Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/36

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24 Presidential Address.

negative answer has still to be given to the question put by Zophar the Naamathite : "Canst thou by searching find out God ? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto per- fection ?"

24. I will now, with your permission, inquire what light has been thrown upon the views I have attempted to lav before you by the many excellent papers that have been contributed to our Society's transactions during the past year. The valuable paper by Mr. Crooke on "The Lifting of the Bride," which I regret to say 1 was prevented from hearing, but which appeared in the September part of Folklore, falls in well with them. He drew the conclusion that the customs to which he referred are of two classes. What may be called the Petting Stone group of rites were probably fertility charms, as may also be those connected with the thresliold, which may, however, be protectives against various forms of evil influences that beset the bride at the beginning of married life. The spring and autumn lifting rites fell, he thought, within the Saturnalia class. All three, he observed, seem to be worn-down survivals of customs which, when viewed in the light of similar usages among people whom we are pleased to call savages, lead us back to a series of conceptions dating from the very infancy of humanity. As I think the expression infancy as used by Mr. Crooke corresponds with the expression childhood as I have been using it, his conclusion is that the act of imagina- tion upon which these customs are based dates back to that period, and that subsequent ages have maintained the customs while gradually forgetting the imaginative con- ceptions that lie at the root of them.

25. The same observation applies to nearly all survivals of early customs, as for instance the customs of harvest time, upon which we received several communications, and those recorded in the papers relating to local folklore in various parts of the world which have been obligingly laid before us. Mr. Skeat, indeed, observed, in his paper on