Abbildungen der Seite

rigorous fast and abstinence. Her only allowed food consisted of dried fish boiled in a small bark vessel which nobody else must touch, and she had to abstain especially from meat of any kind, as well as fresh fish. Nor was this all she had to endure ; even her contact, however remote, with these two articles of diet was so dreaded that she could not cross the public paths or trails, or the tracks of animals. Whenever absolute necessity constrained her to go beyond such spots, she had to be packed or carried over them lest she should contaminate the game or meat which had passed that way, or had been brought over these paths; and also for the sake of self-preservation against taboocd, and consequently to her, deleterious food. In the same way she was never allowed to wade in streams or lakes, for fear of causing death to the fish.

“ It was also a prescription of the ancient ritual code for females during this primary condition to eat as little as possible, and to remain lying down, especially in course of cach monthly flow, not only as a natural consequence of the prolonged fast and resulting weakness; but chiefly as an cxhibition of a becoming penitential spirit which was believed to be rewarded by long life and continual good health in

after years.

“These mortifications or seclusion did not last less than three or four years. Useless to say that during all that time marriage could not be thought of, since the girl could not so much as be seen by men. When married, the same sequestration was practised relatively to husband and fellowvillagers—without the particular head-dress and ring spoken of-on the occasion of every recurring menstruation. Sometimes it was protracted as long as ten days at a time, espccially during the first years of cohabitation. Even when she returned to her mate, she was not permitted to sleep with him on the first nor frequently on the second night, but would choose a distant corner of the lodge to spread her blanket, as if afraid to defile him with her dread unclcanness." Elsewhere the same writer tells us that most of


IA. G. Vorice, "The Western Dénes, their manners and customs," Proceedings of the Canadian Instituiti,

Toronto, Third Series, vii. (1888-89), pp. 162-164. The writer has repeated the substance of this account in a later

the devices to which these Indians used to resort for the sake of ensuring success in the chase" were based on their regard for continence and their excessive repugnance for, and dread of, menstruating women.” But the strict observances imposed on Déné women

at such times were designed at the same time to protect the women themselves from the evil consequences of their dangerous condition. Thus it was thought that women in their courses could not partake of the head, heart, or hind part of an animal that had been caught in a snare without exposing themselves to a premature death through a kind of rabies. They might not cut or carve salmon, because to do so would seriously endanger their health, and especially would enfeeble their arms for life. And they had to abstain from cutting up the grebes which are caught by the Carriers in great numbers every spring, because otherwise the blood with which these fowls abound would occasion hæmorrhage or an unnaturally prolonged flux in the transgressor. Similarly Indian women of the Thompson River tribe abstained from venison and the flesh of other large game during menstruation, lest the animals should be displeased and the menstrual flow increased. For a similar reason, probably, Shushwap girls during their seclusion at puberty are forbidden to eat anything that bleeds." The same principle may perhaps partly explain the rule, of which we have had some examples, that women at such times should refrain from fish and flesh, and restrict themselves to a vegetable diet.

The philosophic student of human nature will observe, or Icarn, without surprise that ideas thus decply ingrained in the savage mind reappear at a more advanced stage of society in those elaborate codes which have been drawn up for the guidance of certain peoples by lawgivers who claim


work, Au pays ile r Ours Noir: chez

PP. 107, 110. les saut'ages de la Colombii Britannique James Teit,

“The Thompson (l'aris and Lyons, 1897), p. 72 sy. Indians of British Columbia,” Memoirs

1 A. G. Morice, “Notes, archaeo of the American Museum of Natural logical, industrial, and sociological, on History', vol. ii. part iv. (April 1900), the Western Dénés,” Transactions of p. 327. the Canadian lustitute, iv. (1892-93), + Fr. Boas, in Sixth Report on the p. 106 s4.

North-ll'estern Tribes of Canada, p. 2 A. G. Morice, in Transactions of 89 (separate reprint from the Report of the Canadian Institute, iv. (1892.93), the Brit. Assoc. for 1890).

to have derived the rules they inculcate from the direct inspiration of the deity. However we may explain it, the resemblance which exists between the earliest official utterances of the deity and the ideas of savages is unquestionably close and remarkable ; whether it be, as some suppose, that God communed face to face with man in those early days, or, as others maintain, that man mistook his wild and wandering thoughts for a revelation from heaven. Be this as it may, certain it is that the natural uncleanness of woman at her monthly periods is a conception which has occurred or been revealed with singular unanimity to several ancient legislators. The Hindoo lawgiver Manu, who professed to have received his institutes from the creator Brahman, informs us that the wisdom, the energy, the strength, the sight, and the vitality of a man who approaches a woman in her courses will utterly perish ; whereas, if he avoids her, his wisdom, energy,strength, sight, and vitality will all increase. The Persian lawgiver Zoroaster, who, if we can take his word for it, derived his code from the mouth of the supreme being Ahura Mazda, devoted special attention to the subject. According to him, the menstruous flow, at least in its abnormal manifestations, is a work of Ahriman, or the devil. Therefore, so long as it lasts, a woman “is unclean and possessed of the demon ; she must be kept confined, apart from the faithful whom her touch would defile, and from the fire which her very look would injure ; she is not allowed to eat as much as she wishes, as the strength she might acquire would accrue to the fiends. Her food is not given her from hand to hand, but is passed to her from a distance, in a long leaden spoon.”? The Hebrew lawgiver Moses, whose divine legation is as little open to question as that of Manu and Zoroaster, treats the subject at still greater length; but I must leave to thc reader the task of comparing the inspired ordinances on this head with the merely human regulations of the Carrier Indians which they so closely resemble.

Amongst the civilised nations of Europe the superstitions which cluster round this mysterious aspect of

1 Laws of Manu, translated by G. Bühler, ch. iv. 41 sq., p. 135.

: J. Darmesteter, The Zend. Juista, i. p. xcii. See Fargard, i. 18 and 19, xvi. -IS.

woman's nature are not less extravagant than those which prevail among savages. In the oldest existing cyclopaedia —the Natural History of Pliny—the list of dangers apprehended from menstruation is longer than any furnished by mere barbarians. According to Pliny, the touch of a menstruous woman turned wine to vinegar, blighted crops, killed seedlings, blasted gardens, brought down the fruit from trees, dimmed mirrors, blunted razors, rusted iron and brass (especially at the waning of the moon), killed bees, or at least drove them from their hives, caused mares to miscarry, and so forth. Similarly, in various parts of Europe, it is still believed that if a woman in her courses enters a brewery the beer will turn sour; if she touches beer, wine, vinegar, or milk it will go bad ; if she makes jam, it will not keep; if she mounts a mare, it will miscarry; if she touches buds, they will wither; if she climbs a cherry tree, it will die.? In Brunswick people think that if a menstruous woman assists at the killing of a pig, the pork will putrefy. In the Greek island of Calymnos a woman at such times may not go to the well to draw water, nor cross a running stream, nor enter the sea. Her presence in a boat is said to raise storms."

Thus the object of secluding women at menstruation is to neutralise the dangerous influences which are supposed to cmanate from them at such times. That the danger is believed to be especially great at the first menstruation appears from the unusual precautions taken to isolate girls at this crisis. Two of these precautions have been illustrated above, namely, the rules that the girl may not touch the

i Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 64 59., xxviii. , 77 99. Cp. Geoponica, xii. 20. 5 and 25. 2; Columella, xi. 3. 50.

? A. Schleicher, Volkstümliches aus Sonnenberg, p. 134 ; B. Souché, Croy. ances, Prisages et Traditions diverses, p. 11; A. Meyrac, Traditions, Con. tumes, Légendes et Contes des Ardennes (Charleville, 1890), p. 171; V. Fossel, l'olksmedicin und medicinischer Aber. glaube in Steiermark (Graz, 1886), p. 1 24.

A correspondent, who with. holds her name, writes to me that in a Suffolk village, where she used to live

some twenty or thirty years ago, every one pickled their own beef, and it was held that if the pickling were performed by a woman during her menstrual period the meat would not keep. If the cook were incapaci. taied at the time when the pickling was due, another woman was sent for out of the village rather than risk what was considered a certainty."

3 R. Andree, Braunschweiger Volkskunde, p. 291.

41, R. Paton, in Folklore, i. (1890), P. 524.

ground nor see the sun. The general effect of these rules is to keep the girl suspended, so to say, between heaven and earth. Whether enveloped in her hammock and slung up to the roof, as in South America, or raised above the ground in a dark and narrow cage, as in New Ireland, she may be considered to be out of the way of doing mischief, since, being shut off both from the earth and from the sun, she can poison neither of these great sources of life by her deadly contagion. In short, she is rendered harmless by being, in electrical language, insulated. But the precautions thus taken to isolate or insulate the girl are dictated by a regard for her own safety as well as for the safety of others. For it is thought that the girl herself would suffer if she were to neglect the prescribed regimen. . Thus Zulu girls, as we have scen, believe that they would shrivel to skeletons if the sun were to shine on them at puberty, and in some Brazilian tribes the girls think that a transgression of the rules would entail sores on the neck and throat. In short, the girl is viewed as charged with a powerful force which, if not kept within bounds, may prove destructive both to the girl herself and to all with whom she comes in contact. To repress this force within the limits necessary for the safety of all concerned is the object of the taboos in question.

The same explanation applies to the observance of the same rules by divine kings and priests. The uncleanness, as it is called, of girls at puberty and the sanctity of holy men do not, to the primitive mind, differ from each other. They are only different manifestations of the same mysterious cncrgy which, like energy in general, is in itself neither good nor bad, but becomes beneficent or maleficent according to its application. Accordingly, is, like girls at puberty, divine

1 The Greeks and Romans thought crasi, Indian Tribus, v. 70; Wiedethat a fielel was completely protected mann, dus hom innerin und äussern against insects ir a menstruous woman T.chin der Ehsten, p. 484. Cp. Halt. walked round it with bare feet and rich, Zur Volkskunde der Sicbenbürger streaming hair (l'liny, Nat. Hist. xvii. Sachsen, p. 280 ; Heinrich, Agrarische 266, xxviii. 78; Columella, x. 358 sq., Siltin und Gebräuche unter den Sachxi. 3. 64; Palladius, De ri rustiia, Sin Siebenbürgins, p. 14: Grimm, i. 35. 3; Geoponica, xii. 8. 5 $4.; Dindsche Mythologie,“ iii. 468 ; LamAelian, Nat. Anim. vi. 36). A similar mert, Volksmedisin aus Bayern, p. preventive is employed for the same 147. Among the Western Dénes it is purpose by North American Indians believed that one or two transverse lines and European peasants.

See School. Palivoed on the arms or legs of a young

« ZurückWeiter »