Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PRE-CHRISTIAN WINTER FESTIVALS
that unseen outside mana which you believe to be strong and efficacious. In the fruits of the earth which grow by some unseen power there is much mana ; you want that mana. In the loud-roaring bull and the thunder is much mana ; you want that mana. It would be well to get some, to eat a piece of that bull raw, but it is dangerous, not a thing to do unawares alone ; so you consecrate the first-fruits, you sacrifice the bull and then in safety you—communicate." 39 " Sanctity "—the quality of awfulness and mystery—rather than divinity or personality, may have been what primitive man saw in the beasts and birds which he venerated in " their silent, aloof, goings, in the perfection of their limited doings."40 When we use the word "spirit" in connection with the pagan sacramental practices of Christmastide, it is well to bear in mind the possibility that at the origin of these customs there may have been no notion of communion with strictly personal beings, but rather some such mana idea as has been suggested above.
It is probable that animal-cults had their origin at a stage of human life preceding agriculture, when man lived not upon cultivated plants or tamed beasts, but upon roots and fruits and the products of the chase. Some scholars, indeed, hold that the domestication of animals for practical use was an outcome of the sacred, inviolable character of certain creatures : they may originally have been spared not for reasons of convenience but because it was deemed a crime to kill them—except upon certain solemn occasions—and may have become friendly towards man through living by his side.41 On the other hand it is possible that totems were originally staple articles of food, that they were sacred because they were eaten with satisfaction, and that the very awe and respect attached to them because of their life-giving powers tended to remove them from common use and limit their consumption to rare ceremonial occasions.
Closely akin to the worship of animals is that of plants, and especially trees, and there is much evidence pointing to sacra­mental cults in connection with the plant-world.42 Some cakes and special vegetable dishes eaten on festal days may be survivals of sacramental feasts parallel to those upon the flesh and blood of
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