Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/398

This page needs to be proofread.

382 Reviews.

together, and is virtually a separate treatise, though its links with the rest are persuasively made out. It describes about a dozen pieces of pagan survival in the Christianised world, which are adjusted more or less to that world, and received by it with the strangest mixture of disapproval, connivance, and appropriation. The May-game, the Sword-dance, the Feast of Fools are among the topics. In most cases the primitive raiso?i d'etre is forgotten, it is matter of inference; but the usages were rooted all the deeper for that, and were more easily accepted by the conquering Church. The story naturally begins at the point where the heathen origin, if not its ultimate meaning, was more consciously recognised, namely, at the Conversion, with all its transitions and compromises. So far as I know there is no real comparative study of this event in various landsĀ ; no history of the way in which adjustment made easier what may be called the change of slide. Mr. Chambers has contributed some valuable pages on a special aspect of this great occurrence, whose phenomena are just as instructive in the region of usages and formulas (such as are connected with the events of birth, marriage, death, and the change of seasons) as in the region of doctrine. The same change, of course, also has its high poetic expression in such works as the Northern Sun-Song, and in quite other fashion in Shakespeare's or Herrick's presentment of " the paganism of the South of England." Some of the documents on this alluring theme are indicated in Mr. Chambers's chapter on " The Religion of the Folk." He glances back, in one suggestive page, at the remoter origins.

" The heathenism of Western Europe must be regarded as a group of religious practices originating in very different strata of civilisation, and only fused together by the continuity of tradition. Its permanence lay in the law of association through which a piece of ritual originally devised by the folk to secure their practical well-being remained, even after the initial meaning grew obscure, irrevocably bound up with their expectations of that well-being" (i. 100).

The view of development followed is largely that of Mn Frazer, but the illustrations through the dozen chapters of