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As for cannibalism : it is not sufficiently general or uniform in its manifestations to allow of any general statement with regard to it. Sometimes it is religious in intention, sometimes the alternative to starvation ; sometimes it is due to a perverted taste for food, sometimes it is practised medicinally; here it is only clansmen that are eaten, there only aliens. The cases in which it is religious in intention have been discussed in a previous chapter. They are highly exceptional, and need not detain us. Nor need we do more than note that “the negro man-eater certainly takes human flesh as food purely and simply, and not from any religious or superstitious reason.”? The Caribs bred children as a food-supply of this kind, as they might poultry. That the belief in the possibility of acquiring the courage or other attributes of an animal or man by consuming his or its flesh, does lead to cannibalism in some cases, may be taken as proved ; 8 in such cases it is only selected portions of the body that are consumed, and those “medicinally,” not as food. That some peoples eat only aliens is undoubted; and the rigour of the restriction is illustrated by an incident that happened recently on the Congo, where “one man, who (Australian Aborigines, p. iv.), who are sometimes ranked as the lowest of savages : “It may be truly said of them, that, with the exception of the low estimate they naturally place on life, their moral character and modesty-all things considered-compare favourably with those of the most highly cultivated communities of Europe"; if those who doubt this were themselves “to listen to their guileless conversation, their humour and wit, and their expressions of honour and affection for one another," they would have to admit “ that they are at least equal, if not superior, to the general run of white men." Still lower in the scale of humanity are the Shoshones (California): “ Those who have seen them unanimously agree that they of all men are lowest ... having no clothes, scarcely any cooked food, in many instances no weapons ” (Bancroft, Native Races, i. 440). Yet one traveller says, “They are very rigid in their morals,” and “honest and trustworthy, but lazy and dirty" ; another, that they are “frank and communicative"; another, "highly intelligent and lively ... the most virtuous and unsophisticated of all the Indians”; another, "the most pure and uncorrupted aborigines ... scrupulously clean ... and chaste in their habits.” Of the Dinka, Schweinfurth says (Heart of Africa, i. 169), “Notwithstanding that certain instances may be alleged which seem to demonstrate that the character of the Dinka is unfeeling, these cases never refer to such as are bound by the ties of kindred ... the accusation is quite unjustifiable that family affection, in our sense, is at a low ebb among them.”
* Supra, p. 161. * Captain Hinde, speaking at the British Association, 1895. 3 Folk-Lore, June 1892 (Hartland, The Sin-Eater).
was placed on sentry-go, shot his own father, and then expressed regret, because by the rule of the tribe he could not eat the body of his parent.” 1
Finally, there are instances in which only members of the tribe are eaten. This practice is reported by Herodotus? of the Padæi - probably the Gônda of the Northern Dekkan, who still maintain the custom-and his statement, that few of them attain to old age, because a man is at once killed when he shows symptoms of illness, is curiously confirmed by the words of Captain Hinde, speaking of a different race: “On the Lomami River no grey hairs were to be seen, because the adults were eaten when they began to manifest signs of decrepitude.” We may therefore believe Herodotus when he makes the same statement of the Massagetæ, especially as the mode of consumption described by him reappears amongst the Bangala ; 4 and of the Issedones, whose treatment of the bones of the deceased finds its parallel in the remarkable discoveries made just now in Egypt by Dr. Flinders Petrie; and whose invitations to friends to partake in the feast are paralleled by a similar custom in Luzon. It is not, therefore, à priori improbable that the Irish followed the custom, as Strabo reports, especially as it is said to have been found amongst another branch of the Aryan peoples, the Wends. It occurs also in the Uaaupés Valley, South America, amongst the Battas of Sumatra, the Kookies, the inhabitants of Sindai and of the Floris Islands,10 and the Australians.11 The Quissamas kill and eat criminals of their own tribe. 12 In Francis Island, " thieves were killed and their bodies eaten—only in such cases was there cannibalism.” 18
To understand the custom, we must place ourselves at the savage point of view. We must remember the savage's habitual disregard for human life, and that amongst nomads, compelled by the severity of the struggle for existence to abandon the aged who cannot keep up with the enforced
* Captain Hinde, loc. cit. 2 Hdt. iii. 99. 8 Hdt. i. 216. 4 Schneider, Rolig. d. Afrik. Naturrölker, 135.
5 Hdt. iv. 26. * Bastian, Oest, Asien, v. 272. 7 Strabo, iv. v. 4. Bastian, loc. cit. 9 Wallace, On the Amazon,3 316.
10 Bastian, loc. cit. nl Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxiv, 182, 196. 13 Ibid. i. 187.
18 Turner, Samoa, 300.
marches of the tribe, the aged meet their fate voluntarily, manfully, and without any sense of hardship. Next, strange as at first sight it may appear, eating aged relatives neither implies want of respect to them nor prevents them from being worshipped after death. The evidence is clear on both points. Strabo says of the Irish that they regard it as an honour; Herodotus, that the Massagetæ consider it “the happiest issue,” and count it a misfortune when disease prevents them from “attaining to sacrifice"; the Issedones gilded the skull and made yearly offerings to it. Throughout, the words of Herodotus, as Stein remarks ad locc., imply ceremonial killing and the solemnity of sacrifice. In fine, the custom is probably simply one of the savage's attempts “ to make sure that the corpse is properly disposed of, and can no longer be a source of danger to the living, but rather of blessing.”? By this disposal of it, the life of the clan is, according to savage notions, kept within the clan; the good attributes of the dead man are communicated to his kin; and his spirit is not set adrift to wander homeless abroad—if it were so cut off from the ties uniting it to the clan, it would become dangerous : hence, even when inhumation has become usual, the ancient practice of eating survives, amongst the Quissamas and in Francis Island, in the case of criminals, whose spirits, owing to their dangerous propensities, are especially likely to give trouble, if they are not treated in the ancient and more respectful manner. Where the dog was the totem animal
—and as the dog is the commonest and earliest domesticated animal, he must have been a common totem—these same ends would be secured by making him, as a member of the clan, consumne the body; and this may be the origin of the practice of giving corpses to be devoured by dogs, a practice which is common to the Northern Mongolians, the Parthians,4 the Hyrcanians, the ancient Persians, and has left its traces amongst the Parsis : “ their funeral ritual requires that when a corpse is brought to the Dakhmá, or the place where it is to be given up to the vultures, it should first be exhibited to one or more dogs . . . this ceremonial is called Sagdid (Vendidad Farg. vii. 3). That this is a relic of the former detestable custom, is evident from the fact of the said Scriptures enjoining the exposure of corpses that dogs and carrion birds may see and devour them (Vendidad Farg. v. 73, 74).”
1 Hdt. iv. 26.
2 Robertson Smith, Religion of the Scmites, 370. Prejvalsky, Mongolia, i. 14.
* Justin, xli. 3. 5 Cic. Quart. Tusc. i. 45.
6 Hdt. i. 140.
Where the relatives could not or would not adopt either of these modes, the corpse, which is one of the things inherently taboo, had to be isolated in some manner. There were various ways of effecting this isolation : inhumation—which prevented the ghost from swelling the “inops inhumataque turba” of spirits—and cremation need no illustration. The practice of abandoning the house or room in which the corpse lay, and thus isolating it, has been illustrated already. But the custom of suspending the corpse between heaven and earth for the same purpose is not so familiar. It is found, however, amongst the Australians : “a stage consisting of boughs is built in the branches of a tree, the corpse placed thereon and covered with boughs." 4 It is practised by the Aleuts, the Mandans, the Santa Fé tribes, the Dacotahs, the Western Ojibways, the Assiniboins, and on the Columbia River.6 Amongst the Samoyedes, the bones of a dead shaman are put in a tree; and in Equatorial Africa, Mbruo, a rainmaker, "selected for his tomb an old tree, being possessed by an idea that it was indecorous for a prince to be placed in contact with the earth; and he gave orders that the upper part of the tree was to be hollowed out lengthwise, and his body placed inside it in an upright position.”?
In conclusion, the reader may have noticed that there is one class of offerings (weapons, implements, utensils, etc.) of which no mention has been made in this chapter. The fact is they differ in nothing from the offerings, e.g. of food, which have been discussed : the ghost requires them, as he does food, and is dependent for them on the living. Eventually, however, owing to the analogy of certain features in the ritual of the gods, they come to be interpreted as gifts to
1 Rajendralála Mitra, Indo-Aryans, ii. 102. ? Supra, p. 76.
3 Supra, p. 77. * Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 178 ; cf. 182, 186, 195. 5 Bancroft, Native Races, i. 93. 6 Dorman, Prim. Superstitions, 168. 7 Casati, Equatoria, i. 170.
appease the manes. But these features, and the “gift theory of sacrifice” to which they give rise, cannot be adequately explained until we come to see the influence of agricultural beliefs on religion—the subject of our next chapter. Here, therefore, we will content ourselves with noting that the theory that the things so given to the deceased are things which belonged to him and to which his ghost might cling, does not account for the fact that in neolithic interments the flint implements, etc., are perfectly unused, and that the Ojibway Indians place new guns and blankets on the grave in case the deceased's own are old or inferior. The motive, therefore, is not fear of the clinging ghost.
1 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 112.