Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 39
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 39
 
on it. In Sussex some fifty years ago a maid-servant remonstrated strongly against the throwing away of children’s cast teeth, affirming that should they be found and gnawed by any animal, the child’s new tooth would be, for all the world, like the teeth of the animal that had bitten the old one. In proof of this she named old Master Simmons, who had a very large pig’s tooth in his upper jaw, a personal defect that he always averred was caused by his mother, who threw away one of his cast teeth by accident into the hog’s trough. A similar belief has led to practices intended, on the principles of homoeopathic magic, to replace old teeth by new and better ones. Thus in many parts of the world it is customary to put extracted teeth in some place where they will be found by a mouse or a rat, in the hope that, through the sympathy which continues to subsist between them and their former owner, his other teeth may acquire the same firmness and excellence as the teeth of these rodents. For example, in Germany it is said to be an almost universal maxim among the people that when you have had a tooth taken out you should insert it in a mouse’s hole. To do so with a child’s milk-tooth which has fallen out will prevent the child from having toothache. Or you should go behind the stove and throw your tooth backwards over your head, saying “Mouse, give me your iron tooth; I will give you my bone tooth.” After that your other teeth will remain good. Far away from Europe, at Raratonga, in the Pacific, when a child’s tooth was extracted, the following prayer used to be recited:

Big rat! little rat!
Here is my old tooth.
Pray give me a new one.”
Then the tooth was thrown on the thatch of the house, because rats make their nests in the decayed thatch. The reason assigned for invoking the rats on these occasions was that rats’ teeth were the strongest known to the natives.
  Other parts which are commonly believed to remain in a sympathetic union with the body, after the physical connexion has been severed, are the navel-string and the afterbirth, including the placenta. So intimate, indeed, is the union conceived to be, that the fortunes of the individual for good or evil throughout life are often supposed to be bound up with one or other of these portions of his person, so that if his navel-string or afterbirth is preserved and properly treated, he will be prosperous; whereas if it be injured or lost, he will suffer accordingly. Thus certain tribes of Western Australia believe that a man swims well or ill, according as his mother at his birth threw the navel-string into water or not. Among the natives on the Pennefather River in Queensland it is believed that a part of the child’s spirit (cho-i) stays in the afterbirth. Hence the grandmother takes the afterbirth away and buries it in the sand. She marks the spot by a number of twigs which she sticks in the ground in a circle, tying their tops together so that the structure resembles a cone. When Anjea, the being who

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