Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/149

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

side, the two limbs are widely separated. Interesting observations have also been made of the motions of insects, arachnids, etc.

Modern Survivals of Primitive Superstitions.—The recently published book of S. Baring-Gould on Strange Survivals furnishes curious suggestions concerning the origin and primary meaning of many customs and practices that have come down to us from remote ages, and which we observe or remark upon without a suspicion of their significance. The superstition has gone out of vogue in civilized lands that the sacrifice of a human being in its foundations is necessary to the stability of any important building. But King Theebaw, of Burmah, in our own days, obeyed it; and the feeling remains among the superstitious in Europe that some unseen power must be propitiated, or it will some time and somehow exact its dues; and numerous legends prevail with reference to grand structures of how the mysterious powers were propitiated in the beginning, or exacted an equivalent for the neglected sacrifice. Only fifty years ago the people of Halle are said to have tried to persuade the builder of a bridge to immure a child in the foundations in order to insure the stability of the piers. The designs of gable ends, carved ridge-tiles, representations of animals, such as horses and horsemen, and the stone balls with which houses are adorned, all have meanings. The completion of a building was signalized by a sacrifice originally, just as the laying of the foundations was. Horses were held to be sacred by the Northern i-aces, and formed, next to a man, the worthiest sacrifice; and if a horse's skull was not put on the point of a gable, a horse's head was carved. At a chieftain's death, his horse was buried with him; and to-day the charger of an officer follows his coffin to the grave. Poles, surmounted by branches of leaves and flowers, protect the farmhouses of the Black Forest from lightning, and represent the ancient oblation of a bunch of grain to Odin's horse; and gables often have carvings connected with this oblation to Odin. At Yuletide oats are thrown out for Santa Claus's horse (the colt of Odin having been transferred to Santa Claus), and a person convalescent after a dangerous illness is said to have "given a feed to Death's horse." The sheaf of corn that is fastened to the gable in Norway and Denmark—now an offering to the birds—was originally a feed for Odin's horse. Formerly, the last bundle of oats in a field was cast into the air by the reapers, for Odin at Yule to feed his horse; and a similar custom prevailed in Devonshire, in Mr. Baring-Gould's recollection. The mediæval habit of affixing the heads of criminals to spikes on battlements was the survival of the offering of skulls to Woden, and the stone balls on the gables of manor houses and on lodge gates are the survival of the right of life and death possessed by the lords of the manor.

"State Socialism" in New Zealand.—At a recent meeting of the Royal Colonial. Institute of Great Britain the Earl of Onslow described some experiments in what was called state socialism that had been undertaken in New Zealand. The Government had expended large sums in providing water for mining purposes for working miners, and had given the men the task of repairing the water works, remunerating them, not in money, but in orders for water for the purpose of getting gold. It had worked a system of settling men upon land, with advances of money for house-building and cultivation. In a visit to two of these settlements—one formed by voluntary association, and the other from the unemployed—the speaker had found the voluntary association prosperous, while the unemployed were calling upon the Government to take them out of "the hole" they had been brought into; and he formed the opinion that, while the Government was not in any case without ample security for its advances, yet only careful selection of the land and of the men would secure success. The colony had acquired by purchase, at the owner's valuation, the largest estate in the country, and opened it for settlement; and he believed that, so long as it did not unduly saddle the colony with debt, this experiment in the resumption of the national estate would be likely to prove satisfactory to the Government. The labor department in New Zealand had been more successful than the one abolished last May in Victoria, because numerous country branches had been created instead of calling all the workmen to the central office in the capital. In the system