Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/674

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the simple process of slaughtering a superfluous meriah at the stone, exactly as in mediæval Europe, and long before a guardian spirit was provided for a bridge, a town wall, or any other important building, by immuring a human victim alive into the solid masonry—a curious and horrible superstition to which I shall have occasion to recur more fully further on in my argument.

Rome herself had such a sacred foundation tree—the holy fig of Romulus—whose very name connected it at once with the origin of the city; and so closely was it bound up in the popular mind with the fortunes of the state, that the withering of its trunk was regarded in the light of a public calamity. So, too, to this day, London has still her London Stone, which probably dates back to the earliest ages of the Roman town, or of the little Celtic village that once preceded it. This London Stone was for ages considered as the representative and embodiment of the entire community. Proclamations and other important businesses of state were transacted from its top; the defendant in trials at the Lord Mayor's court was summoned to attend from London Stone, as though the stone itself spoke with the united voice of the assembled citizens. Of the similar sacred stone at Bovey Tracey in Devonshire, Ormerod tells us that the mayor, on the first day of his tenure of office, used to ride round it and strike it with a stick. According to the Totnes Times of May 13, 1882, the young men of the town were compelled on the same day to kiss the magic stone, and to pledge allegiance in upholding the ancient rights and privileges of Bovey.[1] In these two cases we can clearly observe that stone and tree alike are regarded as the embodiment of the city, town, or village; and, as I believe, they derive their sanctity from the foundation god or spirit, who, as I shall have occasion to show hereafter, was probably killed on the spot, to provide a specific or artificial deity for the new creation.

Elsewhere we get still clearer evidence that it is the ghost, not the mere tree, to whom the adoration of the worshipers is primarily offered. "A clump of larches on a Siberian steppe," says Mr. Tylor, "is the chosen sanctuary of a Turanian tribe. But beneath it stand gayly decked little idols in warm fur coats, each set up under a great tree, on whose branches hang offerings of reindeer hides and household goods."[2] Clearly these idols represent the ancestral spirits protected from the rigor of the climate, as in life, by their thick fur coverings, and supplied by their relations with all that is necessary to make existence comfort-

  1. See Gomme, Village Community, p. 218; Ormerod, Archæology of Eastern Dartmoor, p. 11; and an article on London Stone by myself in Longman's Magazine.
  2. Primitive Culture, vol. ii, p. 224.