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CHAPTER V

LIFE AND DEATH

ACCORDING to the view advanced in the previous chapters, the belief that all natural phenomena have life, and that all the many changes in nature are due to a will or wills similar to man's, does not necessarily imply any belief in the supernatural. The sequences of events which this piece of primitive philosophy seeks to explain are themselves, ex hypothesi, uniform, familiar, in a word natural, not supernatural; and the explanation itself consists in assimilating the things explained not to anything supernatural or superhuman, but to something essentially characteristic of human nature. The sentiment of the supernatural is not aroused by events which happen as they were expected to happen, but by some mysterious and unaccountable deviation from the ordinary course of nature. It is specifically distinct also from the terror which dangers inspire, or the respect and admiration which the strength of the greater carnivora may have exacted from primitive man; and it seems psychologically inadmissible, on the one hand, to derive it from any of these feelings, and, on the other, to confound it either with fear or with gratitude ; for though each of these latter two emotions may go with it, neither is indispensable to it.

But though no belief in the supernatural is necessarily implied in the view that all things which affect man possess life, still the two beliefs seem to have been universally combined in varying degrees. This combination is, I suggest, the first great step in or towards the evolution of religion. The second great step was that which settled the terms on which man was to live with the supernatural beings by whom he was surrounded. Those terms could only be terms either of hostility or of friendship; indifference towards the powers with whom it lay to thwart man's most cherished hopes, and even his efforts to effect his own selfpreservation, was an impossible attitude. But permanent resistance to such powers was an attitude equally impossible. Primitive man in his struggle for existence must have suffered so many defeats, his generalisations must have been so often upset, his forecasts of the immediate future so often disappointed, as perpetually to strengthen the belief that amongst the forces against which he was contending there were many that were irresistible, supernatural. That, relying upon magic, he thought to combat and actually to coerce the supernatural beings that he had to deal with, is difficult to believe. Much that civilised man regards as magic is regarded by those who practise it not as sorcery but as science, and its practice implies no intention to put constraint upon supernatural beings. Of the practices which are in intention magical, some are in their origin “sympathetic” (i.e. pieces of savage science), and the rest are perversions or parodies of acts of true worship; but both classes presuppose the conception of the supernatural: the latter by the terms of its definition, the former because it could not be used to constrain supernatural beings until the beings to whom it was applied came to be thought supernatural. In fine, both classes are subsequent in development to the establishment of those permanent friendly relations between worshipper and God in which worship takes its rise. Again, in conjectures about primitive man, we argue back from existing savages; now, many of the cases in which savages have been reported to apply constraint to their gods and inflict punishment upon them, prove to be due to misunderstanding—as we shall see in a subsequent chapter on Fetishism-for the savage's terror of the supernatural is too great to allow him wantonly to provoke its anger. We may therefore reasonably doubt whether all the supposed cases of coercion are not due to error in observation; at anyrate we may confidently assert that there is no tribe existing whose attitude towards the supernatural is one of hostility pure and simple, and whose faith is placed in magic alone, as there must once have been, if they are right who hold that magic first existed and then religion was developed out of it. Be that as it may, even those who maintain that man started by considering himself and his own magical powers capable of coercing the gods, admit that finally facts corrected that vain opinion—in other words, that hostility towards the supernatural was not a permanently possible attitude for man.

Whether man's attitude towards the supernatural has or has not ever at any period been one of complete hostility, at anyrate there came a time when he established friendly relations with some of the supernatural powers by which he was surrounded ; and the business of this chapter is to conjecture what may have suggested to him the idea of forming an alliance with the particular supernatural spirit whose help and favour he desired. For, desirable as such an alliance must have appeared, the question how to effect it cannot have been easy to answer. The idea of alliance at all, like most other ideas, is more likely to have been suggested to man by some fact in his experience than to have been manufactured by him either a priori or ex nihilo. We have therefore to seek amongst the familiar facts of primitive man's experience for something capable of suggesting to his mind the possibility and the mode of gaining the friendship and favour of a supernatural spirit. To do this, it will be well to examine his views on spirits.

Hitherto all that it has been necessary to assume for the purpose of the previous chapters has been that man believed the gliding streams, the swaying trees, etc., to be living things like himself, and having the same kind of personality as himself. How he conceived that personality we have not yet considered, but must consider now. As Professor Tylor has demonstrated with abundant illustrations in his Primitive Culture, dreams supply the principal factor in the formation of the savage's conception of his own spirit. His dream - experiences are to him real in exactly the same way and degree as anything he does or suffers in his waking moments: the places he visits are the real places, the persons he sees the real persons. Hence a dilenıma and its solution. The dilemma is that at the time when he knows from actual experience in a dream) that he was in a far country, his friends can testify that he was in his own bed. The solution is that both he and his friends were right: his body was in bed, but his spirit was away. As for the appearance of his spirit, it is the counterpart or double of himself (his body), for he has himself in dreams met the spirits of friends who in the flesh) were far away, and has recognised them. As for the nature or constitution of the spirit, it is essentially unsubstantial, and hence it is commonly called by some word which means “breath” (spirit, spiritus, animus, soul, etc.), or "shade” (umbra, okia, etc.). Or, as its usual place of abode is inside the man, it may be identified with one of the internal organs and called the “heart" or "midriff.” Or, again, it is the “ life," because in its merely temporary absence the sleeping body presents the appearance of an almost lifeless body; or it is the blood, because “the blood is the life," and when blood is shed, life departs. Or, finally, it may at one and the same time be all these things; and so a man may have, as amongst the Romans, four souls, or, as amongst savages, even more.

The savage is thus equipped with an explanation of sleep, death, and disease. Sleep is due to the temporary absence of the spirit from the body—hence the belief that it is dangerous to wake a sleeper suddenly and before his spirit has had time to return to his body. Death is caused by, or consists in, the permanent absence from the body of the spirit. Illness is the threatened departure of the spirit. Hence the remedy for illness is to tempt the wavering, and as yet hesitating, spirit to return to its body. This may be done in various ways, as, for instance, by making a display of all the patient's best clothes, or by rehearsing the pains and penalties incurred by spirits who wilfully desert their true and lawful bodies. On the Congo, “health is identified with the word “Moyo' (spirit, Lower Congo), and in cases of wasting sickness, the Moyo is supposed to have wandered away from the sufferer. In these cases a search party is sometimes led by a charm doctor, and branches, land-shells, or stones are collected. The charm doctor will then perform a series of passes between the sick man and the collected articles. This ceremony is called vutulanga moyo (the returning of the spirit).”1 In Celebes, the Topantunuasu whip the patient soundly, in order that the spirit may feel sorry for its poor body, and return to it to save it from further castigation. In Ambon and the Uliase Islands the medicine-man flaps a branch about, calling out the sick man's name, until he has caught the wandering soul in the branch; he then strikes the patient's body and head with the branch, and thus restores his soul to him. In Nias, the departing soul is visible to the medicine-man alone; he catches it with a cloth, then with the cloth rubs the forehead and breast of the patient, and thus saves him. The Haidah Indians have soul-catchers, bone implements for catching the patient's soul when it tries to fly away, specimens of which may be seen in the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde. Where, as in Sarawak, the spirit or life is believed to reside, not in the blood or the heart, but in the head or the hair, and the soul has deserted the patient, he is cured by the restoration of his soul in the shape of a bundle of hair. So, too, in Ceram, the hair may not be cut because it is the seat of the man's strength; the Gaboon negroes, for the same reason, will not allow any of their hair to pass into the possession of a stranger; and the same belief apparently prevailed in Rome, “unguium Dialis et capilli segmina subter arborem felicem terra operiuntur.” ?

1 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxiv. 287. The method by which, among the Burats, a shaman restores a sick man bis soul is described, ibid. 128. 1 Bartels, Medicin der Naturvölker, 201-3. ? Bastian, Allerlei, i. 401. Cf. Num. vi. 5, 18, and Judg. xvi. 17, 3 Ellis, Ewe-speaking Peoples, 156.

Even when the sick man is really dead, there is uncertainty whether the soul is for ever fled; there is the possibility that it may return." It is in consequence of the belief,” amongst the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast, " that the soul does occasionally return after leaving the body, that appeals to the dead to come back are always made immediately after death; and, generally speaking, it is only when the corpse begins to become corrupt, and the relatives thereby become certain that the soul does not intend to return, that it is buried.”3 So, too, on the Gold Coast, “all the most valuable articles belonging to the deceased are placed round the corpse, and the dish that was most preferred in life is prepared and placed before it; the wailing being interrupted every now and then, to allow the widows to

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