Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 15.djvu/811

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INFLUENCE OF SUPERSTITION ON PROPERTY RIGHTS 797

forbidden fruit. "^ In the Marquesas Islands when devil fish were getting scarce on the reef or when the cocoa-palms were being impoverished by the plucking of the green nuts, it was the chief's business to set a tapu on these articles of food until ex- hausted nature had been given a chance to revive and once more replenish the earth.**

Among the tribes of Assam, on the northeastern border of India, an elaborate genna or taboo system has been recently described. Here we find a series of communal ordinances ob- served by the inhabitants of each village. Those which are of regular occurrence for the most part are connected with the crops. Before the seed is sown, the entire village is tabooed. The gates are closed ; no one may come in or go out during a period which may last as long as ten days. From the conclusion of this initial genna to the commencement of the genna which ushers in the harvest time, all trade, all fishing and hunting, all cutting grass and felling trees is forbidden. "These taboos," writes Mr. Hodson, "are not intended, perhaps, to afford of set purpose a much-needed close time to the game, but they have that effect."« 

Africa, likewise yields confirmatory evidence. Thus the Ashanti first-fruits festival which continues a fortnight, comes in September when the new yams are ripe. People must not eat them before the conclusion of the ceremonies by which the taboo is raised. It has been observed that those "yam customs" have a double significance: they are a thanksgiving to the gods for having protected the crops and they are also a means of prevent- ing any interference with the yams until the latter are quite ripe."^

From the New World many examples might be quoted to illustrate the use of communal prohibitions to preserve communal property. The Hopi of Arizona, who greatly prize eagle- feathers as decorations in their religious rites, regard these birds together with their nests as the common property of the clans. They

  • Ingli3, in Journ. Ethnol. Soc. (1854), HI, 62.

• R. L. Stevenson, In the South Seas, Part I, chap. vi.

  • Journ. Anthrop. Inst. (1906), XXXVI, 94.

^ Mary H. Kingsley, West African Studies^, pp. 147, 148.