Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/508

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where in any part of his epoch-making work a single phrase which would lead me to suppose he would willingly accept the theory of the affiliation of tree gods and spirits generally upon the ghosts of dead ancestors. Nevertheless, I believe such an affiliation to be not only possible, but natural and provable. It is the object of the present Excursus, indeed, to show in brief outline that the tree spirit and the corn spirit, like most other deities, originate in the ghost of the deified ancestor.

Let us begin by examining and endeavoring to understand a few cases of tree spirits in various mythologies. Virgil tells us in the Third Æneid how, on a certain occasion, Æeas was offering a sacrifice on a tumulus crowned with dogwood and myrtle bushes. He endeavored to pluck up some of these by the roots, in order to cover the altar, as was customary, with leaf-clad branches. As he did so, the first bush which he tore up astounded him by exuding drops of liquid blood, which trickled and fell upon the soil beneath. He tried again, and again the tree bled human gore. On the third trial, a groan was heard proceeding from the tumulus, and a voice assured Æneas that the barrow on which he stood covered the murdered remains of his friend Polydorus.

Now, in this typical and highly illustrative myth—no doubt an ancient and well-known story incorporated by Virgil in his great poem—we see that the tree which grows upon a barrow is itself regarded as the representative and embodiment of the dead man's soul, just as elsewhere the snake which glides from the tomb of Anchises is regarded as the embodied spirit of the hero, and just as the owls and bats which haunt sepulchral caves are often identified in all parts of the world with the souls of the departed.

Similar stories of bleeding or speaking trees or bushes occur abundantly elsewhere. "When the oak is being felled," says Aubrey, in his Remaines of Gentilisme, page 247, "it gives a kind of shriekes and groanes that may be heard a mile off, as if it were the genius of the oak lamenting. E. Wyld, Esqr., hath heard it severall times." Certain Indians, says Bastian, dare not cut a particular plant, because there comes out of it a red juice which they take for its blood. I myself remember hearing as a boy in Canada that wherever Sanguinaria canadensis, the common American bloodroot, grew in the woods, an Indian had once been buried, and that the red drops of juice which exuded from the stem when one picked the flowers were the dead man's blood. In Samoa, says Mr. Turner,[1] the special abode of Tuifiti, King of Fiji, was a grove of large and durable afzelia trees. "No one

  1. Turner's Samoa, p. 63.