Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/36

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
26
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

from the value of the thing presented. Describing people who carry burdens over the high passes, he speaks of them as unloading themselves on the top, and then severally saying to the god Pachacamac:

" 'I give thanks that this has been carried,' and in making an offering they pulled a hair out of their eyebrows, or took the herb called cuca from their mouths, as a gift of the most precious things they had. Or, if there was nothing better, they offered a small stick or piece of straw, or even a piece of stone or earth. There were great heaps of these offerings at the summits of passes over the mountains."

Though, coming to us in this unfamiliar form, these offerings of parts of themselves, or of things they prized, or else of worthless things, seem strange, they will seem less strange on remembering that at the foot of a way-side crucifix in France may any day be seen a heap of small crosses severally made of two bits of lath nailed together. Intrinsically of no more value than these straws, sticks, and stones, the Peruvians offered, they similarly force on our attention the truth that the act of presentation passes into a ceremony expressing the wish to conciliate. How natural is this substitution of a nominal giving for a real giving, where real giving is impracticable, we are shown even by intelligent animals. A retriever, accustomed to please his master by fetching killed birds, etc., will fall into the habit at other times of fetching something to show his desire to please. On first seeing in the morning, or after an absence, one he is friendly with, he will join, with the usual demonstrations of joy, the seeking and bringing in his mouth a dead leaf, a twig, or any small available object lying near. And this example, while serving to show the natural genesis of this propitiatory ceremony, serves also to show how deep down there begins the process of symbolization; and how, at the outset, the symbolic act is as near a repetition of the act symbolized as the circumstances allow.

Prepared, as we thus are, to trace the development of gift-making into a ceremony, let us now observe its several varieties, and the social arrangements eventually derived from them.

 

In headless tribes, and in tribes of which the headship is unsettled, and in tribes of which the headship though settled is feeble, the making of presents does not become an established usage. Australians, Tasmanians, Fuegians, are instances; and on reading through accounts of wild American races that are little organized, like the Esquimaux, Chinooks, Snakes, Comanches, Chippewas, etc., or organized in a democratic manner, like the Iroquois and the Creeks, we find, along with absence of strong personal rule, scarcely any mention of gift-making as a political observance.

In apt contrast come the descriptions of usages among those American races which in past times reached, under despotic governments, considerable degrees of civilization. Torquemada tells us that in Mex-