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Church and led to the altar with their offerings, you would be astonished to see them awake and suddenly come to themselves."1
In the same connection we may mention the “Cursingwells,” where the jealous and disappointed might imprecate destruction, as at the Altar of the “Mount of Cursing,” on the basket and store of their neighbour, “the fruit of his body and the fruit of his field.” It was thought that by performing the rites of an impious service, by casting in a pin or a pebble inscribed with the enemy's name, the spirit of the well would cause the victim to pine and die unless the curse should be willingly removed.”
Our last example of these abnormal usages shall be taken from the superstition of the Sin-eater, which certainly prevailed in Herefordshire, though it may be doubtful whether it extended to the neighbouring parts of Wales. “In the County of Hereford,” said Aubrey, “it was an old custom at funerals to hire poor people who were to take upon them the sins of the person deceased.
1 Girald, Cam. Itin. Cambr. i. c. 2; Descr. Cambr. i. c. 16.
2 St. Elian's Well in Denbighshire is described as the head of the Cursing-wells.” A full description of the ceremonies will be found in Mr. Sikes' recent work upon the Welsh folk-lore, Brit. Gobl. 355. Among the authorities cited are Camb. Pop. Antiq. 247; Archæol. Cambr. ist Ser. i. 46. Compare Souvestre's account of the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Haine at Tréguier in Brittany. “ Une chapelle dédiée à Notre-Dame de la Haine existe toujours prés de Tréguier, et le peuple n'a pas cessé de croire à la puissance des priéres qui y sont faites. Parfois encore, vers le soir, on voit des ombres honteuses se glisser furtivement vers ce triste édifice placé au haut d'un coteau sans verdure. Ce sont des jeunes pupilles lassés de la surveillance de leurs tuteurs, des veillards jaloux de la prosperité d'un voisin, des femmes trop rudement froissées par le despotisme d'un mari, qui viennent là prier pour la mort de l'objet de leur haine. Trois 'Ave' dévotement répétés, amènent irrévocablement cette mort dans l'année.” Derniers Bretons, i. 92. See as to Cursing-stones in Devon and Ireland, N. & Q., 5, v. 223, 363.
The manner was that when the corpse was brought out of the house and laid upon the bier a loaf of bread was brought out and delivered to the Sin-eater over the corpse, as also a Mazard-bowl of maple-wood full of beer which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon him ipso facto all the sins of the defunct and freed him or her from walking after they were dead."1
1 Aubrey, in the "Remains of Gentilisme,” now in the course of publication by the Folk-lore Society; Sikes, Brit. Gobl. 325; Hone, Year-book, 858. “I remember,” says Aubrey, one of these Sin-eaters, he was a long, lean, ugly, lamentable, poor rascal, and lived in a cottage on Rosse highway. This ceremony, though rarely used in our days, yet by some people was observed in the strictest days of the Presbyterian government.” And he adds several examples of its use in the seventeenth century. Mr. Sikes adds an apposite quotation from Schuyler's “ Turkestan,” ii. 28 :“One poor old man seemed constantly engaged in prayer. On calling attention to him, I was told that he was an ‘iskatchi,' a person who gets his living by taking on himself the sins of the dead, and thenceforth devoting himself to prayer for their souls: he corresponds to the Sin-eater of the Welsh border."
CUSTOMS OF INHERITANCE AND FAMILY RELIGION.
Customs foreign to Celtic and Teutonic usage.-Anomalous laws of inheritance.
Borough-English.— Maineté.-Jungsten-Recht.- Various theories of their origin. Their wide extent. — Primitive forms in Wales and Shetland-In Cornwall and Brittany. - Distribution of Junior-right in England. - South-eastern district. Danish towns. - Customs of Kent. — Of Sussex. — Neighbourhood of London.Manor of Taunton-Deane. -Distribution on the Continent. - North-western France and Flanders.--"Theel-boors” of East Friesland-Germany-Bornholm-Russia. - Attempts to explain the custom.—Comparison with early forms of primogeniture. -“Principals” or Préciput.— Eldest daughter. — The Law of the Sword. Glanville. - Bracton.-Old primogeniture customs in the Pays de Caux-IrelandNorway--Athens.—Religious origin.—Priesthood of the eldest.-Laws of Manu. The domestic religion and its survivals. — The fire. —The remembrance-bowl. Household spirits.-Feast of All Souls. —"Brande Erbe.”—Theory of analogous origin of the Junior-right.—Priesthood of the youngest.–Early extension of Altaic peoples. — Mongolian and Ugrian junior-right. —Tchudic household superstitions. — The Mandrake.
NE might collect a large assemblage of English
country customs having no apparent affinity to Celtic or Teutonic usages, some living still in remote and simple districts, some dying and some dead, but all important and interesting to the student of ancient history. There are ceremonies of an old idolatry and relics of the worship of animals which will be more conveniently considered in a chapter devoted to mythology. Others are mere remnants of old codes and dooms of powers and principalities that have long since been merged in the modern kingdom; and for some no origin can even be guessed.
We shall confine our attention for the present to that anomalous class of usages, which in England are commonly called Borough-English and are known abroad by such names as Maineté and Jungsten-Recht. The English name is taken from a local word used in a trial of the time of Edward III. It appears from the report in the Yearbook for the first year of that reign that in Nottingham there were then two tenures of land, called burgh-Engloyes and burgh-Frauncoyes: "and the usages of these tenures were such, that all the tenements whereof the ancestor died seised in burgh-Engloyes ought to descend to the youngest son, and all the tenements in burgh-Frauncoyes to the eldest son as at the common law.” It is said that Nottingham remained divided as late as 1713 into the English-borough and the French-borough, the customs of descent remaining distinct in each; and even at the present time there are similar customs in that neighbourhood.?
The law-courts take official notice of the strict custom of borough-English, by which the benefit is confined to the youngest son, and the name ought not in theory to be applied to any other usage. There are, however, many analogous rights additions and enlargements springing out of the original custom, by which a preference or pre-eminence in birthright is secured to remoter heirs. Such a custom establishes a new principle which is ever ready to extend itself until a new check is devised; and there are at any
1 Yearbook, i Edw. III. 12 a; Robinson's “Gavelkind,” Appendix.
2 Corner's “Borough-English in Sussex," 14. He notices its prevalence in Scrooby and four other manors, and in the district called the Soke of Southwell. The custom in the last-named district is or was as follows: If a tenant had children by two or more wives, the youngest son of the first wife, or in default of sons her youngest daughter, took the family inheritance. If lands were purchased during a subsequent marriage, the youngest son of that marriage succeeded to the purchased lands. Complete Copyholder, 506; Blount's Tenures (Hazlitt), 290.
rate scores if not hundreds of little districts in England where the right has extended to females,—the youngest of the daughters, or as the case may be the youngest sister or aunt, being preferred above the other coheiresses.
These extensions of the custom are all called “boroughEnglish" by analogy to the principal usage, but they should be classified under some more general name.
It is not easy, however, to find the appropriate word. We have a choice between “ultimogeniture,” the awkward term proposed by the Real Property Commissioners of the last generation, and such foreign forms as Jungsten-Recht, and Juveignerie, which can hardly be excelled for simplicity; or one must coin a new phrase, like juniority or juniorright.
Every kind of explanation has been offered to account for the origin of these customs. To some they have appeared unnatural, to others they seem so simple that they might have been expected to grow up
every quarter of the world. But hitherto all the explanations appear to have been unsuccessful ; and it may be that the problem is not only difficult but insoluble. The subject, however, is so interesting and so important to the comparative history of society, that it seems to be worth while to deal with the discussion once more, or at least to collect some of the materials which may hereafter be used for the solution of the long-standing difficulty.
If we are to describe the area from which we must collect examples of the junior-right, we shall find that it has flourished not only in England and in most parts of Central and Northern Europe but also in some remote and disconnected regions with which our subject is not at present concerned.
We shall find it occurring among