Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/682

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



for the edifice to be erected.[1] Ubicini well defines a stahic as "the ghost of a person who has been immured in the walls of a building in order to make it more solid."[2]

It is not houses alone, however, that are thus protected by an artificially made guardian. The vikings used to "redden their rollers" with human blood. That is to say, when a warship was launched, human victims were bound to the rollers over which the galley was run down to the sea, so that the stem was sprinkled with their blood.[3] The last trace of such consecration among ourselves is the breaking of a wine-bottle over the ship's bows. Captain Cook found the South Sea Islanders similarly christened their war-canoes with the blood of human victims.

Furthermore, as the position of protecting spirit is rather a dignified and beatified one than otherwise, it is kept reasonably enough in the family of the king, the founder, or the master builder. This is a common trait in all stories of these human sacrifices, and it helps to bring them into line with the similar stories of corn-spirits and self-immolated gods. For it is the dearly beloved son that is especially chosen for such self-immolation. Thus, we read in the Book of Kings that when Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho, "he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub." And may we not put down in the same category the case of Remus, represented in legend as brother of Romulus, the founder of Rome?

To sum up, then, I would say in one word, while I accept in all their main results Mr. Frazer's remarkable conclusions, I believe that, in order to understand to the very bottom the origin of tree worship, we must directly affiliate it upon primitive ancestor or ghost worship, of which it is an aberrant and highly specialized offshoot.


According to the English journal Iron, Lieutenant Apostolow, of the Russian navy, has some marvelous plans for expediting ocean navigation. He recently exhibited to some naval officers in Odessa a new style of ship, having no screw or paddle, but instead, "a kind of running electrical gear right round the vessel's hull under the water-line, and a revolving mechanism which will propel the ship from Liverpool to New York in twenty-eight hours." To those who are too timid to undertake this voyage, he offers the alternative of a submarine passage, "without rock, roll, or vibration, and with a good supply of oxygen and hydrogen during the short voyage."

  1. See also Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, vol. ii, p. 844, and Folk Lore Record, vol. iii, p. 282.
  2. Ballades et Chants Populaires de la Roumanie, p. 198.
  3. Vigfusson and Powell, Corpus Poeticum Boreale, vol. i, p. 410.