Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/513

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GHOST WORSHIP AND TREE WORSHIP.

it not at least possible that in the minds of early men the fruitfulness of the sown crop may seem to depend upon the presence beneath the soil of the deified ancestor? I do not mean physically, as manure, for that idea is, of course, quite beyond the savage, but magically and supernaturally, as ghost and spirit. At first sight, to be sure, this seems a somewhat large and uncertain postulate. But if we reflect upon the nature of the evidence collected by Mr. Frazer, we shall see, I think, that the transition is a sufficiently simple and natural one. Primitive man may well have begun by scattering seeds as offerings on the graves of his relations. If these seeds germinated and grew successfully, as they would be pretty certain to do, he would at once, as if by instinct, accept the increase as the immediate gift of the dead ancestor. For he knows nothing beforehand about the nature of seeds or the laws of their germination. He doesn't even know, to start with, that seeds are necessary for the production of food plants. From this first step, however, it would be but a slight advance deliberately to produce and bury a god for the express purpose of fertilizing a sown crop. That gods were so produced, slain, and buried in fields, to insure fertility, we know now for certain. "The Kandhs," says Sir William Hunter,[1] "have many deities—race gods, tribe gods, family gods, and a multitude of malignant spirits—each one of whom must be appeased with blood. But their great divinity is the earth god, who represents the productive energy of Nature. Twice each year, at sowing time and at harvest, and in all special seasons of distress, the earth god required a human sacrifice. The duty of providing the victims rested with the lower race of outcasts attached to the Kandh village. Brahmans and Kandhs were the only two classes exempted from being sacrificed; and an ancient rule ordained that the offering must be bought with a price. Men of the lower race, attached to the villages, kidnapped victims from the plains; and it was a mark of respectability for a Kandh hamlet to keep a small stock in reserve, as they said, 'to meet sudden demands for atonement.' The victim, on being brought to the hamlet, was welcomed at every threshold, daintily fed, and kindly treated, till the fatal day arrived. He was then solemnly sacrificed to the earth god; the Kandhs shouting in his dying ear: 'We bought you with a price; no sin rests with us.' His flesh and blood were distributed among the village lands, a fragment being solemnly buried in each field in the newly turned furrows."

This passage is sufficiently striking in itself as evidence for our purpose; but Mr. Frazer has further shown good grounds for believing that the meriah, or victim selected for this purpose,

  1. Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol. vii, p. 207.