Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/283

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The Scape-Goat in European Folklore. 269

to note in this connection that the Dahomey custom required that the god should be carried round, whereas in other scapegoat ceremonies the animal does not possess a specifically sacred character, nor even in all cases undergo any rite of sacralisation such as is often held indispensable to fit the victim for sacrifice. Perhaps, however, we have only to thank the imperfection of our records for this apparent indifference to the character of the scapegoat.

In this connection I may perhaps quote an account of an Indian festival which is in other respects parallel to some of the European customs to which I am going to draw attention. The Mhars are said to celebrate the Dusserah festival in order to appease the evil spirits. A young buffalo is driven in front of the temple of Bhawani and certain prayers are said ; these are perhaps a con- secration of the animal. Then the chief wounds the animal with his sword in the neck and it is set free and hunted ; in the course of the chase the participants try to strike it either with their hands or with a weapon ; and it is believed to carry away the sins of all those who are successful in touching it. After it has been driven round the walls and in at the entrance gate again, the head of the buffalo is cut off and this must take place at one blow. Thereupon the Mhars throw them- selves upon the victim and each takes possession of a piece of the flesh ; this done, they go in procession round the walls calling on the spirits and demons and asking them to accept the offerings, which are thrown backwards over the wall.^

I now pass to the European practices with which I am more especially concerned in this paper. The view is, as we have seen put forward by Dr. Frazer in the Golden Bought that there is a scapegoat element in many of the springtide vegetation customs, and one or two unmis- takeable examples of such a practice are there brought

^ Globus, xvii. 24.