Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/168

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Tylor quotes from Dr. Lieber. "I was lately looking at a negro who was feeding young mocking-birds by the hand. 'Would they eat worms?' I asked; 'Surely not,' answered the man, 'they are too young, and they would not know what to call them.'"[1] That negro would find a kindred spirit in the old lady who, after hearing a lecture upon astronomy, said that she could understand how the astronomers found out the distances and weights of the stars, but what puzzled her was how they found out their names!

3. The rites and ceremonies which have been practised at birth and infancy from time immemorial have survived long after their primitive meaning was forgotten, and new meanings whereby a quasi-sanctity has been imparted have been attached to them. The ideas which still cluster round name-giving are the disguised or transmuted superstitions akin to those already illustrated. The custom of naming children from some event happening at their birth has frequent reference in the Old Testament, as e.g. in Genesis xxx. 11, where Leah's maid gives birth to a son: "And she said, A troop cometh; and she called his name Gad." So Hachel, dying in childbed, calls the babe Ben-oni, "son of sorrow," but the father changes his name to Ben-jamin, "son of the right hand." Burckhardt speaks of a like custom among the Bedouins, the child's name being derived from some incident, or from some fancy of the mother,[2] while among the Kaffirs the name of the day on which the child is born, or the name of any beast whose roar is then heard, is given to it. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration must be claimed as the lineal descendant of the barbaric notions concerning the lustrations which still accompany the naming of the child. In Abyssinia the baptismal name is concealed throughout life, and in West Sussex it is considered unlucky to divulge a child's intended name before baptism.[3]

Although I have sought, in collecting the scattered materials for illustration of the thesis of this paper, for points of fundamental

  1. Early History of Mankind, p. 151.
  2. Notes on the Bedouins, p. 55, quoted in Capt. (now Sir George) Grey's Travels in N. W. and W. Australia, ii. 373.
  3. And cf. Lang's Custom and Myth: story of "Nicht, Nought, Nothing," p. 89.