The. Totem as Name and as Emblem

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Owing to its nature, our study will include two parts. Since every religion is made up of intellectual conceptions and ritual practices, we must deal successively with the beliefs and rites which compose the totemic religion. These two elements of the religious life are too closely connected with each other to allow of any radical separation. In principle, the cult is derived from the beliefs, yet it reacts upon them ; the myth is frequently modelled after the rite in order to account for it, especially when its sense is no longer apparent. On the other hand, there are beliefs which are clearly manifested only through the rites which express them. So these two parts of our analysis cannot fail to overlap. However, these two orders of facts are so different that it is indispensable to study them separately. And since it is impossible to understand anything about a religion while unacquainted with the ideas upon which it rests, we must seek to become acquainted with these latter first of all.

But it is not our intention to retrace all the speculations into which the religious thought, even of the Australians alone, has run. The things we wish to reach are the elementary notions at the basis of the religion, but there is no need of following them through all tlie development, sometimes very confused, which the mythological imagination of these peoples has given them. We shall make use of myths when they enable us to understand these fundamental ideas better, but we shall not make mythology itself the subject of our studies. In so far as this is a work of art, it does not fall within the jurisdiction of the simple science of religions. Also, the intellectual evolution from which it results is of too great a complexity to be studied indirectly and from a foreign point of view. It constitutes a very difficult problem which must be treated by itself, for itself and with a method peculiar to itself.

Among the beliefs upon which totemism rests, the most im­portant are naturally those concerning the totem ; it is with these that we must begin.

At the basis of nearly all the Australian tribes we find a group which holds a preponderating place in the collective life : this is the clan. Two essential traits characterize it.

In the first place, the individuals who compose it consider themselves united by a bond of kinship, but one which is of a very special nature. This relationship does not come from the fact that they have definite blood connections with one another; they are relatives from the mere fact that they have the same name. They are not fathers and mothers, sons or daughters, uncles or nephews of one another in the sense which we now give these words ; yet they think of themselves as forming a single family, which is large or small according to the dimensions of the clan, merely because they are collectively designated by the same word. When we say that they regard themselves as a single family, we do so because they recognize duties towards each other which are identical with those which have always been incumbent upon kindred : such duties as aid, vengeance, mourning, the obligation not to marry among themselves, etc.

By this first characteristic, the clan does not differ from the Roman gens or the Greek ywoy; for this relationship also came merely from the fact that all the members of the gens had the same name,1 the nomen yntilicium. And in one sense, the gens is a clan ; but it is a variety which should not be confounded with the Australian clan.2 This latter is distinguished by the fact that its name is also the name of a determined species of material things with which it believes that it has very particular relations, the nature of which we shall presently describe ; they are especially relations of kinship. The species of things which serves to designate the clan collectively is called its totem. The totem of the clan is also that of each of its members.

Each clan has its totem, which belongs to it alone ; two different clans of the same tribe cannot have the same. In fact, one is a member of a clan merely because he has a certain name. All who bear this name are members of it for that very reason ; in whatever manner they may be spread over the tribal territory,

they all have the same relations of kinship with one another.1 Consequently, two groups having the same totem can only be two sections of the same clan. Undoubtedly, it frequently happens that all of a clan does not reside in the same locality, but has representatives in several different places. However, this lack of a geographical basis does not cause its unity to be the less keenly felt.

In regard to the word totem, we may say that it is the one employed by the Ojibway, an Algonquin tribe, to designate the sort of thing whose name the clan bears.2 Although this expression is not at all Australian,3 and is found only in one single society in America, ethnographers have definitely adopted it, and use it to denote, in a general way, the system which we are describing. Schoolcraft was the first to extend the meaning of the word thus and to speak of a " totemic system."4 This extension, of which there are examples enough in ethnography, is not without in­conveniences. It is not normal for an institution of this import­ance to bear a chance name, taken from a strictly local dialect, and bringing to mind none of the distinctive characteristics of the thing it designates. But to-day this way of employing the word is so universally accepted that it would be an excess of purism to rise against this usage.5

In a very large proportion of the cases, the objects which serve as totems belong either to the animal or the vegetable kingdom, but especially to the former. Inanimate things are much more rarely employed. Out of more than 500 totemic names collected by Howitt among the tribes of south-eastern Australia, there are scarcely forty which are not the names of plants or animals ; these are the clouds, rain, hail, frost, the

moon, the sun, the wind, the autumn, the summer, the winter, certain stars, thunder, fire, smoke, water or the sea. It is notice­able how small a place is given to celestial bodies and, more generally, to the great cosmic phenomena, which were destined to so great a fortune in later religious development. Among all the clans of which Howitt speaks, there were only two which had the moon as totem,1 two the sun,2 three a star,3 three the thunder,4 two the lightning.5 The rain is a single exception; it, on the contrary, is very frequent.6

These are the totems which can be spoken of as normal. But totemism has its abnormalities as well. It sometimes happens that the totem is not a whole object, but the part of an object. This fact appears rather rarely in Australia ;7 Howitt cites only one example.8 However, it may well be that this is found with a certain frequency in the tribes where the totemic groups are excessively subdivided ; it might be said that the totems had to break themselves up in order to be able to furnish names to these numerous divisions. This is what seems to have taken place among the Arunta and the Loritja. Strehlow has collected 442 totems in these two societies, of which many are not an animal species, but some particular organ of the animal of the species, such as the tail or stomach of an opossum, the fat of the kangaroo, etc.9

We have seen that normally the totem is not an individual, but a species or a variety : it is not such and such a kangaroo or crow, but the kangaroo or crow in general. Sometimes, however, it is a particular object. First of all, this is necessarily the case when the thing serving as totem is unique in its class, as the sun, the moon, such or such a constellation, etc. It also happens that clans take their names from certain geographical irregularities or depressions of the land, from a certain ant-hill, etc. It is true

that we liave only a small number of examples of this in Australia;

but Strehlow does mention some.1 But the very causes which have given rise to these abnormal totems show that they are of a relatively recent origin. In fact, what has made certain geo­graphical features of the land become totems is that a mythical ancestor is supposed to have stopped there or to have performed some act of his legendary life there.2 But at the same time, these ancestors are represented in the myths as themselves belonging to clans which had perfectly regular totems, that is to say, ones taken from the animal or vegetable kingdoms. Therefore, the totemic names thus commemorating the acts and performances of these heroes cannot be primitive ; they belong to a form of totemism that is already derived and deviated. It is even permissible to ask if the meteorological totems have not a similar origin ; for the sun, the moon and the stars are frequently identified with the ancestors of the mythological epoch.3

Sometimes, but no less exceptionally, it is an ancestor or a group of ancestors which serves as totem directly. In this case, the clan takes its name, not from a thing or a species of real things, but from a purely mythical being. Spencer and Gillen had already mentioned two or three totems of this sort. Among the Warra-munga and among the Tjingilli there are clans which bear the name of an ancestor named Thaballa who seems to be gaiety incarnate.4 Another Warramunga clan bears the name of a huge fabulous serpent named Wollunqua, from which the clan considers itself descended.5 We owe other similar facts to Strehlow.6 In any case, it is easy enough to see what probably took place. Under the influence of diverse causes and by the very development of mythological thought, the collective and impersonal totem became effaced before certain mythical personages who advanced to the first rank and became totems themselves.

Howsoever interesting these different irregularities may be, they contain nothing which forces us to modify our definition of a totem. They are not, as has sometimes been believed,1 different varieties of totems which are more or less irreducible into each other or into the normal totem, such as we have defined it. They are merely secondary and sometimes even aberrant forms of a single notion which is much more general, and there is every ground for believing it the more primitive.

The manner in which the name is acquired is more important for the organization and recruiting of the clan than for religion ;it belongs to the sociology of the family rather than to religious sociology.2 So we shall confine ourselves to indicating summarily the most essential principles which regulate the matter.

In the different tribes, three different systems are in use.

In a great number, or it might even be said, in the greater number of the societies, the child takes the totem of its mother, by right of birth : this is what happens among the Dieri and the Urabunna of the centre of Southern Australia ; the Wotjobaluk and the Gournditch-Mara of Victoria ; the Kamilaroi, the Wirad-juri, the Wonghibon and the Euahlayi of New South Wales ; and the Wakelbura, the Pitta-Pitta and the Kumandaburi of Queens­land, to mention only the most important names. In this case, owing to a law of exogamy, the mother is necessarily of a different totem from her husband, and on the other hand, as she lives in his community, the members of a single totem are necessarily dispersed in different localities according to the chances of their marriages. As a result, the totemic group lacks a territorial base.

Elsewhere the totem is transmitted in the paternal line. In this case, if the child remains with his father, the local group is largely made up of people belonging to a single totem ; only the married women there represent foreign totems. In other words, each locality has its particular totem. Up until recent times, this scheme of organization was found in Australia only among the tribes where totemism was in decadence, such as the Narrin-yeri, where the totem has almost no religious character at all

any more.1 It was therefore possible to believe that there was a close connection between the totemic system and descent in the uterine line. But Spencer and Gillen have observed, in the northern part of central Australia, a whole group of tribes where the totemic religion is still practised but where the transmission of the totem is in the paternal line : these are the Warramunga, the Quan]i, the Umbia, the Binbinga, the Mara and the Anula.2

Finally, a third combination is the one observed among the Arunta and Loritja. Here the totem of the child is not necessarily either that of the mother or that of the father ; it is that of a mythical ancestor who came, by processes which the observers recount in different ways,3 and mysteriously fecundated the mother at the moment of conception. A special process makes it possible to learn which ancestor it was and to which totemic group he belonged.4 But since it was only chance which de­termined that this ancestor happened to be near the mother, rather than another, the totem of the child is thus found to depend finally upon fortuitous circumstances.5

Outside of and above the totems of clans there are totems of phratries which, though not differing from the former in nature, must none the less be distinguished from them.

A phratry is a group of clans which are united to each other by particular bonds of fraternity. Ordinarily the Australian tribe is divided into two phratries between which the different clans are distributed. Of course there are some tribes wliere this organization has disappeared, but everything leads us to believe that it was once general. In any case, there are no tribes in Australia where the number of phratries is greater than two.

Now in nearly all the cases where the phratries have a name

whose meaning has been established, this name is that of an animal; it would therefore seem that it is a totem. This has been well demonstrated in a recent work by A. Lang.1 Thus, among the Gournditch (Victoria), the phratries are called Krokitch and Kaputch ; the former of the words designates the white cockatoo and the latter the black cockatoo.2 The same expressions are found again among the Buandik and the Wotjoba-luk.3 Among the Wurunjerri, the names employed are Bunjil and Waang, which designate the eagle-hawk and the crow.4 The words Mukwara and Kilpara are used for the same purpose in a large number of tribes of New South Wales ;5 they designate the same birds.6 It is also the eagle-hawk and the crow which have given their names to the two phratries of the Ngarigo and the Wolgal.7 Among the Kuinmurbura, it is the white cockatoo and the crow.8 Many other examples might be cited. Thus we are led to regard the phratry as an ancient clan which has been dismembered ; the actual clans are the product of this dismember­ment, and the solidarity which unites them is a souvenir of their primitive unity.9 It is true that in certain tribes, the phratries no longer have special names, as it seems ; in others where these names exist, their meaning is no longer known, even to the members. But there is nothing surprising in this. The phratries are certainly a primitive institution, for they are everywhere in a state of regression ; their descendants the clans have passed to the first rank. So it is but natural that the names which they bore should have been effaced from memory little by little, when they were no longer understood ; for they must belong to a very archaic language no longer in use. This is proved by the fact that in many cases where we know the animal whose name the phratry bears, the word designating this animal in the current language is very different from the one employed here.10

Between the totem of the phratry and the totems of the clans there exists a sort of relation of subordination. In fact, in principle each clan belongs to one and only one phratry ; it is very exceptional that it has representatives in the other phratry. This is not met with at all except among certain central tribes, notably the Arunta ;1 also even where, owing to disturbing influences, overlappings of this sort have taken place, the great part of the clan is included entirely within one or the other of the two groups of the tribe ; only a small minority is to be found in the other one.2 As a rule then, the two phratries do not overlap each other ; consequently, the list of totems which an individual may have is predetermined by the phratry to which he belongs. In other words, the phratry is like a species of which the clans are varieties. We shall presently see that this comparison is not purely metaphorical.

In addition to the phratries and clans, another secondary group is frequently met with in Australian societies, which is not with­out a certain individuality: these are the matrimonial classes.

By this name they designate certain subdivisions of the phratry, whose number varies with the tribe : there are sometimes two and sometimes four per phratry.3 Their recruiting and operation are regulated by the two following principles. In the first place, each generation in a phratry belongs to different clans from the immediately preceding one. Thus, when there are only two classes per phratry, they necessarily alternate with each other every generation. The children make up the class of which their parents are not members ; but grandchildren are of the same class as their grandparents. Thus, among the Kamilaroi, the Kupathin phratry has two classes, Ippai and Kumbo ; the Dilby phratry, two others which are called Murri and Kubbi. As descent is in the uterine line, the child is in the phratry of its mother ; if she is a Kupatliin, tlie child will be one also. But if she is of the Ippai class, he will be a Kumbo ; f the child is a girl, her children will again be in the Ippai class.

Likewise, the children of the women of the Murri class will be in the Kubbi class, and the children of the Kubbi women will be Murri again. When there are four classes per phratry, instead of two, the system is naturally more complex, but the principle is the same. The four classes form two couples of two classes each, and these two classes alternate with each other every generation in the manner just indicated. Secondly, the members of one class can in principle1 marry into only one of the classes of the other phratry. The Ippai must marry into the Kubbi class and the Murri into the Kumbo class. It is because this organization profoundly affects matrimonial relations that we give the group the name of matrimonial class.

Now it may be asked whether these classes do not sometimes have totems like the phratries and clans.

This question is raised by the fact that in certain tribes of Queensland, each matrimonial class has dietetic restrictions that are peculiar to it. The individuals who compose it must abstain from eating the flesh of certain animals which the others may consume freely.2 Are these animals not totems ?

But dietetic restrictions are not the characteristic marks of totemism. The totem is a name first of all, and then, as we shall see, an emblem. Now in the societies of which we just spoke, there are no matrimonial classes which bear the name of an animal or plant, or which have an emblem.3 Of course it is possible that these restrictions are indirectly derived from totemism. It might be supposed that the animals which these interdictions protect were once the totems of clans which have since disappeared, while the matrimonial classes remained. It is certain that they have a force of endurance which the clans do not have. Then these interdictions, deprived of their original

field, may have spread themselves out over the entire class, since there were no other groups to which they could be attached. But it is clear that if this regulation was born of totemism, it represents only an enfeebled and denatured form of it.1

All that has been said of the totem in Australian societies is equally applicable to the Indian tribes of North America. The only difference is that among these latter, the totemic organization has a strictness of outline and a stability which are not found in Australia. The Australian clans are not only very numerous, but in a single tribe their number is almost unlimited. Observers cite some of them as examples, but without ever succeeding in giving us a complete list. This is because the list is never definitely terminated. The same process of dismemberment which broke up the original phratries and give birth to clans properly so-called still continues within these latter ; as a result of this progressive crumbling, a clan frequently has only a very small effective force.2 In America, on the contrary, the totemic system has better defined forms. Although the tribes there are considerably larger on the average, the clans are less numerous. A single tribe rarely has more than a dozen of them,3 and frequently less; each of them is therefore a much more important group. But above all, their number is fixed; they know their exact number, and they it tell to us.4

This difference is due to the superiority of their social economy. From the moment when these tribes were observed for the first time, the social groups were strongly attached to the soil, and consequently better able to resist the decentralizing forces which assailed them. At the same time, the society had too keen a sentiment of its unity to remain unconscious of itself and of the parts out of which it was composed. The example of America thus enables us to explain even better the organization at the base of the clans. We would take a mistaken view, if we judged this only on the present conditions in Australia. In fact, it is in a state of change and dissolution there, which is not at all normal; it is much rather the product of a degeneration which we see, due both to the natural decay of time and the disorganizing effect of the whites. To be sure, it is hardly probable that the Australian clans ever had the dimensions and solid structure of the American ones. But there must.have been a time when the distance between them was less considerable than it is to-day, for the American societies would never have succeeded in making so solid a structure if the clans had always been of so fluid and inconsistent a nature.

This greater stability has even enabled the archaic system ol phratries to maintain itself in America with a clearness and a relief no longer to be found in Australia. We have just seen that in the latter continent the phratry is everywhere in a state of decadence ; very frequently it is nothing more than an anony­mous group ; when it has a name, this is either no longer under­stood, or in any case, it cannot mean a great deal to the native, since it is borrowed from a foreign language, or from one no longer spoken. Thus we have been able to infer the existence of totems for phratries only from a few survivals, which, for the most part, are so slightly marked that they have escaped the attention of many observers. In certain parts of America, on the contrary, this institution has retained its primitive importance. The tribes of the North-west coast, the Tlinkit and the Haida especially, have now attained a relatively advanced civilization; yet they are divided into two phratries which are subdivided into a certain number of clans : the phratries of the Crow and the Wolf among the Tlinkit,1 of the Eagle and the Crow among the Haida.2 And this division is not merely nominal; it corresponds to an ever-existing state of tribal customs and is deeply marked with the tribal life. The moral distance separating the clans is

very slight in comparison with that separating the phratries.1 The name of each is not a word whose sense is forgotten or only vaguely known ; it is a totem in the full sense of the term ; they have all its essential attributes, such as will be described below.2 Consequently, upon this point also, American tribes must not be neglected, for we can study the totems of phratries directly there, while Australia offers only obscure vestiges of them.