Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/259

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
249
SURVIVALS OF SUN-WORSHIP.
SURVIVALS OF SUN-WORSHIP.

By FANNY D. BERGEN.

WHEN happy boys and girls sing, "Here we go round the mulberry bush," or "Oats, peas, and barley grow," and gracefully step time to the words as they circle round and round, they dream not that in these and other ring games they often keep alive survivals of ancient sacred ceremonies. When some careful housewife tells her daughter or servant to be sure to stir cake or beat eggs in the same direction in which she begins, neither the matron nor her assistant has the faintest notion that this rather general rule in domestic affairs may be the survival of some very old religious rite. In this brief paper no attempt will be made to trace definite relationships between trivial customs of to-day and their ancient prototypes, or to draw any serious conclusions from the few miscellaneous illustrations that I have here and there picked up of the dextral and the sinistral circuits. I simply add them for what they may be worth to the mass of material on the subject that is gradually being accumulated by ethnologists. All sorts of unexpected survivals of old religious observances constantly appear in common everyday life. They are but degraded, tattered remnants of what ages ago were dignified, sacred rites. Considering how English-speaking folk have inherited influences from a great variety of sun-worshiping peoples, it would not be strange if there were found among them many outcrops of a worship that has been, and still is, in some form or other extremely widespread among primitive peoples. The early trading and colonizing Phœnicians, the Druids, the North German and Scandinavian invaders, all have left traces of their religious customs confusedly intermingled with Christianity. In dealing with the origination of actions or customs in which is involved what Dr. Fewkes calls the ceremonial circuit,[1] it is difficult to determine the value of the factor, whether it be large or small, that is due to the greater convenience of moving in a righthanded direction. Occasionally the dextral circuit is followed in cases in which it is evidently less convenient than the sinistral would be, as in dealing cards in all ordinary games. Also who can tell just how large or small an element may depend upon the tradition that the left hand in itself is uncanny without reference to the sun's apparent motion? There certainly is a general feeling of wide distribution that to be left-handed is unfortunate. Dr. Fewkes's careful and valuable researches among the Moki Indians of Arizona, however, show without doubt that they in

  1. Journal of American Folklore, vol. v, No. 16, p. 33.