Overview

The fact that plants, in common with man and the lower animals, possess the phenomena of life and death, naturally suggested in primitive times the notion of their having a similar kind of existence. In both cases there is a gradual development which is only reached by certain progressive stages of growth, a circumstance which was not without its practical lessons to the early naturalist. This similarity, too, was held all the more striking when it was observed how the life of plants, like that of the higher ...
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The Folk-lore of Plants

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Overview

The fact that plants, in common with man and the lower animals, possess the phenomena of life and death, naturally suggested in primitive times the notion of their having a similar kind of existence. In both cases there is a gradual development which is only reached by certain progressive stages of growth, a circumstance which was not without its practical lessons to the early naturalist. This similarity, too, was held all the more striking when it was observed how the life of plants, like that of the higher organisms, was subject to disease, accident, and other hostile influences, and so liable at any moment to be cut off by an untimely end. On this account a personality was ascribed to the products of the vegetable kingdom, survivals of which are still of frequent occurrence at the present day. It was partly this conception which invested trees with that mystic or sacred character whereby they were regarded with a superstitious fear which found expression in sundry acts of sacrifice and worship. According to Mr. Tylor, there is reason to believe that, "the doctrine of the spirits of plants lay deep in the intellectual history of South-east Asia, but was in great measure superseded under Buddhist influence. The Buddhist books show that in the early days of their religion it was matter of controversy whether trees had souls, and therefore whether they might lawfully be injured. Orthodox Buddhism decided against the tree souls, and consequently against the scruple to harm them, declaring trees to have no mind nor sentient principle, though admitting that certain dewas or spirits do reside in the body of trees, and speak from within them." Anyhow, the notion of its being wrong to injure or mutilate a tree for fear of putting it to unnecessary pain was a widespread belief. Thus, the Ojibways imagined that trees had souls, and seldom cut them down, thinking that if they did so they would hear "the wailing of the trees when they suffered in this way." In Sumatra certain trees have special honours paid to them as being the embodiment of the spirits of the woods, and the Fijians believe that "if an animal or a plant die, its soul immediately goes to Bolotoo." The Dayaks of Borneo assert that rice has a living principle or spirit, and hold feasts to retain its soul lest the crops should decay. And the Karens affirm, too, that plants as well as men and animals have their "la" or spirit. The Iroquois acknowledge the existence of spirits in trees and plants, and say that the spirit of corn, the spirit of beans, and the spirit of squashes are supposed to have the forms of three beautiful maidens. According to a tradition current among the Miamis, one year when there was an unusual abundance of corn, the spirit of the corn was very angry because the children had thrown corn-cobs at each other in play, pretending to have suffered serious bodily injury in consequence of their sport. Similarly, when the wind blows the long grass or waving corn, the German peasant will say, "the Grass-wolf," or "the Corn-wolf" is abroad. According to Mr. Ralston, in some places, "the last sheaf of rye is left as a shelter to the Roggenwolf or Rye-wolf during the winter's cold, and in many a summer or autumn festive rite that being is represented by a rustic, who assumes a wolf-like appearance. The corn spirit was, however, often symbolised under a human form."
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940012965424
  • Publisher: Library of Alexandria
  • Publication date: 6/6/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,352,647
  • File size: 531 KB

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