Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/292

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278 The Scape-Goat in European Folklore.

another case of cathartic sacrifice ; but when we consider the corresponding customs with the living birds and insects this view is seen to be highly probable. From Aristo- phanes onwards many authorities may be quoted for customs connected with seeing the first swallow, stork, butterfly or snake, or hearing the first cuckoo. At the present day the interpretations are very varied ; but even now we see distinct traces of what I take to be the primitive idea and foundation of the customs. For example, you must greet the first stork, if you desire to be free of backache during the year ; another recipe is to roll on the ground, but in this case the object is unspecified. Sometimes it is said to be lucky to see the first stork in flight ; and here, perhaps, the idea may be that it removes ill fortune from you.^ In the same way when the first swallow is seen, the proper thing to do is to wash your face, for then you will not be troubled with freckles ; another authority says it is well to jump, but assigns no specific advantage to the person who carries out the recommendation ; ^ Vv^hen the first cuckoo is heard, rolling is equally in place ; and the Huculs, when they see a snake for the first time in the year, spit and say : " Go into the forest, I am going into the field." ^ Those who wish to find a swarm of bees are variously recom- mended to set free the first butterfly or to catch it ; but it is clear that the latter case must be a mutilated version of the former ; very significant in this connection is the practice of letting the first butterfly escape through the arm of one's coat* But as absolute evidence of the cathartic intention of these customs I will quote the North German custom of catching the first gosling, taking care to preserve silence during the ceremony, and solemnly

^ Baltiscke Studien, 33, p. 119; Straus, Die Bulgaren, p. 335. "^Globus, xxxviii. 314; Folklore Jl. v. 187.

^Folklore Rec, ii. 88; Rev. der Trad. pop. iii. 345; Globus, Ixix. 72. ^ Strackerjan, Aberglaube, i. 105; Melusine, iv. 478; Folklore, xii.