« ForrigeFortsæt »
plained factor. A watchman children can understand, and then the game is occasionally prolonged in the endeavour to keep him awake and alive to his duties; this comes out clearly in a Berkshire version:
“We 'll set a man to watch at night.
Suppose the man should fall asleep?
Suppose the pipe should fall and break ?
Suppose the nuts were rotten and bad ?
And the children dance round in a ring in imitation of the horse.
The prisoner incident is, according to Mrs. Gomme, more common than the watchman. In only one case (Shropshire) is the prisoner ransomed; in the others he is sent to prison. What does this sudden appearance of a prisoner indicate ?
The two following modern Greek songs very vividly supply the answer:
THE STOICHEION OF THE BRIDGE.
"A bridge across the Tricha broad, with sixty-two wide arches.
*Thine hour be happy, Ghiorghiana !' My boys, I'm glad to
see you!' ‘Unbind and swaddle fresh thy babe, and of thy milk now give
him ; Thy husband, Ghiorghi, he is sick, and thou with us must hasten.' As they were going on the road, and on the road did journey, 'Three sisters once were we (she cried] and Stoicheia we 'll all be ! Of Kórphos one's a Stoicheion ; the other of Zitouni; And I, the third and fairest one, o'th' bridge across the Tricha. And as my eyes are streaming now, may wayfarers stream over!'”
Here the human sacrifice must be provided by the master mason; in the following song the victim is selected by a method of casting lots. In Legrand's New Greek Dictionary, stoicheion is defined, amongst other meanings, as the genius or spirit of a place. In this instance the idea appears to be that to enable the bridge to last it must be endowed with a living spirit.
THE BRIDGE OF ADANA.
(Kappadocia.) “All day long did they build the piers ; by night they fell in ruins. 'Come now and let us branches cut! come now will we chop
faggots ; Let us give up one soul of us that firm the bridge be builded.' They sat them down, and chopped away, the two-and-forty masons. Then fell from Yianni's hand his axe, unfortunate Yiannáki ! “Yiannáki, go, thy goodwife fetch, if thou thy head would'st
keep thee!' 'If I should now my goodwife give, I yet can find another ; But if I my own head give up, I while I'm young shall leave her!'”
So they fetch the poor wife, who is “ vigilant and quick at bath and washing." The husband drops his ring down the excavations and induces his wife to fetch it up.
“Then down goes she, and down goes she, steps forty-two
descends she, And fall upon her as she goes of stones a thousand litras, And throw they down upon her, too, of earth a thousand
spadefuls." In her dying lament she exclaims:
“Hear thou my words, Yiannáki mine, let not the world rejoice
Three only sisters once were we, we were three sisters only ;
Miss Lucy M. J. Garnett, in her Greek Folk Poesy, from which book these two songs are taken, points out that numerous stories of foundation sacrifices are told in Celtic countries. In Adamnan's Life of Columba' we read:
“ Columkille said, then, to his people, 'It would be well for us that our roots should pass into the earth here.' And he said to them, “It is permitted to you that some of you go under the earth of this island to consecrate it.' Odhran arose quickly, and thus spake : ‘If you accept me,' said he, 'I am ready for that.' 'O Odhran,' said Columkille, ‘you shall receive the reward of this : no request shall be granted to any one at my tomb unless he first ask of thee.' Odhran then went to heaven. He (Columkille) founded the church of Hy then."
What strange methods the missionaries had in those days!
There are many traditions still current in the Highlands regarding such sacrifices. One of these relates that when the workmen had assembled to lay the foundations of Tigh-anTorr, in Western Ross-shire, they caught the first person who chanced to pass and buried him under the foundation
i The Life of St. Columha, Founder of Hy; Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of that Monastery. Ed by W. Reeves, Dublin, 1857, p. 203.
stone. On laying the foundations of Redcastle, a red-haired girl was buried alive under the stone.
As there is so much evidence of this ghastly custom in the British Islands, there is no need for us to seek for further confirmation in European practice. One instance will suffice. So late as 1843, in Germany, when a new bridge was built at Halle, a notion was abroad among the people that a child was wanted to be built into the foundation. In Africa and the far East we find precisely the same custom; but somehow we rather expect that sort of thing to be done by barbarians and savages, forgetting all the while that it was not so very long ago when our own ancestors did the very same.
“So recently as 1872 there was a scare in Calcutta when Hooghly Bridge was being constructed. The natives then got hold of the idea that the Mother Ganges, indignant at being bridged, had at last consented to submit to the insult on condition that each pier of the structure was founded on a layer of children's heads. Formerly, in Siam, when a new city gate was being erected, it was customary for a number of officers to lie in wait and seize the first four or eight persons who happened to pass by, and who were then buried alive under the gate-posts to serve as guardian angels; and there is a tradition about London Bridge itself, that the stones were bespattered with the blood of little children. Fitzstephen, in his well-known account of London of the twelfth century, mentions that when the Tower was built the mortar was tempered with the blood of beasts." !
The substitution of animal for human sacrifice is too well recognised in comparative religion to need substantiating; for example, a chicken sometimes replaces a girl as a foundation sacrifice in Borneo.
1 A. B. Gomme, Traditional Games, pp. 346, 347 ; further illustrations of this custom will be found in G. L. Gomme, Early Village Life, p. 29, and E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, i., pp. 104-108
It seems that Professor Léon Pineau read a paper before a Congress in Paris in the spring of 1897 on one of the most popular of French “ rondes,” which commences thus in some localities:
“Sur le pont de Nantes,
Sur le pont de Nantes,
Elsewhere it runs:
“Sur le pont du Nord,
Sur le pont du Nord,
Of this there are many variants, but the theme is the same in all. M. Pineau argued that this was related to " a ritual dance on the occasion of a human sacrifice to the divinities of the water," and attributed this traditional song to a Celtic origin. A critic 'suggests that this was more probably a Gothic rather than a Celtic song.
Newell ' has also studied this game, and he has collected some foreign contemporary and mediæval games which he thinks are variants. He describes the American version of the game as follows:
“Two players, by their uplifted hands, form an arch, representing the bridge, under which passes the train of children, each clinging to the garments of the predecessor, and hurrying to get safely by. The last of the train is caught by the lowered arms of the guardians of the bridge, and asked, “Will you have a diamond necklace or a gold pin ?' 'a rose or a cabbage ?' or some equivalent question. The keepers have already privately agreed which of the two each of these objects shall represent, and according to the prisoner's choice he is placed behind one or
S. B., “ À propos d'une Ronde enfantine," La Science Sociale, xxiii., 1897, P. 109.
? Loc. cit., p. 204.