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Albinos and Albinism in Iranian Tradition Author(s): Alexander H. Krappe Source: Folklore, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Dec., 1944), pp.

170-174 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1257800 . Accessed: 07/07/2011 06:59
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L6vy-Bruhl. p. 5. 23. Hudnall's Wood originally covered some 1200 acres.' It is indeed quite certain that man. 1922. has a very keen appreciation of what we call "norm ". at the instance of his lady. cap. p. they are regarded as manifestations of some supernatural power or which as such is usually held in awe. in virtually all stages of culture. Le surnaturel et la nature dans la mentalite primitive. The remaining strip is the steepest part of the slope and covered with boulders. S Cyril 1 Karl Beth. La mentalitd primitive. 2 Glos. I. 3. that the only land left as common by our time is that portion which is almost worthless. All " abnormal " phenomena are therefore likely to become the objects of superstitious fears or hopes. daughter of Milo. M. 219. 307. Human births may become " abnormal " for a number of reasons: they may be multiple. Religion und Magie bei den Naturvilkern. vol.. an appreciation which he appears to share with the higher animals. facts were pointed out long ago by none other than Cicero (de nat. upon the same hard terms that Lady Godiva 2 obtained the privilege for the citizens of Coventry. Briavels Church and Castle (which is opposite to the church). Charles II. agency. but it is believed the singular right of the commoners was reserved. Cromwell tried to usurp these rights. London. Offa's Dyke. It lies between the River Wye and Offa's Dyke. who built St. 1914. In Printed Extracts No. ff... Paris.. and Morals. occasionally prayed to. 14). p. deor. in this area. the late Dr. p. County Folklore. CLIFFORD ALBINOS AND ALBINISM IN IRANIAN TRADITION importance of the " abnormal " in the history of religious thought has been pointed out in a number of relatively recent books. 2. ii. Leipzig-Berlin. ChristianityWestermarck. Glos. but has been reduced by encroachment to about 600 acres. P. I should say that Offa's Dyke at the time that the privilege was granted (probably the twelfth century) was without any significance as a boundary-a very interesting fact. Rudder 1 states that tradition says the commoners' privilege was obtained of some Earl of Hereford.. and propitiated in the expectation that it may eventually be turned to the greater benefit and advantage of the worshippers. all the reasonably level and cultivable land is in other hands. 1926. they may produce an albino child or a child THE 1 Rudder. Paris. i. 45. gave to King John all the rights he possessed in the Forest of Dean. Fox. Ritual and Belief in Morocco. Sir Cyril Fox has observed " that the shrinkage of the area of public land follows the usual history of encroachment: namely. 97. Sidney Hartland refers in detail to the tradition that this is another instance of the Lady Godiva story. 1931.170 Collectanea FitzWalter.3 runs north and south for a considerable distance and then forms a loop. It is not without interest to note that substantially the same London. E. 1939. . then lord of the Forest of Dean. L." E. lxxxi and Sir Camb. but on the restoration of Charles II they were confirmed by Act 20. E. Arch. 1892. Briavels Castle in II31. to the south-west of St.

a horny ridge in their place. Volkskunde. 198-233. originated in the superstitious fear of twin births. 1889.F. 1877-85). The latter is greatly perturbed.e. pp. the son of Sam. more than half a century ago. 53-100. 4 The word albino was coined by the Portuguese to denote certain " white It is worth mentioning that the aversion in question extends to albino animals. 1930. manifestations of the divine. Firdousi relates at some length the birth of Zal. which means " old man "). f. for he considers his son a 2 James Rendel Harris.2 The subject has since been widely discussed. N. Voltaire. p. The Cult of the Heavenly Twins. Cf. Celtic and Teutonic cousins. like the superstitions attached to multiple births." Schweizerisches Archiv xxxiv (1935).5 But neither he nor F. H.' Yet it stands to reason that. Among semi-civilised peoples such children are as a rule destroyed immediately after their birth . 238 ff. 1913. Boanerges. 5 Ethnographische Parallelen und Vergleiche.3 The birth of albino 4 children has been (and in many parts of the earth still is) the subject of similar fears. Preachers' daughters and white cows are rarely or never a source of satisfaction to the owner or to the community. Cambridge. . Thus in certain parts of Europe white cows are not liked. t. A rische Urzeit. witness the East Prussian proverb. Thus it may be of some interest to review the traditions in question and to compare them with the beliefs concerning albinos that have been recorded among the semi-civilised. etc. but occasionally they are considered good omens. 367. and as a result become the objects of religious veneration or even of a regular cult. * Cf. it stands to reason that the fears and hopes referred to in those remote times were shared by the peoples of Europe and Asia. were reviewed. Mythologie Universelle. Payot. by one of the founders of modern ethnology. Brunnhofer. The late James Rendel Harris was the first to point out that the cult of the Heavenly Twins. 7 negroes " in the interior of Africa. Richard Andree.. both pathological and anthropological. and no one dares to announce the birth to the father. Only the nurse at last musters enough courage to convey the news . xii. Essai sur les Maurs ((Euvres completes (Paris. The fundamental facts." i.Collectanea 171 characterised by other " abnormal" features such as upper teeth. " Pfarrerst6chter und weisse Kiih' geraten selten oder nie. Cf. 19o6. I In his Book of Kings. pp. pp. 1910o. those connected with albino children should have left their mark in the folklore and legends of the civilised part of humanity. Cambridge. and it will be necessary to revert to it here. Leipzig. the Hellenic Dioscures and their Hindoo.to King San. " * Die Anschauungen der Volker fiber den Albinismus. by one of his favourite wives. The child is born with snow-white hair (whence the name Zal. Sarasin 6 attempted to trace the part played by albinism in certain traditions of European and Asiatic peoples. Since the nations which at the present time are ranked among the civilised were once upon a time on the same cultural level as modern savages or barbarians. Paris. the writer's book. king of Segestan. Bern.

a conclusion borne out by the widespread African belief in a " white devil " far antedating the first contacts of these populations with Europeans. p. 1906. Waitz. p. Thus in Senegambia they are thought to be evil spirits and wizards. 1 Sarasin. io. 241. He accordingly orders the child to be abandoned in the wilderness. If it fails to do that.. an island near Sumatra. 398 and 509. ii (Leipzig.20. albinos are generally believed to be the offspring of the spirits of the dead by a living mother. Paris.12 In the Moluccas.'4 The Maori of New Zealand held that they are the offspring of mortal women guilty of intercourse with forest spirits.9 In Nias. Leipzig. 117. 216. ls Ibid.17. 19 Ibid. Sayce. Much the same custom obtains in Burma and British India generally. he is said to have patience for as much as fifteen years. Mohl. London. 215 f. if we are to believe a seventeenth-century traveller.s The description given of the new-born child leaves no doubt about the fact that Zal is an albino. A brief survey of the ethnographical literature will show that Sa^m'sviews and conduct are in strict accordance with those held and observed.13 In the East Indian archipelago. Eranische Alterthumskunde.. 213. albino children are in many cases exposed immediately after their birth. Th.172 Collectanea creature of Ahriman and fears the mockery of the great of his realm. 1914. 9 Andree.'0 As for their human father. albinos are called Onom Bela. Weeks. and it is no accident that mission houses in Africa are counting numerous albinos among their wards. cit. 13 Ibid. p. 20 J. Folk-Lore. trad. it is invariably killed. J. among many savage and barbarian tribes of our globe. Het animisme in den Indischen Archipel. S. p. Anthropologie der Naturvclker.. Spiegel. the Evil One in person. in popular opinion. " children of the Devil ". 1920. 17 Ibid. Das N61deke. Fr. p. 167. in the French Congo albinos used to be slain immediately after their birth.u Among the Dajaks of Borneo the birth of an albino child is a decidedly evil omen. pp. Hartland. 503. the Betchuanas used to slay albino children.'5 In China. i. pp. but frequently enough albino children are slain immediately after their birth. 1x Th. Kruijt. 19 they are often held to be the incarnation of water spirits. cf. Folk-Lore. 1' A. 1871-78. Ritual and Belief. albino children are frequently abandoned or sold by their parents. 214.. pp. 19 Sarasin. not 8 Firdousi. i. Similarly. Sarasin. PP. H. 240 . 214 f. U. C. to be devoured by carnivorous animals and birds of prey. with regard to albinos.16. 215. who are therefore frequently killed without compunction. p. 1860). 15 R. P. p. p. p. 197. op cit. 's Gravenhage.. 565. 1876-78. 10Andree. cf. xix (1908). their father being. Berlin-Leipzig."8 To return to Africa. . 422 f. Le Livre des Rois. op. xlv (1934). albinos were regarded as vermin and slain outright wherever they were found. In the latter country. iranische Nationalepos. the obvious inference is that the Devil himself was imagined to be an albino. still hoping that the child's colour may change. If an albino child is thought to be the offspring of the Devil. E.

p. having " a tuft of white hair in front of his head. Geschichte d. 403. altchristlichen Literatur. p.27. seen. II as we have of was the Sam. D. Revue des traditions populaires. 130. Anthropologie der Naturvalker. Astralmythen. 1886.21 The treatment meted out to Zal is therefore proof conclusive that the ancient Persians held the same views about albino children which are (or until recently were) found in many parts of Asia. 115 ff.e. i.F.25 while most socalled barbarians and savages do not even to-day draw a distinction between genuine albinism and various skin diseases pertaining of the character of leprosy or closely related to it. 26 Gerland-Waitz. London.23 To these features the Coptic text adds many of the characteristics of persons stricken with leprosy. 1930. The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist. who will reappear before the final world con21 Sarasin. 156. N. that in India albinos are regarded even now as leprous. E. p. Jeremias. i. Stucken.. Bousset. i. 1931. Zeitschrift f. Steindorff. p. and are therefore excluded from cremation. is described as a typical albino. but to save such children from certain death. 453.) in antiquity differentiated from true elephantiasis by the Jewish priests. i (1886). Untersuchungen z. there is no reason to assume that the ancient Iranians took a different view of the matter. opinion that his albino son was a creature of Ahriman.. the whole conception of the Antichrist has been shown to be of Persian origin. Indonesia and Africa. 1899) .24 Now it is to be noted. 767. p. Leipzig. (Leipzig. 1896-1907. pp. ii (3). for he is none other than the Devil incarnate. This would seem to indicate that in ancient Iran Ahriman was himself pictured as an albino. but there is some indirect evidence available.e. the false Messiah who is to appear before the second coming of Jesus. and a number of semi-civilised tribes still believe that albino children are the offspring of the Evil One. ii (1877). and it is significant that in one tradition King Yima is stricken with leprosy after his hand has touched Ahriman.Collectanea 173 because of any special fondness on the part of their directors for freaks of nature. vitiligo. etc.28 In the second place. Ahriman. 4. Fitzgerald. Texte u. . Leipzig. p. London. 22 p." while in the Jewish legend of Armillus the Antichrist is bald-headed altogether. 216. The Antichrist Legend. 1896. In the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah 22 the Antichrist. 24 Cf. first. Much the same description recurs in the Irish Leabhar Breac. Stern. very much as the " white devil " of certain African nations. Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients. 28 27 Robert Eisler. Again. in Gebhardt-Harnack. Nor was albinism (leucoma.26. ed. 23 A. 97. Ed. n. 25 Sarasin. The destruction of the larger part of Zoroastrian literature has unfortunately made it impossible to obtain absolute certainty on this point. iigyptische Sprache. 215.

Schriften. for the giant has as unflattering an exterior as Homer's Polyphemus. Tiibingen. 7.G. in the Wolfdietrich the cannibal in question has hair twz alsd ein swan. It will of course not do to derive this feature. Die Gedichte und die Sage von Wolfdietrich. The M. Mtinchen. KRAPPE Princeton. p.d's fact. a fact first pointed out by L. which is found in no parallel text. from Solinus' description of the Caucasian Albani. albo crine nascuntur. Paris. ALEXANDER H. cf. 1913. 5 : at Albani in ora agentes. Glauca oculis inest popula: ideo nocte plus quam die cernunt. 29 W. . perhaps. Bibliographie. i. who are depicted as true albinos. vii. 31 Ludwig Uhland. xv. III There remains a third rather curious testimony bearing indirectly on ancient beliefs attached to albinos in Iran.. " as white as a swan. op. cit. N. canitiem habent auspicium capillorum : ergo capitis color genti nomen dedit. 1926.J.29 We are therefore led to conclude that this particular feature of the Apocalypse of Elijah is likewise of Iranian origin. Bouch&-Leclercq. qui posteros se Iasonis credi volunt. 1879-82. This would explain the view taken by King Sam to the effect that Zal was a creature of Ahriman. Die Religion des Judentums im spdthellenistischen Zeitalter. and the albinism of the cannibal simply characterises him as a creature of Ahriman. Uhland more than a century ago. Schneider. 32 Solinus. cf. Bousset. ii. presumably. like many of the tales of the Arabian Nights. As a matter of Sindb. this epic contains a considerable number of features which recur in Firdousi's Book of Kings. He simply meant to imply that the monster was an albino. p. 178 . p. It is rather part and parcel of the parallel text of the Sindbid episode referred to which. V.32 though not as cannibals.31 At all events. Chauvin. A.30. which would permit the further inference that Ahriman himself was thought of as an albino or. when he will be destroyed by Ormuzd. 316 . a son of Ahriman begotten on Sam's wife. 517. a leper. 30 H. the author did not add this feature as a thing of beauty. Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquite. Wolfdietrich contains an episode obviously borrowed from some Oriental narrative akin to adventure with the giant cannibal.H. that is. Schneider.174 Collectanea flagration. is not of Arabic but of Persian origin. cf. 15 ff. 208." Naturally.

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