Online Encyclopedia

NECTAR

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 338 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
NECTAR, in ancient mythology generally coupled with a mbrosia, the nourishment of the gods in Homer and in Greek literature generally. Probably the two terms were not originally distinguished; but usually both in Homer and in later writers nectar is the drink and ambrosia the food. On the other hand, in Alcman nectar is the food, and in Sappho and Anaxandrides ambrosia the drink. Each is used in Homer as an unguent (Iliad, xiv. 170; xix. 38). Both are fragrant, and may be used as perfume. According to W. H. Roscher (Nektar and Ambrosia, 1883; see also his article in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologic) nectar and ambrosia were originally only different forms of the same substance honey, regarded as a dew, like manna, fallen from heaven, which.was used both as food and drink. (See also AMBROSIA.) NEED-FIRE, or WILD-FIRE (Ger. Notfeuer, O. Ger. nodfyr), a term used in folklore to denote a curious superstition which survived in the Highlands of Scotland until a recent date. Like the fire-churning still customary in India for kindling thq sacrificial fire, the need- or wild-fire is made by the friction of one piece of wood on another, or of a rope upon a stake. Need-fire is a practice of shepherd peoples to ward off disease from their herds and flocks. It is kindled on occasions of special distress, particularly at the outbreak of a murrain, and the cattle are driven through it. Its efficacy is believed to depend on all other fires being extinguished. The kindling of the need-fire in a village near Quedlinburg was impeded by a night light burning in the parsonage (Prohle, Harz-Bilder, Leipzig, 1855). According to one account, in the Highlands of Scotland the rule that all common fires must be previously extinguished applied only to the houses situated between the two nearest running streams (Kelly, Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folklore, p. 53 seq.). In Bulgaria even smoking during need-fire is forbidden. Two naked men produce the fire by rubbing dry branches together in the forest, and with the flame they light two fires, one on each side of a cross-road haunted by wolves. The cattle are then driven between the two fires, from which glowing embers are taken to rekindle the cold hearths in the houses (A. Strausz, Die Bulgaren, p. 198). In Caithness the men who kindled the need-fire had previously to divest themselves of all metal. In some of the Hebrides the men who made the fire had to be eighty-one in number and all married. In the Halberstadt district in Germany, the rope which was wound round the stake, must be pulled by two chaste boys; while at Wolfenbiittel, contrary to usual custom, it is said that the need-fire had to be struck out of the cold anvil by the smith. In England the need-fire is said to have been lit at Birtley within the last half-century. The superstition had its origin in the early ideas of the purifying nature of flame. See also Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, i. 501 sqq. ; Kelly, Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folklore, p. 48 sqq. ; Elton, Origins of English History, p. 293 sqq. ; J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, iii. 301.
End of Article: NECTAR
[back]
NECROSIS (Gr. vEKpos, corpse)
[next]
NEEDLE (O. Eng. ncedl; the word appears in various ...

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.