Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/282

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268 The Scape-Goat in European Folklore.

the case of the feather stick, therefore, the carving would perhaps, if it were carved, be that of a toucan's head. The Piaroas have not, as a matter of fact, taken this step ; but though I can point to no exact American parallel to the European custom of carving horses' heads and other designs upon the gable heads,^ we seem to have its first cousin in the Caraya practice, found also in Guiana, of putting on the gable the figure of an archer ; the meaning of this is however conjectural.^

We have of course in Europe, concurrently with the carving of heads on the gable ends, the hanging up of skulls, and in Africa the sacrifice of a human victim ; we cannot therefore assume that a custom like that of the Piaroas is necessarily the lineal ancestor of the horses' heads on the gable. At the same time, bearing in mind that the skulls are put everywhere biit on the gable, the explanation suggested here cannot be dismissed as impossible or improbable. Both the skull and the gable head are amulets intended to protect the house ; but we cannot assume that the skull was the earlier, the gable head the later custom, when we see in South America a practice which indicates that the gable decoration may have been unconnected with sacrifice.

Returning now to the scapegoat, I think it will be admitted that in the Piaroan custom we have an excellent example of the cathartic ceremony of the type with which I am dealing to-night. Equally clear in intention is the Dahomey custom recorded by the Jesuits nearly forty years ago. It appears that the serpent-god Danbe was brought out every three years and carried round the city in order to rid the community of its ills and diseases. There is here, it is true, no subsequent expulsion of the serpent ; and it may be argued that the object of the ceremony was rather to annihilate the evil influences by diffusing the holy influence ; it is certainly of importance

^Folklore, xi. 322. - Verbff. kgl. Mtiseen zti Berlin, ii. 75.