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they were highly honoured because of his conduct . A person, who was present at the audience when the event I have described took place, informed me that the speech made by the man who sacrificed himself set forth his devotion to the monarch. He said that he wished to immolate himself out of affection for the sovereign, as his father had done for love of the prince's father, and as his grandfather had done out of regard for the prince's grandfather."1 We may conjecture that formerly the sultans of Java, like the kings of Quilacare and Calicut, were bound to cut their own throats at the end of a fixed term of years, but that at a later time they deputed the painful, though glorious, duty of dying for their country to the members of a certain family, who received by way of recompense ample provision during their life and a handsome funeral at death.
There are some grounds for believing that the reign of the ancient Dorian kings was limited to eight years, or at least that at the end of every period of eight years a new consecration, a fresh outpouring of the divine grace, was regarded as necessary in order to enable them to discharge their civil and religious duties. For it was a rule of the Spartan constitution that every eighth year the ephors should choose a clear and moonless night and sitting down observe the sky in silence. If . during their vigil they saw a meteor or shooting star, they inferred that the king had sinned against the deity, and suspended him from his functions until the Delphic or Olympic oracle should reinstate him in them. This custom, which has all the air of great antiquity, was not suffered to remain a dead letter even in the last period of the Spartan monarchy; for in the third century before our era a king, who had rendered himself obnoxious to the reforming party, was actually deposed on various trumped-up charges, among which the allegation that the ominous sign had been seen in the sky took a prominent place.2 When we compare this custom, as K. O. Miiller suggested,8 with the importance of the eight-years' cycle in early Greece, and with the Homeric reference to King Minos who reigned at Cnosus for periods of nine years
1 Voyage cTlbn Batoutah, texte Arabe, nccompagnc d'une traduction par C. Deflremery et B. R. Sanguinetti (Paris, 1853-38), rv. 246 so.
- Plutarch, Agis, ii.
s Die Dorter,1 ii. 96.
as the friend of Zeus,1 we shall be disposed to concur in the opinion of the illustrious German scholar, whom I have just cited, that the quaint Spartan practice is much more than a mere antiquarian curiosity; it is the attenuated survival of an institution which may once have had great significance, and it throws an important light on the restrictions and limitations anciently imposed by religion on the Dorian kingship. What exactly was the import of a meteor in the opinion of the old Dorians we can hardly hope to determine; one thing, only is clear, they regarded it as a portent of so ominous and threatening a kind that its appearance under certain circumstances justified and even required the deposition of their king. This exaggerated dread of so simple a natural phenomenon is shared by many savages at the present day; and we shall hardly err in supposing that the Spartans inherited it from their barbarous ancestors, who may have watched with consternation, on many a starry night among the woods of Germany, the flashing of a meteor through the sky. Shooting stars and meteors are viewed with apprehension by the natives of the Andaman Islands, who suppose them to be lighted faggots hurled into the air by the malignant spirit of the woods in order to ascertain the whereabouts of any unhappy wight in his vicinity. Hence' if they happen to be away from their camp when the meteor is seen, they hide themselves and remain silent for a little before they venture to resume the work they were at; for example, if they are out fishing they will crouch at the bottom of the boat.2 When the Baronga of South Africa see a shooting star they spit on the ground to avert the evil omen, and cry, "Go away! go away all alone!" By this they mean that the light, which is so soon to disappear, is not to take them with it, but to go and die by itself.8 The Namaquas "are greatly afraid of the meteor which is vulgarly called a falling star,
1 rJjai S' M KruffAs, fuyiXij Taxu, in this passage. I accept K. O.
Ir6a re Mirwt Muller's interpretation, which agrees
hrivpvs paoDtev* Ai6s iuyi\ov with that of the author of the dialogue
bapiffrhi. Minos (p. 319 D E) attributed to Plato.
Homer, Odyssey, nix. 178 sj. There * E. Man, Aboriginal Inhabitants
is some difference of opinion as to the of the Andaman Islands, p. 84 sq.
exact meaning to be given to irriupos » H. A. Junod, Les Ba-rongn, p. 470.
for they consider it a sign that sickness is coming upon the cattle, and to escape it they will immediately drive them to some other parts of the country. They call out to the star how many cattle they have, and beg of it not to send sickness." l The Bechuanas are also much alarmed at the appearance of a meteor. If they happen to be dancing in the open air at the time, they will instantly desist and retire hastily to their huts.2 When the Laughlan Islanders see a shooting star they make a great noise, for they think it is the old woman who lives in the moon coming down to earth to catch somebody who may relieve her of her duties in the moon while she goes away to the happy spirit-land.8 In Vedic India a meteor was believed to be the incarnation of a demon, and on its appearance certain hymns or incantations, supposed to possess the power of killing demons, were recited for the purpose of expiating the prodigy.4 The aborigines of New South Wales attributed great importance to the falling of a star.5 Some of the Esthonians at the present day regard shooting stars as evil spirits.6 By some Indians of California meteors were called "children of the moon," and whenever young women saw one of them they fell to the ground and covered their heads, fearing that, if the meteor saw them, their faces would become ugly and diseased.7 When a German traveller was living with the Bororos of Central Brazil, a splendid meteor fell, spreading dismay through the Indian village. It was believed to be the soul of a dead medicine-man, who suddenly appeared in this form to announce that he wanted meat, and that, as a preliminary measure, he proposed to visit somebody with an attack of dysentery. Its appearance was greeted with yells from a hundred throats; men, women, and children swarmed out of their huts like ants whose nest has been disturbed; and soon watch-fires blazed, round which at a little distance groups of dusky figures gathered, while in the middle, thrown into strong relief by the flickering light of the fire, two red-painted sorcerers reeled and staggered in a state of frantic excitement, snorting and spitting towards the quarter of the sky where the meteor had run its brief but brilliant course. Pressing his right hand to his yelling mouth, each of them held aloft in his extended left, by way of propitiating the angry star, a bundle of cigarettes!" There!" they seemed to say, "all that tobacco will we give to ward off the impending visitation. Woe to you, if you do not leave us in peace." *
4 D. Collins, Account of the English Colony in New South Wales (London, 1804). p. 383.
8 Holzmayer, "Osiliana," Verhandlungen der gelehrten Estnischen Gesellschaft zu Dor/at, vii. (1872), p. 48.
7 Boscana, "Chinigchinich, a historical account of the origin, etc., of the Indians of St. Juan Capistrano," in A. Robinson's Life in California (New York, 1846), p. 299.
1 J. Campbell, Travels in South Africa (London, 1815), p. 428 so.
8 Id., Travels in South Africa, Second Journey (London, 1822), ii. 204.
s W. Tetzlaff, "Notes on the Laughlan Islands," in Annual Report on British New Guinea, 1890-1891 (Brisbane, 1892), p. 105.
4 H. Oldenberg, Die Religion des J'eda, p. 267.
A widespread superstition associates meteors or falling stars with the souls of the dead. Often they are believed to be the spirits of the departed on their way to the other world. The Maoris imagine that at death the soul leaves the body and goes to the nether world in the form of a falling star.2 One evening when Mr. Howitt was talking with an Australian black, a bright meteor was seen shooting through the sky. The native watched it and remarked, "An old blackfellow has fallen down there."8 Among the Yerrunthally tribe of Queensland the ideas on this subject were even more definite. They thought that after death they went to a place away among the stars, and that to reach it they had to climb up a rope; when they had clambered up they let go the rope, which, as it fell from heaven, appeared to people on earth as a falling star.4 The Wambugwe of Eastern Africa fancy that the stars are men, of whom one dies whenever a star is seen to fall.5 The Tinneh Indians and the Tchiglit Esquimaux of Northwestern America believe that human life on earth is influenced by the stars, and they take a shooting star to be a sign that some one has died.1 In classical antiquity there was a popular notion that every human being had his own star in the sky, which shone bright or dim according to his good or evil fortune, and fell in the form of a meteor when he died.2 Ideas of the same sort are still commonly to be met with in Europe. Thus in some parts of Germany they say that at the birth of a man a new star is set in the sky, and that as it burns brilliantly or faintly he grows rich or poor; finally when he dies it drops from the sky in the likeness of a shooting star.8 Similarly in Brittany, Transylvania, Bohemia, the Abruzzi, and the Esthonian island of Oesel it is thought by some that every man has his own particular star in the sky, and that when it falls in the shape of a meteor he expires.4 In Styria they say that when a shooting star is seen a man has just died, or a poor soul been released from purgatory.5 The Esthonians believe that if any one sees a falling star on New Year's night he will die or be visited by a serious illness that year.6 In Belgium and many parts of France the people suppose that a meteor is a soul which has just quitted the body, sometimes that it is specially the soul of an unbaptized infant or of some one who has died without absolution. At sight of it they say that you should cross yourself and
1 K. von den Steinen, Uiitcr den * E. Palmer, "Notes on some
Naturvolkern Zentral-Brasiliens, p. Australian Tribes," Journal of the
514 so. Anthropological Institute, xiii. (18S4),
* Dieffenbach, Travels in Aew p. 292. Sometimes apparently the Aus
Zealand, ii. 66. According to another tralian natives regard crystals or broken
account, meteors are regarded by the glass as fallen stars, and treasure them
Maoris as betokening the presence of a as powerful instruments of magic See
god (R. Taylor, Te Ika a Jfani, or V.. M. Curr, The Australian Race, iii.
New Zealand and its Inhabitants, p. 29.
s A. W. Howitt, in Brough Smyth's •. O. Baumann, Durch Alassailand
Alvrigines of Victoria, ii. 309. zur Xilauelle (Berlin, 1S94), p. 188.
1 E. Petitot, Alonographie dts DiniDindji (Paris, 1876), p. 60; id., Alonographie des Esquimaux Tchiglit (Paris, 1876), p. 24.
s Pliny, Nat. Hist. ii. 28.
3 Panzer, Beitrag zur deutschen Mythologie, ii. 293; Kuhn und Schwartz, Norddeutsche Sagen, Afiirchen und Gebrauche, p. 457, §422; E. Meier, Deutsche Sagen, Sitten und Gebrauche aus Schtvaben, p. 506, §§ 379, 380.
* Sebillot, Traditions et Superstitions de la Haute-Bretagne, ii. 353; J. Haltrich, Zur Volkskunde der Siebenbiirger Sachsen (Vienna, 1885), p. 300; W. Schmidt, Das Jahr und seine Tage in Afeinung und Branch der Romiinen Siebenbiirgens, p. 38; E. Gerard, The Land beyond the Forest, i. 311; Grohmann, Aberglauben unit Gebriiuche aus Bohmen und Afahren, p. 31, § 164; Br. Jelfnek, "Material
ien zur Vorgeschichte und Volkskunde Bohmens," Mittheilungen der anthropologisclun Gesellschafl in Wien,' xxi. (1891), p. 25; G. Finamore, Credenze, Usi e Cost n mi Abruzzesi, p. 47 so.; Holzmayer, *' Osiliana," Verhandl. der gelehrten Estnischen Gesellschaft zu Dorpat, vii. (1872), p. 48. The same belief is said to prevail in Armenia. See Minas Tcheraz, "Notes sur la Mythologie Armenienne," Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists (London, 1S93), ii. 824. Bret Harte has employed the idea in his little poem, "Relieving Guard."
s A. Schlossar, " Volksmeinung und Volksaberglaube aus der deutschen Steiermark," Germania, N.R., xxiv.
(189O. P- 389
'' Boeder - Kreutzwald, Der Ehsten abergliiubische Gebriiuche, Weisen und Gcvohnheiten, p. 73