Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 428
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 428
 
threshing-floor. In some parts of Oberpfalz, Bavaria, he is said to “get the Old Man,” is wrapt in straw, and carried to a neighbour who has not yet finished his threshing. In Silesia the woman who binds the last sheaf has to submit to a good deal of horse-play. She is pushed, knocked down, and tied up in the sheaf, after which she is called the corn-puppet (Kornpopel).
   “In all these cases the idea is that the spirit of the corn—the Old Man of vegetation—is driven out of the corn last cut or last threshed, and lives in the barn during the winter. At sowing-time he goes out again to the fields to resume his activity as animating force among the sprouting corn.”
  II. Passing to the second point of comparison between the Lityerses story and European harvest customs, we have now to see that in the latter the corn-spirit is often believed to be killed at reaping or threshing. In the Romsdal and other parts of Norway, when the haymaking is over, the people say that “the Old Hay-man has been killed.” In some parts of Bavaria the man who gives the last stroke at threshing is said to have killed the Corn-man, the Oats-man, or the Wheat-man, according to the crop. In the Canton of Tillot, in Lorraine, at threshing the last corn the men keep time with their flails, calling out as they thresh, “We are killing the Old Woman! We are killing the Old Woman!” If there is an old woman in the house she is warned to save herself, or she will be struck dead. Near Ragnit, in Lithuania, the last handful of corn is left standing by itself, with the words, “The Old Woman (Boba) is sitting in there.” Then a young reaper whets his scythe and, with a strong sweep, cuts down the handful. It is now said of him that “he has cut off the Boba’s head”; and he receives a gratuity from the farmer and a jugful of water over his head from the farmer’s wife. According to another account, every Lithuanian reaper makes haste to finish his task; for the Old Rye-woman lives in the last stalks, and whoever cuts the last stalks kills the Old Rye-woman, and by killing her he brings trouble on himself. In Wilkischken, in the district of Tilsit, the man who cuts the last corn goes by the name of “the killer of the Rye-woman.” In Lithuania, again, the corn-spirit is believed to be killed at threshing as well as at reaping. When only a single pile of corn remains to be threshed, all the threshers suddenly step back a few paces, as if at the word of command. Then they fall to work, plying their flails with the utmost rapidity and vehemence, till they come to the last bundle. Upon this they fling themselves with almost frantic fury, straining every nerve, and raining blows on it till the word “Halt!” rings out sharply from the leader. The man whose flail is the last to fall after the command to stop has been given is immediately surrounded by all the rest, crying out that “he has struck the Old Rye-woman dead.” He has to expiate the deed by treating them to brandy; and, like the man who cuts the last corn, he is known as “the killer of the Old Rye-woman.” Sometimes in Lithuania the slain corn-spirit was represented by a puppet. Thus a female figure was made out of

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