Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 309
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 309
 
necks. They also took care not to touch it, lest it should dry them up. On their return they beat the cattle with the sticks, believing that this would make the animals fat or fruitful. Afterwards they visited the house or houses from which they had carried the image of Death; where they received a dole of half-boiled peas. The custom of “Carrying out Death” was practised also in Saxony. At Leipsic the bastards and public women used to make a straw effigy of Death every year at Mid-Lent. This they carried through all the streets with songs and showed it to the young married women. Finally they threw it into the river Parthe. By this ceremony they professed to make the young wives fruitful, to purify the city, and to protect the inhabitants for that year from plague and other epidemics.
  Ceremonies of the same sort are observed at Mid-Lent in Silesia. Thus in many places the grown girls with the help of the young men dress up a straw figure with women’s clothes and carry it out of the village towards the setting sun. At the boundary they strip it of its clothes, tear it in pieces, and scatter the fragments about the fields. This is called “Burying Death.” As they carry the image out, they sing that they are about to bury Death under an oak, that he may depart from the people. Sometimes the song runs that they are bearing Death over hill and dale to return no more. In the Polish neighbourhood of Gross-Strehlitz the puppet is called Goik. It is carried on horseback and thrown into the nearest water. The people think that the ceremony protects them from sickness of every sort in the coming year. In the districts of Wohlau and Guhrau the image of Death used to be thrown over the boundary of the next village. But as the neighbours feared to receive the ill-omened figure, they were on the look-out to repel it, and hard knocks were often exchanged between the two parties. In some Polish parts of Upper Silesia the effigy, representing an old woman, goes by the name of Marzana, the goddess of death. It is made in the house where the last death occurred, and is carried on a pole to the boundary of the village, where it is thrown into a pond or burnt. At Polkwitz the custom of “Carrying out Death” fell into abeyance; but an outbreak of fatal sickness which followed the intermission of the ceremony induced the people to resume it.
  In Bohemia the children go out with a straw-man, representing Death, to the end of the village, where they burn it, singing—

Now carry we Death out of the village,
The new Summer into the village,
Welcome, dear Summer,
Green little corn.
 
  At Tabor in Bohemia the figure of Death is carried out of the town and flung from a high rock into the water, while they sing—

Death swims on the water,
Summer will soon be here,
We carried Death away for you
We brought the Summer.
And do thou, O holy Marketa,
Give us a good year
For wheat and for rye.
 

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