chapter  I
Magic and Mysticism in the Hung Rite
Pages 5

Similar magical practices exist in India aiwl China to-day, and it is not always necessary to make a complete figure since a fragment of a person, such as his hair, or even his reflection, will often serve equally well. A recent example related to me by a retired Indian Civil Servant will illustrate not only this point, but also the importance of the hair-cutting ceremony in the Hung R ite. Soon after my friend was appointed to an important office in Assam a man came before him, flung himself on his knees and cried, “Save me, Sahib!” The man was obviously in abject terror and the Civil Servant enquired, “From what shall I save you? How are you in danger?” The suppliant replied, “I am in danger of death, for the Headman of my village has stolen a lock of my hair and is about to build a new Temple.” The Sahib knew at once what was afoot and that unless he could invent a counterspell the man would simply die of fear. The Headman was anxious to obtain a human sacrifice in order to establish his new Temple and make it stand firm for ever, and it was believed that by taking the hair of a victim and burying it under one of the foundation stones, or pillars, the owner of the hair would die and his spirit enter into the walls and strengthen them. With commendable promptitude and presence of mind the Sahib rose to the occasion and invented the following counterspell. “A Buffalo,” he said, “is one of the strongest of beasts, therefore slay one, cut off its head and fasten it to the door-post of your house, then bury the body carefully, and the strength of the buffalo will pass into the walls of the new Temple, leaving no room for your soul to enter therein. Thus you will be saved”—and he was. Probably the object of the head was to give the man something tangible which he could see and which would keep up his courage, for its presence would remind him of the vicarious sacrifice which he had offered in his own place.