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The Evil Eye

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The Creeper
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« Reply #75 on: May 01, 2009, 12:51:28 am »

animal and vegetable fertility, which, primarily, all these things were believed and intended to procure or to stimulate.

There is abundant evidence that those now practised are survivals of very ancient rituals: that the marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne, said to have been acted every year in Crete, is the forerunner of the little drama acted by the French peasants of the Alps, where a king and queen are chosen on the first of May and are set on a throne for all to see.

Persons dressed up in leaves represent the spirit of vegetation; our Jack in the Green is his personification. In several parts of France and Germany the children dress up a little leaf man, and go about with him in spring, singing and dancing from house to house.

Throughout Europe, the Maypole is supposed to impart a fertilising influence over both women and cattle as well as vegetation.

Sometimes these May trees, and probably our west country 92 Neck, like the ancient Greek Eiresione, were burnt at the end of the year, or when supposed to be dead; and surely it is no unfair inference to assume that such burning was a piece of ritualistic worship of the life-giving Sun, whose bright rays are so needful to the progress of vegetation. Again all the little by-play with the water which occurs in our business of "Crying the Neck," and the throwing water over the priest of the sacred grove in Bengal, with many other examples in several parts of Europe of the sousing with water over the tree, the effigy, or the real person representing the rain spirit, are


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« Reply #76 on: May 01, 2009, 12:51:45 am »

but acted imitations of the end desired. The object of preserving the Harvest May, Neck or Eiresione, from one year to another, is that the life-giving presence of the spirit dwelling in it may promote the growth of the crops throughout the season, and when at the end of the year its virtue is supposed to be exhausted, it is replaced by a new one. How widely spread these ideas are found, and among what essentially different races, can be proved by the fact that precisely analogous customs are found in Sweden and Borneo, in India, Africa, North America, and Peru. 93

Referring to sun-worship, mentioned above, there are still remaining amongst us many vestiges, besides those relating to the Beltan fires, 94 in Scotland, Ireland, and Northern England.

An Irish peasant crawls three times round the healing spring, in a circuit that imitates the course of the sun. 95 It is everywhere thought most unlucky to progress in a direction opposite to the course of the sun; indeed so well is this understood that we




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« Reply #77 on: May 01, 2009, 12:52:07 am »

have a special word, widdershins, to express the contrary direction. It is a well-known rule of Freemasons not to go against the sun in moving within the Lodge, and there are other plain survivals of sun-worship in other points of masonic ritual. In the Hebrides the people used to march three times from east to west round their crops and their cattle. If a boat put out to sea, it first made three turns in this direction, before starting on its course; if a welcome stranger visited the islands, the people passed three times round their guest. 96 A flaming torch was carried three times round a child daily until it was christened. 97

The old Welsh names for the cardinal points of the sky, the north being the left hand and the south the right, are signs of an ancient practice of turning to the rising sun. 98

In the Highlands of Scotland 99 and in Ireland it was usual to drive cattle through the needfire as a preservative against disease. 100 In these last examples we see customs almost analogous to making the children pass through the fire to Moloch.

We know that our British forefathers were Sun-worshippers,






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« Reply #78 on: May 01, 2009, 12:52:29 am »

though the Sun does not appear to have been the chief of their divinities. Lug was the personification of the sun; he was the son of Dagda 101 "the good god," who was "grayer than the gray mist," and he had another son named "Ogma the sun-faced," the patron of writing and prophecy.

It may well be maintained that all our modern notions included in the general term Orientation are but survivals of the once universal sun-worship.

A great authority 102 says that the ceremony of Orientation "unknown in primitive Christianity . . . was developed within its first four centuries."

This statement (and here he differs from his usual practice) is unsupported by any authority; with all deference we would submit that there is much evidence to the contrary. Sun-worship was undoubtedly an abomination to the Jews, but the very facts recorded in connection with Ezekiel's horror (ch. viii. 16) at the idolatry of the twenty-five men who worshipped the sun in the temple of the Lord, show first a careful Orientation of the temple itself, in accordance with the plan the Israelites had learnt in Egypt; and next that general importance attached to the directions of east and west. Thus, although actual sun-worship was considered as idolatry, the Sun was both actually and typically regarded as the almighty life-giving power of nature--giving his own name to the great emanation, the only begotten Son of the Father, the Light of the World, the Sun of Righteousness. Surely these very names speak eloquently of the idea, if not of the practice implied in the term Orientation. Primitive Christianity



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« Reply #79 on: May 01, 2009, 12:52:53 am »

will doubtless be admitted to have been developed from the older Judaism, and even if no distinct intimation of any actual ceremony which might be called Orientation can be found among Jewish rites, yet the fact that Daniel (ch. vi. 10) prayed with his windows opened "towards Jerusalem" shows that he attached importance to position, even though Jerusalem, where he believed his God to reside, was situated to the west of Babylon.

It was an ancient custom among the heathen to worship with their faces towards the east. 103 This is confirmed by Clement of Alexandria, who says that the altars and statues of pagan temples were placed at the east end, so that those who came to worship might have their faces towards them. 104 This account scarcely accords with the construction of Egyptian temples, yet we read immediately: "Nevertheless the way of building temples towards the east, so that the doors being opened should receive the rays of the rising sun, was very ancient, and in later ages almost universal." Moreover we know that Orientation in building was an important factor in pagan worship long antecedent to Christianity; while the traditional burial of Christ Himself, looking eastwards, shows that the ceremony of Orientation was at least practised in the earliest days of the Church, though it can be no more called an act of idolatrous sun-worship, than is our still-observed custom of burying our dead with their feet eastwards, so that the body may rise to face the Lord at His second coming in



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« Reply #80 on: May 01, 2009, 12:53:16 am »

the east. Here again we see Christianity and heathendom hand in hand, for among the aboriginal Australians, who are still cannibals, the graves have a direction from east to west, and the foot of the grave is toward the rising sun. "If the deceased was a prominent man, a hut is sometimes built over his grave. The entrance, which faces east, has an opening through which a grown person may creep. Near Rockhampton I saw several graves not more than a foot deep, in which the feet were directed towards the rising sun." 105

The care observed by the ancient Egyptians in building their temples properly east and west is remarkable, and while perhaps involving something more, still plainly points to the idea that the sun was the almighty power. Nowhere is this seen more distinctly than in the two rock-hewn temples at Abou Simbel. These are carefully constructed to meet the rising sun upon two anniversaries. The great temple was hewn out to commemorate the victory of Rameses the Great over the Cheta, and was specially dedicated to Ra, the God of Light. 106 The writer was fortunate enough to see the rays at sunrise penetrate to the extreme end, and light up the statues at the innermost part of the sanctuary, on the very anniversary of the famous battle--February 24. 107 The smaller temple also commemorates a victory of Rameses, but evidently at a later




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« Reply #81 on: May 01, 2009, 12:53:34 am »

period of the year, as its axis points north of that of its greater companion. All the Egyptian temples are carefully orientated with the sanctuary at the west, so that the sun's rays enter at the east end and light up the sacred statues only on certain dedication days. The same system was adopted by the Greeks, and later by the Romans in their temples. The Roman basilicas were also constructed in like manner, and have thus left their mark on the churches now called Basilicas, where the main entrance--as at St. John Lateran, St. Peter's, S. Paolo fuori le mura, Sta. Maria Maggiore, and others--is at the east, and the sanctuary at the west. These facts all tend to show a general adaptation of what had been good, or unobjectionable, in pagan customs to the requirements of the Christian faith; just as the pagan and Jewish lustrations, ancient and almost universal, were perpetuated in the Christian rite of baptism, both by the example and precept of the Church's divine Master; proving that practical customs, harmless in themselves, were not forbidden, but were consecrated by adoption as sacred ceremonies into the then reformed Jewish worship which we call Christianity. We find, too, that baptism itself was in the early Church closely allied to Orientation, in the position in which the catechumen was placed. 108

It is not generally known that in pagan temples there was a vessel of stone or brass, called περιρραντήριον, filled with holy water, with which all those admitted to the sacrifices were sprinkled, and


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« Reply #82 on: May 01, 2009, 12:53:51 am »

beyond this it was not lawful for the profane to pass, 109 until purified by water. By some accounts this vessel was placed at the door of the temple; thus the holy-water stoups, outside the doors of so many of our old churches, are not of Christian origin at all, but merely an adaptation of the lustration used in rites we now call heathen.

Although it was usually considered that a small sprinkling was sufficient, yet sometimes, before participation in the sacred rites, the feet were washed as well as the hands. 110 So also the water was required to be clear and free from all impurities. The Jews used the same rite as the pagans, and were careful to have clean water for their washing of purification, hence St. Paul's expression (Heb. x. 22), "Our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." In Ezekiel (xxxvi. 25) we read: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean."

Whether or not Orientation be in idea and in practice a quasi sun-worship, we, who would repel the suggestion of idolatry, have customs, keeping their place amongst us, notwithstanding all our enlightenment and culture, to which no such exception can be applied, for they surely partake of both sun-worship and sympathetic magic.

The very common custom, still maintained, of passing a child afflicted with congenital hernia through a split ash-tree is precisely such a case. The rite has to be performed on a Sunday morning at, or just before, sunrise--the opening must be made in the direction of east and west, for the child



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« Reply #83 on: May 01, 2009, 12:54:15 am »

must be passed through it towards the rising sun. 111

Another custom almost similar is reported from Gweek, in the parish of Wendron, Cornwall, 112 where the Tolvan or holed stone was in repute as a means of curing weak or rickety infants, who were brought, often from a distance, to be passed through the hole.

In ancient Greece, such as had been thought to be dead, and on whom funeral rites had been celebrated, but who afterwards recovered, such also as had been long absent in foreign countries, where it was believed they had died, if they should return home, were not permitted to enter into the temple of the Eumenides until after purification. This was done at Athens, by their "being let through the lap of a woman's gown, that so they might seem to be new born."

So in Rome, such as had been thought dead in battle, and afterwards returned home unexpectedly, were not allowed to enter at the door of their own houses, but were received at a passage opened in the roof, 113 and thus, as it were, in full view of the sun.

These rites can be considered as nothing short of dramatic representations of that which it is desired to accomplish, i.e. remedy of congenital or ceremonial imperfection by a new birth.

The homœopathic notion that like produces or




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« Reply #84 on: May 01, 2009, 12:54:33 am »

cures like, is by no means new. One of the oldest remedies for a bite, here in England, was a hair of the dog that bit you; or the best way to staunch blood from a wound was to place in it the knife or sword which caused it. A friend of the writer, the Rev. R. P. Murray of Shapwick Vicarage, Dorset, relates that in May 1890, while at Arucas, in Grand Canary, he saw a dog fiercely attack a native boy, and that although he rushed to the boy's assistance, the latter was badly bitten in the hand, and his clothes much torn. The howling of the lad and the shouts of Mr. Murray caused a hue and cry, so that the dog was quickly caught amid much gesticulation and brandishing of knives, which my informant thought were to polish off the beast in no time. Instead of this, however, a handful of his shaggy hair was cut off, and the boy, well knowing what was to be done, held out his bleeding hand: the hair was placed on the wound, a lighted match was applied, and a little fizzled-up heap of animal charcoal remained upon it. No doubt the cautery was a good remedy, but all the virtue was believed by the natives to be in the hair of the dog that caused the wound.

Another curious form of the association of ideas with facts, or rather perhaps of persons with their belongings, is shown in the care which many people take to prevent anything they have owned or used getting into the possession of an enemy.

A South Sea Island chief persisted that he was extremely ill, because his enemies the Happahs had stolen a lock of his hair, and buried it in a plantain leaf for the purpose of killing him. He had offered the Happahs the greater part of his property if they

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« Reply #85 on: May 01, 2009, 12:55:02 am »

would but bring back his hair and the leaf, for that otherwise he would be sure to die. 114

It is for this reason that nothing whatever is to be seen but ashes on the spot where gypsies have encamped, unless it be the little peeled stick, left sometimes standing upright in the ground, most likely as a secret signal to friends who may be passing that way. One of these was noted very recently by the writer (Dec. 1893). Everything else is carefully burnt or otherwise made away with.

The aboriginal Australians believe that an enemy getting possession of anything that has belonged to them, can employ it as a charm to produce illness or other injury to the person to whom the article belonged. They are therefore careful to burn up all useless rubbish before leaving a camping ground. Should anything belonging to an unfriendly tribe be found, it is given to the chief, who preserves it as a means of injuring the enemy. This Wuulon, as it is called, is lent to any one who desires to vent his spite against a member of the unfriendly tribe. When thus used as a charm, the Wuulon is rubbed over with emu fat mixed with red clay and tied to the point of a spear-thrower, which is stuck upright in the ground before the camp fire.

The company sit round watching it, but at such a distance that their shadows cannot fall on it. They keep chanting imprecations on the enemy till the spear-thrower, as they say, turns round, and falls in the direction of the tribe the Wuulon belongs to. Hot ashes are then thrown in the same direction with


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« Reply #86 on: May 01, 2009, 12:55:31 am »

hissing and curses, and wishes that disease and misfortune may overtake their enemy. 115

One cannot but wonder if the little stick stuck up by our gypsies is in any way connected with this custom. These latter are said to have come from India, and their habit of burning up all refuse after them, like the far-away Australians, seems to point to a common origin. 116

A recent traveller in Australia says that "in order to be able to practise his arts against any black man, the wizard must be in possession of some article that has belonged to him--say, some of his hair or of the food left in his camp, or some similar thing. 117 On Herbert River the natives need only know the name of the person in question, and for this reason they rarely use their proper names in addressing or speaking of each other, but simply their clan names."

Another apt illustration comes from the West Indies. In Demerara it is to-day firmly and widely believed by the negroes and others, that injuries inflicted even upon the defecations of persons will be felt by the individual by whom they were left; and consequently it is often sought thus to punish the author of a nuisance. In 1864 the town of Georgetown was nearly destroyed by fire, and upon close investigation into its origin, it was proved to have been in consequence of some boys who, having




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« Reply #87 on: May 01, 2009, 12:55:48 am »

found the excrement of another in a newly-constructed house, said: "Ki! let us burn it; now we make him belly ache"; and accordingly they got some shavings and made a fire over what they had found-the consequence was a vast destruction of property. The foregoing fact can be distinctly substantiated by the writer's informant, who was then a medical officer on the spot. Moreover, the like belief is still held even here in Somerset. About the year 1880 the child of a well-to-do farmer's wife was ill, and in the course of her explanations to the doctor, the mother expressed great displeasure with the nurse, especially at having discovered that she had thrown the child's excrement on the fire, and continuing, said: "You know this is very bad for the baby and ought not to be done, as it causes injury." She could not be drawn out to say what injury or malady was to be expected, but she said enough to show that the belief was commonly and strongly held. This woman is still living, and she and all her family are well known to the writer.

Further inquiry in other quarters completely clears up the question as to the injury to be expected from this proceeding, and very remarkably confirms the story from Demerara. An old midwife, questioned (May 14, 1894) upon this piece of nurse lore, at once said: "’Tis a very bad thing to throw a child's stooling on the fire, 'cause it do give the child such constipation and do hurt it so in his inside." She said she had proved it; she knew it was a bad thing, and had always heard, ever since she was a girl, that it was bad for the child. On the same day Mrs. S------, aged 85, said that when she was a girl at Taunton, she well remembers. people saying that

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« Reply #88 on: May 01, 2009, 12:56:03 am »

it was a bad thing, as it gives the children constipation and hurts them; but she did not believe in it. She had not heard anything about it for years now. The day following, Mary W-----, 80, and Anne P-----, 70, two old women in the Workhouse, one a native of Devon, on being asked about it, said: "Lor! did'n you never hear o' that?" Both believed it, and had always heard that it was hurtful to a child. Several other old women--indeed all there were--knew all about it. These inquiries led to the further discovery that the piece of the funis umbilicus should be taken off at the proper time and burnt; that if this is not done, and if it is allowed to drop off naturally, especially if it should fall on the floor, the child will grow into a ------ which, politely expressed, means afflicted with nocturnal enuresis, an uncleanly habit. Squabbles among the women "in the House" are not uncommon, from this cause. Much more might be said as to other reasons given for the careful attention to this operation, especially as to the different treatment of a boy from a girl, but they are wide of our subject, and scarcely desirable for discussion here.

Very strange belief in sympathy, even in the present day, appears in the following:--

A friend of mine, not long ago, told me that the wife of his coachman had been confined some time before the event was expected. He thereupon went to his own cook to tell her to send food to the woman and to render what help she could.

The cook said: "I knew how it would be, sir; it's all along of them lionesses." She repeated the expression, and my friend, not understanding what she meant, inquired what the lionesses had to do with the matter.

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« Reply #89 on: May 01, 2009, 12:56:20 am »

"Why, don't you know, sir, that when the lionesses have their cubs very early, women have always a tendency to be brought to bed prematurely?"

She appeared surprised that he had never heard of this "fact"; and on inquiry of a medical friend--or friends--he told me that the superstition seems to be a very prevalent one among the old "Mother Gamps."

One would have supposed this belief must be peculiar to London, the locale of this story, where alone the presence of lionesses can be effective; still the facts are of much interest as a proof of a continued survival. On close inquiry, however, even here in Somerset, there are traces of the like notion. The old women in the Wellington Workhouse say: "If a lioness dies in whelping, the year in which that happens is a bad one for women to be confined in." This belief is quite common; Mrs. M------ the matron has often heard it. All this suggests the idea that the British Lion may be not merely a fanciful object of heraldic blazonry, of which the people know nothing, but that he must be the Totem of our Celtic forefathers.

It is strange that the notion should be so stoutly maintained as to the injury done to a person by burning one thing, while on the other hand it is equally held that a child's milk-teeth, his nails, and hair should be burnt, lest injury come to him through neglect of that precaution. Stranger still is it to find how very widely these old and deep-seated beliefs are entertained by people of races so different as Somerset peasantry and West Indian negroes.

Such facts as we have given above cannot fail to

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