« ZurückWeiter »
hero in Japan was Shuden Dozi—the Child-faced Drinker. In Ceylon the apparition of a demon is said to be frequently under the form of a woman with a child in her arms. Many animal demons are mere fables for the ferocity of human tribes. The Were-wolf superstition, which exists still in Russia, where the transformed monster is called volood/dk (vo/*, a wolf, and dlak, hair), might even have originated in the costume of Norse barbarians and huntsmen. The belief was always more or less rationalised, resembling that held by Verstegan three hundred years ago, and which may be regarded as prevalent among both the English and Flemish people of his day. “These Were-wolves, he says, “are certain sorcerers, who, having anointed their bodies with an ointment they make by the instinct of the devil, and putting on a certain enchanted girdle, do not only unto the view of others seem as wolves, but to their own thinking have both the nature and shape of wolves so long as they wear the said girdle; and they do dispose themselves as very wolves, in worrying and killing, and waste of human creatures.’ During the Franco-German war of 1870–71, a family of ladies on the German side of the Rhine, sitting up all night in apprehension, related to me such stories of the “Turcos' that I have since found no difficulty in understanding the belief in weird and praeternatural wolves which once filled Europe with horror. The facility with which the old Lycian wolf-girdle, so to say, was caught up and worn in so many countries where racewars were chronic for many ages, renders it nearly certain that this superstition (Lycanthropy), however it may have originated, was continued through the custom of ascribing demonic characteristics to hostile and fierce races. It has been, indeed, a general opinion that the theoretical belief originated in the Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis. Thus Shakspere:–
Thou almost makes me waver in my faith,
But the superstition is much older than Pythagoras, who, no doubt, tried to turn it into a moral theory of retributions,—as indeed did Plato in his story of the Vision of Er the Armenian. Professor Weber and others have adduced evidence indicating that although belief in the transformation of men into beasts was not developed in the Vedic age of India, the matrix of it was there. But of our main fact—the association of demonic characters with certain tribes— India has presented many examples. In the mountains of Travancore there are tribes which are still generally believed to be on terms of especial familiarity with the devils of that region; and the dwellers on the plains relate that on these mountains gigantic demons, sixteen or seventeen feet high, may sometimes be seen hurling firebrands at each other. Professor Monier Williams contributes an interesting note concerning this general phase of South - Indian demonology. “Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that although a belief in devils and homage to bhutas, or spirits, of all kinds is common all over India, yet what is called devil-worship is far more systematically practised in the South of India and Ceylon than in th. North. And the reason may be that as the invading Aryans advanced towards Southern India, they found 2. portions of it peopled by wild aboriginal savages, whose
behaviour and aspect appeared to them to resemble that of devils. The Aryan mind, therefore, naturally pictured to itself the regions of the South as the chief resort and stronghold of the demon race, and the dread of demonical agency became more deeply rooted in Southern India than in the North. Curiously enough, too, it is commonly believed in Southern India that every wicked man contributes by his death to swell the ever-increasing ranks of devil legions. His evil passions do not die with him; they are intensified, concentrated, and perpetuated in the form of a malignant and mischievous spirit.'" It is obvious that this principle may be extended from individuals to entire tribes. The Cimmerians were regarded as dwelling in a land allied with hell. In the legend of the Alhambra, as told by Washington Irving, the astrologer warns the Moorish king that the beautiful damsel is no doubt one of those Gothic sorceresses of whom they have heard so much. Although, as we have seen, England was regarded on the Continent as an island of demons because of its northern latitude, probably some of its tribes were of a character dangerous enough to prolong the superstition. The nightmare elves were believed to come from England, and to hurry away through the keyholes at daybreak, saying “The bells are calling in England.” Visigoth probably left us our word bigot; and ‘Goths and Vandals' sometimes designate English roughs, as “Turks' those of Constantinople. Herodotus says the Scythians of the Black Sea regarded the Neurians as wizards, who transformed themselves into wolves
* London ‘Times,” June 11, 1877.
* Wuttke, ‘Volksaberglaube,’ 402. Pliny (iv. 16) says: “Albion insula sic dicta ab albis rupibus quas mare alluit.’ This etymon of Albion from the white cliffs is very questionable; but, since Alb and Elfare generally related, it might have suggested the notion about English demons. Heine identifies the ‘White Island,' or Pluto's realm of Continental folklore, as England.
for a few days annually; but the Scythians themselves are said by Herodotus to have sprung from a monster, half-woman half-serpent ; and possibly the association of the Scotch with the Scythians by the Germans, who called them both Scutten, had something to do with the uncanny character ascribed to the British Isles. Sir Walter Raleigh described the Red Men of America as gigantic monsters. “Red Devils' is still the pioneer's epithet for them in the Far West. The hairy Dukes of Esau were connected with the goat, and demonised as Edom; and Ishmael was not believed much better by the more peaceful Semitic tribes. Such notions are akin to those which many now have of the Thugs and Bashi-Bazouks, and are too uniform and natural to tax much the ingenuity of Comparative Mythology. Underlying many of the legends of giants and dwarfs may be found a similar demonologic formation. A principle of natural selection would explain the existence of tribes, which, though of small stature, are able to hold their own against the larger and more powerful by their superior cunning. That such equalisation of apparently unequal forces has been known in pre-historic ages may be gathered from many fables. Before Bali, the monarch already mentioned, whose power alarmed the gods themselves, Vishnu appeared as a dwarf, asking only so much land as he could measure with three steps; the apparently ridiculous request granted, the god strode over the whole earth with two steps and brought his third on the head of Bali. In Scandinavian fable we have the young giantess coming to her mother with the plough and ploughman in her apron, which she had picked up in the field. To her child's inquiry, ‘What sort of beetle is this I found wriggling in the sand 2' the giantess replies, “Go put it back in the place where thou hast found it. We VOL. I. L
must be gone out of this land, for these little people will dwell in it.'" The Sagas contain many stories which, while written in glorification of the “giant' race, relate the destruction of their chiefs by the magical powers of the dwarfs. I must limit myself to a few notes on the Ynglinga Saga. “In Swithiod,' we are told, “are many great domains, and many wonderful races of men, and many kinds of languages. There are giants, and there are dwarfs, and there are also blue men. There are wild beasts, and dreadfully large dragons.' We learn that in Asaland was a great chief, Odin, who went out to conquer Vanaland. The Vanalanders are declared to have magic arts, such as are ascribed to Finns and Lapps to this day by the more ignorant of their neighbours. But that the people of Asaland learned their magic charms. ‘Odin was the cleverest of them all, and from him all the others learned their magic arts.” “Odin could make his enemies in battle blind, or deaf, or terror-struck, and their weapons so blunt that they could no more cut than a willow twig; on the other hand, his men rushed forward without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were as strong as bears or wild bulls, and killed people at a blow, and neither fire nor iron told upon them. These were called Berserkers.’ (From ber, bear, and serkr, sark or coat; the word being probably, as Maurer says, a survival of an earlier belief in the transformation of men into bears.) But the successors of Odin did not preserve his occult power. Svegdir, for instance, saw a large stone and a dwarf at the door entering in it. The dwarf called him to come in and he should see Odin. “Swedger ran into the stone, which instantly closed behind him, and Swedger never came back.' The witchcraft of the Finn people is said to have led Vanlandi (Svegdir's son) to his