Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/159

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141
WITCHCRAFT ORDEALS.

for a supernatural signe of the monstrous impietie of witches, that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosom that have shaken off them the sacred water of baptism,' &c. Now, in early German history this same trial by water was well known, and its meaning recognized to be that the conscious element rejects the guilty (si aqua illum velut innoxium receperit — innoxii submerguntur aqua, culpabiles supernatant). Already in the 9th century the laws were prohibiting this practice as a relic of superstition. Lastly, the same trial by water is recognized as one of the regular judicial ordeals in the Hindu code of Manu; if the water does not cause the accused to float when plunged into it, his oath is true. As this ancient Indian body of laws was itself no doubt compiled from materials of still earlier date, we may venture to take the correspondence of the water-ordeal among the European and Asiatic branches of the Aryan race as carrying back its origin to a period of remote antiquity.[1]

Let us hope that if the belief in present witchcraft, and the persecution necessarily ensuing upon such belief, once more come into prominence in the civilized world, they may appear in a milder shape than heretofore, and be kept down by stronger humanity and tolerance. But any one who fancies from their present disappearance that they have necessarily disappeared for ever, must have read history to little purpose, and has yet to learn that 'revival in culture' is something more than an empty pedantic phrase. Our own time has revived a group of beliefs and practices which have their roots deep in the very stratum of early philosophy where witchcraft makes its first appearance. This group of beliefs and practices constitutes what is now commonly known as Spiritualism.

Witchcraft and Spiritualism have existed for thousands of years in a closeness of union not unfairly typified in this

  1. Brand, 'Pop. Ant.' vol. iii. pp. 1-43; Wuttke, 'Volksaberglaube,' p. 50; Grimm, 'Deutsche Rechtsalterthümer,' p. 923; Pictet, 'Origines Indo-Europ.' part ii. p. 459; Manu, viii., 114-5: see Plin. vii. 2.