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Our general ignorance of the popular superstitions and customs of the ancients has already been confessed. But the obscurity which thus hangs over the first beginnings of ancient religion is fortunately dissipated to some extent in the present case. The worships of Osiris, Adonis, and Attis had their respective seats, as we have seen, in Egypt, Syria, and Phrygia; and in each of these countries certain harvest and vintage customs are known to have been observed, the resemblance of which to each other and to the national rites struck the ancients themselves, and, compared with the harvest customs of modern peasants and barbarians, seems to throw some light on the origin of the rites in question.
It has been already mentioned, on the authority of Diodorus, that in ancient Egypt the reapers were wont to lament over the first sheaf cut, invoking Isis as the goddess to whom they owed the discovery of corn.1 To the plaintive song or cry sung or uttered by Egyptian reapers the Greeks gave the name of Maneros, and explained the name by a story that Maneros, the only son of the first Egyptian king, invented agriculture, and, dying an untimely death, was thus lamented by the people.2 It appears, however, that the name Maneros is due to the misunderstanding of the formula mdd-ne-hra, "come thou back," which has been discovered in various Egyptian writings, for example in the dirge of Isis in the Book of the Dead.8 Hence we may suppose that the cry nidd-ne-hra was chanted by the reapers over the cut corn as a dirge for the death of the corn-spirit (Isis or Osiris) and a prayer for its return. As the cry was raised over the first ears reaped, it would seem that the corn-spirit was believed by the Egyptians to be present in the first corn cut and to die under the sickle. We have seen that in the Malay Peninsula and Java the first ears of rice are taken to represent either the Soul of the Rice or the Rice-bride and the Rice-bridegroom.1 In parts of Russia the first sheaf is treated much in the same way that the last sheaf is treated elsewhere. It is reaped by the mistress herself, taken home and set in the place of honour near the holy pictures; afterwards it is threshed separately, and some of its grain is mixed with the next year's seed-corn.2
1 Diodorus, i. 14, fn yap nal wv* 620 A.
xori rbr Btpiandy robs rpurrov! ipTjOi'y'a^ s Brugsch, Adonisklagc und Linos
orixin Birras roii arBpibrovi Kirre<rBai lied, p. 24. According lo another
*\rplov rod Spiypuiros »ai r'/r'Iffo- eU»a- interpretation, however, Maneros is the
Ka\eiaBai K.t.\. For Birrai we should Egyptian manurosh, "Let us be merry."
perhaps read airBerrai, which is sup- See Lauth, "Ueber den agyptischen
ported by the following tpayiumn. Maneros," Sitzungiberichte der konigl.
2 Herodotus, ii. 79; Pollux, iv. 54; kayer. Akademu der Wisscnschaften zu l'ausanias, ix. 29. 7; Athenaeus, xiv. p. Miinchen, 1869, ii. 163-194.
In Phoenicia and Western Asia a plaintive song, like that chanted by the Egyptian corn-reapers, was sung at the vintage and probably (to judge by analogy) also at harvest. This Phoenician song was called by the Greeks Linus or Ailinus and explained, like Maneros, as a lament for the death of a youth named Linus.8 According to one story Linus was brought up by a shepherd, but torn to pieces by his dogs.4 But, like Maneros, the name Linus or Ailinus appears to have originated in a verbal misunderstanding, and to be nothing more than the cry at lann, that is " woe to us," which the Phoenicians probably uttered in mourning for Adonis;5 at least Sappho seems to have regarded Adonis and Linus as equivalent.6
In Bithynia a like mournful ditty, called Bormus or Borimus, was chanted by Mariandynian reapers. Bormus was said to have been a handsome youth, the son of King Upias or of a wealthy and distinguished man. One summer day, watching the reapers at work in his fields, he went to fetch them a drink of water and was never heard of more. So the reapers sought for him, calling him in plaintive strains, which they continued to chant at harvest ever afterwards.7
In Phrygia the corresponding song, sung by harvesters both at reaping and at threshing, was called Lityerses. According to one story, Lityerses was a bastard son of Midas, King of Phrygia. He used to reap the corn, and had an enormous appetite. When a stranger happened to enter the corn-field or to pass by it, Lityerses gave him plenty to eat and drink, then took him to the corn-fields on the banks of the Maeander and compelled him to reap along with him. Lastly, he used to wrap the stranger in a sheaf, cut off his head with a sickle, and carry away his body, wrapt in the corn stalks. But at last he was himself slain by Hercules, who threw his body into the river.1 As Hercules was probably reported to have slain Lityerses in the same way that Lityerses slew others (as Theseus treated Sinis and Sciron), we may infer that Lityerses used to throw the bodies of his victims into the river. According to another version of the story, Lityerses, a son of Midas, used to challenge people to a reaping match with him, and if he vanquished them he used to thrash them; but one day he met with a stronger reaper, who slew him.2
Callimachus, Hymn to
1 Above, pp. 199 sq., 201 sq.
1 Ralston, Songs of the Russian People, p. 249 sq.
5 Homer, //. xviii. 570; Herodotus, ii. 79; Pausanias, ix. 29; Conon, Narrat. 19. For the form Ailinus see Suidas, s.v.; Euripides, Orestes, 1395; Sophocles, A/ax, 627. Cp. Moschus,
Idyl. iii. I
4 Conon, I.e.
4 W. Mannhardt, A.W.F. p. 281.
• Pausanias, I.e.
7 Pollux, iv. 54; Athenaeus, xiv. pp. 619 F-620 A; Hesychius, sw. BSipfiov and Ma/xavJvvAs dpijvos.
There are some grounds for supposing that in these stories of Lityerses we have the description of a Phrygian harvest custom in accordance with which certain persons, especially strangers passing the harvest field, were regularly regarded as embodiments of the corn-spirit and as such were seized by the reapers, wrapt in sheaves, and beheaded, their bodies, bound up in the corn-stalks, being afterwards thrown into water as a rain-charm. The grounds for this supposition are, first, the resemblance of the Lityerses story to the harvest customs of European peasantry, and, second, the frequency of human sacrifices offered by savage races to promote the fertility of the fields. We will examine these grounds successively, beginning with the former.
In comparing the story with the harvest customs of Europe,8 three points deserve special attention, namely: I. the reaping match and the binding of persons in the sheaves; II. the killing of the corn-spirit or his representatives; III. the treatment of visiters to the harvest-field or of strangers passing it.
I. In regard to the first head, we have seen that in modern Europe the person who cuts or binds or threshes the last sheaf is often exposed to rough treatment at the hands of his fellow-labourers. For example, he is bound up in the last sheaf, and, thus encased, is carried or carted about, beaten, drenched with water, thrown on a dunghill, and so forth. Or, if he is spared this horseplay, he is at least the subject of ridicule or is thought to be destined to suffer some misfortune in the course of the year. Hence the harvesters are naturally reluctant to give the last cut at reaping or the last stroke at threshing or to bind the last sheaf, and towards the close of the work this reluctance produces an emulation among the labourers, each striving to finish his task as fast as possible, in order that he may escape the invidious distinction of being last.1 For example, in the neighbourhood of Danzig, when the winter corn is cut and mostly bound up in sheaves, the portion which still remains to be bound is divided amongst the women binders, each of whom receives a swath of equal length to bind. A crowd of reapers, children, and idlers gathers round to witness the contest, and at the word, "Seize the Old Man," the women fall to work, all binding their allotted swaths as hard as they can. The spectators watch them narrowly, and the woman who cannot keep pace with the rest and consequently binds the last sheaf has to carry the Old Man (that is, the last sheaf made up in the form of a man) to the farmhouse and deliver it to the farmer with the words, " Here I bring you the Old Man." At the supper which follows, the Old Man is placed at the table and receives an abundant portion of food, which, as he cannot eat it, falls to the share of the woman who carried him. Afterwards the Old Man is placed in the yard and all the people dance round him. Or the woman who bound the last sheaf dances for a good while with the Old Man, while the rest form a ring round them; afterwards they all, one after the other, dance a single round with him. Further, the woman who bound the last sheaf goes herself by the name of the Old Man till the next harvest, and is often mocked with the cry, "Here comes the Old Man."l At Aschbach in Bavaria, when the reaping is nearly finished, the reapers say, " Now, we will drive out the Old Man." Each of them sets himself to reap a patch of corn as fast as he can; he who cuts the last handful or the last stalk is greeted by the rest with an exulting cry, "You have the Old Man." Sometimes a black mask is fastened on the reaper's face and he is dressed in woman's clothes; or if the reaper is a woman, she is dressed in man's clothes. A dance follows. At the supper the Old Man gets twice as large a portion of food as the others. At threshing, the proceedings are the same; the person who gives the last stroke is said to have the Old Man.2
1 The story was told by Sositheus in Lityerses; Apostolius, x. 74. Photius
his play of Dap/mis. His verses have mentions the sickle. Lityerses is the
been preserved in the tract of an anony- subject of a special study by Mannhardt
mous writer. See Scriplores rerum (Mythologische Forschimgen, p. 1 sqq.),
mirabilium Graeci, ed. Westermann, whom I follow,
p. 220; also Athenaeus, x. p. 415 1l; - Pollux, iv. 54.
Schol. on Theocritus, x. 41; Photius, 3 In this comparison I closely follow
Lexicon, Suidas, and Hesychius, s.v. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. p. 18 sgq.
VOL. II Q
1 Cp. above, pp. 172,179 sg., 181 sg. tion for the honour of cutting it, and On the other hand, the last sheaf is some- handfuls of standing corn used to be times an object of desire and emulation. hidden under sheaves in order that the See p. 173 sg. It is so at Balquhidder also (Folk-lore Journal, vi. 269); and it was formerly so on the Gareloch, Dumbartonshire, where there was a competi
last to be uncovered should form the Maiden. — (From the information of Archie Leitch. See p. 185, note 2.)
These examples illustrate the contests in reaping, threshing, and binding which take place amongst the harvesters, from their unwillingness to suffer the ridicule and discomfort incurred by the one who happens to finish his work last. It will be remembered that the person who is last at reaping, binding, or threshing, is regarded as the representative of the corn-spirit,8 and this idea is more fully expressed by binding him or her in corn-stalks. The latter custom has been already illustrated, but a few more instances may be added. At Kloxin, near Stettin, the harvesters call out to the woman who binds the last sheaf, "You have the Old Man, and must keep him." The Old Man is a great bundle of corn decked with flowers and ribbons, and fashioned into a rude semblance of the human form. It is fastened on a rake or strapped on a horse, and brought with music to the village. In delivering the Old Man to the farmer, the woman says—
"Here, dear Sir, is the Old Man.
1 W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. p. deutschen MythoIogie, ii. p. 217, §
2 Ibid. p. 20; Panzer, Beitrag zur 3 Above, p. 190.