Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/88

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Survival and Superstition — Children's games — Games of chance — Traditional sayings — Nursery poems — Proverbs — Riddles — Significance and survival in Customs: sneezing-formula, rite of foundation-sacrifice, prejudice against saving a drowning man.

WHEN a custom, an art, or an opinion is fairly started in the world, disturbing influences may long affect it so slightly that it may keep its course from generation to generation, as a stream once settled in its bed will flow on for ages. This is mere permanence of culture; and the special wonder about it is that the change and revolution of human affairs should have left so many of its feeblest rivulets to run so long. On the Tatar steppes, six hundred years ago, it was an offence to tread on the threshold or touch the ropes in entering a tent, and so it appears to be still.[1] Eighteen centuries ago Ovid mentions the vulgar Roman objection to marriages in May, which he not unreasonably explains by the occurrence in that month of the funeral rites of the Lemuralia: —

'Nec viduæ tædis eadem nec virginis apta Tempora. Quæ nupsit, non diuturna fuit. Hac quoque de causa, si te proverbia tangunt, Mense malas Maio nubere volgus ait.'[2]

The saying that marriages in May are unlucky survives

1 Will. de Rubruquis in Pinkerton, vol. vii. pp. 46, 67, 132; Michie, 'Siberian Overland Route,' p. 96.

2 Ovid. Fast. v. 487. For modern Italy and France, see Edélestane du Méril, Études d'Archéol.' p. 121.


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