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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/15

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7
Annual Address by the President.

it represents were current as the standard form of culture, their future history was then to be looked for along the lines of development. But so soon as they dropped back behind the standard of culture, whatever the cause and whenever the event happened, then their future history could only be traced along the lines of decay and disintegration. We are acquainted with some of the laws which mark the development of primitive culture, but we know nothing of the influences which mark the existence of survivals in culture. For this purpose we must be careful to ascertain what are the component parts of each myth, custom, or superstition. These will be found to consist of three distinct elements, which I would distinguish by the following names:—

(1) The formula.
(2) The purpose.
(3) The penalty or result.

I am going for a moment to be a little technical, but it is necessary. This dissecting analysis of folk-lore is very important for the right interpretation of the meaning to be given to the item undergoing analysis; for these three component parts are not equally tenacious of their original form in all examples. In one example we may find the formula either actually or symbolically perfect, while the purpose and the penalty may not exist. In another example the formula may be less perfect, while the purpose and penalty may be distinguishable easily. Or it may happen that the formula remains fairly perfect; the purpose may be set down to the desire of doing what has always been done, and the penalty may be given as luck or ill-luck. Of course, further variations are possible, but these are usually the more general forms.

I will give an example or two of these phases of change or degradation in folk-lore. First, then, where the formula is complete, or nearly so, and the purpose and penalty have both disappeared. At Carrickfergus it was formerly the