Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/39

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Presidential Address.

lightning, because “under a thorn our Saviour was born”;[1] when your gardener, as in some counties, will only sow parsley on Good Friday to ensure the growth of the seed, or, as in others, declines to transplant it, lest it should cause a death in the family;[2]—these and countless other such cases are not “survivals.” They are matters of genuine honest belief in what the people think to be actually true. Whether it be a belief in occult properties and powers, in a mysterious association with higher beings, in the historic truth of myths, or in imaginary natural laws of cause and effect, makes little difference. The point is that the belief is living and influential, prompting to action; and, alien though it may be to the culture of the more advanced classes of the nation, it is part of the native home-grown culture of the people who held it.

While we cannot, then, say that there is no living belief in European folklore, neither can we say that there is no survival in savagery. Take, for example, the ceremonial reluctance that must be shown by the bride in the marriage rites of almost every country, no matter how free an agent she may have been in her choice of a husband. Whether this actually originated in marriage by capture, or whether it be only the formal expression of natural feminine timidity, it is surely a survival nowadays, wherever women are permitted to exercise their freewill in the matter. The couvade, when it is kept up with no active belief to motive it, the taboo on speaking to a mother-in-law for which no raison d’être in existing custom has ever been discovered, are survivals from a forgotten state of things.[3] We constantly hear of “traces” of mother-right among patrilineal peoples, and “traces” of totemism among non-totemic peoples. What are these but survivals, relics of a forgotten and unrecorded

  1. Folk-Lore, vol. vii., pp. 380-1.
  2. Shropshire Folklore, pp. 248-9.
  3. Dr. Frazer thinks that the mother-in-law taboo marks a revolt against a former system of group-marriage, in which a man’s mother-in-law was his possible wife (Totemism and Exogamy, vol. ii., p. 323, vol. iii., p. 247).