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. Almost every village contained some altogether disreputable individual, ostracised by society, whose wretched existence depended upon people’s charity. This creature alone was allowed within arm’s length of a person who had fulfilled the last duty towards the deceased. But as soon as the period of segregation was over and the person rendered unclean through the corpse could again mingle with his fellow-beings, all the dishes which he had used during the dangerous period were broken and all his clothing was thrown away.
The taboo customs after bodily contact with the dead are the same all over Polynesia, in Melanesia, and in a part of Africa; their most constant feature is the prohibition against handling one’s food and the consequent necessity of being fed by somebody else. It is noteworthy that in Polynesia, or perhaps only in Hawaii,
- Frazer, “Taboo,” p. 138, etc.