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gradually superseded by views more in accordance with modern science, to the great gain of our health and happi
The transition which has taken place in the famous insane colony of Gheel in Belgium is typical. In old days, the lunatics were carried there in crowds to be exorcised from their demons at the church of St. Dymphna; to Gheel they still go, but the physician reigns in the stead of the exorcist. Yet wherever, in times old or new, demoniacal influences are brought forward to account for affections which scientific physicians now explain on a different principle, care must be taken not to misjudge the ancient doctrine and its place in history. As belonging to the lower culture it is a perfectly rational philosophical theory to account for certain pathological facts. But just as mechanical astronomy gradually superseded the animistic astronomy of the lower races, so biological pathology gradually supersedes animistic pathology, the immediate operation of personal spiritual beings in both cases giving place to the operation of natural processes.
We now pass to the consideration of another great branch of the lower religion of the world, a development of the same principles of spiritual operation with which we have become familiar in the study of the possession-theory. This is the doctrine of Fetishism. Centuries ago, the Portuguese in West Africa, noticing the veneration paid by the negroes to certain objects, such as trees, fish, plants, idols, pebbles, claws of beasts, sticks and so forth, very fairly compared these objects to the amulets or talismans with which they were themselves familiar, and called them feitiço or 'charm,' a word derived from Latin factitius, in the sense of 'magically artful.' Modern French and English adopted this word from the Portuguese as fétiche, fetish, although curiously enough both languages had already possessed the word for ages in a different sense, Old French faitis, 'well made, beautiful,' which Old English adopted as fetys, 'well made, neat.' It occurs in the commonest of all quotations from Chaucer:
' And Frensch sche spak ful faire and fetysly,
For Frensch of Parys was to hire unknowe.' The President de Brosses, a most original thinker of the 18th century, struck by the descriptions of the African worship of material and terrestrial objects, introduced the word Fétichisme as a general descriptive term," and since then it has obtained great currency by Comte's use of it to denote a general theory of primitive religion, in which external objects are regarded as animated by a life analogous to man's. It seems to me, however, more convenient to use the word Animism for the doctrine of spirits in general, and to confine the word Fetishism to that subordinate department which it properly belongs to, namely, the doctrine of spirits embodied in, or attached to, or conveying influence through, certain material objects. Fetishism will be taken as including the worship of 'stocks and stones,' and thence it passes by an imperceptible gradation into Idolatry.
Any object whatsoever may be a fetish. Of course, among the endless multitude of objects, not as we should say physically active, but to which ignorant men ascribe mysterious power, we are not to apply indiscriminately the idea of their being considered vessels or vehicles or instruments of spiritual beings. They may be mere signs or tokens set up to represent ideal notions or ideal beings, as fingers or sticks are set up to represent numbers. Or they may be symbolic charms working by imagined conveyance of their special properties, as an iron ring to give firmness, or a kite's foot to give swift flight. Or they may be merely regarded in some undefined way as wondrous ornaments or curiosities. The tendency runs through all human nature to collect and admire objects remarkable in beauty, form, quality, or scarceness. The shelves of ethnological museums show heaps of the objects which the lower races treasure up
(C. de Brosses.) ' Du culte des dieux fétiches ou Parallèle de l'ancienne Religion de l’Egypte avec la religion actuelle de Nigritie.' 1760. [De Brosses supposed the word fétiche connected with chose fée, fatum.]
and hang about their persons-teeth and claws, roots and berries, shells and stones, and the like. Now fetishes are in great measure selected from among such things as these, and the principle of their attraction for savage minds is clearly the same which still guides the superstitious peasant in collecting curious trifles ‘for luck. The principle is one which retains its force in far higher ranges of culture than the peasant's. Compare the Ostyak’s veneration for any peculiar little stone he has picked up, with the Chinese love of collecting curious varieties of tortoise-shell, or an oldfashioned English conchologist's delight in a reversed shell. The turn of mind which in a Gold-Coast negro would manifest itself in a museum of monstrous and most potent fetishes, might impel an Englishman to collect scarce postage-stamps or queer walking-sticks. In the love of abnormal curiosities there shows itself a craving for the marvellous, an endeavour to get free from the tedious sense of law and uniformity in nature. As to the lower races, were evidence more plentiful as to the exact meaning they attach to objects which they treat with mysterious respect, it would very likely appear more often and more certainly than it does now, that these objects seem to them connected with the action of spirits, so as to be, in the strict sense in which the word is here used, real fetishes. But this must not be taken for granted. To class an object as a fetish, demands explicit statement that a spirit is considered as embodied in it or acting through it or communicating by it, or at least that the people it belongs to do habitually think this of such objects; or it must be shown that the object is treated as having personal consciousness and power, is talked with, worshipped, prayed to, sacrificed to, petted or ill-treated with reference to its past or future behaviour to its votaries. In the instances now selected, it will be seen that in one way or another they more or less satisfy such conditions. In investigating the exact significance of fetishes in use among men, savage or more civilized, the peculiar difficulty is to know whether the effect of the object is
thought due to a whole personal spirit embodied in or attached to it, or to some less definable influence exerted through it. In some cases this point is made clear, but in many it remains doubtful.
It will help us to a clearer conception of the nature of a fetish, to glance at a curious group of notions which connect a disease at once with spiritual influence, and with the presence of some material object. They are a set of illustrations of the savage principle, that a disease or an actual disease-spirit may exist embodied in a stick or stone or such-like material object. Among the natives of Australia, one hears of the sorcerers extracting from their own bodies by passes and manipulations a magical essence called 'boylya,' which they can make to enter the patient's body like pieces of quartz, which causes pain there and consumes the flesh, and may be magically extracted either as invisible or in the form of a bit of quartz. Even the spirit of the waters, 'nguk-wonga,' which had caused an attack of erysipelas in a boy's leg (he had been bathing too long when heated) is declared to have been extracted by the conjurers from the affected part in the shape of a sharp stone. The Caribs, who very distinctly referred diseases to the action of hostile demons or deities, had a similar sorcerer's process of extracting thorns or splinters from the affected part as the peccant causes, and it is said that in the Antilles morsels of stone and bone so extracted were wrapped up in cotton by the women, as protective fetishes in childbirth. The Malagasy, considering all diseases as inflicted by an evil spirit, consult a diviner, whose method is often to remove the disease by means of a 'faditra ;' this is some object, such as a little grass, ashes, a sheep, a pumpkin, the water the patient has rinsed his mouth with, or what not, and when the priest has counted on it the evils
Grey, 'Australia,' vol. ii. p. 337; Eyre, 'Australia,' vol. ii. p. 362 ; Oldfield in 'Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. iii. p. 235, &c.; G. F. Moore, Vocab. of 8. W. Austr.' pp. 18, 98, 103. See Bonwick, ‘Tasmanians,' p. 195.
2 Rochefort, 'Iles Antilles,' pp. 419, 508; J. G. Müller, pp. 173, 207, 217.
that may injure the patient, and charged the faditra to take them away for ever, it is thrown away, and the malady with it. Among those strong believers in disease-spirits, the Dayaks of Borneo, the priest, waving and jingling charms over the affected part of the patient, pretends to extract stones, splinters, and bits of rag, which he declares are spirits; of such evil spirits he will occasionally bring halfa-dozen out of a man's stomach, and as he is paid a fee of six gallons of rice for each, he is probably disposed (like a chiropodist under similar circumstances) to extract a good many. The most instructive accounts of this kind are those which reach us from Africa. Dr. Callaway has taken down at length a Zulu account of the method of stopping out disease caused by spirits of the dead. If a widow is troubled by her late husband's ghost coming and talking to her night after night as though still alive, till her health is affected and she begins to waste away, they find a 'nyanga or sorcerer who can bar out the disease. He bids her not lose the spittle collected in her mouth while she is dreaming, and gives her medicine to chew when she wakes. Then he goes with her to lay the 'itongo,' or ghost; perhaps he shuts it up in a bulb of the inkomfe plant, making a hole in the side of this, putting in the medicine and the dream-spittle, closing the hole with a stopper, and replanting the bulb. Leaving the place, he charges her not to look back till she gets home. Thus the dream is barred; it may still come occasionally, but no longer infests the woman; the doctor prevails over the dead man as regards that dream. In other cases the cure of a sick man attacked by the ancestral spirits may be effected with some of his blood put into a hole in an anthill by the doctor, who closes the hole with a stone, and departs without looking back; or the patient may be scarified over the painful place, and the blood put into the mouth of a frog, caught for the purpose and carried back. So the disease is barred out from the