Henry Theophilus Finck.

Primitive Love and Love-Stories online

. (page 22 of 78)
Online LibraryHenry Theophilus FinckPrimitive Love and Love-Stories → online text (page 22 of 78)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


wide strait, chasing the sea-otter, etc.[71] In regard to the amulets
or charms worn by Eskimos, Crantz says:

"These powerful preventives consist in a bit of old wood
hung around their necks, or a stone, or a bone, or a beak or
claw of a bird, or else a leather strap tied round their
forehead, breast, or arm."[72]

Marcano says that "the Indians of French Guiana paint themselves in
order to drive away the devil when they start on a journey or for
war."[73] In his treatise on the religion of the Dakotas, Lynd
remarks:

"Scarlet or red is the religious color for sacrifices....
The use of paint, the Dakotas aver, was taught them by the
gods. Unkteh taught the first medicine men how to paint
themselves when they worshipped him and what colors to use.
Takushkanshkan (the moving god) whispers to his favorites
what colors to use. Heyoka hovers over them in dreams, and
informs them how many streaks to employ upon their bodies
and the tinge they must have. No ceremony of worship is
complete without the wakan, or sacred application of
paint."[74]

By the Tasmanians "the bones of relatives were worn around the neck,
less, perhaps, as ornaments than as charms."[75] The Ainos of Japan
and the Fijians held that tattooing was a custom introduced by the
gods. Fijian women believed "that to be tattooed is a passport to the
other world, where it prevents them from being persecuted by their own
sex."[76] An Australian custom ordained that every person must have
the septum of the nose pierced and must wear in it a piece of bone, a
reed, or the stalks of some grass. This was not done, however, with
the object of adorning the person, but for superstitious reasons: "the
old men used to predict to those who were averse to this mutilation
all kinds of evil." The sinner, they said, would suffer in the next
world by having to eat filth. "To avoid a punishment so horrible, each
one gladly submitted, and his or her nose was pierced accordingly."
(Brough Smyth, 274.) Wilhelmi says that in the Northwest the men place
in the head-band behind the ears pieces of wood decorated with very
thin shavings and looking like plumes of white feathers. They do this
"on occasions of rejoicings and when engaged in their mystic
ceremonies." Nicaraguans trace the custom of flattening the heads of
children to instructions from the gods, and Pelew Islanders believed
that to win eternal bliss the septum of the nose must be perforated,
while Eskimo girls were induced to submit to having long stitches made
with a needle and black thread on several parts of the face by the
superstitious fear that if they refused they would, after death, be
turned into train tubs and placed under the lamps in heaven.[77] In
order that the ghost of a Sioux Indian may travel the ghost road in
safety, it is necessary for each Dakota during his life to be tattooed
in the middle of the forehead or on the wrists. If found without
these, he is pushed from a cloud or cliff and falls back to this
world.[78] In Australia, the Kurnai medicine men were supposed to be
able to communicate with ghosts only when they had certain bones
thrust through the nose.[79] The _American Anthropologist_ contains
(July, 1889) a description of the various kinds of face-coloring to
indicate degrees in the Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibwa. These
Indians frequently tattooed temples, forehead, or cheeks of sufferers
from headache or toothache, in the belief that this would expel the
demons who cause the pain. In Congo, scarifications are made on the
back for therapeutic reasons; and in Timor-Laut (Malay Archipelago),
both sexes tattooed themselves "in imitation of immense smallpox
marks, in order to ward off that disease."[80]


MOURNING LANGUAGE

Australian women of the Port Lincoln tribes paint a ring around each
eye and a streak over the stomach, and men mark their breasts with
stripes and paints in different patterns. An ignorant observer, or an
advocate of the sexual selection theory, would infer that these
"decorations" are resorted to for the purpose of ornamentation, to
please individuals of the opposite sex. But Wilhelmi, who understood
the customs of these tribes, explains that these divers stripes and
paints have a practical object, being used to "indicate the different
degrees of relationship between a dead person and the mourners."[81]
In South Australia widows in mourning "shave their heads, cover them
with a netting, and plaster them with pipe-clay"[82]. A white band
around the brow is also used as a badge of mourning[83]. Taplin says
that the Narrinyeri adorn the bodies of the dead with bright-red
ochre, and that this is a wide-spread custom in Australia. A Dyeri, on
being asked why he painted red and white spots on his skin, answered:
"Suppose me no make-im, me tumble down too; that one [the corpse]
growl along-a-me." A further "ornament" of the women on these
occasions consists in two white streaks on the arm to indicate that
they have eaten some of the fat of the dead, according to their
custom. (Smyth, I., 120.) In some districts the mourners paint
themselves white on the death of a blood relation, and black when a
relative by marriage dies. The corpse is often painted red. Red is
used too when boys are initiated into manhood, and with most tribes it
is also the war-color. Hence it is not strange that they should
undertake long journeys to secure fresh supplies of ochre: for war,
mourning, and superstition are three of the strongest motives of
savage activity. African Bushmen anoint the heads of the dead with a
red powder mixed with melted fat. Hottentots, when mourning, shave
their heads in furrows. Damaras wear a dark-colored skin-cap: a piece
of leather round the neck, to which is attached a piece of ostrich
egg-shell. Coast negroes bury the head of a family in his best clothes
and ornaments, and Dahomans do the same[84]. Schweinfurth says that
"according to the custom, which seems to belong to all Africa, as a
sign of grief the Dinka wear a cord round the neck."[85] Mourning New
Zealanders tie a red cloth round the head or wear headdresses of dark
feathers. New Caledonians cut off their hair and blacken and oil their
faces[85]. Hawaiians cut their hair in various forms, knock out a
front tooth, cut the ears and tattoo a spot on the tongue[86]. The
Mineopies use three coloring substances for painting their bodies; and
by the way they apply them they let it be known whether a person is
ill or in mourning, or going to a festival.[87] In California the
Yokaia widows make an unguent with which they smear a white band two
inches wide all around the edge of the hair[88]. Of the Yukon Indians
of Alaska "some wore hoops of birch wood around the neck and waists,
with various patterns of figures cut on them. These were said to be
emblems of mourning for the dead."[89] Among the Snanaimuq "the face
of the deceased is painted with red and black paint... After the death
of husband or wife the survivor must paint his legs and his blanket
red."[90] Numerous other instances may be found in Mallery, who
remarks that "many objective modes of showing mourning by styles of
paint and markings are known, the significance of which are apparent
when discovered in pictographs."[91]


INDICATIONS OF TRIBE OR RANK

Among the customs which, in Darwin's opinion, show "how widely the
different races of man differ in their taste for the beautiful," is
that of moulding the skull of infants into various unnatural shapes,
in some cases making the head "appear to us idiotic." One would think
that before accepting such a monstrous custom as evidence of any kind
of a sense of beauty, Darwin, and those who expressed the same opinion
before and after him, would have inquired whether there is not some
more rational way of accounting for the admiration of deformed heads
by these races than by assuming that they approved of them for
_esthetic_ reasons. There is no difficulty in finding several
non-esthetic reasons why peculiarly moulded skulls were approved of.
The Nicaraguans, as I have already stated, believed that heads were
moulded in order to make it easier to bear burdens, and the Peruvians
also said they pressed the heads of children to make them healthier
and able to do more work. But vanity - individual or tribal - and
fashion were the principal motives. According to Torquemada, the kings
were the first who had their heads shaped, and afterward permission to
follow their example was granted to others as a special favor. In
their classical work on Peruvian antiquities (31-32) Eivero and
Tschudi describe the skulls they examined., including many varieties
"artificially produced, and differing according to their respective
localities."

"These irregularities were undoubtedly produced by
mechanical causes, and were considered as the _distinctive
marks of families_; for in one Huaca [cemetery] will always
be found the same form of crania; while in another, near by,
the forms are entirely different from those in the first."

The custom of flattening the head was practised by various Indian
tribes, especially in the Pacific States, and Bancroft (I., 180) says
that, "all seem to admire a flattened forehead as _a sign of noble
birth_;" and on p. 228, he remarks:

"Failure properly to mould the cranium of her offspring
gives the Chinook matron the reputation of a lazy and
un-dutiful mother, and subjects the neglected children to
the ridicule of their companions; so despotic is fashion."

The Arab races of Africa alter the shapes of their children's heads
because they are jealous of their noble descent. (Bastian, _D.M_.,
II., 229.)

"The genuine Turkish skull," says Tylor _(Anth.,_ 240),

"is of the broad Tatar form, while the natives of Greece and
Asia Minor have oval skulls, which gives the reason why at
Constantinople it became the fashion to mould the babies'
skulls round, so that they grew up with the broad head of
the conquering race. Relics of such barbarism linger on in
the midst of civilization, and not long ago a French
physician surprised the world by the fact that nurses in
Normandy were still giving the children's heads a sugar-loaf
shape by bandages and a tight cap, while in Brittany they
preferred to press it round."

Knocking out some of the teeth, or filing them into certain shapes, is
another widely prevalent custom, for which it is inadmissible to
invoke a monstrous and problematic esthetic taste as long as it can be
accounted for on simpler and less disputable grounds, such as vanity,
the desire for tribal distinction, or superstition. Holub found (II.,
259), that in one of the Makololo tribes it was customary to break out
the top incisor teeth, for the reason that it is "only horses that eat
with all their teeth, and that men ought not to eat like horses." In
other cases it is not contempt for animals but respect for them that
accounts for the knocking out of teeth. Thus Livingstone relates
_(L. Tr_., II., 120), in speaking of a boy from Lomaine, that "the

upper teeth extracted seemed to say that the tribe have cattle. The
knocking out of the teeth is in imitation of the animals they almost
worship." The Batokas also give as their reason for knocking out their
upper front teeth that they wish to be like oxen. Livingstone tells us
_(Zamb.,_ 115), that the Manganja chip their teeth to resemble those
of the cat or crocodile: which suggests totemism, or superstitious
respect for an animal chosen as an emblem of a tribe. That the
Australian custom of knocking out the upper front teeth at puberty is
part of a religious ceremonial, and not the outcome of a desire to
make the boys attractive to the girls, as Westermarck naïvely assumes
(174, 172), is made certain by the details given in Mallery (1888-89,
513-514), including an excerpt from a manuscript by A.W. Howitt, in
which it is pointed out that the humming instrument kuamas, the
bull-roarer, "has a sacred character with all the Australian tribes;"
and that there are marked on it "two notches, one at each end,
representing the gap left in the upper jaw of the novice after his
teeth have been knocked out during the rites."[92] But perhaps the
commonest motive for altering the teeth is the desire to indicate
tribal connections. "Various tribes," says Tylor _(Anthr._ 240),
"grind their front teeth to points, or cut them away in angular
patterns, so that in Africa and elsewhere a man's tribe is often known
by the cut of his teeth."

Peculiar arrangements of the hair also have misled unwary observers
into fancying that they were made for beauty's sake and to attract the
opposite sex, when in reality they were tribal marks or had other
utilitarian purposes, serving as elements in a language of signs, etc.
Frazer, _e.g._, notes (27) that the turtle clan of the Omaha Indians
cuts off all the hair from a boy's head except six locks which hang
down in imitation of the legs, head, and tail of a turtle; while the
Buffalo clan arranges two locks of hair in imitation of horns. "Nearly
all the Indian tribes," writes Mallery (419), "have peculiarities of
the arrangement of the hair and of some article of apparel or
accoutrement by which they can always be distinguished." Heriot
relates (294) that among the Indians

"the fashion of trimming the hair varies in a great degree,
and an enemy may by this means be discovered at a
considerable distance." "The Pueblos generally, when
accurate and particular in delineation [pictographs],
designate the women of that tribe by a huge coil of hair
over either ear. This custom prevails also among the
Coyotèro Apaches, the woman wearing the hair in coil to
denote a virgin or an unmarried person, while the coil is
absent in the case of a married woman."

By the Mokis, maidenhood is indicated by wearing the hair as a disk on
each side of the head. (Mallery, 231-32.) Similar usages on other
continents might be cited.

Besides these arbitrary modifications of the skull and the teeth, and
the divers arrangements of the hair, there are various other ways in
which the lower races indicate tribal connection, rank, or other
conditions. Writing about negroes Burton says _(Abeok.,_ I., 106),
that lines, welts, and all sorts of skin patterns are used, partly for
superstitious reasons, partly to mark the different tribes and
families. "A volume would not suffice to explain all the marks in
detail." Of the Dahomans, Forbes says (I., 28), "that _according to
rank and wealth_ anklets and armlets of all metals, and necklaces of
glass, coral, and Popae beads, are worn by both sexes." Livingstone
relates _(Mis. Trav_., 276) that the copper rings worn on their ankles
by the chiefs of Londa were so large and heavy that they seriously
inconvenienced them in walking. That this custom was entirely an
outcome of vanity and emulation, and not a manifestation of the
esthetic sense, is made clear by the further observations of
Livingstone. Men who could not afford so many of these copper rings
would still, he found, strut along as if they had them. "That is the
way," he was informed, "in which they show off their lordship in these
parts." Among the Mojave Indians "nose-jewels designate a man of
wealth and rank," and elaborate headdresses of feathers are the
insignia of the chiefs[93]. Champlain says that among the Iroquois
those who wore three large plumes were chiefs. In Thurn says (305)
that each of the Guiana tribes makes its feather head-dresses of
special colors; and Martins has the following regarding the Brazilian
Indians: "Commonly all the members of a tribe, or a horde, or a
family, agree to wear certain ornaments or signs as characteristic
marks." Among these are various ornaments of feathers on the head,
pieces of wood, stones, or shells, in the ears, the nose, and lips,
and especially tattoo marks.


VAIN DESIRE TO ATTRACT ATTENTION

Thus we see that an immense number of mutilations of the body and
alleged "decorations" of it are not intended by these races as things
of beauty, but have special meanings or uses in connection with
protection, war, superstition, mourning, or the desire to mark
distinctions between the tribes, or degrees of rank within one tribe
or horde. Usually the "ornamentations" are prescribed for all members
of a tribe of the same sex, and their acceptance is rigidly enforced.
At the same time there is scope for variety in the form of deviations
or exaggerations, and these are resorted to by ambitious individuals
to attract attention to their important selves, and thus to gratify
vanity, which, in the realm of fashion, is a thing entirely apart
from - and usually antagonistic to - the sense of beauty[94]. At
Australian dances various colors are used with the object of
attracting attention. Especially fantastic are their "decorations" at
the corroborees, when the bodies of the men are painted with white
streaks that make them look like skeletons. Bulmer believed that their
object was to "make themselves as terrible as possible to the
beholders and not beautiful or attractive," while Grosse thinks (65)
that as these dances usually take place by moonlight, the object of
the stripes is to make the dancers more conspicuous - two explanations
which are not inconsistent with each other.

Fry relates[95] that the Khonds adorn their hair till they may be seen
"intoxicated with vanity on its due decoration." Hearne (306) saw
Indians who had a single lock of hair that "when let down would trail
on the ground as they walked." Anderson expresses himself with
scientific precision when he writes (136) that in Fiji the men "who
like to _attract the attention_ of the opposite sex, don their best
plumage." The attention may be attracted by anything that is
conspicuous, entirely apart from the question whether it be regarded
as a thing of beauty or not. Bourne makes the very suggestive
statement (69-70) that in Patagonia the beautiful plumage of the
ostrich was not appreciated, but allowed to blow all over the country,
while the natives adorned themselves with beads and cheap brass and
copper trinkets. We may therefore assume that in those cases where
feathers are used for "adornment" it is not because their beauty is
appreciated but because custom has given them a special significance.
In many cases they indicate that the wearer is a person of rank - chief
or medicine man - as we saw in the preceding pages. We also saw that
special marks in feathers among Dakotas indicated that the wearer had
taken a human life, which, more than anything else, excites the
admiration of savage women; so that what fascinates them in such a
case is not the feather itself but the deed it stands for.
Panlitzschke informs us (_E.N.O.Afr.,_ chap. ii.), that among the
African Somali and Gallas every man who had killed someone, boastfully
wore an ostrich feather on his head to call attention to his deed. The
Danâkil wore these feathers for the same purpose, adding ivory rods in
their ear-lobes and fastening a bunch of white horsehair to their
shield. A strip of red silk round the forehead served the same
purpose. Lumholtz, describing a festival dance in Australia (237),
says that some of the men hold in their mouths tufts of talegalla
feathers "for the purpose of giving themselves a savage look." By some
Australians bunches of hawk's or eagle's feathers are worn "either
when fighting or dancing, and also used as a fan" (Brough Smyth, I.,
281-282), which suggests the thought that the fantastic head-dresses
of feathers, etc., often seen in warm countries, may be worn as
protection against the sun[96].

I doubt, too, whether the lower races are able to appreciate flowers
esthetically as we do, apart from their fragrance, which endears them
to some barbarians of the higher grades. Concerning Australian women
we find it recorded by Brough Smyth (I., 270) that they seem to have
no love of flowers, and do not use them to adorn their persons. A New
Zealander explained his indifference to flowers by declaring that they
were "not good to eat."[97] Other Polynesians were much given to
wearing flowers on the head and body; but whether this was for
_esthetic_ reasons seems to me doubtful on account of the revelations
made by various missionaries and others. In Ellis, _e.g._ (_P.R._, I.,
114), we read that in Tahiti the use of flowers in the hair, and
fragrant oil, has been in a great degree discontinued, "partly from
the connection of these ornaments with the evil practices to which
they were formerly addicted."


OBJECTS OF TATTOOING

So far tattooing has been mentioned only incidentally; but as it is
one of the most widely prevalent methods of primitive personal
"decoration" a few pages must be devoted to it in order to ascertain
whether it is true that it is one of those ornamentations which, as
Darwin would have us believe, help to determine the marriages of
mankind, or, as Westermarck puts it, "men and women began to... tattoo
themselves chiefly in order to make themselves attractive to the
opposite sex - that they might court successfully, or be courted." We
shall find that, on the contrary, tattooing has had from the earliest
recorded times more than a dozen practical purposes, and that its use
as a stimulant of the passion of the opposite sex probably never
occurred to a savage until it was suggested to him by a philosophizing
visitor.

Twenty-four centuries ago Herodotus not only noted that the Thracians
had punctures on their skins, but indicated the reason for them: they
are, he said, "a mark of nobility: to be without them is a testimony
of mean descent."[98] This use of skin disfigurements prevails among
the lower races to the present day, and it is only one of many
utilitarian and non-esthetic functions subserved by them. In his
beautifully illustrated volume on Maori tattooing, Major-General
Robley writes:

"Native tradition has it that their first settlers used to
mark their faces for battle with charcoal, and that the
lines on the face thus made were the beginnings of the
tattoo. To save the trouble of this constantly painting
their warlike decorations on the face, the lines were made
permanent. Hence arose the practice of carving the face and
the body with dyed incisions. The Rev. Mr. Taylor ...
assumes that the chiefs being of a lighter race, and having
to fight side by side with slaves of darker hues, darkened
their faces in order to appear of the same race."


TATTOOING ON PACIFIC ISLANDS

When Captain Cook visited New Zealand (1769) he was much interested in
the tattooing of the Maoris, and noted that each tribe seemed to have
a different custom in regard to it; thus calling attention to one of
its main functions as a means to distinguish the tribes from each
other. He described the different patterns on divers parts of the body
used by various tribes, and made the further important observation
that "by adding to the tattooing they grow old and honorable at the
same time." The old French navigator d'Urville found in the Maori
tattooing an analogy to European heraldry, with this difference: that
whereas the coat-of-arms attests the merits of ancestors, the Maori
moko illustrates the merits of the persons decorated with it. It makes
them, as Robley wittily says, "men of mark." One chief explained that
a certain mark just over his nose was his name; it served the purposes
of a seal in signing documents. It has been suggested that the body of
a warrior may have been tattooed for the sake of identification in
case the head was separated from it; for the Maoris carried on a
regular trade in heads. Rutherford, who was held for a long time as a
captive, said that only the great ones of the tribe were allowed to
decorate the forehead, upper lip, and chin. Naturally such marks were
"a source of pride" (a sign of rank), and "the chiefs were very
pleased to show the tattooing on their bodies." To have an untattooed
face was to be "a poor nobody." Ellis (_P.R._, III., 263) puts the
matter graphically by saying the New Zealander's tattooing answers the
purpose of the particular stripe or color of the Highlander's plaid,
marking the clan or tribe to which they belong, and is also said to be
employed as "a means of enabling them to distinguish their enemies in
battle."

In his great work on Borneo (II., 83), Roth cites Brooke Low, who said
that tattooing was a custom of recent introduction: "I have seen a few
women with small patterns on their breasts, but they were the



Online LibraryHenry Theophilus FinckPrimitive Love and Love-Stories → online text (page 22 of 78)