Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

two sides of a triangle can stand to each other, namely, that determined by the side which the angle subtends, so there is only one relation in which men can stand to animals in totemism, namely, that determined by the system. Now, amongst the Semites we never find the complete triangle of totemism : sometimes one side is missing, sometimes another, sometimes the third, but in every case the angle of the two remaining sides, i.e. the relation between men and god, god and animal, animal and men, shows what the missing side must have been. To begin with the first side of the triangle: we find deities in animal or semi-animal form, such as Dagon. Then we have deities associated—at the totemistic angle, so to speak

—with particular species of animals, e.g. Astarte with swine, the Syrian Atargatis with fish, the Sun-god with horses." The animal side of the triangle, again, is connected with the third side, men, at the totemistic angle, that is to say, we have a human clan treating a species of animal as they do their clansmen, e.g.“when the B. Hārith, a tribe of South Arabia, find a dead gazelle, they wash it, wrap it in cerecloths, and bury it, and the whole tribe mourns for it seven days.” 2 When, then, we find the animal side of the triangle by itself, and apart from the other two sides, we still can infer the triangle to which it belonged; or, to drop metaphor, when we find that vermin were “sacred ”3 and mice “unclean," 4 we remember that mice were totem animals in Greece, and insects among the sacred beasts of Egypt. Finally, to complete our round of the totemist triangle, we find men in the totemist relation to the animal god in Baalbek, where the god-ancestor of the inhabitants was worshipped in the form of a lion.

Thus the di priori argument that the prehistoric Semites, while they were yet an undivided people, and before they had settled down in those territories in which history knows them, were (like all other peoples in a state of savagery) acquainted with totemism, is confirmed not only by the reflection that but for totemism their material civilisation, their transition to pastoral and agricultural life, is not to be accounted for, but also by the survivals to be found amongst them even in historic times.

12 Kings xxiii. 11 (Robertson Smith, Semites, 293). 2 Robertson Smith, Semites, 444. 3 Ezek. viii. 10 (Semites, 293). 4 Isa. lxvi. 17 (ibid.). 6 Lang, op. cit. i. 277. 6 Robertson Smith, op. cit. 444.

And yet the most remarkable argument in support of the theory remains to be set forth,

CHAPTER XI

ANIMAL SACRIFICE: THE ALTAR

In the last chapter we saw that the practice of selecting one individual of the totem species, e.g. the calf in which A pis was supposed to manifest himself, and concentrating on it the reverence which was due to the whole species, was a relatively late development of totemism. It is also, in its ultimate consequences, inconsistent with the principle of totemism, according to which the owl totem god, for instance, was not incorporate in any one bird more than in any other, but was “incarnate in all the owls in existence.” 2 We have also seen that it is the belief of societies which are held together by the bond of blood-relationship, that it is the same blood which runs in the veins of all blood-relations—it is the blood of their common ancestor. Hence the bloodcovenant between two individuals is a covenant between their respective kins: it is not merely the blood of the two persons that has been mingled and made one, but the blood of the two clans. It follows, therefore, that the blood of any one animal of the totem species is not the blood of that individual merely, but of the whole species. In the same way, therefore, that the blood of the tribe as a whole is communicated in initiation ceremonies to the youth, by allowing the blood of older members to flow over him, so it is obvious the blood of the totem species as a whole might be communicated to the person or thing over which the blood of any individual of the species was allowed to flow. But the blood is the life : it is—like breath, heart, etc.-one of the things identified by savages with the spirit or soul. The blood of any individual totem animal, therefore, is the spirit, not of that particular 1 Supra, p. 122. ? Turner, Samoa, 21.

Supra, p. 103.

animal, but of the totem species : it is, if not the totem god, at anyrate that in which he, as the spirit or soul of the species, resides, and by which his presence may be conveyed into any person or thing.

When, therefore, a totem clan required the presence of its supernatural ally, the procedure, we may say the ritual, to be adopted was obvious: the blood of a totem animal must be shed. It must not, however, be spilt upon the groundthat, as we have seen,' was taboo, a thing not to be done, for the ground on which it was spilt would thereby become charged with all the sanctity of the sacred blood; and any person who thereafter, when there was nothing to distinguish that dangerous spot from the surrounding soil, in unavoidable ignorance set foot upon it, would become taboo. Approaching the subject from this point of view, we shall not be surprised to find it a widespread and ancient custom to apply the blood of the sacred animal either to a pile of stones, heaped together for the purpose, or to a monolith erected for this end. We may not be able to say why races in the most opposite quarters of the globe and in all ages, races which have attained to civilisation, those which have remained in savagery, those which have produced the semicivilisations of the New World, should all adopt this particular mode of avoiding spilling the sacred blood of the divine animal on the earth, or at anyrate of thus notifying that such blood had so been spilled on the spot, but the fact itself is certain. The reason can hardly be that there was no other ready and convenient way of attaining the same object, for an upright pole would serve the same end, and, as a matter of fact, is used for the same purposes both in the Old World and the New. But as it takes more labour to dress and set up a pole, or to erect a monolithic pillar, than to heap together a pile of stones, we may regard the heap of stones as the earliest object to which the blood was applied.

Now, that the altars of the Old World religions, though used for other purposes as well, and for the expression of far higher religious conceptions, were also used to receive the blood of sacrifice, is too well known to need illustration. In the words of the late Professor Robertson Smith, whose line

1 Supra, p. 73.

of argument we shall now follow, with some illustrations of our own, “whatever else was done in connection with a sacrifice, the primitive rite of sprinkling or dashing the blood against the altar, or allowing it to flow down on the ground at its base, was hardly ever omitted; and this practice was not peculiar to the Semites, but was equally the rule with the Greeks and Romans, and indeed with the ancient nations generally."1 The altar of the more civilised members of these races was, of course, not a mere heap of stones : it was a much more elaborate and artistic structure of stone than a mere cairn or rough monolithic pillar. But when we find that amongst the more backward members of these races piles of stones or rough single stones were used for the same purposes as the more finished structure, we can hardly draw a line between them. Thus, in the sacred enclosure of the Dioscuri at Phare there was a primitive structure of this kind which was both used as an altar and called an altar, Bwuos ríowv Toyádwv;? and in Arabia “we find no proper altar, but in its place a rude pillar or heap of stones, beside which the victim is slain, the blood being poured out over the stone or at its base.” 3 Even amongst the northern Semites, in their earlier days, the ancient law of Ex. xx. 24, 25 "prescribed that the altar must be of earth or unhewn stone; and that a single stone sufficed appears from 1 Sam. xiv. 32 sqq.4. In the semi-civilisations of the New World, as well as in the greater civilisations of the Old, the primitive cairn came to assume the shape first of a dresser on which the victim was cut up, and then of a table on which offerings were laid; but the transition is even clearer in the New World than the Old, for in the former the primitive pile of stones was not discarded, but a table-stone was placed upon it: “the flat stones on which the flesh and blood-offerings were left for the spirits, raised on a pile of smaller stones, became the altar. In the most advanced times, in Mexico and Central America, the human sacrifice was slain with a stone knife on a stone slab, slightly elevated in the middle.”5 We find the same connecting link between

1 Religion of the Semites, 202. 3 Religion of the Semites, 201. 5 Payne, New World, i. 410.

2 Pausanias, viii. c. 22. 4 Ibid, 202.

« ForrigeFortsæt »