Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/288

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274 The Scape-Goat in European Folklore.

the married and unmarried was not originally connected with the wren custom at all; and I do not, therefore, lay- much stress on that feature as a proof that wren customs are connected with ceremonies of expulsion of evils. There are, however, elements both in the hunting of the wren and other birds or animals on which some stress may be laid as proof of the cathartic nature of the rites. We have seen that at the Dusserah festival the Mhars endeavour to strike the buffalo, believing that each person who does so relieves himself of the load of sin. Similar rites are a feature of more than one human sacrifice. One of the features of the hunting customs is that the animals are struck at by those who take part in the rite. It may be said that this a necessary feature of any hunt and does not bear any esoteric meaning. That is so, but the beating is not confined to hunting ceremonies only. In many cases the animal or bird is shut up or made fast to a pole, as in the Laguenne custom ; here too, it may be said, the choice of a king, which is usually the end and aim of the contest at the present day, involves a trial of skill of some sort, and the throwing at cocks and similar customs is no more than a trial of skill. It might indeed be argued that it was very much more in its primitive form. In fact, in some of the forms of Blind Man's Buff, which, as I showed in my former paper, are a reproduction with human performers of the games of sacrifice of which throwing at cocks is a typical example, the players strike the " blind man " as often as they can and he attempts to guess who hit him. That this was a very early form is clear from the fact that it is mentioned among Greek games by Pollux in his Onomastikon.

But is unnecessary to produce collateral evidence of this sort except in proof of the wide-spread character of the element in these customs to which I am calling attention, viz., the striking or beating either of the