Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about Early Britain.

Moreover, it is an ascertained fact that the custom of exogamy (marriage by capture outside the tribe), and of counting kindred on the female side alone, accompanies the low stage of culture with which Totemism is usually associated.  We know also that this method of reckoning relationship obtained amongst certain Aryan tribes, such as the Picts.  Traces of the ceremonial form of marriage by capture survived in England to a late date in the middle ages; and therefore the custom of exogamy, upon which the ceremony is based, must probably have existed amongst the English themselves at some earlier period.  Even in the first historical age, a conquered king generally gave his daughter in marriage to his conqueror, as a mark of submission, which is a relic of the same custom.  Now, if members of the various tribes—­Jutes, English, and Saxons,—­used at one time habitually to intermarry with one another, and to give their children the clan-name of the father, it would follow that persons bearing the same clan-name would appear in all the tribes.  Such we find to be actually the case.  The Hemings, for instance, are met with in six counties—­York, Lincoln, Huntingdon, Suffolk, Northampton, and Somerset; the Mannings occur in English Norfolk and in Saxon Dorset; the Billings, and many other clans, have left their names over the whole land, from north to south and from east to west alike.  It has often been assumed that these facts prove the intimate intermixture of the invading tribes; but the supposition of the former existence of exogamy, and consequent appearance of similar clan-names in all the tribes, seems far more probable than such an extreme mingling of different tribesmen over the whole conquered territory.[1] Part of the early English ceremony of marriage consisted in the bridegroom touching the head of the bride with a shoe, a relic, doubtless, of the original mode of capture, when the captor placed his foot on the neck of his prisoner or slave.  After marriage, the wife’s hair was cut short, which is a universal mark of slavery.

 [1] I owe this ingenious explanation to a note in Mr. Andrew
     Lang’s essays prefixed to Mr. Holland’s translation of
     Aristotle’s Politics.  He has there also suggested the
     analysis of the clan names for traces of Totemism, whose
     results I have given above in part.

Thus we may divide the early English religion into four elements.  First, the remnants of a very primitive savage faith, represented by the sanctity of animals and plants, by Totemism, by the needfire, and by the use of amulets, charms, and spells.  Second, the relics of the old common Aryan nature-worship, found in the reverence paid to Thunor, or Thunder, who is a form of Zeus, and in the sacredness of hills, rivers, wells, fords, and the open air.  Third, a system of Teutonic hero or ancestor-worship, typified by Woden, Baeldaeg, and the other great names of the genealogies, and having its origin in the belief in

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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