History of Circumcision from the Earliest Times to the Present - Moral and Physical Reasons for its Performance
by Peter Charles Remondino
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Member of the American Medical Association, of the American Public Health Association, of the San Diego County Medical Society, of the State Board of Health of California, and of the Board of Health of the City of San Diego; Vice-President of California State Medical Society and of Southern California Medical Society, etc.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1891, by F. A. DAVIS, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Philadelphia Pa., U. S. A.: The Medical Bulletin Printing House, 1231 Filbert Street.


In ancient Egypt the performance of circumcision was at one time limited to the priesthood, who, in addition to the cleanliness that this operation imparted to that class, added the shaving of the whole body as a means of further purification. The nobility, royalty, and the higher warrior class seem to have adopted circumcision as well, either as a hygienic precaution or as an aristocratic prerogative and insignia. Among the Greeks we find a like practice, and we are told that in the times of Pythagoras the Greek philosophers were also circumcised, although we find no mention that the operation went beyond the intellectual class. In the United States, France, and in England, there is a class which also observe circumcision as a hygienic precaution, where, from my personal observation, I have found that circumcision is thoroughly practiced in every male member of many of the families of the class,—this being the physician class. In general conversation with physicians on this subject, it has really been surprising to see the large number who have had themselves circumcised, either through the advice of some college professor while attending lectures or as a result of their own subsequent convictions when engaged in actual practice and daily coming in contact both with the benefits that are to be derived in the way of a better physical, mental, and moral health, as well as with the many dangers and disadvantages that follow the uncircumcised,—the latter being probably the most frequent incentive and determinator,—as in many of these latter examples the operation of circumcision, with its pains, annoyances, and possible and probable dangers, sink into the most trifling insignificance in comparison to some of the results that are daily observed as the tribute that is paid by the unlucky and unhappy wearer of a prepuce for the privilege of possessing such an appendage.

There is one thing that must be admitted concerning circumcision: this being that, among medical men or men of ordinary intelligence who have had the operation performed, instead of being dissatisfied, they have extended the advantages they have themselves received, by having those in their charge likewise operated upon. The practice is now much more prevalent than is supposed, as there are many Christian families where males are regularly circumcised soon after birth, who simply do so as a hygienic measure.

For the benefit of these, who may congratulate themselves upon the dangers and annoyances that they and their families have escaped, and for the benefit of those who would run into these dangers but for timely warning, this book has been especially written. To my professional brothers the book will prove a source of instruction and recreation, for, while it contains a lot of pathology regarding the moral and physical reasons why circumcision should be performed, which might be as undigestible as a mess of Boston brown bread and beans on a French stomach, I have endeavored to make that part of the book readable and interesting. The operative chapter will be particularly useful and interesting to physicians, as I have there given a careful and impartial review of all the operative procedures,—from the most simple to the most elaborate,—besides paying more than particular attention to the subject of after-dressings. The part that relates to the natural history of man will interest all manner of people. I regret that the tabular statistics are not to be had, but in this regard we must use our best judgment from the material we have on hand; at any rate, I have tried to furnish a sufficiency of facts, so that, unless the reader is too overexacting, he will not find much difficulty in arriving at a conclusion on the subject.



































INDEX, 339


This book is the amplification of a paper, the subject of which was, "A Plea for Circumcision; or, the Dangers that Arise from the Prepuce," which was read at the meeting of the Southern California Medical Society, at Pasadena, in December, 1889. The material gathered for that paper was more than could be used in the ordinary limits of a society paper; it was gathered and ready for use, and this suggested its arrangement into book form. The subject of the paper was itself suggested by a long and personal observation of the changes made in man by circumcision. From the individual observation of cases, it was but natural to wish to enlarge the scope of our observation and comparison; this naturally led to a study of the physical characteristics of the only race that could practically be used for the purpose. This race is the Jewish race. On carefully studying into the subject, I plainly saw that much of their longevity could consistently be ascribed to their more practical humanitarianism, in caring for their poor, their sick, as well as in their generous provision for their unfortunate aged people. The social fabric of the Jewish family is also more calculated to promote long life, as, strangely as it may seem, family veneration and family love and attachment are far more strong and practical among this people than among Christians, this sentiment not being even as strong in the Christian races as it is in the Chinese or Japanese. It certainly forms as much of a part of the teachings of Christianity as it does of Judaism, Buddhism, or Confucianism, only Christians, as a mass, have practically forgotten it. The occupation followed by the Jews also in a certain degree favors longevity, and the influence on heredity induced by all these combined conditions goes for something. But it is not alone in the matter of simple longevity—although that implies considerable—that the Jewish race is found to be better situated. Actual observations show them to be exempt from many diseases which affect other races; so that it is not only that they recover more promptly, but that they are not, as a class, subjected to the loss of time by illness, or to the consequent sufferings due to illness or disease, in anything like or like ratio with other people.

There is also a less tendency to criminality, debauchery, and intemperance in the race; this, again, can in a measure be ascribed to their family influence, which even in our day has not lost that patriarchal influence which tinges the home or family life in the Old Testament. Crimes against the person or property committed by Jews are rare. They likewise do not figure in either police courts or penitentiary records; they are not inmates of our poor-houses, but, what is also singular, they are never accused of many silly crimes, such as indecent exposures, assaults on young girls; nor do they figure in any such exposures as the one recently made by the Pall Mall Gazette.

After allowing all that, which we can, in its fullest limit, to religion, family, or social habit, there is still a wide margin to be accounted for. This has naturally let the inquiry, followed in the course of this book, into a careful review of the Jewish people; into their religion and its character, its relation to other creeds, and to the world's history; into their many wanderings, and into the dispersion, and we have even been obliged to follow them into the midst of the people among whom they have become nationed, to try, if possible, to find the cause of this racial difference in health, resistance to disease, decay, and death. It has been necessary, in following out the research, to give a condensed resume of the religious, political, and social condition of the Jewish commonwealth, which, although in a state of dispersion, still exists. I need offer no apology for the extended notice this has received in the course of the book. We read with increasing interest either Hallam or May, Buckle or Guizot, through the spasmodic, halting, retrograding, advancing, erratic, aimless, and accidental phases that England has plowed through, from the days of goutless, simple, and chaste, but barbarian England of the Saxons, to the present civilized, enlightened, gouty, "Darkest England" of General Booth; and, after all is said and done, we are no wiser in any practical resulting good. We simply know that the English people, so to speak, have, as it were, gone through the figures of some social aspects, as if dancing the "Lancers," with its forward and back movements, gallop, etc., and have finally sat down, better dressed and better housed, but in an acquired state of moral and physical degeneration. The Briton of Queen Victoria is not the Briton of Queen Boadicea, either morally or physically. On the other hand, the system of sociological tables adopted by Herbert Spencer would have but little to record for some six thousand years—either in religion, morals, or physique—as making any changes in the history of that simple people which, in the mountainous regions of Ur, in distant Armenia, started on its pilgrimage of life and racial existence; in one branch of the family—that of Ishmael—the changes to be recorded are so invisible that its descendants may really be said to live to-day as they lived then. So that I do not feel that I need to apologize for the space I have given to this subject in the course of the book. The causes that make these racial distinctions should be of interest alike to the moralist, theologist, sociologist, and to the physician.

Ecclesiastical writers and moralists, as well as writers of fiction or dramatizers, can write on anything they please, and it is eagerly taken up and read by the people generally, either of high or low degree, alike; and somehow these people seem never to require an apology on the part of the author, for having attempted rapes, seductions, or even unavoidable fornication committed through the leaves of the story, or having it imaginably take place between acts on the stage. But if the physician writes a book touching anything connected with the generative functions, and with the best intent and for the good of humanity, he is expected to make some prefatory apology. He is supposed to address a public who all of a sudden have become intensely moral and extremely sensitive in their modesty. Why things are thus I cannot explain. They are so, nevertheless. From the time that the celebrated Astruc wrote his treatise on female diseases, near the end of the seventeenth century,—who felt compelled by the extreme modesty of the people in this particular—but who, outside of medicine, were about as virtuous as the average Tabby or Tom cats in the midnight hour—to write the chapter touching on nymphomania in Latin, so as not to shock the morbidly sensitive modesty of the French nobility, who then enjoyed Le Droit de cuissage,—down through to Bienville, who wrote the first extended work on nymphomania, and Tissot, who first broached the subject and the danger of Onanism, all have felt that they must stop on the threshold and "apologize." Tissot, however, seemed to possess a robust and a plain Hippocratic mind, and as he apologized he could not help but see the ridiculousness of so doing, as in the preface to his work we find the following: "Shall we remain silent on so important a subject? By no means. The sacred authors, the Fathers of the Church, who present their thoughts in living words, and ecclesiastical authors have not felt that silence was best. I have followed their example, and shall exclaim, with St. Augustine, 'If what I have written scandalizes any prudish persons, let them rather accuse the turpitude of their own thoughts than the words I have been obliged to use.'"

For my part, I think that people who can go to the theatre and enjoy "As in a Looking-Glass," and witness some of the satyrical or billy-goat traits of humanity so graphically exhibited in "La Tosca," with evident satisfaction; or attend the more robust plays of "Virginius" or of "Galba, the Gladiator," with all its suggestions of the Caesarian section, and the lust and the fornications of an intensely animal Roman empress, without the destruction of their moral equilibrium or tending to induce in them a disposition to commit a rape on the first met,—I think such people can be safely intrusted to read this book.

And as to the reading public, there are but few general readers who could honestly plead an ignorance of the "Decameron," Balzac, La Fontaine, "Heptameron," Crebillon fils, or of matter-of-fact Monsieur le Docteur Maitre Rabelais,—works which, more or less, carry a moral instruction in every tale, which, like the tales of the "Malice of Women," in the unexpurged edition of the literal translation of the "Arabian Nights," contains much more of practical moral lessons, even if in the flowery and warm, spiced language of the Orient, than any supposed nastiness, on account of which they are classed among the prohibited. To these, and the readers of Amelie Rives's books, or other intensely realistic literature, I need not imitate the warning of Ansonius, who warned his readers on the threshold of a part of his book to "stop and consider well their strength before proceeding with its lecture." Metaphorically speaking, the general theatre-going, or modern literature-reading public, can be considered pretty callous and morally bullet proof. I shall therefore make no apology.

Some fault may, perhaps, be found with some of the occasional style of the book, or with some of the subjects used to illustrate a principle. To the extremely wise, good, and scientific, these illustrations were unnecessary; this need hardly be mentioned; and the passages which to some may prove objectionable were not intended for them, either with the expectation of delighting them or with the purpose of shocking them. These passages, they can easily avoid. This book, however, was written that it might be read: not only read by the Solon, Socrates, Plato, or Seneca of the laity or the profession, but even by the billy-goated dispositioned, vulgar plebeian, who could no more be made to read cold, scientific, ungarnished facts than you can make an unwilling horse drink at the watering-trough. Human weakness and perversity is silly, but it is sillier to ignore that it exists. So, for the sake of boring and driving a few solid facts into the otherwise undigesting and unthinking, as well as primarily obdurate understanding of the untutored plebeian, I ask the indulgence of the intelligent and broad-minded as well as the easily inducted reader. Cleopatra was smuggled into Caesar's presence in a roll of tapestry; the Greeks introduced their men into Troy by means of a wooden horse; and the discoverer of the broad Pacific Ocean made his escape from his importunate creditors disguised as a cask of merchandise. So, when we wish to accomplish an object, we must adopt appropriate means, even if they may apparently seem to have an entirely diametrically opposite object. The Athenian, Themistocles, when wishing to make the battle of Salamis decisive, was inspired with the idea of sending word to the Persian monarch that the Greeks were trying to escape, advising him to block the passage; this saved Greece.

There is a weird and ghostly but interesting tale connected with the Moslem conquest of Spain, of how Roderick, the last of the Gothic kings, when in trouble and worry, repaired to an old castle, in the secret recesses of which was a magic table whereon would pass in grim procession the different events of the future of Spain; as he gazed on the enchanted table he there saw his own ruin and his country's and nation's subjugation. Anatomy is generally called a dry study, but, like the enchanted brazen table in the ancient Gothic castle, it tells a no less weird or interesting tale of the past. Its revelations lighten up a long vista, through the thousands of years through which the human species has evolved from its earliest appearance on earth, gradually working up through the different evolutionary processes to what is to-day supposed to be the acme of perfection as seen in the Indo-European and Semitic races of man. Anatomy points to the rudiment—still lingering, now and then still appearing in some one man and without a trace in the next—of that climbing muscle which shows man in the past either nervously escaping up the trunk of a tree in his flight from many of the carnivorous animals with whom he was contemporary, or, as the shades of night were beginning to gather around him, we again see him by the aid of these muscles leisurely climbing up to some hospitable fork in the tree, where the robust habits of the age allowed him to find a comfortable resting-place; protected from the dew of the night by the overhanging branches and from the prowling hyena by the height of the tree, he passed the night in security. The now useless ear-muscles, as well as the equally useless series of muscles about the nose, also tell us of a movable, flapping ear capable of being turned in any direction to catch the sound of approaching danger, as well as of a movable and dilated nostril that scented danger from afar,—the olfactory sense at one time having a different function and more essential to life than that of merely noting the differential aroma emitted by segars or cups of Mocha or Java, and the ear being then used for some more useful purpose than having its tympanum tortured by Wagnerian discordant sounds. Our ancestors might not have been a very handsome set, nor, judging from the Neanderthal skull, could they have had a very winning physiognomy, but they were a very hardy and self-reliant set of men. Nature—always careful that nothing should interfere with the procreative functions—had provided him with a sheath or prepuce, wherein he carried his procreative organ safely out of harm's way, in wild steeple-chases through thorny briars and bramble-brakes, or, when hardly pushed, and not able to climb quickly a tree of his own choice, he was by circumstances forced up the sides of some rough-barked or thorny tree. This leathery pouch also protected him from the many leeches, small aquatic lizards, or other animals that infested the marshes or rivers through which he had at times to wade or swim; or served as a protection from the bites of ants or other vermin when, tired, he rested on his haunches on some mossy bank or sand-hill.

Man has now no use for any of these necessaries of a long-past age,—an age so remote that the speculations of Ernest Renan regarding the differences between the Semitic race of Shem and the idolatrous descendants of Ham, away off in the far mountains and valleys of Asia lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the Euphrates, seem more as if he were discussing an event of yesterday than something which is considered contemporary with our earlier history,—and we find them disappearing, disuse gradually producing an obliteration of this tissue in some cases, and the modifying influence of evolution producing it in others; the climbing muscle, probably the oldest remnant and legacy that has descended from our long-haired and muscular ancestry, is the best example of disappearance caused by disuse, while the effectual disappearance of the prepuce in many cases shows that in that regard there exists a marked difference in the evolutionary march among different individuals.

There is a strange and unaccountable condition of things, however, connected with the prepuce that does not exist with the other vestiges of our arboreal or sylvan existence. Firstly, the other conditions have nothing that interferes with their disappearance; whereas the prepuce, by its mechanical construction and the expanding portions which it incloses, tends at times rather to its exaggerated development than to its disappearance. Again, whereas the other vestiges have no injury that they inflict by their presence, or danger that they cause their possessors to run, the prepuce is from time of birth a source of annoyance, danger, suffering, and death. Then, again, the other conditions are not more developed at birth; whereas the prepuce seems, in our pre-natal life, to have an unusual and unseen-for-use existence, being in bulk out of all proportion to the organ it is intended to cover. Speculation as to its existence is as unprolific of results as any we may indulge in regarding the nature, object, or uses of that other evolutionary appendage, the appendix vermiformis, the recollection of whose existence always adds an extra flavor to tomatoes, figs, or any other small-seeded fruits.

We may well exclaim, as we behold this appendage to man,—now of no use in health and of the most doubtful assistance to the very organ it was intended to protect, when that organ, through its iniquitous tastes, has got itself into trouble, and, Job-like, is lying repentant and sick in its many wrappings of lint, with perhaps its companions in crime imprisoned in a suspensory bandage,—what is this prepuce? Whence, why, where, and whither? At times, Nature, as if impatient of the slow march of gradual evolution, and exasperated at this persistent and useless as well as dangerous relic of a far-distant prehistoric age, takes things in her own hands and induces a sloughing to take place, which rids it of its annoyance. In the far-off land of Ur, among the mountainous regions of Kurdistan, something over six thousand years ago, the fathers of the Hebrew race, inspired by a wisdom that could be nothing less than of divine origin, forestalled the process of evolution by establishing the rite of circumcision. Whether this has been beneficial or injurious to the race will be, in a measure, the object of the discussion in this book.

One object of this book is to furnish my professional brothers with some embodied facts that they may use in convincing the laity in many cases where they themselves are convinced that circumcision is absolutely necessary; but, having nothing in their text-books to back up their opinion with, their explanations are too apt to pass for their mere unfounded personal view of the matter. If the patient, or the parents of the patient, ask the physician for his authority, he is at a loss, as there is nothing that deals with the subject in any extended manner; so that this book has been written in as plain English as the subject-matter could possibly allow, so that non-professionals could easily read and understand it. I have often felt the need of such a work; people can understand emergency or accident surgery, military surgery, or reparative surgery, but such a thing as surgery to remedy a seemingly medical disease, or what might be called the preventive practice of surgery, is something they cannot understand. First, and not the least, among the incentives to skepticism on this subject is the unwelcome fact of a surgical operation, which, no matter how trivial it may seem to the surgeon, is a matter of considerable magnitude to the patient, his parents, or friends; there are risks, pain, worry, annoyances, and expenses to be undergone,—considerations which, either singly or unitedly, often lead one to reason against the operation, even when otherwise convinced of its need or utility.

The hardest to convince are those, however, who insist on having a four-and-a-half-foot-gauge fact driven through their two-foot-gated understanding, without it ever occurring to them that the gate, and not the fact, is the faulty article, Some of these gentry are very unconvincible. They at times remind one of that description given by Carlyle in regard to one of the Georges, who found himself, when Prince of Wales, leading an army in Flanders, and actually engaged in a battle. His Royal Highness was on foot, and was seen standing facing the enemy, with outstretched legs, like a Colossus of Rhodes, impassive and stolid,—the very impersonification of Dutch courage and aggressiveness. There he stood, unconscious whether he was at the head of an army or single attendant; he might be overridden and annihilated, overturned and expunged, but there he would most assuredly stand and fall, if need be; overwhelming squadrons, by their impetus and weight, might ride him down and crush him; but one thing was most certain, this certain fact being that he never could be made to retreat or advance, as no impression from front or rear could convince him of the necessity of either.

Then, there is our statistical friend, who cannot discriminate between the exception and the rule by any common-sense deductions. He must have all the authentic, carefully-compiled statistics before he can allow himself to form any opinion. As long as there is the smallest fraction of a decimal unaccounted for in a mathematical way, this individual is inconvincible. These men pride themselves upon being methodically exact; they express their willingness to be convinced if you can present acceptable proofs; but, trying to present simple rational proofs to these individuals is considerably like presenting a meal of boiled pork and cabbage to a confirmed and hypochondriacal dyspeptic,—it only increases their mental dyspepsia.

Had Columbus waited to discover America, or had Galileo waited to proclaim the motion of the earth, until authorized to a serious consideration of the matter by properly-tabled statistics, they would have waited a long, long time; and, it may be added, the inconveniences that attend the proving of a negative will so interfere with the proper arrangement of statistical matter which relates to the prepuce and circumcision that, before such tables could be satisfactorily and convincingly constructed, time and the evolutionary processes that follow it will bid fair to completely remove this debatable appendage from man. It may be at a very far-distant period that this evolutionary preputial extinction will take place,—probably contemporary with the existence of Bulwer's "Coming Race,"—but not at a too remote period for the proper and satisfactory tabulation of the statistics.

The ideas of the etiology and pathological processes through which we journey,—from a condition of health and good feeling to one of disease, miserable feeling, and death,—as described in, or rather as they control the sentiment and policy of, this work, are such as have been followed by Hutchinson, Fothergill, Beale, Black, Albutt, and Richardson, so that if I have totally ignored the old conventional systems, with their hide-bound classification of diseases to control the etiology, I have not done so without some reliable authority. In studying the etiology of diseases we have, as a rule, been content to accept the disease when fully formed and properly labeled, being apparently satisfied with beginning our investigation not at the initial point of departure from health, but at some distant point from this, at the point where this departure has elaborated itself, on favorable ground, into a tangible general or local disease. As truthfully observed by T. Clifford Albutt: "The philosophic inquirer is not satisfied to know that a person is suffering, for example, from a cancer. He desires to know why he is so suffering,—that is, what are the processes which necessarily precede or follow it. He wishes to include this phenomena, now isolated, in a series of which it must necessarily be but a member, to trace the period of which it must be but a phase. He believes that diseased processes have their evolution and the laws of it, as have other natural processes, and he believes that these are fixed and knowable." To do this, the physician must travel beyond the beaten path of etiology as found in our text-books. He must follow Hutchinson in the train of reasoning that elucidates the pre-cancerous stage of cancer, or tread in the path followed by Sir Lionel Beale, in finding that the cause of disease depends on a blood change and the developmental defect, or the tendency or inherent weakness of the affected part or organ; to fully appreciate the inherent etiological factors that reside in man, and which constitute the tendency to disease or premature decay and death, we must also be able to follow Canstatt, Day, Rostan, Charcot, Rush, Cheyne, Humphry, or Reveille-Parise into the study of the different conditions which, though normal, are nevertheless factors of a slow or a long life. We must also be able to appreciate fully the value of that interdependence of each part of our organism, which often, owing to a want of equilibrium of strength and resistance in some part when compared to the rest, causes the whole to give way, just as a flaw in a levee will cause the whole of the solidly-constructed mass to give way, or a demoralized regiment may entail the utter rout of an army. As described by George Murray Humphry, in his instructive work on "Old Age," at page 11:—

"The first requisite for longevity must clearly be an inherent or inborn quality of endurance, of steady, persistent nutritive force, which includes reparative force and resistance to disturbing agencies, and a good proportion or balance between the several organs. Each organ must be sound in itself, and its strength must have a due relation to the strength of the other organs. If the heart and the digestive system be disproportionately strong, they will overload and oppress the other organs, one of which will soon give way; and, as the strength of the human body, like that of a chain, is to be measured by its weaker link, one disproportionately feeble organ endangers or destroys the whole. The second requisite is freedom from exposure to the various casualties, indiscretions, and other causes of disease to which illness and early death are so much due."

In following out our study of diseases, we have been too closely narrowed down by the old symptomatic story of disease; we have too much treated surface symptoms, and neglected to study the man and his surroundings as a whole; we have overlooked the fact that there exists a geographical fatalism in a physical sense as well as the existence of the influence of that climatic fatalism so well described by Alfred Haviland, and the presence of a fatalism of individual constitution as well, which is either inherited or acquired. The idea that Charcot elaborates, that, as the year passes successively through the hot and the cold, through the dry and the wet season, with advancing age the human body undergoes like changes, and diseases assume certain characteristics, are also points that are overlooked; and nowhere is this latter view seen to be more neglected than in the relations the prepuce bears to infancy, prime and old age, as will be more fully explained in the chapters in this book which treat of cancer and gangrene. Admitting that Haviland has exaggerated the influence of climate as an etiological factor in its specific influence in producing certain diseases; or that M. Taine claims more than he should for his "Theorie des Milieux," or influence of surroundings; or that Hutchinson has drawn the hereditary and pedigreeal fatherhood of disease too finely; it must also be admitted that the solid, tangible truths upon which these authors have founded their premises are plainly visible to the most skeptical; the architectural details of the superstructure may be defective, but the foundation is permanent.

From the above outline it will be easier for the reader to follow out the reasons, or the whys or wherefores, of the views expressed on medicine in the course of the book; and, although I do not wish to enter the medical field like a Peter the Hermit on a new crusade, to lure thousands into the hands of the circumcisers, nor, as a new Mohammed, promise the eternal bliss and glory of the seventh heaven to all the circumcised, I ask of my professional brothers a calm and unprejudiced perusal of the tangible and authentic facts that I have honestly gathered and conscientiously commented upon from my field of vision, which will be plainly presented in the following pages. I simply have given the facts and my impressions: the reader is at liberty to draw his own conclusions.

If I have been too tedious in the multiplication of incidents in support of certain views, I must remind the reader that the verdict goes to him who has the preponderance of testimony, and that many a lawsuit is lost from the neglect, on the part of the loser, to secure all the available testimony. Having brought the subject of circumcision before the bar of public opinion, as well as that of my professional brother, I would but illy do justice to the subject at the bar, or to myself, not to properly present the case; as it was remarked by Napoleon, "God is on the side of the heaviest artillery," and he who loses a battle for want of guns should not rail at Providence if, having them on hand, he has neglected to bring them into action.

The reasons for the existence of the book will become self-evident as the reader labors through the medical part of the work. Our text-books are, as a class, even those on diseases of children as a specialty, singularly and unpardonably silent and deficient on the subject of either the prepuce and the diseases to which it leads, or circumcision; and even our surgical works are not sufficiently explicit, as they deal more with the developed disease and the operative measures for its removal than on any preventive surgery or medicine. Our works on medicine are equally silent, and, although from a perusal of the latter part of the book the prepuce and circumcision will be seen to have considerable bearing on the production and nature of phthisis, this subject would, owing to our strabismic way of studying medicine, look most singularly out of place in a work devoted to diseases of the lungs or throat. Owing to this poverty of literature on the subject, and that the library of the average practitioner could therefore not furnish all the data relating to it that the profession have in their possession, a book of this nature will furnish them the required material whereupon to form the basis of an opinion on the subject.

To argue that the prepuce is not such a deadly appendage because so many escape alive and well who are uncircumcised, would be as logical as to assume that Lee's chief of artillery neglected to properly place his guns on the heights back of Fredericksburg. He had asserted, the night before the battle, that not a chicken could live on the intervening plateau between the heights and the town. On the next day, when these guns opened their fire, the Federals were unable to reach the heights, while many men were for hours in the iron hail-sweeping discharges of that artillery that mowed them down by whole ranks, and yet the majority escaped alive. We take the middle ground, and, while admitting that many escape alive with a prepuce, claim that more are crippled than are visibly seen, as, like Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee," the ways of the prepuce are dark and mysterious as well as peculiar.

A discussion of the relative merits of religious creeds, when considered in relation to health, has been, from the nature of the subject of the book, unavoidable. Modern Christianity but very imperfectly explains why this rite was either neglected or abolished. Frequent reference is made to what Saint Paul said and did, but, as Saint Paul was not one of the Disciples, it is inexplicable wherefrom he received his authority in this matter, seeing that the Disciples themselves had no new views on the subject. To the student who prefers to study his subject from all its aspects, the question naturally arises, "Where, when, and why came the authority that abolished this rite?" There is one probable explanation, this being that Paul, who was the real promulgator of Gentile Christianity, had to establish his creed among an uncircumcised race; although, as we shall see, devotees have not scrupled to sacrifice their virility in the hope of being more acceptable to God and to be better able to observe His commandments, and others, in their blind bigotry, have not objected to sitting naked on sand-hills, with a six-inch iron ring passed through the prepuce, it is very evident that the Apostle Paul's good sense showed him the uselessness of attempting to found the new creed, and at the same time hold on to the truly distinctive marking of Judaism among Gentiles, the Hebrew race being those among whom he found the least converts, as even the Disciples and Apostles in Palestine disagreed with him. In the words of Dr. I. M. Wise, it was impossible for the Palestine Apostles, or their flock, either to acknowledge Paul as one of their own set or submit to his teaching; for they obeyed the Law and he abolished it; they were sent to the house of Israel only, and Paul sought the Gentiles with the message that the Covenant and the Law were at an end; they had one gospel story and he another; they prophesied the speedy return of the Master and a restoration of the throne of David in the kingdom of heaven, and he prophesied the end of the world and the last day of judgment to be at hand; they forbade their converts to eat of unclean food, and especially of the sacrificial meats of the Pagans, and he made light of both, as well as of the Sabbath and circumcision. In the attempted reconciliation that subsequently took place in Jerusalem at the house of James, the Jacob of Kaphersamia of the Talmud, Paul was charged by the synod of Jewish Christians "with disregarding the Law, forsaking the teachings of Moses, and attempting to abolish circumcision." He was bid to recant and undergo humiliation with four other Nazarenes, that it might be known that he walked orderly and observed the Law; Paul submitted to all that was demanded.

This, in short, with the exception of the sayings of Paul on the subject, which are all secondary considerations, is really all that there is relating to the abolishment of circumcision by the Christians. The real Disciples and Apostles believed in Jesus with as much fervor as Paul, but it is singular that they who were with the Master should always have insisted on the observance of the Law, while Paul as energetically insisted on its abolishment.

From these premises, I have seen fit to inquire into the relative merits of the three religions practiced by what we call the civilized nations, as they affect man morally, physically, and mentally. I have given the facts, my impressions, and reasons for being so impressed; from these, the reader can easily see that religion has more to do with man's temporal existence than is generally believed; its discussion is not, therefore, out of place in this book.

Repetitions in the course of the work have been unavoidable. This is not a novel nor a work of fiction, and wherever the want of repetition would have been an injury, either to the proper representation of a fact or a principle, the repetition has not been avoided. In describing the operations, I had desired to avoid any too numerous descriptions, as that is confusing, but have thought it best to give a number, as the reader will thereby obtain the views of the different operators, the mode of the operation often being an index to the view of the operator in regard to the needs or utility of a prepuce. In the general plan of the work, I have adopted the idea and the historical relation carried out by Bergmann, of Strasburg, who included all the mutilations practiced on the genitals while discussing the subject of circumcision, they being, in the originality of performance, somewhat intimately connected; this also tends to make the subject more interesting as a contribution to the natural history of man,—something in which all intelligent persons are more or less interested.




If the ceremonials of the Catholic Church or the High Church Episcopalians carry us back into the depths of antiquity, or, as remarked by Frothingham, that the ceremonies of St. Peter, at Rome, carried him back to the mysteries of Eulesis, to the sacrificial rites of ancient Phoenicia, to what misty antiquity does not the contemplation of the rite of circumcision take us? The Alexandrian library, with its vast collection of precious records, could probably have furnished us some information as to its origin and antiquity; but Moslem fanaticism, with its belief in the all-sufficiency and infallibility of the Koran, was the destruction of that wonderful repository. We must now depend wholly on the relation of the Old Testament or on what has since been written by the Greek and Italian historians as to its origin and practices. The Egyptian monuments and their hyeroglyphics give us no information on the subject further back than the reign of Rameses II; while the oft-quoted Herodotus wrote some fourteen centuries after the Old Testament relation, and Strabo and Diodorus some nineteen centuries after the same chronicler. We have, therefore, in their chronological order, first, the relation of the Bible; then the Egyptian monuments and their revelations; and, thirdly, the information gathered by Pythagoras, Herodotus, and other philosophers and historians. To these three sources we may add the misty mixture of tradition and mythological events, whose beginnings as to period of time are indefinite. These are the sources from which we are to determine the origin and antiquity as well as the character of the rite.

Voltaire found in the subject of circumcision one that he could not satisfactorily make enter into his peculiar system of general philosophy. For some reason, he did not wish that the Israelites should have the credit of its introduction; were he to have admitted that, he would have had to explain away the divine origin of the rite,—something that the Hebrew has tenaciously held for over thirty-seven centuries. Voltaire thought it would simplify the subject by making it originate with the Egyptians, from whom the Hebrews were to borrow it. To do this he adopted the relation of Herodotus on the subject. His treatment of the Jewish race, however, brought out a strong antagonism from those people to his attacks, and in a volume entitled, "Letters of Certain Jews to Monsieur Voltaire,"—being a series of criticisms on his aspersions on the race and on the writings of the Old Testament (written by a number of Portuguese, German, and Polish Jews then residing in Holland[1]),—they proved conclusively that the Phoenicians had borrowed the rite from the Israelites, as they (the Phoenicians) had practiced the rite on the newborn, whereas, had they followed the Egyptian rite, they would have only circumcised the child after its having passed its thirteenth year,—these being the distinctive differences between the Jewish and Egyptian rites.

Luckily, in the small temple of Khons, which formed an annex to the greater temple of Maut, at Karnac, there was found a bas-relief, partly perfect, which goes far toward giving light on the subject of Egyptian circumcision. The upper part of the sculpture was so defaced that the upper portions of four of the five figures were destroyed, but the lower portions were so perfect in every detail as to furnish a full history of the age of the candidates for the rite and the manner of its performance. It is further interesting from the fact that it establishes also the time during which the rite was so performed. M. Chabas and Dr. Ebers argue, from the founder of the temple having been Rameses II, that the sculpture refers to the circumcision of two of his children. The knife appears to be a stone implement, and the operator kneels in front of the child, who is standing, while a matron supports him in a kneeling posture, and she holds his hands from behind him.[2] In this bas-relief we can see the great difference that existed between the two forms of the operation, that of the Hebrews being performed, as a rule, on the eighth day after birth, while in the bas-relief they are ten or twelve years old.

Although tradition and mythology veil past events in more or less obscurity, they do, in regard to circumcision, furnish considerable explanatory light on matters which would be otherwise hard to reconcile. Circumcision has been performed by the Chippeways, on the Upper Mississippi, and its modifications were performed among the Mexicans, Central Americans, and some South American tribes of Indians, as well as among many of the natives dwelling among the islands of the Pacific Archipelago. There is a tradition, mentioned by Donnelly in connection with the sunken continent of Atlantis, that Ouranos, one of the Atlantean kings, ordered his whole army to be circumcised that they might escape a fatal scourge then decimating the people to their westward.[3] This tradition tells us that the hygienic benefits of circumcision were recognized antediluvian facts, as it also points out the way by which circumcision traveled westward across to the Western World. As Donnelly has pointed out, many of the Americans possessed not only traditions, habits, and customs that must have come from the Old World, but the similarity of many words and their meaning that exists between some of the American languages and those of the indigenous inhabitants that have still their remains in spots on the southwestern shores of Europe—the ancient Armorica whose colony in Wales still retains its ancient words—leaves no room for doubt that at one time a landed highway existed between the two worlds. The Mandans, on the Upper Missouri, have many words of undoubted Armorican origin in their vocabulary,[4] just as the Chiapenec, of Central America, contains its principal words denotive of deity, family relations, and many conditions of life that are identically the same as in the Hebrew,[5] the name of father, son, daughter, God, king, and rich being essentially the same in the two languages. It must have been more than a passing coincidence that gives the Mandans some of their most expressive words from the Welsh, or that gave to Central America many cities bearing analogous names with the cities of Armenia.[6] Canadian names of localities, as well as those of the Mississippi Valley, denote the French origin of their pioneers, as well as the names of Upper California denote the nationality and creed of its first settlers. So that there is nothing strange in asserting that American civilization and many of the customs as found in the fifteenth century by the early Spanish discoverers were nothing more than the remains of ancient and modified Phoenician civilization, among which figured circumcision.

Dr. A. B. Arnold, of Baltimore, argues that, with the present state of our anthropological knowledge and the material that research has been able to furnish, we need no longer be surprised to find customs, laws, and morals, among nations living in regions of the world widely apart from each other, which betray an identity of origin and development, and that beliefs and institutions, whether wise or aberrant, grow up under apparently dissimilar circumstances, circumcision forming no exception.[7] Dr. Arnold leaves too much to chance. It is hardly likely that the similarity that existed between the architecture of the Phoenicians and the Central Americans, as evinced in their arches; in the beginning of the century on the 26th of February; the advancement and interest taken in astronomical science; the coexistence of pyramids in Egypt and Central America; that five Armenian cities should have their namesakes in Central America, should all be a matter of accident. The historiographer of the Canary Islands, M. Benshalet, considers that those islands once formed a part of the great continent to its west; this has been verified by the discovery of many sculptured symbols, similar in the Canaries and on the shores of Lake Superior, as well as by the discovery of a mummy in the Canaries with sandals whose exact counterparts were found in Central America.[8] A compound word used to signify the Great Spirit being found identical in the Welsh and Mandan languages, each requiring five distinct sounds to pronounce, words as intricate as the passwords of secret societies, can hardly be said to be the result of chance.[9] There must, at some remote period, have existed some communication between the ancestors of these Missouri Mandans and the shores of ancient Armorica; the ancestors of these Mandans may have then been living farther to the east; they even may have then been a tribe of since lost Atlantis; but the analogy, not only in regard to the word just mentioned,—Maho-peneta, of the Welsh and Mandan,—but in the similarity of the pronouns of both languages, and the existence of the idea of the counterpart of the sacred white bull of the Egyptians being found among the Dakotas, or Sioux, all point to the fact that these people, in common with the rest of the Americans, originally came from the East; from whence came their languages, manners, customs, rites, and what civilization they possessed, among which circumcision has, through the mist of centuries, held its own in some shape or other.

That some terrible catastrophe occurred to divide the hemispheres is evident; the Western World remaining stationary in its civilization and retaining the customs and rites of the times as evidence of their origin. With this view of the case, the existence of circumcision as found among the inhabitants of the West can easily be traced to its origin among the hills of Chaldea. The ancient traditions and mythological relations of the Egyptians in regard to the great nation to the West are amply verified by the deep-sea soundings of the "Challenger," the "Dolphin," and the "Gazelle," which plainly indicate the presence of a submarine plateau that once formed the continent of Atlantis, whose only visible evidence above the waves of the boisterous Atlantic is the Azores and the remains of Phoenician civilization among the Americans.

Professor Worman, of Brooklyn, scouts the idea that circumcision was ever connected in any way or that it originated in any of the rites connected with phallic worship.[10] Bergmann,[11] of Strasburg, however, not only claims circumcision to be a direct result of phallic worship, but looks upon the rite as something that has been reached by what may be termed a gradual evolutionary process of manners, customs, and society, from the time of what is termed the hero-warrior period of traditional history, when war and the clashing of shields and sword or spear were the main delights and occupations of man. It is strange to note what difference must have existed between these hero-warriors in regard to their ideas of manliness; some were brutal and fiendish, whilst others were magnanimous. McPherson, the historiographer of early Britain, cannot help but contrast the superior manliness of the heroes of Ossian in his graphic description of the ancient Caledonians, when compared to the brutality of Homer's Greek heroes. The traditions upon which Bergmann undertakes to found the origin of the rite of circumcision are all connected with the inhuman and brutish passions that animated our barbarous ancestry. The first incident given is the Egyptian traditional tragedy, which was, in all probability, the initial point of that phallic worship which, with increasing debauchery, assisted in the final demoralization of Rome and Greece, after its introduction into those countries.



We are told that in battle man looked upon the vanquished as unfit to bear the name of man, looking upon the weakness or want of skill which contributed to their defeat as something effeminate. The victor then proceeded by a very summary and effective mode, done in the most primitive and expeditious manner, to render his victim as much like a female as possible to all outward appearances; this was accomplished by a removal at one sweep of all the organs of generation, the phallus being generally retained as a trophy,—a practice which was also carried into effect with dead enemies, to show that the victor had vanquished men. It has been the practice from time immemorial for a victor to carry off some portion of the body of his victim or defeated enemy, as a mark or testimony of his prowess; it was either a hand, head or scalp, lower jaw, or finger. The carrying off of the phallus or virile member was considered the most conclusive proof of the nature of the vanquished, and, as it established the sex, it conferred a greater title to bravery and skill than a mere collection of hands or scalps, which would not denote the sex. In conformity with this custom, we find that Osiris, when he returned to Egypt and found that Typhon had fomented dissension in his absence, being vanquished by the latter in the conflict that followed, was dismembered and cut into pieces, the followers of Typhon each securing a piece and Typhon himself securing the phallus or generative member. Isis, the spouse of Osiris, seems in turn to have secured the control of government, and, having secured all the pieces of the dissected Osiris except the phallus,—Typhon having fled with that, and, according to some traditions, having thrown it into the sea,—Isis ordered that statues should be constructed, each to contain a piece of the unfortunate Osiris, who should thereafter be worshiped as a god, and that the priesthood should choose from among the animals some one kind which should thereafter be considered sacred. The phallus which was missing was ordered special worship, with more marked solemnities and mysteries; from this originated the phallic worship and the sacredness of the white bull, Apis, among the Egyptians, which was chosen to represent Osiris.

By gradual evolution and the progress of society, the cultivation of the ground and the need of menials, warriors found some other use for their prisoners taken in strife besides merely cutting off the phallus as a trophy; these prisoners began to have some intrinsic value. From this a change came about; the warrior instinct, however, still claimed that the vanquished, even if a slave, should still convey or carry some sign of servitude. The original idea of the ablation of the phallus was to emasculate the victim; investigation developed the idea that the same object could be accomplished by castration, an operation which also finally reached a tolerable state of perfection through different stages of evolution, it first being performed by a complete removal of the whole scrotum and contents. This operation, with the ignorance of the times in regard to stopping haemorrhage, was, however, accompanied by a large mortality, and it finally evolved into the simple removal of the gland, or its obliteration by pressure or violence. Bergmann conveys the idea that circumcision was at one time the indestructible marking and the distinctive feature of the slave, the mind of the period not being able to emancipate itself from the idea that the genitals must in some manner be mutilated, not being able to conceive any other degrading mark of manhood which barbarians felt they must inflict on slaves.

The generally accepted idea in regard to the physical mutilation of captives taken in war, or that some token from the body of the vanquished must be carried off by the victor, has not only the support of tradition and monumental sculptured evidence, but its practice is still in vogue among many races. Among the ancient Scythians, only the warriors who returned from the battle or foray with the heads of the enemy were entitled to a share in the spoils. Among the modern Berbers it is still a practice for a young man, on proposing marriage, to exhibit to his prospective father-in-law the virile members of all the enemies he has overcome, as evidence of his manhood and right to the title of warrior. The Abyssinians and some of the negro tribes on the Guinea coast still follow the custom of securing the phallus of a fallen foe. However barbarous this practice may seem, its actual performance is only secondary, the primary motive being that the warrior wished to prove that he had been there, engaged in actual strife, and that his enemy had been overcome. The writer remembers that, after one of the battles in the West during the late war, many letters arrived in his locality with pieces of the garments or locks of the hair of the unfortunate Confederate general, Zollikoffer, who had been slain in the battle; a disposition in the warrior, seemingly still existing, such as animated the old Egyptians. On an old Egyptian monument,—that of Osymandyas,—Diodorus noticed a mural sculpture, a bas-relief representing prisoners of war, either in chains or bound with cords, being registered by a royal scribe preparatory to losing either the right hand or the phallus, a pile of which is visible in one corner of the foreground; from this sculpture we learn that the practice was not only an individual performance, but that it was a national usage among the Egyptians as well, who subjected, at times, their vanquished foes to its ordeal in a wholesale but business-like manner.

Bergmann argues that the Israelites were given to like practices, and cites the incident wherein David brought two hundred prepuces—as evidence of his having slaughtered that number of Philistines—to Saul, as a mark of his being worthy to be his son-in-law. He argues that, whereas many have made that Old Testament passage to read "two hundred prepuces," it should have read "two hundred virile members" which David and his companions had cut off from the Philistines, the word orloth meaning the virile member, and not the prepuce. That Israelitish circumcision could have originated from either phallic worship or any of the hero-warrior usages is untenable as a proposition, as regards the living prisoners, and is contrary to the monotheistic idea which ruled Israel, or to the benign nature of their God. The strict opposition of the religion of Judaism to any other mutilation except that of the covenant is also antagonistic to the views advanced by Bergmann, as it is well known that even emasculated animals were considered imperfect and unclean, and therefore unfit to be received or offered as a sacrifice to their deity. No emasculated man was allowed to enter the priesthood or assist at sacrifices. The whole idea of Judaism being opposed to such mutilations, their observance of circumcision and its performance can in no way have developed from either phallic or other warlike rites or usages; but we must accept its origin as a purely religious rite,—a covenant of the most rigid observance, coincident in its inception with the formation of the Hebraic creed in the hills of Chaldea.

What Herodotus or Pythagoras may have written concerning the practice among the Egyptians was written, as already remarked, some nine centuries after Moses had recorded his laws; Moses himself having come some centuries after Abraham. Herodotus is quoted as representing that the Phoenicians borrowed the practice from the Egyptians, in support of the theory that Egypt was the central nucleus from whence the practice started, and not that it traveled toward Egypt from Phoenicia. The difference in the ages, already mentioned, at which the rite was practiced—that of Phoenicia and Israel being at one time identical—shows that the testimony of Herodotus in this one particular was the result of faulty judgment, as we find the people who have borrowed the practice from the Egyptians, as well as their descendants, closely follow their practice in regard to the age at which the operation should be performed. Another evidence of the strictly religious nature of the rite, as far as the Hebrews are concerned, lies in the fact that, with all their skill in surgery and medical sciences,—they being at one time the only intelligent exponents of our science,—they never made any alteration or improvement in the manner of performing the operation. It is evident that even Maimonides, a celebrated Jewish physician of the twelfth century, who furnished some rules in regard to the operation, was held under some constraint by the religious aspect of the rite. As a summary of this part of the subject, it may be stated that the Old Testament furnished the only reliable and authentic relation prior to Pythagoras and Herodotus. From its evidence, Abraham was the first to perform the operation, which he seems to have performed on himself, his son, and servants,—in all, numbering nearly four hundred males; he then dwelt in Chaldea. In absence of other as reliable evidence we must accept this testimony in regard to its origin, causes, and antiquity.

Voltaire, in his article on circumcision in his "Philosophical Dictionary," seems more intent on breaking down any testimony that might favor belief in any religion than to impart any useful light or information. He bases all his arguments on the book "Euterpe," of Herodotus, wherein he relates that the Colchis appear to come from Egypt, as they remembered the ancient Egyptians and their customs more than the Egyptians remembered either the Colchis or their customs; the Colchis claimed to be an Egyptian colony settled there by Sesostris and resembled the Egyptians. Voltaire claims that, as the Jews were then in a small nook of Arabia Petrea, it is hardly likely that, they being then an insignificant people, the Egyptians would have borrowed any of their customs. To read Voltaire's "Herodotus" is somewhat convincing, but Voltaire's "Herodotus" and Herodotus writing himself are two different things, and the book "Euterpe" says quite another thing from what M. Voltaire makes it say. A perusal of Voltaire and a study of his Jewish critics on this subject, as found in the "Jews' Letters to Voltaire," will convince any reader that as to circumcision M. Voltaire is an unreliable authority.



From Chaldea, then, in the mountains of Armenia and Kurdistan, the practice of circumcision was, in all probability, first adopted by the Phoenicians, who finally relinquished the Israelitish rite as to age of performance and exchanged it for the Egyptian rite. From Phoenicia its spread through the maritime enterprises of this race to foreign parts was easy. Egypt was the next place to adopt its practice; at first the priesthood and nobility, which included royalty, were the only ones who availed themselves of the practice. The Egyptians connected circumcision with hygiene and cleanliness; this was the view of Herodotus, who looked upon the rite as a strictly hygienic measure. History relates of the existence of circumcision among the Egyptians as far back as the reign of Psammetich, who ruled toward the end of the sixth century B.C. The practice must then have been of a very religious and national nature, as we are told that Psammetich, having admitted some noted strangers, whom he allowed to dwell in Egypt without being circumcised, brought himself into great disfavor among his subjects, and especially by the army, who looked upon an uncircumcised stranger as one undeserving of favors. During the next century Pythagoras visited Egypt, and was compelled to submit to be circumcised before being admitted to the privilege of studying in the Egyptian temples. In the following century these restrictions were removed, for neither Herodotus nor Diodorus, who visited the country, were obliged to be circumcised, either to dwell among the people or to follow their studies. There is one curious habit that is mentioned in connection with the rite of circumcision among these people, this being its relation to the taking of an oath or a solemn obligation. Among the Egyptians the circumcised phallus, as well as the rite of circumcision, seemed to be the symbol of the religious as well as of the political community, and the circumcised member was emblematical of civil patriotism as well as of the orthodox religion of the nation. To the Egyptian, his circumcised phallus was the symbol of national and religious honor; and as the Anglo-Saxon holds aloft his right hand, with his left resting on the holy Bible, while taking an oath, so the ancient Egyptian raised his circumcised phallus in token of sincerity,—a practice not altogether forgotten by his descendants of to-day. It was partly this custom of swearing, or of affirming, with the hand under the thigh, by the early Israelites, that caused many to believe that their circumcision was borrowed from the Egyptians, especially by M. Voltaire, who insists that it was the phallus that the hand was placed on, and that the translation has not the proper meaning, as given in the Bible.

Among the Arabs it was the practice to circumcise at the age of thirteen years, this being the age of Ishmael at his circumcision by his father, Abraham. The Arabs practiced circumcision long before the advent of Mohammed, who was himself circumcised. Pococke mentions a tradition which ascribes to the prophet the words, "Circumcision is an ordinance for men, and honorable in women." Although the rite is not a religious imposition, it has spread wherever the crescent has carried the Mohammedan faith. Uncircumcision and impurity are to a Mohammedan synonymous terms. Like the Abyssinians, the Arabs also practice female circumcision,—an operation not without considerable medical import, as will be explained in the medical part of the work. This practice is also common in Ethopia. Some authorities argue, from this association of female circumcision among the Southern Arabs, Ethiopians, and Abyssinians, that they did not derive their rite from the Israelites; but there is not much room for doubt but that the operation came down to the Arabians from Abraham through his son Ishmael. Considering the occupancy of Syria, Arabia, and Egypt by the French, and the intercourse with these countries by the British, it is surprising that the profession in the early part of the present century had not full information regarding the nature and objects of female circumcision as practiced in these countries. Delpesh observes, in relation to the Oriental practice, that his information was too vague to determine whether it was the nymphae or the clitoris that were removed, or whether it was only practiced in cases of abnormal elongations of these parts. M. Murat, however, writes at length on the subject, very intelligently, as well as Lonyer-Villermay, who, writing in the same work with Delpesh, thinks it is certainly the clitoris that is removed.[12] In Arabia, the trade or profession of a resectricis nympharum or she-circumciser is as stable an occupation with some matrons as that of cock-castration or caponizing is the sole occupation of many a matron in the south of Europe. It is related by Abulfeda that, in the battle of Ohod, where Mohammedanism came very near to a sudden end by the crushing defeat of the prophet and his followers, Hamza, the uncle of the prophet, seeing in the opposing ranks a Koreish chief, whom he knew, thus called out: "Come on, you son of a she-circumciser!" As Hamza was among the slain, it is most likely that he met his death from the hands of the chief, whose mother really followed that occupation. So extensive is the practice, that these old women sometimes go through a village crying out their occupation, like itinerant tinkers or scissors-grinders.

The present ceremonies attending the performance of the rite among the Arabians are well described by Dr. Delange, a surgeon of the French army, as witnessed by him in the province of Constantine, in Algeria.

With these Arabs, circumcision is performed on a whole class, so to speak, at the same time, regardless of the trifling differences in their ages. It is preceded by feasting, the total length of the feast being for eight days. For the first seven days, all the Arabs of the quarter where the candidates for circumcision reside dress in their best. The poor have their mantles and clothes carefully washed, and the rich deck themselves out in their gold and silver brocaded vests and pantaloons. During these seven days there is general rejoicing, and the Arabs spend most of this time in the village street, racing, firing guns, or engaging in sham battles between the different camps, during which one carries the green, or sacred banner, which is supposed to render the bearer invulnerable. The battle ends by the standard-bearer being fired at by all parties, and falling, but quickly rising again and waving the flag in token of its protecting power. The Arabs now adjourn to another public place, where the notables and strangers are furnished seats on carpets; here a dance to the music of tumtums and the singing of invisible females takes place, the dancers being only males.[13] In the evening the women sing, to which the men listen in silence, this concert being kept up until midnight. On the seventh day, the women, decked out in their best, and with all their personal ornaments, accompanied by all the young men, armed with their guns and pistols, repair to the extremity of the oasis, where they gather plates of fine sand. With this sand they return to the village, where it is exposed overnight to the glare of the full moon on the terraces of the house. This last day closes with a grand banquet, given by the rich whose children are about to be circumcised, to which all the people are invited.

The next morning all the relatives of the candidates repair to the house where the rite is to be performed; the women going up into the second floor, wherefrom they can look down into the court from a porch screened with lattice-work, without themselves being seen. The men gather together on the ground-floor, together with the operator and his assistants and the children about to be circumcised, who are dressed in yellow, silken gowns. The child to be operated upon is seated in a pan of sand, while an assistant fixes his arms and holds the thighs well separated from behind. The circumciser then examines the prepuce, the glans, and removes any sebaceous collection. This done, a compress with an aperture to admit of the passage of the glans is slipped over the organ; a small piece of leather, some six centimetres in diameter, with a small hole in the centre, is now used, the free end of the prepuce being drawn through the aperture; a ligature of woolen cord is then tied on to the prepuce next to the front of the leather shield, and, the knife being applied between the thread and the leather, the prepuce is removed at one sweep; the mucous inner layer is then lacerated with the thumb-nails and turned back over to join the other parts. The surface is then sprinkled with arar or genevriere powder and dressed with a small cloth bandage, the subsequent dressings consisting of arar powder and oil. During the operation the women in the gallery keep up an unearthly music by means of tumtums, cymbals, and all the kettles and saucepans of the neighborhood, which are brought into requisition for the occasion. This music is accompanied with songs and chants, each woman striking out with an independent song of her own, either improvised or suggested by the occasion. This not only serves to drown the cries of the children, but it must, in a manner, assist to draw them away from the immediate contemplation of their sufferings. The prepuces are now gathered together and carried to the end of the oasis, where they are buried with ceremony and rejoicings. This circumcision only takes place once in three or four years, and the children are from four to eight years of age; of fifteen circumcised at the feast witnessed by M. Delange, only two had passed their eighth year.

In a very interesting old book,[14] "The Treaties of Alberti Bobovii," who was attached to the court of Mohammed IV, published with annotations by Thomas Hyde, of Oxford, in 1690, there is a description of the Turkish performance of the rite which leads one to infer that they circumcised the children quite young: "Et cum puer prae dolore exclamat, imus ex duobus parentibus digitis in melle ad hoc comparato os ei obstruit; caeteris spectatoribus acclamantibus. O Deus, O Deus, O Deus. Interim quoque Musica perstrepit, tympana et alia crepitacula concutiuntur, ne pueri planctus et ploratus audiatur." Bobovii says that the age at which circumcision is performed is immaterial provided the candidate is old enough to make a profession of faith,—which, however, is made for him by the godfather,—in the following words: "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet," or, as rendered by our author, "Non esse Deum nisi ipsum Deum, et Mohammedem esse Legatum Dei." To which he adds that the child must not be an infant, but that he must be at least eight years of age. Like to the Arabs, the Turks celebrated the occasion by feasts, plays, and a general good time; the child was kept in bed for fifteen days to allow complete cicatrization to take place. The circumcision was performed with the boy standing.

Michel Le Feber, writing in 1681,[15] speaks of the tax levied on the Christians by the Turks, that they, the Christians, may enjoy liberty of conscience, and observes that, circumcision not being compulsory among the Turks, it often led to trouble and annoyances, as many of the Turks evaded the operation. The tax-gatherers in Turkey are very industrious, and, as being circumcised was, as a rule, sufficient evidence of not being a Christian, he often witnessed on the streets scenes wherein strangers, arrested by these tax-collectors, were compelled to show their circumcision as an indisputable sign of their exemption from the tax. He also relates that in their zeal for converts to Mohammedanism the Turks often resorted to presents to induce Christians to embrace their faith. While in Aleppo, he saw a Portugese sailor, who, through presents, had forsaken his religion, but who had repented in the most emphatic manner when brought to face circumcision. Finding entreaties in vain, the Cadi ordered the immediate administration of a stupefying draught, and the sailor was then seized and circumcised without further ceremony.

In cases where the new Mohammedan is reasonable and submits like a hero, the ceremonies are more elaborate. Le Feber relates that if the candidate is a man of note or wealth he is mounted on a horse and exhibited all over the city; he is dressed in the richest of Turkish robes and in his hand he holds an arrow with the point directed to the sky; he is followed by a great concourse of people, some dressed in holiday attire and others in fantastic costumes; and general feasting and enjoyment is the rule over the course of the march, where all the people run to swell the crowd. If the man happens to be a poor man, he is simply hurriedly marched about on foot, with a simple arrow in his hand pointed skyward, to distinguish him from ordinary mortals; before him a crier proclaims in a loud voice that the new religionist has ennobled himself by professing the faith of the prophet in this solemn manner. A collection for his benefit is taken up among the booths and shops, which is mostly appropriated by the conductor, circumciser, and his assistants, after which he is circumcised without further ado.

The same author describes the operation as performed on the young Turks and the accompanying ceremonies. They differ in some respects from those employed in circumcising a convert. The parents of the child give a feast in proportion to their means, to which are invited the relatives of the family and personal friends; if of the upper ranks, he is promenaded about the town to the music of drums and cymbals, dressed in rich attire; two warriors lead the procession with drawn swords, and a troop of females who sing songs of joy bring up the rear; the procession now and then stops, when the two gladiators in the front indulge in a fierce set-to, hacking at each other in the most determined and murderous manner, but so studiedly shammy that neither is injured; on the return to the house, the child, who is usually eight or ten years of age, is bound hand and foot to prevent his causing any injury to himself, laid on a bed, and circumcised with a razor, the operation being performed either by a surgeon or the chief of a mosque.



E. Casalis,[16] who, in the capacity of missionary, for a very long time resided among the Bassoutos, tells us that among that nation the operation is performed at the age of from thirteen to fifteen years. The ceremony is gone through once in three or four years. So important an event is it considered by the Bassoutos that they date events from one of these observances, as the Romans dated events from a certain consulship, or the Greeks from an Olympiade. At the time fixed, all the candidates go through a sham rebellion and escape to the woods; the warriors arm and give chase, and, after a sham battle, capture the insurgents, whom they bring back as prisoners, amidst dancing and great rejoicings, which are the preludes to the feast. The next day the huts of mystery (mapato) are erected, where, after the circumcision, the young men are to reside for some eight months, under the tutorship of experienced teachers, who drill them in the use of the spear, sword, and shield, teaching them to endure hunger, thirst, blows, and all manner of hardships; prolonged fasts and cruel flagellations being regarded as pastimes between the exercises. The severity of the regulations may be judged from the fact that the instructors have a right to put to death any one who may try to escape from these ordeals. The women are rigorously excluded from these camps, but the men are allowed to visit them, when they have the privilege of assisting the teachers by adding additional blows and precepts to the backs of the unlucky candidates. After eight months of such training, the young men are oiled from head to foot and dressed in a garment, and are now given the name which they are to bear for the rest of their lives. The mapato, or mystery hut, is now burned to the ground and the young men return to the village. The maternal uncle of the youth here presents him with a javelin for his defense, and a cow that is to furnish him with nourishment. Until the time of his marriage, the newly circumcised dwell together; their duties being of a menial character, such as gathering wood and attending to the flocks and droves.

M. Paul Lafargue looks upon circumcision among the negro races as being a rite commemorating their advent to manhood; Livingstone, who has also observed the above, related incidents in relation to the performance of boguera, or circumcision, among the Bassoutos, believes that with them the rite has a purely civil significance, being in no way connected with religion.

Among many of the African tribes the young maids have an ordeal approaching to circumcision that they must pass when near the age of thirteen, this rite bearing precisely the same relation regarding their entrance into the state of womanhood that male circumcision denotes the entrance into manhood on the part of the males among the Bassoutos. At the appointed time the maids are gathered together and conducted to the riverbank; they are placed under the care of expert matrons. They here reside, after having undergone a kind of baptism; they are maltreated, punished, and abused by the old women, with a view of making them hardy and insensible to pain; they are also schooled in the science and art of African household duties. Among the Gallinas of Sierra Leone, in addition to the other observances, the clitoris of the young maid is excised at midnight, while the moon is at its full, after which they receive their name by which they are to be known through life. The initiation of each sex into these mysteries is exclusively for the sex engaged, and it would be as fatal for a man to steal into the camp of the women during the performance of these ceremonies as it would be fatal for a woman to enter a mapato where the young men are undergoing their ordeal. After their initiation into womanhood, the maids live by themselves, similarly to the young men, until they marry.

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