THE existence and great numbers of spirits which are, so to speak, "free" in the universe have just been shown and discussed. We have noted, too, how readily enters here all that we are accustomed to call miraculous. Only we have constantly to remember that what we call by that name is to primitive people in full accordance with nature as they understand it. The very conception of miracle implies arrival at the thought of a certain uniformity of nature, invariability of cause and effect outside of which the unexpected may happen - and does. It now remains to consider the constitution and activities of the "free" spirits referred to above. A poetical description, having its origin in Babylonia, may here be quoted and serve as a starting point.
[1. Above, pp. 97 ff.]
Great storms sent from heaven, are they,
Indeed their substance is even more subtle than this account indicates. They can invade a body already possessed by its own spirit and dominate that body for good or evil, or even drive out the native spirit and autocratically rule the captured body. The capture may be temporary or permanent. The words "demoniac" in English, and;  in Greek, express the two facts of "possession" for evil or for good. Similarly
[2. Assyr. lit. "outpouring," i.e., of semen.
2a. From cuneiform tablet V, lines 18-35, in the Utukki Limnuti series (Cuneiform Texts XVI. plate 2); translation kindly furnished by the Rev. Professor Robert W. Rogers, D.D., LL.D., of Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, N. J.
3. Plato, Phædrus, 238, 241.]
the word "ecstasy" (Greek ) sets forth the belief in the temporary departure from the body of its own spirit, sometimes for communion apart from the body with other spirits; and another Greek word, , denotes the entrance into the human organism of a superhuman spirit and the consequent elevation of feeling and surge of emotion. Though the examples thus far cited register the conceptions of peoples advanced in culture, like Greeks, Romans, and Babylonians, they are not the possession exclusively of such; indeed they are survivals from a cruder age. Primitive peoples low in the scale of culture entertain them. Such folk think of the spirits as pervasive and subtle, to whom no doors are closed; as entering with equal facility portals barred with the grosser materials--wood, iron, or stone--or with the living flesh.
While thus in a manner insubstantial and ethereal in constitution, like discarnated human spirits, they have needs, wants, and preferences to which the material may minister. If the gods in the Babylonian epic of the
[4. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, iv. 71-72.
5. Murray, Ancient Egyptian Legends, pp. ii ff.]
deluge could smell the savor of the postdiluvian offering and "hover like flies over the sacrifice," not less susceptible to appeals offered by material substance are the spirits now under consideration. They have the enjoyments and repulsions of the senses - smell, taste, even grosser physical passions, and so are propitiable or susceptible of anger. While free to roam, they have chosen homes and haunts all their own, though they may become localized in objects of nature, as in India, where so often a stone is the seat of deity, and among the Fang and Mpongwe, so that it seems as if nature is lawless and hostile.
As for disposition, since primitive man measures all things by himself, only intensifying the idea of power--through the use of his imagination, where the element of mystery enters--it would be expected that spirits would be good, evil, or neutral except when
[6. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels, p. 98.
7 Frazer, Scapegoat, pp. 112-113; Gen. 6: 1-4; Tobit 8:1-3; Skeat, Malay Magic, p. 213; Gomes, Sea Dyaks of Borneo, pp. 194-204; Thomas, Anthropological Report, p. 127.
8. Keller, Madagascar, p. 98.
9. Methodist Recorder (London), July 10, 1913.
10 Milligan, Fetish Folk, p. 279.]
conciliated or offended, that good spirits could be aroused to wrath by neglect or affront, while evil spirits could be appeased, mollified, or at least rendered harmless by right measures. Some of these spirits are portrayed as jealous and envious, particularly hostile to strangers, and disliking to hear praise of those mortals or their progeny who inhabit the land where these spirits live. New Guineans, however proud of wife, children, or possessions, never praise them but always speak in deprecatory terms. They also dislike to go into the region of another tribe, even for medical treatment, lest the spirits there resident be offended and work them harm. It will be seen at once how these beliefs affect habits of travel and social intercourse.
The varied names of different kinds of spirits are probably a legacy from very early times. We may gather something from our own folk-lore, which mentions fairies and pixies, gnomes, trolls, fauns, satyrs, and dwarfs, elves, vampires, and goblins, sirens, mermaids,
[11. Cox, Folk-lore, chap. III.
12 Parker, Village Folk Tales of Ceylon, i. 16, et passim.
12. Newton, In Far New Guinea, pp. 86, 120.]
and kelpies, nymphs, dryads, and naiads, and all their ilk, whose existence and habits are better known to nurses and nursery children than to the unimaginative scientist. While these creatures are not indeed the free spirits of whom we are speaking, they illustrate the belief in such spirits. For these familiars of childhood are no modern creation, they are survivals of pre-Christian faith, and like the free spirits have all the variety that wild imagination could conjure.
It must not be forgotten, moreover, that the same fate may overtake them as could threaten gods themselves in ancient Egypt-they were not above the hap of death. In Ceylon the Yaka (a sort of evil spirit) is mortal. It may be that out of this thought grew some of the notions respecting the mentality of spirits. We have seen that they are placable and conciliable; they are also compellable and beguilable--by bluff, magic, or threat or use of means productive of results pleasant or repugnant to them.
[14 Thomas, Anthropological Report, p. 27.
15. Parker, Village Folk Tales, pp. 143, 265, 274.
16. Tobit, 8:1-3; D'Alviella, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 87 ff.; Batchelor, Ainu, pp. 42-43; Furness, Head-hunters, pp. 16-17; Weeks, Congo Cannibals, pp. 267 ff.; Kloss, In the Andamans, pp. 230 ff.]
It will at once appear how fruitful this idea is in connection with shamanism. Sometimes the only control of spirits and salvation of the people is through shamans. The Wollunqua of Central Australia, a snake spirit, can be either pacified or coerced by magical ceremonies into doing no harm to celebrants of certain rites. The Narrinyeri often have a mock fight in pretense of avenging a death accredited to sorcery. Some Australians are particularly assured that these spirits may be outwitted. The Ceylonese are convinced that a Yaka (the man-eating demon referred to above). may be bluffed into good behavior. The Ainu of Japan also regard spirits as beguilable.
If spirits are compellable, submissive to control by mortals such as medicine men and the like, the way is open for a whole series of attacks in which not only the wills of the spirits but those of mortals, friends, and
[17. Carruthers, Unknown Mongolia, i. 150 ff.
18. Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes, p. 238.
19 Taplin, Narrinyeri, p. 21.
20. Curr, Australian Race, i. 87; Howitt, Native Tribes, pp. 463, 473, 481.
21 Parker, Village Folk Tales, p. 149.
22 Batchelor, Ainu, pp. 42-43.]
enemies combine to the resultant weal or woe of human beings. Wizardry and sorcery, with their awful fears and dread results, enter by this as by other doors. And this is by no means always sheer imposture, as the following shows.
"The sorcerer believes in his own power, and the people believe in it too. Certainly the New Guinea philosophy of life is that nothing happens to man without some cause; no man dies a natural death, all suffering and sickness is due to evil spirits which people this world, and as, like many of his white brethren, he is quite prepared to take the good things of life unquestioning, and only to look for causes when evil comes, there is no place in his philosophy for good spirits; the good is but the normal state undisturbed by the machinations of evil spirits, and the evil spirits are usually set to work by some human agent. Though it seems that while the sorcerer may use charms, working through the hair that has been mislaid when the head was shaven, or through the footprints, he is powerful enough to work at times more directly. He is probably a man of stronger character than his fellows--like other trades, it runs in certain families -and the very fact that he believes in his power, and others believe in it, tends to make him independent and strong in character. He thrives on his reputation, and levies blackmail on all and sundry till some evil day when patience has been exhausted, and an opportunity offers to put him out of the way. Ordinarily he is safe, for no one will touch him or interfere with him unless he can be taken by surprise, and there are always sufferers ready to take the first chance of doing that. How they used to terrorize the neighborhood and take toll! One old ruffian, whose reputation had spread far and wide, could go to villages far from home, and walk off with anything he fancied, the people sitting mum not daring to say a word, or hiding and skulking away as he passed through the village. One of the strongest characters: in a village miles away from where this villain lived said, 'Give me a guaranty that I shall not be called to account, and a gun so that I can shoot him when he is not looking, and I will get rid of him, but I dare not touch him if his eyes are on me.'" But apart from action by these beings
[23. Newton, In Far New Guinea, p. 78.]
which is determined by human will, desire, vengeance, and other passions, man is an object of interest to the spirits themselves, and they show activity in one way or another, for good or for ill effect upon his fortunes and his person. It is, however, for ill that their principal activity is directed, as estimated by primitives. They work mainly against man and his welfare. In Ceylon, for instance, where innumerable evil spirits are to be found, they are charged with every untoward happening, either as themselves purposing it or as controlled or instigated by inimical magicians, or even because opportunity offers and their essential nature prompts to its seizure. They interpenetrate the bodies of living men and cause illness; they may be expelled by divine power, and still, notwithstanding that they have done assault and damage, may demand and be accorded offerings, sacrifices, and libations. In fact, among rude peoples, diseases are nearly universally attributed to evil spirits through the medium of possession. Not seldom control is by a witch, in whose
[24. Parker, Village Folk Tales, p. 16; cf. Gomes, Sea Dyaks of Borneo, pp. 194 ff.
25. Murray, Ancient Egyptian Legends, pp. 11 ff.
26. Batchelor, Ainu, pp. 42-43.]
body the spirit of mischief takes up its residence. Thence she sends it forth on its mission of evil, and thither it returns when its work is done. As she can thus by proxy effect evil, so can she cause it to cease. Naturally this notion lingers on into advanced stages of culture, as is witnessed by the frequent mention of demoniacs in the New Testament, to say nothing of the witchcraft delusion which came on down through the Middle Ages into comparatively modern times. In these advanced stages it is not unusual for these demons to specialize, so to speak, in diseases; so that in China, India, and elsewhere there may be a cholera devil, a dog-god who sends whooping cough, etc. Infants are particularly liable to attack. The normal result is that in some regions drugs and simples are little resorted to in sickness, medicine men and wizards are the main reliance or the only recourse. These spirits
[27. Newton, In Far New Guinea, p. 83.
28. Gomes, Sea Dyaks of Borneo, pp. 164 ff.; Thurston, Omens and Superstitions, pp. 176, 196; Williamson, South Sea Savage, p. 286.
29. Cf. Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, iii. 148 ff., 1181.
30. Thomas, Anthropological Report, p. 71.
31. Gomes, Sea Dyaks of Borneo, p. 183; IAE, vi. 85 ff.]
sometimes work in a way different from possession; for example, causing fever by enticing the soul from the body. We may not forget that the madness of frenzy, whether as insanity or as prophetic mania, is regarded, as we have already had occasion to notice, as the result of possession.
The damaging activities of these spirits may be directed not only against the persons, but against the possessions and all the various operations and pursuits of humans. And such evils may at times be prevented or remedied by means as weird as the alleged or supposed disease or hurt. For example, damage by spirits to a plot of agricultural ground may be prevented by killing, boiling, and burying a black cat by night under a tree in the field. All along the line of these conceptions, the promptings to magical operations are the nearly universal accompaniment.
[32. Seligmann, Melanesians, pp. 185 ff.
33. Additional cases are cited in Thurston, Omens and Superstitions, pp. 254, 278, 279, 285.
34. Carruthers, Unknown Mongolia, i. 245
35. Jahn, Opfergrbräuche, p. 267.]
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