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and the height one-half of the diameter. The
wood from which it was made is ash, and it
was cut from a solid block in such a way that
the longitudinal grain of the wood corresponds
to the transverse diameter of the tub, so that
the concentric rings near the centre of the
tree appear at two places, and at nearly oppo-
site points in the side of the vessel. The
outer surface is smooth and finely finished,
probably by the lathe. The inside has been
somewhat roughly scooped out, and the tool
marks are clearly seen on the sides and
bottom. The beauty and boldness of the
decoration speaks for itself. It was produced
by incising, but some parts of the design
appear to have been touched up by burning
in a similar way to the bucket stave. The
illustration gives one-half of the design, the
other part being a repetition of it with a few
slight variations. Small burnt perforations
are often met with in the portions of loom
and other framework found ; and the imple-
ment made use of for this would probably serve
equally well for decorating purposes. The
hole cut in the side of the tub was evidently
intended for a handle, but the part of the tub
having the opposite hole is unfortunately
missing.



be DeatfcDotoe anD its
Congeners in IPopuiar jTolklore.

By Miss Mabel Peacock.




VOL. XXXI.



CCORDING to a primitive and
widely-accepted belief, the souls of
both gods and men are able to
clothe themselves in the forms of
the lower animals. The student of psycho-
logical development finds that the mightiest
powers practise shape-shifting at will in all
the mythologies, and that many ordinary
mortals who have mastered the secrets of
nature, not to speak of people born with
hereditary skill, possess a similar faculty. In
the most socially-advanced communities it
continues to be a matter of faith among a
considerable portion of the population that
men and women not only can, but actually
do, assume the appearance of beasts and
birds. The German Wehr-wolf, the Portu-
guese Lobis-homen, and the Norman Varou,
are instances in point ; not that there is any
necessity to go beyond the limits of Great
Britain for examples of this superstition.
Every county in England and Scotland could
furnish a multitude of stories turning on the
self effected transformation of a witch or a
wizard into a cat, a hare, or a dog.

To the untrained intelligence in general,
and especially to the ill-controlled imagination
of the savage, who lives his life en plein
miracle, there exists no dividing-line, no clean-
cut severance between the different classes of
celestial and terrestrial phenomena which im-
press themselves on the consciousness. The
non-civilized man has, therefore, no difficulty
in assuming that either a deity in command
of one of the great cosmical forces, or a fairly
dexterous human soul, can adopt any outward
guise he may find it convenient to select. To
a mind which has been familiar with the
notion since childhood the feat is no more
astonishing in itself than the slower meta-
morphosis of an egg into a bird, or of an
acorn into an oak.

Among the many curious superstitions
which seem to owe their origin to this con-
ception that of the death-bird is one of the
most natural it may almost be said one of
the most inevitable. In all quarters of the



ii 4



THE DEATH-DOVE AND ITS CONGENERS.



globe where the land of the departed is sup-
posed to be situated above the atmosphere of
the earth, disembodied spirits are pictured to
the fancy as winging their way to the after-
world in the shape of birds ; and the unusual
appearance or actions of certain birds is
generally regarded as foreboding death.

" Ravens sitting in a line on the gable of a
house betoken a line of black mourners,"
says E. L, Rochholz, in speaking of birds
connected with gravelore {Deutscher Glaube
und Branch, 1867, i. 156); and the same
authority states that in Aargau the souls of
the redeemed fly away in the form of doves,
while the accursed change into ravens.

During the Middle Ages it was commonly
believed throughout Christendom that the
spirit of an innocent person who died a
violent death assumed the figure of a spotless
dove on leaving the body, and that other
dove-like beings often descended from on
high to escort the enfranchised soul to bliss.
Whether these birds of heaven were in their
origin simply celestial messengers, or, as is
quite possible, ancestral spirits seeking to
guide one of their kindred along its unknown
way, cannot be decided dogmatically ; but it
is worth noting that the Lapland Shamans
keep up intimate relations with the dead
people of the Saivo, who appear to them as
birds, and who are, it would seem, protecting
or family spirits (Reville, Les Religions des
Peuples Non-Civilises, ii. 209).

Some of our common English superstitions
are obviously connected with the doves which
serve as convoys to the inexperienced soul.
A bird with unnatural plumage, such as a
piebald blackbird, is a precursor of bereave-
ment ; while the sudden tameness of any wild
bird is a generally-admitted token of death.
" It does not come for nothing." Therefore
sorrow may be expected if even a robin
should cross the threshold or tap at the
window-pane. Pigeons are especially un-
lucky in this respect. When a strange pigeon
frequents a house persistently it is a sign that
some connection of the inmates is to be called
away from earthly existence, and, supposing
it should venture within the dwelling, a corpse
must soon be carried out.

In some instances the eccentric actions of
ordinary pigeons belonging to the dovecote
attached to a homestead have been interpreted



as prognostications of loss and mourning.
An illustration of this fact was afforded by
the conviction of my grandfather's house-
keeper, a Lincolnshire woman, who had spent
all her life in the county. To her apprehen-
sion, the pigeon which perched on the outer
sill of her master's bedroom-window towards
the close of his final illness was an unmis-
takable " warning." People of an elder genera-
tion could relate, too, how the doves from
the cote at the old Hall at Northorpe had
settled round the feet of my great grandfather,
Thomas Peacock, as he sat in the garden.
No one knew that his condition was less satis-
factory than it had been for some time past,
but the pigeons had clearer insight than his
own people, and their loss of timidity was
soon explained by his death. Another Lin-
colnshire instance of a pigeon being accepted
as a death-dove occurred in the year 1888.
The bird entered a house where a young man
was suffering from a dangerous illness, when
at the same time the son of one of the people
employed about the place lay on the verge of
death in a cottage a few hundred yards
distant. " It is a sign that one of them has
got to go," said the father of this lad ; and
one did go, though not the sick person in the
house directly threatened by the omen.

There are cases known when the death-
bird seems absolutely obliged to appear before
any member of the family to which it is

attached can pass out of life. Miss

relates, for instance, that among her mother's
kindred a pigeon is always expected to show
itself towards the conclusion of a mortal
malady. This pigeon is not necessarily white,
or even white-breasted, like the celebrated
bird which was anciently seen fluttering about
the deathbeds of people belonging to the
Oxenham family, but come it must in one
colour or another ere the spirit can be set
free.

Similarly, two or more birds, of a species
quite unknown to anyone who saw them,
remained in the neighbourhood of a house
not many miles from Caistor, in Lincolnshire,
when its owner was dying in the year 1893 ;
and it was then remembered that they had
already visited the place as precursors of death
on two former occasions.

Among his other gleanings of folklore con-
nected with Grafo'bgel, Rochholz has recorded



THE DEATH-DOVE AND ITS CONGENERS.



"5



that when a peasant of the Bavarian Lechrain
is lying on a bed of sickness, and at last
begins to long for death, he says, " Wenn nur
die Nachtigall kame und thate unsauflosen !"
(" If only the nightingale came and set us
free !"). Then a bird is supposed really to
appear, and to sing so sweetly that all pain
ceases and the sufferer either recovers or dies.
Other ideas closely related to this notion are,
that the blackbird warbling on the hedge near
a house sings death to the sick person within,
and that when the chaffinch cries constantly
round the same dwelling, and even flies into
the threshing-floor, someone will soon die.

Rochholz also remarks that a bird pecking
at the window announces the decease of a
person dying at a distance from home, and
that when redbreasts find anyone lying killed
in the forest they strew them over with
leaves.

On some occasions, apparently, a bird
which portends death may visit the fated
victim during his sleep. The woman in white
who came in a dream to announce his ap-
proaching end to Thomas, Lord Lyttleton,
on the night between the 24th and the 25th
of November, 1779, flew into the room like a
bird, or, according to another version of the
story, came to him with a bird in her hand.

At times it is difficult to determine whether
a death-bird is to be classed in the category
of spiritual messengers, or in that of depart-
ing spirits. A correspondent of Notes and
Queries, who dates from Worksop (6th Series,
xii., 489), quotes an old street ballad, in which
"a female laments her lost estate, and in
farewell to her lover says :

"... False man, adieu ;
I drown myself for love of you.

As a token that I died for love,
There will be seen a milk-white dove
Over my watery grave will fly ;
There you will find my body lie."

"If miners see white birds about the gear-
ing of mine-shafts," adds the writer, " they
consider them to be harbingers of disaster."

In one of the cases mentioned by Roch-
holz no doubt as to the true nature of the
creature under observation seems to have
been entertained. " During the Council of
Basle," he says, "several learned doctors
heard a nightingale singing wonderfully in a
wood at that place, and learned that it was



the soul of a person who had not yet been
redeemed" (Deutscher Glaube und Brauch,

i- 153)-

In ballad literature the death-bird rarely
comes as a warning. The singer of "old,
unhappy, by-past things " does not represent
it as foretokening loss and sorrow, but as
testifying to innocence. The descent of
heavenly doves from the sky seems formerly
to have been a favourite subject with Danish
minstrels, for it is described in more than one
of the old popular rhymes still in existence.

Within that spike-set barrel
The gentle maid was bound,

And came himself the Tyrant,
And rolled it round and round.

*****

And then two snowy pigeons
Came down from out the sky ;

With them the gentle Katey
To heaven was seen to fly

chants the author of " Little Katey " {Ancient
Danish Ballads, translated by R. C A. Prior,
i. 351), while in another poem we read :

Then soared two doves from out the sky,
And towards the pile were seen to fly.
Amid the brands their course they stayed ;
Eline to follow them they bade.

*****

'Twas two flew down, and home flew three,
The fairest of them all was she.

(Ibid., ii. 64.)

In the pathetic Breton ballad of Lord
Nann and the Korrigan an oak-tree springs
from the grave of the faithful husband who
refuses at all hazards to break his marriage-
troth, and a second oak shoots up from the
grave of his heartbroken wife. In the
branches of the trees two white doves are
seen, which sing and speed up to heaven.
These doves are, no doubt, the souls of the
two wedded lovers, divided not in death j
just as in another Breton folk-rhyme, which
sings of Marlorouk, the nightingale warbling
in the rosemary on the grave must be re-
garded as the dead man reappearing in form
of a bird.

Among the various legends which are told
of Tombelene, otherwise Mount St. Michael,
in Normandy, is the story of Helene, the
betrothed of Montgommeri, one of William
the Conqueror's followers. After the de-
parture of her lover on the expedition to
England, this heroine of popular tradition



n6



THE DEATH-DOVE AND ITS CONGENERS.



mounted the high promontory, and watched
the vessel which bore away her happiness till
it was lost from sight. Then, pierced to the
heart with sorrow, she died, and was buried
at the very place where she breathed her last
sigh. Since then the fishermen of the coast
have noticed that every year, on the anniver-
sary of her death, a white dove visits Tombe-
lene, and does not depart till dawn {La
Normandie Romanesque et Merveilleuse, par
Mdlle. A. Bosquet, 1845, pp. 366, 367).

In a German tradition connecting a white
bird with foul play towards a child, the
apparition must be considered as a spirit dis-
tressed by the neglect of burial rites. Towards
the end of the last century, says the legend,
whenever the light was extinguished in a bed-
room in the lower story of an old house at
Weinheim, a white pigeon flew hither and
thither along the wall of one side of the
chamber. At last, when it was found impos-
sible to get rid of the spectre, the wall was
examined, and the skeleton of a new-born
child was brought to light in a secret hollow.
The bones were buried in the churchyard,
and from that time forwards the dove ceased
to be seen (B. Baader, Volkssagcn a us dem
Lande Baden, 1851, p. 309).

A Swabian story represents the soul of a
sinner turning into a white dove when purified
by terrible suffering. The wife of a peasant
was so miserly and grasping that she would
give nothing to those in want. If a poor
person came to the door she laid what she
ought to have bestowed in alms away in a
chest to keep for herself. Now, a poor man
once cursed her with the curse that all the
wealth she had hoarded together should turn
to nothing but worms, and when she opened
the chest again her husband saw that the
curse had taken effect, so he pushed her into
it, and locked it. When the chest was ex-
amined at a later time everything in it had
disappeared, but a white dove flew out of the
window towards heaven. It was the soul of
the peasant's wife, who had been redeemed
by her ghastly death (A. Birlinger, Volks-
thiimliches aus Schwaben, i. 246).

In the child's wonder-tale of the Machan-
delboom, as related by Rochholz, the bones of
the brother who has been killed and eaten are
gathered up from under the table by the
sister, wrapped in a silken cloth, and laid in



the grass under a tree. The bones and their
covering vanish, and a bird begins to sing in
the top of the tree :

My mother slaughtered me ;

My father ate me ;

My sister Marlenichen

Sought all my bones,

Bound them in a silken cloth,

Laid them under the Machandel-tree.

Kywitt, what a fine bird am I !

The Gascons, also, narrate in La Mara/re
that the murdered boy first becomes a white
bird, and afterwards a black one ; while in
Jean de Calais the spirit once inhabiting the
corpse which has found burial through the
exertions of the hero assists him in the guise
of a white bird (J. F. Blade, Contes Populaires
de la Gascogne, i. 1 73 ; ii. 7r, 79).

In old Bohemian superstition the soul on
quitting the body becomes winged, and lives
in trees {Deutscher Glaube und Branch,
i. 248). In the French province of Berry the
belief in this transformation takes a peculiarly
striking form, quite picturesque enough to be
worthy of immortalization at the hand of
some master-painter.

The Chasse a Bodet says the native ber-
richon is a nocturnal hunt traversing the air
with appalling howling, yelling, and baying,
in which are mingled threats and cries of
anguish. This horrible tintamarre is made
by the devil and his satellites conducting
souls to hell. When a wayfarer hears the
commencing clamours of the demon-throng
he should fashion a cross of the first object
he can lay hands on, and then, having drawn
a circle round himself with it, set it upright
in the ground, kneel near it, and wait, reciting
aloud all the prayers he knows. Nearly
always the soul, or souls, which Satan and
his followers are hounding forward come to
settle on the cross in the form of white doves,
and the fiends in chase, having pursued them
to the edge of the embracing circle, flee away
with redoubled racket and din, scared by the
sight of the sign of redemption {Cf. Laisnel
de la Salle, Croyances et Legendes du Centre
de la France, i. 169 ; ii. 365, 377).

Ideas nearly connected with European
belief are also traceable in the New World,
whose isolated position through a period the
length of which can only be guessed at
makes its folklore of peculiar interest.



THE DEATH-DOVE AND ITS CONGENERS.



117



The semi-civilized people of ancient Peru
paid reverence to blocks of stone, and seem
to have credited them with the possession of
an inhabiting genius, which became visible to
human eyes as a bird.

" It is told that once when an Inka was
destroying a sacred stone, a bird appeared
from it and disappeared into another, which
in consequence received Divine honours"
(P. D, Chantepie de la Saussaye, Manual of
the Science of Theology, translated by Beatrice
S. Colyer-Fergusson, 1891, p. 85).

With the autochthonous races of North
America the souls of the dead can find refuge
in quadrupeds, fishes, and birds. The
Iroquois on the evening of a funeral used to
release a bird, which carried away the spirit
of the defunct (Reville, Les Religions des
Peuples Non- Civilises, 1883, i. 254).

In like manner, on the South American
Pampas the aborigines believe that the dead
fly away in the form of ducks {Ibid., i. 398),
an idea which has near resemblance with the
Bohemian folk-tale of the girl whose hair-
combings became gold thread, and whose
tears changed to pearls, by supernatural
power, so long as she was kept out of the
sunlight. When at last a beam of the sun
touched her face, she was transformed, and
flew away as a golden duck (Deutscher Glaube
und Branch, i. 68, 69).

The saintly legends of the Middle Ages
bear frequent testimony to the appearance of
birds connected with death and the world to
come.

The Swedish story of St. Botvid, the patron
of sailors and fishermen, relates, for instance,
that its hero, who was the son of an English
merchant of Bjorke, met his end by the hands
of a traitorous slave. After the murder a
white bird came to his brother Bjorn, who
was searching for him, and conducted him to
the spot where the corpse lay. It then took
flight, and was seen no more. The concep-
tion of a saintly soul ascending to heaven in
the shape of a snow-white pigeon is to be
found in the hymn of Prudentius to St.
Eulalia, written probably about a.d. 400, and
it occurs again in the account of her life by
Adonis, Archbishop of Vienne. A similar
story is told of St. Scholastica, the sister of
St. Benedict ; and it is related of St. Polycarp,
Bishop of Smyrna, that a white dove issued
from a wound in his side, and rose high above



his pyre. Florence of Worcester has a similar
story to tell of St. Kenelm :

"a.d. 819, St. Kenulph, King of the
Mercians, after a life spent in good deeds,
passed away to the everlasting joys of heaven,
leaving his son Kenelm, then seven years of
age, the heir to his kingdom. But after the
lapse of a few months he was, through the
traitorous contrivance of his sister Quendrith,
whose fierce mind was swayed by an out-
rageous lust for supreme power, and by the
hand of his barbarous tutor, Ascebert, cruelly
and secretly slain under a thorn-tree, in a
vast and darksome wood ; but as heaven
alone was witness to his murder, so heaven
afterwards revealed the deed by means of a
column of light. Milk-white in innocence,
and pure as when born, fell the head of
Kenelm; from it a milk-white dove, with
golden pinions, soared to heaven" (The
Church Historians of England, 1853, vol. ii.,
part 1, "The Chronicle of Florence of Wor-
cester," p. 205).

In like manner, also, to quote a last ex-
ample from among the saints of the Church,
the legend of St. Medard, Bishop of Noyon,
asserts that a white dove flew out of his coffin
and soared skyward with two other doves,
which had come down from heaven to bear
it company.

Mediaeval faith, in addition, often imagined
that the souls of pious women and children
who had not attained to absolute sanctity
quitted the earth in bird form (H. Alt, Die
Heiligenbilder, 1845, P- 68 )- Brother Isam-
bard de la Pierre, one of the witnesses at the
revision of the trial of Joan of Arc, declared
that an English man-at-arms confessed to him
on the day of her execution, and that this
man accused himself of adding a faggot to
the pile on which she was burnt, which action
he afterwards repented bitterly, for at the
very moment he committed it he heard Joan
invoke the name of Jesus as she gave her last
sigh, and he saw a white dove issue from the
flame as she yielded up her spirit (Mdlle. A.
Bosquet, La Normandie Romanesque, 1845,
p. 260).

In Lithuania the Milky Way is named the
Bird Street, because the souls of the dead
flutter along it in bird-like semblance ; and
the Finns know it as the Bird Path, because
they imagine that the freed spirits wander
along it to the Home of Light (J. A. E.



n8



THE DEATH-DOVE AND ITS CONGENERS.



Kohler, Volksbrauch im Voigtlande, 1867,

P- 440-

The spirits of the lower animals rarely seem
to take on themselves the shape of birds, but
such transformation is not entirely unknown.
Instances like that of The Marvellous White
Horse are occasionally to be discovered. In
this folk-tale from Weitin, in Lower Austria,
the faithful steed entreats Ferdinand, his
master, to cut off his head. At length Fer-
dinand complies, though with reluctance.
Then the white horse falls to pieces, and from
his trunk there flies a white dove, which
vanishes out of sight.

A Swedish story affords an analogous in-
cident : The daughter of a king finds the
skull and bones of a fawn which has been
torn to pieces by beasts of prey. She sets
the bones upon a high pole in the forest, and
falls asleep from weariness. After a while
she is awakened by a delightful melody, and
finds the pole and skeleton turned into a
linden, in the crown of which there is a sing-
ing nightingale instead of the animal's skull
(Deutscher Glaube uttd Branch, i. 247).

What seems to be evidence of a belief in
the connection between birds and a con-
tinuance of life in a country beyond the tomb
may sometimes be unearthed in pre-Christian
burial-grounds. "Stone and earthenware
models of pigeons have been taken out of the
Helvetian- Roman graves at Ober-Winterthur,"
says Rochholz in tracing the relationship be-
tween existing German bird-superstitions and
avowedly heathen customs, and he adds that,
according to Paulus Diakonus, the Longo-
bards used to set up wooden doves stuck
upon poles in their grave-field outside the
town of Ticinus. In cases in which people
died at a distance the birds were so arranged
that they looked in that direction. "The
place itself was called ' at the poles,' and
Queen Rodelinda founded a church to St.
Mary there."

A curious anecdote illustrating the fact
that some association is imagined to exist
between the pigeon and mortal sickness finds
record in the third volume of Notes and
Queries. At p. 5 1 7 a correspondent, signing
himself "J. Eastwood," remarks: "The
popular belief that a person cannot die
with his head resting on a pillow containing
pigeons' feathers is well known, but the fol-
lowing will probably be as new to many of



your readers as it was to myself. On apply-
ing the other day to a highly respectable
farmer's wife to know if she had any pigeons
ready to eat, as a sick person had expressed
a longing for one, she said : ' Ah, poor fellow!
is he so far gone ? A pigeon is generally
almost the last thing they want. I have
supplied many a one for the like purpose."

This remnant of folklore is, it can hardly
be doubted, a detached fragment from some
ancient theory which attempted to throw
light on the mystery of death and the Beyond.
To the mind of the modern thinker sentient
life is probably the most impressive and the
most truly awesome of all the wonders of
which we have cognizance, but with early
man it seems to have been otherwise. For
him the cessation of existence was a violence
done to the general fitness of things, which
demanded explanation and alleviation. From
a very different point of view the untutored
thought is the thought of the poet Heine :



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