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Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/103

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he forced him to reap along with himself. Finally he would wrap the stranger in a sheaf, cut off his head with a sickle, and carry away his body wrapt in the straw. But at last he was himself slain by Hercules, who threw his body into the river. As Hercules was probably reported to have slain Lityertes in the same way in which Lityertes slew others, we may infer that Lityertes was wont to throw the bodies of his victims into the river.

Mr Fraser says that there is ground for supposing that in such a story "we have the description of a Phrygian harvest custom in accordance with which certain persons, especially strangers, passing the harvest-field, were regularly regarded as embodiments of the corn spirit, and as such were seized by the reapers, wrapt in sheaves, and beheaded; their bodies, bound up in the cornstalks, being afterwards thrown into water as a rain--charm. The grounds for this supposition are--first, the resemblance of the Lityertes story to the harvest customs of European peasantry; and second, the fact that human beings have been commonly killed by savage races to promote the fertility of the fields."

Mr Fraser, following Mannhardt, produces an enormous number of instances, far too many to be given here.