cerastes or horned snake, remains the Egyptian hieroglyphic sign for the phonetic figure or letter F, the syllabic Fu, which was an ideographic fuff or puff-adder. The swelling, puffing, fuffing snake is self-named and self-defined in the first or ideographic stage—it then becomes fu in the second or syllabic stage, and finally is the letter F of modern language, where it still carries the two horns of the hieroglyphic snake. Here we see the survival of the snake as one of the mystical authors of language, like the Ape, the Ass, the Goose, the hissers, purrers, grunters, roarers previously described.
Sometimes the zootypes are continued and remain apparent in the personal name. Some neighbours of the present writer, who are known by the name of Lynch, have a Lynx in their coat-of-arms, without ever dreaming that their name was derived from the Lynx as their totem, or that the Lynches were the Lynxes. This is one of numerous survivals of primitive totemism in modern heraldry. Again, the Lynx is one of the animals which have the power of seeing in the dark. The Moon is an eye that sees by night, or in the dark. This was represented as the eye of the Lynx or the Cat, the Seer being divinized as a Lynx in Mafet, an Egyptian Goddess. The seeing power thus divinized is marked in later language by the epithet “Lynx-eyed.” Lastly, there are something like 1,000 Ideographic signs in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and only 26 letters in our alphabet. So few were the sounds, so numerous the visible signs of things and ideas. We now know that man had a language of gesture-signs when he was otherwise dumb, or could only accompany his visible signs with clicks and other ape-like sounds, which he kept on repeating with intention until they were accepted at an exchangeable value as the first current coinage or counters of speech before words. The Zootypes were also continued in the religious Mysteries to visibly and audibly denote the characters assumed in this primitive drama. Just as the Zulu girl could not come to her mistress because she was now a Frog, so the Manes in Amenta exclaim, “I am the Crocodile.” “I am the Beetle!” “I am the Jackal!” “I am the God in Lion-form!” These express his powers. They are also the superhuman forms taken by the superhuman powers, Power over the water, Power of transformation, Power of resurrection, Power of seeing in the dark of death, together with others, all of which are assumed because superhuman. In assuming the types he enters into alliance with the powers, each for some particular purpose, or, rather, he personates them. When surrounded by the enemies of the Soul, for example, he exclaims, “I am the Crocodile-God in all his terrors.” This has to be read by the Osirian Drama. Osiris had been thus environed by the Sebau and the associates of the evil Sut when he lay dismembered in Sekhem. But he rose again as Horus. In this case the Crocodile-type of terror was employed: and down went the adversaries before the Almighty Lord—thus imaged in Sign-language. The Masquerade continued in later Mysteries with the transformation of the performers in the guise of beasts, birds, and reptiles, had been practised in the Mysteries of Amenta, where the human Soul in passing through the Nether World assumed shape after shape, and made its transformation from the one to the other in a series of new births according to the Kamite doctrine of metempsychosis, which
was afterwards perverted and turned into foolishness in India and in Greece. In this divine drama the Soul from earth is assimilated to the zootypes or is invested in their forms and endowed with their forces which had figured forth the earlier Nature-powers in the mythology. The Egyptian Ritual is written in this language of animals, and never was it read in the past, never will it be in the future, unless the thinking can be done in the Ideographic types of thought. Merely reading the hieroglyphics as phonetics is but a first lesson in Sign-language.
TOTEMISM, TATTOO AND FETISHISM AS FORMS OF
WITH due search we shall find that the unwritten and remotest past of primitive man is not immemorial after all that may have been lost by the way. Most obscure conditions have been more or less preserved and represented in the drama of primitive customs; in the mirror of mythology and the Sign-language of Totemism. Ceremonial rites were established as the means of memorizing facts in Sign-language when there were no written records of the human past. In these the knowledge was acted, the Ritual was exhibited, and kept in ever-living memory by continual repetition. The Mysteries, totemic or religious, were founded on this basis of action. Dancing, for example, was a mode of Sign-language in all the mysteries. To know certain mysteries implied the ability to dance them, when they could not be otherwise expressed. The Bushmen say that the Mantis-Deity Kagn taught them the Mysteries of dancing under the type of the “Praying Mantis” or the leaping grasshopper. Primitive men had observed the ways and works of Nature, and imitated all they might as a means of thinking their meaning when they could not talk. They danced it with the Grasshopper, they writhed and swelled and puffed it with the Serpent; they panted it with the Lion, roared it with the Hippopotamus, hummed it with the insects, pawed and clicked it with the Ape. In short, they acted in accordance with the example of their forerunners on the earth. They not only wore the skins of animals and feathers of birds, they made their motions in Totemic dances and imitated their cries as a primary means of making themselves understood. From the beginning in the far-off misty morning of the past, dancing in the likenesses of animals was a Totemic mode of demonstration. Amongst the earliest deities of Egypt are Apt and Bes, who issue forth from Inner Africa as dancers in the act of dancing the mystery of the phallic dance, and in the skins of animals. The Arunta Tribes of Central Australia dance the Unthippa Dance in the ceremony of young-man-making at the time of circumcision. This tells the story of the way they came in what is known as the “Range all along.” (Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 442.) It is said to be the dance of the Unthippa Women in the Alcheringa who were beings of both sexes and who danced all the way “until their organs were modified and they became as other women are.” This denotes the status of the
pre-Totemic people who were as yet undivided by the Totemic Rites of Puberty which are now illustrated in the mystery of the dance. In the Initiation ceremonies of the males described by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen (p. 381), a special dance of the women follows the making of the youth into a man who is now welcomed by them into the ranks of the elders. “A number of young women come near. Each one is decorated with a double horse-shoe-shaped band of white pipe-clay which extends across the front of each thigh and the base of the abdomen. A flexible stick is held behind the neck and one end grasped by each hand. Standing in a group, the women sway slightly from side to side, quivering in a most remarkable fashion, as they do so, the muscles of the thighs and the base of the abdomen.” The object of the decoration and movement is evident. It is to incite the youths and prepare them for connubium. At this period of the ceremonies a general interchange and a lending of women also takes place. “This women’s dance goes on night after night for perhaps two or three weeks.” The men sing the “Corroboree Song” whilst the women dance the mystery of young-man making, and show the object and mode of it. In this case white pipe-clay was substituted for the white Undattha-Down with which the female was usually embellished. Here the customs of the Totemic Mysteries naturally suggest that a primary object in putting on fur and feather or down, and dancing in the skin of the Totemic Animal at the festival of pubescence, was to dramatize the coming age for sexual intercourse when this was determined by the appearance of the pubes whether of the female or the male.
There had been a pre-Totemic period of promiscuity in which there was no regulated intercourse of sexes, no marriage by the group, or of one half the group with the other half. At that time, or in the pre-eval state, the earth as yet was undivided into South and North; the Mythical Cow was not yet cut in twain, or the mother separated into the Two Women. Much is told us by tradition if we can but interpret truly. It says the race of beings was not then divided, and had but one leg to go or stand on, meaning there was but one stock. All the earth, in later phrase, being of one blood and of one language. The sexes were not yet divided by the lizard, as female pubescence was quaintly figured. There was no cutting of the male or opening of the female with the firestick or the stone knife by which the sexes were divided, or made, or in the latter phrase “created” into men and women. These were the “Inapertwa” beings in the Alcheringa who preceded women and men and were pre-Totemic. These were the Unopened or the Uncircumcised, who had to be transformed into women and men by cutting and opening; that is by introcision and circumcision, or subincision, by which they were made into women and men in becoming Totemic. Dancing then was a dramatic mode of rendering the mysteries of primitive knowledge in visible Sign-language. With the Tshi-speaking peoples “Soffa,” the name of the priest, signifies “the dancing man.” The African Acholi in their dances, says Sir H. Johnston, imitate animals “most elaborately.” An African potentate has been known to dance for some ten or fifteen minutes together in receiving a distinguished European visitor, like Richard Burton, before he had represented all his own titles of honour
and claims to admiration in the language of dance and gesture-signs. With the Bechuanas each Totem has its own special dance, and when they want to know the clan to which a stranger may belong they will ask “What dance do you dance?” as an equivalent for the question “To what clan do you belong?” These dances are continued in the Initiatory ceremonies of Totemism. They tend to show that the shapes and sounds and movements of the Totemic animals were imitated in the primeval pantomime by way of proclaiming the clan to which the particular group belonged. The Totemic type was thus figured to sight in gesture-language before it could be known by name. Admission into the Dacota Clan was effected by means of the great Medicine Dance. The Medicine Men of the Iroquois have four dances which are sacred to themselves, no other person being allowed to dance these Mysteries. The first is the “Eagle-Dance,” the second the “Dark Dance” (performed in the dark); the other two are the “Pantomime Dance” and the “Witches’ Dance.” (Myths of the Iroquois. Bureau of Ethnology. Second Annual Report, 1880-81, p. 116.) The Eagle being the Bird of Light, the Sun-Bird, we may infer that the first two dances told the story of the Beginning with Light and Darkness, which was thus rendered in gesture-language and continued to be memorized in that fashion by those who danced such primitive Mysteries. We also learn from the sacred dances of the aborigines in the character of the Bear, the Wolf, the Seal, the Crab, or other animal that the gesture-language included an imitation of the Totemic zootype. The Mandan Indians dance the Buffalo-dance, the heads of the dancers being covered with a mask made of the Buffalo’s head and horns. In other dances of the Dog and Bear totems, the dancers acted in the characters of the animals. The Llamas of Thibet dance the Old Year out and the New Year in whilst wearing their animal masks. The Snake-dance is still performed by the Moqui Indians of Arizona (Bourke, Snake-Dance of the Moquis, p. 116), and also amongst the Australian aborigines when they “make the Snake” in their sacred procession of the Mysteries (Howitt). It was a common Totemic custom for the brothers and sisters to perform their commemorative ceremonies or mysteries in the likeness of the Totemic-animal. In the Australian Rites of Initiation the teachings and moral lessons are conveyed in object-lessons pantomimically displayed. The various Totems are indicated by the language of gestures. The “Rock-Wallabies” are initiated by jumping with the knees slightly bent and the legs kept wide apart. The Kangaroos hop about in the likeness of the Totemic animal. The howlings of a pack of dingoes or wild dogs are heard afar off as if in the depth of the forest. The sounds grow less and less distant. At length the leader of the band rushes in on all fours followed by the others. They run after each other on all fours round the fire, imitating the actions of wild dogs in the Dingo dance. (A. W. Howitt on some Australian Ceremonies of Initiation.) With the Inoits at their religious fêtes and anniversaries of the dead, the biographies of the departed are told to the spectators in dumb show and dancing. With the Kakhyens of Northern Burmah it is the custom to dance the ghost out of the house at the time of the funeral. The Egyptian mourners also accompanied the Manes on the way to Amenta with
song and dance, as may be seen in the Vignettes to the Book of the Dead, where the text deals with the mysteries of the Resurrection. The same Mystery is expressed in the Black Fellow’s jumping up a White Fellow when he rises from the dead. It used to be the custom in Scotland for dancing to be kept up all night long after a funeral (Napier, Folk-lore of West Scotland, p. 66). Not as a desire of getting rid of the Spirit, but as an act of rejoicing in dancing the Resurrection of the Spirit. The on-lookers often wonder why the performers in Gaelic and Keltic dances should, when furiously dancing, give forth such inhuman shouts and shrill blood-curdling cries. But there is nothing likelier than that these are remains of the “Language of Animals,” and a survival of the primitive Totemic practices. Leaping in the air with a shout while dancing had a special dramatic significance. What this was may be inferred from the Egyptian Funeral Scenes. That which had survived as the Dance of Death in the Middle Ages was the earlier Dance of the Resurrection, or the rising again from the dead. The dancing occurs in the presence of the mummy when this has been raised to its feet and set on end, which is then a figure of the risen dead. The rising again was likewise imitated in the dance. Hence the women who are seen to be jumping with curious contortions on some of the bas-reliefs are acting the resurrection. It is their duty and delight to “dance that dance” for the departed (Papyrus of Ani). Thus, Sign-language, Totemism and Mythology were not merely modes of representation. They were also the primitive means of preserving the human experience in the remoter past of which there could be no written record. They constitute the record of pre-historic times. The most primitive customs, ceremonial rites and revels, together with the religious mysteries, originated as the means of keeping the unwritten past of the race in ever-living memory by perennial repetition of the facts, which had to be acted from generation to generation in order that the knowledge might become hereditary. This is a thesis which can be fully proved and permanently established. Before ever a Folk-tale was told or a legend related in verbal speech, the acting of the subject-matter had begun, dancing being one of the earliest modes of primitive Sign-language. Not “trailing Clouds of Glory” have we come from any state of perfection as fallen angels in disguise with the triumphs of attainment all behind us, but as animals emerging from the animal, wearing the skins of animals, uttering the cries of animals, whilst developing our own; and thus the nascent race has travelled along the course of human evolution with the germ of immortal possibilities in it darkly struggling for the light, and a growing sense of the road being up-hill, therefore difficult and not to be made easy like the downward way to nothingness and everlasting death.
It is now quite certain that speech was preceded by a language of animal cries, accompanied by human gestures because, like the language of the clickers, it is yet extant with the Aborigines, amongst whom the language-makers may yet be heard and seen to work in the pre-human way. The earliest human language, we repeat, consisted of gesture-signs which were accompanied with a few appropriate sounds, some of which were traceably continued from the predecessors of Man. A sketch from life in the camp of the Mashona
chief Lo Benguela, made by Bertram Mitford, may be quoted, much to the present purpose:—
“‘He comes—the Lion!’ and they roared.
“‘Behold him—the Bull, the black calf of Matyobane!’—and at this they bellowed.
“‘He is the Eagle which preys upon the world!’—here they screamed; and as each imitative shout was taken up by the armed regiments, going through every conceivable form of animal voice–the growling of leopards, the hissing of serpents, even to the sonorous croak of the bull-frog–the result was indescribably terrific and deafening.” (“The Triumph of Hilary Blachland,” by Bertram Mitford, p. 28.) In this Sign-language, which was earlier than words, the Red Men acted their wants and wishes in expressive pantomime whilst wearing the skins of the animal that was pursued for food. They “laid their case” as it were before the Powers previous to the hunt. Each hunt had its especial dance which consisted in the imitation of the motions, habits, and cries of the animals to be hunted. They climbed like bears, built like beavers, galloped about like buffaloes, leaped like roes, and yelped like foxes. (Chateaubriand, “Voyage en Amer.,” p. 142.) Travellers have detected a likeness betwixt the scream of the Prairie-dog and the speech of the Apache Indians, who will imitate the animal so perfectly as to make it respond to them from the distance. On the night of the Lunar festival, when waiting for the Moon to rise, they will invoke her light with a concert of cries from their brethren of the animal world, which include the neighing of the Horse, the whinnying of the Mule, the braying of the Ass, the screech of the Coyote, the call of the Hyena, the growl of the Grizzly Bear, when this Totemic orchestra performs its nocturnal overture in the Language of Animals. The Zuni Indians in their religious service imitate the cries of the beasts which are imaged as their fetishes in ceremonial rites at the council of Fetishes. They sing a very long hymn or prayer-chant, and at the close of each stanza the chorus consists of the cries which represent their Deities, called the Prey-Gods, in the guise of their Totemic Animals. Hall, in his “Life with the Esquimaux,” tells us how the Inoit look up to the Bear as superior to themselves in hunting the seal. Because, as they say, the Bear “talks sealish,” and can lull the animal to slumber with his incantation. The Inoit have learned the secret of Bruin, and repeat his language all they can to fascinate, decoy, and magically overcome the seal and capture it, but they are still beaten by the Bear. Dr. Franz Boaz has recently discovered the remains of a very primitive tribe of Aborigines near the boundary betwixt Alaska and British Columbia. They are called the Tsutsowt, and are hunted to death by the Indians like wild beasts. They formerly consisted of two Clans that rigidly observed the ancient law of Totemic connubium, no woman being allowed to marry within her own Clan. At present there is but one Clan in existence, and the men of this Clan have been forced to seek for wives among the Indians of Nass river. These Tsutsowt apparently talk in bird-language. They cheep and chirrup or whistle in their speech with a great variety of notes.
whatever arts they knew, and instituted the ceremonies of Initiation for Young-man-making, is said to have ordered the names of animals to be assumed by Men. (Howitt, “On Some Australian Beliefs.”) Before the names could be assumed, however, the animals were adopted for Totems, and the earliest names were more or less the cries and calls of the living Totems. The mothers would be known by their making the cry of their Totemic animal, to which the children responded in the same pre-human language. The Sow (say) is the mother, the children are her pigs. The mother would call her children as a sow, and the children would try to repeat the same sounds in response. The Totemic Lioness would call her kittens by purring, and the cubs would respond by purring. The Hippopotami, Lions, and other loud roarers would grow terrible with the sounds they made in striking dread into the children. When as yet they had no names nor any art of tattooing the Totemic figures on the flesh of their own bodies, the brothers and sisters had to demonstrate who they were, and to which group they belonged by acting the character of the zootype in the best way they could by crying or calling, lowing, grunting, or puffing and posturing like the animals in this primitive pantomime or bal masqué. Thus the sign to the eye and the sound to the ear were continued pari passu in the dual development of Sign-language that was both visual and vocal at the same time when the brothers and sisters were identifying themselves, not with nor as the animals, but by means of them, and by making use of them as zootypes for their Totems. The clicks of the Pygmies, the San (Bushmen), the Khoi-Khoi (Hottentots), and the Kaffirs constitute a living link betwixt the human beginner and his predecessor the Ape. The Bushmen possess about the same number of clicks as the Cynocephalus or Dog-headed Ape. The Monkey-Mother also menstruates; another link betwixt the Ape and the human female. The Clickers born of her as blood-mother would be known by their sounds as Monkey-Men. Taht-Aani is a Totemic monkey-man raised to the status of a divinity in Egypt. Hanuman is the same in India, where the Jaitwas of Rajputana claim to be the descendants of the Monkey-God. And the Ape-Men, imitating the Cynocephalus, would be on the way to becoming the human Clickers. Very naturally, naming by words would follow the specializing by means of the Totemic types, as we have Tree the type, and Tree the name; Bull the type, and Bull the name; Dove the type, and Dove the name; Lynx the type, and Lynch the name. An instance is supplied by Frederick Bonney in his notes on the customs of the River Darling Aborigines, New South Wales, which is also to the point. He observed that the children are named after animals, birds, and reptiles, and the name is a word in their language meaning the movement or habit of one of them. (Journal Anthrop. Institute, May, 1883). The sound may be added. The Totem (say) is an animal. First it was a figure. And from this a name was afterwards drawn, which at times, and probably at first, was the voice of the animal.
The earliest formation of human society which can be distinguished from the gregarious horde with its general promiscuity of intercourse between the sexes is now beginning to be known by the name of Totemism, a word only heard the other day. Yet nothing later
than the Totemic stage of Sociology is fundamental enough as ground to go upon in discussing Sign-language, Mythology, and Fetishism, or in tracing the rootlets of religion; and the study of the subject has but just commenced. It had been omitted, with all its correlates and implications, from previous consideration and teachings concerning the prehistoric past and present status of the scattered human family. On this line of research the inquiries and explorations which go back to this tangible beginning are now the only profitable studies. The results of these alone can be permanent. All the rest were tentative and transitory. But “No satisfactory explanation of the origin of Totemism has yet been given.” So says the writer of a book on the subject. (Frazer, J. G., “Totemism.”)
The author of “Primitive Marriage,” who first mooted the subject in England, could make nothing of it in the end. According to his brother, in a preface to “The Patriarchate” McLennan gave up his hypothesis and ceased to have any definite view at all on the origin of Totemism. Nevertheless, McLennan was right in his guess that the so-called “animal-worship of the Egyptians was descended from a system of Totems or Fetishes” (Budge, “The Gods of the Egyptians,” vol. I, p. 29), though “Worship,” we protest again and again, is not the word to employ; in this connection it is but a modern counterfeit. The Totem, in its religious phase, was as much the sign of the Goddess or the God as it had been of the Motherhood or Brotherhood. It was an image of the superhuman power. Thus the Mother-earth as giver of water was imaged by the fish or papyrus shoot. These, so to say, were Totems of the Nature powers. But when it came to “worship” it was the powers that were the objects of supreme regard, not the Totems by means of which the powers were represented; not the water-cow, the goose, the fish, the shoot, but the Goddess Apt, and the Gods Seb, Sebek- and Child-Horus. It is in the most primitive customs that we must seek for the fundamental forms of rites and ceremonies. It is in Totemism only that we can trace the natural genesis of various doctrines and dogmas that have survived to be looked upon as a divine revelation especially vouchsafed to later times, in consequence of their having been continued as religious Mysteries without the guidance of the primitive Gnosis.