Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/587

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

tity of the deceased; but in certain conditions of life, as during war or the chase, cremation was employed. At least a handful of dust had to be sprinkled over the corpse before the spirit could obtain repose; its neglect was regarded with horror. The same motive dictated the rearing of cenotaphs. The tomb was constructed on the model of the house. The deceased was furnished with all the necessaries for his new home—attendants and wives, dogs and horses, weapons, clothing, and earthenware. As to the abode of the dead, the earliest theory was that the soul became ethereal, passing into the wind, or fire, or constellations. The exact locality was uncertain, because of the nebulous character of their life, for they followed certain Great Spirits. Then the region of bliss was placed in the west. The germs of a theory of recompense and punishment were found early. No doubt the idea gained in clearness when they came into contact with the Semites. Transmigration, regeneration, and purification belonged to a later time. The relation between the living and the departed was a wide question. In addition to the care taken at burial, there was constant communication—e. g., in dreams. Hence the respect shown to (1) kindly spirits, like the pitaras, fravashi, manes, etc.—the givers of wealth; (2) the evil-disposed, like the lemures or larvæ. This gave rise to ancestral worship, and was connected with the sustentation of the family; children were buried under the eaves of houses, and did not need propitiation. Thus the worshipers were actuated by fear and sympathy.

Cultivation of Sunflowers.—The history of the cultivation of the sunflower in Russia is easily written, for it was begun in 1842 by one Bokareff, at Voronezh, for the purpose of making oil from the seed. It has now extended to the adjacent provinces in the Volga basin, so that the acreage in sunflowers increased from 367,800 acres in 1881 to 704,500 acres in 1887. Sunflowers with small seeds are cultivated for the oil, and those with large seeds for eating the seeds as nuts. The oil is extremely nutritious, and has a pleasant flavor. Another source of profit is found in the residual cake, for which there is a constant and growing demand abroad. The shells or husks of the seeds also form a valuable article of trade as fuel, when wood is scarce; and the seed "cups" are prized by farmers as food for sheep. The money value per acre of the crop is large, perhaps superior to that of any other crop cultivated in Russia. The methods of cultivation are various. Some of the Russian farmers invariably sow sunflowers after wheat or rye, and others only after oats. Others advocate sowing after clover, and some consider it most profitable to put sunflowers into land which, after four or five crops, has lain fallow for two years. On the other hand, it seems generally admitted to be a mistake to sow grains immediately after a sunflower crop, an interval of a year being necessary to rest the land. Some of the farmers of Voronezh sow sunflowers in the same field for seven years in succession; then sow buckwheat; and then, after a year's rest, rye. As firewood, the stalks of the sunflower plants produce a bright, hot flame quickly, and form a pleasant and fragrant fire. An acre of sunflowers will yield about a ton of this fuel. As the sunflower is rich in potassium, even the ashes have a commercial value for fertilizing purposes.

Respect for Books.—The London Spectator remarks upon the respect which the average Briton has for libraries in themselves, no matter how little he reads or how averse he may be to spending money for books, as one of the most inexplicable features of his character. "The impressiveness of a library," it says, "is felt by classes far outside the one which passes its life in using books. The ordinary population of an ordinary town, though it will not always vote the cost of a free library, is proud to believe that the town library is a good one, regards its increase as something to be recorded with triumph, and enters the rooms in which it is kept with a kind of awe. It is considered a mark of caste to possess a good library, and a house will sell better because there is a room in it which has been devoted to the keeping of books, and that to men who would regard a day spent among books . . . as intolerably tedious." The feeling is said to extend to those who can not read, "and it is undoubtedly true that servants, though they will neglect a library to any extent, and apparently believe that dust on book-shelves