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to develop did not originate in fear, and that the spirit of a deceased kinsman was not a mere evil spirit, is a contention in support of which some arguments have been already adduced in Chapter V.; and which is also supported by the examination of some other customs not mentioned in that chapter--for instance, that of blood-letting at the grave. Thus, in Australia, “members of the tribe stand or kneel over the body in turns, and with a large boomerang they strike each other on the head till a quantity of blood flows over the body”i In Central Australia, “they beat their heads until the blood flows, and weep bitterly, if a near relation.”2 In the Northern Territory of South Australia, " the women score their heads and thighs till the blood flows freely ... the men score their thighs only.”3 Elsewhere in South Australia, “besides weeping and howling, the female relatives make numerous superficial incisions upon the thigh from 6 to 12 inches long.” 4 In the New World, at a funeral, the Dacotahs "gash their legs and arms,” 6 and as for the Crows, “ blood was streaming from every conceivable part of the bodies of all.” @ In the semi-civilisation of Central America, the Aztecs“ mangled their flesh as if it had been insensible, and let their blood run in profusion.”? In South America, Brazilian aborigines cut off fingers, and the same mutilation appears in Fiji: “his little finger had been cut off in token of affection for his deceased father.”8 The Scyths wounded the lobes of their ears at their king's death.' In the New Hebrides, the wounding took a less severe forin: " they scratched their faces till they streamed with blood.” 10 In Rome, the women scratched their faces till the blood ran.'1 In Tahiti, it sufficed to smear some blood on a rag and drop the rag in the grave. 12 In Tanna, it was enough if the face of the corpse, instead of being smeared with the relatives' blood, was painted red. In West Africa, it was the relatives (wives) who were painted on this occasion.2
Journal of Anthropological Institute, xxiv. 187. ? Ibid. 183. 3 Ibid. 178.
* Ibid. 185. 5 Dorman, Primitive Superstitions, 217. Ibid. 7 Ibid. 218. 8 Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, i. 177. 9 Bastian, Der Mensch, ii. 328.
10 Turner, Samoa, 335. 11 Cic. de Leg. 2, 23, 59; 25, 64; Festus, s.v. radere ; Plin. M. H. 11, 37, 157 ; Propert. 3. 13b, 11 ; Serv. ad Aen. iii. 67, v. 78, xii. 606 ; Roscher's Lexikon, ii. 238.
12 Bastian, loc. cit.
To interpret this ceremony as due to fear and as an indication that the spirit of the deceased is regarded as an evil spirit, would be unreasonable on two accounts. First, the ceremony is always associated with demonstrations of grief, and therefore probably adds volume to the flow of that emotion, whereas fear would check it. Next, death is not the only occasion on which the blood of the tribe is applied to the body of a clansman: at birth, at the dawn of manhood," and at marriage, the same ceremony is observed, and it is reasonable, therefore, to suppose that it has the same intention. On those occasions the object is to communicate the blood which is the life of the clan to the clansman when he has especial need of it. I would suggest, therefore, that originally the blood-letting rite at the grave was one of the various devices, described in Chapter V., for retaining or recalling the life which was on the point of leaving, or had left, perhaps not beyond recall, its earthly tenement; and that the blood was intended to strengthen the bond between the clansman and his clan at a time when it was obviously tending to snap.
But as the outward acts which constitute the ceremony tend by a natural process to become less revolting and less cruel until eventually the actual effusion of blood is dispensed with, and some other colouring matter takes its place; so the feeling and the ideas of which the outward act was the expression, tend to change with changing circumstances. When this demonstration of grief and of affection has become conventional, the neglect of it inevitably comes to be regarded as a want of respect to the deceased, and the performance of it is regarded no longer as a crude attempt to give fresh life to the deceased, but as something done to please him. Hence, in the Tonga Islands, they “wound the head and cut the flesh in various parts with knives, shells, clubs, spears, etc., in honour of the deceased”;and in Samoa the blood is regarded as an offering to the dead. “Doleful cries are
Turner, Polynesia, 93.
? Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples, 268. 3 Supra, p. 76. Supra, p. 103.
Supra, p. 171. 6 Mariner, Tonga Islands, ii. 212.
accompanied by the most frantic expressions of grief, such as rending garments, tearing the hair, thumping the face and eyes, burning the body with small piercing firebrands, beating the head with stones till the blood runs; and this they called an offering of blood' for the dead. Everyone acquainted with the historical parts of the Bible will here observe remarkable coincidences."1 But offerings of the worshipper's blood are, as we have seen,? made to gods, and the scars which the operation leaves, or the tattooing to which it leads, are interpreted as marks showing that the worshipper is under the protection of the god to whom the offering has been made. When, therefore, as in Australia, “ widows as a rule have a number of cuts made on their back as a sign of mourning,"4 and the blood shed by the relatives comes to be regarded as an offering “to” the deceased, there is an obvious danger of the ceremony coming to be considered as worship of the deceased, by those who practise it as a matter of custom, and explain it by obvious, and incorrect, analogies. Hence it was forbidden to the Hebrews : “ Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord,” 5 whereas the cuttings and marks would imply that the dead man was as Jehovah to those who made the cuttings in their flesh. Where, however, the tendency was not thus checked, i.e. everywhere else, ancestorworship was free to develop; but its development required the co-operation of other causes, which we shall shortly set forth. But first it is necessary to consider the very interesting question of the hair-offering.
The fact that mourners all over the world do cut off their hair and shave their heads, is well established. The reason for their doing so is disputed. Mr. Frazer ® regards the proceeding as a means of disinfecting the mourners from the taboo contagion, analogous to the breaking of the vessels used by a taboo person. The late Professor Robertson Smith ? regarded it as an offering of the hair, in which, as in the blood, the life of the individual is commonly believed to reside. The two views, however, are not irreconcilable, and the analogy of the blood-offering, as explained in our last paragraph, enables us to combine them. Originally, the hair was cut off at once in order that it might not catch and convey the taboo infection: the hair was not an offering to the deceased, any more than the blood of the clan, which was communicated in order to revivify him, was an offering in his honour. Then the custom is continued even when the reason is forgotten ; and meanwhile the practice has grown up of commending one's individual prayers and fortunes to the gods by offering one's blood or hair to them. Finally, the mourning custom, the original reason of which has been forgotten, calls for explanation, and is explained on the analogy of the offerings to the gods. That it is so explained by those who practise it, is clear from examples of the custom, in which it is done in honour of or “ for” the deceased. That originally it was a measure of disinfection, is clear from the fact that it is observed in cases where the theory of an offering is quite inapplicable.?
* The Rev. G. Turner, Polynesia, i. 227. ? Supra, p. 170.
3 Supra, p. 172. * Journal of Anthropological Institute, xxiv. 195.
Lev. xix. 28. & Golden Bough, i. 206–7.
? Religion of the Semites, 325 ff.
The history of food-offerings to the dead is, on the theory here suggested, exactly parallel to that of hair and bloodofferings. Originally, the dead were supposed to suffer from hunger and thirst as the living do, and to require food for which they were dependent on the living. Eventually, the funeral feasts were interpreted on the analogy of those at which the gods feasted with their worshippers—and the dead were now no longer dependent on the living, but on a level with the gods. The food-offering is, however, more interesting in one way than the offerings of blood or hair: it enables us to date ancestor-worship relatively. It was not until agricultural times that the sacrificial rite became the cheerful feast at which the bonds of fellowship were renewed between the god and his worshippers. It could not therefore have been until agricultural times that the funeral feast came to be interpreted on the analogy of the sacrificial feast.
Offerings of food, hair, and blood, then, are elements both of the rites for the dead and of the worship of the gods. But they do not together constitute ancestor-worship: they are its elements—as yet, however, held in suspension and * Supra, p. 192.
Frazer, loc. cit.
8 Supra, p. 159.
waiting for something to precipitate them. In other words, worship in any proper sense of the word implies worshippers, united either by the natural bond of blood or by the artificial bond of initiation. In the case of ancestor-worship, the body of worshippers is supplied by the family and united by the natural bond of blood. But the family is a comparatively late institution in the history of society. It does not come into existence until nomad life has been given up. A nomad society, to maintain itself in the struggle for existence at all, must consist of a larger group than that of parents and children, i.e. two generations; and in the patriarchal form, the group consists of three or four generations. It is not until the comparative safety of settled life and of village communities has been attained, that it is possible for a son, as soon as he marries, to sever himself from the group into which he was born, and become the founder of a family. In nomad times, he and his wife and children are not a family, but members of the group to which he belongs by birth : they do not form a separate organism or institution, having separate interests from the rest of the community, regulating its own affairs. Thus once more we are brought to the period of settled, agricultural life as the earliest time at which the “worship” of ancestors begins."
When ancestor-worship is established as a private cult, it, like other private cults, is steadily assimilated in form, in its rites and ceremonies, to the public worship of the gods. The animals which provided the food that the deceased originally was supposed to consume, are now sacrificed according to the ritual observed in sacrificing animals to the gods. In West Africa, “water and rum are poured on the grave, and the blood of living sacrifices, who are killed on the spot, is sprinkled on it.” 2 In Equatorial Africa, “the son who succeeds the deceased in power immolates an ox on the grave.”3 Amongst the Basutos an ox was slaughtered on the grave as soon as the deceased was
1 “But the worship of ancestors is not primal. The comparatively late recognition of kinship by savages, among whom some rude form of religion existed, tells against it as the earliest mode of worship."-Clodd, Myths and Dreams, 2 113.
? Ellis, Ewe-speaking Peoples, 112.