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Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/23

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There is a remarkable Arabian story called Hai Ebn Yokdhan, written in Spain by Ebn Tophail. It is a philosophical romance, and relates how a child brought up by a nannygoat began to study the secrets of life. His nurse, the goat, died, and he wondered in what existed the spring of life, and he cut her open and searched the heart, where he found two compartments, one filled with coagulated blood, the other empty. From that he was led to search into what the vacant cavity once contained. He slew a goat, cut it open, and found in the vacant cavity a vaporous bluish flame--and that was Life.

Life is light and fire. This idea must have entered into the minds of primitive people. To this day in Yorkshire falling stars are supposed to be the souls coming down from above to newborn children and animating them, and when death ensues the flame of life passes out of the body. This is the conception that lies at the root of many folk-superstitions.

I knew a case in an adjoining parish,