« PreviousContinue »
head, with the professed view, entertained by both mother and son, that her spirit, excited by the beating of a large drum during forty days, might haunt, torment, and pursue to death the taker of their money and those concerned with him. Declaring with her last words that she would blast the thief, the spiteful hag deliberately gave up her life to take ghostly vengeance for those forty rupees. By instances like these it appears that we may trace up from the psychology of the lower races the familiar ancient and modern European tales of baleful ghost-demons. The old fear even now continues to vouch for the old belief.
Happily for man's anticipation of death, and for the treatment of the sick and aged, thoughts of horror and hatred do not preponderate in ideas of deified ancestors, who are regarded on the whole as kindly patron spirits, at least to their own kinsfolk and worshippers. Manes-worship is one of the great branches of the religion of mankind. Its principles are not difficult to understand, for they plainly keep up the social relations of the living world. The dead ancestor, now passed into a deity, simply goes on protecting his own family and receiving suit and service from them as of old; the dead chief still watches over his own tribe, still holds his authority by helping friends and harming enemies, still rewards the right and sharply punishes the wrong. It will be enough to show by a few characteristic examples the general position of manes-worship among mankind, from the lower culture upward. In the two Americas it appears not unfrequently, from the low savage level of the Brazilian Camacans, to the somewhat higher stage of northern Indian tribes whom we hear of as praying to the spirits of their forefathers for good weather or luck in hunting, and fancying when an Indian falls into the fire that the ancestral spirits pushed him in to punish
1 Sir J. Shore in ' Asiatic Res.' vol. iv. p. 331.
2 For some collections of details of manes-worship, see Meiners, 'Geschichte der Religionen,' vol. i. book 3; Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. pp. 402-11 ; Psychologie,' pp. 72–114.
neglect of the customary gifts, while the Natchez of Louisiana are said to have even gone so far as to build temples for dead men. Turning to the dark races of the Pacific, we find the Tasmanians laying their sick round a corpse on the funeral pile, that the dead might come in the night and take out the devils that caused the diseases; it is asserted in a general way of the natives, that they believed most implicitly in the return of the spirits of their departed friends or relations to bless or injure them as the case might be. In Tanna, the gods are spirits of departed ancestors, aged chiefs becoming deities after death, presiding over the growth of yams and fruit trees, and receiving from the islanders prayer and offerings of first fruits. Nor are the fairer Polynesians behind in this respect. Below the great mythological gods of Tonga and New Zealand, the souls of chiefs and warriors form a lower but active and powerful order of deities, who in the Tongan paradise intercede for man's benefit with the higher deities, who direct the Maori war parties on the march, hover over them and give them courage in the fight, and, watching jealously their own tribes and families, punish any violation of the sacred laws of tapu. Thence we trace the doctrine into the Malay islands, where the souls of deceased ancestors are looked to for prosperity in life and help in distress. In Madagascar, the worship of the spirits of the dead is remarkably associated with the Vazimbas, the aborigines of the island, who are said still to survive as a distinct race in the interior, and whose peculiar graves testify to their former occupancy of other districts. These graves, small in size, and distinguished by a cairn and an upright stone slab or altar, are places which the Malagasy regard with equal fear and veneration, and their faces become sad and serious when they even pass near. To take a stone or pluck a twig from one of these graves, to stumble against one in the dark, would be resented by the angry Vazimba inflicting disease, or coming in the night to carry off the offender to the region of ghosts. The Malagasy is thus enabled to account for every otherwise unaccountable ailment by his having knowingly or unknowingly given offence to some Vazimba. They are not indeed always malevolent, they may be placable or implacable, or partake of both characters. Thus it comes to pass, that at the altar-slab which long ago some rude native family set up for commemoration or dutiful offering of food to a dead kinsman, a barbaric supplanting race now comes to smear the burnt fat of sacrifice, and set up the heads of poultry and sheep and the horns of bullocks, that the mysterious tenant may be kind, not cruel, with his superhuman powers.
1 J. G. Müller, ‘Amer. Urrel.' pp. 73, 173, 209, 261 ; Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 39, part iii. p. 237 ; Waitz, ' Anthropologie,' vol. iii. pp. 191, 204.
2 Backhouse, ‘Australia,' p. 105; Bonwick, ‘Tasmanians,' p. 182. 3 Turner, ‘Polynesia,' p. 88.
4 Mariner, ‘Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 104 ; S. S. Farmer, p. 126 ; Shortland, *Trads. of N. Z.' p. 81 ; Taylor, "New Zealand,' p. 108.
5 J. R. Forster, Observations,' p. 604 ; Marsden, Sumatra,' p. 258 ; 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. ii. p. 234.
On the continent of Africa, manes-worship appears with extremest definiteness and strength. Thus Zulu warriors, aided by the 'amatongo,' the spirits of their ancestors, conquer in the battle; but if the dead turn their backs on the living, the living fall in the fight, to become ancestral spirits in their turn. In anger the 'itongo' seizes a living man's body and inflicts disease and death; in beneficence he gives health, and cattle, and corn, and all men wish. Even the little children and old women, of small account in life, become at death spirits having much power, the infants for kindness, the crones for malice. But it is especially the head of each family who receives the worship of his kin. Why it is naturally and reasonably so, a Zulu thus explains. ‘Although they worship the many Amatongo of their tribe, making a great fence around them for their protection; yet their father is far before all others when they worship the Amatongo. Their father is a great treasure to them even when he is dead. And those of his children who are already grown up know him thoroughly, his gentleness, and his bravery.' 'Black people do not worship all Amatongo indifferently, that is, all the dead of their tribe. Speaking generally, the head of each house is worshipped by the children of that house; for they do not know the ancients who are dead, nor their laud-giving names, nor their names. But their father whom they knew is the head by whom they begin and end in their prayer, for they know him best, and his love for his children; they remember his kindness to them whilst he was living; they compare his treatment of them whilst he was living, support themselves by it, and say, "He will still treat us in the same way now he is dead. We do not know why he should regard others besides us; he will regard us only.””] It will be seen in another place how the Zulu follows up the doctrine of divine ancestors till he reaches a first ancestor of man and creator of the world, the primæval Unkulunkulu. In West Africa, manes-worship displays in contrast its two special types. On the one hand, we see the North Guinea negroes transferring the souls of the dead, according to their lives, to the rank of good and evil spirits, and if evil worshipping them the more zealously, as fear is to their minds a stronger impulse than love. On the other hand, in Southern Guinea, we see the deep respect paid to the aged during life, passing into worship when death has raised them to yet higher influence. There the living bring to the images of the dead food and drink, and even a small portion of their profits gained in trade; they look especially to dead relatives for help in the trials of life, and it is no uncommon thing to see large groups of men and women, in times of peril or distress, assembled along the brow of some commanding eminence, or along the skirts of some dense forest, calling in the most piteous and touching tones upon the spirits of their ancestors.'1
1 Ellis, ‘Madagascar,' vol. i. pp. 123, 423. As to the connexion of the Vazimbas with the Mazimba of East Africa, see Waitz, vol. ii. pp. 360, 426. 1 Callaway, 'Religious System of Amazulu,' part ii.; see also Arbousset and Daumas, p. 469; Casalis, ‘Basutos,' pp. 248-54; Waitz, ‘Anthropologie,' vol. ii. pp. 411, 419; Magyar, ‘Reisen in Süd-Afrika,' pp. 21, 335 (Congo); Cavazzi, ‘Congo,' lib. i.
In Asia, manes-worship comes to the surface in all directions. The rude Veddas of Ceylon believe in the guardianship of the spirits of the dead; these, they say, are ‘ever watchful, coming to them in sickness, visiting them in dreams, giving them flesh when hunting;' and in every calamity and want they call for aid on the ‘kindred spirits,' and especially the shades of departed children, the 'infant spirits.'? Among non-Hindu tribes of India, whose religions more or less represent præ-Brahmanic and præ-Buddhistic conditions, wide and deep traces appear of an ancient and surviving cultus of ancestors. Among Turanian tribes spread over the northern regions of the Old World, a similar state of things may be instanced from the Mongols, worshipping as good deities the princely souls of Genghis Khan's family, at whose head stands the divine Genghis himself.4 Nor have nations of the higher Asiatic culture generally rejected the time-honoured rite. In Japan the Way of the Kami,' better known to foreigners as the Sin-tu religion, is one of the officially recognized faiths, and in it there is still kept up in hut and palace the religion of the rude old mountain-tribes of the land, who worshipped their divine ancestors, the Kami, and prayed to them for help and blessing. To the time of these ancient Kami, say the modern Japanese, the rude stone implements belong which are found in the ground in Japan as elsewhere: to modern ethnologists, however, these bear witness not of divine but savage parentage. In Siam the lower orders scruple to
1 J. L. Wilson, W. Afr.' pp. 217, 388–93. See Waitz, vol. ii. pp. 181, 194.
2 Bailey in ‘Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. ii. p. 301. Compare Taylor, ‘New Zealand,' p. 153.
3 Buchanan, ‘Mysore,’in Pinkerton, vol. viii. pp. 674-7. See Macpherson, • India,' p. 95 (Khonds); Hunter, ‘Rural Bengal,' p. 183 (Santals).
4 Castrén, ‘Finn. Myth.' p. 122 ; Bastian, 'Psychologie,' p. 90. See Palgrave, ‘Arabia,' vol. i.
373. Siebold, ‘Nippon, vol. i. p. 3, vol. ii. p. 51; Kempfer, ‘Japan,' in Pinkerton, vol. vii. pp. 672, 680, 723, 755.