Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/289

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

The Scape-Goat in European Folklore. 275

performer or of an animal. For in the Welsh form of the custom, known as mwgwd or blindfold, a young man was blindfolded on Shrove Tuesday and beaten with switches as he ran about the streets ; sometimes the custom was varied, and here we see the connection of the blindfolded man with the cockthrowing, he had a fowl attached to his shoulders.^

From this it is clear that the custom of striking or beating animals was not simply a part of the process of securing them either in the chase or in a trial of skill, but something apparently more intimately connected with the central idea of the rite, as indeed has already been shown by Dr. Frazer in another connection. If, therefore, the prijnd facie interpretation — the scapegoat theory — of the liberation of the wren and other birds is correct, we can with some probability regard the hunt and similar customs as based upon the same idea.

I have already pointed out that it is no necessary feature of the cathartic rite that a scapegoat should be set free ; and, in fact, it seems arguable that many of the annual sacrifices to which I called attention in my former paper are explicable as cathartic sacrifices. But it may be well to give some examples which admit of no doubt. Near Maubeuge a ram was formerly led in procession in the same way as in the ceremonies already described, and the object of the ceremony is expressly stated to have been the removal of the sins of the people; but instead of the ram being set free it was killed by a gentleman of the neighbourhood.^

Equally clear is the cathartic intention of the Jewish sacrifice on the eve of the Day of Atonement. The father of the family knocks the head of the cock thrice against his own head ; then he kills it, cuts its throat, throws it down and so on ; all these elements of the ceremony are or have been interpreted symbolically. Formerly it

'^Montgomeryshire Coll. x. 264. '^RoUand, Faune, v. 206.