of anthropological conditions. The earliest
inhabitants, to whom part of the folklore belonged, and the later
peoples, to whom part belonged, have both arrived at their ultimate
point of settlement in the country where we discover their folklore
after being in touch with many points of the world's surface. They are
both world-people as well as national people--they belonged to
anthropology before they came under the dominion of history. This
important fact is often or nearly always neglected. We are apt to
treat of Greek and Roman and Briton, of Cretan, Scandinavian, and
Russian, as bounded by the few thousands of years of life which have
fixed them with their territorial names, and to ignore all that lies
behind this historic period. There is, as a matter of fact, an immense
period behind it, reckoned according to geological time in millions of
years, and this period, longer in duration, more strenuous in its
influences upon character and mind, containing more representatives in
peoples, societies, and races than the later period, has affected the
later period to a far greater extent than is generally conceded or
understood. We cannot understand the later period without knowing
something of the earlier period.

There is more than this; for the dominating political races occupying
European countries to-day were, in most cases, preceded by a
non-political people. Thus, if we turn to Britain for illustration, we
find evidence of a people physically allied with a race which cannot
be identified with Celt or Teuton,[284] philologically allied with a
people which spoke a non-Aryan language,[285] archæologically allied
with the prehistoric stone-circle and monolith builders,[286] and we
find custom, belief, and myth in Britain retaining traces of a culture
which is not Celtic and not Teutonic, and which contains survivals of
the primitive system of totemism.[287] These four independent classes
of evidence have to be combined if we would ascertain the true
position they occupy in the history of Britain, and it is perfectly
clear that, apart from general considerations, a direct appeal to
anthropology is necessary to help out the deficiencies of both history
and folklore. The questions involved in totemism alone compel us to
this course. It is questionable whether there is any existing savage
or barbaric people who are non-totemic in the sense of either not
possessing the rudimentary beginnings of totemism, or not having once
possessed a full system of totemism. Totemism, at one stage or another
of its development, is, in fact, one of the universal elements of
man's life, and all consideration of its traces in civilised countries
must begin with some conception of its origin. Its origin must refer
back to conditions of human life which are also universal. Special
circumstances, special peoples, special areas could not have produced
totemism unless we proceed to the somewhat violent conclusion that
beginning in one area it has spread therefrom to all areas. I know of
no authority who advocates such a theory and no evidence in its
favour. We are left therefore with the proposition that the origin of
totemism must be sought for in some universal condition of human life
at one of its very early stages, which would have produced a state of
things from which would inevitably arise the beliefs, customs, and
social organisations which are included under the term totemism.

There is therefore ample ground for a consideration of anthropological
conditions as part of the necessary equipment of the study of folklore
as an historical science. Unfortunately, authorities are now greatly
divided on several important questions in anthropology, and it is not
possible to speak with even a reasonable degree of certainty on many
things. This compels further research than the mere statement of the
present position, and I find myself obliged even for my present
limited purpose to suggest many new points beyond the stage reached
by present research. There is one advantage in this. It allows of a
hypothesis by which to present the subject to the student, and a
working hypothesis is always a great advantage where research is not
founded entirely on actual observation by trained experts in the
field. Where, therefore, I depart from the guidance of conclusions
already arrived at by scholars in this department of research, it will
be in order to substitute an opinion of my own which I think it is
necessary to consider, and the whole study of the anthropological
problems in their relation to folklore will assume the shape of a
restatement of the entire case.

I am aware that a subject of this magnitude is too weighty and
far-reaching to be properly considered in a chapter of a book not
devoted to the single purpose, but it is necessary to attempt a rough
statement of the evidence, though it will take us somewhat beyond the
ordinary domain of folklore; but, while dealing with the
anthropological position at sufficient length to make a complicated
subject clear, if I can do so, I shall limit both my arguments and the
evidence in support of them to the narrowest limits.


Mr. Wallace, I think, supplies the dominant note of the
anthropological position when he suggests, though in a strangely
unsatisfactory terminology, that it is the conscious use by man of his
experience which causes his superior mental endowments, and his
superior range of development.[288] We must lay stress upon the
important qualification "conscious." It is conscious use of experience
which is the great factor in man's progress. It is the greatest
possession of man in his beginning, and has remained his greatest
possession ever since. His experience did not always lead him to the
best paths of progress, but it has led him to progress.

Even Mr. Wallace did not appreciate the full significance of this
principle. The conscious adoption of a natural fact, of an observation
from nature, or an assumed observation from nature, for social
purposes, is an altogether different thing from the unconscious
knowledge which man might have been possessed of, but which he never
put to any use in his social development. Anthropologists must note
not the natural facts known to later man or known to science, but the
facts, or assumed facts, which early man consciously adopted for his
purpose during the long period of his development from savage to
civilised forms of life. The unconscious acts of mankind are of no
use, or of very little use. It is only the conscious acts that will
lead us along the lines of man's development. Man did not begin to
build up his social system with the scientific fact of blood kinship
through father and mother, but he evolved a theory of social
relationship which served his purpose until the fact of blood kinship
supplied a better basis. At almost the first point of origin in savage
society we see man acting consciously, and it is amongst his conscious
acts that we must place those traces of a sort of primitive
legislation which have been found.[289]

Now this being the basis of anthropological observation, we have to
apply it to the question of man's earliest progress. It is at its base
an economic question. Primitive economics dominated the movements and
condition of early man in a far more thorough manner than modern
economics affect civilisation, and between the two systems lies the
whole history of man. It reveals man adapting the social unit to the
productive powers of its food supply, and developing towards the
adaptation of the productive powers of food supply to the social unit.
In the various stages that accompany this great change, there is no
defined separation of peoples according to stages of culture, savage,
barbaric, or civilised. There is nothing to suggest that all peoples
do not come from one centre of human life. On the contrary, the
evidence is strong that the primal stages in human evolution are
traceable in all the culture stages, and, therefore, that they fit in
with the general conclusions of anthropologists and naturalists as to
man's origin in one definite centre, and his gradual spreading out
from that centre.

I will take the chief conclusions arrived at in respect of this
condition of birth at one centre and subsequent spreading out. Darwin
has summarised the problem between the monogenists and polygenists in
a manner which still ranks as a sufficient statement of the case, and
his conclusion that "all the races of man are descended from a single
primitive stock"[290] is accepted by the most prominent
naturalists,[291] and confirmed by recent discoveries, which go to
prove that this primitive stock began in miocene or pliocene times in
the Indo-Malaysian intertropical lands.[292]

Anthropologists, who have been deeply interested in the controversy
ranging round the origin of man, have in a remarkable manner neglected
to take into full account the most significant phenomenon of spreading
out.[293] They either neglect it altogether, or they relegate it to so
small a place in their argument as to become a practical neglect. They
treat of man as if he were always in a stationary condition, and
exclude the important condition of movement as an element in his
development. Mr. Spencer's general dictum that geological changes and
meteorological changes, as well as the consequent changes of flora and
fauna, must have been causing over all parts of the earth perpetual
emigrations and immigrations,[294] does not help much, because it
refers to special and cataclysmic events. Lord Avebury, though
stating the true case, unfortunately contents himself at the end of
his book on prehistoric man with a short summary of the evidence as to
the equipment of primitive man in mental and social qualities when he
began the great movement, and gives only a few lines to his conclusion
that "there can be no doubt that he originally crept over the earth's
surface little by little, year by year, just, for instance, as the
weeds of Europe are now gradually but surely creeping over the surface
of Australia."[295]

Mr. Keane is the first authority who thinks it appropriate to commence
his treatise on man with an examination of the facts which show that
"the world was peopled by migration from one centre by pleistocene
man ... who moved about like other migrating faunas, unconsciously,
everywhere following the lines of least resistance, advancing or
receding, and acting generally on blind impulse rather than of set
purpose;"[296] and it still remains with Dr. Latham to have formulated
some fixed principles of the migratory movement in his admirable
though, of course, wholly inadequate summary of man and his
migrations. I will quote the passage in full: "So long as any
continental extremities of the earth's surface remained
unoccupied--the stream (or rather the enlarging circle of migration)
not having yet reached them--the _primary_ migration is going on; and
when all have got their complement, the primary migration is over.
During this primary migration, the relations of man, thus placed in
movement and in the full, early and guiltless exercise of his high
function of subduing the earth, are in conflict with physical
obstacles and with the resistance of the lower animals only. Unless,
like Lot's wife, he turn back upon the peopled parts behind him, he
has no relations with his fellow-men--at least none arising out of the
claim of previous occupancy. In other words, during the primary
migration, the world that lay before our progenitors was either brute
or inanimate. But before many generations have passed away, all
becomes full to overflowing, so that men must enlarge their boundaries
at the expense of their fellows. The migrations that now take place
are _secondary_. They differ from the primary in many respects. They
are slower, because the resistance is that of humanity to humanity,
and they are violent, because dispossession is the object. They are
partial, abortive, followed by the fusion of different populations, or
followed by their extermination as the case may be."[297] This
passage, written so long ago as 1841, is still applicable to the facts
of modern science, and there is only to add to it that the migration
of man from a common centre, where life was easy, to all parts of the
world, where life has been difficult, must have been undertaken in
order to meet some great necessity, and must have become possible by
reason of some great force which man alone possessed. The necessity
was economic; the force was social development. If the movement has
not been geographically ever forward, it has been ethnographically
constant.[298] Movement always; sometimes the pressure has come from
one direction, sometimes from another; sometimes it has caused
compression and at other times expansion; sometimes it has sent
humanity to inhabit regions that required generations of victims
before it could hold its own. At all times the essential condition of
life has been that of constant movement in face of antagonistic
forces.[299] In whatever form the movement has come about, movement of
a very definite character has taken place over an immense period of
time, and sufficient to cover practically the whole earth with
descendants from the original human stock. This conclusion is
enormously strengthened by the accumulating evidence for the
world-wide area covered by the remains of man's earliest weapon, the
worked stone implement. It is everywhere. It is practically
co-extensive with man's wanderings, and the greatness of the territory
it covers marks it off as another of the universal relics of man's
primitive life. Of no other weapon or instrument or associated object
can this be said. The bow and arrow are unknown to the Australians and
other peoples; pottery is unknown to the Bushmen and other peoples;
the use of fire in cookery is not found among the South Sea Islanders,
and is not claimed for other peoples.[300] We can get behind the
development of these and other arts and come upon the ruder people who
had not arrived at the stage they represent. But we cannot get behind
the worked flint. It must have been the chief material cause of man's
success in the migratory movement, and with the social development
accompanying it must have made migration not only possible, but the
only true method of meeting the earliest economic difficulties. It
also provides us with the elements of a chronological basis. Behind
palæolithic times there is an immensity of time when man struggled
with his economic difficulties and spread out slowly and painfully.
During palæolithic times the movement was more rapid and more general.
Obstacles were overcome by palæolithic man becoming superior to his
enemies by the use of weapons, and use of weapons caused, or at all
events aided, the development of social institutions capable of
bearing the new force of movement.

These two factors of economic necessity and social development are of
equal importance in man's history, and they interlace at all points.
They lead straight to the necessity for always taking count of the
fact that man is primarily a migratory being, and that he has spread
over the earth. Everywhere we find man. There is no habitable part of
the world where he has not found a home. But we do not find him under
equal conditions everywhere, and the different conditions afford
evidence of the main lines of development. Roughly speaking, it may be
put in this way. In the savage world the people appear as aborigines,
that is to say, the first and only occupiers of the territory where
they are located. In the barbaric world the condition of aboriginal
settlement is tinged with the result of conquest, namely, the pushing
out or absorption of the aboriginal folk in favour of a more powerful
and conquering folk. In the political world, and in the political
world only, there is not only the element of conquest, but the
definite aim of conquest, which is to retain the aboriginal or
conquered people as part of the political fabric necessary to the
settlement of the conqueror, and at the same time to keep intact the
superior position of the conqueror. In the savage world, society and
religion are based upon locality; in the barbaric world there is the
first sign of the element of kinship consciously used in the effort of
conquest, which dies away gradually as successful settlement, by which
conqueror and conquered become merged in one people, follows conquest;
in the political world, and in the political world only, kinship is
elevated into a necessary institution, is made sacred to the minds of
tribesmen, and becomes an essential part of the religion of the tribe
in order to keep the organisation of the tribal conquerors intact and
free from the perils of dissolution when conquerors and conquered
become members of one political unit. The savage and barbaric worlds
are the homes of the backward peoples, the non-advanced or fossilised
types of early humanity. The political world is the domain for the
most part of the Aryan-speaking people, and of the Semitic people, and
of those people who in Egypt within the Mediterranean area, and in
China in the eastern Asian area, have built up civilisations which
have only recently come under scientific observation.

These distinctions are not made by anthropologists as a rule, yet I
cannot but think they are in the main the true distinctions which must
be made if we are to arrive at any general conception of the progress
of man from savagery to civilisation. The distinctions which seem to
hold the field against those I have suggested, are those of hunter,
pastoral, and agricultural. I say seem to hold the field, because they
have never been scientifically worked out. They are stated in
textbooks and research work almost as an axiom of anthropology, but
their claim to this position is singularly weak and unsatisfactory,
and has never been scientifically established. They are only
economical distinctions, not social, and they do not properly express
related stages. Hunting, cattle keeping, and agriculture are found in
almost all stages of social evolution, and I, for one, deny that in
the order they are generally given, they express anything approaching
to accurate indication of the line of human progress. The
distinctions I have suggested do not, of course, contain everything
indicative of human progress. They are the first broad outlines to be
filled up by the details of special peoples, special areas, and
special ages. They involve many sub-stages which need to be properly
worked out, and for which a satisfactory terminology is required. In
the meantime, as measuring-posts of man's line of progress, they
express the most important fact about man, namely, that his present
enforced stationary condition has followed upon an enormous period of
enforced movement. That movement has finally resulted in the presence
of man everywhere on the earth's surface. This has been followed by
the continued moving of savage man within the limited areas to which
he has been finally pushed; by the movement of barbaric man from one
place of settlement to another place of settlement, again within
limited areas; and by the movement of political man through countries
and continents of vast extent, and the final overlordship of political
man over savage and barbaric man whom he has subjected and used for
his purpose of final settlement in the civilised form of settlement.
It will be apparent from the terms I have used to express the three
chief stages in man's progress, that I give a special significance to
the use of blood kinship as a social force, and in the sequel I think
this special significance will be justified.[301]

No one can properly estimate the tremendous amount of movement which
preceded these later limitations to movement. Savage and barbaric
races are now hemmed in by the forces of modern civilisation. This was
not the case even a few hundred years ago, and though we cannot say
when constant movement all over the world was stayed, we can form some
idea of the comparatively late period when this took place by a
contemplation of the very recent growth of the political civilisations
known to history. At the most, this can only be reckoned at some ten
thousand years. At the back of this short stretch of time, or of the
successive periods at which the new civilisations have arisen, there
are recollections of great movements and great migrations. Egypt,
Babylonia, India, Persia, Greece, and Rome have preserved these
recollections by tradition, and tradition has been largely confirmed
by archæology. Celts and Teutons have preserved parallel traditions
which are confirmed by history observed from without. These traditions
and memorials of the migration period have not been scientifically
examined in each case, but where scholars have touched upon them,
great and unexpected results have been produced.[302]

There was time enough, before these late and special movements which
led to civilisation, for man, in the course of peopling the earth, to
be brought at various stages to a standstill, and such a change in his
life-history would have its own special results. One of the most
momentous of these results is the fossilisation of social and mental
conditions. Man stationary, or movable by custom within restricted
areas, would live under conditions which must have produced forms of
culture different from those under which man lived when he was always
able to penetrate, not by custom but by the force of circumstances,
into the unknown domain of unoccupied territory; and the fossilisation
of his culture at various stages of development, in accord with the
various periods of his being brought to a standstill, would be the
most important result.[303] Whenever man was compelled to move onward
the social forces which were demanded of him, as he proceeded from
point to point, must have been quite different from those which he
could have adopted if he had been allowed to stay in areas which
suited him, if he could have selected his settlement grounds and
awaited events. The calmness of the latter methods would perhaps have
led to the unconscious development of social forms; the roughness of
the actual method of constant movement led to the conscious adoption
of social forms which has altered man's history. These considerations
bring us to the conclusion that it is during the period of migratory
movement that man has developed the social and religious elements with
which the anthropologist finds him endowed, when at last in modern
days he has been brought within the ken of scientific observation, and
that therefore it is as a migratory not a stationary organism that the
evolution of human society has to be studied, aided by the fact that
enforced stationary conditions have produced in the savage world
examples of perhaps the most remote as well as the more recent types
of primitive humanity.

This last possibility, however, is not admitted by the best
authorities. They endeavour to use biological methods in order to get
behind existing savagery for the earliest period of human savagery.
Darwin is not satisfied with the evidence as to promiscuity, strong as
it appeared to him to be, and he pronounced it to be "extremely
improbable" in a state of nature, and falls back upon the evidence of
the rudimentary stages of human existence, there being, as among the
gorillas, but one adult male in the band, and "when the young male
grows up, a contest takes place for the mastery, and the strongest, by
killing and driving out the others, establishes himself as the head of
the community."[304] Mr. McLennan nowhere states the evidence for his
first stage of human society--the primitive horde without any ideas of
kinship, and based upon a fellowship of common interests and
dangers[305]--but arrives at it by argument deduced from the
conditions of later stages of development, and from the necessary
suppositions as to the pre-existing stage which must have led to the
later. Mr. Westermarck leads us straight to the evidence of the lower
animals, from which he arrives at the small groups of humans headed by
the male, and provides us with the theory of a human pairing
season.[306] Mr. Morgan claims that no exemplification of mankind in
his assumed lower status of savagery remained to the historical
period,[307] presumably meaning the anthropo-historical period. And
finally, Mr. Lang definitely claims that conjecture, and conjecture
alone, remains as the means of getting back to the earliest human

There is great danger in relying too closely upon conjecture. We shall
be repeating in anthropology what the analytical jurists accomplished
in law and jurisprudence, and it will then soon become necessary to do
for anthropology what Sir Henry Maine did for comparative
jurisprudence, namely, demonstrate that the analytical method does not
take us back to human origins, but to highly developed systems of
society. Law, in the hands of the analytical jurists, is merely one
part of the machinery of modern government. Social beginnings in the
hands of conjectural anthropologists are merely abstractions with the
whole history of man put on one side. Mr. Lang in leading the way
towards the analytical method in anthropology has avoided many of its
pitfalls, but his disciples are not so successful. Thus, when Mr.
Thomas declares that "custom which has among them [primitive peoples]
far more power than law among us, determines whether a man is of kin
to his mother and her relatives alone, or to his father and father's
relatives, or whether both sets of relatives are alike of kin to
them,"[309] he is neglecting the whole significance and range of
custom. His statement is true analytically, but it is not true
anthropologically until we have ascertained what this custom to which
he refers really is, whence it is derived, how it has obtained its
force, what is its range of action, how it operates in differentiating
among the various groups of mankind--in a word, what is the human
history associated with this custom.

We must, however, at certain points in anthropological inquiry have
recourse to the conjectural method. Its value lies in the fact that it
states, and states clearly, the issue which is before us, and it is
always possible to take up the conjectural position and endeavour to
ascertain whether the neglected facts of human history which it
expresses can be recovered. Its danger lies in the neglect of certain
anthropological principles which can only be noted from definite
examples, and the significance of which can only be discovered by the
handling of definite examples. I will refer to one or two of the
principles which I have in mind. Thus, it is necessary to distinguish
between what is a practice and what is a rule. A practice precedes a
rule. A practice incidental to one stage of society must not be
confused with a rule, similar to the practice, obtaining in a
different stage of society. Again, it must be borne in mind that
identity of practice is no certain evidence of parallel stages of
culture, and already it has been pointed out that identical practices
do not always come from the same causes. Thirdly, it has to be borne
in mind that primitive peoples specialise in certain directions to an
extreme extent, and correspondingly cause neglect in other directions.
The normal, therefore, has to give way to the special, and it is the
degree of specialisation and the degree of neglect which are measuring
factors of progress; in other words, it is the conscious adoption of
certain rules of life with which we alone have to do.

These principles are apt to be wholly neglected, and, indeed, the
last-mentioned element in the evolution of human society does not
enter into the calculations of analytical anthropologists. They
provide for the normal according to scientific ideas of what the
normal is. They either neglect or openly reject what cannot be called
abnormal, because it appears everywhere, but which they are inclined
to treat as abnormal because it does not fit into their accepted lines
of development. That which I have ventured to term specialisation and
neglect is a great and important feature in anthropology. It obtains
everywhere in more or less degree, and accounts for some of the
apparently unaccountable facts in savage society, where we are
frequently encountered by a comparatively high degree of culture
associated with a cruel and debasing system of rites and practices
which belong to the lowest savagery. Dr. Haddon has usefully suggested
the term "differential evolution" for this phenomenon in the culture
history of man,[310] and as I find myself in entire agreement with
this distinguished anthropologist as to the facts[311] which call for
a special terminology, I gladly adopt his valuable suggestion.

It is advisable to explain this phenomenon by reference to examples, and
I will take the point of specialisation first. Even where industrial
arts have advanced far beyond the primitive stage we are considering, we
have the case of the Ahts, with whom "though living only a few miles
apart, the tribes practise different arts and have apparently distinct
tribal characteristics. One tribe is skilful in shaping canoes, another
in painting boards for ornamental work, or making ornaments for the
person, or instruments for hunting and fishing. Individuals as a rule
keep to the arts for which their tribe has some repute, and do not care
to acquire those arts in which other tribes excel. There seems to be
among all the tribes in the island a sort of recognised tribal monopoly
in certain articles produced, or that have been long manufactured in
their own district. For instance, a tribe that does not grow potatoes,
or make a particular kind of mat, will go a long way year after year to
barter for those articles, which if they liked they themselves could
easily produce or manufacture."[312] The remarkable case of the Todas
specialising in cattle rearing and dairy farming is another example.
Other people, both higher and lower in civilisation than the Todas, keep
cattle and know the value of milk, but it is reserved for the Todas
alone to have used this particular economic basis of their existence as
the basis also of their social formation and their religious life.[313]
The result is that they neglect other forms of social existence. They
are not totemists, though perhaps they have the undeveloped germs of
totemistic beliefs.[314] Their classificatory system of relationship
makes their actual kinship scarcely recognisable; they "have very
definite restrictions on the freedom of individuals to marry," and have
a two-class endogamous division, but their marriage rite is merely the
selection of nominal fathers for their children.[315] Throughout the
careful study which we now possess, thanks to Dr. Rivers, of this
people, there is the dominant note of dairy economy superimposing itself
upon all else, and even religion seems to be in a state of
decadence.[316] I do not know that anywhere else could be found a
stronger example of the results of extreme specialisation upon the
social and mental condition of a people. As a rule such specialisation
does not extend to a whole people, but rather to sections, as, for
instance, among the Gold Coast tribes of Africa who "transmit the secret
of their skill from father to son and keep the corporation to which they
belong up to a due degree of closeness by avoiding intermarriage with
any of the more unskilled labourers,"[317] and Dr. Bucher, who has
worked out many of the earliest conditions of primitive economics,
concludes that it may be safely claimed that every "tribe displays some
favourite form of industrial activity in which its members surpass the
other tribes."[318] This rule extends to the lowest type of man, as, for
instance, among the Australians. Each tribe of the Narrinyeri, says
Taplin, have been accustomed to make those articles which their tract of
country enabled them to produce most easily; one tribe will make
weapons, another mats, and a third nets, and then they barter them one
with another.[319]

The evidence for industrial evolution is full of cases such as these,
and they are extremely important to note, because it is not the mere
existence of particular customs or particular beliefs among different
peoples which is the factor to take into account, but the use or
non-use, and the extent of the use or non-use, to which the particular
customs or beliefs are put in each case.[320] Let me turn from the
phenomenon of over-specialisation to that of neglect, and for this
purpose I will take the simple fact of blood kinship. Existing
obviously everywhere through the mother, and not obviously but
admittedly through the father among most primitive peoples, there are
examples where both maternal kinship and paternal kinship are
neglected factors in the construction of the social group. The Nahals
of Khandesh, for instance, neglect kinship altogether, and exist
perfectly wild among the mountains, subsisting chiefly on roots,
fruits, and berries, though the children during infancy accompany the
mother in her unattached freedom from male control,[321] just as
Herodotos describes the condition of the Auseans "before the Hellenes
were settled near them."[322] Similarly, among many primitive peoples,
kinship with the mother is recognised while kinship with the father is
purposely neglected as a social factor. Thus, among the Khasia Hill
people, the husband visits his wife occasionally in her own home,
where "he seems merely entertained to continue the family to which his
wife belongs."[323] This statement, so peculiarly appropriate to my
purpose, is not merely an accident of language. With the people allied
to the Khasis, namely, the Syntengs and the people of Maoshai, "the
husband does not go and live in his mother-in-law's house; he only
visits her there. In Jowai, the husband came to his mother-in-law's
house only after dark," and the explanation of the latest authority
is that among these people "the man is nobody ... if he be a husband
he is looked upon merely as _u shong kha_, a begetter."[324]

The neglect of maternal and paternal kinship respectively in these two
cases is obvious. They are recognised physically. But they are not
used as part of the fabric of social institutions. Physical motherhood
or fatherhood is nothing to these people, and one must learn to
understand that there is wide difference between the mere physical
fact of having a mother and father, and the political fact of using
this kinship for social organisation. Savages who have not learnt the
political significance have but the scantiest appreciation of the
physical fact. The Australians, for instance, have no term to express
the relationship between mother and child. This is because the
physical fact is of no significance, and not as Mr. Thomas thinks
because of the meagreness of the language.[325] Our field
anthropologists do not quite understand the savage in this respect. It
is of no use preparing a genealogical tree on the basis of civilised
knowledge of genealogy if such a document is beyond the ken of the
people to whom it relates. The information for it may be correctly
collected, but if the whole structure is not within the compass of
savage thought it is a misleading anthropological document. It is of
no use translating a native term as "father," if father did not mean
to the savage what it means to us. It might mean something so very
different. With us, fatherhood connotes a definite individual with all
sorts of social, economical, and political associations, but what
does it mean to the savage? It may mean physical fatherhood and
nothing more, and physical fatherhood may be a fact of the veriest
insignificance. It may mean social fatherhood, where all men of a
certain status are fathers to all children of the complementary
status, and social fatherhood thus becomes much more than we can
understand by the term father.

We cannot ignore the evidence which over-specialisation in one
direction and neglect in other directions supply to anthropology. It
shows us that human societies cannot always be measured in the scale
of culture by the most apparent of the social elements contained in
them. The cannibalism of the Fijians, the art products of the Maori,
the totemism of the Australian blacks, do not express all that makes
up the culture of these people, although it too often happens that
they are made to do duty for the several estimates of culture
progress. It follows that a survey of the different human societies
might reveal examples of the possible lowest in the scale as well as
various advances from the lowest; or in lieu of whole societies in the
lowest scale, there might be revealed unexceptional examples of the
possible lowest elements of culture within societies not wholly in the
lowest scale. It will be seen how valuable an asset this must be in
anthropological research. It justifies those who assert that existing
savagery or existing survival will supply evidence of man at the very
earliest stages of existence. It is the root idea of Dr. Tylor's
method of research, and it is an essential feature in the science of

Evidence of this nature, however, needs to be exhaustively collected,
and to be subjected to the most careful examination, as otherwise it
may be used for the merest _a priori_ argument of the most mischievous
and inconclusive description. It involves consideration of whole human
groups rather than of particular sections of each human group, of the
whole corpus of social, religious, and economical elements residing in
each human group rather than of the separated items. Each human group,
having its specialised and dormant elements, must be treated as an
organism and not as a bundle of separable items, each one of which the
student may use or let alone as he desires. That which is
anthropological evidence is the indivisible organism, and whenever,
for convenience of treatment and considerations of space, particular
elements only are used in evidence, they must be qualified, and the
use to which they are provisionally put for scientific purposes must
be checked, by the associated elements with which the particular
elements are connected.

The human groups thus called upon to surrender their contributions to
the history of man are of various formations, and consist of various
kinds of social units. There is no one term which can properly be
applied to all, and it will have been noted that I have carefully
avoided giving the human groups hitherto dealt with any particular
name, and only under protest have I admitted the terms used by the
authorities I have quoted. I think the term "tribe" is not applicable
to savage society, for it is used to denote peoples in all degrees of
social evolution, and merely stands for the group which is known by a
given name, or roams over a given district. But the use of this term
is not so productive of harm as the use of the term "family," because
of the universal application of this term to the smallest social unit
of the civilised world, and because of the fundamental difference of
structure of the units which roughly answer to the definition of
family in various parts of the world. It is no use in scientific
matters to use terms of inexact reference. As much as almost anything
else it has led to false conclusions as to the evolution of the
family, conclusions which seem to entangle even the best authorities
in a mass of contradictions. I cannot think of a family group in
savagery with father, mother, sons, and daughters, all delightfully
known to each other, in terms which also belong to the civilised
family, and still less can I think of these terms being used to take
in the extended grouping of local kinships. One of our greatest
difficulties, indeed, is the indiscriminate use of kinship terms by
our descriptive authorities. We are never quite sure whether the
physical relationships included in them convey anything whatever to
the savage. If he knows of the physical fact, he does not use it
politically, for blood kinship as a political force is late, not
early, and the early tie was dependent upon quite other circumstances.
Over and over again it will be found stated by established authorities
that the family was the primal unit, the grouped families forming the
larger clan, the grouped clans forming the larger tribe. This is Sir
Henry Maine's famous formula, and it is the basis of his investigation
into early law and custom.[326] It is founded upon the false
conception of the family in early history, and upon a too narrow
interpretation of the stages of evolution. When we are dealing with
savage society, the terms family and tribe do not connote the same
institution as when we are dealing with higher forms of civilisation.
There is something roughly corresponding to these groupings in both
systems, but they do not actually equate. When we pass to the Semitic
and the Aryan-speaking peoples, both the family and tribe have assumed
a definite place in the polity of the races which is not to be found
outside these peoples.

So strongly has the family impressed itself upon the thought of the
age that students of man in his earliest ages are found stating that
"the family is the most ancient and the most sacred of human
institutions."[327] This proposition, however, is not only denied by
other authorities, as, for instance, Mr. Jevons, who affirms that "the
family is a comparatively late institution in the history of
society,"[328] but it rests upon the merely analytical basis of
research, separated entirely from those facts of man's history which
are discoverable by the means just now suggested. One is, of course,
quite prepared to find the family among civilisations older than the
Indo-European, and yet to find that it is a comparatively late
institution among Indo-European peoples. As a matter of fact, this is
the case; for the two kinds of family, the family as seen in savage
society and the family as it appears among the antiquities of the
Indo-European people, are totally distinct in origin, in compass, and
in force; while welded between the two kinds of family is the whole
institution of the tribe. It is no use introducing the theory adopted
by Grote, Niebuhr, Mommsen, Thirlwall, Maine, and other authorities
who have studied the legal antiquities of classical times, that the
tribe is the aggregate of original family units. Later on I shall show
that this cannot be the case. The larger kinship of the tribe is a
primary unit of ancient society, which thrusts itself between the
savage family and the civilised family, showing that the two types are
separated by a long period of history during which the family did not

It has taken me some time to explain these points in anthropological
science, which appear to me not to have received proper consideration
at the hands of the masters of the science, but which are essential
factors in the history of man and are necessary to a due consideration
of the position occupied by folklore. The chief results obtained

      (1) Migratory man would deposit his most rudimentary
      social type not at the point of starting his
      migration, but at the furthest point therefrom.

      (2) Custom due to the migratory period would continue
      after real migratory movement had ceased, and from
      this body of custom would be derived all later forms
      of social custom.

      (3) Non-kinship groups are more rudimentary than
      kinship groups, and are still observable in savage

      (4) Anthropological evidence must be based upon the
      whole of the characteristics of human groups, not upon
      special characteristics singled out for the purpose of

It is with these results we have to work. They will help us to see how
far the facts of anthropology, which begin far behind the historical
world, have to do with the problems presented by folklore as a science
having to deal with the historical world.


We may now inquire where anthropology and folklore meet. It is
significant in this connection that in order to reach back to the
earliest ages of man, our first appeal seems to be to folklore. The
appeal at present does not lead us far perhaps, but it certainly acts
as a finger post in the inquiry, for Dr. Kollmann, rejecting the
evidence of the Java _Pithecanthropus erectus_ as the earliest
palæontological evidence of man, advances the opinion that the direct
antecedents of man should not be sought among the species of
anthropoid apes of great height and with flat skulls, but much further
back in the zoological scale, in the small monkeys with pointed
skulls; from which, he believes, were developed the human pygmy races
of prehistoric ages with pointed skulls, and from these pygmy races
finally developed the human race of historic times. And he relies upon
folklore for one part of his evidence, for it is this descent of man,
he thinks, which explains the persistency with which mythology and
folklore allude to the subject of pygmy people, as well as the
relative frequency with which recently the fossils of small human
beings belonging to prehistoric times have been discovered.[329] It
must not be forgotten, too, that this remote period is found in
another class of tradition, namely, that to which Dr. Tylor refers as
containing the memory of the huge animals of the quaternary

It must be confessed that we do not get far with this evidence alone.
If it proves that the true starting point is to be found in folklore,
it also proves that folklore alone is not capable of working through
the problem. Anthropology must aid here, and I will suggest the lines
on which it appears to me it does this.

Our first effort must be made by the evidence suggested by the
conjectural method. This leads us to small human groups, each headed
by a male who drives out all other males and himself remains with his
females and his children. Sexual selection thus acts with primitive
economics[331] in keeping the earliest groups small in numbers, and
creating a spreading out from these groups of the males cast out. We
have male supremacy in its crudest form accompanied by an enforced
male celibacy, so far as the group in which the males are born is
concerned, on the part of those who survive the struggle for supremacy
and wander forth on their own account. Marking the stages from point
to point, in order to arrive at a systematic method of stating the
complex problem presented by the subject we are investigating, we can
project from this earliest condition of man's life two important
elements of social evolution, namely--

      (a) Younger men are celibate within the natural
      groups of human society, or are driven out therefrom.

      (b) Men thus driven out will seek mates on their own
      account, and will secure them partly from the original
      group as far as they are permitted or are successful
      in their attempts, and partly by capture from other
      local groups.

The first of these elements strongly emphasises the migratory
character of the earliest human groups. The second shows how each
group is relieved of the incubus of too great a number for the
economic conditions by the double process of sending forth its young
males, and of its younger females being captured by successful

Let us take a fuller note of what the conditions of such a life might
be. There is no tie of kinship operating as a social force within the
groups; there is the unquestioned condition of hostility surrounding
each group, and there is the enforced practice of providing mates by
capture. Of these three conditions the most significant is undoubtedly
the absence of the kinship tie. If then we use this as the basis for
grouping the earliest examples of social organisation, we proceed to
inquire whether there are any examples of kinless society in
anthropological evidence.

Following up the clue supplied by folklore, we may see whether the
pygmy people of anthropological observation answer in any way to those
conjectural conditions.[332] I think they do. Thus, we find that the
pygmy people are in all cases on the extreme confines of the world's
occupation ground; that they occupy the territory to which they have
been pushed, not that which they have chosen. As the most primitive
representatives, they are the last outposts of the migratory
movements. Dr. Beke has preserved an account of the pygmies which even
in its terminology assists in their identification as a type of the
remotest stages of social existence. Dr. Beke obtained certain
information about the countries south-west of Abyssinia, from which
Latham quotes the following:--

      "The people of Doko, both men and women, are said to
      be no taller than boys nine or ten years old. They
      never exceed that height even in the most advanced
      age. They go quite naked; their principal foods are
      ants, snakes, mice, and other things which commonly
      are not used as food.... They also climb trees with
      great skill to fetch down the fruits, and in doing
      this they stretch their hands downwards and their legs
      upwards.... They live mixed together; men and women
      unite and separate as they please.... The mother
      suckles the child only as long as she is unable to
      find ants and snakes for its food; she abandons it as
      soon as it can get its food by itself. No rank or
      order exists among the Dokos. Nobody orders, nobody
      obeys, nobody defends the country, nobody cares for
      the welfare of the nation."[333]

This evidence is confirmed in many directions. It coincides with the
account by Herodotos of the expedition from Libya which met with a
pygmy race,[334] and with a seventeenth-century account of a Dutch
expedition to the north from the south, who "found a tribe of people
very low in stature and very lean, entirely savage, without huts,
cattle, or anything in the world except their lands and wild
game."[335] Captain Burrows' account of the Congoland pygmies agrees
in all essentials, and he particularly notes that they "have no ties
of family affection such as those of mother to son or sister to
brother, and seem to be wanting in all social qualities;" they have no
religion and no fetich rites; no burial ceremony and no mourning for
the dead; in short, he adds, "they are to my thinking the closest link
with the original Darwinian anthropoid ape extant."[336] The evidence
of the African pygmy people everywhere confirms these views, and
differences of detail do not alter the general results.[337]




Following this up we get the greatest assistance from Asia.[338] The
Semang people of the Malay Peninsula are a short race, the male being
four feet nine inches in height, with woolly and tufted hair, thick
lips and flat nose, and their language is connected with the group
of which the Khasi people is a member.[339] They subsist upon the
birds and beasts of the forest, and roots, eating elephants,
rhinoceros, monkeys, and rats. They are said to have chiefs among
them, but all property is common. Their huts or temporary dwellings,
for they have no fixed habitations but rove about like the beasts of
the forest, consist of two posts stuck in the ground with a small
cross-piece and a few leaves or branches of trees laid over to secure
them from the weather, and their clothing consists chiefly of the
inner bark of trees.[340] They use stone or slate implements. The
authority for this information does not directly state their social
formation, but in a footnote he compares them to the Negritos of the
Philippine Islands, "who are divided into very small societies very
little connected with each other." This is confirmed by Mr. Hugh
Clifford, who relates a story told to him in the camp of the Semangs,
which tells how these people were driven to their present
resting-place, "not for love of these poor hunting grounds," but
because they were thrust there by the Malays who stole their women.
One further point is interesting; they have a legend of a people in
their old home, composed of women only. "These women know not men, but
but when the moon is at the full, they dance naked in the grassy
places near the salt-licks; the evening wind is their only spouse, and
through him they conceive and bear children."[341] All this has been
confirmed and more than confirmed by the important researches of
Messrs. Skeat and Blagden in their recently published work on these
people. There is no necessity to do more than refer to the principal
features brought out by these authorities. In the valuable notes on
environment, we have the actual facts of the migratory movement drawn
clearly for us;[342] their nomadic habits, rude nature-derived
clothing, forest habitations and natural sources of food are
described;[343] the evolution of their habitations from the natural
shelters, rock shelters, caves, tree buttresses, branches, etc., is to
be traced;[344] they belong to the old Stone Age, if not to a previous
Wood and Bone Age;[345] they have no organised body of chiefs, and
there is no formal recognition of kinship; marital relationship is
preceded by great ante-nuptial freedom;[346] the name of every child
is taken "from some tree which stands near the prospective birthplace
of the child; as soon as the child is born, this name is shouted aloud
by the _sage femme_, who then hands over the child to another woman,
and buries the after-birth underneath the birth-tree or name-tree of
the child; as soon as this has been done, the father cuts a series of
notches in the tree, starting from the ground and terminating at the
height of the breast;"[347] the child must not in later life injure
any tree which belongs to the species of his birth-tree, and must not
eat of its fruit. There is a theory to accompany this practice, for
birds are believed to be vehicles for the introduction of the soul
into the newborn child, and all human souls grow upon a soul-tree in
the other world, whence they are fetched by a bird which is killed and
eaten by the expectant mother;[348] but there seems to be no evidence
of any religious cult or rite, and what there is of mythology or
legend is probably borrowed.[349] The details in this case are of
special importance, as they form a complete set of associated culture
elements, and I shall have to return to them later on.


I shall not attempt to exhaust the evidence to be derived from the
pygmy people. What has been said of the examples I have chosen may in
all essentials be said of the remaining examples. But it is perhaps
advisable to be assured that the evidence of kinless people is not
confined to the stunted and dwarfed races, for it has been argued that
the pygmies are nothing but the ne'er-do-wells of the stronger races,
and may not therefore be taken as true racial types. This may be true,
but it does not affect my case, because I am not depending so much
upon the physical characteristics of these people as upon their
culture characteristics. These are definite and conclusive, and they
are repeated among people of higher physical type. Thus the Jolas of
the Gambia district have practically no government and no law; every
man does as he chooses, and the most successful thief is considered
the greatest man. There is no recognised punishment for murder or any
other crime. Individual settlement is the only remedy, and the fittest
survives. There is no formality in regard to marriage, or what passes
for marriage, amongst them. Natural selection is observed on both
sides, and the pair, after having ascertained a reciprocity of
sentiment, at once cohabit. They do not intermarry with any other

It is possible to proceed from this to other regions of man's
occupation ground. In America, the evidence of the modern savage is
preceded by most interesting facts. If we compare Dr. Brinton's
conclusions as to the spread of the American Indians from the north to
the south, and as to the development of culture in the favoured
districts being of the same origin as the undeveloped culture of the
less favoured and of absolutely sterile districts, with Mr. Curtin's
altogether independent conclusions as to the growth of the American
creation myth with its cycle of first people peaceful and migratory,
and its cycle of second people "containing accounts of conflicts which
are ever recurrent," we are conscious that mythic and material remains
of great movements of people are in absolute accord,[351] an accord
which leads us to expect that the peoples who were pushed ever forward
into the most desolate and most sterile districts of southern America
would be the most nearly savage of all the American peoples. This is
in agreement with Darwin's estimate of the Fuegians who wander about
in groups of kinless society,[352] and it is in accord with other
evidence. Thus the Zaparos, belonging to the great division of
unchristianised Indians of the oriental province of Ecuador, have the
fame of being most expert woodsmen and hunters. To communicate with
one another in the wood, they generally imitate the whistle of the
toman or partridge. They believe that they partake of the nature of
the animals they devour. They are very disunited, and wander about in
separate hordes. The stealing of women is much carried on even amongst
themselves. A man runs away with his neighbour's wife or one of them,
and secretes himself in some out of the way spot until he gathers
information that she is replaced, when he can again make his
appearance, finding the whole difficulty smoothed over. In their
matrimonial relations they are very loose--monogamy, polygamy,
communism, and promiscuity all apparently existing amongst them. They
allow the women great liberty and frequently change their mates or
simply discard them when they are perhaps taken up by another. They
believe in a devil or evil spirit which haunts the woods, and call him

In all these cases, and I do not, of course, exhaust the evidence,
there is enough to suggest that the social forms presented are of the
most rudimentary kind. Conjecture has not and, I think, cannot get
further back than such evidence as this. The social grouping is
supported by outside influences rather than internal organisation;
neither blood kinship nor marital kinship is recognised; hostility to
all other groups and from other groups is the basis of inter-groupal
life. To these significant characteristics has to be added the special
birth custom and belief of the Semang pygmies. It is clear that the
soul-bird belief and the tree-naming custom are different phases of
one conception of social life, a conception definitely excluding
recognition of blood kinship, and derived from the conscious adoption
of an experience which has not reached the stage of blood kinship, but
which includes a close association with natural objects. All this
makes it advisable to take fuller count of pygmy culture than has
hitherto been given to it. The pygmies have in truth always been a
problem in man's history. From the time of Homer, Herodotos, and
Aristotle, the pygmies have had their place among the observable types
of man, or among the traditions to which observers have given
credence. In modern times they have been accounted for either as
peoples degraded from a higher level of culture, or as peoples who
have never advanced. But whether we look upon these people as the last
remnants of the primitive condition of hostility or whether they are
reversions to that condition by reason of like causes, they bring
before us what conjectural research has prepared us for. The first
supposition is neither impossible nor incredible. The slow
spreading-out in hostile regions would allow of the preservation of
some examples of preference for unrestrained licence at the expense of
constant hostility, in place of a modified peacefulness at the expense
of restricted freedom in matters so dear to the human animal as sexual
choice and power. The second supposition contains an element of human
history which must find a place in anthropological research. The
possible phases of social formation are very limited. If any section
of mankind cannot develop in one direction, they will stagnate at the
stage they have reached, or they will retrograde to one of the stages
from which in times past they have proceeded. There is no other
course, and the very limitations of primitive life prevent us from
considering the possibility of any other course. Either of these
alternatives allows us to consider the examples of hostile
inter-grouping as sufficient to supply us with the vantage ground for
observation of man in his earliest stages of existence. Perhaps each
of them may contain somewhat of the truth. But whatever may be
considered as the true cause of the pygmy level of culture, there is
an underlying factor which must count most strongly in its
determination, namely, that these people are the people who in the
process of migration have been pushed out to the last strongholds of
man. Whether they could not or would not conform to the newer
condition of stationary or comparatively stationary society is not
much to the point in presence of the fact that nowhere have they
conformed to this standard of existence. Moreover we are entitled to
the argument, which has been the main point advanced in connection
with the anthropological problems we are discussing, that the most
primitive type of man must of necessity be sought for, and can only be
found at the extremes of the migration movement wherever that is

The question now becomes, can we by means of recognisable links
proceed from the rudimentary kinless stage of society to the earliest
stage of kinship society? This is a most difficult problem, but it
must be solved. If the rudimentary kinless groups do indeed constitute
a factor in human evolution, they are a most important factor. If they
do not constitute such a factor, they can only be accidental
productions, the sport of exceptional circumstances not in the line of
evolution, and as such they are not of much use in anthropology. It
will be seen, therefore, that the connection between rudimentary
kinless society and the earliest, or representatives of the earliest,
kinship society, is an essential part of an inquiry into origins.

It may be approached first from the conjectural basis. On this basis
it may be asserted that the victorious male of the primary groups
would remain victorious only just so long as he could continue to
adjust the conditions on the primary basis, and preserve his females
to himself. New conditions would arise whenever the limitation of the
food lands produced a degree of localisation of the hitherto movable
groups. There would then have crept into human experience the
necessity for something of common action among a wider range than the
simple group. This is a new force, and social evolution is henceforth
going to operate in addition to, perhaps to a limited extent in
substitution of, the constant movement towards new food lands. The
single male would no longer be the victorious male by himself; and
sharing his power with other males meant the reduction of his power in
his own group. Called away for something more than the defence of his
own primary group of females, he would leave the females with the
practical governance of the primary groups. This tendency would
develop. Wherever the constant movement outwards became stayed by
geographical or other influences, the groups which experienced the
shock of stoppage would undergo change. The female in the various
primary groups would become a static element, and the male alone would
follow out in the more restricted area the older force of movement
which he had learned during the period of unrestricted scope.[355] He
would have to find his mates during his roamings, instead of the
former condition of fighting for them during the group movements; and
his relationship to the primary groups would be therefore
fundamentally changed. From being the central dominant head, he would
become a constantly shifting unit. The female under these conditions
would become the centre of the new social unit, and the male would
become the hunter for food and the fighter against enemies. The new
social forces would thus consist of local units commanded by the
female, and revolving units composed of the males, and there would
arise therefrom cleavage between the economic conditions of the two

That primitive economics bear the impress of sex cleavage is borne out
by every class of evidence, and it is in this circumstance that we
first come upon societies distinguished by containing two of the most
important social elements, exogamy and totemism. Before, however,
examining examples of societies containing the two elements of exogamy
and totemism, it will be necessary to say something by way of
preliminaries on these two elements themselves. They have rightly been
made the subject of important special inquiry by anthropological
scholars, as being in fact the key to the question of social
evolution, and we shall clear the ground considerably by first of all
turning to the principal authorities on the subject, and ascertaining
the present position of the inquiry.

I must however note, in the first place, that as I have stated the
case, exogamy and totemism appear as two separate and distinct
elements, whereas it is usual to consider exogamy as an essential part
of totemism. I cannot, however, see that this is so. In advanced
totemism, it is true, they are found as inseparable parts of one
system, but they may well have started separately and coalesced later.
In point of fact, all the evidence points in this direction, and if we
cease to consider exogamy as a necessary element of totemism, we can
advance investigation more rapidly and with greater accuracy.

We come very quickly upon what may be termed natural exogamy. Male
working with male outside the groups formed by women and the younger
offspring would produce a natural exogamy, which would have followed
upon the exogamy produced by hostile capture of women, and two streams
of influence would thus tell in favour of the evolution of a system of
formal exogamy, and Dr. Westermarck's theory of a natural avoidance of
housemates, with all its wealth of evidence, helps us at this point.

The position is not so clear as to totemism. If we begin, however,
with a clear understanding that it is not a part of the machinery of
exogamous grouping, but an independent growth of its own, we shall
have gained an important point, for the contrary opinion has very
often obscured the issue and prevented research in the right

It will be advisable to have before us the principal theories as to
the origin of totemism. There are practically three--Mr. Frazer's, Mr.
Lang's, and Mr. Baldwin Spencer's. Mr. Frazer considers totemism to be
"in its essence nothing more or less than an early theory of
conception, which presented itself to savage man at a time when he was
still ignorant of the true cause of the propagation of the species."
Mr. Frazer explains this theory further by saying that "naturally
enough, when she is first aware of the mysterious movement within her,
the mother fancies that something has that very moment passed into her
body, and it is equally natural that in her attempt to ascertain what
the thing is, she should fix upon some object that happened to be near
her, or to engage her attention at the critical moment."[356]

Mr. Lang rejects Mr. Frazer's theory _in toto_, and propounds his own
as due to the naming of savage societies, and to a sort of natural
exogamy produced by practically the same set of conditions as I have
already described. Mr. Lang's totemism began in the primary groups,
and began with exogamy as a necessary part of it. "Unessential to my
system," says Mr. Lang, "is the question how the groups got animal
names, as long as they got them, and did not remember how they got
them, and as long as the names according to their way of thinking
indicated an essential and mystic rapport between each group and its
name-giving animal. No more than these three things--a group animal
name of unknown origin; belief in a transcendental connection between
all bearers human and bestial of the same name; and belief in the
blood superstitions (the mystically sacred quality of the blood as
life)--was needed to give rise to all the totemic creeds and practices
including exogamy," and further, "we guess that for the sake of
distinction, groups gave each other animal and plant names. These
became stereotyped we conjecture, and their origin was forgotten. The
belief that there must necessarily be some connection between animals
and men of the same names led to speculation about the nature of the
connection. The usual reply to the question was that the men and
animals of the same name were akin by blood. The kinship _with
animals_ being particularly mysterious was peculiarly sacred. From
these ideas arose tabus, and among others that of totemic

Mr. Baldwin Spencer, and with him Dr. Haddon, consider totemism to
have arisen from economic conditions. Primitive human groups, says Dr.
Haddon, "could never have been large, and the individuals comprising
each group must have been closely related. In favourable areas each
group would have a tendency to occupy a restricted range, owing to the
disagreeable results which arose from encroaching on the territory
over which another group wandered. Thus, it would inevitably come
about that a certain animal or plant, or group of animals or plants,
would be more abundant in the territory of one group than in that of

These theories are not necessarily mutually destructive, though they
seem to me even collectively not to contain the full case for
totemism. Mr. Frazer does not account for woman's isolation at the
time of conceptual quickening, for the closeness of her observation of
local phenomena, and for the separateness of her ideas from the actual
facts of procreation. Mr. Lang overloads his case. He is accounting
not for the origin of totemism, but for the origin of all, or almost
all, that totemism contains in its most developed forms--"all the
totemic creeds and practices including exogamy" as he says. He
postulates a name-giving process by drawing upon the conceptions as to
names by advanced savage thought, and he does not account for the fact
that according to his theory, animals and plants must not only have
been named, but named upon some sort of system known to a wide area of
peoples, before totemistic names for the groups could have been given
to them. Mr. Spencer's and Dr. Haddon's theory is perhaps open to the
doubts caused by Mr. Lang's criticism of it that there is only one
case of a known economic cause for totemism--an Australian case where
two totem kins are said to have been so called "from having in former
times principally subsisted on a small fish and a very small
opossum;"[359] but on the other hand it does supply a _vera causa_,
the actual evidence for which may well have passed away with the
development of totemism, without leaving survivals.

All these theories, however, are the result of considerable research
and experience, and it is more than probable that they may each
contain fragments of the truth which need the touch of combination to
show how they stand in relation to the problem which they are
propounded to solve. There are features of totemism which are not
noticed by any of these distinguished authorities. By using the
hitherto unnoticed features, I think it possible to produce a theory
as to the origin of totemism, which will contain the essential
features of those theories now prominently before the world.

I will set down the order in which the problem can be approached from
the standpoint already reached, and we may afterwards try to ascertain
what proof is to be derived from totemic societies of the rudest type.

Now totemism is essentially a system of social grouping, whose chief
characteristic is that it is kinless--that is to say, the tie of
totemism is not the tie of blood kinship, but the artificially created
association with natural objects or animals. It takes no count of
fatherhood, and only reckons with the physical fact of motherhood. It
is not the actual fatherhood or the actual motherhood which is the
fundamental basis of totemism, but the association with animal, plant,
or other natural object. This is evidently the fact, whatever view is
taken of totemism, and that totemism is, in its origin and principle,
a kinless, not a kinship system, is the first fact of importance to
bear in mind throughout all inquiry. Thus Messrs. Spencer and Gillen
say "the identity of the human individual is often sunk in that of
the animal or plant from which he is supposed to have originated."[360]

The next fact of importance is that as it commences at birth time, it
must be closely associated with the mother and her actions as mother.
This leads us to the observation that it is through the agency of the
mother that the totem name is conferred upon their children, and to
the necessary antecedent fact that women must have themselves
possessed the name they conferred--possessed, that is, either the name
as a personal attribute and valued as such, or else the power of
evolving the name and the capacity of using it with totemic
significance. I conclude from this, therefore, that the search for the
origin of totemism must be made from the women's side of the social
group. Such a search would lead straight to the industrialism of early
woman, from which originated the domestication of animals, the
cultivation of fruits and cereals, and the appropriation of such trees
and shrubs as were necessary to primitive economics.[361] The close
and intimate relationship with human life which such animals, plants,
and trees would assume under the social conditions which have been
postulated as belonging to this earliest stage of evolution, and the
aid which these friendly and always present companions would render at
all times and under most circumstances, would generate and develop
many of those savage conceptions which have become known to research.
As human friends they would become part of humanity, just as
Livingstone notes of an African people that they did not eat the beef
which he offered to them because "they looked upon cattle as human and
living at home like men,"[362] an idea which is also the basis of the
custom in India not to taste fruit of a newly planted mangrove tree
until it is formally "married" to some other tree.[363] These are but
the fortunate instances where definite record in set terms has been
made. At the back of them lies a whole collection of anthropomorphic
conceptions, indulged in by man at all stages of his career.[364] As
superhuman agencies for pregnancy and birth, they would do what the
human father in the society we are contemplating could not be expected
to do, for he would be seldom present during the long period of
pregnancy; he would have shared with other males the privileges of
sexual intercourse, and he would therefore not be so closely in
companionship with the women of the local groups as the friendly
animal, plant, or tree who did so much for the mothers. There would
thus be formed the groundwork for the fashioning of that most
incredible of all beliefs, well founded, as Mr. Hartland has proved
both from tradition and belief,[365] that the human father was not
father, and that other agencies were responsible for the birth of

Gathering up the several threads of this argument, it seems to me that
there is within this sphere of primitive thought and within these
conditions of primitive life, ample room for the growth of all the
main conceptions belonging to totemism; and it will be seen how
necessary it is to separate totemism at its beginning from totemism in
its most advanced stages. Totemism has not come to man fully equipped
in all its parts. It is like every other human institution, the result
of a long process of development, and the various stages of
development are important parts of the evidence as to origins. At the
beginning, it was clearly not connected with blood kinship and
descent; it was as clearly not connected with any class system of
marriage. But its beginnings would allow of these later growths, would
perhaps almost engender these later growths.

Thus, the primary notion of the totem birth of children would, when
blood kinship and descent became a consciously accepted element in
social development, easily slide into the belief of a totemic ancestor
and kinship with the totem; the protection and assistance afforded by
the totem to the women of the primary groups who became the mothers of
new generations, would easily grow into a sort of worship of the
totem; the adoption of the totem name from the circumstances of birth
implying the origin of the name from within the group and not from
without would, as aggregation took the place of segregation, give way
before the association of groups of persons with common interests; the
aggregate totem name would come to the separate local totems as soon
as, but not before, aggregation had taken the place of segregation in
the formation of the social system, and this was not at the earliest
stage; the close association of the totems with groups of mothers who
always took the fathers of their children from without the mother
group, would readily develop into differentiating the mother totems
within the group from the totems of the fathers without the group, and
this differentiation would produce a special relationship between the
sexes based upon the difference of totems instead of upon the sameness
of them; and finally there would be produced first a two-class
division founded on sex--all the mothers and all the fathers--and,
only in a developed form, a two-class division founded on the accepted
totem name.

If this is a probable view of the course of totemic evolution, we may
more confidently refer to its final stages for further evidence.
Advanced totemic society shows a constant tendency to substitute
blood kinship for the association with natural objects: first, blood
kinship with the mother, then with the mother and the father, finally
recognised through the father only. At this last stage, blood kinship
has practically succeeded in expelling totemic association altogether
in favour of tribal kinship by blood descent, for totemism with male
descent as the basis of the social group is totemism in name only; the
names of totemism remain but they are applied to kinship tribes or
sections of tribes, and they do duty therefore as a convenient
name-system without reference to their origin in definite association
with the naming animal or plant; and it is already in position to
surrender also the names and outward signs. Blood kinship is therefore
the destroyer, not the generator, of totemism, and we are therefore
compelled to get at the back of blood kinship if we want to find totem

This is an important aspect of the case, and it is one which, I think,
cannot be ignored. We have found that rudimentary totemism was the
basis of a social system founded on artificial associations with
animal or plant, was therefore kinless in character; and we have found
that when totemism has been carried on into a society developed upon
the recognition of blood kinship, blood kinship became antagonistic to
totemism, and ultimately displaced it. These two facts point to the
rudimentary kinless system as the true origin of totemism.


Now we may test these conclusions by applying the theory they contain
to an actual case of totemic society. It would be well to choose for
this purpose a people who had specialised their totemic organisation,
and there are only two supreme instances of this among the races of
the world--the North American Indians and the Australians. Everywhere
else, where totemism exists, it is not the dominant feature of the
social organisation. In Asia and in Africa totemism is subordinate to,
or at all events in close or equal association with, other elements,
and we cannot be quite sure that we have in these cases pure totemism.
North American totemism is in the most advanced stage. Australian
totemism is to a very considerable degree less advanced, and it is
therefore to Australian totemism I shall turn for evidence.

But even here it is necessary to bear in mind that primitive as the
Australians are, they are not so primitive as to be in the primary
stages of totemic society. They have developed, and developed strongly
along totemic lines, and we know that such development once started
has the capacity to proceed far. What we have to do, therefore, is to
attempt to penetrate beneath the range of development, to search for
the social group at the farthest from the centre point from which
migration started, to discover, if we can, relics of group hostility,
hostile capture of women and of kinless society, all of which belong
to the primary stage from which totemic development has taken place.
If we can do this, we may hope to arrive at the origin of totemism,
and we are more likely to accomplish it in the case of the Australians
than with any other people. If we cannot, as Mr. Lang alleges,
anywhere see "absolutely primitive man and a totemic system in the
making,"[366] we may go back along the lines from which totemism has
developed in Australian society and see somewhat of the process of the

We may commence with evidence of the survival of the most primitive
human trait, the condition of hostility among the local groups
produced by the struggle for women. "The possession of a girl appears
to be connected with all their ideas of fighting ... after a battle
the girls do not always follow their fugitive husbands from the field,
but frequently go over as a matter of course to the victors, even with
young children on their backs."[367] Mr. Curr puts the evidence even
more definitely in a primitive setting when he informs us of "the
young bachelors of the tribe carrying off some of the girl wives of
the grey-beards," leaving the old territory and settling at the first
convenient place within thirty or forty miles of the old territory. I
call this state of things "survival,"[368] because it is the existence
in totemic society of the fundamental basis of pre-totemic society. It
is checked in Australian totemic society by rules which show a strong
development from the primitive. Thus the successful warrior may not
take any of his captives to himself; "if a warrior took to himself a
captive who belonged to a forbidden class, he would be hunted down
like a wild beast," is the evidence of Mr. Fison, who allows it to be
"a strong statement, but it rests upon strong evidence."[369] This is
the exogamous class system operating even in the case of conflict,
when men have resorted to their primitive instincts and their
primitive methods.

This discovery of primitive hostility accompanying the obtaining of
wives leads us to look for other survivals of the earliest conditions,
and we come upon mother-right groups in which the females in each
local group are the sexual companions of males from outside their own
social group. This is shown by the Kamilaroi organisation, where "a
woman is married to a thousand miles of husbands."[370] This phrase
may be textually an exaggeration of actual fact, but it undoubtedly
expresses a condition of things which actually existed. Women in
Australian society must look outside their class, and in general
outside their totem, for their sexual mates, and they must expect to
be claimed as rightful sexual mates by men whom they have never seen
and who live at great distances. Carry this state of things but a few
steps back, and we must come to a condition of localised female groups
with males moving from group to group. Surely there is something more
here than savage organisation. The something more is the development
into a system of one of the results of the enforced migratory
conditions of early man, namely, the migratory instincts of the males
moving outside the female local groups and thus producing natural
exogamy. This is what appears to me to be clearly a distinct element
in the Australian system. But there is a new element in juxtaposition
with it. The new element is the organisation into marriage
classes--not every man from without, but only special men from
without, are allowed the sexual companionship.

Now in both these cases, where we have apparently penetrated to the
most primitive conditions, we are also brought up abruptly against
conditions which are not primitive, namely, the exogamous class system,
and we are bound to conclude that this class system thus shows itself
to be an intruding force which has not, however, been strong enough to
quite obliterate the older forces of hostile marriage-capture and
mother-right society.

Our next quest is therefore to find out, if we can, an explanation of
these two contrasted elements in Australian totemic society, and for
this purpose it is advisable to still further narrow down the range of
inquiry to one special section of the Australian peoples. For this
purpose I shall take the Arunta. There has been much controversy about
this people. Mr. Lang argues that the presence of exogamous classes
and male descent shows the Arunta to be more advanced than other
Australian peoples;[371] Messrs. Spencer and Gillen that the survival
of totem beliefs, which are local and unconnected with the class
system, proves them to be the least advanced. In this country Mr.
Hartland and Mr. Thomas side with Mr. Lang; Mr. Frazer with Messrs.
Spencer and Gillen.

The first point of importance to note about the Arunta people is that
they occupy the least favourable districts for food supply.[372] This
means that they have been pushed there. They did not choose such a
location--in other words, they are among the last units of the
migration movements which peopled Australia; they are among the last
people to have become stationary as a group, and to have been
compelled to resort to the development of social organisation in lieu
of constantly swarming off from the centre or from the last stopping
place to the ends. This tells for primitive, not advanced, conditions.

The next point is the totem system. Messrs. Spencer and Gillen,
describing one special case as an example of the rest, give us the
following particulars. The Arunta believe that the most marked
features of the district they inhabit, the gaps and the gorges, were
formed by their Alcheringa ancestors. These Alcheringa are represented
as collected together in companies, each of which consisted of a
certain number of individuals belonging to one particular totem. Each
of these Alcheringa ancestors carried about with him or her one or
more of the sacred stones called churinga. These are the general
traditions related by the Arunta of to-day to explain their own
customs, and let it be noted that the explanation does not necessarily
lead us to the primitive conceptions of the Arunta people, but to
their present conceptions as to unknown facts. The local example is
found close to Alice Springs, where there are deposited a large number
of churinga carried by the witchetty grub men and women. A large
number of prominent rocks and boulders, and certain ancient gum
trees, are the nanja trees and rocks of these spirits. If a woman
conceives a child after having been near to this gap, it is one of
these spirit individuals which has entered her body, and when born
must of necessity be of the witchetty grub totem; "it is, in fact,
nothing else but the reincarnation of one of the witchetty grub people
of the Alcheringa;" the nanja tree, or stone, ever afterwards is the
nanja of the child, and there is special connection between it and the
child, injury to the nanja object meaning injury to the nanja
man.[373] There is evidence that the reincarnation theory is not
admissible,[374] and, indeed, it does not seem warranted on the facts
presented by the authors. With this unnecessary element out of the
way, then, there is left a system of local totemism, arising at birth
and depending upon the mother, without reference in any way to the
father, associated with natural features, rocks and trees, and showing
in a special way a curious system of sex cleavage by the men of the
group being the exclusive guardians of the sacred churinga, and the
women the active power by which the churinga becomes connected with
the newly-born member of the totem group.[375]

Now at this point we may surely refer back to the custom and belief of
the Semang people of the Malay Peninsula, and I suggest that we have
the closest parallel between Semang belief and custom and Arunta
totemism, not quite the same formula perhaps, but assuredly the same
fundamental conception of every child at birth being in intimate
association with objects of nature, and this association being the
determining force of the newly-born man's social status and class,
lasting all through life. In each case the kinless basis of totemism
is thus fully shown. The totem names given by women, or assumed on
account of the conditions attachable to women as mothers, did not
extend to the human fathers. The fathers may be known or unknown to
the mothers, but they did not become associated with the totems which
the mothers associated with their children. To the extent of
fatherhood, therefore, totemism of this type was clearly not based
upon the natural fact of blood kinship, but upon the conscious
adoption of a non-kinship form of society. To the extent of motherhood
also it was not based upon blood kinship, for it was the local totem,
not the mother's totem, which became the totem of the newly-born
member of the group. We thus have an entirely non-kinship form of
society to deal with, a kinless society, "where there is no necessary
relationship of any kind between that of children and parents."[376]
Primitive man consciously adapted certain of his observations of
nature to his social needs, and among these observations the fact of
actual blood kinship with father and mother played no part. It would
appear therefore that totemism at its foundation was based upon a
theoretical conception of relationship between man and animal or
plant. Place of birth, association with natural objects, not
motherhood and not fatherhood, are the determining factors.

We may proceed to inquire as to the social form which has become
evolved from this kinless system.

In the case of the Semangs we have the kinless totemic belief and
custom existing within a kinless society. In the case of the Arunta we
have the kinless totemism existing in a society based on a kinless
organisation still, but containing also full recognition of
motherhood,[377] and perhaps recognition of physical fatherhood.[378]
There is, therefore, an important distinction in the social position
of the two parallel systems. Among the Semang people, their totemic
belief and custom do not carry with them a superstructure of society.
They form the substantive cult of the scattered social groups, which
are kinless groups dependent upon ties local in character and derived
from the conscious use of the facts of nature surrounding them. Among
the Arunta people, on the contrary, the totem belief and custom are
contained within a social system of extraordinary dimensions and
proportions. Of course, the obvious questions to raise are--have the
Semang people lost a once existing social system connected with their
totemic cult? Have the Arunta people had imposed upon them a social
system which has not destroyed their primitive totemic cult?

To answer these questions I can only deal with the Semang evidence as
it appears in researches of great authority and weight, and there is
undoubtedly in all the evidence produced by Messrs. Skeat and
Blagden, and the authorities they use, nothing whatever to suggest
that Semang totemism once possessed above it an elaborate social
organisation of the usual totemic type. There is indeed, the myth
which points to a two-class exogamous division for marital
purposes,[379] but there is more than myth for the unrestricted
intercourse of the sexes both before and after marital rights.[380] In
every other direction we get simple groups fashioned on no larger
basis than nomadic roaming and journeying to fresh food grounds. On
the other hand, there is much to suggest that the Arunta have a dual
system of organisation; one, in which the primitive types are still
surviving, the second, a more advanced type which covers but does not
crush out the first. If this is so, it is clear that the parallel
between Semang and Arunta totemism is considerably closer than at
first appears.

It will be necessary, therefore, to deal with the two principal signs
of alleged Arunta progress, male descent and the exogamous classes. I
see no evidence whatever of male descent; male ascendancy, a very
different thing, appears, but there cannot strictly be male descent
where fatherhood is unrecognised. And here I would interpose the
remark that the use of the term descent, male descent and female
descent, in these studies is far too indiscriminate.[381] Descent
means succession by blood kinship by acknowledged sons or daughters,
and this is exactly what does not always occur. Sonship and
daughtership in our sense of the term are not always known to
savagery. They were not known to the Arunta males, for fatherhood was
not recognised by them and motherhood was not definitely used in the
social sense. All that the Arunta can be said to have developed is a
mother-right society with male ascendancy in the group.[382] Group
sons succeeded to group fathers, but individual descent from father to
son there is not.

There remain the exogamous classes. In the first place, it is
necessary to get rid of a difficulty raised by Mr. Lang. "In no tribe
with female descent can a district have its local totem as among the
Arunta.... This can only occur under male reckoning of descent."[383]
But surely so acute an observer as Mr. Lang would see that with female
descent right through, as it exists among the Khasia and Kocch people
of Assam, local totem centres are just as possible as with male
descent. Mr. Lang is conscious of some discrepancy here, for a little
later on he repeats the statement that local totem centres "can only
occur and exist under male reckoning of descent," but adds the
significant qualification "in cases where the husbands do not go to
the wives' region of abode."[384] This is the whole point. Where
husbands do go to the wives' region of abode, as they do among the
Khasis and the Kocch, female descent would allow of the formation of
local totem centres. This is not far from the position of the Arunta.
They are mother-right societies. The mother secures the totem name.
The father, _de facto_, is not father according to the ideas of the
Arunta people, is at best only one of a group of possible fathers
according to the practices of the Arunta people. Therefore, the local
totem centre is formed out of a system which may be called a
mother-right system for the purpose of scientific description, but
which is not even a mother-right system to the natives, because
motherhood is not the foundation of the local group.

Secondly, we have the important fact, which Mr. Lang has duly noted,
though he does not apparently see its significance in the argument as
to origins, that the class system "arose in a given centre and was
propagated by emigrants and was borrowed by distant tribes."[385]
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen distinctly affirm that the "division into
eight has been adopted (or rather the names for the four new divisions
have been) in recent times by the Arunta tribe from the Ilpirra tribe
which adjoins the former on the north, and the use of them is at the
present time spreading southwards."[386] This view is supported by the
widespread organisation of eaglehawk and crow, and by the general
homogeneity of Australian social forms. It is clear, therefore, that
room is made for the external organisation of the class system and the
consequent production of the dual characteristics of the Arunta--the
joint product of the fossilisation of mother-right society at the end
of the migration movement, and the superimposing upon this
fossilisation, with its tendency towards the class system, of the
fully organised class system. The two systems are not now fully welded
in the Arunta group. Whatever view is taken of these, whether they be
considered advanced or primal, the undoubted dualism has to be
accounted for, and the best way of accounting for this dualism is, I
submit, that of differential evolution. Further study of Messrs.
Spencer and Gillen's work, together with the criticisms of various
scholars, Mr. Lang, Mr. Hartland, Mr. Frazer, Mr. Thomas, and others,
convinces me that the extreme artificiality of the class system is due
partly to a want of understanding of the entire facts, and partly to
the _ad hoc_ adoption by the natives themselves of new plans to meet
difficulties which must arise out of a too close adhesion to their
rules. Mr. Lang has allowed me to see a manuscript note of his, in
which he points out that the inevitable result of the one totem to the
one totem rule of marital relationship,--that is, totem A always
intermarrying with totem B, males and females from both totems, and
with no others,--is the consanguineous relationship of all the members
of the two totems. The rule for non-consanguineous marriage has
therefore broken down, and when it breaks down the Australian
introduces a new rule which satisfies immediate necessities. When this
in turn breaks down a further new rule is made, and this is the way I
think the differing rules resulted. They represent, therefore, not
varying degrees of culture progress, but only varying degrees of
artificial social changes, and they spring from the oldest conditions
of all where there is no class system at all.[387] Arunta society is
not a "sport" under this view, but a product--a product to be
accounted for and explained by anthropological rules, derived not only
from Australian society but from the general facts of human society
which have remained for observation by the science of to-day. The
parallel between Semang and Arunta, therefore, helps us in two ways.
It enables us to go back to Semang totemism as an example of primitive
kinless society, and forward to Arunta totemism as an example of early
development therefrom. We have, in point of fact, discovered the datum
line of totemism. Upon this may be constructed the various examples
according to their degrees of development, and we may thus see in
detail the commencing elements of totemism as well as the means by
which we may proceed from the commencing elements to the more advanced
elements, and finally to the last stages of totemic society where
blood kinship is fully recognised and used, where, in fact, totemic
tribes as distinct from totemic peoples take their place in the
world's history.


I do not propose in this chapter to proceed further with this inquiry.
It will not advance my object, nor is it absolutely necessary.
Totemism in the full has been described adequately by Mr. Frazer in
his valuable abstract of the evidence supplied from all parts of the
world, and there is not much in dispute among the authorities when
once the stage of origin is passed. There is danger, however, at the
other extreme, namely, the attempt to discover totemism in impossible
places in civilisation. Mr. Morgan has shown us totemic society in its
highest form of development, untouched by other influences of
sufficient consequence to divert its natural evolution. This, I think,
is the merit of Mr. Morgan's great work, and not his attempt, his
futile attempt as I think, to apply the principles of totemic society
to the elucidation of societies that have long passed the stage of
totemism. In particular, the great European civilisations are not
totemic, nor are they to be seen passing from totemism. It is true
that Mr. Lang, Mr. Grant Allen, and others have attempted to trace in
certain features of Greek ritual and belief, and in certain tribal
formations discoverable in Anglo-Saxon Britain, the relics of a living
totemism in the civilised races of Europe;[388] but I do not believe
either of these scholars would have endorsed his early conclusions in
later studies. Mr. Grant Allen did not, so far as I know, repeat this
theory after its first publication, and Mr. Lang has given many signs
of being willing to withdraw it. The fact is, there is no necessity to
think of Greek or English totem society because in Greece and England
there are traces of totem beliefs. We may disengage them from their
national position and put them back to the position they occupied
before the coming of Greek or Englishman into the countries they have
made their own.

In that position there may well have been totemic peoples in Britain
of the type we have been considering from Australia. I have already
indicated that totemic survivals in folklore have been the subject of
a special study of my own which still in the main stands good, and for
which I have collected very many additional illustrations and proofs.
I discovered that folklore contained some remarkably perfect examples
of totemic belief and custom, and also a considerable array of
scattered belief and custom connected with animals and plants which,
unclassified, seemed to lead to no definite stage of culture history,
yet when classified, undoubtedly led to totemism. The result was
somewhat remarkable. At many points there are direct parallels to
savage totemism, and the whole associated group of customs received
adequate explanation only on the theory that it represented the
detritus of a once existing totemic system of belief.

The present study enables me to take the parallel to primitive
totemism much closer. One of the perfect examples was of a local
character. This was found in Ossory. Giraldus Cambrensis tells an
extraordinary legend to the following effect: "A priest benighted in a
wood on the borders of Meath was confronted by a wolf, who after some
preliminary explanations gave this account of himself: There are two
of us, a man and a woman, natives of Ossory, who through the curse of
one Natalis, saint and abbot, are compelled every seven years to put
off the human form and depart from the dwellings of men. Quitting
entirely the human form, we assume that of wolves. At the end of the
seven years, if they chance to survive, two others being substituted
in their places, they return to their country and their former
shape."[389] Here is a saintly legend introduced to explain the
current tradition of the men of Ossory, that they periodically turned
into wolves. Fynes Moryson, in 1603, ridiculed the beliefs of "some
Irish who will be believed as men of credit," that men in Ossory were
"yearly turned into wolves."[390] But an ancient Irish MS. puts the
matter much more clearly in the statement that the "descendants of the
wolf are in Ossory,"[391] while the evidence of Spenser and Camden
explains the popular beliefs upon even more exact lines. Spenser says
"that some of the Irish doe use to make the wolf their gossip;"[392]
and Camden adds that they term them "Chari Christi, praying for them
and wishing them well, and having contracted this intimacy, professed
to have no fear from their four-footed allies." Fynes Moryson
expressly mentions the popular dislike to killing wolves, and they
were not extirpated until the eighteenth century.[393] Aubrey adds
that "in Ireland they value the fang-tooth of an wolfe, which they set
in silver and gold as we doe ye Coralls;"[394] and Camden notes the
similar use of a bit of wolf's skin.[395]

In the local superstitions of Ossory, therefore, we have several of
the cardinal features of savage totemism, the descent from the
totem-animal, the ascription to the totem of a sacred character, the
belief in its protection, and a taboo against killing it. I will
venture to suggest, however, that to these important features there is
to be added a parallel in survival to the Semang and Arunta features
where the local circumstances of birth are the determining forces
which supply the totem name, for the relationship of "gossip,"
"god-sib," is clearly of the same character as that of the soul-tree
of the Semang and the alcheringa of the Australian.[396] The condition
of survival has altered the detail of the parallel, but the parallel
is on the same plane.

The wolf as gossip to the men of Ossory leads us on to inquire whether
any other animal had such close connections with human beings. In
Erris, a part of Connaught, "the people consider that foxes perfectly
understand human language, that they can be propitiated by kindness,
and even moved by flattery. They not only make mittens for Reynard's
feet to keep him warm in winter, and deposit these articles carefully
near their holes, but they make them sponsors for their children,
supposing that under the close and long-established relationship of
Gossipred they will be induced to befriend them."[397] Thus it appears
that the selfsame conception which the men of Ossory had in the
thirteenth century for the wolf, the men of Erris had for the fox in
the nineteenth century. No explanation from the dry details of the
natural history of these animals is sufficient to account for this
curious parallel, and we must turn to ancient beliefs for the

The general attitude of the men of Erris towards the fox is confirmed
as an attribute of totemism when we come to examine a special local
form of it. This we can do by turning to Galway. The Claddagh fishermen
in Galway would not go out to fish if they saw a fox: their rivals of
a neighbouring village, not believing in the fox, do all they can
to introduce a fox into the Claddagh village.[398] These people
are peculiar in many respects, and are distinctively clannish. They
retain their old clan-dress--blue cloaks and red petticoats--which
distinguishes them from the rest of the county of Galway, and it may be
conjectured that the present-day custom of naming from the names of
fish--thus, Jack the hake, Bill the cod, Joe the eel, Pat the trout,
Mat the turbot, etc.[399]--may be a remnant of the mental attitude of
the folk towards that belief in kinship between men and animals which
is at the basis of totemism. But, returning to the fox, we have in the
belief that meeting this animal would prevent them from going out to
fish, a parallel to the prohibition against looking at the totem which
is to be found among savage people, and we have in the neighbours'
disbelief in the fox and a corresponding belief in the hare,[400] that
local distribution of different totems which is also found in savagery.
But all these particulars about the relationship of the fox to the
Claddagh fishermen receive unexpected light when we inquire into the
biography of their local saint, named MacDara. This saint is the patron
saint of the fishermen who, when passing MacDara's island, always dip
their sails thrice to avoid being shipwrecked. But then, in the
folk-belief, we have this remarkable fact, that MacDara's real name was
Sinach, a fox[401]--an instance, it would seem, of a totem cult being
transferred to a Christian saint. Thus, then, in the superstitions of
these Claddagh fisherfolk we can trace the elements of totemism, the
root of which is contained, first, in the nominal worship of a
Christian saint, and second, in the actual worship of an animal, the

These examples of local totemism may be followed by a remarkable
example of tribal or kinship totemism. It was noted by Mr. G. H.
Kinahan in his researches for Irish folklore, and is mentioned quite
incidentally among other items, the collector himself not fully
perceiving the importance of his "find." This really enhances the
value of the evidence, because it destroys any possibility of an
objection to its validity--a really important matter, considering the
remarkable character of this survival of totem-stocks in Western
Europe. The exact words of Mr. Kinahan are as follows:--

"In very ancient times some of the clan Coneely, one of the early
septs of the county, were changed by 'art magick' into seals; since
then no Coneely can kill a seal without afterwards having bad luck.
Seals are called Coneelys, and on this account many of the name
changed it to Connolly."[402] The same local tradition is mentioned by
Hardiman in one of his notes to O'Flaherty's _Description of West or
H-iar Connaught_,[403] but the note is equally significant of
genuineness from the fact that the tradition is styled "a ridiculous
story." It strengthens Mr. Kinahan's note in the following passage:
"In some places the story has its believers, who would no more kill a
seal, or eat of a slaughtered one, than they would of a human

The clan Coneely is mentioned both by Mr. Kinahan and by Mr. Hardiman
as one of the oldest Irish septs; and that it is widely spread, and
not congregated into one locality, is to be inferred from the
description of the tradition as prevalent in Connaught, especially
from Mr. Hardiman's words, describing that "in some places" the story
has its believers now; and hence we may conclude that wherever the
clan Coneely are situated there would exist this totem belief.

The full significance of these facts may best be tested by reference
to the conditions laid down by Dr. Robertson Smith for the discovery
of the survivals of totemism among the Semitic races. These conditions
are as follows:--

      "'(1) The existence of stocks named after plants and
      animals'--such stocks, it is necessary to add, being
      scattered through many local tribes; (2) the
      prevalence of the conception that the members of the
      stock are of the blood of the eponym animal, or are
      sprung from a plant of the species chosen as totem;
      (3) the ascription to the totem of a sacred character
      which may result in its being regarded as the god of
      the stock, but at any rate makes it be regarded with
      veneration, so that, for example, a totem animal is
      not used as ordinary food. If we can find all these
      things together in the same tribe, the proof of
      totemism is complete; but even when this cannot be
      done, the proof may be morally complete if all the
      three marks of totemism are found well developed
      within the same race. In many cases, however, we can
      hardly expect to find all the marks of totemism in its
      primitive form; the totem, for example, may have
      become first an animal god, and then an
      anthropomorphic god, with animal attributes or
      associations merely."[404]

Now in the Irish case all three of these conditions are found together
in the same tribe, the clan Coneely, and it is impossible to overlook
the importance of such a discovery. It proves from survivals in
folklore that totemistic people once lived in ancient Ireland, just as
the corresponding evidence proved that the ancient Semitic stock
possessed the totemic organisation.

We have now examined the most archaic forms of the survival of
totemism in Britain. If we pass on to inquire whether we can detect
the more scattered and decayed remnants of totem beliefs and customs,
we turn to Mr. Frazer as our guide. From Mr. Frazer's review of the
beliefs and customs incidental to the totemistic organisation of
savage people, it is possible to extract a formula for ascertaining
the classification of savage beliefs and practices incidental to
totemism. This formula appears to me to properly fall into the
following groups:--

      (a) Descent from the totem.

      (b) Restrictions against injuring the totem.

      (c) Restrictions against using the totem for food.

      (d) The petting and preservation of totems.

      (e) The mourning for and burying of totems.

      (f) Penalties for non-respect of totem.

      (g) Assistance by the totem to his kin.

      (_h_) Assumption of totem marks.

      (_i_) Assumption of totem dress.

      (_j_) Assumption of totem names.

My suggestion is that if a reasonable proportion of the superstitions
and customs attaching to animals and plants, preserved to us as
folklore, can be classified under these heads this is exactly what
might be expected if the origin of such superstitions and customs is
to be sought for in a primitive system of totemism which prevailed
amongst the people once occupying these islands. The clan Coneely and
the Ossory wolves are proofs that such a system existed, and if such
perfect survivals have been able to descend to modern times, in spite
of the influences of civilisation, there is no _primâ facie_ reason
why the beliefs and customs incidental to such a system should not
have survived, even though they are no longer to be identified with
special clans. When once a primitive belief or custom becomes
separated from its original surroundings, it would be liable to
change. Thus, when the wolf totem of Ossory passes into a local
cultus, we meet with the belief that human beings may be transformed
into animal forms, as the derivative from the totem belief in descent
from the wolf. Fortunately, the process by which this change took
place is discernible in the Ossory example; but it will not be so in
other examples, and we may therefore assume that the Ossory example
represents the transitional form and apply it as a key to the origin
of similar beliefs elsewhere.

Again, if we endeavour to discover how the associated totem-beliefs of
the clan Coneely would appear in folklore supposing they had been
scattered by the influences of civilisation, we can see that at the
various places where members of the clan had resided for some time
there would be preserved fragments of the once perfect totem-belief.
Thus, one place would retain traditions about a fabulous animal who
could change into human form; another place would preserve beliefs
about its being unlucky to kill a seal (or some other animal specially
connected with the locality); another place would preserve a
superstitious regard for the seal (or some other local animal) as an
augury; and thus the process of transference of beliefs into folklore,
from one form into other related forms, from one particular object
connected with the clan to several objects connected with the
localities, would go on from time to time, until the difficulty of
tracing the original of the scattered beliefs and customs would be
well-nigh insurmountable without some key. But having once proved the
existence of such examples as the clan Coneely and the Ossory wolves,
this difficulty, though still great, is very much lessened. Our method
would be as follows. We first of all postulate that totem peoples did
actually exist in ancient Britain, or whence such extraordinary
survivals? We next examine and classify the beliefs and customs which
are incidental to totemism in savage society, and having set these
forth by the aid of Mr. Frazer's admirable study on the subject, we
ascertain what parallels to these beliefs and customs may be found in
the folklore of Britain. And then our position seems to be very
clearly defined. We prove that in folklore certain customs and
superstitions are identical, or nearly so, with the beliefs and
customs of totemism among savage tribes, and we conclude that this
identity in form proves an identity in origin, and therefore that
this section of folklore originated from the totemistic people of
early Britain.

I shall not take up all these points on the present occasion,
especially as they have in all essentials appeared in the study to
which I have referred; but as an example of the scattering of totem
beliefs I will refer to the well-known passage in Cæsar (lib. v. cap.
xii.), from which we learn that certain people in Britain were
forbidden to eat the hare, the cock, or the goose, and see whether
this does not receive its only explanation by reference to the totemic
restriction against using the totem for food. Mr. Elton, with this
passage in his mind, notices that "there were certain restrictions
among the Britons and ancient Irish, by which particular nations or
tribes were forbidden to kill or eat certain kinds of animals;" and he
goes on to suggest that "it seems reasonable to connect the rule of
abstaining from certain kinds of food with the superstitious belief
that the tribes were descended from the animals from which their names
and crests or badges were derived."[405]

Let us see whether this reasonable conjecture holds good. The most
famous example is that of Cuchulainn, the celebrated Irish chieftain,
whose name means the hound of Culain. It is said that he might not eat
of the flesh of the dog, and he came by his death after transgressing
this totemistic taboo. The words of the manuscript known as the Book
of Leinster are singularly significant in their illustration of this
view. "And one of the things that Cúchulainn was bound not to do was
going to a cooking hearth and consuming the food [_i.e._ the dog];
and another of the things that he must not do was eating his
namesake's flesh."[406] Diarmaid, whose name seems to be continued in
the current popular Irish name for pig (Darby), was intimately
associated with that animal, and his life depended on the life of the
boar.[407] These examples are so much to the point that we may examine
the cases mentioned by Cæsar from the same standard.

Mr. Frazer points out that even among existing totem-tribes the
respect for the totem has lessened or disappeared, and among the
results of this he notes instances where, if any one kills his totem,
he apologises to the animal. Under such an interpretation as this, we
may surely classify a "memorandum" made by Bishop White-Kennett about
the hare, the first of the British totems mentioned by Cæsar: "When
one keepes a hare alive and feedeth him till he have occasion to eat
him, if he telles before he kills him that he will doe so, the hare
will thereupon be found dead, having killed himself."[408] But respect
for the hare, in accordance with totem ideas, was carried further than
this at Biddenham, where, on the 22nd September, a little procession
of villagers carried a white rabbit [a substitute for hare] decorated
with scarlet ribbons through the village, singing a hymn in honour of
St. Agatha. All the young unmarried women who chanced to meet the
procession extended the first two fingers of the left hand pointing
towards the rabbit, at the same time repeating the following

      Gustin, Gustin, lacks a bier,
      Maidens, maidens, bury him here.[409]

This points to a very ancient custom, not yet fully explained, but
which clearly had for its object the reverential burying of a rabbit
or hare. It is characteristic of the totem animal that it serves as an
omen to its clansmen, and we find that the hare is an omen in Britain.
Boudicca is said to have drawn an augury from a hare, taken from her
bosom, and which when released pursued a course that was deemed
fortunate for her attack upon the Roman army;[410] and in modern south
Northamptonshire the running of a hare along the street or mainway of
a village portends fire to some house in the immediate vicinity.[411]
In 1648 Sir Thomas Browne tells us that in his time there were few
above three-score years that were not perplexed when a hare crossed
their path.[412] In Wilts and in Scotland it was unlucky to meet a
hare, but the evil influence did not extend after the next meal had
been taken.[413] Then, too, the prohibition against naming the totem
object is found in north-east Scotland attached to the hare, whose
name may not be pronounced at sea, and Mr. Gregor adds the significant
fact that some animal names and certain family names were never
pronounced by the inhabitants of some of the villages, each village
having an aversion to one or more of the words.[414] A classification
of the beliefs and customs connected with the hare takes us, indeed,
to almost every phase of totemistic belief, and it is impossible to
reject such a mass of cumulative evidence.

Of the second of the British food taboos mentioned by Cæsar we have
the most perfect illustration in the instance of the Irish chieftain,
Conaire, who, descended from a fowl, was interdicted from eating its

Turning next to the goose, we find that at Great Crosby, in
Lancashire, there is held an annual festival which is called the
"Goose Fair," and although it is accompanied by great feasting, the
singular fact remains that the goose itself, in whose honour the feast
seems to have been held, is considered too sacred to eat, and is never
touched by the villagers.[416] In Scotland also the goose was never
eaten, being too sacred for food.[417]

Thus the hare, the fowl, and the goose have retained their sacred
character in a special manner in various parts of the country, and I
may add a further note of more general significance. In Scotland there
exists a prejudice against eating hares and cocks and hens.[418] In
the south-western parts of England the peasant would not eat hares,
rabbits, wild-fowl, or poultry, and when asked whence this dislike
proceeds, he asserts that it was derived from his father[419]--the
traditional sanction which is so essential to folklore.[420]

The ideas surrounding these three special animals might be easily
extended to others, but I will only observe that Mr. Elton, noting
both the classical and modern accounts of certain districts in
Scotland and Ireland where fish, though abundant, is tabooed as food,
quotes with approval a modern suggestion that this abstinence was a
religious observance.[421] That fish are carved on numerous stones is
a curious commentary on this assertion, while another point to be
noted is that the inhabitants of the various islands have each their
peculiar notions as to what fish are good for food. Some will eat
skate, some dog-fish, some eat limpets and razor-fish, and as a matter
of course, says Miss Gordon Cumming, those who do not, despise those
who do.[422] A prejudice also existed against white cows in Scotland,
and Dalyell ventures upon the acute supposition that this was on
account of the unlawfulness of consuming the product of a consecrated
animal.[423] These are not stray notes of inexperienced observers, and
with two centuries between them it must be that they contain the
essence of the people's conception--a conception which leads us back
to totemism for its explanation.

I do not think we could get closer to totemic beliefs and ideas than
this, nor could we have a better example of the necessity of examining
early historical data by anthropological tests and by folklore
parallels. Cæsar's words are unimportant by themselves. They convey
nothing of any significance to the modern reader--a mere dietetic
peculiarity which means nothing and counts for nothing. And yet it
might be considered certain that Cæsar knew that the details he
recorded were of importance in the historical sense. He did not
indicate what the importance was, probably because he was not aware of
it; but because he was conscious that among the influences which
counted with these people were the food taboos, he rightly recorded
the facts. They have remained unconsidered trifles until now, when
anthropology has brought them within the range of scientific
observation, and they are now to be reckoned with as part of the
material which tells of the culture conditions of a section of the
early British peoples.

I must here interpose a remark with reference to this grouping of the
evidence. Apart from the significance of the superstitions as they are
recorded in their bare condition among the peasantry, there is the
additional fact to note that the superstition against eating or
killing certain animals or birds, or against looking at them or naming
them, etc., is not universal. It obtains in one place and not in
another. If the injunction not to kill, injure, or eat a certain
animal were simply the reflection of a universal practice, such a
practice might originate in some attribute of the animal itself which
characteristically would produce or tend to produce superstition. But
the spread of this class of superstition in certain districts, and not
in others, is indicative of an ancient origin, and it is exactly what
might be expected to have been produced from totem-peoples.
Unfortunately, neither the negative evidence of superstitious beliefs
nor the local distribution of superstitious beliefs has ever been
considered worthy of attention. But some little evidence is
incidentally forthcoming, and I would submit that this may be taken as
indicative of what might be obtained more fully by further research
into this neglected aspect of folklore. I drew Miss Burne's attention
to this subject, and she has noted some particulars in her valuable
_Shropshire Folklore_.[424] But for the most part this portion of our
evidence wants picking out by a long and tedious process from the mass
of badly recorded facts about popular superstitions. I do not believe
in the generally stated opinion that certain superstitions are
universally believed or practised. It is difficult to prove a
negative, and such evidence is not absolutely scientific, but when it
comes in direct antithesis to positive, there does not seem any harm
in accepting it. Every class of superstition wants tracing out
geographically, and local variants want careful noting. I cannot doubt
if this were properly done that many so-called universal superstitions
would be found to be distinctly local. In the meantime, it is not with
universal superstitions that we have to deal. It is primarily with
those local variants which show us side by side the differences of
belief. It is thus that we can afford evidence of that intermixture
of totem-objects which is to be expected from the known facts of
totem-beliefs and customs. Indeed, Mr. McLennan has laid it down that
"we might expect that while here and there perhaps a tribe might
appear with a single animal god, as a general rule tribes and nations
should have as many animal and vegetable gods as there were distinct
stocks in the population ... we should not expect to find the same
animal dominant in all quarters, or worshipped even everywhere within
the same nation."[425]

It is important that we should thoroughly understand what these
survivals of totemism in the British isles really mean. On the extreme
west coast of Ireland, farthest away from the centres of civilisation,
there are found these unique examples of a savage institution. The
argument that they might have been transplanted thither by travellers
from the far west, where totemism has developed to its highest form,
cannot seriously be advanced. The argument that they might be the
accidental form into which some merely superstitious fancies of
ignorant peasants happened to have ultimately shaped themselves, is
met by the mathematical demonstration that the ratio of chance against
such a development would be well-nigh incalculable. The remaining
argument is that they indicate the last outpost, or perhaps one of the
last outposts, of a primitive savage organisation which once existed
throughout these lands. This is the view that appears to me to be the
only possible one to meet all the conditions of the case; one proof
in support of this view being the discovery of evidence in other
parts of the country which shows that totemism has left its stamp in
more or less perfect form upon the traditional beliefs and practices
of the nation. Though we are not able to identify further complete
examples of the same type as the seal clan of Western Ireland, or the
wolf people of Ossory, we should be able, if the explanation I have
advanced of their origin be the correct one, to produce examples of
the varying forms which such an institution as totemism must have
assumed when it had been broken up by the advance of civilising
influences. If the seal clan, or the wolf clan, is in truth the last
outpost of a savage organisation, there will be in the lands less
remote from the centres of civilisation some evidences of the break-up
of savagery as it has been driven westward. Somewhere in tradition,
somewhere in local observances of beliefs or superstition, there must
still be echoes, more or less faint, but still echoes, from totemism.
Having discovered these undoubted examples of totemism, the argument
shifts its ground. We can no longer say that the theory of totemism
may possibly explain some of the customs and traditions of the people.
We are, by the logic of the position, compelled to say that custom and
tradition must have preserved many relics of totemism, and that so far
from seeking to explain custom and tradition by the theory of
totemism, we must seek to explain the survival of totemism by custom
and tradition. I lay stress on this view of the case because it is
hard to combat the views of those who look upon "mere superstition" as
no explanation of primitive originals. To us of the present day the
beliefs of the peasantry are no doubt properly definable as "mere
superstition." But when we examine it as folklore we are seeking for
its origin, not for its modern aspect; we are asking how "mere
superstition" first arose, and in what forms, not how it exists; we
are pushing back the inquiry from to-day when it exists side by side
with a philosophical and moral religion to the time when it existed as
the sole substitute for philosophy and morals. Even if it is "mere
superstition" it has a dateless history. It is not conceivable that it
suddenly arose at a particular period before which "mere superstition"
did not exist, and all, both peasant and chief, were philosophical and
moral. It is not conceivable that the mere superstition of to-day has
replaced bodily the mere superstition of other ages. Every succeeding
age of progress has influenced it, no doubt, but not eradicated it,
and hence the mere superstition of to-day has just such an unbroken
continuity of history as language or institutions. That we are able to
pick out from among its items undoubted forms of totemism, and that we
may add to these complete examples a classified grouping of customs
and beliefs in survival parallel to the customs and beliefs of savage
totemism, affords proof that at least we may carry back that history
to the era of totemism, at whatever point that era may cross the line
of, or come into contact with, political history.

This is the definite conclusion to be drawn from the anthropological
interpretation of the presence of totemic beliefs among the survivals
of folklore. The study of the anthropological conditions has occupied
a wide range of thought and inquiry, but it leads us back to a safe
basis for research, for it brings definitely within touch of that
realm of man which lies outside the civilisation wherein folklore is
embedded, the peoples who have made, and the peoples who are dominated
by, that civilisation. The savage of Britain cannot with this evidence
before us be considered as the mere product of the literature of
Greece and Rome. He is part and parcel of the savagery of the human
race. Anthropology has shown us that savagery reached the land we now
call Britain as part of the general movement of people which has
caused the whole earth to become a dwelling-place for man, and now
that we know this we must appeal to anthropology whenever we find that
the problems of folklore take us out of the culture period of a
civilisation known to history.[426]


I append a synopsis of the culture-structure of the Semangs of the
Malay Peninsula (references are to Skeat and Blagden's _Pagan Races of
the Malay Peninsula_ where not otherwise specified), in order that the
position claimed for the one section of totemic belief may be tested
by the remaining characteristics of Semang culture. I claim that there
is nothing that remains which is inconsistent with the interpretation
given of the totemic items.


(a). Live exclusively in the forest surrounded by hostile fauna (i.

(b). Food consists of such wild vegetable food as may happen to fall
from time to time in season (i. 109, 341, 525), together with small
mammals and birds (i. 112), fish (i. 113).

(c). As soon as they have exhausted the sources of food in one
neighbourhood they move on to the next (i. 109).

(d). Fire obtained by friction (i. 111, 113), but meat is eaten raw
(i. 112).

(e). Nudity is alleged (_Journ. Indian Archipelago_, i. 252; ii.
258); no satisfactory proof (i. 137); do not use skins of animals nor
feathers of birds (i. 138); a girdle of fungus string (i. 138, 142,
380); fringe of leaves suspended from a string (i. 139, 142);
necklaces and ligatures of jungle fibre (i. 144, 145); women wear a
comb made of bamboo as a charm against diseases (i. 149).

(f). Habitations are rock shelters (i. 173), tree shelters afforded
by branches of trees improved by construction of a weather screen (i.
174); ground screen of palm leaves (i. 175).

(g). Hunt successfully the largest animals, escaping easily up the
trees (i. 202-204).

(h). Knives made of bamboo, flakes and chips of stone, knives of
bone (i. 249, 269); bow and arrow (i. 251, 255); not sufficiently
advanced to have produced neolithic implements (i. 268); wooden spear
(i. 270).

(i). Ignorant of pottery, vessels made from big stems of bamboo (i.


(j). Chief of the group is the principal medicine man, but is on an
equal footing with his men, no caste and property is in common (i.
497, 499).

(k). Marriage rights are secured by the presentation of a jungle
knife to the bride's parents and a girdle to the bride, and the bride
never lets the girdle part from her for fear of its being used to her
prejudice in some magic ceremony; adultery is punishable by death (ii.
58, 59) [but this information was not obtained from the most primitive
of the Semang people].

(l). Semang women are common to all men (Newbold, _Political and
Stat. Acc. of Settlements in Straits of Malacca_, ii. 379). Great
ante-nuptial freedom (ii. 56, 218); "Of the Semang I have not had an
opportunity of personally judging" (ii. 377, Newbold).


(m). Eat dead kindred except head (Newbold, ii. 379); burial takes
place in the ground, and the older practice was exposure in trees;
the Semang have no dread of ghosts of the deceased (ii. 89, 91).

(n). No sacred shrines or places (ii. 197).

(o). Avoidance of mother-in-law (ii. 204).

(p). Myth of the ringdove informing the children of the first woman
that they had married within prohibited degrees of consanguinity, and
advising them to separate and marry "other people" (ii. 218).

(q). Myth as to ignorance of cause of birth being dispelled by the
cocoanut monkey informing the first man and woman (ii. 218).

(r). The Semang are almost ineradicably nomadic, have no fixed
habitation, and rove about like the beasts of the forest (i. 172; ii.

(s). Women and girls are not allowed to eat until the men and boys
have finished their repast (i. 116); the men do most of the hunting
and trapping, and the women take a large share in the collecting of
roots and fruits; all the cooking is performed by the women and girls
(i. 375).

(t). They are split up into a large number of dialects, each of
which is confined to a relatively small area, and it often happens
that a little [clan] or even a single family uses a form of speech
which is differentiated from other dialects to be practically
unintelligible to all except the members of the little community
itself (ii. 379).

(u). Natural segregation of the [tribes] into small [clans] to some
extent cut off from one another and surrounded by settled Malay
communities (ii. 379).

(v). The most thoroughly wild and uncivilised members of our race,
regarded by the Malays as little better than brute beasts, with no
recorded history (ii. 384).

(w). Nomadic life of the Semang leads them over a considerable tract
of country (ii. 388).


(x). Decorative patterns on quivers representing natural objects,
and possessing magical virtue to bring down various species of monkeys
and apes and other small mammals (i. 417), and as charms for the men
(i. 423).

(y). Decorative pattern on magic comb worn by women to serve as a
charm against venomous reptiles and insects, similar design for
similar reason sometimes painted on the breast (i. 41, 420-436).

(z). Child's name is taken from some tree which stands near the
prospective birthplace of the child. As soon as the child is born this
name is shouted aloud by the _sage femme_, who then hands over the
child to another woman, who buries the afterbirth underneath the
birth-tree or name-tree of the child. As soon as this is done the
father cuts a series of notches in the tree, starting from the ground
and terminating at the height of the breast. The cutting of these
notches is intended to signalise the arrival on earth of a new human
being, since it thus shows that Kari registers the souls that he has
sent forth by notching the tree against which he leans. Trees thus
"blazed" are never felled. The child must not in later life injure any
tree which belongs to the species of his tree; for him all such trees
are taboo, and he must not even eat their fruit, the only exception
being when an expectant mother revisits her birth-tree. Every tree of
its species is regarded as identical with the birth-tree (ii. 3, 4).
When an East Semang dies his birth-tree dies too (ii. 5).

(aa). The child's soul is conveyed in a bird, which always inhabits
a tree of the species to which the birth-tree belongs. It flies from
one tree of the species to another, following the as yet unborn body.
The souls of first-born children are always young birds newly hatched,
the offspring of the bird which contained the soul of the mother. If
the mother does not eat the soul-bird during her accouchement the
child will be stillborn or will die shortly after birth (ii. 4, 192,
194, 216). She keeps the soul-bird within the birth-bamboo, and does
not eat it all at once, but piecemeal (ii. 6). All human souls grow
upon a soul-tree in the other world, whence they are fetched by a bird
which was killed and eaten by the expectant mother (ii. 194).

(bb). Semang religion, in spite of its recognition of a thunder-god
(Kari) and certain minor deities (so called), has very little indeed
in the way of ceremonial, and appears to consist mainly of mythology
and legend. It shows remarkably few traces of demon worship, very
little fear of ghosts of the deceased, and still less of any sort of
animistic beliefs (ii. 174). [As the Kari is the deity common to the
Semang and the people higher in culture than the Semang, it is
difficult to trace out the primitive idea. The myths also show a
common impress, "which is probably mainly due to the same savage
Malay element" (ii. 183).]

(cc). During a storm of thunder and lightning the Semang draw a few
drops of blood from the region of the shin bone, mix it with a little
water in a bamboo receptacle, and throw it up to the angry skies (ii.

(dd). Pretend entire ignorance of a supreme being, but on pressure
confessed to a very powerful yet benevolent being, the maker of the
world (ii. 209).


[284] Beddoe, _Races of Britain_, cap. ii., and _Journ. Anthrop.
Inst._, xxxv. 236-7; Boyd-Dawkins, _Early Man in Britain_, cap. vii.
viii. and ix.; Ripley, _Races of Europe_, cap. xii.

[285] Rhys, _Celtic Britain_, 271; Rhys, _Celtic Heathendom_, _passim_;
Rhys and Jones, _Welsh People_, cap. i. and Appendix B on "Pre-Aryan
Syntax in Insular Celtic," by Professor Morris Jones.

[286] Barrows, mounds, tumuli, stone circles, monoliths are generally
admitted to belong to the Stone Age people before the Celts arrived,
and when they are adequately investigated, as Mr. Arthur Evans has
investigated Stonehenge (_Archæological Review_, vol. ii. pp. 312-330),
and the Rollright Stones (_Folklore_, vol. vi. pp. 5-51), the evidence
of a prehistoric origin is unquestioned.

[287] I have worked out the evidence for this in the _Archæological
Review_, vol. iii. pp. 217-242, 350-375, and though I do not endorse
all I have written there, the main points are still, I think, good.

[288] Wallace, _Darwinism_, cap. xv.

[289] Spencer and Gillen, _Central Tribes of Australia_, 12, 272, 324,
368, 420.

[290] _Descent of Man_, i. cap. vii. 176.

[291] _Cf._ Topinard's _Anthropology_, part iii., "On the Origin of
Man," pp. 515-535, for the details of the various authorities ranged on
the sides of monogenists and polygenists.

[292] Keane, _Man, Past and Present_, discusses the important evidence
obtained by Dr. Dubois from Java, and Dr. Noetling from Upper Burma,
pp. 5-8. It is only fair to that brilliant scholar, Dr. Latham, to
point out that without the evidence before him to prove the point, he
came to the same conclusion that the original home of man was
"somewhere in intra-tropical Asia, and that it was the single locality
of a single pair."--Latham, _Man and his Migrations_, 248.

[293] The most recent example of this is Mr. Thomas's extraordinary
treatment of the evidence of migration in Australia. It produces in his
mind "novel conditions," but has effects which he cannot neglect, but
which he strangely misinterprets. N. W. Thomas, _Kinship Organisations
in Australia_, 27-28.

[294] Spencer, _Principles of Sociology_, i. 18.

[295] Lord Avebury, _Prehistoric Times_, 586.

[296] _Man, Past and Present_, pp. 1, 8.

[297] Latham, _Man and his Migrations_, 155-6.

[298] The ethnographic movement is a very definite fact in
anthropological evidence, though it has been little noted. Thus "the
Coles are evidently a good pioneering race, fond of new clearings and
the luxuriant and easily raised crops of the virgin soil, and have
constitutions that thrive on malaria, so it is perhaps in the best
interest of humanity and cause of civilisation that they be kept moving
by continued Aryan propulsion. Ever armed with bow, arrows, and
pole-axe, they are prepared to do battle with the beasts of the forest,
holding even the king of the forest, the 'Bun Rajah,' that is, the
tiger, in little fear."--Col. Dalton in _Journ. Asiatic Soc., Bengal_,
xxxiv. 9.

[299] Traditions of great migrations exist among most primitive races.
Some of these contain unexpected corroboration from actual discoveries.
Thus the natives of New Zealand had a tradition that their ancestors,
when they arrived in their canoes some four centuries ago, buried some
sacred things under a large tree. It is said that the tree was blown
down in recent times and that the sacred things were discovered. Taplin
records "a good specimen of the kind of migration which has taken place
among the aborigines all over the continent" (_The Narrinyeri_, p. 4);
and similar evidence could be produced in almost every direction. Mr.
Mathew in _Eaglehawk and Crow_ deals with "the argument from mythology
and tradition" as to the origin of the Australians in a very suggestive
fashion (pp. 14-22). Stanley has preserved an African native tradition
of local groups spreading out from the parent home _(Through the Dark
Continent_, i. 346).

[300] I am aware this is disputed by O. Peschel--_Races of Man_, 137
_et seq._--but I think the evidence is sufficient; and it must be
remembered that there is direct evidence of the most backward races not
using the fire they possess for cooking, but always eating their animal
food raw, as, for instance, the Semang people of the Malay Peninsula.
(See Skeat and Blagden, _Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula_, i. 112.)
The Andaman Islanders could not make fire, though they possessed and
kept it alive. This shows that they must have borrowed it and did not
previously possess it.--Quatrefages, _The Pygmies_, 108. Tylor, _Early
History of Mankind_, cap. ix., should be consulted.

[301] The term political is, I confess, a little awkward, owing to its
specially modern use, but it is the only term which, in its early
sense, expresses the stage of social development represented by a
polity as distinct from a mere localisation.

[302] It was one of the first efforts of the science of language to
endeavour to trace out the original home of the so-called Aryas and
their subsequent migrations. "Emigration," said Bunsen, "is the great
agent in forming nations and languages" (_Philosophy of Hist._, i. 56);
and Niebuhr, who has traced out most of the migrations of the Greek
tribes, observes that "this migration of nations was formerly not
mentioned anywhere" (_Anc. Hist._, ii. 212). Quite recently, Professor
Flinders Petrie has worked at the question of European migrations in
the Huxley lecture of 1907 (_Journ. Anthrop. Inst._, xxxvi. 189-232),
his valuable maps showing "the movements of twenty of the principal
peoples that entered Europe during the centuries of great movements
that are best known to us" (204). In the meantime, the folklorist has
much to do in this direction, and up to the present he has almost
entirely ignored or misread the evidence. I do not know whether Mr.
Nutt would still adhere to his conclusion that the myth embodied in the
Celtic expulsion-and-return formula is undoubtedly solar (_Folklore
Record_, iv. 42), but a restatement of Mr. Nutt's careful and elaborate
analysis would lead me to trace the myth to the migration period of
Aryan history, just as I agree with von Ihering that the _ver sacrum_
of the Romans is a rite continued from the migration period to express
in religious formulæ, and on emergency to again carry out, the ancient
practice of sending forth from an overstocked centre sufficient of the
tribesmen and tribeswomen to leave those who remained economically
well-conditioned (_The Evolution of the Aryan_, 249-290). Pheidon's law
at Corinth, alluded to by Aristotle (_Pol._, ii. cap. vi.), could only
be carried out by a sending out of the surplus. See also Aristotle,
_Pol._, ii. cap. xii.; and Newman's note to the first reference,
quoting similar laws elsewhere. Both the "junior-right" traditions and
customs take us back to the same conditions. The occupation of fresh
territories is an observable feature of the Russian mir (Wallace,
_Russia_, i. 255; Laveleye _Primitive Property_, 34), and Mr. Chadwick
has recently called attention to the corresponding Scandinavian
evidence (_Origin of the English Nation_, 334).

[303] Mr. J. R. Logan long ago pointed out that "the further we go
back, we find ethnic characteristics more uniform," and further
concluded that certain facts observed by himself "lead to the inference
that the Archaic world was connected."--_Journ. Indian Archipelago_,
iv. 290, 291.

[304] _Descent of Man_, pp. 590, 591.

[305] _Studies in Ancient History_, i. 84.

[306] _History of Human Marriage_, cap. ii.

[307] _Ancient Society_, p. 10.

[308] _Secret of the Totem_, p. 32.

[309] N. W. Thomas, _Kinship Organisation in Australia_, 4.

[310] _Folklore_, xii. 232.

[311] Both Dr. Haddon and myself made the same point on a criticism of
Mr. Fraser's _Golden Bough_, mine being from the Aricia rites, and Dr.
Haddon's from the savage parallels thereto. See _Folklore_, xii. 223,
224, 232.

[312] Sproat's _Scenes and Studies of Savage Life_, 19. The use of the
term "tribe" in this quotation is, of course, descriptive only. There
is no tribal constitution among the Ahts, and "group" would have been
the preferable term.

[313] Dr. W. H. Rivers' recently published work on the Todas is the
best authority.

[314] Rivers, _op. cit._, 432, 455.

[315] Rivers, _op. cit._, cap. xxi. 504, 517.

[316] Rivers, _op. cit._, 452-456.

[317] Latham, _Descriptive Ethnology_, ii, 137.

[318] Bucher, _Industrial Evolution_, 56.

[319] Rev. George Taplin, _The Narrinyeri; South Australian
Aborigines_, 40. _Cf._ Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-east Australia_,
710-720; Grierson, _The Silent Trade_, 22.

[320] _Cf._ Skeat and Blagden, _Pagan Tribes of Malay Peninsula_, i,

[321] Graham, _Bheel Tribes of Khandesh_, 3.

[322] Herodotos, iv. 180.

[323] _Journ. Asiatic Soc., Bengal_, xiii. 625.

[324] Major Gurdon, _The Khasis_, 76, 82.

[325] N. W. Thomas, _Kinship Organisations in Australia_, 124.

[326] Fustel de Coulange's _Cité Antique_, cap. xiv. and xv., is,
however, the most exaggerated example of this point of view.

[327] Lang, _Social Origins_, 1. The latest exponent of anthropological
principles affirms that "the family which exists in the lower stages of
culture, though it is overshadowed by the other social phenomena, has
persisted through all the manifold revolutions of society."--N. W.
Thomas, _Kinship Organisations in Australia_, 1.

[328] Jevons' _Introd. to Hist. of Religion_, 195.

[329] See also Prof. Geikie in _Scottish Geographical Mag._ (Sept.

[330] _Early Hist. of Mankind_, 303; MacCulloch, _Childhood of
Fiction_, 396; Gould, _Mythical Monsters_.

[331] Mr. Westermarck has collected excellent evidence as to the
economic influences upon savage society (_Hist. of Human Marriage_,
39-49), and we may quite properly assume the same conditions for
earliest man.

[332] A very good summary of the pygmy peoples in all parts of the
world is given by Mr. W. A. Reed in his useful _Negritos of Zambales_,
13-22. _Cf._ Keane, _Man, Past and Present_, 118-121; Keane,
_Ethnology_, 246-248; and Sir W. H. Flower, _Essays on Museums_, cap.

[333] Latham, _Man and his Migrations_, 55, 56. Dr. Beke was a most
cautious observer, and I have consulted all his contributions to the
_Journal of the Geographical Society_ (vol. xiii.) and have found no
sign of his retraction of the evidence. His correspondence in the
_Literary Gazette_ of 1843, p. 852, discusses the question of the Dokos
being pygmies, but he adheres to his information as to the absence of
social structure being correct.

[334] Lib. ii. 32, 8; _cf._ Quatrefages, _The Pygmies_, cap. 1, "The
Pygmies of the Ancients."

[335] Lieut.-Col. Sutherland, _Memoir respecting the Kaffirs,
Hottentots, and Bosjemans_, i. 67 (Cape Town, 1846).

[336] Burrows, _The Land of Pygmies_, 182.

[337] Mr. A. B. Lloyd's volume _In Dwarfland and Cannibal Country_, p.
96, is the most recent evidence.

[338] It is worth noting here that the Chinese traditions of the
pygmies are exceedingly suggestive and curious. See Moseley, _Notes by
a Naturalist_, 369.

[339] Skeat and Blagden, _Malay Peninsula_, ii. 443.

[340] _Journ. Indian Archipelago_, iv. 425-427; _cf._ _Journ. Anthrop.
Inst._, xvi. 228; Wallace, _Malay Archipelago_, 452.

[341] Clifford, _In Court and Kampong_, 171-181.

[342] Skeat and Blagden, _Pagan Races of Malay Peninsula_, i. 13.

[343] _Op. cit._, i. 53-4, 139, 169, 172, 341.

[344] _Op. cit._, i. 170.

[345] _Op. cit._, i. 243-248, 268.

[346] _Op. cit._, i. 494; ii. 56, 218.

[347] _Op. cit._, ii. 3. Compare _Journ. Indian Archipelago_, iv. 427,
"they are called after particular trees, that is, if a child is born
under or near a cocoanut or durian, or any particular tree in the
forest, it is named accordingly," and John Anderson, _Considerations
relative to Malayan Peninsula_, 1824, p. xli.

[348] _Op. cit._, ii. 4, 192, 194.

[349] _Op. cit._, ii. 174, 209.

[350] _Archæological Review_, i. 13, from an official report published
in a Government Blue Book.

[351] Brinton, _The American Race_; Curtin, _Creation Myths of
Primitive America_.

[352] Darwin, _Journal of Researches_, 228.

[353] _Anthropological Inst._, vii. 502-510.

[354] Quatrefages, _The Pygmies_, 24, 48, 69.

[355] There is ample evidence of this characteristic. Thus, of the
Australians of Port Lincoln district, it is said that "the habit of
constantly changing their place of rest is so great that they cannot
overcome it even if staying where all their wants can be abundantly
supplied."--_Trans. Roy. Soc., Victoria_, v. 178.

[356] _Fortnightly Review_, lxxviii. 455.

[357] _Secret of the Totem_, 125, 140.

[358] _British Association Report_, 1902, p. 745. _Cf._ Spencer and
Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central Australia_, 160.

[359] Lang, _Secret of the Totem_, 140, quoting Grey, _Vocabulary of
the Dialects of South-west Australia_.

[360] Spencer and Gillen, _Tribes of Central Australia_, 119.

[361] The reader should consult Mason's _Women's Share in Primitive
Culture_, and Bucher's _Industrial Evolution_, for evidence on this

[362] Livingstone, _South Africa_, 462.

[363] Sleeman, _Rambles of an Indian Official_, i. 43. "Banotsarg is
the name given to the marriage ceremony performed in honour of a newly
planted orchard, without which preliminary observance it is not proper
to partake of its fruit. A man holding the Salagram personates the
bridegroom, and another holding the sacred Tulsi personates the bride.
After burning a hom or sacrificial fire, the officiating Brahmin puts
the usual questions to the couple about to be united. The bride then
perambulates a small spot marked out in the centre of the orchard.
Proceeding from the south towards the west, she makes the circuit three
times, followed at a short distance by the bridegroom holding in his
hand a strip of her chadar of garment. After this, the bridegroom takes
precedence, making his three circuits, and followed in like manner by
his bride. The ceremony concludes with the usual offerings" (Elliot,
_Folklore of North-west Provinces of India_, i. 234).

[364] Myths explaining the domestication of animals belong to this
stage of culture. The dog is a sacred animal among the Khasis, with
certain totemic associations, and there is a very realistic and
humanising myth relating how the dog came to be regarded as the friend
of man (Gurdon, _The Khasis_, 51, 172-3). The Kyeng creation legend
includes a good example of animal friendship with man (Lewin, _Wild
Races of South-east India_, 238-9). The American creation myths afford
remarkable testimony to this view of the case. "Game and fish of all
sorts were under direct divine supervision ... maize or Indian corn is
a transformed god who gave himself to be eaten to save men from hunger
and death" (Curtin, _Creation Myths of Primitive America_, pp. xxvi,
xxxviii). The Narrinyeri Australians "do not appear to have any story
of the origin of the world, but nearly all animals they suppose
anciently to have been men who performed great prodigies, and at last
transformed themselves into different kinds of animals and stones"
(Taplin, _The Narrinyeri_, 59).

[365] _Legend of Perseus_, i. cap. vi.

[366] _Secret of the Totem_, 29.

[367] Mitchell, _Australian Expeditions_, i. 307; _cf._ Fison and
Howitt, _Kamilaroi and Kurnai_, 200, 224; Taplin, _The Narrinyeri_, 10.

[368] Curr, _Australian Race_, i. p. 193; _cf._ Smyth, _Aborigines of
Victoria_, ii. p. 316.

[369] Fison and Howitt, _Kamilaroi and Kurnai_, 66, 285, 289.

[370] Fison and Howitt, _op. cit._, 68, 73.

[371] Lang, _Secret of the Totem_, 64.

[372] Spencer and Gillen, _Central Tribes_, 7.

[373] Spencer and Gillen, _Central Tribes_, 120, 124, 133.

[374] _Globus_, xci, a very important criticism of Spencer and Gillen's

[375] Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._, 139, 154.

[376] Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes_, 144.

[377] _Globus_, xci, gives important evidence of traces of female descent
among the Arunta.

[378] There is conflict of testimony on this point. Spencer and Gillen
deny that the Arunta recognise the fact of paternity in any way (see
_Northern Tribes_, pp. xiii, 145, 330), and yet talk of the "actual
father" in ceremonial functions (p. 361).

[379] Skeat and Blagden, _Malay Peninsula_, ii. 218.

[380] Newbold, _Political and State Acc. of Malacca_, ii.; Skeat and
Blagden, _op. cit._, ii. 56.

[381] Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, _Central Tribes_, 36, give a useful
note on this point.

[382] In this they are exactly paralleled by the Khasi people of Assam,
among whom we find a limited sort of male chiefship by succession
through females, and an absolute succession to property by females by
succession through females (Gurdon, _The Khasis_, 68, 88). Descent from
the female is absolute in both cases, and all we get is male

[383] _Secret of the Totem_, 73.

[384] _Op. cit._, 79.

[385] Lang, _Secret of the Totem_, 148.

[386] _Central Tribes_, 72. Mrs. Langloh Parker's information as to the
origin of the Euahlayi two-class division having arisen from an
amalgamation of two distinct tribes, points to the same
facts.--_Euahlayi Tribe_, 12.

[387] Spencer and Gillen, _Tribes of Central Australia_, 96, 99, 106.

[388] Lang's Introd. to Bolland's _Aristotle's Politics_ (1877), p.
104; Grant Allen's _Anglo-Saxon Britain_ (1888), pp. 79-83.

[389] _Topography of Ireland_, lib. ii. cap. 19.

[390] _Hist. of Ireland_, ii. 361.

[391] _Irish Nennius_, p. 205; Lang, _Custom and Myth_, p. 265; _Revue
Celtique_, ii. 202.

[392] _View of the State of Ireland_, p. 99.

[393] Moryson, _Hist. of Ireland_, ii. 367.

[394] Aubrey, _Remaines of Gentilisme_, 204.

[395] Camden, _Britannia_, iii. 455; iv. 459.

[396] The significance of the word "gossip" is worth noting. Halliwell
says it "signified a _relation_ or sponsor in baptism, all of whom were
to each other and to the parents _God-sibs_, that is, _sib_, or related
by means of religion." This meaning does not seem to have died out in
the days of Spenser, and his use of the word to describe the
relationship of the men of Ossory to wolves is very significant. For
the history of this important word see Hearn's _Aryan Household_, 290.

[397] Otway, _Sketches in Erris_, 383-4.

[398] _Folklore Record_, iv. 98.

[399] _Ulster Journ. Arch._, ii. 161, 162. They have also another
primitive trait. Their trade emblems are carved on their tombstones.
_Roy. Irish Acad._, vii. 260.

[400] This I gather from _Ulster Journ. Arch._, ii. 164, where it is
stated that the hare is unpropitious.

[401] _Folklore Journal_, ii. 259.

[402] _Folklore Journal_, ii. 259; _Folklore Record_, iv. 104. Miss
Ffennell kindly informed me at the meeting of the Folklore Society
where I read a paper on the subject, that she had frequently heard the
islanders of Achill, off the coast of Ireland, state their belief that
they were descended from seals.

[403] Published by the _Irish Archæological Society_, p. 27; there is a
Seal Island off the coast of Donegal (Joyce, _Irish Place-Names_, ii.
282); and some Shetland legends of the seal will be found in _Soc.
Antiq. Scot._, i. 86-89. Seals are eaten for food in the island of
Harris (see Martin, _Western Islands_, 36), and one called the Virgin
Mary's Seal is offered to the minister (Reeves, _Adamnan Vita.
Columb._, 78, note _g_). The attitude of the Irish to seals is shown by
the two following notes:--"At Erris, in Ireland, seals are considered
to be human beings under enchantment, and they consider it unlucky to
have anything to do with seals, and to have one live near their
dwelling is considered as productive of evil to life and property. A
story current, in 1841, describes how a young fisherman came in a fog
upon an island whereon lived these enchanted men in their human form,
but when they quitted it they turned to seals again" (Otway, _Sketches
of Erris_, 398, 403). Off Downpatrick Head they used to take seals, but
have given up the practice, because once two young fellows had urged
their curraghs into a cave where the seals were known to breed, and
they were killing them right and left when, in the farthest end of the
cave and sitting up on its bent tail in a corner, there sat an old
seal. One of the boys was just making ready to strike him, when the
seal cried out, "Och, boys! och, ma bouchals, spare your old
grandfather, Darby O'Dowd." He then proceeded to tell the boys his
story. "It's true I was dead and dacently buried, but here I am for my
sins turned into a sale as other sinners are and will be, and if you
put an end to me and skin me maybe it's worser I'll be, and go into a
shark or a porpoise. Lave your ould forefather where he is, to live out
his time as a sale. Maybe for your own sakes you will ever hereafter
leave off following and parsecuting and murthering sales who may be
nearer to yourselves nor you think." The story is universally believed,
and on the strength of it the people have given up seal hunting (Otway,
_Sketches of Erris_, 230).

[404] _Kinship and Marriage in Arabia_, 188. _Cf._ Mr. Jacobs' articles
in _Archæological Review_, "Are there totem clans in the Old
Testament?" vol. iii. pp. 145-164.

[405] _Origins of English History_, 297.

[406] _Proc. Roy. Irish Acad._, x. 436; Lang's _Custom and Myth_, 265;
Elton's _Origins of English History_, 299-300; _Revue Celtique_, i. 50;
iii. 176.

[407] _Rev. Celtique_, vi. 232.

[408] Aubrey's _Remaines of Gentilisme_, 102.

[409] _Folklore Record_, i. 243.

[410] Xiphilinus in _Mon. Hist. Brit._, p. lvii.

[411] _Choice Notes, Folklore_, p. 16.

[412] _Vulgar Errors_, p. 320.

[413] Aubrey, _Gentilisme and Judaisme_, 109; Napier, _Folklore of West
of Scotland_, 26. Consult Mr. Billson's valuable paper on "The Easter
Hare" in _Folklore_, iii. 441-466.

[414] Gregor, _Folklore of North-East Scotland_, 129, 199.

[415] O'Curry, _Manners of the Anc. Irish_, i. p. ccclxx.

[416] _Notes and Queries_, 3rd ser. iv. 82, 158; Dyer's _Popular
Customs_, 384.

[417] Gordon Cumming, _Hebrides_, 369.

[418] Gordon Cumming, _Hebrides_, 369.

[419] _Gentleman's Magazine Library, Pop. Sup._, 216.

[420] It will be useful to refer to Mr. Thrupp's paper on "British
Superstition as to Hares, Geese, and Poultry" in _Trans. Ethnological
Society of London_, new ser. vol. v. pp. 162-167.

[421] _Origins of English History_, 170.

[422] Gordon Cumming, _Hebrides_, 365.

[423] Dalyell's _Darker Superstitions of Scotland_, 431. It should be
noted that Dalyell wrote before the age of scientific folklore, and
therefore his observations are founded more upon conjectures derived
from the practices and beliefs themselves than from any theory as to

[424] White horse, p. 208; black cat, p. 211, note 3; two magpies, p.
224; crickets, p. 238; hawthorn, p. 244.

[425] _Fortnightly Review_, xii. 562.

[426] It is just possible that the value of investigating Australian
totemism may prove to have a still more direct bearing upon British
folklore, for Huxley's opinion as to the Australoid race is not
entirely to be neglected. He argued that "The Australoid race are dark
complexion, ranging through various shades of light and dark chocolate
colour; dark or black eyes; the hair of the scalp black and soft, silky
and wavy; the skull dolichocephalic. The great continent of Australia
is the headquarters of the Australoid race.... The Dekkan, which is so
remarkably isolated on the north by the valleys of the Ganges and
Indus, beyond these by the Himalaya Mountains, and on the east and west
by the sea, was originally inhabited, and is still largely peopled by
men who completely come under the definition of the Australoid race
given above. In Abyssinia and Egypt there is a smooth-haired,
dark-complexioned, long-headed stock which I am strongly inclined to
regard as a westward extension of the Australoid race. I would venture
to suggest that the dark whites who stretch from Northern Hindostan
through Western Asia, skirt both shores of the Mediterranean, and
extend through Western Europe to Ireland, may have had their origin in
a prolongation of the Australoid race, which has become modified by
selection or intermixture" (Huxley in _Prehistoric Congress, 1868_, pp.
92-94). This point of view is confirmed by Mr. Mathew's conclusions,
_Eaglehawk and Crow_, cap. iii.



Perhaps the most important part of the anthropological aspect of
custom, rite, and belief in tradition is sociological. Perhaps, too,
it is the most neglected. Inquirers into the origin of religion
proceed one after the other to investigate the phenomena of early
beliefs as they interpret the origin of religion, without one thought
of the sociological conditions of the problem. They interpose, as I
have already pointed out, the theory of a state religion, when such a
foundation is incidentally found to be necessary to carry the imposing
superstructure of Celtic mythology, but they do not pause to inquire
whether the state, suddenly introduced into the argument, is a
discoverable factor; or they proceed to erect their superstructure of
religious origins without any social foundation whatever, and we are
left with a great concept of abstract thought having no roots in the
source from which it is supposed to be drawn. The sun-god and the
dawn-god, even the All-father, are traced in the most primitive
thought of man, but it is not deemed necessary to show in what
relation these concepts stand to practical life. It is here I must
refer back to Robertson-Smith's dictum on mythology, for it is the
necessary preliminary to showing that belief cannot enter into life
except through the sociological units into which all humanity fits
itself; or rather, I would prefer Robertson-Smith's way of putting it,
"the circle into which a man was born was not simply a human society,
a circle of kinfolk and fellow-citizens, but embraced also certain
divine beings, the gods of the family and the state, which to the
ancient mind were as much a part of the particular community with
which they stood connected as the human members of the social
group."[427] Any proposal to examine a group of customs, beliefs, and
rites which at their origin take us back to the earliest history of a
country must, therefore, be considered from the sociological side. The
great mass of the material to be used in such an inquiry is not
ancient so far as its date of record is a test of antiquity, but it is
ancient as traditional survival, and it is not possible to trace back
custom and belief surviving in modern times to the earliest times,
except through the medium of the institutions which formed the social
basis of the peoples to whom such custom and belief belonged. A custom
or belief exists as a living force before it sinks back into the
position of a survival. It is the lingering effect of this living
force which helps to preserve it for so many ages, and in the midst of
such adverse circumstances, as a survival among other customs and
beliefs existing under a different living force. It is not possible,
therefore, to ascertain the origin of custom or belief in survival,
except as a fragment of the social institution to which it originally
belonged. No custom or belief has a life of its own separate from all
other. It is joined to other customs and beliefs in indissoluble
co-partnership, the whole group making up the institutions under which
the race or people to whom they belong live and flourish. This, as we
have already seen, is a most important principle in the study of
survivals. Not only is it strictly true of all primitive peoples, but
it is true of the early stages of more advanced communities.[428]
Indeed it has been put into a phrase used long ago by an English
writer on the manorial tenant, "His religion is a part of his
copyhold,"[429] and when the jurist talks to us in highly technical
language of lords, freeholders, villans, and serfs, we must bear in
mind that at any rate these villans and serfs belonged to a social
institution, one element of which was religion. So, too, must the
folklorist bear in mind that it is not the individual belief he is
concerned with, but with the belief that belongs to a community. It
must be assumed that the true test of the antiquity of every custom or
belief is its natural and easy assimilation with other customs and
beliefs, equally with itself in the position of a survival, and the
recognition of the whole group thus brought into relationship as
belonging to the institutions of the people from whom it is derived.

It is well to understand what this condition of things exactly means
as an element in the study of early beliefs. It will be dealing with
beliefs from their place in the social habitat; housing them, so to
speak, within the groups of human beings with which they are
connected. It will be considering them as part of the living organism
which the social units of man have created. All this indicates a
method of treating the subject entirely different from what has
hitherto obtained. Students of early English institutions are content
to construct elaborate arguments from the often conflicting testimony
of historical authorities; students of early beliefs construct
elaborate systems of religious thought far above the custom and rite
with which they are dealing. The two branches of the same subject are
never brought together to illustrate each other. Early institutions
cannot be separated from early beliefs. Early beliefs cannot properly
be separated from the society of which they form a component part. We
require to know not only what beliefs a particular people possess, but
in what manner these beliefs generate custom and rite and take their
place among the influences which affect the social organism. Early man
does not live individually. His life is part of a collective group.
The group worships collectively as it lives collectively, and it is
extremely important to work out the dual conditions. If the several
items of custom and belief preserved by tradition are really ancient
in their origin, they must be floating fragments, as it were, of an
ancient _system_ of custom and belief--the cultus of the people among
whom they originated. This cultus has been destroyed, struggling
unsuccessfully against foreign and more vigorous systems of religion
and society. To be of service to history each floating fragment of
ancient custom and belief must not only be labelled "ancient," but it
must be placed back in the system from which it has been torn away. To
do this is to a great extent to restore the ancient system; and to
restore an ancient system of culture, even if the restoration be only
a mosaic and a shattered mosaic, is to bring into evidence the people
to which it belongs.

In the previous chapter it was necessary to lay somewhat special
stress upon the system of social organisation known as totemism, which
was not founded upon kinship. This was traced in survival among the
pre-Celtic peoples of Britain. If we now turn to the Celts and Teutons
of Britain we shall find that we have to deal with a social
organisation founded definitely upon kinship; and if there are
survivals of belief, custom, and rite, derived from this kinship
system, existing side by side in the same culture area with survivals
from the kinless system, it will be necessary to explain how two such
opposite streams can have been kept flowing.

It is not difficult in the case of countries occupied by Celtic or
Teutonic peoples to ascertain what the particular institution was
which linked together the beliefs of the people, though it is not easy
to trace out all the phases of it. It is the tribe--that system of
society which appears as the means by which Greek and Roman, Celt and
Teuton, Scandinavian and Slav, Hindu and Persian, were able to
conquer, overrun, and finally to settle in the lands which they have
made their own. We know something of the Celtic tribe, less of the
Teutonic tribe, but all we know is that it possesses features in
common with the tribe of its kindred. There is no fact more certainly
true as a result of comparative research than that the tribe is the
common heritage of those people who have become the dominant rulers of
the Indo-European world. I use this term "tribe" in no formal sense,
not in the sense of its Roman derivation and use, which shows it quite
as a secondary institution, but as the most convenient term to define
that grouping of men with wives, families, and descendants, and all
the essentials of independent life, which is found as a primal unit of
European society in a state of unsettlement as regards land or
country. The tie which bound all together was personal not local,
kinship with a tribal god, kinship more or less real with
fellow-tribesmen, kinship in status and rights. We meet with this
tribal organisation everywhere in Indo-European history. It made
movement from country to country possible. It made conquest possible.
Celt and Teuton did not conquer in families any more than Greek or
Hindu did. They conquered in tribes, and it was because of the
strength of the tribal organisation during the period, first of
migration and wandering and then of conquest, that the settlement
after conquest was possible and was so strong. Everywhere we find
these people conquerors and settlers. In India, in Iran, in Greece and
Rome, in Scandinavia, in Celtic and Teutonic Europe, in Slavic Europe,
they are moving tribes of conquerors come to settle and rule the
people they conquer.[430] When Dr. Ridgeway asks whence came the
Acheans,[431] he answers the question much in the same fashion as that
in which Dr. Duncker describes the settlement on the Ganges:--

      "The ancient population of the new states on the
      Ganges was not entirely extirpated, expelled, or
      enslaved. Life and freedom were allowed to those who
      submitted and conformed to the law of the conqueror;
      they might pass their lives as servants on the farms
      of the Aryas (Manu, i. 91). But though the remnant of
      this population was spared, the whole body of the
      immigrants looked down on them with the pride of
      conquerors--of superiority in arms, blood, and
      character--and in contrast to them they called
      themselves Vaiçyas, i.e. tribesmen, comrades, in other
      words those who belong to the community or body of
      rulers. Whether the Vaiçya belonged to the order of
      the nobles, the minstrels and priests or peasants, was
      a matter of indifference, he regarded the old
      inhabitants as an inferior species of mankind.... In
      the new states on the Ganges therefore the population
      was separated into two sharply divided masses. How
      could the conquerors mix with the conquered? How could
      their pride stoop to any union with the despised

These two divided masses thus so clearly described were, in fact,
tribesmen and non-tribesmen, just that distinction which we meet with
in Celtic and Teutonic law, and described in the same terms which
Bishop Stubbs was obliged to use when he set forth the facts of the
Teutonic invasion of Britain.

The terms are indeed necessary terms. Tribesmen capable of retaining
the tribal organisation during the period of migration and conquest
did not lightly lose that organisation when they settled. In Sir
Alfred Lyall's pure genealogic clan of Central India[433] I recognise
the unbroken tribal formation before the family group has arisen as a
political unit. In Mr. Tupper's argument against the conclusions of
Sir Henry Maine I recognise the Hindu evidence that the tribe was the
earliest social group, breaking up, as later influences arose, into
village communities and joint families.[434] In Bishop Stubbs's
masterly analysis of English constitutional history the tribe appears
at the outset--"the invaders," he says, "came in families and kindreds
and in the full organisation of their tribes ... the tribe was as
complete when it had removed to Kent as when it stayed in Jutland; the
magistrate was the ruler of the tribe not of the soil; the divisions
were those of the folk and the host not of the land; the laws were the
usage of the nation not of the territory."[435] And so I agree with
Mr. Skene as to the Celtic tribe that "the tuath or tribe preceded the
fine or clan,"[436] and with the editors of the Irish law tracts that
"the tribe existed before the family came into being and continued to
exist after the latter had been dissolved."[437]

We need not go beyond this evidence. The tribe is the common form into
which the early Indo-European peoples grouped themselves for the
purpose of conquest and settlement. It was their primal unit. It may
have been numerically large or small. It may have been the result of
a combination of many smaller tribes into one great tribe. But in any
case and under any conditions there stands out the tribal
organisation, that great institutional force from which spring all
later institutions. Its roots go back into the remotest past of
Indo-European history; its active force caused the Indo-European
people to become the mightiest in human history; its lasting results
have scarcely yet ceased to shape the aspirations of political society
and to affect the destinies of nations. The whole life of the early
period was governed by tribal conditions--the political, social,
legal, and even religious conceptions were tribal in form and

The tribal institution of the Aryan-speaking peoples includes a life
outside the tribe. That was an outlaw's life, a kinless outcast, whom
no tribesman would look upon or assist, whom every tribesman
considered as an enemy until he had reduced him to the position of
helot or slave, but for whom every tribe had a place in its
organisation and a legal status in its constitution. But it was the
legal status imposed by the master over the servant, and the kinless
included not only the outcast from the tribe, but the conquered
aboriginal who had never been within the tribe. It is important to
notice this, for it to some extent measures the strength of the tribal
organisation. It not only allowed for a special position for all
tribesmen, but it allowed for that position to have a definite
relationship to persons who were not tribesmen, and it is in the
combined forces of tribesmen and non-tribesmen that the tribal
organisation which swept over part of Asia and over all Europe obtains
its greatest power. There are tribal systems outside the Semitic and
the Indo-European, but these do not have the distinctive features that
the tribal systems of these two great civilising peoples possess. Like
the Semitic and Aryan tribal systems, savage tribes are fashioned for
conquest, but, unlike them, they are not fashioned for settlement and
resettlement, and perhaps again and again conquest and resettlement.
They spent all their power, or most of their power, in their one great
effort of conquest, and whether we turn to the American Indian tribes,
to the African tribes, or to the Asiatic tribes we find the same facts
of frequent dissipation of power after sudden and complete conquest of
it. The tribal system which led to civilisation has a different
history. It has, too, a different constitution in that to the strength
of tribesmen was added the subordination--politically, industrially,
and economically--of non-tribesmen. They were the people who, in the
terms of the northern poem,

        "Laid fences,
      Enriched the plough lands,
      Tended swine,
      Herded goats,
      Dug peat."[438]

Unfortunately the institution of the tribe has never been properly
studied by the great authorities in history, and students are left
without guidance in this important matter. And yet in any attempt to
get back to the earliest period of history in lands governed by an
Aryan-speaking people we must proceed, can only proceed, on the basis
of the tribe, and it is the failure to understand this which has made
so much early history unsatisfactory and inconclusive and compels us
to the conclusion that the master-hand is still needed to rewrite in
terms of tribal history all that has been written in terms merely of
political history.

If, however, history from the written records is thus at fault, so too
is history from the traditional records. No systematic effort has been
made to treat the traditional story or the traditional custom and
belief as part of the tribal history of our race, and yet in the few
cases where it has been so treated the results are obviously
satisfactory. I can illustrate the value of this point of view by an
example drawn from the period which witnessed the earliest struggles
of our race. I think with Mr. Keary that in those German stories
"which delight above all things in that portrait of the youngest son
of the house--he is the youngest of three--who is left behind despised
and neglected when his brothers go forth to seek their fortunes," we
have traces of a veritable fact, of an historical condition where the
elder sons actually went forth to conquest and to settlement and the
youngest son remained in the original home as the hearth-child.[439]
The position of hearth-child, surviving as it does in our law of
Borough English, is of great significance, and that we can by the aid
of tradition reach a state of society which gave birth to it is a
point of the greatest importance, even if we could go no further. But
there is a stage beyond it. The majority of these youngest-son
stories relate to events not to be identified with any particular
tribe or people, but which belong to all the tribes and peoples whose
course of conquest and settlement took the common form. But if apart
from these all-world stories there exist stories, or if there be but
one story which has become identified with an episode, a person, or a
place belonging to a particular people, we may claim it as part of the
history of that particular people. It may be that the general story
has become specialised in this one case, or it may be that an entirely
new story has sprung out of the special case. But whichever be the
origin of such a story attached to a particular people, it must tell
us something of that people at a period when its history was being
made rather than recorded. What it tells may be very little, may not
lead up to anything very great or definite, so far as later history is
concerned; but that for the period to which it belongs it relates to
an episode worthy to have been kept in the memories of the descendants
of the chief actors in the events is the point to bear in mind.

There is one such story which belongs to English history. One of the
most famous of these youngest-son stories is that of Childe Rowland,
and Mr. Jacobs, on examining its incidents and details, suggests that
"our story may have a certain amount of historic basis and give a
record which history fails to give of the very earliest conflict of
races in these isles."[440] Mr. Jacobs gives good grounds for this
conclusion, and shows up a picture of earliest English history which
is certainly not contained elsewhere, and we are able by this means
to pass from that large group of youngest-son stories, which have
brought with them living testimony of an ancient institution of our
race in its oldest home, to the narrower but more direct example which
comes to us from events which happened just at the dawn of history in
our own land. It is not necessary to emphasise the importance of this
service to history at the instance of tradition, for it will be
obvious to every student that many a struggle must have remained
unrecorded and many a hero must have died unnamed in the events which
belong to the period of tribal conquest and settlement. And to have
still with us the far-off echo of these events is no slight
encouragement to an inquiry which has for its object the
reconstruction of the conditions under which such events took place.

This would be all the better understood if we could get a concrete
case for illustration, and, fortunately, this is possible by turning
to the evidence of India. "What we know of the manner in which the
states of Upper India were founded," says Sir Alfred Lyall,

      "gives a very fair sample of the movements and changes
      of the primitive world. When the dominant Rajput
      families lost their dominion in the rich Gangetic
      plains one part of their clan seems to have remained
      in the conquered country, having submitted to the
      foreigner, cultivating in strong communities of
      villages and federations of villages and paying such
      land tax as the ruler could extract. Another part of
      the clan, probably the near kinsmen of the defeated
      chief, followed his family into exile, and helped him
      to carve out another, but a much poorer, dominion.
      Here the chief built himself a fort upon the hill; his
      clansmen slew or subdued the tribes they found in
      possession of the soil, and the lands were all
      parcelled off among the chief's kinsfolk, the
      indigenous proprietors being subjected to payment of a
      land tax, but not otherwise degraded. When the land
      grew too strait for the support of the chief's family
      or of the sept--that is, when there were no vacant
      allotments, a landless son of the chief would assemble
      a band, and set forth to make room for himself

The evidence from India is fact, the evidence from England is
tradition, and yet I do not think any student will deny that both fact
and tradition are part and parcel of the same conditions of society,
the same forces operating upon the same material. The conditions of
society in both cases are tribal conditions, and the common factor
having thus been discovered, it is possible to determine not only the
inter-relationship between fact and tradition, but the means by which
we may estimate the value of both.

We cannot, however, stop here. I carry on the same argument from the
traditional legend to the traditional custom and belief, and affirm
that it is only by their position as part of the tribal system that
custom and belief in survival must be tested. If they have descended
from early Celtic or Teutonic custom and belief, they have descended
from tribal custom and belief, and somewhere in the stages of descent
will be found the link which connects them definitely with the tribe.
That not all custom and belief has so descended is due to the fact
that much of it belongs to the pre-Celtic period, which was not
tribal; some of it, no doubt, to comparatively modern times, when, as
we have already seen, superstition had taken the place of thought,
while some phases of early belief belong to conditions which
transcend the division between pre-Aryan and Aryan folk. On this I
will say something by way of explanation presently. In the meantime it
is an extremely important task to classify survivals into tribal and
non-tribal groups. Those which belong to Celtic or Teutonic origins
must show their tribal origin, for they could not have come into
existence apart from the tribe, and apart from the tribe they could
not have survived after the break-up of the tribe consequent upon the
development of national and political life. Custom and belief which do
not fit into the ancient tribal system, therefore, cannot be
recognised as ancient Celtic or ancient Teutonic custom and belief,
and contrariwise when it is seen that they naturally fall into this
system it may be argued that there we must search for their origin.
Our Anglo-Saxon forefathers have left a curious testimony to this view
of the question in their word "holy" or wholesome. What is wholesome
is so for the whole group. The Anglo-Saxon idea of holiness implies as
its chief element relation to the tribal life.[442]

The classification of survivals in folklore into tribal and non-tribal
items is a lengthy and intricate process. Some years ago I made a
start in a study of fire worship which I presented to the British
Association,[443] and I hope shortly to be ready with a volume on
_Tribal Custom_, which will embody a fuller study of fire worship and
its accompanying beliefs, together with a complete study of all the
remains of traditional custom, rite, and belief, which only as the
detritus of the ancient tribal organisation receive adequate
explanation of their presence in the midst of modern political and
religious institutions. If I leave this part of my subject without
further illustration in this present volume, I must add one important
note upon the persistence of survivals of both kinless and kinship
societies. I have shown that the tribal system of the advanced races
included provision for non-tribesmen, provision which kept
non-tribesmen outside the tribal bond, and at the same time kept them
tied to the tribe by using them as the necessary dependent adjunct of
the tribe, using them as bondmen and serfs in point of fact. This
extremely important factor in the history of the tribal organisation,
which has not been properly noticed by the few authorities who have
investigated tribal institutions, receives additional importance when
viewed from the standpoint of folklore, for it allows for the
preservation of non-tribal cults side by side with tribal cults.
Non-tribesmen preserved their custom, belief, and rite simply because
they were not admitted to the custom, belief, and rite of the tribe,
and this is the explanation of the existence, in survival, of folklore
which goes back to pre-Celtic times. Some of this pre-Celtic folklore
we have already had before us, and some of it I have studied in my
_Ethnology in Folklore_. Later on I shall have something more to say
on the subject. Here it is only necessary to emphasise the importance
of having ascertained why it is that the Celtic conquerors of Britain
and the earliest tribal conquerors of the Indo-European world
generally permitted to live in their midst what in a sense was opposed
to all that they believed, to all that they practised, to all that
governed them in thought and action.

I think this is a strong position upon which to conduct folklore
research. It includes the whole of the historical position; it takes
due count of historical facts instead of ignoring them. It is based
upon a scientific conception of the meaning of a survival of culture.
A survival is that which has been left stranded amidst the development
that is going on around. Its future life is not one of development but
of decay. We are not dealing with the evolution of society, but with
the decaying fragments of a social system which has passed away. We
have to trace out its line of decay from the point where it almost
vanishes as the mere superstition or practice of a peasant or an
outcast, back to phases where it exists in more strenuous fashion, and
finally back to its original position as part and parcel of a living
social fabric. Moreover, the strength of our position is based upon a
scientific conception of the development of the nation or people among
whom survivals exist. It is not all parts of the nation which develop
at the same rate, at the same time, and for the same period. There are
social strata in every country, and it is the observance of these
strata which has made it possible for the inquirer of to-day to use
the evidence they afford for historical purposes.


[427] _Religion of the Semites_, 30. It is worth while quoting here
Merivale's note in his Boyle lectures, _Conversion of the Northern
Nations_, 122. "Pagan temples were always the public works of nations
and communities. They were national buildings dedicated to national
purposes. The mediæval churches, on the other hand, were the erection
of individuals, monuments of personal piety, tokens of the hope of a
personal reward." _Cf._ Stanley, _Hist. Westminster Abbey_, 12.

[428] Mr. Granger has a very instructive passage on this point in his
_Worship of the Romans_, 210-214; _cf._ Robertson-Smith, _Religion of
the Semites_, lec. ii.; Mr. MacDonald, _Africana_, i. 64, notes, too,
that "the natives worship not so much individually as in villages or
communities." Prof. Sayce, studying early religion, says in its outward
form it "was made up of rites and ceremonies which could only be
performed collectively."--_Science of Language_, ii. 290.

[429] Clarke's _Survey of the Lakes_, 36.

[430] Pritchard's _Researches into the Physical Hist. of Mankind_, vol.
iii., may still be consulted for an account of the tribal movements in

[431] _Early Age of Greece_, i. cap. iv.

[432] _History of Antiquity_, iv. 116-17.

[433] _Asiatic Studies_, i. 173.

[434] _Punjab Customary Law_, ii. 3-59. _Cf._ Baden-Powell's _Indian
Vill. Com._, 230; Duncker, _Hist. Antiq._, iv. 115-17.

[435] Stubbs's _Const. Hist._, i. 64. _Cf. Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law_,

[436] _Celtic Scotland_, iii. 137, note 4.

[437] _Anc. Laws of Ireland_, iv. p. 77. _Cf._ also Mr. Andrews' _Old
English Manor_, p. 20, and Meyer, _Geschichte der Alterthums_, 2-3.

[438] Du Chaillu, _The Viking Age_, i. 488.

[439] Keary, _Origin of Primitive Belief_, 464-5. Mr. MacCulloch,
_Childhood of Fiction_, devotes a chapter to the clever-youngest-son
group of tales (cap. xiii.), which should be consulted.

[440] _Folklore_, ii. 194.

[441] Sir A. Lyall, _Asiatic Studies_, 184, and compare pp. 198, 208,

[442] _Cf._ Granger, _Worship of the Romans_, 211. Mr. Granger uses
terms which I do not quite accept, though his suggestion is entirely
good in principle.

[443] _Report of British Association_ (Liverpool Meeting).



There are obviously conditions attaching to European culture history
which do not apply elsewhere, and as obviously the most important,
perhaps the only important one, which it is necessary to consider in
connection with the problems of folklore is that resulting from the
introduction of a non-European religion and the adoption of this
religion as part of the state machinery in the several countries. This
religion is, of course, Christianity. It came into the home of a
decaying, corrupt, and impossible state religion wherever the Roman
Empire was established and into the homes of purer and sterner faiths,
faiths that had belonged to the people through all the years of
conquest and settlement, migration and resettlement, wherever the
empire of Rome had not become established.

Until the advent of Christianity into Britain the Celtic peoples
possessed their own customs, their own religious beliefs, their own
usages. Until the Anglo-Saxons came into contact with Christianity in
their new settlements in England, they also possessed their own
customs, usages, and beliefs. So far as Celt and Teuton were
responsible for continuing or allowing to continue the still older
faiths, the faiths of savagery as we have accustomed ourselves to
term them, they brought these faiths also into contact with
Christianity, and Christianity dealt with the problem thus presented
exactly as it dealt with the Celtic and Teutonic faiths, namely, by
treating all alike as pagan, all equally to be set aside or used in
any fashion that circumstances might demand. Let it be particularly
noted that Christianity did not distinguish between the various shades
of paganism. All that was not Christian was pagan.

Christianity was both antagonistic to and tolerant of pagan custom and
belief. In principle and purpose it was antagonistic. In practice it
was tolerant where it could tolerate safely. At the centre it aimed at
purity of Christian doctrine, locally it permitted pagan practices to
be continued under Christian auspices. In the earliest days it set
itself against all forms of idolatry and non-Christian practices; in
later days, after the fifth century, says Gibbon,[444] it accepted
both pagan practice and pagan ritual.

The relationship of Christianity to paganism is, therefore, a very
complex subject, and it would not be possible in this place to work
out one tithe of it. Nor is it needed. The two cardinal facts with
which we are now concerned are the principle of antagonism and the
practice of toleration. As to the former there need not be any
discussion on the fact. Everywhere throughout Europe its effect is to
be seen. It formed the most solid and systematic arresting force
against the natural development of pagan belief and practice, and it
is this fact of arrested development in pagan belief and practice
which is of great importance. We can ascertain the point of stoppage,
note the stage of arrested development, and trace out the subsequent
history of a custom, belief, or rite so arrested. As a survival in a
state of arrested development, a custom or belief is observable
throughout its later history. All it does is to decay, and decay
slowly, and each stage of decay may oftentimes be discovered. On the
other hand, if no arrest of development had taken place there would
have been no survival and no decay. The custom or belief which is not
arrested by an opposing culture becomes a part of the religion or of
the institutions of the nation, and the history of its development
becomes, as a rule, lost in the general advance of religion and
politics--custom develops into law, belief develops into religion,
rite develops into ceremonial, and tradition ceases to be the force
which keeps them alive. The two classes of custom and belief thus
contrasted are of different value to the student. The one is important
because it contains the germs and goes back to the origin of existing
institutions. The other is important because, having been arrested by
a strong opposing force, unable to destroy it altogether, it remains
as evidence of custom and belief at the time of its arrestment. It
will be seen at once how far this evidence may take us. It stretches
back into the remotest past. It survives in the stage at which it was
arrested, not of course in the form in which it then appeared, but in
the decayed form which years of existence beneath the ever-opposing
forces of the established civilisation must have brought about.

These opposing forces can be detected in working order. What can be
more indicative of a dual system of belief than the cry of an old
Scottish peasant when he came to worship at the sacred well?--"O Lord,
Thou knowest that well would it be for me this day an I had stoopit my
knees and my heart before Thee in spirit and in truth as often as I
have stoopit them afore this well. But we maun keep the customs of our
fathers." It appears over and over again in the lives of early
Christian saints who were only just parting from a living pagan faith.
Thus St. Bega was the patroness of St. Bees in Cumberland, where she
left a holy bracelet which was long an object of profound veneration;
and in a prefatory statement by the compiler of a small collection of
her miracles, written in the twelfth century, we learn among other
things that whosoever forswore himself upon her bracelet swiftly
incurred the heaviest punishment of perjury or a speedy death. It is
to be observed that Beagas, the French Bague, is the Anglo-Saxon
denomination for rings, and Dr. William Bell suggests that holy St.
Bega was but a personification of one of the holy rings which, having
gained great hold upon the minds of the heathen Cumbrians, it was not
politic in their first Christian missionaries wholly to subvert.[445]
These rings are, of course, the doom rings of the Scandinavian temples
which are so often referred to in the Sagas.[446]

Baptism, an essentially Christian ceremony, might off-hand be supposed
to contain nothing but evidence for Christianity. It might at most be
expected that the details of the ceremony would contain relics of
adapted pagan rites, and this we know is the case. But we can go
beyond even this, and discover in the popular conception of the rite
very clear indications of the early antagonism between Christianity
and paganism--an antagonism which is certainly some eighteen hundred
years old in this country, and though so old is still contained in the
evidence of folklore.

An analysis of baptismal folklore shows us that its most important
section is contained under the group which deals with the effect of
non-baptism. In England we have it prevailing in the border counties,
in Cornwall, Devonshire, Durham, Lancashire, Middlesex,
Northumberland, and Yorkshire, and in North-East Scotland, that
children joined the ranks of the fairies if they died unchristened, or
that their souls wandered about in the air, restless and unhappy,
until Judgment Day. Various penalties attended the condition of
non-baptism, but perhaps the most significant is the Northumberland
custom of burying an unbaptised babe at the feet of an adult Christian
corpse--surely a relic of the old sacrifice at a burial which is
indicated so frequently in the graves of prehistoric times,
particularly of the long-barrow period. In Ireland we have the effect
of non-baptism in a still more grim form. In the sixteenth century the
rude Irish used to leave the right arms of their male children
unchristened, to the intent that they might give a more ungracious and
deadly blow.[447]


These, and their allied and variant customs, are relics, not so much
of the absorption by Christian baptism of rites belonging to early
paganism as of the struggle between Christianity and paganism for the
mastery, of the anathemas of Christians against pagans, and of the
terrible answer of the pagan. And what are we to say to it? Is it that
the struggle itself has lasted all these centuries, or only its
memory? My belief is that the struggle itself has lasted in reality
though not in name.

But if we have been able to look through the very portals of
Christianity to the regions of paganism behind, can we not boldly pass
through altogether and recover from folklore much of the lost evidence
of our prehistoric ancestors? I put the question in this way
purposely, because it is the way which is indicated by the methods and
data of folklore, and it is a question which has much to do with the
different views held of the province of folklore.

I will answer by referring to the pre-baptismal rites of washing. In
Northumberland we meet with the analogue of the sixteenth-century
Irish practice, for there the child's right hand is left unwashed that
it may gather riches better[448]--the golden coin taking the place of
the ancient weapon in this as in other phases of civilisation. Not
only is the water used for this purpose heated in the old-fashioned
way by placing red-hot irons in it (_i.e._ the modern equivalent for
stone-boiling), but in Yorkshire we have the custom that the newborn
infant must be placed in the arms of a maiden before any one else
touches it, two practices represented exactly in the customs of the
Canary Islanders, who were in the stone age of culture and are
considered to be the last remnants of a race which once included
Britain among its lands of occupation.[449]

The Rev. C. O'Connor, in his third letter of Columbanus, gives a very
interesting statement of Irish well-worship in a letter addressed to
his brother, the late Owen O'Connor Don, and which shows the living
antagonism between Christian and pagan belief. He says:--

      "I have often enquired of your tenants what they
      themselves thought of their pilgrimage to their wells
      of Kill Orcht, Tobbar-Brighde, Tobbar-Muire, near
      Elphin, and Moore, near Castlereagh, where multitudes
      assemble annually to celebrate what they, in broken
      English, termed Patterns; and when I pressed a very
      old man--Owen Hester--to state what possible advantage
      he expected to derive from the singular custom of
      frequenting in particular such wells as were
      contiguous to an old blasted oak, or an upright unhewn
      stone, and what the meaning was of the yet more
      singular custom of sticking rags in the branches of
      such trees and spitting on them, his answer, and the
      answer of the oldest men, was that their ancestors
      always did it; that it was a preservative against
      Geasa-Dravideacht, _i.e._ the sorceries of Druids;
      that their cattle was preserved by it from infectious
      disorders; that the davini maithe, _i.e._ the fairies,
      were kept in good humour by it; and so thoroughly
      persuaded were they of the sanctity of these pagan
      practices that they would travel bareheaded and
      barefooted from ten to twenty miles for the purpose of
      crawling on their knees round these wells and upright
      stones and oak trees westward as the sun travels, some
      three times, some six, some nine, and so on, in uneven
      numbers until their voluntary penances were completely
      fulfilled. The waters of Logh-Con were deemed so
      sacred from ancient usage that they would throw into
      the lake whole rolls of butter as a preservation for
      the milk of their cows against

Scarcely less important than the effect of the antagonism of the
Church in the production of arrested development is the effect of the
toleration of the Church for pagan custom and belief. This toleration
took the shape either of allowing the continuation of pagan custom and
belief as a matter not affecting Christian doctrine or of actual
absorption into Church practice and ritual. The story told to the full
is a long and interesting one. And it still awaits the telling.
Gibbon, in a few sentences, has told us the outline.[451] Other
authorities have told us small episodes. I am, of course, not
concerned here with anything more than to adduce sufficient evidence
to establish the fact that Christian tolerance of paganism has been
one of the assistant causes for the long continuance of pagan

I shall not hesitate to begin by quoting at length a luminous passage
from Grimm's great work. In the preface to his second edition he
writes as follows:--

      "Oftentimes the Church prudently permitted, or could
      not prevent, that heathen and Christian things should
      here and there run into one another; the clergy
      themselves would not always succeed in marking off the
      bounds of the two religions: their private leanings
      might let some things pass which they found firmly
      rooted in the multitude. In the language, together
      with a stock of newly-imported Greek and Latin terms,
      there still remained, even for ecclesiastical use, a
      number of Teutonic words previously employed in
      heathen services, just as the names of gods stood
      ineradicable in the days of the week; to such words
      old customs would still cling silent and unnoticed
      and take a new lease of life. The festivals of the
      people present a tough material: they are so closely
      bound up with its habits of life that they will put up
      with foreign additions if only to save a fragment of
      festivities long loved and tried. In this way
      Scandinavia, probably the Goths also for a time, and
      the Anglo-Saxons down to a late period, retained the
      heathenish Yule as all Teutonic Christians did the
      sanctity of Easter-tide; and from these two the
      Yule-boar and Yule-bread, the Easter pancake,
      Easter-sword, Easter-fire, and Easter-dance could not
      be separated. As faithfully were perpetuated the name
      and in many cases the observances of Midsummer. New
      Christian feasts, especially of saints, seem
      purposely, as well as accidentally, to have been made
      to fall on heathen holidays. Churches often rose
      precisely where a heathen god or his sacred tree had
      been pulled down, and the people trod their old paths
      to the accustomed site; sometimes the very walls of
      the heathen temple became those of the church, and
      cases occur in which idol images still found a place
      in a wall of the porch, or were set up outside the
      door, as at Bamberg Cathedral there lie Slavic heathen
      figures of animals inscribed with runes. Sacred hills
      and fountains were rechristened after saints, to whom
      their sanctity was transferred; sacred woods were
      handed over to the newly-founded convent or the king,
      and even under private ownership did not lose their
      long-accustomed homage. Law usages, particularly the
      ordeals and oath-takings, but also the beating of
      bounds, consecrations, image processions, spells and
      formulas, while retaining their heathen character,
      were simply clothed in Christian forms. In some
      customs there was little to change: the heathen
      practice of sprinkling a newborn babe with water
      closely resembled Christian baptism; the sign of the
      hammer, that of the cross; and the erection of tree
      crosses the irmensûls and world trees of

This passage, written in 1844, has been abundantly illustrated by the
research of specialists since that date, and, of course, Mr. Frazer's
monumental work will occur to every reader. But, after all, the chief
authority for the action of the Church towards paganism in this
country is the famous letter of Pope Gregory to the Abbot Mellitus in
A.D. 601, as preserved by the historian Beda. It is worth while
quoting this once again, for it is an English historical document of
priceless value. "We have been much concerned," writes the good St.

      "since the departure of our congregation that is with
      you, because we have received no account of the
      success of your journey. When, therefore, Almighty God
      shall bring you to the most reverend Bishop Augustine
      our brother, tell him what I have, upon mature
      deliberation on the affair of the English, determined
      upon, namely, that the temples of the idols [fana
      idolorum] in that nation [gente] ought not to be
      destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be
      destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled upon
      the said temples, let altars be erected and relics
      placed. For if these temples be well built, it is
      requisite that they be converted from the worship of
      devils [dæmonum] to the worship of the true God; that
      the nation seeing that their temples are not destroyed
      may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and
      adoring the true God may the more familiarly resort to
      the places to which they have been accustomed. And
      because they have been used to slaughter many oxen in
      the sacrifices to devils some solemnity must be
      exchanged for them on this account, so that on the day
      of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy
      martyrs whose relics are there deposited, they may
      build themselves huts of the boughs of trees, about
      those churches which have been turned to that use from
      temples and celebrate the solemnity with religious
      feasting and no more offer beasts to the devil
      [diabolo], but kill cattle to the praise of God in
      their eating, and return thanks to the giver of all
      things for their sustenance."[453]

The church of St. Pancras at Canterbury is claimed to be one of the
temples so preserved,[454] and there have survived down to our own
times examples of the animal sacrifice which in early Christian days
may well have been preserved by this famous edict.[455] But beyond
these illustrations of the two stated objects of Pope Gregory's letter
there are innumerable additional results from such a policy,[456]
results which prove that British pagandom was not stamped out by edict
or by sword, but was rather gradually borne down before the strength
of the new religion--borne down and pushed into the background out of
sight of the Church and the State, relegated to the cottage homes, the
cattle-sheds and the cornfields, the countryside and the denizens

This is where we must search for it, and I think this important
element in our studies will be better understood if we turn for one
moment to the results of Christian contact with earlier belief in the
one country where Christianity has set up its strongest political
force, namely, Italy. Dr. Middleton wrote a series of remarkable
letters which tell us much on this point, but before referring to
this, I wish first to quote a hitherto buried record by an impartial
observer[458] in the year 1704. It is a letter written from Venice to
Sir Thomas Frankland, describing the travels and observations of a
journey into Italy. The traveller writes:--

      "I cannot leave Itally without making some general
      observations upon the country in general, and first as
      to their religion; it differs in name only now from
      what it was in the time of the ancient heathen Romans.
      I know this will sound very oddly with some sort of
      people, but compare them together and then let any
      reasonable man judge of the difference. The heathen
      Itallians had their gods for peace and for war, for
      plenty and poverty, for health and sickness, riches
      and poverty, to whom they addressed themselves and
      their wants; and the Christian Itallians have their
      patron saints for each of these things, to whom they
      also address according to their wants. The heathen
      sacrificed bulls and other beasts, and the Christian
      ones after the same manner a piece of bread, which a
      picture in the garden of Aldobrandina at Rome, painted
      in the time of Titus Vespasian, shews by the altar and
      the priests' vestments to have been the same as used
      now. The Pantheon at Rome was dedicated by the
      ancients to all the gods, and by the moderns to all
      the saints; the temple of Castor and Pollux at Rome is
      now dedicated to Cosmo and Damian, also twin brothers.
      The respect they pay to the Virgin Mary is far greater
      than what they pay to the Son, and whatever English
      Roman Catholics may be made to believe by their
      priests or impose upon us, it is certain that the
      devotion to the Madonnas in Itally is something more
      than a bare representation of the Virgin Mary when
      they desire her intercession. Miracles they pretend
      not only to be wrought by the Madonnas themselves, but
      there is far greater respect paid to a Madonna in one
      place than another, whereas if this statue were only a
      bare representation of the Virgin to keep them in mind
      of her, the respect would be equal. I visited all the
      famous ones, and it would fill a volume to tell you
      the fopperies that's said of them. That of Loretto,
      being what they say is the very house where the Virgin
      lived, is not to be described, the riches are so
      great, nor the devotion that's paid to the statue....
      The Lady of Saronna is another famous one and very
      rich; she is much handsomer than she of Loretto and a
      whole church-full of the legend of the miracles she
      hath wrought. She is in great reputation, and it's
      thought will at last outtop the Lady of Loretto; there
      is another near Leghorne that I also visited called
      _La Madonna della Silva Nera_, to whom all Itallian
      ships that enter that port make a present of thanks
      for their happy voyage, and salute her with their
      cannon, and most ships going out give her something
      for her protection during their voyage. I could tire
      you with she at the Annunciata at Florence, she within
      a mile of Bollognia, for whom the magistracy have
      piazza'd the road all the way from her station to the
      city, that she may not be encumbered with sun or rain
      when she makes them a visit, and hundreds more that
      would fill a volume of fopperies that I had the
      curiosity to see, but it would be imposing too much
      upon your patience."[459]

This only confirms Dr. Middleton's conclusions, which received the
approval of Gibbon, and those of later writers. "As I descended from
the Alps," writes the Rev. W. H. Blunt in 1823,

      "I was admonished of my entrance into Italy by a
      little chapel to the Madonna, built upon a rock by the
      roadside, and from that time till I repassed this
      chain of mountains I received almost hourly proof that
      I was wandering amongst the descendants of that people
      which is described by Cicero to have been the most
      religious of mankind. Though the mixture of religion
      with all the common events of life is anything but an
      error, yet I could not avoid regretting that, like
      their heathen ancestors, the modern Italians had
      supplied the place of our great master mover by a
      countless host of inferior agents."[460]

Mr. Blunt goes on to give interesting details of the close connection
between the modern religious festival, ceremony, or service, and those
of classical times, and the conclusion is obvious. In modern days Dr.
Mommsen has lent the sanction of his great authority to the
identification of the birthday of Christ with that of Mithra,[461]
and Mr. Leland has given such numerous identifications not only of the
cults of pagan and Christian Italy, but of the god-names of ancient
Rome with the saint-names or witch-names of modern times,[462] that it
seems impossible to deny a place for this evidence. "It was," says

      "the universal sentiment both of the Church and of
      heretics that the dæmons were the authors, the
      patrons, and the objects of idolatry; those rebellious
      spirits who had been degraded from the rank of angels
      were still permitted to roam upon earth, to torment
      the bodies and to seduce the minds of sinful men. It
      was confessed, or at least it was imagined, that they
      had distributed among themselves the most important
      characters of Polytheism, one dæmon assuming the name
      of Jupiter, another of Æsculapius, a third of Venus,
      and a fourth perhaps of Apollo."[463]

This, then, is recognition and adoption of pagan beliefs, not the
uprooting of them. If the Roman Jupiter was a Christian dæmon, his
existence at all events was recognised. But even this negative way of
adopting the old beliefs gave way as the Church spread further. The
tribe of dæmons soon included the popular fairy, elf, and goblin. And
then came the positive adoption of pagan customs. Gibbon describes how
the early Christians refused to decorate their doors with garlands and
lamps, and to take part in the ceremonial of lifting the bride over
the threshold of the house.[464] Both these customs have survived in
popular folklore, in spite of the recorded action of the early
Church, and it would be curious to ascertain whether they have
survived by the help of the Church. We cannot answer that question of
historical evidence just now, but it is a question which, in its wider
aspect, as including many other items of folklore, ought to be
examined into. There is no doubt, however, that by analogy it can be
answered, because we have ample evidence, if the writings of reformers
may be taken as historical facts and not polemical imaginations, that
many very important customs, among the richest as well as the poorest
treasures of folklore, have been, so to speak, Christianised by the
Church, and that the Church has taken part in and adopted
non-Christian customs, the survivors of olden-time life in

Now it is clear from these considerations, and from the vast mass of
information which is gradually being accumulated on the subject, that
not only the arresting force of Christianity but also its toleration
has assisted in the preservation of pre-Christian belief and custom.
But the preservation has been in fragments only. The system which
supported the older faith and might, if it had been allowed a natural
growth, have produced a newer religion of its own, was completely
shattered. It left no preservative force except that of tradition,
the traditional instinct to do what has always been done, to believe
what has always been believed. Pre-Christian belief and custom has
thus become isolated beliefs and customs in survival. It has been
broken up into innumerable fragments of unequal character, and
containing unequal elements. It has been forced back into secret
action wherever Christianity was wholly antagonistic, and hence
primitive public worship has tended to become local worship, or
household worship, or even personal worship, while all such worship
which is not the authorised Church worship has tended to become
superstition. Where Christianity was not wholly antagonistic, it
absorbed rites, customs, and even beliefs, and these primitive
survivals have taken their place in the evolution of Christian
doctrine, and thus become lost to the students of Celtic and Teutonic
antiquities. But even so, there are discoverable points where the
dividing line between non-Christian and Christian belief has not been
obliterated by the process of absorption. In all cases it is the duty
of the student to note the stage of arrested development in the
primitive rite, custom, or belief, whether it be caused by antagonism
or by absorption. It is at this point, indeed, that the history of the
survival begins. It is here that we have to turn from the polity, the
religion, or cultus of a people to the belief, practices, or
superstition of that portion of our nation which has not shared its
progress from tribesmen to citizens, from paganism to Christianity,
from vain imaginings to science and philosophy. It is from this point
we have to turn from the dignity of courts, the doings of armies, and
the results of commerce, to the doings, sayings, and ideas of the
peasantry who cannot read, and who have depended upon tradition for
all, or almost all, they know outside the formalities of law and


[444] _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ (Bury), iii. 214-15.

[445] _Royal Irish Academy_, viii. 258; _Brit. Arch. Assoc._
(Gloucester volume), 62.

[446] "The Story of the Ere Dwellers," Morris, _Saga Library_, ii. 8.

[447] Camden, _Britannia_, s.v. "Ireland."

[448] Henderson, _Folklore of Northern Counties_, 16.

[449] Glas, _Canary Islands_, 148.

[450] Betham, _Gael and Cymbri_, pp. 236-8.

[451] _Decline and Fall_, iii. p. 214 (edit. Bury).

[452] Grimm, _Teutonic Mythology_, by Stallybrass, iii. pp. 35, 36. A
passage from Hakon's Saga, quoted by Du Chaillu in his _Viking Age_, i.
p. 464, shows that the northern peoples adopted the same measures.

[453] Beda, lib. i. cap. 30; and consult Mr. Plummer's learned notes on
this (vol. ii. 57-61).

[454] Stanley, _Memorials of Canterbury_, 37-38.

[455] _Cf._ my _Ethnology in Folklore_, 30-36, 136-140. Compare St.
Patrick's dedication of pagan sacred stones to Christian
purposes.--_Tripartite Life of St. Patrick_, i. 107.

[456] Thus Henry of Huntingdon records that Redwald, King of the East
Angles, after his conversion to Christianity, "set up altars to Christ
and the devil in the same chapel" (lib. iii.).

[457] _Cf._ Kemble, _Saxons in England_, i. 330-335. Dr. Hearn writes:
"Even as the good Pope Gregory the Great permitted the newly converted
English to retain their old temples and accustomed rites, attaching,
however, to them another purpose and a new meaning, so his successors
found means to utilize the simple beliefs of early animism. Long and
vainly the Church struggled against this irresistible sentiment.
Fifteen centuries ago it was charged against the Christians of that day
that they appeased the shades of the dead with feasts like the
Gentiles. In the Penitentials we find the prohibition of burning grains
where a man had died. In the _Indiculus superstitionum et Paganiarum_
among the Saxons complaint is made of the too ready canonisation of the
dead; and the Church seems to have been much troubled to keep within
reasonable bounds this tendency to indiscriminate apotheosis. At length
a compromise was effected, and the Feast of All Souls converted to
pious uses that wealth of sentiment which previously was lavished on
the dead" (_The Aryan Household_, p. 60). And, to close this short note
upon an important subject, Mr. Metcalfe, speaking of the old poetic
literature of the pagan English, says: "It was kidnapped, and its
features so altered and disguised as not to be recognisable. It was
supplanted by Christian poetical legends and Bible lays produced in
rivalry of the popular lays of their heathen predecessors. Finding that
the people would listen to nothing but these old lays, the missionaries
affected their spirit and language, and borrowed the words and phrases
of heathenism" (Metcalfe's _Englishman and Scandinavian_, p. 155).

[458] For some reason not apparent in the document itself, Mrs. S. C.
Lomas, the editor of this report, says this interesting letter gives "a
curious and evidently prejudiced description of the religious houses
and observances." See preface to _Hist. MSS. Com. Report on the MSS. of
Chequers Court, Bucks_, p. x.

[459] _Hist. MSS. Com., Chequers Court Papers_, pp. 171-2.

[460] _Vestiges of Ancient Manners and Customs in Italy_, p. 1.

[461] _Corpus insc. Lat._, i. 409; and _cf._ Cumont's _Mysteries of
Mithra_ (1903).

[462] Leland, _Etruscan Roman Remains_ (1892).

[463] _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ (Bury), ii. 15.

[464] _Decline and Fall_, ii. 17.

[465] Evidence is scattered far and wide in most of the reliable
studies in folklore. Two special books may be mentioned. A great
storehouse of examples is to be found in _The Popish Kingdoms_, by
Thomas Naogeorgus, Englyshed by Barnabe Googe, 1570, a new edition of
which was published by Mr. R. C. Hope in 1880; and Mr. H. M. Bower has
exhaustively examined one important Italian ceremony in his _The
Elevation and Procession of the Ceri at Gubbio_, published by the
Folklore Society in 1897.



Already I have had to point out that an appeal to ethnological
evidence is the means of avoiding the wholesale rejection of custom
and belief recorded of early Britain, because it has been rejected as
appertaining to the historic Celt. I will now proceed with the
definite proposition that the survivals in folklore may be allocated
and explained by their ethnological bearing.

Some years ago I advanced this proposition in my little book entitled
_Ethnology in Folklore_. Only haltingly have my conclusions been
accepted, but I nowhere find them disproved,[466] while here and there
I find good authorities appealing to the ethnological element in
folklore to help them in their views. Mr. MacCulloch, for instance,
prefers to go for the basis of the Osiris and Dionysius myths to an
earlier custom than that favoured by Mr. Frazer and Mr. Grant Allen,
namely, to the practices of the neolithic folk, in Egypt and over a
wide tract of country which includes Britain, of dismembering the
dead body previous to its burial.[467] Mr. Lang, Mr. Frazer, Mr.
Hartland, and others are strangely reticent on this subject. That Mr.
Lang should be content to trace a story from the Vedas, in which
Urvasi tells Pururavas that he must never let her see him naked, to "a
traditional Aryan law of nuptial etiquette,"[468] seems to be using
the heaviest machinery for the smallest purposes, while for other and
greater purposes he fails to find in ethnological distinctions,
explanations which escape his research.[469] That Mr. Frazer should
have been able to examine in so remarkable a manner the agricultural
rites of European peoples, and only to have touched upon their
ethnological bearings in one or two isolated cases, seems to me to be
neglecting one of the obvious means of arriving at the solution of the
problem he starts out to solve.[470]

I do not want to discount these fragmentary appeals to the
ethnological element in folklore. I accept them as evidence that the
appeal has to be made. I would only urge that it may be done on more
thorough lines, after due consideration of all the elements of the
proposition and of all that it means to the study of folklore. We
cannot surrender to the palæontologist all that folklore contains in
tradition and in custom as to pygmy peoples, or to the Egyptologist
all that it contains as to dismemberment burial rites, without at the
same time realising that if it is correct to refer these two groups of
folklore respectively to the earliest ages of man's existence as man
and to the neolithic stage of culture, they must be withdrawn from all
other classification. We cannot use the same items of folklore in two
totally different ways. The results of withdrawal are as important as
the results of allocation, and the necessity for the correct docketing
of all groups of folklore is thus at once illustrated.

The first point in the argument for ethnological data being
discoverable in folklore is that a survey of the survivals of custom,
belief, and rites in any given country shows one marked feature, which
results in a dividing line being drawn as between two distinct
classes. This feature is the antagonism which is discoverable in these
classes. On one side of the dividing line is a set of customs,
beliefs, and rites which may be grouped together because they are
consistent with each other, and on the other side is another set of
customs, beliefs, and rites which may be grouped together on the same
ground. But between these two sets of survivals there is no agreement.
They are the negations of each other. They show absolutely different
conceptions of all the phases of life and thought which they
represent, and it is impossible to consider that they have both come
from the same culture source. I have applied the test of ethnology to
such cases in Britain, and this appears to answer the difficulty which
their antagonism presents. It appears too to be the only answer.

The subjects which show this antagonism are all of vital importance.
They include friendly and inimical relations with the dead; marriage
as a sacred tribal rite and marriage as a rule of polyandrous society;
birth ceremonies which tell of admittance into a sacred circle of
kinsmen, and birth ceremonies which breathe of revenge and hostility;
the reverential treatment of the aged folk and the killing of them
off; the preservation of human life as part of the tribal blood, and
human sacrifice as a certain cure for all personal evils; the worship
of waters as a strongly localised cult, preserved because it is local
by whatsoever race or people are in occupation and in successive
occupation of the locality; totemic beliefs connected with animals and
plants contrasted with ideas entirely unconnected with totemism--all
this, and much more which has yet to be collected and classified,
reveals two distinct streams of thought which cannot by any process be
taken back to one original source.

This fact of definite antagonism between different sets of surviving
beliefs existing together in one country leads to several very
important conclusions. This is the case with the Irish Sids. These
beings are said to be scattered over Ireland, and around them
assembled for worship the family or clan of the deified patron. While
there were thus a number of topical deities, each in a particular spot
where he was to be invoked, the deities themselves with the rest of
their non-deified but blessed brother spirits had as their special
abode "Lands of the Living," the happy island or islands somewhere far
away in the ocean. Now this Sid worship, we are told by Irish
scholars, "had nothing to do with Druidism--in fact, was quite opposed
to it," the Sids and the Druids being "frequently found at variance
with each other in respect to mortals."[471]

This is the commencing point of the evidence which proves Druidism to
have belonged to the pre-Celtic people, though finding an adopted home
among them. This is so important a subject and has been so strangely
and inconsistently dealt with by most authorities that it will be well
to indicate where we have to search for the non-Celtic, and therefore
pre-Celtic, origin of Druidism. The Druidism revealed by classical
authorities is, for the most part, the Druidism of continental peoples
and not of Britain, and I hesitate to accept off-hand that it is
proper to transfer the continental system to Britain and say that the
two systems were one and the same. There is certainly no evidence from
the British side which would justify such a course, and I think there
is sufficient argument against it to suspend judgment until the whole
subject is before us. If Professor Rhys is right in concluding that
Druidism is at its roots a non-Celtic religion,[472] we must add to
this that it was undoubtedly a non-Teutonic religion. Celts and
Teutons were sufficiently near in all the elements of their
civilisation for this want of parallel in their relationship to
Druidism to be an additional argument against the Celts having
originated this cult. And then the explanation of the differences
between continental and British Druidism becomes comparatively easy to
understand. The continental Celts, mixing more thoroughly with the
pre-Celtic aborigines than did the British Celts, would have absorbed
more of the pre-Celtic religion than the British Celts, and hence all
the details which classical authorities have left us of continental
Druidism appear as part of the Celtic religion, while in Britain these
details are for the most part absent. But this is not all. There are
certain rites in Britain noted by the early authorities which are not
attached to any particular cult. They are not Druidic; they are not
Celtic. They are, as a matter of fact, special examples of rites
practised in only one locality, and accordingly referred to as
something extraordinary and not general. From this it is clearly
correct to argue that the British Celts had in their midst a cult
which, if they did not destroy, they certainly did not absorb, and
that therefore this cult being non-Celtic must have been pre-Celtic.

I do not wish to argue this point out further than is necessary to
explain the position which, it appears to me, Druidism occupies, and I
will therefore only add a note as to the authorities for the
statements I have advanced. The differences between continental and
British Druidism are definite and pronounced,[473] the mixture of the
continental Celts with the Iberic people, which they displaced, is
attested, by ancient authority and modern anthropology,[474] while the
only evidence of such a mixture in Britain is the prominently recorded
instance of the Picts intermarrying with the Gael,[475] and this has
to be set against the close distinction between tribesmen and
non-tribesmen, which is such a remarkable feature of Celtic law;[476]
the existence of local cults in early Britain having all the
characteristics of a ruder and more savage origin, and not identified
with Celticism, is a point derived from our early authorities.[477]
These are the main facts of the case, and the subject has to be
worked out in considerable detail before it can be settled.

There is one other primary subject which bears upon the question of
race distinctions in folklore. With the fact of conquest to reckon
with, the relationship of the conqueror to the conquered is a matter
to consider. In the European tribal system it was a definite
relationship, so definite that the conquered, as we have seen, formed
an essential part of the tribal organisation--the kinless slaves
beneath the tribal kindred. There was a place for the kinless in the
tribal economy and in the tribal laws. There was also a place for them
in the tribal system of belief, and the mythic influence of the
conquered is a subject that needs very careful consideration.

It is an influence which appears in all parts of the world. Thus, to
give a few instances, in New Guinea they have no idols, and apparently
no idea of a supreme being or a good spirit. Their only religious
ideas consist in a belief in evil spirits. They live a life of slavish
fear to these, but seem to have no idea of propitiating them by
sacrifice or prayer. They believe in the deathlessness of the soul. A
death in the village is the occasion of bringing plenty of ghosts to
escort their new companion, and perhaps fetch some one else. All night
the friends of the deceased sit up and keep the drums going to drive
away the spirits; they strike the fences and posts of houses all
through the village with sticks. This is done to drive back the
spirits to their own quarters on the adjacent mountain tops. But it is
the spirits of the inland tribes, the aborigines of the country, that
the coast tribes most fear. They believe, when the natives are in the
neighbourhood, that the whole plain is full of spirits who come with
them. All calamities are attributed to the power and malice of these
evil spirits. Drought, famine, storm and flood, disease and death are
all supposed to be brought by Vata and his hosts, so that the people
are an easy prey to any designing individuals who claim power over
these. Some disease charmers and rain-makers levy heavy toll on the

It appears that the native population of New Zealand was originally
composed of two different races, which have retained some of their
characteristic features, although in course of time they have in all
other respects become mixed, and a number of intermediate varieties
have thence resulted. From the existence of two races in New Zealand
the conclusion might be drawn that the darker were the original
proprietors of the soil anterior to the arrival of a stock of true
Polynesian origin, that they were conquered by the latter and nearly
exterminated. There is a district in the northern island, situated
between Taupo and Hawke's Bay, called Urewera, consisting of steep and
barren hills. The scattered inhabitants of this region have the renown
of being the greatest witches in the country. They are very much
feared, and have little connection with the neighbouring tribes, who
avoid them if possible. If they come to the coast the natives there
scarcely venture to refuse them anything for fear of incurring their
displeasure. They are said to use the saliva of the people whom they
intend to bewitch, and visitors carefully conceal their spittle to
give them no opportunity of working their evil. Like our witches and
sorcerers of old, they appear to be a very harmless people, and but
little mixed up with the quarrels of their neighbours.[479] The
Australians, according to Oldfield, ascribe spirit powers to those
residing north of themselves and hold them in great dread.[480]

In Asia the same idea prevails among the native races. Thus Colquhoun

      "it was amusing to find the dread in which the Lawas
      [a hill tribe] are held by both Burmese and Siamese.
      This is due to a fear of being bitten by them and
      dying of the bite. They are called by their Burmese
      neighbours the 'man-bears.' A singular custom obtains
      amongst these people which may perhaps partly account
      for this superstition. On a certain night in the year
      the youths and maidens meet together for the purpose
      of pairing. Unacceptable youths are said to be bitten
      severely if they make advances to the ladies."[481]

The Semang pygmy people, afraid to approach the Malays even for
purposes of barter, "learnt to work upon the superstition of the
Malays by presenting them with medicines which they pretended to
derive from particular shrubs and trees in the woods."[482] That this
is a real superstition of the conquerors for the conquered is proved
from other sources to which I have referred elsewhere.[483]

In Africa it appears as a living force, and we are told that the
stories current in the country of the Ukerewé, "about the witchcraft
practised by the people of Ukara island, prove that those islanders
have been at pains to spread abroad a good repute for themselves; that
they are cunning, and aware that superstition is a weakness of human
nature have sought to thrive upon it."[484]

It appears in more definite form with the Hindus. The Kathkuri, or
Katodi, have a belief that they are descended from the monkeys and
bears which Adi Narayun in his tenth incarnation of Rama, took with
him for the destruction of Rawun, King of Lanka, and he promised his
allies that in the fourth age they should become human beings. They
practise incantation, and encourage the awe with which the Hindu
regards their imprecations, for a Hindu believes that a Katodi can
transform himself into a tiger.[485]

To this day the Aryans settled in Chota-Nagpore and Singbhoom firmly
believe that the Moondahs have powers as wizards and witches, and can
transform themselves into tigers and other beasts of prey with the
view of devouring their enemies, and that they can witch away the
lives of man and beast. They were in all probability one of the tribes
that were most persistent in their hostility to the Aryan
invaders.[486] In Ceylon the remnants of the aborigines are found in
the forests and on the mountains, and are universally looked upon and
feared as demons, the beliefs engendered therefrom being exactly
parallel to the witch beliefs of our own country.[487]

There is similar evidence among European peoples. Formerly in Sweden
the name of Lapp seems to have been almost synonymous with that of
sorcerer, and the same was the case with Finn. The inhabitants of the
southern provinces of Sweden believed their countrymen in the north to
have great experience in magic.[488] The famous Gundhild, of Saga
renown, was believed to be a sorceress brought up among the
Finns,[489] and even in respect of classical remains Mr. Warde Fowler
"prefers to think of the Fauni as arising from the contact of the
first clearers and cultivators of Italian soil with a wild aboriginal
race of the hills and woods."[490]

These facts are sufficient to show that the mythic influence of a
conquered race is a factor which may assist in the discussion of the
ethnological conditions of folklore, and it is obvious that they
reveal a very powerful influence for the continuance of ancient ideas
as well as for the creation of fresh examples of ancient ideas applied
to new experiences. It is well in this connection to remember certain
historical facts connected with the settlement of the English in

From Freeman's _Old English History_ it appears that at the beginning
of the seventh century "the tract of country which the English then
ruled over south of the Humber, coincided almost exactly with the
boundary of the Gaulish portion of Britain," as distinct from
non-Aryan Britain. This apparent recognition of Celtic landmarks, says
Professor Rhys, by the later invaders, "is a fact, the historical and
political significance of which I leave to be weighed by others,"[491]
and I venture to suggest that one important result is to show Britain
to have contained an Aryan culture-ground and a non-Aryan
culture-ground. If we try to step from one to the other we quickly
discover the mythic relationship of conqueror to the conquered.


Thus in the Anglo-Saxon life of St. Guthlac we have an interesting
glimpse into the conditions of the country and the attitude of the two
hostile races, Celts and Teutons, to each other.

      "There is in Britain a fen of immense size which
      begins from the river Granta, not far from the city,
      which is named Grantchester ... a man named Tatwine
      said that he knew an island especially obscure, which
      ofttimes many men had attempted to inhabit, but no
      man could do it on account of manifold horrors and
      fears, and the loneliness of the wild wilderness....
      No man ever could inhabit it before the holy man
      Guthlac came thither on account of the dwelling of the
      accursed spirits there.... There was on the island a
      great mound raised upon the earth, which same of yore
      men had dug and broken up in hopes of treasure....
      Then in the stillness of the night it happened
      suddenly that there came great hosts of the accursed
      spirits, and they filled the house with their coming,
      and they poured in on every side from above and
      beneath and everywhere. They were in countenance
      horrible, and they had great heads and a long neck and
      lean visage; they were filthy and squalid in their
      beards, and they had rough ears and distorted face,
      and fierce eyes and foul mouths: and their teeth were
      like horses' tusks, and their throats were filled with
      flame, and they were grating in their voice: they had
      crooked shanks and knees, big and great behind, and
      distorted toes, and shrieked hoarsely with their
      voices, and they came with such immoderate noises and
      immense horror that it seemed to him that all between
      heaven and earth resounded with their dreadful cries.
      Without delay, when they were come into the house,
      they soon bound the holy man in all his limbs, and
      they pulled and led him out of the cottage and brought
      him to the black fen and threw and sunk him in the
      muddy waters. After that they brought him to the wild
      places of the wilderness, among the dense thickets of
      brambles that all his body was torn. After they had a
      long time thus tormented him in darkness they let him
      abide and stand awhile, then commanded him to depart
      from the wilderness, or if he would not do so they
      would torment and try him with greater plagues."[492]

These doings are not sufficiently remote from sober fact for us to be
unable to detect human enemies in the supposed beings of the spirit
world, and this conclusion is confirmed by a later passage in the same
narrative describing Guthlac awakened from his sleep and hearing "a
great host of the accursed spirits speaking in British [bryttisc] and
he knew and understood their words because he had been erewhile in
exile among them."[493] Guthlac in England is only experiencing what
other saints experienced elsewhere,[494] and we cannot doubt we have
in these reminiscences of saintly experience that mixture of fact with
traditional belief which would follow the priests of the new religions
from their native homes to the cell.

It is necessary to consider another great element in human life with
reference to its ethnological value, for folklore has always been
intimately associated with it, and recently, owing to Mr. Frazer's
brilliant researches, this branch of folklore has been almost unduly
accentuated. I mean, of course, agriculture. Mr. Frazer has ignored
the ethnological side of agriculture, and it has been appropriated by
the student of economics as a purely historical institution. This has
caused a special position to be given to agricultural rites and
customs almost without question and certainly without examination, and
it will be necessary to go rather closely into the subject in order to
clear up the difficulties which present neglect has produced. I shall
once again draw my illustrations from the British Isles.


I put my facts in this way: (1) In all parts of Great Britain there
exist rites, customs, and usages connected with agriculture which are
obviously and admittedly not of legislative or political origin,
and which present details exactly similar to each other in
_character_, but differing from each other in _status_; (2) that the
difference in status is to be accounted for by the effects of
successive conquests; (3) that the identity in character is not to be
accounted for by reference to manorial history, because the area of
manorial institutions is not coincident with the area of these rites,
customs, and usages; (4) that exact parallels to them exist in India
as integral portions of village institutions; (5) that the Indian
parallels carry the subject a step further than the European examples
because they are stamped with the mark of difference in race-origin,
one portion belonging to the Aryan people and the other to the

I shall now pick out some examples, and explain from them the evidence
which seems to me to prove that race-distinction is the key for the
origin of these agricultural rites and usages in Europe as in India. I
have dealt with these examples at some length in my book on the
village community, and I shall only use such details as I require for
my immediate purpose.

My first point is that to get at the survivals of the village
community in Britain it is not necessary to approach it through the
medium of manorial history. Extremely ancient as I am inclined to
think manorial history is, it is unquestionably loaded with an
artificial terminology and with the chains so deftly forged by
lawyers. An analysis of the chief features in the types of the English
village community shows that the manorial element is by no means a
common factor in the series. These types mark the transition from the
tribal form to the village form. In Harris Island we have the chief
with his free tribesmen around him, connected by blood kinship, living
in scattered homesteads, just like the German tribes described by
Tacitus. Under this tribal community is the embryo of the village
community, consisting of smaller tenantry and cottar serfs, who live
together in minute villages, holding their land in common and yearly
distributing the holdings by lot. In this type the tribal constitution
is the real factor, and the village constitution the subordinated
factor as yet wholly undeveloped, scarcely indeed discernible except
by very close scrutiny.

At Kilmorie the tribal community is represented merely by the
scattered homesteads. These are occupied by a joint farm-tenantry, who
hold their lands upon the system of the village community. Here the
village constitution has gradually entered into, so to speak, the
tribal constitution, and has almost absorbed it.

At Heisgier and Lauder the tribal community is represented by the last
link under the process of dissolution, namely, the free council of the
community by which the village rights are governed, while the village
community has developed to a considerable extent.

At Aston and at Malmesbury the old tribal constitution is still kept
alive in a remarkable manner, and I will venture to quote from my book
the account of the evolution at Aston of a tenantry from the older
tribal constitution, because in this case we are actually dealing with
a manor, and the evidence is unique so far as England is concerned.

The first point is that the village organisation, the rights of
assembly, the free open-air meetings, and the corporate action
incident to the manor of Aston and Cote, attach themselves to the land
divisions of sixteen hides, because although these hides had grown in
1657 into a considerable tenancy, fortunately as a tenancy they kept
their original unity in full force and so obstinately clung to their
old system of government as to keep up by _representation_ the once
undivided holding of the hide. If the organisation of the hide had
itself disappeared, it still formed the basis of the village
government, the sixteen hides sending up their sixteen _elected_
representatives. How the tenancy grew out of the original sixteen
homesteads may perhaps be conjecturally set forth. In the first place
the owners of the yard-lands succeeded to the place originally
occupied by the owners of the sixteen hides. Instead of the original
sixteen group-owners we have therefore sixty-four individual owners,
each yard-land having remained in possession of an owner. And then at
succeeding stages of this dissolution we find the yard-lands broken up
until, in 1848, "some farmers of Aston have only half or even a
quarter of a yard-land, while some have as many as ten or eleven
yard-lands in their single occupation." Then disintegration proceeded
to the other proprietary rights, which, originally appendant to the
homestead only, became appendant to the person and not to the
residence, and are consequently "bought and sold as separate property,
by which means it results that persons resident at Bampton, or even at
great distance, have rights on Aston and Cote Common." And finally we
lose all trace of the system, as described by Mr. Horde and as
depicted by the representative character of the Sixteens, and in its
place find that "there are some tenants who have rights in the common
field and not in the pasture, and _vice versâ_ several occupiers have
the right of pasture who do not possess any portion of arable land in
the common field," so that both yard-lands and hides have now
disappeared, and absolute ownership of land has taken their place. Mr.
Horde's MS. enables us to proceed back from modern tenancy-holding to
the holding by yard-lands; the rights of election in the yard-lands
enable us to proceed back to the original holding of the sixteen

At Hitchin, which is Mr. Seebohm's famous example, we meet with the
manorial type. But its features are in no way peculiar. There is
nothing which has not its counterpart, in more or less well-defined
degree, in the other types which are not manorial. In short, the
manorial framework within which it is enclosed does little more than
fix the details into an immovable setting, accentuating some at the
expense of others, legalising everything so as to bring it all under
the iron sovereignty which was inaugurated by the Angevin kings.

My suggestion is that these examples are but varying types of one
original. The Teutonic people, and their Celtic predecessors, came to
Britain with a tribal, not an agricultural, constitution. In the
outlying parts of the land this tribal constitution settled down, and
was only slightly affected by the economical conditions of the people
they found there; in the more thickly populated parts this tribal
constitution was superimposed upon an already existing village
constitution in full vigour. We, therefore, find the tribal
constitution everywhere--in almost perfect condition in the north, in
Wales, and in Ireland; in less perfect condition in England. We also
find the village constitution everywhere--in almost embryo form in the
north, Wales, and in Ireland; in full vigour and force in England,
especially in that area which, as already noted, has been identified
as the constant occupation-ground of all the races who have settled in

Now the factor which is most apparent in all these cases is the
singular dual constitution which I have called tribal and village. It
is only when we get to such cases as Rothwell and Hitchin that almost
all traces of the tribal element are lost, the village element only
remaining. But inasmuch as this village element is identical in
_kind_, if not in degree, with the village element in the other types,
and inasmuch as topographically they are closely connected, we are, I
contend, justified in concluding that it is derived from the same
original--an original which was composed of a tribal community with a
village community in serfdom under it.

This dual element should, I think, be translated into terms of
ethnology by appealing to the parallel evidence of India. There the
types of the village community are not, as was thought by Sir Henry
Maine and others, homogeneous. There the dual element appears, the
tribal community at the top of the system, the village community at
the bottom of the system. But in India a new factor is introduced by
the equation of the two elements with two different races--the tribal
element being Aryan, and the village element non-Aryan. Race-origins
are there still kept up and rigidly adhered to. They have not been
crushed out, as in Europe, by political or economical activity.

But if crushed out of prominent recognition in Europe, are we,
therefore, to conclude that their relics do not exist in peasant
custom? My argument is that we cannot have such close parallels in
India and in England without seeing that they virtually tell the same
story in both countries. It would require a great deal to prove that
customs, which in India belong now to non-Aryan aborigines and are
rejected by the Aryans, are in Europe the heritage of the Aryan race.

The objections to my theory have been formulated by Mr. Ashley, who
follows Mr. Seebohm and M. Fustel de Coulanges as an adherent of the
chronological method of studying institutions. Like the old school of
antiquaries, this new school of investigators into the history of
institutions gets back to the period of Roman history, and there
stops. Mr. Ashley suggests that because Cæsar describes the Celtic
Britons as pastoral, therefore agriculture in Britain must be
post-Celtic. I will not stop to raise the question as to who were the
tribes from which Cæsar obtained his evidence. But it will suffice to
point out that if Cæsar is speaking of the Aryan Celts of Britain--and
this much seems certain--he only proves of them what Tacitus proves of
the Aryan Teutons, what the sagas prove of the Aryan Scandinavians,
what the vedas prove of the Aryan Indians, what philology, in short,
proves of the primitive Aryans generally, namely, that they were
distinctly hunters and warriors, and hated and despised the tillers
of the soil.

It does not, in point of fact, then, help the question as to the
origin of agricultural rites and usages to turn to Aryan history at
all. In this emergency Roman history is appealed to. But this is just
one of those cases where a small portion of the facts are squeezed in
to do duty for the whole.

Both M. Fustel de Coulanges and Mr. Seebohm think that if a Roman
origin can be _primâ facie_ shown for the economical side of
agricultural institutions, there is nothing more to be said. But they
leave out of consideration a whole set of connected institutions.
Readers of Mr. Frazer's _Golden Bough_ are now in possession of facts
which it would take a very long time to explain. They see that side by
side with agricultural economics is agricultural religion, of great
rudeness and barbarity, of considerable complexity, and bearing the
stamp of immense antiquity. The same villagers who were the observers
of those rules of economics which are thought to be due to Roman
origin were also observers of ritual and usages which are known to be
savage in theory and practice. Must we, then, say that all this ritual
and usage are Roman? or must we go on ignoring them as elements in the
argument as to the origin of agricultural institutions? One or the
other of these alternatives must, I contend, be accepted by the

Because the State has chosen or been compelled for political reasons
to lift up peasant economics into manorial legal rules, thus forcibly
divorcing this portion of peasant life from its natural associations,
there is no reason why students should fix upon this arbitrary
proceeding as the point at which to begin their examination into the
origin of village agriculture. Manorial tenants pay their dues to the
lord, lot out their lands in intermixed strips, cultivate in common,
and perform generally all those interesting functions of village life
with which Mr. Seebohm has made us familiar. But, in close and
intimate connection with these selfsame agricultural economical
proceedings, it is the same body of manorial tenants who perform
irrational and rude customs, who carry the last sheaf of corn
represented in human or animal form, who sacrifice animals to their
earth deities, who carry fire round fields and crops, who, in a
scarcely disguised ritual, still worship deities which there is little
difficulty in recognising as the counterparts of those religious
goddesses of India who are worshipped and venerated by non-Aryan
votaries. Christianity has not followed the lead of politics, and
lifted all this portion of peasant agricultural life into something
that is religious and definite. And because it remains sanctioned by
tradition, we must, in considering origins, take it into account in
conjunction with those economic practices which have been unduly
emphasised in the history of village institutions. In India primitive
economics and religion go hand in hand as part of the village life of
the people; in England primitive economics and _survivals_ of old
religions, which we call folklore, go hand in hand as part of the
village life of the people. And it is not in the province of students
to separate one from the other when they are considering the question
of origin.

This is practically the whole of my argument from the folklore point
of view. But it is not the whole of the argument against the theory
of the Roman origin of the village community. I cannot on this
occasion re-state what this argument is, as it is set forth at some
length in my book. But I should like to point out that it is in
reality supported by arguments to be drawn from ethnological facts.
Mr. Ashley surrenders to my view of the question the important point
that ethnological data, derived from craniological investigation, fit
in "very readily with the supposition that under the Celtic, and
therefore under the Roman rule, the cultivating class was largely
composed of the pre-Celtic race; and allows us to believe that the
agricultural population was but little disturbed." Economically it was
certainly not disturbed by the Romans. If the agricultural implements
known to and used by the Romans were never used in Britain after their
departure; if the old methods of land-surveying under the agrimensores
is not to be traced in Britain as a continuing system; if wattle and
daub, rude, uncarpentered trees turned root upwards to form roofs,
were the leading principles of house-architecture, it cannot be
alleged that the Romans left behind any permanent marks of their
economical standard upon the "little disturbed agricultural
population." Why, then, should they be credited with the introduction
of a system of lordship and serf-bound tenants, when both lordship and
serfdom are to be traced in lands where Roman power has never
penetrated, under conditions almost exactly similar to the feudal
elements in Europe? If it be accepted that the early agricultural
population of Britain was non-Aryan; if we find non-Aryan agricultural
rites and festivals surviving as folklore among the peasants of
to-day; why should it be necessary, why should it be accepted as a
reasonable hypothesis, to go to the imperial and advanced economics of
Rome to account for those other elements in the composition of the
village community which, equally with the rites and festivals, are to
be found paralleled among the non-Aryan population living under an
Aryan lordship in India? The only argument for such a process is one
of convenience. It does so happen that the Roman theory _may_ account
for some of the English phenomena. But, then, the Celtic and Teutonic,
or Aryan theory also accounts for the same English phenomena, and,
what is more, it accounts for other phenomena not reckoned by the
Roman theory. My proposition is that the history of the village
community in Britain is the history of the economical condition of the
non-Aryan aborigines; that the history of the tribal community is the
history of the Aryan conquerors, who appear as overlords; and that the
Romans, except as another wave of Aryan conquerors at an advanced
stage of civilisation, had very little to do with shaping the village
institutions of Britain.[495]

It is necessary before leaving this subject to take note of a point
which may lead, and in fact has led to misconception of the argument.
I have stated that all custom, rite, and belief which is Aryan custom,
rite, and belief, as distinct from that which is pre-Aryan--pre-Celtic
in our own country--must have a position in the tribal system, and I
have said that custom, rite, and belief which cannot be traced back
to the tribal system may be safely pronounced to be pre-tribal in
origin and therefore pre-Celtic, to have survived, that is, from the
people whom the Celts found in occupation of the country when first
they landed on its shores. I did not interrupt my statement of the
case to point out one important modification of it, because this
modification has nothing to do with the great mass of custom and
belief now surviving as folklore, but I will deal with this
modification now so that I may clear up any misconception. We have
already ascertained that over and above the custom and belief, which
may be traced back to their tribal origins, there are both customs and
beliefs which owe their origin to psychological conditions, and there
are myths surviving as folk-tales or legends which owe their origin to
the primitive philosophy of earliest man. Neither of these departments
of folklore enters into the question of race development. The first
may be called post-ethnologic because they arise in a political
society of modern civilisation which transcends the boundaries of
race; the second may be called pre-ethnologic, because they arise in a
savage society before the great races had begun their distinctive
evolution. The point about this class of belief is that it has never
been called upon to do duty for social improvement and organisation,
has never been specialised by the Celt or Teuton in Europe, nor by
other branches of the same race. The myth alone of these two groups of
folklore could have had an ethnological influence, and this must have
been very slight. It remained in the mind of Aryan man, but has never
descended to the arena of his practical life. It has influenced his
practical life indirectly of course, but it has never become a brick
in the building up of his practical life. This distinction between
custom and belief which are tribal and custom and belief which are not
tribal, is of vast importance. It has been urged against the
classification of custom, rite, and belief into ethnological groups
that it does not allow for the presence of a great mass of belief,
primitive in character and undoubtedly Aryan, if not in origin at all
events in fact. The objection is not valid. The custom, rite, and
belief which can be classified as distinctively Aryan is that portion
of the whole corpus of primitive custom, rite, and belief, which was
used by the Aryan-speaking folk in the building up of their tribal
organisation. They divorced it by this use from the general primitive
conceptions, and developed it along special lines. It is in its
special characteristics that this belief belongs to the tribal system
of the Aryans, not in its general characteristics. Not every custom,
rite, and belief was so used and developed. The specialisation caused
the deliberate rejection or neglect of much custom, rite, and belief
which was opposed to the new order of things, and did not affect the
practical doings of Aryan life.

There are thus three elements to consider: (1) the custom, rite, and
belief specialised by the Aryan-speaking people in the formation and
development of their tribal system; (2) the custom, rite, and belief
rejected or neglected by the Aryan tribesmen; and (3) the belief which
was not affected by or used for the tribal development, but which, not
being directly antagonistic to it, remained with the primitive Aryan
folk as survivals of their science and philosophy.

For ethnological purposes we have only to do with the first group. It
is definite, and it is capable of definite recognition within the
tribe. When once it was brought into the tribal system it ceased to
exist in the form in which it was known to general savage belief; it
developed highly specialised forms, took its part in the formation of
a great social force, a great fighting and conquering force, a great
migratory force. In accomplishing this task it grew into a solid
system, each part in touch with all other parts, each part an
essential factor in the ever-active forces which it helped to fashion
and control.

It is in this wise that we must study its survivals wherever they are
to be found, and the study must be concentrated within certain
definite ethnographic areas. If I were to pursue the subject and
choose for my study the folklore of Britain, I should have to object
to the treatment accorded to British custom, rite, and belief by even
so great an authority as Mr. Frazer, because they are used not as
parts of a tribal system but as mere detritus of a primitive system of
science, or philosophy. According to my views they had long since
become separated from any such system and it is placing them in a
wrong perspective, giving them a false value, associating them with
elements to which they have no affinity to divorce them from their
tribal connection. The custom, rite, and belief which were tribal,
when they were brought to their present ethnographic area, cannot be
considered in the varied forms of their survival except by restoration
to the tribal organisation from which they were torn when they began
their life as survivals.

What I have endeavoured to explain in this way are the principles
which should govern folklore research in relation to ethnological
conditions. The differing races which made up the peoples of Europe
before the era of political history must have left their distinctive
remains in folklore, if folklore is rightly considered as the
traditional survivals of the prehistory period. To get at and classify
these remains we must be clear as to the problems which surround
inquiry into them. The solution of these problems will place us in
possession of a mass of survivals in folklore which are naturally
associated with each other, and which stand apart from other survivals
also naturally associated with each other. In these two masses we may
detect the main influences of the great tribal races and the
non-tribal races. We cannot, I think, get much beyond this. We may,
perhaps, here and there, detect smaller race divisions--Celtic,
Teutonic, Scandinavian or other distinctions, according to the area of
investigation--but these will be less apparent, less determinable, and
will not be so valuable to historical science as the larger division.
To this we shall by proper investigation be indebted for the solution
of many doubtful points of the prehistoric period, and it is in this
respect that it will appeal to the student of folklore.


[466] Mr. Nutt's presidential address to the Folklore Society in 1899
does not, I think, disprove my theory. It ignores it, and confines the
problem to legend and folk-tale. Mr. Nutt's powerful, but not
conclusive, study is to be found in _Folklore_, x. 71-86, and my reply
and correspondence resulting therefrom are to be found at pp. 129-149.

[467] MacCulloch, _Childhood of Fiction_, 90-101; Greenwell, _British
Barrows_, 17, 18.

[468] _Custom and Myth_, 76.

[469] _Myth, Ritual and Religion_, ii. 215, compared with Gomme,
_Ethnology in Folklore_, 16.

[470] I have discussed this point at greater length in _Folklore_, xii.

[471] Mr. J. O'Beirne Crowe in _Journ. Arch. and Hist. Assoc. of
Ireland_, 3rd ser., i. 321.

[472] Rhys, _Lectures on Welsh Philology_, 32; _Celtic Heathendom_,
216; _Celtic Britain_, 67-75; Rhys and Brynmôr-Jones, _Welsh People_,

[473] The continental evidence has been collected together in
convenient shape by modern scholars: thus Mr. Stock, in his work on
_Cæsar de bello Gallico_, notes and compares the evidence of Cæsar,
Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Mela, Lucan, and Pliny
as it has been interpreted by modern scholars (see pp. 107-113), and he
is followed by Mr. T. Rice Holmes in his study of _Cæsar's Conquest of
Gaul_, pp. 532-536. The Druidic cult of belief in immortality,
metempsychosis, ritual of the grove, augury, human sacrifice, is all
set out and discussed. These are the continental Druidic beliefs and
practices, and they may be compared with the Druidic Irish beliefs and
practices in Eugene O'Curry's _Manners and Customs of the Ancient
Irish_, lect. ix. and x. vol. ii. pp. 179-228, and Dr. Joyce's _Social
History of Ancient Ireland_, i. 219-248, where "the points of agreement
and difference between Irish and Gaulish Druids" are discussed. Mr.
Elton notices the difference between the continental and the British
Druids, but ascribes it to unequal development (_Origins of Eng.
Hist._, 267-268). Cæsar's well-known account of the wickerwork
sacrifice is very circumstantial. It is not repeated by either Diodorus
or Strabo, who both refer to individual human sacrifice. Pliny
introduces the mistletoe, oak, and serpent cults, and the other three
authorities are apparently dependent upon their predecessors.

[474] The mixture of Celt and Iberian is very ably dealt with by Mr.
Holmes in his _Cæsar's Conquest of Gaul_, pp. 245-322, and by Ripley,
_Races of Europe_, 461, 467, together with cap. vii. and xii.; see also
Sergi, _Mediterranean Race_, cap. xii.

[475] The intermarrying of the Picts with the Celts of the district
they conquered is mentioned in all the chronicles as an important and
significant rite, which determined the succession to the Pictish throne
through the female side (Skene's _Chron. of the Picts and Scots_, 40,
45, 126, 319, 328, 329). Beda, i. cap. i., mentions female succession.
Skene discusses this point in _Celtic Scotland_, i. 232-235, and
McLennan includes it in his evidence from anthropological data
(_Studies in Anc. Hist._, 99).

[476] Mr. Seebohm is the best authority for the importance of the
non-tribesman in Celtic law (_Tribal System in Wales_, 54-60).

[477] The local cults in Great Britain which are not Celtic in form,
and do not seem to be connected with Celtic religion on any analogy,
are those relating to Cromm Cruaich, referred to in the _Tripartite
Life of St. Patrick_ (see Whitley Stokes in _Revue Celtique_, i. 260,
xvi. 35-36; O'Curry, _MS. Materials of Anc. Irish History_, 538-9;
Joyce, _Social History of Ancient Ireland_, i. 275-276; Rhys, _Celtic
Heathendom_, 200-201). I do not follow Rhys in his identification of
this cult as a part of the ceremonies on mounds, and suggest that Mr.
Bury in his _Life of St. Patrick_, 123-125, gives the clue to the
purely local character of this idol worship which I claim for it.
Similarly the overthrow of the temple at Goodmanham, Godmundingham,
described by Beda, ii. cap. 13, with its priest who was not allowed to
carry arms, or to ride on any but a mare, is the destruction of a
successful local cult, not of a national or tribal religion. I confess
that Dr. Greenwell's observations in connection with his barrow
discoveries (_British Barrows_, 286-331) are in favour of an early
Anglican cultus, but I think his facts may be otherwise interpreted,
and in any case they confirm my view of the special localisation of
this cult.

[478] Rev. W. G. Lawes in _Journ. Royal Geographical Soc._, new series,
iii. 615. _Cf._ Romilly, _From my Verandah_, 249; _Journ. Indian
Archipelago_ vi. 310, 329.

[479] Dieffenbach, _Travels in New Zealand_, ii. 7, 10, 59.

[480] _Trans. Ethnol. Soc._, new series, iii. 235.

[481] Colquhoun's _Amongst the Shans_, 52; Bastian, _Oestl. Asien_, i.

[482] Skeat and Blagden, _Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula_, i. 228;
and compare Rev. P. Favre, _Account of Wild Tribes of the Malayan
Peninsula_ (Paris, 1865), p. 95.

[483] _Ethnology in Folklore_, 45; and see Tylor, _Primitive Culture_,
i. 112-113.

[484] Stanley, _Through the Dark Continent_, i. 253. _Cf._ Burrows,
_Land of the Pigmies_, 180, for the state of fear which the pygmies
cause to their neighbours.

[485] Latham, _Descriptive Ethnology_, ii. 457.

[486] _Journ. As. Soc. Bengal_, 1866, ii. 158; see also Geiger,
_Civilisation of Eastern Iranians_, i. 20-21.

[487] _Journ. Ceylon As. Soc._, 1865-1866, p. 3. _Journ. Ind.
Archipelago_, i. 328; Tennant, _Ceylon_, i. 331; J. F. Campbell, _My
Circular Notes_, 155-157.

[488] Landtman, _Origin of Priesthood_, p. 82, quoting the original

[489] Vigfusson and Powell, _Corpus Boreale_, ii. 38; and see i. 408.

[490] _Roman Festivals_, 264.

[491] Rhys, _Lectures on Welsh Philology_, 196.

[492] _Life of St. Guthlac_, by Felix of Crowland, edit. C. W. Goodwin,
pp. 21, 23, 27, 35.

[493] _Life of St. Guthlac_, p. 43.

[494] Wright, _Essays on Popular Superstitions of the Middle Ages_, ii.

[495] The substance of this part of my subject, with more elaboration
in detail, is taken from a paper I contributed to the _Transactions of
the Folklore Congress_, 1891.


aborigines, savage, 219
Abyssinian pygmies, 241
African pygmy people, 241-2
aged, killing of the, 68-78
agricultural custom, 49, 163, 188, 192, 220, 311, 339, 352-3, 359
Ahts of Vancouver Island, 62, 228
All Souls, feast of, 331
allocation of folklore items, 340
altar superstitions, 198, 200
American Indian creation myths, 131, 141, 258
American Indian traditions, 144, 246
analysis of custom, 159
Andaman islanders, 218
animal traditions, 239
animals, domestication of, 258
antagonism in folklore, 340
anthropological conditions, 208-302
apparitions, 188
arm, right, left unchristened, 324, 325
arresting force of Christianity, 321, 322
Arthur traditions, 29, 33-34
Arunta people (Australians), 265-274
Ashantee creation myth, 141, 142
ashes, custom connected with, 160
aspirations of man, 145
association, law of, in folklore, 166-9
Aston and Cote, manor, 355
Australian evidence, 61, 142, 143, 156, 187, 213, 217, 230, 232, 251,
    256, 258, 262-74, 347
Australoid race, 296
Avebury (Lord), quoted, 65, 215

Balder myth, 108
ballads, growth of, 13
baptism, 323-4, 325, 328
baptismal water, 197
barbaric conquest, 219
Beddgelert bridge tradition, 26
Bedfordshire evidence, 95, 287
bees, telling the, 162, 164
Bega (St.), 323
belief the foundation of myth, 140-6
Beowulf, quoted, 89
Berkshire evidence, 95, 162
boar as a totem animal, 287
Border civilisation, 31, 183-5
Boudicca, hare portent of, 288
bow and arrow, 218
Breton tradition, 21-22, 28
bridges, tradition concerning, 25, 26
Britain, totemism in, 276-96
Buckinghamshire evidence, 162
bull (white) ceremony, 161
Bund (Willis), quoted, 118
burial superstition, 198, 324, 339
Burmese evidence, 347
Bury (J. B.), quoted, 35, 345
Bushmen dances, 141

Cæsar, food taboos in Britain, 286-91
Canary Islanders, custom, 325
Catskin story, 59-66
cattle, telling of death to, 162
Celtic mythology, 103
Celtic tribes of Britain, 25-28, 103-5, 111, 310
Ceylon evidence, 31
Chadwick (H. M.), quoted, 223
charms, 188
Cheshire evidence, 162
child relationship to parents, 232
child thought, 186, 187
Childe Rowland story, 314-15
children not related to parents, 61, 268, 271
Christianity and paganism, 320-37
church ceremony of marriage, 90-1
church, sacred character of objects and buildings, 197-9
churning superstition, 202
civil war pamphlets, 195
Claddagh fisherfolk, 279
clan songs, 97
class system in Australian totemism, 264, 265, 270, 272
classification, false, of folklore, 166
Clonmel witch case, 205
club, for killing the aged, 74-76
cock as a totem animal, 286, 289
comparative folklore, 170-9
conjectural method of inquiry, 225-6, 239, 250
conquered, mythic influence of, 345-9
conscious use of experience or observation, 211, 212
conquest in man's history, 219
Cook (A. B.), quoted, 106, 108
Cornwall evidence, 20, 55, 162, 164, 193, 196, 324
Crawley (E.), quoted, 155
Crayford legend, 43
creation myths, 130-9
Cromm Cruaich, 344
Cuchulain, totem descent of, 286
Cuerdale hoard of coins, 30-31
Cumberland evidence, 162, 184, 323
custom, belief, and rite, 10, 123, 125, 154-70
Cynuit, fight with Danes at, 5-6

Danish conquest in tradition, 22, 31, 41, 192
Darwin (C.), quoted, 213, 224, 247
death beliefs, 191-2
death, telling of, to bees, 162
decay the principal force in folklore, 157-9, 319
definitions, 129
Demeter temple custom, 150
Derbyshire evidence, 162
descent, use of the term, 270
Devonshire evidence, 5, 95, 96, 324
differential evolution, 228
diffusion of folk-tales, 153
dog as a totem animal, 286
doom rings, 323
doors, decoration of, 334
Dorsetshire evidence, 45, 94
dreams, 13-20, 188
Druidism, 341, 342-4
duplication of myth, 33, 34
Durham evidence, 162, 184, 324

Easter-tide, 328
economic influences upon early man, 219, 257
Egyptian civilisation, 108
Elton (C.), quoted, 73, 74, 78, 114, 286, 290, 344
Essex evidence, 95
ethnographic movements of man, 216
ethnological conditions, 338-66
Eucharist, sacred elements of, 197
European conditions, 320-37
European sky god, 106
Evans (Arthur), quoted, 209
Exeter custom, 96
exogamy, 252, 271

fact, basis of tradition upon, 10, 47-49
fairs, 45
family, the term, 235-7
Farrer (J. A.), quoted, 145
father kinship, 231, 259
father and daughter marriage, 59-66
female descent, 271
festivals, pagan in origin, 328
fictional literature, 6, 123, 145
Fijian creation myth, 131
Fir-Bolgs, 101
fire, non-use of, 218
fire worship, 106, 108, 160, 163, 317
first foot custom, 162, 164
fish as a totem, 290
folklore, necessities of, 4-7
folk-tales, 46-84, 123, 127, 129, 148-9
food taboos in ancient Britain, 286
formula of custom, 159
fox totem in Connaught, 278-80
Frazer (J.), quoted, 62, 108-9, 110, 140, 228, 253, 255, 265, 274, 283,
    285, 287, 329, 338, 339, 365
Fuegians, 247

Gambia district, peoples of, 245
Genesis creation myth, 137-8, 150
geological age of man, 214
giants, 194
Gibbon (E.), quoted, 321, 327, 334
Giles (Dr.), quoted, 113
Gold coast natives, 230
Gomme (Mrs.), quoted, 26
goose as a totem animal, 286, 289
Gospels used as charms, 199
gossip, meaning of, 278
Gregory (Pope), letter of, to Mellitus, 329-30
Greek totemism, 275
Greek laws, 85, 86, 87, 88
Grey (Sir George), quoted, 143
Grierson (P. J. H.), quoted, 45, 230
Grimm, quoted, 7, 78-81, 327-8
group (human) the unit of anthropological work, 234
Guthlac (St.) legend, 350-2

Haddon (A. C.), quoted, 188, 228, 253, 254
Hampshire evidence, 96, 162, 192
hare as a totem animal, 280, 287-9
Harris, island of, 354
Hartland (E. S.), quoted, 23, 148, 259, 265
Hawick Common riding, 98-99
Hebrew creation myth, 137-8
Hereward in history and tradition, 35-40
historians, neglect of folklore, 110-20
historical material, 2-4
history and folklore, 1-122, 315
holy, the word, 317
"holy mawle," 74
horde, type of society, 225
hostility among primitive groups of mankind, 264
Howitt (A. W.), quoted, 142, 230
hunting stage of society, 220
Huxley (T. H.), quoted, 138

idols in Christian churches, 328
Indian evidence, 13, 27, 31, 52, 55, 63, 66, 72, 73, 78, 85, 86, 87,
    101, 109, 119, 135-6, 146, 151, 174, 175, 193, 217, 229, 231, 258,
    271, 309, 310, 315, 348, 349, 353, 357
industrial evolution, 228-30
Innis (Thomas), quoted, 113
institutions and religion, 305, 306, 360
Irish evidence, 11, 49, 50, 56-59, 88, 97, 108, 159, 163, 177, 182, 183,
    198, 205, 276-82, 286, 287, 324, 330
Italy, Christian and pagan beliefs in, 331-4, 335

Java, remains of man in, 214
Jevons (F. B.), quoted, 140, 141, 145, 236
Jewish temple rite, 200
Joyce (Dr.), quoted, 116
junior right inheritance, 96, 172-4, 223, 313

Keane (A. H.), quoted, 214, 215, 241
Keary (J. F.), quoted, 313
Kemble (J. M.), quoted, 3, 42, 89
Kent evidence, 43, 191, 330
Kentish laws, 92
Kilmorie, 352
kinship, 219, 220, 226, 230, 261
kinlessness, 225, 231, 235, 240-7, 256, 261, 268
Kronos myth, 134

Lambeth pedlar legend, 20
Lancashire evidence, 20, 162, 191, 289, 324
lands, surrender of, to sons, 70-2
Lang (A.), quoted, 7, 116, 131, 132, 153, 225, 226, 236, 253, 254,
    255, 263, 265, 271, 272, 273, 275, 339
Lapps as sorcerers, 349
Lappenberg (J. M.), quoted, 113
Latham (Dr.), quoted, 214, 215-16, 241
Lauder, 354
Law, traditional origin of, 84-100, 196, 328
left and right superstition, 166
legend, 124, 127, 129, 151-2
legislation, primitive, 213, 273
Leicestershire evidence, 198
Lincolnshire evidence, 30, 162, 350-2
Litlington tradition, 43
local traditions, 13-33
locality influence of, 219, 344
Lockyer (Sir Norman), quoted, 107
logic of primitive man, 140
London Bridge legends, 13-33
Lud, Celtic god, 105
Lundinium (Roman), 24, 25, 105

Mabinogion creation myth, 136
MacCulloch (Mr.), quoted, 47, 82, 123, 173, 239, 313, 338
Maine (Sir Henry), quoted, 85, 87, 117, 226, 235
male descent, 269, 270
male groups, 225, 239
manorial evidence, 94-96, 305
manumission formula, 92
Manx custom, 160, 162
Maori myths, 143, 144
marriage ceremony, 90-91, 162
marriage customs in folk-tales, 65
materials and methods, 123-79
McLennan (J. F.), quoted, 61, 65, 225, 293
midsummer festivals, 328
migratory movements of man, 214-17, 221, 222, 223, 224, 237, 251, 264,
monogenists, 213
Morgan (L. H.), quoted, 225, 275
mother influence in totemism, 257, 267
mother kinship, 231
Moytura monuments, 101, 102
Murray (Dr.), quoted, 98
myth, 127, 129, 130-48
mythology, 9, 100-10, 128, 146-8, 303

names (totem), origin of, 260
natural objects, interpretation of, 193
neglect of observation, 231
neolithic burial custom, 339
New Guinea evidence, 345
New Zealand myths, 131, 132-3, 190, 217, 346
Nicholson (Dr.), quoted, 172, 173
Nod, Celtic god, 105
Nonconformist appeal to church, 200
Norfolk evidence, 14-19, 42, 163
Norse custom, 174, 175
Norse tradition, 22-23, 32
Northamptonshire evidence, 198, 288
Northumberland evidence, 162, 324, 325
_Notes and Queries_, quoted, 6
Nottinghamshire evidence, 96, 162
nursery rhymes, growth of, 13
Nutt (A.), quoted, 6, 222, 339

oath-taking customs, 200
O'Curry (Eugene), quoted, 113
offertory money, 197
oral tradition, force of, 87, 125
outlawry, 311
oxen, slaughter of, 329

palæolithic implements, 217, 218
Palgrave (Sir F.), quoted, 88, 113
parallel practices as evidence of common origin, 109, 171-6, 227
pastoral stage of society, 220, 358
Pearson (Dr. Karl), quoted, 47, 78, 201
Pearson (C. H.), quoted, 115
Pedlar of Swaffham legend, 14-19
personal traditions, 33-46
Petrie (Flinders), quoted, 222
Pictish marriage custom, 344
political races, 209, 219, 221
polygenists, 213
pottery, 218
Powell (York), quoted, 3, 8, 104
practice and rule, 227
pre-Celtic remains, 101, 118-20, 209, 275, 318, 350
priest's grave superstition, 199
priests of old religion regarded as magicians, 200
promiscuity, 224
Protestants appeal to Roman Catholicism, 200
psychological conditions, 180-207
purpose of custom, 159
pygmy peoples, 238, 241-5, 248, 348

Ramsay (Sir James), quoted, 115
record of custom, 156, 165
religion and folklore, 140
religion and myth, 138
religion and science, 138-9, 206
result in custom, 159
retrogression in human society, 249
Rhodopis tradition, 53
rhyming tenures, 94-95
Rhys (Sir John), quoted, 29, 33, 34, 105, 114, 115, 161, 163, 209,
    342, 345, 350
Ridgeway (Prof.), quoted, 308
right and left superstition, 166
rites explained by myth, 146
Rivers (Dr. W. H. R.), quoted, 150, 174, 229
Robertson-Smith (W.), quoted, 147, 174, 282, 303, 304
Rollright stones, 209
Roman Britain, 25, 30, 105, 360-2
romances, 124
Rome, ancient customs of, 26, 34, 151, 332, 349

sacrifice (human), 174-6
savage customs in Britain, 112-16
savage incidents in folk-tales, 78-82
Scandinavian custom, 71, 223, 323, 328
Scarborough warning, 93-94
science, primitive, 130, 131
Scottish evidence, 20, 48, 49, 50, 56, 65, 67-78, 92, 149, 162, 181,
    182, 198, 288, 289, 290
seal totem in Connaught, 280-2
Semangs of Malay peninsula, 218, 242-5, 267, 269, 270, 278, 297-302,
sermon quoted, 189
sex cleavage in human evolution, 251, 260
Shrewsbury Abbey Church, tradition, 43
Shropshire evidence, 43, 95, 162, 292
Sids, Irish, 341
Skene (W. F.), quoted, 114, 115, 344
sky-god, 106
Slavonian tradition, 54
snake stones of Whitby, 194
sociological conditions, 303-19
Somersetshire evidence, 45, 95, 162, 205
soul resident in backbone, 189, 190
Southampton custom, 96
specialisation of culture, 227, 233, 364
Spencer (Herbert), quoted, 117, 214
Spencer and Gillen, quoted, 143, 265
Spenser (Edmund), quoted, 4, 11, 177
Squire (Mr.), quoted, 33, 34, 101-3, 117
stationary conditions of life, 223, 224
state religion, 103-5
Stevenson (W. H.), quoted, 5
Stewart (J. A.), quoted, 145
stone circles, 107, 193, 194
Stonehenge, 107, 209
Suffolk evidence, 161, 162, 192
Sullivan (W. R.), quoted, 113, 120
Surrey evidence, 20, 162
survivals, 154-5, 319, 336
Sussex evidence, 41, 162

tappie, tappie, tousie, 92
telling tales, 149
Teutonic religion, 104
Teutonic tribes, 310
Thomas (N. W.), quoted, 214, 226, 232, 236, 265
threshold custom, 159, 334
toad in witchcraft, 203
Todas, loss of myth by, 150
totemism, 209-10, 252, 253-61, 274-96
transfer of superstition to different objects, 163, 325
treasure legends, 13-24, 30
trees, marriage of, India, 258
tribal life in tradition, 51-59, 103-5
tribal institutions, 307-18, 356, 364
tribe, the term, 234, 308
Tuatha de Danann, 101
Turner (Sharon), quoted, 113
Tylor (E. B.), quoted, 9, 133, 154, 200, 233, 239

Upsall, Yorks, legend from, 19

ver sacrum, 223
Vortigern, 62

water god, 105
well worship, 163, 164, 323, 326
Welsh evidence, 20, 26, 34, 162, 194, 200, 202
Westermarck (Dr.), quoted, 225, 239
Westmoreland evidence, 184
Wilde (Sir W.), quoted, 45, 101
William the Conqueror, Sussex tradition, 41
Wiltshire evidence, 44, 45, 95, 162, 287, 288, 354
witchcraft, 194, 201-6
wolf totem in Ossory, 276-8
women in early industrialism, 257
Worcestershire evidence, 162

Yorkshire evidence, 19, 20, 30, 78, 93, 162, 184, 194, 324, 325
Yule-tide, 328

Zulu folk-tales, 51, 64

Transcriber's Notes:

This book contains some archaic and variant spelling, which has been
retained as printed. Hyphenation has been made consistent where
appropriate, without note. Minor printer errors (missing or transposed
letters or punctuation, etc.) have been amended. The list of amendments
is included below.

Illustrations have been shifted slightly, so that they are not in the
middle of paragraphs. The frontispiece illustration has been moved to
follow the title page.

Transcriber's List of Amendments:

Page 42--ryhme amended to rhyme--"... the old rhyme is still
remembered ..."

Page 76--missing accent added to "vice versâ".

Page 92--signifiance amended to significance--"... rhythmical formulæ
which have legal significance."

Page 118--missing accent added to "primâ facie".

Page 184--preceeding amended to preceding--"... those immediately
preceding the reign ..."

Page 198--bedesecrated amended to be desecrated--"must not be

Page 271--missing apostrophe added--"do not go to the wives' region of

Page 368--Firbolgs amended to Fir-Bolgs, in line with other

Footnote 358--missing period added at end of footnote.

Footnote 416--Ser. made consistent with other occurrences--amended to

Footnote 469--comma added--"Myth, Ritual and Religion".

Footnote 473--precedessors amended to predecessors--"... apparently
dependent upon their predecessors."

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