Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/278

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264 The Scape-Goat in Ettropean Folklore.

expelled animal is the evil thing itself, is the practice of expelling animals connected in popular belief with magicians. In West Africa the owl is the messenger of the wizard, and when one is caught it is the custom to break its claws and otherwise maltreat it, under the belief that its human counterpart is suffering in like manner ^ The expulsion of ghosts may take this form also, for it is a widespread belief that the human soul after death assumes animal form or that it enters into an animal, either for a time or permanently. In the South of Australia it was the custom to drive away a certain bird with black plumage, known as mooldtharp^ on the alleged ground that it was an evil spirit ; in reality it was believed that the souls of the dead assumed that form.^

This primitive example of immediate expulsion of evils in concrete form might suggest that the custom of the scapegoat proper is not primitive, and that the mediate expulsion of evils in this manner is of secondary character, being rather of the nature of an aetiological myth, invented to explain a custom no longer understood. But against this must be set the fact that the scapegoat is only one form of the mediate expulsion of evils, for we also find disease boats ; further, the scapegoat itself is sometimes regarded as divine, or is at any rate respected, which, on the supposition that it was originally regarded as a power of evil and not as a vehicle on which was laden the evil, would hardly be probable.

At this point it may be well to indicate the areas in which the cathartic ceremonies are found. It is not easy to state with precision the distribution of the cathartic sacrifice ; for in too many cases we are left in the dark as to the meaning of the ceremony described by an author. On the other hand, it is fairly simple to show where ceremonies of expulsion of evils are found in connection with the expulsion of an animal or human

^ Les. Missions cath. 1884, 249. ^Angas, Savage Life, i. 96.