Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/275

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


The Scape-Goat in European Folklore. 261

that their fears are aroused mainly by two classes of objects — spirits and magicians. A slight acquaintance with the beliefs of the Australian blacks shows that he divides spirits into two classes — non-human and human. When he ventures beyond the circle of light thrown by the camp fire, the Australian is careful to carry with him a fire-stick, as a means of keeping at a distance all the host of spirits with which he peoples the bush. The spirit of the dead man inspires him with equal terror, though we may see traces of another attitude towards the dead in the custom of keeping a fire lighted on or near the grave, no less than in the custom, formerly practised in New South Wales, of actually sleeping upon the grave. Perhaps these variations point to a distinction between the corpse and the ghost of the dead man, perhaps they are due merely to the fact that one set is practised by the relatives of the dead, who are to some extent exempt from his hostility, while the stranger's fear of a ghost is measured by the avoidance of the grave practised by the general public. However that may be, the important point is that fear of the dead is very wide- spread in Australia ; and the only custom analogous to the expulsion of evils in other parts of the world has, in Australia, exclusive reference to the ghosts of the dead.

The Rev. W. Ridley has recorded from the Barwon a ceremony of expulsion of ghosts which consisted in a mimic battle between a party of warriors as representa- tives of the living and their invisible foes, and the victory of the human actors in this scene was regarded as equivalent to the expulsion of the ghosts of the dead.^

If Ridley has correctly reported the object of this custom, it is a somewhat curious thing that the Austra- lians, who dwell in the midst of malevolent spirits, as they believe, and dare hardly stir from the camp fire

1 Lang, Queensland, p. 441.