PURIFICATION.) Often consecration is tantamount to cursing. Holiness is dan gerous and may even involve social degradation. Particular sites, rivers, springs, hills, meadows, caves, rocks, trees, or groves, are holy, and from time immemorial have been so, as the natural homes or haunts of gods or spirits, e.g. Mt. Sinai, Mecca, the Capitol. As a rule their initial consecration goes back beyond memory and tradition; we can rarely seize it in the making. In ancient society certain animals, plants, kins, families, were also holy and bound up with the god by blood ties or otherwise (see ToTEmisM). Among the Arunta (see ARUNTA) we catch the consecrating agency at work. Their babies are reincarnations of spirits which quitted a bush or rock passed by the mothers at the moment of conception. Each spirit, as it quits its nanja or natural haunt to enter the mother, drops a churinga, a slab of stone or wood marked with the child's totem and containing its spirit attributes.
We catch the god himself at the work of consecration in tales of voices heard from heaven or of birds alighting on favoured heads. At His baptism a dove descended upon Jesus, and one quitted Polycarp's body at the moment of his death. Birds are commonly visible forms of gods, spirits, or ghosts; thus the Polynesians hold that birds convey from and into their idols the spirits which live therein. A natural consecration also hallows objects fallen from heaven, like the idol of Artemis at Ephesus.
In such cases the holiness or tabu (q.v.) is traditional, or any how not imparted at a given moment by human intervention. The god has not been constrained or invited to enter in. Fetishes afford examples of such constraint or invitation. Thus a West African native who wants a suhman calls on a spirit to enter a rude image or other object, promising it offerings and worship. If a spirit consents to take up its residence in the object, a low hissing sound is heard, and the suhman is complete. It receives a small portion of the daily food of its owner, and is treated with reverence. Sim ilar rites consecrated the Semitic snassebhas or nosbs—erect pillars of stone in which the god really lived, and which were no mere images or symbols of him. (See also BAETYLUS.) Such stone pil lars were usually two in number, as in Solomon's temple (I Kings vii. I S, 21) or in Melkarth's shrine at Tyre, described by Herod otus (ii. 44). Sometimes 12 stood together, e.g., in Jos. iv. 20 and Exod. xxiv. 4, which passages may have suggested that Armenian rite of founding a church, in which we witness the transition from a stonehenge to a church building. The bishop and clergy choose a suitable spot, and erect 12 large stones unwrought and unpol ished around the central rock of the altar, and on these the walls of the church are laid. In Armenia and the Caucasus the cult of such sacred trees and pillars passed without break into that of the cross, which was generally made of the wood of a sacred tree, brought into church, and hallowed with prayers, washing and anointing. Ever after Christ's spirit is enshrined in it ; it cures disease, drives off demons and wards off wind and hail. Animal victims are sacri ficed before it, as in old days before the sacred pole or pillar, and it is worshipped and adored. In Hindu and classical Roman cult, objects used in worship may themselves be adored.
It is not always easy to mark off consecration from inspiration. Thus in New Zealand "a priest, by repeating charms, can cause the spirit to enter into the idol . . . it is the same atua or spirit which will at times enter not the image but the priest himself, throw him into convulsions and deliver oracles through him."