Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/164

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the amount of actual correspondence between omen and event necessary to establish these rules: the illogical people who were (and still are) able to discover a connexion between the ticking of the 'death-watch' beetle and an ensuing death in the house, no doubt found it equally easy to give a prophetic interpretation to any other mysterious knocks.[1] There is a story, dated 1534, of a ghost that answered questions by knocking in the Catholic church of Orleans, and demanded the removal of the provost's Lutheran wife, who had been buried there; but the affair proved to be a trick of a Franciscan friar.[2] The system of working an alphabet by counted raps is a device familiar to prison-cells, where it has long been at once the despair of gaolers and an evidence of the diffusion of education even among the criminal classes. Thus when, in 1847, the celebrated rappings began to trouble the township of Arcadia in the State of New York, the Fox family of Rochester, founders of the modern spiritual movement, had on the one hand only to revive the ancient prevalent belief in spirit-rappings, which had almost fallen into the limbo of discredited superstitions, while, on the other hand, the system of communication with the spirits was ready made to their hand. The system of a rapping-alphabet remains in full use, and numberless specimens of messages thus received are in print, possibly the longest being a novel, of which I can only give the title, 'Juanita, Nouvelle par une Chaise. À l'Imprimerie du Gouvernement, Basse Terre (Guadeloupe), 1853.' In the recorded communications, names, dates, &c., are often alleged to have been stated under remarkable circumstances, while the style of thought, language, and spelling fits with the intellectual quality of the medium. A large proportion of the communications being obviously false and silly, even when the 'spirit' has announced itself

1 Brand, vol. iii. pp. 225, 233; Grimm, pp. 801, 1089, 1141; Wuttke, pp. 38-9, 208; Shortland, 'Trads. of New Zealand,' p. 137 (ominous ticking of insect, doubtful whether idea native, or introduced by foreigners).

2 Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 393.

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