It is not houses alone, however, that are thus protected by an artificially made guardian. The vikings used to "redden their rollers" with human blood. That is to say, when a warship was launched, human victims were bound to the rollers over which the galley was run down to the sea, so that the stem was sprinkled with their blood. The last trace of such consecration among ourselves is the breaking of a wine-bottle over the ship's bows. Captain Cook found the South Sea Islanders similarly christened their war-canoes with the blood of human victims.
Furthermore, as the position of protecting spirit is rather a dignified and beatified one than otherwise, it is kept reasonably enough in the family of the king, the founder, or the master builder. This is a common trait in all stories of these human sacrifices, and it helps to bring them into line with the similar stories of corn-spirits and self-immolated gods. For it is the dearly beloved son that is especially chosen for such self-immolation. Thus, we read in the Book of Kings that when Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho, "he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub." And may we not put down in the same category the case of Remus, represented in legend as brother of Romulus, the founder of Rome?
To sum up, then, I would say in one word, while I accept in all their main results Mr. Frazer's remarkable conclusions, I believe that, in order to understand to the very bottom the origin of tree worship, we must directly affiliate it upon primitive ancestor or ghost worship, of which it is an aberrant and highly specialized offshoot.
- See also Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, vol. ii, p. 844, and Folk Lore Record, vol. iii, p. 282.
- Ballades et Chants Populaires de la Roumanie, p. 198.
- Vigfusson and Powell, Corpus Poeticum Boreale, vol. i, p. 410.