The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

OMENS AND SUB-RITES 203

in another form in the doctrine of dreams ; and in the more repulsive rites of necromancy, where a human victim is considered necessary, it finds its most horrible expression. In the black magic of classical times we shall find some references to such practices, and an Arabian authority reports the horrible methods employed to protract the death of criminals in order to obtain from them as much information as possible.1 The feeling seems to be that in articulo mortis the soul is on the borderland between the material and the spiritual worlds, and in the moment of crossing from one to the other is actually in touch with both. North Britons, indeed, have a word to denote the uncanny powers with which are credited those over whom death is imminent, and speak of the doomed and prescient as " fey." 2

For the practical Vitruvius all these explana­tions have little meaning, and the last of the theories of extispication is the quasi-scientific explanation of common sense. The ancients

1 Doutte, p. 401, citing Ibn Khaldoun.

2 Those who are fey have prophetic power; a sudden acquisition of second sight is often a sign of being fey. Its primary meaning is doomed.

" I'm no way superstitious, but this I allis say,

You may get the coffin ready when a doomed man is fey ..." says the poet of the North Riding. Mrs. Gutch, County Folklore, ii. p. 219.

Pages
About | Preface | Contents | Index

202

203

204
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW