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embalm the body of the deceased and make images of the dead man ; in Greece and Aryan India the main motive for marriage was, and in China is, anxiety to provide descendants competent to continue the rites on which the post-mortem welfare of the deceased depends; and amongst savages generally the belief is that the dead stand in actual need of the food that is offered to them. But, as a matter of fact, there are grounds for believing that it was to another quarter altogether than ancestral spirits that man looked in his attempts to locate the supernatural in the external world. This point will be fully discussed in a later chapter.
In the next place, if, as is here argued, man's communion with the spirits of his dead suggested the possibility of communication with other and supernatural spirits, then it is intelligible that, if ever the ritual for approaching both classes of spirits came to be the same, the similarity would eventually react to the advantage and increased honour of the spirits of the dead. The acts which constituted worship in the case of the supernatural spirit would not differ from those in which affection for a deceased father found its natural expression; and consequently, not differing, would come to be worship in the case of the deceased ancestor also. Thus, on this guess, ancestor-worship is secondary on and a by-product of the act of worship in the proper sense (i.e. the worship of a god).
To restate the argument: (1) The family-feast held immediately after the death of the deceased and repeated at intervals afterwards, and the other offerings of food to the deceased, are not originally acts of worship; (2) the same sort of offerings and festivals come to be employed in the case of supernatural spirits and to constitute the (external) worship of those spirits ; (3) the offerings to the spirits of the dead then become ancestor-worship. This argument depends for its validity largely on the identity, here alleged, of the ritual for approaching spirits of the dead and supernatural spirits. The identity cannot be exhibited fully until the act of "worship" in the proper sense has been—as in a later chapter it will be—fully set forth; and the reader is accordingly requested to suspend his final judgment on the question till the full evidence is before him. There are, however, some outstanding points to consider before we can
proceed to consider this evidence. For instance, it will have struck some readers as a serious omission that no reference has been made in this discussion to the “uncleanness” which is very generally, if not universally, considered to attach to a corpse and to all who come in contact with it an omission all the more serious because this “taboo ” has been explained as due to fear lest the spirit of the deceased should lodge on the person who touches the dead body. The omission, however, has been intentional, and the reasons for it are twofold. First, whatever the theory of this taboo, in practice the taboo may and does coexist with love for and confidence in the spirit of the deceased. Thus amongst the Pelew Islanders, who, as has been said already, have no fear of the ghosts of their own people, “ because of the good understanding which exists between the family and its own ghosts,” the relatives of the deceased are “unclean " for several days. In Samoa, where the natural affection for the deceased finds touching expression, “those who attended the deceased were most careful not to handle food, and for days were fed by others as if they were helpless infants . . . fasting was common at such times, and they who did so ate nothing during the day, but had a meal at night; reminding us,” says the Rev. G. Turner, 3 “ of what David said when mourning the death of Abner: 'So do God to me and more also, if I taste bread or ought else till the sun be down. The fifth day was a day of purification. They bathed the face and hands with hot water, and then they were 'clean,' and resumed the usual time and mode of eating.” On the Gold Coast, where the wives of the deceased try to tempt his soul to return by offering him his favourite dish, “those persons who have touched the corpse are considered unclean; and after the interment, they go in procession to the nearest well or brook, and sprinkle themselves with water, which is the ordinary native mode of purification.” 4 In ancient Greece, also, where ancestors were worshipped, the relatives were tabooed. In China, too, where the spirit, so far from being feared, was, as in Bonny, invited to return, the corpse is or was taboo; for we may infer from the question in The Li Ki,1 “Whoever being engaged with the mourning rites for a parent bathed his head or body?” that the period of the mourning rites was a time of “uncleanness” for the son.
* I have not been able to see the paper in which this explanation is put forth ; but cf. Frazer, Golden Bough, i. 154. 2 Kubary in Allerlei, i. 6.
3 Nineteen Years in Polynesia, 228. 4 Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples, 241.
5 See my paper, “Funeral Laws and Folk-Lore in Greece,” in the Classical Review for June 1895, for instances.
It seems, therefore, that even if we were to admit that this species of “uncleanness" originated in a savage theory that the soul might settle on the “unclean,” we could not infer that deceased spirits were feared wherever this taboo was found to exist. Next—and this is the second reason why no reference has been previously made to this important set of facts—there are several kinds of taboo, of which the corpse-taboo is only one, and it seems proper to employ the comparative method and consider the various kinds together. We may thus perhaps avoid one-sided conclusions, and get a general view, if not a general theory, of the subject. The next chapter, therefore, deals with taboo.
Leyge's translation (Sacred Books of the East), 181.
TABOO : ITS TRANSMISSIBILITY
Taboo is a Polynesian word, said to mean “strongly marked”; but though the word is Polynesian, the institution is universal.1 Things are taboo which are thought to be dangerous to handle or to have to do with : things “holy” and things “ unclean”. are alike taboo; the dead body, the new-born child; blood and the shedder of blood; the divine king as well as the criminal; the sick, outcasts, and foreigners; animals as well as men; women especially, the married woman as well as the sacred virgin ; food, clothes, vessels, property, house, bed, canoes, the threshing-floor, the winnowing fan; a name, a word, a day; all are or may be taboo because dangerous. This short list does not contain one-hundredth part of the things which are supposed to be dangerous; but even if it were filled out and made tolerably complete, it would, by itself, fail to give any idea of the actual extent and importance of the institution of taboo. If it were merely bodily contact with the person or thing tabooed which entailed danger, it would be sufficiently difficult for the savage to avoid unintentionally touching some of all the many things taboo. But the difficulty and danger are multiplied by the fact that involuntarily to catch sight of the tabooed object, or to be seen by the tabooed person, is as dangerous as to
The best collections of facts are, for Polynesia, Waitz-Gerland, Anthropologie, vi. 343 ff.; for food-taboos, A. E. Crawley in Folk-Lore, vi. 2 (June 1895), 130 ff.; for taboos on women, A. E. Crawley in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxiv. Nos. 2, 3, 4 (Nov. 1894, Feb. and May 1895), 116 ff., 219 ff., 430 ff. ; Frazer in the Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. “Taboo,” and in the Golden Bough, i. 109 ff.; cf. also Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 152 ff., 446 ff., 481. For instances not drawn from the above collec. tions, the special references will be given in each case below,
touch, taste, or handle. Thus in Samoa, “Tupai was the name of the high priest and prophet. He was greatly dreaded. His very look was poison. If he looked at a cocoa-nut tree it died, and if he glanced at a bread-fruit tree it also withered away.”l The king of Loango may not, for the same reason, see a river or tree, and he has to make many long detours in consequence when he goes visiting.” In some places girls when taboo have an equally poisonous glance, and are made to wear very broad-brimmed hats, in order that they may not infect the sun. The custom common amongst savage royalties, of holding a state umbrella over the king, may be, I conjecture, a survival from times when the king was a divine king, and, like Tupai or a tabooed woman, might do mischief with his eyes. In Whydah, “in former times, on the eve of the day for the public procession [of the sacred python), the priests and Dañh-si went round the town, announcing the approach of the festival, and warning all the inhabitants, white and black, to close their doors and windows, and to abstain from looking into the streets." 3 In ancient Greece the same belief manifests itself in the tale that Eurypylus was stricken with madness, when he ventured to open the Nápvaš or tabernacle, and look upon the image of Dionysus Æsymnetes. In the mysteries, the secret objects of worship were so taboo that it was only after a long course of preparatory purification and communion that it became safe for the worshipper to see them: “the ÉTT OTTTela was the last and highest grade of initiation."5 In modern folk-lore it is held to be fatal to see “the good people"" they are fairies : he who looks on them shall die.”
On the same principle that seeing or being seen is dangerous, mere proximity also is forbidden; and amongst the Basutos, during harvest-time, the "unclean” may not even approach the crop. In the same way, too, to hear is as dangerous as to see; thus amongst the Zulus, on receipt of the news that a relative is dead, the hearer must sprinkle himself with the blood of sacrifice,“ to purify himself from
"Turner, Samoa, 23.
? Bastian, Loango Küsle, i. 263-8. $ Ellis, Ewe-speaking Peoples, 61. Pausanias, viii. c. 19, * Gardner and Jevons, Greck Antiquities, 278. 6 Casalis, Les Bassoutos, 266.