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Taboos

tom of family feuds survives even yet in many countries of Europe, and in some parts of the United States.

As already suggested, one large set of customs is with reference to acts that must not be done or with reference to food that must not be eaten. We might call these negative customs. They are often called taboos. Taboo means nearly “mustn't touch." Most savage peoples regard certain plants or animals as taboo; they will not eat them. In some of these cases the plants may be poisonous but in many cases no good reason is known for not eating the plant or animal. Possibly some one was once taken ill or had some bad luck after eating the plant, and this would make it appear dangerous. Other taboos refer to conduct that it is feared will bring bad luck upon the group; marrying a woman from the wrong group is of this sort. A taboo is also a very convenient way to keep certain things for the priest or chief. If he says that the young cocoanuts are taboo, none will dare to pick them.

Why did the members of the clan observe these customs and taboos? For very much the same reasons that we conform to customs now. Three reasons are: (1) All of our group do it this way; (2) it always has been done this way; (3) it would bring trouble or bad luck if we didn't do it this way. (1) All our group do it this way. We all like to be with the crowd.” We don't like to be thought queer or different. We are all somewhat like birds or sheep that are lonesome if they are not with the fock, and follow wherever the flock goes. (2) It always has been done in this way. Habit is a strong master with all of us. It is easier to follow an old pattern in making a tool or a weapon or a jar or a blanket. And the more times

Why customs

are

obeyed

we do anything in a certain way the harder it is to change. It seems to be the right way. If husband and wife have always been from different clans it seems as if they ought to be so. If the son has always avenged his father's murder then it seems to be the only thing to do. (3) It is liable to bring trouble or bad luck to break a custom or taboo. Some people today fear to begin a journey on Friday. Passenger steamers do not often sail on that day. Early men did not know so much about nature as we do. They sometimes were made sick by poisonous plants. They sometimes found no game, they sometimes could get no water. It was not strange that they believed that there was a right way to prepare food, to hunt, to fight, to receive guests, to marry, and that a wrong way would bring bad luck.

The early group had several ways to make any member conform to its customs.

First, it actually trained him how to do certain acts. How the Parents now train children how to use knife and fork, clan

made its how to bow, how to speak correctly. Music teachers

members train pupils to sing. Athletic coaches train boys conform to play games. Soldiers are trained. The early group trained its children in dancing, in singing, in hunting, in religious ceremonies. In the second place, a group was

down on any member that did not conform, and no one liked to

“ down on ” him. They might make fun of him, or cut him, or in different ways make it so uncomfortable that he was glad to get back into favor.

Third, if this public opinion or ridicule was not enough the group might take more severe measures. If a man were suspected of practising witchcraft or if

have a group

he should marry a near relative, the Australians might form a war party to go and spear him.

Fourth, the greatest influence of all among savage peoples has always been the same, the fear that something mysterious will happen if a taboo is broken. Formerly among the Hawaiian Islanders there was an extraordinary degree of such fear. It was known that certain men who had violated a taboo disappeared. No one saw them taken off or killed, but they never failed to disappear. As a matter of fact they were captured by secret agents who were always to seize them when alone, waiting if need be for a year, in order to carry out their plan secretly. But the mystery was a dreadful feature. In some cases a man would fall sick or die after violating some custom; he would be literally frightened to death when he found out what he had done. Of course, this would be regarded by the others as a sign that some mysterious power was angry with any one who violated a taboo. Indeed one doesn't need to go to savages to find people who are afraid that certain acts will bring bad luck. Very likely we have all known persons who do not like to be one of thirteen at the table, or to wear opals, or to see the moon over the left shoulder, or to break a looking-glass, or to pass a graveyard at night. We perhaps smile at such fears; but savage people take all their taboos and customs very seriously.

How far had early man in clan life succeeded in laying the foundations for what has developed since? How far did he advance in getting a living? How far in uniting with his fellows? How far in developing the qualities of character which lie at the basis of citizenship?

In getting a living he showed great cleverness and Success in ingenuity. The inventions he made were remarkable. getting a But far fewer than among civilized people could get living a living. When people are comfortable and have plenty of food their numbers usually increase. If their numbers remain small it usually shows that focd is not plenty, or else that they suffer from war or disease.

The great lack among early men seems to have been Limits that they had not yet learned how to cooperate in a of early large way. Especially they had not learned how to cooperadivide up within the clan into different crafts and

tion trades nor to exchange goods with each other. And as for trade and exchange between clans, fear and distrust made that very difficult. Each clan was a sort of we-group that thought of other people not as customers or as friends but as an others-group.

There are two ways in which men can coöperate to help each other in getting a living. The first and simplest way is by uniting their strength. Two men can lift a heavy log, or catch a big fish, or bring down a large buffalo better than one can.

can. Savages cooperate in this way very well. The second way is by dividing up into different occupations and then exchanging products. The farmer, blacksmith, shoemaker, and weaver help each other far more than if they should all four try to work together on the farm, then at the forge, then at the bench, and finally at the loom. Or by a slightly different kind of division of labor men may divide up the parts of one task, as is done today in making shoes, and then put together the parts into complete products. The early men in savage or barbarous life did little of this second kind of coöperating. This made life hard, and kept them from getting on very far. For if one man has to do all

Wastes of clan warfare

kinds of work, or all parts of a task, he never can be as quick and expert as though he could specialize on one kind of work.

A second great lack in clan life was shown by the waste of time and energy in quarreling or war.

Not such great wars as came later but more or less constant danger. This again was because man had not learned how to live in large groups. He had to spend much of his time watching the other fellow, that is, the other clans; and even so, he was liable to be raided, his house pulled down or burned, and his crops destroyed. If one of his clansmen had injured some one of another tribe he might suffer for it although he had been quite innocent. It was only after man had found a way to keep peace, and had begun to make friends with other groups that he could make great progress in securing a comfortable living.

Yet although the clan was too small a group for the best protection and prosperity, we must not forget that it cared well for its members up to the limit of its ability. No one in the clan or tribe was allowed to suffer as long as there was enough food or clothing in the tribe. Among civilized people a family may starve while the man next door wastes enough daily to feed the first family for a month. We aim through our government and through charitable societies to relieve those who are in want; but in every great city there is much suffering in winter. To ask for help is regarded as a sort of confession of failure, and some prefer going without food or fuel to the humiliation of asking aid. The savage doesn't feel that he is begging for a favor; he has a right to his share so long as the supply lasts. Unfortunately if there were drought or failure of game or of a crop, the early group could not usually count

Mutual aid

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