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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/308

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284 Miscellanea.

moonlight under such circumstances will understand how it added to the effect of the curious proceedings of which we had been the witnesses.

At 10 p.m. "God save the Queen" was sung, and so ended " The burial of the dead horse."

Evelyn A. Melvill Rich.^rds. The Rectory, Raykigh, Essex.

Snake-Stones.

Ancient stones carved with representations of serpents (always the cobra) are very numerous in the south of India, often in groups on a platform under a tree or within the precinct of a temple, often too singly by a road-side, or in the corner of a field, purposely left waste for the local deities, like the " good- man's croft " in Scotland ; sometimes by a well or spring on a hill-side. These serpent-stones, very various in design, abound especially throughout the Mysore territory. Some antiquaries think them as old as the prehistoric monuments, cromlechs, kist- vaens, &c., which are also very numerous. Most of them have an appearance of extreme antiquity, worn, blurred, and weather- beaten, as in the example on the table. Indeed, it seems not im- probable that they may be vestiges of the popular cult previous to the Aryan invasion. No priest has charge of them ; no Brahman assists in any serpent rites ; Brahmans avoid the sight of a snake, and meeting one is for them the worst of omens, and enough to stop any undertaking. In the north of India, serpent-stones, I believe, do not exist. The Brahmans in their descent from north to south probably found serpent-worship popular and flourishing, and from motives of policy countenanced it to a certain extent, but never adopted it. In connection with the Brahmanical gods the serpent is always shown in a subordinate or servile capacity, seven-headed, and overshadowing Shiva or Vishnu like a canopy, or hung about them necklace-fashion.

At present the village people regard these old weather-worn stones with a certain awe and superstitious feeling. None will point a finger at them, as it is believed that a finger so pointed would rot and drop from the hand. Men make them no offerings, but childless women often lay flowers before them and touch