Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/35

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21
Presidential Address.

adherence to particular economic tenets inspiring the formation of Trades Unions. Thought still moves to action, and to common action, but the old traditional ideas have ceased to shape or colour the institutions of the country. Hence we often say that European folklore exists in a state of survival.

Now what is Survival?

Etymologically, it should mean something qui survit, which outlives its fellows, like the Wandering Jew, encountered suddenly and unexpectedly, now here, now there, in every quarter of the globe from century to century. In practice, we use the word rather to denote a relic, a dead thing cut off from its source, like a lock of hair preserved long after the head it was cut from has mouldered into dust. A survival, in the technical sense, has been defined as "a vestigial or decadent element of culture, which has ceased to be in organic relation with the prevailing form of culture," or, as it might be expressed, "has out-lasted the form of culture to which it originally belonged." If we look into the matter closely we shall find, I think, that the folklore survival consists of certain special elements of an ancient culture existing apart from the rest. Either the strong framework of Institution is wanting, or else the animating force of Belief. When the Lord Mayor offers his sword to the King at the City boundary, only to have it returned to him, the ceremony was once a living reality, the acknowledgment by a tributary ruler of his liege lord on the one hand, and on the other the proof of the sovereign's confidence in the loyalty of his vassal. Now, (though hardly to be reckoned folklore), it has become "a mere survival," an empty form, a relic of the past which no longer has any real function in the social polity of the day. The ceremony, in fact, has out-lasted the Institution to which it belonged. When we mechanically avoid walking under ladders, or throw spilt salt over the left shoulder, or turn over a coin on hearing the first cuckoo,--