Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/262

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

unsafe to base conclusions on the evidence of silence, another ancient author quoted by Athenaeus says that in former times the Greeks burned the sacrificial parts of animals without salt, and that the custom continued into later times in conformity with the ancient practise. Here then we have Homer 's silence supplemented by positive testimony. It is well known, moreover, that all peoples are more conservative in religious usages than in any other. The adhibition of salt, the mola salsa of the Romans, seems not to have been borrowed from the Greeks, as were so many of their religious ceremonies. Like the Romans with their salted meal, the Hebrews were careful not to omit salt from their sacrifices, though the former may not regularly have put it on the flesh of the slain victims. In Leviticus we read: "And every oblation of thy meal offering thou shalt season with salt, neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal offering: with all thine oblations thou shalt offer salt." From this command it may be inferred that salt was a part of bloody sacrifices as well as of those of the fruits of the earth.

In Germany there are many place-names that contain the Keltic root hal which seem in some way to be connected with sodium chloride. The best known of these is the city of Halle on the river bearing the Teutonic appellation, Saale. It is not easy to see how this double designation originated and conjectures are feeble arguments. There is no doubt, however, that Halle got its name from the salt springs near it. In the same country there were anciently several rivers called Sala on the banks of which salt works bearing the name Hall were planted. Besides the Halle already mentioned there is Eeichenhall in Bavaria, Hallein in Salzburg, Hall in Tyrol and in Swabia, as also Halen in Brabant, and others. In Czech there are likewise a number of words containing the radical hal that have some connection with salt. This root is still distinctly preserved in the Welsh 'halen' salt. In some of the Keltic-dialects, however, the initial h is represented by s.

In England there are a number of inland towns to the names of which the suffix wich, from the Norse wic, a bay, is appended. This seeming absurdity is easily understood when we remember that a wychhouse or wickhouse and a bayhouse came to be regarded as synonymous terms, and that wychhouses were erected where salt was prepared from brine, though they might be far from a bay. In the same way a coarse kind of salt came to be called baysalt from its similarity to the crude article of primitive manufacture. The wics in Essex were probably the first localities where salt works of the rude original type were erected. According to Isaac Taylor, the Domesday Book gives the names of three hundred and eighty-five places in Sussex alone where salt was made. The number seems incredible and may be a misprint; but the general fact is well established.