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   Chapter 5 Tabooed Things.

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (Third Edition, Vol. 06 of 12) By James George Frazer Characters: 173171

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


§ 1. The Meaning of Taboo.

Taboos of holiness agree with taboos of pollution, because in the savage mind the ideas of holiness and pollution are not yet differentiated.

Thus in primitive society the rules of ceremonial purity observed by divine kings, chiefs, and priests agree in many respects with the rules observed by homicides, mourners, women in childbed, girls at puberty, hunters and fishermen, and so on. To us these various classes of persons appear to differ totally in character and condition; some of them we should call holy, others we might pronounce unclean and polluted. But the savage makes no such moral distinction between them; the conceptions of holiness and pollution are not yet differentiated in his mind. To him the common feature of all these persons is that they are dangerous and in danger, and the danger in which they stand and to which they expose others is what we should call spiritual or ghostly, and therefore imaginary. The danger, however, is not less real because it is imaginary; imagination acts upon man as really as does gravitation, and may kill him as certainly as a dose of prussic acid. To seclude these persons from the rest of the world so that the dreaded spiritual danger shall neither reach them, nor spread from them, is the object of the taboos which they have to observe. These taboos act, so to say, as electrical insulators to preserve the spiritual force with which these persons are charged from suffering or inflicting harm by contact with the outer world.701

[pg 225] To the illustrations of these general principles which have been already given I shall now add some more, drawing my examples, first, from the class of tabooed things, and, second, from the class of tabooed words; for in the opinion of the savage both things and words may, like persons, be charged or electrified, either temporarily or permanently, with the mysterious virtue of taboo, and may therefore require to be banished for a longer or shorter time from the familiar usage of common life. And the examples will be chosen with special reference to those sacred chiefs, kings and priests, who, more than anybody else, live fenced about by taboo as by a wall. Tabooed things will be illustrated in the present chapter, and tabooed words in the next.

§ 2. Iron tabooed.

Kings may not be touched. The use of iron forbidden to kings and priests. Use of iron forbidden at circumcision, childbirth, and so forth. Use of iron forbidden at certain times and places among the Esquimaux. Use of iron forbidden on certain occasions among the Highlanders of Scotland. Iron not used in building sacred edifices.

In the first place we may observe that the awful sanctity of kings naturally leads to a prohibition to [pg 226] touch their sacred persons. Thus it was unlawful to lay hands on the person of a Spartan king;702 no one might touch the body of the king or queen of Tahiti;703 it is forbidden to touch the person of the king of Siam under pain of death;704 and no one may touch the king of Cambodia, for any purpose whatever, without his express command. In July 1874 the king was thrown from his carriage and lay insensible on the ground, but not one of his suite dared to touch him; a European coming to the spot carried the injured monarch to his palace.705 Formerly no one might touch the king of Corea; and if he deigned to touch a subject, the spot touched became sacred, and the person thus honoured had to wear a visible mark (generally a cord of red silk) for the rest of his life. Above all, no iron might touch the king's body. In 1800 King Tieng-tsong-tai-oang died of a tumour in the back, no one dreaming of employing the lancet, which would probably have saved his life. It is said that one king suffered terribly from an abscess in the lip, till his physician called in a jester, whose pranks made the king laugh heartily, and so the abscess burst.706 Roman and Sabine priests might not be shaved with iron but only with bronze razors or shears;707 and whenever an iron graving-tool was brought into the sacred grove of the Arval Brothers at Rome for the purpose of cutting an inscription in stone, an expiatory sacrifice of a lamb and a pig must be offered, which was repeated when the graving-tool was removed from the grove.708 As a general rule iron might not be brought into Greek sanctuaries.709 In Crete sacrifices [pg 227] were offered to Menedemus without the use of iron, because the legend ran that Menedemus had been killed by an iron weapon in the Trojan war.710 The Archon of Plataea might not touch iron; but once a year, at the annual commemoration of the men who fell at the battle of Plataea, he was allowed to carry a sword wherewith to sacrifice a bull.711 To this day a Hottentot priest never uses an iron knife, but always a sharp splint of quartz, in sacrificing an animal or circumcising a lad.712 Among the Ovambo of south-west Africa custom requires that lads should be circumcised with a sharp flint; if none is to hand, the operation may be performed with iron, but the iron must afterwards be buried.713 The Antandroy and Tanala of Madagascar cut the navel-strings of their children with sharp wood or with a thread, but never with an iron knife.714 In Uap, one of the Caroline Islands, wood of the hibiscus tree, which was used to make the fire-drill, must be cut with shell knives or shell [pg 228] axes, never with iron or steel.715 Amongst the Moquis of Arizona stone knives, hatchets, and so on have passed out of common use, but are retained in religious ceremonies.716 After the Pawnees had ceased to use stone arrow-heads for ordinary purposes, they still employed them to slay the sacrifices, whether human captives or buffalo and deer.717 We have seen that among the Esquimaux of Bering Strait the use of iron implements is forbidden for four days after the slaughter of a white whale, and that the use of an iron axe at a place where salmon are being dressed is believed by these people to be a fatal imprudence.718 They hold a festival in the assembly-house of the village, while the bladders of the slain beasts are hanging there, and during its celebration no wood may be cut with an iron axe. If it is necessary to split firewood, this may be done with wedges of bone.719 At Kushunuk, near Cape Vancouver, it happened that Mr. Nelson and his party entered an assembly-house of these Esquimaux while the festival of the bladders was in progress. "When our camping outfit was brought in from the sledges, two men took drums, and as the clothing and goods of the traders who were with me were brought in, the drums were beaten softly and a song was sung in a low, humming tone, but when our guns and some steel traps were brought in, with other articles of iron, the drums were beaten loudly and the songs raised in proportion. This was done that the shades of the animals present in the bladders might not be frightened."720 The Esquimaux on the western coast of Hudson Bay may not work on iron during the season for hunting musk-oxen, which falls in March. And no such work may be done by them until the seals have their pups.721 Negroes of the Gold Coast remove all iron or steel from their person when they [pg 229] consult their fetish.722 The men who made the need-fire in Scotland had to divest themselves of all metal.723 There was hardly any belief, we are told, that had a stronger hold on the mind of a Scottish Highlander than that on no account whatever should iron be put in the ground on Good Friday. Hence no grave was dug and no field ploughed on that day. It has been suggested that the belief was based on that rooted aversion to iron which fairies are known to feel. These touchy beings live underground, and might resent having the roof pulled from over their heads on the hallowed day.724 Again, in the Highlands of Scotland the shoulder-blades of sheep are employed in divination, being consulted as to future marriages, births, deaths, and funerals; but the forecasts thus made will not be accurate unless the flesh has been removed from the bones without the use of any iron.725 In making the clavie (a kind of Yule-tide fire-wheel) at [pg 230] Burghead, no hammer may be used; the hammering must be done with a stone.726 Amongst the Jews no iron tool was used in building the Temple at Jerusalem or in making an altar.727 The old wooden bridge (Pons Sublicius) at Rome, which was considered sacred, was made and had to be kept in repair without the use of iron or bronze.728 It was expressly provided by law that the temple of Jupiter Liber at Furfo might be repaired with iron tools.729 The council chamber at Cyzicus was constructed of wood without any iron nails, the beams being so arranged that they could be taken out and replaced.730 The late Rajah Vijyanagram, a member of the Viceroy's Council, and described as one of the most enlightened and estimable of Hindoo princes, would not allow iron to be used in the construction of buildings within his territory, believing that its use would inevitably be followed by small-pox and other epidemics.731

Everything new excites the awe and fear of the savage.

This superstitious objection to iron perhaps dates from that early time in the history of society when iron was still a novelty, and as such was viewed by many with suspicion and dislike.732 For everything new is apt to excite the awe and dread of the savage. "It is a curious superstition," says a pioneer in Borneo, "this of the Dusuns, to attribute anything-whether good or bad, lucky or unlucky-that happens to them to something novel which has arrived in their country. For instance, my living in Kindram has caused the intensely hot weather we have experienced of late."733 Some years ago a harmless naturalist was collecting plants among the high forest-clad mountains on the borders of China and Tibet. From the summit of a pass he gazed with delight down a long valley which, stretching away as far as eye could reach to the south, resembled a sea of bloom, for everywhere the forest was ablaze with the [pg 231] gorgeous hues of the rhododendron and azalea in flower. In this earthly paradise the votary of science hastened to install himself beside a lake. But hardly had he done so when, alas! the weather changed. Though the season was early June, the cold became intense, snow fell heavily, and the bloom of the rhododendrons was cut off. The inhabitants of a neighbouring village at once set down the unusual severity of the weather to the presence of a stranger in the forest; and a round-robin, signed by them unanimously, was forwarded to the nearest mandarin, setting forth that the snow which had blocked the road, and the hail which was blasting their crops, were alike caused by the intruder, and that all sorts of disturbances would follow if he were allowed to remain. In these circumstances the naturalist, who had intended to spend most of the summer among the mountains, was forced to decamp. "Collecting in this country," he adds pathetically, "is not an easy matter."734 The unusually heavy rains which happened to follow the English survey of the Nicobar Islands in the winter of 1886-1887 were imputed by the alarmed natives to the wrath of the spirits at the theodolites, dumpy-levellers, and other strange instruments which had been set up in so many of their favourite haunts; and some of them proposed to soothe the anger of the spirits by sacrificing a pig.735 When the German Hans Stade was a captive in a cannibal tribe of Brazilian Indians, it happened that, shortly before a prisoner was to be eaten, a great wind arose and blew away part of the roofs of the huts. The savages were angry with Stade, and said he had made the wind to come by looking into his thunder-skins, by which they meant a book he had been reading, in order to save the prisoner, who was a friend of his, from their stomachs. So the pious German prayed to God, and God mercifully heard his prayer; for next morning the weather was beautifully fine, and his friend was butchered, carved, and eaten in the most perfect comfort.736 According to the [pg 232] Orotchis of eastern Siberia, misfortunes have multiplied on them with the coming of Europeans; "they even go so far as to lay the appearance of new phenomena like thunder at the door of the Russians."737 In the seventeenth century a succession of bad seasons excited a revolt among the Esthonian peasantry, who traced the origin of the evil to a water-mill, which put a stream to some inconvenience by checking its flow.738 The first introduction of iron ploughshares into Poland having been followed by a succession of bad harvests, the farmers attributed the badness of the crops to the iron ploughshares, and discarded them for the old wooden ones.739 To this day the primitive Baduwis of Java, who live chiefly by husbandry, will use no iron tools in tilling their fields.740

The dislike of spirits to iron allows men to use the metal as a weapon against them. Iron used as a charm against fairies in the Highlands of Scotland. Iron used as a protective charm by Scotch fishermen and others. Iron used as a protective charm against devils and ghosts in India, Annam. Africa, and Scotland.

The general dislike of innovation, which always makes itself strongly felt in the sphere of religion, is sufficient by itself to account for the superstitious aversion to iron entertained by kings and priests and attributed by them to the gods; possibly this aversion may have been intensified in places by some such accidental cause as the series of bad seasons which cast discredit on iron ploughshares in Poland. But the disfavour in which iron is held by the gods and their ministers has another side. Their antipathy to the metal furnishes men with a weapon which may be turned against the spirits when occasion serves. As their dislike of iron is supposed to be so great that they will not approach persons and things protected by the obnoxious metal, iron may obviously be employed as a charm for banning ghosts and other dangerous spirits. And often it is so used. Thus in the Highlands of Scotland the great safeguard against the elfin race is iron, or, better yet, steel. The metal in any form, whether as a sword, a knife, a gun-barrel, or what not, is all-powerful for this purpose. Whenever you enter a fairy [pg 233] dwelling you should always remember to stick a piece of steel, such as a knife, a needle, or a fish-hook, in the door; for then the elves will not be able to shut the door till you come out again. So too when you have shot a deer and are bringing it home at night, be sure to thrust a knife into the carcase, for that keeps the fairies from laying their weight on it. A knife or a nail in your pocket is quite enough to prevent the fairies from lifting you up at night. Nails in the front of a bed ward off elves from women "in the straw" and from their babes; but to make quite sure it is better to put the smoothing-iron under the bed, and the reaping-hook in the window. If a bull has fallen over a rock and been killed, a nail stuck into it will preserve the flesh from the fairies. Music discoursed on that melodious instrument, a Jew's harp, keeps the elfin women away from the hunter, because the tongue of the instrument is of steel.741 Again, when Scotch fishermen were at sea, and one of them happened to take the name of God in vain, the first man who heard him called out "Cauld airn," at which every man of the crew grasped the nearest bit of iron and held it between his hands for a while.742 So too when he hears the unlucky word "pig" mentioned, a Scotch fisherman will feel for the nails in his boots and mutter "Cauld airn."743 The same magic words are even whispered in the churches of Scotch fishing-villages when the clergyman reads the passage about the Gadarene swine.744 In Morocco iron is considered a great protection against demons; hence it is usual to place a knife or dagger under a sick man's pillow.745 The Singhalese believe that they are constantly surrounded by evil spirits, who lie in wait to do them harm. A peasant would not dare to carry good food, such as cakes or roast meat, from one place to another without putting an iron nail on it to prevent a demon from taking possession of the viands and so making the eater ill. No [pg 234] sick person, whether man or woman, would venture out of the house without a bunch of keys or a knife in his hand, for without such a talisman he would fear that some devil might take advantage of his weak state to slip into his body. And if a man has a large sore on his body he tries to keep a morsel of iron on it as a protection against demons.746 The inhabitants of Salsette, an island near Bombay, dread a spirit called g?ra, which plays many pranks with a solitary traveller, leading him astray, lowering him into an empty well, and so on. But a g?ra dare not touch a person who has on him anything made of iron or steel, particularly a knife or a nail, of which the spirit stands in great fear. Nor will he meddle with a woman, especially a married woman, because he is afraid of her bangles.747 Among the Majhwar, an aboriginal tribe in the hill country of South Mirzapur, an iron implement such as a sickle or a betel-cutter is constantly kept near an infant's head during its first year for the purpose of warding off the attacks of ghosts.748 Among the Maravars, an aboriginal race of southern India, a knife or other iron object lies beside a woman after childbirth to keep off the devil.749 When a Mala woman is in labour, a sickle and some n?m leaves are always kept on the cot. In Malabar people who have to pass by burning-grounds or other haunted places commonly carry with them iron in some form, such as a knife or an iron rod used as a walking-stick. When pregnant women go on a journey, they carry with them a few twigs or leaves of the n?m tree, or iron in some shape, to scare evil spirits lurking in groves or burial-grounds which they may pass.750 In Bilaspore people attribute cholera to a goddess who visits the afflicted family. But they think that she may be kept off by iron; hence during an epidemic of cholera people go about with axes or sickles in their hands. "Their horses are not shod, otherwise they might possibly nail horse-shoes to the door, [pg 235] but their belief is more primitive; for with them iron does not bring good luck, but it scares away the evil spirits, so when a man has had an epileptic fit he will wear an iron bracelet to keep away the evil spirit which was supposed to have possessed him."751 The Annamites imagine that a new-born child is exposed to the attacks of evil spirits. To protect the infant from these malignant beings the parents sometimes sell the child to the village smith, who makes a small ring or circlet of iron and puts it on the child's foot, commonly adding a little chain of iron. When the infant has been sold to the smith and firmly attached to him by the chain, the demons no longer have any power over him. After the child has grown big and the danger is over, the parents ask the smith to break the iron ring and thank him for his services. No metal but iron will serve the purpose.752 On the Slave Coast of Africa when a mother sees her child gradually wasting away, she concludes that a demon has entered into the child and takes her measures accordingly. To lure the demon out of the body of her offspring, she offers a sacrifice of food; and while the devil is bolting it, she attaches iron rings and small bells to her child's ankles and hangs iron chains round his neck. The jingling of the iron and the tinkling of the bells are supposed to prevent the demon, when he has concluded his repast, from entering again into the body of the little sufferer. Hence many children may be seen in this part of Africa weighed down with iron ornaments.753 The use of iron as a means to exorcise demons was forbidden by the Coptic church.754 In India "the mourner who performs the ceremony of putting fire into the dead person's mouth carries with him a piece of iron: it may be a key or a knife, or a simple piece of iron, and during the whole time of his separation (for he is unclean for a certain time, and no one will either touch him or eat or drink with him, neither can he change his [pg 236] clothes755) he carries the piece of iron about with him to keep off the evil spirit. In Calcutta the Bengali clerks in the Government Offices used to wear a small key on one of their fingers when they had been chief mourners."756 When a woman dies in childbed in the island of Salsette, they put a nail or other piece of iron in the folds of her dress; this is done especially if the child survives her. The intention plainly is to prevent her spirit from coming back; for they believe that a dead mother haunts the house and seeks to carry away her child.757 In the north-east of Scotland immediately after a death had taken place, a piece of iron, such as a nail or a knitting-wire, used to be stuck into all the meal, butter, cheese, flesh, and whisky in the house, "to prevent death from entering them." The neglect of this salutary precaution is said to have been closely followed by the corruption of the food and drink; the whisky has been known to become as white as milk.758 When iron is used as a protective charm after a death, as in these Hindoo and Scotch customs, the spirit against which it is directed is the ghost of the deceased.759

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§ 3. Sharp Weapons tabooed.

The use of sharp-edged weapons is sometimes forbidden lest they should wound spirits. Sharp-edged weapons removed from a room where there is a lying-in woman.

There is a priestly king to the north of Zengwih in Burma, revered by the Sotih as the highest spiritual and temporal authority, into whose house no weapon or cutting instrument may be brought.760 This rule may perhaps be explained by a custom observed by various peoples after a death; they refrain from the use of sharp instruments so long as the ghost of the deceased is supposed to be near, lest they should wound it. Thus among the Esquimaux of Bering Strait "during the day on which a person dies in the village no one is permitted to work, and the relatives must perform no labour during the three following days. It is especially forbidden during this period to cut with any edged instrument, such as a knife or an axe; and the use of pointed instruments, like needles or bodkins, is also forbidden. This is said to be done to avoid cutting or injuring the shade, which may be present at any time during this period, and, if accidentally injured by any of these things, it would become very angry and bring sickness or death to the people. The relatives must also be very careful at this time not to make any loud or harsh noises that may startle or anger the shade."761 We have seen that in like manner after killing a white whale these Esquimaux abstain from the use of cutting or pointed instruments for four days, lest they should unwittingly cut or stab the whale's ghost.762 The same taboo is sometimes observed by them when there is a sick person in the village, probably from a fear of injuring [pg 238] his shade which may be hovering outside of his body.763 After a death the Roumanians of Transylvania are careful not to leave a knife lying with the sharp edge uppermost as long as the corpse remains in the house, "or else the soul will be forced to ride on the blade."764 For seven days after a death, the corpse being still in the house, the Chinese abstain from the use of knives and needles, and even of chopsticks, eating their food with their fingers.765 On the third, sixth, ninth, and fortieth days after the funeral the old Prussians and Lithuanians used to prepare a meal, to which, standing at the door, they invited the soul of the deceased. At these meals they sat silent round the table and used no knives, and the women who served up the food were also without knives. If any morsels fell from the table they were left lying there for the lonely souls that had no living relations or friends to feed them. When the meal was over the priest took a broom and swept the souls out of the house, saying, "Dear souls, ye have eaten and drunk. Go forth, go forth."766 In cutting the nails and combing the hair of a dead prince in South Celebes only the back of the knife and of the comb may be used.767 The Germans say that a knife should not be left edge upwards, because God and the spirits dwell there, or because it will cut the face of God and the angels.768 Among the Monumbos of New Guinea a pregnant woman may not use sharp instruments; for example, she may not sew. If she used such instruments, they think that she would thereby stab the child in her womb.769 Among [pg 239] the Kayans of Borneo, when the birth-pangs begin, all men leave the room, and all cutting weapons and iron are also removed, "perhaps in order not to frighten the child," says the writer who reports the custom.770 The reason may rather be a fear of injuring the flitting soul of mother or babe. In Uganda, when the hour of a woman's delivery is at hand, her husband carries all spears and weapons out of the house,771 doubtless in order that they may not hurt the tender soul of the new-born child. Early in the period of the Ming dynasty a professor of geomancy made the alarming discovery that the spiritual atmosphere of Kü-yung, a city near Nanking, was in a truly deplorable condition through the intrusion of an evil spirit. The Chinese emperor, with paternal solicitude, directed that the north gate, by which the devil had effected his entrance, should be built up solid, and that for the future the population of the city should devote their energies to the pursuits of hair-dressing, corn-cutting, and the shaving of bamboo-roots, because, as he sagaciously perceived, all these professions call for the use of sharp-edged instruments, which could not fail to keep the demon at bay.772 We can now understand why no cutting instrument may be taken into the house of the Burmese pontiff. Like so many priestly kings, he is probably regarded as divine, and it is therefore right that his sacred spirit should not be exposed to the risk of being cut or wounded whenever it quits his body to hover invisible in the air or to fly on some distant mission.

§ 4. Blood tabooed.

Raw meat tabooed because the life or spirit is in the blood.

We have seen that the Flamen Dialis was forbidden to touch or even name raw flesh.773 At certain times a Brahman teacher is enjoined not to look on raw flesh, blood, or persons whose hands have been cut off.774 In Uganda the father of [pg 240] twins is in a state of taboo for some time after the birth; among other rules he is forbidden to kill anything or to see blood.775 In the Pelew Islands when a raid has been made on a village and a head carried off, the relations of the slain man are tabooed and have to submit to certain observances in order to escape the wrath of his ghost. They are shut up in the house, touch no raw flesh, and chew betel over which an incantation has been uttered by the exorcist. After this the ghost of the slaughtered man goes away to the enemy's country in pursuit of his murderer.776 The taboo is probably based on the common belief that the soul or spirit of the animal is in the blood. As tabooed persons are believed to be in a perilous state-for example, the relations of the slain man are liable to the attacks of his indignant ghost-it is especially necessary to isolate them from contact with spirits; hence the prohibition to touch raw meat. But as usual the taboo is only the special enforcement of a general precept; in other words, its observance is particularly enjoined in circumstances which seem urgently to call for its application, but apart from such circumstances the prohibition is also observed, though less strictly, as a common rule of life. Thus some of the Esthonians will not taste blood because they believe that it contains the animal's soul, which would enter the body of the person who tasted the blood.777 Some Indian tribes of North America, "through a strong principle of religion, abstain in the strictest manner from eating the blood of any animal, as it contains the life and spirit of the beast." These Indians "commonly pull their new-killed venison (before they dress it) several times through the smoke and flame of the fire, both by the way of a sacrifice and to consume the blood, life, or animal spirits of the beast, which with them would be a most horrid abomination to eat."778 Among the western Dénés or Tinneh Indians of British Columbia until lately no woman [pg 241] would partake of blood, "and both men and women abhorred the flesh of a beaver which had been caught and died in a trap, and of a bear strangled to death in a snare, because the blood remained in the carcase."779 Many of the Slave, Hare, and Dogrib Indians scruple to taste the blood of game; hunters of the former tribes collect the blood in the animal's paunch and bury it in the snow.780 The Malepa, a Bantu tribe in the north of the Transvaal, will taste no blood. Hence they cut the throats of the cattle they slaughter and let the blood drain out of the carcase before they will eat it. And they do the same with game.781 Jewish hunters poured out the blood of the game they had killed and covered it up with dust. They would not taste the blood, believing that the soul or life of the animal was in the blood, or actually was the blood.782 The same belief was held by the Romans,783 and is shared by the Arabs,784 by Chinese medical writers,785 and by some of the Papuan tribes of New Guinea.786

Royal blood may not be spilt on the ground; hence kings and princes are put to death by methods which do not involve bloodshed.

It is a common rule that royal blood may not be shed upon the ground. Hence when a king or one of his family is to be put to death a mode of execution is devised by which the royal blood shall not be spilt upon the earth. About the year 1688 the generalissimo of the army rebelled against the king of Siam and put him to death "after the manner of royal criminals, or as princes of the blood are treated when convicted of capital crimes, which is by putting them into a large iron caldron, and pounding them to pieces with wooden pestles, because none of their royal blood must be spilt on the ground, it being, by their religion, thought great impiety to contaminate the divine blood by mixing it with earth."787 [pg 242] Other Siamese modes of executing a royal person are starvation, suffocation, stretching him on a scarlet cloth and thrusting a billet of fragrant sandal-wood into his stomach,788 or lastly, sewing him up in a leather sack with a large stone and throwing him into the river; sometimes the sufferer's neck is broken with sandal-wood clubs before he is thrown into the water.789 When Kublai Khan defeated and took his uncle Nayan, who had rebelled against him, he caused Nayan to be put to death by being wrapt in a carpet and tossed to and fro till he died, "because he would not have the blood of his Line Imperial spilt upon the ground or exposed in the eye of Heaven and before the Sun."790 "Friar Ricold mentions the Tartar maxim: 'One Khan will put another to death to get possession of the throne, but he takes great care that the blood be not spilt. For they say that it is highly improper that the blood of the Great Khan should be spilt upon the ground; so they cause the victim to be smothered somehow or other.' The like feeling prevails at the court of Burma, where a peculiar mode of execution without bloodshed is reserved for princes of the blood."791 Another writer on Burma observes that "according to Mongolian tradition, it is considered improper to spill the blood of any member of the royal race. Princes of the Blood are executed by a blow, or blows, of a bludgeon, inflicted on the back of the neck. The corpse is placed in a red velvet sack, which is fixed between two large perforated jars, and then sunk in the river Irawadi. Princesses are executed in a similar manner, with the exception that they are put to death by a blow in front, instead of the back of the neck."792 In 1878 the relations of Theebaw, king of Burma, were despatched by being beaten across the throat with a bamboo.793 In Tonquin the ordinary mode of execution is beheading, but persons of the blood royal are strangled.794 In Ashantee the [pg 243] blood of none of the royal family may be shed; if one of them is guilty of a great crime he is drowned in the river Dah.795 As the blood royal of Dahomey may not be spilled, offenders of the royal family are drowned or strangled. Commonly they are bound hand and foot, carried out to sea in a canoe, and thrown overboard.796 When a king of Benin came to the throne he used to put his brothers to death; but as no one might lay hands on a prince of the blood, the king commanded his brothers to hang themselves, after which he buried their bodies with great pomp.797 In Madagascar the blood of nobles might not be shed; hence when four Christians of that class were to be executed they were burned alive.798 In Uganda "no one may shed royal blood on any account, not even when ordered by the king to slay one of the royal house; royalty may only be starved or burned to death."799 Formerly when a young king of Uganda came of age all his brothers were burnt except two or three, who were preserved to keep up the succession.800 Or a space of ground having been fenced in with a high paling and a deep ditch, the doomed men were led into the enclosure and left there till they died, while guards kept watch outside to prevent their escape.801 Among the Bawenda of southern Africa dangerous princes are strangled, for their blood may not be shed.802

Reluctance to shed any human blood on the ground. Reluctance to allow human blood to fall on the ground.

The reluctance to spill royal blood seems to be only a particular case of a general unwillingness to shed blood or at least to allow it to fall on the ground. Marco Polo tells us that in his day persons caught in the streets of Cambaluc [pg 244] (Peking) at unseasonable hours were arrested, and if found guilty of a misdemeanour were beaten with a stick. "Under this punishment people sometimes die, but they adopt it in order to eschew bloodshed, for their Bacsis say that it is an evil thing to shed man's blood."803 When Captain Christian was shot by the Manx Government at the Restoration in 1660, the spot on which he stood was covered with white blankets, that his blood might not fall on the ground.804 In West Sussex people believe that the ground on which human blood has been shed is accursed and will remain barren for ever.805 Among some primitive peoples, when the blood of a tribesman has to be spilt it is not suffered to fall upon the ground, but is received upon the bodies of his fellow-tribesmen. Thus in some Australian tribes boys who are being circumcised are laid on a platform, formed by the living bodies of the tribesmen;806 and when a boy's tooth is knocked out as an initiatory ceremony, he is seated on the shoulders of a man, on whose breast the blood flows and may not be wiped away.807 When Australian blacks bleed each other as a cure for headache and other ailments, they are very careful not to spill any of the blood on the ground, but sprinkle it on each other.808 We have already seen that in the Australian ceremony for making rain the blood which is supposed to imitate the rain is received upon the bodies of the tribesmen.809 "Also the Gauls used to drink their enemies' blood and paint themselves therewith. So also they write that the old Irish were wont; and so have I seen some of the Irish do, but not their enemies' but friends' blood, as, namely, at the execution of a notable traitor at Limerick, called Murrogh O'Brien, I saw an old woman, which was his foster-mother, take up his head whilst he was quartered and suck [pg 245] up all the blood that ran thereout, saying that the earth was not worthy to drink it, and therewith also steeped her face and breast and tore her hair, crying out and shrieking most terribly."810 After a battle in Horne Island, South Pacific, it was found that the brother of the vanquished king was among the wounded. "It was sad to see his wife collect in her hands the blood which had flowed from his wounds, and throw it on to her head, while she uttered piercing cries. All the relatives of the wounded collected in the same manner the blood which had flowed from them, down even to the last drop, and they even applied their lips to the leaves of the shrubs and licked it all up to the last drop."811 In the Marquesas Islands the persons who helped a woman at childbirth received on their heads the blood which flowed at the cutting of the navel-string; for the blood might not touch anything but a sacred object, and in Polynesia the head is sacred in a high degree.812 In South Celebes at childbirth a female slave stands under the house (the houses being raised on posts above the ground) and receives in a basin on her head the blood which trickles through the bamboo floor.813 Among the Latuka of central Africa the earth on which a drop of blood has fallen at childbirth is carefully scraped up with an iron shovel, put into a pot along with the water used in washing the mother, and buried tolerably deep outside the house on the left-hand side.814 In West Africa, if a drop of your blood has fallen on the ground, you must carefully cover it up, rub and stamp it into the soil; if it has fallen on the side of a canoe or a tree, the place is cut out and the chip destroyed.815 The Caffres, we are told, have a great horror of blood, and must purify themselves from the pollution if they have shed it and been bespattered by it. Hence warriors on the return from battle purge themselves with emetics, and that so violently that some of them give up the ghost. A Caffre would [pg 246] never allow even a drop of blood from his nose or a wound to lie uncovered, but huddles it over with earth, that his feet may not be defiled by it.816 One motive of these African customs may be a wish to prevent the blood from falling into the hands of magicians, who might make an evil use of it. That is admittedly the reason why people in West Africa stamp out any blood of theirs which has fallen on the ground or cut out any wood that has been soaked with it.817 From a like dread of sorcery natives of New Guinea are careful to burn any sticks, leaves, or rags which are stained with their blood; and if the blood has dripped on the ground they turn up the soil and if possible light a fire on the spot.818 The same fear explains the curious duties discharged by a class of men called ramanga or "blue blood" among the Betsileo of Madagascar. It is their business to eat all the nail-parings and to lick up all the spilt blood of the nobles. When the nobles pare their nails, the parings are collected to the last scrap and swallowed by these ramanga. If the parings are too large, they are minced small and so gulped down. Again, should a nobleman wound himself, say in cutting his nails or treading on something, the ramanga lick it up as fast as possible. Nobles of high rank hardly go anywhere without these humble attendants; but if it should happen that there are none of them present, the cut nails and the spilt blood are carefully collected to be afterwards swallowed by the ramanga. There is scarcely a nobleman of any pretensions who does not strictly observe this custom,819 the intention of which probably is to prevent these parts of his person from falling into the hands of sorcerers, who on the principles of contagious magic could work him harm thereby. The tribes of the White Nile are said never to shed human blood in their villages because they think the [pg 247] sight of it would render women barren or bring misfortune on their children. Hence executions and murders commonly take place on the roads or in the forest.820

Unwillingness to shed the blood of animals.

The unwillingness to shed blood is extended by some peoples to the blood of animals. Thus, when the Caffres offer an ox to the spirits, the blood of the beast must be carefully caught in a calabash, and none of it may fall on the ground.821 When the Wanika in eastern Africa kill their cattle for food, "they either stone or beat the animal to death, so as not to shed the blood."822 Amongst the Damaras cattle killed for food are suffocated, but when sacrificed they are speared to death.823 But like most pastoral tribes in Africa, both the Wanika and Damaras very seldom kill their cattle, which are indeed commonly invested with a kind of sanctity.824 Some of the Ewe-speaking negroes of Togoland, in West Africa, celebrate a festival in honour of the Earth at which it is unlawful to shed blood on the ground. Hence the fowls which are sacrificed on these occasions have their necks wrung, not their throats cut.825 In killing an animal for food the Easter Islanders do not shed its blood, but stun it or suffocate it in smoke.826 When the natives of San Cristoval, one of the Solomon Islands, sacrifice a pig to a ghost in a sacred place, they take great care that the blood shall not fall on the ground; so they place the animal in a large bowl and cut it up there.827 It is said that in ancient India the sacrificial victims were not slaughtered but strangled.828

Anything on which a Maori chief's blood falls becomes sacred to him.

The general explanation of the reluctance to shed blood on the ground is probably to be found in the belief that the soul is in the blood, and that therefore any ground on which it [pg 248] may fall necessarily becomes taboo or sacred. In New Zealand anything upon which even a drop of a high chief's blood chances to fall becomes taboo or sacred to him. For instance, a party of natives having come to visit a chief in a fine new canoe, the chief got into it, but in doing so a splinter entered his foot, and the blood trickled on the canoe, which at once became sacred to him. The owner jumped out, dragged the canoe ashore opposite the chief's house, and left it there. Again, a chief in entering a missionary's house knocked his head against a beam, and the blood flowed. The natives said that in former times the house would have belonged to the chief.829 As usually happens with taboos of universal application, the prohibition to spill the blood of a tribesman on the ground applies with peculiar stringency to chiefs and kings, and is observed in their case long after it has ceased to be observed in the case of others.

The prohibition to pass under a trellised vine is probably based on the idea that the juice of the grape is the blood or spirit of the vine. This notion is confirmed by the intoxicating or inspiring effect of wine.

We have seen that the Flamen Dialis was not allowed to walk under a trellised vine.830 The reason for this prohibition was perhaps as follows. It has been shewn that plants are considered as animate beings which bleed when cut, the red juice which exudes from some of them being regarded as the blood of the plant.831 The juice of the grape is therefore naturally conceived as the blood of the vine.832 And since, as we have just seen, the soul is often believed to be in the blood, the juice of the grape is regarded as the soul, or as containing the soul, of the vine. This belief is strengthened by the intoxicating effects of wine. For, according to primitive notions, all abnormal mental states, such as intoxication or madness, are caused by the entrance of a spirit into the person; such mental states, in other words, are accounted forms of possession or inspiration. Wine, therefore, is considered on two distinct grounds as a spirit, or containing a spirit; first because, as a red juice, it is identified with the blood of the plant, and second because it intoxicates or inspires. Therefore if the Flamen Dialis had walked under a trellised vine, the spirit of the vine, embodied in the [pg 249] clusters of grapes, would have been immediately over his head and might have touched it, which for a person like him in a state of permanent taboo833 would have been highly dangerous. This interpretation of the prohibition will be made probable if we can shew, first, that wine has been actually viewed by some peoples as blood, and intoxication as inspiration produced by drinking the blood; and, second, that it is often considered dangerous, especially for tabooed persons, to have either blood or a living person over their heads.

Wine treated as blood, and intoxication as inspiration.

With regard to the first point, we are informed by Plutarch that of old the Egyptian kings neither drank wine nor offered it in libations to the gods, because they held it to be the blood of beings who had once fought against the gods, the vine having sprung from their rotting bodies; and the frenzy of intoxication was explained by the supposition that the drunken man was filled with the blood of the enemies of the gods.834 The Aztecs regarded pulque or the wine of the country as bad, on account of the wild deeds which men did under its influence. But these wild deeds were believed to be the acts, not of the drunken man, but of the wine-god by whom he was possessed and inspired; and so seriously was this theory of inspiration held that if any one spoke ill of or insulted a tipsy man, he was liable to be punished for disrespect to the wine-god incarnate in his votary. Hence, says Sahagun, it was believed, not without ground, that the Indians intoxicated themselves on purpose to commit with impunity crimes for which they would certainly have been punished if they had committed them [pg 250] sober.835 Thus it appears that on the primitive view intoxication or the inspiration produced by wine is exactly parallel to the inspiration produced by drinking the blood of animals.836 The soul or life is in the blood, and wine is the blood of the vine. Hence whoever drinks the blood of an animal is inspired with the soul of the animal or of the god, who, as we have seen,837 is often supposed to enter into the animal before it is slain; and whoever drinks wine drinks the blood, and so receives into himself the soul or spirit, of the god of the vine.

Fear of passing under women's blood.

With regard to the second point, the fear of passing under blood or under a living person, we are told that some of the Australian blacks have a dread of passing under a leaning tree or even under the rails of a fence. The reason they give is that a woman may have been upon the tree or fence, and some blood from her may have fallen on it and might fall from it on them.838 In Ugi, one of the Solomon Islands, a man will never, if he can help it, pass under a tree which has fallen across the path, for the reason that a woman may have stepped over it before him.839 Amongst the Karens of Burma "going under a house, especially if there are females within, is avoided; as is also the passing under trees of which the branches extend downwards in a particular direction, and the butt-end of fallen trees, etc."840 The Siamese think it unlucky to pass under a rope on which women's clothes are hung, and to avert evil consequences the person who has done so must build a chapel to the earth-spirit.841

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Disastrous effect of women's blood on men.

Probably in all such cases the rule is based on a fear of being brought into contact with blood, especially the blood of women. From a like fear a Maori will never lean his back against the wall of a native house.842 For the blood of women is supposed to have disastrous effects upon males. The Arunta of central Australia believe that a draught of woman's blood would kill the strongest man.843 In the Encounter Bay tribe of South Australia boys are warned that if they see the blood of women they will early become grey-headed and their strength will fail prematurely.844 Men of the Booandik tribe in South Australia think that if they see the blood of their women they will not be able to fight against their enemies and will be killed; if the sun dazzles their eyes at a fight, the first woman they afterwards meet is sure to get a blow from their club.845 In the island of Wetar it is thought that if a man or a lad comes upon a woman's blood he will be unfortunate in war and other undertakings, and that any precautions he may take to avoid the misfortune will be vain.846 The people of Ceram also believe that men who see women's blood will be wounded in battle.847 It is an Esthonian belief that men who see women's blood will suffer from an eruption on the skin.848 A Fan negro told Miss Kingsley that a young man in his village, who was so weak that he could hardly crawl about, had fallen into this state through seeing the blood of a woman who had been killed by a falling tree. "The underlying idea regarding blood is of course the old one that the blood is the life. The life in Africa means a spirit, hence the liberated blood is the liberated spirit, and liberated spirits are always whipping into people who do not want them. In the case of the young Fan, the opinion held was that the weak spirit of the woman had got into him."849

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§ 5. The Head tabooed.

The head sacred because a spirit resides in it.

Again, the reason for not passing under dangerous objects, like a vine or women's blood, is a fear that they may come in contact with the head; for among many peoples the head is peculiarly sacred. The special sanctity attributed to it is sometimes explained by a belief that it is the seat of a spirit which is very sensitive to injury or disrespect. Thus the Yorubas of the Slave Coast hold that every man has three spiritual inmates, of whom the first, called Olori, dwells in the head and is the man's protector, guardian, and guide. Offerings are made to this spirit, chiefly of fowls, and some of the blood mixed with palm-oil is rubbed on the forehead.850 The Karens of Burma suppose that a being called the tso resides in the upper part of the head, and while it retains its seat no harm can befall the person from the efforts of the seven Kelahs, or personified passions. "But if the tso becomes heedless or weak certain evil to the person is the result. Hence the head is carefully attended to, and all possible pains are taken to provide such dress and attire as will be pleasing to the tso."851 The Siamese think that a spirit called khuan or kwun dwells in the human head, of which it is the guardian spirit. The spirit must be carefully protected from injury of every kind; hence the act of shaving or cutting the hair is accompanied with many ceremonies. The kwun is very sensitive on points of honour, and would feel mortally insulted if the head in which he resides were touched by the hand of a stranger. When Dr. Bastian, in conversation with a brother of the king of Siam, raised his hand to touch the prince's skull in order to illustrate some medical remarks he was making, a sullen and threatening murmur bursting from the lips of the crouching [pg 253] courtiers warned him of the breach of etiquette he had committed, for in Siam there is no greater insult to a man of rank than to touch his head. If a Siamese touch the head of another with his foot, both of them must build chapels to the earth-spirit to avert the omen. Nor does the guardian spirit of the head like to have the hair washed too often; it might injure or incommode him. It was a grand solemnity when the king of Burma's head was washed with water drawn from the middle of the river. Whenever the native professor, from whom Dr. Bastian took lessons in Burmese at Mandalay, had his head washed, which took place as a rule once a month, he was generally absent for three days together, that time being consumed in preparing for, and recovering from, the operation of head-washing. Dr. Bastian's custom of washing his head daily gave rise to much remark.852 The head of the king of Persia was cleaned only once a year, on his birthday.853 Roman women washed their heads annually on the thirteenth of August, Diana's day.854 The Indians of Peru fancied they could rid themselves of their sins by scrubbing their heads with a small stone and then washing them in a stream.855

Objection to have any one overhead.

Again, the Burmese think it an indignity to have any one, especially a woman, over their heads, and for this reason Burmese houses have never more than one story. The houses are raised on posts above the ground, and whenever anything fell through the floor Dr. Bastian had always difficulty in persuading a servant to fetch it from under the house. In Rangoon a priest, summoned to the bedside of a sick man, climbed up a ladder and got in at the window rather than ascend the staircase, to reach which he must have passed under a gallery. A pious Burman of Rangoon, finding some images of Buddha in a ship's cabin, offered a high price for them, that they might not be degraded [pg 254] by sailors walking over them on the deck.856 Formerly in Siam no person might cross a bridge while his superior in rank was passing underneath, nor might he walk in a room above one in which his superior was sitting or lying.857 The Cambodians esteem it a grave offence to touch a man's head; some of them will not enter a place where anything whatever is suspended over their heads; and the meanest Cambodian would never consent to live under an inhabited room. Hence the houses are built of one story only; and even the Government respects the prejudice by never placing a prisoner in the stocks under the floor of a house, though the houses are raised high above the ground.858 The same superstition exists amongst the Malays; for an early traveller reports that in Java people "wear nothing on their heads, and say that nothing must be on their heads ... and if any person were to put his hand upon their head they would kill him; and they do not build houses with storeys, in order that they may not walk over each other's heads."859 In Uganda no person belonging to the king's totem clan was allowed to get on the top of the palace to roof it, for that would have been regarded as equivalent to getting on the top of the king. Hence the palace had to be roofed by men of a different clan from the king.860

Sanctity of the head, especially of a chief's head, in Polynesia and elsewhere.

The same superstition as to the head is found in full force throughout Polynesia. Thus of Gattanewa, a Marquesan chief, it is said that "to touch the top of his head, or anything which had been on his head, was sacrilege. To pass over his head was an indignity never to be forgotten. Gattanewa, nay, all his family, scorned to pass a gateway which is ever closed, or a house with a door; all must be [pg 255] as open and free as their unrestrained manners. He would pass under nothing that had been raised by the hand of man, if there was a possibility of getting round or over it. Often have I seen him walk the whole length of our barrier, in preference to passing between our water-casks; and at the risk of his life scramble over the loose stones of a wall, rather than go through the gateway."861 Marquesan women have been known to refuse to go on the decks of ships for fear of passing over the heads of chiefs who might be below.862 The son of a Marquesan high priest has been seen to roll on the ground in an agony of rage and despair, begging for death, because some one had desecrated his head and deprived him of his divinity by sprinkling a few drops of water on his hair.863 But it was not the Marquesan chiefs only whose heads were sacred. The head of every Marquesan was taboo, and might neither be touched nor stepped over by another; even a father might not step over the head of his sleeping child;864 women were forbidden to carry or touch anything that had been in contact with, or had merely hung over, the head of their husband or father.865 No one was allowed to be over the head of the king of Tonga.866 In Hawaii (the Sandwich Islands) if a man climbed upon a chiefs house or upon the wall of his yard, he was put to death; if his shadow fell on a chief, he was put to death; if he walked in the shadow of a chiefs house with his head painted white or decked with a garland or wetted with water, he was put to death.867 In Tahiti any one who stood over the king or queen, or passed his hand over their heads, might be put to death.868 Until certain rites were performed over it, a Tahitian infant was especially taboo; whatever touched the child's head, while it was in this state, became sacred and was deposited in a consecrated [pg 256] place railed in for the purpose at the child's house. If a branch of a tree touched the child's head, the tree was cut down; and if in its fall it injured another tree so as to penetrate the bark, that tree also was cut down as unclean and unfit for use. After the rites were performed these special taboos ceased; but the head of a Tahitian was always sacred, he never carried anything on it, and to touch it was an offence.869 In New Zealand "the heads of the chiefs were always tabooed (tapu), hence they could not pass, or sit, under food hung up; or carry food, as others, on their backs; neither would they eat a meal in a house, nor touch a calabash of water in drinking. No one could touch their head, nor, indeed, commonly speak of it, or allude to it; to do so offensively was one of their heaviest curses, and grossest insults, only to be wiped out with blood."870 So sacred was the head of a Maori chief that "if he only touched it with his fingers, he was obliged immediately to apply them to his nose, and snuff up the sanctity which they had acquired by the touch, and thus restore it to the part from whence it was taken."871 On account of the sacredness of his head a Maori chief "could not blow the fire with his mouth, for the breath being sacred, communicated his sanctity to it, and a brand might be taken by a slave, or a man of another tribe, or the fire might be used for other purposes, such as cooking, and so cause his death."872 It is a crime for a sacred person in New Zealand to leave his comb, or anything else which has touched his head, in a place where food has been cooked, or to suffer another person to drink out of any vessel which has touched his lips. Hence when a chief wishes to drink he never puts his lips to the vessel, but holds his hands close to his mouth so as to form a hollow, into which water is poured by another person, and thence is allowed to flow into his mouth. If a light is needed for his pipe, the burning ember taken from [pg 257] the fire must be thrown away as soon as it is used; for the pipe becomes sacred because it has touched his mouth; the coal becomes sacred because it has touched the pipe; and if a particle of the sacred cinder were replaced on the common fire, the fire would also become sacred and could no longer be used for cooking.873 Some Maori chiefs, like other Polynesians, object to go down into a ship's cabin from fear of people passing over their heads.874 Dire misfortune was thought by the Maoris to await those who entered a house where any article of animal food was suspended over their heads. "A dead pigeon, or a piece of pork hung from the roof, was a better protection from molestation than a sentinel."875 If I am right, the reason for the special objection to having animal food over the head is the fear of bringing the sacred head into contact with the spirit of the animal; just as the reason why the Flamen Dialis might not walk under a vine was the fear of bringing his sacred head into contact with the spirit of the vine. Similarly King Darius would not pass through a gate over which there was a tomb, because in doing so he would have had a corpse above his head.876 Among the Awuna tribes of the Gold Coast, West Africa, the worshippers of Hebesio, the god of thunder, believe that their heads are sacred, being associated in some mysterious way with the presence of the protective spirit of their god, which has passed into them through this channel at baptism. Hence they carefully guard their heads against injury, especially against any wound that might draw blood, for they think that such a wound would entail the loss of reason on the sufferer, and that it would bring down the wrath of the thundering god and of his mouth-piece the fetish priest on the impious smiter.877

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§ 6. Hair tabooed.

When the head is sacred, the cutting of the hair becomes a difficult and dangerous operation. The hair of kings, priests, chiefs, sorcerers, and other tabooed persons is sometimes kept unshorn. Hair kept unshorn on various occasions, such as a wife's pregnancy, a journey, and war.

When the head was considered so sacred that it might not even be touched without grave offence, it is obvious that the cutting of the hair must have been a delicate and difficult operation. The difficulties and dangers which, on the primitive view, beset the operation are of two kinds. There is first the danger of disturbing the spirit of the head, which may be injured in the process and may revenge itself upon the person who molests him. Secondly, there is the difficulty of disposing of the shorn locks. For the savage believes that the sympathetic connexion which exists between himself and every part of his body continues to exist even after the physical connexion has been broken, and that therefore he will suffer from any harm that may befall the severed parts of his body, such as the clippings of his hair or the parings of his nails. Accordingly he takes care that these severed portions of himself shall not be left in places where they might either be exposed to accidental injury or fall into the hands of malicious persons who might work magic on them to his detriment or death. Such dangers are common to all, but sacred persons have more to fear from them than ordinary people, so the precautions taken by them are proportionately stringent. The simplest way of evading the peril is not to cut the hair at all; and this is the expedient adopted where the risk is thought to be more than usually great. The Frankish kings were never allowed to crop their hair; from their childhood upwards they had to keep it unshorn.878 To poll the long locks that floated [pg 259] on their shoulders would have been to renounce their right to the throne. When the wicked brothers Clotaire and Childebert coveted the kingdom of their dead brother Clodomir, they inveigled into their power their little nephews, the two sons of Clodomir; and having done so, they sent a messenger bearing scissors and a naked sword to the children's grandmother, Queen Clotilde, at Paris. The envoy shewed the scissors and the sword to Clotilde, and bade her choose whether the children should be shorn and live or remain unshorn and die. The proud queen replied that if her grandchildren were not to come to the throne she would rather see them dead than shorn. And murdered they were by their ruthless uncle Clotaire with his own hand.879 The king of Ponape, one of the Caroline Islands, must wear his hair long, and so must his grandees.880 The hair of the Aztec priests hung down to their hams, so that the weight of it became very troublesome; for they might never poll it so long as they lived, or at least until they had been relieved of their office on the score of old age. They wore it braided in great tresses, six fingers broad, and tied with cotton.881 A Haida medicine-man may neither clip nor comb his tresses, so they are always long and tangled.882 Among the Hos, a negro tribe of Togoland in West Africa, "there are priests on whose head no razor may come during the whole of their lives. The god who dwells in the man forbids the cutting of his hair on pain of death. If the hair is at last too long, the owner must pray to his god to allow him at least to clip the tips of it. The hair is in fact conceived as the seat and lodging-place of his god, so that were it shorn the god would lose his abode in the priest."883 A rain-maker at Boroma, on the lower Zambesi, used to give out that he was [pg 260] possessed by two spirits, one of a lion, the other of a leopard, and in the assemblies of the people he mimicked the roaring of these beasts. In order that their spirits might not leave him, he never cut his hair nor drank alcohol.884 The Masai clan of the El Kiboron, who are believed to possess the art of making rain, may not pluck out their beards, because the loss of their beards would, it is supposed, entail the loss of their rain-making powers. The head chief and the sorcerers of the Masai observe the same rule for a like reason: they think that were they to pull out their beards, their supernatural gifts would desert them.885 In central Borneo the chiefs of a particular Kayan family never allow their hair to be shorn.886 Ancient Indian law required that when a new king had performed the ceremony of consecration he might not shave his hair for a year, though he was allowed to crop it. According to one account none of his subjects, except a Brahman, might have his hair cut during this period, and even horses were left unclipped.887 Amongst the Alfoors of Celebes the Leleen or priest who looks after the rice-fields may not shear his hair during the time that he exercises his special functions, that is from a month before the rice is sown until it is housed.888 In Usukuma, a district to the south of Lake Victoria Nyanza, the people are forbidden to shave their heads till the corn has been sown.889 Men of the Tsetsaut tribe in British Columbia do not cut their hair, believing that if they cut it they would quickly grow old.890 In Ceram men do not crop their hair: if married men did so, they would lose their wives; if young men did so, they would grow weak and enervated.891 In Timorlaut married men may not poll their hair for the same reason as in Ceram, but widowers and men on a [pg 261] journey may do so after offering a fowl or a pig in sacrifice.892 Malays of the Peninsula are forbidden to clip their hair during their wife's pregnancy and for forty days after the child has been born; and a similar abstention is said to have been formerly incumbent on all persons prosecuting a journey or engaged in war.893 Elsewhere men travelling abroad have been in the habit of leaving their hair unshorn until their return. The reason for this custom is probably the danger to which, as we have seen, a traveller is believed to be exposed from the magic arts of the strangers amongst whom he sojourns; if they got possession of his shorn hair, they might work his destruction through it. The Egyptians on a journey kept their hair uncut till they returned home.894 "At Taif when a man returned from a journey his first duty was to visit the Rabba and poll his hair."895 Achilles kept unshorn his yellow hair, because his father had vowed to offer it to the River Sperchius if ever his son came home from the wars beyond the sea.896 Formerly when Dyak warriors returned with the heads of their enemies, each man cut off a lock from the front of his head and threw it into the river as a mode of ending the taboo to which they had been subjected during the expedition.897 Bechuanas after a battle had their hair shorn by their mothers "in order that new hair might grow, and that all which was old and polluted might disappear and be no more."898

Hair unshorn during a vow. The nails of infants should not be pared. Child's hair left unshorn as a refuge for its soul.

Again, men who have taken a vow of vengeance sometimes keep their hair unshorn till they have fulfilled their vow. Thus of the Marquesans we are told that "occasionally they have their head entirely shaved, except one lock on the crown, which is worn loose or put up in a knot. But the latter mode of wearing the hair is only adopted by them [pg 262] when they have a solemn vow, as to revenge the death of some near relation, etc. In such case the lock is never cut off until they have fulfilled their promise."899 A similar custom was sometimes observed by the ancient Germans; among the Chatti the young warriors never clipped their hair or their beard till they had slain an enemy.900 Six thousand Saxons once swore that they would not poll their hair nor shave their beards until they had taken vengeance on their foes.901 On one occasion a Hawaiian taboo is said to have lasted thirty years, "during which the men were not allowed to trim their beards, etc."902 While his vow lasted, a Nazarite might not have his hair cut: "All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head."903 Possibly in this case there was a special objection to touching the tabooed man's head with iron. The Roman priests, as we have seen, were shorn with bronze knives. The same feeling perhaps gave rise to the European rule that a child's nails should not be pared during the first year, but that if it is absolutely necessary to shorten them they should be bitten off by the mother or nurse.904 For in all parts of the world a young child is believed to be especially exposed to supernatural dangers, and particular precautions are taken to guard it against them; in other words, the child is under a number of taboos, of which the rule just mentioned is one. "Among Hindus the usual custom seems to be that the nails of a first-born child are cut at the age of six months. With other children a year [pg 263] or two is allowed to elapse."905 The Slave, Hare, and Dogrib Indians of North-West America do not pare the nails of female children till they are four years of age.906 In Uganda a child's hair may not be cut until the child has received a name. Should any of it be rubbed or plucked off accidentally, it is refastened to the child's head with string or by being knotted to the other hair.907 Amongst the Ewe negroes of the Slave Coast, a mother sometimes vows a sacrifice to the fetish if her infant should live. She then leaves the child unshorn till its fourth or sixth year, when she fulfils her vow and has the child's hair cut by a priest.908 To this day a Syrian mother will sometimes, like Hannah, devote her little one to God. When the child reaches a certain age, its hair is cut and weighed, and money is paid in proportion to the weight. If the boy thus dedicated is a Moslem, he becomes in time a dervish; if he is a Christian, he becomes a monk.909 Among the Toradjas of central Celebes, when a child's hair is cut to rid it of vermin, some locks are allowed to remain on the crown of the head as a refuge for one of the child's souls. Otherwise the soul would have no place in which to settle, and the child would sicken.910 The Karo-Bataks of Sumatra are much afraid of frightening away the soul (t?ndi) of a child; hence when they cut its hair, they always leave a patch unshorn, to which the soul can retreat before the shears. Usually this lock remains unshorn all through life, or at least up till manhood.911 In some parts of Germany it [pg 264] is thought that if a child's hair is combed in its first year the child will be unlucky;912 or that if a boy's hair is cut before his seventh year he will have no courage.913

§ 7. Ceremonies at Hair-cutting.

Solemn ceremonies observed at hair-cutting.

But when it becomes necessary to crop the hair, measures are taken to lessen the dangers which are supposed to attend the operation. The chief of Namosi in Fiji always ate a man by way of precaution when he had had his hair cut. "There was a certain clan that had to provide the victim, and they used to sit in solemn council among themselves to choose him. It was a sacrificial feast to avert evil from the chief."914 This remarkable custom has been described more fully by another observer. The old heathen temple at Namosi is called Rukunitambua, "and round about it are hundreds of stones, each of which tells a fearful tale. A subject tribe, whose town was some little distance from Namosi, had committed an unpardonable offence, and were condemned to a frightful doom. The earth-mound on which their temple had stood was planted with the mountain ndalo (arum), and when the crop was ripe, the poor wretches had to carry it down to Namosi, and give at least one of their number to be killed and eaten by the chief. He used to take advantage of these occasions to have his hair cut, for the human sacrifice was supposed to avert all danger of witchcraft if any ill-wisher got hold of the cuttings of his hair, human hair being the most dangerous channel for the deadliest spells of the sorcerers. The stones round Rukunitambua represented these and other victims who had been killed and eaten at Namosi. Each stone was the record of a murder succeeded by a cannibal feast."915 Amongst the Maoris many spells were uttered at hair-cutting; one, for [pg 265] example, was spoken to consecrate the obsidian knife with which the hair was cut; another was pronounced to avert the thunder and lightning which hair-cutting was believed to cause.916 "He who has had his hair cut is in immediate charge of the Atua (spirit); he is removed from the contact and society of his family and his tribe; he dare not touch his food himself; it is put into his mouth by another person; nor can he for some days resume his accustomed occupations or associate with his fellow-men."917 The person who cuts the hair is also tabooed; his hands having been in contact with a sacred head, he may not touch food with them or engage in any other employment; he is fed by another person with food cooked over a sacred fire. He cannot be released from the taboo before the following day, when he rubs his hands with potato or fern root which has been cooked on a sacred fire; and this food having been taken to the head of the family in the female line and eaten by her, his hands are freed from the taboo. In some parts of New Zealand the most sacred day of the year was that appointed for hair-cutting; the people assembled in large numbers on that day from all the neighbourhood.918 Sometimes a Maori chief's hair was shorn by his wife, who was then tabooed for a week as a consequence of having touched his sacred locks.919 It is an affair of state when the king of Cambodia's hair is cropped. The priests place on the barber's fingers certain old rings set with large stones, which are supposed to contain spirits favourable to the kings, and during the operation the Brahmans keep up a noisy music to drive away the evil spirits.920 The hair and nails of the Mikado could only be cut while he was asleep,921 perhaps because his soul being then absent from his body, there was less chance of injuring it with the shears.

Ceremonies at cutting the hair of Siamese children.

From their earliest days little Siamese children have the [pg 266] crown of the head clean shorn with the exception of a single small tuft of hair, which is daily combed, twisted, oiled, and tied in a little knot until the day when it is finally removed with great pomp and ceremony. The ceremony of shaving the top-knot takes place before the child has reached puberty, and great anxiety is felt at this time lest the kwun, or guardian-spirit who commonly resides in the body and especially the head of every Siamese,922 should be so disturbed by the tonsure as to depart and leave the child a hopeless wreck for life. Great pains are therefore taken to recall this mysterious being in case he should have fled, and to fix him securely in the child. This is the object of an elaborate ceremony performed on the afternoon of the day when the top-knot has been cut. A miniature pagoda is erected, and on it are placed several kinds of food known to be favourites of the spirit. When the kwun has arrived and is feasting on these dainties, he is caught and held fast under a cloth thrown over the food. The child is now placed near the pagoda, and all the family and friends form a circle, with the child, the captured spirit, and the Brahman priests in the middle. Hereupon the priests address the spirit, earnestly entreating him to enter into the child. They amuse him with tales, and coax and wheedle him with flattery, jest, and song; the gongs ring out their loudest; the people cheer and only a kwun of the sourest and most obdurate disposition could resist the combined appeal. The last sentences of the formal invocation run as follows: "Benignant kwun! Thou fickle being who art wont to wander and dally about! From the moment that the child was conceived in the womb, thou hast enjoyed every pleasure, until ten (lunar) months having elapsed and the time of delivery arrived, thou hast suffered and run the risk of perishing by being born alive into the world. Gracious kwun! thou wast at that time so tender, delicate, and wavering as to cause great anxiety concerning thy fate; thou was exactly like a child, youthful, innocent, and inexperienced. The least trifle frightened thee and made thee shudder. In thy infantile playfulness thou wast wont to frolic and wander to no purpose. As thou didst commence to learn to sit, and, [pg 267] unassisted, to crawl totteringly on all fours, thou wast ever falling flat on thy face or on thy back. As thou didst grow up in years and couldst move thy steps firmly, thou didst begin to run and sport thoughtlessly and rashly all round the rooms, the terrace, and bridging planks of travelling boat or floating house, and at times thou didst fall into the stream, creek, or pond, among the floating water-weeds, to the utter dismay of those to whom thy existence was most dear. O gentle kwun, come into thy corporeal abode; do not delay this auspicious rite. Thou art now full-grown and dost form everybody's delight and admiration. Let all the tiny particles of kwun that have fallen on land or water assemble and take permanent abode in this darling little child. Let them all hurry to the site of this auspicious ceremony and admire the magnificent preparations made for them in this hall." The brocaded cloth from the pagoda, under which lurks the captive spirit, is now rolled up tightly and handed to the child, who is told to clasp it firmly to his breast and not let the kwun escape. Further, the child drinks the milk of the coco-nuts which had been offered to the spirit, and by thus absorbing the food of the kwun ensures the presence of that precious spirit in his body. A magic cord is tied round his wrist to keep off the wicked spirits who would lure the kwun away from home; and for three nights he sleeps with the embroidered cloth from the pagoda fast clasped in his arms.923

§ 8. Disposal of Cut Hair and Nails.

Belief that people may be bewitched through the clippings of their hair, the parings of their nails, and other severed parts of their persons.

But even when the hair and nails have been safely cut, there remains the difficulty of disposing of them, for their owner believes himself liable to suffer from any harm that may befall them. The notion that a man may be bewitched by means of the clippings of his hair, the parings of his nails, or any other severed portion of his person is [pg 268] almost world-wide,924 and attested by evidence too ample, too familiar, and too tedious in its uniformity to be here analysed at length. The general idea on which the superstition rests is that of the sympathetic connexion supposed to persist between a person and everything that has once been part of his body or in any way closely related to him. A very few examples must suffice. They belong to that branch of sympathetic magic which may be called contagious.925 Thus, when the Chilote Indians, inhabiting the wild, deeply indented coasts and dark rain-beaten forests of southern Chili, get possession of the hair of an enemy, they drop it from a high tree or tie it to a piece of seaweed and fling it into the surf; for they think that the shock of the fall, or the blows of the waves as the tress is tossed to and fro on the heaving billows, will be transmitted through the hair to the person from whose head it was cut.926 Dread of sorcery, we are told, formed one of the most salient characteristics of the Marquesan islanders in the old days. The sorcerer took some of the hair, spittle, or other bodily refuse of the man he wished to injure, wrapped it up in a leaf, and placed the packet in a bag woven of threads or fibres, which were knotted in an intricate way. The whole was then buried with certain rites, and thereupon the victim wasted away of a languishing sickness which lasted twenty days. His life, however, might be saved by discovering and digging up the buried hair, spittle, or what not; for as soon as this was done the power of the charm ceased.927 A Marquesan chief told Lieutenant Gamble that he was extremely ill, the Happah tribe having stolen a lock of his hair and buried it in a plantain leaf for the purpose of taking his life. Lieutenant Gamble argued with him, but in vain; die he must unless the hair and the plantain leaf were brought back to him; and to obtain them he had offered the Happahs the greater part of his property. He complained of excessive [pg 269] pain in the head, breast, and sides.928 A Maori sorcerer intent on bewitching somebody sought to get a tress of his victim's hair, the parings of his nails, some of his spittle, or a shred of his garment. Having obtained the object, whatever it was, he chanted certain spells and curses over it in a falsetto voice and buried it in the ground. As the thing decayed, the person to whom it had belonged was supposed to waste away.929 Again, an Australian girl, sick of a fever, laid the blame of her illness on a young man who had come behind her and cut off a lock of her hair; she was sure he had buried it and that it was rotting. "Her hair," she said, "was rotting somewhere, and her Marm-bu-la (kidney fat) was wasting away, and when her hair had completely rotted, she would die."930 When an Australian blackfellow wishes to get rid of his wife, he cuts off a lock of her hair in her sleep, ties it to his spear-thrower, and goes with it to a neighbouring tribe, where he gives it to a friend. His friend sticks the spear-thrower up every night before the camp fire, and when it falls down it is a sign that the wife is dead.931 The way in which the charm operates was explained to Dr. Howitt by a Wirajuri man. "You see," he said, "when a blackfellow doctor gets hold of something belonging to a man and roasts it with things, and sings over it, the fire catches hold of the smell of the man, and that settles the poor fellow."932 A slightly different form of the charm as practised in Australia is to fasten the enemy's hair with wax to the pinion bone of a hawk, and set the bone in a small circle of fire. According as the sorcerer desires the death or only the sickness of his victim he leaves the bone in the midst of the fire or removes it and lays it in the sun. When he thinks he has done his enemy enough harm, he places the bone in water, which ends the enchantment.933 [pg 270] Lucian describes how a Syrian witch professed to bring back a faithless lover to his forsaken fair one by means of a lock of his hair, his shoes, his garments, or something of that sort. She hung the hair, or whatever it was, on a peg and fumigated it with brimstone, sprinkling salt on the fire and mentioning the names of the lover and his lass. Then she drew a magic wheel from her bosom and set it spinning, while she gabbled a spell full of barbarous and fearsome words. This soon brought the false lover back to the feet of his charmer.934 Apuleius tells how an amorous Thessalian witch essayed to win the affections of a handsome Boeotian youth by similar means. As darkness fell she mounted the roof, and there, surrounded by a hellish array of dead men's bones, she knotted the severed tresses of auburn hair and threw them on the glowing embers of a perfumed fire. But her cunning handmaid had outwitted her; the hair was only goat's hair; and all her enchantments ended in dismal and ludicrous failure.935

Clipped hair may cause headache.

The Huzuls of the Carpathians imagine that if mice get a person's shorn hair and make a nest of it, the person will suffer from headache or even become idiotic.936 Similarly in Germany it is a common notion that if birds find a person's cut hair, and build their nests with it, the person will suffer from headache;937 sometimes it is thought that he will have an eruption on the head.938 The same superstition prevails, [pg 271] or used to prevail, in West Sussex. "I knew how it would be," exclaimed a maidservant one day, "when I saw that bird fly off with a bit of my hair in its beak that blew out of the window this morning when I was dressing; I knew I should have a clapping headache, and so I have."939 In like manner the Scottish Highlanders believe that if cut or loose hair is allowed to blow away with the wind and it passes over an empty nest, or a bird takes it to its nest, the head from which it came will ache.940 The Todas of southern India hide their clipped hair in bushes or hollows in the rocks, in order that it may not be found by crows, and they bury the parings of their nails lest they should be eaten by buffaloes, with whom, it is believed, they would disagree.941

Cut hair may cause rain, hail, thunder and lightning. Magical uses of cut hair.

Again it is thought that cut or combed-out hair may disturb the weather by producing rain and hail, thunder and lightning. We have seen that in New Zealand a spell was uttered at hair-cutting to avert thunder and lightning. In the Tyrol, witches are supposed to use cut or combed-out hair to make hailstones or thunderstorms with.942 Thlinkeet Indians have been known to attribute stormy weather to the rash act of a girl who had combed her hair outside of the house.943 The Romans seem to have held similar views, for it was a maxim with them that no one on shipboard should cut his hair or nails except in a storm,944 that is, when the mischief was already done. In the Highlands of Scotland it is said that no sister should comb her hair at night if she have a brother at sea.945 In West Africa, when the Mani of Chitombe or Jumba died, the people used to run in crowds to the corpse and tear out his hair, teeth, and nails, which they kept as a rain-charm, believing that otherwise no rain would fall. The Makoko of the Anzikos begged th

e missionaries to give him half their beards as a rain-charm.946 When Du Chaillu had his hair cut among the Ashira of West [pg 272] Africa, the people scuffled and fought for the clippings of his hair, even the aged king himself taking part in the scrimmage. Every one who succeeded in getting some of the hairs wrapped them up carefully and went off in triumph. When the traveller, who was regarded as a spirit by these simple-minded folk, asked the king what use the clippings could be to him, his sable majesty replied, "Oh, spirit! these hairs are very precious; we shall make mondas (fetiches) of them, and they will bring other white men to us, and bring us great good luck and riches. Since you have come to us, oh spirit! we have wished to have some of your hair, but did not dare to ask for it, not knowing that it could be cut."947 The Wabondei of eastern Africa preserve the hair and nails of their dead chiefs and use them both for the making of rain and the healing of the sick.948 The hair, beard, and nails of their deceased chiefs are the most sacred possession, the most precious treasure of the Baronga of south-eastern Africa. Preserved in pellets of cow-dung wrapt round with leathern thongs, they are kept in a special hut under the charge of a high priest, who offers sacrifices and prayers at certain seasons, and has to observe strict continence for a month before he handles these holy relics in the offices of religion. A terrible drought was once the result of this palladium falling into the hands of the enemy.949 In some Victorian tribes the sorcerer used to burn human hair in time of drought; it was never burned at other times for fear of causing a deluge of rain. Also when the river was low, the sorcerer would place human hair in the stream to increase the supply of water.950

Cut hair and nails may be used as hostages for good behaviour of the persons from whose bodies they have been taken.

If cut hair and nails remain in sympathetic connexion with the person from whose body they have been severed, it is clear that they can be used as hostages for his good behaviour by any one who may chance to possess them; for on the principles of contagious magic he has only to [pg 273] injure the hair or nails in order to hurt simultaneously their original owner. Hence when the Nandi have taken a prisoner they shave his head and keep the shorn hair as a surety that he will not attempt to escape; but when the captive is ransomed, they return his shorn hair with him to his own people.951 For a similar reason, perhaps, when the Tiaha, an Arab tribe of Moab, have taken a prisoner whom they do not wish to put to death, they shave one corner of his head above his temples and let him go. So, too, an Arab of Moab who pardons a murderer will sometimes cut off the man's hair and shave his chin before releasing him. Again, when two Moabite Arabs had got hold of a traitor who had revealed their plan of campaign to the enemy, they contented themselves with shaving completely one side of his head and his moustache on the other, after which they set him at liberty.952 We can now, perhaps, understand why Hanun King of Ammon shaved off one-half of the beards of King David's messengers and cut off half their garments before he sent them back to their master.953 His intention, we may conjecture, was not simply to put a gross affront on the envoys. He distrusted the ambitious designs of King David and wished to have some guarantee of the maintenance of peace and friendly relations between the two countries. That guarantee he may have imagined that he possessed in half of the beards and garments of the ambassadors; and if that was so, we may suppose that when the indignant David set the army of Israel in motion against Ammon, and the fords of Jordan were alive with the passage of his troops, the wizards of Ammon were busy in the strong keep of Rabbah muttering their weird spells and performing their quaint enchantments over the shorn hair and severed skirts in order to dispel the thundercloud of war that was gathering black about their country. Vain hopes! The city fell, and from the gates the sad inhabitants trooped forth in thousands to be laid in long lines on the ground and sawed asunder or ripped up with harrows or to walk into the red glow of the [pg 274] burning brick kilns.954 Again, the parings of nails may serve the same purpose as the clippings of hair; they too may be treated as bail for the good behaviour of the persons from whose fingers they have been cut. It is apparently on this principle that when the Ba-yaka of the Congo valley cement a peace, the chiefs of the two tribes meet and eat a cake which contains some of their nail-parings as a pledge of the maintenance of the treaty. They believe that he who breaks an engagement contracted in this solemn manner will die.955 Each of the high contracting parties has in fact given hostages to fortune in the shape of the nail-parings which are lodged in the other man's stomach.

Cut hair and nails are deposited in sacred places, such as temples and cemeteries, to preserve them from injury. Cut hair and nails buried under certain trees or deposited among the branches.

To preserve the cut hair and nails from injury and from the dangerous uses to which they may be put by sorcerers, it is necessary to deposit them in some safe place. Hence the natives of the Maldives carefully keep the cuttings of their hair and nails and bury them, with a little water, in the cemeteries; "for they would not for the world tread upon them nor cast them in the fire, for they say that they are part of their body, and demand burial as it does; and, indeed, they fold them neatly in cotton; and most of them like to be shaved at the gates of temples and mosques."956 In New Zealand the severed hair was deposited on some sacred spot of ground "to protect it from being touched accidentally or designedly by any one."957 The shorn locks of a chief were gathered with much care and placed in an adjoining cemetery.958 The Tahitians buried the cuttings of their hair at the temples.959 In the streets of Soku, West Africa, a modern traveller observed cairns of large stones piled against walls with tufts of human hair inserted in the crevices. On asking the meaning of this, he was told that when any native of the place polled his hair he carefully [pg 275] gathered up the clippings and deposited them in one of these cairns, all of which were sacred to the fetish and therefore inviolable. These cairns of sacred stones, he further learned, were simply a precaution against witchcraft, for if a man were not thus careful in disposing of his hair, some of it might fall into the hands of his enemies, who would, by means of it, be able to cast spells over him and so compass his destruction.960 When the top-knot of a Siamese child has been cut with great ceremony, the short hairs are put into a little vessel made of plantain leaves and set adrift on the nearest river or canal. As they float away, all that was wrong or harmful in the child's disposition is believed to depart with them. The long hairs are kept till the child makes a pilgrimage to the holy Footprint of Buddha on the sacred hill at Prabat. They are then presented to the priests, who are supposed to make them into brushes with which they sweep the Footprint; but in fact so much hair is thus offered every year that the priests cannot use it all, so they quietly burn the superfluity as soon as the pilgrims' backs are turned.961 The cut hair and nails of the Flamen Dialis were buried under a lucky tree.962 The shorn tresses of the Vestal virgins were hung on an ancient lotus-tree.963 In Morocco women often hang their cut hair on a tree that grows on or near the grave of a wonder-working saint; for they think thus to rid themselves of headache or to guard against it.964 In Germany the clippings of hair used often to be buried under an elder-bush.965 In Oldenburg cut hair and nails are wrapt in a cloth which is deposited in a hole in an [pg 276] elder-tree three days before the new moon; the hole is then plugged up.966 In the West of Northumberland it is thought that if the first parings of a child's nails are buried under an ash-tree, the child will turn out a fine singer.967 In Amboyna, before a child may taste sago-pap for the first time, the father cuts off a lock of the infant's hair, which he buries under a sago-palm.968 In the Aru Islands, when a child is able to run alone, a female relation shears a lock of its hair and deposits it on a banana-tree.969 In the island of Rotti it is thought that the first hair which a child gets is not his own, and that, if it is not cut off, it will make him weak and ill. Hence, when the child is about a month old, his hair is polled with much ceremony. As each of the friends who are invited to the ceremony enters the house he goes up to the child, snips off a little of its hair and drops it into a coco-nut shell full of water. Afterwards the father or another relation takes the hair and packs it into a little bag made of leaves, which he fastens to the top of a palm-tree. Then he gives the leaves of the palm a good shaking, climbs down, and goes home without speaking to any one.970 Indians of the Yukon territory, Alaska, do not throw away their cut hair and nails, but tie them up in little bundles and place them in the crotches of trees or wherever they are not likely to be disturbed by beasts. For "they have a superstition that disease will follow the disturbance of such remains by animals."971

Cut hair and nails may be stowed away for safety in any secret place.

Often the clipped hair and nails are stowed away in any secret place, not necessarily in a temple or cemetery or at a tree, as in the cases already mentioned. Thus in Swabia you are recommended to deposit your clipped hair in some spot where neither sun nor moon can shine on it, for example in the earth or under a stone.972 In Danzig it is buried in a [pg 277] bag under the threshold.973 In Ugi, one of the Solomon Islands, men bury their hair lest it should fall into the hands of an enemy who would make magic with it and so bring sickness or calamity on them.974 The same fear seems to be general in Melanesia, and has led to a regular practice of hiding cut hair and nails.975 In Fiji, the shorn hair is concealed in the thatch of the house.976 Most Burmese and Shans tie the combings of their hair and the parings of their nails to a stone and sink them in deep water or bury them in the ground.977 The Zend-Avesta directs that the clippings of hair and the parings of nails shall be placed in separate holes, and that three, six, or nine furrows shall be drawn round each hole with a metal knife.978 In the Grihya-S?tras it is provided that the hair cut from a child's head at the end of the first, third, fifth, or seventh year shall be buried in the earth at a place covered with grass or in the neighbourhood of water.979 At the end of the period of his studentship a Brahman has his hair shaved and his nails cut; and a person who is kindly disposed to him gathers the shorn hair and the clipped nails, puts them in a lump of bull's dung, and buries them in a cow-stable or near an adumbara tree or in a clump of darbha grass, with the words, "Thus I hide the sins of So-and-so."980 The Madi or Moru tribe of central Africa bury the parings of their nails in the ground.981 In Uganda grown people throw away the clippings of their hair, but carefully bury the parings of their nails.982 The A-lur [pg 278] are careful to collect and bury both their hair and nails in safe places.983 The same practice prevails among many tribes of South Africa, from a fear lest wizards should get hold of the severed particles and work evil with them.984 The Caffres carry still further this dread of allowing any portion of themselves to fall into the hands of an enemy; for not only do they bury their cut hair and nails in a secret spot, but when one of them cleans the head of another he preserves the vermin which he catches, "carefully delivering them to the person to whom they originally appertained, supposing, according to their theory, that as they derived their support from the blood of the man from whom they were taken, should they be killed by another, the blood of his neighbour would be in his possession, thus placing in his hands the power of some superhuman influence."985 Amongst the Wanyoro of central Africa all cuttings of the hair and nails are carefully stored under the bed and afterwards strewed about among the tall grass.986 Similarly the Wahoko of central Africa take pains to collect their cut hair and nails and scatter them in the forest.987 The Asa, a branch of the Masai, hide the clippings of their hair and the parings of their nails or throw them away far from the kraal, lest a sorcerer should get hold of them and make their original owners ill by his magic.988 In North Guinea the parings of the finger-nails and the shorn locks of the head are scrupulously concealed, lest they be converted into a charm for the destruction of the person to whom they belong.989 For the same reason the clipped hair and nail-parings of chiefs in Southern Nigeria are secretly buried.990 Among the Thompson Indians of British Columbia loose hair was buried, hidden, or thrown into the water, because, if an [pg 279] enemy got hold of it, he might bewitch the owner.991 In Bolang Mongondo, a district of western Celebes, the first hair cut from a child's head is kept in a young coco-nut, which is commonly hung on the front of the house, under the roof.992 To spit upon the hair before throwing it away is thought in some parts of Europe to be a sufficient safeguard against its use by witches.993 Spitting as a protective charm is well known.994

Cut hair and nails kept against the resurrection.

Sometimes the severed hair and nails are preserved, not to prevent them from falling into the hands of a magician, but that the owner may have them at the resurrection of the body, to which some races look forward. Thus the Incas of Peru "took extreme care to preserve the nail-parings and the hairs that were shorn off or torn out with a comb; placing them in holes or niches in the walls; and if they fell out, any other Indian that saw them picked them up and put them in their places again. I very often asked different Indians, at various times, why they did this, in order to see what they would say, and they all replied in the same words saying, 'Know that all persons who are born must return to life' (they have no word to express resuscitation), 'and the souls must rise out of their tombs with all that belonged to their bodies. We, therefore, in order that we may not have to search for our hair and nails at a time when there will be much hurry and confusion, place them in one place, that [pg 280] they may be brought together more conveniently, and, whenever it is possible, we are also careful to spit in one place.'?"995 In Chili this custom of stuffing the shorn hair into holes in the wall is still observed, it being thought the height of imprudence to throw the hair away.996 Similarly the Turks never throw away the parings of their nails, but carefully stow them in cracks of the walls or of the boards, in the belief that they will be needed at the resurrection.997 The Armenians do not throw away their cut hair and nails and extracted teeth, but hide them in places that are esteemed holy, such as a crack in the church wall, a pillar of the house, or a hollow tree. They think that all these severed portions of themselves will be wanted at the resurrection, and that he who has not stowed them away in a safe place will have to hunt about for them on the great day.998 With the same intention the Macedonians bury the parings of their nails in a hole,999 and devout Moslems in Morocco hide them in a secret place.1000 Similarly the Arabs of Moab bestow the parings of their nails in the crannies of walls, where they are sanguine enough to expect to find them when they appear before their Maker.1001 Some of the Esthonians keep the parings of their finger and toe nails in their bosom, in order to have them at hand when they are asked for them at the day of judgment.1002 In a like spirit peasants of the Vosges will sometimes bury their extracted teeth secretly, marking the spot well so that they may be able to walk straight to it on the resurrection day.1003 In the village of Drumconrath, near Abbeyleix, in Ireland, there used to be some old women who, having ascertained from Scripture that the hairs of their heads were all [pg 281] numbered by the Almighty, expected to have to account for them at the day of judgment. In order to be able to do so they stuffed the severed hair away in the thatch of their cottages.1004 In Abyssinia men who have had their hands or feet cut off are careful to dry the severed limbs over a fire and preserve them in butter for the purpose of being buried with them in the grave. Thus they expect to get up with all their limbs complete at the general rising.1005 The pains taken by the Chinese to preserve corpses entire and free from decay seems to rest on a firm belief in the resurrection of the dead; hence it is natural to find their ancient books laying down a rule that the hair, nails, and teeth which have fallen out during life should be buried with the dead in the coffin, or at least in the grave.1006 The Fors of central Africa object to cut any one else's nails, for should the part cut off be lost and not delivered into its owner's hands, it will have to be made up to him somehow or other after death. The parings are buried in the ground.1007

Cut hair and nails burnt to prevent them from falling into the hands of sorcerers.

Some people burn their loose hair to save it from falling into the hands of sorcerers. This is done by the Patagonians and some of the Victorian tribes.1008 In the Upper Vosges they say that you should never leave the clippings of your hair and nails lying about, but burn them to hinder the sorcerers from using them against you.1009 For the same reason Italian women either burn their loose hairs or throw them into a place where no one is likely to look for them.1010 The almost universal dread of witchcraft induces the West African negroes, the Makololo of South Africa, and the Tahitians to burn or bury their shorn hair.1011 For the [pg 282] same reason the natives of Uap, one of the Caroline Islands, either burn or throw into the sea the clippings of their hair and the parings of their nails.1012 One of the pygmies who roam through the gloomy depths of the vast central African forests has been seen to collect carefully the clippings of his hair in a packet of banana leaves and keep them till next morning, when, the camp breaking up for the day's march, he threw them into the hot ashes of the abandoned fire.1013 Australian aborigines of the Proserpine River, in Queensland, burn a woman's cut hair to prevent it from getting into a man's bag; for if it did, the woman would fall ill.1014 When an English officer had cut off a lock of hair of a Fuegian woman, the men of her party were angry, and one of them, taking the lock away, threw half of it into the fire and swallowed the rest. "Immediately afterwards, placing his hands to the fire, as if to warm them, and looking upwards, he uttered a few words, apparently of invocation: then, looking at us, pointed upwards, and exclaimed, with a tone and gesture of explanation, 'Pecheray, Pecheray.' After which they cut off some hair from several of the officers who were present, and repeated a similar ceremony."1015 The Thompson Indians used to burn the parings of their nails, because if an enemy got possession of the parings he might bewitch the person to whom they belonged.1016 In the Tyrol many people burn their hair lest the witches should use it to raise thunderstorms; others burn or bury it to prevent the birds from lining their nests with it, which would cause the heads from which the hair came to ache.1017 Cut and combed-out hair is burned in [pg 283] Pomerania and sometimes in Belgium.1018 In Norway the parings of nails are either burned or buried, lest the elves or the Finns should find them and make them into bullets wherewith to shoot the cattle.1019 In Corea all the clippings and combings of the hair of a whole family are carefully preserved throughout the year and then burned in potsherds outside the house on the evening of New Year's Day. At such seasons the streets of Seoul, the capital, present a weird spectacle. They are for the most part silent and deserted, sometimes muffled deep in snow; but through the dusk of twilight red lights glimmer at every door, where little groups are busy tending tiny fires whose flickering flames cast a ruddy fitful glow on the moving figures. The burning of the hair in these fires is thought to exclude demons from the house for a year; but coupled with this belief may well be, or once have been, a wish to put these relics out of the reach of witches and wizards.1020

Inconsistency in burning cut hair and nails.

This destruction of the hair and nails plainly involves an inconsistency of thought. The object of the destruction is avowedly to prevent these severed portions of the body from being used by sorcerers. But the possibility of their being so used depends upon the supposed sympathetic connexion between them and the man from whom they were severed. And if this sympathetic connexion still exists, clearly these severed portions cannot be destroyed without injury to the man.

Hair is sometimes cut because it is infected with the virus of taboo. In these cases hair-cutting is a form of purification. Hair of mourners cut to rid them of the pollution of death.

Before leaving this subject, on which I have perhaps dwelt too long, it may be well to call attention to the motive assigned for cutting a young child's hair in Rotti.1021 In that island the first hair is regarded as a danger to the child, and its removal is intended to avert the danger. The reason of this may be that as a young child is almost universally supposed to be in a tabooed or dangerous state, it is necessary, in removing the taboo, to remove also the separable [pg 284] parts of the child's body because they are infected, so to say, by the virus of taboo and as such are dangerous. The cutting of the child's hair would thus be exactly parallel to the destruction of the vessels which have been used by a tabooed person.1022 This view is borne out by a practice, observed by some Australians, of burning off part of a woman's hair after childbirth as well as burning every vessel which has been used by her during her seclusion.1023 Here the burning of the woman's hair seems plainly intended to serve the same purpose as the burning of the vessels used by her; and as the vessels are burned because they are believed to be tainted with a dangerous infection, so, we must suppose, is also the hair. Similarly among the Latuka of central Africa, a woman is secluded for fourteen days after the birth of her child, and at the end of her seclusion her hair is shaved off and burnt.1024 Again, we have seen that girls at puberty are strongly infected with taboo; hence it is not surprising to find that the Ticunas of Brazil tear out all the hair of girls at that period.1025 Once more, the father of twins in Uganda is tabooed for some time after the birth of the children, and during that time he may not dress his hair nor cut his finger nails. This state of taboo lasts until the next war breaks out. When the army is under orders to march, the father of twins has the whole of his body shaved and his nails cut. The shorn hair and the cut nails are then tied up in a ball, which the man takes with him to the war, together with the bark cloth he wore at the ceremonial dances after the birth of the twins. When he has killed a foe, he crams the ball into the dead man's mouth, ties the bark cloth round the neck of the corpse, and leaves them there on the battlefield.1026 The ceremony appears to be intended to rid the man of the taint of taboo which may be supposed to adhere to his hair, nails, and the garment he wore. Hence we can understand the importance attached by many [pg 285] peoples to the first cutting of a child's hair and the elaborate ceremonies by which the operation is accompanied.1027 Again, we can understand why a man should poll his head after a journey.1028 For we have seen that a traveller is often believed to contract a dangerous infection from strangers, and that, therefore, on his return home he is obliged to submit to various purificatory ceremonies before he is allowed to mingle freely with his own people.1029 On my hypothesis the polling of the hair is simply one of these purificatory or disinfectant ceremonies. Certainly this explanation applies to the custom as practised by the Bechuanas, for we are expressly told that "they cleanse or purify themselves after journeys by shaving their heads, etc., lest they should have contracted from strangers some evil by witchcraft or sorcery."1030 The cutting of the hair after a vow may have the same meaning. It is a way of ridding the man of what has been infected by the dangerous state, whether we call it taboo, sanctity, or uncleanness (for all these are only different expressions for the same primitive conception), under which he laboured during the continuance of the vow. Still more clearly does the meaning of the practice come out in the case of mourners, who cut their hair and nails and use new vessels when the period of their mourning is at an end. This was done in ancient India, obviously for the purpose of purifying such persons from the dangerous influence of death and the ghost to which for a time they had been exposed.1031 Among the Bodos and Dhimals of Assam, when a death has occurred, the family of the deceased is reckoned unclean for three days. At the end of that time they bathe, shave, and are sprinkled with holy water, after which they hold the funeral feast.1032 Here the act [pg 286] of shaving must clearly be regarded as a purificatory rite, like the bathing and sprinkling with holy water. At Hierapolis no man might enter the great temple of Astarte on the same day on which he had seen a corpse; next day he might enter, provided he had first purified himself. But the kinsmen of the deceased were not allowed to set foot in the sanctuary for thirty days after the death, and before doing so they had to shave their heads.1033 At Agweh, on the Slave Coast of West Africa, widows and widowers at the end of their period of mourning wash themselves, shave their heads, pare their nails, and put on new cloths; and the old cloths, the shorn hair, and the nail-parings are all burnt.1034 The Kayans of Borneo are not allowed to cut their hair or shave their temples during the period of mourning; but as soon as the mourning is ended by the ceremony of bringing home a newly severed human head, the barber's knife is kept busy enough. As each man leaves the barber's hands, he gathers up the shorn locks and spitting on them murmurs a prayer to the evil spirits not to harm him. He then blows the hair out of the verandah of the house.1035 Among the Wajagga of East Africa mourners shear their hair under a fruit-bearing banana-tree and lay their shorn locks at the foot of the tree. When the fruit of the tree is ripe, they brew beer with it and invite all the mourners to partake of it, saying, "Come and drink the beer of those hair-bananas."1036 The tribes of British Central Africa destroy the house in which a man has died, and on the day when this is done the mourners have their heads shaved and bury the shorn hair on the site of the house; the Atonga burn it in a new fire made by the rubbing of two sticks.1037 When an Akikuyu woman has, in accordance with custom, exposed her misshapen or prematurely born infant in the wood for the hyaenas to devour, she is shaved on her return by an old woman and given a magic potion to drink; after which she is regarded as clean.1038 [pg 287] Similarly at some Hindoo places of pilgrimage on the banks of rivers men who have committed great crimes or are troubled by uneasy consciences have every hair shaved off by professional barbers before they plunge into the sacred stream, from which "they emerge new creatures, with all the accumulated guilt of a long life effaced."1039 The matricide Orestes is said to have polled his hair after appeasing the angry Furies of his murdered mother.1040

§ 9. Spittle tabooed.

People may be bewitched by means of their spittle. Hence people take care of their spittle to prevent it from falling into the hands of sorcerers.

The same fear of witchcraft which has led so many people to hide or destroy their loose hair and nails has induced other or the same people to treat their spittle in a like fashion. For on the principles of sympathetic magic the spittle is part of the man, and whatever is done to it will have a corresponding effect on him. A Chilote Indian, who has gathered up the spittle of an enemy, will put it in a potato, and hang the potato in the smoke, uttering certain spells as he does so in the belief that his foe will waste away as the potato dries in the smoke. Or he will put the spittle in a frog and throw the animal into an inaccessible, unnavigable river, which will make the victim quake and shake with ague.1041 When a Cherokee sorcerer desires to destroy a man, he gathers up his victim's spittle on a stick and puts it in a joint of wild parsnip, together with seven earthworms beaten to a paste and several splinters from a tree which has been struck by lightning. He then goes into the forest, digs a hole at the foot of a tree which has been struck by lightning, and deposits in the hole the joint of wild parsnip [pg 288] with its contents. Further, he lays seven yellow stones in the hole, then fills in the earth, and makes a fire over the spot to destroy all traces of his work. If the ceremony has been properly carried out, the man whose spittle has thus been treated begins to feel ill at once; his soul shrivels up and dwindles; and within seven days he is a dead man.1042 In the East Indian island of Siaoo or Siauw, one of the Sangi group, there are witches who by means of hellish charms compounded from the roots of plants can change their shape and bring sickness and misfortune on other folk. These hags also crawl under the houses, which are raised above the ground on posts, and there gathering up the spittle of the inmates cause them to fall ill.1043 If a Wotjobaluk sorcerer cannot get the hair of his foe, a shred of his rug, or something else that belongs to the man, he will watch till he sees him spit, when he will carefully pick up the spittle with a stick and use it for the destruction of the careless spitter.1044 The natives of Urewera, a district in the north island of New Zealand, enjoyed a high reputation for their skill in magic. It was said that they made use of people's spittle to bewitch them. Hence visitors were careful to conceal their spittle, lest they should furnish these wizards with a handle for working them harm.1045 Similarly among some tribes of South Africa no man will spit when an enemy is near, lest his foe should find the spittle and give it to a wizard, who would then mix it with magical ingredients so as to injure the person from whom it fell. Even in a man's own house his saliva is carefully swept away and obliterated for a similar reason.1046 For a like reason, no doubt, the natives of the Marianne Islands use great precautions in spitting and take care never to expectorate near somebody else's house.1047 [pg 289] Negroes of Senegal, the Bissagos Archipelago, and some of the West Indian Islands, such as Guadeloupe and Martinique, are also careful to efface their spittle by pressing it into the ground with their feet, lest a sorcerer should use it to their hurt.1048 Natives of Astrolabe Bay, in German New Guinea, wipe out their spittle for the same reason;1049 and a like dread of sorcery prevents some natives of German New Guinea from spitting on the ground in presence of others.1050 The Telugus say that if a man, rinsing his teeth with charcoal in the mornings, spits on the road and somebody else treads on his spittle, the spitter will be laid up with a sharp attack of fever for two or three days. Hence all who wish to avoid the ailment should at once efface their spittle by sprinkling water on it.1051

Precautions taken by chiefs, kings, and wizards to guard their spittle from being put to evil uses by magicians.

If common folk are thus cautious, it is natural that kings and chiefs should be doubly so. In the Sandwich Islands chiefs were attended by a confidential servant bearing a portable spittoon, and the deposit was carefully buried every morning to put it out of the reach of sorcerers.1052 On the Slave Coast of Africa, for the same reason, whenever a king or chief expectorates, the saliva is scrupulously gathered up and hidden or buried.1053 The same precautions are taken for the same reason with the spittle of the chief of Tabali in Southern Nigeria.1054 At Bulebane, in Senegambia, a French traveller observed a captive engaged, with an air of great importance, in covering over with sand all the spittle that fell from the lips of a native dignitary; the man used a small stick for the purpose.1055 Page-boys, who carry tails of elephants, hasten to sweep up or cover with sand the spittle of the king of Ashantee;1056 an attendant used to perform a similar service for the king [pg 290] of Congo;1057 and a custom of the same sort prevails or used to prevail at the court of the Muata Jamwo in the interior of Angola.1058 In Yap, one of the Caroline Islands, there are two great wizards, the head of all the magicians, whose exalted dignity compels them to lead a very strict life. They may eat fruit only from plants or trees which are grown specially for them. When one of them goes abroad the other must stay at home, for if they were to meet each other on the road, some direful calamity would surely follow. Though they may not smoke tobacco, they are allowed to chew a quid of betel; but that which they expectorate is carefully gathered up, carried away, and burned in a special manner, lest any evil-disposed person should get possession of the spittle and do their reverences a mischief by uttering a curse over it.1059 Among the Guaycurus and Payaguas of Brazil, when a chief spat, the persons about him received his saliva on their hands,1060 probably in order to prevent it from being misused by magicians.

Use of spittle in making a covenant.

The magical use to which spittle may be put marks it out, like blood or nail-parings, as a suitable material basis for a covenant, since by exchanging their saliva the covenanting parties give each other a guarantee of good faith. If either of them afterwards forswears himself, the other can punish his perfidy by a magical treatment of the perjurer's spittle which he has in his custody. Thus when the Wajagga of East Africa desire to make a covenant, the two parties will sometimes sit down with a bowl of milk or beer between them, and after uttering an incantation over the beverage they each take a mouthful of the milk or beer and spit it into the other's mouth. In urgent cases, when there is no time to stand on ceremony, the two will simply spit into each other's mouth, which seals the covenant just as well.1061

[pg 291]

§ 10. Foods tabooed.

Certain foods are tabooed to sacred persons, such as kings, chiefs, priests, and other sacred persons.

As might have been expected, the superstitions of the savage cluster thick about the subject of food; and he abstains from eating many animals and plants, wholesome enough in themselves, which for one reason or another he fancies would prove dangerous or fatal to the eater. Examples of such abstinence are too familiar and far too numerous to quote. But if the ordinary man is thus deterred by superstitious fear from partaking of various foods, the restraints of this kind which are laid upon sacred or tabooed persons, such as kings and priests, are still more numerous and stringent. We have already seen that the Flamen Dialis was forbidden to eat or even name several plants and animals, and that the flesh diet of Egyptian kings was restricted to veal and goose.1062 In antiquity many priests and many kings of barbarous peoples abstained wholly from a flesh diet.1063 The Gangas or fetish priests of the Loango Coast are forbidden to eat or even see a variety of animals and fish, in consequence of which their flesh diet is extremely limited; often they live only on herbs and roots, though they may drink fresh blood.1064 The heir to the throne of Loango is forbidden from infancy to eat pork; from early childhood he is interdicted the use of the cola fruit in company; at puberty he is taught by a priest not to partake of fowls except such as he has himself killed and cooked; and so the number of taboos goes on increasing with his years.1065 In Fernando Po the king after installation is forbidden to eat cocco (arum acaule), deer, and porcupine, which are the ordinary foods of the people.1066 The head chief of the Masai may eat nothing but milk, honey, and the roasted livers of goats; for if he partook of any other food he would lose his power of soothsaying and of compounding charms.1067 The diet of the king of Unyoro [pg 292] in Central Africa was strictly regulated by immemorial custom. He might never eat vegetables, but must live on milk and beef. Mutton he might not touch. The beef he ate must be that of young animals not more than one year old, and it must be spitted and roasted before a wood fire. But he might not drink milk and eat beef at the same meal. He drank milk thrice a day in the dairy, and the milk was always drawn from a sacred herd which was kept for his exclusive use. Nine cows, neither more nor less, were daily brought from pasture to the royal enclosure to be milked for the king. The herding and the milking of the sacred animals were performed according to certain rules prescribed by ancient custom.1068 Amongst the Murrams of Manipur (a district of eastern India, on the border of Burma) "there are many prohibitions in regard to the food, both animal and vegetable, which the chief should eat, and the Murrams say the chief's post must be a very uncomfortable one."1069 Among the hill tribes of Manipur the scale of diet allowed by custom to the ghennabura or religious head of a village is always extremely limited. The savoury dog, the tomato, the murghi, are forbidden to him. If a man in one of these tribes is wealthy enough to feast his whole village and to erect a memorial stone, he is entitled to become subject to the same self-denying ordinances as the ghennabura. He wears the same special clothes, and for the space of a year at least he may not use a drinking horn, but must drink from a bamboo cup.1070 Among the Karennis or Red Karens of Burma a chief attains his position not by hereditary right but in virtue of the observance of taboo. He must abstain from rice and liquor. His mother too must have eschewed these things and lived only on yams and potatoes while she was with child. During that time she might neither eat meat nor drink water from a common well; and in order to be duly qualified for a chiefship her son must continue these habits.1071 Among the Pshaws and Chewsurs of the Caucasus, [pg 293] whose nominal Christianity has degenerated into superstition and polytheism, there is an annual office which entails a number of taboos on the holder or dasturi, as he is called. He must live the whole year in the temple, without going to his house or visiting his wife; indeed he may not speak to any one, except the priests, for fear of defiling himself. Once a week he must bathe in the river, whatever the weather may be, using for the purpose a ladder on which no one else may set foot. His only nourishment is bread and water. In the temple he superintends the brewing of the beer for the festivals.1072 In the village of Tomil, in Yap, one of the Caroline Islands, the year consists of twenty-four months, and there are five men who for a hundred days of the year may eat only fish and taro, may not chew betel, and must observe strict continence. The reason assigned by them for submitting to these restraints is that if they did not act thus the immature girls would attain to puberty too soon.1073

To explain the ultimate reason why any particular food is prohibited to a whole tribe or to certain of its members would commonly require a far more intimate knowledge of the history and beliefs of the tribe than we possess. The general motive of such prohibitions is doubtless the same which underlies the whole taboo system, namely, the conservation of the tribe and the individual.

§ 11. Knots and Rings tabooed.

Knots and rings not worn by certain sacred persons. Knots loosed and locks unlocked at childbirth to facilitate delivery.

We have seen that among the many taboos which the Flamen Dialis at Rome had to observe, there was one that forbade him to have a knot on any part of his garments, and another that obliged him to wear no ring unless it were broken.1074 In like manner Moslem pilgrims to Mecca are in a state of sanctity or taboo and may wear on their persons [pg 294] neither knots nor rings.1075 These rules are probably of kindred significance, and may conveniently be considered together. To begin with knots, many people in different parts of the world entertain a strong objection to having any knot about their person at certain critical seasons, particularly childbirth, marriage, and death. Thus among the Saxons of Transylvania, when a woman is in travail all knots on her garments are untied, because it is believed that this will facilitate her delivery, and with the same intention all the locks in the house, whether on doors or boxes, are unlocked.1076 The Lapps think that a lying-in woman should have no knot on her garments, because a knot would have the effect of making the delivery difficult and painful.1077 In ancient India it was a rule to untie all knots in a house at the moment of childbirth.1078 Roman religion required that women who took part in the rites of Juno Lucina, the goddess of childbirth, should have no knot tied on their persons.1079 In the East Indies this superstition is extended to the whole time of pregnancy; the people believe that if a pregnant woman were to tie knots, or braid, or make anything fast, the child would thereby be constricted or the woman would herself be "tied up" when her time came.1080 Nay, some of them enforce the observance of the rule on the father as well as the mother of the unborn child. Among the Sea Dyaks neither of the parents may bind up anything with string or make anything fast during the wife's pregnancy.1081 Among the Land Dyaks the husband of the expectant mother is bound to refrain from tying things together with rattans until after her delivery.1082 [pg 295] In the Toumbuluh tribe of North Celebes a ceremony is performed in the fourth or fifth month of a woman's pregnancy, and after it her husband is forbidden, among many other things, to tie any fast knots and to sit with his legs crossed over each other.1083 In the Kaitish tribe of central Australia the father of a newborn child goes out into the scrub for three days, away from his camp, leaving his girdle and arm-bands behind him, so that he has nothing tied tightly round any part of his body. This freedom from constriction is supposed to benefit his wife.1084

On the principles of homoeopathic magic knots are impediments which tie up the mother and prevent her from bringing the child to the birth. All locks, doors, drawers, windows, etc. opened in order to facilitate childbirth.

In all these cases the idea seems to be that the tying of a knot would, as they say in the East Indies, "tie up" the woman, in other words, impede and perhaps prevent her delivery, or delay her convalescence after the birth. On the principles of homoeopathic or imitative magic the physical obstacle or impediment of a knot on a cord would create a corresponding obstacle or impediment in the body of the woman. That this is really the explanation of the rule appears from a custom observed by the Hos of Togoland in West Africa at a difficult birth. When a woman is in hard labour and cannot bring forth, they call in a magician to her aid. He looks at her and says, "The child is bound in the womb, that is why she cannot be delivered." On the entreaties of her female relations he then promises to loose the bond so that she may bring forth. For that purpose he orders them to fetch a tough creeper from the forest, and with it he binds the hands and feet of the sufferer on her back. Then he takes a knife and calls out the woman's name, and when she answers he cuts through the creeper with a knife, saying, "I cut through to-day thy bonds and thy child's bonds." After that he chops up the creeper small, puts the bits in a vessel of water, and bathes the woman with the water.1085 Here the cutting of the creeper with which the woman's hands and feet are bound is a simple piece of homoeopathic or imitative magic: by releasing her [pg 296] limbs from their bonds the magician imagines that he simultaneously releases the child in her womb from the trammels which impede its birth. For a similar reason, no doubt, among the same people a priest ties up the limbs of a pregnant woman with grass and then unties the knots, saying, "I will now open you." After that the woman has to partake of some maize-porridge in which a ring made of a magic cord had been previously placed by the priest.1086 The intention of this ceremony is probably, on the principles of homoeopathic magic, to ensure for the woman an easy delivery by releasing her from the bonds of grass. The same train of thought underlies a practice observed by some peoples of opening all locks, doors, and so on, while a birth is taking place in the house. We have seen that at such a time the Germans of Transylvania open all the locks, and the same thing is done also in Voigtland and Mecklenburg.1087 In north-western Argyllshire superstitious people used to open every lock in the house at childbirth.1088 The old Roman custom of presenting women with a key as a symbol of an easy delivery1089 perhaps points to the observance of a similar custom. In the island of Salsette near Bombay, when a woman is in hard labour, all locks of doors or drawers are opened with a key to facilitate her delivery.1090 Among the Mandelings of Sumatra the lids of all chests, boxes, pans and so forth are opened; and if this does not produce the desired effect, the anxious husband has to strike the projecting ends of some of the house-beams in order to loosen them; for they think that "everything must be open and loose to facilitate the delivery."1091 At a difficult birth the Battas of Sumatra make a search through the possessions of husband and wife and untie everything that is tied up in a [pg 297] bundle.1092 In some parts of Java, when a woman is in travail, everything in the house that was shut is opened, in order that the birth may not be impeded; not only are doors opened and the lids of chests, boxes, rice-pots, and water-buts lifted up, but even swords are unsheathed and spears drawn out of their cases.1093 Customs of the same sort are practised with the same intention in other parts of the East Indies.1094 In Chittagong, when a woman cannot bring her child to the birth, the midwife gives orders to throw all doors and windows wide open, to uncork all bottles, to remove the bungs from all casks, to unloose the cows in the stall, the horses in the stable, the watchdog in his kennel, to set free sheep, fowls, ducks, and so forth. This universal liberty accorded to the animals and even to inanimate things is, according to the people, an infallible means of ensuring the woman's delivery and allowing the babe to be born.1095 At the moment of childbirth the Chams of Cochin-China hasten to open the stall of the buffaloes and to unyoke the plough, doubtless with the intention of aiding the woman in travail, though the writer who reports the custom is unable to explain it.1096 Among the Singhalese, a few hours before a birth is expected to take place, all the cupboards in the house are unlocked with the express purpose of facilitating the delivery.1097 In the island of Saghalien, when a woman is in labour, her husband undoes everything that can be undone. He loosens the plaits of his [pg 298] hair and the laces of his shoes. Then he unties whatever is tied in the house or its vicinity. In the courtyard he takes the axe out of the log in which it is stuck; he unfastens the boat, if it is moored to a tree, he withdraws the cartridges from his gun, and the arrows from his crossbow.1098 In Bilaspore a woman's hair is never allowed to remain knotted while she is in the act of giving birth to a child.1099 Among some modern Jews of Roumania it is customary for the unmarried girls of a household to unbraid their hair and let it hang loose on their shoulders while a woman is in hard labour in the house.1100

On the principles of homoeopathic magic the crossing of the legs is also thought to impede childbirth and other things.

Again, we have seen that a Toumbuluh man abstains not only from tying knots, but also from sitting with crossed legs during his wife's pregnancy. The train of thought is the same in both cases. Whether you cross threads in tying a knot, or only cross your legs in sitting at your ease, you are equally, on the principles of homoeopathic magic, crossing or thwarting the free course of things, and your action cannot but check and impede whatever may be going forward in your neighbourhood. Of this important truth the Romans were fully aware. To sit beside a pregnant woman or a patient under medical treatment with clasped hands, says the grave Pliny, is to cast a malignant spell over the person, and it is worse still if you nurse your leg or legs with your clasped hands, or lay one leg over the other. Such postures were regarded by the old Romans as a let and hindrance to business of every sort, and at a council of war or a meeting of magistrates, at prayers and sacrifices, no man was suffered to cross his legs or clasp his hands.1101 The stock instance of the dreadful consequences that might flow from doing one or the other was that of Alcmena, who travailed with Hercules for seven days and seven nights, because the goddess Lucina sat in front of the house with clasped hands [pg 299] and crossed legs, and the child could not be born until the goddess had been beguiled into changing her attitude.1102 It is a Bulgarian superstition that if a pregnant woman is in the habit of sitting with crossed legs, she will suffer much in childbed.1103 In some parts of Bavaria, when conversation comes to a standstill and silence ensues, they say, "Surely somebody has crossed his legs."1104

Knots are supposed to prevent the consummation of marriage. Knots loosed in the costume of bride and bridegroom in order to ensure the consummation of the marriage. Knots tied by enchanters to render the bridegroom impotent.

The magical effect of knots in trammelling and obstructing human activity was believed to be manifested at marriage not less than at birth. During the Middle Ages, and down to the eighteenth century, it seems to have been commonly held in Europe that the consummation of marriage could be prevented by any one who, while the wedding ceremony was taking place, either locked a lock or tied a knot in a cord, and then threw the lock or the cord away. The lock or the knotted cord had to be flung into water; and until it had been found and unlocked, or untied, no real union of the married pair was possible.1105 Hence it was a grave offence, not only to cast such a spell, but also to steal or make away with the material instrument of it, whether lock or knotted cord. In the year 1718 the parliament of Bordeaux sentenced some one to be burned alive for having spread desolation through a whole family by means of knotted cords; and in 1705 two persons were condemned to death in Scotland for stealing certain charmed knots which a woman had made, in order thereby to mar the wedded happiness of Spalding of Ashintilly.1106 The belief in the efficacy of these charms appears to have lingered in the Highlands of Perthshire down to the end of the eighteenth century, for at that time it was still customary in the beautiful parish of Logierait, between the river Tummel and the river Tay, to unloose carefully every knot in the clothes of the bride and [pg 300] bridegroom before the celebration of the marriage ceremony. When the ceremony was over, and the bridal party had left the church, the bridegroom immediately retired one way with some young men to tie the knots that had been loosed a little before; and the bride in like manner withdrew somewhere else to adjust the disorder of her dress.1107 In some parts of the Highlands it was deemed enough that the bridegroom's left shoe should be without buckle or latchet, "to prevent witches from depriving him, on the nuptial night, of the power of loosening the virgin zone."1108 We meet with the same superstition and the same custom at the present day in Syria. The persons who help a Syrian bridegroom to don his wedding garments take care that no knot is tied on them and no button buttoned, for they believe that a button buttoned or a knot tied would put it within the power of his enemies to deprive him of his nuptial rights by magical means.1109 In Lesbos the malignant person who would thus injure a bridegroom on his wedding day ties a thread to a bush, while he utters imprecations; but the bridegroom can defeat the spell by wearing at his girdle a piece of an old net or of an old mantilla belonging to the bride in which knots have been tied.1110 The fear of such charms is diffused all over North Africa at the present day. To render a bridegroom impotent the enchanter has only to tie a knot in a handkerchief which he had previously placed quietly on some part of the bridegroom's body when he was mounted on horseback ready to fetch his bride: so long as the knot in the handkerchief [pg 301] remains tied, so long will the bridegroom remain powerless to consummate the marriage. Another way of effecting the same object is to stand behind the bridegroom when he is on horseback, with an open clasp-knife or pair of scissors in your hand and to call out his name; if he imprudently answers, you at once shut the clasp-knife or the pair of scissors with a snap, and that makes him impotent. To guard against this malignant spell the bridegroom's mother will sometimes buy a penknife on the eve of the marriage, shut it up, and then open it just at the moment when her son is about to enter the bridal chamber.1111

Use of knots at marriage in the island of Rotti.

A curious use is made of knots at marriage in the little East Indian island of Rotti. When a man has paid the price of his bride, a cord is fastened round her waist, if she is a maid, but not otherwise. Nine knots are tied in the cord, and in order to make them harder to unloose, they are smeared with wax. Bride and bridegroom are then secluded in a chamber, where he has to untie the knots with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand only. It may be from one to twelve months before he succeeds in undoing them all. Until he has done so he may not look on the woman as his wife. In no case may the cord be broken, or the bridegroom would render himself liable to any fine that the bride's father might choose to impose. When all the knots are loosed, the woman is his wife, and he shews the cord to her father, and generally presents his wife with a golden or silver necklace instead of the cord.1112 The meaning of this custom is not clear, but we may conjecture that the nine knots refer to the nine months of pregnancy, and that miscarriage would be the supposed result of leaving a single knot untied.

Knots may be used to inflict disease.

The maleficent power of knots may also be manifested in the infliction of sickness, disease, and all kinds of misfortune. Thus among the Hos of Togoland a sorcerer will sometimes curse his enemy and tie a knot in a stalk of grass, saying, "I have tied up So-and-So in this knot. [pg 302] May all evil light upon him! When he goes into the field, may a snake sting him! When he goes to the chase, may a ravening beast attack him! And when he steps into a river, may the water sweep him away! When it rains, may the lightning strike him! May evil nights be his!" It is believed that in the knot the sorcerer has bound up the life of his enemy.1113 Babylonian witches and wizards of old used to strangle their victim, seal his mouth, wrack his limbs, and tear his entrails by merely tying knots in a cord, while at each knot they muttered a spell. But happily the evil could be undone by simply undoing the knots.1114 We hear of a man in one of the Orkney Islands who was utterly ruined by nine knots cast on a blue thread; and it would seem that sick people in Scotland sometimes prayed to the devil to restore them to health by loosing the secret knot that was doing all the mischief.1115 In the Koran there is an allusion to the mischief of "those who puff into the knots," and an Arab commentator on the passage explains that the words refer to women who practise magic by tying knots in cords, and then blowing and spitting upon them. He goes on to relate how, once upon a time, a wicked Jew bewitched the prophet Mohammed himself by tying nine knots on a string, which he then hid in a well. So the prophet fell ill, and nobody knows what might have happened if the archangel Gabriel had not opportunely revealed to the holy man the place where the knotted cord was concealed. The trusty Ali soon fetched the baleful thing from the well; and the prophet recited over it certain charms, which were specially revealed to him for the purpose. At every verse of the charms a knot untied itself, and the prophet experienced a certain relief.1116 It will hardly be disputed that by tying knots on the string the pestilent Hebrew contrived, if I may say so, to constrict or astringe or, in short, to tie up some vital organ or organs in the prophet's stomach. At least we are informed that something of this sort is done by [pg 303] Australian blackfellows at the present day, and if so, why should it not have been done by Arabs in the time of Mohammed? The Australian mode of operation is as follows. When a blackfellow wishes to settle old scores with another blackfellow, he ties a rope of fibre or bark so tightly round the neck of his slumbering friend as partially to choke him. Having done this he takes out the man's caul-fat from under his short rib, ties up his inside carefully with string, replaces the skin, and having effaced all external marks of the wound, makes off with the stolen fat. The victim on awakening feels no inconvenience, but sooner or later, sometimes months afterwards, while he is hunting or exerting himself violently in some other way, he will feel the string snap in his inside. "Hallo," says he, "somebody has tied me up inside with string!" and he goes home to the camp and dies on the spot.1117 Who can doubt but that in this lucid diagnosis we have the true key to the prophet's malady, and that he too might have succumbed to the wiles of his insidious foe if it had not been for the timely intervention of the archangel Gabriel?

Knots may be used to cure disease.

If knots are supposed to kill, they are also supposed to cure. This follows from the belief that to undo the knots which are causing sickness will bring the sufferer relief. But apart from this negative virtue of maleficent knots, there are certain beneficent knots to which a positive power of healing is ascribed. Pliny tells us that some folk cured diseases of the groin by taking a thread from a web, tying seven or nine knots on it, and then fastening it to the patient's groin; but to make the cure effectual it was necessary to name some widow as each knot was tied.1118 The ancient Assyrians seem to have made much use of knotted cords as a remedy for ailments and disease. The cord with its knots, which were sometimes twice seven in number, was tied round the head, neck, or limbs of the patient, and then after a time cut off and thrown away, carrying with it, as was apparently supposed, the aches and [pg 304] pains of the sufferer. Sometimes the magic cord which was used for this beneficent purpose consisted of a double strand of black and white wool; sometimes it was woven of the hair of a virgin kid.1119 A modern Arab cure for fever reported from the ruins of Nineveh is to tie a cotton thread with seven knots on it round the wrist of the patient, who must wear it for seven or eight days or till such time as the fever passes, after which he may throw it away.1120 O'Donovan describes a similar remedy for fever employed among the Turcomans. The enchanter takes some camel hair and spins it into a stout thread, droning a spell the while. Next he ties seven knots on the thread, blowing on each knot before he pulls it tight. This knotted thread is then worn as a bracelet on his wrist by the patient. Every day one of the knots is untied and blown upon, and when the seventh knot is undone the whole thread is rolled up into a ball and thrown into a river, bearing away (as they imagine) the fever with it.1121 The Hos of Togoland in like manner tie strings round a sick man's neck, arms, or legs, according to the nature of the malady; some of the strings are intended to guard him against the influence of "the evil mouth"; others are a protection against the ghosts of the dead.1122 In Argyleshire, threads with three knots on them are still used to cure the internal ailments of man and beast. The witch rubs the sick person or cow with the knotted thread, burns two of the knots in the fire, saying, "I put the disease and the sickness on the top of the fire," and ties the rest of the thread with the single knot round the neck of the person or the tail of the cow, but always so that it may not be seen.1123 A Scotch cure for a sprained leg or arm is to cast nine knots in a black thread and then tie the thread round the suffering limb, while you say:

[pg 305] "The Lord rade,

And the foal slade;

He lighted

And he righted,

Set joint to joint,

Bone to bone,

And sinew to sinew.

Heal, in the Holy Ghost's name!"1124

In Gujarat, if a man takes seven cotton threads, goes to a place where an owl is hooting, strips naked, ties a knot at each hoot, and fastens the knotted thread round the right arm of a man sick of the fever, the malady will leave him.1125

Knots may be used to win a lover or capture a runaway slave.

Again, knots may be used by an enchantress to win a lover and attach him firmly to herself. Thus the love-sick maid in Virgil seeks to draw Daphnis to her from the city by spells and by tying three knots on each of three strings of different colours.1126 So an Arab maiden, who had lost her heart to a certain man, tried to gain his love and bind him to herself by tying knots in his whip; but her jealous rival undid the knots.1127 On the same principle magic knots may be employed to stop a runaway. In Swazieland you may often see grass tied in knots at the side of the footpaths. Every one of these knots tells of a domestic tragedy. A wife has run away from her husband, and he and his friends have gone in pursuit, binding up the paths, as they call it, in this fashion to prevent the fugitive from doubling back over them.1128 When a Swaheli wishes to capture a runaway slave he will sometimes take a string of coco-nut fibre to a wise man and get him to recite a passage of the Koran seven [pg 306] times over it, while at each reading the wizard ties a knot in the string. Then the slave-owner, armed with the knotted string, takes his stand in the door of the house and calls on his slave seven times by name, after which he hangs the string over the door.1129

Knots tied by hunters and travellers.

The obstructive power of knots and locks as means of barring out evil manifests itself in many ways. Thus on the principle that prevention is better than cure, Zulu hunters immediately tie a knot in the tail of any animal they have killed, because they believe that this will hinder the meat from giving them pains in their stomachs.1130 An ancient Hindoo book recommends that travellers on a dangerous road should tie knots in the skirts of their garments, for this will cause their journey to prosper.1131 Similarly among some Caffre tribes, when a man is going on a doubtful journey, he knots a few blades of grass together that the journey may turn out well.1132 In Laos hunters fancy that they can throw a spell over a forest so as to prevent any one else from hunting there successfully. Having killed game of any kind, they utter certain magical words, while they knot together some stalks of grass, adding, "As I knot this grass, so let no hunter be lucky here." The virtue of this spell will last, as usually happens in such cases, so long as the stalks remain knotted together.1133 The Yabims of German New Guinea lay a knot in a fishing-boat that is not ready for sea, in order that a certain being called Balum may not embark in it; for he has the power of taking away the fish and weighing down the boat.1134

Knots and locks used as protective amulets in Russia and elsewhere.

In Russia amulets often derive their protective virtue in great measure from knots. Here, for example, is a spell which will warrant its employer against all risk of being shot: "I attach five knots to each hostile, infidel shooter, over arquebuses, bows, and all manner of warlike weapons. [pg 307] Do ye, O knots, bar the shooter from every road and way, lock fast every arquebuse, entangle every bow, involve all warlike weapons, so that the shooters may not reach me with their arquebuses, nor may their arrows attain to me, nor their warlike weapons do me hurt. In my knots lies hid the mighty strength of snakes-from the twelve-headed snake." A net, from its affluence of knots, has always been considered in Russia very efficacious against sorcerers; hence in some places, when a bride is being dressed in her wedding attire, a fishing-net is flung over her to keep her out of harm's way. For a similar purpose the bridegroom and his companions are often girt with pieces of net, or at least with tight-drawn girdles, for before a wizard can begin to injure them he must undo all the knots in the net, or take off the girdles. But often a Russian amulet is merely a knotted thread. A skein of red wool wound about the arms and legs is thought to ward off agues and fevers; and nine skeins, fastened round a child's neck, are deemed a preservative against scarlatina. In the Tver Government a bag of a special kind is tied to the neck of the cow which walks before the rest of a herd, in order to keep off wolves; its force binds the maw of the ravening beast. On the same principle, a padlock is carried thrice round a herd of horses before they go afield in the spring, and the bearer locks and unlocks it as he goes, saying, "I lock from my herd the mouths of the grey wolves with this steel lock." After the third round the padlock is finally locked, and then, when the horses have gone off, it is hidden away somewhere till late in the autumn, when the time comes for the drove to return to winter quarters. In this case the "firm word" of the spell is supposed to lock up the mouths of the wolves. The Bulgarians have a similar mode of guarding their cattle against wild beasts. A woman takes a needle and thread after dark, and sews together the skirt of her dress. A child asks her what she is doing, and she tells him that she is sewing up the ears, eyes, and jaws of the wolves so that they may not hear, see, or bite the sheep, goats, calves, and pigs.1135 Similarly in antiquity a witch fancied that she could shut the mouths of her enemies by sewing up the mouth of a fish [pg 308] with a bronze needle,1136 and farmers attempted to ward off hail from their crops by tying keys to ropes all round the fields.1137 The Armenians essay to lock the jaws of wolves by uttering a spell, tying seven knots in a shoe-lace, and placing the string between the teeth of a wool-comber, which are probably taken to represent the fangs of a wolf.1138 And an Armenian bride and bridegroom will carry a locked lock on their persons at and after marriage to guard them against those evil influences to which at this crisis of life they are especially exposed.1139 The following mode of keeping an epidemic from a village is known to have been practised among the Balkan Slavs. Two old women proceed to a spot outside the village, the one with a copper kettle full of water, the other with a house-lock and key. The old dame with the kettle asks the other, "Whither away?" The one with the lock answers, "I came to lock the village against mishap," and suiting the action to the words she locks the lock and throws it, together with the key, into the kettle of water. Then she strides thrice round the village, each time repeating the performance with the lock and kettle.1140 To this day a Transylvanian sower thinks he can keep birds from the corn by carrying a lock in the seed-bag.1141 Such magical uses of locks and keys are clearly parallel to the magical use of knots, with which we are here concerned. In Ceylon the Singhalese observe "a curious custom of the threshing-floor called 'Goigote'-the tying of the cultivator's knot. When a sheaf of corn has been threshed out, before it is removed the grain is heaped up and the threshers, generally six in number, sit round it, and taking a few stalks, with the ears of corn attached, jointly tie a knot and bury it in the heap. It is left there until all the sheaves have been threshed, and the corn winnowed and measured. The object of this ceremony is to prevent the devils from diminishing the quantity of corn in the [pg 309] heap."1142 Knots and locks may serve to avert not only devils but death itself. When they brought a woman to the stake at St. Andrews in 1572 to burn her alive for a witch, they found on her a white cloth like a collar, with strings and many knots on the strings. They took it from her, sorely against her will, for she seemed to think that she could not die in the fire, if only the cloth with the knotted strings was on her. When it was taken away, she said, "Now I have no hope of myself."1143 In many parts of England it is thought that a person cannot die so long as any locks are locked or bolts shot in the house. It is therefore a very common practice to undo all locks and bolts when the sufferer is plainly near his end, in order that his agony may not be unduly prolonged.1144 For example, in the year 1863, at Taunton, a child lay sick of scarlatina and death seemed inevitable. "A jury of matrons was, as it were, empanelled, and to prevent the child 'dying hard' all the doors in the house, all the drawers, all the boxes, all the cupboards were thrown wide open, the keys taken out, and the body of the child placed under a beam, whereby a sure, certain, and easy passage into eternity could be secured." Strange to say, the child declined to avail itself of the facilities for dying so obligingly placed at its disposal by the sagacity and experience of the British matrons of Taunton; it preferred to live rather than give up the ghost just then.1145 A Masai man whose sons have gone out to war will take a hair and tie a knot in it for each of his absent sons, praying God to keep their bodies and souls as firmly fastened together as these knots.1146

The magical virtue of a knot is always that of an impediment or hindrance whether for good or evil.

The precise mode in which the virtue of the knot is [pg 310] supposed to take effect in some of these instances does not clearly appear. But in general we may say that in all the cases we have been considering the leading characteristic of the magic knot or lock is that, in strict accordance with its physical nature, it always acts as an impediment, hindrance, or obstacle, and that its influence is maleficent or beneficent according as the thing which it impedes or hinders is good or evil. The obstructive tendency attributed to the knot in spiritual matters appears in a Swiss superstition that if, in sewing a corpse into its shroud, you make a knot on the thread, it will hinder the soul of the deceased on its passage to eternity.1147 In coffining a corpse the Highlanders of Scotland used to untie or cut every string in the shroud; else the spirit could not rest.1148 The Germans of Transylvania place a little pillow with the dead in the coffin; but in sewing it they take great care not to make any knot on the thread, for they say that to do so would hinder the dead man from resting in the grave and his widow from marrying again.1149 Among the Pidhireanes, a Ruthenian people on the hem of the Carpathians, when a widow wishes to marry again soon, she unties the knots on her dead husband's grave-clothes before the coffin is shut down on him. This removes all impediments to her future marriage.1150 A Nandi who is starting on a journey will tie a knot in grass by the wayside, as he believes that by so doing he will prevent the people whom he is going to visit from taking their meal till he arrives, or at all events he will ensure that they leave enough food over for him.1151

The rule that at certain magical and religious rites the hair should be loose and the feet bare is probably based on a fear of the impediment which is thought to be caused by any knot or constriction. Custom of going on certain solemn occasions with one shoe on and one shoe off.

The rule which prescribes that at certain magical and religious ceremonies the hair should hang loose and the feet [pg 311] should be bare1152 is probably based on the same fear of trammelling and impeding the action in hand, whatever it may be, by the presence of any knot or constriction, whether on the head or on the feet of the performer. This connexion of ideas comes out clearly in a passage of Ovid, who bids a pregnant woman loosen her hair before she prays to the goddess of childbirth, in order that the goddess may gently loose her teeming womb.1153 It is less easy to say why on certain solemn occasions it appears to have been customary with some people to go with one shoe off and one shoe on. The forlorn hope of two hundred men who, on a dark and stormy night, stole out of Plataea, broke through the lines of the besieging Spartans, and escaped from the doomed city, were shod on the left foot only. The historian who records the fact assumes that the intention was to prevent their feet from slipping in the mud.1154 But if so, why were not both feet unshod or shod? What is good for the one foot is surely good for the other. The peculiar attire of the Plataeans on this occasion had probably nothing to do with the particular state of the ground and the weather at the time when they made their desperate sally, but was an old custom, a form of consecration or devotion, observed by men in any great hazard or grave emergency. Certainly the costume appears to have been regularly worn by some fighting races in antiquity, at least when they went forth to battle. Thus we are told that all the Aetolians were shod only on one foot, "because they were so warlike,"1155 and Virgil represents some of the rustic militia of ancient Latium as marching to war, their right feet shod in boots of raw hide, while their left feet were bare.1156 An oracle warned Pelias, king of Iolcus, to beware of the man with one sandal, and when Jason arrived with a sandal on his right foot but with his left foot bare, the king recognised the hand of fate. The [pg 312] common story that Jason had lost one of his sandals in fording a river was probably invented when the real motive of the costume was forgotten.1157 Again, according to one legend Perseus seems to have worn only one shoe when he went on his perilous enterprise to cut off the Gorgon's head.1158 In certain forms of purification Greek ritual appears to have required that the person to be cleansed should wear a rough shoe on one foot, while the other was unshod. The rule is not mentioned by ancient writers, but may be inferred from a scene painted on a Greek vase, where a man, naked except for a fillet round his head, is seen crouching on the skin of a sacrificial victim, his bare right foot resting on the skin, while his left foot, shod in a rough boot, is planted on the ground in front of him. Round about women with torches and vessels are engaged in performing ceremonies of purification over him.1159 When Dido in Virgil, deserted by Aeneas, has resolved to die, she feigns to perform certain magical rites which will either win back her false lover or bring relief to her wounded heart. In appealing to the gods and the stars, she stands by the altar with her dress loosened and with one foot bare.1160 Among the heathen Arabs the cursing of an enemy was a public act. The maledictions were often couched in the form of a satirical poem, which the poet himself recited with certain solemn formalities. Thus when the young Lebid appeared at the Court of Norman to denounce the Absites, he anointed the hair of his head on one side only, let his garment hang down loosely, and wore but one shoe. This, we are told, was the costume regularly adopted by certain poets on such occasions.1161

[pg 313]

The intention of going with one shoe on and one shoe off on such occasions seems to be to free the man so attired from magical constraint and to lay it on his enemy.

Thus various peoples seem to be of opinion that it stands a man in good stead to go with one foot shod and one foot bare on certain momentous occasions. But why? The explanation must apparently be sought in the magical virtue attributed to knots; for down to recent times, we may take it, shoes have been universally tied to the feet by latchets. Now the magical action of a knot, as we have seen, is supposed to be to bind and restrain not merely the body but the soul,1162 and this action is beneficial or harmful according as the thing which is bound and restrained is evil or good. It is a necessary corollary of this doctrine that to be without knots is to be free and untrammelled, which, by the way, may be the reason why the augur's staff at Rome had to be made from a piece of wood in which there was no knot;1163 it would never do for a divining rod to be spell-bound. Hence we may suppose that the intention of going with one shoe on and one shoe off is both to restrain and to set at liberty, to bind and to unbind. But to bind or unbind whom or what? Perhaps the notion is to rid the man himself of magical restraint, but to lay it on his foe, or at all events on his foe's magic; in short, to bind his enemy by a spell while he himself goes free. This is substantially the explanation which the acute and learned Servius gives of Dido's costume. He says that she went with one shoe on and one shoe off in order that Aeneas might be entangled and herself released.1164 An analogous explanation would obviously apply to all the other cases we have considered, for in all of them the man who wears this peculiar costume is confronted with hostile powers, whether human or supernatural, which it must be his object to lay under a ban.

Rings also are regarded as magical fetters which prevent the egress or ingress of spirits.

A similar power to bind and hamper spiritual as well as bodily activities is ascribed by some people to rings. Thus in the Greek island of Carpathus, people never button the clothes they put upon a dead body and they are careful to [pg 314] remove all rings from it; "for the spirit, they say, can even be detained in the little finger, and cannot rest."1165 Here it is plain that even if the soul is not definitely supposed to issue at death from the finger-tips, yet the ring is conceived to exercise a certain constrictive influence which detains and imprisons the immortal spirit in spite of its efforts to escape from the tabernacle of clay; in short the ring, like the knot, acts as a spiritual fetter. This may have been the reason of an ancient Greek maxim, attributed to Pythagoras, which forbade people to wear rings.1166 Nobody might enter the ancient Arcadian sanctuary of the Mistress at Lycosura with a ring on his or her finger.1167 Persons who consulted the oracle of Faunus had to be chaste, to eat no flesh, and to wear no rings.1168

Rings worn as amulets against demons, witches, and ghosts. Reason why the Flamen Dialis might not wear knots and rings.

On the other hand, the same constriction which hinders the egress of the soul may prevent the entrance of evil spirits; hence we find rings used as amulets against demons, witches, and ghosts. In the Tyrol it is said that a woman in childbed should never take off her wedding-ring, or spirits and witches will have power over her.1169 Among the Lapps, the person who is about to place a corpse in the coffin receives from the husband, wife, or children of the deceased a brass ring, which he must wear fastened to his right arm until the corpse is safely deposited in the grave. The ring is believed to serve the person as an amulet against any harm which the ghost might do to him.1170 The Huzuls of the Carpathians sometimes milk a cow through a wedding-ring to prevent witches from stealing [pg 315] its milk.1171 In India iron rings are often worn as an amulet against disease or to counteract the malignant influence of the planet Saturn. A coral ring is used in Gujarat to ward off the baleful influence of the sun, and in Bengal mourners touch it as a form of purification.1172 A Masai mother who has lost one or more children at an early age will put a copper ring on the second toe of her next infant's right foot to guard it against sickness.1173 Masai men also wear on the middle finger of the right hand a ring made out of the hide of a sacrificial victim; it is supposed to protect the wearer from witchcraft and disease of every kind.1174 We have seen that magic cords are fastened round the wrists of Siamese children to keep off evil spirits;1175 that some people tie strings round the wrists of women in childbed, of convalescents after sickness, and of mourners after a funeral in order to prevent the escape of their souls at these critical seasons;1176 and that with the same intention the Bagobos put brass rings on the wrists or ankles of the sick.1177 This use of wrist-bands, bracelets, and anklets as amulets to keep the soul in the body is exactly parallel to the use of finger-rings which we are here considering. The placing of these spiritual fetters on the wrists is especially appropriate, because some people fancy that a soul resides wherever a pulse is felt beating.1178 How far the custom of wearing finger-rings, bracelets, and anklets may have been influenced by, or even have sprung from, a belief in their efficacy as amulets to keep the soul in the body, or demons out of it, is a question which seems worth considering.1179 Here we are only concerned with the belief in so far as it seems to throw light on the rule that the Flamen Dialis might not wear a ring unless it were broken. Taken in conjunction with the rule which forbade him to [pg 316] have a knot on his garments, it points to a fear that the powerful spirit embodied in him might be trammelled and hampered in its goings-out and comings-in by such corporeal and spiritual fetters as rings and knots. The same fear probably dictated the rule that if a man in bonds were taken into the house of the Flamen Dialis, the captive was to be unbound and the cords to be drawn up through a hole in the roof and so let down into the street.1180 Further, we may conjecture that the custom of releasing prisoners at a festival may have originated in the same train of thought; it might be imagined that their fetters would impede the flow of the divine grace. The custom was observed at the Greek festival of the Thesmophoria,1181 and at the Athenian festival of Dionysus in the city.1182 At the great festival of the Dassera, celebrated in October by the Goorkhas of Nepaul, all the law courts are closed, and all prisoners in gaol are removed from the precincts of the city; but those who are imprisoned outside the city do not have to change their place of confinement at the time of the Dassera.1183 This Nepaulese custom appears strongly to support the explanation here suggested of such gaol-deliveries. For observe that the prisoners are not released, but merely removed from the city. The intention is therefore not to allow them to share the general happiness, but merely to rid the city of their inopportune presence at the festival.

The Gordian knot was perhaps a royal talisman.

Before quitting the subject of knots I may be allowed to hazard a conjecture as to the meaning of the famous Gordian knot, which Alexander the Great, failing in his efforts to untie it, cut through with his sword. In Gordium, the ancient capital of the kings of Phrygia, there was preserved a waggon of which the yoke was fastened to the pole by a strip of cornel-bark or a vine-shoot twisted and tied in an intricate knot. Tradition ran that the waggon had been dedicated by Midas, the first king of the dynasty, and that whoever untied the knot would be ruler of Asia.1184 Perhaps [pg 317] the knot was a talisman with which the fate of the dynasty was believed to be bound up in such a way that whenever the knot was loosed the reign of the dynasty would come to an end. We have seen that the magic virtue ascribed to knots is naturally enough supposed to last only so long as they remain untied. If the Gordian knot was the talisman of the Phrygian kings, the local fame it enjoyed, as guaranteeing to them the rule of Phrygia, might easily be exaggerated by distant rumour into a report that the sceptre of Asia itself would fall to him who should undo the wondrous knot.1185

[pg 318]

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