Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/781

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761
CRIMINAL FESTIVALS.

civilized as the Phœnicians, were people who had made considerable advance. Still, this is not so astonishing as to find human sacrifices in use even among the Greeks, with whom in the period of their grandeur the throng, at the mysteries of Bacchus Zagreus, cut up a goat, a sacrifice which was only a substitution; for anciently, according to Plutarch, it was a man that the throng cut to pieces on the altar of Dionysos Omostes—Dionysos, the flesh-eater. At the Thargelia, the Athenians gayly decorated a man and a woman who had been entertained at the expense of the state, escorted them in procession, and burned them at the entrance to the plain. The Celts bought slaves, whom they entertained liberally, and at the end of the year conducted in great pomp to the sacrifice. Every twelve months the Scythian tribe of the Albanians, according to Strabo, fattened a slave whom the people then massacred with lance cuts before the shrine of Artemis.

The great solemn popular festival of the Khonds included the annual immolation of a victim. After three days of indescribable orgies, in which women often participated dressed like men and armed like warriors, the victim was bound to a stake in the midst of the forest, and left there all night alone; in the morning the people returned, with a great noise of bells and gongs, singing and shouting; when the multitude had become well intoxicated with the uproar, and greatly excited by disorderly dances, the grand priest would command silence and recite a long prayer, and would then slay the victim, usually with a single stroke of the knife. The multitude, which had been waiting for that moment, rushed upon the C{uarry with piercing cries, each one trying to tear off a piece of the palpitating flesh, to hack the body to pieces.

A criminal ceremony exists among the tribes of the interior of Sumatra, which is without doubt the survival of an ancient and very cruel custom, that has passed in the course of time into a civil and religious duty. These people, although of rather gentle disposition, piously and ceremoniously kill and eat their aged parents, in the belief that they are performing a sacred duty. At the appointed day the old man who is destined to be eaten goes up into a tree, at the foot of which are gathered the relatives and friends of the family. They strike the trunk of the tree in cadence and sing a funeral hymn. Then the old man descends, his nearest relatives deliberately kill him, and the attendants eat him.

With some peoples animals take the place of human victims; but what we have said is sufficient to show that even with these peoples collective crime was formerly a solemn ceremony, although individual crime was already regarded as something to be oondemned.