Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Living animals as sacrifice


Ecclesiastical  Curiosities
Edited William Andrews (1899) Project Gutenburg
© Godric Godricson

In our own time the burial of a bottle with coins under a foundation stone is the faded memory of the immuring of a human victim. So hard does custom and superstition die that even in the prosaic nineteenth century days we cannot claim to be altogether free from the bonds and fetters with which our ancestors were bound.

Grimm, in his German Mythology, tells us: “It was often considered necessary to build living animals, even human beings, into the foundations on which any edifice was reared, as an oblation to the earth to induce her to bear the superincumbent weight it was proposed to lay upon her. By this horrible practice it was supposed that the stability of the structure was assured as well as other advantages gained.” Of course the animal is merely the more modern substitute for the human being, just in the same manner as at the present day the bottle and coins are the substitute for the living animal. In Germany, after the burial of a living being under a foundation was given up, it became customary to place an empty coffin under the foundations of a house, and this custom lingered on in remote country districts until comparatively recent times.

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