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According to him the division between sacred and unclean does not yet exist in the first primitive stages of taboo. For this reason these conceptions entirely lack the significance which they could only acquire later on when they came to be contrasted.

The animal, person or place on which there is a taboo is demonic, that is, not sacred, and therefore not yet, in the later sense, unclean. The expression taboo is particularly suitable for this undifferentiated and intermediate meaning of the demonic, in the sense of something which may not be touched, since it emphasizes a characteristic which finally adheres both to what is sacred and to the unclean, namely, the dread of contact. But the fact that this important characteristic is permanently held in common points to the existence of an original agreement here between these two spheres which gave way to a differentiation only as the result of further conditions through which both finally developed into opposites.

The belief associated with the original taboo, according to which a demonic power concealed in the object avenges the touching of it or its forbidden use by bewitching the offender was still an entirely objectified fear. This had not yet separated into the two forms which it assumed at a more developed stage, namely, awe and aversion. How did this separation come about? According to Wundt, this was done through the transference of taboo prohibitions from the sphere of demons to that of theistic conceptions.

The antithesis of sacred and unclean coincides with the succession of two mythological stages the first of which did not entirely disappear when the second was reached but continued in a state of greatly lowered esteem which gradually turned into contempt. It is a general law in mythology that a preceding stage, just because it has been overcome and pushed back by a higher stage, maintains itself next to it in a debased form so that the objects of its veneration become objects of aversion [39].

He knows people who have individually created such taboo prohibitions for themselves, which they follow as strictly as savages observe the taboos common to their tribe or society. Psychoanalytic investigation has taught him the clinical etiology and the essential part of the psychological mechanism of this compulsion disease, so that he cannot resist applying what he has learnt there to explain corresponding manifestations in folk psychology. There is one warning to which we shall have to give heed in making this attempt. The similarity between taboo and compulsion disease may be purely superficial, holding good only for the manifestations of both without extending into their deeper characteristics.

Nature loves to use identical forms in the most widely different biological connections, as, for instance, for coral stems and plants and even for certain crystals or for the formation of certain chemical precipitates. It would certainly be both premature and unprofitable to base conclusions relating to inner relationships upon the correspondence of merely mechanical conditions. We shall bear this warning in mind without, however, giving up our intended comparison on account of the possibility of such confusions.

The first and most striking correspondence between the compulsion prohibitions of neurotics and taboo lies in the fact that the origin of these prohibitions is just as unmotivated and enigmatic.

The Most Ancient Taboo: Cannibalism (Documentary)

They have appeared at some time or other and must now be retained on account of an unconquerable anxiety. An external threat of punishment is superfluous, because an inner certainty a conscience exists that violation will be followed by unbearable disaster. The very most that compulsion patients can tell us is the vague premonition that some person of their environment will suffer harm if they should violate the prohibition.

Of what the harm is to consist is not known, and this inadequate information is more likely to be obtained during the later discussions of the expiatory and defensive actions than when the prohibitions themselves are being discussed. Anything that leads the thoughts to what is prohibited and thus calls forth mental contact is just as much prohibited as immediate bodily contact; this same extension is also found in taboo.

Some prohibitions are easily understood from their purpose but others strike us as incomprehensible, foolish and senseless.

Heroes and Villains

This impossibility finally lays an embargo upon the whole world. We have already emphasized the same characteristics of contagion and transference in the description of taboo prohibitions. We also know that any one who has violated a taboo by touching something which is taboo becomes taboo himself, and no one may come into contact with him. I shall put side by side two examples of transference or, to use a better term, displacement, one from the life of the Maori, and the other from my observation of a woman suffering from a compulsion neurosis:.

My patient demanded that a utensil which her husband had purchased and brought home should be removed lest it make the place where she lives impossible. For she has heard that this object was bought in a store which is situated, let us say, in Stag Street. Compulsion prohibitions, like taboo prohibitions, entail the most extraordinary renunciations and restrictions of life, but a part of these can be removed by carrying out certain acts which now also must be done because they have acquired a compulsive character obsessive acts ; there is no doubt that these acts are in the nature of penances, expiations, defence reactions, and purifications.

The most common of these obsessive acts is washing with water washing obsession. Let us now summarize the points in which the correspondence between taboo customs and the symptoms of compulsion neurosis are most clearly manifested: 1. In the lack of motivation of the commandments, 2. However, psychoanalysis has made us familiar with the clinical history as well as the psychic mechanism of compulsion neurosis. Thus the history of a typical case of touching phobia reads as follows: In the very beginning, during the early period of childhood, the person manifested a strong pleasure in touching himself, the object of which was much more specialized than one would be inclined to suspect.

Presently the carrying out of this very pleasurable act of touching was opposed by a prohibition from without [41]. The prohibition was accepted because it was supported by strong inner forces [42] ; it proved to be stronger than the impulse which wanted to manifest itself through this act of touching. But due to the primitive psychic constitution of the child this prohibition did not succeed in abolishing the impulse.

Its only success lay in repressing the impulse the pleasure of touching and banishing it into the unconscious. Both the prohibition and the impulse remained; the impulse because it had only been repressed and not abolished, the prohibition, because if it had ceased the impulse would have broken through into consciousness and would have been carried out. An unsolved situation, a psychic fixation, had thus been created and now everything else emanated from the continued conflict between prohibition and impulse.

TOTEM AND TABOO

The main characteristic of the psychic constellation which has thus gone under fixation lies in what one might call the ambivalent behaviour [43] of the individual to the object, or rather to an action regarding it. The individual constantly wants to carry out this action the act of touching , he sees in it the highest pleasure, but he may not carry it out, and he even abominates it.

The opposition between these two streams cannot be easily adjusted because—there is no other way to express it—they are so localized in the psychic life that they cannot meet. The prohibition becomes fully conscious, while the surviving pleasure of touching remains unconscious, the person knowing nothing about it. If this psychological factor did not exist the ambivalence could neither maintain itself so long nor lead to such subsequent manifestations.

On account of the repression which has taken place, which is connected with forgetting amnesia , the motivation of the prohibition that has become conscious remains unknown, and all attempts to unravel it intellectually must fail, as the point of attack cannot be found. The prohibition owes its strength—its compulsive character—to its association with its unknown counterpart, the hidden and unabated pleasure, that is to say, to an inner need into which conscious insight is lacking.

The transferability and reproductive power of the prohibition reflect a process which harmonizes with the unconscious pleasure and is very much facilitated through the psychological determinants of the unconscious. The pleasure of the impulse constantly undergoes displacement in order to escape the blocking which it encounters and seeks to acquire surrogates for the forbidden in the form of substitutive objects and actions. For the same reason the prohibition also wanders and spreads to the new aims of the proscribed impulse.

Every new advance of the repressed libido is answered by the prohibition with a new severity. The mutual inhibition of these two contending forces creates a need for discharge and for lessening the existing tension, in which we may recognize the motivation for the compulsive acts. In the neurosis there are distinctly acts of compromise which on the one hand may be regarded as proofs of remorse and efforts to expiate and similar actions; but on the other hand they are at the same time substitutive actions which recompense the impulse for what has been forbidden.

It is a law of neurotic diseases that these obsessive acts serve the impulse more and more and come nearer and nearer to the original and forbidden act. We may now make the attempt to study taboo as if it were of the same nature as the compulsive prohibitions of our patients. It must naturally be clearly understood that many of the taboo prohibitions which we shall study are already secondary, displaced and distorted, so that we shall have to be satisfied if we can shed some light upon the earliest and most important taboo prohibitions.

We must also remember that the differences in the situation of the savage and of the neurotic may be important enough to exclude complete correspondence and prevent a point by point transfer from one to the other such as would be possible if we were dealing with exact copies.

First of all it must be said that it is useless to question savages as to the real motivation of their prohibitions or as to the genesis of taboo. But following the model of the compulsive prohibition we shall construct the history of taboo as follows: Taboos are very ancient prohibitions which at one time were forced upon a generation of primitive people from without, that is, they probably were forcibly impressed upon them by an earlier generation. These prohibitions concerned actions for which there existed a strong desire.

The prohibitions maintained themselves from generation to generation, perhaps only as the result of a tradition set up by paternal and social authority. The persistence of taboo teaches, however, one thing, namely, that the original pleasure to do the forbidden still continues among taboo races. They therefore assume an ambivalent attitude toward their taboo prohibitions; in their unconscious they would like nothing better than to transgress them but they are also afraid to do it; they are afraid just because they would like to transgress, and the fear is stronger than the pleasure.

But in every individual of the race the desire for it is unconscious, just as in the neurotic. The oldest and most important taboo prohibitions are the two basic laws of totemism : namely not to kill the totem animal, and to avoid sexual intercourse with totem companions of the other sex. It would therefore seem that these must have been the oldest and strongest desires of mankind.

We cannot understand this and therefore we cannot use these examples to test our assumptions as long as the meaning and the origin of the totemic system is so wholly unknown to us. But the very wording of these taboos and the fact that they occur together will remind any one who knows the results of the psychoanalytic investigation of individuals, of something quite definite which psychoanalysts call the central point of the infantile wish life and the nucleus of the later neurosis [44].

All other varieties of taboo phenomena which have led to the attempted classifications noted above become unified if we sum them up in the following sentence. The basis of taboo is a forbidden action for which there exists a strong inclination in the unconscious. We know, without understanding it, that whoever does what is prohibited and violates the taboo, becomes himself taboo. But how can we connect this fact with the other, namely that the taboo adheres not only to persons who have done what is prohibited but also to persons who are in exceptional circumstances, to these circumstances themselves, and to impersonal things?

What can this dangerous attribute be which always remains the same under all these different conditions? Only one thing, namely, the propensity to arouse the ambivalence of man and to tempt him to violate the prohibition. An individual who has violated a taboo becomes himself taboo because he has the dangerous property of tempting others to follow his example. He arouses envy; why should he be allowed to do what is prohibited to others? He is therefore really contagious , in so far as every example incites to imitation and therefore he himself must be avoided.

But a person may become permanently or temporarily taboo without having violated any taboos, for the simple reason that he is in a condition which has the property of inciting the forbidden desires of others and of awakening the ambivalent conflict in them. Most of the exceptional positions and conditions have this character and possess this dangerous power.

The king or chieftain rouses envy of his prerogatives; everybody would perhaps like to be king. The dead, the newly born, and women when they are incapacitated all act as incitements on account of their peculiar helplessness, while the individual who has just reached sexual maturity tempts through the promise of a new pleasure. Therefore all these persons and all these conditions are taboo, for one must not yield to the temptations which they offer. The taboo of a king is too strong for his subject because the social difference between them is too great. But a minister, for example, can become the harmless mediator between them.

Translated from the language of taboo into the language of normal psychology this means: the subject who shrinks from the tremendous temptation which contact with the king creates for him can brook the intercourse of an official, whom he does not have to envy so much and whose position perhaps seems attainable to him. The minister, on his part, can moderate his envy of the king by taking into consideration the power that has been granted to him. Thus smaller differences in the magic power that lead to temptation are less to be feared than exceptionally big differences.

It is equally clear how the violation of certain taboo prohibitions becomes a social danger which must be punished or expiated by all the members of society lest it harm them all. This danger really exists if we substitute the known impulses for the unconscious desires. It consists in the possibility of imitation, as a result of which society would soon be dissolved.

If the others did not punish the violation they would perforce become aware that they want to imitate the evil doer. To touch is the beginning of every act of possession, of every attempt to make use of a person or thing. We have interpreted the power of contagion which inheres in the taboo as the property of leading into temptation, and of inciting to imitation.

This does not seem to be in accord with the fact that the contagiousness of the taboo is above all manifested in the transference to objects which thus themselves become carriers of the taboo. This transferability of the taboo reflects what is found in the neurosis, namely, the constant tendency of the unconscious impulse to become displaced through associative channels upon new objects. Both functions reunite into one, however, if we assume it to be in accord with a primitive psychic life that with the awakening of a memory of a forbidden action there should also be combined the awakening of the tendency to carry out the action.

Memory and temptation then again coincide. We must also admit that if the example of a person who has violated a prohibition leads another to the same action, the disobedience of the prohibition has been transmitted like a contagion, just as the taboo is transferred from a person to an object, and from this to another. If the violation of a taboo can be condoned through expiation or penance, which means, of course, a renunciation of a possession or a liberty, we have the proof that the observance of a taboo regulation was itself a renunciation of something really wished for.

The omission of one renunciation is cancelled through a renunciation at some other point. This would lead us to conclude that, as far as taboo ceremonials are concerned, penance is more primitive than purification. Let us now summarize what understanding we have gained of taboo through its comparison with the compulsive prohibition of the neurotic.

Taboo is a very primitive prohibition imposed from without by an authority and directed against the strongest desires of man. The desire to violate it continues in the unconscious; persons who obey the taboo have an ambivalent feeling toward what is affected by the taboo. The magic power attributed to taboo goes back to its ability to lead man into temptation; it behaves like a contagion, because the example is contagious, and because the prohibited desire becomes displacing in the unconscious upon something else.

The expiation for the violation of a taboo through a renunciation proves that a renunciation is at the basis of the observance of the taboo. We may ask what we have gained from the comparison of taboo with compulsion neurosis and what value can be claimed for the interpretation we have given on the basis of this comparison? Our intrepretation is evidently of no value unless it affords an advantage not to be had in any other way and unless it affords a better understanding of taboo than was otherwise possible.

We might claim that we have already given proof of its usefulness in what has been said above; but we shall have to try to strengthen our proof by continuing the explanation of taboo prohibitions and customs in detail. But we can avail ourselves of another method. We can shape our investigation so as to ascertain whether a part of the assumptions which we have transferred from the neurosis to the taboo, or the conclusions at which we have thereby arrived can be demonstrated directly in the phenomena of taboo.

We must decide, however, what we want to look for. The assertion concerning the genesis of taboo, namely, that it was derived from a primitive prohibition which was once imposed from without, cannot, of course, be proved. We shall therefore seek to confirm those psychological conditions for taboo with which we have become acquainted in the case of compulsion neurosis. How did we gain our knowledge of these psychological factors in the case of neurosis?

Through the analytical study of the symptoms, especially the compulsive actions, the defence reactions and the obsessive commands. These mechanisms gave every indication of having been derived from ambivalent impulses or tendencies, they either represented simultaneously the wish and counter-wish or they served preponderantly one of the two contrary tendencies. If we should now succeed in showing that ambivalence, i. We have already mentioned that the two fundamental taboo prohibitions are inaccessible to our analysis because they belong to totemism; another part of the taboo rules is of secondary origin and cannot be used for our purpose.

For among these races taboo has become the general form of law giving and has helped to promote social tendencies which are certainly younger; than taboo itself, as for instance, the taboos imposed by chiefs and priests to insure their property and privileges. But there still remains a large group of laws which we may undertake to investigate. Among these I lay stress on those taboos which are attached a to enemies, b to chiefs, and c to the dead; the material for our investigation is taken from the excellent collection of J. Frazer in his great work, The Golden Bough [45].

Inclined as we may have been to ascribe to savage and semi-savage races uninhibited and remorseless cruelty towards their enemies, it is of great interest to us to learn that with them, too, the killing of a person compels the observation of a series of rules which are associated with taboo customs. These rules are easily brought under four groups; they demand 1. The incomplete reports do not allow us to decide with certainty how general or how isolated such taboo customs may be among these races, but this is a matter of indifference as far as our interest in these occurrences is concerned.

Still, it may be assumed that we are dealing with widespread customs and not with isolated peculiarities. The reconciliation customs practised on the island of Timor, after a victorious band of warriors has returned with the severed heads of the vanquished enemy, are especially significant because the leader of the expedition is subject to heavy additional restrictions. We have offered the sacrifice to appease you. Your spirit may now rest and leave us at peace. Why were you our enemy? Would it not have been better that we should remain friends? Similar customs are found among the Palu in Celebes; the Gallas sacrifice to the spirits of their dead enemies before they return to their home villages [47].

Other races have found methods of making friends, guardians and protectors out of their former enemies after they are dead. This consists in the tender treatment of the severed heads, of which many wild tribes of Borneo boast. When the See-Dayaks of Sarawak bring home a head from a war expedition, they treat it for months with the greatest kindness and courtesy and address it with the most endearing names in their language.

The best morsels from their meals are put into its mouth, together with titbits and cigars. The dead enemy is repeatedly entreated to hate his former friends and to bestow his love upon his new hosts because he has now become one of them. It would be a great mistake to think that any derision is attached to this treatment, horrible though it may seem to us [48]. Observers have been struck by the mourning for the enemy after he is slain and scalped, among several of the wild tribe of North America.

The Dakota Indians mourned in the same way. One authority mentions that the Osaga Indians after mourning for their own dead mourned for their foes as if they had been friends [49]. Before proceeding to the other classes of taboo customs for the treatment of enemies, we must define our position in regard to a pertinent objection. From this superstition all the reconciliation rules as well as the restrictions and expiations which we shall discuss later can be logically deduced; moreover, the ceremonies included in the fourth group also argue for this interpretation, since the only explanation of which they admit is the effort to drive away the spirits of the slain which pursue the manslayers [50].

Besides, the savages themselves directly admit their fear for the spirits of their slain foes and trace back the taboo customs under discussion to this fear. This objection is certainly pertinent and if it were adequate as well we would gladly spare ourselves the trouble of our attempt to find a further explanation. We postpone the consideration of this objection until later and for the present merely contrast it to the interpretation derived from our previous discussion of taboo. All these rules of taboo lead us to conclude that other impulses besides those that are merely hostile find expression in the behaviour towards enemies.

We see in them manifestations of repentance, of regard for the enemy, and of a bad conscience for having slain him. It seems that the commandment, Thou shalt not slay, which could not be violated without punishment, existed also among these savages, long before any legislation was received from the hands of a god.

We now return to the remaining classes of taboo rules. The restrictions laid upon the victorious manslayer are unusually frequent and are mostly of a serious nature. In Timor compare the reconciliation customs mentioned above the leader of the expedition cannot return to his house under any circumstances. A special hut is erected for him in which he spends two months engaged in the observance of various rules of purification.

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During this period he may not see his wife or nourish himself; another person must put his food in his mouth. In Logea, an island near New Guinea, men who have killed an enemy or have taken part in the killing, lock themselves up in their houses for a week. They avoid every intercourse with their wives and friends, they do not touch their victuals with their hands and live on nothing but vegetable foods which are cooked for them in special dishes. As a reason for this last restriction it is alleged that they must smell the blood of the slain, otherwise they would sicken and die.

Among the Toaripi-or Motumotu-tribes in New Guinea a manslayer must not approach his wife and must not touch his food with his fingers. A second person must feed him with special food. This continues until the next new moon. I avoid the complete enumeration of all the cases of restrictions of the victorious slayer mentioned by Frazer, and emphasize only such cases in which the character of taboo is especially noticeable or where the restriction appears in connection with expiation, purification and ceremonial.

He must not touch any one, not even his wife and children; if he did so they would be afflicted with boils. He finally becomes clean through washing and other ceremonies. Among the Natchez in North America young warriors who had procured their first scalp were bound for six months to the observance of certain renunciations. They were not allowed to sleep with their wives or to eat meat, and received only fish and maize pudding as nourishment.

When a Choctaw had killed and scalped an enemy he began a period of mourning for one month, during which he was not allowed to comb his hair. When his head itched he was not allowed to scratch it with his hand but used a small stick for this purpose. After a Pima Indian had killed an Apache he had to submit himself to severe ceremonies of purification and expiation. During a fasting period of sixteen days he was not allowed to touch meat or salt, to look at a fire or to speak to any one. He lived alone in the woods, where he was waited upon by an old woman who brought him a small allowance of food; he often bathed in the nearest river, and carried a lump of clay on his head as a sign of mourning.

On the seventeenth day there took place a public ceremony through which he and his weapons were solemnly purified. As the Pima Indians took the manslayer taboo much more seriously than their enemies and, unlike them, did not postpone expiation and purification until the end of the expedition, their prowess in war suffered very much through their moral severity or what might be called their piety. In spite of their extraordinary bravery they proved to be unsatisfactory allies to the Americans in their wars against the Apaches. The detail and variations of these expiatory and purifying ceremonies after the killing of an enemy would be most interesting for purposes of a more searching study, but I need not enumerate any more of them here because they cannot furnish us with any new points of view.

I might mention that the temporary or permanent isolation of the professional executioner, which was maintained up to our time, is a case in point. The current explanation of all these rules of reconciliation, restriction, expiation and purification, combines two principles, namely, the extension of the taboo of the dead to everything that has come into contact with him, and the fear of the spirit of the slain. In what combination these two elements are to explain the ceremonial, whether they are to be considered as of equal value or whether one of them is primary and the other secondary, and which one, is nowhere stated, nor would this be an easy matter to decide.

In contradistinction to all this we emphasize the unity which our interpretation gains by deducing all these rules from the ambivalence of the emotion of savages towards their enemies. The behaviour of primitive races towards their chiefs, kings, and priests, is controlled by two principles which seem rather to supplement than to contradict each other. They must both be guarded and be guarded against [53].

Both objects are accomplished through innumerable rules of taboo. Why one must guard against rulers is already known to us; because they are the bearers of that mysterious and dangerous magic power which communicates itself by contact, like an electric charge, bringing death and destruction to any one not protected by a similar charge. All direct or indirect contact with this dangerous sacredness is therefore avoided, and where it cannot be avoided a ceremonial has been found to ward off the dreaded consequences.

The Nubas in East Africa, for instance, believe that they must die if they enter the house of their priest-king, but that they escape this danger if, on entering, they bare the left shoulder and induce the king to touch it with his hand. Where the healing power of the royal touch is concerned we do not have to look for examples among savages. Neither Queen Elizabeth nor any of her successors renounced this part of the royal prerogative. Charles I is said to have healed a hundred sufferers at one time, in the year Under his dissolute son Charles II, after the great English revolution had passed, royal healings of scrofula attained their greatest vogue.

This king is said to have touched close to a hundred thousand victims of scrofula in the course of his reign. The crush of those seeking to be cured used to be so great that on one occasion six or seven patients suffered death by suffocation instead of being healed. The following account will bear witness to the terrible effect of touching by virtue of which a person, even though unintentionally, becomes active against his king or against what belongs to him.

A chief of high rank and great holiness in New Zealand happened to leave the remains of his meal by the roadside. A young slave came along, a strong healthy fellow, who saw what was left over and started to eat it. Hardly had he finished when a horrified spectator informed him of his offence in eating the meal of the chief. The man had been a strong, brave warrior, but as soon as he heard this he collapsed and was afflicted by terrible convulsions, from which he died towards sunset of the following day [55].

A Maori woman ate a certain fruit and then learned that it came from a place on which there was a taboo. She cried out that the spirit of the chief whom she had thus offended would surely kill her. The tinder box of a Maori chief once cost several persons their lives. The chief had lost it, and those who found it used it to light their pipes. When they learned whose property the tinder box was they all died of fright [57]. It is hardly astonishing that the need was felt to isolate dangerous persons like chiefs and priests, by building a wall around them which made them inaccessible to others.

We surmise that this wall, which originally was constructed out of taboo rules, still exists to-day in the form of court ceremony. But probably the greater part of this taboo of the rulers cannot be traced back to the need of guarding against them. The other point of view in the treatment of privileged persons, the need of guarding them from dangers with which they are threatened, has had a distinct share in the creation of taboo and therefore of the origin of court etiquette.

The necessity of guarding the king from every conceivable danger arises from his great importance for the weal and woe of his subjects. Strictly speaking, he is a person who regulates the course of the world; his people have to thank him not only for rain and sunshine, which allow the fruits of the earth to grow, but also for the wind which brings the ships to their shores and for the solid ground on which they set their feet [58].

These savage kings are endowed with a wealth of power and an ability to bestow happiness which only gods possess; certainly in later stages of civilization none but the most servile courtiers would play the hypocrite to the extent of crediting their sovereigns with the possession of attributes similar to these.

It seems like an obvious contradiction that persons of such perfection of power should themselves require the greatest care to guard them against threatening dangers, but this is not the only contradiction revealed in the treatment of royal persons on the part of savages. These races consider it necessary to watch over their kings to see that they use their powers in the right way; they are by no means sure of their good intentions or of their conscientiousness.

A strain of mistrust is mingled with the motivation of the taboo rules for the king. So soon as he fails to do so, the care, the devotion, the religious homage which they had hitherto lavished on him cease and are changed into hatred and contempt; he is ignominiously dismissed and may be thankful if he escapes with his life. Worshipped as a god one day, he is killed as a criminal the next.

But in this changed behaviour of the people there is nothing capricious or inconsistent. On the contrary, their conduct is quite consistent. If their king is their god he is or should be, also their preserver; and if he will not preserve them he must make room for another who will.

So long, however, as he answers their expectations, there is no limit to the care which they take of him, and which they compel him to take of himself. A king of this sort lives hedged in by ceremonious etiquette, a network of prohibitions and observances, of which the intention is not to contribute to his dignity, much less to his comfort, but to restrain him from conduct which, by disturbing the harmony of nature, might involve himself, his people, and the universe in one common catastrophe.

Far from adding to his comfort, these observances, by trammelling his every act, annihilate his freedom and often render the very life, which it is their object to preserve, a burden and sorrow to him. One of the most glaring examples of thus fettering and paralysing a holy ruler through taboo ceremonial seems to have been reached in the life routine of the Mikado of Japan, as it existed in earlier centuries. Much less will they suffer that he should expose his sacred person to the open air, and the sun is not thought worthy to shine on his head.

There is such a holiness ascribed to all the parts of his body that he dares to cut off neither his hair, nor his beard, nor his nails. However, lest he should grow too dirty, they may clean him in the night when he is asleep; because they say that what is taken from his body at that time, hath been stolen from him, and that such a theft does not prejudice his holiness or dignity. In ancient times, he was obliged to sit on the throne for some hours every morning, with the imperial crown on his head; but to sit altogether like a statue without stirring either hands or feet, head or eyes, nor indeed any part of his body, because by this means it was thought that he could preserve peace and tranquillity in his empire; for if unfortunately, he turned himself on one side or other, or if he looked a good while towards any part of his dominion, it was apprehended that war, famine, fire or some other great misfortune was near at hand to desolate the country.

Some of the taboos to which barbarian kings are subject vividly recall the restrictions placed on murderers. He is not allowed to touch a woman or to leave his house and cannot even rise out of his chair, in which he must sleep in a sitting position. If he should lie down the wind would cease and shipping would be disturbed. It is his function to keep storms in check, and in general, to see to an even, healthy condition of the atmosphere [61]. The more powerful a king of Loango is, says Bastian, the more taboos he must observe. The heir to the throne is also bound to them from childhood on; they accumulate about him while he is growing up, and by the time of his accession he is suffocated by them.

Our interest in the matter does not require us to take up more space to describe more fully the taboos that cling to royal and priestly dignity. But two examples of taboo ceremonial taken from civilized nations, and therefore from much higher stages of culture, will indicate to what an extent association with these privileged persons tends to preserve ancient customs.

The Flamen Dialis , the high-priest of Jupiter in Rome, had to observe an extraordinarily large number of taboo rules. He was not allowed to ride, to see a horse or an armed man, to wear a ring that was not broken, to have a knot in his garments, to touch wheat flour or leaven, or even to mention by name a goat, a dog, raw meat, beans and ivy; his hair could only be cut by a free man and with a bronze knife, his hair combings and nail parings had to be buried under a lucky tree; he could not touch the dead, go into the open with bare head, and similar prohibitions.

His wife, the Flaminica, also had her own prohibitions: she was not allowed to ascend more than three steps on a certain kind of stairs and on certain holidays she could not comb her hair; the leather for her shoes could not be taken from any animal that had died a natural death but only from one that had been slaughtered or sacrificed; when she heard thunder she was unclean until she had made an expiatory sacrifice [62].

The old kings of Ireland were subject to a series of very curious restrictions, the observance of which was expected to bring every blessing to the country while their violation entailed every form of evil. The complete description of these taboos is given in the Book of Rights , of which the oldest manuscript copies bear the dates and The prohibitions are very detailed and concern certain activities at specified places and times; in some cities, for instance, the king cannot stay on a certain day of the week, while at some specified hour this or that river may not be crossed, or again there is a plane on which he cannot camp a full nine days, etc.

Among many savage races the severity of the taboo restrictions for the priest-kings has had results of historic importance which are especially interesting from our point of view. The honour of being a priest-king ceased to be desirable; the person in line for the succession often used every means to escape it.

Thus in Combodscha, where there is a fire and water king, it is often necessary to use force to compel the successor to accept the honour. On Niue or Savage Island, a coral island in the Pacific Ocean, monarchy actually came to an end because nobody was willing to undertake the responsible and dangerous office. In some parts of West Africa a general council is held after the death of the king to determine upon the successor. The man on whom the choice falls is seized, tied and kept in custody in the fetish house until he has declared himself willing to accept the crown.

Sometimes the presumptive successor to the throne finds ways and means to avoid the intended honour; thus it is related of a certain chief that he used to go armed day and night and resist by force every attempt to place him on the throne [64]. Among the negroes of Sierra Leone the resistance against accepting the kingly honour was so great that most of the tribes were compelled to make strangers their kings. Frazer makes these conditions responsible for the fact that in the development of history a separation of the original priest-kingship into a spiritual and a secular power finally took place.

Kings, crushed by the burden of their holiness, became incapable of exercising their power over real things and had to leave this to inferior but executive persons who were willing to renounce the honours of royal dignity. From these there grew up the secular rulers, while the spiritual over-lordship, which was now of no practical importance, was left to the former taboo kings.

It is well known to what extent this hypothesis finds confirmation in the history of old Japan. A survey of the picture of the relations of primitive peoples to their rulers gives rise to the expectation that our advance from description to psychoanalytic understanding will not be difficult.

These relations are of an involved nature and are not free from contradictions. Rulers are granted great privileges which are practically cancelled by taboo prohibitions in regard to other privileges. They are privileged persons, they can do or enjoy what is withheld from the rest through taboo.

But in contrast to this freedom they are restricted by other taboos which do not affect the ordinary individual. Here, therefore, is the first contrast, which amounts almost to a contradiction, between an excess of freedom and an excess of restriction as applied to the same persons. They are credited with extraordinary magic powers, and contact with their person or their property is therefore feared, while on the other hand the most beneficial effect is expected from these contacts.

This seems to be a second and an especially glaring contradiction; but we have already learned that it is only apparent. Another contradiction which is not so easily solved is expressed in the fact that great power over the processes of nature is ascribed to the ruler and yet the obligation is felt to guard him with especial care against threatening dangers, as if his own power, which can do so much, were incapable of accomplishing this. A further difficulty in the relation arises because there is no confidence that the ruler will use his tremendous power to the advantage of his subjects as well as for his own protection; he is therefore distrusted and surveillance over him is considered to be justified.

The taboo etiquette, to which the life of the king is subject, simultaneously serves all these objects of exercising a tutelage over the king, of guarding him against dangers and of guarding his subjects against danger which he brings to them.

Anthony Rosamilia Public records

We are inclined to give the following explanation of the complicated and contradictory relation of the primitive peoples to their rulers. Through superstition as well as through other motives, various tendencies find expression in the treatment of kings, each of which is developed to the extreme without regard to the other. That would be so far so good; but the psychoanalytic technique may enable us to penetrate more deeply into the matter and to add something about the nature of these various tendencies.

If we subject the facts as stated to analysis, just as if they formed the symptoms of a neurosis, our first attention would be directed to the excess of anxious worry which is said to be the cause of the taboo ceremonial. The occurrence of such excessive tenderness is very common in the neurosis and especially in the compulsion neurosis upon which we are drawing primarily for our comparison. We now thoroughly understand the origin of this tenderness. It occurs wherever, besides the predominant tenderness, there exists a contrary but unconscious stream of hostility, that is to say, wherever the typical case of an ambivalent affective attitude is realized.

The hostility is then cried down by an excessive increase of tenderness which is expressed as anxiety and becomes compulsive because otherwise it would not suffice for its task of keeping the unconscious opposition in a state of repression.

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Every psychoanalyst knows how infallibly this anxious excess of tenderness can be resolved even under the most improbable circumstances, as for instance, when it appears between mother and child, or in the case of affectionate married people. Applied to the treatment of privileged persons this theory of an ambivalent feeling would reveal that their veneration, their very deification, is opposed in the unconscious by an intense hostile tendency, so that, as we had expected, the situation of an ambivalent feeling is here realized.

The distrust which certainly seems to contribute to the motivation of the royal taboo, would be another direct manifestation of the same unconscious hostility. Indeed the ultimate issues of this conflict show such a diversity among different races that we would not be at a loss for examples in which the proof of such hostility would be much easier. We learn from Frazer [65] that the savage Timmes of Sierra Leone reserve the right to administer a beating to their elected king on the evening before his coronation, and that they make use of this constitutional right with such thoroughness that the unhappy ruler sometimes does not long survive his accession to the throne; for this reason the leaders of the race have made it a rule to elect some man against whom they have a particular grudge.

Nevertheless, even in such glaring cases the hostility is not acknowledged as such, but is expressed as if it were a ceremonial. Another trait in the attitude of primitive races towards their rulers recalls a mechanism which is universally present in mental disturbances, and is openly revealed in the so-called delusions of persecution. Here the importance of a particular person is extraordinarily heightened and his omnipotence is raised to the improbable in order to make it easier to attribute to him the responsibility for everything painful which happens to the patient.

Savages really do not act differently towards their rulers when they ascribe to them power over rain and shine, wind and weather, and then dethrone or kill them because nature has disappointed their expectation of a good hunt or a ripe harvest.


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The prototype which the paranoiac reconstructs in his persecution mania, is found in the relation of the child to its father. Such omnipotence is regularly attributed to the father in the imagination of the son, and distrust of the father has been shown to be intimately connected with the highest esteem for him. Thus this second analogy between the savage and the neurotic may allow us to surmise how much in the relation of the savage to his ruler arises from the infantile attitude of the child to its father.

But the strongest support for our point of view, which seeks to compare taboo prohibitions with neurotic symptoms, is to be found in the taboo ceremonial itself, the significance of which for the status of kinship has already been the subject of our previous discussion. This ceremonial unmistakably reveals its double meaning and its origin from ambivalent tendencies if only we are willing to assume that the effects it produces are those which it intended from the very beginning. It not only distinguishes kings and elevates them above all ordinary mortals, but it also makes their life a torture and an unbearable burden and forces them into a thraldom which is far worse than that of their subjects.

It would thus be the correct counterpart to the compulsive action of the neurosis, in which the suppressed impulse and the impulse which suppresses it meet in mutual and simultaneous satisfaction. The compulsive action is nominally a protection against the forbidden action; but we would say that actually it is a repetition of what is forbidden. Thus also the taboo ceremonial of kings is nominally an expression of the highest veneration and a means of guarding them; actually it is the punishment for their elevation, the revenge which their subjects take upon them.

The experiences which Cervantes makes Sancho Panza undergo as governor on his island have evidently made him recognize this interpretation of courtly ceremonial as the only correct one. It is very possible that this point would be corroborated if we could induce kings and rulers of to-day to express themselves on this point. Why the emotional attitude towards rulers should contain such a strong unconscious share of hostility is a very interesting problem which, however, exceeds the scope of this book. We have already referred to the infantile father-complex; we may add that an investigation of the early history of kingship would bring the decisive explanations.


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Frazer has an impressive discussion of the theory that the first kings were strangers who, after a short reign, were destined to be sacrificed at solemn festivals as representatives of the deity; but Frazer himself does not consider his facts altogether convincing [66]. Christian myths are said to have been still influenced by the after-effects of this evolution of kings. We know that the dead are mighty rulers: we may be surprised to learn that they are regarded as enemies. Among most primitive people the taboo of the dead displays, if we may keep to our infection analogy, a peculiar virulence.

It manifests itself in the first place, in the consequences which result from contact with the dead, and in the treatment of the mourners for the dead. Among the Maori any one who had touched a corpse or who had taken part in its interment, became extremely unclean and was almost cut off from intercourse with his fellow beings; he was, as we say, boycotted. He could not enter a house, or approach persons or objects without infecting them with the same properties. He could not even touch his food with his own hands, which were now unclean and therefore quite useless to him.

His food was put on the ground and he had no alternative except to seize it as best he could, with his lips and teeth, while he held his hands behind on his back. Occasionally he could be fed by another person who helped him to his food with outstretched arms so as not to touch the unfortunate one himself, but this assistant was then in turn subjected to almost equally oppressive restrictions. It is also called anthropophagy. A person who practices cannibalism is called a cannibal. Necessity in extreme situations of famine. Mental illness-self canniblism is a form of self-injury usually as a result of a major mental illness.

Insanity or social deviancy. Digesting The Human Condition, takes the reader into the slow boiling stew of humans eating humans. Some out of necessity, some out of insanity and others For the horror fans who think they have read everything, comes the Masters Of Taboo Series. Stay tuned for volume two for more gore-tastic, ultra violence! Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist.

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