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imilar causes pito find that in Polrape was the pri
each of them (the gods] then,"1 or “the blood of birds and deer was poured by the hunters on the stone of Tohil and Avilix [gods]; and when the gods had drunk the blood, the stone spake.”? So, too, the offering of blood gave the stones worshipped by the Scandinavians the power of prophecy.3
The consequence of this differentiation of the altar and the pillar was that, though originally they were identical in y use and purpose, in Hebrew and Canaanite sanctuaries “the
two are found side by side at the same sanctuary, the altar as a piece of sacrificial apparatus, and the pillar as a visible symbol or embodiment of the presence of the deity.” 4 Similar causes produce similar results, and we shall therefore not be surprised to find that in Polynesia the same evolution took place. In Ellice Island, “Foilape was the principal god, and they had a stone at his temple," that is the unhewn monolith, but “there was an altar also on which offerings of food were laid.” 5 The “sacrificial piles” of the Samoyeds exhibit the same association: “from the midst of all this [mass of bones] there rise a number of sticks and poles — some being less than a foot and others as long as 6 feet," 6 only here the altar is associated, not with the stone pillar, but with the wooden post which serves the same purpose; in the same way as in “ the local sanctuaries of the Hebrews, which the prophets regard as purely heathenish ... the altar was incomplete unless an ashera stood beside it."? This ashera appears again amongst peoples which differ as widely as possible from one another in race and place and time: it is presupposed by the Góava of the Greeks; it is found amongst the Ainos ;8 the gods of the Brazilian tribes were represented by poles stuck upright in the ground, at the foot of which offerings were laid ; the Hurd Islanders “in their houses had several stocks or small pillars of wood, 4 or 5 feet high, as the representatives of household gods, and on these they poured oil [which takes the place of fat or blood), and laid before them offerings of cocoa-nuts and fish ”; the Kureks at irregular times slaughter a reindeer or a dog, put its head on a pole facing east, and, mentioning no name, say, “ This for Thee : grant me a blessing.”?
1 Brasseur de Bourbourg, Popol Vuh, 259. 2 Op. cit. 253.
3 Bastian, Der Mensch, ü. 269. * Religion of the Semites, 204.
Turner, Samoa, 281. 6 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxiv. 400. 7 Religion of the Semites, 187. B Howard, Trans-Siberian Sarages, 45, 84, 198.
It is evident that we have already passed the dividing line between the primitive unhewn monolith and the idol ; indeed, the Samoyed poles “at and near their summits are roughly cut to resemble the features of the human face.” 3 Thus the ashera becomes the wooden idol, the monolith the marble statue of the god, with which the altar still continues to be associated. In confirmation of this, we may note that in many cases, of which illustrations will be given shortly, the idol is smeared with blood in the same way as the stone pillar or wooden post originally was. But, as the idol grows more artistic, this practice is discontinued, and it is the altar alone on which the blood is dashed or sprinkled. Then a house is built for the god, in which his treasures may be stored; the idol, which from the value of its materials and workmanship is the most precious of the god's own treasures, is removed into this temple, and altar and idol are dissociated, for the altar remains where it was originally, and the slaughter of the victim and the sprinkling of the altar with blood are therefore done outside the temple. In Peru, as in the Old World, even when the god had come to dwell in the house which men provided for him when they took to dwelling in houses themselves, his ritual continued to be celebrated outside the temple, in the open air, as it had been celebrated before any building was erected in his sanctuary.4 It was not the altar that was set up near the temple, but the temple which was erected there, because there was an altar near. And it was not in any and every place that an altar could be set up— not even the primitive heap of stones or wooden post. Nor would every stone or any piece of wood serve. To understand this we must return once more to the subject of taboo.
The principle of the transmissibility of taboo is the
Turner, Samoa, 294.
? Bastian, Der Mensch, ii. 109. 3 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxiv. 400.
* For Peru, see Payne, New World, i. 460; for the Semites, Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 197.
arbitrary and irrational association of ideas: blood, for instance, is inherently taboo and to be shunned ; anything, therefore, that reminds the savage of it, either by its fluid consistency or merely by its colour, awakens the same terror, and is equally to be avoided. Hence certain localities, whether because of their blood-red soil, or of their trees with trunks of ghastly white (for white also is a taboo colour, possibly from the pallor of the corpse—even negro corpses are said to be pallid), or from some other accidental association of ideas, arouse the taboo terror in the savage and are shunned by him. Of the law of the association of ideas he knows nothing: he only knows that on approaching certain places he is filled with the same sort of terror as he experiences on seeing blood or a corpse. If and when he reasons on the matter, the explanation he gives to himself and others is that the spot is the haunt of a supernatural power, and that is why he feels as he does feel. For the savage the world is full of such haunted spots. On the Gold Coast every spot where the earth is of a red colour is the abode of a Sasabonsum, a malignant spirit. When, however, the savage has gained an ally amongst the supernatural powers surrounding him, if in one of these haunted places he sees his totem, animal or plant, the character of the locality is thereby somewhat changed to his apprehension : it is still the haunt of a spirit, but of a friendly one; it still is to be avoided, but not from slavish fear, rather from a respectful desire not to intrude on the privacy of the god--so he now interprets his feeling, which is indeed really changed by the new association of ideas. Above all, it is now a place which, under due restrictions and with proper precautions, may be approached by him, when he wishes to seek the presence of his powerful protector for a legitimate end, e.g. to renew the blood-covenant with him. Again, everything in this holy place-earth, stones, trees, and, excepting animal life, there can hardly be anything else in it-everything in it partakes of its sanctity. As we have seen, both in West Africa and in ancient Mexico, the soil was holy. And according to the prescription in the ancient law of Exodus, already referred to, the altar must be made of earth or unhewn stone. It was the earth, stones, or wood of such a holy place which alone could have possessed the sanctity desirable in a structure which the god was to be invited to enter in order that his worshippers might have communion with him. The sentiment of the supernatural which filled the hearts and minds of the worshippers during the rite seems to be different, however, from the awe which prevents transgression on holy places. The latter is—except when mingled with the former-purely negative, restrictive, prohibitory. The former is a feeling psychologically as distinct from the feelings of awe or terror, as, say, the feeling of beauty from other pleasurable feelings; its earliest manifestation appears to be on occasions when the natural order of things is suspended, and it is thereafter revived when man is conscious of the presence of the cause of that suspension.
1 Ellis, 7'shi-speaking Peoples, 35. 2 Supra, p. 64 ; cf. also the chapter on Fetishism.
In the earliest times, then, there were holy places; it was out of the materials spontaneously offered by them that the primitive altar was made, the idol elaborated, and within their bounds that the temple eventually was built.
The theory, on the other hand, that the idol was an “elaborated fetish,” is one against which some arguments will be offered in a subsequent chapter on Fetishism. Here, however, we must make some remarks on a slightly different view, namely, that which would confound the primitive altar with rocks which form a conspicuous feature in many landscapes, and which are often believed by savages to possess supernatural powers, like waterfalls and other striking natural features. Now, in the first place, these rocks are natural features of the landscape, whereas the primitive altar is always an artificial structure; and, next, they possess their supernatural powers inherently, i.e. quite independently of anything man does, whereas the altar requires the application of the blood of sacrifice, if the deity is to enter it. In fine, these natural objects and the dread of them are survivals from the pre-totemistic stage, when everything which was supposed by the savage to possess activity, or was associated by him with events affecting his fortunes, was also supposed to possess a life and powers like his own. The primitive
? Supra, p. 21.
altar, on the other hand, is the creation and the outcome of the needs of totemism. Further, as long as it remains an altar pure and simple, it never becomes the embodiment of the god, nor, though highly sacred, does it acquire supernatural power. As long as totemism was a living force, it would be difficult or impossible to confuse the sacrificial pile, at which the deity manifested himself, with the god himself, or even to imagine that he was permanently present in the altar, for the totem animals were seen by the savage daily, and it was with their species that his clan made the bloodcovenant, and in each and every member of the species that the god dwelt. Mr. Williams has accurately observed and precisely stated the totemist's attitude towards his sacrificial piles, when, after noting that “idolatry in the strict sense of the term—the Fijian seems never to have known; for he makes no attempt to fashion material representations of his gods,” 2 he goes on to say, "stones are used to denote the locality of some gods and the occasional resting-places of others.”3 The same observation has been made with regard to savages generally by Mr. Howard : “My personal inquiries amongst almost every variety of heathen worshippers, including the most degraded types in India, in China, and also the devil-worshippers in Ceylon, have never yet secured from any of them the admission which would justify me in thinking that the red-bedaubed stone or tree, or any image in front of which they worshipped, was supposed to contain in esse the god to which that worship was addressed.” 4
In the course of time, however, three changes do undoubtedly take place: the rite of sacrifice tends to become formal; the god comes to be conceived as the ancestor of the race; the clan expands into a tribe, of which the majority of members dwell remote from the original monolithic altar. Consequently, when, at stated intervals, the tribe does gather together at the old altar-stone of their forefathers to do sacrifice, the stone itself, in which the god is to manifest himself, easily becomes identified with the god—the majority of the tribe know it only in this aspect—and with the god as their common ancestor. Thus amongst the Red Indians, 1 Supra, p. 131.
2 Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, 216. * Ibid. 221.
• Howard, Trans-Siberian Savages, 202.