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MAGIC AND EELIG-ION



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LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO., 39 Paternoster Row, London
New York and Bombay.



•Magic and Religion-



BY



#<^



ANDEEW LANG

AI'THOK OP
MYTH, RITUAL, AND KELIGION ' 'CUSTOM AND JIYTH ' ETC.



i48r



^„!<'^^ R A R y~

UNI



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

3{) PATEENOSTEE EOW, LONDON
NEW YOEK AND BOMBAY

1901

All rights reserved



//^



/■./



GENERAL



P Pv E F A C E

Eecent years have brought rich additions to the materials
for the study of early reHgion, ritual, magic, and myth.
In proportion to the abundance of information has been
the growth of theory and hypothesis. The first essay in
this collection, ' Science and Superstition,' points out the
danger of allowing too ingenious and imaginative hypo-
theses to lead captive our science.

*^ As, like others, I have not long since advanced a
provisional theory of my own, the second and third essays
are designed to strengthen my position. The theory is
that perhaps the earliest traceable form of religion was
relatively high, and that it was inevitably lowered in tone
during the process of social evolution. Obviously this
opinion may be attacked from two sides. It may be said
that the loftier religious ideas of the lowest savages are
borrowed from Christianity or Islam. This I understand
to be the theory of Mr. E. B. Tylor. It is with much
diffidence that I venture, at present, to disagree with so
eminent and sagacious an authority, while awaiting the
publication of Mr. Tylor's Aberdeen Gifford Lectures.
My reply to his hypothesis, so far as it has been published
by him, will be found in the second essay, ' The Theory
of Loan-Gods.' Secondly, my position may be attacked
by disabling the evidence for the existence of the higher
elements in the religion of low savages. Mr. Frazer,



VI MAGIC AND RELIGION

ill the second edition of his ' Golden Bough,' has ad-
vanced an hypothesis of the origin of religion, wherein
the evidence for the higher factors is not taken into
account. Probably he may consider the subject in a later
work, to which he alludes in his Preface. ' Should I live
to complete the works for which I have collected and am
collecting materials, I dare to think that they will clear
me of any suspicion of treating the early history of religion
from a single narrow point of view.' ^

Meanwhile, however, Mr. Frazer has advanced a
theory of the origin of religion wherein evidence which
I think deserving of attention receives no recognition.
I hope, therefore, that it is not premature to state the
evidence, or some of it, which I do in the third essay,
* Magic and Eeligion.'

Fourth comes a long criticism of Mr. Frazer's many
hypotheses, which are combined into his theory of the
origin, or partial origin, of the belief in the divine character
of Christ. This argument demands very minute, and, [
fear, tedious examination. I fear still more that my labour
has not, after all, been sufficiently minute and accurate.
It seems to be almost impossible to understand clearly and
represent fairly ideas with which one does not agree. If I
have failed in these respects it is unconsciously, and I shall
gratefully accept criticism enabling me to recognise and
correct errors.

Fifthly, I examine, in 'The Ghastly Priest,' Mr.
Frazer's theory of the Golden Bough of Virgil as con-
nected with the fugitive slave who was ' I^ing of the
Wood ' near Aricia. I offer a conjecture as to the origin
of his curious position, which seems to me simpler, and
not less probable, than Mr. Frazer's hypothesis that this
outcast * lived and died as an incarnation of the supreme

' Golden Bough, i. xvii, 1900.



PREFACE Vii

Aryan god, whose life was in the mistletoe or golden
bough.' But my conjecture is only a guess at a problem
which, I think, we have not the means of solving.

There follow an essay, ' South African Religion,' and
another on the old puzzle of the ' Cup and Eing ' marks
on rocks and cists and other objects all over the world.

Next I consider the subject of ' Taboos,' with especial
reference to the theory of Mr. F. B. Jevons. An essay
follows on the singular rite of the Fire Walk, with the
alleged immunity of the performers. This curious topic
I have treated before, but now add fresh evidence.

Of these essays the second, in part, appeared in the
' Nineteenth Century,' and most of ' The Ghastly Priest '
was published in ' The Fortnightly Review,' while ' Cup
and Ring ' first saw the light in ' The Contemporary
Review.' My thanks are due to the Editors of those
periodicals for permission to republish. The essay on the
' Fire Walk ' was in the ' Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research,' though the topic does not appear to
be ' psychical.' All the other papers are new, and three
Appendices on points of detail are added.

The design on the cover is drawn by Mr. Donnelly,
the discoverer of the Dunbuie and Dumbuck sites and
relics, from an Australian design, in Messrs. Spencer and
Gillen's ' Native Tribes of Central Australia.'

For permission to reproduce this drawing I have
to thank the kindness of Messrs. Macmillan & Co. The
designs of feet, on the back of the volume (a subject
found in Australia), and the 'Jew's harp' ornament
(common to Scotland and Hindostan), are also by Mr.
Donnelly, from Scottish rock carvings.



Corrigenda and Addenda

Page 4, lines 24, 25, for story read storey, for stories read storeys.

Page 13, line 7, compare p. 297, the second paragraph, as to Motagon
and Bishop Salvado.

Page 17, line 24, /cw 1871 read 1873.

Page 44. To the names of writers who support the idea of an Australian
religion should be added that of Dr. John Mathew, in Eagleliaivk and Crow,
p. 147 (1899), ' I was once of opinion that notions about a divinity had been
derived from the whites and transmitted among the blacks hither and
thither, but I am now convinced that this idea was here before European
occupation.' But (pp. 130, 131) Dr. Mathew gives his reasons for thinking
importation from Indian mythology possible. But as they rest on his
decipherment of certain marks, whicli may be meant for characters, in Sir
George Grey's copy of an Australian wall-painting, the evidence is weak.
(Grey, North-west and Western Atistralia, i. 201 et seq.). Supposing the
characters to be Sumatran, it would be necessary to show that the people of
Sumatra do represent their otiose deity as in the painting copied by Grey.

Page 58, line 6, for rights i-ead rites.

Page 75, note 1,/or Primitive Culture, i. 379, 1871, read Primitive Cul-
ture, i. 419, 1873.

Page 112, note 1. ' But so there were in 1000 k.t).' I have been informed
that there was no special fear of the end of the world in 1000 a.d. M. Cumont
gives good reasons for holding that the martyrdom of St. Dasius in 303 was
on record between 362 and 411 {Man, May 1901, No. 53).

Page 120. ' Ctesias flourished rather earlier than Berosus, who is about
200 B.C. ; ' for 200 read 260. Ctesias was a contemporary of Herodotus.



CONTENTS



^I. SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION ....

v/ n. THE THEORY OF LOAN-GODS ; OR BORROWED RELIGION

III. MAGIC AND RELIGION

IV. THE ORIGIN OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITK .

V. THE APPROACHES TO MR. FRAZER'S THEORY

I. THE EVOLUTION OF GODS ....
THE ALLEGED MORTALITY OF GODS .

RELIGIOUS REGICIDE

ANNUAL RELIGIOUS REGICIDE .

THE SATURNALIA

THE GREEK CRONIA

THE SAC^A



II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII,



ATTEMPTS TO PROVE THE SAC^AN CRIMINAL DIVINE
I. SACRIFICE BY HANGING. DOES IT EXIST ? .
II. STAGES IN MR. FRAZER's THEORY
III. A POSSIBLE RECONCILIATION
rS'. THE SAC^A SUDDENLY CHANGES ITS DATE
V. VARIOUS THEORIES OF THE VICTIM



ZAKMUK, SAC^A, AND PURIM
I. HISTORICAL DIFFICULTY

PERSIANS ARE NOT BABYLONIANS

ORIGIN OF PURIM

IS PURIM PRE-EXILIAN OR POST-EXILIAN
THEORY OF A HUMAN VICTIM AT PURIM
CONTRADICTORY CONJECTURE .
A NEW THEORY OF THE VICTIM .



II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.

VIII. NEW GERMAN THEORY OF PURIM
IX. ANOTHER NEW THEORY. HUMMAX AND THE VICTIM



1

15

46

76

82"
82-
85 "
94 -

100

108

115

118

123
127
132
136
137
138 '

141
144
147
147
150
153
155
156
158
159



X MAGIC AND RELIGION

PAGE

VIII. MORDECAI, ESTHER, VASHTI, AND HAMAN .... 161

I. ESTHER LOVED BY MORDECAI 167

II. THE PERSIAN BUFFOON 167

III. A HELPFUL THEORY OF MY OWN . . . . . 172

IX. WHY WAS THE MOCK-KING OF THE SAC^A WHIPPED AND

HANGED '? . . 182

I. PERIODS OF LICENCE 185

II. THE DIVINE SCAPEGOAT 189

III. MORE PERIODS OF LICENCE 193

IV. THE SAC^A AS A PERIOD OF LICENCE . . . 196

X. CALVARY 200

XI. THE GHASTLY PRIEST 205

XII. SOUTH AFRICAN RELIGION 224

XIII. ' CUP AND RING I ' AN OLD PROBLEM SOLVED . . . 241

XIV. FIRST-FRUITS AND TABOOS 257

XV. WALKING THROUGH FIRE 270



APPENDICES

si a/ MR. TYLOR'S THEORY OF BORROWING 295^

B. THE MARTYRDOM OF DASIUS 298

C. THE RIDE OF THE BEARDLESS ONE 301

INDEX 307




MAGIC AND EEEIGION-;

I

SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION

We all know what we mean by science ; science is
'organised common sense.' Her aim is the acquisition
of reasoned and orderly knowledge. Presented with a
collection of verified facts, it is the part of science to
reduce them to order, and to account for their existence
in accordance with her recognised theory of things. If the
facts cannot be fitted into the theory, it must be expanded
or altered ; for we must admit that, if the facts are verified,
there is need for change and expansion in the theory.
The * colligation ' of facts demands hypotheses, and these
may not, at the moment of their construction, be verifi-
able. The deflections of a planet from its apparently
normal course may be accounted for by the hypothesis
of the attraction of another heavenly body not yet dis-
covered. The hypothesis is legitimate, for such bodies are
known to exist, and to produce such effects. When the
body is discovered, the hypothesis becomes a certainty.
On the other hand, the hypothesis that some capricious
and conscious agency pushed the planet into deflections
would be illegitimate, for the existence of such a freakish
agency is not demonstrated. Our hypotheses then must
be consistent with our actual knowledge of nature and of
y^ B



2 MAGIC AND RELIGION

human nature, and our conjectured causes must be
adequate to the production of the effects. Thus, science
gradually acquires and organises new regions of know-
ledge.

Superstition is a word of much less definite meaning.
; When , W'S ;Q3;l! . q, man 'superstitious,' we usually mean
;t,hat, e/adcnce; which satisfies him does not satisfy us,
'"Wb see examples daily of the dependence of belief on
bias. One man believes a story about cruelties com-
mitted by our adversaries ; another, disbelieving the tale,
credits a narrative about the misconduct of our own
party. Probably the evidence in neither case would
satisfy the historian, or be accepted by a jury. A man in
a tavern tells another how the Boers, retreating from a
position, buried their own wounded. ' I don't believe
that,' says the other. ' Then you are a pro-Boer.'

The sceptic reasoned from his general knowledge of
human nature. The believer reasoned from his own pre-
judiced and mythopceic conception of people whom he
disliked. If the question had been one of religion the
believer might be called superstitious ; the sceptic might
be called scientific, if he was ready to yield his doubts
to the evidence of capable observers of the alleged fact.

Superstition, like science, has her hypqiyhieseSj,^^ and,
like science, she reasons from experience. But her
experience is usually fantastic, unreal, or if real capable
of explanation by causes other than those alleged by
superstition. A man comes in at night, and says he has
seen a ghost in white. That is merely his hypothesis ;
the existence of ghosts in white is not demonstrated.
You accompany him to the scene of the experience, and
prove to him that he has seen a post, not a ghost. His
experience was real, but was misinterpreted by dint of an
hypothesis resting on no demonstrated fact of knowledge.



SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 8

The hypotheses of superstition are familiar Thus,
an event has happened : say you have lost your button-
hook. You presently hear of a death in your family.
Ever afterwards you go anxiously about when you have
lost a button-hook. You are confusing a casual sequence
of facts with a causal connection of facts. Sequence in
t ime is mistaken for sequence! , of what we .commonly
style cause and effect. In the same way, superstition
cherishes the hypothesis that like affects like. Thus, the
sun is round, and a ball of clay is round. Therefore, if
an Australian native wishes to delay the course of the
round sun in the heavens, he fixes a round ball of clay on
the bough of a tree ; or so books on anthropology tell us.
Acting on the hypothesis that like affects like, a man
makes a clay or waxen image of an enemy, and sticks it
full of pins or thorns. He expects his enemy to suffer
agony in consequence, and so powerful is ' suggestion '
that, if the enemy knows about the image, he sometimes
falls ill and dies. This experience corroborates the super-
stitious hypothesis, and so the experiment with the image
is of world-wide diffusion. Everything is done, or at-
tempted, on these lines by superstition. Men imitate the
killing of foes or game, and expect, as a result, to kill
them in war or in the chase. They mimic the gathering
of clouds and the fall of rain, and expect rain to fall in
consequence. They imitate the evolution of an edible
grub from the larva, and expect grubs to multiply ; and
so on.

All this is quite rational, if you grant the hypotheses J 1
of superstition. Her practices are magic. We are later * J
to discuss a theory that men had magic before they had
religion, and only invented gods because they found that
magic did not work. Still later they invented science,
which is only magic with a legitimate hypothesis, using

n 2



4 MAGIC AND RELIGION

real, not fanciful, experience. In the long run magic and
religion are to die out, perhaps, and science is to have the
whole field to herself.

This may be a glorious though a remote prospect. But
surely it is above all things needful that our science should
be scientific. She must not blink facts, merely because
they do not fit into her scheme or hypothesis of the
nature of things, or of religion. She really must give as
much prominence to the evidence which contradicts as to
that which supports her theory in each instance. Not
only must she not shut her eyes to this evidence, but she
must diligently search for it, must seek for what Bacon
calls instantice contradictorice, since, if these exist, the
theory which ignores them is useless. If she advances an
hypothesis, it must not be contradictory of the whole
mass of human experience. If science finds that her
hypothesis contradicts experience, she must seek for an
hypothesis which is in accordance with experience, and,
if that cannot be found, she must wait till it is found.
Again, science must not pile one unverified hypothesis
upon another unverified hypothesis till her edifice rivals
the Tower of Babel. She must not make a conjecture on
p. 35, and on p. 210 treat the conjecture as a fact.
Because, if one story in the card-castle is destroyed by
being proved impossible, all the other stories will ' come
tumbling after.' It seems hardly necessary, but it is not
superfluous, to add that, in her castle of hypotheses, one
must not contradict, and therefore destroy, another. We
must not be asked to believe that an event occurred at
one date, and also that it occurred at another ; or that an
institution was both borrowed by a people at one period,
and was also possessed, unborrowed, by the same people, at
an earlier period. We cannot permit science to assure us
that a certain fact was well known, and that the knowledge



SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 6

produced important consequences ; while we are no less
solemnly told that the fact was wholly unknown, whence
it would seem that the results alleged to spring from the
knowledge could not be produced.

This kind of reasoning, with its inferring of inferences
from other inferences, themselves inferred from conjec-
tures as to the existence of facts of which no proof is
adduced, must be called superstitious rather than scientific.
The results may be interesting, but they are the reverse of
science.

It is perhaps chiefly in the nascent science of the
anthropological study of institutions, and above all of
religion, that this kind of reasoning prevails. The topic
attracts ingenious and curious minds. System after
system has been constructed, unstinted in material, elegant
in aspect, has been launched, and has been wrecked, or
been drifted by the careless winds to the forlorn shore
where Bryant's ark, with all its crew, divine or human,
lies in decay. No mortal student believes in the arkite
system of Bryant, though his ark, on the match-boxes of
Messrs. Bryant and May, perhaps denotes loyalty to the
ancestral idea.

The world of modern readers has watched sun
myths, and dawn myths, and storm myths, and wind
myths come in and go out : autant en emporte le vent.
Totems and taboos succeeded, and we are bewildered by
the contending theories of the origins of taboos and
totems. Deities of vegetation now are all in all, and may
it be far from us to say that any one from Ouranos to Pan,
from the Persian King to the horses of Virbius, is not a
spirit of vegetable life. Yet perhaps the deity has higher
aspects and nobler functions than the pursuit of his
' vapid vegetable loves ; ' and these deserve occasional
attention.



6 MAGIC AND RELIGION

The result, however, of scurrying hypotheses and
hasty generaHsations is that the nascent science of reHgious
origins is received with distrust. We may review the brief
history of the modern science.

Some twenty years ago, when the ' Principles of
Sociology,' by Mr. Herbert Spencer, was first published,
the book was reviewed, in ' Mind,' by the author of
* Primitive Culture.' That work, again, was published in
1871. In 1890 appeared the 'Golden Bough,' by Mr.
J. G. Frazer, and the second edition of the book, with
changes and much new matter, was given to the world in
1900.

Here, then, we have a whole generation, a space of
thirty years, during which English philosophers or scholars
have been studying the science of the Origins of Eeligion.
In the latest edition of the ' Golden Bough,' Mr. Frazer
has even penetrated into the remote region where man
neither had, nor wanted, any religion at all. We naturally
ask ourselves to what point we have arrived after the
labours of a generation. Twenty years ago, when review-
ing Mr. Spencer, Mr. Tylor said that a time of great
public excitement as to these topics was at hand. The
clamour and contest aroused by Mr. Darwin's theory of
the Origin of Species and the Descent of Man would be
outdone by the coming war over the question of the
Evolution of Keligion. But there has been no general
excitement ; there has been little display of public interest
in these questions. They have been left to ' the curious '
and * the learned,' classes not absolutely identical. Mr.
Frazer, indeed, assures us that the comparative study of
human beliefs and institutions is ' fitted to be much more
than a means of satisfying an enlightened curiosity, and of
furnishing materials for the researches of the learned.' '
' Golden Bough, i. xjci., 1900.



SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 7

But enlightened curiosity seems to be easily satisfied, and
only very few of the learned concern themselves with
these researches, which Mr. Tylor expected to be so
generally exciting.

A member of the University of Oxford informed me
that the study of beliefs, and of anthropology in general,
is almost entirely neglected by the undergraduates, and
when I asked him * Why ? ' he replied ' There is no
money in it.' Another said that anthropology 'had no
evidence.' In the language of the economists there is no
supply provided at Oxford because there is no demand.
Classics, philology, history, physical science, and even lite-
rature, are studied, because * there is money in them,' not
much money indeed, but a competence, if the student is
successful. For the study of the evolution of beliefs there
is no demand, or very little. Yet, says Mr. Frazer, * well
handled, it may become a powerful instrument to expedite
progress, if it lays bare certain weak spots in the founda-
tions on which modern society is built.' We all desire
progress (in the right direction). Me all pine to lay bare
weak spots, and yet we do not seem to be concerned about
the services which might be done for progress by the study
of the evolution of religion. * It is indeed a melancholy
and, in some respects, thankless task,' says Mr, Frazer,
' to strike at the foundations of beliefs in which, as in a
strong tower, the hopes and aspirations of humanity
through long ages have sought a refuge from the storm
and stress of life.' ' Thankless,' indeed, these operations
are. ' Yet sooner or later,' Mr, Frazer adds, ' it is in-
evitable that the battery of the comparative method should
breach these venerable walls, mantled over with the ivy
and mosses and wild flowers of a thousand tender and
sacred associations. At present we are only dragging the
guns into position ; they have hardly yet begun to speak.'



8 MAGIC AND RELIGION

Mr. Frazer is too modest : he has dragged into posi-
tion a work of immense learning and eloquent style in
three siege guns, we may say, three volumes of the largest
calibre, and they have spoken about 500,000 words. No
man, to continue the metaphor, is better supplied than
he with the ammunition of learning, with the know-
ledge of facts of every kind. Yet the venerable walls,
with their pleasing growth of ivy, mosses, wild flowers,
and other mural vegetation, do not, to myself, seem in the
least degree impaired by the artillery, and I try to show
cause for my opinion.

Why is this, and why is the portion of the public
which lives within or without the venerable walls mainly
indifferent ?

Several sufficient reasons might be given. In the
first place many people have, or think they have, so many
other grounds for disbelief, that additional grounds,
provided by the comparative method, are regarded rather
as a luxury than as supplying a felt want. Again, but very
few persons have leisure, or inclination, or power of mind
enough to follow an elaborate argument through fifteen
hundred pages, not to speak of other works on the same
theme. Once more, only a minute minority are capable of
testing and weighing the evidence, and criticising the
tangled hypotheses on which the argument rests, or in
which it is involved.

But there is another and perhaps a sounder argument
for indifference. The learned are aware that the evidence
for all these speculations is not of the nature to which
they are accustomed, either in historical or scientific
studies. More and more the age insists on strictness
in appreciating evidence, and on economy in conjecture.
But the study of the evolution of myth and belief has
always been, and still is, marked by an extraordinary use.



SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION 9

or abuse, of conjecture. The * perhapses,' the * we may
supposes,' the ' we must infers ' are countless.

As in too much of the so-called ' Higher Criticism '
hypothesis is piled, by many anthropologists, upon hypo-
thesis, guess upon guess, while, if only one guess is
wrong, the main argument falls to pieces. Moreover,
it is the easiest thing, in certain cases, to explain the
alleged facts by a counter hypothesis, not a complex hypo-
thesis, but at least as plausible as the many combined
conjectures of the castle architects, though perhaps as far
from the truth, and as incapable of verification. Of these



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