Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/474

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

effigy, identifies the effigy with the real owner of the name I will not waste time in illustrating either the practices or the hypothesis. What I want to suggest is that, in the customs to which I have called your attention at wells and trees and temples, we have simply another application of the same reasoning as that which underlies the practices of witchcraft. If an article of my clothing in a witch's hands may cause me to suffer, the same article in contact with a beneficent power may relieve my pain, restore me to health, or promote my general prosperity. A pin that has pricked my wart, even if not covered with my blood, has by its contact, by the wound it has inflicted, acquired a peculiar bond with the wart; the rag that has rubbed the wart has by that friction acquired a similar bond; so that whatever is done to the pin or the rag, whatever influences the pin or the rag may undergo, the same influences are by that very act brought to bear upon the wart. If, instead of using a rag, or making a pilgrimage to a sacred well, I rub my warts with raw meat and then bury the meat the wart will decay and disappear with the decay and dissolution of the meat. The principle was once exalted into serious surgery, when, three centuries ago, the learned chirurgeon used to anoint and dress the weapon, instead of the wound which the weapon had caused. In like manner my shirt or stocking, or a rag to represent it, placed upon a sacred bush, or thrust into a sacred well—my name written upon the walls of a temple—a stone or a pellet from my hand cast upon a sacred image or a sacred cairn—is thenceforth in continual contact with divinity; and the effluence of divinity, reaching and involving it, will reach and involve me. In this way I may become permanently united with the god.

This is an explanation which I think will cover every case. Of course, I cannot deny that there are instances, like some of the Japanese and Breton cases, where, the real object of the rite having been forgotten, the practice has become to a slight extent deflected from its earlier