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Notes On Devil Ships

( Originally Published 1917 )

The dragon, serpent or snake is the most interesting creature in the range of mythological fauna. Knights and heralds emblazon him on cloth of gold; troubadour and bard sing his story ; painter and sculptor depict his varying forms; folklorist and philologist record his ancient lineage. Our story of the Dragon junk is peculiarly typical of the class of devil ships, because to the student of folk tales there can be no more significant symbol or embodiment of evil than the dragon or serpent. The Junk of the story is the very spirit of evil moving upon the face of the waters, a terror so real that it conquers even cupidity and curiosity.

Before speaking of the dragon in China, let us see what is said of him elsewhere. In India he is Ahi, the bold rain cloud who defiantly throws his dark coils across the clear sky, the abode of Indra, Lord of the bright firmament. Indra is "Lord of the virtuous," and being thus defied attacks Ahi and forces him to give up the rain which he is withholding from the parched Indian fields. "Him the God struck with Indra-might and set free the all gleaming water for the use of men." We read in the Rigveda : "I will sing the ancient exploits by which flashing Indra is distinguished. He has struck Ahi ; he has scattered the waters on the earth ; he has unlocked the torrents of the heavenly mountains, he has struck Ahi, who lurked in the bosom of the celestial mountains, he has struck him with that sounding weapon wrought for him by Twachtri; and the waters like cattle rushing to their stable, have poured down on the earth." In Persia similar myths related to Ahriman, the counterpart of Ahi, who entered heaven in the shape of a dragon and was conquered by Mithra, and of whom it was said, that like the serpent of Apocalyptic vision, he should be bound for three thousand years and burned at the end of the world in melted metal.

Ahi, the Indian serpent, is not dead and cannot die. His dreadful name lurks in the dark corners of our daily speech and crawls horribly across our written pages. The root of his name is ah or amh, which in Sanskrit signifies to press together, to choke, to throttle. As amhas it became the Sanskrit word for sin, as did its Greek parallel agos. Latin forms coming down to us from the same root have left angina, that strangling affection we call quinsy, and angor, a choking wrath. The Latin adjectives angustus meaning narrow, and anxious, signifying uneasy, are from the same root, and the snaky defiles of a strait were called angustiae, and were indeed anguish for the sailor before the day of steam.

Aschmogh, the infernal serpent of the book of the Avesta, and Asmodeus, the demon described in the Apocryphal book of Tobit, and who in the Talmud is said to have driven Solomon from his kingdom, are related to this same Ahi who defied the might of Indra.

This Indra-might is the sword of the lightning which cleaves the storm cloud and sets free the waters to irrigate the parched fields. These clouds are significantly spoken of as the shadowy cloud hills of Sambara. To a people living in the foot-hills, the ideas of cloud and mountain top are always closely associated. The cloud-demon rests upon his lair, the mountain, and the pent-up waters from his pierced entrails rush forth in the mighty mountain torrents. So Sambara, meaning the storer of happiness, came in time of drought to be looked upon as the thief of happiness and of that wealth of rain without which an agricultural people are lost. In the Babylonian Nimrod Epic we have some description of this enemy of mankind.

"Tiamat was the (great) dragon !
Bel in heaven had shaped (his form).
Fifty kasbu is his length, one kasbu (his breadth?)
Half a rod (?) his mouth."

"Marduk is the hero who saved the world. He stirred up the cloud, the storm, (and the hurricane), set before him the seal of his life, and he slew the dragon.... For three years and three months, day and (night), The blood of the dragon flowed...." (Tr. Muss-Arnolt).

We may expect then to find in the later development of this primitive story of combat that concrete forms will be given to this enemy of the Indian farmer, and to the wealth he hoards. Compare the battles of the Persian Mithra and Ahriman, the Babylonian Marduk and Tiamat, the Greek Apollo and Python, the Persian Feridun and Zohak, the Teutonic Siegfried and Fafner, the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf and Grendal, St. George and the Dragon, and the story of Indra will shed a bright light upon them. In the low countries, the serpent is out of reach of his mountain home and takes refuge beneath water, Grendal in a marsh, Fafner in the Rhine. And so the old significance of the rain hoard is forgotten, and we find Saxon and Goth dazzled by the gold of looted Italy telling that the prize to be won from the dragon is a prize of gold. So did the savagery of the age pollute even the fountains of tradition.

Northern mythology seems to have borrowed the dragon from the east, as we read in the older sagas that the adventurous hero who brings back the sword of the lightning does battle with a king of darkness or some slumbering viking. Thus, in the saga of Hromund Greipson, the hero descends into a barrow to find the old viking, King Thrain, before whom swings a kettle of red flames. This old king is surrounded by the plunder of a marauding life. In the Barda saga, the hero finds King Baknar fifty fathoms under-ground in a great dragon ship with five hundred men about him. The hero despoils him of his treasure and his sword, and we may imagine him emerging from the gloom of night to return to earth with the wealth of sunlight and rain, which are made available to man by the magic sword of the lightning. Sigurd fights with Fafner, a creature half dragon and half man, but in other northern stories, such as the Gull-Thoris saga, we find a full-fledged oriental dragon with scales and wings. The serpent witnessed by Amadis of Gaul on Firm Island, carried away two lions in his mouth. "Loud hissings were heard from the cave and a hot wind came forth there-from and there issued out a great serpent into the middle of the hall, so fierce and terrible that none dared look on him, and he breathed smoke from his mouth and nostrils and lashed the ground with his tail so that the whole palace shook." (Amadis of Gaul, Chap. XXI.)

St. George, like a later Indra, does battle with a dragon which guards a spring of water for which the land is famishing. Another version of his deed is that he delivered a princess from a monster about to devour her, much as Perseus delivered Andromeda from the serpent in the Greek fable.

Returning to China, we find that popular belief has found there a multitude of forms and attributes for the dragon. In Europe, snake and dragon are often confused, but in China the snake is real and the dragon mythologic. Like the dragon of Europe he is figured with wings, horns, scales and a long tail. Usually he has his home in some mountain, and in this connection we recall that the ancient Aryan name for cloud and mountain was the same. His storm character is plainly shown in the fear of his noxious breath, the storm wind, and in certain local sayings. Thus in Canton, a violent gust of wind passing over during a typhoon is spoken of as tun mi lung, the bob-tailed dragon. (Dennys, Folklore of China, 109.)

Chinese pilots, observing that the cooks of the Dutch ambassadors were lighting a fire for dinner, begged the ambassadors, upon their knees, not to do so, because there was a spirit in the Lake of Po-Yang in the form of a dragon, or a big fish, whose power was world-wide, and whose abhorrence for the odor of roast or boiled viands was such that if he got the slightest smell of them, he would start a tempest which would surely sink their vessels. (Sébillot, Legendes croyances et superstitions de la mer, I, 280.) The demon of tempest named Keke-Mung lives in the mountain of day. It has the body of a man with a dragon head. It walks continually at the bottom of the River Chang, and if it comes to the surface there is at once a violent tempest or rain. In Chinese lore tigers caused storms and the Chinese wind-god had steel claws and a tigerish countenance. (Bassett, Legends and Traditions of the Sea, p. 124.) We are reminded that Pasht, the Egyptian goddess, was cat-headed, that Hecate and Diana both assumed the form of cats, that Freya was attended by cats, and that Friday, her day, is still considered an evil day. English sailors called the first marks of storm upon the sea, "cat's paws."

In Japanese legend the sun-goddess gives to her son Nirigi, whom she sends to rule the earth, three precious gifts, namely, a mirror, a sword of divine temper which her brother had taken from the tail of an eight-headed dragon which he had slain, and a ball of crystal.

We shall see in the discussion of the death voyage that the sea, as the place of crossing for souls, has always been a place of trials and terrors. Its frightful inhabitants, its terrible storms and the deception in its changing moods from smiling peace to devastating storm, naturally fill the mind with the germs of those beliefs in which the sea bears a bad name. Talmudic legend asserts that the devils have been angry ever since the creation because at that time man was given dominion over the beings in the sea. They considered the sea as a region of tempest and unrest to be peculiarly theirs with all its contents. But though they lost entire dominion of the sea they have always had full power over the winds and a great deal of control over the waters themselves. Plutarch says the sea is consecrated to Typhoeus, the sun-swallowing dragon (Iside et Osiride, ed. Rieske, 435), who maybe considered the personification of evil, as was the Norse Aegir. The Finns believe the sea to be inhabited by witches, and sailors believe generally that a Finn can control the winds. (Dana, Two years Be f ore the Mast; Abercromby, Pre-and Proto-Historic Finns, I. p. 301.)

Early navigators feared the great hand of Satan would rise out of the depths of the ocean to destroy them, so also Malays, Jews, Turks and Japanese commit sins and diseases to the sea. This almost universal conception of the solvent and magic power of sea-water is a key to a vast amount of religious ritual. Running water of streams is an ever present force which bears away that which is confided to it, and its solvent powers have the elements of magic. The running stream flows to the sea, so that ultimately all of the burdens of the stream are carried to the sea. Indeed, according to primitive philosophy, the sea and streams are one, as streams are supposed to find their way from the sea to their springs by under-ground channels, losing their saltiness on the way. (Seneca, De aquis, III, 4.)

We recall the description in the Iliad of the commitment of a plague to the sea, and find that salt water was considered more efficacious than fresh for all purposes of lustration. Thus holy water as used in the eastern and western churches derives part of its virtue from an admixture of salt. It follows that if the sea contains in solution all of the sins, evils and secrets committed to it, it may render them up again, and it thus becomes a possessor of terrible power.

In ancient as in modern times it was believed that the sea would cast up the victim before his murderer.

The idea of the solvent power of water and its ability to give up curses is curiously illustrated in the test of adultery given in Numbers v. 23: "And the priest shall write these curses in a book and he shall blot them out into the water of bitterness ; and he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that causeth the curse ; and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter."

Moses doubtless had some such idea in mind when he caused the Israelites to drink a solution of the brazen calf, so as permanently to fix their transgression upon them :

"And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing ; and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf, which they had made, and burnt it with fire and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water and made the children of Israel drink of it." Ex. xxxii. 19-20.

In the Greek church baptismal water is poured after the ceremony into the sea, or into a receptacle called the sea.

The Burgundians are said to be the first people who used salt water for baptism, and in Brandenburg if a child is baptized in fresh water it will certainly have red hair.

Christian baptism bears thus a reminder of early beliefs, as do the amulets worn by Christians to keep them from drowning. The belief in the evil spirits of the sea is so strong, even to-day, that many a sailor loses his life because his comrades fear to at-tempt the rescue of a drowning man lest they should anger the demons of the sea. The sea must have its prey and if cheated of it the rescuer will be fated to take the place of the intended victim. (W. Gregor in Folk Lore, 1885 ; Proceedings. R. Ant. Soc. of Scot-land, X, 713; Ellen Guthrie in Folk Lore, VII, 44.) Such cases among sailing and fishing folk are not uncommon. The belief is almost universal that the drowned are damned beyond hope, or at least until their bodies are recovered and buried on land.

In all ages, ships have been personified even as we say "she," and have therefore acquired the attributes of good and evil. Ships, as well as men, have always been considered subject to "possession" and enchantment, and have been lucky or unlucky. Every sailor knows that a lucky ship will go scatheless through tempest and tide rip, while an unlucky ship cannot be trusted without an anchor watch.

Let us refer briefly to the best known legends of demon ships in order to see what forms these ideas have assumed. The first boats seen by Melanesians were believed to belong to ghosts and to foretell famine. (Codrington, The Melanesians.) Perhaps the oldest European legend of phantom ships is of brazen barks seen off infected ports during the great plague in Roman times. These were veritable devil ships, whose crews were black and headless demons (Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, II, p. 86). An echo of this old story is found in the English variant, in which the Flying Dutch-man is said to be a Dutch ship upon which the plague fell as a punishment for piracy and murder. Since then she is denied all ports and her appearance is a bad omen. (Melusine, II, p. 159.) All punishment ships partake of the nature of these devil ships.

In Cornwall they tell of a cloudship in which the devil carried away a wizard.

A Venetian legend of the fourteenth century tells of a huge Saracen galley manned by demons which once threatened the city and was repulsed by St. Mark, St. George and St. Nicholas. (Sanuto, Vite dei duchi di Venezia.) A lurid painting by Giorgione commemorates this triumph of the church.

French legend describes a ship built by Satan out of wood cast on his own lands. This ship smelled of sulphur and sowed a pest for a hundred miles about her. Satan gathered into this ship many lost souls. In this ship Satan gloated and made merry, beside committing many piracies, which so enraged St. Elmo that he pierced her hull. Satan was barely able to save himself by swimming. "So when the night is dark and the air warm the ship burns again, the smell of sulphur is noticed and flames mount to the sky." (Dubarry, "Roman d'un Balanier," in Mélusine, Aug. 1884.)

This is an evident explanation of St. Elmo's fires and other electrical and phosphorescent phenomena, which are the basis of a multitude of sailor beliefs. It is allied to the many accounts of witch fires at sea, particularly that of Pomeranian sailors who ascribe such lights to the devil sailing in a burning cask of tar. The cloud-riding Valkyries became witches after the fall of Odhinn and are now often seen at sea in strange craft. This again calls attention to the mythologic identity of sea and sky, cloud and ship. The sieve identified in all folklore with the cloud is their proper craft and is often employed, but very frequently they sail in egg-shells and wreck ships. Leland in his Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling (p. 72) says: "You must break the shell to bits for fear
Lest the witches should make it a boat, my dear,
For over the seas away from home
Far by night the witches roam."

Dutch, Russian and English folklore makes frequent mention of the use of egg-shells by witches.

"The devil should think of purchasing that egg-shell,
To victual out a witch for the Bermoothes."
(Beaumont and Fletcher, "Women Pleased," 1647.)

There is a Norse tale of a captain who outwitted the devil on a contract for favorable winds, and thus saved his ship and his soul. This captain had always had a fair wind for the asking, but his contract with the devil was about to expire. One of its terms was that his ship should always be kept sound and dry. On the last day of the contract, the captain had his carpenter bore two holes in the ship's bottom and drive the pumps into them so that the North Sea rose in the pump wells full seven feet. When the devil came to claim him, the captain insisted that he pump the wells dry. After days of pumping without lowering the water in the pump wells, the devil gave it up and went home to his grandmother to take a rest. (Dasent, Tales from the Fjeld, p. 226.)

Sieves and egg-shells are not the only favorite craft of witches and devils. Norse and Icelandic legends say that the devil is saving the nails of the dead with which to build a ship, and it is therefore wise to keep one's nails pared and to destroy the parings. We read in the prose Edda- that this ship will be launched at the end of the world.

"The ship Naglefara is set afloat. This vessel is constructed of the nails of dead men, for which reason great care should be taken not to die with unpared nails ; for he who dies so supplies material toward the building of that vessel which gods and men will wish were finished as late as possible."

The significance of the material out of which Naglfar is built, is somewhat obscure, but points to a sort of ritual of the dead which if neglected would be weighted against the deceased in the hall of the judges at the "Thing of the Dead." So the uncared-for dead in the tumultuous last days of the world, the "dagger and axe age," hasten the building of Naglfar. The psychology of the myth is closely related to that of the growing ships of the French coast.

In the Voluspa saga we read :

"Naglfar becomes loose,
A ship comes from the east,
The hosts of Ruispel Come o'er the main;
Loki is pilot."

This great ship was supposed to be moored or made fast near the island upon which Loki was enchained, and to be ready to receive him and the wolf Fenrer when they break their bonds on Ragnarok and are ready for battle with the gods.

One of the most interesting of all these tales of evil ships comes from the diary of an early Arabic traveler who speaks as an eye-witness. While in the Maldive islands he saw at night a great ship hung with lanterns which the natives drove away by beating upon copper vessels and repeating verses from the Koran. This was said to be a demon who appeared every month in this form. "When they saw him, it was their custom to dress up a young woman who was a virgin. She was left in a temple." He writes that this offering will last until the natives are converted to Islamism. The apparition will continue to appear but will then lose power. (Ibn Bat'out'ah, Voyages, IV, p. 126.)

The great ship reported by Sauvé from Lower Brittany of which we have spoken in connection with the tales about giant ships is a true devil ship. The men are reprobates tortured by demons in the form of dogs. This is the greatest of devil ships and contrasts sharply with the other giant ships of the same waters which are places of reward for good sailors.

On the Flemish coast appears a fisher of men. On the day of All Souls this pecheur fantastique appears along the shore, casts his nets and carries away in it all the living who see him. So great is the fear of him that few fishermen will venture out on this day. Most of these demon ships are not conceived to have been built by human hands, but many, as in the case of our evil junk, are said to have been so built and to have fallen afterward into the power of devils or witches. Of this class we have an early example in the legend in the sagas in which Geirood sets adrift the boat from which he had just landed, with the words: "Go hence, in the power of the evil spirits," and thus the spectral ship has since cruised.

Some magic vessels cannot be built without the use of charms. Thus Wainamoinen tells his brother, the. iron-artist 'Ihnarinen in the Finnish epic, that he has by such means constructed his charmed ship.

"I have learned of words a hundred,
Learned a thousand incantations,
Hidden deep for many ages
Learned the words of ancient wisdom,
Found the keys of secret doctrine,
Found the lost words of the Master."

Crawford, in his introduction to the metrical translation of the Kalevala, suggests that in the three "lost words of the Master" are found, apparently, the remote vestiges of ancient masonry. The magic vessel thus fashioned by the hero was painted blue and scarlet, her forecastle trimmed with gold and her prow with molten silver. Her sails were of blue, white and scarlet linen, but she was selfimpelled and needed neither sails nor oars. In her the hero sought the mystic maiden of Sarivla. It is to be noted that before seeking the magic words from Wipmen the magician, the hero sought them in vain from the dead, that is from the brain of the white squirrel and the throat of the white swan. His vessel is not a devil ship however, but one in the power of amiable spirits. The hero had another magic boat made from the handle of a poniard.

This is but one of a vast number of ships said to be "possessed" or enchanted. Witches, wizards and devils have but to cast their spell upon a craft and it becomes an instrument for their purposes. A Corsican tale serves to illustrate this class of bewitched craft. A fisherman suspecting that his boat is being used at night, secretes himself and is carried away in it by a crew of thirteen cats. The passage from Corsica to Egypt and back is made in one night. When they have returned, the thirteen cats become thirteen women who go dutifully to mass. The fisherman tells the priest his story and the thirteen women are discovered to be witches or vampires. (J. Filippi in Revue des traditions populaires, IX, 458; Bernoni Le Strighe, Leland, Etruscan and Roman Remains, p. 218, "The Witches and the Boat.")

Magic fires are employed by "Urganda the Unknown," soothsayer, to protect the ten maidens who sail with her to the realm of King Lisuarte. "The king came down to the shore to see the strange ship and presently he saw come from under the cloth that covered the deck, a dame clad in white holding a golden casket in her hand, the which she opened and took out a lighted candle and threw it into the sea where it was extinguished. At once the two great fires were quenched so that no trace of them remained burning and cast a light along the shore. Then was the cloth, which covered the galley, withdrawn and they saw how it was all hung with green boughs and strewed with roses and flowers, and they heard instruments within, sounding very sweetly, and when the instruments ceased ten damsels came forth all richly garmented, with garlands on their heads and wands of gold in their hands, and before them was the lady who had quenched the candle in the sea." (Amadis of Gaul, ed. Southey, Chap. XVIII.)

Folklore and folk literature are rich with the stories of magic self-impelled ships, and in many cases the mystic formula is recited. Thus the Hindus say, "Boat of Hajol, Oars of Mompaban, take me to . . . ." (Lai Behari Day, Folk Tales of Bengal, p. 68.) A Russian boat moves at the word "Canoe, canoe, float a little farther." (Ralsten, Russian Folk Tales, 193.)

A Greenland wizard sent his boat even through the air by re-citing a magic lay. Unfortunately, he once forgot his lines while the boat was in the air, and it fell and was ruined. (Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Esquimaux.)

Often the boat is subject to the charm by whomsoever repeated. Thus it was said of the boat of the magician Mishosha who lived on an Island in Lake Superior that his boat moved when slapped with the hand if the words "N'Chemaun Poll" were repeated. But any but the magician must be alert and awake, or the canoe would return to its master. (Schoolcraft, Algic Researches.)

An Icelandic story recites that often in times of calm one hears the moaning of vessels beached upon the sand. This moaning is their language, but it is not within the power of every one to under-stand it. A man once heard one vessel say to the others that they would never be there again together because upon the day followin, in spite of bad weather, her master would put to sea. The second vessel said that she would not go unless the devil himself had a hand in it. The following morning the weather was menacing. The master came down to the sea and said to his crew, "All right, let us launch the vessel au nom de Jesus." This was his favorite exclamation.

The crew put their shoulders to the vessel without being able to move her, and others came to their aid without better success.

Then the master cried out at the top of his voice, "All right, then, forward, au nom du diable." The vessel then slid rapidly into the water. The men went aboard and away to the fishing grounds, but since that time they have never been heard of. (Sébillot, Le Folk-Lore des Pecheurs, p. 367.)

Belief in the appearance of devils at sea is preserved in many ecclesiastic narratives. Among the extraordinary happenings of the life of St. Gildas is his navigation in the company of four demons in the guise of monks, who suddenly disappeared with their demon ship, leaving the abbé alone in mid sea "debout sur un des coins de son manteau, l'autre coin attaché au bout de son bourdon pour lui servir de voile." (Voileau, Pèlerinages du Morbihan, p. 259.) So the devil appeared to the companions of Natalie in the form of a sailor on a phantom ship and gave them evil counsel to cause them to be lost at sea. (Golden Legend, II, p. 379.) And St. Maxime being at the seashore one day was accosted by the devil who showed him a ship in the harbor. Two sailors told him they came to trade, said they knew him and that he was wanted in Jerusalem where they were going. The saint, however, saw the snare, made the sign of the cross and defied the fiends, whereupon the ship disappeared. (Collin, Traité du signe de la Croix, p. 193.)

In keeping with the character of charmed and cursed boats and particularly the plague ships of Europe is the "disease boat" of Asiatic waters. Orthodox Jew, Hindu and Malay, have stated times when sins or diseases are cast into the sea or running rivers, there to return to the devils to whom they belong or to be borne away from the land of the living. In Selangor in the Malay Archipelago, small ships are built to carry away diseases which are "shanghaied" aboard them by magic. These vessels are models of a sort of two-masted junk called lanchang, having galleries fore and aft and armed with cannon, such as are used by Malay rajas on the Sumatran coast. These boats are often stained with turmeric or saffron, yellow being a royal color acceptable to devils. The lanchang is loaded with offerings and made fast near the shore. The patient to be cured is then brought to the water's side, and a yellow thread made fast to his wrist and the ship. Incense and incantations are then employed to drive the disease from his body aboard the boat, which is set adrift at low tide to go to "another country." (Skeat, Malay Magic, 433.)

"And never return hither,
But if you return hither,
Ye shall be consumed by the curse,
At sea ye shall get no drink,
Ashore ye shall get no food
But gape in vain about the world."

It is reported that a lanchang of large size was built for the illness of Tungku 'Chuk, eldest daughter of a reigning sultan, and was towed to sea by a government launch.

In Ceram when a village is infected a small ship is filled with rice, tobacco and eggs and sail set. Then is repeated the formula :

"O, all ye sickness, ye small poxes, ague, measles, who have visited us so long and wasted us so sorely, but who now cease to plague us, we have made ready this ship for you. And we have furnished you with provender sufficient for the voyage. Ye shall have no lack of food, nor of betel nuts, nor of areca nuts, nor of tobacco. Depart and sail away from us directly. Never come near us again, but go to a land which is far from here. Let all the tides and winds waft you on speedily thither, and so convoy you that for the time to come, we may live sound and well and that we may never see the sun rise on you again." (Valentyn, Oud en nieuw Oost-Indien, III, 14.)

In Timor-laut sickness is driven away by setting adrift a small proa containing provisions and the image of a man, with the words : "O sickness, go from here. Turn back. What do you do in this poor land?" Three days a pig is sacrificed as an offering. If the proa strands anywhere sickness will follow. It is, therefore, the custom to burn any stranded proa as the demons of disease are afraid of fire. In Buro, patients are beaten with boughs which are then towed to sea on a proa. (Frazer, The Golden Bough, III, 98.)

These beliefs readily pave the way for such a legend as that of the Serpent Junk. The idea of these vessels laden with disease and death from some plague-stricken island is one which makes a deep and lasting impression. Undoubtedly also these boats are closely allied to the many boats of the dead encountered in eastern waters. The legend presents graphically the belief in a personal devil or devils actively waging war against mankind and the church, and preserves the elements of that ancient division of the world by which land and sea, wind and cloud were assigned to the dominion of good or evil spirits.

Aside from the classic explanation of the nature-mythologist, there are many natural phenomena which support the belief in "possessed" ships. To sailors unacquainted with currents, the sight of a ship moving against a light breeze, or in the heart of a calm, might well inspire such belief. So the mysterious disappearance of vessels and their destruction by freaks of wind and wave and all the baffling vicissitudes of the sea encourage such fancies. Pest-ridden derelicts, mirages, phantom ships and mist shapes add to the fears of the sailor. The lustral properties of the sea are of such universal acceptance that they must be given equal weight with the theory of foreordination. If the sea holds in solution or suspension all the unhappy dead and all the sins and diseases committed to it, we have a ready key to many of its uncanny attributes. Fierce demons, whirlpools, storms, fogs, seaweed, the great condor and eternal night were the terrors which for centuries lurked above the mare tenebrosum of the west, and when at last the seven seas give up their secrets the whisperings of those old fables still run on even to the day of steam and steel.

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