1902 Encyclopedia > Totemism > Social Aspect of Totemism. (1) Blood Feud. (2) Exogamy.

(Part 6)


Social Aspect of Totemism. (1) Blood Feud. (2) Exogamy.

(l) All the members of a totem clan regard each other as kinsmen or brothers and sisters, and are bound to help and protect each other. The totem bond is stronger than the bond of blood or family in the modern sense. This is expressly stated of the clans of western Australia and of north-western America, [Footnote 472-4] and is probably true of all societies where totemism exists in full force. Hence in totem tribes every local group, being necessarily composed (owing to exogamy) of members of at least two totem clans, is liable to be dissolved at any moment into its totem elements by the outbreak of a blood feud, in which husband and Wife must always (if the feud is between their clans) be arrayed on opposite sides, and in which the children will be arrayed against either their father or their mother, according as descent is traced through the mother or through the father. [Footnote 472-5] In blood feud the whole clan of the aggressor is responsible for his deed, and the whole clan of the aggrieved is entitled to satisfaction. [Footnote 472-6] Nowhere perhaps is this solidarity carried farther than among the Goajiros in Colombia, South America. The Goajiros are divided into some twenty to thirty totem clans, with descent in the female line; and amongst them, if a man happens to cut himself with his own knife, to fall off his horse, or to injure himself in any way, his family on the mother’s side immediately demand payment as blood-money from him. "Being of their blood, he is not allowed to spill it without paying for it." His father’s family also demands compensation, but not so much. [Footnote 472-7]

(2) Exogamy.—Persons of the same totem may not marry or have sexual intercourse with each other. The Navajos believe that if they married within the clan "their bones would dry up and they would die." [Footnote 472-8] But the penalty for infringing this fundamental law is not merely natural; the clan steps in and punishes the offenders. In Australia the regular penalty for sexual intercourse with a person of a forbidden clan is death.

It matters not whether the woman be of the same local group or has been captured in war from another tribe ; a man of the wrong clan who uses her as his wife is hunted down and killed by his clansmen, and so is the woman; though in some cases, if they succeed in eluding capture for a certain time, the offence may be condoned. In the Ta-ta-thi tribe, New South Wales, in the rare cases which occur, the man is killed but the woman is only beaten or speared, or both, till she is nearly dead; the reason given for not actually killing her being that she was probably coerced. Even in casual amours the clan prohibitions are strictly observed ; any violations of these prohibitions "are regarded with the utmost abhorrence and are punished by death." [Footnote 472-9] An important exception to these rules, if it is correctly reported, is that of the Port Lincoln tribe, which is divided into two clans, Mattiri and Karraru, and it is said that though persons of the same clan never marry, yet "they do not seem to consider less virtuous connexions between parties of the same class [clan] incestuous." [Footnote 472-10] Again, of the tribes on the lower Murray, lower Darling, &c., it is said that though the slightest blood relationship is with them a bar to marriage, yet in their sexual intercourse they are perfectly free, and incest of every grade continually occurs. [Footnote 472-11]

In America the Algonkins consider it highly criminal tor a man to marry a woman of the same totem as himself, and they tell of cases where men, for breaking this rule, have been put to death by their nearest relations. [Footnote 472-12]

In some tribes the marriage prohibition only extends to a man’s own totem clan ; he may marry a woman of any totem but his own. This is the case with the Haidas of the Queen Charlotte Islands, [Footnote 472-13] and, so far as appears, the Narrinyeri in South Australia, [Footnote 472-14] and the western Australian tribes described by Sir George Grey. [Footnote 472-15] Oftener, however, the prohibition includes several clans, in none of which is a man allowed to marry. For such an exogamous group of clans within the tribe it is convenient to have a name ; we shall therefore call it a phratry (L. H. Morgan), defining it as an exogamous division intermediate between the tribe and the clan. The evidence goes to show that in many cases it was originally a totem clan which has undergone subdivision.

The Choctaws, for example, were divided into two phratries, each of which included four clans; marriage was prohibited between members of the same phratry, but members of either phratry could marry into any clan of the other. [Footnote 472-16] The Seneca tribe of the Iroquois was divided into two phratries, each including four clans,—the Bear, Wolf, Beaver, and Turtle clans forming one phratry, and the Deer, Snipe, Heron, and Hawk clans forming the other. Originally, as among the Choctaws, marriage was prohibited within the phratry but was permitted with any of the clans of the other phratry; the prohibition, however, has now broken down, and a Seneca may marry a woman of any clan but his own. Hence phratries, in our sense, no longer exist among the Senecas, though the organization survives for certain religious and social purposes. [Footnote 472-17]

The phratries of the Thlinkets and the Mohegans deserve especial attention, because each phratry bears a name which is also the name of one of the clans iucluded in it. The Thlinkets are divided as follows:—Raven phratry, with clans Raven, Frog, Goose, Sea Lion, Owl, Salmon; Wolf phratrv, with clans Wolf, Bear, Eagle, Whale, Shark, Ank. Members of the Raven phratry must marry members of the Wolf phratry, and vice versa. [Footnote 472-18] Considering the prominent parts played in Thlinket mythology by the ancestors of the two phratries, and considering that the names of the phratries are also names of clans, it seems probable that the Raven and Wolf were the two original clans of the Thlinkets, which afterwards by subdivision became phratries. This was the opinion of the Russian missionary Veniaminoff, the best early authority on the tribe. [Footnote 472-19] Still more clearly do the Mohegan phratries appear to have been formed by subdivision from clans. They are as follows: [Footnote 472-21]—Wolf phratry, With clans Wolf, Bear, Dog, Opossum, Turtle Phratry, with clans Little Turtle, Mud Turtle, Great Turtle, Yellow Eel; Turkey phratry, with clans Turkey, Crane, Chicken. Here we are almost forced to conclude that the Turtle phratry was originally a Turtle clan which subdivided into a number of clans, each of which took the name of a particular kind of turtle, while the Yellow Eel clan may have been a later subdivision. Thus we get a probable explanation of the origin of split totems; they seem to have arisen by the segmentation of a single original clan, which had a whole animal for its totem, into a number of clans, each of which took the name either of a part of the original animal or of a subspecies of it. We may conjecture that this was the origin of the Grey Wolf and Yellow Wolf and Great Turtle and Little Turtle clans of the Tuscarora-Iroquois; [Footnote 473-1] the Black Eagleand White Engle and the Deer and Deer-Tail clans of the Kaws; [Footnote 473-2] and of the Highland Turtle (striped), Highland Turtle (black), Mud Turtle, and Smooth Large Turtle clans of the Wyandots (Hurons). [Footnote 473-3] Warren actually states that the numerous Bear clan of the Ojibways was formerly subdivided into subclans, each of which took for its totem some part of the Bear’s body (head, foot, ribs, &c.), but that these have now merged into two, the Common Bear and the Grizzly Bear. [Footnote 473-4] The subdivision of the Turtle (Tortoise) clan, which on this hypothesis has taken place among the Tuscarora-Iroquois, is nascent among the Onondaga-Iroquois, for among them "the name of this clan is Hahnowa, which is the general word for tortoise; but the clan is divided into two septs or subdivisions, the Hanyatengona, or Great Tortoise, and the Nikalinowaksa, or Little Tortoise, which together are held to constitute but one clan." [Footnote 473-5]

On the other hand, fusion of clans is known to have taken place, as among the Haidas, where the Black Bear and Fin-Whale clans have united; [Footnote 473-6] and the same thing has happened to some extent among the Omahas and Osages. [Footnote 473-7]

In Australia the phratries are still more important than in America. Messrs Howitt and Fison, who have done so much to advance our knowledge of the social system of the Australian aborigines, have given to these exogamous divisions the name of classes; but the term is objectionable, because it fails to convey (1) that these divisions are kinship divisions, and (2) that they are intermediate divisions ; whereas the Greek term phratry conveys both these meanings, and is therefore appropriate.

We have seen examples of Australian tribes in which members of any clan are free to marry members of any clan but their own; but such tribes appear to be exceptianal. Often an Australian tribe is divided into two (exogamous) phratries, each of which includes under it a number of totem clans ; and oftener still there are subphratries interposed between the phratry and the clans, each phratry including two subphratries,. and the subphratries including totem clans. We will take examples of the former and simpler organization first.

The Turra, tribe in Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, is divided into two phratries, Wilt_ (Eaglehawk) and M_lta (Seal). The Eaglehawk phratry includes ten totem clans (Wombat, Wallaby, Kangaroo, Iguana, Wombat-Snake, Bandicoot, Black Bandicoot, Crow, Rock Wallaby, and Emu); and the Seal phratry includes six (Wild Goose, Butterfish, Mullet, Schnapper, Shark, and Salmon). The phratries are of course exogamous, but (as with the Choctaws, Mohegan, and, so far as appears, all the American phratries) any clan of the one phratry may intermarry with any clan of the other phratry. [Footnote 473-8] But the typical Australian tribe is divided into two exogamous phratries; each of these phratries is subdivided into two subphratries; and these subphratries are subdivided into an indefinite number of totem clans. The phratries being exogamous, it follows that their subdivisions (the subphratries and clans) are so also. The well-known Kamilaroi tribe in New South Wales will serve as an example. Its subdivisions are as follows: [Footnote 473-9]

[Footnote 473-10, beside Muri in table]

In such tribes the freedom of Marriage is still more curtailed. A subphratry is not free to marry into either subphratry of the other phratry; each subphratry is restricted in its choice of partners to one subphratry of the other phratry; Muri can only marry Kumbo, and vice versa; Kubi can only marry Ipai, and vice versa. Hence (supposing the tribe to be equally distributed between the phratries and subpbratries), whereas under the two phratry and clan system a man is free to choose a wife from half the women of the tribe, under the phratry, subphratry, and clan system he is restricted in his choice to one quarter of the women.

A remarkable feature of the Australian social organization is that divisions of one tribe have their recognized equivalents in other tribes, whose languages, including the names for the tribal divisions, are quite different. A native who travelled far and wide through Australia stated that "he was furnished with ternporary wives by the various tribes with whom he sojourned in his travels; that his right to these women was recognized as a matter of course; and that he could always ascertain whether they belonged to the division into which he could legally marry, ‘though the places were 1000 miles apart, and the languages quite different.’" [Footnote 473-11] Again, it is said that "in cases of distant tribes it can be shown that the class divisions correspond with each other, as for instance in the classes of the Flinders river and Mitchell river tribes ; and these tribes are separated by 400 miles of country, and by many intervening tribes. But, for all that, class corresponds to class in fact and in meaning and in privileges, although the name may be quite different and the totems of each dissimilar." [Footnote 473-12] Particular information, however, as to the equivalent divisions is very scanty. [Footnote 473-13] This systematic correspondence between the intermarrying divisions of distinct and distant tribes, with the rights which it conveys to the members of these divisions, points to sexual communism on a scale to which there is perhaps no parallel elsewhere, certainly not in North America, where marriage is always within the tribe, though outside the clan. [Footnote 473-14] But even in Australia a man is always bound to marry within a certain kinship group ; that group may extend across the whole of Australia, but nevertheless it is exactly limited and defined. If endogamy is used in the sense of prohibition to marry outside of a certain kinship group, whether that group be exclusive of, inclusive of, or identical with the man’s own group, then marriage among the totem societies of Australia, America, and India is both exogamous and endogamous; a man is forbidden to marry either within his own clan or outside of a certain kinship group. [Footnote 473-15]


472-4 Grey, Jour., ii. 231; Report of the Smithsonian Inst. for 1866, p. 315; Petroff, Rep. on Alaska, p. 165. Other authorities speak to the superiority of the totem bond over the tribal bond (Morgan, League of the Iroquois, p. 82 ; Mayne, Brit. Columb., p. 257 American Antiquarian, ii. p. 109).

472-5 Grey, Journals, ii. 230, 238 sq.; Smithsonian Rep., loc. cit.

472-6 Fison and Howitt, 156 sq., 216 sq. Simetimes the two clans meet and settle it by single combat between picked champions (Jour. and Proc. R. Soc. N. S. Wales, 1882, p. 226).

472-7 Simons in Proc. R. Geogr. Soc., Dec. 1835, p. 789 sq.

472-8 Bourke, Snake Dance of the Moquis of Arizona, p. 279.

472-9 Howitt in Rep. of Smithsonian Inst. for 1883, p. 804; Fison and Howitt, pp. 64-67, 289, 344 sq.; J. A. I., xiv. p. 351 sq.

472-10 Nat. Tr. of S. Australia, p, 222.

472-11 Jour. And Proc. R. Soc. N. S. Wales, 1883, p. 24; Transactions of the Royal Society of Victoria, vi. p. 16.

472-12 James in Tanner’s Narr., p. 313.

472-13 Geol. Sur. of Canada, Rep. for 1878-79, p. 134B.

472-14 Nat. Tr. of S. Austr., p. 12 ; J. A. I, xii. p. 46.

472-15 Grey, Jour., ii. p. 226.

472-16 Archaeologia Americana, Trans. and Collect. Americ. Antiq. Soc., vol. ii. p. 109 ; Morgan, A . S., pp. 99, 162.

472-17 Morgan, op. cit., pp. 90, 94 sq.

472-18 A. Krause, Die Tlinkit-Indianer, 112, 220 ; Holmberg, op. cit., 293, 313; Pinart in Bull. Soc. Anthrop. Paris, 7th Nov. 1872, p. 792 sq.; Petroff, Rep. on Alaska, p. 165 sq.

472-19 Petroff, op. cit., p. 166.

472-20 Morgan, p. 174.

473-1 Morgan, op. cit., p. 73.

473-2 Morgan, p. 156.

473-3 First Rep., p. 59.

473-4 Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, v. p. 49.

473-5 H. Hale, The Iroquois Book of Rites, p. 53 sq.

473-6 Geol. Surv. of Cemada, Rep. for 1878-79, p. 134B.

473-7 Third Rep., p. 235 ; American Naluralist, xviii. p. 114.

473-8 Fison and Howitt, p. 285.

473-9 J. A. I, xii. 500.

473-10 Corresponding female forms are made by adding tha to these niale names: Muri—Matha (for Muritha), Kubi—Kubitha, &c.

473-11 Fison and Howitt, p. 53 sq.; cf. Brough Smyth, i. p. 91.

473-12 J. A. I., xiii. p. 300.

473-13 For a few particulars see Fison and Howitt, 38, 40; Brough Smyth, ii. 288; J. A. I., xiii. 304, 306, 346, xiv. 348 sq., 351.

473-14 First Rep., p. 63. Between North-American tribes "there were no intermarriages, no social intercourse, no intermingling of any kind, except that of mortal strife" (Dodge, Our Wild Indians, p. 45).

473-15 Cf. First Rep., loc. cit. As. Quart. Rev., July 1886, p. 89 sq.

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