Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/473

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
465
Pin-Wells and Rag-Bushes.

called. But this is to put the cart before the horse. There is no reason to suppose that the practices I have described originated later than the carving of sacred images, and were at first a peculiarity of their worship. There is every reason to suppose exactly the reverse. And in this connection it is significant that neither at Rome nor at Vulsinii (the earliest examples we have in point of time) were the nails fastened into the image, but into the temple wall.

I believe that a profounder thought forms the common ground in which all the customs we are discussing—or, as I should prefer to say, all the variations of a single custom—are rooted. When a witch is desirous of injuring a person, the first step is to get hold of something that once formed part of her foe's body, such as hair, finger-nails, or excrement. Upon this she may work her will; and whatsoever she does to it will be done to the body of which it once formed part. Wherefore men everywhere burn, or hide, the combings or the cuttings of their hair, the shavings of their nails, the teeth extracted from their heads. Failing these things, however, the earth from their footprints, the remnants of their food, any articles of clothing they have once worn, or indeed any other portions of their property, are obnoxious to the same danger. Even their names may be used for the same end. A rough image is made: it is identified with the person who is to be bewitched by being dubbed with his name: any injury thenceforth inflicted on the image is inflicted on the bearer of the name, wherever he may be. These are means and methods of witchcraft all over the world. And they are based upon the hypothesis that, although the hair, the nails, the clothing, or property may be to all appearance severed from the object of the witch's wrath, yet there is, notwithstanding, a subtle physical connection still subsisting between the one and the other, just as if no severance had taken place. Equality of reasoning applies to the name, which is looked upon as a part of its owner, and, being conferred on an