Rats & Farmers

An ancient Greek treatise on farming advises the husbandman who would rid his lands of mice to act thus: “Take a sheet of paper and write on it as follows: ‘I adjure you, ye mice here present, that ye neither injure me nor suffer another mouse to do so. I give you yonder field’ (here you specify the field); ‘but if ever I catch you here again, by the Mother of the Gods I will rend you in seven pieces.’ Write this, and stick the paper on an unhewn stone in the field before sunrise, taking care to keep the written side up.”

Some years ago an American farmer was reported to have written a civil letter to the rats, telling them that his crops were short, that he could not afford to keep them through the winter, that he had been very kind to them, and that for their own good he thought they had better leave him and go to some of his neighbors who had more grain. This document he pinned to a post in his barn for the rats to read.   

In the East Indian island of Bali, the mice which ravage the rice-fields are caught in great numbers, and burned in the same way that corpses are burned. But two of the captured mice are allowed to live, and receive a little packet of white linen. Then the people bow down before them, as before gods, and let them go.

From: The Golden Bough by James Frazer. Chapter 53

 

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