Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/679

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GHOST WORSHIP AND TREE WORSHIP.

interchangeability of all the various forms of the ghost extends even to what might seem the impossible cases of the sacred stone and the corn-spirit. At first sight it would almost look as if there could be no conceivable community of any sort between these two very distinct and unlike manifestations of the ancestral ghost or the slain man-god. Yet in Mr. Gregor's Folk Lore of the Northeast of Scotland, I find the following very interesting passage, which clearly shows the occasional equivalence of the two ideas: "It was believed by some that a very mysterious animal, which when met with by the reapers among the corn had the appearance of a gray stone, but which could change its shape, lived among the corn. When met with, a small quantity of the crop was left standing around it, and the ears of grain only were cut off. This animal looks like the hedgehog."[1] Readers of The Golden Bough will be very familiar with this "mysterious animal," which is in point of fact nothing more or less than the corn-spirit itself, hiding, as it were, in its own vegetal embodiment,[2] The rye wolf, the harvest goat, the cock, pig, and horse, are all various avatars of this polymorphic spirit; and now, in the interesting Scotch case above quoted, we find him similarly and unexpectedly equated with a gray stone.

There is one more point of considerable importance to which I wish to call attention in passing, before I quit this part of my subject, and that is the question of the immolation of the mangod as a deliberate mode of producing a corn-spirit or guardian soul of vegetation for the growing crops. Of the practice itself there can not now remain the slightest doubt after the brilliant demonstration given by Mr. Frazer in his epoch-making work. But it may have seemed a hard saying to some when I attributed these immolations to the definite desire to manufacture artificially an indwelling spirit for the growing corn. Nevertheless, such definite manufacture would seem much less curious to primitive man than to his modern and more squeamish or humane descendants. We must recollect that the chiefs or kings of primitive peoples, being the offspring of the deified ghosts who form the tribal gods, are therefore necessarily divine. That kings are gods, Mr. Frazer has now abundantly shown us; and we learned from Mr. Loftie how the divinity of the Pharaoh formed a prime element in the faith of the pyramid-builders in Egypt. Now, this being so, nothing is more natural, when you want a departmental god for any particular purpose, than to release before its time one of these divine souls from its fleshly tabernacle, and turn it loose upon space to perform whatever work you may happen to require


  1. Rev. Walter Gregor, Folk Lore of the Northeast of Scotland, p. 181.
  2. The Golden Bough, vol. i, p. 404, segq., and vol. ii, pp. 1-67.