Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/122

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

how far to conveyance from race to race, and how far to ancestral inheritance. Here it has only to be maintained that it was not originally an arbitrary and meaningless custom, but the working out of a principle.[1] The plain statement by the modern Zulus fits with the hints to be gained from the superstition and folk-lore of other races, to connect the notions and practices as to sneezing with the ancient and savage doctrine of pervading and invading spirits, considered as good or evil, and treated accordingly. The lingering survivals of the quaint old formulas in modern Europe seem an unconscious record of the time when the explanation of sneezing had not yet been given over to physiology, but was still in the 'theological stage.'

There is current in Scotland the belief that the Picts, to whom local legend attributes buildings of prehistoric antiquity, bathed their foundation-stones with human blood; and legend even tells that St. Columba found it necessary to bury St. Oran alive beneath the foundation of his monastery, in order to propitiate the spirits of the soil who demolished by night what was built during the day. So late as 1843, in Germany, when a new bridge was built at Halle, a notion was abroad among the people that a child was wanted to be built into the foundation. These ideas of church or wall or bridge wanting human blood or an immured victim to make the foundation steadfast, are not only widespread in European folk-lore, but local chronicle or tradition asserts them as matter of historical fact in district after district. Thus, when the broken dam of the Nogat had to be repaired in 1463, the peasants, on the advice to throw in a living man, are said to have made a beggar drunk and buried him there. Thuringian legend declares that to make the castle of Liebenstein fast and impregnable, a child was bought for hard money of its mother and walled in. It

  1. The cases in which a sneeze is interpreted under special conditions, as with reference to right and left, early morning, &c. (see Plutarch, De Genio Socratis, &c.), are not considered here, as they belong to ordinary omen-divination.