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one of those where the mediums feel themselves entered and acted through by a spirit other than their own soul. The Rev. Mr. West of Philadelphia describes how a certain possessed medium went through the sword exercise, and fell down senseless; when he came to himself again, the spirit within him declared itself to be the soul of a deceased ancestor of the minister's, who had fought and died in the American War. We in England now hardly hear of demoniacal possession except as a historical doctrine of divines. We have discarded from religious services the solemn ceremony of casting out devils from the bodies of the possessed, a rite to this day officially retained in the Rituals of the Greek and Roman Churches. Cases of diabolical influence alleged from time to time among ourselves are little noticed except by newspaper paragraphs on superstition and imposture. If, however, we desire to understand the doctrine of possession, its origin and influence in the world, we must look beyond countries where public opinion has passed into this stage, and must study the demoniac theory as it still prevails in lower and lowest levels of culture.
It has to be thoroughly understood that the changed aspect of the subject in modern opinion is not due to disappearance of the actual manifestations which early philosophy attributed to demoniacal influence. Hysteria and epilepsy, delirium and mania, and such like bodily and mental derangement, still exist. Not only do they still exist, but among the lower races, and in superstitious districts among the higher, they are still explained and treated as of old. It is not too much to assert that the doctrine of demoniacal possession is kept up, substantially the same theory to account for substantially the same facts, by half the human race, who thus stand as consistent representatives of their forefathers back into primitive antiquity. It is in the civilized world, under the influence of the medical doctrines which have been developing since classic times, that the early animistic theory of these morbid phenomena has been
1 West in ‘Spiritual Telegraph,' cited by Bastian.
gradually superseded by views more in accordance with modern science, to the great gain of our health and happiness. 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 the 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, we find demoniacal influences brought forward to account for affections which scientific physicians now explain on a different principle, we must be careful 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 jactitius, 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 fuitis, “ well made, beautiful,” which Old English adopted as fetys, “well made, neat.” It occurs in the commonest of all quotations from Chancer:
“ And Frensch sche spak ful faire and fetysly,
Aftur the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
The President de Brosses, a most original thinker of the last 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 sétiches 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, we hear 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 conjurors 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
i Grey, Australia,' vol. ii. p. 337 ; Eyre, Australia,' vol. ii. p. 362; Oldfield in “Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. iii. p. 235, etc. ; G. F. Moore, Vocab. of S. W Austr.' pp. 18, 98, 103. See Bonwick, “Tasmanians,' p. 195.
? Rochefort, 'Iles Antilles,' pp. 419, 508 ; J. G. Müller, pp. 173, 207, 217.