Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/164

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to secure themselves against a like danger of traitorous action on the part of their own guardian god, the name was never divulged. If we find such ideas prevalent among the higher races, we may a fortiori expect to find them among lower races; nor is the difference in such ideas always one of degree. The barbaric belief that the spirits know folk by their names is active among civilized people wherever anthropomorphic conceptions of deity prevail. To such it is not matter of doubt that He knows each one by name, as He is recorded to have known men of olden time, addressing them thereby, and even altering their name.[1] If we incline to accept the testimony of spiritualists we may find like correspondences between barbarian and civilized in the belief that to name the spirits is to invoke their appearance, an idea surviving in the saying, "Talk of the devil and you'll see his horns," and illustrated by the legend of the Norse witches who tied up wind and foul matter in a bag, and then, undoing the knots, shouted "Wind in the devil's name," when the hurricane swept over land and sea; and also by the recipe for stopping a witch's dance and dispersing the dancers by uttering the name of God or Christ. We may not therefore feign surprise when we hear that in Borneo, when a child is ill, its name is changed so as to confuse or deceive the bad spirits, to whom all diseases and death, which last is rarely regarded as a natural event by the savage, are ascribed. Among some South American tribes, when a man dies, his friends and kinsmen change their names so as to elude death if he comes after them, or to prevent the departed spirits being attracted back to earth by hearing the old name.[2]

Intimately connected with this, therefore, is the universal reluctance among barbaric people to speak of the dead; a feeling shared in modified form by ourselves, as expressed in Mrs. Barrett Browning's lines on Cowper:

"Named softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken."

The Fuegians, Darwin tells us, never mentioned the names of the

  1. Gen. xvii. 5; xxxii. 28; Exod. xxiii. 17.
  2. Cf. Dorman's Primitive Superstitions, p. 154, for several illustrations of this.