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No. 41 

Simone Martini : The Annunciation 



No. 41 










The Hogarth Press Ltd 

The Institute of Psycho-Analysis 


Clarke, Irwin & Co. Ltd 





THE essays in this volume are grouped into those dealing with 
Folklore, Anthropology and Religion respectively. My acknowledg- 
ments are due to the publishers concerned for permission to re-issue 
them. Chapters IX and X, containing an explanation of the success 
of Christianity over its rivals which I have not encountered elsewhere, 
have not been previously printed. 

When Freud was publishing the translation of his Moses and Mono- 
theism he wondered what reception it would have in England, which 
he thought was still the most religiously-minded country. I suggested 
he insert into the preface something on the lines of the following 
paragraph, but on reflection he decided it was not necessary. 

"In no other European country has so much tolerance been shown 
towards the discoveries of psycho-analysis as in England. This is in 
accord with her profound trust in the importance of freedom of 
thought. And for some centuries now it has also been the English 
tradition that frank and sincere discussion of theological and religious 
problems is to be included in this freedom; indeed, historically it was 
the origin of it." 



I Psycho-Analysis and Folklore I 

II The Symbolic Significance of Salt 22 

III Beliefs concerning the Nightmare no 

IV Psycho- Analysis and Anthropology 114 
V Mother- Right and the Sexual Ignorance of Savages 145 

VI A Psycho- Analytical Note on Palaeolithic Art 174 

VII Free Will and Determinism 178 

VIII The Psychology of Religion 190 

IX Psycho-Analysis and the Christian Religion 198 

X The Significance of Christmas 212 

XI Rationalism and Psycho-Analysis 225 

XII The God Complex 244 

XIII The Madonna's Conception through the Ear 266 

XIV A Psycho-Analytic Study of the Holy Ghost Concept 358 
Index 374 



THE very extensive and original contributions that psycho- 
analysis has made to* the science of folklore in the past 
twenty years have passed almost entirely unnoticed by folk- 
lorists. That the present is the first occasion on which the 
matter has been brought to their direct attention cannot, I 
think, be the main explanation of this remarkable neglect. 
I should regard it rather as one more manifestation of the 
anti-psychological bias that prevails among scholars and 
men of science. In their laudable endeavour to emerge from 
the subjective pre-scientific era they have naturally tended 
to confound objectivity with the study of the outer world, 
and to identify contemplation of the mind with subjectivity. 
This attitude has proved eminently successful in so far as 
the investigation of physical phenomena that are unin- 
fluenced by mental processes is concerned, or at least the 
drawbacks attaching to it have hitherto been relatively in- 
considerable and are only now beginning to be perceived, 
but the limitations it imposes on the study of phenomena 
which are the product of mental processes are so grave as to 
confine such studies to a preliminary charting out of the 
ground. This is evident when we consider the material 
studied in folklore, whether it be customs, beliefs, or folk- 
songs, for without exception it is the product of dynamic 
mental processes, the response of the folk soul to either 
outer or inner needs, the expression of various longings, 
fears, aversions, or desires. Indeed the only reason why 

1 Read before the Jubilee Congress of the Folk-Lore Society, Sept. 25th, 



what I have just said escapes being a platitude is that, in 
providing explanations for any of this material, folklorists 
have necessarily forged a psychology of their own or else 
taken a commonly accepted one for granted. When they 
explain certain customs as having been motivated by the 
desire for more food or better crops they are justified in 
assuming such desires as common human attributes and 
experience no need to investigate their nature any further ; 
that, they would say, is the business of the psychologist or 
physiologist. This attitude, however, has many pitfalls, for 
modern psychology has indubitably shown that the human 
mind is a far more complex apparatus than is commonly 
supposed, and that many motives which appear simple 
enough on the surface prove on examination to have a much 
more elaborate substructure. 

Another consideration comes into play here. Psychology 
itself has in the past been singularly unhelpful to ancillary 
sciences such as folklore. What is known as academic 
psychology and I am leaving philosophy quite out of 
account here has found itself in an unprecedented situa- 
tion, the nature of which is not at all generally appreciated. 
In approaching its subject-matter it finds insuperable bar- 
riers almost at the entry. In investigating the genesis of any 
given mental processes it has, necessarily, to make halt 
whenever thoughts are approached which are of too intim- 
ate a nature to be disclosed, or else a point is reached when 
the subject himself is unable to provide any further data 
a state of things which we now know to be due to the con- 
fines having been reached between the conscious and the 
unconscious mind. The psychologists had perforce to con- 
tent themselves with relatively superficial mental processes, 
such as the data of sense physiology or the rapidity with 
which various objects could be committed to memory and 
the like. It was only when the science of clinical psychology 
was born that a motive, namely, mental suffering, was 



furnished powerful enough to overcome a person's natural 
objection to laying bare the secrets ot his soul, and it was 
only when Freud provided the special technique of psycho- 
analysis for the exploration of the unconscious that it be- 
came possible to trace any mental process to its ultimate 
source. The discoveries thus made have, as is well known, 
proved to be startlingly revolutionary, and have led to a 
fundamentally new conception of the mind. This in its turn 
was bound to have repercussions in all the sciences, includ- 
ing folklore, that are concerned with the products of mental 
activity. Contributions from this point of view have in fact 
been made to a number of such sciences, such as anthro- 
pology, mythology, philology, pedagogy, and last but not 
least to folklore. It is the object of the present paper to 
present to you some of the points of view in question, and 
to illustrate a few of the bearings they have on the study of 
folklore material. 

Perhaps the most important conclusion reached by 
psycho-analytic work is that what we call our mind, i.e., the 
mental processes known to consciousness, is only a trans- 
formed selection of the whole mind, derived from its deeper 
and absolutely unconscious layers and modified by contact 
with the stimuli of the outer world. The deeper unconscious 
layer, originating in our organic instincts, is mainly com- 
posed of wishes which are actively striving for expression. 
They come into conflict with opposing forces, especially 
those relating to fear and guilt, the nucleus of what later 
will become the moral conscience. What is allowed to seek 
expression by entering consciousness represents a com- 
promise between the two groups ; the wishes achieve fulfil- 
ment only in a modified and disguised form. In our judge- 
ments and beliefs about the outer world far more contribu- 
tions from the obscure inner world of the mind are to be 
found than is commonly supposed, and it is particularly 
with those subjective and less rational contributions to 



thought and conduct that folklore is concerned. When 
prominent they often produce a quaint or even comical 
effect, and elicit the disdain to which folklorists are accus- 
tomed in regard to the material of their work, but when 
traced to their origin they prove not only to have a perfectly 
intelligible logic of their own, but to be derived from the 
most fundamental sources of our being. 

Psycho-analysis has produced much evidence to show 
that all our conscious ideas, feelings, interests, and beliefs 
originate in the unconscious ; the conscious mind originates 
nothing, its functions being confined to criticism, selection, 
and control. Unconscious impulses may be called primitive 
both as being earlier in development in time, thus being 
nearly synonymous with "infantile", and as representing a 
lower stage in mental evolution, one out of which more 
highly differentiated forms of mental activity develop. Now 
these primitive impulses may come to expression in con- 
sciousness in, broadly speaking, one of two ways. Normally 
they undergo a process of transformation and adaptation in 
accordance with external reality; in this process they be- 
come adjusted both to the claims of reality and to the 
demands of inner conscience (what is nowadays called the 
"super-ego"). The other way in which they may come to 
expression is through the formation of complicated forms of 
compromise which act in effect as disguises, the impulses 
themselves remaining in their unaltered form and under- 
going none of the transformation characteristic of the first 
mode. The former thus gives rise to what may be called the 
normal interests, ideas, and occupations of mankind. It is 
the second class that is of special interest in the present con- 
nection. They represent relics of the primitive mental state, 
fragments left over in the process of evolution. In the 
language of folklore they would be termed survivals. The 
value of them to the psychologist is the direct light they 
throw on the primitive mind before it has undergone evolu- 



tion. To the ancillary sciences they are of value because 
through this knowledge they can be interpreted and thus 
throw light on the context in which they occur. Now the 
important point is that the material we have termed sur- 
vivals is to be met with in very similar form in extremely 
diverse fields. To give a few examples of this: neurotic 
symptoms, the field in which these discoveries were first 
made, are all survivals of this nature, and represent part of 
the infantile life that has resisted the process of normal 
growth. The phenomena of dream life, the understanding of 
which has exercised the imagination of so many generations, 
have proved to be of the same nature and, as you probably 
know, the elucidation of them plays an extensive part in the 
modern treatment of neurotic symptoms, to which they 
afford a close parallel. To come to our present subject, many 
savage beliefs and folklore customs can be shown to be 
closely related, in both form and content, to the other 
phenomena that I have just classed under the same general 
heading. They show the same peculiar mental mechanisms 
characteristic of unconscious products and, what is perhaps 
even more important, they reveal the same underlying con- 
tent and are derived from the same sources. This sentence, 
which contains the gist of my whole thesis, I shall presently 
have to amplify at some length, for to do so is to discuss the 
relationship between psycho-analysis and folklore. To put 
the whole matter in another way, what we maintain is that 
there is a far-reaching parallelism between survivals of 
primitive life from the racial past and survivals from the 
individual past. The practical value of this generalization 
is that the study of survivals in folklore can be usefully 
supplemented by the study of survivals in living individuals, 
where they are far more accessible to direct investiga- 

One little point may be mentioned at the outset. As you 
all know, a controversy has raged for many years among 



folklorists over the very definition of their subject-matter; 
the question was admirably summed up by our last Presi- 
dent, Mr. A. R. Wright, in his valedictory address. The 
point at issue was whether folklore should be confined to 
the study of survivals from the past, to phenomena which 
in the nature of things are approaching exhaustion, or 
whether it should also include the new manufacture of a 
certain class of data possessing the same characteristics as 
the familiar survivals. Mr. Wright quoted the following 
passages from previous presidential addresses: "But folk- 
lore, being what it is, namely the survival of traditional 
ideas or practices among a people whose principal members 
have passed beyond the stage of civilization which those 
ideas and practices once represented, it is impossible for it 
to have any development" ;* "One advantage possessed by 
our inclusive science is that the evidence which it presents 
is not disturbed by the intrusion of unsuspected elements. 
It is a science of survivals, not of discoveries" ; 2 and he then 
proceeded to make a vigorous defence of the opposite point 
of view. "The old tree of folk thought and practice has life 
not only in its surviving branches, on which there are both 
withered twigs and fresh buds, but also in new and vigorous 
shoots which are being put out from the old trunk." 3 Now 
psycho-analysis would certainly support this more compre- 
hensive view of the subject, the one vigorously defended by 
Mr. Wright, laying stress, as it does, on the dynamic and 
spontaneous aspects of these survival products and regard- 
ing them as efforts on the part of the unconscious to find 
expression; it would point out not only that the impulses 
that generated these products are a permanent part of man 
and are still as actively at work as ever, but also that the 
differences between the new products and the old can be 

* G. L. Gomme, Folk-Lore, Vol. IV, p. 6. 

Edward Clodd, ibid., Vol. VI, p. 75. 

A. R. Wright, ibid.. Vol. XXXVIII, p. 24. 



shown to be more superficial than essential. Mr. Wright 
takes as an example of the former the war superstition that 
to use a match to light three cigarettes portended the death 
of the third smoker. Folklorists cannot fail to be reminded 
at once of the great part played in superstition by the idea 
of death following a third act or process, e.g., a third stroke 
of apoplexy and so on. Psycho-analysis would go still 
further, and would be able to correlate the form of this 
belief with certain unconscious ideas concerning the number 
three, and it would in practice be able to show that just 
these unconscious ideas have been operative in the case of 
any particular person who was seriously influenced by the 
cigarette superstition. In doing so it would establish a con- 
tinuity between the old and the new products, and would 
thus justify the inclusion of both in the same region of 
scientific study. I might illustrate the same point from 
another example which will also illuminate the connection 
between psycho-analytical and folkloristic data. In Sir 
Laurence Gomme's study of anthropological survivals in 
these islands he comes to the conclusion that "the whole 
associated group of customs received adequate explanation 
only on the theory that it represented the detritus of a once 
existing totemic system of belief". 1 Now in the psycho- 
analysis of individuals we have in a number of cases been 
able to demonstrate that ideas closely parallel to totemistic 
beliefs had been cherished during infancy, partly con- 
sciously, partly unconsciously, and, what is even more 
interesting, that survivals of this primitive period had been 
left in later life in the form of particular neurotic symptoms 
such as animal phobias. In other words, we have before us 
in the individual the whole evolution of beliefs, and customs 
or rituals based on them, which is parallel to what in the 
field of folklore has run a course of perhaps thousands of 

1 G. L. Gomme, Folklore as an Historical Science. 1908, p. 276. 



The unconscious mind has a considerable number of 
characteristics which distinguish it from the conscious mind, 
and indications of many of these can often be traced in the 
phenomena that I have here grouped as unconscious sur- 
vivals. I shall not take up your time by enumerating them 
here, 1 but should like to mention one or two of them with 
which you will be specially familiar in the field of folklore. 
In psycho-analysis we refer to it by the name of "omni- 
potence of thoughts", implying thereby the unconscious 
belief that the thoughts, or rather wishes, of the person in 
question possess a magical power of reaching fruition in the 
outer world. The elucidation of mental processes of this 
kind plays a large part in daily psycho-analytic work, and 
as to folklore I am at a loss to choose an illustration of it, 
for the vast majority of folkloristic data are based on this 
principle. Every custom or ritual or formula designed to 
bring about results in the outer world, preservation from 
sickness, improvement in the crops, and so on, is based 
ultimately on the idea that the human mind possesses the 
power to influence the course of nature in the outer world, 
a power which religion deputes to Deity and achieves by the 
more indirect technique of prayer. 

The characteristic just mentioned may perhaps be re- 
garded as a special example of a more general one, namely 
the disregard of reality. In its extreme form this can attain 
quite delusional dimensions, and, in fact, emerges into con- 
sciousness among the insane as actual delusions. Most often, 
however, the tendency to ignore reality is not absolute, at 
least in its conscious manifestations. It is this attribute that 
confers on so much of folklore material its apparent irra- 
tionality. I use the word "apparent", for the process in 
question is not really irrational, once one grants its 
premises; but the premises are often enough not in accord 
with the facts of external reality. If, for example, peasants 

* See Freud. "The Unconscious," Collected Papers, 1925, Vol. IV, Ch. VI. 



beat a saucepan during an eclipse of the sun, the procedure 
is not so senseless if one admits the presence of a wolf who 
is trying to devour their hero. Speaking still more broadly, 
we are concerned here with the part the imagination plays 
in the vast majority of folklore phenomena, and psycho- 
analysis can trace the workings of the imagination back to 
the internal phantasies that precede interest in the outer 
world and which take their origin in unconscious interests 
and impulses. Imagination can, of course, be generated in 
response to an inner need, i.e., act "spontaneously", or be 
stirred from without. External influences can do nothing 
except affect the form assumed by the imaginative act. It is 
through discounting this consideration that certain mem- 
bers of the "diffusionist" school of anthropology have 
invented an antinomy between the psycho-analytical and 
the anthropological points of view which does not, in my 
opinion, really exist. The all-embracing explanation they 
find in demonstrating the spread of a given belief or custom 
reminds me of the similar attitude in psycho-pathology of 
those who are satisfied by ascribing every neurotic symp- 
tom to "suggestion" from without, and the criticism one 
would make is the same in the two cases. With neurotic 
symptoms one can prove that, where outside suggestion 
has played a part, it has done so only by stirring internal 
impulses that were ready enough to be stirred, and that its 
influence is confined to determining in some degree the form 
taken by the product of the internal impulse. I am per- 
suaded that much the same must be true of the mass as of 
the individual, for the forces at work are of the same 
psychological nature with both. It is not a valid argument 
against this to point out that the original meaning of a 
custom is sometimes lost in its new setting, and can be 
discovered only by tracing historically its spread from its 
place of origin, or even that the meaning may change as the 
result of the transplantation. To this I would reply that the 

9 B 


"meaning" here referred to is rarely more than the rational- 
istic fa$ade given by the people to the belief or custom, and 
that behind this facade and quite unknown to them lies the 
real deeper motive. If the deeper motivation be investigated 
it will be found to be very similar in the two cases, i.e., that 
the belief before and after transplantation is often the 
expression of the same underlying impulse. 

I will now consider one of the most puzzling and im- 
portant features of unconscious mentation, namely sym- 
bolism. A great part of the confusion on this subject arises 
simply from the fact that many quite disparate processes are 
often described by the same term. 1 Metaphors, emblems, 
similes, and so on, in fact almost any process in which one 
idea stands for another, have had the name "symbolism" 
applied to them. In psycho-analysis the word is employed 
in a much more restricted and defined sense, to designate a 
peculiar process whereby an idea or process represents an 
associated one which is in a state of repression in the uncon- 
scious mind. The number of possible symbols is countless, 
whereas the number of ideas in the unconscious that can be 
symbolized is very limited indeed, only those referring to 
the immediate blood relatives, various parts of the body, 
and the phenomena of birth, love, and death. Actually the 
large majority of symbols represent some half-dozen uncon- 
scious ideas. It follows that the interpretation of symbols 
displays a somewhat depressing monotony, though it is not 
true to say, as is sometimes done, that it is stereotyped. One 
is often less depressed than amazed by this monotony, 
though both emotions are obviously irrelevant to the more 
important question of the truth of the interpretations, a 
matter I have not the opportunity to discuss here. I would 
only point out that the data of folklore are replete with 
examples of symbolism in the psycho-analytical sense, and 

*See "The Theory of Symbolism/' Ch. VIII of my Papers on Psycho- 
Analysis, 1923. 



that the interpretation of such symbols not only illuminates 
the inner meaning of the data but can constantly be con- 
firmed by comparative study of allied material. 

In the following example I would call special attention to 
the fact that a symbol always represents a concrete idea, 
never a general or abstract one. Let us take for instance the 
custom of throwing rice at weddings, which used to be 
general in the days of my youth, but which has now been 
replaced by the use of confetti. It would doubtless be agreed 
that the rice in this context represents the idea of fertility, 
and the act of throwing it the corresponding wish in respect 
of the bridal couple. Psycho-analysts would say that the 
rice is an emblem of fertility, but a symbol of seed; and they 
would mean by this that investigation of the unconscious 
would show that it was the idea of seed there from which 
all the other acts and thoughts proceeded. I have published 
an exhaustive study 1 of the beliefs and customs surrounding 
the idea of salt, one which has the same symbolic meaning, 
and have there discussed the relation of symbolism to 

It will be seen that the unconscious ideas are not only 
more concrete but also cruder than the ideas represented in 
metaphorical processes, and this crudity and simplicity of 
unconscious ideas is a matter on which it is necessary to 
insist. In the allied, but now obsolescent, custom of throw- 
ing an old slipper or shoe after the departing couple, a 
custom which has more than one meaning in different layers 
of the mind, one would regard the object thrown as a symbol 
for the (fruitful) female organ itself, an interpretation that 
may be supported by quoting the decidedly broad saying 
that used to accompany it "May you fit her as well as my 
foot fits this old shoe" or by the Bohemian custom of 
getting hens to lay more eggs by feeding them with peas in a 

1 "The Symbolic Significance of Salt in Folklore and Superstition/' Ch. IV 
in my Essays in Applied Psycho- Analysis, 1923. 



shoe on a holy eventide. 1 To take off the bride's shoe has the 
same defloration significance as to tear through the bridal 
wreath or loosen her girdle. Symbols with the same meaning 

that play a very considerable part in folklore are the cowry 
shell, the crescent moon, innumerable cups, goblets, cauld- 
rons, and caskets, and almost any object with an opening, 
from door portals and snake-stones to hollow trees or even 
the opening under a leaning ladder. Perhaps the most 
familiar example of all is the inverted horseshoe still to be 
seen over most stable doors. This is the descendant of the 
actual genital organ of the mare or cow displayed in Eastern 
countries to ward off the Evil Eye, just as the Shela-na-gig 
did that used to be found outside the door of Irish churches. 
It is the counterpart of the numerous forms of Asherah 
with its usual accompaniment of male symbols such as the 
arrow, cross, palm tree, star, etc., facing its concavity. 

These few examples alone raise a host of problems. I 
intend to mention only two of them, and indeed shall have 
to postpone consideration of these until something has been 
said about the content of the unconscious. The first problem 
is, how comes it that the very same symbol can be used now 
as a sign of bad luck and now as a sign of good luck, and 
that the ideas symbolized are constantly changing in their 
relation to good and bad luck? An even prior question is, 
what is the real meaning of good and bad luck, terms which 
play such an enormous part in folklore beliefs and customs ? 
The second problem concerns the place occupied by the 
subject of sexuality. Although no one has suggested that all 
unconscious symbols are sexual, which would be an entirely 
false suggestion, we have to face the fact that an astonish- 
ing number, certainly the large majority, are of this nature, 
and we cannot refrain from inquiring into the meaning of 
this unexpected finding. Now it would be quite wrong to 
ascribe a merely lascivious motive to the occurrence of 

1 Aigremont, Fuss- und sehuh-Symbolik und Erotih, 1909, S. 54. 



sexual symbols, and if this were more generally recognized 
there would perhaps be less prudishness in dealing seriously 
with the problem. The circumstances that such symbolism 

pervades all religions, even the higher ones, should in itself 
be enough to make us regard the matter more soberly. I 
hope to show presently that the two questions just raised 
are intimately connected and that they are concerned with 
the most fundamental issues of life and death. 

I think it is fair to say that the phenomena studied in 
folklore relate for the most part to simple or even lowly 
themes. The same is true a fortiori of the unconscious mind. 
In folklore we have to do with the simple wishes and fears of 
the people and very little with elaborate philosophical, 
spiritual, or artistic preoccupations. We find the people 
concerned with such matters as the preservation of health, 
the warding off of danger and death, the hopes of fortune, 
and the desire for happy marriage and the blessing of 
children. The unconscious is similarly engrossed with such 
topics and in even more primitive terms. I will illustrate 
this by laying before you two broad generalizations about 
its content. The first is that it is mainly concerned with the 
themes of birth, love and death. These are the springs of 
life, and psycho-analysis would go so far as to maintain 
that all our manifold imaginative interests originate there, 
and consist only in ramifications of these themes modified 
by the influence of two other factors, the defensive reactions 
against certain dangers inherent in them (the moral "super- 
ego"), and contact with outer reality. These two influences 
exercise a constantly moulding effect on the primitive im- 
pulses that are striving for expression in their naked form. 
They control them, thwart them, select from them, and 
modify them to such an extent that in the final forms in 
which they emerge they are mostly transformed or distorted 
out^of recognition. From time to time, of course, they 
emerge in ruder forms in various contexts. If, for instance, 


myths and nursery tales were taken seriously and not as a 
form of entertainment, we should doubtless be horrified at 
the recurring evidences they present of barbarous and 
loutish impulses. Sir Laurence Gomme is assuredly right 
when he says that "it is not accidental but persistent 
savagery we meet with in the folk-tale" 1 . Further, as might 
be expected, the orientation of these impulses is decidedly 
egocentric; the unconscious, like charity, begins at home. 

The second generalization about the unconscious is that 
primarily it recognizes no human beings except the imme- 
diate blood relatives; parents, siblings, and children. Atti- 
tudes and feelings about other people are all developed by 
either transforming or directly transferring those belonging 
to the relatives. This finding has tremendous import, but 
first I should like to make it a little more intelligible by 
reminding you of the banal fact that an infant's feelings and 
reactions are of necessity displayed first in respect of the 
persons in its immediate environment. The generalization I 
have just enunciated is by no means identical with this 
banal fact, though it has much in common with it. It illus- 
trates the genetic aspects of the unconscious, and shows 
how nearly akin it is to the infantile. The really important 
feature of it is that, since the unconscious is composed of our 
most primitive impulses, we have to face the conclusion that 
in that region of the mind the relationship to other members 
of the family far transcends the conventional ones of piety 
and affection. It does this in both directions, i.e., it is both 
more and less affectionate than one would infer from con- 
scious manifestations. By less than affectionate I mean the 
jealous and hostile attitudes inherent in the family relation- 
ship, which regularly culminate in death-wishes. By more 
than affectionate I mean sexual, and in saying this I reach 
the hotly contested doctrine of psycho-analysis on the 
subject of infantile sexuality. This is not the place either to 

1 G. L. Gomme, op. cit., p. 82. 



expound or to defend the doctrine, and I can only express 
my personal conviction of its truth. The only possible 
alternatives are that psycho-analysts are entirely mistaken 
in maintaining the existence of infantile sexuality, or, on 
the other hand, that, as they assert, powerful motives of 
repression are generally operative in leading people to over- 
look or discount the signs of it that exist all around. Those 
who have seriously examined the mass of evidence that has 
been adduced can, I think, hardly remain long in doubt 
between these two alternatives. 

The aspect of this subject that most concerns us here is 
the relationship of infantile sexuality to other members of 
the family, the so-called incest trends. According to psycho- 
analysis every child goes through a period in the first few 
years of its life where its development is dominated by un- 
conscious conflicts relating to these trends, and very much 
of its future will depend on how it copes with them. 
Powerful barriers of fear and guilt are constructed against 
the forbidden and dangerous trends, and these barriers from 
the nucleus of what later becomes morality, conscience, and 
much of religion. I cannot describe here the complicated 
ways in which the two sets of forces in this conflict result in 
various compromises, out of which much of our conscious 
mind emerges ; what interests us here is the less satisfactory 
products of the conflict. By these I mean the relics of the 
primitive state, what I termed "survivals" in the earlier 
part of my paper, and, as I then pointed out, they are very 
nearly synonymous with much of the data investigated by 
folklorists. The most typical group is that which in its 
psychological structure can be likened to neurotic symp- 
toms. An example would be the averting of "ill-luck" by a 
magical gesture, incantation, or amulet. There is an interest- 
ing group, however, which is intermediate between this one 
and the quite normal transformation of the primitive im- 
pulses into daily activities. This intermediate one may, in a 



broad sense, be called artistic. The prominent part in it that 

phantasy plays allies it to the last group, from which it is 
separated, however, by a certain deference to reality. At the 
present Congress we have had several attractive presenta- 
tions on the matter of folk-songs and folk-dance, but there 
are two topics even more familiar to us all in this connec- 
tion. I refer to fairy tales and children's games. It has long 
been surmised, and in part demonstrated, that both these 
prerogatives of childhood have more to do with adult life 
than might at first sight appear. It seems clear, for instance, 
that the building and defending of castles and the use of 
bows and arrows must be traditionally handed down from 
times when these were serious occupations in adult life. In 
some cases, as in the doctor game and the preoccupation 
with dolls, the relation to the sexual life of adults is unmis- 
takable, but it will surprise many of you to be told that 
there is good reason to suppose that sexual elements are to 
be traced in most of these youthful interests. Symbolism 
plays an even larger part in the mentality of children than 
in that of adults, and the actual psycho-analysis of young 
children has shown that both their spontaneously invented 
games and the traditional ones they adopt so eagerly are 
often the symbolic expression of the infantile sexuality I 
mentioned earlier. The same is true of fairy tales. Let me 
illustrate this by the familiar example of the frog-prince 
type of tale, in which the frog through repeated pleadings is 
gradually admitted to increasing intimacy with the maiden 
and is finally unspelled on being admitted to her bed. We 
learn from the sequel that the frog was all the time a prince 
in disguise, but to this we have to add the fact that the frog 
is in the unconscious a constant symbol of the male organ 
when viewed with disgust. So we have to complete the 
interpretation by saying that the story represents the 
maiden's gradual overcoming of her aversion to intimacy 
with this part of the body. 



This leads me to say a word about the part played by 
animals in phantasy, in children's games, in nursery tales, 
in legends, and, last but not least, in dreams. The simple 
fact that these animals, in spite of their frequently objec- 
tionable behaviour, surprise us by displaying peculiarly 
human characteristics should provide a hint ta their real 
meaning. This is no more and no less than that they 
represent particular human beings, most often the parents, 
especially the father, less often brothers or sisters or 
children. In many fairy tales, e.g., The Twelve Brothers, 
The Seven Ravens, etc. (Grimm), this is explicitly stated, 
and, incidentally, we get a hint of the motives behind such 
transformations, since it is clear that in these instances the 
father has cast the spell from jealousy of his daughter's 
fondness for the brothers. It is noteworthy that the father- 
animal identification is usually much more disguised than 
the other forms, indicating that the repressed thoughts 
about the father are in a corresponding state of inhibition. 
The animals of heraldry, however, might be quoted in this 
context, for the connection between heraldry and ancestry 
is evident enough as is that between the worship and taboos 
about snakes and piety for ancestors. Again, there are the 
numerous beliefs of tribes and nations being descended 
from particular animals, as the English are supposed to be 
from horses. Ancestor worship and the numerous beliefs 
about ancestors are but a displacement of similar attitudes 
concerning the father. The animals may of course be actual 
or imaginary ones, such as unicorns, dragons, etc., and in 
the latter case indicate a further stage in the disguise of the 
repressed idea. For the reason of the disguise is certainly 
repression. If one asks why should not the actual persons 
intended appear in the story or dream, the answer we get 
from investigation of the data is always the same, namely, 
that the theme that has given rise to the phantasy contains 
elements that are unacceptable to consciousness, and so are 



allowed to emerge only when they have been changed into 
an unrecognizable form. The various elements in question 
fall into two groups, sexual and hostile, a rule to which I 
know no exception, and the incompatibility of these atti- 
tudes with the piety due to one's family is obvious. 

These human animals remind us of the .other figures of 
phantasy, giants, dwarfs, fairies, and ghosts, about each of 
which very much could be said. It is generally recognized 
by now that the conception of giants, with their clumsy 
stupidity and their alternation of kindliness and ogrish 
devouring of children, is a projection of various infantile 
thoughts about grown-ups, particularly the parents, and 
perhaps one might say the same as regards the sexual 
significance of jesters, and dwarfs, of which Triumbkins and 
Rumpelstiltskin serve as typical examples. The belief in 
ghosts is one which has naturally attracted much attention 
from folklorists, and here again I would suggest that much 
advantage may accrue from co-operation between their 
work and that of psycho-analysts. It is surely clear that a 
limit is soon reached if we confine our investigation of 
ghosts (and allied spiritistic phenomena) to examination of 
the purely objective aspects, without taking into account 
the subjective state of the witnesses. In such studies we 
cannot distinguish between the parts played by the inner 
world and the outer world so long as we attend, as is nearly 
always the case, to the latter only. Psycho-analysis is 
naturally concerned with the former problem and often 
enough has to investigate the fear of ghosts, the proneness 
to see them, and so on. After unravelling and curing such 
mental states, it is possible to say something pretty definite 
about the genesis and meaning of them, and a great deal of 
evidence has accumulated to show that this is intrinsically 
connected with unconscious death wishes relating to one or 
both of the parents, the strength and ramifications of which 
are difficult to overestimate. 



After making this wide excursion let us return to the two 
questions I raised earlier in the paper, namely, the problem 
of luck and the problem of why it is that sexual symbolism 
occupies such an unexpectedly large part in the unconscious 
processes from which folklore survivals are derived. Curi- 
ously enough, the answer to these questions is substantially 
the same. Both subjects have to do with certain fears and 
wishes dating from a particularly difficult phase in develop- 
ment which everyone goes through, which everyone forgets, 
and of which there is therefore no conscious knowledge. It is 
perhaps the outstanding discovery attaching to the name of 
Freud that every young child goes through a stage of 
intense incestuous attachment which leaves an ineffaceable 
mark on all its later development. In connection with it two 
invariable reactions occur, fear and hate, and, soon after- 
wards, guilt. The dread of punishment, as distinct from the 
normal fear of punishment or enmity, is in the unconscious 
always associated with this primary theme, whatever be the 
context in which it occurs consciously. The sense of sin is 
born in connection with incest wishes, all sin is appre- 
hended as incest by the unconscious, and therefore all guilt 
and moral punishment remain throughout life inextricably 
intertwined with these primary ideas. The very word 
"incest" is derived from a Sanskrit word signifying "undis- 
ciplined", "unpunished". Another remarkable ramification 
is the way in which the concept of punishment is in the 
unconscious extended to that of misfortune in general. 
Here, as in so many other respects, Christian theology 
follows closely the prototype of the unconscious, for it, too, 
regards the misfortunes that befall humanity as Divine 
punishment for our sins. The practical corollary from all 
this is that exactly in proportion to the difficulty an 
individual has experienced in overcoming this early phase 
in development will he tend to react to the misfortunes of 
life as if they were punishments for sin. He will try to ward 


them off by measures which may be purely magical in 
nature, or may assume the religious form of penance and 

The next point is that the punishment for sin is always 
the same in the unconscious. It appropriately takes the 
talion form of deprivation of sexual capacity, this being 
most typically expressed in men as impotence which is the 
conscious equivalent of castration in the unconscious and 
in women of sterility. Often enough this finds directly 
conscious expression, as in the endless superstitions and 
practices to do with fertility and sterility on the one hand, 
and the manifold dread of what was called the "ligature" 
on the other hand, the dread which is the secret of the 
witchcraft epidemic. Usually, however, the dreads and 
defensive measures are expressed in various symbolic 
guises that need to be interpreted before their meaning 
becomes clear. Two vast subjects in this connection are 
those of ill-health and death, which is natural enough when 
one reflects how largely they bulk among the misfortunes of 
humanity. Hypochondriacal concern about health and a 
disproportionate apprehension of death always, as I have 
expounded elsewhere in a similar connection, 1 prove when 
investigated to be the manifestations of unconscious guilt 
with dread of the punishment of impotence. 

I come last to what, I think, is the most interesting point 
of all in this complicated subject. It is that, just as the 
punishment for forbidden sexuality (incest) always takes 
the talion form of a veto on sexuality, so do the apotropaeic 
measures designed to ward off evil seek to achieve their aim 
by means of the same talion, or what might perhaps be here 
better termed homoeopathic, principle. The underlying idea 
appears to be that if only the person could dare to prove to 
himself that he could commit incest, symbolically of course, 

1 "Psycho- Analysis and Anthropology," The Journal of the Royal Anthro- 
pological Institute, Vol. LIV, 1924. 



without the dreaded punishment ensuing, that very im- 
punity would be the best reassurance imaginable against his 
fears. This is the reason why sexual symbolism plays such 
an astonishing part in the customs and beliefs that make up 
so much of folklore. As I indicated above, it would be both 
superficial and erroneous to regard these findings as simply 
indications of lasciviousness. They are dictated by the desire 
to free the personality from guilt, from danger from punish- 
ment, and from misfortune, and thus to restore the innate 
faculty of potency and fertility, in short, to ensure happi- 
ness. We have here the explanation of how it is that the idea 
of incest signifies both the maximum of danger and the 
maximum of security. And that is the reason why the same 
act, the same object, the same belief can at one moment or 
in one place represent the idea of good-luck and at another 
that of ill-luck. 

If this Congress were entirely devoted to the relation of 
psycho-analysis to folklore, it would be able to deal with 
only the fringe of such a vast subject. I have singled out, 
however briefly and inadequately, what I consider to be a 
few of the most vital points of connection, and will express 
the hope that future co-operation between workers in what 
are apparently very different fields will be equally fruitful 
to both. 





IN the course of some highly suggestive remarks on the 
subject of superstition Freud 2 writes: "I take it that this 
conscious ignorance and unconscious knowledge of the 
motivation of psychical accidents is one of the psychical 
roots of superstition." He maintains in general that the 
undue significance attached by the superstitious to casual 
external happenings arises from associative connections that 
exist between these and important thoughts and wishes of 
which the subject is quite unaware, and that it constitutes a 
projection of the significance really belonging to these 
unconscious thoughts : the feeling of significance, therefore, 
is fully justified, though it has been displaced into a false 
connection. The object of the present communication is to 
examine in the light of this thesis one of the most familiar 
and wide-spread of superstitions namely, the belief that 
it is unlucky to spill salt at table. In doing so the endeavour 
will be made to use the inductive method only, that is to 
say, to construct hypotheses only when they appear to be 
legitimate inferences from definitely ascertained facts and 
then to test them in their capacity to resume the whole 
range of accessible evidence. 

Two primary considerations may be mentioned at the 
outset. First that in all ages salt has been invested with a 

1 Published in Imago, 1912, Bd. i, S. 361 and 454. 

* Freud, Zur Psychopathologic des Alltagslebens, 1904, S. 82. 



significance far exceeding that inherent in its natural pro- 
perties, interesting and important as these are. Homer calls 
it a divine substance, Plato describes it as especially dear 
to the Gods, 1 and we shall presently note the importance 
attached to it in religious ceremonies, covenants, and 
magical charms. That this should have been so in all parts 
of the world and in all times shows that we are dealing 
with a general human tendency and not with any local 
custom, circumstance or notion. Secondly, the idea of salt 
has in different languages lent itself to a remarkable pro- 
fusion of metaphorical connotations, so that a study of these 
suggests itself as being likely to indicate what the idea has 
essentially stood for in the human mind, and hence perhaps 
the source of its exaggerated significance. 

We may begin by considering the chief characteristic 
properties of salt that have impressed themselves on popular 
thought and have in this way become associated with more 
general ideas of an allied nature. Perhaps the most promi- 
nent of these is the durability of salt and its immunity against 
decay. On account of this property salt was regarded as 
emblematic of durability and permanence, 2 and hence of 
eternity and immortality; 3 in the Middle Ages it was 
thought that the devil for this reason detested salt. 4 In 
connection with eternity is also mentioned the idea of 
wisdom, which salt is likewise supposed to symbolize, 5 
though Pitre 6 says that this comes merely from a play on 
the words sedes sapientia and sale e sapienza. Brand, 7 how- 

1 Plutarch, Morals (Goodwin's English Edition), 1870, Vol. II, p. 338. 
8 Lawrence, The Magic of the Horse-Shoe: with other Folk-Lore Notes, 1899. 
Ch. Ill, "The Folk-Lore of Common Salt," p. 157. 

1 Seligmann, Der bose Blick und Verwandtes, 1910, Bd. II, S. 33. 

4 Bodin, De la Dtmonomanie des Sorciers, 1593, p. 278. 

5 Collin de Plancy, Dictionnaire Infernal, 1818, t. II, p. 278; Lawrence, ibid. 
Pitre\ Usi e costumi, credenze e pregiudizi delpopolo Siciliano, 1889, Vol. Ill, 

p. 426. 

7 Brand, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, 1849, 
Vol. I. p. 433- 



ever, quotes an introductory address delivered at a German 
university in the seventeenth century that seems to show 
an intrinsic connection between the two ideas: "The senti- 
ments and opinions both of divines and philosophers concur 
in making salt the emblem of wisdom or learning^ and that 
not only on account of what it is composed of, but also with 
respect to the several uses to which it is applied. As to its 
component parts, as it consists of the purest matter, so 
ought wisdom to be pure, sound, immaculate, and incor- 
ruptible : and similar to the effects which salt produces upon 
bodies ought to be those of wisdom and learning upon the 
mind." This explanation of the association between the 
ideas of salt and wisdom sounds a little too strained to be 
altogether convincing and suggests that perhaps there may 
be other determining factors besides those just mentioned. 
Wisdom was frequently personified holding a salt-cellar, 
and the bestowal of Sal Sapientite, the Salt of Wisdom, is 
still a formality in the Latin Church. The heavenly Sophia 
appears in mystical science as sodium, and her colour is 
yellow, the colour of burning salt. 1 

The idea of durability in regard to salt is evidently an 
important cause of the old association between it and the 
topic of friendship and loyalty? Owing to its lasting and 
incorruptible quality it was regarded as the emblem of 
perpetual friendship, 3 and from this several secondary 
meanings are derived. One corollary, for instance, is that 
the spilling of salt is supposed to involve a quarrel or break- 
ing of friendship. 4 Salt has played an important part in 
matters of hospitality. Stuckius 5 tells us that the Muscovites 
thought a prince could not show a stranger a greater mark 

1 Bayley, The Lost Language of Symbolism, 1912, Vol. I, p. 228. 

1 See Victor Hehn, Das Salz. Eine kulturhistorische Studie, ze Aufl., 1901, S. 

* Brand, op. cit.. Vol. Ill, p. 162; Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 169, 171. 

*Wuttke, Der deutsche Volksaberglaube der Gegenwart, Dritte Bearbeitung, 
1900, S. 21 1 ; Brand, loc. cit. 

8 Stuckius, Antiquitatum Convivialiunt, 1690, S. 17. 


of affection than by sending to him salt from his own table. 
In Eastern countries it is a time-honoured custom to place 
salt before strangers as a token and pledge of friendship 
and good-will, 1 and in Europe it was usually presented to 
guests before other food, to signify the abiding strength of 
friendship. 2 When an Abyssinian desires to pay an especially 
delicate attention to a friend or guest he produces a piece of 
rock-salt and graciously permits the latter to lick it with his 
tongue. 3 In the most diverse countries and at all ages, from 
Ancient Greece to modern Hungary, salt has been used to 
confirm oaths and compacts ; 4 according to Lawrence, "in the 
East, at the present day, compacts between tribes are still 
confirmed by salt, and the most solemn pledges are ratified 
by this substance." Such compacts are inviolable, and in 
the same way "to eat a man's salt", a phrase still in current 
use, carries with it the obligation of loyalty*, during the 
Indian mutiny of 1857 a chief motive of restraint among the 
Sepoys was said to have been the fact that they had sworn 
by their salt to be loyal to the Queen. 5 Byron, in "The 
Corsair", refers to this group of beliefs as follows: 

Why dost thou shun the salt ? that sacred pledge, 
Which, once partaken, blunts the sabre's edge, 
Makes even contending tribes in peace unite, 
And hated hosts seem brethren to the sight ! 

Closely allied to the preceding feature of incorruptibility 
is the capacity salt possesses of preserving other bodies from 
decay. It is generally supposed that this is the reason for 
the power salt has of warding off the devil and other 

1 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 156. 

Lawrence, op. cit., p. 169. 

* Lawrence, op. cit., p. 188. 

4 Schleiden, Das Salz. Seine Geschichte, seine Symbolik und seine Bedeutung 
im Menschenleben, 1875, S. 71-3; Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 164-6. 
6 Manley, Salt and other Condiments, p. 90. 

25 G 


malignant demons, who have a horror of it. 1 The same 
property has also greatly aided in establishing the associa- 
tion between salt and immortality; the connection is plainly 
seen in the Egyptian custom of using salt for embalming. 
It is one reason for the custom, obtaining until recently in 
every part of Great Britain, of placing salt on a corpse; 2 
usually earth was added, "the earth being an emblem of 
the corruptible body, the salt an emblem of the immortal 
spirit." In later years this was said to be done so as to 
prevent decomposition, 3 an idea probably akin to the 
original one. A Welsh elaboration of the custom was to 
place a plate of bread and salt over the coffin (the combina- 
tion of bread and salt will be discussed later); the pro- 
fessional "sin-eater" of the district then arrived, murmured 
an incantation and ate the salt, thereby taking upon him- 
self all the sins of the deceased. 4 

An important conception of salt is that of its constituting 
the essence of things, particularly of life itself. This seems 
to include two sub-ideas, those of necessary presence and 
of value respectively. The idea of ultimate essence no doubt 
underlies the Biblical phrase (Matthew v. 13) "Ye are the 
salt of the earth", and in many other expressions it is used 
in the sense of aristocratic, quintessential, and the like. 5 
In alchemy salt was considered to be one of the three 
ultimate elements out of which the seven noble metals were 
generated. Mercury symbolized the spirit, sulphur the soul, 
and salt the body; mercury represented the act of illumina- 
tion, sulphur that of union, and salt that of purification. 
Herrick, in his Hesperides (p. 394), ranks salt even more 

1 Conway, Demonology and Devil-Lore, 1879, Vol. I, p. 288; Moresin, Papatus, 
etc., 1594, p. 154; Bodin, loc. cit. 

Dalyell, The Darker Superstitions of Scotland, 1835, p. 102; Sikes, British 
Goblins, 1880, p. 328; Brand, op. cit., Vol. II. pp. 234, 235. 

* Brand and Sikes, loc. cit. 

4 Sikes, op. cit., pp. 324, 326. 

Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. VIII, p. 59. 



The body's salt the soule is, which when gone, 
The flesh soone sucks in putrefaction. 

In Ancient Egypt salt and a burning candle represented 
life, and were placed over a dead body to express the ardent 
desire of prolonging the life of the deceased. 1 The following 
argument was employed by Latin writers, e.g., Plutarch: 
"After death all parts of the body fall apart. In life the soul 
maintains the parts intact and in connection with one 
another. In the same way salt maintains the dead body in 
its form and connection, thus representing so to speak 
the soul." 2 The culmination of eulogies, in which the idea of 
value is also prominent, is to be found in a treatise on salt, 
published in 1770, where the writer launches forth in im- 
passioned style the most extravagant encomiums upon this 
substance, which he avers to be the quintessence of the 
earth. Salt is here characterized as a Treasure of Nature, an 
Essence of Perfection, and the Paragon of Preservatives. 
Moreover, whoever possesses salt thereby secures a prime 
factor of human happiness among material things. 3 

Salt is closely associated with the idea of money or 
wealth, and indeed this is one of the connotations of the 
word. Nowadays the implication is even of excessive or 
unfairly high value, as in the colloquial phrase "a salt or 
salty price"; similarly in French "il me Pa bien sale" means 
"he has charged me an excessive price". In commercial 
circles the expression "to salt a mine or property" means to 
add a small quantity of some valuable substance to it so as 
artificially to raise its selling price. In Ancient Rome 
soldiers and officials were paid in salt instead of money, 
whence (from salarium) the modern words "salair" and 
"salary" and the phrase "to be worth one's salt" (=to be 

1 Moresin, op. cit., p. 89. 


8 Elias Artista Hermetica, Das Geheitnnis vom Salt, 1770. 



capable, to earn one's salary). A salt currency was in vogue 
in Africa in the sixth century, and in the Middle Ages this 
was so also in England, 1 as well as in China, Tibet, and 
other parts of Asia. 2 The name of the Austrian coin "Heller" 
is derived from an old German word for salt, "Halle." 3 The 
Montem ceremony at Eton, 4 which consisted in collecting 
money in exchange for salt, was continued until 1847. Salt- 
Silver was the term used to denote the money paid by 
tenants to their lord as a commutation for the service of 
bringing him salt from market. 6 In parts of Germany the 
game is played of placing some sand, some salt, and a green 
leaf on the table and making a blind-folded person grope for 
them; if he seizes the salt it denotes wealth. 6 

These and other considerations have invested the idea 
of salt in the popular mind with a sense of general import- 
ance. Waldron 7 states that in the Isle of Man "no person 
will go out on any material affair without taking some salt 
in their pockets, much less remove from one house to 
another, marry, put out a child, or take one to nurse, 
without salt being mutually exchanged; nay, though a poor 
person be almost famished in the streets, he will not accept 
any food you will give him, unless you join salt to the rest 
of your benevolence". To carry salt with one on moving 
to a new dwelling is a very wide-spread custom; 8 it is 
related that when the poet Burns, in 1789, was about to 
occupy a new house at Ellisland, he was escorted there by a 
procession of relatives in whose midst was carried a bowl of 
salt. 9 The Arabs of Upper Egypt, before setting out on a 

1 Brand, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 436. 

Schleiden, op. tit., S. 68-70, 82. 
9 Hehn, op. tit., S. 90. 

4 Brand, op. tit., pp. 433-40. 

Brand, op. tit, p. 403. 
Wuttke,op. tit., 8.233. 

7 Waldron, Description of the Isle of Man, 1725, p. 187. 
Wuttke, op. tit., 8.396. 

Rogers, Scotland, Social and Domestic. 1869* Vol. Ill, p. 288. 



journey, burn salt to prevent ill-luck. 1 The laying of salt 
at the table was in the Middle Ages a tremendous cere- 
mony. The other implements were disposed with minute 
care in their relation to the salt, which throughout was 
treated with special deference. 2 With the Romans it was a 
matter of religious principle that no other dish was placed 
upon the table until the salt was in position. Rank and pre- 
cedence among the guests were precisely indicated by their 
seat above or below the salt and their exact distance from 
it. Schleiden 8 remarks: "How great was the importance 
attached to salt is also seen from the fact that hardly a 
place existed in which salt was produced where this was not 
expressed in the name of the place, from the Indian 
Lavanapura ('Salt-town') and the Austrian Salzburg ('Salt- 
town') to the Prussian Salzkotten and the Scottish Salt- 

The high importance attaching to salt led to various 
magical powers being ascribed to it, and it has been very 
extensively employed in magical procedures. It could be 
used for these and other purposes by placing it on the 
tongue or by rubbing the body with it, but the favourite 
method was to dissolve it in water and bathe the person 
with this. The principal function of salt in this connection, 
like that of most other charms, was to ward off harm, 
chiefly by averting the influence of malignant spirits. Salt 
is almost universally thought to be abhorrent to evil 
demons, 4 the only exception I know of being in Hungarian 
folk-lore, where on the contrary evil beings are fond of salt. 5 
Salt was always missing from the devil's and witches' 
banquets. 6 Salt has therefore been one of the staple charms 

1 Burckhardt, Travels in Nubia, 1822, p. 169. 
1 Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 197-205. 

* Schleiden, op. cit., S. 70. 

4 Bodin, loc. cit.; Collin de Plancy, op. cit., pp. 277, 278; Schleiden, op. cit, 
S. 78. 

* Lawrence, op. cit., p. 159. 

Wright, Sorcery and^ Magic, 1851, p. 310. 



against the power of the devil, 1 of magicians, 2 of witches, 3 
of the evil eye, 4 and of evil influences in general: 5 such 
beliefs are found in countries so far apart as Arabia 6 and 
Japan. 7 Cattle are also protected against witchcraft in the 
same way. 8 In India and Persia one can even determine by 
means of salt whether a given person has been bewitched 
or not. 9 Salt will also protect the fields from evil influences. 10 
It was further used to prevent the souls of the dead from 
returning to earth and to secure them peace in Purgatory. 11 
These practices were performed with especial frequency 
with children. The custom of rubbing new-born infants with 
salt is referred to in the Bible (Ezekiel xvi. 4). The use of 
salt to guard the new-born against evil demons and evil 
influences, either by placing a little on the tongue or by 
immersing the infant in salt and water, was in vogue 
throughout Europe from early times, and certainly ante- 
dated Christian baptism; 12 in France the custom lasted until 
1408 of putting salt on children until they were baptised, 
when it was considered no longer necessary. 13 At the present 
day it is still placed in the cradle of the new-born child in 
Holland. 14 In Scotland it was customary to put salt into a 

1 Bodin and Collin de Plancy, loc. cit. 

9 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, Vierte Ausgabe, 1876, S. 876. 

* Krauss, Slavische Volksforschungen, 1908, S. 39 ; Mannhardt, Germanische 
Mythen, 1858, S. 7; Seligmann, op. cit., Band II, S. 33; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 95, 
258, 283; Grimm, op. cit., Nachtrag, S. 454. 

* Seligmann, op. cit., Band I, S. 312, 313, 320, 331, 344, 346, 365, 377, 389; 
Band II, S. 73, 144, 220, 376. 

5 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 177. 

6 Burckhardt, loc. cit. 

7 Bousquet, Le Japan de nos jours, 1877, t. I, p. 94; Griffis, The Mikado's 

8 Seligmann, op. cit., Band II, S. 104, 241, 329; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 40, 435, 
438; Krauss, loc. cit. 

9 Seligmann, op. cit., Band I, S. 262, 264. 

10 Seligmann, op. cit., Band II, S. 374. 

11 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 465, 472. 

11 Conway, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 217; Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 174, 175; Selig- 
mann, op. cit., S. 34; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 382, 387. 
1S Schleiden, op. cit., S. 79. 
14 New York Times, November 10, 1889. 



child's mouth on entering a stranger's house for the first 
time. 1 Salt was also placed in the mouth of a new-born calf 
for similar purposes as with children. 2 

Salt has been extensively used for medicinal purposes. 
It was believed to have the function of both preventing 3 
and curing 4 diseases, as was already commented on by 
Pliny, particularly those caused by occult influences. It is 
possible that the Latin word "salus" (health), the earliest 
connotation of which was "well-preserved", was originally 
related to the word "sal". 

Another important function of salt was its use in further- 
ing fecundity. As this obviously cannot have been derived 
from any natural property of the substance, it must repre- 
sent some symbolic significance in harmony with the general 
importance attached to it. Schleiden 5 makes the following 
interesting remarks in this connection: "The sea was un- 
questionably the fructifying, creative element. Leaving 
aside the few marine mammals, the offspring of sea creatures 
are to be counted by thousands and hundreds of thousands. 
This was all the more easily ascribed to the salt of the sea, 
since other observations believed to have been made were 
connected with it. It was recalled that in dog-breeding the 
frequent use of salt increased the number of the progeny, 
and that on ships carrying salt the number of mice multi- 
plied to such an extent as to give rise to the idea of 
parthenogenesis, i.e., to the view that mice could beget 
young without the co-operation of a male. The conviction 
was thus formed that salt must stand in a close relation to 
physical love, so that salt became the symbol of procreation" 
It was used in this connection in two ways, to promote 

1 Dalyell, op. cit., p. 96. 

* Seligmann, op. cit.. S. 58; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 436, 443. 
Wuttke, op. cit., S. 374. 

4 Dalyell, op. cit., pp. 98, 99, 102; Lawrence, op. cit., p. 180; Seligmann, 
op. cit., Band I, S. 278; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 336. 

* Schleiden, op. cit., S. 92, 93. 



fecundity and to avert barrenness or impotence. The latter 
is illustrated by Elisha's action of throwing salt into the 
fountain of Jericho (2 Kings ii. 21): "Thus saith the Lord, 
I have healed these waters; and for the future they shall 
not be the occasion either of death or barrenness." Gaume 1 
states that salt has the specific function of promoting 
fecundity, and its symbolic significance in this direction is 
seen in the following Indian practice: 2 A woman who 
wishes for a child, particularly for a son, fasts on the fourth 
lunar day of every dark fortnight and breaks her fast only 
after seeing the moon. A dish of twenty-one balls of rice, 
one of which contains salt, is then placed before her, and if 
she first lays her hand on the ball containing the salt she 
will be blessed with a son. In this case no more is eaten; 
otherwise she goes on until she takes the salted ball. The 
ceremony may be observed only a limited number of times; 
if in these she fails altogether to pick out the salted ball first 
she is doomed to barrenness. In Belgium salt is mixed with 
the food of a pregnant mare or cow so as to make the birth 
easy; 3 in Normandy it is given to cows so as to ensure 
plenty of butter. 4 In East Friesland 5 and Scotland 6 salt is 
put into the first milk after calving with the object of secur- 
ing a plentiful supply of good milk. In Bohemia a special 
cake containing salt is given to a pregnant cow so that she 
may bear a choice calf and yield plenty of milk. 7 In Ireland 
when the seed is being sown the mistress of the house first 
puts salt into the field, 8 and a similar custom exists in East 

1 Gaume, L'Eau Bdnite an Dix-neuvieme Siecle, 1866, Cited by Con way. 
1 Indian Notes and Queries, Vol. IV, p. 106. 

8 Von Reinsberg-Duringsfeld, "Volksgebrauche in Kempen," Ausland, 1874, 
S. 471- 

4 Kuhn, M&rkische Sagen und Mftrchen, 1843, S. 388. 

6 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 446. 
Dalyell, op. cit., p. 101. 

7 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 442. 

8 Cough's Edition of Camden's Britannia, 1789, Vol. Ill, p. 659 and Vol. IV, 
p. 470. 


Prussia. 1 In Bavaria to obtain a rich harvest the first load 
is sprinkled with salt and water. 2 

It is only natural that the general importance attached 
to salt should have been reflected in the sphere of religion, 
and we find that this was so in a remarkable degree. Salt 
was an essential constituent of sacrificial offerings in 
Ancient Egypt, 3 as well as in Greece and Rome; 4 Brand 
says of the latter: "Both Greeks and Romans mixed salt 
with their sacrificial cakes; in their lustrations also they 
made use of salt and water, which gave rise in after times 
to the superstition of holy water." In Judaism we find 
descriptions of three different usages taught by the Bible. 
As in other countries, salt formed a necessary part of 
sacrificial offerings: "Every oblation of thy meat offering 
shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the 
salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat 
offering: With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt" 
(Leviticus ii. ij). 5 A covenant, especially a religious 
covenant, was ratified by means of salt : "It is a covenant of 
salt for ever, before the Lord" (Numbers xviii. 19); "The 
Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David 
for ever, even to him, and to his sons, by a covenant of salt" 
(2 Chronicles xiii. 5). The idea of a bond of loyalty through 
eating salt also occurs : the passage "we have maintenance 
from the king's palace" (Ezra iv. 14) means literally "we 
are salted with the salt of the palace". 6 The salt sources 
in Germany, which later became associated with the doings 
of witches, had a considerable religious significance; 

1 Seligmann, op. cit, Band II, S. 34; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 419. 

1 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 423. 

8 Arrian, De Expeditions Alexandra, lib. iii, cap. I. 

4 Brand, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 161. 

1 In Job i. 22, the literal rendering of the passage "In all this Job sinned not, 
nor charged God foolishly" is "In all this Job sinned not, nor gave God un- 
salted". (Conway, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 150.) 

' Lawrence, op. cit., p. 156. 



Ennemoser 1 writes of them: "Their yield was regarded as a 
direct gift of the near Divinity, and the winning and dis- 
tributing of the salt as a holy occupation probably 
sacrifices and folk festivities were connected with the drying 
of the salt." 

In the Roman Catholic Church salt was introduced for 
baptismal purposes in the fourth century 2 and has played a 
prominent part there ever since. 3 In St. Margaret's Church 
in Ipswich there is a font bearing the curious inscription 
"sal et saliva", which must go back to some fecundity rite, 
saliva being a typical unconscious symbol of the male fluid. 
According to Schleiden, 4 this idea was derived from the 
Jewish use of salt at the circumcision rite. The celebration 
of baptism in Scotland by a layman was afterwards con- 
firmed by a priest administering a particle of salt. 5 Gratian, 
in his Decretalia, explains that the use of consecrated salt 
in the mouth of one about to be baptised is to render the 
rite more efficacious. 6 In the baptismal ceremonies of the 
Church of England in medieval times salt was placed in 
the child's mouth, and its ears and nostrils were touched 
with saliva practices which became obsolete at the time of 
the Reformation. 7 As a rule, however, salt is applied in the 
dissolved state, the well-known "Salzstein", 8 composed of 
salt and water that has been separately blessed beforehand. 
The holy water thus constituted was extensively used in 
both Catholic and Protestant countries, and for the identical 
purposes for which simple salt and water had previously 
been used by the common people, the only difference being 

1 Ennemoser, Geschichte der Magie, Zweite Aufl., 1844, S. 839. 

Pfannenschmid, Das Weihwasser im heidnischen und christlichen Cullus, 

1 See Lawrence, op. cit., p. 182. 
4 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 76. 
1 Dalyell, op. cit., p. 97. 

Cited by Dalyell, loc. cit. 
7 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 176. 

Seligmann, op. cit., Band I, S. 322; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 142. 



that the latter was not quite so efficacious as the conse- 
crated mixture. Thus it was officially employed by the 
Roman Catholic Church for profiting the health of the body 
and for the banishing of demons, 1 by the English Church 
to prevent the devil from entering churches and dwellings, 2 
and by the Scottish Church for expelling demons, for 
sanctifying religious rites, and to prevent new-born babies 
from becoming changelings. 3 Holy water was also used, and 
to some extent is still used, to avert the evil eye, 4 to prepare 
for a journey, 5 to cure demoniac possession, 6 to make the 
cattle thrive, 7 to prevent witches from turning the butter 
sour, 8 and to ensure the fortunate delivery of a pregnant 
cow. 9 In the same connection may be mentioned certain 
African taboos concerning salt. A demon who inhabited a 
lake in Madagascar was so averse from salt that whenever 
any was being carried past the lake it had to be called by 
another name, or it would all have been dissolved and lost. 10 
A West African story relates how a man was told that he 
would die if ever the word "salt" was pronounced in his 
hearing; one day the fatal word was pronounced, and he 
promptly died. 11 

We may now consider another attribute of salt which 
has given rise to many symbolic connotations namely, its 
peculiar taste. Seligmann 12 says: "Salt is on account of its 
piquant power a life-furthering material", and he associates 

1 Gaume, loc. cit.; Moresin, op. cit., pp. 153, 154. 

2 Ady, A Perfect Discovery of Witches, 1661. 

8 Napier, Folk Lore, or Superstitious Beliefs in the West of Scotland within this 
Century, 1879. 

* Seligmann, op. cit., Band I, S. 325; Band II, S. 315, 396. 

* Wuttke, loc. cit. 

6 Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584, p. 178. 

7 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 439. 

Wuttke, op. cit., S. 448. 

Wuttke, op. cit., S. 142. 

10 Sibree, The Great African Island, 1880, p. 307. 

11 Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa, 1904, p. 381. 
11 Seligmann, op. cit., Band I, S. 278. 



with this the beliefs in the influence exerted by salt when 
it penetrates into other substances, e.g., bread, and also the 
belief in its capacity to cure disease. This property of salt 
has been especially connected with speech in various meta- 
phorical ways. Lawrence 1 writes : "Owing to the importance 
of salt as a relish, its Latin name sal came to be used 
metaphorically as signifying a savoury mental morsel, and, 
in a general sense, wit or sarcasm. . . . The characterization 
of Greece as the 'salt of nations' is attributed to Livy, and 
this is probably the origin of the phrase 'Attic salt', mean- 
ing delicate, refined wit." A pungent or pithy remark or jest 
is termed salt, 2 as in such expressions as "there is no salt in 
his witticisms", though the use of the word in this sense is 
becoming obsolescent in English; in French a similar one 
obtains, in expressions such as "une epigramme sale", "il a 
repandu le sel a pleins mains dans ses ecrits", etc. In the 
Biblical passage (Epistle to the Corinthians iv. 6) "Let your 
speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt" this con- 
notation is probably present, as well as that previously 
mentioned of wisdom or sense. The same metaphor is also 
applied in a general way, apart from speech, as in denoting 
an insipid man as "having no sense or salt", lacking in 
piquancy or liveliness, just as in Latin the word insalsus 
(=unsalted) meant stupid. This metaphorical attribute of 
salt is evidently closely akin to the one previously men- 
tioned of "essentialness". 

A property of salt that has been extensively exploited 
by the popular imagination is the ease with which it 
dissolves in water. That a substance otherwise so durable 
should disappear when put into water and, though leaving 
no visible trace of its presence, should endow the water with 
its peculiar properties (capacity to preserve from decay, 
pungent taste, etc.) has always impressed the people as 

1 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 161. See also Schleiden, op. cit., S. 91. 
8 See Oxford English Dictionary, loc. cit. 



being a remarkable characteristic, and is perhaps partly 
responsible for the mysterious significance attaching to 
holy water. One obvious practical application, of which 
frequent use has been made, is to estimate the amount of 
moisture in the atmosphere by the varying avidity of salt 
for it. It has thus been quite rationally used to foretell the 
weather* From this have been derived the following sym- 
bolical uses of it for the same purpose. 2 An onion is cut into 
twelve pieces, which are strewn with salt and named after 
the twelve months ; the piece that becomes specially moist 
denotes a wet month in the coming year. The same may be 
done with twelve nutshells, which have to be examined at 
midnight. Or a piece of salt is placed on each corner of the 
table to denote the four seasons of the year; the one that 
has collected most moisture by the morning indicates the 
wettest season. The last-mentioned practice is also used to 
find out if the coming harvest will be valuable or not. 3 This 
foretelling capacity of salt has naturally been generalized 
far beyond its original sphere. Thus, according as a par- 
ticular heap of salt remains dry or not it is concluded 
that a corresponding person will or will not survive the 
coming year, that a given undertaking will be successful or 
the reverse, and so on. 4 

Water is not the only substance into which salt can be 
absorbed with the production of peculiar changes. Indeed, 
the capacity of salt to enter into combination with a second 
substance may be regarded as one of its most salient char- 
acteristics. The substance with which it is by far the most 
often associated in this way is bread. The combination of the 
two has been used for practically all the purposes enum- 
erated above in connection with salt, and in folk beliefs the 
two are almost synonymous. Thus bread and salt are both 

1 Willsford, Nature's Secrets, p. 139. 
Wuttke, op. cit., S. 231. 
Wuttke, op. cit., S. 230. 
* Wuttke, op. cit., S. 231. 



absent from the devil's feasts; 1 the combination of them is 
potent against witches, 2 and against the evil eye; 3 it guards 
cattle against disease, 4 ensures a plentiful supply of milk, 5 
and removes obstacles to the churning of butter. 6 It is 
equally efficacious with adults and infants. It is carried into 
a new dwelling to avert evil influences and to bring good 
luck; 7 in Hamburg nowadays this custom is replaced by 
that of carrying at processional times a cake covered with 
chocolate, in the form of a bread roll, and a salt-cellar of 
marzipan filled with sugar. The combination of salt and 
bread has also been extensively used to confirm oaths, 8 and 
is still so used in Arabia at the present day. 9 

The mixture of wheat and salt was used for the same pur- 
pose as that of bread and salt. It was an important part of 
the Roman propitiatory sacrifices, 10 and also of the Jewish 
oblations. 11 In Russia it was offered as congratulatory to 
strangers, 12 as we have seen salt alone was in other countries. 
In Ireland women in the streets, and girls from the windows, 
sprinkled salt and wheat on public functionaries when they 
assumed office. 13 

Lastly may be mentioned the attribute of salt as a means 
of purification. That salt water possesses this quality in a 
high degree was observed at an early stage of civilization, 

1 Grimm, op. cit., S. 877. 

1 Seligmann, op. cit., Band II, S. 37, 52, 93, 94; Grimm, op. cit., Nachtrag, 
S. 454; Wuttke, op. cit., S. 129, 282. 

8 Wuttke, op. cit.. S. 282; Seligmann, op. cit., Band I, S. 398; Band II, S. 37. 
38, 93. 94. ioo. 250, 334- 

* Dalyell, op. cit., p. 100. 

* Seligmann. op. cit., Band II, S. 38; Dalyell, loc. cit. 

6 Seligmann, loc. cit. 

7 Seligmann, op. cit., S. 37. 

8 Dekker's Honest Whore. 1635, Sc. 13; Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 
Vol. I, p. 236; Lawrence, op. cit., p. 164. 

f Lawrence, op. cit., p. 185. 

10 Brand, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 163 ; Dalyell, op. cit., pp. 99, 100. 

11 Dalyell, op. cit., p. 99. 
" Dalyell, loc. cit. 

18 Brand, op. cit., p. 165 ; Dalyell, loc. cit. 



and by Roman ladies it was actually regarded as a means of 
attaining beauty. 1 Especially in regard to the sea this 
feature has led to numerous poetical applications and also 
to the development of many superstitions. It is intelligible 
that this purifying attribute should have played an im- 
portant part in the use of salt in religious cults, and this we 
find was so, notably in Egypt and Greece. 2 We shall return 
to the subject later on when discussing the relation of 
purification to baptism. 


We may now survey the facts just related. While it has 
only been possible in the allotted space to give a relatively 
few examples of the numerous ways in which ideas concern- 
ing salt have played a part in folk belief and custom it 
would need a special treatise to record them all it is 
probable that the most prominent and typical of them have 
been mentioned; at all events no special selection whatever 
has been made, beyond relegating sexual ones to the back- 
ground. It is hardly necessary to say that the grouping here 
adopted is unduly schematic, being one of convenience in 
presentation only; a given custom would mostly be dictated 
by interest in other properties of salt as well as the one under 
which it is here mentioned. 

In regard now to the matter that formed our starting- 
point namely, the superstitious fear of spilling salt it is 
plain that here a significance is attached to an act which 
does not inherently belong to it, and it is equally plain that 
the same is true of most of the customs and beliefs related 
above. There are two possible explanations that may be 
offered for this state of affairs. The first would run some- 

1 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 84. 
* Schleiden, op. cit., S. 84, 85. 



what as follows. The present-day superstition has no mean- 
ing beyond an historical one; it is simply an instance of the 
tendency of mankind to retain traditional attitudes for no 
intelligible reason, and is an echo of the time when the idea 
of salt was properly invested with a greater psychical value 
than it now is. In former times the significance attached to 
the idea of salt that we now regard as excessive was not so, 
being justified in fact and to be accounted for quite natur- 
ally by the real importance of the substance. There is 
undeniably a certain amount of truth in this view. Salt, 
being a substance necessary to life and in some countries 
obtainable only with considerable difficulty, 1 was inevitably 
regarded as both important and valuable, though this con- 
sideration must lose much of its weight in regard to most 
parts of the world where the supply is plentiful. Again, the 
curious properties of salt, its preserving capacity, its power 
of penetrating other substances, etc., would naturally im- 
press the primitive mind, and the view just described would 
doubtless try to account for the belief in its magical powers 
by pointing out that such minds work on a simpler plane of 
thought than do ours. To this argument, however, com- 
parative psychology could object that, although this type 
of thought just as that of children certainly often differs 
from what we term rational thinking, careful investigation 
always shows that it is very far from being so bizarre and 
unintelligible as it may at first sight appear; the formation 
of illogical connections is not meaningless, but has a per- 
fectly definite and comprehensible reason for it. The general 
criticism, therefore, that must be passed on this explanation 
is that while it adduces unquestionably important con- 
siderations these are only partly capable of accounting for 
the facts, and are inadequate as a complete explanation of 
them. Other factors must have been operative in addition 
to those just mentioned. 

1 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 187. 



The second explanation would supplement the first by 
regarding the excessive significance attaching to the idea of 
salt as an example of what Wernicke called an Vberwertige 
Idee, that is to say, an idea overcharged with psychical 
significance. Only some of this inherently belongs to the 
idea itself, the rest being of adventitious origin. Such pro- 
cesses are, of course, very familiar in daily life : a banknote, 
for instance, is valued not for the intrinsic worth of the 
paper but for the worth that extrinsic circumstances give it. 
Psycho-analytic investigation has shown on the one hand 
that such transference of affect from one idea to another 
allied one is much commoner than was previously realized, 
and on the other hand that very often the subject is quite 
unaware of the occurrence. Thus a person may experience 
an intense affect fear, horror, etc. in regard to a given 
idea or object purely through the idea having formed 
strong associative connections with another idea which is 
justifiably invested with this affect; the intrinsic attributes 
of the idea do not account for the strong affect attached to 
it, this being in the main derived from a different source. 
The most striking manifestations of this process are seen in 
the psychoneuroses ; the patient has a terror of a certain 
object which is not customarily regarded with terror, the 
reason being that the idea of the object is unconsciously 
connected in his mind with that of another object in regard 
to which the terror is quite comprehensible. In such cases 
the secondary idea may be said to represent or symbolize 
the primary one. 1 The more bizarre and apparently unin- 
telligible is the phobia or other symptom, the more strained 
is as a rule the connection between it and the original idea, 
and the stronger is the emotion investing the latter. Apart 
from the neuroses instances of exceedingly strained connec- 

1 On the precise distinction between symbolism and other forms of indirect 
mental representation see Ch. VII of my Papers on Psycho- Analysis. 1918, 
"The Theory of Symbolism". 

41 D 


tions are less common. What happens as a rule is that the 
affect belonging to the two ideas, the symbolized and the 
symbolizing one, is very similar, so that the affect trans- 
ferred from the one to the other accounts for only part of the 
affect accompanying the secondary idea. In this case the 
intrinsic qualities of the idea account for some of the affect, 
but not for all; the affect is appropriate in quality, but dis- 
proportionate in quantity. Unless the cause of this exag- 
geration is appreciated there is an unavoidable tendency to 
overlook the fact itself on rationalistic grounds; then the 
intrinsic qualities of the secondary idea are erroneously 
regarded as constituting an adequate explanation of the 
affect in question. 

The main difference, therefore, between the two explana- 
tions is this : the first assumes that the affect, or psychical 
significance, attaching to the idea of salt was once not dis- 
proportionate to its real value, whereas the second, regard- 
ing the affect as disproportionate, maintains that some of it 
must be derived from an extraneous source. 

In seeking for this source we have two distinct clues to 
guide us. In the first place, the universality of the beliefs 
and customs under discussion, and the remarkably high and 
even mystical significance that has been attached to the 
idea of salt, indicate that any further idea from which this 
may have been derived must be both a general one, com- 
mon to all mankind, and one of fundamental psychical 
importance. In the second place, the association between 
the idea of salt and any further one must have been formed 
through the resemblances, real or fancied, of the correspond- 
ing qualities of the two ideas. It becomes necessary, there- 
fore, to consider with closer attention the popular concep- 
tion of these qualities that was described above. 

This conception may be summarized as follows. Salt is a 
pure, white, immaculate and incorruptible substance, 
apparently irreducible into any further constituent ele- 



ments, and indispensable to living beings. It has correspond- 
ingly been regarded as the essence of things in general, the 
quintessence of life, and the very soul of the body. It has 
been invested with the highest general significance far 
more than that of any other article of diet was the 
equivalent of money and other forms of wealth, and its 
presence was indispensable for the undertaking of any 
enterprise, particularly any new one. In religion it was one 
of the most sacred objects, and to it were ascribed all 
manner of magical powers. The pungent, stimulating flavour 
of salt, which has found much metaphorical application in 
reference to pointed, telling wit or discourse, doubtless con- 
tributed to the conception of it as an essential element; to 
be without salt is to be insipid, to have something essential 
lacking. The durability of salt, and its immunity against 
decay, made it an emblem of immortality. It was believed 
to have an important influence in favouring fertility and 
fecundity, and in preventing barrenness; this idea is con- 
nected with other attributes than the one just mentioned, 
probably indeed with them all. The permanence of salt 
helped to create the idea that for one person to partake of 
the salt of another formed a bond of lasting friendship and 
loyalty between the two, and the substance played an im- 
portant part in the rites of hospitality. A similar application 
of it was for confirming oaths, ratifying compacts, and seal- 
ing solemn covenants. This conception of a bond was also 
related to the capacity salt has for combining intimately 
with a second substance and imparting to this its peculiar 
properties, including the power to preserve against decay; 
for one important substance namely, water it had in 
fact a natural and curious affinity. 

If we now try to discover what other idea these ideas 
could arise in reference to, besides that of salt, the task is 
surely not difficult. If the word salt had not been men- 
tioned in the preceding description anyone accustomed to 



hidden symbolism, and many without this experience, 
would regard it as a circumlocutory and rather grandilo- 
quent account of a still more familiar idea that of human 
semen. In any case a substance possessing the attributes just 
mentioned would lend itself with singular facility to such 
an association. Indeed, the mere fact that salt has been 
regarded as the emblem of immortality and wisdom is in 
itself suggestive to anyone who is alive to such possibilities, 
for the other well-known emblem of these two concepts is 
the snake, which is in mythology and elsewhere the phallic 
symbol par excellence. The surmise that the idea of salt 
has derived much of its significance from its being uncon- 
sciously associated with that of semen fulfils at least one 
postulate of all symbolic thinking namely, that the idea 
from which the excessive significance is derived is more 
important psychically than the idea to which this is trans- 
ferred; the radiation of the affect, like that of electricity, is 
always from the site of more intense concentration to that 
of less. 

At the present stage of our investigation it is plain that 
the inference just drawn cannot be regarded as being much 
more than a surmise, or at the most a working hypothesis, 
one which will appear more or less plausible according to 
the experience of unconscious symbolism by which it is 
viewed. It must next be tested by the ordinary rules of 
science namely, by its capacity to predict and by its 
power of satisfactorily reducing to simple terms a series of 
disparate phenomena. 

If the hypothesis is correct then one could foretell that 
customs and beliefs would be found showing a direct 
relation between the idea of salt on the one hand and such 
ideas as those of marriage, sexual intercourse, and potency 
on the other, as well as a larger number showing a plainly 
symbolical relation between the two sets of ideas ; further, 
that the ideas concerning salt and water mirror similar, 



more primitive ones concerning semen and urine, and that 
the partaking of salt would be connected with ideas relating 
to sexual intercourse and impregnation. It will presently be 
seen that anthropological and folk-loristic material provides 
ample confirmation of these expectations. 

The supposed action of salt in favouring fecundity and in 
preventing barrenness has been mentioned above. It was a 
classical belief that mice became impregnated through eat- 
ing salt; 1 any objection to our hypothesis, therefore, that 
the connection between the ideas of salt and semen is too 
remote for them ever to have been brought together, except 
artificially, at once falls to the ground, for here we have a 
direct identification of the two substances. In the Pyrenees 
the wedding couple before setting out for church put salt 
into their left pocket to guard against the man's being 
impotent. In Limousin, Poitou, and Haut-Vienne the bride- 
groom alone does this, in Altmark the bride alone. In Pam- 
proux salt is put into the clothes of the wedding couple with 
the same motive. 2 In Germany salt is strewn in the bride's 
shoe. 3 In Scotland on the night before the wedding salt is 
strewn on the floor of the new home with the object of 
protecting the young couple against the evil eye; 4 I have 
elsewhere 5 shown that the idea of maleficium, with which 
that of the evil eye is practically identical, mainly arises 
from the pervading dread of impotence, and Seligmann 6 
actually mentions the use of salt to counteract the "liga- 
ture", i.e., the spell cast over the sexual functions by evil 

1 Pliny, Nat. Hist.. X, 85. 

2 The preceding examples are all taken from Seligmann, op. cit., Band II, 
S. 35, 36, or from Schleiden, op. cit., S. 71, 79. 

3 Schell, "Das Salz im Volksglauben", Zeitschrift des Vereinesfur Volkskunde, 
Jahrg, XV, S. 137- 

4 Seligmann, op. cit., S. 35. 

5 Ernest Jones, Der Alptraum in seiner Beziehung zu gewissen Formen des 
mittelalterlichen Aberglaubens, 1912, S. 107, 108. 

6 Seligmann, op. cit., Band I, S. 291. 



Frobenius 1 relates a folkloristic story told with the direct- 
ness of peasant thought. A penis and vagina once went 
together on a journey to buy salt. Each carried its portion. 
On the way back it began to rain. The vagina said to her 
comrade: "Our salt will get wet if we carry it on our heads. 
Let us put it in my opening; then it will keep dry." They 
did this, and there we have the reason why the penis ever 
seeks the vagina since it contains the daintiest delicacy 
(Le., salt), while the vagina always wants salt (i.e., semen) 
from the penis. 

Salt has often, especially in former times, been considered 
to have an exciting influence on the nervous system, and it 
was thus thought to possess the attribute of arousing 
passion and desire. 2 Schleiden 3 writes: "The Romans 
termed a man in love 'salax', (whence our 'salacious') and 
this view still survives with us when we jokingly say that 
the cook who has put too much salt into the soup must be 
in love." In Belgium the custom of visiting one's sweetheart 
in the nights after festivals is called "turning one's love 
into salt". 4 Shakespeare evidently uses it in the same sense 
in the passage "Though we are justices ... we have some 
salt of our youth in us". 5 In some stories collected among 
African natives by Frobenius 6 salt is referred to as a direct 
equivalent of semen. Paracelsus, in his De Origine Morborum 
Invisibilium? teaches that Incubi and Succubi emanate 
from the sperma found in the imagination of those who 
commit the unnatural sin of Onan, but that this is no true 
sperma, only corrupted salt. 

The following are two metaphorical applications of the 

1 Leo Frobenius, Schwarze Seclen, 1913, S. 433. 
1 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 92. 
* Schleiden, op. cit., S. 93. 

4 Von Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, op. cit., S. 472. 

5 The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, Sc. 3. 

8 Frobenius, Schwarze Seelen (Privately printed), 1913, S. 433. Dr. Otto Rank 
kindly informs me of this. 

7 Hartmann's Life of Paracelsus, 1667, p. 90. 

4 6 


same idea. Salt is used to keep the fire always burning, 1 and 
there are examples, which need not be quoted, of the com- 
bination of salt and fire being used for every purpose in 
regard to which salt alone has superstitiously been used. 
At the Osiris festivals in Egypt all those taking part had to 
light lamps the oil of which had had salt mixed with it. 2 
The idea of fire, however, in poetry as well as in mythology, 3 
is constantly used to represent the ideas of the fire of life 
and the fire of love. Again, lameness is often brought into 
symbolic association with impotence (incapacity, inability), 
and in Sicily salt is used specifically to prevent lameness. 4 

The initiatory ceremonies universally performed by ruder 
peoples at the age of puberty commonly include a sacrificial 
or propitiatory act; circumcision is a replacement of such 
ceremonies, having been put back to the age of infancy just 
as baptism has been by most Christian Churches. In Egypt 
salt is strewn when circumcision is performed. 5 In various 
initiations, both earnest and jocular, at universities and 
schools salt played a central part, and the phrase "to salt a 
freshman" is still in vogue. 6 Of late years it has been 
replaced in this respect by the more convenient alcohol, 
another unconscious symbol for semen, 7 but the feeling- 
attitude remains the same namely, that the young man 
needs the administration of an essential substance before he 
can be regarded as having attained full virility. 

It is known that there exists an intimate connection be- 
tween extreme abstinence attitudes of all kinds and excessive 
sexual "repression"; over-great prudishness is apt to be 
accompanied by a desire to abolish all alcohol from the 

1 Miihlhauser, Urreligion des deutschen Volkes, 1860, S. 133. 
1 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 76. 

Cp. Abraham, Traum und Mythus, 1909, S. 31, etc. 
Pitr6, loc. cit. 

Seligmann, op. cit., Band II, S. 37. 

Cp. Brand, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 433-9. 

7 Abraham, "Die psychologischen Beziehungen zwischen Sexualitat und 
Alkoholismus", Zeitschrift fiir Sexualwissenschaft, 1908, S. 449. 



universe, as we see at the present day in America. In the 
same way salt has been brought into manifold relation with 
the idea of sexual abstinence. The workers in the salt-pans 
near Siphoum, in Laos, must abstain from all sexual rela- 
tions at the place where they are at work, the motive being 
a purely superstitious one. 1 The celibate Egyptian priests 
had at certain times to abstain wholly from the use of salt, 
on the ground of its being a material that excited sensual 
desires too much. 2 Abstinence both from sexual relations 
and from the partaking of salt is enjoined for several days 
on men of the Dyak tribes after returning from an ex- 
pedition in which they have taken human heads, 3 and for 
three weeks on a Pima Indian who has killed an Apache; 4 
in the latter case the man's wife also has to abstain from 
salt during the same period. 5 The full account of these 
customs clearly shows that they constitute rites of purifica- 
tion and expiation. Abstinence both from sexual relations 
and from salt is also frequently prescribed during important 
undertakings or on weighty occasions: thus on Lake 
Victoria Nyanza while fishing, 6 and in the island of Nias 
while traps are being laid for wild animals. 7 In Uganda any 
man who has either committed adultery or eaten salt is not 
allowed to partake of the sacred fish-offering. 8 In Mexico 
the Huichol Indians undergo the same double abstinence 
while the sacred cactus plant, the gourd of the God of Fire, 

1 Aymonier, Notes sur le Laos, 1885, p. 141. 

* Schleiden, op. cit., S. 93. 

8 Tromp, "Uit de Salasial van Koetei", Bijdragen tot de Taal- Land- en 
Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indie, 1888, Vol. XXXVII, p. 74. 

4 Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, 1875, Vol. I, p. 553; Grossman, 
in Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1892, p. 475. 

8 Russell, "The Pima Indians", Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau 
of American Ethnology, 1908, p. 204. 

6 Frazer, The Golden Bough, Third Edition, Part II, Taboo, 1911, p. 194. 

7 Thomas, "De jacht op het eiland Nias", Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal- 
Land- en Volkenkunde, 1880, Vol. XXVI. 

8 Roscoe, "Further Notes on the Manners and Customs of the Baganda", 
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1902, Vol. XXXII, p. 56. 

4 8 


is being gathered. 1 Similar double observances obtain in 
other countries in connection with the promotion of 
fertility; in fact the last-named custom is related to this, 
for the main benefits that the sacred cactus is supposed to 
bestow are plentiful rain-supply, good crops, and the like. 
The Indians of Peru abstain for as long as six months both 
from sexual intercourse and from eating salt on the occasion 
of the birth of twins ; one of the twins was believed to be the 
son of the lightning, the lord and creator of rain. 2 Other 
examples of the same double abstinence are: in Peru pre- 
ceding the Acatay mita festival, the object of which is to 
ripen the fruit, and which is followed by a sexual orgy; 3 
in Nicaragua from the time that the maize is sown until it 
is reaped. 4 In Behar in India the Nagin women, sacred 
prostitutes known as "wives of the Snake-God", periodic- 
ally go about begging and during this time they may not 
touch salt ; half of their proceeds go to the priests and half 
to buying salt and sweetmeats for the villagers. 5 

Attention may be called to two features of the preceding 
collection of customs. First that they occur in all parts of 
the globe, instances having been cited from Europe, Africa, 
Asia, and America, North, South, and Central. Secondly, 
that to a great extent they duplicate the customs previously 
described in connection with salt alone, thus in relation to 
religion, to the weather, to important undertakings, and to 
the production of fertility. Where in one country the 
presence of salt is indispensable, in another one abstinence 
from salt and at the same time from sexual intercourse 
is equally essential. Both cases agree in regarding salt as an 
important agent in these respects; whether this is for good 

1 Lumholtz, Unknown Mexico, 1903, Vol. II, p. 126. 
1 Frazer, op. cit., Part I, The Magic Art, 1911, Vol. I, p. 266. 
Frazer, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 98. 
4 Frazer, op. cit., p. 105. 

6 Crooke, Popular Religion and Folk-Lore of Northern India, 1896, Vol. II. 
p. 138. 



or for evil is of secondary interest, the main point being its 
significance. If, as is here suggested, the idea of salt is 
generally connected in the unconscious mind with that of 
semen, it is throughout intelligible that abstinence from 
sexual relations should tend to be accompanied by abstin- 
ence from salt as well (radiation of the affect) ; it is in perfect 
accord with all we know of primitive, symbolic thinking. 
The unconscious logic of the argument seems to be that 
abstinence from sexuality is incomplete unless all forms of 
semen, even symbolic forms, are abstained from. 

This bipolar attitude of regarding salt as either exceed- 
ingly beneficial or exceedingly harmful reminds one of two 
current controversies namely, whether alcohol and sexual 
intercourse respectively are beneficial or harmful to health. 
Indeed, as with these, there have been at various times 
propagandist movements started in which salt has been 
denounced as the cause of numerous bodily evils. 1 In 1851 
there was published a volume by a Dr. Arthur Howard 
entitled: Salt, the Forbidden Fruit or Food "The Whole 
Mystery now Revealed. Its Hurtful Effects on Man (chiefly 
Woman) and on Animals, showing itself to be the Chief 
Cause of Diseases of the Body and Mind of Man and of 
Animals, as taught by the ancient Egyptian priests and 
Wise Men and by Scripture, in accordance with the 
Author's Experience of many years." It was described 
by the Lancet as "worthy of immortality". As may be 
imagined from the title, the author treats of salt as a most 
obnoxious substance, abstinence from which is essential to 
the maintenance of health. It is possible even that uncon- 
scious associations of the kind under consideration may not 
have been altogether without influence in relation to more 
recent medical views. It had long been noticed that urine 
contained solid constituents which were either evident as 
such or could be recovered from their soluble state by means 

1 Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 189-92. 



of evaporation; these were regarded on the one hand as 
comprising the essence of the fluid, being thus identified 
with semen, and on the other as salts, which indeed they 
mostly are. 1 The sufferings due to the excessive accumula- 
tion of these salts, in the form of calculi, attracted a great 
deal of attention and play a very important part in early 
surgical writings. When the chemical constituents of urine 
came to be carefully studied by exact methods there arose a 
tendency, which reached its acme in the late 'eighties, to 
attribute a considerable number of disorders to the pre- 
sence in the system of an excessive amount of these con- 
stituents. Thus, to mention only a few examples, gout was 
thought to be simply a question of poisoning by uric acid, 
uraemia to be poisoning with urea, diabetic coma (exhaus- 
tion following on the continued loss of a vital substance) 
poisoning by acetone (an occasional urinary constituent), 
rheumatism poisoning by lactic acid (milk, a sexual secre- 
tion, is almost constantly identified with semen in the 
unconscious), and so on. It is interesting that the two 
diseases in regard to which this idea was most firmly fixed 
namely, gout and rheumatism are joint diseases, and 
hence lend themselves to the series of unconscious associa- 
tions "lameness incapacity impotence". Of late years 
the tendency has taken at the same time simpler and more 
complex directions. On the one hand there is a return to salt 
itself, and a "salt-free diet" is vaunted as the sovereign 
agent for the prevention of arterial disease and old age 
(impotency), for the cure of epilepsy, and so on. It will also 
be remembered how, when Brown-Sequard's attempt to 
recapture youthful vigour by means of the injection of 
canine semen shocked the medical profession in London, 
efforts were made to substitute the more respectable, 
because unconscious, symbol of this common salt. On the 

1 The unconscious association between semen and urine on the one hand and 
salt and water on the other will be dealt with at length later in this essay. 



other hand there is a restless search for more complex 
organic poisons, usually in the intestinal contents, which 
are now being as extensively exploited as the urine was forty 
years ago. The belief in the prime importance of organic 
poisons is even generally extended to psychosexual 
maladies, such as hysteria, "neurasthenia", and dementia 
praecox. It may be questioned whether the important 
advance in knowledge represented by the toxic theory of 
disease would not have met with more resistance than it did 
had it not appealed to a fundamental complex in the 
human mind, in which, among others, the ideas of poison 
and semen are closely associated. 

A few derivative symbolisms concerning salt may next 
be considered, which receive an added significance in the 
light of the hypothesis put forward above. The power of 
salt is enhanced when it is placed on an object resembling 
the male organ. Cattle are thus protected by making them 
step over a bar of iron, or a hatchet, which has been 
sprinkled with salt; 1 the Esthonians cut a cross 2 under the 
door through which the cattle have to pass, and fill the 
furrows of it with salt to prevent evil spirits from harming 
them. 3 

According to Clement of Alexandria, in the rites that 
celebrate the voluptuousness of the sea as a token of 
Aphrodite's birth there a lump of salt and a phallus was 
handed to the youths who are being initiated into the lore 
of adultery. In their turn they present her with a coin, as if 
they were her lovers and she their paid mistress. 4 A 
similar meaning must originally have attached to the 
Ancient Greek custom of tossing to the spectators of a 

1 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 440. 

* The phallic significance of the cross symbolism has been pointed out by 
many investigators. See, for instance, Inman, Ancient Pagan and Modern 
Christian Symbolism, 1874. 

8 Frazer, op. cit., p. 351. 

4 J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Religion and Ancient Greek Folklore, 1910, 
p. 581. 


comedy barley cakes in the shape of phalli, mixed with 
salt. 1 

In Bohemia when a girl goes out for a walk her mother 
sprinkles salt on the ground so that she may not "lose her 
way" ; 2 this over-solicitous precaution becomes more intelli- 
gible when we read Wuttke's 3 explanation that the object 
of it is to prevent the girl from falling in love. A belief at 
first sight quite foolish and meaningless is that a boy can 
be cured of home-sickness by placing salt in the hem of his 
trousers ( !) and making him look up the chimney. 4 We now 
know, however, that excessive homesickness is due to over- 
attachment, rooted in unconscious incestuous wishes, to 
some member of the family, usually the mother, which has 
the effect of "fixing" his powers of love and rendering it 
incapable of being transferred in the normal way to a 
stranger. To look up the chimney symbolizes the daring to 
face another dark, inaccessible and dangerous passage (the 
.very word "chimney" is derived from the Greek x<fctuvo<;= 
oven, a common unconscious equivalent for the mother's 
lap or womb). The belief, therefore, which means that if 
someone can succeed in "making a man of him" he will be 
freed from his homesickness, is not so unintelligible as it 
appears, and is merely the clothing in symbolic language of 
a fundamental fact in human nature. One may learn from 
it how invaluable a knowledge of unconscious symbolism is 
for the understanding of superstition, and how impossible 
it is to comprehend it without this knowledge. 

The Salt-cellar^ the receptacle of the salt, has been held 
in as much superstitious reverence as its contents. 5 The 
symbolism of it is usually a feminine one, 6 as indeed is 

1 F. H. Cornford, The Origin of Attic Comedy, 1914, p. 102. 
8 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 182. 
8 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 367. 
4 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 181. 

6 Schleiden op. cit., S. 74; Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 196-205. 
6 Though the late Dr. Putnam related to me the case of a man in whose 
dreams a salt-cellar appeared as a symbol of the scrotum. 



indicated by the Spanish compliment of calling a sweetheart 
"salt-cellar of my love". 1 Salt-cellars, often of great mag- 
nificence, were, and still are, favourite wedding-presents. 
In Rome they constituted a special heirloom, the paternum 
salinum, which was handed down from generation to 
generation with especial care. In general it is just as evident 
that an excessive amount of affect, of extraneous origin, has 
been invested in the idea of a salt-cellar as it is in salt itself. 
In classical times the salt-cellar partook of the nature of a 
holy vessel, associated with the temple in general, and more 
particularly with the altar. 2 To those who are familiar with 
the female symbolism of the altar 3 this will be quite com- 
prehensible. The etymology of the word "salt-cellar" is of 
considerable interest in the present connection. The second 
part "cellar" is derived from the French saliere (salt-cellar), 
so that the whole is a redundancy, meaning salt-salt- 
receptacle. We see here an instructive example of linguistic 
assimilation, for a "cellar" (a dark chamber under the 
house) has the same feminine symbolic meaning as saliere 
itself. The sound resemblance of the words saliere and cellar 
naturally made the assimilation easier, but the instinctive 
intuition of the people was probably the underlying factor 
in bringing it about. 

The offering of salt as a special mark of favour, and as a 
sign of hospitality, has been mentioned above ; we have now 
to note the reverse of this. In England 4 and France 5 it was 
considered unlucky to be helped to salt at table; this super- 
stition still obtains in Anglican circles and finds popular 
expression in the saying "Help me to salt, help me to 
sorrow". In Russia the quarrel that would otherwise follow 

1 Andre, Globus, 1867, Band XI. S. 140. 
1 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 74. 

8 G. W. Cox, The Mythology of the Aryan Nations, 1870, Vol. II, pp. 113-21; 
Inman, op. cit., p. 74. 

* Brand, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 162. 

* Brand, ibid., p. 163. 



can be averted if one smiles amicably when proffering the 
salt. 1 A clue to the original meaning of the superstition is 
found in the attitude formerly obtaining in Italy, 2 where a 
courtesy of this kind was thought to be a mark of undue 
familiarity; when salt was offered by one man to the wife of 
another it was a sufficient cause for jealousy and even 
quarrel. This is perfectly intelligible in the light of the 
hypothesis advanced above, but is hardly otherwise to be 

In the North of England to give salt to someone is con- 
sidered dangerous, for it puts the giver into the power of 
the recipient; 3 the same belief also used to be held in 
Russia. 4 In other places the act gives one possession or 
power over the recipient, and with salt one can acquire 
either men or knowledge; 6 this idea is probably allied to 
those of loyalty and of the magical properties of salt (see 
above). Light is thus thrown on the quaint saying: "To 
catch a bird you must put salt on his tail." This is com- 
monly accounted for with the obvious remark that to catch 
a bird one must get near enough to it to be able to touch 
it, but this does not explain why it should be just salt that 
has to be applied, nor why it should be just to the tail. 
Realization of the belief in the magical power of salt makes 
the saying rather more intelligible, but the explanation thus 
afforded is still only a general one; constructions of the 
phantasy, including superstitious beliefs and sayings, are 
determined not only generally, but precisely and in their 
finest details. Additional help is furnished by an old legend 
narrated by Lawrence, 6 in which a young man playfully 

1 Revue des Traditions populaires, 1886, t. I; Sikes, op. cit., p. 329. 

* Boyle, A Theological and Philosophical Treatise of the Nature and Goodness 
of Salt, 1612. 

8 Henderson, Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England, 
1879, p. 217. 

* Schleiden, op. cit., S. 71. 

6 Oxford Dictionary, loc. cit. 

* Lawrence, op. cit., p. 179. 



threw some salt on to the back of a woman who was sitting 
next to him at table ; she happened to be a witch, and was 
so weighted down by the salt that she was unable to move 
until it was brushed away. We have here, therefore, again 
the idea of salt brought into relation with that of weight 
which prevents movement. Now witches were conceived to 
be incorporeal beings, and in fact one of the chief ways of 
finding out whether a given woman was a witch was by 
weighing her j 1 the difference in weight made by a pinch of 
salt was therefore quite considerable, or could metaphoric- 
ally be imagined to be so. This attribute of witches was 
closely related to their power of flying by night, and there- 
fore with bird mythology altogether. The bird has always 
been a common phallic symbol 2 sometimes quite con- 
sciously so, as with the winged phallus charms of the 
Roman ladies and the tail is a still more familiar one in 
common speech; further the act of flying from the ground 
is frequently associated in the unconscious with the pheno- 
menon of erection. 3 The significance of salt (=semen) in 
this connection is obvious; favouring and hindering are 
treated as synonymous terms here as elsewhere in super- 
stition, just as in the unconscious mind, the main point 
being the significance. 

Finally may be mentioned the belief that to see salt in 
a dream indicates illness. 4 When one recalls the frequency 
with which the ideas of nocturnal emission and of illness or 
loss of strength are associated, it is not difficult to divine 
the source of this particular belief. 

1 Bekker, Die Bezauberte Welt, 1692, Theil I, S. 209. 

1 Abraham, Traum und Mythus, 1909, S. 30, 63, etc. 

8 Federn, Cited by Freud. Die Traumdeutung, Dritte Aufl., 1911. S. 204. 

* Schleiden, op. cit., S. 80. 




In the preceding section of this essay we dealt chiefly 
with the adult roots of salt symbolism and superstitions, 
and we have now to turn our attention to the deeper 
infantile roots. The reason why the word "deeper" is used 
here will presently become evident; it has to do with the 
ontogenetic, as well as phylogenetic, antiquity of symbolism 
in general. 

Before passing to the next stage of the investigation, 
therefore, it will be necessary briefly to refer to some aspects 
of infantile mental life that without being realized play an 
important part in adult life namely, certain views devel- 
oped by young children concerning the begetting of chil- 
dren. 1 These are forgotten long before puberty, so that the 
adult is quite unaware of their existence and is extremely 
surprised to hear of their great frequency in childhood life. 
They survive nevertheless in the unconscious mind, and 
exert a considerable influence on later interests and 

Early realizing, in spite of the untruths told him by the 
parents, that a baby is born of the mother and grows inside 
her, the child sets to work to solve the problem as best he 
can, the full answer being concealed from him. Knowing 
nothing of other organs he conceives of the "inside", par- 
ticularly the abdomen, as simply a receptacle for food, a 
view amply confirmed by his experience of indigestion and 
other sensations. The baby, therefore, must have been 
formed out of food, an inference that is largely correct. 
Further, there being no other mode of exit possible at 
least so far as he is aware the baby must have then 
reached the exterior in the same way as digested food 

1 See Freud, Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Zweite Folge, 
1911, S. 159-64, "Uber infantile Sexualtheorien". 

57 * 


(cloaca theory), as it actually does in all animals except 
mammalia. There is thus established in the child's mind a 
close connection between the ideas of food, faeces, and 
babies, one that explains among many other things many 
an hysterical symptom in later life. 

The child next comes to the notion that, since food alone 
does not in his personal experience have this result, a mix- 
ing of two substances must be necessary. On the basis of 
his excremental interests he observes that there are three 
possible materials available, for it is only exceptionally that 
he thinks the fertilizing material is of non-human origin. 
The phantasy may combine these three materials solid, 
liquid, and gaseous in different ways, the commonest of 
which, in my experience and in that of other observers, are 
in order: liquid solid, liquid liquid, solid solid, and 
gaseous solid. A knowledge of these facts is indispensable 
for the full understanding of salt symbolism. As the objec- 
tion may be raised that they are artefacts of the psycho- 
analytic method of investigation, it will be well to refer to 
a little of the mass of purely anthropological evidence that 
proves the universal occurrence of similar beliefs in what 
corresponds with the childhood of the race. 1 

The belief that fertilization, and even delivery, can take 
place through some other orifice than the vagina has been 
held in the most diverse countries of the world and is still 
quite prevalent. Any orifice or indentation may be im- 
plicated, the nostril, eye, ear, navel, and so on. An interest- 
ing historical example was the medieval belief that the 
Virgin Mary conceived through the ear, one widely held in 
the Roman Catholic Church. 2 The mouth, however, was the 

1 Since this essay was written a highly interesting paper of Otto Rank's has 
appeared ("Vaikerpsychologische Parallelen zu den infantilen Sexualtheorien", 
Zentr alblatt fiir Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. II, Heft 8) in which a large quantity of 
additional data is given that both confirms and amplifies the conclusions here 

8 See Ch. XIII of these Essays, which is devoted to an examination of this 



orifice most frequently thought of in this connection, as is 
apparent from the very numerous legends and beliefs in 
which eating or drinking bring about pregnancy. The 
peasantry in England still believe that peahens are im- 
pregnated in this way 1 and similar views are entertained in 
other countries in respect of different animals; we noted 
above that according to which female mice are impregnated 
by eating salt. 

The belief that women can conceive as the result of eating 
various articles of diet has existed in most parts of the 
world; 2 usually the particular food is one to which some 
sexual symbolism is attached, such as rice, fish, coco- 
nuts, and so on. In the more civilized countries this has 
been reduced to the belief that partaking of such substances 
will cure barrenness in women or promote their fecundity ; 
Hartland 3 relates a huge number of practices of this kind 
carried out, mostly at the present day, for the purpose of 
securing conception. 

A digression must here be made on a matter of some 
importance to the present theme namely, the association 
between food as taken into the body and food as it is given 
out, two ideas which are by no means so remote from each 
other in the primitive mind, including that of the child, as 
they usually are in that of the civilized adult. In the first 
place many savage tribes have the custom of devouring 
ordure of all kinds, including their own, and indeed seem 
to partake of it with special relish; 4 a contemptuous refer- 
ence to it may be found in 2 Kings xviii. 27. In more 
civilized countries this has long been replaced by sausages 5 
(a word, by the way, of the same etymological derivation as 

1 Hartland, Primitive Paternity, igog, Vol. I, p. 151. 
* Hartland, op. cit., pp. 4-16. Numerous examples. 
8 Hartland, op. cit., pp. 32-41, 47, 48, 54-72. 
4 Bourke, Scatalogic Rites of All Nations, 1891, pp. 33-7. 
8 In England in the present generation the belief was acted on that a stolen 
sausage had the power of curing barrenness (Hartland, op. cit., p. 56). 



salt), and other products of abdominal organs. 1 The ordure 
of sacred men has in many countries, e.g., Tibet, a high 
religious significance, being used to anoint kings, to guard 
against evil demons, and so on. 2 That it is not very rare for 
insane patients to eat their own excrement is of course well- 
known; 3 in such cases the long-buried infantile association 
may come to open expression in the patient's remark, 
pointing to the excrement, that he has just produced a 
baby. Cases of stercophagy are occasionally met with apart 
from any psychosis, as I know from personal experience of 
several instances. An association is often formed between 
the ideas of excrement and corpses, probably through the 
common notion of decomposition of something that was 
once a living human body, or part of one. Both ideas are 
connected with that of fecundity. Hartland 4 refers to 
"numerous stories wherein portions of dead bodies, given to 
maidens and other women, render them pregnant." One of 
the most widely-spread practices in India and elsewhere for 
remedying sterility is to perform various symbolic acts in 
relation to dead bodies : thus, to creep under the coffin, to 
wash in the blood of decapitated criminals, to bathe over a 
dead body or underneath a person who has been hanged, 
and so on. 5 The Hungarians hold that a dead man's bone 
shaved into drink and given to a woman will promote con- 
ception, or if given to a man will enhance his potency. 6 

1 The wife of the Elector of Hanover, in a letter to her niece, the sister-in-law 
of Louis XIV, writes as follows: 

Hanovre, 31 Octobre, 1694. 

Si la viande fait la merde, il est vrai de dire que la merde fait la viande. 
Est-ce que dans les tables les plus dedicates, la merde n'y est pas servie en 
ragouts? Les boudins, les andouilles, les saucisses, ne sont-ce pas de ragouts 
dans des sacs & merde ? 

Bourke, op. cit., pp. 42-53. 

8 According to Obersteiner (Psychiatrisches Centralblatt, 1871, Band III, 
S. 95) this is true of one per cent of such patients, more often with men. 
4 Hartland, op. cit., p. 77. 
6 Hartland, op. cit., pp. 74-6. 

Von Wlislocki, Aus dem Volksleben der Magyaren, 1893, S. 77. 



It is clear that other factors also enter into these last- 
mentioned beliefs, notably forms of ancestor-worship, but 
we are concerned here only with the one element of the 
association between putrefaction and fecundity, one which 
has of course an extensive real justification in agriculture 
(manure and fertility). The bone, being a rigid hollow tube 
containing a vital marrow, 1 is a very frequent phallic 
symbol in anthropological data and in the unconscious 
mind generally: the following Egyptian myth also illus- 
trates its power of impregnation. 2 A bone thrown on a 
dung-heap ( !) grew up into so fine a tree (another familiar 
symbol) that no one had ever seen its like. The daughter of 
the man who had thrown the bone was desirous of seeing 
this wonderful tree; when she witnessed its beauty she was 
so entranced that she embraced it and kissing it took a leaf 
into her mouth. As she chewed it she found the taste sweet 
and agreeable and swallowed the leaf; at the same instant 
she conceived by the will of God. 

Mainly derived from the same source are the beliefs and 
customs relating to the endless magical properties attaching 
to dead bodies, and notably to their most putrefactive ele- 
ments (saliva, excretions, etc.). 3 It would be out of place 
to follow this subject further here, but mention may be 
made of a West German belief to the effect that unless the 
person who has clothed the dead body rubs his hands with 
salt his limbs will go to sleep. 4 This is evidently akin to 
sympathetic magic, the meaning being that close contact 
with the corpse may transfer his state of deadness to the 
person; the deeper meaning is that salt (=semen) will pro- 
tect the member(s) from the risk of death, i.e., im- 

A more constant unconscious association is that between 

1 Cp. the curse, "May his bones lose their sap". 

2 Oestrup, Conies de Damas, 1897, p. 26. 

8 Hartland, The Legend of Perseus, 1895, Vol. II, pp. 162-74, 3 I 3~3 2 e ^c. 
4 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 463. 



the ideas of gold and faeces, 1 one of far-reaching significance 
in mythology as well as in the reactions of every-day life. 
Gold as fertilizing principle usually in conjunction with a 
second sexual symbol is a favourite theme in mythology; 
perhaps the best known instance is that of Danae being 
impregnated by a shower of golden rain. Apples, fish, and 
other objects, made of or resembling gold, are also familiar 
instances of the same type of story. This association ex- 
plains the extensive connection noted earlier between salt 
and money or wealth (both being symbols of fertilizing 
excrement), of which a few other examples may be given. 
In Pomerania at the close of a wedding breakfast a servant 
carries round a plate containing salt, upon which the guests 
put money ; 2 the combination of the two substances plainly 
symbolizes fertility. Seligmann 3 refers to a German custom 
of carrying salt and money together in the pocket as a pro- 
tection against impotence, so that here we have our surmise 
directly confirmed as to the meaning of the combination. 
A more complex variant is found in the Chemnitz saying: 
"If one washes one's money in clear water and puts it with 
salt and bread, the dragon and evil people cannot get 
it." 4 

Pregnancy has been brought about just as frequently by 
drinking as it has by eating: all manner of fluids have been 
efficacious in this respect, the sacred soma-juice milk, the 
sap of grass, leaves and plants, the juice of roots, fruit and 
flowers, and so on. 5 The idea of a liquid stimulus to concep- 
tion thus stands in contrast with that of a solid one. The 
practice of drinking various fluids for the purpose of aiding 
conception is even more widely spread, and exists through- 

1 Freud, op. cit., S. 136, 137; Ferenczi, Contributions to Psycho- Analysis, 
1916, Ch. XIII, "The Ontogenesis of the Interest in Money"; Ernest Jones, 
Papers on Psycho- Analysis, 1918, pp. 676-8. 

2 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 71. 
8 Seligmann, op. cit., S. 38. 

* Grimm, op. cit., Nachtrag, S. 434. 

8 Hartland, Primitive Paternity, 1909, Vol. I. Numerous instances. 



out Europe at the present day. In every country women 
wishing to have children drink water from various holy 
springs or wells, the most potent of which is perhaps that at 
Lourdes. 1 Apart from this numerous allied practices exist, 
of which the following selection may be given. 2 In Thur- 
ingia and Transylvania women who wished to be healed of 
unfruitfulness drank consecrated (salt) water from the 
baptismal font; in Riigen such water was efficacious if 
poured before the door of a childless couple. In Hungary a 
barren woman drinks from a spring that she has never 
before seen. A Malagasy woman who has not been blessed 
with issue is made to go on swallowing water until her 
stomach is so full that it will not hold another drop. Masur 
women in West Prussia make use of the water that drips 
from a stallion's mouth after he has drunk. 

As might be expected, more personal fluids are exten- 
sively used for the same purpose, this being the primary 
sense of the proceeding. In Bombay a woman cuts off the 
end of the robe of another woman who has borne children, 
steeps it, and drinks the infusion. Other women in India 
drink the water squeezed from the loin-cloth of a sanyasi 
or devotee. Saliva has been very extensively employed in 
this connection, it being almost universally treated as a 
seminal equivalent (hence the expression "he is the very 
spit of his father"). Saliva in fact forms throughout in folk- 
lore and superstition a regular duplicate of salt, bearing the 
same relation to hospitality, friendship, compacts, baptism, 
magical powers and charms, religious significance, and the 
rest; 3 the theme cannot be further pursued here and 
obviously needs separate exposition. Other fluids that may 
be mentioned are: the milk of another woman, blood from 
the navel of a new-born child, water in which the navel has 

1 Hartland, op. cit., pp. 64-7. 

2 Hartland, op. cit., pp. 67-71. 

8 Hartland, Perseus, op. cit., pp. 258-75. 



been soaked, the lochial discharge of a woman at her first 
child-bed, water in which the placenta has been soaked, 

water from the first bath of a woman after delivery. The 
original sense of all these beliefs and customs is revealed by 
consideration of the numerous myths and legends, which 
recur in every part of the world without exception, describ- 
ing how pregnancy followed the imbibing of semen, 
deliberate or accidental. 

A great part of our mental life, however, is the echo of 
childhood thoughts, and the child knows nothing about 
semen. To him the corresponding potent fluid is urine, a 
topic which must next concern us. The prediction was 
ventured above that the various ideas noted in regard to 
salt and water would be found to mirror earlier correspond- 
ing ones relating to semen and urine. Confining ourselves 
for the present to the subject of salt water and urine, we 
find that the resemblances between the ideas relating to 
them are very striking. They may be considered by follow- 
ing the order in which the properties of salt were enum- 
erated at the outset. 

The significance of salt for friendship, loyalty, hospitality, 
and the ratifying of pacts, was dwelt on above: the same 
customs and ideas can be duplicated in respect of urine. 
Until about three centuries ago it was the vogue in Europe 
to pledge a friend's health in urine, 1 exactly as we now do 
in wine, and in the same circumstances; by this, perpetual 
friendship and loyalty, or even love attachment, might be 
ensured. The same custom still obtains in Siberia, where it 
also signifies a pact of peace. 2 At a Moorish wedding the 
bride's urine is thrown in the face of any unmarried man 
or stranger on whom it is wished to bestow a distinguished 
favour, 3 just as in other countries salt is presented with the 

1 Bourke, op. cit., p. 129. Numerous references. ("Cobblers' punch" means 
urine with a cinder in it.) 

* Melville, In the Lena Delta, 1885, p. 318. 

8 Mungo Park: Travels into the Interior of Africa 1813, pp. 109. 135. 

6 4 


same intention. In parts of Russia it was customary for the 
bride to wash her feet and then use the water for sprinkling 

the bridal bed and the assembled guests; it is probable, as 
Bourke suggests, 1 that the water thus used represents a 
survival of a former practice in which the aspersion was 
with the urine of the bride. The old English custom of the 
bride selling alcoholic liquor the so-called Bride-Ale on 
the wedding-day 2 is also likely to be ultimately derived from 
the same primitive source. The Jews still retain the follow- 
ing allied custom at their weddings: A goblet of wine is 
handed to the bridegroom by the best man, and after the 
bridegroom has sipped from it he passes it to the principal 
bridesmaid ; she hands it to the bride, who also drinks from 
it. The following custom, related by Dulaure, 3 seems to be a 
question both of hospitality and a test of friendship: "The 
Tchuktchees offer -their women to travellers ; but the latter, 
to become worthy of the offer, have to submit to a disgust- 
ing test. The daughter or wife who has to pass the night 
with her new guest presents him with a cupful of her urine ; 
with this he has to rinse out his mouth. If he is brave 
enough to do so, he is regarded as a sincere friend ; if not, he 
is treated as an enemy of the family." It may be doubted 
whether the construction Dulaure places on this is objec- 
tively arrived at; at all events it is not likely to be the 
original explanation. 

The magical powers of salt are fully equalled by those of 
urine. In connection with evil spirits and witches it played a 
triple part. In the first place it was used actually to bewitch 
people for evil purposes. 4 It is interesting to note that this 
might occur even unintentionally. In Africa, for instance, it 
is believed that "to add one's urine, even unintentionally, 
to the food of another bewitches that other, and does him 

1 Bourke, op. cit., p. 232. 

* Brand, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 143 et seq. 

8 Dulaure, Les DiviniUs Generatrices, 1825, p. 400. 

4 Frommann, Tractatus de Fascinatione, 1674, p. 683. 



grievous harm"; 1 this may be compared with the belief, 
mentioned above, that to give salt to someone puts him in 
one's power. Secondly, like salt, it was used for the detec- 
tion of witchcraft and of witches. 2 Thirdly it was one of the 
most potent charms against evil spirits and witches, and 
was used as such throughout the Middle Ages. 3 In Ireland 4 
urine, especially when combined with dung, was invaluable 
in frustrating the mischief of fairies. It is still used against 
witches by the Eskimos in disorders of childbirth. 5 The 
Shamans of Alaska do the same to keep off evil spirits. 6 
Os thanes, the magician, prescribed the dipping of our feet, 
in the morning, in human urine, as a preventative against 
evil charms. 7 It is still a practice in France to wash in urine so 
as to guard against the devil and other maleficent influences. 8 
In regard to disease there was still more extensive 
application made of urine than of salt, both for diagnostic 
and for therapeutic purposes. As is well-known, urinoscopy 
was in the Middle Ages one of the principal means of recog- 
nizing different diseases, and it was used for this purpose 
not only in Europe but in Arabia, Tibet, and other parts of 
the world; 9 for instance, in the index to the works of 
Avicenna there are no fewer than two hundred and seventy- 
five references to the appearance and other physical pro- 
perties of urine in disease. As in the case of salt, this 
divination was connected with ideas of urine, rain, and 
weather prophesying in general. The use of urine in the 
treatment of disease has been so remarkably comprehensive 

1 Bourke, op. cit., p. 376. 

* Bourke, op. cit., p. 397. Several references. 

* Frommann, op. cit., pp. 961, 962; Brand, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 13. 
*Mooney, "The Medical Mythology of Ireland," Trans, of the American 

Philosophical Society, 1887. 
8 Bourke, op. cit., p. 378. 

* Boas, Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol. I, p. 218. 
7 Quoted from Brand, op. cit., p. 286. 

Luzel, "Le Nirang des Parsis en Basse Bretagne", Mttusine, Mai 1888; 
Reclus: Les Primitifs, 1885, p. 98. 
' Bourke, op. cit., pp. 272-4, 385, 386. 



that it is impossible even to touch on the subject here; Bourke 
has collected a vast amount of information dealing with it. 1 
It may be added that sometimes we find salt combined 
with urine for medical purposes, e.g., to get rid of a fever. 2 

The importance of salt for fecundity is if anything 
exceeded by that of urine. 3 It formed the essential con- 
stituent of many love-philtres and magical procedures 
having as their object the winning of affection. 4 Pliny 
describes the aphrodisiac properties of the urine voided by 
a bull immediately after copulation ; it may either be drunk 
or used to moisten earth which is then rubbed into the groin. 
Characteristically enough, urine can also be used as an 
anti-aphrodisiac or as a charm against love-philtres. 6 At 
Hottentot weddings the priest urinates over the bride and. 
bridegroom, and the latter, receiving the stream with 
eagerness, makes furrows with his nails so that the urine 
may penetrate the farther. 6 

The practice described by Pliny, referred to above, has 
also been recommended as a remedy for the cure of im- 
potence. The sovereign cure for this, however, consisted in 
urinating through the wedding-ring, i.e., into an exquisite 
female symbol. This practice is mentioned by most of the 
older writers, 7 and has persisted among the German 
peasantry until the present generation. 8 Pliny 9 states that 
the urine of eunuchs was considered to be highly beneficial 

1 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 277-369, 375, 384. 

1 Wuttke, op. cit., p. 354. 

8 See Walter Gallichan, Golden Urine: The Elixir of Life. 

4 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 216, 217, 223. 

6 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 224-7. 

6 Cook, in Hawkesworth's Voyages, 1773, Vol. Ill, p. 387; Kolbein, in 
Knox's Voyages, 1777, Vol. II, pp. 399, 400; Thurnberg, in Pinkerton's 
Voyages, 1814, Vol. XVI, pp. 89, 141. 

7 Reginald Scot, op. cit., p. 64; Frommann, op. cit., p. 997; Brand, op. cit., 
Vol. Ill, p. 305. 

8 Birlinger and Buck, Sagen, Marchen und Volksaberglauben aus Schwaben, 
1861, S. 486. 

XXVIII. 18. 



as a promoter of fruitfulness in women. In Algiers a woman 
seeks to cure barrenness by drinking sheep's urine. 1 
Schurig 2 describes as a method of inducing conception the 
use of a bath of urine poured over old iron, with which 
may be compared the magical properties mentioned above 
as being ascribed to the combination of salt and iron. 
Finally two Asiatic legends narrated by Bab 3 may be 
referred to, in which the symbolical equivalence of urine 
and semen appears in the most unmistakable manner. In 
the first one, from Siam, a man urinated daily on to a 
certain apple-tree, with the result that it bore especially 
large fruit. A princess ate one of the apples and thereupon 
became pregnant. In the other, from Cambodia, a hermit 
had the habit of urinating on to a hollowed-out stone. A 
girl who had got lost in the woods (her mother had evidently 
omitted to strew salt as she left the house) drank the liquid 
out of the stone, and likewise became pregnant. 

The use of salt at initiation ceremonies can also be 
paralleled with that of urine. A young Parsee undergoes a 
kind of confirmation during which he is made to drink a 
small quantity of the urine of a bull. 4 At the Hottentot 
initiation ceremony one of the medicine-men urinates over 
the youth, who proudly rubs the fluid into his skin. 5 
Corresponding with the Christian and Jewish displacement 
of their initiation ceremonies (baptism, circumcision) from 
the time of puberty to that of infancy we find a similar 
displacement in respect of urine ceremonies. The Calif ornian 
Indians give their children a draught of urine as soon as 
they are born, 6 and this custom is also in vogue amongst 
Americans in the country districts ; 7 these are of course not 

1 Ploss, Das Weib in der Natur- und Volkerkunde, 1891, Bd. I, S. 443. 

2 Schurig, Chylologia, 1725, Vol. II, p. 712. 

Bab, Zeitschrift fur Ethnologic, 1906, Band XXXVIII, S. 281. 

Monier Williams, Modern India, 1878, p. 178. 

Kolbein, op. cit., pp. 202-4; Thurnberg, loc. cit. 

Bancroft, op. cit., p. 413. 

Trumbull, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 240. 



pure examples of initiation. The In jit child selected to be 
trained as an Angekok was bathed in urine soon after birth 
as a religious ceremony. 1 When Parsee children are invested 
with the Sudra and Koshti the badges of the Zoroastrian 
faith they are sprinkled with the urine of a sacred cow 
and they also have to drink some of it. 2 

The interest aroused by the taste of salt may be compared 
with that taken in the peculiar taste of urine, a matter that 
played a considerable part in medical urinoscopy. All 
bodily fluids, including tears, semen, sweat, blood, etc., 
owe of course most of their taste to the presence of salt in 
them. The natives of Northern Siberia habitually drink 
each other's urine. 3 The African Shillooks regularly wash 
out their milk vessels with urine "probably", so Schwein- 
furth 4 thinks, "to compensate for a lack of salt" ; this is also 
done by the natives of Eastern Siberia. 5 The Obbe 6 and 
other 7 natives of Central Africa never drink milk unless it 
is mixed with urine, the reason given being that otherwise 
the cow would lose her milk; we have here a counterpart of 
the custom of mixing salt with the milk so as to ensure a 
plentiful supply. "Chinook olives" are acorns that have 
been steeped for five months in human urine. 8 Of interest 
is the relation of urine to the manufacture of intoxicating 
drinks, it being thus an equivalent to alcohol, as we have 
noted above. When the supply of alcohol runs short in 
Siberia the natives eke it out by making a mixture of equal 
parts of urine and alcohol. 9 In Queensland there is an edible 
nut of a particular species of pine, which is prepared for 

1 Re"clus, op. cit., p. 84. 

a Max Muller, Chips from a German Workshop, 1869, p. 164. 

8 Melville, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 38. 

4 Schweinfurth, The Heart of Africa. 1872, Vol. I, p. 16. 

5 Melville, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 200. 

6 Baker, The Albert Nyanza, 1869, p. 240. 

7 Long, Central Africa, 1877, p. 70. 

8 Kane, An Artist's Wanderings in North America, 1859, p. 187. 

9 Melville, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 39. 

6 9 


consumption in the following way: clay pans are formed 
in the soil, into which the men urinate; the nuts are then 
steeped in this, when a fermentation takes place. The eat- 
ing of the nuts causes a temporary madness, and even 
delirium tremens. 1 

We have next to note the analogies between the sig- 
nificance of salt and that of urine in regard to religious 
performances. In both cases the substance might be either 
swallowed or applied to the surface of the body, and con- 
cerning the latter practice it is expedient to make a few 
preliminary remarks. The religious practice of sprinkling or 
baptizing with a holy fluid (salt and water in the Roman 
Catholic Church, plain water in the Protestant Church) has 
evidently two principal meanings. In the first place it sym- 
bolizes purification, particularly from sin. Probably the 
simplest and most accurate expression for the psychological 
meaning of baptism, as perhaps for that of any religious 
rite, is "purification through re-birth". The earthly inces- 
tuous libido, which is now known to be the deepest source 
of the sense of sin in general, 2 is overcome and purified in a 
homoeopathic manner by passing through a symbolic act of 
heavenly incest. Purification by fire is a distorted form of 
the more original purification by water. It will be noticed 
that in baptism the liquid symbolises both the father's 
urine (or semen) and the mother's uterine waters, satisfying 
thus both the male and the female components of the libido. 
The oldest association between the ideas of liquid and 
purification is of course the child's experience of urine wash- 
ing away faeces, thus cleansing dirt (the deepest source for 
the objectionableness of sexuality). 3 

In the second place baptism imbues the participant with 
the mystic properties conveyed by, or belonging to, the holy 

1 Mann, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 38. 

* Freud, Totem und Tabu, 1913, S. 144, 145. 

8 Freud, Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, Band IV, S. 49, 50. 



fluid. This meaning, which was probably the original one of 
the two, is well illustrated in the Hottentot rite described 
above, where the participant scratches his skin so as to 
absorb as much as possible of the precious fluid. At all 
events we find that the acts of ablution 1 and of swallowing 
are throughout treated as though they were identical. 
Where one is performed in one country the other is in 
another country in exactly corresponding circumstances, 
and in numberless instances the two are regarded as 
equivalent. For example, the practice of imbibing water, 
particularly holy water, for the cure of barrenness, as 
described above, is throughout paralleled by the equally 
common one of bathing in water for the same purpose, and 
often at the same place; Hartland 2 has collected an enor- 
mous number of instances of this from every part of the 
world and shows that it is to-day as frequent as ever. 

All the evidence, from comparative religions, from 
history, anthropology and folk-lore, converges to the con- 
clusion, not only that Christian and other rites of baptism 
symbolize the bestowment of a vital fluid (semen or urine) on 
the initiate, but that the holy water there used is a lineal 
descendant of urine, the use of which it gradually displaced. 
Strange as this conclusion may seem it is definitely sup- 
ported by the following facts selected from a vast number 
of similar ones. 

To begin with, it is known that salt and water has 
historically replaced urine in various non-religious or semi- 
religious usages. Bourke 3 writes: "We shall have occasion 
to show that salt and water, holy water, and other liquids 
superseded human urine in several localities, Scotland 

1 It should not be forgotten that the original form of Christian baptism 
was complete immersion; the relatively modern custom of christening, or 
sprinkling, is a later replacement of this, and is still repudiated by, for instance, 
the Baptist sect. 

1 Hartland, Paternity, op. cit., pp. 77-89. 

* Bourke, op. cit., p. 211. 



included." The following is an example of this. One of the 
superstitious uses of urine was to wash the breasts of a 
woman after delivery, no doubt with the aim of securing a 
good supply of milk. Jouan 1 reports from personal experi- 
ence that this was still customary in France so late as in 
1847. In Scotland the custom widely prevailed of washing 
the breasts with salt and water in the same circumstances 
and for the same object. 2 Again, whenever the supply of 
salt falls short in a given country, particularly in an un- 
civilized one, the natives are apt to resort to urine as a sub- 
stitute. Gomara 3 states that human urine served as salt to 
the Indians of Bogota. The Latookas of the White Nile 
make salt from the ashes of goat's dung, 4 which again illus- 
trates the conception of salt as the essence of excrement, 
particularly urine. Pallas 5 says that the Buriats of Sibera, 
in collecting salts from the shores of certain lakes, are care- 
ful as to the taste of the same: "They employ only those 
which have a taste of urine and of alkali"; Bourke, 6 refer- 
ring to this, adds : "This shows that they must once have 
used urine for salt, as so many other tribes have done." The 
Siberians gave human urine to their reindeer in place of 
salt, 7 presumably to improve their yield of milk. They also 
used urine to obtain water from snow by melting it, just 
as we use salt to prevent the formation of ice on our door- 
steps. The Dinkas of Central Africa use the urine of cows 
for washing and as a substitute for salt, but here other 
motives also enter in, for with them cattle are sacred 
animals. 8 Urine has been used for a very great number of 
industrial purposes, in many of which it has since been 

1 Jouan, Quoted by Bourke, loc. cit. 

1 Black, Folk-Medicine, 1883, p. 23; Napier, op. cit., pp. 36-37. 

8 Gomara, Historia de las Indias, p. 202. 

* Baker, op. cit., p. 224. 

* Pallas, Voyages, 1793, Vol. IV, p. 246. 

* Bourke, op. cit., p. 193. 

7 Cochrane, Pedestrian Journey through Siberian Tartary, 1824, p. 235. 

8 Schweinfurth, op. cit., p. 58. 



superseded by salt; 1 it is not necessary to enumerate them 

One of the earliest uses of salt was for cleansing purposes. 
In Ancient Rome salt and water was used instead of toilet 
paper, every latrine containing a bucket of it. 2 The use of 
urine as a fluid for washing the body has been reported 
from the most diverse parts of the world: thus, in Alaska, 3 
in Iceland, 4 in Ounalashka (in Russia), 5 amongst the Cali- 
fornian Pericuis, 6 the Siberian Tchuktchees, 7 and the Van- 
couver Indians. 8 The custom persisted in Spain until quite 
recent times, and even in the present generation it was to 
be traced among the Spanish settlers in Florida. 9 Petroff 10 
states that the peasants of Portugal still wash their clothes 
in urine, and German, Irish and Scandinavian immigrants 
in the United States persist in adding human urine to the 
water to be used in cleansing blankets. 11 The use of urine 
as a mouth-wash is also very prevalent. Baker 12 writes : 
u The Obbo natives wash out their mouths with their own 
urine. This habit may have originated in the total absence 
of salt in their country." The Basques and some Hindus 
do the same, and the custom used to obtain in England and 
Germany; in Spain and Portugal it persisted until the end 
of the eighteenth century. 13 

We may now return to the religious aspects of the 

1 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 177-200. 

2 Bourke, op. cit., p. 135. 

3 Coxe, Russian Discoveries, 1803, p. 225, quoting Krenitzin. 

4 Hakluyt, Voyages, 1599, Vol. I, p. 664. 
6 Solovoof, Voyages, 1764, p. 226. 

6 Clavigero, Historia de Baja California, 1852, p. 28; Bancroft, op. cit., p. 559. 

7 Lisiansky, Voyage round the World, 1811, p. 214; Melville, In the Lena Delta, 
loc. cit.; Gilder, quoted by Bourke, op. cit., pp. 202, 203. 

8 Swan, "The Indians of Cape Flattery," Smithsonian Contributions to 
Knowledge, No. 220, p. 19. 

Bourke, op. cit., pp. 203, 205. Many references. 

10 Petroff, Trans, of the American Anthropological Society, 1882, Vol. I. 

11 McGillicuddy, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 205. 
18 Baker, op. cit., p. 240. 

13 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 203-5. 

73 , 


subject. The Romans held a feast to the mother of all the 
Gods, Berecinthia, at which the matrons took their idol and 
sprinkled it with their urine. 1 Berecinthia was one of the 
names under which Cybele or Rhea, the primal earth God- 
dess, was worshipped by the Romans and by many nations 
of the East. Juvenal (Sixth Satire) describes how in the 
rites of the Bona Dea her image used to be sprinkled with 
copious irrigations of urine. In the early days of Christianity 
the Manichaean sect used to bathe in urine. 2 It is related of 
an Irish king, Aedh, that he obtained some urine of the 
chief priest, bathed his face in it, drank some with gusto, and 
said that he prized it more highly than the Eucharist itself. 3 
In modern religions of civilized peoples, however, human 
urine is never used, having been replaced by water, salt 
and water, or cow's urine. The sacred drink hum of the 
Parsees has the "urine of a young, pure cow" as one of the 
ingredients. 4 In the Bareshnun ceremony the Parsee priest 
has to undergo certain ablutions wherein he applies to his 
body cow's urine, 5 and to rub the nirang (cow's urine) over 
his face and hands is the second thing every Parsee does 
after rising in the morning. 6 The latter ceremony is by no 
means a simple one; for instance, he is not allowed to touch 
anything directly with his hands until the sacred nirang 
has first been washed off with water. In India the urine of a 
cow is a holy water of the very highest religious significance. 
It is used in ceremonies of purification, during which it is 
drunk. 7 Dubois 8 says that a Hindu penitent "must drink 
the pancbakaryam a word which literally signifies the five 
things, namely, milk, butter, curd, dung, and urine, all 

1 Torquemada, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 394. 

a Picart, Cofitumes et Ce're'monies Religieuses, 1729, p. 18. 

3 Mttusine, Mai 5, 1888. 

4 Max Miiller, Biographies of Words, 1888, p. 237. 

6 Kingsley, Quoted by Bourke, op. cit., p. 211. 
* Max Miiller, Chips, etc., op. cit., p. 163. 

7 De Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology, Engl. Transl., 1872, Vol. I, p. 95. 

8 Abbe" Dubois, The People of India, 1817, p. 29. 



mixed together," and he adds: "The urine of a cow is held 
to be the most efficacious of any for purifying all imaginable 
uncleanness. I have often seen the superstitious Hindu 
accompanying these animals when in the pasture, and 
watching the moment for receiving the urine as it fell, in 
vessels which he had brought for the purpose, to carry it 
home in a fresh state; or, catching it in the hollow of his 
hand, to bedew his face and all his body. When so used it 
removes all external impurity, and when taken internally, 
which is very common, it cleanses all within." Moor 1 
similarly writes: "The greatest ... of all purifiers is the 
urine of a cow. Images are sprinkled with it. No man of any 
pretensions to piety or cleanliness would pass a cow in the 
act of staling without receiving the holy stream in his 
hand and sipping a few drops." Hindu merchants at 
Bokhara mix with their food, that it may do them good, 
the urine of a sacred cow kept in that place. 2 At the Poojah 
sacrifice the Brahmans prepare the room by sprinkling the 
floor with cow's urine. 3 In one of the Hindu fasts the 
devotee adopts as his food the excreta of cows, the urine 
being allowed as a beverage for the fourth day. 4 The 
antiquity of urine rites in India is shown by the fact that 
they are frequently referred to in the oldest of their 
canonical books. The Brahminical authors of the Maha- 
Bharata describe how, at the coronation of a Maharajah, 
Krishna brings the urine of the sacred cow and pours it over 
the King's head. 5 In the Shapast la Shayast much stress is 
laid on bull's urine as a purifier. 6 These rites exist not only 
in India proper, but also on the slopes of the Himalayas, 7 

1 Moor, The Hindu Pantheon, 1810, p. 143. 
8 Erman, Siberia, 1848, Vol. I, p. 384. 
8 Maurice, Indian Antiquities, 1800, Vol. I, p. 77. 
4 Maurice, op. cit., Vol. V, p. 222. 
8 Wheeler, History of India, 1867, Vol. I, p. 371. 
Sacred Books of the East, Vol. V, Part I. 

7 Short, "Notes on the Hill Tribes of the Neilgherries," Trans, of the 
Ethnological Society, 1868, p. 268. 



and from India they were introduced into Persia; the 
Kharda Avesta has preserved the formula to be recited by 
a devotee while he holds in his hand the urine of a cow, 
preparatory to washing his face with it. 1 

We need not discuss the various cloud, moon, and other 
supposed symbolisms of the rites in question, for it is no 
longer tenable that these are anything more than secondary 
developments of more primitive interests. After dealing 
with the subject of animal sacrifice, and showing that this 
is a later development of the original human sacrifice, a 
conclusion amply confirmed by the work done since his 
time, Bourke 2 pertinently asks : "If the cow have displaced 
a human victim, may it not be within the limits of prob- 
ability that the ordure and urine of the sacred bovine are 
substitutes, not only for the complete carcass, but that they 
symbolize a former use of human excreta ?" This question 
we can to-day with a high degree of probability answer in 
the affirmative, for both anthropological and psycho- 
analytical research agree in the conclusion that excessive, 
e.g., religious, interest in any animal is only a substitute for 
a corresponding interest in some human being. There can 
be no doubt that the cow, for instance, is a typical mother- 
symbol, just as the Lamb of God in Christian mythology is 
a symbol of Christ, i.e., of the son. 

From this point of view the devil's custom of using his 
urine to baptize, and bless, his worshippers at the witches' 
Sabbath 3 must be regarded, not as the medieval theo- 
logians indignantly thought as constituting a wanton 
caricature of the Christian rites, but as a reversion to the 
most primitive form of these. Caricature, like wit, is often 
really a reversion to the unconscious source of the cari- 
catured idea. An example of it may be quoted from another 

1 De Gubernatis, op. cit., pp. 99-100. 
* Bourke, op. cit., p. 125. 

8 Thiers, Traite des Superstitions, 1741, Vol. II, p. 367; Picart, op. cit., 
Vol. VIII. p. 69. 

7 6 


field, one which also depends on the symbolic equivalent of 
urine and holy water: In a caricature by Isaac Cruikshank, 
dated I7th March, 1797, of Napoleon giving audience to the 
Pope, a French grenadier is represented urinating into a 
chamber-pot which is labelled Holy Water. 1 

The almost universal custom of rubbing a new-born child 
with salt, or bathing it in salt and water, has been noted 
above. In some parts of the world the original fluid, urine, 
which has been so widely displaced for this purpose by salt, 
is still in use, or was in historical times. 2 Soranus discusses 
at length the Roman custom of bathing infants with the 
urine of a boy who has not reached puberty (thus a pecu- 
liarly innocent and pure fluid). The Hottentots use fresh 
cow's urine for this purpose, while the Indians in Alaska 
employ horse urine. 

The association between urine rites and religious dancing 
is especially close in many parts of the world. Bourke 3 gives 
a detailed account of the "urine dance" of the Zunis in 
New Mexico, and draws an instructive analogy between it 
and the famous Feast of Fools in medieval Europe. 4 In a 
painstaking analysis of the circumstances in which dancers 
in Alaska bathe in urine he has further established the 
religious significance of this custom there also. 5 The same 
association exists as well in various other parts of the 
world, in Africa, Siberia, North America, etc. 6 The ideas 
that are connected together in these ceremonies are: alco- 
holic or other intoxication, religious ecstasies, urine rites 
(drinking and bathing), and sexual excitement. In this con- 
nection I venture to throw out the suggestion that perhaps 
philological research might establish an etymological rela- 

1 Broadley, Napoleon in Caricature, 1911, p. 94. 

2 Numerous instances are related by Ploss, Das Kind in Brauch und Sitte der 
Vo'lker, Zweite Aufl., 1911. 

8 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 4-10. 
4 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 11-23. 
6 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 206-8. 
Bourke, op. cit., pp. 208-10. 



tionship between the Latin word sal and the verbs saltare 
and salire ( = to leap or dance). 1 From saltus ( = leap) 
comes the English saltier (St. Andrew's cross), the sub- 
stantive salt (meaning sexual desire, especially of animals), 
and the adjective salt ( = lecherous); 2 further words from 
the same source are assault (adsaltare), assail (adsalire) 
sally, exult and salient, all of which stand in a psychological 
relationship to the present subject. The idea of dancing is 
of course, now as formerly, 3 closely connected with eroti- 
cism, and often also with religion. 4 

Something will now be said about the symbolic signific- 
ance attaching to the mingling of two liquids, which is 
ultimately derived from the infantile idea, mentioned above, 
that the sexual act consists in the combining of the urine of 
two people. In various customs and beliefs urine has, quite 
comprehensibly, been replaced by other bodily fluids, par- 
ticularly the vital ones such as blood. Salt and water has 
also played an important part in this way. 

The interchange of blood as a means of binding two 
people together with lasting ties is a very general rite. 
Hartland 5 says of it : "The Blood-Covenant, as it is called, 
is a simple ceremony. It is sufficient that an incision be 
made in the neophyte's arm and the flowing blood sucked 
from it by one of the clansmen, upon whom the operation 
is repeated in turn by the neophyte. . . . Sometimes the 
blood is dropped into a cup and diluted with water or wine. 

1 Since writing the above I find that Schleiden (op. cit., S. 17) expresses a 
similar thought, suggesting that sal and salire are both derived from the 
Sanscrit 'sar', a root which will be considered later in this essay. 

2 Cp. Shakespeare's "salt as wolves in pride" (Othello, Act III, Sc. 3). 

3 Brill, "The Psychopathology of the New Dances," New York Medical 
Journal, April 25, 1914. 

4 Bourke, op. cit., p. 24. 

5 Hartland, Perseus, op. cit., pp. 237, 238. See in general pp. 236-58, also 
Strack, Das Blut im Glauben und Aberglauben der Menschheit, 1900. 



Sometimes food eaten together is impregnated with the 
blood. 1 Sometimes it is enough to rub the bleeding wounds 
together, so that the blood of both parties is mixed and 
smeared upon them both. Among the Kayans of Borneo 
the drops are allowed to fall upon a cigarette, which is then 
lighted and smoked alternately by both parties. But, what- 
ever may be the exact form adopted, the essence of the rite 
is the same, and its range is world-wide. It is mentioned by 
classical writers as practised by the Arabs, the Lydians, and 
Iberians of Asia Minor, and apparently the Medes. Many 
passages of the Bible, many of the Egyptian Book of the 
Dead) are inexplicable apart from it. Ancient Arab his- 
torians are full of allusions to it. Odin and Liki entered into 
the bond, which means for us that it was customary among 
the Norsemen as we know, in fact, from other sources. It is 
recorded by Giraldus of the Irish of his day. It is described 
in the Gesta Romanorum. It is related of the Huns or 
Magyars, and of the medieval Rumanians. Joinville ascribes 
it to one of the tribes of the Caucasus; and the Rabbi 
Petachia of Ratisbon, who travelled in Ukrainia in the 
twelfth century, found it there. In modern times every 
African traveller mentions it ; and most of them have had to 
undergo the ceremony. In the neighbouring island of Mada- 
gascar it is well known. All over the Eastern Archipelago, 
in Australia, in the Malay peninsula, among the Karens, the 
Siamese, the Dards on the northern border of our Indian 
empire, and many of the aboriginal tribes of Bengal, the 
wild tribes of China, the Syrians of Lebanon and the 
Bedouins, and among the autochthonous peoples of North 
and South America, the rite is, or has been quite recently, 
in use. Nor has it ceased to be practised in Europe by the 
Gipsies, the Southern Slavs and the Italians of the Abruzzi. 
The band of the Mala Vita in Southern Italy, only broken 

1 The resemblance of these two last-mentioned customs to the Eucharist 
of the Christian Churches is unmistakable. 



up a year or two ago, was a blood-brotherhood formed in 
this way. Most savage peoples require their youths at the 
age of puberty to submit to a ceremony which admits them 
into the brotherhood of the grown men, and into all the 
rights and privileges of the tribe. Of this ceremony the 
blood-covenant is usually an essential part, as it is also, 
either actually or by symbol, in the initiation-rite not only 
of the Mala Vita, but of almost all secret societies, both 
civilized and uncivilized." 

The giving of blood, therefore, exactly like that of salt, 
symbolizes friendship, loyalty, compact, and initiation into 
manhood. More than this, in many countries it is closely 
connected with marriage, and may actually constitute the 
marriage ceremony. The marriage rite of the Dusuns, in 
Banguey, consists in transferring a drop of blood from a 
small incision made in the calf of a man's leg to a similar cut 
in the woman's leg. 1 The marriage of the Wukas, a tribe of 
New Guinea, is performed by mutual cuts made by the 
husband and wife in each other's forehead. 2 Among the 
Birhors of India the wedding ceremony consists entirely in 
drawing blood from the little fingers of the bride and bride- 
groom, and smearing it on each other; 3 a similar, though 
more complicated, ceremony is performed by the Kayasth, 
or writer caste of Behar. 

Among several races of India, in the wedding ceremony 
known as sindur dan y the substance used is red lead, which 
the bridegroom smears on the bride's forehead with his little 
finger or a knife; Hartland 4 has shown that this is a later 
development of the more primitive custom, the red lead 
simply replacing the blood. In some instances the two are 
combined: in the Kewat caste the sindur dan rite is first 
carried out, and then blood is drawn from the little finger 

1 Hartland, op. cit., p. 339, The original references may be found there. 
8 Hartland, loc. cit. 

3 Hartland, op. cit., p. 336. 

4 Hartland, op. cit., pp. 334-6. 



of the bridegroom's right hand and of the bride's left; the 
blood is mingled in a dish of boiled rice and milk, and each 
person eats the food containing the other's blood. 1 Similarly 
in the Rajput ritual the family priest fills the bridegroom's 
hand with sindur and marks the bride's forehead with it ; on 
the next day each of them is made to chew betel with which 
a drop of blood from the other's little finger has been 
mixed. 2 Among the Kharwar, and also the Kurmi, the 
bridegroom smears the bride with a mixture of his own 
blood and of paint. 3 Blood rites of the same kind were also 
performed at Finnish and Norwegian marriages. 4 

More or less elaborate symbolisms of the primitive rite 
are frequent enough. An Australian bridegroom spits on 
his bride, and then streaks her with red powder down to 
the navel. 5 A Carib will sometimes betroth himself to an 
unborn babe, conditionally on its being a girl, by making a 
red mark over the mother's womb. 6 In the East Indies, in 
Borneo, and in parts of Southern India, fowl's blood is used 
instead of human blood. 7 Blood, like urine, has also been 
extensively used in Europe as a love charm or philtre, 8 of 
which custom one example will suffice : lovers who wished 
to heighten the affections of their mistresses used to trans- 
fuse their own blood into the loved one's veins. 9 An example 
of condensed symbolism is afforded by a Mexican saga, 
according to which a dead man's bone (i.e., the phallus of an 
ancestor, or father) when sprinkled with blood produced the 
father and mother of the present race of mankind. 10 

1 Hartland, op. cit., p. 337. 

* Hartland, loc. cit. 

8 Hartland, loc. cit. 

4 Hartland, op. cit., p. 341. 

6 Hartland, op. cit., p. 342. 

6 Hartland, loc. cit. 

7 Hartland, op. cit., p. 343. 

8 Numerous examples are given by Hartland, op. cit., pp. 124, 125. 

9 Flemming, De Remediis ex Corpore Humano desuntis, 1738, p. 15. 

10 Southey's Commonplace Book, Edited by Waiter, 1850, Vol. IV, p. 142. 



We see from the facts just quoted that blood, like urine, 
has all over the world been treated as an equivalent of salt, 
as a vital or holy material. The thesis that external applica- 
tion is symbolically the same as drinking is confirmed in this 
case as well. Customs and beliefs very similar to those just 
mentioned could be collected in respect of various other 
bodily fluids, of which only one or two instances will be 
given. The sweat of the Finnish deity Wainemoinen was a 
balm for all diseases, and the same was true of the Egyptian 
God Ra. 1 The Scandinavian Frost-Giants were born of the 
sweat of the Giant Ymir. 2 It is probable that the salt taste 
of sweat has always struck the observation of mankind. 
This is certainly so with tears, where literary allusions to 
their saltness abound: thus in King John (Act V, Sc. 7): 

Prince Henry: 0, that there were some virtue in my tears, 

That might relieve you! 
King John: The salt in them is hot. 

The interest in the combination of salt and water has 
naturally been extended to the sea, which has always played 
an important part in the birth fancies of mankind. The 
association is evident in the use of the Greek word <&<; 
(Latin sale) to express both "salt" and "sea". The contrast 
between fire and water has often been seized upon to 
represent the contrast between male and female elements 
respectively. The relation between salt and fire is much 
more extensive than we have here described; most of the 
customs and beliefs mentioned above could be paralleled by 
similar ones in which it is necessary to throw salt into the 
fire in order to produce the desired effect. 3 In mythology the 

1 Lenormant, Chaldean Magic: Its Origin and Development, Engl. Transl., 
1877, p. 247. 

Hartland, Paternity, op. cit., p. 2. 
8 The etymological aspects of this relationship will be discussed later. 



combination of fire and water (male and female elements) is 
symbolized with especial frequency by alcohol, which 
presumably was the essential constituent of the various 
sacred drinks of which we read; with singular appropriate- 
ness the North American Indians refer to alcoholic bever- 
ages as "fire-water". 

The association between the ideas fire salt sea are well 
shown in the following myths. From the mythical lore of 
Finland we learn that Ukko, the mighty God of the sky, 
struck fire in the heavens ; a spark descended from this was 
received by the waves and became salt. 1 This example is 
especially instructive for more than one reason. In the 
first place we here have salt directly derived from fire, thus 
confirming our previous surmise of the symbolic equival- 
ency of the two. In the next place, as Abraham 2 has clearly 
demonstrated, heavenly fire descending upon earth, 
e.g., lightning, is mythologically only another variant of the 
various divine foods (soma, ambrosia, nectar) that sym- 
bolize the male fertilizing fluid; this is in obvious accord 
with the view here maintained of the seminal symbolism 
of salt. 

In another myth we have the Prometheus-like bringer of 
salt regarded as a Messiah. Lawrence 3 writes : "The Chinese 
worship an idol called Phelo, in honour of a mythological 
personage of that name, whom they believe to have been 
the discoverer of salt and the originator of its use. His 
ungrateful countrymen, however, were tardy in their 
recognition of Phelo's merits, and that worthy thereupon 
left his native land and did not return. Then the Chinese 
declared him to be a deity, and in the month of June each 
year they hold a festival in his honour, during which he is 
everywhere sought, but in vain; he will not appear until he 

1 Quoted from Lawrence, op. cit., p. 154. 

2 Abraham, op. cit., S. 49, 62, etc. 

3 Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 154, 155. 



comes to announce the end of the world." The Prometheus 
theme of a God bringing an all-precious substance as a gift 
to mankind 1 is here worked into a form that closely 
resembles the Jewish conception of a Messiah that has to be 
sought and the Christian one of a prophet who was not 
received when he delivered his message, but who will return 
to announce the end of the world. 

Tacitus 2 refers to the belief that salt is the product of the 
strife between fire and water, a belief evidently mirroring 
the infantile sadistic conception of coitus, but one that 
happens to have an objective basis in regard to the evap- 
orating action of the sun's heat. On a lowlier plane we may 
refer to the connection between fire and water as shown by 
some practices carried out for the purpose of obtaining 
children. A Transylvanian Gipsy woman is said to drink 
water into which her husband has cast hot coals, or, better 
still, has spit, saying as she does so: "Where I am flame, 
be thou the coals! Where I am rain be thou the water!" 3 
A South Slavonic woman holds a wooden bowl of water 
near the fire on the hearth. Her husband then strikes two 
firebrands together until the sparks fly. Some of them fall 
into the bowl, and she then drinks the water. 4 Of the many 
instances of association between the ideas of fire and urine 
one only need be mentioned : At the yearly ceremony held 
by the Eskimos for the purpose of driving out an evil spirit 
called Tuna, one of the performers brings a vessel of urine 
and flings it on the fire. 5 The ideas, therefore, of fire-salt, 
fire-water, and fire-urine are thus seen to be closely related 
in the primitive mind, a fact which stands in full harmony 
with the clinical psycho-analytic finding that the ideas of 

1 See Abraham, op. cit., for a full analysis of the Prometheus myth. 
8 Cited by Schleiden, op. cit., S. u. 

3 Ploss, Das Weib, loc. cit. 

4 Krauss, Sitte und Branch der Siidslaven, 1885, S. 531. 

5 Report of the International Polar Expedition to Point Barrow, Washington, 
1885, p. 42. 

8 4 


fire, water, urine, and semen are interchangeable equi- 
valents in the unconscious, fire being a typical symbol for 

Leaving now the subject of fire we have to note a few 
more beliefs concerning salt and water, particularly in a 
female sense (receptive urine). In the cosmogenical myths 
of the islanders of Kadiack it is related that the first woman 
"by making water, produced the seas". 1 In South Africa it 
is also believed that the sea was created by a woman, 2 
doubtless in the same way. In the creation myth of the 
Australians, on the other hand, it is a God, Bundjil, who 
creates the sea by urinating over the earth for many days. 3 
Among the Mexican Nahuas, again, the sea is of female 
origin : there the women and girls employed in the prepara- 
tion of salt dance at a yearly festival held in honour of the 
Goddess of Salt, Huixocihuatl, whose brothers the rain- 
gods, as the result of a quarrel, drove her into the sea, 
where she invented the art of making the precious sub- 
stance. 4 In European mythology the sea is conceived of as 
either male or female, though much more often as the latter. 
It stands in especially close association with the various 
love Goddesses, Aphrodite, Astarte, and the rest. Jennings 
writes: 5 "Blue is the colour of the 'Virgin Maria'. Maria, 
Mary, mare, mar, mara, means the 'bitterness', or the 'salt- 
ness' of the sea. Blue is expressive of the Hellenic, Isidian, 
Ionian, Yonian (Yoni Indian), Watery, Female, and 
Moonlike Principle in the universal theogony. It runs 
through all the mythologies." As is well known, Friday is 
holy to this Goddess in most religions, and is named after 
her in all European languages. On Friday, the day of the 
Virgin Mary, salted meat must not be eaten by strict 

1 Lisiansky, op. cit., p. 197. 

* Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1887, Vol. I, p. 91. 

8 Smyth, The Aborigines of Australia, 1878, Vol. I, p. 429. 

4 Bancroft, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 353. 

6 Hargrave Jennings, The Rosicrucians, 1887, Vol. I, p. 57. 



Catholics (compare this with the ascetic abstinence from 
salt noted above), and, further, the staple food is, appro- 
priately enough, fish. There exists in the South of England 
a spell for turning the heart of a recalcitrant lover, which 
consists in throwing a little salt into the fire on three 
successive Friday nights; on the third one the lover is 
expected to return. 1 That the spell has to be carried out just 
on Friday illustrates very well how detailed is the deter- 
mination of superstitions, and how careful one should be 
before concluding that any minor feature of one is devoid of 

As might have been expected, bathing in the sea has been 
recommended for most of the purposes for which the com- 
bination of salt and water has been used. The following 
instances are characteristic. In Sardinia to drink from, or 
especially to bathe in, the sea is held to be a cure for child- 
lessness. 2 Among the negroes in Guinea when a woman is 
pregnant for the first time she has to go through an elab- 
orate ceremony of being purified in the sea. 3 Probably the 
original sense was to ensure an easy and successful labour. 

The whole subject of the relation between salt and water 
may be concluded by referring to two practices that have 
nothing to do with the sea. A method of curing disease in 
Germany is to throw a handful of salt into water while these 
words are being repeated: "I strew this seed ( !) in the name 
of God; when this seed grows I shall see my fever again." 4 
A superstition in Bohemia says that when milk is being 
carried over water one should throw some salt into the 
water, otherwise the cow will be harmed. 5 It was remarked 
above that milk has the same symbolic significance as salt 
and here we see the two substances treated interchangeably. 

1 Henderson, loc. cit. 

1 Rivista delle Tradizioni Populari Italiane, 1894, Vol. II. p. 423. 

' Bosnian, In Pinkerton, op. cit., Vol. XVI, p. 423. 

4 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 335. 

6 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 447. 



In this connection it is of interest that Browning, in his 
"Pietro of Abano", changes the usual belief that sorcerers 
cannot tolerate salt by describing how a magician dare not 
drink milk; the poet's insight reveals the meaning of this: 

All's but daily dry bread : what makes moist the ration ? 
Love, the milk that sweetens man his meal alas, you lack: 

In several of the varieties of the Cinderella theme (e.g., in 
No. 179 of Grimm's fairy tales) salt is equally plainly taken 
to be equivalent of love : the third daughter, on being asked 
by her father to describe her love for him, likens it to salt. 

We have next to consider the female, recipient substance 
conceived of as a solid : namely, beliefs developed from the 
liquid-solid and solid-solid hypotheses of childhood that 
were mentioned above. The substance most frequently used 
in this respect is bread, which, from its consistence and 
food-value, readily lends itself to symbolic purposes. Many 
of the superstitious beliefs in which it is concerned have 
already been referred to. Its fertilizing powers may be 
illustrated by the Indian practice, performed for the cure of 
barrenness, of "eating a loaf of bread cooked on the still 
burning pyre of a man who was never married, and who 
was the only or eldest son in his family, and so received the 
fullest possible measure of vitality". 1 The association be- 
tween bread and excrement is even more plainly shown in 
the following Slavonic beliefs. The spirits of fruit fulness 
were supposed to dwell in the dung-heaps, and offerings 
used to be made to them there. In later times witches were 
believed to hold their revels there, and it was not safe for 
a peasant to relieve himself on the spot without having in 
his mouth a piece of bread as a charm. 2 In England the 

1 Census of India, 1901, XVII, p. 164. 

1 Krauss, Slavische Volksforschungen, 1908, S. 71. 



people used to throw wheat on the bride's head as she 
returned from the church, 1 evidently a precursor of the 
more modern fertility (seminal) symbol of rice. 

The wide-spread use of the combination of salt and bread 
for all the purposes for which salt alone is used (confirming 
oaths, warding off evil, etc.) has been previously described. 
The sexual significance of the combination comes to open 
expression in the following instances. In Waldenburg the 
bride secretly places salt and bread in her shoe so that she 
may be blessed with children ; 2 the fecundity significance of 
the shoe, which is a typical yoni symbol (hence the throw- 
ing of it at weddings), has been fully described by Aigre- 
mont. 3 In the Potsdam Kreis betrothed couples place salt 
and bread in their shoes, 4 with of course the same meaning. 
In Russia salt and bread are the first articles to be carried 
into the dwelling of a newly married pair. 6 Among the 
Southern Slavs the combination in question is used as a love 
charm, 6 while in the more pious canton of Berne it has the 
function of fortifying against temptation the person who 
carries it. 7 Going back to Ancient Rome we find that Ceres, 
the grain Goddess, and Neptune, the sea God, were wor- 
shipped together in the same temple ; 8 the wife of Neptune, 
however, was called Salacia 9 (compare our word "salacious" 
= libidinous). 

Other substances than salt were used together with bread 
at times, with a similar significance. Perhaps the commonest 
of these was cheese. The combination is very potent against 

1 Moffet, Health's Improvement, 1655, p. 218. 

"Aigremont, Fuss- und Schuk-Symbolik und Erotik, 1909, S. 55; Wuttke, 
op. cit., S. 370. 

8 Aigremont, op. cit., S. 42-64. 
4 Seligmann, op. cit., S. 38. 

6 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 185. 

Krauss, op. cit., S. 169. 

7 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 182. 

8 Frazer, op. cit., Second Edition, 1907, Part IV, "Adonis, Attis, Osiris," 
p. 412. 

Plutarch, op. cit. 



the evil eye, especially when carried round the neck; 1 it 
was also used to protect children from witches and malig- 
nant spirits. 2 In an old Welsh legend bread and cheese is 
used as a love charm to seduce the Lady of the Lake. 3 In 
this combination cheese is evidently the active element, 
while in others it is treated as the passive, recipient one. 
This is so in the various customs relating to what is called, 
from its association with child-birth, the "Groaning Cheese" 
or "Groaning Cake"; pieces of this, tossed in the midwife's 
smock, or placed under the pillow at night, cause young 
women to dream of their lovers. 4 The same is true of the 
custom, which still occasionally obtains in Europe, of using 
urine in the manufacture of cheese. 5 Urine is also used in 
some countries in bread-making, and there is reason to 
think that this was so even in Europe prior to the intro- 
duction of barm and yeast; 6 in 1886 a baker in Paris 
"regressed" so far as to be detected in using water-closet 
refuse in the preparation of bread, which was said to 
deteriorate in quality as soon as the practice was put an end 
to. 7 The theme of moisture and dryness of bread plays a 
central part in an interesting Welsh legend : 8 A young man 
who had fallen desperately in love with a Lake Maiden 
sought, on his mother's advice, to woo her with the offer of 
some bread a naive proposal which would be simply 
foolish if taken literally, but which when read symbolically 
is seen to be full of meaning. The maiden rejected the offer 
on the ground that the bread was too hard-baked. He 
returned, again on his mother's advice, with some unbaked 

1 Seligmann, op. cit., S. 38, 94. 
8 Brand, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 79. 

8 Rhys, Celtic Folklore, 1901, Vol. I, Ch. I, "Undine's Cymric Sisters." 
pp. 3, 17, 18. 

4 Brand, op. cit., p. 71. 

8 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 181-2. 

8 Bourke, op. cit., p. 39. 

7 Bourke, op. cit., p. 32. 

8 Rhys, op. cit., pp. 4-6, 27, 28. 

80 O 


dough, but was once more unsuccessful for the opposite 
reason to the previous one. On the third attempt, having 
achieved the proper consistence, he was successful. In 
another version of the same group of legends the suitor was 
enabled to capture the maiden through the magic power he 
had attained to by eating a piece of moist bread that she 
had allowed to float ashore. 1 In the Bible (Ezekiel iv. 15) 
it is stated that the Lord commanded the Jews to prepare 
their bread with cow's dung instead of with human 

Finally in this connection may be mentioned the com- 
bination of sweat and bread. This was believed to have 
powerful aphrodisiac properties, doubtless an extension of 
the exciting effect that the odour of sweat has on many 
people, and at the time of the witches women were accused 
of rubbing dough on their bodies and giving it to men to 
eat in whom they wished to arouse satanic love. 2 We prob- 
ably have here, as Aubrey suggested, 3 the explanation of 
the ancient game of cockle-bread, 4 in which the players, 
young women, go through the pretence of moulding bread 
with their back. It is a Negro, as well as a Belgian, super- 
stition that if you give a dog some bread soaked in your 
sweat he will follow you to the ends of the earth: he is 
yours. 5 We have here a repetition of the loyalty idea so 
characteristic of salt, the bond, however, being cemented 
here by the combination of the male and female elements in 
place of the male alone. 

Nor is bread the only recipient substance in such customs. 
Of the many other combinations may be mentioned: milk 
and resin, 6 curds and beans 7 both of these combinations 

1 Rhys, op. cit., p. 17. 

2 Paton, Folk-Lore, Vol. V, p. 277. 

3 Aubrey, Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisms (1686), 1881 Edition, p. 43. 

4 See Brand, op. cit., p. 413. 

5 Hartland, Perseus, op. cit., p. 124. 

6 North Indian Notes and Queries, Vol. Ill, p. 96. 

7 Sacred Books of the East, XXIX, p. 180. 



are cures for sterility salt and meal 1 a charm to enable 
girls to see their future lover in a dream sweat and cake 2 
used throughout Northern and Central Europe as a love 
charm blood and cake 3 used in Transylvania for the 
same purpose and blood mixed with the excrement of a 
dead person 4 a cure for impotence. The reverse of the 
same idea is presented in the superstition that if one eats an 
egg without salt one will get a fever, 5 significance being 
evidently attached to the combination. The erotic meaning 
of this is indicated by association in the saying that "to kiss 
a man without a moustache is like eating an egg without 
salt". There is of course an extensive nativity symbolism 
attaching to eggs, especially in religion. In Bavaria and else- 
where an egg will guard against the evil eye. 6 A Devonshire 
cure for ague was to bury an egg in earth at the dead of night. 7 
The act of partaking of the same food has constantly 
been used to symbolize a more intimate union, representing 
the solid-solid infantile hypothesis described above. It is a 
Scandinavian saying that if a boy and girl eat of one morsel 
they grow fond of each other. 8 In many parts of the East 
Indies the betel-nut is employed as a love charm, is given 
as a love pledge, and the chewing of one quid by both 
parties is the essential part of the wedding ceremony. 9 
Among the Manchus a dumpling is brought into the bed- 
chamber, when the bride and bridegroom each partake of a 
piece so as to ensure numerous offspring. 10 In Ancient Greece 
the bride and bridegroom used to eat of a quince together. 11 

1 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 244. 
a Hartland, op. cit., p. 123. 

3 Hartland, op. cit., p. 124. 

4 Von Wlislocki, op. cit., S. 140. 

5 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 311. 

6 Seligmann, op. cit., S. 330. 

7 Brand, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 298. 

8 Thorpe, Northern Mythology, 1851, Vol. II, p. 108. 

9 L'Anthropologie, Vol. Ill, p. 194. 
10 Folk-Lore, Vol. I, p. 488. 

" Plutarch, Solon, XX. 

9 1 


With many Hindoo tribes a woman never eats together 
with a man throughout her whole life, with the sole excep- 
tion of the wedding-day, when after the sindur dan cere- 
mony described above she sits at table together with her 
husband. Hartland 1 records a very large number of in- 
stances, from all parts of the world, in which eating to- 
gether, particularly from the same dish, constitutes an 
important or even essential part of the wedding ceremony, 
and there is no need for us to enumerate any more of these. 
The best known is the confarreatio ceremony of the Romans 
in which the man and woman ate together of the sacrificial 
cake, the panis farreus. Our own wedding-cake is a survival 
of these customs. 2 

The religious significance of the act, as illustrated by 
wedding ceremonies, is of considerable interest. In Christi- 
anity there has been a close association between it and the 
rite of the Holy Eucharist. In the old Parisian marriage 
ceremony the priest, after saying mass, blessed a loaf and 
wine ; the loaf was bitten and a little of the wine drunk by 
each of the spouses, one after the other, and the officiating 
priest then taking them by the hands led them home. In a 
Yezidi wedding a loaf of consecrated bread is handed to the 
husband, and he and his wife eat it between them. The 
Nestorians require the pair to take the communion. Indeed, 
until the last revision of the Book of Common Prayer the 
Church of England commanded that "the newly married 
persons the same day of their marriage must receive the 
Holy Communion", a practice that continues to be recom- 
mended. 3 

The material of the Eucharist, like all other consecrated 
substances, has been endowed with various non-religious 
powers, such as ability to ward off the evil eye, to cure 

1 Hartland, op. cit., pp. 343-53 ; See also Rhys, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 649, 650. 
8 Brand, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 101, 102; Hartland, op. cit., pp. 351, 352. 
8 The preceding instances are quoted from Hartland, op. cit., p. 347. 



sterility, 1 and so on. A curious example, full of symbolism, 
is the Welsh tradition that "flying snakes" 2 originated in 
ordinary snakes that had become transformed by drinking 
the milk of a woman and eating the bread of the Holy 
Communion. 3 We have traced above the underlying sig- 
nificance of the Catholic salt and water baptism, and also 
that of the various customs and beliefs relating to bread. 
It is interesting that in Italy the combination of salt and 
bread is known as "lumen Christi", and is of course endowed 
with magical properties. 4 

Consideration of the symbolism dealt with above, par- 
ticularly the equivalency of salt and wine and the aliment- 
ary connotations of bread, makes it plain that the deeper 
significance of the Eucharist and Holy Communion is 
throughout a sexual one. This sexual meaning forced itself 
into open expression with some of the Christian sects. Thus, 
according to St. Augustine, the Manichaeans prepared the 
sacred host by incorporating the Eucharistic bread with 
human semen, and their descendants, the Albigenses and 
Catharistes, preserved this custom. 5 Here, as elsewhere, 
heresy, by unveiling the symbolism of a given aspect of 
religious dogma or ritual, has uncomfortably compromised 
the religion it caricatures, just as the perversions of a 
brother often disclose the meaning of his neurotic sister's 
symptoms which are merely disguised manifestations of the 
same tendencies. 

It need hardly be said that demonstration of the sexual 
origin and meaning of the materials used in a given religious 
ritual is far from explaining even the unconscious basis of 
that ritual. To do so with the Eucharist, for example, it 
would be necessary to discuss a number of other matters not 

1 Hartland, Paternity, op. cit., p. 7. 

8 The armorial emblem of Wales is a dragon. 

8 Owen, Welsh Folk-Lore, 1887, p. 349. 

4 Seligmann, op. cit., S. 38. 

8 See Bourke, op. cit., p. 220, where full references are given. 



directly connected with the present inquiry, particularly the 
incestuous basis of the union implied in the ceremony, its 
relation to theophagy and anthropophagy, and so on. 

I wish here to say something about an interesting feature 
of superstition in general, and of salt symbolism in par- 
ticular namely, its ambivalency. It has often puzzled 
observers of superstitions to note that the very same custom 
or happening is supposed in one place to bring luck, in 
another ill luck, in the one place to lead to fertility, in 
another sterility, and so on. The explanation is to be found 
in the ambivalent attitude of consciousness to the content 
of the unconscious, the source of all superstitions. If the 
affect, which is always positive, that accompanies the 
unconscious idea finds a passage-way into consciousness, 
as happens, for instance, in the process known as sublima- 
tion, then the attitude towards the conscious representative 
of this idea (i.e., towards the symbol) will be correspond- 
ingly positive, and the symbolic idea will be considered the 
source of all good. If, on the contrary, it is the affect belong- 
ing to the "repressing" tendencies that gets attached to the 
symbolic idea, then the latter will come to be the sign of all 
that is unlucky or dangerous. The same ambivalency is seen 
in regard to all products of the unconscious, for instance in 
totemism whether of the race or of the individual; the 
same animal can be loved in infancy and unreasonably 
feared in later childhood. So, as was remarked earlier in this 
essay, it is really irrelevant whether a given superstition is 
met with in a positive or a negative sense, the essential 
point being the evidence given by both of an excessive 
significance derived from the unconscious. 

This ambivalency can be well demonstrated in salt 
superstitions. One finds that practically every attribute 
described above as being attached to the idea of salt may 



in other places be replaced by its exact opposite. We may 
illustrate this feature by selecting a few examples of con- 
trasting pairs. 

1 . Fruitfulness Unfruitfulness. 

The remarkably close association between the ideas of 
salt and fecundity was dwelt on in detail in the earlier part 
of this essay (pp. 31, 32, 45, 46), and a few examples 
were also quoted in which the former idea was related to 
that of barrenness. This latter seems to have been more 
especially common in Eastern countries, and is repeatedly 
referred to in the Bible (e.g., Deuteronomy xxix. 23; Job 
xxxix. 6; Jeremiah xvii. 6; Psalms cvii. 33, 34, etc.); it is 
also remarked on by Pliny, Virgil, and other classical 
writers. 1 A real ground for it was no doubt the frequent 
sight of salty deserts and waste places where an excess of 
salt had prevented all growth. This real justification for 
the association between salt and barrenness makes still 
more striking the far commoner one between it and fer- 
tility, and again shows how the latter belief must have 
been caused by a false association of ideas, as has been 
maintained above. 

The analogy is again evident here between the ideas of 
salt, of which either the absence or the excess prevents 
fruitfulness, and sexuality, concerning which the same is 
widely believed. It is thus appropriate that Lot's wife, as a 
punishment for regretting the (homosexual) sins of Sodom, 
should have been turned into a pillar (phallus) of salt. 

2. Creation Destruction. 

This antithesis is of course closely allied to the last one 
and might also be expressed as the contrast between im- 
mortality and death. It has at all ages been a common 
custom to add strength to a curse by strewing salt as a 

1 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 94. 



symbol of destruction; historical examples are: after the 
destruction of Sichem by Abimelech, of Carthage by the 
Romans, of Padua by Attila, and of Milan by Friedrich 
Barbarossa. The custom seems to have had especial refer- 
ence to the overpowering of a town (a mother symbol), 
another hint of the unconscious association between crea- 
tion and destruction (compare the beliefs in the fructifying 
and the destroying sun). 

3. In the same connection may be mentioned the anti- 
thesis between the use of salt and the abstention from salt. 
This has been discussed above in relation to religious 
observances and the question of sexual abstinence (pp. 


4. Value Worthlessness. 

The extraordinarily high sense of value often attached to 
the idea of salt, and also the close relation between it and 
that of money or wealth, has been described above (pp. 27, 
28, 62), and we have now to note the opposite of this. 
Schleiden, 1 after quoting passages from Homer and Theo- 
critus to the same effect, says : "A grain or two of salt thus 
became an expression for the most worthless thing that one 
could name. We still say, when we want to denote anything 
trifling: 'With that one couldn't even earn the salt for one's 
bread'." The same attitude of depreciation is shown in the 
joke of the traveller who after partaking of an extremely 
poor meal at an inn called the landlord to him and said: 
"There was one thing in this meal that I have not seen 
surpassed in all my travels." On the expectant landlord 
inquiring what it was, the traveller crushingly answered: 
"The salt." 

5. Health Unhealthiness. 

We have noted above (pp. 31, 50, 51) the discussion 

1 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 101. 



whether the partaking of salt is especially a health-bringing 
procedure or the exact opposite. 

6. Purity Impurity. 

Salt has always served as an emblem of immaculateness 
and purity. Pythagoras says in this connection: "It was 
begotten of the purest parents, of the sun and the sea" 
(another example, by the way, of the signification of fire 
and water that was pointed out above). The important part 
salt has played, e.g., in religion, in regard to purification 
need not again be insisted on. The extraordinarily close 
association between the ideas of salt and of the excretions, 
i.e., dirty processes, on the other hand, has been pointed out 
in detail above, and we shall presently have to note the 
same thing in connection with the etymological history of 
the word. There is thus here the sharpest contrast between 
two opposite conceptions. 

7. Friendliness Unfriendliness. 

Whereas the offering of salt is generally a sign of friendly 
intentions, we have also noted examples of the exact 
opposite (pp. 24, 25, 54, 55). 

We have already discussed the significance of this striking 
ambivalency. It is a characteristic of all ideas that have 
deep unconscious roots, and may roughly be said to corres- 
pond with the antithesis of "the repressing" and "the 
repressed" as well as that between love and hate. The 
obverse of this statement is also true, that an idea which 
shows pronounced ambivalency in its affective values 
must have important associations in the unconscious. 
From the fact alone, therefore, that the idea of salt shows 
such marked ambivalency it could have been surmised 
that it has been invested with extrinsic significance of 
unconscious origin. One also gets here a further clue as 



to the meaning of ambivalency : it is evidently related to the 
contrast between on the one hand the over-valuing of 
sexuality in general, and the excremental aspects of sexu- 
ality in particular, in the unconscious and in infantile life, 
and on the other hand the under-valuing of these in con- 
sciousness and in adult life. An individual analysis, how- 
ever, of the infantile origin of all the separate attributes 
belonging to the salt idea, e.g., the relation of purification 
to fertilization, though of considerable importance, cannot 
be undertaken here, for it would lead us too far from the 
main theme of the work. 

We may now pass to another aspect of the subject, the 
etymological one. It is becoming more and more realized by 
psycho-analysts that symbolisms gradually formed through 
"repression" during the progress of civilization leave traces 
of their original meaning as word-deposits. It is even prob- 
able that the correctness of the interpretation of a given 
symbol, such as the one attempted in this essay, could be 
accurately tested by being submitted to a sufficiently ex- 
haustive comparison with the etymological and semantic 
history of the words denoting the ideas in question. From 
this point of view it becomes desirable, therefore, to say a 
little about the history of the word "salt", though a lack of 
expert knowledge will necessarily render the present con- 
sideration of it very incomplete. 

It seems to be definitely established that the names for 
salt in nearly all European languages find their earliest 
expression in an old Celtic word which meant "water" or 
"bog". Schleiden 1 writes as follows: "The Celts brought 
with them from their original Indo-Germanic sources some 
form of the root 'sar', which in Sanscrit meant in the first 
place 'to walk', 'to go', 'to flow 5 , etc., and then in a derived 

1 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 15, 16. 


form as 'sara' also 'river', 'water', 'sea', 'pond'. No such 
word meaning salt is to be found in the Vedas, in the 
Avesta, nor in any of the cuneiform writings, but in 
Armenian it occurs as 'agh' (gh is a common substitute for 
/), thus constituting a bond between 'sara' ( = water) and 
the Greek t&<; 1 ( = sea-water and salt). . . . Many words that 
are either truly Celtic or else have passed through the Celtic 
language still recall the original meaning of this root word 
as 'sea', 'lake', 'pond', 'pool', 'puddle'. In Old Irish 'sal' 
means moor or swamp; 'salach' is Old Irish, 'halou' Old 
Welsh for dirty; 2 the Old High German, Middle High 
German, and Anglo-Saxon 'sol' means a puddle or pool; the 
sporting words in German 'suhl' ( = slough) and 'suhlen' 
( to wallow), which are used in regard to wild swine; the 
Low German 'solig', meaning dirty, the French 'sale' 
( = unclean, impure). . . . The word has always retained a 
specially close association with the idea of water. 3 In Greek 
the word 'hals' with an altered gender, feminine, practically 
means the sea, just as 'sal' did with the Latin poets. Also 
the rivers which contained salt water or which passed by 
sources of salt are called by names that in all probability are 
all related to 'salt'." (Schleiden then gives a long list of such 
rivers and places.) 

Hehn 4 suggests that adtXos ( = salum), meaning "bog", 
"lagoon", "brackish water", belongs to the same series. It 
originally signified the sea outside the harbour, and thus 
also the swell of the sea within the harbour; we get here 
perhaps another hint of the relation between "sal" and 
"salire" mentioned above. 

It has been suggested 5 that this root word "sar" was 

1 The initial s has been replaced by h only in Greek and Welsh. 

2 So the Old Welsh "halog" (= contaminated, impure) and "halou" 
(= faeces). 

3 In New Persian also "neme" (=salt) originally meant "moist". 

4 Hehn, op. cit., S. 25. 

6 Schleiden, op. cit., S. 17. 



applied to salt to indicate the crackling or spurting of salt 
when thrown into fire or water, and in support of this it 
may be added that in the only European languages where 
the word for salt does not proceed from this root (Lithu- 
anian "druska", Albanian "kripe") 1 a word signifying "to 
strew" is used to denote it. This suggestion is not, however, 
accepted by any philologist, and it seems certain that the 
main reason for the use of "sar" was the connotation of the 
latter as "flowing", "bog", etc., and the resemblance of this 
to salt-water. 

It is thus plain that the original signification of the word 
was "a dirty fluid". The facts just adduced are certainly 
striking, and, especially in view of the derivative words that 
bear the closest relation to the idea of excrement, they may 
be regarded as an extrinsic confirmation of our conclusion 
one which would hardly have been suspected without a 
detailed investigation that the idea of salt and water is 
inherently allied to that of excretion, particularly urine. 
What was once a conscious association has in the course of 
centuries become more and more concealed, but though it 
has disappeared from sight it has in so doing by no means 
disappeared from existence. 


After this somewhat prolonged excursion we may now 
return to our original starting-point, namely, the super- 
stitious belief that to spill salt at table is unlucky. The 
belief is practically universal and was as prevalent in 
Ancient Greece and Rome as in Modern Europe. 2 It has 
been applied to other precious substances besides salt : for 

1 Hehn, op. cit., S. 29. 

* Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 167, 168. 



instance, in China it is unlucky to spill the contents of an 
oil-jar. 1 In Germany even to play with salt is unlucky, 2 and 
for every grain spilt one will have to wait a day (or a week) 
before heaven's gate. 3 

It has been thought that the superstition in question 
arose from the over-spilling of the salt by Judas at the Last 
Supper, 4 a rationalistic explanation on a level with that 
which traces the superstitions concerning the number 
thirteen to the presence of thirteen at the same meal. Folk- 
beliefs of this order have a far wider and older range than 
purely Christian ones. The evidence adduced above points 
unequivocally to a quite different explanation, one which 
may be indicated by comparing the unlucky act in question 
with that of Onan described in Genesis (xxxviii. 9). In the 
light of it attention may be directed to the following 
features of the superstition. Although the spilling of salt is 
supposed to bring ill-luck in general, 5 its specific effect is to 
destroy friendship 6 and to lead to quarrelling; 7 moreover it 
brings ill-luck to the person towards whom the salt falls 8 
as much as to the one who has spilt it. It acts, in other 
words, by disturbing the harmony of two people previously 
engaged in amicable intercourse. From what has been said 
above about the unconscious symbolism of eating in com- 
pany it will be intelligible why the spilling of a vital sub- 
stance at such a moment should be felt to be, somehow or 
other, a peculiarly unfortunate event. To the unconscious, 
from which the affective significance arises, it is equivalent 
on one plane to ejaculatio praecox, and on a more primitive 
plane to that form of infantile "accident" which psycho- 

1 Marian Cox, An Introduction to Folk-Lore, 1904, p. 10. 
* Wuttke, op. cit., S. 311. 
8 Wuttke, loc. cit. 

4 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 166. 

5 Brand, op. cit., Vol. Ill, pp. 160, 162. 

6 Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 169-71. 

7 Brand, loc. cit. ; Lawrence, op. cit., pp. 166, 167. 

8 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 166; Brand, op. cit., pp. 161, 162. 



analysis has shown 1 to be genetically related to this unfor- 
tunate disorder. The original meaning of the superstition 
is hinted at in the Prussian belief 2 that to spill salt at a 
wedding betokens an unhappy marriage, and in the opinion 
of the "antiques", 3 who 

"thought love decay'd 
When the negligent maid 
Let the salt-cellar tumble before them". 

It is probable that the ill-luck was formerly conceived 
of as rendering the salt-spiller susceptible to the malevolent 
influences of evil spirits, 4 and the throwing of salt over the 
left shoulder, with the idea of averting the ill-luck, 5 has 
been thought to have the object of hitting the invisible 
demon in the eye and so disabling him. 6 This apparently 
wild suggestion has its proper meaning, which we need not 
go into here, but it is more likely that the true object of 
the proceeding was to make a propitiatory offering to the 
demon; 7 it has a suspicious resemblance to the Burmese 
custom of throwing food over the left shoulder in order to 
conciliate the chief spirit of evil. 8 The maleficium of evil 
beings is predominantly concerned with interference with 
sexual relations and disturbances of the sexual functions; 
I have elsewhere pointed out in detail that the dread of it 
comes from the fear of impotence. 9 Counter-charms against 
maleficium largely consist of symbolic acts which either 
assert the person's potency or serve to re-establish it; 

1 Abraham, "t)ber Ejaculatio praecox," Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psycho- 
analyse, 1916, Bd. IV, S. 171. 
8 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 210. 

3 Brand, op. cit., p. 163. 

4 Lawrence, loc. cit. 

5 Dallyel, op. cit., p. 101. 

6 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 167. 

7 Dalyell, loc. cit. ; Lav/rence, loc. cit. 

8 Lawrence, loc. cit. 

9 Der Alptraum, loc. cit. 



instances of both kinds may be found in connection with 
the averting of evil due to the spilling of salt. In the latter 
class may be counted the procedure of throwing some of the 
spilt salt, over the left shoulder, into the fire, 1 the symbol of 
virility; this custom is still practised in America. 2 To the 
former class belong the counter-charms of throwing some of 
the salt out of the window, 3 and of crawling under the table 
and coming out on the opposite side : 4 to throw something 
through an aperture, or to crawl through one, symbolizes in 
folk-lore, dreams, and mythology, the effecting of the sexual 
act, a symbolism which has given rise to a large group of 
beliefs and customs. 5 The explanation of why the salt has 
to be thrown backwards, and why precisely over the left 
shoulder, would open up themes too extensive for us to 
enter on here; it is one of the many respects in which the 
analysis offered in this essay remains incomplete. 

Two alternative hypotheses were set forth above con- 
cerning the origin of the excessive significance that has so 
widely been attached to the idea of salt, and it is main- 
tained that the evidence detailed establishes an enormous 
balance of probability in favour of the second one. Accord- 
ing to this a great part of the significance is derived, not 
from ideas relating to salt itself, but from ideas with which 
these have been unconsciously associated. Significance has 
been unconsciously transferred to the subject of salt from 
emotional sources of the greatest importance to the per- 

1 Brand, op. cit., p. 161. 

8 Johnson, What they say in New England, 1896, p. 92. 

3 Wuttke, op. cit., S. 312. 

4 Lawrence, op. cit., p. 170. 

5 R6heim, "The Significance of Stepping over," International Journal of 
Psycho- Analysis, 1922, Vol. III. * 



sonality. The natural properties of salt, which in themselves 
can account for only a part of the feeling with which the 
salt-idea has been invested, are of such a kind as to render 
the association of it with another substance, of universal 
import, an easily-made, if not an inevitable one. The 
significance naturally appertaining to such an important 
and remarkable article of diet as salt has thus been strength- 
ened by an accession of psychical significance derived from 
deeper sources. Freud's view that superstitions always have 
a hidden logical meaning, that they constitute a betrayal of 
unconscious mental processes, is thereby fully confirmed in 
this particular example, as it has been with all the other 
superstitions I have investigated. This hidden meaning has 
the characteristic attributes of the unconscious, notably in 
its ambivalency, its typically sexual nature, and its close 
relation to infantile mental processes. 

The conclusion reached, therefore, is that salt is a typical 
symbol for semen. But semen itself is ontogenetically not a 
primary concept, being a replacement of an earlier one 
concerning urine, and we have correspondingly been able to 
trace the roots of salt symbolism to an older source than the 
seminal one. There is every reason to think that the primi- 
tive mind equates the idea of salt, not only with that of 
semen, but also with the essential constituent of urine. The 
idea of salt in folk-lore and superstition characteristically 
represents the male, active, fertilizing principle. 

An intuitive appreciation of the truth of this last sentence 
is afforded by the following panegyric paragraphs taken 
from the daily press, where they were headed: Man as "Salt 
of the Earth", Science versus Suffragists. 

"Whilst the suffragists are loudly claiming equality with 
man if not superiority it has been left to scientists to 
establish that man is literally the 'salt of the earth'. Two 
famous French savants have just announced the result of a 
long series of investigations, which convinces them beyond 



all question of doubt that woman is unalterably man's 
inferior, because of the smaller percentage of chloride of 
sodium in her blood. 

"In other words, the blood of the male is more salt than 
that of the female, and observations of animal life show 
that the more salt there is in the blood the higher the 
intelligence and general development. The indictment does 
not end there, for these savants declare that their combined 
physiological and psychological investigations have proved 
that woman is inferior to man in everything intelligence, 
reason, and physical force. The facial angle of the female, 
they add, more closely resembles that of the higher animals 
than the male, while woman's senses are less keen than those 
of man and she feels pain less. 

"The scientific explanation is that the blood of the 
female is poorer in red blood corpuscles, and therefore 
relatively poorer in brine, which has been found to be the 
important factor in the development of the individual." 

The fact that the customs and beliefs relating to salt are 
exactly parallel to those relating to sexual secretions and 
excretions, the complex and far-reaching way in which the 
salt-idea is interwoven with matters of sex, particularly 
with potency and fertilization, the universality of the beliefs 
in question, the faultless illumination that every detail of 
the customs and beliefs relating to salt receives as soon as 
their symbolic signification is recognized, and the im- 
possibility of adequately explaining them on any other 
basis, are considerations that render it exceedingly difficult 
to contest the hypothesis here sustained; in fact this can 
hardly be done except by ignoring the facts adduced above. 
The validity of the hypothesis rests on the grounds that it 
completely fulfils both canons of scientific reasoning: it 

105 H 


enables one to resume disparate phenomena in a simple 
formula that renders them more comprehensible, and to 
predict the occurrence of other, previously unknown pheno- 
mena in a way that is susceptible of verification. 

The only opposing position that can seriously be main- 
tained is that, however important the association in ques- 
tion may have been in the past, it is no longer operative 
except possibly among primitive peoples, so that the only 
agent responsible for the persistence of the superstition in 
modern times is the force of meaningless tradition. This 
raises an extremely important general problem namely, 
how far ancient symbolisms are still operative in the minds 
of civilized people. The tendency of the average layman 
would be to regard such symbolisms as merely relics from a 
distant past, and to look upon knowledge concerning them 
as having no direct bearing on matters of present-day 

The importance they have, however, is far from being a 
simply antiquarian one. 1 Psycho-analytic investigation has 
shown not only that symbolism plays a much more exten- 
sive part in mental functioning than was previously imag- 
ined, but also that there is a pronounced tendency for the 
same symbolisms to recur quite independently of the influ- 
ence of other people. This is in entire accord with modern 
mythological and anthropological research, 2 since it is 

1 Roughly speaking it may be said that owing to the action of "repression" 
the sexual meaning of such symbolisms retreats from view during the develop- 
ment of civilization in much the same way as it does during the development 
of the individual. In both cases, however, the retreating from view means only 
a disappearance from consciousness, not from existence. 

2 It will be gathered from the whole tone of the present essay that the author 
attaches especial importance to the inter-relation of psycho-analytic and 
anthropological research. The anthropologist's material is rendered much more 
intelligible by psycho-analysis, and his views can there be submitted to veri- 
fiable tests with actual individual minds, while on the other hand through this 
material the psycho-analytical conclusions receive extensive confirmation, 
correction, and amplification . The comparative study of both fields is mutually 
instructive, and much is to be expected in the future from the work of men such 
as R6heim who are equally trained in both fields. 

1 06 


known that identical symbolisms occur in different parts of 
the world, and in different ages, in circumstances that pre- 
clude the possibility of their having been merely trans- 
mitted from one place to another. There appears to be a 
general tendency of the human mind to symbolize objects 
and interests of paramount and universal significance in 
forms that are psychologically the most suitable and avail- 
able. That these stereotyped forms of symbolism are pro- 
duced quite spontaneously is a matter capable of direct 
demonstration. One finds, for instance, a country farmer 
unconsciously exhibiting in his dreams, in his mental re- 
actions and in his psycho-neurotic symptoms the identical 
symbolisms that played a part in the religions of Ancient 
India or Greece, and in a way so foreign to the conscious 
life of his environment as to exclude with certainty any 
course in either suggestion or tradition. In my observations 
of the seminal symbolism of salt, for instance, with actual 
patients I have come across reactions indicating uncon- 
scious attitudes of mind exactly comparable to that im- 
plied in many of the antiquated practices detailed earlier in 
this essay. 

The most that these external influences can accomplish 
is to direct the unconscious process into a given form, but it 
cannot maintain this direction of interest unless the form of 
symbolism assumed becomes linked with a spontaneous 
interest of the individual. Thus, a person brought up in a 
society that took no interest in a given superstition would 
be less likely to develop the superstition himself than if 
brought up in a different society though he might easily 
do so, nevertheless, especially if he were of the obsessional 
type of mind; but and this is the important point a 
person brought up in however superstitious a society would 
not develop a given superstition unless it was of such a kind 
as to be capable of being associated to his personal mental 
complexes. This association is a purely individual one, and 



without it the superstitious belief fails to appeal; it need 
hardly be said that the process, particularly in civilized 
communities, is most often entirely unconscious. To put the 
matter more concretely: what is meant is that with every 
person who has made his own a superstitious practice 
regarding salt, who follows it from an inner motive, from a 
"superstitious feeling" even though he might consciously 
maintain that he did not believe in it analysis would show 
that the idea of salt was symbolizing the idea of semen 
(or urine) in his unconscious mind, that this association was 
a personal one of his own. 

The reason why certain superstitions are so widely 
prevalent is because the ideas are such as to render easily 
possible the forging of associations between them and 
personal ideas of general interest and significance. The 
conditions, however, have their definite limitations: the 
forging of the associations must not be either too easy or 
too difficult. From this point of view one may venture to 
suggest that the general decline of superstition among 
educated classes is not entirely due as is commonly 
thought to the more enlightened intelligence of such 
classes, but is also in part due to their greater cultural 
inhibition of symbolical thinking in general, and of sexual 
symbolism in particular. 

A superstition such as that of salt-spilling is usually 
dismissed either as being too trivial to warrant the dignity 
of an explanation, or else with one that is obviously super- 
ficial and inadequate. Even in the opinions on the subject 
enunciated in psychological text-books the writer often 
gives the impression of having dispensed with an investiga- 
tion sufficiently detailed to establish their validity. On the 
other hand, attentive consideration of any given super- 
stition reveals how much we have to learn about the subject, 
and demonstrates that it is often, as in the present instance, 
connected with aspects of the human mind that are of 



fundamental importance. A psychology of religion, for 
example, is impossible without an understanding of super- 
stition. Here, as elsewhere, Freud has shown that a by-way 
in psychology may lead to country that yields an unex- 
pectedly rich harvest. 




THERE is perhaps no sharp line to be drawn between the 
nightmare and other intense anxiety dreams, but the 
typical one is characterized not only by the overwhelming 
awfulness of the terror but also by a sense of oppression on 
the chest as of a heavy body lying there, with a consequent 
dread of suffocation. Intense apprehension and helpless 
paralysis may persist for hours after waking. The usual 
somatic accompaniments of morbid anxiety are also 
present, such as cold sweat, polyuria, and so on. Altogether it 
is one of the most distressing experiences that can be endured. 
The beliefs, medical, theological and popular, concerning 
the meaning of nightmares are of peculiar historical interest, 
and it is only recently that a theory has been evolved which 
can discriminate between the admixture of truth and error 
in each of them. 2 The problem is evidently related to that 
of "morbid anxiety" in general, i.e., anxiety disproportion- 
ate to actual stimuli. In the past twenty or thirty years 
the extensive investigations of Freud and his co-workers 
have made important contributions to the pathology of 
morbid anxiety. They have revealed that the disproportion 
in question is only apparent. The anxiety is disproportion- 
ate only to the stimuli coming from the outer world, the 
only ones generally recognized, but not disproportionate 
to certain instinctual stimuli proceeding from within the 
organism. These are capable of evoking anxiety only when 

1 Read before the Royal Society of Medicine (Section of the History of 
Medicine), 6th April, 1932. 

2 I have dealt with this extensively in a book, On the Nightmare, 1931. 



they are in a state of repression and so belong to the 
system of the unconscious. They are always sexual in 
nature, often with marked algolagnic components. 

In early days all illness and suffering was believed to 
arise from malignity, proceeding either from an enemy or a 
hostile spirit. The development of scientific medicine meant 
the de-moralizing of pathology. In this laudable endeavour 
medicine has, however, made the old mistake of emptying 
the baby with the bath, for there remains an important 
group, nowadays recognized as neurotic suffering, where 
moral factors play an essential part. Repression of certain 
instinctual impulses is usually effected by agencies that 
may broadly be called moral, although they are much 
cruder than what perhaps should properly be so termed. 
Few problems illustrate this better than the pathology of 
the nightmare. 

The popular view, dating from prehistoric times and 
accepted by the Christian Church, has till relatively lately 
been that both erotic dreams and nightmares represented 
sexual assaults on the part of some lewd demon, male or 
female according to the sex of the victim (Incubi or Succubi 
respectively). This view was supported by the interesting 
clinical observation that no sharp line of distinction can be 
drawn at any point in the following series : entirely agree- 
able erotic dreams with seminal emission (not common in 
this pure form) pleasant erotic dreams with emission 
accompanied by a varying amount of anxiety and distress 
(the more usual kind) unpleasant erotic dreams with 
emission accompanied or preceded by considerable anxiety 
anxiety dreams with emission where it is not easy to trace 
any erotic element in the dream nightmares with emission 
nightmares without emission. As one proceeds along this 
series the erotic element, so evident at first, becomes in- 
creasingly, and finally altogether, extinguished from con- 
sciousness by the emotions of anxiety and distress, the 



explanation being that the (moral) repression of that 
element is increasingly great. The person at the beginning 
of the series may enjoy the embrace of the welcome demon; 
later on the situation becomes one of rape and finally of 
physical assault. 

A permanent feature of this popular belief, and probably 
the point of it, was the disavowal of personal responsibility 
for any of these experiences. Had the lewd demon not put in 
an appearance nothing would have happened; it was 
entirely his doing. During the witchcraft epidemic in the 
closing centuries of the Middle Ages, when the Church had 
assimilated these experiences to matters of heresy and devil- 
lore, ecclesiastics began to get suspicious of this plea of 
innocence. Some of their investigations resembled a modern 
judicial inquiry into a charge of rape, and the subjects were 
closely examined to determine whether they had willingly 
submitted to the demon or had been tormented by him 
entirely against their will. The series described above shows 
that this was a very nice question, hence the difficulty in 
answering it. 

pIThe alternative to this spirit origin of dreams was that 
they originated in the body, a view which shared with its 
opposite the advantage of disclaiming any personal respon- 
sibility for whatever happened in them. It is older than is 
generally thought. The suggestion, for instance, that night- 
mares are provoked by gastric disturbances now the com- 
monly accepted opinion may be found in the works of 
Galen, and it was also supported by Paulus Aegineta. This 
medical, somatic aetiology prevailed over the popular 
demon view by the sixteenth century in the case of erotic 
dreams, full seminal vesicles taking the place of the demon, 
but with nightmares it did not succeed until the eighteenth 
century. The delay with the latter was doubtless due to the 
lingering r .belief in witchcraft, with which, as was mentioned 
above, the whole subject had become interwoven. 



With Freud's work on dream life at the turn of the 
present century an entirely different light was thrown on 
the whole matter. Without settling the vexed ethical ques- 
tion of moral responsibility for the ideas and actions 
occurring in dreams, his conclusion that they are the dis- 
guised expression of repressed (i.e., unconscious) wishes 
brings them back into the sphere of personal mental life 
from which both the theologians and the physicians had 
conspired to divorce them. The psycho-analytical conclu- 
sion about nightmares is that the causative sexual wish so 
evident in most erotic dreams is subject to an exceptional 
degree of repression, the reason for this being that they 
always originate in an incestuous wish. The attacking 
animal, demon, or vague pressure really represents the 
parent. It is probable that the extreme classical form of 
nightmare occurs only in persons with a considerable maso- 
chistic element in their constitution. 

For the history of medicine the feature of special interest 
is the unwitting co-operation of the physicians with the 
theologians, although on apparently opposite lines, in the 
aim of directing thought away from the personal mental 
origin of these phenomena and thus ensuring that the 
repressed (incestuous) source of them should not be dis- 
covered. The physicians were right in maintaining that 
these experiences arose from within, but wrong in thinking 
that "within" could mean only the body. The theologians 
were right in maintaining the spiritual origin of the experi- 
ences and their purposive, intentional nature, but wrong in 
ascribing it to outside entities instead of those within the 


WHEN a worker in one field presents to those in another 
field some of his conclusions in the hope that they may be 
of interest and use when applied to other data, it behoves 
him to do so in a duly tentative and modest spirit. This 
attitude is particularly called for when his sphere of activity 
possesses such peculiar characteristics as does that of 
psycho-analysis, where he knows that he can count only on 
incredulity and opposition from those not familiar with the 
subject. The instinctive resentment, however politely dis- 
guised, which is felt towards an intruder who ventures to 
make suggestions concerning the work of a strange group 
can only be intensified when these suggestions are as unwel- 
come and unflattering as so many psycho-analytical ones 
are. The present occasion possesses, however, one feature 
which may prove to be of historical interest; it is, I believe, 
the first time that the doctrines of psycho-analysis have 
been propounded before an anthropological audience. 

Three considerations encouraged me to accept our 
President's invitation to say something about the work on 
which we are engaged, and to point out the bearing which I 
conceive it to have on anthropological studies. In the first 
place, a psychologist has after all a certain claim to be 
represented in such studies, inasmuch as the mental data 
there investigated form a part of his own province. Indeed, 
in appraising the interpretation of mental data, and in com- 
ing to some judgement on their meaning and significance, 

1 Read before the Royal Anthropological Institute, igth February, 1924. 
Published in the Journal of the Institute, Vol. LIV. 



the psychologist should really have as much to say as the 
collector of the data ; that he has had so little say in the past 
has depended more on the backwardness of his own science 
than on the logic of the situation. The earlier authorities on 
anthropology, such as the founders of this Institute, had 
two deficiencies so apparently overwhelming that the dis- 
tance to which they were able to proceed in spite of them 
must compel our deep respect. For they had not observed 
themselves the mental phenomena which they studied, nor 
were they trained in the psychological interpretation of such 
phenomena. Anthropologists have freely recognized this 
state of affairs, and the members of the younger generation 
have taken practical steps to remedy at least the first of the 
two deficiencies just mentioned. As a result the field-worker 
to-day has an unquestioned advantage over those to whom 
in overweening pride he sometimes refers as "arm-chair 
anthropologists". He also starts fair with the psychologist, 
each possessing one advantage and one defect. In these 
circumstances the two can only profitably approach each 
other in a spirit of mutual benevolence and co-operate 
together in their work until they are both superseded by a 
race of anthropologists who are experienced in field-work 
and also trained in the methods of modern psychology. The 
first member of this race, however, has yet to make his 
appearance. 1 

In the second place, the similarity of the data investi- 
gated by anthropologists and by psycho-analysts is often 
so striking and unexpected as positively to call out for 
explanation, so that it becomes one's duty at least to draw 
the attention of anthropologists to the fact. In our laborious 
investigations of the hidden recesses of the mind we come 
across some group of ideas, some implicit belief, some mode 
of mental functioning which is altogether alien to our ex- 
perience of the conscious mind as we know it, and for which 

1 Since this was written he has appeared, in the person of Dr. Geza R6heim. 



no counterpart is to be found in our experience of life. 
The findings are so unequivocal that we have to accept them 
empirically even when we may not be able to relate them to 
any previous knowledge. Further, certain features accom- 
panying them lead us to infer that they represent a more 
archaic layer of the mind than those we are accustomed to, 
one which has been passed and covered over by the latter in 
the course of development. Then to our amazement we read 
that identical beliefs or forms of thought have been recorded 
either in the folk-lore and mythology of bygone days or in 
savage races of the present time. What are we to think of 
this ? To begin with, it must confirm our conclusion that the 
findings were not artefacts of our observation, and also that 
they represent some more primitive stage of mental devel- 
opment. But the obvious question of the relation of the two 
sets of phenomena to each other at once raises some of the 
most obscure problems of biological psychology, and opens 
up the whole subject of culture and inheritance. Of the 
innumerable examples that could be brought forward I will 
cite only one, but it should be enough to indicate the sort of 
thing with which we have to deal. In his investigations of 
the sources of "dream thoughts", the thoughts that lie be- 
hind the "manifest content" of dreams, Freud made the 
astonishing discovery that they never contain a negative, 
so that a positive idea and its exact opposite are treated as 
being identical. To put it plainly, contrasting ideas like 
"big" and "little", "strong" and "weak", "old" and 
"young" are treated as if they were interchangeable iden- 
tities, and it is only from the context that one can discover 
which of the two is meant in any given case. It would be 
hard to imagine anything more senseless or more remote 
from our ordinary mental processes, but repeated con- 
firmations of the finding forced Freud to accept it empiric- 
ally, although he could give no reason for its existence. It 
was only many years later that the matter became some- 



what more comprehensible to him 1 on coming across a work 
by a philologist, Abel, dealing with just the same pheno- 
menon in the early stages of the oldest languages, Egyptian, 
Arabic and Indo-Germanic, and showing that the present 
differentiation has proceeded from an original identity of 
opposite ideas. There are interesting traces still left even in 
modern languages, such as with the German "schau" and 
the English "show". This example is one of a mode of 
thought, not content, and alike ones could be quoted 
relating to definite beliefs or other groups of ideas. 

The third of the considerations referred to above is the 
gradual convergence of anthropological and psycho- 
analytical points of view. Psycho-analysis, being from the 
start concerned with obviously human and individual prob- 
lems, has not had the chequered career that we have seen 
with anthropological interpretations, nor the same oppor- 
tunity and temptation to take flight into the abstract and 
remote. Myths, rituals, and the other data studied by the 
social anthropologists have in the past been read in terms 
of very recondite mental pursuits which were imagined to 
be the chief preoccupation of primitive man. I need hardly 
mention the engrossing interest in the forms of clouds, the 
rounds of the moon, the movement of the sun, the construct- 
ing of calendars, and purely linguistic exercises which have 
at times been supposed to prepossess mankind to the exclu- 
sion of more mundane matters. Sir James Frazer, it is true, 
brought man nearer to earth by positing his absorption in 
the phenomena of agriculture, and other workers have 
tracked him still nearer home. The news brought to Europe 
at various times in the last century that man in other 
continents seemed to manifest an unseemly interest in the 
organs and functions of sex was quickly re-interpreted in a 
more becoming way, and the flicker of agitation induced in 

1 Freud, "t)ber den Gegensinn der Urworte," Jahrbuch der Psycho- Analyse, 



this Institute by the phallicists of the seventies, Burton, 
Fergusson, Furlong, Jennings, King, Sellon, Staniland 
Wake, and Westropp, was soon quenched by more sedate 
reflections. But voices continued to be raised in favour of 
the view that man has always been moved by motives 
similar to those that occupy our own deepest thoughts, by 
the topics of birth, love, and death, and the most recent 
authorities in this country, such as Elliot Smith, Malin- 
owski, Perry, and Rivers, have made considerable contribu- 
tions to what may be called the humanization of primitive 
man. This theme will take up the greater part of my paper 
this evening, so that I can leave it for a moment at this point. 
I have now to return from these reflections on anthro- 
pology to consider more closely the subject of psycho- 
analysis, but before I can indicate any of the bearings it 
may have on anthropological studies it will obviously be 
desirable to say something about psycho-analysis itself. 1 
The name is properly applied to the special method devised 
by Freud for investigating the deeper regions of the mind, 
and to the findings thus made. The subject-matter of 
psycho-analysis is quite exceptionally complex, and thus 
the task of presenting any adequate account of it in the ten 
minutes or so at my disposal for the purpose is clearly an 
impossible one. In addition, there is an even greater diffi- 
culty in the way than this merely quantitative considera- 
tion. The most significant discovery made by psycho- 
analysis is that there exists in the human mind a region, 
known as the "unconscious", which is split off from con- 
sciousness. Much of it, indeed the most important part, is in 
what is technically called a state of "repression"; that is, as 

1 The literature in English most apposite in the present connection is as 
follows: Abraham, Dreams and Myths', Ferenczi, Contributions to Psycho- 
Analysis', Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psycho- Analysis, and Totem and 
Taboo', Ernest Jones, Papers on Psycho- Analysis, and (more advanced) Essays 
in Applied Psycho-Analysis', Rank, The Myth of the Birth of the Hero; Rank 
and Sachs, The Significance of Psycho- Analysis for the Mental Sciences. 



regards both content and form it is incompatible with the 
conscious mind, its constituents are powerfully inhibited 
from entering the latter, and its very existence is vehe- 
mently denied by the conscious ego. Any attempt at 
introducing them into consciousness evokes an instinctive 
resistance which manifests itself as incredulity, violent 
opposition, or strong antipathy. Those who follow the easy 
path of yielding to this instinctive resistance spare them- 
selves a great deal of trouble, but they thereby forfeit the 
right to express any opinion about psycho-analysis, for this 
subject may well be defined as the study of the unconscious 

This is not the place to enter into the perfectly arid dis- 
cussion of whether processes of which we are not conscious 
can properly be called "mental", one which in my opinion 
is nothing but a quarrel about words, 1 and I will therefore 
ask you to allow me to describe what I have to say in the 
only possible terminology, namely, psychological. The main 
point is this: Our investigations (inaugurated by Freud) 
show that various processes, which can only be described in 
mental terms, go on in the personality without the conscious 
self having the very faintest idea of their existence. We call 
them "unconscious" because man is totally unconscious of 
their existence, and I wish to lay stress on the completeness 
of his ignorance; the subject not only has no suspicion of 
them, but if they were mentioned to him he would regard 
them as exceedingly remote and alien to himself, and would 
greet with incredulity or horror the possibility of their 
being actually vivid constituents of his own personality. In 
fact, I know of no way of anyone's appreciating the reality 
and significance of these unconscious processes except by 
experiencing the analytic bringing to awareness of ideas 
whose existence he had never before recognized. This state 

1 See Freud, Das Unbewusste, Sammlung Kleiner Schriften, 46 Folge, 1918, 
S. 294-301. 


of affairs raises two obvious questions : Can any generaliza- 
tions be made about the nature and meaning of these 
unconscious processes, and if so what reason is there for 
thinking that such generalizations have a wide validity out- 
side the small group of individuals actually investigated by 
these methods ? 

The answer to the first question is in the affirmative, and 
I propose presently to relate a selection of the generaliza- 
tions that have been made. As to the second question, the 
following are some of the reasons for believing that these 
generalizations possess a wide validity outside the sphere 
that of neurotic disorder in connection with which they 
were originally made. Though the actual number of indi- 
viduals thoroughly investigated by means of psycho- 
analysis is relatively small, only a few thousand, yet 
certain features warrant the expectation that they do not 
differ from the rest of mankind in fundamental structure. 
In the first place, the investigations have been made, with 
a general uniformity of result, in many countries of every 
continent, among widely differing races, and by very 
different types of observer. The main selecting element has 
been the presence of neurotic disorder in the majority, 
though by no means all, of the persons investigated, but in 
estimating this fact certain popular misconceptions have to 
be borne in mind. Modern clinical psychology has shown 
that neurotic disorder is not a disease or defect in the 
ordinary sense, but on the contrary simply one particular 
mode of expression of certain social difficulties and conflicts 
arising within the emotional and instinctual life; they are 
merely one way among several of responding to human 
conflicts and impulses of a kind that are common to all 
people. The reactions are not even very peculiar, being 
merely magnifications of the normal and not qualitatively 
different; apart from the fact that most people exhibit 
some form of neurosis, more or less pronounced, these 



neurotic reactions fade imperceptibly into what are called 
character-formations and idiosyncrasies. No person is 
entirely neurotic, so that we have the opportunity of exam- 
ining in the same person both normal and neurotic reactions 
to the same conflicts and impulses. Further, the control 
experiment has been performed a good number of times of 
carrying out a psycho-analysis on so-called normal people, 
and the fundamental conclusions are just the same. Then, 
again, once one is familiar with the manifestations of uncon- 
scious activity, one observes other indications of similar 
processes in the most various spheres of everyday life. Let 
me take the simplest example. A psychologist may dis- 
cover, perhaps to his great astonishment, that the dreams 
of his patients show that they, without ever having been 
consciously aware of the fact, have associated, for instance, 
the ideas of penis and banana so closely that the idea of the 
latter can in certain contexts be treated as quite equivalent 
to the latter. He is thus no longer surprised when he 
observes that, again given a certain context, a whole 
music-hall audience can consciously recognize an allusion 
to the first idea when the second alone is mentioned. Slang, 
anecdotes, folk-lore and superstition are fields in which one 
meets with special frequency associations and beliefs the 
existence of which may have to be laboriously excavated 
from a part of the mind where they are in a state of repres- 
sion. The final answer to the question raised above, how- 
ever, lies in the nature of the findings themselves. These are 
of such a fundamental character that, roughly speaking, 
they can only be true of mankind in general or else not true at 
all. If a similar question had been put to Harvey: "You 
have demonstrated the circulation of the blood by a 
detailed examination of five thousand animals, but how do 
you know that they are not all exceptions in this respect ?" 
I imagine he would have answered such a question only by 
shrugging his shoulders. 

121 I 


Something must now be said about the nature of the 
unconscious mind. It possesses quite peculiar features in 
both its form and its content, though these need not, of 
course, be present with every single unconscious process. 
Common to all features is some indication of their belonging 
to a primitive mental level, and here comes in the import- 
ance of these studies for anthropology, for we have in them 
one of the possibilities of ascertaining at first hand what 
primitive mental levels really are. The term "primitive 
level" is used here in two senses: first, as indicating an 
earlier and more lowly stage in mental evolution, one out 
of which further, more elaborate and more highly differ- 
entiated forms of thought demonstrably develop; and, 
secondly, in direct reference to individual growth. For we 
find that the features in question, both those of form and 
of content, approximate in kind far more nearly to those of 
infantile mental life than to those characteristic of adult 
life; in fact, we are frequently in a position to trace the 
gradual development of the former into the latter. This 
evolution has been an imperfect one in the case of the 
neuroses, so that we often connect neurotic reactions with 
what are called "fixations" or excessive attachment to 
primitive, i.e., infantile, modes of mental functioning. Put 
in a more figurative way, we may say that the neurotic 
reactions are like residues or deposits from earlier times, 
and the interesting question arises how far this may be true 
phylogenetically as well as ontogenetically. 

It was pointed out above that the unconscious mind is 
unconscious, i.e., unknown to consciousness, mainly because 
of its being in a state of repression, that is, of being incom- 
patible with the conscious ego and intolerable to it. To 
describe it in more dynamic terms: the relationship be- 
tween the two mental systems is the expression of serious 
intrapsychical conflicts. Now the importance of the uncon- 
scious in actual life is not merely that it is a system of the 



mind which can function in an autonomous way, but that 
all mental functioning originates in it; all our thoughts, 
interests, and conscious impulses leading to conduct have 
their source in the unconscious. The conscious mind con- 
tributes nothing beyond criticism, control and direction; 
the part it plays is essentially obstructive. Unconscious 
processes can come to external expression only under one 
of two conditions; either they undergo a transformation of 
such a kind as to render them acceptable to the conscious 
ego, into which they are then assimilated; or their true 
nature is disguised in certain characteristic ways, such as, 
for instance, when unavowed personal feelings find a vent 
in excessive acerbity under the guise of scientific criticism. 
Neurotic symptoms, incidentally, belong entirely to the 
second class; the dynamic impulses giving rise to them are 
primitive, i.e., untransformed, and merely disguised. 

Out of a large number of features characteristic of the 
unconscious I now propose to call your attention to two or 
three of a general, formal nature and two or three relating 
to its content. The first one can perhaps best be described 
as an attitude of excessive belief in the value and sig- 
nificance of psychical processes in general. Psychical causa- 
tion is felt to be more real than physical causation, the 
latter being merely the agent of the former. This registers 
itself most clearly in what is called belief in the "omni- 
potence of thoughts", or, more accurately, of wishes. In the 
unconscious, little distinction is drawn between intention 
and the carrying out of the act ; intent and performance are 
treated as identical. If the intention is pleasurable, the 
pleasure is already tasted; for the wish passes immediately 
into fulfilment, as to some extent it can in conscious 
phantasy. Similarly, if the intention is dangerous or repre- 
hensible, the punishment is already felt. Perhaps the most 
striking example of this mode of thought is that of those 
death wishes that are in a state of repression because of 



their being directed against a loved object. On the occasions 
when the imaginary fulfilment of this wish coincides with a 
real fulfilment brought about by some accident in the 
outer world, the person feels unconsciously just as respon- 
sible for the death, and just as guilty, as though he had 
actually committed murder. The effect in consciousness 
then is a greatly exaggerated sense of self-reproach for 
various minor sins of omission and commission relating to 
the deceased person. I have several times known this state 
of affairs to be followed by ghostly visitations accompanied 
by acute dread of the ghost's hostility, this evidently being 
an idea of retribution for the supposed murder. 

These repressed but all-powerful wishes are dealt with in 
many different ways, of which one only will be mentioned 
here. On the basis of a preliminary identification, usually 
with a person, but occasionally with an animal or inanimate 
object, the wishes are "projected" outwards and then are 
consciously believed to belong only to the other person. 
The most glaring example of this is, of course, in the 
delusions of the insane, where the irrational beliefs held 
about other people can often be traced to unconscious 
beliefs held by the subject about these same people. 

One result of this unconscious over-estimation of the 
power of thought is a tendency to ascribe external happen- 
ings to spiritual forces and to depreciate the significance of 
physical factors, just as a truly religious man must logically 
ascribe everything immediately to God's will and has only 
a limited interest in the rest of the causative chain. Its con- 
summation is a perfectly animistic state of mind, of which 
we see plain traces in our children when they get angry with 
the table for being so wicked as to injure them. 

Now I feel confident that what I have just been relating 
will sound a good deal less novel to anthropologists familiar 
with savage races than it does to the average European. 
Case after case could be quoted from the literature where 



savages have held one another just as responsible for their 
intentions as for their deeds, and on reading the descriptions 
given I for one cannot avoid the impression that they must 
at times possess a high capacity for divining the unconscious 
thoughts of their neighbours. Their judgements are there- 
fore often psychologically accurate, even when objectively 
unjust. The extraordinarily objective significance they often 
attach to dream processes is a part of the same phenomenon 
and, as Freud has shown, 1 it really underlies the whole of 
the practice of magic. It seems clear that savages live to a 
much greater extent than we do in a mystical or super- 
natural world. They constantly manifest beliefs in various 
occult forces, influences and activities that are impercep- 
tible to sense, but which are nevertheless obviously and 
unquestionably real to them ; this is not a matter of infer- 
ence and explanation so much as direct intuition. It is 
practically certain that many of these supposed purposive 
agents in the outer world are projections from the uncon- 
scious mind. The remarkable extent to which savages seem 
to be preoccupied with thoughts about wizardry, witchcraft, 
and evil spirits of all kinds inevitably makes a psycho- 
analyst suspect that their unconscious minds must contain 
specially intense wishes of a hostile nature, which have been 
extensively projected into the outer world. 

A word on the vexed question of symbolism in its relation 
to the unconscious. 2 It can often be observed that in certain 
circumstances various ideas or objects may be treated 
identically in consciousness, the points of distinction be- 
tween them being ignored for the time being, and just the 
same is true of the unconscious. But a further process has to 
take place before we can speak of true symbolism. That is 
the repression of one member of the equation, and the sub- 

1 Freud, Totem und Tabu, 1913, Ch. III. 

2 See my essay on the "Theory of Symbolism", reprinted in Papers on 
Psycho- Analysis, Fifth Edition, 1949. 



stitutive use of the other member to "symbolize", i.e., carry 
the significance of, the first. One half of this equation is 
practically always more important psychically than the 
other, the important one being the repressed and symbolized 
part. From the nature of things, therefore, symbolism is a 
unilateral process only; A can symbolize B, but B cannot 
symbolize A. Almost all unconscious symbolism is confined to 
the themes of birth, love and death, and to thoughts about the 
body and the nearest relatives from which we infer that 
these must comprise the fundamental interests of mankind. 
The two groups of ideas I shall select from the content of 
the unconscious are those relating to incest and death 
respectively. Perhaps the most vital discovery made by 
psycho-analysis, and certainly the source of most of the 
hostility it has met, was that every young child passes 
through a phase of incestuous attachment, mostly to the 
parent of the opposite sex, and that the ideas relating to 
this constitute throughout life a nuclear content of the 
unconscious. To the individual's reaction to this "complex" 
they would ascribe a very great part of his character- 
formation, especially on the moral and social side, and very 
many of his conscious reactions to life his interest, con- 
duct, and so on. To put the matter in its crudest terms so 
that there may be no misapprehension, we believe that 
every man cherishes in his unconscious the wish for sexual 
intimacy with his mother and the desire to remove by 
death any disturbing rival, particularly his father; the con- 
verse applies equally to the woman, the term "QEdipus 
complex" being used in both cases. Such a statement, 
abhorrent as it must sound, is nevertheless the core of 
psycho-analysis and inseparable from it. For the evidence 
in support of this apparently grotesque hypothesis I can 
only refer you to the extensive psycho-analytical literature 
dealing with it, nor could I have any hope of demonstrating 
its truth and convincing you of it in the few minutes at my 



disposal. My reason for mentioning it here at all is to point 
out that, if it is true, it is bound to throw a flood of light 
on some of the most obscure problems in anthropology. To 
take but one of them : the almost universal horror of incest, 
and the extraordinarily complicated and fierce laws that 
have been devised in the most varied parts of the world 
with the object of preventing it. It is well-known that 
previous explanations of this have proved most unsatis- 
factory, and no one has answered Frazer's 1 convincing 
argument that laws of this order are made only for crimes 
towards which a strong and widespread temptation exists. 
The argument ends in a non possumus; incest could not be 
forbidden so stringently unless there were a general inclina- 
tion towards it; but the laws do exist and there is no 
inclination. Psycho-analysis, on the other hand, points out 
that the strong and universal inclination towards incest, 
which is logically implied in the argument, does really exist, 
only that for the most part it is repressed in the uncon- 
scious; it is an inclination of which we are mostly quite 
unaware, but it is none the less real and important. Time 
forbids me to enter on the endless ramifications that lead 
from this idea, but anthropologists know how numerous 
and important are the problems that relate, directly or 
indirectly, to incest. I can do no more than mention one or 
two; the endless initiation rites and ceremonies of both 
savage and civilized races, 2 the numerous myths and cos- 
mogonies where the content is either openly or symbolically 
incestuous, and the vast problems of totemism itself. 3 

The second group of ideas in the unconscious of which I 
wish to say something, namely, those relating to death, will 
be discussed presently in connection with some current 
anthropological views. After this absurdly imperfect sketch 

1 Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy, Vol. IV, p. 97. 
8 See Reik, Problems of Religious Psychology, Ch. III. 
8 See Freud, op. cit., Ch. IV, and a forthcoming work on the subject by 



of the psycho-analytical theory we must turn to the bearing 
of it on anthropological problems, and here too I can offer 
only the briefest of outlines. 

It is an easily made observation that the ire of anthro- 
pologists is almost as readily aroused by the assertion that 
savages cannot be compared with children as by the 
opposite one that they can be so compared. Similarly, one 
invites contradiction by maintaining either that a vast gulf 
exists between savages and ourselves, or that there is no 
appreciable difference between us. I trust, therefore, that I 
shall be striking a peaceful note when I suggest that there is 
truth in all of the four statements though a more profound 
truth than is sometimes recognized. The reason why this 
diplomatic attitude is possible is because the psycho- 
analytical view of both children and civilized adults differs 
in some important respects from the usual one. We find, on 
the one hand, that the two modes of thought that for 
present purposes may be called infantile and adult respec- 
tively corresponding roughly with unconscious and con- 
scious thinking differ from each other very profoundly 
indeed, far more so than might ordinarily be imagined ; but 
on the other hand that children and adults manifest the two 
modes of thought in no very dissimilar measure. Thus there 
is more of the infant in the adult than is commonly recog- 
nized, and also more of the adult in the child. Or, to put it 
in another way, there are enormous differences, but these 
are not so much between child and adult as between two 
modes of thinking which are present in both. Stated in 
terms of values, this results in a greater respect for the mind 
of the child and a less respect for that of the adult. 

Now I surmise that very much the same may prove to be 
true as regards the relationship between savage and civilized 
peoples. If so, this would mean two things. First, that much 
of the supposed deficiency of primitive peoples in such func- 
tions as concentration, reason, powers of discrimination and 



logic, and so on, is not due to the lack of these qualities so 
much as to a different orientation of emotional interest from 
our own, as Hocart 1 has brilliantly demonstrated in his 
study of the Fijian language; recognition of this would lead 
to a greater approximation of the savage mind to our own. 
Secondly, however, the difference between primitive emo- 
tional thinking and logical reason uninfluenced by sub- 
jective factors must be regarded as very great, and it is 
quite possible that there is a quantitative difference be- 
tween savages and civilized peoples in this respect, just as 
there is after all between children and adults. In other 
words, it is possible that the conscious thinking of savages 
is more directly and extensively influenced by unconscious 
factors than is that of civilized peoples, just as is so with the 
child. In making this suggestion I wish to guard myself 
against the charge of underestimating the complexity of the 
relationship in question. Naturally there is no thought of 
mental evolution having progressed in a uniform and 
orderly manner, without any retrogressions and other com- 
plications, nor do I imagine that there is anything more 
than the very grossest correspondence between this evolu- 
tion and the ethnological grading that may be effected in 
regard to the present races of mankind. 

I come next to the convergence of psycho-analytical and 
modern anthropological views to which reference was made 
earlier in this paper. The most important point of corre- 
spondence is the tendency in both cases to interpret data in 
terms of purely human and self-centred motives of a kind 
which critics might dub materialistic. Few anthropologists 
to-day would expect savages to be primarily concerned 
either with ethical abstractions or with lofty philosophical 
speculations about the universe. Those who used to imagine 
this did not recognize the more lowly nature and origin of 

1 Hocart, "The Psychological Interpretation of Language," Brit. Journal of 
Psychology, 1913, Vol. V. 



their own interests. The primitive interests of mankind lie 
nearer home, in his own breast, and that must be as true of 
the savage as psycho-analysis has shown it to be of our- 
selves. Man is primarily concerned with his immediate 
personal interests; to these everything else is really second- 
ary. The world is originally viewed from within out, and our 
inmost thoughts and interests are projected on to it as on a 
vast screen. Elliot Smith, for instance, declares the leit 
motif of man's civilization to be his desire for continuous 
self-preservation, in both this life and the next, and he 
holds that from the search for the various objects which 
were supposed to ensure this resulted much of man's cul- 
tural endeavour. This view will be considered more closely 
in a moment, and I only wish to remark here on its agree- 
ment with the psycho-analytical theory in attaching im- 
portance to the more human, personal, and indeed ego- 
centric motives as being the fundamental ones. His tre- 
mendous generalization, further, that "all the beliefs of 
primitive man concerning the nature of life can ultimately 
be referred back to the story of his own origin, his birth or 
creation," 1 is one that would meet with extensive support 
from the side of psycho-analysis and is quite on the lines of a 
recent important study by Otto Rank. 2 

Another field in which the convergence of conclusions is 
very striking in many ways is that of symbolism, and I 
venture to think that the correspondence would be even 
closer were it not for the confusion that exists about what 
actually constitutes symbolism. For us the expression 
denotes the process whereby one idea is used (mostly un- 
wittingly) as a substitute for an unconscious idea. The 
number of unconscious ideas is relatively small, far smaller 
than that of the symbolizing ideas. From the interpretation 
side the two questions are: when is a given idea being used 

1 Elliot Smith, The Evolution of the Dragon. 1919, p. 45. 
1 Otto Rank, Das Trauma der Geburt, 1924. 



symbolically? a matter that cannot be gone into here; and 
which unconscious idea or ideas is it symbolizing ? It should 
be remembered that none of the psycho-analytical con- 
clusions about symbols and the interpretation of them were 
derived from familiarity with anthropological data, but 
from laborious studies carried out on individuals. The 
circumstance makes the correspondence with anthro- 
pological data especially interesting. 1 can give here only a 
few examples of this, and for the sake of uniformity will 
choose them from the writings of two members of the same 
school, Elliot Smith and W. J. Perry. Psycho-analysts have 
long remarked that objects possessing a fancied resemblance 
to the female pudenda, as cowry shells are supposed to, can 
function as symbols of the latter. Elliot Smith 1 quotes two 
eighteenth-century writers, Rumphius and Adanson, who 
pointed out this attribute of cowries, and comes to the con- 
clusion that the whole of the complex shell-cult was based 
on this circumstance. The cowry, being thus a symbol of the 
female pudenda, became endowed with various life-giving 
powers. But Elliot Smith has made two further steps in this 
connection, both on purely psycho-analytic lines. A com- 
mon mode of unconscious representation is by the mechan- 
ism known as pars pro toto, when a part is used to represent 
the whole, as with an allusion. A much more curious one is 
the exact opposite of this, when the whole is used to 
represent a part, such as when a little man appears in a 
dream as a symbol of the male organ itself, or a woman as a 
symbol of the female organ. Now, Elliot Smith, after point- 
ing 2 out how the cowry "came to be identified with, or 
regarded as, the mother and creator of the human family", 
then becoming personified in the figure of the Great Mother 
Goddess, states it as a fact that this "Great Mother was 

1 Elliot Smith, Introduction to Wilfred Jackson's Shells as Evidence of the 
Migrations of Early Culture, 1917, p. in. 

* Elliot Smith, The Evolution of the Dragon, p. 26. 


nothing more than the cowry shell". 1 We should describe 
this same fact by saying that the Goddess was here func- 
tioning as a symbol of the womb, or, put in another way, 
that the only interest in the Great Mother in this particular 
context resided in her genital organ. Thirdly, in just the 
same sense as I insisted above that unconscious association 
was really actual identification, he writes : 2 "The cowry was 
not merely an amulet to increase fertility: it was itself the 
actual parent of mankind, the creator of all living things." 
The identification of the Mother Pot with the Great Mother, 
or rather with her womb, is a similar example of what we 
mean by true symbolism, and Elliot Smith points out some 
of its extraordinary ramifications: "At first, it was merely 
a jug of water or a basket of figs, but elsewhere it became a 
witch's cauldron, the magic cup, the Holy Grail, the font 
in which a child is reborn into the faith, the vessel of water 
here being interpreted in the earliest sense as the uterus or 
the organ of birth." 3 Yet another familiar group of symbols 
in psycho-analytical work is a portal, door, or gateway as 
unconscious representatives of the vaginal opening, and 
here also Elliot Smith 4 is in full accord with us. One of the 
most recent discoveries in our field is that the spider or 
octopus may function as a symbol for the Mother, 5 but I 
find that Elliot Smith had already independently pointed 
this out, though the way he suggests the symbolism arose 6 
(cowry Red Sea "spider shell" octopus) is assuredly not 
the only one possible, unless we are to suppose that our 
patients have all inherited memories of their ancestors' 
sojourn by the Red Sea. 

An unexpected psycho-analytic finding was that animals, 

1 Idem, op. cit., p. 216. 

* Idem, op. cit., p. 151. 
3 Idem, op. cit., p. 181. 

* Idem, op. cit., p. 188. 

5 Abraham, "The Spider as a Dream Symbol," Internal. Journ. of Psycho- 
Analysis, 1923, Vol. IV, p. 313. 

* Elliot Smith, op. cit., p. 169. 



in dreams or neurotic symptoms, most often symbolize one 
or other parents or else children, and that the thoughts to 
do with them were often connected with ideas about birth. 
Perry 1 tells us that in Egypt "the cow was regarded as a 
form of the Great Mother, because she feeds children with 
her milk" ; and, of course, endless similar examples could be 
quoted from mythology and folk-lore. This one discovery 
opens up a large chapter in anthropology, particularly in 
relation to totemism, as Freud 2 has shown in detail. 

Another remarkable discovery of psycho-analysis was 
that every individual passes in early life through a phase of 
bisexuality, and that the unconscious always retains im- 
portant traces of this stage in development. This means 
that, although the masculine and feminine principles can be 
fairly clearly differentiated, neither of them is anything like 
so definitely confined to the appropriate sex as is commonly 
thought. The unconscious not only interchanges the two 
sexes with an astonishing freedom, but other curious traces 
are left of the primitive attitude towards sex. 3 Ample 
evidences of the same free interchange are to be found in 
anthropological data. A characteristic bisexual symbol may 
be mentioned in this connection, that of water. We find that 
water plays a very extensive part in dream symbolism, and 
other products of the unconscious, in connection with ideas 
of birth, 4 and that it plays the same part here as the 
amniotic fluid does in reality. From Elliot Smith 5 we hear 
that in Ancient Egypt "a bowl of water became the symbol 
of the fruitfulness of woman. 6 Such symbolism implied that 

1 Perry, The Origin of Magic and Religion, 1923, p. 19. 

* Freud, ibid. 

* This word is used here in a narrower sense than "sexuality". 

4 The late Dr. Rivers (Folk-Lore, 1922, Vol. XXXIII, p. 20 et seq.) showed 
considerable misconception of the psycho-analytic views on this point in his 
unsuccessful attempt to controvert them. 

* Elliot Smith, op. cit., p. 152. 

e In my opinion, it would be more accurate to say here that it was a symbol 
of the pregnant womb and was only a metaphor for the idea of fruitfulness. 



woman, or her uterus, was a receptacle into which the 
seminal fluid was poured and from which a new being 
emerged in a flood of amniotic fluid", and he adds else- 
where 1 that water became an essential part of any act of 
ritual (i.e., symbolic) rebirth. He points out further 2 the 
womb origin of the Mother Pot conception, and that a bowl 
of water was the hieroglyphic sign for the female principle 
in the words for vulva and woman. On the other hand, we 
find in psycho-analysis that water, rain, etc., are also com- 
mon unconscious symbols for the male fertilizing fluid, 
whether this is regarded as semen or, in infantile language, 
as urine. Perry 3 tells us that Osiris differed from the Mother 
Goddesses in one important particular, namely, that he 
presided over irrigation, and Elliot Smith 4 says that it is not 
surprising in consequence that Osiris "should have had 
phallic attributes, and in himself have personified the virile 
powers of fertilization"; he also comments 5 on the equival- 
ency of the ideas of spilling water on or irrigating the earth 
and the act of coition. As is well known, ideas concerning 
water constituted one of the respects in which the attributes 
of the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses respectively became 
extraordinarily confounded one with the other, and I would 
suggest that this process was greatly facilitated by the 
existence of a primitive stage of bisexuality. 

An interesting relic of this stage is derived from the 
primitive belief that women, particularly the Mother, are 
similar anatomically to men, and that there is no note- 
worthy difference between the clitoris and the penis. This 
idea plays a huge part in the psychology of neurotic disorder 
in both sexes, and is one of the sources of the dread of the 
"terrible Mother", which may of course exist side by side 

1 Idem, op. cit., p. 33. 

* Idem, op. cit., pp. 178, 182, 183. 

8 Perry, op. cit., p. 28. 

4 Elliot Smith, op. cit., p. 30. 

6 Idem, op. cit., pp. 28, 29. 


with profound affection. This plays also an extensive part 
in mythology, as witness the many portals with phallic 
emblems, the male attributes ascribed to Mother Goddesses 
in Egypt and elsewhere (uraeus, vulture, papyrus, etc.) and, 
as Freud has shown, 1 it is the ultimate basis of the wide- 
spread taboo of virginity. 

I come finally to the famous "self-preservation" theory 
of the modern British school of ethnology, and will begin by 
quoting a discerning passage from Elliot Smith, 2 who I 
understand is the author of the theory: "The interpretation 
of ancient texts and the study of the beliefs of less cultured 
modern peoples indicate that our expressions: 'to give 
birth', 'to give life', 'to maintain life', Ho ward off death', 
'to insure good luck', 'to prolong life', 'to give life to the 
dead', 'to animate a corpse or a representation of the dead', 
'to give fertility', 'to impregnate', 'to create', represent a 
series of specializations of meaning which were not clearly 
differentiated the one from the other in early times or 
among relatively primitive modern people." Now I would 
submit that this vagueness and imperfect differentiation 
relate rather to the conscious apprehension and expression 
of these peoples than to the facts themselves on which the 
ideas were based, so that it may not be a hopeless task for us 
to attempt to distinguish the relative strength of the actual 
motivating forces. If we were to ask the authors and sup- 
porters of the self-preservation theory to effect this differ- 
entiation, I am inclined to think that their answer could be 
summed up in the statement that the strongest motive in 
the group they are considering, or possibly even in all man- 
kind, was the wish to overcome death. This includes both 
the desire to ward off death (i.e., to prolong life, to maintain 
life, etc.) and the desire to perpetuate life beyond the grave, 

1 Freud, Das Tabu der Virginitdt, Sammlung kleiner Schriften, 46 Folge, 

* Elliot Smith, op. cit., p. 25. 



which, as we know, was effected by a ritual of rebirth (the 
central idea of mummification). We have thus to inquire 
into the primordial conception of death and life after death, 
and here also I will take a passage from Elliot Smith 1 as a 
text. "From statements in the earliest literature that have 
come down to us from antiquity, no less than from the views 
that still prevail among the relatively more primitive 
peoples of the present day, it is clear that originally man did 
not consciously formulate a belief in immortality. It was 
rather the result of a defect of thinking, or as the modern 
psychologist would express it, an instinctive repression of 
the unpleasant idea that death would come to him person- 
ally, that primitive man refused to contemplate or to enter- 
tain the possibility of life coming to an end. So intense was 
his instinctive love of life and dread of such physical 
damage as would destroy his body that man unconsciously 
avoided thinking of the chance of his own death: hence his 
belief in the continuance of life cannot be regarded as the 
outcome of an active process of constructive thought. . . . 
It would, of course, be absurd to pretend that any people 
could fail to recognize the reality of death in the great 
majority of cases. The mere fact of burial is an indication of 
this. But the point of difference between the views of these 
early men and ourselves was the tacit assumption on the 
part of the former that in spite of the obvious changes in his 
body (which made inhumation or some other procedure 
necessary) the deceased was still continuing an existence 
not unlike that which he enjoyed previously, only somewhat 
duller, less eventful and more precarious. He still needed 
food and drink as he did before, and all the paraphernalia of 
his mortal life, but he was dependent upon his relatives for 
the maintenance of his existence." 

There are two chapters in this matter of preserving life 
after death, according to whether it is a question of our own 

1 Idem, op. cit., pp. 145, 146. 



life or someone else's. The latter part of the problem appears 
to have been unduly subordinated by the British school of 
ethnology, and for that reason I will omit discussion of it 
here. But I would express my belief that it is highly im- 
portant, and that a clue to its meaning is given by the fact 
that the significance attached to the second person's sur- 
vival is much greater when he is a king, chief, elder or other 
great person 1 (i.e., a father substitute). 2 We will, however, 
confine ourselves to the problem of what may be called self- 
survival, which is an integral part of the self-preservation 

To those who have followed the argument of this paper 
so far it may be of interest to hear what ideas concerning 
death are to be found in the unconscious. In one sense it 
may be said that there are none, for the unconscious con- 
ceives of this idea in quite a different way from the conscious 
mind. The nearest approach it makes to the latter is when 
it is a matter of other people's death. This it regards, as 
does the child, simply in the light of a removal or absence, 
more or less prolonged, the question of eternity hardly 
entering in. One's own death, on the other hand, in the sense 
of the extermination of life, is absolutely inconceivable to 
the unconscious, and, indeed, the idea is hard fully to 
realize in consciousness. In the context where one would 
expect it to occur one of two other ideas appears in its stead. 
In the first place, the idea of dying really of being killed 
may be taken in the sense of being severely injured in a vital 
part, i.e., castrated, and this idea of being castrated (in 
either sex) is always regarded as the punishment for inces- 
tuous wishes. The second, and deeper, way in which the 
unconscious regards death is as a reversal of the birth act, 

1 See Freud, Totem und Tabu, Ch. II. 

2 This is an illustration of the quite one-sided nature of the argument in the 
latter part of this paper, for it deals only with the individual's relation to the 
Mother and omits consideration of the almost equally important relation to the 

137 K 


leading to a return to the pre-natal existence within the 
maternal womb. It is plain that this must have relation to 
the innumerable rituals or rebirth symbolism, both in 
heathen religions and in Christianity, as the sovereign 
measure for conquering death and securing immortality; 
endless myths and folk beliefs, which I have no time to 
quote here, bear witness to this primitive conception of 
death as a return to the womb, to the conviction that life 
can only return to the bourne whence it set forth. Both the 
ideas mentioned, therefore, are related to the act of entering 
once more through the maternal portal, whether partly, as 
in coitus, 1 or wholly, as at birth. It is noteworthy, further, 
that these two acts are regarded as equivalents by the 
unconscious, another example of the extraordinary extent 
to which it differs from our conscious thinking. 

If our findings are correct, and no one qualified by 
personal investigation has any doubt on the matter, then 
we should be in a position to supplement the self-preserva- 
tion theory in a number of important respects, of which I 
shall briefly indicate three. The first has to do with the 
maternal symbols used in the ritual of rebirth. I imagine 
that Elliot Smith and his colleagues would be inclined to 
regard these somewhat as follows. Believing that the womb 
was either the creator or, at all events, the source of life, the 
ancients effected an abstraction of the idea and used various 
tokens possessing some resemblance to the female pudenda 
as representatives of this abstract idea. They would present 
these to the dead body as much as to say: "This is the sort 
of thing that will enable you to achieve re-birth and con- 
tinued existence." To us, on the contrary, the symbolism is 
much more literal and concrete. The metaphorical and 
abstract side of it is purely secondary and conscious, and the 

1 In the woman this idea is replaced by that of incorporating the father in 
the act of sexual union, so that she becomes permanently pregnant, this being 
equated to being in the mother's womb by the familiar mechanism of reversal. 



real meaning is much more definite. The cowry, to take this 
example, is not merely an emblem of creativeness in general, 
or of wombs or Mother Goddesses in general, but is a symbol 
of the actual womb of the mother of the individual dead 
person, and the sense of the ritual is as follows: "As you 
know in your deepest heart, the only hope of attaining 
immortality is to penetrate into the Valley of the Shadow 
of Death, to pass once more through the portals of your 
mother's womb, to undergo a second birth that will annul 
the effects of the first 1 and will thus enable you to re-enter 
Paradise: here is her womb." 

1 Re-birth is really de-birth. The symbolism is an example of the mechanism 
of reversal, and really means passing into the womb instead of out of it ; it thus 
annuls the original birth. 

Recently this symbolism of the return to Mother Earth was portrayed by 
Thomas Hardy with a quite final precision and delicacy in his poem on the 
death of Sir Frederick Treves, and I cannot refrain from quoting it here, with 
his permission. 

(Dorchester Cemetery) 

In the evening, shortly after he was dead, 

He lay amid the dust and hoar 
Of ages, and to a spirit attending said, 
"This chalky bed? 

I seem to have been here before?" 

"Oh yes. You have been here. You knew the place," 

The sprite replied, "long ere your call; 
And if you cared to do so you might trace 
In this white space 

Your quality, your substance, and your all." 

Thereat he said: "Why was I called away? 

I felt no trouble or discontent. 
Why did I not prolong my ancient stay 
Herein for aye?" 

The sprite looked vague. "None knows! You went. 

"True, Time has not as yet revealed to you 

Your need to go. But, some men tell, 
A marvellous deftness called you forth to do 
Much that was due. 

Good. You have returned. And all is well." 



In the second place, we can throw further light on the 
fact that for the re-animation of the Egyptian corpse 
various male symbols, both phallic and seminal (the 
serpent-shaped wand, the adze of the Anubis who invented 
mummification, libations, saliva, red ochre and other blood 
equivalents), are necessary in addition to the female ones 
discussed above. It may be correlated with the astonishing 
fact mentioned previously, that in the unconscious the two 
ideas of sexual union (particularly incest) and of re-birth 
(i.e., return to the mother's womb) are regarded as equiva- 
lents; the distinction is hardly drawn between the whole 
person entering the mother's body or only that part of him 
known in legal phraseology as his "person", i.e., penis. In 
this way it comes about that (re-)birth and coitus are 
equivalent ideas when the object is the mother, and it is 
thus comprehensible that rituals symbolizing either of these 
acts have the power of restoring life. This is also the reason 
why bisexual symbols, notably water, play such a promi- 
nent part in these rituals, for they are connected with the 
ideas of both coitus and birth. Here, as so often, we may fall 
back on Elliot Smith 1 in support of our conclusions : "The 
study of folk-lore and early beliefs makes it abundantly 
clear that in the distant past which I am now discussing 
no clear distinction was made between fertilization and 
vitalization, between bringing new life into being and re- 
animating the body which had once been alive. The process 
of fertilization of the female and animating a corpse or a 
statue were regarded as belonging to the same category of 
biological processes. The sculptor who carved the portrait- 
Compare also Wordsworth's "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality", 
which expresses a similar idea; and the well-known passage from Shelley's 

"Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, 

Stains the white radiance of Eternity, 

Until Death tramples it to fragments. Die, 

If thou wouMst be with that which thou dost seekl" 

1 Elliot Smith, op. cit., p. 25. 



statues for the Egyptian's tomb was called sa'nkb, 'he who 
causes to live', and 'the word 'to fashion 5 (ms) a statue is 
to all appearances identical with ms, 'to give birth'." 

This brings us to the elixir of life, in connection with 
which I shall quote the following text : l "In delving into the 
remotely distant history of our species we cannot fail to be 
impressed with the persistence with which, throughout the 
whole of his career, man (of the species sapiens) has been 
seeking for an elixir of life, to give added 'vitality' to the 
dead (whose existence was not consciously regarded as 
ended), to prolong the days of active life to the living, to 
restore youth, and to protect his own life from all assaults, 
not merely of time, but also of circumstance. In other words, 
the elixir he sought was something that would bring 'good 
luck' in all the events of his life and its continuation. Most 
of the amulets, even of modern times, the lucky trinkets, 
the averters of the 'Evil Eye', the practices and devices for 
securing good luck in love and sport, in curing bodily ills or 
mental distress, in attaining material prosperity, or a con- 
tinuation of existence after death, are survivals of this 
ancient and persistent striving after those objects which our 
earliest forefathers called collectively the 'givers of life'." 
Essentially, therefore, the elixir procures two desiderata; 
immortality in the next life and the restoration of youth in 
this, and I shall point out presently the intimate association 
between the two. Long before the era of Steinach, psycho- 
analysts had recognized this concern about 'youth' to be a 
euphemism for concern about virile powers, and Abraham 2 
and Rank 3 have shown that the various magical fluids 
possessing the virtue of restoring it are all seminal symbols ; 
such are the divine mead, soma, ambrosia, nectar and so on. 
Now a very remarkable clinical observation bears on this 

1 Ibid, p. 145. 

2 Abraham, op. cit. 

8 Rank, "Volkerpsychologische Parallelen zu den infantilen Sexualtheorien," 
reprinted in his Psychoanalytische Beitr&ge zur Mythenforschung, 1919. 



double function of elixir, its powers of restoring youth on 
the one hand and of securing immortality on the other. 
When a patient consults us with the complaints that he has 
an undue dread of death (thanatophobia) or of the next 
world, that life feels to him so short and that youth is 
rapidly passing away, i.e., the two complaints which the 
elixir of life is designed to cure, then we know something 
about his inner mind with absolute certainty, for the 
analysis of such symptoms always leads to the same con- 
clusion. He is suffering from a (conscious or unconscious) 
dread of impotency, and this dread always comes from the 
fear of being castrated as a punishment for his incestuous 
wishes. Since we have reason to think that these wishes are 
the main source of fear and guilt in general, and that the 
dread and horror of them was even stronger in primitive 
man, it is little wonder that the search for magic objects 
whose phallic or seminal attributes would counteract such 
terrors has played a tremendous part in the history of our race. 
The third, and perhaps the most important, supplement 
to the self-preservation theory I would propose is that a 
more equal balance should be restored between the ideas of 
life and death. This theory would seem to be based on a 
somewhat morbid over-estimation of the part played by 
the fear of death, important as this undoubtedly is. The 
motives we have been considering apply just as much to the 
positive side of life as to this negative side. The desire for 
unbounded virility probably plays a greater part than the 
desire for indefinite existence, for the latter is often taken 
for granted by the primitive mind, and always by the un- 
conscious mind, 1 whereas experience is constantly placing 
limits on both the capacity and the exercise of the sexual 
functions. Clinically both dreads, of impotency and of 
death, always indicate the action of castration fears in 

1 Eternity is really a negative concept and simply means the timelessness so 
characteristic of unconscious thinking, and therefore of pre-natal existence. 



relation to incestuous wishes, while the man who is not 
troubled by either is the man who has overcome his dread 
of incest. 1 

The two means of re-union with the mother, part or whole 
(penis or body), are each accompanied by corresponding 
horrors; the first by impotence, i.e., castration, and the 
second by having to experience once more the terrible 
passage of the womb canal in the transit through death to 
paradise. What is astounding is that the two desires are 
equated in the unconscious mind, as are the two horrors. 
Yet these two desires or shall we decide to call them one, 
as the unconscious does ? are the supreme driving force of 
our life, and their fulfilment its final goal. 

The nearest approach to the gratification of this prim- 
ordial desire is achieved in a happy sexual union with a 
loved object, and this explains the value of this act as an 
affirmation of life and a denial of the horrors of castration 
and death. Yet this only avails in so far as the primal wish 
to re-enter the womb as a whole is exchanged for the 
incomplete form of union represented by coitus, and in so 
far as the primal love-object (the mother) can be exchanged 
for a permissible and accessible one. It would seem that 
neither of these exchanges is ever completely accomplished 
at least in the unconscious so that man is condemned 
to an imperfect satisfaction of his deepest desires. Hence 
his restless and insatiable strivings for some other sub- 
stitute for his heart's desire. Hence the astonishing wander- 
ings and explorations of the Ancient Egyptians related to 
us by modern ethnologists. Surely somewhere there is to be 
found a wonderful Isle of the Blest, 2 with beautiful maidens, 

1 E.g., by transforming the desire, transferring it to another woman than his 
mother and satisfactorily gratifying it with her. 

* For the peculiar womb symbolism of this, see the chapter on "The Island 
of Ireland" in Vol. I, Chap. VIII. I hope to deal in a future paper with the 
interesting "El Dorado" theme, which Perry (Folk-Lore, 1921, Vol. XXXII, 
p. 150) has shown to be so interwoven with it. 



golden fruit, and a fountain of "youth". But there are 
limits to man's powers of searching in the outer world, and 
every few hours even he has to have recourse, in the state of 
sleep, to what psycho-analysis teaches us is an imaginary 
re-establishment of pre-natal existence. 1 And when faced 
by the grim fact of death, though he may shrink in fear 
from the thought of the painful re-birth it unconsciously 
symbolizes, nevertheless the deepest part of his being 
cannot refuse the wild hope that once this final struggle is 
over he may, in spite of all his disappointments, enter at 
last into the longed-for haven (or heaven) of peace and 
partake yet again of the lost bliss of Nirvana. 

1 Incidentally, here is the solution of the problem raised by Perry (The 
Origin, etc., op. cit., p. 46) of whether the crouching position in which bodies 
were placed in caves is to be related to the attitude during sleep or during intra- 
uterine life. The answer is, to both, for the two are psychologically the same. 



Introduction Explanations of Mother-right A Psycho-Analy- 
tical Theory of Mother-right The Relation of Mother-right to 


EVER since the appearance, in 1861, of Bachofen's famous 
work Das Mutterrecht, which was based largely on the 
study of classical literature, steadily increasing attention 
has been paid to the views of early man there revealed, 
until at the present day they constitute one of the central 
themes of anthropological interest. It may be said that 
subsequent research, although it has had to modify exten- 
sively some of his conclusions, has nevertheless amply con- 
firmed many of them, and has shown that they hold good 
over a far larger field than he was able to investigate. 

For reasons that will presently be indicated, however, the 
subject is apt to arouse intense emotional reactions, so that 
bias in the conclusions reached, and probably also in the 
observations made, is only too common. There are certainly 
fanciful elements in some of the pictures drawn of what is 
alleged to have been the primordial "matriarchal" state. 
A highly coloured description of it, for instance, will be 
found in Vaerting's The Dominant Sex, where we are 
introduced to an extreme inversion of the relation between 
the sexes. According to the account given there, not only 
do the children belong solely to the mother, the father 
being quite unrelated to them either in blood or in kinship, 

1 Read before the British Psycho-Analytical Society, igth Nov., 1924. 
Published in the International Journal of Psycho- Analysis, Vol. VI. 



but property belongs only to the women and is inherited 
only through them. The woman is the active wooer, has as 
many husbands or lovers as she pleases and as long as she 
pleases; she can at any time divorce her husband, but he 
cannot divorce her; he comes to her abode to live there as a 
guest ; in fact he exists only for the sexual pleasure he gives 
her, and the work he can do at her bidding, being in all 
other respects merely tolerated very like a drone in a bee- 
hive. The woman has a correspondingly dominating position 
in society, in counsel and in government. The description 
reads like a feminist's wish-fulfilment dream, a vision of a 
paradise out of which she has been driven by the protesting 
male, but to which she hopes one day to return. 

Very little knowledge of sex psychology or of mam- 
malian biology is needed to cast doubt on the authenticity 
of the account just mentioned, and the cold facts of an- 
thropology only go to attenuate its ardour. Scepticism is at 
once aroused by the assumption that in savage times men 
were more docile than now, and that the growth of civiliza- 
tion has been accompanied by a great increase in fierceness 
towards his womankind on the side of the brutal male. On 
the contrary, if one examines the institutions of existing 
savages, and still more if one submits these to an analytic 
scrutiny, one cannot resist the conclusion that these people 
have, in order to make social life possible at all, to maintain 
much more elaborate and formidable devices than we do in 
order to help them in securing some degree of control over 
their cruel and sadistic impulses, including those specific- 
ally directed against their womenfolk; we may refer, for 
instance, to Reik's study of the pseudo-maternal couvade, 1 
as well as to the general experience of explorers. One may 
appropriately quote here the following passage from 
Frazer's Golden Sough: 2 "In order to dissipate misappre- 

1 Reik, Probleme der Religionspsychologie, 1909, Chap. II. 

2 Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, Vol., II, pp. 208-9. 



hensions which appear to be rife on this subject, it may be 
well to remind or inform the reader that the ancient and 
widespread custom of tracing descent and inheriting pro- 
perty through the mother alone does not by any means 
imply that the government of the tribes which observe the 
custom is in the hands of women ; in short, it should always 
be borne in mind that mother-kin does not mean mother- 
rule. On the contrary, the practice of mother-kin prevails 
most extensively amongst the lowest savages, with whom 
woman, instead of being the ruler of man, is always his 
drudge and often little better than his slave. Indeed, so far 
is the system from implying any social superiority of 
women that it probably took its rise from what we should 
regard as their deepest degradation, to wit, from a state of 
society in which the relations of the sexes were so loose and 
vague that children could not be fathered on any particular 
man. When we pass from the purely savage state to that 
higher plane of culture in which the accumulation of pro- 
perty, and especially of landed property, had become a 
powerful instrument of social and political influence, we 
naturally find that wherever the ancient preference for the 
female line of descent has been retained, it tends to increase 
the importance and enhance the dignity of woman; and her 
aggrandizement is most marked in princely families, where 
she either herself holds royal authority as well as private 
property, or at least transmits them both to her consort or 
her children. But this social advance of women has never 
been carried so far as to place men as a whole in a position 
of political subordination to them. Even where the system 
of mother-kin in regard to descent and property has pre- 
vailed most fully, the actual government has generally, if 
not invariably, remained in the hands of men. Exceptions 
have no doubt occurred; women have occasionally arisen 
who by sheer force of character have swayed for a time the 
destinies of their people. But such exceptions are rare and 



their effects transitory ; they do not affect the truth of the 
general rule that human society has been governed in the 
past and, human nature remaining the same, is likely to be 
governed in the future, mainly by masculine force and 
masculine intelligence." 

There are few themes, if any, that arouse more emotional 
prejudice than the comparison of male and female, particu- 
larly if it includes the question of the respective parts 
played in life by the father and the mother. Without the 
insight gained into the characteristic complexes of men and 
women by means of psycho-analysis, it would be well-nigh 
hopeless to expect a really serious approach to impartiality, 
and even with the knowledge now at our service one cannot 
walk too warily in this delicate path. 

The second difficulty is of a more material kind. It is the 
enormous complexity and almost endless variation in the 
phenomena themselves. A slight impression of this may be 
given by the following considerations. Anthropologists are 
agreed that the central and perhaps the only essential one 
of many phenomena grouped under the name of mother- 
right (Mutterrechf) is "mother-kinship", i.e., the custom of 
reckoning descent through the female only; there is matri- 
lineal descent, as it is called, and no patrilineal, or agnatic, 
descent. 1 This central feature is normally accompanied by a 
number of other characteristic ones, the chief of which will 

1 Rivers (Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics : art. Mother-Right) 
would use the term mother-kinship in a different and narrower sense, dis- 
tinguishing it from matrilineal descent. For him "kinship" is much the same 
as our "relationship" when used in a genealogical sense, though perhaps the 
actual conception of a blood-bond may not be always essential in the savage 
mind. In this strict sense mother-kinship probably never exists in a pure form, 
so that we may ignore it for our purpose; that is to say, there are no peoples 
where no kinship whatever is recognized between the child and the father (and 
the father's relatives). By descent, whether matrilineal or patrilineal, is meant 
the origin of the child that determines to which social group (moiety or clan) 
it shall belong. If this is determined by the status of the mother, we have 
matrilineal descent which other writers denote by the term "mother-kinship" 
and this is the most essential feature of mother-right. 



be mentioned presently, but the actual correlation found to 
exist among the various features is so extraordinarily 
irregular as to bewilder anyone who is seeking for any degree 
of order. The complications begin with what we have called 
the central feature, for the child does not necessarily belong 
to his mother's clan even if his descent is reckoned through 
the female; the totem who happened to impregnate his 
mother, to whose clan he therefore belongs, may be diff- 
erent from his mother's totem and clan. The descent may, 
of course, be matrilineal, patrilineal, or both together. The 
complexity increases as soon as we consider some of the 
connections between mother-kinship and the accompanying 

1. Authority The term "matriarchy" should be limited 
to the cases where there is true mother-rule, i.e., where the 
mother is the head of the household and disposes of the 
final authority over the children. This is extraordinarily 
rare, but when present constitutes the purest form of 
mother-right. Often the father is the head of the family and 
exercises the potestas to use the legal term as of course he 
mostly does where there is patrilineal descent. The most 
frequent case, however, and one so typical that its presence, 
even in an attenuated form, always makes one suspect the 
existence of mother-right (whether in the past or present), 
is that in which the potestas is wielded by the mother's 
brother, the child's maternal uncle; this is the so-called 
avunculate organization. Other varieties are where the 
potestas is shared between the father and maternal uncle, 
according to the matters over which it is exercised, or where 
the uncle has authority over the son and the father over the 
daughter, or where the father has authority up to a given 
age and the uncle after this. 

2. Inheritance and succession With mother-right suc- 
cession of rank (kingship, chieftainship, etc.) mostly, but 
not always, passes from a man to his sister's son, not to his 



wife's son; in other words, whether the rank can be held by 
a woman or not, it is often transmitted through the female, 
instead of as with us, through the male. But again there is 
no rule about this. In Melanesia, for instance, where 
matrilineal descent mainly holds, succession is usually 

The laws about inheritance (of property) are also ex- 
tremely variable. The property may, very rarely, be held 
only by women; most typically it is transmitted to the 
sister's son, but there are instances of mother-right (as with 
the Malays of Moerong) where nevertheless the boy inherits 
from his father. 

It should be borne in mind that there is no close correla- 
tion between the individual features just enumerated. Out 
of an endless number one only need be quoted: In Torres 
Straits the potestas is avunculate, but the descent, inheri- 
tance and succession are all patrilineal. 

3. Residence In the most extreme forms of mother-right 
the husband only visits his wife or else resides with her and 
her people (matrilocal marriage), in which case he is usually 
subject to the head of her household, her brother or uncle. 
Matrilocal marriage is nearly always accompanied by matri- 
lineal descent, there being only two exceptions known to 
this rule. Patrilineal descent almost always involves patri- 
local marriage, but the converse does not hold, since 
patrilocal marriage is often found with mother-kinship; 
Australian marriages, for instance, are mostly patrilocal, 
whereas mother-kinship is nearly as common with them as 

The difficulties in correlating the institution of mother- 
right with the status of women accompanying it, whether 
high or low, with the level of civilization in which it is 
found, and with the knowledge or certainty about paternity 
possessed by the peoples concerned will be mentioned in 
discussing the various hypotheses relating to the subject. 




After these introductory remarks we may proceed to 
consider the main problems relating to mother-right, its 
general significance and the causes of its genesis and super- 
session. In doing so it will be seen that we at once impinge 
on some of the most fundamental problems of anthropology 
those relating to the evolution of totemism and religion, 
of marriage and the family, as well as of other social 
institutions. To us the conception of a family where the 
father plays such a subordinate part, being to a great extent 
replaced by an uncle, certainly seems strange and needful of 
explanation. Yet many authorities, including McLennan, 
Spencer, Avebury, Frazer, and Hartland, find this state of 
affairs a perfectly natural one in an early stage of society, 
so that for them the greater problem would be to explain 
how it came to be superseded. They point to the more 
intimate connection between child and mother and the 
various uncertainties concerning the relationship of the 
father. Other authorities, on the other hand, regard the 
institution of mother-right as a secondary state of affairs to 
be accounted for by purely temporary circumstances. The 
causes for it may be either factors connected with the 
status of women, perhaps the part they are often supposed 
to have played in regard to agriculture, or more obscure 
ones of the kind that will be discussed below. The main 
hypotheses will next be considered in more detail. 

The most obvious explanation for the existence of 
mother-right, one first put forward in 1757 by Schouten and 
since repeated by many travellers, is that it is due to 
uncertainty about the individuality of the father. As it has 
been cynically put, maternity is a question of fact, paternity 
a question of opinion. The slightest investigation, however, 
disposes of this view as being quite out of accord with the 
facts. There is no correlation at all between father-right and 


conjugal fidelity or between mother-right and infidelity. 1 
On the one hand, mother-right obtains, for instance, on the 
coast of West Africa and in Northern Abyssinia, where 
wifely fidelity is very strict, adultery exceedingly rare and 
often punished by death. On the other hand there is the far 
commoner state of affairs where conjugal morality is loose 
though father-right prevails. As Hartland puts it in con- 
nection with the Kafirs of the Hindu Kush, where the 
strictest father-right holds, "that Kafir would be of a 
highly sporting disposition who ventured to stake much on 
the authenticity of any child of whom he was legally the 
father." 2 More than this : among many patrilineal peoples 
the men appear to show the greatest indifference about their 
actual blood-relationship to their legal son, so long as they 
have one at all for their ritualistic and economic purposes 
where a son is desirable, and an adopted son, or their wife's 
son by some other man, serves these purposes as well as one 
they have themselves begotten. 

Closely akin to this hypothesis are those that postulate a 
specially close association between mother and child on 
account of either polygyny (Winterbottom) or polyandry 
(McLennan). Neither can be substantiated by reference to 
the actual facts. 

A more subtle and interesting view, hinted at by Mc- 
Lennan over half a century ago in his Primitive Marriage 
and developed by Hartland in 1 895 in his Legend of Perseus^ 
is that mother-right represents a survival from a time when 
there was ignorance of the facts of procreation. If the father 
was not thought to play any necessary part in procreation, 
then it would seem to follow that the child's status could 
only be determined by the mother's, i.e., that there would 
be mother-right; and it is the essential presupposition of 

1 For a sufficiently full discussion of the point, see Hartland, Primitive 
Society, 1921, pp. 12-17. 
* Hartland, Primitive Paternity, 1909, Vol. I, p. 101. 



this hypothesis that mother-right necessarily preceded 
father-right throughout the world. It is true that mother- 
right is often found where the paternal role in procreation is 
fully understood; not only so, but, as Westermarck points 
out in this connection, 1 there are Australian tribes who have 
matrilineal descent in spite of their belief that the child is 
created solely by the father and merely nourished by the 
mother. Nevertheless there might well be psychological or 
sociological reasons why a given organization should persist 
after the originating agent had ceased to operate, so that 
the considerations just adduced would not necessarily nega- 
tive the hypothesis in question. We are thus led to investi- 
gate, as an essential preliminary in our inquiry, the much 
discussed topic of the sexual ignorance of the savages. 

The surmise expressed by Hartland in 1895 that sexual 
ignorance 2 may have played an important part in the 
development of social beliefs and institutions was within a 
few years brilliantly confirmed by Spencer and Gillen's 
discovery that there were still tribes in Australia, notably 
the interesting Aruntas, who were ignorant of the facts of 
paternal procreation. The findings have been disputed by 
other field-workers, such as Strehlow and von Leonhardi, 
and the inferences contravened by Westermarck, Heape, 
and Carveth Read. The question is not easily answered. 
Like all inquiries in the sphere of sexuality, the truth is 
peculiarly difficult to elicit and the fallacies unexpectedly 
numerous. The only field-worker who seems to have made a 
special study of these fallacies, and who exhibited remark- 
able acumen in dealing with them, is Malinowski. The 
account he gives of the sexual life of the Trobrianders, a 
Papuan-Melanesian race inhabiting an archipelago off the 
coast of New Guinea, is certainly the fullest extant, and its 

1 Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, Fifth Edition, 1921, 
Vol. I, p. 294. 

1 By "sexual ignorance" I mean in this context particularly the ignorance 
that semen is the fertilizing fluid. 


quality is such as to inspire great confidence in the correct- 
ness of his observations. 1 After a careful sifting of all the 
available data he comes to the definite conclusion that these 
natives have no knowledge whatever of the part played by 
semen in procreation. They appear to believe that preg- 
nancy results only from a "baloma", a spirit (usually 
female) of a dead person, inserting a spirit child, "waiwaia", 
into the womb. They admit, however, that for this to 
happen it is necessary that the vagina be first opened up 
and this is, of course, usually done by sexual intercourse. 
Apparently the Australian Aruntas hold a similar view, 
that women are prepared in this way for the reception of 
the "ratapas". In making this belief more comprehensible 
Malinowski points out that the causal connection between 
intercourse and pregnancy is far from obvious to a race 
accustomed to frequent copulation from early childhood ; the 
sexual act may take place hundreds of times before a single 
conception occurs. He has no doubts about the correctness 
of his observations and concludes: "My firm conviction 
is that the ignorance of paternity is an original feature of 
primitive psychology, and that in all speculations about the 
origins of Marriage and the Evolution of Sexual Customs, 
we must bear in mind this fundamental ignorance." 2 

If we accept these observations as correct, particularly 
Malinowski's careful investigations, as it seems to me we 
are bound to, 3 then the question would appear to be settled. 
Nevertheless, the voice of scepticism refuses to be quieted. 
A number of other considerations strongly hint that even 
yet we are not at the end of the matter. 

1 Malinowski, "Baloma; the Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands," 
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1916; "The Psychology of Sex 
and the Foundation of Kinship in Primitive Societies" and "Psycho- Analysis 
and Anthropology" both in Psyche, Vol. IV. 

2 Psyche, Vol. IV, p. 128. 

3 1 may report, however, that Professor Malinowski expressed his keen 
regret to me that he had known nothing of psycho-analysis before making 
these investigations. 



In the first place we have the indisputable fact that most 
savages all over the world, including those with mother- 
right, are fully aware of the part played by the man in pro- 
creation. This is proved not only by their own direct 
statements, but also by numerous practices based on the 
knowledge. 1 Then even the savages who are apparently 
ignorant in regard to paternal procreation yield hints that 
they nevertheless have some inklings of similar knowledge 
in other fields of thought. Thus the Intichiama ceremonies 
of the Australian natives definitely imply some knowledge 
of the processes of fertility in both animals and crops. They 
appear to make the same reservations about human kind as 
a child does about its family in this matter: "Other people 
may make babies that way, but not my parents." A very 
curious feature observed by Malinowski among the Tro- 
brianders, discussion of which will be reserved till later, 
points in the same direction : a Trobriander is horrified at the 
idea of physically resembling his mother, brother or sister ; 
i.e., those who are thought to be his only blood-relatives, and 
is intensely insulted at the mere suggestion ; he maintains 
on the contrary, that he is the physical image of his father. 

A psycho-analyst cannot fail to be struck by the unmis- 
takable symbolism these ignorant savages display when 
propounding their views on procreation, symbolism of so 
accurate a kind as to indicate at least an unconscious 
knowledge of the truth. Thus water plays a prominent part 
in regard to conception. The spirit-children, waiwaias, 
come from over the sea, often in a basket (like the womb 
symbol in which Moses arrived), they usually enter the 
woman's body when she is bathing in the sea, and the thing 
that has most carefully to be avoided by those who do not 
wish to conceive is the scum or froth of the sea an obvious 
seminal symbol. In Australia impregnation may take place 
by stones, snakes, or birds, well-known phallic symbols. 

1 See Westermarck, op. cit., pp. 287, 288. 



The churinga nanja among the Aruntas are stone boulders 
connected with ancestors from whom the seed-spirit comes ; 
in the Acheringa dream-world there are two ancestors for 
each child, not one as might be expected, on the hypothesis 
of parthenogenesis. 

Ideas of causality are known to be particularly difficult 
to unravel with savages, for they are often curiously 
different from our own. It is not easy to interpret, for 
instance, a belief that two causes are necessary for concep- 
tion, an opening-up copulation and the introduction of 
spirit-children by a baloma. The natives say that the first 
of these allows the second, which is the essential one, to 
operate; but it is very well possible that the converse is the 
real meaning of the belief, i.e., that it is the influence of the 
baloma (the ancestral spirit) which permits the copulation 
to take effect. This multiplicity of causes is very common in 
regard to conception, for there are fewer topics that have 
more adjuvant agents associated with them, from bathing 
in holy water to the cure of barrenness by gynaecological 
curettage. The use of these agents, and the faith in them, 
may co-exist with every degree of conscious awareness of 
the true agent in procreation; it would be absurd, for 
instance, to maintain that the Greeks were ignorant of the 
facts of procreation simply because their women practised 
various fertility rites and regarded the resultant offspring 
as the gift of the gods. 

The argument put forward by Hartland and Malinowski 
to the effect that it must be hard to recognize the connec- 
tion between frequent acts of copulation and rare ones of 
conception is not only incompatible with the simple fact 
that after all most peoples have recognized this connection, 
but has been penetratingly countered by Carveth Read on 
psychological grounds. Rewrites : l "We must remember that 

1 Carveth Read, "No Paternity," Journal of the Royal Anthropological 
Institute, Vol. XLVIII, p. 146. 



the knowledge of animals and a great deal of the knowledge 
of savages and even of civilized people, is not of the dis- 
criminated, relational, prepositional texture to which, under 
the influence of formal logic, we are apt to confine the 
name." This is exactly in accord with what we find in the 
analysis of infantile mental life, where instinctive intuition 
plays a considerable part in divining the main outline at 
least of sexual knowledge. If a child of two years old can 
frame an image of genital coitus, and a year or so later con- 
nect it with the birth of another child, then the feat should 
certainly not be beyond the mentality of any adult savage. 


The foregoing considerations raise the question of 
whether the ignorance among these savages is after all so 
genuine and complete as it would appear. The curious 
combination of ignorance where one would reasonably ex- 
pect knowledge and of half-knowledge is a phenomenon 
with which we are very familiar in other fields of 

Writers who are sceptical concerning the thorough-going 
nature of this ignorance have tended to regard it as some- 
thing secondary or artificial, and a few have even pro- 
pounded reasons for its occurrence. Thus Frazer, in speak- 
ing of the Australian belief that a "ratapa" enters the womb 
at the moment of quickening, refers to the "sick fancies of 
pregnant women". Heape 1 expresses the following views: 
"All the evidence we can bring to bear on a subject from a 
comparative point of view indicates that primitive man 
was not ignorant of this fundamental fact, and such evid- 
ence appears to me so strong that I consider it is irre- 

1 Heape, Sex Antagonism, 1913, pp. 103, 112. 



futable. Moreover, there is evidence that while these 
Australian savage people now declare their ignorance they 
still act in a variety of ways as if they knew the true facts. 
This being so, I maintain that the initial cause of this con- 
ceptional idea of totemism is due to a superstition which 
overrode instinctive knowledge of the facts; in other words, 
that the idea is not derived from ignorance, but is a manu- 
factured scheme, originating at a period in the history of 
man which is subsequent to his conception of superstitious 
fear of personal or individual spirits, and arising out of such 
superstition." "It is thus I interpret the story of concep- 
tional totemism; an impulse due to the sick fancies of the 
pregnant woman, due to fear or dread or desire, or all of 
them, has bred a superstition which necessitated the relin- 
quishment of instinctive knowledge previously acquired, 
and all but buried it not quite buried, however, the 
Intichiuma ceremonies are performed just when there is 
promise of a good breeding season, and thus necessity 
demands recognition of the truth; the Tully River 1 blacks 
grant that the breeding of animals, at any rate, is governed 
by the laws of Nature, while human beings are only exempt 
from the force of those laws because they are thereby con- 
firmed in their belief of their superiority over the brute 
creation." He suggests that the (purely conscious) motives 
why the natives maintain the beliefs they do is either to 
facilitate adultery 2 and condonement of it, or else to gratify 
the mother's hope of benefiting the child by conferring on it 
the qualities of some totemic spirit. These suggestions, how- 
ever, evidently do not carry us far. 

1 Heape here quotes Roth, "North Queensland Ethnography," Bull. No. 5, 
p. 22. 

8 He cites (p. 100) the Baganda custom of punishing adultery only when the 
banana tree is out of blossom, for otherwise the conception is ascribed to the 
latter. But as the banana tree blossoms all the year round compare our saying 
"when gorse is out of bloom then kissing is out of fashion" and the banana 
is an obvious phallic symbol, there would seem to be need for further investiga- 
tion gathered in respect of this custom. 



Carveth Read 1 makes a decided step forward in suggest- 
ing that the knowledge really present is only unconscious, 
having been "repressed"; he speaks of its having been 
"repressed by the animistic philosophy and expelled from 
consciousness". Malinowski, however, thinks that such 
knowledge cannot have been obliterated by any animistic 
superstructure because in determining "descent" no im- 
portance is attached by these savages to blood-relation- 

When the question comes up whether ideas are present 
in a state of repression, and, if so, what are likely to have 
been the reasons for the repression, then surely a psycho- 
analyst has a word to say. At this point, therefore, I propose 
to put forward an hypothesis along psycho-analytical lines, 
one which, if correct, would indicate that there is the closest 
collateral relationship between ignorance about paternal 
procreation on the one hand and the institution of mother- 
right on the other. My view is that both these phenomena 
are brought about by the same motive; in what chrono- 
logical relation they stand to each other is another question 
altogether, which will be considered later. The motive, 
according to this view, in both cases is to deflect the hostility 
felt by the growing boy towards his father. 

The following considerations may be adduced in support 
of this hypothesis. In the first place, it is known that of the 
two components of the primordial QEdipus complex love 
for the mother and hatred for the father the latter has 
played by far the more important part in leading to repres- 
sion of the complex and in giving rise to the various com- 
plicated devices whereby this repression is brought about 
and maintained. The reason for this is evident : the danger- 
ous rivalry between two murderous males with all its 
consequences. There is much reason to think that the 
ambivalent conflict between love and hate is sharper among 

1 Carveth Read, op. cit., p. 146. 



savage people than among ourselves 1 hence it is not sur- 
prising that they should possess more elaborate institutions 
subserving the function of guarding them from their re- 
pressed impulses ; it is as if they had more reason than we 
to fear them, or less power of diverting them. As examples 
of institutions of this kind one may quote totemism and 
exogamy 2 on the one hand and the innumerable initiation 
ceremonies on the other. 3 (In accepting the view that the 
function in question is the essential one of these institutions 
one does not, of course, ignore the fact that they also sub- 
serve numerous other ones.) 

It would seem to be the fashion at present among anthro- 
pologists to regard kinship and "descent" as not necessarily 
having any close connection with blood-relationship. I am 
inclined to think that in so doing they are following a 
tendentious striving present among savages themselves. For 
it seems pretty plain that savages try in all sorts of ways to 
divorce the two matters, 4 although there is much reason to 
infer that fundamentally they attach an enormous, and 
even exaggerated, importance to blood-relationship. Not 
only is the child's social status determined by birth to a 
much greater extent than with us, but the central im- 
portance of birth to the savage mind in connection with the 
GEdipus complex has been made highly probable by Reik's 
brilliant work on puberty rites. 6 He showed there that the 
real significance of these rites is, by means of a complicated 
castration and birth symbolism, to annul the original birth 
by the mother and substitute for it an imaginary homo- 
sexual birth; the idea evidently being that attachment to 
the mother is due simply to the fact of being born of her, 

1 One example is illustrated in Reik's interpretation of the postural couvade 
as a means of coping with the sadism aroused by the sight of the suffering wife. 

2 See Freud, Totem und Tabu, 1913. 

8 See Reik, Probleme der Religionspsychologie, 1919, Chap. III. 
* This is perhaps one reason why mother-right so often persists, even when 
the facts of paternity are fully recognized. 
5 Ibid. 



so that the only way to neutralize the incest tendencies that 
stand in the way of friendly relationship with other men is 
to nullify the supposed cause of them (birth) by a symbolic 
re-birth. If, according to savage theory, the maternal half 
of the (Edipus complex, the attachment to the mother, 
depends on the fact of being born by her, it is only reason- 
able to suppose that the same, mutatis mutandis, is equally 
true of the paternal half, the father-hate. At all events, 
as we shall see, savages appear to act on this assump- 

In unconsciously explaining incest tendencies as being 
due to the act of birth, savages would appear to indulge in 
the same "retrospective phantasying" as our neurotics who 
so often behave exactly like them in this respect, where we 
know the motive is to escape the guilt of infantile sexuality 
by substituting harmless thoughts about birth: contact 
with the mother's genitals is by birth only, not by coitus. 
Nevertheless, if Freud's hypothesis is substantiated about 
the inheritance of impulses dating from the primal horde, 
the savages and neurotics would prove to have some right 
on their side, though in a very indirect way. For in that 
event there would be some causal connection between birth, 
i.e., heredity, and the (Edipus complex. 

Be this as it may, it is clear that any objectionable 
tendencies the source of which is imputed to the act of birth 
can most radically be countered by simply denying this act, 
as is done, for example, in the puberty rites. Now in the 
analysis of our neurotics we are very familiar with the wish- 
phantasy in which this happens in regard to the father. 
Many of them cherish, consciously or unconsciously, the 
idea that their "father" had nothing to do with their con- 
ception or birth, this being entirely a matter between them 
and their mother. It is well known how extraordinarily 
widespread this myth of the Virgin Mother has been 
throughout the world, and there is every reason to think 



that it has generally the same significance as we find in the 
analysis of individuals. 1 The general belief evidently fulfils 
more than one deep-seated tendency; repudiation of the 
father's part in coitus and procreation, and consequently 
softening and deflection of the hatred against him, a con- 
summation desired equally by son and father. This is what 
has happened where the institution of mother-right is com- 
bined with denial of paternal procreation. It might be said 
that just as the postural couvade is designed to protect both 
wife and child from the father's hostility, 2 so the combina- 
tion of mother-right and sexual ignorance protects both 
father and son from their mutual rivalry and hostility. 

I should be inclined to bring into connection with this 
tendentious denial of paternal procreation the curious and 
unexpected finding recorded by Malinowski 3 that the topic 
of sexual intercourse between man and wife is regarded by 
the Trobrianders as highly indecent, although they are 
unusually free people in regard to sexual matters in general. 
This seems to represent a higher degree of the common 
aversion which most people feel in regard to the idea of 
parental coitus, and serves the same function of keeping 
at a distance the possibility of an QEdipus jealousy. 

But the father is not so easily disposed of, a fact which 
might be used in support of Freud's suggestion that the 
inherited idea of the primal father is still actively alive in 
our unconscious. The father disappears from the scene only 
to reappear in a disguised form. The idea of the powerful 
and hated father is sacrificed in favour of an ancestral 
spirit, who in a supernatural manner impregnates the 
mother; for both the Australian ratapas and the Trobriand 
waiwaias emanate from ancestors, and no one who has had 
the opportunity of analyzing a member of an ancient Eng- 

1 See Rank, Der My thus von der Geburt des Helden, 2e Auflage, 1922, and 
Ernest Jones, Section XIII of the present volume. 
* Reik, op. cit. 
8 Malinowski, Psyche, Vol. V, p. 207. 



lish family or an American with a passion for genealogy can 
fail to discover that forefathers are psychologically nothing 
but fathers at a slight remove. This elevated father is there- 
fore the original powerful father in another guise. The idea 
corresponds with the deep belief that after all only the great 
father can procreate (or permit it by giving his sanction), 
with the added wish on the part of women to conceive of the 
father, as the Virgin Mary did. 1 

When put to the test of practice this way of treating the 
father does appear to achieve its aim of bringing about a 
far more intimate and friendly relationship between father 
and child than is usual in patrilineal societies. Among the 
Trobrianders, where the father has of course no authority 
whatever over his children, the society, being matrilineal 
and the potestas devolving on the uncle, the father is 
described as being a "beloved, benevolent friend", 2 Malin- 
owski writes 3 as follows: "Among the Melanesians, 'father- 
hood', as we know, is a purely social relation. Now, part of 
this relation consists in his duty towards his wife's children ; 
he is there 'to receive them into his arms,' a phrase we have 
already quoted; he has to carry them about when on the 
march the mother is tired, and he has to assist in the nursing 
at home. He tends them in their natural needs, and 
cleanses them, and there are many stereotyped expressions 
in the native language referring to fatherhood and its hard- 
ships, and to the duty of filial gratitude towards him. A 
typical Trobriand father is a hard-working and conscien- 
tious nurse, in which he obeys the call of duty, expressed in 
social tradition. The fact is, however, that the father is 
always interested in the children, sometimes passionately 
so, and performs all his duties eagerly and fondly." 

The solution of the father complex, however, was not 

1 A contribution from the woman's side which may be compared with 
Frazer's remark (see above) about the sick fancies of pregnant women. 

2 Malinowski, Psyche, Vol. IV, p. 298. 
8 Ibid., p. 304. 



always so easy, and with the obsessional ambivalence of 
savages room had to be found for an object towards whom 
could be directed the less amiable attitudes of awe, dread, 
respect and suppressed hostility which are inseparable from 
the idea of the father imago. It will be remembered that it 
took Christian theology many centuries before they could 
afford to dispense with the devil (whom I have shown else- 
where to be a genetic counterpart of God) and allow them- 
selves to face a God who would carry the responsibility for 
both good and evil. Similarly the savage had to be provided 
with a figure who would incorporate the disliked and feared 
attributes of the father imago. In nearly all matrilineal 
societies, and in some that have partly passed over into the 
patrilineal form, the maternal uncle plays this part. It is he 
who wields over the children the direct potestas, he who is 
the main source of authority and discipline, from him that 
they inherit possessions and acquire various accomplish- 
ments, and often it is he who is responsible for their food 
and keep. Still, in the majority of cases he does not reside 
with the children, and often not even in the same village, 
while his relations with their mother are extremely formal 
and surrounded by taboos. Malinowski 1 contrasts the status 
of the two men as follows: "To the father, therefore, the 
children look only for loving care and tender companion- 
ship. Their mother's brother represents the principle of 
discipline, authority and executive power within the 
family." As might be expected, affection is not the most 
prominent feature in the relation between boy and uncle, 
though doubtless there is much companionship during the 
adolescent stage when the serious duties of life are being 
inculcated. Malinowski 2 describes this stage: "The father 
suffers at this time a temporary eclipse. The boy, who as a 
child was fairly independent and became the member of 

1 Loc. cit. 

1 op. cit., p. 324. 



the small, juvenile republic, gains now on the one hand the 
additional freedom of the bukumatula, while on the other 
he becomes much more restricted by his various duties 
towards his kada y maternal uncle. He has less time and less 
interest left for the father. Later on, when friction with the 
maternal uncle makes its appearance, he turns, as a rule, 
to his father once more and their life friendship then 
becomes settled." 

My suggestion is that the state of affairs just mentioned 
is an example of the process with which we are familiar in 
mythological studies under the name of "decomposition", 
one common enough also in the psychoneuroses. It is one 
whereby various attributes can become detached from an 
original figure and incorporated in another one, which then 
personifies these attributes. In the present case, as in so 
many others, the process serves the function of unloading 
affect in a relationship where it might have unpleasant con- 
sequences and depositing it at a safer distance. The British 
Constitution has evolved a similar arrangement; in it the 
father of the country, the King, can do no wrong and so is 
immune from criticism, retaining only the affection and 
respect of his subjects. This was made possible, after the 
people refused to tolerate the system of absolute monarchy, 
by providing a counterpart, the Prime Minister, against 
whom all complaints, resentment and hostility could be 
directed; the volume of this opposition periodically and 
inevitably accumulates until he has to make way for a 
successor. A more subtle example has been analyzed by 
Freud in his study of the "taboo of virginity". 1 He has shown 
that the custom of a bride being deflorated by someone 
other than the husband is to ensure that the resentment 
which this operation is apt to provoke shall be directed 
away from her future life-partner and precipitated else- 

1 Freud, "Taboo of Vkginity," 1918, Collected Papers, Vol. IV, 1925. 



The two men being unconscious equivalents, it is not sur- 
prising that in some tribes the same name is applied to both, 
as, for instance, in Loango, where the uncle is called Tate 
(= father). 1 A story recalled by Hartland 2 well illustrates the 
psychological complexity of the relationship. "When a child 
dies or even meets with an accident with fatal results, the 
mother's relatives, headed by her brother, turn out in force 
against the father. He must defend himself until he is 
wounded. Blood once drawn the combat ceases; but the 
attacking party plunders his house and appropriates every- 
thing on which hands can be laid, finally sitting down to a 
feast provided by the bereaved father." The father is thus 
punished because his repressed hostile wishes have come 
true and the child has met with harm. Now this is in a 
patrilineal society of Maoris and the action taken by the 
maternal uncle points to an earlier avunculate and doubt- 
less matrilineal social organization. In this transition from 
one organization one sees how the parts played by father 
and uncle respectively can change to the exact opposite. 
Mrs. Seligmann 3 informs me that in some Soudanese tribes a 
similar change can be observed to be at work, where the 
father is becoming dreaded and the uncle loved. 

In this decomposition of the primal father into a kind and 
lenient father on the one hand, and a stern and moral uncle 
on the other, it is not chance that the latter person was 
chosen to fill this part. I will sketch the order of develop- 
ment here somewhat schematically. If we start with the 
primal trinity of father, mother, son, then in seeking for a 
surrogate to whom the jealous hatred felt for the father can 
become displaced there are two persons who naturally 
present themselves, the mother's father and her brother. 
The reason for this goes back to the mother's own incestu- 

1 Hartland, op. cit., p. 281. 

1 Ibid., p. 279. 

8 Personal communication, for which I am much indebted. 



ous attachments ; her father and brothers are also in a sense 
rivals of her son, though they are at a greater distance from 
him than his own father. It is therefore not surprising that 
the QEdipus legend can be paralleled by similar ones relating 
to the other men. Thus it was foretold of Acriseus that he 
would be killed by his daughter's son ; and, in spite of all his 
efforts first by isolating his daughter Danae, and then by 
attempting to drown her and her son, Perseus, after Zeus 
had managed to evade the endeavours of her father to keep 
her a virgin the prediction is verified; Perseus did kill his 
grandfather. Similar tales are related of other heroes besides 
Perseus, such as Cyrus, Gilgam, and Telephos. 

We know from psycho-analytic work that the girl's 
attachment towards her father commonly becomes dis- 
placed on to her brother, just as the son displaces his 
mother-attachment on to his sister. The tendency towards 
filial and parental incest is thus exchanged for that towards 
brother-sister incest, which even to-day is much less taboo 
than the former and is often realized in actuality. As is well 
known, royal marriages between brother and sister were 
customary in ancient Egypt, and till our times in Hawaii, 1 
though forbidden to commoners. It is thus comprehensible 
enough that jealous rivalry over the woman between nephew 
and uncle should duplicate that between son and father, or 
that the former psychological situation can replace the 
latter. The classical legend displaying this situation is, of 
course, the Tristan saga, particularly in its earlier versions. 
Before winning Isolde, Tristan logically kills her maternal 
uncle, Morolt, (of course on other ostensible grounds), and, 
after she has espoused his own maternal uncle, Mark, he 
enters into rivalry with the latter ; in the most recent version 
of the story, Thomas Hardy unveils the mask of benevo- 
lence that had been cast over Mark and lays bare the natural 
enmity between the two men. In the earliest versions of the 

1 Rivers, Social Organization, 1924, p. 39. 



Lancelot legend in the Arthurian cycle 1 there are plain 
indications of the same theme. In the first account it was 
Gawain who loved Guinevere, the wife of Arthur, his 
maternal uncle. In the later accounts his place is taken by 
Lancelot (who also usurped his position as the first Grail 
hero), but that the underlying theme is only disguised is 
shown by the circumstance that Lancelot's foster-mother 
was also Arthur's sister. At the end the original theme 
comes again to the surface, since it is another nephew, 
Mordred, who abducts Guinevere and kills his maternal 
uncle, Arthur. The further stage in repression, familiar to 
us in the Hamlet form of the QEdipus complex, 2 can also be 
traced in the uncle-nephew relationship, the nephew aveng- 
ing his uncle's murder ; an example of this is the Otuel story 
in the Charlemagne cycle. 3 The most complete inversion is 
perhaps that of the Caucasian legend of Chopa, 4 for he 
avenges his maternal uncle, whom his father had slain, by 
attacking his own father. 

We may now return to the Trobrianders. There, as with 
most matrilineal societies, there is an extraordinarily severe 
taboo against sexual relations between brother and sister, 
one which begins at the earliest age. It could not escape 
Malinowski's discernment that this taboo must be the ex- 
pression of repressed incestuous tendencies, though he does 
not appear to have recognized the connection between this 
and the presence of an avunculate organization; i.e., that 
the uncle, being the unconscious lover of the mother, is 
therefore the imaginary father of her children, and logically 
wields the potestas over them. He sees, however, that the 
uncle plays the negative part of the father in our civiliza- 
tion, and formulates the following neat statement on the 

1 See Jessie L. Weston's works, Arthur and Guinevere, King Arthur and his 
Knights, The Legend of Sir Gawaine, and Lancelot du Lac. 

* See Ernest Jones, Hamlet and the Oedipus Complex, 1949. 

* Ellis, Specimens of Early English Matrical Romances, 1805, pp. 375 if. 

* Cited by Hartland, op. cit., p. 271. 

1 68 


whole matter: 1 "Applying to each society a terse, though 
rather crude formula, there is in our society the repressed 
desire 'to kill the father and marry the mother', while in 
the matrilineal complex of Melanesia, the wish is 'to marry 
the sister and to kill the maternal uncle'." One striking 
piece of evidence he finds in support of this conclusion in a 
very typical set of myths among matrilineal peoples 
corresponding with the European GEdipus myths in which 
incest occurs between brother and sister and hatred between 
nephew and maternal uncle. 2 

Malinowski's conclusion is doubtless correct on the purely 
descriptive plane, but he goes on to use it as the basis of an 
extremely doubtful hypothesis in which he attempts to 
modify Freud's theory of the nuclear family complex. As is 
well known, the latter regards the relationship between 
father, mother, and son as the prototype from which other 
more complicated relationships are derived. Malinowski, on 
the contrary, puts forward the idea that the nuclear family 
complex varies according to the particular family structure 
existing in any community. According to him, a matrilineal 
family system arises for unknown social and economic 
reasons, and then the repressed nuclear complex consists of 
brother and sister attraction, with nephew and uncle 
hatred; when this system is replaced by a patrilineal one, 
the nuclear complex becomes the familiar CEdipus one. 

If attention is concentrated on the sociological aspects of 
the data, this will appear a very ingenious and perhaps even 
plausible suggestion. I would submit, however, that imper- 
fect attention to the genetic aspects of the problem has led 
to a lack of what I have elsewhere called a "dimensional 
perspective", i.e., a sense of value and proportion based on 
intimate knowledge of the unconscious, and that the 
opposite of Malinowski's conception is nearer the truth. It 

1 Malinowski, Psyche, Vol. V, p. 195. 
Ibid., p. 216. 

169 M 


would seem more probable, in my opinion, that the matri- 
lineal system with its avunculate complex arose in the way 
described above as a mode of defence against the primordial 
CEdipus tendencies than that it arose for unknown socio- 
logical reasons with then the avunculate complex as a 
necessary consequence and the CEdipus complex appearing 
only when the patrilineal system was subsequently intro- 
duced. The forbidden and unconsciously loved sister is only 
a substitute for the mother, as the uncle plainly is for the 
father. On Malinowski's hypothesis the CEdipus complex 
would be a late product; for the psycho-analyst it was the 
fans et origo. 


In 1 86 1, the year Bachofen's famous work Das Mutter- 
recht appeared, an equally famous work was published by 
Sir Henry Maine, entitled Primal Law. In it he enunciated, 
largely on the basis of juristic studies in India, the view that 
the primal state of society must have been a patriarchal one. 
In the years that have elapsed since that date more 
historical and ethnological evidence and arguments, ex- 
pounded especially by McLennan, Lewis Morgan, Lubbock 
and Hartland, have accumulated in favour of the first of 
these views, to the effect that the primal system of society 
(with or without a still earlier state of promiscuity) was a 
matrilineal one; and perhaps the majority of anthro- 
pologists to-day are inclined to support this view. It is at 
all events certain that mother-right is extremely widespread 
among savage races, and there is much reason to think that 
this was still more so five thousand years ago. 

A heated controversy has taken place over the question 
of whether father-right as we know it or mother-right as we 



find it among the savages was the earlier system of the two. 
The view here represented is different from either. It is that 
the question has not been justly put, since the two alterna- 
tives mentioned do not exhaust the possibilities. We know 
from psycho-analytic work that there are often three 
mental layers where there appear to be only two. A perky 
conceitedness, for instance, is usually the compensatory 
reaction to a deep-seated sense of inferiority, but analysis 
shows that this in its turn is based on repressed narcissism. 
The first and the third layers are similar in their content, 
but they are not on that account to be identified. The 
present problem may well prove to be of a like nature. 

Before developing this idea we may briefly review the 
opinions that have been expressed by other writers. Those 
who take the primal patriarchal view have to explain why 
mother-right ever came into existence, whereas for those 
who take the opposite view the question is rather why the 
primal mother-right was ever supplanted by father-right. 
The former tend to regard mother-right as a temporary and 
necessarily evanescent phase, and the chief explanation 
offered for its existence seems to be that it was dependent 
on the development of agriculture where woman's work was 
found to be of special value; the correlation, however, 
between agriculture and mother-right is far from close 
enough to establish the connection. 1 The second set of 
writers, who often wax enthusiastic over the idyllic situa- 
tion prevailing under mother-right, tend to regard this as 
the natural state of affairs and to take the view that 
women were driven from this paradise by brute force. 2 
Hartland, for whom father-right is "a purely artificial 
system" 3 says: "The conclusion seems irresistible that 

1 See Westermarck, op. cit., p. 297. 

8 One cannot refrain from wondering what part the infantile "sadistic con- 
ception of coitus" may have played in the idea that men imposed "father-right" 
on "mother-right" by brute force. 

8 Hartland, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 248. 



father-right is traceable not to any change in savage or 
barbarous theories of blood-relationship, but to social and 
economic causes." 1 Both he 2 and Rivers 3 who, by the way, 
expresses no opinion about the relative antiquity of mother- 
right and father-right, would ascribe great importance in 
this connection to the violent immigrations of primitive 
times whereby the will of the conqueror was imposed on the 

The view advanced in this paper is based on the psycho- 
analytic recognition of the fundamental importance of the 
nuclear CEdipus complex. It is in accord neither with the 
idea of primitive promiscuity, nor with that of primal 
right, nor even with that of patriarchy as we nowadays 
conceive it in its monogamic form. Far from being led by 
consideration of the subject, as Malinowski was, to abandon 
or revise Freud's conception of the "primal horde" (Atkin- 
son's "cyclopeian family"), it seems to me, on the contrary, 
that this conception furnishes the most satisfactory ex- 
planation of the complicated problems which we have been 
discussing. According to this, the system of mother-right, 
with its avunculate complex, represents one mode of 
defence among the many that have been adopted against 
the tendencies denoted by the term CEdipus complex. We 
cannot, of course, say whether it represents a necessary 
stage in the evolution towards the present patriarchal 
system; I see no reason why it should, and the fact that 
some of the lowest type of Australian savages, whose 
primitive instincts are hard enough to curb, find it possible 
to cope with them by an alternative method that of taboo 
and the totemic system might be quoted in support of the 
doubt. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the savage 
ignorance, or rather repression, of the facts of paternal pro- 

1 Ibid., p. 100. 

* Idem, Primitive Society, 1921, p. 161. 

8 Rivers, op. cit., p. 97. 



creation is a necessary accompaniment of mother-right, 
though it is evident that it must be a valuable support to 
the motives discussed above which led to the instituting of 

The patriarchal system, as we know it, betokens ack- 
nowledging the supremacy of the father and yet the ability 
to accept this even with affection, without having to have 
recourse to a system either of mother-right or of com- 
plicated taboos. It means the taming of man, the gradual 
assimilation of the CEdipus complex. At last man could 
face his real father and live with him. Well might Freud 
say that the recognition of the father's place in the family 
signified the most important progress in cultural develop- 

So far as we can tell, the way in which this has been at 
least partly accomplished has been the replacement of 
hate by sublimated homosexuality, of murder thoughts by 
castration thoughts. The necessary price paid has been the 
diminished sexual potency of civilized man, with all the 
complicated consequences of this. 




THE material Dr. Heilbronner adduces in his interesting 
essay 2 would seem fully to justify his conclusions that 
"man in the Ice Age attributed an especial significance 
at first unconsciously and later consciously to composite 
representations of the male and female sexual organs". This 
finding must forcibly remind psycho-analysts of the familiar 
observation that the same state of affairs is true also of the 
unconscious phantasies in early infancy. These are nowa- 
days, following Melanie Klein, often referred to under the 
designation "combined parental image". Two explanations 
have been proffered for them. One would account for the 
phantasies on the basis of congenital homosexuality. The 
other would regard them as an early expression of the 
CEdipus conflict and of the mingled love and hate this 
engenders. Both explanations may, of course, be correct, 
but some analysts would attach greater weight to the 
former one, others to the latter. It is at all events highly 
interesting to learn that similar forces were at work among 
men of the Old Stone Age to those among our young 
children of the present day one more example of the 
resemblance between primeval mentality in phylogenesis 
and ontogenesis. 

Archaeologists are generally of opinion that the motives 
impelling early man to execute his remarkable drawings in 

1 Published in the International Journal of Psycho- Analysis, Vol. XIX, 1938. 

2 P. Heilbronner, "Some Remarks on the treatment of the Sexes in Palaeo- 
ithic Art," International Journal of Psycho- Analysis, 1938, p. 439. 



remote and hardly accessible caves were not so much con- 
cerned with aesthetic feeling in spite of the high artistic 
skill displayed in some epochs as with what may broadly 
be called magic. This view was especially developed in 
respect of animal drawings, it being supposed that the 
craftsmen hoped thereby to acquire virtue and luck in their 
hunting activities, which afforded at that time a main 
source of food. It has also been suggested that an allied 
motive was what analysts would call one of restitution, an 
expression of guilt at the killing and a consequent desire to 
expiate it by re-creating the animal in effigy. Since even 
nowadays, when feelings may be supposed to be more sensi- 
tive, there is relatively little remorse at killing animals for 
food, and nothing in the way of expiatory rites on the part 
of those who do so, we may take it for certain that any such 
attitude could proceed only from a totemistic mentality, in 
which the animals in question represented other human 
beings, notably parents or ancestors. This equation 
would suggest a possible prevalence of cannibalism at that 

Returning to the human drawings and statuettes 
described by Dr. Heilbronner, we are impelled to inquire 
into the significance of the changes he notes between the 
Aurignacian and Magdalenian epochs of the Palaeolithic 
era. It is generally thought that these two epochs have to do 
with the same, or a very similar, race, though this is not 
quite certain; but it will be remembered that they were 
separated from each other by a space of many thousands of 
years through the curious intrusion of the Solutrians. 
Nevertheless there is an unmistakable continuity between 
the two in the custom of cave drawings, as well as certain 
pronounced differences in the form these display at the two 

The salient feature of the earlier Aurignacian drawings 
is the remarkable concentration on female sexual charac- 



t eristics. It is plain that the central concern of the crafts- 
men was with these. Not only do the number of female 
statuettes greatly exceed those of male ones, in the propor- 
tion of seventy to five, but not one phallus has been found 
to set beside the numerous images of the vulva ; even when 
a phallus is present in male figures it is small and incon- 
spicuous. Moreover, the main features of the female figures 
consist of exaggerated breasts, buttocks and abdomen 
(almost pregnant in size), whereas no trouble is taken to 
depict the face, even when the head is drawn in frontal 
view; one is here reminded of the famous "'A was Gesicht" 
passage from Schnitzler's Reigen. The limbs are similarly 
obscured, and the description of them given by Dr. Heil- 
bronner, together with the phallic head, seems to point 
plainly to the operation of unconscious castration phan- 
tasies. It is as if the draughtsman wished to assert: "This is 
emphatically a sexual and fertile woman, and anything 
male connected with her must be disregarded or destroyed." 

In contrasting this picture with that characteristic of the 
Magdalenian epoch there would appear to have been three 
important changes. Instead of the female sex predomina- 
ting, the male sex is here the more prominent of the two. 
Images of the vulva have become rare, those of the phallus 
common. The Magdalenians are evidently more preoccupied 
with their own sex than were their predecessors. 

Then the artistic impulse seems to have nearly disap- 
peared, since the figures are debased and lifeless repetitions 
in a flat two-dimensional plane in place of the vivid and 
plastic representation of the Aurignacian epoch. May one 
not infer from this that the more purely libidinal motive has 
been displaced by others of a more conflicting order ? 

Thirdly, the figures are represented no longer en face ', but 
in profile. One cannot but bring this feature of the drawings 
into relation with the fact that palaeolithic man invariably 
depicted animals in profile, this being the natural posture 


he was accustomed to when shooting at them to obtain 

This last point suggests the action of aggressive or 
sadistic motives. The attitude of the draughtsman towards 
the human beings he depicted approximates in the Mag- 
dalenian epoch to that towards his prey. This could result 
from either an increase in cannibalism or a heightened 
hostility among males. 

We do not know enough about the conditions of life in the 
two epochs to venture a sociological explanation for these 
differences, but we cannot resist the conclusion that for 
some reason, climatic or cultural, life was harder for Mag- 
dalenian than for Aurignacian man ; it may well have been 
a time when the conscience was undergoing an important 



IT is nowhere better known than in Oxford that the prob- 
lem of free will is one of the most profound and baffling in 
the whole of philosophy, and that in consequence its 
literature is replete with subtle and intricate arguments 
about it. This, however, is a psychological Society, and I 
propose to deal principally with the psychological aspects 
of the problem. I hope at least to show that these aspects 
are more interesting than might be expected. 

. At the outset one might pose the psychological question 
of how it comes that this problem has possessed such an 
extraordinary interest for the thinkers of all ages. As far 
back as we have historical records, to ancient Babylon, we 
find the problem keenly discussed and various solutions 
propounded. In those times, and indeed until a couple of 
centuries ago, it was generally involved in theological doc- 
trines, but even when it was not as at times in Rome and 
of course in more recent days it was just as hotly debated, 
with often a display of very considerable acrimony. It 
cannot be said that the matter has much troubled the 
common man, who probably takes one solution or another 
for granted without reflecting on it. But there must be few 
serious thinkers who have not in some period of their life 
been perplexed by the antinomy that seems to inhere in 
every solution. The perplexity may even reach the intensity 
of the folie de doute of those afflicted with an obsessional 
neurosis, who endlessly oscillate between two opposite con- 

1 Address delivered before the Oxford Psychological Society, 2yth October, 



elusions or decisions. But, as in that case also, it is highly 
unlikely that we have to do with a purely intellectual prob- 
lem, like one of the teasers of mathematics. The concern 
alone that is manifested shows that strong emotions are 
involved in the argumentations. The fact that the concern 
seems to be restricted to a relatively small group of people 
does not in itself prove that the emotions are of an unusual 
kind, remote from the general ones of humanity, since it is 
known these can be stimulated in many different ways. 

A second consideration that calls for psychological 
inquiry is the ambivalence so often to be noted among those 
expressing opinions on the matter. Even when a philosopher 
or theologian avowedly commits himself firmly to one side 
or the other, freedom of the will or absence of freedom, one 
may often observe that his conclusion is so phrased as to 
permit of the opposite opinion having also a place. I read 
this as signifying an intuition on such a person's part that 
there are two truths concerned in the answer to the prob- 
lem, and that even when they appear to be diametrically 
opposite and therefore mutually exclusive there may per- 
haps be some plane, as yet undiscovered, on which they are 
to be reconciled. I intend to support this thesis in what I 
have to say here. 

The problem of free will has constantly been involved in 
a number of others, among them the most profound that 
have vexed the mind of man. It may legitimately be asked 
whether it owes its emotional significance to its connection 
with those other problems or how much, on the other hand, 
do they owe some of their importance to that inhering in 
the matter of freedom of the will. According to Kant the 
existence of God, the belief in Immortality, and the ques- 
tion of Free Will are bound up together, and metaphysics 
has for its especial object the solution of these problems. 
They thus become the three postulates of his "practical 
reason". The existence of free will is equally bound up with 



the relation of mind to matter, and especially of mind to 
brain: i.e., between Idealism and Realism, the subjective 
versus the objective view of what appears to be external 
reality. Allied to this is the controversy between vitalism 
and the physio-chemical view of physiology, and that over 
the inheritance of acquired characteristics in biology. As to 
theology the most vital matters are concerned : the problem 
of evil in the world, the meaning of sin, the various methods 
of salvation of the soul, whether by grace or by good works, 
the question of moral responsibility, the basis of ethical 
behaviour, and the possibility or not of improving one's 
own character. This list of problems of cardinal import is 
not exhaustive, but it suffices to show what is at stake when 
we try to decide on some answer to that of free will. 

And yet in spite of all this the sociologist makes the 
curious observation that in practical daily life it does not 
seem to make any difference whether a given person, com- 
munity, or religion adopts one or the other belief, in free 
will or determinism. The Babylonians, who firmly believed 
that one's destiny was fixed at birth by the influence of the 
stars then in conjunction, were not in the least a fatalistic 
people, as one might have expected, but on the contrary a 
people full of enterprise and initiative with evident powers 
of original thought. The Calvinists who hold to pre- 
destination strive to lead as good a life as other Christians, 
although theoretically it would appear to be irrelevant to 
their fate in the next life. The part played in Greek tragedy 
by Fate, from which there was no escape, does not prevent 
the struggles and conflicts there depicted from being of just 
the same order as in a modern drama. The determinist 
Stoics were as set on following the path of duty and leading 
a moral life as the libertarian Epicureans. In the history of 
Christianity we can cite great names on either side. St. Paul, 
having been a Pharisee and not a Sadducee, adhered to the 
doctrine of predestination as did St. Augustine and later 

1 80 


on both Luther and Calvin. To do otherwise would have 
seemed to them to derogate from the omnipotence and 
omniscience of God. Yet on the other side, from St. Thomas 
Aquinas onwards, more theologians have been believers in 
freedom of the will, and indeed have based on it the whole 
conception of salvation. At the anti-Pelagian Synod of 
Orange, in 529, the Catholic Church effected an interesting 
compromise to which most other Christian Churches have 
adhered. Denying predestination as a heresy, they asserted 
that man's innate freedom of will had been so restricted as a 
result of Adam's Fall that it needs the direct intervention of 
God to enable it to function in the desired direction. 

It would be hard to maintain that these religious beliefs, 
vehemently attached to one side or the other, made any 
perceptible difference to the life of action. Those who held 
to free will showed no more tendency to licence or lack of 
responsibility than their opponents, nor did the determin- 
ism of the latter degenerate into fatalism and deprive their 
votaries of initiative. One could scarcely imagine more 
active, vehement and enterprising persons than Calvin and 
John Knox, the arch-priests of predestination. 

Similarly with the philosopher. No one could say that 
Spinoza, Leibnitz, David Hume and John Stuart Mill, con- 
vinced determinists, led a restricted life or strove less than 
other people to perfect their character and ethical be- 

All this is very odd. Here we have a question on the 
answer to which the most momentous and vital matters 
depend, and which one would suppose must affect pro- 
foundly the whole outlook of a man. And yet we cannot 
detect any difference it makes to his life or conduct accord- 
ing as he adheres to one answer or to its very opposite. 
Surely this remarkable fact calls for much consideration. 

Another interesting observation is that man's belief in 
free will seems to be stronger in proportion to the unim- 



portance of the decision. Everyone is convinced that he is 
free to choose whether to stand or to sit at a given moment, 
to cross his right leg over his left or vice versa "as he 
wishes". With vital decisions, on the other hand, it is 
characteristic that he feels irresistibly impelled towards one 
and one only, and that he really has no choice in the matter 
nor desires to have any. Luther's famous "Hier stehe ich. 
Ich kann nicht anders" at the turning point of his career is 
a classical example of this, and if one asked a man why he 
chose to risk his life at some critical juncture he would 
mostly reply: "I couldn't help it. I just had to," as would a 
lover when asked to explain why he fell in love with one 
particular person. 

Kant would seem to have got further than anyone else 
towards a solution of this great dilemma when he took the 
view that pure reason dictated a belief in complete deter- 
minism whereas what he called practical reason dictated an 
equally convinced belief in freedom of the will. His division 
between the two kinds of reason would nowadays be 
roughly correlated with the distinction between intellect 
and feeling, and it is now recognized that both of them play 
an unescapable part in deciding our beliefs. Moreover, the 
grounds he gave for recognizing the claims of "practical 
reason" namely because of the demands of the moral law 
accord with the importance we have to attribute to the 
moral sources of feeling. 

The question from which we started, concerning the 
psychological motives for one or other of these beliefs, has 
of course been raised before, chiefly, as one would expect, 
by determinists, since they hold there must be motives or 
"causes" preceding them. Spinoza, for example, expressed 
the opinion that man thinks he is free simply because he 
does not know the causes of his wishes, and Hume made the 
same point. Hume went further, however, in asserting that 
people believe in tree will (i) because of their objection to 



the idea of constraint, (2) their direct feeling of liberty of 
choice, and (3) religious influences. This is the beginning of 
a psychological inquiry. 

Psycho-analysis from its study of the unconscious mind 
can make the following contributions to the problem. In the 
first place it is in a position to reveal the apparently un- 
known causes of our wishes, the feature pointed out by 
Spinoza and Hume. Its investigations have shown that man 
is only imperfectly aware of his whole personality and that 
consciousness is but a selection of the total mentality. The 
source from which all our motives and wishes spring, trivial 
or serious, is the unconscious mind, and we are aware only 
of the end products of complex mental trains. By the free 
association technique one can over and again demonstrate 
that a choice felt by the individual to be a purely spon- 
taneous one on his part is in fact related to various past 
thoughts and interests ultimately of a very personal order. 
You may carry out this interesting experiment by follow- 
ing up the old play "Think of a name" or "think of a 
number", by then passively allowing its associations to 
enter your mind. The upshot of this work is the conclusion 
that ignorance of the causes of our choice is no longer a 
reason for believing that it is uncaused, or that our will is 
free to initiate any thought or decision without being 
influenced by previous experiences. 

The second contribution psycho-analysis can make is to 
point out that ratiocination has but a limited power outside 
consciousness. Unconscious attitudes, whether they are 
tantamount to belief or disbelief, are beyond its influence. 
A good example of this is the question of immortality. 
Many people are convinced, on what they would hold are 
rational grounds, that a human being is as perishable as any 
other animal and that after his death nothing remains of 
his personality except the memory in other people of the 
influence and activity he had exerted in his life. This, how- 



ever, has no effect on the unconscious, which is quite unable 
to apprehend the idea of personal extinction. Even in 
consciousness our ability to picture being dead is a very 
limited one despite any rational grounds to the contrary. 

The third contribution of psycho-analysis concerns the 
motives actuating the various beliefs about freedom of the 
will. There are deep sources for both sets of beliefs, and 
which of the two is accepted in consciousness largely de- 
pends on what interpretation the unconscious gives to the 
question, i.e., what it comes to mean to the unconscious. 

The sense of self-ness is the most typical attribute of what 
we call the ego, and it is commonly believed that this ego is 
a sharply defined unity, as it were a pin-point of conscious- 
ness in the universe. Investigations of the deeper layers of 
the mind, however, reveal that the ego is not only a com- 
plex structure, one which is even liable in certain morbid 
states to disintegrate into its elements, but is a product of 
many factors. It is a part only of the mind, one elaborated 
by degrees out of the primordial unconscious which Freud 
has recently termed the id. Furthermore, an important part 
of the ego, appropriately termed the super-ego, is set apart 
with certain defensive functions such as warning the ego 
against the dangers of being overpowered by irruptive im- 
pulses from the id] in favourable circumstances the super- 
ego becomes the conscience, and from the beginning it has a 
moral nature far harsher than any conscience. These con- 
siderations have, as will presently be seen, an important 
bearing on our question of motivation. 

When I remarked just now that all turns on the inter- 
pretation given by the unconscious, I meant to indicate that 
everything depends on the relation between the ego and the 
super-ego. When the latter is functioning successfully it 
reassures the ego that it need not fear the terrible dangers 
emanating from the repressed unconscious. What the person 
ought to do or is wise to do then becomes much the same as 



the wish to do it. There is little or no conflict between the 
sense of free will and the belief in determinism, and the 
person will show little interest in the problem. It is a type 
that suffers little from anxiety, because the strongly 
organized ego has confidence in its ability to hearken to a 
friendly warning super-ego and to defend itself without any 
difficulty from any danger. 

There are, however, other graver possibilities. If the ego 
is intimidated by the warnings of the super-ego and yet is 
unwilling to trust the defensive powers of the latter we have 
the type of person to whom "self-control" (including the 
belief in free will) becomes obsessive. Such people cannot 
relax, they are often afraid of "losing control" and going 
mad, they are afraid of hypnotism or of being deprived of 
their conscious control through the administration of an 
anaesthetic, and are apt to suffer from insomnia, due to the 
fear of "letting go". An opposite type to this nevertheless 
arrives at the same belief in free will. It is one where the 
harshness of the super-ego is so great as to lead to a defiant 
rebellion on the part of the ego, which so to speak insists on 
having its own way and being its own master. They are the 
people Hume had in mind when he spoke of the objection to 
compulsion and loss of freedom (confounded with loss of 
political or social liberty) which the concept of determinism 
seems to imply. In yet another type unconscious fear may 
make the person feel safer at the idea of determinism. The 
notion of a break in the uniformity of natural law brings a 
dread of chaos. If they are religious people they may feel it 
impious, as the Calvinists do, to deny the omnipotence and 
omniscience of God by daring to assert any claim to indi- 
vidual initiative independently of Him. "God's will be 
done" is a familiar phrase of resigned submission. 

I have been dealing here, in an extremely condensed way, 
with some advanced and only recently developed psycho- 
logical conceptions, all relating to the unconscious mind 

185 N 


which is very unfamiliar territory. The interplay between 
the different parts of the mind is much more complex than I 
have just sketched, so that the final influence of the various 
conflicts on the conscious attitude towards the problem of 
free will is hard to predict without knowing something of the 
relative strength of the forces concerned. But the main con- 
sideration I have tried to convey is that the matter of 
internal security ', which is striven for by devious routes, is 
probably the key to extreme attitudes concerning free will 
and determinism. There are of course philosophical and 
rational grounds for believing in one or the other of these, 
but I am persuaded that even philosophers may be influ- 
enced by unconscious motives the nature of which I have 
endeavoured to indicate. 

The concept of "causality" is at present undergoing im- 
portant modifications, and the use of it will probably be 
replaced by the simpler one of "correlation". Psychological 
science, any more than any other, cannot do without the 
latter concept, and in its postulate of orderly relationship 
subsisting between phenomena must therefore be as deter- 
ministic as the rest of science. The irruptions of spon- 
taneous and unrelated phenomena supposedly emanating 
from "free will" would make nonsense of its scientific pre- 
tensions, and I have indicated that investigation of the 
unconscious has made it unnecessary to postulate any such 
unrelatedness. It has, however, the special feature in this 
connection that it has to take into account the phenomenon 
of a belief in this unrelated spontaneity, i.e., free will. 
Psycho-analysis of the unconscious shows that, whatever 
the conscious attitude towards the matter may be, there 
exist in the deeper layers of the mind the strongest, and 
probably ineradicable, motives creating what may be called 
the "sense of free will", closely connected with the sense of 
personality itself and retained so long as this is retained, 
i.e., until insanity, delirium or death dissolve it. That from 

1 86 


the point of view of scientific objectivity this belief is 
illusory is irrelevant to the fact of its existence, and in a 
way to the necessity of its existence. 

We come back therefore to Kant's two forms of truth, to 
his "critical reason" and "practical reason", but we see, 
much better than he had the opportunity of doing, a chance 
of reconciliation between the two in place of regarding them 
as an insoluble antinomy. When there is internal harmony 
in the mind the sense of free will becomes fused with the 
sense of inevitability, as with Luther's pronouncement 
which I mentioned earlier. This internal harmony may be 
expressed in religious terms, such as Spinoza's statement 
that the highest liberty consists in the service of God. Or it 
may be expressed in secular terms as when Leibnitz, not a 
determinist like Spinoza, proclaimed that freedom meant 
self-realization. Which of these two you prefer will depend 
again on other things. 


More recently some arguments derived from atomic 
physics have given a fresh turn to this ancient controversy 
and have illustrated once again how in the endeavour to 
sustain belief in the objectivity of free will support is 
sought in every possible direction. Starting from Planck's 
quantum theory and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle 
some physicists, notably Sir Arthur Eddington and in more 
ambiguous ways Sir James Jeans, hold that determinism is 
absent on the atomic plane and apparently present on the 
macrocosmic one only because of the effect of statistical 
averages. The basis of this conclusion would seem to be the 
awkward fact no doubt inherent in the peculiar conditions 
of experimentation that while the speed of an electron can 
be measured and its position in space determined it is im- 
possible to make both these observations simultaneously. 
The authors rather leap from this to the conclusion that the 


movement of an individual atom is quite unrelated to any 
other event, i.e., that it is unconditional. Then the further 
step is taken to assert that since the material world is not 
deterministic therefore the mind need not be, so we have 
the right to claim free will for it. Eddington writes : "A com- 
plete determinism of the material universe cannot be 
divorced from determinism of the mind. . . . Conversely if 
we wish (sic) to emancipate mind we must to some extent 
emancipate the material world also." 

The arguments transcend the sphere of psychology, which 
was the theme of my address, but I note that Susan Steb- 
bing in a book devoted to the subject has published a 
trenchant criticism, one widely acknowledged to be valid, 
of the philosophical principles and dialectics employed by 
the group of physicists in question. Furthermore I note that 
Planck himself, in spite of his believing in free will on moral 
grounds, has with superb integrity resisted the temptation 
to join them in exploiting shall one say? the facts of 
atomic physics, and that Einstein agrees with him in rang- 
ing himself against the conclusion that determinism does 
not hold good in external nature. 

The most comprehensive and profound study of this 
modern aspect of the problem is to be found in E. Cassirer's 
DeUrminismus und Indeterminismus in der modernen 
Physik, 1937. He writes: "From the significance of freedom 
as a mere possibility limited by natural laws there is no 
avenue to that 'reality' of volition and freedom of decision 
with which ethics is concerned. To mistake the 'choice' 
(Auswabl) which an electron has between different quantum 
orbits with a 'choice' (Wahl) in the ethical sense of this 
word would signify becoming the victim of a purely 
linguistic equivocality. To speak of an ethical 'choice' 
there must be not only different possibilities but also a con- 
scious distinction between them and furthermore a con- 
scious decision about them. To attribute such acts to an 



electron would be a relapse into a gross type of anthro- 
pomorphism." He sums up: "It is of no avail whether 
causality in nature is regarded in the form of rigorous 
'dynamical' laws or of merely statistical laws. ... In neither 
case does there remain open any access to that sphere of 
'freedom' which is claimed by ethics." 



I N spite of the excellent work done by the pioneers in this 
field some quarter of a century ago I need only mention 
the names of Coe, Davenport, Flournoy, Frazer, Hoffding, 
King, Starbuck, and, above all, Leuba the claim they 
advanced that religious phenomena can be brought within 
the orbit of science has not yet been generally, or even 
widely, conceded. It is fully intelligible that we should meet 
here the last ditch of the anti-evolutionary. The belief in a 
miraculous special creation, which has been given up by all 
modern thinkers in respect of man's body and is gradually 
being renounced in respect of the greater part of his mind, is 
tenaciously clung to when the question of his religious 
activities is raised. The crudest form that this takes is the 
view that man's soul, comprising his "religious faculty", is 
divinely implanted as such, so that it is both impious and 
fruitless to inquire into its origin: this naturally goes to- 
gether with the idea that it is peculiar to man and not to be 
correlated with any manifestations such as fear, respect and 
awe which we may find in other animals. The alternative 
view, indicated by the very existence of this symposium, is 
the genetic one that religious manifestations, like all other 
human ones, must have developed out of simpler, and ultim- 
ately non-religious, forms of mental life. The arguments 
that have been adduced in support of this standpoint, and 
of the justification for the psychological study of religion, 

1 Read before the International Congress of Psychology at Groningen, 
7th September, 1926. Published in the British Journal of Medical Psychology, 
Vol. VI. 



particularly those advanced by Coe and Leuba, appear to 
me so cogent that I shall waste no words in dwelling on them 
here. It only remains to make the obvious comment that 
even for those who adopt the genetic standpoint it is still 
possible to maintain philosophically that the evolution of 
religion is merely one of the mysterious ways, like the other 
evolutionary ones, which the Creator has employed in order 
to bring about an appreciation and worship of His great- 
ness. The problem of the existence or non-existence of such 
a Creator is not open to direct investigation as such, and 
will always be decided solely by the operation of internal 
mental processes, on the nature of which, however, much 
light can now be thrown. 

In the attempt to get as near as we can to the meaning of 
religion we are met at the outset by a very imperfect agree- 
ment about what is to be included under the term. Any 
psychological theory of religion, therefore, is open to the 
criticism that it does not comprehend this or that feature 
which is alleged to be essential. Some criticisms of this kind 
are merely factious and prove nothing more than that the 
theory in question is incomplete, which the author himself 
would in most cases admit : to seek to define religion exactly 
would be, like defining sexuality, a presumptuous under- 
taking in the present state of our knowledge and we must 
be content with the fact that after all we have a very good 
general idea of what is meant by the word. There is a wide 
agreement that any comprehensive theory must take into 
account at least the following aspects of the problem: 
(i) Other-worldliness, the relation to the supernatural. This 
has been described as "the consciousness of our practical 
relation to an invisible spiritual order". The spiritual order 
is invested with the attributes of power and sacredness. The 
emotional attitudes towards it vary, those of dependence, 
fear, love and reverence being the most characteristic ; the 
first-named is perhaps the most constant. Propitiation is 



common, though not invariable. (2) The effort to cope with 
the various problems surrounding death, both emotionally 
and intellectually. (3) The pursuit and conservation of 
values, especially those felt to be the highest and most 
permanent. (4) A constant association with the ideals of 
ethics and morality. Religion is rarely found apart from 
these ideals, though they are often found, especially among 
civilized peoples, independently of religion. (5) The connec- 
tion between religion and the sense of inadequacy in coping 
with the difficulties of life, whether these difficulties be 
external or, more characteristically, internal ones such as 
the conviction of sin and guilt. 

Each of these features has been singled out at various 
times as constituting the central kernel of religion. Thus, 
to mention but a few, we have Statius' famous "primus in 
orbe Deos fecit timor"; Herbert Spencer's attempt to trace 
the beginning of religion to the necessity of propitiating 
dead ancestors and his other view of it as an hypothesis to 
render the universe comprehensible; the stress laid on 
sacredness by Durckheim; Feuerbach's reduction of religion 
to the "instinct for happiness"; Frazer's definition of 
religion as "a propitiation and conciliation of powers 
superior to man" ; Hoffding's conception of it as a conserva- 
tion of values, and so on. Leuba sees in this endless attempt 
to find a unitary explanation of religion the chief obstacle to 
constructing a proper psychology of it, and he has come to 
the important conclusion that the various manifestations 
and aspects of religion must have been derived from diff- 
erent, and presumably disparate, sources. Personally I 
regard this conclusion as an unnecessary counsel of despair, 
though we might learn from it the wisdom of prefacing any 
attempt at generalization by a more patient analysis of the 
individual phenomena. 

The attempt to translate religious manifestations into 
terms of the primary emotions and instincts has not met 



with much better success, probably because the psychology 
of the instinctual life is itself so insecurely founded. Fear 
has been made to play a central part by many writers, but 
evidences of it are present in only certain groups of religious 
phenomena, being apparently quite absent in others. Irving 
King and others have laid stress on the cultural and social 
sources of religion, and Trotter's hint of the connection 
between it and the herd instinct should also be mentioned. 
The so-called instincts of self-assertiveness and self- 
submission evidently play a part in some manifestations. 
The connection between religion and sexuality has been 
warmly debated, but the discussions of it have been largely 
vitiated by the tendency to take up extreme positions. 
Leuba, for instance, in his standard text-book on the 
subject, makes no reference to the connection, while William 
James positively denies that any exists. The evidence for 
the connection, however, is too unequivocal to be ignored 
and is indeed far 'more extensive than is generally known. 
But most advocates of the supposed erotogenesis of religion 
have stated their views in much too simplistic terms to 
carry conviction. 

The last discussion of the psychology of religion held 
before this Congress, at the Sixth Meeting that was held at 
Geneva in 1909, represented the high- water mark of our 
knowledge at that time, and perhaps the furthest point to 
which academic psychology was able to take us. Since then, 
however, a revolution in our knowledge has taken place, one 
which demands attention in considering the problems of 
religion. I refer to the increasing realization, primarily due 
to the writings of Freud and his school, of the enormous 
importance of the unconscious mental life. The view taken 
by this school, and supported by a formidable mass of 
evidence, is that the primordial and essential part of our 
mental life is unconscious, whereas consciousness, the part 
which was formerly taken for the whole, is seen to con- 



stitute only a carefully selected portion of this whole. What 
was previously regarded as primary elements in our con- 
sciousness we now know to be the highly elaborated end- 
products of a complicated chain of imperceptible (uncon- 
scious) mental processes. Since religious manifestations give 
every sign of proceeding from the very depths of the 
personality it would not be surprising if the patient elucida- 
tion of the processes that go on in these depths, their nature, 
strength and interaction, were to throw light on the 
mysteries of religion. Freud himself and several of his 
followers, including Reik, Roheim, Pfister, Lowenstein, 
Kinkel, Levy, Dukes, the present writer and others, have 
published a number of detailed studies on various aspects 
of religion. Up to the present, however, there has been no 
comprehensive presentation of the bearing of these studies 
on the psychology of religion as a whole, nor can such a task 
be attempted in the short space at my disposal here. 
Nevertheless some indication must be offered of the main 
principles along which such a presentation would proceed. 
Psycho-analysis has called attention to a region which 
should logically be investigated before recourse is had to 
the more obscure and remote region of the inherited 
instincts. I refer to the infantile mind, which is continued 
in later life as the unconscious mind and constitutes the 
essence of the latter. Both the content and the mode of 
functioning of the infantile mind differ widely from those 
of the adult conscious one and the greater part of it becomes 
buried in later life, "repressed" and inaccessible to con- 
sciousness, as the result of powerful forces acting in this 
direction. There is the strongest possible tendency to 
depreciate the significance of infantile mental processes, 
which are felt to be merely "childish", so that any attempt 
to correlate them with important adult ones meets with 
instinctive incredulity. To take a simple illustration of this. 
If one were to correlate the abject fear of supernatural 



agencies that has been experienced so many countless 
times, and the fear that can still be experienced of the 
awful wrath of God, with the fear that a child may feel 
for his father, no one can well appreciate the significance of 
this who has not had personal experience, through psycho- 
analysis of the unconscious, of how intense the child's dread 
of the father can be. 

In the past quarter of a century a vast experience has 
accumulated from psycho-analytic investigation of the 
religious life of individuals, and in addition, as was men- 
tioned above, a great number of works have been published 
containing psycho-analytic studies of various aspects of 
religious beliefs and other phenomena. The outstanding con- 
clusion that emerges from all this investigation is that the 
religious life represents a dramatization on a cosmic plane of 
the emotions^ fears and longings which arose in the child's 
relation to his parents. This is a sentence which must remain 
without much meaning for those who have not taken 
cognizance of the modern study of the unconscious mind, 
but it is pregnant for those who have. 

The five aspects of the problem of religion enumerated 
above may now be commented on in that order. 

(i) Relation to a supernatural spiritual order, character- 
istically to supernatural beings. The attributes of power 
and taboo connected with these, and the varying emotional 
attitudes, notably those of dependence, fear, love and 
reverence, are all direct reproductions of the child's attitude 
towards his parents. The child's sense of the absolute as felt 
in its original attitude towards his own importance is, when 
it becomes impaired by contact with reality, partly con- 
tinued as the anthropocentric view of the universe implicit 
in all religions and partly displaced, first on to the parents 
and then, when this also fails, on to divine beings; the 
earthly father is replaced by the Heavenly Father. The con- 
flicts with the parents that necessarily arise during the 



process of upbringing, the essence of which consists in the 
regulation of or interference with the infantile sexuality 
(or child's love life, if the phrase be preferred), are for the 
greater part unconscious even at the time. They lead to 
repressed death wishes against the parents, with a conse- 
quent fear of retaliation, and from this comes the familiar 
religious impulse to propitiate the spirits of dead ancestors 
or other spiritual beings. The accompanying love leads to 
the desire for forgiveness, reconciliation, help and succour. 

(2) All the emotional problems surrounding death arise, 
not from the philosophical contemplation of dead strangers, 
but from ambivalence towards the person's loved ones. 
Dread of death invariably proves clinically to be the expres- 
sion of repressed death wishes against loved objects. It is 
further found that the themes of death and castration (or 
the equivalent withdrawal of the loved object) are ex- 
tremely closely associated and that anxiety concerning 
indefinite survival of the personality constantly expresses 
the fear of a punitive impotence. 

(3) The primal self-love and self-importance of the child, 
which more nearly approaches the absolute than any other 
experience in life, is commonly displaced on to a selected 
portion of the mind called the super-ego, an ideal of what 
the ego longs to be as the result of its moral education. The 
sense of supreme values, of a rich "meaning" in life, which 
plays a cardinal part in all the higher religions, is a typical 
manifestation of this striving. It is, of course, related to the 
desire to be reconciled with God and to be approved of by 

(4) The constant association of religion with morality is 
another aspect of this same feature. 

(5) The sense of inadequacy in coping with life, Janet's 
"sentiment incompUtude", Freud's "inferiority complex", 
may appear in any aspect of life, physically, morally, 
intellectually, and so on. Psycho-analysis of the pheno- 



menon, however, reveals a unitary origin, namely in the 
sense of sin or guilt aroused in the child in his endeavour to 
make all his impulses conform with adult moral standards. 
It is thus psychologically comprehensible that all mani- 
festations of inadequacy, in whatever sphere, can be allayed 
by dealing with their origin by religious means; to be 
reconciled with the Father is the same thing as to obtain 
assistance from him. It is well known what a central part 
the conviction of sin plays in religion; without it, and the 
consequent necessity for salvation, the Christian religion, 
for instance, would be well-nigh emptied of meaning. 

In conclusion I would ask that the simplistic appearance 
of the foregoing propositions be not taken as a token of their 
nature. It is an inevitable result of the attempt to present 
in a few words an exceedingly complicated and novel body 
of doctrine. 




I PRESUME I owe the invitation to speak to you on this 
topic to the interest aroused by the current series of 
Broadcast talks on Science and Religion. 2 In looking 
through the list of speakers I was specially struck by one 
thing: there is no psychologist among them. Perhaps your 
invitation is the result of making the same observation. 
Theologians debate with anthropologists, biologists, and 
even physicists, but no one mentions the simple fact that 
after all religious beliefs and emotions are in themselves 
mental phenomena. Whether they are brought about by 
mundane or by supernatural agents they are in either case 
susceptible to study by those accustomed to investigate 
mental phenomena, i.e., psychologists. Moreover, many 
such studies have already been carried out, with very 
interesting results, as will be known by those who have 
access to the various periodicals entirely devoted to the 
subject or to the many books by such authors as William 
James, Starbuck, Leuba, etc. The first of these studies were 
on a purely descriptive plane and had no pretensions to 
offering any explanation of the facts observed. Even so, 
when it was shown that such familiar phenomena as sudden 
religious conversion could be positively correlated with 
matters like age, sex, surroundings, previous mental state 
of the subject, and so on, it could no longer be maintained 
that supernatural agencies were the only ones concerned. 

1 Read before the Lotus Club, Oxford University, 22nd November, 1930. 
1 The Listener, October-December, 1930. 



From such humble beginnings as this, however, religious 
psychology has in the last forty years made great strides 
and is now in a position to give some scientific answers to 
some of the most fundamental theological problems. 

I intend to confine myself here to only a part of this vast 
subject, namely to the contributions that psycho-analysis 
has made to our understanding the meaning of religions, 
and more particularly to that of the Christian one. The first 
of them was made in 1908 when Freud called attention to 
the psychological resemblances between religious rituals and 
the ceremonials of obsessional neurotics, the unconscious 
genesis of which he had recently unravelled. The great 
differences are of course evident enough, the social nature 
of the one as contrasted with the private individualism of 
the other, the sense of high value in the one case and of 
futile worthlessness in the other. Both are carried out with 
the same sense of conscientiousness and with both there is a 
dread of pangs of conscience if they are omitted. Both 
depend on a renunciation of primitive impulses, sexual or 
aggressive. Both are prepared to avoid a feared calamity. 
With religious rituals the calamity is evidently a punish- 
ment by God, either in this world or more certainly in the 
next. If they are carried out successfully then not only will 
God refrain from punishing or damning one eternally but 
may bless and love one. There is here a difference from the 
obsessional ritual, where the person can hope only for the 
former of these two benefits. His psychology is based on 
repressed hatred of his father, with a consequent fear 
of retaliatory punishment, and his rituals symbolize 
acts of appeasement or restitution only; love is beyond 

This comparison of the religious devotee with an obses- 
sional neurotic raises at once two important questions. 
What really is the dreaded calamity that has to be warded 
off by semi-magical means ? And what is the source of the 



disagreement with the Father or with God that demands 
such penance or reconciliation? The remarkable state of 
affairs with the obsessional neurotic is not to be accounted 
for by any current situation. The man may be in fact on 
excellent terms with his father, or he may even not have a 
father, yet the neurosis when its apparently unintelligible 
manifestations are analysed has the meaning I have just 
mentioned a conflict of emotions concerning the subject's 
attitude to his father, or rather his idea of a father. The key 
to the riddle lies in the words : the unconscious and infancy. 
The person has never emancipated himself from emotions 
he experienced in infancy, which we have all experienced in 
varying degrees of intensity, and which belong to the 
unconscious system of the mind quite remote from con- 

The conscious mind radiates over a thousand interests 
and activities, the mind of the young infant does not extend 
far from a few immediate concerns. Its emotions, before 
they have been more or less disciplined during growth, are 
of a passionate and uncontrolled intensity such as are 
seldom met with in later life except in the outbursts of 
insanity. They relate essentially to the parents, or whoever 
stands in loco parentis, and they are of the opposite kinds. 
On the one hand the baby, born without the experience of 
frustrated wishes and in consequence of this with a feeling 
of omnipotence, soon has to cope with numerous experi- 
ences of being thwarted and of being helpless in the face of 
them. Its only hope of countering this situation by getting 
its wishes gratified, and in that way recapturing some sense 
of power, is to appeal to the apparently omnipotent parent. 
The omnipotence is thus displaced and an attitude of love 
and awe developed towards the parent. This brings with it, 
however, the great disadvantage of dependence. All is well 
so long as its wishes and the parent's friendly response 
coincide, but the awful possibility remains of the latter 



being withdrawn and the situation of helplessness being re- 
established, this time without any hope left. The danger of 
this is related to the infant's own feelings of resentment, 
anger and hostility that are aroused whenever the parent's 
response to its needs is not immediate or positive, as must 
inevitably happen from time to time. Hostile feelings at that 
age are still in terms of the absolute: that is, they are 
equivalent to the instant destruction of the hated object, 
and this in turn means the disappearance of the person on 
which the infant is so dependent. Later on the word 
"disappearance" becomes softened into "turning away 
from" or "disapproval" on the parent's part, but that is in 
itself bad enough. The theme I have just touched on is far 
more complex in fact I have for instance not yet men- 
tioned the important part played by sexual sensations and 
sex jealousy but I would maintain that no psychology of 
religion is possible without taking into serious account the 
psychological relation of infant to parent. 

We cannot get away from the simple facts that God is 
commonly called God the Father; that His official repre- 
sentatives on earth bear the same title, Pope, Padre, Father, 
and so on; that, so we are told, we are all "Children of 
God" ; and thus His benevolence, His mercy and loving care 
for each of us is just what we all craved for from our own 
parent and mostly experienced at least to begin with. 
When our own parents' limitations and imperfections begin 
to become evident, it is no wonder that those who are un- 
able to sustain life without help and who are still dependent 
on an outside source, should seek for an all-powerful and 
all-loving Person who should stand above all the vexations 
of this earth and who should never fail one. Never, that is 
to say, as long as one's relation to Him was satisfactory, 
one of dutiful love and obedience. 

This proviso is all important and indeed contains the key 
to any understanding of religion. For why should one's 

201 O 


relation to one's Father, whether earthly or heavenly, not 
be satisfactory ? Much of the story of mankind lies in the 
answer to that question: the conflict of the generations, the 
fight between the new and the old, the struggle between 
subordinate and superior, between subject and ruler, and 
between the unsuccessful and the successful in life. Unfor- 
tunately love and friendliness do not dominate our life, 
certainly not exclusively. There are also rebellious and 
aggressive tendencies which in the depth of the mind are 
more poisonous in their hostility than as a rule we allow 
ourselves to become aware of. They are in themselves uncon- 
sciously felt to be dangerous, both to oneself and to other 
people, and we have developed a "bad conscience" about 
them in the hope of thus checking their activity. This is 
especially so, and for obvious reasons, when they are ex- 
perienced vis-d-vis those whom we most love and on whom 
we are also dependent in the first place our parents. The 
bad conscience, which can also be described as a sense of 
moral unworthiness, leads to all sorts of feelings of inferi- 
ority from which few people are altogether exempt. We 
come here to the origin of "sin", which may be defined 
theologically as disobedience to God's will. 

Failure to remedy the discord between oneself and God is 
naturally believed to entail terrible consequences. Here the 
sadistic phantasies of the infant's unconscious can obtain 
free play; the horrors and eternal tortures of hell know no 
limits. For obvious reasons the wrath of God is thought 
more likely to find expression in the after life than in this 
one, so that dread of death, or what Hamlet more accurately 
calls "the dread of something after death", has always been 
a matter of the greatest concern to mankind. In the broad- 
cast symposium Professor Malinowski, the anthropologist, 
described the essence of religion in rather intellectualistic 
terms as preoccupation with the problem of survival after 
death and the desire to ascertain the Divine Purpose in the 



universe. This is the burning question, for both are in 
essence one; what one really wants to know about the 
Divine Purpose is its intention towards oneself ', how to dis- 
cover the way to be well treated in the next world. Then 
Professor Huxley, the biologist, strikes a deeper note in 
finding the attitude of awe to be the essence of religion. 
From this is derived on the one hand love of God, with the 
desire to know His will and the sense of mystery that accom- 
panies this search, and on the other hand fear, with the 
feeling of dependence on unknown powers and the need to 
attain some degree of harmony with them. Canon Streeter 
holds the distinction between religion and science to be that 
the former is concerned with moral values and the desire to 
ascertain God's conception of them again the Divine Pur- 
pose in slightly different terms. The study of comparative 
religion has shown such variety in the results of this search 
that he suspects man himself has had a considerable share in 
establishing moral ideals, which brings us back to the 
psychological problem of the origin of man's ideals and 
psychology is after all a branch of science. 

The comparison between religion and the obsessional 
neurosis, which must have seemed absurdly far-fetched at 
first sight, is thus becoming more significant. Both emanate 
from the feeling of moral badness due to hostility against 
the Father, in the one case the earthly one, in the other 
the heavenly one; and both are desperately concerned with 
the urgent need of coming to terms with him. The obses* 
sional neurotic has the lowlier aim of the two. His com- 
plicated ritualistic restitutions have merely the aim, like 
that of those contemplated by Johannes Agricola as striving 

... to win 

If not love like God's love for me, 
At least to keep his anger in. 



Other forms of neurosis, e.g., hysteria, have more positive 
aims, the achievement not only of forgiveness but also of 
love, and of course this is the ultimate goal of religious 

There are those who do not feel much need of this salva- 
tion, whether because of their good conscience or because 
they have somehow come to terms with their inner nature. 
Such people ask wonderingly "what are we to be saved 
from ?" and are still more puzzled on being told that they 
are in danger of the wrath of God which will express itself 
in the next world in terms of torture, mutilation and 
damnation. What sin can be commensurate with such 
bloodthirsty treatment ? As I have already mentioned, the 
tortures and damnation emanate from the infant's lively 
and unrestrained sadistic phantasies and are of the same 
nature as his own hostile wishes against his father for which 
the punishments are (projected) retaliations. Why is all this 
so savage ? Because the essential sin against the father (or 
mother according to the sex) originates in the most in- 
timate region of the personality in the sexual instinct. 
The boy's jealous wish to castrate or kill his rival and so 
obtain possession of his mother, with unrestricted access to 
her body, has been given the name of CEdipus complex after 
the unfortunate hero (mythologically derived from the son 
of the Earth-Mother goddess, Demeter) who suffered so 
grievously after committing both these sinful acts. There are 
of course innumerable ways of expressing these wishes, 
various forms of rebellion against authority or the moral 
code or of desecration of the holy places (altar, etc.) sacred 
to God. But if we bear constantly in mind this profound 
(Edipus origin of the sense of sin we shall be in a better 
position to understand the various ways in which mankind 
has sought to evade its dreaded consequences, i.e., to be 

The mind has only a very limited capacity for apprehend- 



ing the idea of personal death in its literal meaning of 
extinction and bodily disintegration. In its deeper layers 
the idea of consciousness being abrogated, as for instance 
during sleep or death, always becomes equated with return 
to the ante-conscious period of existence, to pre-natal life, 
from which waking life may again arise. These womb 
phantasies may be either agreeable or horrifying, according 
to the associations, innocent or guilty, that have been made 
with the idea of the mother's genitals. They are often pro- 
jected on a cosmic scale to the picture of the next world, 
and they then give us when we awake from the sleep of 
death the image of heaven or hell accordingly. 

Man seems always to have known that, broadly speaking, 
there are only two ways of achieving salvation and of thus 
assuring that one's after-life will be one of bliss and not 
torment. They are via mother-love and father-love respec- 
tively. The former is doubtless the more attractive, but the 
latter appears to be the more efficacious. Which is chosen 
probably depends on the type of civilization present, 
whether light or serious minded, and on whether its pre- 
dominant note is matriarchal or patriarchal. In the Near 
East, on the confines of Europe and Asia, a number of 
religions developed in which the Great Mother played a 
central part, and later on in Rome they competed for a time 
very seriously with early Christianity. The typical version 
of the story they incorporated was that of the Dying God, 
the God who fell a victim to malign influences, but whose 
body was always found and resuscitated by the Great 
Mother. Thus the priests of Cybele, often self-castrated, 
would hold a recurrent festival in which on the third day 
Attis, her son, would again be brought to life through the 
ministrations and intercession of his mother. This gave the 
believers the assurance that they would have the same fate, 
and the blood of the frenzied priests was held in Roman 
days to be more potent to save than the blood of the Lamb 



adored by Christians. Isis of Egypt displayed a similar 
beneficence to Serapis-Osiris, periodically restoring him to 
life. Many features of her religion are reminiscent of the 
Christian ritualism. There was holy water, there were ton- 
sured priests (now only symbolically castrated), and the 
Goddess herself was known as the "Mother of Tenderness" 
and the "Mother of Sorrows" (Mater Dolorosa!). The 
believers achieved the assurance of a happy immortality 
through identifying themselves with the risen Osiris. 

At the other extreme from this were the patriarchal and 
monotheistic Jews who repudiated all commerce with god- 
desses and sought to come to terms directly with God. By 
entering into "covenants" with Him, and obeying His 
commandments, they hoped if not for tender love, at least 
for a benevolent attitude on His part. While Catholicism 
appears to represent a compromise between the two modes 
of salvation intercession by the Madonna plays a very 
important part in it Protestantism has reverted to the 
more patriarchal solution. 

There is, however, between the two already mentioned a 
third possibility, one in which the Dying God is not simply 
a passive agent, being resuscitated by a powerful and tender 
Mother-Goddess, but takes an important active part him- 
self in the process of salvation. There were adumbrations of 
this idea in various Eastern religions, but it was central in 
the two that ran such a close race for acceptance in Rome, 
Mithraism and Christianity. With the former of these, 
characteristically the religion of soldiers, the young Son- 
God resolutely opposes the father and becomes the Master 
of his own fate. Early in his career he struggled with the 
Sun and forced him to do him homage. In the central 
ceremony of the Mithraic religion he faces a bull, a typical 
father-symbol here representing the Persian deity Ahura- 
Mazda and slays him. It is significant that he is repre- 
sented as doing this unwillingly, averting his gaze as he 



deals the fatal blow with his knife as if to indicate some 
regret for the parricidal deed. After accomplishing it he 
ascended to heaven, and doubtless ruled there, whence he 
succours those who believe in his heroic powers. There was 
also a Eucharist in Mithraism. The fact, however, that 
women were excluded from Mithraic ceremonies seems to 
have been fatal to the future prospects of the religion when 
it had to compete with the more tender and appealing 
Christian one. 

With Jesus, another son of God, we meet with an almost 
exactly opposite solution. So far from defying the Father, 
he laid all possible emphasis on submitting oneself to his 
will. If this be done whole-heartedly enough, as Jesus him- 
self taught by his example, then a state of reconciliation, or 
even At-One-Ment, with the Father could be attained. 
More than this, one would win his personal love and care. 
As with the other Eastern religions, this desirable goal was 
to be reached by following the example of the Son-God and 
identifying oneself with him as far as possible by "believ- 
ing" in him. It was also necessary to identify oneself with 
all fellow-believers, brethren and sisters in Christ. This 
identification re-establishes the loving harmony of the 
primal family situation and abolishes all the jealousy, 
rivalry and hostility latent in it. 

So far this is familiar ground, but Christianity is an 
extraordinarily rich and complex religion which has incor- 
porated many diverse elements from earlier ones. To this 
feature it probably owes much of its success. Some Chris- 
tians, but they are in the minority, are content with the 
Eastern form of salvation described earlier. One will be 
saved if one adopts the Saviour's attitude of submission to 
the Almighty Father and endeavours to follow his example 
in obeying the Divine precepts of ethical behaviour. Most 
Christians, however, consider that the road to salvation is 
harder than this. To begin with, it is necessary that the 



priestly representatives of God perform a ceremony that 
symbolizes re-birth; one has to be "born anew in Christ". 
In this relic of Mother salvation holy Water, the most 
typical accompaniment of birth symbolism, is of course 
essential. It is far from being the only relic of the kind in 
Christianity. Jesus's gentleness and tenderness, for in- 
stance, are among his most prominent features and accord- 
ing to our hymns surpass the devotion and tenderness of a 
mother to her child. 

Nevertheless the great question still arises whether the 
primordial sinfulness of mankind is not so facinorous as to 
be beyond the powers of an unaided mortal, even a regen- 
erate one, to redeem, and it is generally held that Divine 
assistance is needed. This grace from above, so Catholics 
teach, will co-operate with the believer's own efforts, 
although Calvinists hold it to be independent of such 
efforts the final state having been predestined long before 
the individual's birth, Grace is to be obtained partly by 
invoking by prayer the Almighty's mercy, but more effec- 
tively through the ceremony of the mass or holy com- 
munion. This must have meant originally, as indeed it still 
does in the Catholic Church, eating the flesh and blood of 
the Saviour, an incorporation which portrays the closest 
imaginable identification with him. In the Dionysian 
frenzies the worshippers used actually to tear and devour 
the raw flesh of an ox or goat who represented the god. 
This reinforced the Divine element in man, who had first 
been created by Zeus, the father of Dionysius, out of the 
Titans who had slain the Son-God, boiled his limbs, devoured 
them and had thus incorporated that element. 1 The method 
of identification here employed corresponds with infantile 
phantasies of devouring a parent and so acquiring strength, 
phantasies with which we are very familiar in psycho- 

1 For the historical precursors of the Mass see Preserved Smith, A Short 
History of Christian Theophagy, 1922. 



analytic work. It no doubt has an ancient history, going 
back to the savage custom of killing and eating one's 
parents when they get too old to work a primeval form 
of inheriting. Doubtless these pious customs have more 
sinister sources still in the cannibalistic tendencies of early 
man, now for the most part, though by no means entirely, 

Jesus functioned as a Saviour in yet another way. Those 
believing in him may assuage God's wrath at their sins, and 
even win His love, not only by folio wing His son's submissive 
attitude towards Him and by a mystical union with Him. 
For Jesus also performed the tremendous deed of taking of 
himself the sins of mankind and by a vicarious sacrifice 
propitiated God his Father through in that way expiating 
those sins a deed which naturally evokes profound grati- 
tude and adoration from those who might otherwise be 
damned. We cannot here enter into the ethics of those who 
thus divest themselves of moral responsibility, but it is of 
interest to recollect both that the scheme of the scapegoat- 
god is itself an ancient one and also that to take the blame 
for others is a laudable tendency which is to be met with 
even in childhood, as is the less desirable, and far more 
frequent, one of ascribing the blame to others. 

In most Eastern religions the Godhead consists of a 
Trinity Father, Mother and Son which appropriately 
reproduces the family situation where all the conflicts are 
born that religion sets out to alleviate or remedy. For 
centuries the Jews, with their pronounced and patriarchal 
monotheistic tendencies, strove, with varying success, to 
abolish Mother-worship, and it is doubtless because of its 
Jewish component that it plays only a veiled part in Chris- 
tianity. So, although the idea of the Trinity is maintained, 
the third member of it has an ambiguously nebulous char- 
acter, in spite of a probable derivation from the Spirit that 
moved upon the face of the waters in the beginning of the 



world and who must originally have been a brooding 
Mother. In the Spirit's relationship to the Virgin Mary he 
unmistakably performs the fertilizing functions of the 
Father, and yet the. comfort and tenderness the grace of 
the Holy Spirit brings to believers has plainly a maternal 

Ever since Christianity achieved its dominating position 
in Europe it has contained two opposed trends over the part 
to be played by the feminine element in it. On the one hand 
the North of Europe has reverted on the whole to the 
Hebrew tradition of patriarchalism with its subordination 
of that element. There are even Protestant circles where the 
mention of the Virgin Mary is almost anathema, and the 
general attitude is to regard her as a purely passive agent 
who was rather unfortunately necessary for the purpose of 
introducing Jesus to a mundane existence. To denigrate the 
mother is one of the most effective ways of denying the 
incestuous wishes that lie behind the conflict with the 
father, the real sin against him. On the other hand, in 
Southern countries, and notably in the Catholic Church, the 
status of the Virgin Mary has steadily risen and the 
primordial Trinity is not far from being re-established. The 
devotion felt for the tenderness of her personality, and her 
powers of intercession to procure salvation, do not fall far 
short of the attributes of the original Mother Goddess. Her 
virginity when bearing Jesus, however, is not so much a 
tribute to her purity as a derivation from the son's (Edipus 
complex. The common infantile phantasy of one's mother 
being virginal signifies a repudiation of any part played by 
the father in one's birth the wish to be independent of 
him and the jealous distaste felt at the idea of sexual inter- 
course between the parents. At the time of Jesus's birth 
such phantasies could be generally accepted in adult life; 
most gods, heroes, and great men were accorded the privi- 
lege of virgin birth. Even in the last century the Catholic 



Church could proclaim that the Virgin Mary herself had 
also been born parthogenetically, emphasizing both her 
purity and her remoteness from male activities. 

We have been concerned here only with the beliefs of 
Christianity, not with the important part it has played in 
history. Nor has it been possible to consider the remarkable 
ethical and spiritual ideals it has inculcated. As to the 
beliefs themselves psycho-analytic investigation of the un- 
conscious mental life reveals that they correspond closely 
with the phantasies of infantile life, mainly unconscious 
ones, concerning the sexual life of one's parents and the 
conflicts this gives rise to. The Christian story, an elaborate 
attempt to deal on a cosmic plane with these universal con- 
flicts, can be fully accounted for on human grounds alone 
without the necessity of invoking supernatural interven- 
tion. Whether, nevertheless, such intervention took place as 
well must remain a matter of opinion, but the story itself 
is no proof of it. 




To ask why we keep Christmas is to ask a good question, 
i.e., one which one does not usually ask because of taking 
something for granted. Yet a moment's reflection will show 
that there is much worth asking in the question. To begin 
with, we might wonder why Christmas is the only one of 
the Christian religious festivals that makes any appeal to 
people who are not Christians. If someone becomes a sceptic 
or atheist he is apt to lose interest in the important Christian 
dates; he is likely to forget what ideas are commemorated 
by the words Epiphany, Whitsun, Advent or Palm Sunday; 
Eastertide loses its emotional significance and becomes 
merely a Spring holiday. But Christmas commonly retains 
as much meaning as ever. And the same is often true of 
people with other religions who live in contact with Chris- 
tians. I remember when crossing to America a couple of 
years ago in December finding that nearly half of the 
passengers were American Jews rushing through in order to 
be "home for Christmas" ; and no doubt the same observa- 
tion could be made in any other year. There must therefore 
be something in the idea of Christmas that appeals to far 
more than interest in the date, or even the fact, of Christ's 

Perhaps we ought to begin further back in our inquiry 
and raise the question of why mankind keeps festivals at all 
on particular dates. It was Sir Isaac Newton, in 1730, who 

1 Expanded from an article written by request, in October 1931, in answer 
to the question: "Why do we keep Christmas?" for an American magazine, 
the name of which I forget perhaps because it did not publish the article ! 



*st drew attention to the astronomical associations of 
tiristmas and other festivals. Many years ago General 
urlong, the distinguished anthropologist, in his famous 
ivers of Life, took the trouble to collect the dates of 
stivals in all parts of the world and to construct a curve 
dicating the times of year in which they most often 
xurred. The curve revealed the unmistakable fact that by 
r the greatest number of festivals was held at one or other 
' the four cardinal points in the earth's journey round the 
in. The most favoured times are those of the summer and 
inter solstice, towards the end of June and December 
ispectively, when the sun begins to wane or wax, when the 
ays begin to shorten or lengthen. The times of year next 
. favour are those of the spring or autumn equinox, 
rwards the end of March or of September. There can be 
[tie doubt that man has always tended, sometimes even 
msciously so, to associate his aspirations and emotions 
ith these fundamental changes relating to the source of all 
:e, the sun. It is well known how extensively the idea of the 
in has permeated the religions of the world, He being the 
.ost visible and striking emblem of both the life-giving and 
le life-destroying forces of the universe. 

We can further divide the innumerable religious festivals 
: the world into two broad groups, happy and unhappy 
les or to speak more accurately into cheerful and 
>lemn ones. There are festivals of celebration, of rejoicing; 
icre are occasions of sheer merriment and they have at 
mes passed over into bacchanalian orgies. Christmas plainly 
slongs to this group. On the other hand there are festivals 
hich mark man's periodic need to search his heart, to 
take a serious review of his position in the Universe or to 
uestion his purpose in life and take a strict account with 
imself. The former group indicate moods of easy con- 
:ience, the latter of uneasy conscience. 

To get back to the particular festival of Christmas. Before 



trying to ascertain what it stands for it is necessary to know 
something of its historical background. Literally, of course, 
it signifies the date of Christ's birthday. But actually we 
have no knowledge of what time of the year that fell on, 
and even the year itself is uncertain, so there must have 
been some other reason for choosing a particular day on 
which to celebrate it. In spite of hints in the New Testament 
that the birth took place at the beginning of the Jewish 
New Year, i.e., at about the time of the autumn equinox, 
there was in early Christian times a number of sects who 
proclaimed the spring equinox as the most suitable date. 
Most Christians, however, seem at first to have regarded 
the matter of His physical birth as too mundane or even 
desecrating a thought to dwell on; in A.D. 245, for instance, 
Origen declared it to be a sin even to think of celebrating 
the birthday of Christ "as if he were a King Pharaoh". They 
confined their attention to the date when the Holy Spirit 
took possession of Him; that was His real Divine birth. 
This moment they regarded as the occasion of His baptism, 
and to commemorate it they chose the date of 6th January, 
now called Epiphany. We do not know why they chose that 
date, but it was one when many festivals were held in the 
Ancient World probably on astronomical grounds, it 
being the first day on which the morning hours begin to 
lengthen. Epiphany and Baptism were for many centuries 
closely associated. By the fourth century the date of 
6th January was universally accepted in the Eastern World 
as the time to celebrate the birth of Christ, whether the 
human or the divine one, and, in the oldest Christian 
nation, (the Armenian), that is still the date adhered to. 

The theological controversies on the nature of Christ 
decided, however, that His divinity began at birth, so that 
attention was directed there. Discarding some earlier 
forgeries we can say that the first authentic date when 
Christmas Day was recorded in connection with the physical 



birth of Christ was A.D. 354. The matter seems to have been 
settled in A.D. 329 at a Council known by the name of 
Dionysius the little. In A.D. 400 an Imperial rescript ordered 
all theatres to be closed on that day (as well as at Epiphany 
and Easter), and in the course of the fifth century 25th 
December was firmly established in both East and West as 
the proper time to celebrate the anniversary of Christ. 

The reasons why the festival was established at all, and 
why that particular date was selected for the purpose, are 
both interesting and complex. A Syrian writer of the period 
(a Christian) is quoted for the following frank description 
of the motives. "The reason why the fathers transferred the 
celebration of 6th January to 25th December was this. 
It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same 
25th December the birthday of the Sun, at which they 
kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and 
festivities the Christians also took part. Accordingly when 
the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had 
a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved 
that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day." 
This political reason had of course to be denied by the 
Church, and both St. Augustine and the Pope Leo the Great 
found it necessary to rebuke Christians for still associating 
Christmas with the rebirth of the Sun. The fact remains 
that the date had already been established in innumerable 
pagan religions in just this sense. The 25th December was 
the birthday of many a Persian, Phoenician, Egyptian, and 
even Teutonic Sun-God. And the decision was in line with 
the general syncretizing activities of the Church in the early 
centuries when it was combating paganism: it cannot be 
coincidence that to quote a few examples the date of 
Easter coincides with the similar celebration of the Phry- 
gian god Attis (so popular in Rome) at the vernal equinox; 
that the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin in August 
has replaced the festival of the goddess Diana; the festival 



of St. George in April has replaced the ancient festival of 
the goddess Pales (one which the Romans later combined 
with that of Dea Roma) ; that the festival of St. John the 
Baptist in June has succeeded to the water festivals of 
Adonis in midsummer; that the feast of All Souls in Novem- 
ber continues the Keltic Feast of the Dead at that time 
(the beginning of their New Year), and so on. 

The matter was, however, a good deal more complex than 
the Syrian writer supposed, and can be elucidated only by 
considering the life-and-death struggle that Christianity 
was going through in the first three or four centuries in 
Rome. When faith in the orthodox Roman religion began to 
wane a number of competing Oriental ones crowded in to 
secure the succession, one of which was the Christian one. 
The general characteristic of them was the theme of a 
young Saviour-God who dies, either periodically or once for 
all, and thereby assures the eternal salvation (from the 
wrath of the Almighty) of those who believe in him. The 
series included Attis, Osiris, Adonis, Mithra, and Jesus 
himself. With all of them except the last two mentioned 
the belief in a powerful Mother Goddess, whose help secured 
the reassuring Resurrection of the dying God, played an 
important part. And it was just those two that were ahead 
in the struggle for general acceptance, the only two, 
incidentally, in which the young God died only once and 
afterwards reigned in heaven. There is little doubt that 
Mithraism, the religion especially of the army, was the 
most dangerous rival to Christianity, and the issue of the 
conflict between the two faiths appears for a time to have 
hung in the balance. There was much similarity in their 
beliefs, rituals and moral aspirations: 1 virginity, baptism, 
holy communion, purity, etc. But Mithraism had one 
serious weakness, on which the Christians seized and 

1 Kipling, in his The Church that was at Antioch (Limits and Renewals) 
equates in a vivid fashion the moral standards of the two religions. 



thereby ensured their ultimate success. Its attitude and 
beliefs were exclusively masculine. In its ritual the young 
God took up the challenge of the wrathful father, slew him 
and reigned in his stead, whereas in Christianity he submits 
in a more feminine fashion to the will of the Father and by 
sacrificing himself assuages His wrath. Consistently with 
this solution Mithraism made the conflict one entirely 
between two males; there was no feminine element, no 
goddess, in its theology, and women were excluded from its 
worship. Christianity here saw its chance and incorporated 
from the other religions the element that had been missing 
in both itself and Mithraism. Isis, Cybele, Rhea, Astarte 
and the rest began a new lease of life. Mary, who had been 
little but the necessary vehicle for the begetting of a son, 
was rapidly raised in status and from being the Mother of 
God was given in the fourth century the exalted title of 
Queen of Heaven. Her virginal conception, the usual belief 
then attaching to the birth of heroes and gods, had long 
been established. From then on the increasing Mariolatry 
demanded that more attention be paid, not only to her 
intercessory and saving powers, but especially to her 
maternal role. Mother and Infant, resembling Isis and 
Horus, began to play a more central part in Christianity, as 
it still does in Roman Catholicism, so that the circum- 
stances of the birth, including its date and the appropriate 
festival, assumed a cardinal importance. One might even 
wonder whether Christianity would have survived had it not 
instituted the festival of Christmas with all that it sig- 

In the crisis the Roman Christians would not have been 
long in doubt about choosing the actual date. It was indeed 
dictated by the situation. In the Julian calendar 25th De- 
cember was reckoned as the winter solstice and hence as 
the Nativity of the Sun when the day begins to lengthen 
and the power of the sun to increase. In Eastern countries 

217 p 


the pagan celebrants of the Nativity had retired to inner 
shrines or caves, from which at midnight they issued with 
cries of "The Virgin has brought forth! The light is wax- 
ing!" The Egyptians even represented the new-born sun by 
the image of an infant which on his birthday, the winter 
solstice, they exhibited to the worshippers. The Virgin who 
thus bore a son on that day was of course the great Oriental 
Mother-Goddess, who had many forms and names in 
different countries. Mithra after conquering the sun had 
become a Sun-God himself with the title of Solus Invictus, 
and his festival, the Mithrakana, was appropriately cele- 
brated on 25th December. If, therefore, the Christians had 
to compete with such a formidable rival they had to assert 
that it was their God who had been born on that significant 
date, and surely of a Heavenly Virgin. 

From the vast importance of the sun in earlier days one 
might suppose that man was anxiously concerned lest he 
might fail them, since it was evident that without his heat 
and light life could not go on. This might occasionally have 
been so, to judge by the anxiety displayed during an eclipse 
and the human efforts (tom-toms, etc.) made to assist him 
in his fight with the monster apparently swallowing him. 
But I am persuaded that the case was really otherwise, and 
that the sun was on the contrary much more a source of 
security. One must remember that, in the East particularly, 
celestial phenomena were observed with astonishing accur- 
acy, and that the motions of the stars and planets were 
known in great detail; astronomy was in fact the first of the 
sciences. Those people knew perfectly well that the sun 
would wax after 25th December just as surely as he would 
wane before then and that day would infallibly follow night. 
Uncertain human happenings could therefore be referred to 
his activities as a means of obtaining reassurance. We still 
say, as an expression of the utmost certainty, "It is as sure 
as that the sun will rise to-morrow." The sun, therefore, 



belonged to the external absolutes of the universe, like 
God, and human uncertainties that could be brought into 
association with him, or better still identification, would to 
that extent be dispelled. 

Comparative anthropology has clearly shown that man 
has always tended to identify the changes in the sun's 
apparent powers with the most vital of his own activities. 
The waxing young sun of spring brings times for confident 
rejoicing which culminate in the mad triumph of Mid- 
summer Eve, the German's Johannisnacht. Then the bon- 
fires shoot upward and proclaim the apothegm of human 
and divine power. How wise were the Fathers of the 
Revolution to choose the beginning of July to declare their 
independence and thus provide a whole nation with the 
opportunity of perpetuating man's delight in the crackling 
of fire at that time of the year! On the other hand, the 
diminishing strength of the sun arouses by association the 
deep fears man always nurses of his own failing powers, of 
impotence, old age, and death with the terrors of what 
may follow this. The re-birth of the sun, therefore, has often 
been the greatest reassurance he can receive of eternal hope, 
always provided and that was vital that he was identi- 
fied with the Deity. That a God, however powerful, should 
periodically, (most often annually), die, to be constantly 
re-born, is the central theme of many religions. It is fitting 
that this re-birth should take place on what, according to 
Bede, the pagan Anglo-Saxons called "Mother-Night", 
i.e., Christmas Eve, the date from which their new year 
commenced. The Sun and the God may die, but they will 
surely be eternally re-born, so all is well. 

The most natural expression of the re-birth idea is the 
association with a new-born babe, and to Christians it is 
the birth of the babe Jesus that is the central emblem of all 
that Christmas stands for. In the Roman Catholic Church, 
in particular, there is no moment of the year in which the 



Madonna and Babe are more adored; they then occupy the 
centre of interest to the exclusion of all other theological 
preoccupations. In Catholic countries Christmas is little 
else ; the more mundane accompaniments and ceremonies of 
Northern Christmases are postponed to another date. 

The feeling, however, that Christmas is in some deep 
sense a pagan festival has evinced itself with a strange per- 
sistence throughout the ages. The Western Church was 
responsible for its incorporation in the Christian religion, 
and the Eastern Church for long protested against what 
they regarded as a pagan innovation. Behind this word 
"pagan" surely lies the idea of Mother-Goddess worship, 
the attraction of which so often seduced the patriarchal 
monotheistic Hebrews and indeed the Christian Church 
itself. It is perhaps fundamentally what Protestantism 
protested against, following the Hebrew prophets. Our own 
Puritans have felt very strongly on the matter, and an Act 
of Parliament in 1644 forbade the celebration of Christmas 
as being a heathen festival, until the Merry Monarch once 
more sanctioned it. To this day many Protestant sects, 
notably in Scotland, look distinctly askance at Christmas 
as being something alien to the pure faith. Ever since the 
Reformation this attitude of suspicion has connected 
Christmas with what has often been called the "paganism" 
of the Roman Catholic Church. An amusing example is 
recorded of a fanatical member of Parliament moving that, 
in order to eliminate any association with the Mass, the 
word itself be purified by being changed to Christ-tide; by 
way of answer, however, he was exhorted to initiate the 
change by altering his own name from Thomas Massey 
Massey to Thotide Tidey Tidey! 

To return to the concept of the sacrificial God. It is 
probable that this was preceded by the custom of sacrificing 
a king from time to time, either when he grew old or even, 
as Frazer has expounded in his Golden Bough, annually. 



However much such a king may have acquiesced in the 
proceeding, sharing the belief of his people that it would 
accrue to the good of the community, it was inevitable that 
he should also feel some objection to it; so it was not 
surprising that an alternative procedure should be sought 
for. Two were found. One was to displace his majesty to 
the skies in the form either of a God like Adonis or an 
actual Sun-God. That the Sun should decline almost to 
death every year and then arise refreshed in his glory and 
strength was a solution satisfying to all concerned and was a 
relatively innocent form of regicide (i.e., parricide). The 
other, and perhaps more obvious, solution was to provide a 
substitute, a mock king. Here we touch on the vast theme 
of the scapegoat in mythology. In Babylonia, for example, 
the king originally had to die at the end of his year's rule, 
ostensibly so as to go and help the God Marduk in his 
periodical struggle with the monsters of chaos in the regions 
below, but after a time a criminal was set up for a few days 
as a "mock king" and then executed in the king's stead. 
The periodical rebellion against authority (ultimately the 
Father) implied in the ceremony is attested by the general 
licence of the rejoicings and by the curious reversal of 
slaves and masters so characteristic of the Roman Saturn- 
alia (i5th December to 1st January) and before that the 
Persian Sacaea and the Babylonian Zagmuk festivals. 
Relics of the mock king idea have persisted into historical 
times. In the early centuries of our era the Roman soldiers 
stationed in the Balkans had the custom of choosing by lot 
one of their number to preside over the Saturnalia as king 
of the revels. After he was feted and boisterously paid court 
to he had to complete his career by standing at the altar 
and killing himself. St. Dasius is said to have achieved his 
fame (and martyrdom) by refusing to play this part on the 
ground of its being a pagan custom. In parts of central 
Europe a troupe of masqueraders are still headed by a "fool" 



or "wild man" who leads their carol singing, but with less 
lethal results than formerly. In the Middle Ages the "Feast 
of Fools" was similarly presided over by someone who was 
given the various titles of "Lord of Misrule", "Abbot of 
Unreason", "King of the Bean", etc., and who reigned from 
All Hallows' Eve till Christmas. His position was abrogated 
in Scotland by Act of Parliament in 1555. A mock service 
was held in the Church, with an imitation Mass, robes were 
worn inside out and music sheets held upside down a 
general reversal very reminiscent of the Satanic Black Mass 
and like that indicating a violent reaction against divine 
authority. The only trace left of it all nowadays is the 
licence of kissing anyone encountered under the mistletoe, 
as part of the jollification of a Merry Christmas. 

Perhaps the last emblem of the sacrificed god or king was 
the ceremony of the boar's head at the Christmas banquet, 
thus turning it into a totemistic feast. For the boar, sacred 
to the God Frey in the north and to others in the East, is 
one of the patriarchal symbols in the unconscious ; in his 
parricidal ritual Mithra slew sometimes a bull, sometimes a 
boar. And he was treated as a royal personage, his entry to 
the banqueting hall being preceded by a flourish of trumpets 
and similar rituals. In the Balkans and in Scandinavia 
cakes or loaves in the form of a pig are still sold at Christ- 
mas, reminding the anthropologist how long the impulse 
to cannibalistic parricide persists in the folklore of the 

The many other constituents of the Christmas festival 
accord with its significance as just described. Some date 
from Rome, but more have been added as Christianity 
advanced northward and in doing so incorporated pre- 
existing customs and rituals. Some of them have just been 
mentioned. Others are the Yule log, cut down by a young 
man and burned ceremoniously to rekindle the sun; holly 
and evergreens to show that there is still life in nature; the 



Christmas tree, which was added only in the seventeenth 
century but which has an ancient tradition from the days 
of tree worship (may trees, etc.); the Christmas candles 
which replace the old Feast of Lights. All life will surely 
be somehow renewed and one need not fear extinction. 

It is hard to determine how and when Christmas became 
so predominantly the children's festival it now is at least 
in Northern countries. The birth of a babe is, it is true, its 
central feature, and in this connection it is interesting that 
to receive a present which is what Christmas means to 
children is in the unconscious mind always associated with 
the idea of the birth of a baby the primordial gift par 
excellence. Oddly enough, in Catholic countries this custom 
is usually postponed to ist January, such as with the 
French etrennes on the jour de Van. The giver, Father 
Christmas evidently Father Time himself has in the past 
century got fused with the figure of St. Nicholas, the 
Archbishop of Myra, the children's saint, famous for his 
habit of giving presents; and Santa Klaus the American 
corruption of the Dutch Colonists' San Nicolaas is now his 
accepted name in all English-speaking countries. In 
Germany he was identified, as Knecht Rupprecht, with 
Odin himself, the god who sacrificed himself by hanging on 
a tree, his side pierced by a spear, for nine days; and so 
St. Nicholas wears his broad-brimmed hat and rides his 
white horse. In Holland hay has to be put out for the white 
horse on 6th December, St. Nicholas's own Day; on this 
day also Perchta, the companion of Odin, comes to inspect 
households to see if they have been properly managed. 

Historically expressed, the festival of Christmas is thus 
a fusion of many strains of pagan customs and beliefs, but 
one which Christianity has inspired with a fresh spiritual 
significance. Psychologically it represents the ideal of 
resolving all family discord in a happy reunion, and to this 
it owes its perennial attraction. These two points of view 



are seen to be identical when one remembers that the 
ultimate significance of all religions is the attempted solu- 
tion on a cosmic stage of the loves and hatreds that take 
their source in the complicated relations of children and 



RATIONALISM and Psycho- Analysis would appear at first 
sight to have so much in common that the most instructive 
way I can find to introduce what I have to say in this 
lecture is to begin by remarking on the curious fact that in 
practice they prove to put it mildly to be distinctly 
unsympathetic to each other. 

Freedom of thought is a necessary prerequisite of psycho- 
analytic work, as indeed of all scientific work. Knowing, 
however, that this prerequisite is not always to be reckoned 
with, psycho-analysts aim at furthering freedom of thought 
by countering in certain ways various emotional obstacles, 
which we term "resistances", some of which are very 
familiar to you under such terms as prejudices, super- 
stitions and the like. The Rationalist cause, in its turn, is 
closely akin to what may be called the Free Thought move- 
ment. Let me quote your official definition, laid down by 
F. J. Gould in 1899: "Rationalism may be defined as the 
mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy 
of reason and aims at establishing a system of philosophy 
and ethics verifiable by experience and independent of all 
arbitrary assumptions or authority." You would probably 
not quarrel much with the Oxford Dictionary definition of 
Rationalism as "the principle of regarding reason as the 
chief or only guide in matters of religion". We note at once 
two differences. Rationalism and Psycho-Analysis have 
different ways of achieving freedom of thought, and 

1 Read before the Glasgow Rationalist Press Association, 29th November, 
1936, and the Rationalist Press Association, London, 5th January, 1937. 



Rationalism also differs in concentrating on one sphere on 
what is commonly called the spiritual side of man, namely 
religion and ethics. Nevertheless the conception of Freedom 
of Thought in general is fundamental to both. With aims 
apparently so similar, therefore, it may seem strange how 
little co-operation there has ever been between the two. 

One might not unfairly describe the attitude of most 
psycho-analysts to Rationalism as one of cold criticism, 
any benevolent approval they might feel on general 
grounds being tempered by considerable scepticism. The 
attitude of Rationalists to Psycho- Analysis, on the other 
side, appears to be even cooler and, so far as it has come to 
public expression, to be definitely antagonistic. We have 
thus a very interesting, and in a sense paradoxical, problem 
before us, and I intend to make it the main theme of this 
lecture in the hope of throwing some light on it and perhaps 
clearing up some misunderstandings. 

It will be safer if I begin by not assuming any knowledge 
of psycho-analysis, but by explaining shortly what it is. 
Psycho-Analysis consists primarily in a method of investi- 
gation, a particular technique devised by Freud for explor- 
ing the deeper and more hidden layers of the mind, layers 
otherwise inaccessible whose existence was only in small 
part previously suspected. It is concerned especially with 
studying the influence of the Unconscious, as these deeper 
layers are nowadays called, on the conscious mind and on 
behaviour. In a larger sense psycho-analysis also means the 
findings that have been made by the use of this method and 
whatever theory of the mind that seems to yield itself in the 
endeavour to codify these findings. It is in short a branch 
of science, using the principles, methods and premisses of 
science and none other whatsoever. It is our contention that 
the conclusions we have reached concerning the nature of 
the mind, however strange they may appear, emerge from 
scientific investigation alone and have not been imported 



from elsewhere least of all from any a priori assumptions. 
So far, therefore, we have merely intensified the puzzle of 
our problem, since Rationalism has always been an ardent 
supporter of scientific research. 

Let me select a couple of the conclusions arrived at in the 
course of psycho-analytic work, on the subject of Free Will 
and Evolution respectively. There is a very formidable case 
to be made out from a philosophical point of view in favour 
of the existence of Free Will, but I am concerned here only 
with certain psychological aspects of the problem. There is 
also the important observation that almost all people have 
an intense personal conviction that they as individuals 
possess Free Will. This belief has played an essential part 
in most religions, especially those where the ethical aspects 
are predominant. The apparent contradiction between it 
and the belief in Divine omniscience has never been satis- 
factorily resolved and forms a staple topic of theological 
discussion. Some varieties of Christianity, e.g., the Calvin- 
istic, have on this ground subordinated the former belief to 
the latter. However all this may be, I take it that Rational- 
ists tend to discard belief in the existence of Free Will as 
interfering with their preference for a mechanistic, or even 
materialistic, view of the Universe. If this is so it is open to 
them to acquire support for their attitude in the matter 
from certain findings of psycho-analysis. Naturally any 
minute investigation into the problems of cause and effect 
may be expected to reduce the sphere in which non-specific 
agencies, such as Free Will, are said to operate: the narrow- 
ing down of Vitalism by modern physiology is a case in 
point. In the present matter, however, Psycho-Analysis has 
not only done this: it has added two considerations of 
fundamental importance. By its exploration of the Uncon- 
scious it has constantly been able to show how various 
mental processes, such as decisions in behaviour, specific 
interests, ethical attitudes and so on, in regard to which no 



determining factor may be visible, have nevertheless been 
powerfully influenced and perhaps altogether determined 
by unconscious factors of which the individual was 
entirely unaware. These observations, the truth of which is 
confirmed every day, have inevitably had the effect of 
narrowing the field of Free Will and make it easier for those 
so inclined to deny its existence altogether. 

The second consideration I alluded to is that psycho- 
analysis has been able to throw some light on the meaning 
of the belief itself and to make more intelligible why the 
conviction of Free Will is so strong and so important to the 
personality. It is part of the general striving of the person- 
ality for freedom. Incidentally, I may remark here that the 
driving force behind the Rationalist movement is pretty 
evidently, and indeed avowedly, the desire to achieve free- 
dom from constraint. It is at first sight paradoxical that a 
body of people moved by a passionate desire for freedom 
should at the same time be eager to renounce such a 
supreme expression of it as the belief in Free Will, but 
perhaps we can understand it better if we contrast them 
with religious believers. The latter retain the belief in 
question by subordinating their personality to an external 
power the Deity whereas Rationalists in their endeavour 
to replace the latter by human reason are able to identify 
Reason with their own personality and thus to dispense 
with the individual conviction of Free Will. 

The connection between these remarks and the second 
theme I mentioned, namely Evolution, is probably not very 
evident. Let me start afresh. As you doubtless know, 
psycho-analysis took its departure from the study of a 
curious and widespread class of phenomena the common 
feature of which is inefficiency in mental functioning. I 
refer to neurotic symptoms and what may be called every- 
day slips slips of the tongue or pen, forgetting, mislaying, 
and the like; in a sense dreams might also be included here. 



For these phenomena science had previously had the 
"explanation" that they were either completely meaning- 
less, i.e., were effects without causes, or else the result of 
some hypothetical maladjustment in brain functioning. It 
was reserved for Freud to demonstrate that they all had a 
precise signification and motivation. The reason why this 
had been previously unknown was that the causative 
factors operated in a region of the mind called the "uncon- 
scious", one which although its existence was often 
surmised was inaccessible to scientific examination until 
Freud discovered a method to investigate it. The concept of 
unconscious mental processes has been sometimes objected 
to as being a contradiction, the argument being that mental 
means conscious and nothing else. This both drags in the red 
herring about mind and body, thus confusing the issue, and 
also begs the question. What psycho-analysis asserts is that 
processes of the same order as those we call mental, wishes, 
fears, and so on, can occur without one's being conscious of 
them and so are conveniently called unconscious mental 
processes. What their nature is, and how they are related to 
physiological processes, are matters irrelevant to the present 

Freud found that existence of the unconscious is bound 
up with a process called repression, i.e., the keeping from 
consciousness of mental processes incompatible on moral, 
aesthetic, or other grounds with it. This division dates 
from infancy, and the processes operative in the unconscious 
represent either the persistence of infantile ones or deriva- 
tions from them. With neurotic symptoms, and other 
failures in normal functioning, the operative processes have 
been little changed from infancy, so that the study of them 
provides a unique opportunity for ascertaining the earliest 
stages in mental development stages so primitive as to 
show great similarity not only among normal as well as 
neurotic but among all races of mankind; incidentally, one 



may mention that samples from all these races have now 
been examined from this point of view. 

Psycho-Analysis is thus essentially a genetic study. It 
follows in detail the development of mental processes from 
the most primitive beginnings to their most sophisticated 
manifestations. Furthermore, the agencies at work are all 
conceived of biologically, in terms of innate instincts. With 
this genetic study of the development of the mind from 
biological instincts, all of which are common to man and 
other animals, Freud has filled in the gap in the theory of 
human evolution which Darwin had perforce to leave. The 
opponents of the doctrine of evolution have always been 
able to make a comfortable reservation concerning the mind 
or soul of man, to claim a privileged status for it in the 
universe, one well deserving for its creation a special act of 
interposition on the part of Providence. One result of 
psycho-analysis is that such reservation will be less easy to 
make and such interposition less needful to postulate. 

This leads us on to the matter of Religion in general, one 
with which both Rationalism and Psycho-Analysis have to 
do. Before developing this theme, however, I should like to 
say a few words on the more general one of the relationship 
between Science and Religion. 

Until psychology appeared on the scene, within the last 
few years only, this relationship has mainly concerned the 
more intellectual, cosmological and theological aspects of 
Religion. It is hard to estimate the relative importance of 
these aspects, but in my opinion Religion as a whole con- 
tains much more significant ones than them, and I feel sure 
that those Rationalists err who tend to take the part for the 
whole. They are, however, right in their contention that 
there is an inevitable conflict between science and those 
aspects of Religion, and further that their influence has had 
a deterrent effect on the progress of Science. It is surely 
evident that if one is brought up to answer as an act of piety 



such questions as "why has the heart four chambers?" 
"why does an epidemic of plague occur in this year and not 
in that ?" "why is the moon at the full only once a month ?" 
and so on by the simple statement that it is because God 
has so willed it, then any further inquiry is at once stifled 
as both superfluous and impious. Wherever religious feeling 
chooses to concentrate on any of these mundane questions 
and make a test case of it, as has happened over and over 
again in history, then a series of events regularly happens. 
The scientific investigators who dare to prosecute their 
inquiries in the face of the ban are assailed as atheists in 
spite of their being for the most part themselves religiously- 
minded; they produce their non-theological explanation of 
the phenomena in question; and more or less slowly the 
Church accepts the explanation and no longer feels that the 
case was a vital religious issue. These recurrent happenings 
naturally began in the fields of astronomy and physics, 
since they were the more easily investigated aspects of 
nature. When Copernicus and Newton showed that the 
movements of the solar system could be correlated with 
simple mathematical statements and with the familiar 
processes of gravitation, it became unnecessary to postulate 
an immediate interposition of the Deity to account for the 
observed facts. When a little over a century ago Wohler 
manufactured a substance, urea, which previously had been 
inseparably connected with vital processes, he dealt the 
first blow at the fundamental distinction so important to 
theologians between animate and inanimate matter. When 
the evolutionary biologists, culminating in Darwin, showed 
that man's body was, in spite of its differences, of the same 
order as that of other animals and in all probability derived 
from them, then man's pride was badly wounded at the 
thought that it was no longer necessary to invoke an act of 
special Divine creation to account for his existence on the 



Although such events as these might be said to displace 
God to a greater distance from man by rendering unneces- 
sary the idea of miraculous interposition on His part, two 
things prevented the religiously-minded from having their 
faith profoundly disturbed thereby. One was and this was 
decisive that they felt God to be as near as ever. The other 
was that Science, despite Keats's view to the contrary, does 
not destroy the sense of wonder and awe. In many ways, 
indeed, Science heightens this by displaying the orderly and 
grandiose scale of the way in which things work in the 
universe. A theist with a capacity for imagination can feel 
more uplifted, even if less flattered, by the reflection that 
the creation of man has proceeded by a more remarkable, 
though more devious, fashion than he had previously sup- 
posed. The primitive belief in the miraculous is replaced by 
the more mature and profound sense of wonder. 

Science, however, cannot stop at the intellectual aspects 
of Religion, and in the last forty or fifty years it has taken 
an objective interest in other aspects also. William James 
has studied the nature of the psychological harmony in- 
duced by the event of religious conversion, and other 
psychologists have correlated the intensity of religious 
phenomena with many individual and environmental 
factors. Any searching investigation of the human mind, 
such as psycho-analysis, must concern itself with such a 
fundamental constituent of it as Religion is, especially since 
it is so often involved in neurotic conflicts. It was soon 
found, as indeed might have been expected, that the 
sources of religious feeling arise very early in the course of 
mental development, though we see no reason for according 
it, as some writers have done, the status of a biological 
instinct which its universality might at first sight appear to 
demand. Thinkers have drawn two opposite conclusions 
from this feature of universality, a feature the existence of 
which psycho-analysis with few exceptions confirms. Some 



have inferred that it shows the existence of a supernatural 
world which the mind more or less clearly perceives. Others 
have inferred that it indicates a prevalent quality in the 
mind itself, although hitherto only very vague and general 
guesses have been made about the nature of this quality. 
In other words, some infer from it an external source of 
religion, others an internal. The discoveries of psycho- 
analysis are necessarily concerned with the latter, since 
it is not in a position to throw any light on the former. 
They have added greatly to the psychology of religious 
feeling, a study which has of course already been under- 
taken from several points of view. If the sources of religious 
feelings are traced to their origins in the unconscious mind 
it will be found that they are there always interwoven with 
the child's conflicting emotions about his parents. Here I 
touch on a theme so vast that it could not be expounded in 
any single volume or series of lectures. It would not be a 
gross exaggeration to say that psycho-analysis is essentially 
a detailed study of the relations between a child and his 
parents. At the moment I can only assert in a single sen- 
tence that the conflicting emotions in question are far more 
complex, and far more important for the whole mental 
development, than can easily be imagined. Returning to the 
matter of religion, we should say that we find all the 
numerous mental attitudes that man has at different times 
displayed towards his various gods love, hate, dread, 
adoration, awe, yearning, helplessness, exaltation to be 
without exception copies or derivatives of corresponding 
feelings he has at an earlier age experienced, consciously or 
unconsciously, towards his parents or their substitutes. 
When the Christian says we are all children of one Father 
he is using a metaphorical parallel, but to the psycho- 
analyst he is indicating a truly genetic description of his 
belief. We can go even further and assert that the precise 
ways by which these earlier feelings become translated on 

233 R 


to the plane of Religion are also fairly well understood. It is 
therefore hard to avoid the conclusion that even if there 
were no Divine Being in reality the human mind is so con- 
stituted that it would inevitably build such a conception 
together with the characteristic attitudes accompanying it. 

This is a tremendous conclusion, and one would have ex- 
pected Rationalists to have exploited it pretty extensively. 
It surprises me that they have not. Yet I think the scien- 
tifically-minded should be careful not to be carried away 
beyond the actual evidence before us. To infer that a given 
belief has a subjective origin is not the same thing as to say 
it is therefore untrue objectively. That is quite another 
matter, not to be confounded with the first one. On the 
contrary, our analytical experience of subjective beliefs is 
that they have an uncanny way of piercing through to an 
external reality. When, for instance, a madman is for sub- 
jective reasons possessed of the idea that someone wishes his 
destruction or that his wife is disloyal to him he may have 
reached these ideas on purely internal grounds, but they 
are not always untrue in fact. Whether they are or are not 
has to be determined by quite another type of investigation. 
So to say that men must believe in the existence of God for 
purely internal reasons, reasons which would be operative 
whether He existed or not, is not the same as asserting that 
therefore God does not exist. There are those who argue 
thus, but in my opinion they are not reasoning scientifically 
in so doing. The question is not one for any scientific 
specialist as such, but for the philosophic thinker, if anyone. 

The Christian Church learned in time, not only to adapt 
itself to, but even to assimilate, the teachings of Coper- 
nicus and Darwin, although these flatly contradicted some 
of its most important doctrines. I expect that it will be able 
to do the same with the teachings of Freud. The view will 
probably be put forward that the grandeur of God is more 
fully brought to expression by recognizing the extraord- 



inarily complex one might even say subtle harmony of 
His works than by upholding the primitive ideas of His 
particulate intrusion into their details. 

Let us now review the situation so far. Rationalism and 
Psycho-Analysis both profess adherence to the principles of 
scientific method and to the value of free thought. They 
both find reasons for criticizing the doctrine of Free Will 
and for accepting the theory of natural evolution. They 
both consider that human factors are adequate to account 
for the genesis of religious beliefs. Rationalism is apt to take 
the further step of declaring that these do not correspond 
with any external reality. There would thus appear to be a 
great deal of common ground between Rationalism and 
Psycho-Analysis and we recur to our original question con- 
cerning the manifest lack of sympathy between them. 

I can naturally say more about this matter from the side 
of the Psycho-Analyst, but I will first state what I perceive 
of the Rationalist's attitude. He shares of course the 
general doubt 'about psycho-analysis, the feeling that its 
conclusions are exaggerated and improbable. I seem to have 
noted two special features in the criticisms passed by 
Rationalist writers, and they are of considerable interest. 
We have been very accustomed to the epithet of "gross 
materialism"; a variety of abusive adjectives may be 
attached to it, of which "carnal" and "earthy" are the 
mildest. This is perhaps not very surprising when one 
remembers the work psycho-analysis has done on the 
animal nature of man and its conclusions that many of his 
"higher" attributes are derived from "lowly" impulses, 
such as the sexual ones. It is not very hard to distort 
psycho-analytic work into a picture of latitudinarian lewd- 
ness or of mundane coarseness ; some people feel about it, as 
Keats did about physics and the rainbow, that it robs the 
soul of man of all its fineness and spirituality. We have, as 
I say, been so accustomed to this sort of un-understanding 



abuse that the news of certain rationalists taking just the 
opposite view came with a certain sense of novelty. Here we 
found ourselves, to our equal bewilderment, assailed as 
being merely another variety of spiritualist who under the 
guise of the word "psychological" tried to undo the progress 
of biology and physical medicine by reverting to ideological 
conceptions about the immaterial. So much has the simple 
word "psychical" been debased by that unfortunate phrase 
"psychical research" that it seems hard for many people to 
dissociate it from the supernatural, and to such people 
Freud's conception of the psyche gets at once confounded 
with theological conceptions of the soul. To this I would 
say in reply that those who are guilty of this misunder- 
standing seem to be still so affected by theological pre- 
occupations as to find it hard to conceive of a scientific 
attitude towards mental phenomena. And by this term I 
simply mean the phenomena which we discuss in a language 
called mental using words like "grief", "distress", 
"thoughts", etc. for the very good reason that we have 
as yet no other language in which to discuss them. In doing 
so no particular system of philosophy, idealistic, parallel- 
istic, or materialistic, is implied. Our work is purely 
scientific, not philosophical. Speaking for myself only, 
however, (and in no way committing psycho-analysis itself 
as a branch of study), I will say freely that I know of no 
reason for believing that mental phenomena can occur 
anywhere apart from bodily ones, and furthermore I see no 
reason to believe that such an entity as "mind" exists at 
all, whether attached to the body or not. If the time comes 
when we can correlate our mental language with descrip- 
tions of neurotic processes in the cerebrum I should expect 
to find that the two modes of the description are merely 
different languages depicting the same processes. So much 
for the supposed "spiritualism" of psycho-analysis! 

A second, perhaps less characteristic, feature is the dis- 



taste many rationalist writers have evinced for the evi- 
dently irrational modes of thought which are so much the 
concern of the psycho-analyst. When we describe what we 
find in the unconscious mind, its illogicalities, its self- 
contradictions, its contempt for reason, its grotesque sup- 
positions and pseudo-ratiocinations, it must and does pro- 
duce on the conscious mind an impression of nightmarish 
improbability. Many Rationalists seem to shrink back from 
this picture with a peculiar horror as if they wished to 
protest that the mind of man surely could not be so 
irrational as all that. I suppose their abhorrence for such 
irrationality is so great that they would fain deny its 
existence until they are driven to recognize it. Yet a cooler 
reflection might make them more willing to admit the 
strength of the enemy they have devoted their lives to 
fighting. Sometimes I think that their animus goes even 
further and that they are inclined to blame the psycho- 
analysts for the existence of the extensive irrationality to 
which we have called attention, just as in former times 
kings were wont to execute the bringers of bad tidings. 

Now for the other side of the question the Psycho- 
Analyst's criticism of the Rationalist's position. I can best 
introduce this by reverting to our starting-point the topic 
of free thought. Psycho- Analysis not only demands for its 
work as much freedom of thought as is available, but it is 
also concerned with the difficulties in the way of achieving 
freedom of thought. In investigating them it recognizes 
that freedom of thought is only one form of psychological 
freedom and that one cannot properly consider the part 
without the whole. To deal with freedom of the intellect 
only, as Rationalists sometimes do, is unnecessarily to 
limit oneself. This is especially so because in our judgement 
freedom of thought is not so much the prerequisite of free- 
dom in general although it can plausibly be described as 
such as a sign or index that the wider freedom of the 



personality in general has already been attained. The prob- 
lem of what constitutes this freedom of the personality, on 
which the capacity for free thought very largely depends, 
is one that greatly exercises psycho-analysis. It has further- 
more concerned itself with the significance of freedom itself, 
with the question of why the subjective feeling of freedom 
is so tremendously important to men and with the interest- 
ing fact that its importance seems to vary so much at 
different periods. The feeling in question is evidently bound 
up with the sense of security, and may even be regarded as 
one aspect of this. It is certainly striking how often men will 
prize some form or other of freedom above all else and will 
gladly sacrifice their lives in the endeavour to achieve it. 
Even more astonishing is the way the same men will at 
other times tamely submit to the most extraordinary 
regimentation of their daily lives and interference with 
every detail of their personal freedom, especially at the 
behest of their fellow-countrymen. Italy, for instance, has 
shown us several examples of both these reactions in less 
than a century. At the present time it is only too easy to 
point to numerous examples of extreme renunciation of 
liberty, whereas I should be hard put to it to find a good 
example of the contrary outside, of course, the ranks of 
the Rationalist Press Association. 

But the first thing that strikes an outsider about the 
laudable campaign Rationalists are conducting on behalf of 
freedom is the remarkable localization of their aim. Confin- 
ing ourselves for the moment to the external barriers 
against freedom, and still further to the barriers against 
intellectual freedom to the neglect of other perhaps equally 
important forms of freedom social, political, economic, 
and so on one cannot help wondering why Rationalists 
concentrate so much on the theological obstacles. In the 
definition I quoted earlier it is stated that "Rationalism . . . 
aims at establishing a system of philosophy and ethics . . . 



independent of all arbitrary assumptions or authority". 
Well, I should have doubted very much that any Church, 
with the exception of that in Austria and Ireland, could 
nowadays be called an authority that hinders one from 
establishing such a system if one wants to. Matters were of 
course different in bygone ages, and, as I just hinted, are 
still different in a few countries of Europe, but I should 
have thought the Rationalist Press Association has survived 
long enough to discover that there are other much more 
formidable obstacles to intellectual freedom than organized 
religion. A very short residence in either Germany or 
Russia should be enough to convince one of this, and of the 
disturbing consideration that opposition to freedom can 
proceed not only from blind tradition but also from a con- 
sistent and up-to-date efficiency. Even in England I should 
anticipate that anyone wishing to inculcate a new system of 
ethics would encounter at least as much opposition or pre- 
judice from the legal and political worlds as from the 
clerical, nor do I think that most of it would be religious in 
its origin. At your annual dinner a year after the war 
William Archer said: "To the historian of a thousand 
years hence this greatest of wars will rank as a mere skir- 
mish in the never-ending battle of Rationalism against 
irrationalism." Assuming that by Rationalism he meant 
freedom of thought we have to record the painful fact that 
the great victory won for freedom and democracy has led 
to far firmer shackles being put on freedom of thought 
throughout Europe than had existed for centuries pre- 
viously, and that even in this country the number of those 
who admire and yearn for those shackles is unfortunately 
in the ascendant. And no one could maintain that organized 
religion has played any serious part in this restriction; if 
anything, its influence has been on the other side. 

The investigations of psycho-analysis have thrown a 
great deal of light on the problem of freedom and have also 



been able to some extent to explain the curious oscillation 
in man's attitude towards it. It has been forced to concen- 
trate on this problem because in its therapeutic work its 
main endeavour is to bring about freedom from the bonds 
that have cramped the personality, or to put it more 
modestly to dimmish the number of influences that have 
restricted its freedom. One important conclusion issuing 
from these investigations is that there exist internal bonds, 
i.e., bonds inside the personality, which are much more 
potent in their restrictive power than any external ones. 
Anyone, therefore, who is seriously interested in achieving 
mental freedom would do well to turn his attention to the 
nature of these bonds. It is not possible for me here to 
expound the psychology of the unconscious, that region 
where the tumult of the instincts releases emotional forces 
of which consciousness perceives only a faint mirror, but I 
should say very emphatically that the restrictive bonds in 
question are essentially due to the massive layers of 
guiltiness and fear that are always present in the uncon- 
scious mind. And I would add, what I am sure is an unex- 
pected conclusion, that this guiltiness and fear is only in 
small part imposed on the child from without, its main 
source being quite endogenous. So important do we con- 
sider these layers of the mind, arising as I say mainly from 
within the growing personality itself, that we should not 
find it a very gross exaggeration if anyone tried to describe 
the whole of human life as a series of infinitely varied 
endeavours to alleviate the distress they would cause if 
allowed to function unchecked. These endeavours we term 
defences. Like the more familiar defences against external 
dangers they may be either active or passive. Instances of 
the first kind are: aggressiveness, intolerance, pugnacity 
and curiously enough often the struggle for freedom 
from external barriers. Instances of the second are: flight of 
all kinds, inhibitions, denial, shame, aversion and a clamour 



for security. We now begin perhaps to see why mankind 
oscillates between the passion for freedom and the passion 
for security: each promises help for his fundamental dis- 
tress. Our social institutions also can be fruitfully regarded 
from this point of view. The one that has the most direct 
bearing on these difficulties of the individual is undoubtedly 
Religion, and it is not hard to see that it functions along 
both the active and passive lines. When St. Paul spoke of 
"the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" the phrase 
must seem distinctly unintelligible to a Rationalist, but it 
is full of meaning to a Psycho- Analyst. The sociological 
disadvantages, however, of the religious solution are first, 
that it operates successfully with only a minority of the 
community, and secondly, that its operation tends to be 
bound up with certain rather strict limiting conditions to 
quote St. Paul again, "being then made free from sin ye 
become the servants of righteousness", thus opening up the 
wide question of what constitutes the "righteousness" 
whose servants we are to become. 

When the internal and unconscious restrictions become 
too painfully tyrannical various reactions of defence against 
them in turn come into play. Of these I will mention one 
very important example to which we give the name of 
"projection". The unconscious restricting influence is iden- 
tified with a suitable external one, projected on to it, and 
this is then attacked with an aggressiveness that may cul- 
minate in a venomous hostility. Germany, for instance, 
pursued by world condemnation which she vainly tried to 
exorcize by repudiating what she called the "war-guilt lie", 
discovered with relief that the poison in her system could 
be identified with the Jewish section of her population. 
The Jews were both the unseen instigators of wars and the 
arch intriguers of defeatist pacifism, both the bloated up- 
holders of the capitalistic system sucking the life blood of 
the nation and the evil communists seeking to destroy the 



sacred rights of property. The action she took in response 
to this discovery is unfortunately known to all of us. The 
Priesthood, or any form of organized Religion, has at times 
been described as the main enemy to freedom, and the 
frequent justification for this has led many to concentrate 
on it as the one and only obstacle, an attitude which in my 
opinion can only lead one astray. I should like here to echo 
the words of your President, Lord Snell, when he warned 
you recently that no Movement can live by worship at the 
tomb of the past. He added: "Let us take care that our 
Association does not become the sepulchre of an idea rather 
than its cradle." 

Certain signs enable us to say whether a given emotional 
attitude contains this element of projection and is thus 
being used as a defence against unconscious internal bonds. 
They are the combination of hostility and animus with a 
passionate enthusiasm for an ideal and excessive optimism 
about attaining it. I will leave it to you to decide whether 
the Rationalist movement has always been free of these 
characteristics. Whenever you come across them you may 
be sure that the clamour for external freedom they accom- 
pany is being misused to conceal an internal lack of free- 
idom. True freedom, on the contrary, breeds tolerance, 
understanding and firmness. I wish, further, to lay stress on 
the self-righteousness that so often accompanies the pro- 
jection attitude I have just described. When Thomas 
Jefferson thundered "I have sworn upon the altar of God 
eternal hostility towards every form of tyranny over the 
mind of man" we are naturally impressed by his earnest- 
ness, but we might not feel sure that such a categorical 
assertion of moral cartitude, if seduced by power, could not 
degenerate into a doctrinaire opinionism. Bernard Shaw 
once caustically said "Beware of the man whose God is in 
the skies", meaning of course that a man may become 
inaccessible when his private prejudices are fortified by pro- 



jection on to the idea of a supernatural Being. And when 
William Archer asserted of the human reason that "its 
genesis is the mystery of mystery, the miracle of miracles" 
one cannot help being reminded of the error the leaders of 
the French Revolution fell into when they replaced the 
worship of the Almighty by that of the Goddess of Reason. 
This remark brings me to my last but not least theme, 
the subject of reason. All I wish to say here is that we have 
become very familiar in Psycho-Analysis with the deplor- 
able fact that reason, however one may prize it, can be mis- 
used like any other faculty when it becomes one of the 
"defences" about which I have been speaking. By misuse I 
mean the employing of the intellect not to discover truth, 
but to conceal it. Nothing is commoner than for a man 
unwilling to recognize his true motives for an attitude, and 
unwilling to reveal the underlying feelings from which such 
motives spring, to prostitute his intellect by using it to 
invent reasons, quite logical ones, which will serve as an 
explanation. An unwillingness to face intimate emotions is 
characteristic of mankind, and yet without feeling reason is 
powerless to understand the workings of the mind. The 
theses I am sustaining here are that only by feeling can 
reason discover truth and that, as was said by a certain 
Person, "the truth shall make you free." 




EVERY psycho-analyst must have come across patients 
amongst whose unconscious phantasies is contained the 
curious one in which the patient identifies himself with 
God. Such a megalomaniac phantasy would be barely 
comprehensible did we not know how closely the ideas of 
God and Father are associated, so much so that, from a 
purely psychological point of view, the former idea may 
be regarded as a magnified, idealized, and projected form 
of the latter. Identification of the self with the loved object 
occurs to some extent in every affection, and is a regular 
constituent of a boy's attitude towards his father; every 
boy imitates his father, pretends to himself that he is the 
father, and to a varying extent models himself on him. 
It is therefore only natural that a similar attitude may 
develop in regard to the more perfect Heavenly Father, 
and indeed this is in a certain sense directly inculcated in 
the religious teaching that one should strive to become as 
like the divine model as is possible (i.e., to imitate it), and 
in the belief that every man is a copy of God and contains 
the divine spirit within him. The transition from obedient 
imitation to identification is often a rapid one, and in the 
unconscious the two terms are practically synonymous. 
The function of representing his king or state that is 

1 Published in the Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse, 1913, Bd. I, 

s. 313- 



entrusted to an ambassador in a foreign country or to a 
governor in a foreign province has many a time been trans- 
gressed in history by opportunity allowing it to be ex- 
changed for one of greater power; the Roman Empire, for 
instance, was perpetually exposed to this menace. In 
religion we see indications of the same process, though of 
course they are less evident. To the common people the 
figures of Buddha, Mahomet, Peter, and Moses mean some- 
thing more than mere representatives of God, and we find 
even minor prophets and preachers speaking in the name of 
God with an authority so astounding as to preclude the idea 
of its arising solely in learning; in other words one feels 
sure that their conscious attitude is generally the product 
of an unconscious phantasy in which they identify their 
personality with that of God. 

This phantasy is not at all rare, and possibly occurs here 
and there in all men ; it is naturally far commoner with men 
than with women, where the corresponding one seems to be 
the idea of being the Mother of God. There is, however, a class 
of men with whom it is much stronger than is usual, so that 
it forms a constant and integral part of their unconscious. 
When such men become insane they are apt to express 
openly the delusion that they actually are God, and 
instances of the kind are to be met with in every asylum. 1 
In a state of sanity, that is to say when the feeling for 
reality and the normal inhibitions of consciousness are 
operative, the phantasy can express itself only after 
passage through this censorship, and therefore only in a 
modified, weakened, and indirect form. It is with these 
external manifestations that we are here concerned, and it 
will be the object of the present paper to indicate how 
from them the presence of what may be called a "God- 

1 A well-known medical anecdote, ben trovato, relates how an inquisitive 
visitor approached one such patient with a perplexing problem in theology. 
The patient turned away haughtily with the remark, "I never talk shop." 



complex" in the unconscious may be inferred. This uncon- 
scious complex, like any other important one, leaves 
permanent traces of its influence on conscious attitudes and 
reactions, and analysis of a number of individuals with 
whom it is strongly pronounced shows that the character 
traits 1 thus produced constitute a fairly typical picture, 
one clear enough to be applicable for diagnostic purposes. 
It is intelligible that they necessarily resemble those char- 
acteristic of the father-complex in general, being indeed 
simply a magnification of these; they form in fact a part 
of this broader group, but one sufficiently peculiar in itself 
to deserve to be singled out and distinguished from the rest 
of the group. 

The inductive generalizations arrived at on the basis of 
my observations do not altogether coincide with those 
that might have been expected from deductive considera- 
tion of the attributes popularly ascribed to God. A main 
distinction between them, for instance, is this: Whereas 
the aspect of God as the Creator is perhaps the most 
impressive in the ordinary mind, as illustrated by the 
conclusiveness with which the existence of God is commonly 
held to be settled by the question "who else could have 
created the world?" or by more abstract ratiocinations 
about the necessity for a "first cause", this aspect is far 
from being either the most prominent or the most typical 
to be represented amongst the phantasies belonging to a 
God-complex. The most striking and characteristic of these 
would seem to be the ones relating to effective power in 
the broadest sense (omnipotence), and most of the external 

1 When George Meredith, in The Egoist, endowed the chief figure of the 
book with certain peculiarly human attributes, his friends individually 
reproached him for having laid bare to the world their hidden weaknesses, each 
seeing in the novelist's description a mirror of his own heart. The character- 
traits pointed out in the present paper are so widely spread that I run the 
risk of laying myself open to a similar charge, as indeed does everyone who 
attempts to contribute something to our stock of psycho-analytical know- 



manifestations of the complex can best be stated in terms 
of this. In my experience the main foundation of the com- 
plex is to be discovered in a colossal narcissism, and this I 
regard as the most typical feature of the personalities in 
question. All the character-traits presently to be described 
can either be directly derived from narcissism, or else stand 
in the closest connection with it. 

Excessive narcissism leads inevitably to an excessive 
admiration for and confidence in one's own powers, 
knowledge, and qualities, both physical and mental. Two 
psycho-sexual tendencies are especially closely correlated 
with it, the auto-erotic and exhibitionistic, 1 two of the 
most primitive in the life of the individual, and we shall 
see that they play a highly important part in the genesis 
of the character-traits. With the second of these, the 
exhibitionistic, there is always associated its counterpart, 
the instinct of curiosity and knowledge, and this also pro- 
duces some of the end-results. From the intimate inter- 
association, therefore, of these impulses, the narcissistic, 
auto-erotic, exhibitionistic, and curiosity ones, it is compre- 
hensible why any sharp separation of the character-traits 
from one another according to their origin is quite im- 
possible, for many of them could be equally well described 
under any one of the four, being related to all. It will thus 
be convenient to describe them as a whole, and not 

One other general remark may be made before we 
proceed to the details, and that is to call attention to the 
characteristically negative way in which these instincts are 
manifested in the syndrome in question; for instance, 
excessive modesty is more often met with than pronounced 
vanity. The reason for this is that the unusual strength of 
the primitive tendencies has called forth an unusually 

1 See Stekel, "Zur Psychologic des Exhibitionismus," Zentralblatt ftir 
Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. I., S. 494. 



strong series of reaction-formations, and it is these that, 
being more superficial in the mind and more in harmony 
with social feelings, manifest themselves most directly. In 
fact one can often infer the strength of the underlying 
impulses only through noting how intense are the reactions 
they have evoked. 

We may begin the series by mentioning some manifesta- 
tions of narcissistic exhibitionism, i.e., the wish to display 
the own person or a certain part of it, combined with the 
belief in the irresistible power of this. This power, which 
is the same as that ascribed to the tabu king 1 or to the sun 
and lion symbols of mythology, is for either good or evil, 
creation or destruction, being thus typically ambivalent. 
In the instances under consideration the harmful element 
predominates, another interesting difference between this 
phantasy and the (modern) conception of God. 

These first manifestations, like those throughout the 
whole complex, are most typically reaction-products. Thus 
obvious self-conceit or vanity is not so frequent or so 
characteristic as an excessive self-modesty, which at times 
is so pronounced as to be truly a self-effacement. The man 
advances his strongest convictions in the most tentative 
manner possible, avoids the word "I" in both conversation 
and writing, and refuses to take any prominent or active 
part in the affairs of life. Already the exaggeratedness of 
this betrays it as being an affectation, not a primary 
character-tendency but a reaction to one, and this becomes 
still more evident when we observe the more extreme forms 
of the trait. These constitute what I consider to be the 
most characteristic manifestations of all namely, a 
tendency to aloofness. The man is not the same as other 
mortals, he is something apart, and a certain distance must 
be preserved between him and them. He makes himself as 
inaccessible as possible, and surrounds his personality with 

1 See Freud, Imago, 1912, Bd. I, S. 306-15. 



cloud of mystery. To begin with, he will not live near 
ther people if he can avoid it. One such man told me 
dth pride he lived in the last house of his town (a Metro- 
olis) and that he found this already too near to the 
hrong, so he intended to move farther away. Such men 
aturally prefer to live in the country, and if their work 
revents this they try to have a home outside the town to 
rhich they can retire, either every evening or every week- 
nd. They may come in daily to their work and never 
icntion their home address to their friends, using when 
ecessary clubs and restaurants for whatever social pur- 
oses they need. They rarely invite friends to their home, 
rhere they reign in solitary grandeur. They lay the 
reatest stress on privacy in general, this being of course 
oth a direct expression of auto-erotism (masturbation) and 

reaction against repressed exhibitionism. There are thus 
wo elements in the tendency in question, the wish not to 
e seen, and the wish to be distant or inaccessible; some- 
imes the accent is on the one, sometimes on the other. 
Joth are well illustrated in the following phantasy that a 
atient once confessed to me : his darling wish was to own 

castle in a distant mountain at the very extremity of the 
ountry (near the sea) ; as he drove up to it he was to sound 

terrific horn in his automobile so that the blast would 
everberate along the hills (thunders of Jehovah and Zeus, 
>aternal flatus), and on hearing it the servants and re- 
ainers were to disappear to their underground chambers, 
saving everything prepared for him in the castle; under no 
ircumstances were they ever to see him. Such men in 
ctual life interpose all manner of difficulties in the way of 
>eing seen, even on business; appointments have to be 
aade long beforehand or secretaries have to be interviewed, 
,nd when the time arrives they are either late or are "too 
>usy" to come at all. How prominent this feature of 
naccessibility is with the nobility, kings, popes ( !) and even 

249 s 


important business men 1 is well known. A by-product of the 
desire for distance, one which has also other roots, is a 
keen interest in the matter of communication and in im- 
proved means for enabling them to annihilate distance; 
they invariably travel first-class or else by automobile, thus 
keeping apart from the mob, insist on having the best 
system of telephones (which presents the advantage of 
allowing them to communicate without being seen), and so 
on. This trait is in striking contrast with the fact that such 
people do not willingly travel long distances, especially out 
of their own country. They always feel best at home, 
dislike going to the world and insist on making it come to 

The sense of this desire for inaccessibility is at once 
seen when we consider its extreme exaggerations, as met 
with in insanity. The late paranoic King Lewis of Bavaria 
would seem to have shown a typical case of this. It is said 
that he began by imitating Louis XIV ("obligation of the 
name" Stekel), and proceeded to identify himself formally 
with Le Roi Soleil. It is further related that at this stage 
he refused to interview people unless there was a screen 
between him and them, and that when he went out his 
guards had to warn people of his approach, to get them to 
hide in time and shelter themselves from his magnificent 
presence. Such behaviour can only indicate the belief that 
the rays emanating from this presence were charged with 
power of destruction, and the king's solicitude possibly 
covered repressed death-wishes. We have here a recru- 
descence of the old Egyptian, Persian and Grecian projec- 
tion of the father as a sun-god, one that played an important 
part also in early Christianity. The significance of it in 

1 H. G. Wells, in his novel Tono-Bungay, gives an amusing description of the 
difficulties in obtaining an audience with a successful financier. The applicants 
are sorted out in room after room by one secretary after the other, and only a 
very few are fortunate enough to penetrate to the Holy of Holies and come 
face to face with the great man himself. 



paranoia, as well as of the interesting and not rare "aiglon" 
phantasy, was pointed out by Freud in his Schreber 
analysis. 1 In insanity the patient may identify both his 
father and himself with the sun, as in the instance just 
mentioned, or else only the former, as with a paraphrenic 
patient of mine who spent the greater part of ten years 
defiantly staring at the sun. In more normal people such 
phantasies remain in the unconscious, and only a refined 
form of them can penetrate through to consciousness, such 
as the desire for aloofness. This desire, therefore, seems 
mainly to express, in an indirect way, a colossal narcissistic- 
exhibitionistic tendency, being based on the person's belief 
that his proximity is fraught with tremendous power on 
other people, and that the glory of his presence may dazzle 
or even blind them; as a precaution against such terrible 
consequences he withdraws to a distance whenever possible. 
A repressed tendency that also plays a part in determining 
this attitude is revealed by consideration of the fear of 
blinding others. This of course symbolizes the fear, i.e., the 
repressed wish, that he may castrate them, and we shall see 
later that both this wish and the accompanying fear of 
being castrated are prominent characteristics of the group 
of complexes under consideration. 

The other trait of mystery, mentioned above in conjunc- 
tion with that of inaccessibility, may be regarded as the 
mental correlate of this ; thus the broad tendency of aloof- 
ness displays itself by the desires, on the physical side of 
being inaccessible, on the mental side of being mysterious. 
The person aims at wrapping himself in an impenetrable 
cloud of mystery and privacy. Even the most trivial pieces 
of information about himself, those which an ordinary man 
sees no object in keeping to himself, are invested with a 
sense of high importance, and are parted with only under 
some pressure. Such a man is very loth to let his age be 

1 Freud, "Nachtrag," Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, Bd. Ill, S. 588. 



known, or to divulge his name or his profession to strangers, 
let alone to talk about his private affairs. I know of a man 
who has lived for eight years in a town in Western America 
without any of his friends there being able to find out 
whether he is married or not ; anyone who knows something 
of the publicity of American private life will realize what a 
feat this is. Some little characteristics about writing are 
derivatives of the same tendency. A man of this kind writes 
unwillingly, particularly letters. 1 He dislikes to part with 
such expressions of his personality, and also finds the not- 
answering of letters of other people to be a convenient way 
of indicating his opinion of their importance. 2 In spite of a 
great interest in accurate language, of which we will speak 
later, he rarely expresses his thought clearly and directly. 
Very characteristic is a lengthy, involved and circuitous 
form of diction that at times becomes so turgid and obscure 
as to render it really impossible for the reader to discover 
what is meant. The more important is the topic (to the 
writer) the more difficulty does he have in parting with his 
valuable secret. The most important part is often not 
written at all, but instead is constantly hinted at with 
repeated promises that it will be disclosed on a further 
occasion. In striking contrast with this is the fact that the 
actual handwriting is typically clear and distinct. With 
some such men it is the opposite, quite illegible, but with 
both kinds the person is inordinately proud of it, whether 
of the distinctness or of the obscurity. In any event he 
insists that it is peculiar to himself, apart, and unique. 
(In general nothing offends such a man as the suggestion 
that he resembles someone else, whether it be in hand- 

1 It need hardly be said that there are many other causes for this inhibition 
besides the ones here mentioned. 

1 Napoleon expounded this contemptuous attitude very wittily. He is said 
to have formed the rule, particularly during busy times, of never answering a 
letter until it was three months old. On being once criticized for this, he 
remarked that it saved much trouble for he found that most letters answered 
themselves in this time. 



writing, in personal appearance, in capacity, or in conduct.) 
The veil of mystery and obscurity that he casts over himself 
is naturally extended so as to cover all those pertaining to 
him. Thus he never spontaneously refers to his family, 
speaking of them reluctantly when any inquiries are made 
about them, and the same applies to any affairs in which 
he may have become concerned. That all this privacy refers 
not only to narcissistic self-importance, but also to auto- 
erotism 1 in general, and particularly to masturbation, is too 
well-known to need special emphasis here. The primary 
narcissistic tendency leaks through in the curious trait that 
when the reticence is abrogated, as during psycho-analysis 
or during a confidential chat with an intimate friend, the 
person takes the greatest pleasure in talking about himself 
in the fullest minuteness and is never weary of discussing 
and dissecting his own mental attributes. He is apt to be a 
successful lecturer and after-dinner speaker, showing a 
fondness for this that contrasts with his other reactions to 

The tendency to aloofness also manifests itself on the 
purely mental side quite directly. Such men are both un- 
sociable and unsocial, in the wider sense. They adapt them- 
selves with difficulty to any activity in common with others, 
whether it be of a political, scientific or business kind. They 
make bad citizens as judged by the usual standards; 2 how- 
ever interested they may be in public affairs they take no 
part in them, and never even vote, such a plebeian function 
being beneath their dignity. Any influence they exert is 
done so quite indirectly, by means of stimulating more 

1 The prominence of this in the present group of complexes explains the 
frequency with which the type under consideration presents the two character- 
traits of an interest in philosophic discussions on the nature of truth (prag- 
matism, etc.), with a low personal standard of honour in the matter of probity 
and truthfulness. 

2 Very characteristic is the combination of bad citizenship in a practical 
sense with a keen theoretical interest in social reform, which will be spoken of 



active admirers. Their ideal is to be "the man behind the 
throne", directing affairs from above while being invisible 
to the crowd. To follow, to participate, or even to lead, in a 
general movement, whether social or scientific, is repugnant 
to them, and they use every effort to maintain a policy of 
magnificent isolation. In this they may achieve, as Nietzsche 
did, true grandeur, but more often they present merely a 
churlish egotism. 

As is to be expected, such a strong exhibitionistic 
tendency as that indicated by the traits just mentioned 
must have a counterpart in a strongly developed comple- 
mentary instinct namely, the pleasure in visual curiosity 
("scoptolagnia"), though there are fewer characteristic 
manifestations of these in the syndrome. They differ from 
the previous ones in being more often of direct origin, and 
not reaction-formations. There is usually present a quite 
womanish curiosity about trivial personalities, gossip and 
the like, though generally this is concealed and is betrayed 
only on occasion. More often a higher form of sublimation 
occurs, and this typically takes the form of interest in 
psychology. If the person in question is endowed with a 
natural intuition for divining the minds of others, is a judge 
of human nature, he will make use of this in his profession 
whatever it may be; if he is not so endowed he tends to 
become a professional psychologist or psychiatrist, or at 
least to take a considerable abstract interest in the subject. 
This desire to compensate a natural defect furnishes no 
doubt one of the explanations for the notorious circum- 
stance that professional psychologists so often display a 
striking ignorance of the human mind. It also accounts for 
their constant endeavour to remedy their deficiency by the 
invention of "objective" methods of studying the mind 
that are to make them independent of intuition, and their 
antagonism to methods, such as psycho-analysis, which 
deliberately cultivate this; the flood of curves and statistics 



that threatens to suffocate the science of psychology bears 
witness to the needs of such men. To revert to our typical 
man: he takes a particular interest in any methods that 
promise a "short-cut" to the knowledge of other people's 
minds, and is apt to apply such methods as the Binet- 
Simon scale, the psycho-galvanic phenomenon, word- 
association reactions, or graphology in a mechanical and 
literal manner, always hoping to find one that will give 
automatic results. 1 The more unusual the method the more 
it attracts him, giving him the feeling of possessing a key 
that is accessible only to the elect. For this reason he is apt 
to display great interest in the various forms of thought- 
reading, cheiromancy, divination, and even astrology, as 
well as in occultism and mysticism in all their branches. 
This topic connects itself with that of religion on the one 
hand, and the various manifestations of omniscience on the 
other, both of which will presently be discussed. 

Certain less direct products of narcissistic exhibitionism 
may be grouped under the heading of omnipotence phan- 
tasies. These may extend over every field where power can 
be exhibited, so that it becomes impossible to discuss them 
in detail; they are particularly apt to apply to unusual ones, 
therefore claiming powers possessed by the few. Perhaps 
the commonest is that relating to money, a matter closely 
connected, in fact and fancy, with the idea of power. The 
person imagines himself a multi-millionaire, and revels in the 
thought of what he would do with all the power then at his 
disposal. This phantasy is usually associated with a pre- 
tended contempt for money in real life, and sometimes with 
an actual generosity and freedom in the use of it; the 
amount actually possessed is so infinitesimal in comparison 
with what he possesses in his imagination that it is too 
small to treasure. 

1 The complicated mathematical analysis of questionnaires, so much the 
vogue nowadays, evidently lends itself readily to such an attitude. 



The most characteristic sub-group in the present con- 
nection, however, are those relating to omniscience. This 
may be regarded as simply a form of omnipotence, for 
whoever can do everything can also know everything. The 
passage from the one to the other is clearly seen in the 
case of foretelling; to know beforehand when something is 
going to happen is in itself a kind of control, merely a 
weakened form of actually bringing the thing about, and 
the transition between a deity and a prophet is historically 
often a very gradual one ( !). 

One of the most distressing character-traits of the type 
under consideration is the attitude of disinclination towards 
the acceptance of new knowledge. This follows quite logically 
from the idea of omniscience, for anyone who already knows 
everything naturally cannot be taught anything new; still 
less can he admit that he has ever made a mistake in his 
knowledge. We touch here on a general human tendency, 
one of which the psycho-analytical movement has already 
had much practical experience, but it is so pronounced in 
the present character that it cannot be passed over without 
a few words being devoted to it. In the first place, men with 
this type of character talk even more than other men about 
their capacity to assimilate new ideas, and are sometimes 
lavish in their abstract admiration for the new. But when 
put to the test of being confronted with a new idea that 
doesn't proceed from themselves, they offer an uncom- 
promising resistance to it. This follows on the usual well- 
known lines, being merely exaggerated in intensity. The 
most interesting manifestations are the modes of accept- 
ance, when this does occur. There are two typical forms of 
these. The first is to modify the new idea, re-phrase it in 
their own terms, and then give it out as entirely their own; 
the differences between their description and that given by 
the discoverer of the new idea they naturally maintain to 
be of vital importance. When the modifications made are 



considerable they are always of the nature of a weakening 
of the original idea, and in this case the author of them 
usually adheres to the new conclusion. Sometimes the 
resistance to the new idea is indicated by the modifications 
being simply changes in nomenclature, or even in spell- 
ing (!), and then later reactions of the person show that 
he has never seriously accepted the new idea, so that his old 
repugnance to it will sooner or later be again evident. The 
second mode, closely allied to the first and often combined 
with it, is to devalue the new idea by describing it in such a 
way as to lay all the stress on the links between it and older 
ones, thus putting into the background whatever is essen- 
tially new in it, and then claiming that they had always 
been familiar with it. 1 

Of especial importance is the subject's attitude towards 
time. The idea of time and its passage is so intimately 
bound up with such fundamental matters as old age and 
death, potency, ambitions, hopes, in short with the essence 
of life itself, that it is necessarily of the greatest importance 
to anyone who claims omnipotence and omniscience. Like 
all lesser things it must therefore be under his control, and 
this belief is revealed in a number of little traits and 
reactions. His own time is naturally the correct one, there- 
fore his watch is always right and any suggestion to the 
contrary is not merely repudiated, but resented; this con- 
fidence is sometimes maintained in the face of the strongest 
evidence against it. His time is also exceedingly valuable 
in comparison with that of others, so that, quite consist- 
ently, he is usually unpunctual at an appointment, but is 
most impatient when others keep him waiting; time in 
general belonging to his domain, it is for him to dispose of, 

1 A beautiful instance of this performance occurred recently. I had written 
a paper on Freud's theory of the neuroses, dealing principally, of course, with 
the importance of infantile conflicts, repressed sexual perversions, etc. A very 
distorted abstract of it appeared in a French journal, finishing with the assur- 
ance that "since Janet's works all these ideas had long been current in France". 



not for others. An exception is provided by those members 
of the group that adopt the definition of punctuality as 
"la politesse des rois", and who find pleasure in demon- 
strating their perfect control over time by being absolutely 
exact (one thinks of Kant's daily four o'clock walk). 

The attitude towards fast time chiefly concerns their 
personal memory. This they regard, like their watch, as 
infallible, and they will stoutly defend the accuracy of it 
to the last lengths; in support of this they cultivate with 
attention an exactitude in such things as quotations, dates, 
etc., which can easily be checked. In some cases they are 
proud of their excellent memory, but more typically they 
regard it as something obvious and are annoyed when any 
of their success is attributed to it. 

The capacity to foretell demonstrates the power over 
future time, and this occupies a great deal of their interest. 
To speculate about the future of an acquaintance, an enter- 
prise, a nation, or even the whole human race, is a matter of 
quite personal concern, and they freely give vent to all 
manner of predictions, most often of a sinister kind. One of 
the most characteristic of all the present series of character- 
traits is the person's firm belief in his ability to foretell the 
weather, and particularly rain or thunder. The vagaries of 
weather have always played a prominent part in the 
phantasy of mankind, not only on account of their obvious 
importance for his welfare, but because the utter variability 
of them seemed to point directly to the activity of super- 
natural beings, whether good or evil. Christian congrega- 
tions that would consider it unreasonable to expect the 
Deity to improve the landscape at their request, or even to 
change the temperature, still pray earnestly for modifica- 
tions of the weather, and almost the last belief about 
witches to die out was that they were responsible for the 
production of inclement weather. The weather is the part of 
nature that most flagrantly defies both the prescience and 



the control of modern science, rivalling in this respect the 
human mind itself; one may say that the chief evidences of 
spontaneity and free will to be found in the universe occur 
in these two spheres, so that it is little wonder that they 
are equally regarded as conspicuous exceptions to the 
natural laws of determinism and order and as manifesta- 
tions of an external agency. In addition to all this, it is easy 
to show that the various elements have always possessed 
considerable symbolic significance, rain, wind, and thunder 
in particular being taken to represent grand sexual- 
excremental performances; a thunderstorm is in this con- 
nection of especial importance, because it comprises all of 
the three. In view of these considerations it is not surprising 
that the present type should take the greatest interest in 
the subject of the weather, and should arrogate to himself 
special powers of prediction in regard to it. It is practically 
pathognomonic of the God-complex when a man maintains 
that he can invariably foretell a thunderstorm, relying on 
signs and methods that cannot be explained to anyone else, 
and regards as "false prophets" all those who use other 

Such men also take a great interest in the subject of 
language, one which bears a symbolic relation to the last- 
mentioned. They pose as authorities on literary style, and 
often are so, claiming a "mastery" of their mother-tongue. 
The style they affect is usually good, exact but not pedantic, 
but tends to be involved and even obscure; lucidity is not 
its virtue, and they find it difficult to express clearly what 
they have to say. With the thorough knowledge of their 
own tongue goes an aversion to foreign ones, which they 
often refuse to learn; their own is the tongue, the only one 
worthy to be noticed. They are fond of talking, especially in 
monologue, and usually excel in lecturing, speech-making, 
and conversation. 

Two character-traits that bear an even more direct 



relation to narcissism are those concerning the attitude 
towards advice and judgement. They are very unwilling to 
give advice, the responsibility being too great. Any advice 
that they gave would be so precious and important that 
not to follow it would surely be disastrous. Rather than 
expose their friends to this risk they prefer to withhold 
their advice, another instance of apparent altruism. It goes 
without saying that any advice tendered to them by others 
is contemptuously rejected as worthless. 

The attitude towards judging is also characteristic. It is 
a double one, consisting of an alternation of extreme toler- 
ance and extreme intolerance. The question of which of the 
two is shown seems to depend on whether the infringement 
to be judged is of their own will or merely of that of other 
people. In the former case no punishment is too harsh for 
the offender; I have heard such men describe, just like a 
child, how they would execute various people who dis- 
obeyed them,- tradesmen who were behind time, and the 
like. In the second case, on the other hand, they are always 
in favour of the greatest leniency and broad-minded toler- 
ance. They thus advocate the abolition of capital punish- 
ment, the more humane and understanding treating of 
criminals, and so on. 

The subject of religion is usually one of the greatest 
interest to such men, both from the theological and 
historical side and from the psychological; this sometimes 
degenerates into an interest in mysticism. As a rule they 
are atheists, and naturally so because they cannot suffer 
the existence of any other God. 

We may now briefly mention a few character traits that, 
though pronounced, are less distinctive, inasmuch as they 
are of such general occurrence; they only belong here 
because they are almost always prominent features of the 
present type. One of these is an exaggerated desire to be 
loved. This is rarely shown directly, or at most by a desire 



for praise and admiration rather than for love. It is com- 
monly replaced by its opposite, an apparent indifference 
to and independence of the opinion of others, and the 
repressed need often betrays itself in such ways as a 
theoretical interest in the action of crowd suggestion, 
intense belief in the importance of public opinion, pliant 
yielding to convention in deeds in spite of a rejection of this 
in words. 

Like all other human beings, they are convinced in their 
unconscious of their own immortality, whether this be 
ensured through direct continuity or through an eternal 
series of rebirths ; they have thus neither beginning nor end. 
The belief in their creative power, as was mentioned above, 
is more subordinate, at all events in comparison with other 
ones, than might have been expected, yet it is often pro- 
nounced enough. The belief in self-creation, and rebirth 
phantasies, are practically constant features. It is further 
revealed in such phantasies as visions of a vastly improved 
or altogether ideal world, naturally created by the person 
in question, or even of the birth of a new planet where 
everything is "remoulded nearer to the heart's desire"; 1 
far-reaching schemes of social reform also belong here. In 
general there is in such men a vein of romantic idealism, 
often covered by a show of either materialism or realism. 

The idea of castration always plays with our type a part 
of quite special importance, both in the form of castration- 
wishes against the father (authorities) and of fear of castra- 
tion (talion) on the part of the younger generation. The 
latter is as a rule the more pronounced of the two, and 
naturally leads to a fear and jealousy of younger rivals, 
this being in some cases remarkably intense. Beyond the 
constancy with which a strong castration-complex is 

1 English readers will at once think here of the numerous works of H. G. 
Wells that excellently illustrate this phantasy; he does not appear, however, 
to present any other characteristics of our type, at least not in a striking degree. 



present there is nothing characteristic about its numerous 
manifestations in this type, so that I will refrain from 
mentioning these, particularly as they are fairly well 
known. The resentment with which these men observe the 
growing prominence of younger rivals forms a curious 
contrast to another character-trait, namely their desire to 
protect. They are fond of helping, of acting as patron or 
guardian, and so on. All this, however, happens only under 
the strict condition that the person to be protected ack- 
nowledges his helpless position and appeals to them as the 
weak to the strong; such an appeal they often find irre- 

The reader will probably have realized the difficulty I 
have experienced in grouping such multiple traits and will 
therefore allow me to repeat them now in a more concise 
fashion. Thus, the type in question is characterized by a 
desire for aloofness, inaccessibility, and mysteriousness, 
often also by a modesty and self-effacement. They are 
happiest in their own home, in privacy and seclusion, and 
like to withdraw to a distance. They surround themselves 
and their opinions with a cloud of mystery, exert only an 
indirect influence on external affairs, never join in any 
common action, and are generally unsocial. They take great 
interest in psychology, particularly in the so-called objective 
methods of mind-study that are eclectic and which dispense 
with the necessity for intuition. Phantasies of power are 
common, especially the idea of possessing great wealth. 
They believe themselves to be omniscient, and tend to 
reject all new knowledge. The attitude towards time and 
towards the foretelling of weather, particularly thunder- 
storms, is highly characteristic. The subjects of language 
and religion greatly interest them, and they have an 
ambivalent attitude towards those of giving advice and of 
judging (e.g., punishment). Constant, but less characteristic, 
attributes are the desire for appreciation, the wish to protect 



the weak, the belief in their own immortality, the fondness 
for creative schemes, e.g., for social reform, and above all, a 
pronounced castration-complex. 

An obvious consideration, and one important not to 
forget, is the fact that all Gods have not the same attri- 
butes although there is much that is common to them 
all so that the God-type will vary according to the par- 
ticular God with whom the person identifies himself. By 
far the most important of these variations is that depending 
on the idea of the Son of God, therefore in Europe of Christ. 
This gives a special stamp to the type in question, which 
must shortly be indicated. The three chief characteristics 
are: revolution against the father, saving phantasies, and 
masochism, or in other words, an QEdipus situation in 
which the hero-son is a suffering saviour. With this type 
the mother plays a part of quite special importance, and 
her influence is often shown in the particular attributes 
described by Freud in his harlot-saving type. 1 Saving 
phantasies, where what is to be saved from the "wicked 
father" varies from a given person (e.g., Shelley's first wife) 
to the whole of mankind (democratic reform, etc.), are 
thus extremely common here. The salvation is often to be 
effected at the expense of a terrific self-sacrifice, where the 
masochistic tendencies come to full satisfaction. These also 
reveal themselves in the trait of extreme humility and 
altruism, especially striking in men who originally were 
unusually virile and aggressive, e.g., St. Francis of Assisi. 
Second only to the importance of the mother who has to be 
rescued is that of the oppressive father. There is thus con- 
stantly present an intolerance of authority of any kind, and 
any person invested with this, or even only with seniority or 
pre-eminence, may be viewed in the light of this complex 
so that his figure is artificially distorted into the imago of 

1 Freud, "Beitrage zur Psychologic des Liebeslebens," I, Jahrbuch der 
Psychoanalyse, Bd. II, S. 389. 



the wicked father. With this Christ type there invariably 
goes also an anti-semitic tendency, the two religions being 
contrasted and the old Hebraic Jehovah being replaced by 
the young Christ. The castration-complex is if possible even 
more pronounced in this variety than in the main type 
described above. 

It is interesting to see that the character evolved through 
the influence of the God-complex in general tends to belong 
to one or the other of two extreme kinds. On the one hand, 
if the complex is guided and controlled by valuable higher 
factors, it may give us a man who is truly God-like in his 
grandeur and sublimity; Nietzsche and Shelley are perhaps 
good instances of this. On the other hand what unfor- 
tunately we see more commonly, particularly in patients 
during analysis we find characters that are highly unsatis- 
factory, with exaggerated self-conceit, difficulty in adapting 
themselves to life in common with ordinary men, and there- 
fore of no great use for social purposes. Probably this can 
be correlated with the unconscious basis of the complex, the 
enormous narcissism and exhibitionism. The last named 
instinct is of all the sexual components the one most closely 
related to the social instincts, being in a sense a definition 
of the individual's attitude towards his fellow man, and 
one can see a similar ambivalence in the value of its pro- 
ducts; on the one side, by giving a greater self-confidence 
and self-estimation, and a powerful motive to achieve a 
good standing in the estimation of others, it supplies a 
driving force that greatly contributes towards successfully 
coming forward in life, while on the other side when either 
exaggerated or not properly directed it gives rise to diffi- 
culties in social adjustment through a false sense of values. 

In conclusion we may refer to a few considerations, which 
though evident have to be mentioned so as to avoid the 
possibility of misunderstanding. In the first place, the 
picture sketched above is a composite one, just like any 



other clinical picture. The individual details are from 
separate studies and artificially fused, just as a text-book 
description of typhoid fever is. I have never seen anyone 
who presented all the attributes mentioned above, and it 
is very possible that such people do not exist ; at all events 
in every case some of the attributes are more prominent 
than others. Then I would further emphasize the fact that 
the present description is quite tentative, necessarily so 
because it is based on only one person's experience of 
about a dozen analyses bearing on the problem, 1 in other 
words on evidence that is certainly insufficient to establish 
a sharply drawn syndrome. I am convinced that there is 
such a thing as a God-complex, and that some of the 
attributes above mentioned belong to it, but am equally 
convinced that the present account of it needs modification, 
and probably both expansion in some directions and limit- 
ing in others. The present paper is thus published mainly 
as an incentive to the further investigation of an interesting 
series of character-traits. 

Postscript. The close resemblance between the character 
traits here described and those derived from what Melanie 
Klein has termed the "manic" phase of infantile develop- 
ment will be evident to present-day psycho-analysts. 

1 Experience of many more cases since this paper was written has only 
confirmed the main outlines here sketched so that no alterations have been 
made in it. 

265 T 




Introduction The Legend of the Virgin Mary's Conception 
through the Ear Breath and Fertilization The Dove and the 
Annunciation The Ear as the Receptive Organ Conclusion 


THE object of the present essay is to illustrate, by the 
analysis of a single example, the following thesis: that the 
close relation of aesthetics to religion is due to the intimate 
connection between their respective roots. 

The closeness of the relation, which is perhaps more 
striking with the higher religions, is shown in manifold 
ways : sometimes by the diametrical opposition of the two, 
as in the iconoclastic outbursts of Savonarola or the Eng- 
lish Puritans against art, but more frequently by the 
remarkable union between the two. The latter may be 
manifested both positively, as when art and religion are 
fused in worship (religious dancing, painting, music, sing- 
ing, architecture; "The works of the Lord are lovely to 
behold," "God is lovely in his holiness," etc.), and nega- 
tively, as when religion condemns the same piece of con- 
duct, now as sinful, now as ugly or disgusting. 

It is widely recognized that the ultimate sources of 

1 Published in the Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 1914, Band VI. 


artistic creativcness lie in that region of the mind outside 
consciousness, and it may be said with some accuracy that 
the deeper the artist reaches in his unconscious in the 
search for his inspiration the more profound is the resulting 
conception likely to be. It is also well known that among 
these ultimate sources the most important are psycho- 
sexual phantasies. Artistic creation serves for the expression 
of many emotions and ideas, love of power, sympathy at 
suffering, desire for ideal beauty, and so on, but unless 
the term be extended so as to include admiration for any 
form whatever of perfection it is with the last of these, 
beauty, that aesthetics is principally concerned; so much so 
that aesthetic feeling may well be defined as that which is 
evoked by the contemplation of beauty. Now, analysis of 
this aspiration reveals that the chief source of its stimuli is 
not so much a primary impulse as a reaction, a rebellion 
against the coarser and more repellent aspects of material 
existence, one which psychogenetically arises from the 
reaction of the young child against its original excremental 
interests. When we remember how extensively these 
repressed coprophilic tendencies contribute, in their sub- 
limated forms, to every variety of artistic activity to 
painting, sculpture, and architecture on the one hand, and 
to music and poetry on the other it becomes evident that 
in the artist's striving for beauty the fundamental part 
played by these primitive infantile interests (including their 
later derivatives) is not to be ignored : the reaction against 
them lies behind the striving, and the sublimation of them 
behind the forms that the striving takes. 

When on the other hand religious activities, interests 
and rites, are traced to their unconscious source it is found 
that, although as I have pointed out in the case of 
baptism 1 they make extensive use of the same psychical 
material as that indicated above, they differ from aesthetic 

1 See Chapter II, pp. 34, 70, 71. 



interests especially in that the main motives are derived 
not so much from this sphere as from another group of 
infantile interests, that concerned with incestuous phan- 
tasies. 1 At first sight, therefore, esthetics and religion would 
appear to have on the whole disparate biological origins. 
Freud's 2 researches have demonstrated, however and this 
is not the least far-reaching of their conclusions that 
infantile coprophilia belongs essentially to the as yet unco- 
ordinated infantile sexuality, constituting as it does a 
prominent part of the auto-erotic stage which precedes that 
of incestuous object-love. From this point of view we 
obtain a deeper insight into the present topic, and indeed 
a satisfactory explanation of the problem, for, since aesthetic 
and religious activities are derived from merely different 
components of a biologically unitary instinct, components 
which are inextricably intertwined at their very roots, it 
becomes throughout intelligible that even in their most 
developed forms they should stand in close relationship to 
each other. 


A belief, often forgotten nowadays, but preserved in 
the legends and traditions of the Catholic Church, is that 
the conception of Jesus in the Virgin Mary was brought 
about by the introduction into her ear of the breath of 
the Holy Ghost. I do not know if this is now held as an 
official tenet of the Church, but in past ages it was not 
only depicted by numerous religious artists, but also main- 
tained by many of the Fathers and by at least one of 
the Popes, namely Felix. 

1 See Freud, Totem und Tabu, 1913. 

* Freud, Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, 46 Aufl., 1920 



St. Augustine 1 writes: "Deus per angelum loquebatur 
et Virgo per aurem impraegnebatur," St. Agobard 2 "Des- 
cendit de coelis missus ab arce patris, introivit per aurem 
Virginis in regionem nostram indutus stola purpurea et 
exivit per auream portam lux et Deus universae fabricae 
mundi", and St. Ephrem of Syria 3 "Per novam Mariae 
aurem intravit atque infusa est vita"; similar passages 
could be quoted from various other Fathers, such as 
St. Proclus, St. Ruffinus of Aquileia, etc. In the Breviary 
of the Maronites one reads: "Verbum patris per aurem 
benedictae intravit," and a hymn, 4 ascribed by some to 
St. Thomas a Becket, by others to St. Bonaventure, con- 
tains the following verse: 

Gaude, Virgo, mater Christi, 
Quae per aurem concepisti, 

Gabriele nuntio. 
Gaude, quia Deo plena 
Peperisti sine pena 

Cum pudoris lilio. 

There were many versions of this current in the Middle 
Ages; Langlois 5 quotes the following one from the seven- 
teenth century: 

Rejouyssez-vous, Vierge, et Mere bienheureuse, 
Qui dans vos chastes flancs conceutes par 1'ouyr, 
L'Esprit-Sainct operant d'un tres-ardent desir, 
Est 1'Ange 1'annoncant d'une voix amoureuse. 

The event was often portrayed by religious artists in 
the Middle Ages. For instance, in a painting of Filippo 

1 St. Augustine, Sermo de Tempore, XXII. 

2 St. Agobard, De Correctione antiphonarii, Cap. viii. 

3 St. Ephrem, De Divers Serm. I, Opp. Syr., Vol. Ill, p. 607. 

4 Bodley MS., Latin Liturgy, X, Fol. 91 vo. 

* Langlois, Essai sur la Peinture sur Verre, 1832, p. 157. 



Lippi's in the convent of San Marco in Florence, in one 
of Gaddi's in the Santa Maria Novella, in one of Benozzo 
Gozzoli's in the Campo Santa of Pisa, and in an old mosaic 
no longer extant 1 in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, 
the Holy Dove is seen almost entering the Virgin's ear. 
In the first named of these the Dove emanates from the 
right hand of the Father, in the second from his bosom; 
more typically, however, as in the picture of Simone 
Martini's here reproduced, 2 one which will presently be 
more fully discussed, the Dove emanates from the mouth 
of the Father. The Dove may either constitute a part of 
the Father's breath as it were a concrete condensation 
of this or it may itself repeat the emission of breath: in 
the Florence Bargello there are three examples of this 
(by Verrocchio and the Delia Robbias), and it may also 
be seen in a picture of the Ferrarese school in the Wallace 
Collection, London, as well as in Martini's picture. 

The connection between the fertilizing breath of the 
Dove and the child to be conceived is made plainly evident 
in an old panel that used to stand in the Cathedral of 
Saint-Leu, of which Langlois gives the following descrip- 
tion: "Du bee du St-Esprit jaillissait un rayon lumineux 
aboutissant a 1'oreille de Marie, dans laquelle descendait 
s'introduire, dirige par ce meme rayon, un tres-jeune 
enfant tenant une petite croix." 3 A similar picture, by 
Meister des Marialebens, in which also the infant is seen 
descending along a ray of light, may be seen in the German- 
isches Museum in Nuremberg. We note that here it is a ray 
of light that issues from the mouth of the Dove, instead 
of the more appropriate breath. This equating of radiating 
breath and rays of light is an interesting matter to which 
we shall have to return later. It may have been partly deter- 

1 Gori, Thesaurus, Tab. XXX, Vol. III. 

2 See Frontispiece. 
8 Langlois, loc. cit. 



mined by the greater technical facility with which rays of 
light can be represented by the painter, but it also has its 
theological aspects, since it is related to the doctrine of the 
monophysite Churches of Armenia and Syria (which split 
off from the Byzantine in the fifth century) that Jesus's 
body, originating in an emission of light from heaven, was 
made of ethereal fire and had neither bodily structure nor 
functions. Another example of this equation occurs in an 
old stained-glass window which was formerly in the sacristy 
of the Pistoia Cathedral, 1 also representing rays issuing 
from the Dove's mouth and bearing an embryo in the 
direction of the Virgin's head; the picture is surmounted by 
the lines : 

Gaude Virgo Mater Christi 
Quae per Aurem concepisti. 

In a sculpture now in the Frankisches Luitpoldmuseum 
at Wiirzburg 2 a little child carrying a crucifix is seen in 
the midst of the Father's radiating breath and aiming at 
the Virgin's right ear; the Dove here stands aside, at the 
right side of the head. The presence of the infant at this 
stage was denounced as heretical by the Catholic Church, 
for it contradicted the belief that He took his flesh from 
the Virgin Mary and so was really man. 

As a counterpart to the accompanying picture of 
Martini's where the sacred words "Ave Gratia plena 
dominus tecum" are designated passing from Gabriel's lips 
to the Virgin's ear converging thus with the breath of the 
Dove may be mentioned a twelfth-century altarpiece at 
Klosterneuburg, 3 by Nicolas Verdun, in which two rays 
escape from the tips of the fingers of Gabriel's right hand 
and are directed towards the Virgin's ear. The anomalous 

1 Cicognara, Storia della Scultura, 1813-1818, Vol. I, p. 324. 

2 Nr. 6 Portalstein der Hauskapelle des Hofes Rodelsee in Wiirzburg, 1484. 

3 Arneth. Das Niello-Antipendium zu Klosterneuburg, 1844, S. n. 



termination of light rays in the ear demonstrates the 
strength of the main idea, that of impregnation by means of 
breath here replaced by its symbolic equivalent of rays 
of light entering the ear. 

Much discussion took place in subsequent centuries over 
the delicate questions pertaining to the mode of birth 
of the Holy Babe, of whether He left His mother's body 
by the natural route or emerged between the breasts or 
from the ear itself, whether the hymen was ruptured, and if 
so whether its integrity was restored later, and so on. 1 It is 
not proposed, however, to discuss these matters here, our 
attention being confined to the initial stage of the process. 

This remarkable conception of the process of impreg- 
nation, so foreign to all human experience, 2 must arouse 
the desire to investigate its meaning, for it evidently 
represents a symbolic expression of some obscure idea 
rather than a mere literal description of a matter-of-fact 
occurrence. Lecky 3 asserts that it "of course was suggested 
by the title Logos", but we shall find grounds for doubting 
whether this rationalistic explanation does not reverse the 
actual order of genesis of the two ideas. 

Our interest is further increased when we learn that 
the story is in no way peculiar to Christianity, though 
perhaps it is here that it reaches its most finished and 
elaborate form. Anticipating a little of our later discussion, 
we may mention at this point the legend of Chigemouni, 
the Mongolian Saviour, who chose the most perfect virgin 
on earth, Mahaenna or Maya, and impregnated her by 

1 See Guillaume Herzog, La Sainte Vierge dans I'Histoire, 1908, Ch. Ill, 
"La Virginit6 'in partu'," pp. 38-51. 

2 So foreign that Moliere uses it to indicate the utmost limit of ignorance on 
sexual topics. In the Ecole des Femmes he makes Anolphe say that Agnes has 
asked him 

Avec une innocence a nulle autre pareille, 
Si les enfants qu'on fait se faisoient par 1'oreille. 

8 Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in 
Europe, Cheaper Edition, Vol. I, p. 212. 



penetrating into her right ear during sleep. 1 We shall see 
also that when the Mary legend is dissected into its elements 
each of these can be richly paralleled from extra-Christian 
sources, and that the main ones have proved to be of 
almost universal interest. It is therefore certain that we 
are concerned, not with a purely local problem of early 
Christian theology, but with a theme of general human 

For the sake of convenience the subject will be divided 
up, and an attempt made to answer in order the following 
questions: Why is the creative material represented as 
emanating from the mouth, and why as breath in particu- 
lar? Why is it a dove that conveys it? And why is the 
ear chosen to be the receptive organ ? 


In anthropological, mythological and individual sym- 
bolism, instances of which are too numerous in the literature 
to need quoting here, the mouth has more frequently a 
female significance, being naturally adapted to represent a 
receptive organ. Its capacity, however, to emit fluids 
(saliva and breath), and the circumstance of its containing 
the tongue, the symbolic significance of which will presently 
be considered, render it also suitable for portraying a male 
aperture; the idea of spitting, in particular, is one of the 
commonest symbolisms in folk-lore for the male act (hence, 
for instance, the expression "the very spit of his father"). 

1 Norlk, Biblische Mythologie, 1843, Bd. II, S. 64. Jung (Jahrbuch der 
Psychoanalyse, Bd. IV, S. 204) makes the interesting statement, for which 
however he gives no authority, that the Mongolian Buddha was also born 
from his mother's ear; the accounts I have read, on the contrary, say that he 
was conceived by the ear, but born by the mouth. In a silk banner painted 
about A.D. 1 100 and recently discovered in the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas, 
the first appearance of the babe is depicted as being within his mother's sleeve 
(See Stein, Ruins of Desert Cathay, 1912, Vol. II, p. 199), a fact to which 
Mr. Alfred Ela of Boston kindly directed my attention. 



The idea of the breath as a life-giving agent is familiar 
to us from the passages in the Old Testament: "And the 
Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and 
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man 
became a living soul" (Genesis ii. 7) ; "The heavens by the 
Word of God did their beginning take ; And by the breath- 
ing of his mouth he all their hosts did make" (Psalms 
xxxiii. 6). Mohammedan tradition ascribes the miraculous 
impregnation of the Virgin Mary to Gabriel having opened 
the bosom of her garment and breathed upon her womb. 1 
One of the various legends of the birth of the Aztec divinity 
Quetzalcoatl relates that the Lord of Existence, Tonaca- 
tecutli, appeared to Chimalma and breathed upon her, with 
the result that she conceived the divine child. 2 

Further than this, the idea of breath has played a 
remarkably extensive part in religion and philosophy, in 
the lowest as well as in the highest beliefs of mankind. 
In Brahmanism it becomes formally identified with the 
Eternal Being, 3 and all over the world it has furnished 
one of the main constituent components of the idea of 
the soul (Hauchseele)* 

Now when we ask what is the source of this intense 
interest and importance with which the idea in question has 
been invested, such an inquiry may seem almost super- 
fluous, for it will be said that the importance attached to 
the idea of breathing is inherent in the act itself. Breath, 
as a symbol of life, is felt to be a natural and appropriate 
choice. No manifest act is more continuously essential to 
life than that of breathing, and the presence or absence 
of it is the simplest and most primitive test of death; the 

1 Sale, Koran, 1734, Note to Ch. XIX, citing various Arabian authors. 

2 Bancroft, The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America, 1876, 
Vol. Ill, p. 271. See also Preuss, Globus, Bd. LXXXVI, S. 302. 

3 Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, Engl. Transl. 1906, pp 39, no. 

4 Wundt, Volkerpsychologie, Bd. II, 'Mythus und Religion," 1906, Zweiter 
Teil, S. 42 et. seq. 



mysterious invisibility of breath finds a meet counterpart 
in that of the soul. 

Psycho-Analysis, however, has by now become familiar 
with the experience of finding various matters taken for 
granted as being something obvious and in no need of 
explanation infantile amnesia affords one of the most 
striking examples of this and then nevertheless discovered 
that behind this attitude of indifference may lie most 
important problems, just where there was thought to be 
no problem at all. So that, sharpened by such experiences 
in the past, we should not be content to adopt a current 
estimate of mental phenomena until an unbiassed examina- 
tion of the facts confirms the accuracy of it. With the matter 
under consideration this is, in my opinion, not so. In spite 
of the obvious reflections just mentioned, the thesis will 
here be maintained that the current conclusion indicated 
above furnishes only a part answer to the question asked, 
and that much of the significance attached to the idea of 
breath is primarily derived from a source extraneous to it. 
In other words, it is maintained that we have here another 
example of the familiar process of displacement, whereby 
various affects that originally belonged to another idea 
altogether have become secondarily associated with that of 

I have two reasons for venturing to differ from the 
generally accepted opinion on this matter, first because this 
seems to me to be based on an erroneous estimate of the 
amount of psychical interest normally attaching to the idea 
of breath, and secondly because it is in open disaccord with 
the principles of psychogenesis. To make the idea in ques- 
tion the centre of an elaborate religion, philosophy or 
Weltanschauung, as has been done many times in history, 
seems to me to presuppose an amount of primary interest 
in it which transcends that taken by anyone not in the 
throes of mortal illness. And when we explore the Uncon- 



scious, that region where so many philosophic and religious 
ideas have their source, we find that the idea of breath is 
much less important even than in consciousness, occupying 
a rank of almost subordinate inferiority. In the numerous 
cases, for instance, of neurotic symptoms centring about 
the act of breathing or speaking, analysis always shows 
that the primary importance of the act has been over- 
determined by extraneous factors. There is reason, it is 
true, to think that if we could apply the libido theory 
more extensively to somatic processes, along the lines 
opened up by Ferenczi, the act of breathing would assume 
an importance hard to overestimate, but there is no 
evidence at all events as yet to indicate that any serious 
amount of what may be termed ideational interest results 
from this organic importance of the act. 

In the second place, it is a law of psychogenesis, founded 
now on extensive experience, that an idea can become 
psychically important in adult life only through becoming 
associated with, and reinforcing, an earlier chain of ideas 
reaching back into childhood, and that much, or even most, 
of its psychical (as apart from intrinsic) significance is 
derived from these. Thus whenever we find such an idea 
dating mainly from adult life we may be sure that it 
represents much more than itself namely, earlier groups 
of important ideas with which it has become associated. 
These considerations are much more extensively applicable, 
and should therefore be regarded as correspondingly more 
potent, with ideas concerned with the adaptation to the 
world of inner, psychical reality than w r ith those relating 
to the outer world, and the religious and philosophic ideas 
referred to as also those concerning the act of breathing 
certainly enter into the former category. Now in the 
present instance it must be admitted that the ideational 
interest attaching to the act of breathing arises for the 
most part relatively late, for the infant is usually unaware 



of the act as such, which it performs automatically, and 
which arouses almost as little interest as the beating of 
the heart; even with difficult breathing in disease it is 
rather the sensations of distress (precordial, etc.) that are 
important than the idea itself of the act of breathing. This 
whole argument will not perhaps be very convincing to 
those who have not realized through psycho-analytical 
experience the ontogenetic antiquity of our affective pro- 
cesses, but with those who have it must, in my judgement, 
carry considerable weight. 

To trace the origin of the various affects that in later 
life invest the idea of breath, or of course those of any 
other idea, is a matter of detailed individual-psychological 
studies and of noting the different displacements that have 
occurred during the growth of the mind. If this is done, 
it will be found, as I pointed out some time ago, 1 that 
much of the interest and affect attaching to this particular 
idea has been derived from that of an excreted air other 
than breath namely, the gas resulting from intestinal 
decomposition. This conclusion may seem at first sight 
repellent, highly improbable, and above all unnecessary, 
but the truth of it is supported not only by the preceding 
theoretical considerations and the results of actual indi- 
vidual analyses, but by a large amount of very definite 
evidence of a purely external nature. Psycho-analytic 
investigation has shown that from the beginning children 
take a far greater interest in the act referred to than is 
commonly supposed, as is true of all excretory functions, 2 
and that they are apt in various ways to attach great 
significance to it, most of which of course becomes in later 
years displaced on to other, associated ideas. From this 
point of view the extensive part played by the idea in the 

1 Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, Bd. IV, S. 588 et seq. 

2 It should not be forgotten that the interest in question is a manifestation 
of the sexual instinct. The part played by breath in infantile sexuality is 
certainly less important than that played by the rectal excretions. 



obscene jokes of childhood, and indeed in the more allusive 
ones of later years, 1 becomes for the first time intelligible. 
It is hardly necessary to add that, owing to the repugnance 
of the idea, most of the infantile interest in it gets buried 
in the Unconscious and the phantasies concerning it 

One of these phantasies, which has a special reference 
to the main theme of this essay, is the identification of 
the material in question with the sexual secretion. In their 
early cogitation about what is done by the father to bring 
about the production of a baby many children originate 
the belief, to which I have elsewhere directed attention, 2 
that the mysterious act performed by the parents consists 
in the passage of gas from the father to the mother, just as 
other children imagine it to consist in the mutual passage 
of urine. Some children, probably the smaller number, go 
on to connect this with the swelling of the mother's 
abdomen during pregnancy, and their personal experience 
of a swollen abdomen due to dyspepsia and intestinal 
decomposition may be the starting-point for reproduction 
phantasies of their own. 3 The possible objection that this 

1 Cp. the volumes of Krauss' Anthropophyteia, which give some notion of 
this. Most farcical comedians on the variety stage make almost unconcealed 
allusions to the act, usually in conjunction with the orchestra. 

* Zentralblattfur Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. I, S. 566. In the Jahrbuch der Psycho- 
analyse (1912, Bd. IV, S. 563) a detailed report is given of one of the cases on 
which my conclusion was based. The explanation was subsequently, and inde- 
pendently, confirmed by Reitler (Zentralblatt filr Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. II, 
S. 114). 

8 Larguier des Bancels (Arch, de Psychologic, t. XVII, pp. 64-6), in a criticism 
of the present essay, holds that my conclusions "se brisent sur un point 
capital". Quoting the extremely doubtful conclusions of Hartland, to the effect 
that many savage races are ignorant of any connection between sexual inter- 
course and fecundation, he asks how one can attribute to young children 
greater perspicacity in this respect than that possessed by savage adults. My 
answer is that I attribute to both a greater perspicacity than does my critic. 
That, quite apart from actual knowledge, young children commonly imagine 
the begetting of a baby to be dependent on some unknown act between the 
parents may be news to him, but it is a very familiar fact to me, as to all others 
who have intimate experience of the child's mind. 



is in any way an artificial finding of psycho-analysis, or 
perhaps one that refers only to present-day civilization, 
can be at once disposed of by mentioning a single counter- 
part from antiquity. Thus in the Satapatha-Brahmana, 1 
and in several other passages in the Vedic literature, it is 
described how the Lord of Existence, Pragapati, who had 
created the original gods with the "out (and in) breathings 
of his mouth", proceeded to create the whole of mankind 
with the "downward breathings that escape from the back 
part (jaghanat)"; the identity of cosmogonic theories of 
creation with infantile ones has been amply demonstrated 
by Otto Rank. 2 

It will be most convenient to continue the discussion 
at this stage by dissecting the natural associations existing 
between the two expiratory gases, and grouping rather 
artificially, it is true various topics under each. Air 
emitted from the body, whether upwards or downwards, 
has the following attributes: blowing movement, sound, 
invisibility, moisture, warmth and odour. 

I . Blowing Movement 

The primitive notion that the down-going breath, to 
use the seemly phrase of the Vedic writers, is a fertilizing 
principle has frequently been extended to the wind, as 
might readily have been expected. It is significant that 
the corresponding belief can be traced in every quarter 
of the world, from Australia to Europe. Perhaps the most 
familiar example of it is the legend of Hera, who was 
fertilized by the wind and conceived Hephaistos. In the 
Algonkin mythology, Mudjekeewis, the West Wind and 
Father of the other winds, quickens the maiden Wenonah, 

* X. Kdnda, I, iii, i and 6; K&nda, I, ii, 2. 

* Otto Rank, "Volkerpsychologische Parallelen zu den infantilen Sexual- 
theorien," Zentralblatt fiir Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. II, S. 372, 425. 



who then bears the hero Michabo, better known to us under 
the name of Hiawatha. 1 In Longfellow's well-known poem 
of this name the courtship is described in terms that 
indicate the symbolic equivalence of wind, light, speech, 
odour and music, one which will be discussed later. 

And he wooed her with caresses, 
Wooed her with his smile of sunshine, 
With his flattering words he wooed her, 
With his sighing and his singing, 
Gentlest whispers in the branches, 
Softest music, sweetest odours, 
Till he drew her to his bosom. 

The Minahassers of Celebes believe they are descended 
from a girl in primeval days who was also fecundated by 
the West Wind. 2 The Aruntas of Central Australia still 
hold that a storm from the West sometimes brings evil 
"ratapa", or child-germs, that seek to enter women; as 
the storm approaches, the women with a loud cry hasten 
to the shelter of their huts, for if they become impregnated 
in this fashion twins will result who will die shortly after 
their birth. 3 

Although this belief is more especially connected with 
the West Wind, other ones can on occasion display a 
similar activity. Thus in the Luang-Sermata group of 
islands in the Moluccas the origin of mankind is traced to a 
"sky-woman" who climbed down to earth and was im- 
pregnated by the South Wind; 4 her children had access to 
the sky until the Lord Sun forbade it, a belief the onto- 
genetic significance of which is evident. Again, in the 

1 Brinton, American Hero-Myths, 1882, p. 47. 

2 Schwarz, Internationales Archiv fur Ethnographic, 1907, Jahrg. XVIII, S. 59. 
8 Strehlow, Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stdmme in Zentralaustr alien, 1907, S. 14. 
4 Riedel, De Sluik- en Kroesharige Rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, 1886, 

p. 312. 



Finnish national epic, Kalevala, the virgin Ilmatar is 
fructified by the East Wind and gives birth to the wizard 
Vainamoinen; appropriately enough, the latter not only 
invented the harp and discovered fire, but became the 
instructor of mankind in poetry and music. 1 In the similar 
legend of Luminu-ut current in Singapore and the Indian 
Archipelago 2 it is not stated which wind was responsible, 
In classical times this belief was especially connected with 
the Spring Wind, Zephyrus or Flavonius, who, for instance, 
begot Euphrosyne with Aurora, and it is highly probable 
that the Floralia included a worship of this wind as well as 
of flowers; Ovid 3 describes how Chloris, called Flora by the 
Romans, was ravished by Zephyr. Widespread also are the 
traditions of whole regions particularly islands the 
inhabitants of which are descended from the wind, or 
whose women conceive only in this way. In early classical 
times the latter belief was entertained in regard to Cyprus, 
and only last century the inhabitants of Lampong, in 
Sumatra, believed the same of the neighbouring island of 
Engano. 4 Mohammedan tradition tells of a pre-Adamite 
race consisting entirely of women, who conceived (daughters 
only) by the wind, and also of an island of women thus 
peopled. 5 The Binhyas of India also claim descent from the 
wind. 6 In an interesting poem by Eduard Morike entitled 
"Jung Volkers Lied", the connection is clearly indicated 
between the belief in question and the tendency to re- 
pudiate the male sex; it is probable that all these beliefs 
in miraculous conception spring from the boy's desire to 
exclude the father from anything to do with his birth : 

1 Abercromby, The Pre- and Proto-historic Finns, 1898, Vol. I, pp. 316, 
318, 322. 

* Bab, Zeitschrift ftir Ethnologic, 1906, Jahrg. XXXVIII, S. 280. 

8 Ovid, Fasti, v, 195-202. 

4 Marsden, The History of Sumatra, 1811, p. 297. 

8 L'AbrJgt des Merveilles. Translated from the Arabian by De Vaux, 1898, 
pp. 17, 71. 

e Saintyves, Les Vierges M&res, 1908, p. 143. 

281 u 


Und die mich trug im Mutterleib, 
Und die mich schwang im Kissen, 
Die war ein schon frech braunes Weib, 
Wollte nichts vom Mannsvolk wissen. 

Sie scherzte nur und lachte laut 
Und liess die Freier stehen : 
"Mocht' lieber sein des Windes Braut, 
Denn in die Ehe gehen!" 

Da kam der Wind, da nahm der Wind 
Als Buhle sie gefangen: 
Von dem hat sie ein lustig Kind 
In ihren Schoss empfangen. 1 

As is quite comprehensible, the same belief was by 
analogy also extended to animals. Freud 2 has reminded 
us of the ancient belief that vultures were, like the inhabi- 
tants of the islands just referred to, all female, and that 
they conceived by exposing their genitals to the wind; so 
accepted was this that Origen appealed to it in support 
of the credibility of Jesus Christ's virgin birth. Nor was 
the vulture the only bird that has been supposed to con- 
ceive in this way; in Samoa the same thing was related 

1 And she who bore me as a child 
Who rocked my cradle then, 
She was a fine brawn lass so wild 
That would know nought of men. 

She only scoffed and laughed beside, 
And left the men alone, 
"I'd rather be the wild wind's bride 
Than marry anyone." 

The wind he came, the wind so wild, 
Bride was she, he the groom, 
By him she got a merry child, 
A boy child in her womb. 
2 Freud, Eine Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci, 1910, S. 25. 



of snipe, 1 and both Aristotle 2 and Pliny 3 tell us that par- 
tridges can be fecundated when merely standing opposite 
to the male, provided that the wind is blowing from him 
to her. 4 St. Augustine 5 gravely relates how the mares in 
Cappadocia are fertilized by the wind, Virgil 6 says the 
same of the mares of Boaetia, and Pliny 7 of those of 
Lusitania. In more modern times this ancient belief is found 
only in the form of poetic analogy, such as in the following 
passage from Shakespeare: 8 

When we have laugh' d to see the sails conceive, 
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind; 
Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait 
Following, (her womb then rich with my young squire) 
Would imitate, and sail upon the land. 

Not only have the life-bringing powers been ascribed 
to the outer air, usually in the form of wind, but this has 
been extensively identified with the principle of life and 
creation altogether. Something will be said later of the 
enormous part it has played in Indian and Greek philo- 
sophy, where it has been exalted to the rank of the breath 
and essence of God himself, the fundamental substratum of 
all material and spiritual existence, the source of all life 
and activity, the first principle of the universe, and so on. 
A glance at the extraordinary mass of material collected by 
Frazer 9 on the subject of "The Magical Control of the 
Wind" is enough to show the astonishing significance of 

1 Sierich, "Samoanische Marchen," Internal. Arch, fur Ethnographic, Bd. XVI, 
S. 90. 

Aristotle, Hist. Anim., v, 4. 

8 Pliny, Hist. Nat., x, 51. 

4 See also Plutarch, Moralia, Lib. VIII, Art. i, Par. 3. 

* St. Augustinus, Civ. Dei, xxi, 5. 

6 Virgil, Georgics, iii, 266-76. 

7 Pliny, op. cit., viii, 67. 

Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Sc. 2, 1. 69. 

9 Frazer, The Magic Art, 1911, Vol. I, pp. 319-31. 



the idea in anthropology and folk-lore. There remain in 
modern times many examples of this over-estimation of the 
idea, particularly in poetry, of which the following may be 
quoted from Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind", in which 
also the association between wind, birth, fire, thoughts, and 
words, which will presently be discussed, is well indicated: 

Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe 
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! 
And, by the incantation of this verse, 
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth 
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 

The question why various beliefs in the fertilizing power 
of the wind get attached, now to the wind from one cardinal 
point, now to another, cannot be completely answered 
without a special study. It is plain that a number of 
different determining factors enter into the matter. For 
instance, it was believed in Thuringia 1 to be advantageous 
to sow barley when the West Wind was blowing, and 
one gets a clue to the meaning of this on learning further 
that the sowing should be done on a Wednesday, i.e. on 
Odin's day, since Odin, probably for reasons to do with 
the setting sun, had special connections with the west. 
A very general factor in the localizing of the belief is its 
association with winds of a warm, moist, and "relaxing" 
character, which commonly induce a more or less lascivious 
mood: a good example is the "Fohnfieber" in Switzerland, 
which is certainly a form of sexual excitation. The good 
King Ren6 of Provence passed the very tolerant law that 
those who committed crimes when the mistral was blowing 
were not to be punished, since they could not be held 

1 Witzschel, Sagen, Sitten und Gebrduche aus Thiiringen, 1878, Bd. II, S. 215. 



responsible in such "irritating" circumstances. All agencies 
leading to sexual excitation are readily identified, especially 
in the unconscious, with a fertilizing principle. As winds 
of this character prevailing blow from the west or south- 
west over the chief part of Europe, it is not surprising 
that in this region most of the beliefs in question are 
related to it. In confirmation of this supposition is the fact 
that the opposite type of wind, the East Wind, is popularly 
credited with the contrary effect. There is a saying among 
German sailors which runs (in Plattdeutsch) as follows: 1 
"Oste-Wind makt krus den Buedel un kort den Pint." 
("The East Wind makes the scrotum crinkled and the penis 

It is nowadays generally recognized, since the belief 
in mankind's primary interest in physical geography has 
been largely discredited, that all this significance attaching 
to the idea of wind must have arisen mainly through a 
projection outward of thoughts and feelings concerning the 
air in immediate connection with man's body. In accord 
with this view is the fact that the beliefs just mentioned 
concerning the sexual activities of the wind can be exten- 
sively paralleled by similar ones relating to the breath. One 
or two of these may be added to those already cited. The 
Delphi priestess in her love-embrace with Apollo was filled 
with his breath, which the God poured into her. In an 
early Mexican picture 2 a man and woman are represented 
as having intercourse by mingling their breath. 

On the basis, therefore, of present-day views on myth- 
ology, which do not need to be expounded here, 3 we may 
assume that the idea of breath is primary to that of wind, 
and that the beliefs just related concerning the latter may 

1 Private communication from Dr. Karl Abraham. 

2 Reproduced by Seler, "Tierbilder der mexikanischen und Maya-Hands- 
chriften," Zeitschr. /. Ethnologic, Bd. XLII, S. 67. 

3 See Rank and Sachs, Die Bedeutung der Psychoanalyse fiir die Geisteswissen- 
schaften, 1913, Kapitel II. 



be taken as some index of how important the former has 
been in anthropological history. That, however, the idea of 
another personal gas is still more primary than that of 
breath is a thesis that an attempt will be made to sub- 
stantiate in the following pages. 

2. Sound 

In the description of a fertilizing principle or of the 
Creative Being himself sound may occur either alone, when 
it is plainly a symbol, or as the most prominent attribute 
of some other phenomenon. A clear example of the former 
is the "Last Trump", which is to wake the dead from their 
sleep and call them to eternal life. This motif also plays 
a part in the various miracles of raising people from the 
dead; it is indicated for instance in a picture by Bronzino 
(in the Santa Maria Novella, Florence) representing the 
raising of Jairus's daughter, in which an angel stands at 
the side blowing a trumpet. Another example of the sig- 
nificance of sound, where the sexual meaning comes to 
open expression, is afforded by a cameo, dated 1294, in 
the Florence Bargello, in which a satyr blowing a trumpet 
surprises a sleeping bacchante. 

In the second type, where sound is merely one of the 
prominent features, the phenomenon is perhaps most 
often conceived of in the form of wind. In the Old Testament 
the voice of God is described by Ezekiel (iii. 12) as "a great 
rushing", and in the account of the advent of the Holy 
Ghost given in the Acts of the Apostles (ii. 2) we read: 
"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a 
rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they 
were sitting." Similarly the South American Indians wor- 
shipped "Hurrakan", "the mighty wind", a name supposed 
to be cognate with our word "hurricane", and the natives 
of New Zealand regarded the wind as a special indication 



of God's presence; 1 with this may be compared the Austra- 
lian fear, mentioned above, of the impregnating storm, the 
idea of "Father" being common to both. Even in modern 
times tempests have been regarded as representing God in a 
dangerous mood, while in all ages the creating of storms 
and thunder has been considered a special prerogative of 
the Deity (Odin, Thor, Yahweh, Zeus, etc.). 

A Chinese myth 2 relates how Hoang-Ty, or Hiong, the 
founder of civilization, was born of a virgin, Ching-Mou, 
and thunder. The mythology of thunder is much too 
extensive to be considered here, but attention should be 
called to the close association between the ideas of 
"thunder" and "father", one, indeed, which applies to the 
whole group under discussion. The Phrygian precursor of 
Zeus was called both Papas ( Father) and Bronton 
( Thunderer). Frazer 3 has shown how extensive has been 
the connection between Kings and thunder, and has made 
it probable that the early Roman kings imitated Jupiter's 
powers in this respect ; it is well known that psychologically 
the idea of king is equivalent to that of father. The old 
Indian God of Thunder and of Procreation, Parjanya, was 
represented in the form of a bull, 4 a typical patriarchal 
symbol. That the idea of thunder is exceedingly apt, in 
dreams and other products of the unconscious phantasy, to 
symbolize flatus, particularly paternal flatus, is well known 
to all psycho-analysts; such psycho-neurotic symptoms as 
brontephobia are almost constantly related to unconscious 
thoughts concerning this, and in obscene jests the associa- 
tion is at least as old as Aristophanes. 5 

The association Father God Sound has always been 

1 Taylor, Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants, Second Edition, 
1870, p. 181. 

* De Pre*mare, Vestiges des principaux dogmes chre'tiens, 1878, p. 433. 
3 Frazer, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 180-3. 

* Rigveda (Griffith's Translation), Vol. II, p. 299. 

5 Aristophanes, Clouds, Act V, Sc. 2. BpovT^ xai Trop89), 6(iowo. 

2 8 7 


a remarkably close one, and the following description of 
Zeus in this respect would hold good for the majority of 
Gods: "He gave his oracles through the voices of winds 
moaning and rustling in his sacred oak grove amidst the 
murmur of falling waters and the clangor of bronzen vessels 
struck by wind-moved hammers." 1 By a characteristically 
human reasoning process it was assumed that supernatural 
beings, including God himself, could be influenced by 
sounds, of any kind, and this device has been widely em- 
ployed in connection with both the purposes for which 
it was desired to attract the attention, and influence the 
conduct, of the Divine Being. The beating of tom-toms in 
African villages to frighten away evil spirits, and the 
similar Norse procedure to prevent the sun from being 
swallowed at the time of an eclipse, may be cited as 
examples of the one kind; in Greece also, loud noises were 
considered especially effective as apotropaic measures 
against the malign influences of evil demons. By the side 
of this Luther's statement 2 may be recalled, according to 
which the devil is to be driven away through the efficacy 
of the passage of flatus. 

On the other hand, sounds, especially in the form of 
hymn-singing and music, have been, and still are, favourite 
means of intercession to obtain benefits from the Deity. 
A hymn called "haha" (= breath), an invocation to the 
mystic wind, is pronounced by Maori priests on the initia- 
tion of young men. 3 The instrument called the "bull- 
roarer", "bummel", or "buzzer" is said by Haddon 4 to 
be the most ancient, widely-spread, and sacred religious 
symbol in the world. It consists of a slab of wood which, 
when tied to a piece of string and rapidly whirled around, 

1 Cotterill, Ancient Greece, 1913, p. 58. 

2 Schurig, Chylologia, 1725, p. 795; see also Les Propos de Table de Luther, 
Trad, franc, par Brunei, 1846, p. 22. 

3 Andrew Lang, Custom and Myth, 1884, p. 36. 
* Haddon, The Study of Man, 1898, p. 327. 



emits a roaring, uncanny noise. It is still used in Mexico, 
Ceylon, British Columbia, New Zealand, the Malay Penin- 
sula, New Guinea, Africa, and Australia. 1 Under the name 
of the rhombus it figured prominently in the Dionysian 
mysteries in Ancient Greece, and Pettazoni 2 has recently 
pointed out that the "rombo" still survives in modern 
Italy. It is used sometimes to invoke the presence and aid 
of the Deity, sometimes to drive away evil spirits. A study 
of the various beliefs surrounding it shows that the three 
main ideas with which its use is associated are: (i) thunder 
and wind, (2) reproduction (vegetation cults, initiation 
ceremonies, danger if seen by women, etc.), (3) ancestor 
worship (i.e., Father) in other words, ideas that take a 
prominent part in the theme under discussion here. There 
is naturally a close connection between bull-roarers and 
thunder-weapons in general, which have played an im- 
portant part in religious rites in most parts of the world 
except Egypt; 3 the hammer of Thor, the trident of 
Poseidon, the trisula of Siva, and the keraunos of Zeus 
are a few of the many variants of it the phallic significance 
of which is evident. In short, there are innumerable con- 
nections between the idea of thunder on the one hand and 
ideas of paternal power, particularly reproductive power, 
on the other, a conclusion reached long ago by Schwartz 4 
and in full accord with the conclusions of Abraham 5 and 
Kuhn 6 on the sexual symbolism of lightning. 

In ancient times it was believed that the young of 
lions were born dead and that they were awakened into 

1 Frazer gives numerous references to it in the different volumes of his 
Golden Bough. See also Marett, Hibbert Journal, January 1910, and Bouvaine, 
Journal of the Anthropological Institute, Vol. II. p. 270. 

2 Pettazoni, "Soppravvivenze del rombo in Italia," Lares, 1912, Vol. I. 
p. 63. 

8 See Blinkenberg, The Thunderweapon in Religion and Folklore, 1911. 

4 Schwartz, Wolken und Wind, Blitz und Donner, 1879, S. 186. 

6 Abraham, Traum und My thus, 1909. 

6 Kuhn, Uber die Herabkunft des Feuers und des Gottertranks, 1859. 



life through the roaring of their sire; this is given as one 
of the reasons why in the Resurrection Jesus was some- 
times represented as a lion, the space of three days being 
also common to the two beliefs. It may be paralleled by 
the belief mentioned by Pliny, 1 that a female partridge 
can be impregnated merely from hearing the cry of the 
male. The general importance of the voice in love-making 
is well known to biologists. With many animals, e.g., deer, 
most birds, etc., the love-call of the mate is one of the 
strongest means of attraction, and even with human beings 
the voice ) in both speaking and singing, 2 has by no means 
lost this primitive effect. 

From the sound of the voice it is an easy transition to 
the idea of Speech. The sexual relationships of speech are 
made plain in every psycho-analysis of neurotic symptoms 
in which this function is implicated; stammering, self- 
consciousness concerning speech, and so on. It has been 
dwelt on by many writers. The philologist Sperber 3 has 
made out a powerful case for the view that speech originated 
as a development of the love-call excitation accompanying 
the search for symbolical sexual gratification. In mytho- 
logy and folk-lore the function of speech is often treated as 
equivalent to loving or living, just as its opposite, dumb- 

1 Pliny, op. cit, x, 51. 

2 That infantile interest for the sound accompanying the passage of flatus 
may be transferred in later life to the subject of music was first pointed out by 
Ferenczi (Zentralbl. f. Psychoanalyse, Jahrg. I, S. 395, Anm. i). The resem- 
blance between the German words "fisteln" ( = to sing falsetto) and "fisten" 
( = to pass flatus) is certainly in accord with this finding. One may in this 
connection recall the fact that Hermes was God, not only of music, but also of 
winds, speech, and money. (The anal-erotic association between money, gas, 
and intestinal contents is indicated by many expressions in English. Thus new 
words are "coined", while new coins are "uttered". "To stink of money" is to 
be over-wealthy. "To raise the wind" is slang for "to obtain money", just as 
"to cough up money" is for parting unwillingly with it. "To have a blow-out" 
means to have a good meal, while "to blow" money is to spend it extrava- 
gantly; the latter expression is often, through confusion with the past tense 
"blew", corrupted to "to blue money".) 

3 Sperber, "Uber den Einfluss sexueller Momente auf die Entstehung der 
Sprache," Imago, 1912, Bd. I, S. 405. 



ness, signifies impotence or death; an example of the latter 
symbolism is to be found in the New Testament story where, 
to emphasize the supernatural nature of John the Baptist's 
conception, the earthly father (Zacharias) is said to have 
been dumb (= impotent) from just before the conception 
until just after the birth. 

Speech was therefore quite naturally considered to be 
identical with God, i.e., the Creator, and the doctrine of 
the Logos has played a prominent part in most of the 
higher religions. One need only recall the familiar passages 
in St. John (i. i and i. 14) : "In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;' 7 
"And the Word was made flesh" (embodiment of Jesus 
Christ). He also relates of his vision of the Being on a 
White Horse that "his name is called the Word of God" 
(Apocalypse xix. 13). God seems to have selected with 
preference mere speech as the means of carrying out his 
wishes, for instance in the Creation itself ("And God said, 
Let there be light; and there was light," etc.). The associa- 
tion between the Holy Ghost and speech was just as 
intimate: the saints "spoke by the Holy Ghost" (St. Mark 
xii. 36; Acts of the Apostles xiii. 2; xvi. 7), or were "filled 
by the Holy Ghost and prophesied" (St. Luke i. 67), while 
St. Paul pointedly says that "no man can say that Jesus 
is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (i Corinthians 
xii. 3). 

The sexual equivalency of the idea of speech, or word, 
comes to especially clear expression in the very legend 
under discussion. From a number of passages in the 
writings of the early Fathers that bear this out I will quote 
two only: St. Zeno 1 writes: "The womb of Mary swells 
forth with pride, not by conjugal gift, but by faith; by the 
Word, not by seed," and St. Eleutherius, 2 "0 blessed 

1 S/. Zeno, Lib. ii, Tractatus viii and ix, Pat. Lat., Tom. II, p. 413. 
1 S/. Eleutherius Tornacensis, Serm. in Annunt. Fest., Tom, 65, p. 96. 



Virgin . . . made mother without co-operation of man. For 
here the ear was the wife, and the angelic word the hus- 
band." The Virgin's conception has been constantly con- 
trasted by ecclesiastical writers with the fall of Eve, "the 
second Eve" being a very usual designation for Mary. 
The following passage, from St. Ephrem, 1 is typical of 
many: "In the beginning the serpent, getting possession of 
the ears of Eve, thence spread his poison throughout her 
whole body; to-day Mary through her ears received the 
champion of everlasting bliss." It is now generally recog- 
nized 2 that the myth of the Fall in Eden represents an 
expurgated version of a fertilization myth, so that such 
passages as the one just quoted must be simply regarded 
as expressing the contrast between forbidden and allowed 
sexual union, as typified by Eve and Mary. 

It is thus plain that at least some of the significance 
attaching to the idea of speech has arisen in psychosexual 
affects, and the next question is, in which specific ones f 
I have elsewhere 3 indicated the probable answer to this 
namely, the acts of breathing and speaking are both treated 
in the Unconscious as equivalents of the act of passing 
intestinal flatus, and a corresponding displacement of affect 
is brought about from the latter idea to the former ones. 
Indications of this association are still preserved in such 
expressions as "poetic afflatus", "clat-fart" (Staffordshire 
dialect for "gossip"), "flatulent speech", "a windy dis- 
course", and the contemptuous slang phrases for this, 
"gas" (English) and "hot air" (American). The word 
"ventriloquism" (literally "belly-speaking", German 
Bauchreden) is noteworthy in the same connection, and 

1 St. Ephrem, De Divers. Serin., I, p. 607. See also St. Fulgentius; Delaude 
Mariae ex partu Salvatoris; St. Zeno: Ad Pulcheriam Augustam, etc. 

2 See, for instance. Otto Rank, Zentralbl. f. Psychoanalyse, Jahrg, II, S. 389, 
and Ludwig Levy, "Sexualsymbolik in der biblischen Paradiesgeschichte," 
Imago, 1917-19, Bd. V, S. 16. 

$ Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 1912, Bd. IV, S. 588, 594. 



it is of interest that Ferenczi 1 has pointed out that during 
analysis the suppression of a remark may be betrayed by 
a rumbling in the stomach. 

Nor is it without significance that of the five Pranas 
(the sacred breaths in the Vedas) it is the Apana, or down- 
breathing, that is the one associated with speech. 2 

3. Invisibility and Fluidity 

These attributes favour the occurrence of the interesting 
association between the idea of Thought and the group 
under consideration. Thought is usually imagined as some- 
thing flowing; one thinks of such expressions as "he poured 
out his thoughts", "his thoughts ceased to flow", etc., 
and every psychologist is familiar with William James' 
famous chapter on "The Stream of Consciousness". The 
idea of breath, speech and thought are symbolic equivalents 
and are all unconsciously associated with that of intestinal 
gas. 3 I have elsewhere 4 brought forward reasons for think- 
ing that the unconscious belief in the omnipotence of 
thoughts (Allmacht der Gedankeri), which lies at the root of 
animism and magic, may be related to this association 
with the idea of creative power, just as most concrete 
emblems of power (sceptre, sword, cross, staff, etc.) are 
well-recognized phallic symbols. The notion of thought as 
a begetter also occurs, e.g., in the myth of Athene's birth 
out of the brain of Zeus. There are frequent reports of 
nuns in the Middle Ages who professed to be pregnant 
because Jesus had thought of them. 

We thus see how the unconscious conceives of the Mind, 

1 Ferenczi, Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (Engl. Transl.), 1916, p. 179. 

8 Khdndogya-Upanishad, iii, 13, 8. 

8 This association is also illustrated in the case already referred to and its 
relation to the idea of "auto-suggestion" expounded. 

4 Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse, 1913, Bd. I, S. 429. See also 
Eisler, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1921, Vol. II, p. 255 et seq. 



regarded as an objective phenomenon. In the Vedic litera- 
ture 1 the mind is said to be cognate with the Vyana, or 
back-going breath, while in another of the Upanishads 2 
we read that the Self consists of speech, mind, and breath, 
and that the Self should be consoled in sacrificing the 
desire for a wife by remembering that "mind is the husband, 
speech the wife, and breath the child". 3 Similarly for the 
Neo-Platonist Plotinus the world-soul is the energy of the 
intellect and is begotten by the intellect, the father, just 
as Athene, the Goddess of Wisdom, sprang from the brain 
of her father. In quoting the following passage from him, 
"That which lies closed together in the intellect attains 
full development as the Logos in the world-soul, fills this 
with meaning and, as it were, makes it drunk with nectar," 
Jung 4 comments : "Nectar, like soma, is the drink of fertility 
and life, i.e., sperma." Diogenes 5 also identified the intellect 
with air; he maintained that air has intelligence, and that 
human beings are intelligent in virtue of the air that enters 
in from without. The latter statement is perhaps a highly 
sublimated expression of the infantile sexual theory 
described earlier in this essay. 

From the ideas of thought and the mind it is but a step to 
that of the Soul, and we shall see that the same group of 
affects have extensively influenced this concept also. Of 
the primitive conceptions of the soul, 6 the lower (we do 
not say the primary) is that of the "bound soul", which was 
imagined as the vital principle of various internal organs, 
and was evidently little else than a symbolisation of the 
vital essence, i.e. sperma. (We are not here concerned with 
the motives or forces that led mankind to conceive the idea 

1 Taittiriyaka-Upanishad, i, 7, i. 

1 Brihaddranyaka-Upanishad, i, 5, 3. 

8 Ibid., i, 4, 17. 

4 Jung, Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 1912, Bd. IV, S. 179. 

8 See Brett, A History of Psychology : Ancient and Patristic, 1912, p. 46. 

6 See Wundt, op. cit., S. i, et seq. 


of a soul, a matter on which Freud 1 has thrown considerable 
light, but simply with the original content out of which this 
idea was constructed.) If sexual thoughts played such a 
prominent part in this crude conception of the soul it is 
reasonable to expect that they have also been operative, 
though perhaps in a more disguised manner, in regard to the 
more elaborate ones, and this we find to have been so. The 
most important part of the concept "Free Soul" is that 
known as the "Breath Soul" (Hauckseele), and it is easy to 
show that the idea of this belongs to the group under con- 
sideration. The evidence for the far-reaching association 
between the ideas of soul and breath is so familiar that it 
need not be recounted here ; we are constantly reminded of it 
by the very names for the former, from the Greek "psyche" 
and the Hebrew "nephesh" to the German "Geist" and the 
English "ghost" and "spirit". The fact that all these words 
originally meant simply "breath" also indicates that the 
latter was the primary idea of the two, which is indeed 
evident from every point of view, and that we have here a 
typical example of displacement of significance. 

There are at least two reasons for suspecting that the 
affects here concerned did not all originate in the idea of 
breath even, but in a still deeper one namely, in that of 
intestinal gas. These are, that in the first place the affects 
and psychical significance which have been attached to the 
idea of breath, or air or wind, were disproportionate to the 
inherent psychical importance of the idea and so must 
have been derived from one of greater psychical significance 
(such as flatus indubitably is in infantile life and in the 
adult unconscious), and that in the second place numerous 
direct connections can be indicated between the idea of 
intestinal gas and the conception of the Breath-Soul. 

The first argument, put in other words, is that, if a 
mass of feeling flowed over from the idea of breath to 

1 Totem und Tabu, 1913, Kap. IV. 



that of the soul greater in quantity than the amount 
inherently belonging to the former, then it follows that this 
idea must have acted, in part at least, merely as a carrier. 
Now it is not hard to show that the significance attached 
to the ideas of wind, air, soul, and breath have been much 
greater than what might be explicable from the primary 
psychical importance of the last-named of these, omitting 
of course its secondary importance as an emblem of life and 
creation. Confining ourselves solely to Hindu and Greek 
philosophy, and taking first the former, we note the follow- 
ing beliefs and statements in the Upanishads alone. Prana 
(breath) is identified on the one hand with Brahman, the 
Supreme Being, and on the other with Atman, the primary 
essence of the Universe. 1 The origin of the latter is thus 
described: From Atman came the Other, from this the 
wind, from this the fire, from this water, and from water 
came earth; thus the primary four of the series are ex- 
pressed in terms of a gas. It is unnecessary to cite any 
further examples, but it may be said that by far the greater 
part of this whole literature is taken up with this theme, 
the ideas of breath, wind, and so on, being described in the 
most exalted language imaginable. 

Similarly if we turn to Greece we find that the same 
group of ideas forms a central starting point for a great 
part, probably the greater part, of the views on philosophy, 
medicine, psychology, and general Weltanschauung. Many 
of the earlier monists, including Anaximenes, posited air 
as their <*px^ and the continued existence of the world 
was explained by a process of cosmic respiration, 2 the con- 
ception of which was based in detail on that of bodily 
respiration. Heidel, in a specially careful study, 3 has further 
shown that the various atomic theories of the Greeks can 

1 Deussen, op. cit., pp. no, 194. 

2 Heidel, "Antecedents of the Greek Corpuscular Theories," Harvard Studies 
in Classical Philology, 1911, Vol. XXII, pp. 137-40. 

* Heidel, op. cit., pp. 111-72. 


principally be traced to their views about the act of breath- 
ing. 1 Diogenes, in taking air as the most important element 
in the world, plainly says that the necessity of breath for 
life is the reason why air is chosen as the primary reality; 
the interaction between air in the body and the air outside 
is the type of all vital action. 2 With the Stoics also, 3 the 
pneuma was of cardinal importance: it was the breath of 
life, the warm air closely associated with the blood, the 
vital principle transmitted in generation, and at the same 
time the soul, which is contained in the body and yet is 
one in nature with the surrounding World-Soul. 4 The part 
played by the idea of breath in moulding the Greek concep- 
tion of the soul is too familiar to need insisting on. The 
influence of this conception extended far into Christian 
times: Clement of Alexandria, for instance, as well as 
Tertullian, maintained that the "rational soul", which is 
directly imparted by God to man, is identical with that 
"breath of God" 5 mentioned in Genesis, in contradistinction 
to the "irrational soul", which is akin to the life-principle 
of animals. The latter belief may profitably be compared 
with the Indian one mentioned above (p. 279) concerning 
the two breaths, upper and lower in a moral as well as in a 
physical sense, and the juxtaposition here of animal and 
divine opens up the whole topic of repression. 

The pneuma concept was also one of the highest sig- 
nificance in Greek medicine and retained much of its im- 
portance until about a century ago, gradually fading away 

1 It is interesting to note that prominent ideas in nineteenth century 
physical science, the atomic theory and the conception of ether, both of which 
were anticipated in Greek philosophy, represent in both cases sublimated 
projections of the complex under discussion. 

8 Brett, op. cit v pp. 45, 46. 

3 Brett, op. cit., pp. 166, 167. 

4 It is clear that the idea of "cosmic consciousness", of which we hear so 
much in modern pseudo-philosophy, is psychologically equivalent to ideas 
concerning the outer air, which have been projected from more personal 

5 The Hebrew "ruach" denoted both the human soul and the breath of God. 

297 w 


via the doctrine of "humour" and "diathesis"; its memory 
is perpetuated in such expressions as "to be in a bad 
humour", "in good spirits". All causes of disease other 
than those relating to food and drink were summarized 
under the generic term "air", a pernicious relic of which 
attitude we still retain in the almost universal superstition 
that draughts are dangerous to health (not to mention the 
special risks ascribed to specific forms of air such as "night 
air", "damp air", air coming through holes, etc.), and the 
therapeutic value ascribed to a "change of air", or a 
"change of climate" was even greater than that obtaining 
in our own days. 1 For centuries most physicians were 
attached to one or other school of philosophy, and the 
most important group were those constituting the school of 
Pneumatists, who subscribed to the Stoic doctrines; 
physiology and philosophy thus exerted a mutual influence 
on each other. The pneuma coursed through the entire 
body, regulated nutrition, generated thought and semen, 2 
and, according to Aristotle, conveyed to the heart the 
movements of sensation that had been transmitted to it 
from without through the medium of the sense organs ; on 
the state of it depended the health of the individual. An 
interesting example of the strength of the pneuma doctrine 

1 One should also think of the excessive significance which is still attached 
by many people to respiratory exercises. In the description of my patient 
referred to above there are some beautiful examples of the mystical application 
of these. Nor can orthodox medicine be entirely exempted from this reproach; 
I may cite the following examples taken at random from a medical catalogue: 

1. Fletcher: The law of the Rhythmic Breath, Teaching the Generation, 
Conservation and Control of Vital Force. 

2. Arnulphy: La Sante" par la science de la respiration. (La respiration est 
un des principaux proce'de's au moyen desquels on arrive a de" velopper sa 
force magne"tique, sa volonte".) 

3. Durville: Pour combattre la peur, la crainte, I'anxie"t6, la timidite", 
deVelopper la volont6, gue"rir ou soulager certaines maladies par la 
Respiration Profonde. 

* The view was, for instance, expressed that Hephaistos took the form of 
pneuma that coursed through the arteries of Zeus to his brain and thus led 
him to generate thought, i.e., to procreate Athene. (See Creuzer, Symbolik und 
Mythologie, 2e Aufl., 1819-23, Bd. II, S. 763 et seq.) 



was the way in which it was able totally to obscure the 
significance of the discovery of the nerves, 1 it being insisted, 
in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that these 
were merely ramifications of the pneuma-carrying arteries ; 
even later, when the relation of the nerves to the brain and 
to muscular action had been established, Augustine main- 
tained that they were tubes of air which transmitted to 
the limbs the actions commanded by the will. The following 
passages from Brett 2 well illustrate the general significance 
of the pneuma doctrine: "To one who thinks of the body 
as irrigated throughout by air, who attributes the cause of 
pulsation to the shock of air meeting blood, who moreover 
feels dimly that man is in direct connection with the whole 
universe through the continuity of this air, the importance 
of this factor must have assumed the greatest propor- 

There is abundant evidence to show that the idea of 
breath could not have been by any means the sole source 
of this series of doctrines, readily as this seems generally 
to be assumed. Proceeding first with the Greek views, we 
note two considerations : that the pneuma was not always 
brought into connection with breath as one would have 
expected from the current opinion, and further that their 
conception of respiration was a singularly broad one, many 
processes being included under this term besides that of 
breathing. Aristotle, for example, positively states that the 
pneuma of the body, the importance of which we have 
just noted, is not derived from the breath, but is a secretion 
resulting from processes going on within the body itself 
(primarily in the intestine), and Galen says, even more 
explicitly, that the psychic pneuma is derived in part from 

1 Brett (op. cit., p. 284) gives a striking description of the prejudices due to 
the tenaciousness with which the pneuma doctrine was held, and of the 
difficulty with which these were overcome before the value of the discovery 
could be properly appreciated. 

2 Brett, op. cit., pp. 52, 53. 



the vapours of digested food. 1 This association, which 
appears to be still active in the unconscious, is also em- 
bodied in our daily speech: we talk of "expressing our 
thoughts", of being given "food for thought", and so on. 
It would seem possible that the association has played 
some part in the development of certain forms of material- 
istic philosophy; one is struck, for instance, by the simile 
employed in such dicta as that of Cabanis, "the brain 
secretes thought as the liver secretes bile". We see an 
interesting revival of this attitude in the current material- 
istic trends of present-day psychiatry, which would derive 
the greater part of mental disorder from toxins due to 
intestinal disturbances quite logically, if this organ were 
the source of thought, as the Greeks believed; the absence 
of any evidence in support of this aetiology makes no 
difference to the belief in it. 

In the second place, a little study of the accounts given 
by various writers makes it plain that the Greeks thought 
of the respiratory and alimentary systems as being through- 
out closely connected, 2 which is the main point we are 
trying here to establish. On the one hand respiration was 
not restricted to breathing, but included also perspiration 
(a perfectly scientific view), while on the other hand 
respiration was regarded as a variety of nutrition, which 
indeed it is. They not only identified the absorption of air, 
its subsequent changes within the body, and its final excre- 
tion, 3 with those of food, but ascribed to the influence of 
the former the process whereby the latter becomes suffi- 
ciently rarefied to be carried over the body; the underlying 
idea, with of course many modifications, seems to have 

1 Brett, op. cit., pp. 118, 291. 

a See Heidel, op. cit., pp. 131-7. 

3 Hippocrates in describing the foetus says that it draws in breath through 
the umbilical cord, and that when it is filled with breath this "breaks", makes 
a passage for itself outward through the middle of the foetus, and in this way 
escapes. (See Heidel, op. cit., S. 135, 136.) 



been that the inspired air reached the stomach, either 
through the blood stream or through the oesophagus 
(which they believed led to the heart), and there digested 
the food, the internal pneuma being the product of this 
and thus representing a combination of air and food. From 
this point of view it is clear that pneuma was not merely a 
symbolic equivalent of intestinal gas, but was actually and 
grossly identical with it. The world-wide belief that the soul 
escapes through the mouth 1 probably refers, therefore, to 
ideas concerning not only the respiratory system, but the 
alimentary one also; this conclusion is supported by the 
existence, among many tribes, of various precautions and 
taboos designed to prevent the escape of the soul through 
the mouth during eating. 2 

Study of the Vedic literature shows that the conceptions 
of the Indian philosophers on this matter were funda- 
mentally similar to those of the Greeks. They devoted an 
extraordinary attention to the subject of the five Pranas, 
or breaths, but the accounts given of these in the various 
passages are so overlapping that it is not always easy to 
define the precise differences between them; in fact it is 
known that the definitions shifted to some extent at 
different periods. In spite of this, however, it is possible 
to determine the main outlines of the conceptions, and we 
may consider them in order. Prana, the "up-breathing", 
means essentially the breath proper. Where it stands alone 
it frequently denotes the sense of smell, consequently 
inspiration, but sometimes when used in conjunction with 
Apana it means expiration and the latter inspiration. 3 
Apana, the "down-breathing", though it also sometimes 
denotes smell and inspiration, usually means the wind of 
digestion residing in the bowels. It originates in the navel 

1 See Frazer, Taboo and the Perils of the Soul, 1911, pp. 30-3. 

2 Frazer, op. cit., p. 116. 

8 See Deussen, op. cit., pp. 276-9, where this matter is discussed in detail. 



of the primeval man. 1 It carries off the intestinal excre- 
ments; 2 it dwells in the bowels, 3 and presides over the 
organs of evacuation and generation. 4 The Vyana, or "back- 
going" breath, unites the breath proper to the wind of 
digestion, 5 and courses through the blood-vessels. 6 The 
Samana, or all-breathing, also unites the Prana to the 
Apana, 7 and carries the food over the body. 8 These two last- 
mentioned breaths evidently make up together the Greek 
"internal pneuma". Finally the Udana, the "up- or out- 
breathing", sometimes called the "wind of exit", 9 dwells in 
the throat, 10 and either brings up again or swallows down 
that which is eaten or drunk. 11 The Udana, which evidently 
denotes gas regurgitating from a flatulent stomach, is an 
interesting counterpart to the Apana, for while the latter is 
formally identified with death itself 12 the former carries 
away the soul from the body after death; 13 the connection 
between them is naturally a close one, since they both 
represent intestinal gas, which may escape either upwards 
or downwards. The idea of death and of intestinal decom- 
position are here, as so often, 14 brought near together, an 
additional explanation being thus afforded for the belief 
that the soul escapes from an alimentary orifice after death. 
Consideration of these accounts reveals the striking fact 
that four out of the five Pranas are much more closely 

1 Aitareya-Aranyaka, ii, 4, i, 6. (I refer throughout to the notation in 
Miiller's edition.) 

2 Ibid, ii, 4, 3, 2. Also Maitrdyana-Upanishad, II, 6 and Garbha-Upanishad, I. 

3 Amritabindhu, 34. 

4 Prasna-Upanishad, iii, 5. 

6 Maitrdyana-Upanishad, ii, 6. 

6 Prasna- Upanishad, iii, 6. 

7 Prasna-Upanishad, iv, 4. 

8 Maitrdyana-Upanishad, ii, 6. Prasna-Upanishad, iii, 5. 

9 Veddntasdra, 97. 

10 Aimritabindhu, 34. 

11 Maitrdyana-Upanishad, ii, 6. 

12 Aitareya-Aranyaka, ii, 4, 2, 4. 

13 Prasna-Upanishad, iii, 7. 

14 See Vol. I, p. ii. 


related to the alimentary system than to the respiratory, 
being primarily concerned with the movement of food, 
either within the alimentary canal itself or in the body at 
large; even the fifth, the Prana in the narrowest sense, 
does not altogether dispense with this connection, for on 
the one hand it is doubly united to the Apana (flatus) and 
on the other hand it has to do with the sense of smell, which 
biologically is nearly related to both sexuality and cop- 

It seems to me, therefore, a hardy venture for anyone 
who has reviewed the evidence just brought forward still 
to maintain that no other bodily gas than breath has played 
a part in developing the conception of the "Breath-Soul". 

4. Moisture 

It is well known that the idea of water has played an 
extraordinarily extensive part in anthropological sym- 
bolism, and especially in connection with the ideas of crea- 
tion and birth. The symbolic significance of water is mainly 
derived from its unconscious equivalency with uterine fluid, 
urine, and semen; it is probably the commonest symbol, 
both male and female, employed in birth phantasies. It is 
therefore quite intelligible that the ideas of water and of 
gas should frequently be found in proximity in these phan- 
tasies, and that they should even be treated as symbolic 
equivalents. A simple example is that in the myth of 
Prometheus, who created mankind out of water and sound. 
One nearer to the principal theme of this essay is that of the 
relation between the Holy Ghost and Baptism. In a previous 
essay 1 I have tried to show that the psychological sym- 
bolism of the baptismal rite signifies "rebirth through 
purification", and that purification is an idea unconsciously 
equivalent to fertilization. It is thus noteworthy that the 

1 Chapter IT, p. 70. 



two ideas of baptismal water and the Holy Ghost (in 
infantile terms, urine and gas) are frequently brought 
together in the New Testament in relation to the idea of 
re-birth. Jesus, in his reply to Nicodemus, says: "Verily, 
verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and 
of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is 
born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, 
Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, 
and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell 
whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that 
is born of the Spirit" (St. John iii. 5 et seq.), and again, 
"For John truly baptised with water; but ye shall be bap- 
tised with the Holy Ghost" (Acts i. 5). The replacement of 
the desire for earthly (i.e., incestuous) re-birth by that for 
spiritual re-birth is equivalent to the wish to be purified 
from sin, sin (of which incest is the great archetype) and 
death being opposed to re-birth and life; St. Paul writes 
(Romans viii. 2): "For the law of the spirit of life in 
Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and 

The tertium comparationis between water and gas is 
evidently fluidity, and in the idea of vapour we get a fusion 
of the two. For this reason vapour has always played an 
important part in connection with the various topics dis- 
cussed above, and the process of evaporation, whereby 
water is converted through vapour into gas, has extensively 
engaged the interest and attention of mankind. In Ancient 
Greece the Plutonia, Charonia, or hell-gates, where vapours 
issued from the earth, were sacred, because the exhalations 
were regarded as the spirits of the dead 1 (cp. the relation 
mentioned above between death and Apana and Udana). 
These spirits were looked to for increase of flocks and 

1 Rohde, Psyche, 6. Aufl., 1910, Bd. I, S. 213. Also Preller-Robert, Griechische 
Mythologie, Bd. I, S. 283, 811. 



herds 1 and for the fruitfulness of the soil, while women 
worshipped them to obtain offspring. 2 Such beliefs are still 
current in Syria: 3 for example, at the Baths of Solomon 
in northern Palestine, blasts of hot air escape from the 
ground, and one of them, named Abu Rabah, is a famous 
resort of childless wives who wish to satisfy their maternal 
longings; they let the hot air stream up over their bodies 
and really believe that children born to them after such 
a visit are begotten by the saint of the shrine. In ancient 
Italy issuing vapours were personified as a goddess, Mefitis, 
whose chief temple was in the valley of Amsanctus. The 
exhalations here, supposed to be the breath of Pluto him- 
self, are known to consist of warm, noisy blasts of sulphur- 
etted hydrogen 4 (i.e., had the odour of flatus) ; the associa- 
tion between intestinal functions and Pluto, the god of the 
lower world, is brought to our consciousness by the title of 
the well-known purgative, Pluto water ! 

Heidel 5 says that "probably no other natural pheno- 
menon played so important a role in Greek philosophy as 
evaporation". Rohde has abundantly shown that to the 
Greeks the soul was essentially a vapour ; 6 the later concep- 
tion of the soul, however, for instance that of the Stoics, 
would seem to have been that of an invisible, gaseous 
medium which owed both its origin and its continued 
activities to the vapours, derived from the mixture of blood 
and air, that coursed through the body. The process of 
evaporation or distillation was evidently of cardinal im- 
portance in effecting this change from the material to the 
immaterial, and thus helps to explain the significance 

1 Many passages in Dieterich, Mutter Erde, 1905. 

2 Rohde, op. cit., S. 297-9. 

3 Curtiss, Primitive Semitic Religion To-Day, 1902, pp. 116 et seq. 

4 Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 2nd Edition, 1907, p. 170. 

5 Heidel, op. cit., p. 122. See also Gilbert, Die meteorologischen Theorien des 
griechischen Altertums, 1907, S. 439 et seq. 

e It may be mentioned that our word "breath" is cognate with the German 
Brodem (steam, odour). 



attaching to bodily heat that brought it about, of which we 
shall speak later. From this point of view it is also easy to 
grasp Diogenes' notion that thought is an activity of dry 
air, that moisture is detrimental to thinking, and that 
excess of moisture is the reason why the young lack 
intelligence. 1 The same train of thought was applied to the 
life of the universe, cosmic respiration being imagined in 
terms of moisture, the earth and sea giving forth vapour 
and receiving back rain. 2 It dominated further the greater 
part of physiology, for digestion, absorption and nutrition 
were essentially problems of the conversion of food into the 
internal pneuma and the distribution of this through thebody. 
The inter-relation of moisture and air in both respiratory 
and intestinal breath affords a physiological basis for these 
conceptions, the psychological origin of which, however, 
goes back, as was indicated above, to infantile life. 

5. Warmth 

In relating the variants of the idea of the Virgin Mary's 
conception, as portrayed in art, we noted the curious fact 
that rays of light were sometimes treated as the equivalent 
of radiating breath, issuing from the mouth, entering into 
the ear, and so on, and we take this as a starting point for 
the discussion of warmth as an attribute common to the 
upper and the lower breaths. The belief in question finds 
many parallels outside of Christianity: the legends of 
virgins that have been impregnated by rays of light, 
usually from the sun or by fire, are exceedingly numerous 
and wide-spread. Bab, 3 Frazer, 4 Hartland, 5 and others have 
collected many dozens of such stories, with customs based 
on the belief, and it is not necessary to quote any specific 

1 Brett, op. cit., p. 46. * Heidel, op. cit., p. 134. 

3 Bab, op. cit., S. 279 et seq. 

4 Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1900, Vol. Ill, pp. 204 et seq., 244, 270, 305, 314. 

5 Hartland, Primitive Paternity, 1909, Vol. I, pp. 11-13, 18, 25, 26, 89-100. 


examples here. They show the usual characteristics of 
supernatural births, the child proving to be a Messiah, a 
great Emperor, or what not. One rather striking feature is 
the frequency with which water is made to play a part in 
the event ; the virgin is the daughter of a river-god, a star 
falls into water which she drinks, and so on. That the 
making of fire is commonly conceived of by the primitive 
mind as a sexual performance is well established. 1 

But beyond the symbolic equivalency just signified, an 
inherent connection between breath and fire (or light) is 
often predicated. To breathe on a fire, especially a holy 
one, is strictly tabooed in many countries; 2 for instance a 
Brahman is forbidden to blow on a fire with his mouth. 
The relation of breath to fire in folk-lore and superstition 
is a very close one. 3 In Longfellow's "Hiawatha" it is 
described how Gitche Manito, the "Creator of the Nations", 
blew on to the trees so that they rubbed together and 
burst into flame. In the Old Testament breath is constantly 
associated with fire, and in the Hermetic writings it is 
stated that souls are made from "the breath of God and 
conscious fire". In the Mithra liturgy the creative breath 
proceeds from the sun, and in the Stoic philosophy the 
cosmic Divine Fire was identical with the atmosphere. 
Jung 4 and Silberer 5 quote a number of interesting passages 
from various sources that show the intimate association 
subsisting between the ideas of shining and sounding. It 
can therefore be said with certainty that in primitive 
thinking the ideas of sound, beat and light are as definitely 
interchangeable equivalents as the corresponding physical 
processes have been proved to be by the scientific doctrine 
of the transformation of energy. 

1 Frazer, The Magic Art, 1911, Vol. II, Ch. XV, "The Fire-Drill," and p. 233. 

2 Frazer, op. cit., p. 241. Spirits of the Corn andojthe Wild, 1912, Vol. II, p. 254 

3 Frazer, The Magic Art, Vol. II, p. 239 et seq. 
* Jung, op. cit., S. 206-8. 

6 Silberer, Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, Bd. II, S. 596-7. 



We have now to inquire into the meaning of this associa- 
tion. Fire, or heat, is known to be one of the commonest 
libidinal symbols, and, as Abraham 1 has clearly shown, it 
is the equivalent of soma and sperma. This, however, 
obviously cannot be the original source of the association, 
for not only is the child ignorant of the existence of sperma, 
but it is relatively late before it learns to appreciate even 
that of fire. Years ago, in his Dora analysis, Freud 2 pointed 
out that in symbolic language, e.g., in dreams, the idea of 
fire replaced that of water, particularly urine ; the associa- 
tion is partly one of contrast, from the mutual incom- 
patibility of the two substances. In the psycho-analyses of 
patients I have also found that fire can symbolize not only 
urine, but also flatus, as for instance in phobias concerning 
gas-jets, 3 and further that the primary source of fire sym- 
bolism in general is probably to be explained in the follow- 
ing way. The infant's first experience of heat (as distinct 
from the warmth of the normal body temperature) is 
derived from the fact that all excretions are warmer than 
the external temperature of the body and in addition often 
produce, from their irritating and acrid nature (especially 
marked with young children), local burning sensations. 
When, now, the child becomes acquainted later on with 
other sources of heat, particularly burning heat, he inevit- 
ably forms an association between them and the causes of 
his earlier experiences. This happens so regularly that, for 
instance, with a phobia of fire at night one can predict with 
certainty that such a person will prove to be one who has 
incompletely overcome the infantile fear (and temptation) 
of bed-wetting. As we know that the child can express to 
itself the idea of sexual secretion only in terms of one or 
other excretion we can understand how it is that fire comes 

1 Abraham, Traum und Mythus, 1909. 

* Freud, Sammlung kleiner Schriften ZUY Neurosenlehre. Zweite Folge, S. 80. 

8 This must have been so in the case described by Reitler, loc. cit. 



to be such a general libidinal symbol, most often of urine, 
though sometimes of flatus. We must thus infer, on the 
principles enunciated above, that the association between 
fire and breath is a secondary one, replacing the earlier one 
between fire and flatus (and urine). 

There is ample confirmation of this conclusion to be 
found in many spheres, but we shall confine ourselves 
mainly to the field of Greek philosophy, so as to extend 
our previous considerations on this subject. In the first 
place, it is striking that the idea of heat, or fire, played a 
part of central importance in the pneuma doctrine; 
Aristotle, for instance, maintained that the active element 
in the internal pneuma was of the nature of fire, identical 
with the principle of fertility in semen. According to 
Heidel, 1 "it is in the phenomena of fire as interpreted by the 
Greeks that we discover the best illustration of the processes 
of respiration and nutrition," and this is still the favourite 
method of introducing the study of chemical physiology. 
But the Greeks did not stay at the analogy; for them heat 
was the actual motive force that carried on these processes. 
Except among the Atomists, respiration was thought to 
proceed through the natural warmth of the body creating 
an expansion that mechanically draws in the colder air 
from without. 2 Similarly with nutrition. The native heat 
of the organism "digested" the food, i.e., converted it into 
pneuma, in which form it was conveyed all through the 
body. It was at first believed that the heat, or fire, worked 
no inner change in the food, merely comminuting it and 
so preparing it for absorption into the blood, but the 
hypothesis was carried by Aristotle to the further stage 
mentioned above, his views on digestion being accepted by 
Galen and most of the other later medical authorities. 3 A 

1 Heidel, op. cit., p. 142. 

2 Heidel, op. cit., pp. 136, 141. 
8 Heidel, op. cit., pp. 141-68. 



great number of the Greek philosophers, however, just like 
the modern psycho-analyst, refused to be satisfied with the 
idea of fire as a self-sufficing primary agent, but broached 
the question of its nature and origin. They concluded, or 
rather accepted an age-old conclusion, that fire was sus- 
tained and fed by water in the form of vapour, the analogy 
being evoked of the sun drawing up or drinking moisture; 
since, however, the very production of vapour is dependent 
on the heat, it would seem as if a permanent cycle was 
posited, the primordial construction of which it was im- 
possible to determine. It was believed that water was the 
primary nutrient element par excellence, though this was 
inactive without the influence of the fire which it itself fed. 
Presumably the ultimate source of the fire was the life- 
instinct itself, for the greatest attention was paid to the 
passage of heat from the mother to the child during pre- 
natal life, but if one asks for a more explicit account of it, 
particularly where it was supposed to reside, the only con- 
clusion at all conformable with the different accounts 
seems to be that it was carried in a gaseous form, constitut- 
ing thus the very essence of pneuma. In short, the Greek 
theory of nutrition, just as that of respiration, assumes the 
closest possible association between the ideas of heat (or 
fire) and of gas (or breath in the widest sense). 

The idea of heat (or fire) played an equally prominent 
part in the Greek non-physiological conceptions, e.g., the 
philosophical and psychological ones. Some of the monists, 
such as Heraclitus, posited fire as their &pxVj. The cosmic 
process, which, as was indicated above, was imagined in 
terms of respiration and nutrition, was supposed to depend 
on evaporation and precipitation, i.e., on an alternation of 
heat and cold; the continued existence of earth and sea 
was maintained through their emitting warm vapours and 
receiving back cooling showers. 1 The very word "psyche" 

1 Heidel, op. cit., pp. 134, 137-40. 



itself is derived from the word fe^, 1 which has the double 
meaning of "I breathe" and "I cool", 2 and one of the 
favourite images in which it was described, as it still is in 
poetic diction, was that of a thin ascending flame. When 
the Neo-Platonic Plotinus rejected the Stoic doctrine of 
the material origin of the pneuma, he elaborated the follow- 
ing ingenious view: As the association of the soul with 
matter implies a degradation it cannot be placed in imme- 
diate contact with the body, so it makes use of a mediating 
element, a form of pneuma, in which to clothe itself and be 
guarded from a defiling contact; this aerial garb is of the 
nature of fire (!), in which the soul dwells and through 
which it moves the body. 

Another example of the association between the idea of 
fire and the group under consideration is that to do with 
speech. Jung 3 has brilliantly demonstrated the symbolic 
equivalence of speech and fire, quoting numerous beliefs 
in which the former is primary to the latter, though I 
cannot agree with his conclusion 4 that "the origin of the 
fire-speech phenomenon seems to be the Mother-Libido". 
To the many passages he cites I might add one from the 
Upanishads 5 in which both speech and fire are identified 
with the Apana, or down-breathing. Thus fire originates in 
speech, and both in pneuma, particularly the intestinal one: 
a conclusion which is in complete harmony with the one 
formulated above 6 on the basis of individual analyses which 

1 Prof. G. S. Brett was good enough to call my attention to Plato's sarcastic 
explanation of the word <|AJ^ ^l 9i>aiv fytt xat Ifyei, "that which conducts the 
nature (vitality)". He adds: The word 6^et is not a natural one to use and is 
philological ly connected with a number of words denoting (i) pipe, channel; 
(2) it is the technical word for "ride" and in the form 'o/e^co means to perform 
the sexual act. 

2 Roscher, Ausfuhrliches Lexikon der griechischen und romischen Mythologie, 
S. 3202. 

8 Jung, op. cit., S. 205-9. 

4 Jung, op. cit.. S. 388. 

8 Khandogya-Upanishad, III, 13, 3. 

6 p. 292. 



show speech to be an unconscious symbol for flatus (and 
sometimes urine also). 

To the Assyrian Fire-God, Gibil, as to many others, 
was ascribed a Logos part, 1 and we have noted above the 
close association between speech and the Christian Trinity, 
particularly the Holy Ghost. It is therefore quite consistent 
that the Holy Ghost should be likened to fire. John the 
Baptist preached: "I indeed baptize you with water unto 
repentance: but he that corneth after me is mightier than I, 
whose shoes I am not worthy to bear : he shall baptize you 
with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matthew iii. n). To 
be purified with fire (i.e., re-born) is a familiar metaphor, 
even in common speech, and the gaseous origin of it, 
indicated also in this passage, has been explained above in 
connection with the theme of baptism. In the Acts of the 
Apostles we read further (ii. 3) the following description of 
the descent of the Holy Ghost : "And there appeared unto 
them cloven tongues, as of fire, and it sat upon each of 

In reference to the mention of the tongue in the last 
passage quoted it will be convenient here to say a few 
words on this subject in so far as it relates to the present 
group of ideas. Symbolically the tongue is equivalent to 
the beak of the Dove, both having an evident phallic 
signification. Its physiological characters render it pecu- 
liarly adapted for this symbolism : thus, the facts that it is a 
red pointed organ, with dangerous potentialities, capable of 
self-movement, usually discreetly concealed but capable of 
protrusion (as in the defiant and forbidden exhibitionism of 
children), which can emit a fluid (saliva) that is a common 
symbol for semen. 

In Bohemia a fox's tongue is worn by a timid person as 
an amulet to make him bold, 2 the meaning of which is 

1 Tiele, Babylonisch-assyrische Geschichte, 1886, S. 520. 

* Grohmann, Aberglauben und Gebrauche aus Bohmen und Mahren, 1864, S. 54. 


patent. The term "spit-fire", applied to anyone having a 
sharp tongue, is probably a relic of the belief in dragons, 
which emitted fire from both extremities of the body. In 
the Rig-Veda the fire-god Agni is called the "beautiful- 
tongued one"; his tongue, like the phallic magic rods, is 
so powerful that it can overcome all obstacles. 1 Fire, like 
the tongue, is said to lick ("lingua" and allied words come 
from the Sanscrit lib = to lick). The dangerous-weapon idea 
is well shown in a literal fashion in St. John's vision of the 
Being, of whom he writes (Revelations xix. 15) "And out 
of his mouth goeth a sharp sword" (another favourite 
phallic symbol); in another passage (Revelations i. 16) he 
describes the Son of Man as having a sharp two-edged 
sword proceeding from his mouth. The Holy Ghost was not 
the only divine spirit to descend to earth in the guise of a 
tongue, for precisely the same is narrated of the Egyptian 
God Ptah, who, like Yahweh, created by means of the 

Nor is the tongue bereft of connections with the aliment- 
ary group of ideas. It is, indeed, situate in the alimentary 
tract, and serves both for the taking in of food and for the 
spitting out of what may have to be expelled (bad food, 
phlegm, etc.); the Indians gave it the name of Atri, "for 
with the tongue food is eaten, and Atri is meant for Atti, 
eating." 2 It is also closely related to the gaseous ideas 
discussed above. In many languages, e.g., English and 
French, the same word is used to denote both tongue and 
speech, and the association between it and inspired speech 
or thought is indicated in the following passage from the 
Acts of the Apostles (ii. 4) : "And they were all filled with 
the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, 
as the Spirit gave them utterance." The association tongue 

1 Hirzel, "Gleichnisse und Metaphern im Rigveda," Zeitschrift fiir Volker- 
psychologie, Jahrg. XIX, S. 356, 357. 
* Brihaddranyaka-Upanishad, II, 2, 4. 

313 x 


sexuality speech is manifest in a number of nightmare 
superstitions collected by Laistner, 1 to which I will add one 
from Bohemia 2 namely, that the tongue of a male snake, 
if cut from the animal on St. George's Eve and placed under 
a person's tongue, will confer the gift of eloquence; a 
similar explanation must hold for the well-known Irish 
belief of eloquence being conferred on whoever kisses the 
almost inaccessible Blarney stone. The tongue, therefore, is 
seen to be related to the ideas of fire, speech, sexuality, 
and divinity, a fact that will be commented on later when 
we discuss the idea of the combination of gas and an 
emitting organ. 

6. Odour 

This attribute differs from the preceding ones in being 
much more prominent with intestinal gas than with breath, 
and is on this account the more important for our purpose 
of elucidating the part played by the former. The essential 
relation of the sense of smell to coprophilia is well known 
to both ophresiologists and psycho-analysts, and it has been 
plainly shown that much of the interest attaching to agree- 
able perfumes and aromatics is a replacement of that 
taken by children, and by primitive peoples, in the odour 
of excretions; the adult attitude towards the latter odour 
has become as a rule, though by no means invariably, a 
negative one. For both these reasons it is legitimate to infer 
that where the sense of smell has played a part in the 
formation of complex-ideas these are more nearly related 
to the phenomenon of intestinal gas than to that of breath. 3 

1 Laistner, Das R&tsel der Sphinx, 1889, Bd. I, S. 41, 42. 

2 Grohmann, op. cit., S. 81. 

3 It may be conjectured that the antiquity of this buried association is one 
reason for the mysterious affective power of odours, especially in the revival of 
forgotten experiences (as screen-memories); as Marlitt says in her story 
Das Eulenhaus, "Nichts in der Welt macht Vergangenes so lebendig wie der 
Gcruch" ("Nothing on earth makes the past so living as does odour"). 


Even when the odour of breath itself is prominent it is 
probable that it is secondary to the other; bad breath is 
instinctively referred to digestive disorder. In the psycho- 
analysis of patients who have an excessive repugnance for 
the odour of bad breath it is always found that this has 
originated in the repression of pronounced anal-erotism. 
The same association is often manifested in popular sayings 
and beliefs; "to breathe on" was in Sparta a designation 
for the pederastic act, 1 and in Rome it was believed that 
the mouths of pederasts stank. 2 

We may begin with the part played in philosophical ideas. 
Heidel 3 says: "Aromatics, which possess the power of 
throwing off continuous streams of effluvia without per- 
ceptible diminution, had great significance for Greek 
thought, although it generally has been overlooked." This 
gives, for instance, the clue to the curious paradox that, 
although it is chemically pure water that is obtained by 
evaporation or distillation, the Greeks nevertheless held 
that it is through this process that various nutrient con- 
stituents pass from water to the inner fire and pneuma. 
They evidently seem to have regarded water not as a pure 
element, but as a liquid which contained in it all possible 
substances ; 4 this belief points to an infantile origin in the 
idea of urine, the conception of which as an essence- 
containing liquid has proved fertile to many trains of 
thought. 5 The solution of the paradox is yielded by the 
observation that when a liquid evaporates the most volatile 
parts, not necessarily pure water vapour, are carried up- 
wards, while the heavier, coarser parts are separated off 
and remain behind. The whole process, therefore, one of 
cardinal significance for the pneuma doctrine both of the 

1 Fehrle, Die kultische Keuschheit im Attertum, 1910, S. 86. 

2 Martial, Epigrammata, Lib. xii, 86. 
8 Heidel, op. cit., p. 125. 

4 See Heidel, op. cit., pp. 142, 143. 
* See Chapter II, p. 51, 64 et seq. 



individual and of the cosmos, was conceived as the evapora- 
tion and passing over of the volatile, quintessential ele- 
ments, which were perceptible only to the sense of smell. 
The closest association was thus formed between this sense 
and the idea of essential constituent, one which is still 
retained in our use of the word "essential" (cp. "an essential 
oil", "an essential idea"). 

The importance of odour is shown in more direct ways 
than in that just indicated. One thinks at once of the 
extensive part played by incense in so many religions, and 
this in all probability replaced the earlier idea of the "sweet 
savour" of burnt offerings. 1 (Taste and smell were not 
distinguished until relatively late in civilization and are 
still popularly confounded to a remarkable extent; the 
Greeks, for instance, for some time denoted both by the 
same word ^Sov/j.) The smell of the sacrifice was always 
considered to be specially pleasing to the god. The Fountain 
of Youth in Ethiopia, described by Herodotus, was aromatic 
and so ethereal as to be almost comparable to a vapour- 
bath, while the ambrosia on which the Gods fed had a 
marvellous fragrance. Aromatics were quite generally 
regarded in Greece as producing "enthusiasm" or possession 
by the Godhead, 2 and inspiration altogether was connected 
with the same idea; the Pythia, for example, Apollo's 
priestess, derived her inspiration partly from the aroma of 
the sacred laurel and partly from the vapours issuing from 
her tripod. 3 It is interesting that in the Teutonic mythology 
also poetic inspiration was attributed to the drinking of a 
divine drink, Odrerir the "poet's drink" or "life-juice" of 
Odin, which is psychologically equivalent to ambrosia, 
nectar, soma, and semen. The sexual meaning of the drink 
is plainly enough indicated in the myth that Odin won 

1 See Atchley, A History of the Use of Incense, 1909, pp. 18, 76, etc. 
8 Rohde, op. cit., Bd. II, S. 60 et seq. 

8 Bethe, "Die doiische Knabenliebe," Rheinisches Museum, Bd. LXII, S. 



possession of it by penetrating into a mountain in the form 
of a snake and so reaching the giant's daughter Gunnlod, 
whose love he of course wins ; the Odrerir itself was generated 
by mixing honey with the blood of Kvafir, a man of wisdom 
who owed his existence to the mingling of two lots of saliva. 1 
Customs of inducing inspiration by means of odours are 
very widespread; they are quoted by Frazer 2 from Bali, 
India, Madura, Uganda, etc. In Greece the foods partaken 
at the wedding feast and at the sacramental meal of the 
mysteries were all strongly pungent or aromatic, as were 
also the herbs laid beneath the dead at funerals. 

On the homoeopathic principle of "like repelling like" 
odoriferous substances have been extensively used to 
counteract unpleasant or dangerous influences. In Greece, 
according to Heidel, 3 "exhalations or effluvia of various 
kinds were the chief apotropaic and purificatory means 
employed in the most diverse circumstances." Heat and 
cold were thought of essentially as effluvia, so that it is 
little wonder that fire became the purifying and apotropaic 
agency par excellence, as possessing the most evident emana- 
tions ; that these were concerned in the efficacy is testified 
by Plato's remark, "the demons love not the reek of 
torches". 4 Almost all cathartic simples known to the 
materia medica of the Greeks possess a strong odour, rank 
or aromatic; wines were diuretic, diachoretic, or con- 
stipating according as they were aromatic or not. The 
efficacy of olive oil as a daily unguent and at burial was 

1 Mogk, Germanische Mythologie, 1906, S. 46, 47. 

8 Frazer, The Magic Art, 1911, Vol. I, pp. 379, 383, 384. 

8 Heidel, op. cit., p. 126. 

4 Frazer (The Magic Art, Vol. II; The Scapegoat and Balder the Beautiful, 
Vol. I and II) gives many examples of the protection against evil influences, 
especially witches, by means of evil odours, smoke, fumigation, and so on. 
Luther divined the original sense of these procedures (See p. 288). In the Dark 
Ages evil spirits were exorcised by either purgation or by prayer and fasting; 
their departure coincided with the cessation of internal rumblings that goes 
with a state of internal emptiness (Private communication from Prof. G. S. 



no doubt partly due to its aromatic properties; hence the 
use of it, or of wine, in the first bath given to the infant, 
and subsequently in Christian baptism. Nor should we 
overlook the extensive use of fumigations by Greek 
physicians, such as the internal fumigation of women after 
childbirth and as an emmenagogue. 1 But we need not go 
to the ancient Greeks for such examples. Oil at baptism 
and swinging censers are still universal in the Catholic 
Church; the fumigating powers of sulphur, alluded to by 
Homer, are still devoutly believed in by every house-wife, 
in spite of all proofs of their non-existence; no one places 
any faith in medicine that has no odour; the expelling of 
the demons of hysteria by evil-smelling asafcetida and 
valerian has not yet come to an end; and bacteriologists 
have had the greatest difficulty in dissuading surgeons 
from estimating the potency of a disinfectant by the 
strength of its smell. 

We thus see that the idea of odour is interwoven with 
those of heat, fire, vapour, and speech (inspiration), that 
odorous gas was believed to further the fruitfulness of 
women, 2 herds, and land (See pp. 304-5), to be pleasing 
to the gods and to drive away evil spirits and disease. 
I would submit that this persistent over-estimation of the 
idea, in both folk-lore and early philosophy, may in a great 
measure be ascribed to the circumstance that it is a 
prominent attribute of that down-going gas which is so 
important in primitive thought. At all events no one would 
derive it from the upper breath, the odour of which is so 
much less a prominent feature. 

1 These three sentences are taken from Heidel, op. cit., p. 127. 
* A poetical reference to this may be found in Milton's Samson Agonistes, 
who refers to Delilah as follows: 

"Who also in her prime of love, 
Spousal embraces, vitiated with gold, 
Though offer* d only, by the scent conceived 
Her spurious first-born, treason against me." 



7. Summary 

We may now briefly summarize our conclusions on the 
subject of breath symbolism. Starting from the considera- 
tion that the idea of breath has apparently played a part 
in the history of human thought disproportionate to the 
psychical significance inherently attaching to it, we inferred 
that it must have derived some of its importance by dis- 
placement from a still more primary idea. In the individual 
we had found by psycho-analysis that respiratory processes 
tend to be interpreted in the Unconscious in terms of 
alimentary ones, which phylogenetically they originally 
were and from the point of view of metabolic function still 
are, and which the erotogenic value of the corresponding 
sensations render of fundamental psychical significance in 
individual life. This conclusion is amply confirmed by a 
study of the ideas modelled on breath, the extensive 
material offered by Indian and Greek philosophy being 
specially chosen to illustrate this because of its accessibility 
and the prominence given there to such ideas. We found 
there that, just as in the child, the idea of respiration is 
secondary to that of alimentation; that breath receives 
much of its importance and interest from the conception 
of it as something which swallows, projects, and dissem- 
inates or expels food, besides intimately mingling with it in 
digestion to form vapour the internal pneuma which 
becomes the purveyor of nutrition to the system, the 
transmitter of both afferent and efferent nervous impulses, 
the generator of the fertilizing principle, of thought, intelli- 
gence, and the soul itself. It is this internal pneuma, which 
arises from intestinal decomposition, and in the generation 
of which the inspired air may or may not be supposed to 
take part, that is the true "breath" largely responsible for 
all these secondary conceptions; and not solely, as is generally 
supposed, the inspired breath in the usual sense. 



In the ideas historically moulded on that of breath we 
recognize again what in the unconscious are symbolic 
equivalents of intestinal gas : thus, wind, fire, speech, music, 
thought, soul, etc. The idea that is symbolized seems to 
possess a peculiar facility for lending itself to the most 
refined forms of sublimation, a quality which is psycho- 
logically to be interpreted as a measure of the intensity 
of the repression to which the idea is subjected. 1 Attention 
may be drawn to two instances of this: the part played 
by incense and music, especially singing, in religion; and 
the prevailing conception of the soul. The latter is particu- 
larly striking and the different stages of its growth can 
be well traced in Greek thought. Beginning with the 
nutrient water, the source of all things, we see the coarser 
constituents being precipitated and discarded, while the 
finer elements, the essence of essences, are distilled over 
into vapour (pneuma), which in its turn is purified of any 
grossness still remaining and is rarefied into an aerial 
medium, ethereal and spiritual, intangible, invisible and 
indefinable the psyche; such is the power ascribed to that 
magic laboratory, the intestinal tract. This extraordinary 
capacity for sublimation is probably the reason why the 
conception of the soul derived from the primitive "breath- 
soul" (Hauchseele) is definitely replacing that derived from 
the "shadow-soul" (Schattenseele), being better adapted to 
express the loftiest ideas of purity and spirituality. 

It is highly probable that the sublimation of the original 
interest proceeded historically by a series of steps, as it 
does in the individual, and one might venture on the follow- 
ing description of these. Such an attempt must necessarily 
be schematic, for it is not to be supposed that the evolution 
in question takes place in the same order in all individuals, 
or in all races ; a given sublimated interest, therefore, may 

1 See Freud on this correlation, Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neuro- 
senlehre, Vierte Folge, 1918, S. 284. 


represent one of the described stages in one respect, but 
perhaps not in others. To begin with we have the beliefs 
and interests in external phenomena that in a crude way 
nearly resemble the original personal ones: thus, the belief 
that hot evil-smelling vapours explosively issuing from the 
"bowels" of the earth lead to increased fertility and 
strength. The first stage in sublimation probably consisted 
in the replacement of disagreeable odours by agreeable 
ones, the stage of aromatics, ambrosia and incense. The 
second stage we may conceive as being brought about 
through the element of odour being eliminated altogether. 
Interest is then transferred to such ideas as those in which 
sound plays a prominent part, either in the form of noise 
(cries, savage instruments, "bull-roarer", thunder) or in 
that of music; the ideas of speech and the spoken "Word" 
also belong here. The third stage sees the removal of the 
attribute of sound, when we have developed the pneuma 
doctrine, theories of evaporation, and the idea of cosmic 
respiration. In the fourth stage moisture disappears, and 
interest gets concentrated on the importance of heat and 
fire, both as cosmic processes and as individual ones 
(respiration and digestion, refinements of the pneuma 
doctrine). With the fifth stage this also vanishes, and we are 
left with such ideas as "the breath of God", the winds and 
the outer air, and so on. The sixth and final stage finds even 
this notion of blowing movement too intolerable, as recall- 
ing, however dimly, the original idea. The complex has now 
been "purged of all material grossness", and is fit to render 
such lofty thoughts as those of "the rational soul", universal 
ether, and world-consciousness. Five of the six original 
attributes (odour, noise, moisture, warmth, and movement) 
have been eliminated by progressive processes of de- 
odorization, silencing, desiccation, cooling and calming, and 
there is left only the abstract conception of a fluid that is 
invisible, intangible, inaudible and odourless, i.e., imper- 



ceptible and inaccessible to any of the senses. As will be 
noticed, however, the sublimation has only in certain cases 
been carried through to its uttermost extreme, and all of 
the attributes find various expressions at the present time 
as well as in the past. 

It should constantly be borne in mind that much of the 
importance which has been attached to the present topic 
owes its origin in the last resort not to physiological or 
philosophical speculation, but to the sexual interest and 
sensations of infantile life. For the young child, and for the 
adult unconscious, intestinal gas is before all a sexual 
material, the symbolic equivalent of urine and of the later 
semen. That it still retains some of this primary sig- 
nificance even in its conscious ramifications is indicated by 
the numerous beliefs referred to above in which the 
secondary ideas derived from that of breath, such as wind, 
speech, fire, etc., are treated as fertilizing principles, and 
have the capacity ascribed to them of leading to conception 
in the literal sense. 

There are two answers to the question put at the begin- 
ning of this chapter, of why it was God's breath that was 
chosen to represent the fertilizing material in the Madonna 
legend, and they are of equal importance. One of them we 
reserve until some other features of the legend have been 
considered. The other is given by our analysis of the 
infantile source of the material in question, which has 
shown that this concerns a secretion that better than any 
other lends itself to de-sensualization. 


At first sight it would seem in the legend under discussion 
that the two figures of the Holy Dove and the Archangel 
Gabriel merely represent, in a duplicate fashion, the same 
idea, for both are divine agents that pour into the Virgin's 



ear, one breath, the other the Word; they have the further 
common attribute of being winged beings. There can be no 
doubt that they considerably overlap in their signification, 
but reflection shows that this doubling, as perhaps all 
symbolic reduplication, is of the nature of mythological 
"decomposition" : in other words, the two figures represent 
attributes, dissociated from the main personality, which 
are closely akin, but not quite identical. 

It is clear that the notion of a messenger in general is 
always based on this psychological process, which strictly 
speaking is a form of projection. A messenger represents 
one or more aspects of the main personality; for example, 
the king's thoughts on a given topic. Psychologically he may 
be called a part of the king, being an agent of his wishes in 
the same way as the king's hand or tongue might be. 
Otherwise expressed, he symbolizes the king, by represent- 
ing one or other of his attributes. The primary conception 
of a messenger, well illustrated by the stories of the angels 
and of Satan in the Old Testament, was thus of an agent 
who carried out the king's wishes, rather than that of a 
mere conveyer of news. In ages when less attention was 
paid to the reality-principle this was clearly recognized, 
the messenger being treated as fully responsible for the 
news he brought and executed if this was bad. Even to-day 
we see or did at least until before the War indica- 
tions of this early attribute in the special deference paid 
to ambassadors and other accredited representatives of 

The same primitive attribute is also evident in the 
present legend, for the Annunciation is exactly synchronous 
with the conception; more than this, it may be said in a 
certain sense actually to effect it. And it is here that we 
can see the distinction between the parts played by the 
angel and the Dove. For while in older mythologies, e.g., the 
Greek, the Supreme Being wishing to impregnate a mortal 



maiden appeared to her in the symbolic guise of an im- 
pregnating agent alone, a snake, a swan, or some other 
phallic symbol, in the Christian myth He is not content 
with this, but appears also in the guise of a man. The 
Archangel Gabriel thus represents the Divine Being in 
human form, or, more precisely, that aspect of Him which 
wishes to effect a human act. This wish, the cause of the 
act, is identical with the Annunciation, and since the 
wishes of God, just like those of an obsessional patient, are 
all-powerful, it is little wonder that we have a certain 
difficulty at first in distinguishing between the part played 
by the symbol of the wishing personality (the angel) and 
that played by the symbol of the means of execution 
(the Dove). The true significance of Gabriel is naively 
revealed by St. Ephrem 1 thus: "The Archangel Gabriel 
was sent under the form of a venerable aged man, lest so 
chaste and so modest a maiden should be troubled, or 
seized with any fear, at a youthful appearance." 

In the Annunciation scene the Archangel Gabriel holds 
a flower ', usually a lily, in his right hand. Flowers have 
always been emblematic of women, and particularly of 
their genital region, as is indicated by the use of the word 
"defloration" and by various passages in the Song of 
Solomon. A flower in symbolic language signifies a child 
(an unconscious equivalent of the female genitalia); the 
association is formed through the origin of flowers in the 
mother-earth, favoured by watering and manuring, 2 and is 
represented in consciousness by the supposed innocence 
and sexlessness of both as fictitious in the one case as 
in the other. The flower here, therefore, represents the 

1 St. Ephrem, De Divers. Serm., i, 600. In a Syriac tradition of the fourth 
century (The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Edited by Wallis Budge, 
1899, p. 22) I also read that "Gabriel appeared unto her in the form of a 
venerable old man, so that she might not flee from him." 

8 The coprophilic association here hinted at is strengthened by the fact that 
an attractive odour is one of the most striking attributes of flowers. 



child 1 that the divine ambassador is promising and proffer- 
ing or rather giving to the Virgin. 

The- lily was considered a special attribute of the 
Madonna, representing both her motherhood and her inno- 
cence, and before the fourteenth century was always 
depicted in the Annunciation scene at her side; later it 
was placed either between her and Gabriel, as in the accom- 
panying picture, 2 or in the hand of the latter. Both aspects 
of the metaphor are expressed in the following description: 3 
"Mary is the lily of chastity, but glowing with the flames 
of love, in order to spread around her the sweetest perfume 
and grace." A delightful odour was one of the Madonna's 
most prominent physical characteristics, and is constantly 
mentioned by the Fathers: thus, St. Chrysostom 4 calls her 
"the Paradise that is filled with the most divine per- 

The lily is a flower with a long history in antiquity, 
and has always been especially associated with the idea 
of innocence. The very name comes from the Greek Xetpiov 
( = simple). The Romans called it Rosa Junonis, because 
it was supposed to have sprung from the pure milk of the 
Queen of Heaven. It was associated with the Chaste 
Susanna, the Hebrew name for lily being "shusham". (In 
other Semitic languages it is "susanna"; in Persia, from 
where the lily is said to have come, the ancient capital, 
Susa, was named after it. 5 ) It was a favourite attribute of 
the youthful Aphrodite. The lily has also a close connection 
with the soul-idea. The Greeks, particularly the Athenians, 
strewed lilies on the graves of their dead. The Egyptians 
believed that the spirit-body in heaven transformed itself 

1 1 have published an exact illustration of this connection (Jahrbuch der 
Psychoanalyse, 1913, Bd. V, S. 90, Fall III), the flower being there also, as it 
happens, a lily. 

8 See Frontispiece. 

8 Petr. Dam., De Nat. Beat. Virg., iii. 

4 St. Chrysostom, De Beatae Mariae Virg., vii. 

8 See Strauss, Die Blumen in Sage und Geschichte, 1875 S., 78-80. 



into the celestial lily which the God Ra held to his nose. 1 
Turning now our attention to the other figure, the 
Holy Dove, we have two principal questions to answer: 
why was the Holy Ghost depicted in the form of a bird, 
and why particularly in that of a dove ? Up to the present 
we have considered the idea of the Holy Ghost in its 
aspect as symbolizing the fertilizing principle, but from 
what has just been said it is plain that it symbolizes as 
well the agent that transmits this in obedience to the will 
of the Father. 2 

Birds have always been favourite baby-bringing symbols, 
and are still used for this purpose in the familiar stork 
legend; 3 winged phalli were among the commonest Roman 

1 Wallis Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, 1911, Vol. I, p. in. 

* In this essay the idea of the Holy Ghost is treated only in its masculine 
aspects, as is proper in Christian mythology. As is well known, the Christian 
Trinity is a distortion of the original one, as obtaining in all the older religions, 
e.g., the Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, etc., where it comprised Father, 
Mother, and Son. The sternly patriarchal Hebrew conception banned the 
Mother to a subordinate part and the Son to a remotely distant future, but 
retained their original relationship. The Christian theology changed the Mother 
into the male Holy Ghost (combination of phallus and fertilizing principle), but 
in practice reinstated her importance. The attempt made by the Melchite sect 
in Egypt to retain the original Trinity of Father, Mary, and Messiah was 
crushed at the Nicene Council, though even the memory of it led Cardinal 
Newman to wax so ecstatic as to have his words termed "the very poetry of 
blasphemy" (Hislop, The Two Babylons, p. 82), Hebrew theology and Christian 
worship thus form the obverse of Hebrew worship and Christian theology in 
their attitude towards the Mother, who could not be completely abolished from 
either religion. It was reserved for Protestantism to make this final step in the 
evolution of a purely androgenic procreation myth, which has ended in a 
universal feminine protest in the countries professing this faith. 

Now it is interesting to note that the idea of the Holy Spirit was intimately 
connected with that of a bird, and especially with that of a dove, even in its 
original maternal meaning. The passage in Genesis (i. 2), for instance, "And the 
Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" should really run "The 
Mother of the Gods brooded (or fluttered) over the abyss and brought forth 
life". According to Wallis Budge this Ruach is feminine and has descended 
from an earlier mythology (probably Babylonian) as the wife of God. The act of 
creation in Genesis is commonly portrayed (e.g., on a stained-glass window in 
the cathedral of Auxerre) as being performed by a dove, and we shall see that 
this bird was peculiarly emblematic of most of the supreme Goddesses. 

8 An exact analysis of this has been published by Otto Rank, Die Lohen- 
grinsage, 1911, S. 55-8. 



amulets. 1 The ways in which this association became forged 
are evident as soon as we consider the most striking 
characteristics of birds, which we will proceed to do in 

I. Power of Flight 

Certainly the characteristic of birds which has most 
impressed itself on the human imagination is the extra- 
ordinary power they have of rapidly ascending into the 
air at will, an idea the fascination of which may be measured 
by the appeal made by aviation. Psycho-analysis has 
revealed the underlying source of this interest namely, 
that the act of rising in the air is constantly, though quite 
unconsciously, associated with the phenomenon of erection. 2 
This characteristic of birds alone, therefore, would make 
them well suited to serve as phallic symbols. 

Several religious similes are based, at least in part, on 
this association. Thus the upward flight of the bird was 
used to represent the aspiration of a soaring soul, and in 
the catacombs the idea of such souls being released from 
sin is depicted by birds escaping from their cages and 
flying upwards. In the same way the idea of a bird's flight 
came to represent that of resurrection, i.e., of arising again. 
Tertullian seems to have been the first to point out the 
resemblance between a flying bird with outstretched wings 
and the Saviour nailed to his cross, a fancy which was later 
much used in religious art; in most pictures, for instance, 
of St. Francis receiving the stigmata, the descending 
Saviour is portrayed, in cruciform fashion, as a bird with a 
human head. 

1 See Vorberg, Museum eroticum Neapolitanum; Ein Beitrag zum Geschlechs- 
leben der Romer, Privatdruck, 1910. 

a A fact first pointed out by Federn (Cited by Freud, Die Traumdeutung, 
3 Aufl., S, 204). 



2. Form of Head 

The reptilian neck of birds, continued in a snake-like 
way into the head, the darting pointed beak, and the 
power of rapid protrusion, are all features that inevitably 
recall a snake, thus explaining why this part of the bird 
specially tends to be unconsciously conceived of in terms of 
phallic symbolism. 

3. Absence of External Genital Organs 

This strikes a boy's mind as strange after his experience 
of other animals, as well as of himself, and gives rise to a 
contrast association which is probably of a compensatory 
nature (denying the painful truth by excessive insistence) ; 
in a similar manner flowers, which are also popularly 
regarded as having no genital organs, are among the com- 
monest of love-symbols. The importance of this observa- 
tion, which will be discussed later, is that it leads to fancies 
being formed to explain it of such a kind as to link up with 
the infantile fancies of procreation we have considered 
previously, and which throw much light on the question 
of why a bird is chosen to depict the Holy Ghost. 

4. Power of Song 

This striking characteristic, almost unique in the animal 
kingdom, is so obviously related to love-making that it 
becomes associated with the series of symbolic equivalents 
discussed in the previous chapter. Reference may also be 
made here to the belief in the "thunder-bird" current 
among the North American Indians, 1 in which the sound 
element is emphasized in a connection that inevitably 

1 Eels, Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institute for 1887, p. 674; Boas, 
Sixth Report on the North- Western Tribes of Canada, 1890, p. 40. 



reminds one of the thunder beliefs and thunder-weapons 
mentioned earlier. 

5. Relation to the Air 

It is only natural that the idea of air should play a 
prominent part in phantasies concerning birds, who show 
such a supreme mastery over this element, and similarly 
that birds should play a prominent part in symbolism 
relating to air; indeed the absence of a bird in such sym- 
bolism would need more explanation than its presence. 
In the examples mentioned earlier of the beliefs in the 
fertilization of animals by means of wind it is noteworthy 
that nearly all of them relate to birds ; the idea of gaseous 
fertilization would thus seem to be readily associated with 
that of birds. The connection between the two ideas has 
been made use of in various cosmogonies. Thus the Poly- 
nesians describe the heaven- and air-God Tangaroa as a 
bird hovering over the waters, 1 and it is probable that this 
was the original sense of the reference in Genesis to the 
wind of Elohim brooding over the waters 2 (See Footnote, 
p. 326). 

After what was said in reference to the previous charac- 
teristics it is not very surprising that they should become 
associated with the last-mentioned one, the head, neck 
and beak being then regarded as a phallic organ which 
expels the fertilizing gas. This is a more natural idea than 
it might at first sight appear, for, after all, whatever the 
nature of the fertilizing substance the male organ is the 
typical expelling agent. I have come across this phantasy 
several times in the course of individual psycho-analysis, 
the explanation being that the person has in childhood con- 
sidered the male organ to be a continuation of the rectum 

1 Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvolker, 1872, Bd. VI, S, 241. 

2 Cheyne, Encyclop. Brit., Vol. VI, p. 447. 

329 Y 


or its contents; the two corresponding part-instincts are 
always astonishingly closely connected in the unconscious. 1 
The same association probably helps somewhat to explain 
the fondness that so many boys have for blowing whistles 
and trumpets (sound of course entering into the associa- 
tion); as well as the use of trumpets, to which attention 
was called above, for the purpose of raising the dead, 
i.e., of infusing life into them. 2 Noise, especially in the 
form of trumpet blowing, often plays an important part in 
initiation ceremonies, a matter which will be discussed 
later. The same association may also be found in erotic art, 
of which two examples may be mentioned : In a picture by 
Felicien Rops, entitled " Joujou", a nymph with satyr legs 
and a Phrygian cap is creating planets by blowing bubbles 
with the aid of a phallus which she holds to her mouth as a 
trumpet; 3 in one published in UArt de *peter, a cupid is 
depicted blowing bubbles through a tube with the mouth 
and at the same time with the anus. 4 The legend of Athene, 
who was born out of her father's head, the product of his 
"thought", has to be interpreted in the same way to 
follow the hint from Plotinus mentioned above (p. 311). 
I would even suggest that this association 5 plays a part in 
determining a feature of our Madonna legend namely, the 
notion that the fertilizing breath of God issues from the 
beak of the Holy Dove. In support of this the following 
examples may be cited. The unicorn (a purely phallic con- 
ception) was a recognized emblem of the Christian Logos, 
or creative Word of God; its symbolic meaning, and its 
close association with breath, becomes plain from an old 

1 See Freud, "Uber Triebumsetzungen insbesondere der Analerotik," 
Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Vierte Folge. 1918. 

2 Compare the sexual significance of tongue and speech pointed out above. 

3 Das erotische Werk des Felicien Rops, 1905, Nr. 13. 

4 Reproduced in Stern's Illustrierte Geschichte der erotischen Liter atur, 1908, 
Bd. I, S. 240. 

6 To this also may in part be attributed the use of such phrases as "inflated," 
"blown up", etc., as synonyms for excessive pride (narcissism). 



German picture which was very popular at the end of the 
fifteenth century. 1 In this the Annunciation is represented 
in the form of a hunt. Gabriel blows the angelic greeting on 
a hunting horn. A unicorn flees (or is blown) to the Virgin 
Mary and plunges his horn into her "lap", while God the 
Father blesses them from above. A second example is even 
less ambiguous, for in it the passage of God's breath is 
actually imagined as proceeding through a tube; over a 
portal of the Marienkapelle at Wiirzburg is a relief- 
representation of the Annunciation 2 in which the Heavenly 
Father is blowing along a tube that extends from his lips 
to the Virgin's ear, and down which the infant Jesus is 

The extent to which the idea of a bird is connected with 
the attributes of bodily gas enumerated in the previous 
chapter is indeed remarkable: thus, with sound (singing), 
with invisibility (difficulty with which it is caught sight of, 
disappearance in the air), with heat (higher bodily tem- 
perature than any other animal, nearness to the sun), with 
movement and wind (rapid flight, mastery over air), and so 
on. Two further illustrations may be given of the way in 
which the idea of a bird enters into this circle of "gaseous" 
ideas. In the first place the soul is frequently conceived of in 
bird form 3 (especially in Christian art) and is then depicted, 
appropriately enough, as leaving the body after death by 
issuing from the mouth. 4 The second example, that of the 
phoenix, displays an extraordinary richness in the present 

1 Reproduced by P. Ch. Cahier, Caracteristiques des Saints dans I'art popu- 
laire, 1867. 

* Reproduced by Fuchs, Illustrierte Sittengeschichte; Renaissance; Ergan- 
zungsband, 1909, S. 289. 

* Frazer (Taboo and the Perils of the Soul, 191 1, pp. 33-5) gives examples from 
all parts of the world. 

4 As was hinted earlier in this essay, in this belief the mouth is probably in 
part a replacement of the other extremity of the alimentary canal ; the original 
form of the belief sometimes comes to open expression, an example being in the 
fourteenth century farce "Le Muynier" (Dupuoy, Medicine in the Middle Ages, 
p. 84). 



group of associations and epitomises most of the ideas we 
have up to here discussed, while of interest in the present 
connection is the circumstance that the early Christians 
adopted the legend of its life-history to symbolize the 
resurrection of Jesus. 1 The phoenix was a golden shining 
bird, sometimes described as a ray emanating from the 
sun. It prepares for its death by surrounding itself with 
cinnamon, myrrh and other aromatic spices, and by 
addressing to the sun a song that is "more beautiful than 
the sound of the nightingale, the flutes of the Muses, or 
the lyre of Hermes". It dies, amidst a blaze of fragrant 
perfume, in a fire created by the fanning of its wings, 
or as was at other times believed by the heat of the 
sun's rays. The first act of the young phoenix born from 
this fire is to carry the relics of its sire, in a casket of 
myrrh, to a sacred temple and pronounce over them a 
funeral oration. 

The idea of a rara avis, usually a bird of fire, is common 
to many nations, being found in Egypt, China, and most 
oriental countries; the popular appeal of the idea is still 
witnessed by the success attending Maeterlinck's UOiseau 
bleu. A Slav fairy-tale tells how a certain Prince acquired 
a feather from the wing of Ohnivak, the Fire-Bird, and 
"so lovely and bright was it that it illumed all the galleries 
of the palace and they needed no other light"; he falls 
into a pensive decline and, summoning his three sons, 
says to them: "If I could but hear the bird Ohnivak sing 
just once, I should be cured of this disease of the heart." 2 
In Namoluk, one of the Caroline islands, it is believed that 
fire came to men in the following way : Olof aet, the master 
of flames, gave fire to the bird "mwi" and bade him carry 
it to earth in his beak; so the bird flew from tree to tree 

1 Bachofen, Versuch iiber die Gr fiber symbolik der Alien, 1859, S. 109. 
* Harding, Fairy-Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen, 1896, p. 269 
et seq. 



and stored away the slumbering force of the fire in the 
wood, from which men can elicit it by friction. 1 In Shelley's 
"To a Skylark" most of the preceding associations are 
poetically illustrated. For example: soul (Hail to thee, 
blithe spirit Bird thou never wert); fire (like a cloud of 
fire) ; invisibility (Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill 
delight); rising flight (thou scorner of the ground); voice 
(All the earth and air with thy voice is loud). 

With all these associations it is plain that nothing 
could easily be better imagined than a bird to symbolize 
a bringer of a wonderful message from the air. Children 
keep a pretty reminder of them in the familiar saying 
"A little bird told me", meaning "whispered a secret to 

The problem of why particularly a dove was chosen 
in the present instance is most conveniently approached 
by first considering some of the ways in which it has 
played a part in other mythologies. This part has been a 
rather extensive one, for the dove was a sacred animal 
among the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Hebrews, was an 
attribute of Astarte and Semiramis (who was supposed to 
have been transformed into one after her death), and was 
the favourite bird of Aphrodite, whose chariot was drawn 
by doves. At the Syrian Hierapolis, one of the chief seats 
of her worship, doves were so holy that they might not 
even be touched; if a man inadvertently touched one, he 
was unclean or taboo for the rest of the day. 2 Figures of 
doves played a prominent part in the decoration of Aphro- 
dite's sanctuary at Old Paphos. 3 Frazer gives reason for 
thinking that the Cyprian custom of sacrificing doves in 
honour of Adonis dated from an older form of worship in 

1 Girschner, "Die Karolineninsel Namoluk und ihre Bewohner," Baessler- 
Archiv, 1912, Bd. II, S. 141. 

2 Lucian, De dea Syria, liv. 

3 A good description of this is given by Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 1907, 
p. 29. 



which a holy man, personifying the Goddess's lover, was 
sacrificed. 1 

The association of the ideas of dove and love has always 
been a close one, and is met with in different ages. The 
following is a love-charm used in Bohemia: A girl goes 
into the woods on St. George's Eve and catches a ring- 
dove, which must be a male one ; early in the morning she 
carries it to the hearth, presses it to her bare breast, and 
lets it fly up the chimney (a well-known vaginal symbol), 
muttering an incantation the while). 2 In 1784 a mixed 
pseudo-freemasonry, the object of which was the pursuit 
of love, was formed at Versailles, the members being 
termed the "Chevaliers et Chevalieres de la Colombe". 3 

The phallic symbolism of the dove is also unmistakable 
in the following examples. The Christian myth we are 
considering can be closely paralleled by the Greek one in 
which Zeus assumes the form of a dove in order to seduce 
Phtheia on one of his human expeditions, just as on other 
similar occasions he assumed other phallic ones, snake, 
bull, swan, and so on. When Catullus mentions Caesar's 
salaciousness he does so by using the expression "colum- 
bulus albulus". According to Philo, the dove was the 
emblem of wisdom, which in mythology, as with the snake, 
unicorn, etc., is always a phallic attribute, 4 and Jesus 
himself brought it into a contrast association with the 
snake: "Be ye as wise as the serpent and as harmless as 
the dove" (Matthew x. 16). Von Hahn 5 relates three stories 
from modern Greek folk-lore in which the life of an en- 
chanter or ogre is bound up with that of two, or three, 
doves ; when they die, he dies also. The sense of this becomes 

1 Frazer, op. cit., pp. 114, 115. 
* Grohmann, op. cit., S. 77. 
8 Dictionnaire Larouse, Art. "Colombe". 
4 See Chapter II, p. 44. 

8 Von Hahn, Griechische und albanesische Mdrchen, 1864, Bd. I, S. 187; 
Bd. II, S. 215, 260, 


clear when it is compared with another variant in which 
the life of an old man is bound up with that of a ten- 
headed serpent; when the serpent's heads are cut off one 
after another, he feels ill, and when the last one is cut off 
he expires. 1 But the most unequivocal indication of the 
symbolic signification of the dove is to be found in the 
extra-canonical legend which relates that a dove escaped 
from Joseph's genital organ and alighted on his head 
(an unconscious symbol of the erect phallus) to designate 
him as the future husband of the Virgin Mary; 2 the story 
is weakened in the writings of the later Christian Fathers, 
who say that the dove escaped from Joseph's rod (!). 

Appropriately enough it is a dove that furnishes Zeus 
with ambrosia ( = soma), and in the legend of St. Remy 
brings the bishop the oil-flask to anoint King Clovis (oil 
being an equivalent symbol). 3 An interesting parallel to 
this is the legend that Aeneas was guided by two doves 
to the Golden Bough, 4 for Frazer has shown that the 
Golden Bough represents mistletoe growing on an oak- 
tree, 5 and mistletoe is as familiar a symbol of sperma (like 
ambrosia and oil) as the oak is of the male organ. French 
peasants think that mistletoe originates in birds' dung; 6 
the ancients knew that it was propagated from tree to 
tree by seeds that have been carried and voided by birds, 
and Pliny 7 tells us that the birds which most often deposited 
the seeds were doves and thrushes. 

According to Apollonius, a dove guided the Argonauts 
on their wanderings. The ideas of bringing, guiding and 
leading have much in common with that of "messenger", 

1 Von Hahn, op. cit , Bd. II, S. 23. 

2 Protevang., St. Jacob, Cap. 9; Evang. infant St. Maries, Cap. 8. Cited after 
Maury, Essai sur Us Ugendes pieuses du moyen-dge, 1843. 

3 De Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology, 1872, Vol. II, p. 305. 

4 Virgil, Aen., VI, 190, 293 et seq. 

5 Frazer, Balder the Beautiful, 1913, Vol. II, pp. 285, 315-20. 

6 Gaidoz, Revue de I'histoire des religions, 1880, Vol. II, p. 76. 

7 Pliny, op. cit., XVI, 247. 



and a well-known Greek legend of the dove is that in which 
it figures as the love-messenger carrying the billets doux of the 
poet Anacreon, who had been presented with it by Aphrodite 
in return for a song. Like most love-figures in mythology, in- 
cluding even Aphrodite herself, the dove could represent 
not only life, but also death; thus in the hymns of the Rig- 
Veda the dove (Kapota) is Yama's messenger of death. 1 

The dove was also associated with fire. When the Kapota 
touches fire, Yama, whose messenger he is, is honoured; in a 
Buddhistic legend Agni, the God of Fire, assumes the 
shape of a dove when he is being pursued by Indra in the 
shape of a hawk (the Sanscrit name of which, by the way, 
is Kapotari, the enemy of doves). 2 In the "scoppio del 
carro" festival at Florence the holy fire is renewed every 
Easter Eve, and at the moment of celebrating High Mass 
a stuffed bird, representing a dove (called the dove of the 
Pazzi), is released from a pillar of fire-works in front of the 
altar, flies along a wire down the nave, and ignites the 
fire-works on the festive car that is waiting outside the 
door. 3 Maury quotes as a reason why the Holy Ghost 
appears sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in 
that of a dove, the circumstance that in the Orient the 
dove was the emblem of generation and of animal heat. 4 
The association with heat is retained in Christian art, 
where the Holy Dove is always depicted surrounded by 
rays of light or flames of fire. 

It is comprehensible that a bird symbolizing generation 
should also come to represent the ideas of re-birth, resur- 
rection and salvation, which in the unconscious are 
practically equivalent. 5 De Gubernatis 6 quotes a number of 

1 Rig-Veda, X, 165, 4. 

2 De Gubernatis, op. cit., p. 297. 

3 Weston, "The Scoppio del Carro at Florence," Folk-Lore, 1905, Vol. XVI, 
pp. 182-4. 

4 Maury, op. cit., p. 179. 

6 See my Papers on Psycho-Analysis, Second Edition, 1918, Ch. X. 
8 De Gubernatis, op. cit., pp. 297-303. 



stories from folk-lore, in which the dove warns or saves 
from danger. The dove was the messenger of salvation in 
the Deluge myth, which is now known to represent a 
glorified birth-phantasy; the meaning is brought to clear 
expression in a sketch found in the catacombs of Rome, 
in which Noah is seen floating in a little box that flies 
open at the appearance of the dove with its leaf. 1 It is 
perhaps significant that in another Old Testament birth- 
myth the name of the hero, Jonah, is the same as the 
Hebrew word for dove. It was a dove also that appeared 
to the three young Hebrews in the furnace at Babylon and 
announced to them their deliverance from the flames. The 
natives at Cape Grafton say that a dove brings the babies 
to mothers in their dreams. 2 To the same group of ideas 
belongs the association between the dove and the re-birth 
rite of baptism, 3 both in the New Testament and in 
ecclesiastical decorative art. Jesus himself, the figure of 
salvation and resurrection, is occasionally depicted in the 
form of a dove; 4 for example, in a lamp in Santa Caterina 
in Chiusi a dove is portrayed bearing an olive branch in 
its mouth and having a cross on its head. The dove is in 
the Catholic Church also an emblem of martyrdom, i.e., of 
attainment of eternal life through death. 

In early Christian art the soul of a dying saint was 
depicted as escaping from the mouth in the form of a dove, 5 
this being replaced in later art by the figure of a little child. 

1 Reproduced in Smith and Cheetham's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 
1875, Vol. I, p. 575. 
8 Roth, cited by Rank, Die Lohengrinsage, 1911, S. 23. 

3 It is of interest that the German words for baptism and for dove (Taufe and 
Taube) are derived from the same root. 

4 We have seen in order the Holy Ghost as a symbol of the creative material, 
the creative agent, and the child created. (In later art he is often depicted in 
the form of a child instead of that of a young man, just as Eros became 
replaced by Cupid.) 

6 Many examples are cited by Didron, Christian Iconography, Engl. Transl. 
1896, Vol. I, pp. 460, 461; and Maury, Croyances et Ugendes du moyen-dge, 
1896, Vol. II, p. 266. 



In this equating of dove child soul breath we see 
another example of the infantile birth theory that was 
discussed earlier in this essay. 

An equally plain illustration of the Logos association 
of the dove is furnished by its connection with the idea 
of inspiration (spiro = I breathe). In Lybia a dove com- 
municated the sacred oracles, and in Dodona two doves 
performed the same function and were supposed to cry 
"Zeus was; Zeus is; Zeus will be; O Zeus, the greatest of 
the Gods". We noted earlier, in discussing the topics of 
speech and tongue, the important part played by the Holy 
Dove (Holy Ghost) in a similar connection. When St. Cath- 
erine of Alexandria confounded the learned doctors by her 
wisdom the Holy Dove kept flying over her head, and a 
dove, known to French art as the "colombe inspiratrice", 
is frequently depicted on the shoulder of a great saint, 
speaking into his ear and thus inspiring him. 1 The symbolic 
significance of this, which should be clear from the preceding 
chapter, may be further illustrated by quoting the following 
dream related by the Welsh poet Vaughan, in a letter 
written in 1694: "I was told by a very sober and knowing 
person (now dead) that in his time, there was a young lad 
father and motherless, and soe very poor that he was forced 
to beg; butt att last was taken up by a rich man, that kept 
a great stock of sheep upon the mountains not far from the 
place where I now dwell, who cloathed him and sent him 
into the mountains to keep his sheep. There in Summer time 
following the sheep and looking to their lambs he fell into a 
deep sleep; in which he dreamt, that he saw a beautifull 
young man with a garland of green leafs upon his head, 
and an hawk upon his fist: with a quiver full of Arrows 
att his back, coming towards him (whistling several 
measures or tunes all the way) and att last lett the hawk 
fly att him, which (he dreamt) gott into his mouth and 

1 Maury, op. cit., pp. 267-9; Larousse, loc. cit. 



inward parts, and suddenly awaked in a great fear and 
consternation: butt possessed with such a vein, or gift of 
poetrie, that he left the sheep and went about the Countrey, 
making songs upon all occasions, and came to be the most 
famous Bard in all the Countrey in his time." 1 

Etymology fully sustains our view of the sexual connota- 
tion of the dove idea, indicating its association both with 
phallicism and with the group of "gaseous" ideas enum- 
erated earlier. The word "dove" comes from the Anglo- 
Saxon "dufan" = to plunge into, and is probably allied 
to the Greek xoXufxpfc; = a diver; it is cognate with "dip", 
"dive", and "deep", the notion of penetration evidently 
being the fundamental one. The more generic word "pigeon" 
comes from the Greek mnl&w = to chirp; from the 
latter also comes the word "pipe", which has the meanings 
of a tube (cp. the Wiirzburg relief mentioned above), an 
instrument for making smoke, to chirp or sing, and, in 
slang, the male organ. A whole series of words are derived 
from the same root (probably of onomatopoetic origin), 
which mean "to blow", "the back parts", or "child", and 
Jung 2 has pointed out that the connecting link of these 
three apparently disparate ideas is to be found in the 
common infantile notion that children are born from the 
rectum. Thus: (i) "pop", "puif", "to poop" ( = to pass 
flatus. Compare the French "pet" = flatus, the same word 
in English meaning darling, little dear, and the German 
"Schatz" = darling, treasure, which also comes from a 
vulgar word for defaecation) ; (2) French "poup6e" and 
Dutch "pop", both meaning doll (German "Puppe"), Latin 
"pupus" = a child, "pupula" = a girl, and English 
"puppy" and "pupa", meaning the young of the dog and 
the butterfly respectively. That words of such widely 

1 This letter, which has never been published, is to be found in the MS. 
Bodleiana, Aubrey 13, Fol. 340. I am indebted to Mr. L. C. Martin for calling 
my attention to it and for giving me the opportunity of making use of it. 

* Jung, op. cit., S. 230. 



different signification as "pupil", "fart", "peep", "fife", 
"pigeon", "puff", "petard", and "partridge" 1 should all 
be derived from the same root illustrates the astonishing 
propagating power possessed by sexual words, to which 
Sperber 2 has recently directed special attention. 

The choice of the dove for the purposes above mentioned 
was doubtless determined by many factors, perhaps by 
extrinsic ones as well as psychological ones: that it con- 
stituted a numerous genus and attracted much attention 
in ancient times is shown by the fact alone that there 
existed in Sanscrit some twenty-five or thirty names for 
pigeon. 3 It is generally said that its use in Christian sym- 
bolism was due to its association with the ideas of purity 
and immaculateness, but it is likely that cause and effect 
are here reversed; even its white colour cannot be cited in 
favour of this association, for most doves are not white, 
while other birds, e.g., swans, most often are. A more 
important feature is the tenderness they display in their 
love-relations, the activity of which must, as is evident from 
the extensive connotations related above, have vividly im- 
pressed itself upon the attention. Now this tenderness is 
chiefly manifested in a manner that is of particular interest 
to the present theme, in what is a very prominent charac- 
teristic of doves namely, the soft, delightful cooing that 
plays a leading part in their love-making; we still use the 
expression "billing and cooing of turtle-doves" to denote 
a special relationship between lovers. In view of the exten- 
sive associations that subsist between the idea of birds in 
general, and of doves in particular, on the one hand and 
the group discussed in the previous chapter (sound, breath, 
sexuality, etc.) on the other, it seems to me probable that 
this striking feature of doves must have been a principal 

1 In view of the ancient belief that this bird could be impregnated by either 
the wind or the voice it is interesting that its name should enter into this series. 
a Sperber, op. cit. 
8 Larousse, loc. cit. 



reason for the choice of them to symbolize phantasies based 
on the idea in question. This suggestion may be illustrated 
by reference to the Christian belief that "the voice of the 
turtle-dove is an echo on earth of the voice of God". 1 

This peculiar tenderness in the love-making of doves is 
to be correlated with a feature in the associations surround- 
ing the idea of them on which I have only lightly touched 
namely, femininity. It would lead us too far to enumerate 
instances of this association, but it is a curiously extensive 
one, so that one is forced to say that of all phallic emblems 
the dove is one of the most gentle and effeminate. The 
significance of this to our main theme will be indicated in 
the following section. 


The infant's psychical interests and digital manipulations 
relating to the lower alimentary orifice are early transferred 
to the nostril, which, from its nearness to a less objectional 
part of the alimentary canal, its relation to the sense of 
smell, its size, its connection with breath and with mucoid 
secretion, is well adapted for the purpose. A patient of mine 
used even to impregnate himself in his phantasy by inhaling 
through the nose breath that had been exhaled from the 
mouth, 2 and in Genesis we read of Yahweh using a nostril 
for the same purpose in the creation of Adam, from which 
it is evident what the "dust of the ground" out of which 
Adam was moulded must have originally signified. 3 

By the time of the Christian era, however, a greater 
refinement had taken place, one corresponding with the 
increasing displacement that is to be observed in the 
progress of individual repression, and the nostril, which 

1 Conway, Solomon and the Solomonic Literature, 1899, p. 123. 
* Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 1912 Bd. IV, S. 598. 

3 1 have elsewhere dealt with the symbolism of dirt at some length, Jahrbuch 
der Psychoanalyse, 1913, Bd. V, S. 90, Fall III. 

34 1 


can receive a palpable gas, is replaced by the ear, which 
can receive only impalpable sound for instance the Word 
of God a rarefied abstraction of the primitive gas idea. 
That in the Madonna legend 1 the ear symbolizes the lower 
alimentary orifice, and not the vagina, is a conclusion 
based not only on logic, for the idea of the vagina would 
be a meaningless intrusion into a series of themes that 
have nothing in common with it (they are all of infantile 
origin, while the infant knows nothing of the existence of 
the vagina), but through numerous analyses of persons 
in whom this orifice has acquired a symbolical significance ; 
such habits as nose and ear-picking, for instance, invariably 
prove on analysis to be derivatives of, and substitutes for, 
anal masturbation. The exact symbolical equivalency of 
the two orifices, however, can be demonstrated quite apart 
from psycho-analysis. 

In several of the medieval pictures of hell the devil is 
portrayed in the act of swallowing sinners (through the 
mouth, of course) and excreting them through the ear 
alone, the cloaca alone, or through both indifferently and 
simultaneously; instances of each of these in Florence 
alone are to be found in the Baptisteria, in Orcagna's 
fresco in the Santa Maria Novella, and in Fra Angelico's 
picture in the Academy. We see here a complete parity 
of the two orifices, one which can be matched by beliefs 
drawn from another part of the world, India: In the 
Ramayana 2 a sun-hero, Hanumant, is described as entering 

1 That in this legend the ear was thought of as the receptive organ in a quite 
concrete sense is clear from the evidence produced earlier in this essay, and is 
proved by consideration of such a presentation as the Wiirzburg relief alone. 
To the numerous passages already quoted from the early Fathers the following 
two may be added: "And because the devil, creeping in through the ear by 
temptation, had wounded and given death to Eve, Christ entering by the ear 
to Mary, dried up all the vices of the heart, and cured the woman's wound by 
being born of the Virgin" (St. Zeno: Epist. ad Pulcheriam Augustam); "None 
other was born of Mary, than He who glided in through her maternal ear, and 
filled the Virgin's womb" (St. Gaudentius, De diversis Capitulis, Serm. xiii). 

2 Frobenius, Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes, 1904, Bd. I, S. 173, 174. 

34 2 


into the mouth of a sea-monster and emerging through 
the "other side" at the tail, evidently through the cloaca; 
in another part of the poem, however, he is made to 
emerge through the ear, the two orifices being again 
treated as equivalent. According to the Taitiriyaka- 
Upanishad, 1 the Apana, or down-going breath, corresponds 
with the ear. 

The ear figures as the receptive organ in other and earlier 
myths than the Christian one, which is doubtless derived 
from them. The Mongolian legend of Maya, who was im- 
pregnated through this orifice during sleep, has been 
referred to already (p. 272). Just as Eve, after having 
been seduced by the "serpent", tasted of the fruit of 
knowledge, 2 so Cassandra became a prophetess when the 
"serpent" licked her ear. The Sumerian word-sign for "ear" 
in its earliest form was written by the pictograph of a pair 
of ears, with the phonetic value of "wa" in the Sumerian 
and "uznu" in the Semitic-Akkalian or Assyrian; it is 
defined in the bilingual cuneiform of about 2000 B.C. and 
later as "the bent member". 3 In these glosses the Semitic 
"uznu" or "ear" is also defined as a title of the Mother- 
Goddess Ishtar, and particularly of her form as Antu, the 
Creatress and Goddess of generation, a usage which is 
explained as arising from the idea "bend down, bend over" 
in sexual intercourse. 4 This is perhaps the source of the 
large ears assigned to the woman in the presence of the 
Father-God as figured on the ancient Babylonian seals 
described by Pinches. 5 This word-sign for "ear" is moreover 
used as a synonym for the "cedar", 6 which through its 
ever-greenness was the "Tree of Life" of the Garden of 
i. 7, i. 

i.e., the knowledge of sexual matters. See Ludwig Levy, op. cit. 

Prince, Sumerian Lexicon, 1908, pp. i, 373; Barton, Babylonian Writing, 

1913, P- 179- 

Prince, op. cit., pp. 338, 339. 

Pinches, Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archeology, 1917, Vol. XXIX. 

Barton, loc. cit.; See also Muss-Arnolt: Assyrian Dictionary, p. 103. 



Eden in the Hebrew legend 1 and an emblem of the Mother- 
Goddess Ishtar. In the Persian cosmogony the first man 
was created by the Divine Being inserting his "hand" into 
the ear of the female one; in another version, on which 
the preceding Babylonian myth throws light, it is his 
"main branch" that is inserted. This "main branch" is 
presumably the branch held in the hand of the Father-God 
in the archaic Babylonian seal-cylinders of the third and 
fourth millennium B.C.; 2 it may perfectly well be the origin 
of the modern expression "olive branch" for a child, since 
the olive came in Greece and Rome to replace the cedar 
as the special tree of the Virgin Mother-Goddess, Athene. 
In connection with the ancient Semitic-Babylonian hymn 
on the "Wailing of Ishtar" for the killing of her son-lover 
Tamnuz the origin of the wailing of the Jewish women of 
Jerusalem for Tamnuz is described by Ezekiel in a familiar 
passage, 3 but it would seem that the word usually translated 
as "cedar" might well mean "ear", when the stanza in 
question would read : 

"Ah me, my child (now) far-removed! 

My son-consort, the far-removed! 

For the sacred ear where the mother bore him, 

In Eanna, -high and low there is weeping, 

Wailing for the house of their lord, the women raise." 4 

A faint indication of the meaning of this symbolism is 
furnished in the pictures 5 where the Archangel Gabriel 
makes his appearance through a door at the back of the 

1 See Cheyne, Traditions of Ancient Israel, passim. 

2 Ward, Seal Cylinders of West Asia, 1910, pp. 96, etc. 

3 Ezekiel viii, 14. 

4 This rendering, based on Longdon's translation in his Tamnuz and Ishtar, 
is by Dr. Jyotirmoy Roy of Calcutta, who also kindly suggested to me several 
of the preceding points. 

8 Many examples are referred to by Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, 
1890 edition. Vol. I, p. 124. 


Virgin, who is aware of his presence without seeing him. 
This expresses the same idea as the Kwakiutl myth of the 
hero who was conceived by the sun shining on the small of 
his mother's back. 1 We are not told whether Jesus was 
actually born, like Rabelais's Gargantua, through his 
mother's ear, as well as being conceived through it; the 
real passage is hinted at in St. Agobard's description 
(See p. 269) of how the holy fertilizing principle, after 
entering by the ear, emerges "through the golden gate". 

That the danger of this form of conception is regarded 
by Catholics as not having entirely passed is shown by 
the custom with which all nuns still comply of protecting 
their chastity against assault by keeping their ears con- 
stantly covered, a custom which stands in a direct historical 
relation to the legend forming the subject of this essay. 2 
This is the acme of chastity, for it protects even against 
the most innocent form of conception, one reserved for 
the most modest women. An Indian legend, which may 
serve as a pendant to the Persian one mentioned above, 
well illustrates this connection between aural conception 
and modesty. Kunti, the mother of the five Pandava 
princes, the great heroes of the Mahabarata, when still a 
virgin, made use of a mantra charm to test its alleged power 
of calling up the Gods. It worked, and the Sun God 
appeared to her. She became very confused and bade him 
go, but he said that as she had called him she could not 
refuse him a reward. On learning that the reward the 
God wanted was carnal knowledge she explained that she 
was a Virgin. To this objection the Sun God suggested 
sexual intercourse via the ear, and to this she consented, 
with the result that the hero Kama (whose name means 
ear) was conceived. 3 The same association with extreme 

1 Boas and Hunt, Jesup Expedition. Bureau of Ethnology, Vol. I, p. 80. 

2 See Tertullian, De Virginibus Velandis. 

3 Mahabharat-Adiparva, Ch. Ill, 1-20. I am indebted to Dr. Roy for calling 
my attention to this legend. 

345 z 


innocence is also indicated in the passage quoted above 
from Moliere (p. 272, Footnote). 

We may conclude the present topic by briefly consider- 
ing an animal myth which offers interesting resemblances 
to the legend under discussion and which also possesses 
certain historical connections with it. The myth of the 
phoenix and other fire-birds, of which the aureole-sur- 
rounded Holy Dove is the lineal descendant, is paralleled 
by that of the salamander, the fabulous lizard born, like 
those, of fire. It would not be easy to imagine animals more 
unlike each other than a dove and a lizard, or crocodile, 
and yet the positions both have occupied in mythology and 
religion show a far-reaching similarity, one which should 
throw a new light on the legend of the Virgin Mary. The 
lizard has been an extensive object of worship, by the 
Slavs in Europe as late as the sixteenth century, 1 by the 
Egyptians in the form of the crocodile, by the Mexicans in 
that of the alligator; the crocodile is the protective totem 
of one of the chief Bechuanaland tribes. 2 It was specially 
sacred to the sun, and was, largely on that account, 
adopted by the Gnostics as a symbol of the Life-Giver; 
the Sun God Sebek was figured as a crocodile-headed man. 
On the other hand it was identified at Nubti with Set, 
one of the fore-runners of our devil, and like most phallic 
animals, lion, dragon, serpent, etc. it had to be overcome 
by the young God-Hero; thus at Adfou it was supposed 
to have been speared by the young Sun God Horus. In the 
Book of Gates the monster serpent Apep is described as 
being accompanied by a friend in the shape of a crocodile 
which had a tail terminating in the head of a serpent, its 
name being Sessi. 

1 Morfill, The Religious Systems of the World, p. 272. 

2 Bent, The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland, 1891, p. 15. 

34 6 


There seem to have been two principal associations 
between the idea of a lizard, or crocodile, and that of the 
Deity. One was the observation that "it veils its eyes with 
a thin transparent membrane which it draws down from 
the upper lid, so as to see without being seen, which is the 
attribute of the Supreme Deity" (Plutarch); this idea is 
naturally connected with that of the Sun-Father, 1 and in 
Egypt the crocodile was the chief symbol of Cheops, the 
"Ever-Existent Eye". A more important association, how- 
ever, and one which is closely related to the group of ideas 
under discussion here, was that the crocodile was the 
symbol of silence, being "the only land animal which 
lacks the use of its tongue" (Pliny); "it is said to have 
been made an emblem of the Deity, as being the sole 
animal destitute of a tongue. For the Divine Reason stands 
not in need of voice, but walking along a silent path and 
rule guides mortal affairs according to justice" (Plutarch). 
Representing the silence of the wise, it became the emblem 
of the mind, of reason, of intelligence, and particularly of 
wisdom; 2 as such it figures on the breast of Minerva, the 
Goddess of Wisdom. The only instance of its use in this 
respect that I know of in Christian art is in Seville, where 
one dating from the Moorish occupation still stands over 
the portal of the entrance to the Cathedral leading from the 
Patio de los Naranjos; there is, of course, the well-known 
crocodile on St. Theodore's column in the Piazzetta in 
Venice, which doubtless had an apotropaeic signification. 

The attributes of the crocodile that have attracted 
interest thus appear to be mainly negative: it is an animal 
which has no visible genital organs, and is said to have no 
tongue and to be dumb two ideas which, as we have seen 
earlier, symbolize impotence. 

Side by side, however, with this conception of the croco- 

1 Cp. Chapter XII. 

2 For the symbolism of this see pp. 135, 334. 



dile as an impotent animal, one having the most elementary 
defects, we find the precise opposite namely, the idea that 
it represents a glorification of phallic power; consideration 
of this remarkable antithesis will prove highly instructive 
for the main theme of this essay. The phallic significance 
of the crocodile may be suspected from the circumstance 
alone that it is closely associated with the ideas of wisdom, 
the sun, and the snake, but grosser facts than these can be 
cited. In the text of Unas, written during the Sixth 
Dynasty, are passages expressing the desire that a deceased 
person may attain in the next world to the virility of the 
crocodile and so become "all-powerful with women". 1 At 
the present day in the Egyptian Soudan the belief is acted 
on that the penis of the crocodile eaten with spices is the 
most potent means of increasing sexual vigour in the male. 2 
Both in Ancient Egypt and in the modern Soudan the 
belief has prevailed that the crocodile has the habit of 
carrying off women for sexual purposes. Two physiological 
facts concerning the animal probably contribute to these 
ideas: the copulatory act is unusually ardent and lasts a 
long time; and the male organ, 3 though never visible in the 
ordinary way being concealed within the cloaca is un- 
usually large. 4 

The ancients, in pondering over the question of how 
the crocodile propagated its species, indicated consideration 
of both these opposite attitudes. They concluded that it 
must take place in some way that expressed the animal's 
independence of the ordinary means and, following the 

1 Budge, op. cit., pp. 127, 128. 

2 Bousfield, 'Native Methods of Treatment of Disease in Kassala," Third 
Report of the Wellcome Research Laboratories, p. 274. Stanley, Through the Dark 
Continent, 1878, Vol. I, p. 253. Budge, op. cit., p. 128. 

3 It is perhaps of some interest in the present connection to note that this 
organ is situate in the rectal part of the cloaca, being separated from the 
anterior urinary chamber by a wide transverse fold. Of further interest in relation 
with the "gaseous" group of ideas is the circumstance that during the rutting 
period a pungent odour is emitted from the submaxillary glands of the creature. 

* Gadow, Cambridge Natural History, Vol. VIII, p. 445. 



path of associations indicated above, reached the belief 
that the female conceived, like the Virgin Mary, through the 
ear. According to this the crocodile would represent a 
force greater even than that of the Deity whose Word 
was all-powerful and all-creating, 1 for to execute its wishes 
it needed not even speech, being possessed of the still 
more potent Silence of the Wise. We have here, therefore, 
a beautiful example of the "omnipotence of thought", 
which is evidently higher than the "omnipotence of 
speech"; invisible and silent action is the highest limit of 
imaginable power. The ear is the orifice best designed to 
receive thought, even though this be inaudible to the 

According to King, 2 it was this belief about the crocodile's 
natural history that later made it come to be regarded by 
the early Christians as "the type of the generation of the 
Word, that is, the Logos or Divine Wisdom". Plutarch 
(De Iside et Osiride) makes a similar statement about the 
cat : he refers to the belief that the cat "conceives through 
its ears, and brings forth its young through its mouth; 
and the Word, or Logos, is also conceived through the ear 
and expressed through the mouth". In the Egyptian Book 
of the Dead four crocodiles are said to reside in the four 
quarters of the world, and to attack the dead in order to 
seize the magic words on which they depend for existence 
in the Other World. 3 

The great characteristic on which I wish to lay emphasis 
in the preceding beliefs concerning the crocodile is their 
striking ambivalency. Herodotus 4 noticed that the creature 
was held sacred in some parts of Egypt and was slain as a 
noxious reptile in others, and the double attitude here 
indicated may be traced throughout Egyptian religion. 

1 Like, for instance, that of Ptah (First Dynasty). 

2 King, The Gnostics and their Remains, Second Edition, 1887, p. 107. 
8 Budge, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 239. 

4 Herodotus, ii. 69. 



We have remarked above on the contrasting beliefs whereby 
the crocodile was endowed, now with absolute impotence, 
now with the maximum of procreative power. 

Proceeding from this we may venture to develop a 
view that will afford a more complete answer to the ques- 
tion instituted at the beginning of the present inquiry 
namely, why breath was chosen in the Virgin Mary legend 
to represent the fertilizing material. The view is that the 
idea of gaseous fertilization constitutes a reaction to an un- 
usually intense castration-fantasy. It is one of the most 
remarkable of the various modes of dealing with the 
primordial CEdipus situation. 

The idea of intestinal gas is inextricably associated with 
three others of the father, of the male organ, and of 
power. We have already considered here and there each 
of these connections, so that only a few words need be 
added by way of summary. 

Little need be said about the associations between the 
idea of father and the various "gaseous" ones discussed 
above, for in most of the examples quoted the latter have 
constituted attributes of the Heavenly Father himself, the 
Deity. The breath of a Maori chief ( father) is so powerful 
that he dare not blow on the fire, for a brand might be 
taken from the fire by a slave and so cause his death; or 
the sacred breath might communicate its qualities to the 
fire, which would pass them on to the pot on the fire, 
whence they would reach the meat in the pot, the future 
eater of which would surely die. 1 In the phoenix myth, 
one of the most characteristic of the whole series, the idea 
of piety to the father is of central importance, a sign of 
ambivalency. That this association applied not only to 
the more refined derivatives, but also to the gaseous 

1 Taylor, opt. cit., p. 165. 



notion itself, is indicated by the fact that oriental nations, 
and also Rome, worshipped a special Deity who presided 
over the function in question. 1 The connotations of intes- 
tinal gas are almost exclusively male and predominantly 
refer to the father, one reason for this being fairly obvious 
in the greater reticence displayed by women and the much 
greater openness by men in regard to the act concerned, 
especially during effort (e.g., coitus). 

The association with the idea of the male organ has also 
been pointed out and explained above (pp. 329, 330). Some- 
thing more may be added on the subject of initiation cere- 
monies, for it is now recognized that these are the expres- 
sion of castration threats. 2 Throughout Australia women 
are strictly forbidden ever to see the bull-roarer (See p. 289), 
so essential is the relation of this to the idea of maleness ; 
the Chepara tribe punish with death a woman who casts 
eyes upon it, or a man who shows it to a woman. 3 In Brazil 
also no woman may see the equivalent jurupari pipes on 
pain of death. 4 The association penis gas (noise) castra- 
tion is well illustrated by the Kakian initiation ceremonies, 
the following account of which I abstract from Frazer. 5 
The Kakian ceremonial house is situate under the darkest 
trees in the depth of the forest and is so built as to admit 
so little light that it is impossible to see what goes on 
within; the boys are conducted there blindfold. When all 
are assembled before the house the High Priest calls aloud 
on the devils, and immediately a hideous uproar is heard 
to proceed from the house. It is made by men with bamboo 
trumpets who have been secretly introduced into the build- 
ing, but the women think it is made by the devils and are 

1 Bourke, Scatologic Rites of All Nations, 1891, pp. 129, 154-7. 
* See Reik, Probleme der Religionspsychologie, 1919, Cap. 3, "Die Puber- 
tatsriten der Wilden." 

3 Lang, op. cit., p. 34. 

4 Lang, op. cit., p. 43. 

8 Frazer, Balder the Beautiful, 1913, Vol. II, pp. 249, 250. 



greatly terrified. Then the priests enter, followed by the 
boys, one at a time. As soon as each boy disappears within 
the precincts a dull chopping sound is heard, a fearful cry 
rings out, and a sword or spear, dripping with blood, is 
thrust through the roof of the house. This is a token that 
the boy's head has been cut off, and that the devil has carried 
him away to regenerate him. In some places the boys are 
pushed through an opening made in the shape of a croco- 
dile's jaws or a cassowary's beak, and it is then said that the 
devil has swallowed them. The boys remain in the shed 
for five or nine days. Sitting in the dark, they hear the 
blast of the bamboo trumpets, and from time to time the 
sound of musket shots and the clash of swords. As they 
sit in a row cross-legged, the chief takes his trumpet and, 
placing the mouth of it in the hands of each lad, speaks 
through it in strange tones, imitating the voice of the 
spirits; he warns the lads, under pain of death, to observe 
the rules of the Kakian society. 

The association with the idea of power has also been 
manifest throughout all the examples quoted above, and 
is an extraordinarily intimate one. To create or destroy 
with a word, a wind, a breath, or a vapour obviously 
implies a higher degree of power than to do so with an 
instrument of might, however wonderful and impressive 
this might be. With the primary idea (intestinal gas) the 
sense of power is in adult life usually manifested in the 
form of contempt ; in many countries the passage of wind 
is regarded as the deadliest possible insult and in certain 
circumstances may involve such penalties as expulsion from 
the tribe or even death. 1 In an analysis, carried out from 
a different point of view, of two Old Testament myths, 
Lorenz 2 has shown how the might of God against his most 

1 Bourke, op. cit., pp. 161, 162. 

2 Lorenz, "Das Tkan-Motiv in der allgemeinen Mythologie," Imago, 1913, 
Bd. II, S. 50-3. 



desperate foes was displayed, in the one case by means 
of wind, in the other through the blowing of trumpets. 
The myths in question are those of the destruction of the 
tower of Babel and the walls of Jericho, and he shows, 
as I think convincingly, that both of these are variants 
of the Titan motive. In the first of them the destruction 
is brought about by a mighty wind that disperses the 
people by confounding their speech, in the second by God 
getting his chosen people to give a loud cry and to blow 
their trumpets. 

The preceding considerations are in full accord with the 
conclusions I have reached on the basis of psycho-analytical 
experience with actual persons. In such study it becomes 
plain that the infantile complex concerned with gaseous 
fertilization is integrally related to the castration thoughts. 
The total complex is a characteristically ambivalent one, 
corresponding with the child's ambivalent attitude towards 
his father, and its manifestations express at once a denial 
of his power and an affirmation of his supreme might ; his 
impotency and his omnipotence. Through the conception 
of the male organ as a flatus-emitting agency (See p. 330) 
these two opposite components become fused into a perfect 

Further psycho-analytic study throws still more light on 
the nature of this paradoxical attitude. It has elucidated 
the source of the two-fold attitude towards the father. The 
hostile and depreciatory one, the wish that he were im- 
potent, originates in the rivalry between the boy and 
father over the possession of the mother. The admiration, 
which exalts the father's greatness, has a more personal 
source: it is a substitute for the primary narcissism and 
feeling of omnipotence which the child is unable to sustain 
in the face of experience, a failure which is largely con- 
tributed to by the presence of the obviously powerful 
Father. By transferring his own congenital sense of omnipo- 



tence 1 to the Father and identifying himself with him, he 
is enabled to maintain the feeling of power for some time 
longer, until the time comes for him to discover his Father's 
limitations also, when he has to repeat the same psycho- 
logical process by substituting a heavenly for an earthly 
Father. There is a further important gain in both cases 
namely, the reconciliation with a potentially hostile being, 
and the allaying of a sense of sin that arose from disobedient 
or hostile thoughts concerning him. 

The curious way in which the attitude towards the 
Father is dealt with and reconciled in the compromise we 
have considered above, and even the specific form of this 
compromise, is also a mirror of changes within the indi- 
vidual himself, changes which are only secondarily trans- 
ferred to the idea of the Father. For, in my experience, the 
particular group of phantasies that have constituted the 
main theme of this essay arise in persons who, chiefly on 
account of the incest barrier, have experienced a difficulty 
in passing from the pregenital stage of development to that 
of the genital one, 2 and who have thereby reacted by 
reverting to the former stage. In this earlier stage, which is 
principally composed of a combination of sadism and anal- 
erotism, the element most suitable for fusion with the 
genital attitude that could not be encompassed is that of 
the passing of flatus, with its close relation to the sense of 
power, 3 to expulsion and projection. As was pointed out 
above, the uniting of these elements to the actual genital 
one, in the phantasy of a flatus-expelling organ, fulfils all 
the wished-for conditions to an extent that one could 
hardly otherwise conceive. That the idea of supreme 
power is here recaptured under the guise of phantasies that 

1 See Ferenczi, op. cit., Ch. VIII, "Stages in the Development in the Sense 
of Reality." 

2 See Freud, Sammlung kleiner Schriften zuv Neurosenlehre, Vierte Folge, 
Cap. Ill, "Die Disposition zur Zwangsneurose." 

8 See my Papers on Psycho- Analysis, 2nd Ed., p. 546. 


have numerous feminine, anal, masochistic and homosexual 
implications e.g., by means of the gentle dove is in 
entire accord with the fundamental method of Christian 
salvation, so that further studies on these lines should lead 
to a deeper understanding of the psychology of this idea. 


If we now regard the theme as a whole, we cannot but 
be impressed by the ingenuity and fine feeling with which 
an idea so repellent to the adult mind has been transformed 
into a conception not merely tolerable, but lofty in its 
grandeur. In the endeavour to represent the purest and 
least sensual form of procreation that can be imagined, the 
one most befitting to the Creator Himself, the mind worked 
surely and on the soundest lines by reaching for its basis 
to the crudest and grossest idea obtainable; it is always 
through such violently extreme contrasts, as we know from 
the analytic study of literature, that the grandest psycho- 
logical effects are achieved. Of all infantile theories of pro- 
creation that persist in the Unconscious there is perhaps 
not one more repellent than that described above, and no 
more astounding contrast could well be conceived than the 
original form of this and the form given to it in the legend 
here analysed. In the original one we have a Father 
incestuously impregnating his daughter (i.e., a son his 
mother) by expelling intestinal gas, with the help of the 
genital organ, into her lower alimentary orifice, one through 
which her child is then born. In the legend, the site of exit 
is completely omitted, and that of ingress is denoted by the 
receptive organ of music, an orifice with fewer sensual im- 
plications than any other in the whole body, than the navel, 
the mouth, or even the eye. What more innocent symbol 
exists than that gentle messenger of hope and love, the 
dove ? And in the tender breath of the dove, reinforced by 



the solemn words of the Archangel, who would recognize 
the repulsive material thus symbolized, with its odour 
replaced by the fragrance of lilies, its moisture and warmth 
by the aureole of light and fire, and its sound by the gentle 
cooing "the echo on earth of the very Word of God". 

The Christian myth is perhaps the most gigantic and 
revolutionary phantasy in history, and its striking charac- 
teristic is the completely veiled way in which this phantasy 
is carried through to success under the guise of sacrificial 
submission to the Father's will. It is therefore entirely 
appropriate that such an important episode as the birth 
of the hero should be portrayed by symbolisms that signify 
a complete denial of the Father's power, and which at the 
same time, under the mantle of the Father, glorify the son's 
might in the most supreme terms imaginable. 

Turning lastly to the accompanying picture by Martini 1 
(see Frontispiece), painted over six hundred years ago, we 
see, although its marvellous colour cannot be here repro- 
duced, that the whole theme which has occupied us is 
portrayed with a charm and fidelity hardly to be surpassed. 
One of our leading critics, Edward Hutton, writes of it: 
"Who may describe the colour and the delicate glory of 
this work ? The hand of man can do no more ; it is the most 
beautiful of religious paintings." To show how deeply the 
artist has reached for his inspiration I will call the reader's 
attention to one little detail, a trait characteristic of 
Martini's Annunciation pictures, though often copied from 
him later by other painters. 2 It has to do with the cam- 
panulas that stand between Gabriel and the Virgin. Our 

1 The picture is usually attributed to both Simone Martini and Lippo 
Memmi, but the latter painted only the setting and the angels at the side, 
which are not here reproduced. 

* For instance, by Taddeo Bartoli (in the Siena Academy) . A very clear hint 
of the function of the holy words is given by those painters who make them 
issue from the Archangel's mouth in the form of a snake. (An example of this 
is offered by the altar at Klosterneuburg, reproduced by Beissel, Geschichte 
der Verehrung Marias in Deutschland wahrend des Mittelalters, 1909, S. 466.) 



artist indicated, quite unconsciously, why the lily is the 
flower chosen for the present purpose. Of all flowers the 
lily is the most noted for the delicate fragrance of its odour : 
better than the luscious and half-lascivious rose, the heavy 
jasmine, or the fleeting wild flowers, the lily can serve as no 
other flower can to express the acme of purity that is 
necessary to conceal the exactly opposite original idea. In 
the picture, the artist makes the words of Gabriel, which are 
the counterpart of the Breath of God, pass through the 
lilies, as if to purify the fertilization principle of the last 
trace of early uncleanness, to cleanse it of any possible 
remaining dross. 

In work done, as this must have been, under the direct 
inspiration of the unconscious, we realize the difference 
between true and pseudo-art. It also illustrates how happy 
was the union between Christian religion and art, before 
the divorce came with the decadence of the Renaissance 
and the reign of "Puritanism" in religion. The whole topic 
of this essay shows how important was the part played by 
aesthetic feeling in the elaboration of religious beliefs the 
legend we have analysed may well be compared to an 
exquisite poetic conception a fact that is throughout 
intelligible when we remember how intimate is the associa- 
tion between the unconscious roots of both. Religion has 
always used art in one form or another, and must do so, 
for the reason that incestuous desires invariably construct 
their phantasies out of the material provided by the uncon- 
scious memory of infantile corophilic interests; this is the 
inner meaning of the phrase "Art is the handmaid of 
Religion". The increasing separation between the two, and 
the diverting of art to other purposes, constitutes the first 
serious stage in the transformation of religion, and in the 
supersession of the pleasure-principle by the reality- 




WHATEVER time may reveal about the historical person- 
ality of the Founder of Christianity, there is no doubt 
in the minds of those who have instituted studies into the 
comparison of various religions that many of the beliefs 
centring about Him have been superadded to the original 
basis, having been derived from extraneous Pagan 
sources, and the name of Christian mythology may very 
well be applied to the study of these accretions. As 
Frazer 2 puts it: "Nothing is more certain than that myths 
grow like weeds round the great historical figures of the 

Some of the more important elements of this mythology 
have already been investigated by means of the psycho- 
analytic method by Freud. 3 According to him, the central 
dogma itself of the Christian religion the belief that man- 
kind is to be saved from its sins through the sacrifice of 
Jesus Christ on the cross represents an elaboration of the 
primitive totemistic system. The essence of this system 
he sees in an attempt to allay the sense of guilt arising 
from the CEdipus complex, i.e., the impulse, gratified in 
primordial times, towards parricide and incest, there being 
good reason to think that this complex is the ultimate 
source of the "original sin" described by the theologians. 
This was the first great sin of mankind and the one from 

1 Read at the Seventh International Psycho-Analytical Congress, 27th Sep- 
tember, 1922. 

a Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 3rd Ed., 1914, p. 160. 
8 Freud, Totem und Tabu, 1913, S. 142. 



which our moral conscience and sense of guilt was born. 
The early history of mankind in this respect, the tendency 
towards this great sin and the moral reaction against it, 
is repeated by every child that comes into the world, and 
the story of religion is a never-ending attempt to overcome 
the QEdipus complex and to achieve peace of mind through 
atonement with the Father. Freud has pointed out that 
the most striking characteristic of the Christian solution as 
compared with others, such as the Mithraic, is the way 
in which this atonement is achieved through surrender to 
the Father instead of through openly defying and over- 
coming him. This surrender, the prototype of which is the 
Crucifixion, is periodically repeated in the ceremony of the 
Holy Mass or Communion, which is psychologically equiva- 
lent to the totemistic banquet. In this way the Father's 
wrath is averted and the Son takes his place as co-equal 
with Him. In the banquet is lived over again both the 
celebration of the original deed of killing and eating the 
Father and the remorseful piety which desires re-union and 
identification with him. It will be seen that, according to 
this view, the Christian reconciliation with the Father is 
attained at the expense of over-development of the fem- 
inine component. 

The present communication will, it is hoped, afford 
confirmation of Freud's conclusions by a study on parallel 
lines. Some ten years ago I published in the Jahrbuch der 
Psychoanalyse an essay on the impregnation of the Madonna 
and what I have to present here is largely based on a 
recently written expanded edition of the essay which is to 
appear in English. 1 The research there pursued led incident- 
ally to consideration of the following problem. 

In the Christian mythology a startling fact appears. It 
is the only one in which the original figures are no longer 
present, in which the Trinity to be worshipped no longer 

1 Chapter XIII of this volume. 



consists of the Father, Mother and Son. The Father and 
Son still appear, but the Mother, the reason for the whole 
conflict, has been replaced by the mysterious figure of 
the Holy Ghost. 

It seems impossible to come to any other conclusion 
than the one just enunciated. Not only must the Mother 
logically constitute the third member of any Trinity whose 
two other members are Father and Son, not only is this 
so in all the other numerous Trinities known to us, but 
there is a considerable amount of direct evidence indicating 
that this was originally so in the Christian myth itself. 
Frazer 1 has collected some of the evidence to this effect 
and makes the conclusion highly probable on historical 
grounds alone. The original Mother, who was accepted by 
for instance the Ophitic sect as the third member of the 
Trinity, would appear to have been of mixed Babylonian 
and Egyptian origin, although there are not wanting indica- 
tions to show that a misty Mother-figure floated in the 
background of Hebrew theology also. Thus the passage in 
Genesis (i. 2) "And the Spirit of God moved upon the 
face of the waters" should properly run "The Mother of 
the Gods brooded (or fluttered) over the abyss and brought 
forth life", a bird-like conception of the Mother which 
must remind us not only of the Holy Dove (i.e., the Holy 
Spirit that replaces the Mother), but also of the legend 
that Isis conceived Horus while fluttering in the shape of 
a hawk over the dead body of Osiris. While the sternly 
patriarchal Hebrew theology, however, banned the Mother 
to a subordinate part and the Messiah-Son to a remotely 
distant future, it nevertheless retained the normal relation- 
ship of the three. It is probable, therefore, that any eludica- 
tion of the change from Mother to Holy Ghost would 

1 Frazer, The Dying God, 191 r, p. 5. [Ewald Roellenbleck, in his Magna Mater 
im alien Testament, 1949, has made a comprehensive study of this matter and 
shown conclusively tjiat indications of the original Mother Goddess are strewn 
throughout the Old Testament, even if many are in a veiled form.] 



throw light on the inner nature of the psychological 
revolution betokened by the development of Judaism into 

The mode of approach here adopted will be by consider- 
ing the circumstances of the conception of the Messiah. 
This approach is justified on two grounds. In the first 
place, as is well known, the figure of the Holy Ghost 
appears in the myth only as the procreative agent in the 
conception of the Son, and as an ambrosial benediction 
poured out on to the Son when the latter undergoes the 
initiatory rite of baptism (later on also in connection with 
the followers of the Son). In the second place, Otto Rank 1 
has long ago shown that the tendencies of a myth are 
revealed already in its earliest stages, in what he has 
termed the Myth of the Birth of the Hero. Consideration 
of the Christian myth makes it probable that this law 
holds good here also, so that a study of the conception of 
Jesus may throw light on the main tendencies and purposes 
of the whole myth. 

To begin with, the very idea of a conception being 
induced by a supernatural and abnormal means yields a 
clue to the mythical tendency. It tells us at once that 
there is some conflict present in the attitude towards the 
Father, for the unusual route of impregnation implies, as 
we know from other studies, a wish to repudiate the idea 
of the Father having played any part in it. There may 
or may not be present as well the opposite tendency to 
this the desire to magnify admiringly the special power 
of the Father. This ambivalency is clearly seen in the 
primitive belief that children are begotten not of their 
Father, but through impregnation of the Mother by the 
particular clan totem, for the totem is simply an ancestral 
substitute for the Father, a super-Father. It is thus not 
surprising to learn that the Christian myth must, like most 

1 Otto Rank, Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden, 1909. 

361 AA 


other religious myths, be concerned with the age-old 
struggle between Father and Son. 

It will be remembered that the conception of Jesus took 
place in a most unusual manner. As a rule, whenever a 
god wishes to impregnate a mortal woman, he appears 
on earth either in human form or disguised as an animal 
with specially phallic attributes (a bull, a snake or what 
not) and impregnates her by performing the usual act 
of sexual union. In the Madonna myth, on the other hand, 
God the Father does not appear at all, unless we regard 
the Archangel Gabriel as a personification of Him; the 
impregnation itself is effected by the angel's word of 
greeting and the breath of a dove simultaneously entering 
the Madonna's ear. The Dove itself, which is understood 
to represent the Holy Ghost, emanates from the Father's 
mouth. The Holy Ghost, therefore, and His breath play 
here the part of a sexual agent, and appear where we 
would logically expect to find a phallus and semen respec- 
tively. To quote St. Zeno: "The womb of Mary swells 
forth by the Word, not by seed" ; or, again, St. Eleutherius : 
"0 blessed Virgin . . . made mother without co-operation 
of man. For here the ear was the wife, and the angelic 
word the husband." 

It will be seen that our problem is immediately com- 
plicated. To find that the mysterious figure replacing the 
Mother is a male being, who symbolizes the creative 
elements of the Father, only adds a second enigma to the 
first. Before taking this up, however, it is necessary to 
consider more closely the details of the impregnation 

A comparative analysis of these leads to an unexpected 
conclusion. When we seek to discover how the idea of 
breath could have become invested in the primitive, i.e., 
unconscious, mind with the seminal connotation just 
indicated, we find that it does so in a very circuitous way. 



As I have shown in detail in the work referred to above, the 
idea of breath does not have in the primitive mind the 
narrow and definite signification we now give to it. A study 
of Greek and Hindu physiological philosophy in particular 
shows that breath used to have a much broader conno- 
tation, that of the so-called pneuma concept, and that an 
important constituent of this concept probably the greater 
part of at least its sexual aspects were derived from 
another gaseous excretion, namely that proceeding from 
the lower end of the alimentary canal. It is this down- 
going breath, as it is termed in the Vedic literature, which 
is the fertilizing element in the various beliefs of creation 
through speech or breath. Similarly, analysis of the idea 
of the ear as a female receptive organ leads to the con- 
clusion that this is a symbolic replacement, a "displace- 
ment from below upwards", of corresponding thoughts 
relating to the lower orifice of the alimentary canal. 
Putting these two conclusions together, we can hardly 
avoid the inference that the mythical legend in question 
represents a highly refined and disguised elaboration of 
the "infantile sexual theory", to which I have elsewhere 
drawn attention, 1 according to which fecundation is sup- 
posed to be effected through the passage of intestinal gas 
from the Father to the Mother. I have also pointed out 
why this most repellent of sexual phantasies should lend 
itself better than any other to the conveyance of 
the most exalted and spiritual ideas of which the mind is 

Now there are certain characteristic features accom- 
panying this infantile theory which we can discover by 
means of individual psycho-analyses of persons holding it, 
as well as from a study of the comparative material in 
association with it. Superficially considered it would appear 
to imply a denial of the Father's potency and to represent 

1 Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, 1912, Band IV, S. 588 et seq. 



a form of castration wish, and no doubt this is in part true. 
Yet, on the other hand, one is astonished to find that 
throughout all the numerous associations to the idea of 
creation in connection with wind there is nearly always 
implied the very opposite idea of a powerful concrete 
phallus which expels the wind. Thus in most of the beliefs 
attaching in all parts of the world to the idea of divine 
creative thunder there is also present some sort of thunder- 
weapon, the best-known and most widely spread of which 
is the bull-roarer. Further than this, the idea of impregna- 
tion by means of wind itself would seem to be regularly 
regarded by the primitive mind as a sign of peculiarly 
great potency, as if the power to create by a mere sound, 
a word or even a thought, were a final demonstration of 
tremendous virility. This reaches its acme in the notion 
of conception without even sound, by a silent thought 
alone, such as in the belief cherished by various nuns in 
the Middle Ages that they had conceived because Jesus 
had "thought on them". 

An excellent example of this complex of ideas, interest- 
ing from several points of view, is aiforded by certain 
Egyptian beliefs about the crocodile. They also bear 
directly on the present theme, for the crocodile was taken 
by early Christians to be a symbol for the Logos or Holy 
Ghost; moreover, the creature was believed to impregnate 
his mate, just like the Virgin Mary, through the ear. Now 
on the one hand the crocodile was notable to the ancients 
for having no external genital organs, no tongue and no 
voice (symbolic indications of impotency), and yet on the 
other hand in spite of these purely negative qualities (or 
perhaps just because of them) he was regarded as the 
highest type of sexual virility, and a number of aphrodisiac 
customs were based on this belief. The crocodile was an 
emblem of wisdom, like the serpent and other phallic 
objects, and as such figures on the breast of Minerva, so 



that the ancients seem to have reached the conclusion 
that the most potent agent in all creation was the Silence 
of Man, the omnipotence of thought being even more im- 
pressive than the omnipotence of speech. 

We know that this over-emphasis on paternal potency 
is not a primary phenomenon, but is a transference from 
personal narcissism in response to the fear of castration 
as a punishment for castration wishes. We thus come to 
the conclusion, which is amply borne out by individual 
psycho-analyses, that a belief in a gaseous impregnation 
represents a reaction to an unusually intense castration 
phantasy, and that it occurs only when the attitude towards 
the Father is particularly ambivalent, hostile denial of 
potency alternating with affirmation of and subjection to 
supreme might. 

Both of these attitudes are indicated in the Christian 
myth. The occurrence of impregnation by action d distance, 
merely through messengers, and the choice of a gaseous 
route, reveal an idea of tremendous potency, one to which 
the Son is throughout subjected. On the other hand, the 
instrument employed to effect the impregnation is far from 
being a specially virile one. Though the Dove is evidently 
a phallic symbol it was in the guise of a dove that Zeus 
seduced Phtheia, and doves were the amor-like emblems 
of all the great love-goddesses, Astarte, Semiramis, Aphro- 
dite and the rest still it plainly owes its association with 
love principally to the gentle and caressing nature of its 
wooing. We may thus say that it is one of the most 
effeminate of all the phallic emblems. 

It is thus clear that the Father's might is manifested 
only at the expense of being associated with considerable 
effeminacy. The same theme is even more evident in the 
case of the Son. He attains greatness, including final 
possession of the Mother and reconciliation with the Father, 
only after undergoing the extremity of humiliation together 



with a symbolic castration and death. A similar path is 
laid down for every follower of Jesus, salvation being 
purchased at the price of gentleness, humility, and sub- 
mission to the Father's will. This path has logically led in 
extreme cases to actual self-castration and always leads 
in that direction, though of course it is in practice replaced 
by various acts symbolizing this. There is a double gain 
in this. Object-love for the Mother is replaced by a regres- 
sion to the original identification with her, so that incest 
is avoided and the Father pacified ; further the opportunity 
is given of winning the Father's love by the adoption of a 
feminine attitude towards him. Peace of mind is purchased 
by means of a change in heart in the direction of a change 
in sex. 

We return at this point to the problem raised above 
of the psychological signification of the Holy Ghost. We 
have seen that He is composed of a combination of the 
original Mother-Goddess with the creative essence (genital 
organs) of the Father. From this point of view one ap- 
proaches an understanding of the peculiar awfulness of 
blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the so-called "unpar- 
donable sin", for such an offence would symbolically be 
equivalent to a defilement of the Holy Mother and an 
attempted castration of the Father. It would be a repetition 
of the primordial sin, the beginning of all sin, gratification 
of the CEdipus impulse. This is in complete harmony with 
our clinical experience that neurotics nearly always identify 
this sin with the act of masturbation, the psychological 
significance of which we now know to be due to its uncon- 
scious association with incestuous wishes. 

So far the figure of the Holy Ghost may be held to 
correspond with the terrible image of the phantastic 
"woman with the penis", the primal Mother. But the 
matter is more complicated. On union of the Mother with 
the Father's creative agent all femininity vanishes, and 



the figure becomes indisputably male. This reversal of sex 
is the real problem. 

For the reasons given above this change in sex must 
have something to do with the act of begetting, and here 
we are reminded of another curious change in sex con- 
nected with the same act. In his brilliant researches into 
the initiation rites and couvade ceremonies of savages 
Reik 1 has shown that the most important tendency per- 
meating these is the endeavour to counter the GEdipus- 
complex i.e., the wish for Father-murder and Mother- 
incest by a very peculiar and yet logical enough device. 
Acting on the deeply-seated conviction that the foundation 
of the fatal attraction towards the Mother is the physical 
fact of one's having been born by her, a conviction which 
has some real basis, savages enter upon various complicated 
procedures the essential aim of which is so far as possible 
to annul this physical fact and to establish the fiction that 
the boy has been at all events re-born by the Father. In 
this way the Father hopes to abrogate the incestuous 
wishes on the one hand and to bind the youth more 
closely to him on the other, both these aims diminishing 
the risk of parricide. Put in terms of the instincts this 
means that an incestuous heterosexual fixation is replaced 
by a sublimated homosexuality. 

When we reflect how widely spread is this tendency 
the rites themselves, as Reik remarks, are found in 
every part of the world it would not seem too bold to 
ascribe to it also the substitution of the male for the 
female sex in the case under discussion. I would therefore 
suggest that the replacement of the Mother-Goddess by the 
Holy Ghost is a manifestation of the desirability of renouncing 
incestuous and parricidal wishes and replacing them by a 
stronger attachment to the Father ', a phenomenon having the 
same signification as the initiatory rites of savages. Hence 

1 Reik, Probleme der Religionspsychologie, 1919, Ch. II and III. 



the greater prominence in Christianity, as compared with 
Judaism, of personal love for God the Father. In support 
of the conclusion may further be quoted the extensive 
part played by sublimated homosexuality throughout the 
Christian religion. The exceptional precept of universal 
brother-love, that one should not only love one's neighbour 
as oneself but also one's enemies, makes a demand on 
social feeling that can be met, as Freud has pointed out, 
only from homosexual sources of feeling. Then the effe- 
minate costume of the priests, their compulsory celibacy, 
shaven head, and so on, plainly signify deprivation of 
masculine attributes, being thus equivalent to symbolic 

The figure thus created represents an androgynic com- 
promise. In surrendering some elements of virility it gains 
the special female prerogative of child-bearing, and thus 
combines the advantages of both sexes. The hermaphroditic 
ideal offered to the world by Christianity has proved of 
tremendous importance to humanity. We have in it a 
great reason for the enormous civilizing influence of Christi- 
anity, since the civilizing of primitive man essentially 
means the mastery of the CEdipus complex and the trans- 
formation of much of it into sublimated homosexuality 
(i.e., herd instinct), without which no social community 
can exist. We realize also why a real conversion to Chris- 
tianity is typically described as being "re-born of the 
Holy Ghost", and why immersion in water (a birth sym- 
bolism) is the official sign of it ; we have here, further, the 
explanation of the curious finding, which I have pointed 
out previously, 1 that the baptismal fluid is lineally derived 
from a bodily fluid (semen, urine) of the Father. It should, 
incidentally, be no longer strange that the most vivid 
forms of religious conversion are seen either at puberty, 
i.e., the homosexual phase of adolescence, or, in adult life, 

1 Chapter II, p. 71, etc. 



with drunkards; it will be remembered that drunkenness 
is a specific sign of mental conflict over the subject of 
repressed homosexuality. 

The conclusions thus reached accord well with those 
reached by Freud along other lines regarding the connection 
between Christianity and totemism. Christianity con- 
stitutes in large part both a veiled regression to the 
primitive totemistic system and at the same time a refine- 
ment of this. It resembles it in the sharpness of the ambi- 
valency towards the Father, though in it the hostile com- 
ponent has undergone a still further stage in repression. 
It also agrees with the tendency of the primitive initiation 
ceremonies as disclosed by Reik, but it indicates a progress 
beyond these inasmuch as the shifting of procreative im- 
portance from the female to the male sex is put backward 
from the time of puberty to that of birth, just as, incident- 
ally, the initiatory rite of baptism subsequently was. 
Instead of the maternal birth being nullified by a symbolic 
paternal rebirth at the time of puberty, the birth itself is 
mythologically treated on these lines. 

In discussing the fate of the original Mother-Goddess 
and her transformation into the Holy Ghost we have passed 
by a very obvious consideration. Although in the Christian 
Trinity itself the Holy Ghost is the only figure that replaces 
the primal Mother, nevertheless there is in Christian 
theology a female figure, the Virgin Mary, who also plays 
an important part. It would thus be truer to say that the 
original Goddess has been "decomposed" to use a mytho- 
logical term into two, one of which goes to make the 
Holy Ghost and the other of which becomes the Madonna. 
To complete our analysis a little should be said about the 
latter figure. 

By a divine Father or Mother, i.e., God or Goddess, 
we mean, from a purely psychological point of view, an 
infantile conception of a Father or Mother, a figure invested 



with all the attributes of power and perfection and regarded 
with respect or awe. The decomposition in question, there- 
fore, signifies that the divine, i.e., infantile, attributes of 
the original Mother image have been transferred to the 
idea of the Holy Ghost, while the purely human, i.e., adult, 
attributes have been retained in the form of a simple 
woman. Apart from the change in sex tHat occurs in the 
former case, which has been considered above, the process 
is akin to the divorce that normally obtains during the 
years of adolescence, when the youth, following the dicho- 
tomy of his own feelings, divides women into two classes 
human accessible ones and unapproachable forbidden 
figures of respect, the extreme types being the harlot and 
"lady" respectively. We know from countless individual 
psycho-analyses that this splitting is simply a projection 
of the dissociation that occurs in the feelings originally 
entertained by the boy for the Mother; those that have 
been deflected from a sexual goal become attached to 
various figures of respect, while the crudely erotic ones are 
allowed to appear only in regard to a certain class of 
woman, harlot, servant, and so on. Both the "lady" and 
the harlot are thus derivatives of the Mother figure. So we 
infer that the division of the original Goddess into two 
figures in Christianity is a manifestation of the same 
repression of incestuous impulses. 

Light is thrown on the part played by the Virgin Mary 
both by these considerations and by comparison of the 
woman in Christian mythology with the woman of other 
Trinities. For this purpose we may select the three that 
have been so fully studied by Frazer, three which seriously 
competed with Christianity in its early days and which 
were the sources of some of its most prominent elements. 
I refer to the three Saviour-Gods Adonis, Attis and Osiris. 
With all these we have a Son-Lover who dies, usually 
being castrated as well, who is periodically mourned, 



chiefly by women, and whose resurrection betokens the 
welfare or salvation of humanity. Two of these contrast 
with the third in the following interesting respect. With 
Adonis and Attis the Mother-Goddess, Astarte or Cybele 
respectively, towers in importance over the young Saviour; 
Osiris on the other hand is at least as distinguished and 
powerful as Isis. Frazer writes: 1 "Whereas legend generally 
represented Adonis and Attis as simple swains, mere herds- 
men or hunters whom the fatal love of a goddess had 
elevated above their homely sphere into a brief and melan- 
choly pre-eminence, Osiris uniformly appears in tradition 
as a great and beneficent king." Later on, 2 however, he 
suggests that "This . . . seems to indicate that in the 
beginning Isis was, what Astarte and Cybele continued 
to be, the stronger divinity of the pair". Thus, in the 
series: Astarte, Isis, Mary we have a gradation in the 
diminishing greatness of the primal Mother. Although 
Mary retains the attributes of perfection, she has lost 
those of divine and unapproachable grandeur and becomes 
simply a good woman. This subordination of the primal 
Mother, and her deprivation of the infantile conception of 
divinity, would seem to accord well with the view expressed 
above of the tendency in the Christian myth to exalt the 
Father at the expense of the Mother. The significance of 
this is, as has been indicated, to counter the incest wish by 
instituting a closer bond with the Father. 

Reflection on the history of Christianity shows that 
its object has been gained only in part, that the solution 
provided of the QEdipus complex was not one of universal 
applicability, and that the age-old conflict between Father 
and Son has continued to lead to further efforts to solve 
it. The transition from the Mother to the Holy Ghost was 
not accomplished without a struggle even at the beginning, 

1 Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 1914, pp. 158, 159. 
8 Ibid., p. 202. 



as might have been expected in a community always accus- 
tomed to Goddess worship. Several sects tried to maintain 
the divinity of Mary, the obvious successor of Isis, Hera, 
Astarte, Aphrodite and the rest, and the Melchite attempt 
to retain the original Trinity of Father, Mary, and Messiah 
was crushed only at the Council of Nice. For a thousand 
years matters proceeded quietly, perhaps because of the 
astounding syncretizing activity of those years in assimila- 
ting Pagan mythology of all kinds, including most of that 
pertaining to the earlier Mother-Goddesses. After this time, 
however, voices were increasingly raised in favour of 
according the Virgin Mary a loftier part in the hierarchy. 
This tendency won the day in the Catholic Church and 
may be said to be still proceeding, for it is hardly more 
than half a century since the last step was taken of pro- 
nouncing that she herself was also conceived immacu- 
lately. 1 The human need for a Mother to worship was too 
strong, so that She had to be reinstated. Christianity here, 
therefore, as in so many other respects, effected a com- 
promise between the Hebraic tendency towards an andro- 
genic conception and the Classical tendency towards ack- 
nowledgement of the Mother-Goddess as a central figure. 

The peculiarly Christian solution, which was later adul- 
terated by Catholicism, was thus a lineal descendant of the 
Hebraic tendency. The Protestant Reformation was clearly 
an attempt to reinforce the original solution and to carry 
it to its logical conclusion by abolishing all traces of 
Mariolatry from religion; only those who have witnessed 
the horror with which the "Red Woman" is mentioned 
among the extreme Protestant sections of the community 
can fully appreciate the strength of this impulse. It is 
interesting, further, to note that the more completely is 
this process carried out the less necessity is there to adopt 
a homosexual attitude in religion; the extreme Protestant 

1 While this is in the press comes the doctrine of the corporeal assumption. 



ministers not only marry, but discard all special costume 
and other indications of a feminine role, whereas all the 
self-castrating tendencies are more evident where Mari- 
olatry is highly developed. One might perhaps say that 
the Protestant solution of the QEdipus complex is the 
replacement of the Mother by the Woman, while the 
Catholic one consists in the change of the masculine to the 
feminine attitude. 



Abercrombie, 281 
Abraham, Karl, 47, 56, 83, 

102, 118, 132, 141, 285, 


Adanson, 131 
Adonis, 216, 221, 370-1 
aesthetics, 266-7 
Agni, 313, 336 
Aigremont, 12, 88 
alchemy, 26 
ambivalency, 97 
ambrosia, 316 
Anacreon, 336 
Anaximenes, 296 
Andree, 54 
animal phobias, 7 
anthropophagy, 94 
anthropology, Chapter IV 
Aphrodite, 336 
Apollonius, 335 
Anubis, 140 

Archer, William, 239, 243 
Aristophaneis, 287 
Aristotle, 283, 298, 299, 309 
Arneth, 271 
Arnulphy, 298 
Arrian, 33 

Arthurian cycle, 168 
Aruntas, 153, 156 
Ashera, 12 
Astarte, 217, 370 
astronomy, 218 
Atchley, 316 
Athene, 294, 344 

Atkinson, 172 
84, Atman, 296 
289, Attis, 205, 216, 370-1 

Avebury, 151 (see also Lubbock) 
avunculate organization, 149 
Aubrey, 90 
Aymonier, 48 

Bab, 68, 281, 306 

Bachofen, 146, 170, 332 

Baker, 69, 72, 73 

baloma, 156 

Bancroft, 48, 68, 85, 274 

baptism, 70, 208, 303, 318, 337, 


Baptist sect, 71 
barrenness, 45, 71 
Barton, 343 
Bayley, 24 
Beissel, 356 
Bekker, 56 
Bent, 346 
Berecinthia, 74 
Bethe, 316 
betel-nut, 91 
Birlinger and Buck, 67 
birth symbolism, 208 
bisexuality, 133 
Black, 72 
Blinkenberg, 289 
blood covenant, 78, 80 
boar's head, 222 
Boas, 66, 328 
Boas and Hunt, 345 



Bodin, 29, 30 

Bona Dea, 74 

Bosman, 86 

Bourke, 59, 60, 64, 66, 67, 71-3, 

Bousjield, 348 
Bousquet, 30 
Bouvaine, 289 
j&oyk, 55 
Brahmanism, 274 
rW, 24, 26, 28, 33, 38, 47, 54, 

65, 89-92, 101-103 
breath, 274 et seq. 
breath-soul, 274, 295, 303, 320 
Brett, 294, 297, 299, 300, 306, 

bride-ale, 65 

Brill, A. A., 78 

Brinton, 280 

Broadley, 77 

Bronzino, 286 

Brown-Sequard, 51 

Budge ', Wallis, 324, 326, 348-9 

bull-roarer, 288-9, 35 r > 3^4 

Burton, 118 

Byron, 25 

Burckbardt, 29, 30 

Cabanis, 300 

C*Ax>r, P. Ch., 331 

Calvin, 181 

cannibalism, 175, 209 

Cassandra, 343 

Cassirer, E., 188 

castration, 20, 137, 142-3, 261, 

264, 350, 353, 365 
causality, 186, 189 
Charlemagne cycle, 168 

Chcyne, 329, 344 
Chigemouni, 272 
chimney, 53 
Christmas, Chapter X 
Cicognara, 272 
Clamgero, 73 
cleansing, 73 
Clodd, Edward, 6 
Cochrane, 72 
cockle-bread, 90 
C0*?, 190-1 
compacts, 25 
confarreatio, 92 
Conway, 25, 30, 33, 341 
Cook, 67 

Copernicus, 231, 234 
coprophilia, 303, 314 
Cornford, 53 
Cotter ill, 288 
Co*, G. W., 54 
Cox, Marian, 101 
Coxe, 73 

couvade, 160, 162, 367 
Creuzer, 298 
crocodile, 346 et seq. 
Crooke, 49 
Curtis s, 305 

74, 205, 217, 371 

Daly ell, 26, 31-2, 34, 38, 102 
Darwin, 230-1, 234 
Davenport, 190 
death- wishes, 14, 123 
Des Bancels, Largnier, 278 
defloration, 12 
Dekker, 38 
Demeter, 204 
dependence, 200 



determination, Chapter VII 
Deussen, 274, 296, 301 
Didron, 337 
Dietericb, 305 
"diffusionist" school, 9 
Diogenes, 294, 297, 306 
dove, 322 et seq. 
dream-life, 112, 116 
Dubois, Abbe*, 74 
Dukes, 194 
Dulaure, 65 
Dupuoy, 331 
Durckbeim, 192 
Durville, 298 
dying God, 205-6 

Eddington, Sir Arthur, 187, 188 

Eels, 328 

egocentric, 14 

Einstein, 188 

Eisler, 293 

ejaculatio praecox, 101 

Elias Artista Hermetic a, 27 

Elixir of life, 141 

Elliot Smith, 118, 130-136, 140 

Ellis, 168 

emblem, n 

Ennemoser, 34 

Erman, 75 

essence, 26 

excrement, 60 

exhibitionism, 247-8 

exogamy, 160 

family complex, 169 
father-god, 343 
father-imago, 164 
feast of fools, 77, 222 

Federn, 56, 327 

Febrle, 315 

Ferenczi, S., 62, 118, 276, 290, 

293, 354 

Fergus son, 118 

fertility, 31,45,61, 88, 132, 156 

festivals, 212-13, 215, 217, 220-1 

Feuerbach, 192 

F Hippo Lippi, 269 

flatus, 339, 353, 354 

Flemming, 81 

Fletcher, 298 

Flour noy, 190 

flying snakes, 93 

Folklore, Chapter I. 

Frazer, Sir James, 48-9, 52, 88, 
127, 146, 151, 157, 163, 190, 
192, 283, 287, 289-301, 305, 
306-7, 217, 331, 333-5, 351, 

35^, 3^0, 370-1 

Free Will, Chapter VII 

friendship, 24 

Freud, 3, 8, 19, 22, 57, 62, 70, 
104, 109, 113, 116-9, 125, 127, 
133, I35> 137, i&>, 162, 165, 
169, 172, 184, 193-4, 196, 199, 
226, 229, 230, 234, 248, 251, 
257, 263, 268, 282, 295, 308, 

320, 330, 354> 358, 3^9 
Frobenius, Leo, 46, 342 
Frommann, 65-6 
Fucbs, 331 
fumigation, 318 
Furlong, 118, 213 


Gabriel, 271, 274, 324-5, 331 

344> 356-7> 3^2 
Gadow, 348 


Gaidoz, 335 

Galen, 299 

Gallicban, Walter, 67 

Gaume, 32, 35 

Gilbert, 305 

Gilder, 73 

Girscbner, 333 

God Complex, Chapter XII 

gold, 62 

Gomara, 72 

Gomme, Laurence, 6, 7, 14 

Gon, 270 

Gougb, 32 

Gratian, 34 

Grimm, 17, 30, 38, 62 

Grobmann, 312, 334 

Gubernatis, de, 74, 76, 335, 336 

guilt, 19 

Hadden, A. C., 288 

Habn, Victor, 24 

Hahn, von, 334-5 

Hakluyt, 73 

Hamlet, 168 

Harding, 332 

Hardy, Thomas, 139 

Hartland, 59-63, 71, 78, 80-82, 

90-93, 151-3, 156, 166, 168, 

170-2, 278, 306 
Hartmann, 46 
Harvey, 121 

#<?*/*, 153, 157-8 
Hebn, 28, 99, 100 
ff<W, 296, 300, 305, 309-10, 

315, 317-8 

Heilbronner, 174, 176 
Heisenberg, 187 
Henderson, 55, 86 

Hera, 278 

Heraclites, 310 

Herodotus, 316, 349 

Her rick, 26 

Herzog, Guillaume, 272 

Hiawatha, 280, 307 

Hiong, 287 

Hippocrates, 300 

Hirzel, 313 

Hislop, 326 

Hoc art, 129 

H of ding, 190, 192 

Holy Eucharist, 92 

Holy Ghost, 286, 303-4, 312-13, 

336-7, Chapter XIV 
Holy Water, 71, 77, 208 
homosexuality, 174 
Horus, 346, 360 
hospitality, 24 
Howard, Arthur, 50 
Hume, David, 181-3 
Hutton, Edward, 356 

Id, 184 

Immortality, 261 

impotency, 61-2, 91, 102, 142-3, 

196, 347 
incest trends, 15, 19, 70, 113, 

126, 140, 143, 161, 167, 366 
infantile sexuality, 15 
Inman, 52 
Ishtar, 343-4 
Isis, 206, 217, 360, 371 

James, William, 193, 198, 232, 

Jameson, 344 




Janet, 196, 257 

Jeans, Sir James, 187 

Jefferson, Thomas, 242 

Jennings, Hargrave, 85, 118 

Johannes Agricola, 203 

Johnson, 103 

Jonah, 337 

Jouan, 72 

Jung, 273, 294, 307, 311, 339 

Kalevala, 281 

Kane, 69 

Kant, 179, 182, 187, 258 

Kama, 345 

King, 1 1 8, 349 

King Clovis, 335 

King Ludwig of Bavaria, 250 

King Rene', 284 

King, Irving, 190, 193 

Kingsley, 74 

Kinkel, 194 

Kipling, Rudyard, 216 

Klein, Melanie, 174, 265 

Knox, John, 181 

Kolbein, 68 

Koshti, 69 

Krauss, 30, 84, 87, 88, 278 

Krishna, 75 

Kuhn, 32, 289 

Laistner, 314 

Lang, Andrew, 85, 288, 351 

Langlois, 269, 270 

lameness, 47, 51 

Larousse, 338, 340 

last trump, 286 

Lavanapura, 29 

Lawrence, 24-5, 29-31, 33-4, 36, 
38, 40, 50, 53, 55, 83, 88, 100- 

Law son, 52 

Lecky, 271 

Leibnitz, 181 

Lenormant, 82 

Leonhardi, von, 153 

Leuba, 190-93, 198 

Levy, Ludwig, 94, 292, 343 

ligature, 45 

Lisiansky, 73, 85 

lizard, 346 

Loewenstein, 194 

Logos, 291, 294, 330, 338, 349, 


Long, 69 
Longden, 344 
Longfellow, 280, 307 
Lor em, 352 
Lot's wife, 95 
Louis XIV, 250 
love charm, 81 
loyalty, 24, 25, 90 
Lubbock (see also Avebury), 


Lucian, 333 
luck, 12 

lumen Christi, 93 
Lumboltz, 49 
Luther, 1 8 1-2, 288, 317 
Luzel, 66 

Madonna, Chapter XIII 
Maeterlinck, 332 
Maine, Sir Henry, 170 
Mala Vita, 79, 80 
malcficium, 45, 102 



Malinowski, 118, 153-6, 159, Mont em, 28 

162-4, 168-70, 172, 202 

Manichaeans, 74, 93 

Manley, 25 

Mann, 70 

Mannhardt, 30 

Marett, 289 

Mariolatry, 217, 372 

Marlitt, 314 

Maronites, 269 

Mars den, 281 

Martial, 315 

Martin, L. C., 339 

matriarchy, 149 

matrilineal descent, 148, 150 

matrilocal marriage, 150 

Maurice, 75 

Maury, 335-8 

Maya, 272 

Me Gillicuddy, 73 

MV Lennan, 151, 170 

Melchite sect, 372 

Melville, 64, 69, 73 

Meredith, George, 246 

Messenger, 323 

Messiah, 307, 361, 372 

Michibo, 280 

Mill, John Stuart, 181 

Milton, 318 

mistletoe, 335 

mistral, 284 

Mithraism, 216-18, 222, 307 

mock king, 221 

Moffet, 88 

Mogt, 317 

Moliere, 272 

Monier Williams, 68 

Monophysites, 271 

Mooney, 66 
Moor, 75 
More sin, 27, 35 
Morfilly 346 
Morgan, Lewis, 170 
Morike, Eduard, 281 
Mother Earth, 139 

Goddess, 131, 134, 139, 

206, 210, 2l6, 2l8, 

220, 343-4, 366-7, 

369, 372 

Kin, 147-8 

Pot, 132, 134 
Mother right, 218, Chapter V 

rule 147 

mouth, 273 et seq. 
Mudjekeewis, 279 
Miihlhauser, 47 
Miiller, Max, 69, 74, 302 
Mungo Park, 64 
Muss-Arnolt, 343 

Napier, 35, 72 
Napoleon, 252 
narcissism, 247 
Nassau, 35 

Newton, Sir Isaac, 212, 231 
Nicolas Verdun, 271 
Nietzsche, 254, 264 
Nightmare, Chapter III 
Noah, 337 
Norlk, 273 

Obersteiner, 60 
Oderir, 316 
Odin, 284, 287, 316 
odour, 314 et seq. 



Oedipus complex, 159-161, 168- 
170, 172-74, 204, 210, 263, 

35^-9, 3^7-8, 37^ 373 
Oestrup, 6 1 

omnipotence, 200, 246, 255, 257 
of thoughts, 8, 123, 

293, 349 
Or i gen, 214, 282 

Osiris, 134, 206, 216, 360, 370-71 
Ovid, 281 
Owen, 93 

paganism, 220 

palaeolithic art, Chapter VI 

Pallas, 72 

Paracelsus, 46 

parricide, 207, 221-2, 367 

parthenogenesis, 156 

paternum salinum, 54 

Paton, 90 

patrilineal descent, 148-9 

Paulus Aeginata, 112 

Perry, W. J., 118,131, 133, 134, 

P'troff, 73 
Pettazoni, 289 
Pfannenscbmid, 34 
P fitter, 194 
phantasy, 16 
Phelo, 83 
Philo, 334 
phoenix, 332 
Phtheia, 334, 365 
Picart, 74, 76 
Pinches, 343 
Pinkerton, 86 
Pitre, 47 
Planck, 187-8 

de Plancy, Collin, 29-30 

Plato, 23, 3H,3I7 

Pliny, 45, 283, 290, 335, 347 

Ploss, 68, 77, 84 

Plotinus, 294, 311,330 

Plutarch, 88,91,283, 347, 349 

Pluto, 305 

pneuma, 297 et seq., 363 

polyandry, 152 

polygyny, 152 

Pragapati, 279 

predestination, 180-1 

Preller-Robert, 304 

de Premare, 287 

Preuss, 274 

primal horde, 172 

Prince, 343 

Ptah, 349 

puberty rites. 160 

purification, 70, 75, 98 

purity, 340, 357 

Putnam, 53 

putrefaction, 61 

Pythia, 316 

Quetzalcoatl, 274 

Ra, 326 

Rabelais, 345 

Rank, Otto, 58, 130, 141, 279, 

292, 326, 337> 3^1 
and Sachs, 118, 285 
Rationalism, Chapter XI 
Read, Carveth, 153, 156, 159 
rebirth, 136, 138, 140, 219, 261, 


Reclus, 66, 69 
regicide, 221 



Reik,Th., 127, 146, 160, 194, 351, 

367, 369 
Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, von, 32, 


Reitler, 278, 308 
religion, Chapter VIII and IX, 


repression, 118, 229 

resistance, 119 

respiration, 309-10, 319, 321 

Rhea, 74 

rhombus, 289 

Rhys, 89-90, 92 

Riedel, 280 

ritual, 136 

Rivers, W. H. R., 118, 133, 148, 

167, 172 

Roellenbleck, Ewald, 360 
Rogers, 28 
Robde, 304-5, 316 
Roheim, Geza, 103, 106, 115, 194 
Rops, Felicien, 330 
Rose her, 3 1 1 
Roth, 158,^37 
Roy, Jyotirmoy, 344-5 
ruach, 297, 326 
Rumphius, 131 
Ruscoe, 48 
Russell, 48 

St. Agobard, 269, 345 

Augustine, 180, 269, 283 
Catherine, 338 
Chrysostom, 325 
Eleutherius, 291, 362 
Ephraim, 269, 292, 324 
Francis, 263 
Gaudentius, 342 

St. Joseph, 335 

Paul, 1 80, 241, 304 

Proclus, 269 

Remi, 335 

Ruffinus, 269 

Thomas a Becket, 269 

Thomas Aquinas, 181 

Zeno, 291, 342, 362 
Saintyves, 281 
Sal sapientiae, 24 
Salacia, 88 
salamander, 346 
salary, 27 
Sale, 274 
saliva, 34, 63 
salt, n, Chapter II 
salt-cellar, 53-4 
Saltcoats, 29 
salvation, 197, 263 
Salzburg, 29 
Salzkotten, 29 
Santa Claus, 223 
savagery, 14 
Saviour-God, 216, 218 
scapegoat, 209, 221 
Schell, 45 
Schleiden, 25, 28-31, 34, 45-8, 

Schnitzler, 176 
Schouten, 151 
Schurig, 68, 288 
Schwarz, 280, 289 
Schweinfurt, 69, 72 
Scot, Reginald, 35,67 
Seler, 285 

Self-preservation, 135, 137-8 
Seligmann, 30-1, 33-5, 38, 45, 47, 

62, 88-9, 9 1 * 93 


Seligmann, Brenda, 166 

Sellon, 118 

sexual ignorance, 153 

shadow-soul, 320 

Shakespeare, 46, 78, 283 

Shaw, Bernard, 242 

Shelley, 140, 263, 264, 284, 333 

Short, 75 

Sibree, 35 

Sierich, 283 

Sikes, 55 

Silberer, 307 

Simone Martini, 270-1, 356 

sin, 19, 70, 192, 197, 202, 209, 

216, 354, 366 
Smith, Preserved, 208 
Smith and Cheetham, 337 
Smyth, 85 
Solovoof, 73 
solstice, 213, 217 
soma, 316 
Southey, 81 

speech, 290 et seq., 311-12 
Spencer, Herbert, 151, 191 
Spencer and Gillen, 153 
Sperber, 290, 340 
Spinoza, 181-3, 187 
Stanley, H. M., 348 
Starbuck, 190, 198 
Statins, 182-3, 187, 192 
Stebbing, Susan, 188 
Stem, Aurel, 273 
Steinach, 141 
Ste<f/, W., 247, 250 
stercophagy, 60 
Stern, 330 
Strack, 78 
Strauss, 325 

Streklow, 153, 280 

Stuckius, 24 

sublimation, 94, 320 

Sudra, 69 

sun, 213, 215, 217-19, 222, 251, 

280, 288, 307, 310, 345, 348 
sun-god, 215, 221, 250, 345-6 
super-ego, 4, 184-5, 196 
superstition, n, 108 
swan, 73 
sweat, 90-1 
symbolism, 10, 125, 130, 132-3, 

i55> 34> 344 

Tamnuz, 344 

Taylor, 287, 350 

Tertullian, 327, 345 

thanatophobia, 142 

Thiers, 76 

Theophagy, 94 

Thomas, 48 

Thor, 287, 289 

Thorpe, 91 

thunder, 287 

thunder bird, 328 

tongue, 312-13 

Torquemada, 74 

totemism, 7, 94, 127, 160, 222, 


trident, 289 

Trinity, 209, 359-60, 372 

Trobrianders, 153, 163, 168 

Tromp, 48 

Trotter, Wilfred, 193 

Trumbull, 68 

Ukko, 83 



Unconscious, 2-4, 8, 118, 122-3, 
126, 143, 183-4, I86 > J 93> 200, 

" 226-7, 229, 237, 240, 245-6, 
275, 293, 320, 33^ 

Unicorn, 330-1 

Urine, 64, 308, 315, 322 

Faerting, 145 

Faugh an, 338 

de Faux, 281 

Vergil, 283, 335 

Virgin Mary, 210-11, Chapter 

XIII, 369-70, 372 
virility, 142, 348 
Forberg, 327 

Waitz, 329 

Wake, 118 

Waldron, 28 

wealth, 62 

weather, 258 

wedding ceremony, 80, 92 

wedding cake, 92 

Wells, H. G., 250, 261 

Wernicke, 41 

Westermarck, 153, 155, 171 

Weston, Jessie L., 168, 336 

Westropp, 118 

westwind, 280, 284 

Wheeler, 75 

Willsford, 37 

W ' interbottom, 152 

wisdom, 23 et seq., 294, 334, 


witchcraft, 112 
Witzscbel, 284 
von Wlislocki, 60, 91 
word-deposits, 98 
Wordsworth, 140 
Wohler, 231 
Wright, A. R., 6, 29 
Wundt, 274, 294 
Wuttke, 24, 28, 30-32, 35, 37-8, 


Yahweh, 287, 341 
Yama, 336 
Yoni, 88 

Zacharias, 291 

Zeus, 208, 287, 289, 293, 334-5, 
338, 365