Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/57

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Midsummer Customs in Morocco. 45

a later misinterpretation of the custom/ I fail to see that the fire-ceremonies have served any other purpose. It seems to me that in Dr. Frazer's exhaustive description of these ceremonies there is not a single fact which would make Mannhardt's hypothesis at all probable. Dr. Frazer says : " The custom of rolling a burning wheel down a hill- side, which is often observed at these times, seems a very natural imitation of the sun's course in the sky."^ To me it appears as a method of distributing the purificatory energy over the fields or vineyards. Notice, for instance, the following statements : — In the Rhon Mountains, Bavaria, " a wheel wrapt in combustibles was kindled and rolled down the hill ; and the young people rushed about the fields with their burning torches and brooms ... In neighbouring villages of Hesse ... it is thought that wherever the burning wheels roll, the fields will be safe from hail and storm." ^ At Volkmarsen, in Hesse, " in some places tar-barrels or wheels wrapt in straw used to be set on fire, and then sent rolling down the hillside. In others the boys light torches and whisps of straw at the bonfires and rush about brandishing them in their hand." * In Miinsterland "boys with blazing bundles of straw run over the fields to make them fruitful."^ The rolling of the burning wheel, then, is only one method out of many of distributing the magic energy of the midsummer bon- fire. Dr. Frazer says: "The custom of throwing blazing discs, shaped like suns, into the air is probably also a piece of imitative magic." ^ But why should it not, in conformity with other practices, be regarded as a means of purifying the air? According to old writers, the object of midsummer fires was to disperse the aerial dragons.^ Dr. Frazer says : " The influence which these bonfires are supposed to exert on the weather and on vegetation, goes

^Frazer, The Golden Botigh, iii. 314. '^ Ibid., iii. 301.

^Ibid., iii. 243 sq. '^Ibid., iii. 254. ^ Ibid., iii. 255.

^ Ibid., iii. 301. "^ Ibid., iii. 267.