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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/291

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The Scape-Goat in European Folklore. 277

the subject of Mannhardt's epoch-making researches, are to be interpreted as relics of the cult of this or that god.

But there is a practice, also found in Bohemia, of killing a cat on Christmas eve and burying it in the cornfield or under a fruit-tree in order that the evil spirit may not damage them.^ This may perhaps be taken as casting some doubt on my interpretation of the sacrifices previously considered. It cannot indeed be said that the cat is buried as the representative of the corn-spirit; nor indeed is it probable that, as in some cases of the foundation sacrifice it is killed to provide the field or the orchard with a tutelary spirit, tempting as this theory of the origin of the animal corn-spirit might be. It may, however, legitimately be argued that the evil spirit whom the Bohemian seeks to propitiate is not a mere aetiological personage but a chthonic deity, and that the slaughter of an animal is to serve the same purpose as was believed by the Khonds to be attained by the sacrifice of the Meriah.

But it is less easy to explain in this way the custom of precipitation from a height ; still less can the simple expulsion of the cat or other animal be regarded as a propitiation of chthonic deities. Even therefore in the case of rites connected with the crops, some sacrifices may be cathartic.

However that may be, it is abundantly clear that purely cathartic sacrifices are known. That being so, I now pass on to argue the cathartic character of certain customs in which animals figure but are not set free. These are ia) rites connected with the first of the species seen after the new year and {b) wedding customs.

In my former paper ^ I mentioned some examples of killing the first butterfly, wasp, or snake, for luck. It is true that the explanations given of these particular practices do not explicitly confirm the view that this is

^ Grohmann, Aberglaube, no. 367. ^Folklore, xi. 228.