Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/156

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suck children's blood, and to be for life and death of all creatures the most wretched. But with new enlightenment there came in the very teeth of law and authority a change in European opinion. Toward the end of the seventeenth century the hideous superstition was breaking down among ourselves; Richard Baxter, of the 'Saint's Rest,' strove with fanatic zeal to light again at home the witch-fires of New England, but he strove in vain. Year by year the persecution of witches became more hateful to the educated classes, and though it died hard, it died at last down to a vestige. In our days, when we read of a witch being burnt at Camargo in 1860, we point to Mexico as a country miserably in the rear of civilization. And if in England it still happens that village boors have to be tried at quarter-sessions for ill-using some poor old woman, who they fancy has dried a cow or spoiled a turnip crop, we comment on the tenacity with which the rustic mind clings to exploded follies, and cry out for more schoolmasters.

True as all this is, the ethnographer must go wider and deeper in his enquiry, to do his subject justice. The prevailing belief in witchcraft that sat like a nightmare on public opinion from the 13th to the 17th centuries, far from being itself a product of mediævalism, was a revival from the remote days of primæval history. The disease that broke out afresh in Europe had been chronic among the lower races for how many ages we cannot tell. Witchcraft is part and parcel of savage life. There are rude races of Australia and South America whose intense belief in it has led them to declare that if men were never bewitched, and never killed by violence, they would not die at all. Like the Australians, the Africans will inquire of their dead what sorcerer slew them by his wicked arts, and when they have satisfied themselves of this, blood must atone for blood. In West Africa, it has been boldly asserted that the belief in witchcraft costs more lives than the slave trade ever did. In East Africa, Captain Burton, a traveller apt to draw his social sketches in a few sharp lines, remarks that what with