Page images
PDF
EPUB

childbirth into a ceremonial ordinance.1 It is so among the indigenes of India, where both in northern and southern districts the naming of the child comes into connexion with the purification of the mother, both ceremonies being performed on the same day. 2 Without extending further this list of instances, it is sufficiently plain that we have before us the record of a practical custom becoming consecrated by traditional habit, and making its way into the range of religious ceremony.

Much the same may be said of the purification of savage and barbaric races on occasion of contamination by bloodshed or funeral. In North America, the Dacotas use the vapour-bath not only as a remedy, but also for the removal of ceremonial uncleanness, such as is caused by killing a person, or touching a dead body. So among the Navajos, the man who has been deputed to carry a dead body to burial, holds himself unclean until he has thoroughly washed himself in water prepared for the purpose by certain ceremonies. 4

In Madagascar, no one who has attended a funeral may enter the palace courtyard till he has bathed, and in all cases there must be an ablution of the mourner's garments on returning from the grave. Among the Basutos of South Africa, warriors returning from battle must rid themselves of the blood they have shed, or the shades of their victims would pursue them and disturb their sleep. Therefore they go in procession in full armour to the nearest stream to wash, and their weapons are washed also. It is usual in this ceremony for a sorcerer higher up the stream to put in some magical ingredient, such as he also uses in the preparation of the holy water which is sprinkled over the people with a beast's tail at the frequent public purifications. These Basutos, moreover, use fumigation with burning wood to purify growing corn, and cattle taken from the enemy. Fire serves for purification in cases too trifling to require sacrifice; thus when a mother sees her child walk over a grave, she hastens to call it, makes it stand before her, and lights a small fire at its feet. The Zulus, whose horror of a dead body will induce them to cast out and leave in the woods their sick people, at least strangers, purify themselves by an ablution after a funeral. It is to be noticed that these ceremonial practices have come to mean something distinct from mere cleanliness. Kaffirs who will purify themselves from ceremonial uncleanness by washing, are not in the habit of washing themselves or their vessels for ordinary purposes, and the dogs and the cockroaches divide between them the duty of cleaning out the milkbaskets.2 Mediæval Tatar tribes, some of whom had conscientious scruples against bathing, have found passing through fire or between two fires a sufficient purification, and the household stuff of the dead was lustrated in this

1 Bourien in ‘Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. iii. p. 81. 2 Dalton in 'Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. vi. p. 22 ; Shortt, ibid. vol. iii. p. 375. 3 Schoolcraft, ‘Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 255. 4 Brinton, 'Myths of New World,' p. 127. 5 Ellis, 'Madagascar.' vol. i. p. 241 ; see pp. 407, 419.

II.—2 F

latter way."

In the organised nations of the semi-civilized and civilized world, where religion shapes itself into elaborate and systematic schemes, the practices of lustration familiar to the lower culture now become part of stringent ceremonial systems. It seems to be at this stage of their existence that they often take up in addition to their earlier ceremonial significance an ethical meaning, absent or all but absent from them at their first appearance above the religious horizon.

This will be made evident by glancing over the ordinances of lustration in the great national religions of history. It will be well to notice first the usages of two semi-civilized nations of America, which though they have scarcely produced practical effect on civilization at large, give valuable illustration of a transition period in culture, leaving apart the obscure question of their special civiliza

i Casalis, ‘Basutos,' p. 258.

2 Grout, 'Zulu-land,' p. 147 ; Backhouse, ‘Mauritius and S. Africa,' pp. 213, 225.

3 Bastian, ‘Mensch,' vol. iii. p. 75; Rubruquis, in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 82 ; Plano Carpini in Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 37.

tion having been influenced in early or late times from the Old World.

In the religion of Peru, lustration is well-marked and characteristic. On the day of birth, the water in which the child had been washed was poured into a hole in the ground, charms being repeated by a wizard or priest; an excellent instance of the ceremonial washing away of evil influences. The naming of the child was also more or less generally accompanied with ceremonial washing, as in districts where at two years old it was weaned, baptized, had its hair ceremonially cut with a stone knife, and received its childname; Peruvian Indians still cut off a lock of the child's hair at its baptism. Moreover, the significance of lustration as removing guilt is plainly recorded in ancient Peru; after confession of guilt, an Inca bathed in a neighbouring river and repeated this formula, 'O thou River, receive the sins I have this day confessed unto the Sun, carry them down to the sea, and let them never more appear.'1

In old Mexico, the first act of ceremonial lustration took place at birth. The nurse washed the infant in the name of the water-goddess, to remove the impurity of its birth, to cleanse its heart and give it a good and perfect life; then blowing on water in her right hand she washed it again, warning it of forthcoming trials and miseries and labours, and praying the invisible Deity to descend upon the water, to cleanse the child from sin and foulness, and to deliver it from misfortune. The second act took place some four days later, unless the astrologers postponed it. Ata festive gathering, amid fires kept alight from the first ceremony, the nurse undressed the child sent by the gods into this sad and doleful world, bade it receive the life-giving water, and washed it, driving out evil from each limb and offering to the deities appointed prayers for virtue and blessing. It was then that the toy instruments of war or craft or household labour were placed in the boy's or girl's hand (a custom singularly corresponding with one usual in China), and the other children, instructed by their parents, gave the newcomer its child-name, here again to be replaced by another at manhood or womanhood. There is nothing unlikely in the statement that the child was also passed four times through the fire, but the authority this is given on is not sufficient. The religious character of ablution is well shown in Mexico by its forming part of the daily service of the priests. Aztec life ended as it had begun, with ceremonial lustration; it was one of the funeral ceremonies to sprinkle the head of the corpse with the lustral water of this life.

1 Rivero and Tschudi, ‘Peruvian Antiquities,' p. 180 ; J. G. Müller, 'Amer. Urrelig.' p. 89; osta, 'Ind. Occ.' v. c. 25; Brinton, p. 126. See account of the rite of driving out sicknesses and evils into the rivers, * Rites and Laws of Incas,'tr. and ed. by C. R. Markham, p. 22.

Among the nations of East Asia, and across the more civilized Turanian districts of Central Asia, ceremonial lustration comes frequently into notice; but it would often bring in difficult points of ethnography to attempt a general judgment how far these may be native local rites, and how far ceremonies adopted from foreign religious systems. As examples may be mentioned in Japan the sprinkling and naming of the child at a month old, and other lustrations connected with worship;? in China the religious ceremony at the first washing of the three days' old infant, the lifting of the bride over burning coals, the sprinkling of holy-water over sacrifices and rooms and on the mourners after a funeral ;3 in Burma the purification of the mother by fire, and the annual sprinkling-festival. Within the range of Buddhism in its Lamaist form, we find such instances as the Tibetan and Mongol lustration of the child a few days after birth, the lama blessing the water and immersing the child thrice, and giving its name; the Buraet consecration by threefold washing; the Tibetan ceremony where the mourners returning from the funeral stand before the fire, wash their hands with warm water over the hot coals, and fumigate themselves thrice with proper formulas. With this infant baptism of Tibetans and Mongols may be compared the rite of their ethnological kinsfolk in Europe. The Lapps in their semiChristianized state had a form of baptism, in which a new name, that of the deceased ancestor who would live again in the child, as the mother was spiritually informed in a dream, was given with a threefold sprinkling and washing with warm water where mystic alder-twigs were put. This ceremony, though called by the Scandinavian name of ' laugo' or bath, was distinct from the Christian baptism to which the Lapps also conformed. The natural ethnographic explanation of these two baptismal ceremonies existing together in Northern Europe, is that Christianity had brought in a new rite, without displacing a previous native one.

i Sahagun, 'Nueva España,' lib. vi. ; Torquemada, 'Monarquia Indiana,” lib. xii. ; Clavigero, vol. ii. pp. 39, 86, &c. ; Humboldt, Vues des Cordillères,' Mendoza Cod. ; J. C. Müller, p. 652.

2 Siebold, 'Nippon,'v. p. 22; Kempfer, ‘Japan,'ch. xiii. in Pinkerton, vol. vii.

3 Doolittle, ‘Chinese,' vol. i. p. 120, vol. ii. p. 273. Davis, vol. i. p. 269.

4 Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 247 ; Meiners, vol. ii. p. 106 ; Symes in Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 435.

Other Asiatic districts show lustration in more compact and characteristic religious developments. The Brahman leads a life marked by recurring ceremonial purification, from the time when his first appearance in the world brings uncleanness on the household, requiring ablution and clean garments to remove it, and thenceforth through his years from youth to old age, where bathing is a main part of the long minute ceremonial of daily worship, and further washings and aspersions enter into more solemn religious acts, till at last the day comes when his kinsfolk, on their way home from his funeral, cleanse themselves by a final bath from their contamination by his remains. For the means

1 Köppen, ‘Religion des Buddha,' vol. ii. p. 320; Bastian, 'Psychologie,' pp. 151, 211 ; ‘Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 499.

2 Leems, ' Finnmarkens Lapper.' Copenhagen, c. xiv., xxii., and Jessen, c. xiv. ; Pinkerton, vol. i. p. 483 ; Klemm, 'Cultur-Gesch.' vol. iii. p. 77.

« PreviousContinue »