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CHAPTER X

SURVIVALS OF TOTEMISM

IMPORTANT as totemism is as a stage of religious development, it is almost more important in the history of material civilisation, for totemism was the prime motor of all material progress. Material progress means the accumulation of wealth. Of the various forms which wealth can take, the most important is food, for until food is provided it is impossible to proceed to the production of any other kind of wealth. If the whole time and energies of a community are exhausted in scraping together just enough food to carry on with, there is no leisure or strength left for the production of any other kind of wealth. Now, that is the case in which those nomad clans find themselves who depend for their food upon hunting, fishing, and the gathering of fruits and roots—the “natural basis of subsistence.”i But with those wandering clans which succeed in domesticating the cow, sheep, goat, and other animals, the case is very different. The labour of obtaining food is greatly economised, and the labour thus set free can be employed in the production of those other kinds of wealth which constitute the riches of a pastoral people. When cereals and other food-plants come to be cultivated, and agriculture makes a wandering life no longer possible, food-production is still further quickened, and “the substitution of an artificial for a natural basis of subsistence ” 2 is completed. Until this substitution takes place, civilisation is impossible; and whatever started this substitution, i.e. led to the domestication of plants and animals, started the movement of material progress. Now, of the innumerable species of plants and animals Payne, New World, i. 276.

2 Ibid.

which exist or have existed on the face of the earth, only a relatively very small number are capable of domestication; and before they were brought under cultivation there was nothing whatever in their appearance or in man's scanty experience to indicate that they, and they alone, could be domesticated. How, then, did he light upon exactly those kinds which were capable of cultivation ? Simply by trying all. Those kinds which were incapable of domestication remained wild; the few that could be cultivated became our domestic animals and plants. But though man “ tried” all kinds, he was not aware that he was making experiments, still less that the consequence of his attempts would be the “ domestication ” of certain species. How could he be, when the very idea of “domestic animals” had not yet dawned upon man's mind ? It could, then, have been no consideration of utility, no prospective personal benefit, no foresight of the consequences, that made man all over the globe attempt to domesticate every species of animal that he came across—indeed, he did not know that he was “ domesticating" it. The suggestion that his motive was amusement ? does not supply an adequate cause; granted that amusement might lead a man here and there to capture an animal and try to tame it, we cannot suppose the whole human race in every latitude and on every continent giving itself up to this kind of “amusement," as we must suppose, if we are thus to account for the domestication of animals—to say nothing of plants. And when we bear in mind that the savage is usually incapable of steady, continuous, persistent effort, we shall require a more potent cause than amusement as a motive for the long labour of domestication. But in totemism we have a cause persistent, world-wide, and adequate to account for the facts. The totem animal, not merely an individual but the whole species, is reverenced, protected, and allowed, or rather encouraged to increase and multiply over the whole area traversed by the tribe—and the area

1 The above argument is borrowed from Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty, 243-270. He also recognises the sanctity of certain animals as one of the causes leading to the domestication of animals, but does not mention totemism, and thinks that the savage's habit of making pets is the chief cause.

? Lord Kames, Sketches, bk. i. sk. 1 (Payne, 282).

required for the support of a nomad family is considerable. This treatment is continued for generations, for it is the religion of the tribe. The appearance of the animal is welcomed with rejoicing as the manifestation of the tribal deity, offerings are made to it, and, being free from molestation, it discovers the fact, acquires confidence, and if it has the instinct of domestication, ceases to be wild. In a word, the animal becomes tame—which is a different thing from being tamed.

It may perhaps seem inconsistent with this theory of the origin of an artificial food-supply, that the totem is never consumed as food. But it is not by eating their cattle that a pastoral people become rich, but by abstaining from eating them. The cattle are their capital; the interest thereof, on which they live, consists of the milk and its products. It is not until nomad life is given up and agriculture has provided another and even more abundant source of food, that the community becomes rich enough to afford to eat the flesh of their cattle; and by that time the clan, of which the totem was an honoured member, and to which its flesh was taboo, has itself dissolved and made way for those local organisations which hold a nation together. In the same way, it is not by consuming corn that wheat is grown, but by abstaining from its consumption. To make it an extinct species, all that is required is to consume every ear of corn existing. The savage required no teaching in the art of consumption; it is the lesson of abstinence which it is hard for him to learn. That lesson he was incapable of teaching himself, but totemism taught him. The fact that the agricultural is universally a later stage in the development of civilisation than the pastoral, is, we may conjecture, because animal preceded plant totems: animals have the blood which is necessary for the blood-covenant between the human kin and the totem kind; and it was only later that plants possessing a sap or juice which may act as blood, especially if it is reddish in colour, came to be adopted as totems.

The domestication of plants is a question to which we shall recur in a subsequent chapter, and the reader is requested, therefore, to suspend judgment on this point. But, as it may appear a paradox to assert that men learnt to eat cattle by abstaining from eating them, perhaps a few more words in elucidation should be given. The ordinary theory of the beginnings of domestication is presumably that the hunter, having learnt by experience that beef was good, or that “mountain sheep are sweet,” resolved to spare the young animals and breed from them. To this there are two objections. First, the savage, having practically no thought for the morrow, is habitually reckless and wasteful in consumption, eats all he can, and only goes hunting again when there is absolutely nothing left to eat. Next, as a matter of fact, their cattle are precisely the animals which pastoral peoples do not eat. “The common food of these races is milk or game; cattle are seldom killed for food, and only on exceptional occasions, such as the proclamation of a war,” I etc. Amongst the Zulus the killing of a cow “is seldom and reluctantly done." 2 "A Kaffir does not often slaughter his cattle, except for sacrifice or to celebrate a marriage.” 3 “Every idea and thought of the Dinka is how to acquire and maintain cattle; a kind of reverence would seem to be paid to them ... a cow is never slaughtered, but when sick it is segregated from the rest and carefully tended in the large huts built for the purpose . . . indescribable is the grief when either death or rapine has robbed a Dinka of his cattle. He is prepared to redeem their loss by the heaviest sacrifices, for they are dearer to him than wife or child.” 4 “ Though the Indian women breed fowl and other domestic animals in their cottages, they never eat them ... much less kill them.”5 The Battas of Sumatra (who are totemists) have domesticated “the buffalo, dog, pig, goat, fowl, and horse ; buffaloes and goats, dogs and horses (which latter are carefully fattened), as a rule never serve for food except at

festivals.” 6

It is therefore the ordinary theory of domestication that is paradoxical, for it assumes that man domesticates animals

1 Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 297. ? Ibid. quoting Shaw, Memorials of South Africa, 59. 3 Shooter, Kafirs of Natal, 28. 4 Schweinfurth, Heart of Africa, i. 163. 5 Ulloa, quoted in Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty, 247, 6 Waitz, Anthropologie, v, 1. 183,

for no other purpose than to eat them, and then does not eat them. On the other hand, the view here advanced is that totemism is or has been world-wide-it can be traced in Australia, North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, Polynesia 1—that probably every species of animal has been worshipped as a totem somewhere or other, at some time or other; that, in consequence of the respect paid to them, those animals which were capable of domestication became gradually tame of themselves; and finally, in consequence of changing circumstances—religious, social, and economic—as totemism and the taboo on the flesh of the totem faded away, the habit of eating those domesticated animals which are good for food grew slowly up. The growth of this habit will be traced in the chapter on the Sacrificial Meal. Here, however, one or two points may be noted. If our theory be true, we should expect to find, even amongst those peoples who have taken to eating domesticated animals, traces of reluctance to kill or consume animals which once were forbidden food. Such traces are found. To kill an ox was once a capital offence in Greece, and the word Boubóvia implies that such slaughter was murder.3 In England, it was in Cæsar's time a religious offence to eat fowl (as it was amongst the South American Indians mentioned above in the quotation from Ulloa), goose, or hare ; 4 and yet they were bred, he says. Cæsar feels that there is something strange in this, but (anticipating Lord Kames) he conjectures that the creatures were bred for amusement, “animi voluptatisque causa." But there are two obvious objections to this: first, if they were bred merely for amusement, there could have been no religious offence in eating them ; next, if there was a taboo on eating them, they were not domesticated merely for amusement. Wild animals are undoubtedly commonly kept as pets by savages, but savages have no scruples about killing pets. Thus Captain Speke says, “I was told Suna kept buffaloes, antelopes, and animals of all sorts . . . M'tese,

1 Frazer, Totemism, 91-9.

2 Varro, R. R. ii. 5. 3 Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 306. * Cæs. B. G. v. 12: "gustare fas non putant; haec tamen alunt." 5 Galton, Human Faculty, 243 ff., gives instances.

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