Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/848

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

little figures representing persons whose lives they wished to curtail, and stabbed them in the place of the heart. A custom still exists in Borneo of making a figure in wax of an enemy whom one desires to bewitch and melting it before the fire. They say that the person designated will waste away as his image disappears. Peruvian sorcerers proceed in the same way, except that their figures are made of rags. In the East Indies, according to Dubois, they knead with hair or bits of skin, earth collected in some muddy place, of which they make a figure, on the breast of which they write the name of an enemy; then stab the figure with needles, or otherwise mutilate it—always in the belief that similar injuries will be inflicted upon the person represented.

Vestiges of this primitive superstition are furthermore found among civilized peoples; for, as Grimm relates, Jews were accused, in the eleventh century, in Europe, of having slain Bishop Ebergard by the aid of witchcraft of this kind. These Jews had each a figure of wax representing the bishop, had bribed a priest to baptize it, and had then thrown it in the fire. The wax had hardly melted when the bishop was struck with mortal illness.

The famous adventurer Jacob, chief of the Pastoureaux, who lived in the thirteenth century, believed seriously, as he says in his Demonology, that the devil taught men the art of making images of wax and clay, the destruction of which involved the death of the persons whom they represented. In the time of Catherine de Medicis it was a custom to make such figurines of wax and to melt them over a slow fire, or stab them with needles, in order to make their enemies suffer. The operation was called envoûtement (or spell-binding).

We shall not be done unless we cite all the facts that prove that in the mind of the primitive man it is enough to possess any object—a piece of a coat, hair, a bit of a nail—that has belonged to a person to have power to act on him and do him harm. Faith in the efficiency of this means is so strong among backward peoples that persons who have any reason to suspect others hide their clothes in order that no part of them may be stolen. Others, when they cut their hair or nails, put the cut parts on the roof of their house or bury them. So peasants in some countries do with extracted teeth. We add, to complete our picture, that writing is regarded by the savage as endowed with the same magic force as drawing—a fact we may easily comprehend if we recollect that picture-writing preceded writing with letters or any conventional signs, and is still practiced among some savage tribes. In these picture-writings the subjection of a man or an animal to bad luck is indicated by an arrow drawn from the mouth to the heart. A sign of that kind is supposed to be equivalent to a real taking possession of the animal or the person represented.