Philo Loas Mills.

Prehistoric religion : a study in pre-Christian antiquity : an examination of the religious beliefs of the Oceanic, Central African, and Amazonian primitives, the development among the later Indo-Asiatic and Totemic peoples, their interpretation by the western-Asiatic and Caucasian races of Neolithi online

. (page 74 of 88)
Online LibraryPhilo Loas MillsPrehistoric religion : a study in pre-Christian antiquity : an examination of the religious beliefs of the Oceanic, Central African, and Amazonian primitives, the development among the later Indo-Asiatic and Totemic peoples, their interpretation by the western-Asiatic and Caucasian races of Neolithi → online text (page 74 of 88)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tion to the negrillos that the Tasmanians do to the negritos, and should be
judged accordingly.

"By their type, by their social organisation, by what we have come to
call by the too elastic name of 'civilisation' ", writes Bishop LeRoy, "all
these peoples, all these races, and all these families, (referring to the
Bantus, Hottentots, etc.), are found to differ essentially from another popu-
lation everywhere distributed and everywhere identical: — the Negrillos,
who, as we have many times insinuated, seem to have been decidedly the
first occupants of the soil of Africa" j'^ "There cannot be any reasonable
cause to doubt", says Stow, "that from a remote period to a comparatively
recent date Southern Africa was solely in the possession of the Bushman

(K-L) South- America and Patagonia

It has also been shown that the Tapuya races and their allies in thq
Brazilian jungle are on the lowest level of American culture and are very
probably the aborigines of the entire South-American continent. To-
gether with the Fuegian peoples at the extreme end of Patagonia, they
furnish one of the most primitive types of mankind to be found in the
Western Hemisphere.

"In the Botokudos", says Dr. Ehrenreich, "we have the oldest represen-
tatives of the Ges-peoples or pure Tapuyas".^* Similarly Dr. Foy:— "A
particularly archaic group of nomadic races is found in the Ges-tribes of
Eastern Brazil, with primitive culture, and for whom the large ear- and
lip-ornaments are characteristic". "To the lowest of American races must
undoubtedly be counted the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, who inhabit
the extreme south of the American continent"."

«2LeR6v Les Pygmees, (1910), p. 323. *' Stow, The Native Races of South Africa
(1910) p. 6. »« Ehrenreich Uber die Botokudos, (ZE, 1887), p. 81. ^'W. Foy, op. cit. p.



Principles and Their Application

Convergence of testimony is said to be the best test of authenticity.
When we have several independent vs^itnesses, all agreeing on the smallest
items of a cultural complex, though separated by indefinite intervals of
space and time, the chances are that their reports on the mythology and
higher beliefs will be of correspondingly accurate value, — that as the
former have been proved to be reliable through repeated verifications, the
latter will be proved to be equally reliable, if not by direct verification,
at least by their general resemblance and agreement with what has been
found by other reporters elsewhere. (Principle of Convergence) .

(A-E) East Indies

The combined testimony of Vaughan-Stevens, Martin, Skeat, and Borie,
and their general agreement on all questions affecting the material and
social condition of the Malakkan races, establishes a presumption in favor
of their accuracy when speaking of their religious beliefs. It has been
objected that Vaughan-Stevens lacks confirmation and is something of an
embellisher. It must not be forgotten, however, that great adventurers are
notoriously apt to exaggerate here and there, but that this does not destroy
the value of their testimony on matters of grave import, and that are or
can be indirectly verified, at least in essentials. In this case, however, we
have good reasons on independent grounds to accept his testimony. His
general accuracy and the priceless value of his collected material have
been commended alike by Dr. Skeat of Cambridge and by Professor
Virchow of Berlin. The fact that most of his data have been verified inde-
pendently, — blood-charms, bamboo-patterns, several wind-spirits, includ-
ing the redoubtable Tappern, [Ta' Pdnn), the alleged servant of Kari, —
makes it more than probable that his remaining statistics are reliable also.
This opinion will gather additional momentum when we compare the tes-
timony of E. H. Man for the neighboring Andaman Islands. Here we have
a very similar deity, described in almost identical terms, — a thunder-god,
of fiery breath, served by wind-spirits, and so on. Can it be possible that
two independent reporters should have accidentally invented the same
divinity? I hardly think so. Moreover Dr. Portman has given his highest
approval to Mr. Man's work, and the fact that Puluga was so readily iden-
tified by him establishes an inherent probability that Kari-Peng-Tuhan
takes the same place in the Malakkan theology among a people who are on
almost exactly the same level and have so many other points of similar-
ity,— mythology, general culture. Finally the Veddas furnish additional
confirmation from Parker and Seligman, whose description of the great
Kande-Yaka approaches in some respects those of the above authors.



As to the Philippines, though the sources are scattered, they are beyond
criticism. Meyer and Blumentritt are safe in ethnology, while Montano is
a good observer of customs. The evidence for a supreme divinity is
grounded on three unimpeachable vs^itnesses, — two of them Catholic
priests — , whose united reports, however fragmentary, can hardly be
accused of deliberate fraud. They bear witness to the belief in a great
Maker, which can be traced right through the heart of Central Borneo to
the Aru-Islands and New Guinea, as is certified by Col. Reed, Dr. Hose,
Bishop McDougall, Dr. Nieuwenhuis, Messrs. Kruyt and Riedel, Father
Schmidt, and Monsignor Dunn.

(F) Australia-Tasmania

These data are further augmented by an abundance of material from
the Australian region. Here we have a large number of first-hand wit-
nesses, whose reports, however defective, are frankly impartial in spirit
and tendency. Moreover these reports are so numerous and so widely
separated in space and time, that it is quite impossible for a conscious
fallacy to enter the field, at least in the matter of bare statistics. Take the
work of Howitt, the standard authority on the "Native Tribes of South-
East Australia". Whatever may be thought of his deductions, — and they
are by no means flawless — , his main collection of facts as a direct observer
of rights and customs is invaluable. He is one of the few modern explorers
who has lived the lives of the natives, who has become a fully initiated
member of the tribe. But what is more important, he does not stand alone.
His conclusions have been anticipated or confirmed by other writers in
complete independence. Thus Brough-Smith in "The Aborigines of
Victoria", Taplin in "The Narrinyeri", Langloh-Parker in "The Euahlayi
Tribe", Ridley in "The Kamilaroi", Ling-Roth in "The Aborigines of Tas-
mania", the latter a huge compilation from original sources, — all proclaim
from different points of the compass, that these facts are too constant, too
uniform, and too universal to have been the result either of concoction or
coincidence. They must have some foundation in the reality of the past.

(G-L) Central Africa and South America

The same remarks apply to the transoceanic regions. The work of
Stow is founded upon Orpen and Arbousset, scientific observers of the first
rank while the personal interviews of Bishop LeRoy and Father Vander
Burgt among the natives of the Congo-belt have the distinctive ring of
truth, they can hardly be questioned. Similarly Von den Steinen and
Ehrenreich are final for South-America, being supported by Denis, Preuss,
Rivet, Renault, St. Hilaire, Father Teschauer, and many others.

Thus the combined picture is unassailable,

however defective the individual sketch. It is hardly conceivable that
such a unanimity can have any other basis than that of objective fact.



Criteria for Indigenous Origin

As to the native origin of these traditions, their freedom from foreign
influence, it is based on the broad principle, that when we have ninety-
nine per cent of indigenous elements, — from the cave or windshelter down
to matrimonial rites and mythology — , the chances are one hundred to
one, that the remaining one per cent, — the religious beliefs — , will be
indigenous also, that they form an integral part of the national life, that
when the former change, the latter are apt to change in the same propor-
tion, that as the former have existed from time immemorial, the latter have
existed from time immemorial also. (Law of Concomitant Variations).

A Surprising Uniformity

This is strikingly illustrated by the fact that in the most ancient East-
Indian and Tasmanian belt the deity is very generally a "Father"- or
"Thunder-God", of "flery breath", but otherwise "invisible", who lives in
the "high heavens" and is above all stars, suns, or planets, which, even
when personified, have no genetic relation to man, but are rather his
"messengers", the flery emanations of his almighty will. This idea extends
with varying completeness from Malakka, Ceylon, and the Andaman
Islands, {Kari-Kande-Yaka-Puluga-Tegion), through Borneo, the Philip-
pines and New Guinea, (Ama/ca-Aniio-region) , down to South-East Aus-
tralia, {Daramulun-Mungan-ngaua-Tegion) , and far into the heart of Cen-
tral Africa, (Waka-Nzambi-region) , nay, eyen to the remotest conflnes of
Central Brazil, {Tupan-Kamushini-Iguanchi-helt), — all of which compare.
It seems difficult to account for this wonderful uniformity except on the
theory of native origin.

But it is possible to bring the argument to a more deflnite issue. Tylor's
contention that the High Gods are due to missionary influence is at
variance with facts. Long before the advent of any such mission, Bundjil
Baiame, and Mungan-ngaua were worshipped in their respective terri-
tories. There is strong evidence for this in at least three areas. Then
again, there are no vestiges of such influence, whether religious or other-
wise. A Catholic missionary would presumably leave them a crucifix,
while a Protestant would hardly teach them to pray for the dead. Nd
white man would ever associate Kari-Ple with the jungle-fruit, Puluga
with a female spider, Kande-Yaka with a mighty hunter, Anito with a huge
rock, Amaka with the enchanted forest, not to speak of the creation-
legends, with their tailed baboons and dancing divinities, their stars and
emus, their lizards and sex-birds. Finally the secrecy of the cult would
have no meaning, if the people had borrowed from outside sources; they
would be trying to conceal from the whites that which they knew every
white man was cognisant of, that which the civilised races themselves had
given them, — an absurd supposition. Secret societies do not borrow.



Detailed Testimony

As this subject is so commonly underestimated, I will give a few
extracts from the leading authorities, even at the risk of a little repetition.


Malakka: — "Here I only remark", writes Mr. Logan, "with reference to
the incantations, charms, and other superstitions of the Mantra, that the
greater part appear to be essentially native, that is, they have not borrowed
from the Hindoos or Arabs, but have assumed their peculiar form from
the state in which the tribe has existed on the peninsula from time imme-
morial, while in substance they have been transmitted from the same com-
mon source to which a large part of the inhabited world must refer i^g
earliest superstitions. The religion of the Mantra is the primitive heathen-
ism of Asia, which spreading far to the east and west, was associated with
the regions of the eldest civilised nations, for it flourished in ancient Egypt
before the Hebrews were a people, in Greece and Rome, and bids fair to
outlast Hindooism in many parts of India".^^ But if this author derives
Tuhan from Arabic sources. Dr. Skeat strongly protests against such a
scheme, for he says: "Among the Mantra, and doubtless among other
Jakun tribes, if the matter were more thoroughly investigated, there does
undoubtedly exist a belief, shadowy though it be, in a deity, and this
independently of Arabic sources. There are in fact, as among the Semang,
traces of a dualistic system. . . . Ostensibly Semang is the legend that
Kari created everything but man, whose creation he desired Pie to effect,
and that when Pie had done so, Kari himself gave them souls".^' Again, —
"Kari, {Kai, Kail) , "thunder", says Father Schmidt, "does not occur in any
of the Sakai, Jakun, or other Austroasiatic languages, so that the name of
this supreme Being is in every respect peculiar to the most ancient layer
of the population, and could not have been borrowed".^" I have already
treated the main points of this controversy in the preceding pages, and
simply wish to call attention to the united force of the argument by a final
appeal to the facts and a comparison with other regions.

Andaman Islands : — "It is extremely improbable", says Mr. Man, "that
their legends were the result of the teaching of missionaries and others",
and he emphasises want of tradition, absence of traces, parallel cases else-
where.'" Similarly Dr. Portman: — "The anthropological professors are
very anxious to prove that the Andamanese must have derived their idea
of a deity from some of the more civilised nations . . . but / cannot agree
with it". (And he calls particular attention to the antiquity of the race,
seclusion, conservatism, — no vestiges, social, linguistic, or otherwise)."

!T J. R. Logan, in Journ. Indian Archipelago, Vol. I. pp. 329-330. ^s Skeat, Pagan Races,
II. 179. 18S. «» Schmidt, Pygmaenvolker, p. 221 note. "> Man, 1. c. p. 88-89. si Portman, A

History, Vol. I. p. 45.


Detailed Testimony

Ceyton;— According to Dr. Seligman, "The three strata of belief which
exist among the Veddas of the present day have not fused so thoroughly
that there is any great difficulty in separating them. We believe that they
may be tabulated as follows :

(1) The cult of the dead, including the cult of the spirits of recent
ancestors, that is of the nae yaku and the yaku of certain Veddas who have
long been dead and may well be regarded as heroes {\). The most impor-
tant of these is Kande Yaka (sic.) (2) The cult of foreign spirits who have
become naturalised and have taken the friendly protective nature of the
Vedda yaku. (3) The cult of foreign spirits who, though not often re-
garded as such, have retained their foreign nature and are in the main ter-
rible or even hostile".'^ Kande-Yaka, therefore, belongs to the most ancient
stratum of beliefs, whatever be the value of this figure as a heaven-god, —
he is a primitive "friend".

Philippines:— "On the Tarlac trail, between Tarlac and Zambales
province", says Col. Reed, "there is a huge black bowlder which the
negritos believe to be the home of one powerful spirit. So far as I could
learn the belief is that the spirits of all who die enter this one spirit or
'anito' who has its abiding place in this rock"." As no Catholic mis-
sionary would associate the God of Heaven with bananas and rocks, it is
clear that this part of the belief cannot be traced to such a quarter, what-
ever other origin it may have had.

Borneo:— J)v. Hose comes to similar conclusions. "It might be thought
that the conception of a beneficent supreme Being has been borrowed,
directly or indirectly, from the Malays. But we do not think that view is
tenable. For this is a living belief among the Madangs (Kenyas, and
others), far from Malay influence in the remote interior, while it is a dead
one among the Ibans and Sea-Dayaks, close to Malay influence on the sur-
rounding coast-line". Archdeacon Perham also testifies that "among the
Ibans there are traces of belief in one supreme God, which suggests that
the idea is one that has been prevalent, but has now almost died out".^*
We have a strong case for Borneo, where the decadence of the later as com-
pared with the earlier beliefs is strikingly illustrated.

New Guinea: — "Now it comes out that father was right after all." You
boys of Dalmannhafen, is not 'God' the same as your Wonekau and our
Wonakau?" These remarks of the mission children on the identity of
their ancestral faith with that of the imported school-religion shows with
some force that the idea of God was already familiar to them. However
enriched by the Christian concept, it was certainly not introduced by the

32 Seligman, The Veddas, p. 149. ^i^ Reed, Negritos of Zambales, p. 65. s^Hose and
McDougall, in the Journ. Anthrop. Instit. (1901) Vol. XXXI. p. 212. including Perhara's
report. ''W. Schmidt, Austronesische Mythologie, (1910), p. 118.


Detailed Testimony

Australia: — "As to Australia", writes Andrew Lang, "in face of the evi-
dence which settled Mr. Howitt's doubts as to the borrowing of these ideas,
can any one bring a native of age and credit who has said that Baiame
under any name was borrowed from the whites? Mr. Palmer is 'perfectly
satisfied' that 'none of these ideas were derived from the whites'. He is
speaking of the tribes of the Gulf of Carpentaria, far away indeed from
Victoria and New South Wales. There is no greater authority among
anthropologists than Waitz, and Waitz rejects the hypothesis that the
higher Australian beliefs were borrowed from Christians". (His motives
are, — their priority to the missions, the absence of any traces, the secrecy
of the cult.")

"It seems advisable", says Mr. Howitt, "that I should give the reasons
which appear to me to prove conclusively the aboriginal origin of the
behef in the tribal All-Father as I have given it". Then he mentions the
case of the Kurnai informants, who had been initiated in 1844, sixteen
years before the establishment of the two missions in Gippsland in 1860,
and who assured him at the Jeraeil in 1864 that they were doing exactly
as "the old men" had done when they themselves were initiated. "In
answer to my inquiries about the legends told at the ceremonies, including
that of Mungan-ngaua and his son Tundun, they said : "The old men told
us so". Again, — "See! That one is Bundjil (pointing to the star Altair),
you see him, and he sees you!" "This was before Bateman the missionary
had settled on the banks of the Yarra river, and is conclusive as to the
primitive character of the belief"."

"I was first told of Baiame in whispers", says Mrs. Parker, "by a very
old native, said to have been already grey-haired when Sir Thomas Mitchell
discovered the Narran in 1846, (10 years before Mr. Ridley's catechism).
But He was a worshipful being, revealed in the mysteries, long before any
missionaries came, as all my informants aver".»»

Africa and South America: — Two anecdotes will suffice for these
regions : — Asked from what quarter they had received their ideas the Wa-
Pokomo answered: "We have taken it from the Watwas or Negrillos",
speaking of the first-fruit sacrifice to Waka (God)," "Is Keri the God of
the Portuguese? No, we know nothing of him. ... He is another. . . ,
Keri lives in the heavens. He is the grandfather of the Bakairi" — implying
independence of the native belief,"

«• Lang, Magic and Religion, pp. 42-43. " Howitt, Native Tribes, p. 504, 492ff. s* Parker,
The Euahlayi Tribe, p. 5. (condensed). =» LeRoy, Les Pygmees, p. 177. *» Von den Steinen,
Unter den Naturvolkern, p. 380. For a general refutation of the "Loan-god" theory, extend-
ing also to American Indians, see Lang, Magic and Religion, pp. 15-45, a powerful plea.
These points are now generally conceded and Tylor appears to stand alone. Cp. Howitt, in
Folk-Lore (1906), p. 188. N. W. Thomas, "Baime and the Bell-bird", in "Man" (1905), p. 44.
Schmidt, Ursprung, p. 204-209.



Principles op the Primitive Theology

Given the antiquity and the genuineness of the sources, the question
arises as to their meaning. Is there any sense in which these traditions
can be said to embody a nucleus of truth, to reflect, however vaguely, the
primitive ideas of a supreme Being? The answer to this question must
depend very largely upon the combined weight of the evidence in all its
parts rather than that afforded by any single region. By collating the
material for the primitive belt, it is possible to obtain a more or less com-
plete picture of the deity as presented to the mind of the natives.


(1) Simplicity or Spirituality

Beginning with the idea of simplicity, the bpst test of such a notion is
afforded by the attribute of invisibility or subtlety, which is fairly promi-
nent: — "He is of fiery breath, but is now invisible" {Kari-Puluga, 1, 13), He
is Kande-Yaka-Anito, 19, 24) "Great Spirit", He is To-Bmwa, "Invisible
Spirit" {Amaka, 27), He is a Vui, or "powerful Spirit" {Quat-Marawa, 36),
He is "all-seeing Spirit" {Baiame, 37), He is "Light-Spirit" {Marraboona,
45), He cannot "now" be seen (passim in Australasia), "He can see every-
thing, but cannot be seen Himself" {Waka, 47), "He abides in the high
heavens, and cannot now be seen" [Indagarra, 48), "He cannot be seen
with the eyes but only with the heart of man" {Kaang, 51), "He is of sup?r-
natural size and invisible" (very common from Peng, 7, downwards). He
is "Sun, or Light-Spirit" {Kamushini, 54). Moreover He is heard and felt,
rather than seen, His voice is the thunder and His shafts the lightning,
(passim in the earlier form, compare Kari-Puluga, 1, 13. Amaka-Ballingo,
25. Nurrundere, 42. Daramulun, 43. Nzambi, 48. Iguanchi-Pillan, 53.
Tupan, 57). Though conceived as a man. He has no temples or images,
except Baiame-Daramulun, 40, 48, (which effigy is destroyed immediately
after the initiation-rite). Bamboo and bark-scratchings of similar nature
are found in other regions, (Malakka, Borneo, Central Africa, Brazil). The
absence of plastic representations of a permanent nature is a characteristic
of this era, and in strong contrast to the practices, sometimes perverted, of
the higher peoples. It will thus be seen that the idea of a supra-local, in-
visible, or spiritual being is very generally insinuated, sometimes described,
though it is evident that such expressions must fall short of philosophical
exactness, that the idea of simplicity is too refined a notion to be easily
conveyed. Does not the very word "spirit" {anima, ruach, bruwa, etc.)
indicate an analogy with the human breath, with the "wind" of hsaven?

Note: — The figures given refer to the preceding page numbers.



(2) Eternity

"He has always existed, even before the creation" {Kari, 1), "He was
never born, He is immortal" {Peng, 7. Puluga, 13) , — eternity in both direc-
tions. He is Amaka, the Father or Generator before all time, {Amaka, 27) ,
He is "very, very old", but never "older" [Baiame, 37), "He was once upon
earth, but is now in heaven, where He still remains", — common through-
out Australia, (Gomp. Daramulun, 43, Mungan-ngaua, 44 etc.) These are
explicit statements, but the idea is far wider than its expression. An
eternity a parte post is universal, all these beings are "very, very old", they
never "die". An eternity a parte ante is implied in such cases in which
the figure is at once the "father" and "creator" of the universe and man.
These cases are dealt with below under Creation. For the present it is
important to note that in the doubtful-area, {Anito, Quat-Marawa, includ-
ing the later peninsular and South-American divinities), a former creative
role is strongly to be suspected, and this makes the attribute of eternity cer-
tain for the above and highly probable for the remainder. Taken all in all,
the timeless character of the supreme Being is well attested in the earliest

(3) Immensity and Infinity

These are difficult notions for the savage mind to express with any-
thing like precision. They are generally the equivalents of large, big,
enormous, terrible, etc. Thus "He is of supernatural size and of fiery
breath" a forcible expression, if correctly reported, {Kari, Peng, 1, 7), "He
knows and can do all things", (very general from Kari and Amaka down-
wards, either explicitly or implicitly). He "has immense power" {Chidibey,
Quat-Marawa, 35) , "He can do what He wishes" {Baiame, 37) , "He can go
everywhere and do anything" {Daramulun, 43), — implying omnipresence,
a ubiquitous being. Again,— "He is very, very big, the best, the biggest"
(quite common in Australia- Af rica) , "He is the master of all. He has made
all, and arranged all, and in His sight we are all very small" {Nzambi, 48),
His name is Kan, Thunder, Amaka, Great Father, Quut, Great Lord, Baiame,

Online LibraryPhilo Loas MillsPrehistoric religion : a study in pre-Christian antiquity : an examination of the religious beliefs of the Oceanic, Central African, and Amazonian primitives, the development among the later Indo-Asiatic and Totemic peoples, their interpretation by the western-Asiatic and Caucasian races of Neolithi → online text (page 74 of 88)