Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/158

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tradition often hardly modified from barbarous and savage times. They raised storms by magic rites, they had charms against the hurt of weapons, they had their assemblies on wild heath and mountain-top, they could ride through the air on beasts and even turn into witch-cats and were-wolves themselves, they had familiar spirits, they had intercourse with incubi and succubi, they conveyed thorns, pins, feathers and such things into their victims' bodies, they caused disease by demoniacal possession, they could bewitch by spells and the evil eye, by practising on images and symbols, on food and property. Now all this is sheer survival from præ-Christian ages, 'in errore paganorum revolvitur,' as Burchard of Worms said of the superstition of his time.[1] Two of the most familiar devices used against the mediæval witches may serve to show the place in civilization of the whole craft. The Oriental jinn are in such deadly terror of iron, that its very name is a charm against them; and so in European folk-lore iron drives away fairies and elves, and destroys their power. They are essentially, it seems, creatures belonging to the ancient Stone Age, and the new metal is hateful and hurtful to them. Now as to iron, witches are brought under the same category as elves and nightmares. Iron instruments keep them at bay, and especially iron horseshoes have been chosen for this purpose, as half the stable doors in England still show.[2] Again, one of the best known of English witch ordeals is the trial by 'fleeting' or swimming. Bound hand and foot, the accused was flung into deep water, to sink if innocent and swim if guilty, and in the latter case, as Hudibras has it, to be hanged only for not being drowned. King James, who seems to have had a notion of the real primitive meaning of this rite, says in his Dæmonology, 'It appears that God hath appointed

1 See also Dasent, 'Introd. to Norse Tales;' Maury, 'Magie, &c.,' ch. vii.

2 Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. p. 30; Grimm, 'D. M.' pp. 435, 465, 1056; Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. pp. 265, 287; vol. iii. p. 204; D. Wilson, 'Prehistoric Annals of Scotland,' vol. ii. p. 126; Wuttke, 'Volksaberglaube,' pp. 15, 20, 122, 220.

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