Imatges de pàgina

vation or statement, and embellishments, even when we get an apparently authentic narrative at first hand, and we must beware of mistaking literary tales or allegories for folk-tales pure and simple. If a man believes in ghosts and fairies, it is only a materialist who would jump to the conclusion that he must needs believe all the ghost and fairy tales that he may happen to read or hear. We can easily imagine a materialist laughing at a friend and saying, "Why, what a fool So-and-so is! I told him a grand ghost-story only the other day, and would you believe it, he took it all in ; but I made up every word of it out of my own head!" But where is the fun of it? If you believe that a fox-hunter can jump his horse over a hedge, why should you disbelieve your friend if he tells you that he has seen Mr. Brown or Mr. Jones do so; even though, in point of fact, these two men never did so, and perhaps could not. And if you believe in ghosts, why should you not believe a man who tells you apparently in good faith that he has seen one? Of course if you do not believe in the possibility of ghosts, that is another affair, and you would hardly believe your own eyes if you were to see one, and therefore could not be expected to believe the evidence of anybody else.

In studying the folk-tales of different countries, we may perhaps indicate some directions in which enquiries may be profitable. Thus we find haunted houses exhibiting precisely similar phenomena in England and Egypt; but in England they are supposed to be due to ghosts, and in Egypt to jinn. Here we have at once an illustration of the necessity for distinguishing between facts and deductions. The similarity of the phenomena in such widely separated countries goes far to prove the reality of the phenomena themselves; but it does not necessarily prove the existence of either ghosts or jinn, or even granting their existence, it does not follow that they have any connection with the disturbances. On the other hand, jinn are sometimes confounded with ghosts in Egypt; but we want more information before we can decide whether such phenomena as haunted houses are due to elementals, shells, or other agencies. The probability is that they are due to a variety of causes, and we cannot yet pretend to be perfectly acquainted with any of them.

The modern ignorance of all occultism has led to such philoso phical confusion in many minds that if an occurrence was publicly

witnessed which could not possibly be explained by so-called natural causes, numbers would believe that it must be the direct handiwork of either God or the devil, while if it was wrought by a human agent, or in obedience to his command, he would either be regarded as a prophet, if not as the incarnate Deity Himself, or else persecuted

as a sorcerer.

I believe I do not exaggerate when I say that any man who was capable of exerting even very moderate occult powers in public, might almost lead whole nations at will, and impose almost any commands or beliefs upon them.

We are exposed to great dangers in Europe from our total ignorance of occult phenomena, which would render us helpless to control or understand them if they should ever reappear among us in a mischievous form. At present we are protected by the general ignorance of and disbelief in such subjects on one side, and by the lessened susceptibility of modern civilized Europeans to such influences on the other. This has been partly caused by the stamping out of the grosser forms of witchcraft, obsession, vampirism, etc., during the Middle Ages. But we cannot any longer safely permit ignorance and insusceptibility to do duty for knowledge and foresight. Much can be learned by studying folk-literature; not so much in the form of folk-tales, as in that of occult phenomena, related as actual occurrences. But, as I said before, we must be on our guard both against allegorizing and against using literary tales as evidence. An instance of the latter error may be found in Gubernatis' Zoological Mythology, a book in which what used to be called the Solar Theory is ridden to death, and in which everything is interpreted as referring to the sun and moon. Writing of the "White Cat," which is, I think, in its present form a modern literary story, though embodying various incidents really drawn from popular tales, Gubernatis speaks of "the White Cat-Moon!"

After denouncing mesmerism for many years, the doctors have at last been compelled to admit its reality, but in order to disguise its identity with their former bugbear they have fixed on a more recent term, properly applied only to one of its phases, and have called it hypnotism. It has hitherto received most attention in France, and the French doctors have been experimenting in a very foolish and reckless manner, in total ignorance of what they were

doing; and it is surprising that they have not yet killed any of their patients. Had they studied the records of psychical phenomena, or known anything of the constitution of man, they would hardly have ventured on so absurd and dangerous an experiment as attempting to concentrate the astral double in a glass of water and then drinking it, the effect of which was to throw the patient into a deep sleep for many hours. This actually reminds us of the story of the two demon brothers in the Râmâyana, one of whom used to transform himself into a sheep to be killed and eaten by their enemies, and when his brother called him he used to come to life again, and destroy the unfortunate victims who had eaten him.

The witchcraft of Abyssinia, as described by Mansfield Parkyns, much resembles the grossest forms of medieval witchcraft, combined with lycanthropy, the hyæna in Abyssinia playing the part of the wolf in Europe. The Obi witchcraft of Western Africa and among the negroes of America and the West Indies is of a different stamp; it is less foul, and perhaps less dangerous, for though it deals with noxious drugs and other evil influences, and is sternly suppressed by law in the British West Indies, where laws against witchcraft are still necessary, it deals less with obsession, and may be used, as we have already seen, for harmless, or even for beneficial purposes. The Maghrabees or Moors have always been famous as magicians, and it is this phase of witchcraft (probably identical with Obi) and not that of Abyssinia, which is practised in Egypt and is described in the Thousand and One Nights. An exhaustive treatise on the witchcraft of different ages and nations is a book which has yet to be written, for which, probably, we have not yet accumulated sufficient materials.

It is curious to note how different nations have the idea that their neighbours are greater magicians than themselves. The Lapps have always been famous as magicians, and the Finns, their next neighbours to the south, though laying claim to be great magicians too, continue to regard the Lapps as their equals, if not their superiors, in witchcraft. In the same way the Finns themselves are famous as magicians among the Esthonians, who live to the south of the Gulf of Finland. On the other hand, although some of the Finnish ballads represent the sun and moon to have once been stolen away and hidden by the witch-queen of Lapland, one ballad (which,

however, appears to be of later date than the others) represents them to have been stolen by German and Esthonian sorcerers.

Another subject on which we can probably obtain great light from popular tales is the nature, character, and distribution of the various classes of elementals which come most frequently into contact with mankind. I expect that different species will be found to inhabit countries inhabited by different races of men, though we can hardly expect them to correspond exactly. I think, too, that some of them at least are intermediate between animals and men, and that they are liable to be dispossessed and driven away, even if not destroyed, by the draining of marshes, the felling of forests, and the other changes in the face of nature which attend the progress of civilization, and tend to exterminate the wild beasts. Much, too, depends on the character of the country. The horrible monsters which infested the English fens a thousand years ago, in the days of Beowulf, and of the founding of Crowland Abbey, appear to have remained in the neighbourhood, according to local tradition, almost down to the present day. Not that all or any of these stories, ancient or modern, are to be accepted as true without examination and comparison, but they indicate the direction in which such investigations are likely to be instructive and profitable.

Again, the gnomes or Dvergar, as they used to be called, were well known to the Norsemen a thousand years ago, and are met with throughout the whole of northern Europe, whether Celtic, Teutonic, Scandinavian or Finnish, with very similar attributes, and under very similar conditions. They will probably be found to inhabit all the mining countries of the northern hemisphere at least; I am told that they are known in Asia Minor; and the Yakshas, the attendants of Kuvera, the Indian God of Wealth, are probably gnomes. They appear to come into contact with men more frequently than any of the other elementals, perhaps because their nature is more nearly allied to our own.

I have little doubt, too, that the same, or nearly the same, elementals, will be found to inhabit the Sahara, the Gobi, and the other great deserts of Asia and Africa. Among these are the elementals of the sandstorms. The account of one of these in the story of the Merchant in the Thousand and One Nights may be compared

with that of the Spirit of the Whirlwind in an Esthonian story.* Apollonius of Tyana is said to have encountered an Empusa in the desert on his way to India. I presume that this was the wellknown Ghooleh of Arabian story; or as they would say in India, a Rakshasi. There seems to be but little difference between the Indian Rakshasas and the ghouls; but it would be a great mistake to apply the same term to creatures which might not, after all, be identical. For instance, it is much better to use the native names. for ghouls and Rakshasas, than to translate them both indiscriminately by ogres. Again, we have two very distinct meanings in English for the word fairy. The first meaning applies to the small elves, of whom George Macdonald, in Phantastes says, perhaps truly, "Those whom you call fairies in your country, are mostly the young children of the flower-fairies." The other class of fairies. are those who play the part of the Fates, or the Norns in the destinies of kingdoms and individuals, as in "Cinderella," "The Sleeping Beauty" and other tales, which in their English form, are literary rather than folk-tales, and derived from French sources, though very old forms of many of them are found in other languages. But when Jinn, Peris, Vilas, Rusalkis, and all sorts of other creatures are indiscriminately called fairies, as is often the case, what confusion of ideas must be the result! On the other hand, most European languages have a term which is the exact equivalent of our word mermaid, both in sense and meaning, and which may be thus literally translated without confusion or inconvenience.

One of the last, and not the least important points to which I wish to call attention, is that the folk-lore of no nation, so far as I am aware, lends countenance to the absurd modern notion that all intelligent beings, other than man, are necessarily "immortal" in a sense in which men are not. This notion may either have originated in the Christian idea that all such beings must be either angels or devils ;† or it may be due to the difficulty of beings on one plane contending with, or injuring those on another by ordinary


Yet it is easy to understand why an apparition may vanish on a shot being fired, for the concussion of the air alone, without any

* See my Hero of Esthonia," ii. 110.

+ Compare the diabolical character often attributed to the Scotch fairies.

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