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without masters, of any oppressed class without oppressors, any nobility without a lower class. Of any nobility or slave-class there can be no question, unless there is another class to which they stand in contrast. And also the commonalty, which corresponds with the entire population in communities without distinction of classes, does not constitute any rank without other classes. In opposition to this, the priesthood is not particularly connected with any other class, priests, as we have seen, are met with where there exist no other distinct classes. Similarly the relation between the priests and any of the lay classes is, as a rule, quite different from that between those classes mutually. The relation between higher and lower classes in society is generally marked by their mutually conflicting interests. The priests, on the other hand, do not necessarily stand in opposition to any other class. On the contrary, they are in many cases in the position of being able to promote their own interests by meeting that need of divine or magical help which men in every class of society may think it their interest to have satisfied.
What was the beginning of those peculiarities of the priesthood which cause us to look upon priests from quite a different point of view than that from which we look upon the other classes, and which, as we understand, enable us to examine the characteristics of that order separately? How was it, that religious and magical practices tended to originate a special class of their performers?
It is the aim of this book to see how these questions may be answered.
THE HUMAN NEED OF MEDIATORS WITH A SUPPOSED
PRIESTHOOD, broadly speaking, owes its origin to the universal need felt by mankind of superhuman assistance in the struggle of life. Among all peoples the belief exists that, under certain circumstances, advantages of some kind or other are obtainable from the supernatural world, and equally universal is the desire to gain possesion of those advantages. Man endeavours to influence, by propitiation, the powers which govern the universe or to control the course of events by magical
Not all the benefits supposed to be obtainable in either of these ways consist of positive blessings, on the contrary, they may in the first place imply the prevention of an evil. The want of guidance in these matters has given rise to the various kinds of magical and religious practitioners among savage peoples which are to be considered as the pioneers of an organized priesthood. But also among civilized peoples, surviving traces of the same need characterize the authority of the priesthood.
Among the savage races there has never been any lack of all sorts of magical and religious methods by which to obtain supernatural benefits. In spite of the universal belief in the existence of more or less infallible means of influencing fortune, only certain persons are, as a rule, supposed to possess the knowledge and power necessary to secure the proper results. These appear to us in the form of priests and magicians.
It is well known that most savages ascribe various natural occurrences in their lives to supernatural causes. 1 » The Congo natives, » Mr. Ward writes, are entirely ignorant of the laws of Nature, all sensations are ascribed to the influence of spirits. All that is unaccountable to the native mind is at once enveloped with the property of magic. All ills and misfortunes are supposed to emanate from the evil spirit.» ? The same has been observed with reference to the aborigines of Liberia: the native pictures to himself the world as peopled by invisible spirits, to whom he ascribes all the misfortunes happening to him. 3 Kielland states that, penetrating deeper into the sphere of thought of the Zulu, it will be perceived that the people are filled with the idea that they live in dependence upon spiritual beings, who exercise the greatest influence upon the fate of the whole community and also of that of each separate individual. + Of the Angahmee Nagahs it is said that »each god, or spirit, has in their estimation the power to afflict them with sickness, ill luck, and a variety of calamities, or to make them successful in their incursions, and prosperous in their undertakings or daily occupations.»
With reference to the Wild Dyaks of Borneo Mr. St. John says:
»Surrounded by endless natural phenomena wholly unintelligible to them, they imagined minute emanations of the gods in all the energies of nature and circumstances
ii. 185 sqa.
1 In Primitive Culture Dr. Tylor gives a number of instances showing how »to the minds of the lower races it seems that all nature is possessed, pervaded, crowded, with spiritual beings,» many of which are »considered directly to affect the life and fortune of Man.»
Ward, 'Ethnographical Notes relating to the Congo Tribes,' in Jour. Anthr. Inst. xxiv. 286.
3 Büttikofer, Reisebilder aus Liberia, ii. 325. 4 Kielland, Zululandet, p. 53.
Butler, Travels and Adventures in Assam, pp. 147 sq.
of life -- in prosperity and adversity, in health and disease, » &c. 1 The inhabitants of the Society Islands imagined that »they lived in a world of spirits, which surrounded them night and day, watching every action of their lives,» ? and of the Pelew Islanders it is reported that, whatever they undertook, they had first to conciliate their god, or rather, to guard themselves against his anger. 3 By the Australian natives every natural phenomenon is believed to be the work of demons, none of which seem of a benign nature.» 4 The Mosquito Indians in Central America considered the Wulasha, or »devil,, to be the cause of all misfortunes and contrarieties that happen.5 The Patagonians believe in a great number of demons wandering about the world, and attribute to them all the evil that is done in it, whether to man or beast.» 6
Among the influences that the spirits are believed to exercise upon the condition of mankind, those appearing in certain natural phenomena are worth special consideration. Rain and wind, increase of vegetation and animal life, on which the prosperity of many peoples depends, are among the savages universally ascribed to the action of spirits. By the Tshi-speaking peoples in West Africa, Bobowissi, or the lord of thunder and lightning, was believed to send storms and tornadoes and torrents of rain which destroyed the mud dwellings of the people. + Among the Basiba, a tribe living west of the Victoria
St. John, 'Wild Tribes of the North-West Coast of Borneo,' in Trans. Ethn, Soc. N. S. ii. 239.
2 Ellis, Polynesian Researches, i. 406.
4 Oldfield, 'Aborigines of Australia,' in Trans. Etlin. Soc. N. & iii. 228.
5 Bancroft, Ilorks, i. 740.
Falkner, Description of Patagonia, p. 116.
Nyanza, the benevolent god is believed to cause rain and make crops and bananas grow, whereas the evil god provokes lightning and storm and prevents the rain from falling.' The Kufirs consider that lightning is governed by the spirit of the greatest of their departed chiefs, 2 and the Hottentots believe thunder to be occasioned by an evil spirit.3 By the Munda Kolhs bad growth is attributed to the same
The Khonds have a god of fountains who is invoked when the water dries up, a god of rain and a god of hunting: 5 It is a Veddah belief that their tutelary spirits give thein the prey when hunting. The Mantave Islanders believe that the spirits »cause thunder and lightning, heavy winds and rains, conflagrations, inundations and earthquakes.» ? In the Bismarck Archipelago failure of crops and drought are ascribed to the agency of evil spirits. 8 In Boruabi they petition the spirit of some deceased chief to grant them success in fishing, and an abundant crop of bread-fruit and yams. The Kurnai think that whales are sent ashore for them by the spirits when these monsters happen to be stranded, 10 and similarly the Hudson Bay Eskimo assume that a great
| Stuhlmann, Nit Emin Pascha, p. 726.
3 Thunberg, 'Account of the Cape of Good Hope,' in Pinkerton, A General Collection of Voyages and Travels, xvi. 142.
• Jellinghaus, 'Munda-Kohls,' in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, iii. 335.
• Macpherson, 'Religious Opinions of the Konds,' in Jour. Roy. As. Soc. vii. 187 sq.
8 Bailey, 'Wild Tribes of the Veddahs of Ceylon,' in Trans. Ethn.. Soc. N. S. ii. 301.
? Logan, 'Ethnography of the Indo-Pacific Archipelagoes,' in Jour. of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, ix. 288.
8 Parkinson, Im Bismarck-Archipel, p. 142. 9 Cheyne, Western Pacific Ocean, p. 121. 10 Howitt, 'Australian Medicine Men,' in Jour. Anthr. Inst. xvi. 45..