Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/124

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relic of the idea survives in the superstition that the first passer-by after a foundation-stone is laid will die within the year, wherefore the masons will compromise the debt by killing a lamb or a black cock on the stone. With much the same idea German legend tells of the bridge-building fiend cheated of his promised fee, a soul, by the device of making a cock run first across; and thus German folk-lore says it is well, before entering a new house, to let a cat or dog run in.[1] From all this it seems that, with due allowance for the idea having passed into an often-repeated and varied mythic theme, yet written and unwritten tradition do preserve the memory of a bloodthirsty barbaric rite, which not only really existed in ancient times, but lingered long in European history. If now we look to less cultured countries, we shall find the rite carried on in our own day with a distinctly religious purpose, either to propitiate the earth-spirits with a victim, or to convert the soul of the victim himself into a protecting demon.

In Africa, in Galam, a boy and girl used to be buried alive before the great gate of the city to make it impregnable, a practice once executed on a large scale by a Bambarra tyrant; while in Great Bassam and Yarriba such sacrifices were usual at the foundation of a house or village.[2] In Polynesia, Ellis heard of the custom, instanced by the fact that the central pillar of one of the temples at Maeva was planted upon the body of a human victim.[3] In Borneo,

  1. W. Scott, 'Minstrelsy of Scottish Border;' Forbes Leslie, 'Early Races of Scotland,' vol. i. pp. 194, 487; Grimm, 'Deutsche Mythologie,' pp. 972, 1095; Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. pp. 92, 407, vol. iii. pp. 105, 112; Bowring, 'Servian Popular Poetry,' p. 64. A review of the First Edition of the present work in 'Nature,' June 15, 1871, contains the following: — 'It is not, for example, many years since the present Lord Leigh was accused of having built an obnoxious person — one account, if we remember right, said eight obnoxious persons — into the foundation of a bridge at Stoneleigh. Of course so preposterous a charge carried on its face its own sufficient refutation; but the fact that it was brought at all is a singular instance of the almost incredible vitality of old traditions.'
  2. Waitz, vol. ii. p. 197.
  3. Ellis, 'Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 346; Tyerman and Bennet, vol. ii. p. 39.