Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/147

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
135
Back-Footed Beings.

arms the souls of human beings. This tomb belongs to the sixth century before Christ, but a Siren from an Athenian tomb,[1] of considerably later date, is even more interesting. This figure stands erect like a human being and is human down to the waist, but with wings, while the thighs are covered with scale-like feathers, and, though the lower parts of the legs are broken off, the knees are bent like those of a bird. On another Hellenistic relief[2] (about the fourth or third century B.C.) a Siren is represented as a beautiful winged woman with the feet only of a bird.

Now a comparison in detail will, I think, show that there is in fact no essential difference between the birdfooted and the back-footed beings. Stor-Junkare, the Lapp hunting-god with bird's feet, has a Brazilian parallel in Curapira, a genius of the woods, who is a small man with his feet reversed.[3] Altjira, the sky-god, with his red face, long hair, and emu feet, who appears in the lightning, may compare with Hephaistos, the Greek god of fire, who is represented on two vases,[4] now at Vienna and Athens respectively, with his feet bent back; while Cuchulainn, whose feet became reversed and whose hair stuck out like spikes in his frenzies, reminds us of both. With Grimm's story of the dwarfs we may compare Pliny's tribe of Scythians and Indians and also a mythical South American tribe, the Chirionossos (cited by M. Gaidoz on the authority of Mr. H. Gibson),[5] who are very swift at running because their knees are bent like those of birds. Mr. Gibson says that they dwell in caves (like

  1. Vide the illustration in Maxime Collignon, The Manual of Mythology, trans, by Miss Harrison.
  2. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, p, 203, fig. 39.
  3. Globus, XXV. (1874) p. 298 (cited by M. Gaidoz).
  4. Mittheilungen de l'Inst. Archeol. d'Athènes, xix. 1894, p. 510, pi. viii.
  5. Notes and Queries, June 22nd, 1 889, p. 486.