Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 126
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 126
 
their tree no nuts, their field no corn; the produce of the year is supposed to depend on the gifts offered to these May singers. Here and in the cases mentioned above, where children go about with green boughs or garlands on May Day singing and collecting money, the meaning is that with the spirit of vegetation they bring plenty and good luck to the house, and they expect to be paid for the service. In Russian Lithuania, on the first of May, they used to set up a green tree before the village. Then the rustic swains chose the prettiest girl, crowned her, swathed her in birch branches and set her beside the May-tree, where they danced, sang, and shouted “O May! O May!” In Brie (Isle de France) a May-tree is erected in the midst of the village; its top is crowned with flowers; lower down it is twined with leaves and twigs, still lower with huge green branches. The girls dance round it, and at the same time a lad wrapt in leaves and called Father May is led about. In the small towns of the Franken Wald mountains in Northern Bavaria, on the second of May, a Walber tree is erected before a tavern, and a man dances round it, enveloped in straw from head to foot in such a way that the ears of corn unite above his head to form a crown. He is called the Walber, and used to be led in procession through the streets, which were adorned with sprigs of birch.
  Amongst the Slavs of Carinthia, on St. George’s Day (the twentythird of April), the young people deck with flowers and garlands a tree which has been felled on the eve of the festival. The tree is then carried in procession, accompanied with music and joyful acclamations, the chief figure in the procession being the Green George, a young fellow clad from head to foot in green birch branches. At the close of the ceremonies the Green George, that is an effigy of him, is thrown into the water. It is the aim of the lad who acts Green George to step out of his leafy envelope and substitute the effigy so adroitly that no one shall perceive the change. In many places, however, the lad himself who plays the part of Green George is ducked in a river or pond, with the express intention of thus ensuring rain to make the fields and meadows green in summer. In some places the cattle are crowned and driven from their stalls to the accompaniment of a song:

Green George we bring,
Green George we accompany,
May he feed our herds well.
If not, to the water with him.
 
Here we see that the same powers of making rain and fostering the cattle, which are ascribed to the tree-spirit regarded as incorporate in the tree, are also attributed to the tree-spirit represented by a living man.
  Among the gypsies of Transylvania and Roumania the festival of Green George is the chief celebration of spring. Some of them keep it on Easter Monday, others on St. George’s Day (the twentythird of April). On the eve of the festival a young willow tree is

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