The Totemic Animal and Man

К оглавлению
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 
34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 
68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 
85 86 87 88 89 90 91 

But totemic images are not the only sacred things. There are real things which are also the object of rites, because of the relations which they have with the totem : before all others, are the beings of the totemic species and the members of the clan.

First of all, since the designs which represent the totem arouse religious sentiments, it is natural that the things whose aspect these designs reproduce should have this same property, at least to a certain degree.

For the most part, these are animals or plants. The profane function of vegetables and even of animals is ordinarily to serve as food ; then the sacred character of the totemic animal or plant is shown by the fact that it is forbidden to eat them. It is true that since they are sacred things, they can enter into the com­position of certain mystical repasts, and we shall see, in fact, that they sometimes serve as veritable sacraments ; yet normally they cannot be used for everyday consumption.  Whoever oversteps this rule, exposes himself to grave dangers. It is not that the group always intervenes to punish this infraction artificially ; it is believed tliat the sacrilege produces death automatically. A redoubtable principle is held to reside in the totemic plant or animal, which cannot enter into the profane organism without disorganizing it or destroying it.1 In certain tribes at least, only the old men are free from this prohibition;2 we shall see the reason for this later.

However, if this prohibition is formal in a large number of

tribes1—with certain exceptions which will be mentioned later —it is incontestable that it tends to weaken as the old totemic organization is disturbed. But the restrictions which remain even then prove that these attenuations are not admitted without difficulty. For example, when it is permitted to eat the plant or animal that serves as totem, it is not possible to do so freely; only a little bit may be taken at a time. To go beyond this amount is a ritual fault that has grave consequences.2 Elsewhere, the prohibition remains intact for the parts that are regarded as the most precious, that is to say, as the most sacred ; for example, the eggs or the fat.3 In still other parts, consumption is not allowed except when the animal in question has not yet reached full maturity.4 In this case, they undoubtedly think that its sacred character is not yet complete. So the barrier which isolates and protects the totemic being yields but slowly and with active resistance, which bears witness to what it must have been at first.

It is true that according to Spencer and Gillen these restrictions are not the remnants of what was once a rigorous prohibition now losing hold, but the beginnings of an interdiction which is only commencing to establish itself. These writers hold5 that at first there was a complete liberty of consumption and that the limitations which were presently brought are relatively recent. They think they find the proof of their theory in the two following facts. In the first place, as we just said, there are solemn occasions when the members of the clan or their chief not only may, but must eat the totemic animal or plant. More­over, the myths relate that the great ancestors, the founders of the clans, ate their totems regularly : now, it is said, these stories cannot be understood except as an echo of a time when the present prohibitions did not exist.

But the fact that in the course of certain solemn ceremonies a consumption of the totem, and a moderate one at that, is ritually required in no way implies that it was once an ordinary article of food. Quite on the contrary, the food that one eats at a mystical repast is essentially sacred, and consequently for­bidden to the profane. As for the myths, a somewhat summary critical method is employed, if they are so readily given the

value of historical documents. In general, their object is to interpret existing rites rather than to commemorate past events;

they are an explanation of the present much more than a history. In this case, the traditions according to which the ancestors of the fabulous epoch ate their totem are in perfect accord with the beliefs and rites which are always in force. The old men and those who have attained a high religious dignity are freed from the restrictions under which ordinary men are placed : 1 they can eat the sacred thing because they are sacred themselves; this rule is in no way peculiar to totemism, but it is found in all the most diverse religions. Now the ancestral heroes were nearly gods. It is therefore still more natural that they should eat the sacred food ;2 but that is no reason why the same privilege should be awarded to the simple profane.3

However, it is neither certain nor even probable that the prohibition was ever absolute. It seems to have always been suspended in case of necessity, as; for example, when a man is famished and has nothing else with which to nourish himself.4 A stronger reason for this is found when the totem is a form of nourishment which a man cannot do without. Thus there are a great many tribes where water is a totem ; a strict prohibition is manifestly impossible in this case. However, even here, the privilege granted is submitted to certain restrictions which greatly limit its use and which show clearly that it goes against a recognized principle. Among the Kaitish and the Warramunga, a man of this totem is not allowed to drink water freely ; he may not take it up himself; he may receive it only from the hands of a third party who must belong to the phratry of which he is not a member.5 The complexity of this procedure and the embarrass­ment which results from it are still another proof that access to the sacred thing is not free. This same rule is applied in certain central tribes every time that the totem is eaten, whether from

necessity or any other cause. It should also be added that when this formality is not possible, that is, when a man is alone or with members of his own phratry only, he may, on necessity, do without an intermediary. It is clear that the prohibition is susceptible of various moderations.

Nevertheless, it rests upon ideas so strongly ingrained in the mind that it frequently survives its original cause for being. We have seen that in all probability, the different clans of a phratry are only subdivisions of one original clan which has been dismembered. So there was a time when all the clans, being welded together, had the same totem ; consequently, wherever the souvenir of this common origin is not completely effaced, each clan continues to feel itself united to the others and to consider that their totems are not completely foreign to it. For this reason an individual may not eat freely of the totems held by the different clans of the phratry of which he is a member; he may touch them only if the forbidden plant or animal is given him by a member of the other phratry.1

Another survival of the same sort is the one concerning the maternal totem. There are strong reasons for believing that at first, the totem was transmitted in the uterine line. Therefore, wherever descent in the paternal line has been introduced, this probably took place only after a long period, during which the opposite principle was applied and the child had the totem of his mother along with all the restrictions attached to it. Now in certain tribes where the child inherits the paternal totem to-day, some of the interdictions which originally protected the totem of his mother still survive: he cannot eat it freely.2 In the present state of affairs, however, there is no longer anything corresponding to this prohibition.

To this prohibition of eating is frequently added that of killing the totem, or picking it, when it is a plant.1 However, here also there are exceptions and tolerations. These are especially in the case of necessity, when the totem is a dangerous animal,2 for example, or when the man has nothing to eat. There are even tribes where men are forbidden to hunt the animals whose names they bear, on their own accounts, but where they may kill them for others.3 But the way in which this act is generally accomplished clearly indicates that it is something illicit. One excuses himself as though for a fault, and bears witness to the chagrin which he suffers and the repugnance which he feels,4 while precautions are taken that the animal may suffer as little as possible.5

In addition to these fundamental interdictions, certain cases of a prohibition of contact between a man and his totem are cited. Thus among the Omaha, in the clan of the Elk, no one may touch any part of the body of a male elk ; in the sub-clan of the Buffalo, no one is allowed to touch the head of this animal.6 Among the Bechuana, no man dares to clothe himself in the skin of his totem.7 But these cases are rare ; and it is natural that they should be exceptional, for normally a man must wear the image of his totem or something which brings it to mind. The tattooings and the totemic costumes would not be possible if all contact were forbidden. It has also been remarked that this prohibition has not been found in Australia, but only in those societies where totemism has advanced far from its original form ; it is therefore probably of late origin and due perhaps to the influence of ideas that are really not totemic at all.8

If we now compare these various interdictions with those whose object is the totemic emblem, contrarily to all that could be foreseen, it appears that these latter are more numerous, stricter, and more severely enforced than the former. The figures of all sorts which represent the totem are surrounded with a respect sensibly superior to that inspired by the very being whose form these figures reproduce. The churinga, the nurtunja and the waninga can never be handled by the women or the uninitiated, who are even allowed to catch glimpses of it only very exceptionally, and from a respectful distance. On the other hand, the plant or animal whose name the clan bears may be seen and touched by everybody. The churinga arc preserved in a sort of temple, upon whose threshold all noises from the profane life must cease; it is the domain of sacred things. On the contrary, the totemic animals and plants live in the profane world and are mixed up with the common everyday life  Since the number and importance of the interdictions which isolate a sacred thing, and keep it apart, correspond to the degree of sacredness with which it is invested, we arrive at the remarkable conclusion that the images of totemic beings arc more sacred than the beings themselves. Also, in the ceremonies of the cult, it is the churinga and the nurtunja which have the most important place ; the animal appears there only very exceptionally. In a certain rite, of which we shall have occasion to speak,1 it serves as the substance for a religious repast, but it plays no active role. The Arunta dance around the nurtunja, and assemble before the image of their totem to adore it, but a similar demon­stration is never made before the totemic being itself. If this latter were the primarily sacred object, it would be with it, the sacred animal or plant, that the young initiate would com­municate when he is introduced into the religious life ; but we have seen that on the contrary, the most solemn moment of the initiation is the one when the novice enters into the sanctuary of the churinga. It is with them and the nurtunja that he com­municates. The representations of the totem are therefore more actively powerful than the totem itself.

Bechuana (Totemism, pp. 12-13). Frazer admits too readily—and in this regard. he has imitators—that tlie prohibitions against eating or touching an animal depend upon totemic beliefs. However, there is one case in Australia, where the sight of the animal seems to be forbidden. According to Strehlow (II, p. 59), among the Arunta and the Loritja, a man who has the moon as totem must not look at it very long, or he would be likely to die at the hand of an enemy. But we believe that this is a unique case. We must not forget, also. that astronomical totems were probably not primitive in Australia, so this prohibition may be the product of a complex elaboration. This hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that among the Euahlayi, looking at the moon is forbidden to all mothers and children, no matter what their totems may be (L. Parker, The Euahlayi, p. 53).