Indra or Andra.
THE reason why I protest against scientific levity is because it does real mischief in retarding the progress of our science. There is so much still to do, and there are, no doubt, so many real dangers lurking on every side, that we cannot afford to waste time in attending to false alarms. Some of these alarms are most objectionable. If a scholar comes forward and gives his facts told reasons why he differs from other scholars, he may be right or wrong, and, unless his objections arise from sheer ignorance, he may claim an answer. But a custom has sprung up of late which is much to be deprecated. We are told that A. says one thing, but B., often an unknown writer in an unknown journal, says quite another, and that therefore no one knows anything. If those who indulge in this kind of warfare would give their reasons why they consider A. wrong and B. right, that would be useful work. But simply to say B. differs from A., therefore A. is wrong, or B. differs from A., therefore both are wrong, is unworthy, if not of a scholar, at least of a logician. Here is an example of what I mean.
When we have an etymology which is invulnerable on phonetic grounds, and perfectly satisfactory so far as the meaning of the word is concerned, it requires very strong arguments to replace it by another.
The derivation of the name of Indra, a god who is constantly represented as bringing rain, from the same rook which yielded ind-u, rain-drop, is beyond the reach of reasonable criticism. To say that we have in Sanskrit no verb ind or id, is saying no more than that there are hundreds of words in Sanskrit the root of which has not been preserved in a verbal base. But even supposing, what would be a mere guess, that Indra was derived from some unknown pre-Aryan or un-Aryan root, there can be no doubt that in the mind of the Vedic poets ind-u and ind-ra were inseparably connected1
. However, a certain amount of free and easy scepticism might be tolerated, if some other very plausible etymology of Indra had been suggested, for with such ancient names as the names of Vedic gods it is not unfrequently difficult to decide which of two equally possible etymologies is to be considered as the real one. But what shall we say to the following criticism2
? It is right to call attention to the fact that Indra is not said to rain in the sense in which Parg
anya, or Zeus, or Jupiter was said to rain; and the etymology which was supposed to prove his name to have made him a pluvial divinity has been superseded by a better one which has nothing to do with rain.
No Vedic scholar, so far as I know, has ever maintained that Indra rained in the sense in which Parganya was said to rain; but no Vedic scholar, so far as I know, has ever denied that Indra conquered the rain and sent it down on the parched earth. An etymology, therefore, which has nothing to do with rain, cannot well be called a better one on that ground.
But what is this better etymology? It was suggested many years ago by Bezzenberger, and I should be surprised if that conscientious scholar attached much value to it, and would still wish to defend it, particularly when the reading of the Zend Añdra for Iñdra has become more than doubtful3
. This Zend form Añdra was supposed to be the Old High-German antra
, and this antra
was supposed to mean giant, and to be derived from a root and
, standing for nad
, to howl. Now, first, there is no such root as and
. Secondly, there is no such word in Old High-German as antra
, but antra
is a purely imaginary word, invented in order to account for O. H. G. antrisc
, which means old, strange, wild, &c. But by the side of antrisc
there is in O. H. G. another word, antics
. It is by no means certain that these are two forms of the same word. It is far better to keep them distinct.
Schade, in his Altdeutsche Wörterbuch, gives antisc, andisk, entisk, entisch.
And antrisc, entrisc, eintrisk, endirisk, enderisk ahd., amhd. entrisch, adj. antiquus, priscus, antiquatus; barbarus, fremd; befremdlich, sonderbar. N. H. G. bair. entrisch, Schmeller 1, 77, Myth. 491.
Nor is it at all certain that either of these words has anything to do with the Germanic word for giant, O. E. ent (see Bosw.-Toller, p. 252), adj. entisc (Beow., 1. 2980), German Enz, and enzerisch, ungeheuer, pointing to a stem *ÿntiz.
With such a form as O. H. G. *antra
, supposing it ever existed, or *antiz
, we should never get at Sanskrit Indra; we might possibly get at Andhra, an ancient Vedic race, the name of which would be about as appropriate as that of the Indi, which Mone is said to have connected with A. S.ent
, plur. entas4
. When will people learn that vowels are quite as important as consonants?
This new etymology of Indra is therefore phonetically faulty, but it is likewise semantically untenable. If any Vedic Deva was ever a real Deva it was Indra, and to represent him as originally human, or as an old giant, is the wildest Euhemerism.
If the etymology which connects indu and indra had really been thought objectionable, several other etymologies far less objectionable than the O. H. G. *antra
might have been quoted. For, as I say again, and as everybody familiar with these researches is aware of, it is by no means easy, in tracing ancient names of gods and heroes to their probable source, to exclude all other etymologies as simply impossible. Professor Ludwig5
, one of our best Vedic scholars, suggested the Old Slavonic jędrŭ
, quick; Professor Roth seems still to be in favour of deriving Indra from in or inv, with an epenthetic d, so that it should have meant tamer or conqueror. But the epenthetis of d between n and r is possible in Greek, not in Sanskrit. Ever so many more guesses proceeding from ancient Sanskrit scholars may be seen in the Nirukta, X. 8. But none of them is so entirely free from objections, whether phonetic or semantic, as that which derives Indra from the same root which yielded indu, and thus vindicates for Indra the original meaning of the Rain-god. To say, therefore, that that etymology has been superseded by Professor Bezzenberger's ingenious but rash guess, is dealing in indolent assertions that can only be prejudicial to the interests of true scholarship.
Professor Jacobi in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xxxi. p. 316, has proposed a new etymology of Indra, by comparing it with ἀνήρ ἀνδρό-ς, and indirectly with Sk. nara, man. Apart from other objections, the phonetic difficulty pointed out before, the absence of an epenthetic d in Sanskrit, is decisive against this etymology.
Hey Diddle Diddle.
In criticising the labours of comparative philologists, great stress has been laid on the fact that comparative philologists sometimes differ from each other. It is difficult to imagine a weaker, not to say a meaner, argument. It was the same argument that was used against the decipherers of hieroglyphic, cuneiform, Umbrian, and Oscan inscriptions. They were laughed at because they differed from each other, and they were laughed at because they differed from themselves; as if progress, or, as it is now called, evolution, were possible without scholars differing from themselves and differing from others.
When learned argument was impossible or troublesome, squibs have often had to take its place in order to throw ridicule on serious students. I still remember the time when the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis published his famous squib, Inseriptio antiqua in Agro Bruttio nuper repserta: edidit et interpretatus est Johannes Brownius, A. M. Aedis Christi quondam alumnus, Oxoniae, 1862. All the laughers were then on his side, and comparative scholars were assured that an English Chancellor of the Exchequer had disposed of such men as Champollion, Bunsen, Burnouf, Rawlinson, Kirchhoff, Aufrecht, Mommsen, et hoc genus omne, in the short hours of leisure left him by his official duties. It seems to be a common failing of Chancellors of the Exchequer that they imagine that in the few hours of leisure left them by their arduous duties they can do infinitely more than ordinary mortals who spend all their time over Greek and Latin. I was truly sorry for Sir George Cornewall Lewis at the time, and I believe he lived long enough to be truly sorry himself for this jeu d'esyprit, which, I confess, reminded me always of an elephant trying to dance on a rope. In his Astronomy of the Ancients he had tried to show that, wherever the tradition of a language had once been broken, it was impossible, by means of the comparative method, to decipher an ancient inscription, whether in Egypt, Persia, Italy, or anywhere else. In his squib he gave a practical illustration, showing that, by employing the same comparative method, he was able to interpret any inscription, even the following, which he proved to be Umbrian:
HEYDIDDLEDIDDLE THECATANDTHEFIDDLE THECOWJUMPEDOVERTHEMOON THELITTLEDOGLAUGHED TOSEESUCHFINESPORT ANDTHEDISHRANAWAYWITHTHESPOON.
Often was I asked at the timenow nearly thirty years agowhy I did not answer these attacks; but, with all respect for Sir George Cornewall Lewis, I felt that no answer was deserved. Would an astronomer feel called upon to answer, if the most learned Chancellor of the Exchequer asked him, in his most solemn way, whether he really thought that the sun did not rise? Would a chemist feel disturbed in his experiments if he were told, even by the most jocular of journalists, that by profusely mixing oxygen and hydrogen he had never succeeded in producing a single drop of water? It is no doubt the duty of a journalist to give his opinion about everything; and if he does it with real esprit, no one finds fault with him. He may even, if he is persevering, stir up a certain amount of what is called public opinion: but what is public opinion to a scholar and to a lover of truth? Of course, if it can be shown that Bopp and Grimm have completely changed their opinion, or that those who followed after them have convicted these great scholars of many all error, the ignorant crowd will always say, Aha l aha! But those who are quiet in the land would, on the contrary, be utterly disheartened if it were otherwise, and if, in spite of constant moil and toil, the best scholars were always to remain in the same trench, never advancing a step in the siege of the strong fortress of truth. What seems to me intolerable is that persons who avowedly cannot form an independent opinion of two views, the one propounded by Bopp, the other by Grimm, should think that they can dispose of two such giants by simply saying, Aha! Aha! they contradict each other.
It is strange that some of these ready critics, who, though ignorant of Sanskrit, pride themselves on their knowledge of Greek and Latin, should be unaware that fortunately in Greek and Latin philology also great scholars contradict themselves and contradict others quite as much as in Sanskrit, Zend, Gothic, or comparative philology. The Greek classics have been interpreted now for nearly two thousand yearsat Alexandria, at Rome, at Constantinople, at Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, and Berlin. No doubt a schoolboy, when reading his Homer, imagines that the construction of every line is settled by his tutor, and the meaning of every word by his Liddell and Scott. But every true scholar knows how different the real state of the case is, how much uncertainty attaches to the meaning of many words; how often scholars have changed their interpretation of certain lines; and how fiercely the highest authorities contradict each other as to the true purport of Homeric poetry and Homeric mythology. Let us open the Odyssey, and in the very first line the best scholars differ as to the meaning of πολύτροπος and the grammatical analysis of ὴννϵπϵ. Ennius was right in rendering ὴννϵπϵ (i.e. ἔν-σϵπϵ) by insece, an etymologically-identical form, identical also with the German ansagen, English to say. But, if he was right in this, it follows that we must change ἔσπϵτϵ, say, into ἔσπϵτϵ, because it stands for σϵ-σέπϵτϵ, and there is no excuse for dropping the aspirate. As a matter of fact some of the MSS. read ἔσπϵτϵ. However, La Roche and other Homeric interpreters differ on this point, as on many others.
But if Ennius was right in rendering ἔννϵπϵ byinsece, he was probably wrong in taking πολύτροπος in the sense of versatus, as if it, were πολύμητις. Πολύτροπος in our passage means no more than ὅς μάλα πολλ ὰ πλάγχθη, according to a very common peculiarity of Homeric diction. Still this again is an open question.
The very next word, πλά; γχθη, gives rise to a new controversy as to whether it means he was tossed or made to wander. I decidedly prefer the first meaning, but far greater authorities prefer the second.
And so we could go on from page to page, pointing out words and whole sentences on which doctors disagree, and yet without any scholar venturing to say that it is useless therefore to read Homer6
There are two classes of readers for Homer, as there are two classes of readers for the Vedas. One class must accept what either Indian or European commentators have laid down as the law, just as schoolboys must accept what their master tells them, whether out of Aristarchus or out of Merry and Munro. Another class of more advanced students must judge for themselves. But no one would even pass moderations by simply saying that Sâyana differed from Ludwig and Aristarchus from La Roche, and that therefore they were probably both wrong. If two doctors disagree, it is surely no proof of superior knowledge and judgment to smile at those who honestly try to form their own opinion. It does not follow that both are wrong, because an indolent looker-on cannot decide which of them is right. It rather follows that the mere looker-on should keep at a respectful distance, and that he should not try to act as umpire, unless he knows the difference between a hit and a miss. Squibs are amusing for the time, but they are very apt to turn into boomerangs.
On Totems and their Various Origin.
Mr. Hoskyns Abrahall gives a curious extract from a paper, written by an Ottawa Indian7
, where he states that the Indians to whom he himself belonged, were divided into tribes, and a tribe was again subdivided into sections, or families, according to their ododams
, that is, their devices, signs, or what may be called, according to the usages of civilised communities, coats of arms. The members of a particular family kept themselves distinct, at least nominally, from the other members of the tribe; and, in their large villages, all people claiming to belong to the same ododam
, or sign, were required to dwell in that section of the village set apart for them specially, and which, from the mention of gates, we may suppose was enclosed by wickets or some sort of fence. At the principal entrance into this enclosure there was the figure of au animal, or some other sign, set up on the top of one of the posts. By means of this sign everybody might know to what particular family the inhabitants of that quarter claimed to belong. For instance, those whose ododam
was the bear, would set up the figure of that animal at their principal gate. Some of the families were called after their ododam
. For example, those who had the gull for their ododam
, were called the Gull family, or simply, the Gulls; they would, of course, put tip the figure of that bird at their gate. Others did not adopt this custom; for instance, the family who sot up the bear, were called the Big Feet. Many of the village gates must have been adorned with very curious carvings, in consequence of parts only of different animals being frequently joined together to make up the ensigns armorial of a family; for instance, the ododam
of one particular section consisted of a small hawk and the fins of a sturgeon (pp. 119-120).
Here, however, as in most cases, where we try to discover the origin of certain customs8
, we ought to be on our guard against supposing that, if we discover one plausible origin, the whole problem is solved. Like rivers, most customs have more than one source. We saw already how one clan, called the Big Feet, had for their sign the Bear. Here the Big Feet may have suggested the Bear quite as well as the Bear might have suggested the Big Feet. When we meet with a sign consisting of the wing of a hawk and the fins of a sturgeon, it is difficult to imagine what couple of ancestors this clan could have claimed. We know how many purely accidental circumstances have led to the foundation of certain armorial bearings among ourselves, and we must be prepared for the same variety among the Red Indians.
If scholars can prove that early races really believed that they were descended from bears, or dogs, and serpents and birds, I have nothing to say, though to my mind such conceptions, far from being original, seem generally later superstitions due to misunderstandings, and often to superstitions only. Even if it pleased a certain school to see in such superstitions a recollection of our pre-historic animal ancestors, no harm can be clone so long as the door is left wide open for other explanations. A student familiar with the customs of uncivilised races would probably consider these marks or names of clans so natural, and, at the same time, so much under the influence of historical events which baffle all conjecture, that he would abstain from attempting a general explanation of them, except where by some accident the key to one or other of these names had actually fallen into his hands. What could seem more natural than that, as we name and number our houses, people in their earliest settlements should have tried to distinguish their lairs or abodes by some visible signs. And if they marked their abode with a dead crow or a live wolf, would they not soon be called the Crows or the Wolves?
What could seem more natural than, for some reason or other, to call a man a donkey or a bear? And in this case also, might not his descendants have been called the Donkeys or the Bears?
Again, what could seem more natural than that people living in a country inhabited by snakes or bears, should themselves be called Nâgas (snakes), or Arkades (Ursini or Bears)? And as Bears could only be descended from some primitive or divine Bear, what is there irrational or even surprising in such myths as the descent of the Arcadians from a she-bear and Zeus?
All this, however, is only guess-work, and on closer examination we should find again and again that our guesses were wrong. The Shoshoni tribe, for instance9
, according to Bushmann, an offshoot of the northern branch of the Nahuatl linguistic division, goes by the name of Snakes, Gens des Serpents, Serpentine Indians, But there seems to be no trace of their worshipping a snake or claiming descent from a snake, and our author tells us that their name was taken from the Snake river flowing through the country of this tribe, on account of the numerous puff-adders found upon its banks10
. The gesture-sign by which the Shoshonis are know is formed by placing the closed right hand near the right hip, forefinger extended and pointing forward, palm down; then the hand is pushed to the front and toward the left, the hand is rotated from side to side, giving the index a serpentine motion, which is the sign for snake, as a reptile. The word Shoshoni, however, does not mean snake, and Dr. Hoffmann believes that the gesture-sign of snake refers to the weaving or building of the grass lodges in which these tribes lived. The question becomes still more complicated when we are told that the Shoshonis always ride on horseback, and that, if they lose their horse and have to walk on foot, they become Shoshocoes.
Another tribe is now called Tejon, a Spanish translation of the Indian word Tῐn'lῐu, a badger-hole. This name, however, does not originate with the many depressions found in the country occupied by this people, but from a myth having allusion to their origin in peopling the country by coming out of the earth through badger-holes, and consequently calling themselves Badger-hole People.
Another tribe is called the Crows, Absarokas, but the true Absaroka is said to have been white.
I only mention these few facts in order to show that if we want to know the real origin of totems we must study well-authenticated cases, such, for instance, as Mr. Brinton has placed before us in his valuable publications on American folk-lore.
Having shown why the White One, or the Rising Sun, and, in the end, the Creator of the World, was called the Great Hare
, and having proved the prevalence of a belief among the Red Indians and other tribes that they were Children of the Suit, Mr. Brinton finds no difficulty in accounting for the Hare as a clan-mark, or for the great respect which was paid to that mark and to that clan11
If the Athapascan tribes west of the Rocky Mountainsthe Kenai, the Kolushes, and the Atnaiclaim descent from a raven, Mr. Brinton has shown that with them the Raven was the name of the mighty cloud-bird, who in the beginning of things seized the elements and brought the world from the abyss of the primitive ocean (p. 229). How different, and how much more real, is this explanation than the vague theory, lately propounded again by Lippert 12
that a totem is the same as a fetish in which the soul of some departed ancestor has taken up its abode. What evidence is there that any Red Indian ever held such an opinion?
It may seem strange to us that the Dogribs, the Chepe-wyans, the Hare Indians, and also the west-coast Eskimos, with the natives of the Aleutian Isles, should claim descent from a Dog. But this animal again is known to have been the fixed symbol of the water-goddess from whom, as well as from the sun or the winds, all life on earth was supposed to spring13
(p. 229). Need we wonder then that the Dog should have become one of the family signs!
Though hasty writers, as Mr. Brinton writes, have often said that the Indian tribes claim lineal descent from different wild beasts, probably
this will prove, on examination, to be an error resting on a misapprehension arising from the habit of the natives of adopting as their totem or clan-mark the figure and name of some animal, or else in an ignorance of the animate symbols employed with such marked preference by the red race to express abstract ideas. In some cases, doubtless, the natives themselves came, in time, to confound the symbol with the idea, by that familiar process of personification and consequent debasement exemplified in the history of every religion; but I do not believe that a single example could be found where an Indian tribe had a tradition whose real purport was that man came by natural process of descent from an ancestor, a brute (p. 232).
How modern some of these so-called totems may be, can be seen from a communication made to me by an English traveller, who resided for a long time among the Red Indians. He saw in the centre of a village belonging to the Mandans as their totem, or object of tutelary worship, a boat, and their head Priest or Medicine Man was called The Old Man of the Boat. The legend they told of the boat was exactly that of Noah in the Old Testament, and so closely did they follow it that they always kept two pigeons near the boat in commemoration of the service they had rendered during the big flood.
Some scholars would no doubt feel inclined to use this coincidence as a proof that the Red Indians brought this legend away from the primeval centre of humanity; but it is by no means impossible that we have here a totem which is due to a Christian Missionary, and perhaps not more than a hundred years old. Such facts teach caution, however difficult that lesson may be.
Totemism is one of those pseudo scientific terms which have done infinite harm to the study of mythology. I have often protested, but, I am afraid, in vain, against the habit of using a name, which is applicable to certain objects in a certain country and at a certain time, as a general appellation.
I protested many years ago against the custom of calling all monuments, consisting of three stones and a fourth on the top, cromlechs
, in whatever part of the world they are found. Cromlech is the Celtic name of Celtic monuments, and to apply it to similar monuments found in Africa, Egypt, the Lebanon, in India or in Hawaii, is, to say the least, extremely misleading14
I protested once more against the slovenly use of the term fetish
, a name assigned by Portuguese sailors to certain objects of worship (feitiços) among the negroes of the Gold Coast, but afterwards so widely extended that hardly any tangible object of worship can now escape the name of fetish, or any religion the byeword of fetishism15
. The stone swallowed by Jupiter and afterwards preserved at Delphi, the anvils fastened to the feet of Hera, the stone found in the coffin of Alkmene, the stone which Jacob took for his pillow, and afterward consecrated as a Beth-el, the Coronation-stone at Westminster Abbey, all have lately been promiscuously labelled as fetishes, as if that taught us anything, instead of making confusion only worse confounded.
All this is thoroughly unscientific. To take a foreign word, without accurately defining it, and then to add to it the magical termination of ism, may save a great deal of trouble, but what is here called trouble, is in reality accurate thought.
is no doubt, a very convenient term. I have often used it myself, and should have been the last person to cavil at its barbarous form17
, if only its meaning were accurately defined. It was simply in order to hint at the danger of using such terms without knowing even their etymology and meaning, that I lately recalled the remarks of lather Cuoq. The word totem
is properly ote
, meaning clan-mark: The possessive form is otem
, and with the personal pronoun nind otem
, my clan-mark, kit otem
, thy clan-mark18
Nothing was further from my thoughts than to wish to abolish the old familiar term of totem
, when it is used in its legitimate sense. There are much stronger reasons why we should abolish such terms as Zend, Avesta, Pâli, Aryan
, and Turanian
, yet if only we define clearly what we mean by them, it is far better to retain them. All I wish for is that those who write about Totem
should tell us exactly what they mean by those words, and that they should not take it for granted that religion must everywhere pass through the phases of fetishism, totemism, animism or any other ism.
Durgâ, as a goddess, occurs for the first time in one of the Khilas of the Rig-veda, if indeed we may assign to these poor compilations a greater antiquity than to the Âran
yakas. This Khila is a hymn to Râtrî, the night. It is found in the MSS. of the Rig-veda after the 127th hymn of the 10th Man
dala (see my edit. princ., vol. vi. p. 23). After four verses addressed to Râtrî, follow some verses addressed to Durgâ. I give the translation of the hymn, as far as it can be translated in its imperfect form19
O Night, the terrestrial air has been filled by the father's powers; thou, the mighty, traversest the mansions of the sky, and awful darkness returns.
O Night, may thy man-beholding seers (the stars) be ninety-nine, eighty-eight, and seventy-seven.
I approach the Night, the mother, who brings rest to all creatures, the kindly20
, holy, dark night of the whole world.
I have approached the fortunate (sivâ) night, who quiets and composes (all things), adorned with a garland of plants and stars. O kind one, may we reach the other side! O kind one, may we reach the other side! Om, adoration!
Now begins the hymn to Durgâ, though there is as yet nothing in these verses that points directly to this goddess as described in the Mârkandeya Purâna. We have had the epithets sivâ and durgâ in the preceding verses, as applied to Râtrî, we now see her called Durgâ, but without any definite mythological character.
I shall eagerly praise the divine (devî) Durgâ, who yields a refuge, who is beloved by the Bahvrik
as (priests of the Rig-veda), who is equal to a thousand21
. Let us pour out Soma to G
Thou art approached23
shis for the peace of the twice-born, then art born in the Rig-veda. May she (or Agni) burn up the wealth of the enemy.
Whatever Brâhmanas, learned or ignorant, approach thee, O Goddess (devi), the carrier of oblations, may she (or he) carry us over all obstacles (durgâni).
Whatever twice-born men shall celebrate the fire-coloured, beautiful, gentle (goddess), she will carry them over obstacles,Agni (carries) across all evils, as in a boat across a river.
All who are bewildered in obstacles, in misfortune, in fearful war, in trouble from enemies, in visitations from fire or thieves, in escape from evil stars, in troublesome obstacles, in wars and wildernesses, approach thee. Give us security from these, give us security from these. Om, adoration!
The long-haired (kesinî), whose name among all creatures is Pañkamî (the Fifth, or Beautiful), may she, the good Night, the goddess (devî), preserve us always, may she preserve us always. Om, adoration!
I approach as my refuge Durgâ, the goddess, the fire-coloured, flaming with heat, the daughter of the suit (Virokana), who is welcome for the rewards of good works. O thou well-speeding, adoration to thy speed!
May Durgâ, the goddess (devîh), be propitious for our success!
He who always recites this praise of Durgâ night after night [viz. â râtri, Kusika Saubhara, the poet, or Râtrî Bhâradvâgî, praise of the Night, metre Gâyatrî], he who mutters the hymn to Râtrî, he succeeds at that very time.
This is clearly a compilation made on purpose for a goddess Durgâ. What we can recognise behind her, are the night and the fire. The epithet durgâ, difficult to pass, or difficult to approach, would be applicable to both.
In the Taittirîya-âranyaka, X. 7, we find a verse addressed to the same goddess, but under the name of Durgih:
Kâtyâyanâya vidmahe, Kanyâkumârî dhîmahi, tan no Durgih prokodayât.
I doubt whether the text is correct. We expect the names Kâtyâyanî, the accusative Kanyâkumârîm, and Durgâ. The commentator, however, explains Durgi for Durgâ as lingavyatyayas khândasah, and it has to be observed that all the preceding deities are masculine, namely, Rudra, Vinâyaka, Nandi, Kârtikeya, Garuda, Brahmâ, Vishnu, Narasimha, âditya, Agni, and lastly Durgi. In the text of the Mahânârâyana Upanishad, III. 12 (ed. G. A. Jacob, 1888, p. 4), the text is more correct:
Kâtyâyanyai vidmahe, Kanyâkumârîm dhîmahi, tan no Durgâ prakadayât.
Again, in Taitt.-Âr. X. 26 and 30, we find invocations addressed to Gâyatrî, which strongly remind us of Durgâ. In the 26th Anuvâka, Gâyatrî is called varadâ, boon-giving, and in the 30th Anuvâka she is spoken of as uttame sikhare gâtâ (or devî) bhûmyâm parvata-mûrdhani, born on the highest peak, on the earth, on the summit of the mountain, which epithets might refer to Pârvatî, but are by tradition referred to Gâyatrî or Sarasvatî.
Several of the names given to Rudra in the Taittirîya-Âranyaka, point to him as the husband of Durgâ. Thus we read, X. 18:
Namo hiranyabâhave, hiranyavarnâya, hiranyaûpâya, hiranyapataye, Ambikâpataye, Umâpataye, Pasupataye, namo namah.
Adoration to the golden-armed, golden-coloured, goldenshaped, the lord of gold, the lord of Ambikâ, the lord of Umâ, the lord of cattle!
This Ambikâ is mentioned as the sister of Rudra in Vâg. Samh. III. 57, and his name Tryambaka is derived from strî-ambika (Satap.-Br. II. 6, 2, 9), because Ambikâ, his sister, shared the sacrifice with him. This Ambikâ is in Taitt.-Br. I. 6, 10, 4, identified with Sarad, the autumn.
The name Tryambaka has also been explained as having three mothers, or sisters. But this can hardly be, as his wife also is called Tryambakâ. Most likely it was meant as another expression for Trilokana, three-eyed, one of the most general names of Siva in later times.
On the Untrustworthiness of Anthropological Evidence.
As it has been suggested that my representation of the untrustworthy character of much of the evidence on which students of comparative theology and of anthropology have to rely is exaggerated, I give here some of the pièces justficatives. I do not blame anybody. On the contrary, I highly appreciate the labours of those who have given us their accounts of what they have seen and heard among savage tribes. Nor have I any right to find fault with others who in their study of language, customs, and religions have trusted these accounts, as I myself have but too often shared their fate. All I say is that now that we have found out by sad experience how untrustworthy some of these accounts are, and how often they flatly contradict each other, we ought to discard all evidence that does not come to us either from a man who was able himself to converse with native races, or who was at least an eye-witness of what he relates. Even then, I know full well, there still remain many dangers. Savages, when brought into conversational inter-course with white people, are generally very anxious to please. They never like to disappoint or contradict their questioners. Mr. Ellis in his charming Polynesian Researches, published many years ago, remarks that almost in the same breath a Malagasy will express his belief that when he dies he ceases altogether to exist, and yet confess the fact that he is in the habit of praying to his ancestors who are supposed to hover about their tombs.
It was Darwin, I believe, who remarked very truly, that the effects of false inferences are but of little moment, for every one feels a pleasure in setting them straight, but that false facts are most dangerous, because there may be but few who can point out their untruth24
When we have to deal with the evidence taken from language or from literary works, everybody can form his own opinion, or, if he cannot, he can abstain. But when we have to deal with evidence even of eye-witnesses from the Andaman Islands, and if these eye-witnesses not only differ, but contradict each other, what shall we do? Shall we go to the Andaman Islands, before finishing a sentence? And if we did go, would it not take years before we could learn the native dialects in order to be able freely to converse with the natives, and thus to guard against the very mishaps that have befallen those who came before us? All we can do is to follow strictly the two principles which I laid down in my Lecture, never to quote any but eye-witnesses, and never to trust even eye-witnesses unless they were familiar with the language. This, no doubt, will very considerably reduce the bulk of what has been written on anecdotic anthropology, and more particularly, on comparative theology, but what we lose in quantity we shall certainly gain in quality.
It is unfortunate that this subject cannot be discussed without exciting personal resentments. I sometimes wish that all learned works could be written anonymously. Whenever one scholar arrives at results different from those hitherto accepted, it is looked upon as a kind of slur thrown on those who hold the old opinion. It does not seem to be so in other sciences. If a new planet is discovered by one observer, the other astronomers do not consider them-selves disgraced, or bound in honour to defend their old map of the stars. When spectral analysis showed that former theories on the constituent elements of the sun were imperfect and erroneous, no one felt ashamed of his former ignorance.
Why should it be different with scholars? The difficulty of gaining a clear conception of a religion by addressing some questions on religious topics to a few savages is enormous. It is not easy, as we all know, to draw an intelligent answer on the most common subjects from a ploughboy. But a native of Australia stands on a much lower level than most English ploughboys. And if he is asked any question by a white man, he is frightened. He does not know why he should be asked such questions, and he is at once afraid of mischief. When he gives an answer, the questioner himself is often at a loss to understand, or, thinking he does understand it, he entirely misapprehends its real meaning.
Names of Places.
What can be simpler than to ask the name of a place? But though wandering tribes may have names for any remarkable spot in their territories, they seldom feel the necessity of naming larger areas, and when they are asked their names, they are as much at a loss as if we were asked the name of a long extent of downs or forests. Thus it is extremely probable that the name of what is now called the Manéra Plains arose from a Sydney black being asked the name, and replying manyer, that is, I do not know. Ever since the place has been called Manera.
Mr. Threlkeld, in his Australian Grammar (1834), tells us that a naturalist one day requested the name of a native cat from M'Gill, his aboriginal, who replied minnaring. The person was about to write down the word minnaring, a native cat, when Mr. Threlkeld prevented him, observing that the word was not the name of the native cat, but a question, namely, What (is it you say? being understood), the black man not understanding what was said.
A similar accident is said to have occurred with regard to the inhabitants of the Andaman islands, the so-called Min-copies. When they were asked their name, they answered Min kaich (come here), or Kâmin kâpi (stand here), and this, according to Mr. E. H. Man (The Andaman Islanders, p. 3), may have been corrupted to Mincopie.
A similar case is mentioned by Chamisso in his Voyage Round the World
. It is a well-known Polynesian custom to exchange names in token of friendship. One of Chamisso's companions, Dr. Eschholtz, wished to exchange his name with a person sitting on the left of the chief. The chief being asked his name, replied Teridili
, he on the left? i.e. Do you mean him on the left? This Teridili
was, however, mistaken for the man's name, and adopted by Chamisso's friend. When Chamisso's friend, Dr. Eschholtz, was asked by Teridili
for his name, he did not quite understand either. Chamisso interpreted, saying, Dein Name
, i.e. he wants to know your name. Upon which Teridili
laid hold of Dein Name
, and was called in future Deinnam25
These may seem extreme cases, but even as extreme cases, they are far more frequent than we should suspect. It is only by remembering this difficulty of a free exchange of ideas between civilised and uncivilised people that we can account for the constant contradictions between eye-witnesses who have spent years in Africa, Australia, or New Zealand, who have observed the same scenery and the same customs, who have even acquired a slight familiarity with the spoken dialects of the natives, and who nevertheless give the most conflicting accounts of what they have seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.
The Australian Blacks as described by Different Observers.
Mr. Curr's book on the Australian Race is a strong case in point. He has lived in Australia for many years. He seems to be a man of an observant mind, and free from any preconceived theories. He tells us that since the year 1866 he has been paying attention to the dialects spoken in Australia, and that he began his own collection of lists of words in 1873. He has had help from many quarters, and has been a diligent reader of the more important books that have been published oil the languages, the customs, and religious opinions of the natives of Australia. He has bad much intercourse with the blacks, though what that intercourse between Europeans and the natives of Australia amounts to, we may gather from a remark made by Mr. Curr (i. 26), that the conversation between the two is generally carried on with a vocabulary of probably not more than 250 words and 50 phrases.
The Australian as the Lowest Savage.
The Australian is often supposed to be the nearest approach to primitive man. Leaving the so-called primitive man out of the question, for I am afraid we shall never know anything about him, it is certainly of extreme importance to know, how low a human being may sink, without ceasing to be a human being.
Are there Fireless Savages?
Let us begin with the question whether there are any human beings without a knowledge of kindling and keeping fire. Some anthropologists, it is well known, are as anxious to prove that primitive mail must have been fireless as that he must have been godless. If then a missionary states that he has actually met with tribes that had no knowledge of kindling fire, no one surely would blame the anthropologist who accepts so welcome a statement in support of his own theory. But what is he to do, if another traveller asserts that he has seen the same tribe in the same locality kindling a fire? He can only turn away in disgust, or learn the lesson that from the days of Herodotus even to our own time the testimony of travellers is extremely doubtful.
This is not an imaginary case. The natives of Tasmania, for instance, who, like the Australians, have often sat for the portrait of the primordial man, were declared by Calder in his Journal, pp. 19-20, to have been unacquainted with the art of kindling fire. Other authorities, such as Dove and Backhouse, confirmed this statement. However, it was proved by Fourneaux that the Tasmanians could not have been ignorant of fire, and that they knew at least two methods of kindling fire. For he found in one of their buts the stone they strike fire with, and tinder made of bark. Others discovered flints and dried grass kept in baskets. Davies (p. 419) was informed that they obtained fire by rubbing round rapidly in their hands a piece of hard pointed stick, the pointed end being inserted into a notch in another piece of dry wood. As this process was not always successful, they generally, as Melville states, p. 347, and especially in wet weather, carried on their peregrinations a fire-stick, lighted in their last encampment. Mrs. Meredith (p. 139) relates that when the natives crossed over to Maria Island, they provided a little raised platform on the raft, on which they carried some lighted fuel to kindle their fire when they arrived there. Is not that the rudimentary type of the ship that brought every year the sacred fire from Delos? It may be, but it may also be something totally different.
Prometheus-legend in Australia.
It would seem as if the Tasmanians possessed even a kind of Prometheus-legend, though in a very primitive form. It was related by a native of the Oyster Bay tribe.
My father, he said, my grandfather, all of them lived a long time ago, all over the country; they had no fire. Two black fellows came. They were seen by my fathers, my countrymen, on the top of a hill. They threw fire like a star-it fell among the black men, my countrymen. They were frightened, they fled away, all of them. After a while they returned, they hastened amid made a fire, a fire with wood; no more was fire lost in our land. The legend then goes on to say that the two black fellows are now in the clouds, and are seen in the clear nights like two stars. Mr. Milligan, who tells this story in the Papers of the Royal Society of Tasmania, vol. iii. p. 274, identifies these two stars with Castor and Pollux. And he adds another legend about some other stars near them, given him by the same black.
The two black men, he related, stayed awhile in the land of my fathers. Two women (Lowanna) were bathing; it was near a rocky shore, where mussels were plentiful. The women were sulky, they were sad; their husbands were faithless, they had gone with two girls. The women were lonely; they were swimming in the water, they were diving for tray-fish. A sting-ray lay concealed in the hollow of a rocka large sting-ray! The sting-ray was large, he had a very long spear; from his hole he spied the women, he saw them dive; he pierced them with his spear, he killed them, he carried them away. Awhile they were gone out of sight. The sting-ray returned, he came close on shore, he lay in still water, near the sandy beach; with him were the women, they were first on his spearthey were dead.
The two black men fought the sting-ray; they slew him with their spears; they killed him; the women were dead! The two black men made a firea fire of wood. On either side they laid a woman,the fire was between: the women were dead! The black men sought some ants, some blue ants (puggany eptietta); they placed them on the bosoms (parugga poingta) of the women. Severely, intensely they were bitten. The women revived,they lived once more. Soon there came a fog (mayen-tayana.), a fog dark as night. The two black men went away, the women disappeared; they passed through the fog, the thick, dark fog! Their place is in the clouds. Two stars you see in the clear cold night; the two black men are there, the women are with them: they are stars above!
Here you have the rudiments of a ballad, it may be of an epic poem. Nothing was wanting but, a vates sacer, and instead of two black fellows we should have had a Prome-theus; instead of two women, diving for cray-fish, another black Helen.
Let us now return to Australia, and examine a few cases in which Mr. Curr, as an eye-witness, contradicts other witnesses point blank, with regard to the black fellows of Australia.
Colour of Australians.
Are these black fellows black? No, says Mr. Curr, Australians have a dash of copper colour, never the sooty tinge of the African negro (p. 37).
Name of Australians.
Mr. Ridley says that Murri is the general name for Australian blacks. Mr. Curr says No, and maintains that it is confined to the eastern portion of the continent (p. 114). He also holds that this Murri must be carefully distinguished from Murrî, the name given to children in certain families (p. 114).
Are they devoid of moral ideas? Most missionaries say Yes; Mr. Curr says No, and he ascribes their horror of consanguineous marriages to some undefined moral sentiment.
Property in Land.
There may be some excuse for a difference of opinion as to whether the Australians recognise land either as communal or as private property. It may have been the arrival of European settlers that served to arouse in the native mind the idea of personal property in land, while in former times, when there was enough anti more than enough of land for all, every one took what he required, and defended it vi et armis against all intruders, as long as he liked to keep it. That the Australians did not till the soil before the arrival of Europeans, nor tried to domesticate any animals, seems admitted on all sides. But Mr. Curr does not consider this as a proof of savagery, but explains it by the fact that, like the Andainanese, they had abundance of food ready to their hands, and that there was hardly an animal or plant worth domestication and cultivation in Australia (p. 79).
With regard to moveable property, there is again conflict of evidence. Taplin, when describing the Narrinyeris, says (p. 66), that weapons, implements, and ornaments belong to the tribe in common. Mr. Curr maintains that they are private property without any exception. He also narrates that the mail whose spear first wounds the animal, is considered as its owner when slain, according to a principle which is recognised by Manu also. Among other tribes traditional rules seem to fix the portion which different relatives may claim of a slain animal.
Sir George Grey had maintained that if a man marries two or more wives, each belonging to a different family, his sons will often rise against each other, in fighting the battles of the families to which their respective mothers belong. Mr. Curr (p. 67) entirely denies the fact, and tries to show that it is impossible. No young man of a tribe, be says, could ever be at war with his brothers or fathers. Yet Mr. McLennan has built a whole social theory on the statement made by Sir George Grey.
It has often been said that some blacks gave the masonic sign to a white man. Again Mr. Curr denies it altogether.
We now come to the much discussed question, whether the Australians had any idea of a God.
Again, most missionaries would say No, others Yes. But how can such a question even be asked? How could these blacks possibly have au idea of what we call God? One of the missionaries at New Norcia in Western Australia stated that the blacks in his neighbourhood have a very remote and vague idea of a Maker of all things, or rather of a great and strong man who made all things by the power of his word. The Rev. W. Ridley says that the tribes on the Namoi and the neighbouring rivers (who had long had missionaries among them) believe in a Creator, whom they call Bayaméor Maker; that he made man, whom he will judge, reward, and punish.
If a missionary asked some of the black fellows in our own mining districts, I doubt whether he would receive any better answer. The idea of all things being made by the power of his word, even though he be conceived as a great and strong man only, is far beyond the capacity of thousands of Christians.
But what does Mr. Curr say? He found that the people whom he asked whether they had a knowledge of God, were much surprised by the few simple questions which he put to them. And he expresses his conviction that the blacks, before they had come in contact with missionaries, had no knowledge of God, practised no prayers, and believed in no places of reward and punishment beyond the grave. As regards religion and morality, he says, p. 105, passing over a little outward show, it seems to me that they do not exist among them. Here he really contradicts himself, for on another occasion he accounts for their horror of certain marriages as dictated by moral principles26
The Australians believe that man has a spiritual part. This is admitted even by Mr. Curr, who denies them every thing else that other authorities have allowed them, such as a belief in God as maker of the world, and as judge of men. When a man dies, he writes, it is a very widely-spread custom for the relatives to tie up the limbs of the corpse securely, so as to prevent his coming out of the grave in the shape of a ghost. Even when the body of a relative or friend has been burnt to ashes, the same fear of seeing the deceased, or of being injured or frightened by him, still haunts the survivors, who always leave the spot at which a death has occurred, for a time at least. A man's ghost is accredited with all sorts of powers which the person himself did not possess while alive. Only the ghosts of men lately dead are feared.
That the Australian, however savage in some respects, was under certain social restraints, could not be denied. The male (p. 51) must commonly submit, without hope of escape, to have one or more of his teeth knocked out, to have the septum of his nose pierced, to have certain painful cuttings made into his skin, and to other hardships which have to be undergone, before he is allowed the rights of manhood. These restraints are not resisted. Boys who are not allowed to eat certain kinds of meat, are seldom tempted even by white people to break this rule. Where then is the controlling power to uphold these artificial restraints? Mr. Brong Smyth in his work, The Aborigines of Australia, declares that it was done by regular councils of old men. Mr. Curr (p. 52) flatly denies the existence of such councils, and maintains that the delegation of authority to chief or council belongs notoriously to a stage of progress which the Australian race has not reached. Even when another writer, Mr. James Dawson, comes forward in his work entitled Australian Aborigines, as an additional witness to the existence of chiefs and councils, Mr. Curr declares that he was imposed on by the blacks, and that his statements are impossible. He himself appeals to his long and familiar intercourse with the natives, and to the account of one William Buckley, an escaped convict, who lived for thirty-two years with one of the Western tribes, and who states that the tribes acknowledge no particular chief as being superior to the rest, and that they have no chiefs claiming or possessing any superior right over the soil.
Next comes the Rev. George Taplin. In a work of his called Folk-lore, published in 1879, he maintains that the eighteen clans of the Narrinyeri are governed by a chief called Rupulli, or landholder, and that there is at the same time a supreme council.
Mr. Curr, however, again contradicts this statement, and quotes Mr. E. J. Eyre, who in his Journals of Expeditions of Discovery in Central Australia asserts that among none of the tribes yet known, have chiefs ever been found to be acknowledged, though in all there are always some men who take the lead, and whose opinions and wishes have great weight with others.
Each father of a family rules absolutely over his own circle. Mr. Curr finishes up by saying (p. 60) that he has made inquiries and received written replies from the observers of about a hundred tribes to the effect that no government, no habitual exercise of authority by one or a few individuals, exists anywhere in Australia. He himself ascribes all the restraints which exist to custom, education, and particularly to superstition and the fear of sorcery.
It seems almost incredible that there should be this conflict of witnesses on points which one imagines might be settled by the most direct evidence. But it is not only on the question of government that witnesses contradict each other flatly. We find even more of hard swearing with regard to marriage. And here a new element comes in. Several anthropologists in Europe and America have started the theory that marriage was originally communal, that is to say, that all the women of a tribe were the wives of all the men, and all the men the husbands of all the women. To call this marriage, even communal marriage, has always struck me as a bold euphemism. We may speak of polygamy, where one husband marries several wives, or of polyandry, where a wife is married to several husbands; but promiscuous intercourse between all the men and all the women of a tribe, between fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers should hardly be spoken of as marriage. Whether such a state of things exists now anywhere, or whether it ever has existed, is a question that depends entirely on testimony. And here one would imagine that such a state of things, if it existed, could hardly be disguised. The exact form of government may withdraw itself from observation, and different facts may here be interpreted in different ways. A man might live many years in England without being able to give an intelligible account of the English constitution. But a state of promiscuous sexual intercourse prevailing among the members of a whole tribe, could hardly admit of misinterpretation. There are vague allusions to some such state of things in the epic poetry of the Indians. But when people are charged with living in a state of godharma, that is, with living like bulls and cows, that implies a charge of immorality, and it involves at all events a recognition of the lawfulness of marriage. This is very different from a supposed stage of civilisation in which the very idea of marriage was yet not known.
Now it is well known that among many savages, marriages, so far from being promiscuous, are under the most minute and complicated restrictions, restrictions so inexplicable, not to say irrational, that their very existence seems to require the admission of a long-continued tradition. In order to believe, therefore, that the same savages should at any time have been utterly ignorant of the meaning of marriage, would require the very strongest evidence.
Mr. Curr thinks that there is a very strong tendency in observers abroad, if they have become acquainted with a new and startling theory that has become popular at home, to see confirmations of it everywhere. In fact, if so many accounts of the life of savages are untrustworthy, the fault, according to Mr. Curr, lies with the whites quite as much as with the blacks. Every one acquainted with the blacks, he writes, p. 131, will, I think, bear me out when I say that the greatest care is necessary in taking their statements; for their desire to please, and their disregard of truth are such that, if a white man malting inquiries allows his views or wishes to be known, he is almost certain to find the aboriginal agreeing with him in every particular.
But it is not the evidence of the blacks only which requires to be cautiously sought and well sifted before acceptance; for it seems to me that, when a statement has been pronounced important in scientific circles, there are not wanting educated white men who will support it on very insufficient grounds.
The system of intricate restrictions regulating the marriages of Australians has been the subject of most learned treatises. It was first pointed out by Sir George Grey (1841), but it was displayed in all its fulness by the Rev. Lorimer Fison and Mr. A. W. Howitt, in their work, Kamîlaroi and Kurnai, 1880. It was headed by a preface from the pen of Professor Lewis AI. Norgan, the well-known author of the System of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family. We must remember that similar systematic restrictions on marriage bad been discovered in Asia, Africa, and America, and hence, as Mr. Curr remarks, the inclination of later writers to discover among the Australian blacks as near an approach as possible to the marriage systems in other parts of the world. That inclination, no doubt, exists, and has to be carefully guarded against. But Mr. Curr assures us that what Mr. Fison has written, and what has been so largely utilised by anthropologists, contains important statements quite at variance with fact (p. 119). Mr. Curr entirely denies the existence of what has been called communal or class marriage in Australia, as opposed to the very principle of Australian marriage, though he fully admits that the peculiar restrictions placed on marriage in Australia exhibit strong points of similarity with the restrictions accepted by uncivilised races in Africa, Asia, and America.
Every kind of evidence is made to tell by writers who have a theory to defend. Thus, because in the Australian language, the names for son and nephew are alike, it was argued that the system of communal marriage must have prevailed, which rendered it impossible for a man to distinguish his children from those of his brothers. But it was forgotten that women also call their own and their sisters children by the same name. Was that because they did not know whether their own children were their own? That the use of such terms of endearment proves nothing as to the former existence of communal marriage is best shown by the fact, that in many dialects they are used in familiar conversation only, while if fathers speak of, not to, their nephews, they have a distinct name for each (p. 136).
On the Untrustworthiness of the Accounts of the Religious Ideas of Savages.
If there is so much uncertainty as to what would seem to be clear and palpable matters in the life of savage races, we must not be surprised that, with regard to their religious ideas, the evidence even of eye-witnesses should be altogether confused and contradictory. There is one excuse for this which deserves consideration. Each witness can speak of those persons only with whom he has been brought into personal contact. What he relates, therefore, may possibly be true of a family, or of a clan, or of a whole tribe. But in a country like Australia, with so many tribes scattered about, it would seem to be impossible to say anything in general of the religious opinions of the Australians.
I have therefore chosen the small island of Tasmania, with its sparse and uniform population, and we shall find that even in this limited area accounts of different observers vary very considerably when they attempt to describe the religious customs and beliefs of the Tasmanian aborigines. I take a book lately published by Mr. H. L. Roth on the Aborigines of Tasmania. It is an honest, unpretentious, but very useful book. He first of all gives us on pp. 2-8 a very complete bibliography of all works treating of Tasmania, and then proceeds to place before us the quintessence distilled from that little library. In the fourteen chapters of his book Mr. Roth treats of the country, the form and size of its inhabitants, the psychology of the natives, their wars, their knowledge of fire, hunting, and fishing, their nomadic life, their personal habits, their scientific and artistic acquirements, their manufactures, their trade, their customs, good and bad, their language, their osteology, and lastly their origin.
It would be impossible to give an idea of the wealth of information on all these subjects which Mr. Roth has rendered accessible in this volume. It is well-arranged, and all his statements can readily be verified, for he always gives his references, and a complete index renders its use easy at all times. o si sic omnes!
I shall confine my remarks to one subject only, the Tasmanian religion, and, with the help of Mr. Roth, I shall undertake to show that there is not one essential feature in the religion of the Tasmanians on which different authorities have not made assertions diametrically opposed to each other.
No Religion.Nothing staggers a savageperhaps even an educated manso much as when he is asked what his religion is. No wonder that many of the Tasmanians, when asked that question, answered, with a broad grin, Don't know. What should we say if we were asked whether we believe in Raegoo Wrapper or Namma? Widowson, however, assures us that the Tasmanians had really no religion at all. It is generally supposed, he says, that they have not the slightest idea of a Supreme Being. Briton adds, They do not appear to have any rites or ceremonies, religious or otherwise.
Dualism.That the Tasmanians were Dualists, believing, like the followers of Zoroaster, in a good and an evil spirit, is attested by numerous authorities. Leigh says:Their notions of religion are very obscure. However, they believe in two spirits: one, they say, governs the day, whom they call the good spirit; the other governs the night, and him they think evil. To the good spirit they attribute everything good, and to the evil spirit everything hurtful. Jeffreys says:They have but a very indistinct notion of their imaginary deity, who, they say, presides over the day, an evil spirit making its appearance in the night. This deity, whosoever it is, they believe to be the giver of everything good. He adds, however, that they appear to acknowledge no more than one god, thus furnishing an exact parallel to the Parsis, who, though they admit two spirits, acknowledge Ormazd only as their true god. Milligan confirms this view. He admits that the Tasmanians believed in many spirits, but he adds that they considered one or two spirits to be of omnipotent energy, though they do not seem to have invested even these last with attributes of benevolence. Robinson maintains that they were fatalists (whatever that may mean in their language), and that they believed in the existence both of a good and evil spit it. The latter they called Raegoo Wrapper, to whom they attributed all their afflictions, and they used the same word to express thunder and lightning.
Nature-gods.That the Tasmanians derived some of their ideas of the godhead from the great phenomena of Nature we have seen already from their identifying day and night with their good and evil spirits. Thunder and lightning were their names for the evil spirit, or their devil, as some observers call him. Besides day and night, thunder and lightning, the moon also is mentioned as an object of their worship. Thus, Lloyd tells us, that it was customary among the aborigines to meet at some time-honoured trysting-place at every full moon, a period regarded by them with most profound reverence. Indeed, he adds, judging from their extraordinary gestures in the dance, the upturned eye and outstretched arm, apparently in a supplicating spirit, I have been often disposed to conclude that the poor savages were invoking the mercy and protection of that planet as their guardian deity.
Devil-worship.We now come to the testimony in support of an exclusive devil-worship. Davies asserts that the aborigines certainly believed in the existence of an evil spirit, called by some tribes Namma, who has power by night. Of him they are much afraid, and never will willingly go out in the dark. But, he adds, I could never make out that they believed in a good deity, for although they spoke of one, it struck me that it was what they had been told; they may, however, believe in one who has power by day.
Backhouse speaks in the same hesitating tone:
These people, he says, have received a few faint ideas of the existence and superintending providence of God; but they still attribute the strong emotions of their minds to the devil, who, they say, tells them this or that, and to whom they attribute the power of prophetic communication. It is not clear that by the devil they mean anything more than a spirit; but they say he lives in their breasts, on which account they shrink from having the breast touched.
If we could fully trust this statement, and it is confirmed to some extent by Horton, it would be most important as showing the germs of moral ideas among the Tasmanians. To believe in a devil, not simply with horns and hoofs, but living within our hearts, is an advance which, even in Europe, has as yet been made by a small minority only. The majority of Tasmanians evidently represented their devil in a more material form. Thus Dove says that, while they had no term in their native language to designate the Creator of all things, they stood in awe of an imaginary spirit who was disposed to annoy and hurt them. The appearance of this maligant demon in some horrible form, was especially dreaded in the season of night.
Monotheism.But while some authorities seem inclined to reduce the Tasmanian religion to a belief in a devil only, others seem to look upon it as almost monotheism. Thus Jefl'reys, though ho admits that the Tasmanians (like most Agnostics) have a very indistinct notion of their imaginary deity, relates that they have a kind of song which they chant to him. He knows that they believe in a good and an evil spirit, but he adds, that they believe the good spirit to be the giver of everything good, and that they do not appear to acknowledge any more than one god. That good spirit had, as we saw, no name, and this, which to some may seem to be a serious defect, is again a feature which the Tasmanian religion shares in common with the religion of far more advanced races.
Spirit-worship.Those who hold that religion began everywhere with a belief in spirits may likewise find some support for their theory in the accounts given of the Tasmanians. Henderson states:
A common belief prevails in Tasmania and New South Wales regarding the existence of inferior spirits, who conceal themselves in the deep woody chasms during the day, but who wander forth after dark, with power to injure or even to destroy. Their rude encampments are frequently alarmed by these unearthly visitors, whose fearful moanings are at one time borne on the midnight breeze, and at another are heard mingling with the howling tempest.
This does not prove as yet that these spirits are always believed to be the spirits of the departed. Milligan, however, after telling us that the Tasmanians were polytheiststhat is, that they believed in guardian angels or spirits, and in a plurality of powerful but generally evil-disposed beings, inhabiting crevices and caverns of rocks, and making temporary abode in hollow trees and solitary valleys, adds that the aborigines were extremely superstitious, believing most implicitly in the return of the spirits of their departed friends and relations to bless or injure them, as the case might be. To their guardian spirits, the spirits of their departed friends or relations, they gave the generic name Warrawah, an aboriginal term signifying shade, shadow, ghost, or apparition.
Immortality of the Soul.One point on which nearly all witnesses seem to agree is the belief of the Tasmanians in the immortality of the soul. They evidently had not yet advanced so far as to be able to doubt it. Milligan had ascertained that the aborigines of Tasmania, previous to their intercourse with Europeans, distinctly entertained the idea of immortality, as regarded the soul or spirit of man. Robinson, who was present at the burning of a dead body, received the following explanation from a native:Native dead, fire; goes road England, plenty natives England. What he meant to say was that when a black fellow was dead and had been burnt, he went to England, where there arc many black fellows. The name of England, Dreany, as a distant country, and the home of white people, had become with them the name of a new Elysium. Others expected to reappear on an island in the Straits, and to jump up white men. They anticipated in another life the full enjoyment of what they coveted in this. Backhouse declares that they have some vague ideas of a future existence. Dove remarks that they were persuaded of their being ushered by death into another and happier state, and he considers this as almost the only remnant of a primitive religion which maintained a firm abode in their minds. However, as if to show that no account of their religious persuasions should go uncontradicted, Davies remarks that, though it is hard to believe that the natives have no idea of a future state, yet from every inquiry, both from themselves and from whites most conversant with them, I have never been able to ascertain that such a belief exists.
Prayers.Of course those who maintain that the Tasmanians have no religion, maintain at the same time that they have no kind of worship, no sacrifices, no prayers. But Leigh tells us that, when any of the family are on a journey, they are accustomed to sing to the good spirit for the purpose of securing his protection over their absent friends, and that they may be brought back in health and safety. Jeffreys relates that it frequently happens that the sealers
are compelled to leave their native women for several days together. On these occasions these affectionate creatures have a kind of song, which they chant to their imaginary deity.
Charms.It is known also that the Tasmanians carried charms, mostly a bone, or even the skull of their relatives and friends. In some cases they ascribed healing powers to these bones, or at all events they put them by their side or on their head when they felt sick. This, after all, is no more than our preserving a lock of hair, and looking at it when we are in trouble or grief.
Negative evidence is always less trustworthy than positive. Still it may be taken for what it is worth, that observers seem never to have discovered idols (p. 69), totems (p. 75), or fetishes, among the natives of Tasmania.
Such is the nature of the evidence bearing on the religious ideas of the Tasmanians, which Mr. Roth has collected so carefully and so conscientiously. Nothing can be more full of contradictions, more doubtful, more perplexing. With such materials anthropologists and sociologists have had to build up their systems, and yet they look down with contempt on the evidence supplied by the Veda, the Old Testament, and the Homeric poems, because they contain various readings and because some passages admit of different translations!
We saw that there is hardly any kind of religion that could not be proved to have been the original religion of the Tasmanians. If it were desired to prove that, prior to the advent of Europeans, they were atheists, without any religious ideas or ceremonial usages, we have several excellent witnesses to prove it. We could prove equally well that they believed in a devil only, that they were Dualists, believing in a good and an evil spirit, that they had deified the powers of Nature, that they had arrived at a belief in one God, that they were polytheists, that they believed in ghosts, in the return of the spirits of their friends, in the immortality of the soul, and in the efficacy of prayers and charms. Nay, if it were desired to produce perfectly unprejudiced evidence in favour of the descent of man from some higher animal, Lord Monboddo might have appealed to the Tasmanians. For, according to Mr. Horton, they believed that they were formed with tails and without knee-joints, by a benevolent being, and that another descended from heaven, and compassionating the sufferers, cut off their tails, and with grease softened their knees.
Rajendralal Mitra's Notes on Vedic Funerals.
NOTE 1. Rajendralal Mitra has collected the following rules from other Sûtras. Immediately after death of a person who has always maintained the sacrificial fires in his house, a homa should be performed, accompanied by a mantra. According to Bodhâyana four offerings should be made, while touching the right hand of the dead, to the Gârhapatya-fire, with a spoon overflowingly full of clarified butter. Bharâga prefers the Âhavanîya-fire, and is silent as to whether the offering should be fourfold or not. Âsvalâyana recommends the rite to be performed at a subsequent stage of the funeral.
Rajendralal Mitra makes here the following important remark! Nothing is said regarding the taking of the dying to the river-side, or of the ceremony of immersing the lower half of the body in water at the moment of death, which forms so offensive a part of the modern ceremonial in Bengal.
NOTE 2. Rajendralal Mitra acids the following details: A cot of Udumbara wood is to be provided, and, having spread on it a piece of black antelope skin with the hairy side outwards and the head pointing to the south, the corpse is to be laid thereon with the face upwards. A son, brother, or other relative, or in his absence whoever takes the lead, should next address the corpse to give up its old clothing, and dress it in a now suit. The body is then covered with a piece of unbleached, uncut cloth, having fringes on both sides, the operation being performed while repeating a mantra. Then, wrapping it in its bedding or mat, it is to be borne on its cot to the place of cremation. The removal, according to some authorities, should be made by aged slaves; according to others, on a cart drawn by two bullocks. The road from the house to the burning-ground used to be divided into three stages, and at the end of each, the processsion used to halt, deposit the body on its cot on the ground, and address a mantra.
NOTE 3. Rajendralal Mitra adds here again some details which are interesting. Leaving the funeral pile to smoulder, the chief mourner excavates three trenches to the north of the pyre, and lining them with pebbles and sand, fills them with water brought in an odd number of jars. The people who had followed the procession are then requested to purify themselves by bathing in them; which being done, a yoke is put up with three palâsa branches stuck in the ground and tied at the top with a piece of weak string, and they are made to pass under it. The chief mourner passes last, and then, plucking out the yoke, offers a prayer to the sun. Thereupon, the party proceed to the nearest stream, and without looking at each other, purify themselves by bathing and a prayer to Pragâpati.
NOTE 4. Rajendralal Mitra adds: Subsequently, a proper place having been selected, a funeral procession should proceed to it in the morning, and the chief mourner should begin the operations of the day by sweeping the spot with a piece of leather, or a broom of palâsa wood. Then, yoking a pair of bullocks to a plough, he should dig six furrows running from east to west, and, saluting them with a mantra, deposit the urn in the central furrow. The bullocks should now be let loose by the south side, and water sprinkled over the place with an udumbara branch, or from a jar. The covering of the urn is then removed, some aromatic herbs, sarvaushadhi, are put into the urn, and subsequently closed with pebbles and sand; each of the operations being performed while repeating an appropriate mantra. A mantra should likewise be pronounced for every one of the operations which follow, and these include, (1) the putting of bricks around the urn; (2) the throwing thereon some sesamum seed and fried barley; (3) placing some butter on an un-baked plate on the south side; (4) spreading there some darbha grass; (5) surrounding the tumulus with a palisade of palâsa branches, and (6) crowning the whole by sticking on the top of it a flowering head of the nala reedarundo karka. The operator then anoints his body with old ghee, and, without looking at the urn, places it on the spread grass, invokes the manes, wipes the urn with a bit of old rag, sprinkles some water with an udumbara branch, or from a jar, having covered his own person with an old cloth, and then buries the urn with bricks laid over it.
Some karu rice is then cooked, sanctified by a mantra, and while the chief mourner repeats five others, is put on the five sides of the urn. Sesamum seed and barley are now scattered around, some herbs put on the mound, and more bricks added. Water should subsequently be sprinkled on the place, a prayer should be addressed to the gods, a branch of the varuna tree and a lot of brick-bats, a sami branch and some barley, should be placed on the mound, and the dead be invoked to translate himself to whichever region he likes
A few holes being dug round the mound, the ceremony of burial is completed.
Let us examine a few cases in point. Mr. A. Werner, in the Academy of Dec. 28, 1889, called attention to what he called Survivals in Negro Funeral Ceremonies. They were collected among the Negroes in Cleveland, and traced back to similar customs among the Negroes in Africa. At a funeral in Cleveland a stalwart Negro was seen to take from one of the carriages a small coffin. With the ceremony of a short and simple prayer it was deposited in the earth. Six or eight friends of the dead babe stood with tearful eyes during the few minutes occupied in filling the little grave. Then they re-entered the carriages and drove away. Just before leaving, a woman, whom I judged to be the bereaved mother, laid upon the mound two or three infant toys. Looking about among the large number of graves of children, I observed this practice to be very general. Some were literally covered with playthings. Upon inquiring I was told that this custom is almost universal among the coloured people in the South
Upon fully half the small graves, lying or standing, partly buried in the earth, were medicine-bottles of every size and shape. Some were nearly full, and all contained more or less of medicine which had no doubt been used in the effort to ward off the visit of death
One old woman who was loitering about the cemetery said, in answer to my question: I kain't tell ye why, mister, but dey allers does it. When I was a chile, I libed down in ole Virginny, an it was jes do same dar. I d'no, but mebbe dey t'inks de medisun ll he'p de chil'en arter dey's buried, but I don't see no good in it nohow. Mr. Werner then proceeds to show that this custom is clearly a continuation of the native West-African one (mentioned by Burton, Stanley, and others) of placing crockery and other household utensils on the grave for the use of the deceased
The American negroes, he concludes, while continuing the practice, have evidently forgotten its originwhich is perhaps not to be wondered at, seeing that most of them are two or three generations removed from contact with African soil.
Now, first of all, there is a peculiar Nemesis that seems to track the steps of lorists in all parts of the world. While Mr. Werner asserts that this custom exists widely among the coloured people in the South, Mr. W. J. Brown in the Academy of June 29, 1890, states that his inquiries have only resulted in finding that, so far as the persons questioned, both white and coloured, knew, no such custom as leaving medicine bottles or playthings on the graves of children had been heard of or seen in the Valley of Virginia. But in a visit to Petersburg, Virginia, he came across a coloured burial-ground, and noticed upon the children's graves, medicine-bottles, dolls, tea-sets, a psalter, and ornaments of various kinds. When he pressed the people for an explanation, some said it was done that the dead might see what they had taken, others said it was to mark the site of the grave (some kind of totemism), others again that it was mere foolishness.
Of course, if we press for an answer, we generally receive an answer. But is there any necessity to ask for an explanation? You know that to imagine fondly, means to imagine foolishly, and when the custom was called mere foolishness, it might with equal truth have been called mere fondness.
(From the Athenum.)
Oxford, Oct. 1, 1888.
Looking through some of the recent numbers of the Athenum, my eye was caught by the name of Dr. Krohn, of Viborg. I had been for some time expecting a letter from him, and now I see that he has been drowned. He was engaged in translating my Hibbert Lectures, On the Origin and Growth of Religion, into Finnish, to be published by the Finnish Literary Society. Dr. Krohn was an excellent Finnish scholar, and, as you mention in your notice, he obtained a prize from the French Academy in 1881 for his History of Finnish Literature. Finnish literature has been a subject of interest to me ever since I met my friend Kelgren at Paris, nearly forty years ago. He also is dead long ago, but the impulse which he gave at Helsingfors to a comparative study of Finno-Ugric and Aryan traditions has continued to the present day. I deeply regret that I have not been able myself to continue the study of Finnish, but my interest in the subject has never flagged. In one of my earliest courses of lectures delivered at Oxford, I. gave a full account of the now famous Finnish epic poem, the Kalevaln, and 1 pointed out the important collateral light which the collection of these songs from the mouths of the people by Lönnrot and others might throw on the collection of other epic poems, whether in Greece or Germany or Persia or India. I felt most anxious that a full and accurate account of Lönnrot's labours should be published before it was too late, and I was carrying on a correspondence with Dr. Krohn on this very subject, little suspecting that, like so many delightful correspondences, this, too, was to be cut short by death.
I send you a few extracts from Dr. Krohn's last letter, which will show you how much important information on some of the most interesting questions of what I may still call the Wolfian controversy we might have expected from Dr. Krohn's labours.
I had asked whether no more various readings had been discovered, and whether the separate ballads always began and ended in the same way. After telling me that a large collection of various readings existed in the archives of the Finnish Literary Society, Dr. Krohn continues:
It is a mistake to imagine that the Kalevala is sung without a settled division of ballads. The ἀοιδός does not sing to-day, say from a to d, and tomorrow from c tof. Though there is unity in our epic poem, it consists, nevertheless, of separate songs, and these are always repeated from the same beginning to the same end. When, however, they are transferred from one place to another, their skeleton, so to say, may be considerably modified.
The component elements of the Kalevala are all independent short poems, and whatever people may say about the impossibility of such short poems growing into a complete poem, here are the facts to show how it can be and has been done. The poems, often originally very short, grow longer and longer by the singer inserting short pieces known to him from other poems. Sometimes whole episodes are thus added, but very seldom does the singer add anything of his own. He will sometimes join two quite isolated poems, and this can be shown to have been done in many parts of the Kalevala. Some of these rhapsodies thus joined together remain afterwards as a complete and independent poem, and attract further additions. Sometimes poems referring to different heroes are combined, and what was said and sung originally of different heroes is now said and sung of one and the same. For instance, in the song of Lemminkainen's second expedition to Pohjola (songs 26-29), the original hero Kauko has been superseded by Lemminkainen, who originally was killed in his first expedition to Pohjola, though afterwards called back to life (songs 12-15) When, however, several songs have thus been united into one, passages are often omitted or abbreviated, for the memory of the Finnish rhapsodes is not very strong and cannot hold beyond a certain number of verses. We can clearly see that the separate epos of Kullervo has been added to the Sampo epos, which forms the principal subject of the Kalevala. In doing this the bad wife of the smith, against whom Kullervo had vowed vengeance, has received the name of the hostess of Ilmarinen. Into one account of the wooing of the rivals Wäinämöinen and Ilmarinen certain verses have been introduced by which the daughter of Pohjola declares that she would follow him, whoever he was, who had made the Sampo. Here, therefore, the song of the Sampo is presupposed, though the two songs are but seldom sung as outwardly joined. Many such instances might be added, but they would require long extracts from the Kalevala.
Our Finnish rhapsodes are generally void of all poetic gifts, and they proceed in their work almost mechanically. One of the best of them received some years ago a small pension from. Helsingfors, but the verses in which he conveyed his thanks were miserable both in thought and form.
In some respects this is fortunate. Much, however, depends on their memory. A strong memory preserves the poems intact; a weak memory causes variation, and in consequence further development. Nothing is ever changed on purpose, but in a weak bead poems get mixed, and a trait from one poem may travel into another unawares. By repetition such mistakes may become permanent, particularly in localities in which the poem from which the singer has borrowed is not known.
Again, when a certain hero becomes very popular in one locality many stories are attracted towards him. If he has achieved one great exploit why should he not have achieved others? The same applies to events. The description of the Päivölä feast was evidently a favourite subject, and in order to spin it out many traits have been added from Scandinavian and Russian songsnay, even from the feast of Cana in the Bible.
Thus we can see how originally in his dialogue with Anni (eighteenth song), Wäinämöinen spoke only of his intention to go fishing. But afterwards he is made to acid that he means to shoot geese, or that he is on the war-path. Again, in the original Finnish poem the creator was represented as being assisted by a bird. But if there was once a bird, it was supposed that the bird ought to lay an egg, and thus the Lituanian legend of the mundane egg was superadded. Thus we can watch the gradual genesis of the Kalevala. Much of the ancient Finnish poetry has, no doubt, been lost, but what survived was what was most liked by the people, possibly, therefore, what was the most beautiful. If a nucleus had once been formed, such as the story of the Sampo, every-thing else was drawn into the same vortex. It is generally supposed that some popular excitement produced by great political events is favourable to the growth of epic poetry. If so, it must have been when the Fins migrated into their present seats and came in contact for the first time with an entirely new civilisation, the Scandinavian, that the growth of their epic poetry tool, place. Many of their legends betray Scandinavian influences. This contact with new ideas and new characters may even have told on the characters of the ancient Finnish heroes. Thus we see in the charm-songs, in the song of Sampo, and in the creation story how the old Wäinämöinen is only a kind of wise and brave prophet. In some of the later songs he appears as shrewd and tricky, and his amorous propensities make him ridiculous. Some passages, such as the touching answer which his mother gives to her despairing son Kullervo, or the charming reply of the Pohjola maid, that she cared far more for the brightness of the forehead than for the brightness of her wooers gold, can be explained by individual poetical genius only, but the names of those true poets are lost for ever. Other passages, again, are bare of all poetic beauty, unmeaning, even absurd. Yet they are listened to with the same reverence, and are never exposed to any disparaging criticism.
The first work of uniting separate ballads into an epic story must be done by the people themselves. Where this has not been done, attempts made in the same direction by individual collectors or scholars have generally proved failures. This was the case with Macpherson; with Avenarius, who tried to unite the Russian popular songs into an epic poem; and even with Kreutzwald, who has given us a more or less artificial collection of the Estonian ballads about Kalevipoeg. But when, as in Finland, the people had performed the first sifting of the floating materials, a scholar like Lönnrot had no difficulty in imparting to these materials the last finishing touch. It cannot be denied that our Lönnrot has in several passages made the somewhat loose unity of the poem more perfect. He has drawn certain songs into the general frame of the poem which had as yet been left outside by the rhapsodes. He has added also a number of interpolations taken from other songs, which were meant to render the story more complete, and has arranged the songs in order, so that the unity of the whole poem should become more apparent. All this should be known in order to prevent misunderstandings. It is a mistake to imagine that Lönnrot learned the songs of the Kalevala as a child. In his native place they had long been forgotten. He began his studies with a small collection which had been made by Topelius, but afterwards collected so many, and knew them so well by heart, that he claimed for himself the privileges as other rhapsodes. As I am convinced, he said, that not a single rune-singer knows more songs than I do, I used the right, which every rhapsode claims, of joining the songs as they seemed to require it. How right his judgment was in these matters, and how sure his fact, is proved by the fact that the rhapsodes afterwards united the same songs. Nor can this be ascribed to their acquaintance with Lönnrot's printed edition, for the simple reason that in Russian Karelia and Ingerman-land, where these songs are found, the population is as yet ignorant of reading and writing. It is fortunate also that Löunrot himself was not a poet any more than other rhapsodes, though no doubt his taste, cultivated by classical studies, was more refined than theirs.
Thus, though a certain influence exercised by the final collector of the Finnish runes cannot be denied, we seem to possess these poems in a far more primitive form than the Homeric poems or the epic poem of the Nibelungs. The diaskeuasts of these two epics have reduced the popular elements to a far more artificial unity than Lönnrot attempted in dealing with the Finnish ballads. We have only to compare the Nibelungenlied of the twelfth century with the few remaining ballads of the Edda in order to see how much we have lost.
While I was waiting for fuller information, especially with regard to Lönnrot's collectanea, and the exact manner in which he learnt these songs by heart and afterwards reduced them to writing, my kind informant was snatched away. Let us hope that the Société Finno-Ougrienne at Helsingfors, which has done such excellent work already, may soon give us a complete history of the discovery and collection of the Finnish epic ballads by Lönnrot and others. It will be one of the most important contributions to a comparative study of epic literature, and may throw light on some of the darkest problems of the Wolfian controversy. May I also express a hope that such essays as are meant to be read by scholars all over Europe might be written in French or German, and not in Finnish or Swedish?
F. Max Müller.