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CHILDREN'S GAMES 499
describes the stealing of the children one by one by the witch, but the little drama tells even more than this. It probably illustrates some of the practices and customs connected with fire-worship and the worship of the hearth. There is a pot, which is a magical one, and which boils over when each one of the children is stolen and the mother's presence is necessary. A remarkable point is that the witch asks to borrow a light from the fire. The objection to the giving of fire out of the house is a well-known and widely-diffused superstition, the possession of a brand from the house fire giving power to the possessor over the inmates. The witch in this game takes away a child when the eldest daughter consents to give her a light. The spitting on the hearth gives confirmation to the theory that the desecration of the hearth is the cause of the pot boiling over. Instances of magical pots are not rare.1
After the children are stolen the mother has evidently a long and troublesome journey in search of them; obstacles are placed in Jier path quite in the manner of the folk-tale. Blood must not be spilled on the threshold. This game, then, which might be considered, only as one of child-stealing, becomes, when examined on the theories accompanying the ancient house ritual, an extraordinary instance of the way beliefs and customs have been dramatised, and so perpetuated. Other games of a similar character to this, and perhaps derived from it, are " Witch," " Gipsy," " Steal the Pigs."
Amongst other games classified as dialogue games are those in which animals take part. In some there is a contest between a beast of prey, usually a fox or wolf, and a hen and her chickens or a goose and her goslings; in others a shepherd or keeper guards sheep from a wolf, and in animals of the chase are hunted or baited for sport. In the animal contest games, " Fox and Goose," " Hen and Chickens,"
1 Mr. W. F. Kirby refers me to the form of initiation into witchcraft in Saxony, where the candidate danced round a pot filled with magic herbs, singingó
" I believe in this pot, And abjure God ; " or else it wasó
" I abjure God,
And believe in this pot."