1902 Encyclopedia > Totemism > Birth Ceremonies. Marriage. Death Ceremonies.

(Part 3)


Birth Ceremonies. Marriage. Death Ceremonies.

Birth Ceremonies.—On the fifth day after birth a child of the Deer-Head clan of the Omahas is painted with red spots on its back, in imitation of a fawn, and red stripes n are painted on the child’s arms and chest. All the Deer-Head men present at the ceremony make red spots on their chests. [Footnote 469-28] When a South Slavonian woman has given birth to a child, an old woman runs out of the house and calls out, "A she-wolf has littered a be-wolf," and the child is drawn through a wolfskin, as if to simulate actual birth from a ivolf. Further, a piece of the eye and heart of a wolf are sewed into the child’s shirt, or hung round its neck ; and, if several children of the family have died before, it is called Wolf. The reason assigned for some of these customs is that the witches who devour children will not attack a wolf. [Footnote 470-1] In other words, the human child is disguised as a wolf to cheat its supernatural foes. The same desire for protection against supernatural danger may be the motive of similar totemic cugtonis, if not of totemism in general.

Marriage Ceremonies.—Among the Kalang of Java, whose totem is the red dog, bride and brideroom before marriage are rubbed with the ashes of a red dog’s bones. [Footnote 470-2] Among the Transylvanian Gipsies, bride and bridegroom are rubbed with a weasel skin. [Footnote 470-3] The sacred goatskin (aegis) which the priestess of Athene took to newly married women may have been used for this purpose. [Footnote 470-4] At Rome bride and bridegroom sat down on the skin of the sheep which had been sacrificed on the occasion. [Footnote 470-5] An Italian bride smeared the doorposts of her new home with wolf’s fat. [Footnote 470-6] It is difficult to separate from totemism the custom observed by totem clans in Bengal of marrying the bride and bridegroom to trees before they are married to each other. The bride touches with red lead (a common marriage ceremony) a mahwá tree, clasps it in her arms, and is tied to it. The bridearoom goes through a like ceremony with a mango tree. [Footnote 470-7]

Death Ceremonies.—In death, too, the clansman seeks to become one with his totem. Amongst some totem clans it is an article of faith that, as the clan sprang from the totem, so each clansman at death reassumes the totem form. Thus the Moquis, believing that the ancestors of the clans were respectively rattlesnakes, deer, bears, sand, water, tobacco, &c., think that at death each man, according to his clan, is changed into a rattlesnake, a deer, &c. [Footnote 470-8] Amongst the Black Shoulder (Buffalo), clan of the Omahas a dying clansman was wrapped in a buffalo robe with the hair out, his face was painted with the clan mark, and his friends addressed him thus: "You are goin to the animals (the buffaloes). You are going to rejoin your ancestors. You are going, or your four souls are going, to the four winds. Be strong." [Footnote 470-9]


469-28 Third Rep., p. 245 sq.

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