Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/517

This page has been validated.

together with red ribbons, and the plates containing them are placed on the sepulchres, which with effigies of the dead Christ are made up in Roman Catholic and Greek churches on Good Friday. In both these cases the plants would seem to be envisaged as springing from the actual body of the dead god. Indeed, Eustathius speaks of the gardens of Adonis as being placed on the grave of the hero.[1]

Furthermore, another connection may be shown to exist between plants or trees and ghosts. We know that it is a frequent practice deliberately to put in herbs, shrubs, or trees on the graves of the dead. How far back in history or in savage life this practice may extend I am unfortunately not in a position to state. In Roman Catholic countries, however, the planting of flowers on the graves of the dead takes place usually on the jour des morts, a custom which would seem to argue for it an immense antiquity; for though it is usual among Catholics to explain the jour des morts as a féte of comparatively recent origin, definitely introduced by a particular saint at a particular period, its analogy to similar celebrations elsewhere shows that it is really a surviving relic of a very ancient form of Manes worship. In Algeria, again, I observed, the Arab women went on Fridays to plant flowers on the graves of their immediate dead; and the same point is noted about the same place by Miss Seguin.[2] The koubbas, or little dome-shaped tombs of Mohammedan saints, so common throughout North Africa, are almost always inclosed by a low stone wall, which marks off the temenos, and are usually overshadowed by palm trees deliberately planted there.

All through southern Europe, indeed, the cypress is the common emblem of the grave and the churchyard, as the yew is in our more northern climates. And this connection brings me more directly into closer contact with our proper subject, the pine tree of Attis. I think there is evidence that from a very early age evergreens of one sort or another were planted upon barrows. Those who have read The Golden Bough will not fail to see the significance of this pregnant association. Evergreens are plants which retain their vegetation—show the life of their tree spirit—through the long sleep of winter. The mistletoe, as Mr. Frazer has ably shown, owes its special sanctity to the fact that it holds, as it were, the soul of the tree in itself, while all the branches around it are bare and lifeless. As soon, then, as primitive men had begun definitely to associate the ghost or god with the idea of vegetation, nothing could be more natural for them than to plant such evergreens on graves or barrows. Now all through southern England we find many examples of round barrows planted with

  1. The Golden Bough, vol. i, p. 295.
  2. Walks in Algiers, p. 280.