Images de page


was known to the ancestors of the present dwellers in India. And as it is in the far East, so it is in the far West; and so, also, in mid-ocean.

Thus, for example, in the latter field, among the degraded Feejee Islanders, where one would be least likely to look for the sway of a religious sentiment in the more barbarous customs of that barbarous people, this truth has been recognized by Christian missionaries, who would view the relics of heathenism with no undue favor. The Rev. Messrs. Williams and Calvert-the one after thirteen years, and the other after seventeen years of missionary service there—said on this subject: "Cannibalism is a part of the Fijian religion, and the gods are described as delighting in human flesh." And again: "Human flesh is still the most valued offering [to the gods], and their 'drink offerings of blood' are still the most acceptable [offerings to the gods] in some parts of Fiji.”1

It was the same among the several tribes of the North American Indians, according to the most trustworthy testimony. A Dutch clergyman, Dominie Megapolensis, writing two centuries ago from near the present site of Albany, "bears the strongest testimony to the ferocity with which his friends the Mohawks treated their prisoners, and is very explicit as to

[ocr errors]

1 See Williams and Calvert's Fiji and the Fijians, pp. 35 f., 161166, 181 f.

cannibalism. The common people,' he says 'eat the arms, buttocks, and trunk; but the chiefs eat the head and the heart.' This feast was of a religious character." 1 Parkman says, of the "hideous scene of feasting [which] followed the torture of a prisoner,” “it was, among the Hurons, partly an act of vengeance, and partly a religious rite." He cites evidence, also, that there was cannibalism among the Miamis, where "the act had somewhat of a religious character [and], was attended with ceremonial observances." "

[ocr errors]

Of the religious basis of cannibalism among the primitive peoples of Central and South America, students seem agreed. Dorman who has carefully collated important facts on this subject from varied sources, and has considered them in their scientific bearings, is explicit in his conclusions at this point. Reviewing all the American field, he says: "I have dwelt longer upon the painful subject of cannibalism than might seem desirable, in order to show its religious character and prevalence everywhere. Instead of being confined to savage peoples, as is generally supposed, it prevailed to a greater extent and with more horrible rites among the most civilized. Its religious inception was the cause of this." Again, he says, of the peoples of


1 Cited in Parkman's Jesuits in No. Am., p. 228, note.
3 Ibid., p. xl., note.

2 Ibid., p. xxxix.

Origin of Prim. Supers., p. 151 f.


Mexico and of the countries south of it: "All the Nahua nations practised this religious cannibalism. That cannibalism as a source of food, unconnected with religious rites, was ever practised, there is little evidence. Sahagun and Las Casas regard the cannibalism of the Nahuas as an abhorrent feature of their religion, and not as an unnatural appetite."


Réville, treating of the native religions of Mexico and Peru, comes to a similar conclusion with Dorman; and he argues that the state of things which was there was the same the world over, so far as it related to cannibalism. "Cannibalism," he says, "which is now restricted to a few of the savage tribes who have remained closest to the animal life, was once universal to our race. For no one would ever have conceived the idea of offering to the gods a kind of food which excited nothing but disgust and horror." In this suggestion, Réville indicates his conviction that the primal idea of an altar was a table of blood-bought communion. "Human sacrifices " however, he goes on to say, "prevailed in many places when cannibalism had completely disappeared from the habits and tastes of the population.

Thus the Semites of Western Asia, and the Çivaïte Hindus, the Celts, and some of the populations 1 Origin of Prim. Supers., p. 150.

2 Native Relig. in Mex. and Peru, p. 75 f.

of Greece and Italy, long after they had renounced cannibalism, still continued to sacrifice human beings to their deities." And he might have added, that some savage peoples continued cannibalism when the religious idea of its beginning had been almost swept away entirely by the brutalism of its inhuman nature and tendencies. Referring to the date of the conquest of Mexico, he says: "Cannibalism, in ordinary life, was no longer practised. The city of Mexico underwent all the horrors of famine during the siege conducted by Fernando Cortes. When the Spaniards finally entered the city, they found the streets strewn with corpses, which is a sufficient proof that human flesh was not eaten even in dire extremities. And, nevertheless, the Aztecs not only pushed human sacrifices to a frantic extreme, but they were ritual cannibals, that is to say, there were certain occasions on which they ate the flesh of the human victims they had immolated."1

And as it was in India and in America and in the Islands of the Sea, so it seems to have been, wherever the primitive idea of cannibalism as a prevalent custom has been intelligently sought out.2

1 Native Relig. of Mex. and Peru, p. 76.

2 See references to cannibalism as a religious rite among the Khonds of Orissa, the people of Sumatra, etc., in Adams's Curiosities of Superstition.



As the primitive and more natural method of commingling bloods, in the blood-covenant, by sucking each other's veins, or by an inter-transference of blood from the mutually opened veins, was in many regions superseded by the symbolic laving, or sprinkling, or anointing, with blood; and as the blood of the lower animals was often substituted, vicariously, for human blood;-so the blood and wine which were commingled for mutual drinking in the covenant-rite, or which were together poured out in libation, when the covenant was between man and the Deity, came, it would appear, to be represented, in many cases, by the wine alone. First, we find men pledging each other in a sacred covenant, in the inter-drinking of each other's blood mingled with wine. They called their covenant-draught, "assiratum," or "vinum assiratum"; "wine, covenant-filled." By and by, apparently, they came to count simple wine-" the blood of grapes"-as the representative of blood and wine, in many forms of covenanting.

This mutual drinking, as a covenant-pledge, has been continued as an element in the marriage ceremony, the world over, down to the present time. It would even

1Gen. 49: 11; Deut. 32: 14; Ecclesiasticus 39: 26; 50: 15; I Macc. 6: 34.

« PrécédentContinuer »