« PrécédentContinuer »
THE SOUL OF POETRY.
of another, of man or of an inferior animal, its transference carries with it all that life includes. That seems to be the thought in Yoruba; and, as all life is of supernatural origin and preservation, its transference can be by a touch as easily as by any other method.1
5. INSPIRATION THROUGH BLOOD.
Because blood, as life, belongs to, and, in a peculiar sense, represents, the Author of life, blood has been counted a means of inspiration. The blood of the gods, in myth and legend, and again the blood of divinely accepted sacrifices, human and animal, in ancient and modern religious rituals, has been relied on as the agency whereby the Author of life speaks in and through the possessor of that blood.
The inspiring power of blood is a thought that runs all through the early Norseland legends. Thus, Kvaser, according to the Scandinavian mythology, was a being created by the gods with preternatural intelligence. Kvaser traversed the world, teaching men wisdom; but he was treacherously murdered by the dwarfs Fjalar and Gala. The dwarfs let Kvaser's blood run into two cups and a kettle. "The name of the kettle is Odrorer, and the names of the cups are Son and Bodn. By mixing up his blood with honey, they
1See Tylor's Prim. Cult., II., 382, referring to Bastian's Psychologie.
composed a drink of such surpassing excellence, that whoever partakes of it acquires the gift of song." And that was the origin of poetry in the world; although there have been a good many imitations of the real article since that day.
So, again, in the Elder Edda, the hero Sigurd killed Fafner, at the instigation of Fafner's brother Regin. Regin cut out the heart of his brother, and gave it to Sigurd to roast, while he drank the blood of the murdered one. Touching the bleeding heart with his fingers, and then putting his fingers into his mouth, Sigurd found that he was now able to understand the voice of birds; and thenceforward he was a hero inspired. Afterwards he gave his bride, Gudrun, "to eat of the remnant of Fafnir's heart; so she grew wise and great-hearted."3
Down to the present time, there are those in the far East, and in the far West, who seek inspiration by blood-drinking. All along the North Pacific coast, the shamanism of the native tribes shows itself in a craving for blood as a means and as an accompaniment of preternatural frenzy. The chief sorcerer, or medicine-man, has his seasons of demoniacal posses
1 See Anderson's Norse Mythol., p. 247.
2 Ibid., p. 380; Lettsom's Nibel. Lied, Preface, p. ix.; Cox and Jones's Pop. Rom. of Mid. Ages, p. 254 f.
3 Pop. Rom. of Mid. Ages, p. 260; also Nib. Lied, p. x.
AN INSPIRING DRAUGHT.
sion, when he can communicate with the powers of the air. At such times he is accustomed to spring upon the members of his tribe, and bite out from their necks or bodies the bleeding flesh, as a help to inspiration and debauch. None would venture to resist these blood-thirsty assaults; but the scars which result are always borne with pride.'
Another phase of this universal idea is reported by a recent traveler in the Himalayan districts of India; where, as he thinks, the forms of religion ante-date in their origin those of Hindooism, or of Brahmanism, and "have descended from very early ages." When a favor is sought from a local divinity, "it is the chela [or primitive seer] who gasps out the commands of the deoty [the deity '], as he [the chela] shivers under the divine afflatus, and [under] the vigorous application of the soongul, or iron scourge." But before the chela can have "the divine afflatus" he must drink of living blood. Thus, this traveler witnessed an appeal to the snake-god, Kailung Nag, for fine weather for the sowing of the crops. The sacrificial sheep was procured by the people; the ceremonies of wild worship, including music, dancing, incense-burning, and bodily flagellations, proceeded. "At length, all being ready, the head of the victim was struck off with an
1 See Bancroft's Native Races, III., 150; Brinton's Myths of New World, p. 274 f.; Jackson's Alaska, p. 103 f.
The body was then lifted up by several men, and the chela, seizing upon it like a tiger, drank the blood as it spurted from the neck. When all the blood had been sucked from the carcass, it was thrown down upon the ground, amid yells and shouts of 'Kailung Maharaj ki jai!' ['Victory to the great king Kailung']. The dancing was then renewed, and became more violent, until, after many contortions, the chela [now blood-filled] gasped out that the deota accepted the sacrifice, and that the season would be favorable. This was received with renewed shouts, and the chela sank down upon the ground in a state of exhaustion."1
In the folk-lore of Scotland, as representing the primitive traditions of Western Europe, there are illustrations of the idea that the blood of the gods was communicated to earthly organisms. Thus, a scientific antiquarian of Scotland records in this line: "There was a popular saying that the robin"-the robin redbreast" had a drop of God's blood in its veins, and that therefore to kill or hurt it was a sin, and that some evil would befall any one who did so; and, conversely, any kindness done to poor robin would be repaid in some fashion. Boys did not dare to harry a robin's nest." On the other hand, the yellow-hammer
1 Charles F. Oldham's "Native Faiths in the Himalayah," in The Contemporary Review for April, 1885.
THE ORDEAL OF TOUCH.
and the swallow were said, each "to have a drop of the Devil's blood in its veins"; so the one of these birds-the yellow-hammer—was "remorselessly harried"; and the other-the swallow-"was feared, and therefore let alone." A similar legendary fear of the swallow, and the guarding of his nest accordingly, exists in Germany and in China?
Another indication of the belief that human blood has a vital connection with its divine source, and is under the peculiar oversight of its divine Author, is found in the wide-spread opinion that the blood of a murdered man will bear witness against the murderer, by flowing afresh at his touch; the living blood crying out from the dead body, by divine consent, in testimony of crime against the Author of life. Ancient European literature teems with incidents in the line of this "ordeal of touch."
Thus it was, according to the Nibelungen Lied, that Kriemhild fastened upon Hagan the guilt of murdering her husband Siegfried; when Hagan and his associates were gathered for the burial of the hero.
“Firmly they made denial; Kriemhild at once replied,
1 Napier's Folk-Lore of the West of Scotland, p. 111 f.