The Ancient Library

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The phenomenon needs no elaborate comment. To-day little boys in white clothes draw the tickets of the State lotteries in Italy; the famous sortes of Praeneste were drawn by the pure hand of a boy.1 Apuleius tells us that the human soul when it is pure and un­sophisticated may be lulled into oblivion of its surroundings and return to its primal nature, which is in truth immortal and divine. The instrument must also be unblemished and worthy of an indwelling power.2 This is a very proper religious sentiment; but to anyone who is familiar with the use of the boy or virgin in less innocent magical practices, or among peoples of other standards of morality, it is unconvincing. Ritual purity has originally nothing to do with seemliness, but is a precaution of a magical character. A good example is to be found in the rules of ritual purity in the religion of ancient Greece. The philosophers and poets are, of course, the pioneers at inter­preting ritual purity in terms of moral purity, but despite their preaching it is not until a surprisingly late date that there is any trace in the inscriptions of a moral as opposed to purely ritual meaning in the rules for

1 Cicero, De div. ii. 41 (86). 2 Apuleius, Apologia, 43.


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