Open main menu

Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/126

This page needs to be proofread.

there had been a domestic quarrel over this lady's corpse--for that of a female it was. Some desired to have her cremated, according to the last new fashion; whereas others preferred following the ancestral usage of interment of the dead body. At length they split the difference by sawing the good woman in half, with each party disposing of their share in the manner most consonant to their opinions. Of one thing there can exist no manner of doubt: that carnal interment was the original custom of that prehistoric race that, for want of a better name, we designate Ivernian; and that the cremating of the dead came in with the Aryan conquerors or settlers.

These two methods of disposing of corpses indicate divergence of sentiment relative to death.

The supposition that death was the complete annihilation of the living, the thought that any human being who today is a dweller full of joy and vigour in our midst, could possibly be absolutely extinct tomorrow, such a notion was utterly and entirely foreign to the mind of prehistoric man, as it is to the savage of today. The earliest and rudest conception of death is that of suspended animation, like sleep or a fit. Lartet has