Primitive Love and Love-Stories
by Henry Theophilus Finck
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 20     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"love is more selfish in its nature than friendship; in indulging another it seeks its own, and when this is not to be obtained, it will change into the contrary passion of hatred."

This is a definition of lust, not of love—a definition of the passion as known to the Greek Euripides, of whose lovers Benecke says (53):

"If, or as soon as, they fail in achieving the gratification of their sensual desires, their 'love' immediately turns to hate. The idea of devotion or self-sacrifice for the good of the beloved person, as distinct from one's own, is absolutely unknown. 'Love is irresistible,' they say, and, in obedience to its commands, they set down to reckon how they can satisfy themselves, at no matter what cost to the objects of their passion."

How different this unaffectionate "love" from the love of which our poets sing! Shakspere knew that absorbing affection is an ingredient of love: Beatrice loves Benedick "with an enraged affection," which is "past the infinite of the night." Rosalind does not know how many fathom deep she is in love: "It cannot he sounded; my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the Bay of Portugal." Dr. Abel has truly said that

"affection is love tested and purified in the fire of the intellect. It appears when, after the veil of fancy has dropped, a beloved one is seen in the natural beauty with various human limitations, and is still found worthy of the warmest regards. It comes slowly, but it endures; gives more than it takes and has a tinge of tender gratitude for a thousand kind actions and for the bestowal of enduring happiness. According to English ideas, a deep affection, through whose clear mirror the gold of the old love shimmers visibly, should be the fulfilment of marriage."

Of romantic love affection obviously could not become an ingredient till minds were cultured, women esteemed, men made altruistic, and opportunities were given for youths and maidens to become acquainted with each other's minds and characters before marriage; as Dr. Abel says, affection "comes slowly—but it endures." The love of which affection forms an ingredient can never change to hatred, can never have any murderous impulses, as Schure and Goethe believed. It survives time and sensual charms, as Shakspere knew:

Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds.

* * * * *

Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out ev'n to the edge of doom:—

If this be error, and upon me proved; I never writ nor no man ever loved.


Romantic love has worked two astounding miracles. We have seen how, with the aid of five of its ingredients—sympathy, adoration, gallantry, self-sacrifice, and affection—it has overthrown the Goliath of selfishness. We shall now see how it has overcome another formidable foe of civilization—sensualism—by means of two other modern ingredients, one of which I will call mental purity (to distinguish it from bodily purity or chastity) and the other esthetic admiration of personal beauty.


Modern German literature contains many sincere tributes, in prose and verse, to the purity and nobility of true love and its refining influence. The psychologist Horwicz refers briefly (38) to the way in which

"love, growing up as a mighty passion from the substratum of sexual life, has, under the repressing influence of centuries of habits and customs, taken on an entirely new, supersensual, ethereal character, so that to a lover every thought of naturalia seems indelicate and improper." "I feel it deeply that love must ennoble, not crush me,"

wrote the poet Korner; and again,

"Your sweet name was my talisman, which led me undefiled through youth's wild storms, amid the corruption of the times, and protected my inner sanctum." "O God!" wrote Beethoven, "let me at last find her who is destined to be mine, and who shall strengthen me in virtue."

According to Dr. Abel, while love longs ardently to possess the beloved, to enjoy her presence and sympathy, it has also a more or less prominent mental trait which ennobles the passion and places it at the service of the ideal of its fancy. It is accompanied by an enthusiasm for the good and the beautiful in general, which comes to most people only during the brief period of love. "It is a temporary self-exaltation, purifying the desires and urging the lover to generous deeds."

Des hoechste Glueck hat keine Lieder, Der Liebe Lust ist still und mild; Ein Kuss, ein Blicken hin und wieder, Und alle Sehnsucht ist gestillt. —Geibel.

Schiller defined love as an eager "desire for another's happiness." "Love," he adds, "is the most beautiful phenomenon in all animated nature, the mightiest magnet in the spiritual world, the source of veneration and the sublimest virtues." Even Goethe had moments when he appreciated the purity of love, and he confutes his own coarse conception that was referred to in the last section when he makes Werther write: "She is sacred to me. All desire is silent in her presence."[41]

The French Edward Schure exclaims, in his History of German Song:

"What surprises us foreigners in the poems of this people is the unbounded faith in love, as the supreme power in the world, as the most beautiful and divine thing on earth, ... the first and last word of creation, its only principle of life, because it alone can urge us to complete self-surrender."

Schure's intimation that this respect for love is peculiar to the Germans is, of course, absurd, for it is found in the modern literature of all civilized countries of Europe and America; as for instance in Michael Angelo's

The might of one fair face sublimes my love, For it hath weaned my heart from low desires.


English literature, particularly, has been saturated with this sentiment for several centuries. Love is "all purity," according to Shakspere's Silvius. Schlegel remarked that by the manner in which Shakspere handled the story of Romeo and Juliet, it has become

"a glorious song of praise on that inexpressible feeling which ennobles the soul and gives to it its highest sublimity, and which elevates even the senses themselves into soul;"

—which reminds one of Emerson's expression that the body is "ensouled" through love. Steele declared that "Love is a passion of the mind (perhaps the noblest), which was planted in it by the same hand that created it;" and of Lady Elizabeth Hastings he wrote that "to love her was a liberal education." In Steel's Lover (No. 5) we read:

"During this emotion I am highly elated in my Being, and my every sentiment improved by the effects of that Passion.... I am more and more convinced that this Passion is in lowest minds the strongest Incentive that can move the Soul of Man to laudable Accomplishments."

And in No. 29: "Nothing can mend the Heart better than an honorable Love, except Religion." Thomas Otway sang:

O woman! lovely woman! Nature made thee To temper man: we had been brutes without you. There's in you all that we believe of heaven, Amazing brightness, purity, and truth, Eternal joy, and everlasting love.

"Love taught him shame," said Dryden, and Spenser wrote a Hymn in Honor of Love, in which he declared that

Such is the power of that sweet passion That it all sordid baseness doth expel, And the refined mind doth newly fashion Unto a fairer form, which now doth dwell In his high thought, that would itself excel.

Leigh Hunt wrote: "My love has made me better and more desirous of improvement than I have been."

Love, indeed, is light from heaven; A spark of that immortal fire, With angels shared, by Allah given, To lift from earth our low desire. Devotion wafts the mind above, But heaven itself descends in love. —Byron.

Why should we kill the best of passions, love? It aids the hero, bids ambition rise To nobler heights, inspires immortal deeds, Ev'n softens brutes, and adds a grace to virtue. —Thomson.

Dr. Beddoe, author of the Browning Cyclopaedia, declares that "the passion of love, throughout Mr. Browning's works, is treated as the most sacred thing in the human soul." How Browning himself loved we know from one of his wife's letters, in which she relates how she tried to discourage his advances:

"I showed him how he was throwing away into the ashes his best affections—how the common gifts of youth and cheerfulness were behind me—how I had not strength, even of heart, for the ordinary duties of life—everything I told him and showed him. 'Look at this—and this—and this,' throwing down all my disadvantages. To which he did not answer by a single compliment, but simply that he had not then to choose, and that I might be right or he might be right, he was not there to decide; but that he loved me and should to his last hour. He said that the freshness of youth had passed with him also, and that he had studied the world out of books and seen many women, yet had never loved one until he had seen me. That he knew himself, and knew that, if ever so repulsed, he should love me to his last hour—it should be first and last."

No poet understood better than Tennyson that purity is an ingredient of love:

For indeed I know Of no more subtle master under heaven Than is the maiden passion for a maid, Not only to keep down the base in man, But teach high thoughts and amiable words, And courtliness, and the desire of fame And love of truth, and all that makes a man.


Bryan Waller Proctor fell in love when he was only five years old: "My love," he wrote afterward, "had the fire of passion, but not the clay which drags it downward; it partook of the innocence of my years, while it etherealized me."

Such ethereal love too is the prerogative of a young maiden, whose imagination is immaculate, ignorant of impurity.

Her feelings have the fragrancy, The freshness of young flowers.

No, no, the utmost share Of my desire shall be, Only to kiss that air That lately kissed thee.

In high school, when sentimental impulses first manifest themselves in a girl, she is more likely than not to transfer them to a girl. Her feelings, in these cases, are not merely those of a warm friendship, but they resemble the passionate, self-sacrificing attitude of romantic love. New York schoolgirls have a special slang phrase for this kind of love—they call it a "crush," to distinguish it from a "mash," which refers to an impression made on a man. A girl of seventeen told me one day how madly she was in love with another girl whose seat was near hers; how she brought her flowers, wiped her pens, took care of her desk; "but I don't believe she cares for me at all," she added, sadly.


Such love is usually as innocent as a butterfly's flirtation with a flower.[42] It has a pathologic phase, in some cases, which need not be discussed here. But I wish to call attention to the fact that even in abnormal states modern love preserves its purity. The most eminent authority on mental pathology, Professor Krafft-Ebing, says, concerning erotomania:

"The kernel of the whole matter is the delusion of being singled out and loved by a person of the other sex, who regularly belongs to a higher social class. And it should be noted that the love felt by the patient toward this person is a romantic, ecstatic, but entirely 'Platonic' affection."

I have among my notes a remarkable case, relating to that most awful of diseases that can befall a woman—nymphomania.[43] The patient relates:

"I have also noticed that when my affections are aroused, they counteract animal passion. I could never love a man because he was a man. My tendency is to worship the good I find in friends. I feel just the same toward those of my own sex. If they show any regard for me, the touch of a hand has power to take away all morbid feelings."


There are all sorts and conditions of love. To those who have known only the primitive (sensual) sort, the conditions described in the foregoing pages will seem strange and fantastic if not fictitious—that is, the products of the writers' imaginations. Fantastic they are, no doubt, and romantic, but that they are real I can vouch for by my own experience whenever I was in love, which happened several times. When I was a youth of seventeen I fell in love with a beautiful, black-eyed young woman, a Spanish-American of Californian stock. She was married, and I am afraid she was amused at my mad infatuation. Did I try to flirt with her? A smile, a glance of her eyes, was to me the seventh heaven beyond which there could be no other. I would not have dared to touch her hand, and the thought of kissing her was as much beyond my wildest flights of fancy as if she had been a real goddess. To me she was divine, utterly unapproachable by mortal. Every day I used to sit in a lonely spot of the forest and weep; and when she went away I felt as if the son had gone out and all the world were plunged into eternal darkness.

Such is romantic love—a supersensual feeling of crystalline purity from which all gross matter has been distilled. But the love that includes this ingredient is a modern sentiment, less than a thousand years old, and not to be found among savages, barbarians, or Orientals. To them, as the perusal of past and later chapters must convince the reader, it is inconceivable that a woman should serve any other than sensual and utilitarian purposes. The whole story is told in what Dodge says of the Indians, who, "animal-like, approach a woman only to make love to her"; and of the squaws who do not dare even go with a beau to a dance, or go a short distance from camp, without taking precautions against rape—precautions without which they "would not be safe for an instant" (210, 213).


We shall read later on of the obscene talk and sights that poison the minds of boys and girls among Indians, Polynesians, etc., from their infancy; in which respect Orientals are not much better than Hurons and Botocudos. "The Persian child," writes Mrs. Bishop (I., 218),

"from infancy is altogether interested in the topics of adults; and as the conversation of both sexes is said by those who know them best to be without reticence or modesty, the purity which is one of the greatest charms of childhood is absolutely unknown."

Of the Turks (at Bagdad) Ida Pfeiffer writes (L.J.R.W., 202-203) that she found it

"very painful to notice the tone of the conversation that goes on in these harems and in the baths. Nothing can exceed the demureness of the women in public; but when they come together in these places, they indemnify themselves thoroughly for the restraint. While they were busy with their pipes and coffee, I took the opportunity to take a glance into the neighboring apartments, and in a few minutes I saw enough to fill me at once with disgust and compassion for these poor creatures, whom idleness and ignorance have degraded almost below the level of humanity. A visit to the women's baths left a no less melancholy impression. There were children of both sexes, girls, women, and elderly matrons. The poor children! how should they in after life understand what is meant by modesty and purity, when they are accustomed from their infancy to witness such scenes, and listen to such conversation?"

These Orientals are too coarse-fibred to appreciate the spotless, peach-down purity which in our ideal is a maiden's supreme charm. They do not care to prolong, even for a year what to us seems the sweetest, loveliest period of life, the time of artless, innocent maidenhood. They cannot admire a rose for its fragrant beauty, but must needs regard it as a thing to be picked at once and used to gratify their appetite. Nay, they cannot even wait till it is a full-blown rose, but must destroy the lovely bud. The "civilized" Hindoos, who are allowed legally to sacrifice girls to their lusts before the poor victims have reached the age of puberty, are really on a level with the African savages who indulge in the same practice. An unsophisticated reader of Kalidasa might find in the King's comparison of Sakuntala to "a flower that no one has smelt, a sprig that no one has plucked, a pearl that has not yet been pierced," a recognition of the charm of maiden purity. But there is a world-wide difference between this and the modern sentiment. The King's attitude, as the context shows, is simply that of an epicure who prefers his oysters fresh. The modern sentiment is embodied in Heine's exquisite lines:


E'en as a lovely flower So fair, so pure, thou art; I gaze on thee and sadness Comes stealing o'er my heart.

My hands I fain had folded Upon thy soft brown hair, Praying that God may keep thee So lovely, pure, and fair. —Trans, of Kate Freiligrath Kroeker.

It is not surprising that this intensely modern poem should have been set to music—the most modern of all the arts—more frequently than any other verses ever written. To Orientals, to savages, to Greeks, it would be incomprehensible—as incomprehensible as Ruskin's "there is no true conqueror of lust but love," or Tennyson's

'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.

To them the love between men and women seems not a purifying, ennobling emotion, a stimulus to self-improvement and an impulse to do generous, unselfish deeds, but a mere animal passion, low and degrading.


The Japanese have a little more regard for women than most Orientals, yet by them, too, love is regarded as a low passion—as, in fact, identical with lust. It is not considered respectable for young folks to arrange their own marriages on a basis of love.

"Among the lower classes, indeed," says Kuechler,[44] "such direct unions are not infrequent; but they are held in contempt, and are known as yago (meeting on a moor), a term of disrespect, showing the low opinion entertained of it." Professor Chamberlain writes, in his Things Japanese (285):

"One love marriage we have heard of, one in eighteen years! But then both the young people had been brought up in America. Accordingly they took the reins in their own hands, to the great scandal of all their friends and relations."

On another page (308) he says:

"According to the Confucian ethical code, which the Japanese adopted, a man's parents, his teacher, and his lord claim his life-long service, his wife standing on an immeasurably lower plane."[45]

Ball, in his Things Chinese comments on the efforts made by Chinamen to suppress love-matches as being immoral; and the French author, L.A. Martin, says, in his book on Chinese morals (171):

"Chinese philosophers know nothing of Platonic love; they speak of the relations between men and women with the greatest reserve, and we must attribute this to the low esteem in which they generally hold the fair sex; in their illustrations of the disorders of love, it is almost always the woman on whom the blame of seduction is laid."


The Greeks were in the same boat. They did indeed distinguish between two kinds of love, the sensual and the celestial, but—as we shall see in detail in the special chapter devoted to them—they applied the celestial kind only to friendship and boy-love, never to the love between men and women. That love was considered impure and degrading, a humiliating affliction of the mind, not for a moment comparable to the friendship between men or the feelings that unite parents and children. This is the view taken in Plato's writings, in Xenophon's Symposium and everywhere. In Plutarch's Dialogue on Love, written five hundred years after Plato, one of the speakers ventures a faint protest against the current notion that "there is no gust of friendship or heavenly ravishment of mind," in the love for women; but this is a decided innovation on the traditional Greek view, which is thus brutally expressed by one of the interlocutors in the same dialogue:

"True love has nothing to do with women, and I assert that you who are passionately inclined toward women and maidens do not love any more than flies love milk or bees honey, or cooks the calves and birds whom they fatten in the dark.... The passion for women consists at the best in the gain of sensual pleasure and the enjoyment of bodily beauty."

Another interlocutor sums up the Greek attitude in these words: "It behooves respectable women neither to love nor to be loved."

Goethe had an apercu of the absence of purity in Greek love when he wrote, in his Roman Elegies:

In der heroischen Zeit, da Goetter und Goettinnen liebten. Folgte Begierde dem Blick, folgte Genuss der Begier.


The change in love from the barbarian and ancient attitude to the modern conception of it as a refining, purifying feeling is closely connected with the growth of the altruistic ingredients of love—sympathy, gallantry, self-sacrifice, affection, and especially adoration. It is one of the points where religion and love meet. Mariolatry greatly affected men's attitude toward women in general, including their notions about love. There is a curious passage in Burton worth citing here (III., 2):

"Christ himself, and the Virgin Mary, had most beautiful eyes, as amiable eyes as any persons, saith Baradius, that ever lived, yet withal so modest, so chaste, that whosoever looked on them was freed from that passion of burning lust, if we may believe Gerson and Bonaventure; there was no such antidote against it as the Virgin Mary's face."

Mediaeval theologians had a special name for this faculty—Penetrative Virginity—which McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature defines as

"such an extraordinary or perfect gift of chastity, to which some have pretended that it overpowered those by whom they have been surrounded, and created in them an insensibility to the pleasures of the flesh. The Virgin Mary, according to some Romanists, was possessed of this gift, which made those who beheld her, notwithstanding her beauty, to have no sentiments but such as were consistent with chastity."

In the eyes of refined modern lovers, every spotless maiden has that gift of penetrative virginity. The beauty of her face, or the charm of her character, inspires in him an affection which is as pure, as chaste, as the love of flowers. But it was only very gradually and slowly that human beauty gained the power to inspire such a pure love; the proof of which assertion is to be unfolded in our next section.


"When beauty fires the blood, how love exalts the mind," exclaimed Dryden; and Romeo asks:

Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

In full-fledged romantic love of the masculine type the admiration of a girl's personal beauty is no doubt the most entrancing ingredient. But such love is rare even to-day, while in ordinary love-affairs the sense of beauty does not play nearly so important a role as is commonly supposed. In woman's love, as everybody knows, the regard for masculine beauty usually forms an unimportant ingredient; and a man's love, provided sympathy, adoration, gallantry, self-sacrifice, affection, and purity enter into it, may be of the genuine romantic type, even though he has no sense of beauty at all. And this is lucky for the prospects of love, since, even among the most civilized races to-day, the number of men and women who, while otherwise refined and estimable, have no real appreciation of beauty, personal or otherwise, is astonishingly large.


This being true of the average man and woman among the most cultured races, we ought to be able to conclude, as a matter of course and without the necessity of argumentation, that the admiration of personal beauty has still less to do with the motives that lead a savage to marry this or that girl, or a savage girl to prefer this or that suitor. Strange to say, this simple corollary of the doctrine of evolution has been greatly obscured by Darwin himself, by his theory of sexual selection, which goes so far as to attribute the beauty of the male animals to the continued preference by the females of the more showy males, and the consequent hereditary transmission of their colors and other ornaments. When we bear in mind how unimportant a role the regard for personal beauty plays even among the females of the most advanced human beings, the idea that the females of the lower animals are guided in their pairing by minute subtle differences in the beauty of masculine animals seems positively comic. It is an idea such as could have emanated only from a mind as unesthetic as Darwin's was.

So far as animals are concerned, Alfred Russell Wallace completely demolished the theory of sexual selection,[46] after it had created a great deal of confusion in scientific literature. In regard to the lower races of man this confusion still continues, and I therefore wish to demonstrate here, more conclusively than I did in my first book (60, 61, 327-30), that among primitive men and women, too, the sense of beauty does not play the important role attributed to it in their love-affairs. "The Influence of Beauty in determining the Marriages of Mankind" is one of the topics discussed in the Descent of Man. Darwin tries to show that, "especially" during the earlier period of our long history, the races of mankind were modified by the continued selection of men by women and women by men in accordance with their peculiar standards of beauty. He gives some of the numerous instances showing how savages "ornament" or mutilate their bodies; adding:

"The motives are various; the men paint their bodies to make themselves appear terrible in battle; certain mutilations are connected with religious rites, or they mark the age of puberty, or the rank of the man, or they serve to distinguish the tribes. Among savages the same fashions prevail for long periods, and thus mutilations, from whatever cause first made, soon come to be valued as distinctive marks. But self-adornment, vanity, and the admiration of others seem to be the commonest motives."

Among those who were led astray by these views of Darwin is Westermarck, who declares (257, 172) that "in every country, in every race, beauty stimulates passion," and that

"it seems to be beyond doubt that men and women began to ornament, mutilate, paint, and tattoo themselves chiefly in order to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex—that they might court successfully, or be courted"

—an opinion in which Grosse follows him, in his interesting treatise on the Beginnings of Art (111, etc.), thereby marring his chapter on "Personal Decoration." In the following pages I shall show, on the contrary, that when we subject these primitive customs of "ornamentation" and mutilation to a critical examination we find in nearly every case that they are either not at all or only indirectly (not esthetically), connected with the relations of the sexes; and that neither does personal beauty exist as a rule among savages, nor have they the esthetic sense to appreciate its exceptional occurrence. They nearly always paint, tattoo, decorate, or mutilate themselves without the least reference to courtship or the desire to please the other sex. It is the easiest thing in the world to fill page after page—as Darwin, Westermarck, Grosse, and others have done—with the remarks of travellers regarding the addiction of savages to personal "ornamentation"; but this testimony rests, as we shall see, on the unwarranted assumptions of superficial observers, who, ignorant of the real reasons why the lower races paint, tattoo, and otherwise "adorn" themselves, recklessly inferred that they did it to "make themselves beautiful." The more carefully the customs and traditions of these races are studied, the more obvious becomes the non-esthetic and non-erotic origin of their personal "decorations." In my extensive researches, for every single fact that seemed to favor the sexual selection theory I have found a hundred against it; and I have become more and more amazed at the extraordinary sang froid with which its advocates have ignored the countless facts that speak against it while boosting into prominence the very few that at first sight appear to support it. In the following pages I shall attempt to demolish the theory of sexual selection in reference to the lower races of man as Wallace demolished it in reference to animals; premising that the mass of cumulative evidence here presented is only a very small part of what might be adduced on my side. Let us consider the different motives for personal "decoration" in succession.


Many of the alleged personal "decorations" of inferior races are merely measures to protect themselves against climate, insects, etc. The Maoris of New Zealand besmear themselves with grease and red ochre as a defence against the sand-flies.[47] The Andaman islanders plaster themselves with a mixture of lard and colored earth to protect their skins from heat and mosquitoes.[48] Canadian Indians painted their faces in winter as a protection against frost-bite. In Patagonia

"both sexes smear their faces, and occasionally their bodies with paint, the Indians alleging as the reasons for using this cosmetic that it is a protection against the effects of the wind; and I found from personal experience that it proved a complete preservative from excoriation or chapped skin."[49]

C. Bock notes that in Sumatra rice powder is lavishly employed by many of the women, but "not with the object of preserving the complexion or reducing the color, but to prevent perspiration by closing the pores of the skin."[50] Baumann says of the African Bakongo that many of their peculiar ways of arranging the hair "seem to be intended less as ornamental head-dresses than as a bolster for the burdens they carry on their heads;"[51] and Squier says that the reason given by the Nicaraguans for flattening the heads of their children is that they may be better fitted in adult life to bear burdens.[52]


Equally remote as the foregoing from all ideas of personal beauty or of courtship and the desire to inspire sexual passion is the custom so widely prevalent of painting and otherwise "adorning" the body for war. The Australians diversely made use of red and yellow ochre, or of white pigment for war paint.[53] Caesar relates that the ancient Britons stained themselves blue with woad to give themselves a more horrid aspect in war. "Among ourselves," as Tylor remarks, "the guise which was so terrific in the Red Indian warrior has comedown to make the circus clown a pattern of folly,"[54] Regarding Canadian Indians we read that

"some may be seen with blue noses, but with cheeks and eyebrows black; others mark forehead, nose, and cheeks with lines of various colors; one would think he beheld so many hobgoblins. They believe that in colors of this description they are dreadful to their enemies, and that otherwise their own line of battle will be concealed as by a veil; finally, that it hardens the skin of the body, so that the cold of the winter is easily borne."[55]

The Sioux Indians blackened their faces when they went on the warpath. They

"highly prize personal bravery, and therefore constantly wear the marks of distinction which they received for their exploits; among these are, especially, tufts of human hair attached to the arms and legs, and feathers on their heads."[56]

When Sioux warriors return from the warpath with scalps "the squaws as well as the men paint with vermilion a semicircle in front of each ear."[57] North Carolina Indians when going to war painted their faces all over red, while those of South Carolina, according to DeBrahm, "painted their faces red in token of friendship and black in expression of warlike intentions." "Before charging the foe," says Dorsey, "the Osage warriors paint themselves anew. This is called the death paint." The Algonquins, on the day of departure for war, dressed in their best, coloring the hair red and painting their faces and bodies red and black. The Cherokees when going to war dyed their hair red and adorned it with feathers of various colors.[58] Bancroft says (I., 105) that when a Thlinkit arms himself for war he paints his face and powders his hair a brilliant red. "He then ornaments his head with a white eagle feather as a token of stern, vindictive determination."

John Adair wrote of the Chickasaws, in 1720, that they "readily know achievements in war by the blue marks over their breasts and arms, they being as legible as our alphabetical characters are to us"—which calls attention to a very frequent use of what are supposed to be ornaments as merely part of a language of signs. Irving remarks in Astoria, regarding the Arikara warriors, that "some had the stamp of a red hand across their mouths, a sign that they had drunk the life-blood of an enemy." In Schoolcraft we read (II., 58) that among the Dakotas on St. Peter's River a red hand means that the wearer has been wounded by an enemy, while a black hand indicates "I have slain an enemy." The Hidatsa Indians wore eagle feathers "to denote acts of courage or success in war"; and the Dakotas and others indicated by means of special spots or colored bars in their feathers or cuts in them, that the wearer had killed an enemy, or wounded one, or taken a scalp, or killed a woman, etc. A black feather denoted that an Ojibwa woman was killed. The marks on their blankets had similar meanings.[59] Peter Carder, an Englishman captive among the Brazilians, wrote:

"This is to be noted, that how many men these savages doe kill, so many holes they will have in their visage, beginning first in the nether lippe, then in the cheekes, thirdly, in both their eye-browes, and lastly in their eares."[60]

Of the Abipones we read that,

"distrusting their courage, strength, and arms, they think that paint of various colors, feathers, shouting, trumpets, and other instruments of terror will forward their success."[61]

Fancourt(314) says of the natives of Yucatan that "in their wars, and when they went to their sacrificial dances and festivals, they had their faces, arms, thighs, and legs painted and naked." In Fiji the men bore a hole through the nose and put in a couple of feathers, nine to twelve inches long, which spread out over each side of the face like immense mustaches. They do this "to give themselves a fiercer appearance."[62] Waitz notes that in Tahiti mothers compressed the heads of their infant boys "to make their aspect more terrible and thus turn them into more formidable warriors." The Tahitians, as Ellis informs us, "went to battle in their best clothes, sometimes perfumed with fragrant oil, and adorned with flowers."[63] Of the wild tribes in Kondhistan, too, we read that "it is only, however, when they go out to battle ... that they adorn themselves with all their finery."[64]


The African tribes along the Congo wear on their bodies

"the horn, the hoof, the hair, the teeth, and the bones of all manner of quadrupeds; the feathers, beaks, claws, skulls, and bones of birds; the heads and skins of snakes; the shells and fins of fishes, pieces of old iron, copper, wood, seeds of plants, and sometimes a mixture of all, or most of them, strung together."

Unsophisticated travellers speak of these things as "ornaments" indicating the strange "sense of beauty" of these natives. In reality, they have nothing to do with the sense of beauty, but are merely a manifestation of savage superstition. In Tuckey's Zaire, from which the above citation is made (375), they are properly classed as fetiches, and the information is added that in the choice of them the natives consult the fetich men. A picture is given in the book of one appendage to the dress "which the weaver considered an infallible charm against poison." Others are "considered as protection against the effects of thunder and lightning, against the attacks of the alligator, the hippopotamus, snakes, lions, tigers," etc., etc. Winstanley relates (II., 68) that in Abyssinia

"the Mateb, or baptismal cord, is de rigueur, and worn when nothing else is. It formed the only clothing of the young at Seramba, but was frequently added to with amulets, sure safeguards against sorcery."

Concerning the Bushmen, Mackenzie says:

"Certain marks on the face, or bits of wood on his hair, or tied around his neck, are medicines or charms to be taken in sickness, or proximity to lions, or in other circumstances of danger."[65]

Bastian relates that in many parts of Africa every infant is tattooed on the belly, to dedicate it thereby to a certain fetich.[66] The inland negroes mark all sorts of patterns on their skins, partly "to expel evil influences."[67] The Nicaraguans punctured and scarified their tongues because, as they explained to Oviedo, it would bring them luck in bargains. The Peruvians, says Cieza, pulled out three teeth of each jaw in children of very tender age because that would be acceptable to the gods; and Garcilassa notes that the Peruvians pulled out a hair of an eyebrow when making an offering. Jos. d'Acosta also describes how the Peruvians pulled out eyelashes and eyebrows and offered them to the deities. The natives of Yucatan, according to Fancourt, wore their hair long as "a sign of idolatry."[68] When Franklin relates that Chippewayan Indians "prize pictures very highly and esteem any they can get," we seem to have come across a genuine esthetic sense, till we read that it makes no difference how badly they are executed, and that they are valued "as efficient charms."[69] All Abipones of both sexes

"pluck up the hair from the forehead to the crown of the head, so that the forepart of the head is bald almost for the space of two inches; this baldness they ... account a religious mark of their nation."[70]

The Point Barrow Eskimos believe that clipping their hair on the back of the head in a certain way "prevents snow-blindness in the spring." These Eskimos painted their faces when they went whaling, and the Kadiaks did so before any important undertaking, such as crossing a wide strait, chasing the sea-otter, etc.[71] In regard to the amulets or charms worn by Eskimos, Crantz says:

"These powerful preventives consist in a bit of old wood hung around their necks, or a stone, or a bone, or a beak or claw of a bird, or else a leather strap tied round their forehead, breast, or arm."[72]

Marcano says that "the Indians of French Guiana paint themselves in order to drive away the devil when they start on a journey or for war."[73] In his treatise on the religion of the Dakotas, Lynd remarks:

"Scarlet or red is the religious color for sacrifices.... The use of paint, the Dakotas aver, was taught them by the gods. Unkteh taught the first medicine men how to paint themselves when they worshipped him and what colors to use. Takushkanshkan (the moving god) whispers to his favorites what colors to use. Heyoka hovers over them in dreams, and informs them how many streaks to employ upon their bodies and the tinge they must have. No ceremony of worship is complete without the wakan, or sacred application of paint."[74]

By the Tasmanians "the bones of relatives were worn around the neck, less, perhaps, as ornaments than as charms."[75] The Ainos of Japan and the Fijians held that tattooing was a custom introduced by the gods. Fijian women believed "that to be tattooed is a passport to the other world, where it prevents them from being persecuted by their own sex."[76] An Australian custom ordained that every person must have the septum of the nose pierced and must wear in it a piece of bone, a reed, or the stalks of some grass. This was not done, however, with the object of adorning the person, but for superstitious reasons: "the old men used to predict to those who were averse to this mutilation all kinds of evil." The sinner, they said, would suffer in the next world by having to eat filth. "To avoid a punishment so horrible, each one gladly submitted, and his or her nose was pierced accordingly." (Brough Smyth, 274.) Wilhelmi says that in the Northwest the men place in the head-band behind the ears pieces of wood decorated with very thin shavings and looking like plumes of white feathers. They do this "on occasions of rejoicings and when engaged in their mystic ceremonies." Nicaraguans trace the custom of flattening the heads of children to instructions from the gods, and Pelew Islanders believed that to win eternal bliss the septum of the nose must be perforated, while Eskimo girls were induced to submit to having long stitches made with a needle and black thread on several parts of the face by the superstitious fear that if they refused they would, after death, be turned into train tubs and placed under the lamps in heaven.[77] In order that the ghost of a Sioux Indian may travel the ghost road in safety, it is necessary for each Dakota during his life to be tattooed in the middle of the forehead or on the wrists. If found without these, he is pushed from a cloud or cliff and falls back to this world.[78] In Australia, the Kurnai medicine men were supposed to be able to communicate with ghosts only when they had certain bones thrust through the nose.[79] The American Anthropologist contains (July, 1889) a description of the various kinds of face-coloring to indicate degrees in the Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibwa. These Indians frequently tattooed temples, forehead, or cheeks of sufferers from headache or toothache, in the belief that this would expel the demons who cause the pain. In Congo, scarifications are made on the back for therapeutic reasons; and in Timor-Laut (Malay Archipelago), both sexes tattooed themselves "in imitation of immense smallpox marks, in order to ward off that disease."[80]


Australian women of the Port Lincoln tribes paint a ring around each eye and a streak over the stomach, and men mark their breasts with stripes and paints in different patterns. An ignorant observer, or an advocate of the sexual selection theory, would infer that these "decorations" are resorted to for the purpose of ornamentation, to please individuals of the opposite sex. But Wilhelmi, who understood the customs of these tribes, explains that these divers stripes and paints have a practical object, being used to "indicate the different degrees of relationship between a dead person and the mourners."[81] In South Australia widows in mourning "shave their heads, cover them with a netting, and plaster them with pipe-clay"[82]. A white band around the brow is also used as a badge of mourning[83]. Taplin says that the Narrinyeri adorn the bodies of the dead with bright-red ochre, and that this is a wide-spread custom in Australia. A Dyeri, on being asked why he painted red and white spots on his skin, answered: "Suppose me no make-im, me tumble down too; that one [the corpse] growl along-a-me." A further "ornament" of the women on these occasions consists in two white streaks on the arm to indicate that they have eaten some of the fat of the dead, according to their custom. (Smyth, I., 120.) In some districts the mourners paint themselves white on the death of a blood relation, and black when a relative by marriage dies. The corpse is often painted red. Red is used too when boys are initiated into manhood, and with most tribes it is also the war-color. Hence it is not strange that they should undertake long journeys to secure fresh supplies of ochre: for war, mourning, and superstition are three of the strongest motives of savage activity. African Bushmen anoint the heads of the dead with a red powder mixed with melted fat. Hottentots, when mourning, shave their heads in furrows. Damaras wear a dark-colored skin-cap: a piece of leather round the neck, to which is attached a piece of ostrich egg-shell. Coast negroes bury the head of a family in his best clothes and ornaments, and Dahomans do the same[84]. Schweinfurth says that "according to the custom, which seems to belong to all Africa, as a sign of grief the Dinka wear a cord round the neck."[85] Mourning New Zealanders tie a red cloth round the head or wear headdresses of dark feathers. New Caledonians cut off their hair and blacken and oil their faces[85]. Hawaiians cut their hair in various forms, knock out a front tooth, cut the ears and tattoo a spot on the tongue[86]. The Mineopies use three coloring substances for painting their bodies; and by the way they apply them they let it be known whether a person is ill or in mourning, or going to a festival.[87] In California the Yokaia widows make an unguent with which they smear a white band two inches wide all around the edge of the hair[88]. Of the Yukon Indians of Alaska "some wore hoops of birch wood around the neck and waists, with various patterns of figures cut on them. These were said to be emblems of mourning for the dead."[89] Among the Snanaimuq "the face of the deceased is painted with red and black paint... After the death of husband or wife the survivor must paint his legs and his blanket red."[90] Numerous other instances may be found in Mallery, who remarks that "many objective modes of showing mourning by styles of paint and markings are known, the significance of which are apparent when discovered in pictographs."[91]


Among the customs which, in Darwin's opinion, show "how widely the different races of man differ in their taste for the beautiful," is that of moulding the skull of infants into various unnatural shapes, in some cases making the head "appear to us idiotic." One would think that before accepting such a monstrous custom as evidence of any kind of a sense of beauty, Darwin, and those who expressed the same opinion before and after him, would have inquired whether there is not some more rational way of accounting for the admiration of deformed heads by these races than by assuming that they approved of them for esthetic reasons. There is no difficulty in finding several non-esthetic reasons why peculiarly moulded skulls were approved of. The Nicaraguans, as I have already stated, believed that heads were moulded in order to make it easier to bear burdens, and the Peruvians also said they pressed the heads of children to make them healthier and able to do more work. But vanity—individual or tribal—and fashion were the principal motives. According to Torquemada, the kings were the first who had their heads shaped, and afterward permission to follow their example was granted to others as a special favor. In their classical work on Peruvian antiquities (31-32) Eivero and Tschudi describe the skulls they examined., including many varieties "artificially produced, and differing according to their respective localities."

"These irregularities were undoubtedly produced by mechanical causes, and were considered as the distinctive marks of families; for in one Huaca [cemetery] will always be found the same form of crania; while in another, near by, the forms are entirely different from those in the first."

The custom of flattening the head was practised by various Indian tribes, especially in the Pacific States, and Bancroft (I., 180) says that, "all seem to admire a flattened forehead as a sign of noble birth;" and on p. 228, he remarks:

"Failure properly to mould the cranium of her offspring gives the Chinook matron the reputation of a lazy and un-dutiful mother, and subjects the neglected children to the ridicule of their companions; so despotic is fashion."

The Arab races of Africa alter the shapes of their children's heads because they are jealous of their noble descent. (Bastian, D.M., II., 229.)

"The genuine Turkish skull," says Tylor (Anth., 240),

"is of the broad Tatar form, while the natives of Greece and Asia Minor have oval skulls, which gives the reason why at Constantinople it became the fashion to mould the babies' skulls round, so that they grew up with the broad head of the conquering race. Relics of such barbarism linger on in the midst of civilization, and not long ago a French physician surprised the world by the fact that nurses in Normandy were still giving the children's heads a sugar-loaf shape by bandages and a tight cap, while in Brittany they preferred to press it round."

Knocking out some of the teeth, or filing them into certain shapes, is another widely prevalent custom, for which it is inadmissible to invoke a monstrous and problematic esthetic taste as long as it can be accounted for on simpler and less disputable grounds, such as vanity, the desire for tribal distinction, or superstition. Holub found (II., 259), that in one of the Makololo tribes it was customary to break out the top incisor teeth, for the reason that it is "only horses that eat with all their teeth, and that men ought not to eat like horses." In other cases it is not contempt for animals but respect for them that accounts for the knocking out of teeth. Thus Livingstone relates (L. Tr., II., 120), in speaking of a boy from Lomaine, that "the

upper teeth extracted seemed to say that the tribe have cattle. The knocking out of the teeth is in imitation of the animals they almost worship." The Batokas also give as their reason for knocking out their upper front teeth that they wish to be like oxen. Livingstone tells us (Zamb., 115), that the Manganja chip their teeth to resemble those of the cat or crocodile: which suggests totemism, or superstitious respect for an animal chosen as an emblem of a tribe. That the Australian custom of knocking out the upper front teeth at puberty is part of a religious ceremonial, and not the outcome of a desire to make the boys attractive to the girls, as Westermarck naively assumes (174, 172), is made certain by the details given in Mallery (1888-89, 513-514), including an excerpt from a manuscript by A.W. Howitt, in which it is pointed out that the humming instrument kuamas, the bull-roarer, "has a sacred character with all the Australian tribes;" and that there are marked on it "two notches, one at each end, representing the gap left in the upper jaw of the novice after his teeth have been knocked out during the rites."[92] But perhaps the commonest motive for altering the teeth is the desire to indicate tribal connections. "Various tribes," says Tylor (Anthr. 240), "grind their front teeth to points, or cut them away in angular patterns, so that in Africa and elsewhere a man's tribe is often known by the cut of his teeth."

Peculiar arrangements of the hair also have misled unwary observers into fancying that they were made for beauty's sake and to attract the opposite sex, when in reality they were tribal marks or had other utilitarian purposes, serving as elements in a language of signs, etc. Frazer, e.g., notes (27) that the turtle clan of the Omaha Indians cuts off all the hair from a boy's head except six locks which hang down in imitation of the legs, head, and tail of a turtle; while the Buffalo clan arranges two locks of hair in imitation of horns. "Nearly all the Indian tribes," writes Mallery (419), "have peculiarities of the arrangement of the hair and of some article of apparel or accoutrement by which they can always be distinguished." Heriot relates (294) that among the Indians

"the fashion of trimming the hair varies in a great degree, and an enemy may by this means be discovered at a considerable distance." "The Pueblos generally, when accurate and particular in delineation [pictographs], designate the women of that tribe by a huge coil of hair over either ear. This custom prevails also among the Coyotero Apaches, the woman wearing the hair in coil to denote a virgin or an unmarried person, while the coil is absent in the case of a married woman."

By the Mokis, maidenhood is indicated by wearing the hair as a disk on each side of the head. (Mallery, 231-32.) Similar usages on other continents might be cited.

Besides these arbitrary modifications of the skull and the teeth, and the divers arrangements of the hair, there are various other ways in which the lower races indicate tribal connection, rank, or other conditions. Writing about negroes Burton says (Abeok., I., 106), that lines, welts, and all sorts of skin patterns are used, partly for superstitious reasons, partly to mark the different tribes and families. "A volume would not suffice to explain all the marks in detail." Of the Dahomans, Forbes says (I., 28), "that according to rank and wealth anklets and armlets of all metals, and necklaces of glass, coral, and Popae beads, are worn by both sexes." Livingstone relates (Mis. Trav., 276) that the copper rings worn on their ankles by the chiefs of Londa were so large and heavy that they seriously inconvenienced them in walking. That this custom was entirely an outcome of vanity and emulation, and not a manifestation of the esthetic sense, is made clear by the further observations of Livingstone. Men who could not afford so many of these copper rings would still, he found, strut along as if they had them. "That is the way," he was informed, "in which they show off their lordship in these parts." Among the Mojave Indians "nose-jewels designate a man of wealth and rank," and elaborate headdresses of feathers are the insignia of the chiefs[93]. Champlain says that among the Iroquois those who wore three large plumes were chiefs. In Thurn says (305) that each of the Guiana tribes makes its feather head-dresses of special colors; and Martins has the following regarding the Brazilian Indians: "Commonly all the members of a tribe, or a horde, or a family, agree to wear certain ornaments or signs as characteristic marks." Among these are various ornaments of feathers on the head, pieces of wood, stones, or shells, in the ears, the nose, and lips, and especially tattoo marks.


Thus we see that an immense number of mutilations of the body and alleged "decorations" of it are not intended by these races as things of beauty, but have special meanings or uses in connection with protection, war, superstition, mourning, or the desire to mark distinctions between the tribes, or degrees of rank within one tribe or horde. Usually the "ornamentations" are prescribed for all members of a tribe of the same sex, and their acceptance is rigidly enforced. At the same time there is scope for variety in the form of deviations or exaggerations, and these are resorted to by ambitious individuals to attract attention to their important selves, and thus to gratify vanity, which, in the realm of fashion, is a thing entirely apart from—and usually antagonistic to—the sense of beauty[94]. At Australian dances various colors are used with the object of attracting attention. Especially fantastic are their "decorations" at the corroborees, when the bodies of the men are painted with white streaks that make them look like skeletons. Bulmer believed that their object was to "make themselves as terrible as possible to the beholders and not beautiful or attractive," while Grosse thinks (65) that as these dances usually take place by moonlight, the object of the stripes is to make the dancers more conspicuous—two explanations which are not inconsistent with each other.

Fry relates[95] that the Khonds adorn their hair till they may be seen "intoxicated with vanity on its due decoration." Hearne (306) saw Indians who had a single lock of hair that "when let down would trail on the ground as they walked." Anderson expresses himself with scientific precision when he writes (136) that in Fiji the men "who like to attract the attention of the opposite sex, don their best plumage." The attention may be attracted by anything that is conspicuous, entirely apart from the question whether it be regarded as a thing of beauty or not. Bourne makes the very suggestive statement (69-70) that in Patagonia the beautiful plumage of the ostrich was not appreciated, but allowed to blow all over the country, while the natives adorned themselves with beads and cheap brass and copper trinkets. We may therefore assume that in those cases where feathers are used for "adornment" it is not because their beauty is appreciated but because custom has given them a special significance. In many cases they indicate that the wearer is a person of rank—chief or medicine man—as we saw in the preceding pages. We also saw that special marks in feathers among Dakotas indicated that the wearer had taken a human life, which, more than anything else, excites the admiration of savage women; so that what fascinates them in such a case is not the feather itself but the deed it stands for. Panlitzschke informs us (E.N.O.Afr., chap. ii.), that among the African Somali and Gallas every man who had killed someone, boastfully wore an ostrich feather on his head to call attention to his deed. The Danakil wore these feathers for the same purpose, adding ivory rods in their ear-lobes and fastening a bunch of white horsehair to their shield. A strip of red silk round the forehead served the same purpose. Lumholtz, describing a festival dance in Australia (237), says that some of the men hold in their mouths tufts of talegalla feathers "for the purpose of giving themselves a savage look." By some Australians bunches of hawk's or eagle's feathers are worn "either when fighting or dancing, and also used as a fan" (Brough Smyth, I., 281-282), which suggests the thought that the fantastic head-dresses of feathers, etc., often seen in warm countries, may be worn as protection against the sun[96].

I doubt, too, whether the lower races are able to appreciate flowers esthetically as we do, apart from their fragrance, which endears them to some barbarians of the higher grades. Concerning Australian women we find it recorded by Brough Smyth (I., 270) that they seem to have no love of flowers, and do not use them to adorn their persons. A New Zealander explained his indifference to flowers by declaring that they were "not good to eat."[97] Other Polynesians were much given to wearing flowers on the head and body; but whether this was for esthetic reasons seems to me doubtful on account of the revelations made by various missionaries and others. In Ellis, e.g. (P.R., I., 114), we read that in Tahiti the use of flowers in the hair, and fragrant oil, has been in a great degree discontinued, "partly from the connection of these ornaments with the evil practices to which they were formerly addicted."


So far tattooing has been mentioned only incidentally; but as it is one of the most widely prevalent methods of primitive personal "decoration" a few pages must be devoted to it in order to ascertain whether it is true that it is one of those ornamentations which, as Darwin would have us believe, help to determine the marriages of mankind, or, as Westermarck puts it, "men and women began to... tattoo themselves chiefly in order to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex—that they might court successfully, or be courted." We shall find that, on the contrary, tattooing has had from the earliest recorded times more than a dozen practical purposes, and that its use as a stimulant of the passion of the opposite sex probably never occurred to a savage until it was suggested to him by a philosophizing visitor.

Twenty-four centuries ago Herodotus not only noted that the Thracians had punctures on their skins, but indicated the reason for them: they are, he said, "a mark of nobility: to be without them is a testimony of mean descent."[98] This use of skin disfigurements prevails among the lower races to the present day, and it is only one of many utilitarian and non-esthetic functions subserved by them. In his beautifully illustrated volume on Maori tattooing, Major-General Robley writes:

"Native tradition has it that their first settlers used to mark their faces for battle with charcoal, and that the lines on the face thus made were the beginnings of the tattoo. To save the trouble of this constantly painting their warlike decorations on the face, the lines were made permanent. Hence arose the practice of carving the face and the body with dyed incisions. The Rev. Mr. Taylor ... assumes that the chiefs being of a lighter race, and having to fight side by side with slaves of darker hues, darkened their faces in order to appear of the same race."


When Captain Cook visited New Zealand (1769) he was much interested in the tattooing of the Maoris, and noted that each tribe seemed to have a different custom in regard to it; thus calling attention to one of its main functions as a means to distinguish the tribes from each other. He described the different patterns on divers parts of the body used by various tribes, and made the further important observation that "by adding to the tattooing they grow old and honorable at the same time." The old French navigator d'Urville found in the Maori tattooing an analogy to European heraldry, with this difference: that whereas the coat-of-arms attests the merits of ancestors, the Maori moko illustrates the merits of the persons decorated with it. It makes them, as Robley wittily says, "men of mark." One chief explained that a certain mark just over his nose was his name; it served the purposes of a seal in signing documents. It has been suggested that the body of a warrior may have been tattooed for the sake of identification in case the head was separated from it; for the Maoris carried on a regular trade in heads. Rutherford, who was held for a long time as a captive, said that only the great ones of the tribe were allowed to decorate the forehead, upper lip, and chin. Naturally such marks were "a source of pride" (a sign of rank), and "the chiefs were very pleased to show the tattooing on their bodies." To have an untattooed face was to be "a poor nobody." Ellis (P.R., III., 263) puts the matter graphically by saying the New Zealander's tattooing answers the purpose of the particular stripe or color of the Highlander's plaid, marking the clan or tribe to which they belong, and is also said to be employed as "a means of enabling them to distinguish their enemies in battle."

In his great work on Borneo (II., 83), Roth cites Brooke Low, who said that tattooing was a custom of recent introduction: "I have seen a few women with small patterns on their breasts, but they were the exception to the rule and were not regarded with favor." Burns says that the Kayan men do not tattoo, but

"many of the higher classes have small figures of stars, beasts, or birds on various parts of their body, chiefly the arms, distinctive of rank. The highest mark is that of having the back of the hands colored or tattooed, which is only conferred on the brave in battle."

St. John says that "a man is supposed to tattoo one finger only, if he has been present when an enemy has been killed, but tattoos hand and fingers if he has taken an enemy's head." Among the Ida'an a man makes a mark on his arm for each enemy slain. One man was seen with thirty-seven such stripes on the arm. A successful head-hunter is also allowed to "decorate" his ears with the canine teeth of a Bornean leopard. "In some cases tatu marks appear to be used as a means of communicating a fact," writes Roth (II., 291). Among the Kayan it indicates rank. Slaughter of an enemy, or mere murder of a slave, are other reasons for tattooing. "A Murut, having run away from the enemy, was tatued on his back. So that we may justly conclude that tatuing among the natives of Borneo is one method of writing." Among the Dusun the men that took heads generally had a tattoo mark for each one on the arm, and were looked upon as very brave, though their victim might have been only a woman or a child (159).

In the fifth volume of Waitz-Gerland's Anthropologie (Pt. II., 64-67), a number of authors are cited testifying that in the Micronesian Archipelago the natives of each island had special kinds of tattoo marks on different parts of the body, to distinguish them from others. These marks were named after the islands. The Micronesians themselves attached also a religious significance to these marks. The natives of Tobi believed that their island would be destroyed if the English visitors who came among them were not at once tattooed. Only those completely marked could enter the temple. The men were more tattooed than the women, who were regarded as inferiors.

In the sixth volume of Waitz-Gerland (30-40) is gathered a large mass of evidence, all of which shows that on the Polynesian islands, too, tattooing was indulged in, not for aesthetic and amorous but for religious and practical reasons. In Tonga it was a mark of rank, not permitted to common people or to slaves. Not to be tattooed was considered improper. In the Marquesas the older and more distinguished a man, the more he was tattooed. Married women were distinguished by having marks on the right hand and left foot. In some cases tattoo marks were used as signs to call to mind certain battles or festivals. A woman in Ponape had marks for all her successive husbands made on her arm—everything and anything, in fact, except the purpose of decorating for the sake of attracting the other sex. Gerland (33-40) makes out a very strong case for the religions origin of tattooing, which he aptly compares to our confirmation.

In Samoa the principal motive of tattooing seems to have been licentiousness. It was prohibited by the chiefs on account of the obscene practices always connected with it, and there is a legend of the incestuous designs of two divine brothers on their sister which was successful.

"Tattooing thus originated among the gods and was first practised by the children of Taaroa, their principal deity. In imitation of their example, and for the accomplishment of the same purpose, it was practised among men." (Ellis, P.R., I., 262.)


On the American continent we find tattooing practised from north to south, from east to west, for the most diverse reasons, among which the desire to facilitate courtship is never even hinted at. The Eskimos, about the age of puberty, apply paint and tattooing to their faces, cut holes and insert plugs or labrets. The object of these disfigurements is indicated by Bancroft (I., 48): "Different tribes, and different ranks of the same tribe, have each their peculiar form of tattooing." Moreover, "these operations are supposed to possess some significance other than that of mere ornament. Upon the occasion of piercing the lip, for instance, a religious feast is given." John Murdoch relates (Mallery, 396) that the wife of an Eskimo chief had "a little mark tattooed in each corner of her mouth, which she said were 'whale marks,' indicating that she was the wife of a successful whaleman." Of the Kadiaks Bancroft says (72): "The more the female chin is riddled with holes, the greater the respectability." Among the Chippewayan Indians Mackenzie found (85) that both sexes had "blue or black bars, or from one to four straight lines, on their cheeks or foreheads to distinguish the tribe to which they belong." Swan writes (Mallery, 1882-83, 67) that

"the tattoo marks of the Haidas are heraldic designs or the family totem, or crests of the wearers, and are similar to the carvings depicted in the pillars and monuments around the homes of the chiefs."

A Haida Indian remarked to Swan (69): "If you were tattooed with the design of a swan, the Indians would know your family name." It is at festivals and masquerade performances, says the same writer, that "the tatoo marks show with the best effect, and the rank and family connection [are] known by the variety of design," Lafitan reports (II., 43) regarding the Iroquois and Algonquins that the designs which they have tattooed on their faces and bodies are employed as hieroglyphics, writing, and records, to indicate victories, etc. The designs tattooed on an Indian's face or body distinguish him, he adds, as we do a family by its armorial bearings.

"In James's Long it is reported that the Omahas are often neatly tattooed.... The daughters of chiefs and those of wealthy Indians generally are denoted by a small round spot tattooed on the forehead."

(Mallery, 1888-89, 395.) Bossu says regarding the practice of tattooing by the Osages (in 1756): "It is a kind of knighthood to which they are only entitled by great actions." Blue marks tattooed upon the chin of a Mojave woman indicate that she is married. The Serrano Indians near Los Angeles had, as late as 1843, a custom of having special tattoo marks on themselves which were also made on trees to indicate the corner boundaries of patches of land. (Mallery, 1882-83, 64, 182.) In his book on the California Indians, Powers declares (109) that in the Mattoal tribe the men tattoo themselves; in the others the women alone tattoo. The theory that the women are thus marked in order that the men may be able to recognize them and redeem them from captivity seems plausible for the reasons that these Indians are rent into a great number of divisions and that "the squaws almost never attempt any ornamental tattooing, but adhere closely to the plain regulation mark of the tribe." The Hupa Indians have discovered another practical use for body-marks. Nearly every man has ten lines tattooed across the inside of his left arm, and these lines serve as a measurement of shell-money.

The same non-esthetic motives for tattooing prevail in South and Central America. In Agassiz's book on Brazil we read (318) concerning the Mundurucu Indians:

"Major Coutinho tells us that the tattooing has nothing to do with individual taste, but that the pattern is appointed for both sexes, and is invariable throughout the tribe. It is connected with their caste, the limits of which are very precise, and with their religion."

The tattooing "is also an indication of aristocracy; a man who neglected this distinction would not be respected in his tribe." Concerning the Indians of Guiana we read in Im Thurn (195-96) that they have small distinctive tribal marks tattooed at the corners of the mouth or on the arms. Nearly all have "indelibly excised lines" which are

"scars originally made for surgical, not ornamental purposes." "Some women specially affect certain little figures, like Chinese characters, which looks as if some meaning were attached to them, but which the Indians are either unable or unwilling to explain."

In Nicaragua, as Squire informs us (III., 341), the natives tattooed themselves to designate by special marks the tribes to which they belonged; and as regards Yucatan, Landa writes (Sec. XXI.) that as tattooing was accompanied by much pain, they thought themselves the more gallant and strong the more they indulged in it; and that those who omitted it were sneered at—which gives us still another motive for tattooing—the fear of being despised and ridiculed for not being in fashion.


Many more similar details might be given regarding the races of various parts of the world, but the limits of space forbid. But I cannot resist the temptation to add a citation from Professor Chamberlain's article on tattooing in his Things Japanese, because it admirably illustrates the diversity of the motives that led to the practice. A Chinese trader, "early in the Christian era," Chamberlain tells us, "wrote that the men all tattoo their faces and ornament their bodies with designs, differences of rank being indicated by the position and size of the patterns." "But from the dawn of regular history," Chamberlain adds,

"far down into the middle ages, tattooing seems to have been confined to criminals. It was used as branding was formerly in Europe, whence probably the contempt still felt for tattooing by the Japanese upper classes. From condemned desperadoes to bravoes at large is but a step. The swashbucklers of feudal times took to tattooing, apparently because some blood and thunder scene of adventure, engraven on their chest and limbs, helped to give them a terrific air when stripped for any reason of their clothes. Other classes whose avocations led them to baring their bodies in public followed—the carpenters, for instance, and running grooms; and the tradition remained of ornamenting almost the entire body and limbs with a hunting, theatrical, or other showy scene."

Shortly after 1808 "the government made tattooing a penal offence."

It will be noticed that in this account the fantastic notion that the custom was ever indulged in for the purpose of beautifying the body in order to attract the other sex is, as in all the other citations I have made, not even hinted at. The same is true in the summary made by Mallery of the seventeen purposes of tattooing he found. No. 13 is, indeed, "to charm the other sex;" but it is "magically," which is a very different thing from esthetically. I append the summary (418):

"1, to distinguish between free and slave, without reference to the tribe of the latter; 2, to distinguish between a high and low status in the same tribe; 3, as a certificate of bravery exhibited by supporting the ordeal of pain; 4, as marks of personal prowess, particularly; 5, as a record of achievements in war; 6, to show religious symbols; 7, as a therapeutic remedy for disease; 8, as a prophylactic against disease; 9, as a brand of disgrace; 10, as a token of a woman's marriage, or, sometimes, 11, of her marriageable condition; 12, identification of the person, not as a tribesman, but as an individual; 13, to charm the other sex magically; 14, to inspire fear in the enemy; 15, to magically render the skin impenetrable to weakness; 16, to bring good fortune, and, 17, as the device of a secret society."


Dark races, like the Africans and Australians, do not practise tattooing, because the marks would not show conspicuously on their black skins. They therefore resort to the process of raising scars by cutting the skin with flint or a shell and then rubbing in earth, or the juice of certain plants, etc. The result is a permanent scar, and these scars are arranged by the different tribes in different patterns, on divers parts of the body. In Queensland the lines, according to Lumholtz (177),

"always denote a certain order of rank, and here it depends upon age. Boys under a certain age are not decorated; but in time they receive a few cross-stripes upon their chests and stomachs. The number of stripes is gradually increased, and when the subjects have grown up, a half-moon-shaped line is cut around each nipple."

The necessity for such distinctive marks on the body is particularly great among the Australians, because they are subdivided in the most complicated ways and have an elaborate code of sexual permissions and prohibitions. Therefore, as Frazer suggests (38),

"a chief object of these initiation ceremonies was to teach the youths with whom they might or might not have connection, and to put them in possession of a visible language, ... by means of which they might be able to communicate their totems to, and to ascertain the totems of, strangers whose language they did not understand."

In Africa, too, as we have seen, the scars are used as tribal names, and for other practical purposes. Holub (7) found that the Koranna of Central South Africa has three cuts on the chest. They confessed to him that they indicated a kind of free-masonry, insuring their being well received by Koranna everywhere. On the Congo, scarifications are made on the back for therapeutic reasons, and on the face as tribal marks. (Mallery, 417; H. Ward, 136.) Bechuana priests make long scars on a warrior's thigh to indicate that he has slain an enemy in battle. (Lichtenstein, II., 331.) According to d'Albertis the people of New Guinea use some scars as a sign that they have travelled (I., 213). And so on, ad infinitum.


In face of this imposing array of facts revealing the non-esthetic character of primitive personal "decorations," what have the advocates of the sexual selection theory to say? Taking Westermarck as their most erudite and persuasive spokesman, we find him placing his reliance on four things: (1) the practical ignoring of the vast multitude of facts contradicting his theory; (2) the alleged testimony of a few savages; (3) the testimony of some of their visitors; (4) the alleged fact that "the desire for self-decoration is strongest at the beginning of the age of puberty," the customs of ornamenting, mutilating, painting, and tattooing being "practised most zealously at that period of life." Concerning (1) nothing more need be said, as the large number of decisive facts I have collected exposes and neutralizes that stratagem. The other three arguments must be briefly considered.

A native of Lukunor being asked by Mertens what was the meaning of tattooing, answered: "It has the same object as your clothes; that is, to please the women," In reply to the question why he wore his ornaments, an Australian answered Bulmer: "In order to look well and make himself agreeable to the women," (Brough Smyth, I., 275.) To one who has studied savages not only anthropologically but psychologically, these stories have an obvious cock-and-bull aspect. A native of the Caroline Islands would have been as incapable of originating that philosophical comparison between the object of our clothes and of his tattooing as he would have been of writing Carlyle's Sartor Resartus. Human beings in his stage of evolution never consciously reflect on the reasons of things, and considerations of comparative psychology or esthetics are as much beyond his mental powers as problems in algebra or trigonometry. That such a sailor's yarn could be accepted seriously in an anthropologic treatise shows that anthropology is still in its cradle. The same is true of that Australian's alleged answer. The Australian is unequal to the mental effort of counting up to ten, and, like other savages, is easily fatigued by the simplest questions[99]. It is quite likely that Bulmer asked that native whether he ornamented himself "in order to look well and make himself agreeable to the women," and that the native answered "yes" merely to gratify him or to get rid of the troublesome question.

The books of missionaries are full of such cases, and no end of confusion has been created in science by such false "facts." The answer given by that native is, moreover, utterly opposed to all the well-attested details I have given in the preceding pages regarding the real motives of Australians in "decorating" themselves; and to those facts I may now add this crushing testimony from Brough Smyth (I., 270):

"The proper arrangement of their apparel, the ornamentation of their persons by painting, and attention to deportment, were important only when death struck down a warrior, when war was made, and when they assembled for a corroboree. In ordinary life little attention was given to the ornamenting of the person."


"The Australians throughout the continent scar their persons, as Mr. Curr assures us, only as a means of decoration," writes Westermarck (169), and in the pages preceding and following he cites other evidence of the same sort, such as Carver's assertion that the Naudowessies paint their faces red and black, "which they esteem as greatly ornamental;" Tuckey's assumption that the natives of the Congo file their teeth and raise scars on the skin for purposes of ornament and principally "with the idea of rendering themselves agreeable to the women;" Kiedel's assertion, that in the Tenimber group the lads decorate their locks with leaves, flowers, and feathers, "only in order to please the women;" Taylor's statement that in New Zealand it was the great ambition of the young to have fine tattooed faces, "both to render themselves attractive to the ladies, and conspicuous in war," etc.

Beginning with Curr, it must be conceded that he is one of the leading authorities on Australia, the author of a four-volume treatise on that country and its natives. Yet his testimony on the point in question happens to be as worthless as that of the most hasty globe-trotter, partly because he had evidently paid little attention to it, and partly also, I fancy, because of the fatal tendency of men of science to blunder as soon as they touch the domain of esthetics. What he really wrote (II., 275) is that Chatfield had informed him that scars were made by the natives on the right thigh "for the purpose of denoting the particular class to which they belong." This Curr doubts, "without further evidence," because it would conflict with the custom prevalent throughout the continent, "as far as known, which is to make these marks for ornament only." Now this is a pure assumption of Curr's, based on a preconceived notion, and contradicted by the specific evidence of a number of explorers who, as even Grosse is obliged to admit (75), "unanimously account for a part at least of the scars as tribal marks."[100]

If so eminent an authority as Curr can err so grievously, it is obvious that the testimony of other writers and casual observers must be accepted with extreme caution. Europeans and Americans are so accustomed to regard personal decorations as attempts to beautify the appearance that when they see them in savages there is a natural disposition to attribute them to the same motive. They do not realize that they are dealing with a most subtle psychological question. The chief source of confusion lies in their failure to distinguish between what is admired as a thing of beauty as such and what pleases them for other reasons. As Professor Sully has pointed out in his Handbook of Psychology (337):

"At the beginning of life there is no clear separation of what is beautiful from what is simply pleasing to the individual. As in the history of the race, so in that of the individual, the sense of beauty slowly extricates itself from pleasurable consciousness in general, and differentiates itself from the sense of what is personally useful and agreeable."

Bearing in mind this very important distinction between what is beautiful and what is merely pleasing because of its being useful and agreeable, we see at once that the words "decorative," "ornamental," "attractive," "handsome," etc., are constantly used by writers on this subject in a misleading and question-begging way. We can hardly blame a man like Barrington for writing (11) that among the natives of Botany Bay "scars are, by both sexes, deemed highly ornamental"; but a scientific author who quotes such a sentence ought to be aware that the evidence did not justify Barrington in using any word but pleasing in place of "ornamental," because the latter implies and takes for granted the esthetic sense, the existence of which is the very thing to be proved. This remark applies generally to the evidence of this kind which Westermarck has so industriously collected, and which, on account of this undiscriminating, question-begging character, is entirely worthless. In all these cases the fact is overlooked that the "decorations" of one sex may be agreeable to the other for reasons that have nothing to do with the sense of beauty.

Briefly summed up, Westermarck's theory is that in painting, tattooing, and otherwise decorating his person, primitive man's original and conscious object was to beautify himself for the sake of gaining an advantage in courtship; whereas my theory is that all these decorations originally subserved useful purposes alone, and that even where they subsequently may have served in some instances as means to please the women, this was not as things of beauty but indirectly and unintentionally through their association with rank, wealth, distinction in war, prowess, and manly qualities in general. When Dobrizhoffer says (II., 12) that the Abipones, "more ambitious to be dreaded by their enemies than to be loved, to terrify than attract beholders, think the more they are scarred and sunburnt, the handsomer they are," he illustrates glaringly the slovenly and question-begging use of terms to which I have just referred; for, as his own reference to being loved and to attracting beholders shows, he does not use the word "handsome" in an esthetic sense, but as a synonyme for what is pleasing or worthy of approval on other grounds. If the scars of these Indians do please the women it is not because they are considered beautiful, but because they are tokens of martial prowess. To a savage woman nothing is so useful as manly valor, and therefore nothing so agreeable as the signs of it. In that respect the average woman's nature has not changed. The German high-school girl admires the scars in the face of a "corps-student," not, certainly, because she considers them beautiful, but because they stand for a daredevil, masculine spirit which pleases her.

When the Rev. R. Taylor wrote (321) that among the New Zealanders "to have fine tattooed faces was the great ambition of the young, both to render themselves attractive to the ladies and conspicuous in war," he would have shown himself a better philosopher if he had written that by making themselves conspicuous in war with their tattooing they also make themselves attractive to the "ladies." That the sense of beauty is not concerned here becomes obvious when we include Robley's testimony (28, 15) that a Maori chief's great object was to excite fear among enemies, for which purpose in the older days he "rendered his countenance as terrible as possible with charcoal and red ochre"; while in more recent times,

"not only to become more terrible in war, when fighting was carried on at close quarters, but to appear more distinguished and attractive to the opposite sex, must certainly be included"

among the objects of tattooing. It is hardly necessary to point out that if we accept the sexual selection theory this expert testimony lands us in insuperable difficulty; for it is clearly impossible that on the same island, and in the same race, the painting and tattooing of the face should have the effect of terrifying the men and of appearing beautiful to the women. But if we discard the beauty theory and follow my suggestion, we have no difficulty whatever. Then we may grant that the facial daubs or skin mutilations may seem terrible or hideous to an enemy and yet please the women, because the women do not regard them as things of beauty, but as distinguishing marks of valiant warriors.

By way of illustrating his maxim that "in every country, in every race, beauty stimulates passion," Westermarck cites (257) part of a sentence by Lumholtz (213) to the effect that Australian women take much notice of a man's face, particularly of the part about the eyes. He does not cite the rest of the sentence—"and they like to see a frank and open, or perhaps, more correctly, a wild expression of countenance," which makes it clear to the reader that what stimulates the passion of these women is not the lines of beauty in the [never-washed] faces of these men, but the unbeautiful aspect peculiar to a wild hunter, ferocious warrior, and intrepid defender of his home. Their admiration, in other words, is not esthetic, but instinctively utilitarian.


We come now to the principal argument of Westermarck—the alleged fact that in all parts of the world the desire for self-decoration is strongest at the beginning of the age of puberty, the customs of ornamenting, painting, mutilating, and tattooing the person being practised most zealously at that period. This argument is as futile as the others, for several reasons. In the first place, it is not true that in all parts of the world self-decoration is practised most zealously at that period. More frequently, perhaps, it is begun some years earlier, before any idea of courtship can have entered the heads of these children. The Congo cannibals begin the process of scarring the face at the age of four.[101] Dyak girls are tattooed at five.[102] The Botocudos begin the mutilating of children's lips at the age of seven.[103] Eskimo girls are tattooed in their eighth year,[104] and on the Andaman Islands few children are allowed to pass their eighth year without scarification.[105] The Damaras chip the teeth with a flint "when the children are young."[106] The female Oraons are "all tattooed in childhood."[107] The Tahitians began tattooing at eight.[108] The Chukchis of Siberia tattoo girls at nine;[109] and so on in various parts of the world. In the second place, of the divers personal "decorations" indulged in by the lower races it is only those that are intended to be of a permanent character (tattooing, scarring, mutilating) that are made chiefly, though by no means exclusively[110] about or before the age of puberty.

All the other methods of "decorating" described in the preceding pages as being connected with the rites of war, superstition, mourning, etc., are practised throughout life; and that they constitute by far the greater proportion of "ornamentations" is evidenced by the citation I have already made, from Brough Smyth, that the ornamentation of their persons was considered important by Australians only in connection with such ceremonies, and that "in ordinary life little attention was given to the ornamenting of the person"; to which much similar testimony might be added regarding other races; such as Kane's (184), regarding the Chinooks: "Painting the face is not much practised among them, except on extraordinary occasions, such as the death of a relative, some solemn feast, or going on a war-party;" or Morgan's (263), that the feather and war dances were "the chief occasions" when the Iroquois warrior "was desirous to appear in his best attire," etc.

Again, even if it were true that "the desire for self-decoration is strongest at the beginning of the age of puberty," it does not by any means follow that this must be due to the desire to make one's self attractive to the opposite sex. Whatever their desire may be, the children have no choice in the matter. As Curr remarks regarding Australians (11., 51),

"The male must commonly submit, without hope of escape, to have one or more of his teeth knocked out, to have the septum of his nose pierced, to have certain painful cuttings made in his skin, ...before he is allowed the rights of manhood."

There are, however, plenty of reasons why he should desire to be initiated. What Turner writes regarding the Samoans has a general application:

"Until a young man was tattooed, he was considered in his minority. He could not think of marriage, and he was constantly exposed to taunts and ridicule, as being poor and of low birth, and as having no right to speak in the society of men. But as soon as he was tattooed he passed into his majority, and considered himself entitled to the respect and privileges of mature years. When a youth, therefore, reached the age of sixteen, he and his friends were all anxiety that he should be tattooed."[111]

No one can read the accounts of the initiatory ceremonies of Australian and Indian boys (convenient summaries of which may be found in the sixth volume of Waitz-Gerland and in Southey's Brazil III., 387-88) without becoming convinced that with them, as with the Samoans, etc., there was no thought of women or courtship. Indeed the very idea of such a thing involves an absurdity, for, since all the boys in each tribe were tattooed alike, what advantage could their marks have secured them? If all men were equally rich, would any woman ever marry for money? Westermarck accepts (174) seriously the assertion of one writer that the reason why Australians knock out some of the teeth of the boys at puberty is because they know "that otherwise they would run the risk of being refused on account of ugliness." Now, apart from the childish supposition that Australian women could allow their amorous inclinations to depend on the presence or absence of two front teeth, this assertion involves the assumption that these females can exercise the liberty of choice in the selection of a mate—an assumption which is contrary to the truth, since all the authorities on Australia agree on at least one point, which is that women have absolutely no choice in the selection of a husband, but have to submit in all cases to the dispositions made by their male relatives. These Australian women, moreover, perversely act in a manner utterly inconsistent with the theory of sexual selection. Since they do not choose, but are chosen, one would naturally expect, in accordance with that theory, that they would decorate themselves in order to "stimulate the passion" of the desirable men; but they do no such thing.

While the men are apt to dress their hair carefully, the women "let their black locks grow as irregular and tangled as do the Fuegians" (Grosse, 87); and Buhner says they "did little to improve their appearance;" while such ornaments as they had "were not much regarded by the men." (Brough Smyth, I, 275.)[112]


One of the most important reasons why young savages approaching puberty are eager to receive their "decorations" remains to be considered. Tattooing, scarring, and mutilating are usually very painful processes. Now, as all who are familiar with the life of savages know, there is nothing they admire so much as courage in enduring torture of any kind. By showing fortitude in bearing the pain connected with tattooing, etc., these young folks are thus able to win admiration, gratify their vanity, and show that they are worthy to be received in the ranks of adults. The Sea Dyaks are proud of their scars, writes Brooke Low.

"The women often prove the courage and endurance of the youngsters by placing a lighted ball of tinder in the arm and letting it burn into the skin. The marks ... are much valued by the young men as so many proofs of their power of endurance."

(Roth, II., 80.) Here we have an illustration which explains in the most simple way why scars please both the men and the women, without making necessary the grotesque assumption that either sex admires them as things of beauty. To take another case, equally eloquent: Bossu says of the Osage Indians that they suffer the pain of tattooing with pleasure in order to pass for men of courage. If one of them should have himself marked without having previously distinguished himself in battle, he would be degraded and looked upon as a coward, unworthy of such an honor. (Mallery, 1889-90, 394.)

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 20     Next Part
Home - Random Browse