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bathing and fasting, this probably implies a previous (ceremonial) unwashen state. Amongst the negroes of the Gold Coast “ the relations may not wash themselves or comb their hair during the funeral ceremonies, in consequence of which the rites themselves are sometimes styled Ofo, ‘unwashed.'”i “In Agweh a widow is supposed to remain shut up for six months in the room in which her husband is buried, during which time she may not wash or change her clothes. . . . At the end of the period of mourning the widows wash, shave the head, pare the nails, and put on clean cloths, the old cloths, the hair, and the nail-parings being burned.”? Amongst the Crow Indians the widow shaves her head and her mourning ceases when the hair has grown again. In the Tonga Islands, at the death of a Tooitonga the whole population shaved their heads. In Savage Island "the women singed off the hair of their heads as a token of mourning on the death of their husbands.” 5 In Siam the head is shaved as a sign of mourning. The classical reader will be reminded of the Greek and Roman funeral custom. On the Gold Coast “the nearest relations of the deceased, of both sexes, shave the head and all hair from their bodies. This has commonly been regarded as a sign of grief; but, having in view the shaving of the head by women on the sacred days of deities, which are days of rejoicing, it appears rather to be a sign of respect.”? Amongst the Ewespeaking and the Yoruba-speaking peoples also, shaving marks the termination of the period of mourning. Amongst the Soumoo or Woolwa Indians of the New World, “the hair is cropped in sign of mourning”; 9 and the Australian blacks “usually shave the head and plaster themselves with white copi or pipe-clay.” 10 Amongst the Bakongo, on the death of a chief, “all his followers shaved their heads in token of mourning.” 11 Of the Abipones, last century it was noted
Ellis, Yoruba-speaking Peoples, 160. 2 Ellis, Ere-speaking Peoples, 160. 3 Bastian, Der Mensch, ii. 328. * Mariner, Tonga Islands, 214. 5 Turner, Samoa, 306.
6 Bastian, Oest. Asien, iii. 320. 7 Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples, 241. 8 Ellis, Ewe, 160; Yoruba, 160. 9 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxiv. 2. 207. 10 Ibid. 188.
11 Ward, Congo Cannibals, 43.
that “it is also a custom to shave the heads of widows ... and to cover them with a grey and black hood . . . which it is reckoned a crime for her to take off till she marries again. A widower has his hair cropped, with many ceremonies, and his head covered with a little net-shaped hat, which is not taken off till the hair grows again.” 1 Of the Indians of Guiana it still holds good that “the survivors crop their hair,” ? and of the Fijians “many make themselves 'bald for the dead.'"3 .
Purification, again, is required not only of the mourners, but of all who may have touched the dead, just as contact with a holy volume “defiled the hands ” of the later Jews and entailed ablution. “ Contact with a corpse renders a person unclean, and he must purify himself by washing in water from head to foot.” 4 “Those persons who have touched the corpse are considered unclean ; and, after the interment, they proceed in procession to the nearest well or brook, and sprinkle themselves with water, which is the ordinary native mode of purification.” 5 In Samoa “ the fifth day (of mourning) 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." o In Peru “ certain springs were assigned as places for ablution after performing funeral rites.”? In ancient Greece a basin of lustral water was placed at the door of the house of mourning for purposes of purification.
Since, then, the reluctance to come in contact with a corpse and the precautions taken by those who have to come or have come into such contact are identical with the reluctance and precaution observed in the case of other things taboo or tabooed, it is reasonable to look for an identical cause. Now, the supposed hostility or malevolence of the spirit of the deceased will not serve as a common cause : the phylacteries and the sacred volume of the Jews were not
· Dobrizhoffer, History of the Abipones, ii. 18.
• Ellis, Ewe, 160. 6 Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples, 241. 6 Turner, Nineteen Years in Polymesia, 228. ? Payne, New World, i. 445 ; Markham, Ritcs and Laws of the Incas, 12. 8 Eur. Alc. 100.
the seat of any hostile spiritual influence, the Mikado was not malevolent towards his own people, and yet contact, direct or indirect, with him or them was avoided as scrupulously as contact with a corpse. Besides, the rites for driving away the spirit of the deceased—and there are many such rites are altogether distinct from and have nothing in common with the precautions taken to prevent contact with the corpse. Fear of evil spirits, therefore, cannot be the source of the world-wide institution of taboo. What the * source was, we have yet to consider—in our next chapter. d
1 For some Indo-European rites, see my paper in the Classical Review for June 1895.
TABOO, MORALITY, AND RELIGION
IN Polynesia the institution of 'taboo was closely entwined with the social and political constitutions of the various states ; taboos were imposed by the priests and the nobility, and the unwritten code of taboo corresponded in many important respects with the legal and social codes of more advanced civilisations. It is not, therefore, surprising that the earlier students of the system regarded it as an artificial invention, a piece of state-craft, cunningly devised in the interests of the nobility and priests. This view is, however, now generally abandoned. Wider researches have shown that the institution is not due to state-enactment or to priest-craft, for the simple reason that it is most at home in communities which have no state-organisation, and flourishes where there are no priests or no priesthood. Above all, the belief is not artificial and imposed, but spontaneous and universal.
Taboo was next explained, and is still explained, as a religious observance; everything belonging to or connected with a god is forbidden or taboo to man. This explanation, however, has the fault, fatal to a hypothesis, of not accounting for all the facts. It is true that everything sacred is taboo ; it is not true that everything taboo is sacred. Temples and all the apparatus of ritual belong to the god, and therefore are taboo; and even the corpse-taboo may be brought into a sort of harmony with this theory, if we assume that the spirit which has left the corpse becomes a god, and if we also further assume that the spirit is regarded as hostile by the mourners. With a little more strain upon the theory, it can be made also to explain the blood-taboo ; for the blood
that everything to the gove brought int
is commonly regarded as the seat of, or as itself being the life and the spirit. But it seems too great a strain to say that “new-born children belonged also to the god, and therefore were strictly taboo, together with their mothers.”1 In fine, it is impossible to make out that all things “unclean” were originally “sacred,” or to show that the carcases of vermin? ever “belonged ” to any god.
The latest theory of taboo is that put forward by Mr. Crawley. In his own words," the principle of Social Taboo is an idea ... that the attributes assigned to the individual who is feared, loathed, or despised are materially transmissible by contact of any sort.”3 The expression “ Social Taboo." seems to imply that its author does not claim for his principle that it explains religious taboo. Anyhow, the gods are not “ loathed or despised," and their "attributes" would seem rather to be desirable than things to be shunned. But, without labouring the argument that no explanation is satisfactory which does not account for all the facts, religious as well as social; and without denying that savages think " qualities” are transmissible by physical contact, we may still point out that it is not the transmission of loathed or despised attributes
—such as the weakness and timidity of women—that savages fear. “An Australian black-fellow, who discovered that his wife had lain on his blanket . . . died of terror in a fortnight." 4 There was something more here than fear of becoming weak and timid. Again, it is surely a “social” taboo which forbids a slave from touching a chieftain's food; but the sanction of the taboo is no mere fear of contracting the chief's “qualities," as the following instance shows :—“It happened that a New Zealand chief of high rank and great sanctity had left the remains of his dinner by the wayside. A slave, a stout, hungry fellow, coming up after the chief had gone, saw the unfinished dinner, and ate it up without asking questions. Hardly had he finished, when he was informed by a horror-stricken spectator that the food of which he had eaten was the chief's. “I knew the unfortunate delinquent well. He was remarkable for courage, and had signalised 1 Gerland, Anthropologie, vi. 346.
? Lev, xi. 32 ff. 3 Folk-Lore (June 1895), vi. 2. 130. * Frazer, Golden Bough, i, 170, referring to Journ. Anthrop. Inst. ix. 458.