III.—Representative or Commemorative Rites

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THE explanation which we have given of the positive rites of which we have been speaking in the two preceding chapters attributes to them a significance which is, above all, moral and social. The physical efficaciousness assigned to them by the believer is the product of an interpretation which conceals the essential reason for their existence : it is because they serve to remake individuals and groups morally that they are believed to have a power over things. But even if this hypothesis has enabled us to account for the facts, we cannot say that it has been demonstrated directly; at first view, it even seems to conciliate itself rather badly with the 'nature of the ritual mechanisms which we have analysed. Whether they consist in oblations or imitative acts, the gestures composing them have purely material ends in view ; they have, or seem to have, the sole object of making the totemic species reproduce. Under these circumstances, is it not surprising that their real function should be to serve moral ends ?

It is true that their physical function may have been exaggerated by Spencer and Gillen, even in the cases where it is the most incontestable. According to these authors, each clan celebrates its Intichiuma for the purpose of assuring a useful food to the other clans, and the whole cult consists in a sort of economic co-operation of the different totemic groups ; each works for the others. But according to Strehlow, this conception of Australian totemism is wholly foreign to the native mind. " If," he says, " the members of one totemic group set themselves to multiplying the animals or plants of the consecrated species, and seem to work for their companions of other totems, we must be careful not to regard this collabora­tion as the fundamental principle of Arunta or Loritja totemism. The blacks themselves have never told me that this was the object of their ceremonies. Of course, when I suggested and

explained the idea to them, they understood it and acquiesced. But I should not be blamed for having some distrust of replies gained in this fashion." Strehlow also remarks that this way of interpreting the rite is contradicted by the fact that the totemic animals and plants are not all edible or useful; some are good for nothing ; some are even dangerous. So the ceremonies which concern them could not have any such end in view.1 " When some one asks the natives what the determining reason for these ceremonies is," concludes our author, " they are unanimous in replying:  It is because our ancestors arranged things thus. This is why we do thus and not differently."2 But in saying that the rite is observed because it comes from the ancestors, it is admitted that its authority is confounded with the authority of tradition, which is a social affair of the first order. Men celebrate it to remain faithful to the past, to keep for the group its normal physiognomy, and not because of the physical effects which it may produce. Thus, the way in which the believers themselves explain them show the profound reasons upon which the rites proceed.

But there are cases when this aspect of the ceremonies is immediately apparent.

These may be observed the best among the Warramunga.3 Among this people, each clan is thought to be descended from a single ancestor who, after having been bom in some determined spot, passed his terrestrial existence in travelling over the country in every direction. It is he who, in the course of his voyages, gave to the land the form which it now has; it is he who made the mountains and plains, the water-holes and streams, etc. At the same time, he sowed upon his route living germs which were disengaged from his body and, after many successive reincarnations, became the actual members of the clan. Now the ceremony of the Warramunga which corresponds exactly to the Intichiuma of the Arunta, has the object of commemorating and representing the mythical history

of this ancestor. There is no question of oblations or, except in one single case,1 of imitative practices. The rite consists solely in recollecting the past and, in a way, making it present by means of a veritable dramatic representation. This word is the more exact because in this ceremony, the officiant is in no way considered an incarnation of the ancestor, whom he repre­sents ; he is an actor playing a role.

As an example, let us describe the Intichiuma of the Black Snake, as Spencer and Gillen observed it.2

An initial ceremony does not seem to refer to the past; at least the description of it which is given us gives no authorization for interpreting it in this sense. It consists in running and leaping on the part of two officiants,3 who are decorated with designs representing the black snake. When they finally fall exhausted on the ground, the assistants gently pass their hands over the emblematic designs with which the backs of the two actors are covered. They say that this act pleases the black snake. It is only afterwards that the series of commemorative ceremonies commences.

They put into action the mythical history of the ancestor Thalaualla, from the moment he emerged from the ground up to his definite return thither. They follow him through all his voyages. The myth says that in each of the localities where he sojourned, he celebrated totemic ceremonies ; they now repeat them in the same order in which they are supposed to have taken place originally. The movement which is acted the most frequently consists in twisting the entire body about rhyth­mically and violently ; this is because the ancestor did the same thing to make the germs of life which were in him come out. The actors have their bodies covered with down, which is detached and flies away during these movements ; this is a way of representing the flight of these mystic germs and their dis­persion into space.

It will be remembered that among the Arunta, the scene of the ceremony is determined by the ritual: it is the spot where the sacred rocks, trees and water-holes are found, and the worshippers must go there to celebrate the cult. Among the Warramunga, on the contrary, the ceremonial ground is arbitrarily chosen according to convenience. It is a conventional scene. However, the original scene of the events whose repro­duction constitutes the theme of the rite is itself represented by

means of designs. Sumttimes these designs are made upon the very bodies of the actors. For example, a small circle coloured red, painted on the back and stomach, represents a water-hole.1 In other cases, the image is traced on the soil. Upon a ground previously soaked and covered witli red ochre, they draw curved lines, made up of a series of white points, which symbolize a stream or a mountain. This is a beginning of decoration.

In addition to the properly religious ceremonies which the ancestor is believed to have celebrated long ago, they also represent simple episodes of his career, either epic or comic. Thus, at a given moment, while three actors are on the scene, occupied in an important rite, another one hides behind a bunch of trees situated at some distance. A packet of down is attached about his neck which represents a wallaby. As soon as the principal ceremony is finished, an old man traces a line upon the ground which is directed towards the spot where the fourth actor is hidden. The others march behind him, with eyes lowered and fixed upon this line, as though following a trail. When they discover the man, they assume a stupefied air and one of them beats him with a club. This represents an incident in the life of the great black snake. One day, his son went hunting, caught a wallaby and ate it without giving his father any. The latter followed his tracks, surprised him and forced him to disgorge ; it is to this that the beating at the end of the repre­sentation alludes.2

We shall not relate here all the mythical events which are represented successively. The preceding examples are sufficient to show the character of these ceremonies : they are dramas, but of a particular variety ; they act, or at least they are believed to act, upon the course of nature. When the commemoration of Thalaualla is terminated, the Warramunga are convinced that black snakes cannot fail to increase and multiply. So these dramas are rites, and even rites which, by the nature of their efficacy, are comparable on every point to those which constitute the Intichiuma of the Arunta.

Therefore each is able to clarify the other. It is even more legitimate to compare them than if there were no break of continuity between them. Not only is the end pursued identical in each case, but the most characteristic part of the Warramunga ritual is found in germ in the other. In fact, the Intichiuma, as the Arunta generally perform it, contains within it a sort of implicit commemoration. The places where it is celebrated are necessarily those which the ancestor made illustrious. The roads over which the worshippers pass in the course of their pious

pilgrimages are those which the heroes of the Alcheringa traversed;

the places where they stop to proceed with the rites are those where their fathers sojourned themselves, where they vanished into the ground, etc. So everything brings their memory to the minds of the assistants. Moreover, to the manual rites they frequently add hymns relating the exploits of their ancestors.1 If, instead of being told, these stories are acted, and if, in this new form, they develop in such a way as to become an essential part of the ceremony, then we have the ceremony of the Warra-munga. But even more can be said, for on one side, the Arunta Intichiuma is already a sort of representation. The officiant is one with the ancestor from whom he is descended and whom he reincarnates.2 The gestures he makes are those which this ancestor made in the same circumstances. Speaking exactly, of course he does not play the part of the ancestral personage as an actor might do it; he Is this personage himself. But it is true, notwithstanding, that, in one sense, it is the hero who occupies the scene. In order to accentuate the representative character of the rite, it would be sufficient for the duality of the ancestor and the officiant to become more marked; this is just what happens among the Warramunga.3 Even among the Arunta, at least one Intichiuma is mentioned in which certain persons are charged with representing ancestors with whom they have no relationship of mythical descent, and in which there is consequently a proper dramatic representation : this is the Intichiuma of the Emu.4 It seems that in this case, also, contrarily to the general rule among this people, the theatre of the ceremony is artificially arranged.5

It does not follow from the fact that, in spite of the differences separating them, these two varieties of ceremony thus have an air of kinship, as it were, that there is a definite relation of succession between them, and that one is a transformation of the other. It may very well be that the resemblances pointed out come from the fact that the two sprang from the same source, that is, from the same original ceremony, of which they are only divergent forms: we shall even see that this hypothesis is the most probable one. But even without taking sides on this question, what has already been said is enough to show that they are rites of the same nature. So we may be allowed to compare them, and to use the one to enable us to understand the other better.

Now the peculiar thing in the ceremonies of the Warramunga of which we have been speaking, is that not a gesture is made whose object is to aid or to provoke directly the increase of the totemic species.1 If we analyse the movements made, as well as the words spoken, we generally find nothing which betrays any intention of this sort. Everything is in representations whose only object can be to render the mythical past of the clan present to the mind. But the mythology of a group is the system of beliefs common to this group. The traditions whose memory it perpetuates express the way in which society represents man and the world ; it is a moral system and a cosmology as well as a history. So the rite serves and can serve only to sustain the vitality of these beliefs, to keep them from being effaced from memory and, in sum, to revivify the most essential elements of the collective consciousness. Through it, the group periodically renews the sentiment which it has of itself and of its unity ; at the same time, individuals are strengthened in their social natures. The glorious souvenirs which are made to live again before their eyes, and with which they feel that they have a kinship, give them a feeling of strength and confidence : a man is surer of his faith when he sees to how distant a past it goes back and what great things it has inspired. This is the charac­teristic of the ceremony which makes it instructive. Its tendency is to act entirely upon the mind and upon it alone. So if men believe nevertheless that it acts upon things and that it assures the prosperity of the species, this can be only as a reaction to the moral action which it exercises and which is obviously the only one which is real. Thus the hypothesis which we have proposed is verified by a significant experiment, and this

verification is the more convincing because, aa we have shown, there is no difference in nature between the ritual system of the Warramunga and that of the Arunta. The one only makes more evident what we had already conjectured from the other.