Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/96

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It may be possible to trace another interesting group of sports as survivals from a branch of savage philosophy, once of high rank though now fallen into merited decay. Games of chance correspond so closely with arts of divination belonging already to savage culture, that there is force in applying to several such games the rule that the serious practice comes first, and in time may dwindle to the sportive survival. To a modern educated man, drawing lots or tossing up a coin is an appeal to chance, that is, to ignorance; it is committing the decision of a question to a mechanical process, itself in no way unnatural or even extraordinary, but merely so difficult to follow that no one can say beforehand what will come of it. But we also know that this scientific doctrine of chance is not that of early civilization, which has little in common with the mathematician's theory of probabilities, but much in common with such sacred divination as the choice of Matthias by lot as a twelfth apostle, or, in a later age, the Moravian Brethren's rite of choosing wives for their young men by casting lots with prayer. It was to no blind chance that the Maoris looked when they divined by throwing up lots to find a thief among a suspected company;[1] or the Guinea negroes when they went to the fetish-priest, who shuffled his bundle of little strips of leather and gave his sacred omen.[2] The crowd with uplifted hands pray to the gods, when the heroes cast lots in the cap of Atreides Agamemnon, to know who shall go forth to do battle with Hektor and help the well-greaved Greeks.[3] With prayer to the gods, and looking up to heaven, the German priest or father, as Tacitus relates, drew three lots from among the marked fruit-tree twigs scattered on a pure white garment, and interpreted the

    spiritum suum tradidit .... Contra hos [the orthodox] audacter evomere præsumunt impietatis suæ bilem, atque insanientes, ex mali spiritus blasphemiâ, Sculpticolas vocant.'

  1. Polack, vol. i. p. 270.
  2. Bosman, 'Guinese Kust,' letter x.; Eng. Trans, in Pinkerton, vol. xvi., p. 399.
  3. Homer. Iliad, vii. 171; Pindar. Pyth. iv. 338.