Billeder på siden


of life

in prosperity and adversity, in health and disease, » &c. 1 The inhabitants of the Society Islands . imagined that >they lived in a world of spirits, which șurrounded them night and day, watching every action of their lives, » 2 and of the Pelew Islanders it is reported that, whatever they undertook, they had first to conciliate their god, or rather, to guard themselves against his anger. By the Australian natives every natural phenomenon is believed to be the work of demons, none of which seem of a benign nature.» 4 The Mosquito Indians in Central America considered the Wulasha, or » devil, to be the cause of all misfortunes and contrarieties that happen. 5 The

The Patagonians believe in a great number of demons wandering about the world, and attribute to them all the evil that is done in it, whether to man or beast.» 6

Among the influences that the spirits are believed to exercise upon the condition of mankind, those appearing in certain natural phenomena are worth special consideration. Rain and wind, increase of vegetation and animal life, on which the prosperity of many peoples depends, are among the savages universally ascribed to the action of spirits. By the Tshi-speaking peoples in West Africa, Bobowissi, or the lord of thunder and lightning, was believed to send storms and tornadoes and torrents of rain which destroyed the mud dwellings of the people." Among the Basiba, a tribe living west of the Victoria



St. John, 'Wild Tribes of the North-West Coast of Borneo,' in. Trans. Ethn. Soc. N. S. ii. 239.

? Ellis, Polynesian Researches, i. 406.

Kubary, in Bastian, Allerlei, i. 46.

Oldfield, 'Aborigines of Australia,' in Trans. Ethn. Soc. N. S. iii. 228.

Bancroft, Works, i. 740.

Falkner, Description of Patagonia, p. 116. 1 Ellis, I'shi-speaking Peoples, pp. 22 sq.





Nyanza, the benevolent god is believed to cause rain and make crops and bananas grow, whereas the evil god provokes lightning and storm and prevents the rain from falling.' The K:firs consider that lightning is. governed by the spirit of the greatest of their departed chiefs, 2 and the Hottentots believe thunder to be occasioned by an evil spirit.3 By the Munda Kolhs bad growth is attributed to the

cause. 4 The Khonds have a god of fountains who is invoked when the water dries up, a god of rain and a god of hunting: 5 It is a Veddah belief that their tutelary spirits give them the prey when hunting. The Mantave Islanders believe that the spirits » cause thunder and lightning, heavy winds and rains, conflagrations, inundations and earthquakes.» ? In the Bismarck Archipelago failure of crops and drought are ascribed to the agency of evil spirits. In Boruabi they petition the spirit of some deceased chief to grant them success in fishing, and an abundant crop of bread-fruit and yams.' The Kurnai think that whales are sent ashore for them by the spirits when these monsters happen to be stranded, 10 and similarly the Hudson Bay Eskimo assume that a great



[ocr errors]

1 Stuhlmann, Mit Emin Pascha, p. 726.
? Holden, Past and Future of the Kaffir Races, p. 314.

Thunberg, 'Account of the Cape of Good Hope,’ in Pinkerton,
A General Collection of Voyages and Travels, xvi. 142.

Jellinghaus, 'Munda-Kohls,' in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, iii. 335.

• Macpherson, 'Religious Opinions of the Konds,' in Jour. Roy. As. Soc. vii. 187 sq.

Bailey, 'Wild Tribes of the Veddahs of Ceylon,' in Trans. Ethn.. Soc. N. S. ii. 301.

Logan, 'Ethnography of the Indo-Pacific Archipelagoes,' in Jour. of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, ix. 288.

Parkinson, Im Bismarck-Archipel, p. 142.
9 Cheyne, Western Pacific Ocean, p. 121.
10 Howitt, 'Australian Medicine Men,' in Jour. Anthr. Inst. xvi. 45...

[ocr errors]



spirit controls the reindeer." To the thinking of the ancient Semites the life-giving power of the god was not limited to vegetable nature, but to him also was ascribed the multiplication of flocks and herds, etc. 2 Among the ancient Scandinavians Thor was the god of thunder and favourable showers, and Frej the god of crops and fertile vegetation, and the ancient Finns, again, had a number of gods to whom they ascribed power over different departments of nature including the vegetable and animal worlds. 4

There is, however, one phenomenon which perhaps more than any other impresses the savage with the idea of a supernatural origin. This is the phenomenon of illness and death. It is a fact, of which there are found innumerable instances in all parts of the world, that the savage cannot, as a rule, form a proper conception of illness, and that he is equally at a loss before the mystery of death. Yet, over and over again, cases of disease and death come before his eyes. Under such circumstances, will not the belief that illness and death are due to supernatural causes be intelligible enough?

The notions of uncivilized and semi-civilized peoples in regard to these mysteries are well known to science. Lord Avebury, 5 Dr. Tylor, 6 Dr. Bartels 7 and Dr. Jevons 8 have treated this subject and have collected numerous facts showing how wild people look upon and understand it. Therefore we need not add any fresh instances, but may content ourselves with referring to those quoted by


1 Turner, 'Ethnology of the Ungava District, Hudson Bay Territory,' in Smithsonian Reports, xi. 200.

Robertson Smith, Lectures on the Rtligion of the Semites, p. 107.
3 Sundén, Öfversigt af nordiska mytologin, pp. 36, 65.
+ Porthan, Tutkimuksia, pp. 129–151.

Avebury, Origin of Civilization, pp. 25—29, 236 sq.
Tylor, l'rimitive Cu re, ii. 126-131.

Bartels, Medicin der Naturvölker, pp. 11–44.
8 Jevons, Introduction to the History of Religion, pp. 44 sqq.




the savants just mentioned. We have only to observe that among savage peoples two different conceptions are met with as to the nature of disease and death. According to the one, gods or spirits, for different reasons and in different ways, cause these two evils among men. Agreeably to the other conception, the phenomena have their origin in the magical machinations of evil-doers. So deeply rooted are these ideas among wild races, that several peoples are stated invariably to ascribe all disease and death either to the agency of spirits or to witchcraft.

Obviously, the universal conviction among savages that the whole of nature as well as any prosperity in life is governed by supernatural agencies has effectively contributed to the origin of priesthood. So far as the belief in the influence of spiritual beings and the efficacy of magic has extended, so far extends also the need of » wise aven» acquainted with the wishes of the gods or skilled in the practice of the black art. People require the services of those able to take the lead in their mysterious ceremonies, hence the great importance attached to priesthood. So long as the people enjoy the protection of their priests, they need not fear the omnipotent gods, since the vengeance of the latter can be averted by the insight and power of the former. From this, it will be perceived what an important part the priests play in early society and how urgently their help is needed in all circumstances of life.

In many cases savages think themselves unable to communicate directly with the gods. Acknowledging their inferiority in this respect, they regard the priests as the only mediators between them and the supreme powers. The priests are their only protectors; without the priesthood the ignorant population would be abandoned to all the misfortunes arising from the anger of the gods or from witchcraft. Thus we read of the Kafirs that their belief in > bewitching matter» produces the most distressing superstitious dread. »Hence the witch doctor or priest is a felt necessity; some one to go between, and turn aside threatened vengeance. The priests are the only recognized men who can appease the gods and remove the calamities sent by them.' The Ipurina Indians in Brazil think their wizards are alone able to conjure the spirits, &c., 2 and similarly by the Hudson Bay Eskimo only the shaman is supposed to be able to deal with the great evil spirit.3 By means of their Angakoks the Greenlanders expect advantage from supernatural beings. * Castrén says, respecting the shamans of the ancient Finns, that they were able to communicate with the spirits, whereas the supernatural world was shut up for ordinary people.

A legend of the Buryats tells us that the first shamans were sent by the gods to men for the particular purpose of protecting them against the evil spirits. Mr. Rowney states of the Oráons or Dhángurs in Chota Nagpore that the chief duty of their priests is to look after and regulate the precautionary measures to be taken against the malignant spirits." We are told concerning the Tarahumare, a Mexican tribe, that without their shamans they would feel lost both in this life and after death:8 And respecting certain Indians of Guiana Mr. Im Thurn says: — » It is almost impossible to over-estimate the dreadful sense of constant and unavoidable danger


1 Holden, l'ast and Future of the Kaffir Races, pp. 284, 301.
? Ehrenreich, Beiträge zur Völkerkunde Brasiliens, p. 68.

3 Turner, 'Ethnology of the Ungava District, Hudson Bay Territory," in Smithsonian Reports, xi. 194.

+ Nansen, Eskimolir, p. 210.

Castrén, Nordiska resor och forskningar, iii. 197—99.

в Агапитовъ and Хангаловъ, 'Шаманство у Бурятъ, in Извѣстія В.-Сиб Отд. Геогр. Общ. xiv. 41.

Rowney, Wild Tribes of India, p. 82. & Lumholtz, Unknown. Mexico, i. 311.



« ForrigeFortsæt »