Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 



THERE is no essential difference between Names of Power and Words of Power, and the justification of any division lies wholly in its convenience. For although the implication may be that the one is associated with persons, and the other with things, we have sufficing evidence of the hopeless entanglement of the two in the barbaric mind. Both are regarded as effective for weal or woe through the magic power assumed to inhere in the names, and through the control obtained over them through knowledge of those names. In examining this attitude, it may be well to bear in mind what has been said already concerning magic as a primitive form of science; bad science, it is true, yet possessing the saving grace of some perception of possible relations between phenomena. For here the apparatus of the priest--prayer, sacrifice, and so forth--is superseded, or, at least, suspended, in favour of the apparatus of the sorcerer with his 'whole bag of tricks '--spells, incantations, curses, passwords, charms, and other machinery of white or black magic. In his invaluable Asiatic Studies, Sir Alfred Lyall remarks that among the lower religions 'there seem always to have been some faint sparks of doubt as to the efficacy of prayer and offerings, and thus as to the limits within which deities can or will interpose in human affairs, combined with embryonic conceptions of the possible capacity of man to control or guide Nature by knowledge and use of her ways, or with some primeval touch of that feeling which now rejects supernatural interference in the order and sequence of physical processes. Side by side with that universal conviction which ascribed to divine volition all effects that could not be accounted for by the simplest experience, and which called them miracles, omens, or signs of the gods, there has always been a remote manifestation of that less submissive spirit which locates within man himself the power of influencing things, and which works vaguely toward the dependence of man on his own faculties for regulating his material surroundings. [a]
Words of Power, broadly classified, may be divided, with more or less unavoidable overlapping, into (a) Creative Words; (b) Mantrams and their kin; (c) Passwords; (d) Spells or Invocations for conjuring up the spirit of the dead, or for exorcising demons, or for removing spells on the living; and (e) Cure-Charms in formulae or magic words. Of each of these five intermingled classes a few examples will suffice.
The confusion of person and thing meets us at starting, and the deification of speech itself warrants its inclusion in this section. Probably the most striking example of such deification is the Hindu goddess Vãc, who is spoken of in the Rig Veda [b] as 'the greatest of all deities; the Queen, the first of all those worthy of worship,' and in one of the Brahmanas, or sacerdotal commentaries on the Vedas, as the 'mother '[c] of those sacred books. Another hymn to her declares that when she was first sent forth, all that was hidden, all that was best and highest, became disclosed through love. [d] By sacrifice Speech was thought out and found, and he who sacrifices to her 'becomes strong by speech, and speech turns unto him, and he makes speech subject unto himself.' [e] When Vãc declares--
'Whom I love I make mighty, I make him a Brãhman, a Seer, and Wise. .
I have revealed the heavens to its inmost depths, I dwell in the waters and in sea,
Over all I stand, reaching by my mystic power to the height beyond.
I also breathe out like the wind, I first of all living things.
Beyond the heavens and this earth I have come to this great power,' [f]
echoes of the sublime claims of Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs haunt the ear.
'The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: am was daily his delight.' [g]
In the Wisdom of Solomon, the high place of 'Chockmah' or Wisdom, as co-worker with the Deity, is still more prominent; in the Targums 'Memra' or 'Word' is one of the phrases substituted by the Jews for the great Name; while the several speculations concerning the nature and functions of Wisdom in the canonical and apocryphal books took orderly shape in t:he Logos, the Incarnate Word of God, of Saint John's Gospel. In Buddhism, Manjusri is the personification of Wisdom, [h] although in this connection we have to remark that this religion has no theory of the origin of things, and that for the nearest approach to the Vãc of Hinduism (as the possible influence of which on the wisdom the Book of Proverbs, and through it on Logos, nothing can be said here) we must cross into ancient Persia, in whose sacred books we read of Honovar or Ahuna-variya, the 'Creating Word' or the 'Word Creator.' When Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) asks Ahuramazda, the Good God of the Parsi religion, which was the word that he spoke 'before the heavens, the water, the earth, and so forth,' Ahuramazda answers by dwelling on the sacred Honovar, the mispronunciation of which subjects a man to dire penalties, while 'whoever in this my world supplied with creatures takes off in muttering a part of the Ahuna-variya, either a half, or a third, or a fourth, or a fifth of it, his soul will I, who am Ahuramazda, separate from paradise to such a distance in width and breadth as the earth is.' [i] In his translation of Salaman and Absal, wherein these lines occur,
'. . . The Sage began,
O last new vintage of the vine of life
Planted in Paradise; O Master-stroke,
And all-concluding flourish of the Pen,
Edward FitzGerald appends as note on Kun-fa-Yakun, 'Be, and it is--the famous word of Creation stolen from Genesis by the Kurán.' In that book we read, 'The Originator of the heavens and the earth when He decrees a matter He doth but say, unto it, "BE," and it is,' [j]--a declaration which the Genesis creation-legend, doubtless a transcript [k] of Accadian originals, anticipates in the statement, 'And Elohim said, Let there be light, and there was light.' In this connection the three shouts of the Welsh, which created all things, should be noted.
Dr. Wallis Budge remarks that among the magic formulae of which the ancient Egyptians made use for the purpose of effecting results outside man's normal power, was repetition of the names of gods and supernatural beings, certain ceremonies accompanying the same. For they believed that every word spoken under given circumstances must be followed by some effect good or bad. The same idea prompts the belief of the Irish peasant that a curse once uttered must alight on something; it will float in the air seven years, and may descend any moment on the party it was aimed at [l] Allied to this is the old Scandinavian belief that a curse is powerful unless it can be turned back, when it will harm its utterer, for harm some one it must. [m] The origin of the Egyptian superstition lies further back than Dr. Budge suggests, although he is probably correct in assuming that its development received impetus from the belief that the world and all things therein came into being immediately after Thoth, the god of writing, especially of sacred literature, had interpreted in words the will of the Deity in respect of the creation, and that creation was the result of the god's command. [n]
Belief in the virtue of mystic phrases, faith in whose efficacy would seem to be increased in the degree that the utterers do not know their meaning, is world-wide. The old lady who found spiritual 'comfort in 'that blessed word, Mesopotamia,' has her representatives in both hemispheres, in the matamanik of the Red Indian and the karakias of the New Zealander, [o] while the Roman Catholic can double the number of beads on his rosary by exchanging strings with the Tibetan. The latter, as we know, fills his 'praying-wheels,' more correctly, praising-wheels, with charms or texts from his sacred books, the words of wonder-working power frequently placed therein, or emblazoned on silk flags, being 'Om Mani padme hum,' 'Ah, the jewel in the lotus,' i.e. 'the self-creative force is in the kosmos.'
But most typical of all are the sacred formulas of the Hindus, the mantrams which are believed 'to enchain the power of the gods themselves.' They are charged with both bane and bliss; there is nothing that can resist their effect. At their bidding the demons will enter a man or be cast out of him, and the only test of their efficacy is supplied by themselves, since a stronger mantram can neutralise a weaker. 'The most famous and the most efficacious mantrani for taking away sins, whose power is so great that the very gods tremble at it, is that which is called the gayatri. It is so ancient that the Vedas themselves were born from it Only a Brahmin has the right to recite it, and he must prepare himself by the most profound meditation. It is a prayer in honour of the sun. There are several other mantrams which are called gayatri, but this is the one most often used.' [p] Next in importance to the gayatri, the most powerful mantram, is the monosyllable OM or AUM, to which reference has been made. But, all the world over, that which may have been the outcome of genuine aims has become the tool of necromancers, soothsayers, and their kin. These recite the mystic charms for the ostensible purpose of fortune-telling, of discovering stolen property, hidden treasure, and of miracle-mongering generally. Certain mantrams are credited with special power in the hands of those who have the key to the true pronunciation, reminding us of the race--test in the pronunciation of the old word Shibboleth. [q] To the rishis or sorcerers who know how to use and apply these bija-aksharas, as such mantrams are called, nothing is impossible. Dubois quotes the following story in proof of this from the Hindu poem, Brahmottara-Kanda, composed in honour of Siva:--'Dasarha, King of Madura, having married Kalavali, daughter of the King of Benares, was warned by the princess on their wedding-day that he must not exercise his rights as a husband, because the mantram of the five letters which she had learned had so purified her that no man could touch her save at the risk of his life, unless he had been himself cleansed from all defilement by the same word-charm. The princess, being his wife, could not teach him the mantram, because by so doing she would become his guru, and, consequently, his superior. So the next day both husband and wife went in quest of the great Rishi, or penitent Garga, who, learning the object of their visit, bade them fast one day and bathe the following day in the holy Ganges. This being done, they returned to the Rishi, who made the husband sit down on the ground facing the East, and, having seated himself by his side, but with face to the West, whispered these two words in his ear, "Namah Sivaya." Scarcely had Dasarha heard these marvellous words before a flight of crows was seen issuing from different parts of his body, these birds being the sins which he had committed.' [r]
That the mantrams do not now work the startling effects of which tradition tells, is explained by the Brahmins as due to mankind now living in the Kali-Yuga, or Fourth Age of the World, a veritable age of Iron; but they maintain that it is still not uncommon for miracles to be wrought akin to that just narrated, and to this which follows. Siva had taught a little bastard boy the mysteries of the bjja-akshara or mantram of the five letters. The boy was the son of a Brahmin widow, and the stain on his birth had caused his exclusion from a wedding-feast to which others of his caste had been invited. He took revenge by pronouncing two or three of the mystic letters through a crack in the door of the room where the guests were assembled. Immediately all the dishes that were prepared for the feast were turned into frogs. Consternation spread among the guests, all being sure that the mischief was due to the little bastard, so, fearing that worse might happen, they rushed with one accord to invite him to come in. As he entered, they asked his pardon for the slight, whereupon he pronounced the same words backwards, [s] and the cakes and other refreshments appeared, while the frogs vanished. 'I will leave it,' remarks the Abbé, 'to some one else to find, if he can, anything amongst the numberless obscurations of the human mind that can equal the extravagance of this story, which a Hindu would nevertheless believe implicitly.' Were that veracious recorder of Oriental belief and custom alive, he would be supplied from the narratives of proceedings at spiritualist séances with examples of modern credulity as strong as those which he collected in the land on which the Mahatmas look down from their inaccessible peaks.
The famous Word of Power, 'Open, Sesame,' pales before the passwords given in the Book of the Dead, or, more correctly, The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day. This oldest of sacred literature, venerable four thousand years B.C., contains the hymns, prayers, and magic phrases to be used by Osiris (the common name given to the immortal counterpart of the mummy [t]) in his journey to Amenti, the underworld that led to the Fields of the Blessed. To secure unhindered passage thither, the deceased must know the secret and mystical names of the Gods of the Northern and Southern Heaven, of the Horizons, and of the Empyreal Gate. 'As the Egyptian made his future world a counterpart of the Egypt which he knew and loved, and gave to it heavenly counterparts of all the sacred cities thereof, he must have conceived the existence of a waterway like the Nile, whereon he might sail and perform his desired voyage.' Strangest evidence of the Egyptian extension of belief in Words of Power is furnished in the requirement made of the deceased that he shall tell the names of every portion of the boat in which he desires to cross the great river flowing to the underworld. Although there is a stately impressiveness throughout the whole chapter, the citation of one or two sentences must suffice. Every part of the boat challenges the Osiris:--
'Tell me my name,' saith the Rudder. 'Leg of Hapiu is thy name.'
'Tell me my name,' saith the Rope. 'Hair, with which Anubis finisheth the work of my embalmment, is thy name.'
'Tell us our names, say the Oar-rests. 'Pillars of the underworld is your name.'
And so on; hold, mast, sail, blocks, paddles, bows, keel, and hull each putting the same question, the sailor, the wind, the river, and the river-banks chiming in, and the Rubric ending with the assurance to the deceased that if 'this chapter be known by him,' he shall 'come forth into Sekhet-Aarru, and bread, wine, and cakes shall be given him at the altar of the great god, and fields, and an estate . . . and his body shall be like unto the bodies of the gods.' [u]
But the difficulties of the journey are not ended, because ere he can enter the Hall of the Two Truths, that is, of Truth and Justice, where the god Osiris and the forty-two judges of the dead are seated, and where the declaration of the deceased, that he has committed none of the forty-two sins, [v] is tested by weighing his heart in the scales against the symbol of truth, Anubis requires him to tell the names of every part of the doors, the bolts, lintels, sockets, woodwork, threshold, and posts; while the floor forbids him to tread on it until it knows the names of the two feet wherewith he would walk upon it. These correctly given, the doorkeeper challenges him, and, that guardian satisfied, Osiris bids the deceased approach and partake of 'the sepulchral meal.' Then after more name-tests are applied, those of the watchers and heralds of the seven ants or mansions, and of the twenty-one pylons of the domains of Osiris, the deceased 'shall be among those who follow Osiris triumphant. The gates of the underworld shall be opened unto him, and a homestead shall be given unto him, and the followers of Horus who reap therein shall proclaim his name as one of the gods who are therein.'
In the famous scene in Macbeth, when the witches make the 'hellbroth boil and bubble' in their 'caldron,' Shakespeare drew upon the folk-lore of his time. Two years before he came to London, Reginald Scot had published his Discoverie of Witchcraft, a work which, in Mr. Lecky's words, 'unmasked the imposture and delusion of the system with a boldness that no previous writer had approached, and an ability which few subsequent writers have equalled.' In that book may be found the record of many a strange prescription, of which other dramatists of Shakespeare's period, notably Middleton, Heywood, and Shadwell, made use in their thaumaturgic machinery. Scot's exposure of the 'impietie of inchanters' and the 'knaverie of conjurers' is accompanied by examples of a number of spells for raising the various grades of spirits, from the ghost of a suicide to the innumerable company of demons. In each case the effectiveness of the spell depends on the utterance of names which are a jumble of strange or manufactured tongues. For example, the spirits of the 'Airy Region' are conjured by 'his strong and mighty Name, Jehovah,' and by his 'holy Name, Tetragrammaton,' and by all his 'wonderful Names and Attributes, Sadat, Ollon, Emillat, Athanatos, Paracletus.' Then the exorcist, turning to the four quarters, calls the names, 'Gerson, Anek, Nephrion, Basannah, Cabon,' whereupon the summoned spirits, casting off their phantasms, will stand before him in human form to do his bidding, to bestow the gift of invisibility, foreknowledge of the weather, knowledge of the raising and allaying of storms, and of the language of birds. Then the exorcist dismisses them to their aerial home, in 'the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. [w]
The witch of Endor secured the appearance of Samuel by the mere invocation of his name, a far simpler process [x] than availed the medieval necromancer, for he had to go to the grave at midnight with candle, crystal, and hazel wand on which the Name of God was written, and then, repeating the words, 'Tetragrammaton, Adonai, Agla, Crabon,' to strike on the ground three times with his wand, thereby conjuring the spirit into the crystal.
The importance which the ancient Egyptians attached to dreams is well known. It was the universal belief that they were sent by the gods; and as matters of moment hinged on them, magic was brought into play to secure the desired dream. Among the formulae used for this purpose which survive is the following:--Take a cat, black all over, which has been killed: prepare a tablet, and write these words with a solution of myrrh, also the dream desired, which put in the mouth of the cat:--' Keimi, Keimi, I am the Great One, in whose mouth rests Mommon, Thoth, Nanumbre, Karikha …. the sacred Lanieê ien aëo eieeieiei aoeeo,' and so on in a string of meaningless syllables which were supposed to convey the hidden name of the god, and thereby make him subject to the magician. Then, as the conclusion, 'Hear me, for I shall speak the great Name, Thoth. Thy name answers to the seven vowels.'
The Babylonian libraries have yielded a large number of incantations for use against evil spirits, sorcery, and human ills generally, the force of the magic conjurations being increased in the degree that they are unintelligible. For it is needful to preserve the old form of the name, because, although the meaning may be lost, another name, or a variation of it, would not possess the same virtue.
'The lion and the lizard keep
The courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep,'
these references to the superstitions that dominated the ancient civilisations of the East, and through them, in their elaborated magical forms, of the West, are of service to-day. That they persisted so long is no matter of wonder, when we remember how late in human history is perception of the orderly sequence of phenomena; and that persistence also explains why like confusion prevails in communities where the scientific stage has not been reached. In this matter, even in these post-Darwinian days, 'there are few that be saved' from the feeling that, in some vaguely defined way, man can influence the unseen by the power of spoken words. The terrible curses which accompanied the once-dreaded excommunication have their pale echoes in our Commination Service (which to most persons nowadays only suggests the 'Jackdaw of Rheims'), and both are the outcome of the barbaric belief that the utterance of the word has a direct effect on the man against whom it is spoken. The belief in that power was extended to the written word. Reginald Scot gives the following charm 'against thieves,' which 'must never be said, but carried about one':--'I doo go, and I doo come unto you with the love of God, with the humility of Christ, with the holmes of our blessed ladle, with the faith of Abraham, with the justice of Isaac with the vertue of David, with the might of Peter, with the constancie of Paule, with ti word of God, with the authoritie of Gregorie with the praier of Clement, with the floud Jordan,pppcgegaqq est pti ka bglk 2 ax tgtb am g 242 i q; pxcgkqqaqqpqqr. Oh onelie Father + oh onlie lord + and Jesus + passing through the middest of them + went + In the Name of the Father + and of the Sonne + and of the Holie ghost [y]
To this class belong Gnostic amulets with the~ cabalistic inscriptions; the Jewish phyIacteries or frontlets, whose virtue was supposed to rest in the texts shut up in the leathern case; amulets with the secret name of God chased on then worn by those very barbaric Christians, the Abyssinians, to avert the evil eye and ward off, demons; passages from the Koran enclosed in bags and hung on Turkish and Arab horses to protect them from like maleficence; and prayers to the Madonna slipped into charm-cases an worn by the Neapolitans. Horns, as symbolc of the lunar cusps, are a common form of amulet against the evil eye, whether 'overlooking' man or beast, and the superstitious Italians believe that, in default of a horn or some horn-shape object, the mere utterance of the word corno coma is an effective talisman. Mr. Elworthy tells of a fright which he unwittingly gave secondhand bookseller in Venice when askin about a copy of Valletto's Cicalata sul Fascino. On hearing the last two words of the title, 'the man actually turned and bolted into his inner room, leaving the customer in full possesion the entire stock.' [z] In modern Greece garlic the popular antidote to the evil eye, so the term δκόρδον is used to undo the effect of any hast or inauspicious words. The German peasant says unberufen ('unspoken' or 'called back '), and raps three times under the table if any word 'tempting Providence' has fallen from his lips many a fragment of cabalistic writing is cherished and concealed about their persons by the rustics of Western Europe as safeguards against black magic; and not a few still resort, in times of devotional book at random, hoping to see in the passage that first catches the eye direction as to action, or some monition of the future. For this purpose the ancients consulted the Iliad or the Aeneid; but, changing only the instrument while retaining the belief, Sortes Homericae and Sortes Virgilinae have been superseded by Sortes Biblicae. [aa] As for the spells which guard the departed, the Book of the Dead supplied any number. Its chapters were inscribed on basalt scarabs to protect the Osiris in his passage to Amenti; on heart-shaped amulets, so that the heart of the man might not be stolen from his tomb; while on others his name was engraved, because the blotting-out of a man's name brought with it his extinction. There is nothing new under the sun. At the burial of the late Czar a prayer was chanted, and also printed on a scroll of paper, and then placed by the priest in the hands of the corpse as a document enabling him, when wandering about the spirit-world during the first few days after death, to pass on his way unmolested by evil spirits. [ab]
As gods of healing, both Apollo and Aesculapius were surnamed Paean, after the physician to the Olympian deities, and the songs which celebrate the healing power of Apollo were also called by that name. Ever in song have the deeper emotions found relief and highest expression, while the words themselves have been credited with magic healing power. The earliest fragment in the Book of Genesis is the song in which Lamech chants the 'slaying of a man to his wounding'; and as the word charm (Lat. carmen, a song) itself indicates, the old incantations were cast in metrical form. Songs are the salve of wounds. When Odysseus was maimed by the boar's tusk, his kinsfolk sang a song of healing; and when Wäinamöinen, the hero-minstrel of the Kalevala, cut his knee in hewing the wood for the magic boat, he could heal the wound only by learning the mystic words that chant the secret of the birth of iron, while he could finish the stern and forecastle only by descending to Tuoni (the Finnish underworld) to learn the 'three lost words of the master.' [ac] The same old hero, when challenged to trial of song by the boastful youngster Joukahainen, plunges him deep in morass by the power of his enchantment, and releases him only on his promising to give him his sister Aino in marriage. [ad] In his Art of Poesie, written three centuries ago, Puttenham quaintly says that poetry 'is more ancient than the artificiall of the Greeks and Latines, coming by instinct of nature, and used by the savage and uncivill, who were before all science and civiltie. This is proved by certificate of merchants and travellers . . . affirming that the American, the Perusine, and the very canniball, do sing, and also say, their highest and holiest matters in certain riming versicles.' [ae] Hence the part which 'dropping into poetry' plays in saga, jâtaka, and folk-tale, little snatches of rhyme lending effect and emphasis to incident, and also aid to memory, as in our title-story-
'Nimmy nimmy not,
My name's Tom Tit Tot.'
Italian folk-medicine, which perhaps more than in any other country in Europe has preserved its empirical remedies, whose efficacy largely depends on magic formulae being uttered over them, has its inconsequential jingle-charms. Traces of the use of these occur among the polished Romans; while Grimm refers to a song-charm for sprains which was current for a thousand years over Germany, Scandinavia, and Scotland. [af] How the pre-Christian cure-charms are transferred by change of proper names to the Christian, like the conversion of Pagan deities into Christian saints, is seen in these original and Christianised versions:--
'Phol and Woden                                                                       'Jesus rode to the heath,
went to the wood;                                                                       There he rode the leg
then was of Balder's colt                                                           of his colt in two,
his foot wrenched;                                                                       Jesus dismounted and heald
then Sinthgunt charm'd it,                                                           it;
and Sunna her sister;                                                                  Jesus laid marrow to mar-
then Frua charm'd it, row,
and Volla her sister;                                                                     Bone to bone, flesh to flesh;
then I'Voden charm'd it,                                                               Jesus laid thereon a leaf,
as he well could,                                                                           That it might remain
as well the bone-wrench,                                                             in the same place.'
as the blood-wrench,
as the joint-wrench;
bone to bone,
blood to blood,
joint to joint,
as if they were glued together.'
Probably a like substitution of names disguises many barbaric word-spells; for medicine remained longer in the empirical stage than any other science, while the repute of the miracles of healing wrought by Jesus largely explains the invocation of his name over both drug and patient. The persistence of the superstition is seen in a story told, among others of the like character, in Miss Burne's Shropshire Folk-Lore. [ag] A blacksmith's wife, who had suffered from toothache, was given a charm by a young man who told her to wear it in her stays. As so as she had done so the pain left her, and never troubled her again. It was 'words from Scripture that cured her,' she, said, adding that she had relieved 'a many with it.' After some trouble she consented to make a copy of the talisman. It proved to be an imperfect version of an old ague charm given in Brand, and this the form in which the woman had it: 'In the Name of God, when Juses saw the Cross wich he was to be crucfied all is bones began to shiver. Peter standing by said, Jesus Christ cure all Deseces, Jesue Christ cure thy tooth ak The following is a copy of a charm also against toothache, stitched inside their clothing and worn by the Lancashire peasants: 'Ass Saint Petter sat at the geats of Jerusalm our Bless Lord and Sevour Jesus Crist Pased by ai Sead, What Eleth thee? Hee sead, Lord, my teeth ecketh. Hee sead, Arise and follow mee and thy teeth shall never Eake Eney mour. Fiat + Fiat + Fiat.' [ah] Among cures for the same complaint in Jewish folk-medicine one prescribes the driving of a nail into the wall, the formula, 'Adar Gar Vedar Gar' being uttered, and then followed by these words: 'Even as this nail is firm in the wall and is not felt, so let the teeth of So-and-so, son of So-and-so, be firm in his mouth, and give him no pain.' In North-German charm-cures the three maidens (perchance echoes of the Norns) who dwell in green or hollow ways gathering herbs and flowers to drive away diseases may re-appear in the disguise to which we are accustomed in the angels of many a familiar incantation, as in this for scalds or burns--
'There were three angels came from East and West--
One brought fire and another brought frost,
And the third it was the Holy Ghost,
Out fire, in frost, in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.'
Brand gives a long list of saints whose names are invoked against special diseases, and the efficacy believed to attach to the names of Joseph and Mary is shown by sending children suffering from whooping-cough to a house where the master and mistress are so named. 'The child must ask, or rather demand, bread and
butter. Joseph must cut the bread, Mary must spread the butter and give the slice to the child, then a cure will certainly follow. In Cheshire it is unlucky to take plain currant-cake from a woman who has married a man of her own-name--a superstition allied to the belief in ill-luck resulting from marriage between people whose surnames begin with the same letter--
'If you change the name and not the letter,
You change for the worse and not for the better.'
In the preparation of a drink for the frenzied, the Saxon leech recommended, besides recitations of litanies and the paternoster, that over the herbs twelve masses should be sung in honour of the twelve apostles, [ai] while the name of the sick should be spoken when certain simples are pulled up for his use. So, among the Amazulu, the sorcerer Ufaku called Uncapayi by name that the medicine might take due effect on him, [aj] A medieval remedy for removing grit from the eye was to chant the psalm 'Qui habitat' three times over water, with which the eye was then to be douched, while modern Welsh folk-lore tells of the farmer who, having a cow sick on a Sunday, gave her physic, and then, fearing that she was dying, ran into the house to fetch a Bible and read a chapter to her. [ak] An Abyssinian remedy for fever is to drench the patient daily with cold water for a week, and to read the Gospel of Saint John to him; and in the Chinese tale of the Talking Pupils, Fang is cured of blindness by a man reading the Kuang-ming sutra to him. [al] Among the Hindus, doctors would be regarded as very ignorant, and would inspire no confidence, if they were unable to recite the special mantram that suits each complaint, because the cure is attributed quite as much to the mantram as to the treatment. It is because the European doctors recite neither mantrams nor prayers that the native puts little faith in their medicines. Midwives are called Mantradaris because the repeating of mantrams by them is held to be of great moment at the birth of the child. 'Both the new-born babe and its mother are regarded as specially liable to the influence of the evil eye, the inauspicious combination of unlucky planets or unlucky days, and a thousand other baleful elements. And a good midwife, well primed with efficacious mantrams, foresees all these dangers, and averts them by reciting the proper words at the proper moment.' [am] Obviously, it is but a step from listening to the charm-working words of sacred texts to swallowing them; hence the Chinese practice of burning papers on which charms are written and mixing the ashes with tea; and the Moslem practice of washing off a verse of the Koran and drinking the water. The amulet written on virgin parchment, and suspended towards the sun on threads spun by a virgin named Mary, equates itself with the well-known cabalistic Abracadabra charm against fevers and agues, which was worn for nine days, and then thrown backwards before sunrise into a stream running eastward.
It has been remarked already that among all barbaric peoples disease and death are believed to be the work of evil spirits, either of their own direct malice prepense or through tile agency of sorcerers. 'Man after man dies in the same way, but it never occurs to the savage that there is one constant and explicable cause to account for all cases. Instead of that, he regards each successive death as an event wholly by itself--apparently unexpected--and only to be explained by some supernatural agency.' [an] In West Africa, if a person dies without shedding blood it is looked on as uncanny. Miss Mary Kingsley tells of a woman who dropped down dead on a factory beach at Corisco Bay. 'The natives could not make it out at all. They were irritated about her conduct. "She no sick; she no complain; she no nothing, and then she go die one time." The post-mortem showed a burst aneurism. The native verdict was, 'She done witch herself,'--i.e. she was a witch eaten by her own familiar. [ao] That verdict was logical enough, as logical as that delivered by English juries two centuries ago under which women were hanged as witches. In trying two widows for witchcraft at Bury St. Edmunds in 1664, Sir Matthew Hale, a humane and able judge, lak it down in his charge 'that there are such creatures as witches I make no doubt at all the Scripture affirms it, and the wisdom of al nations has provided laws against such persons. Given a belief in spirits, the evidence of their. direct or indirect activity appears in aught that is unusual, or which has sufficing explanation ii the theory of demoniacal activity. In barbarian belief, the soul or intelligent principle in which a man lives, moves, and has his being plays all sorts of pranks in his normal life, quitting the body at sleep or in swoons, thereby giving employment to an army of witch-doctors in setting traps to capture it for a ruinous fee Consequently, all the abnormal things that happen are attributed to the wilfulness of alien spirits that enter the man and do the mischief The phenomena attending diseases lend further support to the theory. When any one is seen twisting and writhing in agony which wring piercing shrieks from him, or when he shiver and shakes with ague, or is flung to the ground in convulsive fit, or runs 'amok' with incoherent ravings, and with wild light flashing from his eyes, the logical explanation is that a disease-demon has entered and 'possessed' him. Man is the same everywhere at bottom; if there are many varieties, there is but one species. His civilisation is the rare topmost shoot of the tree whose roots are in the earth, and whose trunk and larger branches are in savagery. Hence, although the study of anatomy and physiology--in other words, of structure and function--paved the way, no real advance in pathology was possible until the fundamental unity and interdependence of mind and body were made clear, the recency of which demonstration explains the persistency of barbaric theories of disease in civilised societies. The Dacotah medicine-man reciting charms over the patient and singing, 'He-la-li-ah' to the music of beads rattling inside a gourd, is the precursor of the Chaldean with his incantations to drive away the 'wicked demon who seizes the body, or the wind spirit whose hot breath brings fever,' and to cure 'the disease of the forehead which proceeds from the infernal regions.' The drinking of holy water and herb decoctions out of a church-bell, to the saying of masses, so that the demon might be exorcised from the possessed, has warrant in the legends which tell of the casting-out of 'devils' by Jesus and, through the invocation of his Name, by the apostles; while the continuity of barbaric ideas in their grosser form has illustration in the practice of a modern brotherhood in the Church of England--the Society of St. Osmund--based on the theory that not only unclean swine, but the sweet flowers themselves, are the habitat of evil spirits. In the Services of Holy Week from the Sarum Missal the 'Clerks' are directed to 'venerate the Cross, with feet unshod,' and to perform other ceremonies which are preceded by the driving of the devil out of flowers through the following 'power of the word':
'I exorcise thee, creature of flowers or branches: in the Name of God+the Father Almighty, and in the Name of Jesus Christ+ His son, our Lord, and in the power of the+Holy Ghost; and henceforth let all strength of the adversary, all the host of the devil, every power of the enemy, every assault of fiends, be expelled and utterly driven away from this creature of flowers or branches.' Here the flowers and leaves shall be sprinkled with HOLY WATER, and censed (pp. 3-5).
The antiquity of the demon-theory of disease has curious illustration in the prehistoric and long surviving practice of trepanning skulls so that the disease-bringing spirit might escape. Doubtless the disorders arising from brain-pressure, diseased bone, convulsions, and so forth, led to the application of a remedy which, in the improved form of a cylindrical saw, and other mechanism composing the trephine, modern surgery has not disdained to use where removal of a portion of the skull or brain is found necessary to afford relief. Prehistoric trepanning, as evidenced by the skulls found in dolmens, caves, and other burying-places all the world over, from the Isle of Bute to Peru, was effected by flint scrapers, and fragments of the skulls of the dead who had been thus operated upon were cut off to be used as amulets by the living, or placed inside the skulls themselves as charms against the dead being further vexed. [ap] The trepannings in Michigan, about which we have more complete details, were always made after death, and only on adults of the male sex. [aq] They were probably obtained by means of a polished stone drill, which was turned round rapidly. Whether, or in what degree, the Neolithic surgeon supplemented his rude scalpel by the noisy incantations which are part of the universal stock-in-trade of the savage medicine-man, we shall never know; but the practice of his representatives warrants the inference which connects him with the mantram-reciters, the charm-singers, and all others who to this day believe that the Word of Power is the most essential ingredient in the remedy applied.


[a] see above
[b] X.p.125.
[c] Satapatha Brahmana, iii. 8; Muir, Sanskrit Text,, vol. v. p. 342.
[d] R. W. Frazer, Literary History of India, p. 60.
[e] Ibid. p. 74. [
[f] Rig Veda, x. 125.
[g] Prov. viii. 22-24, 30.
[h] Rhys Davids, Buddhism, p. 201.
[i] Hang's trans. of Ysana xix p. 7. Sacred Languages and Writings of the Parsis, p. 186
[j] The Qur'an, trans. Palmer, Sacred Books of the East, vol vi. p. 15.
[k] Probably modified by a priestly hand in Babylonia after the Exile.
[l] Grimm, T. M., 1227.
[m] Saxo Grammaticus, Introduction by Professor York Powell, p. lxxx.
[n] Introd. to trans. of the Book of the Dead, p. cxlviii.
[o] Taylor, Te Ika a Maori, pp. 197 ff.
[p] Abbi Dubois, Hindu Manners and Customs, vol. i. pp. 140 ff.
[q] Judges xii. 6.
[r] Dubois, vol. i.
[s] An illustration of withershins (German vider Schein), or against the sun, as when the witches went thrice round anything in that direction, or repeated the Lord's prayer backwards as an oath of allegiance to the devil. The idea has well-known outcome in the jocose objection to not passing the bottle sunwise, and other customs whose significance has vanished.
[t] The soul was conceived to have such affinity with the god Osiris as to be called by his name.--Wiedemann, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, p. 244.
[u] Oh. xcix. (Budge, pp. 157-160).
[v] Ibid. p. 197. 'The oldest known code of private and public morality.'--Le Page Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, p. 196.
[w] Scot, pp. 481, 482 (1886 reprint of the 1584 edition).
[x]1 Samuel xxviii. 11, 12.
[y] (Reprint), p. 188.
[z] The Evil Eye p. 18
[aa] Brand's Pop. Antiq., vol. iii. p. 290; Gibbon, vol. iv. p. 358 (ch. xxxviii.).
[ab] Daily Telegraph, Nov. 20, 1894.
[ac] Kalevala, Rune xvii.
[ad] Ibid. Rune viii.
[ae] Quoted in Lang's Custom and Myth, p. 157.
[af] Teutonic Mythology, p. 1233.
[ag] p.181.
[ah] Harland and Wilkinson, Lancashire Folk-Lore, p. 77.
[ai] Cockayne's Saxon Leechdoms, vol. ii. p. 139, quoted in Black's Folk-Medicine, p. 91.
[aj] Calloway, p. 432.
[ak] Elias Owen, Welsh Folk-Lore, p. 244.
[al] Giles, Strange Stories front a Chinese Studio, vol i. p. 6.
[am] Dubois, vol. i. p. 143.
[an] Lionel Decle, Three Years in Savage Africa, p. 512.
[ao] Travels in West Africa, p. 468.
[ap] Munro, Prehistoric Problems pp. 191- 238.
[aq] Nadailac, Prehistoric, America, p. 510.

Next: The Name and the Soul