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THE volume now published explains in its'f first part an 
hypothesis that the human race has descended from some 
ape-like stock by a series of changes which began and, until 
recently, were maintained by the practice of hunting in pack 
for animal food, instead of being content with the fruits and 
other nutritious products of the tropical forest. The hypo- 
thesis occurred to me many years ago, and was first published 
(in brief) in The Metaphysics of Nature (1805), Chap. XIII., 
and again in Natural and Social Morals (1909) ; but all it 
implied did not become clear until, in lecturing on Comparative 
Psychology, there was forced upon me the necessity of effecting 
an intelligible transition from the animal to the human mind, 
and of not being satisfied to say year after year that hands 
and brains were plainly so useful that they must have been 
developed by Natural Selection. Then one day the requisite 
ideas came to light ; and an outline of the hypothesis was read 
at the Meeting of the British Association (Section H) at 
Birmingham in 1913, and printed in Man, November 1914. 
The Council of the Anthropological Institute has kindly con- 
sented to my using the substance of that article in the first 
chapter here following. 

The article in Man dealt chiefly with the physical changes 
which our race has undergone. The correlative mental 
changes were explained in the British Journal of Psychology 
in an article which supplies the basis of the second chapter 
of this book. 

The hunting-pack, then, was the first form of human society ; 
and in lecturing on Ethnopsychology two questions especially 
interested me : (1) Under what mental conditions did the 
change take place from the organisation of the hunting-pack 
(when this weakened) to the settled life of the tribe or group ? 


and (2) Why is the human mind everywhere befogged with 
ideas of Magic and Animism ? They seemed at last to have 
the same answer : these superstitions were useful and (appar- 
ently) even necessary in giving to elders enough prestige to 
preserve tradition and custom when the leader of the hunt 
was no longer conspicuous in authority. A magic-working 
gerontocracy was the second form of society ; and the third 
form was governed by a wizard-king or a priest-king, or by a 
king supported by wizards or priests. One must, therefore, 
understand the possibility of these beliefs in Magic and 
Animism, and how they arose and obtained a hold upon all 
tribes and nations ; and hence the second part of this volume 
on Superstition. 

Some results of inquiry into these matters were also pub- 
lished in the British Journal of Psychology (namely, much of 
the substance of Chaps. III., IV., V., VI., and VIII.) and are 
here reproduced, with the editor's consent, enlarged and, for 
the most part, rewritten : the least altered are Chaps. VI. and 
VIII. Chaps. VII., IX. and X. have not hitherto been 
printed ; but part of Chap. X. was read at the Meeting of the 
British Association at Bournemouth last year. 

Messrs. Williams and Norgate have given permission to 
use the diagram in the footnote to p. 3, based on one of Prof. 
Keith's in his Antiquity of Man. 

Extensive use has, of course, been made of the works of 
Darwin, Herbert Spencer and E. B. Tylor, and (among living 
authors) of the volumes of Sir J. G. Frazer and Prof. Ed. 
Westermarck. I am grateful to my friends and colleagues, 
Prof. Spearman, Prof. J. P. Hill and Prof. Arthur Keith for 
assistance in various ways. Mr. Pycraft, too, of the Natural 
History Museum has given me important information; and 
my old friend, Mr. Thomas Whittaker, has helped me, as 
usual, when my need was greatest. 


University College, London. 
July 1920 




1. The Hypothesis. That Man was differentiated from the 
anthropoid stock by becoming a hunter; perhaps in the 
Oligocene period ........ 1-3 

2. What the Hypothesis Explains. World-wide range ; why the 
earliest known men were hunters ; the erect gait ; specialisa- 
tion of hands ; reduction of arms ; and of teeth and jaws ; 
modification of skull; social co-operation; rudiments of 
speech; intelligence; control of fire ..... 4-13 

3. Minor and Secondary Consequences. Alimentary canal ; loss 
of seasonal marriage; naked skin; cannibalism; division 
into races ; Nordic sub-race ...... 13-21 

4. Prey and Competitors. Climate and landscape in Oligocene 
and Miocene ; animals, herbivorous ; anthropoids and their 
stature in late Oligocene ; carnivorous contemporaries . . 21-8 

5. Conclusion. Summary . . . . . . . 28-9 


POID MIND . . . . . . . .30 

1. Heredity, Adaptation, Accommodation ..... 30-31 

2. The Original Stock and the Conditions of Differentiation. 
Mind of the higher apes the best clue to that of the original 
stock. Conditions of differentiation : the hunting life ; geo- 
graphical diffusion ; social life ; imaginations concerning 
Magic and Animism ........ 31-5 

3. Primal Society. Forms of gregariousness amongst Mammalia ; 
the hunting-pack most likely original of human society. 
Other conjectures ........ 35-40 

4. Psychology of the Hunting-pack. Interest in the chase and in w 
killing ; gregariousness ; various modes of sympathy ; 
aggressiveness; claim to territory; recognition of leaders, 
submission to the pack, emulation, precedency ; strategy and 
persistence ; struggle to share the prey ; intelligence. Different 
mentality of the herbivorous herd ..... 40-49 

5. The Wolf-type of Man established by Natural Selection. 
Keith's hypothesis as to epoch of differentiation. Slow 
progress of culture ; full adaptation to hunting life prior to 
Neolithic culture 49-52 




6. Some further Consequences of the Hunting-life. Growth of con- 
structiveness ; language ; customs marriage ; property ; war ; 
sports and games ; laughter and lamentation . . . 52-6 1 

7. Moralisation of the Hunters. Character of Anthropoids ; 
human benevolence ; moral sense ; effect of industry ; of 
growing intelligence ..... . 61-6 

8. Influence of the Imaginary Environment. Belief in Magic and 
Spirits often injurious ; but on the whole advantageous ; 
especially by establishing government . . . 66-70 


1. ** Superstition" Here used merely to include Magic and 

Animism as imagination-beliefs ..... 71-2 

2. Imagination. Various uses of the word; mental "images"; 
in connection with reasoning; and with literary fiction. 
Here means unverifiable representation .... 72-6 

3. Belief. Nature of belief; degrees of probability; tested by 

action ; play-belief ........ 76-9 

4. Causes and Grounds of Belief. Derived from perception. 
Evidentiary causes, or grounds, raising some probability; 
and non-evidentiary causes which are not grounds. Memory, 
testimony, inference so far as unverifiable are imagination. 
Influence of apperceptive masses and of methodology. Non- 
evidentiary causes have their own apperceptive masses 
derived from bad observation, memory, testimony; in- 
fluenced by emotion, desire and voluntary action ; by sym- 
pathy and antipathy, and by suggestibility . . . 79-85 

5. The Beliefs of Immature Minds. Non-evidentiary causes 
more influential than with us ; picture-thinking more vivid ; 
no common standard of truth; feeble power of comparison, 
due perhaps to undeveloped brain ..... 85-92 

6. The Reasoning of Immature Minds. Fallacies of induction ; 
ignorance of the minor premise in deduction; reasoning by 
analogy . . . . . 2-8 

7. General Ideas at the Savage Level. Savages have general ideas, 
though often not recognised or named; force; relations 
of causation and equality . .,iw * . . 99-103 

8. The Weakness of Imagination-beliefs. Superficial resemblance 

to perception-beliefs ; more nearly allied to play-belief . . 103-7 


MAGIC - ' ' i * ' ; . . . . . . 108 

1. Antiquity of Magic ...... .108-9 

2. What is Magic ? Magic defined-; imaginary impersonal force 
contrasted with power of spirits ; its action uniform like laws of 

nature. Kinds of Magic 109-12 

3. The Beginnings of Magic. A matter of speculation. The 
earliest were probably the simplest, and the kinds that have 
prevailed most widely by tradition and hereditary predisposi- 
tion. The chief source of belief in Magic is the mistaking of 
coincidence for causation ...... 112-19 



4. Magical Force and Primitive Ideas of Causation. Idea of magi- 
cal force derived from physical force (empathy, Animalism, 
invisible action at a distance, mana). How Animism and 
Magic corrupt the ideas of causation ..... 119-24 

5. Magic and Mystery ........ 124-6 

6. Volitional Magic. A relatively late idea .... 126-8 

7. The Evolution of Magic Direct Magic. Growth and differentia- 
tion; four stages; spells and charms ; taboo . . 128-34 
8. Indirect or "Sympathetic" Magic. Principles of Sympathetic 
Magic mimesis and participation ; connection with Animism. 
Exemplary Magic ....... 134-42 

9. The Dissolution of Magic 143-4 


1. What is Animism ? Hyperphysical and psychological Animism. 

Not all savages think that every man has a separable soul . 145-7 

2. Psychological Animism. That everything is animated not an 
universal or primitive illusion. Animatism. Causes of the 
treatment of some inanimate things as living or sentient 147-63 

3. The Ghost Theory. Originated chiefly by dreams ; which are 

regarded as objective experience ..... 163-7 

4. Extension of the Ghost Theory to Animals. Influence of shadows 
and reflections. Generally, only things individually interest- 
ing have ghosts. Examples ..... 157-60 

5. Ghosts and Soul-stuff. Separated spirits need bodies and food, 

that is, soul-stuff. Abstract ideas of, " spirit," " force," etc. . 161-4 

6. Ghosts and Spirits. Ghosts first imagined, and other spirits 
on their model. Some spirits, formerly ghosts, now declared 
not to have been; others never incarnate .... 164-9 

7. How Ghosts and Spirits are imagined. Have the same attri- 
butes, and not at first immaterial ; confused with the corpse. 
Various conceptions. Number of souls to each body. Ex- 
ternal souls . 169-73 

8. Origin and Destiny of Souls. Reincarnation Transmigration- 
Liable to second death. Place of the departed. Importance 
of next life resembling the present ..... 174-7 

9. The Treatment of Ghosts. Results partly from fear, partly from 
affection. Funerary rites extravagance and economy. 
Simplicity of ghosts. Inconsistent behaviour toward them 178-82 

10. Evolution and Dissolution of Animism. Popular and priestly 

Animism. Different emotions excited by ghosts and by gods 182-6 



1. The Question of Priority. Wundt's theory of Animism and 
of the derivation from it of Magic. Reasons for dissenting. 
Origins of Magic and of Animism independent . . . 187-93 

2. Magic and Religion. Frazer's hypothesis as to the super- 
seding of Magic by Religion. Reasons for dissenting. 
Alternative hypothesis. Caprice of spirits the essential 
distinction of Animism . 193-7 



3. Ideas and Practiced of Magic adopted by Animism. Invisible 
force. Power of charms ascribed to spirits. Omens first 
magical, then spiritual warnings. Spells become prayers. 
Magical rites become religious ceremonies . . 197-203 

4. Retrogradation. Wundt's theory explains the loss in many 
cases of animistic ideas ; Fetiches ; Omens ; Prayers ; religious 
ceremonies ......... 203-7 

5. Spirits know Magic, teach it, and inspire Magicians. Examples 
of spirits knowing and teaching Magic. Inspiration and 
possession ........ 207-12 

6. Spirits operate by Magic. Possession ; smiting ; metamorphosis ; 

charms and spells ....... .212-16 

7. Spirits are controlled by Magic. Biological necessity of con- 
trolling spirits by fear or by Magic. Analogy with 
politics. The higher barbaric religions. Magico-legal 
control of gods. Idea of Fate. Free-will and uniformity 216-24 

OMENS 225 

1. The Prevalence of Omens everywhere, in all ages. Examples 225-6 

2. Omens and Natural Signs. Natural signs all-important to 

hunters ; and Omens are imaginary signs .... 226-7 

3. Some Signs Conceived of as Magical. -By coincidence some 
events become signs of others by a mysterious and infallible 
tie. Moods of elation or depression favour belief in Omens; 
their validity may depend upon acceptance. Antiquity of 
subjective Omens. Whatever causes elation or depression 
is ominous. Coincidence and analogy . . . 227-32 

4. Differentiation of Omens from General Magic. Omens are 
classed with charms, rites and spells, but distinguished by 
being signs only, not causes. Other differences . . . 232-4 

5. Omens Interpreted by Animism. Omens resemble warnings 
at first given by friendly animals, then by spirits, hence 
connected with Oracles and Dreams ..... 234-8 

6. Natural and Artificial Omens. Natural Omens not being 
always at hand, means are discovered for obtaining them at 
any time ; e. g. Dice, Hepatomancy, Astrology . . . 238-40 

7. Divination and Oracles. Diviners and the art of Divination. 
Power of Diviners and Oracles. Ways of obtaining oracles and 
of being inspired derived from low savagery . . . 240-45 

8. Apparent Failure of Omens ascribed to faulty observation or 
interpretation ; frustration by spirits, or by superior Magic ; 
or by having been symbolically fulfilled .... 245-7 

9. Apology for Omens. The Diviner or oracular person tries to 
be well-informed. The Stoics and Divination. Omens 
involved in Fate. Conditional and unconditional Omens 247-51 


1. The Rise and Fall of Wizardry. At first no professionals. 
Early professionals unpaid; except by influence; which 
enables them to maintain order. Animism gives rise to 
sorcerers and priests. Priests suppress sorcery and black 
Magic, and absorb white Magic in religious rites. Societies of 
wizards 252-7 



2. The Wizard's Pretensions. Control of Nature ; shape -changing 
and flying ; the causing and curing of diseases ; Divination ; 
control of ghosts and spirits. General trust in them . . 257-9 

3. Characteristics of the Wizard Intelligence and knowledge ; force 
of will and daring (initiation); motives attraction of 
mystery, reputation, power; distinctive costume and de- 
meanour of a "superman"; jealousy of rivals; histrionic 
temperament; hysterical diathesis. Suggestibility of his 
clients .... .... 259-76 

4. The Wizard and the Sceptic. Social delusion and imposture. 
Scepticism frequent amongst chiefs and the higher social 
ranks, and also amongst the people, because of common 
sense. Still more difficult for Wizards to maintain self- 
delusion 276-83 

6. The Wizard's Persuasion. Honesty and fraud. The Wizard 
by vocation. Fascination of Black Wizardry. Artifices 
professionally necessary seem justified by social utility. 
His belief strengthened by effects of natural causes set going 
by himself or by his clients, and by coincidences . . 284-92 

TOTEMISM ......... 293 

1. Meaning and Scope of Totemism. Frazer's definitions. The 

Clan-Totem, and observances connected with it . . . 293-6 

2. Of the Origin of Totemism. Totemism not universal. Totemic 
names sometimes recent, generally ancient. Totemism has 
not the psychological necessity of Magic and Animism. 
Originates with the names of individuals or of groups ? . 296-9 

3. The Conceptional Hypothesis of Frazer. Belief in Totems 
derived from the fancies of women as to cause of pregnancy. 
Criticisms ........ 299-304 

4. Lang's Hypothesis Names of animals or plants given to 
groups probably by other groups. Circumstances of origin 
having been forgotten, explanatory myths are invented 
with corresponding observances. Comments . . . 304-7 

5. Totemism and Marriage. Exogamy, Totemism and Marriage 

Classes. Westermarck's hypothesis as to Exogamy . 307-11 

6. The Clansman and his Totem perhaps believed to have the 

same soul ......... 312-14 

7. Totemism and Magic. Magical properties of names. Trans- 
formation. Penalties on breach of observances. Control of 
Totems 314-19 

8. Totemism and Animism. Totems in Australia give warnings ; 
are sometimes invoked in aid; the Wollunqua. Fusion of 
Totem with spirit of hero in Fiji ; in Polynesia. Propitiation 
of guardian spirits, " elder brothers," species-gods in North 
and South America. Zoolatry in Africa ; in Egypt . . 319-25 



MAGIC AND SCIENCE ....... 826 

1. Their Common Ground. Both assume uniformity of action. 

Differentiated in opposite directions from common-sense 326-8 

2. The Differentiation. The Wizard a physician genuine and 
magical drugs ; a surgeon with some knowledge of Anatomy 
effective remedies and the sucking-cure; of Psychology and 
suggestion ; his Physiological Psychology. Knowledge of 
natural signs; Natural signs and Omens; Astronomy and 
Astrology. Rain-rites and Meteorology .... 328-37 

3. Why Magic seems to be the Source of Science. Conducted for 

ages by the same people, and develops faster . . 337-340 

4. Animism and Science. Naturally opposed as caprice to 
uniformity; but, indirectly, Animism is the great nurse of 
Science and Art. Animism and Philosophy. Conclusion 340-42 

INDEX 345 





THAT the human species as we now see it, with its several 
races, Mongolian, Negro, Mediterranean, etc., represents a 
Family of the Primates is generally agreed; and there is 
evidence that the Family formerly comprised other species 
that have become extinct. Our nearest surviving zoological 
relatives are the Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Orang, and (at a 
further remove) the Siamang and Gibbons; and in spite of 
the fundamental anatornical resemblance between those 
apes and ourselves, the difference is so great that some 
explanation of how it came about is very desirable. 

The differences between Man and his nearest relatives are 
innumerable; but taking the chief of them, and assuming 
that the minor details are correlated with these, it is the 
hypothesis of this essay that they may all be traced to the 
influence of one variation operating amongst the original 
anthropoid conditions. That variation was the adoption 
of a flesh-diet and the habits of a hunter in order to obtain 
it. Without the adoption of a flesh-diet there could have 
been no hunting; but a flesh-diet obtained without hunting 
(supposing it possible) could have done nothing for the 
evolution of our stock. The adoption of the hunting-life, 
therefore, is the essential variation upon which everything 
else depends. We need not suppose that a whole ancestral 
species varied in this way : it is enough that a few, or even 


one, of the common anthropoid stock should have done so, 
and that the variation was advantageous and was inherited. 

Such a variation must have occurred at some time, since 
Man is everywhere more or less carnivorous; the earliest 
known men were hunters; weapons are among the earliest 
known artefacts. And it is not improbable that the change 
began at the anthropoid level; because although extant 
anthropoids are mainly frugivorous, yet they occasionally 
eat birds'-eggs and young birds; the gorilla has been said 
to eat small mammals; and other Primates (cebidae, ma- 
caques and baboons) eat insects, arachnids, crabs, worms, 
frogs, lizards, birds; and the crab-eating macaque collects 
a large portion of its food on the Malay littoral. Why, then, 
should not one ape have betaken itself to hunting ? 

We need not suppose that our ancestors were ever exclu- 
sively carnivorous : that is very unlikely. A mixed diet is 
the rule even amongst hunting tribes, and everywhere the 
women collect and consume fruits and roots. But if at first 
nearly omnivorous, our ancestor (it is assumed) soon pre- 
ferred to attack mammals, and advanced at a remote date 
to the killing of the biggest game found in his habitat. Every- 
where savage hunters do so now : the little Semang kills the 
tiger, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo; and many thousands 
of years ago, in Europe men slew the reindeer and the 
mammoth, the horse and the bison, the hyaena and the 
cave-bear. It is true they had weapons and snares, whilst 
the first hunter had only hands and teeth. 

The change from a fruit-eating to a hunting life subserved 
the great utility of opening fresh supplies of food; and, 
possibly, a failure of the normal supply of the old customary 
food was the direct cause of the new habit. If our ape lived 
near the northern limits of the tropical forest, and a fall of 
temperature there took place, such as to reduce (especially 
in winter) the yield of fruit and other nutritious vegetation 
on which he had subsisted, famine may have driven him to 
attack other animals ; l whilst more southerly anthropoids, 
not suffering from the change of climate, continued in their 
ancient manner of life. A large anthropoid (Dryopithecus) 

1 This was suggested to me by Mr. G. A. Garfitt. 



1,000 ft 



SCALE : I **,. c looo-f-L". 

inhabited Central Europe in the Miocene, for his bones have 
been found; there may have been others; and during that 
period the climate altered from sub-tropical to temperate, 
with corresponding changes in fauna and flora. Hence it 
formerly occurred to me that perhaps the decisive change in 
the life of our Family happened there and then. It seems, 
however, that good judges put the probable date of the great 
differentiation much earlier, in the Oligocene; * and since 
I cannot find that any extensive alteration of climate is 
known to have happened during that period, it seems neces- 
sary to fall back upon " spontaneous " variation (as one must 
in many other cases) ; that is to say, from causes which are 
at present beyond our vision, the fateful ape did, in fact, 
prefer animal food so decidedly as to begin a-hunting for it. 
That being granted, the rest of the history was inevitable. 
The new pursuit was of a nature to engross the animal's 
whole attention and co-ordinate all his faculties; and to 

1 Estimated 
duration of the ooo ft 
Cainozoic Period, 
assuming that 
the thickness of -ft 
the deposits is J 

about 63,000 feet, 
and that deposits 
accumulate at 
the rate of 1 foot 
in 100 years. 
Drawn to the 
scale of 1 mm. 
to 100,000 years. 
The estimate is 
given and ex- 
plained by Prof. 
Sollas in the 
Quarterly Journal IO,QOO U" 
of the Geological 
Society, LXV. 
(1909). The 
"tree" is based 
on that given 
by Dr. A. Keith 
in\The Antiquity 
of Man, p. 509. 

If we suppose the differentiation of the Hominidce to have begun 
before the close of the Oligocene, about (say) 3,500,000 years are 
allowed for the evolution of the existing species of Man. All these 
reckonings are provisional. 


maintain and reinforce it, his structure in body and mind may 
reasonably be supposed to have undergone rapid modification 
by natural selection ; because those individuals that were in 
any organ or faculty best adapted to the new life had an 
advantage, which was inherited and gradually intensified. 1 


Let me run rapidly through the chief differences between 
Man and his nearest congeners : some of them are obvious 

1 That Man was from the first a hunter has been suggested by several 
authors; but the consequences of the assumption have never (as far 
as I know) been worked out. A. R. Wallace, in Darwinism (p. 459), 
has the following passage : " The anthropoid apes, as well as most 
of the monkey tribe, are essentially arboreal in their structure, whereas 
the great distinctive character of man is his special adaptation to 
terrestrial locomotion. We can hardly suppose, therefore, that he 
originated in a forest region, where fruits to be obtained by climbing 
are the chief vegetable food. It is more probable that he began his 
existence on the open plains on high plateaux of the temperate or sub- 
tropical zone, where the seeds of indigenous cereals, numerous herbivora, 
rodents, game-birds, with fishes and molluscs in the lakes and 
rivers and seas supplied him with an abundance of varied food. In 
such a region he would develop skill as a hunter, trapper or fisherman, 
and later as a herdsman and cultivator a succession of which we find 
indications in the palaeolithic and neolithic races of Europe." 

Prof. MacBride, in his popular introduction to Zoology (p. 84), also 
traces the specialisation of Man to the hunting life. 

My friend Mr. Thomas Whittaker has sent me the following extract 
from Comte's Politique Positive, I. pp. 6045 : " L'obligation de se 
nourrir d'une proie qu'il faut atteindre et vaincre, perfectionne a la 
fois tous les attributs animaux, tant interieurs qu'exterieurs. Son 
influence envers les sens et les muscles est trop evidente pour exiger 
ici aucun examen. Par sa reaction habituelle sur les plus hautes 
f onctions du cerveau, elle developpe egalement 1'intelligence et 1'activite, 
dont le premier essor lui est toujours du, meme chez notre espece. A 
tous ces titres, cette necessite modifie aussi les races qui en sont victimes, 
d'apres les efforts moins energiques, mais plus continus, qu'elle y 
provoque pour leur defense. Dans les deux cas, et surtout quant a 
I'attaque, elle determine meme les premieres habitudes de co-operation 
active, au moins temporaire. Bornees a la simple famille chez les 
especes insociables, ces ligues peuvent ailleurs embrasser quelquefois 
de nombreuses troupes. Ainsi commencent, parmi les animaux, des 
impulsions et des aptitudes qui ne pouvaient se developper que d'apres 
la continuite propre a la race la plus sociable et la plus intelligente. 
Enfin, la condition carnassiere doit aussi etre appreciee dans sa reaction 
organique. Une plus forte excitation, une digestion moins laborieuse 
et plus rapide, une assimilation plus complete produisant un sang plus 
stimulant : telles sont ses proprietes physiologiques. Toutes concourent 
a developper les functions superieures, soit en augmentant i'energie 
de leurs organes, soit en procurant plus de temps pour leur exercice." 


and can be stated very briefly; others I shall return to in 
the next chapter. We shall see that they all follow naturally 
from the above hypothesis. 

(1) The anthropoids are never found out of the tropical 
forests of Africa and Malaya (including Borneo and Sumatra). 
They feed chiefly on the fruits and other highly nutritious 
vegetable products that, all the year round, are only there 
obtainable. Although often coming to the ground, especially 
the chimpanzee and gorilla, they are adapted to living in 
the trees : that is their home. In contrast with their habits, 
Man is at home on the ground, with unlimited range over the 
whole planet from beyond the Arctic Circle to Tasmania 
and Tierra del Fuego; because on the ground (chiefly) he 
everywhere finds his food in the other animals whom he hunts 
and slays. This, then, is the condition of his emancipation 
from the tropical forest. It is, indeed, conceivable that a 
frugivorous animal, originally of the forest, should obtain 
a wider range by taking to a coarser diet of roots and herbage, 
such as suffices the Ungulates, browsing or grazing or digging 
with their snouts ; but this would not have led to the upright 
gait, or the big brain, or any of the marks that distinguish 
Man. Not advance but retrogression must have followed 
such a change. 

(2) That the earliest men of whose condition of life we have 
any knowledge were hunters agrees with the hypothesis. 
Any other view of Man's origin must explain how and when 
he became a hunter. There seems to be no reason to put 
the change of habits (which certainly occurred at some time) 
anywhere nearer than the beginning of our differentiation. 
The further we put it back the better it explains other 

(3) The erect attitude was reached by the apes in the 
course of adaptation to arboreal life; 1 but the erect gait as 
the normal mode of progression is (if we neglect the gibbons' 
imperfect performance) peculiar to ourselves; and such a 
gait was attained because the most successful hunters 
followed their prey afoot upon the ground. The feeble 
ineffective shuffle of the anthropoids upon the ground, 

1 F. Wood Jones, Arboreal Man, pp. 117-22. 


supporting themselves with their arms where there are no 
overhanging boughs to swing by and help themselves along, 
could not have served the hunter, especially if he was to 
leave the forest. We may, indeed, suppose that at first 
prey was sometimes attacked by leaping upon it from the 
branch of a tree, as leopards sometimes do ; but the less our 
ancestor in his new career trusted to trees the better for him. 
Such simple strategy could not make him a dominant animal 
throughout the world ; nothing could do this but the gradual 
attainment of erect gait adapted to running down his prey. 
Hence the numerous modifications of structure necessary to 
it, whenever from time to time they occurred, were preserved 
and accumulated by natural selection : namely, the curving 
of the vertebral column, the balancing of the head upon a 
relatively slender neck, changes in the joints, bones and 
muscles of the legs, the lengthening of the leg and the special- 
isation of the foot (in which the heel is developed more than 
in the gorilla, and the great toe is lengthened and lies parallel 
with the other toes). 

(4) The specialisation of the legs and feet, as it proceeded, 
made possible the specialisation of the hands : being gradu- 
ally rid of the task of assisting locomotion, whether in trees 
or on the ground, they were used in grappling with prey, 
seconded by massive jaws and powerful canine teeth. In 
course .of time they brought cudgels and stones to the en- 
counter, and after many ages began to alter such means of 
offence into weapons that might be called artefacts. These 
simple beginnings probably occupied an immense time, 
perhaps more than half of the total period down to the 
present. The utility and consequent selection of hands had 
been great throughout; but their final development may be 
referred to the making and using of weapons fashioned 
according to a mental pattern. Those who had the best 
hands were selected because they made the best weapons 
and used them best; but we know from remains of several 
palaeolithic stages of the art of manufacturing implements 
how very slowly the art improved. 

(5) Along with specialisation of the hands went a reduction 
in the length and massiveness of the arms; and this must 


have been disadvantageous in directly grappling with prey. 
But it was necessary to the runner in order to lessen the weight 
and cumbersomeness of the upper part of the body and to 
improve his balance and agility. The change may also 
have been beneficial by affording physiological compensation 
for the lengthening and strengthening of the legs. And as 
soon as unwrought stones and clubs came into use there was 
mechanical compensation for the shortening of the arms. 
The result is an adaptive co-ordination of the total struc- 
ture to the life of a two-footed hunter. 

(6) Darwin says : " The early male forefathers of Man 
were, as previously stated, probably furnished with great 
canine teeth; but as they gradually acquired the habit of 
using stones, clubs, or other weapons, for fighting with their 
enemies or rivals, they would use their jaws and teeth less 
and less. In this case the jaws, together with the teeth, 
would become reduced in size, as we may feel almost sure 
from numerous analogous cases." 

(7) Hence the profile began to approach the orthognathous 
type; and it progressed further in that direction on account 
of accompanying changes in the skull. The skull became 
less thick and rough, (a) because, as the hands (using weapons) 
superseded the teeth in fighting, jaws and neck grew less 
massive, and their muscles no longer needed such solid 
attachments; (b) because the head was less liable to injury 
when no longer used as the chief organ in combat. At the 
same time the skull slowly increased in capacity and became 
vaulted to make room for the brains of an animal, which 
(as we shall see) acquired much knowledge (parietal associa- 
tion area) and lived by the application of its knowledge to 
the co-ordination of increasingly complex and continuous 
activities (anterior association area). 1 

(8) Monkeys of most species, whether in the New World or 
in the Old, are social, living in bands of from ten to fifty 
or more, and may co-operate occasionally in mutual defence 
or in keeping watch. Baboons, indeed, are seen in herds 
of several hundreds; and they are credibly reported to 

1 On these paragraphs (3), (4), (5), (6), (7) see Darwin's Descent 
of Man, 2nd ed., pp. 49-54 : whence, of course, I have freely borrowed. 


co-operate in raiding plantations, and in defending themselves 
against leopards, other baboons and even human hunters. 1 
Gibbons, again, are social, going in bands to the number of 
fifty. But the large anthropoids live only in families the 
male orang being even of a somewhat solitary habit; three 
or four families of chimpanzees may for a time associate 
together. Man, however, is everywhere with a few doubt- 
ful exceptions, probably degenerate both social and co- 
operative; and the purpose of his co-operation at the level 
of the Australian or the Semang is instructive. It is not, as 
we might suppose, in industry, but in hunting, war, or tribal 
ceremonies that tribesmen work together the last no doubt 
of comparatively recent origin : so that a few thousand years 
ago there was no co-operation except hunting and war 
(which come to the same thing). 

That the large anthropoids are neither gregarious nor 
co-operative follows from their having no task in which co- 
operation would be useful, no common purpose : they are 
able alone to defend themselves and their families; and 
when families range apart through the woods their food is 
in better supply. But the ancestor of Man found an object 
for association and co-operation in the chase. Spencer, 
indeed, says that a large carnivore, capable of killing its own 
prey, profits by being solitary ; and this may be true where 
game is scarce : in the Oligocene and Miocene periods game 
was not scarce. Moreover, when our ape first pursued 
game, especially big game (not being by ancient adaptation 
in structure and instinct a carnivore), he may have been, 
and probably was, incapable of killing enough prey single- 
handed ; and, if so, he will have profited by becoming both 
social and co-operative as a hunter, like the wolves and dogs 
in short, a sort of wolf-ape (Lycopithecus). The pack 
was a means of increasing the supply of food per unit ; and 
gregariousness increased by natural selection up to the limit 
set by utility. Hence (as will be shown at length in the 
next chapter) Man is in character more like a dog or a wolf 
than he is like any other animal. 

1 Numerous references might be given, from which I select Hagen- 
beck, Beasts and Men, p. 63. 


(9) Some development of the rudiments of speech may be 
confidently traced to social co-operation. The gibbon, 
most social, is also the most vocal of anthropoids; but 
having no common task in which united action is necessary, 
he uses his remarkable power of voice (apparently) merely 
to express his feelings and to keep the troop together. The 
chimpanzee and the gorilla enjoy probably a close and 
affectionate family life, but one that makes little or no demand 
for concerted effort. Hence their vocalisation is very-rudi- 
mentary. According to R. L. Garner, it is true speech : a 
chimpanzee (he says) knows the meaning of the sounds he 
makes, and intends to convey it to some definite individual 
at whom he looks. But he has at command very few sounds, 
and those mainly expressive of natural wants. 1 If it be 
urged that anthropoids do not talk because their lower jaw 
and tongue have not the special adaptation to speech that 
is found in Man, it should be considered (a) that if such 
structure had been useful to them it would have been 
acquired, as at some time it must have been by Man him- 
self; and (b) that even without any change they might have 
jabbered well enough to convey a good many discriminated, 
objective meanings if they had needed to do so : for Man 
must have begun in that way; he cannot have waited for 
the development of physical structure before trying to talk. 
Sufficient intelligence is not wanting to chimpanzees; for in 
captivity they learn to understand a good deal that is said 
to them. What they wanted was a sufficient motive for 
persistently trying to communicate, such that those who 
made any progress in the art had a living advantage over 
others. Man had such a motive; because co-operation was 
necessary to him, not (as we have seen) in industry, but in 
hunting. In hunting, in planning and directing the hunt, 
speech is plainly useful ; and it is better than gesture, which 
probably preceded, and generally accompanied it; because, 

1 R. L. Garner, Gorillas and Chimpanzees, ch. vi. : where mention 
is made of such meanings as " food," " calling to some one," " affec- 
tion," " good " (said, I suppose, of food), " warning cries," " cold or 
discomfort," "drink," "illness," "dead": the entire vocabulary, 
perhaps, not more than twenty signs. The value of Garner's work is 


as speech became independent of gesture, it could go on 
whilst the hands and body were otherwise employed, or where 
comrades could not see one another transferring, by a very 
profitable division of labour, the whole business of expression 
to organs not otherwise needed. It may not be much more 
than very simple beginnings of articulate speech that can be 
traced to early co-operative hunting; but in the beginning 
lies the whole difficulty. And the situation was particularly 
favourable to the beginning of language by onomatopoeia, 
imitating the characteristic noises of different animals and 
of the weapons and actions employed in pursuing and slaying 

(10) The intelligence and extensive knowledge (compared 
with anthropoids) that distinguish Man in his lowest known 
condition are clearly accounted for by his adoption of the 
hunting life. Already (as we may assume) the most intelli- 
gent of living animals, with great knowledge of the forest, 
he had everything to learn about the world beyond the forest 
as soon as he ventured into it, and everything to learn about 
the art of hunting. Depending chiefly upon sight and hearing, 
he had to learn by observation, and to remember, and to 
apply all and more than all that the carnivore knows and 
does instinctively, or learns by following its mother. He 
must have learned to discriminate all sorts of animals, many 
of them new in a strange country ; their reactions to himself, 
manner of flight, or of attack, or defence ; the spoor of each 
and its noises; its habits and haunts, where it reposed or 
went to drink, where to set snares or lie in wait for it. Ad- 
vancing to the use of weapons, he must have adapted them 
to his prey; he must have discovered the best materials- 
wood, or stone, or bone for making weapons, the best 
materials for snares, and where to find such things. He 
must have fixed in his mind this series : game, weapons, the 
making of them, materials, where found; and must have 
learned to attend to the items of the series in the necessary 
order without impatience or confusion : a task far beyond the 
power of any other animal. 

Further, the hunting life supplied a stimulus that had 
formerly been wanting to our ape. There is some difficulty 


in comprehending why the anthropoid should be as intelligent 
as he is ; and, similarly, it seemed to Wallace that the savage 
has intelligence above his needs " in his large and well- 
developed brain he possesses an organ quite disproportionate 
to his actual requirements." l This illusion results from our 
not reflecting that the first task of increasing intelligence is 
to deal appropriately with details in greater and greater 
number and variety, and that the details of their life, with 
both savage and anthropoid, are just what we cannot appre- 
ciate. Still, the anthropoid seems to have a rather lazy 
time of it : especially, he seems to have hardly any occasion 
for following out a purpose needing some time for its accom- 
plishment. This powerful stimulus the hunting life applies 
to carnivores, above all to dogs and wolves ; and in the same 
way it affected our ape : compelling him to combine many 
activities for a considerable period of time, along with his 
fellows, and direct them to one end in the actual hunting, 
and (later) to prosecute still other activities for a longer 
period in preparing weapons and snares to make the hunting 
more effective. Add to these considerations the develop- 
ment of gesture and rudiments of speech, exacting intelli- 
gence for their acquisition and increasing intelligence by their 
attainment, and the superiority of the lowest savage to an 
anthropoid is sufficiently explained. Severe must have been 
the selection of those that were capable of such progress, 
and correspondingly rapid the advance and differentiation 
of the species. 

(11) Using stones as weapons, and finding that broken 
stones do most damage, and breaking them for that purpose, 
the progressive hunter necessarily makes some sparks fly; 
and if these fall amongst dry leaves or grass, he may light a 
fire. " In making flint implements sparks would be pro- 
duced; in polishing them it would not fail to be observed 
that they became hot; and in this way it is easy to see 
how the two methods of making fire may have originated." 2 
But if the production of fire by friction had been suggested 
by the polishing of flints, it could hardly have been discovered 

1 Natural Selection, p. 193. 

2 Avebury, Prehistoric Times, 7th ed., p. 578. 


before the neolithic stage; whereas hearths are known of 
much earlier date. And it may have happened earlier 
whilst some one was polishing an arrow or a spear with 
another piece of wood : a supposition which dispenses with 
the long inference from a warm flint to a flaming stick. It 
is a curious fact that to this day in Australia fire is sometimes 
made by rubbing a spear-thrower upon a shield ; l but I lay 
no stress upon this, as if such a practice must be traditionary 
from the earliest discovery of the method. Either in the 
chipping of flints or in the polishing of spears it is far easier, 
and a more probable way, to learn the art of making fire 
than by observing that dried boughs or bamboos driven 
together by the wind sometimes catch fire; because those 
processes include the very actions which the art employs : 
imitation of nature is not called for. It is true that the natives 
of Nukufetan in the South Seas explain the discovery of fire 
by their having seen smoke arise from two crossed branches 
of a tree shaken in the wind ; 2 but this, probably, is merely 
the speculation of some Polynesian philosopher. Volcanoes, 
too, have been pointed out as a possible source of fire ; and, 
in the myth, Demeter is said to have lit her torches at the 
crater of ./Etna an action fit for a goddess. But were 
such an origin of fire conceivable with savages, it would not 
show how they came to make it themselves. Fire at first 
must have excited terror. Until uses were known for fire 
no one could have ventured to fetch it from a volcano, nor 
to make it by imitating the friction of boughs in the wind. 
Fires were accidentally lit by man again and again, and much 
damage done, before he could learn (a) the connection of 
events, (b) the uses of fire, (c) purposely to produce it, (d) how 
to control it. The second and fourth of these lessons are 
much more difficult than the mere making of fire ; they are 
essential, yet generally overlooked. It seems necessary to 
suppose a series of accidents at each step, in order to show 
the effects of fire in hardening wood, hollowing wood, cooking 
game, baking and (later) glazing clay, and so forth. Perhaps 
a prairie-fire disclosed the advantages of cooking game, and 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 619, 

2 Turner's Samoa, p. 285. 


many a prairie was afterwards burnt to that end before a 
more economical plan was discovered. As to the effect of 
fire on clay, Lord Avebury observes that clay-vessels may 
have been invented by (1) plastering gourds or coco-nuts 
with clay to resist the fire when boiling water in them; 
(2) observing the effect of fire on the clay; (3) leaving out 
the vegetable part. 1 This must have been a comparatively 
recent discovery; though there is some evidence of pottery 
having been made by palaeolithic man. It is impossible to 
say when fire was discovered ; but it was certainly known to 
the Mousterian culture say, 50,000 years ago : probaby 
very much earlier; and it was made by hunters. 


(1) The extensive adoption by Man of a flesh-diet many 
hundreds of thousands of years ago might be expected to have 
shortened his alimentary canal in comparison with that of 
the anthropoids ; but not much evidence of it is obtainable. 
Topinard, giving a proportionate estimate, says that in Man 
it is about six times the length of the body, in the gibbon 
about eight times. Dr. Arthur Keith, in a private com- 
munication with which he has favoured me, says that the 
adult chimpanzee's intestine is slightly longer than the 
adult man's, but that the measurements are for certain reasons 
unsatisfactory, and that there have not been enough measure- 
ments of adult chimpanzees. We must remember that, on 
the one hand, the chimpanzee is not exclusively frugivorous, 
and that, on the other hand, it is not likely that Man has 
been at any time exclusively carnivorous ; though the return 
of large populations to a vegetarian diet by means of 
agriculture is recent. 

(2) Man has lost the restraint of seasonal marriage, com- 
mon to the anthropoids with other animals, as determined 
by food-supply and other conditions of infantile welfare; 
though, according to Prof. Westermarck, traces of it may 
still be found in a few tribes. 2 That our domestic carnivores 
have also lost this wholesome restraint on passion and 

1 Op. cit , p. 579. * Primitive Marriage, ch. ii. 


population points, probably, to some condition of a steadier 
food-supply as determining or permitting the change amongst 
ourselves. No growth of prudence, however, or habit of 
laying up stores can explain the steadier supply of food; 
since the lower savages have no prudence and no stores. 
On the whole, the change may be attributed (a) to an omni- 
vorous habit being more steadily gratified than one entirely 
frugivorous or carnivorous; (b) to our ancestors having 
wandered in quest of game from country to country in which 
the seasons varied, so that the original correspondence of 
birth-time with favourable conditions of welfare was thrown 
out. There may also have been causes that kept down the 
normal numbers of the pack, so as to be equivalent, in scarce 
seasons, to more abundant food : the hunter's life, whilst 
securing a richer normal diet, involved many destructive 
incidents. And this (by the way) was favourable to rapid 
selection and adaptation ; though if the destruction had been 
great enough to counterbalance the advantages of animal 
food, it must have frustrated the whole experiment. 

(3) There is one characteristic difference of Man from the 
anthropoids which his hunting habits do not clearly explain 
his relatively naked skin. Darwin attributed this condition 
to sexual selection. 1 He argued that, on the one hand, so 
far as Man has had the power of choice, women have been 
chosen for their beauty ; and that, on the other hand, women 
have had more power of selection, even in the savage state, 
than is usually supposed, and " would generally choose not 
merely the handsomest men, according to their standard of 
taste, but those who were at the same time best able to 
defend and support them." Hence, if a partial loss of hair 
was esteemed ornamental by our ape-like progenitors, sexual 
selection, operating age after age, might result in relative 
nakedness. " The faces of several species of monkey and 
large surfaces at the posterior end of the body have been 
denuded of hair ; and this we may safely attribute to sexual 
selection." The beard of the male, and the great length of 
the hair of the head in some races, especially seem due to 
this cause. The greater hairiness of Europeans, compared 
1 Descent of Man, 2nd ed., pp. -595-604. 


with other races, may be a case of reversion to remote ances- 
tral conditions. But as all races are nearly naked, the 
common character was probably acquired before the several 
races had diverged from the common stock. 

The species of monkey that have lost the hair on various 
parts of their bodies, and the beard of males (together with 
the longer head-hair of women) of our own race are cases 
that strongly support the ascription of such secondary sexual 
characters to sexual selection. Yet, going back to the time 
before the division of modern Man into races (say, 600,000 
years), it seems incredible that any women then went un- 
married, hair or no hair, if they were healthy (and the 
unhealthy soon ceased to exist); or that any man went 
unmarried, if he could do his share in the hunting-field 
(and, if not, he also soon ceased to exist). No facts 
observed amongst extant savages the choice exerted by 
women, or the polygamy of chiefs throw much light upon 
that ancient state of affairs. There were then no chiefs : 
the hunt-leader of pack or clan had no authority but his 
personal prowess, no tradition of ancestry or religion, nor 
probably the prestige of magic, to give him command of 
women. Unless, at that time, relative nakedness was strongly 
correlated with personal prowess in the male and efficiency 
in the female, it is difficult to understand how it can have 
been preserved and increased by sexual selection. Forgive me 
for adding an unkind remark : if the selection of women for 
their beauty has gone on for hundreds of thousands of years, 
and has had a cumulative effect upon the race, is not the 
result disappointing? Go into the street and look. That 
" women have become more beautiful, according to the 
general opinion, than men," is not an objective, truly 
aesthetic judgment, but one determined by causes of which 
" general opinion " is falsely unconscious. Schopenhauer l 
thought that men are better looking than women ; and of 
average specimens this seems to be true; though, to be sure, 
he was a sort of misogynist. 

Another explanation of Man's nakedness was suggested 
by Thomas Belt, based on the parallel case of certain races 
1 Parerga and Paralipomena, B. II, Kap. 27. 


of naked dogs, namely, that he is the better able to free 
himself from parasites. 1 Darwin mentions this hypothesis 
and, in a footnote, cites in its favour " a practice with the 
Australians, when the vermin get troublesome, to singe 
themselves " ; but he says, in the text, " whether this evil 
is of sufficient magnitude to have led to the denudation of 
the body through natural selection, may be doubted, since 
none of the many quadrupeds inhabiting the tropics have, 
as far as I know, acquired any specialised means of relief." 2 
It appears, too, that against the probability of such a result 
must be. set the actual disadvantage of nakedness, as insisted 
upon by" Wallace, who says that savages feel the want of 
protection and try to cover their backs and shoulders. 3 Still, 
the disadvantage implied in occasionally feeling the want of 
protection would not prevent the loss of hair, if this would 
deliver the race from serious dangers from vermin; and the 
force of the argument from the condition of other tropical 
quadrupeds depends, at least in some measure, upon whether 
or not there is something peculiar in the case of naked dogs 
and men. 

Belt argues that the naked dogs with dark, shining skins, 
found in Central America and also in Peru, 4 and which were 
found there at the Spanish conquest, have probably acquired 
their peculiar condition by natural selection, because they are 
despised by the natives, and no care is taken of their breeding, 
and yet they do not interbreed with the common hairy 
varieties, as usually happens with artificial stocks. The 
advantage of a naked skin being the greater freedom it gives 
from ticks, lice and other vermin, the advantage is especially 
great for a domestic animal living in the huts of savages, 
where, because they are inhabited year after year, vermin are 
extraordinarily abundant. The naked dog, then, differs 
from tropical quadrupeds which are adapted from a dateless 
antiquity to such vermin as infest them, by having been 
thrown by human companionship amongst not only strange 
vermin, but vermin in extraordinarily dense aggregation. 

1 A Naturalist in Nicaragua, ch. xi. 

2 Op. cit., p. 57. 3 Natural Selection, pp. 195-7. 

4 Naked races of dogs have also been reported to exist in China, 
Manila and South Africa ; but I can learn no particulars of them. 


Belt would have guarded a weak point in his case, had he 
explained why naked races of dogs are so scarce. Hairy 
races may have been more recently domesticated, or bred 
for their hairiness, or less addicted to an indoor life. 

The case of our own forefather also differs somewhat from 
ihat of other tropical mammalia; because, by hypothesis, 
he underwent pretty rapidly such an extraordinary change 
of life; which may have brought him into circumstances 
where vermin, formerly negligible, became highly injurious. 
" Monkeys," as Belt observes, " change their sleeping-places 
almost daily " ; the Orang is said to construct a fresh nest 
every night; this is also reported of the Gorilla. Not 
improbably, then, daily change of locality was the practice 
of the original anthropoid stock, whence we also are descended : 
thereby avoiding the accumulation of vermin. Did the 
hunting life introduce a new habit? In the old frugivorous 
forest life, the custom was to get up into some tree for the 
night, and within a short radius there were hundreds equally 
suitable; and, therefore, there was nothing to check the 
natural preference for a fresh one. When, however, the 
hunting pack began to make its lair on the ground, there 
was no such wide choice amongst caves, rock-shelters, or 
thickets : one might be better than any other for miles 
around. If, then, they settled down there as in a common 
lair, the circumstances were, for the time, favourable to the 
multiplication of vermin, and therefore to nakedness of skin, 
in order the more easily to be rid of them. Perhaps, then, 
this difference of Man from the anthropoids may be referred 
to one common cause with all the others the hunting life. 
There, too, the defilement of blood made fur inconvenient 
to animals not apt to cleanse themselves, like those in the 
true carnivorous heredity and tradition. 

When we consider how injurious some insects are to 
vertebrate life, being suspected of having caused in some 
cases the extinction of species, can it be said that facility 
in ridding oneself of such vermin as lice and ticks is an in- 
adequate cause of human nakedness, or not one that might 
outweigh the drawbacks of cold and wet ? It is not, however, 
incompatible with the action of sexual selection, tending to 


the same result ; nor, again, with the preferential destruction 
of hairy children if ever infanticide was practised. A further 
possible ground of deliberate selection may have been the 
mere ambition of differing from other animals; for a tribe 
on the Upper Amazons is reported to depilate to distinguish 
themselves from the monkeys, and the wish to be superior to 
other animals led a tribe in Queensland to pretend that they, 
unlike kangaroos, etc., have no fathers according to the 
flesh. 1 Admitting that this last motive can hardly have 
been primitive, still, our nakedness may be a resultant of 
several causes. 

(4) Cannibalism, where it has been found amongst extant 
peoples, or is known to have been formerly practised, was 
often justified by certain magical or animistic ideas, but 
sometimes frankly by dietetic taste, or by the satisfaction 
of revenge or of emphatic triumph over an enemy. Was it 
an ancient and perhaps general custom? The excavations 
at Krapina in Croatia disclosed along with remains of the 
Neanderthal species, which seems to have had a habitation 
there, those of rhinoceros and cave-bear and of some other 
kind of Man ; and " some of the human bones had been 
apparently split open : on that slender basis the Krapina men 
have been suspected of cannibalism." 2 If the suspicion is 
valid, the practice existed (say) 50,000 years ago in one 
species of Man; and perhaps much earlier, if we consider 
how it was merely an extension of the practice of devouring 
game to include the slain members of a hostile pack ; for as 
primitive Man, or Lycopithecus, his pre-human forebear, no 
doubt regarded other animals as upon the same level as him- 
self, so he will have regarded human enemies as upon the 
same footing with other animals. That true carnivores are 
not generally cannibals may be put down to their more 
ancient and perfect adaptation to a predatory life. For 
them persistent cannibalism would have been too destructive, 
and for us it belongs to the experimental stage of history; 
though, of course, even in recent times, under stress of famine, 
reversion to the practice is not unknown to civilised men. 

. l W. E. Ling Roth, North Queensland Ethnology, Bulletin V. 81. 
2 A. Keith, The Antiquity of Man, p. 134. 


(5) The extraordinary variability of modern Man (con- 
jidered as one species) in stature, shape of skull, size and power 
>f brain, colour, hairiness, quality of hair, and other char- 
ters, physical and mental, may be referred chiefly to his 
iving become adapted to various local conditions upon 
ittling here or there for long periods of time after wandering 
>ver the world in quest of game. The settling of offshoots 
)f the original stock in certain regions long enough for them 
to undergo adaptation to local circumstances is the simplest 
explanation of existing races : the Negro adapted to equatorial 
Africa; the Asiatic stock ("Mongolian") to Central Asia; 
the Mediterranean race to the neighbourhood of the sea after 
which it is named. As to the Nordic sub-race (of the Mediter- 
ranean, we may suppose), with its fair hair and skin, it has 
the appearance of an Arctic beast of prey, like the Polar bear. 
The snow-leopard of the Himalaya is found at a midway 
stage of such adaptation. Some geologists and zoologists 
now believe that, during the Glacial Period, the climate of 
Northern Europe was not everywhere such as necessarily 
to destroy the local fauna and flora, and in that case our 
ancestors may for ages have maintained themselves there; 
or, if that was impossible (as the absence of palaeolithic remains 
in Scandinavia seems to indicate), they may have roamed for 
many ages along the borders of glaciation, perhaps as far 
as the Pacific Coast. Chinese annals refer to fair tribes in 
Eastern Siberia 200 years before the Christian era; l and 
it seems requisite to imagine some extensive reservoir of 
mankind in order to explain the origin of the vast hordes 
which in prehistoric as in historical times again and again 
invaded Europe hordes 

" which the populous North 
Poured ever from her frozen loins, to pass 
Rhene or the Danau ; when her barbarous sons 
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread 
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands." 

That the race] was formerly fairer than it is now may be 
inferred from the whiteness of its children's hair : the trait 
has outlived its utility. The occurrence of a fair complexion 

1 M. A. Czaplicka, My Siberian Year, p. 230. 


in some mountain tribes, in the Alps, e. g., has occasioned the 
conjecture that it may be due in some way to mountainous 
conditions, 1 of which snow might be one; but, if we suppose 
that the Nordic race extended during the Glacial Period into 
Western Europe (having already acquired its distinctive 
characters), a fair complexion in the Alps may be understood 
by supposing that, whilst the greater number of them followed 
the ice-sheet back to the north-east, some followed it south- 
ward up into the mountains if the complexion is really 
ancient there. 

Two objections to this hypothesis will occur to every one : 
(i) Why are not the Esquimo fair ? Because, I suppose, they 
are much more recent immigrants into the Arctic regions, 
and perhaps were fully clothed when they arrived there, 
(ii) Could the Nordic people have existed in such circum- 
stances unclothed ? Whether this was possible physiologists 
must judge. We see the Fuegians maintain themselves, 
practically naked, under very inclement conditions. And 
it is not necessary to assume that the Nordic hunters were 
entirely naked; since the correlation between the hair, eyes 
and all parts of the skin is such that, if the whitening of any 
part (say the hair) was sufficiently advantageous to determine 
natural selection, the remainder of the body would be simi- 
larly affected. And, no doubt, the Mediterranean race was 
always whitish. 

The Amerinds seem to have been derived chiefly from the 
Asiatic race. Pygmies and Australians may represent 
separate and still older stocks. But, as a result of migrations 
and conquests, most peoples are of mixed descent; and 
hence (i) individuals in the same locality sometimes vary 
greatly, because they inherit the blood of different strains 
in different proportions; and (ii) classification is difficult, 
so that whilst some observers are content to find half a dozen 
races, Deniker enumerates twenty-nine. 

Besides general racial differences, there exist within each 
race and within each national group further differences 
between individuals in their physical, and still more in their 
mental, stature and ability. As it was necessary that Man 

1 Kipley, The Races of Europe, pp. 76-7. 


lould vary greatly in undergoing adaptation to the hunting 
fe (as well as to different local environments), he was in an 
lie condition favourable to further variation. 1 And this 
las been utilised in his adaptation to a certain special con- 
dition of his gregariousness, namely, life in the hunting-pack ; 
for this requires a difference of personality between leaders 
and followers, first in the chase and later in war. A good 
democrat may think it would have been a better plan to make 
all men equal from the first ; and I would it had been so ; for 
then the head of the race would not have had to drag along 
such an altogether disproportionate tail : a tail so huge and 
unwieldy that one may doubt whether it can ever be ex- 
tricated from the morass of barbarism. But in the early 
days of gregariousness, a pack could not have held to- 
gether, or have hunted efficiently, if all had been equal and 
each had exercised the right of private judgment. So in 
successful packs one led and the rest followed; as they still 
do, and will continue to do, of whatever kind may be the 
leader. And of all structures that make up a human being 
the most variable is the brain : the differences between men 
in stature and physique are trifling compared with those in 
mental power. Whatever feat of strength your Samson can 
perform, half a dozen ordinary men can also accomplish; 
but in every generation tasks are carried out by intellectual 
athletes, toward which all the ordinary men in the world, 
uniting their efforts, could do nothing absolutely nothing. 


If we suppose the differentiation of the Hominidce from the 
Anthropoidea to have begun in the Upper Oligocene, and that 
the decisive change was initiated by some ape that adopted 
the life of a hunter, it is interesting to consider what the world 
was like in which he lived, what sort of animals surrounded 
him, what animals probably became his prey, and what were 
his rivals in the chase. 2 

1 Darwin, Animals and Plants under Domestication, Pop. ed., II. 
p. 308. 

2 The contents of this section lie outside my own studies, and have 
been taken from various books of Geology and Palaeontology : I must 


The surface of the planet was less mountainous than at 
present; in Europe the Pyrenees had risen, but the Alps 
were only beginning to rise; and in Asia the Himalayas 
began to dominate the world only in the middle of the next 
epoch, the Miocene. The distribution of land and water, 
too, was very different in the Oligocene from that which we 
now see : Europe was divided from Asia by a broad gulf 
stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Arctic Circle, and an 
arm of this gulf toward the west submerged a great part of 
Central Europe; Asia was broadly connected with North 
America, where now the sea penetrates between Siberia and 
Alaska; Africa had no connection with either Europe or 
Asia; North and South America were separated perhaps 
at Panama. In the Miocene, Europe, Asia and Africa became 
united. These physiographic changes may have affected 
climate; for during the Eocene tropical conditions prevailed 
far to the north, and coal-beds were laid down in Alaska; 
but from the Oligocene onwards there was a gradual fall of 
temperature, slow at first, but ending (for the present) in 
the cataclysms of the Glacial Period. There was also a 
decrease in some regions of atmospheric moisture, which 
determines the density of vegetation. In its general char- 
acter the vegetation was similar to that which now prevails 
in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions of the world. 
The species of plants now existing had not yet arrived ; 
but of the same genera and families as those we see, conifers, 
palms and dicotyledonous flowering plants crowded the 
forests and overhung the rivers. The forests were more 
extensive and continuous than ours outside the tropics; 
for by degrees browsing animals, feeding down the young 
trees, check the renovation of forests and clear open spaces, 
where grasses grow; changes of temperature limit the 
northern or southern extension of certain kinds of plants, 
and a failure of humidity starves all the larger kinds; con- 
verting, at successive stages, forest into steppe and steppe 
into desert. 

especially mention Prof. Osborne's Age of Mammals (1910) and Prof. 
Scott's Land Mammals in the Western Hemisphere (1913). I have also 
profited by inspecting the Palaeontological Gallery at South Kensington 
with the help of its excellent Guide-Book. 


Animals, especially mammalia, with which chiefly we are 
concerned, were, at the close of the Oligocene, very different 
from any that now roam the lands; all the species, most 
genera, many families and some whole orders have since 
disappeared. But there were plenty to eat and a good many 
to dread. Until we know the neighbourhood in which our 
ape's adventures began, nothing precise can be said of his 
circumstances. Probably it was somewhere in the Old 
World, and probably it was in Asia. Unfortunately, we know 
nothing of the zoological antiquities of Asia until the early 
Miocene, and even then a very small selection of what must 
have existed, because geologists have hitherto explored a 
very small part of the continent a few beds in north-western 
and northern India and in Burmah. But there is so much 
evidence of the migrations of animals in successive ages of 
the Tertiary Period, that any remains from the Oligocene 
and Miocene will help us to understand what sort of neighbours 
our remote ancestors had to live amongst. 

For prey there was great variety of birds and reptiles 
(everywhere eaten by savages) and fishes; but we are most 
concerned with the mammalia, which he may be supposed 
to have pursued afoot. Of these the most important are the 
hoofed animals, which fall into two great groups, perhaps 
not closely connected the odd- toed (Perissodactyls) and the 
even-toed (Artiodactyls). During the Oligocene there lived 
in Europe, or in North America, or in both and, therefore, 
probably in Asia numbers of the odd-toed group : tapirs ; 
rhinoceroses of several species, some without horns, some 
with, some amphibious (Amynodonts), all smaller than their 
modern representatives; chalicotheres, strange beasts some- 
thing like horses, but instead of hoofs they had claws on their 
toes perhaps survived in China into the Pleistocene; small 
predecessors of the horse with three toes on each foot ; titano- 
theres, hugest animals of their age, extinct in the middle of 
it something like the rhinoceros and nearly as big as an 
elephant (Brontotherium). Of the even-toed group, pig-like 
animals abounded, and some true pigs appeared ; entelodonts, 
or giant-pigs, were common; anthracotheres, somewhat pig- 
like in size and shape; ancestral camels about the size of 


sheep were to be had in North America; oreodonts, unfinished- 
looking creatures of many species ; primitive deer and other 
ruminants, small in size and not having yet grown any horns. 
In Europe, during the Upper Oligocene, coenotheres, small and 
graceful animals, lived in large herds around the lakes. 
There were also primitive proboscidia about half the size 
of modern elephants; many insectivores ; and, amongst 
rodents, beavers and tailless hares. Generally, animals of 
this age that have left descendants were smaller than their 
modern .representatives; and notably their brains were 

In the Lower and Middle Miocene there appeared also 
horned cervuline deer, chevrotaines, and horned antelopes; 
dinotheres and mastodons, probably from Africa; primitive 
hedgehogs, moles and shrews; and in the Upper Miocene, 
hipparion, true hares, several varieties of hornless giraffe, 
true deer, and ancestral sheep. True horses and cattle are 
first known from Pliocene beds; but it is needless to follow 
the story further : the fauna becomes more and more modern 
in its character, and uncouth forms die out. 

Anthropoids are first met with in the Miocene and in 
Europe : pliopithecus, allied to the gibbons, in the Lower ; 
and dryopithecus, related to the chimpanzee, in the Middle 
Miocene; but they are believed to have come from Asia. 
There, in Pliocene beds of the Siwaliks (southern foot-hills of 
the Himalayas), occur the orang and chimpanzee, besides 
macaques, langurs and baboons. Since the orang is now 
found only in Borneo and Sumatra, and the chimpanzee 
only in Africa, southern Asia seems to have been the centre 
from which the anthropoids dispersed; and this seems to be 
the chief positive ground for believing that the human stock 
began to be differentiated in that region. Since, again, by 
the Middle Miocene a chimpanzee form had already migrated 
into Europe, it may be assumed that the orang was already 
distinct from it (and perhaps had spread eastward): the 
differentiation of these genera must, therefore, have happened 
earlier; and, therefore, also the differentiation of the human 
stock ; so that this event cannot be put later than some time 
in the Oligocene. 


I How big was Lycopithecus to begin with? The answer 
to this question must affect our view of his relations both to 
prey and to enemies. Inasmuch as the three extant anthro- 
poids and Man are all of about the same size, there is a presump- 
tion that their common ancestor was in stature superior to 
the gibbons and to the largest monkeys in fact, a " giant " 
ape (to borrow a term from Dr. Keith). Dryopithecus " was 
smaller than the chimpanzee, but much larger than the 
gibbon." l Awaiting further evidence of fossils, which is 
much to be desired, it is probable, on the whole, that Lyco- 
pithecus weighed less on the average than modern man, but 
more than the wolf. 

As to competitors and aggressive enemies, there were 
snakes and crocodiles; but, confining our attention to 
carnivorous mammals, the time seems to have been favourable 
to the enterprise of a new hunter. By the middle of the 
Oligocene, the ancient Creodonts (primitive flesh-eaters which 
had flourished in the Eocene) were nearly extinct, represented 
in the deposits by their last surviving family, the Hycenodonts. 
Ancestors of the modern carnivores, such as may be called 
by anticipation dogs and cats, derived (according to Prof. 
Scott) from the Creodont Family of the Miacidae, were becom- 
ing numerous, but for the most part were still of small size. 
Apparently, the primitive dogs and their allies must, for 
some time, have been more formidable adversaries than the 
primitive cats, especially if we suppose them to have already 
begun to hunt in pack; and this is not improbable, both on 
account of their structure and because several distinct 
varieties and even genera, now extant, have that habit such 
as wolf, jackal, dingo, dhole, Cape hunting-dog, etc. In the 
Upper Oligocene of North America, occurs a dog as big as a 
large modern wolf, and in Europe the bear-like dog, Amphi- 
cyon, of about the same size, but said to have been clumsy 
and slow-moving. There were several other dog-like species ; 
they continue in the Miocene, and some of them increase in 
bulk; but true modern dogs or wolves (Canis) do not appear 
before the Pliocene. Then, too, first occur true bears (Ursus) ; 
hyaenas in the Upper Miocene. " Cats " belong to two sub- 
1 A. Keith, The Human Body, p. 58. 


families : (i) the true felines, our modern species and their 
ancestors ; and (ii) the machoerodonts, or sabre-toothed cats. 
The latter first appear in North America in the Lower Oligo- 
cene; the former in Europe in the Middle Oligocene. The 
sabre-tooths are so called from their thin, curved upper 
canines; which were so long (3 to 6 inches) that it is not 
easy to understand how they could open their mouths wide 
enough to bite with them. That they were effective in some 
way is proved by the fact that machaerodonts, first appearing 
in the Lower Oligocene, increased in numbers and diversity 
of species for ages, and some of them in bulk. In North 
America, in the Upper Oligocene, one species was as large as 
a jaguar, and some of the biggest and most terrifying were 
contemporary with Man, and only became extinct in the 
Pleistocene. Their limbs were relatively shorter and thicker 
than those of the Felince. These, the true cats, at first 
progressed more slowly than the Machcerodontidce ; but in the 
Siwalik deposits (Pliocene) there occur, along with machse- 
rodonts, forms resembling the leopard and the lynx, with 
others as large as tigers. The largest of all this group seems 
to have been the cave-lion, perhaps a large variety of the 
common African lion, which also lived with Man in Europe 
in the Pleistocene. These were serious competitors in the 
hunting-life of Lycopithecus and of primitive Man ; and the 
effect of such competition in exterminating inferior forms is 
shown by the fate of the carnivorous marsupials of South 
America (allied to Thylacinus], which were the predatory 
fauna of that region, until in the Pliocene, North and South 
America having become united by continuous land, cats and 
dogs came in from the northern continent and put an end 
to them ; and also by the fate of the creodonts, which in the 
Oligocene seem everywhere to have been exterminated by 
the new carnivores. In both cases the beaten competitors 
were very inferior in the size and complexity of their brains ; 
and if Man has succeeded in the struggle for life against the 
same foes, in spite of his inferior bodily adaptation, it is 
probably due to his very superior brains. This may also be 
the reason why modern Man (Hvmo sapiens!), wandering 
everywhere over the world, has everywhere exterminated 


such experiments in human nature as Pithecanthropus, 
Eoanthropus, and Neanderthalensis ; as others are soon to 
follow them into the Hades of extinct species. 

These few pages give a ridiculously faint sketch of the 
animal world amidst which our remote ancestors began their 
career. But it may serve to indicate that there was always 
plenty to eat if you could kill it, and plenty of rivals who 
wanted their share. After the disappearance of the dinosaurs 
at the close of the Cretaceous period, the mammalia, already 
numerous, developed rapidly, and spread in ever multiplying 
numbers and diverging shapes over the whole area of the 
land. We may take it that from the Middle Eocene (at least) 
onwards the earth has always been as full of wild beasts as it 
would hold. To understand what it was like in the Middle 
Oligocene, one should read the adventures of hunters in South 
Africa seventy or eighty years ago (their verisimilitude is 
vouched for by Livingstone), 1 before a gun in the hands of 
every Kaffir had begun to thin the vast herds that then 
covered the whole landscape, and in whose numbers the wild 
hunters and the lions could make no appreciable diminution. 
The little Bushmen regarded themselves and the lions as 
joint owners and masters of all the game. The masters 
fought one another, indeed; but there was no necessity to 
fight, for there was more than enough for both : lions were 
then sometimes met in gangs of ten or a dozen. Game 
throughout the Cainozoic ages was abundant and of all 
sizes : many small, many middle-sized and some prodigious. 
Even in the Eocene, some of the Amblypoda (Dinoceras, Am.) 
and of the Barypoda (Arsinoiherium, Af.) were as big as 
rhinoceroses ; in the Oligocene, Titanotheres not much smaller 
than elephants; in South America, in Miocene and Pliocene 
times, the Toxodonts; in the Pleistocene, Ground-sloths of 
huge bulk, and Glyptodonts. Of Families still represented 
amongst living animals, dinotheres and mastodons occur in 
the Miocene ; and elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, 
giraffe have abounded from the Pliocene to recent times, 
in many species, over most of Africa and the northern hemi- 
sphere. Even the marsupials in Australia produced a species 
1 Travels and Researches in Western Africa, ch. vii. 


(Diprotodon) as large as a rhinoceros with a skull three feet long. 
Any one of these would have been a meal for a whole pack of 
hunters, if they could kill it as we may be sure they could. 


From the addiction of some ancestral ape to animal food, 
and to the life of a hunter in order to obtain it, then, the 
special characteristics of Man seem to be natural consequences. 
The hypothesis from which everything follows is exceptionally 
simple and moderate. It is generally admitted that our 
ancestor was a large anthropoid possibly more gregarious 
than others, possibly more apt to live upon the ground; 
but neither of these suppositions is requisite. He was 
adapted to his life, as the chimpanzee and gorilla are to 
theirs : in which, probably, they have gone on with little 
change for ages. But into his life a disturbing factor entered 
the impulse to attack, hunt and eat animals, which extensively 
replaced his former peaceable, frugivorous habit. The cause 
of this change may have been a failure in the supply of his 
usual diet, or an " accidental variation " of appetite. Not 
a great number need have shared in the hunting impulse ; it 
is enough that a few should have felt it, or even one. If 
advantageous and inheritable, it would spread through his 
descendants. It was advantageous (a) in enlarging their 
resources of nutrition, and (b) in enabling them to escape 
from the tropical forest. On the other hand, to those least 
fit for the new life it brought the disadvantages of more 
strenuous exertion and of competition with other carnivorous 
types. But with hands and superior intelligence, those that 
had the requisite character succeeded. There was rapid 
selection of those whose variations of structure, character, 
activity were most effective in dealing with game and with 
enemies ; especially of those who combined and co-operated, 
and learned to direct co-operation by some rudimentary speech. 

But, again, the hunting impulse here assumed to have 
possessed some anthropoid was not something entirely new; 
anthropoids and many other Primates are known to seize 
and devour birds, lizards and even small mammals when 
chance offers an easy opportunity. It is merely a greater 


persistence in this behaviour that turns it into hunting. 
How very improbable that such a change should not some- 
times occur ! Is it not likely to have occurred often, and with 
many failures ? Similarly, of the resulting changes : the 
differentiation of our hands and feet is only an advance 
upon what you see in the gorilla; as for our ground-life, can 
the adult male gorilla be fairly called arboreal? Several 
Primates use un wrought weapons; most of them lead a 
gregarious life, to which our own is a return; they are co- 
operative at least in defence; like many other animals, they 
communicate by gestures and inarticulate vocal cries. Co- 
operative hunting, indeed, seems to be new in our Order; 
but since wolves and dogs, or their ancestors, fell in with it 
some time or other, why should it be beyond the capacity 
of apes? On second thoughts, is the co-operative raiding 
of plantations by baboons something altogether different 
from hunting in pack? Thus at each occasion of change in 
structure or function, Lycopithecus merely carried some 
tendency of the other Primates a little further, and a little 
further; until, certainly, he went a long way. The whole 
movement can be distinctly pictured throughout, and it has 
an air of being natural or even inevitable. Few hypotheses 
ask us to grant less than this one. 

Moreover, if the story is not true, Man is an exception 
to the rule of animal life, that the structure of every organism 
is made up of apparatus subserving its peculiar conditions 
of nutrition and reproduction. Indeed, conditions of nutri- 
tion are the ground of the differentiation of animals and plants. 
Conditions of reproduction need not here be considered, as 
the apparatus is the same in the anthropoids and in our- 
selves. With many species to avoid being eaten and to mate 
are the reasons for some secondary characters, such as pro- 
tective armour or coloration, fleetness with its correlative 
structures, nuptial plumage, and so forth. But to avoid 
being eaten and to mate, it is first of all necessary to eat and 
live ; and accordingly, for each sort of animal, starting from 
the organisation of some earlier stock, its structure and 
activities are determined by the kind of food it gets, and the 
conditions of getting it : in our case, the hunting of game afoot. 




FOLLOWING the general belief that Man is descended from 
a stock nearly allied to the greater anthropoids Orang, 
Chimpanzee, Gorilla we may assume that his mental endow- 
ments were once much the same as theirs; and that, so far 
as they are still the same, heredity sufficiently explains his 
having them. Thus the senses, perception, the simpler 
forms of comparison and inference, the appetites and many 
of the instincts and emotions are common to us with the 
apes, are seen in our children under three years old, and (in 
short) constitute that generic consciousness (as I have called 
it) from which the human mind in general and the peculiar 
traits of races and individuals are differentiated. 

So much for heredity; but the differences of the human 
from the anthropoid mind, alike in intelligence and in char- 
acter, are enormous, and must be accounted for in some 
other way. Allowing for some original specific difference 
which we can hardly hope to discover, the changes that have 
taken place may be considered as the result of adaptation 
to those habits of life under which our species (now ranking 
zoologically as a Family) has been developed. And this 
adaptation I shall assume to have been brought about under 
conditions of natural selection : human races, as we now see 
them, being the survivors of many variations, more or less 
successful, and the others having been destroyed. For 
good judges are of opinion that, amongst the discovered 
remains of ancient specimens of the human family, some 
that exhibit marked deviations from the modern type 



Neanderthalensis, Eoanthropus, Pithecanthropus should be 
regarded not as belonging to our ancestral line, but rather 
as representing distinct species that have failed in the struggle 
for existence. 1 
But besides the innate dispositions of human nature 
determined by heredity and natural selection, which are found 
in some measure universally, because they are adaptations 
to conditions that, at one time and not long ago, weighed 
upon the ancestors of all of us, there are numerous traits 
(some of them quite superficial) that vary from country 
to country and from age to age, according to the economic 
or political type of the society in which a man lives, his 
place therein, geographical circumstances, religious institu- 

Itions and the countless causes that govern manners and 
customs. In the lives of most men these traits are not 
necessary; they may be adopted and cast aside more than 
once in an individual's career : they are temporary accommo- 
dations due to education, imitation, tradition; and, in fact, 
are often the disguises of human nature. Still, as society 
grows more and more complex, orderly and stable, there is, 
no doubt, again some natural selection of those individuals 
who are capable of undergoing the requisite accommodations. 
Those that cannot endure the restraints of civilisation, wander 
away ; the extremely lazy, improvident, dishonest, or aggres- 
sive, in considerable numbers, perish. 


To the original mentality of man we can only seek a clue 
in the higher Primates, and especially in the extant anthro- 
poids. No doubt, during the long millennia that have 
elapsed since the separation of our own stock from those 
of other genera and species, they also have undergone some 
evolution, but probably much less change than we have. 
Unfortunately, our knowledge of their habits and abilities is 
still deplorably limited. It seems certain, however, that 
their intelligence is much greater than that of any other 
1 See The Antiquity oj Man, by Arthur Keith. 


kind of animal. They must have extensive knowledge of 
their habitat, of all the forest can yield for food or shelter, 
and of its other denizens dangerous or otherwise. They 
construct for themselves some sort of sleeping-place, not 
much inferior to the Australians' " lean-to," by piling branches 
together in the trees. Toward men, anthropoids seem to be 
unaggressive, and usually retreat from them; but, when 
attacked, defend themselves with fury. From other animals 
the male gorilla has nothing to fear, and he defends his family 
against leopards; the chimpanzee is said to fight leopards 
with varying success ; and, as for the orang, Dyak chiefs told 
Wallace that no animals dare attack him, except crocodiles 
and pythons, and that he kills both of them. 1 The food 
of these apes is chiefly fruit and the tender shoots of trees 
and bamboos; but they sometimes eat eggs and young 
birds ; and the gorilla is said to eat small mammals : in 
confinement they all take cooked flesh freely. Socially, they 
hardly get beyond family life. Orangs male and female 
are even seen alone, and young ones together without parents ; 
gorillas are seen in family parties; chimpanzees in families, 
and occasionally three or four families in company. It is 
said that gorillas and chimpanzees have been seen together 
in a large band. I have met with no report of these animals 
fighting amongst themselves, except that male gorillas some- 
times fight for a wife. Gorillas have also been said, upon 
very slight evidence, to be polygamous; chimpanzees and 
orangs seem to be monogamous. 2 Their family life is prob- 
ably, as amongst all the other Primates, affectionate : the 
long youth of their children implies much parental care. 
Whilst the smaller Anthropoids siamang and gibbon go in 
troops, as also do the baboons and most monkeys of both 
hemispheres, the less sociability of the great anthropoids 
may be understood to result (a) from the limited supply of 
the right sort of food for them, even in the tropical forest 
to which they are confined since animals of their bulk must 

1 Malay Archipelago, pp. 46-7. 

2 According to R. L. Garner, however, both gorillas and chim- 
panzees are polygamous. See Gorillas and Chimpanzees, pp. 54 and 


msume a great deal; and (b) from their having no need 

combining for the purpose of defence. 

From the type thus outlined the mentality of the human 
has departed so widely that some even of those who 

>lieve that our bodies have been derived from some simian 
stock (e.g. Wallace) hesitate to admit that our minds can 
have had a similar history. But as everywhere else in the 
animal kingdom mind and body constitute one organism, 
it is reasonable to consider whether the differentiation 
of the mind of man may not be understood to have 
taken place under the same conditions as those which 
determined the transformation of his body. What were these 
conditions ? 

(a) In the foregoing chapter I have collected a number of 
facts and arguments pointing to the probability that the 
chief cause of the evolution of the human Family was the 
adoption by some anthropoid (or allied form) of the life of 
the hunter in order to obtain animal food. That the change 
from a frugivorous to a carnivorous diet may itself have 
had some effect upon our temperament and activity is 
possible; but I lay no stress upon that. Most monkeys are 
almost exclusively frugivorous; the only Primate, except 
man, that depends a good deal upon animal food is, I believe, 
the crab-eating macaque (Macacus cynomolgus), of the 
Burmese and Malay littoral; yet monkeys are the most 
alert and active of animals; some of them are amongst the 
most courageous ; anthropoids are amongst the most power- 
ful. A carnivorous diet alone would not explain any changes 
in the shape and proportions of our trunk and limbs, nor 
the upright gait, nor the gregarious habit, nor the develop- 
ment of the brain, nor the invention of weapons, nor the 
use of fire, nor any of the mental and emotional characteristics 
that distinguish man from the other Primates; but all these 
things readily follow from our remote ancestor's adoption 
of the life of the hunter. 

Sociologists, surveying extant peoples, have usually dis- 
tinguished four stages of culture, the hunting, pastoral, 
agricultural and manufacturing; and some have indicated 
what they suppose to have been a still earlier stage, the 


" collecting," such as may be seen, e. g., amongst the Fuegians. 
But the collecting state is plainly degenerate, the resource of 
tribes fallen into distress ; it cannot have been the first stage, 
because it implies no conditions that tend in any way to 
develop body or mind or society. That hunting came first 
is a true intuition : and, to understand the development of 
human nature, we need only refer the hunting -life back to 
the very origin of the human stock. 1 

(b) The great anthropoids are all confined to the equatorial 
forests ; and it is obvious that, with their diet, it is impossible 
to pass out of tropical or (at furthest) sub-tropical regions. 
But the adoption of a flesh diet enabled the human stock to 
extend the range of its hunting (allowing for gradual adapta- 
tion to climate or accommodation by clothing) to any country 
that supplied the requisite prey; and, accordingly, in course 
of time, it wandered to' every part of the world. The settling 
of various off -shoots of the original stock in certain regions 
long enough for them to undergo adaptation to local con- 
ditions is (as we have seen) the simplest explanation of 
existing races. 

(c) Whilst none of the great anthropoids has advanced 
socially beyond family life, man is everywhere (with few 
and doubtful exceptions) gregarious living at the lowest 
grade in tribes or bands of about fifty; and the gregarious 
life is one of the most important conditions of his peculiar 
development. Possibly, he may originally have been more 
gregarious than any extant anthropoid, in spite of his not 
needing society for defence, and of its seeming to be for 
so large a frugivorous animal inconvenient in relation to 
nutrition. Moreover, if the great anthropoids and our own 
ancestors were descended from some stock of the lower 
monkeys, such as always go in troops, the gregarious instinct 
may have remained with them as a latent character. Still, 

1 This view is not opposed to the suggestion I have somewhere 
seen that the collecting activities of women, whilst men hunted, may, 
at some stage, have led to property and domestication of plants and 
animals. Again, the pastoral and agricultural states are not neces- 
sarily successive : it depends upon local conditions. For an excellent 
survey of the gradual rise of primitive culture and the difficulties it 
encountered, see H. Spencer's Industrial Institutions, Principles of 
Sociology, Vol. III. 


it is my conjecture that man became gregarious, or recovered 
the social habit, because of the utility of co-operative hunt- 
ing ; so that he became at first a sort of wolf-ape. This will 
be discussed in the next section. I observe here, however, 
that the hypothesis helps us to understand why man is still 
imperfectly sociable ; the purpose of the hunting-pack, each 
wolf -ape seeking prey, was unfavourable to social life in 
other relations. That in human life group-consciousness 
preceded self -consciousness is a groundless and fantastic 
notion : all known savages are fully self-conscious, as their 
sentiments and behaviour imply; and even the higher 
brutes are (in my judgment) self-conscious in their relations 
with others. Current speculations about fashion, imitation, 
tradition, crowd-psychology, are in danger of exaggeration, 
and overlook the patent facts of individualism, as shown by 
the hypocrite, the criminal, the vagrant, the contra- sug- 
gestible, the hermit, the sceptic, the saint. Some people 
without being in any way morbid find that a good deal of 
solitude is necessary to the complete life : by nature the 
student and the pioneer escape from the crowd. 

(d) The later stages of human development have been 
considerably modified by certain imaginary conditions 
peculiar to Man; for he we know not at what date- 
invented them. These may be summed up under the names 
of Magic and Animism; and in subsequent chapters they 
will be discussed, with their astonishing vagaries and still 
more astonishing reactions upon human life. 

The chief conditions, then, to which man has been adapted, 
and thereby differentiated in body and mind from the anthro- 
poid stock, I take to be four : the hunting life ; geographical 
circumstances; social life; and his own imaginations. 


In looking for the probable form of the earliest human or 
(rather) prehuman society, one naturally makes a survey of 
other mammalian societies; and the task is soon accom- 
plished. It is surprising how few and simple the types of 
them are, in contrast with the elaborate polities of some 
hymenoptera and of the termites : these have much greater 


superficial resemblance to modern human societies; but, in 
fact, they are families rather than societies ; their interesting 
activities will one day probably be traced to relatively simple 
mechanisms ; and in every way they are too remote from us 
for any useful comparison. As for mammalian societies, 
even using the term to include families, they may be classified 
under four or five types : 

(1) Families: (a) Monogamous : of which the best examples 
seem to be found in some monkeys. Many of the cats are 
believed to pair monogamously ; but it is doubtful whether, 
or in what measure, the male takes part in the rearing of the 

(b) Polygamous : characteristic of many species of deer ; 
after the breeding-season, the stags often wander away by 

(2) Associations of families without apparent structure or 
organisation, such as those of the vizcacha and the beaver. 
They have no leaders, and make no attempt at mutual defence ; 
but their inco-ordinated activities, in making their burrows, 
dams, etc., have results which, especially in the case of the 
beavers, look as if the animals had worked upon a common, 
premeditated plan. Gregariousness exists widely in the 
animal kingdom without any utility in attack or defence, 
but merely for convenience of breeding, or for the advantage 
of signalling the approach of danger, from any direction, to 
the whole flock. 

(3) Troops or herds, comprising several families. This 
type is common amongst monkeys : generally the families 
are monogamous, and both parents care for the offspring; 
they have leaders, and combine in mutual defence. This 
is especially effective with the baboons who, however, are 
polygamous. A very similar type is characteristic of cattle ; 
who also have leaders as the result of battle between the 
bulls, each trying to control and keep together as many 
cows as he can ; and they often combine their forces against 
beasts of prey. 

(4) Hunting-packs most noticeable with wolves and wild 
dogs : they have leaders, and probably an order of pre- 
cedence determined by battle. In the breeding-season 


ebruary to August) a pack of wolves breaks up into pairs ; 
but whether their pairing is for life or merely seasonal is 
puted ; and it is also doubtful whether the male takes 
Y share in caring for the puppies; such habits may vary 
different localities. 1 The numbers of the pack depend 
circumstances, and are now much smaller in Canada 
in in Russia. 

iVas our own primitive society, then, like any of these? 
direct evidence cannot be obtained, we must be guided 
in forming our hypothesis by two considerations : (a) what 
type of society gives the best explanation of human nature 
as we now find it? and (b) for which type can we give the 
best reason why it should have been adopted ? So I point 
out (a) that man, in character, is more like a wolf or dog 
than he is like any other animal; and (b) that for the forming 
of a pack there was a clear ground in the advantage to be 
obtained by co-operative hunting. 2 

It must be admitted that Darwin, discussing sexual selec- 
tion in man, suggests a different hypothesis. He says : 
" Looking far enough back in the stream of time, and judging 
from the social habits of man as he new exists, the most 
probable view is that he aboriginally lived in small com- 
munities, each with a single wife, or if powerful with several, 
whom he jealously guarded against all other men. Or he 
may not have been a social animal, and yet have lived with 
several wives, like the gorilla ; for all the natives ' agree 
that but one adult male is seen in a band; when the young 

1 It is certainly believed by fox -hunters that a fox feeds his vixen 
when she is occupied with their family, and that " if the vixen is killed 
he will bring up the family by himself." Thomas F. Dale, The Fox, 
pp. 12, 13. 

Nothing incredible in this nor of wolves. Can the vixen provide for 
herself and litter alone ? If not, the dog must do it: else there could 
be no foxes or wolves. 

However, de Canteleu denies that the he-wolf takes any part in rearing 
the young (La Chasse du Loup, p. 30). 

2 W. P. Pycraft, in his entertaining Courtship of Animals, after 
assuming that Man became a hunter for the sake of the excitement 
such a life afforded, goes on (p. 23) : "A little later the advantages of 
neighbourliness were borne in on him, largely for the sake of the greater 
ease wherewith the animals of the chase could be captured by their 
combined efforts ; but this begat comradeship and some of the graces 
that follow therefrom." 


male grows up, a contest takes place for mastery, and the 
strongest, by killing and driving out the others, establishes 
himself as the head of the community.' The younger males, 
being thus expelled and wandering about, would, when at 
last successful in finding a partner, prevent too close inter- 
breeding within the limits of the same family." 1 The 
information concerning the polygamy of the gorilla, quoted 
here from Dr. Savage, who wrote in 1845, has not since 
(I believe) been confirmed, except by Prof. Garner. 2 

Naturally, the above passage has attracted the attention 
of anthropologists ; and I am sorry to expose myself to the 
charge of immodesty in venturing to put forward a different 
view. Atkinson in his essay on Primal Law, edited with 
qualified approval by Andrew Lang, starts from Darwin's 
hypothesis, and merely modifies it by urging that the young 
males, when driven off by their father, did not wander away, 
but kept near the family, always on the watch to murder 
their father. This amendment he makes, because he had 
observed the same habits in cattle and horses. Then, through 
a row of hypotheses with little evidence or rational con- 
nection, he arrives at an explanation of certain savage laws 
of avoidance, exogamy, etc. More recently, Prof. Freud 
has produced a most ingenious and entertaining essay on 
Totem und Tabu, in which he builds upon the same founda- 
tions. You easily see how the " (Edipus complex " emerges 
from such a primitive state of things, but will hardly, with- 
out reading the work, imagine the wealth of speculation it 
contains or its literary attractiveness. Atkinson probably 
relied upon the supposed parallel case of wild cattle and 
horses, because those animals resemble the apes in being 
vegetarian : though the diets are, in fact, very different. 
But even if such a comparison indicates a possible social 
state of our original ape-like stock, what is there in such a 
state that can be supposed to have introduced the changes 
that made our forebears no longer ape-like ? Supposing those 
changes to have already taken place, what evidence is there 
that the same social state endured ? None : for it was 

1 Descent of Man, ch. xx. 

2 See above, footnote on p. 32. 


assumed to have been the social state of our forebears on 
the ground of their resemblance in diet and family economy 
to the gorilla. 

Returning, then, to our hypothesis as to the chief cause of 
human differentiation, namely, that a certain Primate, more 
nearly allied to the anthropoids than to any other, became 
carnivorous and adopted the life of a hunter, there are (as 
I have said) two ways in which this may have happened : 
either by such a variation on the part of our ancestor that 
he felt a stronger appetite for animal food than the gorilla 
does strong enough to make him hunt for prey; or by 
such a change of climate in the region he inhabited say 
from sub-tropical to temperate as to make his former diet 

(scarce, especially in winter, so that he became a hunter to 
avoid starvation. Every one admits that he became a 
hunter at some time : why not at the earliest ? Nothing 
less than some great change of life, concentrating all his 
powers and straining every faculty, can possibly account 
for the enormous differentiation of Man. The adoption of 
the hunting life is such a change; and the further back 
we put it, the better it explains the other changes that have 
occurred in our physical and mental nature. 

From the outset, again, our ancestor may have attacked 
big game, probably Ungulates to whom he owed much; 
for not only did they provide prey, but by clearing the 
forest over wide areas compelled him to run in pursuit remote 
from his native trees, thus giving great selective advantage 
to every variation of legs and feet adapted to running : though 
at the very first there may have been little need to run, as 
he was not yet an object of terror; "we must remember 
that if man was unskilful, animals were unsuspicious." 1 I 
suppose him, at first, to have fallen to with hands and teeth : 
combining with others in a hungry, savage onslaught. By 
attacking big game advantage was given to those individuals 
and families who co-operated in hunting : thus forming the 
primal society of the human stock ; a society entirely different 
from that of any of the Primates, or of cattle, and most like 
that of the dogs and wolves a hunting-pack. 

1 Avebury, Prehistoric Times, 7th ed., p. 580, 


As in the course of generations the hunting-pack developed, 
no doubt, it had recognised leaders, the most powerful males, 
one perhaps pre-eminent. But it was not subject to one 
old male who claimed all the females; for the more adult 
males it comprised, the stronger it was; and, for the same 
reason, pairing, as among wolves, was the most efficient 
form of sexual relationship. But, in my judgment, it is 
altogether vain to try to deduce from this form of society, 
which may have existed three or four million years ago, 
any of the known customs of savages concerning marriage, 
such as avoidance, totemism, exogamy; which would be of 
comparatively recent date if we put back their origin 500,000 
years. Many such rules can only have arisen when there 
was already a tradition and a language capable of expressing 


Possibly our ape-like ancestor was more sociable than 
any of the anthropoids; but sociability in ape-life would 
in no way account for our present character as men : nothing 
accounts for it, except the early formation of the hunting- 
pack. Since, however, we can know nothing of that institu- 
tion directly, we must try to learn something about it from 
the parallel case of dogs and wolves. Galton remarks how 
readily the proceedings of man and dog " are intelligible 
to one another. Every whine or bark of the dog, each of 
his fawning, savage, or timorous movements, is the exact 
counterpart of what would have been the man's behaviour, 
had he felt similar emotions. As the man understands the 
thoughts of the dog, so the dog understands the thoughts of 
the man, by attending to his natural voice, his countenance, 
and his actions." 1 No more, if as much, could be said of 
the terms upon which we stand with a tame chimpanzee, 
in spite of greater physical and facial resemblance and nearer 
kinship. What can connect us so closely in mind with an 
animal so remote from us in lineage and anatomy as the dog 
is? Adaptation to the same social conditions, the life of 
the hunting-pack. 

1 Inquiries into Human Faculty, p. 262, 


(1) The master- interest of every member of the pack lies 
in the chase, because success in it is necessary to life. To 
show how this passion actuates ourselves, I quote Mr. F. C. 
Selous ; who, during an expedition in Canada, roused a caribou 
stag within twenty yards, saw " the dreadful terror " in his 
eyes, and shot him. " Did I feel sorry for what I had done? 
it may be asked. Well ! no, I did not. Ten thousand 
years of superficial and unsatisfying civilisation have not 
altered the fundamental nature of man, and the successful 
hunter of to-day becomes a primeval savage, remorseless, 
triumphant, full of a wild, exultant joy, which none but 
those who have lived in the wilderness, and depended on 
their success as hunters for their daily food, can ever know 
or comprehend." l To the hunter my paradox must seem 
a truism. And that the hunter temporarily released from 
civilised restraints, who suffers such intoxication, merely 
renews old savage raptures is shown by the following curious 
parallel : a Bushman, returning from a successful hunt to 
the wagons of the traveller Baines " Behold me ! " he 
shouted, " the hunter ! Yea, look on me, the killer of 
elephants and mighty bulls ! Behold me, the big elephant, 
the lion ! Look on me, ye Damaras and Makalaka; admire 
and confess that I am a great Bull-calf." 2 

Again, since the interest of the chase culminates in the 
kill for this is the condition of making a meal to kill 
becomes, in some predatory animals, a passion that is often 
gratified without regard to their needs. Wolves often slay 
many more sheep than they devour : a sheep-dog that under- 
goes reversion kills by night the sheep on neighbouring farms 
without any call of hunger ; and, says Mr. Thompson Seton 
(writing of the natives of North Canada), " the mania for 
killing that is seen in so many white men, is evidently a 
relic of savagery; for all these Indians and half-breeds 
are full of it." 3 They fired at everything they saw. The 
tanners of my own pack now long dispersed were very 
iimilar to the Indians'; and the sport of pigeon- or of 

1 Hunting Trips in North America, p. 349. 

2 G. W. Stone, Native Races of South Africa, p. 91. 

3 The Arctic Prairies, p. 20, 


pheasant-shooting has been reduced to its last element- 
skilful slaying. 

The disposition to slay is reinforced, when prey makes 
serious resistance, by anger; and generally by a distinct 
tendency, sometimes called " destructiveness," perhaps a 
latent character derived from the monkeys, and which I 
take to be partly a play-impulse and partly an expression of 

(2) The gregariousness of the pack is variable ; probably, 
amongst wolves, it was much greater anciently than it is 
to-day. There are conflicting statements about the gregari- 
ousness of wolves that have been studied in different countries. 
Couteulx de Canteleu (France) says : " The wolf is an enemy 
of all society ; when they assemble it is not a pacific society, 
but a band of brigands." l Thompson Seton (Canada) says : 
"Wolves are the most sociable of beasts of prey; they 
arrange to render one another assistance. A pack seems to 
be an association of personal acquaintances, and would 
resent the presence of a total stranger." 2 Gregariousness of 
wolves must be reduced by failure of game (as by the destruc- 
tion of bison in North America), and still more by the encroach- 
ments of civilisation (as in France). The primitive human 
pack, probably, was more constantly gregarious than wolves 
are : (a) because its individuals, having no instinctive or 
traditionary knowledge of hunting, were more dependent on 
co-operation; and (b) because the long youth of children 
made it necessary for parents to associate with the pack 
during their nurture else no pack could have existed; for 
whilst wolves are nearly full-grown at eighteen months, apes 
are not mature until the eighth or ninth year. At a later 
period, after the invention of effective weapons, an individual 
became, for many kinds of game, less dependent on co- 
operation ; but by that time, the hunting-grounds of a pack 
were circumscribed by those of other hostile packs ; so that 
no one dared go far alone. 

(3) With gregariousness went, of course, (a) perceptive 
sympathy every animal read instantly in the behaviour of 

1 La Chasse du Loup, p. 21. 

2 Life Histories of Northern Animals, p. 755, 



)thers their feelings and impulses ; (b) contagious sympathy 
the impulses of any animal, expressed in its behaviour, spread 
rapidly to all the rest; and (c) effective sympathy, so far (at 
least) as that all united to defend any associate against 
aggression from outside the pack. Perceptive and con- 
tagious sympathy, however, extend beyond the limits of 
the pack or the species. Most of the higher mammalia can 
read the state of mind of others, though of widely different 
kinds, in their expression and behaviour ; and many are liable 
to have their actions immediately affected by signs of the 
emotional impulses of others, especially fear. These modes 
of sympathy, therefore, though liveliest amongst gregarious 
animals, are not dependent on specific gregariousness. 

(4) The pack has a disposition to aggression upon every 
sort of animal outside the pack, either as prey or as a com- 
petitor for prey : limited no doubt by what we should call 
considerations of prudence or utility ; which must vary with 
the size of the pack, the prowess of its individuals, the 
possession of weapons, etc. After the invention of weapons 
and snares, many savage tribes can kill every sort of animal 
in their habitat, as the palaeolithic Europeans did many 
thousands of years ago. From the outset the human pack 
must have come into competition with the true carnivores, 
must have defended itself against them, may have discovered 
that attack was the safest defence, and may have been 
victorious even without weapons. Mr. G. P. Sanderson 
writes : " It is universally believed by the natives (of South 
India) that the tiger is occasionally killed by packs of wild 
dogs. . . . From what I have seen of their style of hunting, 
and of their power of tearing and lacerating, I think there 
can be no doubt of their ability to kill a tiger. . . . Causes 
of hostility may occasionally arise between the tiger and wild 
dogs through attempted interference with each other's 

>rey." l 

(5) A. hunting-pack, probably, always claims a certain 
territory. This is the first ground of the sense of property, 

1 Wild Beasts of India, pp 275-6. Cf. Casserly, Life on an Indian 
>utpost, pp. 94-5. Brehm says, in Thierleben, that in Russia wolves 
attack and kill the bear. 


so strongly shown by domestic dogs : the territorial claims 
of the half- wild dogs of Constantinople are well known. To 
nourish a pack the hunting-grounds must be extensive. Mr. 
Thompson Seton says that in Canada the wolf has a permanent 
home-district and a range of about fifty miles. 1 Very many 
generations must have elapsed before the deviation of our 
forebears from anthropoid habits resulted in the formation 
of so many packs as to necessitate the practical delimitation 
of hunting-grounds. Then the aggressiveness of the pack 
turned upon strangers of its own species; the first wars 
arose, and perhaps cannibalism on the part of the victors. 
It is certain that, in North America, wolves kill and eat 
foxes, dogs, coyotes ; and it is generally believed that wolves 
will eat a disabled companion; though, according to Mr. 
W. H. Hudson, a wolf will only eat another when it has 
killed that other, and then only as the carrying out of the 
instinct to eat whatever it has killed. 2 It may be so. 

(6) A pack must have a leader, and must devotedly follow 
him as long as he is manifestly the best of the pack; and 
here we have a rudimentary loyalty. 

(7) Every individual must be subservient to the pack, 
as long as it works together ; and this seems to be the ground 
of the " instinct of self-abasement " (McDougall), so far as 
the attitudes involved in such subserviency are due to a 
distinct emotional impulse, and are not rather expressive of 
fear or of devotion. 

(8) The members of the pack must be full of emulation ; 
in order that, when the present leader fails, others may be 
ready to take his place. 

(9) For the internal cohesion of the pack, there must be 
the equivalent of a recognised table of precedence amongst 
its members ; and this is reconciled with the spirit of emula- 
tion, by fighting until each knows his place, followed by 
complete submission on the part of the inferior. Mr. Th. 
Roosevelt says of a pack of dogs employed in bear-hunting, 
" at feeding-time each took whatever his strength permitted, 
and each paid abject deference to whichever animal was his 

1 Life Histories of Northern Animals, p. 754. 

2 Naturalist in La Plata, p. 346, 


known superior in prowess." 1 Mr. W. H. Hudson writes 
of dogs on cattle-breeding establishments on the pampas, 
that he presumes " they are very much like feral dogs and 
wolves in their habits. Their quarrels are incessant; but 
when a fight begins the head of the pack, as a rule, rushes 
to the spot," and tries to part the combatants not always 
successfully. "But from the foremost in strength and power 
down to the weakest there is a gradation of authority ; each 
one knows just how far he can go, which companion he can 
bully when in a bad temper or wishing to assert himself, 
and to which he must humbly yield in his turn." 2 The 
situation reminds one of a houseful of schoolboys, and of 
how ontogeny repeats phylogeny. Where political control 
is very feeble, as in mining camps or backwoods settlements, 
civilised men revert to the same conditions. Fifty years 
ago, " all along the frontier between Canada and the United 
States, every one knew whom he could lick, and who could 
lick him." 3 Amongst Australian aborigines, we are told 
that " precedence counts for very much." 4 

(10) A pack of wolves relies not merely upon running down 
its prey, but resorts to various stratagems to secure it : as 
by surrounding it ; heading it off from cover ; driving it over 
a precipice; arranging relays of pursuers, who take up the 
chase when the first begin to flag; setting some to lie in 
ambush while the rest drive the prey in their direction. 
Such devices imply intelligent co-operation, some means of 
communicating ideas, patience and self-control in the interests 
of the pack and perseverance in carrying out a plan. Failure 
to co-operate effectually is said to be punished with death. 
Primitive man, beginning with more brains than a wolf, 
may be supposed soon to have discovered such arts and to 
have improved upon them. 

(11) When prey has been killed by a pack of wolves, there 
follows a greedy struggle over the carcass, each trying to 
get as big a meal as possible. Mr. Th. Roosevelt writes 

1 Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter, p. 70. 

2 Op. cit., pp. 336-7. 

3 Hiram S. Maxim, My Life, p. 67. 

4 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, p. 388. 


of dogs used in hunting the cougar (puma) : " The relations 
of the pack amongst themselves (when feeding) were those 
of wild beast selfishness. . . . They would all unite in the 
chase and the fierce struggle which usually closed it. But 
the instant the quarry was killed, each dog resumed his 
normal attitude of greedy anger or greedy fear toward the 
others." 1 As this was a scratch pack of hounds, however, 
we cannot perhaps infer that a naturally formed pack of 
wolves is equally discordant, or that the human pack was 
ever normally like that. Galton, indeed, says : " Many 
savages are so unamiable and morose as to have hardly any 
object in associating together, besides that of mutual sup- 
port; " 2 but this is by no means true of all savages. At 
any rate, the steadier supply of food obtained by our race 
since the adoption of pastoral or agricultural economy, with 
other circumstances, has greatly modified the greedy and 
morose attitude in many men and disguised it in others; 
though it reappears under conditions of extreme social 
dislocation, and it is a proverb that " thieves quarrel over 
their plunder." In the original pack such a struggle over 
the prey may have subserved the important utility of elimi- 
nating the weak, and of raising the average strength and 
ferocity. But some custom must have been established for 
feeding the women and. children. No doubt when fruits 
were obtainable, the women and children largely subsisted 
upon them. But the strong instinct of parental care in 
Primates, the long youth of children, and the greater relative 
inferiority of females to males (common to anthropoids and 
savages) than is found amongst dogs and wolves, must have 
made the human pack from the first differ in many ways 
from a pack of wolves. 

So much, then, as to the traits of character established in 
primitive man by his having resorted to co-operative hunting : 
they all plainly persist in ourselves. 

On our intelligence life in the hunting-pack had just as 
revolutionary an influence, as already explained in the first 
chapter. The whole art of hunting had to be learned from 
1 Op. cit., pp. 6-7. 2 Qp. cit., p. 78. 


its rudiments by this enterprising family. With them there 
was no inherited instinct or disposition, and no tradition or 
instruction, as there is with the true -carnivores : they 
depended solely on observation, memory, inference. With 
poor olfactory sense (as usual in apes) prey must be followed 
and inconvenient enemies outwitted, by acquiring a know- 
ledge of their footprints and other visible signs of neighbour- 
hood, and by discrimination of all the noises they make. 
The habits and manners of prey and of enemies, their favourite 
lairs, feeding -grounds and watering-places, their paths through 
forest, marsh, thicket and high grass, must all be learnt : 
so must their speed, endurance, means and methods of 
attack and defence. The whole country within the range 
of the pack must be known, its resources and its difficulties ; 
and whenever new territory was entered, new lessons in all 
these matters had to be learned. This must have entailed 
a rapid natural selection of brains. Only a rapidly develop- 
ing, plastic brain could have been capable of the requisite 
accommodation of behaviour in such conditions : a mechanism 
was required by which more and more new lines of specialised 
reaction were related to numerous newly observed and 
discriminated facts. 

The very crudest weapons may be handled with variable 
dexterity; the best handling must be discovered and prac- 
tised; and this had a high selective value for the hands as 
well as for the brain. Probably crude weapons were very 
early used ; for some monkeys (and baboons generally) throw 
sticks or stones, or roll stones down upon an enemy. In 
Borneo, Wallace came upon a female orang who, " as soon 
as she saw us, began breaking off branches and the great 
spiny fruits [of the durian] with every appearance of rage, 
causing such a shower of missiles as effectually kept us from 
approaching too near the tree. This habit of throwing down 
branches has been doubted; but I have, as here narrated, 
observed it myself on three separate occasions." l The 
importance of the observation consists in its proving the 
existence in an anthropoid of the impulse to use missiles 
under the occasional stress of anger; so that it might be 
1 Malay Archipelago, p, 43. 


expected rapidly to develop under the constant pressure of 
hunger. The use of clubs and stones induced the discrimina- 
tion of the best materials for such weapons, and where they 
could be found ; and, in process of time, brought in a rough 
shaping of them, the better to serve their purposes. Then 
came the invention of snares and pitfalls and the discovery 
of poisons. 

Thus the primitive human, or prehuman mind, was active 
in many new directions; and depending for its skill, not 
upon instinct or imitation, but upon observation and memory 
and inference, it was necessary for it to arrange ideas in a 
definite order before acting upon them, as in making weapons 
or planning a hunt; indefiniteness or confusion in such 
matters was fatal. The contrast between growing memory 
of the past and present experience, between practical ideas 
and the actions realising them that had been suspended until 
the right moment came, furthered the differentiation of 
self-consciousness amidst the world; the contrasts of co- 
operation and greed, of emulation and loyalty and sub- 
mission, of honour and shame, furthered the differentiation 
of self-consciousness amidst the tribe. 

If it be asked how much of all this development attributed 
to the hunting-pack might have been brought about just as 
well by the formation of a defensive herd, such as we see in 
cattle and horses? a definite answer can be given. The 
herd is, of course, marked by (2) gregariousness, (3) per- 
ceptive and contagious sympathy and sometimes effective 
sympathy in common defence, (7) recognition of leaders (all 
herds that travel have leaders), (8) emulation, (9) precedence ; 
but not by (1) interest in the chase and in killing, nor (4) 
aggressiveness, nor (10) strategy and perseverance in attack, 
nor (11) greed; and herd-life affords no conditions for the 
development of intelligence and dexterity, nor for any of the 
physical characters that distinguish man. Herd-life does 
not involve the great and decisive change which is implied 
in the evolution of human nature. We must conceive, then, 
of the primitive human mind as a sort of chimpanzee mind 
adapted to the wolfish conditions of the hunting-pack. 


Wolves themselves have undergone no great development, 
compared (say) with cats, for want of hands and other 
physical advantages which we had to begin with. If some 
species of baboon had taken to the hunting -life, there might 
have been very interesting results. 


The differentiation of the human from the anthropoid 
stock must have begun a long time ago ; as to when it began 
there is no direct evidence ; and even if fossil remains of the 
earlier stages of our evolution had been discovered, we could 
only judge from the strata in which they occurred what 
must have been their relative antiquity. When it comes 
to reducing the chronology of past ages to figures, geologists 
either decline to make any estimate, or the results of their 
calculations may differ as 1 to 10. Since my own studies 
give me no claim to an opinion on such matters, whilst it is 
helpful to have clear ideas, however tentative, I shall adopt 
the views of Dr. Arthur Keith in his work on The Antiquity 
of Man, based on estimates published by Prof. Sollas. 1 On 
turning to p. 509 of that work, a genealogical tree will be 
found, .showing the probable lines of descent of the higher 
Primates. The separation of the human from the great 
anthropoid stock is represented as having happened at about 
the last third of the Oligocene period say 2,000,000 years 
ago (or, according to the later estimate, 3,500,000). Pithec- 
anthropus (of Java) branched off as a distinct genus about 
the middle of the Miocene. Neanderthal man (Homo 
Neanderthalensis) an4 Piltdown man (Eoanthropus Dawsoni) 
separated as distinct species (or genera) from the stock of 
modern man (absurdly named Homo sapiens) early in the 
Pliocene, and became extinct respectively (say) 20,000 and 
300,000 years ago. The races of modern man began to 

1 See the Report of the British Association, 1900, pp. 711-30. The 
author has since then revised his estimates, assigning much greater 
depth to the Pliocene and Miocene deposits and proportionally more 
time for their formation. See the Quarterly Journal of the Geological 
Society, LXV. (1909). 


differentiate near the end of the Pliocene (say) 500,000 years 
from the present time. Such is the " working hypothesis." 

The skull capacity of the great anthropoids averages 500 
c.c. ; that of Pithecanthropus is estimated at 900 c.c. ; the 
Australian native average is 1200 c.c. ; Eoanthropus, accord- 
ing to Dr. Keith, rises to 1400; l a Neanderthal skull has 
been measured at 1600 c.c.; the modern English average 
is under 1500 c.c. Of course, mental power depends not 
on size of the brain only, but also on its differentiation, 
which may have recently advanced. 

As to culture, the Neolithic period, extends in Western 
Europe from about 2000 to 10,000 B.C. : and to that age 
is usually attributed the introduction of agriculture, the 
domestication of animals, pottery, weaving, permanent 
constructed dwellings, and monuments requiring collective 
labour; but some of these improvements may be of earlier 
date. In other parts of the world, e.g. in the Eastern 
Mediterranean region, such culture is probably older, but 
still comparatively recent. What is known as the Palaeolithic 
stage of culture is often supposed to have begun early in the 
second quarter of the Pleistocene period, giving us a retro- 
spect of (say) 300,000 years. But if we include under " Palaeo- 
lithic " all unpolished stone- work that shows clear signs of 
having been executed according to an idea or mental pattern 
(and this seems a reasonable definition), the " rostro-carinate " 
implements must be so called, and then the beginning of this 
culture must be pushed back into the Pliocene. 2 In Pliocene 
(and perhaps Miocene) deposits have further been discovered 
numerous " eoliths " : stones so roughly chipped that they 
do not imply an idea-pattern ; so that, whilst many archaeo- 
logists accept them as of human workmanship, some experts 
dispute their claim to be considered artefacts. Of course, 
there must be eoliths ; the only question is whether we have 
yet unearthed any of them. Our forefathers cannot have 
begun by shaping stones to a definite figure and special 

1 Dr. Smith Woodward's reconstruction gives the skull of Eoan- 
thropus a capacity of about 1300 c.c. 

2 See Ray Lankester's Description of the Teat- Specimen. R.A.I., 
Occasional Papers, No. 4. 



purpose. Beginning with stones taken up as they lay, they 
discovered that a broken stone with a sharp edge inflicted a 
worse wound than a whole one; then broke stones to obtain 
this advantage; used sharp fragments to weight clubs; and 
very slowly advanced to the manufacture of recognisable 
axes and spear-heads, meanwhile discovering other uses for 
flaked stones; and it seems to have needed at least 1,400,000 
(or 2,800,000) years to arrive at the poorest of known palseo- 
liths. This strikingly agrees with the law, often stated, that 
the progress of culture is, by virtue of tradition, cumulative, 
and flows, as a stone falls, with accelerating velocity : in 
spite of the ebb, to which from age to age we see it to be 
liable. At any one time, moreover, the art of stone- working 
was, probably, even in adjacent tribes, at different stages of 
advancement; it depends partly upon the kind of stone 
obtainable ; but it has been only recently that such contrasts 
could occur as Herodotus l describes among the hosts of 
Xerxes : when* beside the well-accoutred Persians and 
Medes, marched Libyans and Mysians armed with wooden 
javelins hardened in the fire, and Ethiopians with stone- 
tipped arrows and spears headed with the sharpened horns of 

The moral of all this is that there was abundant time before 
the rise of Neolithic culture (which may be called the begin- 
ning of civilisation) for the complete adaptation of mankind 
everywhere, by natural selection, to the life of hunters; 
and that, since then, there has not been time for the biological 
adaptation of any race to the civilised state. We shall see 
that natural selection has probably had some civilising 
influence; but any approach to complete adaptation has 
been impossible, not only for want of time, but also because 
of rapid changes in the structure of civilisation, the social 
protection of some eccentrics, the persistence of the hunting- 
life as a second resource or as a pastime, and by the frequent 
recurrence of warfare that is to say, man-hunting. To 
civilisation we are, for the most part, merely accommodated 
by experience, education, tradition and social pressure. A 
few people seem to be adapted to civilised life from their 
1 Book VII. chs. 69, 71, 74. 


birth, and others to the slavish life; but all inherit, more or 
less manifestly, the nature of the hunter and warrior. This 
is a necessary basis of general and social psychology; and 
perhaps tribal or national characters (so far as distinguish- 
able) may be understood by assigning the conditions under 
which they have, in various directions, been modified from 
this type. 

To avoid the appearance of overlooking an obvious objec- 
tion, I may add that the life of the hunter does not imply 
an exclusively carnivorous diet, but merely that hunting is 
the activity upon which his faculties .are bent and upon 
which his livelihood chiefly depends. It is most unlikely 
that a cousin of the frugivorous anthropoids should entirely 
give up. his ancestral food, immediately, or perhaps at any 
time. Even the diet of the wolf, in North-East Canada, 
includes "much fruit, especially the uva-ursi"; and the 
coyote there also eats berries; l so does the jackal in India. 
Savage women everywhere subsist largely on- roots and fruits. 
Dr. Keith says the teeth and jaws of the Neanderthal species 
were adapted to a coarse vegetable diet. 2 Yet the Neander- 
thal burials at La Ferrasie, La Chapelle aux Saints, Jersey 
and Krapina, with their implements and animal remains, 
leave no doubt that the species hunted the biggest game. At 
Krapina, besides mammoth and rhinoceros, " the cave-bear 
occurred abundantly, it was evidently a favourite article 
of diet " : the inhabitants were not fanatical vegetarians. 


Between the remote age when our hypothetical ancestor 
became a hunter and the time to which probably belong the 
remains of the oldest known men, there lies a gap of (say) 
one (or two) and a half million years, concerning which we 
have not only no direct evidence but not even any parallel 
in the world by means of which to apply the comparative 
method. Just at the beginning, the parallel of the wolf- 
pack sheds some light upon our path; but the light soon 

1 E. Thompson Seton, The Arctic Prairies, pp. 304 and 352. 

2 Op. cit. t pp. 151, 239, 476. 


grows faint; for the primitive human, from the first more 
intelligent than wolves, and inheriting from the ape-stock 
qualities of character which the new life greatly modified 
but could not extirpate, must under pressure of selection 
have become, after not many ages, an animal unlike any other. 
Just at the end, again, something concerning those who 
lived many thousand years before the beginning of history 
may be inferred from the parallel of existing savage customs ; 
from their rock-dwellings, drawings, tools, weapons, hearths, 
something about their way of life; from evidence of their 
burial-customs, something of their beliefs. But what can 
be said of our ancestors during all those years that intervene 
between the beginning and the end ? 

Having been a hunter at the first and at the last, we may 
reasonably suppose that he had been so all the time. But, 
with our present knowledge, our chief guide as to other 
matters seems to be the fact that the most backward of 
existing savages possess powers of body and mind, and 
forms and products of culture, which must have been acquired 
gradually through a long course of development from no 
better origins than are traceable in apes and wolves. As 
the use of good stone weapons by living savages and the 
occurrence of stone weapons in deposits of various age in the 
Pleistocene less and less perfectly made the further we 
go back justify us in assuming that there must have been 
eoliths of even cruder workmanship at remoter dates, so the 
possession by savages of extensive languages, intricate cus- 
toms, luxuriant myths, considerable reasoning powers and 
even humane sentiments, compel us to imagine such posses- 
sions as belonging to our prehistoric ancestors, in simpler 
and simpler forms, as we go back age by age toward the 
beginning. A tentative reconstruction of the lost series 
of events may sometimes be supported by what has been 
observed of the individual development of our children. 

(a) For example, the constructive impulse, slightly shown 
by anthropoids that make beds and shelters in the trees, 
was called into activity in man especially in the making 
of weapons, tools and snares, and became an absorbing 

ission ; so that a savage (often accused of being incapable 


of prolonged attention !) will sit for days working at a spear 
or an axe : they are inattentive only to what does not 
interest them. Many children from about the sixth year 
come under the same sort of fascination digging, building, 
making bows and arrows, boats and so forth. This is a 
necessary preparation for all the achievements of civilised 
life ; and it is reasonable to suppose that the stages of growth 
of such interest in construction are indicated by the improve- 
ment of ancient implements. 

(b) As to language in the most general sense, as the 
communication of emotions and ideas by vocal sounds the 
rudiments of it are widespread in animal life. A sort of dog- 
language is recognised, and monkeys seem to have a still 
greater " vocabulary." Hence, a number of emotional 
vocal expressions was probably in use among the primitive 
human stock. And the new hunting-life was favourable 
to the development of communicative signs ; for it depended 
on co-operation, which is wanting in ape-life, and in the 
lower extant savages hardly exists, except in hunting, war, 
and magical or religious rites. Hunting, moreover, is (as 
I have said) especially encouraging to onomatopoeic expres- 
sion in imitating the noises of animals, etc. It was still more 
favourable, perhaps, to the growth of gesture-language in 
imitating the behaviour of animals and the actions involved 
in circumventing and attacking them. Increasing powers 
of communication were extremely useful, and the pack must 
have tried to develop them. Without the endeavour to 
communicate, there could never have been a language better 
than the ape's; nor could there have been the endeavour 
without the need. That gesture alone was very helpful 
may be assumed; and it must have assisted in fixing the 
earliest vocal signs for things and actions and qualities, and 
probably determined the earliest syntax; but when, in 
hunting, members of the pack were hidden from one another, 
or when their hands were occupied, gesture was not avail- 
able, and communication depended on the voice. The speech 
of children similarly emerges from emotional noises and 
impulsive babbling, assisted by gesture. 

Passing to later ages, we cannot expect to learn much 


about the speech of prehistoric men, whom we know only 
by a few bones. As to the Java skull, Dr. Keith observes 
that " the region of the brain which subserves the essentially 
human gift of speech, was not ape-like in Pithecanthropus. 
The parts for speech are there; they are small, but clearly 
foreshadow the arrangement of convolutions seen in modern 
man." On the other hand, " the higher association areas . . . 
had not reached a human level." l The jaw of this skull 
not having been found, nothing can be said of its fitness for 
carrying out the process of articulation. As to Eoanthropus, 
" if our present conception of the orbital part of the third 
frontal convolution is well founded, namely, that it takes 
part in the mechanism of speech, then we have grounds for 
believing that the Piltdown man had reached that point of 
brain-development when speech had become a possibility. 
When one looks at the lower jaw, however, and the projecting 
canine teeth, one hesitates to allow him more than a potential 
ability." 2 The jaw had not undergone the characteristic 
changes which in modern man give freedom to the tongue 
in the articulation of words. 3 But Dr. Keith " cannot 
detect any feature in the frontal, parietal or occipital areas 
which clearly separate this brain-cast from modern ones." 4 
Eoanthropus, therefore, must have had a good deal to say 
and, being a social animal, must have felt the need of expres- 
sion; and, though he was not a direct ancestor of ours, it 
can hardly be doubted that at some period the jaws of our 
own ancestors were no better adapted than his to articulate 
speech. May we not infer that articulate speech, meeting 
a need of the stock, arose very gradually, and was slowly 
differentiated from some less definite and structural con- 
nection of expressive and onomatopoeic vocables, such as 
we have seen may naturally have arisen amongst the earliest 
hunters ? Pari passu the jaw was modified. 

(c) All savages live by custom; gregarious animals have 
their customs; and in the primitive hunting-pack customs 
must have been early established as " conditions of gregari- 
ousness." M. Salomon Reinach, indeed, thinks that the 

1 Antiquity of Man, p. 268. 2 A. Keith, op. cit., p. 408. 

3 Op. cit., p. 452. 4 Op. cit., p. 414. 


anthropoid probably became human as the result of inventing 
taboos, especially in sexual relations; there was economy 
of nervous energy in the direction of the senses, and conse- 
quent enrichment of the intellect. 1 His hypothesis does not 
carry us far, perhaps, into the particulars of human form 
and faculty; but it contains this truth, that without the 
growth of customs there could have been no progress for 
human nature; and it certainly points to the probability 
that some custom was early established with regard to 
marriage. In Prof. Westermarck's opinion our species was 
originally monogamous. 2 Supposing this to have been the 
custom, as it is amongst many Primates, could it have 
persisted after the formation of the hunting-pack ? Accord- 
ing to Mr. Thompson Seton, wolves pair " probably for life " ; 3 
but this is disputed ; and so it is whether or no the male of 
a seasonal pair takes part in caring for the puppies. 4 Of the 
primitive human stock one may say that whilst, on the one 
hand, the association of many males and females in the 
same pack may have tended to break up the family, on the 
other hand, the long youth of the children and the parental 
care generally characteristic of Primates would have tended 
to preserve it; that the practice of pairing requires the 
largest number of males (setting aside polyandry), and 
lessens quarrelling, and is therefore favourable to the strength 
of the pack ; and that any custom may have been established 
that was most favourable to the species in its new life. The 
least probable of all conditions is promiscuity; for the 
rearing of children with their ever-lengthening youth must 
have been difficult, taxing the care of both parents. 

(d) The claim to property is instinctive in most animals 
claim to a certain territory, or to a nest, or lair, or mate. 
Each early human pack probably claimed a certain hunting- 
range; and each family its lair, which it guarded, as our 
domestic dog guards the house. In Australia " every tribe 
has its own country, and its boundaries are well known; 

1 Cultes, Mythes et Religion, III. p. 430. 

2 Primitive Marriage, ch. iii. 

3 Life Histories of Northern Animals, p. 757. 

4 See above, 3 (4), footnote, p. 37. 


and they are respected by others " ; 1 and the Bushmen, 
who retained the ancient hunting-life more perfectly than 
any other known people, are said to have been formerly 
divided into large tribes with well-defined hunting-grounds. 2 
As weapons or other implements, charms, or ornaments 
came into use, the attitude toward the territory or lair will 
have been extended to include them; indeed, it seems to be 
instinctive even in lower Primates. " In the Zoological 
Gardens," says Darwin, " a monkey, which had weak teeth, 
used to break open nuts with a stone; and I was assured 
by the keepers that, after using the stone, he hid it in the 
straw, and would not let any other monkey touch it. Here, 
then, we have the idea of property." 3 Among the half- wolf 
train-dogs of Canada, the claims of one to property seem 
to be recognised by others; for a dog will defend its cache 
of food against another that ordinarily it fears; and "the 
bigger dog rarely presses the point." 4 The utility of keeping 
the peace within the tribe, no doubt, led to the growth of 
customs concerning property, and to their protection by the 
social sanction, and later by the taboo. 5 For taboo cannot 
be the origin of respect for property or for any custom : it 
implies a custom already existing, which it protects by the 
growth of a belief in some magical penalty that is effective 
even when there are no witnesses. The same utility of order 
must have established customs of dividing the kill of the 
pack : later also protected by taboo, as we still see in many 
savage tribes. 

The attitude towards property is very variable amongst 
the tribes now known to us. Still, considering how early 
and strongly it is manifested by children, we may infer with 
some plausibility its antiquity in the race. The urgent desire 
of property, and tenacity in holding it, displayed by many 
individuals, though not an amiable, has been a highly useful 
trait, to which is due that accumulation of capital that has 
made possible the whole of our material and much of our 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, p. 198. 

2 G. W. Stone, Native Races of South Africa, p. 33. 

3 Descent of Man, ch. iii. 

4 E. Thompson Seton Life Histories of Northern Animals, p. 769. 

5 E. Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, II. p. 52. 


spiritual civilisation. Amongst barbarians it may be a 
necessary condition of social order. Had not wealth been 
highly prized amongst our own ancestors, it is hard to see 
how revenge could ever have been appeased by the wergeld. 
The payment, indeed, was not the whole transaction; it 
implied an acknowledgment of guilt and of the obligation 
to make amends; but these things would not have mollified 
an enemy nurtured in the tradition of the blood-feud, if 
silver had not been dear to him. It is still accepted as 
compensation for injuries that seem difficult to measure by 
the ounce. Wealth gives rank, and gratifies not only the 
greed but also the emulative spirit of the pack. Acquisitive- 
ness is an essential trait of aristocracy, and adhesiveness of 
its perpetuity. Homespun prudence belongs, in our ancestry, 
to a more recent stratum of motives ; we see it as a blind 
instinct in squirrels and beavers, a quasi-instinctive pro- 
pensity in dogs and wolves (who hide food that they cannot 
immediately devour) ; but it is not known in any anthropoid, 
and is acquired at some stage by some human races not 
by all ; for it is not found in many extant savages. The only 
occasion on which Australian tribes show prudential foresight 
as to food is on the approach of the season of magical rites, 
when they lay in a stock of food before giving themselves 
up for weeks or months body and soul to thaumaturgy, 1 
Prudence is not, however, merely a function of foresight or 
intelligence, or else the Irish would be as prudent as the 

(e) The first wars, probably, were waged for hunting- 
grounds ; and this may have been a revival, for the carnivorous 
anthropoid pack, of a state of affairs that existed amongst 
their ancestors at a much earlier date; for battles for a 
feeding-ground have been witnessed between troops of the 
lower Primates. Such a battle between two bands of langur 
(Semnopiihecus entellus) has been described; 2 and Darwin 
relates after Brehm how " in Abyssinia, when baboons of one 
species (C. geladd) descend in troops from the mountains to 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Northern Territory of 
Australia, p. 27. 

2 Royal Natural History, I. pp. 72-3. 


plunder the fields, they sometimes encounter troops of 
another species (C. hamadryas], and then a fight ensues. 
The Geladas roll down great stones, which the Hamadryas 
try to avoid, and then both species, making a great uproar, 
rush furiously against each other." l As packs of the wolf- 
ape increased in numbers and spread over the world, they 
no doubt generally came to regard one another as rivals upon 
the same footing as the great cats and packs of dogs, and 
every attempt at expansion or migration provoked a battle. 
Wars strengthened the internal sympathies and loyalties of 
the pack or tribe and its external antipathies, and extended 
the range and influence of the more virile and capable tribes. 

It is true that neighbouring tribes of savages are not 
now always mutually hostile. In Australia, we are told, 
local groups and adjacent tribes are usually friendly; 2 
but with them the age of expansion seems to have closed 
some time ago, and a sort of equilibrium has been estab- 
lished. On the other hand, it is a shallow sort of profundity 
that insists upon interpreting every war as a struggle for 
nutrition, an effort to solve the social problem. Aggressive- 
ness and insatiable greed are characteristic of many tribes 
passions always easily exploited by their leaders, as in the 
civilised world by dynasts and demagogues. Plethora is 
more insolent than poverty. Lust of power, of glory, of 
mere fighting is a stronger incentive than solicitude for the 

However, in the development of society nothing has been 
so influential as war : an immense subject, for the outlines 
of which I refer to Herbert Spencer's Political Institutions.^ 

(/) Most of the amusements as well as the occupations of 
mankind depend for their zest upon the spirit of hunting and 
fighting, which they gratify and relieve, either directly or 
in a conventionalised and symbolical way, and at the same 
time keep alive. Sports and games involve the pursuit of 
some end by skill and strategy, often the seizing upon some 
sort of prey, or slaying outright, and they give scope to 

1 Descent of Man, ch. iii. 

2 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, p. 200. 

3 Principles of Sociology, Vol. II. 


emulation. Emulation is a motive in the race for wealth, 
in every honourable career, even in addiction to science and 
learning : though here the main stress is upon an instinct 
older than the pack curiosity, a general character of the 
Primates. That children at first play alone, later play 
together, and then " make up sides," repeats the change 
from the comparatively solitary life of anthropoids to the 
social life and combined activities of the hunting-pack. 
From the interest of the chase and the aggressiveness that is 
involved in it must be derived all that we call " enterprise," 
whether beneficent or injurious : a trait, certainly, which 
there is little reason to regard as inherited from the anthropoid 

(g) The great amusement and pastime of feeding has, no 
doubt, descended to us in unbroken tradition, through 
harvest and vintage festivals, from the unbridled indulgence 
that followed a successful hunt. And I offer the conjecture 
that the origin of laughter and the enjoyment of broad 
humour (so often discussed) may be traced to these occasions 
of riotous exhilaration and licence. We may suppose, 
indeed, that these conditions began to prevail not in the 
earliest days of the ravenous pack, but after some advance 
had been made in the customs of eating. Savages usually 
cram to repletion when possible, and with huge gusto, for 
there may not soon be another opportunity. If uproarious 
feasting was advantageous physically and socially (as till 
recently we all thought it was), addiction to the practice 
was a ground of survival; and laughter (a discharge of 
undirected energy, as Spencer says), being its natural expres- 
sion and enhancement, shared in its perpetuation. This 
social origin agrees with the infectiousness of laughter, with 
its connection with triumph and cruelty, and with the quality 
of the jokes that still throughout the world excite most 
merriment practical jokes and allusions to drunkenness, the 
indecorous, the obscene. Sir Robert Walpole preferred such 
humour as the most sociable; because in that everybody 
could take part. Many refinements have been introduced 
in polite circles; but it is in vain that one begins a theory 
of laughter with an analysis of the genius of Moliere. 


Similarly, I suppose that weeping, lamentation and the 
facial and bodily expressions of grief were developed by the 
social utility of common mourning in tribal defeat and 


We are left to speculate about the earliest growth of 
magnanimity, friendliness, compassion, general benevolence 
and other virtues. They cannot be explained merely by the 
hunting-life, which so easily accounts for greed, cruelty, 
pride and every sort of aggressiveness. Robert Hartmann 
writes : " It is well known that both rude and civilised peoples 
are capable of showing unspeakable and, as it is erroneously 
termed, inhuman cruelty towards each other. These acts 
of cruelty, murder and rapine are often the result of the 
inexorable logic of national characteristics and, unhappily, 
are truly human, since nothing like them can be traced in 
the animal world. It would, for instance, be a grave mistake 
to compare a tiger with a bloodthirsty executioner of the 
Reign of Terror, since the former only satisfies his natural 
appetite in preying on other animals. The atrocities of the 
trials for witchcraft, the indiscriminate slaughter committed 
by the Negroes on the coast of Guinea, the sacrifice of human 
victims by the Khonds, the dismemberment of living men by 
the Battus, find no parallel in the habits of animals in their 
savage state. And such a comparison is, above all, im- 
possible in the case of anthropoids, which display no hostility 
toward men or other animals unless they are first attacked. 
In this respect the anthropoid ape stands upon a higher plane 
than many men." 1 Are we, then, to explain the more amiable 
side of human nature, .partly at least, by derivation from 
the frugivorous Primates, extensively modified by our wolfish 
adaptation, but surviving as latent character ? 

(a) Several further considerations may be offered to account 

for the growth of what we call humanity, (i) The long 

non-age of human children is favourable to the attachments 

of family life, and such attachments may under certain 

1 Anthropoid Apes, pp. 294-5. 


conditions be capable of extension beyond the family; but 
I cannot trace the whole flood of altruistic regard to the sole 
source of maternal or parental love, (ii) Friendliness and the 
disposition to mutual aid are so useful to a hunting-pack 
that is not merely seasonal but permanent (as I take ours 
to have been), both to individuals and to the pack as a 
whole, within certain limits (as that the wounded, sick, or 
aged must not amount to an encumbrance), that we may 
suppose natural selection to have favoured the growth of 
effective sympathy, not merely in mutual defence, but so 
far as it is actually found at present in backward tribes. 
It nowhere seems to be excessive; and its manifestation in 
some civilised races seems to depend not upon a positive 
increase of benevolence in the generality, but (iii) upon the 
breaking down here and there of conditions that elsewhere 
oppose and inhibit it. Thus the generosity, mercy and 
magnanimity that constitute the chivalrous ideal, depend 
(I believe) upon the attainment by a class of such undis- 
puted superiority that there is no occasion for jealousy or 
rivalry in relation to other classes ; for should the superiority 
be disputed, these virtues quickly disappear. Similarly, 
what have been called the " slavish virtues " of charity, 
humility, long-suffering may arise amongst those who are 
free from rivalry, because they have no hope of aggrandise- 
ment in wealth or honour, and who have indeed suffered 
long. With the interfusion of classes, their virtues interfuse ; 
for they have a common root, and are active, provided that 
circumstances do not inhibit them. 

(iv) But since in individuals our complex nature varies 
in all directions, and amongst the rest in the direction of 
benevolence; and since any organ or quality that varies 
is apt to continue to do so, and may go on varying even 
beyond the limits of biological utility; why in human life 
may not this happen with benevolence (or with any other 
passion or virtue); so that in some men it expands with 
wonderful richness and beauty even to the sacrifice of them- 
selves nay, by excessive clemency or generosity, even to 
the injury of the tribe or of the race ? 

(b) The moral sense or conscience has been discussed by 


Darwin l " exclusively from the side of natural history " ; 
so as this is the way of considering human nature in the 
present book, I shall epitomise his account of it; which 
seems to be true, and to which I see little to add. He finds 
four chief conditions of the growth of a moral sense : (a) the 
social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in the society 
of its fellows, to sympathise with them and to help them. 
(b) When the mind is highly developed, images of past 
actions and motives continually recur; "and that feeling 
of dissatisfaction or even misery which invariably results . . . 
from any dissatisfied instinct would arise as often as it was 
perceived that the enduring and always present social instinct 
had yielded to some other instinct, at the time stronger, but 
neither enduring in its nature nor leaving behind it a very 
vivid impression " as with anger or greed, (c) After language 
has been acquired, public opinion can be expressed, and 
becomes the paramount guide of action; though still "our 
regard for the approbation and disapprobation of our fellows 
depends on sympathy." (d) Social instinct, sympathy and 
obedience to the judgment of the community are strengthened 
by the formation of habit. Darwin then proves successively 
these four positions. 

Seeing the stress here laid upon sympathy, it may make 
the matter clearer if we observe that the word occurs in 
different senses for the participation in another's satisfaction 
or distress (emotional sympathy) and readiness to help 
(effective sympathy) ; and these are the meanings under (a), 
the first of the above heads : and, again, for the knowledge 
that there are ideas or judgments in another's mind together 
with approval or disapproval of our actions; and this is 
the meaning under (c), the third head. But knowledge of 
another's thoughts is not sympathy, except so far as, being 
accompanied with assent to his judgment, there is participation 
in his feelings of approval or disapproval ; and, if we dissent 
from his judgment, there may, indeed, be perceptive sympathy 
as to his feelings, but there is no emotional sympathy or 
participation in them there is rather fear or resentment. 
It is necessary to bear in mind that perception of another's 
1 Descent of Man, ch. iv. 


feelings, participation in them and impulse to help or relieve 
are separable processes, and that perceptive sympathy is 
as active in cruelty as in generosity or mercy. 

It may be added that (b), the second of the four conditions 
assigned by Darwin as determining the growth of the moral 
sense or conscience, accounts more especially for " remorse 
of conscience " ; and that (c), the third condition, explains 
that tone of authority attaching to conscience on which 
Bishop Butler laid so much stress. 1 

How early the moral sense began to form itself in our stock 
cannot be estimated because it must have been a very 
gradual process. Probably the rudiments of it appeared in 
the family life of the ape even before our differentiation; 
and the authoritative character of conscience established 
itself under the discipline of the hunting-pack before there 
was much development of mind (for dogs know what theft 
is), and under pressure of a public opinion that managed to 
express itself without language. In an original and sug- 
gestive book 2 Mr. Trotter has shown that a herd (pack, 
tribe or nation) necessarily approves of whatever actions are 
done in its interests as good or right, and disapproves of the 
contrary actions as bad or wrong. Confident that its beliefs 
and customs are good and right, the pack persecutes dissenters 
and nonconformists. " Good " is a relative idea. " ' The 
good are good warriors and hunters,' said a Pawnee chief; 
whereupon the author who mentions the saying remarks 
that this would also be the opinion of a wolf if he could 
express it." 3 Hence we may guess the principal contents 
of the primitive categorical imperative. The study of 
Ethnology and History enables us to trace the modification 
and enrichment of those contents under varying conditions 
of culture, and for the results of such study I refer to Edward 
Westermarck's Origin and Development of Moral Ideas. 

(c) After the introduction of agriculture, the stress of 
natural selection was in certain directions altered. At first, 
indeed, most agricultural work, probably, was done by 
women ; but in its progress it fell extensively into the hands 

1 Sermons on Human Nature. - The Herd Instinct. 

3 Tylor, Primitive Culture, II. p. 89. 


of men; and then advantage accrued to those tribes that 
were capable of steady industry and prudence. The new 
employment decreased aggression on the principle that " had 
Alexander been holding the plough, he could not have run 
his friend Clitus through with a spear." The sick and aged 
were now less an encumbrance than they had been to hunters. 
Those who could not endure a settled life wandered away 
in their old pursuits. The more aggressive clans slaughtered 
one another in the vendetta. Social pressure and hanging 
eliminated many of the more idle, improvident, dishonest 
and unruly, whose instincts resisted " accommodation." 
The more neighbourly and co-operative tended to predominate. 
As civilisation intensifies, the numerous ways of getting a 
livelihood, which (as we have seen) derive their motive-force 
from the spirit of the pack, gratify that spirit under so many 
disguises and with so little direct personal collision, as to be 
compatible with a great deal of friendliness and benevolence ; 
and co-operation, direct or indirect, steadily increases. 

(d) Increasing capacity of forming ideas of remote ends 
and of co-ordinating many activities in their pursuit, implies 
the inhibition of many aggressive or distracting impulses, 
and constitutes an automatic control. And although it is 
now fashionable to depreciate the power of intelligence in 
human life, surely, its development has had great influence. 
As men come to foresee the many consequences of action 
they learn to modify and regulate it, as each foreseen conse- 
quence excites some impulse, either reinforcing or inhibiting 
action. Reflection upon our lot has done much to ameliorate 
it. The " conditions of gregariousness " (to use W. K. 
Clifford's definition of morality) have been expounded by 
the more penetrating and comprehensive minds prophets, 
poets, philosophers; and some disciples have understood 
them and have persuaded many to believe. Nor have such 
luminaries arisen only in the later phases of culture when 
their writings have been delivered or their sayings recorded. 
Probably it was some one man who first pointed out to a 
tribe that had ignored the fact, that whether a wrong had 
been done by accident or on purpose affected the agent's 
guilt and ought to affect the penalty exacted. Some one 


man, probably, first saw what injustice is often disguised by 
the specious equality of the lex talionis ; another first tried 
to assuage the bitterness of a vendetta by appointing com- 
pensation; another, perhaps first proposed to substitute 
animal for human sacrifice, or a puppet for a slave. And 
when we read the lists of sagacious proverbs that have been 
collected from many savage tribes, we must consider that 
it was by eminent individuals that those sayings were first 
uttered one by one : individuals with the gifts of insight and 
expression to summarise the experience of a whole tribe in 
memorable words, rude forerunners of our prophets and 


The necessity of learning the whole art of hunting from its 
rudiments, without the help of instinct or tradition, by sheer 
observation, memory and inference, put extraordinary stress 
upon the brain. At first by knowledge, strategy, co-operation 
and persistence of will, later by devising weapons and snares, 
evolving language and discovering the ways of making and 
utilising fire, man found means of entirely changing the 
conditions of his life; but this would have been impossible 
without a great development of his brain ; and, accordingly, 
it appears that Eoanthropus, at the beginning of the Pleisto- 
cene, had a skull with three times the cubic capacity of the 
anthropoids. With the growth of the brain came a con- 
tinually increasing fecundity of ideas. " Piltdown man saw, 
heard, felt, thought, and dreamt much as we do." l The 
use of ideas is to foresee events and prepare for them before- 
hand : the great advantage of distance-senses over contact- 
senses, is to give an animal time to adapt its actions to 
deferred events ; and ideas give this power in a vastly higher 
degree. So far the utility of brains and ideas seems obvious. 
But in order that ideas may be useful in this way, they 
must (one would suppose) represent and anticipate the 
actual course of events. If they falsely indicate the order 

1 A. Keith, op. cit., p. 429. * 


of nature, or even beings and actions that do not exist at 
all, ideas may seem to be worse than useless. 

Now, when we turn to the lowest existing savages, they 
are found to possess, in comparison with apes, a considerable 
fecundity of ideas; constituting, on the one hand, a good 
stock of common sense, or knowledge of the properties and 
activities of the things and animals around them, and of 
how to deal with them, which enables them to carry on the 
affairs of a life much more complex and continuous than 
any animal's : but including, on the other hand, a strange 
collection of beliefs about magic and spirits, which entirely 
misrepresent the course of nature and the effective population 
of the world. These latter beliefs, or imaginative delusions, 
hamper them in so many ways, waste so much time, lead 
them sometimes into such dark and cruel practices, that 
one may be excused for wondering whether their bigger 
brains can have been, on the whole, of any biological advan- 
tage to them in comparison with the anthropoids. The 
anthropoids live by common sense. So do savages, and they 
have much more of it; but the anthropoids seem not to be 
troubled by magic and animism. We must suppose that 
the common sense of primitive man increased age by age, 
as he became more and more perfectly adapted to the hunt- 
ing-life, and that at some stage his imagination began to 
falsify the relations of things and the powers of nature. It 
seems that imagination-beliefs depend chiefly upon the 
influence of desire and fear, suggestibility, hasty generalisa- 
tion, and the seduction of reasoning by analogy. At what 
stage imaginations, thus divorced from reality, began to 
influence human life, it is impossible to say; but it cannot 
be less than half a million years ago, if (as Dr. Keith says) 
Eoanthropus, 400,000 years ago, " thought and dreamt 
much as we do." Why did not such delusions hinder our 
development? Or did they promote it? 

The first consideration is, that biological adaptation is 
nearly always a compromise : if any organ or faculty be 
useful on the whole, in spite of some disutility, its increase 
favours the survival of those in whom it increases; and 
this is true of the brain and its thinking. The second is, 


that nearly all the magical and animistic beliefs and practices 
that are socially destructive, probably belong to a stage of 
human life that is attained long after our differentiation 
has been established, and when some progress has been made 
in arts and customs. Savages of the lowest culture have 
few beliefs that can be called positively injurious. Talismans 
and spells, not by themselves relied upon, but only adsci- 
titious to common-sense actions, give confidence without 
weakening endeavour. To curse, or to " point the bone," 
does not create but merely expresses a malevolent purpose ; 
and, although sometimes fatal by suggestion, is on the whole 
better than to assassinate. Taboos do more good by pro- 
tecting person and property and custom than they do harm 
by restricting the use of foods. Belief in imaginary evils 
waiting upon secret sins exerts, whilst supporteTrby social 
unanimity, a control upon all kinds of behaviour : it is the 
beginning of the " religious sanction," and one sort of con- 
science. The dread of spirits that prowl at night keeps people 
in the family-cave or by the camp-fire; and that is the 
best place for them. Many rites and observances are sanitary. 
Totemism rarely does any harm, and may once have usefully 
symbolised the unity of social groups. Totemic and magical 
dances give excellent physical training, promote the spirit 
of co-operation, are a sort of drill; and (like all art), whilst 
indulging, they also restrain imagination by imposing upon 
it definite forms. For a long time there was no special 
profession of wizard or priest, with whose appearance most 
of the evil of magic and animism originates ; though probably 
even they generally do more good than harm by their courage 
and sagacity, by discovering drugs and poisons, by laying 
ghosts, and by their primitive studies in medicine and 

The wizard, however, and the priest, who could never have 
existed but for the prevalent beliefs in Magic and Animism, 
have a further and far more important function in human 
life, namely, the organisation, or rather reorganisation of 
society. The organisation of the hunting-pack described 
above was liable through several causes to fall asunder. Some 
of these causes are obvious : (a) The improvement of weapons 


and snares and discovery of poisons made very small parties, 
or even single families, self-sufficing as among the Bushmen 
(though they sometimes assembled for a grand hunt). 1 (b) 
Failure of game from desiccation, as in Australia, or because 
the tribe has been driven into a poor country like Tierra del 
Fuego; so that a small population is scattered over a wide 
area, and reduced to a greater or less dependence on " collect- 
ing." (c) The adoption of even a primitive agricultural or 
pastoral life may make hunting a secondary interest. In 
such cases the natural leaders of a clan are no longer (as in 
the old pack) plainly indicated ; and if society is to be saved 
from anarchy, some new control must establish itself for the 
preservation of tradition and custom. Conceivably this 
happened in several ways; but in fact (I believe) we know 
of only one, namely : First, the rule of wizards, who are 
chiefly old men credited with mysterious power that makes 
the boldest tribesman quail, such as the headmen and elders 
of an Australian tribe. In New Guinea, too, and much of 
Melanesia, the power of rulers, even though recognised as of 
noble birth, depends chiefly upon their reputation for Magic. 
And among the Bushmen secrets about poisons and antidotes 
and colours for painting (probably considered magical) were 
heirlooms in certain families of chiefs, and gave them caste. 2 
Secondly, at a later stage, as the belief in ghosts more and 
more prevails, and ancestral ghosts are worshipped, and 
ghosts of heroes or chiefs become veritable gods, the priests 
who celebrate their worship strengthen the position of chiefs 
or kings descended from these gods, and help to maintain 
more comprehensive and coherent governments than those 
established upon Magic only; though to these later forms, 
also, and to Religion itself magical beliefs contribute their 
support. The inevitable development of illusory imagina- 
tions along with common sense, then, assisted early and 
also later culture, because they preserved order and cohesion 
by re-arousing the ancient submission and loyalty of the 
pack. For common sense is always limited to present con- 
ditions, it could never have foreseen the dependence of 

1 G. M. Theal, History and Ethnology of South Africa, p. 11. 

2 G. W. Stone, Native Races of South Africa, p. 76. 


human life upon order and the necessity of maintaining 
cohesion even at great immediate sacrifices. These interests 
were, therefore, served indirectly through delusions ; natural 
selection must, within certain limits, have favoured the super- 
stitious. Excessively imaginative and superstitious tribes 
may sometimes have been eliminated ; for common sense also 
has biological utility. But, perverse as it may seem, imagina- 
tions utterly false have had their share in promoting " pro- 
gress " : co-operating with agriculture and trade, magic, 
religions and the fine arts have, by supporting government 
and civil order, helped in accommodating us, and even in 
some measure adapting us, to our present condition, such as 
it is. 



INASMUCH as the influence of superstition upon the history 
of society can hardly be exaggerated, it must be worth while 
to inquire into its origin and nature. But this inquiry leads 
into a quagmire of ambiguous words : and to attempt to 
define them for all purposes would entangle the discussion 
in endless controversies. So it will be best to explain merely 
in what sense certain words will be used in this book. " Super- 
stition," for example, means in common use (I think) false 
beliefs concerning supernatural powers, especially such as 
are regarded as socially injurious, and particularly as leading 
to obscurantism or cruelty : but it is often extended to cover 
beliefs of ~a negligible or frivolous kind, such as stories about 
" fairy-rings," or the unluckiness of seeing the new moon 
for the first time through glass. Plainly the injuriousness * 
of a false belief is often in dispute, and at any rate is a question 
of time and place. " Superstition," then, is here used merely 
as a collective term for the subjects of the ensuing chapters 
Magic (or the belief in occult forces) and Animism (or the 
belief in the activity of spirits). 

The consequences of a belief, again, whether good or evil, 
cannot affect its psychological character : in trying to explain 
its nature and origin, one cannot take account of its social 
values. The explanation of superstitions must hold of 
all false beliefs, whatever their utility or disutility. Nay, 
further, whether a belief is false or true does not necessarily 
affect its psychological character : for a man may hold two 
doctrines, one true and the other false, both derived from the \ 
sincere testimony of the same person, and he may not be 



able to discern any difference in the degrees of confidence 
with which he holds them or in their influence upon his con- 
duct. The understanding of false belief, then, requires an 
examination of belief in general. 

Still, whilst in the mind of any given man a true and a 
false belief may have the same character and origin, considered 
generally they must surely have different origins and grounds ; 
and to make the sequel clearer, I will anticipate its conclusions 
so far as to say that true beliefs seem to rest on perception 
or inferences verified by perception, and false beliefs seem to 
depend upon imagination that cannot be verified. This 
general statement will need several * qualifications. But I 
rely upon it at present so far as to say that superstitions are 
essentially imagination-beliefs. 

We shall find that these superstitions, though often held 
by whole tribes with the utmost assurance, differ in some subtle 
way from the perception-beliefs of their common sense, 
as that " fire burns " and that " water quenches fire." They 
are unstable : (1) they become active on occasions, and other- 
wise are apt to be forgotten as ghosts are only thought of 
at night. (2) They are modifiable merely for the sake of 
economy or other convenience. (3) They lose their hold on 
a tribe, fall off and die in course of time without any change 
in the evidence for them. (4) They depend a good deal upon 
the assent of a crowd. (5) They often vary in neighbouring 
countries or families, or amongst the members of a family. 
This is not like common sense. Superstitions or imagination- 
beliefs are unstable, in spite of being often held with great 
obstinacy (so that people die for them), and of their enduring, 
in the simpler forms, and at a certain level of social life, for 
thousands of years. [There is something wanting in the hold- 
fast or anchorage of imagination-beliefs.) 

It is necessary to explain what I mean by " imagination." 


Is it enough to define " imagination " as merely the having 
of mental " images," pictures before the mind's eye ? This 
would confine imagination to visual representations, to the 


exclusion of auditory, olfactory, etc., which are all a man 
born blind can have, and which sometimes occur to those 
who can see, though the visual are commonest. The word 
" images," therefore, is sometimes used to cover all these 
modes of representation; though " phantasmata " would be 

Again, a mental image or phantasm, visual or auditory, is 
improperly called an imagination, if there is nothing more than 
the reproduction of a single sense-quality. Imaginations 
represent not abstract sensations, but perceptions. To see 
an armed knight is not merely to have a visual impression 
of him, but to perceive a living, solid, heavy object definitely 
in space; and imagination reproduces the whole of this, 
and otherwise would be quite uninteresting. What would 
the tournament in Ivanhoc amount to if the knights were 
only phantoms ? 

Further, imagination, merely as a reproduction of percep- 
tion, is not distinguished from memory ; but, in use, the two 
are always contrasted. Memories are recognised (in their 
complete form) as returning to us from earlier experience, 
both their component pictures and the order of them, and 
they are relatively stable; imaginations are felt to be more 
or less novel, and can easily be modified. Probably all the 
elements of an imagination might have occurred in a memory ; 
but the arrangement of these elements is often so different 
from any actual experience as to baffle every attempt to redis- 
tribute them amongst their sources. Hence, in normal cases, 
our attitudes toward a memory and toward an imagination 
are entirely different. If a seeming memory prove false, 
we say it was only an imagination. 

But, once more, a good many men never have images or 
phantasmata (except words), or very few or faint ones, or 
only when falling asleep, and so on. Yet they are not wanting 
in imagination; words or other signs serve them instead of 
images to carry all meanings (the important matter) ; they 
enter into the spirit of poetry and literary fiction : so that 
imagination may be active without images. And the fact 
seems to be that the effectiveness of mental processes depends 
very little upon phantasmata, but upon something much 


deeper in the mind ; and that there exist in men all degrees 
of concrete representative power, from those who picture 
everything they think of with vivid and definite detail, down, 
through many stages of decreasing realisation, to those who 
have only faint or fragmentary " images," or even none at 
all : without its being possible to say (at present) that one 
type of mind is better or worse than another ; though they 
may be adapted to different tasks. 

Expectation and reasoning, which are closely allied (for 
every definite expectation is a sort of inference), are often 
carried on in pictures "picture thinking" and this also 
is called imagination. Tyndall's brilliant address on The 
Scientific Uses of the Imagination is well known. It greatly 
helps some men in thinking to form pictures of what they 
think about, such as a machine or an anatomical specimen, 
as if they had the thing before them ; or even of an atom, 
which no man ever has before him, and which cannot be 
imagined by reproducing the precept, but only by constructing 
a picture from much grosser materials according to concepts. 
The picture thus formed necessarily falls short in some ways 
of the thing thought or meant, and can only be prevented 
from misleading us by guarding it with definitions or rules 
or abstract ideas; and this shows that the effectiveness of 
thought, the deeper process mentioned above, is a concatena- 
tion or evolution of meanings or general ideas, and that it is, 
in part, by illustrating these that pictures are useful : they 
also serve to fix attention, as words do. 

Thus reasoning may express itself by imagination. On 
the other hand, imagination is more frequently contrasted with 
reason, as dealing in fiction, not reality. Our confusion is 
shown thus : to call an historian imaginative is depreciatory ; 
yet it is as bad to say he is wanting in imagination. In the 
latter case, we mean that he fails adequately to conceive 
the events he treats of ; in the former, that he embellishes or 
distorts them with unverifiable representations. 

Again, the term " imagination " is sometimes confined to 
intellectual processes in the fine arts : dramas, novels, etc., 
are works of imagination. Now dramas and novels all pro- 
ceed upon one method, namely : they begin by stating or 


insinuating an hypothesis concerning certain persons in a 
given situation, and then deducing (that is reasoning out) 
the consequences, occasionally helping the plot by further 
assumptions : at least that is how it appears, though probably 
the main incident of the plot is thought of first, and then 
an hypothesis is framed that conveniently leads up to it. 
And if the reasoning is feeble, and if the subsidiary assump- 
tions are too numerous or too facile, we say the work is flimsy 
or improbable allowing for the genre ; for a romance is 
not expected to be as probable as a modern novel. Gulliver's 
Travels afford the most perfect example of this method ; 
for each voyage begins with a frank absurdity men six 
inches or sixty feet high, a flying island, rational horses ; 
but this being granted, the sequel makes tolerable logic. 
Well, many scientific investigations seem to follow exactly 
the same method begin with an hypothesis, deduce the 
consequences, and occasionally help out the argument with 
further hypotheses (though that is not all) : and here again 
the conclusion is usually thought of first, and the hypothesis 
invented to explain it. If it be said that the scientist believes 
his hypothesis to be true, whilst the romancer does not, it 
may be replied that the scientist sometimes expressly warns 
us that his assumption is only a " working hypothesis," 
which may not be true (though he thinks it may be), whereas 
early epic poets and minstrels often regarded their work as 
by no means without a foundation in fact. 

Imagination and reasoning, then, are closely allied or 
interwoven, and the contrasting of them depends entirely 
upon this, that there is a sense in which imagination is not 
a presentation of truth or matter-of-fact, whether it is believed 
to be or not ; and a sense in which reasoning is devoted solely 
to the discovery of truth concerning facts, and to that end 
is protected by a methodology, carefully comparing its 
premises, carefully verifying its conclusions; .whereas the 
imagination that is contrasted with reasoning knows nothing 
of a methodology nor of verification. Even the modern 
novelist, a great part of whose hypothesis is usually true 
the present state of society, facts of history or geography, 
etc., does not pretend to present a truth of fact. It belongs 


to his art to play at reasoning ; he has learnt to play the game 
very well ; but it remains play : he aims at and attains not 
truth but verisimilitude. And when we look back on the 
history of fiction we see (on the whole) the verisimilitude 
growing, age by age, slighter and fainter ; till in early romance 
and poetry it is disturbed and broken and destroyed by stories 
about monsters, impossible heroes, magicians and gods, 
believed at one time to be true, and just the same as stories 
still believed by barbarians and savages, but which we believe 
no longer. 

It is such stories as these last, including all superstitions, 
that I especially call " imagination-beliefs." The term 
includes all false beliefs, but with the rest I am not directly 
concerned. How are imagination-beliefs possible? 


Belief is here used to denote the attitude of mind in which 
perceptions are regarded as real, judgments as true of matters- 
of-fact, actions and events as about to have certain results. 
It is a serious and respectful attitude; for matter-of-fact 
compels us to adjust our behaviour to it, whether we have 
power to alter it or not. Hume describes belief as having 
a certain "force, vivacity, solidity, firmness, steadiness; 
influence and importance in governing our actions " ; l and 
these terms are quite just, but most of them are synonyms ; 
and the whole dictionary will not make anybody understand 
what belief is who has never felt it. However, there is no 
such person. 

The quality of this attitude (or the " feeling " of it) as a 
specific " state of consciousness " is difficult to observe, 
because (like pleasure or displeasure) it is always marginal 
to something else in the focus of attention, some object, 
judgment or action ; but we can appreciate it in its variations 
by considering the very different degrees of " force, steadiness," 
etc., which characterise several beliefs regarded as more or 
less probable. The degree of belief ought to correspond with 

1 Treatise of Human Nature, Part III. 7. For the recent 
psychology of Belief see James Sully' s The Human Mind, ch. xiii., 
and James Ward's Psychological Principles, ch. xiv. 


the weight of evidence : if evidence for any judgment is 
complete and uncontradictcd, it may be called 1, and the 
corresponding state of mind should be " certainty " ; if 
evidence for it there is none, or if evidence for the contradictory 
judgment is complete, it may be called 0, and the state of 
mind " disbelief." Between these extremes there is room 
for an infinite series of fractions, and for corresponding shades 
of doubt (which, of course, do not really occur) ; and in the 
middle, at J, there should be suspension of judgment. But 
most of these refined attitudes are the luxury of a few men 
severely trained in estimating evidence, and by them enjoyed 
only in the departments they have been trained in. For 
the mass of mankind, a very few shades of confidence or 
dubiety fill up their scale of j udgment- values ; and these 
may be far from corresponding as they should do with the 
quantity or quality of the evidence; and the nearest they 
get to suspension of judgment is a state of hesitation between 
alternatives that by turns seem equally likely. Disbelief, 
though the opposite logically to belief, as rejection to accept- 
ance, has, nevertheless, much in common with it the char- 
acter of finality and positiveness, which is often (perhaps 
always) derived from belief in something else which is 
incompatible with the given judgment. 

When the attitude of belief is established in one's mind 
by evidence clearly conceived, whether by the examination 
of facts or the weighing of arguments, it is called " conviction," * 
and so is the process of bringing it about ; but if it results 
from considerations imperfectly appreciated, and- from 
emotional appeals, especially when urged by another person, 
it may be called " persuasion," though the word describes 
the process rather than the result. Most imagination-beliefs, 
including all superstitions, are persuasions. 

It is generally admitted that the test of the strength of 
one's belief is its influence upon our actions where the test 
is practicable. With full belief one acts " confidently " 
(a significant verbal proposition!); in doubt, hesitatingly 
or cautiously ; in disbelief, not at all, or in the sense of the 
contrary belief. But we cannot always judge of a man's 
beliefs from his actions; for he may be actuated by several 


beliefs, and we do not know what they are. And popular 
actions that involve no loss or hardship may express mere 
assent without belief. 

There is a kind of imagination-belief, and the purest kind, 
which has nothing to do with evidence : it is often called 
" make-believe " or " play-belief " : the entering into or 
contemplating some activity, which we know to have no 
direct bearing on our necessary interests, with as much ardour 
and absorption as if it were the only important thing in the 
world : as in games and sports, especially in drama and 
romance. This is one of the many things that do not astonish 
because they are so common; and the usual (and probably 
the true) explanation of it is, that this state of mind is of 
the utmost utility in giving zest to play, especially during 
youth. For many animals share in this spirit ; and the young 
of the higher animals, which enjoy a long protected youth, 
pass the time chiefly at play, and thereby develop and train 
all their faculties, physical and mental. It somewhat outlasts 
youth in many animals, and conspicuously in ourselves, 
some having nothing better to do (and they might do worse), 
and others relieving from time to time the strain or tedium 
of work and, in some sort, prolonging youth into middle age ; 
till play becomes gradually less engrossing. 

This play-belief depends entirely upon imaginative excite- 
ment ; and it shows that the attitude of belief may be adopted 
voluntarily, or fall upon us (as it were) by surprise and main- 
tain itself for a time in great strength : with many at a melo- 
drama it runs to anxiety, weeping and anguish; and this 
not only without evidence, but in spite of the knowledge that 
this is London, whose magistrates would never permit such 
doings : only one forgets London, with all its dull conventions 
of law and order. Attention is engrossed by the play. 

Play-belief has the same traits as were said above to mark 
superstitions : (1) it becomes active on occasions, and other- 
wise disappears ; (2) it is always modifiable for convenience 
or by a change of taste ; (3) it loses its hold and tends to die 
out in a man as time goes on ; (4) it is strengthened by the 
assent of an excited crowd; (5) the objects of such beliefs 
are very variable. We shall find that in other ways there 


is a close alliance between superstition and play. But, cer- 
tainly, superstition has a much deeper hold upon our nature ; 
for it not only excites fear and anxiety, but itself is born of 
those passions : the desire of security and confidence, the 
dread of impending and unknown perils, these are its life 
and strength. So that the wonder is that superstitions are 
not more enduring. And the truth seems to be that the 
tendency to adopt superstitions does endure at a certain level 
of mentality, though particular superstitious beliefs are 
mutable; just as in the individual, a disposition to play 
outlasts many particular modes of recreation. 

Belief, then, is an attitude of mind in which we may find 
ourselves for good reasons, or for bad reasons, or for none 
at all ; sometimes even slipping into it voluntarily or involun- 
tarily when we know the situation is unreal ; indeed, an atti- 
tude in which, in play or earnest, we pass our lives, unless 
something happens to arouse doubt or criticism. 


The source, direct or indirect, of all belief is perception. 
In perception must be included, for subjective studies, intro- 
spection; though being difficult to keep steady, to repeat 
and to compare with the observation of other minds, it carries 
less conviction. As to perception we say that " seeing is 
believing " ; and, in fact, an object holds the eye in a way 
that vouches for its own reality ; but, if we suspect that our 
eyes deceive us, reassurance comes with the handling of the 
thing. Belief has sometimes been discussed as if it were 
chiefly concerned with ideas or the relations of ideas; and 
systems of philosophy have sought justification in the coher- 
ence of ideas, with little or no regard (not to say with con- 
tempt) for the coherence of ideas with perceptions. But 
nearly the whole of every man's life (savage or philosopher) 
passes in an attitude of unquestioning belief in the evidence 
of his senses; and it is thence that belief extends to ideas 
on a presumption of their representing reality. We know 
that a perception may be fallible, but perceptions and the 
comparison of perceptions in the long run overrule everything 


else ; and experimental methods consist in taking precautions 
against the errors of perception, and in bringing every hypo- 
thesis to the test of perception. 

Further causes of belief are either Evidentiary, which 
(though often misleading) may generally be justified on 
reflection as raising some degree of probability, and which 
may, therefore, be called " grounds " ; or Non-evidentiary, 
which (though very influential) cannot, on reflection, be 
justified as having any logical value, and are, therefore, causes 
only and not grounds. 

(1) Evidentiary grounds of belief are (a) memory, which 
is plainly indispensable if we are to learn by experience ; and 
(b) testimony, which must be trusted if language is not to be 
useless and social co-operation impossible : both these grounds 
are supposed to rest upon the primary rock of previous per- 
ception, but are slippery and treacherous. Memory is only 
valid so far as it truthfully represents original experience, 
and testimony only so far as it presents (i) a valid memory, 
(ii) correctly reported. Hence in serious matters precautions 
must be taken against their fallibility : otherwise they are 
not good evidence. A specious memory, so far as it is false, 
is imagination; and false testimony, so far as it reports (i) 
a false memory or (ii) an invention of the reporter, is also 
imagination. Testimony gathers force, as a cause of belief, 
with the numbers and consideration of those who support 
it, and is especially strengthened by their unanimity; but, 
as a ground of belief, it depends only on their knowledge 
and truthfulness. A third ground of belief is (c) inference; 
which is necessary to all original adjustment of our conduct 
to the future or to unperceived circumstances, but highly 
fallible, and constituting the chief problem for the exercise 
of Logic when that science arises : especially to explain the 
conditions of valid observations and experiments, of proba- 
bility, of the conclusion of an argument being covered by its 
premises, and of the sufficiency of verification. False 
inferences that cannot be verified are imaginations. 

As the growing mind of society deals with true beliefs 
they are piled up and classified in systems of science and 
philosophy : in which systems each belief or judgment 


strengthens and is strengthened by the rest. Even without 
systematisation, the mere structural similarity of judgments, 
formed unconsciously on the same implicit principles of 
causation and classification, throws them into those loose 
apperceptive masses which we call " common sense." Such 
systems or masses, whether of science or of common sense, 
readily assimilate and confirm new inferences having the 
same character, and offer resistance to all inferences having 
a different structure, such as those about magic and spirits. 
The selective power of these apperceptive masses over novel 
ideas constitutes " understanding," and is the plain solid 
man's substitute for Logic ; and so it is with many scientists, 
who often neglect the abstract study of Logic. For these 
systems or masses of experience are the substance of Logic and 
Methodology, which are their skeletons abstracted from them. 
They are the basis of all effective comparison and criticism ; 
agreement or disagreement with them is the test of truth 
or error. It is the chief defect of common sense that the 
verification of its judgments depends almost entirely upon 
repetition of experiences (what Logicians call "simple enumera- 
tion "), without that analysis of observations which alone 
can show the necessary relations of facts; but this defect 
is in some measure remedied in good minds by that pow r er 
of unformulated ideas of natural order, the result of un- 
conscious analysis, which we call " good judgment " a 
power which the fortunate possessor may be unable to 

(2) Non-evidentiary causes of belief are all reducible to 
bad observations, imaginations, and the causes that excite 
imagination; and bad observations are caused by false 
imaginations as to the meaning of sense-data. If it should 
seem to any one that since imagination consists of ideas it 
must be by nature incompatible with intense belief, we must 
consider that memory, the effects of testimony, and inferences 
also consist entirely of ideas ; so that in that character they 
do not differ from imagination. Even perception depends 
for its meaning upon implicit ideas, and erroneous perception 
is due to erroneous ideas. The weakness of imagination- 
belief which (despite its frequent intensity) always in time 


becomes manifest, is due to its not being constantly confirmed 
by experience. 

In detail the non-evidentiary causes of belief are as follows : 
(a) not only the truths of experience become massed or 
systematised in common sense and science, but the errors 
of misinterpreted experience and tradition form similar 
aggregates. Coincidences mistaken for causation, illusions, 
dreams, tales of thaumaturgy and ghost-stories, so far as 
they have anything in common in their, outlines or emotional 
tone, form apperceptive masses which function in the same 
way as scientific systems : each of their constituent beliefs 
strengthens and is strengthened by the rest ; and each mass 
(as a delusive " understanding ") readily assimilates and 
confirms any new tale or illusion having its own character, 
and resists and repels every judgment having a different 
structure and, therefore, refuses explanation. And just 
as science and common sense have a sort of internal skeleton 
of principles which has been exhibited as Logic, so some of 
these comparatively obscure and chaotic masses of illusion 
and tradition contain certain structural principles which, 
though unconscious at the lowest human level, obtain recog- 
nition as culture advances for example, the principles of 
mimetic and contagious magic; and then, too, arise such 
caricatures of science as theogonies and cosmologies, chiro- 
mancy, astrology and so forth. But nothing ever emerges 
from them that can be called a test of truth or methodology ; 
much less, of course, can such a thing be found at lower levels 
of culture. There you see the accumulating clouds of imagina- 
tion-belief, which gather together from all the winds and pile 
themselves up to overshadow poor humanity age after age ; 
which still, in our own world, are by no means dissipated; 
and to whose persistent influence we may (I suppose) attribute 
the mysticism that periodically infects philosophy itself. 

(b) Contributory to these masses of error are bad observa- 
tions, confused and distorted memories, dreams and cor- 
rupted testimony and tradition, all of them having their 
origin in some sort of experience and matter-of-fact, and all 
issuing in vain imaginations. For of course there is no such 
thing as imagination underived from experience ; experience 


is distorted and corrupted by superstition, but it transfers 
to superstition the attitude of belief that always belongs 
to experience, and supplies materials from which (as we shall 
see) it is often possible to construct such a defence of super- 
stition as, to an unsophisticated mind, must be very plausible 
and persuasive. 1 Direct experience is often interpreted by 
a story in such a way as to make the story more credible. 
If a stone is shown as marking the tomb of a hero, or a cleft 
in the mountain as proving the prowess of a wizard, one 
unconsciously transfers the attitude of belief involved in 
contemplating these relics to all the legends concerning those 
mighty men of old. 

(c) The causes determining belief are reinforced in various 
ways by feeling and emotion. The agreeableness or dis- 
agreeableness of any judgment draws attention to, or diverts 
it from such a judgment and the evidence for it : except that 
some disagreeable emotions, especially fear, by a sort of 
fascination of attention, are favourable to belief in the reality 
of an imagined evil. They possess the whole mind. 

(d) Every desire fixes attention upon beliefs favourable 
to it, and upon any evidence favourable to them, and diverts 
attention from conflicting beliefs and considerations. Thus 
every desire readily forms about itself a relatively isolated 
mass of beliefs, which resists comparison and, therefore (as 
Ribot says), 2 does not recognise the principle of contradiction. 
Incompatible desires may be cherished without our becoming 
aware of their incompatibility ; or, if the fact obtrudes itself 
upon us, we repudiate it and turn away. 

The more immature a mind, again, and the less knowledge 
it has, the less inhibition of desire is exerted by foresight of 
consequences that ought to awaken conflicting desires or 
fears ; and the less compassion one has, the less is desire 
inhibited by its probable consequences to others : therefore, 
in both cases, the less check there is upon belief. 

(e) Voluntary action in connection with any belief, whether 
of a rational kind or in the routine of rites and ceremonies, 
favours that belief : (1) by establishing the idea-circuit of 
means and end, the end suggesting the means to it, and the 

1 See below, ch. viii. 5. - Logique des Sentiments, II. 4. 


thought of means running forward to the end a circuit that 
resists interruption : (2) by the general effect of habit and 
prejudice ; for every habit of action or of thought has inertia, 
and, moreover, it is agreeable, and to break it is disagreeable ; 
so that, again, a relatively isolated system is formed, which 
resists comparison and criticism. 

On the influence of desire and of activities for an end 
depends " the will to believe." We cannot believe anything 
by directly willing it ; but we can will what to attend to, or 
what to do, and that determines belief. 

(/) Finally, belief is determined by certain social influences 
besides testimony and tradition : especially by sympathy 
and antipathy between families, parties, tribes; and by 
imitativeness and suggestibility (qualified fortunately by 
contra-suggestibility) ; so that beliefs become fashionable, 
endemic, coercive, impassioned and intolerant. The pow r er 
of a crowd to inflict its passions and beliefs upon the individual 
has recently been much explained : it has always been 
practically understood by wizards, priests and politicians 
who lead mankind by the ears. Suggestibility, in general, is 
the liability to follow example or testimony without criticising 
it ; and for many people it is so easy to fall into the attitude 
of belief upon slight provocation, that this liability, to the 
extent of weakness, is very common. Contra-suggestibility 
in general is the opposite tendency. But special suggesti- 
bility (I should say) is the liability to adopt a belief on testi- 
mony not only in the absence of evidence, but against 
evidence ; and contra-suggestibility is the liability to reject a 
belief against the evidence. They are merely extreme cases. 
If you draw two equal straight lines, A and B, and say, " It 
seems to me that B is longer than A," one person will reply 
"Certainly," another "Certainly not; A is the longer." 
The art of suggestion consists in reducing your audience to 
this state of imbecility; it requires you to bring them into 
such a condition of exclusive attention to your words that, 
comparison and criticism being excluded, their natural dis- 
position to assent shall (for the time) have free play. The 
specially suggestible person is easily thrown into this state 
of exclusive attention, as if hypnotised. He who is suggestible 


by one man may not be so by another; or he may be more 
suggestible in the line of his prejudices than against them. 


All these grounds and causes of belief, evidentiary and 
non-evidentiary (except Logic and Science) are common to 
both mature and immature minds : but their proportional 
influence with individuals or with societies is very different 
at different stages of development; and in immature minds 
and in the lower stages of culture, the power of the non- 
evidentiary causes is excessive. Probably the chief cause 
of the growth of common sense in the generality of men is an 
increasing regularity of social life, as (notably) in the bloom 
of the classical civilisations and in the last four hundred years. 

Perception, in normal circumstances, is accepted by all 
as a matter of course or, rather, of necessity : it controls 
the activities of practical life in hunting and in industry, 
in making weapons, hoeing the ground, building houses : 
however, these labours may sometimes be modified or inter- 
rupted by the intrusion of beliefs derived from other sources. 
If a savage sings a spell to his prey, or weapon, or tool, or 
keeps the head of a slain enemy on a shelf that his victim's 
soul may assist him as a slave, he may thereby increase his 
own confidence in the work of hunting or gardening; but, 
otherwise, if his work be no better, neither need it be the worse 
for such fancies. The properties of matter exact practical 
recognition, without which nothing can be done. Even 
magical practices presuppose a sane perception of the central 
facts : as who is acting, for what purpose, when and where, 
with what and toward whom. Upon this basis there may be 
an astonishing superstructure of imagination-belief; but there 
are limits to the effectiveness of such beliefs. 

M. Levy-Bruhl, indeed, in a very interesting book, main- 
tains l that, under the influence of social ideas (representations 
collectives), the primitive mind actually perceives things 
differently from what we do. Whilst we succeed in attaining 
an objective presentation, eliminating subjective associations, 
1 Les Fonctions Mentales dans Us Sociitis Inferieures, p. 40. 


with primitives proprietes mystique, forces occultes are integral 
qualities of the object. He grants that, in certain cases of 
immediate practical interest, we find them very attentive 
and able to discriminate slight impressions, and to recognise 
the external signs of an object on which their subsistence 
or even their life depends ; but holds that, in a very great 
majority of cases, their perceptions are over- weighted by 
subjective elements. This doctrine reverses (I venture to 
think) the real relations between perceptions and other causes 
of belief and their proportionate influence in savage life. 
It is not only where subsistence or life is at stake that back- 
ward peoples see things as they are : in merely experimental 
tests, Dr. Rivers found amongst both Papuans and Todas, 
that, as to suggestibility in perception, they showed a high 
degree of independence of judgment. 1 Their confidence in 
perception is not, like imagination-belief, occasional, modifi- 
able for convenience, liable to lapse in course of time, depen- 
dent on the assent of a crowd. So far as occult or mystical 
attributes are by a savage assigned to things, such as magical 
force to a weapon, they constitute a secondary, imaginary 
integration with the percept. Such imaginary attributes 
cannot, like perception attributes, be verified by sensation : 
compare the hardness of a spearhead with its magical force. 
The peculiarity of savage beliefs is due, not to corrupt 
and clouded perception, but to the influence of desire and 
anxiety upon their imagination, unrestrained by self-criticism 
and reinforced by the popular consensus. The savage's 
imagination is excited by the pressing needs of his life in 
hunting, love, war, agriculture, and therefore by hunger and 
emulation, hate and grief, fear and suspicion. Imaginations 
spring up in his mind by analogy with experience ; but often 
by remote or absurd analogies ; and there is no logic at hand 
and not enough common sense to distinguish the wildest 
imaginative analogies from trustworthy conclusions. The 
same pressing needs and the same emotional storms often 
affect a whole tribe, and simultaneously stimulate every one's 
imagination ; and originating (no doubt) in ancient times and 
slowly accumulating and condensing, there grows up a mass 
1 British Journal of Psychology, Vol. I. p. 393. 


of public imagination-beliefs, which are inculcated into every 
individual by tradition and common ceremonies. Such beliefs 
embodied in stories and formulae, and associated with rites 
and customs, have for a long time the strength of custom 
in governing the behaviour of individuals and in tribal respect ; 
but they prove at last to be weaker than custom, inasmuch 
as the observances may continue whilst the beliefs are for- 
gotten or replaced by others, as the progress of culture makes 
it necessary to think of the old rites in a different way. In 
their flourishing period they extensively influence practical 
affairs, sometimes helpfully or harmlessly, sometimes injuri- 
ously and disastrously. In general, imaginations are pre- 
vented by biological necessity from modifying a tribe's con- 
duct beyond certain limits; but, exceptionally, they result 
in tribal insanity, tending toward, if not accomplishing, the 
tribe's destruction, as in extreme cases of the practice of 
human sacrifice or of the ordeal by poison. 

Indeed, so violent and tyrannous is the power of super- 
stitious beliefs in many cases, that it may be difficult to 
understand how they are almost entirely born of the imagina- 
tion. In a civilised country there are always current some 
beliefs as imaginative and absurd as any to be found in the 
middle of Africa; but surviving amidst a greater mass of 
perception-beliefs and positive ideas about industry and 
commerce, they have lost much of their driving power ; and 
when the imaginative character of any belief has been recog- 
nised, it passes into the region of fine art or mythology, or 
even of ridicule. If such things have any place in our life, 
we turn to them of personal choice in the intervals of affairs. 
Under the influence of the fine arts or of literature treating of 
such things, our emotional states may be intense ; but they 
are dissociated from action, exist for their own sake, have an 
appropriate tone (aesthetic) which marks their lack of energy, 
so that they require only an imaginary satisfaction. With 
a backward people there is much less "positive" opposition 
to their imaginative prepossessions and pursuits ; what seems 
to us absurd, seems to them necessary ; the actions and observ- 
ances that express their beliefs are not performed as a matter 
of personal choice, but of public custom; the ends to be 


obtained (they think) are the same as those of what we call 
" business." And it must be so. Considering the function 
of superstition in promoting political evolution, it is plain 
that primitive man must have been capable of believing 
and doing those things which (within certain limits) had so 
much biological and social value. 

To understand how the magical and religious beliefs of 
savages and the play-beliefs of civilised man, having a common 
source in imagination, are (in spite of strong contrasts) closely 
allied, we must call to mind the many degrees of intensity 
of play-belief in ourselves, varying from the momentary 
entertainment of playing with a child, through many grades 
of fiction or ceremony, down to a deeply serious frame of mind, 
a profound movement of dread or compassion that may long 
outlast our play. A child's absorption in such beliefs is 
more intense than ours ; but circumstances prevent his attain- 
ing to the solid faith of a savage. The child of civilised people 
has little or no support in tradition (except from nursemaids) ; 
he is not driven by the desires and anxieties of subsistence ; 
and he is frequently interrupted by his seniors. The savage 
has an overwhelming tradition and authority, pressing 
anxieties and no seniors. Until the civilised sceptic reaches 
his shores, there is, for the average tribesman, nothing but 
tardy experience or social fatigue to check his vagaries. His 
imagination vies with the sense of reality, often overpowers it ; 
yet his beliefs show many signs of their insecure foundations. 

It is not only the influence of society and tradition that 
renders imagination-beliefs coercive to a savage; in the 
immature mind of the individual there are certain conditions 
favourable to their prevalence. 

(a) The process of imagination itself, the memory and the 
picture-thinking of savages, seems to be more vivid, sensuous, 
stable, more like perception than our own normally is. " The 
Australians," says Spencer and Gillen, " have the most won- 
derful imagination. " l They often die of it ; and so do 
Hindoo peasants, Maories, Fijians, Negroes and others, if 
they know they have been cursed or have broken a taboo. 
1 Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 462. 


With the Melanesians, says Dr. Coddrington, thinking 
is like seeing ; x and Dr. Rivers has confirmed this statement. 
Hence there is a tendency to accept imaginations as percep- 
tions are accepted; and to believe in the efficacy of rites, 
because the mere performing of them with an imagined pur- 
pose makes their purpose seem to be accomplished. When a 
man of intense and excited imagination' makes an image 
of an enemy, and stabs it, that his enemy may suffer, his 
action gratifies the impulse to stab, as if he wounded the 
enemy himself, and revenge seems to be a present fact. 
Similar intensity of imagination is found in civilised children 
greater than in ordinary adults. Savages, again, seem to 
dream more vividly and convincingly than is usual amongst 
ourselves, and are said to be more liable to hallucinations. 
Physiological conditions of the immature brain (childish or 
savage), in which excitement does not rapidly spread through 
many associated neurones, may be the basis of the vividness 
of imagination, dreaming and hallucination. 

(b) But more important than any intensity of picture- 
thinking to the growth and persistence of imagination- 
beliefs, is the want of a mental standard, by which they might 
be discredited. It is true that even at a low level of culture 
individuals are found for whom common sense constitutes a 
private standard, and who are sceptics in relation to their 
tribal beliefs. 2 But such a private standard cannot be 
communicated, and for the great majority of the tribesmen 
common sense is no confident guide; and perhaps they are 
even incapable of effectively comparing their ideas. At any 
rate, one reason why we believe our memories and not our 
imaginations is that, whilst in both cases the images (or 
elements of images) entering into them are derived from 
experience, in memory the relations of images in place, time 
and context are also derived directly from experience; 
whereas in imagination images (or their elements) are recon- 
structed in relations in which they have never been experi- 
enced, by analogies of experience (often distorted) or by 
condensations the most capricious. Therefore, to make 

1 The Melanesians, p. 247. 

2 Below, ch. viii. 4. 


imaginations credible to us, even in play, the relations of 
experience must be faithfully imitated, as (e.g.) in Robinson 
Crusoe ; or else our emotions must be so strongly excited as 
to possess our minds with the fiction to the exclusion of all 
criticism. But with immature minds observation of fact, 
outside the practical, repetitive, necessary course of life, is 
not exact and coherent ; and, accordingly, their memories are 
not coherent, especially as to time-relations; so that, by 
comparison with such memories, irregular imaginations suffer 
little. There is not enough orderly memory or general know- 
ledge to discredit even absurd imaginations; for so far as 
observation and memory are disorderly, generalisation, con- 
scious or unconscious, is impossible. Hence not only tradi- 
tionary myths may be monstrous and arbitrary, but occasional 
tales of private invention, amongst both children and savages, 
usually exhibit disconnected transitions and impossible 
happenings. Yet they satisfy the immature mind. 

(c) There are certain other conditions of the immature 
mind that hinder the comparison of ideas and, therefore, the 
criticism of beliefs. About every imperative need, such as 
success in hunting, with its desires and anxieties, rites and 
ceremonies grow up to gratify imaginatively the desires and 
relieve the anxieties : and ideas of these observances form 
relatively isolated systems. To us these ideas usually seem 
absurd and irrelevant when compared with the savage's own 
experiences and his other practices. We see a hunter, for 
example, endeavour to gain his ends by two distinct series of 
actions. In one he fasts, enchants his weapons, casts spells 
upon his expected prey; in the other he carefully prepares 
his weapons, patiently tracks his prey, warily approaches and 
slays it. The latter series we approve and appreciate as 
causation ; the former we ridicule as hocus-pocus, contributing 
objectively nothing to the event (though probably it increases 
his confidence); and we pity " the heathen in his blindness." 
And, indeed, he may be said to be mind-blind ; for in observing 
the rites, his attention is so occupied by means and end, 
and caught in the circuit in which these ideas revolve, and he 
is so earnest in carrying out the prescribed actions, that he 
cannot compare them with the really effective actions, so as to 


discover their absurdity and irrelevancy. In short, a state 
of mental dissociation is established for the system of magical 
ideas. So far does illusion go that he seems to regard the rites 
as the most important part of his proceedings. But that is 
not really his deepest conviction : he trusts in Magic and 
keeps his bowstring dry. 

(d) In the case of children we may assume, and in the 
more backward races of men we may suspect, that the com- 
parison of judgments is difficult, or sometimes even impossible, 
because of the imperfect development of the cerebral cortex. 
There must be some structural conditions of the free flow of 
energy through all organs of the brain, corresponding with the 
associ ability and comparability of all ideas. We may doubt 
if these conditions are complete even in good cultivated minds ; 
since everybody finds one or another study or art especially 
difficult for him, or the freeing of himself from this or that 
sort of prejudice especially repugnant. And it is not only 
deliberate comparison that is hindered in the immaturity of 
the brain, but also that automatic process (more or less 
unconscious) of assimilation and discrimination to which (I 
think) we owe most of the results of abstraction and general- 
isation that may seem to have required purposive comparison. 
Such imperfections of structure, greatest at the lowest levels 
of organisation, and gradually decreasing as ideal rationality 
is approached, we may call " incoordination " ; and, so far 
as it obtains, the results must be somewhat similar to the 
discoordination, the breaking down or interruption of 
organic efficiency, that occurs in hysteria, hypnosis and some 
forms of insanity. One of the results probably is suggesti- 
bility the tendency to accept what is told, or insinuated, 
without examination ; for freedom from this common liability 
depends (apart from the contra-suggestible disposition) upon 
the rapidity and definiteness with which one can compare 
that which is suggested with present fact or with one's 
knowledge and former experience; and this is hindered by 

Effective incoordination may, however, be merely func- 
tional for want of practice in thinking ; and it exists often 
enough in civilised people, because they have not even the 


desire to be consistent. In cither case, whether from defective 
structure or from the dull inertia of disuse, there will be failure 
of comparison and, therefore, of criticism, and also (we may 
suppose) a greater intensity of imagination and of dreaming 
and a liability to hallucination, such as is said to be frequently 
the case with immature minds. 

We have seen that many beliefs result from inferences, and 
that inferences, when logically justifiable, may be considered 
as grounds (raising some degree of probability) ; but, when not 
justifiable, they are only causes of belief and their results 
are only imagination-beliefs. Since the general nature of 
reasoning is the same for Socrates and Sambo, we must 
inquire into the particular nature of the reasoning which 
leads immature minds into such bewildering mazes of error 
as we see (for example) in the world- wide prevalence of Magic 
and Animism. 

On the inductive side of knowledge (the obtaining of 
premises) there is, of course, much imperfect observation and 
hasty generalisation; but, in spite of these faults, a savage 
learns by repeated experiences a great many narrow general 
truths about the physical world, plants, animals and his 
fellow-men, which constitute his stock of common sense and 
on the strength of which he lives as a very intelligent animal. 
We shall find from time to time errors of observation (such 
as the taking of a dream for reality) and of generalisation 
(such as the classing of worms with reptiles); but, strictly 
speaking, this is not reasoning : all reasoning is deductive, 
and the immature mind's deductive processes need a fuller 

Our Logic consists of a few universal principles generally 
accepted, with which any more particular judgment may be 
compared in order to test its validity. The matter may be 
superficially acquired in a few hours; but the full compre- 
hension of it implies the widest comparison of types of judg- 
ment from all departments of knowledge : Logic being (as I 
have said) a sort of skeleton of knowledge. Hence in any 


mind incapable of comparison and critisism or so far as it 
is incapable there must be an absence of Logic. So much 
effective comparison of experience, however, goes on without 
our specially attending to it that a man's logical power bears 
no proportion to his investigations into the structure of 
knowledge. One man may be a great student of Logic and 
a very inefficient reasoner from a want of discipline in the 
world of fact; another, who has never opened a text-book, 
may yet show by the definiteness of his judgments and the 
adequacy of his plans, that he is a sort of incarnate Logic, 
that his mind works according to reason or (in other words) 
according to the order of facts. It is the highest manifesta- 
tion of common sense. Such men occur among backward 

The only universal principles that need be considered 
here are the Law of ^Causation _and_th.e ^Foxm of Substance and 
Attribute (Mill's doctrine of Natural Kinds) : which may be 
called the principles of parallel reasoning ; because the greater 
part of ordinary reasoning consists in drawing some inference 
parallel to one or the other of them, usually in some restricted 
shape. For example, a restriction of causation is the proposi- 
tion that " exposure to intense daylight causes sun-burn," 
of substance and attribute that " the specific gravity of gold 
is about 19-5 " : whence we infer that if we expose ourselves 
to sunlight our faces or hands will suffer, or that any piece 
of gold will be relatively very heavy. But in such cases 
erroneous inferences are easy : for example, to expect that 
exposure to London sunshine will cause sunburn ; for there 
the foul atmosphere cuts off the actinic rays : or to expect 
that a lump of brass will have specific gravity 19-5. A 
necessary precaution before trusting an inference, therefore, 
is the ascertaining that the inference deals with the very 
same sort of case as the premise describes : else there is no 
complete parallel. And Logicians show in the form of the 
syllogism this necessary precaution to use their favourite 
example in a case of Substance and Attribute : 

Major premise All men are mortal ; 

Minor premise Socrates is a man ; 

.*. Conclusion Socrates is mortal. 


The conclusion Socrates is Mortal is parallel to the major 
premise All men are mortal ; and that it deals with the very 
same sort of case is secured by the minor premise, Socrates is 
a man. Whoever reasons must see to it that this premise is 
true. But the savage has never noticed that necessity; and 
thence come most of his errors. 

The syllogism (it is now admitted) does not describe the 
way in which we reason, but is only a form which gives 
some help in testing the validity of reasoning if one should 
ever think of doing such a thing. In practice we do not think 
first of the major premise, then of the minor premise and lastly 
of the conclusion. As a rule we do not think of either premise 
at all : the " conclusion " comes first to mind. In certain 
circumstances of association, because of our hopes or our 
fears, it occurs to us that " Socrates is mortal." If some one 
should doubt this judgment and ask for proof, we might 
think of the major premise, and then put it into words for the 
first time "All men die;" even then it might not seem 
necessary to add that " Socrates is a man." But although 
we may not have been at the time aware of these premises 
until we were asked for them, their presence in the mind in 
some way was necessary to determine the inference : the 
major premise was there as latent memory of one or more 
cases of people who had died ; the minor premise was repre- 
sented by the assimilation of the case of Socrates to those 
cases of mortal men. The former experiences have left an 
engram, which serves as a mould into which subsequent 
experience may run, and which conceivably may determine 
subsequent judgments even though the former experiences 
can no longer be remembered. 

The phrase " form of thought " is most used for premises of 
high generality, such as the axioms of mathematics, causation, 
substance and attribute, space in three dimensions; and, 
undoubtedly, these are forms which determine the lines of 
all thinking to which they are relevant ; but they would be 
useless, if there were not, under them, forms established in 
very concrete material by the repetition of simple experiences 
and ordinary events (or even by single impressive events), 
such as " men are mortal," " water quenches fire," which 


determine the lines of common-sense judgments. If there 
has been an experiential judgment X is related to Y, when 
X again appears it is expected to be related to Y. 

Amongst savages also, of course, experience settles in 
their minds such forms of thought; both the most general 
ones, which they never formulate but which necessarily 
control their thoughts, and many particular ones concerning 
the experience of daily life ; which last control the details of 
their thoughts, and for practical purposes are true ; but which, 
through ignorance of the minor premise, are allowed to 
assimilate many judgments of a very different nature. Thus, 
X being known to be related to Y, they are apt to infer that 
things that are like X, or which they suppose to be like X, 
are also in the same way related to Y ; and this is disastrous. 
In civilised life, most occupations are so mechanical, and the 
general tradition is so positive, that there is little encourage- 
ment to think nonsense; so that the average man reasons 
tolerably about simple matters without having heard of the 
minor premise; but the savage's life is much less regular, 
and less fully occupied, and the tradition is full of magic and 
ghosts. Accordingly, he is always ready to think about 
magic and ghosts ; and since his thoughts about such things 
can only run in the mould of his experiences (with some play- 
room for amplification, distortion and condensation), whilst 
he is also ignorant of the function of the minor premise, he 
seems to draw often from a very sound major premise a very 
absurd conclusion. For the minor premise is an invention 
of Logicians (perhaps their greatest) : it does not occur to 
cursory, but only to critical thought. 

For example, a savage judges that to put a lock of a man's 
hair in the fire injures and may destroy him : how comes he to 
think so ? He has learnt by experience that for a man to put 
his hand in the fire, or to fall into it, hurts him; and this 
supplies the mould in which his inference about the lock of 
hair is cast. Similarly, he is apt to judge that to throw a man's 
image into the fire hurts him and may destroy him ; and this 
clearly rests upon the same experience. His reasoning 
assumes the minor premise that (for the purpose of his revenge) 
a separated part of a man, or his image, is the same as the man 


himself ; and this- assumption is made explicit in the famous 
maxims of Magic, that in rites, whatever has been in contact 
with a man or that any likeness of a man may be substi- 
tuted for him. But the generalisation of these maxims is 
left for an advanced stage of culture ; the savage, who acts as 
if he held them, has never thought of, much less formulated 
them. They are derived, by later thought, entirely from an 
analysis of his conduct in magic. What the causes are that 
determine him to act as if he accepted the maxims of Magic will 
presently be discussed. 1 

There are certain other reasonings implied in savage 
practices, where the error lies not so much in the minor 
premise as in the minor term, thus : It is matter of experience 
that a sense of personal power and elation is produced by 
dancing and singing; and (perhaps without remembering 
such experience) a savage infers that magical power is 
increased by the same means. Or, again, it is matter of 
experience that men eat and use solid food and weapons ; and 
a savage infers that ghosts eat ghostly food and use ghostly 
weapons ; that is to say, that where food and spears are left 
at a tomb and remain untouched, the ghost has taken to 
himself the soul of these things which was his proper share. 
Now granting that there are such things as magic'al powers 
and ghosts, the reasoning that identifies them respectively 
with physical power and with men is, for the purpose of the 
inference, not unplausible ; with a liberal examiner the minor 
premises might pass. But if magical powers and ghosts 
do not exist, the minor terms are imaginary. 2 In short, 
all these reasonings turn upon imaginations. The experi- 
ential major premises are true enough, but the minor premises 
are illusory, and as it is a maxim with Logicians that the force 
of reasoning follows the weaker premise, the conclusion is 
illusory. It is not in perception but in imagination that a 
part is the same as the whole, or that a likeness is the same as 
the thing itself; that magic controls events and that ghosts 
haunt their sepulchres. 

1 Ch. iv. 8. 

2 In assuming that there are no magical powers I do not mean that 
the magician has no professional powers, but that such real powers 
as he has are not magical. 


These reasonings are fallacious imitations of parallel 
inferences according to cause and effect ; but there are others 
of a kind peculiar to imagination : I mean reasonings by 
analogy as when a Zulu, courting the dusky fair, chews a 
piece of wood, in the expectation that, as the wood is reduced 
to pulp, her heart, too, will be softened. These processes 
are not parallel; there is no resemblance between a lady's 
heart and a piece of wood, nor between mastication and court- 
ship; but the relation involved, the softening process, is 
felt to be the same in both connections and, therefore, the 
cases on the whole are thought to be the same. Many rites 
and observances depend upon such analogies for this is the 
strict sense of analogy, " like relations of unlike terms " ; 
and they have a leading part in the formation of myths in 
which natural events are represented as personal relations 
Apollo chasing the Dawn, and so forth. And I formerly 
thought that such arguments as the foregoing, in which the 
actions of ghosts are identified with those of men, or the 
sufferings of a part are equated with those of the whole, 
were examples of analogical reasoning; for certainly, the 
terms involved are different : a ghost, or an image, or a nail- 
paring is not the same as a man. But, on reflection, I see 
that though these terms are really different, that has nothing 
to do with the psychology of the matter, for they are conceived 
by the savage to be the same; and, therefore, the inference 
is conceived as parallel to the experiential ground (even 
though this remain latent in consciousness). 

Analogical thought is now understood to be imaginative 
only, and is confined to the metaphors and similes of poetry 
or rhetoric ; though it is not very long ago that it was seriously 
trusted in argument, as in defending absolute monarchy in 
the State by the examples of patriarchy in the family, and 
even by the supposed " regiment " of bees and quails in their 
societies, of the lion over beasts and of the eagle over birds. 
In this spirit, Malays, having identified the life of the 
rice plant with human life, regard the flowering rice as in 
its infancy, and proceed to feed it with pap : and carry out 
the analogy at further stages of its development. Similarly, 
to facilitate childbirth, or to liberate the struggling soul of 


the dying, it is a respected recipe to untie all knots, unfasten 
all buttons, unlock all doors, open all windows ; for opening 
or loosing, no matter what, is always the same process- 

These seem to be the chief modes of fallacious thinking 
(1) false parallels and (2) analogies which mislead the 
untutored mind and give to imagination-beliefs such coherence 
as they ever attain. Two accounts of superstitious reasoning 
have been given by those who admit that savages reason 
at all ; one is that they reason correctly from absurd premises ; 
the other that they reason absurdly from correct premises. 
If the foregoing analysis is sound, there is some truth and 
some error in both these doctrines. So far as primitive 
ratiocination is purely analogical, it is quite futile, whether 
its premises be true or false; for it cannot be cast in any 
admissible logical form. So far as in superstition it imitates 
parallel reasoning, according to cause and effect or substance 
and attribute, the major premise is, for the most part, empiric- 
ally true; the minor premise is false; and the conclusion 
is a vain imagination. There are three types of ratiocination : 
(1) equations, as in mathematics ; and here primitive man for 
a long time got no further than the counting of things by his 
fingers and toes. (2) Parallels of premise and inference, 
according to causation or substance and attribute, as in the 
physical and natural sciences; and here the savage collects 
by experience much common sense, and by inevitable fallacies 
much superstition. (3) Analogies of imagination. The 
natural progress of reason consists in relegating analogies to 
poetry and rhetoric; in introducing greater and greater 
accuracy into the judgments that serve as major premises, 
and greater caution in assuming minor premises; at last, in 
counting and measuring the facts reasoned about, and so 
preparing the beginnings of mathematical method. Such 
progress is promoted by the high biological value of greater 
defmiteness of thought. Immature man in the necessary 
practical life which may be called the biological life has 
many definite perceptions and judgments and well-adjusted 
actions; outside that life, in the region of superstitious 
observance, he is not a rational, but an imaginative animal. 




The language of savages is often wanting in names of 
classes of things for which names are with us a matter of 
course, and it has been supposed that those who use the 
language must be without the corresponding general ideas. 
Thus it is reported that a tribe had a name for each kind of 
tree but none for tree in general; another had a name for 
coco-nuts at various stages of growth (when they serve differ- 
ent uses) but none for coco-nut at all times : therefore, it is 
inferred, they had no general idea of tree or of coco-nut. A 
Siberian example is still more remarkable. The Tunguses 
depend entirely upon reindeer for food, clothes, tents and 
locomotion, and keep herds of them ; yet they have no name 
for the animal. But they have a name for wild and another 
for tame reindeer; a name for domestic reindeer that have 
been broken in, and another for the unbroken; a name for 
the female fawn, for the doe with young, for a doe with one 
fawn, a doe in the third year with two fawns; a name for 
each age-class of buck, and so on. 1 Are we to infer that the 
Tunguses have no general idea of reindeer ? 

It was, no doubt, natural to assume that we first perceive 
individuals, which now stand clearly before us, and then, 
having compared them, arrive at general ideas. But if 
knowledge grows by the assimilation and differentiation of 
experiences, the class on the one hand and the individual 
on the other, must be joint products of this process : classes 
becoming clearer as more and more individuals are dis- 
criminated. Classes, or class-ideas never stand before us as 
individuals do ; but the greater part of the meaning of every 
perception of an individual is the kind of thing it is. And as 
to priority, to perceive the kind of thing is (biologically) far 
more important than its individuality. If the .individual 
did not mean the class, to perceive it would be useless as a 
guide to action. The general idea derived from the assimila- 
tion of experiences is the apperceptive mass that converts 

1 Czaplicka, My Siberian Year, p. 94. Other examples in Romanes, 
Mental Evolution in Man, pp. 351-3. 



sense-stimulation into cognition : when unconscious Romanes 
called it a " recept." 

The primitiveness of general ideas is shown by gesture- 
language, which probably precedes speech, and which (except 
in direct indication of what is thought of) depends wholly 
upon general ideas suggested by imitative or significant 
actions. Primitive language must have described things by 
general characters, so far as it consisted in onomatopoeia; 
to growl like a lion could only suggest the kind of animal. 
Primitive drawing (whether by children or savages) is nearly 
always generic : dog, horse, frigate-bird, hammer-headed 
shark, but not any individual. 

There can be no doubt that savages are capable of general 
and abstract ideas ; and no one now supposes that language is 
an adequate measure of thought. A language contains names 
only for things, groups, and aspects or actions of things which 
the people who use it need to discuss : if they r|n not, r eprl f n 
speak of abstractions, there are no words for them. But we 
cannot assume of the contents of the mind, any more than of 
the outside world, that things do not exist unless we have 
noticed and named them. Professor Franz Boas has shown 
that languages of the northern Amerinds, that do not idio- 
matically express abstract ideas, may be made to do so without 
violence, and that the abstract expression is intelligible to 
men native to the languages. " Every one who knows 
people of low culture," says Dr. Rivers, " must recognise 
the difficulty which besets the study of any abstract question, 
no;t so jnuch because the savage does not possess abstract 
ideas' as that he has no words of his j>wn to express 
them." 2 

"" Amongst the ideas attained by savages, and having an 
important part in their lives, though often taken for granted 
and unexpressed, are some of the highest generality : for 
example ' 7 force!" The notion of force is derived from the 
experience of effort in our own muscular exertions ; but with 
the development of our perception of physical objects by 
the integration of sense-data sight, touch, movement and 

The Mind of Primitive Man, V. pp. 150-52. 
Sociological Review, January 1910, p. 9. 


resisted movement (kinaesthesis), smell, hearing this sense of 
effort, being transferred to objects as equivalent to our own 
exertions about them, becomes the all-important core of every 
object (or meaning of every perception of an object), without 
which the thing would be a mere show, neither useful nor 
injurious sheep and tigers, rocks and pumpkins alike 
indifferent. Probably the perceptions of all the higher 
animals (down to reptiles) have this meaning. Force is 
reality, and by primitive man is thought of as the essence of 
whatever he conceives of as real, such as spells, talismans and 
ghosts. Having a subjective ground, from which it never 
becomes free, the notion of it is indefinite, varies for each of 
us with our constitution, age, health, and not only lends 
itself to the wildest whims of superstition, but has misled 
scientific investigations. 

Relations are a class of general ideas familiar to savage 
thought, often appreciated with great subtlety and especially 
prominent in some magical operations. Relations are not 
only thought of by savages but compared, and likenesses 
discovered between them that may often surprise us. A 
gardener of New Guinea, having planted taro, ensured the 
growth of the crop by saying : " A muraena, left on the shore 
by the tide, was exhausted and on the point of expiring, 
when the tide returned, and it revived and swam away." 
And he struck the ground with a branch three times. 1 He 
saw that renewal of life in the muraena and in the taro were 
the same thing ; so that to describe one must strengthen the 
other such is the " force " of a spell ! 

The most important relation involved in knowledge and in 
its practical applications is causation. Savages who have 
no word for causation and have never thought of it in the 
abstract , must always act as if they assume it. This is apt to 
be misunderstood. It is written : " The natives [of Australia] 
have no idea of cause and effect. They notice that two 
things occur one after the other, and at once jump to the 
conclusion that one is cause and the other effect." They have, 
Ihen, some idea of the relation, though ill-discriminated. 
Thus, having noticed that the plover often cries before rain, 

1 Quoted by Frazer, Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, I. p. 105. 


they imitate the cry when performing rites to bring on rain. 
We rather suppose that an atmospheric change, preceding 
the approaching rain, excites the plovers. But that does not 
occur to the natives : that " one after the other " is the same 
as effect after cause, or (as Logicians say) post hoc, ergo propter 
hoc, lies at the bottom of innumerable superstitions. The 
subconscious control exercised by this latent form of thought 
is very imperfect. The maxims of indirect Magic, that a 
likeness may be substituted for the thing itself, or a part of 
it for the whole, are merely formula of causation assumed 
under an erroneous belief as to what can be a cause. There 
are cases in which the like may be a substitute (one man for 
another) and a part may nearly serve for the whole (part of 
a broken knife). Hence these principles were stated and 
avowed by physicians and alchemists of the Middle Ages, and 
observed in their practice. 

The quantitative axiom of mediate relation " Magnitudes 
equal to the same magnitude are equal " is, of course, never 
expressed by savages; but it is practically understood and 
applied by them whenever they use a common measure the 
fingers for counting, the pace, or hand or arm-stretch to 
measure distance. These devices are gesture language; and 
the truth which the gestures assume has been forced upon the 
observation of primitive men whenever they saw three or 
more nearly equal things together men in a row, birds in a 
flock, eggs in a nest. We need not suppose that conscious 
analysis is necessary to determine the relations between such 
things ; the brain has its own method of analysis ; and some 
day we learn the results. It was late in the day that the 
results became known ; not, apparently, till the Greeks gave 
scientific form to the rudiments of mathematics. For then, 
for the first time, articulate axioms were wanted to satisfy 
the form of science. The innumerable exact calculations 
of Egypt and Assyria could go on very well without them. 
Their discovery required the specific purpose of a scientist in 
search of them, the state of profound meditation and abstrac- 
tion, excluding all irrelevant ideas, when in the emptiness 
and darkness of the mind their light became visible, like a 
faint sound in a silent room. Thus an idea, whose functioning 


has for ages controlled thought without being recognised, 
suddenly takes its place in the organisation of knowledge. 


With immature minds their superstitions seem to rest on 
good evidence. Some of those who pray to Neptune are 
saved from shipwreck, and the drowned are forgotten : all 
confirmatory coincidences are deeply impressive, and failures 
are overlooked or excused. By suggestion the sick are often 
healed, and the hale are struck down. Curses and incanta- 
tions, if known to the intended victim, fulfil themselves. So 
do good omens that give confidence, and bad omens that 
weaken endeavour. If a magician has the astuteness to 
operate for rain only when the wet season approaches, the 
event is likely to confirm his reputation. Sleight of hand, 
ventriloquism and the advantages of a dark seance are not 
unknown to sorcerers tutored in an old tradition of deceit, 
and their clients take it for demonstration. The constant 
practice by a whole village of both magic and industry for 
the same end, makes it impossible for ordinary mortals to 
see which of them is the real agent of success. For the 
failures of magic or of sacrifice the practitioners always have 
plausible explanations. Hence between imagination-beliefs 
and perception-beliefs, as to their causes, there may be, for 
the believers, no apparent difference. 

But in character, also, imagination-beliefs may seem 
indistinguishable from perception-beliefs ; in immediate feeling- 
quality they are certainly very much like them; and, on a 
first consideration, they appear to have as much influence 
over men's actions : but this is not true. We must not infer 
that to suffer martyrdom for a cult (as witches have done) can 
be a sign of nothing but unalterable faith in it : besides 
fanaticism and other abnormal states of mind, one must allow 
for loyalty to a party or leader, for oppositehess and hatred 
of the persecutor, for display, self-assertion and (in short) 
for a strong will. Those who take part in a religious war are 
they driven wholly by enthusiasm for the supernatural, and 


not at all by hatred of aliens, love of fighting and hope of 
plunder? Discounting the admixture of other motives, 
the power of imagination-beliefs is, with most people, much 
less than we are apt to suppose. They are unstable, and in 
course of time change, though the " evidence " for them 
may remain the same. Moulded from the first by desire and 
anxiety, they remain plastic under the varying stress of these 
and other passions. In a primitive agricultural community, 
preparation of the soil, hoeing, reaping and harvesting go on 
(though with inferior tools and methods) just as they do with 
us ; and from age to age the processes are generally confirmed 
or slowly improved. At the same time, every such employ- 
ment is surrounded by a sort of aura of rites, which seem to 
be carried out with equal, or greater, scrupulosity and con- 
viction; yet, age by age, these rites slowly atrophy and lose 
their importance and their ancient meaning, which is explained 
by new myths ; or other rites may be learnt from neighbours 
or from invaders ; for some rites may be necessary to their 
life, though not any particular ones. 

The unstable character of superstitions and their close 
alliance with play-beliefs may be shown in various 
ways : 

(a) The rites which express them are often carried out with 
deception, practised on the crowd in a public performance, 
as by obtaining from heaven a shower of rice, which (over 
night) has been lodged in the tree-tops, and is shaken down 
at the decisive moment; or, in private practice, played off 
on the patient, by bringing a stone in one's waist-belt and 
then extracting it from his body. Half the tribe may deceive 
the rest, the men mystifying the women and children, or the 
old the young. 

(b) Religious beliefs often comprise incompatible attitudes : 
the worshippers of a god acknowledge in prosperity his 
superior wisdom and power at the same time, perhaps, 
employing devices to cheat him; or, in long continuing 
distress from drought or war, they may threaten to punish 
him, withhold his sacrifices and desecrate his shrine. In 
Raiatea, when a chief of rank fell ill, extravagant rites and 
sacrifices were practised; but if these failed, "the god was 


regarded as inexorable, and was usually banished from the 
temple, and his image destroyed." x 

(c) Imagination-beliefs break down under various trials 
such as economy, selling the Rice-mother when the price of 
grain rises; offering the gods forged paper-money instead 
of good, or leaving many things at a grave and taking back 
the more precious; self-preservation, as in substituting the 
king's eldest son for himself in sacrifice ; compassion, in bury- 
ing with the dead puppets instead of slaves (though in this 
economy may have some part), or substituting in sacrifice a 
bull for a man. 

In such cases as these we see how any desire, whose satis- 
faction is incompatible with a given belief or observance, 
tends to create a limiting belief and to modify the rites. 
Social indolence and fatigue the product of many individual 
fatigues and occasional levity, whereby the meaning of rites 
is forgotten, and the rites themselves are gradually slurred 
and abbreviated must be an important condition of the 
degeneration of rites, as it is of language. Foreign influence 
through trade or war introduces disturbing ideas that appeal 
to lovers of novelty, and show that other people with other 
beliefs are as well off as ourselves. Even repeated experience 
of failure may shake a man's confidence and make him throw 
away his fetish : though usually he gets another. 

(d) The beliefs of Magic and Animism are generally sup- 
ported by intense emotional excitement during the incanta- 
tions and ceremonies that express them. Emotion is arti- 
ficially stimulated and, probably, is felt to be necessary in 
order to sustain illusion. It excludes criticism and increases 

(e) The specific connexion of such beliefs with the play 
attitude is shown : by their rites including games, such as 
leaping, swinging, spear-throwing supposed to have some 
magical efficacy; the ceremonies themselves are often 
dances, dramas, choruses; and with the degeneration of 
belief, the rites remain as dramatic or musical pastimes, 
whilst the myths survive in epic poems, fairy-tales and 
ghost-stories. When rites and incantations are not intended 

1 W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, II. p. 216 


to incite to immediate action, it is necessary that the emotions 
generated in their performance shall subside with only an 
imaginary satisfaction : they, therefore, acquire the aesthetic 
tone of beauty, or sublimity, or pathos (or some rudiment- 
ary form of these feelings) ; so that the performance, thus 
experienced, becomes an end in itself. 

These beliefs with their correlative ceremonies have a 
further resemblance to play in the indirectness of their 
utility. Play develops faculty ; but no child thinks of that. 
Magic and Animism (as we have seen) tend to maintain 
custom and order ; but this is not known to any one at first 
and hardly now to the generality. Rites of public interest, 
to procure rain or to encourage the crops, though useless for 
such purposes, gratify the desire to do something, or to feel 
as if something were being done toward the end desired, 
especially in the intervals when really effective work cannot 
be carried on, as whilst the crops are growing or after harvest : 
they allay anxiety and give hope and confidence. Moreover, 
they are organised pastimes not that they are designed to 
pass the time, but that they have in fact that valuable 
function. The men of backward societies, during a consider- 
able part of their lives, have not enough to do. Social 
ceremonies keep people out of mischief, and, at the same time, 
in various ways exercise and develop their powers. With 
us industry is a sufficient occupation, or even too engrossing, 
and circumstances keep us steady ; so that, in leisure, pastimes 
may be treated lightly. With the savage some pastimes 
must present themselves as necessary periodical religious 
duties, whose performance (in his belief) encourages and 
enhances industry. So far, again, as needs and interests 
are common to a tribe, village or other group, these ceremonies 
ensure social co-operation and unity and also emulation in 
their performance; and they preserve tradition and the 
integration of successive generations. Our games are free 
from practical hopes and anxieties ; but the more elaborate, 
such as horse-racing, have still a social function; or, like 
cricket and football, a tribal character : the school, college, 
county or even the nation feels deeply concerned about them. 
The Olympic Games, which interested the Greek world 


throughout all its scattered cities, have been traced back 
to primitive religious observances. 1 

As for the dark side of superstition, it needs no other 
explanation than crime, fanaticism and insanity : which 
also are diseases of the imagination. Jealousy, hatred, greed, 
ferocious pride and the lust of power are amongst the causes 
that mould belief. Any calling pursued in secret, like that 
of the sorcerer, under a social ban, is of course demoralised. 
Where the interest of an organised profession stands in a 
certain degree of antagonism to the public interest, it may 
become the starting-point of unlimited abominations; and 
of this truth the interests of magicians and priests have 
supplied the most terrific examples. Dwelling upon what 
you know of black magic and red religion, the retrospect of 
human culture fills you with dismay; but need not excite 
astonishment ; for human nature is less adapted to its environ- 
ment (chiefly social) than anything else in the world; the 
development of the mind and of society has been too recent 
for us reasonably to expect anything better. 

1 F. M. Cornford in Miss Jane Harrison's Themis, ch. vii. 


" The histories I borrow, I refer them to the consciences of those I 
take them from." Montaigne, I. 20. 


MAGIC, until recently, was somewhat neglected by those 
who treated of savage ideas. In Sir E. B. Tylor's Primitive 
Culture only one chapter is given to Magic, against seven to 
Animism (belief in the agency of spirits). In Spencer's 
Sociology, Part I. is almost wholly devoted to the genesis and 
development of Animism, without a single chapter on Magic. 
The importance of early Animism became such an obsession, 
that travellers observed and reported upon it wherever they 
went, making only casual references to Magic much to our 
loss. The tradition of this way of thinking seems to run 
back to Hume's Natural History of Religion, where he traces 
the development of religion from a primitive belief that all 
natural activities are like our own, and that everything is 
possessed and actuated by a spirit. This idea was adopted 
by Comte, and elaborated in his celebrated law of the three 
stages of the explanation of Nature as determining the growth 
of human culture : Fetichism, which ascribes all causation 
to the particular will of each object, and which by general- 
isation leads through polytheism to monotheism; Meta- 
physics, which, giving up the notion of personal will, attributes 
the activities of things to abstract forces ; and Positivism, 
which, discarding the variety of forces that can never be 
known, turns to the exact description of the order of pheno- 
mena. Mill, in turn, adopted these doctrines from Comte, 
and gave them currency amongst us, as part of the extra- 
ordinary influence which for many years he exerted upon all 
our thoughts. Hence the priority of Animism to every other 
theory of things seemed at that time a matter of course. 


MAGIC 109 

Recently there have been signs that this conception of 
primitive thought is giving way to another, namely, that 
Animism was preceded by Magic. Sir J. G. Frazer puts it, that 
the idea of Magic is simpler than that of Animism ; that Magic 
is found in full force amongst people whose Animism is feebly 
developed, and that its beliefs are more uniform throughout 
the world. 1 Substantially with qualifications that will 
appear hereafter this view of the matter is here accepted. 
When one comes to argue it, to produce the primitive facts 
is, of course, impossible. It must even be admitted that 
such evidence as we have amongst the few facts collected of 
late years concerning ancient races of men, gives the earlier 
date to animistic ideas ; for if some of the cave-paintings 
of Aurignacian origin, in which, for example, wild cattle are 
shown pierced with arrows, may be interpreted as of magical 
significance ; on the other hand, the burial at Le Moustier, 
still more ancient, shows a regard for the corpse, in the 
disposal of it and in the things left with it, such as usually 
goes with the ghost-theory. These discoveries take us back 
some thousands of years before Menes; but probably leave 
us far from the beginning of human ideas concerning the 

If Magic preceded Animism, we must insert a stage of 
thought at the beginning of Comte's series, making four 
instead of three ; and the suggestion may perhaps be made to 
appear plausible, that the Metaphysical stage, the reign of 
occult forces in explanation, is not a mere residue of Fetichism 
after the spirit has departed, but rather the re-emergence 
into daylight of magical ideas of force, that always persisted, 
but for ages were kept in comparative obscurity by the 
vogue of Animism. 

2. WHAT is MAGIC? 

In his Development of Moral Ideas (II. 47) Prof . Westermarck 
observes that savages distinguish two classes of phenomena; 

1 History of the Kingship, p. 38; cf. also The Magic Art, I. p. 235, 
and footnote : " faith in magic is probably older than a belief in 


the natural or familiar, and the supernatural or mysterious. 
The latter again are divided into the mechanical (Magic) 
and the volitional (Animism). This seems to be true : it 
corrects the notion, still common, that the savage explains 
all natural activities by Animism; recognises that he takes 
some phenomena as a matter of course, as the animals do; 
and, as to events that are not a matter of course, rightly 
marks the distinction between his conceptions of them as 
either mechanical (due to some uniformly acting force) or 
volitional (that is, arbitrary or capricious). With the savage, 
then, there are ongoings of things around him that are per- 
ceived to be regular and continuous; and there are others 
between which connections are imagined to take place, and 
these either regularly or capriciously : for thus I venture to 
interpret the difference between the natural and the super- 
natural; it is the difference between perception-belief and 
imagination-belief. Common sense, Magic, Animism these 
are the three great congeries of ideas that compete for the 
control of his thoughts and in his interpretation of the world. 

Magic may be denned as a connexion of events imagined 
to be constant and to depend upon the. agency of some thing 
or activity possessing an efficacious quality or force (in fact 
unreal), and not to depend (as a connexion) upon the will of 
any particular person. 

Whether Magic is ever wrought by the bare wish or will 
of a human being will be discussed below ( 6). Here, the 
proviso that a magical connexion does not depend upon the 
will of a person, is meant to exclude Animism. For pure 
Animism involves the belief that a ghost, spirit, or god 
(though he may work by Magic) can produce an effect by his 
direct action, without using any visible or invisible means 
other than his own spiritual body and force. This is not what 
a magician does : he works by means of a connexion of 
events known (so he thinks) to himself and often to others. 
The magical implement (talisman or spell) that he uses has 
qualities that are magical facts, just as the qualities of his 
spear are physical facts. He can make a stone spear-head 
by means of another stone ; and he may be able to make a 
talisman by means of a spell; but the powers of the talisman 

MAGIC 111 

or of the spell are their own; he cannot create Magic, but 
only discover and use it. Whether he shall use it, depends 
upon his choice; but its powers do not; they are inherent, 
like physical forces. Faust can conjure the devil; but so 
can Wagner, if he knows the spell : the power of the spell is 
indifferent to the conjuror. A man may, indeed, be a source 
of magical power because he is a chief, or has the evil eye, 
or is taboo for unpurged homicide; but these things do not 
depend upon his will ; he is in the same class with impersonal 
things that are magical. 

A rule of Magic, as describing a uniform connexion of 
events, resembles what we call a law of nature ; and further 
in this, that it is not supposed to be absolute or uncondi- 
tional, but a tendency, subject to counteraction by hostile 
Magic or (perhaps) by demonic force. But it differs from 
a law of nature in being wholly imaginary and incapable of 

To practise Magic is to use some such rule in order to obtain 
an end desired. This can be attempted by any man, so far 
as his knowledge reaches ; and the greater his knowledge the 
greater his power, provided he have the courage to act upon 
it. All stages of proficiency may be traced from the simple 
layman who swings a bull-roarer to raise the wind, to the 
wizard who lives by his art, and is feared by all his tribe and 
far beyond it, or to the erudite magician who controls the 
demons and vies with the gods. 

Magical things, objects or actions, in their simplest forms, 
are charms, spells and rites; and since the ends for which 
they can be used are either to protect oneself or to exert 
power over other persons or things, each of these kinds of 
magic-thing may be defensive or offensive. A defensive 
charm is called an amulet ; an offensive charm is a talisman. 
For a defensive spell (say, against sickness or accident) there 
is, I believe, no appropriate name; offensive spells (say, to 
control the weather or to curse an enemy) may be called 
incantations (but the usage is not fixed). Rites (that is, 
any magic actions that are not spells) may also be defensive 
(as to touch wood), or offensive (as to point at a man) ; but 
we have no names for these different intentions. From these 


simplest beginnings the whole learning and mystery of Magic 
seems to have developed. 


The quest of origins is fascinating, because, if successful, 
it will help us to frame that outline of the history of the 
world which the philosophic mind regards as a necessary 
of life. To discuss the beginnings of Magic must necessarily 
be, in some measure, a speculative undertaking; because 
the facts are lost. If Magic was practised in the Aurignacian 
culture (say) 20,000 years ago, how can we get to the back 
of it ? But speculation is not guess-work, if we always keep 
in view such facts as we have; if we are careful to give 
notice whenever the facts fail us; if we guide ourselves by 
scientific principles ; and if we make no assumptions merely 
to suit our case, but only such as are generally admitted in 
all departments. For example : 

(1) We may reasonably assume that the simplest magical 
beliefs and practices are of the earliest type : and nothing 
can be simpler than the belief in charms, rites and spells. 
It is, indeed, difficult to find many of these practices though 
some can be produced in their simplest forms in our records 
of backward peoples; partly because they have not been 
enough observed ; partly because Magic is apt everywhere to 
become saturated with Animism; partly because charms, 
rites and spells are generally, for greater efficacy, compounded 
with one another. But these considerations do not affect 
the simplicity of the idea involved in the magical beliefs; 
which is merely this, that a certain object by its presence, 
or that an action, or an utterance, by merely entering into 
the course of events, will serve our purpose. A bare uniformity 
of connexion if A, then B in accordance with the familiar 
ongoings of Nature and our common activities, is all that is 
assumed. Many kinds of obstacles stop an arrow or a dart ; 
carrion collects the vultures : so a patterned comb in one's 
hair stops the demon of disease; a patterned quiver, or a 
certain song, brings the monkeys down from the tree-tops. 1 
1 Skeat and Blagden, Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, I. p. 417. 

MAGIC 113 

A spell assumes merely that certain objects, or animals, or 
spirits, must always comply with a wish or command expressed 
in words, just as another human being often does. It is their 
supposed uniform coerciveness that makes the words magical. 
If any form of words ever seems to have been successful, it 
must be repeated ; because to have the same effect the action 
must be the same. Immersed in an indefinite mass of experi- 
ences, the postulate that we call " cause and effect " (un- 
formulated, of course) underlies every action, and therefore 
underlies Magic ; it is the ground of all expectation and of all 

(2) The types of Magic that are the most prevalent are 
probably the earliest ; and these are charms, rites and spells. 
They are found not only amongst savages, but the world 
over : even in civilised countries most of the uneducated, 
many of the half-educated, and not a few of those who have 
"finished their education," employ them; whereas more 
complicated magical practices, except such as have been 
taken up into religious celebrations, are apt to fall into 
desuetude. What is universal must be adapted to very 
simple conditions of existence; these beliefs, therefore, to 
mental wants and proclivities that are probably primitive; 
and what conditions can be more simple, or more primitive, 
or more universal than ignorance of our fate and eagerness to 
clutch at anything that may give us confidence^ 

And not only are charms, rites and spells in all ages and 
everywhere employed in their simplest forms; but analysis 
of the most elaborate ritual and of nominally animistic 
practices will discover the same beliefs at the bottom of them. 
The idea of the amulet or the talisman is found in fetiches, 
beads, praying- wheels, and equally in a long mimetic dance or , 

aT "passion-play ; whose central purpose always is to avert J 

Stme evil or to secure some good success in hunting, or war, 
or agriculture. Similarly, the spell is involved in all rites, 
so far as verbal formulae are used in them ; and in all curses 
or prayers, so far as their efficacy depends upon a sound form \l 
of words. \ 

The persistence of magical beliefs amongst civilised people 
is, in some measure, due to tradition ; though the tradition 


could not continue effective if there were not in every genera- 
tion a predisposition to accept it; and how far it is due to 
tradition, how far to a spontaneous proclivity, in any one 
who is inclined to believe in charms, rites and spells, he 
himself must judge as best he can. Superstition having been 
at one time extremely useful socially, there is some presump- 
tion that tribes addicted to it (within limits) had an advantage, 
and that the disposition became hereditary. It is a recent 
acquisition compared with the love of climbing; but once 
ingrained, it must remain till disutility breeds it out. Mean- 
while, it is a stain on the human soul. So much of one's 
early life is always forgotten that no one can be sure that he 
was not inoculated with such notions in childhood ; especially 
when we consider that religious practices, taught before they 
can be well understood, must often wear a magical habit to 
a child ; and that medicines, whose operations nobody used 
to understand, were on the same foot with Magic. For my 
own part, bating the last considerations, I cannot remember 
ever to have heard in childhood any sort of Magic spoken of 
except with amusement; yet magical beliefs have always 
haunted me. With Animism it was otherwise. When six 
or seven years old, I was told by a nursemaid a convinced 
adherent of one of the many little sects that have ramified 
out of Wesleyanism in Cornwall the most appalling ghost- 
stories; and these stories, exciting no doubt an ancient 
disposition, and reinforced by a visualising faculty that 
nightly peopled the darkness with innumerable spectres, 
entirely overpowered the teachings of those whom there was 
better reason to trust, that ghosts are a superstition from 
which true religion has for ever set us free. The effects 
lasted into middle age. Andrew Lang said of ghosts that 
" he did not believe, but he trembled "; and that precisely 
describes my own state of mind for many years. Now, as 
to Magic, my impression is that had it been suggested to me 
in a serious way, and not merely by casual allusions to " luck," 
the experience would have stuck in my memory. The first 
time that I can remember practising rites, I was between ten 
and eleven years old, living at a small boarding-school. To 
keep off a dreaded event, I used to go every morning to the 

MAGIC 115 

pump, fill my mouth with water and spurt it out in a violent 
stream three times. This went on for some weeks. To 
the best of my recollection, the impulse was spontaneous, 
and I cannot remember why the particular rite was adopted : 
to spout water out of the mouth may have been symbolic of a 
pushing away of what was feared ; but I do not think I was 
conscious of that meaning. Nothing further of the kind 
recurs to me until about the age of fifteen, when, at another 
school, the master-passion of my life was cricket; and I 
always practised some rite before going on the field, and 
carried a charm in my pocket ; but I cannot recall what they 
were. At present, a day rarely passes without my experi- 
encing some impulse to practise Magic. In lighting my first 
pipe in the morning (for example), if I remember how I lit 
it, where I struck the match, etc., yesterday, and if no mis- 
fortune has happened since, I feel an unmistakable impulse 
to " light up " again in the same way. No reason is distinctly 
present to me for acting so, and therefore it is hazardous to 
analyse the attitude ; but it is not merely incipient habit : 
to the best of my judgment it is this, that such a way of 
lighting my pipe was one amongst the antecedents of a quiet 
time, and that it will be well to reinstate as many of them 
as possible. It is more comfortable to do it than to alter 
it : one feels more confident. 

Inquiry amongst my friends shows that some have similar 
experiences, and others (both men and women) have not. A 
questionnaire on such a point might be useful ; but difficult to 
arrange without giving suggestion or exciting bias. 1 

(3) There are causes originating the belief in charms, rites 
and spells so simple that nothing could be more natural to 
the primitive human mind. What is more universally power- 

1 In the American Journal of Psychology, p. 83 (1919), E. S. Conk- 
ling has an instructive article on Superstitious Belief and Practice among 
College Students. Of a large group examined 53 per cent, entertained 
some superstition (40 per cent. M., 66 per cent. F.). At some time, 
now or formerly, 82 per cent, had been so affected (73 per cent. M., 
90 per cent. F.). Half assigned their former superstitions to the age 
from twelve to sixteen. Twenty-two per cent, attributed the dis- 

?osition to the suggestion of elders, 47 per cent, to social suggestion, 
5 per cent, to social inheritance, and 15 per cent, to emotions and 
feelings beyond the control of reason. 


ful in producing belief in the connexion of events, and con- 
sequent expectancy of repetition, than an interesting coinci- 
dence ? If, says Sir E. F. im Thurn, 1 a Carib sees a rock in 
any way abnormal or curious, and if shortfy afterwards any 
evil happens to him, he regards rock and evil as cause and 
effect, and perceives in the rock a spirit. This is animistic; 
but the same tendency to be impressed by coincidence under- 
lies Magic. For example : A hunting party of Esquimos met 
with no game. One of them went back to the sledges and 
got the ham-bone of a dog to eat. Returning with this in 
his hand, he met and killed a seal. Ever afterwards he 
carried a ham-bone in his hand when hunting. 2 The ham- 
bone had become a talisman. Such a mental state as the 
Esquimo's used to be ascribed to the association of ideas; 
but it is better to consider it as an empirical judgment. 
Other circumstances of the event may have been associated 
in his mind ; but as to the ham-bone and the kill, he thinks 
of them together, and judges that they are connected. Then, 
having judged that the ham-bone influenced the kill, he carries 
it with him in future in order to repeat the conditions of 

We may perhaps discern the moment when Magic first 
fastened upon the human mind by considering how the use 
of weapons and snares by the primitive hunter impaired his 
sense of the mechanical continuity of the work. In a struggle 
with prey body to body, success or failure was thoroughly 
understood ; but with the use of weapons and snares it became 
conditional upon the quality of these aids and upon his skill 
with them : more and more conditional as the number of 
steps increased between the first preparation and the event; 
at any one of which unforeseen occurrences might frustrate 
his plans. Hence an irresistible desire to strengthen and 
insure every step of his task ; and to gratify this desire Magic 

That Magic should depend upon the assumption that 
" things connected in thought are connected in fact " seems 
unintelligible, until we consider that the thought in which 

1 Among the Indians of Guiana, p. 354. 

2 Quoted by Ames, Psychology of Religious Experience, p. 60. 

MAGIC 117 

they are connected is a judgment concerning the facts. But 
how is it possible to judge so foolishly? Absurd association 
is intelligible ; it cannot be helped ; but judgment is not a 
passive process. Well : a logician might interpret the case 
as a fallacy in applying the inductive canons : the Esquimo 
had two instances : (a) no ham-bone, no seal ; (b) ham-bone, 
seal : or, again, into the circumstances of his expedition he 
introduced a ham-bone, and the seal followed. Therefore, 
the carrying of a ham-bone was the cause of getting a seal. 
He had not read Mill, and did not know what precautions 
should be taken before adopting such conclusions. The 
mind must have begun in this way ; and after many thousands 
of years, the opportunities of error in empirical judgment 
began 'to be appreciated, and the canons were formulated. 
The experience of every man at every stage of life, personal 
or social (probably evoking an inherited disposition), con- 
tinually impresses him with the belief in some connexion of 
antecedent and consequent, that each event arises out of 
others. But what it is in the antecedent that determines 
the event can never, in practical affairs, be exactly known. 
In definite cases, where method is applicable, we may analyse 
the consequent into the tendencies of forces in amount and 
direction; or we may sometimes reproduce it by an experi- 
ment exactly controlled. But where these resources fail us, 
as they often do in practical affairs, we are little confident of 
grasping all, or even the chief conditions of any event that 
interests us. The savage knows nothing of method, and, 
therefore, feels less distrust. He learns something of the 
conditions of success in hunting; this is biologically neces- 
sary to him as it is to a tiger; only those survive that learn 
them. He knows that he must have weapons as efficient 
as possible, must go to the habitat of his prey, must not be 
heard, or seen, or smelt. But with all precautions he some- 
times fails; therefore there must be some other condition 
which he does not understand. Hence anything observed, 
or any word or action, that happens to be followed by success, 
may have been a means to that success. 

And if it once has been, it always will be : not that he 
thinks of it in this general way. But even animals, as soon 


as they have learnt a sequence, trust to it. Dogs and cats 
learn faster than guinea-pigs ; monkeys faster than dogs and 
cats ; man quicker still. But in no case would there be any 
use in learning, if it did not lead to action as if the experi- 
ence had been generalised. There is no mystery in general- 
isation; it is spontaneous, and only waits for language to 
express itself; the difficult thing to acquire is caution. In 
default of method, the only test of truth is relative constancy 
in experience per enumerationem simplicem faulty but 
broadly effective; which requires time and practice. Primi- 
tive Magic is an incautious, unexpressed generalisation ; 
and the conditions are such that the error cannot be easily 
detected. As long as a savage follows the instinctive, tradi- 
tionary and acquired knowledge that he has of hunting, 
practices based on wrong judgments, but not interfering 
with the traditionary art, such as the carrying about of a 
bone, or a crystal, or having a special pattern on his quiver, 
cannot impair his success; may add to it by increasing his 
confidence : so that as long as success lasts there is nothing 
to suggest the falsity of the judgment. A series of failures 
may make the hunter throw away his talisman, or (at a later 
stage of Magic) take it to a medicine-man to be redoctored. 
How many thousands of times may Magic have begun in 
this way and lost its hold again, before the human mind 
became chronically infected with it ! 

Similarly with amulets, anything unusual that a man 
happens to have about him, when attacked by a leopard or 
snake, from which he escapes, may be kept as a safeguard 
against future perils. And with rites : any gesture or action, 
however irrelevant, that happens to precede a successful 
effort, may be repeated in order to reinstate all the antece- 
dents of success. So, too, with the origin of spells. It is a 
common impulse, and quite spontaneous, to accompany an 
action with words, incentive or expletive. If a hunter does 
so in driving home his spear successfully, he will next time 
repeat the words : they then become a spell. 1 First, then, 

l Charms (and possibly rites and spells) are sometimes revealed in 
dreams (Howitt, The Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 378 ; 
and Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes of Borneo, I. p. 110). But 

MAGIC 119 

there are practices of carrying about charms, repeating words, 
repeating actions; next, along with these practices, beliefs 
grow up as to the nature of their efficacy, their virtue; and 
much later it is discovered that some of the practices seem 
to involve certain common principles which the savage had I. 
never thought of. 

In trying to imagine ourselves in the place of such a man, 
we must not omit the emotional excitement that determines 
his judgment. It is the intensity of his desire for success, 
his anxiety about it, that makes him snatch at, and cling to, 
whatever may possibly be a means to it : he does not see 
how it acts, but will take no risks by omitting it. Since what 
is true of primitive hunting is true of all undertakings that 
we know some conditions of success but far from all and 
since we are all of us frequently in this position the wonder is 
that we resort so little to Magic. That many people do so in 
London is notorious. 


Magic is a uniform connexion of events, depending on 
some impersonal force ^that TTas" "no real "existence. What 
causes make men believe in sucrTTorcef In tne rTrst place, 
everything is necessarily conceived of by everybody (and 
probably in some dim way by the higher animals) as a centre 
of forces. Its weight, when we try to lift it; inertia, when 
we push it, or when it is moving and we try to stop it ; degree 
of hardness, when we strike or grasp it ; elasticity, when the 
bent bough of a tree recoils; the sway of torrents and the 
lift of waves ; falling trees, avalanches, water-spouts, hurri- 
canes : all these things a man must think of, as he does of 
other men and animals, in comparison with his own strength 
or impotence. Into their actions and reactions he reads such 
tension and effort as he himself feels in struggling with them, 

this can only happen either where the belief in charms already exists 
(as in the cases cited), or by the coincidence of the dream with good or 
bad fortune. The connexion of events must first of all present itself 
as something observed : whether waking or dreaming is indifferent. 

For further illustrations of the influence of coincidences in establishing 
a belief in Magic, see ch. viii. 5. 



or in grappling one of his own hands with the other ; and as 
their action is full of surprises he does not suppose himself 
to know all that they can do. 

But, further, the strain exhibited by some objects, especially 
trees; the noises they make, creaking and groaning in the 
wind; the shrieking and moaning of the wind itself, the 
threatening and whispering of the sea, thunder and the roar 
of torrents : all excite Einfuhlung or empathy, illusory 
sympathy with things that do not feel. Their voices, more 
than anything else, I believe, endow them for our imagina- 
tions with an inward life, which Mr. Marett KaT^'ll lulled**^ 
mi, 1 and which must hot be confounded with the 

Animism that used to be attributed to all children and all 
savages the belief that everyjDbject ^actuated by a spirit, 
or even that it has a consciousness like our own. What 
truth there was in that doctrine is fully covered by Animatism. 

Again, the savage is acquainted with invisible forces some 
of which seem to act at a distance. The wind is the great 
type of invisible force ; heat, sound, odour are also invisible, 
and act at a distance; the light of the camp-fire acts at a" 
distance, spreading across the prairie or into the recesses of 
the forest ; and lightnings issue from the clouds. In dreams, 
one visits softie remote hunting-ground and returns instantly; 
distance and time are distorted or annihilated; and if you 
can act where you dream, why not where you intensely 
imagine yourself? 

Hence there are abundant analogues in experience by 
which the savage can conceive of his talisman as a force-thing 
that acts invisibly and acts at a distance. Australian medi- 
cine-men " threw their jo'ias (evil magic) invisibly, ' like the 
wind,' as they said." 2 The talisman acts at a distance, like 
a missile; it acts for the person who owns it as his spear 
does, and is dangerous to others who have not practised 
with it. Sometimes, indeed, magic things have no owners, 
and are dangerous to everybody : malignant influence radiat- 
ing from them, like the heat of a fire or the stench of a corpse. 
Such are two stones described by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen 3 

1 R. R. Marett, Preanimistic Religion, Folk-Lore, 1900. 

, , Howitt Th <> Native Tribes of South -East Australia, p. 371. 

/VfYrthovvi rn^nt^^^. *t /~1 * i A - **.t^ 

Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 472. 

MAGIC 121 

as marking the place where an old man and two women died 
for breaking a marriage- taboo. " They are so full of evil 
magic that if any but old men go near, it kills them. Now 
and then a very old man goes and throws stones and bushes 
upon the spot to keep down the evil magic." It is as if one 
covered up a fire or a corpse. And, further, magical force 
may exist in a diffused way, like darkness, heat, cold, epidemic 
disease, tribal unrest, without necessarily attaching to any 
particular thing. In the Western Isles of Torres Straits 3 
mishaps may be signs of an unlucky state of things in general. 
A fisherman, usually successful, having once failed at his 
task, was depressed ; but on two women dying in his village 
soon after, he was consoled; since this showed that failure 
was not his fault. Currents of this magical force, favourable 
or unfavourable to things in general, may be seen in the flow 
and ebb of the tide, the waxing and waning of the moon, 
and in the course of the seasons. From this way of thinking 
it is but a step to the conception of mana, as it is called in 
Melanesia : 2 orenda of the Iroquois, manitou of the Algonquin, 
wakanda of the Omaha. 3 It is the power of the wonderful 
and mysterious in the world, which becomes especially mani- 
fest in Magic and in the agency of spirits. Similar notions 
are found in many regions at various stages of culture, but 
nowhere (I believe) at the lowest stages ; so that it is unreason- 
able to treat it as the first source of ideas of the supernatural. 
It is too comprehensive a generalisation to find expression 
amongst savages. The Arunta have got as far as the general- 
isation of evil Magic under the name of arungquiltha.^ But 
mana is a generalisation of all the imaginary forces of super- 
stition, vague and mysterious; as " cause," in popular use, is 
a generalisation of all the supposed " forces " of nature. 

Rites also act at a distance by invisible force ; for this power 
belongs to gesture-language, and the simplest rites are 
gestures. And so do spells; for wishes, commands, threats 
expressed in words, act upon men at a distance by invisible 

1 A. C. Haddon, Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits. 
V. p. 361. 

2 Coddrington, The Melanesians, pp. 118-19. 

3 For a comparison of these allied notions see E. S. Hartland's 
Ritual and Belief, pp. 36-51. 

4 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia^ p. 548. 


force ; and spells are nothing but such expressions conceived 
of in a particular way, as having that uniform efficacity which 
is Magic. Spells, being thought of as forces, are reified; 
so that blessings or curses cling to their objects like garlands, 
or like contaminating rags. 

Magical force, then, is a notion derived from experience 
of natural forces and employed to account for events that are 
unusual, wonderful, mysterious, not to be interpreted by 
that common sense which is the cumulative result of usual 
occurrences. It is superimposed upon the older and wider 
presumption of causation, and is expected to manifest itself 
with the same uniformity ; so that, if the laws of it can be 
discovered, it supplies a basis for the Art of Magic. So far 
is Magic from being the source of the belief in causation ! 
But I have spoken of the " older and wider presumption of 
causation " ; for (as has been shown) the definite postulate 
{hat ajl the ongoings of the world may be analysed upon the 
principal of cause and effect, can never come into the minds 
of primitive men; and even to ourselves it rarely occurs, 
except in scientific discussions or logical exercises; but we 
always act as if we trusted in it, and so does a savage, and 
so does a dog. The presumption is reinforced by every 
moment's ordinary experience ; and without it no consistency 
of life is possible. This ungeneralised presumption deter- 
mines all thoughts and actions, mechanical, animistic, or 
magical. That the forces implied in superstition are general- 
ised in such concepts as mana before the principle of causation 
obtains expression, is due to the prepotency of the unusual, 
wonderful, mysterious in attracting attention. 

In our modern analysis of mechanical causation there are 
four requirements : (1) every event has a cause; (2) causation 
is uniform ; (3) the cause is the assemblage of the indispensable 
conditions of the effect (and no others); (4) the cause is 
proportional to the effect. In the savage's mind these require- 
ments are also obscurely recognised : (1) he seeks a cause for 
everything : (2) he expects it to act uniformly : (3) he believes 
in reinstating all the conditions of the effect, as appears from 
his preparations for hunting, or war, or marriage, or what- 
ever he may have in hand ; but he is much more ignorant than 
we are as to what conditions are indispensable and decisive : 

MAGIC 123 

(4) he knows vaguely that the cause is proportional to the 
effect; for (a) he succeeds in making effective weapons, 
etc., by mechanical means ; (b) he is very susceptible to the 
" size-weight illusion," twice as much as we are, 1 and this 
implies the adjustment of effort to a supposed weight ; (c) he 
repeats a spell in order to strengthen it, or unites a talisman, 
a rite and a spell in one assault, implying that greater force 
must be directed against greater resistance; and so on. 

Causation, then, is universally assumed : how do Animism 
and Magic influence the latent conception ? As to Animism, 
(1) it palters with the uniformity of causation; for though 
the ghost or spirit acts from human motives, no one knows 
exactly what its motives are. It may be cajoled, implored, 
even threatened; but the result does not always answer 
desire : there is apparent caprice or free will, with consequent 
loss of confidence, and an uncomfortable feeling that leads 
to a reaction in favour of controlling the god, or ghost, by 
Magic. (2) The ghost is at first merely a man-force disen- 
gaged from the visible body, but still having its own body 
through which it can produce various effects. But the fear 
of a ghost immediately endows it with superhuman power; 
and in course of time it becomes more and more powerful, 
even to omnipotence ; so that it can of itself bring about any 
event; and, therefore, the "assemblage of conditions" 
becomes unnecessary to causation : there need be no visible 
conditions : miracles occur; creation out of nothing is 
possible. (3) For such a power the " proportionality of 
cause and effect" becomes almost meaningless; but not 
quite, for there are degrees of spirit-force; and what one 
cannot do a stronger can. 

As to Magic, it has the great merit of (1) preserving the 
uniformrtyoficausation. But (2) it vitiates the presumption 
of causation by including in the total antecedent unreal 
conditions, namely, the forces of rites and spells; and by 
generating a frame of mind that makes it impossible to 
eliminate them. The hunter uses all the resources of his 
art in hunting; he also practises rites and spells. To which 
does he owe his success? We might suggest that he should 

1 W. McDougall, Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, 
II. p. 199. 


try the hunting without the rites; but he is afraid to; and 
should he try, his positivism would probably break down at 
the first failure to kill. Well, then, let him try the rites with- 
out the hunting ; but he is not such a fool : and, if he were, 
the medicine-man would tell him that, of course, he must 
" use the means." (3) Magic impairs the sense of proportion- 
ality between cause and effect, by recognising antecedents 
which are, in their nature, immeasurable. In their admirable 
work, The Pagan Tribes of Borneo, Messrs. Hose and McDougall 
remark l that it is sometimes said, that people of lowly culture 
have " no conception of mechanical causation, and that every 
material object is regarded by them as animated " ; but they 
do not think that this could be truthfully said about any 
of the peoples of Borneo. In the construction of houses, 
boats, weapons, traps, they have a nice appreciation of the 
principles involved. Yet we find 2 that these skilled artisans 
believe that they can retard an enemy's boat by hanging under 
one of its benches a quartz pebble. Similarly, the Boloki 
of the Congo, having made a good canoe, before launching, 
strike it on the stern with an axe " to take away the weight." 3 
And the Fijians, still better boat-builders, believe that to put 
a basket of bitter oranges on a canoe reduces its speed. 4 

Inasmuch as the possibility of action at a distance is still 
in debate, the savage cannot perhaps upon that tenet be 
confidently corrected. 

If there is any truth in the foregoing account of the latent 
ideas, or presumptions, of savages concerning causation, it is 
plain that Magic (and likewise Animism) did not help, but 
hindered the development of these ideas. Notwithstanding 
(or, perhaps, because of) certain specious resemblances to 
science, Magic is, and always has been, the enemy of science. 


Magic begins with ignorance of some of the conditions of a 
desired event, and the adoption (on account of coincidence) 
of anything that fixes one's attention as contributing to the 

1 Vol. II. p. 2. 2 vol. II. p. 124. 

3 Weeks, Among Congo Cannibals, p. 311. 

4 Thomas Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, p. 79. 

MAGIC 125 

total antecedent. As the supposed conditions of events grow 
more and mo're miscellaneous, the disposition increases to 
regard anything as a possible cause of anything else. Hence 
unbounded suspicion whenever an interesting event occurs 
whose antecedents are not familiar and manifest. The more 
unusual any occurrence, the more it must excite attention 
and be apt to arouse suspicion; and the first arrival of 
travellers or missionaries amongst a wild tribe is an event 
so unprecedented, that it is likely enough to occasion exag- 
gerated suspicions and behaviour which, when reported, 
misrepresent the tribe's normal attitude of mind. For this 
allowance should be made. 

However, in Magic the causation is never traceable ; there- 
fore it becomes mysterious. The sense of mystery arises 
when something excites wonder, wonder gives place to 
curiosity, curiosity is baffled, and wonder returns with fear. 
The magical power of an inert object, such as a black pebble 
or a shark's tooth, or of a bone that is pointed towards a 
victim, or of a spear that is swung but not thrown, and never- 
theless inflicts a wound, though an invisible one, is something 
unknown, or mysterious. That is to say, it is a merely 
imagined action which remains obscure and inscrutable, in 
comparison with the perceived action of a spear thrown at 
a deer and slaying it with a visible wound. The savage 
has adequate practical knowledge of the latter process; of 
the former only a vague analogical image. He feels the 
difference, and that the Magic is mysterious; and mystery, 
being common to all magical processes, and deeply impressive 
(especially in black Magic), becomes what we call a " funda- 
mental attribute " of Magic, pervading the whole apperceptive 
mass that is formed by a man's magic-beliefs. Therefore 
whatever excites the sense of mystery tends to be assimi- 
lated 1 by this apperceptive mass and confirmed as magical ; 
just as the mass of our scientific knowledge assimilates and 
confirms any proposition that has the attributes of a scientific 

1 Tends to be assimilated for if the presentation have some special 
character of Animism, it will be assimilated to the animistic system; 
or if Animism bo the more active and fashionable theory in a man's 
social group. 


law. Hence the savage accepts the mysterious remedies of 
an European doctor as magical ; and he is ready to regard as 
magical, and to fear, anything a rock, tree, or water-spout 
that by any trait excites his sense of mystery. Magic, 
then, does not arise from mystery; but having come into 
existence, it appeals to the feeling of mystery; and then 
whatever else is mysterious tends to become magical. 1 

Magic being mysterious, the more mysterious the more 
powerful it must be. Hence foreign Magic is more dreaded 
than the home-made; ancient Magic is more powerful than 
modern; muttered spells, or formulae in a strange language, 
or in one whose meaning has been lost, are more efficacious 
than intelligible speech; written characters and numbers 
have a subduing prestige; verse is more subtle than prose 
(for poets are everywhere respected) ; a wizard is more impres- 
sive in a mask than when bare-faced, in a fit than when sober ; 
and operations in the dark, that ought to excite scepticism, 
enhance credulity. 

Masses of ideas having this mysterious quality form rela- 
tively dissociated systems, which offer resistance to all ideas 
that want it, and therefore to what we call " explanation." 
Hence the conservative, inexpugnable character of Magic 
and its easy alliance with Mysticism. Resistance to explana- 
tion may go the length of denying present experience; as 
when a man is seen to be slain by a weapon or by a falling 
tree, and yet his death is ascribed to sorcery : the fear of 
sorcery having become a fixed idea. 


Magical power inheres in things, rites and spells without 
regard to the man who uses them; they may be sold or 

1 It has been thought strange that such a thing as a whirlwind may 
excite in the savage either fear or anger. To explain this we must 
consider the nature of wonder : it is an imaginative expansion of 
surprise, temporary paralysis of the imagination, with emotional dis- 
turbance, but no progressive instinct of its own. It either subsides 
helplessly, or gives place to curiosity, or passes into some other emotion 
that is connected with an instinct. Accordingly, it usually passes into 
curiosity or else fear, but sometimes into anger : which of these emotions 
shall be aroused depends, partly, upon the character of the person who 
wonders, partly, upon circumstances. 

MAGIC 127 

taught, and then serve the new possessor. But much the 
greater part of all known magical operation depends upon 
the agency of some person, man or spirit, who sets it going ; 
and rites and spells are from the first, by their nature, personal 

In the later stages of Magic, no doubt, it is held that a 
mere wish or volition may be efficacious : in Cornwall they 
still tell you, when you are cold or tired, that you " look 
wisht," that is, as if you had been ill-wisht and were pining 
away (this meaning is generally forgotten). But it seems to 
me improbable that such an idea should be primitive. People 
who, in inflicting penalties, do not discriminate between acci- 
dental and intentional offences, cannot be supposed to ascribe 
power to a mental process as such; .and I have not been 
able to find in reports of very backward tribes any case of 
wish-magic unsupported by magical implements. Dr. Haddon 
says l that, among the eastern islanders of Torres Straits, 
the power of words and the projection of the will are greatly 
believed in. A youth who makes love procures a piece of 
black lava shaped significantly, and anoints it with coco-nut 
oil, etc. ; he also anoints his own temples, and thinks as 
intently as possible about the girl, and repeats a spell when- 
ever he sees her, using the names of Sagaro and Pikaro, wife 
and mistress of the hero Sida. Now, with this complex 
apparatus of talisman, rite and spell, how much is left to 
wishing or the projection of the will ? He thinks hard about 
the girl, no doubt ; but that needs no voluntary effort : at 
least, in this climate, voluntary effort is soon exhausted in 
trying to think of anything else. Mr. Weeks, in his book 
Among ' Congo Cannibals, describing a people of somewhat 
higher culture, and much more advanced Animism than the 
natives of Torres Straits, explains the nervousness in the 
poison ordeal even of those who are innocent of any nefarious 
practices, by asking " For who has not at some time wished 
another's death?" and by the admitted doctrine that a 
man may be full of evil magic without knowing it. From 
this it seems to be inferable that a mere wish may be effective. 
But not justly; for a man full of evil magic is an incarnate 
talisman; and such a man may operate without wishing, 

1 Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, VI. p. 321. 


as often happens with the evil-eye. At any rate, these casual 
Congo wishes do not amount to volition ; the faintest velleity 
is enough for the hair-trigger of such explosive personalities. 
In Japan, too, the angry spirit of a living person may inflict 
a curse unknown to himself. 1 

Still, with the progress of Magic, deliberate wishes may 
acquire independent power. A man practising evil Magic, 
and desiring secrecy, has a strong motive to believe (that 
is, there is a cause of his believing) that his tacit wish has the 
power of invisible action at a distance ; and the way by which 
he arrives at that belief is quite clear : for a spell is a magical 
force; it is also an expressed wish or command; and, if 
muttered, is more rather than less powerful than when uttered 
aloud. Why not, then, " sub-muttered," or merely thought? 

From this degenerate notion of will-work we must distin- 
guish the personal power of an accomplished wizard in his 
whole magical activity. Whatever a man does with a talis- 
man or a spell, as it were with a tool or a weapon, may be 
done with more or less concentration of energy and pro- 
ficiency in the performance; and one man will be plainly 
superior to another. Success depends upon doing one's 
best; therefore upon the will. And Magic often needs 
courage and resource; but in the development of the art it 
depends still more upon knowledge; wherein the magician 
is wont to boast himself. For wizardry is the most reputable 
faculty of primitive scholarship : to know all spells and rites, 
the arts of divination and medicine, the ancestry and true 
name of all dangerous things, which gives control over them : 
and it is a universal belief that knowledge is power. 


From the simple beginnings thus described, Magic, like 
everything else in the world, proceeds to grow and differ- 
entiate. It grows by the lengthening of spells from the 
briefest wish or command to many verses ; 2 by the extension 

1 W. G. Aston, Shinto, p. 52. 

One may trace this process in the interesting collection of spells 
in Skeat's Malay Magic. 

MAGIC 129 

of rites from the waving of a bough to raise the wind to the 
Australian Intichiuma ceremonies that go on for many days ; 
by the accumulating of charms by the bagful; by the com- 
pounding of rites with spells, and by repetition of them 
three times or some other sacred number. It differentiates 
by being applied and adapted to more and more purposes : 
from hunting (if we suppose it to begin there) to war and 
love ; to birth, marriage and death ; to the giving of diseases 
and the curing of them ; to the protection of property and 
to the discovery (or concealment) of theft; to navigation, 
building, agriculture, the care of flocks and herds, the procur- 
ing of rain, renewing the vigour of the sun and binding the 
influence of the Pleiades. At the same time Magic, originally 
practised (we may presume) by individuals, comes to engage 
the concern and co-operation of families, clans and tribes; 
and a distinction grows up between what we call " white " 
and " black " Magic : practices that are for the welfare of 
the tribe, or of some portion of it, and practices designed to 
gratify private passions without regard to their effect upon 
the community. 

One may notice certain stages (not always serial) in the 
development of Magic : First, the simple and direct defence 
of oneself or fellows against other persons or things, storms, 
diseases, etc. ; or, again, direct attack upon such hostile 
powers by means of charms, spells or rites. Secondly, 
indirect or dramatic Magic, operating not upon persons or 
things themselves, but (expecting the same effect) upon 
imitations of them, or upon detached parts or appurtenances ; 
as in the well-known device of making a waxen figure of a 
man and melting it in the fire to his destruction. Thirdly, 
the alliance of Magic with Animism, leading to sorcery, 
exorcism and ceremonies associated with Religion discussed 
below in the sixth and seventh chapters. Fourthly, the con- 
fusion of Magic with Science, as in Astrology and Alchemy 
referred to in the seventh and tenth chapters. 

Direct magical rites begin in very simple ways, probably 

with gestures : as to point at a man in threatening ; to throw 

out the open hand in warding off evil ; to claw the air behind 

a man's back, as Australian women do. It becomes more 



and more elaborate as the result of much study devoted to 
a matter of supreme interest : especially after the rise of a 
professional class of medicine-men, with whom inventions 
accumulate and become traditionary. Similarly, spells are 
at first merely wishes, or commands, or warnings. An 
Australian Wind-doctor cries, " Let the west wind be 
bound." l The southern Massim of New Guinea have a spell 
to open a cave " O rock, be cleft ! " and, again, to shut the 
cave " O rock, be closed ! " 2 Nothing can be simpler. 
How spells rise into poetry and are combined with rites and 
charms is shown by a Polynesian example : a man being ill 
with consumption, which is called Moomoo, a medicine-man 
is sent for. He comes, sits by the patient, and sings 

" O Moomoo, O Moomoo ! 
I'm on the eve of spearing you." 

Then, rising, he flourishes his spear over the patient's head, 
and goes away. No one dares speak or smile. 3 

As to charms, the simplest, and perhaps the earliest, are 
small pebbles, such as the Australian " bulks," or crystals. 4 In 
Papua there are quartz charms so powerful that it is not safe for 
even the owner to touch them. In that country the qualities 
that make a thing suitable for a charm are : (1) similarity in 
contour, or in other ways, to the object to be influenced; 
(2) rarity ; (3) unusual shape in not very uncommon objects : 5 
in short, whatever arrests attention. Dr. Codrington says : 
"A stone takes a man's fancy; it is like something, clearly 
not a common stone; there must be mana in it : puts it in 
his garden ; and a good crop proves he was right." 6 Among 
the Esquimo, strange or curious objects never before seen 
are sometimes considered to bring success to the finder; 
and charms are carried shaped like the animals hunted. 7 

1 Howitt, The Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 397. 

2 Seligman, Melanesians of British New Guinea, p. 376. 

3 Turner, Samoa, p. 138. For further development of the spell, see 
(besides Skeat, op. cit.) the collected examples at the end of Sayce's 
Religion of the Ancient Babylonians. 

4 Parker, The Euatdayi, p. 26. 

5 Seligman, The Melanesians of British New Guinea, pp. 173-5. 
8 The Melanesians, pp. 118-19. 

7 Turner, Ethnology of the Ungava District, Am. B. of Ethn., XI. 
p. 201; and Murdoch, Ethnology of Point Barrow, Am. B. of Ethn., 
IX. p. 434. 

MAGIC 131 

Such a taste is very ancient, if the same purpose was served 
by those animal-shaped stones, retouched to increase the 
resemblance, which have been found in considerable numbers 
in France and England. 1 In the bag of a West African sorcerer 
may be seen a bit of leopard skin, of snake's skin, hawk's 
talons, bone of a dead man, leaves of certain plants, etc. ; 
each having its own virtue, and uniting their powers in the 
interest of the formidable owner. The Chanson de Roland 
describes a talisman to which the chief of Charlemagne's 
peers must have owed no small part of his prowess his 
famous sword : 

" Ah ! Durendal, most holy, fair indeed ! 
Relics enough thy golden hilt conceals : 
Saint Peter's Tooth, the Blood of Saint Basile, 
Some of the Hairs of my lord, Saint Denise, 
Some of the Robe, was worn by Saint Mary." 2 

I cannot call it fair fighting, and wonder that, thus armed, 
he should ever have been mortally wounded by the miscreant 
hordes of Mahum and Tervagant, however numerous. 

An influential outgrowth of primitive Magic is the taboo. 
Taboo is the dangerousness of a person, or thing, or action, 
or word, conceived of as a motive for not touching or uttering 
or meddling therewith. The dangerousness may either lie 
in the nature of a person or thing, or be imposed upon it. 
A chief, for example, and everything belonging to him, is 
generally taboo by inherent sacredness : he is, like Mr. 
Weeks's Congolese, full of evil magic. The idea of the talis- 
man has thus been extended to include certain men. In 
many tribes it includes all women; but since to make them 
always taboo is too much for human nature, they are treated 
as such only periodically, or when a man is about to be 
exposed to some further danger, which will be the more likely 
to injure him when already contaminated by evil magic. 3 
This is very clear in a case reported by Prof. Seligman : 4 

1 W. M. Newton, On Palseological Figures of Flint, Journ. of B. Arch. 
Ass., March 1913. . 

a The Song of Roland, done into English by C. Scott Moncrieff, 

T. C. Hodson, The Naga Tribes of Manipur, p. 88. 
4 Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Straits, 

V. p 271. 


at Yam warriors were forbidden to sleep with their wives 
before battle; else " bow and arrow belong other fellow he 
smell you, he shoot you, you no got luck." Still, physical 
consequences (which may explain the superstition) are also 
considered : a diver for pearl-shell must similarly abstain ; 
because, else, " man he sleepy." The continence required of 
women to ensure the safety of their husbands when away at 
war or hunting may be due to a belief in a " sympathy " 
or " participation," as if husband and wife were in some 
mysterious rapport; but, deeper, there may have been a 
fetch of policy. When magical taboos are generally recog- 
nised and feared, it becomes possible to use them for social 
purposes : one cannot be sure that every magical observance 
had its origin in magical belief. Thus the food-rules of 
Australian tribes consist of taboos upon the enjoyment of 
certain foods by women and young men, and are plainly 
devised in the interests of the gerontocracy : so why should 
not a fiction be founded on Magic in the interest of absent 
husbands ? 

The sanctity or dangerousness of the chief is probably due, 
first, to his being really dangerous; but, secondly, to the 
biological advantage to a tribe of respecting him, which 
leads to a selection of those tribes amongst whom respect for 
the chief arises. As biological adaptation is never more 
than a moving, oscillating equilibrium, this feeling sometimes 
becomes excessive, even to the point of insanity. Every- 
thing the chief touches becomes taboo; only a few sacred 
servants can approach him ; he may be thus reduced to help- 
lessness. It is one of Nature's checks upon tyranny. Such 
is the force of taboo, that a Maori tribesman, being hungry, 
seeing some food by the wayside, and eating it, on learning 
that it was the remains of the meal of a sacred chief, imme- 
diately fell ill, and died. The offence was fatal as soon as 
it was known. The dangerousness of women has been referred 
to their weakness; association with them must be weaken- 
ing, and is therefore forbidden when exertion is needed. 1 
tProf. Westermarck traces it to a " horror of blood " ; 2 very 

1 A. E. Crawley, J.A.I., XXIV. p. 123. 

2 Development of Moral Ideas, I, c. 26. 

MAGIC 133 

probably; but other things may co-operate towards it. 
The life of women separates them from men, and brings them 
into a freemasonry and community of interests, to which 
men are not admitted; differentiates their mentality, until 
the result is mysterious and therefore magical : the sexual 
orgasm, being more like pain than anything that is not pain, 
at once attractive and revulsive, acquires the same character. 
Homicides and mourners, again, are liable to be taboo, either 
because there clings to them the mysterious quality and taint 
of death (a magical motive), or because they are followed by 
the ghosts of the departed. 

There are unlucky words which it is a social offence to 
utter : words of ill-omen, but especially names of dead 
people, demons and sometimes gods; for people are apt to 
come when they are called, and, if the call is conceived of 
according to Magic, come they certainly will. There are 
likewise many actions that seem to us entirely innocent, 
yet in one or another tribe must be avoided by all who desire 
a prosperous or only a tranquil life. The Papagoe Indians 
of Mexico forbid a girl at a certain time to scratch her head, 
or even to touch her hair with her hand ; for which there may 
be an excuse in the sacredness of the head ; but her brother 
comes at the same time under the same restriction. 1 The 
case seems to be a type of many taboos, as being due wholly 
to suspicion and anxiety : an anxious mother who sees her 
boy scratch his head is reminded of his sister who must not 
do so; her fears are excited, and she prohibits the action 
that excites her fear : it is taboo. Writing of a Bantu tribe, 
M. Jounod says, " Most often taboos are inexplicable." 2 So 
are the penalties that await the breach of them : the punish- 
ment rarely fits the crime. Premature baldness, failure in 
hunting or fishing, boils, lameness, dysentery may avenge 
the eating of wild duck or marriage within the forbidden 
circle. And if any such thing happens to a man, he is liable 
to be accused of having broken a taboo ; and that proves the 
truth of the belief in taboo. 

Besides things that are in their magical nature dangerous, 

1 Carl Lumholtz, New Trails in Mexico, p. 350. 

2 Life of a South African Tribe, p. 528. 


and therefore taboo, things inoffensive in themselves can some- 
times be made taboo by merely declaring them to be so, 
or by setting up a symbolic notice that they are so, or by 
laying a conditional curse upon anybody who meddles with 
them. They have then become dangerous. This is the 
common case of making a talisman by means of a spell, 
transferring to it invisible power. Such practices, especially 
common in Melanesia, are often useful as a cheap defence of 
property (in gardens, for instance), but are also a means of 
exaction and tyranny. The prevalence of taboo amongst 
savages, by the way, enables them readily to appreciate our 
great commandment to do no work on Sunday. 1 


The use of charms, rites and spells, having been estab- 
lished in one department say, hunting may be extended 
to others by analogy, and is confirmed there in the same 
way, namely, by still doing one's best. Having obtained 
the charms and learnt, or invented, the rites and spells, 
one applies them, but at the same time makes war or love as 
cunningly as one can, cultivates one's garden, drives a bargain, 
and so forth, and ascribes all good results to the Magic. At 
first, I suppose, all such action was direct, discharged at the 
person or thing to be influenced. To slay an enemy a bone 
of a dead man was pointed, or a crocodile's tooth hurled, in 
his direction (though, probably, not in his sight). To keep 
off evil Magic a wish was expressed " Never sharp barn 
catch me " ; 2 or to drive away a pest a command was issued, 
as in Borneo : " O rats, sparrows and noxious insects, go 
feed on the padi of people down river." 3 But a time came 
when Magic began also to be carried out by practices indirect 
and purely dramatic, rites performed and spells recited not 
at the person or thing to be affected, but upon some substitute, 

1 See the exhaustive treatment of this subject in Frazer's Taboo 
and the Perils of the Soul. 

2 A barn " is a small spindle-shaped stick, supposed to be thrown 
in a magical attack by wizards. Howitt, The Native Tribes of South- East 
Australia, p. 377. 

8 Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes of Borneo, I. p. 110. 

MAGIC 135 

or representative, or symbol; and this must have happened 
pretty early; for dramatic Magic is met with in Australia. 
To this sort of Magic belong the widely-diffused methods of 
operating upon the image of a man or anything assigned to 
stand for him, or upon hair-clippings, remains of food, or 
footprints instead of himself; or of tying knots to bind, or 
untying them to release a curse. With spells the indirect 
method is less common, but remarkable examples of it occur 
at a low level of culture. The Yabim of New Guinea, to 
promote the growth of their taro, tell a story : " Once upon 
a time, a man labouring in his field complained that he had 
no taro-shoots. Then came two doves flying from Paum. 
They had devoured much taro, and they perched upon a tree 
in the field, and during the night vomited up all the taro. 
Thus the man got so many shoots that he was even able to 
sell some of them to other people." l Here, then, a mere 
story of a wish fulfilled is substituted, as a spell, for the wish 
itself, and expected to have the same effect upon the crop; 
and as that is, indeed, true, any failure of it is no more liable 
to be detected. But such practices seem to us sillier and less 
promising even than direct Magic. What can be the meaning 
of them ? 

The indirectness of a rite makes it more mysterious and 
magical, and that is a recommendation. Moreover, its 
dramatic character gives an imaginative satisfaction, which 
must suffice to initiate such pantomime again and again. 
Amongst ourselves many people are prone to dramatise every 
situation of their lives; to act in imagination their loves, 
their revenges, their opportunities of self-display, and to 
derive satisfaction from such imaginations even to the weak- 
ening of their will satisfaction without effort or danger. 
But although this impulse may initiate pantomimic magic, 
it can hardly maintain it in the absence of any deeper satis- 
faction. The belief in its efficacy, again, .once established, 
the effect of suggestion upon a victim of black Magic (who 
by some means is acquainted with what has been done against 
him) may have consequences that seem to verify the rites; 
but this can only happen when a belief in the efficacy of such 

1 Quoted by Frazer, Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, I. p. 1Q5. 


practices already prevails. The power of suggestion depends 
upon the belief; it cannot create the belief. We must fall 
back upon coincidence. If, indeed, immediate and complete 
coincidence were requisite, if, when one practised on an 
enemy's life, nothing less than his speedy death would do, 
coincidences might be too rare to give the requisite confirma- 
tion. But if some less injury will be acceptable, and if it 
need not follow immediately; if a delay of not merely two 
or three days, but two or three months will bring the event 
within the limits of satisfaction ; and if the degree of injury 
may vary from death to a bad fall, or some failure in hunting 
on the victim's part, or a quarrel with his wife ; if even (as 
often happens) a misfortune to any one of his family may 
suffice the confirmatory coincidences will be tolerably 
frequent. There must, of course, be many disappointments ; 
but these count for little, because the particular practice is 
supported by a general belief in Magic ; because men desire to 
believe and are afraid to disbelieve; because failures are 
explained by some error in performing the rites, or by the 
counteraction of superior Magic, or by the intervention of 
hostile spirits. 

Special reasons for practising and believing in indirect 
operations of black Magic are their greater secrecy and, there- 
fore, greater safety, and greater gratification of the love of 
cunning : which last (I think) explains much of the elaboration 
that marks these performances. 

In the development of indirect Magic, very many of its 
practices seem to involve one or other of the assumptions 
often called the principles of sympathetic Magic, namely, 
Mimesis and Participation : (1) that to operate upon a like- 
ness or representation, or by analogy, affects the person, or 
object, or process imitated or represented as if it were directly 
assailed ; and (2) that a part or appurtenance of any one may, 
in any magical undertaking, be substituted for the whole. 
Among savages these principles (as has already been said) 
are only latent forms of procedure, tacitly assumed, not 
formulated, and cannot have been the source of the practices, 
but must gradually have been established by them; but 
when notions of scientific arrangement came into vogue, they 

MAGIC 137 

were discovered and explicitly stated by the early physicians 
and alchemists, in whose thoughts Magic and Science were 
not clearly differentiated. 

It has been supposed that these principles are natural 
consequences of the laws of the association (or reproduction) 
of ideas. According to the " law of similarity," an idea of 
one thing often makes us think of another that resembles it : 
hence the thought of an enemy is supposed to make me 
think of an image of him, or the sight of his image makes me 
think of him. According to the law " of contiguity," any 
two things having been seen or thought of together, there- 
after the thought or sight of one of them makes me think 
of the other : hence the thought of an enemy makes me 
think of his footprint, or his footprint reminds me of him. 
Possibly. But must there not have been a long preparation 
of ideas before the thought of an enemy awakens in me 
these particular associations rather than many others ? And 
if they should occur to me, how do the laws of association 
explain my astonishing belief that to put his image in the 
fire, or to thrust a thorn into his footprint, or to dig it up, 
carry it home and put it in the oven, will make him lame or 
afflict him with some wasting disease ? There must be some 
system of ideas to determine these particular judgments. 

Some, again, suppose that savages cannot distinguish 
similarity from identity, part from whole; so that an image 
appears to them to be in earnest the same thing as a man, 
or his nail-parings the same as himself. Yet it is certain 
that in their work-a-day life they do make these distinctions, 
and that otherwise they could not get on at all. If, then, 
in certain cases, and in Magic (which is all that concerns us 
now), they act or speak as if unable to draw such distinctions, 
it must be from an acquired incapacity in that connection; 
just as in some cases they suffer from an acquired incapacity 
to recognise that their beliefs are contradicted by experience ; 
that is to say, some fixed idea or dissociation prevents them 
from comparing the facts; though sometimes it may be 
merely that customary forms of speech hinder the expression 
of distinctions that really exist among their ideas. 

It has been suggested that the supposed force of mimetic 


Magic rests upon the belief that as a man's shadow or reflec- 
tion implies his presence, so does his image. And we shall 
see that, in some cases, this explanation is not far from the 
mark, though it cannot serve for all cases; inasmuch as the 
image operated upon in any rite need not be a likeness (of 
course it never is) a stick will serve, if declared to stand 
for the victim ; and, moreover, his presence is not needed 
in carrying out rites that act at a distance. What truth 
there is in this view has been better expressed by Prof. Yrjo 
Hirn : l namely, that a unity or solidarity exists between all 
persons and things that stand to one another in a relation- 
ship of contact or similarity, on account of a certain magical 
virtue; and that this solidarity is not destroyed by any 
breach of physical continuity. To take away a man's cloak, 
or a lock of his hair, or a remnant of his food, does not inter- 
rupt the magical continuity which contact has established 
with the man : something of him, his virtue, remains with it. 
And in the same way an image of him contains something of 
his virtue ; for to the immature mind, images or pictures are 
nothing but radiations or decortications of the thing itself, an 
efflux, like the Epicurean ei&wAa. Hence the bones of a saint 
and his picture convey his virtue to a devotee by the same 
process : both are conductors of some emanation from 
himself. There is much truth in this theory. 

When Animism is called in to explain Magic, this virtue 
or emanation of a man is apt to be explained as his soul, or 
part of it. A savage dislikes being photographed, lest you 
should take away his soul. M. Jounod says the Bantu regard 
a photograph as "an unsheathing of soul " ; 2 Mr. Dorsey 
says no Dakota would have his portrait taken lest one of 
his souls [out of four] should remain in the picture, instead 
of going after death to spirit-land ; 3 Mr. Carl Lumholtz says 
the Papagoes refused to be photographed, lest part of them- 
selves should be taken away, and remain behind after death. 4 
And it is a trick with some sorcerers to keep a looking-glass, 

1 The Sacred Shrine, pp. 33-9. 

2 Life of a South African Tribe, p. 340. 

3 Sioux Cults, Am. B. of Ethn., XI. p. 484. 

4 New Trails in Mexico, p. 61. 

MAGIC 189 

in which they pretend to catch the souls of their dupes ; 
and, of course, shadows and reflections are frequently con- 
founded with the soul. So if the use of an image in Magic 
does not imply the presence of the man himself, generally it 
does imply the presence of a very important part of him. 
And this explanation is strengthened by an apparent excep- 
tion ; for some Malays, when they make an image of an enemy 
to compass his destruction, think it necessary before operating 
to coax his soul into it by a potent spell. 

" Hither, Soul, come hither ! 
Hither, little one, come hither ! 
Hither, bird, come hither ! 
Hither, filmy one, come hither ! " l 

Must we not infer that these Malays have in some way lost 
the common belief, and so are put to this extra trouble ? 

If it be asked how this account of the matter can justify 
the use of a stick or stone instead of a man's image, merely 
assigning it to represent him, the reply (I think) is that the 
stick is a symbol. Since images are never much like the man, 
and may be unlike in all degrees, the stick is a sort of limit- 
ing case. A symbol is always the remainder, or reminder, of 
something that once had intrinsic value, as an image, shadow, 
or reflection has by being or participating in the man's soul. 
Besides, it is perhaps a tacit assumption of Magic (as in other 
departments of life including Philosophy), " that whatever 
for one's purpose it is necessary to assume, is real or true " : 
the situation demands it. 

As to the magical continuity between a man and whatever 
has been in contact with him, the belief in it may with some 
confidence be derived from the fact that it retains his odour; 
and when an animistic explanation is required, it is naturally 
thought that this odour is his soul or soul-stuff, as the savour 
of a burnt -offering is its soul-stuff that regales the gods. 

Belief in the participation of an image, or part or appurte- 
nance of a man in the man himself, or in his virtue, or in his 
soul, must give to rites of black Magic a great deal of the 
subjective satisfaction which is a secret motive of all Magic. 
The images, or nail-parings, or what not, identify the man 
1 Skeat, Malay Magic, p. 48. 


to be attacked; they fix the wizard's attention, vivify his 
imagination, direct the spell whom to strike (as a dog is set 
upon a trail), and heighten the joy of imaginary revenge. 

There are, however, many cases usually classed as " sym- 
pathetic Magic" that cannot without great violence be 
explained in this way; and I complain of the epithet " sym- 
pathetic," as applied to all indirect Magic, that it implies 
this explanation. Consider the Mandan buffalo-dances, the 
hunting dance and the mating dance; these are imitations 
or dramatic representations of the hunting of buffaloes and 
of their mating, which they are designed to prosper : can 
such dances be interpreted as the efflux or decortications of 
the future hunt or mating? Or, again, the story of the 
muraena (quoted above, p. 101) and its resuscitation by the 
rising tide is this a radiation of the budding of the taro 
which it is expected to expedite ? Such cases, which are pretty 
numerous, must be understood upon some other ground than 
" participation." 

Many rites and observances seem to depend upon the 
notion of favourable or unfavourable currents of invisible 
power, which may be taken advantage of, or influenced, to 
obtain one's ends, in hunting, or in obtaining rain, or in 
fertilisation of animals or crops. It is good to plant seed, 
or begin any undertaking, when the moon is waxing, or the 
tide rising ; for these events show that the set of the current 
is favourable to increase or prosperity. Again, one may 
incite the current or strengthen it, as in bringing on rain by 
throwing water in the air, or by leaping to help the crops to 
grow. To instigate or assist in such ways the ongoings of 
Nature is not the same thing as to cause the event : a rain- 
wizard does not pretend to procure rain in the dry season; 
the times of ploughing, sowing, reaping (whatever rites may 
accompany them) are not decided by Magic. Much panto- 
mimic Magic may be best understood as attempting to set up 
such currents of causation rather than as directly causative. 
Since instances of cause and effect are observed to repeat 
themselves, a pantomimic murder, or a hunting dance, or 
fertility-rites, may be considered as setting an example 
which Nature is expected to follow : the muraena-spell pro- 

MAGIC 141 

motes vitality by merely describing an example of reinvigor- 
ation. The Kai of N.E. New Guinea hold that if a man, by 
falling on a stump of bamboo in the path, wounds himself 
to death, it is because a sorcerer, having obtained something 
infected with his victim's soul-stuff, has spread it over a pile 
stuck in the ground, and pretended to wound himself upon 
it and to groan with pain. 1 The belief implies that such prac- 
tices are in vogue; and they seem to rely upon the assump- 
tion that " what happens once will happen again " ; and that 
who shall repeat the disaster is determined by the presence, 
among the conditions, of something belonging to the victim 
in default of himself. It is not by sympathy or participation 
that the " something infected with his soul-stuff " acts; but 
by contributing to reinstate as far as possible all the circum- 
stances of a cause like the cause of the man's death. 

In other cases an exemplary cause may be constituted by 
the substitution of similars that do not imply participation. 
Dr. Haddon tells us that in the western islands of Torres 
Straits 2 the Kuman vine breaks up in dry weather, and the 
segments look like human bones; hence they are employed 
in Magic. Similarly red ochre or some other stain may be 
used instead of blood, so that a skeleton may be coloured 
with it as a means of keeping it alive. In Chinese popular 
religion, before setting up a new idol, it is first carried to the 
temple of an older one, who is besought to let a portion of 
his soul-stuff transmigrate into the new one; then, carried 
to its own temple and enthroned, its hands, feet, eyes, mouth, 
nose and ears are smeared with blood, or with red paint, to 
open its senses and bring its soul into relation with the outer 
world. 3 Such a substitution of similars is true in one sense ; 
red paint is a substitute for blood as colour : Magic requires 
that it shall also be a substitute in other ways; and, 
therefore, it is so. Thus, down and feathers thrown into the 
air in Australian rain-rites are a substitute for clouds ; in 
Mandan hunting-rites, men disguised in buffalo-skins are a 
substitute for buffaloes; and thus, by substitution, a cause 

1 Quoted by Frazer, Belief in Immortality, p. 268. 

2 Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Straits, V. p. 325. 
W. Grube, Eel. u. K. d. Chinese, p. 153. 


can always be constituted which, once having been set to 
work, Nature is constrained to repeat the operation. 

Ought we not, then, to recognise two kinds of indirect 
Magic the sympathetic, and what may be called the 
exemplary ? l 

The rise of the wizard as a professional authority introduces 
many changes into magical practice, and decisively alters its 
social importance. He sometimes experiments in new rites 
and spells or in new versions of the old ones ; he decides some 
matters arbitrarily, as in imposing taboos on food ; generally, 
he develops the art in the direction of his professional interests, 
learning to conjure, act, ventriloquise, suggest, hypnotise, 
and to provide excuses for failure ; he begins to train novices, 
form a school and establish a tradition which influences the 
whole life of his tribe. How far arbitrary elements enter into 
rites it is impossible to say, until some one shall discover (as 
some one may) marks by which to distinguish them. Mean- 
while, there may be many rites, or ritual elements, that 
cannot be explained on any known principles of Magic, 
because in fact they are arbitrary : still, such things must 
usually be an imitation of other magical practices. Prof. 
Leuba suggests, probably enough, that rites may sometimes 
be adopted to relieve excitement, such as the dancing of 
women when the men are at war. 2 It was the custom (e. g.) 
of Araucanian women ; and as they danced, they swept the 
dust away with their fans, and sang : " As we sweep the 
dust away, so may our husbands scatter the enemy." If 
this was arbitrarily invented, it was by analogy with much 
mimetic Magic : they set an example of what should happen 
and confirmed it with a spell. 3 

1 In the B. of Am. Ethn., XIII. p. 374, F. H. Gushing, describing 
"Zuni Creation Myths," says the dramaturgic tendency is to suppose 
that Nature can be made to act by men, if " they do first what they 
wish the elements to do," according " as these things were done or 
made to be done by the ancestral gods of creation." The last clause 
is, perhaps, an animistic gloss of the Zunis', who were, of course, very 
far from primitive thought. 

2 The Psychological Study of Religion, p. 165. 

3 Cf. S. H. Ray, "People and Language of Lifu," J. R.A.I (XLVIL), 
p. 296, who says, a woman whose son or husband was away at war would 
place a piece of coral to represent him on a mat, move it about with 




In spite of the human mind's strong proclivity to Magic, 
the art, after rising to a maximum power and reputation, in 
course of time loses its influence, and is to be found festering 
only in the backwater and stagnant pools of society. Its 
power is not at the zenith in primitive society, but much later, 
when there are men in command of great wealth who feel 
insecure, and turn for confidence to diviners and thaumatur- 
gists, whom they bribe heavily to give what they most desire. 
But by that time Magic is confused with Animism. As civil 
order and material civilisation prevail, Magic is no longer 
invoked to increase one's confidence, because this is ensured 
by the regularity of ordinary affairs. As positive methods 
in war, building, commerce are learnt and practised, the 
magical accompaniments" of such undertakings, without being 
wholly disused, may become less and less important what 
we call " survivals," such as the breaking of a bottle of wine 
on the bows when launching a ship (it is forgotten that the 
wine must be red). Or they may be lost altogether without 
injury to industry ; whereas in savage economy there is some 
risk that a most useful craft, such as pottery, weaving, or 
canoe-building, may be entirely discontinued, if by the 
extinction of some group of men or women the rites and songs 
are forgotten with which such labour had always been made 
good. 1 For who would trust a pot or a canoe unconsecrated ? 

The great systematisations of Oneiromancy, Alchemy, 
Cheiromancy, Astrology, necessarily come forward late in the 
day, because they involve the constitution of science; but 
for that reason they are soon discredited by being confronted 
with the positive sciences; when, without being forgotten, 
they are relegated to what may be euphemistically called 
" select circles." 

With the growth of Animism, again, pure Magic becomes 

her right hand as he might move in fight, and with her left brush 
away imaginary evils. This protected him (evidently by exemplary 

1 W. H. R. Rivers, The Disappearance of Use/id Arts, also History 
of Melanesian Society, II. p. 445; and in Turner's Samoa (p. 145) we 
are told that the practice of embalming died out with the family of 


comparatively rare; its observances are interpreted accord- 
ing to the fashionable creed, no longer as setting occult, 
quasi-mechanical forces to work, but as requiring the inter- 
vention of a spirit or a god. They become symbolic : ritual 
now does nothing of itself, but is a sign of what the god does, 
or is desired to do. Yet Magic often has its revenge upon 
Animism : enchaining by mysterious uniformities the god 

In its own nature Magic comprises qualities that tend to 
weaken it (at least, to weaken each particular form of it) 
and to bring about its decline. Magical rites and spells, on 
whatever scale performed, are things to be repeated, and 
what is repeated is mechanised and ceases to live. Custom 
can maintain a practice whilst dispensing with its meaning; 
slowly the practice (spell or ritual) is slurred and corrupted. 
Economy, " least effort," is the enemy of all ceremonial. 
There is also a tendency to the attenuation of rites on the 
principle (unconscious, of course) that " the sign of a sign is a 
sign of the thing signified " ; whereby a meaning may be 
disguised in a symbol for the sake of secrecy, or even for 
politeness. Prof. Westermarck has shown how, in Morocco, 
the full rite for averting the evil eye is to throw forward the 
hand with outspread fingers and to exclaim, " Five in your 
eye." But as this is too insulting for common use, you may 
instead casually mention the number " five " ; or if even that 
be too plain-spoken, you can refer to " Thursday," which 
happens to be the fifth day of the week. In this process 
there is great risk of forgetting the original meaning of the 
rite or spell ; and when this comes to pass, we are left with 
the empty shells of superstition, such as a dread of " thirteen," 
"Friday," salt-spilling, walking under a ladder; for hardly 
a soul knows what they mean. 



IF, when the cohesion of the hunting-pack had weakened, 
belief in Magic by givin_ajiy]^it^ia--eldei^ became very 
influential and useful in primitive societies, still greater in 
subsequent evolution has been the power of Animism. For 
belief in ghosts led in time to the worship of ancestors, and 
then especially to the worship of the ancestors of chiefs or 
heroes, some of whom became gods ; and the belief in gods 
strengthened the authority of chiefs and kings who were 
descended from them, and helped to maintain the unity of the 
tribe or nation from generation to generation and from age 
to age. 

In anthropology, the term Animism is usually employed 
to denote the proneness of savages and barbarians, or people 
of unscientific culture, to explain natural occurrences, at 
least the more remarkable or interesting the weather, the 
growth of crops, disease and death- as due to the action of 
spirits : (1) ghosts (that is, spirits that have formerly been 
incarnate) ; (2) dream -spirits, that have temporarily quitted 
some body during sleep or trance; (3) invisible, living, 
conscious beings that have never been incarnate. This may 
be called Hyperphysical Animism. Sometimes, however, 
44 Animism " is used to denote a supposed attitude of savages 
and children toward all things, animate and inanimate, such 
that they spontaneously and necessarily attribute to every- 
thing a consciousness like our own, and regard all the actions 
and reactions of natural objects as voluntary and purposive. 
And this may be called Psychological Animism. These two 
meanings of "Animism" are entirely different: it is one 
L 145 


thing to regard an object as moved by its own mind, another 
to attribute its movement or influence to a separable agent 
which for the time possesses it ; it is one thing to regard 
an object as having an anthropomorphic consciousness, 
another to believe that that consciousness is a distinct power 
capable of quitting it and sometimes returning, or of sur- 
viving its destruction, or of existing independently. Even 
if the doctrine of Animism in the second sense were granted, 
it would remain to be shown how men came to conceive 
that the consciousness of a thing can be separated from it, 
and exist and act by itself, and even with greater powers 
than it had before contrary to the opinion of Don Juan, 

" that soul and body, on the whole, 
Were odds against a disembodied soul." 

Savages do not always regard a separable spirit as neces- 
sarily belonging even to human nature. Dr. Seligman writes 
that, among the Veddas, a few old men " were by no means 
confident that all men on their death became ydku " (veridical 
ghosts). Influential men and mediums would do so; but 
for the rest, at Godatalawa it was determined by experiment. 
The ordinary man was invoked soon after death, and desired 
to give good success in hunting; and if much game was 
then obtained, he had become a yaka. 1 Messrs. Spencer 
and Gillen tell us that, according to the Guanjis, a woman 
has no moidna (spirit part). 2 Major C. H. Stigand says " the 
Masai have no belief in a future state for any but chiefs " ; 
the common dead are not even buried, but merely thrown 
out into the bush. 3 Among the Omaha , though each person 
has a spirit that normally survives the body, still, a suicide 
ceases to exist. 4 In Tonga the souls of the lowest rank 
of the people (Tooas) died with their bodies. 5 The human 
spirit, then, is not necessarily believed to enter upon a life 
after death; still less is the spirit of an animal. On the 
other hand, it is held by many tribes that something inherent 

1 The Veddas, pp. 126-7. 

2 Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 170. 
J The Land of Zing, p. 219. 

4 J. O. Dorsey, American Bureau of Ethnology, 1889-90, XI. p 419. 

5 Mariner's Tonga, p. 105. 


in weapons, utensils, food and other objects, a " soul " or 
soul-stuff, may be separable from them and go to Hades or 
serve as the food of spirits, although the things themselves 
are not regarded as having a spirit or intelligent life. 


Andrew Lang described savages as existing in " a confused 
frame of mind to which all things, animate and inanimate, 
. . . seem on the same level of life, passion and reason." 1 
Children and other immature people are often supposed to 
be in the same condition. As to children, it is pointed out 
how deeply concerned they are about dolls and rocking- 
horses, how passionately they turn to strike a table after 
knocking their heads against it. But probably it is now 
admitted that impulsive retaliation, on a table or bramble 
or shirt -stud (not unknown to civilised men), implies not 
any belief in the malignity or sensitiveness of those objects. 
Animals behave in the same way. Th. Roosevelt reports 
that an elephant was seen to destroy in rage a thorn tree 
that had pricked its trunk ; 2 and that in America he himself 
saw a bear that was burying a carcass, and lost hold of it 
and rolled over, strike it a savage whack, like a pettish child. 3 
Moreover, in children, such behaviour is in large measure 
due to suggestion ; inasmuch as the setting of them to beat 
the table, or what not, is an easy way of diverting them from 
their own pain. And, of course, the dealing with dolls, or 
rocking-horses, or walking-sticks, as if alive, is play. Such 
play involves intense imaginative belief, which, at first, is 
not clearly differentiated from earnest. But this stage 
corresponds with the play of the young of the higher animals, 
whilst they are still physically incapable of completing the 
preluded actions ; and the engrossing interest of their play 
expresses the biological necessity of it as a means of developing 
their mental and bodily faculties. By the time that children 
are at all comparable with savages, their play has become a 
temporary attitude, compatible with brusque transition to 

1 Myth, Ritual and Religion, p. 48. 

2 African Game Trails, p. 333. 

3 Outdoor Pastimes 

mis, p. 
, p. 77. 


matter-of-fact, or even with actions which at the height of 
play show that the illusion is incomplete. 

In savages, likewise, much of the behaviour that is supposed 
to betray an illusionary animism, even in their simple appre- 
hension of things, is really an acquired way of acting, in a 
temporary attitude, under the influence of imagination- 
belief, and is compatible with other actions that show how 
incomplete is the illusion. Andrew Lang, after the passage 
above quoted, appears to limit the scope of it by the words 
" when myth-making" : no doubt, when myth-making and 
in practising many rites, savages speak or act as if they 
believed in the full sense that the objects dealt with are 
sensitive intelligent beings ; and yet their effective conduct 
toward them is entirely positive. They may, for example, 
feed the growing rice-plant with pap ; in harvesting it, speak 
a secret language that the rice may not understand them 
and be alarmed, and proceed to cut it with knives concealed 
in their palms : but they do cut it. They carry it home and 
garner it with honour, and come from time to time to take a 
portion for food with solemn observances : but then they 
cook and eat it. 1 Their animistic attitude, therefore, is not 
primitive, spontaneous, necessary illusion, but an acquired, 
specialised way of imagining and dealing with certain things. 
Were it not possible to combine in this way the imaginative 
with the practical, all wizardry and priestcraft would be 
nothing but the sheer cheating which it often seems to be 
to superficial observers. Normally, imagination-beliefs that 
have only indirect biological utility (say, in maintaining 
customs in order to ensure the tribe's welfare) are unable 
to oyercome immediate biological needs (say, for food and 
shelter); bm^often tftey do 80 within certain limits, or in 
certain dil^cHonsTariirimimn^rajje taboos of food, customs 
pL destroy ingjaTniaii' s^propert v at his death, starving or 
maiming tribesmerTon the war-path. A universal taboo on 
rice is not inconceivable. For these are social-pathological 
cases; like the self-destructive beliefs of individuals and 
sects amongst ourselves, such as the faith-healers, who in 
sickness call upon their god instead of a physician. 
1 Frazer, Spirits of the Corn and the Wild, I. p. 183. 


Children, savages and ourselves, in some degree, attribute 
spontaneously to some inanimate things, in our mere appre- 
hension of them (for this has nothing to do with the meta- 
physics of Pampsychism), something more than external 
existence : regarding them as force-things and, by empathy, 
as experiencing effort and quiescence, strain and relief, and 
sometimes emotion and pain. It is for this attitude toward 
nature that I adopt Mr. Marett's term " animatism " : as 
not ascribing to inanimate things, or to plants, in general, 
anything like a human personal consciousness ; but merely 
an obscure, fragmentary, partial consciousness, enough to 
correspond with our occasional experiences in dealing with 
them. Perhaps those observers who report in strong terms 
universal Animism as the tenet of a tribe, mean no more 
than this ; for example, the author above quoted as writing 
in the American Bureau of Ethnology, who says (p. 433) 
that according to the Dakotas, everything " the commonest 
sticks and clays " has a spirit that may hurt or help and 
is, therefore, to be propitiated. It would be unjust to the ad- 
herents of psychological Animism to accuse them of believing 
that savages have universally made so much progress in 
"faculty Psychology" as to distinguish personality, will, 
passion and reason; especially as they add that savages 
project these powers into all natural objects through in- 
capacity for discrimination and abstraction ; and, at the same 
time, know very well that in some languages of the most 
animistic tribes (e. g. Algonquin and Naga) the distinction 
of animate and inanimate is the ground of grammatical 

We find, accordingly, that some explorers explicitly deny 
that, in their experience, savages regard all things as on the 
same level of life, passion and reason. Dr. Coddrington says 
that, in the Banks' Islands, yams and such things are not 
believed to have any tarunga (spirit) " they do not live 
with any kind of intelligence " ; l and that Melanesians do 
not fail to distinguish the animate and the inanimate. Messrs. 
Skeat and Blagden report that with the Semang of the Malay 
Peninsula there is very little trace of animistic beliefs ; and 
1 The Melanesians, pp. 249 and 356. 


they relate a folk-tale of how a male elephant tells a female 
that he has found a live stone (pangolin rolled into a ball) : 
" Swine," said the female, " stones are never alive." 1 Messrs. 
Hose and McDougall tell us that the Kayans hang garments 
and weapons on a tomb, and seem to believe that shadowy 
duplicates of these things are at the service of the ghost, 
but that such duplicates are inert (relatively) and not to be 
confused with the principle of intelligence. 2 "Soul" does 
not imply personality. 

To be clear about Animism, it is necessary to bear in mind 
several modes of belief : (1) Hyperphysical Animism, that 
certain things have, or are possessed by a conscious spirit, 
and that this spirit is a separable entity; (2) that things 
are themselves conscious (or semi-conscious), but their 
consciousness is not a separable entity; (3) that things 
are not conscious, but are informed by a separable 
essence, usually called soul (better, soul-stuff), which may 
be eaten by spirits, or may go to ghost -land with them; 
(4) the extension or limitation of these beliefs to more 
or fewer classes of things. Unless these distinctions are 
recognised, any report upon savage beliefs can hardly be 
clear and adequate ; but generally we may take it that when 
a traveller tells us that such and such things are not believed 
to have souls, and says nothing of any belief as to their 
consciousness, he means (except with regard to animals) 
to deny that anything like human consciousness is attributed 
to them. And when Mr. Torday writes that, according to 
the Bahuana of the Upper Congo, there are two incorporeal 
parts doshi, common to man, animals and fetiches, and bun, 
peculiar to man he seems to leave it as a matter of course 
that plants and inanimate things have neither of these, and 
are not conscious beings ; though probably some of them 
have soul -stuff, since clothes, weapons and food are buried 
with a corpse. 3 The Rev. J. H. Weeks says that the Bakongo 
of the Lower Congo attribute a spirit only to the nkasa tree 
(from whose bark the ordeal poison is derived) amongst 

1 Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, II. p. 222. 

2 Pagan Tribes of Borneo, II. p. 3. 

3 Camp and Tramp in African Wilds, p. 174. 


plants ; l and, similarly, the Baloki, further up the river, 
attribute a spirit only to the nka tree. 2 Since many things 
are buried by these people in a grave, or broken above it, 
the things may be supposed to have soul-stuff; but from 
the denying of spirits to plants, and from silence as to 
psychological Animism, it may be inferred that neither 
plants nor inanimate things are regarded as conscious beings. 
Sir E. F. im Thurn tells us that material things of all sorts 
are believed by the natives of Guiana to have each a body 
and a spirit evidently a conscious and malicious spirit; 
" and that not all inanimate objects have this dual nature 
avowedly attributed to them, is probably only due to the 
chance that . . . the spirit has not yet been noticed in some 
cases." 3 Even with these Guiana Indians, then, whose 
Animism, in every sense, is unusually active and extensive, 
their attitude is an acquired, specialised way of imagining 
and dealing with things that draw their attention and excite 
their suspicions, not a primitive, necessary illusion; else 
there could be no exceptions. 

The reasonable view, therefore, is that savages distinguish 
between themselves and certain' animals, on the one hand, 
and, on the other, the remaining animals, plants. and in- 
animate things; and raise the second class to the rank of 
the first, as conscious agents, only when there are special 
incentives to do so. To find all the causes that excite the 
animistic attitude toward things would be a difficult task, 
but some of them may be indicated. Beginning from 
Animatism, which really is a primitive and necessary illusion, 
it is reasonable to expect : 

(a) That any plant or inanimate thing adopted as a Totem 
should, by that very fact, be endowed with human con- 
sciousness; though the savage mind is too inconsistent for 
us to infer that this must always happen. 

(b) That whatever seems to move or act spontaneously, 
like the winds and streams and echoes, the sun, moon, planets, 
and shooting stars, should be felt as a spiritual agency; 

1 The Primitive Bakongo, p. 283. 

2 Among Congo Cannibals, p. 275. 

3 Among the Indians of Guiana, p. 355. 


especially if it cry out with empathetic reverberation, as 
winds and cataracts do, trees tormented by the storm, waves, 
fire, and the ice-floe when it breaks up in spring; or if it 
excite fear by being extraordinary and dangerous, as thunder 
and lightning are, whirlwinds and whirlpools, waterspouts 
and volcanoes. Dr. Speisser writes that at Ambry m, when 
the volcano is active, the natives climb to the top and bring 
sacrifices to appease it, throwing coco- nuts and yams into the 
crater. 1 

(c) That whatever has been regarded as having magical 
force should be treated after the rise of the ghost-theory 
(supposing this to be of later origin) has given vogue to a new 
principle of explanation as owing its virtue to a spirit, 
either by immanence or possession (two modes of actuation 
which may or may not be distinguished), and so become a 
fetich, instead of being merely an amulet or talisman. 

(d) That whatever is much used in ritual, especially if 
often addressed in spells or incantations, should become an 
object of reverence, apt to be personified and raised to, or 
even above, the human level as a conscious agent : for 
example, padi and rice in Indonesia, the ordeal tree on the 
Congo, already mentioned. Fire-sticks used in the ritual of 
sacrifice are often deified. In India, the conch, having for 
ages been used in religious rites, " the people gradually came 
to revere the instrument itself and to adore and invoke it." 2 
" A strange religious feature [of the Rigveda] pointing to a 
remote antiquity is the occasional deification and worship 
even of objects fashioned by the hand of man, when regarded 
as useful to him. These are chiefly sacrificial implements." 3 
The practice now extends in India to nearly every tool and 
utensil. Amongst the very few inanimate gods of the 
Cherokees are the Stone, invoked by the Shaman when 
seeking lost goods by means of a pebble suspended by a 
string ; and the Flint, invoked when about to scarify a patient 

1 Two Years with the Natives of the West Pacific, p. 199. As to 
,waterspouts and shooting stars, see the Reports of the Cambridge Expe- 
dition to Torres Straits, VI. p. 252. 

2 J. Hernell in the Quarterly Journal of the Mythical Society (Banga- 
lore), IV. No. 4, p. 158. 

3 A. A. Macdonell, Sanskrit Literature, p. 112. 


rith an arrow-head before rubbing in medicine. 1 By the 
Apache, heddontin (pollen of the cat -tail rush) is used as the 
sacrificial powder in nearly all rites, and is personified and 
prayed to. 2 When spells arc addressed to any object, the 
analogy of address to human beings tends to cause that object 
to be thought of as humanly conscious. 

(e) Stocks and stones have been worshipped, as the dwelling- 
place of spirits in many parts of the world; having super- 
seded in the mind of their devotees the ghost of the men 
whose burial-place they formerly marked, but who them- 
selves have been forgotten; and probably, on the analogy 
of these stones, others that no ghost ever haunted. 

(/) Where Animism is active amongst a timid and sus- 
picious people, whatever injures a man is believed to act of 
malice : as amongst the Indians of Guiana, who are so timid 
that rather than go hunting alone they will take a woman or 
a child along with them. 3 

Under such conditions as these a sort of acquired psycho- 
logical Animism is very widely though very irregularly dif- 
fused; but were it universal and uniform, it could not of 
itself account for hyperphysical Animism the doctrine that 
men (or some men), some animals, plants, things, places, 
are possessed or informed by spirits that are capable of 
separate existence. 


Hyperphysical Animism may be easiest understood as 
having arisen with the belief in human ghosts. The causes 
of this belief have been fully set forth by Herbert Spencer 4 
and Sir E. B. Tylor 5 in a way that to my mind is convincing. 
Amongst those causes dreams predominate ; wherein the 
dead are met again as in the flesh. The living body having 
always been for the savage a conscious force -thing, at death 

1 J. Mooney in Reports of the American Bureau of Ethnology, 1885-6, 
VII. p. 341. 

2 J. E. Bourke in the Reports of the American Bureau of Ethnology, 
1887-8, IX. pp. 499-507. 

3 E. F. im Thurn, Among the Indians of Guiana, pp. 288, 354. 

4 Principles of Sociology, Vol. I. chs. viii.-xii. 

5 Primitive Culture, chs. xi., xii. 


the conscious force leaves the thing or corpse. This might 
be accepted by him as a fact of the same kind as the loss 
of its virtue by a talisman or amulet (which is known some- 
times to happen), were it not for dreams in which the dead 
still live. That this conscious force that has left the body 
is not visible except in dreams need excite little wonder, 
since many forces natural and magical are invisible. 

A dream not being common to two men at the same time, 
the things that are seen in it cannot be pointed out, nor 
therefore directly named (in this resembling subjective 
experiences). It was for ages impossible to narrate a dream 
as a dream : there was no way of distinguishing it from 
external events, either for the dreamer himself or (were 
that possible) in reporting it to another. He was far away 
and met his father, yet had lain by the fire all night ! Hence 
to find names with which to describe such things men turned 
to other ways in which they seemed to have a double exist- 
ence, to shadows and reflections : which in their sudden 
appearance and disappearance, and sometimes faint, some- 
times distorted outlines, bear some resemblance to dream - 
images ; and probably it is felt to be significant that shadows 
and reflections disappear at night, just when dreams occur. 
Shadows and reflections are not necessarily identified with 
the ghost derived from the dream-image, because their names 
are given to it ; but sometimes they certainly are ; so that a 
man who, on looking into water, happens not to see his 
reflection may believe that his spirit has gone away, and that 
he himself must be ill, and accordingly he becomes ill; or 
if at noon near the equator he notices that he has no shadow, 
he may think his soul is gone, and run to a medicine-man to 
get it back; and dead bodies may be believed to have no 
shadows. 1 Inasmuch as a body even lying on the ground 
casts a shadow, except at tropical noon, the belief that it does 
not do so at any time implies an acquired inability to see 
what is before one's eyes ; as sometimes happens in hypnosis 
and other conditions of negative hallucination. 

The idea of a separable conscious personal force, or spirit, 

1 J. H. Weeks, Among Congo Cannibals, pp. 262-3. My friend, 
Mr. Torday, tells me this belief is very common in Africa. 


that leaves the body at death, serves also, as it gathers 
strength, to explain sleep, fainting, epilepsy; and sometimes 
every sickness is attributed to the partial detachment or 
desertion of the spirit ; which, therefore, it is the doctor's 
business to plug in, or to catch and restore ; or (if I rightly 
remember a report of Miss Kingsley's) he may even supply 
another one from a basketful of souls kept at hand for 
such exigencies. 

That the ghost theory arises not only from dreams, but is 
also suggested by hallucinations and hypnagogic visions is 
very probable. In various parts of the world savages have 
been described as having visions of remarkably coherent and 
convincing vividness that seem not to have been dreams. 1 
But such experiences, even when artificially induced by 
fasting or drugs (as happens among many tribes), are rare 
in comparison with dreams ; and to the influence of dreams 
upon these savage beliefs there is abundant testimony. With 
some tribes dreams are treated as part of their objective 
experience ; so that to be injured by your neighbour in a 
dream is just ground for avenging yourself as soon as you 
wake ; and to see a dead man in a dream is, therefore, clear 
proof of his continued existence, and that either he has 
come to the dreamer or the dreamer has gone to visit him. 

Thus Sir Everard im Thurn says of the native of Guiana, 
his dreams are as real as any events of his waking life ; his 
dream-actions are done by his spirit : in dreams he continues 
to see the dead that is, their spirits. 2 Similarly, the Lengua 
Indians (W. of R. Paragua) have great faith in dreams; 
wherein the spirit is believed to leave the body and to do in 
fact what is dreamed. 3 According to the Cherokees, to dream 
of being bitten by a snake requires the same treatment as 
actual snake-bite ; else (perhaps years later) the same in- 
flammation will appear in the wounded spot, with the same 
consequences. 4 The Motu hold that sua (ghosts or spirits) 

1 See, e. g., A. W. Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, 
p. 406 ; and P. A. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, pp. 83-8. 

2 Indians of Guiana, p. 344. 

3 S. H. C. Hawtrey, "The Lengua Indians," J.A.I., 1901. 

4 J. Mooney, " Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees," Am. B. of Ethn., 
VII. p. 352. ' 


are seen in dreams, and that when a man sleeps his own 
sua leaves his body. 1 " The Lifuans believe in the reality 
of what is seen in a dream, and are influenced by it. Their 
dead ancestors appeared in dreams." 2 And the Polynesians 
of Manatuki thought that " dreams were occasioned by the 
spirit going to the places seen in them." 3 Many more of 
such witnesses might be cited. 

It is recognised by psychologists that dreams, as immediate 
experience, have more the character of perception than of 
imagination. Children are apt to confuse dreams with 
reality. It can only have been gradually, with the growing 
knowledge of continuity and coherence in the course of events, 
and therewith the demand for corroboration of testimony, 
that dreams were distinguished from the waking life. When 
no longer supposed to be all of them real, some are still so 
regarded : the Dieri, amongst lower savages, distinguish 
between visions, as revelations made by Kutchi (an evil 
Spirit), and ordinary dreams, as mere fancies. 4 But so 
impressive are dreams to many people, in their eagerness to 
know more than sense and philosophy can tell them, that 
they persist in hoping, and therefore believing, that dreams, 
if they give no knowledge of this world, may still be revela- 
tions of another, perhaps more real; or if not revelations, 
adumbrations by way of allegory, which some learned or 
inspired Daniel may interpret; or, at least, omens of good 
or evil, which the ancient science of Oneiromancy undertakes 
to explain. There is now a new and more promising Oneiro- 
mancy that interprets dreams as indicating not the future, 
but one's own past, chiefly a forgotten past, and teaches 
to know oneself : more promising ; for what but experience 
can possibly be the source of dreams at least, of dream- 
elements? Some of the new principles of interpretation, 
however, may compare for obscurity with the ancient. 

That the dead are seen alive in dreams is, then, for the 
savage a fact of observation; and, therefore, the continued 

1 C. G. Seligman, Melanesians of British New Guinea, pp. 190-91. 

2 S. H. Ray, "People and Language of Lifu," J.R.A.I., LXVII. 
p. JvH). 

3 Turner, Samoa, p. 277. 

4 A. W. Howitt, op. cit., p. 358. 


existence of the dead is, for him, not in the first place super- 
natural ; although it may be called hyperphysical, because 
it is experienced only in dreams and not by daylight, and is 
exempt from ordinary conditions of time and place. But 
it gradually becomes supernatural, as the capricious incidents 
of dream-life are felt to be " uncanny," as that which occurs 
only at night is involved in the fears of the night, and as a 
great cloud of imaginations accumulates about the dead and 
obscures the simple facts of dream -perception in which the 
belief originated. This cloud of imaginations, by its mys- 
terious character and by various alliances with Magic, spreads 
and deepens until it overshadows the whole of human life ; 
is generally, indeed, dispersed here and there by the forces 
of biological necessity, often by subterfuges laughable 
enough ; which have, however, the merit of saving mankind 
from destruction : but sometimes it extinguishes the last ray 
of common sense, impoverishes the believer, enfeebles him, 
fills his days and nights with terror, gives him over to practices 
the most cruel or the most disgusting, leads him to slay his 
own tribesmen, his own children, his own parents, and to 
offer up himself in the sure hope of resurrection. 


Spirits, having once been conceived of as explaining the 
actions of men and surviving their bodily death, may by 
analogy be conceived to explain the action of any other things 
in circumstances that suggest a motive for the action, and 
therefore to possess or inhabit such things, and to be capable 
of separating from them, like ghosts. Other things are 
already, by Magic and Animalism, force -things, in some 
degree conscious, whose forces may be capable of acting 
invisibly at a distance ; and at the death of a man it is his 
conscious force that leaves the body and becomes a ghost. 
Since, then, there is hardly any natural object whose action 
may not in some circumstances seem to be interpretable 
by motives, especially amongsl a timid and suspicious people, 
how can we assign any necessary limits to the spread of 
Animism ? Moreover, the causes most influential in estab- 
lishing the ghost theory for man directly require its extension 


to other things. For not human beings only are seen in 
dreams, but also their clothes, weapons and utensils, and also 
animals, plants, localities. If, then, the dead, because they 
are seen in dreams, are inferred still to live under conditions 
in which they are not visible by daylight to ordinary men, 
how can the inference be avoided that all sorts of things, 
artefacts, animals, plants, localities, share in that mode of 
existence that all have their doubles ? And " Why not ? " 
the savage might ask, since it is literally true of all things, 
without exception, that they are sometimes visible, some- 
times invisible. 1 Similar inferences seem to be justifiable 
from the alliance of ghosts with shadows and reflections, 
and the fact that not man only but everything else has a 
shadow and a reflection, and that their shadows and reflections 
disappear at night, just when the things themselves some- 
times appear in dreams. Moreover, so far as the breath, 
the pulse, the shining of the eye, which cease in the human 
corpse, are sometimes identified with the departed spirit, 
the same processes likewise cease at the death of animals; 
though, it is true, there is here no analogy with inanimate 
things, and the breathing and circulation of plants are 
beyond the savage's observation. Therefore, although 
Animism is an inferential construction, were the construction 
entirely due to the logic of analogy, there would be nothing 
surprising in the discovery that the belief " that everything 
has a ghost " is just as universal and uniform in the human 
race as if it had been an innate or primitive belief. That, 
on the contrary, Animism prevails very irregularly amongst 
the tribes of men ; that, in all directions, inferences that are 
analogically specious fail to be drawn; that instead of a 
general system of Animism every tribe has its own Animism ; 
this is surprising and needs to be explained. The extension 
of the theory is easier to understand than its irregular 

Bearing in mind that we are at present considering Animism 

as a belief in ghosts, not in spirits generally (to which we shall 

come in Sec. 6), I venture to think that, although dreams, 

shadows and reflections certainly suggest a double existence 

1 Spencer, Principles of Sociology, 53. 


of everything, yet savages never assign a true ghost to 
anything inanimate, nor to plants, nor even to animals, 
unless there is a special reason for doing so; because only 
in the case of human beings is the suggestion interesting 
enough to take hold of the social imagination. Hence, even 
though other things appear in the ghost-world, they have 
no significance there, except in relation to human ghosts 
(or ghostlike spirits) on whom they attend. Accordingly, 
human ghosts have a place in the beliefs of every tribe, 
because human beings excite affection, admiration and fear, 
have well-marked individuality; are therefore remembered 
and have stories told of them; and if they are seen after 
death, it is, of course, reported. The evidence makes it 
only too plain that the paralysis of attention by fear is the 
chief (though not the only) emotional factor of belief in 
ghosts ; and what other thing in all nature is to be feared 
in comparison with one's fellow-man? 

The belief in ghosts, escaped and roaming independent of 
any normally visible body, as a social belief, is involved in 
the practice of reporting and discussing dreams, which 
becomes the same thing as telling ghost-stories the first 
and most persistent motive of literature. Stories can only 
be told effectively of things generally interesting; and, at 
first, such things must have been recognisable by the hearers 
and must have had some individuality. Hence 

(a) Animals that attain to such individuality may have 
ghosts : (i) An animal that occasions widespread fear, such 
as a man-eating tiger. We must distinguish from such cases 
the frequent beliefs that tigers, w r olves, sharks, snakes, etc., 
are, or are possessed by, the spirits or ghosts of men. (ii) 
An animal that comes to be upon terms of special intimacy 
with men ; such as the very tame dogs and pigs that come 
when they are called among the Bakongo ; l or hunting dogs 
that have been specially doctored among the Baloki. 2 

(b) Animals slain at funeral feasts to accompany the dead 
have ghosts so far as necessary for that purpose ; but, wanting 
individuality and personal interest, they make no further 

1 J. H. Weeks, The Primitive Bakongo, p. 238. 

2 J. H. Weeks, Among Congo Cannibals, p. 233. 


figure in ghost-lore; they do not "walk" or revisit the 
glimpses of the moon. Thus the Tanghouls say that ghosts, 
on reaching Kazairam (their Hades), find the gates barred 
against them by the deity Kokto ; so at the burial feast of a 
rich man a buffalo is killed, that his mighty ghost may burst 
open the massive gates of that abode. Poor ghosts must 
wait about outside, till a rich one comes up with his buffalo ; 
when they all rush in behind him. 1 But we hear nothing 
further of the buffalo. In the Banks' Islands, pigs killed at 
a funeral feast have no true ghosts to follow the dead to 
Panoi, but only a sort of wraith; because they only go for 
show, that their master may be well received there. 2 

(c) Animals that are important, prey to a hunting tribe 
are often believed to have ghosts that may be hunted by dead 
tribesmen ; or that must be propitiated when one of them is 
slain : the ghosts, for example, of seals and bears are bribed 
by the Esquimo to entice other seals and bears to come and 
be killed. A seal desires above everything, they say, a 
drink of fresh water; so as soon as one is brought ashore 
a dipperful is poured into his mouth; else the other seals 
will not allow themselves to be caught. The polar bear 
(male) desires crooked knives and bow-drills, or (female) 
women's knives and needle-cases. Hence, when a bear is 
killed, its ghost accompanies its skin into the hunter's hut; 
and the skin is hung up with the appropriate tools for four 
or five days. Then the bear-ghost is driven out by a magic 
formula, takes with it the souls of the tools, and reports well 
of the hunter in bear-soul land. Whilst in the hut, as an 
honoured guest, nothing is done that it dislikes in human 
customs. 3 

(d) In the development of mythology, animals and monsters 
of various kinds may be found inhabiting shadow-land; 
but these are not true ghosts of any particular things that 
once died in this world. 

This list of the ways in which animals may come to have 
ghosts is not offered as exhausting all the cases. 

1 T. C Hodson, The Naga Tribes of Manipur, p. 160. 

2 Coddrington, The Melanesians, p. 269. 

3 V. Stefanson, My Life with the Eskimo, p. 57. 



A ghost is a disembodied soul, having a consciousness and 
power at, or generally (because it is feared) above, the 
human level ; but there may be disembodied souls, or souls 
capable of disembodiment, that have no consciousness, or 
none above the level of Animatism. Even if a living thing 
have a consciousness, its post-mortem apparition may not ; 
like the Banks' Islanders' pig, which, though " a distinguished 
animal and acknowledged to be intelligent," has no true ghost. 
Among nearly all tribes, whatever is offered in sacrifice to 
gods or left in, or at, the tombs of men deceased, is believed 
to have some sort of soul ; because, plainly, spirits do not 
eat or consume the visible food or utensils ; yet it is necessary 
to the success of the rites to suppose that the spirits are 
satisfied ; they must, therefore, take the souls of the offerings. 
And what can be more plausible reasoning than to argue 
that, as solid men eat solid food, ghosts eat ghostly food ? 
" Soul " thus appears as a sort of ghost -substance, or ghost- 
body. For, in dreams, the departed are seen as if in the 
flesh ; and moreover analogy requires that the ghost conscious- 
ness and ghost-force shall have a body of some sort, and, of 
course, one that will maintain in ghost-land the same rela- 
tions to other things that the mortal body did in this world. 
In ghost -land, or shadow-land, or dream-land, the substance 
of all things is this soul-stuff. Sometimes the force of 
analogy requires a tribe to believe that, in order that the 
souls of things (such as earthen pots or weapons) may be 
released to accompany a ghost to the underworld, the things 
themselves must be "killed," that is to say, broken; but 
other tribes are not such consistent logicians ; and in some 
cases where things left exposed at a grave (not buried) are 
broken, it may be to prevent their being stolen. 

Anything, then, may have " soul " after its kind : relatively 
inert things have relatively inert souls, but never true ghosts ; 
some animals may have ghosts, especially if they have attained 
to a certain individuality, but generally only in so far as they 
are imagined to attend upon human ghosts or spirits. Inas- 
much as the word "soul" is often used as equivalent to 


" ghost," it would be convenient always to speak of the 
soul which is ghost-food, or ghost-body, " as soul-stuff." 
Soul-stuff is conceived of as material, though subtle and 
normally invisible. A man's soul-stuff may be regarded 
not only as permeating his body, but also as infecting every- 
thing he possesses or touches : no doubt by analogy with his 
odour ; for a man's odour is a personal quality, distinguishable 
by dogs and (I believe) by some savages and hypnotic sub- 
jects ; and the stench of his putrefying corpse may be sup- 
posed to convey his courage and skill to those who inhale 
it. 2 And the savour of a burnt -offering is food for gods. 
Indeed, Ellis says explicitly that, in Tahiti, food was put to 
the mouth of a chieftain's corpse ; because, they said, there 
was a spiritual as well as a material part of food, a part which 
they could smell. 3 

Savage ideas are generally so little thought out, and are so 
irregularly thought out by different tribes, that the relation 
of a thing to its soul-stuff varies widely from one tribe to 
another. In many cases the extraction by ghost or god of 
the soul-stuff from an offering may affect it so little, that the 
devotee or the priest proceeds to feast upon it ; and I have 
no where met with the notion (which logic requires) that 
such metaphysically eviscerated food can only nourish a 
man's body and not his soul. However, since the eating of 
the sacrifice may be an act of communion with the ghost, 
he then naturally extracts the goodness only from his own 
share. In other cases, the breaking of weapons and utensils 
buried with a corpse implies an intimate unity between the 
wholeness of an object and its soul-stuff ; and the Rev. J. H. 
Weeks says of the considerable wealth put into a grave by 
the Bakongo, that only the shell or semblance of anything is 
supposed to remain there. 4 

This conception of soul-stuff may have been an important 
contribution to metaphysics. The doctrine of material 
substance is reached by abstracting all the qualities of things ; 

1 Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes of Borneo, II. p. 3. 

2 J. G. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, p. 403. 

3 Polynesian Researches, I. p. 523. 

4 The Primitive Bakongo, p. 371. 


but then there would be nothing left, were it not for this 
venerable idea of something invisible and intangible in 
things in which qualities may " inhere," or which may serve 
as a " support" to them; so that, when it is taken away 
there is only a shell or semblance of anything left. But such 
a tenet is uncommon. Along another line of speculation 
this soul-stuff may become the Soul of the World. When 
by philosophers spirits are no longer conceived to have 
bodies, but to be the very opposite of bodies, a spiritual 
substance must be invented to support their qualities, in 
order to put them upon an equal footing of reality with 
corporeal things ; but as there is no spirit-stuff ready made 
by the wisdom of our forefathers, this concept remains 
uncomfortably empty. To appear as ghosts and to have 
mechanical energy, spirits may be invested with " soul- 
stuff" as a spiritual body; but this is only subtle matter. 
Their own substance must be correlative with their proper 
attributes as pure conscious beings, the very opposite of 
bodies; and, therefore, immaterial, unextended, simple, 
self-identical, according to the " paralogisms of Rational 
Psychology." But such speculations are confined to philo- 
sophers and theologians : some of whom, however, maintain 
(as if reverting to the original savage idea) that spirit is the 
true substance of material things, at least that material 
things depend upon a spirit, or spirits, for their existence. 
Monists, again, say there is one substance of both matter 
and mind, which is not either of these any more than 
it is the other. Locke very honestly calls it " a supposed 
I know not what." 

In writing of Magic, I have indicated the origin of the 
notion of force ; and if my view is justifiable, it appears that 
those celebrated abstractions " force " and " matter," form 
and substance, spirit and body, may be traced to the savage 
mind. That savages are incapable of general and abstract 
ideas we have seen to be an illusion. They are necessary 
to economy in the organisation of the mind. When a tribe 
bases its grammatical gender on the distinction of Animate 
and Inanimate, has it in no sense corresponding ideas ? But 
an abstract idea results from a long process of dissociative 


growth from its concrete sources, and must exist in some 
manner at all stages of that growth, before its distinctness 
is completed by an appropriate name ; and it is reasonable 
to suppose that at every stage of growth it functions and 
influences the course of thought. Accordingly, it is plain 
that from very early times thought has been greatly in- 
fluenced by ideas of force, form, spirit and the rest of them. 


Whilst of some tribes (for example the Indians of Guiana) 
it is said that there is nothing to indicate that they " know 
of any spirits, except such as are, or once were, situated in 
material bodies," 1 amongst others we are often told that not 
only ghosts are known but also spirits that are declared 
never to have been incarnate. An extreme form of the 
ghost -theory maintains that all spirits were once ghosts 
whose incarnation has been forgotten; but this is needless, 
and seems not to be true. It is enough that probably the 
original inhabitants of the spirit-world were ghosts ; that 
some of those now believed not to have been ghosts were 
once really so ; and that those spirits that were never ghosts 
are later immigrants, who have obtained domicile by having 
been imagined in analogy with ghosts. The following list 
indicates more or less probable reasons why (A) ghosts have 
sometimes come to be regarded as non-human spirits, and 
(B) why certain non-human things have come to be regarded 
as spirits, or as possessed by spirits, more or less resembling 
the human. 

A. Spirits that were formerly ghosts, but are now declared 
not to have been : 

(a) Ghosts whose former life has been forgotten by mere 
lapse of time. The memory of the dead amongst many 
tribes does not extend beyond three or four generations. 
If then the ghost of some unusually impressive personality 
happens to be remembered, when all his relatives and con- 
temporaries have been forgotten, he seems to be separated 

1 E. im Thurn, op. cit. t p. 363. 


from the human race. And if his name was that of some 
natural object, his ghost, according to Spencer's hypothesis, 
may now be regarded as the spirit of that phenomenon. 
But as to Spencer's hypothesis, 1 although it gives such a 
plausible explanation of much nature-worship by real facts 
as to the working of savage language and thought that it 
seems to me unreasonable to doubt that it has had some of 
the effects he traces to it, yet it presses upon me more and 
more that most cases of nature-worship are to be explained 
by more particular causes. 

(b) To dissociate a ghost from mankind is especially easy 
if his tomb has been forgotten, or if he has no tomb. As the 
drowned have no tombs, they easily become water-demons.' 
Tombs must often be forgotten in consequence of migrations. 
In Central Melanesia both ghosts and spirits are recognised ; 
but in the west worship is directed chiefly to ghosts, in the 
east chiefly to spirits. As migration has been from west to 
east, the tombs of ancestors can no longer be pointed out 
by the eastern islanders, and so their ghosts may have become 
spirits. In Tumloo (northern New Guinea) there are temples 
of spirits (all female) distinct from ancestral ghosts, and on 
the banisters of ladders leading up to these temples there 
are ornamental figures of ape-like animals ; the architecture 
of the temples points to a former superior culture. 2 As there 
are no apes in New Guinea, these figures and temples may 
indicate a former residence under better conditions in Java 
or Borneo ; and the spirits with which they are associated 
may be ancestral ghosts whose tombs and other earthly 
vestiges have been forgotten in the migration. 

(c) We may see another way in which a ghost may become 
a pure spirit, if we suppose that as a ghost he had attained 
to some measure of worship, but that with the rise of new 
gods (by conquest, or by the reputation of being more 
helpful), or by his being himself too good to be worth wor- 
shipping, his rites have been neglected and his legend for- 
gotten. Then he is no longer remembered as a ghost, or 

1 Principles of Sociology, 165-93. 

2 J. G. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, p. 220. 


(d) It may be thought honourable to a god to deny that he 
was ever a man. 

(e) The construction of a world-myth makes it necessary 
to begin somewhere with some one; and whoever becomes 
the first being, it is necessary to deny that he was ever be- 
gotten. But there may be inconsistent stories : the supreme 
being of the central Esquimo is a woman, Sedna, who created 
all things that have life; but other traditions give her a 
human origin. 1 Similarly, in drawing up the genealogy of 
ancestral gods, we come at last to one who was never begotten. 
Such is Unkulunkulu of the Zulus, generally said to have 
sprung from a bed of reeds. 2 

B. Spirits that were never incarnate, but have been 
imagined by analogy with ghosts already propitiated : 

(/) A Totem may become a spirit ; whilst, having himself 
no human antecedents, he can hardly be a ghost as of an 
ordinary mortal. Nothing can be more irregular than the 
life of Totemism : with some tribes it seems to die out early, 
or leaves few and doubtful vestiges ; with others traces of it 
seem to remain even amidst conditions of high culture. 
Apparently, where it survives, the Totem tends gradually to 
lose his bestial or vegetal properties, or most of them, and 
to become an anthropomorphic spirit with his myths, in 
analogy with heroic or patriarchal ancestors. He has 
attained to a considerable degree of individuality; yet, by 
association and tradition, may still confer more or less 
sacredness upon his animal kindred (cf. chap. ix. 8). 

(g) To address any object with a spell, as a man is addressed 
in summons or command, is (as said above) an approach 
toward its personification. Hence corn, rice, padi, nkasa, 
or whatever has been the object of tribal rites and spells 
the sun and moon, the earth, fire, wind, clouds and rain 
having perhaps long been influenced and reinforced by 
Magic are apt, when Animism has gained control of man's 
imagination, to become first the embodiment and then the 

1 Franz Boas, American Bureau of Ethnology, VI. 1884-5, p. 583. 

2 Callaway, Religious System of the Amazulu, pp. 1 and 40. Cf. 
Coddrington, The Melanesians, p. 150 : Koevasi, a spirit, was never 
human, yet in some way the originator of the human race. 


possession of spirits ; the spells become prayers, and the 
rites religious ceremonies or mysteries. Such spirits, at 
first locally honoured, may with the evolution of the tribe or 
nation, the increasing intercourse of its villages, and the 
centralisation of its culture in some city, be released from 
local conditions and generalised into transcendent gods, 
either each of its own kind corn or wine or of still wider 
sway over agriculture or the weather. The meteorological 
gods are not impaired in strength by even wide migrations ; 
for they are found to rule everywhere ; and this may be a 
reason of their predominance in the higher religions. Plants 
from which intoxicants are obtained, such as soma or the 
vine, bringing men to a condition resembling insanity or the 
ravings of a sorcerer who is supposed to be possessed, are 
especially easy to understand as sources of inspiration. 
A belief in vegetation spirits, having originated in any 
way, may be extended according to the circumstances and 
mentality of a tribe, until every wood is populous with 

(h) Natural objects that have, at first, been regarded with 
awe and therefore endowed with magical powers mountain- 
tops, ravines, whirlpools, ancient trees under Animism, 
become the abode of spirits ; and these, again, may, by analogy 
with others, cease to be conceived as merely local. Among 
the Moors, "the jnun, which form a special race of beings 
created before Adam, are generally supposed to be active 
on occasions or in places which give rise to superstitious fear, 
and in many cases they are personifications of some mysterious 
qualities in persons or lifeless objects." 1 

In each of these cases, (/), (g), (ft), however, an Euhemerist 
explanation may be offered. As to (/), Spencer, of course, 
argued that the Totem-ancestor is always a man, who bore 
the name of an animal, and was confounded with it after 
death; and Dr. Rivers has suggested that some gods who 
seem to have been derived from Totems may really represent 
heroes who had such Totems. 2 As to (g), Grant Allen 
suggested that the spirit of the corn or vine is always at first 

1 E. Westermarck, Marriage Ceremonies in Morocco, p. 343. 

2 J.R.A.I., 1909, p. 163. ' 


the spirit of the man upon whose grave the plant grew. 1 
And as to (h), the spirit of a mountain may be the ghost of 
a man who was buried on the top of it ; and the spirit of a 
whirlpool the ghost of a man who was drowned in it. Indeed 
some spirits may have originated in one of these ways, others 
in another way ; and what happened in any particular case 
can only be determined, if at all, by examination of its 
particular circumstances. 

(i) Abstract ideas may, at a very early stage of culture, 
be personified and treated as spirits. The Semang, according 
to Messrs. Skeat and Blagden, personify Death, Hunger, 
Disease ; 2 and the Beloki, according to the Rev. J. H. 
Weeks, attribute all personal qualities to the aid of spirits; 
so that if one man wrestles better than another, it is because 
the spirit Embanda is in him. 3 The modern Greeks of Mace- 
donia personify and propitiate Lady Small Pox. 4 In the 
tenth and latest book of the Rigveda, " the deification of 
purely abstract ideas, such as Wrath and Faith, appears for 
the first time." 5 At a higher stage of culture we find Fides, 
Fortuna, Concordia and many others. Such things are con- 
ceived of as mysterious powers, and they have names ; 
and so far they resemble demons. Why, then, should they 
not be personified and propitiated like demons ? 

(/) Various ways have been pointed out in which the 
grammatical structures of language, metaphors and other 
figures of speech may influence the growth of mythology. 

(k) Animism having been generally adopted, spirits may 
be freely invented in explanatory myths. The Kalinis believe 
that thunder and lightning are the clang and flash of bracelets 
on the arms of Kidilumai, a girl who dances in heaven, as 
formerly on earth, for joy of the welcome rain. 6 It would be 
absurd to suppose that she must once have lived on earth. 
Some amongst the Ekoi say that Thunder is a giant marching 

1 See his ingenious speculations in The Evolution of the Idea of God, 
ch. xiii. 

2 Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, II. iii. ch. vi. 

3 Aiflong Congo Cannibals, p. 272. 

4 G. F. Abbott, Macedonian Folklore, p. 236. 

5 A. A. Macdonell, Sanskrit Literature, & 44. 

6 T. C. Ho4son, The Naga Tribes of Manipur, p. 126. 


across the sky ; others that Thunder is the enemy of Lightning 
and, on seeing it, growls to drive it away. 1 If free invention 
may originate myths, it may modify old ones, with results 
that cannot always be interpreted upon general principles. 

Finally, any spirits that have been anthropomorphised in 
analogy with ancestor-ghosts may be further disguised by 
giving them mythical family connections with the ancestors 
and with one another, as happened to Bacchus and Demeter. 


Ghosts and spirits have the same qualities and characters, 
eat the same food, appear in dreams, possess men and animals, 
help sorcerers, give diseases, determine the success of hunting 
or agriculture. At first, they are solid things, not truly 
incorporeal, merely invisible to ordinary people by daylight ; 
though dogs or pigs may see them even then. A ghost is so 
associated with its corpse, that it is not always clear which 
it is that escapes from the grave and walks; and one may 
judge whether a dead man has yet gone to Hades or still 
haunts the neighbourhood, by observing whether in the 
morning there are footprints around his grave ; and to keep 
the ghost from walking, one may fill the belly of the corpse 
with stones, or break its limbs, or bury it deep and pile the 
earth upon it ; or one may burn it. In South-East Australia, 
ghosts can be heard at night jumping down from the trees 
or from the sky. 2 They may be heard to speak or sing, 
usually with thin voices, like bats : as 

" the sheeted dead 
Did squeak and gibber in the streets of Rome." 

Spirits may have all the appurtenances of an animal body ; 
for two of them waylaid an Australian, and made a wizard 
of him by taking out his entrails and filling up the cavity 
with the entrails of one of themselves. 3 They may marry 
mortals, as a devil begat Caliban upon a witch; and not 
long ago the " incubus" was very troublesome throughout 
Europe. In short, a ghost or spirit can act physically, just 

1 P. A. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, p. 73. 

2 Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 437. 

3 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 483. 


as a man can, because he has the same organs; but with 
greater power, because mysterious and more feared. And 
such beliefs persist amongst people whose culture is much 
higher than the Australian, as in Jacob's wrestling with 
something at the ford Jabbok, and Grettir's slaying of the 
ghost of Glam at Thorhallstad ; 1 and Euthymus, the boxer, 
having put on his armour, defeated the ghost of Lycas at 
Temesa. 2 To this day, in Macedonia, there are vampires, 
or animated corpses (chiefly Turks), that walk, and throttle 
people and suck their blood. 3 " The Moslem corpse," says 
R. Burton, " is partly sentient in the tomb." 4 The Karok 
of California consider it the highest crime to utter the name 
of the dead ; for it makes the mouldering skeleton turn in its 
grave and groan. 5 In fact, it is difficult to think of one's 
own future corpse as entirely inanimate, and this adds some 
discomfort to one's thoughts of death. According to Wundt, 
the Korperseele, as eine Eigenschaft des lebenden Korpers, 
is a starting-point of Animism independent of, and probably 
prior to, the breath and the dream, which suggest the idea 
of a free separable soul. 6 This confusion of ideas in popular 
Animism seems to me due to (1) the strong association of 
the ghost with the corpse, and the performance of rites 
(which must take place somewhere, if at all) naturally at 
the grave or in connection with relics ; (2) the manifestation 
of ghosts as visible, speaking, tangible bodies in dreams ; 
(3) the difficulty of imagining spirits to live and act except 
in the likeness of the body (though non-human forms usually 
animal are sometimes substituted); (4) the convenience 
of such imaginations to the story-teller ; (5) the convenience 
of them to sorcerers and purveyors of mysteries, who rely 
upon such imaginations in producing illusion by suggestion. 
For ages a confusion of ghost with corpse may exist in the 
popular mind along with the more refined notion of soul- 
stuff in which a ghost becomes manifest, whilst there is no 
attempt to reconcile these imaginations ; and it is only by 

1 Orettir Saga, ch. xxxv. 2 Pausanias, VI. p. 6. 

3 G. F. Abbott, Macedonian Folklore, p. 217. 

4 First Footsteps in East Africa, p. 52 note. 
6 American Bureau of Ethnology, I. p. 200. 
6 Mythus und Religion, 2 ed., p. 78. 


metaphysical subtilties about "mind" and "matter," or 
by mystical aversion to sensuosity, that the notion of pure 
incorporeal spirit without even spatial limitations is at last 
freed from these primitive associations, partially and amongst 
a few people. A tendency to abstract conception of the 
spirit is set up, indeed, in the ordinary way of " dissociation " 
by the belief in transmigration. For if a spirit may ' * possess " 
all sorts of bodies men, plants, animals, etc. it is inde- 
pendent of any particular body; though it may still be 
thought to need some body. Where the idea of pure spirit 
has been established amongst educated people, it becomes 
necessary for those who believe in ghosts and have forgotten 
their soul-stuff to explain how a spirit can manifest itself to 
eye, ear, nose, hand, without a physical body, by " material- 
ising " itself, as invisible vapour (say one's own breath on a 
frosty morning) condenses into a cloud or into dew; for 
the power of analogy as an aid to thought, or as a substitute 
for it, is not yet exhausted. 

The varieties of belief that occur here and there in the 
world cannot be explained without a much fuller knowledge 
of local circumstances than is usually available. The Semang 
say that souls are red, like blood, and no bigger than a grain 
of maize ; l the Malays that they are vapoury, shadowy, 
filmy essences, about as big as one's thumb ; 2 in both cases 
shaped like the owner. Elsewhere in the Indian Archipelago, 
" the animating principle is conceived of, not as a tiny being 
confined to a single part of the body, but as a sort of fluid 
or ether diffused through every part." 3 The less educated 
classes in Japan consider the soul as a small, round, black 
thing that can leave the body during sleep. 4 Amongst the 
Ekoi, the soul is a small thing dwelling in the breast, whilst 
a man lives ; but at death expands into the body's full 
stature. 5 The difficulty of finding the soul in the body leads 
some thinkers to suppose it must be very small, others very 
attenuated thin as a shadow and as breath invisible. 

1 Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, I. p. 194. 

2 Malay Magic, p. 47. 

3 Spirits of the Corn and the Wild, I. p. 183. 

4 W. G. Aston, Shinto, p. 50. 

5 In the Shadow of the Bush, p. 230. 


Whilst many savages believe, like ourselves, that the body 
entertains one soul and gives up one ghost, the Ekoi believe 
in two, one animating a man's body, the other possessing, 
or changing into, some animal in the bush. Three souls, the 
vegetative, sensitive and rational, are well known to European 
philosophy. The Mandans thought that a man has one black, 
one brown, and one light-coloured soul ; but that only the 
last returned to the Lord of Life. 1 The observer who tells 
us this also reports (p. 484) that some of the Dakotas assign 
to each man four spirits : one that dies with the body ; one 
that remains with, or near, it ; one that accounts for its deeds 
and at death goes to the spirit-world; and one that lingers 
with the small bundle of the deceased's hair, which is kept by 
relatives until they can throw it into an enemy's country to 
become a roving, hostile demon. In West Africa, too, Miss 
Kingsley found four souls : one that survives the body ; one 
that lives with some animal in the bush; one, the body's 
shadow, that lies down every night in the shadow of the 
great god, and there recovers its strength; and, finally, the 
dream-soul. Some natives hold that the three last are 
functions of the first or true soul ; but the witch-doctor treats 
all four separately. 2 The shadow of a man, his reflection, 
his name, his totem, his breath, his dream-wraith, his blood, 
his corpse, supply natural starting-points for such specula- 
tions. Some Chinese philosophers held that " each of the 
five viscera has its own separate male soul." 3 I have found 
no belief in six souls ; but in Siberia the Altaians distinguish 
six parts or (rather) conditions or stages of the soul; and 
this probably is only another attempt to convey the same 
meaning. 4 Mr. Skeat reports that, probably, in the old 
Animism of the Malays, each man had seven souls ; though 
now they talk of only one ; except in using spells, when the 
souls are addressed separately. 5 In the religion of Osiris 

1 J. O. Dorsey, "Siouan Cults" in the American Bureau of Ethnology, 
1889-90, XI. p. 512. 

2 West African Studies, p. 200. 

3 J. G. Frazer, Balder the Beautiful, II. pp. 196-208; where are 
reported other beliefs in a plurality of souls; in one case thirty, in 
another thirty-six. 

4 M. A. Czaplicka, Aboriginal Siberia, p. 282. 
6 Malay Magic, p. 48. 


there seems to have been a still greater number of souls : 
as of the name, the shape, the strength, the shadow, etc. : 
all reuniting with the immortal counterpart of a man's 
mummy, if justified at the last judgment. Prof. Wiedemann 
suggests that these beliefs may have been collected from 
different local sources, and preserved for fear of losing any- 
thing that might be true. 1 Whereas, then, the prescientific 
mind is often accused of confusing things that are separate, 
we see here the opposite tendency to reify abstract aspects, 
and to separate things that are in nature united; and one 
probable cause of this is the practical interest of treating, 
and therefore of attending to and addressing, separately, 
certain aspects of a man in rites of exorcism, lustration, 
summoning, reinforcing, propitiation. 

The belief in an external soul that exists apart from oneself 
(though identified with oneself for good or evil) in an animal, 
in the bush, or where not, may have arisen from the con- 
necting of the soul with the shadow or reflection. The 
shadow is, indeed, attached to a man by the feet (except 
when he leaps), if the whole is seen; but it goes away at 
night : it stretches, as the sun declines, far across the plain, 
and then disappears. The reflection is quite separate, and 
is seen within a pool (as in a mirror), not on the surface, 
approaching us when we advance, and withdrawing when we 
retire : whence it is easy to understand that to take a man's 
photograph may be to take away his soul. If this kind of 
soul may be some feet distant, why may it not be much 
further off, if there be any motive (such as the desire of 
secrecy) to wish or think it so ? If it may reside within 
a pool, why not within anything else ? What, in fact, becomes 
of it when we turn away ? That it should be in an animal 
in the bush is reasonable enough, if one's Totem (even though 
imperfectly remembered as such) is an animal in the bush, 
and if oneself is in some sort that animal. 

1 Religion of the Ancient Egyptians^ ch. ix. 


Beliefs as to the origin of souls sometimes bear the character 
of fanciful explanation myths. The Semang say that souls 
grow upon a soul-tree in the world of Kari (their chief god) ; 
whence they are brought by birds, which are killed and eaten 
by an expectant mother : souls of fishes and animals are also 
obtained by the mothers' eating certain fungi and grasses. 1 
Here the analogy of the growth of fruits is adopted : being 
so familiar as to need no further explanation. Leibnitz's 
suggestion that monads are fulgurations continuelles de la 
Divinite, 2 is at about the same level of thought. In other 
cases, we see the struggling to birth of ideas that still seem 
plausible : such is the widespread tenet that every present 
human soul is the reincarnation of an ancestor, which we find 
in Australia, Melanesia, Borneo, Manipur, on the Congo, in 
North America and elsewhere. The Bakongo seem to base 
their belief in reincarnation partly on personal resemblance ; 
upon which ground a child may be thought to have the soul 
even of a living man ; so that to 'point out such a resemblance 
is displeasing, since it implies that, the child having his soul, 
he must soon die. 3 Another reason they give for their belief 
is that the child speaks early of things its mother has not 
taught it, and that this must be due to an old soul talking 
in a new body. But Bakongo albinos are incarnations of 
water-spirits, and greatly feared. Possibly in some cases 
people began by naming children after their ancestors, and 
later inferred that those who bore the same name must be 
the same persons. Plato thought that, by a sort of law of 
psychic conservation, there must always be the same number 
of souls in the world : 4 there must, therefore, be reincarna- 
tion. That nothing absolutely begins to be, or perishes, 
though first explicit in the Ionian philosophy, is generally 
assumed in savage thinking ; so why should it not be true of 
souls ? 

As to the destiny of souls there seems to exist amongst the 

1 Pagan Races of the Malay Penirisida, I. p. 194. 

2 Monadologie, 47. 

3 The Primitive Bakongo, p. 115. 

4 Republic, 61 la. 


tribes of men even greater variety of belief than as to their 
origin. They may pass through more than one stage of 
development : as in the western isles of Torres Straits one 
becomes at death, first a mari, and later a markai with a more 
definite status ; 1 or as with the Veddas, one is at first called, 
without much confidence, " the living one," and only a few 
days later becomes, after trial of one's virtue, a yaka? or 
authentic ghost. Often the dead will be reincarnated, but 
the interval between death and rebirth may be passed in an 
underworld, or in a city in the forest, or indefinitely in a land 
of ancestors. They may turn into plants; as among the 
Mafulu old people's ghosts become large funguses growing 
in the mountains : 3 but more frequently into animals ; 
perhaps their Totems, or (with seeming caprice) into such 
things as termites or wild pigs ; or (because wings seem to 
suit the spirit) into a butterfly or bee ; or into owls or bats 
that haunt the night and dwell in caves that may be tombs ; 
or into deer or bear-cats, because these are seen in the clearings 
near tombs; or into snakes, because these are seen to come 
out of tombs, and often come into huts as if returning to 
their homes, and, moreover, cast their skins and so typify 
the renewal of life. They may also become stars, or shooting 
stars, or mere naked demons, or white men. 

It is only after ages of thought concerning the fate of our 
souls that there arises in any systematic form the doctrine 
of metempsychosis, which now prevails over great part of 
southern and eastern Asia, and was formerly known in Egypt 
and even in Greece. But in the widely diffused doctrines 
of reincarnation in men or in animals, or even in plants, and 
in the general belief that a soul may wander and possess 
any kind of body, we see the sources from which this vast 
flood of superstition collected its waters. The Buddhist 
belief that not the soul wanders, but its karma (or character) 
creates a new body, may be considered as a retrogression 
from Animism to Magic; for what is it but a law of the 
action of an occult force or virtue ? 

1 Haddon, Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Straits, Vol. V. p. 355. 

2 C. G. Seligman, The Veddas, p. 133. 

3 R. W. Williamson, The Mafulu, p. 266. 


Though the ghost survive the body, and it may be said 
(as by the Ekoi) that it cannot perish, and the reason may 
even be given (as in the Bismarck Archipelago), that it is of 
different nature from the body, 1 it is by no means always 
immortal. It may die, as it were a natural death, by 
oblivion; or, the next world being just like this, ghosts may 
fight together and kill one another ; 2 according to the Tongans 
a ghost may be killed with a club ; amongst the Bakongo it 
may be destroyed by burning its corpse. 3 It has been 
thought that to suppress the ghost was the original motive of 
cremation; but the western Tasmanians cremated their 
dead, and can hardly have done so to be rid of such mild 
Animism as seems to have been entertained by the eastern 
tribes, who buried their dead or abandoned them. 4 How- 
ever, they seem to have been rid of it ; whereas, in general, 
ghosts survive cremation, because this process cannot put 
an end to dreams; and it may then come to be believed 
that burning is necessary in order to set the soul free from its 
body ; and, therefore, the wife of Periander, tyrant of Corinth, 
complained to him of being cold in the ghost world, because 
her clothes had been only buried in her tomb and not burnt. 5 
According to the Egyptians, the ghost participated in every 
mutilation of the body, and perished with its dissolution. 
It may be held that even the gods die if neglected, and depend 
for their immortality upon the perpetuation of their rites and 
sacrifices. 6 

Whilst the ghost's life endures, its dwelling may be in the 
earth or sky, sea or forest, or in the land of the setting sun, 
or in the land of ancestors whence the tribe remembers to 
have migrated. Before departing to that undiscovered 
country, it may haunt the grave or the old home, till burial, 
or till the flesh decays, or till the funeral feast, or till death 
has been avenged ; or it may roam the country, a resentful 
demon, if its funeral rites be not duly celebrated. There 

1 J. G. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, p. 396. 

2 C. G. Seligman, The Melanesians, p. 658. 

3 J. H. Weeks, The Primitive Bakongo, p. 224. 

4 Ling Roth, The Aborigines of Tasmania, pp. "57-61. 

5 Herodotus, V. p. 93. 

6 On the mortality of gods, see Frazer, The Dying God, ch. i. 


may be one place for all ghosts, or two, or more, according 
to their age, or rank, or qualities (as sociable or unsociable), 
or whether or not their noses were bored; or according to 
the manner of their death, by violence, or suicide, or sorcery. 
It is late before our posthumous destiny is thought to depend 
on moral character (as it does in metempsychosis); and even 
then varies with the local conception of the good man, as 
observing custom or religious rites or, finally, the dictates 
of conscience. 1 I remember how puzzling it was in child- 
hood to make out from sermons how far " going to heaven " 
depended on being good (conscientious) or on faith. Both 
seemed very desirable ; yet there was a shadow of opposition 
between them, and to be good was a little dangerous. But 
faith was indispensable, and apparently the more difficult 
of the two, needing more elucidation, exhortation and 

The journey of ghosts to their own world may be short 
or long, an unadorned migration or rich in details of adven- 
ture. They may begin the new life exactly as they finished 
this one, or the old may be rejuvenated. As to their manner 
of life there, oftenest it is a repetition of their earthly state, 
perhaps better, or even much better, perhaps worse. And 
this conception is historically of the utmost importance : 
for (1) it seems to give the greatest confidence in a hereafter. 
Hume ascribes what seemed to him the incredulity of men 
with regard to a future life " to the faint idea we form of 
our future condition, derived from its want of resemblance 
to the present life." 2 And (2) from this conception proceeds 
the development of ghostly polities : presided over, according 
to tribes that have no chiefs, by a headman, such as Dama- 
rulum, or by the greatest known hunt -leader, like Kande 
Yaka of the Veddas ; under advancing political structures, 
by chieftains, amongst whom one may be paramount, and 
so become a king or lord of all. These ghostly polities support 
the earthly ones they imitate. It is everywhere an edifice 
built by hope and fear, under the guidance of analogy, and 
sometimes decorated by caprice, if this find acceptance with 
the tribe. 

1 Primitive Culture, II. pp. 75-96. 2 Treatise, B. I., Part III. 9. 




The behaviour of men toward the ghosts of their dead is 
chiefly governed by fear. The human power that has left 
the corpse is now invisible; that power, rarely quite trust- 
worthy whilst in the body, especially when unobserved, 
retains its desires, caprices and hatreds that were partially 
controlled by social influences. What controls them now 
that the man is exempt from observation? How shall one 
defend oneself against him, or procure his neutrality, or even 
(as sometimes in the flesh) his help ? The fear of ghosts has 
peculiar qualities : the invisibility of a spiritual enemy 
produces a general objectless suspicion and a sense of helpless- 
ness ; associations with the physical conditions of the corpse 
and with darkness excite feelings very much like those 
aroused by snakes and reptiles. This fear explains why 
savages, such as the Australians, may believe in ghosts for 
ages without ever venturing to pray even to father or mother 
deceased ; for to pray is to invoke, and they will come, and, 
on the whole, they are not wanted. Fear may make the 
survivors quit the neighbourhood of the dead; sometimes 
makes them adopt means to induce the ghost to leave, and 
invent stories of how and whither he goes, which are believed 
by biological necessity; because, unless they can be rid of 
the ghost and the dread of him, or establish in some way the 
pax deorum, it is impossible to go on living. 

The Yerkla-mining never bury their dead, nor in any way 
dispose of them. On seeing death approaching a tribesman, 
they make up a good fire for him, and leave the neighbour- 
hood, not to return for a considerable time. 1 The Sakai, 
having buried the dead affectionately with necklaces, wallets, 
etc., say to him : " Do not remember any more your father, 
mother, or relations. Think only of your ancestors gone 
to another place. Your living friends will find food." They 
then burn his house and desert the settlement, even abandon- 
ing standing crops. 2 Among the Kikuyu, " if a person dies 
1 Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 450. 

Skeat and Blagden, Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, II. pp. 
95-9. For similar formulae of dismission (which, of course, are con- 
straining spells) see W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, I. p. 522; and 
J. O. Dorsey, " Siouan Cults," American Bureau of Ethnology, X. p. 420 


in a village, that village is often burnt, and the people trek 
off and build elsewhere," though much labour may have 
been spent on the surrounding fields. Sick people are often 
deserted. 1 Where land is closely settled such flight becomes 
impossible, and in any case it is very inconvenient ; so that 
if any one can believe it possible to deceive the ghost, or to 
frighten him away by shouting at him, beating the air with 
boughs or firebrands, letting off arrows or guns, or to restrain 
him from walking by breaking the corpse's legs, or by placing 
loaded "ghost-shooters" (straws filled with gunpowder) 
around the grave, so much the better. Many such plans are 
adopted, and they must be believed in. 2 

Affection, however, has its part in the treatment of the 
dead : it is reasonable to attribute to affection the beginnings 
of the practices of leaving food at the tomb, burying weapons 
or ornaments with the corpse, celebrating funerary rites with 
lamentations ; though in time this motive may be mixed with, 
or superseded by, fear of the ghost, or by fear of being sus- 
pected of having murdered the deceased by sorcery, should 
rites be neglected or maimed. It is not uncommon to carry 
about some bones of the departed, to hang round one's neck 
the skulls of infants untimely dead. The wild Veddas, 
though, having covered a corpse with boughs, they avoid 
the place for a long time for fear of being stoned, nevertheless 
have a strong feeling of good fellowship for the spirits of 
their dead. 3 In the eastern isles of Torres Straits, the Miriam 
perform an eschatological mystery, in which the recently 
deceased reappear on their way to the other world. The 
women and children take it for reality : their affections are 
said to be gratified; and at the same time their fears are 
allayed by the conviction that the ghosts, having been seen 
on their way to Hades, will no longer haunt them. 4 The 

1 Stigand, The Land oj Zing, p. 250. 

2 For the practice of appointing certain seasons at which the whole 
tribe or nation unites in driving out ghosts or demons by force of 
arms (sometimes with the help of cannon and elephants), as obtaining 
at all levels of culture, from Australian savagery to the enlightenment 
of China and Peru, and with more decorum at Athens and Rome, 
see Frazer, The Scapegoat, ch. iii. 2. 

3 C. G. Seligman, The Veddas, p. 131. 

4 Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, VI. p. 253. 


old Norsemen believed that the dead were still united with 
the living by intense sympathy. 1 As rites begun in affection 
may become propitiatory through fear, and after prayer has 
been instituted may be further extended to obtain the aid 
of spirits or gods in hunting, war, revenge, love, agriculture, 
trade, or any undertaking for subsistence, riches or power, 
every passion in turn seeks its gratification through Animism. 
Extravagance in funerary rites, often ruinous to the family, 
may sometimes be checked by considerations of economy or 
convenience. Thus some tribes of South Australia may burn 
all the property of the deceased except their stone axes, 
which are too valuable to be lost to the survivors. The 
Nagas bury with the body the things most closely associated 
with the dead; but things of small value, never the gun or 
the cornelian necklace. 2 The Todas, who burn their dead, 
lay the body on a bier with many valuable offerings and 
swing it three times over the fire; they then remove the 
money and the more valuable ornaments and burn the rest 
with the corpse. They say that the dead still have the use 
of everything that was swung over the fire ; and tell a story 
to explain the ceremony; but Dr. Rivers observes that 
" this symbolic burning has the great advantage that the 
objects of value are not consumed, and are available for use 
another time." 3 The Araucanians buried many things with 
the dead, and at the grave of a chief slew a horse. But for 
all valuables silver spurs and bits and steel lance-heads 
they left wooden substitutes. As for the horse, the mourners 
ate it, and the ghost got nothing but the skin and the soul 
of it. 4 Economy may also induce the belief that ghosts are 
easily deceived, or are unaccountably stupid in some special 
way : as in the widespread practice of carrying a corpse 
out of its house through a hole in the wall ; trusting that, 
the hole having been immediately repaired, the ghost can 
never find his way back ; so soon does he forget the familiar 

1 Vigfussen and Powell, Corpus Poeticum Boreale, I. p. 417. For 
further examples of affectionate interest in ghosts, see Primitive 
Culture, II. pp. 31-3. 

2 Hodson, The Naga Tribes of Manipur, p. 100. 

3 The Todas, p. 363. 

4 E. R. Smith, The Araucanians, p. 172. 


door. This is cheaper than to burn the house down. Super- 
stitious practices may be carried out with self-destructive 
infatuation, or restricted at will : in Florida (Melanesia), 
in a certain stream, a very large eel was taken for a ghost ; 
no one might bathe in, or drink at, the stream " except at 
one pool, which for convenience was considered not to be 
sacred." l A conflicting desire creates a limiting belief. 
Whilst often the most painful or disgusting rites are endured 
for fear of ghosts, at other times they are assumed to be so 
dull that we are tempted to say : " Whatever is convenient 
is credible." 

If we desire to know the future, ghosts are so wise that 
we consult their oracles and pay handsome fees to their 
inspired priests ; but if we dread their presence, it is easy to 
accept any suggestion that they are obtuse or infatuated. 
They may (e. g.) be afflicted with what psychiatrists call 
" arithmomania." Returning from a funeral, strew the 
ground with millet-seed : then the ghost can never over- 
take you, for he must stop to count them. Or hang a sieve 
outside your window : he cannot enter until he has counted 
all the holes ; moreover, his system of numeration does not 
reach beyond " two." You can always block his path by 
drawing a line across it and pretending to jump over the 
line as if it were a stream of water : of course, he cannot 
pass that. Or blaze through the wood a circular trail, 
beginning at his grave and returning to it : he must follow it 
around for ever, always ending at the same cold grave. 
Alas, poor thin, shivering thing, that would go back to the 
old hearth and sit close amongst the kinsmen by the fire, 
and laugh at the old jokes and listen to the old stories chiefly 
about ghosts have you forgotten all the tricks that can 
be played upon your kind? Such is the homoeopathy of 
superstition : imagination creates the fear of ghosts, and 
imagination cures it. 

Imagination-beliefs, being swayed by moods and passions, 
are necessarily inconsistent. Natives of the Bismarck Archi- 
pelago are cannibals and greatly fear the ghosts of those 
they devour. Whilst feasting they hang up a slice for the 
1 Cocldrington, The Mclanesians, p. 177. 


ghost himself, and afterwards make an uproar to scare him 
away. Nevertheless they keep his skull and jawbone, which 
the ghost might be supposed especially to haunt; so easily 
do other passions overcome fear. Of the fear of ghosts some- 
times seems true that which Bacon says of the fear of death, 
that there is no passion in the mind of man so weak but it 
mates and masters it. Sacrilegious miscreants have always 
robbed tombs, even the tombs of Pharaohs who were gods ; 
and timid lovers have kept tryst in graveyards. The Sia 
Indians of North Mexico had a masterful way of dealing with 
the ghost of a slain enemy : they annexed him together with 
his scalp; for this having been brought to the village, a 
shaman offered a long prayer, and thus addressed the ghost : 
" You are now no longer an enemy; your scalp is here; 
you will no more destroy my people." x To capture and 
enslave the ghost of an enemy is said to have been the chief 
motive of head-hunting in Malaya. Compare the conduct of 
the Romans in carrying off Juno from Veii and establishing 
her at Rome. The inconsistency (sometimes met with) of 
supposing a man's personal qualities to go with his ghost, 
and yet eating some part of his body to obtain those qualities, 
may be due to the latter practice having been magical, and 
having persisted after the rise of Animism. Some of the 
Esquimo have such control over ghosts by Magic, that they 
fear them very little. After a death, the ghost remains 
peaceably in the house four days (if a man) or five (if a 
woman), and is then dismissed by a ceremony to the grave, 
to wait there until a child is born in the village, when it is 
recalled to be the child's tutelary spirit. 2 

Animism, originating in the belief in ghosts of men, tends 
to spread as the explanation of whatever had formerly been 
attributed to Magic (if we take this to have been earlier); 
although it is far from occupying the whole region that thus 
lies open to it. We have seen that the extent of its prevalence 

1 Miss M. C. Stevenson, " The Sia " in American Bureau of Ethnology, 
1889-90, XI. p. 121. 
3 Stefanson, My Life among the Eskimo, p. 397. 


as an explanatory principle, and consequently as the basis of 
cults, differs greatly amongst different peoples. But more 
interesting than the spread of belief as to the agency of 
spirits so as to include more and more objects, is the gradual 
differentiation of some of them from common ghosts in 
power, character and rank, and their integration into families 
and polities, such as we see in the Edda and the Iliad. A 
process, going on for ages and varying with every people, 
cannot be briefly described : the work of E. B. Tylor, Herbert 
Spencer, W. Wundt and others in this department is well 
known. In general it may be said that, allowing for the 
influences of geographical conditions and tradition and 
foreign intercourse, the chief cause of the evolution of a spirit- 
world is the political evolution of those who believe in it; 
so that the patriarchies, aristocracies, monarchies and 
despotisms of this world are reflected in heaven. Tribes of 
the lowest culture some African Pygmies, Fuegians, Mafulu, 
Semangs, Veddas have the least Animism; at successive 
grades Australians, Melanesians, Congolese, Amerinds, Poly- 
nesians Animism increases and grows more systematic; 
and it culminates in the barbaric civilisations of Egypt, 
Babylonia and India, and of Mexico and Peru. But in 
civilisations of our modern type it rapidly loses ground. 

The cause of such differences in the extension and elabora- 
tion of the animistic hypothesis cannot be that some tribes 
have had more time than others to think it out ; since they 
have all had an equally long past. Animism is known to be 
very ancient, and there is no reason to think that some races 
adopted it later than others. That, in the lower grades of 
culture, men want brains to think it out, is not a satisfactory 
explanation ; because, on contact with superior races, back- 
ward peoples show themselves capable of much more than 
could have been inferred from their original state. Improve- 
ment in culture depends upon much besides native brains, 
namely, opportunities afforded by the resources of their 
habitat, and communication with other peoples. The most 
backward peoples are the most isolated peoples. The 
development of Animism is entirely a matter of operating 
with ideas; and it seems to me that before men can build 


with ideas they must build with their hands ; there must be 
occupations that educate, and give advantage to, constructive 
power, as in the making of boats and the building of houses 
and temples ; for to this day a nation's material edifices are 
always, in clearness of plan, coherence and serviceable ness, 
much in advance of their systems of theology and philosophy ; 
because they must " work," as the Pragmatists say. If you 
have ever gone over a battleship, compare her with the 
Kritik d. r. Vernunft. Secondly, a suitable model for the 
edifice of ideas must be presented in the world of fact ; and 
this, as we have seen, is supplied by the tribe's social and 
political structure; which, again, is clearly correlated with 
the improvement of architecture in building the houses of 
chiefs and gods. Thirdly, a favourable condition of the 
working out of any theory is to have the means of recording, 
either in oral literature or (still better) in writing, the advances 
already made; and, fourthly a condition historically in- 
volved in the foregoing the growth of a class of men, 
generally a priestly caste or order, sometimes poets, who have 
time to think, and the education and vocation to bring the 
accumulating masses of animistic now religious ideas into 
greater order and consistency. Hence there are two stages 
in the development of Animism of course, not sharply 
separated : first, a long period of irregular growth in the 
tribal mind ; and, secondly, a much shorter period, in which 
the extension of animistic theory depends more or less upon 
quasi-philosophical reflection. 

With the differentiation of superior beings heroic, ances- 
tral or other gods from common ghosts, Religion arises. 
As to the meaning of the word " religion," indeed, there is no 
agreement : some lay stress upon the importance of beliefs 
concerning supernatural beings ; others upon prayer, sacrifice 
and other rites of worship ; still others upon the emotions of 
awe and mystery. To define " religion " (as a tribal institu- 
tion) by all three of these characters seems to me the most 
convenient plan, and the most agreeable to common usage. 
That, on the one hand, pure Buddhism (if it ever was a living 
faith outside of a coterie of philosophers and saints), and, 
on the other hand, the spiritual condition of a few savages, 



may be wanting in one or other mark, is no serious objection. 
The former case is, in fact, exceptional and aberrant, and the 
latter rudimentary ; not to give them the name of " religion " 
in a technical sense is no wrong to anybody. Thus under- 
stood, then, Religion brings to the development and support 
of Animism many social utilities and other influences ; 
especially the influence of dynasties supposed to have de- 
scended from the gods ; and of priesthoods, whose sustenta- 
tion and authority depend upon the supposed necessity of 
their intervention in worship. In their hands the free popular 
development of animistic ideas comes to an end, and gives 
place to the co-ordination of ideas by reflection, and to the 
dictation of tenets and rites by policy. The simple motives 
of hope and fear that actuated popular Animism are now 
supplemented by dynastic and priestly interests and ambi- 
tions; beneath which lies, faintly recognised and ill served, 
the interest 6f society in order. 

This later sophisticated Animism, so far as it obtains a 
hold upon the people, is imposed upon them by suggestion, 
authority and deception; but being superimposed upon 
ancient popular traditions that are never obliterated, it 
still appeals to the sentiments of awe, consolation, hope and 
enthusiastic devotion. The part of deception in the history 
of Animism, indeed, begins at the beginning, preceded, 
perhaps, and prepared for by the devices of Magic-mongers. 
Amongst the Arunta, women and children are taught that 
the noise of the bull-roarer during initiation ceremonies is 
the voice of the spirit Twanyirika. 1 Near Samoa Harbour, 
at harvest, they offer some of the firstfruits in a bowl to the 
ghosts ; and, whilst the family feasts on the remainder, 
" the householder will surreptitiously stir the offerings in the 
bowl with his finger, and then show it to the others in proof 
that the souls of the dead have really partaken." 2 So early 
is the end supposed to justify the means. Animism, like 
Magic, strives to maintain its imaginations by further stimulat- 
ing the imagination ; and, in both cases, such practices are, 
with many men, compatible with firm belief on the part of 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 497. 

2 Frazer, Belie/ in Immortality, p. 259. 


the practitioner ; who is merely anxious to promote the public 
good by confirming the weaker brethren : himself weak in 
the perception of incongruities. But I am concerned chiefly 
with origins, and will pursue this nauseous topic no further. 
Parallel with the development of Religion, a change takes 
place in the emotions connected with Animism. As the gods 
emerge from the shadow of night and the grave, and are 
cleansed from the savour of corruption, and withdraw to 
the summit of the world, they are no longer regarded with the 
shuddering fear that ghosts excite; as they acquire the 
rank of chiefs and kings, the sentiments of attachment, awe, 
duty, dependence, loyalty, proper to the service of such 
superiors, are directed to them; and since their power far 
exceeds that of kings, and implies the total dependence of 
man and nature upon their support and guidance, these senti- 
men ts often amazingly strong toward earthly rulers may 
toward the gods attain to the intensest heat of fanaticism. 
Extolled by priests and poets, the attributes of the gods are 
exaggerated, until difficulties occur to a reflective mind as to 
how any other powers can exist contrary to, or even apart 
from, them : so that philosophical problems arise as to the 
existence of evil and responsibility, and the doctors reason 

" Of providence, foreknowledge, will and fate, 
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute, 
And find no end, in wandering mazes lost." 

This is one cause of the dissolution of Animism : the power 
that comprehends all powers ceases to be an object, and 
becomes the immanence of all things, good and evil. Another 
cause is the complexity of theogonies, or of spiritual kingdoms 
with their orders and degrees : found too fanciful, when 
hierarchic despotisms, that furnished the analogues, give 
place to the simpler social structure of democracies ; or, to 
a certain type of democrat, even insulting, a provocative 
disparagement of the sovereignty of the people. And 
Animism has other enemies in the growth of Positivism, and 
sometimes in the resurgence of Magic. 



MAGIC and Animism now everywhere flourish side by side, 
or in confused association, and, by those who believe in them, 
are not discriminated as they may be by a spectator. As to 
their origin, we have seen that both of them are prehistoric ; 
it is useless to inquire about it amongst believers (who can 
only tell you that they learnt these things from their fore- 
fathers), or to look for any sort of direct proof. In Chapter IV. 
I mentioned general considerations in favour of the priority 
of Magic; but said nothing of the opposite opinion, that 
Animism is prior and Magic derivative : an opinion held by 
many and, amongst them, by Wundt, whose treatment of the 
problem claims attention. 

Prof. Wundt holds that the idea of the soul is older than 
Magic and has three principal sources : (1) the gebundene 
Seele, or Korperseele (consciousness as an attribute of the 
body), is immediately given, without the need of any reflection, 
as a result of perception-associations; for thinking, feeling 
and willing are constant elements of a living body. 1 The 
influence of this idea is seen in the practices of making offerings 
io the dead at their tombs, of preserving the body itself, of 
treating the blood and various parts of the body as vehicles 
of the soul, the use of hair and nail-parings in sorcery, and so 
forth. By contact, this soul can be transfused into other 
things. But the freie Seele, a being differing from and opposed 
to the body, is suggested (2) by breath and by the cessation 
of the body's living functions with the last breath the 
Hauchseele ; and also (3) by dreams and visions the Schat- 

1 Mythus wid Religion t pp, 78, 79, 



tenseele. This third conception gradually subordinates the 
other two, and has the chief part in the development of Ani- 
mism and Mythology. 1 As to sorcery (Zauber), it is, at first, 
always attributed to the human will; inasmuch as this is 
the original type of causation. Ordinary events raise no 
question of causes for the Naturmensch; but only extraordi- 
nary occurrences do so, such as sickness and death. Even pain 
or death from wounds is a matter of course, for the ante- 
cedents are visible to him ; but pain or death from sickness 
has no such customary antecedent ; so to explain them he 
imagines an enemy who can operate at a distance by sorcery. 
Sorcery he conceives of as an operation of one soul upon 
another; either directly, or indirectly by various appliances, 
such as pantomimic injury by means of an image. Pantomime 
is at first believed to affect the victim's soul, and so to cause 
sickness in his body ; but the oftener such rites are repeated, 
the more the intervention of the soul is obscured. For in 
many-linked associations, especially where the first and last 
links stand as means and end, the middle links are apt to 
disappear; and since these are, in this case, ideas about the 
soul, there remains, after their loss, the indefinite idea of some 
incomprehensible action at a distance by means of the panto- 
mime : it is then no longer Sorcery but Magic. Similarly, 
a fetich, or a talisman or amulet (which differs from a fetich 
only in not being the object of a cult), originally owes its power 
to an indwelling spirit, but may degenerate into a magical 
object. 2 Magic, therefore, is always derivative and secondary ; 
and Animism is entirely independent of Magic. 3 

This theory is worked out with Prof. Wundt's usual 
comprehensiveness and methodical clearness; and the ex- 
position abounds with interesting discussions ; but it has not 
convinced me. The Korperseele, as an attribute of the body, 
is, surely, not a soul at all. Customary perception of other 
men interpreted by self-consciousness, with the habitual 
treatment of others (and of ourselves by others) as conscious 
bodies making it difficult to conceive that a corpse is really 

1 Op. cit., p. 125 et seq. 

2 Op. cit., p. 262 et seq. 

3 This was also Spencer's opinion, op. cit., 133. 


dead no doubt influences animistic rites ; for even though the 
soul seen in dreams may be believed to live, having the con- 
sciousness of its former body in dreamland, yet some conscious- 
ness seems to remain with the body in the grave. Many 
rites performed at a tomb, however, may also be understood 
in relation to a belief that the soul, though having a separate 
existence as seen in dreams, still desires to reinhabit its body, 
or to protect its buried treasures, and therefore, though its 
new home be far away, frequently returns and haunts the 
neighbourhood of its tomb, and will certainly return if sum- 
moned. But it is not until the soul seen in dreams has become 
an object of popular belief, that any idea can be formed of 
a body-soul or more properly of a soul within the body, and 
thence of a soul-stuff of the body which leaves the body at 
death (and under other conditions) as the vehicle of conscious- 
ness. This soul-stuff which leaves the body at death may 
easily come to be identified with the breath, but not until the 
discussion of dreams has given rise to the belief in a separable 
soul. The fact that in cold weather the last breath (or any 
other !) may appear for a moment as a vapour, and is never 
seen again, cannot by itself suggest a separate persistent 
existence like that of the soul ; and over a considerable part 
of the earth such a vapour is seldom formed by the breath. 
The Korperseele and the Hauchseele, therefore, are not 
independent sources of Animism, but are entirely dependent 
for their imaginary existence upon the Schattenseele, upon 
the growth of a belief in a separable soul as seen in dreams. 
As to Sorcery, it may be defined as Magic practised with 
the aid of spirits ; and since its existence implies that a belief 
in spirits and their influence has already formed itself, it 
may also be believed to operate, in the first place, on the souls 
of its victims and so, in the second place, on their bodies. 
Then, as Prof. Wundt explains, a process of retrogradation 
sometimes occurs, in the course of which the spirits are 
forgotten, and only the mechanical rites remain as a residuum 
of bare Magic. Similarly, a fetich sometimes becomes a 
merely magical talisman or amulet. This is hardly disput- 
able ; but it does not prove that the degeneration of Sorcery 
is the only source of Magic, or that Magic has not (for the most 


part, indeed,) another, independent origin. The issue is 
difficult to argue upon the ground of facts, because magical 
practices are of such high antiquity. If, for example, one 
should urge that the intichiuma ceremonies of the Arunta are 
not, so far as we have evidence, designed to operate by spiritual 
power upon the souls of the emu or the witchettygrub, but 
directly to promote by Magic the fertility of these objects, it 
might be replied that such, indeed, may be their present 
character, but that the original intention must have been to 
promote fertility by first influencing their souls, and that 
this has been forgotten. Or, again, if one should point to 
the little stones tied up in bark and believed by the Kaitish 
to be stores of evil Magic as having no mark of the fetich, 
no character to indicate that their power is due to spirits, 
so that they seem to be merely magical, the answer would 
be ready, that by long use and retrogradation they may have 
ceased to be fetiches, but that a good theory requires them 
to have been of that nature aforetime. Thus any case of 
apparently bare Magic may be treated as a residuum of lapsed 
Animism ; or, should its origin be recent and ascertainable, 
it may still be said to have been constituted by analogy with 
such residua. 

We are driven, therefore, to rest the argument upon the 
psychological conditions of such beliefs. Is the nature of 
the human mind, so far as we can interpret it at the savage 
level, such that the belief in Animism necessarily precedes 
and (later) gives rise to the belief in Magic ; or is it possible 
to indicate conditions that may independently give rise to 
Magic ? According to Prof. Wundt, as I have said, Sorcery 
precedes Magic and, at first, is always attributed to human 
volition, because this is the original type of causation. Con- 
trary to Hume's doctrine (he says), the ordinary course of 
events does not excite in the savage the idea of causation, 
or the need of explanation. Customary series of events 
belong to those matter-of-course properties of things which 
he, eben wegen ihrer Regelmassigkeit, unmoglich hinweg 
denken kann. 1 It is the unusual occurrences accidents, 
storms, drought (where rain is much desired) and especially 
1 Op. cit., p. 263. 


sickness and death that awaken in him the need of causal 
explanation. He is accustomed to pain from wounds, where 
he sees the conditions on which they always follow ; but the 
pain of disease has no such antecedents, and he supplies 
the gap in routine by free associations, imagining that this 
pain also must be the work of some enemy. For in the regular 
course of events there is for him only one region in which an 
effect appears notw r endig verkniipft mit dem Vorausgehende : 
namely, that of his own voluntary actions. The connexion 
is, indeed, only a matter of fact ; but it includes the sensations 
and feelings of his own power iiber den Eintritt des Ereignisses. 
This, as Berkeley saw (says Prof. Wundt), is the true origin 
of the notion of causality; though the true principle of 
causality requires the elimination of this subjective ground 
of its origin. 1 

It is true, of course, that the savage has no definite idea of 
the principle of causation; but he has obscure ideas of all 
its chief marks the need of some antecedent for every event, 
regularity of connexion, and proportionality ; and probably, 
in the depths of his mind, the abstract principle has made 
some progress toward maturity, (a) The ground or source of 
such ideas, according to Hume, is customary experience; 
and that such experience includes its own causation (and, 
therefore, needs no explanation) is proved by Prof. Wundt's 
contention that it is the unusual which first demands causal 
explanation ; because there the familiar causation is missing ; 
so that the savage tries to fill up the lacuna, as best he can, 
according to the type of what is usual. But (b) 9 according 
to Prof. Wundt, there is in the regular course of events only 
one region in which the idea of causation (though illusory) 
first arises : namely, our own actions, in which we are aware 
of our own power over the beginning of the event. And no 
one, I suppose, doubts that the notion of power is derived 
originally from the consciousness of our own exertions 2 : read, 
by sympathy, into the actions of other men and animals and, 
by empathy, into the movements of trees, stones, winds and 
waters. All this, however, occurs so early in the individual 
and in the race (probably in the higher animals) that, before 
1 Op. cit. t p. 267 3 See above, pp. 100 and 119-24. 


the need of causal explanation is felt, the world is seen as 
if pervaded by forces, which are manifested in every usual 
course of events and not merely in voluntary actions. Again 
(c), power is only one character of the primitive belief in causa- 
tion : another, not less important, is uniformity ; and the 
study of our own actions is notoriously unfavourable for the 
discovery of uniformity. Without any obvious reason for 
it, our visceral activities can hardly be controlled at all; 
compound reflexes (such as yawning, sneezing, laughing, 
weeping) are very imperfectly controlled; our habitual 
actions, once started, go on of themselves, and often begin 
without (or contrary to) our wishes, especially gestures and 
expressions ; in fatigue control flags, in disease is often lost ; 1 
we do not always give the same weight to the same motives, 
nor fulfil our intentions whether good or bad. But if the 
relation of will to action is not apparently uniform, it cannot 
be seen to be necessary ; so that volition is generally regarded 
as the peculiar region of caprice. This is very important in 
Animism. But, further (d), were the connexion between 
volition and movement more constant than it is, it would 
still be most improbable that ideas of causation should be 
chiefly drawn from our consciousness of it; for the interest 
of action lies not in the mere control of our own movements, or 
power over the beginning of events, but in the attainment of 
our ends; and there is no department of nature in which 
the failure of connexion is nearly so impressive. It is because 
of this failure that the savage becomes fascinated by ideas 
of magical and (later) of spiritual aid. Finally (e), no control 
is exercised by the will over pain headache, colic, rheumatism, 
etc. ; yet we are told that the savage, when so afflicted, refers 
his sufferings at once to the will of some enemy operating 
at a distance. Such inferences are not primitive, but the 
result of a long growth of superstitions. Among Australian 
aborigines, disease and natural death are generally believed 
to be caused by the magical practices of an enemy, not merely 
by his will. 

We are not, then, obliged to infer that, because volition is 
the type of necessary connexion, Sorcery, or any other form 
1 Hume, Inquiry, vii. 


of Animism, preceded Magic. On the other hand, there are 
conditions that may have given rise independently to a belief 
in Magic. The savage has frequent experience of regular 
trains of event which, for want of analytic ability, he does not 
clearly understand, but which exist in his mind as types 
determining his apprehension of other sequences. When 
two interesting events happen about the same time, the later 
recalls the earlier; because the impression of the earlier, 
having been deep, perseverates, and is apt to be re-excited 
by almost any occurrence. An association is then formed 
between them, and obtains as strong a hold upon the mind as 
less interesting ones can by many repetitions. The man 
judges them to be connected; and expects the coincidence 
to repeat itself as usual occurrences do ; and the more vividly 
the more he desires or fears it. Such expectations, together 
with the idea of invisible force and the oppression of mystery, 
by degrees establish the belief in Magic. Probably no traveller 
amongst wild peoples, or observer of the unsophisticated at 
home, will think that too much stress is here laid upon the 
power of coincidence to create general expectations. Even 
the Chaldean priests (we are told) had grasped but imper- 
fectly the idea of causation. 4t When two events had been 
noticed to happen one after another, the first was the cause 
of the second. Hence their anxiety to record the phenomena 
of the heavens and the occurrences that took place after 
each." l The Egyptians, says Herodotus, " whenever a prodigy 
takes place, watch and record the result; then, if anything 
similar ever happens again, they expect the same conse- 
quences." 2 They had merely reduced to a system the 
universal practice of unanalytic minds. 


The origin of Magic, then, is independent of Animism ; and 
in the history of human thought Magic probably preceded 
Animism as an imaginary agent in the explanation and control 
of interesting and obscure events. Sir J. G. Frazer, in the 
History of the Kingship and in the Magic Art? says that 

1 A. H. Sayce, Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, p. 398. 

2 Book II. p. 82 ; Rawlinson's Translation. 3 Vol. I. ch. iv. 


Magic, as a means of gratifying one's desires, is prior to 
Religion conceived of as a means of attaining one's ends by 
the propitiation of spirits. This is a much narrower conten- 
tion than that Magic is prior to Animism (which perhaps he 
does not maintain), and it is proportionally more defensible. 
Whilst the priority of Magic to Animism seems to me to have 
some low degree of probability, the priority of Magic to 
Religion, as the propitiation of spirits, seems probable in a 
much higher degree; since we have plain information that 
both the Australians and the Indians of Guiana practise Magic 
extensively and also believe in ghosts and spirits without 
propitiating them. 1 

On the other hand, Sir J. G. Frazer's explanation of how 
Religion superseded Magic is questionable. He conjectures 
44 that a tardy recognition of the inherent falsehood and 
barrenness of magic set the more thoughtful part of mankind 
to cast about for a truer theory of Nature and a more fruitful 
method of turning her resources to account. The shrewder 
intelligences must in time have come to perceive that magical 
ceremonies and incantations did not really effect the results 
which they were designed to produce," and the wizard in- 
ferred that, " if the great world went on its way without the 
help of him or his fellows, it must surely be because there were 
other beings, like himself, but far stronger, who, unseen 
themselves, directed its course." 2 To these he addressed 
himself, and sought by prayer what he had formerly hoped to 
obtain by Magic. Such is Sir J. G. Frazer's suggestion, 
offered tentatively, and (surely) not agreeing well with the 

1 But see the footnote at p. 235 of The Magic Art, I. : " faith in 
magic is probably older than the belief in spirits." In the same note, 
a passage in Hegel's Philosophy of Religion is referred to as anticipating 
the doctrine of the priority of Magic to Religion. The passage, as 
translated in an appendix (pp. 423-6), shows, however, no conception 
of Magic as akin to natural law, as it is described in several passages 
of The Golden Bough, but treats it as a belief in any human being " as 
the ruling power over nature in virtue of his own will." This is rather 
an anticipation of Prof. Wundt's doctrine concerning Sorcery; which 
Hegel seems not to have distinguished from Magic. I need hardly 
add that a belief in any human being as the ruling power over nature 
in virtue of his own will has never been discovered in anv part of the 

2 Op. cit. t pp. 237-9. 


facts which he has set before us. For he has shown that no 
amount of experience can discredit Magic, generally, in 
untutored minds ; that certain kinds of Magic are sometimes 
pushed into the background by Religion, but never forgotten ; 
whilst other kinds of Magic become fused with Religion 
itself and constitute an essential factor in its rites ; so that 
they are indeed few who can be said to have betaken them- 
selves to Religion instead of Magic. Besides, the only ground 
upon which a penetrating mind, that had discarded Magic as 
discredited by experience, could resort by preference to the 
worship of spirits must be that experience showed prayer 
and sacrifice to be more efficacious than Magic in attaining 
our ends. Is there reason to think that (lucky coincidences 
apart) this has ever happened ? Must we not rather say that, 
whether one relies on Magic or on Religion, experience of 
failure counts for almost nothing? So many excuses are 
at hand. 

The matter presents itself to me in this way : at first, belief 
in Magic arises as a means of obtaining good and averting evil. 
Grounded, as Sir E. B. Tylor says, 1 in the desire " to discover, 
to foretell, and to cause events," it is irresistibly attractive "7 
by its power of increasing one's confidence, of making sure. J 

Secondly, at some stage after the rise of Animism, religious 
practices are added to the magical, to make assurance doubly 
sure, just as one magical practice may be added to another, a 
rite to a spell. At this stage, there is no sense of opposition "] 
between Magic and Religion. That, in fact, they are opposed -J 
in their nature, as an invariable to a capricious force, even 
if this difference were appreciated by savages, need not 
prevent their co-operation ; for Magic is known to be a ten- 
dency that may fail of the effect desired, either by the counter- 
action of superior Magic, or by imperfection in the rites ; and 
one sees no reason why a spirit should not be supplicated to 
supplement the imperfect rites, or to frustrate the superior 
Magic. To supplicate the intervention of spirits, once they 
are fully believed in, is an act so simple and natural, that we 
may wonder how it should ever be omitted where Animism 
prevails. For what can be more spontaneous than to ask 
1 Primitive Culture, I. 116. 


the aid of one's father or friend, and why not ask the spirits 
disembodied as freely as those in the flesh? In Melanesia 
not every ghost is worshipped (as not having mana) ; but a 
man in danger may call upon his father, grandfather or 
uncle : his nearness of kin being sufficient ground for it. 1 
Certainly : and that this is not always done where ghosts 
are rife can only be because it is believed that the less one has 
to do with them the better ! Probably, this consideration 
restrains for ages the early impulses to pray. Primitive man 
anticipates the advice of Confucius: "Pay all respect to 
spiritual beings, but keep them at a distance." 2 

Thirdly, certain forms of Magic come, after a time, to be 
discountenanced or punished : black Magic, because it is 
anti-social and criminal ; other forms of Magic, when carried 
on by private practitioners, because they infringe the mono- 
poly of supernatural power that has now been claimed by 
dynasties and priesthoods ; or (in other words) because the 
public gods are jealous of all competitors. Legitimate Magic 
has now been incorporated with Religion. And the power of 
Religion becomes greater than that of Magic without Religion, 
not only by the support of the influential classes, but also 

n because Religion, whether as worship of the public gods or 
as sorcery or devil-worship, afflicts the human mind with 
peculiar terrors ; and, again, because Religion, should it 
clarify morally and aesthetically, appeals more and more to 
the affections to the family affections and to loyalty. The 
impersonality of pure Magic sets it (as it does Science) at a 
great disadvantage in this competition. 

Finally, whilst the failures of Magic always need to be 
excused, as by a mistake in the rites or by the opposition of 
stronger Magic, Religion brings with it a new excuse for 
failure, namely, the caprice of the spirits or gods propitiated. 
At their pleasure they may reject the prayers and sacrifices. 
Persistence in such conduct on their part is sometimes met 
by banishment, deprivation of rank, or other punishment 
the civilised methods of China ; at other times by praying 
louder and sacrificing more extravagantly, in the style that 

1 R. H. Coddrington, The Melanesians, p. 125. 

2 H. A. Giles, Chinese Literature, p. 202. 


culminated in Mexico together with the power of barbaric 
priesthood. Still the gods may be obdurate ; and, probably, 
to excuse the failure of propitiation by the caprice of the gods 
was, from the first, looked upon as an eligible device : 1 not 
observing that the caprice of the gods was incompatible with 
the security of their worshippers ; and, therefore, in conflict 
with that desire of security which is the root of the whole 
supernatural structure, whether magical or religious. This 
conflict must have consequences. 

Religion, then, very probably, is of later growth than Magic ; 
but whether Animism, as a belief in separable (or separate) 
spirits, human or other, is later or not than Magic, there is 
insufficient evidence. At any rate, their origins are inde- 
pendent. Perhaps my own preference for the priority of 
Magic depends, partly at least, on the convenience of that 
view in arranging the following considerations. . 


(a) Fundamental in Magic, wherever practised, is the idea 
of force, invisible and intangible, which can operate at a 
distance without any visible or tangible vehicle. The idea 
may have been formed (as we have seen) by analogy with 
several natural phenomena, such as the wind, radiant heat, 
sound, odour, and it is involved in a savage's beliefs concerning 
the efficacy of charms, rites and spells. When a man dies, 
he lies speechless and motionless, no longer exerts his accus- 
tomed force in any way; but, if seen in a dream, he still 
speaks and acts, perhaps wrestles with the dreamer. Here, 
then, is that force which had deserted the body : it is visible 
and tangible in dreams only, or perhaps sometimes by twilight ; 
or to gifted seers, or to dogs or pigs. The force exerted by 
the ghost or spirit is the same thing as force magical, except 
in one character : its action is capricious, depending on the 
good or ill will of the ghost or spirit ; whereas purely magical 

1 Animism gave the priest another excuse for the failure of rites 
(besides those enjoyed by a mere magician), namely, that during, or 
since, the celebration some fresh offence against the gods had been 


forces have uniform tendencies. Magic, then, prepares and 
partially develops this idea of mysterious force, without 
which the appearance of a dead man in a dream, after his 
body has been buried or burnt, would have no reality or 
practical consequences for the living. Comparison with 
shadows and reflections could not lend reality to dreams; 
for they require the presence of the body, and themselves have 
no mechanical significance. Their association with the spirit 
or ghost probably follows the use of their names to describe 
the dream-imagery, which cannot at first have a name of its 
own. The same names being used for shadow or reflection 
and for spirit or dream-soul, the things are in some measure 
identified ; and then the idea of force may be associated with 
shadows and reflections ; so that the falling of a shadow upon 
a man may injure or slay him. 

Magic-force and spirit-force being the same thing, the 
question whether mana is a magical or animistic notion is 
misleading. It will be conceived of by different tribes in one 
way or the other, according to the relative prevalence in one 
or the other tribe of the animistic or of the magical mode of 

(b) It is reasonable to expect that, as the ghost -theory 
spread, the magical force of things should sometimes be con- 
ceived of as spiritual ; so that amulets and talismans would 
come to be regarded as owing their virtue either to a control- 
ling spirit, or to an indwelling spirit peculiar to each : in 
the latter case the charm is a fetich. When a charm is thus 
considered, its efficacy is no longer expected to be uniform, 
but depends on the mood of the indwelling or controlling 
spirit. The fact that its efficacy, though formerly presumed 
to be uniform, never was so, favours the new interpretation ; 
and this having been accepted, a cult (or a discipline) of the 
spirit is apt to follow. Thus the magician becomes a sorcerer 
or a priest. 

In North Central Australia, short sticks or bones are used 
for pointing at an enemy and directing magical force against 
him. Only the Guangi and other tribes of the Gulf coast 
manufacture dead men's bones (femur or fibula) into pointers; 
but these are traded southward, and are considered more 



potent than other pointers. 1 A stick, then, is the primitive 
talisman, often " sung" with a spell in Alcheringa words, 
which the operator himself does not understand ; and it 
acts by pure magic. The dead man's bone is more potent, 
at first perhaps only because it is more oppressively gruesome 
and terrifying ; we are not told that it carries the power of 
its former owner's ghost ; but how near the thought must be ! 
In South-East Australia, pointing with the bone (human 
fibula) is very common; in pointing you name your victim 
and 'say how he is to die; but that the efficacy of the rite 
does not depend upon a spirit is shown by this, that, when 
pointing, you tie a cord of human hair (attached to the bone) 
tightly around your upper arm, in order to drive blood into 
the bone. In other rites, however, in which the fat of a dead 
man is used, the ghost of the dead is believed to assist the 
operation; for a man's fat, especially kidney-fat, is the seat 
of his prowess and other virtues. 2 An easy extension of ideas 
by analogy would interpret a rite in which a dead man's bone 
is used, and which is on that account more potent, as owing 
its superior potency to the assistance of the dead man's ghost. 
It seems easy ; but resistance to the progress of explanation 
is not peculiar to the civilised mind. 

; Again, in South-East Australia, a bulk a pebble, usually 
black and roundish is carried by wizards as a powerful 
talisman. A native dreamt of seeing two ghosts by his camp 
fire, and, on waking, found a bulk where they had stood. 3 
How could such an impressive experience fail to raise a belief 
in a connexion between ghosts and bulks : both so attractive 
to the imagination, and alike mysterious and powerful? 
Many such situations must strongly indicate an extension of 
the ghost -theory, once it has been formed, to explain the in- 
fluence of charms and rites. A time comes with some tribes 
when the activity and ubiquity of spirits is so much a matter 
of course that every mysterious power is apt to be ascribed 
to their presence. If a person or thing was originally taboo, 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 453, 

2 A. W. Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, pp, 359- 

3 Howitt, op. cit., p. 378, 


either by inherent virtue or by force of a spell or curse a 
talisman dangerous to every one who violated its sanctity 
Animism explains the danger by the wrath of a protecting 
spirit. A boundary having long been taboo, a spirit is 
imagined to protect the boundary, and becomes the god 
Terminus. Diseases, at first attributed to Magic, are later 
explained by Animism ; so that whilst an Australian wizard 
is content to suck a magically implanted stone or splinter from 
his patient's body, a priest of the Dyaks, having sucked out a 
similar object, calls it a spirit. 1 The wonder is that at this 
stage of thought any purely magical power can survive. 

(c) An Omen is regarded as giving warning of some event, 
although between event and omen there is no traceable con- 
nexion in this resembling many magical operations; and 
at first omens may have been always so conceived of, and only 
by degrees distinguished from charms and spells. But in 
most parts of the world omens have come to be treated as 
divine or spiritual premonitions; and the marks which 
distinguish omens from the rest of Magic are such as to favour 
a growth of the belief that they are sent by spirits. This 
subject, however, is so extensive that a separate chapter 
must be given to it. 

(d) Inasmuch as spells addressed to any object tend to the 
personification of it, the personified object may, as the ghost- 
theory gains strength, acquire an indwelling or controlling 
spirit, and the spell addressed to it may become a prayer. 
Not that this is the only way in which prayer may originate ; 
for (as remarked above) nothing can be simpler or less in 
need of explanation than the invoking of the spirit of one's 
relatives (the ghost-theory having been established) to help 
one or, at least, not to persecute. Indeed, it is not unreason- 
able to suppose that this was often attempted, and not per- 
sisted in for want of obtaining an answer; so that a long 
tentative age preceded the settled custom of prayer. Nor is 
it easy to see how belief in the efficacy of prayer (beginning in 
this way) could ever have been established, unless it were 
confirmed by coincidence just like Magic. However, the 
earliest form of prayer and of spell (whichever may have been 

1 E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, II. p. 148. 


the earlier) being the same a simple expression of desire 
whence prayer and spell have been differentiated, it may 
be impossible to decide whether a given ejaculation belongs 
to one class or to the other. Thus Mr. R. W. Williamson tells 
us that, amongst the Mafulu of New Guinea, when fishing in 
the river Aduala, the fishers, after forming a weir, but before 
fixing their net, all join in a sort of prayer or invocation to 
the river : " Aduala, give us plenty of fish that we may eat 
well." l But he expressly says that, whilst they believe 
certain parts of the river, such as a waterfall or deep pool, to 
be haunted by spirits, they do not believe this of the river 
itself, 2 and that generally their Animism is very backward. 
The ejaculation, therefore, seems to be a spell. Compare 
with it the Jakun spell to bring monkeys within shooting 
distance : 

" Come ye down with souls enchanted, 
Monkeys, by my spells enchanted." 3 

If, then, the original form of prayer and of spell is often the 
same, the sole difference between them lies in the intention of 
the speaker. One of the Kurnai, to stop the gales, cried : 
'' Let the West Wind be bound," 4 and this is evidently a 
command and a spell ; but if he regarded the wind as con- 
trolled by a spirit, a change of tone would make it a prayer. 
Still, whether with the spread of Animism a spell shall become 
a prayer, must depend upon whether the spirit addressed is 
believed to be the more easily importuned or coerced. 

The taboo that often attaches to the names of the dead and 
of other spirits may easily have been derived from the magical 
practice of summoning by name, or of naming the victim of 
a rite. To call a living man by name draws his attention and 
often brings him to the spot ; a magical naming is (from the 
temper of Magic) uniformly effective ; so that to avoid such 
control names are kept secret ; and when ghosts are believed 
in, naming has the same power over them and is, therefore, 
extremely dangerous. Hence, in Sorcery (a dangerous art), 

1 The Mafulu, p. 193. 

2 Op. cit., p. 272. 

3 Extract from a spell in Skeat's Malay Magic, p. 571. 

4 Howitt, op. cit., p. 397. 


to introduce the names of spirits into spells is to secure their 
presence and assistance : and, in prayer, to use the true name 
of the spirit or god addressed may be indispensable; the 
worshipper's intention is not enough. 

(e) With the spread of Animism, magical rites often become 
religious. This may occur by simply adding the invocation 
of a spirit to a magical rite (as a spell may be added) in order 
to strengthen it the two actions remaining quite distinct; 
or some degree of fusion may take place, obscuring more or less 
the original character of the practice. The Kai (Papuans of 
northern New Guinea) " make rain " by muttering a spell over 
a stone, and at the same time calling upon Balong and Batu 
to drive away Yondimi, a woman who holds up the rain ; and 
when rain enough has fallen, they strew hot ashes on the stone, 
or put it in the fire, to stop the rain. 1 The animistic invocation, 
being omitted from the process of stopping the rain, seems to 
be merely adscititious to the making of it. Again, "When 
rain is badly wanted in the Oraon country, the Oraons of 
each village fix a day for the rain-making ceremony. On 
the morning of the appointed day, the women of the village, 
with the wife of the village priest or Pahan at their head, 
proceed to the village spring or tank, and there, after ablution, 
each woman fills her pitcher with water, and all proceed in a 
body to a sacred pipar-tree. ... On their arrival at the 
sacred tree, all the women simultaneously pour the water in 
their pitchers over the root of the tree, saying ' May rain 
fall on the earth like this.' The wife of the village priest 
now puts marks of vermilion, diluted in oil, on the trunk of 
the tree. After this the women depart, and the Pahan or 
village priest proceeds to sacrifice a red cock to the god 
Baranda at the spot. ... In this case, apparently, by direct 
alliance, sacrifice and the anointing of the tree with vermilion 
have been superimposed upon what was once, perhaps, 
purely a ceremony of imitative magic." 2 Mr. Warde Fowler 
tells us that an ancient Iguvian document contains instruc- 

1 J. G. Frazer, The Belief in Immortality, p. 288. For similar in- 
stances see the same work, pp. 335 and 375. 

2 Sarat Chandra Roy, " Magic and Witchcraft on the Chota Nagpur 
Plateau," J.R.A.I., XLIV. p. 330. I have slightly altered the last 
sentence, which seems to have been misprinted. 


tions for the lustration of the people before a campaign : the 
male population assembled in its military divisions ; around 
the host a procession went three times ; at the end of each 
circuit there was prayer to Mars and to two female associates 
of his power, to bless the people of Iguvium and to curse 
their enemies : and he observes that religion has here been 
imposed upon the original magic-ceremony. For the idea 
must have been that, by drawing a magic circle around the 
host, it would be protected in the enemy's country against 
hostile magic by being rendered holy. " A later and animistic 
age would think of them (the soldiers) as needing protection 
against hostile spirits, of whose ways and freaks they were, of 
course, entirely ignorant." Hence the prayer to Mars. 1 

Similarly, rites connected with seed-time and harvest, 
originally magical, become religious, as beliefs grow up in 
spirits of the rice, or corn, or vine, or in gods of agriculture 
or fertility. Thus, as magical power is the same thing as 
spiritual power, magical practices may be not merely the 
antecedents but even the foundations of religious practices. 
Long after the development of Animism, magical practices 
are maintained by natural conservatism ; if priests exist, 
they try, of course, to annex such practices to the worship 
of their god ; and if the annexation is accomplished, whether 
by priestly management or by a popular movement, no in- 
congruity may be felt for a long time between the uniformity 
of Magic and the caprice of Animism ; the whole celebration 
is called Religion, and becomes suffused with religious feeling. 


On the other hand, in all these cases, the animistic interpre- 
tation of the power of fetiches, omens, prayers, rites, whether 
original (as Prof. Wundt holds) or acquired, may be lost, and 
a magical interpretation alone remain. For one's mind 
becomes so engrossed with objects or practices (such as 
fetich-things or prayers) that are regarded as necessary to 
the gratification of any masterful desire, that not only 
irrelevant ideas, but any ideas not indispensable to the 

1 Religious Experience of the Roman People, p. 215. 


connexion between the objects or practices and the gratifica- 
tions, may be forgotten ; and as objects or practices acquire 
interest in themselves, even the gratifications formerly 
desired may be forgotten. Just as such means as money or 
books, business or study, may become ends to the exclusion 
of further enjoyments, so images or rites, at first subsidiary 
to the obtaining of demonic aid in love or revenge, may be 
cared for with a fervour that excludes the thought of any 
intervening means to those ends (especially such means as a 
capricious spirit who may fail one), and may even be employed 
under a vague fear or discomfort in the omission of them, 
when no particular purpose is any longer remembered. On 
the principle of least effort, we attend only to what is necessary. 

(a) A saint's finger-joint may at first be treasured as a 
fetich having the power of the saint to save from shipwreck ; 
after a time it may be carried as an amulet without any 
thought of the saint's interposition; whilst the evil to be 
averted is more and more vaguely imagined. Seeing that 
spiritual and magical agencies are the same invisible, un- 
intelligible force, how easy to interchange them ! 

(b) Similarly omens, from being divine messages, each 
relating to a particular undertaking, may come to be merely 
occurrences that encourage or discourage a man, or a tribe, 
at any time ; because, by tradition, they are lucky or unlucky. 
Or practically the same result may be reached by philosophy : 
as 'with those Stoics who explained that omens are prophetic 
not as sent by the gods, but as involved in the same procession 
of fatal events. Fate, before any laws of nature had been 
discovered, was nothing but all-comprehensive Magic : which 
left out or mediatised the gods, because, in a philosophical 
consideration of the world, they are worse than useless. 

(c) As to prayers, in any rational conception of them, the 
form of words conveying them cannot matter to a god, as 
long as they are piously meant and devoutly meditated. 
Yet everywhere there has been a tendency to reduce them 
to strict formulae, any departure from which may, it is feared, 
impair their efficacy. So far as this occurs, their operation 
is magical; they have become spells. Such is the result of 
custom, with mental inertia too dull to think ; of an irreligious 


temperament, getting quickly through an uncongenial task; 
of a superstitious unimaginative spirit, afraid to omit any 
traditionary means of safety and for whom a praying-wheel 
is the way of peace. To rob prayer of its religious meaning, 
there is the ever-present example of the magical spells that 
operate by their own force. A form of words, whether magical 
or supplicatory, that has been among the antecedents of a 
time of peace or of gain, seems to be amongst its causes, and 
is repeated that such a time may continue. Of the countless 
cases in which prayers have degenerated into spells, none is 
more instructive than the one recorded by Dr. Rivers in his 
account of the dairy-ritual of the Todas. The prayers offered 
during this ritual are uttered in the throat, so that the words 
are undistinguishable ; and they are divided into two parts : 
first, a list of sacred beings and objects mentioned by sacred 
names, much of it unintelligible ; and, secondly, a petition 
for the protection and welfare of the buffaloes : the former 
is now the more important; the latter is apt to be slurred 
over, or perhaps omitted. 1 Of the Roman public prayers, 
Mr. Warde Fowler says : " The idea that the spoken formula 
(derived from an age of Magic) was efficient only if no slip 
were made, seems to have gained in strength instead of 
diminishing, as we might have expected it to do with advanc- 
ing civilisation." 2 To justify the belief in formulae it may 
be asserted that the gods themselves prescribed them : an 
excuse for the superstitious dread of altering what is tradi- 
tionary, and for the persuasion that the form itself has 
mysterious virtue. 

(d) That other religious ceremonies, repeated from age to 
age, have the same tendency as prayers to become dead 
forms from which the spirit of communion or devotion has 
departed though under favourable conditions it may return 
from time to time is too well known ; and if in their empti- 
ness they are still believed somehow to serve their purpose, 
it can only be as magical rites. One may be surprised to 

1 The Todas, pp. 30, 213. 

2 Religious Experience of the Roman People, p. 286. But whether 
we should expect the idea to weaken with advancing civilisation must 
depend upon whether intelligent belief in the gods was increasing. 
Perhaps this was not the case at Rome. 


find at what an early stage of culture this tendency is fully 
realised. William Ellis, the celebrated missionary, says of 
the people of Raiatea : " The efficacy of their [religious] 
services consisted in the rigid exactness with which sacred 
days were kept, and religious ceremonies performed, without 
the least regard to the motives and dispositions of the devotees. 
... In their idol-worship, however costly the sacrifice, and 
however near its close the ceremony might be, if the priest 
omitted or misplaced any word in the prayers, or if his 
attention was diverted by any means so that the prayer 
was broken, the whole was rendered unavailing : he must 
prepare other victims and repeat his prayers over from the 
commencement." l How this concern for details must be a 
relapse into magical notions may be read in the account 
of rites to stop the rainfall in Torres Straits ; where (we are 
told) if the wizard omit any detail, the rain continues. 2 
Perhaps the notion of the perfect defmiteness of causation 
(though not consistently adhered to in other matters) arose 
from this meticulous anxiety of superstition : it also, however, 
furnishes excuses for failure both to priests and wizards. 

(e) In Magic there must be something deeply satisfying 
to the average mind : it precedes Religion, supplies the 
basis and framework of religious practices, and remains when 
Religion is in ruins ; and when people change their Religion, 
they retain their Magic. Among the Fijians, 3 those who 
were Christianised lost their dread of witchcraft last of all 
the relics of their heathenism. Among the Cherokees, 
" Gahuni, like several others of their Shamans, combined the 
professions of Indian conjuror and Methodist preacher." 4 
In Norway, after the general acceptance of Christianity, 
Lapland witchcraft was still valued. The victory of the 
insurgents at Stiklestad, where St. Olaf fell, was thought to 
have been due to the magic armour of reindeer- skin that 
Thore Hund had brought from Lapland ; though all St. Olaf s 
men wore the cross upon helmet and shield. 5 

1 Polynesian Researches, II. pp. 144 and 157 (1st ed.). 

2 Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, VI. p. 199. 
Thomas Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, p. 209. 

4 J. Mooney, " Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees " in Am. B. of 
Ethn., VII. p. 314 (1885-6). 

6 HeimsJcringla, St. Olafs Saga, chs. cciv. and ccxl. 


Since then the spiritualising of Magic and the despiritualis- 
ing of Religion are both real processes of evolution, it may 
be difficult, or even impossible, to say of any given magical 
practice, without particular knowledge of its history, whether 
it is primitive or residuary. Sir E. B. Tylor writes : " Charm 
formulas are in very many cases actual prayers, and as such 
are intelligible. Where they are merely verbal forms, pro- 
ducing their effect on nature and man by some unexplained 
process, may not they, or the types they were modelled on, 
have been originally prayers, since dwindled into mystic 
sentences? " l The circumstances of each case must guide 
our judgment. What shall we say, for example, of the 
addresses to spirits in Melanesia, where it is difficult to find 
in any dialect a word for prayer, " so closely does the notion 
of efficacy cling to the form of words employed " ? 2 Are 
spells there rising into prayers, or prayers sinking back into 


Ghosts know Magic, because they knew it in the flesh; 
and, by analogy, similar knowledge is likely to be attributed 
to spirits that are reputed never to have been in the flesh. 
As fear exalts all the powers of a ghost above his former 
reach, it may be expected to raise his magical powers, espe- 
cially if he had already been famous in that way. And, 
generally, it does so ; but, exceptionally, we read that, among 
the Lengua Indians (west of the Paraguay), whilst any man 
may attempt Magic, professional "witch-doctors" are 
numerous and powerful; yet they are not credited with 
extraordinary powers after death. 3 Elsewhere, however, 
the dead magician does not forget his art. Where Shamanism 
prevails and the power of Magic or Sorcery attains its greatest 
social importance, the spirit of a dead shaman makes some 
advance toward deification. Among the Buryats, dead sha- 
mans are worshipped with prayer and sacrifice. 4 According 

1 Primitive Culture, II. p. 273 (2nd ed.). 

2 Codrington, The Melanesians, p. 145. 

3 S. H. C. Hawtrey, " The Lengua Indians," Journal of the Royal 
Anthropological Institute, 1901. 

4 " Shamanism," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, XXIV. 


to the Kalevala, the famous collection of Finnish poetry, 
in Tuonela (Hades), whither all dead shamans descend, 
their wisdom and magical power accumulate, exceeding that 
of any living adept; so that even Vainamoinen, the wizard 
hero, goes down to learn there the magical words he does 
not know. 1 

Spirits, knowing Magic, also teach it, and make magicians 
and prophets. In South-East Australia, the profession of 
wizard may be hereditary in the eldest son; or obtained 
through initiation by another wizard (a corpse is dug up, 
its bones pounded for the neophyte to chew ; he is plastered 
with excrement, etc., till he becomes frenzied, his eyes 
bloodshot, his behaviour maniacal) ; 2 or a man may become 
a wizard by meeting a spirit who opens his side and inserts 
quartz-crystals, etc. ; or by deriving power from Daramulun ; 
or by sleeping at a grave, where the deceased opens him, 
and takes out and replaces his bowels. Here we have a 
list of the most usual ways in which magical powers can 
anywhere be acquired by inheritance, by tuition, by the 
aid of ghosts or spirits; and it suggests the hypothesis that 
at first the magic art was inherited, or learnt from a former 
wizard; and that, with the growth of Animism, it became 
in some cases preferable, because more impressive (and 
cheaper), to acquire it from a ghost or spirit. For this is 
more probable than that, at the early stage in which Animism 
exists in South-East Australia, retrogradation should have 
taken place ; so that the making of wizards, formerly ascribed 
only to spirits, should in some cases have been remitted to 
inheritance or to professional tuition. That in spite of the 
greater prestige that may attach to a diploma obtained from 
spirits, the right of practising by inheritance or by tuition 
often still persists, though, no doubt, due in part to dull 
conservatism, may also be understood by considering family 
and professional motives. There are heavy fees for teaching 
witchcraft, besides the profits made in some tribes by selling 

1 Comparetti, The Traditionary Poetry of the Finns, p. 184. 

2 Howitt, op. cit., p. 404. Is this type of the neophyte's behaviour, 
which is conformed to on certain occasions by magicians and inspired 
priests in every age and country, itself conformed to the natural type 
of insanity or epilepsy; and, if so, consciously or unconsciously ? 


the control of familiar spirits; the profession is lucrative, 
and a wizardy family has an interest in its monopoly ; which 
must be impaired, if any man who loses himself in the bush 
may come back with some cock-and-bull story about a ghost 
and his new metaphysical insides, and straightway set himself 
up with the equivalents of a brass plate and red lantern. 
Among the Boloki on the Congo, the careers of blacksmith 
and witch-doctor are open only to the relatives of living 
adepts. At least, practically (but for a few exceptionally 
cunning and rascally interlopers who creep and intrude and 
climb into the fold), the office of witch-doctor is hereditary : 
a father trains his son, and will train (for a large fee) any 
youth whose family has already produced a witch-doctor. 
But a candidate without family connexion is told that he 
must first kill by witchcraft all the members of his family, 
as offerings to the fetich of that branch of the profession to 
which he aspires. 1 

Not only the spirits of primitive Animism, but likewise 
the gods of maturer Religions, know and teach Magic. In 
the Maori mythology, Tumatauenga, one of the first genera- 
tion of gods, determined incantations for making all sorts 
of food abundant and for controlling the winds, as well as 
prayers to Heaven suited to all the circumstances of human 
life; and the god Rongotakawin, having shaped the hero 
Whakatau out of the apron of Apakura, taught him Magic 
and enchantments of every kind. 2 Prof. Rhys tells us that 
the Welsh god Math ab Mathonwy, or Math Hen (the ancient), 
was the first of the three great magicians of Welsh Mythology ; 
and he taught Magic to the culture hero, Gwydion ab Don, 
with whose help he created a woman out of flowers. 3 The 
Teutonic equivalent of Gwydion is Woden, or Othin ; and he 
too was a magician, " the father of spells," who acquired 
his wisdom by gazing down into the abyss, whilst he hung 
nine nights on the tree, an offering to himself (and in other 
ways); and, in turn, he teaches Siegfried the omens. 4 He 

1 J. H. Weeks, Among Congo Cannibals, pp. 145 and 276. 

2 Grey, Polynesian Mythology, chs. i. and vii. 

3 Origin and Growth of Religion as illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, 
p. 225. 

4 Corpus Poeticum Boreale, pp. 24, 34, 181, 196. 



also taught the northern people shape -changing, and by spells 
controlled fire and the winds. 1 In Egypt Magic was taught 
by Thoth, in Babylonia by Merodach, and in Japan by 
Ohonomachi the earth-god. Indeed, whence, unless from 
divine beings, could this precious wisdom be obtainable ? 

Spirits also inspire or possess the magician, so that through 
him, as their mouthpiece or instrument, prophecies are 
uttered or wonders wrought. We have seen that in South- 
East Australia the rites of initiation to wizardry by a wizard, 
without the aid of spirits, cause a candidate to become 
frenzied or maniacal. With the growing fashion of animistic 
interpretation, such behaviour is (along with insanity) put 
down to possession by a spirit. The common beliefs that a 
man's soul can slip in and out of him and that a man may 
reincarnate the spirit of an ancestor, facilitate this idea of 
possession. Dreams concerning spirits also promote the 
belief that a miracle -monger owes to them his supernatural 
powers. The Tunguses of Turnkhausk say that the man 
destined to be a shaman sees in a dream the devil performing 
rites, and so learns the secrets of his craft. Among the 
Trans-Baikal Tunguses, he who wishes to become a shaman 
declares that such or such a dead shaman appeared to him 
in a dream, and ordered him to be his successor; and he 
shows himself crazy, stupefied and timorous. The Yakut 
shaman is preordained to serve the spirits, whether he wishes 
it or not : he begins by raging like a madman, gabbles, falls 
unconscious, runs about the woods, into fire and water, 
injures himself with weapons. Then an old shaman trains 
him. 2 On the Congo, a man may become a wizard by claim- 
ing to be the medium of a dead man; and a medium falls 
into a frenzy, shouts, trembles all over, his body undulates, 
sweat breaks out, foam gathers on his mouth, his eyeballs 
roll : he speaks an archaic language if he knows one. 3 In 
Santa Cruz (Melanesia), prophecy is practised by men whose 
bodies are taken possession of, and their voices used, by 

1 Heimskringla Saga, Yuglingasaga, chs. xvii.-xviii. 
" Shamanism," Journal of the Royal . 

XIV. p. 86. 
3 Wee 

>/ the Royal Anthropological Institute, X., 
eeks, Congo Cannibals, p. 265, 



ghosts : they foam at the mouth, writhe, are convulsed as 
if in madness ; and the mad, too, are believed to be possessed. 1 
Similarly the Pythoness : the behaviour of the possessed is 
everywhere the same. But as the same behaviour marks 
the youth training for a wizard before the theory of posses- 
sion or inspiration has been adopted, it is plain that the 
animistic theory does not create the phenomena, but is merely, 
at a certain stage of thought, the inevitable explanation of 

Facility of falling into frenzy may be the test of fitness for 
wizardry; the Bokongo professor who trains a pupil, beats 
his drum, shakes his rattle, and tries to drive the fetich- 
power into him ; if the pupil remains stolid, he is disqualified ; 
but if he sways to the music of the drum, jumps about like a 
madman, etc., he passes. 2 These antics at first astonish 
the beholder, strengthen the faith of patients in the witch- 
doctor, and of the witch-doctor in himself, and often have 
a sort of hypnotic fascination for both him and them ; and 
they gain in value under Animism by being also proofs of 
supernatural assistance or control : and being an essential 
mark of the adept at certain stages of the art's development, 
they are sometimes induced by rhythmic drumming, singing 
and dancing, sometimes by fastings or drugs. 

" Black Magic " is, at first, merely the use of Magic for 
anti-social purposes; very early a distinction is recognised 
between wizards who cause disease and those who cure it. 3 
"Black" and "white" wizards are sometimes at open 
strife. 4 When tribal gods come to be recognised, " black " 
wizards are those who are assisted or inspired by inferior 
gods or demons, who may be opponents and rivals of the high 
gods. Hence the same god who, whilst paramount, aids or 
inspires in an honourable way, may, if deposed or super- 
seded, become the abettor of Black Magic as happened to 
our own gods, and to others, before and after the coming 

1 The fullest and most dramatic account of such possession may be 
found in Williams' Fiji and the Fijians, p. 190. See below, p. 243. 

2 Weeks, Primitive Bokongo, p. 215. 

3 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 480-8. 

4 " Shamanism," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 
XXIV. p. 130. 


of Christianity ; for the ancient divine sources of power and 
prophecy became devils and witch-masters. The magicians 
of our Middle Ages, of whom Faustus is the type, were " black " 
and, in the spirit of Shamanism, pretended to rule the devils ; 
but, overshadowed by Christianity, they at least in popular 
belief bought their power at a price. 


Spirits may operate through men whom they possess, or 
by their naked soul-force, or by words (that is, by spells), 
or by merely thinking : 

(a) When a man is possessed by a spirit, it is the soul-force 
of that spirit which has entered him and taken command 
of his voice or limbs; and we have seen that this soul-force 
is the same as force magical. The spirit's action is the same 
as that of the bugin or wizard, who boasted of having entered 
a horse and galloped off. 1 

(b) By Animism, prior to philosophical reflection, the spirit 
is not conceived of as strictly incorporeal; its force, which 
is magical, is quasi-mechanical. Hence, in South-East 
Australia, spirits can carry off a man in a bag 2 (made, no 
doubt, of bag-soul-stuff). But spirits may act upon a man 
very effectually without being mechanically felt; as among 
the Ekoi, where ghosts are either good or bad, and generally 
a good goes with a bad one to counteract his malevolence; 
but should a bad one wander forth alone, and should a man 
without the gift of seeing ghosts (which depends upon his 
having four eyes) run against it in the street, the ghost will 
not step aside, but strikes the man in the face ; who then 
has lock-jaw, and dies. 3 As we have reason to believe that 
this is not the natural aetiology of lock-jaw, the ghost's action 
is plainly magical : like that of the corpse-candle which, not 
long ago, on a slope of Plinlimmon one rainy night, a man 
inadvertently ran against, and was " struck down dead as 
a horse." 4 The mere apparition of a ghost (at least, to 

1 Howitt, op. cit., p. 374. 2 Ibidtf p> 437 

P. A. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, p. 230. 
4 G. Borrow, Wild Wales, ch. Ixxxviii. 


any one who has not four eyes) is magical. The sending of 
a bird as an omen is magical. 

This immediate power of the gods is nowhere shown more 
emphatically than in their metamorphoses : that these are 
sometimes wrought by spells or other enchantments proves 
that the operation is magical. Australian wizards transform 
themselves into kangaroos and other animals ; and, in Arunta 
mythology, in the earliest Alcheringa (period of mythical 
ancestors), the Ungambikula so called from having arisen 
out of nothing with stone knives cut men out of rudimentary 
masses of unorganised matter (inapertua), and then trans- 
formed themselves into little lizards. 1 So this sort of self- 
conjuring may be said to begin at the beginning; and it 
cannot be necessary to accumulate examples of metamorphosis. 

Several explanations of this belief in the possibility of 
changing the form of one's body, or of having it changed 
by others, have been offered : none perhaps entirely satis- 
factory. We are not here concerned with the passing of a 
soul from one body to another from a man into a wolf or 
into a serpent, or conversely : given the conception of a 
separable soul, that is easy to understand. What has to be 
explained is the belief in a magical change of the body itself, 
as in the common European superstition that a man may 
turn into a wolf, and back again, like Sigmund and his son 
in the Volsung Saga. It has been pointed out (i) that the 
savage may observe striking changes in nature : as in the 
shape of clouds and smoke, the burning of wood into flame, 
smoke and ashes, the evaporation of water; the turning of 
eggs into caterpillars, reptiles, birds, or of a chrysalis into an 
imago; the appearance of worms in putrefying bodies, and 
so forth. 2 With such facts before him, why should not the 
savage imagine himself also capable of transformation? 
(ii) Dream-images, too, pass one into another in a marvellous 
way. (iii) Since men are often called by the names of animals, 
how easy to suppose that, at times, they may really be those 
animals. How easy to confound a man with his Totem. 
In many savage dances, animals are imitated, and the 

1 Spencer and Gillen, op. cit., p. 388. 

2 H. Spencer, Principles of Sociology, 55. 


imagination-belief in the reality of the pantomime grows 
very strong, (iv) The savage, when his imagination has been 
excited, is not clever at penetrating conjuring tricks and 
disguises; and some men, at first for their own ends, may 
have disguised themselves as animals and passed as animals ; 
and in support of this explanation it may be observed that 
the animal into which men transform themselves is oftenest 
the most feared in their neighbourhood the wolf, leopard, 
or tiger; and, of course, one case believed in, others follow 
by analogy. The mere report of such an happening might 
generate belief by force of fear, (v) In a wild country, a 
man (say one who is pursued) often disappears and is indis- 
coverable; so that he may seem to have turned into a 
kangaroo, or a stone, or a tree that appears in his place, 
as Daphne hid successfully in a laurel -thicket : or if such 
an occurrence did not originate the belief in metamorphosis, 
it may have helped to confirm it. (vi) In mental disease, 
the patient sometimes believes himself to be some kind of 
animal, and acts accordingly : perhaps as a result of the 
popular belief, but doubtless also confirming it. 1 Weighing 
all these hypotheses, I lean to the view that, starting from 
the fact (as ground of analogy) that astonishing changes are 
observed in nature and in dreams, the belief in metamorphosis 
as a magical operation rests chiefly upon the deceptions and 
confident assertions of wizards that they can, and do, change 
their form, supported by their reputation for wonder-working 
and by the fears of their neighbours. Now, if wizards can 
change their shapes, of course the gods can. 2 

1 E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, I. 308 et seq. 

2 In a paper on Leopard Men of the Naga Hills, read at a meeting 
of the R.A.I. (December 9, 1919), Mr. J. J. H. Button reported that 
such men do not change into leopards; but sometimes their souls 
involuntarily pass into them. If the leopard be injured or killed he 
whose soul was in it suffers or dies when he hears of it. Such men 
are not feared, because their leopards do very little harm. 

For this reason (I suppose) the belief is not exploited by wizards, 
who have no use for innocent superstition, and it remains pure folk- 
lore. There may not be any connexion between this animistic doctrine 
of human souls possessing animals and the magical doctrine of shape - 
changing. If they are connected, it is easy to see that in a certain 
atmosphere of popular philosophy, if shape -changing were believed in, 
the possession theory might be accepted as the true explanation upon 



(c) Spirits and gods are known to use amulets and talis- 
mans, not invented by poets as symbols, but prized as the 
instruments of their power, as an enchanter values his wand. 
Such are the caduceus of Hermes, the cestus of Aphrodite, 
Thor's hammer Mjolnir, Woden's spear Gunguir and his 
wishing staff. The gods of Egypt and Babylon also wore 
charms. Since chieftains are frequently magicians, and also 
become gods, it follows that the gods are magicians ; though, 
indeed, as Grimm observes, their power is to be called 
miraculous rather than magical. But Magic, being the 
highest power known to men, and the most desired, is of 
course attributed to spirits and to gods. 

The most extensive powers of spirits, however,. depend on 
the use of words or spells. The hero of the Western Isles of 
Torres Straits, Kwoiam, employed magical formulae. 1 The 
gods and demigods of the Maories carried out their extra- 
ordinary adventures by the power of incantations. Maui, 
by incantations, fishes up dry land from the bottom of the 
sea, and turns his brother-in-law into a dog; Tawhaki and 
his brother Karahi, by incantations, make themselves invisible, 
and avenge their father Hema upon his enemies; and so 
forth. 2 Celtic and Teutonic deities worked wonders by songs 
and spells. Isis was the greatest enchantress that ever lived. 
She made from the spittle of Ra a serpent that bit and poisoned 
him ; and then she healed him by an incantation, having first 
compelled him to reveal to her his name, to the knowledge 
of which the god himself owed his power over gods and men ; 
so that she obtained the mastery over all the gods. 3 

merely being proposed. Indeed, it would make intelligible such a 
case as this : a man's leopard is seen on the skirts of the village; but 
he himself is known to be in his hut. 

Animistic explanation does not always follow culture : Europe 
adheres to shape-changing. Yet in the Volsung Saga the superstition 
is already degenerate: Sigmund and his son change into wolves by 
putting on wolf-skins belonging to two were-wolves whom they find 
asleep. This is a rationalisation disguise as a step toward change. 
An earlier step is to say a man who would change must put on a belt 
of wolf-skin. 

1 Haddon, Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, V. 
p. 329. 

2 Grey, op. cit., " Legends of Maui and Tawhaki." 

3 Wiedemann, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 54-8. 


As spells, when used by men, may be more efficacious 
when muttered and whispered than when spoken aloud, so 
they may retain their power when silently wished or thought ; 
and it is the same with spirits : to control events it may be 
enough for them to think. And this belief emerges at no 
very high level of Animism ; it needs no philosophical instruc- 
tion in the mysterious energy of ideas. The Sia Indians 
(North Mexico) have a Cougar Society, which meets for a 
two days' ceremonial, before a hunting expedition, to pro- 
pitiate the cougar (puma), because he is the great father and 
master of all game. He is believed to draw all kinds of 
game to him by sitting still with folded arms and mentally 
demanding their presence ; and by the same means he sends 
game to whomsoever he favours. 1 

Apparently, then, Magic is an art antecedent to the exist- 
ence of spirits and ready for their use; and they stand in 
the same relations to it as men do. Animistic usages are 
originally magical spells, rites, metamorphoses; and all 
animistic ideas are magical, except one the capriciousness 
of spiritual agency. 


The savage imagination having created out of dreams and 
other strange experiences a world of invisible and powerful 
beings who may be friendly or hostile, so human that they 
must be accessible to prayers, but often turn a deaf ear to 
them must desire sacrifices, yet often reject them capricious 
and inscrutable it became necessary, in order to restore 
confidence in all the relations of life, that their caprice should 
somehow be overcome ; and to accomplish this three ways 
were open : first, to increase the prayers and sacrifices until 
their importunity and costliness should prove irresistible 
and this way led to all the magnificence and to all the horrors 
of religious rites ; secondly, to work upon the fears or vulner- 
ability of spirits by beating, starving, slaying, banishing or 
degrading them; or, thirdly, to constrain them, as men are 
often constrained, by magical rites and formulae. From the 
beginning this necessity is felt. 

1 M. C. Stevenson, "The Sia," Am. B. of Ethn., XL p. 118. 


The constraint of spirits by fear or violence is characteristic 
of Fetichism. The wizards of the Congo catch spirits in traps ; 
or drive them into animals, which they behead; or spear 
them in some dark corner, and then exhibit their blood upon 
the spear-head. Passing from the Congo through many ages 
of progress, we arrive in China, and find that in time of 
drought, if the city-god neglects to put an end to it, he is 
first of all entreated; but that failing, his idol is stripped 
naked and put to stand in the sun ; or an iron chain is hung 
round his neck the mark of a criminal till rain falls ; or he 
may be dethroned altogether. 1 With such crude practices, 
however, we are not now concerned. 

The control of spirits by Magic, especially by spells or 
by other spirits who, in turn, are controlled by spells is 
in its earlier form characteristic of Shamanism : indeed, it 
is the essence of Shamanism; though, of course, in many 
shamanistic tribes, having intercourse with peoples of different 
culture, other beliefs, ascribing independent or even superior 
power to spirits, are often found. Spirits may be so com- 
pletely subdued by spells as to excite little fear. Among 
the Yurats and Ostyaks, the shamans treat their spirits 
without ceremony, and even buy and sell them. 2 So do 
the Esquimo angekoqs. In Greenland, "all phenomena are 
controlled by spirits, and these spirits are controlled by 
formulae or charms, which are mainly in possession of the 
medicine-men, although certain simple charms may be owned 
and used by any one." Hence, " nothing like prayer or 
worship is possible " ; 3 for why supplicate spirits whom you 
can command ? ' ' The rule of man not of all men, but of 
one specially gifted (the shaman), over Nature, or over the 
superior beings who direct her, is the fundamental idea of 
Shamanism." 4 The shaman's power depends on knowledge 
of the names, natures and origins of all things and spirits, 
and of the words that control them; but also on his own 
extraordinary personality, as manifested in orgiastic frenzy. 

1 W. Grube, Eel. u. K. d. Chinese, p. 132. 

2 " Shamanism," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 
ch xxiv. p. 133. 

3 Stephansen, My Life with the Eskimo, p. 391. 

4 D. Comparetti, The Traditional Poetry of the Finns, p. 26. 


Megalomania, the vain imagination of being a " superman," 
is generally characteristic of magicians. Nothing can be 
more contrary than this attitude to what most of us under- 
stand by Religion. 

One condition of the prevalence of Shamanism among any 
people, or group of peoples, seems to be the absence from 
among them of chieftains who have attained to any high 
degree of political power, and the consequent non-existence 
of authoritative gods. Hence it spreads throughout the 
tribes of Northern Europe and Asia, from Finland to Kam- 
tchatka, and with a less intensive sway amongst the Indians 
of North and South America. Under such conditions the 
shaman is subordinate to no one in this world ; nor, therefore, 
in the spirit-world. But where there are authoritative chiefs, 
authoritative gods correlative with them are approached by 
an order of men who are priests rather than magicians that 
is to say, are regarded as dealing less in magic than in prayer 
and sacrifice. And this state of affairs is apt to give rise to 
increasing pomp and extravagance of rites, to which there 
is no visible limit; so that in some cases, as in Ashanti and 
Mexico, worship became homicide, and a sort of national 
insanity was established. For from such practices there 
results no security in the satisfaction of desire; the caprice 
of the gods cannot by such means be overcome ; their appetite 
grows by what it feeds on, and so does the fanaticism of the 

Now, in political affairs something similar happens : the 
caprice of despotic rulers becomes intolerable ; and, in some 
countries, submission to their tyranny has amounted to a 
sort of national insanity. Elsewhere devices have been 
adopted to limit the power of rulers. Avoiding assassination 
or revolution, it has been found possible to impose upon 
a king restraints derived from his own sanctity and divine 
power. One such device has been to surround him with 
innumerable taboos which, at length, prevent him from doing 
anything. It is true that the ostensive reason for this was 
not the limitation of his power, but the preservation of his 
vitality, upon which hung the welfare of the whole world; 
and probably this was, at first, the conscious purpose; but 


one effect of it was to limit his power, and the utility of this 
was its natural sanction. There are many cases in human 
life in which a great advantage has been gained for the race 
by means which were intended by the conscious agents to 
have an entirely different result. 1 In several countries, 
where the king has been bound by taboos, another man has 
by some pretext usurped his power; so that this way of 
restraining despotism is not a good one. But in Japan, 
where it had been adopted by a political people, the Tycoon, 
who succeeded to the power of the taboo -burdened Mikado, 
himself fell at last under equivalent restrictions, whilst affairs 
were directed by his ministers. Such is the natural tendency 
of this device amongst positivists, like the Japanese; else- 
where it may transfer the regal power to warriors or to priests. 2 
Another way of restraining the king is to establish the 
principle that he rules by the laws, and that laws, though 
made by himself, cannot be altered. And this may have 
been the purpose of the unchangeableness of the laws of the 
Medes and Persians ; and according to the Book of Daniel 3 
it was used in this way ; though, certainly, the older authority 
of Herodotus 4 shows that, in some cases, the king's advisers 
could find a way out for their master. Our own forefathers 
were no doubt the wisest people that ever lived; and their 
plan was to acknowledge fully the divinity that doth hedge 
a king, to declare that, in fact, he could do no wrong, and 
then to visit all the iniquities of government upon his ministers. 
If kings need restraint, much more do invisible gods : and 
many nations have sought to limit their prerogative, either 
by Magic or by legal fictions which, in relation to gods, can 
have only a magical operation. Whilst the tone of the 
Rigveda is truly religious (though even there " the idea is 
often expressed that the might and valour of the gods is 
produced by hymns, sacrifices and especially offerings of 
soma "), " in the Yajurveda the sacrifice itself has become 
the centre of thought and desire, its correct performance 
in every detail being all-important. Its power is now so great 

1 Natural and Social Morals, ch. ii. 4. 

2 See many examples in J. G. Frazer's Taboo and the Perils of the 
Soul, ch. i. 3 Ch. vi. * III. p. 31. 


that it not only influences but compels the gods to do the will 
of the officiating priest." l In Egyptian rites of sacrifice 
and prayer, the kind of victim and the manner of slaying and 
cutting it up were minutely and unchangeably decreed. 
" The formulas accompanying each act of the sacrificial 
priest contained a certain number of words, whose due 
sequence and harmonies might not suffer the slightest modifica- 
tion even by the god himself, under penalty of losing their 
efficacy. They were always recited with the same rhythm, 
according to a system of melody in which every tone had its 
virtue, combined with movements that confirmed the sense 
and worked with irresistible effect; one false note, a single 
discord between the succession of gestures and the utterance 
of the sacramental words, any hesitation, any awkwardness 
in the accomplishment of a rite, and the sacrifice was vain." 8 
But if all was in order, the god was bound to grant the 
petition. Babylonian religious ceremonies " had for the 
most part the same end and object as the magical text used 
with them; they were not so much a communion with the 
deities of heaven, as an attempt to compel them by particular 
words to relieve the worshipper from trouble, or to bestow 
upon him some benefit." Ceremonies, therefore, were useless 
unless accurately performed in word and deed; " ritual was 
a sort of acted magic." 3 These accounts of the religious 
ceremonies of the highest barbaric civilisations are almost in 
the same words as William Ellis uses in his account of worship 
at Raiatea about the beginning of the nineteenth century; 
except that Ellis does not say that the Polynesian gods 
were bound to grant the requests so presented. Accordingly, 
I have treated the Raiatean example under Retrogradation, 
and those of Egypt and Babylon as cases of half-conscious 
policy. No doubt both retrogradation and policy were present 
in all cases; but it seems reasonable to suppose that the 
latter predominated where order was more settled (an analogue 
of the order required in heaven) and thought was better 

1 Macdonell, Sanskrit Literature, pp. 73 and 183. 

2 Maspero, The Dawn of Civilization, p. 124. 

8 A. H. Sayce, Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, p. 319. 



One may wonder why a magical ritual should be preferred 
and trusted rather than genuinely devotional worship ; since 
it must, in fact, just as often result in disappointment. But, 
first, as to the priesthood, an elaborate ritual, difficult to 
carry out, is favourable to their power, because only pro- 
fessionals can execute it; so that they must necessarily be 
employed; and the more elaborate and exigent it is, the 
more necessary they are. But, then, the more attention 
the ritual demands, the less there is to spare for thinking 
of the gods. Secondly, as to the people, since the failure 
of worship in attaining our ends may be due either (animistic- 
ally) to the caprice of the gods or (magically) to an error 
of the priest, it is not surprising that men should trust the 
specialist whose education is well attested rather than the 
god whose character is inscrutable. Thirdly, a magical ritual 
appeals to the expectation of uniformity, the sole ground of 
confidence concerning the future, and therefore what men 
most desire. Nevertheless, the religious form of the rites 
(though empty of religious feeling) is maintained; partly, 
because the whole political and ecclesiastical fabric rests upon 
the animistic tradition; partly, because Animism has such 
hold upon men's minds that a few remain devout; whilst 
even those who regard the rites as magical do not perceive 
that magic is the antithesis of religion and rigidly excludes 
it. Only a few natural positivists and philosophers regard 
public worship as merely a political institution. 

The idea of a transaction by which the gods are legally 
bound so much help for so much worship may be present 
in all magical ritual ; but in some religions the analogy of 
human relations according to law is explicitly extended to 
the relations of men with gods. The Jewish religion was 
based on a covenant; and, according to some theologians, 
so is the Christian. It has often been said that Roman 
religion implied a belief in legal obligation imposed upon 
the gods by rites duly performed; and Mr. Warde Fowler, 
who thinks more highly than some have done of the genuine- 
ness of religious feeling amongst the Romans, at least in private 
worship, yet says that in the vota publica we find something 
like a bargain or covenant with the deity in the name of the 


State. 1 Legal obligation implies effectual sanctions that 
may be brought to bear upon transgressors, gods or men; 
and at a low stage of Animism, when no spirit exceeds the 
rank of demon, there may be no incongruity in bringing to 
reason a recalcitrant spirit by stopping his rations or mal- 
treating his image; but when high gods have obtained the 
homage of men, to punish them calls for great audacity or 
very subtle management. The Chinese have managed the 
matter to admiration. The Emperor of China acknowledged 
himself subject to the spirits of Earth and Heaven; but he 
himself was the son of Heaven, and all other spirits were 
subject to him. He ruled alike over the dead and the 
living. He made deities and appointed them their func- 
tions; promoted them and distributed amongst them titles 
of honour, if they did good works ; or, if they failed in their 
duties, degraded them. In the Pekin Gazette one finds " the 
deities figuring, not occasionally but very frequently, in 
every department of official business, and treated much as 
if they were highly respectable functionaries of a superior 
order, promoted to some kind of upper house, whose abilities 
and influence were nevertheless still at the service of the 
State." 2 Nowhere has the unity of Church and State been 
so completely realised, and the pax deorum so conclusively 
established. One may interpret the facts at discretion : 
an animist may accept them literally and seriously; a 
devotee of Magic may regard decrees in the Pekin Gazette 
as spells that have coercive power in the spirit -world ; a 
Confucian mandarin will think that an excellent plan has 
been devised for enlisting the superstitions of the simple- 
minded in support of law and order. We may suppose that 
for him Animism is but an episode in the history of human 

Another way of excluding spiritual caprice, which we might 
suppose to have been discovered by philosophers, but which 
appears to be older than what we usually call " Philosophy," 

1 Rdigious Experience of the Roman People, p. 202. 

2 Alfred Lyall, Asiatic Studies, essays on The State and Religion in 
China. In a milder form this system has been adopted by Japan; 
W. E. Aston, Shinto, p. 237. 



is to subordinate the gods to Fate. The idea has been 
attributed to the astronomers or astrologers of Babylon that 
Fate must be above the gods as the constant heaven of the 
fixed stars is above the planets : l an analogy characteristic 
of magical thought. But the roots of the idea of Fate are 
much older and wider spread in the slow, steady growth of 
the belief in uniformity, which is the common ground of 
Magic and Science ; and (as I have said) before laws of nature 
had been discovered, Fate was an all-comprehensive Magic. 
Fate reduces the gods to the status of wheels in a machine ; 
omens and oracles, instead of being sent or inspired by the 
gods, are also part of the machinery, and may point to their 
destruction; prayers and sacrifices are other parts of the 
machinery and, at most, may be a means of assuaging the 
anxiety of one's own heart. A stern way of envisaging 
the world : but it gives not only security against the gods, 
but also resignation and tranquillity. 

Philosophical Christianity regards the actions of God as 
always manifested, in the physical order, through 4t second 
causes," or, in other words, in " the laws of nature " ; and, 
in the spiritual order, as always observing the moral laws 
that are the principles of divine Reason; in either case 
there can be no variableness nor shadow of turning. 

Magic, like Science, believes in uniformities of nature, and 
seeks by a knowledge of them to control events; but Magic 
is so eager to control events that it cannot wait to learn the 
true uniformities ; it is not moved, like Science, by curiosity 
as to the truth, but by blind desire for present results. The 
cult of spirits seeks to control events not by knowledge 
of their natural causes, but by appealing to hyperphysical 
causes, and it resembles the belief in Free Will, by which 
men hope, through the influx of some unknown energy, to 
escape the bondage of their own vices : for Kant rightly 
treated " Freedom " as a cosmological problem, the supposed 
intervention of a cause that is transcendent and not in the 
course of nature. The intervention of Free Will (whether 
divine or human) is sought in order to avert injurious fortune, 
to realise our personal or social schemes more quickly and 
1 Franz Cumont, Astrology and Religion. 


cheaply than our own efforts can, to avoid the consequences 
of our own actions, amongst which is bondage to our own 
vices : for all these, give us variability, miracle, caprice. 
But to foresee and control events physical or social, including 
the conduct of others, to be confident in the effects of our 
own actions according to our purposes, and in the stability 
of our own character : for all these, there must be uniformity. 
In the long run the latter considerations determine our 
thoughts; and the necessity of uniformity to a rational life 
may be one cause of our belief (so far out-running the evidence) 
in uniformities of causation and of space-relations and of all 
that we mean by natural law. 



' WHEN great disasters are about to befall a state or nation 
it often happens that there is some warning," says Hero- 
dotus. 1 It happens, indeed, not only to states and nations, 
but to eminent men, or even to common men, children and 
old women. An old woman who in England sees the new 
moon for the first time through glass, will not be surprised 
when, next morning, the market-basket drops from her arm in 
the middle of the street. In Fiji, if a woman putting bananas 
into a pot let one fall on the outside, or if the bread-fruit 
burst in roasting, she wrung her hands in dismay and cried 
aloud. 2 The whole world is full of such portents, and has 
been many thousands of years; and there is no clearer 
disproof of the vulgar error that age is the mother of wisdom 
than this, that the older the race grows the less it attends 
to them : or rather, whilst it attends to them more and 
more sedulously up to a certain critical hour reached by 
the Greeks (say) 400 B.C., and by Western Europe (say) 
A.D. 1600 it then begins to disregard, rapidly neglects them, 
till in a comparatively short time what is called the " en- 
lightened " part of mankind forgets to take account of them 
at all ; although it is well known that an eclipse of the moon 
a little before sunrise in the sign of Leo was a token that 
Darius should be defeated at Arbela ; that on the first day 
that Julius Caesar sat on the golden throne and wore the 
purple robe, an ox, having been sacrificed, was found to have 
no heart at which Caesar himself was surprised, and soon 

1 VI. c. 27 (Rawlinson's Translation). 

2 Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, p. 152. 


after he was assassinated ; and that many signs and wonders 
announced quite recently the coming of the Spaniards into 
Mexico; Montezuma had visions and grew melancholy; the 
idol of Quetzalchoatl declared that a strange people ap- 
proached to possess his kingdom, and so did witches and 
sorcerers ; a stone spoke and warned him ; a lake overflowed 
its banks; a pyramid of fire was seen in the sky; monsters 
were born with two heads, and there were other portents, 
all to no purpose. 1 

Omens, enjoyed with fear and trembling by all men in all 
ages, have sometimes been conceived of as due to magical 
power, but much more generally as the sendings of demons 
or gods; although the fact that they are rarely of any use 
to the recipient, or even intelligible to him until after the 
event, makes it very improbable that they involve the inter- 
vention of any intelligent cause. And what are we to think 
of the intelligence of mankind, who in spite of their experience 
of omens during so many ages, were still eager to observe 


For the wild man seeking game or on the alert for enemies 
it is necessary to read every sign of the presence of enemies 
or of game in the neighbourhood : footprints, broken twigs 
and bent grass, droppings of feathers, hair or dung, remnants 
of food or marks of habitation instantly catch his eye ; noises 
or odours arrest his other senses. His world is full of these 
signs, and he must always be on the watch for them : the 
birds being suddenly silent, on looking up he sees a hawk; 
a change of wind, or the aspect of clouds, announces rain or 
fair weather; the coming and departure of certain birds 
as with us the swallow and the cuckoo portend the change 
of seasons. In all these cases causation is active and some- 
times obvious, but often very obscure : the apparent may 
be the reverse of the real order : for the coming of swallows 
is the antecedent of our enjoying the summer; but in the 
order of nature the course of the seasons determines the 

1 De Acosta, History of the Indies, VII. c. 23 (translated by C. R. 

OMENS 227 

migration of birds. That the true relation may be mis- 
understood is shown by the behaviour of certain Australian 
natives who, noticing that plovers cry before the coming of 
rain, take their cry to be a cause of rain, and therefore imitate 
it when performing their rain-rites. 1 We may observe how 
obscure is the distinction between sign and cause even 
amongst ourselves, in the general belief that " a change of 
the moon " is connected somehow with a change of weather; 
for what the relation is no one seems clearly to conceive. 

The relation between natural signs and the events sig- 
nified, being obscure, may be mysterious; and accordingly 
its obscurity has been made use of to defend the belief in 
Omens. In the De Divinatione 2 Quintus, who is unkindly 
given by his brother the post of apologist for all that non- 
sense, (following, I suppose, the sophistry of some Stoic) 
quotes Aratus' description of how certain movements of the 
sea presage a coming storm ; the gull, too, and the crow by 
their behaviour : and the croaking of frogs and the snuffing 
of cattle foretell rain. I cannot explain, he says, how animals 
have such knowledge any more than I can explain the divina- 
tions of augurs; nor is it necessary to do so : in both cases 
there are the facts. 

No wonder, then, that the savage, depending for his life 
upon a knowledge of signs, driven by eagerness and anxiety 
to observe them, and unable to distinguish coincidence from 
causation and the entanglements of causation, should imagine 
himself to have discovered many more signs than are com- 
prised in the order of nature. Thus in Torres Straits, the 
biro-biro announces by its arrival that yams are ready for 
eating (which seems needless), and the cry of the koko 
predicts fine weather (which is credible); but, further, the 
sunbird can foretell the coming of a boat, 3 and that must 
be imagination. 

Very gradually, we may suppose, a difference came to be 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, p. 220. 

2 Book I. cc. 7-10. 

3 Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, VI. p. 260. 


felt between two classes of signs : (1) those that are of a 
usual kind, such as the tracks of game, the return of the 
swallows, the croaking of frogs, which are almost constantly 
the antecedents of interesting events, such as the getting of 
food, the coming of spring, or of rain ; sequences that recur 
again and again, some of them being, like the tracks of game, 
easily intelligible; all which, accordingly, are accepted as 
a matter of course and incorporated with common sense. 
(2) Less usual events, such as strange animals, lightning, 
eclipses, shooting-stars; which come to be considered as 
signs by being connected in imagination with interesting 
events which happen soon after them, such as a failure in 
hunting, an attack by enemies, a death in the tribe, the 
wreck of a canoe; though the connexions are irregular and 
never intelligible, and are accepted not as a matter of course, 
but as mysterious, magical and portentous : they are Omens. 
They acquire the hold upon men that belongs to the growing 
body of superstition. Although irregular, they are classed 
with the connexions that are believed to be most regular, 
and failures are overlooked. To these are added and ac- 
cumulated in tradition, by analogy or caprice, innumerable 
other signs and warnings. 

That Omens obtain an inextricable hold in the tangle of 
superstitious beliefs results from men's strong desire to 
foresee the future, especially in social conditions full of dangers 
and uncertainties, without the settled organisation which, 
with us in ordinary times, makes one year so much like 
another. Upon many people, indeed, this desire has the 
same effect to this day, and becomes more active in troubled 
times like the present. Anxious to know whether they are 
to marry, or to hear of a death, or to come into money or 
some other advancement, they hope to find out by visiting 
Mrs. Sludge in a stuffy chamber, or (as you may see in 
London) by consulting a canary at the street-corner. When 
a fixed idea of love or ambition or anxiety possesses the 
mind and leaves it no peace, we are ready to try any device 
that promises to relieve the strain, and we do things sillier 
than could have been predicted even by those who knew us 



Belief in Omens and the practice of observing them 
having been established, the list of portentous events grows 
ever larger, (a) In a depressed frame of mind the future 
looks gloomy; in exhilaration, cheerful. A sensation, such 
as shivering, or sweating, that accompanies fear is apt to 
excite fear. In fear or depression one acts feebly and fails; 
in hope and confidence one acts vigorously and wins : the 
expectations produced by such moods fulfil themselves, 
and therefore the moods are ominous. This may be the 
reason why, when men are at strife and some ambiguous 
Omen occurs, he who first claims its favour or denounces 
its menace upon his enemy, gains an advantage ; * for the 
other may be daunted and unable to rally his forces. But 
that depends on character. 

This subjective value of an Omen, making its virtue a 
function of the recipient's disposition, sometimes became so 
prominent as to obscure its truly magical character ; according 
to which it must be indissolubly connected in some way with 
the event and can have nothing to do with the recipient's 
attitude. Thus it might be held that an Omen, if it deeply 
affected a man's imagination, would be fulfilled; but, if 
neglected, it might not be. Pliny says 2 that, according to 
the augurs, auspices had no import for one who in any 
enterprise declared that he would not regard them. Or, 
again, the bearing of an Omen may be determined by the 
way in which it is accepted : Julius Caesar, landing in Africa, 
fell; and that must have seemed a very bad Omen; but 
he, having the presence of mind (though not exempt from 
superstition) to exclaim : "Africa, I lay hold of thee ! " changed 
its significance; 3 and, doubtless, greatly altered its effect 
upon the minds of his officers and soldiers and of all who 
heard of it ; and that was the important matter. Hope and 
desire and anxiety created Omens, and they had also the 
power to direct the incidence and corrupt the interpretation 
of Omens. In fact, there were conventional formulae for 
accepting good Omens and rejecting bad ones : Accipio 
omen, Absit omen, Tibi in caput redeat; which were 

1 W. R. Halliday, Greek Divination, p. 15. 

2 Historia Naturalis, XXVII. p. 4. 3 Suetonius : Julius, c. 59. 


counteractive spells; and it is agreed that Magic may be 
overcome by stronger Magic. 

This attitude of mind that makes an Omen subject to its 
acceptance, may explain the otherwise absurd practice of 
taking the Omens again and again, when the earlier have 
been unfavourable, until one is obtained that flatters the 
inquirer's hopes. Not only amongst sophisticated peoples, 
who might be supposed to treat Omens in a formal and per- 
functory way, but even in the lower barbarism Omens are 
thus garbled. The Karens of Borneo, consulting the liver 
of a pig to authorise an expedition, if with one pig the appear- 
ance is forbidding, sacrifice a second, third, or fourth ; though 
without a satisfactory forecast they will not set out. Then, 
having set out, they try to avoid hearing the cry of the 
woodpecker (which has two notes, the one of good, the other 
of evil augury), lest it should be against their plans. And 
the same simple-minded people believe in the magical 
efficacy of the sign, no matter how obtained. Vaticinating 
by the flight of a hawk, a man will try, by shouting and by 
waving to it, to turn its flight toward the left, that being with 
them the prosperous direction. 1 Imagination-beliefs are 
saturated with insincerity; their unconscious maxim is, 
" Believe as you list." 

Although it may be a general principle that savages are 
more impressed by external than by internal experiences, 
yet the suggestion of the foregoing paragraphs, that the 
finding of Omens in one's own sensations is secondary to, 
and dependent on, the growth of a belief in Omens presented 
by physical events, is not one upon which I much rely. 
Possibly sensations and moods are a distinct and primitive 
source of this superstition : for it has been noticed in Aus- 
tralia, where the lore of Omens in general has made but little 
progress. Whilst performing tribal ceremonies under strong 
emotion, the aborigines think that their entrails sometimes 
acquire ''sight"; so that they know whether their wives 
have been unfaithful, or they feel the approach of danger. 2 
In the Western Isles of Torres Straits shivering and uneasy 

1 Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes of Borneo, II. pp. 56-64. 

2 Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 266. 

OMENS 231 

feelings are presentiments; and in the Eastern Isles, a 
dryness of one's skin or sneezing : l in New Guinea, if the 
right shoulder ache, expect good news; if the left, bad. 2 
And these simplest of all whims are the longest lived; for 
amongst ourselves many a woman suddenly has a presenti- 
ment, " as if some one were walking over her grave." 

(b) As a mood of elation or depression is itself ominous, 
so is whatever excites such a mood. Depressing objects 
are cripples, old women, sick people, timid hares, loathsome 
toads, a snake coming to meet a war-party, discouraging 
words, ugly dreams; whereas pleasant dreams, encouraging 
words, a snake going before us as against the enemy, hawks, 
wolves and blooming youth are all exhilarating : the list 
varies from tribe to tribe. Many ominous things promise 
good or evil according as they appear on the right hand or 
on the left : the left being generally held inauspicious, 
because (it is said) the left hand is the clumsier and weaker; 
and this may be true. But we have seen that in Borneo the 
left is preferred; and whereas the Greeks followed the general 
rule, assigning evil to the left hand, the Romans thought 
the right hand was the direction of danger. And this con- 
trariety has been explained as due to a difference of orienta- 
tion in the formal taking of Omens ; for the Greek then faced 
northward, and had the place of sunrise upon his right hand ; 
whilst the Roman faced southward and had on his right 
hand the place of sunset : so that it was not anything to do 
with his own body, but the direction whence the sun appeared 
and advanced with growing power and splendour which 
each of them judged of good hope, in contrast with that 
whither the sun declined and weakened to his death. To 
illustrate these fancies would be an endless task, and a 
superfluous labour, since nothing is better known. 

(c) Coincidence, the occurrence near together of two 
interesting events, is sure to make people think there must 
be some connexion between them; and the earlier event 
will be classed, according to circumstances, as either a cause 

1 Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, V. p. 361 ; 
VI. p. 259. 

2 Seligman, Mel of B. N. G., p. 309. 


or a sign of the later ; and if the connexion is mysterious, it 
must be either a magical power like that of a talisman, or 
that special kind of Magic which is an Omen. What cir- 
cumstances determine this distinction, I will presently try 
to show. Possibly all Omens that are not derived from 
subjective moods and sensations, or from things or events 
that excite such moods, were originally founded upon coin- 
cidence. Upon this, apparently, the Egyptians relied in 
the records they kept (according to Herodotus) of Omens 
and their fulfilment ; and Quintus Cicero is represented 1 as 
believing that the Babylonians kept such records for 470,000 
years : so that it was, in their view, an inductive science ; 
but we never hear of their having kept a record of failures 
and disappointments. 

Some Omens having been established by subjective prog- 
nostication or by coincidence, many more may be added by 
analogy, or by a sort of reasoning. An analogy with the 
contrast of right and left hand may be noticed in all oppo- 
sftes : the woodpecker in Borneo, for example, having two 
cries, and one of them a warning, must not the other be an 
encouragement ? The belief in Omens having taken hold of 
the public mind, everybody is on the look-out for signs and 
wonders ; and anything unusual seen, or heard, or rumoured, 
becomes a possible Omen of anything else, and men ask one 
another what it portends. The superstitious imagination is 
greedy of its accustomed food. Under such conditions, too, 
Omens are discovered by retrospection : a public calamity, 
such as the death of a king, the defeat of an army, or a pesti- 
lence (or in private life some private misfortune), makes us 
remember some foregoing event or events, which must have 
forewarned us, had we had the skill to interpret the signifi- 
cance of Time's progression. 


The savage mind, sensitive to the resemblance of relations, 
cannot overlook the analogy between signs and warning 
cries; many Omens are cries; and with the spread of ani- 

1 De Divinatione, I. c. 19. 

OMENS 233 

mistic explanation, they came to be considered as the 
sendings of spirits or gods. But, at first, by mere magical 
thinking, under the stress of anxiety to know the future, 
and the helplessness of common sense to predict anything 
outside the everyday routine, Omens are gradually separated 
from ordinary probable signs (such as the tracks of game) 
as necessary infallible signs (or tendencies) if cunning can 
find them out, connected by some supernatural law with 
the unknown future that certainly awaits us, and as a kind 
of Magic. The magical habit of mind may be supposed to 
have resulted from the coalescence of beliefs concerning 
several imaginary operations by charms, spells, rites 
each class of beliefs having its own occasions, causes, or 
fallacious grounds. Those operations had in common the 
marks of being connexions of events due to imagined forces 
of a mysterious kind, and therefore grouped themselves 
together in men's minds as the Magic apperception-mass. 
Omens had these marks and, therefore, were assimilated to 
Magic. An Omen is an event regarded as a magical sign of 
the good or ill success of some undertaking, or of the approach 
of good fortune, or of calamity. And on the principle that 
ideas are differentiated from a confused matrix, it is probable 
that Omens, having at first been confused with other magical 
antecedents of events, were only gradually again distinguished 
from them. But an important distinction existed and at 
last came to light : charms, rites and spells are causes of 
events; whereas Omens are signs only, not causes. The 
difference is that whereas charms, rites and spells directly 
exert their powers upon the course of things, Omens them- 
selves exert no power, but show only that there is some 
power at work, which will have such or such results. 1 

1 An infallible sign is, in Formal Logic, the same as a cause, accord- 
ing to the scheme If A, then B ; and it is conceivable that, with strict 
thinking, a belief in an Omen may give rise to a magical practice. 
" For," says Lord Avebury, " granted that the fall of a stick certainly 
preludes that of the person it represents, it follows that by upsetting 
the stick his death can be caused " (Origin of Civilisation, p. 166). 
I do not see why such an inference should not be drawn, but can give 
no example of it. The possibility shows how much community there 
is between Magic and the lore of Omens; but as to this particular 
case, the magical cast of mind is already implied in the original setting 
up of the stiok whose fall should prelude that of a given individual. 



Comparing Omens with other modes of Magic, several 
peculiarities may be noticed : (a) Omens themselves (apart 
from the preparation of victims, etc.) imply no human inter- 
vention, whereas rites and spells must be performed or 
recited by some one, and even charms are carried about one, 
or used in rites, or solemnly affixed to doors, animals or other 
possessions, (b) Partly as a consequence of this, Omens, 
considered in themselves, generally (as I have said) convey 
no suggestion of force. This cannot, indeed, be said of 
eclipses and thunderstorms; but the note of a bird, the 
appearance of entrails, a mere shivering or other change of 
feeling, though ominous, suggests no energetic operation; 
whilst rites and spells are often carried out with much expen- 
diture of energy, and even charms, though not obviously 
active, are necessarily believed to be powerful in some 
obscure way of their own. (c) Omens are often so remote 
in time, as well as in place, from the events indicated that 
any quasi-mechanical determination of the issue by them 
can hardly be thought of; but with rites and spells, though 
they may not operate openly in the hour of their setting to 
work, yet the delay is not expected to be great, and (as said) 
their impulsion or nisus is often very impressive ; and charms 
are incessantly and immediately active, (d) Omens in 
general do not foretell precisely what is to happen, but only 
the success or failure of some enterprise (not the " how " of 
it), happiness or misfortune; whereas rites and spells have 
some definite object, and most charms inflict, or guard against, 
some one kind of evil, disease or shipwreck; though others 
(it is true) bring luck or loss at large. Thus Omens are very 
different from other magical conditions; and although it is 
not likely that the ordinary savage or even the wizard ever 
consciously draws these distinctions or sums them up, still 
they have an effect upon his mind, and the observation of 
Omens and the reading of them becomes at last a special 
branch of the Magic Art Divination. 

Omens, then, being only signs and not causes of future 
events, having no power in themselves, must be connected 

OMENS 235 

with some efficient power, or else the events prognosticated 
could not happen. How is that power to be understood? 
For a long time, probably, there is no clear conception of it : 
the connexion is mysterious. But there are two ways in 
which it may be interpreted : (a) Following the impersonal 
magical way of thinking, we are led to the idea of currents 
of force in which both Omen and event are borne along; 
and, at last, to the conception of a fatal order of the world 
in which all events have their necessary places. There A 
is always followed by B; so that, although A exerts no 
power over B, yet (if we know the law of the sequence) when 
the former appears it is an infallible portent of the latter. 
The power at work is Fate ; and to this idea I must return ; 
for in its full development it comes late in history. 

(b) The other and much simpler way of explaining Omens 
is to attribute them to the intervention of spirits who, 
whether they control events or not, at least foresee them, 
and send messages of warning to mankind. With the spread 
of Animism this is a matter of course. A sophisticated age 
may ask how a spirit should be able to see the future; and 
may answer that spirits, having greater knowledge than we 
of the present state of the world and its laws of causation, 
are able to calculate the outcome, just as an astronomer 
foretells an eclipse of the sun. A precious rationalisation ! 
To the untutored savage there is no difficulty. To foresee 
the future is a very common performance : whenever we 
form an expectation which is fulfilled .(and that happens 
many times a day) we accomplish this feat; and for the 
most part we are unconscious of the grounds upon which 
we formed the expectation. The savage is always in this 
position : he has not analysed the relation of " ground and 
consequence " nor examined the mental conditions that 
precede an inference. To him, therefore, foreknowledge, 
within a certain range, is not even mysterious; and, of 
course, spirits have the gift in a much higher degree. In 
Melanesia a vui (spirit) knows secret things without seeing ; l 
and here begins the role of intuition in Philosophy. Later, a 
high god may give warnings, not merely of what he foresees 
1 Coddrington, The Melanesians, p. 123. 


in the course of the world, but of what he of his own volition 
will bring to pass; or a lesser god may announce what he 
knows to be the will of the higher ; or, later still, all spiritual 
warnings may sink back into helpless incidents in the course 
of Fate. 

Omens (as has been mentioned) resemble warnings : 
(a) Like~~ warnings, they precede events, but do not cause 
them, (b) They sometimes precede an event by a consider- 
able interval, as if to give time for precaution, (c) They 
do not announce the details of any event (which a friendly 
counsellor may not know), but only its character as good or 
evil. Then, if they are warnings (implying foreknowledge ), 
since they are not the act of any man, they must be given 
by some spirit or other intelligence. So that once a belief 
in the intervention of spirits in mundane affairs has become 
prevalent in any tribe, nothing can be more natural than to 
regard Omens as spiritual messages. Still, this way of 
thinking may have been preceded by a disposition to attribute 
Omens to the good will of animals, especially Totems; for 
animals are often wiser than we are. In Australia the 
Turbal tribe held that the chirping of insects foretold the 
coming of blacks; a Wakelbwa who dreamed of a kangaroo 
would expect one of the Banbe subclass next day ; to dream 
of old-man kangaroos sitting round the fire presaged danger. 1 
Among the Yuin (Western Australia) a Black-Duck clansman 
thought that black ducks warned him against enemies; and 
men of the Kurnai,*who had personal Totems, thought they 
gave protection by warnings. 2 Very early, however, ghosts 
or spirits sometimes come themselves to instruct us; as 
amongst the Kurnai, the Biraark (wizards) hold seances at 
night, when ghosts attend, and give news of enemies or of 
absent friends. 3 In New Guinea, the ghosts of dead tribes- 
men send their surviving relatives Omens by fishes or birds. 4 

By this animistic theory Omens are intimately connected 
with Oracles and Dreams ; for these, too, are messages from 

1 A. W. Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 401. 

2 Quoted by Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy, I. pp. 489 and 495. 

3 A. W. Howitt, op. cit., p. 389. 

4 C. G. Seligman, op. cit., p. 188. 



the spirit-world. Dreams are the chief causes of belief in 
spirits, and with many people have not yet lost the character 
of supernatural visitations. Probably for ages past there 
have been in each generation a few rationalists, who treated 
dreams in the manner of Artabanes (as reported by Hero- 
dotus 1 who, however, will show that the event refuted 
him), holding that " whatever a man has been thinking of 
during the day is wont to hover round him in the visions of 
his dreams at night." Incensed against the diviners, ration- 
alists have, in fact, too much despised and neglected 

Oracles and Dreams are amongst the phenomena of 
" possession." Spirits, demons, gods, roaming the world 
and indwelling or haunting various bodies or localities, 
sometimes take up their abode in stones or bags of charms, 
which then become fetiches; or attain greater dignity in 
images and temples ; or enter into men and women, afflicting 
them with diseases, or else with dreams, or drunkenness, or 
madness, or prophecy, or poetry ; 2 for these things are hard 
to distinguish. And sometimes the people thus afflicted 
wander at large, sometimes are to be found only by some 
tree, or spring, or cave, or temple, where the spirit that makes 
them wise above others has chosen to reside, perhaps because 
his body was buried there. 

Omens, Oracles and Dreams have, besides their dependence 
on spirits, another trait in common, namely, obscurity of 
meaning. When you have been favoured with one of these 
communications, what does it promise or threaten? To 
answer this question passes the wit of ordinary men; and, 
therefore, certain superior minds assume the important 

1 VII. c. 16. 

2 The poet is closely allied at first to the wizard; for (besides that 
the greatest spells and oracles are versified) the poet is inspired. In 
Australia poets are sometimes carried by ghosts into skyland, where 
they learn songs and dances. Some compose awake ; but the belief 
prevails that they are inspired in dreams by dead and kindred spirits. 
Their songs travel far amongst tribes that no longer understand the 
language. (Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, pp. 389 
and 413.) Similarly in Fiji (Fiji and the Fijians, p. 98). " The poem 
is too wonderful for me" such is the poet's humility; "it was made 
by the gods" such is his arrogance. 


function of Diviners and, to guide their judgment, work out 
in course of ages with infinite ingenuity the Art of Divination. 


Before discussing Divination we had better remind our- 
selves of the immense extension that the lore of Omens 
undergoes beyond the early recognition of mysterious natural 
signs (thunder or the behaviour of birds, etc.), by the pre- 
paration in various ways of conditions under which Omens 
may be obtained at will (throwing dice, roasting shoulder- 
blades, sacrificing pigs, etc.). Men are eager to know the 
future, at least the general complexion of it as happy or 
unhappy; and for this purpose they desire Omens. But 
natural Omens do not always appear when wanted, though 
probably the mere desire of them has multiplied them 
greatly; it is, therefore, very convenient to discover devices 
by which Omens can always be obtained by any one for any 
purpose. A common practice is to toss a halfpenny, and 
decide a doubtful choice of action by head or tail : reinforcing 
imbecility with superstition. It is impossible we should 
ever learn how such conventions originated, but may assume 
that the earlier were suggested by some accident, and many 
of the later by analogy. The Warramunga have a very 
simple plan, when a man dies, for discovering who it was 
that by evil magic slew him. They smooth the ground 
about the spot where the death occurred, and next morning 
come to examine it; and if they find there the trail of a 
snake, they know that the murderer was a man of the Snake- 
totem. 1 It is reasonable to suppose that in the first instance 
they found such a trail of snake or other animal upon unpre- 
pared ground, and thereafter smoothed the ground to make 
such signs plainer : thus they began the preparation of con- 
ditions for the taking of Omens. A New Zealand wizard 
had a simple construction for discovering beforehand who 
would have the better of a battle : he set up two sticks near 
together, one for his own party, the other for the enemy, 
and let them fall : whichever stick fell on the top of the other 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 526. 

OMENS 239 

the party it had stood for was to conquer in the fight. 1 As 
ages go by and more and more intellect is concentrated upon 
the problem of foreknowledge, more and more ways are dis- 
covered of preparing the conditions of taking Omens, more 
and more expensive and complicated ones; for the more 
difficult the preparation and interpretation, the more neces- 
sary it is to employ a professional augur. The casting of 
dice, the drawing of lots, the taking of one's chance with 
verses of Virgil or of the Bible, may seem easy, but even 
such devices may be made difficult by accumulating rules of 
interpretation. The sacred chicken, whose vagaries in 
feeding occasionally relieve with grateful diversion the 
strenuous page of Roman History, cannot have required 
highly skilled manipulation, but to watch them a professional 
eye was necessary; and when sacrifices are employed as 
opportunities of taking Omens from the behaviour of the 
victims, the manner of their dying and the condition of their 
entrails, a technical specialist of high training becomes 
indispensable. This led to the intensive study of entrails, 
especially of livers (Hepatoscopy, Hepatomancy), with some 
gain of knowledge in Anatomy. The study was widely 
diffused ; but still more widely, perhaps, the art of prophesying 
by the lines to be observed in shoulder-blades cracked by 
roasting over a fire (Scapulomancy). 

Where nothing is or can be done to alter the physical 
conditions of premonitory signs, yet a painstaking analysis 
has been made of those conditions in order to interpret them 
in a methodical way ; and this study may demand far greater 
skill than augury. In Cheiromancy the lines and eminences 
of the hand have been exactly mapped and defined, and have 
had their several values and meanings assigned. It is really 
a perplexing study, not to be entered upon with a light heart, 
yet simple and obvious in comparison with Astrology. The 
Astrologer who would undertake to forecast the future fate 
of men or nations, or to recover forgotten facts of antiquity, 
such as the date of a hero's birth (for it was understood that 
a difference of forward or backward in time should not 
hinder scientific calculations), had to take account of all 
1 Tylor, Primitive Culture, I. p. 125. 


the visible furniture of heaven, the stars in their constellations, 
especially the signs of the Zodiac; the seven planets, each 
with its own qualities and powers assumed arbitrarily or 
by fanciful analogies, all unquantified and all varying in the 
Twelve Houses of Heaven. What learning, what stupendous 
abilities were demanded for such a task ! In fact, any one 
who now hears of it, immediately knows it to be impossible. 
But until many problems had been solved and the method 
of them appreciated, no one could understand what kind 
of problems are insoluble. Meanwhile, in this study, for 
ages so honoured, a mixture of genuine Astronomy and a 
parade of systematic procedure (of which philosophers well 
know the force) made fatuity plausible. 


Omens and Oracles are, no doubt, infallible premonitions 
of something, if one can find it out; but they are often so 
obscure or ambiguous that one gets no guidance from them, 
and indeed it is sometimes impossible to judge whether they 
are ever fulfilled, or not. It is, therefore, most important 
that some one should be able to expound them ; and here, as 
in every department of human effort, we may be sure that, 
of the many who attempt interpretation, one will be more 
successful than others; and then to him all men flock for 
enlightenment, especially if he make one good guess about 
some Omen or Oracle of general interest. Such a man was 
thereby constituted a Diviner, and became the founder of a 
profession, or (at least) of a branch or function of the great 
wizardly profession. It happened long ago ; for in savagery 
most wizards are already Diviners. 

In course of time the profession can no longer be satisfied 
with interpretation by guesswork, but elaborates the prin- 
ciples of the subject, the Art of Divination, upon which, 
perhaps, as much painstaking and ingenuity have been 
expended as upon industry and science put together. The 
savants who carried out such work were probably (many of 
them) as honest as fanatics can be ; but the result always was 
to raise the reputation of the profession for occult knowledge 
and mysterious insight. 



Diviners are either free and independent seers, sooth- 
sayers, fortune-tellers, mostly poverty-stricken and dis- 
reputable, though sometimes eminent and influential, like 
Tiresias and Epimenides; or else officials (a much smaller 
party) attached to some temple or government. Official 
soothsayers have often exercised immense power in society 
and politics. They are not found, of course, at the bottom 
of the scale of culture, where there is no government in 
Church or State; but in the lower barbarism, among the 
Bantu tribes (for example), Diviners have a highly influential 
station. The chief of a tribe usually has a specially trusted 
Diviner, and also consults others in discovering sorcerers 
and in forecasting the future. 1 In the Mazwaya clan of the 
Thonga there is an official Diviner who alone knows the exact 
composition of the royal " medicine," on which the welfare 
of the whole tribe depends. He is very much feared : no 
one dares dispute with him ; and he has the right of cursing 
even the chief himself. 2 Such a powerful subject naturally 
excites the jealousy of the chief, who sometimes endeavours 
to get into his own hands all the medicines and occult virtues 
possessed by any of his tribesmen. 3 The danger of opposi- 
tion between Church and State was also felt in Melanesia 
and Polynesia; and in Hawaii it was decisively overcome; 
for when the oracle was to be consulted, the king, concealed 
in a frame of wickerwork, gave the responses himself. 4 

In Greece (sixth and fifth centuries B.C.) oracles were still 
more powerful : the record may be read in Herodotus. 
The most flourishing States observed the Omens, and never 
ventured to go to war without consulting the Oracles; and 
the Oracles undertook to advise on war and peace and 
alliances, to settle disputed claims to sovereignty and the 
constitution of States, to sanction new laws and the founda- 
tion of colonies, to order the erection of new temples and 
even the worship of new deities some of them of very 

1 Casalis, Lea Bassoutos, pp. 299 and 340. 

2 Jounod, Life of a South African Tribe, I. 361. This " medicine " 
is the chief's great store of magical force : its principal ingredients are 
the nails and hair of chiefs deceased, fixed together by a kind of wax. 

3 Callaway, Religion of the Amazulu, p. 417. 

4 W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, II. p. 235. 



dubious reputation : to say nothing of the infinite extent of 
their private practice. Their utterances were often unin- 
telligible ; they were sometimes known to have accepted 
bribes; yet the most enlightened people in the world con- 
tinued to consult them : whether in good faith, or for their 
effect upon the vulgar both friends and enemies, or perhaps 
to share responsibility for an action with the gods, or even 
because one then felt more comfortable than in leaving them 
alone. But the diffusion of philosophy was too much for 
them ; and, as Cicero says, 1 even the Delphic Oracle declined 
in reputation, not because with lapse of time the divine 
virtue failed of those exhalations that inspired the priestess, 
but when men became less credulous. Perhaps it was also 
because social life had become, under Roman government, 
safer and more settled and regular; so that a reasonable 
amount of foresight could be exercised without supernatural 
aid. Still, after the Oracles seemed to have been struck 
dumb, they revived from time to time for two or three 
centuries ; Plutarch was far from incredulous ; and the equiva- 
lent of them will (I suppose) continue to revive now and then, 
unless insane desire, and anxiety, and pusillanimity, and 
wonder and confusion of mind shall one day be extinguished. 

In the great empires of the higher barbarism, the Magi 
amongst the Medes and Persians, and in Egypt, Babylonia 
and India the priesthood who practised soothsaying and 
vaticination with their other functions, obtained still greater 
control over national life. The development of Astrology 
has always been imputed to the Chaldeans; and the im- 
portance of dreams and their interpretation in Egypt and 
Babylon is reflected in the stories of Joseph and Daniel as 
well as in the profaner pages of Herodotus. 

The character of Omens and the way of obtaining Oracles 
and of being inspired in Greece were merely modifications of 
those that have been in vogue amongst savages. Imagination- 
beliefs, in spite of their extravagance, have, in fact, a short 
tether and move in narrow circles, perpetually renewing the 
same themes. The ravings of the Pythoness possessed, 
which are said to have sometimes frightened the priests, 
1 De Div., II. c. 57. 



might have been studied in Fiji. This was what happened 
when a priest was inspired : he " becomes absorbed in 
thought ... in a few minutes he trembles; slight distor- 
tions are seen in his face, and twitching movements in his 
limbs. These increase to a violent muscular action, which 
spreads until the whole frame is violently convulsed, and 
the man shivers as with a strong ague -fit. In some instances 
this is accompanied by murmurs and sobs; the veins are 
greatly enlarged, and the circulation of the blood quickened. 
The priest is now possessed by his god, and all his words and 
actions are considered as no longer his own, but those of 
the deity who has entered him. Shrill cries of Koi au ! 
Koi au ! ' It is I ! It is I ! ' fill the air, and the god is 
supposed thus to notify his approach. While giving the 
answer the priest's eyes stand out and roll as in a frenzy; 
his voice is unnatural, his face pale, his lips livid, his breathing 
depressed and his entire appearance that of a furious madman. 
The sweat runs from every pore, the tears start from his 
strained eyes; after which the symptoms gradually dis- 
appear. The priest looks round with a vacant stare, and as 
the god says ' I depart,' announces his actual departure by 
violently flinging himself down on the mat, or by suddenly 
striking the ground with a club. . . . The convulsive move- 
ments do not entirely disappear for some time." l 

To become inspired by means of visions or dreams, or 
endowed with the powers of a prophet or diviner, the obvious 
plan is to go to places frequented by spirits, namely, tombs, 
caves and temples. The Oracle of Trophonius in Boeotia 
was situated in a cave into which the consultant descended, 
and there saw visions or heard strange noises, and lost his 
senses : on returning to the upper air, he sat in the Chair of 
Memory and reported to the priests what had happened; 
and they delivered him to his friends " overpowered with 
fear, and quite unconscious of himself and his surroundings." 2 
Afterwards he recovered his wits. At Oropus was a sanc- 
tuary of Amphiaraus, who (against his better judgment) 
had joined the expedition of Adrastus against Thebes and, 

1 Thomas Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, p. 190. 

2 Pausanias, IX. c. 10 (Frazer's Translation). 


amidst the general defeat of the army, fled and was swallowed 
up in the earth. His death ought to have occurred where 
his sanctuary stood ; for it was a famous Oracle, and to con- 
sult it you purified yourself and sacrificed a ram and, spreading 
the skin under you, went asleep there, awaiting a revelation 
in a dream. 1 In the temple of Pasiphse, too, near Sparta, 
one might hope for a divine message in a dream; and a 
shephered, sleeping by the grave of Orpheus at Libethra, was 
moved to sing the verses of Orpheus. 2 

To lose one's memory and afterwards recover one's wits 
is incidental to many initiation ceremonies, and the darkness 
and secrecy of caves which, moreover, are often burial- 
places have always deeply impressed our imagination. 
Amongst the Arunta there is a way of obtaining powers of 
Magic and Divination by going to sleep at the mouth of a 
cave ; when the Iruntarinia (a kind of spirits), who live there, 
pierce the sleeper's head with lances, drag him into the cave, 
disembowel him and give him new entrails. He awakes 
dazed and silly; and the spirits lead him home, where 
gradually he recovers his right mind. 3 Amongst the Kurnai, 
again, one may become a wizard and diviner by sleeping at 
a grave; for in the night the dead man disembowels one, 
and provides new visceral organs. 4 Elsewhere in Australia 
a candidate for the wizardly profession is tied down at night 
in the tribal burial-ground and visited by spirits who force 
a stone into his head apparently a kind of crystal, by 
gazing into which a wizard is able to see the past, the distant 
and the future. 5 

The seeking of enlightenment where spirits dwell in caves 
or graves, loss of wits by contact with them and subsequent 
recovery all this may remind us of stories in Pausanias; 
but what of the disembowelling and renewing of the viscera ? 
We are told by Spencer and Gillen that during the per- 
formance of certain traditionary ceremonies, an Australian's 
emotion is very great, so that he says his inward parts get 

1 Pausanias, I. p. 34. 2 iud., IX. p. 30. 

3 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 523. 

4 A. W. Howitt, op. cit., p. 404. 

5 Langloh Parker, The Euahlayi, p. 25. 



" tied up in knots," and sometimes acquire " sight " and give 
omens ; x and Howitt tells us that fat of the kidneys is believed 
to be the seat of a man's prowess and other virtues. 2 To 
extract and renew a man's entrails, therefore, is to renew 
his spirit, just as we speak metaphorically of a " change of 
heart," so that he has more vivid emotions, firmer courage, 
clearer insight. In fact, it is the magical equivalent of 
inspiration; the crystal, too, of the Euahlayi is a magic 
source ; and this is as far as the Australians have got : 3 
gross materialism, which the progress or (at least) the move- 
ment of animistic thought has happily superseded by 
conceptions more refined, if not more truthful. 


Though in their nature infallible, Omens are not always 
fulfilled at least, their fulfilment is not always ascertainable. 
But this is easily explained; for whatever an Omen may be 
in itself, our knowledge of it depends on observation, which 
may be superficial and incomplete, so that we may not 
know what it was. What kind of bird was it ? Which way 
did it fly? How many cries did it utter? These questions 
go to the heart of the matter; yet each of them points out 
an opportunity of error. But granting the observations 
perfect, we have still to learn what the Omen portends; 
and although a simple mind, trusting to simple rules, may 
be ready offhand with an answer, it becomes, with the 
development of the art of Divination, more and more com- 
plicated and difficult, demanding long experience and pro- 
found erudition something worth paying for. It is popularly 
known that dreams are perplexing as the guide of life. Are 
they to be accepted at face value, or do they go by contraries ? 

1 Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 181. 

2 Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 367. 

3 This is unjust to the Australians. Amongst the Dieri (L. Eyre) 
wizards with renewed entrails communicate with supernatural beings, 
interpret dreams and discover murderers; but they also recognise 
spiritual communication with ordinary men in visions; not ordinary 
dreams, which are mere fancies, but those that are repeated ; and these 
come from Kutchi, an evil spirit (Howitt, op. cit., p. 358). We may be 
sure the Greeks were mistaken in supposing that it was Amphiaraus 
who instituted divination by dreams. 


What difference does it make whether they happen early in 
the night, or in the morning, or whether we sleep in white 
or in coloured night-clothes ? There is an extensive casuistry 
of this matter. Interpretations of Omens proceeded gener- 
ally by analogy : the length and direction of the cracks in 
a shoulder-blade indicate the length and tenor of a man's 
life. Oracles, again, were often distractingly obscure; from 
Delphi much like riddles; but those of Zeus at Dodona are 
said to have been sometimes taken to Apollo at Delphi to 
ask what they meant. Clearly, then, besides possible errors 
of observation, there were further pitfalls of interpretation; 
if a physician or a pilot is sometimes out in his reckoning, 
why not also a diviner? So that an Omen might very well 
be fulfilled without our knowing exactly what it was or what 
it indicated. 

But that is not all; for we have seen that any kind of 
magical force is only infallible as a tendency; it may be 
counteracted, and this is generally thought to be the case 
with Omens. Just as the rites of one magician may be 
frustrated by the more powerful operations of another, so 
an Omen indicates a course of events which may, perhaps, 
be turned aside. That which is foreseen by one spirit may 
be prevented by another, whose intervention was not fore- 
seen ; for spirits are by no means infallible. Hence, however 
well observed and interpreted, the tendency of an Omen, or 
of the force it manifests, may be diverted or reversed by 
some unknown cause. Moreover, we ourselves are loth to 
relinquish all control over affairs. We have seen that the 
efficacy of Omens depended (not without reason) on the 
way they were received; and that we may meet them with 
our own magical influence, accepting them, or rejecting with 
a spell. 

And further, we have seen that Magic often works by 
symbols, and that a symbolic action will cause or incite a 
real event; and similarly it is believed that the event fore- 
shown by an Omen may be symbolically fulfilled ; that some 
harmless semblance of the event may be substituted for it, 
absorb (as it were) the poison of the menace and let the 
threatened man go free. Astyages dreamed a dream which 



the Magi interpreted to mean that the child of his daughter 
(married to a Persian) should reign over Asia in his stead 
implying that the kingdom must pass from the Medes. 
He therefore took measures to have the child destroyed; 
but by a series of happy chances Cyrus, the child, escaped 
and grew up; and in his boyhood Astyages discovered who 
he was, and was greatly alarmed. So he sent again for the 
Magi; but they, on learning that the boys in the village 
where Cyrus had been reared had in games appointed him 
their king, decided that this fulfilled the dream; for, said 
they, " he will not reign a second time." 1 So Cyrus lived, 
and the lordship of Asia passed to the Persians ; for the Magi 
in this case overestimated the value of symbols. But all 
these ways of frustrating an Omen are incompatible with 
the interpretation of them by the course of Fate, and are 
only fit to be believed in by the weaker brethren. 


It may be some excuse for Omens that the interpretation 
of them was a sort of gymnastic for ingenuity, and was a 
means by which the quick-witted maintained themselves in 
a world of violence. It is, moreover, the business of those 
who undertake such work to study social and political con- 
ditions, just as rain-doctors study the weather. Their 
judgment, therefore, may often be better than that of men 
immersed in affairs and biassed by particular interests. 
Even in the lower savagery diviners manage to know more 
than others. In Queensland, when a big mob has assembled 
at a camp, diviners are believed to keep their eyes and ears 
open, sleepless to learn who have death-bones, who has 
operated with one, who has been pointed at, etc. ; 2 and in 
South Africa (two or three steps higher in culture) diviners 
take pains to obtain information as a means of " opening 
the gates of distance." 3 At Delphi, also, news was welcome 
from all parts, and men of capacity kept a steady eye upon 
the affairs of Greece and Asia. Of course, Divination, like 

1 Herodotus, I. cc. 107, 28. 

2 W. E. Roth, Ethnological Studies, p. 154, 

3 Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p, 193. 


every other superstition, was exploited by politicians. The 
Roman Government, according to Cicero, maintained the 
College of Augurs for the advantage of the State in civil 
affairs, although in his time the leaders of armies had ceased 
to consult the Omens : 1 and Polybius thought that religion 
was Rome's most useful institution. 2 A law that the comitia 
should not be held when Jupiter thundered and lightened 
was especially convenient when that assembly was incon- 
venient; for the official whose function it was had only to 
declare that he saw lightning, and thereupon the comitia 
broke up. Probably even those who thus abused a super- 
stition, yet believed (at least in times of danger) " there was 
something in it." Omens and Oracles were sought after to 
allay fear and to gain confidence, and often they gave con- 
fidence and the strength that goes with confidence; or 
perhaps the rashness and folly that go with confidence, and 
so betrayed the devotee ; or, again, they dashed the courage 
of brave men, and spread dismay, distrust and weakness. 

No superiority of mere intellect seems to ensure men against 
participating in these delusions. Many Stoics, though highly 
disciplined in Logic, upheld the practices of Divination and 
Astrology. Panaetius, indeed, rejected them; and Epictetus 
on moral grounds discouraged Divination. " For," said he, 
" what the diviner foresees is not what really concerns us. 
We have within us a diviner who tells us what good and evil 
are, and what are the signs of them. Does the diviner 
understand that after all his studies of the viscera ? Not 
what is to happen in the future, but to do as we ought what- 
ever happens is our true concern." 3 But this genuine expres- 
sion of Stoic thought was abandoned by most of the sect in 
their desire to defend as much as possible the popular religion. 
They even staked the existence of the gods upon the genuine- 
ness of Divination : arguing that if Divination exists there 
must be gods who send Omens; and that if Divination does 
not exist there can be no gods since if there are gods who 
know the future, and have a regard for mankind, and are 
able to give warnings, they will certainly do so. Therefore, 

1 De Div., II. cc. 33, 35. 2 Polybius, VI. c. 2. 

3 Discourses , II. c. 7. 

OMENS 249 

no Divination, no gods. 1 There is, indeed, a widespread 
pitiful persuasion that some provision must have been made 
whereby a man may foresee his future ; and so, in a sense, 
there is; for the existence of order in nature implies the 
possibility of foresight; and a fanciful mind might regard 
Divination as the anticipatory manifestation of an instinct 
in play before the faculties became capable of serious exer- 
cise. But the play was taken too seriously; and the worst 
of it was that its inane methods diverted attention from the 
only possible method if not always on the part of the 
diviner, at least on the part of the great multitude, his dupes. 
M. H. A. Jounod says of the Bantu tribes, " Divination kills 
any attempt to use reason or experience in practical life." 2 
And, clearly, this is everywhere its tendency, be it a question 
of consulting a canary at the street-corner, whether or not 
we should marry, or an augur rather than an experienced 
general whether or not now to engage the enemy. 

Seneca 3 treated Omens as a necessary consequence of 
universal Fate : for if all events are factors of one pre- 
determined order, everything in the present is a sign or 
omen of everything to occur in the future ; and some events, 
such as the flight of birds, have been selected as Omens, 
merely because the meaning or consequents of these happen 
to have been observed; and whether Omens are respected 
or despised, Fate determines the whole course of events. 
By this way of thinking, as it was fated that the Romans 
should be defeated at Lake Trasimenus, it was also fated 
that the Omens should be declared unfavourable and that 
the warning should not be taken; and if it was fated that 
the Romans should be defeated at Cannae, it was also fated 
that the Omens should be declared favourable and that 
they should be accepted. A belief in Fate makes Omens 

If, however, instead of Fate (all-comprehensive Magic) or 
predestination (by a supreme God), we regard the course of 
the world as determined by natural causation, whether 

1 DeDiv.,II.c. 17; cf. c. 49. 

2 Life of a South African Tribe, p. 521. 

3 Questiones Naturales, II. c. 32. 


Omens or Oracles may be useful or not (supposing them 
possible) depends on the nature of the event foretold on 
whether it involves ourselves conditionally only or uncon- 
ditionally. Omens that warn us against events conditionally 
may be useful enough, and few will think it a serious fault 
that they discourage the use of reason. King Deiotarus, 
having set out on a journey, was warned by an eagle not to 
go forward with it, and he turned back; and that same night 
the house at which he was to have slept fell down; so he 
escaped. 1 The danger was conditional on his continuing the 
journey; and, in the course of causation, a warning of 
danger, whether announced by an augur or by our own 
sagacity, may often enable us to avoid it. The causes of 
the future are present, and (within certain limits) are in our 
power^. If I have reason to believe that there will be a fire 
at the Opera to-night, or have a presentiment of some 
calamity there, I need not go; and, then, I shall not be 
burnt alive. Whether the presage come to me by an Omen, 
or by a message from a god, or in an anonymous letter from 
one of the incendiaries who happens to be a friend of mine, 
cannot matter. No, if there were gods with intuitions of 
futurity, or with better knowledge than we have of present 
fact and greater power of calculating the consequences, 
they might make themselves useful. On this hypothesis 
there is not a priori any absurdity in the doctrine of Omens. 

But with Omens or Oracles of magical or divine authority, 
that foreshadow our own fate unconditionally, the case is 
different. If, for example, they tell a man that he will die 
by the fall of the roof of his own house, that must be his 
end; and any one who examines his career afterwards will 
find that all his efforts to escape, all his pusillanimous 
crouchings and windings, were just so many steps of causa- 
tion upon the road to inevitable doom. To convey such a 
presage serves no purpose but to fill the victim's last days 
with anxiety and dread : it is as bad as cruelty to animals. 

The defence of Omens is mere rationalisation. They took 
possession of men's minds not in an age of reason, but when 
beliefs were freely born of hope and fear, were entirely prac- 
1 De Div. t I. c. 15. 

OMENS 251 

tical, were never thought out and never verified. Whether 
the connection of Omen with event was conceived of magic- 
ally or animistically, it was always mysterious, and on that 
account was the more impressive and acceptable. The 
uniformity of such connexions was, indeed, assumed 
otherwise they were useless; the same bird's call on this 
hand or on that had always the same significance ; but each 
case at first stood by itself; it was what we call " a miracle.'* 
Even such assumption of causation in ordinary cases as 
common sense implies did not compel the reflection that 
each cause must itself be an effect of other causes, and so 
again, and so on for ever. Nor did the assumption that 
spirits could foresee the future require that they should 
foresee the whole future, so as to imply an inviolable order 
of the world. Such considerations were left to amuse or 
perplex a later age. A great advance is marked by the 
saying of the Bechuana prince to Casalis, that " one event is 
the son of another, and we must never forget the genealogy." l 
But quite recently amongst ourselves causation was so 
feebly appreciated, even by the most educated, that testi- 
mony concerning miracles could still be appealed to as a 
ground for believing something further. One reviews all 
these wonderful fossils of the soul which are dead and yet 
alive, not without sympathy. For myself, I am free to 
confess, as they used to say in Parliament, that Omens and 
presentiments still haunt the shadowy precincts of imagination 
with vague shapes and mutterings of evils to come; which 
when they approach will be (I suppose) as hard and definite 
as daylight. 

1 Les Bassoutos, p. 248, 



IN describing the occult arts and those who practise them, 
terms are so loosely used that it may be convenient to 
premise that by " Wizard " (or Medicine-man) is here meant 
either a magician or a sorcerer; that is, either one who 
puts into operation impersonal magical forces (or so far as 
he does so), or one who relies upon the aid (or so far as he 
does so) of ghosts or spirits under magical control. It is an 
objection to this use of the word " sorcerer," that it is often 
applied to those chiefly whose practice is maleficent : but 
there seems to be no word used only in the more general 
sense ; and the difference between maleficent and beneficent 
wizards, whether magicians or sorcerers, will here be marked, 
when necessary, by the familiar epithets "black" and 
" white." 

In backward societies, wizardry is, or may be, practised 
by every man or woman ; and, indeed, in its simpler opera- 
tions or observances this is true at every stage of culture. 
But in every kind of task it appears that some men can do 
it better than others, and they attract the attention of the 
rest ; and probably this is the beginning of the differentiation 
of the professional wizard : he is at first merely one whom 
others ask to help them in certain matters, because they 
believe that he, more than themselves, has the knack of 
it. As the occult arts become complicated and dangerous 
the superiority of the master-mind is more manifest. We 
are told that amongst the Tasmanians there were no pro- 
fessional wizards or medicine-men, but that some people 
practised more than others. From the beginning the art 



excites wonder, and wonder credulity; and an old fellow, 
who was subject to fits of contraction in the muscles of one 
breast, used this mysterious affection to impose upon his 
neighbours. 1 Wonder and the deference it brings with it, 
with the self-delusion of power it generates, are at first the 
wizard's sole recompense; and to the end they remain his 
chief recompense. In Australia a wizard is initiated (in fact 
or by repute), and is in some ways a man apart from others ; 
yet in several cases it is reported that he receives no fees. 
For magical services amongst the Arunta " no reward of any 
kind is given or expected." 2 Sometimes a wizard expects 
no fee unless he is successful, as among the Tungus, Yakut 
and Buryats. 3 Generally, the wizard earns his living like 
other men, and merely supplements it by fees and presents. 
He rarely attains the professional dignity of living solely by 
his art and mystery. 

Nevertheless in simple societies the wizard is a leader or 
a chief. The predominance of old men in council depends 
upon their occult powers rather than upon their worldly 
wisdom : even hereditary chiefs may have greater prestige 
through Magic than through royal descent. 4 I conceive 
that after the organisation of the primitive hunting-pack 
had, by various causes, been weakened or destroyed, it was 
through belief in Magic that some sort of leadership and 
subordination were re-established : perhaps in many experi- 
mental social forms, of which some specimens may be found 
in Australia and survivals of others in all parts of the world. 
Among the Massim of the Trobriand Islands, hereditary 
chieftainship is better developed than anywhere to the south 
or west; yet " at the back of every chief's power over his 
people is the dread of sorcery, without which I feel sure he 
is little more than a cypher." 5 Or the medicine-man may 
appear as the chief's rival, as among the Indians of the 

1 Ling Roth, The Aborigines of Tasmania, p. 65. 

2 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, p. 336. 

3 Czaplicka, Aboriginal Siberia, p. 177. 

4 The political importance of the wizard seems to have been first 
noticed by Spencer, Principles of Sociology, II. p. 178 ( 474). 

5 Bellamy, quoted by Seligman, Melanesians of British North Guinea, 
p. 694. 


upper Amazons described by Capt. Whifien, who observes 
that in a contest between the medicine-man and the chief 
the odds are in favour of the former, since to his opponents 
death comes speedily (by poison). He has great influence 
over international policy : war is never made without his 
advice. Here we see the beginning of that struggle between 
the temporal and spiritual powers which continues with 
alternate victory and defeat through the whole course of 
history. Callaway x describes a Bantu chief as inducted to 
his office by diviners that he may be " really a chief " not 
merely by descent. A dangerous concession ! But other 
Bantu chiefs are themselves wizards, and strive to collect 
all the medicine of the tribe in their own hands ; and Chaka 
declared he was the only diviner in the country. 2 The rise 
and spread of the political power of wizards, however, has 
been fully illustrated by Sir J. G. Frazer in the sixth chapter 
of The Magic Art. 

As animistic interpretation prevails in any society, so 
that the marvels of Magic come to be attributed to spiritual 
causes, magicians tend to become sorcerers, and, being thus 
associated with spirits, may not be easily distinguishable 
from priests. Among the Buryat a shaman was a priest, as 
knowing the will of the gods and directing sacrifices, but 
he was also an exorcist and diviner. 3 The great majority 
of those who deal with spirits rely, more or less openly, 
upon both coercion and propitiation : but we may say 
generally that an officiant is a sorcerer so far as he depends 
upon coercing spirits by Magic; a priest so far as he relies 
upon propitiating them by prayer and sacrifice. The sorcerer 
is aggressive and domineering toward supernatural powers; 
the priest professes humility. In any case the character 
of a cult is liable, in course of time, to change from one side 
to the other; and at the same time, two men may officiate 
in the same rites and, at heart, one of them may be a priest 
and the other a sorcerer. Custom gives the name of priest 
to him who, when a certain stage has been reached in the 

1 Religion of the Amazulu, p. 40. 

2 Dudley Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 114. 

3 Czaplicka, Aboriginal Siberia, p. 191. 



development of Animism, when gods are recognised, serves 
and sacrifices to the more public and reputable spirits. A 
conflict then breaks out between him and the sorcerer. 

Whilst magic-beliefs greatly strengthen chieftainship, 
religion, without impairing the magical sanction, reinforces it 
with other ideas, and therefore has a political advantage. 
A god is often the ancestor of the king and the ground of his 
sovereignty; and the king himself, or his brother, may be 
high-priest. The priesthood acquires commanding dignity; 
it shares the culture of the highest social rank, and may 
become almost the sole repository of learning and art. 
Wizards then lose their place in the sun. The beneficent 
practice of wizardry (or White Magic) is more or less incor- 
porated with religious rites; the maleficent practice (or 
Black Magic) is forbidden and punished : under polytheism 
because "it is destructive to human life or welfare " ; under 
monotheism, as offensive to God. 1 The sorcerer is outlawed, 
and betakes himself to the secret performance of unholy 
rites in dark and unwholesome circumstances. He may be 
in full antagonism to the official gods, invoking demons or 
old down-trodden gods not yet forgotten by the people, and, 
in the service of demons, inverting and profaning the rites 
of public worship. But to forbid and punish the black art is 
to punish crime, not to persecute Magic as such; whose 
beneficent practices still flourish under another name. Prof. 
Yrjo Hirn has shown that, during all the ignorant and super- 
stitious prosecutions of witches in Europe, the public religious 
ceremonies and observances were permeated by magical 
ideas. 2 In spite of the antagonism between priest and 
sorcerer, there is not the full opposition between Religion 
and Sorcery that exists between Animism and Magic 
between the recognition of caprice and the belief in uni- 
formity since the gods themselves work by Magic and 
may be subject to its powers. It is not an antagonism of 
principle, but partly of allegiance and partly of ambition. 

The influence of wizards is generally extended by means 
of clubs and secret societies : wizards form a marked class, 

1 E. Westermarck, The Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, ch. xlix. 

2 The Sacred Shrine. 


are well aware of it, and are naturally drawn into mutual 
understanding. In Australia no regular societies seem to 
have existed, but the medicine-men recognised one another, 
initiated and trained new-comers into the profession, had 
an esoteric tradition of rites and methods and fictions, and 
sometimes met for consultation. Among the savages of 
Torres Straits, the maidelaig meet together in the bush at 
night in order to perform their sorcery, and the body of 
sorcerers can control an individual maidelaig ; but they 
appear not to have a definitely organised society. 1 In 
Melanesia, however, many regular societies exist ; 2 and 
among the Northern Amerinds they were numerous and 
powerful. The Midewinian society of the Ojibways is typical 
of these institutions. It was the club of the legitimate 
professionals, in contrast with private practitioners, who 
were said (of course) to be favoured by evil manidos. To 
join the society one must undergo instruction, paying fees 
and making presents to its members. It comprised about 
one -tenth of the tribe, and what with influence, what witfr 
perquisites, did very Well. 3 In Africa also such societies 

Every profession, organised or unorganised, provided there 
be an understanding amongst its members, is prone to acquire 
anti-social interests and to establish a secret tradition; and 
as long as moral sense is very imperfect, the antagonism of 
the profession to the public may be a virulent evil, as we 
see in the history of wizardry and priestcraft. Both the 
profession and its tradition begin with practices common to 
all members of a tribe ; and the tradition grows by accumulat- 
ing the discoveries and inventions of the professionals. 
Experiment and observation are employed by them (accord- 
ing to their lights) probably from the first. Dr. Haddon 
says that, in controlling the wind and rain, the procedure of 
wizards in the eastern islands of Torres Straits was subject 

1 Report of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, V. pp. 322-3. 

2 Rivers, History of Melanesian Sociology. 

3 Am. B. of Ethn., VII., " O jib way Medicine," by W. J. Hoffman; 
XI., " The Sia," by M. C. Stevenson ; XIV., " The Menomini Indians," by 
W. Hoffman. For a collection of the facts see Frazer, Totemism and 
Exogamy, IV. ch. xix ; and Hutton Webster, Primitive Secret Societies. 


to variation, and so doubtless were the spells, and experts 
relied on their own variants ; l and Prof. Seligman 2 observes 
that, in British New Guinea, the knowledge of " the depart- 
mental expert " (wizard controlling rain, or fertility of garden, 
or what not) is traditionary from father to son, consisting 
partly of magical processes or formulae, partly of the results 
of years of observation and thought. All improvements in 
science, art, industry and humbug are made by individuals. 
The cumulative tradition becomes more voluminous, the 
spells more intricate, the rites more elaborate ; because the 
possible membership of the profession is thereby narrowed, 
the self-valuation of the initiated is heightened, the wonder 
and credulity of the laity is enhanced : so much of the doctrine 
and discipline being allowed to transpire as to make this 
last effect a maximum. Whilst tribal belief in Magic is the 
necessary ground of the wizard's existence, he being once 
recognised thenceforth confirms, sways and guides the 
tribal belief. 


Whilst societies are formed to promote the common interests 
of wizards, too severe competition amongst themselves is in 
some measure avoided by the specialisation of individuals in 
different branches of their mystery. In pure Magic there is 
some room for the division of labour to deal with the weather, 
or fertility, or disease, but the spread of Animism and the 
multiplication of fetiches and demons open to the sorcerers 
a wide field for the multiplication of specialists. Amongst the 
Beloki, says Mr. Weeks, 3 there are eighteen classes of special- 
ists ; on the lower Congo, fifty. 

By spells and rites and charms wizards undertake the 
general control of Nature. They cause rain or. drought, 
determine the rising of the sun and, for this purpose, may go 
every morning to a hill-top to summon him. An Australian 
wizard claimed to have driven away a comet by means of 
his sacred stones. 4 The adept procures a favourable wind 

1 Report of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, VI. p. 200. 

2 Op. cit., p. 278. 3 Among Congo Cannibals, p. 251. 
4 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, p. 326. 



for his friends, or for his enemies an adverse ; prospers the 
crops or blights them ; controls the game of the hunter, and 
the cattle of the herdsman. The height of such claims may 
be read in Medea's boast in the Metamorphoses. 1 

In his own person the wizard may have the power of shape - 
changing into some animal, or into any animal. He can fly 
through the air to skyland to visit Daramulun ; or to help dull 
imaginations, he throws up .a rope and climbs up by it, or 
throws up a thread (like a spider's) and climbs up by that. 2 
Or he may fly to the moon to be the guest of the man whom 
we see there ; 3 or to the region of death to visit Erlik Khan. 4 
By daylight he only flies in the spirit, during a trance ; but 
when it is quite dark he can go bodily. And probably this 
points to the origin of such beliefs : for to dream that one 
flies is not uncommon; and as in dreams we visit distant 
places, and on waking seem suddenly to have returned by no 
known means, the analogy of flight offers the easiest explana- 
tion of such experiences. To fly is one of the most ancient 
and persistent exploits of the profession : European witches 
flew upon broomsticks (degenerate from Siberian horse - 
staves) ; Dr. Faustus upon his magical cloak ; and " levitation " 
has been exhibited by recent " mediums." 

Wizards cause and cure love and other forms of sickness; 
slay, or recall the soul to its accustomed habitation; some- 
times the same man kills and cures ; sometimes he works only 
evil, or only against evil ; the Black and the White Magicians 
may become well-recognised hostile sects. Wizards discover 
thieves and murderers, or sell a fetich by whose power an 
evil-doer walks invisible, if he takes care not to be seen. 
They administer the ordeal and have in their power the life 
of every one who undergoes it. They interpret dreams, and 
prophesy by the flight of birds, the fall of dice, the making 
of shoulder-blades and the aspect of the stars. 

The sorcerer communicates with the ghosts of the dead 
or with the spirits of nature and, by their aid, accomplishes 

1 Book VII. The witch, imitated from Circe and Medea by Ariosto, 
Tasso, Spenser, became a traditionary, romantic motive. 

2 Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 388. 

* Stefanson, op. cit., p. 403. 4 Czaplicka, op. cit., p. 240. 


whatever can be done by Magic. He is possessed by them, 
and operates or speaks by their power or inspiration; he 
drives them out of others whom they possess, or sends them 
on errands, controlling them either by the help of stronger 
spirits or by his profound knowledge of enchantments. 
Many of these things he is believed to do best during fits or 
ecstasy; which he produces in himself by rhythmic drum- 
ming and dancing, or by drugs, or by voluntary control of 
a disciplined temperament, to the astonishment and convic- 
tion of all beholders. 

Such are the wizard's pretensions, so well known that a 
brief recital of them suffices ; and whilst they seem to us too 
absurd for any one to believe, least of all the wizard himself, 
yet observers assure us that he often does believe in them, 
and they are certainly taken to be genuine by the majority 
of his tribesmen. For them his performances are so wonder- 
ful as to put to shame the achievements of scientific invention ; 
and probably this partly explains the frequent reports that 
savages are deficient in wonder. " It takes a good deal to 
astonish a savage," say Spencer and Gillen; "he is brought 
up on Magic, and things that strike us with astonishment 
he regards as simply the exhibition of Magic more powerful 
than any possessed by himself." l Still the blacks were 
astonished by the phonograph. Similarly we are told by 
Stef anson 2 that things unusual but of an understood kind 
a bow that shoots fifty yards further than any other may 
excite endless marvelling amongst the Esquimo; but what 
seems miraculous a rifle-shot, or a binocular is compared 
with the supposed powers of the shaman, who can kill an 
animal on the other side of a mountain, or see things that 
are to happen to-morrow. Our surgery, too, is very inferior 
to the shaman's, who can take out a diseased heart or 
vertebral column and replace it with a sound one. 


(1) Observers generally agree that the wizard, or medicine- 
man, is distinguished in his tribe for intelligence and penetra- 

1 Across Australia, p. 51. 2 Op. cit., p. 184, 


tion, or at least for cunning. He is apt to impress an unsym- 
pathetic witness as " some fellow with more brains and less 
industry than his fellows." The wizard amongst the Fuegians, 
says Fitzroy, is the most cunning and deceitful of his tribe, 
and has great influence over his companions. 1 Amongst the 
Bakongo, the witch-doctors, according to Mr. Weeks, have 
sharp eyes, acute knowledge of human nature, and tact. 2 
The Samoyed shamans " are, as a rule, the most intelligent 
and cunning of the whole race." 3 Cunning is plainly neces- 
sary to the wizard's life, and, for some of his functions, much 
more than cunning. In many tribes his advice is asked 
in every difficulty and upon every undertaking. Sir E. im 
Thurn reports that the peaiman of the Arawaks learns and 
hands down the traditions of his tribe and is the depository 
of its medical and hunting lore. 4 The surgical skill of Cherokee 
medicine-men in the treatment of wounds was considerable. 5 
Still greater seems to have been that of the Fijians, with no 
mean knowledge of anatomy learnt during their incessant 
wars. 6 Medicine -men of the Amerinds discovered the virtues 
of coca, jalap, sarsaparilla, chinchona, and guiacum, 7 implying 
on their part superior curiosity and observation. The Bantu 
doctors of S. Africa employ aloes, nux vomica, castor-oil, 
fern, rhubarb and other drugs. 8 Livingstone says 9 that the 
doctors, who inherit their profession, have " valuable know- 
ledge, the result of long and close observation," and that they 
thankfully learnt from him when their patients were not 
present. In all parts of the world some knowledge of drugs 
and of certain methods of treatment, such as sweat -baths 
and massage, ligatures, cauterisation and fomentation, seems 
to have been possessed by the magical profession. As 

1 Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle) II. p. 178. 

2 The Primitive Bakongo, p. 216. 

3 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, XXIV., " Shamanism," 
p. 144. 

4 Among the Indians of Guiana, p. 335. 

5 Am. B. of Ethn., " Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees," by J. 
Mooney, p. 323. 

6 W. Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands, ch. xxi. 

7 Am. B. of Ethn., IX., "Medicine Men of the Apache," by J. E. 
Bourke, p. 471. 

8 Dudley Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 136. 

9 Travels and Researches in South Africa, ch. i. 



weather-doctors and crop-guardians, they laid out the first 
rudiments of astronomy and meteorology. All their know- 
ledge of this sort is, of course, no Magic, but experience and 
common sense; though science is not derived from Magic, 
the scientist does descend from the magician : not, however, 
in so far as the magician operates by Magic, but in so far as 
he operates by common sense. Among the Lushai tribes 
the name for sorcerer, puithiam, means " great knower," l the* 
equivalent of our " wizard." But sorcery degrades the magic 
art of medicine by discouraging with its theory of " posses- 
sion " every impulse of rational curiosity, and by substituting 
for empirical treatment (however crude) its rites of exorcism 
and propitiation. 

In parts of the world so widely separated as Siberia, Green- 
land, the remote back- woods of Brazil and S. Africa, wizards 
have discovered the secret of ventrilbquism. Everywhere 
they have learned the art of conjuring, without which (especi- 
ally the trick of " palming") many of their performances, 
and notably the sucking-cure, could not be accomplished. 
Their practice is generally clumsy and easily detected by 
sophisticated whites, but imposes upon their patients and the 
native bystanders. 2 In India it is carried to a much higher 
degree of illusion. Wizards often have a practical knowledge 
of some obscure regions of psychology; such as the force of 
suggestion and various means of conveying it, and the effect 
of continuous rhythmic movements and noises in inducing 
a state of exaltation or of dissociation. 

A wizard's tribesmen, of course, believe him to possess 
knowledge absurdly in excess of the reality. He boasts of 
it as the foundation of his power over nature or over spirits ; 
often as a supernatural gift of spirits whom he has visited, 
or who have visited him, and who have initiated him; or 
else as secret traditionary lore. It is by knowledge of human 
nature that he rules his fellows; and he asserts that know- 
ledge of the names and origins of things and of spirits gives 
him the same control over them. In Mr. Skeat's Malay 

1 J. Shakespeare, The Lushai KuJci Clans, p. 80. 

2 Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes of Borneo, p. 120, and Am. B. 
of Ethn., XI. p. 417; XIV. pp. 97, 148. 


Magic, incantations addressed by a miner to spirits or to 
metals, adjuring the spirits to withdraw from his " claim," 
or the grains of metal to assemble there, contain the intimidat- 
ing and subduing verse : 

" I know the origin from which you sprang ! " 

The same compelling power was employed if we may trust 
the Kalevala by Finnish wizards; for " every thing or being 
loses its ability for evil, as soon as some one is found who 
knows, who proclaims its essence, its origin, its genealogy." 
" Tietaja, which etymologically signifies wise, or learned, is 
ordinarily used for magician." l It was by profound science 
that mediaeval magicians were believed to control demons; 
and anybody celebrated for science was suspected of sorcery : 
such as Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Aquinas, 
and Raymond Lulli; whose reputation supported the credit 
'of such men as Paracelsus and John Dee. 

The fine arts in their rudiments owe much to the wizards. 
Incantations in verse often reach a high pitch of lyric fervour. 
The words rune, carmen, laulaa bear witness to the magic of 
poetry. Virgil and Taliessin have been famous for more 
than natural gifts; that one by superstitious repute, and 
this by his own vaunting. 2 Dancing and pantomime were 
cultivated for their magical virtues. Primitive carving and 
painting are in many cases undertaken in order to influence 
the spirits, or the animals, or the natural powers they 
represent ; and if Magic was the motive of the recently dis- 
covered animal paintings dating from the old Stone Age, 
its efficacy in encouraging art at that remote period rivalled 
that of religious patronage in some later ages. 

(2) In most tribes the wizard needs great force of will and 
persistency of purpose whether from deliberate choice or 
from infatuation with the profession to carry him through 
the severe training that is often exacted from candidates 
for the office ; great audacity and courage to impel and sustain 
him in the practice of his art, pestered by taboos and (the 
sorcerer especially) always beset by supernatural terrors and 

1 D. Comparetti, The Traditional Poetry of the Finns, pp. 27 and 25. 

2 Rhys, Celtic Heathendom, pp. 548-50. 


often by more real dangers; and unusual presence of mind 
to extricate himself from very embarrassing situations. It 
is true that, in some cases, where the office of wizard is 
hereditary, or may be assumed by alleging the favour of 
spirits, or some other underhand device perhaps upon the 
evidence of visions, or by mere fraud, or by a mixture of both 
we hear little of really serious initiatory rites; but often 
these formalities are very painful or very expensive. Among 
the Arunta, there are three classes of wizards : the first 
and second, made by spirits, undergo no severe trial except 
the boring of a hole in their own tongues and the keeping of 
it open, as evidence of a professional story about spirits who 
slew them with spears, cut out their entrails and replaced them 
with a new set and certain magic stones. But the third 
class are initiated by two wizards of the first and second class, 
who pretend to force crystal stones l into their bleeding bodies 
from the front of the leg up to the breast bone, into the crown 
of their heads and under the nail of the right forefinger. 
This they must suffer in perfect silence, three times a day on 
three consecutive days, with other tortures, followed by 
various taboos ; and, after all, they do not stand as well with 
the tribe as those whom the spirits have initiated. 2 Can 
there be any doubt that the initiatory rites of the third class 

1 The crystals forced into a wizard's body, whether by spirits or 
by other wizards, are essential to his profession, and if they leave him 
his power is lost. "It is the possession of these stones which gives 
his virtue to the medicine-man " (Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes 
of Central Australia, p. 480 note). John Mathew says that, according 
to the belief of the Kabi (Queensland) : "A man's power in the occult 
art would appear to be proportioned to his vitality, and the degree 
of vitality which he possessed depended upon the number of sacred 
pebbles and the quantity of yurru (rope) which he carried within him " 
(Eagle-hawk and Crow, p. 143). " Rope " was the property of the 
higher grade of medicine-men (substitute for snakes ?), who had ob- 
tained it from the Rainbow in exchange for some of their pebbles. 
Certain pebbles, especially crystals, are independent magic-powers 
throughout Australasia and elsewhere, probably of much older repute 
than the profession of wizardry ; and the wizard gets his personal 
power by having them inside him. Similarly, Jounod describes Bantu 
wizards as " endowed with magical power, or rather possessing en- 
chanted drugs " (Life of a South African Tribe, p. 293) : whereas we 
are often told that the occult art begins with the extraordinary person- 
ality of the wizard. 

2 Native Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 522-9. 


represent the older magical custom, and that the fabulous 
initiation by spirits is an overgrowth of Animism? There 
are clear motives for the change ; since the latter method is 
easily carried out by oneself, is far less painful, and is more 
stimulating to the imaginative belief of the laity, and there- 
fore more imposing. For the inverse change there are no 
motives. And therefore, probably, wizards of the third class 
are really less competent than the others; for the man 
who, after the new spirit-path has been opened up, still 
prefers the old road through pain and privation must be 
(comparatively) an unimaginative, dull, honest, inferior 

Old wizards of the Warramunga, receiving a new candi- 
date for the profession, allow him during the process no rest ; 
he must stand or walk until quite worn out, when he scarcely 
knows what is happening to him ; deprived for a long time 
of water and food, he becomes dazed and stupefied. 1 In 
the western islands of Torres Straits, a novice was taken into 
the bush by his instructor, who defsecated into a shell full of 
water and made him drink it with his eyes open; next he 
must chew certain fruits and plants, which made his inside 
bad and his skin itch; then shark's flesh, and, finally, the 
decomposing flesh of a dead man full of maggots. He became 
very ill and half frantic. Few cared to undergo these rites ; 
some gave up the undertaking ; some died of it. 2 In British 
Guiana, an aspirant to wizardry undergoes long fasts, wanders 
alone in the bush (full of terrors to the timid Indian), and 
accustoms himself to take large draughts of tobacco-juice 
mixed with water, which cause temporary insanity. 3 Across 
the watershed to the S.W., the office of medicine-man is 
hereditary; yet Waterton reports that probationers have 
to endure exhausting ordeals and tortures. 4 The severe 
training of the Bantu witch-doctor kills many novices. 5 
Under such conditions, only men of unusual force of will, or 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 485, 

2 Haddon, Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, V. 
p. 321. 

3 E. im Thurn, The Indians of Guiana, p. 334. 

1 Thomas Whiffen, The North-West Amazons, p. 181. 
6 Dudley Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 156. 


constancy of infatuation (qualities not always easy to dis- 
criminate), can become wizards. Preparatory ritual for the 
office of shaman among the Bury at s of Siberia is elaborate, 
expensive and intimidating : a candidate of poor family is 
helped by the community to get animals for sacrifice and 
objects necessary for the rites ; but many shrink from the 
trial, "dreading the vast responsibility it brings; for the 
gods deal severely with those who have undergone consecra- 
tion, and punish with death any serious mistake." There 
are nine degrees in the profession, each requiring a special 
initiation. 1 Thus, in many cases, the ordeal of initiation 
turns away the weak and incompetent, and keeps up the 
wizardly profession at a high level of resolution and endur- 
ance. In more sophisticated societies a similar result is 
obtained by the belief that the attainment of magical powers 
depends upon the undergoing of prolonged austerity in 
study, or in privations and tortures, which give a mystical 
right to supernatural power : the superstition upon which 
Southey raised The Curse of Kehama least unreadable of 
his romances. 

As for the courage that may be requisite for carrying on 
the wizard's practices, when he is the terror of his neighbours, 
their attitude towards him varies, in different tribes, from 
the tamest toleration to murderous antagonism. Thus, in 
the western islands of Torres Straits, Professor Haddon never 
knew the sorcerers mobbed or violently put to death on 
account of their magical practices. 2 In New Caledonia, 
when a sorcerer causes a general famine, the people merely 
make him presents to procure a return of plenty. 3 Among 
the Todas, a man who is the victim of a sorcerer pays 
him to have the curse removed. 4 In such cases, effron- 
tery is all the sorcerer needs. On the other hand, near 
Finsch Harbour in New Guinea, a dangerous sorcerer is 
often put to death; and so he is amongst the neighbouring 

1 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, XXIV., " Shamanism," 
pp. 87-90. 

2 Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, V. p. 322. 

3 J. G. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, p. 334. 

4 W. H, R. Rivers, The Todas, pp. 256-7. 


Kais. 1 Such in fact is the more general practice ; 2 and the 
wizard, carrying on his profession at the risk of his life, 
must be supported by the sort of fearlessness that criminals 
often show. 

Confronted with supernatural dangers, the sorcerer's need 
of courage must depend upon the sincerity of his own belief 
in them : a matter to be discussed in the fourth section of 
this chapter. If his professions are veracious, the attitude 
of such a man toward spiritual powers cannot be sustained 
by any ordinary daring. In the N.W. Amazons the shaman 
is the only one of his tribe who dares go alone into the haunted 
forest. Zulu doctors, who specialise as " heaven-herds," 
fight the Thunderstorm with spear and shield until he flees 
away. 3 Everywhere the sorcerer fights the demons of disease 
with reckless valour. On the Congo he drives them into 
some animal, and then cuts its head off. In North America 
he intimidates, quells and exorcises them with furious boast- 
ing. In Siberia, to capture the fleeting soul of a patient, 
he follows it over land and sea and into the regions of the 
dead. The Innuit of Greenland acknowledge Sedna as the 
supreme Being and the creatress of all living things; yet 
their angakoq subdue even her : one lures her from Adlivun 
with a magic song ; whilst another, as she emerges, harpoons 
her with a seal-spear, which is then found to be smeared with 
blood. 4 To obtain assistance from even the highest spirits 
the wizard deceives them; or to slay an enemy he usurps 
their powers. The Malay avenges himself by making an 
image of his victim in a shroud, and praying over it as over 
the dead; then he buries it in the path to his victim's house, 
and says : 

1 Belief in Immortality, pp. 249, 269. 

2 For examples see Weeks, The Primitive Bakongo, p. 204 ; Dudley 
Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 149; Callaway, Religion of the Amazulu, 
p. 391; Hose and McDougall, The Pagan Tribes of Borneo, II. p. 115; 
Turner, Samoa, p. 342; Shamanism, p. 130; Carl Lumholtz, New 
Trails in Mexico, p. 24; T. A. Joyce, South American Archaeology, 
p. 245 ; E. Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, II. 
pp. 650-2. 

3 Callaway, Religion of the Amazulu, pp. 384-6 and 404. 

4 Franz Boas, " The Central Esquimo," Am.B. of Ethn., VI. (1884-5), 
p. 603. 


" Peace be to you, ho prophet Tap, in whose charge the earth is ! 
Lo I am burying the corpse of (name of victim) 
I am bidden by the prophet Mohammed, 
Because he (the victim) was a rebel against God. 
Do you assist in killing him. 
If you do not kill him, 
You shall be a rebel against God, 
A rebel against Mohammed. 
It is not I who am burying him. 
It is Gabriel who is burying him. 
Do you grant my prayer this day : 

Grant it by the grace of my petition within the fold of the creed 
La ilaha, etc." x 

One might suppose that the audacity of blaspheming could 
rise no higher than this; but an Egyptian woman, when in 
labour, was taught to declare herself to be Isis, and to 
summon the gods to her help. " Should they refuse to 
come, ' Then shall ye be destroyed, ye nine gods ; the heaven 
shall no longer exist, the earth shall no longer exist, the five 
days over and above the year shall cease to be; offerings 
shall no more be made to the gods, the lords of Heliopolis, 
etc.' " 2 If the facts were not before us, it would be incredible 
that a fixed purpose of obtaining supernatural aid should 
thus exclude from the mind all thoughts of the divine 
attributes and of one's own insignificance. 

(3) What motives impel a man to adopt this strange and 
hazardous profession, or sustain him amidst all the dangers 
and disappointments of exercising it? In the first place, 
some men are oppressed by a vocation toward wizardry; 
just as amongst ourselves some men have an irresistible 
vocation to be poets, though that way poverty stares them 
in the face. To ordinary people these seem to be cases for 
the asylum. Yet we may understand the " votary of the 
Muses " by considering that the poet, as the master of rhythm, 
the treasurer of tradition, the arbiter of fame, has had a 
necessary place in the ancient culture of the tribes, and 
greatest in the noblest tribes. A tribe that produces poets 
has an advantage in the struggle of life ; and, accordingly, a 
strain of poet-blood is bred in the tribe, and shows itself in 
a certain number of youths in each generation. I think the 
same must be true of wizards. They are often " called": 

1 W. W. Skeat, Malay Magic, p. 571. 

a A. Wiedemann, The Religion of the Egyptians, pp. 273-4. 


the Altaians believe that no man of his free will becomes a 
shaman. 1 Like poets, they are sacred and possessed. They 
are also very useful : their functions in several ways over- 
lap those of the poet, as in cherishing traditions; and often 
they themselves are poets. They give confidence to their 
fellows amidst the awful imaginary dangers of savage life. 
Their nervous temperament may raise the vital level of a 
tribe. They keep alive the beliefs in taboo and the like 
mysterious dangers, on which savage order and morality 
depend; and in many cases they become leaders and chief- 
tains. In this way, belief in Magic and Animism seems to 
have been the necessary scaffolding of social life. 2 And were 
this all, the utility of wizards would be clear. But they often 
do so much and such horrible mischief, prohibiting every 
improvement and spreading general terror, that it is difficult 
to judge, in such cases, whether their activities leave a balance 
of good or of evil. Perhaps sometimes the evil may exceed, 
and a tribe may degenerate and perish of it. On the whole, 
however, there is certainly a balance of good, especially by 
leadership at early stages of social development; and this 
accounts for the flourishing from age to age of the wizardly 
profession, and for the attraction it has for those of wizardly 
blood who enter it, because it promises to satisfy an innate 
disposition. Even in a civilised country, this disposition 
still, in a few people, manifests itself in the old way; but 
for the most part has been " sublimated " into other pro- 
fessions. Of course that which attracts the neophyte of 
wizardry is not the utility of the profession, any more than 
the youthful poet is allured by the utility of poetry That 
which appeals to the wizard of inbred genius is (besides the 
indulgence of his personal powers) the mystery of wizardry; 
which excites in his soul a complex, consisting chiefly of 
curiosity as to the unknown powers that control nature and 
spirit, the fascination of fear in approaching them and an 
exaltation of self-consciousness at the prospect of attaining 
superhuman wisdom and authority. The article on Shaman- 
ism, 3 which I have cited so often, describes the shaman as 
sometimes profoundly convinced that he was chosen for the 

1 A. M. Czaplicka, Aboriginal Siberia, p. 178. 

2 J. G. Frazer, Psyche's Task. 3 Pp. 138-9. 


service of the spirits; and says that some feel a compulsive 
vocation, and endure persecution for their faith; they 
cannot help shamanising. One is mentioned as having been 
gifted with a sensitive nature and an ardent imagination, 
he had a strong belief in the spirits and in his own mysterious 
intercourse with them. 

Men of such a temperament, I take it, distinguishing 
themselves above others when every man practised magic 
or sorcery, founded the profession, and are always its vital 
nucleus, though in time they may become but a small pro- 
portion of its members. Under sincere infatuation they 
established its observances the fastings, sufferings, austeri- 
ties, visions and frenzies of initiation, whether into magical 
knowledge or spiritual possession ; the working of themselves 
up, whilst officiating, into the orgiastic intoxication in which 
they felt their own greatness and dominated their audience ; 
and they discovered some of the modes of operating by drugs 
and suggestion and some real remedies. But the profession, 
once formed, soon had attractions for a very different sort 
of man, impelled by very different motives; who saw in 
it the road sometimes to wealth, always to reputation and 
power. Since, amongst very primitive people there is little 
wealth to collect, and sometimes (as we have seen) remunera- 
tion of magical services is neither given nor expected, the 
earlier of these motives must have been the love of causing 
wonder and fear, of the power which their fellows' fears 
conferred and of the reputation which consequently spread 
far and wide. In Mota (Melanesia) a man in control of 
magical virtue will render services without reward, merely 
to add to his reputation for the possession of mana. 1 At 
first they seem to have had no privileges, but power acquires 
privilege : so that, among the Warramunga, wizards are free 
from sexual taboos; 2 in Guiana no tribesman dares refuse 
the sorcerer anything, not even his wife ; 3 among the Boloki, 
the sorcerer is never charged with injurious witchcraft and, 
therefore, is never in danger of the ordeal. 4 

1 Rivers, History of Melanesian Sociology, II. p. 156. 

2 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes oj Central Australia. 

3 im Thurn, op. cit., p. 339. 

4 J. H. Weeks, Among Congo Cannibals, p. 145. 


Sometimes, indeed, the wizard may not be respected in 
private life, but only in the exercise of his office. Fear and 
wonder, in fact, do not always entirely blind the eyes of 
neighbours to his shortcomings. Spencer and Gillen tell us 
that the Magic of distant places, being the less known, is the 
more feared. 1 The Rev. J. H. Weeks even says that on the 
Congo the village medicine -man is seldom engaged at home ; 
for the people know that his fetich cannot protect him or 
his from harm and, therefore, hire some one from another 
village of whom they know less. 2 Similarly, a tribe is apt to 
fear its own adepts less than those of another tribe of lower 
culture, whose ways are less known and more mysterious : 
as Malays fear especially the Jakuns ; 3 formerly the Swedes 
the Finns, and the Finns the Lapps ; the Todas the Kurumba: 4 
and in Macedonia Mohammedan monks enjoy a far higher 
reputation for Magic than the Christian. 5 

Still, the wizard, whether of home or foreign growth, 
becomes necessary in every crisis of life, at birth and marriage, 
in misfortune, sickness and death; in every undertaking 
hunting, agriculture or commerce; and by his omens and 
auguries may determine war and peace. After his own death, 
he may sometimes look forward to being deified. With such 
powers, surrounded by intimidated and dependent crowds, 
and often enjoying a long career of conscious or unconscious 
imposture, he seems to himself, as to others, a " superman " ; 
his Selbstgefuhl rises to megalomania, and his boasting becomes 
monstrous and stupefying. 

(4) The more to impress the imagination of all spectators 
and enhance his reputation, the wizard usually affects a 
costume, or behaviour, or strange companionship of animals, 
that distinguishes him from the rest of his tribe. Not always ; 
for Miss Czaplicka 6 says that in Siberia the shaman is in 
everyday life not distinguished from others, except occasion- 
ally by a haughty demeanour; but the rule is otherwise. 
A. W. Howitt 7 relates that one Australian medicine -man 

1 Across Australia, p. 350. 2 Primitive Bakongo, p. 285. 

3 Skeat, Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, I. p. 563. 

4 Rivers, The Todas, p. 263. 

5 Abbot, Macedonian Folk-Lore, p. 225. 6 Op. cit., p. 203. 
7 Native Tribes of South-East Australia, pp. 387-8. 


obtained influence by always carrying about with him a 
lace -lizard four feet long; another cherished a tame brown 
snake ; and an old woman kept a native cat (Day sums) : 
" familiars" that correspond to the black cats and goats of 
our own witches. The Arunta medicine -man bores a hole 
in his tongue, appears with a broad band of powdered charcoal 
and fat across the bridge of his nose and learns to look pre- 
ternaturally solemn, as one possessing knowledge hidden 
from ordinary men. 1 In the forest of the upper Amazons, 
the medicine-man does not depilate, though the rest of his 
tribe do so to distinguish themselves from monkeys; and 
he attempts to present in his costume something original 
and striking. 2 In S. Africa, too, the witch-doctor's dress is 
often very conspicuous. So it is throughout history : the 
thaumaturgist, by his wand, robes, austerities, demeanour, 
advertises himself as a man apart from the crowd. Rites of 
initiation mark this superiority : as tribal initiation separates 
a man from women and boys, so the wizard's initiation makes 
him a " superman." 

(5) Such a temper cannot endure opposition, and is jealous 
of rivalry; the man whom it actuates lives in constant fear 
of failure and discredit and is, therefore, full of suspicion 
and cruelty. In S. Africa, professional hatred is pushed to 
its last limits amongst magicians. They test their colleagues, 
steal each other's drugs, or pray to the gods to make their 
rival's art inefficient. 3 The savage sorcerer looks with no 
kindly eye upon the European; who, too plainly, possesses 
extraordinary Magic. Captain Whiffen says 4 of the sorcerer 
amongst the South Amerinds, who has much knowledge of 
poisons, that to maintain his reputation, if he has declared 
that he cannot cure a patient, he poisons him. Of the sorcerer 
of the Lower Congo, Mr. Weeks says, that " his face becomes 
ugly, repulsive, the canvas on which cruelty, chicanery, hatred 
and all devilish passions are portrayed with repellent 
accuracy." 5 An extreme case perhaps ; but, leading up to 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, pp. 334-5. 

2 Whiffen, op. cit. t pp. 182-3. 

3 Jounod, Life of a South African Tribe, II. p. 456. 
* Whiffen, op. cit., pp. 64 and 168. 

5 Primitive Bakongo, p. 216. 


it, there are all degrees of rancour and malignity toward 
those who hinder our ambitions; and it can only be in 
exceptional magicians that megalomania is reconcilable with 
considerateness and magnanimity. 

(6) Since the greater part of the wizard's practice is 
imposture (whether he believes in himself or not), he must be 
an actor ; and his success must greatly depend on the degree 
in which he possesses the actor's special gifts and tempera- 
ment : an audience must be a stimulus to him and not a 
check ; he exhibits himself not unwillingly. To the shaman, 
Miss Czaplicka tells us, 1 an audience is useful : though the 
presence of an European is depressing. A Chuckchee 
shaman without a sort of chorus considers himself unable to 
discharge his office : novices in training usually get a brother 
or sister to respond to their exercises. And, indeed, a 
wizard's exhibitions often provide without design the same 
sort of social entertainment as those of an actor. One 
cannot read of the shaman's performance of a pantomimic 
journey on horseback to the South, over frozen mountains, 
burning deserts, and along the bridge of a single hair, stretched 
across a chasm over foaming whirlpools, to Erlik Khan's 
abode, and then home again on the back of a flying goose, 
without perceiving that in the wilds of Siberia such an 
entertainment, whatever other virtues it may have, supplies 
the want of theatres and music-halls, and that in such displays 
a dramatic profession might originate. 

But there are two kinds of actors; and they correspond 
well enough with the two kinds of wizards already described 
the vocational and the exploitative. Some actors are said 
to identify themselves with their assumed character and 
situation so profoundly as to substantiate the fiction : con- 
centration of imagination, amounting to dissociation, makes 
the part they play, whilst it lasts, more real than anything 
else; and raises them, for that time, in energy of thought, 
feeling and action, much above their ordinary powers; so 
that they compel the attention, sympathy and belief of the 
audience. But others study their part and determine before- 
hand exactly what tones, gestures, expressions are the most 
1 Aboriginal Siberia, pp. 230, 240. 


effective reinforcement of every word, and thereafter carry 
out upon the stage in cold blood the whole dramatic lesson 
which they have taught themselves. Perhaps more common 
than either of these extreme types is the actor who begins 
by studying under a sort of inspiration, and after experi- 
menting for a few nights, repeats what he has found to 
answer best. We need not consider those who can do 
nothing but what they have been taught by others. Well, 
the wizard by vocation probably behaves like the first kind 
of actor : enters upon any office to which he may be called 
in exclusive devotion to his task; works himself into a 
frenzy, groans, writhes and sweats under the possession of 
his demon ; chants incantations in an archaic tongue ; drums 
and dances by the hour, and falls into speechless trance 
according to the professional pattern all in what may be 
described as dramatic good faith. By native disposition and 
by practised self-suggestion he obtains a temporary dissocia- 
tion. The opposite sort of wizard, exploiting the profession, 
sees all this, and imitates it with such improvements as he 
may be able to devise. Of the intervening crowd of char- 
latans, who mingle self-delusion with deceit in all possible 
proportions, no definite account can be given. 

According to Diderot, 1 the greatest actors belong to the 
second class, to the deliberate and disciplined artists. We 
may be sure the gods in the gallery, if they understood what 
was going on under their eyes, would always prefer the in- 
spired performers. Probably these are, in fact, the greatest 
in their best hours, but less to be depended on, less sure of 
being always equal to themselves. And the same may be 
true of the corresponding sorts of wizards. The lucid impos- 
tor, at any rate, is less likely to be abashed by unforeseen 
difficulties and by the awkwardness of failure, less likely to 
be mobbed and murdered and pegged down in his grave with 
aspen stakes. 

(7) Wizards are very often people who manifest an 

1 Paradoxe sur le comedien. Mr. William Archer, some years ago, 
published Masks and Faces, an entertaining and very instructive book, 
in which he (as a genuine though unprofessional psychologist) discusses 
this paradox in the light of evidence obtained, by questionnaire and 
otherwise, from actors then living. 


hysterical or epileptoid diathesis; and candidates for the 
profession who show signs of it are often preferred by the 
doctors. According to Miss Czaplicka, hysteria (common in 
Siberia) is at the bottom of the shaman's vocation : but it is 
not merely a matter of climate ; for the Rev. E. T. Bryant 
writes of the Zulus " the great majority of diviners being 
clearly of neurotic type " ; l and on all sides we obtain from 
descriptions of wizards the same impression. The word 
" shaman " comes not, as usually supposed, from the San- 
skrit (sramana = work, a religious mendicant), but from 
saman, which is Manchu for " one who is excited, moved, 
raised." 2 The effect on the audience of shamanising depends 
in great measure upon the fits, ecstasy, convulsions introduced 
at some stage of the performance and attributed to possession 
by the spirits. Similar exhibitions have been reported by 
all observers of wizardry. Professor Otto Stoll of Zurich has 
described 3 the phenomena as they occur in all countries and 
all ages; and he attributes them, as well as hallucinations 
and analgesia (as in the fire-walk), which wizards also have 
at command, to the power of self-suggestion acquired by 
practice and training, on the basis (of course) of a natural 
disposition. Cagliostro declared that he could smell atheists 
and blasphemers; " the vapour from such throws him into 
epileptic fits; into which sacred disorder he, like a true 
juggler, has the art of falling when he likes." 4 The wizard's 
fits are voluntarily induced ; but from the moment the attack 
takes place the development of its symptoms becomes 
automatic. Between the fits, however, says Miss Czaplicka, 
he must be able to master himself, or else he becomes incapable 
of his profession : nervous and excitable often to the verge 
of insanity, if he passes that verge he must retire. 5 In short, 
his ecstasy is the climacterical scene of his dramatic perform- 
ance, the whole of which must be rendered with the disci- 
plined accuracy of an artist. We are not to think of the 

1 Man, September 1817, p. 144. 

2 Aboriginal Siberia, p. 197. 

3 Suggestion und Hypnotismus in der Volkerpsychologie. 

4 Meiners, Brief e uber die Schweiz (quoted by Carlyle in essay on 
Count Cagliostro). 

5 Aboriginal Siberia, pp. 169, 172. 


shaman as an hysterical patient : if he were, there would 
be greater, not less, reason to suspect him of deceit. No 
doubt the training which gives control of the nervous attack 
protects the subject from its unwholesome consequences; 
there seems to be no special liability to disease or to a shorten- 
ing of life. Formerly in Siberia, before the power of the 
profession was broken by immigrant beliefs and practices, 
it was necessary that the shaman should be well-developed 
mentally and physically (as has often been required of 
priests); and such a constitution is by no means incom- 
patible with an intense histrionic temperament. 

A necessary complement to the suggestive devices of a 
wizard is the suggestibility of his clients. There is such a 
thing as an assenting or a dissenting disposition suggesti- 
bility or contra suggestibility ; but the latter is, like the 
former, a tendency to react without reflection, and may be 
as well controlled by appropriate suggestions. The power of 
any given suggestion to control the course of a man's thought 
and action depends upon the resistance (apart from contra- 
suggestibility) which it meets with in his mind; and this 
depends upon the extent, quality and integration of his 
apperceptive masses, and upon the facility with which they 
come into action. Upon the perceptual plane a savage's 
mind is well organised, and accordingly his suggestibility is 
low; but upon the ideational plane it is in most cases ill 
organised, poor in analysis, classification, generalisation, 
poor in knowledge, abounding in imagination-beliefs about 
Magic and Animism; so that, except in natural sceptics 
(who, as we shall see, exist among savages), the suggestions 
of the wizard meet with little resistance from common sense 
and with ready acceptance by magical and animistic preju- 
dice. But even with a man of common sense, a suggestion, 
however absurd, may for a time prevail, if his mental reaction 
is slow; although, with time for reflection, he will certainly 
reject it. The art of the wizard consists in getting such 
hold of his client's attention that, as in hypnosis, the power 
of reflective comparison is suspended and criticism abolished. 
There are many masters of this art. The client's state of 
mind is very common in the effects of oratory, the theatre, 


ghost-stories and generally in the propagation of opinion, 
suspicion and prejudice. 


Inasmuch as the wizard's boasting, conjuring, ventriloquis- 
ing, dramatising and practising of all the arts of suggestion, 
seem incompatible with sincerity, whilst nevertheless he is 
devoted to his calling, some observers have declared him a 
calculating impostor, whilst others maintain that he, in 
various degrees, believes in himself and shares the delusions 
which he propagates. Examples may be found in support of 
either position. 

Some say that the wizard believes in himself because all 
others believe in him; that at a certain level of culture, 
there is an universal social obsession by certain ideas, from 
which the individual cannot escape, and for whose con- 
sequences, therefore, he is not responsible. According to 
this theory, a sort of tribal insanity prevails. Dr. Mercier 
says that, in the individual, paranoia is characterised by 
systematised delusion : " there is an organised body of (false) 
knowledge, and it differs from other delusions in the fact that 
it colours the whole life of the patient ; it regulates his daily 
conduct; it provides him with an explanation of all his 
experiences; it is his theory of the cosmos." And, again, 
" as long as the highest level of thought is intact, so that we 
can and do recognise that our mistakes are mistakes and our 
disorders, whether of mind or conduct, are disorders, so long 
sanity is unaffected, and our mistakes and disorders are sane. 
As soon, however, as we become incompetent to make this 
adjustment . . . insanity is established." x These passages 
exactly describe the condition of a wizard and his tribe 
afflicted with social paranoia : their theories of Magic and 
Animism and of the wizard's relations with invisible powers, 
may truly be said to form an organised body of (false) know- 
ledge, to colour all their lives, to explain everything that 
happens to them; and their mistakes and disorders to be 
incorrigible by reflection or experience. Such conditions of 
1 Text-book of Insanity, pp. 281 and 79, 


the social mind have, I believe, existed (and may still exist), 
tending toward, and sometimes ending in, a tribe's destruc- 
tion. That, in such a case, there should be unanimity is not 
necessary ; it is enough that the current of belief, in certain 
directions, be overwhelming. But such extreme cases are 
rare. Normally there may be found, even in backward 
tribes, a good deal of incredulity and of what may be called 
primitive rationalism or positivism. 

Considerable sections of a tribe sometimes co-operate in 
imposture, the men against the women and children, or the 
old against the young; and it cannot be supposed that, 
where this occurs, anything like universal delusion prevails. 
The Arunta, who teach their women and children that 
Twanyiriki is a spirit living in wild regions, who attends 
initiations, and that the noise of the bull-roarer is his voice ; 
whilst they reveal to the youths when initiated that the 
bundle of churinga is the true Twanyiriki ; l cannot be blind 
to the existence of social fictions. The discovery by initiated 
youths in some parts of New Guinea, that Balum, the monster 
that is believed to swallow them during initiation, is nothing 
but a bug-a-boo, and that his growl is only the bull-roarer, 
must be a shock to their credulity. 2 Indeed, disillusionment 
as to some popular superstition is a common characteristic 
of initiation ceremonies. 3 On the mainland of New Caledonia, 
a spirit-night is held every five months; when the people 
assemble around a cave and call upon the ghosts, supposed 
to be inside it, to sing; and they do sing the nasal squeak 
of old men and women predominating. 4 There is not in such 
cases any natural growth of social delusion, subduing the 
individual mind, but prearranged cozenage; and a wizard 
with such surroundings, instead of being confirmed in the 
genuineness of his art, only reads there the method of his own 
imposture in large type. 5 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 497. 
8 J. G. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, pp. 250-60. 
8 For another example see Rivers, History of Melanesian Sociology, 
II. p. 411. 

4 G. Turner, Samoa, p. 346. 

5 For the most elaborate of all such performances, see the initiation 
into the Ghost Society of the Kwakintle Indians, in Frazer's Totemism 
and Exogamy, III. p. 538. 


Home-bred wizards, who are less trusted than those who 
live further off, or than those of an inferior tribe, do not 
derive self-confidence from the unanimous approval of their 

Again, the general prevalence of delusions in a tribe does 
not suppress the scepticism of individuals. It is reasonable 
to expect such scepticism to be most prevalent amongst 
men of rank, who are comparatively exempt from the oppres- 
sion of popular sanctions; and probably this is the fact. 
Such exemption, by preserving a nucleus of relatively sane 
people, is one of the great social utilities of rank. The 
Basuto chief, Mokatchane", surrounded by people grossly 
superstitious, lent himself to their practices; but in paying 
his diviners he did not hesitate so say " that he regarded 
them as the biggest impostors in the world." l In Fiji, it 
is doubtful whether the high chiefs believed in the inspira- 
tion of the priests, though it suited their policy to appear to 
do so. There was an understanding between the two orders : 
one got sacrifices (food), the other good oracles. A chieftain, 
on receiving an unfavourable oracle, said to the priest : 
' ' Who are you ? Who is your god ? If you make a stir, I 
will eat you " 2 not metaphorically. In Tonga, " even 
seventeen years before the arrival of the first missionaries, 
the chiefs did not care to conceal their scepticism." In 
Vavou, Taufaahan, having long been sceptical of his ancestral 
faith, on learning of Christianity, hanged five idols by the 
neck, beat the priestess, and burned the spirit-houses. 3 The 
Vikings, like the Homeric heroes, are said to have fought their 
gods; and at other times to have declared entire disbelief 
in them. Hence the easy conversion of the North to Chris- 
tianity. Scepticism may have been fashionable at court 
much earlier : " It is scarcely possible to doubt," says Mr. 
Chadwick, " that familiarity, not to say levity, in the treat- 
ment of the gods characterised the Heroic Age [Teutonic 
A.D. 350-550] just as much as that of the Vikings." 4 The 

1 Casalis, My Life in Basuto Land, p. 185. 

2 Basil Thompson, The Fijians, p. 158. 

3 Basil Thompson, Diversions of a Prime Minister, pp. 201 and 346. 

4 The Heroic Age, p. 413. 


burlesque representations of the gods in some passages of the 
Iliad are a sort of atheism : in astonishing contrast with 
the sublime piety elsewhere expressed. And the inadequacy 
of such a literary religion (like that of Valhalla) may explain 
the facile reception (or revival) of the Mysteries in the sixth 
century B.C. History abounds with examples of rulers and 
priests who, in collusion, have used religion for political 
convenience, in a way that implied their own disbelief and 
opened unintentionally the doors of disbelief to others. 

But it is not only chiefs and heroes whose minds are some- 
times emancipated from popular superstitions. An old 
Australian whose duty it was to watch the bones of a dead man 
and to keep alight a fire near them, sold them for some 
tobacco and a tomahawk, in great fear lest it should be known 
to his tribesmen ; but he " evidently suffered from no qualms 
of conscience " : x that is to say, he feared the living, but 
not the dead. W. Stanbridge says of the aborigines of 
Victoria that " there are doctors or priests of several voca- 
tions ; of the rain, of rivers and of human diseases . . . but 
there are natives who refuse to become doctors and disbelieve 
altogether the pretensions of those persons." 2 John Matthew 
writes of the tribe with which he was best acquainted 
" whilst the blacks had a term for ghosts and behind these 
were departed spirits, . . . individual men would tell you 
upon inquiry that they believed that death was the last of 
them." 3 Near Cape King William in New Guinea, there is 
a general belief in spirits and ghosts and also in one Mate ; 
but some whisper that there is no such being. 4 The Bakongo 
villagers do not believe in all witchcraft; but respect some 
sorcerers, and regard others with more or less contempt : 
every man, however, must profess belief, or else " his life 
will be made wretched by accusations of witchcraft." 5 Before 
missionaries came amongst the Baloki, many people had no 
faith in the medicine-men, but would not oppose them for 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, pp. 374-5. 

2 " Aborigines of Victoria," Transactions of the Ethnological Socie* 
New Series, I. p. 300. 

3 Eagle-hawk and Crow, p. 146. 

4 J. G. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, p. 239. 

8 J. H. Weeks, The Primitive Bakongo, pp. 284 and 285. , 


fear of being charged with witchcraft. 1 The religious con- 
victions of the Zulus were very shallow; belief in the spirit- 
world depended on prosperity : " fullness declares the Itongo 
exists; affliction says it does not exist." ..." For my part, 
I say the Amadhlozi of our house died forever." 2 Capt. 
Whiffen reports of the tribes of S. Amerinds whom he visited 
that, " among individuals there are sceptics of every grade." 3 
Whilst all Dakotas reverence the great, intangible, mysterious 
power Takoo-Wahkon, as to particular divinities, any man 
may worship some and despise others. " One speaks of the 
medicine -dance with respect; another smiles at the name." 
The Assiniboin generally believe that good ghosts migrate to 
the south where game is abundant; whilst the wicked go 
northward; but some think that death ends all. 4 At 
Ureparapara (Banks Islands) food is buried with a corpse; 
and " if there be too much, some is hung above the grave, 
whence the bolder people take it secretly and eat it." 5 
Disbelief is expressed in actions more emphatically than in 
words; the plundering of tombs has been universal. An 
idol -maker of Maeva assured Ellis that, " although at times 
he thought it was all deception and only practised his trade 
for gain, yet at other times he really thought the gods he 
himself had made were powerful beings." 6 In Tonga it 
was orthodox that chiefs and their retainers were immortal, 
doubtful whether men of the third rank were so, certain that 
those of the lowest rank, Tooas, were not; their souls died 
with the body; yet some of these Tooas ventured to think 
that they too would live again. 7 A sceptical Kayan could 
hardly believe that men continue to exist after death; for 
then they would return to visit those they love. " But," he 
concluded, " who knows?" The traditionary lore of the 
Kayans answers many deep questions ; but the keener intelli- 

1 J. H. Weeks, Among Congo Cannibals, p. 293. 

2 Callaway, op. cit., pp. 29-30. 

3 The North- West Amazons, p. 218. 

4 J. O, Dorsey, "Siouan Cults," pp. 431-2 and 485, Am. B. of Ethn., 

Ooddrington, The Melanesians, p. 270. 
^olynesian Researches, II. p. 204. 

Hn Martin, W. Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands, II. 
\nd 137, 



gences inquire further lt why do the dead become visible 
only in dreams? " etc. 1 A Tanghul told me, says Mr. T. C. 
Hodson, that no one had ever seen a Lai (deity) : when 
things happened men said a Lai had done it. " In his view 
clearly a Lai was a mere hypothesis." 2 

Of such examples of the occurrence of " free-thought " in 
all parts of the world, no doubt, a little investigation would 
discover many more. Everywhere some savages think for 
themselves; though, like civilised folk, they cannot always 
venture to avow their conclusions. We must not suppose 
that belief is as uniform as custom or conventional doctrine : 
custom and convention hinder thought in dull people, but 
do not enslave it in the " keener intelligence." Without the 
enviable advantage of personal intimacy with savages, I 
have, by reading about them, gained the impression that they 
enjoy a considerable measure of individuality as much as 
the less educated Europeans and are not mere creatures of a 
social environment. 

The most backward savages have a large stock of common 
sense concerning the properties of bodies, of wind and water 
and fire, of plants and animals and human nature ; for this 
is the necessary ground of their life. This common sense 
has certain characters which are in conflict with their super- 
stitions; the facts known to common sense are regular, pro- 
portional, the same for all; not often failing and needing 
excuses, not extravagant and disconnected, not depending on 
the presence of some fantastic mountebank. Savages do 
not draw explicitly the comparisons that make this conflict 
apparent; but it may be felt without being defined. Some 
of them, especially, are (as amongst ourselves) naturally 
inclined to a positive way of thinking; their common sense 
predominates over the suggestions of Magic and Animism, 
and they, more than others aware of the conflict, become 
the proto-sceptics or rationalists. Lecky observes that 
beliefs and changes of belief depend not upon definite argu- 
ments, but upon habits of thought. In the seventeenth 

1 Hose and McDougall, The Pagan Tribes of Borneo, II. pp. 48 and 

2 The Naga Tribes of Manipur, p. 126. 


century a new habit of thought overcame the belief in witch- 
craft and miracles; 1 and in many other centuries it has 
everywhere done the same for those in whom the " apper- 
ceptive mass " of common sense became more or less clearly 
and steadily a standard of belief, repelling the apperceptive 
masses of Magic and Animism with all their contents and 
alliances. They had more definite ideas than others, little 
love of the marvellous, little subjection to fear, desire, 

Sometimes the dictates of common sense are imposed by 
necessity. The Motu (Papuasian) were accustomed to rub 
spears with ginger to make them fly straight. It had, how- 
ever, been discovered that no amount of Magic would turn 
a poor spearman into an accurate thrower. 2 Spear-throwing 
is too serious a concern not to be judged of upon its merits, 
however interesting the properties of ginger. A whole 
tribe may in some vital matter, whilst practising a super- 
stitious rite, disregard its significance : like the Kalims, who 
hold a crop-festival in January, and afterwards take the 
omens as to what ground shall be cultivated for next harvest ; 
" but this seems a relic of old times, for the circle of cultiva- 
tion is never broken, let the omens be what they may." 3 
That is a tacit triumph of common sense. 

The bearing of all this on the character of the wizard is 
as follows : since everywhere sceptics occur, and some indivi- 
duals go further than others in openly or secretly rejecting 
superstitions, why should not the wizard or sorcerer, who is 
amongst the most intelligent and daring of his tribe, be himself 
a rationalist and, therefore, a conscious impostor? That 
much of his art is imposture no one disputes; and so far as 
it is so, he sees it as part of the ordinary course of experi- 
ence. The sorcerer on the Congo who drove a spirit into the 
dark corner of a hut, stabbed it there, and showed the blood 
upon his spear, having produced the blood (as his son con- 
fessed to Mr. Weeks) by scratching his own gums, was by 
that action himself instructed in common sense. 4 He saw 

1 Introduction to The Rise of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe. 

2 C. G. Seligman, Melanesians of British New Guinea, p. 179. 

3 T. C. Hodson, op. tit., p. 171. * Among Congo Cannibals, p. 284. 


in it quite plainly an ordinary course of events, the " routine 
of experience " ; whilst the spectators were mystified. Must 
he not, then, have more common sense than other people ? 

In fact, he recognises the course of nature and his own 
impotence, whenever an attempt to conjure would endanger 
his reputation. The Arunta medicine-men exhibit great 
dramatic action in curing various diseases; but waste no 
antics on recognisable senile decay. 1 The medicine-man of 
Torres Straits admits that he cannot make a " big wind " 
from the south-east during the north-west season. 2 The 
Polynesian sorcerers confessed their practices harmless to 
Europeans ; 3 who were not suggestible on that plane of 
ideas. Shamans amongst the Yakuts would not try to cure 
diarrhoea, small -pox, syphilis, scrofula or leprosy, and would 
not shamanise in a house where small-pox had been. 4 These 
miracle-mongers sometimes know a hawk from a handsaw. 
It seems reasonable, then, to assume that wizards have more 
common sense than other people ; since, besides the instruc- 
tion of common experience, they know in their professional 
practice (at least in a superficial way) the real course of 
events, which is concealed from the laity. And, no doubt, 
of those whose art is deliberate imposture, this is true. But 
the infatuation of those who are wizards by vocation may be 
incorrigible by any kind of evidence : especially as to the 
genuineness of another's performance. Dr. Rivers speaks of 
the blindness of the man of rude culture to deceitful proceed- 
ings on the part of others with which he is familiar in his own 
actions. 5 For the wizard there are established prejudices, 
professional and personal interest, fear of trusting his own 
judgment, supernatural responsibility, desire of superhuman 
power, sometimes even a passionate desire to alleviate the 
sufferings of his tribesmen, and everything else that confirms 
the will to believe. 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 531-2. 

2 Haddon, Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, 
VI. p. 201. 

3 Ellis, op. cit., II. p. 232. 

4 Shamanism, p. 92. 

6 History of Melanesian Society, II. p. 107. 



Many practices of wizards involve a representation of the 
course of events as something very different from the reality ; 
and there is no doubt that frequently, or even in most cases, 
wizards are aware of this, as in performing the sucking cure or 
visiting the man in the moon. But some anthropologists 
dislike to hear such practices described as " fraud," " im- 
posture " or " deceit " ; and for certain classes of wizards it 
seems (as I shall show) unjust to speak in these terms of their 
profession. Still, taking the profession and its actions on 
the whole, it is difficult to find in popular language terms more 
fairly descriptive. We meet here the inconvenience that other 
social or moral sciences find when they try to use common 
words in a specially restricted sense. In Economics, e. g., 
"rent," "wages," "profits" have definite meanings very 
different from their popular acceptance. In Ethics, what 
controversy, what confusion in the defining of " virtue " and 
"the good"! In Metaphysics, what is the meaning of 
" cause " ; what is the meaning of " intuition " ? The terms 
must be defined in each system. If then, in these pages, 
the conduct of a man who, on his way to cure a sufferer of 
" stitch in the side," conceals in his mouth a piece of bone 
or pebble, and after dancing, and sucking hard enough at 
the patient's belly, produces that bone or pebble as the cause 
of pain is described as " fraud," or " imposture," or " deceit," 
the words are used to describe the fact only, without any such 
imputation upon the man's character as they convey in 
popular usage. Scientifically considered, the man and his 
circumstances being such as they are, his actions are a 
necessary consequence; in this limited region of thought 
moral censure is irrelevant. 

There are some wizards, as it were in minor orders, such 
as Professor Seligman calls " departmental experts," especi- 
ally the man who blesses gardens, so earnest and harmless 
that no one will abuse them. They visit the garden at the 
owner's request, practise a little hocus-pocus, mutter a few 
spells, take a small fee and go peaceably home. The owner 
indeed supposes himself to buy fertility, and obtains only 


peace of mind a greater good say the moralists. The 
wizard has done whatjhe learnt of his father, what respectable 
neighbours approve of ; there is always some crop to justify 
his ministry, and many an evil power to excuse occasional 
blight or drought. If he is convinced of being a really 
indispensable man, it is easily intelligible. 

As to the profession in general, a small number of wizards 
wizards by vocation may be strongly persuaded of the 
genuineness of the art ; a much larger body mingles credulity 
in various proportions with fraud ; and not a few are deliber- 
ate cheats. Some of the greatest masters of wizardry are 
dissatisfied with their own colleagues : that eminent shaman 
Scratching Woman said to Bogoras the traveller, " There are 
many liars in our calling." l On the other hand, the wizard 
who demonstrated the " point ing- st ick " to Messrs. Spencer 
and Gillen, and having no object upon which to discharge 
its Magic, thought it had entered his own head and thereupon 
fell ill, was certainly a believer ; 2 and so was the wizard who 
felt that he had lost his power after drinking a cup of tea, 
because hot drinks were taboo to him. 3 Now a cheat needs no 
explanation at least no more on the Yenisei than on the 
Thames ; and the variety of those who mingle credulity with 
fraud is too great to be dealt with. What chiefly needs to be 
accounted for is the persuasion of those who in spite of so 
many circumstances that seem to make disillusion inevitable 
are in some manner true believers in the manner, that is 
to say, of imaginative belief, founded on tradition and desire, 
unlike the perceptual belief of common sense. 

(a) Men under a vocation to wizardry, of course, begin with 
full belief in it. Probably they are possessed by the imagina- 
tive and histrionic temperament, which we have seen to be 
favourable to eminence as a wizard. Their vocation consists 
in the warm sympathy and emulation with which, before then- 
own initiation, they witness the feats of great practitioners, 
and Which generally imply a stirring of their own latent 
powers; just as many an actor has begun by being " stage- 

1 A. M. Czaplicka, Aboriginal Siberia, p. 180. 

2 Across Australia^ p. 326. 

3 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 481. 


struck." A man of such temperament is prone to self- 
delusion not only as to his own powers, but in other ways. 
The wizard often begins by fasting and having visions; 
thereby weakening his apprehension of the difference between 
fact and phantasy. The fixed idea of his calling begets in 
his imagination a story of what happened at his initiation, 
manifestly false, but not a falsehood a "rationalisation" 
according to wizardly ideas of what he can remember of that 
time. If initiated with torture, which he endures for the sake 
of his vocation, he is confirmed in it. When called upon to 
perform, he " works himself up " by music, dancing and what- 
ever arts he may have learned *or discovered, into a state of 
dissociation, during which his judgment of everything 
extraneous to his task is suspended; and his dramatic 
demeanour uninhibited by fear or shame, unembarrassed by 
any second thoughts, makes, by vivid gestures and contor- 
tions and thrilling tones, a profound impression upon patients, 
clients and witnesses. His performances may derive some 
original traits from his own genius; but must generally 
conform to a traditionary pattern and to the consequent 
expectations of the audience. By practice he acquires as 
for their own tasks all artists, poets and actors must a 
facility in inducing the state of dissociation (more or less 
strict), in which work goes smoothly forward under the 
exclusive dominance of a certain group of ideas and senti- 
ments. Whether, in this condition, he believes in himself 
and his calling, or not, is a meaningless question. Whilst the 
orgasm lasts there is no place for comparison or doubt. 
And since he really produces by his frenzy or possession a great 
effect upon the spectators though not always the precise 
effect of curing a patient or of controlling the weather at 
which he aimed we need not wonder if he believes himself 
capable of much more than he ever accomplishes. The 
temperament, most favourable to a wizard's success is not 
likely to be accompanied by a disposition to the positive or 
sceptical attitude of mind. Moreover, to the enthusiast 
for whom belief is necessary, it is also necessary to create 
the evidence. That the end justifies the means is not his 
explicit maxim, but a matter of course. Gibbon comments 


on " the vicissitudes of pious fraud and hypocrisy, which 
may be observed, or at least suspected, in the characters of 
the most conscientious fanatics." l After failures, indeed, 
or in the languor that follows his transports, there may come 
many chilling reflections; only, however, to be dispersed 
by an invincible desire to believe in his own powers and in 
the profession to which he is committed. 

The " white " wizard may pacify a troubled conscience by 
reflecting that at any rate he discharges a useful social 
function ; as, in fact, he does, so far as he relieves the fears of 
his tribesmen and gives them confidence. To understand 
the " black " wizard, we must turn to the dark side of human 
nature. That a man should resort to magic or sorcery to 
avenge himself or his kinsmen, or to gratify his carnality, 
jealousy or ambition, is intelligible to everybody; but that 
he should make a profession of assisting others for a fee to 
betray, injure, or destroy those with whom he has no quarrel, 
seems almost too unnatural to be credible. Yet it admits 
of a very easy explanation. The love of injuring and slaying 
is deeply rooted in us : men afflicted with homicidal neurosis 
are known to the asylums and to the criminal courts of all 
civilised nations ; assassins on hire have often been notoriously 
obtainable. To slay in cold blood by violence, or even by 
poison, seems, however, less revolting than to slay by sorcery 
and obscene rites. But the fascination of this employment 
may be further understood by considering the attraction 
that secret power and the proof of their own cunning has for 
many people. To slay is sweet; but the ancient hunter 
depended more upon strategy than upon the frontal attack; 
and no strategy is so secret or needs so much skill as the Black 
Art. Finally, if sorcery is persecuted, it excites the centra- 
suggestibility which in some neurotics becomes a passion 
capable of supporting them at the stake. Hence the male- 
volent wizard may feel a vocation, may believe in his own 
powers ; and, of course, he will be confirmed in his belief by 
the fear excited wherever his reputation spreads. If you 
put yourself in his place whilst practising some unholy rite, 
you may become aware that the secrecy, the cunning, the 

1 Decline and Fall, ch. xvii discussing the character of Julian. 


danger, the villainy and the elation of it exert a peculiar 
fascination, and that this is enhanced by foul and 
horrible usages, such as appeal to the perverted appetites 
of insanity. 

(b) The deceit employed by a wizard in conjuring, ventrilo- 
quising, dressing up, keeping a 4 ' familiar," choosing favour- 
able opportunities for his seance and inciting himself to 
frenzy, seems incompatible with sincerity; but whilst he 
knows such proceedings to be artifices, he also knows them 
to be necessary to the effect which he produces. For that 
effect, so far as it depends upon wizardly practices, not on 
such means as massage, or poisons, or drugs, is always sub- 
jective an influence on other men's belief. Are we not 
demanding of him greater discrimination than he is likely 
to enjoy, if we expect him to see the hollowness of his pro- 
fession, because some of the means by which he operates 
are not what his clients suppose them to be ? If it be said 
that the wizard's stock excuses for failure that there has 
been a mistake in the rites, or that another wizard has counter- 
acted his efforts are those of a man who has anticipated 
detection in fraud and prepared a way of escape, it may be 
replied that, according to accepted tenets concerning wizardry, 
these excuses are reasonable and not necessarily subterfuges. 

The professional attitude may induce a man to exonerate 
himself and his colleagues in certain dubious dealings, for 
the sake of the public utility of their office on the whole; 
which is so manifest to him and to them, and is also acknow- 
ledged by the public. For a wizard's belief in his art is 
supported by the testimony of other wizards, in whom he 
also believes, and by the belief of the tribe generally in the 
power of the profession, even though he himself be not 
greatly esteemed. " Who am I," he will ask, " that I should 
have a conscience of my own ? " And if this attitude is 
inconsistent with keen intelligence and megalomania, such 
inconsistency is not inconsistent with our experience of human 

(c) The effects produced by charms, spells and rites, simple 
or to the last degree elaborate, purely magical or reinforced 
by spirits, are always subjective, but are believed to have a 



much wider range. The wizard seems to make the sun rise 
when he summons it just in time every morning; to cause 
clouds to gather in the sky when he invokes them just before 
the rainy season; and so on. Such performances convince 
others, but seem to us poor evidence for any one who is in 
the secret. He is not, however, left without further evidence 
of three kinds : 

(i) From the effects of natural causes that form part of his 
professional resources. Some of a wizard's practices are really 
good ; e. g. in curing the sick he may employ massage, or 
sweat-baths, or skilful surgery, or medicinal drugs, or sug- 
gestion, and thereby succeed without any Magic; whilst he 
is incapable of clearly distinguishing these means from useless 
rites and incantations. He does not understand intimately 
why any method is efficacious, and therefore cannot under- 
stand the limits of his power. His whole art is empirical. 
Even in modern science explanation always ends sooner or 
later (and often pretty soon) in pointing to some connexion 
of phenomena which we are obliged to accept as a fact : 
the wizard is always brought to this pass at the first step. 
He has no generally acknowledged public standard of what 
may possibly happen : it is only in the mind of a natural 
positivist that a standard of common sense grows up by 
experience without explicit generalisation ; and this standard 
is incommunicable. Hence the wizard is always trying 
experimentally to extend his power of course on the model 
of his traditionary art ; always desiring power, and believing 
that he has obtained, because he desires it. 

(ii) The wizard's arts are justified by the action of natural 
causes set in motion by his clients. He prepares the hunter 
and his weapons for an expedition ; the hunter does his best, 
and his success swells the reputation of the wizard. Similarly 
in agriculture, and in war. And in all these cases nothing is 
really due to the wizard, except the greater confidence his 
clients derive from his ministrations : the hunter's hand is 
steadier; the sower and the reaper work more cheerfully; 
and the warrior fights more courageously in the belief that his 
enemies are surely devoted to the infernal gods. But the 
wizard, with general acquiescence, claims far more than this, 


and rises in his own esteem as well as in the esteem of his 

(iii) The persevering wizard is often aided by coincidences. 
An Australian squatter at Morton's Plains, after a drought, 
promised a native rain-maker half a bullock, a bag of flour 
and some tea, if he would fill his new tank for him before 
the morrow night. The rain-maker set his rites and spells 
to work, filled the tank and got the reward. 1 Whilst Messrs. 
Spencer and Gillen were with the Urabunna tribe, " the 
leading rain-maker performed a ceremony and within two 
days there was a downpour possibly connected with the 
fact that it was the usual time for rain to fall in that part 
of the country." The reputation of the rain-maker was 
firmly established, and, no doubt, his self-confidence. The 
Australian wizard already mentioned, who thought that his 
Magic had entered his own head, claimed to have driven 
away a comet by means of his magic stones. Certainly the 
comet disappeared, and what other cause could any one point 
out? " At one time the gusts were very unpleasant and one 
of the men told a wind-man to make it stop. Accordingly 
he shouted out to the wind, and in a minute there was a lull ; 
and no one doubted that this was due to the power of the 
wind -man." 2 Many similar cases might be given. 3 Striking 
coincidences are not very rare : there is an illogical prejudice 
that they are rare because they excite wonder. Moreover, as 
I have observed, so remote a resemblance to the event 
shamanised or prophesied may be regarded as a fulfilment, 
that fulfilment is not uncommon. In the interpretation of 
omens, where there is only the alternative of good or ill 
success, half the guesses must be right; and by the glozing 
of doubtful cases, more than half will seem to be right. And 

1 Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 398. 

2 Across Australia, pp. 14, 326, 366. 

3 See Haddon, Reports of the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits, 
VI. p. 210; Stefanson, My Life with the Esquimo, p. 88; Murdoch, 
Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition, in Ninth Ann. 
Report of Am. Bureau of Eth. t p. 431 ; Frazer, Psyche's Task, p. 55; 
Risley, The People of India, p. 77 ; Langloh Parker, The EuaMayi 
Tribe, pp. 48, 49, 82, 90; Dudley Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 116; 
E. Casalis, Les Bassoutos (2nd ed.), pp. 302-3; W. E. Roth, Ethnological 
Studies in North- West Central Queensland, p. 154. 


as for the effect of coincidence, Mr. Basil Thompson says, 
* 4 Tongans never admit coincidences " 1 that is to say, in 
our sense of the word : for them, in what we call coincidence, 
there must be causation; and this seems to be generally 
true of the untutored mind. Among the Churaches, the 
profession of shaman is generally hereditary; but a man 
may become a shaman against his will. It is enough " to 
make a lucky guess as to the issue of some event, and people 
flock to him for advice from all parts." 2 How many failures 
are necessary to discredit one lucky guess? 

These three kinds of evidence in favour of the wizard's 
power natural causes set in motion by himself, natural 
causes introduced by his clients, and sheer favourable coinci- 
dences have so much the air of perceptual proof, or of an 
appeal to common sense, that the savage positivist who is 
able to resist them must have a more solid judgment than 
most of our educated civilised people. Judgment is an 
innate individual character, on which education has little 
effect, except in the special department of a man's training. 
A scientific expert, for example, may be an excellent judge of 
evidence in his own pursuit, and elsewhere quite helpless; 
for where he is strong it is not a set of rules but the mass of 
his special experience that guides him. That out of the mass 
of general experience, so disorderly and fragmentary as it is, 
some minds should have the power of extracting common 
sense, in spite of the misrepresentations of Magic and Animism, 
is very remarkable, and very fortunate for the rest of us. 

That the three kinds of evidence which serve so well to con- 
firm belief in wizardry are all of them as to the connexion 
between a wizard's rites or spells and the event entirely 
coincidental, gives some support to the hypothesis that 
coincidences are the foundation of the belief in Magic. 

Bearing in mind, then, that a wizard's practices sometimes 
include real causes, and that his shallow knowledge disables 
him for discriminating between causation and hocus-pocus; 
that Magic or Sorcery is generally believed in by those about 

1 Diversions of a Prime Minister, p. 245. 

2 "Shamanism," Journal of the Anthropological Institute, XXIV. 
p. 154. 


him, who seek his aid, or the aid of others of his class; that 
both they and he earnestly desire that his pretensions should 
be well founded ; that he produces striking subjective effects ; 
that in such cases his artifices are a condition of his success, 
and that a good many coincidences, complete or partial, 
seem to prove that his art has further extraordinary influence 
upon men and nature it is no wonder that some wizards 
are deluded along with their dupes, especially neurotic 
enthusiasts or men of an imaginative and histrionic 

To explain the possibility of some men being sincere in 
witchcraft is not to palliate the profession, much less the 
anti-social practices of witchcraft. For the most part those 
practices are deceitful. They are not the invention of savage 
society ; society invents nothing ; only the individual invents. 
They are the invention and tradition of wizards, who keep 
the secret so far as it is to their advantage : of wizards 
growing more and more professional, and trading upon the 
fears and hopes, the anxiety and credulity of their fellows. 
The spirit of superstition is common to the tribe, but its pro- 
fessional exploitation is the work of those who profit by it. 

Observing with satisfaction that, even amongst savages, 
the positive mind can sometimes free itself from popular 
superstitions and penetrate the disguise of mystery-mongers, 
one asks why Nature could not produce whole tribes of men 
so minded, and spare the folly and horror and iniquity which 
take up so much space in the retrospect of human life. 
Because common sense is only related to actual experience, 
and could not appreciate the necessity of government and 
social co-ordination as the condition of all improvement in 
human life, until it already existed. Such co-ordination had. 
therefore, to grow up without being understood; and it did 
grow up under the protection of certain beliefs that induced 
the tribes of men to hold together and subordinate themselves 
to leaders : amongst which beliefs the superstitions exploited 
by wizards had no small part. 



OF very much less importance in the history of culture 
than Animism or Magic, Totemism interests us by its strange- 
ness. To be descended from a crocodile, or blood-brother 
to the crow, or " the same as a kangaroo " must be, we think, 
the grotesque notion of a lunatic. We never meet people who 
believe such a thing ; it has no stronghold in our own breasts. 
So much the more surprising that it should, nevertheless, be 
widely entertained. It is, indeed, far from universal among 
mankind, probably much less ancient than Animism and 
certainly far less enduring. Where it has prevailed it is 
sometimes quite forgotten ; and in the higher stages of human 
development it has no influence. But every student of early 
institutions finds it necessary to give himself some intelligible 
account of its nature and sources. 

" A Totem," says Sir James Frazer, " is a class of material 
objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, 
believing that there exists between him and every member of 
the class an intimate and altogether special relation." l 

1 Totemism and Exogamy, I. p. 3. The definition occurs in a 
reprint of an earlier essay. A later definition (IV. p. 3) runs : 
" Totemism is an intimate relation which is supposed to exist between 
a group of kindred people on the one side and a species of natural 01* 
artificial objects on the other side, which objects are called the totems 
of the human group." The relation appears to be one of friendship 
and kinship, on a footing of equality, not religious in Australia. I 
have, in this chapter, drawn freely upon the great mass of facts and 
speculations collected in Totemism and Exogamy; believing that in 
that work the author not only intended to present the evidence for his 
own conclusions, but had also the benevolent purpose of assisting the 
labours of those who might come after him. A heavy debt of grati- 
tude is due; which, indeed, causes some embarrassment if ever one 
feels obliged to differ from him in opinion. 



This definition is scientifically drawn so as to include what is 
common to all Totems and not to include any character that 
is not universally connected with them. It is true of the 
Totems of individuals (or guardian genii), very common among 
the Northern Amerinds ; as well as of the Sex-Totems (say 
Bat for men and Owl for women) which occur in Australia ; 
and of the Totems of clans found in many parts of the world, 
of which the Australian may be supposed most nearly to 
represent the original institution. When one speaks of 
Totems without qualification, one means these Clan-Totems, 
being incomparably the most important : others probably 
derive from them. 

" The Clan-Totem " (to quote the same source) " is rever- 
enced by a body of men and women who call themselves by 
the name of the Totem, believe themselves to be of one blood, 
descendants of a common ancestor, and are bound together 
by common obligations to each other and by a common faith 
in the Totem." x This definition is also strict : whereas it is 
not uncommon for writers on Totemism to include in their 
notion of the Totem other characters which are accidents more 
or less often associated with it : as that the clan believes 
itself descended from the Totem ; though in many cases the 
clan traces its origin to something that was neither Totem 
nor man, or regards the Totem animal as descended from 
their own human ancestress, or tells some story of the trans- 
formation of a man into an animal, or of an animal into a man, 
or of an ancestor's friendship with the Totem animal ; for the 
institution is a copious source of explanatory myths. Again, 
it may be written that no member of a clan may kill or injure 
the Totem, or eat, or utilise it (if an animal or plant); and 
this is often, but not always true. If the Totem is water, 
or the most important food in the district dugong, turtle, 
coconut, sago abstention is impossible or intolerably in- 
convenient. Hence among the Kaitish a Water clansman 
when alone may drink; but if others are with him he may 
drink only when water is given him by a man of another 

1 Totemism and Exogamy, I. p. 4; cf. IV. pp. 3, 4. Perhaps 
the author no longer approves of the word " reverenced." Totem 
and clan are rather on a footing of equality. 


Totem. And to eat a little of the Totem sacramentally, in 
order to confirm one's identity with it, may be allowed or 
(rather) required. Among the Warramunga the Snake clan 
may kill snakes. It may even be the clan's duty to destroy 
or drive away their Totem; as happens with the Mosquito 
clan of the Kakadus in North Australia, and with the Reptile 
clan amongst the Omahas. Similarly, the clan sometimes, 
but by no means always, imitate the Totem in character, 
in costume, in dances, or bear in tattoo or otherwise its badge 
to manifest the community of nature. They may be thought 
to have special magical powers to influence its fertility or to 
control its actions (actions of game or wind or rain), and may 
use these powers for the benefit of the tribe. At death the 
soul of a clansman may pass into, or may appear as, the 
Totem animal. The Totem may be the protector of its 
clansmen, and in some cases it seems to have become a god. 
These accidents of Totemism, however, are very irregularly 
diffused and some of them are rare. 

Most important socially is the connexion between Totemism 
and Marriage-customs. In the great majority of cases, men 
and women of the same Totem may not intermarry; the 
Totem clans are said to be exogamous ; but there are excep- 
tions even to this rule. In many parts of the world America, 
Africa, India, Indonesia, as well as Australia tribes are 
divided into non-intermarrying or exogamous classes (moieties 
or phratries) ; sometimes the classes are subdivided, and even 
the sub-classes again (in parts of Australia), so that in all the 
exogamous classes are eight ; and the rules concerning these 
classes are such as to prevent the marriage of brothers and 
sisters, parents and children and first cousins. The Totem 
clans are usually distributed amongst the Marriage-classes; 
being probably the older institution (whether or not originally 
exogamous), they may be said to have been subordinated 
by the formation of the classes ; and in the matter of marriage 
they follow the class rules. But the Arunta with some neigh- 
bouring tribes of Central Australia, though divided into eight 
exogamous classes, have not subordinated the Totem clans; 
which, accordingly, are not exogamous. If Exogamy was 
originally the vital utility of Totemism, the institution is 


undermined by the Marriage-classes, whether the clans are 
subordinated to the classes and merely repeat their rules, 
or are not subordinated and lose their Exogamy. This may 
explain why the classes prevail more widely than Totems, 
and may be found where Totemism seems to have become 


It has already been said that Totemism does not prevail 
universally amongst mankind. There is very little evidence 
of its having existed amongst the ancestors of the Indo- 
European peoples; and it seems to be unknown to many of 
the most primitive of surviving tribes the Boschmans, 
Veddas, Puranas (Borneo), Andamanese, Yaghans (Tierra 
del Fuego) and Californian Indians. It is not, therefore, 
something founded in human nature itself, but must have 
originated (whether in one or in several places) under par- 
ticular conditions. 

There is some probability that the earliest Totems were 
animals. Wherever Totems are found most of them are 
animals. A list of Totems recognised in North Australia, 
given by Spencer and Gillen, 1 comprises 202 altogether : 
Animals 164, 2 Plants 22, Inanimate 16. The animals (except 
insects) and plants are nearly all edible. To hunters animals 
must have been of all things the most interesting; next, 
certain plants, especially to women. Animals lend the greatest 
plausibility to any notion of blood-relationship. The 
inanimate Totems include some which it is very desirable to 
control by Magic, such as Water, Wind, Fire, Sun, Moon and 
the Boomerang. 

Generally, no doubt, Totemism is ancient; but in some 
cases the existing Totems must be recent, as among the 
Bahima of Uganda. 3 Nearly all their Totems are different 
coloured cows, or some part of a cow, and must have been 
adopted since the advance to pastoral life at a stage of 

1 Northern Tribes of Central Australia, App. B. 

2 The animals are : Human 2, other Mammalia 31, Birds 46, Reptiles 
51, Amphibia 1, Fishes 8, Insects 24, Mollusca 1. 

3 Totemism and Exogamy, II. p. 535. 


culture, therefore, much above the Australian. " Split 
Totems," arising on the division of a clan by dividing its 
Totem (as the Omahas comprised Buffalo-heads, Buffalo-tails, 
etc. 1 ), were probably formed by deliberate agreement, and 
had the incidental advantage that a clansman's food- taboo 
did not extend to the whole buffalo, the staple food of the 
tribe, but only to the head or tail. 

Amongst the Australian aborigines, the group of beliefs 
and practices included in, or connected with, Totemism are of 
such intense and widespread social importance, that it must 
have prevailed amongst them for many generations. The 
northern Amerinds are so much in advance of the Australians 
in social organisation, culture and mentality, that if their 
Totemism has descended to them from a time when they lived 
at the Australian level, its history must go back not merely 
for many generations but for thousands of years. And if 
Egyptian gods, such as Hathor and Anubis, were formerly 
Totems, the retrospect becomes still longer. I am not aware 
of any direct evidence of the prehistoric existence of Totemism, 
such as we have, in some ancient burials, of the existence 
of Animism ; but some palaeolithic carvings or paintings may 
have had totemic significance. 

It follows that any account of the origin of Totemism can 
only be hypothetical. Were this all, indeed, it would be 
on the same foot with Magic and Animism ; but it is not all. 
That Magic should arise from belief in mysterious forces and 
from confusing coincidence with causation, or that Animism 
should result from a confusion between dreams and objective 
experience (with the help of Magic-ideas) is highly probable ; 
because such errors are active to this day, and they seem to 
spring up in primitive minds by psychological necessity; 
though it may not be intrinsically necessary that the errors 
should be perpetuated and systematised as, in general, they 
have been. But the case of Totemism is different ; for we do 
not see at least, no one has yet shown any sort of necessity 
why in certain cases clans should have borne the names of 
certain animals : and this is the root of the whole matter. 
Indeed, this practice, not being universal, cannot be necessary ; 
1 Totemism and Exogamy, III. pp. 90-100. 


and it may have had several different origins. Any relevant 
hypothesis, therefore, can claim no more than to agree with the 
known facts better than rival hypotheses ; we cannot expect 
to deduce it from laws of human nature ; whilst still another 
hypothesis just as good may any day be put forward by some 
speculative genius; and the doubt must always remain 
whether some important facts of Totemism have not been 
lost which, could they be recovered, would prove all our 
guesses to have been made in vain. 

In spite of these discouraging considerations, several 
hypotheses have been proposed : this also is for us a sort 
of psychological necessity. They may be grouped into two 
classes, according as they assume the totemic names to have 
been originally names of individuals or of whole clans. All 
seem to assume that one explanation must hold good for all 
the cases. 

Of hypotheses that trace totemic names to individuals 
there is, first, Spencer's; namely, that the name of an animal 
or plant was first given to an individual, and then inherited 
by his family; who after a time forgot his personality, 
remembered only their descent from such a name, and 
assumed that their ancestor must have been an animal or 
plant such as still bore that name. Secondly, there is the 
explanation offered by Prof. Franz Boas, that the first Totems 
were guardian spirits of individuals, and that these became 
Clan-Totems of their descendants. For this account it may be 
said that among the Northern Amerinds the belief in guardian 
spirits of individuals (generally some animal) is universally 
diffused, and perhaps of greater importance than the Clan- 
Totems, seeing that these are subordinate to the Marriage- 
classes : moreover, the Totems are rarely, if ever, believed 
to have been ancestors. On the other hand, in Australia, 
guardian spirits of individuals are rare, whilst Totemism is 
universal. So that, if we suppose only one origin of the 
institution, it is more reasonable to view the guardian spirit 
as derived from the Clan-Totem. In Borneo we find the 
guardian spirit with some traits similar to the American, but 
much less generally, whilst there is now no plainly marked 
Totemism : but there are several beliefs akin to those of 


Totemism which may be marks of its former existence ; and, 
if so, the guardian spirit may also be one of its relics. 1 Thirdly, 
Frazer's hypothesis, that Totems originated in the fancies 
of pregnant women, who, ignorant of physiological causes, 
supposed that that which stirred within them must be some 
animal or plant that had entered them ; so that the child when 
born could be no other than that animal or plant. 

Of hypotheses which regard totemic names as from the 
first names of groups we have, first, Max Miiller's, that they 
originated with clan marks. 2 But in Australia clan marks 
are not often to be found. Secondly, Professor F. B. Jevons', 
that the Totem was originally some animal adopted by the 
tribe as a friendly natural power, aiding them in the struggle 
for existence. 3 But, if so, this character seems to have been 
lost, or greatly attenuated in Australia, and in America 
belongs to the guardian spirit rather than to the Totem. 
Thirdly, Dr. Haddon's, that the Totem name was derived 
by a group from the animal or plant which was its principal 
food; but cases to support this suggestion are very few. 
Fourthly, Andrew Lang's, that group names were obtained in 
some way perhaps imposed upon each group by others, and 
accepted ; and that names of animals or plants having been 
obtained in any way, and the origin forgotten, just such beliefs 
concerning the relation of the group to its namesake would 
be likely to arise, as in fact we find amongst Totemists. 4 

For want of space to discuss all these doctrines I shall 
deal chiefly with those of Frazer and Lang. 


Sir J. G. Frazer, after very candidly relinquishing two early 
suggestions by no means fanciful concerning the origin 
of Totemism, as unsupported by sufficient evidence, has put 
forward a third " conceptional Totemism " which occurred 
to him upon the discovery by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen of the 
doctrine of totemic descent prevalent amongst the Arunta 

1 Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes of Borneo, II. pp. 96-110. 

2 Contributions to the Science of Mythology, I. p. 201. 

3 Introduction to the History of Religion, p. 101. 

4 Secret of the Totem and Social Origins. 


and allied tribes. These tribes are said not to be aware of 
the connexion between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. 
They say that a child is the result of the entry into a woman of 
the spirit of some pre-existing tribesman of this or that Totem ; 
which, therefore, will also be the child's. What Totem it is 
depends upon the place where the woman first becomes aware 
of quickening; for there are certain places known to the 
natives where the people of such or such a Totem " went into 
the ground " [perhaps were buried] ; and in passing such a 
place any woman is liable to be impregnated by one of the 
discarnate spirits; who are always on the look-out for an 
opportunity to re-enter the mortal state. This is the real 
cause of pregnancy, for which marriage is merely a prepara- 
tion. 1 A young woman who does not desire the dignity of a 
matron, when passing such haunted ground, runs crouching 
by, and cries out that she is an old woman; for facility in 
being deceived is a saving grace of spirits. In modified forms 
this doctrine of " no paternity and re-incarnation " is professed 
by tribes throughout the centre and north of the continent, 
in Queensland and in parts of West Australia. 2 

The Arunta doctrine of conception by animal or plant 
spirits cannot, however, be the origin of Totemism ; because, 
as Sir James Frazer points out, the impregnating spirits are 
already totemic. One must, therefore, suppose (he says) 
an earlier state of things, in which a woman, ignorant of the 
true causes of childbirth, imagined at the first symptoms of 
pregnancy (by which the quickening seems to be meant) that 
she had been entered by some object, or by the spirit of some 
object, which had been engaging her attention at the time, 
or which she may have been eating a wallaby, emu, plum 
or grass-seed and later believed that the child she bare must 
be, or be an incarnation of, that object or spirit, and in fact 
nothing else than a wallaby, emu, plum or grass-seed with the 
appearance of a human being. If other women had similar 
experiences in connexion with other animals or plants, and 
if the descendants of their children remembered the stories, 
and considered themselves to be wallabies, grass-seed and 

1 Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 330. 

2 Native Tribes of Northern Territory of Australia, p. 263. 


so forth, the hypothesis would fully explain that identification 
of groups of men with groups of things which is characteristic 
of Totemism; and the other characters naturally follow. 
Such is the concept ional theory of Totemism, deriving that 
institution from " the sick fancies of pregnant women." l 

Circumstances, which Sir James Frazer regards as very 
similar to those which he imagined as having prevailed at 
some former time amongst the Arunta, have been discovered 
by Dr. Rivers at Mota and Motlar in the Banks Islands. 
There many people are " by the custom of, the island" not 
permitted to eat certain animals or fruits or even to touch 
certain trees ; because they are believed to be those animals 
or plants- their mothers having suffered some influence 
from such animals or plants at conception or at some subse- 
quent period of pregnancy. " The course of events is usually 
as follows : a woman, sitting down in her garden, or in the 
bush, or on the shore, finds an animal or fruit in her loin-cloth. 
She takes it up and carries it to the village, where she asks 
the meaning of the appearance. The people say that she 
will give birth to a child who will have the characters of 
this animal, or even (it appeared) would be himself or herself 
that animal." 2 She takes it to its proper home, tries to keep 
it, and feeds it ; but after a time it will disappear, and is then 
believed to have entered into her. There is no belief in physical 
impregnation by the animal, nor of its invading the woman 
as a physical object ; such an animal seems to be considered 
as " more or less supernatural, a spirit -animal, from the be- 
ginning." " The belief is not accompanied by any ignorance 
of the physical role of the human father." Apparently the 
prohibition against eating animals or plants thus connected 
with oneself rests on the idea that it would amount to eating 
oneself a sort of cannibalism. One partakes of its physical 
and mental characters. But the resemblance to, and the 
taboo on eating, a certain animal are individual matters; 
there is no belief in their being passed on to one's descendants. 
In this alone the belief at Mota falls short of Totemism. 
" Yet it occurs in a people whose social system has no totemic 

1 Totemism and Exogamy, IV. pp. 57-63. 

2 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1909, p. 173. 


features at the present time, whatever it may have had in 
the past." * Possibly former Totem-clans have been merged 
in secret societies, but there is no clear evidence of it. In 
Melanesia, Totemism occurs in Fiji, Shortland Islands, Bis- 
marck Archipelago (probably), Reef Islands, Santa Cruz, 
Vanikolo and in some regions of the Solomon Islands, but 
not in the Banks Islands nor in the Torres Islands to the 

This hypothesis that Totemism is derived from the fancies 
of women concerning the causes of their own pregnancy 
suggests several adverse considerations. In the first place, 
it is to me incredible that the Arunta are really ignorant of 
paternity; young women and children perhaps may be, but 
not the seniors. My reasons for thinking so are set out at 
length in the J.R.A.I., 1819 (p. 146), namely, that the facts 
of childbirth are too interesting to be overlooked or miscon- 
strued, and are well within the grasp of savage understanding ; 
that those who think the Arunta capable of such stupidity 
have attended too exclusively to particular incidents of preg- 
nancy, especially the quickening, and have not considered 
that there is a definite series of closely connected incidents; 
that there is testimony, not to be lightly put aside, that the 
old men know the truth in the case of human beings, and that 
knowledge of the parallel phenomena amongst animals is 
shared even by the Arunta children; that it is possible for 
knowledge to be repressed by dogma without being extin- 
guished; that this is an old man's dogma, and that we must 
not assume that in Australia, any more than in Europe, 
what people are accustomed to say is good evidence of what 
they really believe ; 2 that other tribes at the same level of 
culture, in South-East Australia, are so convinced of the 
importance of paternity that they say the child proceeds 

1 Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1909, p. 175. 

2 In the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain, a man applies the name 
of " mother " to his real mother and also to his maternal aunts, who 
accept the relationship and may assert : " We all three of us bore 
him " (Totemism and Exogamy, I. p. 305 note). Is this what they be- 
lieve, or what (following their system of class-nomenclature) they are 
accustomed to say ? 



entirely from the father; that those who deny paternity 
show by their customs and myths that they are secretly 
aware of it ; and, finally, that in some cases they have clear 
motives for maintaining the dogma and suppressing the truth. 
Secondly, the observations of Dr. Rivers in the Banks 
Islands give not the slightest support to the conceptional 
hypothesis. For (a) the Banks Islands belief " is not accom- 
panied by any ignorance of the physical role of the human 
father." (b) The belief is that the child born to a woman 
who has been visited by a plant or animal is in some way 
" influenced" by the experience; not, as with the Arunta, 
that it is entirely due to it (except for some " preparation " 
by the father), (c) Before the Banks Islands belief can give 
rise to Totemism there must be a belief in the continuous 
inheritance of the plant or animal influence ; and not only 
is this absent, but there is a strong tendency to prevent it. 
A woman having been influenced by an eel, her child is an 
eel ; but if that child be a girl, there is no further transmission 
of eel-like qualities; the girl, on becoming pregnant, may 
be influenced by a yam, and then her child will be a yam. 
This hinders the formation of a group of human beings 
mysteriously allied to an animal or plant, such as Totemism 
implies. But (d) the conceptional hypothesis refers the 
origin of Totemism to the ignorant imaginings of women 
themselves, who think they have been entered by this or 
that; whereas in the Banks Islands a woman's belief in 
the influence of an animal or plant upon her offspring is 
not prompted by her own fancy, but by a popular superstition. 
For when she carries the thing found in her loin-cloth to the 
village, " the people say " she will give birth to a child who 
will have the qualities of, or even will be that thing; and a 
child afterwards born may not eat or touch that thing " by 
the custom of the country." Had the Arunta, then, of 
pre-totemic days such a superstition and custom for the guid- 
ance of mothers ? If so, the history of that superstition and 
custom must be more obscure than Totemism itself. But in 
the Banks Islands their origin may admit of a wide solution ; 
for although it is said that no manifest traces of Totemism 
are to be found there now ; yet, seeing that the Australians, 


Papuans, Polynesians and the Melanesians to the north 
all have Totemism or plain vestiges of it, the improbability 
that Melanesians in the Banks Islands never had it is very 
great; and it is reasonable to suppose that the superstition 
concerning the influence of animals or plants upon pregnant 
women, and the taboo upon the eating of such an animal or 
plant by the offspring, represent not a possible origin of 
Totemism, but a survival of it. 

These considerations raise a further question as to the 
employment of the Comparative Method. Natives of the 
Banks Islands are far in advance of the Arunta in all the arts 
of life, as well as in relation to Totemism which they seem to 
have outlived. Is it admissible to take some trait of their 
life as an example of what may have existed amongst the 
Arunta at a stage of culture which is generally assumed to 
have been inferior even to the present? When the ante- 
cedents of an institution have been lost amongst any given 
people, and we set out to supply them from parallel cases 
amongst other peoples, must we not require the same relative 
order of development ? If a social phenomenon is found in 
the Banks Islands, its possibility is proved; but strictly it 
was possible only where it occurred : elsewhere we can expect 
only something similar, according to the similarity of other 
relevant circumstances. Comparing the Banks Islands and 
their people with Central Australia and its people, one dis- 
covers hardly anything common to them. And Arunta 
tradition (whatever worth) shows no sign of anything like the 
southern Melanesian culture : the Alcheringa ancestors are 
represented as having been already Totemists. To assume, 
however, that the former condition of the Arunta was even 
lower than the present, may not be justifiable : social degenera- 
tion is not uncommon. There would be something to guide 
our judgment if we knew how recently the desiccation of 
their country approached its present severity. But, in any 
case, can we suppose it to have been at all like the Melanesian ? 


In some very remote age to summarise Lang's statement 
at a level of culture inferior to that of existing Australians, 


distinctive names were acquired by small groups of mankind. 
Since a group needs names for other groups more than for 
itself (for itself it consists of " men " as contrasted with other 
kinds of animals), names may at first have been bestowed upon 
each group by some other, or others, in its neighbourhood 
probably names of animals or plants and accepted by each ; 
for no opprobrium attaches to such names. In Social Origins 
Lang offers evidence concerning names (even depreciatory and 
mocking names) having been conferred in this way and 
accepted; but in The Secret of the Totem, 1 he says that how 
groups got their names is not essential to his theory. They 
may have been given, or adopted, on account of a group's 
staple food (Haddon); or because of some animal or plant 
characteristic of a group's territory; or for some fancied 
resemblance of its members to some animal. The important 
point is that, from the first, they were names of groups not 
derived from the names of individuals. At the early period 
assumed for these events there was not a long enough memory 
of individuals to make their names traditionary ; and, indeed, 
the reckoning of descent in the female line (which Lang regards 
as universally the most ancient custom) must have prevented 
the inheritance of the names of male ancestors. 

Whatever may have occasioned the first fixing of names, 
with the flight of time the circumstances were forgotten ; and 
groups of men and women found themselves with names the 
names of animals or plants without knowing why. The 
bearing of a name in common with an animal or plant inevit- 
ably suggested to the savage a mysterious connexion with 
the species perhaps that they had the same sort of soul. It 
gave rise to an explanatory myth, and the analogy of family 
relationship suggested a blood-bond : the animal or plant must 
be one's ancestor, brother, or primal ancestral form. From 
this idea follows a regard for it, respect, reverence : it must 
not be killed, or eaten, or used in any way ; it may be pro- 
tected, may be helpful ; it is a Totem. 

The connexion of Totemism with Exogamy (the custom of 
marrying outside the group or kin) Lang conceives of in this 
way. Adopting a suggestion of Darwin's, 2 and the scheme of 

1 Page 125. 2 See above, ch. ii. 3. 



his cousin, J. J. Atkinson in Primal Law, that the primary 
human group consisted of a powerful male with one or more 
wives and their children, he argues that the jealousy of the 
head of this family imposed the rule " No male to touch the 
females in my camp." The sons, therefore, as they grew up, 
were driven out, and must find wives elsewhere. This was 
the beginning of Exogamy, and it may have preceded the 
rise of Totemism ; but Totemism, once established, strength- 
ened the custom of Exogamy by mysterious sanctions. As 
the Totem might not be eaten, or in any way used or touched, 
so a woman of the same Totem could not be married; and 
that not only within their immediate family-group, but not 
even by a male of any group having the same Totem. 

In maintaining this hypothesis against those who would 
derive Totems from the names and traditions of individuals, 
Lang seems to me to lay too much stress upon the difficulty 
of establishing a tradition of descent amongst people who 
trace descent (as he would say) " on the spindle side." If 
the tradition began from a woman (as it might do), there is 
no difficulty; and even if it began from a man, it is con- 
ceivable that his women-folk should adopt it. Moreover, in 
the opinion of both Westermarck and Frazer, it has not been 
shown that the reckoning of descent in the female line is 
original and universal. Still, the further we push back the 
origin of Totemism the more difficult it is to understand 
the growth of a tradition of the descent and inheritance of 
the name and personal qualities of an individual ; and this 
difficulty is avoided by an hypothesis which derives Totemism 
from the animal- or plant-names of groups of men and women. 
That such names were conferred upon each group by others 
in the neighbourhood is a reasonable conjecture ; 1 being the 

1 It is reasonable to suppose that a group named other groups to 
distinguish those around them, before needing to name itself. It 
follows that probably each group sometimes bore a different name 
when spoken of by each of several neighbours. How amidst such 
confusion could single names be fixed ? Perhaps because the group 
designated adopted one of them; or by the elimination of the other 
names through many causes in course of time, in generations, in 
hundreds of years. The march of progress was leisurely in those 


earliest names of groups they cannot be called nicknames ; and 
the names of animals or plants need in no way have been 
offensive. It is still more reasonable to urge that, having 
been adopted by a group, the circumstances of their acquisition 
would, in a few generations, be forgotten, and that they would 
then become the ground of myths and mysterious totemic 
beliefs. But does any one think that it will now ever be 
possible to decide with confidence where, when, how or why 
the names were given at first ? I do not. 

As to the origin of Exogamy, I cannot believe that the 
primitive human groups were such as Lang described ; and, if 
not, some other origin of that custom must be sought. 


Generally men and women of the same Totem cannot 
marry. Tribes, such as the Arunta, that do not observe 
this rule are so few that it is reasonable to consider them 
aberrant ; so that in each case the non-coincidence of Totem- 
ism and Exogamy is a distinct problem. 

Nevertheless, there is reason to think that these institu- 
tions have not the same origin. For several primitive tribes, 
some of them inferior in culture to the average Australian, 
have customs of Exogamy, or (at least) forbidding marriage 
between individuals of some certain description, who have 
not, and are not known ever to have recognised Totemism. 
Many tribes, again, who by their ethnological position may be 
supposed once to have entertained Totemism, have abandoned 
it, but still maintain Exogamy by means of Marriage-classes 
(phratries) or otherwise. Further, many nations of advanced 
culture cannot be shown ever to have been totemists, but 
have always (as far back as can be traced) enforced Exogamy 
so far as to prohibit marriage within certain degrees of kin- 
dred. And that the connexion between Totemism and 
Exogamy is not original but acquired, is indicated by the 
consideration that the most obvious tendency of Totemism 
would be to favour Endogamy (the practice of not marrying 
outside certain limits), on the obvious principle that as an 
animal kangaroo mates with an animal kangaroo, so a human 
kangaroo should marry a human kangaroo. This is so 


obvious that the opposite rule that a human kangaroo must 
not marry another one, but (zoological paradox !) only an emu 
or a witchety-grub, seems perverse, and only to be explained 
by the influence of some superstition or incidental custom. 
According to Arunta tradition, their ancestors in the 
Alcheringa were endogamous. 

Whether Exogamy originated in the days of the hunting- 
pack which is so far probable that the Boschmans observed 
it or during the reconstitution of society after the breaking 
up of the packs, or even later, or in some regions at one period, 
in others at another, is, I fear, beyond our power of verifiable 
guessing. The best hypothesis as to the grounds of the custom 
is Westermarck's, namely, that an instinct of mutual avoid- 
ance grew up between near kin. This requires that at the time 
of its origination promiscuity of sexual relations should not 
have prevailed in the human stock, since that would have 
destroyed the conditions necessary to the rise of such an 
instinct. If promiscuity was ever widely practised, it must 
have been after the breaking up of the hunting-packs. That 
at some stage of human life, and apparently with some 
Australian tribes not a remote one, promiscuity was estab- 
lished, has been argued (on the ground of some Australian 
customs) with much plausibility ; but in his History of Human 
Marriage, 1 Westermarck has examined this opinion very 
carefully, and concludes that it is not tenable. His reasoning 
seems to me good throughout ; and, having nothing important 
to add to it, I refer the reader to his work. 

Whether amongst anthropoids any instinctive avoidance 
prevails, preventing what we conceive of as incest, nobody 
knows. With their solitary families, the growth of such a 
disposition may be more difficult than amongst gregarious 
animals (such as our ancestors had become long before they 
could be called " human "), who find other families at hand 
to intermarry with; though the primitive human bands 
probably were not large. Savages now at the lowest level, 
such as the Veddas or Yaghans, rarely form parties of more 
than thirty or forty. The Boschmans, before their tribal 
habits were destroyed in the early years of last century, though 

1 Chs. iv., v., vi. 


sometimes assembling in large numbers for the great hunts by 
means of stockade traps, yet were usually scattered in groups 
of a few families. It is not likely that their remote fore- 
fathers consorted in larger numbers : eight or ten families 
may have been enough to co-operate in hunting, or in mutual 
defence. Within each family constituting such a band the 
tendency to Exogamy may first have manifested itself. 

Westermarck's hypothesis concerning Exogamy was first 
published in the History of Human Marriage,* and has been 
re-stated in The Origin and Development of Moral Ideas. 2 In 
the former work he fully discusses the evidence as to the effects 
of the inter-breeding of near kin, and concludes that it is 
probably injurious. The evidence is conflicting, but his 
conclusion seems to me justifiable. And he rightly points out 
that if, amongst civilised nations, the mischief of inbreeding 
is not always manifest, it was probably much greater amongst 
primitive savages : (1) because the blood of the stock was 
purer ; for in modern Europe (e. g.) every marriage brings 
together many different strains. (2) Because communities 
were then much smaller; so that under endogamous condi- 
tions whatever vice may beset inbreeding would, generation 
after generation, be perpetuated and exaggerated without 
relief. It may be added that with Endogamy the young folk 
are likely to begin to breed earlier perhaps by two or three 
years than they would with Exogamy ; and there is no doubt 
that the marriage of immature individuals is highly injurious 
to the race. 

But if inbreeding was injurious, Natural Selection favoured 
any family or band that practised Exogamy. That any should 
have done so on rational grounds, to avoid the observed evil 
effects of inbreeding, cannot be supposed. The motive must 
have been blind to the consequences, and may have taken the 
form of coldness toward those of opposite sex with whom one 
had grown up from infancy, or of aversion to the idea of 
marrying them. Such dispositions Natural Selection pre- 
served, and they have descended to ourselves; for such was 
the beginning of the abhorrence of incest. 

1 Chs. xiv., xv.. Prohibition of Marriage between Kindred. 

2 Ch. xl., Marriage. 


I conjecture that this feeling first showed itself within 
the family, and led the families of a band to exchange their 
daughters; and that later it extended to all members of the 
same band, anil that wives were then sought from other bands. 
Probably wives were obtained sometimes by capture or entice- 
ment, sometimes by exchange so far as amicable relations with 
neighbours prevailed : for the evidence is far from showing 
that "marriage by capture" was ever a general custom; 
whilst our knowledge of the Australians and Boschmans shows 
that neighbouring bands of savages are not always hostile. 

Such a state of things may have existed for ages before 
the rise of Totemism, and amongst races that never adopted 
Totemism. When names of animals were first given to, or 
adopted by, various groups, Totemism somewhere (perhaps in 
several places) resulted, as a belief in the magical or spiritual 
connexion between men and animals of the same name. But 
the bands that adopted Totemism were already exogamous, 
having an aversion to marriage with others of the same band ; 
and the practice of Exogamy was thus brought under the 
mysterious sanction of totemic ideas. It would then be 
further extended to bar marriage with those of the same Totem 
in other groups. 

Totemic sanctions may have been useful in confirming the 
Exogamy of some groups, but all superstitious aids to right 
conduct are liable to perverse issues, and at best they are 
second best. Totemism prevents consanguineous marriages, 
but also prevents marriage with thousands of people where no 
blood-relationship is traceable. If any races were able to 
perceive that the interest of Exogamy was the prevention of 
marriage between near kin, and then to keep account of kin- 
ship and govern themselves accordingly, they chose the better 

Some exceptions to the rule that Totem-clans are exogamous 
may, perhaps, be explained by supposing that certain bands 
had not adopted Exogamy when they became totemists may 
not this have happened amongst the Arunta ? and that they 
have since learnt Exogamy under other conditions from neigh- 
bouring people, or by conquest. Amongst the other possible 
conditions there are the remarkable Marriage-classes, or 


phratries that prevail in Australia, North America, and less 
regularly in other parts of the world. These Marriage-classes 
are considered by some ethnologists to be of deliberate 
institution a reform for the regulation of Exogamy; and 
Spencer and Gillen, who knew the Australians so intimately, 
thought such a law- though its intricacy astonishes most 
Europeans and stumbles many was not beyond their power 
of excogitation. Upon that point it would be absurd of me 
to have any opinion. But to suppose deliberate intention 
is contrary to the usual method of interpreting savage institu- 
tions : a savage language is a system of customs much more 
intricate and refined than the Marriage-classes, and not gener- 
ally believed to have originated with the deliberate enactment 
of rules of grammar. I conjecture that those classes resulted 
at first from a grouping of exogamous Totem-clans which grew 
up by custom, and that the only deliberate work consisted 
in some minor adjustments of clan-relations. Marriage of 
cousins is prevented in Central and North Australia by the 
recognition of eight sub-classes; but the same result is ob- 
tained in other tribes by a custom which merely forbids it. 
Exogamous classes having been established in some tribes, 
may have been imitated in others. 

One result of the classificatory marriage system, however 
it grew up, is the extended use of names of kinship to denote 
all individuals of the same or corresponding generation 
44 father" for all men who might by custom have married 
your mother; "brother" and "sister" for all men and 
women descended from those whom your father or mother 
might have married; " husband" or " wife" for any man 
or woman whom, according to custom, you might have mar- 
ried. When further progress has been made in culture, 
distinctive names are used to express blood-relationship and 
class-relationship. It may be worth considering whether, 
in Australia, some of the customs which have been supposed 
to bear witness to an original state of promiscuity are not 
really results of the classificatory system of naming relation- 
ship : marital rights having been claimed on the ground of 
the names " husband " and " wife" as used in that system. 



The relationship of Clansman to Totem may be conceived 
of as one of friendliness, protection, consanguinity, or even 
identity; and this last I take to be the case in the age when 
Totemism is most alive and powerful. But in what sense 
can a man be the same as an emu ? He may be of the same 
name; but by itself that would be nothing. It is not the 
name, but the identity which the name has come to signify 
that must be considered. Some light may be shed upon 
the problem by the saying of a native to Spencer and Gillen, 
pointing to a photograph of himself : " That one is just the 
same as me; so is a kangaroo." The photograph might be 
16 the same " as himself in the sense of resemblance; but in 
that sense the kangaroo is not the same. Some, indeed, who 
have speculated on the savage mind suppose that it is not 
only incapable of reasoning, but even of perceiving the facts 
before it, when under the influence of some strong belief; 
and I admit that this is sometimes true. But all a savage's 
actions in relation to his Totem show that he is aware of 
the difference : not least his efforts on certain occasions to 
help his imagination to establish identity by disguising 
himself and by imitating the actions of this strange other 
self, and by eating a little of it to insure physical identity 
at least to that extent. He also seeks to multiply it that 
others may eat their ration, and for any theory of his identity 
with the Totem, this must be a puzzle. 

But a photograph may be the same as oneself in another 
sense than mere superficial resemblance : it may, like a 
shadow or reflection, be (or contain) a man's soul, or part of 
it. And similarly a kangaroo or other Totem may be con- 
ceived to be the same as a man, that is, as having the same 
soul. Perhaps this is as near as we can get to the Australian's 
meaning in the above-quoted confession of faith. It is 
reconcilable with the ceremonial eating of some part of the 
Totem; for that will convey spiritual as well as physical 
properties : and to reconcile it with the multiplication of 
the Totem that others may eat, I point to the biological 
necessity that each clan's Totem should be food for the 


other tribesmen. Where all edible animals and plants are 
Totems, how else can they subsist? But we have several 
times seen that biological necessity will place limits to a 
belief, and that excuses can be found for necessary actions 
which are in conflict with a belief. That the clansmen give 
their own Totem to the tribe (since they cannot defend it) 
is an ingenious compromise. 

It is reported that amongst the Euahlayi tribe "occur 
personal Totems (or guardians, rare in Australia) called 
Yunbeai, possessed chiefly by wizards. A man may eat his 
hereditary Totem, but not his Yunbeai ; which in this privi- 
lege seems to have supplanted the Totem. His spirit is in 
the Yunbeai, and its spirit is in him. 1 They have, then, 
the same soul; and, although this belief is not strictly 
Totemism, it is probably derived from it. A clansman of 
the Yuin tribe (West Australia) had as his Totem the Black 
Duck, which warned him against enemies; and he related 
that once, whilst he slept, a Lace-Lizard man sent his Totem, 
which went down his throat and almost ate his Black Duck 
residing in his breast; so that he nearly died. 2 Were not 
his Black Duck and his soul the same? 

This hypothesis agrees very well with a belief that one's 
body and soul descend from the same ancestor as the Totem's ; 
and that at death one goes to, or becomes, the Totem ; and 
excuses the fiction that the quickening of a pregnant woman 
may be caused by the entry into her of the spirit of some 
totem -plant or animal. 

On the Gold Coast and elsewhere in West Africa, a man 
has more than one soul, it may be as many as four ; and one 
of them dwells with some animal in the bush : thence called 
his " bush-soul." Sir James Frazer's first hypothesis con- 
cerning Totemism was that it may have been derived from 
the notion of an external soul which may be deposited in 
anything (as thus in an animal in the bush) for safety. He 
now thinks the connexion of the " bush-soul " with Totemism 
uncertain. 3 If there has been any connexion, may it not 
be that the " bush-soul " is derived from Totemism, and 

1 Langloh Parker, The Euahlayi Tribe, p. 21. 

2 Totemism and Exogamy, I. p, 489. 3 Ibid., IV. p. 54. 


that every Totem is a sort of " bush-soul " that is, it has a 
soul which is the same (at least, of the same kind) as the 
clansman's ? 


The identity of a man with his name, as usually assumed 
by savages, whether his personal or his totemic name, is not 
itself a magical belief, but an inevitable result of mental 
association at a low level of intelligence : perhaps earlier 
than any notions that can properly be called magical. The 
name of a man, always thought of along with his other 
properties, seems to be as much one of them as a scar on his 
neck or any peculiar trait of visage or length of limb. This 
must be as old as naming. But such a complication of the 
name with other marks having been formed, it becomes 
the ground of magic beliefs and practices. To mention the 
name of a man or spirit insures his presence and participation 
in any rite, either acting or suffering; or where writing is 
known, his name on a piece of paper is as good as his nail- 
parings. The use of the name is not a mere animistic 
summons (which might be disobeyed), but an immediate 
instatement of the given individual. Such magic may 
enter into totemic observances. 

The descent of the clan from the Totem-animal, or of the 
animal from a forefather of the clan, or of both from a tertium 
quid, involves metamorphosis; and this, again, is not itself 
a magic idea; for real metamorphoses are common in the 
life of birds, amphibia, insects, and it would be unreasonable 
to expect savages to perceive clearly that these are not 
parallel cases. There is a difference, however, between 
transformations that may be observed, such as that of a 
chrysalis into a butterfly, and those that have never been 
observed, but are merely imagined and asserted. The latter 
are more mysterious, and mystery is one character of magic. 
For example, the Witchety-Grub clan among the Arunta 
have as their mate a bird, the chantunga, which they will 
not eat because, they say, of old some full-grown witchety- 
grubs were transformed into these birds. 1 This change has 
1 Totemism and Exogamy, I. p. 254. 


a magical character, though no magical agency is assigned. 
But if any attempt were made to explain how the great 
change took place, recourse might be had to powers of magic. 
Even when agency is assigned, it is not always magical. In 
the earliest Alcheringa the two Ungambikula (" out of 
nothing") saw in groups by the shore of the salt water a 
number of inapertwa, rudimentary men, mere roundish 
masses, without organs or means of feeding, and these they 
cut out into men with stone knives, therefore not by magic. 1 
But, again, a tribe on the Darling River (Wathi-wathi) have 
traditions concerning Bookoomuri who lived long ago, 
excelled in Magic, and transformed themselves into animals ; 
and here the magical power is asserted, though the manner 
of its operation is indefinite. But the Bear clan of the 
Tshimshians (British Columbia) explain their position by 
the story that once upon a time an Indian, whilst hunting, 
met a bear, which took him to its home, where he stayed 
two years. On returning to his village he looked like a bear ; 
but, having been rubbed with medical herbs, recovered 
human shape. 2 And here the magic is as explicit as in any 
recipe for a were-wolf , or that fallacious ointment with which 
Lucius achieved his memorable transformation. 

Nor, further, has the prohibition to slay, injure or eat 
the Totem in the first place any magical significance; for 
it merely puts the Totem in the position of a clansman. But 
the situation, being strange and mysterious, acquires a 
magical atmosphere; and the enforcement of the taboo by 
penalties is unmistakably magical. The Untmajera (North 
Central Australia) have a legend of a Beetle-Grub man of 
former times who ate beetle-grubs, and thereupon broke 
out in sores, wasted away and died. Or one's hair may 
turn grey; or, according to the Samoan belief (not strictly 
totemistic), the forbidden food may grow inside one into 
the whole animal or plant to the destruction of its host. 
Such beliefs, resting on the analogy of poisons and their 
physiological consequences, are magical imaginations : the 
taboo has the same character as a conditional curse. 

1 Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 388. 

2 Totemism and Exogamy, III. p. 13, 


Similarly, the prohibition of marriage within the Totem 
clan, if it originated (as I have supposed) with the fusion 
of Totemism and Exogamy in the customs of various early 
groups of men and women, is not based on Magic; but the 
penalties for breaking the taboo are magical. Thus amongst 
the Euahlayi and their neighbours men and women of the 
Iguana clan cannot intermarry, though coming from different 
parts of the country and without any traceable consanguinity ; 
because, if they did, their children, inasmuch as their ances- 
tors on both sides were the same animal, would " throw 
back " to the form or attributes of the iguana. 1 A grotesque 
anticipation of scientific ideas. 

But the most remarkable connexion between Totemism 
and Magic occurs in those rites by which clansmen in several 
parts of the world, but especially in Australia, believe them- 
selves able to influence their Totems : when these are edible, 
to multiply them; when noxious, to drive away or destroy 
them; or, as with the wind and rain, to control them for 
the general good. Spencer and Gillen 2 give astonishing 
descriptions of the rites of multiplication (or Intichiuma), 
carefully prepared and regulated, including disguisings of 
clansmen in the likeness of the Totems, drawings of the 
Totems on the ground, dances, incantations and ceremonies, 
sometimes representing traditional history by which the 
tribesmen discharge this function of theirs. They rely 
chiefly on mimetic (exemplary) Magic which, by drama- 
tising some natural process, brings it into real operation. 
In identifying themselves with the Totem, they exert their 
imaginations to the utmost, and to this end may eat a little 
of the Totem, at other times forbidden. This assumption 
that by eating a little of any animal, plant or human being, 
you become one with it, or acquire its qualities, or, further, 
that two men by eating together of the same food become 
allied (which is in a manner materially true, but absurdly 
interpreted), is another of those notions simpler than, and 
antecedent to, Magic, which provide a base for magical 

1 Langloh Parker, The Euahlayi, p. 22. 

2 Native Tribes of Central Australia, ch. vi.; Northern Tribes of 
Central Australia, ch. ix. 



operations. 1 These solemnities last for months, and are 
carried out with conscientious diligence and earnestness : 
the infatuation is profound and universal. Here, as at most 
of the higher stages of culture, we find the most intense 
emotions of which men are capable excited by participation 
in communal imaginative exercises that have directly, in 
relation to their expectations, absolutely no result. Indeed, 
pre- occupation with vain employments tends to exclude all 
ideas that might be useful, that might lead (e. g.) to the 
increasing of food by the cultivation of plants or domesti- 
cation of animals. Sir James Frazer has pointed out that 
a passage of the rites of the Grass-seed clan, in which grass- 
seeds are scattered about upon the ground, might have led 
to cultivation : but the mental state of the clan is unfavour- 
able to cool observation. As for animals, it is some excuse 
for the backwardness of Australian culture that the Mar- 
supialia do not comprise a single species that would repay 
domestication. Indirectly and undesignedly these perform- 
ances have very useful consequences : they annually 
restore the unity of the tribe assembled from all parts for 
the great occasion; promote mutual good- will and a spirit 
of co-operation, for which they afford the chief opportunity ; 
maintain the social organisation and the tradition of customs 
by increasing the influence of the Headmen, who have a 
leading part in everything that happens, and on whose 
authority all order and discipline depend; interrupt the 
monotony of savage life with variety of interests; stimulate 
ingenuity, and fill up the time, that might else be wasted in 
idleness or quarrelling, with artistic and dramatic recreation. 
Upon these rites for the multiplication and control of the 
Totems, Sir James Frazer based his second hypothesis 
concerning the origin of Totemism, namely, that it was a 
system of co-operation amongst sections of a savage tribe 
for the magical supply of food, etc. : the Emu clan multi- 
plying emus, the Kangaroo clan kangaroos, the Witchety- 

1 There is, however, another possible reason for the eating by the 
clan or by its Headman of some portion of the food which they profess 
to supply to the rest of the tribe namely, that it expresses a prior 
claim to some sort of proprietorship, which is then waived. 


Grub clan witchety-grubs, and so forth. 1 But he afterwards 
reflected that such a design was beyond the conception of 
savages. And, no doubt, as a plan thought out and de- 
liberately adopted as a whole, most ethnologists would 
consider it above the capacity of Australian aborigines. 
But if so though not more difficult than the invention of 
the Classificatory Marriage System it shows what complex 
arrangements, simulating design, may come into existence 
by the growth of custom ; for the clans certainly do co-operate 
in the magical supply of food. 

Whatever may have been the origin of Totemism the 
institution seems to have been utilised by some tribes in an 
ambitious attempt to control all nature by grouping (on 
very obscure principles, if on any) various classes of pheno- 
mena with the Totems, so that one clan or another is 
responsible for everything. Short of this, it is plainly neces- 
sary to control the wind, rain, hail and lightning. The 
control of an animal Totem is not always benevolent toward 
the animals themselves. In the Kakadu tribe it is the duty 
of the Mosquito clan to save the rest from mosquitoes; they 
make imitation mosquitoes, dance and sing, and imagine 
they are killing them. 2 In North America similar beliefs 
and practices have been found both for encouraging and for 
discouraging the Totem, but occasionally and irregularly. 
The Bird clan of the Omahas, when birds threatened the 
crops, prevented their devastations by chewing corn and 
spitting it about over the fields; when mosquitoes were 
troublesome, the Wind people flapped blankets to raise a 
wind and blow the pests away; when worms attacked the 
crops, the Reptile clan (worms and reptiles are confused 
in primitive Zoology) countermined their approaches by 
pounding up some of them with a little corn into a soup and 
eating it. 3 The most remarkable American rites for the 
increase of food the Buffalo-dances and Corn-festivals of 
the Mandans were not totemic, but carried out by the 
whole tribe. The buffalo hunting-dance to bring the herd 

1 Totemism and Exogamy, IV. pp. 55-7. 

2 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes North. Ter. Aust., p. 324. 

3 Totemism and Exogamy, III. pp. 104-5. 


within reach, was continued, if necessary, for weeks in 
fact until the animals came ; so that the Magic was always 


If the unity of clansmen with their Totem is very early 
conceived of as consisting in having the same, or the same 
sort of, soul, it is thenceforward essentially animistic. Yet 
this idea seems only very slowly to have led to any sense of 
dependence on the Totem as a spiritual power, or to any 
expectation that it would help or succour the clansmen, or 
(consequently) to the making of any appeal to it, except by 
magical coercion. Perhaps the earliest way in which the 
Totem was supposed to aid its clansmen was by omens; 
as a Black Duck man of the Yuin tribe (West Australia) 
thought that black ducks warned him against his enemies; 
but this is more characteristic of guardian spirits than of 
Clan-Totems. Occasionally in Australia we meet with 
something like a prayer to a Totem. On the Tully River 
(Queensland) we are told by Mr. W. E. Roth that before a 
man goes to sleep, or on waking in the morning, he utters in 
a low voice the name of the animal whose name he bears, 
or which belongs to his group; and that then, if edible, he 
will be successful in hunting it or, if dangerous, it will not 
hurt him without warning. 

Professor Durkheim has an elaborate theory of the growth 
of divinities from Totems in Australia, especially in the 
example of Bungil, the Eagle-Hawk, a great phratry name- 
animal in several tribes. 1 He is a persuasive writer, but 
perverse and ingenious. Bungil receives neither prayer nor 
sacrifice (these, indeed, in the author's view are not necessary 
to religion), and there is nothing to show that he differs from 
the other glorified Headmen who are found in Australia. 
The most plausible of these superior beings is Byamee of 
the Euahlayi, who is not a Totem, but the source of Totems, 
which are derived from different parts of his body. At 
funerals prayers are addressed to him for the souls of the 
dead ; and, again, at the close of the Boorah (initiation rites) 
1 The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, II. ch. ix. 


for long life, inasmuch as the tribesmen have kept his law. 1 
We are told that the nearest mission-station is a hundred 
miles off, and recently established; but on reading further 
that only those who have been initiated can go to Byamee's 
sky-camp, and that gross sinners are punished in the next 
life in Eleanbah Wundah, a place dark but for fires, 2 we 
cannot help reflecting that missionaries are not the only 
channels of sound doctrine. 

The most authentic example of the rise of a Totem to 
something like divine rank is the Wollunqua, the great snake 
of the Warramunga, which differs from other Totems in 
being not a real animal but a mythological monster. It is 
not approached with prayer or sacrifice ; but is the object of 
rites in part propitiatory, in part coercive, and is certainly 
regarded with superstitious awe much as a demon might 
be. To please the Wollunqua, the clan build a long mound 
and draw its representation upon it ; which, however, after- 
wards meets with " savage destruction." On approaching 
Thapanerlu, the sacred pool where it lives, they whispered to 
it "to remain quiet and do them no harm." 3 

On the whole, funeral ceremonies, in Australia, to provide 
the dead with necessaries, food, utensils, warmth even 
precautions against ghosts come nearer to religious ideas 
than anything connected with Totemism. Among the 
Jupagalk (Victoria) a person when in great pain would call 
on some dead friend to come and help him, to t visit him in a 
dream and teach a song against the evil magic that hurt 
him. 4 

In Yam Island (Torres Straits) there is a cult of two 
brothers, Maiou and Sigai, who are said to have come from 
Australia. They have shrines within a fence; women and 
uninitiated youths are not permitted to enter, and do not 
know that Maiou is the crocodile (Kodal), and Sigai the 
hammer-headed shark (Kursi) ; for they are always addressed 

1 Langloh Parker, The Euahlayi Tribe, pp. 458, 478, etc. In 
Eleanbah Wundah, they hold their right hands pressed against their 
sides, which A. Lang thought a remarkable image. It is, W. E. Roth 
tells us, gesture -language for sickness. (Ethnological Studies in North- 
West Central Queensland, p. 90.) 

2 The Euahlayi, pp. 4 to 8, and 78. 3 North. Ts. of C. Aust., p. 253. 
4 Howitt, Northern Tribes of Soufi-East Australia, p. 435. 


and spoken of by their names as heroes, and not by their 
animal or Totem names. The shrines contain effigies made 
of turtle-shell representing the animals; and under each 
effigy is a stone in which the life or spirit of the Totem-hero 
resides. The natives, in the north-west monsoon, danced 
and sang before them for fine weather ; and also on going to 
war, praying : " O Totem Sigai and Totem Maiou, both of 
you close the eyes of these men so that they cannot see us." l 
This is indisputably Religion; it is not, however, pure 
Totemism, but apparently a fusion of hero-worship with 
the Totemism of the heroes. Another hero of more recent 
date, Quoiam, is worshipped in the neighbouring island of 
Mabuaig. He came from North Queensland; and his house 
and cairn are still shown on a hill-top. His Totem was the 
shovel-nosed skate, but he has undergone no fusion with 
that animal. We may be inclined to infer that the hero can 
stand alone, whilst a Totem needs the alliance of a hero to 
anthropomorphise it. 

Such an inference is, on the whole, confirmed by the 
state of religion in Fiji. There, amongst the coastal 
tribes, Totemism is decadent and irregular; though even 
on the coast of Viti Levu there are deities with animal 
attributes, and especially with the power of changing 
into animals; and the animal connected with a god must 
not be eaten by people of the district where he is worshipped.* 
In the mountainous interior Totemism still flourishes, and 
animal-gods are worshipped which have been assumed to 
have originated in Totems. Dr. Rivers tells us 3 that he 
formerly assumed this, but is inclined to revise his opinion. 
The Fijian Snake-god Ndengei was, according to tradition, 
a man who came to the island from elsewhere ; probably he 
made a great impression and was apotheosised. His character 
as a Snake-god may be derived from the snake's having 
been his Totem. Probably god-like beings in Fiji were in 
many cases heroes, but a close relation with their Totem 
endued them with something of the animal nature. ' The 

1 Haddon, Reports of the Expedition to Torres Straits* V. pp. 37, 38. 

2 W. H. R. Rivers, J. A. I., 1909, p. 158. 
a J. A. /., 1909, p. 163. 



evolution would not be simply from Totem to god, but from 
hero and Totem together to god." 

Gods present in animals, sometimes in plants, were acknow- 
ledged in Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, Tonga; and, in fact, 
Polynesia is the region where, if anywhere, Totems con- 
tribute largely to the divine population. Rivers will not 
deny (loc. cit.) that direct evolution of gods from Totems 
may have taken place; but he points out that in Samoa, 
for example, the Octopus-god (Ole Fe'e) was, according to 
tradition, brought to the island by a Fijian chief. Was 
then the mollusc or the chief the root from which the god 
grew up ? In Savaii there were gods incarnate in men : one 
in an actual man who was a cannibal propitiated with human 
flesh; another, invisible to the people, though seen by 
strangers as a handsome young man wearing a girdle of leaves, 
was called the King of Fiji (Tuifiti). Other gods described 
by Turner 1 are Ole alii Fiti (chief of Fiji), who was manifest 
in an eel; and Tinalii (King of chiefs), who was associated 
with the sea-eel, octopus, mullet, and the ends of banana 
leaves. Fusion seems to have been common. 

It must not, of course, be assumed that all animal gods 
are Totems. Among the ways in which animal gods may have 
arisen we cannot deny some place to Spencer's hypothesis, 
that heroes have sometimes been worshipped as animals 
because they bore animal names; and, after their death, 
the eponymous animals, ever present to men's eyes, super- 
seded the heroes, and were connected with and transformed 
their legends. It is also conceivable that a hero has been 
worshipped in the form of an animal or plant, because he 
had announced that, after death, he would be in such an 
animal or plant ; for at Ulawa (Solomon Isles) bananas were 
butOy things that might not be eaten, approached or beheld 
(according to Dr. Coddrington 2 ), because an influential man 
had prohibited the eating of them, saying that, after death, 
he would be in the banana; and with so much influence 
he might, in favourable circumstances, have become a 

1 Samoa, chs. iv., v. ; especially pp. 28, 48, 62-3, 70, 75. Fiji had in 
some way deeply impressed the Samoan imagination. 

2 The Melanesians, p. 31. 



Banana -god. And, again, in Professor Westermarck's opinion, 
"the common prevalence of animal worship is, no doubt, 
due to the mysteriousness of the animal world; the most 
uncanny of all creatures, the serpent, is also the one most 
generally worshipped." 1 

But these considerations strengthen the probability that 
a Totem may sometimes become a god ; having the general 
respect of the clan to begin with. Some Totems having been 
deified with the assistance of heroes, others may perhaps be 
elevated by the force of analogy; or, once the conception 
of a spiritual being has been reached chiefly (as we suppose) 
by reflection on dreams and animals and even inanimate 
things have been thought to have spiritual doubles, if then 
the Totem is conceived to have a spirit, and even the same 
as the clansman's soul, if it is appealed to for assistance, if 
it sends omens, listens to prayer and accepts sacrifice, what 
is it but a god? 

In North America the Totem seems nowhere to have been 
worshipped; and any tendency that may have existed to 
propitiate it was diverted by the superior fascination of the 
personal guardian-genius, to which sometimes costly sacri- 
fices were made and even self -mutilations ; as among the 
Mandans, who often cut off a finger to secure its favour. 2 
On the other hand, a class of spirits was recognised in the 
" elder brother" of each species of animal (or of the most 
interesting species- bear, deer, snake, etc. all of the totemic 
class), a being (in the words of an early missionary, 1634) 
" who is as it were the principle and origin of all the indi- 
viduals," and "marvellously great and powerful": 3 it 
watches over the species and avenges its wrongs. In North- 
West America and throughout Siberia the Bear and the 
Raven are objects of religious reverence; not, indeed, as 
clan-totems, but for all men. Among the Gulf nations the 
Yuchis are Totemists, and a youth at his initiation is put 
under the care of his clan-totem, instead of a personal guardian- 
genius as among the northern tribes ; he looks for protection, 

1 Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, II. p. 590. 

2 Totemism and Exogamy, III. 

3 Quoted by Tylor, Primitive Culture, II. p. 244. 


however, not to the living animals of the Totem species, but 
to superior beings, like the 4t elder brothers " of the species. 1 
Similar to these must be the Beast-gods of the Zuni Indians, 
to whom they offer a portion of all game, praying that they 
will intercede for them with the Sun-Father. In South 
America, too, the Patagonians and Araucanians teach that 
each species of animal has a guardian spirit, who lives in a 
cave, and that the Indians themselves at death go to live 
with him. We can hardly doubt that in all these cases, the 
spirit-animals are in some way connected with totemic 
beliefs : if not gods, they are at least divine beings, and they 
exemplify a noble sort of mysticism that is natural to the 
Amerind imagination. 2 

Africa is the principal home of Zoolatry. The religion of 
the Bantu nations of South Africa is, indeed, ancestor- 
worship; and their serpent-cult seems to be an outgrowth 
of ancestor-worship (for they think that their dead return as 
serpents of various species according to rank); unless, 
indeed, it has been diverted to such a subordinate place 
from some more ancient superstition. In West Africa there 
are many Beast-gods, especially the leopard, hyena, croco- 
dile and python. They do not, however, give much indica- 
tion of totemic origin; and Sir James Frazer observes that, 
as the hereditary worship of animals in certain districts (as 
of the hyena at Accra) was not totemic, nor need similar 
practices have been so elsewhere. 3 Hence that the Egyptians 
worshipped certain animals, and that in the district of any 
animal's worship it was not killed or eaten, cannot prove that 
the worship was totemic, unless it be shown that Totemism 
is the only road to Zoolatry ; for, if there are other ways, any 
animal that becomes divine will, naturally, not be killed or 
eaten. On the other hand, that the Egyptians were not 
Exogamists does not prove they were not Totemists; since 
some known Totemists are not Exogamists. The natural 
impression of a student who merely comes amongst other 
things to Egyptian Religion is that Totemism was one of its 

1 Totemism and Exogamy, III. p. 311. 

2 On species-gods see Tylor's Primitive Culture, II. pp. 242-6. 

3 Totemism and Exogamy, II. p. 574. 


sources ; but it is a subject on which, more strictly than on 
most, only a few specialists can form a judgment. 

On the whole, the contribution of Totemism to religion 
seems to have been greatly exaggerated. Compared with the 
influence of dead heroes and ancestors, or with the personifi- 
cation of the greater manifestations of nature Sky, Sun, 
Thunder it has been ineffective, falling short of the pro- 
duction of high gods; or if, as in Polynesia, it seems some- 
times to have come near to that achievement, it may be 
suspected that its success owed much to an alliance with 



IT is not infrequently said that Science is derived from 
Magic, and the tenet is strengthened by eminent names ; nor 
is it displeasing to some bystanders whose attitude toward 
Science is one of imperfect sympathy ; but it seems to me to 
involve a misunderstanding of the matter. Magic and Science 
have, indeed, some common ground; for both are produj 
of our poor human mind, which is sorely pestered In explaining 
its experiences by the notion of "forces" that somehow 
bring about events, and which cannot get on at all without 
assuming uniformities of relation. Magic supposes constant 
connexions of events due to the agency, force, influence or 
virtue of charms, rites and spells ; which connexions, however, 
are found only to be tendencies of some events to excite 
others, inasmuch as they may be frustrated by counteracting 
charms, rites or spells. This reads like a caricature of scien- 
tific ideas. Not long ago, too, " forces" had a considerable 
vogue amongst scientists ; and such mysteries as " vital force " 
and " psychic force " are still to be met with. But it is plain 
that we never know more than that under certain conditions a 
change takes place ; and when we try to explain the change by 
analysing the conditions, we never find any " force" distinct 
from the collocation and motion of bodies or particles. " Force " 
may be technically and formally used in various propositions, 
but the idea never contributes anything to the explanation of 
events ; whilst the fact that with many people it seems to do 
so, often makes it a nuisance. That it seems to carry some 
explanation with it is due to the continuous influence of Magic 
which, though always the antithesis of Science, was yet for 



very many ages associated with Science. Magic is entirely 
constituted by notions of force, sometimes violent, as in 
the discharge of an enchanted spear; sometimes subtle, like 
the efficacy of an opal ; intangible, invisible, and operating 
at a distance through space and time, like a witch's spells 
that eclipse the sun or moon. These forces have only a 
one-sided relation to the workaday world; they meet with 
no resistance from what we take to be the " properties of 
matter," such as weight and impenetrability ; but are them- 
selves entirely exempt from natural law : what we call the 
" real world " has no hold upon them ; they live in a world of 
their own. They are absolutely immeasurable; and hence 
the causation, which is certainly implied in the notion of 
their operation, is indefinite, and becomes vaguer and vaguer 
as the magical system develops ; and all this is the opposite 
of what happens in the history of Science. In spite of having 
a necessary common ground in the human mind, Magic and 
Science are contrasted from the first, in their development 
grow wider and wider apart, in their methods and ideas more 
and more opposed. If either can be said to precede the 
other, it is Science (at least, in its earliest and crudest form) 
that precedes Magic. 

We had better begin, however, by considering a third 
something which is earlier than either of them, and which I 
have called Common-sense : I mean the accumulation of 
particular items of positive knowledge (which, as such, is 
the first form of Science) acquired by primitive man, and in 
less measure by the higher brutes : facts about cold and heat, 
sunshine and rain, the powers of water and fire, the life of 
trees and animals, the properties of wood and stone, and so 
forth, which are unfailingly confirmed by further experience. 
Examination of the life of savages discovers that this positive 
knowledge of theirs amounts to a great deal, and that they are 
able to use it " and reason not contemptibly." From this 
Common-sense Science and a good deal of Magic are differenti- 
ated, and they expand at very unequal rates in opposite 
directions. Each of them starts from it ; but whilst Magic 
rapidly distorts, perverts and mystifies it out of recognition 
in innumerable imaginations, Science slowly connects its frag- 


ments together, corrects, defines and extends it, without ever 
altering its original positive character. The difference between 
Magic and Science lies (as we have seen) in the causes that 
establish belief in them; in the character of their ideas 
respectively, incoherent and vague, coherent and definite; 
and, as a consequence, in their respective falsity and truth. 


Whilst Magic, amongst savage and barbarous people, is 
practised more or less by almost everybody, it is especially 
developed by the professional wizard, and in his art and 
tradition it is most conveniently studied. The wizard, or 
(at least) a leader amongst wizards, is a man of superior 
ability, penetration and enterprise; liable to be misled by 
a sanguine and ambitious temperament into extravagant 
imaginations and impostures, but with much more real know- 
ledge than the rest of the tribe. He often takes pains to 
increase his knowledge, for it is the true basis of his power : 
" the power of the Angoqok," says Mr. Turner, writing of 
the Esquimo, 1 " has some basis in experienced weather-lore, 
and knowledge of the habits of animals, by which he advises 
hunters." But this knowledge is often the starting-point of his 
delusions, not altogether by any fault of his own, but as a 
result of his attempts to apply knowledge to new cases without 
any appreciation of the need of caution or of the conditions of 
sound inference and of proof and disproof. He never knows 
whyjie is right or wlttLhe iswrong. Hence, beside the modest 
edifice of his real knowledge7~he builds out in one direction 
a few genuine additions warranted by sound inference and 
observation; whilst in the other direction he raises, largely 
by analogy, with the help of " sympathy " and spiritual 
powers, a towering structure of imaginations, which throws his 
little hut of Common-sense quite into the shade. 

(a) For example, the wizard is often literally a medicine- 
man or physician, and knows the use of certain drugs; and 
he may discover other drugs and more uses for them, and in 
that direction lies Pharmacology. But in the other direction 

1 " Ethnology of the Ungava District," Am, B. of Ethn., XI. p. 195. 
Other examples ante, cji. yiii. 3. 


he adopts on altogether fanciful occasions a great many 
other recipes that serve no purpose but charlatanry and 
mystification. Pliny, much of whose Natural History is a 
handbook of ancient medicine, describes hundreds of remedies 
derived from animals, vegetables and minerals ; and Burton l 
cites Galeottus as having enumerated 800 medicinal herbs 
and other drugs. Some of these were good and are still in 
use, but most were useless or worse than useless. The 
difference between these two classes of drugs depended on a 
difference of method in determining their uses : a difference 
that existed but was not yet understood (namely), on the 
one hand, proof by experience, giving in the smaller class the 
rudiments of medical science; and, on the other hand, 
acceptance on the strength of superficial likeness, or of 
the doctrine of qualities, virtues and signatures, which made 
the larger class essentially magical. 

Thus all sorts of precious stones and metals were believed 
to be medicinal, not because they had been known to cure 
any disease, but because it seemed obvious in those days that 
precious things must have all sorts of desirable effects by 
some occult virtue. Gold, the most perfect of all substances 
(according to the alchemists), must in particular be a pro- 
pitious and powerful restorative. So Chaucer says of his 
Doctour of Phisik : 

" For gold in phisik is a cordial, 
Therefore he lovede gold in special." 

And throughout India at the present day gold is a trusty 
item in any prescription. Belief in the virtue of precious 
stones probably goes back to very early times ; since we find 
that in Australia crystals are not only magically powerful 
but the great primary sources of Magic, by having which 
inside him the wizard acquires and maintains his power. 

With herbs, again, whilst the utility of some, such as 
quinine or senna, was a matter of experience, others were 
equally prized out of pure fancy. Dracunculus, a plant 
spotted with various colours, like a viper's skin, was supposed 

1 Anatomy of Melancholy, Part II. Sec, IV. Mem. 1, Subsec, 3. 


to be a remedy for all kinds of snake -stings. 1 The Cherokees 
gave their children a concoction of burs to strengthen their 
memories ; for as a bur will stick to anything, the mind of a 
man with bur inside him will cling to all kinds of useful infor- 
mation. The same Amerinds had other remedies which 
illustrate the character of magical physic. They concocted 
a vermifuge of the red fleshy stalks of chickweed, which some- 
what resemble worms, and therefore must have some influence 
upon them; and they steeped in this concoction a flint 
arrow-head, that its sharpness, communicated to the brew, 
might cut the worms in pieces. Biliousness, marked by 
the vomiting of yellow bile, was cured by four herbs all 
yellow in root, or stalk, or flower. To ward off smallpox 
they ate the flesh of the buzzard : that bird being, in their 
opinion, exempt from smallpox, because its foul stench keeps 
the disease-spirit at a distance. To cure snake-bite, they 
said, rub the place in the direction contrary to that in which 
the snake coils itself (to the right) ; because this is the same as 
uncoiling it. 2 But here there seems to be some hiatus in the 
thought, for how does uncoiling the snake counteract its 
poison ? One easily appreciates the exultation of the wizard 
to whom this idea first revealed itself, and his contempt for 
the dull process of working it out, when its place in the 
harmony of things was self-evident. 

In some of these cases we find the assumption (tacit with 
primitive practitioners, but explicit in Mediaeval Medicine) 
that " like causes like " : the adhesiveness of the bur is 
communicated to the memory, the sharpness of the flint arrow- 
point to the vermifuge, the buzzard's immunity from smallpox 
to the eater of the buzzard. And this is intelligible : because, 
first, there are many examples (superficially considered) 
of like causing like, such as animal generation, the spread of 
fire ; hot things heat, and cold things cool, and so forth : and, 
secondly, qualities such as stickiness and sharpness, are 
thought of by savages as fine material, like curses and ghosts, 
which may be transferred from one thing to another. But 

1 Pliny, XXV. c. 6. 

2 J. Mooney, " Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees," Am. B. of Ethn., 
VII. pp. 323-39. 


in other cases it is assumed that " like cures like," as chickweed 
cures worms, and yellow herbs biliousness (as in Europe 
turmeric was long believed to cure jaundice) ; and this is a 
very different matter equivalent to " like expels or annuls 
like." In ordinary experience, there seem to be no obvious 
examples of it : but in primitive medical practice it is found 
that fomentation reduces inflammation, rubbing with snow 
is good for frost-bite, an emetic cures sickness, and castor 
oil diarrhoea; and such may be the experiential ground of 
these magico -medical fancies. 

The power of herbs may depend upon rites observed at 
their gathering : when a Cherokee wizard pulled up a plant for 
medicine, he dropped a bead into the hole to compensate the 
earth for the theft ; 1 and when a Greek physician gathered 
the Panaces Asclepion, which was a remedy for all diseases, 
he filled the hole with various kinds of grain by way of expia- 
tion. 2 In employing medicinal herbs it is also important to 
remember when they should be procured, as on the eve of 
the summer solstice, at the new or the full moon, or at the 
turn of the tide ; by whom a child or a virgin ; and where 
on a mountain-top or at a grave. Hierabotane was so potent 
that whoever rubbed himself with it obtained whatever he 
desired; and in gathering it, you first offered honey to the 
earth in expiation, then traced a circle around it with iron, 
and taking care that neither sun nor moon should shine 
upon it at the rising of the Dog Star, you pulled it up with 
the left hand, and dried separately in the shade the root, the 
stem and the leaves. 3 Indeed the conditions under which a 
drug can be legitimately obtained so as to ensure its efficacy, 
may be so numerous, minute and exigent as to make the 
satisfying of them almost impossible ; so we need not wonder 
if the remedy sometimes fails. Prescriptions often include 
the flesh or juices of dead bodies, or their pounded bones, 
or other foul and repulsive ingredients related to Black 
Magic much trusted, and still traditional in some strata 
of this country, where the belief is inexpugnable that medicine, 
the nastier it is, is the more efficacious. 

If any one wonders how such prescriptions can have held 
1 J. Mooney, op. cit. 2 Pliny, XXV. c. 11. 3 Ibid., XXV. c. 59. 


their ground for ages, it was because patients did not always 
die. Recovery was credited to the drastic medicine, and 
death to evil Magic; and the vis medicatrix naturce, that 
staunch ally of honest physic, was sometimes too strong for 
the wizard's whole pharmacopoeia. 

(b) Again, the wizard is a surgeon, and knows something 
of the construction and working of the human body, and this 
is the beginning of Anatomy and Physiology. He was especi- 
ally well informed in these matters in such a country as Fiji, 
where he had access to two great sources of anatomical 
knowledge frequent wars and cannibalism. He also knows 
certain ways of treating wounds and other lesions, such as 
bandages, ligatures, splints, slings, massage and fomentations, 
which all admit of rational development and have been con- 
tinuously practised to this day. Could he be content to abide 
by the facts, all might be well ; but he is tempted to extend his 
methods in various directions to cases which, on very slight 
grounds, he believes to be similar. The best known example 
of the erroneous extension by analogy of a sound method is 
the sucking-cure. It is, or has been, practised all over the 
world, and obviously rests on the proved utility of suction in 
extracting from the flesh thorns or poisons. In Australia 
snake-bite is sometimes cured by sucking the wound and 
rinsing the mouth with water. 1 But the operation is gradually 
applied to other cases until, whatever pain you suffer, it is 
attributed to something like poison, or a thorn (or, later, a 
spirit), that has got inside you, though by an invisible wound, 
and may be sucked out. The wizard, accordingly, undertakes 
to suck it out, and he sometimes exhibits it to you a piece 
of wood or bone, which he brought to your bedside in his 
waistband. Sometimes a medicine -man enjoys great suctorial 
powers by having a lizard in his own body. 2 

For getting a foreign body out of a man a method alternative 
to suction is pressure. Mr. Howitt 3 reports a remarkable 
prescription for curing headache. Cut out of the ground a 
circular turf, place the sufferer's head in the hole and the turf 

1 A. W. Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 384. 

2 Spencer and Gillen, Across Australia, p. 339. 

3 Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 381. 


upon his head ; then sit or stand upon it. He may presently 
declare that he feels relief; but perhaps he only desires it. 
It is a fact that a patient sometimes feels better after such 
treatment, though the cause of his pain was nothing that could 
possibly yield to suction or pressure : that is to say, his mind 
yields to suggestion. But not all savages are equally sug- 
gestible, any more than we are. Dr. Coddrington says l that, 
in Pentecost Island, witches profess to cure pain with a leaf- 
poultice, and in taking it off to remove with it the cause 
of pain, perhaps a snake or a lizard. " But," said a native, 
" no one sees the things but the woman, and the pain 
remains " one of those troublesome sceptics ! Yet it is 
possible that had he just undergone the operation, he would 
not have denied that the pain was better. There is a state 
of mind between suggestibility and sane judgment, namely, 
assentation : unwillingness or unreadiness to form or state 
one's own opinion, and, consequently, an appearance of 
acquiescing in another's assertion. There is confusion and 
conflict, from which assent is the easiest relief. This state 
of mind for the immediate purpose of medicine-man or 
orator may serve as well as suggestibility ; but may soon pass 
off when the patient recovers his faculties, and should be 
distinguished from the suggestibility that takes a relatively 
permanent impression from the pretensions of a mountebank. 
The power of suggestion, however, is one of the facts that 
the wizard has observed, and he counts upon its aid. He has 
also learnt to practise hypnotism ; and seeing how mysterious 
these things have been to the most enlightened moderns, 
we need not wonder that he employs them in magical thera- 
peutics dancing, drumming, shouting to overpower his 
patient and to incite himself to put forth his utmost energy. 
Nowhere, probably, in the whole range of his art, is the differ- 
ence between Reality and Magic so obscure to himself. 

The wizard, then, acquired in his medical functions (and 
in others) a certain empirical knowledge of some obscure facts 
in Psychology, and this knowledge persisted in his profession 
in shady quarters to our own time ; but with the growth of 
positive Science, its mysteriousness was mistaken for quackery, 
1 The Melaneeiane, p. 199. 


until quite recently, when the facts forced themselves on 
the attention of some men, who needed great courage to 
confess their conviction. A crude Physiological Psychology, 
too, resulted from savage observation of a connexion between 
the agitations of body and mind. Very early sundry mental 
powers skill, courage, affection are located in special 
parts of the body the heart, spleen, kidneys, bowels as 
they still are in popular language. Apart from the bare 
observation that the bowels and heart are disturbed during 
emotion (which is true and important), these doctrines are not 
Science ; nor are they exactly Magic, but belong to the region 
of ideas ancillary to Magic ideas of qualities as material 
things. The savage, always eager to apply his supposed 
knowledge to practice, utilises his Physiological Psychology 
for the improvement of his mind, and misses no opportunity 
to make a meal upon an enemy's (or perhaps a relative's) 
heart or spleen or kidney or tongue or eye, in order to 
appropriate the quality for which the deceased had been 

(c) Savages (as we have seen in the chapter on Omens) 
are familiar with a great many natural signs by which to 
judge of things not now present, but that have happened, or 
are about to happen. Every hunter must have a great stock 
of such knowledge, inasmuch as the pursuit of game entirely 
depends upon it. This knowledge of natural signs is, on 
the one hand, a genuine contribution to Natural History ; it 
increases, is handed down from generation to generation, and 
forms the nucleus of Botany and Zoology. But, on the other 
hand, there is reared upon it, under the influence of hope 
and fear, the belief in Omens that give warning of good or ill 
success in all the affairs of life. Omens, at first merely 
signs mysteriously connected with events, are later regarded 
as the sendings of spirits or gods, whose oracles forecast 
the fate of heroes and nations. At first, perhaps, the wizard 
may do no more than other tribesmen to promote this particu- 
lar superstition; but it is he who works out the great art 
of Divination, without which Omens would have been a 
matter of much less consequence. 

The most famous branch of Divination, namely, Astrology, 


was the invention of a comparatively late age, and it was, 
of course, long preceded by the discovery of the rudiments of 
Astronomy as part of the common sense of agriculture : some 
knowledge of the regularity of the motions of the sun and moon 
and of the constancy of the stars in contrast with the planets. 
This is plainly presupposed by the comprehensive system of 
predictions based on sympathetic Magic, arbitrary assump- 
tions and fanciful analogies which, for the last four or five 
thousand years, has promised to disclose to any mother the 
career of her infant, or to any monarch the future of his 
kingdom. But what now seems fanciful or arbitrary once 
seemed reasonable. The sun manifestly rules all things; 
the waxing and waning of the moon must strengthen and 
weaken all things; the signs of the Zodiac are certainly 
connected with the seasons; the planets partake of the 
nature of the gods. 1 If there are gods they must, as the Stoics 
argued, have some way of communicating with men; and 
what way can be more congruous with their nature than by 
writing on the face of the heavens? But generally the ideas 
of Astrology were magical rather than animistic. Having 
determined the powers and dispositions of the heavenly 
bodies, let us consider only what must necessarily follow from 
their influences in conjunction or opposition and various 
relations in trine, quartile and sextile. Thus they dreamed 
and speculated, but at the same time made many exact 
observations on the sky. And so Astronomy made some 
progress in spite of Magic. 

(d) More widely prevalent than Astrology and far more 
ancient is the art of controlling the weather, especially rain ; 
for rain, from its uncertainty in many countries and its 
indispensableness, is a matter of deeper interest and anxiety 
than even the sun himself. " Rain-making," as it is called, 
common in Australia and other regions of lowly culture, 
survives when society has risen to higher levels, becomes the 
function of the most eminent wizards or priests, sometimes 
the duty of kings, and is not extinct amongst ourselves. 
But from what knowledge of fact or common sense can " rain- 

1 For Proclus' defence of Astrology see Whewell's History of the 
Inductive Sciences, Book IV. ch. iii., 1st ed,, pp. 298-300. 


making " be derived ? I conjecture it was from facts observed 
in the behaviour of fire. 

The making of fire was the first great chemical experiment 
and the foundation of all Chemistry. Having made fire, the 
most wonderful of all achievements, there would be little 
excuse for astonishment if men had then thought they could 
also make rain; but probably they never thought so. It 
seems to me a misconception of rain-rites to describe them 
as endeavours to " make " rain; for they plainly aim not at 
making, but at inducing, instigating or propagating it. The 
Swazies, we are told explicitly, try to procure rain by throwing 
water high into the air, expecting that the falling drops will 
stimulate the clouds in sympathy with them. 1 Savages may 
be said to " make " fire; for until they rub their sticks, or 
knock their flints together, it does not exist. But in the 
so-called " making " of rain there is nearly always some water 
to begin with ; and the essence of a rain-rite is the splashing 
of water into the air, or the pouring of it out, sometimes 
on a particular stone, or on a particular person, with many 
variations. In rare instances the water has been forgotten : 
the Kurnai, instead of water, let blood, and throw down into 
the air for clouds ; but in another rite they fill their mouths 
with water and squirt it out in one direction or another 
(according to the clan) and sing a spell : to stop the rain they 
throw up fire-sticks. 2 Those who practise such rites hope 
that the spilling of a little water will bring on a great downfall 
or outpouring of water, namely, rain; and this agrees with 
the fact that a wizard will not operate except when the rainy 
season approaches. Now this inducing of much by little is 
not, indeed, analogous to the making of fire ; but it is analogous 
to the spread or propagation of fire ; when, having produced 
a few sparks, these spread through tinder to the firewood, 
and thence a conflagration may be communicated to the 
prairie or to the forest. My conjecture is, then, that not 
the making (which is never attempted) but the inducing, 
or propagation of rain is based on the analogy of the propaga- 
tion of fire, and belongs to the class of exemplary or incen- 

1 Dudley Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 114. 

2 A. W. Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, pp. 397-9 


tive rites; which are to be understood not as intending 
the direct causation of events, but rather as instigating 
Nature to bring it about : the class described in Chap. IV. 
8, such as the furthering of crops by fertility-rites, or the 
ensuring of successful hunting or warfare by a dramatic 

Rain-rites being very apt to fail of their purpose, the 
wizard is in danger of losing his reputation, or of some worse 
fate. His attention is, therefore, drawn to the signs of the 
weather, the character and course of the seasons, the con- 
nexion of rain with the aspect of the sky and direction of the 
wind; so that he learns to operate for rain only when rain 
may reasonably be expected. He has then laid out the 
rudiments of Meteorology, but by observation, not by hocus- 


In no case, then, is Science derived from Magic, but Science 
on the one hand and Magic on the other are differentiated 
from Common-sense, 1 and Science is much nearer akin to 
Common-sense than Magic is, being of the same substance 
and only formally different. And in that sense it is earlier 
than Magic, and sometimes formally earlier, as in the case of 
Astronomy and Astrology. The illusion that Magic is the 
earlier is due to the misinterpretation of two facts : (a) Magic 
and Science are, for the most part and during many ages, 
worked out by the same men magicians or priests ; and all 
that they do is mistaken for Magic, even by themselves. And 
(b) Magic in most of its branches undergoes immense develop- 
ment, whilst the Sciences remain rudimentary ; grows old and 
even decrepit, whilst they are still in infancy ; so that, on first 
emerging into public notice, they seem to issue from the matrix 
of Magic. 

The reasons for the relative backwardness of Science, 
again, are chiefly three : (a) For ages it is in the hands of 
wizards who, though highly valuing knowledge, are mainly 

1 I do not mean that Magic is always a direct derivative of Common- 
sense : we have seen (ch. vi. 5) that it sometimes comes from Animism 
by retrogradation, and (elsewhere) often from coincidences. 


eager for power and prophecy. It is true that Science gives 
power, and the hope of power is a reasonable incentive to 
the study of Science ; but it must be a remote incentive, in 
the actual work of research rigorously excluded. There, 
unless truth is the sole end in view, the procedure will not 
be clean, will be confined to immediate utility. But this is a 
recent discovery. The wizard has no such ideas : he is 
governed by his desires and traditions. Hence for verification 
he is content with coincidences; negative instances he neg- 
lects, or regards failure merely as an occasion for excuses. He 
accepts connexions of events remote in space and time, and is 
very slow to see the necessity of connecting events in the 
closest possible sequence. Moreover, having no understand- 
ing even of the facts he knows (such as the making of fire), the 
mysteriousness of any relation of events constitutes no objec- 
tion to his acceptance of it ; as the magical side of his practice 
grows, so does its mystery; until at last mysteriousness 
is a strong recommendation, and becomes a character of 
the apperceptive mass that assimilates and confirms all 
magical beliefs. This state of mind always offers strong 
resistance to positive explanation. 

(b) Another reason of the backwardness of Science is the 
slow elucidation of the idea of Causation long obscured by 
the impressiveness of coincidence and by fallacious imagina- 
tions of magical and spiritual forces : a process still incomplete. 
Until this idea had made considerable progress in definiteness 
(in antiquity, say, with Archimedes, and in modern times with 
Galileo), it was impossible that the indispensableness of 
analysis and elimination should be understood, that absolute 
respect should be felt for negative instances and that any gap 
in a series of events should always be regarded as an instant 
problem. And, finally (c), for scientific progress it was 
necessary that reasoning by analogy should be abandoned, 
and a methodology discovered of parallel and equational 
reasoning, with the apparatus that makes exact investigation 

As the Sciences grow in comprehensiveness, precision 
and solidarity, they constitute their own apperceptive mass, 
assimilation with which is the supreme test of all relevant 


beliefs; and this, together with a methodology that has 
become a habit of mind, tends to establish a social atmo- 
sphere in which Magic is no longer thinkable. Exact habits of 
thought in commerce and industry contribute greatly to this 
result. So we are tempted to ridicule our benighted prede- 
cessors ; but a study of the conditions of their life shows that 
darkness was no more their fault than illumination is our 

The nearest approach that can be truthfully made to 
the position that Science is derived from Magic, is to say 
that the scientist is derived from the wizard (or wizard- 
priest), on that side of his activity in which he relied upon 
fragments of positive knowledge; but this was, in nature, 
always opposed to his Magic. In the course of thousands of 
years some men grew more interested in the positive than 
in the magical side of their profession, and became scientists ; 
whilst others adhered to the fanciful and mystical. It is 
remarkable that, as sceptics occur in the most unsuspected 
quarters, so pure scientists may sometimes be found as an 
institution in barbarous or even savage communities. In 
a Bantu tribe there is a class of doctors that claim no powers 
by the aid of spirits or Magic, but without any ceremony 
dispense a few well-known drugs aloes, nux vomica, castor- 
oil, fern-root, rhubarb, and the bark of various trees, purgative 
or emetic. 1 The Kanyahs of Borneo have a weather-prophet 
to determine the right time for sowing; he is not expected 
to cultivate padi, but is supplied with it by the rest of the 
village. Not knowing how many days there are in a year, 
and finding that the seasons do not correspond with any 
certain number of lunar months, he depends entirely upon 
observation of the altitude of the sun by means of an upright 
pole, whose upper end is carved into a human figure. 2 Except 
the carving on his pole, there is nothing to indicate that either 
Magic or Animism perturbs the method of this Astronomer 
Royal. Hence the adventure, though most wonderful, 
is not unexampled in a humbler world, by which eminent 
citizens amongst the Greek laity, with minds almost free from 

1 Dudley Kidd, The Essential Kafir, pp. 134-5. 

2 Hose and McDougall, Pagan Tribes of Borneo, I. p. 106. 


Magic and Animism, established for ever Philosophy and the 
Sciences as liberal studies. 


Animism is opposed to Science, as well as to Magic, 1 by 
its rejection of uniformity. A spirit, indeed, has some 
character (though it may be very faintly marked) ; for he is, 
or is assimilated to, a human ghost. But although he is 
supposed to have reasons or motives for his actions, they 
are often unintelligible. Until he is brought under the 
control of magical rites and formulae, he may reject offerings 
and prayers, as if by pure caprice or free-will. His inter- 
ventions are incalculable. Hence he may be the unseen 
agent in anything that happens; and the habit is formed 
of putting upon him, or one of his kind, every occurrence 
whose cause is not obvious : diseases, deaths, storms, droughts, 
noises in the forest, unusual behaviour of animals. A spirit- 
being with its body of soul-stuff capable of taking any shape, 
a material thing exerting mechanical power, there is nothing 
that may not be imputed to it. But being entirely imaginary, 
its supposed agency can only satisfy the imagination by 
the assimilation of each intervention by the animistic apper- 
ceptive mass. It is never seen or known to do any one of 
the actions attributed to it ; for the understanding, based on 
perception and the classification and analysis of perceptions, 
it is nothing. Moreover, so far as the actions of a spirit 
are of free-will, or motiveless, or pure caprice, there is no 
distinct imagination of even a spiritual cause. When a 
man, suffering from disease, or hearing an unfamiliar noise, 
refers it to a spirit, there is usually nothing in his mind but 
the word of vague meaning and a feeling of awe, wonder, 
or dread. He gets no further in the understanding of the 
fact, and curiosity is paralysed. To say " a spirit did it " 
becomes, therefore, a means of avoiding the labour of ex- 
planation; it is a good example of the " principle of least 
effort." But in another direction his wits may get to work. 
He is full of fear, and objectless fear must invent a danger, 

1 Ante, ch. vi. 3. 


which is easily done by supposing that the spirit has been 
actuated by wrath. Then something must have been done 
to enrage him : a taboo has been broken, his rites have 
been neglected, sin has been committed according to the 
customary ideas of the tribe. There must be lustration, pro- 
pitiation, expiation, perhaps with horrible cruelty. Again, 
then, shall we say the man has been diverted from the im- 
portant inquiry into the causes of disease or drought? But 
this is laughable : how can he set about such a task? It 
is the tragedy of the world that for thousands of years the 
speculative powers of man of some men expanded without 
any power, except in the classical age, of discriminating sense 
from nonsense. Therefore, looking back, we see everywhere 
else superstition and the kingdom of darkness. 

Animism can never have directly enriched Science with 
a single natural law; but, indirectly, it has instigated many 
investigations. With the development of Religion, the 
building of temples and the regulation of sacrifices and 
festivals according to their seasons, necessitated at least 
the empirical study of Geometry, Arithmetic and Astronomy ; 
and the preservation of the ancient language of the sacred 
formulae of ritual required a knowledge of prosody, phonetics 
and grammar. For thousands of years erudition was confined 
to the priestly orders. They also practised, or were the 
chief patrons of, all the fine arts, Architecture, Sculpture, 
Painting, Music and Poetry; and by their connexion with 
government they left in Egypt and Assyria, in monuments 
and inscriptions, History, or the materials of History. In- 
directly, the progress of mental culture, both in learning and 
in aesthetics, has depended almost entirely on the development 
of Animism ; and this in turn has depended on the aid which 
Animism gave to government and to the extension of law and 
order, however imperfect, over wide regions of the earth. 
This is the fundamental utility which, first, Magic and, 
afterwards, Animism subserve, and for the sake of which 
unconsciously, of course they arise and prevail. Mankind 
has been subdued through imagination ; because the peoples 
that had the cast of imagination requisite for their political 
organisation and co-operation had an advantage over others. 


We must qualify this by observing that other imaginations, 
such as devotion to the Family and Patriotism, with a much 
surer hold than Animism has upon experience, have had a 
great and growing influence upon the solidarity and civilisa- 
tion of some branches of the human race, especially the 

Philosophy has derived from Animism most of her problems 
free-will and predestination, final causes, creation and 
miracles, emanation and intuition, idealism and materialism, 
immortality, the being and attributes of God, eternity, infinity 
in some of which, indeed, magical ideas are deeply con- 
cerned : all of them the exercise of the most eminent minds, 
exercise so delightful and so disappointing. Considering 
their source, we cannot wonder that these problems remain 
problems, and that philosophical discussion has, of late years, 
turned from them to questions concerning the theory of 

A student of human origins is under no obligation to 
predict the future. Fortunately : for several considerations 
make the task appear altogether impossible. Of these I will 
mention three : (a) Whereas nations have hitherto submitted 
to, and enforced, law and order, and undertaken costly works 
of utility or splendour, in large measure under the influence 
of animistic illusions, it is now everywhere noticeable in 
the more civilised countries, that these illusions are being 
dissipated, and it is very difficult to judge how people will 
behave when they are gone. It is, indeed, true that our 
ordinary working life has always depended chiefly on common 
sense, a knowledge of facts within the range of ordinary 
experience and memory. Animistic or magical rites and cere- 
monies associated with the working-life may have increased 
the confidence and encouraged the co-operation of labourers, 
but were not indispensable ; although the association of Magic 
with industry seems sometimes to have become so close, that 
to forget the Magic was to destroy the industry. When, how- 
ever, we turn to those conditions of social life that are beyond 
the purview of common sense, such as the preservation of 
tribal tradition and solidarity, and future prosperity, loyalty 


to the king and obedience to his officers, it is plain that 
something else than common sense was needed to reinforce 
the interest of the whole against the tendency of the indi- 
vidual's self-assertion to overcome his social dispositions, 
and that this control was found chiefly in Religion. It is also 
true that at present, whilst some beliefs concerning super- 
natural things are being lost, others are being resuscitated ; 
but the lapsing beliefs are noble and venerable and have 
exerted great public power and authority ; whilst those now 
eagerly propagated, are the raw infatuation of quacks, on 
a level with the Animism of an Australian medicine-man and, 
indeed, much inferior to his, as having no moral influence or 
authority. What must come of this is so dubious, as to 
discourage one about the future of the world. 

(b) Reflection on the levity with which imagination- 
beliefs are let slip and lost, or received and adopted, upon 
no evidence either way, from mere shallowness of soul, brings 
forward a second consideration that makes the future impre- 
dictable, namely, the low average development of mankind 
in both intellect and character. This is the consequence of 
our having depended, probably from the very beginning, on 
leaders. A pack or tribe needed enough variability to produce 
able leaders and enough average ability to follow and support 
them in a crowd. Natural Selection, therefore, has operated 
first in producing variability; and all tribes, even the lowest, 
produce relatively eminent men. The average intelligence 
or ability of the crowd, in which individuality is liable to 
be lost, is much less important. The result is that each 
nation has its military affairs, organisation of industry, 
science, invention, literature and art provided for it by a 
small number of citizens; the rest fill the ranks, and learn 
what they are taught. Thus arranged, the leading nations 
have of late years made wonderful progress in science and in 
everything that can be done by machinery; but there is no 
reason to suppose that anything has been done towards raising 
the average intelligence and character ; and in default of that, 
in my judgment, nothing has been done to advance civilis- 
ation. The world is no safer against war, revolution, dema- 
gogy, despotism, degeneration. The greatest improvements 


have been made in means of destruction; next we may 
put the invention of flying machines; and their chief use 
has been destruction. Destruction now pauses, not because 
the antagonists are satiated ; they are only exhausted ; and 
there is more hatred in the world than was ever known before. 
How then shall we judge of things to come ? 

(c) Speaking of the average man, we usually think of the 
European and North American average; but in considering 
what changes may be expected in the world, the people of 
India (300,000,000), China (350,000,000), and the millions of 
the rest of Asia, the Eastern Archipelago, Africa and South 
America cannot be left out; and to include them does not 
raise the average. What will be their contribution to 
history? There are two rational proposals for raising the 
average, namely, eugenics and deliberate elimination of the 
unfit ; and there are 1,600,000,000 on whom to operate. 

Any one who anxiously desires to foresee the future of 
our race is in a position to sympathise with the ancients. 
Go, inquire at Delphi or Dodona ; or sleep in Stonehenge, or 
at the tomb of Merlin, or by the barrows at Upsala, and dream 
of things to come ; or consult the stars, cast the nativity of 
Lycopithecus, and read in heaven the fate of his posterity. 
If these methods are not very hopeful, any one of them is as 
good as guessing. The only safe reflection is that he who 
lives longest will see most. 


Abstract and general ideas in lower 
culture, 99-102 ; 163-4 ; personified, 

Actor and Wizard, 272-3 

Adaptation, 30, 67 

Affection for the dead, 179 

Aggressiveness, 43 

Agriculture, neolithic, 50 ; as affecting 
natural selection, 64 

Allen, Grant, on plant-spirits, 167 

Analogy, 97-8 

Animals give Omens, 236 

Animatism, 120, 149, 151, 157 

Animism, 35; evil effects of, 67; 
good effects, 69 ; Chap. V. (145-86), 
see Contents ; and Magic and 
Common -sense, 110; extended to 
plants and lifeless things, 150-3; 
development of, 183-4; deception 
in, 185; how related to Magic, 
Chap. VI. (187-284), see Contents; 
political advantage over Magic, 
255; and Totemism, 319-25; and 
Science, 341; and Fine Art, 341; 
and Philosophy, 342 

Anthropoids, habitat of, 5 ; mentality 
and habits, 31-2; skull capacity, 
50 ; character, 61 

Apperceptive mass of Science and 
Common-sense, 81; of Magic and 
Animism, 82, 126 

Arbitrary Magic, 133, 142; taboos, 
133; myths, 168 

Archer, W., Masks and Faces, 273 n. 

Asia, southern, probable locus of 
Man's origin, 23-4 

Astrology, 239, 242, 335 

Atkinson, J. J., on Primal Law, 38, 

Avebury on making fire, 1 1 ; baking 
clay, 13; omens and Magic, 233 n. 


Baboons, 58 

Belief, Chap. III. (71-107), see 

Belt, Th., on hairless dogs, 15; 

habits of monkeys sleeping, 17 
Berkeley on causality, 191 
Black Magic, 107, 125, 129, 135- 

6, 139, 196, 211, 255, 287 
Boas, Franz, on savage language, 

100 ; on Totemism, 298 
Bogoras on the Shaman, 285 
Book of Daniel, 219 
Brain development in Man, 7, 26, 

50; in child and savage, 91 
Brehm on baboons, 58 
Bryant, E. T., on South African 

diviners, neurotic, 274 
Buddhist karma, 175 
Burton, R., on Moslem corpse, 170 
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy 

on drugs, 329 
Butler, J., on Conscience, 64 

Callaway on chiefs and diviners, 254 

Cannibalism, 18 

Canteleu, C. de, on wolves, 42 

Casalis on Bassoutos, 251 

Cats in the Oligocene, etc., 26 

Causation tacitly assumed by savages, 

101 ; confused with coincidence, 

101, 122; implied in Magic, 113; 

how the idea affected by Animism 

and Magic, 123; origin of idea, 

188-92; its slow development, 338 
Causes of belief, 80-4 
Chadwick on treatment of Teutonic 

gods, 278 

Charms, 111, 113, 130-1, 198 
Chaucer on the Doctour of Phisik, 


Cheiromancy, 239 
Chief's taboo, 132 
Chronology of geologic ages, 3, 49 
Cicero on the Delphic Oracle, 242; on 

the Augurs, 248 
Coddrington on savage thought, 89; 

in Banks Islands, 149; on 6io,322 
Coincidence confused with causation, 

101; source of belief in Magic, 



116-8, 124, 136, 193; in Omens, 

231-2; confirms Wizard's pre- 
tensions, 290-1 
Common -sense, 67; its limitations, 

69, 292; unlike superstition, 72, 
110; makes sceptics, 281-2, 291; 

forced upon Wizard, 282-3 ; relation 

to Magic and Science, 327, 337 
Comparative Method, 304 
Comte on early hunting life of Man, 

4 n. ; on stages of culture, 108-9 
Confucius on attitude toward spirits, 

Conkling, E. S., on superstitious 

beliefs among students, 115n. 
Conscience, growth of, 62-4 
Constructive impulse in anthropoids 

and men, 53 

Centra-suggestibility, 84 
Co-operation, in hunting, 8; the 

ground of language, 9; amongst 

wolves, 45 
Criticism of beliefs hindered by 

relative dissociation, 90 
Crystal a Magic source, 245, 263 n. 
Gushing, T. H., on dramaturgic 

Magic, 142 n. 
Czaplicka, A. M., on Siberian shaman, 

270, 272, 274 


Darwin, C., on teeth and jaws of 

Man, 7; on sexual selection as 

cause of naked skin, 14 ; on vermin 

as possible cause, 16; on growth of 

moral sense, 63 
De Divinatione, 227, 232 
Deniker on races of Men, 20 
Desire as cause of belief, 83 
Diderot on actors, 273 
Diet of Primates and hunters, 2 
Differentiation of Man began in the 

Oligocene, 3, and note; of Omens 

from other Magic, 232-3 
Diviners, 234, 238, 240, 241, 247, 249 
Dogs, naked varieties, 16; primitive, 

25 ; likeness to Man, 40, 43, 44, 46, 

57, 64 
Dorsey, J. O., on Dakotas, 138, 149; 

on Omaha, 146 
Dramatic Magic, 134-5 
Dreams and ghosts, 153-6, 159; and 

Omens, 237, 245 n. 
Durkheim on Totem divinities, 319 


Edda, 183 
Ellis, W., on spirit-food, 162; on 

Religion in Raiatea, 206, 220; 

the idol-maker, 280 

Emotion as cause of belief, 83, 86; 

in religion, 185, 186 
Emulation within the pack, 44; in 

games, business, etc., 59 
Endogamy, 307 
Eoanthropus, 49, 55, 66, 67 
Eoliths, 50, 53 
Epictetus on divination, 248 
Erect gait of Man, 5 
Evil eye, 128 

Exemplary Magic, 140-2, 336 
Exogamy and Totems and Marriage 

Classes, 295, 305, 307-11 
External soul, 173 


Fate and Magic, 223; and Omens, 

235, 249; and Causation, 249-50 
Fear a cause of superstition, 83 ; 

gives power to ghosts, 123; of the 

dead, 178-9 

Feeling as cause of belief, 83 
Fetichism, 108 
Fire, how first made, 1 1 
Force, idea of, 100-1, 119-22, 163; 

force and ghosts, 197-8; in Magic 

and Science, 326-7 
Forms of thought in primitive mind. 

Fowler, Ward, on Iguvian Magic, 202, 

203 ; on Roman prayers, 205, 221 
Fraud, in what sense attributed to 

Wizards, 284 
Frazer, J. G., on Magic and Animism, 

109 ; on driving out ghosts, 179 n. ; 

on Magic and Religion, 193, 195; 

on power of Wizard, 284; on 

Totemism, 293, 299, 304; first 

Hypothesis on Totemism, 313; on 

Grass-seed Rites, 317; second 

Hypothesis on Totemism, 317; 

on Zoolatry, 324 
Free-will and Animism, 223 
Freud on Totem und Tabu, 38 
Funerary rites, extravagance and 

economy, 180; and Religion, 320 

Galton, F., on dog and man, 40; 

moroseness of savages, 46 
Garner, R. L., on speech of chimpan- 
zee, 9 ; on polygamy of apes, 32 n. 
General ideas at savage level, Chap. 
III. 7 ; present though unnamed, 

Generic consciousness of Primates, 30 

Gesture, 54, 100, 121 ; and Magic, 129 

Ghosts and spirits alike, 169; 

how imagined, 169, 173; and 



corpse, 170; may die or be killed, 
176; their way of life, 177, 183; 
easily deceived, 181; and Magic, 

Ghost- theory, 153-7; extended to 
animals, 157-60; and soul -stuff, 
161-4; and spirits, 164-9 

Gibbon on fanatics, 287 

Gods from tools, etc., 152; from 
plants and meteors, 166-7 ; from 
abstract ideas, 168; subject to 
death, 176; act by Magic, 213-5; 
controlled by Magic, 219-23; teach 
Magic, 309, 310 ; from ancestors, 69, 
255; and Totems, 321-4 

Gregariousness, 8, 34, 42 

Grimm, J., on divine power, 215 


Haddon, A. C., on Magic in Torres 
Straits, 127, 141, 150, 256; on 
treatment of Wizard, 265; Totem- 
ism, 299 

Hallucination, 89, 92, 155 

Hartland, E. S., 121 n. 

Hartmann, R., on character of 
anthropoids, 61 

Hegel on sorcery, 194 n. 

Hepatoscopy, 239 

Herd-life, the character it develops, 

Herodotus on the army of Xerxes, 
61 ; on Egyptian prediction, 193; 
on Persian law, 219; on Omens, 
225, ;232; on Dreams, 237, 241, 

Him, Yrjo, on sympathetic Magic, 
138; Magic and Religion, 253 

History of Human Marriage, 308-9 

Hodson, T. C., on a Tanghul sceptic, 

Hose and McDougall on Pagan tribes 
of Borneo, 124 

Howitt, A. W., prowess in kidney-fat, 
245; on Medicine Man, 271; to 
cure headache, 332 

Hudson, W. H., on wolves, 44; on 
dogs, 45 

Humanity, growth of the sentiments, 
61-2 ' 

Hume, J., Natural History of Re- 
ligion, 108; on future life, 177; 
on causation, 190, 191 

Hunting-life, influence of, 1, 2, Chap. 
I. 2, 3 (see Contents), 33, 35, 
37, 39, Chap. II. 4 (see Contents) ; 
on intelligence, 47, 66 

Hunting-pack, its organisation, 36, 
41, 45 ; organisation lost, 68, 69 

Button, J. J. H., on Leopard men, 

214 n. 
Hyperphysical Animism, 145, 150 

Iliad, 183, 279 

Images or mental pictures, 73 ; vivid 
in savages and children, 89 

Imagination, Chap. III. 4 (see 
Contents); as un verifiable repre- 
sentation, 74 

Imagination-beliefs, 67, 76; mimic 
perception-beliefs, 103 ; their power 
overrated, 103-4; allied to play- 
belief, 104-6, 148; often incon- 
sistent, 181-2 

Indirect Magic, 129, Chap. IV. 6, 
7 (see Contents) 

Industry and Magic, 143 

Initiation of Wizard, 203, 211, 263- 
5 n. ; and disillusion, 277 

Intelligence of Man, how developed, 
10, 47-8; of Anthropoids, 31-2; 
its influence on morals, 65 

Intichiuma, 129, 316 

Intuition, 235 

Jevons, F. B., on Totemism, 299 
Jounod, H. A., on taboos, 133; on 
photograph-soul, 138; on divina- 
tion, 249; on Magician's power, 
263 n. 

Kalevala, 208, 262 

Kant on free-will, 223 

Keith, A., on epoch of Man's differ- 
entiation, 3 n. ; on length of intes- 
tine, 13; on the genealogical tree 
of the Primates, 49; capacity of 
skulls, 50 ; on Neanderthal species, 
52; on speech-organs of Pithec- 
anthropus and Eoanthropus, 66, 

Kingsley, Mary, on soul-doctors, 155; 
on four souls, 172 

Lamentation and weeping, 61 

Lang, A., on ghosts, 1 14 ; on Animism, 

147, 148; on Totemism, 299, 


Laughter, 60 

Laws of Association of Ideas, 137 
Lecky on Belief, 174 
Leibnitz, 174 
Leuba, J. H., 142 



Levy-Bruhl on the primitive mind, 

Livingstone on South African game, 

27 ; on South African doctors, 260 
Love of the chase, 41 
Lyall, Alfred, Asiatic Studies, 222 
Lycopithecus, 8, 18; his stature, 25, 



MaeBride, E. W., on specialisation 

of Man, 4 n. 

McDougall, W., on self-abasement, 
44, 124. See also Hose and 

Magic, 35, Ghap. IV., see Contents; 
relation to government, 68-69, 
253-4; relation to Animism, 
Chap. VI., see Contents; to Fine 
Art, 262; to Religion, 194-7, 
254-5; to Omens, 227-34; its 
equivalent for inspiration, 245; 
relation to Totemism, 314-8; to 
science, 111, Chap. X. 1, 2, 3, 
see Contents; to Medicine, 260, 

Major premise of primitive reason- 
ing, 94, 95, 98 

Mana, 121, 122, 193 

Marett, R. R., on Animatism, 120, 

Marriage,seasonal,13 ; and Totemism, 

Mathew, J., on source of magical 
power, 263 n. 

Maxim, H. S., on precedence, 45 

Memory and Belief, 73, 80 

Mercier, C., on paranoia, 276 

Metamorphosis, 213-14, 314-15 

Methodology, none for the primitive 
mind, 82, 117 

Mill, J. S., on Comte, 108; on 
induction, 117 

Mimesis, principle of, 136 

Minor premise not understood in 
primitive reasoning, 96-6 

Mousterian culture, 13 

Miiller, Max, on Totemism, 299 


Natural selection of best hunters, 
4; of the gregarious, 8; of the 
intelligent, 1 1 ; adapted Man to 
the hunting life, not ^o civilisation, 
61; except partially, 64; within 
limits favoured the superstitious, 
70, 114 

Neanderthal Man, 49, 50, 52 

Neolithic culture, 50, 51 
Nordic Race, 19-20 


Odour as soul-stuff, 139, 162 
Oligocene supposed age of the 

differentiation of Hominidce, 3, 24 ; 

landscape, flora and fauna then, 

Omen, magical or spiritual, 200, 

204, Chap. VII., see Contents 
Oracles, dreams and omens, 236-7; 

in Greece, 241-3; in Fiji, 243; 

often obscure, 246 
Origin and Development of Moral 

Ideas, 109, 309 

Palaeolithic Culture, 50 

Panaetius on Divination, 248 

Participation, principle of, 136 

Pausanias, 244 

Pawnee chief on the good man, 64 

Pekin Gazette, 222 

Perception as source of belief, 79, 

85; among savages, 36, 137 
Philosophy and Animism, 342 
Photograph and soul, 312 
Pithecanthropus, 49, 55 
Pliny (the Elder) on Ancient Medicine, 

329, 331 
Plutarch, 242 
Poet respected, 126 ; inspired, 237 n. ; 

and wizard, 267 

Polybius on Roman Religion, 248 
Positivism, 108 

Possession, 210-11, 212, 237, 242-3 
Prayers, at first seem dangerous, 

195-6; from spells, also spontane- 
ous, 200, 201; become spells, 

204, 205 
Precedence in the hunting-pack, 44; 

amongst Australians, 45 
Priest, 68-9; and sorcerer, 254-5; 

and learning, 341 
Primal Law, 38, 306 
Property, 43, 56-8 
Psychology of the hunting-pack, 

Chap. II. 4 (40-8) 
Psychological Animism, 145; Chap. 

V. 2 (147-53) 


Races of Men, 19 

Rain-rites, 202, 335-7 

Ray, S. H., on the Lifuans, 142 n., 

Reason and imagination, 74-5; in 

immature minds, Chap. III. 6 



Reflection and ghost, 154, 158 
Reinach, S., on sex-taboo, 56 
Reincarnation, 174 
Relations in savage thought, 101 
Religion, 69; meaning of word, 184; 

and Magic, 193-7; and Totemism, 


Retrogradation, Ch. VI . 4 (203-7) 
Rigveda, 152, 168, 219 
Rivers, W. H. R., on suggestibility in 

savages, 86 ; on savage thought, 89, 

100; on Totemic gods, 167, 321-2; 

on Toda prayers, 205; blindness 

of savages to deceit, 283 ; on a 

custom at Mota, 301, 303 
Roosevelt on dogs, 44, 45; elephant 

and bear, 147 

Roth, W. E., on prayer to Totem, 319 
Roy, S. C., on Oraon rain-rites, 202 

Sanderson, G. P., on Indian wild 

dogs, 43 

Scapulomancy, 239 
Schopenhauer on female beauty, 15 
Scientists in barbarism, 339 
Secret of the Totem, 305 
Seligman on sex-taboo, 131; on 

departmental experts, 257, 284 
Selous, F. C., on the hunter's joy, 41 
Seneca on Omens, 249 
Seton, Thompson, on Indians' love 

of killing, 41 ; on wolves, 42, 44, 56 
Sexual selection as cause of naked 

skin, 14 

Shadow and ghost, 154, 158 
Shaman derivation of word, 274 
Shamanism, 217-8, 254 
Skeat and Blagden on the Semang, 

149, 168; on Malay Magic, 172, 261 
Skin naked, 14-18 
Skull changes in, 7 ; capacity of, 50 
Social life of Primates, 7, 32 ; of Man, 

8, 34-5, 37-8 
Social Origins, 305 
Societies of Wizards, 256 
Sollas on geological time, 3 n., 49 n. 
Sorcerer and Magician, 252 ; and 

Priest, 254 

Sorcery, 129; defined, 189 
Soul and soul-stuff, 147, 151, 154, 

155, 161-3, 171; how many, 172; 

origin and destiny of, 174-7; of 

Totem and clansman, 312, 313 
Southey, R., The Curse of Kehama 
Species of Man, 31 
Speech in apes and men, 9, 64, 55 
Speisser on Animism in Ambrym 


Spell, 68, 111, 113, 130; tends to 
personify, 152, 156; and prayer, 
200, 201 

Spencer, H., Pol. Institutions, 8, 59; 
on Laughter, 60 ; Sociology, 108 ; on 
Animism, 153, 165, 167, 183; on 
Totemism, 298 

Spencer and Gillen on savage imagina- 
tion, 83; on Guanjis, 146; on 
magic stones, 120-1, 263 n. ; emo- 
tions of Australians, 244; foreign 
Magic, 270; account of a Wizard, 
285; list of Totems, 296 

Spirits and ghosts, Chap. V. 6-7 
(164-73); power of, 212-3; con- 
trolled by Magic, 216-24; and 
Omens, 234-8 

Stages in development of Magic, 

Stanbridge, W., on aborigines' scep- 
ticism, 279 

Standard of truth for savages, 89 

Stefanson on Esquimo, 160 

Stigand, G. H., on the Masai, 146 

Stoics and divination, 248 

Stoll, Otto, on self-suggestion, 274 

Struggle over prey, 45-6 

Substitution in Magic, 141 

Suggestibility, 84, 275 

Superstition, Chap. III., see Contents ; 
utility of, 69; its dark side, 107; 
innate disposition to, 114, 153 

Syllogism and savage thinking, 92-7 

Symbols, 139;*may fulfil Omens, 246 

Sympathy, perceptive, contagious, 
effective in the pack, 48; and 
moral sense, 63-4 

Taboo, 68; on persons and things, 
131-2; on words, 133; names of 
dead and of spirits, 201 ; on kings, 
219; connected with Totemism, 
315, 316 

Talisman, 68, 131, etc. 

Testimony, 80, 82 

Thompson, Basil, on Tongan rejection 
of coincidence, 291 

Thurn, E. F. im, on savage belief, 116, 
151, 155; on the peaiman, 260 

Torday, E., on Bahuana, 150; dead 
cast no shadow, 154 n. 

Totemism, 68, 161, 166, 167, 173; 
Chap. IX. (293-325), see Contents 

Transmigration, 171, 176 

Trotter on herd-instinct, 64 

Turner, G., on Samoan gods, 322 

Turner (Am. B. of Ethn.) on Esquimo 
Angoqok, 328 



Tylor, E. B., Primitive Culture, 108; 
on Animism, 153, 183; on motiva- 
tion of Magic, 196; on spell and 
prayer, 207 

Tyndall on the Scientific Uses of the 
Imagination , 74 

Ventriloquism practised by Wizard, 


Vocation of Wizard, 267-9, 285 
Volsung Saga, 213, 215n. 
Voluntary action as cause of belief, 

83 ; supposed source of idea of 

cause, 188, 192 


Wallace, A. R., on place of Man's 
origin, 4 n. ; on human brain, 1 1 ; 
nakedness, 16; the Orang, 32, 33, 

War, 58-9 

Weeks, J. H., on Congo Cannibals, 
127, 131; the Bakongo 130, 162, 
168; specialists in Magic, 257; on 
character of wizard, 260, 271; 
sorcerer not honoured at home, 
270 ; his trickery, 282 

Westermarck, E., on seasonal mar- 
riage, 13 ; primitive monogamy, 56 ; 
on moral ideas, 64 ; savage classi- 
fication of phenomena, 109 ; on 
sex-taboo, 132; on averting the 
evil eye, 144; descent in female 
line, 306 ; Totemism and marriage, 
308-9; animal worship, 323 

Whiffen, Th., on chief and medicine- 
man, 254 ; medicine -man's un- 
scupulousness, 271 ; sceptics, 280 

Wiedermann on Religion of Ancient 
Egyptians, 173, 267 

Williamson, R. W., on the Mafulu, 

Wizard, 68-9, 128 ; the mind of, Chap. 
VIII. (252-92), see Contents ; and 
government, 253-4 ; societies, 256 ; 
his utility, 268 ; and Pharmacology, 
328, 331 ; Anatomy and Physiology, 
332; Psychology, 333-4; Botany 
and Zoology, 334 ; Astronomy, 335 ; 
Meteorology, 337 

Wollunqua, 320 

Wolves, 8, 11, 25, 36, 37 and note, 41, 
42, 44, 45, 52, 53, 64 

Wundt, W., on Korperseele, 170, 183 ; 
on Animism and Magic and idea 
of cause, 187-92 ; or retrogradation,