Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/119
emblem of an attribute, and end by converting the attribute into a god which whistles."
Tabu Mr. Rose speaks of as "an institution which plays an important part in the life of the people " ; but his treatment of it is comprised in only a few lines. One sept of Jats, he tells us, will not build an upper storey to their houses. This he does not attempt to explain. Possibly the tabu is based on the principle, so fully analyzed by Dr. Frazer,^ that a dread of personal impurity is at the root of the matter. No greater service to the investiga- tion of folk beliefs could be done than a thorough exploration of the rules of tabu in India, where the popular code of rural belief says quite as often " thou shalt not " as " thou shalt." In many cases these precepts are due to the confusion between what is sacred and what is accursed, this confusion of thought leading the rustics to abstain from anything which, in their belief, has been exposed to supernatural influence. But this does not exhaust all the origins of Indian tabu. Some must be due to traditions dating from a time when the tribe led a nomadic life, as, for instance, the case of some people in Oudh, who regard a tiled roof to their houses as tabu, probably because in some not remote period they lived like the vagrant gypsy races under a rude shelter of reeds.
Mr. Rose ends his short survey of popular belief by the welcome announcement that " the old personal sects and old fanaticism are losing ground." This is probably true of the Panjab, but hardly of other parts of India. It is only a few years since the autho- rities in the Gangetic Valley were startled by a sudden revival of religious fanaticism, as shown by the curious daubing of tree stumps and the rioting connected with the anti-cow-killing agita- tion. India, in fact, is rather a continent than a country, and nothing is so dangerous as to apply to the whole Peninsula facts based on the experience of a single province.
The study of this fresh series of Census reports is to some extent dispiriting. They show how little we really know, or in the present condition of things can know, of the myriad currents of thought which force their way in all directions beneath the seemingly placid surface of native life. Everywhere the beliefs of the people are hedged round by a reticence which even the best informed and
' Goldeti BoKgh, 2nd edition, i., 360, seqq.