Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 24, 1913.djvu/282
parts of Scandinavia, a peasant will abstract three grains from the measure of corn which he gives as charity, or three hairs from the cow which he has sold, to ensure that his luck shall not go from him together with the material object. In the same way, the purchaser will not feel sure of his possession until he has led the cow into his house to see the fire on the hearth and to eat a wisp from the housewife's lap. In earlier times it was the custom to give a handful of earth to the purchaser of land, and to throw a staff back over the shoulder on leaving as a sign of full renunciation. And in the days when disputes as to possession were settled by single combat, each disputant would first drive his sword into the ground in question, in order that the " luck " of the earth might itself declare for its rightful owner.
There were, as one would expect, certain parts of the home in which the spirit of the family was believed to be specially con- centrated. The most important place seems to have been the " high seat," the supports of which would be carried away on leaving the home, and in several legends are said to have been thrown overboard on nearing a strange land, in order that by drifting ashore they might mark out the most auspicious spot for a new settlement.
As regards the members of the family themselves, the women were held to be more closely bound by the spirit of the "clan and more susceptible to its warnings than the men ; and the long hair of the woman was looked upon as the symbol, or even the medium, of her especial sacredness. A woman would lay her hand on her plaited hair in taking an oath as a man would lay his on his sword. Boys also wore their hair long up to a certain age, and to cut a boy's hair without the consent of his guardian was an act of sacrilege. Even when the moment came for him to take his place among the men, no near relation might perform the ceremonial clipping of the locks which violated his sanctity. This must be done by some " whole-souled " man, who_ thereby became a sort of foster-father to the boy and was expected to seal the act with gifts. The occasion is said to have been widely used for the cementing of desirable alliances, a notable case being that of King Pepin, who as a boy was sent by his father Charles Martel to Liutprand to have his hair cut by him for the first time.