Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/22

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Annual Address by the President.

of the oldest, to place little white stones or pebbles on the graves of their friends. No reason is now given for the practice, beyond that most potent and delightful of all reasons in the minds of folk-lore students, namely, that it has always been done. Now there is nothing between this modern practice sanctioned by traditional observance and the practice of the stone-age people in the same neighbourhood and in others, as made known to us by their grave-relics. Thus, in a cairn at Achnacrie opened by Dr. Angus Smith, on entering the innermost chamber "the first thing that struck the eye was a row of quartz pebbles larger than a walnut; these were arranged on the ledge of the lower granite block of the east side." Near Crinan, at Duncraigaig and at Rudie, the same characteristic was observed, and Canon Greenwell, who examined the cairns, says the pebbles "must have been placed there with some intention, and probably possessed a symbolic meaning".

If the modern practice is a survival of the stone-age practice, the measurement of the survival is one of the hundredth power, if I may use the "measurer" I have suggested. But, in the absence of information about the symbolic meaning of the white pebble, this measurement cannot be accepted with certainty; and the suggestion of Sir Arthur Mitchell that the two identical practices might be due to perfectly independent origins generated in the human mind at two different epochs, is an important one in this instance. It is clearly just one of those practices which might be due to such a cause. There is nothing objectionable in it, on the contrary, it might be said to be rather a pretty idea than otherwise, and until we know the symbolism of the act in both cases, we cannot fairly say that a true survival of the hundredth power is presented to us. Until then we must, provisionally at all events, classify this modern custom as an independent development uninfluenced by the stone-age custom.

I now pass to the folk-tale. It is well known that the story of the Judgment of Solomon is also found in India,