« ForrigeFortsæt »
glade, which tradition or the taboo-fear 1 has marked as the abode of one of these spirits. In the Pelew Islands, for instance, a most trustworthy observer ? says that, besides the tribal and family gods, there are countless other spirits of earth, mountain, woode, and streams, all of which are mischievous and of all of which the islanders are in daily fear. So, too, on the Slave and Gold Coasts, the malignant spirits Srahmantin and Sasabonsum haunt places easily recognisable -where the earth is red, or silk cotton trees grow. If the savage has little difficulty in finding the abode of him whom he seeks, he has also little doubt as to the manner of approaching him: he will treat him as he would his tribal god
—he knows no other way of opening communication with supernatural beings. He adapts, therefore, the tribal ritual. Bishop Caldwell's very careful observations in Tinnevelly are so instructive in this respect, that we will summarise them here, inserting in brackets what is necessary to bring out the parallel between the religious and the sacrilegious rites. In Tinnevelly evil spirits have no regular priests; but when it becomes necessary, in consequence of some pressing need, to resort to the aid of these spirits, some one is chosen or offers himself to be the priest for the occasion, and is dressed up in the insignia of the spirit. [As blood is the sacrifice to a god, so] in the dance with which the evil spirits (like the tribal god 8] are worshipped, the dancer in an ecstasy draws his own blood and drinks that of the victim," a goat, say, and thus the spirit passes into him and he has the power of prophecy. [As the sacrifice of the sacred victims was a solemn mystery to be celebrated by night and terminated before sunrise, so] the worship of the evil spirits must be performed by night, and the general opinion is that night is the appropriate time for their worship. [As the god was supposed to be in or to enter the victim, and the entrance of a god into possession of a human being is universally manifested by the shivering, convulsive movements of the possessed person, it was a common custom to pour water on
Supra, p. 136.
the animal victims, which naturally shivered, and by their shivering showed that the god had entered the victim. So in Tinnevelly] water was poured on the animal, which, when it shivered, was pronounced an acceptable sacrifice. [As the god was sacramentally consumed, so] “the decapitated victim is held so that all its blood flows over the altar of the evil spirit. When the sacrifice is completed, the animal is cut up on the spot and stripped of its skin. It is stuffed with rice and fruit and offered to the spirit, and forms a holy meal in which all present at the sacrifice partake.”i
Bishop Caldwell's account shows that in Tinnevelly the mode of approaching the spirits who are as yet unattached to any body of regular worshippers, is modelled on the sacrificial rite of the established gods. In the Tinnevelly proceedings, indeed, it is not an individual who is seeking the assistance of one of these unattached spirits, but a reference to the early part of this chapter will show that the method by which the negro of Western Africa obtains a suhman is an exact copy of the legitimate ritual by which a family obtains a family god; and in the next chapter we shall see that all over the world these private cults are modelled on, derived from and later than the established worship of the gods of the community. The difference between the private cult of one of these outlying, unattached spirits and the public worship of the community's gods does not lie in the external acts and rites, for these are the same in both cases, or as nearly the same as the imitator can make them. Nor does the difference lie in the nature of the spirits whose aid is invoked; for, on the one hand, the community originally drew its god from the ranks of the innumerable spiritual beings by which primitive man was surrounded; and, on the other hand, the outlying, unattached spirits, who were not at first taken into alliance, and so raised to the status of gods, may ultimately be domesticated, so to speak, and made regular members of a pantheon. The difference lies first in the division which this species of individual enterprise implies and encourages between the interests of the individual and of the community, at a time when identity of interest is
1 Bishop Caldwell in Allerlei, i. 164-8.
essential to the existence of society, and when the unstable equilibrium of the small community requires the devotion of every member to prevent it from falling. From this point of view the proceedings in Tinnevelly, being the act of the community, are quite different from those of a private individual: they may, if great benefit to the community is derived from them (e.g. if a pestilence is stayed in consequence thereof), result in the community's acquiring a new god, and one who takes an active interest in the welfare of his new worshippers collectively. In the Pelew Islands at the present day, unattached spirits not unfrequently become gods in the proper sense of the word " in some such way; and in ancient Greece friendly relations were similarly established with all the local spirits. But in these cases it is the public good which is sought and promoted by the joint act of the community, and under the directions of a priest acting in the name of the community's gods. Thus, the negro, according to Colonel Ellis," who requires a tutelary deity for his family, applies to the priest. In the New World, also, the natives of Hispaniola did not make and break their gods at will. It was not enough, for instance, that a tree should move in a mysterious way for it to be straightway worshipped by the individual who was awestruck. Before it could become an object of worship, it must be recognised as the residence of a god by a priest, and a due ritual must be provided for it, as appears from the account given by Father Roman, a companion of Columbus : “A person travelling sees some tree that seems to move or shake its roots, on which, in great alarm, he asks who is there? To this the tree answers that such and such a Buhuitihu knows and will inform”; the Buhuitihu is fetched, and “then standing up addresses the tree with many titles as if some great lord, then asks who it is, what he does there, why he sent for him, and what he would have him do; whether he desires to be out, whether he will accompany him, where he will be carried, and if a house is to be built and endowed for his reception ? Having received satisfactory answers, the tree is cut down and formed into a cemi [idol], for which a house is built and endowed, and cogiaba or religious ceremonies performed there at certain * Kubary in Allerlei, i. 46.
2 Supra, p. 164.
stated times.”i Very different is it when an individual privately resorts to one of these spirits, because the request which he has to prefer is such that he dare not make it publicly to the clan-god, who is the guardian of the community's interest and the tribal morality. There is all the difference in the world between applying to the clan-god and to a spirit who has no reason to look with friendly eyes on your follow-clansmen, but rather, presumably, takes a pleasure in injuring them. Naturally, such a suspicious proceeding is resented by the community, and, should disastrous consequences ensue to any of its members, is punished by death. Certainly it implies malignity in the person dealing with such spirits, and a conscious, deliberate opposition to the public interest and the recognised morality of the tribe. In fine, the witch, whether of present-day Africa or mediæval Europe, is a person who, believing him or herself to possess the power, by means of magic, to cause loss, bodily torture, and death to his or her neighbours, uses that power, and is therefore morally exactly on a par with a person who, intending to poison by strychnine, should accidentally administer nothing more dangerous than phenacetine. If amongst the persons thus attacked some by a coincidence happen to die, and the poisoner regards their deaths as evidence of his success, the community (being equally unable to tell strychnine from phenacetine) may regard them as reason for his execution. A more accurate knowledge of science, of course, would have enabled the tribunals to distinguish the innocent from the guilty, and the murderer to distinguish poisons from nonpoisons.
Magic is, in fact, a direct relapse into the state of things in which man found himself when he was surrounded by supernatural beings, none of which was bound to him by any tie of goodwill, with none of which had he any stated relations, but all were uncertain, capricious, and caused in him unreasoning terror. This reign of terror magic tends to reestablish, and does re-establish wherever the belief in magic prevails. The first step towards man's escape from it was the confidence, given to him by his alliance with the clan-god,
Kerr, Voyages, iii. 138-9. A fuller account in Payne, New World, i. 396.
that his fortunes and his destiny were no longer at the mercy of capricious powers, but in the hands of a being who was friendly to him and was actuated by intelligible and reasonable motives. Magic, therefore—the dealing with spiritual beings other than the gods of the community—is in two ways the negation of religion, and necessarily incurs its hostility. First, the desertion of a worshipper is offensive ingratitude to the clan-god, who accordingly may withdraw his protection from the community, which is collectively responsible (as in the blood-feud) for the acts of any of its members. Next, the fundamental principle of religion-belief in the wisdom and goodness of God—is violated by the belief in magic, by the idea that a good man can come to harm, or that a bad man is allowed to injure him.
But magic is more than a mere reversion, for in his relapse man carries with him in a perverted form something of his higher estate. In the beginning, if he could not influence the supernatural powers which surrounded him to his own good, neither could he to his fellow-man's harm. But in his relapse he takes with him the only idea which a mind so relapsing can entertain of worship, namely, that it is a sequence of external actions, particularly potent over supernatural beings. The armoury, therefore, on which he relies for working evil to his fellow-man consists in rites which are parodies or perversions of the worship of the community's gods; or “sympathetic magic,” which has already been explained in Chapter IV.; and charms, of which a word here. Charms or amulets are material objects, in which no spirit resides either permanently or occasionally, but which are associated with something, be it blood, or babe, or corpse, or good spirit or bad, which is taboo. They therefore catch the taboo-infection and become charged with the properties of the thing taboo. They may serve, therefore, to do injury to others, by communicating the taboo-contagion; or, by their dangerous character and the fear they inspire, they may protect the owner from both human and superhuman foes; or they may, from some association or other of ideas, be lucky.
To sum up: the difference between religion and magic is radical. Psychologically, it is impossible, from the malignity which is the motive of magic, to derive the tie of affection