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examples of which are found in the classical period. In

1 Diodorus, i. 86, - Frazer, op. cit. p. 30.


Senegambia the men of the Scorpion clan declare they
are never bitten by the creature ; the Psyllians of
Marniarica (Eastern Tripoli), as well as the Ophiogenes
of Parium, considered themselves proof against snake-
bites. ^ In fact, the Psyllians exposed their new-born
children to serpents as a test of legitimac}^ ; and to-day
the ]\Ioxos of Peru, whose totem is the jaguar, submit
their medicine-men to a similar ordeal.- Among the
Bechuanas there is a Crocodile clan, which expels any
member who has been bitten by a crocodile, or so much
as splashed by water from a stroke of its t:n\.-^ The
exposure of Romulus and Remus (sons of the Wolf
Mars), whom the she- wolf by sparing recognises as her
offspring, may also be classed as a kind of totemic ordeal.

X. Animal totems help ami protect the members of the
totemic clan.

There w^as a tale in Egypt that one of the ancient
kings had been saved from death by a crocodile, who
carried him across Lake Moeris on his back.^ The
Greek legends of animal preservers, like Arion's dolphin
and the fox of Aristcmienes, have probably a similar
origin ; and the same explanation will cover the numer-
ous traditions of fabulous heroes fed by beasts. Both
ancients and moderns, however, are in error, when they

1 Strabo mentions a tribe of Ophiogenes at Parium on the Propontis.
They believed themselves akin to serpents and descended from a
snake-hero. The males were credited with the power of curing viper
bites by the laying-on of hands (Strabo, xiii. 58S). A slip of
Pliny's locates them in Paros — in insula Paro (xxviii. 30), and the
variant Cypro has led some of the moderns to assign them to Cyprus.
Elsewhere (vi. 2, 2), Pliny — citing Crates of Pergamus — says the
Ophiogenes lived ' on the Hellespont around Parium " (in Hellesponto
circa Parium) ; and in this he coincides with Varro. Aelian also speaks
of a tribe of Ophiogenes in Phrygia, claiming descent from Halia, who
became pregnant to a sacred serpent.

- Frazer, p. 20. ^ Ibid. p. 21. ■* Diodorus, i. 89.

c 2


attribute totemism to a sentiment of gratitude for the
services of animals. In the first place, most totems
belong to the dangerous species ; and, in the second,
the inost useful animals — those which have been domes-
ticated by man— owe both their usefulness and their
domestication to totemism itself. The idea of gratitude,
like the idea of relationship, has no value beyond that
of a convenient explanation, invented to account for a
state of things the origin of which was already forgotten.

XI. Animal totems foretell the future to the faithful, and
serve them as guides.

In Greece and Rome we can only suppose that the
augural animals were former totems ; but, in Egypt,
Diodorus distinctly states that the hawk, the totem of
the royal family, was venerated because it foretold the
future. 1 In Australia and Samoa the kangaroo, the crow,
and the owl premonish their fellow clansmen of events
to come. At one time the Samoan warriors went so far
as to rear owls for the sake of their vaticinatory qualities
in war,- In this connection we may recall the prophetic
hare of the British queen Boadicea (Budicca), who
governed a country where, in Caesar's time, the hare
was fed but not eaten, — which is tantamount to saying
that it was treated as a totem. ■' Another instance is
the stor}^ of the wolf which guided the Samnites to the
foundation of their colony. '^ This last example is the
more interesting that the Samnites in question called
themselves Hirpini — from hirpus, their word for wolf.^
It is, therefore, extremely probable that they looked upon
the wolf as a totem.

> Diodorus, i. 87. - Frazer, op. cit. p. 23,
•' Dion Cassius, Ixii. 9.

■' Compare the pillar of cloud or lire (Yahveh) which guided the
Israelites in the desert (Exodus xiv. 21). '" Strabo, vi. 12


This use of animal totems for purposes of augury is, in
all likelihood, of great antiquity. Men must soon have
realised that the senses of animals were acutcr than their
own ; nor is it surprising that they should have expected
their totems — that is to say, their natural allies — to
forewarn them both of unsuspected dangers and of those
provisions of nature, wells especially, which animals
seem to scent b}^ instinct.^

Divination by animals can have had no other origin ;
and the h3'po thesis also explains why the augural animals
at an earlier period seem to have been both guides, augurs,
and totems at one and the same time. The bird which
so often precedes the war-chariots, on ancient Greek
vases, certainly played the double part of guide and

XII. The juembers of a totemic clan frequently believe
themselves related to their animal totem by the bond of a
common descent.

I put this characteristic last, though many have seen
in it the very quintessence of totemism. To my mind
it is simply a vain thing foolishly invented b}' totemic
man, to account, either for certain taboos whose origin
he failed to comprehend, or for the traditional name of
his own clan. Still, this attempt at an explanation
is very old, and traces of it exist in classical antiquity.
Thus the Ophiogenes of Parium, whose totem was the
serpent, believed — as their name indicates — that they
sprang from a snake. 2 According to an Aeginetan fable
recorded by Strabo, the Myrmidons were ants transformed
into men after a plague which depopulated the whole

' Tacitus, translating an Alexandrine author, will have it that
the Jews adored the ass because wild asses had re\-ealed to Moses the
existence of a spring {Histories, v. 3).

- See the Stephanus-Didot Thesaurus, s.v.


island.^ This legend, without a doubt, must have grown
up round the name Myrmidon (ant) itself ; on the other
hand, Ophiogenes (the serpent-born) must be the transla-
tion of a genealogical legend coined to explain the tribal
intimacy with serpents.

The Gaulish patronymics beginning with the name
of an animal, and terminating in genos, which indicates
a divine filiation — e.g. Matiigenos (boar-son), Brannogenos
(crow-son), &c. — are themselves no more than a reflec-
tion of traditions associating the cult of an animal with
a certain family. The Semitic tribes have furnished
Robertson Smith with several instances of a supposed
kinship between man and beast. Among modern totemic
races examples are legion. It is enough to refer the
reader to Mr, Frazer's collection ; ~ to add to it, though
easy, would be labour lost.^

From the foregoing evidence it follows conclusively
that the different countries composing the ancient world
show unequivocal traces of taboos and customs analogous
to those of modern totemic religions. The one thing
lacking is a clear and definite statement of that com-
pact, which to us appears the very essence of totemism.
It must be conceded, however, that nowhere — even in
totemic countries — is the idea distinctly formulated.
Almost everywhere it has been replaced by the notion of
relationship or an exchange of services in the remote

^ Strabo, viii. i6. - Frazer, Totemism, pp. 3 sqq.

* I purposely refrain from classing exogamy with the logical develop-
ments of totemism. Exogamy, like the horror of incest, which is an
attenuated form of it, springs from the taboo of the blood of the clan.
As the members of a clan are recognised by their possession of a common
totem, it is only natural that totemism and exogamy should often go
in pairs ; but exogamy is neither an offshoot of totemism nor insepar-
able from it (cf. Annee Sociologiqiie, vol. iii. p. 218).


past ; in other words, by a later attempt to explain the
meaning of the old taboos.

Still, as the idea of a pact is the only one that accounts
for all the phenomena of totemism, it remains both
possible and logically sound to start from those phenomena
and reascend to the parent conception. We have shown
that the facts in question were of fairly frequent occurrence
in the Mediterranean world before the Christian era : it
seems, therefore, perfectly legitimate to consider them
as the fruits — dried, perhaps, but authentic nevertheless
— of a train of thought similar to that observable at the
present day in both Americas, part of Asia, Africa, and
Oceania. The conclusion may not have the cast-iron
rigour of a mathematical demonstration ; but, at least,
it shares that high degree of probability which is the
utmost we can expect in any investigation of religious
and social data.

We may also approach the question from another,
more general and philosophic, point of view, and show
that primitive totemism would be an absolutely necessary
hypothesis, even if we had neither ethnological facts
nor literary evidence to support it.

Attempts at defining the homo sapiens have stopped
at the formula : ' Man is a religious animal.' The
definition is scrupulously exact — on the one condition that
we take religion in its widest sense, and not as a s^Tionym
for modern theological doctrines. Primarily religion is
a system of taboos — spiritual restraints on the brute
energies and instincts of man. The first religious codes
were collections of prohibitions and interdictions, the
oldest and most universal of which forbade the shedding
of blood within the limits of a group united by ties of
blood. Superstition, however, under this system, sapped


all the energies of man. The taboos applied alike to
the human, animal, and vegetable kingdoms ; between
which the savage — an animist by nature — was incapable
of discriminating with precision. Now, so far as the system
of taboos centred round the relations of man to man, it
formed the nucleus of family and social law, of morality
and of politics ; so far, however, as it concerned the
animal and vegetable world, it constituted totemism.
Totemism — or the whole body of prohibitions curbing
human activity in its dealings with animal and plant
life — is not merely a correlative of law and morality
in their infancy ; it is inextricably mingled and blent
with both, just as, in the eyes of primitive man
and the child, human beings, animals, and plants
form but one kingdom, permeated by the same vital

We have said the oldest taboos only protect the
members of a clan ; even in the Decalogue, the words
Thou shall not kill have not the universal force with
which, theoretically, at least, we credit them. But, at
the time of the Commandments, the clan had already
emerged from the intermediate, or tribal, stage, and
was now a people. Clan-alliances, the germ of a larger
national unity, were early necessitated by the struggle
for existence ; isolated clans disappeared, and the survival
of a group depended on the vigour of its social instincts.
Now, with the haziest of boundary-lines between the king-
doms of nature — plant, animal, and man — it was natural
enough that human clans should contract alliances, not
only with each other, but also with animal or vegetable
clans or both. As a result, the protective taboos in the
human clan came to include the animal or vegetable
species with which it was leagued and on whose aid and


protection it relied. ^ Thus we gain what may be called
an a priori explanation of the fundamental compact
constituting totemism — a compact which is simply
an extension of the universal and primitive taboo,
Thou shall nol kill.

' Truth to say, these primitive alliances are no more strange than
the well-known covenant, between Israel and Jehovah, on which the
Mosaic religion is based. Judging from experience, men could no
more expect succour from Jehovah than from an animal or vegetable
clan. Yet they believed they could, and from that belief drew an
enduring force which to this day sustains them in their trials.



Sacrifice is the crucial point of all cults, the essential
bond between man and deity. In this respect it is
comparable to prayer ; but whereas the latter is a
spiritual appeal, the former entails the employment of
a material substance forfeited or destroyed in the
sacrificial act.

The general conception of sacrifice is that of a gift
offered by man to the divinity in order to conciliate
his favour ; in other words, it is a purchase of friendship
by the mammon of unrighteousness. ' Gifts,' says
Hesiod, ' prevail upon gods and reverend kings.' The
abbe Bergier in the ' Dictionnaire de Theologie ' defines
it as ' the offering up to God of an object which is de-
stroyed in His honour, as a recognition of His sovereign
dominion over all things.' If we analyse this sentence
closely, the underlying absurdity is apparent : how
does the destruction of any object do honour to any
person ? The abbe proceeds : ' It is not in the least
anomalous for a poor man to make some slight present
to a rich man who has done him a kindness ; he considers

^ Lecture given in Paris, 1902, at the Universite populaire, rue




that, though his benefactor may not need the gift, still
an expression of gratitude cannot fail to please him.'

There is, perhaps, a certain crudity in the notion,
but with that we are not concerned. Here in the eyes
of most critics is the root idea of sacrifice. Its principle
is that man behaves towards divinity as he would to-
wards one or more persons endowed with powers vastly
superior to his own — potentates whose aid it were ill to
seek with empty hands.

If it were true that the gift-sacrifice was the primitive
form of sacrifice, it would also be necessary to prove that
peoples on a lower plane of religious belief regard the
superhuman and mj^sterious beings, upon whom they
conceive themselves to depend, as men writ large ; that
is to say, as personalities subject to the same limitations
and frailties as man, but gifted with higher or more
active faculties. In that case, we should find them
treating those beings precisely as their experience has
shown it advisable to treat the grandees of this world,
to wit, the priests and chiefs. Now, the etiquette
observed bv every non-civilised race forbids a man to
approach his chief without a present. This constitutes
the propitiatory sacrifice. If he has received a favour, he
shows his gratitude by a fresh gift, and this may be
called the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Or he thinks the
chief is displeased, and to appease him, offers a sacrifice
of pacification or expiation.^

All the above is true, but it is true only of a com-
paratively recent period in the history of mankind.

You know what is understood by the doctrine of

' Goblet d'Alviella, Revue dc runiversitc de Bnixelles, 1897-S9,
pp. 499-500. I have more than once borrowed textually from this
excellent article.


evolution. It is the knowledge that all things are in
motion, and subject to a slow transformation governed
by certain determinable laws.

One of the axioms which should guide the sociologist
who accepts this doctrine is that our modern ideas,
because they are modern, cannot have been the ideas of
primitive man, but must have been evolved from his by
a gradual process of transformation.

Now the theory which considers sacrifice as a gift
made to the divinity — the divinity being regarded as
an immortal and therefore trebly formidable man —
cannot hold good for the beginning of things, for it still
dominates the superstition of to-day.

Open one of the recent books — the ' Chinoiseries
Romaines ' of Stheno, the ' Cordicoles ' of Tery, the
' Dossier des Pelerinages ' of Noel Parfait, or the
excellent articles published in the Semaine Religieuse
by the abbe Hemmer — and you will find that the
essential character of present-day devotion, say the cult
of Saint Anthony of Padua, lies in the idea of exchange —
of gif-gaf. ' Good Saint, let me pass my examination,
let me find my umbrella and I will give you, according
to the state of my purse, a hundred francs or a hundred
sous. You may even have them in advance, if that will
weigh in my favour.'

Gentlemen, I do not say that this is either good
or bad, childish or reasonable ; we are students, not
tractarians. But, without leaving our own times, ob-
serve that, besides these sacrifices consisting of gifts or
fines — privations which the believer inflicts upon him-
self — religion contains another and far more mysterious
rite, hard for the non-elect to understand : I mean the
so-called Sacrifice of the Mass. The salient features are


these. The priest, impersonating the community,
absorbs, under the form of bread and wine, the tlesh and
blood of the deity in order to impregnate himself with
the divine essence. At intervals the faithful are allowed
to participate in this sacrifice ; but since the Middle
Ages, from motives of pure expedienc}', only the bread is
given, not the wine.

I have no sympathy with the sceptic — Voltairean
he calls himself — who jests at this solemn and ancient
rite ; he would be much better occupied in studying
its origin and development. The question whether the
godhead is or is not present in the host is not a scientific
question ; the answer in the affirmative is only an
opinion, and admits of no discussion. The problem we
have to solve is this : Why, in the religion of to-day, are
there two forms of sacrifice — one of the earth earthy,
quite clear, and universally intelligible (I refer, of course,
to the gift-sacrifice) ; the other obscure in the extreme,
shrouded in mysticism, and so peculiar in its character
that the communicant himself is none too sure what
he is doing ?

If we concede the theory of evolution, it is certain
that the straightforward sacrifice by gift must be a
recent growth, while conversely the perplexing sacrifice
of the deity himself must date from a past correspondingly
remote. But it may be asked, how can the sacrifice of
the Mass be older than the other, when the Mass was
instituted less than two thousand years ago, whereas the
Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians knew and practised the
gift-sacrifice three or four thousand years before the
birth of Christ ?

That is precisely the fallacy. The Egyptians, Greeks,
and Romans were highly civilised nations, and there-


fore, like ourselves, cognizant of the gift-sacrifice. But,
though distinctly reticent on the subject, they were also
acquainted with the more mystic type, and aware of its
extreme antiquity.

Moreover, a nation may have lived two thousand years
before another and yet represent a more advanced stage
of civilisation. Take an Australian savage of the present
day, and compare him with one of those Greeks who,
twenty-five hundred years ago, created the beautiful
monuments of Athens. Which of the two is the
primitive man ? Which of the two would have
the more rudimentary — the more primeval — notions on
religion ? The savage, obviously. The savage, then,
is our principal witness ; and for the last hundred
years he has been cross-examined with the utmost care.
Now this is what happens. An Australian aboriginal
tells you a strange tale. He says, for example, that
he is absolutely forbidden to eat a certain animal,
because that animal is his ancestor. This is surprising
enough at first ; but, if you are a reader, you remember
that the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Hebrews
have all testified to similar beliefs lingering among
them as vestiges of the past — survivals as the moderns
have it. You conclude then that the existing savage
resembles a bed of limestone cropping out in an
alluvial country. If we dig to a sufficient depth under
the gravel, we strike the same limestone again ; and
analogously if we delve far enough into the history of
civilisation, from three to five thousand years before
Christ, we rediscover our savage's articles of faith.

Thus, the twentieth-century savage enables us to
catch a glimpse — or more than a glimpse — of the opinions
of our far-off ancestors, members of races that ripened


earlier into civilisation, but nevertheless passed through
the phase in which the savage still remains.

To return to the gift-sacrifice. If it were a primitive
conception, then the lowest strata of savage humanity
would exhibit two phenomena : firstly, the belief in one
or more gods after the pattern of men ; and, secondly,
the existence of priests acting as representatives and
treasurers of the god. For without the priest there is
no gift-sacrifice ; a pair of visible hands is always necessary
to receive the offering in lieu of the unseen God.

But the case is not so. On the contrary, the most
primitive religions know neither a personal god made in
the image of man, nor a priest, the deputy of that god.

The Bible might be quoted as an exception ; but if
from the very beginning the Bible assumes a personal
god, it knows nothing of the priest. The priest is a late-
comer in the history of Israel. And as for the anthro-
pomorphic deity of the Pentateuch, he is barely older
than the year 1000 B.C., the earliest date to which the
present version of Genesis can be attributed. A millen-
nium before Christ is little more than the day before
yesterday — and the proof is easy. We all know now
that there was a long period in the history of man when
he knew neither metals, domestic animals, nor cereals.
Now the redactor of Genesis is so comparatively
recent a person that he had no inkling of any such
period : Adam tends the trees in the garden of Eden,
and, immediately upon his expulsion, betakes himself
to agriculture, as though men from the first must have
been familiar with fruit trees and cereals. Therefore
the writer to whom we owe the biblical Genesis is
modern, and his idea of a man-like god cannot be


On the other hand, the animal — or animal-headed —
deities of Egypt carry us back to a much earlier epoch,
anywhere between 5000 B.C. and 6000 B.C. Thus we may
plausibly conclude that long before the divinity was in-
vested with human traits he was envisaged under the
form of certain animals.

And now comes a striking coincidence. Go to
the most primitive of modern savages and you find a
religion to which the man-god is unknown, and the
animal or plant god all in all. It is not an individual
animal or plant which they adore ; it is a particular
species — ^animal or vegetable — the members of which
they imagine are bound to themselves by a mysterious
and immemorial tie. These, to their minds, are the
protectors, the talismans, of the tribe or clan. More
than this, they are apt to persuade themselves that
they are lineal descendants of the guardian animal or
plant, and proceed, logically enough, to adopt its name.

For instance, certain North American Indians call
themselves Beavers. They hold that their ultimate
ancestor was a beaver, who miraculously brought forth
a man ; they will not pass a beaver without some
token of respect or attachment ; and they are fertile in
anecdotes of beavers who saved their lives — beavers
who showed them fords — beavers who did them all
manner of services.

From time to time, primitive peoples, addicted to the
cult of animals, indulge in a peculiar type of sacrifice.
Suppose that a tribe is afflicted with famine, drought, or
an epidemic ; it argues that, for some reason or other,
the mascot — say, the beaver— has withdrawn its counte-
nance and protection. To effect a reconciliation, two
methods will be employed. On the one hand, the tribe


will offer gifts — in other words, carry food — to its tutelar
animal : this is the gift-sacrifice. At other times the
remedy is more eccentric. The first step is to convene
a grand synod of tribal chiefs ; then a beaver must be
caught and killed; and, finally, every man present eats
a portion of its flesh. The point of this ceremony is
supposed to lie in the fact that it is a sort of self-deifica-
tion, inasmuch as it directly increases the element of
divine energy inherent in every man. In a word, it is a
savage sacrament, resorted to in supreme moments of
distress or peril — a communion in which the sacrifice of
a divine object imparts divinity to all that eat of it.

The great discovery of Professor Robertson Smith,

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