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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE WRITINGS OF THE LATE SIR LAURENCE GOMME ON ANTHROPOLOGY AND FOLKLORE.
Lady Gomme's Bibliography of Sir Laurence's splendid lifework omits one item: "On the Method of Determining the Value of Folklore as Ethnological Data," Report of British Association, Liverpool, 1896, pp. 626-656.
I should be much obliged if you could inform me where I could obtain information regarding the custom of burning two candles on Christmas Eve. As far back as I can remember this was done in our family, and has been continued regularly until now.
E. C. BLANCHARD.
10 Great College Street, Westminster, S.W.
[Burning the Christmas Candle-there is generally only oneis a common custom in Cumberland, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire, and is probably still practised in Northumberland, where in 1725 the Rev. Henry Bourne gave the following account of it: "Our Forefathers, when the common Devotions of the Eve were over, and Night was come on, were wont to light up Candles of an uncommon Size, which were called Christmas-Candles, and to lay a Log of Wood upon the Fire, which they termed a Yule-Clog, or
These were to illuminate the House and turn the Night, which Custom, in some Measure, is still kept up in the Northern Parts."
The candle, a tall wax candle, half a yard in length, is usually a gift from the grocer to his customers. It is placed on the table at supper-time on Christmas Eve, and lighted when the whole family have assembled. It would be very unlucky to light it sooner, or to snuff it or move it till supper is ended, and a piece of it must be kept till next year for luck. See Young's History of Whitby, 1817, ii. 879; History of Richmond, 1814, p. 294; Shaw, Our Filey Fishermen, p. 9; Wilson (John), Verses and Notes, 1887, p. 181; Dickenson's Cumberland Glossary, p. 17; and Gent. Mag. 1832, vol. ii. p. 191.
In Cornwall "candles painted by some member of the family were often lighted at the same time" as the Christmas block; and Miss Courtney tells us that "in a few remote districts of the coast children may be, after nightfall, occasionally (but rarely) found dancing round painted lighted candles placed in a box of sand. This custom was very general fifty years ago. The church towers, too, are sometimes illuminated" (Cornish Feasts and Feasten Customs, p. 7). Near Oswestry, in Shropshire, on the borders of Wales, the colliers carry round a cake of clay stuck with lighted candles, on a board, and show it, expecting money.
Irish observances are noted in Folk-Lore, vol. xxvii. pp. 265, 276. The last-mentioned, a contemporary case, in which the master of the household himself lit two candles-one in the dining-room, the other in the kitchen for the servants-comes very near to Mr. Blanchard's experience, about which we should like to hear more details. How far back can he trace the family custom, and in what part of the country?
As to the significance of the custom, it is difficult to go beyond the observation of Brand (ed. 1777) that "Lights indeed seem to have been used on all festive Occasions :--Thus our own Illuminations, Fireworks, &c., on the News of Victories." They would be especially appropriate at a festival held in the darkest season of the year, and (in Christian times) in honour of the advent of Christ, the Light of the World.-ED.]
FOLKLORE FROM WEST AFRICA.
ASHANTI PROVERBS. Translated from the original, with Grammatical and Anthropological Notes, by A. SUTHERLAND RATTRAY, with a Preface by SIR HUGH CLIFFORD. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1916.
A HAUSA BOTANICAL GLOSSARY.
By J. M. DALZIEL, M.D.
London Fisher Unwin, Limited. 1916.
IN 1879 the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society published a collection, in the vernacular, of some 3,600 proverbs in use among the negroes of the Gold Coast, collected by the late Rev. S. G. Christaller. This great collection was inaccessible to European students until, with the permission of the Society, Mr. Rattray translated in the present volume some 500 proverbs, selected chiefly with the view of "illustrating some custom, belief, or ethical determinant pure and simple, which may be of interest to the anthropologist; or some grammatical or syntactical construction of importance to the student of the language." It is important to remember that Mr. Christaller's collection was made more than thirty years ago, at a time when education and European influence were not so widely felt as is the case at present. Many of the proverbs have now fallen out of recollection, and the rites and practices on which they are based are rapidly disappearing. Besides the interest of the book as a collection of proverbs, Mr. Rattray's voluminous notes are a storehouse of interesting belief and custom.
In these popular sayings the High Gods, known as Onyàmé, or Nyankopon, figure largely. Colonel Ellis, who, with all due
acknowledgment to his great ability in this field of research, was not an accomplished linguist in the Twi or Ashanti language, and must have relied for much of his information on his interpreters, supposed that this conception was due to missionary influence. This theory is rejected on apparently good grounds by Mr. Rattray, and his well-considered argument will be of interest to some who may remember an active controversy carried on in Folk-Lore some years ago regarding this subject. Among the many interesting facts recorded by Mr. Rattray, the following deserve special notice. When a man dies his spirit is believed not to go direct to the world below, but it has first, as it were, to report itself, some say to Onyankopon, others to a famous "fetish Brukum, which has its earthly abode in Togoland. Such ghosts have little power for harm, are shy, and confine themselves to frightening people. Even when a spirit has gone to the lower world, it does not necessarily sever connexion with the land of the living; hence manes-worship is a distinct branch of religion. An Ashanti never drinks without pouring a few drops of wine on the ground for the spirits which may happen to be about, and food is constantly placed aside for them. "There is absolutely no trace of a belief that spirits ever go to live in the sky with Onyankopon, but, as already noted, there is an almost universal idea that he in some way has power over them to interdict or permit them to enter the spirit world, and also to launch a soul again into the world of men, re-incarnation in fact." Ghosts, when visible to the human eye, are said to be white, or dressed in white, and the near presence of a spirit or ghost is supposed to be felt by its peculiar smell. The use of stools as a mark of dignity is common. Ashanti, when rising from his stool, will generally tilt it against a wall or lay it on its side, lest a departed spirit should sit on it, when the next person to sit down "would contract pains in the waist."
Men and women possessed of the powers of black magic can quit their bodies and travel great distances in the night; they can suck out the blood of victims and the sap and juices of crops; they emit a phosphorescent light from parts of their bodies. In everyday life they are known by their sharp, shifty eyes, restlessness, and they are always talking about food. Hence no one will
deny food even to a stranger, lest he may be a witch or a wizard. In the case of a death the corpse is carried round the village on a stretcher, and the chief, cutlass in hand, advances and addresses the deceased, "If I am the one who killed you by magic, advance on me and knock me." So the enquiry goes on until the corpse urges the carriers to butt against the guilty person. A person so accused can appeal for a change of carriers.
The spider in Ashanti folklore comes easily first as a hero in most of their animal tales. Mr. Rattray thinks that these stories probably had a religious or totemic origin, for to-day a sobriquet for the Supreme Being is Ananec-Kokroko, "the Great Spider."
The spider is credited with being very wise, but in Hausa folklore he is rather of the lovable rogue order. One day he collected all the wisdom of the world in a gourd, and was climbing up a tree to deposit it on the top. As he had tied the gourd to his belly, he got into difficulties, and his son, who was watching him, said, "Father, if you had really all the wisdom of the world with you, you would have sense enough to tie the gourd on your back." So in a temper he threw down the gourd, the wisdom got scattered, and men came and picked up what they could carry
The account of oaths, which are numerous, one being in the nature of a curse, is very interesting. A man who was about to be executed was usually pierced through both cheeks with a skewer-like knife which prevented him from "Swearing the King's oath," as this would have necessitated a trial before he could be executed. The description of the curious rapidity with which news is signalled by beat of drum is also valuable. In Ashanti when a subject sorcerer appears before his chief his nose is immediately rubbed with white clay, and during that day he is held responsible for any bad or good luck the chief may have, and is punished or rewarded accordingly. White clay is used in various rites, and is smeared on an accused person who has been acquitted of a crime; the Milky Way is white with the myriads of claydecked bodies of the dead.
The value of this useful book would have been increased by an index of subjects.