Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.
309
MAGIC


Tylor has shown that the brass objects so often seen on harness were originally amuletic in purpose, and can be traced back to Roman times. Some amulets are supposed to protect from the evil eye simply by attracting the glance from the wearer to themselves, but, as a rule, magical power is ascribed to them.

Evil Magic.~The object of “ black ” magic is to inflict injury, disease, or death on an enemy, and the various methods employed illustrate the general principles dealt with above and emphasize the conclusion that magic is not simply a matter of sympathetic rites, but involves a conception of magical force. (a) It has been mentioned that contagious magic makes use of portions of a person's body; the Cherokee magician follows his victim till he spits on the ground; collecting the spittle mingled with dust on the end of a stick, the magician puts it into a tube made of a poisonous plant together with seven earth worms, beaten into a paste, and splinters of a tree blasted by lightning; the whole is buried with seven yellow stones at the foot of a tree struck by lightning, and a fire is built over the spot; the magician fasts till the ceremony is over. Probably the worms are supposed to feed on the victim's soul, which is said to become “ blue " when the charm works; the yellow stones are the emblem of trouble, and lightning-struck trees are reputed powerful in magic. If the charm does not work, the victim survives the critical seven days, and the magician and his employer are themselves in danger, for a charm gone wrong returns upon the head of him who sent it forth. (b) In homoeopathic magic the victim is represented by an image or other object. In the Malay Peninsula the magician makes an image like a corpse, a footstep long. " If you want to cause sickness, you pierce the eye and blindness results; or you pierce the waist and the stomach gets sick. If you want to cause death, you transfix the head with a palm twig; then you enshroud the image as you would a corpse and you pray over it as if you were praying over the dead; then you bury it in the middle of the path which leads to the place of the person whom you wish to charm, so that he may step over it." Sometimes the wizard repeats a form of words signifying that not he but the Archangel Gabriel is burying the victim; sometimes he exclaims, “ It is not wax I slay but the liver, heart and spleen of So-and-so." Finally, the image is buried in front of the victim's doors. (c) Very widespread is the idea that a magician can influence his victim by charming a bone, stick or other ob'ect, and then projecting the magical influence from it. It is perhaps the commonest form of evil magic in Australia; in the Arunta tribe a man desirous of using one of these pointing sticks or bones goes away by himself into the bush, puts the bone on the-ground and crouches over it, muttering a charm: “May ybur heart be rent asunder.” After a time he brings the irna back to the camp and hides it; then one evening after dark he takes it and creeps near enough to see the features of his victim; he stoops down with the ima in his hand and repeatedly jerks it over his shoulder, muttering curses all the time. The evil magic, arungguiltha, is said to go straight to the victim, who sickens and dies without apparent cause, unless some medicine-man can discover what is wrong and save him by removing the evil magic. The ima is concealed after the ceremony, for the magician would at once be killedif it were known that he had used it. (d) Magicians are often said to be able to assume animal form or to have an animal familiar. They are said to suck the victim's blood or send a messenger to do so; sometimes they are said to steal his soul, thus causing sickness and eventually death. These beliefs bring the magician into close relation with the werwolf (see LYCANTHROPY).

Rain-making.-In the lower stages of culture rain-making assumes rather the appearance of a religious ceremony, and even in higher stages the magical character is by no means invariably felt. It will, however, be well to notice some of the methods here. (a) Among the Dieri of Central Australia the whole tribe takes part in the ceremony; a hole is dug, and over this a hut is built, large enough for the old men; the women are called to look at it and then retire some five hundred yards. Two wizards have their arms bound at the shoulder, the old men huddle in the hut, and the principal wizard bleeds the two men selected by cutting them inside the arm below the elbow. The blood is made to flow on the old men, and the two men throw handfuls ofdown into the air. The blood symbolizes the rain; the down is the clouds. Then two large stones are placed in the middle of the hut; these two represent gathering clouds. The women are again summoned, and then the stones are placed high in a tree; other men pound gypsum and throw it into a water-hole; the ancestral spirits are supposed to see this and to send rain. Then the hut is knocked down, the men butting at it with their heads; this symbolizes the breaking of the clouds, and the fall of the hut is the rain. If no rain comes they say that another tribe has stopped their power or that the ll/Iura-mum (ancestors) are angry with them. (b) Rain-making ceremonies are far from uncommon in Europe. Sometimes water is poured on a stone; a row of stepping-stones runs into one of the tarns on Snowdon, and it is said that water thrown upon the last one will cause rain to fall before night. Sometimes the images of saints are carried to a river or a fountain and ducked or sprinkled with water in the belief that rain will follow; sometimes rain is said to ensue when the water of certain springs is troubled; perhaps the idea is that the rain-god is disturbed in his haunts. But perhaps the commonest method is to duck or drench a human figure or puppet, who represents in many instances the vegetation demon, The gipsies of Transylvania celebrate the festival of “ Green George " at Easter or on St George's Day; a boy dressed up in leaves and blossoms is the principal figure; he throws grass to the cattle of the tribe, and after various other ceremonies a pretence is made of throwing him into the water; but in fact only a puppet is ducked in the stream.

Negative M agic.-There is also a negative side to magic, which, together with ritual prohibitions of a religious nature, is often embraced under the name of taboo (q.11.); this extension of meaning is not justified, for taboo is only concerned with sacred things, and the mark of it is that its violation causes the taboo to be transmitted. All taboos are ritual prohibitions, but all ritual prohibitions are not taboos; they include also (a) interdict ions of which the sanction is the wrath of a god; these may be termed religious interdict ions; (b) interdict ions, the violation of which will automatically cause some undesired magico-religious effect; to these the term negative magic should be restricted, and they might conveniently be called “ bans ”; they correspond in the main to positive rites and are largely based on the same principles.

(cz) Certain prohibitions, such as those imposed on totem kins, seem to occupy an intermediate place; they depend on the sanctity of the totem animal without being taboos in the strict sense; to them no positive magical rites correspond, for the totemic prohibition is clearly religious, not magical.

(Zz) Among cases of negative magic may be mentioned (i.) the couvade, and prohibitions observed by parents and relatives generally; this is most common in the case of young children, but a sympathetic relation is held to exist in other cases also. In Madagascar a son may not eat fallen bananas, for the result would be to cause the death of his own father; the sympathy between father and son establishes a sympathy between the father and objects touched or eaten by the son, and, in addition, the fall of the bananas is equated with the death of a human being. Again, the wife of a Malagasy warrior may not be faithless to him when he is absent; if she is, he will be killed or wounded. Ownership, too, may create a sympathetic relation of this kind, for it is believed in parts of Euro e that if a man kills a swallow his cows will give bloody milk. in some cases it is even harder to see how the sympathetic bond is established; some Indians of Brazil always hamstring animals before bringing them home, in the belief that by so doing they make it easier for themselves and their children to run down their enemies, who are then magically deprived of the use of their legs. These are all examples of negative magic with regard to persons, but things may be equally affected; thus in Borneo men who search for camphor abstain from washing their plates for fear the camphor, which is found crystallized in the crevices of trees, should dissolve and disappear. (ii.) Rules which regulate diet exist not only for the beneht of others but also for that of the eater. Some animals, such as the hare, are forbidden, just as others, like the lion, are prescribed; the one produces cowardice, while the other makes a man's heart bold. (iii.) Words may not be used; Scottish fishermen will not mention the pig at sea; the real names of certain animals, like the bear, may not be used; the names of the dead may not be mentioned; a sacred language must be used, e.g. camphor language in the Malay peninsula, or only words *of good omen (cf. Gr. eiiomiei-re); or absolute silence must be preserved. Personal names are concealed; a man may 110t mention the names of certain relatives, &c. There are customs of avoidance not only as to (iv.) the names of relatives, but as to the persons themselves; the mother-in-law must avoid the son-in-law, and vice versa; sometimes they may converse at a distance, or in low tones, sometimes not at all, and sometimes they may not even meet. (v.) In addition to these few classes selected at random, we have prohibitions relating to numbers (cf. unlucky thirteen, which is, however, of recent date), the calendar (Friday as an unlucky day, May as an unlucky month for marriage), places, persons, orientation, &c; but it is impossible to enumerate even the main classes. The individual origin of such beliefs, which with us form the superstitious of daily life but in a savage or semi-civilized community play a large part in regulating conduct, is often shrouded in darkness; the meaning of the positive rite is easily forgotten; the negative rite persists, but it is observed merely to avoid some unknown misfortune. Sometimes we can, however, guess at the meanin of our civilized notions of ill luck; it is perhaps as a survival of the savage belief that stepping over a person is injurious to him that many people regard going under a ladder as unlucky; in the one case the luck is taken away by the person stepping over, in the other left behind by the person passing under. History of M agic.—The subject is too vast and our data are too slight to make as general sketch of magic possible. Our knowledge of Assyrian magic, for example, hardly extends beyond the rites of exorcism; the magic of Africa is most inadequately known, and only in recent years have We well-analysed