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THE QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED OF THOSE ASPIRING TO
THE PRIESTLY OFFICE. INITIATION OF PRIESTS.
PRIESTHOOD, in general, is characterized by the conditions which must be fulfilled by those who enter upon the sacerdotal profession. Nothing seems, in fact, more appropriately to illustrate the position of the priestly order, as it is regarded among different peoples, than the qualifications which entitle a person to become a priest or sorcerer.
Among many peoples, however, the priesthood depends upon hereditary succession, and in such cases the principal qualification of the would-be priests and sorcerers refers to birth. Yet the rule of inheritance can rarely be strictly followed, for we often learn that even among peoples who are stated to have a hereditary priesthood, the priests admit disciples from outside their kin, and that persons peculiarly adapted to the profession dedicate themselves to the sacerdotal office without regard to birth. It appears to be a universal rule among most races that descendants of priests have a more or less decided right of precedence as regards the priestly office, although, on the other hand, there are only a few peoples aniong which certain families were exclusively privileged to belong to the priesthood.
In New Zealand » the knowledge of the priests is handed down from father to son.» 1 Thomson, mentioning
1 Dieffenbach, Travels in New Zealand, ii. 119.
that the priests of that country kept their prayers very secret from the laity, tells us: – »In the dead of night, and in solitary places, they instilled into their children's minds the now unintelligible chants in which they addressed the gods.» 1 Among the Hawaiians the priesthood is said to have been hereditary, forming a numerous and powerful body, 2 and in Tahiti also the office of the priesthood was hereditary. 3 The priests of Fiji are represented as forming a kind of hereditary caste, »into which, however, others may enter, if they understand how to consult the gods.» 4 In the Pelew Islands the use of the various spells is the secret of a few people, who only, when about to die, confide it to their son or nearest relative. 5 Turner says that in New Caledonia the order of priests was hereditary, 6 and by Codrington it is recorded that in Melanesia the knowledge of charms as well as of the methods of sacrifice and prayer is handed down from father to son or from uncle to sister's son; but it can also be bought, if the possessor chooses to impart it to any other than the heirs of whatever he has besides." By some tribes in New South Wales a sorcerer is believed to acquire his powers »either by being trained from boyhood by his father, or by being instructed by the spirits of the dead.» 8 In the Anula tribe in North Central Australia the profession of a doctor is stated to be strictly hereditary. 9
1 Thomson, The Story of New Zealand, i. 114.
3 Cook, An Account of a Voyage round the World, Hawkesworth's Ed. ii. 240. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, i. 342.
+ Meinicke, Inseln des Stillen Oceans, ii. 39.
8 Cameron, 'Notes on some Tribes in New South Wales,' in Jour. Anthr. Inst. xiv. 360.
Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 488
In Australasia and Asia hereditary priesthood is likewise met with. The Dyaks consider the office of the Manang, or medicine-man, as an hereditary institution; it does not however necessarily descend from father to son, although it is usually confined to the family." In the Sangir Islands, also, the office of the priests is probably inherited, the forefathers of a certain family seem to have been permitted by the gods to work miracles. 2 Among the Cohatars the distinction exists of some families only being competent to assume the priestly office. 3 Similarly, among the Khonds the office of priest is hereditary, descending usually, but not necessarily, to the eldest son. No absolutely exclusive privilege is, however, transmitted by descent; the priestly office may be assumed by any one who chooses to assert a call to the service of a god. 4 Among the Múndas and other tribes, persons denounced for witchcraft were with all their families put to death »in the belief that witches breed witches and sorcerers.» 5 The Kafirs in Kafiristan have hereditary priests, 6 and so, too, have the Samoyeds. 7 The inhabitants of the Altai district in North Central Asia consider that the vocation of a shaman is involuntarily transmitted by inheritance from the parents to their children like a kind of incubation. 8 Among the Buryats, although anybody can make himself a shaman,
1 Ling Roth, ’Natives of Borneo,' in Jour. Anthr. Inst. xxi. 115. 2 Hickson, A Naturalist in North Celebes, p. 196.
3 Harkness, A Singular Aboriginal Race of the Neilgherry Hills, p. 75.
• Macpherson, 'Report upon the Khonds,' in The Calcutta Review, · v. 58 sq.
5 Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 199.
6. Raverty, 'Notes on Käfiristan,' in Jour, of the As. Soc. of Bengal, xxviii. 364.
7 Krohn, Suomen suvun pakanallinen jumalanpalvelus, p. 83.
as a rule only those belonging to a shaman family assume that office. 1
African and American races provide us with similar instances. It is a Galla belief that magicians obtain their powers by inheritance or by being endowed by God. 2 In Eastern Africa the calling of the Mganga, or rain-doctor, is hereditary, the eldest or cleverest son succeeding to his father's functions. 3 Among the Eskimo a shaman often transmits his vocation to his son, but anybody wlio feels himself to be inspired by the spirits may become a shaman. 4. Of the Waraus in British Guiana we are told that the office of the Piai, or medicineman, runs in the family and is assumed by the eldest son; but if the Piai has no son, he chooses a friend for successor, who has to undergo a long preparation.How among the ancient Hebrews an hereditary priesthood originated has been described by Dr. Maybaum. 6
Among certain peoples who have an hereditary priesthood, the sacerdotal dignity is not assumed by the son of a priest, but by one of the next generation. The Rev. J. Shooter mentions it »a principle understood throughout every tribe of a Kafir-land that none of the children of a prophet can succeed their parent in that profession. It is believed that the requisite discernment and power are denied to them, but may frequently reappear in their descendants of the second generation."
1 Muxaizobckié, 'IllamaHcTBO,' in 13 btctia 06 m. JI 10butene' EcteCTB03 h ahia, etc., lxxv. 74.
2 Paulitschke, Ethnographie Nordost-Afrikas, ii. 62.
• Jacobsen, 'Leben und Treiben der Eskimo,' in Ausland, 1891, p. 637.
5 Schomburgk, Reisen in Britisch-Guiana, i. 172.
? Shooter, Kafirs of Natul, p. 191.
Among the Tshi-speaking peoples in West Africa »the children of a priest or priestess are not ordinarily educated for the priestly profession, one generation being usually passed over, and the grandchildren selected.» 1 Cruickshank wrote regarding the natives of the Gold Coast: – »It is also customary for a Fetishman to bring up his grandchild to his own calling. He passes over his own children, rightly judging that one of a family at a time is sufficient for all the purposes of a fraudulent livelihood; and he concludes that his grandchild will be ready to carry on the game of deceit by the time that his own age will preclude him from taking a very active part in the Fetish ceremonies.» 2
Of other peoples we learn that the priesthood is hereditary, but that the aspirants must, in addition, be qualified by certain necessary endowments. Among the Thlinkets the profession of a shaman is almost always hereditary, being transmitted with all its apparatus to the son or grandson of the shaman. But not everybody who feels so inclined may assume that vocation even though he be the descendant of a shaman, as only those are qualified who can converse with the spirits. It may happen that the children of a shaman in spite of all their efforts cannot get to see a single spirit, while others even against their will are bound to become shamans, as the spirits never leave them in peace. 3 If it happened that a Sioux saw the god of Thunder, or some other mysterious object, he was after some further trial made a member of the order of Thunder shamans and was entitled to wear their peculiar robe. »He could give his son the right to wear such a robe, but unless that son