PIACULAR RITES AND TIIE AMBIGUITY OF THE NOTION OF SACREDNESS

  1. II.-Imitative Rites and the Principle of Causality
  2. III.-Representative or Commemorative Rites
  3. Main characteristics of the Sentence, its notion, models of the Sentence.
  4. Origins of these beliefs- (continued) The Notion of the Totemic Principle, or Mana, and the Idea of ??Force
  5. The Notion of the Totemic Principle, or Mana, and the Idea of ??Force
  6. The notions of the Word and the Morpheme

HOWSOEVER much they may differ from one another in the nature of the gestures they imply, the positive rites which we have been passing under review have one common characteristic: they are all performed in a state of confidence, joy and even enthusiasm. Though the expectation of a future and contingent event is not without a certain uncertainty, still it is normal that the rain fall when the season for it comes, and that the animal and vegetable species reproduce regularly. Oft-repeated experiences have shown that the rites generally do produce the effects which are expected of them and which are the reason for their existence. Men celebrate them with confidence, joyfully anticipating the happy event which they prepare and announce. Whatever movements men perform participate in this same state of mind: of course, they arc marked with the gravity which a religious solemnity always supposes, but this gravity excludes neither animation nor joy.

These are all joyful feasts. But there are sad celebrations as well, whose object is either to meet a calamity, or else merely to commemorate and deplore it. These rites have a special aspect, which we are going to attempt to characterize and explain. It is the more necessary to study them by themselves since they are going to reveal a new aspect of the religious life to us.

We propose to call the ceremonies of this sort piacular. The term piaculum has the advantage that while it suggests the idea of ??expiation, "it also has a much more extended signification. Every misfortune, everything of evil omen, everything that inspires sentiments of sorrow or fear necessitates a piaculum and is therefore called piacular. 1 So this word seems to be very well adapted for designating the rites which are celebrated by those in a state of uneasiness or sadness.

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Mourning offers us a first and important example of piacular rites.

However, a distinction is necessary between the different rites which go to make up mourning. Some consist in mere abstentions:

k is forbidden to pronounce the name of the dead, 1 or to remain near the place where the death occurred; 2 relatives, especially the female ones, must abstain from all communication with strangers; 3 the ordinary occupations of life are suspended, just as in feast-time, 4 etc. All these practices belong to the negative cult and are explained like the other rites of the same sort, so they do not concern us at present. They are due to the fact that the dead man is a sacred being. Consequently, everything which is or has been connected with him is, by contagion, in a religious state excluding all contact with things from profane life.

But mourning is not made up entirely of interdicts which have to be observed. Positive acts are also demanded, in which the relatives are both the actors and those acted upon.

Very frequently these rites commence as soon as the death appears imminent. Here is a scene which Spencer and Gillen witnessed among the Warramunga. A totemic ceremony had just been celebrated and the company of actors and spectators was leaving the consecrated ground when a piercing cry suddenly came from the camp: a man was dying there. At once, the whole company commenced to run as fast as they could, while most of them commenced to howl. "Between us and the camp," say these observers, "lay a deep creek, and on the bank of this, some of the men, scattered about here and there, sat down, bending their heads forwards between their knees, while they wept and moaned. Crossing the creek we found that, as usual, the men's camp had been pulled to pieces. Some of the women, who had come from every direction, were lying prostrate on the body, while others were standing or kneeling around, digging the sharp ends of yam-sticks into the crown of their heads, from which the blood streamed down over their faces, while all the time they kept up a loud, continuous wail. Many of the men, rushing up to the spot, threw themselves upon the body, from which the women arose when the men approached, until in a few minutes we could see nothing but a struggling mass of bodies all mixed up together. To one side, three men of the Thapungarti class, who still wore their ceremonial decorations, sat down wailing loudly, with their backs towards the dying man, and in

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a minute or two another man of the same class rushed on to the ground yelling and brandishing a stone knife. Reaching the camp, he suddenly gashed both thighs deeply, cutting right across the muscles, and, unable to stand, fell down into the middle of the group, from which he was dragged out after a time by three or four female relatives, who immediately applied their mouths to the gaping wounds while he lay exhausted on the ground. "The man did not actually die until late in the evening. As soon as he had given up his last breath ,, the same scene was re-enacted, only this time the wailing was still louder, and men and women, seized by a veritable frenzy, were rushing about cutting themselves with knives and sharp-pointed sticks, the women battering one another's heads with fighting clubs, no one attempting to ward off either cuts or blows. Finally, after about an hour, a torchlight procession started off across the plain, to a tree in whose branches the body was left.1

Howsoever great the violence of these manifestations may be, they are strictly regulated by etiquette. The individuals who make bloody incisions in themselves are designated by usage: they must have certain relations of kinship with the dead man. Thus, in the case observed by Spencer and Gillen among the Warramunga, those who slashed their thighs were the maternal grandfather of the deceased, his maternal uncle, and the maternal uncle and brother of his wife.2 Others must cut their whiskers and hair, and then smear their scalps with pipe-clay. Women have particularly severe obligations. They must cut their hair and cover the whole body with pipe-clay; in addition to this, a strict silence is imposed upon them during the whole period of mourning, which may last as long as two years. It is not rare among the Warramunga that, as a result of this interdiction, all the women of a camp are condemned to the most absolute silence. This becomes so habitual to them that even after the expiration of the period of mourning, they voluntarily renounce all spoken language and prefer to communicate with gestures-in which, by the way, they acquire a remarkable ability. Spencer and Gillen knew one old woman who had not spoken for over twenty-four years.3

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The ceremony which we have described opens a long series of rites which succeed one another for weeks and even for months. During the days which follow, they are renewed in various forms. Groups of men and women sit on the ground, weeping and lamenting, and kissing each other at certain moments. These ritual kissings are repeated frequently during the period of mourning. It seems as though men felt a need of coming close together and communicating most closely; they are to be seen holding to each other and wound together so much as to make one single mass, from which loud groans escape.1 Meanwhile, the women commence to lacerate their heads again, and, in order to intensify the wounds they make, they even go so far as to burn them with the points of fiery sticks.2

Practices of this sort are general in all Australia. The funeral rites, that is, the ritual cares given to the corpse, the way in which it is buried, etc., change with different tribes, 3 and in a single tribe they vary with the age, sex and social importance of the individual .4 But the real ceremonies of mourning repeat the same theme everywhere; the variations are only in the details. Everywhere we find this same silence interrupted by groans, 5 the same obligation of cutting the hair and beard, 6 or of covering one's head with pipe-clay or cinders, or perhaps even with excrements; 7 everywhere, finally, we find this same frenzy for beating one's self, lacerating one's self and burning one's self. In central Victoria, "when death visits a tribe there is great weeping and lamentation amongst the women, the elder portion of whom lacerate their temples with their nails. The parents of the deceased lacerate themselves fearfully, especially if it be an only son whose loss they deplore. The father beats and cuts his head with a tomahawk until he utters bitter groans, the mother sits by the fire and burns her breasts and abdomen with a small fire-stick. Sometimes the burns thus inflicted are so severe as to cause death . "8

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According to an account of Brough Smyth, here is what happens in one of the southern tribes of the same state. As the body is lowered into the grave, "the widow begins her sad ceremonies. She cuts off her hair above her forehead, and becoming frantic, seizes fire-sticks, and burns her breasts, arms, legs and thighs. She seems to delight in the self-inflicted torture. It would be rash and vain to interrupt her. When exhausted, and when she can hardly walk, she yet endeavours to kick the embers of the fire, and to throw them about. Sitting down, she takes the ashes into her hands, rubs them into her wounds, and then scratches her face (the only part not touched by the fire-sticks) until the blood mingles with the ashes, which -partly hide her cruel wounds. In this plight, scratching her face continually, she utters howls and lamentations. "1

The description which Howitt gives of the rites of mourning among the Kurnai is remarkably similar to these others. After the body has been wrapped up in opossum skins and put in a shroud of bark, a hut is built in which the relatives assemble. "There they lay lamenting their loss, saying, for instance, '" Why did you leave us? 'Now and then their grief would be intensified by some one, for instance, the wife, uttering an ear-piercing wail,' My spouse is dead, 'or another would say,' My child is dead. ' All the others would then join in with the proper term of relationship, and they would gash themselves with sharp stones and tomahawks until their heads and bodies streamed with blood. This bitter wailing and weeping continued all night. "2

Sadness is not the only sentiment expressed during these ceremonies; a sort of anger is generally mixed with it. The relatives feel a need of avenging the death in some way or other. They are to be seen throwing themselves upon one another and trying to wound each other. Sometimes the attack is real; sometimes it is only pretended.3 There are even cases when these peculiar combats are organized. Among the Kaitish, the hair of the deceased passes by right to his son-in-law. But he, in return, must go, in company with some of his relatives and friends, and provoke a quarrel with one of his tribal brothers, that is, with a man belonging to the same matrimonial class as himself and one who might therefore have married the daughter of the dead man. This provocation can not be refused and the two combatants inflict serious wounds upon each other's

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shoulders and thighs. When the duel is terminated, the challenger passes on to his adversary the hair which he had temporarily inherited. This latter then provokes and fights with another of his tribal brothers, to whom the precious relic is next transmitted, but only provisionally; thus it passes from hand to hand and circulates from group to group.1 Also, something of these same sentiments enters into that sort of rage with which each relative beats himself, burns himself or slashes himself: a sorrow which reaches such a paroxysm is not without a certain amount of anger. One can not fail to be struck by the resemblances which these practices present to those of the vendetta. Both proceed from the same principle that death demands the shedding of blood. The only difference is that in one case the victims are the relatives, while in the other they are strangers. We do not have to treat especially of the vendetta, which belongs rather to the study of juridic institutions; but it should be pointed out, nevertheless, how it is connected with the rites of mourning, whose end it announces.2

In certain societies, the mourning is terminated by a ceremony whose effervescence reaches or surpasses that produced by the inaugural ceremonies. Among the Arunta, this closing rite is called Urpmilchima. Spencer and Gillen assisted at two of these rites. One was celebrated in honour of a man, the other of a woman. Here is the description they give of the latter.3

They commence by making some ornaments of a special sort, called Chimurilia by the men and Aramurilia by the women. With a kind of resin, they fixed small animal bones, which had previously been gathered and set aside, to locks of hair furnished by the relatives of the dead woman. These are then attached to one of the head-bands which women ordinarily wear and the feathers of black cockatoos and parrots are added to it. When these preparations are completed, the women assemble in their camp. They paint their bodies different colours, according to their degree of kinship with the deceased. After being embraced by one another for some ten minutes, while uttering uninterrupted groans, they set out for the tomb. At a certain distance, they meet a brother by blood of the dead woman, who is accompanied by some of his tribal brothers. Everybody sits down on the ground, and the lamentations recommence. A pitchi4 containing the Chimurilia is then presented to the elder brother, who presses it against his stomach; they say that this is a way of lessening his sorrow. They take out one of the Chimurilia and the dead

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woman's mother puts it on her head for a little while; then it is put back into the pitchi, which each of the other men presses against his breast, in his turn. Finally, the brother puts the Chimurilia on the heads of two elder sisters and they set out again for the tomb. On the way, the mother throws herself on the ground several times, and tries to slash her head with a pointed stick. Every time, the other women pick her up, and seem to take care that she does not hurt herself too much. When they arrive at the tomb, she throws herself on the knoll and endeavours to destroy it with her hands, while the other women literally dance upon her. The tribal mothers and aunts (sisters of the dead woman's father) follow her example; they also throw themselves on the ground, and mutually beat and tear each other; finally their bodies are all streaming with blood. After a while, they are dragged aside. The elder sisters then make a hole in the earth of the tomb, in which they place the Chimurilia, which had previously been torn to pieces. Once again the tribal mothers throw themselves on the ground and slash each other's heads. At this moment, "the weeping and wailing of the women who were standing round seemed to drive them almost frenzied, and the blood, streaming down their bodies over the white pipeclay, gave them a ghastly appearance. At last only the old mother was left crouching alone, utterly exhausted and moaning weakly on the grave. Then the others raised her up and rubbed off the pipe-clay with which she was covered; this was the end of the ceremony and of the mourning.1

Among the Warramunga, the final rite presents some rather particular characteristics. There seems to be no shedding of blood here, but the collective effervescence is translated in another manner.

Among his people, before the body is definitely interred, it is exposed upon a platform placed in the branches of a tree; it is left there to decompose slowly, until nothing remains but the bones. Then these are gathered together and, with the exception of the humerus, they are placed inside an ant-hill. The humerus is wrapped up in a bark box, which is decorated in different manners. The box is then brought to camp, amid the cries and groans of the women. During the following days, they celebrate a series of totemic rites, concerning the totem of the deceased and the mythical history of the ancestors from whom the clan is descended. When all these ceremonies have been terminated, they proceed to the closing rite.

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A trench one foot deep and fifteen feet long is dug in the field of the ceremony. A design representing the totem of the deceased and certain spots where the ancestor stopped is made on the ground a little distance from it. Near this design, a little ditch is dug in the ground. Ten decorated men then advance, one behind another, and with their hands crossed behind their heads and their legs wide apart they stand astraddle the trench. At a given signal, the women run from the camp in a profound silence; when they are near, they form in Indian file, the last one holding in her hands the box containing the humerus. Then, after throwing th & mselves on the ground, they advance on their hands and knees, and pass all along the trench, between the legs of the men. The scene shows a state of great sexual excitement. As soon as the last woman has passed, they take the box from her, and take it to the ditch, near which is an old man; he breaks the bone with a sharp blow, and hurriedly buries it in the debris. During this time, the women have remained at a distance, with their backs turned upon the scene, for they must not see it. But when they hear the blow of the axe, they flee, uttering cries and groans. The rite is accomplished; the mourning is terminated.1

II

These rites belong to a very different type from those which we have studied hitherto. We do not mean to say that important resemblances can not be found between the two, which we shall have to note; but the differences are more apparent. Instead of happy dances, songs and dramatic representations which distract and relax the mind, they are tears and groans and, in a word, the most varied manifestations of agonized sorrow and a sort of mutual pity, which occupy the whole scene. Of course the shedding of blood also takes place in the Intichiuma, but Lhis is an oblation made with a movement of pious enthusiasm. Even though the motions may be the same, the sentiments expressed are different and even opposed. Likewise, the ascetic rites certainly imply privations, abstinences and mutilations, but ones which must be borne with an impassive firmness and serenity. Here, on the contrary, dejection, cries and tears are the rule. The ascetic tortures himself in order to prove, in his own eyes and those of his fellows, that he is above suffering. During mourning, men injure themselves to prove that they suffer. By all these signs, the characteristic traits of the piacular rites are to be recognized.

But how are they to be explained?

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One initial fact is constant: mourning is not the spontaneous expression of individual emotions.1 If the relations weep, lament, mutilate themselves, it is not because they feel themselves personally affected by the death of their kinsman. Of course, it may be that in certain particular cases, the chagrin expressed is really felt.2 But it is more generally the case that there is no connection between the sentiments felt and the gestures made by the actors in the rite.3 If, at the very moment when the weepers seem the most overcome by their grief, some one speaks to them of some temporal interest, it frequently happens that they change their features and tone at once, take on a laughing air and converse in the gayest fashion imaginable .4 Mourning is not a natural movement of private feelings wounded by a cruel loss; it is a duty imposed by the group. One weeps, not simply because he is sad, but because he is forced to weep. It is a ritual attitude which he is forced to adopt out of respect for custom, but which is, in a large measure, independent of his affective state. Moreover, this obligation is sanctioned by mythical or social penalties. They believe, for example, that if a relative does not mourn as is fitting, then the soul of the departed follows upon his steps and kills him.5 In other cases, society does not leave it to the religious forces to punish the negligent; it intervenes itself, and reprimands the ritual faults. If a son-in-law does not render to his father-in-law the funeral attentions which are due him, and if he does not make the prescribed incisions, then his tribal fathers-in-law take his wife away from him and give him another.6 Therefore, in order to square himself with usage, a man sometimes forces tears to flow by artificial means.7 Whence comes this obligation?

Ethnographers and sociologists are generally satisfied with the reply which the natives themselves give to this question. They say that the dead wish to be lamented, that by refusing them the tribute of sorrow which is their right, men offend them, and that the'only way of preventing their anger is to conform to their will.8

But this mythological interpretation merely modifies the terms of the problem, without resolving it; it is still necessary to explain why the dead imperatively reclaim the mourning. It

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may be said that it is natural for men to wish to be mourned and regretted. But in making this sentiment explain the complex system of rites which make up mourning, we attribute to the Australian affective exigencies of which the civilized man himself does not always give evidence. Let us admit-as is not evident a priori-that the idea of ??not being forgotten too readily is pleasing to a man who thinks of the future. It is still to be established that it has ever had enough importance in the minds of the living for one to attribute to the dead a state of mind proceeding almost entirely from this preoccupation. It seems especially improbable that such a sentiment could obsess and impassion men who are seldom accustomed to thinking beyond the present moment. So far is it from being a fact that the desire to survive in the memory of those who are still alive is to be regarded as the origin of mourning, that we may even ask ourselves whether it was not rather mourning itself which, when once established , aroused the idea of ??and the taste for posthumous regrets.

The classic interpretation appears still more unsustainable when we know what the primitive mourning consists in. It is not made up merely of pious regrets accorded to him who no longer is, but also of severe abstinences and cruel sacrifices. The rite does not merely demand that one think of the deceased in a melancholy way, but also that he beat himself, bruise himself, lacerate himself and burn himself. We have even seen that persons in mourning sometimes torture themselves to such a degree that they do not survive their wounds. What reason has the dead man for imposing such torments upon them? Such a cruelty on his part denotes something more than a desire not to be forgotten. If he is to find pleasure in seeing his own suffer, it is necessary that he hate them, that he be thirsty for their blood. This ferocity would undoubtedly appear natural to those for whom every spirit is necessarily an evil and redoubted power. But we know that there are spirits of every sort; how does it happen that the soul of the dead man is necessarily an evil spirit? As long as the man is alive, he loves his relatives and exchanges services with them. Is it not strange that as soon as it is freed from his body, his soul should instantly lay aside its former sentiments and become an evil and tormenting genius? It is a general rule that the dead man retains the personality of the living, and that he has the same character, the same hates and the same affections. So this metamorphosis is not easily understandable by itself. It is true that the natives admit it implicitly when they explain the rite by the exigencies of the dead man, but the question now before us is to know whence this

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conception came. Far from being capable of being regarded as a truism, it is as obscure as the rite itself, and consequently can not account for it.

Finally, even if we had found the reasons for this surprising transformation, we would still have to explain why it is only temporary. For it does not last beyond the period of mourning;

after the rites have once been accomplished, the dead man becomes what he was when alive, an affectionate and devoted relation. He puts the new powers which he receives from his new condition at the service of his friends.1 Thenceforth, he is regarded as a good genius, always ready to aid those whom he was recently tormenting. Whence come these successive transfers? If the evil sentiments attributed to the soul come solely from the fact that it is no longer in life, they should remain invariable, and if the mourning is due to this. it should be interminable.

These mythical explanations express the idea which the native has of the rite, and not the rite itself. So we may set them aside and face the reality which they translate, though disfiguring it in doing so. If mourning differs from the other forms of the positive cult, there is one feature in which it resembles them: it, too, is made up out of collective ceremonies which produce a state of effervescence among those who take part in them. The sentiments aroused are different; but the arousal is the same. So it is presumable that the explanation of the joyous rites is capable of being applied to the sad rites, on condition that the terms be transposed.

When some one dies, the family group to which he belongs feels itself lessened and, to react against this loss, it assembles. A common misfortune has the same effects as the approach of a happy event: collective sentiments are renewed which then lead men to seek one another and to assemble together. We have even seen this need for concentration affirm itself with a particular energy: they embrace one another, put their arms round one another, and press as close as possible to one another. But the affective state in which the group then happens to be only reflects the circumstances through which it is passing. Not only do the relatives, who are effected the most directly, bring their own personal sorrow to the assembly, but the society exercises a moral pressure over its members, to put their sentiments in harmony with the situation. To allow them to remain indifferent to the blow which has fallen upon it and diminished it, would be equivalent to proclaiming that it does not hold the place in their hearts which is due it; it would be denying itself. A family

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which allows one of its members to die without being wept for shows by that very fact that it lacks moral unity and cohesion: it abdicates; it renounces its existence. An individual, in his turn, if he is strongly attached to the society of which he is a member, feels that he is morally held to participating in its sorrows and joys; not to be interested in them would be equivalent to breaking the bonds uniting him to the group; it would be renouncing all desire for it and contradicting himself. When the Christian, during the ceremonies commemorating the Passion, and the Jew, on the anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem, fast and mortify themselves, it is not in giving way to a sadness which they feel spontaneously. Under these circumstances, the internal state of the believer is out of all proportion to the severe abstinences to which they submit themselves. If he is sad, it is primarily because he consents to being sad, and he consents to it in order to affirm his faith. The attitude of the Australian during mourning is to be explained in the same way. If he weeps and groans, it is not merely to express an individual chagrin; it is to fulfil a duty of which the surrounding society does not fail to remind him.

We have seen elsewhere how human sentiments are intensified when affirmed collectively. Sorrow, like joy, becomes exalted and amplified when leaping from mind to mind, and therefore expresses itself outwardly in the form of exuberant and violent movements. But these are no longer expressive of the joyful agitation which we observed before; they are shrieks and cries of pain. Each is carried along by the others; a veritable panic of sorrow results. When pain reaches this degree of intensity, it is mixed with a sort of anger and exasperation. One feels the need of breaking something, of destroying something. He takes this out either upon himself or others. He beats himself, burns himself, wounds himself or else he falls upon others to beat, burn and wound them. Thus it became the custom to give one's self up to the veritable orgies of tortures during mourning. It seems very probable that blood-revenge and head-hunting have their origin in this. If every death is attributed to some magic charm, and for this reason it is believed that the dead man ought to be avenged, it is because men must find a victim at any price, upon whom the collective pain and anger may be discharged. Naturally this victim is sought outside the group; a stranger is a subject minoris resistentics; as he is not protected by the sentiments of sympathy inspired by a relative or neighbour, there is nothing in him which subdues and neutralizes the evil and destructive sentiments aroused by the death. It is undoubtedly ox this same reason that women serve more frequently

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than men as the passive objects of the cruellest rites of mourning; since they have a smaller social value, they are more obviously designated as scapegoats.

We see that this explanation of mourning completely leaves aside all ideas of souls or spirits. The only forces which are really active are of a wholly impersonal nature: they are the emotions aroused in the group by the death of one of its members. But the primitive does not know the psychical mechanism from which these practices result. So when he tries to account for them, he is obliged to forge a wholly different explanation. All he knows is that he must painfully mortify himself. As every obligation suggests the notion of a will which obliges, he looks about him to see whence this constraint which he feels may come. Now, there is one moral power, of whose reality he is assured and which seems designated for this role: this is the soul which the death h'as liberated. For what could have a greater interest than it in the effects which its own death has on the living? So they imagine that if these latter inflict an unnatural treatment upon themselves, it is to conform to its exigencies. It was thus that the idea of ??the soul must have intervened at a later date into the mythology of mourning. But also, since it is thus endowed with inhuman exigencies, it must be supposed that in leaving the body which it animated, the soul lays aside every human sentiment. Hence the metamorphosis which makes a dreaded enemy out of the relative of yesterday. This transformation is not the origin of mourning; it is rather its consequence. It translates a change which has come over the affective state of the group: men do not weep for the dead because they fear them; they fear them because they weep for them.

But this change of the affective state can only be a temporary one, for while the ceremonies of mourning result from it, they also put an end to it. Little by little, they neutralize the very causes which have given rise to them. The foundation of mourning is the impression of a loss which the group feels when it loses one of its members. But this very impression results in bringing individuals together, in putting them into closer relations with one another, in associating them all in the same mental state, and therefore in disengaging a sensation of comfort which compensates the original loss. Since they weep together, they hold to one another and the group is not weakened, in spite of the blow which has fallen upon it. Of course they have only sad emotions in common, but communicating in sorrow is still communicating, and every communion of mind, in whatever form it may be made, raises the social vitality. The exceptional violence

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of the manifestations by which the common pain is necessarily and obligatorily expressed even testifies to the fact that at this moment, the society is more alive and active than ever. In fact, whenever the social sentiment is painfully wounded, it reacts with greater force than ordinarily: one never holds so closely to his family as when it has just suffered. This surplus energy effaces the more completely the effects of the interruption which was felt at first, and thus dissipates the feeling of coldness which death always brings with it. The group feels its strength gradually returning to it; it begins to hope and to live again. Presently one stops mourning, and he does so owing to the mourning itself. But as the idea formed of the soul reflects the moral state of the society, this idea should change as this state changes. When one is in the period of dejection and agony, he represents the soul with the traits of an evil being, whose sole occupation is to persecute men. But when he feels himself confident and secure once more, he must admit that it has retaken its former nature and its former sentiments of tenderness and solidarity. Thus we explain the very different ways in which it is conceived at different moments of its existence.1

Not only do the rites of mourning determine certain of the secondary characteristics attributed to the soul, but perhaps they are not foreign to the idea that it survives the body. If he is to understand the practices to which he submits on the death of a parent, a man is obliged to believe that these are not an indifferent matter for the deceased. The shedding of blood which is practised so freely during mourning is a veritable sacrifice offered to the dead man.2 So something of the dead man must survive, and as this is not the body, which is manifestly immobile and decomposed, it can only be the soul. Of course it is impossible to say with any exactness what part these considerations have had in the origin of the idea of ??immortality. But it is probable that here the influence of the cult is the same as it is elsewhere. Rites are more easily explicable when one imagines that they are addressed to personal beings;

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so men have been induced to extend the influence of the mythical personalities in the religious life. In order to account for mourning, they have prolonged the existence of the soul beyond the tomb. This is one more example of the way in which rites react upon beliefs.

III

But death is not the only event which may disturb a community. Men have many other occasions for being sorry and lamenting, so we might foresee that even the Australians would know and practise other piacular rites besides mourning. However, it is a remarkable fact that only a small number of examples are to be found in the accounts of the observers.

One rite of this sort greatly resembles those which have just been studied. It will be remembered that among the Arunta, each local group attributes exceptionally important virtues to its collection of churinga: this is this collective palladium, upon whose fate the fate of the community itself is believed to depend. So when enemies or white men succeed in stealing one of these religious treasures, this loss is considered a public calamity. This misfortune is the occasion of a rite having all the characteristics of mourning: men smear their bodies with white pipe-clay and remain in camp, weeping and lamenting, during a period of two weeks.1 This is a new proof that mourning is determined , not by the way in which the soul of the dead is conceived, but by impersonal causes, by the moral state of the group. In fact, we have here a rite which, in its structure, is indistinguishable from the real mourning, but which is, nevertheless, independent of every notion of spirits or evil-working demons.2

Another circumstance which gives occasion for ceremonies of the same nature is the distress in which the society finds itself after an insufficient harvest. "The natives who live in the vicinity of Lake Eyre," says Eyimann, "also seek to prevent an insufficiency of food by means of secret ceremonies. But many of the ritual practices observed in this region are to be distinguished from those which have been mentioned already: it is not by symbolic dances, by imitative movements nor dazzling decorations that they try to act upon the religious powers or the forces of nature, but by means of the suffering which individuals inflict upon themselves. In the northern territories,

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it is by means of tortures, such as prolonged fasts, vigils, dances persisted up to the exhaustion of the dancers, and physical pains of every sort, that they attempt to appease the powers which are ill-disposed towards men. "1 The torments to which the natives submit themselves for this purpose sometimes leave them in such a state of exhaustion that they are unable to follow the hunt for some days to come.2

These practices are employed especially for fighting against drought. This is because a scarcity of water results in a general want. To remedy this evil, they have recourse to violent methods. One which is frequently used is the extraction of a tooth. Among the Kaitish, for example, they pull out an incisor from one man, and hang it on a tree.3 Among the Dieri, the idea of ??rain is closely associated with that of bloody incisions made in the skin of the chest and arms. 4 Among this same people, whenever the drought is very great, the great council assembles and summons the whole tribe. It is really a tribal event. Women are sent in every direction to notify men to assemble at a given place and time. After they have assembled, they groan and cry in a piercing voice about the miserable state of the land, and they beg the Mura-mura (the mythical ancestors) to give them the power of making an abundant rain fall.5 In the cases, which, by the way, are very rare, when there has been an excessive rainfall, an analogous ceremony takes place to stop it. Old men then enter into a veritable frenzy, 6 while the cries uttered by the crowd are really painful to hear.7

Spencer and Gillen describe, under the name of Intichiuma, a ceremony which may well have the same object and the same origin as the preceding ones: a physical torture is applied to make an animal species multiply. Among the Urabunna, there is one clan whose totem is a variety of snake called wadnungadni. This is how the chief of the clan proceeds, to make sure that these snakes may never be lacking. After having been decorated, he kneels down on the ground, holding his arms straight out. An assistant pinches the skin of his right arm between his fingers, and the officiant forces a pointed bone five inches long through the fold thus formed. This self-mutilation is believed to produce the desired result.8 An analogous rite is used among the Dieri to make the wild-hens lay: the operators pierce their scrotums.9

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In certain of the Lake Eyre tribes, men pierce their ears to make yams reproduce.1

But these partial or total famines are not the only plagues which may fall upon a tribe. Other events happen more or less periodically which menace, or seem to menace, the existence of the group. This is the case, for example, with the southern lights. The Kurnai believe that this is a fire lighted in the heavens by the great god Mungan-ngaua; therefore, whenever they see it, they are afraid that it may spread to the earth and devour them, so a great effervescence results in the camp. They shake a withered hand, to which the Kurnai attribute various virtues, and utter such cries as "Send it away; do not let us be burned." At the same time, the old men order an exchange of wives, which always indicates a great excitement.2 The same sexual licence is mentioned among the Wiimbaio whenever a plague appears imminent, and especially in times of an epidemic.3

Under the influence oi these ideas, mutilations and the shedding of blood are sometimes considered an efficient means of curing maladies. If an accident happens to a child among the Dieri, his relations beat themselves on the head with clubs or boomerangs until the blood flows down over their faces. They believe that by this process, they relieve the child of the suffering.4 Elsewhere, they imagine that they can obtain the same end by means of a supplementary totemic ceremony.5 We may connect with these the example already given of a ceremony celebrated specially to efface the effects of a ritual fault.6 Of course there are neither wounds nor blows nor physical suffering of any sort in these two latter cases, yet the rite does not differ in nature from the others: the end sought is always the turning aside of an evil or the expiation of a fault by means of an extraordinary ritual prestation.

Outside of mourning, such are the only cases of piacular rites which we have succeeded in finding in Australia. To be sure, it is probable that some have escaped us, while we may presume equally well that others have remained unperceived by the observers. But if those discovered up to the present are few in number, it is probably because they do not hold a

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large place in the cult. We see how far primitive religions are from being the daughters of agony and fear from the fact that the rites translating these painful emotions are relatively rare. Of course this is because the Australian, while leading a miserable existence as compared with other more civilized peoples, demands so little of life that he is easily contented. All that he asks is that nature follow its normal course, that the seasons succeed one another regularly, that the rain fall, at the ordinary time, in abundance and without excess. Now great disturbances in the cosmic order are always exceptional; thus it is noticeable that the majority of the regular piacular rites, examples of which we have given above, have been observed in the tribes of the centre, where droughts are frequent and constitute veritable disasters. It is still surprising, it is true, that piacular rites specially destined to expiate sins, seem to be completely lacking. However, the Australian, like every other man, must commit ritual faults, which he has an interest in redeeming; so we may ask if the silence of the texts on this point may not be due to insufficient observation.

But howsoever few the facts which we have been able to gather may be, they are, nevertheless, instructive.

When we study piacular rites in the more advanced religions, where the religious forces are individualized, they appear to be closely bound up with anthropomorphic conceptions. When the believer imposes privations upon himself and submits himself to austerities, it is in order to disarm the malevolence attributed by him to certain of the sacred beings upon whom he thinks that he is dependent. To appease their hatred or anger, he complies with their exigencies; he beats himself in order that he may not be beaten by them. So it seems as though these practices could not arise until after gods and spirits were conceived as moral persons, capable of passions analogous to those of men. For this reason, Robertson Smith thought it possible to assign a relatively late date to expiatory sacrifices, just as to sacrificial oblations. According to him, the shedding of blood which characterizes these rites was at first a simple process of communion: men poured forth their blood upon the altar in order to strengthen the bonds uniting them to their god. The rite acquired a piacular and penal character only when its original significance was forgotten and when the new idea which was formed of sacred beings allowed men to attribute another function to it.1

But as piacular rites are met with even in the Australian societies, it is impossible to assign them so late an origin.

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Moreover, all that we have observed, with one single exception, 1 are independent of all anthropomorphic conceptions: there is no question of either spirits or gods. Abstinences and effusions of blood stop famines and cure sicknesses directly and by themselves. No spiritual being introduces his action between the rite and the effect it is believed to produce. So mythical personalities intervened only at a late date. After the mechanism of the ritual had once been established, they served to make it more easily representable in the mind, but they are not conditions of its existence. It is for other reasons that it was founded; it is to another cause that it owes its efficacy.

It acts through the collective forces which it puts into play. Does a misfortune which menaces the group appear imminent? Then the group unites, as in the case of mourning, and it is naturally an impression of uneasiness and perplexity which dominates the assembled body. Now, as always, the pooling of these sentiments results in intensifying them. By affirming themselves, they exalt and impassion themselves and attain a degree of violence which is translated by the corresponding violence of the gestures which express them. Just as at the death of a relative, they utter terrible cries, fly into a passion and feel that they roust tear and destroy; it is to satisfy this need that they beat themselves, wound themselves, and make their blood flow. When emotions have this vivacity, they may well be painful, but they are not depressing; on the contrary, they denote a state of effervescence which implies a mobilization of all our active forces, and even a supply of external energies. It matters little that this exaltation was provoked by a sad event, for it is real, notwithstanding, and does not differ specifically from what is observed in the happy feasts. Sometimes it is even made manifest by movements of the same nature: there is the same frenzy which seizes the worshippers and the same tendency towards sexual debauches, a sure sign of great nervous over-excitement. Robertson Smith had already noticed this curious influence of sad rites in the Semitic cults: "in evil times," he says, "when men's thoughts were habitually sombre, they betook themselves to the physical excitement of religion as men now take refuge in wine. ... And so in general when an act of Semitic worship began with sorrow and lamentation-as in the mourning for Adonis, or the great atoning ceremonies which became common in later times-a swift revulsion of feeling followed, and the gloomy part of the service was presently

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succeeded by a burst of hilarious revelry. "1 In a word, even when religious ceremonies have a disquieting or saddening event as their point of departure, they retain their stimulating power over the affective state of the group and individuals. By the mere fact that they are collective, they raise the vital tone. When one feels life within him-whether it be in the form of painful irritation or happy enthusiasm-he does not believe in death; so he becomes reassured and takes courage again, and subject! vely , everything goes on as if the rite had really driven off the danger which was dreaded. This is how curing or preventive virtues come to be attributed to the movements which one makes, to the cries uttered, to the blood shed and to the wounds inflicted upon one's self or others; and as these different tortures necessarily make one suffer, suffering by itself is finally regarded as a means of conjuring evil or curing sickness.2 Later, when the majority of the religious forces had taken the form of moral personalities, the efficacy of these practices was explained by imagining that their object was to appease an evil-working or irritated god. But these conceptions only reflect the rite and the sentiments it arouses; they are an interpretation of it, not its determining cause.

A negligence of the ritual acts in the same way. It, too, is a menace for the group; it touches it in its moral existence for it touches it in its beliefs. But if the anger which it causes is affirmed ostensibly and energetically, it compensates the evil which it has caused. For if it is acutely felt by all, it is because the infraction committed is an exception and the common faith remains entire. So the moral unity of the group is not endangered. Now the penalty inflicted as an expiation is only a manifestation of the public anger, the material proof of its unanimity. So it really does have the healing effect attributed to it. At bottom, the sentiment which is at the root of the real expiatory rites does not differ in nature from that which we have found at the basis of the other piacular rites: it is a sort of irritated sorrow which tends to manifest itself by acts of destruction. Sometimes it is assuaged to the detriment of him who feels it; sometimes it is at the expense of some foreign third party. But in either case, the psychic mechanism is essentially the same.3

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IV

One of the greatest services which Robertson Smith has rendered to the science of religions is to have pointed out the ambiguity of the notion of sacredness.

Religious forces are of two sorts. Some are beneficent, guardians of the physical and moral order, dispensers of life and health and all the qualities which men esteem: this is the case with the totemic principle, spread out in the whole species, the mythical ancestor, the animal-protector, the civilizing heroes and the tutelar gods of every kind and degree. It matters little whether they are conceived as distinct personalities or as diffused energies; under either form they fulfil the same function and affect the minds of the believers in the same way: the respect which they inspire is mixed with love and gratitude. The things and the persons which are normally connected with them participate in the same sentiments and the same character: these are holy things and persons. Such are the spots consecrated to the cult, the objects which serve in the regular rites, the priests, the ascetics, etc.-On the other hand, there are evil and impure powers, productive of disorders, causes of death and sickness, instigators of sacrilege. The only sentiments which men have for them are a fear into which horror generally enters. Such are the forces upon which and by which the sorcerer acts, those which arise from corpses or the menstrual blood, those freed by every profanation of sacred things, etc. The spirits of the dead and malign genii of every sort are their personified forms.

Between these two categories of forces and beings, the contrast is as complete as possible and even goes into the most radical antagonism. The good and salutary powers repel to a distance these others which deny and contradict them. Therefore the former are forbidden to the latter: any contact between them is considered the worst of profanations. This is the typical form of those interdicts between sacred things of different species, the existence of which we have already pointed out.1 Women during menstruation, and especially at its beginning, are impure; so at this moment they are rigorously sequestered; men may have no relations with them.2 Bull-roarers and churinga never come near a dead man.3 A sacrilegious

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person is excluded from the society of the faithful; access to the cult is forbidden him. Thus the whole religious life gravitates about two contrary poles between which there is the same opposition as between the pure and the impure, the saint and the sacrilegious, the divine and the diabolic.

But while these two aspects of the religious life oppose one another, there is a close kinship between them. In the first place, both have the same relation towards profane beings: these must abstain from all contact with impure things just as from the most holy things. The former are no less forbidden than the latter: they are withdrawn from circulation alike. This shows that they too are sacred. Of course the sentiments inspired by the two are not identical: respect is one thing, disgust and horror another. Yet, if the gestures are to be the same in both cases, the sentiments expressed must not differ in nature. And, in fact, there is a horror in religious respect, especially when it is very intense, while the fear inspired by malign powers is generally not without a certain reverential character. The shades by which these two attitudes are differentiated are even so slight sometimes that it is not always easy to say which state of mind the believers actually happen to be in. Among certain Semitic peoples, pork was forbidden, but it was not always known exactly whether this was because it was a pure or an impure thing1 and the same may be said of a very large number of alimentary interdictions.

But there is more to be said; it very frequently happens that an impure thing or an evil power becomes a holy thing or a guardian power, without changing its nature, through a simple modification of external circumstances. We have seen how the soul of a dead man, which is a dreaded principle at first, is transformed into a protecting genius as soon as the mourning is finished. Likewise, the corpse, which begins by inspiring terror and aversion, is later regarded as a venerated relic: funeral anthropophagy, which is frequently practised in the Australian societies, is a proof of this transformation.2 The totemic animal is the pre-eminently sacred being; but for him who eats its flesh unduly, it is a cause of death. In a general way, the sacrilegious person is merely a profane one who has been infected with a benevolent religious force. This changes its nature in changing its habitat; it defiles rather than sanctifies.3 The

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blood issuing from the genital organs of a woman, though it is evidently as impure as that of menstruation, is frequently used as a remedy against sickness.1 The victim immolated in expiatory sacrifices is charged with impurities, for they have concentrated upon it the sins which were to be expiated. Yet, after it has been slaughtered, its flesh and blood are employed for the most pious uses.2 On the contrary, though the communion is generally a religious operation whose normal function is to consecrate, it sometimes produces the effects of a sacrilege. In certain cases, the persons who have communicated are forced to flee from one another as from men infected with a plague. One would say that they have become a source of dangerous contamination for one another: the sacred bond which unites them also separates them. Examples of this sort of communion are numerous in Australia. One of the most typical has been observed among the Narrinyeri and the neighbouring tribes. When an infant arrives in the world, its parents carefully preserve its umbilical cord, which is believed to conceal a part of its soul. Two persons who exchange the cords thus preserved communicate together by the very act of this exchange, for it is as though they exchanged their souls. But, at the same time, they are forbidden to touch or speak to or even to see one another. It is just as though they were each an object of horror for the other.3

So the pure and the impure are not two separate classes, but Vwo varieties of the same class, which includes all sacred things. There are two sorts of sacredness, the propitious and the un-propitious, and not only is there no break of continuity between these two opposed forms, but also one object may pass from the one to the other without changing its nature. The pure is made out of the impure, and reciprocally. It is in the possibility of these transmutations that the ambiguity of the sacred consists.

But even if Robertson Smith did have an active sentiment of this ambiguity, he never gave it an express explanation. He confined himself to remarking that, as all religious forces are indistinctly intense and contagious, it is wise not to approach them except with respectful precautions, no matter what direction their action may be exercised in. It seemed to him that he could thus account for the air of kinship which they all present, in

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spite of the contrasts which oppose them otherwise. But the question was only put off; it still remains to be shown how it comes that the powers of evil have the same intensity and contagiousness as the others. In other words, how does it happen that they, too, are of a religious nature? Also, the energy and force of expansion which they have in common do not enable us to understand how, in spite of the conflict which divides them, they may be transformed into one another or substituted for each other in their respective functions, and how the pure may contaminate while the impure sometimes serves to sanctify.1

The explanation of piacular rites which we have proposed enables us to reply to this double question.

We have seen, in fact, that the evil powers are tlie product of these rites and symbolize them. When a society is going through circumstances which sadden, perplex or irritate it, it exercises a pressure over its members, to make them bear witness, by significant acts, to their sorrow, perplexity or anger. It imposes upon them the duty of weeping, groaning or inflicting wounds upon themselves or others, for these collective manifestations, and the moral communion which they show and strengthen, restore to the group the energy which circumstances threaten to take away from it, and thus they enable it to become settled. This is the experience which men interpret when they imagine that outside them there are evil beings whose hostility, whether constitutional or temporary, can be appeased only by human suffering. These beings are nothing other than collective states objectified; they are society itself seen under one of its aspects. But we also know that the benevolent powers are constituted in the same way; they, too, result from the collective life and express it; they, too, represent the society, but seen from a very different attitude, to wit, at the moment when it confidently affirms itself and ardently presses on towards the realization of the ends which it pursues. Since

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these two sorts of forces have a common origin, it is not at all surprising that, though facing in opposite directions, they should have the same nature, that they are equally intense and contagious and consequently forbidden and sacred.

From this we are able to understand how they change into one another. Since they reflect the objective state in which the group happens to be, it is enough that this state change for their character to change. After the mourning is over, the domestic group is re-calmed by the mourning itself; it regains confidence; the painful pressure which they felt exercised over them is relieved; they feel more at their ease. So it seems to them as though the spirit of the deceased had laid aside its hostile sentiments and become a benevolent protector. The other transmutations, examples of which we have cited, are to be explained in the same way. As we have already shown, the sanctity of a thing is due to the collective sentiment of which it is the object. If, in violation of the interdicts which isolate it, it comes in contact with a profane person, then this same sentiment will spread contagiously to this latter and imprint a special character upon him. But in spreading, it comes into a very different state from the one it was in at first. Offended and irritated by the profanation implied in this abusive and unnatural extension, it becomes aggressive and inclined to destructive violences: it tends to avenge itself for the offence suffered. Therefore the infected subject seems to be filled with a mighty and harmful force which menaces all that approaches him; it is as though he were marked with a stain or blemish. Yet the cause of this blemish is the same psychic state which, in other circumstances, consecrates and sanctifies. But if the anger thus aroused is satisfied by an expiatory rite, it subsides, alleviated; the offended sentiment is appeased and returns to its original state. So it acts once more as it acted in the beginning; instead of contaminating, it sanctifies. As it continues to infect the object to which it is attached, this could never become profane and religiously indifferent again. But the direction of the religious force with which it seems to be filled is inverted: from being impure, it has become pure and an instrument of purification.

In resume, the two poles of the religious life correspond to the two opposed states through which all social life passes. Between the propitiously sacred and the unpropitiously sacred there is the same contrast as between the states of collective well-being and ill-being. But since both are equally collective, there is, between the mythological constructions symbolizing them, an intimate kinship of nature. The sentiments held in common vary from extreme dejection to extreme joy, from

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painful irritation to ecstatic enthusiasm; but, in any case, there is a communion of minds and a mutual comfort resulting from this communion. The fundamental process is always the same; only circumstances colour it differently. So, at bottom, it is the unity and the diversity of social life which make the simultaneous unity and diversity of sacred beings and things.

This ambiguity, moreover, is not peculiar to the idea of ??sacred-ness alone; something of this characteristic has been found in all the rites which we have been studying. Of course it was essential to distinguish them; to confuse them would have been to misunderstand the multiple aspects of the religious life. But, on the other hand, howsoever different they may be, there is no break of continuity between them. Quite on the contrary, they overlap one another and may even replace each other mutually. We have already shown how the rites of oblation and communion, the imitative rites and the commemorative rites frequently fulfil the same function. One might imagine that the negative cult, at least, would be more sharply separated from the positive cult; yet we have seen that the former may produce positive effects, identical with those produced by the latter. The same results are obtained by fasts, abstinences and self-mutilations as by communions, oblations and commemorations. Inversely, offerings and sacrifices imply privations and renunciations of every sort. The continuity between ascetic and piacular rites is even more apparent: both are made up of sufferings, accepted or undergone, to which an analogous efficacy is attributed. Thus the practices, like the beliefs, are not arranged in two separate classes. Howsoever complex the outward manifestations of the religious life may be, at bottom it is one and simple. It responds everywhere to one and the same need, and is everywhere derived from one and the same mental state. In all its forms, its object is to raise man above himself and to make him lead a life superior to that which he would lead, if he followed only his own individual whims: beliefs express this life in representations; rites organize it and regulate its working.




CHAPTER IX 1 | CHAPTER IX 2 | CHAPTER IX 3 | CHAPTER IX 4 | CHAPTER IX 5 | CHAPTER IX 6 | THE IDEA OF SPIRITS AND GODS | BOOK III THE PRINCIPAL RITUAL ATTITUDES | I.-The Elements of the Sacrifice | II.-Imitative Rites and the Principle of Causality |

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