Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/300

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286 The Scape-Goat in European Folklore.

there is clearly no means of distinguishing an animal charged with contagious ills from one which bears no such burden. At the same time this solution leaves unsolved the problem of why one animal or bird came to be chosen rather than another ; it is possible that the selection of the scapegoat was determined by some deeper-lying cause to which we cannot now penetrate \ whether this cause was some physical peculiarity of the species, something in its habits — migratory birds might well seem specially suitable — or some subjective found- ation which it is hopeless to try to discover, these are questions which lack of the essential data compels me to pass over, and perhaps we can hardly expect to arrive at any conclusion upon them.

The facts adduced here make clear the wide preval- ence of cathartic ceremonies in Europe and thus bear out Dr. Frazer's views as to the presence of this element in the custom of " carrying out Death." Dr. Frazer holds that it was on the one hand customary to kill the human or animal god in order to save his divine life from being weakened by the inroads of old age. With this custom was combined, he supposes, one of annually expelling the accumulated evils and sins of the com- munity. In the cases we have been considering, however, when the animal scapegoat is killed, it seems to bear no marks of the dying god. So far as we can see the animal was selected as a convenient vehicle on which to load the burden of evil. It is, of course, possible that the divine character of the victim has been gradu- ally effaced in the course of ages, but there does not seem to be any foundation for the view in the European facts which are here adduced. But whether the animal was originally regarded as divine or not, it is evident that there was a practice of killing the scapegoat, and this suggests that Dr. Frazer's theory of the dying god may not be the true explanation of the spring customs