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I would appeal, too, for confirmation on this subject, to the intimate experience of each individual. Why, in fact, upon the first day of the new year, do we accost one another with prayers for good fortune,1 and, for luck's sake, wish each other a happy new year? Why, too, upon the occasion of public lustrations, do we select persons with lucky names, to lead the victims? Why, to counteract fascinations, do we Romans observe a peculiar form of adoration, in invoking the Nemesis of the Greeks; whose statue, for this reason, has been placed in the Capitol at Rome, although the goddess herself possesses no Latin name?2 Why, when we make mention of the dead, do we protest that we have no wish3 to impeach their good name?4 Why is it that we entertain the belief that for every purpose odd numbers are the most effectual;5—a thing that is particularly observed with reference to the critical days in fevers? Why is it that, when gathering the earliest fruit, apples, on pears, as the case may be, we make a point of saying

"This fruit is old, may other fruit be sent us that is new?" Why is it that we salute6 a person when he sneezes, an observance which Tiberius Cæsar, they say, the most unsociable of men, as we all know, used to exact, when riding in his chariot even? Some there are, too, who think it a point religiously to be observed to mention the name as well of the person whom they salute.

And then, besides, it is a notion7 universally received, that absent persons have warning that others are speaking of them, by the tingling of the ears. Attalus8 assures us, that if a person, the moment he sees a scorpion, says "Duo,"9 the reptile will stop short, and forbear to sting. And now that I am speaking of the scorpion, I recall to mind that in Africa no one ever undertakes any matter without prefacing with the word "Africa;" while in other countries, before an enterprise is commenced, it is the practice to adjure the gods that they will manifest their good will.

In addition to this, it is very clear that there are some religious observances, unaccompanied by speech, which are considered to be productive of certain effects. Thus,10 when we are at table, for instance, it is the universal practice, we see, to take the ring from off the finger. Another person, again, will take some spittle from his mouth and place it with his finger behind the ear, to propitiate and modify disquietude of mind. When we wish to signify applause, we have a proverb even which tells us we should press the thumbs.11 When paying adoration, we kiss the right hand, and turn the whole body to the right: while the people of the Gallic provinces, on the contrary, turn to the left, and believe that they show mere devoutness by so doing. To salute summer lightning with clapping of the hands, is the universal practice with all nations. If, when eating, we happen to make mention of a fire that has happened, we avert the inauspicious omen by pouring water beneath the table. To sweep the floor at the moment that a person is rising from table, or to remove the table or tray,12 as the case may be, while a guest is drinking, is looked upon as a most unfortunate presage. There is a treatise, written by Servius Sulpicius, a man of the highest rank, in which reasons are given why we should never leave the table we are eating at; for in his day it was not yet13 the practice to reckon more tables than guests at an entertainment. Where a person has sneezed, it is considered highly ominous for the dish or table to be brought back again, and not a taste thereof to be taken, after doing so; the same, too, where a person at table eats nothing at all.

These usages have been established by persons who entertained a belief that the gods are ever present, in all our affairs and at all hours, and who have therefore found the means of appeasing them by our vices even. It has been remarked, too, that there is never a dead silence on a sudden among the guests at table, except when there is an even number present; when this happens, too, it is a sign that the good name and repute of every individual present is in peril. In former times, when food fell from the hand of a guest, it was the custom to return it by placing it on the table, and it was forbidden14 to blow upon it, for the purpose of cleansing it. Auguries, too, have been derived from the words or thoughts of a person at the moment such an accident befalls him; and it is looked upon as one of the most dreadful of presages, if this should happen to a pontiff, while celebrating the feast of Dis.15 The proper expiation in such a case is, to have the morsel replaced on table, and then burnt in honour of the Lar.16 Medicines, it is said, will prove ineffectual, if they happen to have been placed on a table before they are administered. It is religiously believed by many, that it is ominous in a pecuniary point of view, for a person to pare his nails without speaking, on the market days17 at Rome, or to begin at the forefinger18 in doing so: it is thought, too, to be a preventive of baldness and of head-ache, to cut the hair on the seventeenth and twenty-ninth19 days of the moon.

A rural law observed in most of the farms of Italy, forbids20 women to twirl their distaffs, or even to carry them uncovered, while walking in the public roads; it being a thing so prejudicial to all hopes and anticipations, those of a good harvest21 in particular. It is not so long ago, that M. Servilius Nonianus, the principal citizen at Rome,22 being apprehensive of ophthalmia, had a paper, with the two Greek letters P and A23 written upon it, wrapped in linen and attached to his neck, before he would venture to name the malady, and before any other person had spoken to him about it. Mucianus, too, who was thrice consul, following a similar observance, carried about him a living fly, wrapped in a piece of white linen; and it was strongly asserted, by both of them, that to the use of these expedients they owed their preservation from ophthalmia. There are in existence, also, certain charms against hail-storms, diseases of various kinds, and burns, some of which have been proved, by actual experience, to be effectual; but so great is the diversity of opinion upon them, that I am precluded by a feeling of extreme diffidence from entering into further particulars, and must therefore leave each to form his own conclusions as he may feel inclined.

1 See Ovid's Fasti, B. i. 1. 175, et seq., and Epist. de Ponto. B. iv. El. 4. 1. 23, et seq.

2 See B. xi. c. 103.

3 Hence the saying, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum."

4 "Defunctorum memoriam a nobis non sollicitari."

5 It is still a saying, and perhaps a belief, that "There is luck in odd numbers."

6 This has been a practice from the earliest times to the present day. See Brand's Popular Antiquities, Vol. III. p. 123, Bohn's Ed.

7 In France and England, at the present day, this notion, or rather, perhaps, the memory of it, is universally to he found. If the right ear tingles, some one is speaking well of us; if the left ear, the reverse.

8 King Attalus Philometor. See end of B. viii.

9 "Two."

10 This passage, it is pretty clear, ought to follow the preceding one, though in the Latin it is made to precede.

11 The thumb was turned upwards as a mark of favour, downwards, as a mark of disfavour.

12 "Repositorium."

13 It was not yet the custom to bring in several courses, each served up on a separate table.

14 Good manners possibly, more than superstition, may have introduced this practice.

15 Or Pluto. He alludes to the Feralia, or feasts celebrated, in the month of February, in honour of the dead.

16 Or household god.

17 The "Nundinæ, "held every ninth day; or rather every eighth day, recording to our mode of reckoning.

18 Gronovius suggests a reading which would make this to mean that it is "ominous to touch money with the forefinger." It does not appear to be warranted, however.

19 Twenty-eighth, according to our reckoning.

20 Probably from their ominous resemblance to the Parce, or Fates, with their spindles.

21 "Frugum."

22 "Princeps civitatis."

23 "Rho" and "Alpha."

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