An Introduction to Mythology
Page: 107Great Expectations), or perhaps he thought they rounded off the music his hammer made on the hot iron he shaped on his stithy. Now they are merely part of the ritual of his craft and he is 'forced' by the immemorial usage of his 'mystery' to employ them, just as we all employ certain stereotyped expressions, for custom's sake.
Lack of originality is the disease of ritual. Dullness, pomposity, or mock piety are the pillars of its falling house. Why does Stiggins state that a certain prayer-meeting will take place "D.V."? Because other Stigginses do so, following a habit started in the dim past by some prudent man. Why do some golfers cut such fantastic capers while 'addressing'? Because other conceited golfers do the same, having originally seen it done with effect. It is part of the ritual of later people to do these things, nor can they tear themselves away from them nor appreciate their absurdity—and man is, above all, an imitative and most unoriginal animal!
Ritual, then, enters as much into life as into religion, and secondary myths may arise concerning craft rituals, just as they do about religious ones.
Traces of early ritual in later folk-belief are by no means[Pg 240] rare. Such traces were to be found in the old Scottish festival of Bealltainn which was held on May Day. Of course the pious medieval folk who secured the continuity of the rite did not know that they were celebrating a pagan festival, for the Church, following its age-long policy of propitiating the heathen, tactfully confounded it with the festival of the Rood, the True Cross discovered by the Empress Helena. At Edinburgh and Peebles Bealltainn was held in medieval times on the 3rd of May, the feast day of the Rood, instead of on the first of the month, as at Perth and elsewhere, and the old custom or ritual would unquestionably be superimposed upon the Christian practice of the day. It is notable that two of the Rood churches in Scotland—Holyrood Abbey and Peebles—were reared where the Celtic rite of Bealltainn had been unusually popular—raised, as it were, to confound and supersede the festival. The rite of Bealltainn survived until a generation or two ago, and circumstantial accounts have been bequeathed to us concerning it. Says the parish minister of Callander, writing upon the festival: "In the Parish of Callander, upon the first day of May, all the boys in the town or hamlet meet on the moors. They cut a table on the green sod, of a round shape, to hold the whole company. They kindle the fire, and dress a repast of eggs and milk in the consistence of a custard. They knead a cake of oatmeal, which is baked at the fire upon a stone. After the custard is eaten up, they divide the cake into as many portions, and as similar as possible, as there are persons in the company. They blacken one of these portions with charcoal until it is perfectly black. They put all the bits of cake into a bonnet. Every one blindfolded draws a portion—he who holds the bonnet is entitled to the last. Who draws the black bit is the devoted person to be sacrificed to Baal, whose favour they mean to implore in rendering the year productive of substance for man and beast. There is little doubt of these human sacrifices being once offered in the country, but the youth who has got the black bit must leap through the flame of the fire three times."