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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/475

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467
Pin-Wells and Rag-Bushes.

form. But it is not difficult to trace the steps whereby the idea and practice of divination became substituted for that of union with the object of devotion. Still less can I deny that, where the practice has not been deflected, the real intention has in most places been obscured. These phenomena are familiar to us everywhere, and will mislead no one who understands that the real meaning is not what the people who practise a rite say about it, but that which emerges from a comparison of analogous observances.

Let me, before closing, refer to one or two other practices having some bearing on those we have been discussing. The Athenian women who for the first time became pregnant used to hang up their girdles in the temple of Artemis. Here surely the meaning is clear, if read in the light of the ceremonies of witchcraft And not less clear is the meaning of the converse case of the Ursuline nuns of Quintin. They keep one of the principal schools in Brittany. When a girl who has been their pupil marries and enters the interesting situation of the Athenian women just referred to, the pious nuns send her a white silken ribbon, painted in blue (the Virgin's colour) with the words: "Notre Dame de Delivrance, protégez-nous." Before sending it off, they touch with it the reliquary of the parish church, which contains a fragment of the Virgin Mary's zone. The recipient hastens to put the ribbon around her waist, and does not cease to wear it until her baby is born.[1] For the ribbon, having thus been in contact with divinity, though that contact has ceased to outward appearance, is still in some subtle connection with the goddess.

This is a method of conveying the divine effluence parallel to one which was a favourite during the Middle Ages. The latter consisted in measuring with a string or fillet the body of a saint, and passing the string afterwards round the patient. Many miracles performed in this way were attributed to Simon de Montfort. Pope Clement VIII

  1. Ploss, Das Weib, i, 504.