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G. H, Sabine 

CB301 .G6l""' """"™"'' """^ 
^^'lllfllllMw&.S[l,,, '"traduction to 


3 1924 032 334 611 

The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 





By Abraham Epstein 

By C. F. G. Masterman 

By Charles A. Beard 

By Rene Brunei 

By James Mickel IVilliams 

consumers; co-operative societies 

By Charles Gide. Edited by Cedric Long 

By James Mickel IVilliams 

For sale at all bookshops 





Lecturer on Anthropology and Sociology at The New 
School for Social Research, New York; sometime 
Lecturer on Anthropology in Coh^mbia University, 



Published, May, 19*2 
Second Printing, October, 1923 

Set up and electrotyped by the Burr Printing House, New York, N. 
Paper (Warren'g) furnished by Henry Lindenmeyr & Sons, New Yorh, N. Y. 
Printed by the Vail-Ballou Ca., Binghamton, N. Y, 
Bound by the H. Wolff Estate, New York, N. Y. 




THOSE whose common preoccupation is with ideas are 
wont to cherish the illusion of originality. But if the his- 
tory of mental contents were disclosed we should find that 
most of what we know and think is derived from others. 

My more clearly discernible obligations are due to many. 
It is hard to express the extent of my indebtedness to Pro- 
fessor Franz Boas, of Columbia, whose glowing enthusiasm 
and colossal knowledge have for many years served as 
guidance and inspiration. Of the many intellectual com- 
panions of my academic years I want to single out four 
whose ideas and criticisms have aided in the formation and 
shaping of my own thoughts : Professors Robert H. Lowie 
and A. L. Kroeber, of Berkeley, Doctor Edward Sapir, of 
the Victoria Museum, Ottawa, and Paul Radin, now of 
Oxford, England. 

My gratitude is due to my friend and colleague, James 
Harvey Robinson and to Mrs. Etta Stuart Sohier, of Los 
Angeles, for reading and criticising the first version of this 
book. Their suggestions proved so valuable that the origi- 
nal plan of revising the first draft was abandoned and a 
new book written. I want to thank my old chum and com- 
panion, Samuel Joseph, for reading the page proof. 

I also want to express my obligation to my classes in 
anthropology at Columbia and The New School for Social 
Research, for without the experience gained in the prepara- 
tion and delivery of these lectures, the book could not have 
been written. My final obligation is due to my secretary, 
Miss Anne V. Cooper, who has fulfilled the enormous task 
of typing and retyping the manuscript, has read the proofs 
and made innumerable suggestions as to the form and con- 
tent of the pages that follow. 

Alexander A. Goldenweiser 
New York, December i6, 192 1. 






The Unity of Man 3 

The Nature of Civilization 15 

The Evolutionary Theory: An Exposition and a Criticism 20 



Chapter I. The Eskimo: A Case of Environmental 

Adjustment 34 

Chapter II. The Tlingit and Haida of Northwest 

America 53 

Chapter III. The Iroquois Matriarchate 70 

Chapter IV. Uganda, An African State 83 

Chapter V. Central Australia, A Magic Ridden Com- 
munity 100 

Chapter VI. Reflections on Part I 115 




Chapter VII. Economic Conditions and Industry 132 

The Economic Adjustment 132 

Applied Knowledge 138 

KwakiutI Industry 138 



Chapter VIII. Economic Conditions and Industry 

(Continued) 15° 

Applied Knowledge (Continued) 15° 

Hopi Pigments 15° 

Tewa Ethnobotany 152 

Invention i57 

Chapter IX. Art 165 

Chapter X. Religion and Magic 184 

The Basic Factors of Religion 184 

The Guardian Spirit in American Indian Religion 184 

Modern Magic 193 

Mana or Impersonal Supernatural Power 197 

Chapter XI. Religion and Magic (Continued) 202 

Anthropomorphism and the Higher Gods 202 

Chukchee Supernaturalism 202 

Bella Coola Gods 207 

The All Father 211 

The Individual in Religion 214 

Medicine-men Among the Chukchee and Others 214 
The Ghost-Dance Religions of the North American 

Indians 224 

Supernaturalism as a World View 231 

Chapter XII. Society 235 

The Foundations of Society 225 

The Disabilities of Women 259 

Chapter XIII. Society (Continued) 265 

The Foundations of Society (Continued) 265 

Political Organization 270 

The Geographical Distribution of Social Forms 279 

Totem^!r~— — — ~~"~~~~ ~ 282 

Chapter XIV. Reflections on Part II 292 
Culture and Environment 292 
Diffusion versus Independent Development in Early Civi- 
lization 301 

Contents xi 





Chapter XV. Theories of Early Mentality 


Spencer's Theories 


Frazer's Theories 


Wundt's Theories 


Chapter XVI. Theories of Earj.y Mentality 




Durkheim's Theories 


Levy-Bruhl's Theories 


Freud's Theories 


Chapter XVII. Early Life and Thought 


Bibliographic Guide 






1. Plan of Eskimo Singing-House 37 

2. Eskimo Snow House 40 

3. Ground Plan of Eskimo Snow House 40 

4. Cross Section of Eskimo Snow House 41 

5. Framework of Eskimo Kayak 42 

6. Eskimo Kayak 42 

7. Eskimo Harpoon 43 

8. 9, 10, II. Parts of Eskimo Harpoon 43 

12. Eskimo Harpoon in Action 44 

13. Eskimo Bird Spear 45 

14. Throwing Board 45 

15. Eskimo Seal-Skin Floats and Hoop '46 

16. Eskimo Sledge 47 

17. Eskimo Dog in Harness 48 

18. Eskimo Wooden Bow 49 

19. 20. Eskimo Antler Bows 50 

21. Eskimo Bow Drill 51 

22. Kwakiutl Copper 60 

23. Diagram of Iroquois Maternal Family 74 

24. 25. Diagrams of Australian Marriage and Descent ill, 112 

26. Kwakiutl Wood-Bending 140 

27. Kwakiutl Pole-Raising 143 

28. Raising of Kwakiutl Roof Beam 144 

29. 30. 31. 32. Kwakiutl Black Horn Spoon 145, 146 
33, 34. Kwakiutl Eel Grass Bundles 148, 149 



35. Beaded Bagobo Bag Plate I ^^^^^° 178 

36. Bagobo Embroidered Shirt Plate I 

37. Chilkat Blanket Plate II 

38. 39. Haida Memorial Columns Plate II 

40. Haida Horn Spoon Plate II 

41. Bushongo Wooden Cup Plate III 

42. Benin Bronze Casting Plate III 

43. New Ireland Ceremonial Head-Dress Plate IV 

44. Maori Door Lintel Plate V 

45. Hawaiian Feather Cloak Plate V 

46. Chiriquian Chalice Plate VI 

47. California Basket Plate VII 

48. California Basket Plate VII 

49. California Basket Plate VII 

50. 51. Australian Ground Drawings Plate VIII 


52. Diagram of Australian Marriages 255 

53. Diagram of Totemic Complex 288 

54. Map of Distribution of Clothing in America 302 

55. Map of Distribution of Garments in Africa 303 

56. Map of Distribution of Huts in Africa 304 

57. Map of Distribution of Pottery in America 305 

58. Map of Distribution of Totemism in Africa 308 


The Unity of Man 

Truth comes hard. The recognition of man's animal de- 
scent has been a slow growth. When Darwin wrote, over 
half a century ago, the evidence in favor of our animal an- 
cestry began to be irresistible. This did not prevent a storm 
of protest from breaking over the head of the great biologist 
when in his "Origin of Species" he began to prepare the 
ground for the new doctrine. In 'The Descent of Man" 
his position became categorical. But it remained for the 
more uncompromising and temperamental Haeckel to 
sweep man's pedigree clean of all traces of supernaturalism 
and to popularize the idea of man's natural evolution among 
wide circles of the educated and semi-educated laity. 

Though similar to the animal in many ways, man difFers 
markedly from even the highest animals, including his closest 
known relatives, the anthropoid apes. Erect gait, shape of 
the cranium, size of the brain, position of the head, develop- 
ment of the hand; and with these, the use of tools, articulate 
language, and the gift of abstract thought — such are some 
of the traits that set off man as an unique achievement of 
biological evolution, as a super-animal, immeasurably re- 
moved from all his precursors. 

In this connection, the claim is sometimes made that some 
races are closer to the animal than others. The prognathic 
jaws of the Negro, the prominent supra-orbital ridges of the 
Australian, the dark skin color of most primitive men, are 
a few of the features pointed to as suggestive of animal 
traits. A somewhat more careful glance at the facts, how- 
ever, at once introduces distracting complications. The 
ape-like character of the Negro's jaws cannot be denied, but 
his very jaws are fitted out with a pair of lips that remove 
him as far from the animal as the jaws bring him near it. 
For developed external lips are a specifically human trait, 
and in this particular the Negro represents "man physical" 


more distinctly than any other race. Again, the prominent 
supra-orbital ridges of the Australian carry an unmistakable 
animalistic suggestion, and one might be inclined to add to 
this another trait, namely, the great hairiness of the Aus- 
tralian, if it were not for the disturbing thought that in the 
latter respect the white man is his worthy rival, while the 
other races are much less hairy. And the same applies to 
other features. 

Is it not clear, then, that the races, with their complexes 
of more or less characteristic traits, cannot be arranged in 
an ascending series from the animal upward? In particular 
instances, one race may prove to be an offshoot of another, 
the American Indians, for example, of the Mongolians ; but 
if all structural peculiarities of each racial stock are taken 
into consideration, the races, all animal and all human 
though they are, must be regarded as anatomical varieties 
specialized in different directions. 

Prompted by motives partly scientific in their nature and 
partly otherwise, the advocates of white man's supremacy 
have utilized another set of facts. In this case the evidence 
adduced referred to the size and weight of the brain and to 
the macroscopic as well as microscopic structure of this 

White man's claim to psycho-physical superiority receives 
but little support from a consideration of brain size and 
weight. It must, of course, be admitted that the physical 
evolution of the vertebrates was accompanied by a progres- 
sive development in the relative size and weight of the nerv- 
ous system and, in particular, of the central organ of nerv- 
ous control, the brain. In the case of man, the brain has 
indeed reached unprecedented dimensions. In proportion to 
the bulk of his body, man's brain is much larger and heavier 
than is that of any other animal, including our closest known 
precursor, the anthropoid ape. And with the increased bulk 
of the brain, there went an unmistakable rise in intelligence. 

It is, however, by no means easy to apply the insight thus 
reached to the human level itself. First of all, bulk of body 


again comes in as a factor. All in all, large people have 
large brains. But bulk of body is not discernibly related 
to intelligence. Hence, doubt arises whether among mod- 
ern white men any connection obtains between brain size 
and weight and intelligence. The evidence gleaned from 
post mortem examinations of brains is equally inconclusive. 
In one series of brains of great men, for example, it was 
found that Turgenev's brain was extraordinarily large and 
heavy, while that of Gambetta, also a man of no mean 
mental capacity, scarcely reached the average. As the case 
stands to date, it seems not improbable that the brains of a 
selected group of eminent men when compared with those 
of a non-selected group of men, would not show any signifi- 
cant differences in size and weight. 

It follows from this that any inferences In regard to in- 
telligence based on comparisons of brain size and weight 
must be drawn with great caution. But are there such dif- 
ferences between the white race and other races and, if so, 
what is their nature? Students of the subject tell us that 
If a sufficiently large set of white man's brains were com- 
pared with a similar one representing another race, the vast 
majority of the brains of the two sets would be strictly com- 
parable In point of size and weight. The only difference 
would be this : a small number of white man's brains would 
be heavier and larger than any brains In the other set, while 
a small number of brains in that set would be smaller and 
lighter than any brains of white man. 

Would It not be hazardous, then, to base any conclu- 
sions as to racial capacity on differences that are so tenuous, 
particularly in view of the highly dubious relation between 
brain size and weight and intelligence ? 

With the brain structure the case stands somewhat dif- 
ferently. In addition to the data on white man's brains, 
we have the results of Professor Bean's palnstaicing in- 
vestigations of a large set of Negro brains. These investi- 
gations have disclosed the presence of distinctive structural 
peculiarities which must be recognized as racial. There is, 


however, no indication that the revealed differences between 
white and Negro brains stand for potential intellectual in- 
feriority on the part of the Negro. Those who desire to 
see such inferiority demonstrated will naturally tend to in- 
terpret Professor Bean's results in this sense; the sober 
student, on the other hand, will reserve judgment,^ pending 
further research, which, he may well expect, will disclose 
peculiarities of racial psychology correlated with the ob- 
served differences in brain structure. In what direction 
these peculiarities will lie cannot at this time be foreseen. 

The foregoing examination of the biological and neuro- 
logical evidence leaves us very near where we were at the 
beginning of our inquiry. No proof has been forthcom- 
ing of the inferiority of the other racial stocks to the 

But what is the tenor of the direct evidence of psy- 
chology? Here we are confronted by the time honored 
allegation that the senses of the "savage," his vision, hear- 
ing, smell, are more acute than are those of white man, and 
that this very superiority bespeaks his closeness to the 
animal. In the power of abstract thought, on the other 
hand, in the capacity for sustained labor, the ability to en- 
dure pain, he is supposed to lag far behind the standards 
established by white man. 

Old travelers' accounts abound in references to the amaz- 
ing sense acuity of the "savage." Scarcely audible sounds, 
we are told, are perceived by him and interpreted as a warn- 
ing of danger. He observes the tracks of animals and of 
man under conditions that seem impossible to his white 
companions. From the appearance of a bush in the thicket 
or the grass under foot, he infers what kind of animals have 

^That apart from interpretation, Professor Bean's concrete results are not 
above criticism may be gathered from the constructive and critical essay by 
F. P. Mall ("On Several Anatomical Characters of the Human Brain, etc;," 
American Journal of Anatomy, Vol. IX, pp. 1-32). See particularly p. n, 
where Mall compares his results with those of Bean, derived from the 
measurement of the same set of brains. 


been there and may even roughly guess their number. He 
possesses a complete inventory of the sounds produced by 
the beasts and birds of his habitat and is able, moreover, 
to reproduce many of them with striking fidelity. 

Accounts such as these were eagerly sought by the ad- 
vocates of white man's superiority. The "savage," it was 
held, is like the animal in the sharpness of his senses. White 
man, with his higher intelligence, has passed beyond that 
stage. He is no longer in need of such extraordinary keen- 
ness of the lower faculties, for nose, eye or ear could never 
serve his vital needs as effectively as does his mind, with its 
superior acumen and resourcefulness. 

Whatever may be said of these interpretations, the facts 
themselves, when examined with an open mind, do not imply 
any inborn superiority of the "savage" in sense perception. 
It must be remembered that aboriginal man lives in close 
and constant contact with nature, its forces and its dangers. 
His natural economy requires a very delicate adjustment to 
the peculiarities of his environment. If he is to live, he 
must learn to use his senses as well or nearly as well as do 
the animals and birds of his wild habitat. All this, however, 
is merely a matter of habituation. If transferred to an un- 
accustomed environment, the master of the woods and the 
prairie would promptly lose his superior sense capacity. A 
Bushman or Australian, suddenly removed to Broadway, 
would succumb to the natural dangers of his new milieu 
even before he had realized the inadequacy of his equip- 
ment for dealing with the changed situation. White man, 
on the other hand, has more than once shown his ability to 
develop the very qualities of the senses which are so neces- 
sary in a primitive setting. The frontiersman and the 
settler, the trapper and the agent of the Hudson's Bay 
Company, excelled in the very characteristics that were 
thought to constitute an innate peculiarity of the American 
Indian, and any of these, including the Indian, would un- 
doubtedly meet their peer if not their master in psychic 


equipment in a member of the mounted police of the Cana- 
dian Northwest. 

The very high degree to which the sharpness of the senses 
can be developed by constant application is attested by the 
experiences of modern civilization. Our experts on cloth 
and tapestry, on tea, tobacco and wine, achieve after some 
years of practise, a power of delicate sense discrimination 
which to the uninitiated seems wellnigh incredible. Equally 
remarkable is the high sensitiveness of touch acquired by 
the professional typist, and the even greater delicacy of that 
sense as well as of the sense of hearing possessed by the 
accomplished violinist and cellist. 

The recent development of experimental psychology has 
provided a tool by means of which the psychological equip- 
ment of the "savage" could be tested with greater exacti- 
tude. In a number of instances opportunity presented itself 
to apply the procedure of the experimental laboratory to 
the native populations. Doctor W. H. R. Rivers, as a 
member of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to 
Torres Straits, subjected the natives of these islands to an 
extended series of psychological tests ; Mr. Richard Thurn- 
wald applied somewhat similar methods in the course of his 
expedition to the Solomon Islands; while Professor R. S. 
Woodworth, of Columbia University, was fortunate enough 
to find himself in a position to experiment with representa- 
tives of a variety of primitive tribes gathered for purposes 
of exhibition at the St. Louis Fair. The verdict of the 
above investigations is unanimous and unmistakable: thei 
'■' senses and the elementary mental reactions of aboriginal! 
man are strictly comparable to those of his white brethren.) 
/" Nq- dis parity whatsoev er has appeared that would suggest 
\ congenital racial differences of superiority or inferiority of 
sense equipment, although some interesting facts that could 
not have been foreseen have come to light, such as the pre- 
vailing yellow-blue color blindness of some Melanesian 
natives, which contrasts with the red-green color blind- 



ness of white man, and may prove to be a sub-racial 

It is easy to show that the alleged inferiority of early 
man in the higher mental functions is also based on deficient 
knowledge and an erroneous point of view. Followers of 
Herbert Spencer are wont to say that the "savage" is lacking 
in capacity for sustained labor. But are the reports from 
which such generalizations are derived based on a fair 
view of the primitive laborer? Certainly not. The evi- 
dence gleaned from plantation conditions, for example, 
cannot be expected to throw much light on the natural 
capabilities of the native worker. Recent studies, such as 
those of J. A. Hobson, Carleton Parker and Miss Marot, 
have done much to popularize the information we now 
possess about the effects of the worker's psychic state on his 
efficiency. The striking results of the reputed "Saturday- 
ings" and "Sundayings" of Soviet Russia bring, perhaps, 
the most recent evidence of what labor can do under stimu- 
lating psychological conditions. And the reverse is, of 
course, equally patent. If the experiences of housewives 
with their domestic help were available as comparative data, 
would not the standing of white men and women as 
exemplars of efficiency in sustained labor receive a decided 

Those who have had the opportunity of studying native 
man in his normal setting have often been impressed by 
the apparently limitless care and assiduity with which he 
devoted himself to those tasks of industry or art which to 
him were of prime concern and emotional value. Primitive 
Industries, In particular, often call for intense and persist- 
ent application extending over days and weeks, and these 
requirements are faithfully fulfilled by the natives with- 
out visible signs of distress or any necessity for social 

Similarly ill-founded Is the alleged inability of primitive 
man to endure pain. The statements responsible for this 
judgment were, of course, based on thos? many instances 


where, as slave, forced laborer, or hired soldier, primitive 
man had displayed but slight disposition to withstand pain 
or suffering. Here again, familiarity with native life cannot 
but dispel the illusion that any congenital disability is in- 
volved. The tortures of the Sun Dance are stoically en- 
dured by the Indian youths of the American Plains. The 
native boys of the Australian bush show equal stolidity dur- 
ing the protracted initiation ceremonies, in the course of 
which the old men subject them to trying and often painful 
manipulations. Maori tatooing provides another example. 
In the case of a chief this process occupies weeks and 
months, and in the course of the daily seances, the subject 
must endure almost continuous pain. The arduous task of 
the artist presents equally striking evidence of native 
capacity for sustained labor. A rite of initiation wide- 
spread in Africa and Australia involves the knocking out 
of teeth or the filing of teeth into triangular shape. The 
common requirement thereby is that the excruciating pain 
must be borne without whimpering. If records of such per- 
formances were collected and compared with others that 
might be supplied by our dentists, would the results be likely 
to support the belief that aboriginal man is our ififerior in 
his capacity for withstanding pain? 

Among the higher functions of the mind with which early 
man was thought to be but inadequately endowed, mathe- 
matics and language have figured most prominently. It is 
quite true, as alleged, that many tribes — those of central, 
Australia, for example — are unable to count further than 
four or five. But are they really unable to do so be- 
cause of psychic incapacity? Nothing could be further from 
the truth than this inference, and ethnologists have repeat- 
edly made the experience that the learning of our numerical 
system with its corollaries presents but little difficulty to the 
average native. Whenever such deficient numerical systems 
occur, they merely represent a peculiarity of the civiliza- 
tional setting, and not at all a psychical disability. Among 
tribes where no medium of exchange has developed, where 


exact measurement is unknown and Ideas of property re- 
main relatively undefined, there is little need for numerical 
expression and computation, and progress in this domain 
Is likely to be slow. 

The case of language is equally instructive. That 
primitive languages consist of a scant collection of words, 
that the very phonetic elements of these languages tend to 
fluctuate, that they are practically devoid of grammatical 
structure — all such generalizations have long since been 
relegated to the rubbish heap of discarded dogmas. In the 
course of the last fifteen or twenty years, the languages of 
the American Indians have been studied in great detail, 
while only less systematic work has been accomplished in 
other regions, especially In Africa. As a result of these re- 
searches, our ideas of early languages have been thoroughly 
revolutionized. It Is now known that the vocabularies of 
more than one Indian tongue comprise several thousands 
of words and possess phonetic characteristics comparable 
in fixity and complexity to those of the ancient and modern 
languages. But most important of all are the grammars 
of these native tongues, the reconstruction of which we owe 
to the ingenuity and untiring labors of the ethnological 
linguists. For these grammars are always definite and often 
elaborate, and while displaying certain characteristics com- 
mon to all grammars, also possess many individualized 

It is, of course, true that the linguistic processes under- 
lying grammatical structure are wholly unconscious. They 
are, nevertheless, psychological; and the evidence of classi- 
fication, generalization and abstraction involved in the cate- 
gories of these native grammars may not be disregarded in 
any attempt to understand the workings of primitive men- 
tality. When the Kwakiutl employs verbal suiSxes to ex- 
press limitations of time, space, form, subjective judgment, 

'For a highly interesting as well as original presentation of linguistic 
facts, in which full justice is done to primitive languages, see Edward 
Sapir's recent book, "Language" (Harcoqrt, Brace and Company), 


emotional state, and the like, the categories involved imply 
generalization and abstraction; and this particular language 
employs a large variety of such suffixes. When the Algon- 
quin languages classify all nouns into animate and inanimate, 
a generalization is once more implied. The very existence 
of categories in grammar — and what is grammar but a set 
of categories? — is evidence of classification, generalization 
and abstraction. 

That the conditions of aboriginal life do not foster a per- 
sistent occupation with ideas is true enough, but we shall 
have more than one occasion to show that our own wonted 
predilection for abstract thought has been greatly over- 

Enough has been said to indicate that the evidence of 
biology, neurology and psychology fails to supply any data 
on the basis of which could be inferred either a primitive 
superiority in sense development or an inferiority of early 
man in his capacity for abstract thought and in other 
achievements supposedly peculiar to white man. 

To all this the objection may well be urged that we do 
not judge of civilization indirectly, through the biological 
or psychological traits of the individuals who represent it. 
We judge of civilization directly, on its own merits. Now, 
iFprimitive, ancient and modern societies are juxtaposed, 
is it not patent that the achievements of the modern civili- 
zation of white man surpass beyond comparison all that has 
been attained before in history or pre-history? How can 
this superlative excellence be explained except through some 
advantage in congenital capacity? 

Unanswerable though it may seem at first glance, this 
criticism greatly overstates the case. For is the superiority 
of our own civilization really so obvious and demonstrable 
all along the line? That this is not so is readily revealed 
by a more careful survey. It is undeniable that in the mass 
of accumulated knowledge we loom far above all our pred- 
ecessors. The same is true of the application of knowledge 
to abstract thought: the domain of thought based on con- 


Crete and verifiable data is vaster today than ever before, 
and in many instances this experientially-controlled thought 
process is both highly elaborate and equally exact. This 
applies to the abstract domains of science, philosophy and 
social and political ideology in some of its aspects. The 
high degree to which knowledge is utilized in practical 
activity is equally peculiar to present day civilization. It 
may well be, in fact, that this aspect is more character- 
istically modern than any of the others. The application 
of biology to medicine and bacteriology, of chemistry to 
industry, agriculture and sanitation, of psychology to educa- 
tion, criminology and business, of the theory of probability 
and other branches of mathematics to life insurance and 
statistics, are distinctively modern phenomena incalculable 
in their bearings on civilization. 

So far, then, white man's cultural achievement stands 
supreme, lending at least a prima facie justification to his 
claim of innate superiority. It must, however, be remem- 
bered, that in his command of knowledge with its theoretical 
and practical adjuncts, modern white man is superior not 
only to the Australian bushman, to the Indian of America, 
to the African Negro or to the Mongol of Eastern Asia; 
but in all of these respects he also towers above the ancient 
Babylonians and Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, 
nay even over our most immediate precursors in the history 
of Europe. Go back five hundred years and nothing is left 
of modern civilization ; go back two hundred years and some 
of its most distinctive traits are still absent; go back one 
hundred years and you find a civilization lacking in most 
of the things we feel to be of the essence of our own cultural 
life. The aeroplane and the wireless, the telephone and 
the telegraph, and the very use of electricity; railroads and 
steamships and automobiles; scientific agriculture and in- 
dustrial chemistry; the doctrine of evolution and the very 
natural sciences with their highly precise measurements and 
methods; trusts and trade unions and the very essentials 
of machine production and of capitalism; all of this, his- 


torically speaking, dates of yesterday. And further: do 
these represent typical developments that have taken place 
again and again in civilizations bom of white man? Far 
from it. This complex of achievements must rather be re- 
garded as an unique excrescence of the historic process, as 
a singular historic twist that has favored our civilization. 
Who can tell whether a similar precipitation in cultural 
growth might not have occurred in the case of another 
people and race, or may not occur in the future ; or whether, 
if the historic process were to begin anew, white man would 
prove equally successful ? 

• But the case does not stand as favorably for white man 
as would appear from this presentation. Knowledge, 
theoretical and applied, is not the whole of civilization. 
Now, in art, religion and ethics, or in social and political 
organization, our superiority over the peoples of antiquity, 
or even over those of pre-history, is not by any means as 
definite nor as indisputable. While a detailed consideration 
of the comparative aspect of the problem falls outside 
the scope of this book, it will be well to keep in mind 
that our superiority in any of these respects can only be 
established in the light of special and highly subjective 
\ standards. The problem, in other words, passes from the 
domain of measurement to that of yjhje-from that of ob- 
jectivity to that of taste and opinion. 

Enough has been said to show that the view still gener- 
ally held of the relation between race and civilization may 
well be reversed. According to the prevailing view, man 
is many and civilization one, meaning by this that the races 
differ significantly in potential ability and that only one, 
the white race, could have and actually has achieved civiliza- 
tion. The reverse view, forced upon the ethnologist and 
the historian by a more critical and open-minded survey 
of the facts, reads thus: man is one, civilizations are many, 
meaning by this that the races do not differ significantly In 
psychological endowment, that the variety of possible civili- 
zations is great and of actual ones, considerable, and that 


many civilizations otiier than ours have achieved things of 
genuine and unique worth. 

With this as a baclcground, we may proceed to examine 
somewhat more closely what it is that is called civilization. 
To this problem the next section is devoted. 

The Nature of Civilization 

What, then, is civilization? 

Our attitudes, beliefs and ideas, our judgments and 
values; our institutions, political and legal, religious and 
economic; our ethical code and our code of etiquette; our 
books and machines, our sciences, philosophies and philoso- 
phers — all of these and many other things and beings, both 
in themselves and in their multiform inter-relations, con- 
stitute our civilization. In many of these things it differs 
from the civilizations of antiquity and from those other 
remoter ones of pre-history. 

It is characteristic of civilization that it persists; a large 
part of it, most of it, in fact, is passed on from generation 
to generation. But also, it changes: at no two points in 
time is it quite the same, and the differences in the civiliza- 
tion of two succeeding generations are often perceptible 
and at times striking. 

It takes but little thought to realize that the changes in 
fiijdiization are each_and all due ta the ^emergence of new 
things, inventions, ideas, jwhich, in the Jast analysis, are 
always emanations of the^minds of individuals. Whether 
the change is in a mechanical device, or a detail of social 
organization; in a new scientific idea or ethical value; in 
a method of simplifying or improving economic production 
or distribution; in a new play, or a novel form of stage art; 
in an article of use, comfort or luxury, a new word, a 
witticism, a proverb — all of these things originate in in- 
dividual minds and there is no other place where they can 
originate. Nor is this generalization in the least affected 


by whatever view one may hold as to the relative impor- 
tance of the individual and society in the production of 
civilization. Even though the individual were wholly de- 
termined by the social setting, all of the civillzational 
changes just referred to, including those in material things, 
would remain psychological in their derivation and, as such, 
they could only originate in individual minds, for there are 
no other minds but those of individuals. |_Thus the whole 
of civilization, if followed backward step by step, would 
ultimately be found resolvable, without residue, into bits 
of ideas in the minds of individuals\ 

But civilization also persists and accumulates. Some ele- 
ments carry over from generation to generation through 
the sheer objective continuity of material existence. Most 
of the paraphernalia of our complicated mechanical equip- 
ment, the roads, vehicles and houses, the books in our 
libraries, the specimens In the museums, persist in as crass 
and material a way as does man's physical environment. 
The institutions, those crystallized depositories of attitudes, 
ideas and actions, persist In a less objectified form, for they 
are only in part represented by material or mechanical ar- 
rangements, such as fixed organizations, recorded codes and 
archives, in whose prolonged existence the change of gener- 
ations appears as but an incident. But there is still another 
and more important mechanism through which civilization 
is passed on from fathers to sons. This mechanism, 
more dynamic and plastic than the others, is education. 
Through education, in the home, at school, in society, the 
past molds the present and sets a pattern for the future. 

Here It is important to remember that civilization, psy- 
chological and individual though it may be when resolved 
into a chronological series. Is not at all the outgrowth of 
the minds of individuals of any particular generation. On 
the contrary. It comes to them from without, it molds 
them. It forces itself upon them through the material per- 
sistence of Its objective elements, through its codes and 
institutions, and through the deep cutting tools of education. 


A large part of the educational process strikes the mind of 
the individual during the years of highest receptivity and 
plasticity. Without accepting the extreme verdict of psy- 
choanalysis on this matter, it suffices to realize that what 
is deposited in the mind during the early years of child- 
hood, persists throughout later life with often but slight 

Not only is man at the mercy of civilization, but he gen- 
erally remains either partly or wholly unaware of what he 
is thus forced to accept. 

While we regard the language in which we think and 
express our ideas as very particularly our own, the gram- 
matical structure of that language rests in the unconscious. 
The complicated system of classifications, categories and 
nuances, which make up grammar, are used by the individual 
without the least realization of their presence. In primitive 
communities, where writing is unknown, individuals are 
totally unaware of the very existence of a grammar under- 
lying the language they daily use. The situation is not so 
very different today, for the fact that grammar is taught 
does not prevent us from absorbing the structure of our 
mother tongue without the least reference to whatever con- 
scious knowledge we may acquire of its grammatical prin- 
ciples. Only at the cost of a deliberate and persistent effort 
can the mind be brought to deal analytically with the 
elements of the grammar it constantly employs in thinking. 

The same is almost equally true of art, particularly of 
music. The theoretical structure of our musical system is 
known to but few. Many of those who appreciate music 
or even produce it by singing or playing an instrument, 
may remain almost wholly unconscious of the basic prin- 
ciples with which they operate. And, again, in primitive 
society or among the peasant populations of Europe or 
among the singing and banjo-playing masses of our cities, 
the theoretical foundations of the music they enjoy, use and 
abuse, remain altogether unknown. What applies so dras- 
tically to language and art is only to a slighter degree true 


of other elements of civilization. Rules of etiquette, re- 
ligious dogma, political convictions, and to a great extent 
the specialized outlook of a social or professional class, 
become fixed in the mind of the individual before he is 
quite aware of what is taking place. 

Then, when self-consciousness comes — and to many of 
us it never comes — we discover ourselves fitted out with all 
the paraphernalia of a world view, with a code of morality, 
behavior and belief. Then we may indulge in a deliberate 
effort to change these ideas and attitudes or, more com- 
monly, to provide for them an exculpating background of 
explanations and justifications. Many of our theories of edu- 
cation, of criminology or of etiquette, for example, consist 
of nothing but such accumulated afterthoughts, invented 
with greater or less ingenuity to render our unconsciously 
acquired habits, attitudes and convictions, more congenial 
to ourselves and better prepared to hold their own in the 
face of criticism or attack. 

It appears from the above that the individual and the 
group have their share both in the persistence and the 
originality of civilization. The individual is responsible 
for the creation of the new, society provides it with a back- 
ground and the occasion. For the new is never more than 
a slight ripple on the deep foundation of the old and estab- 
lished. The conservative dead-weight of society opposes 
the new, but should it appear, molds it to its pattern by 
prescribing the direction it is to take as well as by limiting 
the range of its departure from the old. This is most 
clearly seen in inventions and artistic creations. The talent 
of an Edison is a congenital gift. Even though born in 
J early pre-history, he would have been Edison, but could not 
i have invented the incandescent lamp. Instead, he might 
have originated one of the early methods of making fire. 
I Raphael, if brought to life in a Bushman family, would have 
i drawn curiously realistic cattle on the walls of caves as well 
I as steatopygous Bushman women. Had Beethoven been a 
1 Chinaman, he would have composed some of those delight- 


fully cacophonous melodies which the seeker for the quaint 
and unusual pretends to enjoy in Chinatown. 

Stability and persistence, on the other hand, are mainly 
brought about by social factors. Apart from the historic 
persistence of the material substratum of the group, the 
institutional norms and the directing pressure of public 
opinion, custom and law, are functions of the social setting. 
But these factors alone would be powerless to achieve 
stability in the absence of the inertia of the individual mind, 
with its readiness to adhere to once established conceptions 
and its predilection for the beaten path. 

A civilization in its unique individuality is fascinating to 
behold and to study. This charm of specific cultural values 
eluded the eye of the evolutionist of a generation ago, whose 
interest centered in the task of reconstructing the ante- 
cedents of modern society. To him the civilizations of 
antiquity and to an ever greater degree those of pre-history, 
were but stepping-stones on the road to modern civilization, 
but stages in an ascending series of development. The 
modern student, whether historian, sociologist or anthrop- 
ologist, having freed himself from the dogmatic preconcep- 
tions of the evolutionary approach, is seized with renewed 
zeal toward a better understanding and deeper penetration 
of the total range of human civilization. But the data for 
his study are limited. Beneath manifold differences, a level 
of great uniformity underlies all modern civilizations. A 
comparison of the latter with those of antiquity contributes 
a wider range of contrasting colors, but the number of such 
ancient civilizations is small, and on analysis, they also dis- 
play many common elements with our own. Pre-history, as 
it stands revealed by the researches of the ethnographer, 
belongs to a totally different plane. Each one of its civili- 
zations is individual and unique, is carried by relatively few 
individuals and covers but slight territory. Of such highly 
individualized civilizations, pre-history reveals a great 
variety, even though the list be made to include only those 
tribes whose cultural possessions have been studied with 


care and in detail. Primitive North America alone com- 
prises a greater number of well authenticated civilizations 
than can be found in the whole range of modern and ancient 

The early world, then, presents an ideal field for the 
study of the achievements of man, for the extension of our 
understanding of cultural problems and our appreciation of 
the great range of civilization. 

The Evolutionary Theory: An Exposition and a 


Evolution is an old idea. If one comes to think of the 
past at all — and most men do — there is a limited number 
of ways in which one can think of it. Persistence is one 
way in which the past can be visualized : things always were 
as they are today, history is a self-reproducing continuum. 
The Eskimo affect this attitude toward their cultural past: 
on the evidence of their mythology, their customs, beliefs 
and ideas always were what they are today. Another way 
to interpret the past is through creation : things have come 
to be as they are through the will of a supernatural being. 
Before that, if they existed at all, they were ideas in the 
mind of their creator. Origins by creation are not peculiar 
to the recent historic past; they are common in primitive 
society. The supernatural culture heroes of North America 
are the creators or the introducers of the arts and crafts. 
The All Father of Australian mythology is held responsible 
for the creation of the world, with the sole exception of 
man, who is supposed to have existed from the beginning in 
the form of half-finished creatures. These creatures were 
completed and transformed into men by two supernatural 
beings who traveled about the earth. The idea of creation 
is also known to the authors of Polynesian mythologies. 
Another way of accounting for the past is through trans- 
formation, some sort of evolution of things from one state 


into another. This idea is deeply rooted in the mythologies 
of Polynesia, and in more recent times it was congenial 
to the Greeks and the Romans {vide H. F. Osborne's book 
"From the Greeks to Darwin" ) . The philosopher Kant has 
been shown by Professor Lovejoy to have been an evolu- 
tionist In some of his conceptions; and Hegel's dialectic 
trilogy contains an evolut i onary theory in nuce. The 
potential evolutionism of Hegel's philosophy did not come 
into its own, however, until one of his disciples, Karl Marx , 
translated Hegel's spiritualistic ideology in terms of matter, 
thus laying the foundation for an economic interpretation 
of history with its definitely fixed stages of economic 

Strictly modern evolutionism dates from Herbert Sgencer. 
His ideas took shape under the stimulating influence of 
Malthus' law of population, the evolutionary geology of 
Charles Lyell, the embryological generalizations of von 
Baer, who first drew the parallel between ontogenetic and 
phylogenetic development, and the biological evolutionism 
of Charles Darwin. The relatively scant data marshalled 
by Spencer in his "Biology" and "Psychology" were suf- 
ficient to provide him with the groundwork of his evolu- 
tionary system. When approaching the social field, he was 
confronted with more serious difficulties. His ideas were, 
of course, fashioned beforehand, as may be seen from the 
early publication of a skeletal outline of his philosophy. 
In its bearing on social phenomena, the theory of evolu- 
tion was to comprise the three following principles of de- 
velopment: erolutionjs^uniform, g radual a nd progressive.' 
meaning by this_jhat social forms and institutions pass 
everywhere and always through the same stages of develop- 
metff;'That the transformations which they undergo are 
g?adttatrnot sudden or cataclysmic; and that the changes 
implied in these transformations point in the direction of 
improvement from less perfect to more perfect adjustments, 
fTom lower to higher forms. 

Spencer was aware of the necessity of an extensive coUa- 


tion of data to demonstrate his theory. He also realized 
that he could not himself cover any fraction of the necessary 
reading. He was, moreover, a very poor reader. Hence, 
he engaged the services of a number of assistants who did his 
reading for him. His evolutionary stages were all worked 
out in considerable detail before this reading process had be- 
gun, and what his assistants were expected to do was to find 
illustrations for the stages of development comprised in the 
philosopher's scheme. This they did by covering a tremen- 
dous literature of unequal worth and without attempting to 
study In a systematic way the ideas and customs of any par- 
ticular tribe. 

The method thus ushered in by Herbert Spencer into the 
study of society presently became known as the com- 
parative method of anthropology, and for a generation it 
remained in undisputed possession of the field. It has since 
been shown, however, that this method, if used uncritically, 
could be made to yield proof of any theory of social devel- 
opment whatsoever.^ 

'The essential principle of the comparatiTe method can be illustrated by 
the foUowtag diagram: 


3 - - l\ ~ "" ~ 

i -N^- 

e - - - - -^I 

Suppose I, II, . . represent tribes in different parts of the world, and x, 
2, . . . , stages in the development of an institution or form of society or 
religion; vertical lines stand for the presence, horizontal ones for the ab- 
sence, of a stage in a particular tribe. Now suppose stage i is illustrated 
by an example from tribe I, stage 2 by one from tribe II, etc What the 
classical evolutionist did vpas to connect stages i, 2, ... 6, each exemplified 
in one of the six tribes, into a chronologically successive series of stages. 
Thus, he claimed, the evolutionary theory stood vindicated. As a matter of 
fact, however, each one of the stages belongs to a different historic series, 
that, namely, of the tribe in which it was found. What then would be the 
only possible justification for the evolutionist's procedure? It would con- 


Although Spencer speaks in unmistakable terms of civili- 
zation at large as evolving uniformly, gradually and pro- 
gressively, his better insight, without being deliberately ex- 
pressed, is revealed in the formal subdivisions of his 
Sociology. He does not there attempt to trace a scheme 
of social development in its entirety, but subdivides his 
treatise into distinct studies of the development of industrial, 
political, military, professional and other institutions. Nor 
does he even supplement this separatistic treatment of the 
different phases of civilization by any attempt to correlate 
the diverse strands of development.^ 

A brilliant galaxy of works followed in the wake of 
Spencer's comparative studies. In the field of religion one 
may note the writings of Grant Allen, Fra.zsx, Lang, Hart- 
land, and Jevons ; in that of art, the books by Haddon and 
Balfour; in social^ organization, the researches of Bachqfen, 
McLennan and Morganij who became the epigoni of an era 
of social investigation and hypothetical reconstruction, and 

lilt in the aisumption that the stages of development in the six tribes are 
identical. If so much is taken for granted then the particular stages of 
development in the six tribes are interchangeable and it becomes possible to 
construct a chronologically successive series out of the bits of evidence un- 
earthed by the evolutionist. But is not the assumption of the identity of 
developmental stages in different tribes one of the fundamental principles 
of social evolution? Thus the theory of evolution must be accepted as a 
postulate before the comparative method can be used. It follovfs that the 
results of this method cannot be regarded as proof but merely as a series of 
illustrations of a postulated evolutionary theory. 

'While this is so with reference to Spencer and vrhile most other evolu- 
tionists followed a similar procedure, it must, nevertheless, be remembered, 
as a matter of historic interest, that the classical formulation of the evolu- 
tionary theory referred to civilization as a whole, over and above itg 
separate aspects. 

"A common misconception of the principle involved in the evolutionary 
method may be noticed," writes Marett in his book on "Psychology and Folk 
Lore." "According to this version, or rather perversion, of its meaning, it 
would run as follows: while the evolution of culture has taken place inde- 
pendently in a number of different areas, the process as a whole has re- 
peated itself more or less exactly; so that we either may treat any one 
development as typical of all, or, if no one complete history be available, 
may patch together a representative account out of fragments taken indif- 
ferently from any of the particular areas concerned." pp. 80-81. 

What M'arett here calls a common misconception of the evolutionary 
method must, nevertheless, be reaffirmed to be the classical form of it. The 
services of the early evolutionists to the science of human civilization are 
undeniable and conspicuous, nor does it seem necessary to whitewash the 
record of their achievement by befogging the historic perspective. 


the somewhat later studies of Westermarck which are per- 
vaded by a more critical spirit; in the domain of material 
culture, finally, there is once more the work of Morgan, that 
of Buecher, as well as the superficial writings of Letourneau, 
who combined the convictions of a dogmatic evolutionist 
with the literary form of a careless popularizer, thus repre- 
senting classical evolutionism at its worst. 

A few illustrations will make clear the contrast between 
tjie reconstructions^ classical evolutionism and t hose of j he 
mod ern ethno logists . In the development of social organi- 
zation the series of stages posited by the evolutionist was 
as follows: promiscuity, that is, a chaotic state of society 
without any structure whatsoever and characterized by un- 
regulated sex intercourse; followed by group marriage, in 
which groups of women, related or not, were regarded as 
the wives of groups of men, related or not; followed by 
the clan, a much more clearly defined form of social organi- 
zation, in which a tribe was divided into hereditary social 
units, clans, which comprised blood relatives as well as un- 
related persons and were based on the maternal principle, 
children belonging to the clans of their mothers; followed 
by the gens, which was like the clan except that the children 
belonged to the gentes of their fathers ; followed by a state 
of society in which the individual family and the local group 
or village became the basic forms of organization. This 
scheme was regarded as an universally applicable outline 
of social development, through which all tribes inevitably 

Now, what is the verdict of modern ethnology on this 

The conclusions derivable from more critical investiga- 
tions are, in brief, as follows : There seems to be no evi- 
dence that a stage of promiscuity ever existed; again, the 
condition of group marriage, far from being an universal 
antecedent of individual marriage, seems to constitute, in 
the rare instances where it occurs, an outgrowth of a pre- 
existing state of individual marriage. The family and local 


group are universal forms of social organization, extending 
to the very beginning. In some tribes the clan organization 
never develops. In others the clan follows the family- 
village organization. In still others, the gens follows 
directly upon this early organization. The development of 
the gens out of the clan has apparently occurred only in a 
few instances. It must, moreover, be remembered that the 
family-village grouping persists through all the other forms 
of organization. 

In the domain of art the evolutionist claimed that realistic 
designs were uniformly the earliest. From these, geometric 
designs developed through a series of transformations which 
represented ever higher degrees of conventionalization. 
This scheme also was regarded as universally applicable. 
In the light of further study the priority of realistic art can 
no longer be sustained. Geometric and realistic designs and 
carvings are equally basic and primitive. The process of 
conventionalization which figured so prominently in the 
evolutionist's reconstruction, does represent a frequently 
occurring phenomenon, but this process is neither necessary 
nor universal, nor is it by any means always gradual. More- 
over, the reverse process of the development of realistic 
designs from geometric ones also occurs. 

In material culture, the evolutionist, basing his conclu- 
sions upon the archeological reconstruction of European pre- 
history, posited the three stages: stone, bronze and 
iron. But in the only other culture area where the use of 
iron was known, namely, that of Negro Africa, the stage 
of iron followed directly upon that of stone, omitting the 
bronze stage. 

In the domain of economic pursuits the evolutionist is 
responsible for the famous triad: hunting, pastoral life, 
agriculture. But we know today that while hunting belongs 
without question to one of the earliest economic pursuits, 
it persists through all subsequent stages; that agriculture 
was practiced by many tribes that had never passed through 
a pastoral stage, nor kept domesticated animals, excepting 


the dog, a condition exemplified by many tribes of North 
America. Again, in Negro Africa, agriculture and pastoral 
life are pursued on an equally wide scale. Historic agricul- 
ture, moreover, which involves the domestication of animals 
as well as the cultivation of plants, insofar as animals arc 
used for agricultural purposes, represents a much later 
cultural phenomenon, to be clearly distinguished from earlier 
agriculture in which the domestic animal and the plow were 
unknown and the hoe was the only agricultural implement. 

In the light of better historic insight, another error of 
the evolutionary approach must fall to the ground. Follow- 
ing biological precedent, the evolutionist conceived of his- 
toric transformations as gradual, as consisting of slight, 
slowly accumulating changes. While it is true that slow 
changes in attitudes, knowledge or mechanical accomplish- 
ments are actual processes with which history makes us 
familiar, this should not obscure the equally conspicuous 
presence of relatively sudden, cataclysmic changes ushered 
in by social or political revolutions, great wars, important 
inventions. The history of modern art, science, philosophy 
and literature, abounds in examples of periods of precipi- 
tated change due to the emergence of great ideas or of 
dominant personalities, followed by protracted periods of 
relative stability, mere imitativeness, stagnation, or even 

The third principle of evolution is equally at fault. 
Progress is no more constant a characteristic of cultural 
change than is uniformity or gradual development. Progress 
must be regarded as but one among several types of~c1fange 
characteristic of the historic process. The idea of progress, 
moreover, cannot be applied with equal success to all phases 
of civilization. 

Another vital defect of the evolutionary approach con- 
sisted in the evolutionist's failure to appraise at their true 
worth the processes of cultural diffusion in the course of 
historic contact between tribes. Whether Professor Thorn- 
dike is right or not in his assertion that the relation of 


Indigenous to borrowed traits in any civilization is as one to 
ten, the fact is undeniable that the borrowing, adoption and 
assimilation of imported commodities and ideas is an ever 
present and culturally significant phenomenon, equally con- 
spicuous in modern as well as in primitive society. The 
evolutionist was, of course, aware of the presence of this 
aspect of the historic process, but he tried to justify his 
disregard of it by affecting a cynical attitude toward dif- 
fusion: the phenomena of inner growth were organic, reg- 
ular, explanatory; those of diffusion or borrowing, were 
irregular, accidental, disturbing. How artificial and unreal 
does this approach appear to any one who views history 
with a clear eye and an open mind ! For is it not patent that 
historic borrowing is as constant and basic a process as 
growth from within? The civilizational role of borrowing 
is fundamental. The importation of foreign products and 
ideas enables a group, whether modern or primitive, to 
profit by the cultural opportunities of its neighbors. The 
juxtaposition, moreover, of varying and contrasting at- 
titudes, ideas and customs ever tends to break down tradi- 
tional rut and to stimulate change. Culture contact thus 
app^ears as the veri^table yeast of history, and to disregard 
it is to develop a blind-spot in one's historic vision, which 
cannot but prove fatal to any theory of historic development. 



In this part of the book our primary concern is with civil- 
ization. Civilization is a continuum and cannot be under- 
stood unless justice is done to all its aspects. This is true 
even though some of these or perhaps only one may rise 
to extraordinary importance in particular instances. No 
adequate idea could be given of Tsarist Russia by describing 
its agricultural activities alone, nor of ante-war Germany by 
sketching only its political structure, nor of France by pre- 
senting a picture of its artistic attainments. The different 
aspects of civihzation interlock and intertwine, presenting 
— in a word — a continuum, which must be studied as an 
organic unit. This applies to modern society and even more 
emphatically to primitive society. 

That is why the realities of early life remain wholly for- 
eign to a reader, well versed though he may be in history 
and sociology, as long as his only sources of information are 
books like E. B. Tylor's "Primitive Culture" or N. W. 
Thomas' "The Native Tribes of Australia." Tylor's is a 
very great book, but early civilization appears in it in the 
form of disjointed fragments of custom, thought and belief, 
and the task of rearranging these fragments into a picture 
of primitive culture is wholly beyond the powers of a non- 
professional reader. Thomas' book is of a very different 
order: he deals with only one continent and attempts to 
cover all aspects of civilization. But Australia is the home 
of many tribes, and their cultures comprise many differences. 
Thus, the meshes of Thomas' descriptive network must be 
spread so wide that concrete reality, once more, slips through 

The only way, then, to know early civilization is to study 
it In the wholeness of its local manifestations. This task 
will be attempted in the following five chapters. But first 
two possible queries must be answered : to what extent do the 



brief sketches here presented deserve to pass as descriptions 
of early civilizations ? and, what determined the selection of 
the tribes to be described? 

A detailed description of one of the better known tribes 
or tribal groups readily assumes considerable bulk. Before 
one has adequately dealt with the mythology, the minutiae 
of ceremonial life, the wellnigh interminable odds and ends 
of material culture, several volumes barely suffice to cover 
the accumulated mass of data. The individual sketches 
presented here, on the other hand, do not exceed some 
twenty or twenty-five pages. To achieve this, the data had 
to be selected, and the selection had to be based on one's 
judgment of the indispensable, the typical, the significant. 
Such judgments are bound to be subjective, to a degree, 
and the responsibility rests with the one who selects. 

Over and above this general sifting of data, one aspect 
of civilization has been chosen in each case for somewhat 
more careful treatment, the choice having been determined 
by the suggestiveness or theoretical importance of that 
aspect. Thus, decorative art is given prominence in dealing 
with the Tlingit and Haida of Northwest America; eco- 
nomic and industrial adjustments to environmental condi- 
tions are emphasized in the Eskimo sketch; among Iroquois 
traits, their socio-political system is treated somewhat more 
minutely, with especial emphasis on the great prominence 
of women in this group ; similarly, in the description of the 
Australian tribes their magical beliefs and practices are 
stressed, while the African Baganda are represented as a 
type of Negro state organization. 

It must not be imagined, however, that the cultural traits 
thus given prominence in our discussion would loom as high 
in the estimation of the natives themselves. To assume this, 
in fact, would be introducing a distinct bias into one's cul- 
tural vision of these people. The Australian, for example, 
might well express surprise that his magic had been made so 
much of rather than his hunting, his loving or his playing; 
while the Eskimo might object, with equal justice, that his 


domestic habits, his visiting and story telling constituted as 
essential a part of his life as the kayak, sledge, drill and 

Why, finally, the particular selection? Why just the Tlin- 
git, Haida, Eskimo, Baganda and Arunta? The answer is 
simple and I hope sufficient. In view of the treatment here 
adopted, a thorough knowledge of the tribes described was 
an indispensable prerequisite. Therefore, I selected the 
tribes I knew best, restricting the number and the length of 
the sketches in accordance with the space available. It 
seemed desirable to use the American tribes as the backbone 
of the descriptive section ; therefore three of the groups be- 
long to this continent. The comparison with one African 
and one Australian civilization serves to bring Into relief 
the similarities and differences of the American groups as 
well as to emphasize the continental contrasts. It must be 
remembered, then, that the Zuni, Omaha or Thompson 
would have served just as well for America, the Bushongo, 
Yoruba, Massai or Zulu for Africa, and for Australia the 
Dieri or Wotjabuluk. Thus, whatever general conclusions 
may be reached on the basis of the descriptive sketches In 
this section, will have to be regarded as correlated with the 
particular five tribes selected only in an incidental, not in a 
specific way. 



The Eskimo, like the American Indians, represent an off- 
shoot of the great Mongolian stock, but the physical char- 
acteristics as well as the cultural peculiarities of the Eskimo 
are so distinct that it is customary to speak of this curious 
people as separate from the Indian. The Eskimo tribes in- 
habit in America the entire Arctic littoral from Greenland 
to Alaska. Their habitations, consisting of small clusters 
of snow houses, prefer the neighborhood of the coast and 
but seldom extend far into the interior. 

In this remote and detached environment, almost out of 
reach of foreign civilizations, and under the stress of ex- 
ceedingly hard climatic and topographical conditions, the 
Eskimo have worked out their salvation with a very remark- 
able degree of ingenuity and success. 

In their stories and myths the Eskimo display a peculiar 
lack of imaginativeness. They are not given to speculation\ 
nor do they show much concern for the origins of things and ' 
the development of the present order. In nature as in the 
affairs of man things always were much as they are now. 
The pictures of Eskimo life represented In the myths faith- 
fully reflect their life of today. Attempts at explaining the 
peculiarities of animals or the origin of the animals them- 
selves, a common feature of early mythologies, occur but 
seldom among the Eskimo, and when that is the case, the 
themes are treated lightly and without much detail or embel- 
lishment. Their stories, however, do tell of encounters with 
giants and dwarfs. The giants, very large but stupid, fall 
an easy prey to Eskimo skill and wits, while the dwarfs, 
diminutive In size but exceedingly strong, are In the end also 
overcome by the Eskimo. C A wide-spread theme Is the story 
of an orphan boy who lives among strangers, being 111- 



treated in all sorts of ways. He endures everything in si- 
lence, until one day he encounters a wolf or some semi-super- 
natural creature, from whom, in a variety of ways (accord- 
ing to the version of the myth), he acquires superhuman 
powers. On his way home he performs miraculous feats of 
strength, such as picking up rocks and tossing them about. 
At home he hides the fact of his great strength from his as- 
sociates and pretends to be meek and submissive as before. 
After a while, some untoward accident happens, such as an 
attack by a polar bear. Then the orphan rises to the occa- 
sion, seizes the bear by the hind legs, and whirling him 
through the air, smashes his head against a rock. The peo- 
ple are overcome with gratitude and prepared to do him 
homage for his valor, but he will have none of it; and usu- 
ally the story ends by his humiliating them or even putting 
them all to death. 

The myth which is most current among the different Es- 
kimo tribes and plays a conspicuous part in their mythology 
and religion is the story of Sedna, the goddess of the winds 
and the sea mammals.,; ' Sedna was living with her husband, 
the dog, until one day, in the absence of the dog, she was 
kidnapped by a hostile petrel. When the dog returned and 
found her gone, he started out in pursuit in his kayak ac- 
companied by Sedna's father. They reached the home of 
the abductor and, in his absence, recaptured Sedna and 
started back across the sea. After a while the wind rose, 
waves began to shake the kayak, threatening to upset it. 
Then Sedna's father, realizing the approach of the petrel, 
seizes his daughter and throws her into the sea. She clings 
to the gunwale with the first joints of her fingers. The 
father chops them off. The joints fall into the sea and are 
transformed into killer whales. She clings on with her sec- 
ond joints. They also are chopped off and are transformed 
into ground seals. She clings to the boat with her third 
joints, which, when chopped off, become transformed into 
seals. She still clings on with the stumps of her wrists. 
Then her father hits her on the head with a club. She lets 


go of the boat, sinks and drowns. The father and the dog 
reach the shore safely, and the old man falls asleep on the 
beach in front of his tent. Then the sea rises and over- 
whelms him. Since then, Sedna lives at the bottom of the 
sea, with her father. Sedna, the great goddess, is believed to 
be in control of the sea-mammals as well as of the weather; 
and when angered she shows her ire by sending storms and 

Many versions of the Sedna myth occur among the dif- 
ferent Eskimo tribes. 

Next to Sedna the most important beings of Eskimo cos- 
mology are the inua, supernatural creatures who may be- 
come the helpers and protectors of man. Then they are 
known as tornaq. While most men can thus acquire tornaq, 
the ones that are most favored by the supernatural helpers 
are the angakut or magicians. The three most powerful 
tornaq are conceived as a person, a bear and a stone. The 
human tornaq is a woman with one eye in the middle of her 
forehead. Another human tornaq that is deemed very 
powerful is the so-called "Master of the Dancing House" ; 
this creature is shaped like a bandy-legged man with his 
knees bent outward and forward. The bear tornaq is a 
huge creature without hair, except on the points of the ears 
and of the tail and about the mouth. The stone tornaq is 
shaped somewhat like an irregular boulder, has no legs, but 
goes about wobbling on the ground. 

The tornaq are in the habit of bestowing presents upon 
their favorites in the form of amulets, which bring to their 
owners various forms of good fortune. Some of these amu- 
lets may also be inherited from individual to individual. 
Among the most common amulets are a feather of an owl, 
a bear's tooth, a chip of some rare mineral, or a bit of a 
child's first garment. Great snow structures, the so-called 
singing or dancing houses, are built to some of the more 
important tornaq; in these houses ceremonies are per- 
formed. The arrangement of the ceremonial participants 
in one of the singing houses can be seen from the drawing. 



<S> Smtut 


Uhmmmid wmtit 
r Men 


Fig. I 
(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 600) 

It has been seen that the sea mammals are conceived as 
having originated from Sedna's fingers. Therefore, atone- 
ment must be made for every animal killed. When a seal 
is brought in, all work must be stopped until it is cut open. 
When the animal killed is a ground seal, a walrus or a whale, 
there is an enforced rest lasting three days. There are some 
exceptions to this. Thus, seal skin articles may be made 
over during this period, but nothing new can be made. No 
deer skin obtained in the summer may be touched until the 
first seal is caught with the harpoon. Later, when the first 
walrus is caught, the work on deer must stop once more. 

The last few regulations represent aspects of a general 
cycle of taboos which separate the activities centering around 
the deer, on the one hand, and the sea mammals, on the 
other; the two sets of functions must be kept strictly apart, 
and in some localities even dogs are not allowed to gnaw 
deer bones during the seal season and vice versa. Again, 
deer bones must not be broken while walrus are hunted; 
and so on. 

Special sets of taboos are imposed upon women during 
certain periods. They are not permitted to eat raw meat, 
must cook in separate pots, must not join in festivals. In 
the nature of the case, some of these taboos are occasion- 
ally transgressed. In this connection certain peculiar cus- 
toms have developed. 


According to Eskimo ideas, the transgression of a taboo 
takes the form of a black object which attaches itself to the 
culprit, an object invisible to humans, but which can be seen 
by the animals as well as by the angakut or medicine-men. 
When a hunter transgresses a taboo, the animals frightened 
by the black object will avoid him, and he will not be able 
to kill them. Thus, a famine may be threatened. To fore- 
stall so great a calamity, the culprit is expected to make a 
public confession, whereupon his guilt is regarded as wiped 
out and normal conditions are restored. Should confession 
be withheld, however, famine or disease will ensue. 

Here the angakok steps in. One of his principal functions 
is to save the situation in grave predicaments such as this. 
When the crisis has become acute and no confession is made 
by any one, the angakok summons a public gathering and by 
magical means detects the culprit, who, when thus identified, 
stands in serious danger of his or her life. When the trans- 
gression, has been confessed or brought to light by the an- 
gakok, the danger of famine or sickness is regarded as passed 
and normal conditions are restored. 

In their artistic activities the Eskimo display singular skill. 
Their women, who cut and sew the fur garments, also em- 
bellish them with very simple geometrical designs in em- 
broidery or applique, while the men decorate the bone ob- 
jects with etched designs and carve the characteristic Eskimo 
bone figurines, diminutive In size, like the etchings, but skill- 
fully fashioned in the shape of sea mammals, reindeer, hu- 
man beings, or objects of Eskimo material culture. In 
the etched designs the forms are always indicated in out- 
line only, and with very few lines, but by a clever manipu- 
lation of the position of arms, legs and body, the Eskimo 
contrive to convey a suggestion of motion, and even of 
emotional expression. The skill with which the Eskimo 
portray action in a medium which lends itself but poorly 
for that function brings to mind a similar tendency in the 
much more elaborate art of China and Japan. 

The social organization of the Eskimo i§ simple, They 


live in families, and a small number of families occupying 
several snow houses constitute a village. There are no 
chiefs, the only permanently influential individuals being the 
angakut who, as described before, have considerable pres- 
tige with the people., Outside of these, the leaders are men 
who have distinguished themselves by their skill in any of 
the important economic pursuits and are, therefore, selected 
as leaders of hunting and fishing expeditions, and the like. 
' The status of these leaders is, however, a purely individual 
matter, their position Is never inherited, nor is their reputa- 
tion such as to command obedience, except in those situations 
where, through their special competence, they find them- 
selves In temporary control. 

Sex morality among the Eskimo has often been designated 
as loose, on account of the apparent laxity in the relations 
of the sexes both before and after marriage. The alleged 
"looseness" of these relations is, however, a misnomer, for 
here as everywhere else, there exist definite standards 
and regulations of sex behavior. These standards, which, 
of course, differ from our own, are adhered to by the 
Eskimo. -^Whatever sex contact may take place between a 
married woman and a man other than her husband, is sub- 
ject to the husband's control ; should a wife indulge in any 
sexual irregularities without his knowledge, she suffers for it 
severely if detected. There Is, In particular, one Eskimo 
custom, which has quite unjustly been criticized as reveal- 
ing their immorality. This is the so-called prostitution of 
hospitality. In accordance with which it Is customary for a 
husband to offer his wife for the night to a visiting stranger. 
A rejection of this offer is resented and regarded as an 
insult both to the woman and the host. 

The Eskimo are a peace-loving people. Barring the blood- 
curdling combats of their mythologic tales, they fight but 
seldom. Outside of the sway of the custom of blood re- 
venge, which is found here as well as practically everywhere 
in the primitive world, they are also remarkably mild In the 
matter of punishment. A not uncommon way of dealing 



with offenses is for the aggrieved party to challenge the of- 
fender to a satirical song contest. Challenger and chal- 
lenged compose satirical songs about each other, which in 
due time they deliver, surrounded and supported by their 
friends. The man whose song receives the greater acclaim 
on the part of the audience, wins and temporarily gains in 
social prestige, while the position of his rival is correspond- 
ingly debased. 

The element of Eskimo civilization in which their environ- 
mental adjustment is most conspicuous is their material cul- 
ture : their tools, weapons, conveyances and habitations. 
Many of these represent remarkable examples of ingenuity 
and skill. 

During the larger part of the year these people live in 
snow houses, semi-spherical structures made of slabs of 
snow, which are cut by means of the so-called snow knives 
from the snow drifts always to be found in an Eskimo neigh- 

In the drawing. Fig 3 is the ground plan of a house, 
while Fig. 2 represents an 
outside view with a cross sec- 
tion of passageway (c). 

The section a in front 
of the entrance is pro-a-^'' 
tected by a semi-circu- 
lar turn in the wall which 
prevents the wind and snow 

Fig. 2 Fig. 3 

(Boas, "The Central Eikimo," pp. S4''544} 


from blowing directly into the house, b is formed by a 
small dome about six feet in height, while the two doors are 
about two and one-half feet in height. Equally high is the 
passage c formed by an elliptical vault. The door to the 
main room is about three feet high, while the floor of the lat- 
ter is about nine inches above the floor of the passage, so that 
any moisture accumulated on the floor of the main room will 
flow off into the passage, but the opposite will not occur. The 
small compartments d are formed by vaults and may be 
entered either through small doors from the main room or 
the passage, or by the removal of one of the snow slabs 
from the outside. The compartments are used for storing 
clothing, harness, meat and blubber. Over the entrance to 
the main room a window is cut through the wall, which is 
either square or more often arched. This window is cov- 
ered with the intestines of ground seals, neatly sewed to- 
gether, the seams extending vertically. In the center of the 
window is a hole for looking out, into which a piece of fresh 
water ice is sometimes inserted. 

In the main room, on both sides (h) of the door and in 
the back of the room (^) a bank of snow two and one-half 
feet high is raised, leaving a passage five feet wide and six 
feet long (e). The rear part is the bed {g) while on the 
two sides (h) the lamps (/) are placed and meat and refuse 
are heaped. 

Before the bed is arranged and the house furnished, the 
vault is lined with skins, often the cover of the summer hut. 
The skin lining is fastened to the roof by small ropes which 
are kept in position by toggles outside of the wall (Fig. 4) : 

Fig. 4 
(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 543) 



The flat roof in the upper part of the lining extends two or 
three feet below the top of the vault ; this prevents the warm 
air in the house from melting the snow roof, as there is al- 
ways some colder air between the skins and the roof. Near 
the top of the building a small hole is cut in the roof for 
ventilation ; this also provides the draught necessary for the 
lamps: the cold air enters through the door, fills the pass- 
age, is warmed, rises to the lamps and escapes through the 
skin lining and the hole. 

Space does not permit to dwell on any further details of 
the snow house. We must now turn to the equally interesting 
contrivances used by the Eskimo as means of transportation: 
the kayak and the sledge. 

Fic. 5 

Fig. 6 

Kayak and framework 

(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," pp. 486-7) 

A variety of kayaks occur, one of which is represented 
here. When the framework is ready, the whole frame is 
covered with skins tightly sewed together and almost water- 
proof. When put upon the frame, the skin covering is 
wetted thoroughly and then stretched until it fits tightly; it 
is tied by thongs to the rim of the hole. The thongs sewed 
to the skin in several places (as visible in the sketch) are 
used to keep in position the kayak implements, which con- 
sist of a large harpoon and its line, with the seal skin float 



attached, a receptacle for the line, a bird spear with throw- 
ing board, and two lances. 

The harpoon is one of the most remarkable contrivances 
of the Eskimo. It consists of four parts, as indicated in the 
drawing : 

Fig. 7 

(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," pp. 488-489) 

The shaft (a) consists of a stout pole, from four to 
five feet long; to its lower end an ivory knob (^) Is fastened. 
At the center of gravity of the shaft a small piece of ivory 
(^) is attached which supports the hand when the weapon 
is thrown; at right angles to knob e another small ivory 
knob (/) is inserted in the shaft, which holds the harpoon 



line. The ivory head (b) is fitted upon the shaft so snugly 
that no other devices are used to insure its remaining in 
place. The walrus tusk (c) articulates with b by means of 
a ball and socket joint. The point of c, finally, fits into 
the lower end of the harpoon point (d), as may be seen in 
Fig. 7. The walrus tusk is attached by thongs to the 
shaft, which transforms the latter, the ivory knob and the 
tuck into a firm unit (Fig. 10). As seen in Fig. 12, the har- 
poon line is attached to the point (d) and then another httle 
contrivance (h) which is attached to the line is pulled over 
the ivory knob (/) . The line between the point and h is just 
long enough for h to reach to /, and so long as the tusk (e) 
remains in position, the shaft and point are thus firmly held 
together. When the harpoon is thrown and the animal is 
struck, the tusk moves laterally in the ball and socket joint; 
this diminishes the distance between the point d and the 
knob f {as m b), h slips off, thus disengaging the line and 
harpoon point from the shaft (as in c). Thus the precious 
point, which is often made with great care, is saved to the 


In connection with the bird spear (Fig. 13) a throwing 
board is used, as shown in the drawing (Fig. 14). 



Q b 

Fig. 13 Fig. 14 

(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 496) 

The ivory knob (c) at the end of the spear shaft has a' 
small hole, into which the spike (<f ) at the end of the groove 
in the throwing board is inserted when the spear is in posi- 
tion for throwing. When in use, the board is held firmly in 
the right hand, the first finger passing through hole e, and 
the thumb clasping the notch /, while the points of the other 
fingers hold on to the notches on the opposite side of the 
board (^). The spear is violently thrust forward by the 
spike and attains considerable velocity. 

When the harpoon is used on powerful animals such as 
whales, a contrivance is sometimes inserted some distance 
from the seal-skin float. It consists of a wooden hoop with 
a seal or deer skin stretched over it. Three or four thongs 
of equal length are fastened to the hoop at equal distances 
and bound together. At the point of union they are at- 


tached to the line. In the drawing (Fig 15) this contriv- 
ance is represented in action in conjunction with five seal-skin 

Fig. 15 
(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 500)" 

As soon as the animal is struck, it begins to swim away. 
Then the hoop assumes a position at right angles to the 
line. Thus a strong resistance comes into play, the speed 
of the animal is reduced, and its strength soon exhausted. 
The buoyancy of the float prevents the animal's escape; 
moreover, it is unable to dive and is thus forced to remain 
within sight of the hunter. 

While the kayak is used for hunting, it is evidently too 
slight a conveyance for the transportation by water of 
either men or things. For that purpose another kind of 
boat is used, much larger, heavier and clumsier than the 
kayak. It is also a skin boat over a wooden frame, with the 
difference that the top of the boat remains uncovered. It is 
propelled by means of two single-bladed oars — three or 
four women generally working at each oar — while a double- 
bladed paddle is always used with the kayak. 

What the kayak and the "woman's boat" are for naviga- 
tion, the sledge (Fig. 16) is for transportation and travel 
on land. Among the tribes where driftwood is plentiful 
(Hudson Straits and Davis Straits) the best sledges are 
made with long wooden runners. The sledges have two run- 
ners from five to fifteen feet long and twenty inches to two 
and one-half feet apart. They are connected by cross bars of 
wood or bone {a) and the back is formed by deer's antlers 



(b) with the skull attached. This back is used for steering, 
for attaching the lashing when a load is carried and for 
hanging the snow knife and the harpoon line upon it. The 
bottom of the runners is shod with whalebone, ivory or the 
jaw bones of a whale (c). In long sledges the shoeing is 
made broadest at the head. When traveling over soft snow, 
this proves of value, as the snow is pressed down by the 
broad surfaces of the runners at the head, and the sledge 
glides over it without sinking in very deeply. 

The shoe is either tied or riveted to the runner. In the 
former case, the lashing passes through sunken drill holes, 


Fig. 1 6 
(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 529) 

to prevent friction when moving over the snow. The right 
and left sides of a whale's jaw are often used for shoes, as 
they are of the right size, thus providing excellent one-piece 
shoes. The exposed points of the runners are frequently 
protected with bone also on the upper side. 

The cross bars (a) are lashed to the runners by thongs 
which pass through two pairs of holes in each bar and cor- 
responding ones in the runners. The bars extend beyond 
the runners on each side, a sort of neck being formed in the 
projecting parts by notches on the two sides of the bar (see 
drawing). When a load is lashed onto the sledge, the 
thongs are fastened to these necks. 

Under the foremost cross bar there is a hole in each run- 
ner through which a very stoyt thong passes, which is pre- 



vented by a button from slipping through. One thong ends 
in a loop (e), to the other a clasp {d) is tied, which, when 
in use, passes through the loop at the end of the other thong. 
Upon this line the dogs' traces are strung by means of a 
small implement with a large and small eyelet: to one the 
trace is tied, the other is used for stringing the implement 
upon the stout thong.^ 

'Professor Boas' remarks on the treatment of Eskimo dogs and on their 
behavior are so interesting that they deserve to be quoted verbatim (pp. 

533-4) : . , , 

"The strongest and most spirited dog has the longest trace and is allowed 
to run a few feet in advance of the rest as a leader; its sex is indififerent, 
the choice being made chiefly with regard to strength. Next to the leader 
follow two or three strong dogs with traces of equal length, and the weaker 
and less manageable the dogs the nearer they run to the sledge. A team is 
almost unmanageable if the dogs are not accustomed to one another. They 
must know their leader, who brings them to terms whenever there is a 
quarrel. In a good team the leader must be the acknowledged chief, else the 
rest will fall into disorder and refuse to follow him. His authority is almost 
unlimited. When the dogs are fed, he takes the choice morsels ; when two 
of them quarrel, he bites both and thus brings them to terms. 

"Generally there is a second dog which is inferior only to the leader, but 

Fig. 17. Dog in Harness 
(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 432) 



The list of Eskimo weapons is incomplete if no mention 
is made of the bow. Two general types occur, one of 
wood, the other of reindeer antlers; several varieties of 

Wooden bow 

The three parts of the bow 

Lower surface of bow, showing the sinew lashing 

Fig. 1 8 

(Stefansson, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural 

History, vol. XIV, Part I, p. 86) 

each occur in different localities. The wooden bow 
consists of one piece of wood, or of several pieces 
joined together (see drawing). In either case the bow is 

is feared by all the others. Though the authority of the leader is not dis- 
puted by his own team, dogs of another team will not submit to him. But 
when two teams are accustomed to travel in company the dogs in each will 
have some regard for the leader of the other, though continuous rivalry 
and quarrels go on between the two leaders. Almost any dog which is 
harnessed into a strange team will at first be unwilling to draw, and it is 
only when he is thoroughly accustomed to all his neighbors and has 
found out his friends and his enemies that he will do his work satisfactorily. 
Some dogs when put into a strange team will throw themselves down and 
struggle and howl. They will endure the severest lashing and allow them- 
selves to be dragged along over rough ice without being induced to rise and 
run along with the others. Particularly if their own team is in sight will 
they turn back and try to get to it. Others, again, are quite willing to work 
with strange dogs. 

"Partly on this account and partly from attachment to their masters, dogs 
•old out of one team frequently return to their old homes, and I know of 
instances in which they even ran from thirty to sixty miles to reach it. 
Sometimes they do so when a sledge is traveling for a few days from one 
settlement to another, the dogs not having left home for a long time before. 
In such cases when the Eskimo go to harness their team in the morning 
they find that some of them have run away, particularly those which were 
lent from another team for the journey. In order to prevent this the left 
fore leg is sometimes tied up by a loop which passes over the neck. When 
one is on a journey it is well to do so every night, as some of the dogs are 
rather unwilling to be harnessed in the morning, thus causing a great loss 
of time before they are caught. In fact such animals are customarily tied 
up at night, while the others are allowed to run loose. 



reinforced by numerous lines of sinew, the result being a 
very powerful weapon. Of antler bows two kinds are rep- 
resented here. 

Fig. 20 
(Boas, "The Central Eskimo,'' p. 503) 

In both cases the bow consists of three pieces of antler. In 
Fig. 19 there is a stout central piece (a) slanted at both ends, 
to which the other two pieces {b) are riveted. The bow is 
reinforced by sinews, like the wooden variety, and the joints 
are secured by strong strings (c) wound around them. In 
Fig 20 the central piece (d) is not slanted but cut off 
straight. The joint on either side is secured by two addi- 
tional pieces of bone, a short stout one outside (e), which 
prevents the sections from breaking apart, and a long thin 
one inside (/) , which provides the needed resiliency. 

Before the introduction of fire arms, the bow and arrow 

"Sometimes the harnesses are not taken off at night. As some dogs are 
in the habit of stripping off their harness, it is fastened by tying the trace 
around the body. Though all these peculiarities of the dogs give a great 
deal of trouble to the driver, he must take care not to punish them too 
severely, as they will then become frightened and for fear of the whip 
will not work at all." 

(P. 537) "If two persons are on the sledge— and usually two join for a 
long drive — they must not speak to each other, for as soon as the dogs hear 
them they will stop, turn around, sit down, and listen to the conversation." 

"If any dog of the team is lazy the driver calls out his name and he is 
lashed, but it is necessary to hit the dog called, for if another is struck he 
feels wronged and will turn upon the dog whose name has been called; 
the leader enters into the quarrel, and soon the whole pack is huddled up 
in one howling and biting mass, and no amount of lashing and beating will 
separate the fighting team. The only thing one can do is to wait until their 
wrath has abated and to clear the traces." 

These paragraphs from dog pedagogy seem to be as instructive as they 
are entertaining. 



were indispensable in hunting the reindeer, musk ox and 
polar bear, and they are still used by many tribes. 

An important tool for ivory and bone work next deserves 
attention: the drill (Fig. 21 ). This implement is of especial 
interest, as it is also used for making fire. 

The drill consists of three parts: the shaft made of 
iron (since the introduction of this metal by the whites), 
the mouthpiece (b), made of wood or bone, and the bow 
(c), made of bone. When the drill is in use the mouthpiece 
(b) is taken between the teeth and held firmly, then the 
point of the drill is set against the place to be perforated, 
and the bow is moved to and fro by both hands; as one 
string winds, the other automatically unwinds. Thus a 
continuous revolution of the point is secured, and the hole 
is quickly made. When the drill is used for making fire, 
hard wood (ground willow) is substituted for the iron shaft 
{a), which is made to revolve against a piece of driftwood 

Fig. 21 
(Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 526) 


(d). Presently the driftwood begins to glow. Against the 
glowing wood a little moss is next applied, which after some 
gentle blowing begins to burn. 

Such, then, are the economic conditions of the Eskimo 
and some of their industrial achievements. 

It will be admitted that the Eskimo have solved their 
environmental problem in masterly fashion. When the first 
Eskimo tribes struck the forbidding conditions of the arctic 
the struggle must have been intense. For a long time sur- 
vival itself must have wavered in the balance. Why these 
original tribes should have remained, why they did not move 
on until milder surroundings were found, we cannot say. 
The fact is, they did remain. Menace after menace was 
met in turn : the cold, the snow and storm, the darkness, the 
paucity of materials. When the victory of mind over na- 
ture was achieved, a civilization had been brought into be- 
ing which had few rivals as an adjustment. Having solved 
its problem so successfully, it remained duly conservative, 
strangely immune to foreign influences, and remarkably 
uniform throughout the enormous range of Eskimo tribes. 
They have moved along the frozen shores, penetrating but 
little into the interior, apparently preferring to remain in 
an environment where their hard won successes continued to 
serve them well and no basic readjustments were required. 



The Indian tribes inhabiting the shores of British Co- 
lumbia, Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, the 
Prince of Wales Islands and southern Alaska, have devel- 
oped a distinctive set of civilizational features. This entire 
region is classed by American ethnologists as a separate 
culture area designated as the Northwest Coast. This cul- 
ture is most clearly represented by the Tlingit and Haida. 
They share almost all of their cultural traits with their 
Tsimshian speaking neighbors, while the Kwakiutl, further 
south, having developed from a common cultural stratum, 
display a number of individualized traits. 

The Tlingit and Haida speaking tribes are hunters and 
fishermen. While the men are devoted to these pursuits, 
the women gather a variety of wild berries. The men hunt 
the land animals as well as the mammals of the sea, such as 
the whale, killer-whale, and seal, and they catch the fish along 
the shores of the ocean and in the rivers. The fishing meth- 
ods employed are many and varied. The bow and arrow 
are commonly used for striking the fish while they shoot 
through the water. A great variety of nets, wicker baskets 
and hedges are employed for catching fish in the streams, 
and when the salmon go up the rivers in huge shoals, their 
quantity is so great that they can be caught with baskets. 

There Is no pottery made In this region nor is there any 
agriculture, except in the form of garden culture among the 
Kwakiutl, whose women cultivate patches of clover, with- 
out, however, using the seed of the plant for sowing. Bar- 
ring the dog, domestic animals are unknown. The Haida 
and the tribes further south are not proficient at basketry, 



and little of it is made. The Tlingit, on the other hand, 
make excellent twine baskets. Work in shell and mountain- 
goat horn occurs in abundance, the Haida spoons made out 
of the latter material having reached a high degree of per- 
fection in technique and elaboration. Clothing of skin is 
worn as well as a large basket hat. The feet are usually 
bare, although leggings and moccasins of skin are also 
known. One of the Tlingit tribes, the Chilkat, weave a 
blanket of soft cedar bark and mountain-goat wool. When 
at work on these blankets, the women use no loom, but do 
the weaving with their fingers. Small sections of a blanket 
are finished separately and are then sewed together. 

The principal industry of the entire Northwest is wood 
work, and the trees used more than any others are the red 
and yellow cedar. These are used for the walls of their 
large gable-roofed houses, the walls consisting of perpendi- 
cular planks. In view of the great difficulty involved in fell- 
ing large trees with the stone axes employed, these planks, 
at least in olden times, were split from the standing tree by 
means of a somewhat complicated method requiring the 
use of wedges. Whole trunks of cedar are used for the 
great hunting and war canoes, the inside of the trunk being 
partly hollowed out with axes and partly burnt. In place of 
pots, cedar boxes are used, the four walls of a box being 
fashioned out of one piece of wood bent into the shape re- 
quired, while the solitary juncture is sewn together with bark 
string, the so-called disappearing stitch being often em- 
ployed. Dishes, large and small, settees, masks, ladles and 
cradles are also made of wood, as well as great carved totem 
poles and memorial columns. The soft inner bark of the 
cedar is worked into mats which are sometimes used for 
clothing; ceremonial paraphernalia and forehead bands are 
also made of this material. It has been said, with justice, 
that a great part of the economic life and industry of these 
people centers around the cedar and the salmon : wood is as 
important in Northwest industry as salmon is in their diet. 

The population of the Northwest Coast is divided into 


three classes, the nobles, commoners and slaves. The com- 
moners constitute the main body of the people. Through 
personal distinction in war or by giving one or more great 
feasts, a commoner may gain access to the nobility. The 
class of nobles furnishes the chiefs, whose office is usually 
hereditary for at least several generations. The slaves, 
most of whom are prisoners of war, do not form part of the 
social organization proper. While the master has absolute 
right of life and death over his slave, the economic position 
and daily life of the latter does not greatly differ from that 
of his owner. The slaves live in the houses with the other 
people, they eat with them, work, hunt and make war on a 
par with the others. It is only on occasions where social 
prestige and ceremonial prerogatives are involved that the 
disabilities of the slave become conspicuous. In ancient days 
there was a custom of sacrificing a slave at the erection of a 
house. The slave was buried alive under one of the sup- 
porting poles of the new structure, and to commemorate this 
event, an inverted figure of a man was represented as be- 
ing devoured by one of the animals carved on the pole. 

The social organization proper is identical in principle 
among the Tlingit and the Haida, and the former may be 
used as an example. There are two main social divisions 
or phratries, the Raven and the Wolf, whose main function 
is to control intermarriage — no marriage being permitted 
within a phratry. There is also a third social division, a 
much smaller one, represented in only one locality, with 
which both of the phratries may intermarry. Descent is 
matgrnal, the children belonging to the phratry of the 
mother. The phratries are further subdivided into clans, 
of which the Raven phratry contains twenty-eight and the 
Wolf phratry, twenty-six. These clans have local names, 
and there can be no doubt that originally the clans con- 
stituted local divisions or villages. Even today the local 
character of these social units is pronounced; thus, of the 
Wolf clans, one is prominently represented in four local divi- 
sions or villages, two clans in three villages, and one in two. 


The remaining twenty-one clans are largely restricted to one 
village. Of the Raven clans, one is prominent in four vil- 
lages, one in three and one in two, while the remaining 
twenty-five clans are in the main restricted to one village. 

In addition to controlling intermarriage, the major divi- 
sions or phratries have certain functions which may be de- 
signated as reciprocal ; thus, the members of the two phra- 
tries assist each other at burials of their members and at the 
building of houses, while among the Tlingit the principal 
feast, or potlatch, of the year is given by individuals or 
groups of one phratry to those of the other.^ 

As a consequence of the exogamic functions of the phra- 
try, the clans, which are its subdivisions, are also exoga- 
mous, that is, no two members of a clan may intermarry. 
Strictly speaking, however, these matrimonial concerns are 
the business not of the clan, but of the phratry. The clan, 
on the other hand, is in the main a ceremonial unit, distin- 
guished by a variety of partly hereditary prerogatives. 
Every clan owns its special ceremonial features, including 
dances and cries and ritualistic paraphernalia. But the most 
cherished prerogative of a clan is the right to use as its 
crest a particular animal, bird or supernatural creature; 
most of the Haida clans use several of these. The crest 
or crests may then be carved on the totem poles and me- 
morial columns owned by the families or individuals com- 
prised in the clan. Crests, in whole or in part, are also 
carved on boxes and ladles, or painted on the sides of 
canoes, the front walls of houses, as well as on the faces 
of individual clan members. Members of each clan tell a 
story of how a human ancestor of the clan came into inti- 

'It is interesting to note the differentiation in custom between these two 
neighboring tribes so intimately related in culture. Among the Haida a 
potlatch may be given to a member or group of the opposite phratry, but 
the main potlatch of the year is always given to members of the same 
phratry. Among the Tlingit, on the other hand, a potlatch is an inter- 
phratry affair. The Tlingit, in fact, feel very keenly on this subject. To 
have a potlatch given to one is to be placed under very serious obligation 
argue the Tlingit; it is, therefore, distinctly in bad taste to inflict such a feast 
upon members of one's own phratry, most of whom are close relativea of 
the giver of the feast. 


mate association with the animal, bird or supernatural 
creature which thenceforth became the crest of the clan. 

Thus, the people of a Tlingit clan with the frog as its 
crest, tell of an ancestral individual who kicked a frog over 
on its back. Presently he fell into a swoon and his body was 
carried into the house. Meanwhile, his soul was taken by 
the frogs to Frog-town (arranged after the manner of hu- 
man towns). There the man's soul was brought into the 
presence of Chief Frightful-Face. The chief said to the 
man : "We belong to your clan and it is a shame that you 
should treat your own people as you have done. You bet- 
ter go to your own village. You have disgraced yourself 
as well as us, for this woman belongs to your own clan." 
After this the man left Frog-town and at the same time his 
body at home came to. He told the people of his adventure. 
All the people of his clan were listening to what this man 
said, and it is because the frog himself said that he was a 
member of that clan that they claim the frog. 

Another Tlingit clan that owns the grizzly bear crest tells 
the story of a hunter who was caught in a bear's den. He 
found favor with the bear's wife, whereupon the male bear 
left and the man married the she-bear and had children by 
her. Finally, he is discovered by his younger brother to 
whose entreaties that he return home, he replies : "Stand 
right there ! Don't do any harm. I am here. Although I 
am with this wild animal, I am living well. Don't worry 
about me any more." When he was first taken to the den, it 
looked like a den and nothing more; but that night he 
thought he was in a fine house with people all about eating 
supper, and his wife looked to him like a human being. 
Later he returns to the village, but abstains from all contact 
with his human wife, spending his time hunting, at which he 
is very successful. During one of the hunts he meets his bear 
children to whom he gives the seals he has caught. Hence- 
forth he feeds them regularly. His human wife detects this 
and protests against his feeding the bear cubs rather than 
her little ones. He submits and begins to feed her children. 


But presently he goes hunting again and once more takes 
some seals to his cubs. As he approaches them in his boat, 
he notes that they do not act as usual. Instead, they lie flat 
on the ground with their ears erect. Then he lands, but 
when he comes near them they kill him. It is on this ac- 
count that the people of his clan claim the grizzly bear as 
their crest. 

Although the clans are maternal as well as the phratries, 
the position of women in these communities is not high. 
They are deprived of most ceremonial prerogatives and fig- 
ure but inconspicuously in the important series of customs 
clustering about the belief in guardian spirits.^ 

Passing to the economic ideas of the Northwest, we find 
them as well developed as are the principles imderlying 
their social organization. Property, both of material and 
spiritual kind, abounds. Individuals, families and clans 
own tools, garments, ceremonial paraphernalia, songs, sto- 
ries, cries and crests. Many of these may be, and often are 
passed down by inheritance, either as a clan or family pre- 
rogative or as a possession of an individual, willed to his or 
her heirs. 

Interesting are the developments of communal property 
rights. Strips of shore along the ocean front as well as 
along the course of rivers are owned by families and clans 
as fishing properties. The same is true of localities in the 
hills and valleys in which mountain-goats are hunted. The 

^Further details about these interesting customs will be found in the 
section on "The Guardian Spirit in American Indian Religion," pp. 184-193. 

It is of interest to note in this connection that the relatively inferior posi- 
tion of woman is here associated with the maternal organization of descent 
and of the inheritance of property. This fact contrasts strikingly with the 
conditions obtaining among the Iroquoian speaking tribes of the East, among 
whom the female tracing of descent and the equitable position of woman in 
connection with the ownership and inheritance of property is associated with 
a very high degree of social and poUtical prominence of woman. When in 
very recent times the custom of blood revenge among the Indian tribes was 
checked and a fine substituted, this difference of valuation of woman 
on the part of the two groups of tribes did not fail to express itself, for 
among the tribes of the Northwest, the penalty for the killing of a woman 
was only one-half in amount of that imposed for the killing of a man, 
whereas among the Iroquoian tribes, the reverse was the case — the penalty 
for killing a woman was double of that exacted for the killing of a man. 


Kwakiutl employ the following method to define a fishing ter- 
ritory. From two prominent points along the shore, imag- 
inary lines are drawn to an island some distance from the 
mainland. Within the space thus enclosed by the two lines 
and the shore, a clan claims fishing privileges. 

It must not be imagined, however, that this development 
of proprietory ideas stands for distinction of economic 
status among individuals. There is but the dimmest fore- 
shadowing of a possible division into rich and poor. All 
live in about the same way. The noble and the commoner, 
the slave and his master, share in the same work and enjoy 
approximately the same comforts and pleasures. As will 
presently be seen, huge amounts of property do often ac- 
cumulate in the hands of an individual or in a family or clan. 
This property, however, is not valuable in itself as riches, 
nor does it buy comforts, luxuries, or the services of other 
men. Its value is in the social prestige that goes with it. 

The clearest expression of this form of socio-economic 
valuation may be seen in the institution of the potlach. 
The potlatch is a feast given by an individual to another 
individual, or by one family or clan to another. On the 
occasion of these feasts, which are often attended by an 
impressive gathering of people, the feast giver presents his 
guests with blankets, canoes, oil and other valuables. Also, 
a great deal of property is destroyed outright on these oc- 
casions. Huge quantities of the precious seal oil, for ex- 
ample, are burned. The more sumptuous the presents given 
away, the more lavish the destruction of property, the 
greater is the feast and the higher the esteem that accrues to 
the feast giver, while the rival to whom the feast is given is 
correspondingly debased in social status. To regain popular 
favor, the latter must give a feast in return, in which case 
he may or may not be supported by his friends and relatives. 
The presents given away on the occasion of the first feast 
must now be returned with interest, which, if the return 
feast has been delayed for a long time, may amount to one 
hundred per cent, or even more. The amount of property 



destroyed must be correspondingly large. After this is 
achieved, the giver of the return feast not only regains his 
social prestige, but greatly enhances it at the expense of his 

In connection with the potlatch, the so-called "coppers" 
have come into use. A copper is hammered out of native 
copper, or a sheet of the metal left by an agent of the 
Hudson's Bay Company may be used for the purpose. It 
looks like this: 

The intrinsic value of a copper is nil, 
its symbolic value may rise very high. 
These coppers are given away at 
feasts and the value of the copper is 
rated in proportion to the munificence 
of the feast at which it figures. 
When, in the course of time, it is re- 
turned to the original owner at an- 
other feast, its value rises in propor- 
tion. Thus it comes about that some 
of the coppers are worth hundreds or 
even thousands of blankets (a blanket 
passes as the unit of value amounting 
to about fifty cents) . The coppers are 
distinguished by names corresponding 
to their high ceremonial significance, 
such as "All-Other-Coppers-Are- 
Ashamed-to-Look-At-It" (this specimen was worth seventy- 
five hundred blankets), "Steel-head-Salmon" (six thousand 
blankets), "Making-the-House-Empty-of-Blankets" (five 
thousand blankets), and so on. A broken copper is more 
valuable than a whole one. Thus, as a copper passes from 
hand to hand, certain parts of it are broken off and given 
away with the rest of the copper, until only the T-shaped 
section is left, which is its most valuable part, amounting to 
about two-thirds of its value. A chief may break a copper 
and present it to his rival at a feast. Then the challenged 
chief may take his own copper, break it, and return both 

Fig. 22 
(Boas, "The Social Or- 
ganization and the Secret 
Societies of the Kwakiutl 
Indians," Report, U. S. 
National Museum, 1895.) 


broken coppers to the original owner at the ensuing feast, 
thereby regaining his prestige. Instead, he may throw the 
pieces of both broken coppers into the ocean. Then he is 
esteemed a truly great man, for no possible returns can be 
expected from this process, whereas the original chief might 
well have counted on the return of the broken coppers.^ 

The essence of social position among these people 
rests on these feasts. "Rivals fight with property alone," 
says the Kwakiutl, and the best way to humiliate a rival is 
to "flatten him out" by means of a sumptuous feast.^ 

It must be remembered that even a prominent chief can 
but seldom afFord to give a potlatch alone, on account of 
the vast quantities of property involved, but he is assisted 
by his family or clan or friends. It may thus occur that the 
greater amount of the property of a clan may change hands 
on occasion of a great feast. Property here is in a constant 
flux. It is given away and destroyed in astounding quan- 
tities, and as property goes, the social prestige of the giver 
rises, and so on ad infinitum. The value of property is es- 
timated in terms of social prestige which comes to the owner 
when he gives away his property.^ 

'This illustration as Tvell as the examples of copper names are taken 
from the Kwakiutl. 

'Strange as these ideas may appear to the modern mind, they are not by 
any means foreign to our socio-economic life. While the economic distinc- 
tions current in our society are unknown among these Indian tribes, the 
"conspicuous waste" (to speak with Mr. Veblen) attendant upon expenditure 
of property among our rich, presents a close parallel to the potlach psychol- 
ogy of the Haida and Tlingit. 

'The marriage institution among the Kwakiutl well illustrates the in- 
fluence that one aspect of civilization may exercise upon another. When a 
man wants to marry a girl, he gives his father-in-law a considerable 
amount of property, in return for which he expects to receive not only his 
wife, but many privileges of her clan, including the crest itself. The wife 
is thus regarded as the first instalment of the return payment on the part 
of the father-in-law. Then, as children are born to the couple, further 
payments are made by the father-in-law and the more children, the higher 
the interest on these payments; for one child, two hundred per cent interest 
is paid, for two or more children, three hundred per cent. After this, the 
wife's father has redeemed his daughter and the marriage is regarded as 
annulled. Thenceforth, she may return to her parents. If, however, she 
continues to stay with her husband, she does so of her own free will ; she 
i» "staying in the house for nothing," say the Kwakiutl. The husband is 
usually unwilling to stake the continuance of his matrimonial relationship 
on the disposition of his wife, and makes another payment to his father- 


The religious and cosmological ideas of the Coast people 
are elaborate but can only be touched upon briefly here.^ 

The Haida believe that the ear th is fla t_and jias_a_circular 
_Qudine. Above it, like an inverted bowl, hangs the solid 
firmament, on the top of which is the sky country in which 
some of the supernatural beings reside. There are five such 
sky countries, one above the other, but they play but a slight 
part in Haida religious beliefs, in contrast to what is true 
among the Salish speaking Bella Coola of the coast, for 
among the latter the several sky countries are clearly de- 
fined and greatly elaborated in their mythology.^ On the 
lower side of the firmament, the sun, moon, stars and clouds 
are fastened. Beneath the firmament stretches the sea and 
upon it lie two islands, the Inland-Country or Haida-Land, 
and the Seaward-Country or Mainland. The Haida country, 
although floating upon the sea, is also supported by a great 
supernatural being, The-Sacred-One-Standing-and-Moving. 
This supernatural being rests upon a copper box, which is it- 
self supported in some undefined way. 

The highest of all deities is Power-of-the-Shining-Heav- 
ens. Just as human beings receive "power" from lower 
supernatural beings, and these receive theirs from higher 
ones, so the latter obtain their power from Power-of-the- 

Suspended in the air, hang several abodes of supernatural 
beings. In one of these, called Shaman's House, live the 
Above-People. They are thought by some to be no taller 
than a man's hand and wrist. Although kindly and help- 

in-law to have a further claim upon her. This peculiar mode of treating 
marriage, while incomprehensible if taken alone, becomes clarified in the 
light of potlatch psychology. 

^The statements in the following section on religion refer more specifically 
to the Haida, unless the contrary is stated. 

^See p. 207 sg. 

'Swanton, who has spent considerable time among the Haida, expresses 
his surprise at the lofty conception underlying this deity. Although those 
of the Indians who have heard of the Christian God are wont to compare 
the supreme divinity of white man with Power-of-the-Shining-Heavena 
Swanton holds the opinion that the latter conception is not due to missionary 
influence. One thinks in this connection of the All Father of Australiaa 
mythology, and of other sinular notions (compare p. 2ii). 


ful, they are not very powerful on account of their small 
size, and often fail in their attempts to help man. The 
Above-People have no chief of their own, but Wigit (prob- 
ably identical with the Raven), who occupies an abode of 
his own, has authority over them. Wigit keeps an account 
of all the people in the islands. In his house he has a col- 
lection of sticks and when a child is born, he turns around 
and pulls one from a bundle behind him. If the stick is 
short, so will be the life of the child, and vice versa. The 
cry of every new born child is heard in the corner of Wigit's 

Among the most important supernatural creatures with 
whom the Haida were in constant rapport were the Ocean- 
People. Every animal was or might be the embodiment of 
a supernatural being who could assume human form. Thus 
animals and birds were, on the one hand, hunted and used 
as food by man; on the other, they were embodiments of 
supernatural beings who went by the name of those animals, 
assumed human form at will, lived in towns of their own, 
and could inter-marry with humans, help or harm them. 
Among the supernatural Ocean-People were the Devil-Fish- 
People, the Porpoise-People, the Salmon-People; but the 
most important of all were the Killer-Whales. They lived 
in villages, scattered along the shore, beneath it. The Kil- 
ler-Whales had chiefs of their own and they gathered to 
give sumptuous potlatches. Like all supernatural beings 
they were divided into two phratries : the Raven and the 
Eagle. Thus, Raven Killer-Whales were black all over, 
while the Eagles had a white pa^Shjiround the base of the 
dorsal fin. As the Ocean-Pj^ple wJFe in control of a great 
part of the food supply ^ptlje ^pSians, they were held in 
high esteem and were appealed to for help. The rarer 
kinds of grease, tobaoffib, and flicker feathers were offered 
to them, water andj^fe beiij% the most common media of 
transmission. ^^ w' 

Among the most ImpfKrtant Land beings were the so- 
called Creek-Women, also called Women-at-the-Head, or 


Daughters-of-the-River. One of these lived at the head of 
each creek and owned all the fish in it. Like the Ocean peo- 
ple, the Land animals have a double aspect. On the one 
hand, they appear as animals, on the other, as supernatural 
creatures with animal names, who may appear in human 
form. Thus there were the Grizzly-Bear-People, the Black- 
Bear-People, the Weasel-People, and so on. Among the 
supernatural animals, the Land Otters, who hurt man in 
many ways, were greatly feared. One of their favorite pur- 
suits was to transform men into monster-like creatures with 
bony faces, full of fish and sea-egg spines, with wide nostrils 
turned so high up as to point almost straight forward, and 
naked bodies covered with Land Otter hair. 

Other deities were connected with human interests and 
industries. Uppermost among these was the bird Skill 
(usual word for "property"), which was never seen, but he 
who heard its bell-like voice became wealthy. Then there 
was Property- Woman, who brought wealth in various ways. 
Almost as prominent as Property-Woman were the Master- 
Carpenter and Master-Canoe-Builder, guardian deities of 
these crafts. Then there were other divinities. Pestilence, 
Death-by- Violence, whose groans were heard by those about 
to be killed, and The-Slave-Power, whose presence was felt 
by those whose doom it was to become enslaved. There 
were also The-Spirit-of-Theft, The-Strength-Spirit, The- 
Fishing-Spirit, and The-Medicine-Splrit. 

No sketch of Northwest civilization is complete with- 
out reference to their art, a cultural element that has be- 
come associated with almost all other aspects of the life of 
these people. Although slate, bone and mountain-goat horn 
appear as industrial materials in addition to wood, the main 
elements of Northwest Coast art have developed in conjunc- 
tion with their wood industry. As will presendy be shown, 
even the woven technique of the Chilkat blanket has failed 
to produce an art of its own, but follows patterns provided 
by the wood technique. 

The principal processes employed in the art of wood 


bone, slate and horn, are those of painting and carving, both 
in low and high relief. Carving is applied to totem poles 
and memorial columns, to dishes, boxes, and spoons, to 
ceremonial batons and dancing masks; while painting, in 
addition to being used on most of the carved objects, also 
appears on flat surfaces, such as the front walls of houses, 
the sides of the gigantic war canoes and the rims of cere- 
monial hats. 

Animals and birds are most frequently represented in 
this art, plants appear only sporadically, while the sun and 
moon, in conventionalized form, also occur. Of the ani- 
mals and fish, the beaver, bear, killer-whale and shark are 
constantly seen, while of the birds, the raven, eagle, hawk 
and flicker are equally common. 

It is a general characteristic of Northwest art, especially 
in its application to totem poles, that a large part or even 
the whole of the decorated object is covered by the carving. 
At the same time, an attempt is made to represent as much 
of the particular creature used for decoration as is tech- 
nically possible. 

It must be noted that the identity of the animal or bird 
used must never be lost sight of, as these carvings or crests 
are of great religious significance to the people In this con- 
nection a system of symbolism has developed by means of 
which each animal or bird can be easily identified. Thus 
the eagle has a beak with a point directed straight down- 
ward, the beak of the hawk is curved inward, often 
reaching back to the mouth, while the beak of the 
raven is straight and very long. The beaver is symbolized 
by one or all of the following three features : a cross-hatched 
tail, two or four large incisors and a stick held in the front 
paws. The shark has a tall pointed forehead with three 
crescent-like shapes carved or painted on it and a double 
row of large triangular teeth. The claws of the bear are 
long, curved at the ends and pointed. The killer-whale has 
the typical bifurcated tail of this species and a large dorsal 


fin, which appears on the back in a slanting position, some- 
times crossed by one or more painted bands. 

In addition to all these representations, faces of varying 
sizes, apparently human, appear on totem poles and me- 
morial columns in all sorts of positions: between two ani- 
mals, or on the back or tail of one. These faces seem to 
have no place in the general symbolism of the poles and 
columns ; they are there merely to fill in spaces which would 
otherwise have remained undecorated. 

The carving on the totem poles and memorial columns is 
done in high or in bas relief, the different animals and birds 
being represented one on top of the other or interlocking in 
a variety of ways. A common method of combining two 
creatures is to represent one as hugging the other or as 
swallowing it, part of one creature protruding from the 
other's mouth. Small animals, such as frogs, are used 
either to fill in undecorated spaces or as a purely decorative 
motif repeated several times in a certain portion of the 

The faces of animals and birds which appear on the 
totem poles and memorial columns are all very uniform 
and apparently human in type; in many instances a face 
could not be identified as belonging to a particular animal, 
nor could an animal face be distinguished from a human 
one were it not for the presence of the symbols. Another 
characteristic of animal faces refers to the position of the 
cars, which are always placed on top of the head, while 
in human faces they appear at the two sides. 

While many of the figures on the totem poles and me- 
morial columns as well as the diminutive carvings on the 
Haida spoons and the somewhat larger ones on the masks 
and ladles are often fairly realistic, with only traces of con- 
ventional transformation, some figures appear on all of 
these objects which are distinctly conventionalized. This 
conventionalization is carried much further in the carvings 
and paintings on the sides of boxes and in the paintings on 
the fronts of houses and the sides of canoes. Here the 


geometrical elements of the design often become so pro- 
nounced that the recognition of the animal represented 
would be impossible if not for the symbol. When finally 
the symbol itself becomes conventionalized, as is the case 
with the Chilkat blankets and with some of the boxes, the 
interpretation of the design becomes impossible unless one 
happens to know that a design in the particular instance is 
meant to represent a certain animal or bird. 

Two elements are characteristic of this aspect of 
Northwest art: the way the animal body is treated 
with reference to conventionalization and the way the rep- 
resentations of the separate animals on totem poles and 
memorial columns are combined into a unified carving. The 
conventionalization of the animal form is conceived in such 
a way that the entire animal is not regarded as one pattern 
to be treated as a whole, but rather as a set of separate 
parts, head, legs, body, wings, and so on, each one of which 
becomes transformed independently, the unity of the ani- 
mal being preserved in the spatial relation to each other 
of the different conventionalized parts. This treatment of 
the animal form makes the designs especially well adapted 
to the decoration of surfaces of different shapes. Thus, 
one usually finds one conventionalized animal represented 
on such an apparently unwieldy object as a ceremonial baton, 
or again, on the four sides of a box. 

Of the many minuter features which might be analyzed 
in a more detailed treatise, one deserves mention here: it 
is an eye-like figure commonly used when the eye is to be 
represented. But even a cursory glance at one of these 
conventional designs suffices to reveal the fact that this 
figure frequently occurs when no representation of an eye is 
intended. On inspection it appears that the eye-like design 
is used wherever a joint is to be represented. As these 
"eyes" are often fairly large, leaving an undecorated space 
inside, the imagination of the Northwest artist is further 
•timulated to decorate the inside of the "eye" with a rough 


indication of two eyes, a nose and a mouth, or in some cases, 
with a more fully developed representation of a face. 

All these paintings and carvings constitute the accomplish- 
ments of men. All men were able to paint and carve to a 
degree, but experts were not unknown, and some individuals 
who were renowned for their skill also accepted work for 
others. It was mentioned before that the weaving of the 
Chilkat blankets was woman's work, but that the designs 
represented on these blankets were faithful copies of the 
men-made patterns of the wood technique. Part of a pat- 
tern was painted by a man on a board, which the woman used 
as her guide in weaving a blanket. The fact that the 
weaving was done in small sections which were afterwards 
sewn together, enabled her to follow the painted design 
with great accuracy, and the change of technique in this 
case has exercised no visible effect on the character of the 

Apart from its distinctive features as a decorative tech- 
nique, the art of the Northwest Coast appears as an in- 
herent element of many other phases of Northwest civiliza- 
tion. It is intimately connected with the leading industry, 
the wood technique, and reaches over to the work on 
bone, slate and horn, as well as to the woven blankets. As 
the carving and painting of certain animals, birds and super- 
natural creatures constitutes a prerogative of particular in- 
dividuals, families and clans, the art Is ushered into the 
innermost recesses of the social organization of these people. 
And insofar as carved objects and coppers with representa- 
tions of crests figure prominently at potlatches, the 
art is also drawn into this most characteristic aspect of the 
life of the Coast. The creatures represented in the art 
are in themselves merely of economic significance, for the 
natives do not show any regard or religious concern for 
these animals and birds; but their representations in the art 
having assumed the form of crests, become symbols of great 
sanctity, emblems of rank, of social status and of super- 
natural powers. The representation of crests on cere- 


monial objects, finally, introduces these artistic creations 
into the elaborate and emotionally significant rituals of the 
Indians. In the course of the long winter months, the na- 
tives spend many hours and days surrounded by the artfully 
transformed objects and breathing the throbbing atmo- 
sphere of sanctity created by them. 

When envisaged from this standpoint, the art of this 
region appears not as art alone but as a many-sided cultural 
symbol, most Intimately associated with almost every aspect 
of the life of the people. It might almost be said that the 
civilization of the Northwest could be reconstructed on the 
basis of the direct and indirect suggestions carried by its art. 


The Iroquois speaking tribes of northwestern New York 
and southeastern Canada, whose original provenience re- 
mains somewhat doubtful, occupied at the time of the dis- 
covery of America the area of the Great Lakes and some 
adjoining regions. The tribes particularly under discussion 
were five In number, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cay- 1 
uga and Seneca. To these must be added the Tuscarora, 
who joined the League of the Iroquois in the beginning of I 
the Eighteenth Century. 

I As in all Indian tribes, Iroquois men were mighty hun- 
jters, while the women engaged in the gathering of wild 
! fruit, berries and barks. First and foremost, however, the 
Iroquois were agriculturists. Toward the middle of the 
Sixteenth Century, at the time of the occupation of their 
territory by Jesuit missionaries, the Iroquois were already 
found in the possession of considerable skill in agri- 
cultural methods. These tribes lived in villages consisting 
of a limited number of Long Houses built of bark over 
wooden frames. These houses were of imposing propor- 
tions, often harboring as many as one hundred or more 
individuals. Bark was used by the Iroquois for many other 
purposes. Their canoes were made of this material as 
well as dishes, cradles, spoons and articles of ceremonial 
apparel. Later, wood partly replaced the bark In 
industry. The Iroquois made good pots and wove mats and 
other articles out of cornhusk. Bone work was also on a 
high level. 

In the line of art, there was a sharp division between men 
and women. While men were responsible for all the carv- 
ing in wood which usually consisted of rather crude, some- 



what realistic representations of animals and birds, the 
women engaged in embroidery of porcupine quill, later of 
wampum beads, which they applied to shirts and moccasins. 
This technique, in which Iroquois women reached a very I 
high degree of proficiency, was characterized by the pre- 
valence of motifs from the vegetable kingdom, branches, 
leaves and flowers in different stages of development being 
the dominant patterns. Similar curvilinear designs were 
made and similar patterns followed in their embroidery by 
many neighboring Algonquin speaking tribes. 

The ceremonial life of the Iroquois centered in a number 
of great tribal feasts, which divided the year into regularly 
recurring periods of ceremonial performance. These cere- 
monies were closely associated with the economic pursuits 
of the people. Thus, in early spring came the Strawberry 
Festival, more or less adjusted to the period when these 
berries were ripe. This was followed somewhat later by 
the Bean and the Raspberry Festivals. In the fall came a 
more prolonged period of festivities, the Corn Festival, 
falling at the time of the ripening of the maize. And to- 
ward the end of January, or the beginning of February, the 
great Mid-Winter Festival took place, at which a white 
dog was sacrificed by strangulation. 

The general character of these festivals was very uniform. 
They started out with a prayer to the Great Spirit and a 
giving of thanks for their past favors to the Corn, Bean and 
Squash, the "Three Sisters" of Iroquoian mythology, "Our 
Mothers." Then came prayers for the continuation of 
similar favors in the future. Followed performances by the 
religious societies. The festivals were closed by a less 
formal period, lasting one or two days, when the young men 
and women indulged In semi-ceremonial games and dances. 

The religious societies just referred to played an impor- 
tant part in the social and ceremonial life of the Iroquois. 
A number of them are recorded, such as the False Face 
Society, the Bear, Buffalo, Eagle, and Dark Dance or Pigmy 
Societies, the last one consisting solely of women, excepting 


only the two singers, who were always men. In addition 
to these, each one of the five tribes of the League had a 
Medicine Society. The principal function of all these or- 
ganizations was medicinal and among the requirements for 
joining them were sickness and dreaming. A man afflicted 
with some disease might dream of an animal associated 
with one of the societies. Thereupon he consulted a 
"prophet" or "prophetess," and the interpretation of the 
dream thus secured invariably resulted in the admonition 
to join one or another of the societies, the members of 
which were presently called upon to visit the patient. He 
was successfully cured by their magical rites, and hence- 
forth became one of their number. 

Undisputed preeminence among the societies was held by 
the False Faces. The principal ceremonial regalia of the 
False Faces consisted of grotesque wooden masks, elabor- 
ately carved and painted, which symbolized the bodyless, 
headless Faces, spirits which, according to Iroquois belief, 
haunted their forests. These Faces were originally hostile 
to human beings, but were subsequently appeased by the 
rites of the False Faces, the society having been organized, 
according to tradition, for the particular purpose of dealing 
with the Faces. 

The economic life of the Iroquois centered around their 
agricultural activities in which women played a leading 
part. The ancient Iroquois, original occupants of this 
wooded country, had to prepare clearings before agricul- 
ture could be attempted. With nothing but crude stone axes 
as tools, this was by no means an easy undertaking. The 
following propess was commonly employed. A deep ring 
was cut into the bark, encircling the trunk. By the follow- 
ing season the tree was dead and partly dried up. Then fire 
was used to reduce the surface to charcoal, and thus facili- 
tate the felling of the tree by means of axes. 

This part of the work was done largely by men, the 
women merely assisting by bringing pails of water which 
was thrown at the upper section of the tree to prevent It 


from catching fire. With the work in the fields woman's 
undisputed domain was ushered in. The superficial turn- 
ing of the soil by means of a crude hoe, planting, harvesting 
and storing of the different produce, as well as the prepara- 
tion of the food for later consumption, was the work of 
women. In the fields the women worked In so-called "bees," 
under the supervision of overseers who were also women. 
The fields connected with a village were thus cultivated one 
by one, most of the women of the village participating in the 
work on all of the fields. There were also certain fields not 
associated with the individual households but claimed by the 
village as a whole. Communism, to a degree, was practised 
in these early Iroquoian communities, the excess supplies of 
more favored families being frequently divided among the 
needy members of the village. The produce of the com- 
munal village fields was also utilized for this purpose, as 
well as for the preparation of the foods required at the 
periodic tribal festivals, at which huge quantities of edibles 
were wont to be consumed. 

While the economic activities of the women were of car- 
dinal importance among these people and largely responsible 
for their exalted social status, it is woman's social and poli- 
tical functions that are of particular interest. 

In order to facilitate the understanding of woman's share 
in the social functions of the clans, the phratries and the 
League, a brief sketch will now be given of the various 
social units comprised in the Iroquois Confederacy. 

In the Iroquois Confederacy, includmg the Tuscarora, 
each tribe was divided into two phratries ; each phratry com- 
prised four or more clans, and the clans were again sub-di- 
vided into a number of maternal families. The maternal 
family, the smallest unit in Iroquois society, consisted of a 
head woman or matron, her immediate male and female 
descendants, the male and female descendants of her female 
descendants, and so on. Some maternal families, consisting 
of individuals of three or four generations living at one 



time, numbered fifty or less members, while others had as 
many as one hundred and fifty or even two hundred.^ 

The maternal family in early times had certain ceremonial 
functions as well as hereditary prerogatives, such as the pos- 
session of the ganoda, a magical medicine of extraordinary 
potency associated with the rites of the Little Water or 
Medicine Societies. But the principal function of the nja- 
ternal family was in connection with the election and suc- 
cession of chiefs. 

Two or usually more maternal families constituted a clan. 
The clans were named after animals and birds. For in- 
stance, those of the Seneca were named and arranged as 
follows : 


Turtle — Bear — ^Wolf — Ball Deer — Hawk — Great Snipe 

— Little Snipe 

'The structure of a maternal family may be illustrated by the following 


rrr tt 

OlLl Tl 

Fig. zj 

All individuals represented as i 

# O women 
▲ A men 
= married 

or A belong to this maternal family. 

— lateral relationship (such 
as brothers and sisters) 
descended from 


The clans were not co-extensive with villages — although it 
is not improbable that such was the earliest condition — 
members of one clan living in more than one village. Each 
clan was more or less closely associated with one or more 
Long Houses, and the majority of individuals in such Long 
Houses probably belonged to that clan. 

Unlike many "totemic" peoples, the Iroquois showed no 
regard whatsoever for the animals and birds from which 
the clans took their names. These animals and birds were 
not looked upon as the ancestors of the clan mates, nor 
were they worshipped. In fact, no special relations whatso- 
ever obtained between the individuals of a clan and their 
eponymous animal. While it is not quite certain that the 
clans exercised proprietary rights over one or more fields, 
positive evidence exists to the effect that each clan had its 
own cemetery where the members of the clan were buried. 

Each clan possessed the right to use for its members cer- 
tain individual names, which were the property of the parti- 
cular clan; no other clan was supposed to use these names, 
nor could two living individuals of one clan bear the same 
name at one time. These names were semi-ceremonial in 
character and were but seldom used for purposes of appella- 
tion or reference, relationship terms being employed for that 
purpose. A prominent feature of a clan was its exogamous 
function : no member of a clan was permitted to marry a 
woman of the same clan. This prohibition extended to all 
clans of the same name, no matter to what tribe they be- 
longed, so that a Seneca Wolf man, for example, was not 
merely prohibited from marrying a Seneca Wolf woman, 
but the same prohibition debarred him from marrying 
Onondaga or Cayuga Wolf women, and so on. 

The two phratries into which each tribe was divided 
were mainly ceremonial units, most of the ceremonies of the 
Iroquois being so arranged that one phratry was conceived 
as giving it to the other, individuals belonging to the two 
phratries occupying opposite ends of the ceremonial Long 



The phratries also had the curious obligation of burying 
each other's members, while the mourners belonged to the 
phratry of the deceased member. As will presently appear, 
the phratry also had an important political function. 

The next higher units, the tribes, lost much of their for- 
mer independence after the formation of the League. The 
tribes were organized with reference to the League some- 
what after the nature of the arrangement of phratries in 
each tribe. When the chiefs of the League met for cere- 
monial purposes, they were arranged in groups represent- 
ing the separate tribes and divided into two tribal phratries, 
.^ like this : 

Onondaga Chiefs Cayuga Chiefs 

Mohawk Chiefs Oneida Chiefs 

Seneca Chiefs 

On administrative occasions, on the other hand, when war 
or peace were to be decreed, and in some other instances, the 
tribal chiefs were arranged in three groups, like this: 

Onondaga Chiefs 

Mohawk Chiefs Cayuga Chiefs 

Seneca Chiefs Oneida Chiefs 

There were, in all, fifty chiefs, nine each from the Mohawk 
and Oneida, fourteen from the Onondaga, ten from the 
Cayuga and eight from the Seneca. It is important to re- 
member that, although each chieftainship was connected 
with a clan and a maternal family, these chiefs were neither 
clan nor family chiefs, and that some clans and many ma- 
ternal families had no chiefs representing them in the 
League. The fifty chiefs were federal officials and whatever 
authority they possessed they wielded equally over all indi- 
viduals of the League, without distinction as to tribe or clan. 
The Tuscarora also had a number of chiefs who were per- 


mitted to sit at the Councils of the League. They partici- 
pated in the discussions but had no voice in the decisions/ 

The oflBcial functions of the chiefs were not numerous. 
They decided, as mentioned above, upon peace and war, 
intertribal agreements and alliances, passed judgment 
on rare occasions on the behavior of particularly 
recalcitrant individuals and, in more recent times, sat as a 
body of judges in disputes over the ownership of land. But 
the principal functions of chiefs were individual. A chief 
was supposed to be wise, serious ("not a joker"), and im- 
perturbable. A chief, taught the Iroquois elders, never loses 
his temper, for "his skin is seven thumbs thick." Each of 
the fifty chieftainships was known by an hereditary name, 
which was assumed by a chief when entering office and, upon 
his decease or removal, was passed on to his successor. 

When a chief died a messenger was sent out, who ran 
through the villages, screaming, "Gwa — a! . . . gwa — a I 
..." Then the people knew that a chief was dead. At 
once, the matron of the maternal family to which the chief 
had belonged, determined upon his successor, usually a ma- 
ternal nephew or younger brother of the deceased chief, but 
in all cases a member of the same maternal family. Having 
thus made up her mind, the matron would call a meeting of 
the members of her maternal family for the ratification 
of her decision. To this meeting other members of the same 
clan were admitted, but the members of the particular ma- 
ternal family were "in control." In ancient conditions, the 
matron of the maternal family almost invariably had her 
own way at these meetings. Later records present occa- 
sional evidence of differences between related women that 
would arise on such occasions. However that may be, a 
candidate was proposed and approved at the gathering. 

The matron of the maternal family was then constituted 

The Iroquois are wont to refer to the traditional reason for this dis- 
crimination against the Tuscarora. The mythological symbol for the League 
is a Long House, and the Iroquois claim that instead of entering the Long 
House through the door, as was proper, the Tuscarora entered by brealciog 
through the bark wall. Hence their partial disenfranchisement. 


a delegate in order to communicate the name of the candi- 
date to the chiefs of the Brother clans, the ones, that is, 
of the same phratry to which the dead chief belonged. 
They could either veto the nomination or approve of it. 
The latter was usually ihe case ; whereupon the matron dele- 
gate proceeded to call upon the chiefs of the Cousin clans, 
belonging to the opposite phratry. After ratification by 
these chiefs the name of the candidate was presented to the 
Council of the Chiefs of the League, who again were at 
liberty either to accept or reject the proposed candidate. In 
the latter eventuality the candidate's name was once more 
presented to the maternal family. This, however, occurred 
but seldom. In the overwhelming majority of cases the 
League Council sanctioned the choice of the candidate's own 
people. Whereupon the League chiefs proceeded to set a 
date for the ceremonial "raising" of the new chief. This 
was a great intertribal festival which was attended by all 
the chiefs of the League who were able to be present, and 
to which all the people were invited. Prayers were recited, 
the names of the chiefs enumerated; the duties of chief- 
tainship were once more called to the minds of the people, 
and a new chief entered the League. 

It must, however, not be assumed that the chief was hence- 
forth free from any further supervision on the part of his 
electors. The matron of his maternal family continued to 
keep careful watch over his activities. Should the new chief 
prove neglectful of his duties, should he reveal an evil 
temper, or a tendency towards prevarication or intemper- 
ance, or, worst of all, should his behavior with reference to 
the enemies of the people, such as the Sioux or Algonquin, 
fall short of what was to be expected of a patriotic Iroquois, 
the matron would not long delay in calling such facts to his 
attention. She would visit the chief and in a semi-cere- 
monial address recall to his mind his objectionable activities. 
She would then solemnly warn him that unless he desisted 
from his evil practises, his very chieftainship would be en- 


dangered. The chief thus addressed was not expected to 
reply to her remarks. 

If the chief persisted in his evil ways, the matron called 
on him for the second time and the same procedure was re- 
peated. She warned him, however, that in case of further 
offenses she would call on him once more, accompanied by 
a warrior chiefs and proceed to divest him of his office. 
Unless the chief reformed, the matron called upon him for 
the third time, accompanied by the warrior chief. The 
latter then delivered the following speech: "I will now ad- 
monish you for the last time and if you continue to resist 
to accede to and obey this request, then your duties as chief 
of our family and clan will cease, and I shall take the deer's 
horns from off your head, and with a broad-edged stone axe 
I shall cut the tree down," (meaning that he shall be de- 
posed from his position as chief of the Confederacy) . Then 
the warrior chief "handed back the deer's horns" to the 

Thus the chief was deposed. The matron then notified 
the chiefs of the League of what had occurred. In such j 
cases the regular procedure followed in the election of i 
chiefs was not gone through. Instead, the chiefs them- 
selves met in Council and elected a successor. 

It will thus be seen of what transcendent importance the V 
women were in the Iroquois body politic. Although the 

'The warrior chiefs are to be distinguished from the fifty hereditary 
civil chiefs or "sachems," as Morgan called them. The warrior chiefs were 
not hereditary but elective. Originally, these chiefs owed their office to the 
recognition of their military prowess, but, as a group, they enjoyed but little 
prestige or power among the people; in the course of time, however, they 
grew in number and influence. During the Revolutionary War they had 
risen to a position of great prominence and often rivalled the sachems 

Morgan and others have noted the interesting fact that of the Iroquois 
who have achieved historic fame practically all belonged to the clas8 of 
warrior chiefs, not to that of sachems. While this was primarily due to the 
fact that fame came with military achievement, a prerogative of the war- 
rior chiefs, it was due secondarily to the elective character of these chiefs. 
The standard of availability for chieftainship may have been a narrow one, 
but within these limits merit alone counted ; whereas the inheritance of 
aachemships in maternal families frequently reduced the choice to but a 
few individuals not necessarily of great ability. 


office of hereditary chief was denied them, this office was 
largely in their control. Once in a while it would occur 
that a woman who had gained the grateful recognition of 
her people by acts of unusual heroism or patriotism, was 
made a chief, but in such a case it was an honorary chief- 
tainship, a so-called Pine Tree chieftainship (the recipient 
of the honor being conceived straight as a pine). This was 
a purely individual office not transmissible by inheritance. 

Women constituted the public opinion of the Iroquois. 
To them the chief was responsible for his actions. More- 
over, the matron of a maternal family in whose hands it 
was to make and unmake chiefs, often knew beforehand 
who the new chief was likely to be, this fact again being 
known to the prospective candidate. Such knowledge, of 
course, could not but affect the behavior of the young man. 
He felt himself under the watchful eye of a censor and a 
judge, on whom depended the future of his career. 

To this must be added that women also played a promi- 
nent part in ceremonial matters, for of the six ceremonial 
officials which each clan was wont to elect for the purposes of 
arranging and supervising ceremonial procedure, three were 
men and three women. ^ It was the duty of these ceremonial 
officials to determine upon the period when the great tribal 
festivals were to be held and to make all necessary prepara- 
tions, such as the setting aside of the not Inconsiderable 
quantities of food required, the selection of a number of 
men and women who were expected to officiate at the festival 
and the appropriate rehauling of the ceremonial Long 

When the important economic functions and prerogatives 
of women are kept in mind, it appears that their economic, 
social and political position among the Iroquois was fully 
equal to that of men, and in some respects was superior to 

'The number of ceremonial officials elected by each clan varied somewhat 
in the course of Iroquois history. 

The extent to which the prestige of Iroquois women survives to this day, 


To this interpretation of Iroquois society it might po9- 
sibly be objected that whatever the prominence of women 
in the League economy and politics, they are after all not 
eligible to chieftainship, that the main executive power is 
lodged in the persons of men and that it is therefore incor- 
rect to designate the social system of the Iroquois as a 
matriarchate. This stricture is in part justifiable insofar 
as chieftainship does represent the principal executive au- 
thority, and the chiefs among the Iroquois are men. On 
the other hand, the women are the ones who make and un- 
make chiefs. The fitness or unfitness of an individual for 
chieftainship is, then, a condition dependent on their judg- 
ment. They are thus truly the power behind the throne. 
This becomes particularly apparent when the situation 
among the Iroquois is compared with that of Africa, where 
women become queens, a station formally more exalted 
than that occupied by any Iroquois woman, but where this 
high status of certain individual women does in no way 

may be brought home by two recent instances of which I was a personal 
witness. On one occasion I was about to photograph some of the ceremonial 
rites of the Iroquois, due permission from a number of chiefs having pre- 
viously been secured. Just as the ceremony wag about to begin and after 
I had already entered the ceremonial Long House, a chief appeared and 
in somewhat officious tones notified me that I was wanted outside. I fol- 
lowed him at once and found myself facing a small gathering, with one 
of the leading women of the tribe as the center. As she did not speak 
English, the chief explained to me rather curtly that the woman had ob- 
jected to my photographing the proceedings. There was nothing to be 
done but to submit. Should I have persisted, my prospects as an ethnolo- 
gist among this tribe of Iroquois would have been permanently handicapped. 
On another occasion a woman who belonged to the Wolf clan of the 
Cayuga was pointed out to me as a great expert on Cayuga names. She 
was the Keeper of such names, whose duty it was to keep track of all names 
of her clan in use at a given time, and also of the names available for use. 
Mothers in need of names for their new-born babes were wont to consult 
her, and had implicit faith in her knowledge. In a highly hopeful mood 
I proceeded to call upon the woman, whose three husky sons shared my 
eagerness to see the names recorded and preserved — the idea of having the 
individual names of their clan thus saved for posterity rather flattered the 
vanity of these sophisticated Indians. But we had counted without the 
master. The woman received me with a quizzical smile, dictated to me 
a few of the names which the least informed Iroquois could have recalled, 
then pleaded failure of memory due to old age. No amount of persuasion, 
not even the prospect of a handsome remuneration, had the least effect. 
Thus, this large set of individual names would have remained unrecorded 
if not for the happy chance that Chief John Gibson, my main informant and 
a great student of all matters Iroquoian, was familiar with most of the 
names, and dictated them to me without hesitation. 


represent the general position of women in the community, 
which is decidedly inferior.^ 

'Another parallel may be seen in modern society, where governments, 
whether imperial or democratic, are controlled by those who own or man- 
ipulate the material resources of the country, although these individuals 
themselves do not figure in the highest executive positions. 


The Baganda people inhabiting the Uganda country are 
situated west of Lake Victoria Nyanza. The economic 
life of this tribe, like that of their Bantu speaking neigh- 
bors, is complex and diversified. They are cattle breeders 
and herders on a large scale, and also keep flocks of 
goats and sheep. The care of the herds is in the hands 
of men who form a somewhat distinct group in Baganda 

The cultivation of plants has progressed equally far. 
Maize is perhaps the principal staple food, but plantain 
trees are also cultivated on a large scale and, to a lesser ex- 
tent, coffee trees. The multifarious cares involved in the 
processes of agriculture and tree culture are in the handa 
of women, barring only the assistance offered by men in 
the initial clearing of the ground of grass and trees in prep- 
aration for cultivation. 

The prevalence of these occupations does not impair the 
importance of hunting, which is carried on by individuals 
as well as groups, communal buffalo and elephant hunting 
being especially highly developed. 

Baganda industries do not reach the high technical per- 
fection found among some other African tribes, but they 
are many and specialized. There are potters and bark 
cloth makers, basket makers and leather workers, there 
are ironsmiths and experts in ivory carving, while the art 
of building canoes is also in the hands of experienced 

Before passing to the social and political organization of 
the Baganda, one further feature of their economic life 
must be noted which is characteristic for large areas in 
Africa, but perhaps unknown in all other primitive com- 



munities. This feature is the large scale on which certain 
kinds of work are carried on. The building of houses in 
the capital and of the many principal and subsidiary en- 
closures surrounding the capital and groups of houses with- 
in, involved the co-operation of hundreds of workers, who 
were expected to furnish the building materials and whose 
task required continuous application for weeks and months 
at a time. The making of roads which connected the differ- 
ent districts of Uganda with the capital and other principal 
towns, was an even more laborious undertaking, Involving 
still larger numbers of worklngmen, who were furnished by 
the local communities. Barring the architectural accom- 
plishments of Mexico and Peru, the primitive world of 
America, Australia, the South Seas or Siberia, knows of no 
industrial enterprises of equally vast scale. 

The Baganda are divided into thirty-six gentes or kika. 
Each gens has two totems, while one or two gentes seem to 
have even three, all of which are sacred to the members of 
the gens and are not eaten or killed. All the members of a 
gens are supposed to have descended from one human an- 
cestor. The gentes are exogamous, there being no Inter- 
marriage within the gens, with the exception of the Lung- 
Fish gens, which comprises two branches differentiated by 
their second totems. These two branches are permitted to 
Intermarry. When a Baganda woman marries, she pre- 
serves her own totem — a perfectly regular procedure for a 
gentile people — but in addition she adopts her husband's 
totem. Mothers will at times attempt to impart a respect 
for their totem to the children, but In this they usually fall.^ 

Each gens is sub-divided Into a number of local divisions 
or siffa, which are situated In different districts, in often 

'The fact noted in the text that the wife adopted her husband's totem 
must, no doubt, be ascribed to the weakened condition of the gentile prin- 
ciple among the Baganda. No orthodox totemic, or for that matter, non- 
totemic but gentile community would ever sanction such an overlapping of 
totems in the family. Facts such as this offer clear evidence that the 
totemic gentes among the Baganda, as in many another Bantu tribe, are in 
a state of transformation into a new order of society, under the cumulative 
stress of an increasingly dense population, and of the requirements of a 
centralized political system. 


widely separated parts of Uganda. Each si^a, again, is di- 
vided into a number of further minor units or enda. 

Each gens owns a number of such estates or siga, which 
are often situated on hills covered by gardens, extending 
down into the valley. These estates are in charge of chiefs 
responsible to the gentile chief for the conduct of the mem- 
bers of their siga. The gentes have their own gods, but 
many gentes also take charge of one of the national gods, 
in which case the temple is situated on the estate where the 
chief of the gens resides, who then officiates in the temple 
as priest. 

In addition to these lands, the gentes also have certain 
free lands, sections of territory In which three or four gen- 
erations of a branch of a gens have buried their members; 
after this the land is regarded as belonging to the gens. 
Advantage is often taken of this custom in order to appro- 
priate desirable garden land; therefore chiefs are on the 
lookout against such localized burials, for if the members 
of a gens once succeed in securing the right to a plot of land, 
even the king would hesitate to intervene, fearing the wrath 
of the gentile ghosts. Each gens has a set of individual 
names, which no other gens is permitted to use. While these 
names are bestowed on each member of the gens, they are 
seldom actually employed, other names being used instead. 
There is, in fact, a general reluctance on the part of in- 
dividuals to admit their gentile allegiance unless there is 
definite necessity to do so. 

The local subdivisions of the siga, called enda, also have 
their petty chiefs, who are responsible for the behavior of 
the members of their local group. All of these chiefs, those 
of the gens, the siga and the enda, bear fixed hereditary 
titles, which they assume in taking office. The titles are all 
traced back to the traditional original holders of these 
offices, and the various chiefs are in the habit of identifying 
themselves with those original holders to the extent of re- 
ferring to their travels and other exploits as having been 
undertaken by themselves. 


There are, in all, thirty-six gentes, each with at least two 
totems. Thus the Leopard gens also has the Genet as its 
totem, the Lion has the Eagle, the Otter also has the Genet, 
the Grasshopper has the Locust, the Elephant the Hip- 
popotamus, and so on. 

Some illustrations will now be given of the political func- 
tions of the gentes and of other customs associated with 
each gens. The Leopard gens is not permitted to eat the 
meat of animals that have been scratched or torn by wild 
beasts. The members of this gens have no service duties to 
perform in connection with the royal household. The gens 
takes care of a temple situated on Magonga Hill, where the 
mythological king Kintu first lived. No member of this 
gens can become an heir to the throne. The daughters of a 
Leopard man are permitted to marry the king, but their 
sons must be strangled. This gens has four estates in one of 
the districts of Uganda, nine in another, two in still an- 
other and one each in three further districts. The gens 
supplies the king with his chief butler, also with the man in 
charge of the king's drinking water, who is put to death 
when the king dies. 

The members of the Otter gens make bark cloth for the 
king. They also supply one of the king's wives, whose duty 
it is to make his bed. This duty is hereditary in the gens. 
After the king's death this wife is expected to go to his 
temple and stay there for the rest of her life. On Nsoke 
Hill there stands a temple dedicated to the deified ghost 
of the Father, the mythological ancestor of this gens, and 
the priest associated with this temple must belong to the 

The Elephant gens people have fifty-one estates. They 
are the chief herdsmen to the king and also supply the royal 
household with a favorite variety of fish as well as a parti- 
cular kind of bark cloth, manufactured by members of the 
gens. The butter used in the embalming ceremony, after the 
king's death, is also prepared and supplied by this gens. 

The Lung Fish gens, which was subdivided into two 


branches, which claimed to be descended from one Father 
but could intermarry, has as many as seventy estates in dif- 
ferent sections of Uganda. 

The Mushroom gens has the Snail as its second totem and 
a small ivory disc as a third. This gens is overburdened 
with duties referring to the royal household. In charge 
of the gens is the temple of Nende, the second god of war. 
The gens also takes care of the royal drum, it being the 
duty of a member of the gens to carry the drum daily to the 
royal enclosure and back again. The royal stool is also 
taken care of by this gens. The members of the gens sup- 
ply the gate makers for the king, as well as the keepers of 
the gates. The chief gate keeper, a highly important per- 
sonage, belongs to this gens. This individual has free 
access to all parts of the royal enclosure, which enables him 
to keep watch on the gate keepers. When, on the accession 
of a new king, the Elephant gens people drive twenty cows 
into the royal enclosure, the gate keeper captures ten of 
these. He also appropriates one third of the first lot of 
tribute delivered to the king. When the first chiefs come to 
pay their respects to the new king, he captures one of these 
and redeems him only after exacting from him a payment 
of ten women to the king. The king's gourd, or drinking 
cup, is taken care of by this gens. It supplies the gate 
keepers to the queen, to the king's mother and to two of the 
highest chiefs. From this gens is also taken one of the 
king's wives, whose duty it is to dig the first sod for the 
royal garden, whereupon the other wives are free to take 
up the cultivation. 

Other gentes have similar totems, restrictions, temples 
and duties with reference to the royal household. 

The supreme power in Uganda is centered in the king, 
who is permitted to marry only a Muganda. No woman is 
permitted to ascend the royal throne, nor any person not of 
royal blood. Thus the sons and grandsons of a king are 
his successors. On the other hand, the king's sons, or 
princes, take their mother's totem while the royal totems. 


Lion, Leopard and Eagle, are seldom mentioned. Next to 
the king, the most exalted personages in the kingdom are his 
sister and his mother. Princesses are not permitted to 
marry or to have children; princes, on the other hand, are 
encouraged to marry in order that the supply of heirs may 
not become exhausted. When sons are born to the king, 
the king's brothers surrender to his sons their principal es- 
tates situated in different parts of the country, and are given 
other smaller estates in their stead. The brothers of the 
king who have surrendered their estates are still eligible to 
the throne, but their sons are debarred. 

The king and all the chiefs own individual drums which 
are distinguished by their beats. The eldest son of the king 
may not reign but must take care of his brothers. Princes 
were feared and many of them were put to death as soon as 
a successor to the throne was assured. The princes are rep- 
resented by their own chiefs in the districts where their es- 
tates are situated. 

Although the king expresses his wishes with reference to 
the succession of the throne, the chiefs are the ones to decide. 

When a king dies the prospective heirs are brought to 
the capital by certain chiefs. As rivalries among the royal 
aspirants are not uncommon, the chiefs and their adherents 
come prepared to fight. One of the chiefs faces the princes 
who stand in a row, and pointing at the one who is expected 
to reign, he says: "So and so is king," and then adds, "those 
who wish to fight, let them do so now." If, after this, any 
other aspirants come to the fore, spears are passed around 
and a fight ensues between the rival princes and their sup- 
porters. It continues until one of the princes is either 
wounded or killed. The victor becomes king. One of the 
king's sisters is chosen queen on this occasion. 

After the ceremony the king and his queen undertake a 
pilgrimage to the hills of Budo, the fetich, guarded by three 
chiefs, who live in houses without fences, for these might 
be used as a hiding place by one of the rival princes. Before 
the king is admitted to the temple, a sham battle is enacted. 


While the dead king's body is being embalmed — a procedure 
attended by much ceremony — the new king goes into mourn- 
ing. This usually takes some six months, during which time 
a temporary residence near Budo is erected for the King; 
and there he lives, surrounded by the residences of thou- 
sands of chiefs, many of whom are soon to be deposed and 

At some time during this period, the queen and the king's 
mother take possession of their hereditary estates, which up 
to that time were occupied by the late king's sister and 
mother, who now receive other somewhat smaller estates. 

When the period of mourning comes to an end, the king 
beats his drum to make this fact known. Presently a gazelle 
is brought to the king's enclosure by the chief of the Grass- 
hopper gens. The king chases and kills the animal. Then 
two men captured on the public roads wearing their bark 
cloth tied in a roll and slung over the left shoulder, 
are brought to the royal enclosure. One of these men is 
spared, while the other is strangled and his body thrown in 
the river under papyrus roots so it can never be found. 
After this the king selects his permanent residence. To 
quote from Roscoe's picturesque description of a royal 
enclosure in the making: 

"The workmen were soon busy erecting houses on the 
site chosen by the king; each District Chief had the duty of 
providing for his royal master some special house which had 
its particular place inside the enclosure. Each District 
Chief had also to build some portion of the high fence which 
enclosed the royal residence. There was one plan followed, 
which had been used by the kings for years without varia- 
tion. The enclosure was oval shaped, a mile in length and 
half a mile wide, and the capital extended five or six miles 
in front, and two miles on either side. The part which was 
called the back was reserved for the king's wives, who had 
large estates there for the cultivation of plantain trees. 
The king also had his private road to the lake through these 
estates through which he might escape in case of danger 


from sudden rebellion or in case of war ; several canoes were 
also kept in readiness, in case of emergency, for flight to the 
islands of the lake, where he could form his plans and restore 
order. The top of the Hill was reserved for the king's 
own residence; the chiefs built dwellings around the royal 
enclosure, according to their rank and the part of the coun- 
try to which they belonged. There was one principal en- 
trance, with a wide gateway and a house to guard it, and 
eight other small gateways, on various sides of the enclo- 
sure, which latter were private for the use of either the king 
or his wives. Each gate had its guard houses, both inside 
and outside; the gates were kept fastened, and were only 
opened to those who had the right to pass them. The in- 
terior of the enclosure was divided up into large blocks of 
houses, with wide roads between them, with gates and gate 
keepers to guard each block, so that even within the enclo- 
sure it was impossible for the women to pay visits to one 
another without permission, or for other visitors to pass 
in or out without special leave. . . . On the road from the 
main entrance to the council chamber were the best houses 
and there the strongest guards were stationed. The roads 
were lined with retainers, who guarded the king and were 
ready for any emergency. These retainers lived in tents 
made from cow hide, as less inflammable than grass, in order 
to diminsh the risks of fire in the royal houses, which were 
entirely constructed of reeds and grass, so that when once a 
fire broke out, it was a serious question whether any of the 
buildings could be saved. The chiefs who were acting as 
guards to the king had to provide their own tents during the 
months that they were in office. The sovereign's retainers 
wore a special dress of antelope skins, slung over the right 
shoulder, passed under the left arm, and tied round the waist 
with a plaintain fibre girdle ; their wants were supplied from 
the king's own lands . . . ; they were on duty in relays for 
months at a time. As there were no lamps or candles for 
night work, torches were made from dry reeds ; the manu- 
facture of these reed torches became quite an industry and 


enabled the king to have the forts lighted up every night. 
Bark cloth trees were planted near the main entrance by the 
priests of each principal deity, at the time when the king's 
houses were built, and offerings were placed under each of 
them for each particular god; the trees were carefully 
guarded and tended, because it was believed that as they 
grew and flourished so the king's life and powers would 

The enclosures of the queen and the king's mother were 
situated at some distance from the royal residence, sepa- 
rated from it by a stream of running water, for it was said 
that "two kings could not live on the same hill." The royal 
residence was connected with these enclosures of the queen 
and the queen's mother, by straight roads lined on both 
sides with homes of important chiefs, so that communica- 
tion could always be maintained without fear of attack by 
wild animals. 

"The King sent presents to each of the important deities; 
female slaves, animals, cowry-shells and bark cloth. He 
returned the royal spear to Budo and sent with it an offering 
of nine women, nine cows, nine goats, nine loads of cowry- 
shells and nine loads of bark cloth, together with one of the 
widows who was to be the wife of the god Budo ; this woman 
was given the title Nakato, the name of Budo's first wife, 
who when she gave birth to a child caused the sacred well 
Nansove to spring forth on Budo Hill." 

A vast army of cooks was always busy at the royal en- 
closure. They were mostly women servants and slaves, who 
worked under one of the king's wives. Baskets of food for 
the entire retinue were placed before the King for inspec- 
tion twice a day. ' He himself ate alone, served by one of his 
wives, who, however, was not permitted to see him while 
he was engaged in eating. ;"The Lion eats alone," said the 
people. If any one happened to come in and overtake the 
King in the process of eating, he was promptly speared to 
death by the latter, and the people said : "The Lion when 
eating killed ?o and so." What the king left could not be 


touched by any one but was given to his favorite dogs. In 
the course of this early period of the king's reign, a number 
of other ceremonies were performed, in connection with one 
of which some unsuspecting passersby were seized on the 
high road and put to death — to invigorate the king. 

When the rightful heir was a minor or was for some 
other reason unacceptable to the chiefs, the prime minister 
appointed a regent, a post always filled by a man, as a 
woman would not be tolerated on the throne, even tem- 
porarily. If the king had no son, the king's brother ruled, 
but if, in the meantime, the king had a son born to him, he 
became the heir, not one of the king's brothers' sons. 

The Uganda country was divided into ten districts pre- 
sided over by ten chiefs. Among these two of the biggest 
chiefs were not included, namely, Katikiro, who was prime 
minister and chief justice, and Kimbugwe, who had charge 
of the king's umbilical cord. These two chiefs had no dis- 
tricts of their own, but like the king himself, they owned 
estates in the different districts. These administrative sub- 
divisions of Uganda were so arranged as to have the boun- 
daries marked by some natural feature : a stream of water, 
a small wood, and the like. In addition to the divisions of 
Uganda proper, certain tributary countries must be men- 
tioned which were in part subject to the Baganda. In the 
north lived the Bosoga, from whom a regular tribute of 
goats, cows and slaves was expected. The country to the 
southwest of Budu belonged to the people of Koki, who 
paid tribute in iron hoes and cowry-shells. These people 
had a king of their own, but they could not withstand the 
raids of the Baganda. To the west were the Ankole, who 
kept peace with the Baganda at the cost of periodic contribu- 
tions of herds of cattle. The Kiziba, finally, who occupied 
the district south of Budu, sent tribute of cowry-shells and 
trade goods which they themselves obtained from tribes liv- 
ing further south. 

The Katikiro, in his capacity of chief justice, settled the 
cases which were beyond the competence of the other chiefs. 


His decisions were not regarded as final, however, until con- 
firmed by the King. The enclosure, in which Katikiro held 
his residence, resembled the royal enclosure, with its courts 
and gate keepers, so that only friends, important chiefs and 
specially privileged individuals could reach him freely. 

The chiefs spent a large part of their time at the capital, 
nor were they at liberty to leave for their own districts 
without the king's permission. In their absence, their ad- 
ministrative duties were performed by temporary officials. 

All the land belonged to the King, excepting only the free- 
hold estates of the gentes, over which the King had no direct 
control. Contributions to the state In taxes and labor were, 
however, expected from these estates. The king had the 
right to depose a chief at will. When a chief was turned 
out of his estate, but no offense could be shown against him, 
he was permitted to take his wives and cattle along with 
him; if, on the other hand, he was guilty of some misdeed, 
the cattle as well as the wives were taken by the king, pro- 
vided he was able to find them. In the minor estates the 
sub-chiefs were masters and within the range of the local 
affairs their control was absolute; in all matters appertain- 
ing to state work, however, they were expected to consult 
the district chiefs. 

Each district chief had to maintain a road about four 
yards wide, leading from the capital to his district, and the 
sub-chiefs had to do the same with the roads connecting their 
sections with the residence of the district chief. In cases 
where these roads led over swamps the builder's task re- 
quired a tremendous amount of labor. Not Infrequently 
bridges were erected over streams. If the stream was too 
wide for a bridge, and the detour to a bridgeable place was 
too great, papyrus stems were broken over their roots, and 
in this way a precarious crossing was secured. If, in crossing 
such a bridge any one slipped, he was doomed. No attempt 
was made to rescue him as it was believed that he had 
been claimed by the spirits of the river, whose vengeance 
was feared in case a rescue was attempted. 


In the capital itself roads about twenty yards wide were 
maintained. The labor required for the erection of resi- 
dences, enclosures, fences, roads, had to be supplied by the 
entire country, and it was the duty of the prime minister 
to see to it that this was done expeditiously. Every house- 
hold called upon for workers was also expected to furnish 
twenty-five cowry-shells. Of the large quantity of shells 
thus amassed, the king took two-thirds and the Katikiro 
one-third, which he divided as follows : one-third was given 
to the chiefs who supplied the laborers, one-third to the 
overseers, and one-third the prime minister kept for him- 
self. When work was being done on a road, any passerby 
could be stopped and forced to help for a while, before 
being permitted to proceed. 

To defray the cost of various state enterprises, taxes 
were imposed by the king, a process described by Roscoe in 
the following words : 

"When the time to collect the taxes was drawing near, 
the King, the Katikiro and the Kimbugwe fixed the exact 
date, and it was then announced in the council that the 
taxes would be collected on such and such a date. The king 
appointed the special tax collector for each district ; to these 
district collectors, the Katikiro, the Kimbugwe, the Queen 
and the King's mother, each added their own representa- 
tives, and the district chief also added a representative. 
These six men who were appointed to a district went to 
each part of it; the principal sub-chiefs were first visited 
by them in person, but they chose and sent other messengers 
to each of the less important chiefs. The King's tax col- 
lector and his associates returned to the district chief's en- 
closure, where they were entertained while the work was 
being carried out by their men. The first thing to be done 
was to count the houses in each sub-district, and to ascertain 
the number of the inhabitants ; the tax collector would then 
settle with each chief what amount he was expected to send 
to the King. One cowry-shell was brought by the collector's 
assistants to represent each cow, and after these had b'een 


counted, the assistants went back to collect the tax. The 
amount usually demanded was a fixed number of cattle from 
each sub-chief, and a fixed number of bark cloth and one 
hundred cowry-shells from each peasant; of the smaller 
chiefs each paid a number of goats and also a few hoes. 
It frequently took two months, or more, to collect the taxes, 
because the bark cloth and hoes had to be made, and the 
cattle had to be collected. When this was accomplished, 
each servant took his amount on the appointed day to the 
district chief; the cowry-shells and bark cloth were counted 
and tied up in bundles, while the cattle were sent on ahead 
to travel slowly to the capitol. The King's tax collector 
took the whole amount to the Katikiro, who had to examine 
it, and to hear the details as to the number of houses and 
people in each sub-district, and as to how many bark cloths 
and cowry-shells had been collected from them. If the 
amount was correct, the Katikiro took the whole to the 
King; if It was wrong, the tax collector was required to re- 
turn to the district and to gather what was missing, accord- 
ing to instructions which he received from the Katikiro. 
The chief of a district received a portion of the taxes for 
himself and for his sub-chiefs ; the King took half for him- 
self, while the Katikiro, the Kimbugwe, the Queen and the 
King's mother also had their portions. Each sub-chief was 
given a small portion of the amount which came from his 
own district; the King, the Queen, the King's mother, the 
Katikiro and the Kimbugwe, kept the whole of what came 
from their own estates, in addition to the portion which 
they received from the taxes of the entire country. The 
tributary states paid their tribute through the chiefs under 
whom they were placed, making their payments with cattle, 
slaves, ivory, cowry-shells, salt, hoes, etc.'' 

For minor services the king was wont to secure young 
boys and girls from people in different parts of the country. 
The relevant statistics were obtained by a representative 
of the king, who would induce people to supply information 
about their neighbors and acquaintances. Then an arrange- 


ment was made with the district chief, and the children were 
furnished. The king would keep for himself the boys and 
girls he liked best, turning the others over to his mother, 
the Queen, the Katikiro and the Kimbugwe. 

A great many individuals throughout the land lived on 
the private estates of chiefs, working, and on occasion fight- 
ing for them in compensation for the tenure. 

A considerable variety of crimes were recognized before 
the courts held by the sub-chiefs, the chiefs, the prime 
minister and the king. ( Distinction was made between 
murder and homicide, murder involving malicious intent. 
For homicidej the fine was twenty cows, twenty goats, twenty 
bark cloths and twenty women. The whole fine was never 
paid, but only a part, while the rest remained unpaid for 
years, until a debt was incurred by the creditor gens — for 
these were gentile matters — whereupon the two debts were 

The Baganda believe in spirit and ghosts, fetiches and 
amulets. There is also a pantheon of higher deities. The 
main national deities are in the king's charge. Their temples 
are situated upon the chiefs' estates in the different dis- 
tricts of Uganda, the owner of an estate usually officiating 
as the priest in the local temple. With him, one or more 
mediums are associated, who have the power of communicat- 
ing directly with the god. The spot occupied by a temple 
is sacred, so is the person of the priest; sacred are also his 
robes, all ceremonial paraphernalia, and the like. Persons 
become mediums accidentally. If a man or a woman acts as 
if possessed by a spirit, this is interpreted as a call from the 
god, and the person is sent to the temple. 

Before entering into communication with the deity, the 
medium takes a smoke of tobacco and drinks a cup of beer, 
after which a frenzied condition sets in, during which com- 
munication with the god is established. After the perform- 
ance, all memory of the incidents of the trance disappears 
from the medium's mind. A medium is usually a man, but 


women mediums are not unknown, in which case the woman 
is called the wife of the god. 

When a woman asks a god for girls and the request is 
granted, the girls are dedicated to the god, and when 
weaned, they are taken to the temple. These girls take care 
of the sacred fire as well as of the grass floor covering, and 
guard the sacred pipes and tobacco. This continues until 
maturity is reached, when they are permitted to leave the 
temple and marry. 

Priests and mediums are not the only religious officials, 
for medicine-men are also known who, in some respects, are 
regarded as more powerful than the priests. They make 
amulets and fetiches, an accomplishment they share with no 
one else, cure sickness and act as surgeons, particularly 
when the need arises to stop the flow of blood after a wound 
has been inflicted in battle, or a limb has been amputated in 
punishment for an offense. If not for the medicine-man's 
assistance, such individuals would be likely to bleed to death. 
Medicine-men also exorcise ghosts. 

One of the principal gods was Mukasa, the god of plenty, 
who sent food, cattle and children. A much less important 
deity was Nulwanga, Mukasa's chief wife, who assisted 
childless women to become mothers. When war was waged 
by the Baganda, Kibuka, the god of war, was served by as 
many as forty mediums, but at other times only one of these 
was in attendance. Then there was Kaumpuli, the god of 
the plague, and Katonda, the creator, called the "Father of 
the Gods," who was believed to have created all things; 
outside of that, little was known about him and but slight 
respect was shown him. Finally, there was Walumbe, the 
god of death. 

The belief in ghosts was general and they were greatly 
feared. In their habits and wants, ghosts were like men. 
They were, moreover, shaped like their former owners, so 
that, when a limb was amputated in punishment for an of- 
fense, the ghost of the culprit was similarly afflicted: hence 
the general dread of such amputations. Ghosts were wont 


to play about the graves as well as among the trees in the 
glowing sunshine of midday, and children were warned 
against them at these times. Ghosts clung with a special 
tenacity to the lower jawbone, and if this was removed, 
the ghosts would follow it anywhere, hence the jawbones of 
kings were preserved for many generations and their power 
was great. 

The king was expected to visit the temple of his predeces- 
sor, which was in charge of the dowager queen. When 
about to leave, the king would suddenly give an order that 
all persons who had not passed a certain spot arbitrarily 
named by him, should be seized. This order was at once 
carried out by his bodyguard, and the persons seized were 
bound and gagged. Then they were sacrificed to the ghost 
of the dead king, so that their ghosts might administer 
to his. 

Lions, leopards, crocodiles, buffaloes and other animals 
had ghosts of their own. A special fear was aroused by the 
ghosts of light colored persons, of persons born feet first, 
of those who were strangled at birth, and of suicides. 
The bodies of such persons were buried at cross-roads, and 
grass was thrown on their graves by passersby to appease 
the ghq^ts. If a suicide was committed in a house, the 
house was destroyed, or if a man hanged himself on a tree, 
the tree was uprooted and burned with the body. 

There were also water and forest spirits, some of whom 
had priests as well as temples. 

Great powers were ascribed to certain artificial objects, 
usually of portable size, made from definite substances com- 
bined in a fixed way. These were the fetiches, the prepara- 
tion of which was a secret art, usually known to no one but 
the medicine-men. One of these was Mbajwe, the king's 
main fetich, to which were attached a temple, a priest and 
a female medium. This fetich was made of rope in the 
likeness of a serpent, with a head formed of clay and fash- 
ioned like that of a serpent. A number of individuals, each 
belonging to a particular gens, had duties associated with 


this fetich. In addition to all of these deities and sacred 
spots, there were thirteen sacrificial places, at which hu- 
man sacrifices were made. These were controlled by cer- 
tain gods, who, it was thought, informed the king how many 
victims were required. Each sacrificial spot was in charge 
of a custodian, while the more important ones had their own 
temples with attendant priests. A large number of human 
victims was demanded for some of these sacrificial cere- 



The material civilization of Central Australia and of 
Australia as a whole is very crude. The negatives pre- 
dominate. There is no pottery, only very crude basketry. 
Agriculture does not occur, not even in the early form of 
garden culture, which is characteristic of wide areas in 
Melanesia and Polynesia. Domestication appears only in 
the case of the dingo, an Australian variety of wolf, which, 
caught young and brought up under the care of a boy or a 
woman, develops into a fairly manageable dog. Some ani- 
mals, such as the cassawary, are kept as pets, but these are 
not infrequently permitted to starve from neglect. 

Thus the life preserving activities are few and simple. 
The women gather yams, roots and berries ; the men hunt ; 
while fishing is once more in the hands of women, who use 
crudely woven baskets with which they catch the fish. In 
cases where a creek is narrow and shallow, a hedge is built 
nearly across it, and the congestion of fish thus brought 
about often makes it possible to catch it with the bare 
hands. The yams are dug by means of a pointed stick with 
a charred end; in case of necessity, the same contrivance is 
also used as a weapon. It is reported that in the fights be- 
tween groups of men and groups of women which occur in 
some sections of Australia, the latter, armed with digging 
sticks are able to hold their own against the men who wield 
their clubs. 

Animals in the open are often hunted by means of a sur- 
round. The whole tribe participates, including the old 
men, women and children. A wide circle is formed, the 
participants making as much noise as possible. As the 
circle gradually narrows, the animals inside the circle be- 


come aroused, and as they jump from the grass and run to 
and fro, they are slaughtered without great difficulty. 

The kangaroo is hunted in more individual fashion. In 
chasing one, a man may want the assistance of a woman 
and one or more children, or he may follow it all alone. 
When a kangaroo is sighted the hunter follows it, trying 
hard not to arouse its attention. If the kangaroo becomes 
suspicious, the hunter stops short and remains motionless. 
After a while the animal regains its calm and the chase 
is resumed. If the man succeeds in coming near enough 
to throw a club or a large boomerang or spear, he does sO' 
Usually, however, the hunter fails to bring the animal down 
without a prolonged chase. Often he follows it for hours, 
a feat requiring great endurance. During the last stage of 
the chase, the kangaroo is wont to rise on its haunches, and 
with its back against a large tree, await the approaching 
hunter. The latter must be careful to avoid the dangerous 
hind legs of the animal; outside of this, no difficulty is ex- 
perienced in clubbing it to death. To bring down a kangaroo 
thus single-handed is no small feat, and a man who succeeds 
in doing so is greatly esteemed by the natives. 

The habitations of these natives are of the crudest kind: 
there are no huts of any sort, the only protection against 
inclement weather consisting of a windshield made of longi- 
tudinal pieces of bark supported in a slanting position by a 
number of poles. When in use, the shield is turned about 
so as to offer protection against the wind. 

Navigation is very little developed. Australia is a land 
of few rivers. A large number of these are so-called creeks 
which have the distracting habit of losing their way to the 
ocean. Soon after the beginning of the dry season they be- 
come transformed into elongated pools and finally dry out 

The only canoes reported from Australia are two bark 
varieties, both crudely made. One is cut whole from the 
bark of a large tree, the ends then being tied together with 
bark strings. The other is made of several pieces of bark 


sewed together as a canoe. Even these canoes may repre- 
sent but a local adaptation derived from the neighboring 

The list of weapons Is fairly extensive but reveals one 
Interesting gap: the bow and arrow, which are almost uni- 
versal In early communities, ^o not occur In Australia. A 
stone knife, on the other hand, is ubiquitous here. Then 
there are two varieties of spears, a long one and a shorter 
variety, the so-called javelin; two varieties of shields, an 
assortment of clubs, and the boomerang. The spears are 
either thrown directly by the hand or a spear-thrower is 
used, an Ingenious contrivance which occurs also in New 
Guinea, as well as in a region far removed from the South 
Seas, namely, as was shown before, among the Eskimo of 
arctic America. Of the two varieties of shields the wider 
is used for protection against spears, while the narrower 
shields are employed against clubs. The latter variety of 
shields represents but a slightly transformed club with a 
handle In the middle, and there can be little doubt that this 
shield has actually evolved from a club. 

As to the boomerang, several varieties of this curious 
weapon are in use. The larger ones, with or without a 
thickening at one end, are often used as clubs In fighting 
men or large animals; while the smaller ones are flat elon- 
gated boards, straight or curved in the shape of a banana. 
When used by the natives for hunting small animals they 
are thrown with remarkable accuracy and power. A very 
small straight boomerang is employed for killing birds. The 
so-called returning boomerang, a variety responsible for the 
world-wide repute of this device, consists of a curved board 
with a double twist, one end having a twist in one direction, 
the other in the opposite one. When this contrivance is 
thrown in a certain prescribed way, it encounters compli- 
cated aerial resistances In its flight, due to the twists. As a 
result, It performs curious manoeuvres In the air before fall- 
ing to the ground, and may, on occasion, return to the very 
spot from which it was thrown. This type of boomerang, 


however, is not used for fighting or hunting, but only for 
target practise and like tests of skill. 

It appears from all this that the Australian has not ad- 
vanced very far in material accomplishments. There are, 
nevertheless, certain features in his economic life which be- 
speak lengthy historic development, and therefore deserve 
special notice. It has been reported, especially by the older 
writers, that in various districts of aboriginal Australia oc- 
casional markets are held, to which different commodities 
are brought for barter. There is, however, no medium of 
exchange — no "money" of any sort — so that the transac- 
tions of necessity take the form of an exchange of one com- 
modity for another. It appears, on such occasions, that in- 
habitants of particular locaHties are known for their skill in 
preparing this or that tool or weapon, and that their prod- 
ucts are sought in return for others, in which another local 
group specializes to a similar extent. The period for hold- 
ing a market having been agreed upon by the old men of a 
local group, the decision is announced to neighboring tribes 
by messengers, who carry with them little sticks in which 
sets of notches are used as mnemonic devices for memoriz- 
ing the message.^ Another curious feature is the following: 
the tribes living south of the central area and east of Lake 
Eyre, have a great fondness for a certain root, pituri, which 
they chew. This root does not grow in the area where it is 
in such demand. It is secured by an expedition of young and 
mature men, heavily armed, who fight their way through 
hostile territory until a certain locality in central Queens- 
land is reached, where the root is found in large quantity. 
Huge amounts of it are usually gathered, notwithstanding the 
opposition of the local residents, and then the expedition re- 
turns, trading off part of their booty on the way and fur- 
nishing the remainder to their own group, where part of the 
supply is consumed, while quantities are passed on to tribes 
further south. Similar expeditions are undertaken to the 

'For further particulars about trading and messengers see pp. 277 sg. 


southern coast in search of red and yellow ochre, a mineral 
substance, which is used by the natives for coloring pur- 
poses at their ceremonies. 

The decorative art is also quite simple. It consists, in 
the main, of rectilinear or curvilinear figures, etched or 
painted on flat wooden boards, the so-called churinga. The 
principal decorative patterns consist of concentric circles, 
spirals, parallel lines and dots; here and there a footprint 
of an emu appears as the only representative of realism. In 
addition to these decorations, designs are made on the 
ground on ceremonial occasions by means of the application 
of ochre and bird down, the patterns in these designs being 
almost without exception purely geometrical. Realistic rep- 
resentations are apparently foreign to Australia, unless one 
accepts as indigenous certain figures of men and animals 
which were discovered in caves in certain districts. It is, 
however, almost certain that these figures are of foreign 

As if to compensate for the unimpressive development of 
decorative art, the natives have reached wellnigh artistic 
perfection in mimicking the voices and motions of birds and 
animals. These dramatizations occur as one phase of the 
totemic ceremonies as well as during hunting expeditions, 
when the kangaroo, emu or some other creature misled by 
the clever mimicry of the hunter, permits him to approach 
within striking distance. Australian children can often be 
seen absorbed in games in which these dramatizations of 
the grown-ups are early acquired and perfected. 

The religious and magical beliefs and practices are multi- 
form and play a most conspicuous part in the lives of the 
people. A general animism prevails, which here takes the 
form of a belief in mostly evil spirits who frighten the na- 
tives, especially the women, by their occasional appearance, 
or merely by the sounds they are supposed to produce. There 
is also a belief in a superior deity of semi-animal semi-hu- 
man shape and larg^ size, who is supposed to have created 
all things in nature with the exception of man, but whose 


activities have ceased at an early period, after which his 
contact with humans also came to a close. He is not prayed 
or sacrificed to, and is thought to be indifferent toward hu- 
man affairs; nevertheless, he continues to be regarded as the 
supreme divinity. Whether this peculiar superior being is 
altogether the product of the native imagination or rep- 
resents but a transformation of the God of the missionaries, 
must for the present remain undecided.^ 

Magic is practiced constantly and by every one. Most 
diseases and almost all cases of death are ascribed to hostile 
magic. Every Australian can use magical means for such 
purposes, while curative magic seems to be restricted, at 
least in some localities, to the medicine-men. A particularly 
common method of exorcising a spell consists in the so-called 
"pointing." A short stick or bone is sharpened at one end; 
then, while an incantation is sung over it, it is buried In the 
ground often in view of the victim, who is seen sitting In 
camp quite ignorant of the procedure. As a result of this 
magic act the victim is expected to fall ill, or, in some cases, 
even to die. The practice of bone "pointing" is restricted 
to men; women have magical facilities of their own. Just as 
the prospective victim leaves the camp, a woman will blow 
on her fingers and then claw in the air, moving her hand 
up and down with little jerks. The victim, who may be a 
man or perhaps a younger wife of her husband, is seriously 
afflicted after this and may die. Or a woman may take her 
yam stick into the bush, sing over it and go through a series 
of motions, as if she were pulling something toward her. 
The effect of this procedure is fatal. The woman's head- 
ring is an excellent cure for headache if worn on the head 
by the husband. In case of abdominal pain it may be worn 
as a belt with a similarly salutary effect. Numerous ills are 
produced by quartz crystals being projected Into a person's 
body. The magician stands at some distance from his 

'A detailed discussion of this "All Father" idea, the presence of which 
has also been reported from districts other than Australia, will be found in 
Father W. Schmidt's book, "L'origine de I'idee de Dieu." See also p. an. 


enemy, holding a number of crystals in one or both hands; 
these he pretends to throw in the direction of the victim. 
The crystals disappear and are supposed to have entered the 
body of the unfortunate individual, who may become seri- 
ously 111 or die, unless a medicine-man intervenes in time 
and removes the crystals. A somewhat elaborate perform- 
ance is undertaken to deprive a man of his kidney fat by 
means of a special strangling cord, so the natives believe. 
The cord is thrown over the head of the man overtaken 
while asleep; thus temporarily reduced to unconsciousness, 
he is carried to the bush and cut open; then his kidney fat is 
removed. On awakening he believes he has had a bad 
dream. Before long, however, he falls sick and is bound to 
die unless a powerful medicine-man comes to his rescue.^ 

A medicine-man, whose power is usually believed to reside 
in huge quantities of quartz crystals or other sacred stones 
which fill his body, is himself subjected to various restricting 
rules of behavior. He must, for example, not eat too much 
fat, nor allow a big ant to bite him, for should he do so, 
the stones would leave his body. Also, he must not drink 
anything hot. It is recorded that a medicine-man who drank 
a cup of hot tea given to him by some white man, lost his 

Medicine-men among the Arunta in Central Australia are 
made in two ways, by spirits and by other medicine-men, 
the former method being regarded as the more powerful. 
Initiation by spirits is believed by the natives to take place 
in the following way. A man is first taken away into the 
bush or to a cave where a spirit resides. The latter then 
throws a spear at the man, which pierces his neck and 
tongue and passes out through the mouth, leaving 
a hole in the tongue. Then another spear is thrown which 
pierces his head from ear to ear. After this the man re- 
mains unconscious. His body is opened by the spirit, all the 

'Instances such as this are especially instructive insofar as light is thrown 
on the relation of magical beliefs to experience, for in cases like the above 
no experience whatsoever can be held responsible for the formation of the 


insides are removed and others put in their place together 
with a large quantity of sacred stones. When the man re- 
turns to camp he is for a while demented. When he finally 
comes to, it is understood that a new medicine-man has been 
made, provided the hole In his tongue remains open; should 
it disappear, the initiation is not recognized as valid. 

When the initiation is in the hands of other medicine- 
men, the principal processes involved consist in the rubbing 
of the arms and legs as well as of the abdomen of the can- 
didate with stones. Considerable pressure is appHed so that 
blood is drawn. Then stones are pressed against the scalp 
of the initiate, with similar effect. Then some hair string 
is tied around the middle joint of the first finger of the 
right hand and a pointed stick is pressed under the nail and 
into the flesh forming a hole, whereupon the pretense is 
made of pressing stones into this hole. Quartz crystals are 
also thrown at the candidate from a distance. When this 
process is completed, the medicine-man is made. 

One of the important functions of a medicine-man consists 
in discovering who is responsible for the sickness or death 
of an individual. The belief in the efficacy of these 
magical devices is absolute, and the natives who really have 
a most remarkable resistance against wounds, have been 
known to die from relatively slight injuries when they be- 
lieved the weapons that had caused the wound to have been 
charmed or sung over. ■ An universally practiced method 
of curing a variety of diseases consists in the sucking of the 
afflicted spot by a medicine-man. Then one or more quartz 
crystals are produced, which are believed to be extracted 
from the patient's body; whereupon a cure ensues. Should 
there be failure, it is attributed without hesitation to the 
hostile workings of a more powerful magician, or to the 
fact that a vital organ has been affected. It must be noted 
in this connection that the medicine-man who must, of 
course, be aware of the sleight-of-hand involved in all 
such cases, will, when himself afflicted, not hesitate to ap- 


peal to another medicine-man for assistance, not infre- 
quently with satisfactory results.^ 

The social and ceremonial organization of these people 
stands in strange contrast to the crudeness of their material 
arts. Each tribe is divided into a large number of clans or 
gentes, uniformly named after animals or birds. The in- 
dividuals of a clan are not segregated in one locality, but are 
often distributed over a number of widely separated local 
groups. The members of each clan regard themselves as 
spiritually associated with a number of ancestors, half-hu- 
man half-animal creatures, who lived in the mythological 
period, the alcheringa. These ancestors travelled about the 
country performing magical ceremonies; or, in other ver- 
sions of the myth, they were persecuted by hunters. At 
certain places they stopped, exhausted, and disappeared into 
the ground; whereupon there arose on the spot a sacred 
tree, rock, or water hole. These sacred spots, or oknanikilla, 
are ever since haunted by the spiritual descendants of the 
distant semi-human semi-animal ancestors. Among the cen- 
tral Australians there is a belief that women passing by 
these charmed localities will be entered into by the spirit 
children or ratapa, and that the child subsequently born will 
be a spiritual descendant of a mythological creature who 
had entered the ground at that particular spot. 

Another belief current in this area is in the magic power 
of the churinga, sacred wooden or stone slabs, two of which 
are owned by each individual, one large and one smaller 
one. Women as well as men have such churinga, but a 
woman may never see hers. The churinga are strictly 
guarded in particular localities; and the old men see to it 

'This mixture of sleight-of-hand with a bona fide belief in the powers of 
magic, must be noted as an interesting feature characteristic of such pheno- 
mena in their primitive as well as in their modern setting. Thus, Eusapia 
Palladino, the renowned Italian medium, always admitted that she practiced 
sleight-of-hand whenever possible, by way of improving her business, tak- 
ing especial delight therein when the victims of her deceit were erudite 
professors ; at the same time, she had a firm belief in the genuineness of her 
supernatural powers. 

CENTRAL Australia 109 

that no woman ever approaches these secret places. The 
sacred objects are produced only at totemic rites and some 
other ceremonial occasions, and are always handled with 
great circumspection. A churinga is supposed to represent 
the second body, or as some believe, one of the souls of an 

The members of a clan treat the animal after which the 
clan is named with consideration and respect. They are 
forbidden to kill or eat it. Their attitude, however, cannot 
be designated as one of veneration. Instead, there is an 
emphatic recognition that the animal or bird is a relative, 
an intimate of the clanmates. Each clan has the power of 
increasing the supply of its sacred animal, the totem, by 
means of a magical ceremony, the intichiuma. In the course 
of an intichiuma, the male members of a clan — for women 
are never admitted — ^properly decorated with bird down 
and ochre, dramatize the actions and cries of a particular 
animal or bird. There is some blood letting; the blood 
drawn from the arms of the participants by means of sharp 
stones, is permitted to flow over the ceremonial ground and 
is then spilled over the surrounding rocks. All this is sup- 
posed to precipitate the multiplication of the particular to- 
temic animal. On this occasion, one representative of the 
species is killed and, having been first tasted by the head 
man of the clan, the alatunja, is then partaken of sparingly 
by the other members. This, however, is the only occasion 
on which clanmates may eat of their totemic animal. The 
churinga are produced in the course of the ceremony. 

Protracted series of such ceremonies are performed by the 
natives at the end of the long period of desiccation and im- 
mediately preceding the season of torrential rains, as a con- 
sequence of which, as has often been described, the faunal 
and floral aspects of a Central Australian landscape become 
transfigured as if by magic. In this case, then, the natives 
have good experiential grounds for preserving their faith 
in the potency of magical rites. 

The totem of each clan stands in a certain relation to 


a number of other animals and birds, the so-called "asso- 
ciated totems," which, while not as important as the main 
totem, have a sacredness of their own. In the mythological 
tales current among the people, these animals always figure 
together with the totem as participants in the plot. 

It will be seen that the clans of this region have come to 
function as magic working associations. As to the control 
of marriage, it is here connected with social units of an en- 
tirely different order, the so-called phratries, classes and sub- 

The matrimonial systems of Central, Eastern and South- 
ern Australia fall into three main types. Type one is repre- 
sented by such tribes as the Dieri and other tribes further 
south, and is characterized by the presence of two phra- 
tries subdivided into clans or gentes. Here the phratries 
control intermarriage. Type two is represented by such 
tribes as the Kamilaroi and other eastern tribes, where the 
two phratries with their clans are further subdivided into 
two classes each. Here the classes control intermarriage. 
Type three, finally, is represented by tribes such as the War- 
ramunga and other tribes of the Center and North, among 
whom the classes are once more subdivided into two sub- 
classes each. The latter units here control intermarriage.^ 

'The conditions obtaining in the three types of cases may be visualized 
as follows, assuming for simplicity that the phratry throughout consists of 
three clans. The actual number of clans or gentes in a phratry is always 
much greater. 

Type I (Dieri, etc.) 
Phratries I II 

Clans a d 

(Gentes) b e 

f . . ^ 

I marries II and vice versa 

Here the children follow the phratry and clan of the mother (or the eens 
of the father). "^ 

Type II (Kamilaroi, etc.) 
Phratries I II 

Classes A B CD 

Clans a = ci + Oi di + d, ■= d 

b ^^ bi -{- bi fi + fi = e 

c = Ci + c, fr + f,^f 


It seems that classes and sub-classes have no other func- 
tions except to control intermarriage. Phratries, on the 
other hand, while always exogamous, insofar as no mar- 
riages ever occur within a phratry, also have certain cere- 
monial functions. Thus, when the period at which the to- 
temic rites are performed is about to begin, the members of 
each clan expect to be notified by certain members of the 
opposite phratry with their intichiuma is to take place. The 
decoration of the participants is another function of certain 
members of the opposite phratry. 

In addition to belonging to a particular gens and matri- 
monial class, a central Australian, before he becomes a full- 
fledged member of the community, also passes through a 
series of stages marked by initiation ceremonies. As one 
after another of these stages is left behind, there opens up 
before the boy an ever widening range of tribal functions, 
ceremonial activities and other forms of participation in the 
esoteric knowledge and practices of the male members of the 

It will be seen that the phratries (I and II) are so subdivided into 
classes, on the one hand, and clans, on the other, that each class. A, B, C or 
D, contains part of the members of several clans, while each clan contains 
members of two classes. Class A, for example, contains members ai, bi, and 
fi, of clans a, b, and c, while clan a contains members ai (class A) and 
fl2 (class B), and so on. 

The intermarriages and descent of the children as to class can be rep- 
resented as follows (the children always belonging to the phratry and clan 
of the mother) : 

Fig. 34 

I'hat is, A marries D, children are C; C marries B, children are A; and 
D marries A, children are B; B marries C, children are D. 



tribe. He starts life under a heavy pressure of eating 
taboos, most of the available foods being forbidden to him. 
As the boy approaches maturity, these prohibitions are 
gradually lightened ; but only the old men are wholly or al- 
most wholly free from all food restrictions. 




TvPE III (Warramunga, etc.) 

I 11 


a = fli + aj + aj + a* 
b = h + b, + h + b, 
c = f J + Cj + ft + f» 


ti, + d,+ d. + d, = d 

ei + ei + is + e* ^= e 
f, + f, + f, + f, = f 

Here, then, the condition obtaining in type two is further complicated in 
such a way that each sub-class contains parts of the members of all the 
gentes of one phratry, while each gens comprises members of all the sub- 
classes of one phratry. Thus, sub-class i contains members Oi, (gens a), bi 
(gens b), and ci (gens c), etc., while gens a contains members ai (subclass 
i), ai (s.-c. a), 03 (s.-c. 3) and at (s.-c. 4), and so on. The marriages and 
descent of children as to class, sub-class and phratry can be represented as 
follows, (as a rule, the children here belong to the gens of the father, but 
in some central tribes the gentes are not hereditary, so that membership 
becomes irregular) ; 

Fig. 25 

That is, 1 marries 5, children are 2 ; 2 marries 6, children are i ; 5 marries 
i, children are 8; 8 marries 4, children are 5; and 3 marries 7, children are 
4; 4 marries 8, children are 3; 7 marries 3, children are 6; 6 marries 2, 
children are 7. 

It will thus be seen how indirectly the clan or gens in Australia is con- 
nected with exogamy in its positive aspect, for among the tribes of type III 
each gens contains four groups of men and women whose matrimonial 
proscriptions and prescriptions are quite different; among the tribes of type 
II each clan contains two such groups of men and women; while even among 
the tribes of type I it is clearly not the clans or gentes, a, b, d, f, etc., which 
define the matrimonial rules on the negative or the positive side, but the 
phratries: no marriage in your own phratry, always marry into the opposite 
phratry, is the law. 


The most important of the initiation ceremonies after 
which the ceremonial cycle is completed, is the EngwuTa, 
an elaborate series of rites, usually participated in by more 
than one tribe. The central rites performed on this occa- 
sion are those of initiation, but in addition, the totemic cere- 
monies and other Important rituals are gone over, as if in 
rehearsal, by the novitiates, under the guidance of the elders, 
in order that the young men may become thoroughly versed 
in the often complicated technique of these performances. 
The initiates, on such occasions, are profusely decorated 
with ochre and bird down, just as are the participants in the 
magical ceremonies described above. There Is, however, 
this dIfFerence, that In the Engwura ceremony no relation 
whatsoever exists between the totem of an Individual and 
the designs used in his decoration. In other words, the 
ceremony Is a tribal one and has no reference to the totems, 
the accepted totemic symbols being here used in a purely 
decorative capacity. 

Throughout the width and breadth of the life of these 
Australian tribes, the prominence of the old men Is most 
conspicuous, while their functions and privileges are nu- 
merous. They alone are relatively free from food taboos. 
They are at liberty to marry the most desirable young 
women of the group, and use and abuse this privilege at the 
expense of the younger men. They set the periods for the 
ceremonial performances and are the leading figures at these 
important occasions. They instruct the boys before and 
during the Initiation ceremonies. They decide on the proper 
time for the holding of markets and dispatch messengers 
announcing their decision. On the latter occasions, they 
fulfill a double educative function : on the one hand, they In- 
struct the youths In the customs and traditions of the tribe, 
on the other, they take advantage of the presence of 
individuals from other tribes In order to borrow from them 
new rituals, songs, or objects of material culture, which 
they presently introduce among their own people. 

The Importance of magic in Australia looms prominent 


in this description. Not only can numerous desires be ful- 
filled by magic, beginning with the securing of food and 
ending with the infliction of sickness, but death as well as 
birth are attributed to magic, the latter in the case of the 
Central Australians, whose belief in the magical impregna- 
tion of women by means of the ratapa spirits is described 
in the preceding pages. Magic pervades the entire cycle of 
totemic relations, that of the totem to the individual and 
vice versa, that of the individual to his churinga, and that 
of the churinga, the totem animal and the individual to the 
mythological ancestors in the alcheringa. All of these rela- 
tions are held together by magical threads. Yet even here, 
in Australia, magical idiosyncrasy is not all-pervasive. There 
is no miracle, no magic, in the economic activities involved 
in the hunting, fishing and gathering of wild plants. The 
industrial processes, however crude, comprised in the mak- 
ing of nets, baskets, weapons, wind-shields and canoes, are 
based on purely matter-of-fact observation, on knowledge 
and skill. The social regulations connected with the matri- 
monial organization and the functions of chiefs, of the old 
men and of medicine-men, belong to still another level. 
These aspects of Australian civilization form no part of the 
magical cycle of relations and activities nor do they belong 
to the realm of pure knowledge and of matter-of-fact at- 
titudes — they constitute a level of their own, where social 
usage is determining and self-sufficient. 


Five examples of early civilizations have been passed in 
review. Are there any general conclusions to be derived 
from this survey, over and above the intimacy of under- 
standing that comes with the absorption of concrete data? 

First, then, one truth may well be emphasized, trite per- 
haps, yet not devoid of significance. In these five primitive 
communities we encounter all of the aspects that character- 
ize human civilization, including our own. Religion, art, 
social and political organization, industries, economic pur- 
suits and ideas, all of these elements are represented. Thus, 
from the very start it must be recognized that common hu- 
manity, not only in matters psychological but also in civil- 
ization, is revealed in all of the cases here analyzed. 

It has been claimed by some that the most backward 
among primitive peoples possessed no religion, or again, 
no political organization. But attitudes such as these can 
only be maintained by a highly artificial definition of these 
aspects of civilization. If religion is belief in one supreme 
deity and political organization the centralized state, then 
indeed, both are missing from most primitive tribes. This 
procedure is, however, patently unjustifiable. As soon as 
the definitions are made broad enough to embrace, as they 
should, a great variety of disparate yet similar phenomena, 
the homogeneity of all civilizations with reference to their 
principal constituent elements becomes apparent. 

Another important conclusion is this: is it not clear that 
the civilization of the Eskimo or those of the Haida, Iro- 
quois, Baganda, or Arunta, are no more to be regarded as 
direct reflections of the psychology of the peoples that carry 
these civilizations than could modern civilization with refer- 
ence to its own psychology? All of these civilizations are 



old historic growths in which the vast majority of cultural 
elements, as they appear in the life of each generation, 
come from the past as part of the cumulative traditional 

A further misconception of primitive society can now be 
disposed of. The idea, namely, that in early conditions the 
borrowing and diffusion of cultural traits counts for little, 
that each local group depends for its cultural growth upon 
its own psychic and historic resources. It is evident enough 
that in each one of our test tribes new elements have been 
added to civilization by the creativeness of the constituent 
individuals. The transformation of designs on the North- 
west Coast, which can be followed for some time back, re- 
veals a constant development along the line of the style 
peculiar to that area and must be ascribed to the creative 
imagination of its artists. The relation of the Iroquois 
Confederacy to the surrounding Indian tribes leaves no 
room for doubt that the cardinal principles of the highly 
elaborate socio-political system of the League must be 
ascribed to tendencies lodged among the Iroquois them- 
selves. The magical ceremonies characteristic of Central 
Australia, insofar at least as they are totemic, clearly rep- 
resent the result of local growth. 

But it is equally patent that suggestions derived from 
neighboring tribes have contributed to the civilizational 
growth in all of the above cases. The Iroquois share the 
patterns of their embroidery designs with many neighboring 
Algonquin tribes. The Haida and Tlingit have religious so- 
cieties that are in their general character and in many of 
their details so much like the societies of the Kwakiutl that 
common historic origin cannot be doubted. The very cul- 
tural similarity of the many Eskimo tribes of the Arctic sug- 
gests a constant repercussion of cultural elements from tribe 
to tribe. The Baganda share with their immediate neighbors 
and with many remoter Bantu speaking tribes such elements 
as the manufacture of iron objects, cattle breeding, elaborate 
legal procedure, centralized state organization. The tribes 


of Central Australia are in many of the elements of their ma- 
terial, social and ceremonial culture like their neighbors of 
the east and the north and the remoter tribes of the western 
coast. In some of these instances the five test tribes may 
have been the originators rather than the borrowers, but 
that this was not so in all the cases is obvious without further 
analysis. Thus, these five primitive civilizations bring ir- 
refutable evidence that culture, \^hsiJb£r.mQdern Qji primi- 
tive, derives stimulation for growth and development both 
from within itself and from other cultures with which it 

"TKese few points may suffice to show that our five early 
civilizations are first and foremost human civilizations, dis- 
playing the static and dynamic characteristics which are en- 
countered in every organized human society. 

Another set of traits which claim our attention are pe- 
culiar to the five tribes insofar as they are primitive. With 
the exception of the African Baganda, the local units com- 
prised in the test tribes are small, the number of individuals 
involved seldom rising above several hundred; and even 
among the Baganda, where the populational proportions 
are different and towns with several thousands of inhabitants 
are not unknown, the typical villages are not unlike those of 
the other tribes. These local groups are relatively isolated. 
Nowhere do we find the constant, regular and regulated in- 
ter-communication that is so characteristic of modern so- 
ciety. And the result of this is that the local cultures are 
relatively peculiar unto themselves, much more individual 
and specialized than is the case later in history. Again, in 
all of the tribes, in this case including the Baganda, written 
language is unknown, which means that the past is brought 
to the present through the only two remaining channels : the 
physical persistence of the material things and the transfer 
of ideas, attitudes and modes of behavior by tradition, from 
generation to generation. 

Further, the five groups represent characteristic folk civil- 
izations, meaning by this that the cultural traits of each 


group, in the form of knowledge, attitudes and functions, 
are much more evenly di^stributed among the individualjnem- 
bers of the group than is ever the case in modern society. 
Koi that professional specialization or esoteric knowledge 
are wholly absent. On the contrary, it was shown that due 
attention must be paid to these elements. There is the 
esoteric knowledge of the religious society member, the sex 
division in industry and art and other forms of division of 
labor. But all in all, when compared with modern society, 
the relative civilizational homogeneity, the evenness, one 
might say, of the civilizational layer throughout its length 
and breadth, is decidedly characteristic of the tribes re- 

The folk character of these civilizations carries with it 
the further corollary that the individual is nowhere so free 
from social pressure and public opinion, from the rule and 
custom of the group, as to figure as a conspicuous unit in 
civilizational growth. Of course, new things, ideas, at- 
titudes, bits of knowledge, do arise, and whenever that is 
the case, the new comes through the channel of individual 
minds; but in its originality, in its departure from the old, 
in its uniqueness, these increments of newness do not mea- 
sure up to those conspicuous changes which are ushered into 
modern civilization through the channels of individual cre- 

One further element : knowledge remains unsystematized. 
There is no deliberate synthesizing of experience, no 
method of inquiry, no accurate measurement. There is, in 
other words, no science. Knowledge therefore remains 
crudely experiential in its derivation and purely traditional 
in its mode of transfer from generation to generation. That 
is no less true of the Baganda than it is of the other test 

But when it is said that the civilization of our test tribes 
is universally human and typically primitive, not all is said. 
There are traits in each which are not only human and 
primitive, but also characteristic of certain wide geographic 


areas. Thus the tribes of America, though differing from 
each other in scores of cultural peculiarities, are fundament- 
ally alike in others. These common traits are characteris- 
tically American or North American, either because such 
traits are peculiar to North America alone or because they 
are at least common to all or most tribes of this continent. 
Thus, In no one of the three test tribes is there any 
domestication of animals with the sole exception of the 
dog, of which the Eskimo, It may be noted, make more dis- 
tinctive use than the other tribes. Then there is the limita- 
tion in the power of the chief, a characteristic trait of North 
America. In this connection the similarity of the three 
groups is especially conspicuous, in view of the vast differ- 
ence in their socio-political organizations and the equally 
marked difference in the functions of chiefs in the three 
cases. Among the Eskimo there are scarcely any chiefs, in 
the narrower sense of the word. Their place is taken by 
temporary leaders whose leadership is based on special 
qualifications for particular tasks. Among the Tlingit and 
Haida a variety of chiefs occur — clan chiefs, family chiefs, 
town chiefs. Their prestige is high. They vie with each 
other In potlatching, war exploits, and the possession of 
powers supernaturally derived. But they are neither ad- 
ministrators nor legislators, nor do they sit as judges in 
adjudicating disputes among the people. The daily life of 
a chief, moreover, is not markedly different from that of a 
commoner or even that of a slave. Among the Iroquois, 
finally, there are the fifty semi-hereditary chieftainships. 
These chiefs are federal officials. In their councils they de- 
cide upon peace and war. They make pacts with other na- 
tions. As individuals, they admonish the young to follow 
tradition and precedent; here and there, individually or In 
joint council, they may sit as judges In the adjustment of 
rival claims to land and the like. The chief, nevertheless, is 
but a model Iroquois. His powers are strictly limited. His 
prestige, although great, Is always subject to the limitation 
of his deserts. He may not command obedience to his 

120 MARLY CWlUtAtlO^ 

whims, and should he deviate from the path deemed propef 
by those who make chiefs, the Iroquois women, he is de- 
posed and forgotten. 

How different then the position of the chief among the 
Eskimo, the Tlingit and Haida, and the Iroquois! Yet, 
there is this common element, that the power of the leader 
or chief is strictly limited, that in no case is he permitted to 
exercise actual control over the actions of his people — 
barring such drastic situations as war^ or other temporary 
exploits — and that in his daily life he is scarcely distinguish- 
able from any of his subjects. This limitation of the chief's 
power is characteristic of North America. 

Then there is the cult of the guardian spirit. Individ- 
ualized or socialized in societies among the Iroquois, elabor- 
ated and transformed among the Tlingit and Haida by 
means of a graded system of supernatural powers, among 
the Eskimo restricted in its use to the angakut or magicians, 
this cult is common to the three groups insofar as it com- 
prises the idea of a guardian spirit, the seeking and securing 
of supernatural powers by individuals, and the personal ex- 
periences that are associated with the acquisition of such 
powers. In its constituent elements this cult contains noth- 
ing but what occurs elsewhere in the religions of primitive 
peoples; but taken integrally, it is characteristically North 

In the industrial field lies another, somewhat more elu- 
sive element of the same nature. While the Eskimo are ex- 
pert carvers in bone, the Haida and Tlingit excel in their 
woodwork, and the Iroquois, at least in the more ancient 
period, were highly proficient in the bark industry, a com- 
mon element is implied in these very contrasts. For it is 
typical of North American industry that in each of the 
major areas, some one, or at best a very small number of 
industries are highly developed, while others are neglected 
or absent. While the Southwest, with its basketry, pottery, 
weaving, architecture and mosaic work, stands out as a con- 

•C/. here what is said about the warrior chiefs of the Iroquois on p. 79, 



spicuous exception, all in all, the exclusive specialization of 
industries in local areas must be regarded as an American 

Similarly, the Australian test tribe displays character- 
istics that are common to most Australian tribes. The lack 
of agriculture and domestication, barring the dingo, the 
absence of the bow and arrow, the occurrence of the boom- 
erang, the crudeness of the industries, the complexity of the 
social organization, the emergence of the so-called "classes," 
the great influence wielded by the old men, the drastic dis- 
crimination against women in all matters religious and cere- 
monial, all of these traits are shared by the Central Aus- 
tralians with most other Australian tribes, and some of the. 
traits, such as the "classes," are unique in Australia. 

The Baganda, finally, can be recognized as African on the 
basis of a whole series of cultural peculiarities. The iron 
industry, cattle raising on a large scale, markets, roads, or- 
ganized judicial procedure, including the institution of wit- 
nesses, the centralized state with a king at the head, the as- 
sociation with the king of two queens, his mother and sister, 
these are some of the features shared by the Baganda with 
many African and most Bantu speaking tribes. 

Thus the civilizations of our test tribes are revealed as 
common-human, primitive and North American, African 
or Australian. There are still other traits which further par- 
ticularize the civilizations of these tribes. In North Amer- 
ica, the Tlingit and Halda are differentiated from the 
Eskimo and the Iroquois by a whole series of cultural pecul- 
iarities. The potlatch, the prominence of rank in all matters 
social and ceremonial, three social classes — nobles, com- 
moners and slaves — great elaboration of woodwork, and 
with it a distinctive art born within the wood industry, all 
of these traits are known to ethnologists as characteristic 
Northwest Coast features. 

Similarly, among the Iroquois, there is the high develop- 
ment of bark work, the plant patterns in embroidery, the 
high position of woman in economics, society, politics and 


ceremonialism, and finally, the League itself. Some of these 
traits are characteristically Iroquoian, others, like the plant 
patterns in embroidery, are shared by them with their more 
immediate neighbors, the Algonquin, but not with the other 
American tribes. 

Again, in the Australian test tribe a number of features 
are peculiarly Central Australian. The intichiuma ceremo- 
nies for the multiplication of totemic animals, stone churinga, 
the utilization of churinga in connection with totemic cere- 
monies, a quadruple series of initiation rights, as well as 
certain peculiarities in the rights themselves, are traits not 
merely Australian, but Central Australian. 

Nor is the limit of local specialization reached here. The 
numerous tribes of the Eskimo are differentiated from one 
another by peculiarities in the structure of the bow, by the 
kinds of stone lamps used, by certain details in the making 
of harpoons, by the types of harness for dogs, by the shape 
of kayaks, by the versions of widespread myths. Similarly, 
in the Northwest area, the Tlingit and Haida differ from 
the Kwakiutl in a number of features. The decorative art 
of the Kwakiutl, while similar in type to that of the northern 
tribes, is much cruder. The dual divisions of the Tlingit 
and Haida are not found among the Kwakiutl. Also, the 
maternal organization of society is much more pronounced 
in the north than it is In the south. The relation between 
religious societies and the potlatch is different In the two 
groups: whereas among the Kwakiutl the potlatch appears 
on the whole as an adjunct of the performances of the re- 
ligious societies, the societies themselves constitute among 
the Haida little more than a functional aspect of potlatch- 
Ing. The "trickster" of the northern mythologies is the 
raven, whereas among the Kwakiutl the mink takes its place. 

And what is true of the Eskimo and the Northwest tribes 
applies to the Iroquois, the Baganda, and the Arunta. 

The detailed Information available on the tribes of the 
Northwest permits us to go even further, for the Tlingit 
and Haida, while strikingly similar in all of their major 


cultural peculiarities, are far from identical. The artistic 
aspect of the woodwork has been carried a shade further by 
the Haida. The tendency to multiply crests in clans is 
marked among the Haida, weak among the Tlingit. The 
reciprocal functions of the phratries are more definitely 
fixed among the Tlingit. Individual names among the Tlin- 
git are derived from animals and birds ; among the Haida, 
the majority of the names of individuals suggest potlatch 
associations, referring in various ways to property. And 
so on. 

In the final analysis, what we have found is this: every 
local civilization is in certain respects like all civilizations, 
in certain others, like all primitive civilizations; then \ 
it is like the civilizations of certain very large geography 
ical areas, continental in their sweep; it is further like the 
civilization of a more restricted area; and finally, it is like 
unto itself, in certain local peculiarities, individual and 

Can anything be said in explanation of this curious situ- 

It seems obvious that the common human aspects of civil- 
ization must rest on certain fundamental characteristics of 
man as 3 psychic individual, of his relations to his fellow 
men and of his relations to nature. It is not possible here 
to indulge in an analysis of these factors. It is sufficient to ' 
note that the universal characteristics of all civilization are \ 
not themselves derivable from any civilizational or historic i 
factors, but rest on^c ertain pecu liarities of man and of his ; 
relations to other men and to nature. The peculiarities of 
civilization which make it primitive cannot be derived from 
any psychological traits of early man as an individual. 
Here certain historic conditions enter as a general back- 
ground, among which may be mentioned the absence of 
professionally conducted inquiry and of the concomitant 
application of the knowledge thus gained to thought and 
practice, and the absence of the art of writing. Under 
these historic hmitations, certain relations of man to na- 


ture and of man to man develop which are characteristically 
primitive and have psychological and sociological bearings.^ 

Historical factors enter even more prominently as a 
determinant of those cultural traits that are continental 
in their range without being universal. Here an explanation 
through human nature or human or environmental rela- 
tions cannot suffice, for the absence of these traits in 
other areas would then remain unaccounted for. Hence, 
one must take recourse to special historic events. More- 
over, it would obviously be unreasonable to assume that 
cultural traits that do not occur In wide areas should have 
originated many times in one area. The alternative and 
only possible assumption is that such traits have orig- 
inated a very few times, or perhaps only once, in one par- 
ticular locality, and have then spread from tribe to tribe in 
the course of historic contact. 

The civillzational features which were found to be char- 
acteristic of Australia, Africa, North America, belong to 
this latter category. 

The above argument applies also to the traits distributed 
over narrower geographical districts. 

From this somewhat complex analysis two fundamental 
processes disengage themselves which alone can account for 
the distribution of civillzational features noted at the be- 
ginning of this chapter. The processes are : the origination 
of cultural features in particular tribes and localities — such 
features being ultimately due to individual creativeness — 
and the spread of such features in the course of the historic 
contact of tribes. These two processes are equally funda- 
mental and omnipresent.^ 

•This theme is further elaborated in the last chapter, dealine with "Early 
Life and Thought." 

'The actual situation has been unduly simplified in this presentation. For 
the only cases of distribution of cuhural features so far considered are the 
cases of continuous distribution, where a form of belief, an object of ma- 
terial culture, a type of social structure, are distributed over a more or less 
extended area of contiguous tribes. But such cases must be supplemented 
by others — and their number^ is legion — where distribution is discontinuous, 
where, moreover, the similarities between the cultural features involved are 
not Qategorical but dubious, allowing of more than one appraisal. It is the. 


The data relative to the five test tribes may be utilized 
from yet another standpoint, namely, with reference to the 
theory of evolution. This aspect of the problem may be 
discussed under three headings : the relation between the 
five civilizations taken as integral units; the relation be- 
tween the different aspects of civilization in the five tribes, 
such as political organization, art, and so on; and the 
relation between the different aspects of civilization in each 
one of the tribes. 

When the attempt is made to arrange the five civiliza- 
tions in the form of an evolutionary series, numerous dif- 
ficulties are at once encountered. The Tlingit and Haida 
are readily recognized as highest in decorative art, but it is 
equally plain that the Baganda must be regarded as most 
advanced in political organization, although the Iroquois, 
in their own way, have reached a markedly different but 
perhaps equally advanced form of political integration. In 
the line of material culture and economics the Northwest 
tribes, the Eskimo and the Australians must be grouped to- 
gether as having no pottery or agriculture, while from the 
standpoint of the absence of domestication, barring the dog, 
these three groups are at one with the Iroquois. In the case 
of Central Australia, one might be tempted to pronounce 
it as lowest in the scale from all standpoints, until one re- 
collects the great elaboration of social organization found 
in this region. The Baganda, with their dense population 
and their highly developed and multiple industries, may 
claim priority in this respect, but in the technical and artis- 
tic finish of their industrial products they have scarcely any- 
thing to offer to compare with some of the better bone work 
of the Eskimo or the wood carvings of the Tlingit and 
Haida. And so it goes ! There seems to be no way in 
which the civilizations of the five tribes could be arranged in 

latter type of instances that have provided wellnigh inexhaustible stores of 
data for the acrimonious discussions of diffusion versus independent develop- 
ment in the history of civilization. We shall have occasion to return to this 
aspect of the subject in the "Reflections on Part II." 


an ascending series. No sooner this is attempted, than the 
civilizations tend to break up into their constituent elements, 
each of which has undergone a distinctive development in 
each instance, both in degree and in kind. 

Following this lead, one might next attempt to compare 
the separate aspects of the civilizations in the five test cases. 
In the domain of art, for instance, it is easily recognized that 
Australia stands lowest. But no light comes from the com- 
parison of the artistic attainments of the other tribes. The 
art of the Northwest tribes cannot be considered as in any 
way derivative from that of the Eskimo nor vice versa; nor 
can one be regarded as superior to or further evolved than 
the other; and the plant pattern embroidery of the Iroquois 
cannot be placed in any developmental relation to the art 
of any of the other tribes. 

Similarly, in political organization, the Baganda may per- 
haps be recognized as the highest; but the political struc- 
ture of the Iroquois can certainly not be regarded as an 
antecedent of the Baganda form, the confederate type of 
political structure being quite foreign to Africa. Again, 
from the standpoint of the economic and industrial adjust- 
ment to environmental conditions, the Eskimo, while lack- 
ing many of the advanced features of African industry, 
have achieved so high a degree of balance with the needs of 
the situation that probably no other of the test tribes could 
stand comparison with them in this respect. As an apothe- 
osis of survival Eskimo civilization has no peers. 

The case does not appear any more favorable to our evo- 
lutionary attempts when the separate aspects of civilization 
in each tribe are compared. Among the Eskimo, as just in- 
dicated, the economic and industrial aspects of civilization 
are highly developed and so perfectly adjusted to require- 
ments, that a sort of limit of possible achievement may be 
said to have been attained. Their social life, on the other 
hand, is exceedingly simple and amorphic. In art they do 
not cover a very wide range but stand high in their diminu- 
tive bone carvings and the equally slight but excellent etch- 


ings on bone. In mythology again, they have evidently not 
gone as far as many other primitive tribes. Among the 
Northwest tribes the development of the wood industry with 
its associated art certainly outstrips all other phases of their 
civilization. And the same applies to the socio-political or- 
ganization and ideology among the Iroquois. In Australia, 
finally, the economico-industrial phase is simple and crude, 
while the socio-ceremonial side is highly elaborated. 

In view of such abortive attempts at squeezing our five 
civilizations into an evolutionary series from either of the 
three standpoints exemplified above, some conclusions force 
themselves upon the mind. While certain similarities in the 
historic development of the five test civilizations may be 
assumed to have occurred — and of this more anon — the 
historic fates of the five groups have evidently been individ- 
ual and particular and have driven them in directions that 
may here and there have reached corresponding levels, with- 
out however lying along the same line of advance. 

From the comparison of the separate aspects of the test' 
civilizations it appears that these also have followed lines 
of development that were essentially disparate. While sim- 
ilarities in historic process in the several instances may here 
be assumed somewhat more readily, it is quite clear that 
distinct features have constantly arisen in the five de- 
velopmental series, features which must be recognized as 
individualized and perhaps unique as well as fitting into dis- 
tinct series of changes. 

Again, there is no parallelism except of a most general 
sort between the different aspects of each civilization. They 
do not, as it were, keep pace with each other. Of course, it 
is clear enough that the density of population in Africa is 
correlated with certain phases of economic development, 
such as markets and roads, and that the latter are correlated 
with the development of the state (compare the functions of 
road building in the life history of Rome) . Also, among the 
Northwest tribes, the art could not have reached its high 
state of elaboration and finish without an adequate com- 


mand of the technique of wood work. But beyond such 
very general, fairly obvious and not very impressive cor- 
relations, the separate elements of civilization seem in each 
case to be driven forward by distinct determinants and to 
display most discrepant features of elaboration and 




In Part I, primitive civilizations were treated in their 
historic wholeness, such as they appear in their territorial 
homes. In Part II, which follows, early civilization 
will be separated into its constituent aspects — economic con- 
ditions and industry, art, religion and society. We know 
how closely correlated are these constituents of civiliza- 
tion. It will, therefore, be understood that the singling 
out of the separate aspects is a highly artificial process; 
but it is essential for purposes of analysis. In the course 
of our treatment of each of the various aspects of civiliza- 
tion, however, it will often prove useful to throw side 
glances at the relations that obtain between a particular 
aspect and some of the others. 

This comparative survey of early industry and art, re- 
ligion and society, will also enable us to visualize more 
clearly those peculiarities of civilization which are charac- 
teristic of early conditions as well as the other phases in 
which the modern and the primitive represent but variants 
of the common-human. 



The Economic Adjustment 

Man came into the world naked. He had no tools nor 
weapons. For shelter he had to use caves, or, if these were 
not available, trees ; and when pressed by danger, he would 
climb these, for this without doubt he could do. His only 
means of transport on land were his two legs, and to cross 
streams he had to wade or swim, where that was possible. 
He knew no arts and his food he had to take where he found 
it. His diet was largely vegetarian, although supplemented 
here and there by whatever meat could be secured from dead 
animals upon which he might stumble, if lucky. Nature 
was not always kind to him, and he was the inferior of many 
wild creatures in size, in strength, in speed, in the sharpness 
of his senses and in the natural weapons of offence and 

But withal, he proved more than amply equipped to cope 
with the situation. His strength was considerable. In 
his hands he possessed an organ of great usefulness from the 
beginning, and of unlimited future potentialities. He had 
the power of speech, which proved of immense practical 
use and a source of great emotional satisfaction even before 
it developed into an incomparable organ for the expression 
and the moulding of thought. And, most important of all, 
his skull harbored a brain the like of which in complexity 
could not be found among the many creatures on land or 
in the sea. Also, in proportion to his size, his brain was 
much larger and heavier than that of any other animal, 
leaving far behind even the relatively large brain of the 
anthropoid apes. This amazing organ enabled him to 
gather up individual experiences with great rapidity and 
store them away for future reference. Moreover, his brain 



soon revealed a capacity to generalize or abstract from in- 
dividual experiences, and thus to make wonderful shortcuts 
through the infinite variety of necessary adjustments. To 
cap it all, man brought with him into the world a reason- 
able amount of inquisitiveness and originality. 

Thus equipped by Nature, man provided two solutions to 
the problem of life. One solution was industry, the other, 
supernaturalism. Still far from controlling Nature, animate 
or inanimate, man achieved by means of industry specific 
adjustments to local environmental conditions. When these 
adjustments reached a certain degree of complexity and 
smoothness, they became stabilized, resulting in an equili- 
brium between natural conditions and the things and pro- 
cesses of industry. This equilibrium, while never wholly 
immobile, was on the whole remarkably stable, persisting, 
with slight variations, for long periods of time. The in- 
dustrial adjustments to nature were, speaking generally, 
satisfactory, and brought a reasonable amount of security, 
comfort and happiness. 

But industry left many desires unfulfilled, many questions 
unanswered, and Nature, after all, uncontrolled. Here 
supernaturalism stepped in. It placed man into an emo- 
tional rapport with Nature, it provided him with a system of 
interpreting phenomena, in other words, it gave him a world 
view, and it realized all his desires, for in the realm of super- 
naturalism the wish and the idea became objective realities. 

Leaving supernaturalism for later consideration, we may 
now return to the industrial realm of objectivity and mat- 

After a more or less extended period of painful malad- 
justment, according to local conditions, man solved one by 
one all the basic problems of economic existence. He in- 
vented weapons and tools, traps, snares and nets. Thus 
hunting, fishing and the art of war were added to his equip- 
ment. Having discovered ways of making fire, he was able 
to warm himself in case of need, to keep away wild animals 
and to cook his food on hot coals placed in a hole in the 


ground or by means of stones heated on the fire and then 
thrown into a vessel with water. Such vessels and other re- 
ceptacles multiplied rapidly, some were of stone, some pots 
of clay, others were woven baskets or even boxes of wood. 
Man now lived in tents, wigwams, earth lodges, wooden or 
bark houses or houses made of snow. Transportation 
on water was effected by means of rafts, bull boats, canoes 
and boats. On land, man invented the sledge and the tra- 
vois long before he came to employ the services of animals, 
excepting only the dog. He alone very early became man's 
companion and was used as watchdog, as draught animal 
and as hunting companion. The furs and skins of animals 
came to be used for garments, the covering of tents and 
for other purposes. 

But we must cut short the enumeration, for this com- 
posite picture of early economics, if carried out in detail, 
would fill the pages of this book. 

In connection with the industrial life of early man a num- 
ber of features are of special interest : the peculiarities of 
geographical distribution, the division of labor and the 
development of property. A few paragraphs are due to 
each of these. 

A glance at the geographical distribution of industries 
and of the objects of material culture serves to reinforce the 
conclusions reached in the "Reflections to Part I." The 
making of the basic economic adjustments has everywhere 
led to the development of tools, weapons, garments, shelters, 
means of transportation, vessels. But as soon as one tries 
to particularize, the distribution of an object or device thus 
defined, narrows down. Some economic pursuits, objects 
inventions, are then found distributed over vast continuous 
areas, others in less vast and discontinuous ones, while some 
things or processes prove indigenous to small districts. 

To illustrate : the bow and arrow is found almost every- 
where in the primitive world, excepting only Australia, but 
particular kinds of bows, shapes of arrow points, methods 
of attaching feathers to the arrow (if there are any), or 


ways of releasing it, differ from district to district. Tents 
are found in many places, but the tipi, with its peculiar 
shape and construction, is at home in the Plains and some 
adjoining areas. Similarly, the bark house (as among the 
Iroquois), the earth lodge (as among the Omaha), the 
adobe pueblo of the Southwest, the gabled board house 
(as among the Northwest tribes), the snow house (of the 
Eskimo), the semi-subterranean house (as among the in- 
terior Salish of British Columbia), have each their areas of 
distribution, with considerable overlapping. Later we shall 
examine a map of African huts^ revealing a similar situation. 
Some types of dwellings are rare and peculiar to restricted 
localities, as for example, the pile dwellings of northern 
Melanesia and New Guinea or the tree houses — houses 
built on the branches of trees — of some Philippine tribes or 
the African natives about Lake Tchad. 

It is similar with water transportation. In North Amer- 
ica we find the balsa of California, the bark canoe of the 
East and that of the West — two distinct types — the bull 
boat of the village Indians, the gigantic dugouts of the 
Northwest, the kayak and woman's boat of the Eskimo. 
And in the South Sea area there is the crude bark canoe of 
Australia, the dugout with one or two outriggers of Mel- 
anesia — distributed throughout Indonesia but not elsewhere 
— the dugout with built-up sides of boards of the Solomon 
Islands, and the gigantic and technically admirable war 
dugouts of the Polynesians. 

If space permitted, equally impressive distributions could 
be shown for a multiplicity of other objects and processes 
of industry.^ 

As one surveys these geographical aspects of industry, the 
impression becomes irresistible that individual objects of 
material culture and even industrial processes travel from 
tribe to tribe as fairly independent units, concerning them- 
selves very little with the behavior of the other aspects of 

"See p. 304. 

^For notes on the distributions of pottery and agriculture and the forms 
of dress in North America' and Africa, see pp. 302-305. 


culture or even of other material objects. How else could 
the individualized distributions be explained? 

At the same time, there is a noticeable tendency for things 
and ways of making or using things to become grouped in 
sets within certain limited areas. Thus, in North America, 
for example, the so-called culture areas are most clearly 
characterized by their material traits, whether objective or 

If we apply the idea of economic adjustment to this sit- 
uation, it can be readily explained. When a tribe strikes 
a new physical environment, it works out an adjustment to 
the latter by means of a set of economic pursuits and of ob- 
jects and processes of material culture. But this adjustment 
is always one of a number of possible ones ; it is thus not by 
any means determined by the physical conditions. When 
an adjustment to the environment is made, an equilibrium 
established, it is not easily dislodged. The material culture 
of a tribe then develops a decided aversion to changes 
or even improvements, whether these originate within the 
group or are brought in from the outside. Also, an adjust- 
ment of this sort tends to spread to a wider area than that of 
its original home, following the lines of relatively similar 
environmental conditions. Beyond this its spread does not 
extend, except in the form of individual features which, as 
shown above, travel about with considerable freedom.^ 

An important cultural phenomenon which is equally prom- 
inent in all civilization, primitive or modern, and stands out 
with especial clearness in the domain of material culture, 
is the division of labor. It need not be discussed at this 
point, as illustrations have already been provided in the 
descriptive sketches of Part I, and the subject will be 
taken up again in later sections of this book.^ 

'C/. Wissler's suggestive descriptions of the material cultures of the 
areas in his "Material Cultures of the North American Indians," American 
Anthropologist, Vol. XVI, 1914, pp. 449-465. See also p. 312, note. 

^ote the interesting formulation along similar lines by Wissler in his 
"Aboriginal Maize Culture as a Typical Culture-Complex," American Jour- 
nal of Sociology, Vol. XXI, 1916, pp. 656-663. 

'See the remarks on "The Disabilities of Women," pp. 259-264, and the 
discussion of Laufer's "The Potter's Wheel," pp. 317-319. 


Material culture, again, is the birthplace of most ideas 
connected with property. It is regrettable that only a few 
paragraphs can be devoted here to this basic feature of 

Contrary to a common assumption, both individual and 
communal property exist wherever man is found. Objects 
of wearing apparel, unless ceremonial in nature, tools and 
weapons, are everywhere owned by individuals. Frequently, 
although not invariably, they are also made by the owner. 
This obviously does not apply to clothes which, whether in- 
tended for men or women, are almost always made by the 
latter. Communal property usually extends to things of 
common use, as the agricultural fields in North America, 
the hunting and fishing territories of many peoples and 
places, and the like. 

A point of greatest importance for the understanding of 
early civilization is this : in primitive life ideas of property 
are not restricted to material things but extend with the 
greatest facility to functional and spiritual matters. Myths, 
dances, prayers, songs, medicinal practices, guardian spirits, 
ceremonies, designs, cries, are "owned" in no less real a 
way than are material things. And here again both indi- 
vidual and communal ownership is encountered. 

When a man (or woman) owns valuable material things 
or other prerogatives, he likes to feel that some, if not all 
of these precious possessions will remain in the hands of 
those close by, relatives or intimates. The close associates 
or blood relatives of individuals who own things, are equally 
eager to know that some day they Will enjoy at least in part 
the advantages of these fortunate ones, which are for the 
time being out of their reach. Out of this psychological sit- 
uation there arose a tendency for the inheritance of property 
and prerogatives, which in crude forms is found everywhere 
and assumes fixed as well as complicated aspects in many 
early communities, as for example, among the tribes of 

'An excellent recent sketch of early ideas about property will be found 
in Lowie's "Primitive Society," Chapter IX, "Property." 


the Northwest Coast of America, the inhabitants of the 
Malay Archipelago and throughout the extent of the South 
Sea cultures. And, once more, property and prerogatives 
are inherited by individuals and by groups, such as families, 
clans and religious societies.^ 

Applied Knowledge 
Kwakintl Industry 

We have seen that woodwork is the great industry of 
the Northwest Coast. It is therefore not surprising to find 
that the Kwakiutl display much accurate knowledge and 
craftsmanship in the selection of materials, the making of 
tools, and the utilization of these for the manufacture of 
objects. One tool that is constantly used is the wedge. The 
making of wedges is described by Boas as follows : 

"Wedges are made of yew-wood. One man bends a small 
yew-tree to the ground, and another one cuts it through at 
the bend with a gritstone which is kept wet. The tree gen- 
erally snaps before it is cut half through. Then the 
branches are removed, and the tree is cut with gritstones into 
pieces of the desired length. The points of these pieces 
are next burned off to harden them, and are rubbed down 
with water on a large slab of sandstone. The burning of 
the wood prevents it from warping. When the point is 
ground down, the lower side of the wedge is given a steeper 
slant than the upper one ; so that when driven into a hori- 
zontal log, the wedge stands slanting upward. In other 
cases the wedge is ground down on one side only, and the 
sides are flattened down by chopping with an adze or by 
grinding. The tip of the wedge also generally tapers down 
from the sides. The butt-end is tapered down slightly, and 
is then provided with a ring made of cedar-withes. After 
the ring has been fastened on to the wedge, the butt-end is 

'As an illustration of how early property, however extensive, does not 
always mean what it means to us, see the discussion of the potlatch, pp. 59-61, 


sometimes rubbed against a wetted gritstone until it is quite 
flat. Generally, however, it is battered down on a stone 
slab. Wedges for splitting boards are always made in 
sets of seven pieces, the longest of which is four spans 
long, while the others decrease in length to about two spans 
and a half or less. Other wedges are made for hollowing 
out canoes. These are made of crooked pieces of yew- 
wood, which are bent so as to conform to the inner curva- 
ture of the canoe. They are ground down to a point on the 
concave side."^ 

The red cedar wood is used most frequently for making 
planks for houses, canoes and boxes. A moss covered trunk 
is usually selected because this generally contains the best 
wood. Before using the tree, the workman makes a small 
hole in it with a long-handled chisel. This process, called 
"feeling into the tree," is used to test its soundness. The 
wood of fallen trees is said to be softer and more easily 
split; it is therefore used for making boards and boxes. 
Roof beams are made of course-grained cedars because 
these do not catch fire easily. Fine-grained cedar, on the 
other hand, is used for canoes because it does not split 
easily. In olden times planks were cut from standing trees : 
"In the butt-end of the tree, on the side that has no branches, 
a hole was cut, in which a fire was started, and carefully 
guarded, that it should not spread upward. The charcoal 
was scraped out of the hole with a stick of hemlock-wood, 
and the wood above the hole was kept wet by means of a 
long stick wrapped with hemlock-branches. After this hole 
had been made at the butt-end the workman would climb the 
tree to a height of about three or four fathoms. There 
he would work, standing on the branches of a small tree 
that had been pulled over so that it leaned against the 
trunk of the large tree on which he was working. Two 
places about one cubit apart were cut out of the trunk of 
the tree with stone axes, and the intervening wood was 
wedged out. In this manner a deep cut was made. It is 

'Boas, "The Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island," p. 323. 


said that sometimes this upper cut was also burnt out; but 
this was probably not done very often, because the fire 
makes the wood brittle. Then planks were split off with 
wedges between these two deep cuts."^ 

At present the planks are cut from a felled tree by a 
somewhat different method, seven wedges of different length 
being used to split them off. During this process great care 
is taken to preserve the uniform thickness of the boards. 
A number of devices must be employed to achieve this end. 

"After the top of the log has been split off, it is thrown 
down and laid flat side upward, the upper end resting on 
a log. Then the thickness of the first plank to be split off 
is marked on the end of the log. It is made three finger- 
widths thick. The plane of this plank never runs quite 
parallel to the first plane of splitting, because the stresses 
in the wood, owing to the change in its position, run nearly 
parallel with the surface of the first plank. Therefore the 
thickness of the second plank is marked only two finger- 
widths under the last line of division. If in splitting this 
plank the plane of separation should begin to dip downward, 
the upper surface of the log is loaded with logs and stones. 
Then the plane of separation rises again. If, on the other 
hand, it turns upward, the tree is turned over, and the 
weight of the wood changes the inner stresses so as to 
cause the plane to dip down again. The longest planks that 
are thus cut are three fathoms and a half long. When 
planks are split from a horizontal log, the split face of which 
lies upward, the outer margins of the planks always turn 
downward, so that the upper side of the plank is convex 
near its sides, while the lower side is concave."* 

Fig. 26 
Boas, "The Kwakiutl, etc.," p. 331 

'Ibid. p. 328. 
'Ibid, p. 329. 


Great skill is displayed in bending wood. Thus, the sides 
of boxes are made of one board which is bent over to form 
the corners (see Fig. 26). "A cut is made in the wood at 
right angles to the surface of the plank. Then the wood is 
shaved off from the right-hand side so that the surface slants 
down to the deep cut. After these have been made, a shal- 
low groove is made on the opposite side of the plank. After 
these grooves have been made, the board is placed in hot 
water or steam and put between two level planks, which are 
weighted with stones. Thus it is left over night. When 
it is taken out on the following morning, the plank is per- 
fectly level. When the wood is to be bent at the kerf, a 
little ditch as wide as the board is dug in the ground. 
Stones are heated and put into the ditch. Then fresh kelp 
is placed on the hot stones and is sprinkled with water. 
Then the board is placed across the kelp with the shallow 
groove downward. Sometimes the deeper kerf is covered 
with moss or soft cedar-bark, upon which hot water is 
dripped. Then that side of the plank which is to be bent 
up is grasped with a pair of tongs, while the other side is 
held down by a stick placed near the kerf. One man steps 
on this stick, while the other one, who holds the board in the 
tongs, bends it over slowly, so that the shallow groove 
forms the outer, convex side of the angle. The pressure on 
the stationary part of the board prevents the breaking of 
the outer fibres of the wood."^ 

Another equally remarkable process characteristic of the 
entire area is sewing wood whenever two pieces are to be 

The preparation of fish-hooks is also of great interest. 
The following is a close translation of the Indian text : 

"When the fisherman gets ready, when he first goes to 
fish red cod, he takes a branch of driftwood of fir and splits 
it into four pieces. The length of each is one span of our 
fingers and four finger-widths. Then he shaves them so that 

Vijrf, p. 331. 

"For a description of this interesting device see Boas, ibid, pp. 334-337. 


they are thin and round. As soon as he has finished, he 
takes kelp and puts into it the split branches which are to 
be the four (branch) hooks for cod. He has also four 
pieces of kelp. When night comes, he digs a hole in the 
ashes of his fire and puts into it the four pieces of kelp in 
which the (branch) hooks for red cod are. Then he covers 
them over and leaves them the whole length of the night 
until morning. As soon as he finishes covering them over, 
he takes a short board and carves out a rounded mould the 
same thickness ^s the thickness of the (branch) hook for 
the red cod, and the carved mould has the same depth as 
the size of the hook that is to be made. After he has 
finished four of them, he puts them away. 

"Now he is ready, when day comes the next morning. In 
the morning, as soon as day comes, he digs up what has 
been covered over, and he rips open the pieces of kelp 
while they are still warm, and he takes the round branches 
and bends them into the carved moulds in the short board, 
and he pushes them into it. He does so with all four of 
them. As soon as he has finished, he puts them away in a 
cool place in the house; and when they get cold, he takes 
his hooks and takes them out; and he takes tallow (of the 
deer) and chews it; and when it is soft, he heats the hooks 
by the fire; and he only stops heating them when they are 
scorched. Then he rubs them with the tallow, and he puts 
them back again into the place where they had been, into the 
carved moulds in the short board. The reason why he 
puts on tallow is that they become stiff and that they do 
not open again. The next day, when they are cold, he takes 
them out again from the carved moulds in the short board. 
Now the hooks are brittle. 

"Then he takes the hollow-sided bone of the foreleg of 
the elk and breaks it in pieces, and he sharpens thin pieces. 
They become round, and one end is sharp. They are to 
be the bone barbs of the hooks. As soon as he has finished, 
he ties them on to the hooks. He has as his means of 
tying them split spruce-roots. 


"When he has finished, he takes sea-weed from the beach, 
and spruce, and puts them into a small kettle. Then he 
pours salt water over them and puts it over the fire of the 
house. They boil for a long time, and then he takes them 
off. When the water gets cold, he takes his four branch 
hooks and puts them into the kettle. They stay in the ket- 
tle for four days. Then he takes them out and hangs them 
up in the corner of the house."^ 

In their houses the Kwakiutl use heavy logs to support the 
wooden framework. The handling of these with their lim- 
ited mechanical equipment is not an easy task, but the 
Kwakiutl have overcome the difficulties by a number of 
ingenious contrivances. When a house post is to be raised, 

Fig. 27 
Boas, "The Kwakiutl, etc.," p. 338 

(see fig. 27) a hole is dug at the place where the post is to be 
erected, which extends in the form of a slanting ditch toward 
the center of the house. The outside of the hole where the 
post is to stand is protected by heavy planks driven into the 
ground. Then the post is shoved into the hole and is raised 
gradually, being supported by logs of increasing size as it is 
being raised. 

For the raising of the long and heavy roof beam, an- 
other device is employed. The illustration (fig. 28) shows 

^Ibid, pp. 332-333. 


the method employed. When force is applied to the end 
of lever e^ beam c Is raised. At the same time it is 
guided so as to slide along the slanting pole {h). Tem- 
porary support {K) is used to keep (c) in this position. 
Then the parts are readjusted and the process is repeated. 

Fig. 28 
Boas, "The KwakiutI, etc.," p. 339 

When the end of the beam approaches the top of post (a), 
a heavy plank Is tied to the opposite side of the post extend- 
ing above it so as to prevent beam (c) from rolling down 
on the other side. When beam (c) is In place, another 
plank Is tied on the side of post {a) on which the beam 
was rolled up. The opposite side of the beam Is raised in 
a similar way. 

Another description of the making of one type of horn 
spoon is translated by Boas from the native text: 

"Now I win talk about the making of the horn spoon, 
the black spoon. When the head of the mountain-goat is 
taken off, it Is kept in the corner of the house for four days, 
and It Is placed not far from the side of the fire of the 
house; and when the heat of the fire strikes It, the spoon- 
maker turns the head over all the time; and when It gets 
warm, he places it nearer the fire. He watches It all the 
time so that It does not get burnt. When he thinks it is 
warm through and through, he takes hold of the head and 
tries to pull the hair off. When it gets loose, he knows 
that the horns are also loosened. He takes hold of the 
horn with his right hand, and with his left hand he holds 
the nose of the head. Then he twists the horn a little and 
pulls it off. Now the horn has been blown off by the steam. 


He also does the same with the other one. When he has 
them off, he takes his hand-adze and a block of wood and he 
adzes it. He adzes it at the concave side of the horn, 
placing the thick end on the block of woodi in this manner : 

Fig. 29 

As soon as he has it off, he adzes off the 'mouth' of the 
spoon so that it is round, in this manner: 


Fio. 30 

After he has done so, he measures three finger-widths, 
beginning at the top of the horn, and he adzes it so that 
it is notched in this place, and it is in this way when he has 
finished it: 

Fig. 31 

"He puts away his hand-adze and takes his straight-knife. 
In former times the people rubbed them down with rough 
sandstone when they were making black horn spoons. Now 
there is water in a dish, and the man puts it down at his 
left-hand side while he is rubbing the horn. He puts the 
thick end into the water, and he holds it by the small end 
with his left hand. With his right hand he holds a rough 
sandstone and rubs the horn. Nowadays the modern men 
adze it. They shave it down to smooth it after they just 
begin cutting it. After all this, he puts a small kettle half 


full of water over the fire, and he takes two cedar-sticks, 
each one span long and half the thickness of a finger. He 
takes split cedar-bark and ties the ends of the cedar-sticks 
together with the cedar-bark. Then he gets another piece 
of cedar-bafk ready to tie the other end after having put 
the spoon in between. Then it is this way : 

Fio. 33 

(That is, two straight sticks tied loosely together- at one 
end.) When the kettle boils up on the fire, he takes the 
spoon and puts it in. He does not leave it in a long time 
before taking it out again. Then he puts the spoon near 
its 'mouth,' between the cedar-sticks, in this manner, and 
he takes the cedar-bark and ties it on near the end of the 
spoon-spreader into which the spoon is put. He bends back 
the point, and holds it by putting it into cold water, so that 
it sets. Then it does not bend back again, but is kept in 
position as it gets cold. Next he takes off the spoon-opener, 
and he takes dried dog-fish skin and rubs it all over it, so 
that it becomes very smooth inside and outside. When it 
is quite smooth, it is finished. Now the black horn spoon 
is finished after this."^ 

The gathering, preparation and eating of eel-grass is 
described in the following passage : 

"In springtime, when the winter is past, then all the 
women get ready to twist eel-grass .... The man's wife 
who is going to twist eel-grass first takes her eel-grass twist- 
ing paddle and her anchor-line of cedar-bark rope, and also 
her eel-grass twisting hat, for generally they wear a hat 

'Boas, "Ethnology of the Kwakiutl" (35th Report, Bureau of Ethnology, 
pp. 102-104). 


when they twist eel-grass, because generally sea-water 
splashes into their faces when the women pull up the twist- 
ing-stick with the eel-grass twisted around its end. Then 
it splashes into their faces when they wash the eel-grass; 
and therefore (the woman) wears an eel-grass twisting hat. 
She carries down every thing as she goes down to the beach 
to her little old canoe for twisting eel-grass, and she also 
carries her bailer and her eel-grass twisting-stick. She 
launches her small old canoe, and puts into it what I have 
named. When it is all aboard, she sits in the stern of the 
small eel-grass twisting canoe. She takes up her eel-grass 
twisting paddle and paddles, and she goes to a place where 
she knows that there is thick eel-grass and that the eel-grass 
is growing in soft sand. When she arrives at the place 
where the eel-grass is, she takes the cedar-bark rope and 
ties the stone to its end and throws it into the water; and 
when it touches the bottom so that it is vertical, she ties 
it to the stern-seat. After doing so, she takes her twist- 
ing-stick and puts the tip into the water. She pushes it 
down into the sea-water and strikes the sandy bottom where 
there is much eel-grass. Then she begins to twist it. Then 
the eel-grass is twisted around the twisting-stick. When she 
cannot turn the twisting-stick any more, she pulls it up. The 
twisting woman pulls up the twisting-stick. As soon as 
the eel-grass comes in sight, she untwists it to get it off 
from her twisting-stick, and then the eel-grass comes off; 
and she squeezes one span around it, beginning at the 
head-end. That is what we refer to as the roots. She 
washes it in salt water, so that the sand comes off. When it 
is all off, she measures two spans from the upper end of 
the roots, and she breaks off the lower end. When it is all 
off, she puts it in front of herself, and she puts the twist- 
ing-stick back into the water, and she does the same as she 
did before. When she has much of it, the tide rises, for 
they only twist at spring tide. As soon as the tide comes 
up, she hauls up the anchor and goes home; and when she 
arrives at the beach of her house, she gets out of her old 


canoe for twisting eel-grass. She takes out her anchor and 
carries it up ; and when the anchor-line gets taut, she puts it 
down. Then she sends her husband to go and invite his 
tribe to come and peel eel-grass. The man immediately 
obeys his wife. He invites his tribe. When he comes 
back, he clears out his house, and spreads the mats around 
for those who are going to peel the eel-grass to sit down on. 
As soon as he has done so, he takes his oil-dishes and oil 
and brings them, so that they are ready. Then those who 
are to peel the eel-grass come in; and when they are all 
inside, the man asks the young men of his numaym^ to go 
and carry up the eel-grass. Immediately the young men go 
and carry it up. They carry it into the house and put it 
down in front of those who are to peel it. The man takes 
the oil and pours it into the oil-dishes; and when the oil 
is in every one, (the young men) place them in front of 
those who are to peel the eel-grass, at the outer side. There 
are four men to each oil-dish. Then the eel-grass is scat- 
tered in front of those who are to peel it. When this is 
done, the men take up four pieces of eel-grass and pluck off 
the small roots. When they are all off, they peel off the 
leaves of the tail-end. They begin at the upper end of the 
thick root; and when they have peeled it as far as the 
soft part in the middle of the eel-grass, they do the same 
with the other three pieces. When this has been done with 
all of them, they put the roots together so that they are 
three finger-widths in length, and then they break them off ; 
and they break them off again so that they are all the same 
length, in this manner: 

Fig. 33 

"Subdivision" of the tribe. A, A, G. 


Then there are eight pieces in all. They tie them to- 
gether with the leaves, in this manner : 

Fig. 34 

and they hold them at i. Then they dip (the bundle) into 
the oil and eat it, and all the others do the same. After they 
have finished eating, they pick up what they did not eat 
and go out of the house ; and they go into their houses and 
put down in front of their wives the eel-grass that they have 
taken along. They never drink water before they go out 
and when they go into their houses. That is the eel-grass 
peeling feast given to many tribes, for it is the food of the 
first people in the time of the first Indians of the mythical 
period. Therefore an eel-grass feast is a valuable feast 
given by a man. That is all that is to be said about eel- 
grass, for there is only one way of eating it and of get- 
ting it."^ 

'^Ibid., pp. 510-514. 


INDUSTRY (Continued) 

Applied Knowledge (Continued) 

Hopi Pigments 

Another example of applied experience and technical 
mastery is supplied by the Hopi handling of pigments. 
In their ceremonies the Hopi require a large set of colors, 
to which they ascribe symbolic significance. Colors are used 
for the costumes of the participants, the ceremonial para- 
phernalia, the bodily decoration of priests, and most of all, 
the designs in color on the sand and the painting of the 
katcinas, doll-like representations of supernatural beings. 

Space does not permit to discuss here the elaborate and 
often beautiful designs made on the ground by permitting 
narrow streams of different colored sand to fall from the 
hand over the surface of the ground, thus forming designs.^ 

Stephen enumerates some thirty odd pigments used by 
the Hopi for these various purposes. One pigment known 
as "green bread" is prepared in the following way: 

"About ten ounces of pinon gum Is put in an earthern pot 
and set on the fire, a very little water being poured in to 
keep it from burning and it is then allowed to roast. A 
large basin is set conveniently with about a gallon of water 
in it, and over this basin a yucca sieve is laid, and in the 
sieve a quantity of horse hair, or shredded yucca fibre. 
After the gum has melted and boiled for about ten minutes 
it is poured upon the hair lying in the sieve and allowed to 
strain through into the water, where it accumulates in a 
white mass. The operator then puts about three ounces 

'For illustrations of these sand designs see James Stevenson, "Navajo 
Ceremonial of Hasjelti Dailjis," Bureau of Ethnology, Eighth Report, plates 



of fragments of blue and green copper carbonate into a small 
muller and rubs them Into a pulp, then pours a little water 
in the muller and rubs the pulp into a liquid. He then turns 
to the gum, which is stiff but still pliable, and after kneading 
and stretching it back and forth, doubling and twisting and 
pulHng, it becomes soft and of glistening whiteness. After 
manipulating the gum for about a quarter of an hour, he 
folds it up compactly, dips it lightly in the blue-pulp liquid, 
and puts it back in the roasting pot, which has been filled 
with water, and sets it on the fire to boil. As the water 
heats, the gum melts, and just before it comes to a boil he 
pours in all the blue-pulp liquid, then, as the mixture boils 
he maintains a constant stirring with a long rod. He dips 
up some of the mass from time to time on the rod to examine 
its color, and the longer it boils the darker it grows, and 
after about twenty minutes he takes the jar off the fire, 
pours off the hot water and pours in some cold. He then 
takes the blue-green mass out, and works it around in his 
hands, forming a cake of about eight ounces."^ 

Another pigment called "bright yellow paint" is prepared 
by a priest, as follows : 

"A small fire is made at any convenient court nook, or 
on the roof of a house, and two or three flat stones set on 
edge around it support an earthen pot of about two gallons 
capacity, and about half a gallon of water is poured into it. 
The expert then puts in about two ounces of Si-una, an im- 
pure almogen (alunogen?), rubbing it to a powder between 
his fingers, and in the same way adds about the same quantity 
of tu-wak-ta, a very fine, white calcareous sandstone. He 
stirs frequently with a gourd ladle, and as the mixture boils 
it foams violently, and having subsided, some more of the 
two substances is added, and then as much of the dried 
flowers of the Bigelovia graveolens as can be crowded 
into the vessel, and then enough water to fill it. The con- 
tents are allowed to boil for about half an hour, during 
which they are stirred as much as possible. A yucca sieve 

'A. M. Stephen, "Pigments in Ceremanials of the Hopi," p. 263. 


is placed over a large basin and the contents of the pot 
strained through it, the flowers being squeezed dry and 
thrown away, and there is thus obtained about two quarts 
of a dull, yellow liquid. The process just described is re- 
peated and the infusion is poured back Into the pot, and 
as it again comes to a boil more of the earthy ingredients 
are added in small quantities from time to time. 

"The' tint of the liquid is tested on the skin occasionally; 
should it prove too pale, another vessel is put on the fire 
and another infusion obtained by the process first described, 
enough of which is added to the liquid in the first pot to 
bring it to the desired tint. Should the liquid be too dark, 
more of the mineral substances and water are added. The 
process occupies about four hours and the mixture has then 
boiled away to about a pint, of a bright yellow color and 
pasty consistency, which on drying forms a hard cake."^ 

Tewa Ethnobotany^ 

The way in which knowledge and superficial classifica- 
tion, accurate observation and erroneous interpretation are 
inextricably intermingled in early man's ideas of things In 
nature is well illustrated by the botany of the Tewa. 

The Tewa say that the leaves make the plant grow ; after 
the leaves have fallen, the plant stops growing. In the win- 
ter the tree is not dead, it has merely stopped growing be- 
cause it has no leaves. It remains in this condition until 
the leaves come again. The real function of the root is 
not understood. The Tewa do not know that it takes 
up water, but they say, "The roots have to get wet or the 
plant dies." The tree Is said to sit on its roots and the 
word for root Is the same as for haunches, or the base, bot- 
tom or foot of inanimate objects. The bark protects the 
tree and the word for bark is the same as for skin. The 

'Stephen, ibid, p. 262. 

'This brief sketch is based on the meritorious contribution of John P. 
Harrington and others, "Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians," Bureau of 
American Ethnology, Bulletin 55. 


seed is believed to contain the little plant. "The plant is 
in the seed," said one informant, "but you cannot see it." 

All nouns denoting plants and most nouns denoting parts 
of plants have vegetal gender. While plants are thus sep- 
arated linguistically and conceptually from the rest of nature, 
some other things, for instance a mountain, also have vegetal 
gender. On the other hand, the Tewa observe very closely 
even minute differences in the plants of their region. They 
have, for example, a separate name for every one of the 
coniferous trees in that locality, the differences between 
which are so slight that the average white man readily over- 
looks them. 

Some linguistic classifications tend to mislead the white 
student insofar as they might be taken to imply deeper in- 
sight than the Tewa really possess. Thus, one term is used 
by them for leaves, the petals of flowers and the needles 
of coniferous trees. There is a word for flower or flow- 
ering plant which Is also used figuratively in the sense of 
pretty. Young men use it toward their sweethearts, mean- 
ing "my flower." Women and girls are often designated 
by this term. A cumulus cloud is called "white flower 
cloud." And eagle down is called "eagle flower." There 
is a word for bud which is used for any bud or young sprout, 
whether a flower, leaf or stem. Of a flower bud that has 
not burst, the Tewa say, "The flower is enveloped or cov- 
ered," or "The flower has not yet burst," or "The flower 
is an egg." 

Of all fruits which are green when unripe a term meaning 
green is used when they are in this condition. On the other 
hand, of gourds, squashes, pumpkins, muskmelons and 
watermelons, a term meaning hard is used to indicate ripe- 
ness and one meaning soft to indicate unripeness.^ 

The interest taken in leaves is reflected In the terms used 
about them. Thus there is one term for leaf, another for 

'As the actual condition of these plants in the state of ripeness and 
unripeness is the reverse of that indicated, it seems that the investigator 
has in this case misuDderitpod iht situation. 


leaf surface, still another for leaf edge, as well as terms 
for leaf point, leaf vein (or fibre) , leaf juice (or water) and 
leaf stem. Even more instructive as revealing the minute 
attention paid to leaves are the terms describing the sur- 
faces of leaves, there being terms for smooth, shiny, rough, 
ridged, grooved, veined, hairy, course haired, downy or 
fluffy, prickly, thorny and sticky. 

The words for color are white, black, red, yellow, blue, 
watery green, brown and grey, with the corresponding 
nouns, but there is no word meaning color. To find out the 
color of a man's horse, one asks, "How is your horse?" 
and if that is not definite enough, the question follows, "Is 
it red or is It white?" 

There is a word for grass. It may be used for all true 
grasses and grasslike plants.^ 

These descriptive sketches of Kwakiutl industry, of the 
preparation of Hopi pigments and of the botanical stock- 
in-trade of the Tewa, bring evidence of the possession and 
utilization of knowledge. These, however, are but dis- 
jointed fragments of what is in fact an incoherent and dis- 
organized but, withal, enormous stock of concrete informa- 
tion amassed by early man in the course of his contact with 
things and utilized by him for his purposes. 

Without devoting to this important aspect of the life of 
primitive man the space it deserves, we might roughly 
indicate the range of his command of objective data which 
the study of early civilization discloses. The pursuits of 
hunting, fishing and the gathering of the wild products of 
nature imply an ever increasing familiarity with the shapes, 
qualities and habits of animals and plants. The utilization 
of these animals and plants or of parts of them for food, 

'A similarly instructive sketch on "The Ethnozoology of the Tewa In- 
dians" by the same author is available (Bureau of Atnerican Ethnology, 
Bulletin $6). 


for clothing, for shelter, involves further knowledge, re- 
vealed everywhere, of at least the principal anatomical 
elements of animals and of the properties of plants, such 
as durability, greater or less resistance to water, pliability, 
hardness, and the like. The familiarity with animal life 
often goes further than this, rules being passed against the 
killing of young animals, and periods of the hunt being 
adjusted to the seasons of the maximum availability of a 
particular species. It goes without saying that the two later 
achievements, the cultivation of plants and the domestica- 
tion of animals, involve processes in the course of which this 
knowledge of the static and dynamic qualities of the rep- 
resentatives of the two great domains of nature becomes 
vastly extended. 

Another important addition to knowledge, involving of- 
ten detailed information utilized with minute care, is im- 
plied in the industrial field. The properties of the ma- 
terials used become known and the knowledge is judiciously 
applied. Where wood is used for building, different quali- 
ties or ages of trees are selected for particular objects or 
parts of objects. In the making of baskets more pliable 
materials are utilized where needed, while at points where 
greater strength is required, such as the bottom or the 
edges, tougher materials are used. The scraping, tanning 
and sewing of skins, implies a multiplicity of detailed points 
of utilized knowledge. And the same, of course, applies 
to the processes of cooking, as revealed, for example, in 
Boas' impressive collection of recipes of the Kwakiutl cook- 
ing art. The same applies to the often elaborate processes 
involved in the chipping and flaking of stone, in weaving, 
spinning, carving and, as in Africa, smelting and casting 
of metals. 

The art of the preparation of poisons is encountered 
among the lowest tribes, such as the Bushmen and the pyg- 
mies of Central Africa, who have for long been able to pre- 
serve the independence of their relatively low civilizations 
at the points of their poisoned arrows. The curative proper- 


ties of certain plants have been discovered in early times, 
and everywhere the art of the doctor-magician is supple- 
mented, not infrequently in the same person, by that of the 
practical pharmacologist. 

Not the least conspicuous chapter in the primitive book 
of knowledge is that referring to man himself. Many 
unprejudiced travelers and all ethnologists have noted the 
very satisfactory understanding of human nature observable 
among primitive tribes. In war and in council, in the popu- 
lar wisdom expressed in proverbs, as in Africa, in leader- 
ship — whether that of the chief or that of the priest — 
there is revealed the same shrewd understanding of man by 
man, false in part, but in part true, which is equally char- 
acteristic of modem life and is only raised to a higher power 
among those who make man a specialty, our great writers. 

As one surveys this vast field of concrete, objective, mat- 
ter-of-fact knowledge and performance, he is tempted to 
identify early man with his modern brother, thus discredit- 
ing, once and for all, the theory of the magic-ridden savage 
of primitive days. 

At this point we must call halt to the over-sympathetic 
inquirer, for critical thought and a sober outlook upon things 
is quite foreign to early man. He sees straight and hears 
straight, with a sure hand he fashions his tools and applies 
them to the manufacture of articles of use and adornment, 
with much common sense and shrewdness and great physical 
adeptness he handles the plants, animals and humans of 
his environment. But he does not think straight; at least 
not when it comes to explanations and hypotheses. And 
what is a world view but a set of explanations and hy- 
potheses? The world view of early man is supernaturalism. 
How did it come, then, that such vast stores of cold fact, 
that so much common sense and perspicacity and shrewdness 
should have left practically untouched that all-important 
aspect of primitive thought which refers to the interpreta- 
tion of phenomena? The answer to this query cannot be 
fully given here. Briefly we shall deal with it in the last 


paragraphs of this book. Here only a few additional re- 
marks may be permitted. 

In brief, then, the early system of knowledge is a highly 
pragmatic system.^ It is semi-automatic, as it were, being 
translated in terms of behavior without becoming a field 
of contemplation on its own account. Thus, while there is 
knowledge there Is no Inquiry, while there Is common sense, 
there is no critical thought, while there Is expertness there 
Is no professional addiction to investigation.^ The art of 
drawing abstract conceptual inferences from a mass of com- 
parable data is as yet unlearned, the habit of testing hy- 
potheses as to their truth not their utility, as yet unformed. 

Additional light can be thrown on this problem of early 
knowledge by a glance at invention as revealed in the pro- 
ducts of industry. 


There is one mental process, still practical to be sure, 
but distinctive In Its nature, the operation of which Is at- 
tested to by the material reviewed In the two preceding 
sections. It is Invention. In the devices used for the hunt- 
ing and ensnaring of animals and the catching of fish, in 
the conveyances employed for transportation by land and 
by water, in the building of houses, boats, canoes and rafts, 
in the making of pots and the weaving of baskets, in spin- 
ning and sewing and the tanning of skins, in the preparation 
and utilization of tools and weapons, there Is abundant 
evidence of the inventive operation of the early mind. 

'A curious side light is thrown on some well-known tenets of the prag- 
matic philosophy by this intellectual insolvency of the primitive mind. 
Knowledge, when acquired and used mainly as a guide to conduct, not as 
valuable on its own account, does not bring forth those fruits of compre- 
hension and enlightenment which are the prize of a more detached attitude. 

'The only type of specialization in knowledge which primitive society 
reveals is exhibited in the individuals whom one might designate as pro- 
fessional gossips. They are the ones who make it a point to know all there 
is to be known of the traditions, myths, customs, and personal episodes of 
the group. The almost invariable presence of such individuals in primitive 
communities is a relatively recent discovery of ethnologists. To the enquir- 
ing student these human archives prove of the greatest use. 


An invention, on its objective side, represents a novel com- 
bination of things and processes in such a way as to achieve 
a desired result. On its psychological side, an invention is 
the utilization in thought of the discovered properties of 
things and processes in such a way as to produce the objec- 
tive invention. 

The extent to which discoveries and the utilization of dis- 
coveries, which is invention, go hand in hand, especially 
in primitive society, is not always realized. To bring home 
this point it may prove useful to enumerate some features 
of primitive industry which one would class as inventions. 
The making of fire by means of friction is an invention. 
The friction may be produced by a sawing motion in which 
two pieces of wood are utilized, or by the revolution of a 
stick in a cavity in a board, the revolutions being produced 
by a rapid reciprocating motion of the two palms between 
which the stick is held. The pump drill of the Iroquois and 
of other tribes and the bow drill of the Eskimo Involve addi- 
tions to this in the form of further inventions, by means of 
which the continuity of the revolutions is secured and the 
speed increased. Numerous elements in a boat or a canoe 
are inventions: the long and narrow shape, the keel (If 
there is one), the attachment of the oars, as in the Eskimo 
woman's boat, the oar itself, or the paddle with its long 
handle and Its broad blade by means of which the resistance 
of the water is translated into propelling motion, the prin- 
ciple of the sail which fulfills a similar function with refer- 
ence to the air or wind. Further inventions are repre- 
sented by the hook, which is used for catching fish in almost 
all areas where fishing Is found; the barbs on arrows and 
spears; the spear thrower which adds a leverage to the 
arm and enhances the strength and accuracy of the thrust; 
the composite harpoon of the Eskimo with its ball and socket 
device and the detachable point; the composite bow of the 
same people, with Its reinforcing bone attachments, some 
of which give greater strength, others greater elasticity to 
the weapon; the use of feathers on arrows and the spiral 


attachment of these which is encountered in many tribes; 
the employment of the lever, two examples of which were 
cited from the Kwakiutl; the principle of release which is 
utilized in so many traps; the method of bending and of 
sewing wood which is current among the tribes of the North- 
west Coast; the preparation of bark by beating, soaking 
and drying so as to fit it for the making of wearable mate- 
rials ; and so on, through the wellnigh endless series of primi- 
tive inventions. All of these refer to very primitive condi- 
tions, for no mention was made of those other numerous 
inventions implied in the domestication of animals, the cul- 
tivation of plants, the origination of the wheel, etc., etc. 

The term invention is usually applied only to objects or 
devices, but it must be extended to cover processes even 
though these may be executed by the hands alone. The pot 
maker, the basket weaver, the wood carver, all employ cer- 
tain sets of motions thus to achieve with speed and accuracy 
the desired technical results. These motions are often 
highly complicated and not by any means easily learned. 
Such complexes of motions, designated by Boas "motor^ 
habits," must be regarded as inventions, inventions m a 
purely dynamic level. If the hand and the object worked 
upon are conceived as a temporarily mobile mechanism, 
the movements of the hand represent the dynamic principle 
which make the mechanism work in order to achieve the 
desired result, namely, the transformation of the material 
into the finished article. This dynamic principle, the move- 
ments of the hand, always works poorly while the process 
is a new one. The development of a so-called technique 
consists in the establishment of motor habits which com- 
prise a series of dynamic adjustments, discovered In the 
course of the process itself and deliberately or automatically 
utilized while the technique is being improved. These dyna- 
mic adjustments, when first made, are inventions. The 
same principle applies even when the results achieved are 
purely dynamic, as for example, in the wielding of a weapon 
or the paddling of a canoe. 


Like everything else, motor habits become fixed and 
standardized, and are taught as elements of established 
techniques when the young are instructed in industrial pur- 
suits by their elders. But it must also be remembered that 
every craftsman inevitably makes some individual adjust- 
ments, and that the expert craftsman becomes one largely 
by dint of such individual additions to the technical process, 
by dint, that is, of a new set of dynamic inventions which 
are incorporated in his motor habits. 

Now all of these inventions, whether static or dynamic, 
either were discoveries or were preceded by discoveries. 
Heat or even fire must have been produced by friction ac- 
cidentally before friction was utilized deliberately to produce 
fire, and most likely the accident of discovery also suggested 
the method used, such as rubbing one board against another 
with a sawing motion or revolving a stick in a cavity in 
a board. The shapes of boats and canoes represent, with- 
out doubt, a prolonged process of non-deliberate trial and 
error in the course of which certain shapes proved more 
satisfactory for the attainment of speed and safety. The 
composite harpoon never could have been originated except 
through accidental and repeated discoveries of the imperfect 
working of a spear under the required conditions, and what 
could have suggested the detachable point but the repeated 
and disastrous breaking of the spear? And so on with the 
other inventions. It can scarcely be doubted that other 
factors, some perhaps of a religious or magical nature, may 
have contributed to certain practical inventions or to the 
antecedent discoveries as, for example, in the case of the 
feathered arrow where, as Wundt suggests,^ the analogy 
with the bird brought to mind by the flight of the arrow may 
have first led to the attaching of feathers. This is, of 
course, purely speculative, although psychologically feasible. 
The tendency to call upon such extraneous motives to ac- 
count for discoveries or inventions can, however, be easily 
exaggerated, for the objective conditions of matter-of-fact 

'See p. 352. 


procedure usually suffice to account for the discoveries made. 

The preceding sketch reveals both the scope and the limi- 
tation of primitive invention. That the invention itself 
was always deliberate cannot be doubted, although in many 
instances it may have consisted in nothing but a deliberate 
reproduction of a discovery. In more complicated inven- 
tions a number of such inventions were combined to achieve 
the desired result, but such complicated inventions were 
doubtlessly made one by one, with perhaps considerable pe- 
riods of time separating each succeeding improvement. 
However that may be, early man deserves credit for ingenu- 
ity and originality at least in the utilization and combina- 
tion of discovered properties and processes. 

At the same time, it is easy to exaggerate the amount and 
overestimate the worth of the mental effort involved in 
early inventions. For each new step of innovation is but 
a slight one. It is directly controlled by the disclosure of 
an error or imperfection or by an accidental discovery of a 
process or principle that might be introduced to enhance 
the effectiveness of a given device. There is no evidence 
that any individuals in early life devoted themselves profes- 
sionally or exclusively to the making of such inventions, and 
although it must be assumed that men in these old days 
differed in inventive ability as they do now, the scope for 
the exercise of such ability was limited. It would there- 
fore be incorrect to think in this connection of mental visions, 
of bold flights of the imagination, the presence of which al- 
lies the mental activities of some modern inventors to the 
creativeness of the philosopher, the scientist or the artist.^ 

'This distinction between invention in the narroiver sense, that is, 
mechanical invention and creativeness, is not usually understood. Even 
today the vast majority of mechanical inventions imply a mental process 
that is highly pragmatic and involves a minimum of imaginative elements. 
The problem is to make a thing work, and this is achieved by the manipula- 
tion of established mechanical principles and on the background of other 
known mechanical devices for the accomplishment of the same or similar 
tasks. All such inventions are highly pragmatic in character and the 
fundamental processes involved are radically distinct from philosophic, 
scientific or artistic creativeness, which implies imaginative constructs, 
usually, even typically distinguished by their partial or even entire non- 
adjustment to established conditions, excepting those of their own making. 


To return to the element of discovery in inventions, the 
contrast between the primitive and the modern is not as 
great in this particular as might offhand be supposed. Mod- 
ern inventions — speaking primarily of mechanical ones — 
are also, in most instances, applied discoveries. The in- 
novation is not the product of detached mental speculation, 
but is brought into being through the agency of discoveries 
made in the course of experimentation. The difference 
between the modern and the primitive situation lies in the 
nature of the experimental conditions. The modern in- 
ventor, in facing the problem of adding a new function to 
an already complicated machine, is in many ways admirably 
fitted for his task. He is trained in the theory of mechanics, 
which saves him the trouble of many vain attempts: he 
knows the limits within which he must operate. Further, 
he is familiar in minute detail with the nature of the ma- 
chine he is about to improve and with many other similar 
machines of the past and the present. Again, he has a clear 
conception of the particular additional improvement that is 
required of him. And finally, he is furnished the tools of 
experimentation which make it possible for him to condense 
into a relatively short period a tremendous amount of trial 
and error. Under these conditions, the discoveries which 
lead to the invention are practically bound to occur with lit- 
tle delay. That this is so is attested by the financial status 
of such inventors, guaranteed them by their employers, 
men who are not usually notable for the appreciation of de- 
ferred results. 

What modern science, industry and social organization 
make possible in this direction may be illustrated by an 
example from recent history. 

When the aerial activities of the war suggested the de- 
sirability of a radical improvement in aeroplane motors. 
President Wilson charged his Secretary of the Treasury, 
Mr. McAdoo, with the accomplishment of this task. Mr. 
McAdoo, who had had previous experience in engineering 
enterprises, retained two consulting engineers, the brothers 


X and Y, and placed them in a position where they could 
exercise a free hand in the solution of the problem. X and 
Y then summoned three experts, Messrs. A, B and C, each 
one of whom was associated in a consulting capacity with one 
of the great automobile concerns. A was an expert on car- 
buretors, B — on gases, C — on machine designing. These 
gentlemen were made cognizant of the problem before them, 
the requirements to be met including the following speci- 
fications. The weight of the new motor was not to exceed 
i^ or i}i lbs. per h.p. This specification was to obtain 
even if the motor were fed with very low grade gasoline. 
The parts of the motor were to be standardized and made 
interchangeable, so that the motor could be disassembled 
and reassembled under most adverse conditions, and broken 
or otherwise disabled parts could be easily replaced. The 
standardization of the parts of the motor was required as 
a condition for economical mass production. 

The required specifications having been indicated, the ex- 
perts A, B, and C went into consultation in a room of a 
Washington hotel and remained there, their meals being 
served to them, until they had completed in every detail 
the designs for the new motor. For the mechanical require- 
ments of the task a staff of trained designers was placed 
at their disposal. 

When this was accomplished, the engineers X and Y 
"farmed out" the different parts of the motor to a number 
of machine manufacturing concerns, in accordance with 
their special facilities. The parts of the motor were brought 
to Washington and assembled. The motor was then sub- 
jected to the most exacting experimental tests, and more 
than fulfilled all expectations. Certain parts of the motor, 
however, were slightly altered in shape through the stresses 
and strains of the tests, a condition that is inevitable no 
matter how accurate or detailed the theoretical specifica- 
tions. The parts of the motor, in the shape they had thus 
assumed, were then utilized as models for the building of 
tools to be employed In the manufacture of the motor. 


After this was done orders were once more "farmed out" 
to concerns distributed far and wide over the entire coun- 

Achievements such as this are made possible by the sci- 
entific, technical and socio-economic status of modern society. 
As contrasted with this, the conditions for discovery and in- 
vention in early life are very imperfect. The early inventor 
faces his task, the nature of which he knows but imperfectly, 
in a setting that may be described as the very reverse of that 
pictured in the above example. His knowledge of appli- 
ances is limited, his theoretical understanding is nil, and the 
process of trial and error in the course of which he ulti- 
mately achieves his improvement, is irregular, adventitious 
and not deliberately controlled. Thus, the amount of rele- 
vant experience which in the case of the modern inventor is 
condensed into a few weeks of arduous experimentation in 
his laboratory, may, under the conditions of primitive life, 
be stretched out over centuries of effort, failure, disappoint- 
ment, or partial success of hundreds of individuals, until a 
satisfactory adjustment is ultimately made in the form of a 
definitive invention. 

'This history of the "Liberty Motor" is given on the authority of my 
friend, Ralph A. Gleason, an engineer and inventor to whom I owe what- 
ever insight I possess into the nature of the mental processes, often so mys- 
terious to the layman, which result in inventions. 


Art is co-extensive with man. Industrial art appears 
whenever a particular industry is highly developed. 

We have commented on the skill displayed in the tech- 
niques of the potter and the basket maker, the wood carver 
and the worker in stone, bone and horn. It has often been 
observed that many of these objects of primitive industry 
are made much better than is necessary for practical pur- 
poses. In other words, the technical skill involved becomes 
itself a stimulant for the development of still higher skill, 
and when this is the case, the object is not merely well made, 
but also artistically made, for virtuosity and playfulness, 
when held within the bounds of more or less rigid form, are 
art. But technical skill and playing with the elements of 
technique are not the only sources of artistic inspiration in 
industry. The objects of industry present unrivalled oppor- 
tunities for the application of design, color, and carved dec- 
oration. The flat, angular and curved surfaces of boxes, 
houses, boats and pots; the necks and handles of certain 
articles; the borders of garments and mats; the shafts of 
tools and weapons and the edges of all things, call for art. 
Granted the aesthetic impulse and the stimulus derived 
from the technical allurements of industry, it is inevitable 
that these formal peculiarities of industrial objects should 
be seized upon for purposes of artistic embellishment and 

'The domain of art extends to many aspects of early life. There is 
singing and dancing and the mimicking of animals in semi-dramatic per- 
formances; there is poetry and literature, insofar as this name can be 
applied to unwritten stories, myths and traditions; there is also the realistic 
art of the cave in which the Bushmen of South Africa as well as the men 
of paleolithic Europe were such experts. For want of space I shall not deal 
with any of these aspects of art. The domain to which this chapter is 
restricted refers to the artistic work fflor* or less closely connected with 



We say "expression" deliberately, for the primitive ar- 
tist is not by any means as passive an imitator of traditional 
style or pattern as he or she is often represented to be. 
In those areas where careful studies of primitive art have 
been made, as for example, in North America, ethnologists 
constantly observe the great and typical variability of objects 
of art. Not that the tribal style is ever disregarded. The 
opposite is, in fact, invariably the case : the woman em- 
broiderer of the Plains, the man carver of the Northwest 
Coast, the woman potter of the Southwest and embroiderer 
of the Iroquois and Algonquin, work along well established 
lines of technique and design pattern. But within these 
fixed limits there Is infinite variation, often minute, at 
other times radical, which cannot be explained by mere in- 
accuracy of reproduction due to the absence of definite 
measurement, but can only be accounted for by the indi- 
vidual technical aptitude of the artist, the peculiarity of his 
idiosyncrasy or the direction of his playfulness. In the 
Plains, for example, the minute units of the embroidery de- 
signs are combined into a great variety of more complicated 
patterns. New patterns of this kind are constantly origin- 
ated by the women who, in this case, dream the new designs. 
Of course, even these dreamed designs^ always follow cer- 
tain tribal principles of decoration and arrangement of de- 
sign units. But there is room enough left for an unceasing 
variety of detail. 

In the absence of psychological material due to the decay 
of most primitive art or to our inability to communicate 
freely with the artist, much of the psychological nature of 
primitive artcraft must be reconstructed by means of specu- 

'The experience of dreamed designs is not unfamiliar to modern artists 
and designers. This phenomenon seems especially common in those cases 
where the new design or artistic idea does not represent a radical departure 
or a highly individual expression, but consists in a new combination of fixed 
elements. The psychology of dream designs no doubt resolves itself into the 
dependence of the dream for its contents on the waking experience, and 
into the relative freedom of the dream process consequent upon the lifting 
of the controlling intervention of the conscious mind. 

ART 167 

latlve analysis; but not infrequently the suggestiveness of 
the material helps one to overcome this handicap. A mere 
inspection, for example, of a series of designs on Maori 
rafter patterns will convince one beyond the shadow of a 
doubt that the major elements of a whole series of these 
designs consist of combinations and re-combinations of a 
simple curvilinear element, not unlike a large comma, 
which appears in a variety of positions. Clearly the artist 
was deliberately experimenting and playing with the effects 
produced by combining and re-combining this unit design 
in different position. 

Industrial art, which in part at least has grown out of 
materials and processes, never wholly loses its dependence 
upon these technical elements. Not that there are definite 
forms of objects and decoration associated with special ma- 
terials. No, there is no absolute dependence. But the ma- 
terial does set certain limits to the form of the object and 
the character of the art. Pots and vessels made of stone 
do not lend themselves to that elaboration of form in 
curves, with the fine nuances that can be achieved In pots 
made of clay, where the very plasticity of the material, com- 
bined with its resistance, invite further elaboration. The 
larger objects made of stone, such as idols, or the archi- 
tectural structures of Mexico or Peru, are markedly affected 
by the character of the material. Not only do the decora- 
tive elements rest against a ponderous background, but they 
themselves tend to partake of that ponderousness. Wood, 
again, allows of much greater delicacy of technique, includ- 
ing open work or filigree. Not that all wood work has this 
character. The skillful and highly finished art of the North- 
west Coast, for example, lacks just this element of light- 
ness and minute elaboration of detail. The delicate filigree 
work of Melanesia or of the Kamerun, could not be accom- 
plished except in wood, at least not in an early civilization.^ 

'Among historic architectures, Moslem and Gothic have, of course, 
demonstrated what marvels of delicacy and technical minutiae can be 
achieved in spite of the material. 


What is true of the material applies more markedly to 
the technique. The very elements of a technique often con- 
stitute at least a basis for decoration. The grooves left by 
the thumb-nails of the pot maker develop into a fixed dec- 
orative pattern. The rhythm, the angularity and the diag- 
onal character of most basketry technique stamp these char- 
acteristics upon the design. In fact, these elements of them- 
selves create designs which can be brought out, as is so often 
done, by the utilization of strands of different color. 

It must be remembered, however, that the material and 
the technique are not the sole factors determining the design 
elements. More often than not, these media are utilized 
for the representation of a design, realistic or geometrical in 
nature, which pre-exists in the mind of the artist. In all 
such cases, the material, the technique or the form of the 
object are merely operative in affecting in varying degrees 
the nature of the design of which they are made the carriers. 
The basketry technique almost invariably lends a character 
of angularity to any design applied to it. The nature and 
distribution of curves on a pot also react upon the design, 
but less conspicuously so ; while in stone, bone or wood work, 
the material, the technical process and the form of the ob- 
ject also leave a trace on the pattern applied. How varying 
the results can be in this interaction of design and object 
is well illustrated by a comparison between the art of the 
Northwest Coast and that of the Maori. In both cases 
wood is the predominant medium and the decorated objects 
display a great variety of forms. The Indian represents 
in his designs and carvings, various animals and birds in 
a semi-realistic or highly conventionalized form. A con- 
siderable set of features utilized in this process are firmly 
fixed and may serve as differentia of the art, as for ex- 
ample, the application of heavy lines encasing parts of 
the design or emphasizing the features of it, the eccentricity 
of the curves in the so-called eye ornament, and the like. 
But in his attempt to adjust the design to the object, the 
artist is here led to break up the representation into a large 

ART 169 

number of parts which are distributed over the decorative 
surface, preserving only a formal unity of spatial arrange- 
ment. Certain elements of the design being,' as was shown 
before, symptomatic of certain animals or birds, are always 
brought out, and if the space allowed is slight or of pecu- 
liar shape, these design elements will be distorted in a variety 
of ways. The Maori, on the other hand, while also adjust- 
ing the design to the character of the surface and to its 
shape, display a marked independence of these features. 
The decoration on many of their objects makes the impres- 
sion that the artist was unwilling to permit the limitations of 
the decorated surface to affect the nature of the design, ex- 
cept to a slight degree; as a result of this, the design often 
seems to extend beyond the physical limits of the object, or 
to put it differently, only part of the design appears on the 
object. One consequence of this attitude is the disregard 
of proportions in the design in relation to the object. What 
can be represented is represented, the rest is cut off by the 
physical edge of the object. 

Similar phenomena of technical influence appear when 
a design is transferred from one technique to another.^ 

One aspect of primitive decorative art that has aroused 
a great deal of discussion is the fact that it may be realistic 
and geometric, or conventionalized. Quite apart from the 
rare instances of realistic representations of extraordinary 

'In modern days these phenomena can be conveniently studied in the 
domain of fashion. On the one hand, there is the nature of the material. 
Thus stiff materials, such as heavy silk or brocade, call for straight or 
angular lines, soft and thick materials, like velvet and plush, are utilized 
for heavy curves and the effects called "fullness" in the dressmakers' jargon. 
On the other hand, soft, thin and delicate materials, like muslin or crepe, 
are utilized for light and airy features. Again, the change of material 
works its usual effects. There may be a fashion for realistic decorations on 
hats. Animals or birds, fruit, leaves or vegetables appear on the lower and 
upper surfaces of hats with striking realism, striking enough to cause occa- 
sional uneasiness. In a subsequent wave of fashion, velvet or foullard or 
leather are substituted as a medium of representation of these elements oi 
the animal and plant kingdoms. The realism promptly disappears, giving 
place to more conventional, angular or curvilinear shapes, which bear but 
remote resemblance to their proximate originals. 

The technical origin of the design can often be detected in spite of the 
medium, as when a carpet design appears on a linoleum rug, or stone or 
marble carvings on a wall-paper pattern. 


excellence, the design patterns on baskets, pots, rugs, walls 
of houses, sides of canoes and other objects, often suggest 
with varying degrees of realism, the forms of mammals, 
birds, snakes, crocodiles, occasionally plants, and less fre- 
quently, objects of human manufacture. On the other hand, 
numerous paintings, etchings and carvings are wholly de- 
void of any realistic suggestion, but must be described as 
purely geometrical, consisting of lines, straight or curved, 
and angular or curvilinear figures. Usually either the angu- 
lar and straight-lined patterns or the curvilinear ones pre- 
dominate, but the two tendencies may also appear in com- 
bination. In connection with the geometrical designs, it has 
often been noted that they are interpreted by their makers 
as representations of animals, birds or objects, the forms 
of which, however, they may resemble but remotely or not 
at all. In view of these facts and under the general sug- 
gestion of the evolutionary conception, there arose a theory 
of artistic development, in which the attempt was made to 
combine into a historical and logical sequence, these dis- 
crepant features of primitive art. 

The theory, for example, which lies at the root of A. C. 
Haddon's "Evolution of Art," is this: the earliest form of 
art was realistic, but as generation succeeded generation, 
the influence of technique and other causes produced a ten- 
dency in the direction of more geometrical forms, so that in 
the course of time the designs altogether lost their one- 
time realistic outlines and became wholly geometrical. The 
symbolic meanings of geometrical designs, then, represent 
survivals in interpretation of the former realistic charac- 
ter of these designs. As a proof of this theory, such col- 
lections of data were presented as that adduced by Haddon, 
which comprises a considerable number of specimens of 
spear and arrow shafts with crocodile carvings. The carv- 
ings on some are unmistakably realistic, on others, one or 
more parts of the animal appear In conventionalized geo- 
metrical form, while on still others a purely geometrical 
carving is found which Is merely classed as a crocodile by the 

ART 171 

natives, while in some instances even this classification is 
omitted. Haddon conceived of this set of decorated objects 
as a chronological scale, his idea being that the realistic 
carvings were the original ones and that from this stage 
there was a steady progress through steps of increasing con- 
ventionalization to those carvings in which no trace of 
realism was left. 

This attractive theory, while holding the field for a cer- 
tain time, could not withstand the adverse criticism born of 
a more penetrating study of the material. It was pointed 
out that the very arrangement of a series such as Haddon's 
in a chronological sequence, was wholly arbitrary, no proof 
being forthcoming that the realistic specimens were really 
the earlier ones, nor that the specimens with varying de- 
grees of conventionalization actually represented histori- 
cally successive stages. 

Other evidence indicated that the geometrical designs 
were in some instances later than the realistic meanings at- 
tached to them. The patterns in bead embroidery which 
abound among the Plains Indians, for example, are highly 
characteristic of this area and appear with only minor vari- 
ations throughout a large number of tribes. The symbolic 
meanings of these patterns, on the other hand, vary greatly 
from locality to locality. Many of these meanings are 
realistic. Now it would be unreasonable to assume that 
identical or highly similar geometrical patterns developed 
among the different tribes from pre-existing and different 
realistic originals. The alternative hypothesis must there- 
fore be accepted, namely, that the geometrical patterns are 
the older element and that discrepant realistic meanings 
were later read into them by the different tribes. 

To this argument it was added that purely technical con- 
ditions, such as those present in basketry work, would nat- 
urally lead to the development of geometrical patterns. 
The appeal, moreover, of purely geometrical combinations, 
ef straight or curved lines, of angular or rounded figures, 
is universal, in primitive as well as modern times. This 


appeal must answer to a common-human aesthetic demand, 
and if this is so, there is no reason to doubt that decorated 
designs of a purely geometrical pattern have numerous times 
originated independently of any realistic antecedents.^ 

In brief, the situation must be conceived somewhat as 
follows : realistic and geometrical designs have often origi- 
nated independently and from different sources and tech- 
nical conditions. The primary common cause of both types 
of decoration is the aesthetic appeal of realistic as well as 
geometrical forms in nature and the pleasure derived from 
realistic reproductions and geometric designs. The very 
same psychological cause, namely, the aesthetic value of the 
realistic as well as of the geometrical, is responsible for the 
further transformations. Realistic representations suggest 
geometrical relations and thus may become either partly or 
wholly conventionalized, with or without sufficient technical 
determinants. Geometrical designs, on the other hand, tend 
either to suggest or to become symbolically associated with 
realistic meanings, and as a result, realistic excrescences may 
come to be attached to such geometrical patterns, leading 
to partly geometrical, partly realistic designs. The process, 
finally, assumed by the evolutionary theory, namely, the 
survival of an originally realistic representation In the form 
of a symbolic meaning attached to a geometrical transforma- 

'An excellent theoretical argument bearing on this point and developed 
on the basis of an intensive study of concrete and strictly localized material 
will be found in Boas' "The Decorative Designs of Alaskan Needlecases," 
Proceedings, U. S. National Museum, 1908. 

To transfer to modern conditions the theoretical point here raised in con- 
nection with early art, we may once more refer to what occurs in the domain 
of fashion: when a garment of a new type establishes itself as an accepted 
style, the resulting fashion never consists in a slavish reproduction of this 
one original pattern. What takes place is the appearance of a kaleido- 
scopic variety of individualized garments, all differing in detail but similar 
in certain points prescribed by the style. Out of these differences or through 
an extraneous suggestion, there soon arises the outline of a new style which, 
in its turn asserts itself, leading to a similar differentiation. Now, the 
large variety of individualized garments which fall between one style and 
the next could readily be conceived as actually intervening stages, con- 
stituting a chronological series of steps. But this interpretation would evi- 
dently be erroneous, for the variations in question are practically syn- 
chronous and must be regarded as expressions of individual taste and 
creative ingenuity, displaying theiUselves within the limits of an accepted 

ART 173 

tion of the realistic design, also represents a plausible devel- 
opment, which must claim its place in the theoretical inter- 
pretation of decorative design, if only due allowance is made 
for the other processes here indicated. 

Another common tendency in the study of primitive art 
is to compare it to that of our children. The old theory of 
the recapitulation of racial experience in the life of the 
individual is brought to bear to justify this idea. What is 
particularly emphasized is the crudeness and apparent help- 
lessness of the realistic representations in children's art and 
in early art. 

At this stage of our inquiry a conception such as the above 
seems so crude as scarcely to require refutation. It is true 
enough that technical difBculties involved in the handling 
of an unaccustomed tool or technique may introduce an ele- 
ment of similarity between the art of a learning child and 
the most primitive attempts at drawing or carving. But 
even at this stage the relevancy of the terms of comparison 
is more than questionable. What is usually represented as 
a child's art is nothing but an attempt on its part to follow 
an outline or figure drawn by an unskilled adult. In this 
process, the element of aesthetic appeal may play no part at 
all. On the other hand, the earliest attempts of primitive 
man in this direction are of course unknown to us. Again, 
when the investigator tries to test the capacity of a native 
by presenting to him an idea or an object, animate or inani- 
mate, he sets before him an artificial problem which does 
not belong to the art of the native. But even under these 
conditions, while there is the crudeness referable to the 
causes mentioned above, there is evidence in the simplest 
designs of something else which changes the nature of the 
entire process. This something else is the existence among 
all tribes of a style or a number of styles of art. When a 
problem of drawing is presented to a native, he does not 
face it with a "free" psychology, but in the light of the styl- 
istic convention of his tribe. Koch-Grunberg's collection of 
drawings by the natives of Brazil and Thurnwald's draw- 


ings from the Bismarck and Solomon Islands, reveal with 
great clearness the presence of this stylistic factor in even 
the crudest designs. 

This applies also to the realistic drawings and carvings, 
not only to the geometrical ones. Thus the beautiful Bush- 
men paintings and etchings on the walls of caves do not 
merely represent an attempt to portray reality, but the artist 
works within the limits of certain traditional conventions, 
which make it possible, for example, to diagnose this art as 
different from the cave drawings of paleolithic Europe, not- 
withstanding the many striking resemblances between the 
two arts. Again, the style of representation of the human 
figure in Bushmen art is quite different from that of animals. 
It can be identified at a glance by the treatment of the trunk 
as a triangle standing on its apex, and the equally distinctive 
representation of hips and calves in the form of bulging 

To say that an art object has a style is one thing, to de- 
fine a style is another. The task is not an easy one and can- 
not be attempted here. Suffice it to say that the art products 
of every tribe, whether they lie in the domain of drawing 
or those of carving, painting, embroidery or weaving, are 
dominated by certain traditional ways of representation of 
things and of technical execution. When the artist faces his 
task, he may aim solely at the reproduction of the accepted 
pattern, which, according to his aptitude, he executes with 
greater or less excellence or accuracy. In other instances. 

'In addition to all this it must be noted that realistic art stands on a 
level of its own. This has not been sufficiently recognized in the study of 
primitive art vpork. Everything else apart, the realistic representation of 
things of the outside world requires certain qualities of perception and 
others of execution vrhich are nowhere represented among more than a 
certain fraction of the population. It is therefore not surprising to find 
that among the peoples of the Northwest Coast, for example, with their 
highly distinctive style of decorative painting and carving, realistic, in 
fact, portrait-like representations of faces also occur, in which the pre- 
vailing style is barely perceptible, and the making of which must be credited 
to some specially talented individuals who set themselves the task of a 
realistic representation and solved it with great skill. Of course, the 
technical agility, acquired by these natives in response to the exacting 
demands of their wood industry, must be regarded as a helpful background 
for the possibility of such achievements of artistic realism. 

ART 175 

more freedom is allowed him, as is, for example, the case in 
the Plains where new combinations of design units are 
originated by the woman embroiderer. But even in cases 
such as this, the limits of variation prescribed by conven- 
tion greatly restrict the play of individual fancy. In view 
of the deficient subjectivism of primitive art, great trans- 
formations in style through the initiative of individuals have 
probably occurred but seldom, if at all. 

But the most decisive argument against all attempts to 
compare primitive art with the so-called art of our children, 
is the not uncommon excellence of primitive craftsmanship, 
especially in the domain of geometrical art. The decorative 
carvings of the Maori and the Haida, the carved clubs of 
the Marquesas and the Tonga Islanders, the painted pots 
of the Pueblo Indians and those of the Chiriqui, the woven 
blankets of the Chilkat and the Navajo, and the spun ma- 
terials of Peru, the bone carvings of the Eskimo and those 
of the Sudan, the bronze castings, finally, of Northwest 
Africa — all of these and many other artistic products of the 
primitive world cannot be passed over slightingly as mere 
stepping-stones to something later, worthy of the term art. 
These things are art, conceived and carried out in line with 
general assthetic principles, with a command of great tech- 
nical skill and with sufficient individual variation to leave 
the stamp of artistic creativeness. 

The few specimens of primitive art craft gathered on the 
plates are selected with the view of illustrating some of the 
fine things that early man has achieved in the line of art. 
An examination of the illustrations will also bring home 
the fact that apart from the specific problems which primi- 
tive art and the art of each tribe or group of tribes present, 
there are also common problems of aesthetics which unite 
modern and primitive art in the realm of the common- 
human. A few remarks about some of the illustrations will 
make this clear. 

In the beaded Bagobo bag (plate I, fig. 35) the central 
section is flanked by broad horizontal strips, one above the 


other below the central part. Each one of these is again 
subdivided into two symmetrical strips on the two sides of 
a darker central line with a light meandering design run- 
ning through it. If the bag is placed so that it stands on 
its left side (from the point of view of the reader), it will 
be seen that the two complicated strips to the left and the 
right of this central line are opposite and symmetrical with 
reference to it, and that the two outward strips consisting of 
elongated sections with white dots separated by three dark 
and three light triangle-like shapes also balance each other 
in the vertical direction, the triangles in the strip nearest 
to the central section of the bag being open towards the top, 
those of the strip furthest from the central section being 
open toward the bottom. The entire broad strip at the bot- 
tom of the bag is symmetrical with the one above the cen- 
tral section and, once more, the strips with the triangular 
designs balance and complement each other. In the upper 
broad section, the triangles nearest to the center piece open 
toward the left, those furthest from it open toward the 
right. In the strip below the central piece, the triangles 
nearest to it open toward the right, those furthest from it, 
toward the left. It is only necessary to eliminate these 
balancing elements and substitute complete symmetry in- 
stead, to realize how much this feature adds to the attrac- 
tiveness of the design. 

In the embroidered shirt, on the same plate (fig. 36), a 
veritable jewel of delicate workmanship, the two sleeves, 
while apparently symmetrical and identical, differ in the min- 
utias of almost each one of the vertical embroidered strips 
of which they are composed. Both the similarities and the 
differences involved must, of course, be deliberate on the 
part of the artist, and those who are familiar with the 
effect of the same principle in Gothic art will welcome its 
vindication in this embroidered shirt of the Bagobo. 

In the Chilkat blanket (plate II, fig. 37) attention may 
be drawn to a number of interesting points. The long flat 
curves of the general outline are remarkably consistent, 

ART 177 

the five exceedingly flat curves of the upper rim being par- 
ticularly notable. Then again, there is the separation of 
the white broad stripe encasing the central section from 
the outside black frame by a narrow white stripe between 
two black ones, the inside one being narrow, while the 
outside one is in this case formed by the edge of the broad 
black outward frame. The central section is similarly en- 
cased in a white stripe flanked by two black ones, both being 
narrow, except where the white stripe borders on a black 
section of the central design, in which case the edge of this 
takes the place of the narrow black stripe. It will be noted 
that many of the separate sections of the central design are 
similarly encased. Another feature are the broad black 
stripes which constitute both the background and the frame 
of the separate sections of the central design. The splendid 
contrasting of the dark and light sections thus produced is 
best seen if one looks at the design with half-shut eyes. 
There is also the pleasing contrast between the upper and 
lower halves of the central design, in the upper the black 
predominating, in the lower, the white. 

Then come the two highly interesting memorial columns 
(plate II, figs. 38 and 39). One curious feature must be 
noted first — it is not a purely aesthetic one. The two col- 
umns, like most of the other memorial columns of the 
Haida, would be identified by a white man as memorial col- 
umns, on account of the fact that the lower sections are 
decorated, that these are topped by an undecorated section 
of column, and are finished off by a carved representation 
on the top. This presence of an undecorated section — a 
very rare feature in Northwest Coast art — contrasts espe- 
cially with what one observes on the totem poles. It is thus 
curious that this particular form of column is used for 
memorial purposes among ourselves as well as among the 

In the further elaboration of the decorative elements of 
the columns, the most remarkable point is this : while both 
columns become narrower toward the top — in fig. 38 much 


less so than in fig. 39 — the elements of the carved decora- 
tions in fig. 38 have a general vertical trend, while those of 
fig. 39 have a horizontal one. In fig. 38 this is emphatically 
brought out by the position of the claws of the fore-paws of 
the animal represented at the bottom of the column, the di- 
rection of its beak and the deep downward-pointing curve of 
the broad black eyebrow-like stripes over the eyes. Again, 
in the bird represented on the top of the column, the beak 
is pointed downward in a flat decisive curve, and the front 
edges of the wings are pointed straight downward even more 
drastically. In fig. 39, on the other hand, the claws of the 
front paws of the animal holding the pole, are practically 
horizontal, this character being clearly brought out by the 
contrast in color. The lips are equally horizontal; here, 
moreover, this feature is not contradicted by a downward 
pointing beak, as in the case of fig. 38, for the nose in fig. 39 
has no downward pointing extension. The eyebrow-like 
stripes above the eyes are flat and the groove between them, 
while directed downward, is equally shallow, thus preserv- 
ing the general horizontal direction of the eyebrows. A 
low, horizontally oriented pedestal connects the head of 
the animal with the bottom of the undecorated column (in 
fig. 38 the lower part of a corresponding pedestal below the 
small decorative faces is vertically striped). The bird, 
finally, in fig 39 suggests the horizontal by the upper curva- 
ture of the wings, the beak and the general position of the 
head. A more carefully conceived and more delicately ex- 
pressed stylistic feature can hardly be imagined, and it is 
not a feature that is in any way specifically Northwest 
Coast, but lies in the common level of artistic taste which 
unites the craftsman of the Indian with our own into a 
common esthetic brotherhood. On fig. 38, finally, there are 
the small heads decoratively repeated above the head of 
the animal. Little though the diminutive monsters resemble 
cupids, their utilization here reminds one of Raphael's well 
known affectation of using the busts and heads of cupids for 
decorative effect, and Max Klinger has made a similar use 


Fig. 36 

Philippine Embroidered Jacket 

Fay-Cooper Cole, "The Wild Tribes of Davao District, Mindanao, 

(Field Museum of Natural History, Publication 170, Plate LVI) 

Fig. 35 
Philippine Beaded Bag 

Fay-Cooper Cole, "The Wild Tribes of Davao District, Mindanao," 
(Field Museum of Natural History, Publication 170, Plate XXXIX) 





N o 







- " 


































C W 


O a 
C c 



Fig. 44 

Maori Door Lintel 

(British Museum, "Handbook, etc.", p. 176) 

Fig. 45 
Hawaiian Cloak of Red and Yellow Feathers 

(British Museum, "Handbook, etc." p. 151). 


Fig. 46 

Interior of Shallow Chalice 

G. G. MacCurdy, "A Study of Chiriquian Antiquities," 
(Memoirs Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, Plate I). 


Fig. 50 


Spencer and Gillen, "The Northern Tribes of Central Australia," p. 743 

*« *" 

Fig. 51 


Spencer and Gillen, "The Northern Tribes of Central Australia," p. 740 

ART 179 

of this feature on the back of the huge bronze throne on 
which he has seated his famous statue of Beethoven. 

In the carved wooden cup of the African Bushongo (plate 
III, fig. 41) there are several points of interest. The 
cup is divided into three sections, the stem, the central body 
and the neck, which in this case forms a unit with the top. 
These parts are again subdivided horizontally, the leg into 
three parts, the top into three parts, and the central section 
into two parts, the deep inward directed curvature of the 
body taking the place of the missing third section. Again, on 
the lowest section of the leg, there appear three oblong bulg- 
ing verticals. The surface of the main part of the central 
body is decorated by three super-imposed designs consisting 
of a stripe which forms interlocking diamonds. This stripe 
is itself subdivided into three parallel longitudinal stripes. 
On the upper border of the central body appears a carved 
decoration consisting of three stripes, an upper and a lower 
one, which are identical in technique, and a third one be- 
tween, which is itself subdivided into three stripes. The 
middle section of the neck or top, on both sides of a central 
piece, is again subdivided into three horizontal stripes of 
the same technique as the two stripes of the upper border of 
the central body of the cup, separated by two sections, each 
one of which is divided into three horizontal stripes. 

There are other features of interest in the cup. The 
whole object is conceived as a spacious, heavily-set article 
and this characteristic is carried out in each one of the three 
parts by means of gradual, gently curved outlines, the curves 
being neither too deep, which would impart a character of 
lightness, nor too flat, which would make the cup appear 
clumsy. There are also a number of minor decorations, 
several of which appear on the side of the cup shown in the 
illustration : the two carvings on the neck, the animal rep- 
resentation in the middle of the central body, the two quad- 
rilaterals on the central section of the leg, and the three 
bulging verticals referred to before, on the lowest part of 
the leg. The imaginary lines connecting these decorations 


emphasize by compensation the above mentioned features 
of the outline of the cup. The workmanship of this cup Is, 
of course, not perfect. It could not, for example, be com- 
pared to the best work of the Haida or of the Maori. This, 
however, does not apply to the leg, which is exquisite. The 
splendid modelling of the leg can be best seen if the cup is 
turned upside down. 

The bronze casting (plate III, fig. 42) is, first of all, re- 
markable as representing a type of art in which the African 
Negro stands unique among primitive peoples. The face 
is admirable both as a face and as a Negro face. There is, 
moreover, an element of conventionalization in a not over- 
conspicuous emphasis of the outlines of the lips, the wings 
of the nose and the eye-lids. The head gear is notable for 
the general harmonization of its outlines with the contour 
of the face. This feature is best seen if the head is re- 
versed. The wicker suggestion of the head gear speaks for 
itself and technically it is admirable. But perhaps most valu- 
able stylistically is the rectilinear cut in the front of the head 
gear with which the straight edge extending towards the 
ear harmonizes. The stylistic effect thus achieved is 
greatly emphasized by the vertical pendants extending down- 
ward on both sides of the ear, which is itself assimilated to 
the character of the head gear and of the pendants by means 
of a most admirable bit of stylization. The vertical and 
rectilinear effect of these stylistic and decorative features 
is emphasized by the cicatrices on the forehead of the figure.^ 

It will have been observed that In all of these remarks 
we were not concerned with those features of the carvings 
or designs which are distinctive of the art of the particular 
tribes. On the contrary, the traits were noted which are 
of interest from the standpoint of general aesthetics. The 
results indicate what might have been concluded a priori, 
namely, that individual peculiarities of tribal designs are a 

^Observations of a similar nature could be made on the Chiriqui pot 
design and on the bark carving of the decorative head dress from Nevf 
Ireland. The relevant points are fairly obvious and their analysis may be 
left to the student. 

ART i8i 

matter of civilization and history and must be analyzed m 
that light, but that primitive art craft, when at its best, re- 
veals the control of intuitively sensed aesthetic principles, 
thus bridging the gap separating the modern from the primi- 
tive in art, by bringing these artistic products of pre-history 
to a common level with the art of historic civilization. 

It remains to refer, however briefly, to the subject of 
symbolism. Symbolism in primitive art Is so ubiquitous and 
its ramifications In early civilization are so varied, that an 
at all adequate discussion of this topic would require a 
treatise all by itself. 

A thing is a symbol Insofar as it suggests something which 
it Is not. In this sense language and, Indeed, psychic life 
in general abound In symbolic connections, things and ideas 
constantly taking the place of one another and tending to 
evoke one another. Concrete objective things, even when 
non-artistic, lend themselves well for the function of sym- 
bols; If their emotional value and aesthetic appeal is, in addi- 
tion, enhanced by aesthetic transformations, objective things 
become admirably suitable for symbolic service. 

We have referred to the widespread realistic significa- 
tion of geometrical characters. Some geometrical figures, 
such as the swastika, are distributed over immense geo- 
graphical areas and have in different places become symbolic- 
ally associated with a great variety of meanings. The real- 
istic and other symbolism of the geometrical figures of 
Plains embroidery also varies greatly from tribe to tribe. 
On the Northwest Coast, again, the symptomatic features 
of different animals and birds have become symbols of the 
entire creature, and may therefore readily take its place. 
Among the Iroquois, geometrical and realistic figures on 
the wampum belts function as symbols of various treaty 
articles concluded between the Iroquois and other tribes. 
Among such tribes as the Plains Arapaho or the Hopi 
of the Puebloes, colors have become the carriers of symbolic 
significance. In Australia, the sacred wooden or stone slabs, 
the so-called churinga, are decorated by crude rectilinear 


or curvilinear patterns. These simple etched or painted 
designs have complicated symbolic connotations. The sym- 
bolism, moreover, varies not merely from tribe to tribe but 
even from clan to clan, each clan interpreting the designs, 
which are throughout similar and identical, on the basis of 
its own totemic mythology. 

Similar drawings are made on the ground on ceremonial 
occasions, yellow and red ochre and bird down being used for 
the purpose. Thus, the ground drawing on plate VIII (fig. 
50) represents six mythological women, the concentric cir- 
cles being the women sitting with their legs drawn up, the 
legs being represented by the double bands connecting the 
concentric circles. The other ground drawing (plate VIII, 
fig. 51) is associated with the totemic ceremony of the 
famous Wollunqua (the great magical snake) totem. This 
drawing is of a very considerable size, measuring eighteen 
feet in length. The long curved band represents the snake, 
the head being indicated by the wider part near the two 
bands adjoining the concentric circles. The latter them- 
selves represent the place at which the snake is sup- 
posed to have dived into the ground, after the fashion of 
Australian totemic ancestors. Of the separate sets of 
concentric circles, the larger ones indicate "paper bark" 
trees, while the two smaller ones are bushes. In all of 
these, spirit children are supposed to have been left behind. 
A rare feature in this design are the tracks of a man who 
is represented as following the snake, being anxious for 
him to return; at the spot represented by the concentric 
circles In touch with the two semi-circular bands, the man is 
supposed to have caught up with the snake and here he 
struck him with great force in an attempt to make him dive 
down. The two footprints side by side, near the head of 
the snake, represent the man standing there, while the two 
semi-circular bands connected with the concentric circles 
are his arms lifted up to strike the snake. 

Primitive religious ceremonialism abounds in decorations 
and other artistic objects which acquire symbolic significance. 

ART 1^3 

The religious connotations serve to promote tiie preserva- 
tion of such designs, as any deviation from the accepted pat- 
terns then becomes sacrilegious. Again, the religious con- 
ceptions associated with the symbols themselves become 
more definitely fixed and perpetualized. 

This ceremonial function of artistic objects as symbols of 
religio-mythologlcal and social values represents perhaps 
the most significant cultural aspect of primitive art. The 
attractiveness and suggestiveness of these symbols, their 
simultaneous presentation to a large number of devotees, 
the ease with which multifarious associations are absorbed 
by these objects, only to be reawakened and refreshed in the 
minds of the beholder, transform the symbolic art object 
into a veritable perpetuator of a large part of the culture of 
a tribe, that part of the culture, moreover, which is emo- 
tionally most valuable as well as most clearly representative 
of the collective ideas of the group.^ 

'Cf. p. 415. 


E. B. Tylor's classical discussion of animism^ and J. G. 
Frazer's detailed description of magical belief and practice^ 
have familiarized the general reader with these interesting 
aspects of early civilization. _ Rather than tread once more 
a path so often trodden, I propose to discuss the problems 
of early magic and religion according to a somewhat differ- 
ent plan. In the following section on the basic factors of 
religion, the guardian spirit beliefs of the American Indian 
will be analyzed and this will be followed by a section on 
modern magic and another on viana, or Impersonal super- 
natural power. The succeeding section on anthropo- 
morphlzation and the higher gods will deal with the super- 
naturalism of the Chukchee, the gods of the Bella Coola 
and the beliefs In the so-called All Father. The last sec- 
tion, finally, entitled "The Individual in Religion," will 
treat of medicine-men among the Chukchee and other9|| 
and of the Ghost Dance Religions of the American Indian. 
In the final pages of this discussion of religion I shall then 
attempt to present a general picture of early supernaturalism 
as a world view. 

The Basic Factors of Religion 

The Guardian Spirit in American Indian Religion. 

Of all religious phenomena in primitive North America, 
the most general as well as the most variegated are the 
beliefs and practices connected with the cult of the guardian 
spirit. In their essence these cults, which are common to 
practically all Indian tribes, are based on a faith in super- 
natural power, often of an impersonal sort. 

'In his "Primitive Culture." 

'"The Golden Bough," Vols. I and II, "The Magic Art.' 


When a boy approaches maturity, when his voice begins 
to change — as some Indians put it — he repairs to the woods', 
where he builds for himself a crude hut or tent. Hence- 
forth he lives In Isolation, takes frequent purgatives and 
eats very sparingly. His mind is bent on the supernatural 
experience he is about to face. When he has reached a 
high state of purity, both physically and spiritually ("so 
that the spirits can look through him," says the Indian), 
the desire of his soul is realized: the guardian spirit appears 
to him In a dream or vision. This supernatural personage 
may be a spirit animal, bird or human, or it may be one 
of those monster creatures so common In Indian mytholo- 
gies. The guardian spirit bestows upon the novitiate one 
or more supernatural gifts and, having given him guidance 
as to the sort of life he should lead, disappears. Hence- 
forth the young man stands in an Intimate personal rela- 
tion to that spirit, appeals to It for protection and expects 
it to warn him of impending dangers. If the protector is 
an animal or bird, the youth may have to abstain from 
eating or killing representatives of that species; this taboo, 
however, is not characteristic of all Indian tribes.' 

This generalized representation of the guardian spirit 
ctlK^oes but slight justice to the Importance of this com- 
plex of beliefs and practices among North American In- 
dians. It may be of Interest, therefore, to dwell in 
greater detail on the particular forms assumed by the 
guardian spirit cult among several representative tribal 

The Southern Kwaklutl of the Northwest Coast are di- 
vided Into a large number of clans, each of which traces 
Its origin to a mythical ancestor, on whose adventures the 

'A most suggestive account of the acquisition of a guardian spirit will be 
found in Paul Radin's "An Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian," Journal 
of American Folk-Lore, 1913. In this case the supernatural protector is the 
Earth Spirit, with whom the somewhat sophisticated Indian repeatedly fails 
to enter into rapport. The entire account, while particularly representative 
of the transition between blind faith and mild scepticism characteristic of 
many modern Indians, bristles with touches of genuine Indian thought and 
emotional reaction. 


crests and privileges of the clan depend. In the course of 
such adventures the ancestor meets the sacred creature 
of the clan and obtains from it supernatural powers and 
magical objects, such as the magic harpoon, which insures 
success in sea-water hunting, the water of life, which re- 
suscitates the dead, and the like. He also secures a dance, 
a song, a distinctive cry — each spirit having a cry of its 
own — and the right to use certain carvings. The dance al- 
ways consists of a dramatic presentation of the myth in 
which the ancestor acquires gifts from the spirit. Some of 
these spirits are animals, the bear, wolf, sea lion, killer- 
whale; others are fabulous monsters. To the latter class 
belongs Slsiutl, a mythic double-headed snake, which often 
assumes the shape of a fish. To eat it or see it means 
certain death: all joints of the culprit become dislocated 
and his head is turned backwards. Another monster is the 
cannibal woman, Dzonoqwa. Both Sisiutl and Dzonoqwa 
are highly dangerous when hostile, but when their good 
will is assured, they are most useful, and the powers they 
bestow are greatly sought after. 

All of these spirits and the gifts they bestow are heredi- 
tary among the Kwakiutl. In some instances an individual 
may transmit these valuable privileges to his descendants; 
but more often, a set of guardian spirits with their gifts 
become a hereditary prerogative of a clan. Henceforth 
all individuals of that clan may obtain supernatural powers 
from such spirits. Some spirits figure only in the ancestral 
traditions, others can still be obtained by the Kwakiutl 
youths. Prominent among spirits of the latter class is Mak- 
ing-War-all-over-the-Earth. With the assistance of this 
spirit a youth may obtain three different powers : mastery 
over the Sisiutl, the capacity to catch the invisible Dream 
Spirit, and insensibility to pain and wounds. With the as- 
sistance of The-First-One-to-Eat-Man-at-the-Mouth-of-the- 
River, another spirit, nine powers may be obtained. The 
spirit Maden is a bird and gives the faculty of flying. Vari- 


ous ghost spirits bestow the power to return to life after 
having been killed. 

The spirits appear only in the winter, the season of the 
"secrets." During the winter ceremonial, which is per- 
formed during this season, the people are divided into two 
main bodies, the initiated ("Seals") and the uninitiated 
("Sparrows"). The latter are divided into groups consist- 
ing of individuals who will be initiated at approximately the 
same time. There are ten such groups or societies — seven 
male and three female — and most of them bear animal 

Throughout the ceremonies, the two groups are hostile to 
each other. The "Seals" attack and torment the "Spar- 
rows," who try to reciprocate to the best of their ability. 
The object of part of the ceremonies performed by each 
society is to secure the return of the youth who has been 
taken away by a supernatural being, the spirit protector 
of the society. When the novice finally returns he is in a 
state of ecstasy; and ceremonies are performed to restore 
him to his senses. 

Among the Haida the guardian spirit idea finds its clear- 
est expression in the beliefs about shamans. When a super- 
natural being took possession of a man and spoke and acted 
through him, the man became a shaman. While the spirit 
was operating, the shaman lost his personal identity and 
became one with the spirit. He dressed as directed by the 
spirit and used its language. Thus, if a supernatural be- 
ing from the Tlingit country took possession of a shaman, 
he spoke Tlingit, although otherwise ignorant of that 
tongue. The personal name also was discarded and the 
spirit's name substituted, and as the spirit changed the 
name was also changed. 

The Tlingit shamans were even more powerful than those 
of the Haida. Whereas the Haida shaman usually owned 
but one spirit and no masks, his Tlingit colleague could 
boast of several spirits and masks. The representations 
of subsidiary spirits on masks were all designed to 


strengthen certain faculties of the shaman. The shaman, 
as well as an ordinary individual, could increase their 
powers by obtaining the tongues of a variety of spirit 
animals, especially those of land otters, which were mixed 
with eagle claws and other articles and carefully stored 
away. Shamans often performed merely for display or, 
when desirous of demonstrating their superior powers, thtey 
engaged in imaginary battles with other shamans many 
miles away. 

It will thus be seen how deeply the belief in guardian 
spirits has entered into the lives and thought of the people 
of British Columbia and of Southern Alaska; and the par- 
ticular forms and applications of this behef are as varied 
as they are numerous. Reared on the fertile ground of a 
general animism, guardian spirits manifest themselves 
through the medium of many things and beings. By the 
means of art, the realm of magical potentialities becomes 
further extended: for when the representation of a spirit 
protector is carved on an implement, weapon, or ceremonial 
object, the thing itself becomes a carrier of supernatural 
power. Among the Kwaklutl, the guardian spirit idea 
stands in the center of a complex system of secret societies 
and initiation ceremonies. With the approach of winter, the 
guardian spirit, like a ghost of the past, emerges from its 
summer retirement and through the medium of names 
transforms the social organization of the people. Among 
the Haida and Tllngit, the belief in the magical powers 
of supernatural helpers has engendered a prolific growth 
of shamanlstic practices. The type of clan and family 
legends prevalent on the entire coast, particularly among the 
Tsimshian, Haida and Tllngit, consists of an account of 
how the ancestor of the clan or family met his guardian 
spirit and obtained from It supernatural powers, a mytho- 
logical motif which receives Its dramatic embodiment in 
the dances of the secret societies. The guardian spirit Idea 
"^ also figures as one of the standards of rank found among 
these people. The vaster the powers of a supernatural 


guardian, the greater respect does its owner command; 
while secret societies rank according to the powers of their 

In the Plateau area, the guardian spirit phenomena have 
been studied with particular care among the Thompson 
River Indians, the Shuswap and the Lillooet. Among the 
Thompson River Indians, every person had a guardian 
spirit, which he acquired at puberty. Here the spirits were 
not inherited, excepting only the cases of a few exceptionally 
powerful shamans. All animals and objects possessed of 
magic qualities could become guardian spirits; the powers 
of such spirits had become differentiated so that certain 
groups of supernatural helpers were associated with definite 
social or professional classes. The shamans had their 
favorite spirits, among which were natural phenomena 
(night, fog, east, west), man or parts of the human body 
(woman, young girl, hands or feet of men, etc.), animals 
(bat), objects referring to death (land of souls, ghosts, 
dead man's hair, bones and teeth, etc.). Warriors had 
their set of spirits, so did hunters, fishermen, gamblers, run- 
ners, women. Each person partook of the qualities of his 
or her guardian spirit. Among the spirits pecuHar to sha- 
mans, parts of animals or objects were not uncommon, 
such as the tail of a snake, the nipple of a gun, the left 
or right side of anything, and the like. Although the range 
of animals, natural phenomena, inanimate objects, which 
could become guardian spirits, embraced a large part of 
nature, certain animals that lacked magic power never fig- 
ured as guardian spirits. Such were the mouse, chipmunk, 
squirrel, rat, butterfly, and some others. But few birds 
and scarcely any trees or herbs ever functioned as spirit 

When the Shuswap lad began to dream of women, ar- 
rows and canoes, or when his voice began to change, his 
time had arrived for craving and obtaining a guardian 
spirit, similarly, the young men of the Lillooet acquired guar- 
dian spirits and, at the instigation of their elders, performed 


a guardian spirit dance during which they Imitated their su- 
pernatural protectors in motion, gesture and cry. In some of 
their clan dances, masks were used which sometimes referred 
to an incident in the clan myth. The dancer personified the 
ancestor himself, or his guardian spirit. Powerful guardian 
spirits enabled the shamans to perform wonderful feats. 
The weapons, implements, and other objects of the Lillooet 
were often decorated with designs representing guardian 
spirits. Similar figures were painted or tatooed on face 
and body. 

Among these tribes the common people were divided into 
societies, membership in most of which was not strictly 
hereditary, while in others, such as the Black Bear, the 
hereditary character was more pronounced. Among the 
twenty-nine protectors of the societies, twenty were animals, 
while the rest included plants, natural phenomena, inani- 
mate objects, as well as hunger and famine. Some of these 
societies were regarded as closely related, and the members 
of such societies were permitted to use each others dances 
and songs; but as a rule, each society claimed its own dis- 
tinctive garments, ornaments, dances and songs. 

Some of the ceremonies could be performed at any time, 
but the winter was the favorite ceremonial season. During 
the dances, the moose, caribou, elk, deer, and other pro- 
tective spirits were impersonated. The actors dressed in 
the skins of these animals, with the scalp part hanging 
over their heads and faces. Some had antlers attached 
to the head and neck. The dancers went through all the 
actions of the animal impersonated, imitating the incidents 
in the finding and fishing, hunting and snaring, chasing over 
lakes in canoes, and final capture or death of the animal. 

In the Plains area, the form assumed by the guardian 
spirit incident is that of a transfer of a possession, material 
or spiritual, natural or supernatural, from one owner to 
another. The transfer may be from one man to another or 
from a guardian spirit to a novitiate. The medium of 
transfer is usually a dream. The pattern of the entire pro- 


cedure has been developed to such a nicety that students find 
it difficult to distinguish between an original guardian spirit 
acquisition and an account of a transfer of a spirit from in- 
dividual to individual. The materialization of the pro- 
cedure has also been carried very far. Having secured a 
vision or dream, the initiate prepares a medicine bundle, 
which is nothing but a bag, often made of otter skin, filled 
with various small articles, such as pieces of skin, small 
pebbles, quartz, animal or vegetable matter, and the like. 
None of these objects possesses any intrinsic value, but in 
this context they acquire the significance of charms, of car- 
riers of supernatural power. The medicine bundle may thus 
be likened to an electric battery charged with potential cur- 
rent, from which great quantities of dynamic force can be 
produced at will. Contrary to the customs of the Plateau 
area, but in line with those of the Northwest, medicine 
bundles and even guardian spirits tend to become hereditary 
among some Plains tribes. It must be noted,- however, that 
this process of hereditary transfer when unaccompanied by 
a personal guardian spirit experience, may not be continued 
indefinitely without a consequent loss of power. It may go 
on for two generations, but at the third transfer the power 
gives out — the dynamo must be recharged by personal con- 
tact with a supernatural source, If it is to continue doing 
work along magical lines. 

It is characteristic of the guardian spirit cult in the Plains 
that the supernatural vision is sought not at puberty, but by 
adults. But in details the cults differ greatly from tribe 
to tribe. '^ 

'In an unpublished note kindly placed at my disposal by Mrs. Ruth 
Benedict, the following interesting summary of some of these tribal dif- 
ferentiations is presented. 

The Arapaho use self-torture to induce the vision. All adult males seek 
it, and it depends wholly on the power given him at that time whether the 
suppliant becomes a shaman or a warrior. The Dakota, however, mark off 
the laity: shamans fast once to obtain a guardian spirit, a prescribed vision 
with a very complicated formula; the laity fast on every occasion, with 
extreme self-torture, not for a guardian spirit, but for help from the sun 
in some particular and immediate undertaking. The Crow, on the contrary, 
require a guardian spirit as a part of the equipment of every ambitious 


Among the Winnebago, who, in their guardian spirit 
customs, resemble the typical Plains tribes, there is the 
peculiarity that the guardian spirits are believed to be 
localized. These spirits, which may be designated as guar- 
dian prototypes or originals (not unlike the "Ideas" of 
Plato), reside in definite places, in a valley or mountain 
fastness, or behind a certain rock. The guardian spirits 
which appear to the searchers for power are but reflections 
or spiritual representatives of these permanent reservoirs 
of magical potency. There is striking resemblance between 
this conception and the ideas of the Chukchee and Koryak 
of Northeastern Siberia, where a similar relationship ob- 
tains between the so-called supernatural "Masters" and 
their animal representatives on earth. 

Among the Iroquois, guardian spirits, whether of animals, 
birds or objects, almost always appear in human form. 
This is in keeping with the highly anthropomorphised 
character of Iroquois religion, mythology and cosmology. 
A number of societies also occur here which are more or 
less clearly associated with supernatural protectors. 

Thus, the guardian spirit beliefs of the North Ameri- 
can Indians present an interesting illustration of a cultural 
feature, indigenous in an immense area and evidently of 
great antiquity, which in a multitude of forms and cultural 
associations appears in all of the major areas and probably 

man; and the suppliant becomes a "child" of his vision-adopted "father.'' 
The formula is rigid and very distinctive for this tribe. 

The Blackfoot use no torture except hunger and thirst to induce the 
vision. One idea in connection with these experiences has saturated their 
culture: these visions can be bought and sold. They make absolutely no 
distinction between the visions they have bought and the ones they have 
themselves fasted for. To invest in other men's visions is a necessary 
qualification for social prestige; and the "medicine bundles" which are the 
visible insignia of possession are the basis of their economic system. 

The Hidatsa elaborated a different idea, the idea of inheritance. They 
respected the Blackfoot scheme of purchase sufficiently to require that pay- 
ment be made for all such things inherited. And they agreed with general 
Plains theory sufficiently to insist that before one inherited, one must see 
the vision. Hence it became necessary for the head of the family to exercise 
supervision over the faster that the proper family spirit might appear to 
him. In spite of all difficulties, however, the tribal pattern required that 
the medicine bundle descend from father to son. 


in every tribe bi the vast continent. A possible exception 
are the Eskimo, but -'.ven here the spirit helpers of the 
angakiit almost certaLily belong to the same category of 
phenomena, on a par with the spirit assistants, messengers, 
and the like, of the shamans of Northeastern Siberia. 

Guardian spirits are not unknown in Australia and cog- 
nate beliefs have been described in some of the island 
groups of Melanesia, as well as in the Malay Archipelago. 
In a somewhat wider sense, beliefs in guardian spirits or 
spirit protectors are common throughout Africa and among 
primitive tribes in general, but in North America these be- 
liefs and their associated practices have entered into an 
extraordinary set of cultural associations, thus affecting the 
personal religion as well as the religious institutionalism, 
mythology, totemism and even some aspects of the social 
organization of the Indians. It seems, indeed, justifiable 
to designate the guardian spirit as one of the basic roots 
of North American religion. 

Modern Magic 

In the course of our survey, it has been shown more than 
once to what extent the world view of the "savage" is con- 
trolled by magical idiosyncrasy. It remains to inquire 
whether this phenomenon is peculiar to early mentality, or 
whether we are not facing in magic, as more than once be- 
fore, a sample of the common-human. That the latter al- 
ternative corresponds to the facts becomes evident upon 
most superficial analysis. 

The works of Frazer and Mannhardt abound in illus- 
trations of so-called "superstitions" current among the 
peasantry of Europe. In the traditional beliefs of these 
people, spirits and demons, spooks, ghosts and apparitions, 
omens, dreams and visions, continue to hold undisputed 
sway, and the century-old teachings of Christianity seem 
quite powerless to dislodge these even more ancient and 
deep rooted beliefs. Even in the cities, amidst schools and 


universities, the faith in charms persists unabated, no less 
than the belief in lucky and unlucky stones, and the evil 
eye. In the fold of institutionalized Christianity itself the 
attitude toward the objectified representations of divinity 
and holy persons is heavily wrought with magical connota- 
tions. So are the beliefs in other than natural healing, 
which are still so common, centering at the present time 
about certain holy places in Russia, France, Canada, and 

Examples of similar attitudes are not lacking in the 
wholly secular experiences of our daily life. Thus the 
status of the physician in modern society is not by any 
means devoid of a certain magical flavor. To a degree, the 
standing of a physician depends on his professional com- 
petence, his knowledge and experience. But this is only 
one element, and perhaps not the determining one. For 
what counts with the public is success, and a few conspicuous 
cures, however accidental and (unforeseeable, contribute 
more to the reputation of a practitioner than a prolonged 
period of efficient but drab medical practice. The success- 
ful physician walks in a halo which is not entirely natural 
in its substance. His appeal is, at least in part, that of a 
man whose powers are extraordinary, not reducible to 
mere knowledge and experience and beyond the reach of 
other individuals, including most other physicians. 

To believe in dreams is no longer good form in our 
midst, but how many of us are quite free from the tendency 
to ascribe to dreams at least a measure of prognosticatory 
or telepathic significance? A woman dreams of her mother 
and on awakening finds the news of the mother's sickness 

'Note in this connection the following news items from the New York 
Times for August 25th, 1920: "Templemore, Ireland. An incessant stream 
of pilgrims from all parts of Ireland continues to pour into Templemore 
to visit the home of Thomas Divan, where it was recently asserted miracu- 
lous cures were being effected through the medium of sacred statues said 
to have shed blood mysteriously last week. 

"The neighboring towns and villages aire overflowing with people unable 
to get into Templemore. . . . 

"Further remarkable cures were claimed today." 


or death in her morning mail. She "had not thought of 
mother for days," had "no idea that she could be sick," and 
"why just the night before the letter came?" and "can it be 
only a coincidence?" And so it goes! Let only the "coin- 
cidences" multiply and the staunchest doubter begins to 
waver in his scepticism. 

Among the examples of latter day supernaturalism, few 
are more striking than the persistent belief that the psychic 
experiences of a pregnant woman may exercise a specific 
effect on the child. We hear of children born during the 
French Revolution with the revolutionary emblem on their 
chests ; or again, a mother frightened by a frog, gives birth 
to a child with a birthmark resembling a frog; another 
child, whose mother broke her wrist while in pregnancy, is 
born with a wrist broken or at least weakened in the same 
place; and so on indefinitely. In a book published not so 
long ago ("Sex Antagonism" by W. Heape.), a considerable 
collection of such instances is brought before the reader as 
worthy of belief. The author of the book happens to be an 
animal breeder, member of a professional group whose daily 
experiences bring them in touch with facts which suggest 
interpretations through what Kroeber called "inheritance 
by magic." No more than Jacob could resist the tempta- 
tion of interpreting by a mechanism such as the above the 
peculiar and varied coloration of his sheep, can the modern 
fencier overcome the suggestive influence of the many in- 
stances in his experience where an interpretation through 
pre-natal influence may be made, and he makes it forthwith. 
Many persons who would reject all such suggestions with a 
shrug of the shoulder, prove equally positive in their claim 
that should the expectant mother engage in voluminous read- 
ing, this might enhance the literary proclivities of her off- 
spring, and should she frequent concerts, the musical gifts of 
the baby may be similarly stimulated. In principle, of 
course, there is no difference between these cases and those 
cited before. Add to this lucky and unlucky days, magic 
numbers, black cats, nuns, umbrellas opened indoors, or just 


any untoward happening at a ceremony or other emotionally 
significant occasion, and the Impression becomes Irresistible 
that modern society is, after all, not so far removed from a 
belief in other than natural causation. 

Not Infrequently one may hear the remark : "I am super- 
stitious." In this form sincere persons give expression to 
the fact that while rational In intention, they are unable to 
resist the temptation to react in some special way to those 
situations where superstition is traditionally sanctioned. 
We think of open penknives, three candles, knocking on 
wood, and what not. It would almost seem as if the 
proclivity of people to be superstitious in this sense were 
proportionate to the degree to which their profession or 
occupation is in the control of unforeseeable factors. Here 
the gambler ranks first. From day to day, from moment to 
moment, his future is uncertain. If expert In mathematics, 
he may be perfectly aware of the unreasonableness of such 
concepts as luck; yet, no sooner does he fall under the spell 
of the green table or the green lawn or the tape, than his 
psychology Inevitably glides Into the channel of complete 
subjection to luck magic. Today luck smiles on him, 
and there is no end to his daring; tomorrow cards turn 
against him, and he refuses to take any further chances, 
although experience and probability would dictate the oppo- 
site course. Next to the gambler comes the hunter. He 
may be an expert, but legion is the number of unforseeable 
factors which at least co-determine his success. Hence, his 
acute sensitiveness toward omens, dreams, prognostications, 
well wishing and other like premonitions. Here also be- 
longs the actor. Actors and actresses enjoy a deserved 
reputation for superstitious inclinations far above the aver- 
age. Once more this tendency may be brought Into relation 
with the Indefinlteness of their careers. Apart from talent, 
training, and even former favors on the part of the public, 
the fate of the actor, of his contract, and ultimately of his 
dinner, depends from night to night on the appeal of a par- 
ticular performance to the audience. Now, all actors and 


actresses, no matter how successful, know the elusiveness 
of the taste or mood of audiences. They cannot bank, on 
it, hence the constant suspense. Such being the case, the 
host of omens, of good and bad signs and with them the 
entire galaxy of magical odds and ends, have their free play. 
Magic is no part of our institutionalized religion. It is 
indignantly rejected from a rational world view by all men 
and women who "think," but it is with us nevertheless, and 
who may tell for how long? 

Mana or Impersonal Supernatural Power 

Our analysis of religion and magic makes it clear that the 
idea of supernatural power is common to both and repre- 
sents, in fact, the basic concept underlying the religio-magical 
world view. On the emotional side, an equally fundamental 
factor is the religious thrill. 

The idea of supernatural power assumed the central posi- 
tion in the discussion of primitive religion with the intro- 
duction of the concept of mana. The emergence of this 
concept in the study of primitive religion and its subsequent 
career are so instructive as to invite a slight historical digres- 

Mana was formally introduced to ethnologists by Cod- 
rington in his book on the Melanesians (1896). He there 
made clear that among the various tribes of the South 
Seas the idea designated by the term mana occupies an alto- 
gether distinctive position among other religious conceptions. 
It indicates power which is supernatural and impersonal. 
Mana itself is not an animal or human being, nor a ghost 
or spirit, it is just power, magical potency. Although im- 
personal per se, it manifests itself with equal facility through 
natural objects or beings, through man, spirits, or ghosts.^ 

Quite independent of Codrington's researches, ideas simi- 

'It may be noted in passing that in this area the ideas of ghost and spirit 
are sharply distinguished. A ghost is always the spirit of a deceased indi- 
vidual, while a spirit is a spiritual entity which either exists in detached 
form or dwells in a thing or being. 


lar to mana were discovered in North America. Two con- 
tributions stand out pre-eminent in this connection, William 
Jones' article on "The Algonquin Manitou"^ and J. N. B. 
Hewitt's "Orenda, or a Definition of Religion."^ It is 
worth noting that both of these students are of Indian 
descent, William Jones belonging to the Algonquin speak- 
ing Sawk and Fox Indians, while Hewitt is a Tuscarora Iro- 
quois. At the hand of ethnological and linguistic evidence, 
Jones shows with great clearness that the idea of manitou 
implies supernatural power in itself impersonal, which may 
or may not manifest itself through objects, beings and na- 
tural phenomena. The Algonquin term may appear either 
with or without the personal article, in accordance with the 
meaning intended. Hewitt's argument is based wholly 
on a linguistic reconstruction. He traces the root vowel 
of the term orenda in a multiplicity of terms referring to 
things, beings or actions connected with supernatural power. 
Taking this as a starting point, Hewitt constructs an ancient 
Iroquoian religion built upon the idea of orenda, impersonal 
supernatural power. While Hewitt's procedure is not 
wholly unobjectionable from a theoretical standpoint, eth- 
nologists have come to recognize that the fundamental idea 
in such conceptions as the Algonquin manitou, the Iroquoian 
orenda and the Siouan wakan, is the same, and that there is 
an unmistakable similarity between this idea and the mana 
of the South Seas. 

Presently, still another field was drawn into the discus- 
sion. The meritorious volume of Pechuel-Loesche,' dealing 
with certain natives of the west coast of Africa, between the 
deltas of the Congo and the Niger, brings further evidence 
of a similar sort. This region is the home of fetichism, 
which ever since the classic discussion by Schurtz*was defined 
as the religion of the fetich, a small, usually artificial object, 
through which an indwelling spirit is operating. Pechuel- 

^Journal of American Folk-Lore, 1905. 
'American Anthropologist, 1892. 
'"Die Loango Expedition," Vol. Ill, 1907. 
'C/. his "Der Fetichismus," 1877. 


Loesche's painstaking researches, which included linguistic 
analysis, led him to depart radically from Schurtz's gener- 
alization. The author asserts that the conception underly- 
ing the fetichism of this area is not that of an indwelling 
spirit. To him a fetich is an artifical object made in a 
certain way or prepared in accordance with a certain recipe, 
which possesses certain definite powers, or perhaps only one 
power. If the shape of the object is changed or the recipe 
which determines its composition is not followed, the power 
or powers are lost or modified. The basic conception is that 
of power, in itself impersonal, definite qualities and quan- 
tities of which can be secured under certain highly specific 
conditions. Once again, then, the idea involved is similar 
to mana. 

It is not unlikely that Pechuel-Loesche's position is some- 
what one-sided. The Idea of an indwelling spirit is so com- 
mon in Africa and elsewhere, that there can scarcely be any 
doubt of its occurrence In these western regions of the con- 
tinent.^ There is, however, no ground to doubt the cor- 
rectness of the author's generalization insofar as It refers 
to West African fetiches. 

The generality of the mana idea was thus established on 
a fairly wide geographical basis. Theoretically inclined 
ethnologists and students of religion were prompt in utiliz- 
ing this valuable addition to the basic concepts of early re- 
ligion, as hiaybe seen from the breezy critical discussions of 
the ideas of Tylor and Frazer by Andrew Lang In his "The 
Making of Religion" and "Magic and Religion." But this 
aspect of the problem derived its main stimulus from the 
work of Marett, who, in his essay on "Pre-anlmistic Reli- 
gion,"^ utilized the idea of mana as a foundation on which 
to build a world view earher even than that of animism, 
Marett's argument being that the idea of Impersonal super- 
natural power is in its very nature more simple and hence 

'For a careful summary of beliefs in souls and spirits in Africa, see 
Ankermann in Zeitschrift fur Ethnologic, vol. 50, 1918, pp. 89-153. 
'Folk-Lore, 1900. 


more primitive than that of a power-wielding personal 
spirit. Marett's contribution came at a psychological mo- 
ment and his little essay presently became the crystallization 
point for a new philosophy of primitive religion. At the 
Third International Congress of Religions, held at Oxford, 
in 1908, the subjects of mana and animatism — Marett's 
term for the pre-animistic religion — were the principal topics 
of discussion in the section devoted to primitive religion. 

Presently, mana was identified with magic, and in this 
form its use became still further extended. Hubert and 
Mauss, two faithful students of Durkheim, made a sweep- 
ing application of the mana concept in their treatise on 
magic,^ Preuss skillfully wove the mana idea into his ana- 
lysis of the beginnings of religion and art,^ while Durkheim 
in his great book on religion' identified mana with the reli- 
gious core of totemism. 

Thus the dogma of animism, of a spirit infested world, 
was supplemented, in fact came near being replaced, by 
another dogma, a world swept by mana, impersonal magic 

After a calm retrospect, the mana idea must be welcomed 
as a genuine addition to our understanding of early religion, 
nay of all religion. While there is no particular meaning 
in having mana and spirit pitted against each other with 
reference to their chronological priority, it is clear that the 
idea of spirit is only one part of the fundamental ideology 
of religion, the other being mana, power. The latter sup- 
plies the dynamic principle, whereas spirit in itself is but a 
concept of form or being. When Professor Shotwell de- 
fines religion as "a reaction of mankind to something which 
is apprehended but not comprehended,"* he omits to state — 
a fatal omission indeed — that the something to which there 
is a reaction is in the religious situation not merely a form or 

"'Exquise d'une theorie generale de la Magic," Annee Sociologique, VII, 

Ursprung der Religion und der Kunst," Globus, 1904-1905. 
'See pp. 361 sq. 
*"The Religious Revolution ot Today,'' p. loi. 


a substance or a being, but a power. From this it follows 
that the idea of supernatural power — impersonal, formless, 
but withal, a power, and supernatural — must be coupled 
with spirit in all interpretations of religion. Indeed, if the 
signs of the times are to be trusted, may we not suggest 
that the more dynamic and vaguer idea will outlive its more 
precise and static companion?^ 

'A concise formulation of the relation of the idea of mana to religion, 
magic and animism, will be found in my article "Spirit, mana and the Re- 
ligious Thrill," Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 
Vol. XII, 1915. There also an attempt is made to show that from a psy- 
chological and epistomological standpoint, mana must be regarded as a pro- 
jection or objectivation of what, on the subjective side, is the religious 
thrill. Now, if the religious thrill is the fundamental emotional root of 
religion, then mana — not Melanesian mana, nor maniiou, nor orenda, nor 
•wakan, but a psychologically more basic mana, freed from all historic 
accretions — becomes the fundamental idea of religion, the pure idea of 
supernatural power, an idea which, in the very nature) of the case, is more 
sensed than thought. 



Anthropomorphism and the Higher Gods 
Chukchee Supernaturalism 

In the world view of the Chukchee all nature is animated. 
Every material object can act, speak and walk. Every- 
thing that exists has its own "voice" or "master." Rein- 
deer skins have a "master" of their own. In the night-time 
they turn into reindeer and walk to and fro. The trees in 
the woods talk to one another. The very shadows on the 
wall live in tribes in their own country where they have 
huts and subsist by hunting. 

Special beliefs are entertained about mushrooms and 
mushroom-men. Mushrooms, when they grow up, are so 
powerful that they split whole trees. These mushrooms ap- 
pear to intoxicated men in the shape of human beings, re- 
sembling, however, their re'al shapes in some particular. 
Thus, one may have but one leg, another a very large head, 
and so on. The number of mushrooms that appear to a 
man varies in accordance with the number of mushrooms 
he has eaten. The mushroom-men lead the dreamer through 
the world and show him real and imaginary things. They 
take him to the places where the dead live, through which 
they travel along many intricate paths. 

Wooden amulets in a bag become herdsmen and go out 
at night to protect the herd from wolves. Black and polar 
bears, eagles, small birds, sea mammals, all have countries 
of their own and live like humans. They can turn into 
human beings while preserving some of their own qualities. 
Mice people live in underground houses, using a certain root 
as their reindeer. They have sledges made of grass. Off 
and on they become transformed into real hunters with 
regular sledges and hunt polar bears. 



According to one story, a dried skin of an ermine trans- 
formed itself into a real ermine, which later turned into a 
large polar bear. 

Boulders are regarded as petrified creatures. They rep- 
resent the first attempt of the Creator to make man. As 
they were very clumsy, he transformed them into stones. 
After this, animals and man were created. 

Forests, rivers and lakes have their own "masters" ; also, 
various classes of animals and of trees, which therefore 
cannot be handled without special precautions. The only ex- 
ception among trees is the birch which men handle as their 
"equal." Sledges, shafts of spears, and the like are made 
of birch wood. Native sketches of spirits collected by 
Bogoras show that these resemble to a degree the animals 
to which they belong. Thus, the master of fish and of moun- 
tain brooks has a long thin body and a face covered with 
hair. The master of the forest has a body of wood with- 
out arms or legs, his eyes are on the crown of his head and 
he rolls along like a log of wood. 

Picvucin^ is an especially important owner or master of 
wild reindeer and of all land game. He lives in deep ravines 
or stays near the forest border. He sends reindeer herds 
to the hunters ; but when he is angry he withholds the sup- 
ply. He demands strict performance of all ancient customs 
and sacrifices connected with the hunt. Any neglect of these 
angers him. In size he is represented not larger than a 
man's finger, while his footprints on the snow are like those 
of a mouse. According to the beliefs of the Maritime 
Chukchee, Picvucin has power over sea-game also. Some 
times one may see him passing the door of a house in the 
shape of a small black pup, but an inspection of his foot- 
prints, which look like those of a mouse, will reveal his 
identity. As soon as this is discovered, the people offer 
him a sacrifice, believing that next year a large whale will 
be drifted to that part of the house. Picvucin's sledge is 
very small and is made of grass. Instead of a reindeer, he 

'C pronounced tch. 


drives a mouse, or a certain small root. In fact, he him- 
self is sometimes represented as that root, driving a mouse. 
The lemming is his polar bear. He kills it and loads it on 
his sledge. On the other hand, he is believed to be very 
strong, can wrestle with giants and, on occasion, he can load 
a real polar bear on his sledge. He takes no solid food, 
living on odors. 

Three classes of spirits, called kelet, are especially prom- 
inent in Chukchee belief: i, evil spirits that walk invisibly, 
bringing disease and death ; they prey on human bodies and 
souls; 2, blood-thirsty cannibals who live on distant shores 
and fight Chukchee warriors; and 3, spirits that are at the 
call of shamans and help them in their magic. 

Among the spirits of the first variety are the ground 
spirits. They have the forms of different creatures, such 
as fish, dog, bird, fox, insect, but are very small. In propor- 
tion to their size, they always have a very large mouth, set 
with many strong teeth. The kelet do not like to stay in 
their own villages. They prefer to visit human habitations, 
and are believed to be constantly wandering about in search 
of human prey. On the other hand, they live like human 
beings and are considered a tribe by themselves. They have 
villages and camps and travel about the country with rein- 
deer and dogs. They marry and have children. Their 
young boys and girls go hunting and fishing while the old 
men sit at home and try to read the future by the aid of 
divining stones. They always hunt man, whom they call 
"a little seal." Their divining stone is a human skull, while 
men often use animal skulls for that purpose. 

If the kelet can catch a human soul, they chop it to pieces, 
cook it in a kettle and feed it to their children. The kelet 
and the shamans are hostile to each other. In their en- 
counters, victory does not always rest with the kelet. Ani- 
mals of peculiar form are sacrificed to the kelet, such as 
reindeer with unusual antlers, white reindeer with black 
ear points, or new born fawns with misshapen mouths. 


The Chukchee do not know of death by natural means. 
When a man dies, he is supposed to be killed either by 
spirits or by an evil shaman by means of charms. 

The second variety of supernatural creatures are the 
giants, who live on earth but always far removed from hu- 
man habitations. They are always represented as very poor. 
They can be fought with ordinary means. 

The third variety of spirits are those that appear to 
shamans. At shamanistic performances they usually figure 
as the "spirit voices" of the shaman, which the latter pro- 
duces by means of ventriloquism. As shamanistic spirits 
may appear wolves, reindeer, walrus, whales, birds, plants, 
icebergs, utensils, pots, needles and needle-cases. The 
shamanistic spirits are very mean to the shaman. They 
punish him for irregularities. On the other hand, if his 
behavior is unobjectionable, they are always at his call. 
Also : the shamanistic spirits constantly quarrel with each 
other and he has to reconcile them. 

The Chukchee personify the "directions" of the com- 
pass, of which they recognize twenty-two, including the 
Zenith and Nadir. Of these, the Mid-day and the Dawn 
are the most important, and to them most of the sacrifices 
are made. 

The sun, moon and stars are also conceived as men of 
different kinds. 

The Chukchee believe in a number of indefinite beings 
whose character and shape are but vaguely defined. Among 
these are the Creator, the Upper Being, the World, the 
Merciful Being, the Life-giving Being and the Luck-giving 
Being.^ The Zenith, the Mid-day, the Dawn, are also 
often considered identical with the creator of the world. 
Among the baptized Chukchee, the Christian God has a 

'Bogoras believes that these vague deities represent an indefinite trans- 
formation of the creative principle of the world and may be compared to 
the manitou or wakan of the American Indians. On the basis of Bogoras' 
own statements about these beings, this analogy seems doubtful. Thus the 
talented author's opinion is adduced here for what it is worth. It may be 
noted, in passing, that while Bogoras has but few peers as an observer, his 
interpretations, most of which are omitted here, are often arbitrary. 


place assigned to him side by side with these vague supe- 
rior beings. 

A special group of spirits are the house spirits. They 
are regarded as permanently associated with the house, 
their very names being derived from a stem meaning "ab- 
sence of motion." The house spirits live like the Chukchee 
themselves. They stay in pairs and have children. Their 
children get sick and die. When a spirit child dies, the 
spirit may make friends with another spirit and allow him 
to have relations with his wife, a custom current among the 

Among the many charms of the Chukchee, those of the 
household are of especial interest, and among these, par- 
ticularly the hearth itself. Bogoras' statement on this sub- 
ject deserves to be quoted verbatim: 

"The chief place among the sacred things of the house- 
hold belongs to the hearth itself, to the fire of which a spark 
is added from each of the hereditary fire-tools at every cere- 
monial. Each family has a fire of its own, and interchange 
of fire is strictly prohibited. Families whose fires are de- 
rived from different lines of ancestors, even though living 
for years in the same camp, will carefully guard against any 
contact of their fires. To borrow a neighbor's fire is held 
to be one of the greatest sins. If a camp is pitched on the 
spot formerly occupied by another family, the Chukchee 
woman, in order to start a new fire, will not avail herself of 
the coal or wood that was left. Even when camped on the 
treeless tundra, she will break up the sledges for fire-wood 
rather than take a single splinter bearing marks of an alien 
fire. Interchange of household utensils connected with the 
hearth — like kettles, dishes, lamps, receptacles for meat, 
etc. — is also strictly forbidden. It is even considered sinful 
to warm at one hearth a piece of cold meat which has been 
boiled at another. All these restrictions, however, refer 
only to the "genuine fire," obtained for a native hearth by 
means of a wooden drill and the sacred fire-board." 


Bella Coola Gods 

The Bella Coola^ believe that the cosmos consists of 
five worlds, situated one above the other. The central 
world is our own, above it is the first heaven and above 
that the second heaven. Below the earth lies the first under- 
world, and below this, the second underworld. 

In the second or uppermost heaven resides the supreme 
deity of the Bella Coola, called "Our Woman" or "Afraid 
of Nothing." Although superior to all the other deities, 
she has relatively little to do with the fates of mankind. 
The heaven in which she resides is described as a prairie 
without any trees. In order to reach it, one must go up a 
river which is situated in the House of the Gods in the 
heaven below it. According to another tradition, the upper- 
most heaven is reached through a rent in the sky of the 
upper heaven. The house of "Our Woman" stands in the 
far east and a gale is continually blowing from the open 
country in front of it, driving everything towards the en- 
trance of the house. But near the house itself there is a 
great calm. A post in the shape of a large winged monster 
stands in front of the house, which is entered through the 
monster's mouth. Outside the door there is gravel of three 
colors, blue, black and white. Behind the house stretches a 
salt water pond in which the goddess bathes. This is the 
dwelling place of Sisiutl, a magical snake which sometimes 
descends to the earth. Wherever it moves, the rocks burst 
asunder and slide down the sides of the mountain. 

In the mythological period, "Our Woman," the great 
goddess, fought the mountains, which are conceived by the 
Bella Coola as having been people, giants of enormous size. 
"Our Woman" fought them successfully and reduced them 
to real mountains and their present proportions. 

In the center of the first heaven stands the House of the 

'The Bella Coola speak a Salish language and it can be shown that they 
have migrated to the coast from the interior in relatively recent times. While 
their language has remained practically unaffected by their Kwakiutl neigh- 
bors, their culture ha» been deeply transformed by the incursions of North- 
V7est Coast customs and ideas. 


Gods. It is also known as "The House of Myths" or 
"Where Man Was Created." In front of it is a post 
painted with representations of various birds. In this house 
lives the Sun, the supreme deity below "Our Woman." The 
Sun is referred to as "Our Father" or "The Sacred One." 
He is the only deity to whom the Bella Coola pray. They 
say "Take care of us, father!" or "Wipe your face, father! 
that it may be fair weather," or "Make me happy, father I 
you have given me too much misfortune." 

Offerings of food and other articles are brought to the 

With the Sun is associated another deity of equal rank, 
and together they rule mankind. Although they are among 
the creators, they are represented as hostile to man and 
ever seeking to destroy him. 

Under these supreme deities there are a number of as- 
sistant deities, some of whose functions are associated with 
the kusiut, the great ceremonial of the Bella Coola. One 
of the deities ordains the death of man and animals, an- 
other is charged with killing the transgressors of kusiut 
rules. Then there is a supernatural boy forever perform- 
ing kusiut dances. Off and on he is sent down to earth with 
new dances. Two of the goddesses always try to Inter- 
vene when the superior gods attempt to punish man. 

Then there are other deities who are more directly con- 
cerned with the daily life and activities of man and of nature. 

Although the Sun is the creator of human beings, another 
deity gives a child its individual features. Before the chil- 
dren are born, a goddess places them In a crude cradle and 
rocks them. Then she sends them down to earth to be born. 
She performs a similar function with reference to animals, 
as well as ordains that their skins and flesh shall serve as 
food and clothing for man. 

Another female deity is called "Mother of Flowers" or 
"Going to the Right," the latter name having reference to 
the movement of the Sun. Every spring she gives birth to 
all the plants in the order of their appearance, being as- 


sisted by two old women and by a shaman who is called in 
by them. 

While the Sun and his supernatural companion are con- 
cerned with the fates of man, they do not themselves inter- 
fere with his activities. This is done by four brothers who 
live in an elevated room near the House of Myths. One 
of these is called "The One Who Finishes His Work by 
Chopping Once," the second is called "The One Who Fin- 
ishes His Work by Rubbing Once," and the third one's name 
is "The One Who Finishes His Work by Cutting Once." 
The brothers are experts at carving and painting. They 
gave man the arts. They taught him to build canoes, boxes 
and houses, to carve wood and to paint. Also, they intro- 
duced the methods used in hunting, and some claim that they 
made the fish. 

A goddess, daughter of the Sun, taught man the art of 
working cedar bark. 

Besides these there are nine brothers and a sister who 
are in special charge of the kusiut ceremonial. 

Curious ideas are entertained about the Sun and his rela- 
tion to the sky. At sunset there stands an enormous post 
supporting the sky, which prevents the sun from falling into 
the lower world. The trail of the sun is conceived as a 
bridge which is as broad as the distance between the winter 
and the summer solstices. The Sun walks with his face 
towards the west. In the summer he walks on the right 
side of the bridge, in the winter, on the left side, the varying 
heights of the Sun thus being accounted for. The extreme 
right and left sides of the bridge are called "the place where 
he sits down." Each of these points is guarded by a super- 
natural being whose duty it is to see to it that the Sun does 
not remain too long at the solstice. If the Sun tarries 
too long at the winter solstice, the people say, "Salmon 
will be dried late this year." If he leaves without delay, 
they say, "Soon we shall dry salmon." Three guardians 
accompany the Sun, who dance around him all the time. 
The Sun's halo is called "The Cape of Our Father." A 


sun-dog that appears west from the Sun is called "The 
Painted Face of Our Father." When he drops down to 
earth epidemics occur. Eclipses result from the Sun losing 
his torch. 

There are twenty-four guardians whose duty it is to 
take care of the sky. The sky must be continually fed with 
fire wood. Once the guardians put too much fire wood into 
the sky and it burst. All the pieces except one fell down 
to the earth. The fragments hit the faces of the twenty- 
four guardians and distorted them. They tried to mend 
the sky but did not succeed; then they went down the river 
and came to the four brothers whose assistance they asked. 
These proved equal to the task. They gathered up the 
pieces and glued them together. The Sun, which up to 
that time had remained in the east, now began to move on 
his daily course. At that time also the four brothers built 
the bridge over which the Sun travels. They placed a 
wedge in the opening of the sky into which the twenty-four 
assistants have to put the fire wood. This opening is 
called "Mouth Kept Open by Means of a Wedge." "The 
sky shall not burst again," said the four brothers, "this 
wedge shall keep its mouth open." 

The earth itself is conceived as an island floating upon 
the ocean. Below it is the first underworld, which is 
the country of the ghosts. This is a topsy turvy world. 
Ghostland stretches along the banks of a great river. Be- 
hind the village where the ghosts dwell there is a hill, 
the base of which is covered with sharp stones. When 
we have summer, it Is winter in ghostland; when we have 
night, it is day there. The ghosts walk on their heads 
and their language is different from that spoken on earth. 
When the souls reach the lower world they receive new 
names. In their village, which is surrounded by a fence, 
there is a dancing house in which the ghosts perform the 
kusiut. The dancing house is very large and long and has 
four fires. The women sit on the floor of the house, while 
the men sit on an elevated platform. Although the houses 


have doors, the ghosts who first reach the underworld enter 
through the smoke-hole by means of a ladder, at the foot 
of which two men stand. Those who have once entered 
the dancing house may not return to earth. Other souls 
are sent back to earth by the deities, to be born again as 
children in the same families from which they came. The 
souls who enjoy the life in ghostland die a second death, 
whereupon they sink to the second underworld, from which 
there is no return. 

The All Father 

During recent years certain primitive ideas have been re- 
ported from different fields of investigation which seem to 
differ not only from the generalized animistic beliefs, but 
also from the more or less highly anthropomorphlsed beings 
of early mythologies. These Ideas have usually been dis- 
cussed under the heading of the All Father belief. Thus, ac- 
cording to Strehlow, the Aranda of Central Australia believe 
in a great moral being, Aljira. He is eternal and is con- 
ceived as a very large, strong man with a red skin and 
light hair, which falls on his shoulders. His legs are 
like those of an emu. He is decorated with a white fore- 
head band, a neck band and a bracelet. He also wears a 
hair loin-girdle. He has many wives, called "the beautiful 
ones," who have dogs' legs and are also red in color. He 
has many sons and daughters, the former having emu legs, 
the latter, dogs' legs. Handsome men and beautiful women 
frequent his neighborhood. 

He lives In heaven, which has existed from the beginning. 
The Milky Way is a Great River with inexhaustible reser- 
voirs of sweet water; tall trees, tasteful berries and 
fruits, abound here. Great flocks of birds enliven Aljira's 
domain and many animals such as kangaroos, wild cats, and 
the like, seek his enormous hunting grounds. While Aljira 
follows the game, his wives gather edible herbs and other 


fruit which grow in abundance at all times of the year. 
The stars are the camp fires of Aljira. 

Aljira is the great god of the Aranda. Women as well 
as men know him, but his reign is restricted to heaven. He 
has not created man nor is he concerned about him. No 
churinga are consecrated to him. The Aranda do not fear 
him nor do they love him, but they do fear that some day 
the heavens will collapse and kill them off. The believe 
that the sky rests upon piles or stone legs.^ 

What Strehlow says about Aljira agrees fairly closely 
with the accounts about the All Father collected by Howitt 
among the different tribes of Southeastern Australia. 

Thus, the Narrinyeri believe in a supreme being who is 
said to have made all things on earth and to have given 
man his weapons and taught him his ceremonies. When they 
are asked about the origin of any custom, they reply that the 
supreme being has Instituted it. The Wotjobaluk as well 
as the Kulin speak of Bunjil, who is represented as an old 
man. He is the heavenly headman of the tribe and has 
two wives and a son, the rainbow, whose wife is the second 
rainbow, which is sometimes faintly visible. He is believed 
to have given the Kulin the arts and, according to at 
least one legend, he instituted the phratries and originated 
the law of exogamy. Howitt is careful to point out that 
the All Father among these tribes is endowed with distinctly 
huma qrather than animal traits. 

Among the Kumai the knowledge of the supreme being 
is almost entirely restricted to the initiated men, although 
the old women know at least of the existence of this being. 
The novices are told all about the All Father at the last 
and most sacred session of the Initiation ceremonies. At 
this time they learn that he lived on earth long ago and 
taught the Kurnai how to make implements, nets, canoes 
and weapons. Individual names which the people have 

'This presentation of the Aljira belief is based on C. Strehlow's "Die 
Aranda- Und Loritjastamme in Zentral-Australien," Part I (Frankfurt am 
Main. 1907). 


from their ancestors, were first given by the supreme being. 
He also instituted the secret ceremonies. When some one 
revealed the secret of these ceremonies to the women, the 
wrath of the supreme being was aroused and in revenge he 
sent down his fire, the Aurora Australis, which filled the 
whole space between the earth and the sky. Men went mad 
with fear and speared each other, brothers killing brothers, 
fathers their children and husbands their wives. Then the 
sea rushed over the land and pearly all mankind was 
drowned. Some of those who survived became the ances- 
tors of the Kurnai, while some turned into animals, birds, 
reptiles and fish. Tundun, the son of the supreme being, 
and his wife became porpoises. Then the supreme being 
left the earth and ascended the sky, where he still resides. 

All the tribes which attend the kuringal ceremonies of 
the Yuin people believe in the great being, Dara-Mulun, who 
once lived on earth with his mother. At first, the earth 
was bare, and "like the sky, as hard as a stone." The land 
extended over where the sea is now. There were as yet 
no men or women, but only animals, birds and reptiles. 
Dara-Mulun made the trees. Then he caused a great flood 
which covered the entire coast country, so that no people 
were left except some who crawled out of the water on to 
Mount Dromedary. Then Dara-Mulun went up to the sky 
where he still lives, watching the actions of men. He made 
the bull-roarer, the sound of which is still believed to be his 
voice. He also gave the Yuin their laws, which ever since 
have been handed down by the old men. When the spirits 
of dead men leave them, Dara-Mulun meets them and takes 
care of them. 

Upon a rough inspection of these beliefs, it will occur 
to any one that missionary influence had something to do 
with their origination. Some features in connection with 
the flood, the moral character of the supreme being and 
other traits, strongly suggest the influence of white teachers. 
The problem, however, cannot be settled so easily, for be- 
liefs in supreme beings such as here described occur also 


among other tribes, for instance, among some of the Negro 
peoples of the Gold Coast of West Africa. The idea also 
seems to be present in Northwestern America and North- 
eastern Siberia. It is especially notable that the supreme 
being is often conceived as remote and detached from the 
affairs of men, although in some instances he is believed to 
have created them. Of all ideas about the All Father, 
the following two seem to be the most consistent, the fact 
that he or she is supreme, superior to other deities, and yet 
does not now actually participate in the affairs of man. The 
contact of primitive tribes with civilization has everywhere 
been sufficiently frequent or probable to render the interpre- 
tation of the All Father idea through borrowing a feasible 
one. But the very wide geographical distribution of these 
beliefs makes one pause before accepting such an interpre- 
tation. It Is, after all, not psychologically impossible that 
a more or less vague idea of a superior being should have 
developed among primitive tribes fairly early on a par with 
animism, magic and other forms of early belief. The entire 
problem awaits further investigation.^ 

The Individual in Religion 
Medicine-men Among the Chukchee and Others" 

Some family rituals of the Chukchee are in some respects 
like shamanism. Most Chukchee will from time to time 

'The problem of the All Father should not be confounded with that of 
early monotheism. It will have been noted that in all of the instances cited 
— and the same is true in many other cases — the All Father was not by any 
means the only supernatural being in the belief of the people. Thus the 
generalization of Father Schmidt with reference to the original monotheism 
of the Pygmy peoples (Cf. his work "Die Pygmaen volker" ) must be placed 
on a distinct level from the discussions of the All Father. A systematic 
review of all relevant data, which is now slightly out of date, will be found 
in Schmidt's book "Die Enstehung der Gottesidee" (originally in French in 
the form of a series of articles on "L'origine de I'idee de dieu" in Anthropos, 
1908-10). A critical discussion of the entire problem will also be found 
in Andrew Lang's "The Making of Religion." 

^his account of Chukchee shamanism is based on Bogoras' "The Chuk- 
chee Religion," Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Vol. VII. 


sit down in the outer room with the family drum and, while 
drumming energetically, sing songs and perhaps even try 
to commune with spirits. In this sense it can be said that 
many people act as shamans. The real shamanistic perfor- 
mances, however, always take place in the sleeping room at 
night and in the darkness. 

Shamans among the Chukchee are essentially "those with 
spirits." Both men and women may be shamans. It is, in 
fact, probable that true shamanism is more common among 
women than among men, but the higher grades of shamanis- 
tic powers and performances are restricted to men. The 
bearing of children is believed to be bad for shamanistic 
power. Indeed, anything connected with birth has an evil 
effect on shamanism, and may thus affect also the powers of 
men. However, there is only one feature, ventriloquism, 
which is entirely beyond the reach of women shamans. 

True shamans among the Chukchee, as in Northeastern 
Siberia generally, are people of a distinct psychic caste. 
"The shamans among the Chukchee with whom I con- 
versed," writes Bogoras, "were as a rule extremely excit- 
able, almost hysterical, and not a few of them were half 
crazy. Their cunning resembled the cunning of a lunatic."^ 

The future shaman may be discerned at an early age. 
His gaze is directed into space, and his eyes are unusually 
bright. This is why, it is claimed, the shamans can see 
spirits in the dark. During the shamanistic performances, 
the shaman is extremely sensitive ( "bashful" ) . He is afraid 
of strange people and things, shrinks from ridicule and criti- 
cism. The spirits themselves are also believed to be "bash- 
ful," unless the audience is such as to favor their appear- 

Bogoras states, in agreement with many of his prede- 
cessors in Siberian ethnology, that this hyper-sensitiveness 
is characteristic of the entire area. Even the Russian Cre- 
oles are not immune from it. Men of the latter class have 
been known to die when threatened or when their death was 

'Ibid., p. 415. 


foretold in a dream. While disharmony with the kelet 
may readily result in the death of a shaman, he is normally 
regarded as very tough. Thus the shaman under certain 
conditions is "soft to die," although he is otherwise "hard 
to kill." 

When the call to shamanism comes to a young boy, spirits 
appear to him, strange objects lie across his path, of which 
he makes amulets, and the like. For a considerable time he 
may manifest great resistance, for persons do not usually 
want to become shamans.^ When the youth has finally be- 
come a shaman and has practiced for a number of years, he 
may then discard his art without fear of angering the 

The "gathering of shamanlstic powers" is a prolonged 
and laborious task: 

"For men, the preparatory stage of shamanistic inspira- 
tion is in most cases very painful, and extends over a long 
time. The call comes in an abrupt and obscure manner, 
leaving the young novice in much uncertainty regarding it. 
He feels 'bashful' and frightened; he doubts his own dis- 
position and strength, as has been the case with all seers, 
from Moses down. Half unconsciously and half against his 
own will, his whole soul undergoes a strange and painful 
transformation. This period may last months, and some- 
times even years. The young novice, the 'newly inspired' 
loses all Interest in the ordinary affairs of life. He ceases 
to work, eats but little and without relishing the food, ceases 
to talk to people, and does not even answer their questions. 
The greater part of his time he spends in sleep. 

"Some keep to the inner room and go out but rarely. Oth- 
ers wander about in the wilderness, under the pretext of 
hunting or of keeping watch over the herd, but often without 
taking along any arms or the lasso of the herdsman. A 
wanderer like this, however, must be closely watched, other- 
wise he might lie down on the open tundra and sleep for 

"This attitude contrasts strikingly with the frantic zeal displayed by the 
searchers for visions and guardian spirits in North America. 


three or four days, incurring the danger, in winter, of being 
buried in drifting snow."^ 

Hard as is the shamanistic initiation, it must at least in 
part be gone over again before each performance. Nor 
may the shaman resist the call; when the inspiration is upon 
him, he must practice. Should he resist, his suffering be- 
comes acute. He may sweat blood, and his state becomes 
that of a madman, reminding one of epilepsy. 

As shamanistic perfomances require considerable physical 
exertions, shamanism is on the whole a young man's pro- 
fession, and when a man reaches the age of forty, he will 
usually lay down his art, sometimes by passing it on to 
another. This is achieved by blowing into the eyes or 
mouth of the novitiate or by stabbing oneself and then the 
latter with a knife. Whatever the novitiate wins in power 
is lost by the shaman, and this loss is irretrievable. 

Even the beating of the drum, a constant accompaniment 
of every shamanistic performance, requires skill and physical 
endurance. The same applies to the capacity of passing 
rapidly from a state of frantic excitation to one of normal 
quiescence. All this can only be acquired through prolonged 
and persistent practice. 

While the typical Chukchee shaman is a neurotic, sha- 
mans occur whose psychic mould is very different. Thus 
Bogoras refers to a shaman who was "a good-looking, well- 
proportioned man of rather quiet manners, though an ill- 
advised word might throw him into intense excitement. He 
excelled in shamanistic devices which apparently required 
great physical strength and dexterity. At the same time, 
however, he declared that he did not consider himself a 
shaman of a high order, and that his relations with the 
'spirits' must not be taken very seriously. To explain this 
he said that when he was young he suffered severely from 
syphilis. To heal himself, he had recourse to spirits, and 
after two. years, when he had become skillful in shamanistic 
practices, he was completely restored by their help. After 

^Ibid., p. 420. 


that he maintained Intercourse with the kelet for several 
years, and was on the point of becoming a really great 
shaman. Then suddenly his luck was gone. One of his 
dogs bore two black pups ; and when he saw them both sit- 
ting side by side on their haunches, looking into his face, 
he took it as a sign that the time had come for him to with- 
draw from shamanistic practices. He suffered a relapse 
of his illness, and his herd was visited by hoof-disease. 
Fearing that worse things might happen, he dropped all seri- 
ous pursuits of shamanism, and practised only the tricks, 
which were completely harmless. As far as I could learn, 
he had been a magician employing especially the powers of 
evil, or practising the black art ; and after the return of his 
disease, he abandoned those practices, considering them 
detrimental to his health and well-being."^ 

That the shamans practice deceit in the course of their 
performances is obvious enough. Not infrequently, in fact, 
it is observed even by the native audience, but the general 
disposition to countenance and endorse shamanism, sup- 
ported as it is by a traditional background, overcomes those 
occasional moments of scepticism. The shamans are al- 
ways compensated for their services by presents of meat, 
thongs, skins, garments, living reindeer or "alien food." 
"Shamanistic advice or treatment," says the native prac- 
titioner, "when given gratuitously, amounts to nothing."'' 

The most common aims pursued at a shamanistic per- 
formance is the cure of a patient through the invocation of 
advice from spirits or the bringing back of a patient's soul 
abducted by hostile spirits, or the foretelling of future events 
after consultation with the same source. 

The following is a description of a typical shamanistic 
performance : 

"After the evening meal is finished and the kettles and 

^Ibid., pp. 428-429. 

This reminds one of the attitude of modern psychoanalysts who insist 
on the therapeutic value of the financial sacrifice made by the patient. 
(N. B. This statement should not be misinterpreted, for there is a rea) 
psychological element involved.) 


trays are removed to the outer tent, all the people who wish 
to be present at the seance enter the inner room, which is 
carefully closed for the night. Among the Reindeer Chuk- 
chee, the inner room is especially small, and its narrow space 
causes much inconvenience to the audience, which is packed 
together in a tight and most uncomfortable manner. The 
Maritime Chukchee have more room, and may listen to the 
voices of the spirits with more ease and freedom. The 
shaman sits on the 'master's place' near the back wall; and 
even in the most limited sleeping-room, some free space must 
be left around him. The drum is carefuly looked over, its 
head tightened, and, if it is much shrunken, it is moistened 
with urine and hung up for a short time over the lamp to 
dry. The shaman sometimes occupies more than an hour 
in this process, before he is satisfied with the drum. To 
have more freedom in his movements, the shaman usually 
takes off his fur shirt, and remains quite naked down to the 
waist. He often removes also his shoes and stockings, 
which of course gives free play to his feet and toes. 

"In olden times, shamans used no stimulants; but at pres- 
ent they often smoke a pipeful of strong tobacco without 
admixture of wood, which certainly works like a strong nar- 
cotic. This habit is copied from the Tungus shamans, who 
make great use of unmixed tobacco as a powerful stimu- 

"At last the light is put out and the shaman begins to 
operate. He beats the drum and sings his introductory 
tunes, at first in a low voice; then gradually his voice in- 
creases in volume, and soon it fills the small closed-up room 
with its violent clamor. The narrow walls resound in all 

"Moreover, the shaman uses his drum for modifying his 
voice, now placing it directly before his mouth, now turn- 
ing it at an oblique angle, and all the time beating it violently. 
After a few minutes, all this noise begins to work strangely 
on the listeners, who are crouching down, squeezed together 
in a most uncomfortable position. They begin to lose the 


power to locate the source of the sounds ; and, almost with- 
out any effort of imagination, the song and the drum seem 
to shift from corner to corner, or even to move about with- 
out having any definite place at all. 

"The shaman's songs have no words. Their music is 
mostly simple, and consists of one short phrase repeated 
again and again. After repeating it many times, the shaman 
breaks off, and utters a series of long-drawn, hysterical sighs, 
which sound something like 'Ah, ya, ka, ya, ka, ya, ka I' 
After that, he comes back to his songs. For this he draws 
his breath as deep as possible in order to have more air in 
his lungs, and to make the first note the longest. 

"Some of the tunes, however, are more varied, and are 
not devoid of a certain grace. Not a few are improvised 
by the shaman on the spot; others are repeated from seance 
to seance. Each shaman has several songs of his own, 
which are well known to the people; so that if anybody 
uses one of them, for instance at a ceremonial, the listeners 
recognize it Immediately, and say that such and such a man 
is using the particular song of such and such a shaman. 

"There is no definite order for the succession of the songs, 
and the shaman changes them at will, sometimes even re- 
turning to the first one after a considerable interval has 
elapsed. This introductory singing lasts from a quarter of 
an hour to half an hour or more, after which the kelet make 
their first appearance." 

While the shaman does all the singing, he expects some 
one from the audience to support him by means of a series 
of interjections. Without such "answering calls", "a Chuk- 
chee shaman considers himself unable to perform his calling 
in a proper way; therefore novices, while trying to learn 
the shamanlstic practices, usually Induce a brother or a 
sister to respond, thus encouraging the zeal of the per- 
former. Some shamans also require those people who claim 
their advice or treatment to give them answering calls dur- 
ing the particular part of the performance which refers to 
their affairs. The story-tellers of the Chukchee also usually 


claim the assistance of their listeners, who must call out 
the same exclamations. 

"Among the Asiatic Eskimo, the wife and other members 
of the family form a kind of chorus, which from time to 
time catches up the tune and sings with the shaman. Among 
the Russianized Yukaghir of the lower Kolyma the wife 
is also the assistant of her shaman husband, and during the 
performance she gives him encouraging answers, and he ad- 
dresses her as his 'supporting staff.' 

"In most cases the kelet begin by entering the body of the 
shaman. This is marked with some change in his manner 
of beating the drum, which becomes faster and more vio- 
lent ; but the chief mark is a series of new sounds, supposed 
to be peculiar to the kelet. The shaman shakes his head 
violently, producing with his lips a peculiar chattering noise, 
not unlike a man who is shivering with cold. He shouts 
hysterically, and in a changed voice utters strange, pro- 
longed shrieks, such as 'O to, to, to, to,' or 'I pi, pi, pi, pi' 
all of which are supposed to characterize the voice of the 
kelet. He often imitates the cries of various animals and 
birds which are supposed to be his particular assistants. If 
the shaman is only a 'single-bodied' one — that is, has no 
ventriloquistic power — the kelet will proceed to sing and 
beat the drum by means of his body. The only difference 
will be in the timbre of the voice, which will sound harsh and 
unnatural, as becomes supernatural beings."^ 

The traits characteristic of Chukchee shamans are 
shared by them, often to a striking degree, with the Koryak, 
Kamchadal and Yukaghir. More remotely the Chukchee 
shaman is related culturally to the angakut of the Eskimo 
and the shamans of the Northwest Coast. 

Medicine-men are, of course, ubiquitous in the primitive 
world, but in other localities their traits are only in part 
like those of the magic working practitioner of the peoples 
of Northeastern Siberia and of northwestern and northern 
North America. According to Koch-Griinberg, men and 

'Ibid., pp. 433-435- 


women practictioners occur among the Guana, Tuppi-Ymba 
and Yekuana. Among the Chiriguama and many other 
tribes studied by Nordenskiold, both men and women prac- 
titioners have a "comrade" in the other world who helps 
them in their profession. The "comrades" of men are 
women, those of women, men. Both Dobrizhoffer and 
Hyades-Deniker state that old women are often held re- 
sponsible for deaths. According to the same authors, defi- 
nite separation does not always exist between the offices of 
chief and medicine-man, at least to the extent that some of 
the prominent chiefs were also known as medicine-men. In 
his work on the Arawak-speaking peoples. Max Schmidt 
refers to some traits on the basis of which boys were se- 
lected for the profession of medicine-men. Among others, 
he mentions epilepsy, various physical peculiarities, such 
as hemorrhages of the breast, and general nervousness. 
Payments for the services of medicine-men are referred to 
constantly. This trait thus seems to be as common as it is 
in Northeastern Siberia. In some instances, medlclne-men 
belonging to a different tribe or even to a different village 
occupied by the same tribe are regarded as evil, whereas 
the practitioners of one tribe and village are thought help- 
ful and benevolent.^ 

In some South American tribes the profession of a med- 
icine-man requires long preparation, sometimes extending 
over months or even years. Enforced fasting and various 
forms of self castigation are common characteristics of the 
period of apprenticeship. Some of the things the apprentice 
is expected to learn from his expert preceptors are monot- 
onous singing, ventriloquism, imitation of animal voices, 
sucking out of poison, the habit of drinking narcotics and 
poisons, the swallowing of small animals, the swallowing and 
expectorating of small pebbles and pieces of wood. This 

'This psychologically plausible attitude occurs frequently in different 
parts of the world: magicians of other tribes are either regarded as evil 
or as more powerful. A number of such instances have been recorded in 
Australia, and in North America the Haida, at least, show aa extraordinary 
respect for the shamans of the Tlingit. 


list reminds one forcibly of the professional accomplish- 
ments of the shamans of Northeastern Siberia. It is, of 
course, clear that here also a modicum of deceit is an essen- 
tial ingredient of the medicine-man's equipment. Thus, 
Von den Steinen states about the Bororo healers that when 
they have foretold the death of a sick child, they do not 
hesitate to help matters along by strangling it with a thread. 

In Australia the medicinal functions of magicians are so 
characteristic that Howitt, in speaking of the southeastern 
district of the continent, defines the medicine-man as "one 
who causes or cures deaths by projecting into bodies or ex- 
tracting from them, quartz crystals, bone, wood or other 
things." And he continues : "The belief in magic in its vari- 
ous forms — in dreams, omens and warnings — is so universal 
and mingles so intimately with the daily life of the aborig- 
ines that no one, not even those who practice deceit them- 
selves, doubt the power of other medicine-men, or that if 
they failed to effect their magical purpose the failure is due 
to an error in the practice or to the superior skill or power 
of some adverse practitioner."^ 

The kunki or magicians of the Dieri, hold intercourse 
with supernatural beings, and with their assistance interpret 
dreams and reveal to people the Individuals who are re- 
sponsible for deaths caused by magic. The author relates 
the case of a magician who revived a man who was near 
death. The magician went outside, caught the spirit of the 
man just as it was going toward karalk (other world) , then, 
laying down on the half-dead man, put the spirit into him, 
and thus brought him back to life. 

In other instances, knowledge rather than magic Is opera- 
tive, but the spirit in which such cures are taken by the 
natives Is very much the same. Thus a woman who was 
bitten by a snake was cured by her husband, who was not 
even a regular magician, in the following way : he secured 
a cord, tied it above the knee of the bitten leg, twisting it 
tighter v/Ith a stick, then he picked up a quartz pebble, 

'Howitt, "Natiye Tribes of Southeast Australia," p. js«. 


cracked it in two and with the sharp edge cut a circle right 
around the leg, severing the skin, the blood oozed out, and 
though the woman became drowsy and ill, she gradually 

Among the Kurnai there is a separate variety of harmless 
magicians, who go up to the spirit world to learn songs and 
dances, then come back and teach them to the people. 

While elements of somewhat marked similarity must 
have been noted between the magical practitioners of North- 
eastern Siberia, those of South America and those of Aus- 
tralia, it must be remembered that the general character of 
the individuals who engage in magical cures in these areas is 
not by any means the same. The shamans of Northeastern 
Siberia, as well as those of Arctic North America, are high- 
strung and often neurotic individuals. In South America 
this also seems to be the case, although by no means as regu- 
larly or as markedly. The magicians of Australia, on the 
other hand, are perfectly normal individuals, amply pro- 
vided with commonsense and shrewdness. Their qualities 
are more like those of, the chiefs and leaders In industrial 
pursuits. Together with the latter and the old men at 
large, they guide the younger generation by their example 
and their teaching. 

The Ghost-Dance Religions of the North American Indians 

While the psychological origin of religion can be made 
clear at least theoretically, we know next to nothing of the 
origins of religions as part of primitive history. The only 
mode of approach to the problem, therefore, is to study 
certain phenomena of relatively recent occurrence and pro- 
ject the insight thus gained into the night of the remote 
past. In view of this situation, the data available on the 
so-called Ghost-Dance Religions of the Indians are wel- 
come indeed. 

A common cause of these religious revivals is withont 


doubt to be sought in the abnormal conditions arising out 
of the contact of white man's civilization with the religious 
and ethical traditions of the American Indians. The mode 
of origin of the spirit revivals in the different tribes is strik- 
ingly similar, while the irresistible spread of the revivalist 
activities from tribe to tribe presents an astounding picture 
of religious receptiveness. 

One or two examples will make clear just what took place 
in these revivals. 

The great revivalist prophet, Smohalla, was a member of 
a small tribe related to the Nez Perce Indians. The date of 
his birth falls between 18 15 and 1820. After having fre- 
quented a Catholic mission among the Yakima, the youth 
achieved considerable renown as a warrior and later as a 
medicine-man. As his professional fame grew, he became 
involved in an acrimonious dispute with Moses, a rival med- 
icine-man and chief of a neighboring tribe. The affair came 
to an open fight in which Smohalla was worsted and nearly 
killed. However, he managed to drag himself to a boat and 
was carried down the current of the Columbia River until 
he was picked up by some white men. 

His recovery was slow. When well once more, he was 
unwilling to return to his people among whom he knew he 
was regarded as dead, so he started on a prolonged period 
of wanderings. He made his way along the coast to Mexico, 
and from there he traveled back north through Arizona 
and Nevada. While on his trip he began to preach a new 
doctrine. He averred that he had been dead and had vis- 
ited the spirit world and that now he was preaching by 
divine command. When he came among the tribes that had 
heard of him before his unlucky fight, he was believed, for he 
had been thought dead and it was known that his body 
had disappeared. His doctrine consisted in a prophecy that 
the early conditions of Indian life would return, that the 
buffalo would come back and white man withdraw from 
the land. There was much Catholic ritual in the accom- 
panying ceremonies as well as a rigid ethical code which 


had a remarkable effect on the tribes that fell under its 

Smohalla knew well how to enhance his prestige by such 
little tricks as the foretelling of eclipses. He was enabled 
to do this with the help of an almanac and some accompany- 
ing explanations gleaned from a party of surveyors. This 
particular trick almost cost him his reputation, however, as 
he was not able to secure another almanac, and after the 
expiration of the year his astronomical predictions came 
to an abrupt conclusion. 

It is clear that Smohalla was subject to cataleptic trances 
and his alleged supernatural revelations came to him while he 
was lying prostrate in this unconscious condition. The 
slightly naive remarks quoted by Mooney from MacMurray 
are of sufficient interest to be reproduced here : 

"He falls into trances and lies rigid for considerable 
periods. Unbelievers have experimented by sticking needles 
through his flesh, cutting him with knives, and otherwise 
testing his sensibility to pain, without provoking any respon- 
sive action. It was asserted that he was surely dead, be- 
cause blood did not flow from his wounds. These trances 
always excite great interest and often alarm, as he threatens 
to abandon his earthly body altogether because of the dis- 
obedience of his people, and on each occasion they are in 
a state of suspense as to whether the Saghalee Tyee will send 
his soul back to earth to reoccupy his body, or will, on the^ 
contrary, abandon and leave them without his guidance. 
It is this going into long trances, out of which he comes as 
from heavy sleep and almost immediately relates his expe- 
riences in the spirit land, that gave rise to the title of 
'Dreamers,' or believers in dreams, commonly given to his 
followers by the neighboring whites. His actions are simi- 
lar to those of a trance medium, and if self-hypnotization 
be practicable that would seem to explain it. I questioned 
him as to his trances and hoped to have him explain them 
to me, but he avoided the subject and was angered when I 
pressed him. He manifestly believes all he says of what 


occurs to him in this trance state. As we have hundreds of 
thousands of educated white people who believe in similar 
fallacies, this is not more unlikely in an Indian subjected to 
such influences."^ 

Further on, the same author continues to describe one of 
the ceremonial occasions on which Smohalla preached the 
new religion and made converts: 

"Smohalla invited me," writes MacMurray, "to parti- 
cipate in what he considered a grand ceremonial service 
within the larger house. This house was built with a frame- 
work of stout logs placed upright in the ground and roofed 
over with brush, or with canvas in rainy weather. The 
sides consisted of bark and rush matting. It was about 75 
feet long by 25 feet wide. Singing and drumming had been 
going on for some time when I arrived. The air resounded 
with the voices of hundreds of Indians, male and female, and 
the banging of drums. Within, the room was dimly lighted. 
Smoke curled from a fire on the floor at the farther end and 
pervaded the atmosphere. The ceiling was hung with hun- 
dreds of salmon, split and drying in the smoke. 

"The scene was a strange one. On either side of the room 
was a row of twelve women standing erect with arms 
crossed and hands extended, with finger tips at the shoulders. 
They kept time to the drums and their voices by balancing 
on the balls of their feet and tapping with their heels on 
the floor, while they chanted with varying pitch and time. 
The excitement and persistent repetition wore them out, 
and I heard that others than Smohalla had seen visions in 
their trances, but I saw none who would admit it or explain 
anything of it. I fancied they feared their own action, and 
that real death might come to them in this simulated death. 

"Those on the right hand were dressed in garments of a 
red color with an attempt at uniformity. Those on the 
left wore costumes of white buckskin, said to be very ancient 
ceremonial costumes, with red and blue trimmings. All 
wore large round silver plates or such other glittering orna- 

'Bureau of Ethnology, 14th Annual Report, pp. 719-720. 


ments as they possessed. A canvas covered the floor and 
on it knelt the men and boys in lines of seven. Each seven, 
as a rule, had shirts of the same color. The tallest were 
in front, the size diminishing regularly to the rear. Chil- 
dren and ancient hags filled in any spare space. In front 
on a mattress knelt Smohalla, his left hand covering his 
heart. On his right was the boy bell ringer in similar pos- 

Another great prophet or messiah was Wovoka, probably 
a Paiute Indian, bom about 1856. It seems that his father 
had been a minor prophet, so that Wovoka grew up in an 
atmosphere that suggested his future calling. He received 
his great revelation at the early age of fourteen. "On 
this occasion 'the sun died'* .... and he fell asleep in 
the daytime and was taken up to the other world. Here he 
saw God, with all the people who had died long ago engaged 
in their oldtime sports and occupations, all happy and for- 
ever young. It was a pleasant land and full of game. After 
showing him all, God told him he must go back and tell his 
people they must be good and love one another, have no 
quarreling, and live in peace with the whites ; that they must 
work, and not lie or steal ; that they must put away all the 
old practices that savored of war; that if they faithfully 
obeyed his instruction they would at last be reunited with 
their friends in this other world, where there would be no 
more death or sickness or old age. He was then given the 
dance which he was commanded to bring back to his people. 
By performing this dance at intervals, for five consecutive 
days each time, they would secure this happiness to them- 
selves and hasten the event. Finally God gave him control 
over the elements so that he could make it rain or snow or 
be dry at will, and appointed him his deputy to take charge 
of affairs in the west, while 'Governor Harrison' would 

7iW, p. 7*6. 

The reference is to an eclipse, an event which always arouses great 
commotion in an Indian community. It seems that on this occasion the sickly 
youth experienced some 40it of a fit, accompanied by a aomewhat elaborate 


attend to matters in the east, and he, God, would look after 
the world above. He then returned to earth and began 
to preach as he was directed, convincing the people by exer- 
cising the wonderful powers that had been given him."^ 

Wovoka was a powerful magician. He had five songs by 
means of which he could control rain and snow. The first 
song brought mists or clouds; the second, a snowfall; the 
third, a shower; the fourth, hard rain or storm; while the 
fifth brought clear weather. The ceremonial aspect of the 
dances introduced by Wovoka were of the usual kind, em- 
bracing frenzy, fits and visions. 

The mythology of the doctrine can be briefly stated in 
the words of Mooney: "The dead are all arisen and the 
spirit hosts are advancing and have already arrived at the 
boundaries of this earth, led forward by the regenerator 
in shape of cloud-like indistinctness. The spirit captain of 
the dead is always represented under this shadowy sem- 
blance. The great change will be ushered in by a trembling 
of the earth, at which the faithful are exhorted to feel no 
alarm. The hope held out is the same that has inspired the 
Christian for nineteen centuries — a happy immortality in 
perpetual youth. As to fixing a date, the messiah is as cau- 
tious as his predecessor in prophecy, who declares that 'no 
man knoweth the time, not even the angels of God.' "^ 

The ethical code embraced such maxims as "do no harm 
to any one, do right always," "do not tell lies," "when your 
friends die you must not cry" — a reference to the elaborate, 
expensive and often cruel rites that used to accompany 
burials among these tribes. But the most prominent maxim 
was "you must not fight." The effect of this ethical code 
in the setting of a revivalist doctrine seems to have been 
remarkable, insofar as it fostered friendliness among tribes 
that had previously been almost perpetually at war. 

A religious upheaval, similar to the Ghost-Dance Reli- 
gions of the west, swept over the Iroquois tribes of the east 

^Ibid, pp. 771-773. 
^Ibid, p. 782. 


in the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. Here the 
prophet was Handsome-Lake, the brother of a great war 
chief. So far as recorded, his life up to the age of sixty was 
not an unusual one and if he achieved any distinction 
it was by his rather wild and disorderly habits. Then he 
fell sick and his ailment was pronounced hopeless. While 
on his death-bed he had an elaborate dream accompanied 
by a vision, usually designated as the vision of the four 
angels. In this dream and vision he claims to have received 
the outline of the new doctrine. Here the traces of Chris- 
tian teaching are conspicuous: the doctrine was proclaimed 
by four angels and implied a belief in one supreme god, 
which was foreign to Indian religion. Handsome-Lake's 
teaching rejected many of the ancient beliefs and ceremonies 
of the Iroquois as heathen and evil. At the same time, it in- 
corporated In its precepts an even larger number of the pre- 
existing beliefs and practices. Here also the religious doc- 
trine had an ethical flavor ; it prescribed peace, truthfulness 
and sobriety, and comprised certain educational maxims. 

The doctrine of Handsome-Lake received wide acceptance 
among the Iroquois tribes, and to this day. In many of the 
Iroquolan reservations, some Indians belong to one or an- 
other Christian denomination, while others, not always 
the minority, are followers of Handsome-Lake or 
"deists," as they like to call themselves. There are still a 
number of men living who know the entire doctrine and 
preach it on the different reservations. This process, when 
accompanied by explanations. Implies three hours preaching 
a day for five days. It is very remarkable and has often 
been noted that many of the older beliefs of the Iroquois 
have been almost wholly supplanted by this new religion. 

The Ghost-Dance Religions of the western Indians and 
the doctrine of Handsome-Lake remind one of parallel and 
recent phenomena in civilization. The numerous Russian 
sects, which In the course of two or three centuries have 
split off from the Greek Catholic Church, present many 
features of striking resemblance to those reviewed above. 


The conflicting interests and customs of the whites and the 
Indians, which provide the socio-psychologlcal background 
for American Indian revivalism, have their analogue in 
the ruthless pressure exerted by the Orthodox Church of 
Greece upon the religious Ideas of the ethnic conglomerate 
of the Russian plains. Here also recur the prophets, won- 
der-workers and messiahs, or earthly representatives of 
messiah. The new religions are ushered in by ceremonial- 
Ism, often of a secret nature. There are visions and fits, 
and there Is an ethical code with the usual drastic demands 
on the stolidity and altruism of the devotees. 

The religious transformations of early society are veiled 
in darkness. It is doubtful whether we shall ever possess 
authentic material for this chapter of human history, but 
one might at least conjecture that religious revivals, when 
they have occurred, have come at periods of emotional stress 
and strain, perhaps precipitated by Intertribal contact or 
conflict, and that in their nature, mechanism and progress 
they were not unlike the Ghost-Dance Religions of the 
American Indian and the heretical creeds of the Russian 


The first tenet of early supernaturalism Is its animistic 
faith. To the world of matter is opposed the world of 
spirit. Great is the variety of the forms of individual spir- 
its and equally varied are their functions. In their form 
the spirits must be regarded as derived either from the 
things of nature, animate and Inanimate, or from trans- 
formed or distorted versions or combinations of these. 
Spirits in the form of inanimate things and plants are not 
unknown although not common, animal-shaped spirits ev- 
erywhere predominate, while spirits in the shape of man 
early take the lead, and In numerous primitive civilizations 
just above the lowest, constitute the principal Inhabitants 
of the supernatural realm. Various grotesque spirits must 


be regarded as derived either from dreams or visions or to 
be the outgrowth of the free play of the imagination. Not 
infrequently, artificial objects or artistic conventions must 
have had an influence on the formal character of spirits. 
Thus, it is highly probable that the False Face spirits of 
the Iroquois are the projections Into the spiritual world 
of the grotesque wooden masks worn by the members of 
the False Face Society, while the diminutive spirits of the 
Chukchee and Koryak may be nothing but splritualizatlons 
of the fairly crude etchings of these people, always limited 
in size, owing to the nature of the objects to which they 
are applied. 

As soon as higher deities appear, large, at times enormous, 
proportions are usually attributed to these spiritual beings. 
The qualities and functions of spirit beings are either de- 
scriptive of the functions of earthly creatures or of natural 
forces represented by these supernatural beings, or they 
are projections of the fears and desires of man. 

The second tenet of early supernaturalism is its magical 
faith. Some so-called magical practices can scarcely be dis- 
tinguished from matter-of-fact procedure and should really 
be classed with these. Thus, in the curative practices of the 
primitive medicine-man there is often no breach of continuity 
between the "magical" methods and those based on know- 
ledge and common sense; but the typical magical act rests 
on the faith that certain desired results can be achieved or 
feared ones obviated by means of an established series of 
manipulations, rituals or Incantations. While such acts 
performed by individuals or groups are characteristic of 
magical procedure, the magical faith extends to the opera- 
tion of similar wills or powers throughout the domain of 
nature. A particularly conspicuous aspect of these magical 
operations is the power of transformation which is a con- 
stant Ingredient of primitive supernaturalism. Inanimate 
things can turn Into animate ones, plants Into animals and 
vice versa, and all of these into man; man, again, may be- 
come transformed into a being or object of any description. 


and spirits and gods may also assume the form of any of 
these or of man. 

Again, what is achieved by magical acts are the objects 
of human desires and fears. Whether for good or evil, 
the magician achieves what matter-of-fact procedure can- 
not attain or what, at least at the time and place, is beyond 
the reach of natural processes. Thus, some things that 
magic brings, such as food, children or the destruction of an 
enemy, can at times be attained by other more secular pro- 
cesses ; some achievements of magic, on the other hand, such 
as the power to resist wounds or to awake from the dead, 
or to see or hear things at a distance, remain prerogatives 
of magic alone. 

Underlying both animism and magic is the faith in power. 
This is the third and most important tenet of supernatur- 
alism. Spirits count only insofar as they can and do exercise 
powers for good or evil. And magic is but a system of 
powers, positive or negative, actual or potential. In many 
of their activities and manifestations, spirits, gods and ma- 
gical powers merely duplicate what can be and is being done 
by other means in the workaday world, but it is character- 
istic of all spirits, magic powers and supernatural beings 
that they can do some things which are beyond the reach of 
the matter-of-fact. 

The concrete living participation of the individual in 
this world of supernaturalism is through the experience 
of the religious thrill, which is characteristic of all live re- 
ligions and magical situations, and through the exercise of 
his will in the performance of magical acts, which is com- 
parable to the self-assertion of the individual who attains 
things by natural means, but Is here transferred into the 
realm of that which lies beyond the natural. 

Supernaturalism is ever fed and reinforced by two im- 
portant institutional adjuncts: mythology and ceremoni- 
alism. In one of its important aspects, mythology fulfills 
the function of a primitive theology, it develops and syste- 
matizes the ideas and conceptual constructs which spring 


from supernaturalism. In lighter moments it plays with 
supernatural elements, and always it mingles them with hu- 
man episodes and adventures, thus adding to the magic of 
supernaturalism the charms of the plot and the drama. The 
functions fulfilled by mythology with reference to the intel- 
lectual or ideational aspects of supernaturalism are fulfilled 
by ceremonialism in the domain of emotion. Through the 
constant drive of ceremonialism, the reactions toward the 
supernatural assume fixed, crystallized forms. They be- 
come subject to the control and pressure of social sanction, 
they become diffused and magnified through the influence 
of the crowd psychological situation. The never-ceasing 
rhythm of ceremonialism ever feeds the sacred fire of super- 
naturalism. It does not permit the incandescent phantas- 
magoria of magic and spirit to cool, for there, in the grey- 
ness of a sober mind and placid emotion, supernaturalism 
may fall prey to the inroads of experience and reason. 

Sooner or later it will fall prey to these, but not before 
man has learned, through measurement and inquiry and 
criticism and the detachment of the individual, to evade 
the pitfalls of myth and ritual, the shrewdness of the priest 
and the magician, and his own craving for the impossible. 



The Foundations of Society 

Man is a political animal. No matter how far down we 
go in civilization some form of social organization is always 
there. In one sense, indeed, society antedates the individual ; 
for some of the most distinctive attributes of man, such as 
speech and perhaps religion, could not have originated in 
the absence of a social setting. It goes without saying that 
the individual as a discrete unit, as a self-conscious individ- 
uality juxtaposed to society, is a later product of social 

If there is a social organization, there must be a basis 
on which it rests. Some writers are wont to ascribe the 
institution of the fundamental forms of society to the de- 
liberate thought and decision of wise and powerful men. 
There can be no doubt that the intervention of premeditated 
control by groups and individuals has played a conspicuous 
part in the history of social and political organization, but 
it is equally certain that the basic forms of society have 
arisen out of certain factors given in man's relation to his 
physical and social environment, and that the process was as 
spontaneous as It was unconscious. Whatever later trans- 
formations have occurred in society and politics, they were 
always rooted In these basic forms, some of which are as 
old as man and older than the self-conscious Individual. 

What, then, are the factors in early life that were utilized 
for purposes of social organization? The first is locality. 
Man has always lived somewhere. Perpetual vagrancy is 
not a primitive phenomenon. The unceasing migrations of 
modern gypsies seem to be correlated with the permanently 
fixed habitats of a higher civilization. The gypsy and the 
Wandering Jew do not belong to the beginning of history. 



Whether in the snow-built villages of the Eskimo or the 
woody recesses of the Bushmen, in the cave dwellings of 
pre-historic Europe or the camp of the Australian with its 
crudely fashioned fireplace and windshield, man, however 
primitive, has always lived somewhere. There was some 
locality or a number of localities that he regarded as his 
home. He did not wander from place to place indefinitely, 
but returned periodically to a number of places, if there 
were more than one, within a more or less limited district. 

A home is not merely a physical fact. It is also a psycho- 
logical one. To have a home is to know one's physical en- 
vironment, to forsee the habitual climatic changes, cold and 
heat, drought and storm. It is to know the animals and 
plants available in the neighborhood, to be familiar with 
their habits; to learn to avoid them as dangerous, to seek 
them as food, as friends. A home, moreover, comprises a 
human group, it implies common habitation, common ad- 
justment, common knowledge, as well as familiarity with 
each other. People who live together know each other's be- 
havior. They learn to understand each other's gestures and 
physiognomy; and in some cases, as in Central Australia, 
they can tell each other's footprints. There is a spirit of 
neighborhood. No matter what other forms of political 
or social organization may exist, there is always co-opera- 
tion, some mutual helpfulness on the part of the members 
of a local group. And there is a readiness, if not an or- 
ganization, for protection against climatic dangers as well 
as against the dangers from beasts and hostile men. 

And human nature being always the same, to know about 
people is to want to know too much about them. Gossip 
is one of the universal institutions of mankind, and it is 
specifically associated with the local group; a circumstance 
from which many an ethnologist has greatly profited. For 
in conditions where the written word is absent and the spirit 
of systematic investigation as yet unborn, gossip is an im- 
portant source of dissemination of knowledge, especially of 


personal and intimate knowledge, and the professional gos- 
sip is the ethnologist's great friend. 

One of the domains in primitive society in which both 
prescriptive and proscriptive regulations abound is mar- 
riage. As will presently be seen, the control of marriage is 
a function o^jnore than one type of social grouping. Not 
infrequently the local group controls marriage, insofar as 
local exogamy prevails: no marriage within one's own vil- 
lage. This holds, for instance, for the American Blackfoot, 
a number of coastal tribes of Australia and numerous groups 
on the islands of Torres Straits and of Melanesia, where 
localized clans are the rule. From the standpoint of civili- 
zation, another point deserves emphasis here to which ref- 
erence was made before : the local group is the smallest 
unit of cultural specialization. In slight details of custom 
and daily habits, of ceremony and perhaps of dialect, a 
local group is always to some extent different from every 
other local group. Moreover, civilizational changes are al- 
ways rooted in local variants.' 

Another basis of social organization is blood relationship. 
The importance of blood ties in early life has long been 
understood. More than one kind of grouping based on 
blood must be distinguished. The most universal and uni- 
form among these is the family. Contrary to a widespread 
notion for which anthropologists are in part responsible, 
the family, consisting of husband, wife and children, Is 
found everywhere. There may be more than one wife, 
and here and there, more than one husband; the average 
duration of matrimonial ties may fall short of modern stand- 
ards ; the household, moreover, may embrace other related 

'It is scarcely necessary to add that the basic character of locality as a 
social classifier has never been transcended. Among the fixed groupings 
of modern society, local determinants loom large. State, city, village, quar- 
ter, street, block, are teritorial units of physical as well as of psychological 
and sociological significance. And as ever, there liveth the spirit of the 
neighborhood with its grotesque twin, the spirit of gossip. It is interesting 
to note in this connection that in the most recent socio-political experiment 
on a gigantic scale, in Soviet Russia, the territorial group shares with the 
industrial one its place as the minor electoral unit. 


individuals in addition to the immediate family ; the fact re- 
mains: the family is there as a distinct unit. It is there, 
whatever other social units may co-exist with it ; moreover, 
it antedates them: where no other social forms are found, 
the family can always be discerned. It has also been noted 
that among the most primitive tribes, monogamy is more 
generally the rule than is the case at somewhat later stages 
of social development. 

The family controls the individual in a variety of ways. 
Its influence is especially pronounced during the earliest years 
of education and the somewhat later period of industrial ap- 
prenticeship. Even marriage, in its many varied forms — 
that ubiquitous and all-important social usage — is more often 
than not controlled by a member or members of the im- 
mediate family. 

The family often functions as a ceremonial unit, especially 
on occasions connected with birth, death, burial and mar- 

An interesting and rare form of family organization has 
recently been described by Professor Speck among some 
Eastern Algonquin tribes. The tribe here is subdivided into 
a number of families, each including certain relatives in 
addition to the primal nucleus of parents and children. The 
preeminence of the father is marked. Associated with 
each family is a hunting territory of varying size in 
which its members claim exclusive hunting privileges, 
the latter being extended to strangers only by special ar- 
rangement. The boundaries of such hunting territories are 
marked at varying intervals by natural or artificial signposts. 
The Indians have a very clear idea of the extent and limits 
of their respective territories.' 

But the most significant and omnipresent function of the 
family is in that it serves as the principal point of transfer of 

^Professor Speck was able to secure from his informants a series of maps, 
drawn under his direction, on which the boundaries of the family terri- 
tories are indicated (cf. for example, his "Family Hunting Territories and 
Social Life of Various Algonkian Bands of the Ottawa Valley," Geological 
Survey, Ottawa, Canada, Memoir 70). 


civilization from one generation to another. It must be re- 
membered that civilization consists in part of material things 
and in part of ideas, attitudes, customs, and so on. The lat- 
ter set of phenomena make up by far the larger part of 
civilization. Now, even material things, as part of culture, 
are not passed along automatically: their uses must be ex- 
plained, the implied techniques learned. As to spiritual cul- 
ture, including language itself, there is no other way for it 
to be passed on, in a society without writing, except through 
verbal explanation and teaching and the direct observation 
by the learner of what is being said and done. It is evident 
that a large part of what the individual receives in this way, 
especially during the highly important formative years of 
early childhood, is brought to him through the medium of 
the family. There are other agencies through which he 
learns, but in the earliest years the influence of the family 
is overwhelmingly preponderant. The significance of the i 
family as a transfer point of civilization cannot be over- 
estimated. In the soclo-psychologlcal domain It serves as 
a bridge between the generations, between fathers and sons. 

Truly organic, biological in its foundation, but with im- 
portant psychological and sociological correlates, the family 
is thus seen to be an universal possession of mankind. On 
the other hand, the patriarchal family, centering about its 
male master, as among the Hebrews; the highly legalized 
family, becoming a minor cell in the elaborate economico- 
legal organism of the state, as in modern society; the sancti- 
fied family, serving as a point of application of institutional 
conservatism and a devout ancestor worship, as In China 
and Japan ; these forms of the family are later products of 
the historic process, of which but germinal elements may be 
discerned in early life. 

Another form of blood relationship bond is discovered 
in the amorphous group of blood relations, consisting of In- 
dividuals, male and female, who are designated by different 
terms expressing kinship : mother, father, brother, sister, 
uncle, aunt, cousin, and so on. Such groups of blood kindred, 


with corresponding kinship terms, exist among all peoples, 
primitive and modern. 

In all discussions of this subject the group of blood rela- 
tives proper cannot be separated from another group, that 
of relatives by marriage, as the two kinds of kinship con- 
stantly intertwine, both sociologically and terminologically. 
Of this the primary family unit itself is an admirable il- 
lustration, as the children are related by blood both to the 
mother and to the father, whereas the parents may be re- 
lated merely by marriage. 

Primitive relationship terms are often designated by the 
somewhat misleading term "classificatory". By this is 
meant that a term is used to designate not merely individuals 
related in a certain definite way but also other individuals 
related in a different way. Thus the term "mother" will 
be used to designate one's own mother, but also the mother's 
sister and her first cousin and perhaps other women stand- 
ing to the speaker in different degrees of relationship. The 
term for "father" may be used in a similar fashion to desig- 
nate one's own father, the father's brother, his first cousin, 
and so on. Or, again, the mother's brother and the father's 
sister's husband will be covered by one term, or the father's 
sister and the mother's brother's wife. Or, one term may 
be used for father's sister, her daughter, her daughter's 
daughter. A great many such extensions in the uses of 
relationship terms are found throughout primitive termin- 
ologies of relationship. In contrasting these kinship systems 
with our own, for example the English, the term "class- 
ificatory" is justified for the former only insofar as the terms 
for the immediate family — father, mother, brother, sister, 
son, daughter — are always used by us to designate a 
relative standing to the speaker in one particular degree 
of relationship, whereas just these terms are In primitive 
systems most frequently extended to cover different classes 
of relatives. On the other hand, such terms as "uncle" 
and "aunt" are used in a classificatory way by ourselves, to 
designate respectively father's and mother's brother, 


father's and mother's sister, whereas in primitive termin- 
ologies "aunt" is often used to designate only father's sister, 
not mother's sister, while "uncle" is only used for mother's 
brother, not father's brother. 

At the same time it is important to remember, as bearing 
upon the status of the family, that the terms used for the 
immediate members of the family are either distinguished 
from the same terms in their extended uses by the addition 
of some particle, or terms corresponding to "own" are 
used, or a distinction is implied in the context of the conver- 
sation. The family is the family, whatever the system of 
relationship and whatever the uses of terms.^ 

It must not be imagined that these extensions in the uses 
of kinship terms and the kinship systems themselves repre- 
sent but terminological issues. To assume this would be 
to seriously misconstrue primitive society. First of all, re- 
lationhip terms are often employed in place of our personal 
names, the latter being reserved for special, generally cere- 
monial occasions. Then again, special rules of behavior, 
proscriptive and prescriptive, often apply to certain rela- 
tives. Apart from the multifarious functions of parents 
toward children and only less numerous ones of children 
toward parents, the mother's brother is a relative who oc- 
cupies, particularly In maternally organized societies, a 
place of special prominence, often above that of the father, 
with reference to the Inheritance and control of property, 
education and ceremonial duties. Again, the relations of 
son-in-law and mother-in-law are among many tribes strictly 
circumscribed, all familiarity and even conversation being 
forbidden between the two. Less common and less stringent 
regulations control not infrequently the relations of daugh- 
ter-in-law and father-in-law. According to recent informa- 
tion from Melanesia, a connection between social behavior 

^An interesting illustration of this occurs among the Iroquois, where the 
nephew (sister's son) and the younger brother are the most common suc- 
cessors to a chief's office. Now, both these terms are used by the Iroquois 
in a classificatory sense. Still, in the vast majority of cases, it is the owD 
sister's son or younger brother who succeeds a chief. 


and particular relatives is there especially frequent and im- 
portant. In Australia, again, the right, in fact almost the 
duty to marry, belongs to certain groups of related indivi- 
duals within the phratry, class or sub-class limits, who are 
from birth on designated as "husbands" and "wives." 

While in Australia the matrimonial correlates of relation- 
ship are exceptionally conspicuous, in view mainly of their 
prescriptive character, relatives of varying degrees are pro- 
hibited from intermarriage or sex contact among all peoples 
and at all times. Among these prohibitions, some stand out 
as particularly general and drastic : mother and son, father 
and daughter, brother and sister, in the order named, stand 
at the head of the list. Not one of these sex taboos, cate- 
gorical though they are, has remained wholly free from in- 
fractions — outside the law and even, in certain wholly ex- 
ceptional instances, within the law — but barring these ex- 
ceptions, it must be said that these particular taboos are 
everywhere reinforced by the so-called "horror of incest", 
an emotional reaction of somewhat mysterious origin, which 
is by no means restricted in its range to the three primary 
sex taboos, but readily extends at least to the major sex pro- 
hibitions prevalent in a given community.' 

The two kinds of relationship groups so far discussed, 
different though they are, have certain elements in common : 
both are biological and bilateral. The individuals of a re- 
lationship group are united by actual ties of blood, and these 
ties branch out in both lateral directions, through the mother 
as well as the father of an individual. This represents in 
an extended form the basic fact that the family itself is 
bilateral, insofar as the parents are related to the children 

'It seems hardly fair to doubt that psychoanalysis will ultimately furnish 
a satisfactory psychological interpretation of this "horror of incest." It has 
been shown by Freud, all but conclusively, that incestuous tendencies repre- 
sent one of the most deeply rooted impulses of the individual. If, then, civi- 
lization should develop a set of negative attitudes toward incestuous unions 
— and here_ further psychological and perhaps sociological sounding is re- 
quired — it is to be expected that these attitudes would become reinforced 
by most formidable barriers imparted to the individual in the process of 
education, thus becoming crystallized in the form of a violent emotional 


through actual bonds of blood and the children are related 
to each other through both parents.' 

On the other hand, the parents need not be related to one 
another except by marriage, although among those tribes 
where cross cousin marriage is general, or even obligatory 
(as typical in Australia), parents are also closely related by 
blood. In general it may be remarked that in small com- 
munities — if only the custom of exogamy does not force the 
man or woman or both to find their mates among individuals 
of distant local groups — all individuals of a local group 
soon become inter-related. Then, of course, all the mar- 
riages constitute a sort of inbreeding, married couples be- 
ing, if only in a remote way, related by blood. 

The blood groups now to be considered are of a different 
order. They are neither purely biological (with one ex- 
ception) nor bilateral. These groups are: the clan, the 
gens, the dual division (or moiety) , the maternal family and 
the class. From a biological standpoint it is justifiable to 
class all of these groups in the category of blood relation- 
ship, insofar as all of them contain nuclei of blood relatives, 
while the maternal family, as shown in our discussion of the 
Iroquois, comprises only actual blood relatives. There is, 
moreover, an additional reason for classing these social 
units in the relationship category. Psychologically, in the 
minds of the people themselves, the individuals in each one 
of them are relatives. This fact does not depend on the 
presence or absence of actual blood ties, but is a psycho- 
sociological fact: a legal fiction. These groups, with the 
exception of the maternal family, may thus be designated as 

'This is so in the natural family. In the case of step-fathers and step- 
mothers, the blood bond will, of course, apply to one side only. Situations 
will occur, moreover, where even this is not true. For example: a woman 
with a child born to her first husband by another woman may become 
united in marriage to a man with a child of his first wife by another 
man. In this case neither of the two children will be related by blood 
to either of the parents. Considering the shiftiness of marriages in early 
communities and the tendency on the part of both men and women to 
take over the care of children, whatever their source, cases like those 
described are probably more common than might be imagined. They are, 
nevertheless, exceptional, and in a general analysis of the family as a bilat- 
eral blood relationship group, must be treated as such. 


pseudo-biological, insofar as they not only comprise nuclear 
bodies of actual blood relatives, but are conceived by the 
members themselves of the group as consisting solely of 
blood relatives. 

Of the series of groups here enumerated the clan and the 
gens are by far the most important. A clan can be defined 
as follows : it comprises individuals partly related by blood 
and partly conceived as so related; it is hereditary (a person 
is born into a clan) ; it is unilateral (the children belonging 
to the clan of the mother) ; it has a name. The definition of 
a gens is the same as that of a clan with the difference that 
the children follow the gens of the father. 
" Clans and gentes have a tremendous distribution in the 
primitive world, and as one surveys these units in different 
geographical areas, scores of differences appear from the 
standpoints of size, number and functions. In North 
America, for example, the Iroquolan Mohawk and Oneida 
have only three clans each, while the other tribes of the 
League have at least eight each. The adjoining Algonquin 
Delaware have three clans, among the southern Siouan tribes 
the Omaha have ten gentes, while the other similarly organ- 
ized tribes, like the Iowa, Kansas, Osage, and others, have 
more than ten but less than twenty-five. The Winnebago 
have twelve clans. As contrasted with this, the Tllngit and 
Haida have fifty or more clans each, while the southern 
Kwakiutl seem to have had considerably more than that. 
In the Southwest, the Hopi, the Zuni, and other tribes have 
at least as many clans as the Tllngit and Haida and some 
have more, and the same applies to some tribes In the South- 
east. In Africa, with the thirty odd Baganda gentes, some 
tribes have less than that while others more, without, how- 
ever, reaching very high figures. In Australia, on the other 
hand, some tribes of the Center and East have many more 
than one hundred clans or gentes. Granted similar popu- 
lational conditions, the multiplicity of these social units is 
of course correlated with a relative paucity of Individuals 
in each. In Africa, where populational conditions are far 


different from those obtaining in North America or in 
Australia, individual gentes may comprise thousands of 

The variability in functions is equally conspicuous. In 
the first place, there is great difference in the part played 
by a clan or gentile system in the civilization of a group. 
There are all possible variations; among the Tlingit and 
Haida the clan system is inextricably interwoven with a 
large part of the civilization of the group; among the Iro- 
quois the clans are the carriers of the all important socio- 
political functions of the League; the Zuiii clans, as Kroeber 
has recently emphasized, represent little more than a method 
of counting descent; in Africa, barring occasional Industrial 
specialization of gentes, these units often represent but very 
wide and loose groups with a common name and a com- 
mon taboo ; the very numerous clans and gentes of Australia, 
finally, especially those of the central area, have become al- 
most purely ceremonial in character; they are magic work- 
ing associations, having never possessed other functions or 
having shed them. 

When one compares clans of relatively proximate areas, 
the functional contrasts stand out even more strikingly. 
Thus, among the Iroquois, the members of a clan in ad- 
dition to having a bird or animal name, control exogamy, 
own cemeteries,' elect ceremonial officials, play a definite 
part in the election of federal chiefs; whereas the clans of 
the Tlingit and Haida have local names and individual clan 
chiefs, own hunting and fishing territories, and are dis- 
tinguished from each other by a series of ceremonial and 
mythological prerogatives : a clan myth, a clan carving or a 
set of carvings, clan ceremonial dances with accessories, a 
clan song or songs. The clans here are also exogamous, but 
merely as parts of the major units, the moieties, which con- 
trol the matrimonial functions. But perhaps the greatest 
contrast between the Northwest Coast and the Iroquois 

^It is probable, although not certain, that cultivated fields among the 
Iroquois were also owned by clan units. 


clan lies in the fact that in the former area the clans have 
different rank in accordance with the privileges and super- 
natural powers claimed by the component individuals ; where- 
as among the Iroquois, a clan is a clan, no less and no more, 
notwithstanding the fact that only some of the clans com- 
prise maternal families in which chieftainships are heredi- 
tary, while other clans do not. Different as the clans of 
the Haida and Tlingit may be from those of the Iroquois, 
the clans of both groups appear as relatively similar when 
contrasted with, say, the gentes of the Baganda, with their 
double totems and their caste-like specialization in industrial 
functions and services to the king, one gens comprising pot 
makers, another — basket weavers, still another — ironsmiths, 
while other individual gentes furnish the drum to the king, 
provide him with certain delicacies for his table or supply 
the wife that makes the king's bed. 

Correlated with some of the differences in the functions 
of clans is the relation of a clan system to a family system 
in the same tribe; thus, among the Tlingit and Haida, once 
more, the family is divided against itself by the intrusion of 
the clan principle. The inheritance of property and priv- 
ileges glides along the edge of the family, as it were, the 
main line of transfer being from maternal uncle to nephew 
or from father-in-law to son-in-law. Moreover, in the old 
days of clan feuds, clan allegiance here counted for more 
than family allegiance : fathers and sons met in deadly com- 
bat, prompted by bonds stronger than those of the family 
hearth. Among the Zuiii, on the other hand, the family Is 
but little impressed by the clan division within its midst — 
for here also clan members do not intermarry — and attends 
to its many economic, educational and domestic functions 
almost wholly undisturbed by the presence of another social 

A comparison of clans and gentes in different geographi- 
cal areas thus discloses striking dissimilarities and even con- 
trasts in the number of clan or gentile units in a tribe, in the 
number oi individuals in each unit, in clan and gentile func- 


tlons, in their relative importance as carriers of the civili- 
zation of a group, in their relation, finally, to the family. 

The impression might thus be conveyed that the clan (or 
gens) represents a wholly fictitious category corresponding 
to no consistent reality whatsoever : that it is but a term, a 
useless survival from the alcheringa of anthropology with its 
dogmatic, imaginative and ill-Informed inhabitants. 

This, however, would be pushing one's scepticism decid- 
edly too far. Clans and gentes the world over have cer- 
tain traits in common. First of all, the traits indicated in 
our definition: the fiction of blood relationship, the heredi- 
tary character, the unilateral aspect, and the name. 

The characteristic of having a name might be found 
artificial and trivial: who or what in this world does not 
carry a name? And yet, there is significance in this char- 
acteristic. It will be noted that of the social groupings here 
enimierated only two almost always have a name : the local 
group and the clan (or gens).^ Families are scarcely ever 
known by name (in early society), the maternal families of 
the Iroquois have no names, relationship groups are always 
nameless, so are, as a rule, age, generation and sex groups. 
Even dual divisions and phratries, while named at times, 
are often nameless. But the local group and the clan or 
gens have names. In the case of the two latter units, more- 
over, the name carries with it certain sociological conse- 
quences which are absent in the case of the local name. An 
individual from a named local group wanders off and mar- 
ries elsewhere. His children may mention or at least know 
of his local provenience; but barring exceptional instances, 
his grandchildren and their children will have forgotten it : 
the imported local name disappears from the new locality. 
It is different with an individual member of a clan or gens. 
In the case of a clan, if a woman marries into another local- 
ity, the new clan will persist in that locality as long as wo- 
men are born from descendants of the immigrant, it being 

^0 this must be added those strictly Australian social units, the class 
and sub-class, which also have names. 


taken for granted that the conditions of group descent are 
the same in the new locality, which is often so. In the case 
of a gens, the same applies to a man. 

In addition, four cultural features deserve attention as 
linked in their geographical distribution with clans and 
gentes : blood revenge, adoption, exogamy and totemism. 
To discourage criticism from over-sensitive methodologists 
it may be noted at once that not one of these traits is in- 
variably linked with clans and gentes. There are clans and 
gentes that lack some or all of the traits, and each one of 
the latter occurs in association with other social units than 
clans and gentes. Nevertheless, an examination of the data 
would show that in all major areas these two customs — 
blood revenge as a function of the kin unit and the ceremo- 
nial adoption of strangers into the kin — are so frequently as- 
sociated with clans and gentes that these social units and 
the two customs must be regarded as historically linked and 
as socio-psychologically related. 

The association of clans and gentes with exogamy and 
totemism is much more striking. Exogamy is an all but 
universal associate, while totemism is an extraordinarily 
common one. Leaving the relation of totemism to clans 
and gentes for later consideration, some remarks must now 
be made about clan and gentile exogamy. 

Clan and gentile exogamy — the rule to marry outside 
one's own kin unit — Is so general a feature that it may here 
be assumed to be practically universal. But there is one 
difficulty. In the case of the thirteen Crow clans or that of 
the three Delaware ones, or that of the three or eight or 
more clans of an Iroquois League tribe, or in the many 
instances of Indian gotras or African gentes, the exogamous 
issue is clear. A clan or gentile member is prohibited from 
marrying in his or her own kin unit, but must look for a 
mate outside, in one of the other clans or gentes. 

The situation becomes more complex when other tribes 
are considered. Among the Tlingit and Haida, for example, 
there is no marriage within the clan, but, on further inspec- 


tion it appears that the exogamous rule really applies to the 
moiety: marry outside of your own moiety and into the 
other one. Each moiety, as was explained before, is sub- 
divided into numerous clans; it follows that in observing 
moiety exogamy, individuals also follow clan exogamy. The 
situation is identical in tribes organized like the Australian 

In all such instances the moiety is the real exogamous 
unit, while the exogamy of the clans may be designated as 
derivative. This becomes clear when one considers that 
the same rule that prevents an individual from marrying in 
his or her own clan also prohibits marriage into a series of 
other clans, namely those belonging to the same moiety: 

Moiety I Moiety II 

clans ' , / clans 



An a man may not marry an a woman, nor may he marry a 
b or c or d woman; he marries any woman of moiety II. 

It is as if one were to say that in a football game a 
Harvard freshman is pitted against a Yale junior. Even 
though objectively correct, the statement would still be 
misleading, insofor as the groups pitted against each other 
are the college teams, whereas the classes do not figure as 
units, but merely indirectly as subdivisions of the colleges. 

Further complications arise upon an analysis of tribes 
organized like the Australian Kamilaroi or Warramunga.^ 
For here both the negative and the positive marriage regu- 
lations are drastically determined, and the clans or gentes 
do not appear as units in either connection: each clan (or 
gens) is subdivided into two (or four) groups, and the in- 
dividuals to be avoided or sought in marriage are different 
in the case of each one of these groups. 

From an examination of all such tribes — and their num- 
ber is large — one might derive the impression that the al- 

'See p. no. 
'See pp. 110-112. 


leged universality of clan or gentile exogamy represents but 
another superannuated dogma, that clans and gentes, while 
exogamous in many instances, have in others no connection 
whatsoever with matrimony.' 

This conclusion would be erroneous. Of the functional 
characteristics of clans and gentes exogamy must still be re- 
garded as the most persistent. But how, it will be asked, 
can this proposition be reconciled with the complications out- 
lined in the foregoing? A glance at the world picture of 
clan and gentile exogamy furnishes the answer. First there 
are the tribes where clans or gentes appear as exogamous 
units. Then come the other tribes where the presence of 
exogamous moieties or phratries prompts one to describe 
the exogamy of the minor units as derivative. Finally, there 
are still other tribes — ^primarily those of Australia — where 
each hereditary kin comprises a number of groups each with 
its own positive and negative matrimonial regulations. But 
one fact holds true throughout: nowhere is intermarriage 
in the clan or gens permitted. One is forced to conclude 
that in the absence of moieties, phratries and classes, the clan 
or gentile exogamy would still obtain, just as it does when 
these social units stand alone. In other words, it is in the 
nature of clans and gentes to function exogamously — in the 
negative sense of a taboo on intermarriage within the unit — 
and in all but a very few instances they do so.^ 

^An attitude such as this could easily be derived from a perusal of the 
section on exogamy of my "Toteraism, An Analytical Study" (Journal of 
American Folk-Lore, 1910). While characterized by an enthusiasm born of 
a successful destructive analysis, my attitude at the time suffered from the 
neglect of a broader historico-geographical standpoint. 

°It must be noted here as of great interest that whereas the family and 
local group are as basic in modern as in primitive society, that while rela- 
tionship groups and even age and sex groups persist in an attenuated form 
in modern civilization, clans, gentes, maternal families, moieties, phratries 
and classes are characteristic of early society alone. In other words, the 
unilateral hereditary principle, in the drastic form in which it operates in 
these groupings, is foreign to the spirit of our social life. The principle itself 
is, of course, present in connection with the inheritance of property and of 
the family name, but it does not figure as a basis for the formation of fixed 
hereditary groups into which an individual is born and to which he belongs 
until death and, in fact, beyond, in defiance of marriage ties and local resi- 
dence; unless, indeed, a specific legal fiction is applied, in the form of cere- 


Dual divisions or moieties, such as those of the Tlingit 
and Halda, Iroquois, Winnebago, Omaha, and numerous 
tribes of Australia, are like clans and gentes In many ways. 
They are hereditary and unilateral, either maternal or pa- 
ternal. Usually but not always, they have names. They 
also comprise blood relatives as well as assumed blood rela- 
tives, although the sense of relationship is here weaker than 
In the minor kin unit. The moiety Is a much more populous 
group; the very fact, moreover, that it is subdivided into 
minor units with strong relationship bonds, is apt to weaken 
this element In the moiety.^ 

Functionally, moieties are no more uniform than are clans. 
It was seen that the Iroquois phratrles — which In this case 
are also moieties — attend primarily to ceremonies, that on 
all festive occasions the people at the ceremonial Long 
House are divided Into two locally separated phratric 
groups. Games, such as ball and lacrosse, are also played 
between the phratrles. Then, the phratles have the obli- 
gation of burying each other's members. Also, the phratric 
groups of clan chiefs function as the two bodies to which 
the name of the candidate for chieftainship Is submitted 
by the matron of a maternal family, before the name is 
passed on to the council of the League for final ratification. 

Among the Tlingit and Haida the moiety plays a dis- 
tinctly different role. There Is a moiety chief — an official 

monial adoption, as a result of which he is detached from the group of his 
birth and absorbed in another similarly constituted group. 

Of these groups the clan and the gens are the ones having the widest 
geographical distribution. It is, therefore, not surprising that these social 
divisions should have been regarded as not only characteristic of early 
society but as universal, at least at certain of its stages. This, of course, 
is not the case. 

'From moieties such as this two other types of social divisions must be 
distinguished. Dual divisions have been described among the Yuchi Indians, 
but here these groups are purely ceremonial and instead of comprising clans, 
crossect them, so that each clan contains members of both divisions. Dual 
divisions of this type have no connection with blood relationship. 

Then there are phratrles like the six phratrles of the Crow or those of 
some of the Southwest tribes. These groups also comprise clans as sub- 
divisions, but have once more no connection with blood relationship. Many 
such phratrles, no doubt, represent secondary associations of clans, on a 
ceremonial, mythological, or some other basis. 


unknown among the Iroquois; insofar as the moieties are 
named after birds and animals — Eagle and Raven among 
the Haida, Raven and Wolf among the Tlingit — the myth- 
ologies and traditions of the two halves of the people are 
very different. Among the Tlingit the moieties have one 
important ceremonial function, as the potlatches are here 
always given between the moieties, never in the same moiety. 
There is also, as among the Iroquois, reciprocal burial. 
But the principal function of the Northwest moieties is the 
control of marriage : they are rigorously exogamous. 

In central Australia the moieties are connected with in- 
termarriage, insofar as no unions are permitted within a 
phratry. They also figure as a basis of local grouping in 
camping. In preparaiton for the intichiuma ceremonies 
members of the opposite phratry announce the time at 
which a ceremonial series is to be performed; and, as part 
of the ceremonial routine itself, members of the opposite 
phratry are charged with the laborious task of painting the 
dancers and adorning them with bird down. 

Not only are reciprocal functions common in moieties, but 
the dual division of the tribe seems to stimulate among the 
natives a tendency to emphasize contrasts with reference 
to the two moieties. One moiety is believed to be of local 
origin, the other to have come from elsewhere : or they are 
supposed to represent different physical types ; or the names 
are contrasting, as, for example, in the case of the wide- 
spread Australian moiety names, Eaglehawk (white) and 
Crow (black). The infection occasionally spreads to the 
investigating ethnologist, who tends to take the local theo- 
ries seriously or invents some similar ones of his own. In 
some instances, of course, the ethnologist and even the na- 
tives may be right.^ 

'It is curious how well a dual division lends itself to all occasions -where 
games, conflicts, political issues are involved. It has often been remarked 
that in democracies there either are two parties or the rest tend to group 
themselves about the two leading ones, in connection with parliamentary 
debates, voting on important issues, elections. And the contending parties 
rarely fail to play the ancient black and white game of Eaglehawk and 
Crow, while to a disinterested beholder both may well appear as sparrows 


Two further types of divisions belonging to the blood 
relationship group are the maternal family and the Austra- 
lian classes. The former was analyzed in the chapter on 
the Iroquois, the latter in that on Australia. Some few 
additional remarks must be made here about these two kinds 
of social units. 

It must have been observed that the maternal family occu- 
pies an intermediate position between the individual family 
and the clan. The maternal family is like the individual 
family in that it comprises only actual blood relatives. Also, 
it has no name. Therefore, there attaches to it that vague- 
ness of outline as a social unit which is characteristic of all 
groups of blood based on remembered relationships. A 
name settles such difficulties with one stroke. Now the in- 
dividual's status is fixed at birth, in fact in advance of birth, 
by the hereditary transmission of the group name, and with 
it as a tag, his membership in the group is both guaranteed 
and enforced. 

The maternal family is like a clan insofar as it Is uni- 
lateral. Thus among the League Iroquois — and up to the 
present, maternal families have been identified only among 
these people^ — this social unit represents the working prln- 

— and grey (for a candid expression of this socio-psychological fact see 
Heine's Dissertation). 

'The closest approach to the maternal family among a non-Iroquois tribe 
seems to occur among the Hopi of the Southwest. According to Dr. Lowie's 
unpublished notes, a number of Hopi clans, as now constituted, can be 
shown on geneological analysis to represent maternal families in the sense 
that all of the individuals of such a clan are ultimately traceable to one 
line of female descent. In other clans, Dr. Lowie found two or three such 
groups of female descent. He suggests, therefore, that the Hopi clans may 
have developed out of maternal families. 

Of course, there is a difference between a clan which is also a maternal 
family insofar as all of its members are related through a common line of 
blood descent, as objectively demonstrable, and a maternal family like that 
of the Iroquois, which, comprising four or at most five generations of indi- 
viduals living contemporaneously, functions as a self-conscious and highly 
dynamic unit of a social system. Nevertheless, the case of the Hopi clans, if 
confirmed by further investigation, would provide an interesting extension to 
the sweep of the maternal family as a social unit. Dr. Lowie's speculations 
as to the origin of the Hopi clans out of maternal families is supported as 
a possibility by at least one instance in my Iroquois experience where a 
social unit, for all intents and purposes a clan, has developed within the 
last two generations out of a maternal family, originally a part of a clan. 


ciple of a clan. For this reason it has often been identi- 
fied and confused with it by investigators. After what was 
said it will be clear that the two units are distinct. It has 
been definitely established, moreover, that an Iroquois clan 
contained two, three or more maternal families, although 
here and there it would occur that a depleted clan was rep- 
resented by only one surviving maternal family. 

With reference to the Australian classes, we need not 
stop to consider the theories that have sprung up by the score 
about the origins of this curious kind of social unit.' But 
before leaving this topic, it is necessary to refer to a serious 
misconception that has crept into the discussion of this topic 
by Wundt (see his "Elements of Folk Psychology," pp. 140 
sq.) . Wundt correctly notes that the clans among the League 
Iroquois have no cult significance, whereas the animal and 
bird named groups of Australia are primarily cult associa- 
tions. From this he proceeds to argue that the Australian 
classes are really clans (and he designates them as such 
forthwith) ; that the Iroquois clans once comprised cult as- 
sociations like the Australian ones, which subsequently dis- 
appeared, leaving nothing but animal and bird named clans 
behind; and that the "principle of dual division" applies not 
to the Australian classes alone but also to the Iroquois who, 
Wundt argues, first had two phratries, which later broke 
up into two clans each, and the clans broke up once more 
into two, thus resulting in the standard Iroquoian eight 
clans. Wundt extends this into a general theory of clan 
multiplication based on the working of the "dual principle." 

All this is quite wrong. The Australian classes and sub- 
classes are not clans, as generally understood, but groups 
comprising certain categories of blood relatives and having 
no functions but to control intermarriage. While some in- 

^It may be noted, however, that the most feasible hypothesis is probably 
the one advanced some twenty-five years ago by Heinrich Cunow, the Ger- 
man sociologist. A brief statement of this theory will be found in a footnote 
of Boas' "Mind of Primitive Man," p. 221. 



stances occur where classes comprise whole clans, in the 
majority of cases classes and clans crossect each other.' 

The Australian clans with animal and bird names are like 
the clans in other areas — as here defined — although func- 
tionally they are, of course, largely religio-ceremonial units, 
especially among the Central Australians where owing to 
the lapse of gentile heredity the gentes become, for all 
practical purposes, pure cult associations. 

The Iroquois clans never contained cult groups, nor — 
so far as our evidence goes — ever functioned as cult units. 
Moreover, Wundt's derivation of the eight clans by a double 
bifurcation of the phratries is purely imaginary. It is not 
unlikely, in fact, that the clans here were the original units, 
the phratries representing a later arrangement of the clans 
into two ceremonial groups. This theory is supported by 
the fact that whereas the Iroquois tribes comprise clans of 
the same names (the Mohawk and Oneida only having 

'The working of this arrangement may once more be illustrated by a 

Phrftlries: I 

ClASSes: A B 








' + 

-I r 
1 1 
1 1 

1 r 
1 I 


1 r 

j L 


















- d 


Fig. 52 

For simplicity it is assumed here that each phratry, comprises only three 
clans. The diagram shows that the classes and clans intersect. Each class 
contains sections of all three clans and each clan comprises members of both 

Thus a = ai (class A) + ^2 (classB), 
d — d^ (class C) +</2 (class D), 
and so on; and 

Class A:=ai (clan a) + b\ (clan i), + ft (clan c) 
Class C = <ii (clan d) + Ci (clan e), + /i (clan /) 
and so on. 


three each!), the grouping of the clans into phratries is not 
the same. 

Three further kinds of grouping are to be considered. 
They are of a different order from the preceding insofar 
as the limits of these groups cannot be fixed with the pre- 
cision attainable in the case of the family or those of the 
clan, the gens, the local group or even a set of relatives 
united by blood bonds. These groupings are based on age, 
generation and sex. 

In all primitive societies age is an important factor, in 
some it stands out very prominently. Generally speaking, 
the following rough classifications of Individuals obtains 
practically everywhere. First come the Infants or babies, 
who are Important enough In their immediate families and 
in their relation to their mothers, but count for little, often 
for next to nothing, as members of the community. Espe- 
cially before a name is ceremonially bestowed upon an infant, 
it is in many primitive groups practically outside the society. 
Its life counts for naught and its death Is of little conse- 
quence. The next class Is that of children. These count in 
many ways. They are subject to instruction in the affairs 
of the household, in the arts and crafts, the accomplishments 
of the hunt and the gathering of the products of wild nature. 
During this period, the child usually begins to participate 
In some at least of the ceremonial activities of the group. 
It Is in general characteristic of primitive conditions that 
relatively young children, say of the age of eight or nine, 
have already absorbed most of the fundamental Industrial 
accomplishments, a great deal of the ethics and much of the 
traditional lore of the group. The next class is that of 
young men and women, just before and through the period 
of puberty. At this time the girls become full-fledged active 
members of the household, while the boys may excel in the 
arts of the chase and of war and are emphatically subject 
to the political and religious teachings emanating from the 
old men, the chiefs and the medicine-men. At this time, also, 
the important initiatory ceremonies are performed, wher- 


ever they are present, ushering the young people — and this 
applies more universally to men than to women — into at 
least the early stages of the ceremonial cycles of religious 
or secret societies. The class above this is that of mature 
men and women. They are full-fledged members of the 
group, participating in all industrial, religious, social, mili- 
tary and educational activities and forming the backbone of 
family life. The last and in some respects most influential 
group is that of old men and, in some communities, also old 
women. While these take a less active part in the everyday 
activities, their leadership in ceremonial and political mat- 
ters is pronounced and they do everywhere constitute the 
great depositories of tradition, figuring as the mouthpiece, as 
it were, of the conservative status quo. They know the 
past, in fact they know all there is to be known, and they 
see to it that this knowledge is passed on without much loss 
as well as without much addition. They are the great sta- 
bilizing fly-wheel of the civilizational mechanism.^ 

The rigidity with which these age classes are separated — 
and this separation is of course always flexible to a degree 
— varies among different tribes. Thus the old men are not 
by any means everywhere as influential, in fact all-powerful, 
as they are in Australia, nor are the infants always so unim- 
portant and negligible as they seem to be among some of 
the Melanesian tribes.^ 

'The role of the "fathers" in the conflict of the generations has been well 
brought out in the works of Mrs. Elsie Clews Parsons, who has dealt with 
this topic in a great many articles as well as in most of her books. Cf., for 
example, "The Old Fashioned Woman" and "Fear and Conventionality." 
Cf. also pp. 402-403. 

''The exaggerated prestige of old age is one of the differentia of primitive 
civilization. While the life wisdom, sophistication and balanced outlook 
that come with ripening years continue to command their share of respect 
even in modern society, the prestige of old age has been shaken by the 
growing artificialities in the acquisition of knowledge and the ever-increas- 
ing demands which participation in social life makes upon the energy and 
vigor of its carriers. In a young, boisterous and hurried community, like 
that of the United States, age at times appears as being definitely outclassed, 
90 that in many industrial and, not without regret be it said, educational and 
academic positions, young men receive decisive preference. In family life, 
also, the prestige of the highest age group is visibly on the decline. 

It is curious to note that in villages and on farms, where life approaches 
in certain respects that of more primitive communities, the prerogatives of 
old age at once reassert themselves. 


The principle of generation never appears with any great 
distinctness, but it might be described somewhat as follows : 
from the standpoint of the middle-aged men and women, 
they themselves represent the present generation, below 
this is the generation of the children, and below this, that 
of the grandchildren. Above the present generation is that 
of the mothers and fathers, and above this, that of the grand- 
parents. This rough classification of the generations is 
especially noticeable in the study of relationships, where 
terms are often used to cover individuals of one or both 
sexes belonging to one generation. It has also been ob- 
served that the memory of informants in ethnological 
field work runs most naturally along generation lines. In 
obtaining information on the basis of genealogies, for ex- 
ample, it is usually preferable to first group the questions 
around individuals who belong to'. the same generation 
rather than to begin by following up each line of descent, 
upward and downward, to the limits of the informant's 

This principle obtains to a degree also in modern society. 
Men and women of the same generation share certain ele- 
ments of knowledge, habit and attitude which create a 
bond and vaguely separate them from preceding and suc- 
ceeding generations. 

The one remaining grouping is that on the basis of sex. 
While this principle of classification has often been exag- 
gerated — by Schurtz, for example, who builds upon it his 
entire theory of social organization — it is undeniable 
that the sex division gives rise to a set of formal and 
functional divisions in society, and that this is on the whole 
more emphatically true of primitive than of modern com- 
munities, although certain forms of discrimination against 
women, in particular, are characteristic of later rather than 
of earliest civilizations. 

It might prove of interest to discuss this aspect of the 
subject under the heading of the disabilities of women. 


The Disabilities of Women 

It must have appeared from the foregoing discussion that 
with reference to the primary economic pursuits, a division 
of labor between men and women is practically universal. 
The division persists in the wider domain of economic life 
and industry, except that here the line is less sharply drawn. 
The case of the Iroquois will be recalled, where the making 
of clearings in the woods in preparation for agriculture, is 
largely the work of men, while the agricultural activities 
themselves fall wholly to the share of women. The erec- 
tion of the bark houses, again, Is a task in which the sexes 
cooperate. Among the tribes of the Plains, women tan the 
buffalo hides, make the tents, as well as erect and raise them 
when camp is made and broken. The preparation of cloth- 
ing, whether by sewing or otherwise, is throughout North 
America in the hands of women, while men are, without 
exception, the wood workers and carvers of the Northwest 
Coast, and elsewhere in North America where wood industry 
occurs. That wood work is a man's art can, in fact, be 
stated as a general principle, for it applies everywhere in 
primitive society where there is work in wood. 

Women are the basket makers of California and of the 
Plateau tribes and the potters of the Southwest. In Negro 
Africa as well as in India, wherever pots are fashioned by 
hand, the potters are generally, although not invariably, 
women. But In both these areas there are certain districts 
where pots are turned on the wheel; and here men are the 
potters. Again, it Is commonly, although not uniformly, 
true that early agriculture is In the hands of women, and 
that this important series of activities passes into the domain 
of men only after the introduction of domesticated animals 
as helpmates in agriculture. 

From the above presentation, which might be further ex- 
tended, the economic division of labor in early society seems 
fairly equitable. It would, however, be an error to con- 
clude that in primitive economy there is no woman's dis- 


ability. An inspection of the important domain of prop- 
erty ownership would promptly dispel all such illusions. 
There are, without question, instances where the economic 
prerogatives of women are wholly on a par with those of 
men. Of this the American Iroquois and Zuiii and the 
Khasi of Assam may serve as examples. But these are 
exceptions. It has been pointed out that among many 
primitive tribes descent of group membership follows the 
mother. But inheritance of property is not always pat- 
terned after the descent of group membership; in Australia, 
for example, the general rule is that proprietary rights, 
including such features as ceremonial prerogatives, are in- 
herited in the paternal line, without regard to whether de- 
scent is through the father or the mother. 

Again, on the Northwest Coast of America there is both 
maternal descent and maternal inheritance of property and 
privileges, but much of the material and spiritual property 
thus passed on through the women, is not actually utilized 
or controlled by them, this right falling to the mother's 
brother or to some other maternal relative. 

This androcentric trend of property and proprietary pre- 
rogatives, a trend only less characteristic of the present than 
it was of the past, has played an important part in history 
and pre-history. Everywhere and always, it has reflected as 
well as enhanced that systematic disenfranchisement of 
woman which constitutes one of the least pleasing aspects 
of human civilization. 

In art, the division of labor between men and women 
prevails everywhere. As the plastic arts are In their origin 
and development closely related to industry, it is to be ex- 
pected that the artistic embellishment of objects would fall 
to the lot of their makers. This is actually the case. Thus, 
among the Eskimo and the tribes of Northeastern Siberia, 
women are responsible for the relatively simple decorations 
in embroidery and applique on the fur garments, which they 
also cut and sew, while the men do all the carving and 
etching on bone for which these arctic tribes are noted. The 


elaborate wood industry of the tribes of British Columbia 
and Southern Alaska is entirely In the control of men, in- 
cluding the intricate and in part highly finished carvings and 
paintings on totem poles and memorial columns, boxes, 
spoons and canoes. The famous blankets are, of course, 
woven by women, but in this case all aesthetic activities are 
so thoroughly swayed by the man-made art, that the highly 
conventionalized designs woven into the blankets are easily 
discerned to be but slavish reproductions of patterns bor- 
rowed from the wood technique, which are painted by 
men on wooden boards and copied by the women weavers. 

The decorative patterns of Californian baskets and Pu- 
eblo pots are altogether the product of woman's imagina- 
tion and skill. In the Plains, the embroidery in porcupine 
quill or beads on garments, moccasins, bags and sheaths, is 
always made by women, who also tan the skins, design and 
cut the patterns, and sew them together into various ar- 
ticles of wear and use. A point of interest in this connec- 
tion is that the symbolism of the moccasin designs Is often 
suggested by a man who asks a woman to make him a pair, 
but the design itself is originated and carried out by the 
woman. The paintings on the tents and shields of this area 
are made by men, but the style of these semi-decorative, 
seml-pictographic productions is entirely different from the 
art of women. There Is a marked tendency toward realism 
and an almost complete absence of the highly characteristic 
geometrical designs of the woman-made articles. 

Among the Iroquois, men execute the rather crude, mildly 
realistic carvings in wood or bone with which they adorn 
their houses, some household utensils and ceremonial ar- 
ticles. Men also make the wampum belts with their sym- 
bolic figures carried out in colored wampum beads. Men, 
finally, carve and paint the False Face masks, grotesque 
distortions of the human countenance, with a style all their 
own. Woman's art among these people is of a totally dif- 
ferent order. It consists of embroidery In wampum or glass 
beads, on shirts, skirts and moccasins. The patterns used 


in this embroidery are taken exclusively from the plant 
kingdom, and represent flowers and leaves in different stages 
of development, in a style which combines distinct features 
of conventionalization with suggestive touches of realism. 

The conditions thus found prevailing in North America 
are equally typical of the art life of other primitive areas. 
In Melanesia and Polynesia, for example, the elaborate 
work in wood, shell and stone is carried out by men artists, 
while the manufacture and decoration of tapa, the famous 
Polynesian bark cloth, is an industry monopolized by 

In early art, therefore, there is no woman's disability. 

In religion woman is scarcely anywhere on a level of 
equality with man. It is true that some religious customs, 
such as the cult of the guardian spirit in North America, 
apply to women and men alike. Even here, however, there 
is some difference: as one examines tribe after tribe, the 
supernatural experiences seem to apply more regularly to 
men than they do to women; in other instances the cult is 
less elaborate when applied to women; in still others, the 
experiences of women are patently copied after those of 
men, as is the case, for example, among the Iroquois, as 
well as among some of the Salish speaking tribes of the 
interior of British Columbia. Religious societies are known 
to occur in North America to which only women are ad- 
mitted, but these are rare. All in all, participation in these 
semi-esoteric brotherhoods is distinctly a man's privilege. 
This applies equally to the Pueblo and the Plains, the Wood- 
land and the Northwest. Again, while medicine-women 
are not unknown among the Indians, the magic healers as 
well as the shamans of the northern continent are almost 
invariably men. 

What is generally true in North America applies with 
almost unfailing rigor in Melanesia and Australia. The 
secret societies of Melanesia are men's societies, and the 
ceremonial edifices in which these organizations hold their 
sessions and performances are "Men's Houses." The 


priests, who are important personages in Melanesia, are also 
men, never women. With reference to Australia, it was 
shown before that the power to work magic was not re- 
stricted to men ; but apart from that, the religious disabilities 
of women are pronounced. In Central Australia, every wo- 
man owns her sacred slab or churinga, but she may never see 
it; even the spot where the churinga are hidden is supposed 
to remain unknown to the women. The entire cycle of to- 
temic ceremonies, which constitute the very crucible of the 
religio-ceremonial life of these natives, is taboo to the wo- 
men. Not only may they not participate, but they are for- 
bidden even to witness the performances. The only public 
ceremonies to which women are admitted are the rites of ini- 
tiation and some of the funeral rituals. The initiation cere- 
monies mark the passing of the young boys from the control 
of women, and it is here that the initiates are first told by the 
old men of some of those secrets the women are never to 
know, such as the real identity of Twanyirika, the mysterious 
spirit that is supposed to emit the weird sounds accompany- 
ing these ceremonies. Henceforth the boys are aware that 
the sounds are produced by a bull-roarer whirled about by an 
old man hidden in the bush, and by and by some of them 
learn to do it themselves. 

On some islands of the Malay Archipelago, as well as in 
Negro Africa, the participation of women in religious life 
is more pronounced, especially in the capacities of mediums 
and of priestesses, but here also their prerogatives are far 
from attaining a common level with those of men. 

It would, of course, be absurd to assert that woman is 
excluded from religious life. The limitation of her partici- 
pation falls in the domains of privileges, of official repre- 
sentation, as well as of creativeness, such as is manifested 
in the rationalizing activities of priests and the visions of 
prophets, the originators of new religions. Women's pas- 
sive part in religion was at all times at least equal to that of 
man ; and if pre-history is to be judged by history, her role as 


a recipient and tool of religion must have always been pro- 
nounced, perhaps more so than that of man. 

The most categorical of woman's disabilities in early soci- 
ety are the political ones. In social life, the economic im- 
portance of primitive woman ever tends to raise her to a 
level of approximate equality with man. She is, for ex- 
ample, the mistress of the home, where her activities in the 
capacity of housekeeper, mother, nurse and wife are indis- 
pensable. The home is thus not only woman's place but 
her kingdom; the validity of this dictum, moreover, ante- 
dates the very existence of a home in any but a metaphorical 

Apart from a few highly exceptional cases, women are 
never chiefs in North America, and the same is true of the 
tribes of Northeastern Siberia. 

In Australia the arbiters of the fates of the young are 
always the old men, never the old women. The powerful 
chiefs of Polynesia are males, and so are the relatively in- 
significant chiefs of Melanesia. 

In Africa the situation is somewhat different. As was 
shown before, the king is here associated with two queens, 
his mother and his sister, personages of great prestige and 
considerable actual power. A woman, however, can never 
become the supreme ruler of the state, nor does the fact 
that some women become queens, in any way represent the 
political status of African women. In all matters pertaining 
to political office and functions, their disenfranchisement is 
complete, even as was that of European women under 
Queen Elizabeth, Catherine II, or Maria Theresa. The 
ministers serving an African king are always men, and so 
are all public officials down to the pettiest chief.^ 

"The impatient tuhyf aroused by this enumeration of woman's disabili- 
ties cannot be answered here. It may be noted, however, that the basic 
politico-economic disenfranchisement of woman goes back, in the main, to 
a more primary fact, namely the monopolization by man of the weapons 
and acts of war. Thus the tragedy of woman symbolizes, in the last in- 
stance, the enslavement of the powers of peace by the powers of war. 


SOCIETY (Continued) 
The Foundations of Society (Continued) 

In looking back upon the impressive array of social 
forms passed in review in the preceding chapter, one fact 
stands out with great clearness: society has seized upon 
a large number, if not all possible, kinds of relation, spatial, 
temporal and organic, of man to nature and of man to 
man; and on the basis of these relations, social divisions 
have grown up. First, there is the spacial relation, the 
territory occupied by the group. This is the foundation 
of local groups, villages, towns, tribal territories and states. 
Then there is the organic relation, which appears in two 
forms, actual blood relationship and assumed or fictitious 
blood relationship. Actual blood relationship is repre- 
sented in the ties connecting children with their parents in 
a family,^ or the members of an Iroquoian maternal family, 
or the individuals comprised in one of those loose groups 
covered by a system of relationship. Fictitious or assumed 
blood relationship is represented in such groups as the clan, 
the gens, the dual division (in many instances) and the 
Australian classes and sub-classes. Then there is the group- 
ing based on sex. And finally come the two forms of tem- 
poral relation of man to man, as comprised in the principles 
of age and generation. 

Now, the units based on these different principles all per- 
form multifarious functions in society. In fact, the civili- 
zational status of a social division is no more and no less 
than the sum total of its functional relations to society. 
As aforesaid, a social unit is what it does. For this reason 

'Of course, it must be remembered, as noted before, that only the rela- 
tion of parents to children and <vice versa, is strictly organic or biological. 
The relation of the parents to each other, on the other hand, unless they 
happen to be blood relatives, is a reciprocal functional relationship, such 
as i!5 implied in the sex tie and the correlated psychological attitudes, 


•it has often been felt that it would be both scientifically 
justifiable and most convenient if social units could be de- 
fined by their functions. This, unfortunately, cannot be 
done, for the simple reason that the functions of the differ- 
ent social units constantly overlap. In fact, some functions 
occur in connection with all of the social units enumerated. 
Such, for example, are ceremonial rites. Economic func- 
tions are exercised by families, clans or gentes, local groups, 
sex groups. Political functions may be exercised by fam- 
ilies, clans, phratries, tribes or groups of tribes. And so it 
goes, throughout the entire line of possible social functions. 
Thus, not only must the idea of terminological differentia- 
tion between social units, based on functional distinctions, be 
given up except in specific instances and places, but it also be- 
comes clear that in their civilizational status the different 
kinds of social units may often be equivalent to one another. 
A clan in one tribe may stand for what a family represents 
in another, a local group here may mean the same that a 
phratry or dual division stands for there, a tribe or group 
of tribes may function in one place as a clan or a village 
or an age group function in another. One must be warned, 
therefore, against accepting this analytical presentation of 
social units too pedantically, as it were, for the lines of 
demarcation between the different units are not by any 
means always distinct, either when identical units are com- 
pared in different tribes or even when different units in one 
and the same tribe are juxtaposed. The analytical dis- 
tinctions introduced are nevertheless of the greatest sig- 
nificance, insofar as they aid to present the principal forms 
of social units and insofar, also, as they disclose the basic 
natural roots of social structure. 

This does not complete the survey of social units, for in 
all primitive society there are discernible still other groups 
which, in distinction from those enumerated above, are 
purely functional. 

Among these groups those based on industrial lines may 
be mentioned first, It is, of course, true that in early times 


industrial specialization was relatively inconspicuous, that 
each family resembled every other family in its industrial 
functioning, and that a large number of the individuals of 
a tribe could and did perform the same economic functions. 
This view, however, constitutes but an approximation of the 
truth, and is mainly valuable when a contrast is drawn be- 
tween modern and primitive conditions. For industrial spe- 
cialization is old indeed. Thus, one finds that in communi- 
ties lilce the Haida and Tlingit, where all men pass as wood 
workers, or like the Zuiii and Hopi, where all women can 
qualify as pot makers, or like the Maidu, where the same 
may be said of the women basket workers, there is notice- 
able a distinction between those who are but average work- 
ers and those who have become experts, and to that extent 
there is an incipient specialization of an industrial group, 
over and above the sex specialization. Even in the much 
cruder industrial conditions of Australia, the specialization 
of the men of certain localities in the manufacture of one 
or another weapon, has been noted. In certain Australian 
tribes the messengers^ constitute a class by themselves. In 
more advanced communities, such as the Negroes of Africa 
or the Polynesians, industrial differentiation has proceeded 
much further. Among many of the Bantu speaking Negro 
tribes, the agriculturists and the herdsmen are separated into 
veritable classes of society. There also one finds the salt 
diggers, the ironsmiths and the silversmiths and the mer- 
chants. In Polynesia, the boat makers constitute an ancient 
and honored class. 

Another type of functional grouping is represented by the 
various kinds of societies or associations, religious, military, 
medicinal. Such societies are widely distributed in the primi- 
tive world. They thrive in northern Melanesia, in West 
Africa, among the Indians of Brazil, and in a number of 
wide tribal areas in North America. The societies may be 
purely male or purely female or mixed. Admission to 
membership may be based on age, guardian spirit initiation 

'See p. 277. 


or payment by an individual or a group of individuals. 
The functions of the societies may be purely religious and 
ceremonial, which is most frequently the case, or medicinal 
in addition, as for example, among the Iroquois and the 
Zuni, or military, as in certain well known Plains organi- 
zations, or juridical, as in Melanesia and West Africa. 
But what is characteristic of all of these instances is that 
the bond between the members of a society remains a purely 
functional one; remove the common functions, and the or- 
ganization based upon these must also disappear.^ 

Still other groups are based on the principles of birth 
and inheritance of privileges, and birth and occupation. An 
illustration of the birth and privilege grouping is found on 
the Northwest Coast, where the hereditary prerogative of 
chieftainship, with all its accruing distinctions, belongs to 
the class of nobles. The same is true of many groups in 
Polynesia. The reverse situation is found in the case of 
slaves. This institution is a much more widespread phenom- 
enon in primitive society than has often been supposed, for 
it is common in Polynesia, Africa and North America. Bar- 
ring those instances where a slave or a descendant of a 
slave may pass into another social class, a man born a slave 
dies a slave, and with this status there go the inevitable 
restrictions in social participation. 

The best known instance of the birth and occupation prin- 
ciple are the Indian castes, where different occupational 
groupings have become hereditary, and with this occupa- 
tional status there go the well known privileges and restric- 
tions, social, ceremonial, matrimonial. Caste-like traits are 
also observed, for example, in the Baganda gentes, with 
their hereditary specialization in different industrial pur- 

In connection with hereditary or acquired privileges, the 
principle of rank makes its appearance.^ Rank may be 

'For a much more extended treatment of societies, the reader is referred to 
0r. Lowie's "Primitive Society," Chapter X, "Associations." 

'Here the reader is once more referred to towie'g "Primitive Society," 
Chapter XII. "Ranlf," ' 


static, as when different social classes are firmly fixed by birth 
and are kept apart with greater or less stringency. Rank 
may also be dynamic as, for example, in the graded societies 
of the American Plains or of Mota (one of the Banks 

Again, riches — although perhaps without all of the 
strictly economic connotations of the modern idea — may be- 
come the mark of a group with somewhat fluctuating out- 
lines, as is so commonly the case among the Bantu speaking 
herd owners of Africa and the reindeer breeding Chuk- 
chee, Koryak, or Tungus, of Northeastern Siberia. 

In comparing these purely functional groupings of society 
with those based on spatial, temporal or organic factors, 
one may distinguish the two by designating the latter as 
groups of status, the former as groups of function. The 
groups of status are based on principles which flow directly 
from certain relations that obtain between man and Nature 
and man and man, and imply civilization only in a most gen- 
eral sense, the psychological proclivity of mankind to form 
groups on the basis of such lines of cleavage always being 
taken for granted. The groups of function, on the other 
hand, emphatically presuppose civilization, as these func- 
tions are really the dynamic aspects of civilization, and the 
groupings are built up into social units on the basis of com- 
mon functional preoccupations. 

In the concrete life of a tribe these distinctions between 
the two kinds of groupings are not by any means always 
marked. A clan that exercises a ceremonial function like 
that of a religious society in the same or in another tribe, 
is to that extent equivalent to that religious society. A 
family or local group which specializes in an industrial 
pursuit is equivalent to a corresponding industrial group 
in another tribe, the only bond of union of whose members 
is that of their industrial occupation. The blurring of the 
distinction between the groups of status and those of func- 
tion is, moreover, precipitated by the fact that both kinds 
of groups tend to assume new functions, or, it may be, lose 


some of the old ones. However that may be, the comparison 
of the two kinds of groups reveals an important sociological 
principle. It is this : social divisions of whatever proveni- 
ence ever tend to exercise cultural functions and to assume 
new ones; functions, on the other hand, ever tend to attach 
themselves to pre-existing social units or to create new ones. 
In concluding this survey of social units and their func- 
tions, it must also be noted that a member of a primitive 
tribe is usually subject to the simultaneous control of a con- 
siderable number of such units. He is a family man and 
a clansman, a member of a local group and of one or more 
grades of a society or of several societies; he functions as 
part of an age, sex, generation and relationship group, and 
he may also share in the privileges and obligations of an in- 
dustrial or a hereditary rank group. Thus the intellectual 
and emotional participation of an individual becomes highly 
complex. On the general background of the mental disposi- 
tion of early society, these multifarious participations carry 
with them much that is characteristic of the behavior, the 
emotional attitude and the intellectual outlook of early man.^ 

Political Organization 

In a sense, political organization is one phase of social 
organization. But there are historical as well as socio- 
psychological reasons for making a distinction, and in the 
history of the subject such a distinction has usually been 
made. Political organization proceeds from a tribe to 
intertribal relations and to the integration of tribes into 
higher political units. Social organization proceeds from a 
tribe or nation to the social subdivisions comprised in it. 
Speaking in general terms, political organization tends 
toward integration, social organization toward differen- 

\Cf. pp. 414-415- 

It is not implied that this distinction is inherent and inevitable. Certain 
recent tendencies may serve as proof of the opposite. It is true that political 
integration still continues in the form of imperialistic expansion, alliances, 


We have discussed the League of the Iroquois, as a 
high type of American tribal federation, and the state of 
the Baganda, as an example of African political integration. 
There remain many further problems of primitive politics 
which, for lack of space, can only be indicated here. The 
general political democracy of America and the prevailing 
limitation of the power of chiefs; the striking similarities 
of African states to those of ancient Asia and Europe, their 
growth by conquest and consequent territorial expansion, 
their dependence on edicts, roads, tribute, taxes and "graft" ; 
the three types of states in Africa: the bureaucratic (Ba- 
ganda), the type characterized by a religio-ceremonial exal- 
tation of the king (Dahomey), and the military state (Zulu 
KafErs) ; the slight development of chieftainship and of 
political unity and control in Melanesia, where secret soci- 
eties take over much of what in other places is the business 
of the state; the military chieftains of Polynesia, with their 
curiously exaggerated power of the imposition of taboo and 
their retinue of genealogising priests — all of these and many 
other interesting phases of the subject must be passed over 
In silence. 

But before leaving the topic of political organization, we 
must supplement the two sketches of relatively higher or- 
ganized political systems by a few remarks on the political 
organization of the tribes of Southeast Australia. Although 
politically amorphous, these tribes do not fail to present in- 
teresting illustrations of individual influence and promi- 

Among the Dieri, the oldest man of a totem is a pinnaru 
or headman. While he may occupy this position by dint 
of his age alone, he will not become the headman of a local 
division, embracing sections of many clans, or of a tribe, 

and international tendencies, and that such minor groups as families or 
local communities still are and always will remain the basic elements of 
social organization. On the other hand, there is a marked tendency toward 
political differentiation in such principles as national self-determination and 
local autonomy, while elements of social organization, such as industries, 
societies, clubs and churches, display equally conspicuous leanings toward 
international expansion and integration. 


unless he has achieved distinction as a fighting man, or medi- 
cine-man or orator. The headmen of a tribe, in a body, are 
the seat of political power. 

Thus, while age alone is insufEcient claim for supreme 
political prestige, it does count for a great deal, as is seen, 
for example, in the case of the Yaurorka headman cited by 
Howitt, who was almost childish from old age and had to 
be carried about, but whose prestige remained unshaken. 

Together with the headmen, the old men In their leisure 
hours instructed the young men in the laws of the tribe and 
in the proprieties of conduct; and the old women instructed 
the young girls. 

The prominence to which some of these headmen attain 
among their people is illustrated by the following quotation 
from Howitt, whose statement is based on the observations 
of S. Gason, an oiEcer of the South Australian Mounted 
Police, and refers to Jalina-piramurana, who, in the early 
sixties was the head of the Kunaura totem and the recog- 
nized leader of the Died tribe: "He has described him 
to me as a man of persuasive eloquence, a skilful and brave 
fighting-man, and a powerful medicine-man. From his 
polished manner the whites called him 'the Frenchman.' He 
was greatly feared by his own and the neighboring tribes. 
Neither his brothers (both of them inferior to him In 
bravery and oratorical power) nor the elder men presumed 
to interfere with his will, or to dictate to the tribe, except 
in minor matters. He decided disputes, and his decisions 
were received without appeal. The neighboring tribes sent 
messengers to him with presents of bags, Pitcheri, red ochre, 
skins, and other things. He decided when and where the 
tribal ceremonies were to be held, and his messengers called 
together the tribe from a radius of a hundred miles to attend 
them, or to meet on inter-tribal matters. 

"His wonderful oratorical powers made his hearers be- 
lieve anything he told them, and always ready to execute his 
commands. He was not by nature cruel or treacherous, 
as were many of the Dierl, and when not excited was con- 


siderate, patient, and very hospitable. No one spoke ill 
of Jalina-piramurana, but on the contrary, with respect 
and reverence. This is understood when Mr. Gason adds 
that he distributed the presents sent to him amongst his 
friends to prevent jealousy. He used to interfere to pre- 
vent fights, even chastising the offender, and being some- 
times wounded in so doing. On such an occasion there would 
be great lamentation, and the person who had wounded 
him was not infrequently beaten by the others. 

"As the superior Headman of the Dieri, he presided at 
the meetings of the Pinnarus, sent out messengers to the 
neighboring tribes, and even had the power of giving away 
young women, not related to him, in marriage, of separating 
men from their wives, when they could not agree, and of 
making fresh matrimonial arrangements. 

"He periodically visited the various hordes of the Dieri 
tribe, from which he also periodically received presents. 
Tribes even at a distance of a hundred miles sent him pres- 
ents, which were passed on to him from tribe to tribe. 

"He was one of their great Kunkis or medicine-men, but 
would only practise his art on persons of note, such as 
heads of totems or his personal friends. 

"He was the son of a previous Headman, who was living 
during Mr. Gason's residence in the country, and who, al- 
though too infirm to join In the ceremonies, gave advice 
to the old men. He boasted that he had the command of 
the tribe before his son acquired it. He was believed to be 
proof against magical practices, such as 'striking with the 

"Jalina-piramurana had succeeded to and indeed eclipsed 
his father."^ 

Among the Kamilarol there were two or three headmen 
in each local division of a tribe. Their position depended 
on the valor of the respective individuals. Headship was 
not hereditary, but prominent warriors would become lead- 
ers and their sons were respected, and if deserving, might 

'Howitt, "Native Tribes of South-East Australia," pp. 297-299. 


become leaders in turn. The oldest headman was the chief 
of the tribal council. His influence was often considerable 
and on occasion he could carry a measure by his own voice. 

"When the Headman of a totem died," writes Howitt, 
all the totemites were called together by the man next 
in age, and not only the men of the totem, but everyone, 
men, women, boys and girls 

"When all were assembled at the appointed place, they 
formed a ring, the old men with their wives in the front 
row, the younger men with their wives in the next, and 
outside were the young men and the girls to look on, but 
not to take any other part in the proceedings. These were 
commenced by one of the elders speaking, followed by other 
men; finally, the sense of the meeting was taken, and then 
the old men stated who should be the Headman. The 
choice being thus made, presents were given to the new 
head by the other Headmen, who had collected things from 
their people, such as opossum or other skin rugs or 

At least among the Kurnai old women shared with the 
old men the confidence of their people. Such women were 
often consulted by the men and their authority in the tribe 
was great. Howitt refers in particular to two Kurnai 
women whom he knew, who together with the old men were 
great experts on the tribal legends and customs and the 
ever-watchful guardians over the stringent marriage rules, 
which play so important a part In the lives of these tribes. 

The tribal councils of the DIerl consisted of the heads of 
local divisions, the medicine-men, the influential old men and 
the fighting men. From time to time they met In council, 
the deliberations being held secret; in fact, whosoever was 
guilty of revealing to an outsider the subject of a council's 
deliberations, was doomed to die. The usual topics of 
discussion at councils were death by magic, other forms of 
murder, breaches of the moral code, especially with refer- 

^Ibid, p. 305. 


ence to the marriage regulations, and the revealing of coun- 
cil secrets to women or the uninitiated. 

As mentioned before, most deaths were ascribed to 
magic. The punishment for this offence was usually admin- 
istered by a pinya or avenging party. This procedure is 
described by Howitt, in the following passage : "... a 
man with several companions came to a camp near Lake 
Hope. A man had lately died at Perigundi, from whence 
they came, and in order that they might be received by the 
people at Lake Hope, they halted twenty yards from the 
camp and there gathered the spears and boomerangs that 
were thrown at them ceremonially by one of the Lake Hope 
men, they being as usual easily warded off. Then going 
nearer, they again halted and warded off the weapons 
thrown, and again moved on, until, being close together, 
the man from Perigundi and the man from Lake Hope 
should have taken hold of each other, and sat down together. 
But the former, not taking heed of the position of the sun 
and being dazzled by its rays, was unable to ward off the 
spear thrown at him, which entered his breast, and he died 
In the night. His companions fled to Perigundi and there 
formed a Pinya of a number of men, and returned to Lake 
Hope. The leader of this was a man called Mudla-kupa, 
who suddenly appearing one evening placed himself before 
him who had killed the Perigundi man, and seizing his hand 
announced his sentence of death. An elder brother of this 
man drew Mudla-kupa to one side, saying, 'Don't seize 
my Ngatata,^ nor even me, for see, there sits our Neyi;'^ 
seize him.' At the same time he threw a clod of earth in 
the direction in which the man was. Mudla-kupa now turned 
to him, seized him by the hand, and spoke the death sentence 
over him, which he received with stoical composure. Mud- 
la-kupa led him to one side, when the second man of the 
Pinya came up, and as Mudla-kupa held the man out to him 
as the accused, he struck him with a maru-wiri' and split 

^Ngatata and Neyi are relationship terms. 

'A weapon shaped like a great boomerang, which is used with both 
bands like a sword. 


his head open. The whole Pinya then fell upon him with 
spears and boomerangs. In order that they should not hear 
how he was being killed, the other men, women, and children 
in the camp made a great rustling with boughs and broken- 
off bushes."^ 

As the carrying out of a pinya involves considerable risk 
of life and limb to both parties concerned, the DIeri have 
elaborated a substitute method of settling the blood debt. 
This method is a peaceful one, consisting of an exchange of 
articles by barter. 

Howitt tells of an instance of this sort which occurred 
after the death of a Lake Hope man in the year 1899. 
The debt of blood revenge or the initiation of a pinya ex- 
pedition devolved upon the older brother of the Lake Hope 
man, who was much feared for his great strength. To 
avoid bloodshed, the blacks among whom the Lake Hope 
man had lived sent to his brother a cord known as yut-yunto. 
This cord, when tied around his neck, authorized him to 
collect articles for barter with the senders. These articles 
were secured from his blood relatives in the surrounding 
country. When a sufficient number were amassed, mes- 
sengers were sent out, indicating the time and place of the 
meeting. The recipient of the cord, now called yut-yunto- 
kana, accompanied by a large following, proceeded to the ap- 
pointed spot, receiving and sending messengers on the way. 
The two parties met as if prepared for combat. The men 
were all armed and painted as if about to carry out a pinya. 
Behind the armed men were the women, carrying the ar- 
ticles intended for barter. As the two parties stood facing 
each other, the yut-yunto-kana danced a war dance. Then 
the leader of the other party approached him, ceremonially 
seized the cord around his throat and breaking it, cast it 
into the fire. Then he addressed him, "How do you come? 
Do you come in enmity?" "Oh, no," was the response, "I 
come peacefully." "That being so," said the other, "we 
will exchange our things in peace." Then they embraced 

^Ibid, pp. 327-328. 


each other and sat down amicably. Meanwhile a war dance 
was going on, executed by both parties. When the leaders 
had sat down, the men stopped dancing and gathered behind 
the two headmen. The women were crouching behind the 
men, carefully conceahng the articles for barter from the 
eyes of the opposite party. Then an article, a shield or 
boomerang, was passed to the leader of one of the parties. 
This article was passed on from the last man to the first, 
the men all standing in a row, each one passing the object 
between the legs of the man in front of him, so it could not 
be seen until produced by the leader, who stood at the head 
of the line. Having received the article, the leader threw 
it down between the parties with an air of importance. Then 
one man from the other side threw on it some article in 
exchange. Thus the barter continued for some time, until 
one of the leaders finally asked, "Are you peaceable?" And 
the reply was, "Yes, we are well satisfied." Each man took 
the articles he had obtained by barter, and the parties sep- 
arated In peace. Had the bartering failed In its purpose so 
that one or both parties had remained dissatisfied, there 
would have been an argument followed by a regulated com- 
bat between all men present. 

In connection with the political organization of these 
tribes the Institution of messengers is of interest. Mes- 
sengers are used by the headmen, councils, and other groups 
or individuals to communicate to other individuals, groups, 
villages or tribes that a ceremony Is to be held and when, 
that a meeting for barter is to take place, that a pinya party 
is on its way, or that the people are to gather for the purpose 
of a communal feast. 

In. some tribes messengers are specially selected on each 
occasion, in others there are definite men in each locality 
who are known In a wide district as messengers and who 
are permitted to pass unmolested through the territory of 
all tribes in that district, even though some of them may be 
at war with the senders of the messenger. Among the 
Kamilaroi each clan claimed its own messenger. When 


messengers are to be sent to a hostile tribe and on other 
occasions where danger is involved, women are chosen for 
the commission. If possible, women are selected who have 
come from the tribe to which they are sent. Such a mis- 
sion, if successful, is accompanied by a period of license, in 
which the members of the mission and the local tribesmen 
participate. No resentment is shown on such occasions on 
the part of the women of the recipient tribe. The tribe 
sending the messengers, at least in the case of the Dieri, 
is equally insistent that this period of license be observed. 
Should the women shirk this obligation, they do so at the 
risk of death on their return. What happens upon the re- 
turn of such a mission of women has been described by 
Mr. Gason: "The Headman and the principal old men 
received them kindly, and congratulated them on their safe 
return, but appeared anxious, and clutched their spears 
in an excited manner. No one but the Headman spoke to 
the women immediately on their return; but when all the 
men were seated, they were questioned as to the result 
of their mission. The result was at once told to all the 
people in the camp, who rejoiced if it were favourable, 
but who became fearfully excited and seemed to lose all 
control over themselves if it had failed, rushing to and fro, 
yelling, throwing sand into the air, biting themselves, and 
brandishing their weapons in the wildest manner imagin- 

Among the Dieri, a messenger announcing a pinya wears 
a net on his head with a white band around it in which a 
feather is stuck. He is painted with yellow ochre and pipe 
clay and in the string girdle, at the point of his spine, a 
bunch of emu feathers is stuck. With him he carries part 
of the beard of the deceased or some balls of pipe clay 
taken from the heads of the mourners. 

A messenger announcing a death is smeared all over with 
pipe clay. On his approach there is a great ceremonial dis- 
play of grief on the part of the women. After the par- 

^Ibid, p. 683. 


tlculars of the death have been made public to the camp, 
only the close relatives of the deceased weep. On the fol- 
lowing morning they paint themselves all over with white 
pipe clay. Until this clay has worn off, widows and widow- 
ers are prohibited from speaking. They do not rub off 
the clay but permit it to wear off by itself and during this 
period they communicate with others in gesture language. 
The messengers often carry messenger sticks, which are 
crude slabs of wood with notches cut in them to assist the 
messenger in remembering his message. Howitt, for ex- 
ample, refers to a communication from one of his inform- 
ants, who in 1840 saw two young men of the Ngarigo tribe, 
one of whom was carrying two peeled sticks, each about two 
feet long, with notches cut into them. They were sent to the 
different branches of their tribe to announce a gathering 
on the Australian Alps. These gatherings took place about 
mid-summer on the highest ranges of the mountains, where 
as many as five to seven hundred natives often congregated 
in order to feast on roasted moths. The moths, great 
quantities of which filled the crevices of the rocks, were first 
stifled with smouldering brush. Then they were roasted on 
hot ashes, whereupon they shrivelled to about the size of a 
grain of wheat. Then they were eaten. 

The Geographical Distribution of Social Forms 

In the study of industries and art, certain geographical 
features appear with great clearness. These features are 
less readily discernible in a survey of religious phenomena, 
on account of the greater illusiveness of the religious con- 
tent. In social organization the facts of distribution are 
once more clear cut and convincing. Certain forms of 
social organization are ubiquitous; others are distributed 
in wide areas, more or less continuous; still others repre- 
sent purely local variants. 


The local group, the family, the relationship group, some 
differentiations on the basis of sex, age and generation — 
all of these are found everywhere, and it is not devoid of 
interest to note once more that the universality of these 
social forms extends also to modem society. The emphasis, 
however, is changed: in our own civilization the family 
and the local group are more conspicuously developed, 
whereas in primitive society the relationship group and the 
differentiations on the basis of sex, age and generation are 

The sort of social organization usually designated as the 
family-village grouping — meaning by this that clans, gentes, 
phratries and the like are absent and the family and local 
group alone are found — is decidedly restricted in its dis- 
tribution. In North America, for example, a line drawn 
from Greenland to the coast of southern California would 
roughly divide the continent into two triangles, the north- 
western being characterized by the family-village system, 
barring only the tribes of the Northwest Coast, the south- 
eastern, by the clan and gentile systems. In Africa, the 
more primitive tribes, such as the Hottentot and the Bush- 
men of the southern extremity of the continent and perhaps 
some of the Pygmy tribes in the great forests of the upper 
Congo, are organized on this basis of local group and 
family. In Australia, some relatively non-numerous tribes 
along the southern, southeastern and western coasts have 
the same type of organization. 

The clan and gentile systems, while not as restricted in 
their distribution as the family-village type, are not found 
everywhere, as appears from what was said in the preceding 
paragraph. In addition to the areas in North America 
where clans and gentes prevail, and equally large although 
at present not as clearly defined areas in South America, 
gentes are widely distributed in the whole of Africa between 
the desert of Sahara in the North and that of Kalahari in the 
Souih, while clans occur here and there within this area. 
In Australia alone are clans and gentes wellnigh universal, 


barring only the relatively few tribes noted above as having 
the family-village system. 

Some other forms are much more restricted in their 
distribution. The Australian classes and sub-classes are 
not found anywhere else. The maternal family seems to 
occur only among the Iroquois, with the possible addition 
of one or two other tribes. Dual divisions are present in 
a large number of areas in North America, in the whole of 
Australia and in part of Melanesia, but are wholly absent 
in Africa and India. 

Now, as soon as any functional specifications are added 
to these purely formal divisions, the area of distribution 
of each becomes more and more restricted. The clans of 
the Northwest Coast are not those of the Crow nor those 
of the Iroquois. The dual divisions of the latter are not 
those of the Omaha, nor those of the Tlingit and Haida, 
and all of these are markedly different from the dual divi- 
sions of Australia. Magical totemic ceremonies are an ex- 
clusive functional peculiarity of the gentes of the Aranda. 
Differentiation in the ways of cutting the hair of boys is 
peculiar to the gentes of the Omaha. Definite association 
of families with hunting territories is apparently nowhere 
as clearly developed as it is among some of the eastern 
Algonquin tribes. And so on, throughout the entire line of 
social divisions in their functional capacity. 

Recent studies of relationship systems show a similar 
differentiation from locality to locality. 

Again, in political organization, the geographical factor 
is definitely recognizable. First come the characteristics 
of wide continental areas, such as the presence of federated 
tribes and the slight development of chieftainship, in Amer- 
ica ; the centralized state and the high status of the king, in 
Africa ; the relative vagueness of the political unit combined 
with the great prominence of the old men, in Australia. 
Within these wider geographical districts further subdivi- 
sions are discernible. In North America, a comparison of 
those groups characterized by relatively high political or- 


ganization, such as the Zuni, the Dakota, the Iroquois, dis- 
closes differences of structure and function. In Africa, the 
political organization of the Yoruba differs from that of 
the Herrero or the Zulu or the Masai or the Baganda, and 
these differ among themselves. 

It will be seen, then, that certain forms of social organi- 
zation belong to the common-human. Their distribution is 
universal ; their congeniality to human society is such that no 
amount of historic caprice seems able to dislodge them. 
Other forms of social and political organization are widely 
distributed but are not by any means universal. While 
these forms must also be regarded as singularly well adapted 
to the purposes they fulfill, their uniform distribution in 
certain areas and their absence from others, strongly sug- 
gest the importance of diffusion through historic contact 
as an explanatory factor. More specialized forms of social 
units and the functional differentiations between correspond- 
ing units In different tribes have as a rule a limited distribu- 
tion, while the more minute peculiarities are restricted to 
single groups. Here there can be only one interpretation: 
just as variants of industry, of art, of religion, arise in par- 
ticular localities, so also does social organization become 
changed in minor details under the specialized conditions 
of individual tribes and local groups. Some of these spe- 
cialized developments prove congenial to an ever widening 
circle of neighbors, and the new form or function may thus 
reach a wide distribution; other specialized developments 
remain characteristic of a narrow area or even of an indi- 
vidual tribe. 

The principles laid down in the "Reflections to Part I" 
are thus once more vindicated. 


Few primitive institutions have aroused such general in- 
terest as has totemism, few have provoked so many theqries 


and such heated controversies. Spencer, Frazer and An- 
drew Lang, Rivers and N. W. Thomas, Thurnwald, Graeb- 
. ner and Father Schmidt, van Gennep and Durkheim, Wundt 
and Freud, all of these and many others have contributed 
their share to the discussion of this wellnigh inexhaustible 

What, then, is totemism? What is its nature and its dis- 
tribution in the primitive world? 

One speaks of totemism when a tribe comprises a social 
organization mostly of the clan or gentile pattern, as well 
as a peculiar form of supernaturalism, consisting in the 
most typical cases of certain attitudes toward species of 
animals or plants or classes of natural objects. In totemism 
the social organization and the supernaturalism are com- 
bined in a distinctive way presently to be indicated. 

The geographical distribution of totemic tribes is extra- 
ordinarily wide. In North America totemism occurs in 
the Northwest, among such tribes as the Tlingit and Haida; 
among the Zufii, Hopi and related tribes of the Southwest; 
among large groups of tribes in the Southeast (Natchez, 
Creek, etc.), as well as among such Woodland tribes 
as the Algonquin Delaware and — to include an exceedingly 
attenuated form of totemism — among the Iroquois speak- 
ing tribes of the League. In the Plains, the so-called South- 
ern Siouan tribes (the Omaha and others) have totemism. 
Our South American material is still full of gaps, but 
totemism has been described by Im Thurn in British Guiana, 
some of the native groups of Brazil certainly are totemic, 
and it does not seem unlikely that, after further investiga- 
tion, totemism will be found as prevalent in the southern 
continent as it is in the North. In Africa the tribes of the 
Mediterranean littoral must be eliminated as belonging to 
a distinct cultural layer, nor is totemism found at the ex- 
treme southern end of the continent, among such tribes as 
the Bushmen and Hottentot. But in the enormous inter- 
vening area, among the Bantu and Sudanese speaking Ne- 
groes, totemism is very general if not universal. Anker- 


mann's recent presentation, moreover, indicates that further 
totemic tribes are certain to be discovered in this region. 
In aboriginal India the more developed forms of totemism 
do not seem to occur, but many of the gotras or clan-like 
social groupings of that area have some form of totemism, 
while others seem to have had it in the past. Australia is 
the totemic continent par excellence. There all the tribes 
are totemic with some possible exceptions among the groups 
of the southeastern and northwestern shores, and even 
among some of these the evidence for former totemism is 
not unsatisfactory. Among the islanders of the Torres 
Straits and in Melanesia totemism is sporadic, but in the 
latter area it is in some cases highly developed. In Po- 
lynesia the evidence Is doubtful but it is not Improbable 
that some at least of the western island clusters had totem- 
ism in the past. 

This enormous geographical distribution of totemism can 
only be interpreted in one way. An historic accident of 
singular origin followed by diffusion could not account for 
It. Totemism must have originated Independently several, 
if not many times, and among those tribes to whom totemism 
was brought by their neighbors, there must have been a 
marked receptivity for this institution. In other words, 
the complex of ideas, attitudes and practices which Is totem- 
ism, is congenial to early mentality and therefore charac- 
teristic of It. 

As one analyzes totemic clans or gentes in a broad sur- 
vey of the globe, a variety of beliefs and practices with 
reference to totems are observable. The totemites — mem- 
bers of a totemic group — trace their descent from an 
animal or bird or thing, or they regard themselves as in 
some other way related to the totem; the totem and the 
totemite share physical and psychic traits; the totem pro- 
tects the totemite against danger; the totem Is represented 
In art and figures as a sacred symbol at ceremonies; the 
totem Is taboo — It may not be eaten or killed or seen or 
touched, or all of these; the totemic group Is named after 


the totem; ceremonies are performed by the totemites to 
multiply the supply of the totem animal — these are only 
some of the positive and negative rules observed by totem- 
ites with reference to their totems. In addition to this 
it must be noted that the totem is scarcely ever some one 
animal or plant or thing; no, it is an entire species or class 
of creatures or things that figure as totems. And, finally, 
the members of a totemic group may not intermarry — this 
rule is almost as wide as totemism itself. 

It is, however, not quite satisfactory to thus characterize 
totemism by a number of features of belief and practice. 
For, if the question is asked whether these totemic features 
are found everywhere comprised in totemism or whether 
some appear in one tribe, others in another, the latter 
proves to be the case. 

Discarding the differences between minor totemic dis- 
tricts, broad continental areas appear clearly differentiable 
from the standpoint of totemism. In North America the 
artistic side of totemism is often developed and among the 
tribes of the Northwest Coast this is highly marked. The 
totemic name is common but not universal, and the same is 
true of the totemic taboo. Where totemism is richly de- 
veloped it becomes associated with the belief in guardian 
spirits. Then again, there are tribes like the League Iro- 
quois and many tribes of the Southwest, where the only dis- 
cernible features are clan exogamy and the animal or bird 
name of the clan — barely enough to justify the designation 
"totemic," and perhaps scarcely enough. 

In Africa, the gentile totemic name — for here gentes pre- 
vail — is often absent and so are the artistic representations 
of the totem. Double totems occur, as among the Baganda, 
where most of the gentes have two totems. The idea of 
descent from the totem is very rare, instead a variety of 
stories are told among the different tribes to explain how 
the totems first made their appearance. But the most typical 
trait of African totemism is the taboo — the prohibition to 
eat or kill the totemic creature. The term for totem among 


many Bantu speaking tribes means "that which is for- 
bidden." The punishment for the transgression of this 
taboo is severe, the usual conception being that nature it- 
self takes revenge upon the offender: he (or she) is af- 
flicted with a skin disease, which is interpreted by the natives 
as at least a partial transformation of the culprit into the 
tabooed animal. 

In Australia the number of totemic groups in a tribe is 
frequently very large — much larger than either in Africa or 
in North America — and the number of individuals in each 
totemic group is correspondingly small. The totemic clan 
or gentile name is universal and so is the taboo. The con- 
ception is common that the totemite and the totem are 
closely related. The idea that the totemites arc in one way 
or another descended from the totem is general. Totemic 
art, where it occurs, is peculiar insofar as identical designs 
are used to represent their totems not only by different 
totemic groups of one tribe but even by totemic groups 
belonging to separate tribes. On the other hand, each to- 
temic group interprets these designs in accordance with its 
own totemic ideas. In Central Australia individuals of one 
totem and locality perform magic ceremonies which are be- 
lieved to bring about the multiplication of the totemic 

This characterization of the three continental areas will 
suffice for our purpose. It will be seen that what might 
be called the "totemic complexes" of these areas differ con- 
siderably in the number as well as in the character of the 
totemic features they contain. There is further difference 
in the prominence accorded certain traits. Thus, in Cen- 
tral Australia the magical aspect predominates, in Africa 
it is the taboo aspect, in North America the guardian 
spirit aspect, and specifically on the Northwest Coast the 
art is the dominant feature. 

If we cared to push our analysis still further, we might 
note that the degree to which the culture of different tribes is 
saturated with totemism is by no means always the same. 


Thus, among the Northwest tribes almost every side of civi- 
lization is touched by a totemic flavor, religion and mythol- 
ogy, social organization, ceremonialism and economics, in- 
dustry and art; while among the Omaha, material culture 
seems wholly free from totemic connection, and ceremonial- 
ism almost entirely so. Here totemism is relegated largely 
to the religious and mythological domains. In Africa, again, 
totemism is often little more than a system of food restric- 

It is, however, possible to overemphasize these differ- 
ences at the expense of equally fundamental similarities. In 
the first place, some features are much more common than 
others. For example : whereas magical ceremonies to mul- 
tiply totems are performed only in central Australia and 
totemic art has nowhere developed so prollfically as on the 
Northwest Coast, other traits occur with fair uniformity 
in most or all of the major totemic areas. Among such 
widely diffused totemic attributes are totemic clan or gen- 
tile names, totemic taboos and the idea of some form of re- 
lationship with the totem. Nor is this all. Exogamy of 
the totemic unit is an almost universal trait of totemism. 
Whether one holds with some that exogamy is of the very 
essence of totemism, or with others that it is merely a clan 
or gentile attribute and enters into the totemic relationship 
secondarily, the fact remains that the prohibition to marry 
one's totem mate is almost co-extensive with totemism it- 
self.^ And now we come to still another trait which is even 
more characteristic of totemic communities than exogamy; 
this trait is a negative one: totems are not worshipped. 
Animal and plant worship and the deification of inanimate 
Nature, are not totemism. Almost everywhere, in fact, 
these forms of religion exist side by side with totemism. 

This brings us to the kernel of the totemic situation. The 
most distinctive thing about this Institution is not the vio- 

'That this negative aspect is not all there is to exogamy and that in a 
particular social system clan or gentile exogamy may be a secondary, not a 
primary feature, has been explained before (see pp. 249 sq.). 



lence of the religious regard for the totem — that, as just 
noted, is not discernible — but the way totemic ideas and 
rites are interwoven with a social system.' 

It would be wholly satisfactory to regard this peculiar re- 
lation of an ideological and behavioristic supernaturalism 
to a social system as the most distinctive trait of totemism, 
if not for one circumstance which, at first sight, seems not 
a little disturbing : our diagram would serve as well to illus- 
trate a tribal set of religious societies; for here also a 
tribal pattern of traits appears in a variety of concrete 
forms. It thus becomes necessary to stress with added 
emphasis the character of the social skeleton underlying a 
totemic complex. The skeleton is always a social system. 

'The following diagram may serve to illustrate how a totemic complex 
fits into a social organization: 










c, N 



1 1 


A A? 




^'7 A / 



Fig. S3 

Here the segments I, II, III, . . . are social units (in totemism generally 
clans or gentes), while a, b, c and d are totemic features, say taboo (a), 
n me (b), relationship (c), and artistic representation (d). Now a+b+c+d 
is sufficient to characterize the totemic complex, if one notes in addition 
that in each segment these features appear in somewhat different form 

{ai, az, fla bi, bi, bz, etc), for each totemic unit has a different animal 

or bird or plant or thing for its totem, and to that extent its taboo, its rela- 
tionship, its artistic representation are different in their concrete aspects 
from the corresponding features in the other totemic units of the complex. 


It may be a tribal set of families or of local groups, but in 
a surprisingly large majority of cases it is either a clan or 
a gentile system. The totemic complex may constitute the 
very flesh and spirit of that system, but if the totemic com- 
plex were conceivably removed, the skeleton would remain : 
there would still be a social system. 

Thus it appears that neither the socio-psychological na- 
ture of totemism, nor its geographical distribution, nor its 
historic role can be understood without a proper appraisal 
of the underlying social skeleton. This, in a majority of 
cases, will be found to be a clan or a gentile system, although 
instances where families or villages appear as carriers of a 
totemic complex are not unknown. Socio-psychologlcally 
this means that there is some delicate correspondence be- 
tween the supernaturallstic aspect of totemism and clan or 
gentile systems, some fitness^ In their inter-relation. Geo- 
graphically this means that wherever clans or gentes occur, 
there also totemism is likely to be (although there are excep- 
tions). And historically this means that whatever elements 
of primitive life clans and gentes expressed, whatever ele- 
ments they brought Into It, totemism had its share In the pro- 
cess. For It must be remembered that whereas families and 
local groups are shared by early and modern civilization, 
clans and gentes are known to primitive life alone; they are 
equally foreign to earliest man and to historic man. 

Before we leave the subject of totemism a further query 
must be met. Has totemism and all it stands for been left 
definitely behind? or can certain adumbrations of it be dis- 
cerned In modern society? It can be shown that neither 
the supernaturalism Involved in totemism nor the peculiar 
form of socialization implied in it, are wholly foreign to 
modern life. 

While plants and inanimate things have long since been 
relegated to the realm of the matter-of-fact, animals still 
inhabit a region where fact and fancy are peacefully wedded 

'C/. my article, "Form and Content In Totemism" (American Anthropol- 
ogist, vol. ao, 1918, pp. 280-295). 


together. As between the animal and its human master, 
verbal usage reveals a common range of physical and psy- 
chic qualities. One thinks of the eagle eye, the lionine 
heart, the dogged perseverence, the bull's neck. Current 
metaphor, half earnest half in jest, has introduced the fox 
and the beaver, the bear and the rabbit, the cat and the 
cow, the hog and the ass, the ape and the shark, as charac- 
ters of the human scene. Some mothers treat their children 
with an affection we think ape-like, while others make chil- 
dren of apes, and of cats, dogs and parrots as well. 
And It is typical that phychic qualities — intellect, affection, 
understanding, sensitiveness — are wont to be ascribed to 
these creatures by their masters, who, curiously enough, 
often tend to deny these traits to man. 

From the days of Lavater's physiognomies to those of 
Lambrosian criminology, note has been taken of animalistic 
suggestions in human countenances, and these were bal- 
anced, perhaps less commonly, by the reading of human 
features and expressions into the faces of animals. In that 
inimitable fragment of life, "Marie Claire," unique In its 
simplicity and directness, Marguerite Audou has given us 
a rich collection of such observations. 

To those who love animals, live with them, learn their 
ways, the temptation to see them as what they are not is 
wellnigh Irresistible. The "true" stories of most "nature 
fakers" are quite sincere, and the highly Imaginative pages 
of Georgette Leblanc represent but a literary culmination 
of the opinions — about dogs — of many women and men. 

To this must be added the often noted tendency on the 
part of equivalent social units to adopt as classifiers names, 
badges, pins, flags, tatoo marks, colors. One thinks of high- 
school and college classes, baseball and football teams, po- 
litical parties, the degrees of the Elks and Masons and the 
regiments of our armies. 

The names and things that are thus used as classifiers and 
symbols, habitually rest against a background of emotion. 
In the case of regimental banners, the emotions aroused 


may reach great violence, while in the instance of animal and 
bird mascots there arises a complex of attitudes and rites 
so curiously exotic as to invite an exaggerated analogy with 
primitive totemism. 

The fact remains that the supernaturalistic as well as 
the social tendencies of totemic days live on in modern so- 
ciety. But in our civilization these tendencies, in the ab- 
sence of a crystallization point, remain in solution, whereas 
in primitive communities the same tendencies, clustering 
about the skeletons of clan and gentile systems, function as 
highly distinctive vehicles of culture. 


Culture and Environment 

Before us is a survey of many aspects of primitive dvili- 
zation. In economics and industry, in art and religion, in 
social structure and political organization, early society 
presents a multiplicity of forms and functions. After an 
analysis of these features, one question naturally suggests 
itself. ' How can they be explained? Why so many differ- 
ences? Are there any general conditions with which these 
differences can be correlated? It was hinted in the open- 
ing sections of this book that racial factors cannot be held 
responsible for the variety of civillzational forms. It 
would indeed be absurd to refer the civilizational pecu- 
liarities disclosed to racial or sub-racial factors, for a multi- 
plicity of differences in all of the aspects of civilization 
reviewed have repeatedly appeared within the range of 
one physical type. 

Another favorite explanation lies in the direction of 
physical environment. Granted the psychic unity of man- 
kind, it is the environmental differences, climate. Flora, 
Fauna, geographical position, which are responsible for the 
differentiations of civilization. This type of explanation 
i has often been attempted. Montesquieu must be counted 
\ among the early environmentalists. Taine once made a 
great stir by his attempts to interpret forms of civilization, 
especially in its artistic and literary aspects, by environ- 
mental conditions. And the staunch environmentalism of 
Buckle still has its charms for many of his readers. The 
whole subject was placed on a more scientific foundation by 
the German geographer-anthropologist, Friederich Ratzel. 
Ratzel was primarily interested in material culture, and 
being by training a geographer, he conceived of civilization 



as a sort of an outgrowth of physical environment, a psych 
sociological culmination of the geological process. Amon 
more modern writers, Miss Semple, the talented America 
interpreter and translator of Ratzel, must be classed as 
non-compromising environmentalist, having embodied he 
creed in a brilliant discussion of American history and its' 
geographic environment. But undoubtedly the most suc- 
cessful of modern environmentalists is Ellsworth Hunting- 
ton, author of "The Pulse of Asia," whose work centers 
around the idea of a climatic rather than a general environ- 
mental interpretation of civilization. 

Whether true or not, environmental interpretations of 
civilization are often accepted with favor on account of their 
apparent objectivity and definiteness. Culture and mind 
are evanescent and elusive ; environment is definite, con- 
crete, measurable. Hence the modern mind, ever eager 
for measurable results and mathematical formulations, is 
easily thrown off its guard by any at all ingenious attempt 
to reduce civilization to environmental determinants. 

But let us glance at the facts. It is clear from the start 
that of all aspects of civilization, material culture is the 
one most closely allied with environmental factors. People 
eat, dress, build and move about in accordance with the re- 
quirements and by the use of the facilities and materials 
furnished by their physical environment. Industry is also 
clearly affected by the materials available and the uses sug; 
gested by the character of the physical milieu. That ma- 
terial culture should thus be found in close touch with the 
physical factors of Nature is indeed to be expected for is 
not material culture the physical environment itself, or part 
of it, transformed into civilization through the creativeness 
of man? 

Plausible though all this seems, an inspection of the 
actual conditions at once introduces a variety of complicat- 
ing factors. People do not use all that is offered them "B^ 
their physical environment, and they often use things whiehj 
can be obtained only with great effort or by transgressing 


the narrow limits of the immediate physical surroundings. 
Thus the wood industry of the Northwest Coast would 
readily suggest an environmental interpretation. The great 
trees are there, and the wood industry, including the won- 
derful art, seem almost preordained by the very nature of 
the physical environment. But further south, along the 
Pacific slope, is a great region inhabited by the tribes of the 
California area, a region almost unique in the vastness of 
its forests. Now, in the culture of the California Indians 
this is in no way reflected, for among them wood industry 
has not developed. 

The distribution of pottery in North America is another 
case in point. The clay necessary for this industry is avail- 
able practically throughout the entire expanse of the conti- 
nent, but pots are made only among certain tribes. Roughly 
speaking, a line drawn from the northeastern corner of the 
continent to the southwestern one would divide North 
America into a pot making district south and east of the 
line and one in which no pottery is made north and west 
of it. The fact that the tribes with pottery as well as those 
without, cluster in continuous geographical areas at once 
suggests that an entirely different factor is involved here, 
namely the diffusion of an industry from tribe to tribe. 

The oft cited example of the Eskimo of arctic America 
and the Chukchee of Northeastern Siberia might once more 
be adduced here in view of its suggestlveness. What is 
more natural, exclaims the lusty environmentalist, than that 
the Eskimo should build snow houses ! Are they not plenti- 
fully provided with this material almost the whole year 
round and does it not lend itself admirably for structural 
purposes, its use being, moreover, suggested by the natural 
forms assumed by the snow? Yes, for once the environ- 
mentalist seems to stand on firm ground — until a glance 
across Bering Strait reveals to one the cultural conditions 
of the Chukchee. Here is another arctic people, living 
under conditions practically identical with those of the 
Eskimo. The snow, in particular, is supplied by Siberian 


Nature as generously as it is in the arctic of the New World. 
The Chukchee, however, do not build snow houses. In- 
stead, they build their large clumsy tents of hide over heavy 
wooden supports and, in the face of considerable incon- 
venience, drag them along in their frequent migrations. 
Again, among the same two peoples reindeer are avail- 
able in large quantities and both peoples do indeed 
make use of them. But in what way? When the 
Eskimo needs a reindeer whose meat he eats, whose 
hide he uses to line the outside of his kayak and the 
inside of his house, and whose horns form an essential part 
of his sledge, he goes out and kills one with his bow and 
arrow. To drive his sledge he uses dogs, but he has never 
domesticated the reindeer, a much faster and stronger ani- 
mal. The Chukchee, on the other hand, have achieved 
this and use the reindeer to draw their sledges. 

Evidently the environment is powerless to furnish an 
explanation of this important civilizational difference. The 
historico-geographical relations of the two peoples, on the 
other hand, readily supply an answer. The Eskimo repre- 
sent the northern-most inhabitants of North America, where 
domestication, barring only the dog, is unknown. The 
Eskimo did not achieve domestication nor had they any one 
to learn it from. Thus, they never advanced beyond a 
relatively crude utilization of this important feature of 
their physical environment. The Chukchee, on the other 
hand, have lived in long historic proximity and association 
with the Tungus, who through their Turkish affiliations have 
for generations been in touch with domestication. From 
them the Chukchee learned this useful technique, applying 
it to the animal available in their forbidding environment, 
the arctic reindeer. 

It is clear, then, that not all the elements in the physical 
environment are culturally utilized by any given tribe. 
Also, that the use made of similar or identical features 
differs from tribe to tribe, thus resulting in a variety of 
cultural forms. 


— -To this must now be added that elements not available 

in one's own physical environment are secured and cultur- 
ally transformed. The Australian Dieri of the neighbor- 
hood of Lake Eyre, for example, send a yearly expedition to 
a region in Central Queensland in order to secure supplies of 
the pituri root, which they chew. As the country traversed 
by the expedition is inhabited by hostile tribes, the men must 
be numerous and well armed. When they reach their 
destination they encounter further opposition from the 
i tribes inhabiting the district where the pituri root is found. 
However, they usually succeed in collecting and carrying 
uoifnuge quantities of the desired commodity. The home- 
ward journey proves a more peaceful one, as part of the 
supply of pituri is traded off on the way. The remainder 
is consumed at home or bartered to other tribes further 
south. Similar expeditions are sent to the southern coast 
to obtain ochre, a mineral utilized as a coloring substance 
for ceremonial designs on the ground and the decoration 
of the dancers. 

The Todas of southern India are supplied by their neigh- 
bors, the Kota, with the earthenware indispensable in their 
dairies, as well as a variety of iron objects. Nor is this 
case exceptional, for such dependence on one's neighbors for 
important or even essential commodities is not uncommon 
among tribes in the South and Southeast of Asia. 

All of these, moreover, are merely special instances of 
the inevitable dependence of any local civilization on other 
civilizations for numerous articles and appliances which are 
brought in through barter, war or accident, as well as for 
ideas, customs, ceremonies, myths, which percolate from 
individual to individual, from tribe to tribe, in all kinds of 
contact, whether regulated or non-regulated. It is true 
that this aspect of civilization does not play as conspicuous 
nor as regular a part in the cultural life of early societies 
as it does in modern civilization; but the factor is present 
nevertheless, and its importance can be easily under-esti- 


In Africa, with its markets and regulated trade, and in 
Melanesia and Polynesia, with their orderly and frequent 
trading expeditions by sea, the relation of a tribe to its 
own physical environment is constantly and inevitably ampli- 
fied by its relation to other tribes. 

Still, all in all, it must be said that in early civllizatioa- 
every tribe utilizes In its material culture at least part of 
its physical environment, and also that it depends, as a rule, 
on its own physical environment more than on its contact 
with other tribes. In modern conditions all this Is changed. 
The diffusion of labor between groups and within groups, 
local Industrial specialization, the wellnigh unlimited sweep 
of modern means of transportation, the advent of large 
populatlonal centers in the form of great cities, the highly 
developed system of credit, have completely revolutionized 
the environmental relations of civilization. Today, any 
hamlet may find Itself in touch with the civilization and the 
physical environment of almost any spot In the world, while 
it may be free or almost free from any relation to its own 
physical environment.^ 

But It Is most important of all to realize that physical 
environment can at best but provide what Wisslcr called 
the "brick and mortar" of material civilization, it cannot 
determine the form. Now, while it is true that material 
culture must have some concrete things to operate with, 
which come from the physical environment, although not 
necessarily from that of the group itself, material culture, 
like all culture, is in the main a matter of form, shape, cut, 
pattern, fashion, style — these are the real characteristics 
of a culture. And as between these and the materials util- 
ized, the latter are relatively negligible. 

'A stray example from the show window of a drug store: a bit of 
Gentian root frona the mountains of Southern and Central Europe; some 
jeeds of Nux Vomica, extracted from an orange-like fruit raised in Bombay, 
India; some roots of rhubarb, grown in Tartary in the interior of China; 
drops of aloes which flow from the cut base of a plant common in the Cape 
of Good Hope; a dose of peppermint herbs and bicarbonate of loda, natire 
in the United States — all of these combined in proper proportioni go to tb9 
making of certain digestive tablets. 


Thus, if the material cultures of the primitive tribes of 
the world were classified from the standpoint of the ma- 
terials used in their economic pursuits and industries, the 
result would be a very imperfect classification of the floral, 
faunal and mineral characteristics of the different regions — 
and to that extent the partial dependence of the different 
cultures on physical environment would be demonstrated — 
but hardly any idea could be derived, from this computation, 
of the material cultures of the different tribes. 

Now, what is true of economic life and industry, of food 
and clothing, of habitat and the means of transportation, is 
more emphatically true of the other aspects of civili- 
zation, social and political organization, art and religion. 
In the case of religion and art the dependence on environ- 
mental factors is almost disappearingly small. It is true 
enough that the natural features, animals or plants of a 
region are more likely than not to figure in the religious con- 
ceptions of its inhabitants, although imported deities are 
not by any means uncommon. But then, in how far is this 
significant as a characterization of a religion? Surely what 
makes a difference, is not the particular mountain, river or 
tree, animal, fish or bird, figuring In a religion, but the 
way any of these are utilized or transformed by the re- 
ligious ideology of a group. Similarly, it is undeniable 
that certain relations obtain between the substance of 
an object of art and its artistic elaboration: not all ma- 
terials lend themselves equally well to the same processes. 
Nevertheless, the greatest variety of artistic styles and 
devices may rest against a uniform background of raw 
material, as is strikingly exemplified in Melanesia and 

A word, finally, is due to social and political organization 
and to economic pursuits. Next to material culture these 
elements of civilization are evidently most closely Involved 
here. Contrary to what one so often hears, neither social 
nor political structure seem to be significantly correlated with 
environmental factors. The fundamental forms of social 


organization, such as the family, clan, phratry, and so on, 
are distributed over primitive areas without any regard to 
environmental peculiarities. And the same applies to forms 
of political organization. The confederated political unit, 
for example, is the highest form assumed by political ag- 
gregates in North America, while the centralized state 
reigns in a large part of Africa ; and in both cases environ- 
mental differences are brushed aside in the geographicat*"—^ 
sweep of these institutions. It has sometimes been pointed 
out that the absence of relatively inaccessible physical 
boundaries favors the development of huge centralized 
empires, the great plains of Russia providing a favorite 
example. But history belies this generalization so conspicu- 
ously that it cannot be seriously considered. The trans- 
continental sweep of ancient Rome, the world empire of 
Holland, or that of France, or the Imperial domains of 
Great Britain, held together in a grip of steel reaching out 
across the waters — all these and similar examples show 
clearly enough how little environmental factors contribute 
to the formation of political aggregates. Another striking 
example is provided by the island kingdoms of Polynesia, 
where hosts of relatively tiny bits of land are held together 
under the unified control of great chiefs or kings, notwith- 
standing the intervening expanse of ocean, the crossing of 
which, even for the seaworthy boats of the Polynesians, is 
at best a difficult and hazardous undertaking. 

The same is true of economic life. Hunting, fishing, 
agriculture, the gathering of wild fruits and berries, all of 
these pursuits are possible only in the presence of certain 
environmental factors, but not one is definitely correlated 
with any type of environment. That physical environment 
is not to be disregarded in any historic study of a civilization 
is obvious enough, but no physical environment can in itself 
be held responsible for producing a definite type of civiliza- 
tion, nor can any environment, barring extremes, preventa 
civilization from developing. "Do not talk to me about 
environmental determinants," the philosopher Hegel is re 


I ported to have said: "where the Greeks once lived the 
xCurks live now. That settles the matter !" In view of the 
preceding, it need occasion no surprise when different civili- 
zations are found in similar environments, as is the case 
in continental Europe, and similar civilizations in differ- 
ent environments, as exemplified by England, the United 
States and Canada. 

That this should be so is Indeed obvious from a compara- 
tive analysis of civilization and of physical Nature. For 
all things considered, civilization is dynamic, a thing of 
growth and development; while environment Is compara- 
tively inert and static. It Is sometimes asserted that this 
very stability of the environment enables it to become a 
powerful directing factor In civilization. But surely civili- 
zatlonal changes cannot be derived from the character- 
istics of an environment that does not change. Here comes 
the rejoinder that the environment does change, that the 
elements contributed to civilization by environment con- 
stantly shift, multiply, as civilization progresses. That 
this is so is, Ideed, undeniable. But then, is the environment 
responsible for the changes? Another example: once the 
pre-lroquolan Algonquin hunted in the forests on and about 
Manhattan ; later the Iroquois cut the forests and cultivated 
the soil; still later the white settler applied more inten- 
sive agricultural methods to the same land; the modern 
population of the island, finally, erected on it and about it 
a great metropolis and utilized Its remarkable facilities as 
a harbor. These different kinds of relation between culture 
and environment are evidently not derivable from any 
peculiarities of the environment, which all along remained 
the same, but from the fluctuating and developing interests 
and technical facilities of succeeding generations, facilities 
and Interests which were history made and not environ- 
ment made. 

The basic formative factors of all civilization are these : 
creatlveness of the individual, which Is responsible for the 
origination of cultural forms; psychological and sociological 


Inertia, which determines Instltutionalism and cultural sta- 
bility; and the historic relations between human groups, 
which bring stimuli for change and determine the dissemina- 
tion and exchange of ideas and commodities. It will be 
seen that these factors are psychological, sociological, his- 
torical, but not physical-environmental. Adjustment to en- 
vironment is an Important urge, especially in primitive 
society. But the necessity or desirability of such adjust- 
ment nowhere figures as an unlvocal determinant of cultural 
form. There is always more than one adjustment pos- 
sible, and the particular solutions of the problem adopted 
by a given civilization can never be foreseen or derived 
from an Inspection of the environmental factors alone. 

Diffusion versus Independent Development in 
Early Civilization 

In our examination of the relation of civilization to 
physical environment, one factor constantly appears as a 
striking refutation of the very .pos_sibIlity of an ^elusive 
dependence of any local civilization upon Its own physical 
milieu. This factor is the presence In every civilization of 
imported elements, which appear in large numbers In every 
group, no matter how primitive. As these elements come 
from outside the group, they are evidently Independent of^fs 
physical environment. 

The phenomena of borrowing and diffusion as they ap- 
pear In the preceding chapters amply support the conclusion 
reached in the "Reflections to Part I," for no matter what 
aspect of civilization is considered, certain elements rep- 
resenting this aspect are distributed everywhere (or nearly 
so), others cover wide continuous areas, while still others 
are restricted to narrowly localized civilizations. 

In material culture, for example, some things are univer- 
sal. Everywhere there is some form of habitation; some 
means of transportation is used, by land, by water, or both; 
some garments are worn, however scant; some tools, how- 



ever crude, are employed for cutting and hammering ; some 
weapons appear, and among these are those used in close 
combat, like stone knives and clubs, and those others that 
strike at a distance, like javelins and throwing boomerangs 
and the bow and arrow. 

The reasons for the universally distributed features can 


^a Tai'tond Oaltiing 
BO Tmils doUiuu 
R Robet 

Fig. 54 
Wissler, "The American Indian," p. 62. 

not be doubted. They can be summarized under three 
heads: the general psychic unity of mankind, the identity 
of the primary needs of life and the general similarity of 
the physical conditions available for their satisfaction, al- 
lowance being made, moreover, for the limitation of the 
possible ways in which such primary adjustments can be 


But as soon as any of these cultural features are speci- 
fied more distinctly, the distributions begin to narrow down. 
From Wissler's map of the distribution of types of cos- 
tumes in the two Americas, for example, it appears that 
tailored clothing cut to pattern, not unlike our own, is found 
in a wide area in the North; textile clothing is distributed 
from the North American Southwest, through Mexico and 
Central America and along the western districts of South 
America down to Peru; while robes are worn in the central 
area of North America and in the southern of South 

==^'Rarlf Garments 
v.-; Palm Fibre 

IFur and Hide 


Fig. 55 

B. Ankermann, "Kulturkreise and Kulturschichten in Afrika," 
Zeitschrift fiir Ethnologic, Vol. 37, 1905, p. 62. 

Or again, to follow Ankermann's African map: gar- 
ments made of fur and hide occur practically throughout the 
entire expanse of Africa south of the Sahara and east of 
the western states of the Gulf of Guinea, excepting only a 
large area embracing most of the water-shed of the Congo 
and its tributaries; garments made of bark are worn in an 
area starting with a broad base on the Gulf of Guinea and 
around the lower Congo and extending eastward across 
the continent in a gradually narrowing wedge which reaches 
to the Island of Madagascar. Through part of this area 
the distribution of fur and hide garments, on the one hand, 
and of bark garments, on the other, overlap. Again, 



clothes are also made of palm fibre in parts of the Congo 
area where fur and hide garments do not occur, as well as 
throughout Madagascar and in a few small districts in the 
west of the mainland. 

Similarly, Ankermann's map of the distribution of types 
of huts in Africa shows more or less wide localization of 
certain types as well as an occasional overlapping. 

Such features as pottery and agriculture, while extending 
beyond the limits of one continent, are far from universal 
in their distribution. Pottery is widely prevalent in Amer- 

FlG. 56. 
B. Ankermann, "Kulturkreise," etc., p. 56. 

ica (Fig. 57) ; it is found throughout most of Africa south 
of the Sahara, except among the Bushmen in the South; it 
occurs throughout India, although some of the Indian tribes, 
like the Todas of the South, do not manufacture the pots 
themselves. In Australia there is no pottery nor is any 
made in Polynesia, while in Melanesia it occurs sporadic- 
ally. Again, agriculture is distributed in America in an 
area considerably narrower than that of the distribution 
of pottery; it is carried on in Africa almost throughout the 
enormous expanse south of the Sahara and north of the 
desert of Kalahari, excepting only some large thickly 
wooded districts; it does not occur in Australia, and is 



found only In the form of garden culture in Melanesia and 

More particular features have a much narrower distribu- 
tion, while details of technique and pattern, finally, are 
localized in small groups of tribes or even in individual 

Fig. 57 
Distribution of pottery (Wissler, "The American Indian," p. 68) 

tribes. Wissler's study of Plains shirts, for example, shows 
a differentiation of pattern from tribe to tribe, and as 
indicated before, the guardian spirit cults in this area are 
similarly differentiated. 

To take another illustration from the domain of art. 
The art work of Melanesia taken as a unit can be clearly 
differentiated from that of Polynesia. Although wood 


industry is the predominant artistic pursuit in both areas, 
open work or filigree, which is characteristic of Melanesia, 
is almost unknown in Polynesia except among the Maori of 
New Zealand; the use of color is almost universal in Mel- 
anesia and absent in Polynesia, in this case, with the sole 
exception of the Maori; animal patterns are constantly 
used in Melanesia in fairly realistic or semi-conventionalized 
form, while in Polynesia only the human figure is used as 
a pattern and the conventionalization is almost always ex- 
treme; again, the polishing of art objects has reached a 
high degree of perfection in Polynesia, while almost un- 
known in Melanesia. 

And once again, a more detailed study reveals unmistak- 
able local differentiations. The pottery of Fiji, the shields 
and spear throwers of New Guinea, the wooden gongs of 
the New Hebrides, the open work totemic columns and 
masks of New Ireland, the clubs and wooden foot rests of 
the Marquesas, the spears set with shark teeth of the Gil- 
bert Islands, the feather work of Hawaii, the great wooden 
idols of Easter Island, and the grotesque jade neck orna- 
ments of New Zealand; all of these are unique, highly dis- 
tinctive features, each one of which may serve to identify a 
particular locality. 

Similar phenomena encounter one on all sides. Some so- 
cial units, the conditions for which are given everywhere, are 
universal; such are the family and the local group, as well 
as one or another form of age, sex and relationship groups. 
Other social units — the clan, gens, dual division — are widely 
distributed in different continents, but not omnipresent. 
Other more specialized forms, like the class or the maternal 
family, have strictly limited distribution, the former as a 
typical Australian feature, the latter as a peculiarity of the 
Iroquois League. Again, as soon as the social functions of 
these units are considered, the distribution of those with 
uniform functions narrows down still further. 

It is clear, then, that the generalization reached on the 
basis of the analysis of the five test tribes in Part I, is borne 


out by a wider comparative material. What we find 
is an universal or nearly universal distribution of such cul- 
tural features as flow directly from man's psychic nature 
and his relation to his physical and social environment. 
Then come other features, some distributed in great con- 
tinuous areas, others in ever narrowing districts, down to 
specific highly individualized traits characteristic of just a 
few localities or only one local group. As an interpretation 
of the distributions of the features that are not universal 
or near universal, we must repeat our former conclusion: 
they can only be explained by the constant origination, in 
particular localities, of new cultural peculiarities or of 
variations of old ones, and the subsequent spread of these 
from tribe to tribe, by diffusion. 

At times certain very general historical conclusions can 
be derived from these distributions alone. Thus some cul- 
tural features are widely distributed in great continuous 
areas, but absent In others equally great. Apart from other 
evidence, this would suggest that the feature In question 
originated only a very few times or perhaps only once in 
the area of its distribution. This would apply, for ex- 
ample, to the wheel, found in the Old World alone, to the 
riddle, or to Jnstitutionalize d legal p£ ocedure. IM*'"'^**''' ^ 

The most compIicf^TSS'and difficult aspects of the diffusion 
problem arise In cases different from the above. In those 
namely, where the geographical distribution of a trait is dis- 

In some cases of discontinuous distribution the geograph- 
ical facts alone may furnish an answer to the problem. In 
the following map, for example, the distribution of totemism 
in Africa is represented. It is strikingly discontinuous. 
Now totemism, as we saw, is a widespread cultural phe- 
nomenon, not restricted to Africa, but common to many 
primitive areas. It must therefore be assumed that it has 
originated independently a number of times. It would, 
nevertheless, be against all probability to assume a separate 
origin of totemism for each one of the distribution areas of 


Africa, especially on account of the highly comparable 
forms of totemism which occur here. It must therefore be 
assumed that historic contact has taken place at least be- 
tween some of these areas, or that there were connecting 
links of totemic tribes among whom totemism has subse- 
quently fallen into decay. The alternative or subsidiary hy- 
pothesis would be that the investigation of African tribes 
not being complete, cases of totemism have been overlooked. 

Fig. 58 

B. Ankermann, "Verbreitung und Formen des Totemismus in Afrika," 
Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, Vol. 47, 1915, p. 180. 

There are innumerable other instances where an answer 
cannot be so readily provided. Religious societies, for 
example, occur in northern Melanesia, in West Africa, 
among some natives of Brazil, and in several areas in 
North America. Must historic contact be assumed here or 
a remote common historic origin, or are the societies in 
the several areas to be derived from disparate historic 
sources? Another case is provided by the art of New 
Ireland when compared with that of the Northwest Coast 
of America. In both areas the art objects in question con- 
sist of decorated poles. The carved decorations to which 
color is applied represent animals intertwined in various 
ways. In both localities, finally, these poles have a symbolic 
religious significance and figure in ceremonies. Such are 
the similarities. But there are differences. The totemic 
poles of New Ireland are small ceremonial objects, some 


three to five feet high ; the carved decoration is in the form 
of open work or filigree, the whole carving producing a 
light lace-like effect. The totem poles of the Northwest 
Coast, on the other hand, are gigantic posts looming far 
above the roofs of the houses, while the carving is in high 
or low relief, but not in open work, the total effect being 
ponderous and massive. Without pressing the parallel too 
closely, the New Ireland carvings might be likened to the 
Gothic, those of the Northwest Coast to the Egyptian 
styles of decoration. Now, under these conditions, should 
the similarities between the arts of the two areas be ascribed 
to historic contact or to independent origin? 

Another Illustration of a different type Is provided by a 
special variety of panpipe, in which each closed pipe Is 
coupled with an open one of approximately the same length 
which sounds the octave of the closed one. This musical 
instrument occurs only in two widely separated areas: in 
the Solomon Islands and western Polynesia, and again, in 
Peru and Bolivia. It was also found that a panpipe of 
Northwestern Brazil was built to produce a system of sounds 
which agreed very closely with the sound systems of some 
specimens from the South Sea area. The similarity is un- 
questionably a striking one, but the distance between the 
two areas is great and the probablHty of historic contact 
slight. Should the hypothesis of diffusion be adopted in 
the face of such difficulties, or Is independant origin to be 
held responsible for the striking similarities in question, 
which, in this case, would have to be regarded as accidental? 
Numerous examples that have puzzled investigators and 
have led to acrimonious discussion, are provided by the 
domain of mythology. The so-called tale of the Magic 
Flight Is one. This tale contains the following incidents: 
a flight from an ogre, objects thrown by the one pursued, 
forming obstacles to the ogre's advance : first a stone which 
turns into a mountain, then a comb which becomes a thicket, 
and finally a bottle of oil which changes into a body of 
water. This tale is widely but not continuously distributed 


both in the Old and in the New Worlds. Can it be assumed 
that the above group of incidents as part of one tale origi- 
nated independently in the several areas? 

The classical evolutionist was not greatly troubled over 
examples such as this. To him all such instances attested 
the similarity of the human mind and the parallelism of 
cultural development. But we may not share the consoling 
faith of the evolutionist. The universality of the phe- 
nomena of diffusion amply attested to by the preceding dis- 
cussion, does not permit one to stress the theory of inde- 
pendent development at the expense of the alternative 
possibility of explaining cultural similarities through a com- 
mon ultimate origin or through historic dffusion from one 
tribe to another. 

Now, one factor will always favor the hypothesis of 
diffusion: it is its demonstrability in specific instances; 
whereas independent origin must at best always remain 
problematic. Prompted by the historic ubiquity of diffu- 
sion as well as by its demonstrability, a number of modern 
students of cultural phenomena turned their backs upon the 
generalizations of the evolutionist, showing a decided ten- 
dency to interpret most or even all similarities of culture 
through historic contact or ultimate unity of origin. First 
among these students stands Ratzel, the geographer, to 
whom we had occasion to refer in connection with his en- 
vironmentallsm. He was primarily concerned with objects 
of material culture, having himself carried out several in- 
tensive investigations of the distribution of material objects, 
for example, of African bows, of a special variety of armor, 
and the like. His view was that the interpretation of 
similarities in this domain must lie in the direction of his- 
toric contact. In spiritual factors he was less interested, 
and here he allowed for the possibility of the independent 
origin of similarities. 

More recently, F. Graebner , a young student of history, 
embraced the creed of Ratzel and developed it into a more 
systematic as well as dogmatic ideological structure, at the 


foundation of which lies the theory of diffusion. Graebner 
rejects as unprovable all explanations of similarities through 
independent origin, pinning his faith on the possibility of 
proving historic connection in all such instances. Graebner 
is also primarily interested in material culture. 

In still more recent years the theory of diffusion as a 
system of interpretation of cultural similarities received a 
fresh impetus through the work of Rivers, who in his two- 
volume book on "The History of Melanesian Society" has 
attempted a hypothetical historic reconstruction unprece- 
dental in its complexity, with the theory of diffusion as his 
principal tool. Among his followers, Elliot Smith has 
achieved the questionable distinction of outdoing the dog- 
matism of the evolutionist by his reckless utilization of 
diffusion as an interpretation of widespread cultural simi- 
larities, supporting his theory by a comparative material 
apparently as Inexhaustible in quantity and handled as un- 
critically as was the comparative material of the evolu- 

The value of the last-named theory cannot be examined 
here. The idea of a Megalithic culture originated in the 
Eighth Century B. C, in Egypt, spreading thence through 
the Mediterranean region, over the southern areas of Asia 
and the Island expanses of Melanesia and Polynesia to the 
remote countries of Mexico and Peru; this Idea, however 
alluring, would require a delicate technique and categorical 
demonstration before It could claim serious attention. The 
methods used by Elliot Smith are, on the contrary, so loose 
that the entire speculative edifice erected by him can at best 
be regarded as another link in that chain of top-heavy 
hypotheses, born of uncontrolled flights of the imagination 
and unchecked by either patient research or a strict method 
of procedure. 

The works of Graebner and Rivers stand on a different 
level. The fundamental principles of Graebner's position 
are these: the independent development of cultural simi- 
larities can be assumed only after all attempts to demon- 


strate diffusion have failed. The criteria of similarity are 
two, one is qualitative In its nature, referring to the details 
of similarity in the compared objects, beliefs or institutions; 
the other criterion is a quantitative one, indicating how 
many items of similarity can be discerned between two 
areas or cultures, or separate aspects of such cultures. If 
an examination from these two standpoints reveals con- 
spicuous similarities, diffusion must be assumed, however 
great the distance between the two areas in question and 
however difficult or improbable historic contact between 
them. On the basis of these assumptions Graebner builds 
his theory of cultural strata and of "culture areas''^ into 
an examination of which we need not enter here. 

Now, our discussion has shown that independent develop- 
ment of similarities must be assumed as a general postulate 
in connection with civllizatlonal interpretations, although it 
is, of course, true that rigorous proof of independent de- 
velopment as against diffusion can but seldom be furnished. 
It will have been noted that Graebner regards cultural 
similarities as readily ascertained and evaluated. That, 
however, is by no means the case. Two simple objects of 
material culture, two stone knives, for instance, or two 
paddles, can be compared with little difficulty; but as soon 
as the elements compared reach a certain degree of com- 
plexity or comprise psychological or sociological factors, 
comparison becomes difficult and the concept of similarity 
itself, vague. In the Instance of the religious societies 
referred to before, as well as in that of the decorative arts 
of New Ireland and the Northwest Coast, numerous differ- 

'Graebner's "culture areas" (Kulturkreise) must be sharply distin- 
guished from the culture areas of American ethnology; for whereas the 
latter represent conceptualized descriptions of cultural complexes consti- 
tuting actual geographical and historical units, Graebner's Kulturkreise 
are purely hypothetical reconstructions, inferred from the geographical dis- 
tributions of separate elements of culture. 

A detailed statement of Graebner's position will be found in his 
"Methode der Ethnologic," and brief expositions and criticisms, in Lowie 
("The Concept of Convergence in Ethnology," Journal of American Folk- 
Lore, 1912) and Boas (review of Graebner's book in Science, 1911). For 
American culture area concept, see Wissler's "American Indian," Chapter 


ences are combined with equally numerous similarities. 
Here the value of the qualitative and quantitative standards 
as tests of the similarities involved is limited, if any con- 
clusions are to be drawn with reference to the probability 
of the independent development or of diffusion of such 
similarities. It is precisely this difficulty of establishing 
similarities and of appraising their extent and significance 
which forces the student to introduce the geographico-his- 
torical factor whenever questions of independent or derived 
origin of similarities are to be decided/ 

Rivers' contributions to the theory of diffusion are of 
especial interest, as this investigator deserves great credit 
for the introduction of a number of highly accurate and 
serviceable methods into the domain of ethnological study. 
He himself, moreover, regards his later works as distinct 
contributions to the theory and methodology of diffusion. 
There is, without question, a great difference between the 
approach of Graebner and that of Rivers. The latter 
evaluates psychological factors more justly than does 
Graebner, thus achieving a closer approach to cultural 
reality. Rivers insists, for example, that new cultural ele- 
ments may appear as a result of culture contact, which were 
not present In either of the two civilizations before contact 
was achieved. A mere reference must suffice to his great 
work on "The History of Melanesian Society," the second 
volume of which represents a closely knit theoretical argu- 
ment which stands alone in the entire domain of ethnology.^ 
Two of the author's smaller contributions, however, readily 

*In explanation of Graebner's extreme diffusionism, it must be said that 
it reflects the outlook of a man who has dealt largely with material culture. 
All of Graebner's principles apply more readily to this domain of civiliza- 
tion than to any other. Diffusion, for example, is more easily demonstrable 
with reference to objects than it is with reference to social customs or 
religious ideas. Again, similarities between things are more readily de- 
tected, described and evaluated than similarities between ideas, faiths or 
forms of behavior. Also, material culture, if it persists at all, is more 
likely to persist in a relatively unchanged form than is spiritual culture, 
owing to the fact that material things are relatively immune against the 
transforming influences of psychological agencies. 

^Unfortunately Rivers has not escaped the pitfalls of dogmatic dififusion- 
ism (Cf. my review of Rivejs' book in Science, Vol. 44, pp. 824-828, 1916). 


lend themselves to a brief critical examination. Both refer 
to Australia, and in both the author attempts to intercept 
certain peculiarities of Australian civilization by an argu- 
ment designed to demonstrate its cultural complexity. In 
the article on "The Contact of Peoples,"^ Rivers notes the 
contrast between the physical uniformity of the Australians 
and the general cultural homogeneity of the continent, and 
the strange diversity of the methods of disposal of the dead. 
As Rivers states, nearly every one of the known methods of 
disposal are practiced here : inhumation in the extended and 
contracted positions, preservation on platforms and trees 
and in caverns, a simple kind of embalming and also crema- 

It is next to impossible to assume, claims Rivers, that so 
great a variety of burial methods should have originated 
independently in the continent of Australia. They must 
have been brought from without. But how explain the fact 
that the people who bestowed these many varieties of the 
disposal of the dead upon the Australians did not simi- 
larly influence the other aspects of their civilization and left 
the physical type of the Australian untouched by intermar- 
riage? Rivers' answer is this. As a guide to our inter- 
pretation we must assume the following postulates: i, a 
profound influence may be exerted by a foreign civilization, 
although represented by but a few immigrants, if that civili- 
zation is sufficiently superior to that of the natives to im- 
press them as great and wonderful; and 2, civilizational 
elements, even though useful, may disappear through a 
change in fashion or, if the elements are imported, through 
the non-adaptability of the recipient civilization.^ 

Now then, it must be assumed that an immigrant people 
with a superior civilization have found their way to Aus- 

Jln "Essays and Studies Presented to William Ridgeway, 1913, pp. 474 sq. 
In a previous article on "The Disappearance of Useful Arts" (Wester- 
marck Anniversary Volume, 1912) Rivers has presented an argument for 
this position. As an instance, he utilized the case of Polynesia, where the 
once widespread bow and arrow has been relegated to the position of a 
weapon of sport, the club having taken its place as a weapon of more 
essential use. 


tralia. Their number was small, but their civilization su- 
perior. The natives were impressed. Especially striking to 
the aborigines appeared the foreign funeral rites, and in 
the course of time the new method of disposal of the dead 
was adopted by the natives. The number of Intruders hav- 
ing been small, they were subsequently absorbed by the 
native population without leaving any physical traces of 
their former presence. Most of the civilizational changes 
which they brought with them also disappeared, the crude 
culture of the Australians proving a non-receptive soil; but 
the new method of disposing of the dead persisted and re- 
mained. Then there came another immigration, similarly 
carried out by a few individuals representing a higher civili- 
zation. Once more, the same process was gone through, 
another method of burial being adopted by the natives 
among other civilizational peculiarities. This was followed 
by a second relapse, most of the newly imported cultural 
features being again lost, excepting only the new method 
of burial, which persisted. And as the number of the sec- 
ond immigrants was also small, they were similarly absorbed 
without any visible effect upon the native population. This 
process was repeated again and again, until all the methods 
of disposal of the dead now current in Australia were one by 
one imported and adopted by the natives. 

Now, can a theory of this sort be seriously considered 
as an interpretation of a phase of Australian culture? The 
feasibility of Rivers' postulates taken in themselves cannot 
be denied, but the very number of hypothetical factors in- 
troduced into his theory renders it so highly artificial that 
even approximation to historic truth must in this case be 
regarded as outside the range of probability. 

In his essay on "The Sociological Significance of Myths,'" 
Rivers argues that myths are made about the unusual. Now, 
social organization, being one of the basic elements of civili- 
zation, is, therefore, least likely to rise into conscious- 
ness and to become a subject of mythological speculation. 

'Folk-Lore, Vol. 23, 191a. 


How is it, then, that myths in Central Australia are in- 
vented about the clans as well as about the dual divisions? 
The answer once more favors an interpretation through 
culture contact. The myths about the clans are readily 
explained, claims Rivers : these groups here are no longer 
mere units of social organization, rather have they become 
a ceremonlo-religious institution, and, as such, they may be 
expected to stimulate the myth building imagination. As 
to the dual divisions, they must be regarded as of foreign 
origin, this being the only way in which the mythologies 
that have grown up about these divisions can be accounted 
for. A people with a clan organization must have encoun- 
tered one with dual divisions, and having adopted the lat- 
ter, invented myths about these strange social units with 
which they were formerly unacquainted. 

Once more, the high artificiality of the theory must dis- 
pose of it as a serious attempt at cultural interpretation. 
For, what is the probability of the picture drawn by Rivers 
actually reflecting historic reality? 

If space permitted we might have discussed here Wiss- 
ler' s comparative sketch of Blackfoot material culture, in 
which a minute comparison of traits between this tribe and 
other Plains tribes leads to the conclusion that the Black- 
foot must have borrowed all of the fundamental elements 
of their material culture, having originated none. Or, we 
might have followed the same author in his careful historic 
reconstruction of the diffusion of horse culture in the Plains. 
The horse, originally of Spanish importation, gradually 
made its way northward, spreading from tribe to tribe. 
Wissler argues convincingly that the presence of the horse, 
which added nothing but itself to Plains civilization, 
nevertheless contributed to the cultural physiognomy of this 
area by precipitating intertribal intercourse and thereby 
stimulating the diffusion and interpenetratlon of cultural 
traits. Still another essay that would have deserved espe- 
cial attention Is Lowle' s monograph on the Age Societies of 
the Plains Indiana.. In this histodcal ^nd comparative sum- 


hiary, the tribal societies are subjected to a most minute 
analysis from the standpoint of the features which they 
comprise, and are, as a result of such an analysis, ultimately 
classified as originators, borrowers or transmittors of the 
various traits. 

It must suffice here to merely refer to these meritorious 
contributions, while taking time to deal somewhat more 
carefully with Berthold Laufer's essay "The Potter's 
Wheel.'" It is well known that among primitive tribes pots 
are made by hand, but among tribes on a higher civiliza- 
tional level pots are often turned on the wheel, a much more 
expeditious and efficient method. Now the potter's wheel, 
argues Laufer, is distributed through a well defined area. 
It is found only in the Old World: in ancient Egypt, the 
Mediterranean and west Asiatic civilizations, Iran, India 
and China with her dependencies. In this area the distribu- 
tion of the potter's wheel has remained practically un- 
changed for milleniums. On the other hand, primitive 
tribes do not seem to adopt it even when surrounded by 
more civilized groups who have it. Thus, the Vedda of 
Ceylon fashion pots by hand, while the neighboring Singa- 
lese use the wheel. The African Negroes, who might have 
learned the use of the wheel from the ancient Egyptians or 
later from the Arabs, never seem to have been acquainted 
with its useX The Yakut of Northeastern Siberia continue 
to produce pottery by hand, notwithstanding their inter- 
marriages with the Russians and the fact that wheel-made 
Russian potterA is for sale at Yakutsk. Now, hand-made 
pottery, argues L-aufer, is as a rule woman's work, the par- 
ticipation of menvn this pursuit being always strictly local- 
ized and limited, ^^he potter's wheel, on the other hand, is 
the creation of man\ It must therefore be regarded as an 
entirely distinct inveWion which entered the field of pot- 

'In his monograph on the VBeginnings of Porcelain in China," Field 
Museum of Natural History, Anthropological Series, Vol. XV, No. a, pp. 




tery from the outside, as it were, and when it came, man 
came with it and took over the pot-making industry. 

This historic distinctness of the two methods of pottery 
making is reflected In the customs current in different coun- 
tries. In India and China the division of ceramic labor 
sets apart the thrower or wheel potter and separates him 
from the molder. The potters of India who work on the 
wheel do not Intermarry with those who do not. They 
form a caste by themselves. There Is also a functional dis- 
tinction between the two kinds of pots. And most impor- 
tant of all, wherever the potter's wheel is in use, it is 
manipulated by men, never by women. 

Technically speaking, the potter's wheel is nothing but 
a primitive cart wheel turning on its axle. The existence 
of the potter's wheel therefore presupposes the existence 
of the wheel adapted to transportation. In accordance 
with this, it Is found that in all of the civilizations with the 
potter's wheel, the cart wheel is also in use. Further, 
wherever the potter's wheel occurs, while the wheel cart 
does not, the former is known to have been introduced from 
a different culture. In Japan, for example, which had no 
cart, the potter's wheel has been introduced from Korea, 
while the Tibettans, who also lack wheel vehicles, received 
the potter's wheel from the Chinese, who still have the 
monopoly of Its handling in Tibet. On the other hand, 
wherever there Is no potter's wheel, there is also no wheeled 
cart. In other words. In all cases where original conditions 
have remained undisturbed, the wheel cart and the potter's 
wheel either do not exist or co-exist. It Is thus clear, con- 
cludes Laufer, that the potter's wheel may not be con- 
ceived as an evolutionary stage in the development of pot- 
tery technique; that there Is nothing In hand-made pottery 
to prepare such future development; that the potter's 
wheel, which by Its technical aspect and geographic dis- 
tribution is unmistakably identified with the cart wheel, 
belonged to a distinct and localized civilization, and, being 


like the cart wheel man's invention, came into the industry 
of pot making from the outside, bringing man with it. 

The critical acumen displayed throughout this essay, only 
fragments of which can be given here, is extraordinary and 
it carries conviction. The contribution of the great sinol- 
ogist represents one of the most illuminating examples of 
the striking results that can be obtained when the theory 
of diffusion, instead of being used as a sweeping principle 
of interpretation, is applied with unceasing care and critical 
circumspection, at the hand of relevant comparisons and 
minute studies of local peculiarities. 

Notwithstanding the methodological weakness of Rivers' 
handling of the problem of diffusion, he deserves credit for 
drawing attention to the multiplicity of psychological factors 
involved and for paving the way for their solution. Clearly, 
the conception that diffusion is a quasi-mechanical process of 
the physical transplantation of cultural traits from one tribe 
to another, cannot withstand serious criticism. It is not 
enough to realize that a cultural feature leaves its original 
home, travels and arrives in a foreign tribe. It is equally 
important to know how and why it departs, what fates 
befall it in its wanderings and what reception it receives 
in its new home. 

A passage from another publication may prove illuminat- 
ing in this connection: 

"But even the most superficial analysis would suffice to 
show how little we know about a cultural situation when all 
we know about it is that a feature belonging to a culture 
has been borrowed by another culture. How often does 
such a feature remain a foreign body in its new cultural 
environment I Instance the art nouveau of western Europe, 
which, toward the end of the past century, spread through 
the domain of the plastic and decorative arts, and, from 
a modest beginning in its application to small decorative 
objects, rose to the level of a new artistic style, and all but 
created a novel form of architecture. Eventually the art 
nouveau crossed the Atlantic, but, in its new surroundings, 


proved most ineffective. After languishing for a number 
of years in the show-windows of fashionable stationery and 
art stores, it vanished without leaving any apparent trace 
on any form of American art. 

"A somewhat striking example of a cultural feature 
which, notwithstanding a prolonged objective association 
with a cultural medium, failed to be psychologically assimi- 
lated by that medium, is furnished by the history of classical 
education in the public schools of the Russian Empire. En- 
grafted upon the Russian school curriculum by an indis- 
criminative government, taught by teachers of foreign 
birth, radically at variance with the intellectual interests 
and the practical needs of the Russian educated classes, 
classicism in Russia never became an integral part either of 
the culture cf the people or of their educational system. 

"If further instances be sought, they may be readily found 
wherever 'civilized' nations have come in contact with 
primitive tribes, whether through colonization, trade, or 
scientific expeditions. In all such instances we find that our 
material culture, customs, habits of dress and behavior, 
even religious and moral notions, are often adopted by the 
nations in a formal way, as it were, without for long peri- 
ods of time radically affecting the intellectual or emotional 
content of their culture, or even their essential habits of 

"Instances of partial assimilation of borrowed cultural 
features can as readily be given. The American university 
with its college and schools is one. Modelled after me- 
diaeval and more recent European patterns, the American 
university has to a large extent become assimilated and 
transformed by American life, with its peculiar ideals and 
requirements. The process, however, cannot be regarded 
as completed, and evidence is plentiful of the varied malad- 
justments of our universities and colleges to the practical, 
moral and intellectual requirements of today. 

"The failure of the policy of Russianization in Poland 
and Finland is another case in point. Both Russian Poland 
and Finland have certainly absorbed much of Russian cul- 


ture, but these acquired traits were but partly assimilated by 
the historic cultures of the two countries ; and in both cases 
the well co-ordinated organism of an autonomous culture is 
but superficially hidden behind the outward guise of Russian 

"Among the Kwaklutl of the Northwest Coast the institu- 
tion of maternal descent, no doubt derived from the north- 
ern tribes, without becoming the dominant form, was assimi- 
lated by the prevailing institutions to a sufficient extent to 
result in a highly characteristic hybrid organization which 
combines features of maternal and paternal descent; in the 
ghost-dance religions of the American Indians one easily 
discerns partly transformed features of Christian belief and 
dogma; in Iroquoian and other cosmologies biblical in- 
cidents appear in transparent guise; in innumerable Indian 
stories and myths, elements of European folk-lore are but 
partly co-ordinated with the genuine Indian content. 

"In other cases, perfect assimilation of imported elements 
has taken place. In modern civilization, numerous cultural 
traits originally belonging to disparate cultures have become 
so thoroughly acclimatized in their new media as to lay the 
foundation of that ever-progressing uniformity in many 
essentials of culture called 'internationalism.' 

"The European horse has been made their own by the 
Plains Indians, even to the extent of becoming one of the 
most characteristic traits of their culture. The Salish Bella 
Coola have borrowed so much and so well of the social 
organization, religion, ceremonies, material culture, of the 
coast peoples, as to become practically identical, culturally, 
with those peoples. 

"The mechanism and psychology of the borrowing pro- 
cesses exemplified above would, if properly understood, 
certainly reveal profound and significant differences. By 
embracing all of these processes in the general terms of 
diffusion or genetic relationship, no more is achieved than 
to suggest the initial direction for further research.'" 

' "The Principle of Limited Possibilities in the Development of Culture" 
{The Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol. XXVI, 1913). 


In many instances the undoubted presence of borrowed 
traits must be recognized, but to draw a sharp line between 
indigenous and borrowed features may nevertheless remain 
difficult. A large number of instances in point are provided 
by Paul Radin in his interesting sketch of the Peyote 
Cult of the Winnebago. "There are a number of cases," 
writes Radin, "where it is impossible to determine whether 
we are dealing with a re-interpretation or with a substitu- 
tion. As this is an exceedingly important question, I will 
enumerate a few examples : baptism; the crook; confessions; 
and the story of the two roads. 

"Dipping one's hand in water and drawing lines on the 
forehead of an individual sounds like the real Christian 
baptism, to be sure. Yet we know that painting the patient's 
face was a prominent feature in the shaman's treatment of 
disease ; and that Rave speaks of it in connection with the 
conversion of his own wife. Are we then to regard the 
baptism here as a re-interpretation of the old Winnebago 
custom, or as a real substitution of Christian baptism? 
And if the later alternative is accepted, what influence are 
we to ascribe to the older Winnebago belief in suggesting 
Christian baptism? The same question will have to be 
answered in connection with the crook, confessions, and the 
story of the two roads. The bear clan had two ornamented 
sticks, of which Rave's family was the keeper. In general 
appearance there was not much difference between these 
and the Christian shepherd's crook. What is the relation 
of the two? In the ritualistic myth telling of the road to 
heaven, one finds the bifurcating road, one leading to Earth- 
maker, the other to the Bad Spirit. In the peyote cult we 
find the familiar biblical story of the two roads, one leading 
to Heaven, and the other to eternal damnation. Again, 
let us take the question of the confessions. In their present 
form they certainly seem Christian, with a strong sugges- 
tion of the early Methodists. Yet giving testimony to the 
magical virtues of herbs In order to prove that one has been 
blessed by certain spirits was characteristic of all Winne- 


bagoes when first participating in a religious cult society. 
Granted even that all these things really are Christian ele- 
ments, it is quite obvious that the fact that they were so 
readily accepted, suggests a relation between them and the 
older elements enumerated, and that just as in the case of 
ceremonial units, so here too there has been a selective bor- 
rowing, determined by the specific possessions of the recipi- 
ent's cultural background.'" 

The instances cited by Radin and other similar situa- 
tions suggest a significant similarity between the phenomena 
of diffusion, on the one hand, and those of indigenous 
growth on the other. 

It may be of use here to quote another passage from my 
article referred to before : 

"In discussions of cultural origins, and in other connec- 
tions, it is customary to contrast the processes within a 
culture conceived of as 'inner growth' with the processes 
involved in cultural contact. Now, in addition to the dif- 
ferences displayed by the two sets of phenomena, there are 
also fundamental psychological similarities. Ideas or cus- 
toms that come from another culture may be totally re- 
jected, or, as indicated before, they may either remain 
essentially foreign to the new medium or become partly or 
thoroughly assimilated. These ideas or customs are first 
introduced by individuals or groups of individuals, and 
spread through the cultural area by a more or less rapid 
process of diffusion. Now, all of these traits apply also to 
ideas or customs which spring up within the group. They 
also may be rejected, partly or wholly assimilated, and they 
spread in essentially the same way. The mechanism and 
psychology of the processes are strikingly similar. Of 
course, there is an important difference : the ideas and cus- 
toms of indigenous origin are more likely to prove accept- 
able and become assimilated than those coming from with- 
out. This is obviously due to the fact that the ideas and 
customs that spring up within a culture are in part deter- 

'"A Sketch of the Peyote Cult of the Winnebago," Journal of Religious 
Psychology, Vol. VII, 1914, p. az. 


mined by that culture, while those that come from without 
are independent of the recipient cultural medium. The 
main difference, then, seems to lie, not in the processes of 
moulding and assimilation to which the two sets of ideas 
and customs are subjected in a cultural medium, but to the 
fact that the range and character of the two sets of ideas 
and customs are to a greater or less extent different. 
Clearly, also, this difference will be the less, the greater the 
similarity between the two cultures in contact. 

"It thus appears that not only are the phenomena of diffu- 
sion replete with psychological problems, but the character 
of these problems is in many ways related to that of the 
problems arising in the study of concrete cultural com- 

Before leaving these somewhat fragamentary remarks 
on the problems of the diffusion of civilization it remains 
to note the great importance of the diffusion of culture as a 
stimulant of civilization. Men like Ratzel, Graebner and, 
in part. Rivers, were greatly impressed by the role of 
diffusion as an objective constituent of human history. But 
Rivers, as was shown, also recognized the significance of 
diffusion as a condition of cultural growth and development.^ 
In his recent "Processes of History," Professor Teggart 
practically identifies the very possibility of progress with 
cultural contact and conflict under special conditions. As 
against this we must reiterate our former position that the 
diffusion of civilization from tribe to tribe is but one of the 
basic factors in cultural advance, the other factor being 
human creativeness, resulting in the independent origina- 
tion of new things and ideas.^ 

' "The Principle of Limited Possibilities, etc.", pp. 286-287. 

'Cf., for example, his statement in the introduction to the second volume 
of his "History of Melanesian Society": "The general mode of treatment 
of this book holds a middle course between those of the evolutionary and 
historical schools because the principle underlying it is that the contact of 
peoples and the blending of their cultures act as the chief stimuli setting in 
action the forces which lead to human progress" (pp. 5-6). 

'Cf. my essay on "History, Psychology and Culture," Journal of Philoso- 
phy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol. XV, Section XII, "The De- 
terministic and the Accidental in History," 



The missing link of biology has its psychological ana- 
logue. There are, in fact, many such psychological missing 
links. Whether our ancestor was the anthropoid ape or his 
cousin, or a common relative of both and of man, the psy- 
chology of our closest known precursors is so far different 
from our own as to be scarcely commeasurable with it. Nor 
is this all. If one attempts to picture, in abstraction, this 
psycho-physical missing link of a man, what are the symp- 
toms of identification to be? Is it language, or the use of 
tools, or religion, or the art of living together with one's 
kind in some sort of regulated community? And in accord- 
ance with the symptom chosen, the being thus identified 
would be a different one. 

To this a conceivable answer might be that the primitive 
man in question, the psychological missing link, would be 
like the man of today or of yesterday, minus civilization. 
But then, who is there to tell us where civilization ends and 
the original nature of man begins, or what would be left 
of man were civilization removed? 

The difficulties besetting this problem marred the cogency 
of the numerous speculations about our psychological fore- 
runner. Some, like Rousseau, conceived of him as of an 
apotheosized animal before the fall, peaceful, pure and 
beautifully adjusted to the social life about him; and, with 
him, of Eve, equally pure and peaceful. It is indeed fairly 
easy to find illustrations of such quasi-beatific conditions 
among early communities, and Spencer, who had his own 
anti-militaristic axe to grind, is fond of quoting such ex- 
amples whenever required. The theologians of two and 
three generations ago felt themselves in accord with biblical 
tradition when they interpreted the civilizations of primi- 
tive man as now found on the surface of the globe as rep- 
resenting decaying remnants of once higher civilizations. 



And here once more Herbert Spencer, the arch-evolutionist, 
is tempted to account by regression and decay for some sur- 
prisingly high civilizational "remnants" among primitive 

Part of Spencer's psychological speculations refer, as we 
shall see, to that apocryphal individual, man without civili- 
zation. In this connection, one fact is certain: early man 
as we know him, the early man represented by the surviving 
tribes of American Indians, Negroes or Australians, is as 
far removed from the psychological missing link as we are 
ourselves. He has a historic past. His history is, in fact, 
as long as ours. It might indeed be deemed longer, if our 
history is to begin with a civilization at all like our own. 
Historic fates have driven him in directions differing vastly 
from that taken by modern civilization ; but in his past, as 
in ours, there was historic cumulation of knowledge and 
tradition; there was invention and change; slow, gradual 
transformation and cataclysmic upheaval; and, perhaps at 
intervals, regression and decay. Where among these his- 
torically deposited civilizational layers are we to discern the 
original nature of man? Like the kernel of Peer Gynt's 
onion, it evades us: 

What an enormous number of swathings! 

Isn't the kernel soon coming to light? 

I'm blest if it is! To the innermost centre it's nothing but swathings — 

each smaller and smaller — 
Nature is witty! 

Yes, and tantalizingly obscure. The fact is that man, 
early as well as modern, lives by second nature. His origi- 
nal nature is an abstraction or at best but a reconstruction 
born of doubtful premises, swaying insecurely in the chro- 
nological vacuum of missing links. When we study early 
man, it is not this phantom-like creature that concerns us, 
but the concrete early man of history and of civilization, 
our brother in second nature. 

Space does not permit to review here any large number 
of the theories promulgated about the mentality of primi- 


tive man. But before we summarize our own conclusions, 
In which connection the data here presented will be found of 
use, it may be of interest to outline and briefly to criticize a 
few of the more prominent attempts to interpret primitive 

The theories to be discussed are those of Spencer, Frazer, 
Wundt, Durkheim, Levy-Bruhl and Freud. 


Spencer's Theories 

Like so many others, Spencer found that the most prom- 
ising approach to primitive mentality was through religion. 
Hence the first part of the first volume of his Sociology is 
devoted to this subject. The following three elements of 
Spencer's theory have received wide attention : fear, as the 
emotional root of all religion; the idea of a ghost, derived 
in the main from the dream image ; and ancestor wor- 
ship, which in Spencer's system becomes the prototype of all 
religious ceremonialism. 

On the general background of the idea of a double — 
which, as will be presently shown, Spencer derives from 
certain other experiences — the dream image comes upon 
the scene. Into the conceptual chaos of incipient animism 
the dream image brings order and unity. It reduces to a 
a common denominator the at first discordant ideas of dual- 
ity and spirituality. The spiritualized double, linked to 
man through the medium of the dream image, becomes, 
after death, the ghost. This, according to Spencer, is the 
cornerstone of early theology. The ghost, spirit of a de- 
parted man, becomes a general principle of interpretation 
of all puzzles in savage experience. The breath, the 
shadow, the echo, epileptic and cataleptic fits, and finally 
death itself, are now interpreted through the operation, 
intrusion or departure of ghosts. The feelings of fear and 
awe, which early become associated with these disquieting 
agents, provide the emotional root of the earliest religion, 
the propitiation of ancestors. From this all the rest fol- 
lows. By means of a great collection of highly ingenious 
hypotheses Spencer tries to explain how animal, plant and 



nature worship are ultimately derivable from this early cult 
of ancestors, and how the higher forms of religion, includ- 
ing the belief in one supreme personal deity, gradually arise 
out of the decay of some of these early ideas and the coa- 
lescence of others. The artificiality of Spencer's treatment 
in this part of his work is best illustrated by his once famous 
theory of the misinterpretation of nicknames introduced by 
the author as an attempt to furnish at least a partial ex- 
planation of animal worship. 

This is the theory : 

Primitive tribes are wont to designate individuals by ani- 
mal names. Now suppose a man named Bear distinguishes 
himself as a warrior, chief, medicine-man or in some other 
way. His children will pride themselves on being known as 
the children of the Bear. So will their children, who may 
still have seen their grandfather alive and who know many 
individuals to whom his name has an emotional value. After 
this the identity of the ancestor rapidly fades. Moreover, in 
view of the tendency of primitive languages to confuse a 
name with a thing named (sic/), the idea will take root that 
the Bear's descendents were really the descendents of a bear, 
there being nothing extraordinary in this conception for 
primitive mentality. The respect, veneration, and perhaps 
worship accorded the eminent ancestor will now be cefntered 
on the bear. Thus bear worship will arise in the group. 

The theory is so obviously far-fetched that no anthropo- 
logical training is required to reject all serious consideration 
of it, but in its time it enjoyed considerable renown. Spencer, 
moreover, was not satisfied to leave it in this form, but 
pursued it further with that merciless "logic" characteristic 
of the philosopher. We also find in this phenomenon, 
argues Spencer, an explanation of the worship of those 
strange creatures whose very existence in primitive civiliza- 
tion has so often puzzled the investigator. Whence come 
the strange monsters, half animal, half human, half bird, 
half reptile, in the absence of all confirmatory experience? 
Why, the same process furnisher a ready explanation. The 


remote descendents of a Lion man and an Eagle woman 
may come to regard their family line as having originated 
from a lion and an eagle. At first separated into two 
creatures, the ancestral couple will ultimately merge into 
one animalistic monster, a lion-eagle, a creature part lion, 
part eagle. Similarly, when the custom of animal names 
begins to give way before the later tendency of giving 
human names, the monster creatures will often assume the 
shape of a half human, half animal individual ; until finally, 
animal names having meanwhile gone out of use, purely 
human ancestors will command in person the respect and 
worship which heretofore was accorded them in animal or 
half animal disguise. 

A better instance of the rationalization of the historic 
process could scarcely be found than this derivation of 
animal worship from the misinterpretation of nicknames! 

In the light of fuller knowledge and in the face of the 
demands of a critical method other elements of Spencer's 
theory prove equally fallacious. The very idea of a double 
as the first form of spirit is questionable, for multiplicity 
of spirits or souls of individuals is so commonly encoun- 
tered among even the most primitive communities that it 
may well be assumed that in many instances, if not in all, a 
plurality of souls preceded one soul.' The derivation of 
all spirits from ghosts is no less artificial. No ground, in 
fact, can be advanced for this assertion save the philoso- 
pher's addiction to monogenetic derivations.^ It is equally 
doubtful whether fear constituted the most conspicuous in- 
gredient of the emotion at the root of earliest religion. The 
ethnographic evidence decidedly contradicts the assumption 

*Levy-BruhI is amply justified in insisting on this point. While Wundt's 
ideas of early animism differ from Levy-Bruhl's in many ways, he is 
equally emphatic in his insistence on the multiplicity of "body souls" — souls 
connected with the separate organs of the body — which must have preceded 
the more generalized notion of a "free" detachable soul. 

^In this as in a number of other points E. B. Tylor's derivation of 
animism is less objectionable than Spencer's. Instead of deriving the human 
spirit (ghost) alone from the experiences of the dream and then permitting 
the rest of Nature to become populated with ghosts, Tylot derives all spirits 
from dream experiences. 


that ancestor worship was the earliest form of worship, for 
nowhere is the cult of ancestors found among most primi- 
tive tribes; while its more developed forms do not make 
their appearance until relatively high civilizations are 
reached, such as those of Polynesia and Melanesia. Full 
fledged ancestor worship, in fact, does not arise until a social 
basis is provided for it by that hypertrophy of the family 
instinct which lies at the root of the ancestral cult of ancient 
China and Japan. And it is, of course, quite obvious that 
religion seized upon man's relation to inanimate nature, to 
plants, and above all, to animals, without waiting until an 
obliging ghost appeared in animal, plant or other material 

It would, however, be quite unfair to the philosopher to 
dismiss his speculations in this domain with the above con- 
demnatory account of the theory of primitive religion, for 
in re-reading some earlier paragraphs and passages of the 
same volume, one discovers with some surprise unmistakable 
evidence of a penetrating insight and of critical discernment. 

It will be remembered that the idea of a ghost, itself 
derived from the dream image, was utilized by Spencer as 
what he himself called an "unconscious hypothesis" on the 
part of the primitive mind, which reduced to a common 
denominator a host of similar ideas derived from a variety 
of observations. 

What were these observations and in what way does 
Spencer deal with them? 

The observations are made in the course of the savage's 
experience with a great variety of natural phenomena. The 
shadow, reflection, echo; the cloud, sun, moon and stars; 
the metamorphoses of plants, insects, birds and animals; 
even such relatively rare phenomena as petrified trees and 
the remains of trees, plants and animals in rocks; all of 
these contribute their share. The shadow is like a person, 
but also unlike it. It follows one about, moves when he 
moves and stops when he stops. But throughout it mani- 
fests certain peculiarities of its own. It assumes distorted 


shapes, grows in size, or becomes shorter ; finally, it may dis- 
appear altogether, becoming, as it were, merged in the 
person. The reflection behaves in a similar way. It is 
not so constant a companion as is the shadow ; on the other 
hand, the presence of color makes its resemblance to the 
person more striking. The echo behaves in no less peculiar 
a fashion. It does not always put in an appearance, and 
when it does, it may either be distinct or scarcely audible. 
It may repeat whole words or even sentences or merely 
ends of words or syllables. It may do so once or many 
times in succession. The cloud gathers in the sky apparently 
out of nothing. It may stay there a short or a long while, 
and then disappear, as it came, into nothing. The sun, 
moon, stars appear in the sky, move along slowly but unmis- 
takably, and vanish, to re-eappear again after a certain 
period. The seed in the ground is nothing but a seed. But 
presently it turns into a flower or a bush or a tree. The 
egg becomes a bird or a snake ; the caterpillar turns into a 
butterfly. That invisible agents may make their presence 
felt is brought home forcibly by the wind. It has no visible 
form, yet it can be heard and its presence is also attested to 
by the behavior of exposed objects and creatures as well as 
by the sense of pressure or resistance in the observing in- 

Now all of these experiences, argues Spencer, can only 
lead to one conclusion. Things may have a visible and an 
invisible form, an overt and an implied existence. And, as 
in the case of the shadow, or the echo, or the reflection, the 
original and its double exist side by side. 

"He (the savage) is commonly pictured as theorizing 
about certain appearances;" writes Spencer In this connec- 
tion, "whereas, in fact, the need for explanations of them 
does not occur to him . . . ."^ The savage does not the- 
orize, he simply accepts the facts. In doing so he does not 
offend against logic. "The laws of thought," says Spencer, 

"Principles of Sociology," Vol. I, Part i, p. 89. 


"are everywhere the same; . . . given the data as known 
to him, primitive man's inference is a reasonable inference.'"^ 
It is indeed inevitable, reflects the philosopher, that the 
savage should thus be led into error: "The terms of re- 
lations are grouped (by the savage) with those which they 
conspicuously resemble, and the relations themselves are 
grouped in like manner. But this leads to error; since 
the most obvious traits are not always those by which 
things are really allied to one another, and the most obvious 
characters of relations are not always their essential char- 

Spencer further observes that modern conditions provide 
plentiful illustrations of this tendency of the uninstructed or 
partly instructed mind to accept conclusions without ques- 
tion or criticism, even though these may only consist in a 
term. The plumber who asserts that the pump works by 
suction, or the layman who attributes certain effects to elec- 
tricity may not have any idea of what is implied by these 
terms : "The mental tension is sufficiently relieved when, 
to the observed result, there is joined in thought this some- 
thing with a name; but there is no notion what the some- 
thing really is, nor the remotest idea how the result can be 
wrought by it. Having such results furnished by those 
around us, we shall have no difficulty in seeing how the 
savage, with fewer experiences, more vaguely grouped, 
adopts, as quite adequate, the first explanation which 
famiUar associations suggest."' 

Summarizing these conclusions in a later section of his 
book, Spencer writes: "We recognize in fact that the 
primitive mind does not distinguish natural from unnatural, 
possible from impossible;* knows nothing of physical law, 
order, cause, etc. ; and that while he shows neither rational 
surprise nor the curiosity which prompts examination, he 

'Ibid, p. 100. 

'Ibid, pp. loo-ioi. 

'Ibid, p. 105. 

'These two propositions are doubtful. 


lacks fit words for carrying on inquiry, as well as the re- 
quisite power of continued thought;' we see that instead of 
being a speculator and maker of explanations, he is at first 
an almost passive recipient of conclusions forced on him. 
Further, we find that he is inevitably betrayed into an initial 
error; and that this originates an erroneous system of 
thought which elaborates as he advances.'" 

It is these conceptions of duality, of double existence, that 
are, according to Spencer, later reduced to a common de- 
nominator through the introduction of an "unconscious 
hypothesis" in the form of the dream image, which in its 
capacity of a ghost, leads to those further developments 
with which we dealt in the beginning of this section. 

Now, we saw how one-sided and artificial were the 
alleged results traced by Spencer to the workings of this 
unconscious hypothesis; nor need we accept as relevant all 
of the data from which, according to Spencer, the early con- 
ception of duality was derived. The fact remains that 
Spencer visualizes this early situation in an eminently sober 
spirit. The savage accepts the facts which experience 
forces upon him; without conscious deliberation he reaches 
the implied conclusions which are, in view of his ignorance, 
reasonable, although in fact, erroneous. And presently 
there emerges a world view, reasonable in itself, but errone- 
ous because the premises are faulty. In fairness to Spencer 
we might well emphasize the theoretical sanity of this part 
of his essay on primitive mentality and religion.' 

^The last three statements can only be accepted with reservations. 

'Ibid, p. 424. 

''In the same part of his Sociology, Spencer expresses certain ideas on 
evolution which could not oflFhand be identified as coming from the arch- 
evolutionist. To counterbalance our usually critical strictures on the 
philosopher, one or two of these edifying passages may be quoted here: 
"Evolution is commonly conceived to imply in everything an intrinsic 
tendency to become something higher. This is an erroneous conception of 
it." Spencer proceeds^ to note that evolution in organisms proceeds until 
equilibration with environmental conditions is reached. After this "evolu- 
tion practically ceases." Then, if new conditions arise, there is further 
change, "but it by no means follows that this change constitutes a step in 
evolution." What is true of biological organisms is true of society: "A 
social organism, like an individual organism, undergoes modifications until 


Frazer's Theories 

Frazer's contribution to the analysis of primitive men- 
tality lies In two directions: he furnishes an interpretation 
of magic and its relation to religion and he suggests an 
origin for certain social divisions and correlated functions. 

The basic source of magical ideology, argues Frazer, lies 
In the fundamental processes underlying the association of 
Ideas. When a doll fashioned in the similitude of an enemy 
or just Intended to represent one, is maltreated In the expec- 
tation that a similar fate will befall its original. It Is the 
association by similarity that Is operative. When harm 
is supposed to befall a person whose enemy has in his pos- 
session some of that person's hair or nail shavings or even 
a piece of wearing apparel, and may deal with these at his 
pleasure, It Is the association by contiguity that Is responsible 
for the complex of the ensuing beliefs. It is notable thereby, 
continues the author, that the results achieved by magic are 
supposed to follow automatically and Inevitably whenever 
the prescribed conditions are fulfilled. That spirits and 
other supernatural agents are often Involved in magical 
procedure, Frazer cannot deny. But he claims that "when- 
ever sympathetic magic occurs In Its pure unadulterated 
form. It assumes that In nature one event follows another 
necessarily and Inevitably, without the Intervention of any 
personal or spiritual agency. Thus Its fundamental con- 
ception Is Identical with that of modern science ; underlying 
the whole system Is a faith. Implicit but real and firm, in 
the order and uniformity of nature.'" 

it comes into equilibrium with environing conditions; and thereupon con- 
tinues without any further change of structure. When the conditions are 
changed meteorologically, or biologically, or by alterations in the Flora and 
Fauna, or by migration consequent on pressure of population, or by flight 
before usurping races, some change of social structure results. But this 
change does not necessarily imply advance." {Ibid, pp. 95-96.) 

On the basis of such pronouncements as this, Spencer might have reached 
a working agreement with Ellsworth Huntington, J. Teggart, W. H. R. 
Rivers, and other modern ethnologists. Unfortunately, there is little evi- 
dence in the constructive elaboration of Spencer's system, of the insight and 
caution revealed in these passages. 

' "The Golden Bough," "The Magic Art," Vol. I, p. 220. 


It IS true that this correspondence between science and 
magic is for the magician not avowed but implicit, but that 
it is. If only he fulfills the prescribed and traditional 
routine in the form of ritual, incantation or what not, the 
desired result may be confidently expected. We read: 
"Thus the analogy between the magical and the scientific 
conceptions of the world is close. In both of them the suc- 
cession of events is perfectly regular and certain, being de- 
termined by immutable laws, the operation of which can be 
foreseen and calculated precisely; the elements of caprice, 
of chance, and of accident are banished from the course 
of nature. Both of them open up a seemingly boundless 
vista of possibilities to him who knows the causes of things 
and can touch the secret springs that set in motion the vast 
and intricate mechanism of the world. Hence the strong 
attraction which magic and science alike have exercised 
on the human mind ; hence the powerful stimulus that both 
have given to the pursuit of knowledge. They lure the 
weary enquirer, the foot-sore seeker, on through the wilder- 
ness of disappointment in the present by their endless prom- 
ises of the future : they take him up to the top of an exceed- 
ing high mountain and shew him, beyond the dark clouds 
and rolling mists at his feet, a vision of the celestial city, 
far off, it may be, but radiant with unearthly splendor, 
bathed in the light of dreams.'" 

In a discourse on magical potency, literary spellbinding 
may be in place. We may be prompted to ask, however, in 
how far this picturesque phraseology furthers an insight 
into the world view of magic ? But let us continue the 
exposition of the author's ideas. 

Magic is related to religion as well as to science. In this 
connection Frazer defines religion as "a propitiation or con- 
ciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to 
direct and control the course of nature and of human 
life."^ Thus, religion is opposed to magic as well as to 

'Ibid, p. 221. 
'Ibid, p. 223. 


science insofar as It systematically makes use of conscious 
personal agents. Science is never concerned with these, 
deliberately excluding them from its interpretations; while 
magic, whenever it makes use of them, employs such super- 
natural personages as mere transfer points of magic Influ- 
ence, thus depriving them of all spontaneity and freedom of 

Having defined religion in the way just indicated, the 
author proceeds to point out that in primitive Australia 
magic is rampant, whereas religion Is practically absent. 
The author admits, however, that throughout the major 
part of the globe and wide periods of history, magic and 
religion are Inextricably Interwoven. 

Returning once more to the subject of magic and religion 
in connection with the chronological priority of one or the 
other of the two systems of belief, the author finds grounds 
to assign such priority to magic. "Yet though magic Is thus 
found to fuse and amalgamate with religion in many ages 
and In many lands," thus runs Frazer's argument, "there 
are some grounds for thinking that this fusion Is not primi- 
tive, and that there was a time when man trusted to magic 
alone for the satisfaction of such wants as transcended his 
Immediate animal cravings. In the first place a considera- 
tion of the fundamental notions of magic and religion may 
incline us to surmise that magic Is older than religion In the 
history of humanity. We have seen that on the one hand 
magic is nothing but a mistaken application of the very 
simplest and most elementary processes of the mind, namely, 
the association of ideas by virtue of resemblance or con- 
tiguity; and that on the other hand religion assumes the 
operation of conscious or personal agents, superior to man, 
behind the visible screen of nature. Obviously, the concep- 
tion of personal agents is more complex than a simple recog- 
nition of the similarity or contiguity of Ideas; and a theory 
which assumes that the course of nature Is determined by 
conscious agents Is more abstruse and recondite, and re- 
quires for its apprehension a far higher degree of Intelli- 


gence and reflection than the view that things succeed each 
other simply by reason of their contiguity or resemblance. 
The very beasts associate the ideas of things that are like 
each other or that have been found together in their experi- 
ence ; and they could hardly survive for a day if they ceased 
to do so. But who attributes to the animals a belief that 
the phenomena of nature are worked by a multitude of in- 
visible animals or by one enormous and prodigiously strong 
animal behind the scenes? It is probably no injustice to 
the brutes to assume that the honor of devising a theory 
of this latter sort must be reserved for human reason. 
Thus, if magic be deduced immediately from elementary 
processes of reasoning, and be, in fact, an error into which 
the mind falls almost spontaneously, while religion rests 
on conceptions which the merely animal intelligence can 
hardly be supposed to have yet attained to, it becomes prob- 
able that magic arose before religion in the evolution of 
our race, and that man essayed to bend nature to his wishes 
by the sheer force of spells and enchantments before he 
strove to coax and mollify a coy, capricious, or irascible 
deity by the soft insinuation of prayer and sacrifice.'" 

Frazer's other contribution deals with the origin of 
exogamy specifically in its association with the Australian 
phratric and class divisions. "In the whole of history, . . ." 
exclaims Frazer, "It would hardly be possible to find another 
human institution on which the Impress of deliberate 
thought and purpose has been stamped more plainly than 
on the exogamous systems of Australian aborigines.'" 

In what peculiarity, then, of the exogamous system does 
the author find such unequivocal evidence of "deliberate 
thought and purpose"? It will be readily seen that the 
two moiety system. If associated with maternal descent, 
prevents the Intermarriage of mothers and sons and of 
brothers and sisters; and when associated with paternal 
descent, it prevents the marriage of fathers and daughters 

'^Ibid, pp. 233-234. 

"Totemism and Exogamy, Vol. IV, p. 121. 


and, once more, of brothers and sisters. It must, however, 
be noted that the intermarriage of fathers and daughters 
is not made impossible by the first type of organization, 
while the second does not prevent the intermarriage of 
mothers and sons. In the four-class system, where each 
phratry or moiety is subdivided into two classes, no loop- 
hole is left for such incestuous unions. In the four-class 
systems, when the descent of the moiety is paternal, the 
marriage of father and daughter is, of course, impossible; 
so Is the marriage of mother and son, as the children all 
belong to the complementary class of the father's phratry 
into which the mother may not marry. Similarly, with 
maternal descent of the phratry, the children belong to the 
complementary class of the mother's phratry, into which 
the father may not marry, which would thus prevent the 
marriage of father and daughter. It can also be shown 
that further extension of prohibited unions between rela- 
tives is achieved by the eight-class system. 

Now Frazer holds that the bisection of the original group 
as well as the subsequent bisections resulting In the four- 
and eight-class systems, were conceived and carried out by 
"some Inventive genius" — ^by this the powerful old men of 
Australian communities are meant — who instituted the sys- 
tem of exogamy "at once so complex and so regular" in 
order to prevent the intermarriages of near kin. To 
enhance the verisimilitude of his conjecture, the author 
refers to the opinion of those "who are best acquainted at 
first hand with the Australian savages" — such as Spencer 
and GlUen — that the Australian old men are "capable both 
of conceiving and of executing such social reformations as 
are Implied in the institution of their present marriage 

There Is Indeed evidence In Frazer's own work that the 
author was aware of the Improbability of his sociological 
assumption. It Is well known that Lewis H. Morgan at- 
tributed the Institution of the Iroquoian clans to a deliberate 

'Ibid, p. aSo. 


legislative act of a great leader, his opinion in this case 
being supported not by those who knew the Iroquois best 
but by the Iroquois themselves. Frazer rejects Morgan's 
theory: "It is no longer possible," he argues, "to attribute 
the institution of the totemic clans to the sagacity of savage 
law givers who devised and created them for the purpose 
of knitting together the various tribes by the ties of mar- 
riage and consanguinity. Yet that the subdivision of the 
whole community into clans had this effect is undeniable.'" 
But with reference to the Australian conditions Frazer him- 
self advances an analogous hypothesis. 

In criticising Frazer's position, we might deal first with 
his sociological theory. In fairness to the author it must 
be said that a painful search may reveal another passage, 
which, however contradictory to the theory just expounded, 
at least indicates that a sound theoretical view of the prob- 
lem is not beyond the mental horizon of the author. "We 
may reasonably suppose," writes Frazer, "that all the mar- 
riages which are now formally interdicted by the various 
exogamous clan systems, were In like manner uniformly re- 
probated by public opinion before the cumbrous machinery 
of exogamy was put in operation against them. In other 
words, we may assume that a moral objection to such mar- 
riages always preceded, and was the cause of, their legal 
prohibition."^ It is a far cry from this to an assumed feat 
of "some inventive genius" who instituted a system "at once 
so complex and so regular" in order to prevent the intermar- 
riages of near kin. 

Basic forms of social organization do not fall from 
heaven ready made, nor do they arise full-fledged — like 
Pallas Athena from the head of Zeus — from the minds of 
genial savage law givers. The time may come when man 
will learn to conceive of new forms of social, political or 
economic structure, and to fit them so well into the living 
organism of society as to insure their persistence and smooth 

'Ibid, Vol. Ill, pp. 3-10. 
'Ibid, Vol. I, pp. 346-347- 


working. But the past knows no such examples. Only 
those forms of social grouping and functioning have so far 
shown a tendency to survive, which, if they were at all 
deliberately introduced, were at least based on pre-existing 
tendencies and habits.^ Politicians and social students well 
know from the example of modern democracies how nearly 
impossible it Is to create a new party (shades of the well- 
nigh defunct Bull Moose ! ) unless all the elements of such 
a party are already In existence, so that the creation really 
means but little more than the Introduction of a formal 
organization, the assuming or accepting of a name, and the 

Nor is this all. Even If such a conscious origin of the 
phratrles and classes were conceivable, more specific reasons 
can be assigned why the emergence of these divisions for 
the reasons given, namely, the prevention of unions between 
certain close relatives, is highly Improbable. Surely, If the 
introduction of the phratrles and classes were prompted by 
a desire to eliminate Incestuous unions, those first taken 
care of would have been the unions between father and 
daughter and mother and son. Now, it was shown that 
In the two moiety system with maternal descent the inter- 
marriage of mother and son Is effectively barred, but not 
the marriage of father and daughter, the two belonging to 

'Here we might once more refer to the introduction by the Soviet govern- 
ment of Russia of the territorial and professional electoral units based on 
the village mir and the industrial artel, both ancient and natural institu- 
tions, which were already regarded as the proper foundations for a re- 
constituted Russian society by the pre-Marxian socialistic dreamers of the 
first and the beginning of the second quarters of the Nineteenth Century. 

'It need not be implied that primitive organizers, such as the Australian 
chiefs or "old men," are unable to visualize a social mechanism or on 
occasion to polish off the rough edges of a clumsily working or imperfectly 
adjusted social system. That the opposite is true is no longer a subject of 
doubt to ethnologists. In Australia, for example, there are instances where 
intermarriages between tribes with discrepant social systems require such 
deliberate and thoughtful intervention on the part of the powers that be; 
and the situation is forthwith taken care of very effectively. 

The point is too detailed to be treated here. But the curious reader is 
referred to Spencer and Gillen, "The Northern Tribes of Central Australia," 
pp. 116-132, where the authors show with great clearness that an inspection 
of the class divisions of the Mara, Anula, and Binbinga reveals a re- 
arrangement of classes to provide for inter-tribal marriages, a re-arrange- 
ment which must be recognized as deliberate. 


opposite phratries. It might be argued that the tribes 
having this dual and maternal organization are in a stage of 
transition to the further subdivision into classes in which 
the father-daughter marriage would also be eliminated. 
But this conjecture could not possibly be sustained, for a 
large set of tribes organized on the maternal two phratry 
pattern is found in the southeast of Australia, and about 
an equally large number of tribes organized on the paternal 
phratry pattern. Clearly, these tribes were so organized 
for untold generations nor is there any indication of their 
incipient transformation into the four class pattern of 
organization. If what the savage law givers intended 
was to prevent incestuous unions, is it conceivable that they 
should have started so effectively and then stopped half 
way, leaving the road open to one of the two most objec- 
tionable unions? 

But the case against Frazer's position is even stronger 
than this, for if it were asked whether these incestuous 
unions — the father-daughter marriage in the maternal two 
phratry tribes, the mother-son marriage in the paternal two 
phratry tribes — were of actual occurrence, the answer 
would be a categorical no. Like everywhere else in the 
world, with disappearingly few exceptions, these unions are 
here prohibited by special regulations ad hoc, nor are any 
instances on record of the infraction of such regulations. 
And to repeat, such unions are prohibited everywhere, 
whether the tribe is modern or primitive, and if the latter, 
whether it is organized on the basis of phratries or clans 
or of both or of neither. 

We may now turn to Frazer's parallel between science 
"and magic. A pregnant hypothesis indeed, if true, for the 
antecedents of science would thus be pushed back beyond 
the historic period and into the very earliest unconscious 
cravings of the human spirit. There is a certain superficial 
feasibility in the point, to the extent that workings of the 
magic act are supposed to be automatic, mechanical, as it 
were, and uniform, if the act remains the same. Here, 


howevei", the parallel, if such it be, ends. Thus, the ma- 
gician's expectation that a similar act will evoke identical 
results whenever repeated, does not involve the conception 
of uniformity in Nature, although this conception may 
readily be read into the situation. The alleged uniformi- 
ties apply to magical acts. Now Nature and its functions 
are not identical with these. Does uniformity in magical 
acts and their results Imply uniformity in Nature? The 
situation becomes clarified if one places the emphasis in 
the magical complex not on the uniformities involved but 
on the exercise of power. It is the possession of power by 
the magician, or, to express it differently, his command or 
control of the powers implied in certain substances or acts, 
which bring success. The entire magical performance, 
moreover, is in Innumerable instances lodged in the super- 
natural level, something is achieved which at least at the 
time and place cannot be achieved by ordinary matter-of- 
fact procedure, such as Is involved in industry or in the 
wielding of tools and weapons. 

But even if we follow Frazer in considering the magic 
act alone rather than the magical universe, a most funda- 
mental contrast at once appears between the magical method 
and the method of science. Scientific procedure is ever 
alive to the lessons of experience. Thus, In a sci- 
entifically controlled invention or experiment, the re- 
sults, if unsatisfactory, at once react upon the procedure 
by means of which the results were attained. In the 
controlled trial and error situation which represents one 
aspect of scientific experimentation, the errors stand for 
experience, constantly influencing the trials, until the errors 
become successes. The same is true of the matter-of- 
-fact procedure of Industry, even the most primitive indus- 
try. Here, in the true birthplace of science, experience re- 
acts constructively upon future efforts, thus leading to Inven- 
tion, Improvement, adjustment to situations. All this is 
different in magic. The magical universe and the magical 
act are, to an almost inconceivable extent, proof against 


experience. If the act fails, no change of technique results, 
for the failure receives a magical Interpretation : some other 
agency, a more powerful magician, perhaps, prevented the 
success of the magical act. If the health or life of an 
enemy was the object sought, his own superior magical 
\ potency provides sufficient explanation of the failure of the 
\ hostile attempt. Thus there is no change, no Improvement, 
no readjustment in the magical universe. The perpetuum 
mobile of supernaturalism is proof against experience. 

This view of the magical act places It In Its proper rela- 
tion to the wider field of magical phenomena as well as to 
the still wider range of supernaturalism in general, for the 
magic act Is only a part of magic. There is no breach of 
continuity between the performance of the magician and 
the phenomena of magical transformations and Influences 
which pervade the Ideology of the savage as it stands re- 
vealed, for example, in the mythologies of primitive tribes : 
the transformation of men Into animals and of animals into 
men ; the travelling to the sky by means of a cord made of 
arrows shot one Into the other; the magic properties of 
amulets, charms and talismans, or the various magical 
powers bestowed by guardian spirits, such as the cures of 
various diseases, the power to resuscitate the dead, to re- 
cover from wounds; the strictly limited but often great 
powers of the West African fetiches, and so on through the 
endless range of similar phenomena. Throughout Is pres- 
ent the Idea of power, which, moreover, transcends the 
average limits of the workaday world. It Is this notion 
of power which unites the act of the magician with the 
totality of the magical universe. 

In their acceptance of supernaturalism magic and religion 
stand united. Both belong to a realm which transcends the 
matter-of-fact. It is for this reason that the typical magical 
and the typical religious situations are represented on their 
emotional side by what may be designated as the religious 
thrill, the subjective counterpart of supernaturalism.' 

^It i^ true that both magic and religion, in line with other cultural 


Thus magic and religion have in common the acceptance 
of the supernatural level and their association with the 
religious thrill. Moreover, both develop a ritualistic tech- 
nique, with its frequent corollary of de-emotionalizatlon or 
at least transformation of the emotions involved. On the 
other hand, the magical situation may be contrasted with 
the religious one by the element of constraint involved, the 
will or power of the magician dominating the situation, 
whereas in the religious setting the will of the devotee is at 
best but a will to believe, whereas the will of the god or 
other divine personage becomes the dominant determinant 
factor, bringing in its wake worship, supplication, prayer 
and the like. 

From the above comparison and juxtaposition of magic 
and religion inevitably flows the attitude to be taken with 
reference to the alleged chronological priority of magic, 
such as is asserted by Frazer and other authors.' When the 
present and the historic period In general are envisaged, it 
is clear that Institutionalized religion dominates the field of 
man's belief and ritual; whereas magic survives among the 

phenomena, are subject to the influences of routine and convention and that 
the magical as well as the religious rituals, as they are passed on from 
generation to generation, often become mere ritualistic or ceremonial tech- 
niques: the original emotional content vanishes. This is the realm of 
Marett's "evaporated emotions." In a study of magic or religion as insti- 
tutions, this aspect cannot be sufficiently emphasized; but if the two 
phenomena are envisaged as live psychological experiences, which in their 
essence they are or were, the supernatural mystic level to which they belong 
at once rises into prominence and with it, its emotional replica, the religious 

Other authors than Frazer have contrasted magic and religion in various 
■ways. It is claimed by some that religion represents the socialized, publicly 
accepted creed, while magic is individual, ostracized. It can not be denied 
that the later development of magic and religion gives color to this theory. 
The Black Magic of the Middle Ages or even the harmful magical activi- 
ties of the African magician as contrasted with the supposedly socially 
beneficial activities of the priest, are instances in point. But in many other 
instances, as for example in Australia or Melanesia or in the Malay Archi- 
pelago, it is impossible to draw a line of demarcation between magic and 
religion on the basis of social sanction. Moreover, it must be remembered 
that even an ostracized magic is in a sense socially sanctioned insofar as its 
tenets are recognized as actual. Even Black Magic could not thrive in a 
magic-proof society. 

'C/. for instance, the highly interesting, but with reference to this problem 
wholly unsatisfactory articles by Th. Preuss on "The Origins of Religion 
and Art," in the now defunct German weekly, Globus, for 1905-1906. 


minor byways of civilization in the form of more individual- 
ized as well as more elusive attitudes and ideas. But one 
may also attempt to reconstruct the rise of magic and re- 
ligion beginning at some point in the remote prehistoric 
past. Then the picture is a different one. Magic and 
religion are then seen taking root in partly common, partly 
disparate ideas and emotions, and then advancing through 
a series of further transformations. Intermingling and 
coalescing inextricably in the beginning, the two later sepa- 
rate in the form of ever more divergent strands, a more 
definitely socialized and legalized one, the strand of religion, 
and the other one, that of magic, leading a less pompous 
existence in the dusk of legality and social recognition. 
Also: the trend of religion, in one of its less definitely in- 
stitutionalized aspects, is toward greater subjective elabora- 
tion of the religious experience, whereas the course of 
m.agic becomes divided into two main streams : one involv- 
ing perfect ritualization, a pure technique, mechanical in 
method although supernatural in intent, the other embrac- 
ing disjointed odds and ends of belief and attitude usually 
covered by the term "superstition." 

Wundt's Theories^ 

Wundt approached the problem of primitive mentality 
with a far broader and deeper equipment in scientific method 
than did Spencer, Tylor or Frazer. As a student of psy- 
chology he was proof against the allurements of a facile 
mode of interpretation of primitive thought, of which these 
authors are so often guilty. He discarded the crude ration- 

"Wundt's great work on folk psychology, the Volherpsychologie, is un- 
fortunately not available for English readers. But a careful perusal of his 
"Elements of Folk Psychology" will suflnce to bring out the principal points 
of his theoretical attitude. Those who may want to acquaint themselves 
more thoroughly with Wundt's ideas in the domain of socio-psychological 
phenomena are referred to the somewhat difficult article by Herman K. 
Haeberlin, "The Theoretical Foundations of Wundt's Folk Psychology," 
Psychological Revieiu, Vol. 33, 1916. A brief synthetic presentation of 
Wundt's contributions to science and philosophy will be found in my article 
"Wilhelm Wundt, 1832-1920, The Freeman, 1921. Cf., also Robert H. 
Lewie's discussion of Wundt's autobiography, ibid, 1921. 


alism of Spencer and Tylor. To him early man was not 
an intellectual Individual facing nature as a problem or a 
set of questions to which animism or magic were deemed 
to have provided solutions. Wundt saw clearly that man's < 
reactions to the world — and especially the earliest reactions 
— were least of all rational or deliberate, rather were they 
spontaneous and emotional. The associationism of Frazer 
also collapsed before Wundt's critical onslaught. 

Again, Wundt realized that the psychological foundations 
of civilization cannot be sought in the isolated individual, 
but that the group always actively co-operated in the produc- 
tion of attitudes and ideas. With great erudition and an 
originality that has often been under-estimated, Wundt ex- 
amined from this general standpoint the phenomena of 
language, art, religion and mythology, social organization 
and law. 

Without adhering to the doctrine of a separate folk soul 
— a doctrine sponsored, for example, by such German phil- 
ologists-philosophers as Steinthal and Lazarus — ^Wundt 
insisted that the co-existence and interrelation of many In- 
dividuals with their experiences, their inter-communication 
and their creativeness, were essential to the production of 
the basic elements of civilization. Thus, without laying him- 
self open to the accusation of over-emphasizing the social, 
a common weakness of the systems of Durkhelm and Levy- 
Bruhl, Wundt joined the ranks of most modern sociologists 
and ethnologists in his realization that whatever may be the 
contributions of the individual to society, no valid interpreta- 
tion of civilization can be achieved by separating the Indi- 
vidual from his social and cultural setting. 

It Is especially Instructive to find that Wundt introduces 
his discussion of myth and religion by a volume on what is 
In fact a history of art, a many-sided examination of the 
workings of the human imagination. He saw clearly that 
the entire domain of religion and mythology represented on 
its conceptual side but a projection into the external world 
of the Ideas and fantasies of the mind of man. Without 


reaching the striking formulation of Freud, Wundt estab- 
lished the psychological foundation of what the originator 
of psychoanalysis later called the "omnipotence of thought." 

Thus Wundt is inevitably led to a non-compromlsingly 
negative attitude toward all attempts of conceiving primi- 
tive magic as a sort of aboriginal science, after the fashion 
of Frazer. In a luminous passage Wundt disposes of the 
issue with finality. Thus there arises a paradoxical situa- 
tion, he writes: on the one hand, science is extolled as 
the power that has destroyed mythology (or, in our termin- 
ology, supernaturalism) ; on the other, mythology itself 
is conceived as a primitive science. Now the destruction 
of mythology by science would only be feasible if the devel- 
opment of these two aspects of culture were regarded as 
radically distinct, whereas the Identification of mythology 
with primitive science would presuppose a fundamental simi- 
larity of the two. The explanation of this apparent con- 
tradiction lies In the following: the experiences on the basis 
of which myths arise coincide with those which in time be- 
come the foundation of science, for In both cases these ex- 
periences consist or take the form of Ideas and emotions, 
affects and troplsms or urges which are characteristic of 
the human psyche. But what differs are the processes of 
thought by means of which these common psychic elements 
are utilized and elaborated. These are radically distinct 
in science and mythology. Thus the mistake of the ration- 
alistic theory consists In that it substitutes for the highly 
discrepant mental processes of science and mythology, the 
coincidence of the general empirical content of the psyche.^ 

With justice Wundt proceeds to contrast the theoretical 
Interest of science with the pragmatic or practical view- 
point of mythology. The author displays an equally pene- 
trating vision when, In dealing with what he calls the 
era of primitive man, he gives a general estimate of primi- 
tive civilization and mentality. "It Is characteristic of prim- 

'"Volkerpsychologle," Vol. II, Par. I (Art), p. 559. Cf. also "Elements of 
Folk Psychology," pp. 93-94. 


itive culture," writes Wundt, "that it has failed to advance 
since immemorial times and this accounts for the uniformity 
prevalent in widely separated regions of the earth. This, 
however, does not at all imply that within, the narrow sphere 
that constitutes his world the intelligence of primitive man 
is inferior to that of cultural man."^ And again : "Primitive 
man merely exercises his ability in a more restricted world; 
his horizon is essentially narrower because of his content- 
ment under these limitations. This, of course, does not deny 
that there may have been a time and, indeed, doubtless was 
one when man occupied a lower intellectual plane and ap- 
proximated more nearly the animal state which preceded 
that of human beings. This earliest and lowest level of 
human development, however, is not accessible to us."^ 

In dealing with the tools and weapons of earliest man, 
Wundt definitely rejects the rationalism of early authors 
while laying due emphasis on accident and uncontrolled ex- 
perience. In his attempt to trace the origin of the return- 
ing boomerang^ of the Australians, for example, Wundt 
projects the following picture: "The word is probably 
familiar to all, but the nature of the weapon is not so 
well known, especially its peculiarly characteristic form by 
virtue of which, if it fails to strilce its object, it flies back 
to the one who hurled it. The boomerang, which possesses 
this useful characteristic, is, in the first place, a bent wooden 
missile, pointed at both ends. That this curved form has 
a greater range and strikes truer to aim than a straight 
spear, the Australian, of course, first learned from experi- 
ence. The boomerang, however, will not return if it is 
very symmetrically constructed; on the contrary, it then 
falls to the ground, where it remai ns. Now it appears that 
the two halves of this missile are asymmetrical. One of 
the halves is twisted spirally, so that the weapon, if thrown 
forward obliquely, will, in accordance with the laws of 

'"Elements, etc.," p. ii2. 
'Ibid, p. 113. 
'Cf. pp. 102-103. 


ballistics, describe a curve that returns upon itself. This 
asymmetry, likewise, was discovered accidentally. In this 
case, the discovery was all the more likely, for primitive 
weapons were never fashioned with exactitude. That this 
asymmetry serves a useful purpose, therefore, was first re- 
vealed by experience. As a result, however, primitive man 
began to copy as faithfully as possible those implements 
which most perfectly exhibited this characteristic. Thus, 
this missile is not a weapon that required exceptional inven- 
tive ability, though, of course, it demanded certain powers 
of observation. The characteristics, accordingly, that in- 
sured the survival of the boomerang were discovered acci- 
dentally and then fixed through an attentive regard to those 
qualities that had once been found advantageous."^ 

A similar standpoint appears in the author's explanation 
of the feathered arrow. Writes Wundt: "The feathers 
are usually supposed to have been added to insure the ac- 
curate flight of the arrow. And this accuracy is, indeed, the 
resultant effect. As in the case of the boomerang, however, 
we must again raise the question: How did man come to 
foresee this effect, of whose mechanical conditions he had, 
of course, not the slightest knowledge? The solution of 
this problem probably lies in the fact of an association of 
the discharged arrow with a flying bird that pierces the air 
by the movement of its feathers. Thus, in the arrow, man 
copied the mode of movement of the bird. He certainly 
did not copy it, however, with the thought that he was caus- 
ing movement in a mechanical way. We must bear in mind 
that for primitive man the image of a thing is in reality al- 
ways equivalent to the thing itself. Just as he believes that 
his spirit resides in his picture, and is, therefore, frequently 
seized with fright when a painter draws his likeness and car- 
ries it away with him, so also does the feathered arrow be- 
come for him a bird. In his opinion, the qualities of the 
bird are transferred by force of magic to the arrow. In this 

'Ibid, pp. 27-28. 


case, indeed, the magical motive is in harmony with the 
mechanical effect."^ 

Whether this particular application of magical idiosyn- 
crasy is true to the facts or not is, of course, impossible to 
say, but Wundt's hypothesis indicates without doubt a very 
common type of origin of useful appliances. It may be noted 
in this connection that among many tribes the arrow feath- 
ers are not attached parallel to the length of the shaft, but 
in a spiral. The screw-like effect of this device imparts to 
the flying arrow a revolving motion, the result of which 
is greater accuracy of aim and a more dangerous wound. 
Now the aboriginal bow-man was, of course, quite ignorant 
of the mechanical principles involved, but accidental discov- 
ery must have readily revealed to him the advantage of the 
arrow whose feathers were not quite parallel to the shaft. 
Once this discovery was made, the further evolution of the 
spiral attachment was merely a matter of time. 

While we must give due credit to Wund't perspicacity, 
certain reservations are in place here. It is true that pro- 
fessional inventors were unknown in early times, also that 
many devices bearing evidence of great ingenuity were in 
the main accidental and unpremeditated discoveries. Nev- 
ertheless, it Is possible to underestimate the ingenuity of 
early man. While very little relevant material for a con- 
crete examination of this topic is available, the analogy with 
the craftsman and mechanic of history cannot but suggest 
that his prehistoric colleague must have derived somewhat 
similar stimulation from his multiple experiences with ma- 
terials, processes and situations. Such experiences, as is 
well known, stimulate the application of the trial and error 
method with Its concomittant discoveries, inventions and 
improvements. It would thus be unwise to ascribe to the 
primitive mechanic merely a passive part in the origination 
of inventions. Many a happy thought must have crossed 

'Itid, p. 29. 


his mind, nor was he wholly unfamiliar with the thrill that 
comes from an idea efFective in action. 

Wundt's position in regard to the theory of cultural evo- 
lution also differs markedly from those of his predecessors. 
He no longer believes in the universal uniformity of cultural 
advance, either in application to culture as a whole or to 
its separate aspects. Wundt often speaks of certain trends 
or principles of historic development which manifest them- 
selves in multiple similarities, but he is not blind to the fact 
that in the complexity of historical incidents these principles 
scarcely ever appear except in greatly disguised form, and 
that uniqueness remains a characteristic of individual historic 
events or cultural forms. 

Wundt's historic perspective is particularly enriched by his 
constant insistence on the multiplicity of motives and inter- 
pretations which characterize the development of cultural 
forms, and the constant tendency of such motives and in- 
terpretations to fluctuation and transformation. In this 
connection one notes with regret that in dealing with early 
processes, the so-called first origins, Wundt often abandons 
his own well tested principles and returns to the habit of 
classical anthropologists of accounting for cultural factors 
by singular origins and motives. Wundt's failure to do 
justice to this type of problem may be illustrated by a few 

The following extract illustrates the way in which Wundt 
deals with the origin of the domestication of the dog as well 
as with the first beginnings of art : 

"Closely connected with the real dwelling of primitive 
man, the cave, are two further phenomena that date back 
to earliest culture. As his constant companion, primitive 
man has a single animal, the dog, doubtless the earliest of 
domestic animals. Of all domestic animals this Is the one 
that has remained most faithful to man down to the present 
time. The inhabitant of the modern city still keeps a dog 
if he owns any domestic animal at all, and as early as prim- 
itive times the dog was man's faithful companion. The 


origin of tliis first domestic animal remains obscure. The 
popular notion would seem to be that man felt the need of 
such a companion, and therefore domesticated the dog. 
But if one calls to mind the dogs that run wild in the 
streets of Constantinople, or the dog's nearest relative, the 
wolf, one can scarcely believe that men ever had a strong 
desire to make friends of these animals. According to 
another widely current view, it was man's need of the dog 
as a helper in the chase that led to its domestication. But 
this also is one of those rationalistic hypotheses based on 
the presupposition that man always acts in accordance with 
a preconceived plan, and thus knew in advance that the dog 
would prove a superior domestic animal, and one especi- 
ally adapted to assist in the chase. Since the dog possessed 
these characteristics only after its domestication, they could 
not have been known until this had occurred, and the hy- 
pothesis Is clearly untenable. How, then, did the dog and 
man come together in the earliest beginnings of society? 
The answer to this question, I believe, is to be found in the 
cave, the original place of shelter from rain and storm. Not 
only was the cave a refuge for man, but it was equally so 
for animals, and especially for the dog. Thus it brought 
its dwellers into companionship. Furthermore, the kindling 
of the fire, once man had learned the art, may have at- 
tracted the animal to its warmth. After the dog had thus 
become the companion of man, it accompanied him In his 
activities, including that of the chase. Here, of course, 
the nature of the carnivorous animal asserted itself; as 
man hunted, so also did the animal. The dog's training, 
therefore, did not at all consist in being taught to chase 
the game. It did this of Itself, as may be observed in the 
case of dogs that are not specifically hunting dogs. The 
training consisted rather in breaking the dog of the habit 
of devouring the captured game. This was accomplished 
only through a consciously directed effort on the part of man, 
an effort to which hs was driven by his own needs. Thus, 
it is the cave that accounts for the origin of the first domestic 


animal, and also, probably, for the first attempt at training 
an animal. But there is still another gain for the beginnings 
of culture that may probably be attributed to the cave in 
its capacity of a permanent habitation. Among primitive 
peoples, some of whom are already advanced beyond the 
level here in questoin, it is especially in caves that artistic 
productions may be found. These consist of crude drawings 
of animals and, less frequently, of men. Among the Bush- 
men, such cave pictures are frequently preserved from de- 
struction for a considerable period of time. Natural man, 
roaming at will through the forests, has neither time nor 
opportunity to exercise his Imagination except upon rela- 
tively small objects or upon the adornment of his own body. 
But the semi-darkness of the cave tends, as do few other 
places, to stimulate the reproductive imagination. Undis- 
turbed by external influences, and with brightnesses and col- 
ours enhanced by the darkness, the memory images of things 
seen in the open, particularly those of the animals of the 
primeval forest, rise to consciousness and impel the lonely 
and unoccupied inhabitant to project them upon the wall. 
Such activity is favoured by the fact, verifiable by personal 
introspection, that memory images are much more vivid in 
darkness and semi-darkness than in the light of day. Thus, 
it was In the cave, the first dwelling-place of man, that the 
transition was made, perhaps for the first time, from the 
beginnings of a graphic art, serving the purposes of adorn- 
ment or magic, to an art unfettered except by memory. It 
was an art of memory in a twofold sense: It patterned 
its objects after the memory of things actually observed, and 
it sought to preserve to memory that which It created."^ 

This discussion strikingly reveals Wundt's sanity as well 
as the limitations of his attitude. The derivation of the 
domestication of the dog from natural factors, from a com- 
mon dwelling, common hunting habits, mutual benefit and 
a minimum of deliberate planning, must be recognized as ad- 
mirably carried out. The psychological arguments advanced 

'"Elements of Folk Psychology, pp. 22-24. 


to explain the presence and, In part at least, the nature of 
the realistic art of the cave, are forceful. But in both in- 
stances Wundt fails to utilize his own idea of the multi- 
plicity of motives which he has elsewhere employed with such 
admirable effect. The dog is found as the companion of 
man practically everywhere, including innumerable localities 
where no such fixed dwelling places as caves were provided 
by Nature. Would Wundt assume, then, that the domesti- 
cation of the dog has originated exclusively where man lived 
in caves and spread by diffusion to the rest of mankind? 
No, this hypothesis he would surely reject. But then other 
motives must be provided for the origin of the institution 
compatible with the habits and circumstances of caveless 
man. The same principle can be utilized to censure his 
hypothesis with reference to primitive realistic art. 

Another Illustration of Wundt's failure to escape the 
allurements of monogenetic derivations is his hypothesis 
about the origin of primitive dress and ornament. It runs 
like this : 

"In connection with the external culture of primitive man 
we have already noted his meagre dress, which frequently 
consisted merely of a cord of bast about the loins, with 
leaves suspended from it. What was the origin of this 
dress? In the tropical regions, where primitive man lives, 
it was surely not the result of need for protection ; nor can 
we truthfully ascribe it to modesty, as Is generally done on 
the ground that it is the genital parts that are most fre- 
quently covered. In estimating the causes, the questions 
of primary importance are rather those as to where the very 
first traces of dress appear and of what Its most permanent 
parts consist. The answer to the latter question, however, 
is to be found not in the apron but in the loin-cord, which is 
occasionally girt about the hips without any further attempt 
at dress. Obviously this was not a means of protection 
against storm and cold; nor can modesty be said to have 
factored in the development of this article, which serves 
the purposes both of dress and of adornment. But what was 


Its real meaning? An incident from the life of the Veddahs 
may perhaps furnish the answer to this question. When 
the Veddah enters into marriage, he binds a cord about the 
loins of his prospective wife. Obviously this is nothing else 
than a form of the widely current 'cord-magic,' which plays 
a not inconsiderable role even in present-day superstition. 
Cord-magic aims to bring about certain results by means of 
a firmly fastened cord. This cord is not a symbol, but is, 
as all symbols originally were, a means of magic. When a 
cord is fastened about a diseased part of the body and then 
transferred to a tree, it is commonly believed that the sick- 
ness is magically transplanted into the tree. If the tree 
is regarded as representing an enemy, moreover, this act, 
by a further association, is believed to transfer sickness or 
death to the enemy through the agency of the tree. The 
cord-magic of the Veddah Is obviously of a simpler nature 
than this. By means of the cord which he has himself 
fastened, the Veddah endeavors to secure the faithfulness 
of his wife. The further parts of primitive dress were de- 
velopments of the loin-cord, and were worn suspended from 
It. Coincidentally with this, the original means of adorn- 
ment make their appearance. Necklaces and bracelets, 
which have remained favourite articles of feminine adorn- 
ment even within our present culture, and fillets about the 
head which, among some of the peoples of nature, are like- 
wise worn chiefly by the women, are further developments 
of the loin-cord, transferred, as It were, to other parts of 
the body. And, as the first clothing was attached to the 
loin-cord, so also were the bracelet and fillet, and particu- 
larly the necklace, employed to carry other early means 
of protective magic, namely, amulets. Gradually the latter 
also developed Into articles of adornment, preferably worn, 
even to-day, about the neck."^ 

Here once more the artificiality of Wundt's position is 
apparent. Quite apart from the feasibility of the particu- 
lar interpretation given — for in itself, the utilization of an 

•"Elements, etc.," pp. 85-86. 


attractive charm, as implied by Wundt, is common enough — 
it is patently absurd to reduce the origin of garments and 
ornament to this one magical source. A loin-cord is not 
worn everywhere nor are parts of garments and ornament 
always attached to it In a way described by Wundt. More- 
over, In numerous regions climatic conditions necessitate 
the wearing of garments other than those implied. As 
to ornament. Its sources are of course multiform, quite 
apart from the adornment of the human figure, and If that 
Is so, what Is the justification for deriving human adornment 
from this one source? 

We have noted Wundt's guarded attitude towards unl- 
formltarian evolutionism. But this also breaks down more 
than once under the stress of attractive hypotheses. To 
mention only one instance : Wundt assumes that animal wor- 
ship everywhere preceded human worship. Animals were 
worshipped as ancestors long before any human being or 
anthropomorphised gods became the subject of the same 
attitude. The worship of human ancestors, manism, as 
Wundt calls, thus remains as a final product of this evo- 
lution, when the animal cult has lost Its power while the 
Ideas of descent connected with It still remain. "The pure 
animal cult," writes Wundt, "can be recognized by that the 
living animals, but never living man or supernatural beings 
possessed of human qualities, become the subjects of wor- 
ship. The cult of anthropomorphic gods, on the other hand, 
which remains after the decay of all other cult forms directed 
towards the animal, represents the other end of this series 
and between these two extremes — the pure animal cult and 
the pure human cult — all the other stages fit in as transi- 
tional links.'" 

So much for Wundt's occasional lapses into drastic evo- 
lutionism. But withal Wundt's work marks a tremendous 
advance over the position of the classical English anthro- 
pologists with its rationalism. Its individualism, and Its 
unilinear evolutionism. 

'"Volkerpsychologie," 1906, Vol. II, Part 2, p. 236. 



Durkheim's Theories^ 

Durkheim's contribution to primitive mentality centers in 
a sociological interpretation of religion. In an introductory 
section to his latest work the author categorically rejects 
the theories of his predecessors, such as the animistic theory 
of Spencer and Tylor and the naturalistic hypothesis of 
Max Miiller. Durkheim refuses to admit that nature itself 
has the power to arouse in the individual the religious emo- 
tion. He denies, moreover, that the idea of spiritual agents 
which stands in the center of all religions, could have been 
derived from illusions, such as dreams, or misinterpreta- 
tions of echoes, reflections, shadows, or more or less strik- 
ing states of the body, such as coma, disease, or death. "It 
is inadmissable," reflects Durkheim, "that systems of ideas 
like religions, which have held so considerable a place in 
history, and to which, in all times, men have come to receive 
the energy which they must have to live, should be made up 
of a tissue of illusions. To-day we are beginning to realize 
that law, morals and even scientific thought itself were 

'Most of Durkheim's sociological theories will be found expressed in his 
last book, "Les formes elementaires de la vie religieuse," which appeared in 
1912. A translation of this book under the title "The Elementary Forms 
of the Religious Life," by Joseph Ward Swain, is available. Mr. Swain's 
translation is literal, which robs it of almost all the brilliancy of the 
original text, but it is accurate. For a full understanding of Durkheim's 
position it is desirable to read at least his "Les regies de la methode socio- 
logique," of which there is no English translation. An exposition of Durk- 
heim's argument as advanced in his book on religion will be found in my 
article on "The Views of Andrew Lang and J. G. Frazer and Eraile Durk- 
heim on Totemism" {Anthropos, Vol. X-XI, 1915-1916, pp. 961-970). Another 
exposition combined with a critique will be found in the American Anthrop- 
ologist, Vol. XVII, 1915, pp. 719-735. A more detailed critique, finally, than 
will be possible in these pages is available in my article on "Religion and 
Society: A Critique of Emile Durkheim's Theory of the Origin and Nature 
of Religion" (Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 
Vol. XIV, 1917, pp. 113-124). 



born of religion, were for a long time confounded with it, 
and have remained penetrated with its spirit. How could a 
vain fantasy have been able to fashion the human conscious- 
ness so strongly and so durably? Surely it ought to be a 
principle of the science of religions that religion expresses 
nothing which does not exist in nature ; for there are sciences 
only of natural phenomena. The only question is to learn 
from what part of nature these realities come and what has 
been able to make men represent them under this singular 
form which is peculiar to religious thought.'" 

Thus Durkheim's search is for the reality underlying 
religion. While preparing the way for his major argument, 
Durkheim establishes the proposition that the fundamental 
fact in all religion is a division between the sacred and the 
profane. Religion is a social, institutional phenomenon — 
"there is no religion without a church," says Durkheim — 
and wherever there is religion there is a division of things, 
beings and acts into sacred and profane ones. The quest for 
the origin of religion, then, resolves itself into a search for 
the sources from which the sacred has sprung. 

The major part of Durkheim's book consists in an analy- 
sis of Australian totemism. Here he finds an appropriate 
setting for the origin of the sacred which he is seeking. His 
weighty conclusion is reached in the course of the following 
passage : 

"The life of the Australian societies passes alternately 
through two distinct phases. Sometimes the population is 
broken up into little groups who wander about independ- 
ently of one another. In their various occupations; each 
family lives by itself, hunting and fishing, and in a word, 
trying to procure its indispensable food by all the means in 
its power. Sometimes, on the contrary, the population con- 
centrates and gathers at determined points for a length of 
time varying from several days to several months. This 
concentration takes place when a clan or a part of the tribe 
is summoned to the gathering, and on this occasion they 

"Elementary Forms of the Religious Life," pp. 69-70. 


celebrate a religious ceremony, or else hold what is called 
a corrobbori in the usual ethnological language. 

"These two phases are contrasted with each other in the 
sharpest way. In the first, economic activity Is the pre- 
ponderating one, and It is generally of a very mediocre In- 
tensity. Gathering the grains or herbs that are necessary 
for food, or hunting and fishing are not occupations to 
awaken very lively passions. The dispersed condition in 
which the society finds itself results in making its life uni- 
form, languishing and dull. But when a corrobbori takes 
place, everything changes. Since the emotional and pas- 
sional faculties of the primitive are only imperfectly placed 
under the control of his reason and will, he easily loses con- 
trol of himself. Any event of some Importance puts him 
quite outside himself. Does he receive good news? There 
are at once transports of enthusiasm. In the contrary con- 
ditions, he Is to be seen running here and there like a mad- 
man, giving himself up to all sorts of immoderate move- 
ments, crying, shrieking, rolling In the dust, throwing it in 
every direction, biting himself, brandishing his arms In a 
furious manner, etc. The very fact of the concentration 
acts as an exceptionally powerful stimulant. When they 
are once come together, a sort of electricity is formed by 
their collecting which quickly transports them to an extraor- 
dinary degree of exaltation. Every sentiment expressed 
finds a place without resistance In all the minds, which are 
very open to outside Impressions ; each re-echoes the others, 
and Is re-echoed by the others. The initial Impulse thus 
proceeds, growing as it goes, as an avalanche grows in its 
advance. And as such active passions so free from all con- 
trol could not fail to burst out, on every side one sees noth- 
ing but violent gestures, cries, veritable howls, and deafen- 
ing noises of every sort, which aid In intensifying still more 
the state of mind which they manifest. And since a collec- 
tive sentiment cannot express itself collectively except on 
the condition of observing a certain order permitting co- 
operation and movements in unison, these gestures and cries 



naturally tend to become rhythmic and regular ; hence come 
songs and dances. But In taking a more regular form, they 
lose nothing of their natural violence; a regulated tumult 
remains tumult. The human voice is not sufficient for 
the task; it is reinforced by means of artificial processes: 
boomerangs are beaten against each other; bull-roarers are 
whirled. It is probable that these instruments, the use of 
which is so general in the Australian religious ceremonies, 
are used primarily to express in a more adequate fashion 
the agitation felt. But while they express it, they also 
strengthen it. This efFervescence often reaches such a point 
that it causes unheard-of actions. The passions released 
are of such an impetuosity that they can be restrained by 
nothing. They are so far removed from their ordinary con- 
ditions of life, and they are so thoroughly conscious of It, 
that they feel that they must set themselves outside of and 
above their ordinary morals. The sexes unite contrarily 
to the rules governing sexual relations. Men exchange 
wives with each other. Sometimes even incestuous unions, 
which in normal times are thought abominable and are 
severely punished, are now contracted openly and with 
impunity. If we add to all this that the ceremonies gen- 
erally take place at night in a darkness pierced here and 
there by the light of fires, we can easily imagine what effect 
such scenes ought to produce on the minds of those who 
participate. They produce such a violent super-excitation 
of the whole physical and mental life that it cannot be sup- 
ported very long: the actor taking the principal part finally 
falls exhausted on the ground.'" . . . 

. . . "One can readily conceive how, when arrived at this 
state of exaltation, a man does not recognize himself any 
longer. Feeling himself dominated and carried away by 
some sort of an external power which makes him think and 
act differently than in normal times, he naturally has the 
Impression of being himself no longer. It seems to him 
that he has become a new being: the decorations he puts 

^Ibid, pp. 214-216, 


on and the masks that cover his face figure materially in 
this interior transformation, and to a still greater extent, 
they aid in determining its nature. And as at the same 
time all his companions feel themselves transformed in the 
same way and express this sentiment by their cries, their 
gestures and their general attitude, everything is just as 
though he really were transported into a special world, en- 
tirely different from the one where he ordinarily lives, and 
into an environment filled with exceptionally intense forces 
that take hold of him and metamorphose him. How could 
such experiences as these, especially when they are repeated 
every day for weeks, fail to leave in him the conviction that 
there really exist two heterogeneous and mutually incom- 
parable worlds? One is that where his daily life drags 
wearily along; but he cannot penetrate into the other with- 
out at once entering into relations with extraordinary 
powers that excite him to the point of frenzy. The first is 
the profane world, the second, that of sacred things. 

"So it is in the midst of these effervegcent social environ- 
ments and out of this effervescence itself that the religious 
idea seems to be born. The theory that this is really its 
origin is confirmed by the fact that in Australia the really 
religious activity is almost entirely confined to the moments 
when these assemblies are held. To be sure, there is no 
people among whom the great solemnities of the cult are 
not more or less periodic; but in the more advanced so- 
cieties, there is not, so to speak, a day when some prayer 
or offering is not addressed to the gods and some ritual act 
is not performed. But in Australia, on the contrary, apart 
from the celebrations of the clan and tribe, the time is nearly 
all filled with lay and profane occupations. Of course there 
are prohibitions that should be and are preserved even dur- 
ing these periods of temporal activity; it is never permis- 
sible to kill or eat freely of the totemic animal, at least in 
those parts where the interdiction has retained its original 
vigour ; but almost no positive rites are then celebrated, and 
there are no ceremonies of any importance. These take 


place only in the midst of assembled groups. The religious 
life of the Australian passes through successive phases of 
complete lull and of super-excitation, and social life oscil- 
lates in the same rhythm. This puts clearly into evidence 
the bond uniting them to one another, but among the peo- 
ples called civilized, the relative continuity of the two blurs 
their relations. It might even be asked whether the vio- 
lence of this contrast was not necessary to disengage the 
feeling of sacredness in its first form. By concentrating 
itself almost entirely in certain determined moments, the 
collective life has been able to attain its greatest intensity 
and efficacy, and consequently to give men a more active 
sentiment of the double existence they lead and of the double 
nature in which they participate."^ 

Durkheim's book bristles with attempts to furnish inter- 
pretations of various psychological elements in religion in 
the terms of social or group determinants. His theory of 
the origin of the idea of survival and immortality of the 
soul may be adduced as an Illustration of his habitual mode 
of procedure. Durkheim dwells on the fact that in central 
Australia children are believed to be reincarnations of an- 
cestral individuals. From this he takes the cue for his 
hypothesis. "We have seen," writes Durkheim, "that the 
souls of new-born children are either emanations of the 
ancestral souls, or these souls themselves reincarnated. But 
in order that they may either reincarnate themselves, or 
periodically give off new emanations, they must have sur- 
vived their first holders. So it seems as though they ad- 
mitted the survival of the dead In order to explain the birth 
of the living. The primitive does not have the Idea of an 
all-powerful god who creates souls out of nothing. It 
seems to him that souls cannot be made except out of souls. 
So those who are born can only be new forms of those who 
have been; consequently, It Is necessary that these latter con- 
tinue to exist in order that others may be born. In fine, 
the belief in the immortality of the soul Is the only way in 

^Ibid, pp. 218-219. 


which men were able to explain a fact which could not fail 
to attract their attention; this fact is the perpetuity of the 
life of the group. Individuals die, but the clan survives. 
So the forces which give it life must have the same per- 
petuity. Now these forces are the souls which animate 
individual bodies; for it is in them and through them that 
the group is realized. For this reason, it is necessary that 
they endure. It is even necessary that in enduring, they 
remain always the same; for, as the clan always keeps its 
characteristic appearance, the spiritual substance out of which 
it is made must be thought of as qualitatively invariable. 
Since it is always the same clan with the same totemic prin- 
ciple, it is necessary that the souls be the same, for souls 
are only the totemic principle broken up and particularized. 
Thus there is something like a germinative plasm, of a mys- 
tic order, which is transmitted from generation to genera- 
tion and which makes, or at least is believed to make, the 
spiritual unity of the clan through all time. And this belief, 
in spite of its symbolic character, is not without a certain 
objective truth. For though the group may not be im- 
mortal in the absolute sense of the word, still it is true that 
it endures longer than the individuals and that it is born and 
incarnated afresh in each new generation.'" 

A very striking illustration of Durkheim's behaviorism, 
insofar as attitudes are represented as growing out of 
actions rather than the reverse, is provided by his theory 
of mourning, which has also a bearing on certain aspects 
of the idea of the soul. He writes : 

"When some one dies, the family group to which he be- 
longs feels itself lessened and, to react against this loss, 
it assembles. A common misfortune has the same effects 
as the approach of a happy event: collective sentiments are 
renewed which then lead men to seek one another and to 
assemble together. We have even seen this need for con- 
centration affirm itself with a particular energy: they em- 
brace one another, put their arms round one another, and 

'Ibid. pp. 268-269. 


press as close as possible to one another. But the affective 
state In which the group then happens to be only reflects the 
circumstances through which it is passing. Not only do the 
relatives, who are affected the most directly, bring their 
own personal sorrow to the assembly, but the society exer- 
cises a moral pressure over its members, to put their senti- 
ments In harmony with the situation. To allow them to 
remain indifferent to the blow which has fallen upon it and 
diminished it, would be equivalent to proclaiming that it 
does not hold the place in their hearts which is due it; it 
would be denying itself. A family which allows one of its 
members to die without being wept for shows by that very 
fact that It lacks moral unity and cohesion: it abdicates; it 
renounces its existence. An Individual, In his turn, if he is 
strongly attached to the society of which he is a member, 
feels that he is morally held to participating In its sorrows 
and joys; not to be interested in them would be equivalent 
to breaking the bonds uniting him to the group; it would 
be renouncing all desire for it and contradicting himself. 
When the Christian, during the ceremonies commemorating 
the Passion, and the Jew, on the anniversary of the fall of 
Jerusalem, fast and mortify themselves. It is not in giving 
way to a sadness which they feel spontaneously. Under 
these ci;-cumstances, the Internal state of the believer is out 
of all proportion to the severe abstinences to which they 
submit themselves. If he Is sad, it is primarily because he 
consents to being sad, and he consents to It in order to 
affirm his faith. The attitude of the Australian during 
mourning is to be explained In the same way. If he weeps 
and groans, it is not merely to express an individual chagrin; 
it is to fulfil a duty of which the surrounding society does 
not fail to remind him. 

"We have seen elsewhere how human sentiments are in- 
tensified when affirmed collectively. Sorrow, like joy, be- 
comes exalted and amplified when leaping from mind to 
mind, and therefore expresses itself outwardly In the form 
of exuberant and violent movements. But these are no 


longer expressive of the joyful agitation which we observed 
before ; they are shrieks and cries of pain. Each is carried 
along by the others; a veritable panic of sorrow results. 
When pain reaches this degree of intensity, it is mixed with 
a sort of anger and exasperation. One feels the need of 
breaking something, of destroying something. He takes 
this out either upon himself or others. He beats himself, 
burns himself, wounds himself or else he falls upon others to 
beat, burn and wound them. Thus it became the custom to 
give one's self up to the veritable orgies of tortures during 
mourning. It seems very probable that blood-revenge and 
head-hunting have their origin in this. If every death is 
attributed to some magic charm, and for this reason it is be- 
lieved that the dead man ought to be avenged, it is because 
men must find a victim at any price, upon whom the collec- 
tive pain and anger may be discharged. Naturally this vic- 
tim is sought outside the group; a stranger is a subject 
minoris rests tentiae; as he is not protected by the sentiments 
of sympathy inspired by a relative or neighbor, there is noth- 
ing in him which subdues and neutralizes the evil and de- 
structive sentiments aroused by the death. It is undoubtedly 
for this same reason that women serve more frequently 
than men as the passive objects of the cruellest rites of 
mourning; since they have a smaller social value, they are 
more obviously designated as scapegoats. 

"We see that this explanation of mourning completely 
leaves aside all ideas of souls or spirits. The only forces 
which are really active are of a wholly impersonal nature : 
they are the emotions aroused in the group by the death of 
one of its members. But the primitive does not know the 
psychical mechanism from which these practices result. So 
when he tries to account for them, he is obliged to forge a 
wholly different explanation. All he knows is that he must 
painfully mortify himself. As every obligation suggests the 
notion of a will which obliges, he looks about him to see 
whence this constraint which he feels may come. Now, 
there is one moral power, of whose reality he is assured 


and which seems designated for this role: this is the soul 
which the death had liberated. For what could have a 
greater interest than it in the effects which its own death 
has on the living? So they imagine that if these latter in- 
flict an unnatural treatment upon themselves, it is to con- 
form to its exigencies. It was thus that the idea of the 
soul must have intervened at a later date into the mythology 
of mourning. But also, since it is thus endowed with in- 
human exigencies, it must be supposed that in leaving the 
body which it animated, the soul lays aside every human 
sentiment. Hence the metamorphosis which makes a 
dreaded enemy out of the relative of yesterday. This trans- 
formation is not the origin of mourning; it is rather its con- 
sequence. It translates a change which has come over the 
affective state of the group : men do not weep for the dead 
because they fear them; they fear them because they weep 
for them.'" 

"But this change of the affective state can only be a tem- 
porary one, for while the ceremonies of mourning result 
from it, they also put an end to it. Little by little, they 
neutralize the very causes which have given rise to them. 
The foundation of mourning is the impression of a loss 
which the group feels when it loses one of its members. 
But this very impression results in bringing Individuals to- 
gether, in putting them into closer relations with one 
another, in associating them all in the same mental state, 
and therefore in disengaging a sensation of comfort which 
compensates the original loss. Since they weep together, 
they hold to one another and the group is not weakened, in 
spite of the blow which has fallen upon it. Of course they 
have only sad emotions in common, but communicating in 
sorrow is still communicating, and every communion of 
mind, in whatever form it may be made, raises the social 
vitality. The exceptional violence of the manifestations 
by which the common pain is necessarily and obligatorily 

'This is a curious sociological utilization of the once famous James-Lange 
hypothesis of the emotions. 


expressed even testifies to the fact that at this moment, the 
society is more alive and active than ever. In fact, when- 
ever the social sentiment is painfully wounded, it reacts 
with greater force than ordinarily: one never holds so 
closely to his family as when it has just suffered. This sur- 
plus energy effaces the more completely the effects of the 
interruption which was felt at first, and thus dissipates the 
feeling of coldness which death always brings with it. The 
group feels its strength gradually returning to it; it begins 
to hope and to live again. Presently one stops mourning, 
and he does so owing to the mourning itself. But as the 
idea formed of the soul reflects the moral state of the so- 
ciety, this idea should change as this state changes. When 
one is in the period of dejection and agony, he represents 
the soul with the traits of an evil being, whose sole occupa- 
tion is to persecute men. But when he feels himself con- 
fident and secure once more, he must admit that it has re- 
taken its former nature and its former sentiments of tender- 
ness and solidarity. Thus we explain the very different ways 
in which it is conceived at different moments of its existence. 
"Not only do the rites of mourning determine certain of 
the secondary characteristics attributed to the soul, but per- 
haps they are not foreign to the idea that it survives the 
body. If he is to understand the practices to which he sub- 
mits on the death of a parent, a man is obliged to believe 
that these are not an indifferent matter for the deceased. 
The shedding of blood which is practised so freely during 
mourning is a veritable sacrifice offered to the dead man. 
So something of the dead man must survive, and as this is 
not the body, which is manifestly immobile and decomposed, 
it can only be the soul.' Of course it is impossible to say 

'It is interesting to compare this with Freud's position, who states that a 
projection of a psychic state is most likely to occur where opposing psycho- 
logical trends make such a projection especially desirable. Now, the im- 
pression produced on man by the phenomenon of death, presents a favorable 
occasion of such an ambivalent condition, the opposite emotions of love and 
hate, tender regard and fear, being present. The negative emotions involved 
become objectified in the idea of an evil spirit or ghost. Freud notes his 
agreement with various authors in this particular, insisting, however, that 
in his version it is the emotional conflict involved in the situation which is 


with any exactness what part these considerations have had 
in the origin of the idea of immortality. But it is probable 
that here the influence of the cult is the same as it is else- 
where. Rites are more easily explicable when one imagines 
that they are addressed to personal beings; so men have 
been induced to extend the influence of the mythical person- 
alities in the religious life. In order to account for mourn- 
ing, they have prolonged the existence of the soul beyond 
the tomb. This is one more example of the way in which 
rites react upon beliefs."^ 

In analyzing Durkheim's theory of the origin of the 
Sacred, it is important to keep in mind the particular char- 
acter of the social setting which he utilizes as the source 
from which the Sacred flows. As one reads Durkheim's pic- 
turesque description of Australian ceremonies, he realizes 
that the social setting with which the author deals is one 
usually designated as crowd-psychological. The emo- 
tional, ideational and behavioristic transformations which 
Durkheim describes as taking place in the individual are 
the transformations with which we are familiar from studies 
of crowd-psychology. 

A criticism of this basic part of the author's theory may 
be reproduced from the article referred to before, with a 
few minor changes : 

"Thus, the conception of the social, of society, in Durk- 
heim's theory is strangely narrow. Notwithstanding the 
tremendous importance ascribed to it, society for Durk- 
heim is but a sublimated crowd, while the social setting is 
the crowd-psychological situation. Society as a cultural, his- 
torical complex, society as the carrier of tradition, as the 
legislator, judge, as the standard of action, as public opin- 
ion; society in all of these varied and significant manifesta- 
tions, which surely are of prime concern to the individual, 

responsible for the creation of spirit, not the jntellectual conflict (as is the 
case with Durkheim). 
"^Ibid, pp. 399-4°3- 


does not figure in Durkheim's theory.' All the marvels of 
social control are achieved through the medium of the 
crowd-psychological situation. Durkheim's theory, then, is 
a crowd-psychological one; but is his crowd-psychology 
sound? The author will have us believe that the religious 
thrill, the sense of the sacred, arises from the reaction of 
the individual consciousness to social pressure, or rather 
from the ratiocination of that reaction. The elements in- 
volved in the situation utilized in the author's theory are 
still to be found in society, hence his contention is subject 
to verification by our modern experience. Now, how does 
the individual react to social pressure which overwhelms 
him in a crowd-psychological situation, and what construc- 
tion does he place on his reaction? The reaction is very 
much as Durkheim has described it : in the theater, at a 
political meeting, in a mob, at a revival, in church, in a panic, 
the action of the group on the individual is characteristic 
and decisive. But how does he rationalize his participation 
in the group action or experience ? Not by contrasting his 
daily life with the special crowd situation, nor by represent- 
ing himself as actuated upon by a superior and external 
power — quite on the contrary: the individual identifies him- 
self with the group, with the crowd; he represents himself 
as sharing in the power which is of the crowd, of the group. 
We thought, we felt, we did, is for him descriptive also of 
his own part in the proceedings. Social settings of this 
variety are so constant, so common an experience in the life 
of man, primitive or modern, that the average individual 
who is but moderately reflective, never thinks of con- 
trasting these experiences with others, or of regarding 
his crowd or group self as transcending the self of his daily 
routine. On the contrary, the crowd or group self is the 
self par excellence, as well as the self at its best. Again, 
the crowd or group setting obviously does not create the 

'It is not to be inferred that the eminent sociologist has failed to recognize 
these fundamental aspects of society, or to appraise them in his system. 
All that is implied is that in Durkheim's theory of the origin of the Sacred, 
society functions merely as a crowd. 


specific psychic state involved. The joyful ecstasy of a 
jubilant crowd remains a feeling of joy; a panic of fear is 
fear; the hatred of a lynching mob is hatred; the adoration 
of a religious gathering is adoration. In all of these in- 
stances, and innumerable others, the specific emotion experi- 
enced is not of crowd derivation. What is common in the 
above situations is the crowd psychology: through a sum- 
mation of stimuli, and through imitation, the emotions be- 
come intensified; the higher mental processes, involving 
deliberation and intellectual concentration, become in- 
hibited; the instinctive and reflexive responses, on the con- 
trary, which have through past ages become attuned to the 
particular emotional state involved, rise into prominence. 
What results then is an intensified expression of a given 
emotion in terms of instinctive and reflexive reactions, re- 
actions, that is, which belong to a relatively low level in the 
psychic constitution of man. But the specific emotion so 
expressed is not born of the crowd, and differs in different 
crowd-psychological situations. Thus, a series of corrob- 
borees does not make an intichiuma, nor do the secular 
dances of the North American Indians become identified 
with the religious dances. A crowd-psychological situation 
may intensify or even transform a religious thrill, but it can 
not create one. 

"The author's theory, finally, runs counter to the verdict 
of experience, ancient and modern, in denying nature the 
power to impress, shock, and thrill man, thus engendering 
in his psyche the emotional nucleus of the religious senti- 
ment. The author, moreover, fails to do justice to the con- 
tribution of the individual to religious experience. While 
the religious emotion, deeply rooted as it is in instinctive 
reactions reaching far back into human and possibly pre- 
human history, is to a marked degree amenable to the trans- 
formations conditioned by the crowd, the mob, and other 
more complex types of social setting, religious experience 
has also been enriched, elaborated, refined, by the spir- 
itual contributions of individuals. These were either 



individuals of average potentialities for religious expe- 
rience, but placed in unusual circumstances, or they be- 
longed to that group of exceptional individuals who, at 
all times and places, have shown uncommon proclivities for 
the religious life. The first category is exemplified by the 
Indian youth who, at the dawn of maturity, retires to a 
shanty in the woods, fasts and purifies himself, presently to 
behold a vision of a spiritual animal or object, from which 
he receives a supernatural revelation of certain powers 
which henceforth are his for life. To the second category 
of individuals belongs that limited group of men from which 
history has recruited her religious teachers and reformers, 
fanatics and miracle workers, revivalists, founders and 
destroyers of religions, prophets and saints/ Now, it is 
emphatically characteristic of both of these categories of 
men (and women) that, temporarily or permanently, they 
shun the crowd, they flee from the world, they live in soli- 
tude, they are proof against religious settings except those 
of their own making ; in their psychic constitution lie Infinite 
potentialities of religious experience and ecstasy. Their 
god is within them. The lives of such as they constitute a 
glaring refutation of Durkhelm's theory.'" 

Durkheim's theory of the origin of the belief in immor- 
tality is a particularly instructive example of the author's 
tremendous exaggeration of the importance of social factors 
as contrasted with all others. That the perpetuity of the 
life of the group ("individuals die but the clan survives") 
should attract the attention of the people, as Durkhelm 
claims it necessarily would, seems anything but plain. 
Where is the evidence that the attention of Individuals in 
early communities is attracted by facts such as this? More- 
over, the idea of survival is much more widespread than the 
belief in the particular form of reincarnation characteristic 
of central Australia. Thus, the idea of survival must have 
originated in other localities from sources other than the 

"C/. pp. 224 sg. 

' "Religion and Society, etc.", pp. 121-124. 


necessity of providing a soul for reincarnation, and if that 
Is so, one is prompted to pause before admitting that in 
Australia Ideas of reincarnation were chronologically prior 
and psychologically causal to the Idea of survival. 

Durkhelm's analysis of mourning Is both brilliant and 
suggestive, but unless hypnotized by the flow of the author's 
presentation, who would follow him in his assertion that 
the idea of the soul of the deceased Is Introduced Into 
the mourning situation as an afterthought, as it were, to 
account for the cruel treatment to which the participating 
Individuals have subjected themselves? "When he tries 
to account for them" (those cruel tortures), writes Durk- 
helm, "he Is obliged to forge a wholly different explanation." 
But does "he," the savage, try to account for them? Is 
there any direct evidence In Australia, or for that matter 
anywhere else, that attempts are made to account for cere- 
monial cruelties? If such an attempt at accounting were 
made, surely It would have to be deliberate and conscious. 
And unless the Idea of the evil soul is brought by the natives 
into connection with these painful phenomena, their at- 
tempts to explain them would continue from generation to 
generation. But neither of the two assumptions Is justified 
by the facts. The evil soul of the deceased is not held 
responsible for the mourning with its wild cruelties, nor are 
there any attempts made to explain these. Thus Durk- 
helm's hypothesis contains the double error of an one-sided 
behaviorism with an one-sided rationalism. First, the act 
Is introduced as a social phenomenon, while the individual 
attitudes are held In abeyance; then the Individuals are re- 
introduced as pondering over the act and attempting to 
interpret it. But it is not made psychologically plausible 
why Individual attitudes should thus be held In abeyance 
while the act of the group Is taking place, nor that it is 
permissible to assume that after the act the individuals 
would ponder and reflect and reach conclusions and make 

In order to do full justice to Durkhelm's contribution it 


is necessary to refer to another daring generalization of the 
great sociologist which interests us here only insofar as it 
refers to the sources of certain ideas held by early man. 
Throughout Durkheim's volume we find dispersed certain 
hints and statements referring to the bearing of the re- 
ligious and social phenomena analyzed by the author on the 
general problem of the origin of thought categories. 
Toward the end of the book Durkheim returns to this subject 
and summarizes briefly his conclusions. His idea is this : the 
sources for some of the fundamental categories of thought 
must be looked for in social conditions and determinants. 
Among these categories are force, causality, totality, space 
and time. Durkheim admits that these concepts are general- 
izations derived in part from the experiences of individuals 
with natural phenomena, but he insists that the constraining 
character of the categories cannot be derived from the same 
source. These fundamental concepts are both psychic and 
impersonal, insofar as their bearing transcends the indi- 
vidual. Only collective forces combine these two character- 
istics. Social constraint is both in us, thus being psychic, and 
outside of us, thus being impersonal and transcending the 
individual. It is not only actions, behavior, that are thus 
determined by society, but the fundamental forms of 
thought itself. As Durkheim crisply puts it : "The impera- 
tives of thought are probably only another side of the im- 
peratives of action.'" 

The concepts enumerated are not merely enforced by 
society but they are actually derived from social forms and 
conditions. "The problem concerning them is more com- 
plex," writes Durkheim, "for they are social in another 
sense and, as it were, in the second degree. They not 
only come from society, but the things which they express 
are of a social nature. Not only is it society which has 
founded them, but their contents are the different aspects of 
the social being: the category of class was at first indis- 
tinguishable from the concept of the human group ; it is the 

' "Elementary Forms," etc. p. 369. 


rhythm of social life which is at the basis of the category 
of time; the territory occupied by the society furnished the 
material for the category of space; it is the collective force 
which was the prototype of the concept of efficient force, an 
essential element in the category of causality. However, 
the categories are not made to be applied only to the social 
realm; they reach out to all reality.'" 

Some of Durkheim's illustrations of the above principle 
invite a comparison with Frazer's idea of magic as a sort 
of primitive substitute for science; for example, when the 
author argues that when the Iroquois conceive of the life of 
Nature as the product of different intensities of orenda (a 
kind of mana) of things, they only express in their own way 
the modern idea that the world is a system of forces which 
limit and equilibrate one another.^ As an illustration of 
the sort of social phenomena from which the idea of class 
is derived, Durkhelm refers to certain classifications of 
objects in nature particularly common in Australia, as in 
those cases where animals, plants and natural objects are 
classified according to the two phratries of a tribe. Among 
the American Haida the gods are similarly classified accord- 
ing to the two phratries.' The social derivation of the idea 
of space is illustrated by an example from the Zuni, who 
conceived of space as divided into seven directions, to cor- 
respond with the seven quarters of their Pueblo, each dis- 
tinguished by its symbolic color. 

Collective ideas such as underlie the formation of the 
categories of thought are characteristic of all societies. 
Durkheim, therefore, takes exception to Levy-Bruhl's posi- 
tion, who holds that collective representations are specifi- 
cally characteristic of primitive mentality. Further : if ideas, 
even the most basic ones, are dependent upon social condi- 
tions, it is not surprising to find that each civilization has 

Ubid, p. 440. 
'Ibid, pp. 203-204. 
'Ibid, p. 141. 


its own system of concepts which find expression in lan- 

It is impossible at this place to indulge in an extensive 
critique of these highly interesting speculations/ The con- 
siderations presented are, however, of such cardinal impor- 
tance in their bearing upon epistomology and the theory 
of early mentality that some remarks become necessary if 
only to indicate the general character of the objections that 
can be raised against Durkheim's theory. 

In the first place, then, Durkheim errs in disregarding 
or at least under-estimating the extent to which the experi- 
ence of individuals with the objective phenomena of nature, 
is capable of engendering concepts. It Is true that primitive 
philosophy pays little heed to the vast if often inaccurate 
information accumulated by man about the forms, prop- 
erties and functions of objects and creatures amongst which 
he lives, moves and has his being. There is, however, in- 
ferential evidence to the effect that these aspects of experi- 
ence do not by any means fall upon non-responsive senses or 
inert minds. The economic pursuits and industries of early 
man, his methods of hunting and fishing; his traps, snares 
and hooks; the varying techniques of making pots or of 
weaving baskets; the elaborate manipulations by means of 

^Ibid, p. 435. It is interesting to compare this section of Durkheim's work 
■with what Teggart says in "The Processes of History" about the "idea 
systems" of different civilizations (see particularly pp. 106-123). 

"Durkheim proposed to elaborate these fragmentary ideas on the socio- 
logical foundation of the basic categories of thought into a separate volume. 
But at the time of his death these ideas had not advanced beyond the stage 
in which they appear in the "Elementary Forms of the Religious Life." 

Moreover, in justice to the author, it must be said that he does not regard 
his speculations as final, or as accounting in themselves for the concepts in 
question. In connection with his theory of the origin of the concept of 
causality, for example, he states: "It is to be borne in mind, moreover, that 
we have never dreamed of offering the preceding observations as a complete 
theory of the concept of causality. The question is too complex to be re- 
solved thus. The principle of causality has been understood differently 
in different times and places; in a single society, it varies with the social 
environment and the kingdoms of nature to which it is applied. So it would 
be impossible to determine with sufficient precision the causes and conditions 
upon which it depends, after a consideration of only one of the forms which 
it has presented during the course of history. The views which we have set 
forth should be regarded as mere indications, which must be controlled and 
completed." (p. 369.) 


which hide is tanned or bark reduced to a consistency which 
may be utilized as clothing; the handling of animal and 
vegetable tissues in connection with the preparation of food 
as well as for medicinal uses; all of these and innumerable 
other similar processes present, amongst errors and mis- 
conceptions, abundant evidence of concrete and often accu- 
rate observation, of the utilization of such observation for 
the purpose of mechanical adjustment and technical adept- 
ness, and of the improvement through invention of the form 
and function of articles of use. All of these are mental 
accomplishments which imply classification, at least incipient 
generalization, learning from experience, and technical 
progress, however slow, through the method of trial and 
error. The mental process involved must in at least some 
of the above instances be conscious and deliberate. On the 
whole, however, this entire set of intellectual processes is 
strangely submerged, almost automatic, as it were, and con- 
tributes but little to the world view of early man. Why 
that should be so, why the valuable insight reached at the 
cost of much effort, danger and trying experience should 
play so small a part in the deliberate thought of early man 
is a question we shall attempt to answer, at least in part, 
in the next chapter.^ 

Nevertheless, the part played by these generally uncon- 
scious processes in the discipline of the mind must have been 
tremendous. The antecedents of science, which from this 
angle is but systematized and sublimated common sense, are 
certainly to be looked for in this level of early experience. 
The categories of time and space, of force and causality, 
are all implied in matter-of-fact experience and its intel- 
lectual counterpart. When in the course of time the gen- 
eralizations derived from soclo-ceremonial and religious 
experience came into close quarters with the ideas derived 
from the realm of matter-of-fact, the above mental cate- 
gories were represented not alone in the former but in the 
latter as well. 

'See pp. 4o£-407 and 410 sg. 


Nor is this all. Durkheim is no doubt right in pointing 
out that in different societies and even within one society, 
differences are discernible between the more precise con- 
notations given to the ideas of causality, force and the like. 
Nevertheless, all the concepts involved are basic and, differ- 
ences apart, contain a sufficient number of common char- 
acters in all societies and among all men. That this should 
be so would be surprising and unaccountable if these cate- 
gories of thought were derived from the varying socio- 
ceremonial and religious conditions which are encountered 
in different communities. By contrast with this, the matter- 
of-fact experience is everywhere essentially the same and is 
thus much better fitted to lay the common foundation for 
the fundamental elements of thought. 

In confirmation of the thesis here maintained, an inter- 
esting study could be made of the grammars of primitive 
languages. It would then be found that In the recorded 
grammars of American Indian languages, for example, there 
is no evidence in the categories involved of either social 
structure or function or of supernaturalism. The catego- 
ries encountered are those of singularity and plurality, of 
time and localization, of condltlonallty, inception and con- 
clusion, of Instrumentality, of form, of sex, of number, and 
the like. All these categories imply the world of matter- 
of-fact experience. It will also be seen that for all the 
evidence contained In the grammatical categories, these 
Indian communities might have soclo-ceremonial and re- 
ligious structures and Ideas wholly different from those 
they actually display, for their effect on the fundamental 
categories of unconscious thought as expressed in gram- 
matical structure, is nil. 

L^vy-Bruhl's Theories 

One of the most notable contributions to the theory of 
primitive thought made in recent years is that of Levy- 

Theories op early mentality 381 

Bruhl in his book on the mental functions of primitive man.' 
Professor Levy-Bruhl represents the right wing, as it 
were, of the Durkheim school, but as will be presently seen, 
his own contribution is quite distinct. Frazer's associa- 
tionism and the rationalistic approach of Spencerian and 
Tylorian animism do not impress the French philosopher. 
These theories, he argues, try to infuse a logical note into 
the primitive world view. They accept the postulate that 
the mind of early man operates as rationally in the elabora- 
tion and generalization of its experiences as does the 
modern mind. But this, claims Levy-Bruhl, is not the case. 
With Durkheim, he insists that the phenomena which we 
encounter in studying primitive society are collective phe- 
nomena. Ceremonies, myths, rules of behavior, language, 
religion — all of these represent collective modes of action 
and reaction and they must be the expressions of a collec- 
tive mentality. Now, different societies reveal great differ- 
ences in the external elements of their civilizations. These 
elements are the moulders of the mentality of the several 
peoples, therefore the mentalities must be different. Thus 
the study of the primitive mind resolves itself into one of 
local types of mentality. 

Having reached this stage in his reasoning, the Investi- 
gator finds himself face to face with wellnigh insurmount- 
able difficulties. The way to a study of such local types of 
mentality is not by any means clear ; the preliminary concrete 
investigations are lacking. Nevertheless, it is possible by 
way of a preliminary survey to characterize these divergent 
types of mentality at least Insofar as they may contain 
certain common elements which differentiate them from the 
"idea systems" of modern man.'' 

' "Les fonctions mentales des societes inferieures," Paris, 1912. A German 
translation of the work has recently appeared and an English one is in 
preparation. An abstract of the contents will be found in my review of 
Levy-Bruhl's book in The American Anthropologist for 1911. 

^The term "idea systems" may be fittingly used here to suggest the re- 
semblance between Levy-Bruhl's conception and the corresponding ideas of 
Teggart, to which reference has been made before in connection with a 
similar thought in Durkheim's work. 


The first point, then, to be noted In connection with these 
collective ideas is that they are not the product of the 
minds of individuals. On the contrary, with reference to In- 
dividual mental processes, the collective ones must be re- 
garded as pre-existing. They are there when the individual 
appears to receive them. Irresistibly they force themselves 
upon the Individual mind, and they remain when the indi- 
vidual passes away. 

The distinctive peculiarity of the collective ideas Is that 
they are pre-logical or a-logical, meaning by this not that 
they necessarily contradict logic, but that logical processes 
are frequently and even typically disregarded In their forma- 
tion. Thus, In the magical and animistic universe the past 
may also be the present, a person may be In one place and 
at the same time in another, or in a dream. A man, or 
animal, or thing, is not only similar to but Is Identical with 
Its Image or reflection or name. A Bororo (a South 
American tribe) is also an arard (a kind of cuckatoo or 
parrot), a Central Australian bushman is also his churinfia 
or his reincarnated half human, half animal ancestor. 

The comparison of objects and beings from the stand- 
point of their objective characteristics Is outside the Interest 
of this collective mentality. Its attention Is centered on 
those varlagated bonds which tie objects, beasts, men and 
actions into closely knit groups that have nothing to do with 
objective form and substance and are based solely on cere- 
monial, magical or other supernatural connections. The 
principle on the basis of which these connections are estab- 
lished, resulting in a rapport between the things and actions 
within each cycle of such mystic relations, Levy-Bruhl desig- 
nates as the principle of participation. The things, beings, 
persons, tied together by a mystic rapport into a common 
cycle of participation are to that extent one, and this one- 
ness, this Identity based on supernaturalistic connections, de- 
termines all the relations of such things and beings. 

Nor is it correct to assert, claims Levy-Bruhl, that the 
magical connections between things are established through 


the operation of the law of association. In the collective 
mentality the "associations" are given as primary factors, 
and what the student observes is a gradual dissociation of 
such originally unified elements which takes place in the 
course of history.^ 

In this connection Levy-Bruhl's attention is directed 
toward those strange customs described so interestingly by 
Van Gennep in his book, "Les rites de passage." Primitive 
custom bristles with these rites of passage : initiation cere- 
monies which carry the boy or girl through different phases 
of ceremonial participation; the rites which usher the child 
into the membership of the tribe, or those that accompany 
the adoption of a new member into the clan; rites which 
attest the passage of an individual to the rank of chieftaincy 
or kingship; rites that usher the bride into matrimony; 
those that mark the inception of a hunting period or the 
return of a voyage ; and then, those final rites which the soul 
or spiritual residue of a man must leave behind before it is 
permitted to break off relations with its earthly associates. 

In particular, Levy-Bruhl directs attention to what he 
designates as the cycle of life and death, a series of cere- 
monially sanctioned periods through which an individual 
is made to pass among different tribes of the Melanesian 
Archipelago. When a child is born, its social worth is next 
to zero; whence it may be readily eliminated, at least 
among some tribes. Only after the ceremonial and 
public imposition of a name does the tribal participa- 
tion of the individual begin. In the course of his life he 
passes through a series of ritualistic periods, each intro- 
ducing him to an ever widening circle of relations, func- 
tions, rights and restrictions. Then he dies. But the 
socio-ceremonial participation continues even after the first 
burial, and only after the second burial has been gone 

'It will be noted that In this point Levy-Bruhl endorses by implication 
the idea of Wundt, whose concept of "mythological apperception" corre- 
sponds strictly to Levy-Bruhl's original unity of these supernatural intui- 
tions, as when the lightning is directly perceived as a snake by the primitive 


through are all bonds between the dead and the living 
broken, and then the break in participation may be only 
temporary, for the departed spirit may be reborn again 
in the body of a child, to start after the first public name 
giving upon its second cycle of socio-ceremonial participa- 

Certain aspects of this cycle of participation illustrate, 
in the author's opinion, the disregard of the logical prin- 
ciple of contradiction, for the individual who is physically 
dead is yet socio-ceremonially alive, until the second burial. 
Thus he is both dead and alive; whereas the child, from 
birth to the ceremonial name giving, is physically alive but 
socio-ceremonially dead; thus it is both alive and dead. 

Interesting comments on Levy-Bruhl's cycle of life and 
death are made by Rivers in his article on "The Primitive 
Conception of Death.'" In the course of his own investi- 
gations in Melanesia, Rivers found ample occasion to verify 
Levy-Bruhl's conception and to emphatically endorse it, 
without however, following all of Levy-Bruhl's conclusions. 
During the early days of his acquaintance with the Melane- 
sians, Rivers learned to associate the term mate with 
"dead" and toa with "alive" or "living." Before long, 
however. Rivers discovered that the connotations he had 
originally ascribed to these terms were not quite exact. 
In illustration he cites an instance recorded by a missionary. 
The latter relates how on one occasion he witnessed what 
he later discovered to be a burial ceremony. In the course 
of the preliminary procession his attention was drawn to 
an old woman who acted with striking vivacity. Pres- 
ently, however, he became aware of the real purport of 
the ceremony and also realized, to his amazement, that 
the woman in question was the one to be buried. She 
was mate, that is dead, for all soclo-ceremonlal purposes, 
and as there Is not much use in such persons, if they are 
not actually dead, they "ought to be," as Rivers puts it. 
Hence, with irreproachable if somewhat ruthless logic, the 

^The Hibbert Journal, January, 1912. 


final rites are performed and the burial takes place, not- 
withstanding the protests and groans of the mate, for not 
all take their fate as cheerfully as the old lady in question. 

So far Rivers is at one with Levy-Bruhl, but he objects 
to the interpretation. No contradiction is involved, he 
claims, for the individual is not really dead and alive at the 
same time. For the natives he is dead, mate. The contra- 
diction appears only if we combine our own attitude with 
that of the natives. But this, of course, we may not do. 
Rivers' own generalization is to the effect that the concept 
of death among these people is radically distinct from our 
own. "I must be content," concludes Rivers, "to have 
indicated the possibility that to the primitive mind death is 
not the unique and catastrophic event it seems to us, but 
merely a condition of passing from one existence to an- 
other, forming but one of a number of transitions, which 
began perhaps before his birth, and stand out as the chief 
memories of his life." 

Now it seems that Rivers is right in his censure of Levy- 
Bruhl's interpretation. Our psychological estimate of prim- 
itive ideas should not be marred by the infusion of our own. 
But Rivers' own generalization seems equally erroneous, 
and in the form which it takes in the above quotation it 
involves a decided misrepresentation of the primitive atti- 
tude toward death. The unnamed child may be for the 
time being mate, dead; the dead man, between the first and 
the second burial, may be toa, alive; but these classifications 
are not applicable to all conditions. The unnamed child, 
for instance, may be maliciously killed, the taking of its 
life falling under the concept of murder; but the ghost of 
the dead man, between the first and the second burial, can 
not be killed. Thus the concept of murder, of the unjusti- 
fiable taking of a life, is adjusted to the physical span of 
existence, in conformity with our own ideas and the objec- 
tive facts of the case. The theoretical inference Is this : 
ideas such as mate and toa — and these are merely samples 
of a multiplicity of primitive notions often differing from 


our own — ^must be appraised as operative within a partic- 
ular cycle of participation, in this case the socio-ceremonial 
cycle. Outside of this there may be other ideas perhaps 
conflicting with these or partly overlapping them, which 
belong to another cycle of participation, as is the case with 
the idea of murder. 

That from a logical standpoint there may be contradic- 
tion between the ideas entertained by the same people or 
individuals is true enough, and this brings us back to Levy- 
Bruhl's position. Are such contradictions and the non- 
objectivity of many of the underlying ideas, distinctive of 
primitive mentality as contrasted with our own, and is prim- 
itive mentality throughout characterized by the presence 
of such ideas? 

Further reflection will show that the answer to both 
questions must be a negative one. Modern mentality is not 
characterized by the exclusive dominance of logic, when con- 
strasted with primitive mentality, nor is the latter through- 
out a-logical. 

What is the place of logical thought in modern society? 
It applies, we are told, in the solution of problems, in sci- 
ence, philosophy, mathematics, and we might add in ap- 
plied science, and finally in that homely but highly useful 
form of thought known as common sense. In the case of 
this latter faculty, however, good psychology is often more 
conspicuous than good logic, in fact, it often is good psy- 
chology because it is poor logic. The conclusion is illogical, 
the reaction irrational, but this is the way people conclude 
and react nevertheless — so common sense with its psycho- 
logical insight tells us. 

Now this is significant, for a little further thought along 
the same line does not fail to disclose the fact — dishearten- 
ing though it may seem to some — that logical thought plays 
but a strictly limited part in the totality of mental processes 
in our own society. And the closer we come to those levels 
of life which are thickly padded with emotion, the less con- 
spicuously does logic figure in the thought process referring 


to such levels. Tradition, family associations, educational 
setting, class consciousness, national sentiment, racial preju- 
dice, religious dogma, the violent shock of personal experi- 
ence, the suggestion of propaganda — whether through 
books, lectures, journals, newspapers or advertisements — 
these are the dominant influences which control our thought 
and reactions in matters economic, social, political, moral, 

But we must go even further. Logic without question is 
the ideal and model of scientific thought. The demonstra- 
tions of the theorems In Euclid are perfect specimens of 
logical coherence and finality, but these demonstrations do 
not represent the thought process by means of which the 
theorems were reached. What they really represent are 
artificially simplified and condensed verifications of such 
thought processes. 

The most logical thinker does not for any length of time 
think in logically connected propositions. The logically 
coherent thought may be the final outcome of his mental 
process but it is not the process.' 

Pre-logical mentality, then, is ndt foreign to modern so- 
ciety. Our minds are also driven by collective thought. 
As to the principle of contradiction, it may represent an 
impregnable stronghold of abstract logic, but not of psy- 
chology. For in the psyche of man contradictory modes of 
thought, of attitude, of behavior, are as common today as 
they were yesterday or the day before. In fact, the very 
concept of contradiction is applicable to these phychic mani- 

'In illustration, a personal experience: a group of men and women, all 
with professional training, were on one occasion gathered about an eminent 
scientist and thinker who contributed the intellectual treat of the occasion 
by discussing the topic "How Do I Think?" The scientist presented at 
some length the scientific principles which guided his thought. When he 
had finished, one of the men present asked this question: "Now, Professor 
X, had an Indian chief given you this answer you would have told him, 
'Well, my dear mian, all this is very nice, but now tell me how you think.' 
We are all familiar with your scientific principles. For years they have 
been our inspiration and despair. What we wanted to hear about are your 
submerged hypotheses, your errors, your unpublished intuitions!" But the 
over-rationalized mind of the professor was unable to produce these. 


festations only when they are rationalized. In actual ex- 
perience, however, they are not rationalized but lived. 

And again, is the mind of early man wholly submerged 
by pre-logical, irrational, collective ideas and attitudes? 
All who have come in contact with him know that this is by 
no means the case. Thus Durkheim speaks of the profane 
periods in the life of the Australian which contrast so strik- 
ingly with the periodical recurrence of sacred frenzy. Now, 
the profane period in primitive Australia as in modern 
society, is the abode of common sense, of reason, of logic. 
Durkheim calls this level in the Australian's experience 
grey and drab. That it is; and so is logic and reason. In 
his multitudinous industrial activities — crude though they 
may be — the Australian shows common sense in abundance. 
Even though he may not count further than five, he can 
put two and two together very effectively. Nor does his 
wisdom extend only to the domain of material things, for 
many are the evidences of his shrewdness in human con- 
tact, and shrewdness is logic applied to psychology. The 
medicine-man's art of curing or inducing disease is not merely 
evidence of black magic but also of black logic, the logic 
which enables a man to hold his own or more in dealing 
with another man, the same black logic which is one of 
the cornerstones of modern business methods. 

Spencer, without question, goes too far when he claims 
that granting the savage his premises, his conclusions are 
the most rational that could be drawn. That they often are 
not, nor are ours, but many of his conclusions are rational, 
and the less chance there is for his magic-suffused psychology 
to intercept the processes of reason, the more likely are they 
to be rational. That is why the semi-automatic and often 
unconscious mental processes involved in industry and eco- 
nomic pursuits, give such frequent evidence of a bedrock of 
reason and common sense below the stream of collectively 
driven irrationality. 

Levy-Bruhl deserves great credit for bringing out with 
startling inclsiveness the importance of the principle of 


participation and of collectively driven thought in primi- 
tive mentality, but when he makes of these the differentia 
of primitive man-psychological, his vision is at fault. There 
is a dose of logic to several of irrationality in the make-up 
of early man ; so there is in that of modern man. The func- 
tions of logic and of pre-logical mentality, their range and , 
the depth of their reach, are not the same in the two in- 
stances. But that is another question. Had Levy-Bruhl 
compared logic and its functions in modern man and in his 
early precursor, as well as collective mentality and its func- 
tions in the same two settings, his conclusions would have 
been different. To this aspect of the problem we may have 
occasion to return once more. 

Freud's Theories^ 

Psychoanalysis had its beginning as a new technique in 
the clinical treatment of certain nervous disorders. It 
arose out of observations made by Freud on patients sub- 
jected to hypnotic treatment and presently was transformed 
by him into a substitute technique in place of hypnotism. 
In the course of a few years of psychoanalytic practice on 
the part of Freud and his disciples, so many new facts of 
psychological import were brought to light that the ideology 
of psychoanalysis soon grew beyond the scope of conven- 
tional psychology, bringing into being what practically 

'In order to follow the argument of this section it is not necessary to 
have been either psychoanalyzed or to possess a technical knowledge of 
psychoanalysis, but a general familiarity with Freud's doctrine is a pre- 
requisite. For this purpose Freud's own "A General Introduction to Psycho- 
analysis" is recommended, which will suffice for an elementary orientation. A 
clear although somewhat thin presentation of the bearing of psychoanalysis 
on the social sciences will be found in two articles by Rank and Sachs on 
"The Significance of Psychoanalysis for the Mental Sciences" in The Psycho- 
analytic Revieiv, 1915. An interesting early attempt to correlate certain 
aspects of primitive ideology with individual psychic phenomena revealed 
by psychoanalysis is Abraham's "Dreams and Myth" (Nervous and Mental 
Diseases Monograph Series, 15, 1913). Freud's theory to which reference is 
made in this study will be found in his book, "Totem and Taboo," but the 
references here are to the original German articles in the Imago, 1912-1913. 
This journal, started in 1912 and edited by Freud, is devoted cxclufirely 
to the application of psychoanalysis to social science. 


amounts to a new psychological system. Nor were the 
psychoanalysts satisfied to deal with the individual alone. 
At first hesitatingly, then with daring strides, psychoanalysis 
was applied to the interpretation of art, religion, philos- 
ophy, ethics, education, criminology and history. Relevant 
literature now numbers hundreds of titles, but for our pur- 
pose it will suffice to deal briefly with Freud's own attempts 
to illumine analytically certain correspondences in the 
psychic life of neurotic patients and of primitive man. 

In dealing with animism and magic, Freud asserts that 
the fundamental basis of all magic lies in the mistaking of 
an ideal connection for a real one, a formulation whicE 
will earn the assent of most students of these phenomena. 
This is how a doll can be made to impersonate a distant 
enemy whose sickness or death may be brought about by 
maltreating the doll. A similar psychology underlies the 
process of so-called fertilizing magic, where various physical 
manipulations are believed to bring about rain. The simi- 
larity between the desired result and the performed act 
evokes, through its ideational reproduction of the former, 
the belief that the result has been attained. The moving 
principle in magic is man's desires which are realized by 
being psychically lived through and objectified.' The dis- 
regard of the limitations of time and space so characteristic 
of magical idiosyncrasy is nothing but a projection into 
objective reality of a similar disregard so characteristic 
of thought. The whole animistic world, the realm of super- 
naturalism, is permeated by the "omnipotence of thought." 
Now Freud insists that a similar substitution of Ideas for 
things is a characteristic symptom of the neuroses. The 
frequently observed "guilty conscience" of the neurotic, for 
example, is rooted in naught else but his criminal thoughts 
which are by him objectified as criminal acts. 

'This projection and objectivation of psychic states as an important 
principle in the interpretation of magic and religion, has also been empha- 
sized by Wundt and by Simrael (cf. his "Die Religion," p. 15). 


Freud draws a parallel between the individual and the 
race, the stages of psychic development in the former and 
the transformation of attitudes in history. The sex life 
of the individual, at first characterized by a self-sufficient 
pre-occupation with the ego, is later centered in the 
parents, to find a final and matter-of-fact realization in the 
acceptance of normal adult sexuality. Similarly, early magic 
and animism are dominated by the omnipotence of thought 
in which man is all-powerful, for whatever he may desire 
he has, by desiring it; later there appears religion in which 
part of man's power is surrendered to supernatural beings; 
and last of all comes science in the name of which man ac- 
cepts as his guiding principle the objectively verifiable reali- 
ties of the world and learns to know his real power by 
accepting its limitations.' 

Returning once more to the idea of the omnipotence of 
thought as manifested in magic, Freud cites the following 
example familiar to most ethnologists. It is often ob- 
served, writes Freud, that when the men of a primitive 
tribe start out for a great hunt or war raid or to gather 
precious plants, thS women at home are subjected to a 
great number of oppressive taboos. The observation of 
these taboos is regarded by the natives as a condition for the 
success of the enterprise. It requires little perspicacity to 
realize, adds the psychoanalyst, that this far-reaching force 
is nothing else but the thoughts of home of those who are 
far away, the homesickness of the distant ones, and that 
there lies hidden behind this ideological masquerade the 
good psychological insight that the men will do their best 
only when feeling quite sure as to the behavior of the women 
at home. 

In dealing with the subject of taboos, Freud once more 
draws attention to the fact that In the case of the taboo as 
well as in those avoidances which are characteristic of the 

'Freud is also at one with Wundt in asserting that art has inherited 
from religion the substitution of mind for matter, for in art the ideal is 
the real, thought is its own objectivation. 


neurotic afflictions, there is the common element of the un- 
explained source of these avoidances as well as the fear 
that some person or persons will suffer from the transgres- 
sion. There is, in addition, the element of the infectious- 
ness of the taboo, the belief that anything that comes in 
touch with the tabooed person or object or action, becomes 
itself taboo; just as In the case of the neurotic there are 
"impossible" things and persons and anything that comes 
in touch with such persons or things becomes itself "im- 
possible." And in both situations there are certain cere- 
monials which can be gone through, such as purification by 
water and the like, by means of which the transgression of 
a taboo can be expiated. 

Freud thus believes that some of the most widespread 
taboos, among which are the taboos on sex, are based on 
ancient and very deep rooted urges of which society is not 
aware, but which persist in the unconscious of Individuals. 
Against these the taboos are directed and the infectiousness 
of the transgressor is based on the unconscious recognition 
that his example is attractive, attractive because he realizes 
the urge, hence he must be avoided. 

Turning, finally, to his main topic, totemism, Freud 
once more emphasizes the analogy between the regard for 
animals characteristic of totemism and a similar attitude 
observable in certain psycho-neuroses. Freud cites the well- 
known case of the five-year-old boy analyzed by himself, 
with his fear of horses. Another instance is that of the boy 
Arpad, analyzed by Ferenczi, who exhibited a mixed atti- 
tude of love and hate or fear, toward fowl. In these two 
as in all similar cases, psychoanalytic treatment reveals the 
presence of an ambivalent attitude toward the father, which 
is transferred to the animal against whom the attitude is 
avowedly directed. 

With enviable courage Freud passes from these instances, 
dealing with the individual, to the group attitude toward the 
totem. If the totem animal, he argues, can be shown to be 
the father in disguise, then the two fundamental taboos of 


totemism — not to kill the totem nor to marry a woman of 
the same totem — receive their common explanation. They 
correspond to the two crimes of Oedipus, who killed his 
father and married his mother, and to the two arch-desires 
of the child, the unsatisfactory repression of which, or the 
revival of which, probably constitute the root of all psycho- 

Then Freud proceeds to give some illustrations of totemic 
sacrifice, a subject which was made popular by the researches 
of Robertson Smith. He refers to the communal partaking 
of the sacred animal and the consequent feeling of guilt 
which finds its expression and resolution in the torture of 
a scapegoat. 

Thus the basis is laid for a new Interpretation of totem- 
ism. It is this: 

In very early times, before there was any definite social 
organization or religion, man lived in so-called Cyclopean 
families in which all the sex rights were monopolized by 
the dominant old male, while the younger men, his sons, 
had to submit to the restrictions imposed by him or be 
killed or expelled. The great dominant male, the father, 
was revered by the others for his power and wisdom, but 
he was also hated on account of his monopolistic preroga- 
tives. One day a great tragedy occurred in such a primitive 
community. The brothers banded together — encouraged 
perhaps, adds Freud, by the appearance of a new weapon — 
and dared to do together what each one had long desired in 
secret. They murdered the father. Then they consumed 
his body in the assurance of thus acquiring his prowess.' 

The patricidal act having been committed, the sons, tor- 
tured by remorse, reverted to a positive attitude toward 
the father. Seized by the desire to be obedient to him — ex 
post facto — they decided to continue the taboo the oppres- 
sive character of which had led to the murder, and to abstain 
from sex contact with the women of the group. The con- 
sciousness of common guilt became the root of the new social 

^Imago, No. ^ 1913, p. 392- 


bond. Thus arose the clan of brothers, protected and rein- 
forced by the taboo on killing a clan-mate, in order that the 
fate of the father might not befall any of the brothers. 
The totem of the clan is nothing but the transfigured remi- 
niscence of the father, and the totemic sacrifice, an occasion 
both for joy and sorrow, is the dramatization of the remote 
tragedy in which the jubilant brothers murdered their 
despot father, and having accomplished the horrible deed, 
conscience-stricken, re-imposed upon themselves the oppres- 
sive taboo in the name of which the murder was committed. 

Freud goes still further. In the central setting of the 
Greek tragedy he discovers another cultural symbolization 
of the gruesome event of earliest antiquity. The hero's 
part is to suffer, for he is but a dramatized memory of the 
murdered father. The sympathetic chorus are the patricidal 
brothers, but in this setting their part In the original 
tragedy is disguised under the cloak of a responsive and 
sympathetic attitude toward the hero, a psychological sub- 
terfuge with which, in the domain of the individual psyche, 
psychoanalytic technique has made us familiar. 

Thus, four great institutions of mankind are ultimately 
reducible to one basic event, a common psycho-sociological 
source. Common guilt lay at the root of the new social 
system, the primitive Society, the clan. Consciousness of 
the guilt expressed itself in a regard for the totem father, 
the earliest Religion. In expiation of the crime there was 
self-imposed the rule of exogamy, the great sex taboo, the 
earliest revelation of Morality. In the domain of Art, 
finally, Greek tragedy re-enacted the ancient deed in an 
expiatory disguise.' 

|To this Freud adds a footnote which is worth reproducing here, as 
typical of the great wizard of the new psychology for the strikingly 
ambivalent mixture of modesty and conceit. Says Freud: Accustomed to 
being misunderstood, I deem it useful to emphasize that the above theoretical 
deductions do not involve an underestimation of the complex nature of the 
phenomena involved. All that is intended is to add another factor to the 
known or as yet to be discovered sources of Religion, Morality and Society, 
a factor deducible from the demands of psychoanalysis. A iinal interpre- 
tative synthesis, I must leave to others. In this case, however, it lies in the 
nature of the neiv contribution that it will needs occupy a central position 


It is Impossible here to furnish a detailed critique of 
Freud's views — that would involve a systematic examina- 
tion of the tenets of psychoanalysis — but we may at least 
indicate the direction in which such a critique would lie. 
Freud's formulation of the principle of the "omnipotence 
of thought" as underlying the magical universe, leaves little -^ 
to be desired. It must be kept in mind, however, that the 
principle applies in modern society as well, as we had occa- 
sion to point out in discussing Levy-Bruhl's position. If 
that is so, the analogy, in this respect, between the primi- 
tive man and the neurotic loses much of its force, except to 
the extent that the abnormal psyche is once more shown to 
be but an extreme and often one-sided variant of the 
normal psyche. The same comment can be made on Freud's 
treatment of taboo. As to the analogy between the three 
stages of sex development in the individual and the magic- 
religion-sclence series in history, the thought has at best 
but a metaphorical significance. Even were one to admit 
the general parallelism of social and individual develop- 
ment — an admission, however, that would have to be flanked 
with such formidable reservations that little semblance of 
parallelism would be left — it is not clear why magic and 
religion and science, as successive historic eras, should be 
likened to stages of sex development rather than to the 
corresponding ideological transformations of the individual. 

But the part of Freud's system which concerns us most 
is his theory of totemism. There are a number of minor 
objections which in themselves negate the feasibility of the 
author's conception. Totemic sacrifice is a phenomenon 
practically unknown to ethnologists. Robertson Smith's 
"instances" were all based on reconstructed material. It is 
thus a highly arbitrary procedure on the part of Freud to 
accept speculative evidence merely because it meets the 
needs of his theoretical structure and in the face of the 

in that synthesis, although great affective resistances will have to be over- 
come, before such a position is acceded to it. 

To this we add an exclamatiQn mark as the only possible comment. 


rejection of such evidence by those familiar with early 

Further: the idea of a primitive Cyclopean family is it- 
self a figment." The nearest approach to it in the domain 
of early life is found In Australia with its sex and other 
prerogatives enjoyed by the old men. Rivers' Melanesian 
gerontocracy is once more a purely speculative conception. 
Moreover, it Is a far cry from such sex prerogatives of the 
elders In a highly organized social system (as in Australia), 
to the monopolistic sex rights of a despot father in a Cy- 
clopean family. 

Again : the eating of the father by the patricidal brothers 
is a notion which doubtless would have met with derision 
in the aboriginal fraternity itself; therefore, it does not 
please the ethnologist. The probable extent of early can- 
nibalism has often been exaggerated. Man has never used 
man as a regular article of diet. There has been some cere- 
monial eating of man, victims of a war raid were occasion- 
ally consumed (as in Polynesia), here and there human 
flesh was used in cases of severe famines. But we do not 
hear of the eating of relatives. To assume a condition 
which Is psychologically Improbable and remains unsup- 
ported by ethnographic data, is to transgress the bounds of 
permissible speculation. 

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that all the objec- 
tions here enumerated are waived or successfully disposed 
of by Freud. There still remains one vital criticism, which 
leaves the theory hanging In the air, as it were, without any 
foundation whatsoever in the known facts of history or 
biology. Suppose the original tragedy, the patricidal act of 
the brothers, had actually taken place, with all the Imme- 
diate psychological consequences assumed by Freud. But 

'The Cyclopean family was introduced into ethnology by Atkinson (see 
his essay on "Tribal Law" in Lang's book "Social Origins"), who claimed 
Darwin as his authority. The latter refers to certain conditions obtaining 
among some of the higher anthropoids, on the basis of which Atkinson 
builds up his theory of the Cyclopean family. But even this idea was 
discredited by later zoologists, 


by what means can these facts be brought into relation with 
those subsequent historic phenomena of society, religion, 
morality and art, the root of all of which Freud posits in 
that ancient enactment of the Oedipus complex in a tragic 
social setting? Freud does not utilize tradition, "social 
inheritance," as the link between the generations. What 
link, then, does he assume? That of a racial unconscious, 
propagated by Inheritance from generation to generation 
and enriched on Its way by the psychological and cultural 
experiences of its temporary human carriers. In this mech- 
anism, which is but a revival of the theory of the Inheritance 
of acquired characters, lies the dynamic principle of the 
racial unconscious, and with it stands or falls most of what 
psychoanalysts have contributed to the interpretation of 
social science.' 

But modern biology turns a deaf ear to th* claims of use 
inheritance. In the light of what the biologist knows and 
does not know, this alleged process is naught but "inheri- 
tance by magic," to use Kroeber's phrase. For all we know 
or can convincingly assume, one generation receives nothing 
from its precursor beyond the general psycho-physical in- 
heritance of the race, plus the accumulated clvillzational 

'Freud himself is by no means unaware of the slippery ground he is 
treading. He writes, in substance: We have assumed throughout that 
there exists a group psyche in which psychic processes take place as they 
do in individuals. In particular, we assumed that the consciousness of 
guilt persists through thousands of years and remains potent in generations 
of men who know nothing of the original criminal deed. We assumed that 
emotional reactions vfhich could have originated in generations of sons 
maltreated by their fathers, persisted through generations in which the father 
was eliminated and with him the source of the irritating tension. Freud 
proceeds to confess that these are serious commitments. He feels, however, 
that they are inevitable. Without the assumption of a group psyche — such 
is his categorical statement — and of the continuity of human emotions which 
make it possible to transcend the interruption of psychic processes through 
the passing away of individuals, there can be no folk psychology. If the 
psychic processes of one generation are not communicated to the next, if 
each generation must develop its own psychic adjustment to life, then there 
can be in this domain no progress nor development. This is the crux of 
the matter! Is there development, is there progress in the psychic life of 
individuals beyond that progress which is a reflection of cultural cumulation 
and advance? Perhaps most readers of these pages will agree this is more 
than doubtful. 


possessions acquired through education and the other chan- 
nels of cultural transfer. 

The assumption of a psychic continuity between the gen- 
erations is but an alluring fantasy and the willingness to 
accept it as true, in the face of contradictory historic and 
biologic evidence, may well be regarded as a curious ex- 
ample of that omnipotence of thought which Freud regards 
as characteristic of the psychic life of primitive man and of 
the neurotic. 


At this stage it will be well to turn once again to the sub- 
ject of primitive mentality and attempt to weave into a 
whole the various strands of argument dispersed throughout 
this booic. 

In the course of our examination of early civilization, a 
number of attempts to explain its peculiarities were analyzed 
and rejected. Explanation through racial differences was 
one. The races may prove to be similar or equivalent in all 
fundamentals — an eventuality from which we need not 
shrink — but even were this not so, we know enough about 
racial characters to feel certain that the possible differ- 
ences would not be such as to account either for the contrast 
between modern and primitive civilization or for the great 
variety of cultural types found within early civilization itself. 
Another factor often suggested as a determinant of cultural 
differences was shown to be physical environment. But 
on further examination this also had to be rejected. Not 
that it does not count, nor that adjustment to environmental 
conditions is of no significance in early civilization. Again 
and again we had occasion to see that the very reverse is 
true. But physical environment is powerless to account for 
those civilizational peculiarities which strike our eye and 
our sense of values when we compare one civilization with 
another. This holds whether the terms of comparison are 
between the modern and the primitive or are restricted 
to either one of these two levels. Nor are general psycho- 
logical and sociological interpretations wholly adequate as 
a solution of our problem. General psychological, socio- 
logical and historical conditions account for man and cul- 
ture everywhere insofar as the common elements are con- 
cerned, but they break down when the differentiations are 
the things one Is Interested in. 



The very fact that civilization is found everywhere im- 
plies a general psychological similarity of mankind and a 
high comparability of the sociological and historical deter- 
minants of culture. Moreover, everywhere the major sub- 
divisions of civilization are the same. There is religion, 
social and political organization, economic pursuits and in- 
dustries and art; there is ceremonialism, and leadership and 
warfare ; there is barter and a tendency toward inheritance 
of privileges and commodities. Nay, we can go even fur- 
ther. In each of these manifold aspects of civilization there 
are other subdivisions which also fall Into the category of 
the common-human. In the economic pursuits and indus- 
tries, there are habitations, means of communication and 
clothing; there are tools to work with and others to fight 
and hunt with; there are things to He or sit upon, others, 
to carry substances or liquids in, still others, to cook things 
in. Similarly in religion, in addition to its basic aspects in 
the form of emotional experiences, ceremonialism and 
dogma, there are further common elements, such as prayer 
and the belief in the other world, which are wellnigh uni- 
versal; spiritual agents, inmates of the supernatural world; 
projection of human social conditions Into the supernatural 
realm, and religious symbolism. In all of these respects 
the modern and the primitive meet on a level of common 

Even beyond the limits of individual civilizations, there 
are conspicuous similarities between the modern and the 
primitive. Intertribal relations, however irregular, and with 
them the Infusion of foreign customs. Ideas and inventions 
are present everywhere, and the effects of these processes, 
while differing in many ways in modern and primitive condi- 
tions, again display not unimportant similarities. The for- 
eign, for example, elicits an attitude which with Freud we 
may call ambivalent : as foreign, it arouses suspicion, resent- 
ment, ridicule; as foreign also, it is attractive, valuable, 
stimulating, worthy of emulation. Here once more we can 
understand our early brother very well. So far, then, all we 


have is common humanity. In this level general psycho- 
logical, sociological and historical factors are sufficient as 

But we have also become familiar with another set of 
cultural traits. Within the realm of the primitive, five dif- 
ferent civilizations were passed in review. Later, in the 
course of a less detailed and no longer historical but com- 
parative treatment, other varieties of early civilization have 
come to view, varieties touching upon all aspects of life, 
thought and activity. In the course of ethnological study, 
attempts have often been made to interpret these differences 
within early civilization by means of racial or sub-racial 
traits, environmental peculiarities or discrepant psycho- 
logical tendencies. But it must have become clear in the 
course of our discussion that the differentia of individual civi- 
lizations cannot be accounted for in terms of any of these 
alleged determinants. The explanation of individuality 
must be sought not in biological type, nor in physical envi- 
ronment, nor again in psychological traits or general histor- 
ical or sociological conditions, but in the specific historic 
fates of each local culture in its particular geographical and 
historical setting. The explanation here is identical with 
historic reconstruction, and to the extent to which this is 
faulty or incomplete, our knowledge and understanding of 
the particular civilizational differences involved will be the 

In this chapter we will not be concerned with either com- 
mon human traits or the peculiarities of local civihzations. 
Our task is to throw light on primitive civilization and men- 
tality as they stand before us when compared and contrasted 
with the mind and culture of modern man. 

What then, In summary, are the characteristics of early 

The number of individuals leading a common cultural 
life in a local group or a few local groups is small. It may 
be counted by tens or by hundreds, but that is the limit. 
Even In Africa, where populational conditions are so dif- 


ferent from other primitive areas and in many ways similar 
to those of modern life, the closely knit group of common 
cultural life is small. 

Correlated with this numerical limitation of the early 
group is its relative local isolation. Not that there is com- 
plete cutting off of contact with other groups of differing 
civllizational cast. No, that condition is scarcely ever re- 
alized in human communities; generally speaking, inter- 
tribal contact is a constant civilizational phenomenon. Nev- 
ertheless, such contact In early conditions is relatively infre- 
quent, irregular and non-productive of civilizational change.^ 

This latter factor is based not merely on the infrequency 
and irregularity of intercourse, but also on the lack of plas- 
ticity in primitive civilization when compared with its mod- 
ern counterpart. The mores and patterns of a primitive 
group are set in rigid frames. Primitive civilization Is stiff- 
jointed, and the number and kind of movements and adjust- 
ments it can make at short notice are strictly limited. 

In all prehistoric communities, those, that Is, without 
written records, the continuity of cultural life from gener- 
ation to generation is carried by two vehicles : on the one 
hand, by the objective continuity of material culture, on 
the other, by tradition, the knowledge of facts and events 
as carried In the minds of individuals and communicated 
by the spoken word from fathers to sons.^ 

The historic depth of such tradition Is slight. It is com- 
municated by fathers and grandfathers and it reaches back to 
their fathers and grandfathers; but beyond this span of some 
three or four generations, tradition does not extend with any 

'A sufficient vindication of this statement will be found in the marked 
individuality of local cultures in early society. 

'The importance of the spoken word as a carrier of tradition in early 
communities deserves emphasis here. For the modern man, accustomed as 
he is to the highly complicated channels through which civilization per- 
petuates itself, it is wellnigh impossible to visualize the conditions of these 
prehistoric communities, in which the persistence of the material objects of 
culture was supplemented by tradition alone. The spoken word, language, 
here becomes the sole living vehicle of cultural perpetuation. The past 
comes to the present in the form of things and words, the rest vanishes. The 
student of early inventions, institutions and ideas, often stands perplexed 
and helpless before this self-obliteration of early civilization. 


degree of accuracy. After this, moreover, the historic in- 
terest or inquisitiveness of an early group breaks down. 
The world of fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers 
is a world of the concrete and the significant. Then comes 
the alcheringa, the mythological period, good to play with 
and to dream about, but of little consequence for the real- 
ities of life. 

The knowledge of facts and events, historically so shal- 
low, is also closely limited geographically. The width of 
the cultural span is no less restricted than its depth. The 
group is thoroughly conversant with the human, animal and 
material factors of its immediate environment. Outside 
of this, a very fragmentary and unreliable set of data is 
available referring to the peoples and regions with which 
some sort of contact is maintained. But there the world 
of humanity ceases. Beyond is the void, the realm of im- 
agination, with its grotesque creatures and fantastic hap- 

In a society where personal observation and the absorp- 
tion of tradition are the only sources of knowledge and wis- 
dom, age is a tremendous advantage. A man who has 
passed through the different age periods, and with due cere- 
monial initiation, has joined one by one all or most of the 
sacred societies of the group; who has been a bachelor, a 
married man, a father and father-in-law, a warrior and a 
leader in the chase ; who as an elder has taken part in the 
deliberations over war, peace or internecine strife ; who has 
composed songs and told and retold stories ; who has expe- 
rienced the tragic emergencies of primitive life, such as 
famine, pestilence, flood and drought; and above all, one 
who has had the time and the opportunity to talk with his 
own elders and pick up from their lips whatever knowledge 
and experience in fact and lore they themselves possessed — 
such a man comes to be an impersonation of the culture 
itself, an encyclopedia of knowledge, a record of events, a 
Jack-of-all-trades, a Who's Who and a Blue Book, all in 


one. Him one reveres and admires, to him one turns for 
advice in doubt, in perplexity and in danger. Thus, every- 
where in early society, the elders are in the saddle. It is 
the fathers' generation that rules, and the fathers' genera- 
tion, here as always, is the bulwark of law and order, of 
established routine, of a cautious avoidance of the new, of 
a sagacious management and exploitation of the young. 

This conservative trend is reinforced by other factors 
While no primitive group reveals complete identity of 
knowledge, attitude and occupation throughout all its mem- 
bers, while there is division of labor, specialization of in- 
formation and of skill along the lines of sex, age, locality, 
the primitive group is in the main strikingly homogeneous 
from a cultural standpoint. A great number of individuals 
within the group know and feel and do or can do the same 
things ; and not a few activities and experiences are partici- 
pated in by nearly all of the conscious individuals of the 
group. Under such conditions the control of public opinion, 
of customary routine, is wellnigh absolute. The individual 
is but a miniature reproduction of the group culture and 
the latter but the magnified version of the knowledge, be- 
havior and attitudes of the individual. Any conspicuous 
digression on the part of the individual from the set norm 
of thought and action, is resented and repressed, not merely 
as a breach of custom, but as a flagrant violation of the very 
essence of the group culture, as an unnatural act, for which 
as a rule the punishment Is administered by Nature herself 
in the form of that automatic chastisement, Marett's nega- 
tive magic, which threatens any one who dares to transgress 
a taboo. 

But this does not exhaust the factors that stand for con- 

Contrary to what is found under modern conditions, a 
primitive group lives In close communion with nature. We 
have learned either to control environment or to protect 
ourselves against the immediate consequences of deficient 
control, thus cherishing with relative impunity, the illusion 


of an actual domination of natural forces by the artificial 
powers and rhythms of society. If heat or rain belie the 
prognostications of the weather man, nature is down for 
bad behavior; and if the sun refuses to conform with the 
regulation of Daylight Saving, the sun Is In the wrong. How 
different in early conditions I Here every breath of com- 
munal life, in Its matter-of-fact aspect and In Its superna- 
turallsm and ceremonialism as well, is dominated by natural 
rhythms and adjustments. Such adjustment to the physical 
environment constitutes a genuine and vital problem In every 
primitive group, and no stability is reached until it is 
achieved. After this there Is little incentive for change 
in the economic and industrial life. An equilibrium with 
nature is reached which Is felt to be satisfactory. There is, 
moreover, no conscious Idea of progress. Owing to the lack 
of familiarity with other civilizations, comparative cultural 
material is slight. Thus, the economic adjustment Is taicen 
almost as a fact of nature. Many an accidental invention by 
a member of the group or an importation of a useful sug- 
gestion from a neighboring tribe, may be rejected In favor 
of the accustomed routine. However strenuous or really 
deficient, the solution of the economic problem is accepted 
as final.' 

Such, then, are the general conditions of primitive life. 
Under these conditions, economic pursuits and industry, 
religion, social structure and art, produce certain inevitable 
and drastic effects which account for the most conspicuous 
characteristics of primitive mentality. 

In the course of economic and industrial life, much know- 
ledge is accumulated, knowledge of the forms, habits and 
behavior of animals, of the properties of plants, of some of 
the more apparent and regular functions of the celestial bod- 
ies and of the powers of Nature, of heat and cold, drought 
and flood. This is often supplemented by a detailed know- 

'For an interesting presentation of these economic adjustments to environ- 
ment and their ensuing effects, see Wissler's brief but thoughtful article on 
"The Maize Culture Complex," American Journal of Sociology, 1916. 


ledge of materials, of their utilizability for industrial pro- 
cesses, and of the processes themselves with reference to 
ease or difficulty, brevity or extension in time, efficacy and 
technique. In this connection motor habits develop, which 
represent nothing but knowledge and technical experience 
rendered mechanical through habituation. Only less ex- 
tended stores of data gradually accumulate about the psy- 
chological tendencies and the behavior of human individuals. 

Now, at first sight there is in this field overwhelming evi- 
dence not only of knowledge, but of observation, inference, 
generalization, logic, common sense, invention. The latter, 
in fact, must be assumed to have often been conscious and 
deliberate. Not that there were professional inventors — 
for of this there is no evidence — but that at certain stages 
in the course of the invention there was deliberate effort 
toward the solution of a mechanical problem.^ 

But aside from this it will be observed that the psycho- 
physical processes involved are direct, pragmatic, teleo- 
logical. There is in this domain some of the implied reason 
that is characteristic of animal adjustments, which also bear 
apparent evidence of intellectual acumen, the sort of adjust- 
ments so often noted in the industrial life of the bee, the 
ant, the spider, the beaver. The logic observed in early tools 
and weapons, traps and snares, pots, houses and boats, is the 
logic of nature itself, the logic of the objective relations of 
things, which through the medium of action, molds the 
mind so inevitably and smoothly as to be almost wholly un- 
conscious. And if consciousness and ratiocination arise in 
the course of the industrial activity, they are presently sub- 
merged, the objective results alone being passed on to the 
following generation. As the aim in all of these pursuits 
is not to know but to do, not to understand but to achieve, 
the realm of matter-of-fact becomes a happy hunting ground 
for the pragmatist, not an abode for the pursuer of the "idle 
curiosity." There is satisfaction when the thing works 
and, barring accidents, no further changes are made. 

'For an analysis of invention see pp. 157 seq. 


Henceforth, the mind accepts these condensed depositories 
of reason traditionally. They become part of the technical 
equipment of behavior, not of thought and understanding. 

This explains, at least in part, why the matter-of-fact ex- 
perience of early life fails to bring its full intellectual har- 
vest. The observation, knowledge, Invention, potential 
science of this realm, remain psychologically dormant, in 
solution, as it were, in the psycho-physical flow of behavior ; 
until centuries later, under other conditions of life and in- 
quiry, these precious fragments of the semi-unconscious 
mind become precipitated as clear-edged crystals of science 
and critical thought. 

But this domain of early life has also other aspects. 

It must now be noted that in industry as a technical pur- 
suit and in other matter-of-fact activities, the individual is 
always alone with some aspect of physical nature. That is 
so even though he may be formally associated in his ac- 
tivities with other individuals of the group. In hunting 
and building, in agriculture and the manufacture of pots, 
there may be and frequently is, association, group labor, 
not uncommonly accompanied by one of those rhythms of 
communal work of which Buecher wrote so eloquently, and 
which, operating through psychological channels, greatly 
further the effectiveness and enjoyment of labor. But tech- 
nically speaking, the individual remains alone with his task. 
Whether it is a pot, basket or blanket that is being manu- 
factured, or the soil that is being tilled, or an animal that 
is being hunted or fought — in all of these matter-of-fact 
situations man faces an individual, technical task. In In- 
dustry he must overcome the resistance of the material, 
master the mechanical processes involved; in war and the 
chase he must become expert In the great variety of move- 
ments and tricks by means of which the prey or the enemy 
are to be sought, captured or killed.^ 

'It deserves emphasis, in this connection, that it is this individual relation- 
ship to the physical situation which furthers the rational adjustment of 
which we have spoken. 


To this there is an important corollary, both on the social 
and on the individual side. In all of these directions there 
is room for the development and exhibition of skill. In 
industry and the chase, in a seafaring expedition and a war 
raid, things can be done well and less well. Now, it must 
be remembered that in primitive conditions a great many 
individuals do and know the same things. Thus there is 
opportunity for a comparison of individual efforts, there is 
rivalry, in the face of the condemnation or approbation on 
the part of the group. The latter here functions as a com- 
munity of experts, thus providing a setting in which the 
individual is spurred on to the utmost of his skill and ability. 
To make or do something in the presence of another or 
others who can pass competent judgment, is ever a powerful 
stimulant toward achievement. Therein we find one source 
of the conspicuous fact that in primitive industries things are 
so often well made. Among primitive tribes, including the 
lowest, many objects, appliances, tools, are fashioned with 
great skill, and in a way to fulfill their purpose most effec- 
tively, subject of course to certain limitations inherent 
in the complete theoretical naivete of their makers.^ 

Paradoxical though it may seem, there is in this realm 
also room for individualism. Once more, man and animal 
present an analogy. The animal, with its biological tradi- 
tion, common to all members of a species, is driven by blind 
instinct, but acts individually in accordance with the hetero- 
geneous requirements of special situations. It is similar 
with early man: in his economic and industrial activities 

^There is a great contrast here between primitive and modern handi- 
work. Apart from the articles made by highly skilled craftsmen, whose 
work is of course in many respects superior to the corresponding products 
of early man, many things in modern life are made or done very badly. 
One of the reasons for this lies in the fact that the individuals who make or 
do the things are surrounded by others who have no knowledge of the 
techniques involved. As a good illustration may serve the things made in 
the home, in the line of sewing, carpentry or even cooking, things which so 
often look "home made." And the most conspicuous example are the 
achievements of our domestic servants, who not knowing how to do the 
things that they are to do, also lack the stimulation they might derive 
from the competency of their masters. Thus, inefficient servants become 
efficient in the presence of a good housekeeper, while proving wholly impos- 
sible in association with a bad one. 


as well as in the matter-of-fact aspects of social life, while 
operating within the rigid frame of traditional norm and 
routine, he also performs individually. The very fact of the 
absence of writing and of measurement makes the exact re- 
production of events and of things impracticable. The 
exact reproduction of records which writing and printing 
make possible under modern conditions, and the exact repro- 
duction of objects which results from tools themselves ac- 
curately made and from the application of measurement, are 
quite foreign to primitive life, and the ensuing variety of 
records, processes and things, has often been observed. 
Thus, civilization is forced to reproduce itself within very 
strict traditional bounds, to be sure, but with infinite minor 
fluctuations emanating from individuals.^ This is so in indus- 
trial life as well as in hunting, fighting, dancing, singing, 
story-telling and the like. In all of these pursuits a wide 
range must be left for individual variation, skill and ability. 
After all, then, the individual, while serving as a perpetu- 
ator of culture, also expresses himself and derives therefrom 
a sense of personal achievement. 

Turning once more to the matter-of-fact activities as so 
many opportunities for the exhibition of skill, one observes 
that skill and rivalry lead to vanity. With justice has the 
peacock theory of early man been emphasized, from Herbert 
Spencer to Robert H. Lowie. Primitive man is intensely 
vain. He delights in excelling in those pursuits which lie 
nearest to the hearts of his companions and to his own. 
Social approbation and prestige are his dearest rewards. 
And in proportion to his achievement or, at times, out of 
proportion to it, is his vanity. It so happens that men vary 
in their innate potentialities of skill and prowess. Thus 
similarity of opportunity and training does not lead to uni- 
formity of results. Some will make and do things better 

'The impression is not intended that this technical condition for inac- 
curate reproduction constitutes the main or only reason for individual 
variation. It is only one reason, The others ar? explained in the para- 
graphs that follow, 


than others, while the mark set by a few will for long re- 
main unexcelled. All this furthers efEort, rivalry, skill and 

This phenomenon is not foreign to modern civilization 
wherever somewhat similar conditions obtain. Thus the 
hunter and the fisherman, the craftsman and the actor, the 
athlete and the soldier, varied though their pursuits may be, 
are at one in their rivalries, their pointed exhibitions of skill, 
their vanities and their bragging. And even in the domain 
of thought, the sensitiveness and vanity of the platform lec- 
turer contrast strangely with the austerity and detachment of 
the closet philosopher. 

Further evidence, powerful if indirect, of individual- 
ism in early industry, may be seen in the emergence of art 
from it; for important aspects of primitive art have not 
merely been applied to objects of industry, but were born 
within it. Technical skill, after It reaches a certain perfec- 
tion, leads to virtuosity, to the enjoyment of delicate 
minutiae, to play with technical processes. Thus the creative 
Imagination is stimulated. 

Now we must return to the main thesis of this section, 
namely, the remarkably slight extent to which the great 
achievements of primitive industry are translated into terms 
of rational thought. We have In part accounted for this 
result, but there are further contributory causes. 

There exists in primitive society a system of attitudes and 
ideas about the world of nature and the things and beings 
in It, which is felt to be highly satisfactory and the presence 
of which obviates for a long time the necessity of any further 
analyses and interpretations. This is the system of super- 
naturalism. It Is not the emotional side of it, such as the 
religious thrill and Its corollaries, that is involved here, nor 
again, the behavior side which takes the form of ceremonial- 
Ism. The aspect of supernaturalism with which we are for 
the present concerned Is its dogmatic or Intellectual side, 
the system of ideas or concepts comprised in it. Now we 
must recall that supernaturalism as a system of ideas is in 


itself perfectly reasonable. When the limitation of know- 

tedge and the theoretical naivete of aboriginal man are 
aken into consideration, the unconscious conclusions or hy- 
potheses reached by him with reference to the world of 
things and beings are wellnigh Inevitable. It is quite safe 
here to endorse the very considerable body of relevant facts 
marshalled by Spencer and Tylor. The idea of spirit, of 
power, the transformation of substances and beings into 
each other, are natural conclusions to be drawn from certain 
experiences by an unlnstructed mind. That this is so is 
amply attested by a similar tendency even today, often ob- 
served In those whose mental processes are not firmly but- 
tressed by theoretical safeguards. 

In the second place, we must Insist that these ideas are 
not reached by a deliberate act of reason. They are not con- 
clusions resulting from a conscious and rational attempt 
to answer questions or solve problems. Instead, they are 
direct and intuitive. Here we must endorse the opinion 
of Levy-Bruhl and Wundt, who represent this position as 
against the cruder rationalistic assoclationism of Spencer, 
Tylor and Frazer. The intuitive adjustment which expe- 
rience elicits here may be envisaged as an instantaneous 
solution. A puzzling psychological maladjustment, an Idea- 
tional friction with facts, calls forth a direct and automatic 
response, and the adjustment Is made. To Investigate under 
the circumstances rather than to accept such an instantaneous 
solution, is a highly Indirect procedure, impossible until 
much later in the advance of civilization. And finally, we 
accept the formulation best expressed by Freud, of the 
"omnipotence of thought," Involving the ascription of ob- 
jective reality to mental states and relations. 

The basic differentia of supernaturallsm thus appear to 
be the following : erroneous but superficially plausible asso- 
ciations and analogies are accepted as objectively true, lead- 
ing to a world of spirits, powers, magical transformations; 
human desires and wants are projected into this supernatural 


world as properties and functions of supernatural beings; 
and the human shape as well as human psychology and 
social relations, are projected into the realm of animals, 
natural forces and celestial bodies. 

On this skeletal framework the systematizing thought 
of the priest weaves its elaborate and multi-colored fabric, 
Rapturously the story-teller plays with it; and in it human 
imagination, unchecked by criticism and objective reference, 
reaches marvelous heights of complexity and virtuosity. 
Myth making is a self fertilizing pursuit. It becomes an 
end in itself. Wundt is emphatically right in dwelling 
at length on the wondrous faculties of the myth building 
imagination. It is with singular propriety that he chose to 
introduce his treatise on "Religion and Myth" by a volume 
on the history of the human imagination. 

Once these ideas are established, once this world view 
has been formed — and they are found everywhere where 
man is — why should they not persist? Under primitive 
conditions of life and knowledge there is no reason for re- 
jecting any of the conclusions, theories or constructs of the 
myth building fancy. They are neither unreasonable nor 
unaesthetic nor uninteresting. On the contrary: the phan- 
tasmagoria of supernaturalism is aesthetically attractive, 
it has beauty of thought and of form and of movement, it 
abounds in delightful samples of logical coherence and it 
is full of fascination for the creator, the systematizer and 
the beholder. 

Granted, the tenets of supernaturalism are not true — 
but what is truth? Shielded by the warm intimacy of 
psychological reality, supernaturalism may well dispense 
with the truth of objective verification. 

In supernaturalism as in science, experience and imagina- 
tion are wedded together. In supernaturalism imagination 
works upon experience accepted in faith and naivete; in 
science, the experience utilized by imagination is critcally 
sifted with reference to its objective verifiability. The way 
toward a world view adopted by supernaturalism is the 


easier way, it follows the spontaneous tendencies of the 
mind, it operates with experience accepted without question, 
with smoothly working associations, with projections and ob- 
jectivations of mental states, with the play of fancy, with 
the constructs of an unencumbered imagination. The way 
toward a scientific world view, on the contrary, is devious 
and hard to tread. The spontaneous tendencies of the mind 
which here also are in operation, must now be constantly 
controlled to satisfy the demands of criticism, of merciless 
logic, of objective reference. For the fulfillment of these 
conditions primitive life lacks the necessary elements. More- 
over, no attempts are made in this direction. For the time 
being, the riddles of the universe are solved without residue 
by supernaturallsm. 

But supernaturallsm cannot altogether escape occasional 
conflicts with objective reality. From these it invariably 
emerges victorious, for It refers its failures to the same 
mechanism through which it achieves its successes. If 
magic fails, it is magic that is held responsible for the 

In the presence of this ideological adjustment to the 
world, an adjustment so effective and so stimulating, what 
chance was there for the timid admonitions toward reason 
and objectivity emanating from the realm of the matter-of- 
fact, to take firm root In the minds of men? Successful in 
the level of Industry and certain other forms of behavior, 
reason capitulated In the domain of thought before the more 
direct, more brilliant and more sweeping conquests of super- 

The ideational contributions of social organization and 
of art still remain to be examined. 

It has often been noted as characteristic of primitive 

'Here once more there is an analogy between the devices adopted for its 
self-preservation by supernaturalism and those used for the same purpose 
by Freudian psychoanalysis. When the reluctance to accept the tenets of 
psychoanalysis is ascribed by Freud to the mechanisms of repression and 
resistance, he applies psychoanalysis to explain — and explain away — ^the 
objections to it. Thus is the new psychology rendered unassailable. 


thought that associations are formed between aspects of 
civilization which among ourselves are either wholly dis- 
parate or only loosely connected. Professor Boas, in par- 
ticular, is wont to draw the attention of his students to this 
aspect of the subject. Such, for example, are the associa- 
tions between art and religion, between supernaturalism 
and social organization, between proprietary and other priv- 
ileges and definite social units. And there are many others 
of which Levy-Bruhl has treated at length in his book. It 
is, moreover, characteristic of these associations that they 
rest against a strong or even violent emotional backgroimd. 

The conditions of early social organization seem adequate 
to provide at least one far reaching explanation of the 
existence and emotional vigor of such associations. 

It was shown before how great is the variety of principles 
on the basis of which social units are formed in primitive 
society. Blood relationship, actual and assumed, locality, 
age, sex, generation and occupation, all provide their share. 
One conspicuous way in which these social forms are re- 
flected in another aspect of civilization was revealed in our 
analysis of supernaturalism. The social forms and func- 
tions of this world of humanity ever tend to be transferred 
to the inhabitants and conditions of the other world. But 
the social units exercise another more significant influence 
on the entire ideational cast of early civihzation. Whether 
the social units are clans or villages, families or societies, 
they become points of attachment for features belonging to 
different aspects of civilization. At different times in our 
discussion of social organization, religion and art, we have 
noted how religious, artistic, economic, mythological, medi- 
cinal, features attach themselves to social units and are car- 
ried by them in the form of fxmctions. Thus a level is pro- 
vided for the formation of associations between the social 
organization and these other cultural features as well as 
between the latter themselves. We know with what tenacity 
the primitive mind clings to associations once formed, and 
with Levy-BruU, we have seen how such associations are 


solidified into cycles of participation, within which iron-cast 
rapports come to obtain between things, beings and acts. 

The emotional background against which participations 
rest is further deepened by ceremonialism. On ceremonial 
occasions, when one or another kind of social group func- 
tions as a unit, the cultural associations of these units reach 
the acme of cohesion and interpenetration. In this crucible 
of psychic incandescence the cultural conglomerate carried 
by the social units is cast into a solid mass which thence- 
forth proves wellnigh indisruptible. Such ceremonial di- 
versions, moreover, recur periodically. Thus there is no 
cooling of the ever glowing mass, no flagging of the emo- 
tions, no sinking of the cultural associations to the more 
precarious level of purely ideational connections. While 
brushing aside the exaggerations of Durkheim's great book, 
due credit must be given him for the emphatic recognition 
of the tremendous importance of ceremonialism. 

A word, finally, is due to the similar function of art. It is^ 
the art object as a symbol, not as decoration, that counts in 
this connection. A symbol, from one angle, implies a refusal 
to reject or treat lightly a mental association once formed. 
This, as was shown, is typical of a civilization where the 
"omnipotence of thought" holds sway. Now, art objects, 
by their concreteness, suggestiveness and emotional appeal, 
lend themselves beautifully to the function of association 
carriers. Moreover, such objects can be produced or re- 
moved at will, they can be hidden away, and the very care 
and veneration with which they are handled enhances the 
sanctity of the associations that cling to them. And once 
more, on ceremonial occasions, when the symbolic insignia 
are produced, they become the radiation points of cultural 
suggestions. Thus, the art object as a symbol gives 
direction and lends new force to the emotional and 
ideational associations involved, while furnishing a power- 
ful lever to the crowd-psychological atmosphere typical of 
such gatherings. 

This brings the all too brief analysis to a close. 


Introduction: Man and Civilization 

A discussion of racial difierences, physical and psychic, 
and of the part played by heredity and environment in the 
determination of physical types, will be found in Franz Boas' 
"Mind of Primitive Man" (The Macmillan Co.), Chapters 
I, II, and III. Those who may be interested in the nature 
and difficulties of the anatomical and statistical work in- 
volved, are referred to R. B. Bean's "A Racial Peculiarity 
in the Brain of the Negro" {American Journal of Anatomy, 
Vol. IV, 1905). This should be supplemented by Fr. P. 
Mall's "Several Anatomical Characters of the Human 
Brain, etc." {ibid, Vol. IX) and by Carl Pearson's "The 
Relationship of Intelligence to Size and Shape of Head to 
Other Physical and Mental Characters" {Biometrika, Vol. 
V) . The general nature of civilization is discussed by Boas 
in Chapters IV, V and VI of the same book ; also by R. H. 
Lowie in the first four chapters of his "Culture and Eth- 
nology" (Douglas C. McMurtrie and Boni and Liveright). 
A good idea of what is meant by culture, especially among 
anthropologists, can also be secured from R. R. Marett's 
"Anthropology" (Home University Library), and his 
"Psychology and Folk-Lore" (The Macmillan Co.), espe- 
cially chapters I, IV, V, and VI. What culture stands for 
in modern society is stated with great lucidity and force in 
James Harvey Robinson's "The Mind in the Making" 
(Harper and Bros.). 

The principles of classical evolutionism are best studied 
in a niamber of concrete works. Herbert Spencer's "Princi- 
ples of Sociology" stands iznique for closeness of argumen- 
tation and a whoUy uncritical as well as sweeping utilization 

'This guide is not meant to be either exhaustive or systematic. It com- 
prises a limited number of references, with comments, to competent TTOlks 
covering the subjects discussed in the chapters of this book. 



of the comparative method. F. B. Jevons' "Introduction 
to the History of Religions" is notable for its persistent at- 
tempt to trace many lines of religious development down 
to one ultimate source; while Lewis H. Morgan's "Ancient 
Society" is recommended on account of its historical role, as 
well as for the roots contained in it of the doctrine of eco- 
nomic interpretation of history. Among more recent socio- 
logical works, Franklin H. Giddings' "The Principles of 
Sociology" (The Macmillan Co.) may be read in this con- 
nection. For a critical estimate of the evolutionary posi- 
tion see Chapter VII of Boas' book, Chapter IV of Lowie's 
book, as well as his "Primitive Society" (Boni and Live- 
right), especially Chapters I and XV. 

Part I 

Early Civilizations Illustrated 

Chapters I, II and III : The Eskimo, The Tllngit and Haida 
and The Iroquois. 

, As a general background of American ethnology, L. Far- 
rand's "Basis of American History" (Harper and Bros.) 
is the best elementary treatise. A work of a much higher 
order, having the additional merit of embracing both North 
and South America, is Clark Wissler's "The American 
Indian" (Douglas C. McMurtrie). Wissler's book is in 
no sense elementary. The treatment in many sections is too 
condensed and therefore dry; however, it is the first work 
of such scope by a professional anthropologist and, as such, 
of great value. 

The best general treatise on the Eskimo is Boas' "The 
Central Eskimo" (6th Report, Bureau of Ethnology). The 
same author's "The Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson 
Bay" (Bulletin XV of the American Museum of Natural 
History) Is equally valuable. See also J. Murdoch's "Eth- 
nological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition" (9th 
Report, Bureau of Ethnology), E. W. Nelson's "The Es- 
kimo About Bering Strait" (i8th Report, Bureau of Eth- 


nology, Part I), V. Stefansson's "My Life with the Es- 
kimo" (The Macmillan Co.) and Rink's "Eskimo Tales." 

The best works on the Tlingit and Haida are John R. 
Swanton's "Contributions to the Ethnology of the Haida" 
(Publications of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Vol. 
V, Part I) and "Social Conditions, Beliefs and Linguistic 
Relationships of the Tlingit Indians" (26th Report, Bureau 
of Ethnology). A very interesting discussion of Northwest 
Coast art is Boas' "The Decorative Art of the Indians of 
the North Pacific Coast" (Bulletin IX of the American 
Museum of Natural History). A detailed description of 
the technique and artistic features of the Chllkat blanket 
will be found in G. T. Emmons' "The Chllkat Blanket" 
(Memoir III of the American Museum of Natural His- 
tory, Part IV). 

The best general treatise on the Iroquois still remains 
Lewis H. Morgan's "The League of the Iroquois" (edited 
and annotated by Herbert M. Lloyd; Dodd, Mead and 
Co.) Horatio Hale's "The Iroquois Book of Rites" Is some- 
what too technical for the lay reader, but contains a very 
interesting account of the political ceremonialism of these 
tribes. A brief description of Iroquois societies Is given in 
A. C. Parker's "Secret Medicine Societies of the Seneca" 
{American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. II). The 
mythology of the Iroquois is discussed in the following pub- 
lications by J. N. B. Hewitt: "Iroquolan Cosmology" 
(21st Report, Bureau of Ethnology), "The Iroquois Con- 
cept of the Soul" {Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol. 
VIII), "Orenda and a Definition of Religion" {American 
Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. IV) and Jeremiah Cur- 
tin's and J. N. B. Hewitt's "Seneca Fiction, Legends and 
Myths" (32nd Report, Bureau of Ethnology). 

Chapter IV : Uganda. 

The only general treatment of African Ethnology in Eng- 
lish will be found in F. Ratzel's "History of Mankind." 
A detailed, although technically not perfect, treatise on the 


Baganda is J. Roscoe's "The Baganda" ( Macmillan & Co.). 
This should be supplemented by the same author's "The 
Northern Bantu" (Macmillan & Co.). For a comparative 
appergue of African conditions at least one or two other 
descriptive volumes should be read, such as R. E. Dennett's 
"At the Back of the Black Man's Mind" and Torday and 
Joyce's "The Bushongo." 

Chapter V : Australia. 

A simple elementary treatise is N. W. Thomas' "The 
Natives of Australia." The same author's "Kinship Or- 
ganizations and Group Marriage in Austraha" (Cambridge, 
1906) is a much more difficult book but very useful, al- 
though now somewhat out of date. Spencer and Gillen's 
"The Native Tribes of Central Australia" (Macmillan & 
Co.) "The Northern Tribes of Central Australia" {ibid) 
and "The Native Tribes of the Northern Territory of 
Australia" {ibid) should be read. These works fall far 
short of the strict requirements of ethnological method, but 
are the only general and recent works in English available 
on the central and northern tribes. To complete the pic- 
ture of Australian society these should be supplemented by 
Howitt's "The Native Tribes of Southeast Australia" 
(Macmillan & Co.) and W. E. Roth's "Ethnological Stud- 
ies among the N. W. C. Aborigines of Queensland." The 
latter work, while concise and dry, is highly competent. 

Part II 

Industry and Art, Religion and Society 

Chapters VII and VIII : Economic Conditions and Industry. 

Few works are available on early economic conditions 
except in the form of detailed monographs. Lowie's chap- 
ter on "Property" (in his "Primitive Society") is excellent, 
and relevant literature is given there. On American eco- 
nomic conditions consult Wissler's thoughtful article "The 
Material Culture of the North American Indians" {Ameri- 


can Anthropologist, 19 14) as well as Chapters I to IV and 
VI to VIII of his "The American Indian." By far the best 
detailed accounts of early industrial processes are Boas' 
"The Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island" (Publications of the 
Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Vol. V, Part II) and "Eth- 
nology of the Kwakiutl" (35th Report, Bureau of Ethnol- 
ogy) , which, among other interesting features, contains an 
unique account of the primitive cooking art in the form of 
recipes of the Kwakiutl. Detailed treatises on Indian foods 
are A. C. Parker's "Iroquoian Uses of Maize and Other 
Food Plants" (Bulletin 144 of The New York State 
Museum) and F. W. Waugh's "Iroquois Foods and Food 
Preparation" (Geological Survey, Canada, Memoir 86). 
An elaborate account of Indian agriculture is given in 
G. L. Wilson's "Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians, an 
Indian Interpretation" (University of Minnesota), 

Chapter IX: Art. 

Among older works representing the evolutionary posi- 
tion, see A. C. Haddon's "Evolution in Art," H. Balfour's 
"The Evolution of Decorative Art" and Y. Hirn's "Origins 
of Art, a Sociological and Psychological Enquiry." There 
is no general treatise on primitive art embodying the mod- 
ern ethnological standpoint. Special monographs have to 
be consulted In this connection. The most excellent discus- 
sion is contained In Boas' "The Decorative Designs of 
Alaskan Needlecases" (Proceedings, U. S. National Mu- 
seum, Vol. 34, 1908). See also Wissler's "The Decorative 
Designs of the Dakota Indians" and A. L. Kroeber's "The 
Arapaho" (Bulletin XVIII of the American Museum of 
Natural History). Hamilton's "Maori Art" Is recom- 
mended as the only book available which gives an idea of 
the remarkable artistic productions of these people. 

Chapters X and XI : Religion and Magic. 

Among the older works see Spencer's "Principles of Soci- 
ology," Vol. I, and E. B. Tyler's "Primitive Culture." 


Tylor's treatise, while out of date, presents an unrivalled 
picture of the animistic world of primitive man. These 
should be supplemented by Frazer's "The Golden Bough," 
Vols. I and II, "The Magic Art," and Andrew Lang's 
"Magic and Religion" and "The Making of Religion." 
R. R. Marett's "The Threshold of Religion" is a much more 
critical book, written in full cognizance of modern ethno- 
logical method. Among modern speculative works dealing 
at least in part with primitive religion, Wundt's "Elements 
of Folk Psychology" and Durkheim's "The Elementary 
Forms of the Religious Life" are equally interesting and 
original. Levy-Bruhl's meritorious treatise on primitive 
mentality is unfortunately not as yet available in English. 

There are many recent books and essays. Goldenweiser's 
articles in The New International Encyclopedia on "An- 
cestor Worship," "Animism," "Magic," "Nature Wor- 
ship," "Polytheism" and "Totemism" represent briefly the 
present status of these topics. E. S. Hartland's "Myth and 
Ritual' discusses interestingly the relation between belief 
and behavior in primitive religion. A brief theoretical 
interpretation of the foundations of religion will be found 
in Goldenweiser's over-concise "Spirit, Mana and the Re- 
ligious Thrill" {Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and 
Scientific Methods, 1915) ; see also the same author's "Re- 
ligion and Society: a Critique of Emile Durkheim's Theo- 
ries of the Origin and Nature of Religion" {ibid, 1917). 

The recent work done in North America along the line of 
religion in all of its aspects is briefly and suggestively re- 
viewed in Franz Boas' "Mythology and Folk Tales of North 
American Indians" {Journal of American Folk-Lore, 1914), 
Paul Radin's "Religion of the North American Indians" 
{ibid), and R. H. Lowie's "Ceremonialism in North Amer- 
ica" {American Anthropologist, 1914). 

Of the many concrete descriptions of primitive religions, 
the following are selected as particularly representative: 
W. Bogoras' "The Chukchee, Religion" (Publications of 
the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Vol. VII, Part I), 


J. Jochelson's "The Koryak, Religion and Myths" (ibid, 
Vol. VI, Part I), Callaway's "The Religious System of the 
Amazulu" and J. Codrington's "The Melanesians." 

Chapters XII and XIII : Society. 

Of the older works the following are still worth reading : 
Morgan's "Ancient Society," which is in many points Incor- 
rect and difficult, but with these reservations, distinctly 
worthwhile. Spencer's "Principles of Sociology," Vol. I 
and McLennan's two volumes of "Studies In Ancient His- 
tory" have merely a historical Interest. Westermarck's 
"The History of Human Marriage," third edition, in three 
volumes, is very valuable. Mtiller-Lyer's "The History 
of Social Development" (Alfred A. Knopf), while in part 
boldly hypothetical, is a very Interesting, and, on the whole, 
In line with modern ethnological knowledge. 

In the study of social organization a complete revolution 
has taken place in recent years, resulting in much new ma- 
terial, descriptive as well as theoretical. Of the theoretical 
works, W. H. R. Rivers' "Kinship and Social Organization" 
is recommended as setting forth clearly the problem of rela- 
tionship terms. The so-called American standpoint is repre- 
sented by J. R. Swanton's "The Social Organization of 
American Indians" {American Anthropologist, 1905), 
Goldenwelser's "The Social Organization of the Indians of 
North America" {ibid, 1914) and Lowle's "Social Organi- 
zation" {American Journal of Sociology, 19 14). Lowle's 
"Primitive Society" represents faithfully and clearly the 
standpoint of critical ethnology on most problems of early 
social organization. Hartland's book of the same name, 
on the other hand, is still oriented according to the lights of 
the now wellnigh defunct doctrines of classical evolutionism. 

Of the descriptive works a few can be mentioned here : 
Swanton's "The Haida" is good. A very interesting de- 
scriptive and theoretical study is A. L. Kroeber's "Zuni Kin 
and Clan" (Anthropological Papers of the American 
Museum of Natural History, Vol. XVIII, Part II). Bog- 


oras' "The Chuckchee, Social Organization" (Publications 
of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Vol. VII, Part III) 
is exceptionally clear and replete with concrete data. African 
political organization is exemplified in Roscoe's "The 
Baganda" and Dennett's "The Religious and PoHtical Sys- 
tem of the Yoruba." The social organization of Australia 
will be found described in the works by Spencer and Gillen, 
Howitt and Roth, referred to before; while Melanesian 
social organization is briefly outlined in Rivers' "History of 
Melanesian Society." Interesting studies of special prob- 
lems in social organization are made by Rivers in The Cam- 
bridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits, Vols. 
V and VI. 

The literature on the subject of totemism Is enormous. 
For descriptive material J. G. Frazer's "Totemism and 
Exogamy" (Macmillan & Co.) is the most convenient 
source. Much of the theoretical discussion will be found 
summarized in Goldenweiser's "Totemism, an Analytical 
Study" {Journal of American Folk-Lore, 1910) and in his 
article on totemism in The New International Encyclopedia. 

Part III 
The Ideas of Early Man 
Chapters XV and XVI: 

Spencer's views on early mentality form part of his "Prin- 
ciples of Sociology," Vol. I; see especially the chapters de- 
voted to primitive man — physical, primitive man — emo- 
tional, and primitive man — intellectual. Frazer's theories 
will be found in his work on magic referred to before. 
Wundt's theories are available to English readers only inso- 
far as they are contained in his "Elements of Folk Psy- 

Most of Durkhelm's sociological theories are comprised 
in his last book "The Elementary Forms of the Religious 
Life." For a critical discussion of Durkhelm see GoMef^ 
welser's article referred to before. An English translation 


of Levy-Bruhl's "Les fonctions mentales des societes in- 
ferieures" will soon be available; meanwhile, Goldenweiser's 
review in the American Anthropologist for 19 ii may be 

The theories of Freud discussed in this book are pre- 
sented in his "Totem and Taboo" (Moffat, Yard and Com- 
pany). The full understanding of his theories, however, 
presupposes familiarity with at least the elements of his 
psychoanalytic system. For this purpose Freud's "A Gen- 
eral Introduction to Psychoanalysis" (Boni and Liveright) 
will suffice. The relation of psychoanalysis to social phe- 
nomena is the subject of a monograph by O. Rank and H. 
Sachs, "The Significance of Psychoanalysis for the Mental 
Sciences" (Nervous and Mental Diseases Monograph 
Series, No. 23). 


Africa, see Baganda 

Age, 256, 257 

Agriculture, early and historic, 26; 
Iroquois, 73 ; stage of, 25 

Allen, G., 23 

Ankermann, B., 199, 303, 304, 308 

Art, 165-183, and aesthetics, 175; 
and culture, 183 ; and industry, 
165; Australian, 104; children's, 
173; conventionalization, 169; geo- 
metrical and realistic, 171; IrO' 
quoian, 70; Maori, 169; material 
and design in, 167, 168; modern 
and early, 169 note; Northwest 
Coast, 68; realistic, 174 note; 
style, 174; style and creativeness 
in, 166; style in two memorial 
columns, 177, 178 ; symbolism, 65, 
181, 182; unconscious basis of, 17 

Australia, 100-114, churinga, 108; 
decorative art, 104; dramatic art, 
104; economics, 100-103; expedi- 
tions, 103; initiation rites, in; 
magic, 105 ; markets, 103 ; medi- 
cine-men, 106; old men, 113; phy- 
sical characteristics, 4; religion, 
104; social organization, 108-112; 
specialization in industry, 103 ; 
totemism, 109 ; women, 109 

Bachofen, J. J., 23 

Baer, K. E. von, 21 

Baganda, 84-99, building of capital, 
89; crimes, 96; gentes, 84; human 
sacrifices, 99 ; king and chiefs, 88 
material culture, 83 ; queens, 89 
religion, 96, 97, 98, 99; roads, 93 
taxes, 94. 

Balfour, H., 23 

Bean, R. B., on Negro brains, 6 

Beethoven, L. von, 18 

Bella Coola, religion, 207-211 

Benedict, R., on guardian spirits, 
191 note 

Blackfoot, 237 

Blanket, Chilkat, 67 

Blood-revenge, Eskimo, 39 

Boas, F., 312 note; on Alaskan 
needlecases, 172 note; on Eskimo 
dogs, 48 

Boats, balsa, bark canoe, bull-boat, 
dugout with outriggers, dugout 
with built-up sides, 135; kayak, 42 


Bow and arrow, geographical dis- 
tribution, 134 
Bow, Eskimo, 49 

Bogoras, W., 205 note; 214 note, 217 
Boomerang, io2 
Bororo, 223 

Brain and nature, 132 
Buecher, K., on evolution, 23 

Canoes, see boats 

Ceremonialism, 415 

Chiefs, Iroquois, 76, 77; Baganda, 
92, 93; Australia, 271-278 

Chilkat blanket, 67 

Chukchee, 295 ; medicine-men, 214- 
224; religion, 202-206 

Civilization, and borrowing, 27 ; and 
diffusion, 116, 117; and environ- 
ment, 292-301; and history, 115, 
116; and the family, 239; art and 
thought, 415; as a continuum, 31; 
changes in, 15; characteristics of 
early, 401-405 ; common human 
traits in, 115; definition of local, 
123; evolution in, 125; folk, 117; 
individual creativeness in, 15, 407 ; 
individuality of, 19; matter-of-fact 
and thought, 405 ; modern and 
others, 12, 13, 14, 15; moulding of 
individual by, 16; persistence of, 
15; social organization and 
thought, 414, 415; supernaturalism 
and thought, 410-414; two funda- 
mental processes of, 124 

Clans, see social organization 

Codrington, R. H., 197 

Comparative method, diagram illus- 
trating, 22 

Conventionalization in art, 25 

Culture, see civilization 

Darwin, Ch., 3, 21 

Dieri, magicians, 223 

Diffusion and independent develop- 
ment, 301-324; assimilation of im- 
ported traits, 319, 320, 321; com- 
mon psychic elements in, 323 ; con- 
tinuous distribution, 303 ; discon- 
tinuous distribution, 307 ; Graeb- 
ner's position, 311, 312; potter's 
wheel, 317, 318, 319; Rivers' posi- 
tion, 313; universal features, 301, 
302; see also geographical distri- 



Dobrizhoffer, M., 222 

Durkheim, E., 200, 283 ; critique of 
liis theory, 371-380; on early men- 
tality, 360-380; origin of mourn- 
ing, 366; origin of sacred, 361; 
origin of survival, 365, 366; un- 
der-estimation of the matter-of- 
fact, 378. 

Economics, see industry 

Edison, Th., 18 

Environment, adjustment to, 136; 
see also civilization and environ- 

Eskimo, 34-52, 293 ; adjustment to 
environment, 52; antler bow, 50; 
art, 38; bird spear, 45; blood-re- 
venge, 39 ; confession, 38 ; dog, 
48; drill, 51; harpoon, 43; kayak, 
42; leaders, 39; medicine-men, 
38; mythology of, 34; satirical con- 
tests, 40; seal-skin floats, 46; sex 
customs, 39; shamanism, 221; 
singing-house, 37 ; sledge, 46, 47 ; 
snow-house, 40; social organiza- 
tion, 38; taboos, 37; throwing 
board, 45 ; wooden bow, 49 

Ethnology, modern, on evolution, 24 

Evolution, 125, 126, 127, 128 ; and 
diffusion, 26; and progress, 26; 
exposition and critique, 20-27 i 
gradual and cataclysmic, '26; in 
art, 171 ; pre-scientific attempts at, 
20; Spencer on, 21, 336 note; 
Wundt on, 359 

Exogamy, among Tlingit and Haida, 
56; derivative, 249, 250; Frazer's 
theory of origin, 340; see also 

Family, 237 

Fire-making, in earliest times, 133 

Frazer, J. G., 23, 184, 193, 199, 283; 
critique of his theory, 342-348 ; 
magic and religion, 338; magic 
and science, 338; magic and the 
association of ideas, 337; origin 
of exogamy, 340; theories of early 
mentality, 337-348 

Freud, S., 283, 370 note; critique of 
his position, 395, 396, 397, 398; 
individual and the race, 391; neu- 
rotic and primitive, 390; on magic, 
390; on taboo, 391; on totemism, 
392, 393, 394; theories of early 
mentality, 389-398 

Gambetta, F., brain of, 5 
Gennep, A. van, 283, 383 

Gens, see social organization 

Geographical distribution of, Aus- 
tralian classes, 281; bow and ar- 
row, 135; clan and gens, 280; 
family-village, 280; garments in 
Africa, 303 ; garments in America, 
302; huts in Africa, 304; local 
variants, 306 ; magic flight myth, 
309; political forms, 281; pottery 
in America, 305 ; social forms, 
279 ; totemism in Africa, 308 

Ghosts, 330 

Gleason, R. A., 164 note 

Graebner, F., 283, 3to, 324 

Guardian spirits, Australia, 193 ; 
Blackfoot, 192; Eskimo, 193; Hai- 
da, 187; Hidatsa, 192; Iroquois, 
192; Malay Archipelago, 193; 
Melanesia, 193; medicine bundles, 
191; Plains, 190; Plateau, 189; 
Shuswap, 189; Tlingit, 187; Win- 
nebago, 192 

Habitations, bark house, earth lodge, 
gabled board house, snow-house, 
subterranean house, tipi, tree 
house, 135 

Haddon, A. C, 23 ; on art, 170 

Haeberlin, H. K., 348 note 

Haeckel, E., 3 

Haida, see Tlingit 

Harpoon, Eskimo, 43 

Hartland, E. S., 23 

Heape, W., 195 

Hewitt, J. N. B., 198 

Hobson, J. A., 9 , 

Hopi, 150; clans, 253 no{^ 

Howitt, A. W., 223 

Hubert, H. and Mauss, M., 200 

Hunting, stage of, 25 

Huntington, E., 293, 337 note 

Hyades, P. and Deniker, J., 222 

Ideas, of early man, 327-415 

Incest, see exogamy 

Independent development, see diffu- 

Industry, and invention, 157-165; 
and the individual, 408 ; and 
thought, 405, 406, 407; as adjust- 
ment to environment, 133; Aus- 
tralian, 100, loi, 102, 103 ; Ba- 
ganda, 83; Eskimo, 40-52; Hopi, 
150; Iroquois, 70, 72; knowledge 
in, 154, 155, 156, 157; Kwakiutl, 
138-149; Tlingit and Haida, 53, 

Inferiority, of early races to white, 6 



Invention, 157-164; and creative- 
ness, 161 note; and discovery, 
158; and religion, 160; definition 
of, 158; dynamic, 159; early and 
modern 162; in design, i6i ; illus- 
trations of early, 158; Liberty 
Motor, 162; see also industry 

Iroquois, 70-82 ; art, 70 ; ceremonies, 
71; chiefs, 76; clans, 74; Con- 
federacy, 73; economics, 72; Hand- 
some-Lake doctrine, 230; mana 
(orenda), 198; material culture, 
70; maternal family, 73; raatn- 
archate, 80, 81, 82; matron of 
family, 77; phratries, 76; religious 
societies, 71 ; totemism, 75 

Jevons, F. B., 23 
Jones, W., 198 

Kayak, 42, 135 

Klinger, M., 178 

Knowledge, and thought, 156; range 
of early, 154, 155, 156; Tewa bo- 
tanical, 152; see also industry; in- 

Kroeber, A. L., 195, 397 

Kurnai, magicians, 224 

Kwakiutl, fishing territories, 59; 
guardian spirits, 185, 186; indus- 
try, 138-149 ; marriage, 61 note 

Lang, A., 23, 199, 214 note, 283 

Language, ability of primitive man 
for, 10; and grammar, 17; uncon- 
scious categories in, 380 

Laufer, B., 317 

Letourneau, C, on evolution, 24 

Levy-Bruhl, and Rivers on life and 
death, 384, 385 ; characterization 
of collective ideas, 382; critique 
of his theory, 385-389; cycle of 
life and death, 383 ; early man not 
wholly irrational, 388; logic in 
modern thought, 386; theories of 
early mentality, 381-389 

Lowie, R. H., 268 note, 312 note, 409 

Lyell, Ch., 21 

McLennan, J. F., 23 

Magic, and Christianity, 194; and 
desire, 233; and dreams, 194; and 
medicine, 194; and pregnancy, 
195; and superstition, 196; Aus- 
tralian, 104; faith and fraud in, 
io8 note; Frazer on, 339; Freud 
on, 390; modern, 193-197 

Mall, F. P., on Negro brains, 6 note 

Malthus, Th. R., 21 

Mana, 197-201; Algonquin, 198; 
Durkheim on, 200; Goldenweiser 
on, 201 note; Hubert and Mauss 
on, 200; in West African fetich- 
ism, 198; Iroquoian, 198; Preuss 
on, 200; Shotwell on, 200; Sioux, 

Mannhardt, W., 193 

Maori, art, 169 

Marett, R. R., 199, 347 note ; on evo- 
lution, 23 note 

Marot, H., 9 

Marriage, 237; Kwakiutl, 61 note; 
see also exogamy 

Maternal family, Iroquois, 73 

Matriarchate, see Iroquois 

Medicine-men, Australia, io6; Chuk- 
chee, 214-224; Eskimo, 38; South 
America, 222, 223 

Mooney, J., 226, 229 

Morgan, L. H., 23, 79 note, 341 

Miiller, M., 360 

Negro, brain of, 6; physical charac- 
ters, 3 

Parker, C, 9 

Pastoral life, stage of, 25 

Pechuel-Loesche, E., 198 

Plains, art, 166; guardian spirits, 

Political organization, see social or- 

Preuss, Th., 200, 347 note 

Progress and evolution, 26 

Property, individual and communal, 

Psychoanalysis, 218 note 

Race, brain size and weight, 4; 
br.ain structure, 5 ; physical char- 
acteristics of, 3 

Radin, P., 322, 323 ; on guardian 
spirits, 185 note 

Raphael, S., 18, 178 

Ratzel, F., 293, 310, 324 

Religion, 184-235; All Father belief, 
211, 212, 213, 214; and thought, 
410-413; Bella Coola, 207-211; 
Chukchee, 202-206 ; Frazer on, 
337-340; ghost-dance, 224-231; 
Handsome-Lake doctrine, 230; re- 
ligious thrill, 233 ; Smohalla, 225 ; 
supernaturalism, 231; Wovoka, 
228; see also guardian spirit; 
magic; mana 

Ritual, see ceremonialism 

Rivers, W. H. R., 283, 311, 324, 337 
note; on primitive psychology, 8 

42 8 


Schmidt, W., 214 note, 283 

Schurtz, H., 198 

Sedna, Eskimo myth, 35 

Semple, E. C, 293 

Sex, Eskimo customs, 39 

Shotwell, J. T., zoo 

Slaves, Tlingit and Haida, 55 

Sledge, Eskimo, 46 

Smith, E., 311 

Social organization, 235-291; Algon- 
kian hunting territory, 238 note; 
and thought, 414; Australian, 108; 
birth and inheritance of privileges 
groups, 268 ; birth and occupation 
groups, 268 ; blood relatives, 239 ; 
clans and gentes in relation to 
blood revenge, adoption, exogamy, 
totemism, 248; classes, 254; critic- 
ism of Wundt on Australia, 254; 
derivative exogamy, 249, 250; 
Dieri headmen, 271; dual divi- 
sions or moieties, 251 ; family, 
238 ; functions, 265 ; geographical 
distribution of social forms, 279- 
282 ; groups based on riches, 269 ; 
home, physical and psychological, 
236; Kamilaroi headmen, 273; lo- 
cality, 235; locality in modern so- 
ciety, 237 note; marriage, 237; 
maternal family, 253 ; pinya 
avenging parties, 275 ; political 
forms, 270-279 ; relatives and so- 
cial behavior, 241 ; societies, re- 
ligious, military and medicinal, 
267; totemism, 283-291; woman, 
259-264; see also exogamy; mar- 

Societies, religious, 190 

Spencer, H., 283, 360, 409; critique 
of his ancestor worship theory, 
332; ghost theory, 333, 334; his 
method, 22 ; misinterpretation of 
nicknames, 331; on evolution, 21, 
22, 23, 336 note; on primitive 
labor, 9; his theories of early 
mentality, 330-337 

Spirits, see guardian spirits 

Steinen, K. von den, 223 

Superiority, white man's, 7 

Supernaturalism and ceremonialism, 
233, 234; and mythology, 233, 234; 
as adjustment to environment, 
133; see also religion 

Swanton, J. R., on Haida, 63 
Symbolism, 181, 182 

Taboo, Eskimo, 37; on guardian 
spirit, 185 

Teggart, J., 324, 337 note, 378 note 

Tewa, 152-157 

Thomas, N. W., 31, 283 

Thorndike, E. L., 26 

Thurnwald, R., 283 ; on primitive 
psychology, 8 

Tlingit and Haida, 53-69; art, 64; 
clan legends, 57, coppers, 60; ma- 
terial culture of, 53 ; position of 
women, 58; potlatch, 59; property 
ideas, 58; religious ideas, 62; so- 
cial classes of, 55 ; social organi- 
zation, 55 

Totemism, 283-291 ; African, 308 ; 
and modern civilization, 289, 290, 
291; Baganda, 84, 85, 86, 87; de- 
finition of, 283 ; diagram illustrat- 
ing totemic complex, 288 ; Freud's 
theory of, 392; geographical dis- 
tribution, 283, 284; in Australia, 
109 ; Iroquois, 75 ; social substra- 
tum of, 288 ; totemic traits, 284, 
285, 286; widespread character- 
istics, 287 

Totem poles, 66 

Turgenev, I. S., brain of, 5 

Tylor, E. B., 31, 184, 199, 360 

Westermarck, E., on evolution, 24 

Wissler, C, 297, 316 

Woman, disabilities of, 259-265; in 
art, 261; in industry, 259, 260; 
Northwest and Iroquois, 58 note ; 
prestige among Iroquois, 80; 
property rights, 260; in politics, 
264; in religion, 262 

Woodworth, R. S., on primitive psy- 
chology, 8 

Wovoka, 228 

Wundt, W., 254, 283 ; accident in in- 
vention, 351; criticism of, 254; 
his critique of Frazer, 350; his 
view on evolution, 354; origin of 
domestication of dog, origin of art, 
354. 355. 356; origin of dress and 
ornament, 357; theories of early 
mentality, 348-359; religion and 
imagination, 349 



By Alexander A. Goldenweiser, Lecturer on An- 
thropology and Sociology at the New School for 
Social Research^ New York 
Large 8vo, Cloth, XXIV 424 pages 

While offering an elementary text for the beginner in 
anthropology, this volume is mainly designed as a source 
book of information and suggestion for students of sociology 
who may wish to amplify their familiarity with modern 
social phenomena by an inquiry into the nature of early 
civilization and the workings of the primitive mind. 


By Wilfrid Scawen Blunt 
Large 8vo, Cloth, 450 pages 

This book makes clear the varying motives — imperialistic, 
economic, and personal — which brought about the English 
occupation of Egypt. Based on personal records and con- 
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a profound interest and importance for students of history 
in general and of English history in particular. 


By Rene Brunet, Professor of Constitutional Law 
at the University of Caen (translated from the 
French by Joseph Gollomb, with an Introduction 
by Charles A. Beard) 
8vo, Cloth, XIV 339 pages 

This is a critical discussion of the new German Constitu- 
tion, the actual text of which is included, in English, as 
an appendix. It gives a lucid and unbiased account of 
the German Revolution, de*;ribes the conflict of forces 
which ended in the establishment of the Republic, and con- 
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By James Mickel Williams, Professor of Economics 

and Sociology in Hobart College 
Large 8vo, Cloth, XVI 494. pages 

A comparative study of the psychological aspects of the 
social sciences. It treats of the relation of social psychol- 
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and sociology, analyzing the psychological assumptions un- 
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By James Mickel Williams, Professor of Economics 
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Large 8vo Cloth, XII 459 pages 

This book represents the first attempt that has been made 
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By Franz Carl Miiller-Lyer (translated from the 
German by E. C. and H. W. Lake, with Introduc- 
tions by L. T. Hobhouse and E. J. UrivickJ 
8vo, Cloth, 363 pages 

This volume is mainly designed as a text for beginners 
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man's origin and progress, co-ordinating the general facts 
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the probable trend of future developments. 


By Graham Wallas, Professor of Political Science in 

London University 
8vo, Cloth, 320 pages 

This is a slightly revised edition, with a new Preface, of 
Professor Wallas' famous work first published in England, 
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phasis upon the application of social psychology to politics. 


By Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Masterman 
8vo, Cloth, XVI 293 pages 

An introductory study of the working of the British Con- 
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in this volume a most interesting and valuable source of 


By Abraham Epstein, Formerly Director of the 

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8vo, Cloth, XVI 352 pages 

This book offers a scientific examination of the social and 
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i2mo, Cloth, 280 pages 


By John Spencer Bassett, Professor of American 

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Large 8vo, Cloth, 398 pages 

This is a compact but complete account of the part played 
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By Charles Gide, Professor of Economics at the 
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8vo, Cloth, 300 pages 

This translation of Professor Gide's famous work is in- 
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