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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/299

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The Scape-Goat in European Folklore. 285

superstition holds it to be unlucky to kill or even injure many animals or birds. Here I do not wish to suggest that one explanation covers the whole of the cases ; probably the belief in the sanctity of certain animals and birds may be traced back to more than one origin. At the same time it seems possible that this very cathartic function, with which we have been occupied in this paper, is the origin, at least in part, of the sacro- sanctity of these species. For clearly if a bird or animal is set free to carry away the sins or evils of a community, it is a highly dangerous thing to come in contact with it ; and from this may well arise the belief that it is inviolable; it is a commonplace that cleanness and un- cleanness, holiness and impurity, are not distinguished by primitive man. In this connection I may call attention to the fact that although there is no suggestion that these birds or animals are malevolent in the ordinary course of things, it is expressly held to be very unlucky to bring them into a house — precisely what we should expect if they were regarded as beneficent but laden with the ills of the community. To this it may be objected that in many cases the presence of birds in or about houses is regarded as lucky ; this may, of course, be due to the operation of some completely different set of ideas ; but, on the other hand, it may also be due to the belief that precisely through their cathartic influence do they benefit the house ; and it is on this ground that the cock, the hoopoe, the pigeon, the donkey and other species are often valued in popular superstition. In Wales, for example, it is expressly believed that a cock of a certain colour attracts all the evil influences that are in the house ; and other examples could readily be cited.

It seems, therefore, possible that the sacrosanctity of some species may be accounted for on the supposition that as the bearers of the ills of community they are, in popular belief, dangerous, or at any rate may be so, for