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   Chapter 6 Tabooed Words.

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (Third Edition, Vol. 06 of 12) By James George Frazer Characters: 192025

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

§ 1. Personal Names tabooed.

The savage confuses words and things, and hence regards his name as a vital part of himself, and fancies that he can be magically injured through it.

Unable to discriminate clearly between words and things, the savage commonly fancies that the link between a name and the person or thing denominated by it is not a mere arbitrary and ideal association, but a real and substantial bond which unites the two in such a way that magic may be wrought on a man just as easily through his name as through his hair, his nails, or any other material part of his person.1186 In fact, primitive man regards his name as a vital portion of himself and takes care of it accordingly. Thus, for example, the North American Indian "regards his name, not as a mere label, but as a distinct part of his personality, just as much as are his eyes or his teeth, and believes that injury will result as surely from the malicious handling of his name as from a wound inflicted on any part of his physical organism. This belief was found among the various tribes from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and has occasioned a number of curious regulations in regard to the concealment and change of names. It may be on this account that both Powhatan and Pocahontas are known in history under assumed appellations, their true names having been concealed from the whites until the pseudonyms were too firmly established to be supplanted. Should his prayers [pg 319] have no apparent effect when treating a patient for some serious illness, the shaman sometimes concludes that the name is affected, and accordingly goes to water, with appropriate ceremonies, and christens the patient with a new name, by which he is henceforth to be known. He then begins afresh, repeating the formulas with the new name selected for the patient, in the confident hope that his efforts will be crowned with success."1187 Some Esquimaux take new names when they are old, hoping thereby to get a new lease of life.1188 The Tolampoos of central Celebes believe that if you write a man's name down you can carry off his soul along with it. On that account the headman of a village appeared uneasy when Mr. A. C. Kruijt wrote down his name. He entreated the missionary to erase it, and was only reassured on being told that it was not his real name but merely his second name that had been put on paper. Again, when the same missionary took down the names of villages from the lips of a woman, she asked him anxiously if he would not thereby take away the soul of the villages and so cause the inhabitants to fall sick.1189 If we may judge from the evidence of language, this crude conception of the relation of names to persons was widely prevalent, if not universal, among the forefathers of the Aryan race. For an analysis of the words for "name" in the various languages of that great family of speech points to the conclusion that "the Celts, and certain other widely separated Aryans, unless we should rather say the whole Aryan family, believed at one time not only that the name was a part of the man, but that it was that part of him which is termed the soul, the breath of life, or whatever you may choose to define it as being."1190 However this may have been among the primitive Aryans, it is quite certain that many savages at the present day regard their names as vital parts of themselves, and therefore take great pains to [pg 320] conceal their real names, lest these should give to evil-disposed persons a handle by which to injure their owners.

The Australian savages keep their names secret lest sorcerers should injure them by means of their names.

Thus, to begin with the savages who rank at the bottom of the social scale, we are told that the secrecy with which among the Australian aborigines personal names are often kept from general knowledge "arises in great measure from the belief that an enemy, who knows your name, has in it something which he can use magically to your detriment."1191 "An Australian black," says another writer, "is always very unwilling to tell his real name, and there is no doubt that this reluctance is due to the fear that through his name he may be injured by sorcerers."1192 On Herbert River in Queensland the wizards, in order to practise their arts against some one, "need only to know the name of the person in question, and for this reason they rarely use their proper names in addressing or speaking of each other, but simply their class names."1193 In the tribes of south-eastern Australia "when the new name is given at initiation, the child's name becomes secret, not to be revealed to strangers, or to be mentioned by friends. The reason appears to be that a name is part of a person, and therefore can be made use of to that person's detriment by any who wish to 'catch' him by evil magic."1194 Thus among the Yuin of New South Wales the totem name is said to have been something magical rather than a mere name in our sense, and it was kept secret lest an enemy should injure its bearer by sorcery. The name was revealed to a youth by his father at initiation, but very few other people knew it.1195 Another writer, who knew the Australians well, observes that in many tribes the belief prevails "that the life of an enemy may be taken by the use of his name in incantations. The consequence of this idea is, that in the tribes in which it obtains, the name of the male is given up for ever at the time when he undergoes the first of a series of ceremonies which end in conferring the rights of manhood. In such tribes a man has no name, and when a man desires to attract the attention of [pg 321] any male of his tribe who is out of his boyhood, instead of calling him by name, he addresses him as brother, nephew, or cousin, as the case may be, or by the name of the class to which he belongs. I used to notice, when I lived amongst the Bangerang, that the names which the males bore in infancy were soon almost forgotten by the tribe."1196 It may be questioned, however, whether the writer whom I have just quoted was not deceived in thinking that among these tribes men gave up their individual names on passing through the ceremony of initiation into manhood. It is more in harmony with savage beliefs and practices to suppose either that the old names were retained but dropped out of use in daily life, or that new names were given at initiation and sedulously concealed from fear of sorcery. A missionary who resided among the aborigines at Lake Tyers, in Victoria, informs us that "the blacks have great objections to speak of a person by name. In speaking to each other they address the person spoken to as brother, cousin, friend, or whatever relation the person spoken to bears. Sometimes a black bears a name which we would term merely a nickname, as the left-handed, or the bad-handed, or the little man. They would speak of a person by this name while living, but they would never mention the proper name. I found great difficulty in collecting the native names of the blacks here. I found afterwards that they had given me wrong names; and, on asking the reason why, was informed they had two or three names, but they never mentioned their right name for fear any one got it, then they would die."1197 Amongst the tribes of central Australia every man, woman, and child has, besides a personal name which is in common use, a secret or sacred name which is bestowed by the older men upon him or her soon after birth, and which is known to none but the fully initiated members of the group. This secret name is never mentioned except upon the most solemn occasions; to utter it in the hearing of women or of men of another group would be a most serious breach of tribal custom, as serious as [pg 322] the most flagrant case of sacrilege among ourselves. When mentioned at all, the name is spoken only in a whisper, and not until the most elaborate precautions have been taken that it shall be heard by no one but members of the group. "The native thinks that a stranger knowing his secret name would have special power to work him ill by means of magic."1198

The same fear of sorcery has led people to conceal their names in Egypt, Africa, Asia, and the East Indies.

The same fear seems to have led to a custom of the same sort amongst the ancient Egyptians, whose comparatively high civilisation was strangely dashed and chequered with relics of the lowest savagery. Every Egyptian received two names, which were known respectively as the true name and the good name, or the great name and the little name; and while the good or little name was made public, the true or great name appears to have been carefully concealed.1199 Similarly in Abyssinia at the present day it is customary to conceal the real name which a person receives at baptism and to call him only by a sort of nickname which his mother gives him on leaving the church. The reason for this concealment is that a sorcerer cannot act upon a person whose real name he does not know. But if he has ascertained his victim's real name, the magician takes a particular kind of straw, and muttering something over it bends it into a circle and places it under a stone. The person aimed at is taken ill at the very moment of the bending of the straw; and if the straw snaps, he dies.1200 A Brahman child receives two names, one for common use, the other a secret name which none but his father and mother should know. The latter is only used at ceremonies such as marriage. The custom is intended to protect the person against magic, since a charm only becomes effectual in combination with the real name.1201 Amongst the Kru [pg 323] negroes of West Africa a man's real name is always concealed from all but his nearest relations; to other people he is known only under an assumed name.1202 The Ewe-speaking people of the Slave Coast "believe that there is a real and material connexion between a man and his name, and that by means of the name injury may be done to the man. An illustration of this has been given in the case of the tree-stump that is beaten with a stone to compass the death of an enemy; for the name of that enemy is not pronounced solely with the object of informing the animating principle of the stump who it is whose death is desired, but through a belief that, by pronouncing the name, the personality of the man who bears it is in some way brought to the stump."1203 The Wolofs of Senegambia are very much annoyed if any one calls them in a loud voice, even by day; for they say that their name will be remembered by an evil spirit and made use of by him to do them a mischief at night.1204 Similarly, the natives of Nias believe that harm may be done to a person by the demons who hear his name pronounced. Hence the names of infants, who are especially exposed to the assaults of evil spirits, are never spoken; and often in haunted spots, such as the gloomy depths of the forest, the banks of a river, or beside a bubbling spring, men will abstain from calling each other by their names for a like reason.1205 Among the hill tribes of Assam each individual has a private name which may not be revealed. Should any one imprudently allow his private name to be known, the whole village is tabooed for two days and a feast is provided at the expense of the culprit.1206 A Manegre, of the upper valley of the Amoor, will never mention his own name nor that of one of his fellows. Only the names of children are an exception to this rule.1207 A Bagobo man of Mindanao, one of the Philippine Islands, never [pg 324] utters his own name from fear of being turned into a raven, because the raven croaks out its own name.1208 The natives of the East Indian island of Buru, and the Manggarais of West Flores are forbidden by custom to mention their own names.1209 When Fafnir had received his death-wound from Sigurd, he asked his slayer what his name was; but the cunning Sigurd concealed his real name and mentioned a false one, because he well knew how potent are the words of a dying man when he curses his enemy by name.1210

The South and Central American Indians also keep their names secret from fear of sorcery.

The Indians of Chiloe, a large island off the southern coast of Chili, keep their names secret and do not like to have them uttered aloud; for they say that there are fairies or imps on the mainland or neighbouring islands who, if they knew folk's names, would do them an injury; but so long as they do not know the names, these mischievous sprites are powerless.1211 The Araucanians, who inhabit the mainland of Chili to the north of Chiloe, will hardly ever tell a stranger their names because they fear that he would thereby acquire some supernatural power over themselves. Asked his name by a stranger, who is ignorant of their superstitions, an Araucanian will answer, "I have none."1212 Names taken from plants, birds, or other natural objects are bestowed on the Indians of Guiana at their birth by their parents or the medicine-man, "but these names seem of little use, in that owners have a very strong objection to telling or using them, apparently on the ground that the name is part of the man, and that he who knows the name has part of the owner of that name in his power. To avoid any danger of spreading knowledge of their names, one Indian, therefore, generally addresses another only according to the relationship of the caller and the called, as brother, [pg 325] sister, father, mother, and so on; or, when there is no relationship, as boy, girl, companion, and so on. These terms, therefore, practically form the names actually used by Indians amongst themselves."1213 Amongst the Indians of the Goajira peninsula in Colombia it is a punishable offence to mention a man's name; in aggravated cases heavy compensation is demanded.1214 The Indians of Darien never tell their names, and when one of them is asked, "What is your name?" he answers, "I have none."1215 For example, the Guami of Panama, "like the greater part of the American Indians, has several names, but that under which he is known to his relations and friends is never mentioned to a stranger; according to their ideas a stranger who should learn a man's name would obtain a secret power over him. As to the girls, they generally have no name of their own up to the age of puberty."1216 Among the Tepehuanes of Mexico a name is a sacred thing, and they never tell their real native names.1217

Similar superstition as to personal names among the Indians of North America.

In North America superstitions of the same sort are current. "Names bestowed with ceremony in childhood," says Schoolcraft, "are deemed sacred, and are seldom pronounced, out of respect, it would seem, to the spirits under whose favour they are supposed to have been selected. Children are usually called in the family by some name which can be familiarly used."1218 The Navajoes of New Mexico are most unwilling to reveal their own Indian names or those of their friends; they generally go by some Mexican names which they have received from the whites.1219 "No Apache will give his name to a stranger, fearing some hidden power may thus be placed in the stranger's hand to his detriment."1220 The Tonkawe Indians of Texas will give [pg 326] their children Comanche and English names in addition to their native names, which they are unwilling to communicate to others; for they believe that when somebody calls a person by his or her native name after death the spirit of the deceased may hear it, and may be prompted to take revenge on such as disturbed his rest; whereas if the spirit be called by a name drawn from another language, it will pay no heed.1221 Speaking of the Californian Indians, and especially of the Nishinam tribe, a well-informed writer observes: "One can very seldom learn an Indian's and never a squaw's Indian name, though they will tell their American titles readily enough.... No squaw will reveal her own name, but she will tell all her neighbors' that she can think of. For the reason above given many people believe that half the squaws have no names at all. So far is this from the truth that every one possesses at least one and sometimes two or three."1222 Blackfoot Indians believe that they would be unfortunate in all their undertakings if they were to speak their names.1223 When the Canadian Indians were asked their names, they used to hang their heads in silence or answer that they did not know.1224 When an Ojebway is asked his name, he will look at some bystander and ask him to answer. "This reluctance arises from an impression they receive when young, that if they repeat their own names it will prevent their growth, and they will be small in stature. On account of this unwillingness to tell their names, many strangers have fancied that they either have no names or have forgotten them."1225

Sometimes savages, though they will not utter their own names, do not object to other people's doing so.

In this last case no scruple seems to be felt about communicating a man's name to strangers, and no ill effects appear to be dreaded as a consequence of divulging it; harm is only done when a name is spoken by its owner. Why is this? and why in particular should a man be thought to [pg 327] stunt his growth by uttering his own name? We may conjecture that to savages who act and think thus a person's name only seems to be a part of himself when it is uttered with his own breath; uttered by the breath of others it has no vital connexion with him, and no harm can come to him through it. Whereas, so these primitive philosophers may have argued, when a man lets his own name pass his lips, he is parting with a living piece of himself, and if he persists in so reckless a course he must certainly end by dissipating his energy and shattering his constitution. Many a broken-down debauchee, many a feeble frame wasted with disease, may have been pointed out by these simple moralists to their awe-struck disciples as a fearful example of the fate that must sooner or later overtake the profligate who indulges immoderately in the seductive habit of mentioning his own name.

Men who will not mention their own names will yet invite other people to do so for them.

However we may explain it, the fact is certain that many a savage evinces the strongest reluctance to pronounce his own name, while at the same time he makes no objection at all to other people pronouncing it, and will even invite them to do so for him in order to satisfy the curiosity of an inquisitive stranger. Thus in some parts of Madagascar it is fàdy or taboo for a person to tell his own name, but a slave or attendant will answer for him.1226 "Chatting with an old Sakalava while the men were packing up, we happened to ask him his name; whereupon he politely requested us to ask one of his servants standing by. On expressing our astonishment that he should have forgotten this, he told us that it was fàdy (tabooed) for one of his tribe to pronounce his own name. We found this was perfectly true in that district, but it is not the case with the Sakalava a few days farther down the river."1227 The same curious inconsistency, as it may seem to us, is recorded of some tribes of American Indians. Thus we are told that "the name of an American Indian is a sacred thing, not to be divulged by the owner himself without due consideration. One may ask a warrior [pg 328] of any tribe to give his name, and the question will be met with either a point-blank refusal or the more diplomatic evasion that he cannot understand what is wanted of him. The moment a friend approaches, the warrior first interrogated will whisper what is wanted, and the friend can tell the name, receiving a reciprocation of the courtesy from the other."1228 This general statement applies, for example, to the Indian tribes of British Columbia, as to whom it is said that "one of their strangest prejudices, which appears to pervade all tribes alike, is a dislike to telling their names-thus you never get a man's right name from himself; but they will tell each other's names without hesitation."1229 Though it is considered very rude for a stranger to ask an Apache his name, and the Apache will never mention it himself, he will allow his friend at his side to mention it for him.1230 The Abipones of South America thought it a sin in a man to utter his own name, but they would tell each other's names freely; when Father Dobrizhoffer asked a stranger Indian his name, the man would nudge his neighbour with his elbow as a sign that his companion should answer the question.1231 Some of the Malemut Esquimaux of Bering Strait dislike very much to pronounce their own names; if a man be asked his name he will appear confused and will generally turn to a bystander, and request him to mention it for him.1232 In the whole of the East Indian Archipelago the etiquette is the same. As a general rule no one will utter his own name. To enquire, "What is your name?" is a very indelicate question in native society. When in the course of administrative or judicial business a native is asked his name, instead of replying he will look at his comrade to indicate that he is to answer for him, or he will say straight out, "Ask him." The superstition is current all over the East Indies without exception,1233 and it is found also among the [pg 329] Motu and Motumotu tribes of British New Guinea,1234 the Papuans of Finsch Haven in German New Guinea,1235 the Nufoors of Dutch New Guinea,1236 and the Melanesians of the Bismarck Archipelago.1237 Among many tribes of South Africa men and women never mention their names if they can get any one else to do it for them, but they do not absolutely refuse when it cannot be avoided.1238 No Warua will tell his name, but he does not object to being addressed by it.1239 Among the Masai, "when a man is called or spoken to, he is addressed by his father's name, and his own name is only used when speaking to his mother. It is considered unlucky for a man to be addressed by name. The methods employed in finding out what an individual is called seem apt to lead to confusion. If a man is asked his name, he replies by giving that of his father, and to arrive at his own [pg 330] name it is necessary to ask a third person, or to ask him what is the name of his mother. There is no objection to another person mentioning his name even in his presence."1240 We are told that the Wanyamwesi almost always address each other as "Mate" or "Friend," and a man sometimes quite forgets his own name and has to be reminded of it by another.1241 The writer who makes this statement was probably unaware of the reluctance of many savages to utter their own names, and hence he mistook that reluctance for forgetfulness. In Uganda no one will mention his totem. If it is necessary that it should be known, he will ask a bystander to mention it for him.1242 The Ba-Lua in the Congo region are unwilling to pronounce the name of their tribe; if they are pressed on the subject, they will call on some foreigner to give the required information.1243

Sometimes the prohibition to mention personal names is not permanent but temporary and contingent.

Sometimes the embargo laid on personal names is not permanent; it is conditional on circumstances, and when these change it ceases to operate. Thus when the Nandi men are away on a foray, nobody at home may pronounce the names of the absent warriors; they must be referred to as birds. Should a child so far forget itself as to mention one of the distant ones by name, the mother would rebuke it, saying, "Don't talk of the birds who are in the heavens."1244 Among the Bangala of the Upper Congo, while a man is fishing and when he returns with his catch, his proper name is in abeyance and nobody may mention it. Whatever the fisherman's real name may be, he is called mwele without distinction. The reason is that the river is full of spirits, who, if they heard the fisherman's real name, might so work against him that he would catch little or nothing. Even when he has caught his fish and landed with them, the buyer must still not address him by his proper name, but must only call him mwele; for even then, if the spirits were to [pg 331] hear his proper name, they would either bear it in mind and serve him out another day, or they might so mar the fish he had caught that he would get very little for them. Hence the fisherman can extract heavy damages from anybody who mentions his name, or can compel the thoughtless speaker to relieve him of the fish at a good price so as to restore his luck.1245 When the Sulka of New Britain are near the territory of their enemies the Gaktei, they take care not to mention them by their proper name, believing that were they to do so, their foes would attack and slay them. Hence in these circumstances they speak of the Gaktei as o lapsiek, that is, "the rotten tree-trunks," and they imagine that by calling them that they make the limbs of their dreaded enemies ponderous and clumsy like logs.1246 This example illustrates the extremely materialistic view which these savages take of the nature of words; they suppose that the mere utterance of an expression signifying clumsiness will homoeopathically affect with clumsiness the limbs of their distant foemen. Another illustration of this curious misconception is furnished by a Caffre superstition that the character of a young thief can be reformed by shouting his name over a boiling kettle of medicated water, then clapping a lid on the kettle and leaving the name to steep in the water for several days. It is not in the least necessary that the thief should be aware of the use that is being made of his name behind his back; the moral reformation will be effected without his knowledge.1247

In order to avoid the use of people's own names, parents are sometimes named after their children, uncles and aunts after their nephews and nieces, and so forth. The common custom of naming parents after their children seems to arise from a reluctance to mention the real names of persons addressed or directly referred to.

When it is deemed necessary that a man's real name should be kept secret, it is often customary, as we have seen, to call him by a surname or nickname. As distinguished from the real or primary names, these secondary names are apparently held to be no part of the man himself, so that they may be freely used and divulged to everybody without endangering his safety thereby. Sometimes in order to avoid the use of his own name a man will be called after his child. Thus we are informed that "the Gippsland [pg 332] blacks objected strongly to let any one outside the tribe know their names, lest their enemies, learning them, should make them vehicles of incantation, and so charm their lives away. As children were not thought to have enemies, they used to speak of a man as 'the father, uncle, or cousin of So-and-so,' naming a child; but on all occasions abstained from mentioning the name of a grown-up person."1248 Similarly among the Nufoors of Dutch New Guinea, grown-up persons who are related by marriage may not mention each other's names, but it is lawful to mention the names of children; hence in order to designate a person whose name they may not pronounce they will speak of him or her as the father or mother of So-and-so.1249 The Alfoors of Poso, in Celebes, will not pronounce their own names. Among them, accordingly, if you wish to ascertain a person's name, you ought not to ask the man himself, but should enquire of others. But if this is impossible, for example, when there is no one else near, you should ask him his child's name, and then address him as the "Father of So-and-so." Nay, these Alfoors are shy of uttering the names even of children; so when a boy or girl has a nephew or niece, he or she is addressed as "Uncle of So-and-so," or "Aunt of So-and-so."1250 In pure Malay society, we are told, a man is never asked his name, and the custom of naming parents after their children is adopted only as a means of avoiding the use of the parents' own names. The writer who makes this statement adds in confirmation of it that childless persons are named after their younger brothers.1251 Among the land Dyaks of northern Borneo children as they grow up are called, according to their sex, the father or mother of a child of their father's or mother's younger brother, or sister,1252 that is, [pg 333] they are called the father or mother of what we should call their first cousin. The Caffres used to think it discourteous to call a bride by her own name, so they would call her "the Mother of So-and-so," even when she was only betrothed, far less a wife and a mother.1253 Among the Kukis and Zemis or Kacha Nagas of Assam parents drop their own names after the birth of a child and are named Father and Mother of So-and-so. Childless couples go by the names of "the childless father," "the childless mother," "the father of no child," "the mother of no child."1254 A Zulu woman may not utter her husband's name; if she speaks to or of him she says, "Father of So-and-so," mentioning the name of one of his children.1255 A Hindoo woman will not name her husband. If she has to refer to him she will designate him as the father of her child or by some other periphrasis.1256 The widespread custom of naming a father after his child has sometimes been supposed to spring from a desire on the father's part to assert his paternity, apparently as a means of obtaining those rights over his children which had previously, under a system of mother-kin, been possessed by the mother.1257 But this explanation does not account for the parallel custom of naming the mother after her child, which seems commonly to co-exist with the practice of naming the father after the child. Still less, if possible, does it apply to the customs of calling childless couples the father and mother of children which do not exist, of naming people after their younger brothers, and of [pg 334] designating children as the uncles and aunts of So-and-so, or as the fathers and mothers of their first cousins. But all these practices are explained in a simple and natural way if we suppose that they originate in a reluctance to utter the real names of persons addressed or directly referred to. That reluctance is probably based partly on a fear of attracting the notice of evil spirits, partly on a dread of revealing the name to sorcerers, who would thereby obtain a handle for injuring the owner of the name.1258

[pg 335]

§ 2. Names of Relations tabooed.

The names of persons related to the speaker by blood and especially by marriage may often not be mentioned. Women's speech among the Caffres.

It might naturally be expected that the reserve so commonly maintained with regard to personal names would be dropped or at least relaxed among relations and friends. But the reverse of this is often the case. It is precisely the persons most intimately connected by blood and especially by marriage to whom the rule applies with the greatest stringency. Such people are often forbidden, not only to pronounce each other's names, but even to utter ordinary words which resemble or have a single syllable in common with these names. The persons who are thus mutually debarred from mentioning each other's names are especially husbands and wives, a man and his wife's parents, and a woman and her husband's father. For example, among the Caffres of South Africa a woman may not publicly pronounce the birth-name of her husband or of any of his brothers, nor may she use the interdicted word in its ordinary sense. If her husband, for instance, be called u-Mpaka, from impaka, a small feline animal, she must speak of that beast by some other name.1259 Further, a Caffre wife is forbidden to pronounce [pg 336] even mentally the names of her father-in-law and of all her husband's male relations in the ascending line; and whenever the emphatic syllable of any of their names occurs in another word, she must avoid it by substituting either an entirely new word, or, at least, another syllable in its place. Hence this custom has given rise to an almost distinct language among the women, which the Caffres call Ukuteta Kwabafazi or "women's speech."1260 The interpretation of this "women's speech" is naturally very difficult, "for no definite rules can be given for the formation of these substituted words, nor is it possible to form a dictionary of them, their number being so great-since there may be many women, even in the same tribe, who would be no more at liberty to use the substitutes employed by some others, than they are to use the original words themselves."1261 A Caffre man, on his side, may not mention the name of his mother-in-law, nor may she pronounce his; but he is free to utter words in which the emphatic syllable of her name occurs.1262 In Northern Nyassaland no woman will speak the name of her husband or even use a word that may be synonymous with it. If she were to call him by his proper name, she believes it would be unlucky and would affect her powers of conception. In like manner women abstain, for superstitious reasons, from using the common names of articles of food, which they designate by terms peculiar to themselves.1263 Among the Kondes, at the north-western end of Lake [pg 337] Nyassa, a woman may not mention the name of her father-in-law; indeed she may not even speak to him nor see him.1264 Among the Barea and Bogos of Eastern Africa a woman never mentions her husband's name; a Bogo wife would rather be unfaithful to him than commit the monstrous sin of allowing his name to pass her lips.1265 Among the Haussas "the first-born son is never called by his parents by his name; indeed they will not even speak with him if other people are present. The same rule holds good of the first husband and the first wife."1266 In antiquity Ionian women would not call their husbands by their names.1267 While the rites of Ceres were being performed in Rome, no one might name a father or a daughter.1268 Among the South Slavs at the present day husbands and wives will not mention each other's names, and a young wife may not call any of her housemates by their true names; she must invent or at least adopt other names for them.1269 A Kirghiz woman dares not pronounce the names of the older relations of her husband, nor even use words which resemble them in sound. For example, if one of these relations is called Shepherd, she may not speak of sheep, but must call them "the bleating ones"; if his name is Lamb, she must refer to lambs as "the young of the bleating ones."1270 After marriage an Aino wife may not mention her husband's name; to do so would be deemed equivalent to killing him.1271 Among the Sgaus, a Karen tribe of Burma, children never mention their parents' names.1272 A Toda man may not utter the names of his mother's brother, his grandfather and grandmother, his wife's mother, and of the man from whom he has received [pg 338] his wife, who is usually the wife's father. All these names are tabooed to him in the lifetime of the persons who bear them, and after death the prohibitions are not only maintained but extended.1273 In southern India wives believe that to tell their husband's name or to pronounce it even in a dream would bring him to an untimely end. Further, they may not mention the names of their parents, their parents-in-law, and their brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.1274 Among the Ojebways husbands and wives never mention each other's names;1275 among the Omahas a man and his father-in-law and mother-in-law will on no account utter each other's names in company.1276 A Dacota "is not allowed to address or to look towards his wife's mother, especially, and the woman is shut off from familiar intercourse with her husband's father and others, and etiquette prohibits them from speaking the names of their relatives by marriage." "None of their customs," adds the same writer, "is more tenacious of life than this; and no family law is more binding."1277 In the Nishinam tribe of California "a husband never calls his wife by name on any account, and it is said that divorces have been produced by no other provocation than that."1278

Names of relations, especially of persons related to the speaker by marriage, may not be mentioned in the East Indies.

The Battas or Bataks of Sumatra display a great aversion to mentioning their own names and a still greater aversion to mentioning the names of their parents, grandparents, or elder blood-relations. Politeness forbids the putting of direct questions on this subject, so that the investigation of personal identity becomes difficult and laborious. When a Batta expects to be questioned as to his relations, he will usually provide himself with a friend to answer for him.1279 A Batak man may never mention the names of his wife, his daughter-in-law and of his son-in-law; a woman is most particularly forbidden to mention the name of the man who [pg 339] has married her daughter.1280 Among the Karo-Bataks the forbidden names are those of parents, uncles, aunts, parents-in-law, brothers and sisters, and especially grandparents.1281 Among the Dyaks a child never pronounces the names of his parents, and is angry if any one else does so in his presence. A husband never calls his wife by her name, and she never calls him by his. If they have children, they name each other after them, "Father of So-and-so" and "Mother of So-and-so"; if they have no children they use the pronouns "he" and "she," or an expression such as "he or she whom I love"; and in general, members of a Dyak family do not mention each other's names.1282 Moreover, when the personal names happen also, as they often do, to be names of common objects, the Dyak is debarred from designating these objects by their ordinary names. For instance, if a man or one of his family is called Bintang, which means "star," he must not call a star a star (bintang); he must call it a pariama. If he or a member of his domestic circle bears the name of Bulan, which means "moon," he may not speak of the moon as the moon (bulan); he must call it penala. Hence it comes about that in the Dyak language there are two sets of distinct names for many objects.1283 Among the sea Dyaks of Sarawak a man may not pronounce the name of his father-in-law or mother-in-law without incurring the wrath of the spirits. And since he reckons as his father-in-law and mother-in-law not only the father and mother of his own wife, but also the fathers and mothers of his brothers' wives and sisters' husbands, and likewise the fathers and mothers of all his cousins, the number of tabooed names may be very considerable and the opportunities of error correspondingly numerous. To make confusion worse confounded, the names of persons are often the names of common things, such as moon, bridge, [pg 340] barley, cobra, leopard; so that when any of a man's many fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law are called by such names, these common words may not pass his lips.1284 Among the Dyaks of Landak and Tajan it is forbidden to mention the names of parents and grandparents, sometimes also of great-grandparents, whether they are alive or dead.1285 Among the Alfoors or Toradjas of Poso, in central Celebes, you may not pronounce the names of your father, mother, grandparents, and other near relations. But the strictest taboo is on the names of parents-in-law. A son-in-law and a daughter-in-law may not only never mention the names of their parents-in-law, but if the names happen to be ordinary words of the language, they may never allow the words in their common significance to pass their lips. For example, if my father is called Njara ("horse"), I may not speak of him by that name; but in speaking of the animal I am free to use the word horse (njara). But if my father-in-law is called Njara, the case is different, for then not only may I not refer to him by his name, but I may not even call a horse a horse; in speaking of the animal I must use some other word. The missionary who reports the custom is acquainted with a man whose mother-in-law rejoices in the name of Ringgi ("rixdollar"). When this man has occasion to refer to real rixdollars, he alludes to them delicately as "large guilders" (roepia bose). Another man may not use the ordinary word for water (oewe); in speaking of water he employs a word (owai) taken from a different dialect. Indeed, among these Alfoors it is the common practice in such cases to replace the forbidden word by a kindred word of the same significance borrowed from another dialect. In this way many fresh terms or new forms of an old word pass into general circulation.1286 Among the Alfoors of Minahassa, [pg 341] in northern Celebes, the custom is carried still further so as to forbid the use even of words which merely resemble the personal names in sound. It is especially the name of a father-in-law which is thus laid under an interdict. If he, for example, is called Kalala, his son-in-law may not speak of a horse by its common name kawalo; he must call it a "riding-beast" (sasakajan).1287 So among the Alfoors of the island of Buru it is taboo to mention the names of parents and parents-in-law, or even to speak of common objects by words which resemble these names in sound. Thus, if your mother-in-law is called Dalu, which means "betel," you may not ask for betel by its ordinary name, you must ask for "red mouth" (mue miha); if you want betel-leaf, you may not say betel-leaf (dalu 'mun), you must say karon fenna. In the same island it is also taboo to mention the name of an elder brother in his presence.1288 Transgressions of these rules are punished with fines.1289 In Bolang Mongondo, a district in the west of Celebes, the unmentionable names are those of parents, parents-in-law, uncles and aunts.1290 Among the Alfoors of Halmahera a son-in-law may never use his father-in-law's name in speaking to him; he must simply address him as "Father-in-law."1291 In Sunda it is thought that a particular crop would be spoilt if a man were to mention the names of his father and mother.1292

Names of persons related by marriage to the speaker are tabooed in New Guinea.

Among the Nufoors, as we have seen,1293 persons who are related to each other by marriage are forbidden to mention [pg 342] each other's names. Among the connexions whose names are thus tabooed are wife, mother-in-law, father-in-law, your wife's uncles and aunts and also her grand-uncles and grand-aunts, and the whole of your wife's or your husband's family in the same generation as yourself, except that men may mention the names of their brothers-in-law, though women may not. The taboo comes into operation as soon as the betrothal has taken place and before the marriage has been celebrated. Families thus connected by the betrothal of two of their members are not only forbidden to pronounce each other's names; they may not even look at each other, and the rule gives rise to the most comical scenes when they happen to meet unexpectedly. And not merely the names themselves, but any words that sound like them are scrupulously avoided and other words used in their place. If it should chance that a person has inadvertently uttered a forbidden name, he must at once throw himself on the floor and say, "I have mentioned a wrong name. I throw it through the chinks of the floor in order that I may eat well."1294 In German New Guinea near relations by marriage, particularly father-in-law and daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and son-in-law, as well as brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, must see as little of each other as possible; they may not converse together and they may not mention each other's names, not even when these names have passed to younger members of the family. Thus if a child is called after its deceased paternal grandfather, the mother may not call her child by its name but must employ another name for the purpose.1295 Among the Yabim, for example, on the south-east coast of German New Guinea, parents-in-law may neither be touched nor named. Even when their names are borne by other people or are the ordinary names of common objects, they may not pass the lips of their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law.1296 Among the western tribes of British New [pg 343] Guinea the principal taboo or sabi, as it is there called, concerns the names of relatives by marriage. A man may not mention the name of his wife's father, mother, elder sister, or elder brother, nor the name of any male or female relative of her father or mother, so long as the relative in question is a member of the same tribe as the speaker. The names of his wife's younger brothers and sisters are not tabooed to him. The same law applies to a woman with reference to the names of her husband's relatives. As a general rule, this taboo does not extend outside the tribal boundaries. Hence when a man or woman marries out of his or her tribe, the taboo is usually not applied. And when members of one tribe, who may not pronounce each other's names at home, are away from their own territory, they are no longer strictly bound to observe the prohibition. A breach of the taboo has to be atoned for by the offender paying a fine to the person whose name he has taken in vain. Until that has been done, neither of the parties concerned, if they are males, may enter the men's club-house. In the old times the offended party might recover his social standing by cutting off somebody else's head.1297

Names of persons related by marriage to the speaker are tabooed in Melanesia.

In the western islands of Torres Straits a man never mentioned the personal names of his father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law; and a woman was subject to the same restrictions. A brother-in-law might be spoken of as the husband or brother of some one whose name it was lawful to mention; and similarly a sister-in-law might be called the wife of So-and-so. If a man by chance used the personal name of his brother-in-law, he was ashamed and hung his head. His shame was only relieved when he had made a present as compensation to the man whose name he had taken in vain. The same compensation was made to a sister-in-law, a father-in-law, and a mother-in-law for the accidental mention of their names. This [pg 344] disability to use the personal names of relatives by marriage was associated with the custom, so common throughout the world, that a man or woman is not allowed to speak to these relatives. If a man wished to communicate with his father-in-law or mother-in-law, he spoke to his wife and she spoke to her parent. When direct communication became absolutely necessary, it was said that a man might talk to his father-in-law or mother-in-law a very little in a low voice. The behaviour towards a brother-in-law was the same.1298 Similar taboos on the names of persons connected by marriage are in force in New Britain and New Ireland.1299 Among the natives who inhabit the coast of the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain to mention the name of a brother-in-law is the grossest possible affront you can offer to him; it is a crime punishable with death.1300 In the Santa Cruz and Reef Islands a man is forbidden to pronounce the name of his mother-in-law, and he may never see her face so long as he lives. She on her side lies under similar restrictions in regard to him. Further, a man is prohibited from mentioning the name of his son-in-law, though he is allowed to look at him. And if a husband has paid money for his wife to several men, none of these men may ever utter his name or look him in the face. If one of them did by chance look at him, the offended husband would destroy some of the offender's property.1301 In New Caledonia a brother may not mention his sister's name, and she may not mention his. The same rule is observed by male and female cousins in regard to each other's names.1302 In the Banks' Islands, Melanesia, the taboos laid on the names of persons connected by marriage are very strict. A man will not mention the name of his father-in-law, much less [pg 345] the name of his mother-in-law, nor may he name his wife's brother; but he may name his wife's sister-she is nothing to him. A woman may not name her father-in-law, nor on any account her son-in-law. Two people whose children have intermarried are also debarred from mentioning each other's names. And not only are all these persons forbidden to utter each other's names; they may not even pronounce ordinary words which chance to be either identical with these names or to have any syllables in common with them. "A man on one occasion spoke to me of his house as a shed, and when that was not understood, went and touched it with his hand to shew what he meant; a difficulty being still made, he looked round to be sure that no one was near and whispered, not the name of his son's wife, but the respectful substitute for her name, amen Mulegona, she who was with his son, and whose name was Tuwarina, Hind-house." Again, we hear of a native of these islands who might not use the common words for "pig" and "to die," because these words occurred in the polysyllabic name of his son-in-law; and we are told of another unfortunate who might not pronounce the everyday words for "hand" and "hot" on account of his wife's brother's name, and who was even debarred from mentioning the number "one," because the word for "one" formed part of the name of his wife's cousin.1303

Names of relations tabooed in Australia.

It might be expected that similar taboos on the names of relations and on words resembling them would commonly occur among the aborigines of Australia, and that some light might be thrown on their origin and meaning by the primitive modes of thought and forms of society prevalent among these savages. Yet this expectation can scarcely be said to be fulfilled; for the evidence of the observance of such customs in Australia is scanty and hardly of a nature to explain their origin. We are told that there are instances "in which the names of natives are never allowed to be spoken, as those of a father or mother-in-law, of a son-in-law, and some cases arising from a connection with each other's wives."1304 Among some Victorian tribes, a man never at [pg 346] any time mentioned the name of his mother-in-law, and from the time of his betrothal to his death neither she nor her sisters might ever look at or speak to him. He might not go within fifty yards of their habitation, and when he met them on a path they immediately left it, clapped their hands, and covering up their heads with their rugs, walked in a stooping posture and spoke in whispers until he had gone by. They might not talk with him, and when he and they spoke to other people in each other's presence, they used a special form of speech which went by the name of "turn tongue." This was not done with any intention of concealing their meaning, for "turn tongue" was understood by everybody.1305 A writer, who enjoyed unusually favourable opportunities of learning the language and customs of the Victorian aborigines, informs us that "A stupid custom existed among them, which they called knal-oyne. Whenever a female child was promised in marriage to any man, from that very hour neither he nor the child's mother were permitted to look upon or hear each other speak nor hear their names mentioned by others; for, if they did, they would immediately grow prematurely old and die."1306 Among the Gudangs of Cape York, in Queensland, and the Kowraregas of the Prince of Wales Islands, a man carefully avoids speaking to or even mentioning the name of his mother-in-law, and his wife acts similarly with regard to her father-in-law. "Thus the mother of a person called Nuki-which means water-is obliged to call water by another name."1307 In the Booandik tribe of South Australia persons connected by marriage, except husbands and wives, spoke to each other in a low whining voice, and employed words different from those in common use.1308 Another writer, speaking of [pg 347] the same tribe, says: "Mothers-in-law and sons-in-law studiously avoid each other. A father-in-law converses with his son-in-law in a low tone of voice, and in a phraseology differing somewhat from the ordinary one."1309

These taboos can hardly be accounted for by the intermarriage of tribes speaking different languages. Differences of language between husbands and wives. Intermixture of races speaking different languages would hardly account for the taboos on the names of relations.

It will perhaps occur to the reader that customs of this latter sort may possibly have originated in the intermarriage of tribes speaking different languages; and there are some Australian facts which seem at first sight to favour this supposition. Thus with regard to the natives of South Australia we are told that "the principal mark of distinction between the tribes is difference of language or dialect; where the tribes intermix greatly no inconvenience is experienced on this account, as every person understands, in addition to his own dialect, that of the neighbouring tribe; the consequence is that two persons commonly converse in two languages, just as an Englishman and German would hold a conversation, each person speaking his own language, but understanding that of the other as well as his own. This peculiarity will often occur in one family through intermarriages, neither party ever thinking of changing his or her dialect for that of the other. Children do not always adopt the language of the mother, but that of the tribe among whom they live."1310 Among some tribes of western Victoria a man was actually forbidden to marry a wife who spoke the same dialect as himself; and during the preliminary visit, which each paid to the tribe of the other, neither was permitted to speak the language of the tribe which he or she was visiting. The children spoke the language of their father and might never mix it with any other. To her children the mother spoke in their father's language, but to her husband she spoke in her own, and he answered her in his; "so that all conversation is carried on between husband and wife in the same way as between an Englishman and a Frenchwoman, each speaking his or her own language. This very remarkable law explains the preservation of so many distinct dialects within so limited a space, even where there are no physical obstacles to ready and frequent [pg 348] communication between the tribes."1311 So amongst the Sakais, an aboriginal race of the Malay Peninsula, a man goes to a considerable distance for a wife, generally to a tribe who speak quite a different dialect.1312 The Indian tribes of French Guiana have each their own dialect and would hardly be able to understand each other, were it not that almost every person marries a wife or a husband of a different tribe, and thus the newcomers serve as interpreters between the tribe in which they live and that in which they were born and brought up.1313 It is well known that the Carib women spoke a language which differed in some respects from that of the men, and the explanation generally given of the difference is that the women preserved the language of a race of whom the men had been exterminated and the women married by the Caribs. This explanation is not, as some seem to suppose, a mere hypothesis of the learned, devised to clear up a curious discrepancy; it was a tradition current among the Caribs themselves in the seventeenth century,1314 and as such it deserves serious attention. But there are other facts which seem to point to a different explanation.1315 Among the Carayahis, a tribe of Brazilian Indians on the Rio Grande or Araguaya River, the dialect of the women differs from that of the men. For the most part the differences are limited to the form and sound of the [pg 349] words; only a few words seem to be quite distinct in the two dialects. The speech of the women appears to preserve older and fuller forms than that of the men: for instance, "girl" is yadokoma in the female speech but yad?ma in the male; "nail" is desika in the mouth of a woman but desia in the mouth of a man.1316 However such remarkable differences are to be explained, a little reflection will probably convince us that a mere intermixture of races speaking different tongues could scarcely account for the phenomena of language under consideration. For the reluctance to mention the names or even syllables of the names of persons connected with the speaker by marriage can hardly be separated from the reluctance evinced by so many people to utter their own names or the names of the dead or of chiefs and kings; and if the reticence as to these latter names springs mainly from superstition, we may infer that the reticence as to the former has no better foundation. That the savage's unwillingness to mention his own name is based, at least in part, on a superstitious fear of the ill use that might be made of it by his foes, whether human or spiritual, has already been shewn. It remains to examine the similar usage in regard to the names of the dead and of royal personages.

§ 3. Names of the Dead tabooed.

The names of the dead are in general not mentioned by the Australian aborigines.

The custom of abstaining from all mention of the names of the dead was observed in antiquity by the Albanians of the Caucasus,1317 and at the present day it is in full force among many savage tribes. Thus we are told that one of the customs most rigidly observed and enforced amongst the Australian aborigines is never to mention the name of a deceased person, whether male or female; to name aloud one who has departed this life would be a gross violation of their most sacred prejudices, and they carefully abstain from it.1318 The chief motive for this abstinence appears to be a [pg 350] fear of evoking the ghost, although the natural unwillingness to revive past sorrows undoubtedly operates also to draw the veil of oblivion over the names of the dead.1319 Once Mr. Oldfield so terrified a native by shouting out the name of a deceased person, that the man fairly took to his heels and did not venture to shew himself again for several days. At their next meeting he bitterly reproached the rash white man for his indiscretion; "nor could I," adds Mr. Oldfield, "induce him by any means to utter the awful sound of a dead man's name, for by so doing he would have placed himself in the power of the malign spirits."1320 On another occasion, a Watchandie woman having mentioned the name of a certain man, was informed that he had long been dead. At that she became greatly excited and spat thrice to counteract the evil effect of having taken a dead man's name into her lips. This custom of spitting thrice, as Mr. Oldfield afterwards learned, was the regular charm whereby the natives freed themselves from the power of the dangerous spirits whom they had provoked by such a rash act.1321 Among the aborigines of Victoria the dead were very rarely spoken of, and then never by their names; they were referred to in a subdued voice as "the lost one" or "the poor fellow that is no more." To speak of them by name would, it was supposed, excite the malignity of Couit-gil, the spirit of the departed, which hovers on earth for a time before it departs for ever towards the setting sun.1322 Once when a Kurnai [pg 351] man was spoken to about a dead friend, soon after the decease, he looked round uneasily and said, "Do not do that, he might hear you and kill me!"1323 If a Kaiabara black dies, his tribes-people never mention his name, but call him Wurponum, "the dead," and in order to explain who it is that has died, they speak of his father, mother, brothers, and so forth.1324 Of the tribes on the Lower Murray River we are told that when a person dies "they carefully avoid mentioning his name; but if compelled to do so, they pronounce it in a very low whisper, so faint that they imagine the spirit cannot hear their voice."1325 Amongst the tribes of Central Australia no one may utter the name of the deceased during the period of mourning, unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and then it is only done in a whisper for fear of disturbing and annoying the man's spirit which is walking about in ghostly form. If the ghost hears his name mentioned he concludes that his kinsfolk are not mourning for him properly; if their grief were genuine they could not bear to bandy his name about. Touched to the quick by their hard-hearted indifference, the indignant ghost will come and trouble them in dreams.1326 In these tribes no woman may ever again mention the name of a dead person, but the restriction on the male sex is not so absolute, for the name may be mentioned by men of the two subclasses to which the wife's father and wife's brother of the deceased belong.1327 Among some tribes of north-western Australia a dead man's name is never mentioned after his burial and he is only spoken of as "that one"; otherwise they think that he would return and frighten them at night in camp.1328

The names of the dead are not uttered by the American Indians.

The same reluctance to utter the names of the dead appears to prevail among all the Indian tribes of America from Hudson's Bay Territory to Patagonia. Among the [pg 352] Iroquois, for example, the name of the deceased was never mentioned after the period of mourning had expired.1329 The same rule was rigidly observed by the Indians of California and Oregon; its transgression might be punished with a heavy fine or even with death.1330 Thus among the Karok of California we are told that "the highest crime one can commit is the pet-chi-é-ri, the mere mention of the dead relative's name. It is a deadly insult to the survivors, and can be atoned for only by the same amount of blood-money paid for wilful murder. In default of that they will have the villain's blood."1331 Amongst the Wintun, also of California, if some one in a group of merry talkers inadvertently mentions the name of a deceased person, "straightway there falls upon all an awful silence. No words can describe the shuddering and heart-sickening terror which seizes upon them at the utterance of that fearful word."1332 Among the Goajiros of Colombia to mention the dead before his kinsmen is a dreadful offence, which is often punished with death; for if it happen on the rancho of the deceased, in presence of his nephew or uncle, they will assuredly kill the offender on the spot if they can. But if he escapes, the penalty resolves itself into a heavy fine, usually of two or more oxen.1333 So among the Abipones of Paraguay to mention the departed by name was a serious crime, which often led to blows and bloodshed. When it was needful to refer to such an one, it was done by means of a general phrase such as "he who is no more," eked out with particulars which served to identify the person meant.1334

[pg 353]

Many other peoples are reluctant to mention the names of the dead. This reluctance seems to be based on a fear of the ghosts, whose attention might be attracted by the mention of their names.

A similar reluctance to mention the names of the dead is reported of peoples so widely separated from each other as the Samoyeds of Siberia and the Todas of southern India; the Mongols of Tartary and the Tuaregs of the Sahara; the Ainos of Japan and the Akamba and Nandi of central Africa; the Tinguianes of the Philippines and the inhabitants of the Nicobar Islands, of Borneo, of Madagascar, and of Tasmania.1335 In all cases, even where it is not expressly stated, the fundamental reason for this avoidance is probably the fear of the ghost. That this is the real motive with the Tuaregs of the Sahara we are positively informed. They dread the return of the dead man's spirit, and do all they can to avoid it by shifting their camp after a death, ceasing for ever to pronounce the name of the departed, and eschewing everything that might be regarded as an evocation or recall of his soul. Hence they do not, like the Arabs, designate individuals by adding to their personal names the names of their fathers; they never speak of So-and-so, son of So-and-so; they give to every man a name which will live and die with him.1336 So among some of the Victorian tribes in [pg 354] Australia personal names were rarely perpetuated, because the natives believed that any one who adopted the name of a deceased person would not live long;1337 probably his ghostly namesake was supposed to come and fetch him away to the spirit-land. The Yabims of German New Guinea, who believe that the spirits of the dead pass their time in the forest eating unpalatable fruits, are unwilling to mention the names of the deceased lest their ghosts should suspend their habitual occupation to come and trouble the living.1338 In Logea, one of the Samarai Archipelago, off the south-eastern end of New Guinea, no custom is observed so strictly as the one which forbids the naming of the dead in presence of their relations. To say to a person "Your fathers are dead," is considered a direct challenge to fight; it is an insult which must be avenged either by the death of the man who pronounced these awful words, or by the death of one of his relatives or friends. The uttering of the names of the dead is, along with homicide, one of the chief causes of war in the island. When it is necessary to refer to a dead man they designate him by such a phrase as "the father of So-and-so," or "the brother of So-and-so."1339 Thus the fear of mentioning the names of the dead gives rise to circumlocutions of precisely the same sort as those which originate in a reluctance to name living people. Among the Klallam Indians of Washington State no person may bear the name of his deceased father, grandfather, or any other direct ancestor in the paternal line.1340 The Masai of eastern Africa are said to resort to a simple device which enables them to speak of the dead freely without risk of the inopportune appearance of the ghost. As soon as a man or woman dies, they change his or her name, and henceforth always speak of him or her by the new name, while the old name falls into oblivion, and [pg 355] to utter it in the presence of a kinsman of the deceased is an insult which calls for vengeance. They assume that the dead man will not know his new name, and so will not answer to it when he hears it pronounced.1341 Ghosts are notoriously dull-witted; nothing is easier than to dupe them. However, according to another and more probable account, the name of a Masai is not changed after his death; it is merely suppressed, and he or she is referred to by a descriptive phrase, such as "my brother," "my uncle," "my sister." To call a dead man by his name is deemed most unlucky, and is never done except with the intention of doing harm to his surviving family, who make great lamentations on such an occasion.1342

The like fear leads people who bear the same name as the dead to change it for another.

The same fear of the ghost, which moves people to suppress his old name, naturally leads all persons who bear a similar name to exchange it for another, lest its utterance should attract the attention of the ghost, who cannot reasonably be expected to discriminate between all the different applications of the same name. Thus we are told that in the Adelaide and Encounter Bay tribes of South Australia the repugnance to mentioning the names of those who have died lately is carried so far, that persons who bear the same name as the deceased abandon it, and either adopt temporary names or are known by any others that happen to belong to them.1343 The same practice was observed by the aborigines of New South Wales,1344 and is said to be observed by the tribes of the Lower Murray River,1345 and of King George's Sound in western Australia.1346 A similar custom prevails among some of the Queensland tribes; but the prohibition to use the names of the dead is not permanent, though it may last for many years. On the [pg 356] Bloomfield River, when a namesake dies, the survivor is called Tanyu, a word whose meaning is unknown; or else he or she receives a name which refers to the corpse, with the syllable Wau prefixed to it. For example, he may be called Wau-batcha, with reference to the place where the man was buried; or Wau-wotchinyu ("burnt"), with reference to the cremation of the body. And if there should be several people in camp all bearing one of these allusive designations, they are distinguished from each other by the mention of the names of their mothers or other relatives, even though these last have long been dead and gone. Whenever Mr. W. E. Roth, to whom we owe this information, could obtain an explanation of the custom, the reason invariably assigned was a fear that the ghost, hearing himself called by name, might return and cause mischief.1347 In some Australian tribes the change of name thus brought about is permanent; the old name is laid aside for ever, and the man is known by his new name for the rest of his life, or at least until he is obliged to change it again for a like reason.1348 Among the North American Indians all persons, whether men or women, who bore the name of one who had just died were obliged to abandon it and to adopt other names, which was formally done at the first ceremony of mourning for the dead.1349 In some tribes to the east of the Rocky Mountains this change of name lasted only during the season of mourning,1350 but in other tribes on the Pacific Coast of North America it seems to have been permanent.1351 Amongst the Masai also, when two men of the same tribe bear the same name, and one of them dies, the survivor changes his name.1352

Sometimes all the near relations of the deceased change their names.

Sometimes by an extension of the same reasoning all the near relations of the deceased change their names, whatever [pg 357] they may happen to be, doubtless from a fear that the sound of the familiar names might lure back the vagrant spirit to its old home. Thus in some Victorian tribes the ordinary names of all the next of kin were disused during the period of mourning, and certain general terms, prescribed by custom, were substituted for them. To call a mourner by his own name was considered an insult to the departed, and often led to fighting and bloodshed.1353 Among Indian tribes of north-western America near relations of the deceased often change their names "under an impression that spirits will be attracted back to earth if they hear familiar names often repeated."1354 Among the Kiowa Indians the name of the dead is never spoken in the presence of the relatives, and on the death of any member of a family all the others take new names. This custom was noted by Raleigh's colonists on Roanoke Island more than three centuries ago.1355 Among the Lengua Indians of the Gran Chaco in South America not only is a dead man's name never mentioned, but all the survivors change their names also. They say that Death has been among them and has carried off a list of the living, and that he will soon come back for more victims; hence in order to defeat his fell purpose they change their names, believing that on his return Death, though he has got them all on his list, will not be able to identify them under their new names, and will depart to pursue the search elsewhere.1356 So among the Guaycurus of the Gran Chaco, when a death had taken place, the chief used to change the names of every person in the tribe, man and woman, young and old, and it is said to have been wonderful to observe how from that moment everybody remembered his new name just as if he had borne it all his life.1357 Nicobarese mourners take new names in order to escape the unwelcome attentions of the ghost; and [pg 358] for the same purpose they disguise themselves by shaving their heads so that the ghost is unable to recognise them.1358 The Chukchees of Bering Strait believe that the souls of the dead turn into malignant spirits who seek to harm the living. Hence when a mother dies the name of her youngest and dearest child is changed, in order that her ghost may not know the child.1359

When the name of the deceased is that of a common object, the word is often dropped in ordinary speech and another substituted for it.

Further, when the name of the deceased happens to be that of some common object, such as an animal, or plant, or fire, or water, it is sometimes considered necessary to drop that word in ordinary speech and replace it by another. A custom of this sort, it is plain, may easily be a potent agent of change in language; for where it prevails to any considerable extent many words must constantly become obsolete and new ones spring up. And this tendency has been remarked by observers who have recorded the custom in Australia, America, and elsewhere. For example, with regard to the Australian aborigines it has been noted that "the dialects change with almost every tribe. Some tribes name their children after natural objects; and when the person so named dies, the word is never again mentioned; another word has therefore to be invented for the object after which the child was called." The writer gives as an instance the case of a man whose name Karla signified "fire"; when Karla died, a new word for fire had to be introduced. "Hence," adds the writer, "the language is always changing."1360 In the Moorunde tribe the name for "teal" used to be torpool; but when a boy called Torpool died, a new name (tilquaitch) was given to the bird, and the old name dropped out altogether from the language of the tribe.1361 Sometimes, however, such substitutes for common words were only in vogue for a limited time after the death, and were then discarded in favour of the old words. Thus among the Kowraregas of the Prince of Wales' Islands and [pg 359] the Gudangs of Cape York in Queensland, the names of the dead are never mentioned without great reluctance, so that, for example, when a man named Us, or quartz, died, the name of the stone was changed to nattam ure, "the thing which is a namesake," but the original word would gradually return to common use.1362 Again, a missionary, who lived among the Victorian aborigines, remarks that "it is customary among these blacks to disuse a word when a person has died whose name was the same, or even of the same sound. I find great difficulty in getting blacks to repeat such words. I believe this custom is common to all the Victorian tribes, though in course of time the word is resumed again. I have seen among the Murray blacks the dead freely spoken of when they have been dead some time."1363 Again, in the Encounter Bay tribe of South Australia, if a man of the name of Ngnke, which means "water," were to die, the whole tribe would be obliged to use some other word to express water for a considerable time after his decease. The writer who records this custom surmises that it may explain the presence of a number of synonyms in the language of the tribe.1364 This conjecture is confirmed by what we know of some Victorian tribes whose speech comprised a regular set of synonyms to be used instead of the common terms by all members of a tribe in times of mourning. For instance, if a man called Waa ("crow") departed this life, during the period of mourning for him nobody might call a crow a waa; everybody had to speak of the bird as a narrapart. When a person who rejoiced in the title of Ringtail Opossum (weearn) had gone the way of all flesh, his sorrowing relations and the tribe at large were bound for a time to refer to ringtail opossums by the more sonorous name of manuungkuurt. If the community were plunged in grief for the loss of a respected female who bore the honourable name of Turkey Bustard, the proper name for turkey bustards, which was barrim barrim, went out, and tillit tilliitsh came in. And so [pg 360] mutatis mutandis with the names of Black Cockatoo, Grey Duck, Gigantic Crane, Kangaroo, Eagle, Dingo, and the rest.1365

This custom has transformed some of the languages of the American Indians.

A similar custom used to be constantly transforming the language of the Abipones of Paraguay, amongst whom, however, a word once abolished seems never to have been revived. New words, says the missionary Dobrizhoffer, sprang up every year like mushrooms in a night, because all words that resembled the names of the dead were abolished by proclamation and others coined in their place. The mint of words was in the hands of the old women of the tribe, and whatever term they stamped with their approval and put in circulation was immediately accepted without a murmur by high and low alike, and spread like wildfire through every camp and settlement of the tribe. You would be astonished, says the same missionary, to see how meekly the whole nation acquiesces in the decision of a withered old hag, and how completely the old familiar words fall instantly out of use and are never repeated either through force of habit or forgetfulness. In the seven years that Dobrizhoffer spent among these Indians the native word for jaguar was changed thrice, and the words for crocodile, thorn, and the slaughter of cattle underwent similar though less varied vicissitudes. As a result of this habit, the vocabularies of the missionaries teemed with erasures, old words having constantly to be struck out as obsolete and new ones inserted in their place.1366 Similarly, a peculiar feature of the Comanche language is that a portion of the vocabulary is continually changing. If, for example, a person called Eagle or Bison dies, a new name is invented for the bird or beast, because it is forbidden to mention the name of any one who is dead.1367 So amongst the Kiowa Indians all words that suggest the name of a deceased person are dropped for a term of years and other words [pg 361] are substituted for them. The old word may after the lapse of years be restored, but it often happens that the new one keeps its place and the original word is entirely forgotten. Old men sometimes remember as many as three different names which have been successively used for the same thing. The new word is commonly a novel combination of existing roots, or a novel use of a current word, rather than a deliberately invented term.1368

A similar custom has modified languages in Africa, Buru, New Guinea, the Caroline Islands, and the Nicobarese.

The Basagala, a cattle-breeding people to the west of Uganda, cease to use a word if it was the name of an influential person who has died. For example, after the death of a chief named Mwenda, which means "nine," the name for the numeral was changed.1369 "On the death of a child, or a warrior, or a woman amongst the Masai, the body is thrown away, and the person's name is buried, i.e. it is never again mentioned by the family. Should there be anything which is called by that name, it is given another name which is not like that of the deceased, For instance, if an unimportant person called Ol-onana (he who is soft, or weak, or gentle) were to die, gentleness would not be called enanai in that kraal, but it would be called by another name, such as epolpol (it is smooth).... If an elder dies leaving children, his name is not buried for his descendants are named after him."1370 From this statement, which is translated from a native account in the Masai language, we may perhaps infer that among the Masai it is as a rule only the childless dead whose names are avoided. In the island of Buru it is unlawful to mention the names of the dead or any words that resemble them in sound.1371 In many tribes of British New Guinea the names of persons are also the names of common things. The people believe that if the name of a deceased person is pronounced, his spirit will return, and as they have no wish to see it back among them the mention of his name is tabooed and a new word [pg 362] is created to take its place, whenever the name happens to be a common term of the language.1372 Thus at Waga-waga, near the south-eastern extremity of New Guinea, the names of the dead become taboo immediately after death, and if they are, as generally happens, the names of common objects, new words must be adopted for these things and the old words are dropped from the language, so long at least as the memory of the dead survives. For example, when a man died whose name Binama meant "hornbill," a new name ambadina, literally "the plasterer," was adopted for the bird. Consequently many words are permanently lost or revived with modified or new meanings. The frequent changes of vocabulary caused by this custom are very inconvenient, and nowadays the practice of using foreign words as substitutes is coming more and more into vogue. English profanity now contributes its share to the language of these savages.1373 In the Caroline Islands the ordinary name for pig is puik, but in the Paliker district of Ponape the pig is called not puik but man-teitei, or "the animal that grubs in the soil," for the word puik was there tabooed after the death of a man named Puik. "This is a living instance showing how under our very eyes old words are dropping out of use in these isolated dialects and new ones are taking their place."1374 In the Nicobar Islands a similar practice has similarly affected the speech of the natives. "A most singular custom," says Mr. de Roepstorff, "prevails among them which one would suppose must most effectually hinder the 'making of history,' or, at any rate, the transmission of historical narrative. By a strict rule, which has all the sanction of Nicobar superstition, no man's name may be mentioned after his death! To such a length is this carried that when, as very frequently happens, the man rejoiced in the name of 'Fowl,' 'Hat,' 'Fire,' 'Road,' etc., in its Nicobarese equivalent, the use of these words is carefully eschewed for the future, not only as being the personal designation of the deceased, but even as the names [pg 363] of the common things they represent; the words die out of the language, and either new vocables are coined to express the thing intended, or a substitute for the disused word is found in other Nicobarese dialects or in some foreign tongue. This extraordinary custom not only adds an element of instability to the language, but destroys the continuity of political life, and renders the record of past events precarious and vague, if not impossible."1375

The suppression of the names of the dead cuts at the root of historical tradition.

That a superstition which suppresses the names of the dead must cut at the very root of historical tradition has been remarked by other workers in this field. "The Klamath people," observes Mr. A. S. Gatschet, "possess no historic traditions going further back in time than a century, for the simple reason that there was a strict law prohibiting the mention of the person or acts of a deceased individual by using his name. This law was rigidly observed among the Californians no less than among the Oregonians, and on its transgression the death penalty could be inflicted. This is certainly enough to suppress all historical knowledge within a people. How can history be written without names?"1376 Among some of the tribes of New South Wales the simple ditties, never more than two lines long, to which the natives dance, are never transmitted from one generation to another, because, when the rude poet dies, "all the songs of which he was author are, as it were, buried with him, inasmuch as they, in common with his very name, are studiously ignored from thenceforward, consequently they are quite forgotten in a very short space of time indeed. This custom of endeavouring persistently to forget everything which had been in any way connected with the dead entirely precludes the possibility of anything of an historical nature having existence amongst them; in [pg 364] fact the most vital occurrence, if only dating a single generation back, is quite forgotten, that is to say, if the recounting thereof should necessitate the mention of a defunct aboriginal's name."1377 Thus among these simple savages even a sacred bard could not avail to rescue an Australian Agamemnon from the long night of oblivion.

Sometimes the names of the dead are revived after a certain time. The American Indians used to bring the dead to life again by solemnly bestowing their names on living persons, who were thereafter regarded as reincarnations of the dead.

In many tribes, however, the power of this superstition to blot out the memory of the past is to some extent weakened and impaired by a natural tendency of the human mind. Time, which wears out the deepest impressions, inevitably dulls, if it does not wholly efface, the print left on the savage mind by the mystery and horror of death. Sooner or later, as the memory of his loved ones fades slowly away, he becomes more willing to speak of them, and thus their rude names may sometimes be rescued by the philosophic enquirer before they have vanished, like autumn leaves or winter snows, into the vast undistinguished limbo of the past. This was Sir George Grey's experience when he attempted to trace the intricate system of kinship prevalent among the natives of western Australia. He says: "It is impossible for any person, not well acquainted with the language of the natives, and who does not possess great personal influence over them, to pursue an inquiry of this nature; for one of the customs most rigidly observed and enforced amongst them is, never to mention the name of a deceased person, male or female. In an inquiry, therefore, which principally turns upon the names of their ancestors, this prejudice must be every moment violated, and a very great difficulty encountered in the outset. The only circumstance which at all enabled me to overcome this was, that the longer a person has been dead the less repugnance do they evince in uttering his name. I, therefore, in the first instance, endeavoured to ascertain only the oldest names on record; and on subsequent occasions, when I found a native alone, and in a loquacious humour, I succeeded in filling up some [pg 365] of the blanks. Occasionally, round their fires at night, I managed to involve them in disputes regarding their ancestors, and, on these occasions, gleaned much of the information of which I was in want."1378 In some of the Victorian tribes the prohibition to mention the names of the dead remained in force only during the period of mourning;1379 in the Port Lincoln tribe of South Australia it lasted many years.1380 Among the Chinook Indians of North America "custom forbids the mention of a dead man's name, at least till many years have elapsed after the bereavement."1381 In the Twana, Chemakum, and Klallam tribes of Washington State the names of deceased members may be mentioned two or three years after their death.1382 Among the Puyallup Indians the observance of the taboo is relaxed after several years, when the mourners have forgotten their grief; and if the deceased was a famous warrior, one of his descendants, for instance a great-grandson, may be named after him. In this tribe the taboo is not much observed at any time except by the relations of the dead.1383 Similarly the Jesuit missionary Lafitau tells us that the name of the departed and the similar names of the survivors were, so to say, buried with the corpse until, the poignancy of their grief being abated, it pleased the relations to "lift up the tree and raise the dead." By raising the dead they meant bestowing the name of the departed upon some one else, who thus became to all intents and purposes a reincarnation of the deceased, since on the principles of savage philosophy the name is a vital part, if not the soul, of the man. When Father Lafitau arrived at St. Louis to begin work among the Iroquois, his colleagues decided that in order to make a favourable impression on his flock the new shepherd should assume the native name of his deceased predecessor, Father [pg 366] Brüyas, "the celebrated missionary," who had lived many years among the Indians and enjoyed their high esteem. But Father Brüyas had been called from his earthly labours to his heavenly rest only four short months before, and it was too soon, in the phraseology of the Iroquois, to "raise up the tree." However, raised up it was in spite of them; and though some bolder spirits protested that their new pastor had wronged them by taking the name of his predecessor, "nevertheless," says Father Lafitau, "they did not fail to regard me as himself in another form (un autre lui-même), since I had entered into all his rights." 1384

Mode of reviving the dead in the persons of their namesakes among the North American Indians.

The same mode of bringing a dead man to life again by bestowing his name upon a living person was practised by the Hurons and other Indian tribes of Canada. An early French traveller in Canada has described the ceremony of resurrection as it was observed by a tribe whom he calls the Attiuoindarons. He says: "The Attiuoindarons practise resurrections of the dead, principally of persons who have deserved well of their country by their remarkable services, so that the memory of illustrious and valiant men revives in a certain way in others. Accordingly they call assemblies for this purpose and hold councils, at which they choose one of them who has the same virtues and qualities, if possible, as he had whom they wish to resuscitate; or at least he must be of irreproachable life, judged by the standard of a savage people. Wishing, then, to proceed to the resurrection they all stand up, except him who is to be resuscitated, to whom they give the name of the deceased, and all letting their hands down very low they pretend to lift him up from the earth, intending by that to signify that they draw the great personage deceased from the grave and restore him to life in the person of this other, who stands up and, after great acclamations of the people, receives the presents which the bystanders offer him. They further hold several feasts in his honour and regard him thenceforth as the deceased whom he represents; and by this [pg 367] means the memory of virtuous men and of good and valiant captains never dies among them."1385 Among the Hurons the ceremony took place between the death and the great Festival of the Dead, which was usually celebrated at intervals of twelve years. When it was resolved to resuscitate a departed warrior, the members of his family met and decided which of them was to be regarded as an incarnation of the deceased. If the dead man had been a famous chief and leader in war, his living representative and namesake succeeded to his functions. Presents were made to him, and he entertained the whole tribe at a magnificent banquet. His old robes were taken from him, and he was clad in richer raiment. Thereupon a herald proclaimed aloud the mystery of the incarnation. "Let all the people," he said, "remain silent. Open your ears and shut your mouths. That which I am about to say is of importance. Our business is to resuscitate a dead man and to bring a great captain to life again." With that he named the dead man and all his posterity, and reminded his hearers of the place and manner of his death. Then turning to him who was to succeed the departed, he lifted up his voice: "Behold him," he cried, "clad in this beautiful robe. It is not he whom you saw these past days, who was called Nehap. He has given his name to another, and he himself is now called Etouait" (the name of the defunct). "Look on him as the true captain of this nation. It is he whom you are bound to obey; it is he whom you are bound to listen to; it is he whom you are bound to honour." The new incarnation meanwhile maintained a dignified silence, and afterwards led the young braves out to war in order to prove that he had inherited the courage and virtues as well as the name of the dead chief.1386 The Carrier Indians of British Columbia firmly believe "that a departed soul can, if it pleases, come back to the earth, in a human shape or body, in order to see his friends, who are still alive. Therefore, as they are about to set fire to the pile of wood on which a corpse is laid, a [pg 368] relation of the deceased person stands at his feet, and asks him if he will ever come back among them. Then the priest or magician, with a grave countenance, stands at the head of the corpse, and looks through both his hands on its naked breast, and then raises them toward heaven, and blows through them, as they say, the soul of the deceased, that it may go and find, and enter into a relative. Or, if any relative is present, the priest will hold both his hands on the head of this person, and blow through them, that the spirit of the deceased may enter into him or her; and then, as they affirm, the first child which this person has will possess the soul of the deceased person."1387 The writer does not say that the infant took the name of the deceased who was born again in it; but probably it did. For sometimes the priest would transfer the soul from a dead to a living person, who in that case took the name of the departed in addition to his own.1388

The dead revived in their namesakes among the Lapps, Khonds, Yorubas, Baganda, and Makalaka.

Among the Lapps, when a woman was with child and near the time of her delivery, a deceased ancestor or relation (known as a Jabmek) used to appear to her in a dream and inform her what dead person was to be born again in her infant, and whose name the child was therefore to bear. If the woman had no such dream, it fell to the father or the relatives to determine the name by divination or by consulting a wizard.1389 Among the Khonds a birth is celebrated on the seventh day after the event by a feast given to the priest and to the whole village. To determine the child's name the priest drops grains of rice into a cup of water, naming with each grain a deceased ancestor. From the movements of the seed in the water, and from observations made on the person of the infant, he pronounces which of his progenitors has reappeared in him, and the child generally, at least [pg 369] among the northern tribes, receives the name of that ancestor.1390 Among the Ewe-speaking peoples of Togo, in West Africa, when a woman is in hard labour, a fetish priest or priestess is called in to disclose the name of the deceased relative who has just been born again into the world in the person of the infant. The name of that relative is bestowed on the child.1391 Among the Yorubas, soon after a child has been born, a priest of Ifa, the god of divination, appears on the scene to ascertain what ancestral soul has been reborn in the infant. As soon as this has been decided, the parents are told that the child must conform in all respects to the manner of life of the ancestor who now animates him or her, and if, as often happens, they profess ignorance, the priest supplies the necessary information. The child usually receives the name of the ancestor who has been born again in him.1392 In Uganda a child is named with much ceremony by its grandfather, who bestows on it the name of one of its ancestors, but never the name of its father. The spirit of the deceased namesake then enters the child and assists him through life.1393 Here the reincarnation of the ancestor appears to be effected by giving his name, and with it his soul, to his descendant. The same idea seems to explain a curious ceremony observed by the Makalaka of South Africa at the naming of a child. The spirit of the ancestor (motsimo), whose name the child is to bear, is represented by an elderly kinsman or kinswoman, [pg 370] according as t

he little one is a boy or a girl. A pretence is made of catching the representative of the spirit, and dragging him or her to the hut of the child's parents. Outside the hut the pretended spirit takes his seat and the skin of an animal is thrown over him. He then washes his hands in a vessel of water, eats some millet-porridge, and washes it down with beer. Meantime the women and girls dance gleefully round him, screaming or singing, and throw copper rings, beads, and so forth as presents into the vessel of water. The men do the same, but without dancing; after that they enter the hut to partake of a feast. The representative of the ancestral spirit now vanishes, and the child thenceforth bears his or her name.1394 This ceremony may be intended to represent the reincarnation of the ancestral spirit in the child.

Revival of the names of the dead among the Nicobarese and Gilyaks.

In the Nicobar Islands the names of dead relatives are tabooed for a generation; but when both their parents are dead, men and women are bound to assume the names of their deceased grandfathers or grandmothers respectively.1395 Perhaps with the names they may be thought to inherit the spirits of their ancestors. Among the Tartars in the Middle Ages the names of the dead might not be uttered till the third generation.1396 Among the Gilyaks of Saghalien no two persons in the same tribe may bear the same name at the same time; for they think that if a child were to receive the name of a living man, either the child or the man would die within the year. When a man dies, his name may not be uttered until after the celebration of the festival at which they sacrifice a bear for the purpose of procuring plenty of game and fish. At that festival they call out the name of the deceased while they beat the skin of the bear. Thenceforth the name may be pronounced by every one, and it will be bestowed on a child who shall afterwards be born.1397 These customs suggest that the Gilyaks, like other peoples, suppose [pg 371] the namesake of a deceased person to be his or her reincarnation; for their objection to let two living persons bear the same name seems to imply a belief that the soul goes with the name, and therefore cannot be shared by two people at the same time.

Namesakes of the dead treated as the dead in person among the Esquimaux of Bering Strait.

Among the Esquimaux of Bering Strait the first child born in a village after some one has died receives the dead person's name, and must represent him in subsequent festivals which are given in his honour. The day before the great feast of the dead the nearest male relative of the deceased goes to the grave and plants before it a stake bearing the crest or badge of the departed. This is the notice served to the ghost to attend the festival. Accordingly he returns from the spirit-land to the grave. Afterwards a song is sung at the grave inviting the ghost to repair to the assembly-house, where the people are gathered to celebrate the festival. The shade accepts the invitation and takes his place, with the other ghosts, in the fire-pit under the floor of the assembly-house. All the time of the festival, which lasts for several days, lamps filled with seal-oil are kept burning day and night in the assembly-house in order to light up the path to the spirit-land and enable the ghosts to find their way back to their old haunts on earth. When the spirits of the dead are gathered in the pit, and the proper moment has come, they all rise up through the floor and enter the bodies of their living namesakes. Offerings of food, drink, and clothes are now made to these namesakes, who eat and drink and wear the clothes on behalf of the ghosts. Finally, the shades, refreshed and strengthened by the banquet, are sent away back to their graves thinly clad in the spiritual essence of the clothes, while the gross material substance of the garments is retained by their namesakes.1398 Here the reincarnation of the dead in the living is not permanent, but merely occasional and temporary. Still a special connexion may well be thought to subsist at all times between the deceased and the living person who bears his or her name.

[pg 372]

Ceremonies at the naming of children are probably often associated with the idea of rebirth.

The foregoing facts seem to render it probable that even where a belief in the reincarnation of ancestors either is not expressly attested or has long ceased to form part of the popular creed, many of the solemnities which attend the naming of children may have sprung originally from the widespread notion that the souls of the dead come to life again in their namesakes.1399

Sometimes the names of the dead may be pronounced after their bodies have decayed. Arunta practice of chasing the ghost into the grave at the end of the period of mourning.

In some cases the period during which the name of the deceased may not be pronounced seems to bear a close relation to the time during which his mortal remains may be supposed still to hold together. Thus, of some Indian tribes on the north-west coast of America it is said that they may not speak the name of a dead person "until the bones are finally disposed of."1400 Among the Narrinyeri of South Australia the name might not be uttered until the corpse had decayed.1401 In the Encounter Bay tribe of the same country the dead body is dried over a fire, packed up in mats, and carried about for several months among the scenes which had been familiar to the deceased in his life. Next it is placed on a platform of sticks and left there till it has completely decayed, whereupon the next of kin takes the skull and uses it as a drinking-cup. After that the name of the departed may be uttered without offence. Were it pronounced sooner his kinsmen would be deeply offended, and a war might be the result.1402 The rule that the name of the dead may not be spoken until his body has mouldered away seems to point to a belief that the spirit continues to exist only so long as the body does so, and that, when the material frame is dissolved, the spiritual part of the man perishes with it, or goes away, or at least becomes so feeble and incapable of mischief that his name may be bandied about with impunity.1403 This view is to some extent confirmed [pg 373] by the practice of the Arunta tribe in central Australia. We have seen that among them no one may mention the name of the deceased during the period of mourning for fear of disturbing and annoying the ghost, who is believed to be walking about at large. Some of the relations of the dead man, it is true, such as his parents, elder brothers and sisters, paternal aunts, mother-in-law, and all his sons-in-law, whether actual or possible, are debarred all their lives from taking his name into their lips; but other people, including his wife, children, grandchildren, grandparents, younger brothers and sisters, and father-in-law, are free to name him so soon as he has ceased to walk the earth and hence to be dangerous. Some twelve or eighteen months after his death the people seem to think that the dead man has enjoyed his liberty long enough, and that it is time to confine his restless spirit within narrower bounds. Accordingly a grand battue or ghost-hunt brings the days of mourning to an end. The favourite haunt of the deceased is believed to be the burnt and deserted camp where he died. Here therefore on a certain day a band of men and women, the men armed with shields and spear-throwers, assemble and begin dancing round the charred and blackened remains of the camp, shouting and beating the air with their weapons and hands in order to drive away the lingering spirit from the spot he loves too well. When the dancing is over, the whole party proceed to the grave at a run, chasing the ghost before them. It is in vain that the unhappy ghost makes a last bid for freedom, and, breaking away from the beaters, [pg 374] doubles back towards the camp; the leader of the party is prepared for this man?uvre, and by making a long circuit adroitly cuts off the retreat of the fugitive. Finally, having run him to earth, they trample him down into the grave, dancing and stamping on the heaped-up soil, while with downward thrusts through the air they beat and force him under ground. There, lying in his narrow house, flattened and prostrate under a load of earth, the poor ghost sees his widow wearing the gay feathers of the ring-neck parrot in her hair, and he knows that the time of her mourning for him is over. The loud shouts of the men and women shew him that they are not to be frightened and bullied by him any more, and that he had better lie quiet. But he may still watch over his friends, and guard them from harm, and visit them in dreams.1404

§ 4. Names of Kings and other Sacred Persons tabooed.

The birth-names of kings kept secret or not pronounced.

When we see that in primitive society the names of mere commoners, whether alive or dead, are matters of such anxious care, we need not be surprised that great precautions should be taken to guard from harm the names of sacred kings and priests. Thus the name of the king of Dahomey is always kept secret, lest the knowledge of it should enable some evil-minded person to do him a mischief. The appellations by which the different kings of Dahomey have been known to Europeans are not their true names, but mere titles, or what the natives call "strong names" (nyi-sese). As a rule, these "strong names" are the first words of sentences descriptive of certain qualities. Thus Agaja, the name by which the fourth king of the dynasty was known, was part of a sentence meaning, "A spreading tree must be lopped before it can be cast into the fire"; and Tegbwesun, the name of the fifth king, formed the first word of a sentence which signified, "No one can take the cloth off the neck of a wild bull." The natives seem to think that no harm comes of such titles being known, since they are not, like the birth-names, vitally connected with their owners.1405 [pg 375] In the Galla kingdom of Ghera the birth-name of the sovereign may not be pronounced by a subject under pain of death, and common words which resemble it in sound are changed for others. Thus when a queen named Carre reigned over the kingdom, the word hara, which means smoke, was exchanged for unno; further, arre, "ass," was replaced by culula; and gudare, "potato," was dropped and loccio substituted for it.1406 Among the Bahima of central Africa, when the king dies, his name is abolished from the language, and if his name was that of an animal, a new appellation must be found for the creature at once. For example, the king is often called a lion; hence at the death of a king named Lion a new name for lions in general has to be coined.1407 Thus in the language of the Bahima the word for "lion" some years ago was mpologoma. But when a prominent chief of that name died, the word for lion was changed to kichunchu. Again, in the Bahima language the word for "nine" used to be mwenda, a word which occurs with the same meaning but dialectical variations in the languages of other tribes of central and eastern Africa. But when a chief who bore the name Mwenda died, the old name for "nine" had to be changed, and accordingly the word isaga has been substituted for it.1408 In Siam it used to be difficult to ascertain the king's real name, since it was carefully kept secret from fear of sorcery; any one who mentioned it was clapped into gaol. The king might only be referred to under certain high-sounding titles, such as "the august," "the perfect," "the supreme," "the great emperor," "descendant of the angels," and so on.1409 In Burma it was accounted an impiety of the deepest dye to mention the name of the reigning sovereign; Burmese subjects, even when they were far from their country, could not be prevailed upon to do so;1410 after his accession to the throne the king was known by his royal titles only.1411 The proper name of the Emperor of China may neither be pronounced [pg 376] nor written by any of his subjects.1412 Coreans were formerly forbidden, under severe penalties, to utter the king's name, which, indeed, was seldom known.1413 When a prince ascends the throne of Cambodia he ceases to be designated by his real name; and if that name happens to be a common word in the language, the word is often changed. Thus, for example, since the reign of King Ang Duong the word duong, which meant a small coin, has been replaced by dom.1414 In the island of Sunda it is taboo to utter any word which coincides with the name of a prince or chief.1415 The name of the rajah of Bolang Mongondo, a district in the west of Celebes, is never mentioned except in case of urgent necessity, and even then his pardon must be asked repeatedly before the liberty is taken.1416 In the island of Sumba people do not mention the real name of a prince, but refer to him by the name of the first slave whom in his youth he became master of. This slave is regarded by the chief as his second self, and he enjoys practical impunity for any misdeeds he may commit.1417

The names of Zulu kings and chiefs may not be pronounced.

Among the Zulus no man will mention the name of the chief of his tribe or the names of the progenitors of the chief, so far as he can remember them; nor will he utter common words which coincide with or merely resemble in sound tabooed names. "As, for instance, the Zungu tribe say mata for manzi (water), and inkosta for tshanti (grass), and embigatdu for umkondo (assegai), and inyatugo for enhlela (path), because their present chief is Umfan-o inhlela, his father was Manzini, his grandfather Imkondo, and one before him Tshani." In the tribe of the Dwandwes there was a chief [pg 377] called Langa, which means the sun; hence the name of the sun was changed from langa to gala, and so remains to this day, though Langa died more than a hundred years ago. Once more, in the Xnumayo tribe the word meaning "to herd cattle" was changed from alusa or ayusa to kagesa, because u-Mayusi was the name of the chief. Besides these taboos, which were observed by each tribe separately, all the Zulu tribes united in tabooing the name of the king who reigned over the whole nation. Hence, for example, when Panda was king of Zululand, the word for "a root of a tree," which is impando, was changed to nxabo. Again, the word for "lies" or "slander" was altered from amacebo to amakwata, because amacebo contains a syllable of the name of the famous King Cetchwayo. These substitutions are not, however, carried so far by the men as by the women, who omit every sound even remotely resembling one that occurs in a tabooed name. At the king's kraal, indeed, it is sometimes difficult to understand the speech of the royal wives, as they treat in this fashion the names not only of the king and his forefathers, but even of his and their brothers back for generations. When to these tribal and national taboos we add those family taboos on the names of connexions by marriage which have been already described,1418 we can easily understand how it comes about that in Zululand every tribe has words peculiar to itself, and that the women have a considerable vocabulary of their own. Members, too, of one family may be debarred from using words employed by those of another. The women of one kraal, for instance, may call a hyaena by its ordinary name; those of the next may use the common substitute; while in a third the substitute may also be unlawful and another term may have to be invented to supply its place. Hence the Zulu language at the present day almost presents the appearance of being a double one; indeed, for multitudes of things it possesses three or four synonyms, which through the blending of tribes are known all over Zululand.1419

[pg 378]

The names of living kings and chiefs may not be pronounced in Madagascar.

In Madagascar a similar custom everywhere prevails and has resulted, as among the Zulus, in producing certain dialectic differences in the speech of the various tribes. There are no family names in Madagascar, and almost every personal name is drawn from the language of daily life and signifies some common object or action or quality, such as a bird, a beast, a tree, a plant, a colour, and so on. Now, whenever one of these common words forms the name or part of the name of the chief of the tribe, it becomes sacred and may no longer be used in its ordinary signification as the name of a tree, an insect, or what not. Hence a new name for the object must be invented to replace the one which has been discarded. Often the new name consists of a descriptive epithet or a periphrasis. Thus when the princess Rabodo became queen in 1863 she took the name of Rasoherina. Now soherina was the word for the silkworm moth, but having been assumed as the name of the sovereign it could no longer be applied to the insect, which ever since has been called zany-dandy, "offspring of silk." So, again, if a chief had or took the name of an animal, say of the dog (amboa), and was known as Ramboa, the animal would henceforth be called by another name, probably a descriptive one, such as "the barker" (famovo) or "the driver away" (fandroaka), etc. In the western part of Imerina there was a chief called Andria-mamba; but mamba was one of the names of the crocodile, so the chiefs subjects might not call the reptile by that name and were always scrupulous to use another. It is easy to conceive what confusion and uncertainty may thus be introduced into a language when it is spoken by many little local tribes each ruled by a petty chief with his own sacred name. Yet there are tribes and people who submit to this tyranny of words as their fathers did before them from time immemorial. The inconvenient results of the custom are especially marked on the western coast of the island, where, on account of the large number of independent chieftains, the names of things, places, and rivers have suffered so many changes that confusion often arises, for when once common words have been banned by [pg 379] the chiefs the natives will not acknowledge to have ever known them in their old sense.1420

The names of dead kings and chiefs are also tabooed in Madagascar.

But it is not merely the names of living kings and chiefs which are tabooed in Madagascar; the names of dead sovereigns are equally under a ban, at least in some parts of the island. Thus among the Sakalavas, when a king has died, the nobles and people meet in council round the dead body and solemnly choose a new name by which the deceased monarch shall be henceforth known. The new name always begins with andrian, "lord," and ends with arrivou, "thousand," to signify that the late king ruled over a numerous nation. The body of the name is composed of an epithet or phrase descriptive of the deceased or of his reign. After the new name has been adopted, the old name by which the king was known during his life becomes sacred and may not be pronounced under pain of death. Further, words in the common language which bear any resemblance to the forbidden name also become sacred and have to be replaced by others. For example, after the death of King Makka the word laka, which meant a canoe, was abandoned and the word fiounrama substituted for it. When Taoussi died, the word taoussi, signifying "beautiful," was replaced by senga. For similar reasons the word antétsi, "old," was changed for matoué, which properly means "ripe"; the word vo?ssi, "castrated," was dropped and manapaka, "cut," adopted in its place; and the word for island (nossi) was changed into vario?, which signifies strictly "a place where there is rice." Again, when a Sakalava king named Marentoetsa died, two words fell into disuse, namely, the word màry or màre meaning "true," and the word toetsa meaning "condition." Persons who uttered these forbidden words were looked on not only as grossly rude, but even as felons; they had committed a capital crime. However, these changes of vocabulary are confined to the [pg 380] district over which the deceased king reigned; in the neighbouring districts the old words continue to be employed in the old sense.1421 Again, among the Bara, another tribe of Madagascar, "the memory of their deceased kings is held in the very highest respect; the name of such kings is considered sacred-too sacred indeed for utterance, and no one is allowed to pronounce it. To such a length is this absurdity carried that the name of any person or thing whatsoever, if it bear a resemblance to the name of the deceased king, is no longer used, but some other designation is given. For instance, there was a king named Andriamasoandro. After his decease the word masoandro was no longer employed as the name of the sun, but mahenika was substituted for it."1422 An eminent authority on Madagascar has observed: "A curious fact, which has had a very marked influence on the Malagasy language, is the custom of no longer pronouncing the name of a dead person nor even the words which resemble it in their conclusions. The name is replaced by another. King Ramitra, since his decease, has been called Mahatenatenarivou, 'the prince who has conquered a thousand foes,' and a Malagasy who should utter his old name would be regarded as the murderer of the prince, and would therefore be liable to the confiscation of his property, or even to the penalty of death. It is easy accordingly to understand how the Malagasy language, one in its origin, has been corrupted, and how it comes about that at the present day there are discrepancies between the various dialects. In Menabe, since the death of King Vinany, the word vilany, meaning a pot, has been replaced by fiketrehane, 'cooking vessel,' whereas the old word continues in use in the rest of Madagascar. These changes, it [pg 381] is true, hardly take place except for kings and great chiefs."1423

The names of chiefs may not be pronounced in Polynesia.

The sanctity attributed to the persons of chiefs in Polynesia naturally extended also to their names, which on the primitive view are hardly separable from the personality of their owners. Hence in Polynesia we find the same systematic prohibition to utter the names of chiefs or of common words resembling them which we have already met with in Zululand and Madagascar. Thus in New Zealand the name of a chief is held so sacred that, when it happens to be a common word, it may not be used in the language, and another has to be found to replace it. For example, a chief to the southward of East Cape bore the name of Maripi, which signified a knife, hence a new word (nekra) for knife was introduced, and the old one became obsolete. Elsewhere the word for water (wai) had to be changed, because it chanced to be the name of the chief, and would have been desecrated by being applied to the vulgar fluid as well as to his sacred person. This taboo naturally produced a plentiful crop of synonyms in the Maori language, and travellers newly arrived in the country were sometimes puzzled at finding the same things called by quite different names in neighbouring tribes.1424 When a king comes to the throne in Tahiti, any words in the language that resemble his name in sound must be changed for others. In former times, if any man were so rash as to disregard this custom and to use the forbidden words, not only he but all his relations were immediately put to death.1425 On the accession of King Otoo, which happened before Vancouver's visit to Tahiti, the proper names of all the chiefs were changed, as well as forty or fifty of the commonest words in the language, and every native was obliged to adopt the new terms, for any neglect [pg 382] to do so was punished with the greatest severity.1426 When a certain king named Tu came to the throne of Tahiti the word tu, which means "to stand," was changed to tia; fetu, "a star," became fetia; tui, "to strike," was turned into tiai, and so on. Sometimes, as in these instances, the new names were formed by merely changing or dropping some letter or letters of the original words; in other cases the substituted terms were entirely different words, whether chosen for their similarity of meaning though not of sound, or adopted from another dialect, or arbitrarily invented. But the changes thus introduced were only temporary; on the death of the king the new words fell into disuse, and the original ones were revived.1427 Similarly in Samoa, when the name of a sacred chief was that of an animal or bird, the name of the animal or bird was at once changed for another, and the old one might never again be uttered in that chief's district. For example, a sacred Samoan chief was named Pe'a, which means "flying-fox." Hence in his district a flying-fox was no longer called a flying-fox but a "bird of heaven" (manu langi).1428

The names of the Eleusinian priests might not be uttered.

In ancient Greece the names of the priests and other high officials who had to do with the performances of the Eleusinian mysteries might not be uttered in their lifetime. To pronounce them was a legal offence. The pedant in Lucian tells how he fell in with these august personages hailing along to the police court a ribald fellow who had dared to name them, though well he knew that ever since their consecration it was unlawful to do so, because they had become anonymous, having lost their old names and acquired new and sacred titles.1429 From two inscriptions found at [pg 383] Eleusis it appears that the names of the priests were committed to the depths of the sea;1430 probably they were engraved on tablets of bronze or lead, which were then thrown into deep water in the Gulf of Salamis. The intention doubtless was to keep the names a profound secret; and how could that be done more surely than by sinking them in the sea? what human vision could spy them glimmering far down in the dim depths of the green water? A clearer illustration of the confusion between the incorporeal and the corporeal, between the name and its material embodiment, could hardly be found than in this practice of civilised Greece.

The old names of members of the Yewe order in Togo may not be uttered.

In Togo, a district of West Africa, a secret religious society flourishes under the name of the Yewe order. Both men and women are admitted to it. The teaching and practice of the order are lewd and licentious. Murderers and debtors join it for the sake of escaping from justice, for the members are not amenable to the laws. On being initiated every one receives a new name, and thenceforth his or her old name may never be mentioned by anybody under penalty of a heavy fine. Should the old name be uttered in a quarrel by an uninitiated person, the aggrieved party, who seems to be oftener a woman than a man, pretends to fall into a frenzy, and in this state rushes into the house of the offender, smashes his pots, destroys the grass roof, and tears down the fence. Then she runs away into the forest, where the simple people believe that she is changed into a leopard. In truth she slinks by night into the conventual buildings of [pg 384] the order, and is there secretly kept in comfort till the business is settled. At last she is publicly brought back by the society with great pomp, her body smeared with red earth and adorned with an artificial tail in order to make the ignorant think that she has really been turned into a leopard.1431

The utterance of the names of gods and spirits is supposed to disturb the course of nature.

When the name is held to be a vital part of the person, it is natural to suppose that the mightier the person the more potent must be his name. Hence the names of supernatural beings, such as gods and spirits, are commonly believed to be endowed with marvellous virtues, and the mere utterance of them may work wonders and disturb the course of nature. The Warramunga of central Australia believe in a formidable but mythical snake called the Wollunqua, which lives in a pool. When they speak of it amongst themselves they designate it by another name, because they say that, were they to call the snake too often by its real name, they would lose control over the creature, and it would come out of the water and eat them all up.1432 For this reason, too, the sacred books of the Mongols, which narrate the miraculous deeds of the divinities, are allowed to be read only in spring or summer; because at other seasons the reading of them would bring on tempests or snow.1433 When Mr. Campbell was travelling with some Bechuanas, he asked them one morning after breakfast to tell him some of their stories, but they informed him that were they to do so before sunset, the clouds would fall from the heavens upon their heads.1434 The Sulka of New Britain believe in a certain hostile spirit named Kot, to whose wrath they attribute earthquakes, thunder, and lightning. Among [pg 385] the things which provoke his vengeance is the telling of tales and legends by day; stories should be told only at evening or night.1435 Most of the rites of the Navajo Indians may be celebrated only in winter, when the thunder is silent and the rattlesnakes are hibernating. Were they to tell of their chief gods or narrate the myths of the days of old at any other time, the Indians believe that they would soon be killed by lightning or snake-bites. When Dr. Washington Matthews was in New Mexico, he often employed as his guide and informant a liberal-minded member of the tribe who had lived with Americans and Mexicans and seemed to be free from the superstitions of his fellows. "On one occasion," says Dr. Matthews, "during the month of August, in the height of the rainy season, I had him in my study conversing with him. In an unguarded moment, on his part, I led him into a discussion about the gods of his people, and neither of us had noticed a heavy storm coming over the crest of the Zu?i mountains, close by. We were just talking of Estsanatlehi, the goddess of the west, when the house was shaken by a terrific peal of thunder. He rose at once, pale and evidently agitated, and, whispering hoarsely, 'Wait till Christmas; they are angry,' he hurried away. I have seen many such evidences of the deep influence of this superstition on them."1436 Among the Iroquois the rehearsal of tales of wonder formed the chief entertainment at the fireside in winter. But all the summer long, from the time when the trees began to bud in spring till the red leaves of autumn began to fall, these marvellous stories were hushed and historical traditions took their place.1437 Other Indian tribes also will only tell their mythic tales in winter, when the snow lies like a pall on the ground, and lakes and rivers are covered with sheets of ice; for then the spirits underground cannot hear the stories in which their names are made free with by merry groups [pg 386] gathered round the fire.1438 The Yabims of German New Guinea tell their magical tales especially at the time when the yams have been gathered and are stored in the houses. Such tales are told at evening by the light of the fire to a circle of eager listeners, the narrative being broken from time to time with a song in which the hearers join. The telling of these stories is believed to promote the growth of the crops. Hence each tale ends with a wish that there may be many yams, that the taro may be big, the sugar-cane thick, and the bananas long.1439

Winter and summer names of the Kwakiutl Indians.

Among the Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia the superstition about names has affected in a very curious way the social structure of the tribe. The nobles have two different sets of names, one for use in winter and the other in summer. Their winter names are those which were given them at initiation by their guardian spirits, and as these spirits appear to their devotees only in winter, the names which they bestowed on the Indians may not be pronounced in summer. Conversely the summer names may not be used in winter. The change from summer to winter names takes place from the moment when the spirits are supposed to be present, and it involves a complete transformation of the social system; for whereas during summer the people are grouped in clans, in winter they are grouped in societies, each society consisting of all persons who have been initiated by the same spirit and have received from him the same magical powers. Thus among these Indians the fundamental constitution of society changes with the seasons: in summer it is organised on a basis of kin, in winter on a basis of spiritual affinity: for one half the year it is civil, for the other half religious.1440

[pg 387]

§ 5. Names of Gods tabooed.

Names of gods kept secret. How Isis discovered the name of Ra, the sun-god.

Primitive man creates his gods in his own image. Xenophanes remarked long ago that the complexion of negro gods was black and their noses flat; that Thracian gods were ruddy and blue-eyed; and that if horses, oxen, and lions only believed in gods and had hands wherewith to portray them, they would doubtless fashion their deities in the form of horses, and oxen, and lions.1441 Hence just as the furtive savage conceals his real name because he fears that sorcerers might make an evil use of it, so he fancies that his gods must likewise keep their true names secret, lest other gods or even men should learn the mystic sounds and thus be able to conjure with them. Nowhere was this crude conception of the secrecy and magical virtue of the divine name more firmly held or more fully developed than in ancient Egypt, where the superstitions of a dateless past were embalmed in the hearts of the people hardly less effectually than the bodies of cats and crocodiles and the rest of the divine menagerie in their rock-cut tombs. The conception is well illustrated by a story which tells how the subtle Isis wormed his secret name from Ra, the great Egyptian god of the sun. Isis, so runs the tale, was a woman mighty in words, and she was weary of the world of men, and yearned after the world of the gods. And she meditated in her heart, saying, "Cannot I by virtue of the great name of Ra make myself a goddess and reign like him in heaven and earth?" For Ra had many names, but the great name which gave him all power over gods and men was known to none but himself. Now the god was by this time grown old; he slobbered at the mouth and his spittle fell upon the ground. So Isis gathered up the spittle and the earth with it, and kneaded thereof a serpent and laid it in the path where the great god passed every day to his double kingdom after his heart's desire. And when he came forth according to his wont, attended by all his company of gods, the sacred serpent [pg 388] stung him, and the god opened his mouth and cried, and his cry went up to heaven. And the company of gods cried, "What aileth thee?" and the gods shouted, "Lo and behold!" But he could not answer; his jaws rattled, his limbs shook, the poison ran through his flesh as the Nile floweth over the land. When the great god had stilled his heart, he cried to his followers, "Come to me, O my children, offspring of my body. I am a prince, the son of a prince, the divine seed of a god. My father devised my name; my father and my mother gave me my name, and it remained hidden in my body since my birth, that no magician might have magic power over me. I went out to behold that which I have made, I walked in the two lands which I have created, and lo! something stung me. What it was, I know not. Was it fire? was it water? My heart is on fire, my flesh trembleth, all my limbs do quake. Bring me the children of the gods with healing words and understanding lips, whose power reacheth to heaven." Then came to him the children of the gods, and they were very sorrowful. And Isis came with her craft, whose mouth is full of the breath of life, whose spells chase pain away, whose word maketh the dead to live. She said, "What is it, divine Father? what is it?" The holy god opened his mouth, he spake and said, "I went upon my way, I walked after my heart's desire in the two regions which I have made to behold that which I have created, and lo! a serpent that I saw not stung me. Is it fire? is it water? I am colder than water, I am hotter than fire, all my limbs sweat, I tremble, mine eye is not steadfast, I behold not the sky, the moisture bedeweth my face as in summer-time." Then spake Isis, "Tell me thy name, divine Father, for the man shall live who is called by his name." Then answered Ra, "I created the heavens and the earth, I ordered the mountains, I made the great and wide sea, I stretched out the two horizons like a curtain. I am he who openeth his eyes and it is light, and who shutteth them and it is dark. At his command the Nile riseth, but the gods know not his name. I am Khepera in the morning, I am Ra at noon, I am Tum at eve." But the poison was not taken away from him; it pierced deeper, and the great god could no longer walk. Then said Isis to him, "That was [pg 389] not thy name that thou spakest unto me. Oh tell it me, that the poison may depart; for he shall live whose name is named." Now the poison burned like fire, it was hotter than the flame of fire. The god said, "I consent that Isis shall search into me, and that my name shall pass from my breast into hers." Then the god hid himself from the gods, and his place in the ship of eternity was empty. Thus was the name of the great god taken from him, and Isis, the witch, spake, "Flow away poison, depart from Ra. It is I, even I, who overcome the poison and cast it to the earth; for the name of the great god hath been taken away from him. Let Ra live and let the poison die." Thus spake great Isis, the queen of the gods, she who knows Ra and his true name.1442

Egyptian wizards have worked enchantments by the names of the gods both in ancient and modern times. Magical constraint exercised over demons by means of their names in North Africa and China.

Thus we see that the real name of the god, with which his power was inextricably bound up, was supposed to be lodged, in an almost physical sense, somewhere in his breast, from which it could be extracted by a sort of surgical operation and transferred with all its supernatural powers to the breast of another. In Egypt attempts like that of Isis to appropriate the power of a high god by possessing herself of his name were not mere legends told of the mythical beings of a remote past; every Egyptian magician aspired to wield like powers by similar means. For it was believed that he who possessed the true name possessed the very being of god or man, and could force even a deity to obey him as a slave obeys his master. Thus the art of the magician consisted in obtaining from the gods a revelation of their sacred names, and he left no stone unturned to accomplish his end. When once a god in a moment of weakness or forgetfulness had imparted to the wizard the wondrous lore, the deity had no choice but to submit humbly to the man or pay the penalty of his contumacy.1443 [pg 390] In one papyrus we find the god Typhon thus adjured: "I invoke thee by thy true names, in virtue of which thou canst not refuse to hear me"; and in another the magician threatens Osiris that if the god does not do his bidding he will name him aloud in the port of Busiris.1444 So in the Lucan the Thessalian witch whom Sextus Pompeius consulted before the battle of Pharsalia threatens to call up the Furies by their real names if they will not do her bidding.1445 In modern Egypt the magician still works his old enchantments by the same ancient means; only the name of the god by which he conjures is different. The man who knows "the most great name" of God can, we are told, by the mere utterance of it kill the living, raise the dead, transport himself instantly wherever he pleases, and perform any other miracle.1446 Similarly among the Arabs of North Africa at the present day "the power of the name is such that when one knows the proper names the jinn can scarcely help answering the call and obeying; they are the servants of the magical names; in this case the incantation has a constraining quality which is for the most part very strongly marked. When Ibn el Hadjdj et-Tlemsan? relates how the jinn yielded up their secrets to him, he says, 'I once met the seven kings of the jinn in a cave and I asked them to teach me the way in which they attack men and women, causing them to fall sick, smiting them, paralysing them, and the like. They all answered me: "If it were anybody but you we would teach that to nobody, but you have discovered the bonds, the spells, and the names which compel us; were it not for the names by which you have constrained us, we would not have answered to your call."?'?"1447 So, too, "the Chinese of ancient times were dominated by the notion that beings are intimately associated with their names, so that a man's knowledge of the name of a spectre might enable him to exert power over the latter and to bend it to his will."1448

[pg 391]

Divine names used by the Romans to conjure with.

The belief in the magic virtue of divine names was shared by the Romans. When they sat down before a city, the priests addressed the guardian deity of the place in a set form of prayer or incantation, inviting him to abandon the beleaguered city and come over to the Romans, who would treat him as well as or better than he had ever been treated in his old home. Hence the name of the guardian deity of Rome was kept a profound secret, lest the enemies of the republic might lure him away, even as the Romans themselves had induced many gods to desert, like rats, the falling fortunes of cities that had sheltered them in happier days.1449 Nay, the real name, not merely of its guardian deity, but of the city itself, was wrapt in mystery and might never be uttered, not even in the sacred rites. A certain Valerius Soranus, who dared to divulge the priceless secret, was put to death or came to a bad end.1450 In like manner, it seems, the ancient Assyrians were forbidden to mention the mystic names of their cities;1451 and down to modern times the Cheremiss of the Caucasus keep the names of their communal villages secret from motives of superstition.1452

The taboos on names of kings and commoners are alike in origin.

If the reader has had the patience to follow this long and perhaps tedious examination of the superstitions attaching to personal names, he will probably agree that the mystery in which the names of royal personages are so often shrouded is no isolated phenomenon, no arbitrary expression of courtly servility and adulation, but merely the particular application of a general law of primitive thought, which includes within its scope common folk and gods as well as kings and priests.

[pg 392]

§ 6. Common Words tabooed.

Common words as well as personal names are often tabooed from superstitious motives.

But personal names are not the only words which superstitious fears have banished from everyday use. In many cases similar motives forbid certain persons at certain times to call common things by common names, thus obliging them either to refrain from mentioning these things altogether or to designate them by special terms or phrases reserved for such occasions. A consideration of these cases follows naturally on an examination of the taboos imposed upon personal names; for personal names are themselves very often ordinary terms of the language, so that an embargo laid on them necessarily extends to many expressions current in the commerce of daily life. And though a survey of some of the interdicts on common words is not strictly necessary for our immediate purpose, it may serve usefully to complete our view of the transforming influence which superstition has exercised on language. I shall make no attempt to subject the examples to a searching analysis or a rigid classification, but will set them down as they come in a rough geographical order. And since my native land furnishes as apt instances of the superstition as any other, we may start on our round from Scotland.

Common words tabooed by Highland fowlers and fishermen.

In the Atlantic Ocean, about six leagues to the west of Gallon Head in the Lewis, lies a small group of rocky islets known as the Flannan Islands. Sheep and wild fowl are now their only inhabitants, but remains of what are described as Druidical temples and the title of the Sacred Isles given them by Buchanan suggest that in days gone by piety or superstition may have found a safe retreat from the turmoil of the world in these remote solitudes, where the dashing of the waves and the strident scream of the sea-birds are almost the only sounds that break the silence. Once a year, in summer-time, the inhabitants of the adjacent lands of the Lewis, who have a right to these islands, cross over to them to fleece their sheep and kill the wild fowl for the sake both of their flesh and their feathers. They regard the islands as invested with a certain sanctity, and have been heard to say that none ever yet landed in them but found himself more [pg 393] disposed to devotion there than anywhere else. Accordingly the fowlers who go thither are bound, during the whole of the time that they ply their business, to observe very punctiliously certain quaint customs, the transgression of which would be sure, in their opinion, to entail some serious inconvenience. When they have landed and fastened their boat to the side of a rock, they clamber up into the island by a wooden ladder, and no sooner are they got to the top, than they all uncover their heads and make a turn sun-ways round about, thanking God for their safety. On the biggest of the islands are the ruins of a chapel dedicated to St. Flannan. When the men come within about twenty paces of the altar, they all strip themselves of their upper garments at once and betake themselves to their devotions, praying thrice before they begin fowling. On the first day the first prayer is offered as they advance towards the chapel on their knees; the second is said as they go round the chapel; and the third is said in or hard by the ruins. They also pray thrice every evening, and account it unlawful to kill a fowl after evening prayers, as also to kill a fowl at any time with a stone. Another ancient custom forbids the crew to carry home in the boat any suet of the sheep they slaughter in the islands, however many they may kill. But what here chiefly concerns us is that so long as they stay on the islands they are strictly forbidden to use certain common words, and are obliged to substitute others for them. Thus it is absolutely unlawful to call the island of St. Kilda, which lies thirty leagues to the southward, by its proper Gaelic name of Hirt; they must call it only "the high country." They may not so much as once name the islands in which they are fowling by the ordinary name of Flannan; they must speak only of "the country." "There are several other things that must not be called by their common names: e.g. visk, which in the language of the natives signifies water, they call burn; a rock, which in their language is creg, must here be called cruey, i.e. hard; shore in their language expressed by claddach, must here be called vah, i.e. a cave; sour in their language is expressed gort, but must here be called gaire, i.e. sharp; slippery, which is expressed bog, must be called soft; and several other things to this [pg 394] purpose."1453 When Highlanders were in a boat at sea, whether sailing or fishing, they were forbidden to call things by the names by which they were known on land. Thus the boat-hook should not be called a croman, but a chliob; a knife not sgian, but "the sharp one" (a ghiar); a seal not ròn, but "the bald beast" (béisd mhaol); a fox not sionnach, but "the red dog" (madadh ruadh); the stone for anchoring the boat not clach, but "hardness" (cruaidh). This practice now prevails much more on the east coast than on the west, where it may be said to be generally extinct. It is reported to be carefully observed by the fishermen about the Cromarty Firth.1454 Among the words tabooed by fishermen in the north of Scotland when they are at sea are minister, salmon, hare, rabbit, rat, pig, and porpoise. At the present day if some of the boats that come to the herring-fishing at Wick should meet a salmon-boat from Reay in Caithness, the herring-men will not speak to, nor even look at, the salmon-fishers.1455

Common words tabooed by Scotch fishermen and others.

When Shetland fishermen are at sea, they employ a nomenclature peculiar to the occasion, and hardly anything may be mentioned by its usual name. The substituted terms are mostly of Norwegian origin, for the Norway men were reported to be good fishers.1456 In setting their lines the Shetland fishermen are bound to refer to certain objects only by some special words or phrases. Thus a knife is then called a skunie or tullie; a church becomes buanhoos or banehoos; a minister is upstanda or haydeen or prestingolva; the devil is da auld chield, da sorrow, da ill-healt (health), or da black tief; a cat is kirser, fitting, vengla, or foodin.1457 On the north-east coast of Scotland there are some villages, of which the inhabitants never pronounce certain words and family names when they are at sea; each village has its peculiar aversion to one or more of these words, among which are "minister," "kirk," "swine," "salmon," [pg 395] "trout," and "dog." When a church has to be referred to, as often happens, since some of the churches serve as land-marks to the fishermen at sea, it is spoken of as the "bell-hoose" instead of the "kirk." A minister is called "the man wi' the black quyte." It is particularly unlucky to utter the word "sow" or "swine" or "pig" while the line is being baited; if any one is foolish enough to do so, the line is sure to be lost. In some villages on the coast of Fife a fisherman who hears the ill-omened word spoken will cry out "Cold iron." In the village of Buckie there are some family names, especially Ross, and in a less degree Coull, which no fisherman will pronounce. If one of these names be mentioned in the hearing of a fisherman, he spits or, as he calls it, "chiffs." Any one who bears the dreaded name is called a "chiffer-oot," and is referred to only by a circumlocution such as "The man it diz so in so," or "the laad it lives at such and such a place." During the herring-season men who are unlucky enough to inherit the tabooed names have little chance of being hired in the fishing-boats; and sometimes, if they have been hired before their names were known, they have been refused their wages at the end of the season, because the boat in which they sailed had not been successful, and the bad luck was set down to their presence in it.1458 Although in Scotland superstitions of this kind appear to be specially incident to the callings of fishermen and fowlers, other occupations are not exempt from them. Thus in the Outer Hebrides the fire of a kiln is not called fire (teine) but aingeal. Such a fire, it is said, is a dangerous thing, and ought not to be referred to except by a euphemism. "Evil be to him who called it fire or who named fire in the kiln. It was considered the next thing to setting it on fire."1459 Again, in some districts of Scotland a brewer would have resented the use of the word "water" in reference to the work in which he was engaged. "Water be your part of it," was the common retort. It was supposed that the use of the word would spoil the brewing.1460 The Highlanders say [pg 396] that when you meet a hobgoblin, and the fiend asks what is the name of your dirk, you should not call it a dirk (biodag), but "my father's sister" (piuthar m'athar) or "my grandmother's sister" (piuthar mo sheanamhair) or by some similar title. If you do not observe this precaution, the goblin will lay such an enchantment on the blade that you will be unable to stab him with it; the dirk will merely make a tinkling noise against the soft impalpable body of the fiend.1461

Common words, especially the names of dangerous animals, tabooed in various parts of Europe.

Manx fishermen think it unlucky to mention a horse or a mouse on board a fishing-boat.1462 The fishermen of Dieppe on board their boats will not speak of several things, for instance priests and cats.1463 German huntsmen, from motives of superstition, call everything by names different from those in common use.1464 In some parts of Bavaria the farmer will not mention a fox by its proper name, lest his poultry-yard should suffer from the ravages of the animal. So instead of Fuchs he calls the beast Loinl, Henoloinl, Henading, or Henabou.1465 In Prussia and Lithuania they say that in the month of December you should not call a wolf a wolf but "the vermin" (das Gewürm), otherwise you will be torn in pieces by the werewolves.1466 In various parts of Germany it is a rule that certain animals may not be mentioned by their proper names in the mystic season between Christmas and Twelfth Night. Thus in Thüringen they say that if you would be spared by the wolves you must not mention their name at this time.1467 In Mecklenburg people think that were they to name a wolf on one of these days the animal would appear. A shepherd would rather mention the devil than the wolf at this season; and we read of a farmer who had a bailiff named Wolf, but did not dare to call the man by his name between Christmas and Twelfth Night, referring to him instead as Herr Undeert (Mr. Monster). [pg 397] In Quatzow, a village of Mecklenburg, there are many animals whose common names are disused at this season and replaced by others: thus a fox is called "long-tail," and a mouse "leg-runner" (Boenl?per). Any person who disregards the custom has to pay a fine.1468 In the Mark of Brandenburg they say that between Christmas and Twelfth Night you should not speak of mice as mice but as dinger; otherwise the field-mice would multiply excessively.1469 According to the Swedish popular belief, there are certain animals which should never be spoken of by their proper names, but must always be signified by euphemisms and kind allusions to their character. Thus, if you speak slightingly of the cat or beat her, you must be sure not to mention her name; for she belongs to the hellish crew, and is a friend of the mountain troll, whom she often visits. Great caution is also needed in talking of the cuckoo, the owl, and the magpie, for they are birds of witchery. The fox must be called "blue-foot," or "he that goes in the forest"; and rats are "the long-bodied," mice "the small grey," and the seal "brother Lars." Swedish herd-girls, again, believe that if the wolf and the bear be called by other than their proper and legitimate names, they will not attack the herd. Hence they give these brutes names which they fancy will not hurt their feelings. The number of endearing appellations lavished by them on the wolf is legion; they call him "golden tooth," "the silent one," "grey legs," and so on; while the bear is referred to by the respectful titles of "the old man," "grandfather," "twelve men's strength," "golden feet," and more of the same sort. Even inanimate things are not always to be called by their usual names. For instance, fire is sometimes to be called "heat" (hetta) not eld or ell; water for brewing must be called lag or l?u, not vatn, else the beer would not turn out so well.1470 The Huzuls of the Carpathians, a pastoral people, who dread the ravages of wild beasts on their flocks and herds, are unwilling to mention the bear by his proper name, so they call him [pg 398] respectfully "the little uncle" or "the big one." In like manner and for similar reasons they name the wolf "the little one" and the serpent "the long one."1471 They may not say that wool is scalded, or in the heat of summer the sheep would rub themselves till their sides were raw; so they merely say that the wool is warmed.1472 The Lapps fear to call the bear by his true name, lest he should ravage their herds; so they speak of him as "the old man with the coat of skin," and in cooking his flesh to furnish a meal they may not refer to the work they are engaged in as "cooking," but must designate it by a special term.1473 The Finns speak of the bear as "the apple of the wood," "beautiful honey-paw," "the pride of the thicket," "the old man," and so on.1474 And in general a Finnish hunter thinks that he will have poor sport if he calls animals by their real names; the beasts resent it. The fox and the hare are only spoken of as "game," and the lynx is termed "the forest cat," lest it should devour the sheep.1475 Esthonian peasants are very loth to mention wild beasts by their proper names, for they believe that the creatures will not do so much harm if only they are called by other names than their own. Hence they speak of the bear as "broad foot" and the wolf as "grey coat."1476

The names of various animals tabooed in Siberia, Kamtchatka, and America.

The natives of Siberia are unwilling to call a bear a bear; they speak of him as "the little old man," "the master of the forest," "the sage," "the respected one." Some who are more familiar style him "my cousin."1477 The Kamtchatkans reverence the whale, the bear, and the wolf from fear, and never mention their names when they meet them, believing that they understand human speech.1478 Further, they [pg 399] think that mice also understand the Kamtchatkan language; so in autumn, when they rob the field-mice of the bulbs which these little creatures have laid up in their burrows as a store against winter, they call everything by names different from the ordinary ones, lest the mice should know what they were saying. Moreover, they leave odds and ends, such as old rags, broken needles, cedar-nuts, and so forth, in the burrows, to make the mice think that the transaction has been not a robbery but a fair exchange. If they did not do that, they fancy that the mice would go and drown or hang themselves out of pure vexation; and then what would the Kamtchatkans do without the mice to gather the bulbs for them? They also speak kindly to the animals, and beg them not to take it ill, explaining that what they do is done out of pure friendship.1479 The Cherokee Indians regard the rattlesnake as a superior being and take great pains not to offend him. They never say that a man has been bitten by a snake but that he has been "scratched by a briar." In like manner, when an eagle has been shot for a ceremonial dance, it is announced that "a snowbird has been killed." The purpose is to deceive the spirits of rattlesnakes or eagles which might be listening.1480 The Esquimaux of Bering Strait think that some animals can hear and understand what is said of them at a distance. Hence, when a hunter is going out to kill bears he will speak of them with the greatest respect and give out that he is going to hunt some other beast. Thus the bears will be deceived and taken unawares.1481 Among the Esquimaux of Baffin Land, women in mourning may not mention the names of any animals.1482 Among the Thompson Indians of British Columbia, children may not name the coyote or prairie wolf in winter, lest he should turn on his back and so bring cold weather.1483

[pg 400]

Names of animals and things tabooed by the Arabs, Africans, and Malagasy.

The Arabs call a man who has been bitten by a snake "the sound one"; leprosy or the scab they designate "the blessed disease"; the left side they name "the lucky side"; they will not speak of a lion by his right name, but refer to him as for example "the fox."1484 In Africa the lion is alluded to with the same ceremonious respect as the wolf and the bear in northern Europe and Asia. The Arabs of Algeria, who hunt the lion, speak of him as Mr. John Johnson (Johan-ben-el-Johan), because he has the noblest qualities of man and understands all languages. Hence, too, the first huntsman to catch sight of the beast points at him with his finger and says, "He is not there"; for if he were to say "He is there," the lion would eat him up.1485 Except under dire necessity the Waziguas of eastern Africa never mention the name of the lion from fear of attracting him. They call him "the owner of the land" or "the great beast."1486 The negroes of Angola always use the word ngana ("sir") in speaking of the same noble animal, because they think that he is "fetish" and would not fail to punish them for disrespect if they omitted to do so.1487 Bushmen and Bechuanas both deem it unlucky to speak of the lion by his proper name; the Bechuanas call him "the boy with the beard."1488 During an epidemic of smallpox in Mombasa, British East Africa, it was noticed that the people were unwilling to mention the native name (ndui) of the disease. They referred to it either as "grains of corn" (tete) or simply as "the bad disease."1489 So the Chinese of Amoy are averse to speak of fever by its proper name; they prefer to call it "beggar's disease," hoping thereby to make the demons of fever imagine that they despise it and that therefore it would be useless to attack them.1490 Some of the natives of Nigeria [pg 401] dread the owl as a bird of ill omen and are loth to mention its name, preferring to speak of it by means of a circumlocution such as "the bird that makes one afraid."1491 The Herero think that if they see a snake and call it by its name, the reptile will sting them, but that if they call it a strap (omuvia) it will lie still.1492 When Nandi warriors are out on an expedition, they may not call a knife a knife (chepkeswet); they must call it "an arrow for bleeding cattle" (lo?get); and none of the party may utter the usual word employed in greeting males.1493 In Madagascar there seems to be an aversion to pronouncing the word for lightning (vàratra); the word for mud (fòtaka) is sometimes substituted for it.1494 Again, it is strictly forbidden to mention the word for crocodile (màmba) near some rivers of Madagascar; and if clothes should be wetted in certain other rivers of the island, you may not say that they are wet (lèna); you must say that they are on fire (may) or that they are drinking water (misòtro ràno).1495 A certain spirit, who used to inhabit a lake in Madagascar, entertained a rooted aversion to salt, so that whenever the thing was carried past the lake in which he resided it had to be called by another name, or it would all have been dissolved and lost. The persons whom he inspired had to veil their references to the obnoxious article under the disguise of "sweet peppers."1496 In a West African story we read of a man who was told that he would die if ever the word for salt was pronounced in his hearing. The fatal word was pronounced, and die he did sure enough, but he soon came to life again with the help of a magical wooden pestle of which he was the lucky possessor.1497

Names of animals, especially the snake and the tiger, tabooed in India.

In India the animals whose names are most commonly tabooed are the snake and the tiger, but the same tribute of respect is paid to other beasts also. Sayids and Mussulmans [pg 402] of high rank in northern India say that you should never call a snake by its proper name, but always describe it either as a tiger (sher) or a string (rassi).1498 In Telingana the euphemistic name for a snake, which should always be employed, is worm or insect (purugu); if you call a cobra by its proper name, the creature will haunt you for seven years and bite you at the first opportunity.1499 Ignorant Bengalee women will not mention a snake or a thief by their proper names at night, for fear that one or other might appear. When they have to allude to a serpent, they call it "the creeping thing"; when they speak of a thief, they say "the unwelcome visitor."1500 Other euphemisms for the snake in northern India are "maternal uncle" and "rope." They say that if a snake bites you, you should not mention its name, but merely observe "A rope has touched me."1501 Natives of Travancore are careful not to speak disrespectfully of serpents. A cobra is called "the good lord" (nalla tambiran) or "the good snake" (nalla pambu). While the Malayalies of the Shervaray Hills are hunting the tiger, they speak of the beast only as "the dog."1502 The Canarese of southern India call the tiger either "the dog" or "the jackal"; they think that if they called him by his proper name, he would be sure to carry off one of them.1503 The jungle people of northern India, who meet the tiger in his native haunts, will not pronounce his name, but speak of him as "the jackal" (gídar), or "the beast" (janwar), or use some other euphemistic term. In some places they treat the wolf and the bear in the same fashion.1504 The Pankas of South Mirzapur will not name the tiger, bear, camel, or donkey by their proper names; the camel they call "long neck." Other tribes of the same district only scruple to mention certain animals in the morning. Thus, the Kharwars, a Dravidian tribe, will not name a pig, squirrel, hare, jackal, bear, monkey, or donkey in the morning hours; if [pg 403] they have to allude to these animals at that time, they call them by special names. For instance, they call the hare "the four-footed one" or "he that hides in the rocks"; while they speak of the bear as jigariya, which being interpreted means "he with the liver of compassion." If the Bhuiyars are absolutely obliged to refer to a monkey or a bear in the morning, they speak of the monkey as "the tree-climber" and the bear as "the eater of white ants." They would not mention a crocodile. Among the Pataris the matutinal title of the bear is "the hairy creature."1505 The Kols, a Dravidian race of northern India, will not speak of death or beasts of prey by their proper names in the morning. Their name for the tiger at that time of day is "he with the claws," and for the elephant "he with the teeth."1506 The forests of the Sundarbans, the district at the mouth of the Ganges, are full of man-eating tigers and the annual loss of life among the woodcutters is heavy. Here accordingly the ferocious animal is not called a tiger but a jackal (?ial).1507

Names of animals and things tabooed in Indo-China.

In Annam the fear inspired by tigers, elephants, and other wild animals induces the people to address these creatures with the greatest respect as "lord" or "grandfather," lest the beasts should take umbrage and attack them.1508 The tiger reigns supreme in the forests of Tonquin and Cochin-China, and the peasants honour him as a maleficent deity. In talking of him they always call him ong, which means monsieur or grandfather. They are convinced that if they dared to speak of him disrespectfully, he would avenge the insult.1509 In Siam there are many people who would never venture to utter the words tiger or crocodile in a spot where these terrible creatures might be in hiding, lest [pg 404] the sound of their names should attract the attention of the beasts towards the speakers.1510 When the Malays of Patani Bay in Siam are in the jungle and think there is a tiger near, they will either speak of him in complimentary terms as the "grandfather of the woods" or only mention him in a whisper.1511 In Laos, while a man is out hunting elephants he is obliged to give conventional names to all common objects, which creates a sort of special language for elephant-hunters.1512 So when the Chams and Orang-Gla? of Indo-China are searching for the precious eagle-wood in the forest, they must employ an artificial jargon to designate most objects of everyday life; thus, for example, fire is called "the red," a she-goat becomes "a spider," and so on. Some of the terms which compose the jargon are borrowed from the dialects of neighbouring tribes.1513 When the Mentras or aborigines of Malacca are searching for what they call gaharu (lignum aloes) they are obliged to use a special language, avoiding the words in ordinary use. At such times they call gaharu by the name of tabak, and they speak of a snake as "the long animal" and of the elephant as "the great animal." They have also to observe a number of other taboos, particularly in the matter of diet. If a man has found a promising gaharu tree, and on going home dreams that the guardian spirit of the tree (hantu gaharu) demands a human victim as the price of his property, the dreamer will try next day to catch somebody asleep and to smear his forehead with lime. This is a sign to the guardian spirit of the tree, who accordingly carries away the soul of the sleeper to the land of the dead by means of a fever or other ailment, whereas the original dreamer gets a good supply of aloes wood.1514

[pg 405]

Special language used by East Indian searchers for camphor.

At certain seasons of the year parties of Jakuns and Binuas go out to seek for camphor in the luxuriant forests of their native country, which is the narrow southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula, the Land's End of Asia. They are absent for three or four months together, and during the whole of this time the use of the ordinary Malay language is forbidden to them, and they have to speak a special language called by them the bassa kapor (camphor language) or pantang1515 kapur. Indeed not only have the searchers to employ this peculiar language, but even the men and women who stay at home in the villages are obliged to speak it while the others are away looking for the camphor. They believe that a spirit presides over the camphor trees, and that without propitiating him they could not obtain the precious gum; the shrill cry of a species of cicada, heard at night, is supposed to be the voice of the spirit. If they failed to employ the camphor language, they think that they would have great difficulty in finding the camphor trees, and that even when they did find them the camphor would not yield itself up to the collector. The camphor language consists in great part of words which are either Malayan or of Malay origin; but it also contains many words which are not Malayan but are presumed to be remains of the original Jakun dialects now almost extinct in these districts. The words derived from Malayan are formed in many cases by merely substituting a descriptive phrase for the common term. Thus instead of rice they say "grass fruit"; instead of gun they say "far sounding"; the epithet "short-legged" is substituted for hog; hair is referred to as "leaves," and so on.1516 So when the Battas or Bataks of Sumatra have gone out to search for camphor, they must abandon the speech of daily life as soon as they reach the camphor [pg 406] forest. For example, if they wish to speak of the forest they may not use the ordinary word for it (hoetan), but must call it kerrengettetdoeng. When they have fixed on a spot in which to try their luck, they set up a booth and clear a space in front of it to serve as a place of sacrifice. Here, after summoning the camphor spirit (berroe ni kapoer) by playing on a flute, they offer sacrifice to him repeatedly. Then they lie down to dream of the place where camphor is to be found. If this succeeds, the leader goes and chooses the tree. When it has been cut down to the accompaniment of certain spells or incantations, one of the men runs and wraps the top of the fallen tree in a garment to prevent the camphor from escaping from the trunk before they have secured it. Then the tree is cleft and split up in the search for the camphor crystals, which are to be found in the fibres of the wood.1517 Similarly, when the Kayans of Borneo are searching for camphor, they talk a language invented solely for their use at this time. The camphor itself is never mentioned by its proper name, but is always referred to as "the thing that smells"; and all the tools employed in collecting the drug receive fanciful names. Unless they conform to this rule they suppose that the camphor crystals, which are found only in the crevices of the wood, will elude them.1518 The Malanau tribes of Borneo observe the same custom very strictly, believing that the crystals would immediately dissolve if they spoke anything but the camphor language. For example, the common Malanau word for "return" is muli, but in presence of a camphor tree they say beteku. Again, "to hide" is palim in the Malanau language, but when they are looking for camphor they say krian. In like manner, all common names for implements and food are exchanged for others. In some tribes the camphor-seekers may never mention the names of chiefs and influential men; [pg 407] if they broke this rule, they would find no camphor in the trees.1519

Special languages used by Malay miners, fowlers, and fishermen.

In the western states of the Malay Peninsula the chief industry is tin-mining, and odd ideas prevail among the natives as to the nature and properties of the ore. They regard it as alive and growing, sometimes in the shape of a buffalo, which makes its way from place to place underground. Ore of inferior quality is excused on the score of its tender years; it will no doubt improve as it grows older. Not only is the tin believed to be under the protection and command of certain spirits who must be propitiated, but it is even supposed to have its own special likes and dislikes for certain persons and things. Hence the Malays deem it advisable to treat tin ore with respect, to consult its convenience, nay, to conduct the business of mining in such a way that the ore may, as it were, be extracted without its own knowledge. When such are their ideas about the mineral it is no wonder that the miners scruple to employ certain words in the mines, and replace them by others which are less likely to give offence to the ore or its guardian spirits. Thus, for example, the elephant must not be called an elephant but "the tall one who turns himself about"; and in like manner special words, different from those in common use, are employed by the miners to designate the cat, the buffalo, the snake, the centipede, tin sand, metallic tin, and lemons. Lemons are particularly distasteful to the spirits; they may not be brought into the mines.1520 Again, the Malay wizard, who is engaged in snaring pigeons with the help of a decoy-bird and a calling-tube, must on no account call things by their common names. The tiny conical hut, in which he sits waiting for the wild pigeons to come fluttering about him, goes by the high-sounding name of the Magic Prince, perhaps with a delicate allusion to its noble inmate. The calling-tube is known as Prince [pg 408] Distraction, doubtless on account of the extraordinary fascination it exercises on the birds. The decoy-pigeon receives the name of the Squatting Princess, and the rod with a noose at the end of it, which serves to catch the unwary birds, is disguised under the title of Prince Invitation. Everything, in fact, is on a princely scale, so far at least as words can make it so. The very nooses destined to be slipped over the necks or legs of the little struggling prisoners are dignified by the title of King Solomon's necklaces and armlets; and the trap into which the birds are invited to walk is variously described as King Solomon's Audience Chamber, or a Palace Tower, or an Ivory Hall carpeted with silver and railed with amalgam. What pigeon could resist these manifold attractions, especially when it is addressed by the respectful title of Princess Kapor or Princess Sarap or Princess Puding?1521 Again, the fisher-folk on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, like their brethren in Scotland, are reluctant to mention the names of birds or beasts while they are at sea. All animals then go by the name of cheweh, a meaningless word which is believed not to be understood by the creatures to whom it refers. Particular kinds of animals are distinguished by appropriate epithets; the pig is "the grunting cheweh," the buffalo is "the cheweh that says uak," the snipe is "the cheweh that cries kek-kek," and so on.1522 In this respect the fishermen of Patani Bay class together sea spirits, Buddhist monks, beasts, and reptiles; these are all cheweh and their common names may not be mentioned at sea. But, curiously enough, they lay no such embargo on the names of fish and birds, except the vulture and domestic fowls and ducks. At sea the vulture is named "bald head," the tiger "striped," the snake "weaver's sword," the horse "fast," and a species of monkey "long tail." The human foot is called "tortoise," and a Buddhist monk "yellow" on account of the colour of his robe. These Malay fishermen are at least as unwilling to speak of a Buddhist monk at sea as Scotch fishermen are to mention a minister in similar circumstances. If one of them mentions a monk, his mates will fall on him and beat him; whereas for other slips of the tongue they [pg 409] think it enough to throw a little bilge-water over the back of the transgressor and to say, "May the ill-luck be dismissed!" The use of this special language is even more obligatory by night than by day. On shore the fishermen make very merry over those lubberly landsmen who cannot talk correctly at sea.1523 In like manner Achinese fishermen, in northern Sumatra, employ a special vocabulary when they are at sea. Thus they may not call a mountain a mountain, or mountain-high billows would swamp the boat; they refer to it as "high ground." They may not speak of an elephant by its proper name of gadjah, but must call it pò meurah. If a man wishes to say that something is clear, he must not use the ordinary word for clear (lheu?h) because it bears the meaning also of "free," "loose"; and the utterance of such a word might enable the fish to get free from the net and escape. Instead of lheu?h he must therefore employ the less dangerous synonym leungka. In like manner, we are told, among the fishermen of the north coast of Java whole lists of words might be compiled which are tabooed at sea and must be replaced by others.1524

Names of things and animals tabooed in Sumatra, Nias, and Java.

In Sumatra the spirits of the gold mines are treated with as much deference as the spirits of the tin-mines in the Malay Peninsula. Tin, ivory, and the like may not be brought by the miners to the scene of their operations, for at the scent of such things the spirits of the mine would cause the gold to vanish. For the same reason it is forbidden to refer to certain things by their proper names, and in speaking of them the miners must use other words. In some cases, for example in removing the grains of the gold, a deep silence must be observed; no commands may be given or questions asked,1525 probably because the removal of the precious metal is regarded as a theft which the spirits would punish if they caught the thieves in the act. Certainly the [pg 410] Dyaks believe that gold has a soul which seeks to avenge itself on men who dig the precious metal. But the angry spirit is powerless to harm miners who observe certain precautions, such as never to bathe in a river with their faces turned up stream, never to sit with their legs dangling, and never to tie up their hair.1526 Again, a Sumatran who fancies that there is a tiger or a crocodile in his neighbourhood, will speak of the animal by the honourable title of "grandfather" for the purpose of propitiating the creature.1527 In the forest a Karo-Batak refers to a tiger as "Grandfather to whom the wood belongs," "he with the striped coat," or "the roving trap."1528 Among the Gayos of Sumatra it is forbidden to mention the name of small-pox in the house of a man who is suffering from the disease; and the words for ugly, red, stinking, unlucky, and so forth are forbidden under the same circumstances. The disease is referred to under the title of "prince of the averters of misfortune."1529 So long as the hunting season lasts, the natives of Nias may not name the eye, the hammer, stones, and in some places the sun by their true names; no smith may ply his trade in the village, and no person may go from one village to another to have smith's work done for him. All this, with the exception of the rule about not naming the eye and the sun, is done to prevent the dogs from growing stiff, and so losing the power of running down the game.1530 During the rice-harvest in Nias the reapers seldom speak to each other, and when they do so, it is only in whispers. Outside the field they must speak of everything by names different from those in common use, which gives rise to a special dialect or jargon known as "field speech." It has been observed that some of the words in this jargon [pg 411] resemble words in the language of the Battas of Sumatra.1531 While these rice-reapers of Nias are at work they may not address each other by their names; they must use only such general terms as "man," "woman," "girl," "old man," and "old woman." The word for "fire" may not pass their lips; instead of it they must use the word for "cold." Other words tabooed to them during the harvest are the words for "smoke" and "stone." If a reaper wishes to ask another for his whetstone to sharpen his knife, he must speak of it as a "fowl's egg."1532 In Java when people suspect that a tiger or crocodile is near, they avoid the use of the proper name of the beast and refer to him as "the old lord" or "grandfather." Similarly, men who are watching a plantation to protect it from wild boars speak of these animals as "handsome men" (wong bagus). When after harvest the unhusked rice is to be brought into the barn, the barn is not called a barn but "the dark store-house." Serious epidemics may not be mentioned by their true names; thus smallpox is called the "pretty girl" (lara bagus). The Javanese are particularly careful to eschew certain common words at evening or night. Thus the snake is then called a "tree-root"; the venomous centipede is referred to as the "red ant"; oil is spoken of as "water"; and so forth. And when leaves and herbs are being gathered for use in medicine they are regularly designated by other than their ordinary names.1533

Names of things and animals tabooed in Celebes.

The Alfoors or Toradjas of Poso, in Celebes, are forbidden by custom to speak the ordinary language when they are at work in the harvest-field. At such times they employ a secret language which is said to agree with the ordinary one only in this, that in it some things are designated by [pg 412] words usually applied in a different sense, or by descriptive phrases or circumlocutions. Thus instead of "run" they say "limp"; instead of "hand" they say "that with which one reaches"; instead of "foot" they say "that with which one limps"; and instead of "ear" they say "that with which one hears." Again, in the field-speech "to drink" becomes "to thrust forward the mouth"; "to pass by" is expressed by "to nod with the head"; a gun is "a fire-producer"; and wood is "that which is carried on the shoulder." The writer who reports the custom was formerly of opinion that this secret language was designed to avoid attracting the attention of evil spirits to the ripe rice; but further enquiry has satisfied him that the real reason for adopting it is a wish not to frighten the soul of the rice by revealing to it the alarming truth that it is about to be cut, carried home, boiled, and eaten. It is just the words referring to these actions, he tells us, which are especially tabooed and replaced by others. Beginning with a rule of avoiding a certain number of common words, the custom has grown among people of the Malay stock till it has produced a complete language for use in the fields. In Minahassa also this secret field-speech consists in part of phrases or circumlocutions, of which many are said to be very poetical.1534 But it is not only on the harvest field that the Toradja resorts to the use of a secret language from superstitious motives. In the great primaeval forest he feels ill at ease, for well he knows the choleric temper of the spirits who inhabit the giant trees of the wood, and that were he to excite their wrath they would assuredly pay him out in one way or other, it might be by carrying off his soul and so making him ill, it might be by crushing him flat under a falling tree. These touchy beings particularly dislike to hear certain words pronounced, and accordingly on his way through the forest the Toradja takes care to avoid the offensive terms and to substitute others for them. Thus he will not call a dog a dog, but refers to it as "the hairy one"; a buffalo is spoken of as "thick hide"; a [pg 413] cooking pot becomes "that which is set down"; the hair of the head is alluded to as "betel"; goats and pigs are "the folk under the house"; a horse is "long nose"; and deer are "denizens of the fell." If he is rash or careless enough to utter a forbidden word in the forest, a short-tempered tree-spirit will fetch him such a bang on the head that the blood will spout from his nose and mouth.1535 Again, when the weather is fine and the Toradja wishes it to continue so, he is careful not to utter the word "rain," for if he did so the rain would fancy he was called for and would obligingly present himself. Indeed, in the district of Pakambia, which is frequently visited by heavy storms, the word "rain" may not be mentioned throughout the year lest it should provoke a tempest; the unmentionable thing is there delicately alluded to as "tree-blossoms."1536

Common words tabooed by East Indian mariners at sea.

When a Bugineese or Macassar man is at sea and sailing past a place which he believes to be haunted by evil spirits, he keeps as quiet as he can; but if he is obliged to speak he designates common things and actions, such as water, wind, fire, cooking, eating, the rice-pot, and so forth, by peculiar terms which are neither Bugineese nor Macassar, and therefore cannot be understood by the evil spirits, whose knowledge of languages is limited to these two tongues. However, according to another and later account given by the same authority, it appears that many of the substituted terms are merely figurative expressions or descriptive phrases borrowed from the ordinary language. Thus the word for water is replaced by a rare word meaning "rain"; a rice-pot is called a "black man"; boiled rice is "one who is eaten"; a fish is a "tree-leaf"; a fowl is "one who lives in a poultry hatch"; and an ape is a "tree-dweller."1537 Natives of the island of Saleyer, which lies off the south coast of [pg 414] Celebes, will not mention the name of their island when they are making a certain sea-passage; and in sailing they will never speak of a fair wind by its proper name. The reason in both cases is a fear of disturbing the evil spirits.1538 When natives of the Sapoodi Archipelago, to the north-east of Java, are at sea they will never say that they are near the island of Sapoodi, for if they did so they would be carried away from it by a head wind or by some other mishap.1539 When Galelareese sailors are crossing over to a land that is some way off, say one or two days' sail, they do not remark on any vessels that may heave in sight or any birds that may fly past; for they believe that were they to do so they would be driven out of their course and not reach the land they are making for. Moreover, they may not mention their own ship, or any part of it. If they have to speak of the bow, for example, they say "the beak of the bird"; starboard is named "sword," and larboard "shield."1540 The inhabitants of Ternate and of the Sangi Islands deem it very dangerous to point at distant objects or to name them while they are at sea. Once while sailing with a crew of Ternate men a European asked one of them the name of certain small islands which they had passed. The man had been talkative before, but the question reduced him to silence. "Sir," he said, "that is a great taboo; if I told you we should at once have wind and tide against us, and perhaps suffer a great calamity. As soon as we come to anchor I will tell you the name of the islands." The Sangi Islanders have, besides the ordinary language, an ancient one which is only partly understood by some of the people. This old language is often used by them at sea, as well as in popular songs and certain heathen rites.1541 The reason for resorting to it on shipboard is to hinder the evil spirits from overhearing [pg 415] and so frustrating the plans of the voyagers.1542 The Nufoors of Dutch New Guinea believe that if they were to mention the name of an island to which the bow of their vessel was pointing, they would be met by storm, rain, or mist which would drive them from their course.1543

Common words tabooed in Sunda, Borneo, and the Philippines.

In some parts of Sunda it is taboo or forbidden to call a goat a goat; it must be called a "deer under the house." A tiger may not be spoken of as a tiger; he must be referred to as "the supple one," "the one there," "the honourable," "the whiskered one," and so on. Neither a wild boar nor a mouse may be mentioned by its proper name; a boar must be called "the beautiful one" (masculine) and the mouse "the beautiful one" (feminine). When the people are asked what would be the consequence of breaking a taboo, they generally say that the person or thing would suffer for it, either by meeting with a mishap or by falling ill. But some say they do not so much fear a misfortune as experience an indefinite feeling, half fear, half reverence, towards an institution of their forefathers. Others can assign no reason for observing the taboos, and cut enquiry short by saying that "It is so because it is so."1544 When the Kenyahs of Borneo are about to poison the fish of a section of the river with the tuba root, they always speak of the matter as little as possible and use the most indirect and fanciful modes of expression. Thus they will say, "There are many leaves fallen here," meaning that there are many fish in the river. And they will not breathe the name of the tuba root; if they must refer to it, they call it pakat abong, where abong is the name of a strong-smelling root something like tuba, and pakat means "to agree upon"; so that pakat abong signifies "what we have agreed to call abong." This concealment of the truth deceives all the bats, birds, and insects, which might otherwise overhear the talk of the men and inform the fish of the deep-laid plot against them.1545 These Kenyahs also fear [pg 416] the crocodile and do not like to mention it by name, especially if one be in sight; they refer to the beast as "the old grandfather."1546 When small-pox invades a village of the Sakarang Dyaks in Borneo, the people desert the place and take refuge in the jungle. In the daytime they do not dare to stir or to speak above a whisper, lest the spirits should see or hear them. They do not call the small-pox by its proper name, but speak of it as "jungle leaves" or "fruit" or "the chief," and ask the sufferer, "Has he left you?" and the question is put in a whisper lest the spirit should hear.1547 Natives of the Philippines were formerly prohibited from speaking of the chase in the house of a fisherman and from speaking of fishing in the house of a hunter; journeying by land they might not talk of marine matters, and sailing on the sea they might not talk of terrestrial matters.1548

The avoidance of common words seems to be based on a fear of spirits and a wish to deceive them or elude their notice. Common words avoided by hunters and fowlers in order to deceive the beasts and birds.

When we survey the instances of this superstition which have now been enumerated, we can hardly fail to be struck by the number of cases in which a fear of spirits, or of other beings regarded as spiritual and intelligent, is assigned as the reason for abstaining in certain circumstances from the use of certain words.1549 The speaker imagines himself to be overheard and understood by spirits, or animals, or other beings [pg 417] whom his fancy endows with human intelligence; and hence he avoids certain words and substitutes others in their stead, either from a desire to soothe and propitiate these beings by speaking well of them, or from a dread that they may understand his speech and know what he is about, when he happens to be engaged in that which, if they knew of it, would excite their anger or their fear. Hence the substituted terms fall into two classes according as they are complimentary or enigmatic; and these expressions are employed, according to circumstances, for different and even opposite reasons, the complimentary because they will be understood and appreciated, and the enigmatic because they will not. We can now see why persons engaged in occupations like fishing, fowling, hunting, mining, reaping, and sailing the sea, should abstain from the use of the common language and veil their meaning in strange words and dark phrases. For they have this in common that all of them are encroaching on the domain of the elemental beings, the creatures who, whether visible or invisible, whether clothed in fur or scales or feathers, whether manifesting themselves in tree or stone or running stream or breaking wave, or hovering unseen in the air, may be thought to have the first right to those regions of earth and sea and sky into which man intrudes only to plunder and destroy. Thus deeply imbued with a sense of the all-pervading life and intelligence of nature, man at a certain stage of his intellectual development cannot but be visited with fear or compunction, whether he is killing wild fowl among the stormy Hebrides, or snaring doves in the sultry thickets of the Malay Peninsula; whether he is hunting the bear in Lapland snows, or the tiger in Indian jungles, or hauling in the dripping net, laden with silvery herring, on the coast of Scotland; whether he is searching for the camphor crystals in the shade of the tropical forest, or extracting the red gold from the darksome mine, or laying low with a sweep of his sickle the yellow ears on the harvest field. In all these his depredations on nature, man's first endeavour apparently is by quietness and silence to escape the notice of the beings whom he dreads; but if that cannot be, he puts the best face he can on the matter by dissembling his foul designs under a fair exterior, by flattering the [pg 418] creatures whom he proposes to betray, and by so guarding his lips, that, though his dark ambiguous words are understood well enough by his fellows, they are wholly unintelligible to his victims. He pretends to be what he is not, and to be doing something quite different from the real business in hand. He is not, for example, a fowler catching pigeons in the forest; he is a Magic Prince or King Solomon himself1550 inviting fair princesses into his palace tower or ivory hall. Such childish pretences suffice to cheat the guileless creatures whom the savage intends to rob or kill, perhaps they even impose to some extent upon himself; for we can hardly dissever them wholly from those forms of sympathetic magic in which primitive man seeks to effect his purpose by imitating the thing he desires to produce, or even by assimilating himself to it. It is hard indeed for us to realise the mental state of a Malay wizard masquerading before wild pigeons in the character of King Solomon; yet perhaps the make-believe of children and of the stage, where we see the players daily forgetting their real selves in their passionate impersonation of the shadowy realm of fancy, may afford us some glimpse into the workings of that instinct of imitation or mimicry which is deeply implanted in the constitution of the human mind.

[pg 419]

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