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   Chapter 4 Tabooed Persons.

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (Third Edition, Vol. 06 of 12) By James George Frazer Characters: 185932

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


§ 1. Chiefs and Kings tabooed.

Disastrous results supposed to follow from using the dishes of the Mikado or of a Fijian chief. Sacred persons are a source of danger to others: their divinity burns like a fire what it touches. African examples.

We have seen that the Mikado's food was cooked every day in new pots and served up in new dishes; both pots and dishes were of common clay, in order that they might be broken or laid aside after they had been once used. They were generally broken, for it was believed that if any one else ate his food out of these sacred dishes, his mouth and throat would become swollen and inflamed. The same ill effect was thought to be experienced by any one who should wear the Mikado's clothes without his leave; he would have swellings and pains all over his body.483 In Fiji there is a special name (kana lama) for the disease supposed to be caused by eating out of a chief's dishes or wearing his clothes. "The throat and body swell, and the impious person dies. I had a fine mat given to me by a man who durst not use it because Thakambau's eldest son had sat upon it. There was always a family or clan of commoners who were exempt from this danger. I was talking about this once to Thakambau. 'Oh yes,' said he. 'Here, So-and-so! come and scratch my back.' The man scratched; he was one of those who could do it with impunity." The name of the men thus highly privileged was Na nduka ni, or the dirt of the chief.484

The taboo of chiefs and kings in Tonga. The King's Evil cured by the king's touch.

In the evil effects thus supposed to follow upon the use [pg 132] of the vessels or clothes of the Mikado and a Fijian chief we see that other side of the god-man's character to which attention has been already called. The divine person is a source of danger as well as of blessing; he must not only be guarded, he must also be guarded against. His sacred organism, so delicate that a touch may disorder it, is also, as it were, electrically charged with a powerful magical or spiritual force which may discharge itself with fatal effect on whatever comes in contact with it. Accordingly the isolation of the man-god is quite as necessary for the safety of others as for his own. His magical virtue is in the strictest sense of the word contagious: his divinity is a fire, which, under proper restraints, confers endless blessings, but, if rashly touched or allowed to break bounds, burns and destroys what it touches. Hence the disastrous effects supposed to attend a breach of taboo; the offender has thrust his hand into the divine fire, which shrivels up and consumes him on the spot. The Nubas, for example, who inhabit the wooded and fertile range of Jebel Nuba in eastern Africa, believe that they would die if they entered the house of their priestly king; however they can evade the penalty of their intrusion by baring the left shoulder and getting the king to lay his hand on it. And were any man to sit on a stone which the king has consecrated to his own use, the transgressor would die within the year.485 The Cazembes, in the interior of Angola, regard their king (the Muata or Mambo) as so holy that no one can touch him without being killed by the magical power which pervades his sacred person. But since contact with him is sometimes unavoidable, they have devised a means whereby the sinner can escape with his life. Kneeling down before the king he touches the back of the royal hand [pg 133] with the back of his own, then snaps his fingers; afterwards he lays the palm of his hand on the palm of the king's hand, then snaps his fingers again. This ceremony is repeated four or five times, and averts the imminent danger of death.486 In Tonga it was believed that if any one fed himself with his own hands after touching the sacred person of a superior chief or anything that belonged to him, he would swell up and die; the sanctity of the chief, like a virulent poison, infected the hands of his inferior, and, being communicated through them to the food, proved fatal to the eater. A commoner who had incurred this danger could disinfect himself by performing a certain ceremony, which consisted in touching the sole of a chief's foot with the palm and back of each of his hands, and afterwards rinsing his hands in water. If there was no water near, he rubbed his hands with the juicy stem of a plantain or banana. After that he was free to feed himself with his own hands without danger of being attacked by the malady which would otherwise follow from eating with tabooed or sanctified hands. But until the ceremony of expiation or disinfection had been performed, if he wished to eat, he had either to get some one to feed him, or else to go down on his knees and pick up the food from the ground with his mouth like a beast. He might not even use a toothpick himself, but might guide the hand of another person holding the toothpick. The Tongans were subject to induration of the liver and certain forms of scrofula, which they often attributed to a failure to perform the requisite expiation after having inadvertently touched a chief or his belongings. Hence they often went through the ceremony as a precaution, without knowing that they had done anything to call for it. The king of Tonga could not refuse to play his part in the rite by presenting his foot to such as desired to touch it, even when they applied to him at an inconvenient time. A fat unwieldy king, who perceived his subjects approaching with this intention, while he chanced to be taking his walks abroad, [pg 134] has been sometimes seen to waddle as fast as his legs could carry him out of their way, in order to escape the importunate and not wholly disinterested expression of their homage. If any one fancied he might have already unwittingly eaten with tabooed hands, he sat down before the chief, and, taking the chief's foot, pressed it against his own stomach, that the food in his belly might not injure him, and that he might not swell up and die.487 Since scrofula was regarded by the Tongans as a result of eating with tabooed hands, we may conjecture that persons who suffered from it among them often resorted to the touch or pressure of the king's foot as a cure for their malady. The analogy of the custom with the old English practice of bringing scrofulous patients to the king to be healed by his touch is sufficiently obvious, and suggests, as I have already pointed out elsewhere, that among our own remote ancestors scrofula may have obtained its name of the King's Evil, from a belief, like that of the Tongans, that it was caused as well as cured by contact with the divine majesty of kings.488

Fatal effects of contact with sacred chiefs in New Zealand.

In New Zealand the dread of the sanctity of chiefs was at least as great as in Tonga. Their ghostly power, derived from an ancestral spirit or atua, diffused itself by contagion over everything they touched, and could strike dead all who rashly or unwittingly meddled with it.489 For instance, it once happened that a New Zealand chief of high rank and great sanctity had left the remains of his dinner by the wayside. A slave, a stout, hungry fellow, coming up after the chief had gone, saw the unfinished dinner, and ate it up without asking questions. Hardly had he finished when [pg 135] he was informed by a horror-stricken spectator that the food of which he had eaten was the chief's. "I knew the unfortunate delinquent well. He was remarkable for courage, and had signalised himself in the wars of the tribe," but "no sooner did he hear the fatal news than he was seized by the most extraordinary convulsions and cramp in the stomach, which never ceased till he died, about sundown the same day. He was a strong man, in the prime of life, and if any pakeha [European] freethinker should have said he was not killed by the tapu of the chief, which had been communicated to the food by contact, he would have been listened to with feelings of contempt for his ignorance and inability to understand plain and direct evidence."490 This is not a solitary case. A Maori woman having eaten of some fruit, and being afterwards told that the fruit had been taken from a tabooed place, exclaimed that the spirit of the chief, whose sanctity had been thus profaned, would kill her. This was in the afternoon, and next day by twelve o'clock she was dead.491 An observer who knows the Maoris well, says, "Tapu [taboo] is an awful weapon. I have seen a strong young man die the same day he was tapued; the victims die under it as though their strength ran out as water."492 A Maori chief's tinder-box was once the means of killing several persons; for, having been lost by him, and found by some men who used it to light their pipes, they died of fright on learning to whom it had belonged. So, too, the garments of a high New Zealand chief will kill any one else who wears them. A chief was observed by a missionary to throw down a precipice a blanket which he found too heavy to carry. Being asked by the missionary why he did not leave it on a tree for the use of a future traveller, the chief replied that "it was the fear of its being taken by another which caused him to throw it where he did, for if it were worn, his tapu" (that is, his spiritual power communicated by contact to the blanket and through the blanket to the man) "would [pg 136] kill the person."493 For a similar reason a Maori chief would not blow a fire with his mouth; for his sacred breath would communicate its sanctity to the fire, which would pass it on to the pot on the fire, which would pass it on to the meat in the pot, which would pass it on to the man who ate the meat, which was in the pot, which stood on the fire, which was breathed on by the chief; so that the eater, infected by the chief's breath conveyed through these intermediaries, would surely die.494

Examples of the fatal effects of imagination in other parts of the world.

Thus in the Polynesian race, to which the Maoris belong, superstition erected round the persons of sacred chiefs a real, though at the same time purely imaginary barrier, to transgress which actually entailed the death of the transgressor whenever he became aware of what he had done. This fatal power of the imagination working through superstitious terrors is by no means confined to one race; it appears to be common among savages. For example, among the aborigines of Australia a native will die after the infliction of even the most superficial wound if only he believes that the weapon which inflicted the wound had been sung over and thus endowed with magical virtue. He simply lies down, refuses food, and pines away.495 Similarly among some of the Indian tribes of Brazil, if the medicine-man predicted the death of any one who had offended him, "the wretch took to his hammock instantly in such full expectation of dying, that he would neither eat nor drink, and the prediction was a sentence which faith effectually executed."496 Speaking of certain African races Major Leonard observes: "I have seen more than one hardened old Haussa soldier dying steadily and by inches, because he believed himself to be bewitched; so that no nourishment or medicines that were given to him had the slightest effect either to check the mischief or to improve his condition in any way, and nothing was able to divert him from a fate which he considered inevitable. In the same way, and under very similar conditions, I have seen Kru-men and others die, in spite of every effort that was made to save them, simply because they had made [pg 137] up their minds, not (as we thought at the time) to die, but that being in the clutch of malignant demons they were bound to die."497 The Capuchin missionary Merolla da Sorrento, who travelled in the West African kingdom of Congo in the latter part of the seventeenth century, has described a remarkable case of death wrought purely by superstitious fear. He says: "It is a custom that either the parents or the wizards give certain rules to be inviolably observed by the young people, and which they call chegilla: these are to abstain from eating either some sorts of poultry, the flesh of some kinds of wild beasts, such and such fruits, roots either raw or boiled after this or another manner, with several other ridiculous injunctions of the like nature, too many to be enumerated here. You would wonder with what religious observance these commands are obeyed. These young people would sooner chuse to fast several days together, than to taste the least bit of what has been forbidden them; and if it sometimes happen that the chegilla has been neglected to have been given them by their parents, they think they shall presently die unless they go immediately to receive it from the wizards. A certain young negro, being upon a journey, lodged in a friend's house by the way: his friend, before he went out the next morning, had got a wild hen ready for his breakfast, they being much better than the tame ones. The negro hereupon demanded, 'If it were a wild hen?' His host answered, 'No': then he fell on heartily, and afterwards proceeded on his journey. About four years after these two met together again, and the aforesaid negro being not yet married, his old friend asked him, 'If he would eat a wild hen?' To which he answered, 'That he had received the chegilla, and therefore could not.' Hereat the host began immediately to laugh, enquiring of him, 'What made him refuse it now, when he had eaten one at his table about four years ago?' At the hearing of this the negro immediately fell a trembling, and suffered himself to be so far possessed with the effects of imagination, that he died in less than twenty-four hours after."498

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§ 2. Mourners tabooed.

The taboos observed by sacred kings resemble those imposed on persons who are commonly regarded as unclean, such as menstruous women, homicides, and so forth. Taboos laid on persons who have been in contact with the dead in New Zealand.

Thus regarding his sacred chiefs and kings as charged with a mysterious spiritual force which so to say explodes at contact, the savage naturally ranks them among the dangerous classes of society, and imposes upon them the same sort of restraints that he lays on manslayers, menstruous women, and other persons whom he looks upon with a certain fear and horror. For example, sacred kings and priests in Polynesia were not allowed to touch food with their hands, and had therefore to be fed by others;499 and as we have just seen, their vessels, garments, and other property might not be used by others on pain of disease and death. Now precisely the same observances are exacted by some savages from girls at their first menstruation, women after childbirth, homicides, mourners, and all persons who have come into contact with the dead. Thus, for example, to begin with the last class of persons, among the Maoris any one who had handled a corpse, helped to convey it to the grave, or touched a dead man's bones, was cut off from all intercourse and almost all communication with mankind. He could not enter any house, or come into contact with any person or thing, without utterly bedevilling them. He might not even touch food with his hands, which had become so frightfully tabooed or unclean as to be quite useless. Food would be set for him on the ground, and he [pg 139] would then sit or kneel down, and, with his hands carefully held behind his back, would gnaw at it as best he could. In some cases he would be fed by another person, who with outstretched arm contrived to do it without touching the tabooed man; but the feeder was himself subjected to many severe restrictions, little less onerous than those which were imposed upon the other. In almost every populous village there lived a degraded wretch, the lowest of the low, who earned a sorry pittance by thus waiting upon the defiled. Clad in rags, daubed from head to foot with red ochre and stinking shark oil, always solitary and silent, generally old, haggard, and wizened, often half crazed, he might be seen sitting motionless all day apart from the common path or thoroughfare of the village, gazing with lack-lustre eyes on the busy doings in which he might never take a part. Twice a day a dole of food would be thrown on the ground before him to munch as well as he could without the use of his hands; and at night, huddling his greasy tatters about him, he would crawl into some miserable lair of leaves and refuse, where, dirty, cold, and hungry, he passed, in broken ghost-haunted slumbers, a wretched night as a prelude to another wretched day. Such was the only human being deemed fit to associate at arm's length with one who had paid the last offices of respect and friendship to the dead. And when, the dismal term of his seclusion being over, the mourner was about to mix with his fellows once more, all the dishes he had used in his seclusion were diligently smashed, and all the garments he had worn were carefully thrown away, lest they should spread the contagion of his defilement among others,500 just as the vessels and clothes of sacred kings and chiefs are destroyed or cast away for a similar reason. So complete in these respects is the analogy which the savage traces between the spiritual influences that emanate from divinities and from the dead, between the odour of sanctity and the stench of corruption.

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The rule which forbids persons who have been in contact with a corpse to touch food with their hands seems to have been universal in Polynesia. A rule of the same sort is observed in Melanesia and Africa.

The rule which forbids persons who have been in contact with the dead to touch food with their hands would seem to have been universal in Polynesia. Thus in Samoa "those who attended the deceased were most careful not to handle food, and for days were fed by others as if they were helpless infants. Baldness and the loss of teeth were supposed to be the punishment inflicted by the household god if they violated the rule."501 Again, in Tonga, "no person can touch a dead chief without being taboo'd for ten lunar months, except chiefs, who are only taboo'd for three, four, or five months, according to the superiority of the dead chief; except again it be the body of Tooitonga [the great divine chief], and then even the greatest chief would be taboo'd ten months, as was the case with Finow's wife above mentioned. During the time a man is taboo'd he must not feed himself with his own hands, but must be fed by somebody else: he must not even use a toothpick himself, but must guide another person's hand holding the toothpick. If he is hungry and there is no one to feed him, he must go down upon his hands and knees, and pick up his victuals with his mouth: and if he infringes upon any of these rules, it is firmly expected that he will swell up and die: and this belief is so strong that Mr. Mariner thinks no native ever made an experiment to prove the contrary. They often saw him feed himself with his hands after having touched dead chiefs, and not observing his health to decline, they attributed it to his being a foreigner, and being governed by different gods."502 Again, in Wallis Island "contact with a corpse subjects the hands to the law of taboo till they are washed, which is not done for several weeks. Until that purification has taken place, the tabooed persons may not themselves put food to their mouths; other people render them that service."503 A rule [pg 141] of the same sort is or was observed in various parts of Melanesia. Thus in Fiji the taboo for handling a dead chief lasted from one to ten months according to his rank; for a commoner it lasted not more than four days. It was commonly resorted to by the lazy and idle; for during the time of their seclusion they were not only provided with food, but were actually fed by attendants or ate their food from the ground.504 Similarly in the Motu tribe of New Guinea a man is tabooed, generally for three days, after handling a corpse, and while the taboo lasts he may not touch food with his hands. At the end of the time he bathes and the taboo is over.505 So in New Caledonia the two men who are charged with the duty of burying and guarding a corpse have to remain in seclusion and observe a number of rules of abstinence. They live apart from their wives. They may not shave or cut their hair. Their food is laid for them on leaves and they take it up with their mouth or a stick; but oftener an attendant feeds them, just as he might feed a man whose limbs were palsied.506 So among the Nandi of British East Africa persons who have handled a corpse bathe in a river, anoint their bodies with fat, partially shave their heads, and live in the hut of the deceased for four days. All these days they may not be seen by boys or women: they may not drink milk; and they may not touch food with their hands, but must eat it with the help of a potsherd or chip of a gourd.507 Similarly in the Ba-Pedi and Ba-Thonga tribes of South Africa men who have dug a grave may not touch food with their fingers till the rites of their purification are accomplished; meantime they eat with the help of special spoons. If they broke this rule, it is thought that they would be consumptive.508 So in the Ngarigo tribe of New South Wales a novice who has just passed through the ceremony [pg 142] of initiation has to go away to the mountains and stay there for a while, sometimes for more than six months, under the charge of one or more old men; and all the time of his absence among the mountains he may not touch cooked food with his hands; the food is put into his mouth by the man who looks after him.509

Taboos laid on mourners among the Indian tribes of North America.

Among the Shuswap of British Columbia widows and widowers in mourning are secluded and forbidden to touch their own head or body; the cups and cooking-vessels which they use may be used by no one else. They must build a sweat-house beside a creek, sweat there all night and bathe regularly, after which they must rub their bodies with branches of spruce. The branches may not be used more than once, and when they have served their purpose they are stuck into the ground all round the hut. No hunter would come near such mourners, for their presence is unlucky. If their shadow were to fall on any one, he would be taken ill at once. They employ thorn bushes for bed and pillow, in order to keep away the ghost of the deceased; and thorn bushes are also laid all around their beds.510 This last precaution shews clearly what the spiritual danger is which leads to the exclusion of such persons from ordinary society; it is simply a fear of the ghost who is supposed to be hovering near them. Among the Thompson Indians of British Columbia the persons who handled a corpse and dug the grave were secluded for four days. They fasted until the body was buried, after which they were given food apart from the other people. They would not touch the food with their hands, but must put it into their mouths with sharp-pointed sticks. They ate off a small mat, and drank out of birch-bark cups, which, together with the mat, were thrown away at the end of the four days. The first four mouthfuls of food, as well as of water, had to be spit into the fire. During their seclusion they bathed in a stream and might not sleep with their wives. Widows and widowers were obliged to observe rules of a similar kind. Immediately after the death they went out and passed through a patch of [pg 143] rose-bushes four times, probably in order to rid themselves of the ghost, who might be supposed to stick on a thorn. For a year they had to sleep on a bed of fir-boughs, on which sticks of rose-bushes were laid; many wore twigs of rose-bush and juniper in a piece of buckskin on their persons. The first four days they might not touch their food, but ate with sharp-pointed sticks and spat out the first four mouthfuls of each meal, and the first four of water, into the fire. A widower might not fish at another man's fishing-place or with another man's net; if he did, it would make the place and the net useless for the season. If he transplanted a trout into another lake, before releasing it he blew on the head of the fish, and after chewing deer-fat, he spat some of the grease on its head in order to remove the baneful effect of his touch. Then he let the trout go, bidding it farewell, and asking it to propagate its kind in plenty. Any grass or branches that a widow or widower sat or lay down on withered up. If a widow should break sticks or boughs, her hands or arms would also break. She might not pick berries for a year, else the whole crop of berries would fall off the bushes or wither up. She might not cook food or fetch water for her children, nor let them lie down on her bed, nor should she lie or sit where they slept. Sometimes a widow would wear a breech-cloth made of dry bunch-grass for several days to prevent her husband's ghost from having intercourse with her.511 Among the Tinneh or Déné Indians of North-West America all who have handled a corpse are subject to many restrictions and taboos. They are debarred for a certain period from eating any fresh meat: they may never use a knife to cut their food but must tear it with their teeth: they may not drink out of a vessel in common use, but must employ a gourd which they carry about for the purpose; and they wear peeled willow wands about their arms and necks or carry them in their hands as disinfectants to annul the evil consequences which are supposed to follow from handling the dead.512 Among the [pg 144] Indian tribes of Queen Charlotte Sound a widow or widower goes into special mourning for a month; among the Koskimos the period of mourning is four months. During this time he or she lives apart in a very small hut behind the house, eating and drinking alone, and using for that purpose dishes which are not employed by other members of the tribe.513

Seclusion of widows and widowers in the Philippines and New Guinea.

Among the Agutainos, who inhabit Palawan, one of the Philippine Islands, a widow may not leave her hut for seven or eight days after the death; and even then she may only go out at an hour when she is not likely to meet anybody, for whoever looks upon her dies a sudden death. To prevent this fatal catastrophe, the widow knocks with a wooden peg on the trees as she goes along, thus warning people of her dangerous proximity; and the very trees on which she knocks soon die.514 So poisonous is the atmosphere of death that surrounds those to whom the ghost of the departed may be thought to cleave. In the Mekeo district of British New Guinea a widower loses all his civil rights and becomes a social outcast, an object of fear and horror, shunned by all. He may not cultivate a garden, nor shew himself in public, nor traverse the village, nor walk on the roads and paths. Like a wild beast he must skulk in the long grass and the bushes; and if he sees or hears any one coming, especially a woman, he must hide behind a tree or a thicket. If he wishes to fish or hunt, he must do it alone and at night. If he would consult any one, even the missionary, he does so by stealth and at night; he seems to have lost his voice and speaks only in whispers. Were he to join a party of fishers or hunters, his presence would bring misfortune on them; the ghost of his dead wife would frighten away the fish or the game. He goes about everywhere and at all times armed with a tomahawk to defend himself, not only against wild boars in the jungle, but against the dreaded spirit of his departed spouse, who would do him an ill turn if she [pg 145] could; for all the souls of the dead are malignant and their only delight is to harm the living.515

§ 3. Women tabooed at Menstruation and Childbirth.

Taboos imposed on women at menstruation.

In general, we may say that the prohibition to use the vessels, garments, and so on of certain persons, and the effects supposed to follow an infraction of the rule, are exactly the same whether the persons to whom the things belong are sacred or what we might call unclean and polluted. As the garments which have been touched by a sacred chief kill those who handle them, so do the things which have been touched by a menstruous woman. An Australian blackfellow, who discovered that his wife had lain on his blanket at her menstrual period, killed her and died of terror himself within a fortnight.516 Hence Australian women at these times are forbidden under pain of death to touch anything that men use, or even to walk on a path that any man frequents. They are also secluded at childbirth, and all vessels used by them during their seclusion are burned.517 In Uganda the pots which a woman touches while the impurity of childbirth or of menstruation is on her should be destroyed; spears and shields defiled by her touch are not destroyed but only purified.518 No Esquimaux of Alaska will willingly drink out of the same cup or eat out of the same dish that has been used by a woman at her confinement until it has been purified by certain incantations.519 Amongst some of the Indians of North America, women at menstruation are forbidden to touch men's utensils, which would be so defiled by their touch that their subsequent use would be attended by certain mischief or misfortune.520 For instance, in some of the Tinneh [pg 146] or Déné tribes girls verging on maturity take care that the dishes out of which they eat are used by no one else. When their first periodical sickness comes on, they are fed by their mothers or nearest kinswomen, and will on no account touch their food with their own hands. At the same time they abstain from touching their heads with their hands, and keep a small stick to scratch their heads with when they itch. They remain outside the house in a hut built for the purpose, and wear a skull-cap made of skin to fit very tight, which they never lay aside till the first monthly infirmity is over. A fringe of shells, bones, and so on hangs down from their forehead so as to cover their eyes, lest any malicious sorcerer should harm them during this critical period.521 "Among all the Déné and most other American tribes, hardly any other being was the object of so much dread as a menstruating woman. As soon as signs of that condition made themselves apparent in a young girl she was carefully segregated from all but female company, and had to live by herself in a small hut away from the gaze of the villagers or of the male members of the roving band. While in that awful state, she had to abstain from touching anything belonging to man, or the spoils of any venison or other animal, lest she would thereby pollute the same, and condemn the hunters to failure, owing to the anger of the game thus slighted. Dried fish formed her diet, and cold water, absorbed through a drinking tube, was her only beverage. Moreover, as the very sight of her was dangerous to society, a special skin bonnet, with fringes falling over her face down to her breast, hid her from the public gaze, even some time [pg 147] after she had recovered her normal state."522 Among the Bribri Indians of Costa Rica a menstruous woman is regarded as unclean (bukuru). The only plates she may use for her food are banana leaves, which, when she has done with them, she throws away in some sequestered spot; for were a cow to find them and eat them, the animal would waste away and perish. And she drinks out of a special vessel for a like reason; because if any one drank out of the same cup after her, he would surely die.523 In the islands of Mabuiag and Saibai, in Torres Straits, girls at their first menstruation are strictly secluded from the sight of men. In Mabuiag the seclusion lasts three months, in Saibai about a fortnight. During the time of her separation the girl is forbidden to feed herself or to handle food, which is put into her mouth by women or girls told off to wait on her.524

Taboos imposed on women in childbed.

Among many peoples similar restrictions are imposed on women in childbed and apparently for similar reasons; at such periods women are supposed to be in a dangerous condition which would infect any person or thing they might touch; hence they are put into quarantine until, with the recovery of their health and strength, the imaginary danger has passed away. Thus, in Tahiti a woman after childbirth was secluded for a fortnight or three weeks in a temporary hut erected on sacred ground; during the time of her seclusion she was debarred from touching provisions, and had to be fed by another. Further, if any one else touched the child at this period, he was subjected to the same restrictions as the mother until the ceremony of her purification had been performed.525 Similarly in Manahiki, an island of the Southern Pacific, for ten days after her delivery a woman was not allowed to handle food, and had to be fed by some other person.526 In the Sinaugolo tribe of British New Guinea, for about a month after her confinement [pg 148] a woman may not prepare or handle food; she may not even cook for herself, and when she is eating the food made ready for her by her friends she must use a sharpened stick to transfer it to her mouth.527 Similarly in the Roro and Mekeo districts of British New Guinea a woman after childbirth becomes for a time taboo (opu), and any person or thing she may chance to touch becomes taboo also. Accordingly during this time she abstains from cooking; for were she to cook food, not only the victuals themselves but the pot and the fire would be tabooed, so that nobody could eat the victuals, or use the pot, or warm himself at the fire. Further at meals she may not dip her hand into the dish and help herself, as the natives commonly do; she must use for the purpose a long fork, with which she takes up the bananas, sweet potatoes, yams, and so forth, in order not to contaminate the rest of the food in the vessel by the touch of her fingers. If she wishes to drink, a gourd is set before her, and wrapping up her hands in a cloth or coco-nut fibre she pours the water into a small calabash for her use; or she may pour the water directly into her mouth without letting the gourd touch her lips. If anything has to be handed to her, it is not given from hand to hand but reached to her at the end of a long stick.528 Similarly in the island of Kadiak, off Alaska, a woman about to be delivered retires to a miserable low hovel built of reeds, where she must remain for twenty days after the birth of her child, whatever the season may be, and she is considered so unclean that no one will touch her, and food is reached to her on sticks.529 In the Ba-Pedi and Ba-Thonga tribes of South Africa a woman in childbed may not touch her food with her hands all the time of her seclusion; she must eat with the help of a wooden spoon. [pg 149] They think that if she touched her victuals she might infect them with her bloody flux, and that having partaken of such tainted food she would fall into a consumption.530 The Bribri Indians regard the pollution of childbed as much more dangerous even than that of menstruation. When a woman feels her time approaching, she informs her husband, who makes haste to build a hut for her in a lonely spot. There she must live alone, holding no converse with anybody save her mother or another woman. After her delivery the medicine-man purifies her by breathing on her and laying an animal, it matters not what, upon her. But even this ceremony only mitigates her uncleanness into a state considered to be equivalent to that of a menstruous woman; and for a full lunar month she must live apart from her housemates, observing the same rules with regard to eating and drinking as at her monthly periods. The case is still worse, the pollution is still more deadly, if she has had a miscarriage or has been delivered of a stillborn child. In that case she may not go near a living soul: the mere contact with things she has used is exceedingly dangerous: her food is handed to her at the end of a long stick. This lasts generally for three weeks, after which she may go home subject only to the restrictions incident to an ordinary confinement.531 Among the Adivi or forest Gollas of Southern India, when a woman feels the first pains of labour, she is turned clean out of the village and must take up her quarters in a little hut made of leaves or mats about two hundred yards away. In this hut she must bring forth her offspring unaided, unless a midwife can be fetched in time to be with her before the child is born; if the midwife arrives after the birth has taken place she may not go near the woman. For ninety days the mother lives in the hut by herself. If any one touches her, he or she becomes, like the mother herself, an outcast and is expelled from the village for three months, The woman's husband generally makes a little hut about fifty yards from hers and stays in it sometimes to watch over her, but he may not go near her on pain of being an [pg 150] outcast for three months. Food is placed on the ground near the woman's hut and she takes it. On the fourth day after the birth a woman of the village goes to her and pours water on her, but may not come into contact with her. On the fifth day the villagers clear away the stones and thorny bushes from a patch of ground about ten yards on the village side of the hut, and to this clearing the woman removes her hut unaided; no one may help her to do so. On the ninth, fifteenth, and thirtieth days she again shifts her hut nearer and nearer to the village; and again once in each of the two following months she brings her hut still nearer. On the ninetieth day of her seclusion the woman is called out from her hut, washed, clad in clean clothes, and after being taken to the village temple is conducted to her own house by a man of the caste, who performs purificatory ceremonies.532

Dangers apprehended from women in childbed.

These customs shew that in the opinion of some primitive peoples a woman at and after childbirth is pervaded by a certain dangerous influence which can infect anything and anybody she touches; so that in the interest of the community it becomes necessary to seclude her from society for a while until the virulence of the infection has passed away, when, after submitting to certain rites of purification, she is again free to mingle with her fellows. This dread of lying-in women appears to be widespread, for the practice of shutting them up at such times in lonely huts away from the rest of the people is very common. Sometimes the nature of the danger which is apprehended from them is explicitly stated. Thus in the island of Tumleo, off German New Guinea, after the birth of her first child a woman is shut up with her infant for five to eight days, during which no man, not even her husband, may see her; for the men think that were they to see her, their bodies would swell up and they would die.533 Apparently their notion is that the sight of a woman who has just been big with child will, on [pg 151] the principles of homoeopathic magic, make their bodies big also to bursting. The Sulka of New Britain imagine that, when a woman has been delivered of a child, the men become cowardly, weapons lose their force, and the slips which are to be planted out are deprived of their power of germinating. Hence they perform a ceremony which is intended to counteract this mysterious influence on men and plants. As soon as it is known that a woman has been brought to bed, all the male population of the village assembles in the men's clubhouse. Branches of a strong-smelling tree are fetched, the twigs are broken off, the leaves stripped off and put on the fire. All the men present then seize branches with young buds. One of them holds ginger in his hand, which, after reciting a spell over it, he distributes to the others. They chew it and spit it out on the twigs, and these twigs are afterwards laid on the shields and other weapons in the house, and also on the slips which are to be planted; moreover they are fastened on the roofs and over the doorways of the houses. In this way they seek to annul the noxious infection of childbirth.534 Among the Yabim of German New Guinea, when a birth has taken place in the village, all the inhabitants remain at home next morning "in order that the fruits of the field may not be spoiled."535 Apparently they fear that if they went out to their fields and gardens immediately after a woman had been brought to bed, they would carry with them a dangerous contagion which might blight the crops. When a Herero woman has given birth to a child, her female companions hastily construct a special hut for her to which she is transferred. Both the hut and the woman are sacred and "for this reason, the men are not allowed to see the lying-in woman until the navel string has separated from the child, otherwise they would become weaklings, and when later they yumbana, that is, go to war with spear and bow, they would be shot."536 Thus the Herero like the Sulka appear to imagine that the [pg 152] weakness of a lying-in woman can, on the principles of homoeopathic magic, infect any men who may chance to see her.

Dangers apprehended from women in childbed by Indians and Esquimaux.

Among the Saragacos Indians of eastern Ecuador, as soon as a woman feels the travail-pangs beginning, she retires into the forest to a distance of three or four leagues from her home, where she takes up her abode in a hut of leaves which has been already prepared for her. "This banishment," we are told, "is the fruit of the superstition of these Indians, who are persuaded that the spirit of evil would attach himself to their house if the women were brought to bed in it."537 The Esquimaux of Baffin Land think that the body of a lying-in woman exhales a vapour which would adhere to the souls of seals if she ate the flesh of any seals except such as have been caught by her husband, by a boy, or by an aged man. "Cases of premature birth require particularly careful treatment. The event must be announced publicly, else dire results will follow. If a woman should conceal from the other people that she has had a premature birth, they might come near her, or even eat in her hut of the seals procured by her husband. The vapor arising from her would thus affect them, and they would be avoided by the seals. The transgression would also become attached to the soul of the seal, which would take it down to Sedna," the mythical mother of the sea-mammals, who lives in the lower world and controls the destinies of mankind.538

Dangers apprehended from women in childbed by Bantu tribes of South Africa. Dangers apprehended from a concealed miscarriage.

Some Bantu tribes of South Africa entertain even more exaggerated notions of the virulent infection spread by a woman who has had a miscarriage and has concealed it. An experienced observer of these people tells us that the blood of childbirth "appears to the eyes of the South Africans to be tainted with a pollution still more dangerous than that of the menstrual fluid. The husband is excluded from the hut for eight days of the lying-in period, chiefly from fear that he might be contaminated by this secretion. [pg 153] He dare not take his child in his arms for the three first months after the birth. But the secretion of childbed is particularly terrible when it is the product of a miscarriage, especially a concealed miscarriage. In this case it is not merely the man who is threatened or killed, it is the whole country, it is the sky itself which suffers. By a curious association of ideas a physiological fact causes cosmic troubles!"539 Thus, for example, the Ba-Pedi believe that a woman who has procured abortion can kill a man merely by lying with him; her victim is poisoned, shrivels up, and dies within a week. As for the disastrous effect which a miscarriage may have on the whole country I will quote the words of a medicine-man and rain-maker of the Ba-Pedi tribe: "When a woman has had a miscarriage, when she has allowed her blood to flow, and has hidden the child, it is enough to cause the burning winds to blow and to parch the country with heat. The rain no longer falls, for the country is no longer in order. When the rain approaches the place where the blood is, it will not dare to approach. It will fear and remain at a distance. That woman has committed a great fault. She has spoiled the country of the chief, for she has hidden blood which had not yet been well congealed to fashion a man. That blood is taboo (yila). It should never drip on the road! The chief will assemble his men and say to them, 'Are you in order in your villages?' Some one will answer, 'Such and such a woman was pregnant and we have not yet seen the child which she has given birth to.' Then they go and arrest the woman. They say to her, 'Shew us where you have hidden it.' They go and dig at the spot, they sprinkle the hole with a decoction of mbendoula and nyangale (two sorts of roots) prepared in a special pot. They take a little of the earth of this grave, they throw it into the river, then they bring back water from the river and sprinkle it where she shed her blood. She herself must wash every day with the medicine. Then the country will be moistened again (by rain). Further, we (medicine-men) summon the women of the country; we tell them to prepare a ball of the earth which [pg 154] contains the blood. They bring it to us one morning. If we wish to prepare medicine with which to sprinkle the whole country, we crumble this earth to powder; at the end of five days we send little boys and little girls, girls that yet know nothing of women's affairs and have not yet had relations with men. We put the medicine in the horns of oxen, and these children go to all the fords, to all the entrances of the country. A little girl turns up the soil with her mattock, the others dip a branch in the horn and sprinkle the inside of the hole saying, 'Rain! rain!' So we remove the misfortune which the women have brought on the roads; the rain will be able to come. The country is purified!"540

Belief of the Ba-Thonga that severe droughts result from the concealment of miscarriages by women.

Similarly the Ba-Thonga, another Bantu tribe of South Africa in the valley of the Limpopo river, attribute severe droughts to the concealment of miscarriages by women, and they perform the following rites to remove the pollution and procure rain. A small clearing is made in a thick and thorny wood, and here a pot is buried in the ground so that its mouth is flush with the surface. From the pot four channels run in the form of a cross to the four cardinal points of the horizon. Then a black ox or a black ram, without a speck of white on it, is killed and the pot is stuffed with the half-digested grass found in the animal's stomach. Next, little girls, still in the age of innocence, are sent to draw water, which they pour into the pot till it overflows into the four channels. After that the women assemble, strip off their clothes, and covering their nakedness only with a scanty petticoat of grass they dance, leap, and sing, "Rain, fall!" Then they go and dig up the remains of the prematurely born infants and of twins buried in dry ground on a hill. These they collect in one place. No man may approach the spot. The women would beat any male who might be so indiscreet as to intrude on their privacy, and they would put riddles to him which he would have to answer in the most filthy language borrowed from the circumcision ceremonies; for obscene words, which are usually forbidden, are customary and legitimate on these occasions. The women pour water on the graves of the [pg 155] infants and of twins in order to "extinguish" (timula) them, as the natives phrase it; which seems to imply that the graves are thought to be the source of the scorching heat which is blasting the country. At the fall of evening they bury all the remains they have discovered, poking them away in the mud near a stream. Then the rain will be free to fall.541 In these ceremonies the pouring of water into channels which run in the direction of the four quarters of the heaven is clearly a charm based on the principles of homoeopathic magic to procure rain. The supposed influence of twins over the waters of heaven and the use of foul language at rain-making ceremonies have been illustrated in another part of this work.542

Dangers apprehended from women in childbed by some tribes of Annam.

Among the natives of the Ngu?n So'n valley in Annam, during the first month after a woman has been delivered of a child, all the persons of the house are supposed to be affected with an evil destiny or ill luck called phong long. If a member of such a household enters another house, the inmates never fail to say to him, "You bring me the phong long!" Should a member of a family in which somebody is seriously ill have to enter a house infected by the phong long, on returning home he always fumigates himself with tea leaves or some other plant in order to rid himself of the infection which he has contracted; for they fear that the blood of the woman who has been brought to bed may harm the patient. All the time a house is tainted with the phong long, a branch of cactus (Euphorbia antiquorum) or pandanus is hung at the door. The same thing is done to a house infected by small-pox: it is a danger signal to warn people off. The phong long only disappears when the woman has gone to market for the first time after her delivery.543 A trace of a similar belief in the dangerous infection of childbirth may be seen in the rule of ancient Greek religion, which forbade persons who had handled a corpse or been in contact with a lying-in woman to enter a temple or approach an altar for a certain time, sometimes for two days.544

[pg 156]

Taboos imposed on lads at initiation.

Restrictions and taboos like those laid on menstruous and lying-in women are imposed by some savages on lads at the initiatory rites which celebrate the attainment of puberty; hence we may infer that at such times young men are supposed to be in a state like that of women at menstruation and in childbed. Thus, among the Creek Indians a lad at initiation had to abstain for twelve moons from picking his ears or scratching his head with his fingers; he had to use a small stick for these purposes. For four moons he must have a fire of his own to cook his food at; and a little girl, a virgin, might cook for him. During the fifth moon any person might cook for him, but he must serve himself first, and use one spoon and pan. On the fifth day of the twelfth moon he gathered corn cobs, burned them to ashes, and with the ashes rubbed his body all over. At the end of the twelfth moon he sweated under blankets, and then bathed in water, which ended the ceremony. While the ceremonies lasted, he might touch no one but lads who were undergoing a like course of initiation.545 Caffre boys at circumcision live secluded in a special hut; they are smeared from head to foot with white clay; they wear tall head-dresses with horn-like projections and short skirts like those of ballet-dancers. When their wounds are healed, all the vessels which they had used during their seclusion and the boyish mantles which they had hitherto worn are burned, [pg 157] together with the hut, and the boys rush away from the burning hut without looking back, "lest a fearful curse should cling to them." After that they are bathed, anointed, and clad in new garments.546

§ 4. Warriors tabooed.

Taboos laid on warriors when they go forth to fight.

Once more, warriors are conceived by the savage to move, so to say, in an atmosphere of spiritual danger which constrains them to practise a variety of superstitious observances quite different in their nature from those rational precautions which, as a matter of course, they adopt against foes of flesh and blood. The general effect of these observances is to place the warrior, both before and after victory, in the same state of seclusion or spiritual quarantine in which, for his own safety, primitive man puts his human gods and other dangerous characters. Thus when the Maoris went out on the war-path they were sacred or taboo in the highest degree, and they and their friends at home had to observe strictly many curious customs over and above the numerous taboos of ordinary life. They became, in the irreverent language of Europeans who knew them in the old fighting days, "tabooed an inch thick"; and as for the leader of the expedition, he was quite unapproachable.547 Similarly, when the Israelites marched forth to war they were bound by certain rules of ceremonial purity identical with rules observed by Maoris and Australian blackfellows on the war-path. The vessels they used were sacred, and they had to practise continence and a custom of personal cleanliness of which the original motive, if we may judge from the avowed motive of savages who conform to the same custom, was a fear lest the enemy should obtain [pg 158] the refuse of their persons, and thus be enabled to work their destruction by magic.548 Among some Indian tribes of North America a young warrior in his first campaign had to conform to certain customs, of which two were identical with the observances imposed by the same Indians on girls at their first menstruation: the vessels he ate and drank out of might be touched by no other person, and he was forbidden to scratch his head or any other part of his body with his fingers; if he could not help scratching himself, he had to do it with a stick.549 The latter rule, like the one which forbids a tabooed person to feed himself with his own fingers, seems to rest on the supposed sanctity or pollution, whichever we choose to call it, of the tabooed hands.550 Moreover [pg 159] among these Indian tribes the men on the war-path had always to sleep at night with their faces turned towards their own country; however uneasy the posture they might not change it. They might not sit upon the bare ground, nor wet their feet, nor walk on a beaten path if they could help it; when they had no choice but to walk on a path, they sought to counteract the ill effect of doing so by doctoring their legs with certain medicines or charms which they carried with them for the purpose. No member of the party was permitted to step over the legs, hands, or body of any other member who chanced to be sitting or lying on the [pg 160] ground; and it was equally forbidden to step over his blanket, gun, tomahawk, or anything that belonged to him. If this rule was inadvertently broken, it became the duty of the member whose person or property had been stepped over to knock the other member down, and it was similarly the duty of that other to be knocked down peaceably and without resistance. The vessels out of which the warriors ate their food were commonly small bowls of wood or birch bark, with marks to distinguish the two sides; in marching from home the Indians invariably drank out of one side of the bowl, and in returning they drank out of the other. When on their way home they came within a day's march of the village, they hung up all their bowls on trees, or threw them away on the prairie,551 doubtless to prevent their sanctity or defilement from being communicated with disastrous effects to their friends, just as we have seen that the vessels and clothes of the sacred Mikado, of women at childbirth and menstruation, of boys at circumcision, and of persons defiled by contact with the dead are destroyed or laid aside for a similar reason. The first four times that an Apache Indian goes out on the war-path, he is bound to refrain from scratching his head with his fingers and from letting water touch his lips. Hence he scratches his head with a stick, and drinks through a hollow reed or cane. Stick and reed are attached to the warrior's belt and to each other by a leathern thong.552 The rule not to scratch their heads with their fingers, but to use a stick for the purpose instead, was regularly observed by Ojebways on the war-path.553

Ceremonies observed by American Indians before they went out on the war-path. Rules observed by Indians on a war-expedition.

For three or four weeks before they went on a warlike expedition, the Nootka Indians made it an invariable rule to go into the water five or six times a day, when they washed and scrubbed themselves from head to foot with bushes intermixed with briars, so that their bodies and faces were often entirely covered with blood. During this severe exercise they continually exclaimed, "Good or great God, let me live, [pg 161] not be sick, find the enemy, not fear him, find him asleep, and kill a great many of them." All this time they had no intercourse with their women, and for a week before setting out abstained from feasting and every kind of merriment. For the last three days they were almost constantly in the water, scrubbing and lacerating themselves in a terrible manner. They believed that this hardened their skin, so that the weapons of the enemy could not pierce them.554 Before they went out on the war-path the Arikaras and the Big Belly Indians ("Gros Ventres") "observe a rigorous fast, or rather abstain from every kind of food for four days. In this interval their imagination is exalted to delirium; whether it be through bodily weakness or the natural effect of the warlike plans they cherish, they pretend to have strange visions. The elders and sages of the tribe, being called upon to interpret these dreams, draw from them omens more or less favourable to the success of the enterprise; and their explanations are received as oracles by which the expedition will be faithfully regulated. So long as the preparatory fast continues, the warriors make incisions in their bodies, insert pieces of wood in the flesh, and having fastened leather thongs to them cause themselves to be hung from a beam which is fixed horizontally above an abyss a hundred and fifty feet deep. Often indeed they cut off one or two fingers which they offer in sacrifice to the Great Spirit in order that they may come back laden with scalps."555 It is hard to conceive any course of training which could more effectually incapacitate men for the business of war than that which these foolish Indians actually adopted. With regard to the Creek Indians and kindred tribes we are told they "will not cohabit with women while they are out at war; they religiously abstain from every kind of intercourse even with their own wives, for the space of three days and nights before they go to war, and so after they return home, because they are to sanctify themselves."556 And as a [pg 162] preparation for attacking the enemy they "go to the aforesaid winter house, and there drink a warm decoction of their supposed holy consecrated herbs and roots for three days and nights, sometimes without any other refreshment. This is to induce the deity to guard and prosper them, amidst their impending dangers. In the most promising appearance of things, they are not to take the least nourishment of food, nor so much as to sit down, during that time of sanctifying themselves, till after sunset. While on their expedition, they are not allowed to lean themselves against a tree, though they may be exceedingly fatigued, after a sharp day's march; nor must they lie by, a whole day to refresh themselves, or kill and barbicue deer and bear for their war journey. The more virtuous they are, they reckon the greater will be their success against the enemy, by the bountiful smiles of the deity. To gain that favourite point, some of the aged warriors narrowly watch the young men who are newly initiated, lest they should prove irreligious, and prophane the holy fast, and bring misfortunes on the out-standing camp. A gentleman of my acquaintance, in his youthful days observed one of their religious fasts, but under the greatest suspicion of his virtue in this respect, though he had often headed them against the common enemy: during their three days' purification, he was not allowed to go out of the sanctified ground, without a trusty guard, lest hunger should have tempted him to violate their old martial law, and by that means have raised the burning wrath of the holy fire against the whole camp." "Every war captain chuses a noted warrior, to attend on him and the company. He is called Etiss?, or 'the waiter.' Everything they eat or drink during their journey, he gives them out of his hand, by a rigid abstemious rule,-though each carries on his back all his travelling conveniencies, wrapt in a deer skin, yet they are so bigoted in their religious customs in war that none, though prompted by sharp hunger or burning thirst, dares relieve himself. They are contented with such trifling allowance as the religious waiter distributes to them, even with a scanty hand. Such a regimen would be too mortifying to any of the white people, let their opinion of its violation be ever so dangerous. When I roved the [pg 163] woods in a war party with the Indians, though I carried no scrip, nor bottle, nor staff, I kept a large hollow cane well corked at each end, and used to sheer off now and then to drink, while they suffered greatly by thirst. The constancy of the savages in mortifying their bodies, to gain the divine favour, is astonishing, from the very time they beat to arms, till they return from their campaign. All the while they are out, they are prohibited by ancient custom, the leaning against a tree, either sitting or standing; nor are they allowed to sit in the day-time, under the shade of trees, if it can be avoided; nor on the ground, during the whole journey, but on such rocks, stones, or fallen wood, as their ark of war rests upon. By the attention they invariably pay to those severe rules of living, they weaken themselves much more than by the unavoidable fatigues of war; but it is fruitless to endeavour to dissuade them from those things which they have by tradition, as the appointed means to move the deity, to grant them success against the enemy, and a safe return home."557 "An Indian, intending to go to war, will commence by blacking his face, permitting his hair to grow long, and neglecting his personal appearance, and also will frequently fast, sometimes for two or three days together, and refrain from all intercourse with the other sex. If his dreams are favorable, he thinks that the Great Spirit will give him success."558 Among the Ba-Pedi and Ba-Thonga tribes of south Africa not only have the warriors to abstain from women, but the people left behind in the villages are also bound to continence; they think that any incontinence on their part would cause thorns to grow on the ground traversed by the warriors, and that success would not attend the expedition.559

The rule of continence observed by savage warriors is perhaps based on a fear of infecting themselves sympathetically with feminine weakness and cowardice.

When we observe what pains these misguided savages took to unfit themselves for the business of war by abstaining from food, denying themselves rest, and lacerating [pg 164] their bodies, we shall probably not be disposed to attribute their practice of continence in war to a rational fear of dissipating their bodily energies by indulgence in the lusts of the flesh. On the contrary, we can scarcely doubt that the motive which impelled them to observe chastity on a campaign was just as frivolous as the motive which led them simultaneously to fritter away their strength by severe fasts, gratuitous fatigue, and voluntary wounds at the very moment when prudence called most loudly for a precisely opposite regimen. Why exactly so many savages have made it a rule to refrain from women in time of war,560 we cannot say for certain, but we may conjecture that their motive was a superstitious fear lest, on the principles of sympathetic magic, close contact with women should infect them with feminine weakness and cowardice. Similarly some savages imagine that contact with a woman in childbed enervates warriors and enfeebles their weapons.561 Indeed the Kayans of central Borneo go so far as to hold that to touch a loom or women's clothes would so weaken a man that he [pg 165] would have no success in hunting, fishing, and war.562 Hence it is not merely sexual intercourse with women that the savage warrior sometimes shuns; he is careful to avoid the sex altogether. Thus among the hill tribes of Assam, not only are men forbidden to cohabit with their wives during or after a raid, but they may not eat food cooked by a woman; nay they should not address a word even to their own wives. Once a woman, who unwittingly broke the rule by speaking to her husband while he was under the war taboo, sickened and died when she learned the awful crime she had committed.563

§ 5. Manslayers tabooed.

Taboos laid on warriors after slaying their foes. The effect of the taboos is to seclude the tabooed person from ordinary society. Seclusion of manslayers in the East Indies.

If the reader still doubts whether the rules of conduct which we have just been considering are based on superstitious fears or dictated by a rational prudence, his doubts will probably be dissipated when he learns that rules of the same sort are often imposed even more stringently on warriors after the victory has been won and when all fear of the living corporeal foe is at an end. In such cases one motive for the inconvenient restrictions laid on the victors in their hour of triumph is probably a dread of the angry ghosts of the slain; and that the fear of the vengeful ghosts does influence the behaviour of the slayers is often expressly affirmed. The general effect of the taboos laid on sacred chiefs, mourners, women at childbirth, men on the war-path, and so on, is to seclude or isolate the tabooed persons from ordinary society, this effect being attained by a variety of rules, which oblige the men or women to live in separate huts or in the open air, to shun the commerce of the sexes, to avoid the use of vessels employed by others, and so forth. Now the same effect is produced by similar means in the case of victorious warriors, particularly such as have actually shed the blood of their enemies. In the island of Timor, when a warlike expedition has returned in triumph bringing the heads of the vanquished foe, the leader of the expedition is [pg 166] forbidden by religion and custom to return at once to his own house. A special hut is prepared for him, in which he has to reside for two months, undergoing bodily and spiritual purification. During this time he may not go to his wife nor feed himself; the food must be put into his mouth by another person.564 That these observances are dictated by fear of the ghosts of the slain seems certain; for from another account of the ceremonies performed on the return of a successful head-hunter in the same island we learn that sacrifices are offered on this occasion to appease the soul of the man whose head has been taken; the people think that some misfortune would befall the victor were such offerings omitted. Moreover, a part of the ceremony consists of a dance accompanied by a song, in which the death of the slain man is lamented and his forgiveness is entreated. "Be not angry," they say, "because your head is here with us; had we been less lucky, our heads might now have been exposed in your village. We have offered the sacrifice to appease you. Your spirit may now rest and leave us at peace. Why were you our enemy? Would it not have been better that we should remain friends? Then your blood would not have been spilt and your head would not have been cut off."565 The people of Paloo, in central Celebes, take the heads of their enemies in war and afterwards propitiate the souls of the slain in the temple.566 In some Dyak tribes men on returning from an expedition in which they have taken human heads are obliged to keep by themselves and abstain from a variety [pg 167] of things for several days; they may not touch iron nor eat salt or fish with bones, and they may have no intercourse with women.567

Seclusion of manslayers in New Guinea.

In Logea, an island off the south-eastern extremity of New Guinea, men who have killed or assisted in killing enemies shut themselves up for about a week in their houses. They must avoid all intercourse with their wives and friends, and they may not touch food with their hands. They may eat vegetable food only, which is brought to them cooked in special pots. The intention of these restrictions is to guard the men against the smell of the blood of the slain; for it is believed that if they smelt the blood, they would fall ill and die.568 In the Toaripi or Motumotu tribe of south-eastern New Guinea a man who has killed another may not go near his wife, and may not touch food with his fingers. He is fed by others, and only with certain kinds of food. These observances last till the new moon.569 Among the tribes at the mouth of the Wanigela River, in New Guinea, "a man who has taken life is considered to be impure until he has undergone certain ceremonies: as soon as possible after the deed he cleanses himself and his weapon. This satisfactorily accomplished, he repairs to his village and seats himself on the logs of sacrificial staging. No one approaches him or takes any notice whatever of him. A house is prepared for him which is put in charge of two or three small boys as servants. He may eat only toasted bananas, and only the centre portion of them-the ends being thrown away. On the third day of his seclusion a small feast is prepared by his friends, who also fashion some new perineal bands for him. This is called ivi poro. The next day the man dons all his best ornaments and badges for taking life, and sallies forth fully armed and parades the village. The next day a hunt is organised, and a kangaroo selected from the game captured. It is cut open and the spleen and liver rubbed [pg 168] over the back of the man. He then walks solemnly down to the nearest water, and standing straddle-legs in it washes himself. All the young untried warriors swim between his legs. This is supposed to impart courage and strength to them. The following day, at early dawn, he dashes out of his house, fully armed, and calls aloud the name of his victim. Having satisfied himself that he has thoroughly scared the ghost of the dead man, he returns to his house. The beating of flooring-boards and the lighting of fires is also a certain method of scaring the ghost. A day later his purification is finished. He can then enter his wife's house."570 Among the Roro-speaking tribes of British New Guinea homicides were secluded in the warriors' clubhouse. They had to pass the night in the building, but during the day they might paint and decorate themselves and dance in front of it. For some time they might not eat much food nor touch it with their hands, but were obliged to pick it up on a bone fork, the heft of which was wrapped in a banana leaf. After a while they bathed in the sea and thence forward for a period of about a month, though they had still to sleep in the warriors' clubhouse, they were free to eat as much food as they pleased and to pick it up with their bare hands. Finally, those warriors who had never killed a man before assumed a beautiful ornament made of fretted turtle shell, which none but homicides were allowed to flaunt in their head-dresses. Then came a dance, and that same night the men who wore the honourable badge of homicide for the first time were chased about the village; embers were thrown at them and firebrands waved in order, apparently, to drive away the souls of the dead enemies, who seem to be conceived as immanent in some way in the headgear of their slayers.571 Again, among the Koita of British New Guinea, when a man had killed another, whether the victim were male or female, he did not wash the blood off the spear or club, but carefully allowed it to dry on the weapon. On his way home he bathed in fresh or salt water, and [pg 169] on reaching his village went straight to his own house, where he remained in seclusion for about a week. He was taboo (aina): he might not approach women, and he lifted his food to his mouth with a bone fork. His women-folk were not obliged to leave the house, but they might not come near him. At the end of a week he built a rough shelter in the forest, where he lived for a few days. During this time he made a new waist-band, which he wore on his return to the village. A man who has slain another is supposed to grow thin and emaciated, because he had been splashed with the blood of his victim, and as the corpse rotted he wasted away.572 Among the Southern Massim of British New Guinea a warrior who has taken a prisoner or slain a man remains secluded in his house for six days. During the first three days he may eat only roasted food and must cook it for himself. Then he bathes and blackens his face for the remaining three days.573

The manslayer unclean. Driving away the ghosts of the slain.

Among the Monumbos of German New Guinea any one who has slain a foe in war becomes thereby "unclean" (bolobolo), and they apply the same term "unclean" to menstruous and lying-in women and also to everything that has come into contact with a corpse, which shews that all these classes of persons and things are closely associated in their minds. The "unclean" man who has killed an enemy in battle must remain a long time in the men's clubhouse, while the villagers gather round him and celebrate his victory with dance and song. He may touch nobody, not even his own wife and children; if he were to touch them it is believed that they would be covered with sores. He becomes clean again by washing and using other modes of purification.574 In Windessi, Dutch New Guinea, when a party of head-hunters has been successful, and they are nearing home, they announce their approach and success by blowing on triton shells. Their canoes are also decked with branches. The faces of the men who have taken a head are blackened with charcoal. If several have taken part in [pg 170] killing the same victim, his head is divided among them. They always time their arrival so as to reach home in the early morning. They come rowing to the village with a great noise, and the women stand ready to dance in the verandahs of the houses. The canoes row past the room sram or house where the young men live; and as they pass, the murderers throw as many pointed sticks or bamboos at the wall or the roof as there were enemies killed. The day is spent very quietly. Now and then they drum or blow on the conch; at other times they beat the walls of the houses with loud shouts to drive away the ghosts of the slain.575 Similarly in the Doreh district of Dutch New Guinea, if a murder has taken place in the village, the inhabitants assemble for several evenings in succession and utter frightful yells to drive away the ghost of the victim in case he should be minded to hang about the village.576 So the Yabim of German New Guinea believe that the spirit of a murdered man pursues his murderer and seeks to do him a mischief. Hence they drive away the spirit with shouts and the beating of drums.577 When the Fijians had buried a man alive, as they often did, they used at nightfall to make a great uproar by means of bamboos, trumpet-shells, and so forth, for the purpose of frightening away his ghost, lest he should attempt to return to his old home. And to render his house unattractive to him they dismantled it and clothed it with everything that to their ideas seemed most repulsive.578 On the evening of the day on which they had tortured a prisoner to death, the American Indians were wont to run through the village with hideous yells, beating with sticks on the furniture, the walls, and the roofs of the huts to prevent the angry ghost of their victim from settling there and taking vengeance for the torments that his body had endured at their hands.579 "Once," says a traveller, "on [pg 171] approaching in the night a village of Ottawas, I found all the inhabitants in confusion: they were all busily engaged in raising noises of the loudest and most inharmonious kind. Upon inquiry, I found that a battle had been lately fought between the Ottawas and the Kickapoos, and that the object of all this noise was to prevent the ghosts of the departed combatants from entering the village."580

Precautions taken by executioners against the ghosts of their victims.

The executioner at Porto Novo, on the coast of Guinea, used to decorate his walls with the jawbones of the persons on whom he had operated in the course of business. But for this simple precaution their ghosts would unquestionably have come at night to knock with sobs and groans, in an insufferable manner, at the door of the room where he slept the sleep of the just.581 The temper of a man who has just been executed is naturally somewhat short, and in a burst of vexation his ghost is apt to fall foul of the first person he comes across, without discriminating between the objects of his wrath with that nicety of judgment which in calmer moments he may be expected to display. Hence in China it is, or used to be, customary for the spectators of an execution to shew a clean pair of heels to the ghosts as soon as the last head was off.582 The same fear of the spirits of his victims leads the executioner sometimes to live in seclusion for some time after he has discharged his office. Thus an old writer, speaking of Issini on the Gold Coast of West Africa, tells us that the "executioners, being reckoned impure for three days, they build them a separate hut at a distance from the village. Meantime these fellows run like madmen through the place, seizing all they can lay hands on; poultry, sheep, bread, and oil; everything they can touch is theirs; being deemed so polluted that the owners willingly give it up. They continue three days confined to their hut, their friends bringing them victuals. This time expired, they take their hut in pieces, which they [pg 172] bundle up, not leaving so much as the ashes of their fire. The first executioner, having a pot on his head, leads them to the place where the criminal suffered. There they all call him thrice by his name. The first executioner breaks his pot, and leaving their old rags and bundles they all scamper home."583 Here the thrice-repeated invocation of the victim by name gives the clue to the rest of the observances; all of them are probably intended to ward off the angry ghost of the slain man or to give him the slip.

Purification of manslayers among the Basutos, Bechuanas, and Bageshu. Expulsion of the ghosts of the slain by the Angoni.

Among the Basutos "ablution is specially performed on return from battle. It is absolutely necessary that the warriors should rid themselves, as soon as possible, of the blood they have shed, or the shades of their victims would pursue them incessantly, and disturb their slumbers. They go in a procession, and in full armour, to the nearest stream. At the moment they enter the water a diviner, placed higher up, throws some purifying substances into the current. This is, however, not strictly necessary. The javelins and battle-axes also undergo the process of washing."584 According to another account of the Basuto custom, "warriors who have killed an enemy are purified. The chief has to wash them, sacrificing an ox in presence of the whole army. They are also anointed with the gall of the animal, which prevents the ghost of the enemy from pursuing them any further."585 Among the Bechuanas a man who has killed another, whether in war or in single combat, is not allowed to enter the village until he has been purified. [pg 173] The ceremony takes place in the evening. An ox is slaughtered, and a hole having been made through the middle of the carcase with a spear, the manslayer has to force himself through the animal, while two men hold its stomach open.586 Sometimes instead of being obliged to squeeze through the carcase of an ox the manslayer is merely smeared with the contents of its stomach. The ceremony has been described as follows: "In the purification of warriors, too, the ox takes a conspicuous part. The warrior who has slain a man in the battle is unclean, and must on no account enter his own courtyard, for it would be a serious thing if even his shadow were to fall upon his children. He studiously keeps himself apart from the civil life of the town until he is purified. The purification ceremony is significant. Having bathed himself in running water, or, if that is not convenient, in water that has been appropriately medicated, he is smeared by the doctor with the contents of the stomach of an ox, into which certain powdered roots have been already mixed, and then the doctor strikes him on the back, sides, and belly with the large bowel of an ox.... A doctor takes a piece of roasted beef and cuts it into small lumps of about the size of a walnut, laying them carefully on a large wooden trencher. He has already prepared charcoal, by roasting the root of certain trees in an old cracked pot, and this he grinds down and sprinkles on the lumps of meat on the trencher. Then the army surrounds the trencher, and every one who has slain a foe in the battle steps forth, kneels down before the trencher, and takes out a piece of meat with his mouth, taking care not to touch it or the trencher with his hands. As he takes the meat, the doctor gives him a smart cut with a switch. And when he has eaten that lump of meat his purification is complete. This ceremony is called Go alafsha dintèè, or 'the purification of the strikers.'?" The writer to whom we owe this description adds: "This taking of meat from the trencher without using the hands is evidently a matter of ritual."587 The [pg 174] observation is correct. Here as in so many cases persons ceremonially unclean are forbidden to touch food with defiled hands until their uncleanness has been purged away. The same taboo is laid on the manslayer by the Bageshu of British East Africa. Among them a man who has killed another may not return to his own house on the same day, though he may enter the village and spend the night in a friend's house. He kills a sheep and smears his chest, his right arm, and his head with the contents of the animal's stomach. His children are brought to him and he smears them in like manner. Then he smears each side of the doorway with the tripe and entrails, and finally throws the rest of the stomach on the roof of his house. For a whole day he may not touch food with his hands, but picks it up with two sticks and so conveys it to his mouth. His wife is not under any such restrictions. She may even go to mourn for the man whom her husband has killed, if she wishes to do so.588 In some Bechuana tribes the victorious warrior is obliged to eat a piece of the skin of the man he killed; the skin is taken from about the navel of his victim, and without it he may not enter the cattle pen. Moreover, the medicine-man makes a gash with a spear in the warrior's thigh for every man he has killed.589 Among the Angoni, a Zulu tribe settled to the north of the Zambesi, warriors who have slain foes on an expedition smear their bodies and faces with ashes, hang garments of their victims on their persons, and tie bark ropes round their necks, so that the ends hang down over their shoulders or breasts. This costume they wear for three days after their return, and rising at break of day they run through the village uttering frightful yells to drive away the ghosts of the slain, which, if they were not thus banished from the houses, might bring sickness and misfortune on the inmates.590 In some Caffre tribes of South Africa men who have been wounded or killed an enemy in fight may not see the king nor drink [pg 175] milk till they have been purified. An ox is killed, and its gall, intestines, and other parts are boiled with roots. Of this decoction the men have to take three gulps, and the rest is sprinkled on their bodies. The wounded man has then to take a stick, spit on it thrice, point it thrice at the enemy, and then throw it in his direction. After that he takes an emetic and is declared clean.591

Seclusion and purification of manslayers in Africa.

In some of these accounts nothing is said of an enforced seclusion, at least after the ceremonial cleansing, but some South African tribes certainly require the slayer of a very gallant foe in war to keep apart from his wife and family for ten days after he has washed his body in running water. He also receives from the tribal doctor a medicine which he chews with his food.592 When a Nandi of British East Africa has killed a member of another tribe, he paints one side of his body, spear, and sword red, and the other side white. For four days after the slaughter he is considered unclean and may not go home. He has to build a small shelter by a river and live there; he may not associate with his wife or sweetheart, and he may eat nothing but porridge, beef, and goat's flesh. At the end of the fourth day he must purify himself by taking a strong purge made from the bark of the segetet tree and by drinking goat's milk mixed with blood.593 Among the Akikuya of British East Africa all who have shed human blood must be purified. The elders assemble and one of them cuts a strip of hair from above both ears of each manslayer. After that the warriors rub themselves with the dung taken from the stomach of a sheep which has been slaughtered for the occasion. Finally their bodies are cleansed with water. All the hair remaining on their heads is subsequently shaved off by their wives. For a month after the shedding of blood they may have no contact with [pg 176] women.594 On the contrary, when a Ketosh warrior of British East Africa, who has killed a foe in battle, returns home "it is considered essential that he should have connection with his wife as soon as convenient; this is believed to prevent the spirit of his dead enemy from haunting and bewitching him."595 An Angoni who has killed a man in battle is obliged to perform certain purificatory ceremonies before he may return to ordinary life. Amongst other things, he must be sure to make an incision in the corpse of his slain foe, in order to let the gases escape and so prevent the body from swelling. If he fails to do so, his own body will swell in proportion as the corpse becomes inflated.596 Among the Ovambos of southern Africa, when the warriors return to their villages, those who have killed an enemy pass the first night in the open fields, and may not enter their houses until they have been cleansed of the guilt of blood by an older man, who smears them for this purpose with a kind of porridge.597 Herero warriors on their return from battle may not approach the sacred hearth until they have been purified from the guilt of bloodshed. They crouch in a circle round the hearth, but at some distance from it, while the chief besprinkles their brows and temples with water in which branches of a holy bush have been placed.598 Again, ancient Herero custom requires that he who has killed a man or a lion should have blood drawn from his breast and upper arm so as to trickle on the ground: a special name (outoni) is given to the cuts thus made; they must be made with a flint, not with an iron tool.599 Among the Bantu tribes of Kavirondo, in eastern Africa, when a man has [pg 177] killed an enemy in warfare he shaves his head on his return home, and his friends rub a medicine, which generally consists of goat's dung, over his body to prevent the spirit of the slain man from troubling him.600 Exactly the same custom is practised for the same reason by the Wageia of German East Africa.601 With the Ja-Luo of Kavirondo the custom is somewhat different. Three days after his return from the fight the warrior shaves his head. But before he may enter his village he has to hang a live fowl, head uppermost, round his neck; then the bird is decapitated and its head left hanging round his neck. Soon after his return a feast is made for the slain man, in order that his ghost may not haunt his slayer.602 After the slaughter of the Midianites the Israelitish warriors were obliged to remain outside the camp for seven days: whoever had killed a man or touched the slain had to purify himself and his captive. The spoil taken from the enemy had also to be purified, according to its nature, either by fire or water.603 Similarly among the Basutos cattle taken from the enemy are fumigated with bundles of lighted branches before they are allowed to mingle with the herds of the tribe.604

Manslayers in Australia guard themselves against the ghosts of the slain.

The Arunta of central Australia believe that when a party of men has been out against the enemy and taken a life, the spirit of the slain man follows the party on its return and is constantly on the watch to do a mischief to those of the band who actually shed the blood. It takes the form of a little bird called the chichurkna, and may be heard crying like a child in the distance as it flies. If any of the slayers should fail to hear its cry, he would become paralysed in his right arm and shoulder. At night-time especially, when the bird is flying over the camp, the slayers have to lie awake and keep the right arm and shoulder carefully hidden, lest the bird should look down upon and harm them. When once they have [pg 178] heard its cry their minds are at ease, because the spirit of the dead then recognises that he has been detected, and can therefore do no mischief. On their return to their friends, as soon as they come in sight of the main camp, they begin to perform an excited war-dance, approaching in the form of a square and moving their shields as if to ward off something which was being thrown at them. This action is intended to repel the angry spirit of the dead man, who is striving to attack them. Next the men who did the deed of blood separate themselves from the others, and forming a line, with spears at rest and shields held out in front, stand silent and motionless like statues. A number of old women now approach with a sort of exulting skip and strike the shields of the manslayers with fighting-clubs till they ring again. They are followed by men who smite the shields with boomerangs. This striking of the shields is supposed to be a very effective way of frightening away the spirit of the dead man. The natives listen anxiously to the sounds emitted by the shields when they are struck; for if any man's shield gives forth a hollow sound under the blow, that man will not live long, but if it rings sharp and clear, he is safe. For some days after their return the slayers will not speak of what they have done, and continue to paint themselves all over with powdered charcoal, and to decorate their foreheads and noses with green twigs. Finally, they paint their bodies and faces with bright colours, and become free to talk about the affair; but still of nights they must lie awake listening for the plaintive cry of the bird in which they fancy they hear the voice of their victim.605

Seclusion of manslayers in Polynesia.

In the Washington group of the Marquesas Islands, the man who has slain an enemy in battle becomes tabooed for ten days, during which he may hold no intercourse with his wife, and may not meddle with fire. Hence another has to make fire and to cook for him. Nevertheless he is treated with marked distinction and receives presents of pigs.606 In [pg 179] Fiji any one who had clubbed a human being to death in war was consecrated or tabooed. He was smeared red by the king with turmeric from the roots of his hair to his heels. A hut was built, and in it he had to pass the next three nights, during which he might not lie down, but must sleep as he sat. Till the three nights had elapsed he might not change his garment, nor remove the turmeric, nor enter a house in which there was a woman.607 In the Pelew Islands, when the men return from a warlike expedition in which they have taken a life, the young warriors who have been out fighting for the first time, and all who handled the slain, are shut up in the large council-house and become tabooed. They may not quit the edifice, nor bathe, nor touch a woman, nor eat fish; their food is limited to coco-nuts and syrup. They rub themselves with charmed leaves and chew charmed betel. After three days they go together to bathe as near as possible

to the spot where the man was killed.608

Seclusion and purification of manslayers among the Tupi Indians of Brazil.

When the Tupi Indians of Brazil had made a prisoner in war, they used to bring him home amid great rejoicings, decked with the gorgeous plumage of tropical birds. In the village he was well treated: he received a house and furniture and was married to a wife. When he was thus comfortably installed, the relations and friends of his captor, who had the first pick, came and examined him and decided which of his limbs and joints they proposed to eat; and according to their choice they were bound to provide him with victuals. Thus he might live for months or years, treated like a king, supplied with all the delicacies of the country, and rearing a family of children who, when they were big, might or might not be eaten with their father. While he was thus being fattened like a capon for the slaughter, he wore a necklace of fruit or of fish-bones strung on a cotton thread. This was the measure of his life. For every fruit or every bone on the string he had a month to live; and as each moon waned and vanished they took a fruit or a bone from the necklace. [pg 180] When only one remained, they sent out invitations to friends and neighbours far and near, who flocked in, sometimes to the number of ten or twelve thousand, to witness the spectacle and partake of the feast; for often a number of prisoners were to die the same day, father, mother, and children all together. As a rule they shewed a remarkable stolidity and indifference to death. The club with which they were to be despatched was elaborately prepared by the women, who adorned it with tassels of feathers, smeared it with the pounded shells of a macaw's eggs, and traced lines on the egg-shell powder. Then they hung it to a pole, above the ground, in an empty hut, and sang around it all night. The executioner, who was painted grey with ashes and his whole body covered with the beautiful feathers of parrots and other birds of gay plumage, performed his office by striking the victim on the head from behind and dashing out his brains. No sooner had he despatched the prisoner than he retired to his house, where he had to stay all that day without eating or drinking, while the rest of the people feasted on the body of the victim or victims. And for three days he was obliged to fast and remain in seclusion. All this time he lay in his hammock and might not set foot on the ground; if he had to go anywhere, he was carried by bearers. They thought that, were he to break this rule, some disaster would befall him or he would die. Meantime he was given a small bow and passed his time in shooting arrows into wax. This he did in order to keep his hand and aim steady. In some of the tribes they rubbed the pulse of the executioner with one of the eyes of his victim, and hung the mouth of the murdered man like a bracelet on his arm. Afterwards he made incisions in his breast, arms, and legs, and other parts of his body with a saw made of the teeth of an animal. An ointment and a black powder were then rubbed into the wounds, which left ineffaceable scars so artistically arranged that they presented the appearance of a tightly-fitting garment. It was believed that he would die if he did not thus draw blood from his own body after slaughtering the captive.609 We [pg 181] may conjecture that the original intention of these customs was to guard the executioner against the angry and dangerous ghosts of his victims.

Seclusion and purification of manslayers among the North American Indians.

Among the Natchez of North America young braves who had taken their first scalps were obliged to observe certain rules of abstinence for six months. They might not sleep with their wives nor eat flesh; their only food was fish and hasty-pudding. If they broke these rules, they believed that the soul of the man they had killed would work their death by magic, that they would gain no more successes over the enemy, and that the least wound inflicted on them would prove mortal.610 When a Choctaw had killed an enemy and taken his scalp, he went into mourning for a month, during which he might not comb his hair, and if his head itched he might not scratch it except with a little stick which he wore fastened to his wrist for the purpose.611 This ceremonial mourning for the enemies they had slain was not uncommon among the North American Indians. Thus the Dacotas, when they had killed a foe, unbraided their hair, blackened themselves all over, and wore a small knot of swan's down on the top of the head. "They dress as mourners yet rejoice."612 A Thompson River Indian of British Columbia, who had slain an enemy, used to blacken his own face, lest his victim's ghost should blind him.613 When the Osages have mourned over their own dead, "they will mourn for the foe just as if he was a friend."614 From observing the great respect paid by [pg 182] the Indians to the scalps they had taken, and listening to the mournful songs which they howled to the shades of their victims, Catlin was convinced that "they have a superstitious dread of the spirits of their slain enemies, and many conciliatory offices to perform, to ensure their own peace."615 When a Pima Indian has killed an Apache, he must undergo purification. Sixteen days he fasts, and only after the fourth day is he allowed to drink a little pinole. During the whole time he may not touch meat nor salt, nor look on a blazing fire, nor speak to a human being. He lives alone in the woods, waited on by an old woman, who brings him his scanty dole of food. He bathes often in a river, and keeps his head covered almost the whole time with a plaster of mud. On the seventeenth day a large space is cleared near the village and a fire lit in the middle of it. The men of the tribe form a circle round the fire, and outside of it sit all the warriors who have just been purified, each in a small excavation. Some of the old men then take the weapons of the purified and dance with them in the circle, after which both the slayer and his weapon are considered clean; but not until four days later is the man allowed to return to his family.616 No doubt the peace enforced by the [pg 183] government of the United States has, along with tribal warfare, abolished also these quaint customs. A fuller account of them has been given by a recent writer, and it deserves to be quoted at length. "There was no law among the Pimas," he says, "observed with greater strictness than that which required purification and expiation for the deed that was at the same time the most lauded-the killing of an enemy. For sixteen days the warrior fasted in seclusion and observed meanwhile a number of tabus.... Attended by an old man, the warrior who had to expiate the crime of blood guilt retired to the groves along the river bottom at some distance from the villages or wandered about the adjoining hills. During the period of sixteen days he was not allowed to touch his head with his fingers or his hair would turn white. If he touched his face it would become wrinkled. He kept a stick to scratch his head with, and at the end of every four days this stick was buried at the root and on the west side of a cat's claw tree and a new stick was made of greasewood, arrow bush, or any other convenient shrub. He then bathed in the river, no matter how cold the temperature. The feast of victory which his friends were observing in the meantime at the village lasted eight days. At the end of that time, or when his period of retirement was half-completed, the warrior might go to his home to get a fetish made from the hair of the Apache whom he had killed. The hair was wrapped in eagle down and tied with a cotton string and kept in a long medicine basket. He drank no water for the first two days and fasted for the first four. After that time he was supplied with pinole by his attendant, who also instructed him as to his future conduct, telling him that he must henceforth stand back until [pg 184] all others were served when partaking of food and drink. If he was a married man his wife was not allowed to eat salt during his retirement, else she would suffer from the owl disease which causes stiff limbs. The explanation offered for the observance of this law of lustration is that if it is not obeyed the warrior's limbs will become stiffened or paralyzed."617 The Apaches, the enemies of the Pimas, purify themselves for the slaughter of their foes by means of baths in the sweat-house, singing, and other rites. These ceremonies they perform for all the dead simultaneously after their return home; but the Pimas, more punctilious on this point, resort to their elaborate ceremonies of purification the moment a single one of their own band or of the enemy has been laid low.618 How heavily these religious scruples must have told against the Pimas in their wars with their ferocious enemies is obvious enough. "This long period of retirement immediately after a battle," says an American writer, "greatly diminished the value of the Pimas as scouts and allies for the United States troops operating against the Apaches. The bravery of the Pimas was praised by all army officers having any experience with them, but Captain Bourke and others have complained of their unreliability, due solely to their rigid observance of this religious law."619 In nothing, perhaps, is the penalty which superstition sooner or later entails on its devotees more prompt and crushing than in the operations of war.

Taboos observed by Indians who had slain Esquimaux.

Far away from the torrid home of the Pima and Apaches, an old traveller witnessed ceremonies of the same sort practised near the Arctic Circle by some Indians who had surprised and brutally massacred an unoffending and helpless party of Esquimaux. His description is so interesting that I will quote it in full. "Among the various superstitious customs of those people, it is worth remarking, and ought to have been mentioned in its proper place, that immediately after my companions had killed the Esquimaux at the Copper River, they considered themselves in a state of uncleanness, which induced [pg 185] them to practise some very curious and unusual ceremonies. In the first place, all who were absolutely concerned in the murder were prohibited from cooking any kind of victuals, either for themselves or others. As luckily there were two in company who had not shed blood, they were employed always as cooks till we joined the women. This circumstance was exceedingly favourable on my side; for had there been no persons of the above description in company, that task, I was told, would have fallen on me; which would have been no less fatiguing and troublesome, than humiliating and vexatious. When the victuals were cooked, all the murderers took a kind of red earth, or oker, and painted all the space between the nose and chin, as well as the greater part of their cheeks, almost to the ears, before they would taste a bit, and would not drink out of any other dish, or smoke out of any other pipe, but their own; and none of the others seemed willing to drink or smoke out of theirs. We had no sooner joined the women, at our return from the expedition, than there seemed to be an universal spirit of emulation among them, vying who should first make a suit of ornaments for their husbands, which consisted of bracelets for the wrists, and a band for the forehead, composed of porcupine quills and moose-hair, curiously wrought on leather. The custom of painting the mouth and part of the cheeks before each meal, and drinking and smoking out of their own utensils, was strictly and invariably observed, till the winter began to set in; and during the whole of that time they would never kiss any of their wives or children. They refrained also from eating many parts of the deer and other animals, particularly the head, entrails, and blood; and during their uncleanness, their victuals were never sodden in water, but dried in the sun, eaten quite raw, or broiled, when a fire fit for the purpose could be procured. When the time arrived that was to put an end to these ceremonies, the men, without a female being present, made a fire at some distance from the tents, into which they threw all their ornaments, pipe-stems, and dishes, which were soon consumed to ashes; after which a feast was prepared, consisting of such articles as they had long been prohibited from eating; and when all was over, each man was at [pg 186] liberty to eat, drink, and smoke as he pleased; and also to kiss his wives and children at discretion, which they seemed to do with more raptures than I had ever known them do it either before or since."620

The purification of murderers, like that of warriors who have slain enemies, was probably intended to avert or appease the ghosts of the slain. Ancient Greek dread of the ghosts of the slain.

Thus we see that warriors who have taken the life of a foe in battle are temporarily cut off from free intercourse with their fellows, and especially with their wives, and must undergo certain rites of purification before they are readmitted to society. Now if the purpose of their seclusion and of the expiatory rites which they have to perform is, as we have been led to believe, no other than to shake off, frighten, or appease the angry spirit of the slain man, [pg 187] we may safely conjecture that the similar purification of homicides and murderers, who have imbrued their hands in the blood of a fellow-tribesman, had at first the same significance, and that the idea of a moral or spiritual regeneration symbolised by the washing, the fasting, and so on, was merely a later interpretation put upon the old custom by men who had outgrown the primitive modes of thought in which the custom originated. The conjecture will be confirmed if we can shew that savages have actually imposed certain restrictions on the murderer of a fellow-tribesman from a definite fear that he is haunted by the ghost of his victim. This we can do with regard to the Omahas, a tribe of the Siouan stock in North America. Among these Indians the kinsmen of a murdered man had the right to put the murderer to death, but sometimes they waived their right in consideration of presents which they consented to accept. When the life of the murderer was spared, he had to observe certain stringent rules for a period which varied from two to four years. He must walk barefoot, and he might eat no warm food, nor raise his voice, nor look around. He was compelled to pull his robe about him and to have it tied at the neck even in hot weather; he might not let it hang loose or fly open. He might not move his hands about, but had to keep them close to his body. He might not comb his hair and it might not be blown about by the wind. When the tribe went out hunting, he was obliged to pitch his tent about a quarter of a mile from the rest of the people "lest the ghost of his victim should raise a high wind, which might cause damage." Only one of his kindred was allowed to remain with him at his tent. No one wished to eat with him, for they said, "If we eat with him whom Wakanda hates Wakanda will hate us." Sometimes he wandered at night crying and lamenting his offence. At the end of his long isolation the kinsmen of the murdered man heard his crying and said, "It is enough. Begone, and walk among the crowd. Put on moccasins and wear a good robe."621 Here the reason alleged for keeping the murderer at a considerable distance from the hunters gives the clue to all the other restrictions [pg 188] laid on him: he was haunted and therefore dangerous. The ancient Greeks believed that the soul of a man who had just been killed was wroth with his slayer and troubled him; wherefore it was needful even for the involuntary homicide to depart from his country for a year until the anger of the dead man had cooled down; nor might the slayer return until sacrifice had been offered and ceremonies of purification performed. If his victim chanced to be a foreigner, the homicide had to shun the native country of the dead man as well as his own.622 The legend of the matricide Orestes, how he roamed from place to place pursued by the Furies of his murdered mother, and none would sit at meat with him, or take him in, till he had been purified,623 reflects faithfully the real Greek dread of such as were still haunted by an angry ghost. When the turbulent people of Cynaetha, after perpetrating an atrocious massacre, sent an embassy to Sparta, every Arcadian town through which the envoys passed on their journey ordered them out of its walls at once; and the Mantineans, after the embassy had departed, even instituted a solemn purification of the city and its territory by carrying sacrificial victims round them both.624

Taboos imposed on men who have partaken of human flesh.

Among the Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia, men who have partaken of human flesh as a ceremonial rite are subject for a long time afterwards to many restrictions or taboos of the sort we have been dealing with. They may not touch their wives for a whole year; and during the same time they are forbidden to work or gamble. For four months they must live alone in their bedrooms, and when they are obliged to quit the house for a necessary purpose, they may not go out at the ordinary door, but must use only the secret door in the rear of the house. On such occasions each of them is attended by all the rest, carrying small sticks. They must all sit down together on a long log, then get up, then sit down again, repeating this three [pg 189] times before they are allowed to remain seated. Before they rise they must turn round four times. Then they go back to the house. Before entering they must raise their feet four times; with the fourth step they really pass the door, taking care to enter with the right foot foremost. In the doorway they turn four times and walk slowly into the house. They are not permitted to look back. During the four months of their seclusion each man in eating must use a spoon, dish, and kettle of his own, which are thrown away at the end of the period. Before he draws water from a bucket or a brook, he must dip his cup into it thrice; and he may not take more than four mouthfuls at one time. He must carry a wing-bone of an eagle and drink through it, for his lips may not touch the brim of his cup. Also he keeps a copper nail to scratch his head with, for were his own nails to touch his own skin they would drop off. For sixteen days after he has partaken of human flesh he may not eat any warm food, and for the whole of the four months he is forbidden to cool hot food by blowing on it with his breath. At the end of winter, when the season of ceremonies is over, he feigns to have forgotten the ordinary ways of men, and has to learn everything anew. The reason for these remarkable restrictions imposed on men who have eaten human flesh is not stated; but we may surmise that fear of the ghost of the man whose body was eaten has at least a good deal to do with them. We are confirmed in our conjecture by observing that though these cannibals sometimes content themselves with taking bites out of living people, the rules in question are especially obligatory on them after they have devoured a corpse. Moreover, the careful treatment of the bones of the victim points to the same conclusion; for during the four months of seclusion observed by the cannibals, the bones of the person on whom they feasted are kept alternately for four days at a time under rocks in the sea and in their bedrooms on the north side of the house, where the sun cannot shine on them. Finally the bones are taken out of the house, tied up, weighted with a stone, and thrown into deep water, "because it is believed that if they were buried they would come back and take [pg 190] their master's soul."625 This seems to mean that if the bones of the victim were buried, his ghost would come back and fetch away the souls of the men who had eaten his body. The Gebars, a cannibal tribe in the north of New Guinea, are much afraid of the spirit of a slain man or woman. Among them persons who have partaken of human flesh for the first time reside for a month afterwards in a small hut and may not enter the dwelling-house.626

§ 6. Hunters and Fishers tabooed.

Hunters and fishers have to observe taboos and undergo rites of purification, which are probably dictated by a fear of the spirits of the animals or fish which they have killed or intended to kill.

In savage society the hunter and the fisherman have often to observe rules of abstinence and to submit to ceremonies of purification of the same sort as those which are obligatory on the warrior and the manslayer; and though we cannot in all cases perceive the exact purpose which these rules and ceremonies are supposed to serve, we may with some probability assume that, just as the dread of the spirits of his enemies is the main motive for the seclusion and purification of the warrior who hopes to take or has already taken their lives, so the huntsman or fisherman who complies with similar customs is principally actuated by a fear of the spirits of the beasts, birds, or fish which he has killed or intends to kill. For the savage commonly conceives animals to be endowed with souls and intelligences like his own, and hence he naturally treats them with similar respect. Just as he attempts to appease the ghosts of the men he has slain, so he essays to propitiate the spirits of the animals he has killed. These ceremonies of propitiation will be described later on in this work;627 here we have to deal, first, with the taboos observed by the hunter and the [pg 191] fisherman before or during the hunting and fishing seasons, and, second, with the ceremonies of purification which have to be practised by these men on returning with their booty from a successful chase.

Taboos and ceremonies observed before catching whales. Taboos observed as a preparation for catching dugong and turtle. Taboos observed as a preparation for hunting and fishing. Taboos and ceremonies observed at the hatching and pairing of silkworms.

While the savage respects, more or less, the souls of all animals, he treats with particular deference the spirits of such as are either especially useful to him or formidable on account of their size, strength, or ferocity. Accordingly the hunting and killing of these valuable or dangerous beasts are subject to more elaborate rules and ceremonies than the slaughter of comparatively useless and insignificant creatures. Thus the Indians of Nootka Sound prepared themselves for catching whales by observing a fast for a week, during which they ate very little, bathed in the water several times a day, sang, and rubbed their bodies, limbs, and faces with shells and bushes till they looked as if they had been severely torn with briars. They were likewise required to abstain from any commerce with their women for the like period, this last condition being considered indispensable to their success. A chief who failed to catch a whale has been known to attribute his failure to a breach of chastity on the part of his men.628 It should be remarked that the conduct thus prescribed as a preparation for whaling is precisely that which in the same tribe of Indians was required of men about to go on the war-path.629 Rules of the same sort are, or were formerly, observed by Malagasy whalers. For eight days before they went to sea the crew of a whaler used to fast, abstaining from women and liquor, and confessing their most secret faults to each other; and if any man was found to have sinned deeply he was forbidden to share in the expedition.630 In the island of Kadiak, off the south coast of Alaska, whalers were reckoned unclean during the fishing season, and nobody would eat out of the same dish with them or even come near them. Yet we are told that great respect was paid to them, and that they were regarded as [pg 192] the purveyors of their country.631 Though it is not expressly said it seems to be implied, and on the strength of analogy we may assume, that these Kadiak whalers had to remain chaste so long as the whaling season lasted. In the island of Mabuiag continence was imposed on the people both before they went to hunt the dugong and while the turtles were pairing. The turtle-season lasts during parts of October and November; and if at that time unmarried persons had sexual intercourse with each other, it was believed that when the canoe approached the floating turtle, the male would separate from the female and both would dive down in different directions.632 So at Mowat in New Guinea men have no relation with women when the turtle are coupling, though there is considerable laxity of morals at other times.633 Among the Motu of Port Moresby, in New Guinea, chastity is enjoined before fishing and wallaby-hunting; they believe that men who have been unchaste will be unable to catch the fish and the wallabies, which will turn round and jeer at their pursuers.634 Among the tribes about the mouth of the Wanigela River in New Guinea the preparations for fishing turtle and dugong are most elaborate. They begin two months before the fishing. A headman is appointed who becomes holy. On his strict observance of the laws of the dugong net depends the success of the season. While the men of the village are making the nets, this sanctified leader lives entirely secluded from his family, and may only eat a roasted banana or two after the sun has gone down. Every evening at sundown he goes ashore and, stripping himself of all his ornaments, which he is never allowed to doff at other times, bathes near where the dugongs feed; as he does so he throws scraped coco-nut and scented herbs and gums into the water to charm the dugong.635 [pg 193] Among the Roro-speaking tribes of British New Guinea the magician who performs ceremonies for the success of a wallaby hunt must abstain from intercourse with his wife for a month before the hunt takes place; and he may not eat food cooked by his wife or by any other woman.636 In the island of Uap, one of the Caroline group, every fisherman plying his craft lies under a most strict taboo during the whole of the fishing season, which lasts for six or eight weeks. Whenever he is on shore he must spend all his time in the men's clubhouse (failu), and under no pretext whatever may he visit his own house or so much as look upon the faces of his wife and womenkind. Were he but to steal a glance at them, they think that flying fish must inevitably bore out his eyes at night. If his wife, mother, or daughter brings any gift for him or wishes to talk with him, she must stand down towards the shore with her back turned to the men's clubhouse. Then the fisherman may go out and speak to her, or with his back turned to her he may receive what she has brought him; after which he must return at once to his rigorous confinement. Indeed the fishermen may not even join in dance and song with the other men of the clubhouse in the evening; they must keep to themselves and be silent.637 In the Pelew Islands, also, which belong to the Caroline group, fishermen are likewise debarred from intercourse with women, since it is believed that any such intercourse would infallibly have a prejudicial effect on the fishing. The same taboo is said to be observed in all the other islands of the South Sea.638 In [pg 194] Mirzapur, when the seed of the silkworm is brought into the house, the Kol or Bhuiyar puts it in a place which has been carefully plastered with holy cow-dung to bring good luck. From that time the owner must be careful to avoid ceremonial impurity. He must give up cohabitation with his wife; he may not sleep on a bed, nor shave himself, nor cut his nails, nor anoint himself with oil, nor eat food cooked with butter, nor tell lies, nor do anything else that he deems wrong. He vows to Singarmati Devi that if the worms are duly born he will make her an offering. When the cocoons open and the worms appear, he assembles the women of the house and they sing the same song as at the birth of a baby, and red lead is smeared on the parting of the hair of all the married women of the neighbourhood. When the worms pair, rejoicings are made as at a marriage.639 Thus the silkworms are treated as far as possible like human beings. Hence the custom which prohibits the commerce of the sexes while the worms are hatching may be only an extension, by analogy, of the rule which is observed by many races, that the husband may not cohabit with his wife during pregnancy and lactation.

Taboos observed by fishermen in Uganda. Continence observed by Bangala fishermen and hunters.

On Lake Victoria Nyanza the Baganda fishermen use a long stout line which is supported on the surface of the water by wooden floats, while short lines with baited hooks attached to them depend from it at frequent intervals. The place where the fisherman makes his line, whether in his hut or his garden, is tabooed. People may not step over his cords or tools, and he himself has to observe a number of restrictions. He may not go near his wife or any other woman. He eats alone, works alone, sleeps alone. He may not wash, except in the lake. He may not eat salt or meat or butter. He may not smear any fat on his body. When the line is ready he goes to the god, asks his blessing on it, and offers him a pot of beer. In return he receives from [pg 195] the deity a stick or bit of wood to fasten to the line, and also some medicine of herbs to smoke and blow over the water in order that the fish may come to the line and be caught. Then he carries the line to the lake. If in going thither he should stumble over a stone or a tree-root, he takes it with him, and he does the same with any grass-seeds that may stick to his clothes. These stones, roots, and seeds he puts on the line, believing that just as he stumbled over them and they stuck to him, so the fish will also stumble over them and stick to the line. The taboo lasts till he has caught his first fish. If his wife has kept the taboo, he eats the fish with her; but if she has broken it, she may not partake of the fish. After that if he wishes to go in to his wife, he must take his line out of the water and place it in a tree or some other place of safety; he is then free to be with her. But so long as the line is in the water, he must keep apart from women, or the fish would at once leave the shore. Any breach of this taboo renders the line useless to him. He must sell it and make a new one and offer an expiatory offering to the god.640 Again, in Uganda the fisherman offers fish to his canoe, believing that if he neglected to make this offering more than twice, his net would catch nothing. The fish thus offered to the canoe is eaten by the fishermen. But if at the time of emptying the traps there is any man in the canoe who has committed adultery, eaten flesh or salt, or rubbed his body with butter or fat, that man is not allowed to partake of the fish offered to the canoe. And if the sinner has not confessed his fault to the priest and been purified, the catch will be small. When the adulterer has confessed his sin, the priest calls the husband of the guilty woman and tells him of her crime. Her paramour has to wear a sign to shew that he is doing penance, and he makes a feast for the injured husband, which the latter is obliged to accept in token of reconciliation. After that the husband may not punish either of the erring couple; the sin is atoned for and they are able to catch fish again.641 Among the Bangala of the Upper Congo, [pg 196] while fishermen are making their traps, they must observe strict continence, and the restriction lasts until the traps have caught fish and the fish have been eaten. Similarly Bangala hunters may have no sexual intercourse from the time they made their traps till they have caught game and eaten it; it is believed that any hunter who broke this rule of chastity would have bad luck in the chase.642

Taboos observed by hunters in Nias.

In the island of Nias the hunters sometimes dig pits, cover them lightly over with twigs, grass, and leaves, and then drive the game into them. While they are engaged in digging the pits, they have to observe a number of taboos. They may not spit, or the game would turn back in disgust from the pits. They may not laugh, or the sides of the pit would fall in. They may eat no salt, prepare no fodder for swine, and in the pit they may not scratch themselves, for if they did, the earth would be loosened and would collapse. And the night after digging the pit they may have no intercourse with a woman, or all their labour would be in vain.643

The practice of continence by fishers and hunters seems to be based on a notion that incontinence offends the fish and the animals.

This practice of observing strict chastity as a condition of success in hunting and fishing is very common among rude races; and the instances of it which have been cited render it probable that the rule is always based on a superstition rather than on a consideration of the temporary weakness which a breach of the custom may entail on the hunter or fisherman. In general it appears to be supposed that the evil effect of incontinence is not so much that it weakens him, as that, for some reason or other, it offends the animals, who in consequence will not suffer themselves to be caught. In the Motumotu tribe of New Guinea a man will not see his wife the night before he starts on a great fishing or hunting expedition; if he did, he would have no luck. In the Motu tribe he is regarded as holy that night, and in the morning no one may speak to him or call out his name.644 In German East Africa elephant hunters must refrain from women for several days before they set out [pg 197] for the chase.645 We have seen that in the same region a wife's infidelity during the hunter's absence is believed to give the elephant power over him so as to kill or wound him.646 As this belief is clearly a superstition, based on sympathetic magic, so doubtless is the practice of chastity before the hunt. The pygmies of the great African forest are also reported to observe strict continence the night before an important hunt. It is said that at this time they propitiate their ancestors by rubbing their skulls, which they keep in boxes, with palm oil and with water in which the ashes of the bark and leaves of a certain tree (moduma) have been mixed.647

Chastity observed by American Indians before hunting.

The Huichol Indians of Mexico think that only the pure of heart should hunt the deer. The deer would never enter a snare put up by a man in love; it would only look at it, snort "Pooh, pooh," and go back the way it came. Good luck in love means bad luck in deer-hunting. But even those who have been abstinent must invoke the aid of the fire to burn the last taint or blemish out of them. So the night before they set out for the chase they gather round the fire and pray aloud, all trying to get as near as they can to the flaming god, and turning every side of their bodies to his blessed influence. They hold out their open hands to it, warm the palms, spit on them, and then rub them quickly over their joints, legs, and shoulders, as the shamans do in curing a sick man, in order that their limbs and sinews may be as strong as their hearts are pure for the task of the morrow.648 A Carrier Indian of British Columbia used to separate from his wife for a full month before he set traps for bears, and during this time he might not drink from the same vessel as his wife, but had to use a special cup made of birch bark. The neglect of these precautions would cause the game to escape after it had been snared. But when he was about to snare martens, the period of continence was cut down to ten days.649 The Sia, [pg 198] a tribe of Pueblo Indians, observe chastity for four days before a hunt as well as the whole time that it lasts, even if the game be only rabbits.650 Among the Tsetsaut Indians of British Columbia hunters who desire to secure good luck fast and wash their bodies with ginger-root for three or four days, and do not touch a woman for two or three months.651 A Shuswap Indian, who intends to go out hunting must also keep away from his wife, or he would have no luck.652 Among the Thompson Indians the grisly-bear hunter must abstain from sexual intercourse for some time before he went forth to hunt. These Indians believe that bears always hear what is said of them. Hence a man who intends to go bear-hunting must be very careful what he says about the beasts or about his preparations for killing them, or they will get wind of it and keep out of his way.653 In the same tribe of Indians some trappers and hunters, who were very particular, would not eat with other people when they were engaged, or about to be engaged, in hunting or trapping; neither would they eat food cooked by any woman, unless she were old. They drank cold water in which mountain juniper or wild rhubarb had been soaked, using a cup of their own, which no one else might touch. Hunters seldom combed their hair when they were on an expedition, but waited to do so till their return.654 The reason for this last rule is certainly not that at such seasons they have no time to attend to their persons; the custom is probably based on that superstitious objection to touch the heads of tabooed persons of which some examples have already been given, and of which more will be adduced shortly.

Taboos observed by Hidatsa Indians at catching eagles.

In the late autumn or early winter a few families of the Hidatsa Indians seek some quiet spot in the forest and pitch their camp there to catch eagles. After setting up their [pg 199] tents they build a small medicine-lodge, where the ceremonies supposed to be indispensable for trapping the eagles are performed. No woman may enter it. The traps are set on high places among the neighbouring hills. When some of the men wish to take part in the trapping, they fast and then go by day to the medicine-lodge. There they continue without food until about midnight, when they partake of a little nourishment and fall asleep. They get up just before dawn, or when the morning-star has risen, and go to their traps. There they sit all day without food or drink, watching for their prey, and struggling, it may be, from time to time with a captive eagle, for they always take the birds alive. They return to the camp at sunset. As they approach, every one rushes into his tent; for the hunter may neither see nor be seen by any of his fellow-hunters until he enters the medicine-lodge. They spend the night in the lodge, and about midnight eat and drink for the first time since the previous midnight; then they lie down to sleep, only to rise again before dawn and repair anew to the traps. If any one of them has caught nothing during the day, he may not sleep at night, but must spend his time in loud lamentation and prayer. This routine has to be observed by each hunter for four days and four nights, after which he returns to his own tent, hungry, thirsty, and tired, and follows his ordinary pursuits till he feels able to go again to the eagle-traps. During the four days of the trapping he sees none of his family, and speaks to none of his friends except those who are engaged in the trapping at the same time. They believe that if any hunter fails to perform all these rites, the captive eagle will get one of his claws loose and tear his captor's hands. There are men in the tribe who have had their hands crippled for life in that way.655 It is obvious that the severe fasting coupled with the short sleep, or even the total sleeplessness, of these eagle-hunters can only impair their physical vigour and so far tend to incapacitate them for capturing the eagles. The motive of their behaviour in [pg 200] these respects is purely superstitious, not rational, and so, we may safely conclude, is the custom which simultaneously cuts them off from all intercourse with their wives and families.

Miscellaneous examples of chastity practised from superstitious motives.

An examination of all the many cases in which the savage bridles his passions and remains chaste from motives of superstition, would be instructive, but I cannot attempt it now. I will only add a few miscellaneous examples of the custom before passing to the ceremonies of purification which are observed by the hunter and fisherman after the chase and the fishing are over. The workers in the salt-pans near Siphoum, in Laos, must abstain from all sexual relations at the place where they are at work; and they may not cover their heads nor shelter themselves under an umbrella from the burning rays of the sun.656 Among the Kachins of Burma the ferment used in making beer is prepared by two women, chosen by lot, who during the three days that the process lasts may eat nothing acid and may have no conjugal relations with their husbands; otherwise it is supposed that the beer would be sour.657 Among the Masai honey-wine is brewed by a man and a woman who live in a hut set apart for them till the wine is ready for drinking. But they are strictly forbidden to have sexual intercourse with each other during this time; it is deemed essential that they should be chaste for two days before they begin to brew and for the whole of the six days that the brewing lasts. The Masai believe that were the couple to commit a breach of chastity, not only would the wine be undrinkable but the bees which made the honey would fly away. Similarly they require that a man who is making poison should sleep alone and observe other taboos which render him almost an outcast.658 The Wandorobbo, a tribe of the same region as the Masai, believe that the mere presence of a woman in the neighbourhood of a man who is brewing poison would deprive the poison of its venom, and [pg 201] that the same thing would happen if the wife of the poison-maker were to commit adultery while her husband was brewing the poison.659 In this last case it is obvious that a rationalistic explanation of the taboo is impossible. How could the loss of virtue in the poison be a physical consequence of the loss of virtue in the poison-maker's wife? Clearly the effect which the wife's adultery is supposed to have on the poison is a case of sympathetic magic; her misconduct sympathetically affects her husband and his work at a distance. We may, accordingly, infer with some confidence that the rule of continence imposed on the poison-maker himself is also a simple case of sympathetic magic, and not, as a civilised reader might be disposed to conjecture, a wise precaution designed to prevent him from accidentally poisoning his wife. Again, to take other instances, in the East Indian island of Buru people smear their bodies with coco-nut oil as a protection against demons. But in order that the charm may be effective, the oil must have been made by young unmarried girls.660 In the Seranglao and Gorong archipelagoes the same oil is regarded as an antidote to poison; but it only possesses this virtue if the nuts have been gathered on a Friday by a youth who has never known a woman, and if the oil has been extracted by a pure maiden, while a priest recited the appropriate spells.661 So in the Marquesas Islands, when a woman was making coco-nut oil, she was tabooed for four or five or more days, during which she might have no intercourse with her husband. If she broke this rule, it was believed that she would obtain no oil.662 In the same islands when a man had placed a dish of bananas and coco-nuts in an oven of hot stones to bake over night, he might not go in to his wife, or the food would not be found baked in the morning.663 In ancient Mexico the men who distilled the wine known as pulque from the [pg 202] sap of the great aloe, might not touch a woman for four days; if they were unchaste, they thought the wine would be sour and putrid.664

Miscellaneous examples of continence observed from superstitious motives. Continence observed by the Motu of New Guinea before and during a trading voyage. Continence observed by the Akamba and Akikuyu on a journey and other occasions.

Among the Ba-Pedi and Ba-thonga tribes of South Africa, when the site of a new village has been chosen and the houses are building, all the married people are forbidden to have conjugal relations with each other. If it were discovered that any couple had broken this rule, the work of building would immediately be stopped, and another site chosen for the village. For they think that a breach of chastity would spoil the village which was growing up, that the chief would grow lean and perhaps die, and that the guilty woman would never bear another child.665 Among the Chams of Cochin-China, when a dam is made or repaired on a river for the sake of irrigation, the chief who offers the traditional sacrifices and implores the protection of the deities on the work, has to stay all the time in a wretched hovel of straw, taking no part in the labour, and observing the strictest continence; for the people believe that a breach of his chastity would entail a breach of the dam.666 Here, it is plain, there can be no idea of maintaining the mere bodily vigour of the chief for the accomplishment of a task in which he does not even bear a hand. In New Caledonia the wizard who performs certain superstitious ceremonies at the building and launching of a large canoe is bound to the most rigorous chastity the whole time that the vessel is on the stocks.667 Among the natives of the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain men who are engaged in making fish-traps avoid women and observe strict continence. They believe that if a woman were even to touch a fish-trap, it would catch nothing.668 Here, therefore, the rule of continence probably springs from a fear of infecting sympathetically the traps [pg 203] with feminine weakness or perhaps with menstrual pollution. Every year at the end of September or the beginning of October, when the north-east monsoon is near an end, a fleet of large sailing canoes leaves Port Moresby and the neighbouring Motu villages of New Guinea on a trading voyage to the deltas of the rivers which flow into the Papuan Gulf. The canoes are laden with a cargo of earthenware pots, and after about three months they return, sailing before the north-west monsoon and bringing back a cargo of sago which they have obtained by barter for their crockery. It is about the beginning of the south-east monsoon, that is, in April or May, that the skippers, who are leading men in the villages, make up their minds to go on these trading voyages. When their resolution is taken they communicate it to their wives, and from about that time husband and wife cease to cohabit. The same custom of conjugal separation is observed by what we may call the mate or second in command of each vessel. But it is not till the month of August that the work of preparing the canoes for sea by overhauling and caulking them is taken seriously in hand. From that time both skipper and mate become particularly sacred or taboo (helaga), and consequently they keep apart from their wives more than ever. Husband and wife, indeed, sleep in the same house but on opposite sides of it. In speaking of his wife he calls her "maiden," and she calls him "youth." They have no direct conversation or dealings with each other. If he wishes to communicate with her, he does so through a third person, usually a relative of one of them. Both refrain from washing themselves, and he from combing his hair. "The wife's position indeed becomes very much like that of a widow." When the canoe has been launched, skipper, mate, and crew are all forbidden to touch their food with their fingers; they must always handle it and convey it to their mouths with a bone fork.669 A briefer account of the custom and superstition had previously been given by a native pastor settled in the neighbourhood of Port Moresby. [pg 204] He says: "Here is a custom of trading-voyage parties:-If it is arranged to go westward, to procure arrowroot, the leader of the party sleeps apart from his wife for the time being, and on until the return from the expedition, which is sometimes a term of five months. They say if this is not done the canoe of the chief will be sunk on the return voyage, all the arrowroot lost in the sea, and he himself covered with shame. He, however, who observes the rule of self-denial, returns laden with arrowroot, has not a drop of salt water to injure his cargo, and so is praised by his companions and crew."670 The Akamba and Akikuyu of eastern Africa refrain from the commerce of the sexes on a journey, even if their wives are with them in the caravan; and they observe the same rule of chastity so long as the cattle are at pasture, that is, from the time the herds are driven out to graze in the morning till they come back in the evening.671 Why the rule should be in force just while the cattle are at pasture is not said, but we may conjecture that any act of incontinence at that time is somehow supposed, on the principles of sympathetic magic, to affect the animals injuriously. The conjecture is confirmed by the observation that among the Akikuyu for eight days after the quarterly festivals, which they hold for the sake of securing God's blessing on their flocks and herds, no commerce is permitted between the sexes. They think that any breach of continence in these eight days would be followed by a mortality among the flocks.672

The taboos observed by hunters and fishers are often continued and even increased in stringency after the game has been killed and the fish caught. The motive for this conduct can only be superstitious.

If the taboos or abstinences observed by hunters and fishermen before and during the chase are dictated, as we have seen reason to believe, by superstitious motives, and chiefly by a dread of offending or frightening the spirits of the creatures whom it is proposed to kill, we may expect that the restraints imposed after the slaughter has been perpetrated will be at least as stringent, the slayer and his [pg 205] friends having now the added fear of the angry ghosts of his victims before their eyes. Whereas on the hypothesis that the abstinences in question, including those from food, drink, and sleep, are merely salutary precautions for maintaining the men in health and strength to do their work, it is obvious that the observance of these abstinences or taboos after the work is done, that is, when the game is killed and the fish caught, must be wholly superfluous, absurd, and inexplicable. But as I shall now shew, these taboos often continue to be enforced or even increased in stringency after the death of the animals, in other words, after the hunter or fisher has accomplished his object by making his bag or landing his fish. The rationalistic theory of them therefore breaks down entirely; the hypothesis of superstition is clearly the only one open to us.

Taboos observed by the Bering Strait Esquimaux after catching whales or salmon.

Among the Inuit or Esquimaux of Bering Strait "the dead bodies of various animals must be treated very carefully by the hunter who obtains them, so that their shades may not be offended and bring bad luck or even death upon him or his people." Hence the Unalit hunter who has had a hand in the killing of a white whale, or even has helped to take one from the net, is not allowed to do any work for the next four days, that being the time during which the shade or ghost of the whale is supposed to stay with its body. At the same time no one in the village may use any sharp or pointed instrument for fear of wounding the whale's shade, which is believed to be hovering invisible in the neighbourhood; and no loud noise may be made lest it should frighten or offend the ghost. Whoever cuts a whale's body with an iron axe will die. Indeed the use of all iron instruments is forbidden in the village during these four days. These Inuit have a special name (nu-na hlukh-tuk) "for a spot of ground where certain things are tabooed, or where there is to be feared any evil influence caused by the presence of offended shades of men or animals, or through the influence of other supernatural means. This ground is sometimes considered unclean, and to go upon it would bring misfortune to the offender, producing sickness, death, or lack of success in hunting or fishing. The same term is also applied to ground where certain animals have been killed or have died." In [pg 206] the latter case the ground is thought to be dangerous only to him who there performs some forbidden act. For example, the shore where a dead white whale has been beached is so regarded. At such a place and time to chop wood with an iron axe is supposed to be fatal to the imprudent person who chops. Death, too, is supposed to result from cutting wood with an iron axe where salmon are being dressed. An old man at St. Michael told Mr. Nelson of a melancholy case of this kind which had fallen within the scope of his own observation. A man began to chop a log near a woman who was splitting salmon: both of them died soon afterwards. The reason of this disaster, as the old man explained, was that the shade or ghost (inua) of the salmon and the spirit or mystery (yu-a) of the ground were incensed at the proceeding. Such offences are indeed fatal to every person who may be present at the desecrated spot. Dogs are regarded as very unclean and offensive to the shades of game animals, and great care is taken that no dog shall get at the bones of a white whale. Should a dog touch one of them, the hunter might lose his luck; his nets would break or be shunned by the whales, and his spears would not strike. But in addition to the state of uncleanness or taboo which arises from the presence of the shades of men or animals, these Esquimaux believe in uncleanness of another sort which, though not so serious, nevertheless produces sickness or bad luck in hunting. It consists, we are told, of a kind of invisible, impalpable vapour, which may attach itself to a person from some contamination. A hunter infected by such a vapour is much more than usually visible to game, so that his luck in the chase is gone until he succeeds in cleansing himself once more. That is why hunters must avoid menstruous women; if they do not, they will be unable to catch game.673

Taboos observed by the Bering Strait Esquimaux and the Aleuts of Alaska out of regard for the animals they have killed.

These same Esquimaux of Bering Strait celebrate a great annual festival in December, when the bladders of all the seals, whales, walrus, and white bears that have been killed in the year are taken into the assembly-house of the village. [pg 207] They remain there for several days, and so long as they do so the hunters avoid all intercourse with women, saying that if they failed in that respect the shades of the dead animals would be offended.674 Similarly among the Aleuts of Alaska the hunter who had struck a whale with a charmed spear would not throw again, but returned at once to his home and separated himself from his people in a hut specially constructed for the purpose, where he stayed for three days without food or drink, and without touching or looking upon a woman. During this time of seclusion he snorted occasionally in imitation of the wounded and dying whale, in order to prevent the whale which he had struck from leaving the coast. On the fourth day he emerged from his seclusion and bathed in the sea, shrieking in a hoarse voice and beating the water with his hands. Then, taking with him a companion, he repaired to that part of the shore where he expected to find the whale stranded. If the beast was dead he at once cut out the place where the death-wound had been inflicted. If the whale was not dead, he again returned to his home and continued washing himself until the whale died.675 Here the hunter's imitation of the wounded whale is probably intended by means of homoeopathic magic to make the beast die in earnest. Among the Kaniagmuts of Alaska the men who attacked the whale were considered by their countrymen as unclean during the fishing season, though otherwise they were held in high honour.676

Taboos observed by the central Esquimaux after killing sea-beasts. The sea-mammals may not be brought into contact with reindeer.

The central Esquimaux of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay think that whales, ground seals, and common seals originated in the severed fingers of the goddess Sedna. Hence an Esquimau of these regions must make atonement for each of these animals that he kills, and must observe strictly certain taboos after their slaughter. Some of the rules of conduct thus enjoined are identical with those which are in force after the death of a human being. Thus after the killing of one of these sea-mammals, as after the decease of a person, it is forbidden to scrape the frost from the window, [pg 208] to shake the bed or to disturb the shrubs under the bed, to remove the drippings of oil from under the lamp, to scrape hair from skins, to cut snow for the purpose of melting it, to work on iron, wood, stone, or ivory. Furthermore, women are forbidden to comb their hair, to wash their faces, and to dry their boots and stockings. All these regulations must be kept with the greatest care after a ground seal has been killed, because the transgression of taboos that refer to this animal makes the hands of Sedna very sore. When a seal is brought into the hut, the women must stop working until it is cut up. After the capture of a ground seal, walrus, or whale, they must rest for three days. Not all kinds of work, however, are forbidden; they may mend articles made of sealskin, but they may not make anything new. Working on the new skins of caribou, the American reindeer, is strictly prohibited; for a series of rules forbids all contact between that animal and the sea-mammals. Thus reindeer-skins obtained in summer may not be prepared before the ice has formed and the first seal is caught with the harpoon. Later, as soon as the first walrus has been killed, the work must stop again until the next autumn. Hence everybody is eager to have his reindeer-skins ready as quickly as possible, for until that is done the walrus season will not begin. When the first walrus has been killed a messenger goes from village to village and announces the news, whereupon all work on reindeer-skins immediately ceases. On the other hand, when the season for hunting the reindeer begins, all the winter clothing and the winter tents that had been in use during the walrus hunting season become tabooed and are buried under stones; they may not be used again till the next walrus hunting season comes round. No walrus-hide or thongs made of such hide may be taken inland, where the reindeer live. Venison may not be put in the same boat with walrus-meat, nor yet with salmon. If venison or the antlers of the reindeer were in a boat which goes walrus-hunting, the boat would be liable to be broken by the walrus. The Esquimaux are not allowed to eat venison and walrus on the same day, unless they first strip naked or put on clothing of reindeer-skin that has never been worn in hunting walrus. The transgression of these taboos gives umbrage to the souls of walrus; and a [pg 209] myth is told to account for the mutual aversion of the walrus and the reindeer. And in general the Esquimaux say that Sedna dislikes the reindeer, wherefore they may not bring the beast into contact with her favourites, the sea-mammals. Hence the meat of the whale and the seal, as well as of the walrus, may not be eaten on the same day with venison. It is not permitted that both sorts of meat lie on the floor of the hut or behind the lamps at the same time. If a man who has eaten venison in the morning happens to enter a hut in which seal meat is being cooked, he is allowed to eat venison on the bed, but it must be wrapped up before it is carried into the hut, and he must take care to keep clear of the floor. Before they change from one food to the other the Esquimaux must wash themselves.

Even among the sea-beasts themselves there are rules of mutual avoidance which the central Esquimaux must observe.

But even among the sea-beasts themselves there are rules of mutual avoidance which these central Esquimaux must observe. Thus a person who has been eating or hunting walrus must strip naked or change his clothes before he eats seal; otherwise the transgression will become fastened to the soul of the walrus in a manner which will be explained presently. Again, the soul of a salmon is very powerful, and its body may not be eaten on the same day with walrus or venison. Salmon may not be cooked in a pot that has been used to boil any other kind of meat; and it must always be cooked at some distance from the hut. The salmon-fisher is not allowed to wear boots that have been used in hunting walrus; and no work may be done on boot-legs till the first salmon has been caught and put on a boot-leg. Once more the soul of the grim polar bear is offended if the taboos which concern him are not observed. His soul tarries for three days near the spot where it left his body, and during these days the Esquimaux are particularly careful to conform rigidly to the laws of taboo, because they believe that punishment overtakes the transgressor who sins against the soul of a bear far more speedily than him who sins against the souls of the sea-beasts.677

Native explanation of these Esquimau taboos.

The native explanation of the taboos thus enjoined on [pg 210] hunters among the central Esquimaux has been given us by the eminent American ethnologist Dr. Franz Boas. As it sets what may be called the spiritual basis of taboo in the clearest light, it deserves to be studied with attention.

The object of the taboos observed after killing sea-beasts is to prevent the souls of the slain animals from contracting certain attachments, which would hurt not only them, but also the great goddess Sedna, in whose house the disembodied souls of the sea-beasts reside.

The goddess Sedna, he tells us, the mother of the sea-mammals, may be considered to be the chief deity of the central Esquimaux. She is supposed to bear supreme sway over the destinies of mankind, and almost all the observances of these tribes have for their object to retain her good will or appease her anger. Her home is in the lower world, where she dwells in a house built of stone and whale-ribs. "The souls of seals, ground seals, and whales are believed to proceed from her house. After one of these animals has been killed, its soul stays with the body for three days. Then it goes back to Sedna's abode, to be sent forth again by her. If, during the three days that the soul stays with the body, any taboo or proscribed custom is violated, the violation (pitssēte) becomes attached to the animal's soul, and causes it pain. The soul strives in vain to free itself of these attachments, but is compelled to take them down to Sedna. The attachments, in some manner not explained, make her hands sore, and she punishes the people who are the cause of her pains by sending to them sickness, bad weather, and starvation. If, on the other hand, all taboos have been observed, the sea-animals will allow themselves to be caught; they will even come to meet the hunter. The object of the innumerable taboos that are in force after the killing of these sea-animals, therefore, is to keep their souls free from attachments that would hurt their souls as well as Sedna.

The souls of the sea-beasts have a great aversion to the dark colour of death and to the vapour that arises from flowing blood, and they avoid persons who are affected by these things.

"The souls of the sea-animals are endowed with greater powers than those of ordinary human beings. They can see the effect of contact with a corpse, which causes objects touched by it to appear dark in colour; and they can see the effect of flowing human blood, from which a vapour rises that surrounds the bleeding person and is communicated to [pg 211] every one and every thing that comes in contact with such a person. This vapour and the dark colour of death are exceedingly unpleasant to the souls of the sea-animals, that will not come near a hunter thus affected. The hunter must therefore avoid contact with people who have touched a body, or with those who are bleeding, more particularly with menstruating women or with those who have recently given birth. The hands of menstruating women appear red to the sea-animals. If any one who has touched a body or who is bleeding should allow others to come in contact with him, he would cause them to become distasteful to the seals, and therefore to Sedna as well. For this reason custom demands that every person must at once announce if he has touched a body, and that women must make known when they are menstruating or when they have had a miscarriage. If they do not do so, they will bring ill-luck to all the hunters.

The transgresser of a taboo must announce his transgression, in order that other people may shun him.

"These ideas have given rise to the belief that it is necessary to announce the transgression of any taboo. The transgressor of a custom is distasteful to Sedna and to the animals, and those who abide with him will become equally distasteful through contact with him. For this reason it has come to be an act required by custom and morals to confess any and every transgression of a taboo, in order to protect the community from the evil influence of contact with the evil-doer. The descriptions of Eskimo life given by many observers contain records of starvation, which, according to the belief of the natives, was brought about by some one transgressing a law, and not announcing what he had done.

Hence the central Esquimaux have come to think that sin can be atoned for by confession.

"I presume the importance of the confession of a transgression, with a view to warning others to keep at a distance from the transgressor, has gradually led to the idea that a transgression, or, we might say, a sin can be atoned for by confession. This is one of the most remarkable traits among the religious beliefs of the central Eskimo. There are innumerable tales of starvation brought about by the transgression of a taboo. In vain the hunters try to supply their families with food; gales and drifting snow make their endeavours fruitless. Finally the help of the angakok678 is invoked, and he discovers that the cause of the [pg 212] misfortune of the people is due to the transgression of a taboo. Then the guilty one is searched for. If he confesses, all is well; the weather moderates, and the seals allow themselves to be caught; but if he obstinately maintains his innocence, his death alone will soothe the wrath of the offended deity....

The transgression of taboos affects the soul of the transgressor, becoming attached to it and making him sick. If the attachment is not removed by the wizard, the man will die.

"The transgressions of taboos do not affect the souls of game alone. It has already been stated that the sea-mammals see their effect upon man also, who appears to them of a dark colour, or surrounded by a vapour which is invisible to ordinary man. This means, of course, that the transgression also affects the soul of the evil-doer. It becomes attached to it, and makes him sick. The angakok679 is able to see these attachments with the help of his guardian spirit, and is able to free the soul from them. If this is not done, the person must die. In many cases the transgressions become fastened also to persons who come in contact with the evil-doer. This is especially true of children, to whose souls the sins of their parents, and particularly of their mothers, become readily attached. Therefore, when a child is sick, the angakok first of all, asks its mother if she has transgressed any taboos. The attachment seems to have a different appearance, according to the taboo that has been violated. A black attachment is due to removing oil-drippings from under the lamp, a piece of caribou-skin represents the scrapings removed from a caribou-skin at a time when such work was forbidden. As soon as the mother acknowledges the transgression of a taboo, the attachment leaves the child's soul, and the child recovers.

The Esquimaux try to keep the sea-beasts free from contaminating influences, especially from contact with corpses and with women who have recently been brought to bed.

"A number of customs may be explained by the endeavours of the natives to keep the sea-mammals free from contaminating influences. All the clothing of a dead person, the tent in which he died, and the skins obtained by him, must be discarded; for if a hunter should wear clothing made of skins that had been in contact with the deceased, these would appear dark, and the seal would avoid him. Neither would a seal allow itself to be taken into a hut darkened by a dead body; and all those who entered such a hut would appear dark to it, and would be avoided.

[pg 213] "While it is customary for a successful hunter to invite all the men of the village to eat of the seal that he has caught, they must not take any of the seal-meat out of the hut, because it might come in contact with persons who are under taboo, and thus the hunter might incur the displeasure of the seal and of Sedna. This is particularly strictly forbidden in the case of the first seal of the season.

"A woman who has a new-born child, and who has not quite recovered, must eat only of seals caught by her husband, by a boy, or by an aged man; else the vapour arising from her body would become attached to the souls of other seals, which would take the transgression down to Sedna, thus making her hands sore.

"Cases of premature birth require particularly careful treatment. The event must be announced publicly, else dire results will follow. If a woman should conceal from the other people that she has had a premature birth, they might come near her, or even eat in her hut of the seals procured by her husband. The vapour arising from her would thus affect them, and they would be avoided by the seals. The transgression would also become attached to the soul of the seal, which would take it down to Sedna."680

In the system of taboos of the central Esquimaux we see animism passing into religion; morality is coming to rest on a supernatural basis, namely the will of the goddess Sedna. In this evolution of religion the practice of confession has played a part. It seems to have been regarded as a spiritual purge or emetic, by which sin, conceived as a sort of morbid substance, was expelled from the body of the sinner.

In these elaborate taboos so well described by Dr. Boas we seem to see a system of animism in the act of passing into religion. The rules themselves bear the clearest traces of having originated in a doctrine of souls, and of being determined by the supposed likes and dislikes, sympathies and antipathies of the various classes of spirits toward each other. But above and behind the souls of men and animals has grown up the overshadowing conception of a powerful goddess who rules them all, so that the taboos come more and more to be viewed as a means of propitiating her rather than as merely adapted to suit the tastes of the souls themselves. Thus the standard of conduct is shifted from a natural to a supernatural basis: the supposed wish of the deity or, as we commonly put it, the will of God, tends to supersede [pg 214] the wishes, real or imaginative, of purely natural beings as the measure of right and wrong. The old savage taboos, resting on a theory of the direct relations of living creatures to each other, remain in substance unchanged, but they are outwardly transformed into ethical precepts with a religious or supernatural sanction. In this gradual passage of a rude philosophy into an elementary religion the place occupied by confession as a moral purgative is particularly interesting. I can hardly agree with Dr. Boas that among these Esquimaux the confession of sins was in its origin no more than a means of warning others against the dangerous contagion of the sinner; in other words, that its saving efficacy consisted merely in preventing the innocent from suffering with the guilty, and that it had no healing virtue, no purifying influence, for the evil-doer himself. It seems more probable that originally the violation of taboo, in other words, the sin, was conceived as something almost physical, a sort of morbid substance lurking in the sinner's body, from which it could be expelled by confession as by a sort of spiritual purge or emetic. This is confirmed by the form of auricular confession which is practised by the Akikuyu of British East Africa. Amongst them, we are told, "sin is essentially remissable; it suffices to confess it. Usually this is done to the sorcerer, who expels the sin by a ceremony of which the principal rite is a pretended emetic: kotahikio, derived from tahika, 'to vomit.'?"681 Thus among these savages the confession and absolution of sins is, so to say, a purely physical process of relieving a sufferer of a burden which sits heavy on his stomach rather than on his conscience. This view of the matter is again confirmed by the observation that these same Akikuyu resort to another physical mode of expelling sin from a sinner, and that is by the employment of a scapegoat, which by them, as by the Jews and many other people, has been employed as a vehicle for carting away moral rubbish and dumping it somewhere else. For example, if a Kikuyu man has committed incest, which would naturally entail his death, he produces a substitute in the shape of a he-goat, to which by an ignoble ceremony [pg 215] he transfers his guilt. Then the throat of the animal is cut, and the human culprit is thereby purged of his sin.682

Hence the confession of sins is employed as a sort of medicine for the recovery of the sick. Similarly the confession of sins is sometimes resorted to by women in hard labour as a means of accelerating their delivery. In these cases confession is a magical ceremony designed to relieve the sinner.

Hence we may suspect that the primary motive of the confession of sins among savages was self-regarding; in other words, the intention was rather to benefit the sinner himself than to safeguard others by warning them of the danger they would incur by coming into contact with him. This view is borne out by the observation that confession is sometimes used as a means of healing the sick transgressor himself, who is supposed to recover as soon as he has made a clean breast of his transgression. Thus "when the Carriers are severely sick, they often think that they shall not recover, unless they divulge to a priest or magician every crime which they may have committed, which has hitherto been kept secret. In such a case they will make a full confession, and then they expect that their lives will be spared for a time longer. But should they keep back a single crime, they as firmly believe that they shall suffer almost instant death."683 Again, the Aurohuaca Indians, who, under the tropical sun of South America, inhabit a chilly region bordering on the perpetual snows of the Sierra Nevada in Colombia, believe that all sickness is a punishment for sin. So when one of their medicine-men is summoned to a sick bed, he does not enquire after the patient's symptoms but makes strange passes over him and asks in a sepulchral voice whether he will confess his sins. If the sick man persists in drawing a veil of silence over his frailties, the doctor will not attempt to treat him, but will turn on his heel and leave the house. On the other hand if a satisfactory confession has been made, the leech directs the patient's friends to procure certain odd-looking bits of stone or shell to which the sins of the sufferer may be transferred, for when that is done he will be made whole. For this purpose the sin-laden stones or shells are carried high up into the mountains and laid in some spot [pg 216] where the first beams of the sun, rising in clear or clouded majesty above the long white slopes or the towering crags of the Sierra Nevada, will strike down on them, driving sin and sickness far away by their radiant influence.684 Here, again, we see that sin is regarded as something almost material which by confession can be removed from the body of the patient and laid on stones or shells. Further, the confession of sins has been resorted to by some people as a means of accelerating the birth of a child when the mother was in hard labour. Thus, "among the Indians of Guatemala, in the time of their idolatry when a woman was in labour, the midwife ordered her to confess her sins; and if she was not delivered, the husband was to confess his; and if that did not do they took off his clouts and put them about his wife's loins; if still she could not be delivered, the midwife drew blood from herself and sprinkled it towards the four quarters of heaven with some invocations and ceremonies."685 In these attempts of the Indians to accelerate the birth of the child it seems clear that the confession of sins on the part first of the wife and afterwards of the husband is nothing but a magical ceremony like the putting of the husband's clothes on the suffering woman686 or the sprinkling of the midwife's blood towards the four quarters of the heaven. Amongst the Antambahoaka, a savage tribe of Madagascar, when a woman is in hard labour, a sorcerer is called in to her aid. After [pg 217] making some magical signs and uttering some incantations, he generally declares that the patient cannot be delivered until she has publicly confessed a secret fault which she has committed. In such a case a woman has been known to confess to incest with her brother; and immediately after her confession the child was born.687 In these cases the confession of sins is clearly not a mode of warning people to keep clear of the sinner; it is a magical ceremony primarily intended to benefit the sinner himself or herself and no other. The same thing may perhaps be said of a confession which was prescribed in a certain case by ancient Hindoo ritual. At a great festival of Varuna, which fell at the beginning of the rainy season, the priest asked the wife of the sacrificer to name her paramour or paramours, and she had to mention their names or at least to take up as many grass-stalks as she had lovers.688 "Now when a woman who belongs to one man carries on intercourse with another, she undoubtedly commits a sin against Varuna. He therefore thus asks her, lest she should sacrifice with a secret pang in her mind; for when confessed the sin becomes less, since it becomes truth; this is why he thus asks her. And whatever connection she confesses not, that indeed will turn out injurious to her relatives."689 In this passage of the Satapatha Brahmana confession of sin is said to diminish the sin, just as if the mere utterance of the words ejected or expelled some morbid matter from the person of the sinner, thereby relieving her of its burden and benefiting also her relatives, who would suffer through any sin which she might not have confessed.

Thus the confession of sins is at first rather a bodily than a moral purgation, resembling the ceremonies of washing, fumigation, and so on, which are observed by many primitive peoples for the removal of sin.

Thus at an early stage of culture the confession of sins wears the aspect of a bodily rather than of a moral and spiritual purgation; it is a magical rather than a religious rite, and as such it resembles the ceremonies of washing, scouring, fumigation, and so forth, which in like manner are applied by many primitive peoples to the purification of what we should regard as moral guilt, but what they [pg 218] consider rather as a corporeal pollution or infection, which can be removed by the physical agencies of fire, water, fasts, purgatives, abrasion, scarification, and so forth. But when the guilt of sin ceases to be regarded as something material, a sort of clinging vapour of death, and is conceived as the transgression of the will of a wise and good God, it is obvious that the observance of these outward rites of purification becomes superfluous and absurd, a vain show which cannot appease the anger of the offended deity. The only means of turning away his wrath and averting the fatal consequences of sin is now believed to be the humble confession and true repentance of the sinner. At this stage of ethical evolution the practice of confession loses its old magical character as a bodily purge and assumes the new aspect of a purely religious rite, the propitiation of a great supernatural and moral being, who by a simple fiat can cancel the transgression and restore the transgressor to a state of pristine innocence. This comfortable doctrine teaches us that in order to blot out the effects of our misdeeds we have only to acknowledge and confess them with a lowly and penitent heart, whereupon a merciful God will graciously pardon our sin and absolve us and ours from its consequences. It might indeed be well for the world if we could thus easily undo the past, if we could recall the words that have been spoken amiss, if we could arrest the long train that follows, like a flight of avenging Furies, on every evil action. But this we cannot do. Our words and acts, good and bad, have their natural, their inevitable consequences. God may pardon sin, but Nature cannot.

It is possible that some savage taboos may still lurk, under various disguises, in the morality of civilised peoples.

It seems not improbable that in our own rules of conduct, in what we call the common decencies of life as well as in the weightier matters of morality, there may survive not a few old savage taboos which, masquerading as an expression of the divine will or draped in the flowing robes of a false philosophy, have maintained their credit long after the crude ideas out of which they sprang have been discarded by the progress of thought and knowledge; while on the other hand many ethical precepts and social laws, which now rest firmly on a solid basis of utility, may at first have drawn some [pg 219] portion of their sanctity from the same ancient system of superstition. For example, we can hardly doubt that in primitive society the crime of murder derived much of its horror from a fear of the angry ghost of the murdered man. Thus superstition may serve as a convenient crutch to morality till she is strong enough to throw away the crutch and walk alone. To judge by the legislation of the Pentateuch the ancient Semites appear to have passed through a course of moral evolution not unlike that which we can still detect in process among the Esquimaux of Baffin Land. Some of the old laws of Israel are clearly savage taboos of a familiar type thinly disguised as commands of the deity. This disguise is indeed a good deal more perfect in Palestine than in Baffin Land, but in substance it is the same. Among the Esquimaux it is the will of Sedna; among the Israelites it is the will of Jehovah.690

But it is time to return to our immediate subject, to wit, the rules of conduct observed by hunters after the slaughter of the game.

Ceremonies observed by the Kayans after killing a panther. Ceremonies of purification observed by African hunters after killing dangerous beasts. Ceremonies observed by Lapp hunters after killing a bear.

When the Kayans or Bahaus of central Borneo have shot one of the dreaded Bornean panthers, they are very anxious about the safety of their souls, for they think that the soul of a panther is almost more powerful than their own. Hence they step eight times over the carcase of the dead beast reciting the spell, "Panther, thy soul under my soul." On returning home they smear themselves, their dogs, and their weapons with the blood of fowls in order to calm their souls and hinder them from fleeing away; for being themselves fond of the flesh of fowls they ascribe the same taste to their souls. For eight days afterwards they must bathe by day and by night before going out again to the chase.691 [pg 220] After killing an animal some Indian hunters used to purify themselves in water as a religious rite.692 When a Damara hunter returns from a successful chase he takes water in his mouth and ejects it three times over his feet, and also into the fire on his own hearth.693 Amongst the Caffres of South Africa "the slaughter of a lion, however honourable it is esteemed, is nevertheless associated with an idea of moral uncleanness, and is followed by a very strange ceremony. When the hunters approach the village on their return, the man who gave the lion the first wound is hidden from every eye by the shields which his comrades hold up before him. One of the hunters steps forward and, leaping and bounding in a strange manner, praises the courage of the lion-killer. Then he rejoins the band, and the same performance is repeated by another. All the rest meanwhile keep up a ceaseless shouting, rattling with their clubs on their shields. This goes on till they have reached the village. Then a mean hut is run up not far from the village; and in this hut the lion-killer, because he is unclean, must remain four days, cut off from all association with the tribe. There he dyes his body all over with white paint; and lads who have not yet been circumcised, and are therefore, in respect to uncleanness, in the same state as himself, bring him a calf to eat, and wait upon him. When the four days are over, the unclean man washes himself, paints himself with red paint in the usual manner, and is escorted back to the village by the head chief, attended with a guard of honour. Lastly, a second calf is killed; and, the uncleanness being now at an end, every one is free to eat of the calf with him."694 Among the Hottentots, when a man has killed a lion, leopard, elephant, or rhinoceros he is esteemed a great hero, but he is deluged with urine by the medicine-man and has to remain at home quite idle for three days, during which his wife may not come near him; she is also enjoined to restrict herself [pg 221] to a poor diet and to eat no more than is barely necessary to keep her in health.695 Similarly the Lapps deem it the height of glory to kill a bear, which they consider the king of beasts. Nevertheless, all the men who take part in the slaughter are regarded as unclean, and must live by themselves for three days in a hut or tent made specially for them, where they cut up and cook the bear's carcase. The reindeer which brought in the carcase on a sledge may not be driven by a woman for a whole year; indeed, according to one account, it may not be used by anybody for that period. Before the men go into the tent where they are to be secluded, they strip themselves of the garments they had worn in killing the bear, and their wives spit the red juice of alder bark in their faces. They enter the tent not by the ordinary door but by an opening at the back. When the bear's flesh has been cooked, a portion of it is sent by the hands of two men to the women, who may not approach the men's tent while the cooking is going on. The men who convey the flesh to the women pretend to be strangers bringing presents from a foreign land; the women keep up the pretence and promise to tie red threads round the legs of the strangers. The bear's flesh may not be passed in to the women through the door of their tent, but must be thrust in at a special opening made by lifting up the hem of the tent-cover. When the three days' seclusion is over and the men are at liberty to return to their wives, they run, one after the other, round the fire, holding the chain by which pots are suspended over it. This is regarded as a form of purification; they may now leave the tent by the ordinary door and rejoin the women. But the leader of the party must still abstain from cohabitation with his wife for two days more.696

Expiatory ceremonies performed for the slaughter of serpents.

Again, the Caffres are said to dread greatly the boa-constrictor or an enormous serpent resembling it; "and being [pg 222] influenced by certain superstitious notions they even fear to kill it. The man who happened to put it to death, whether in self-defence or otherwise, was formerly required to lie in a running stream of water during the day for several weeks together; and no beast whatever was allowed to be slaughtered at the hamlet to which he belonged, until this duty had been fully performed. The body of the snake was then taken and carefully buried in a trench, dug close to the cattle-fold, where its remains, like those of a chief, were henceforward kept perfectly undisturbed. The period of penance, as in the case of mourning for the dead, is now happily reduced to a few days."697 Amongst the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast, who worship the python, a native who killed one of these serpents used to be burned alive. But for some time past, though a semblance of carrying out the old penalty is preserved, the culprit is allowed to escape with his life, but he has to pay a heavy fine. A small hut of dry faggots and grass is set up, generally near the lagoon at Whydah, if the crime has been perpetrated there; the guilty man is thrust inside, the door of plaited grass is shut on him, and the hut is set on fire. Sometimes a dog, a kid, and two fowls are enclosed along with him, and he is drenched with palm-oil and yeast, probably to render him the more combustible. As he is unbound, he easily breaks out of the frail hut before the flames consume him; but he has to run the gauntlet of the angry serpent-worshippers, who belabour the murderer of their god with sticks and pelt him with clods until he reaches water and plunges into it, which is supposed to wash away his sin. Thirteen days later a commemoration service is held in honour of the deceased python.698 In Madras it is considered a great sin to kill a cobra. When this has happened, the people generally burn the body of the serpent just as they burn the bodies of human beings. The murderer deems himself polluted for three days. On the second day milk is poured on the remains of the cobra. On the third [pg 223] day the guilty wretch is free from pollution.699 Under native rule, we may suspect, he would not get off so lightly.

All such expiatory rites are based on the respect which the savage feels for the souls of animals.

In these last cases the animal whose slaughter has to be atoned for is sacred, that is, it is one whose life is commonly spared from motives of superstition. Yet the treatment of the sacrilegious slayer seems to resemble so closely the treatment of hunters and fishermen who have killed animals for food in the ordinary course of business, that the ideas on which both sets of customs are based may be assumed to be substantially the same. Those ideas, if I am right, are the respect which the savage feels for the souls of beasts, especially valuable or formidable beasts, and the dread which he entertains of their vengeful ghosts. Some confirmation of this view may be drawn from the ceremonies observed by fishermen of Annam when the carcase of a whale is washed ashore. These fisherfolk, we are told, worship the whale on account of the benefits they derive from it. There is hardly a village on the sea-shore which has not its small pagoda, containing the bones, more or less authentic, of a whale. When a dead whale is washed ashore, the people accord it a solemn burial. The man who first caught sight of it acts as chief mourner, performing the rites which as chief mourner and heir he would perform for a human kinsman. He puts on all the garb of woe, the straw hat, the white robe with long sleeves turned inside out, and the other paraphernalia of full mourning. As next of kin to the deceased he presides over the funeral rites. Perfumes are burned, sticks of incense kindled, leaves of gold and silver scattered, crackers let off. When the flesh has been cut off and the oil extracted, the remains of the carcase are buried in the sand. Afterwards a shed is set up and offerings are made in it. Usually some time after the burial the spirit of the dead whale takes possession of some person in the village and declares by his mouth whether he is a male or a female.700

[pg 224]

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