Page:Totem and Taboo (1919).djvu/42

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TOTEM AND TABOO
CHAPTER II


TABOO AND THE AMBIVALENCE OF EMOTIONS


1


Taboo is a Polynesian word, the translation of which provides difficulties for us because we no longer possess the idea which it connotes. It was still current with the ancient Romans: their word “sacer” was the same as the taboo of the Polynesians. The “άγος” of the Greeks and the “Kodaush” of the Hebrews must also have signified the same thing which the Polynesians express through their word taboo and what many races in America, Africa (Madagascar), North and Central Asia express through analogous designations.

For us the meaning of taboo branches off into two opposite directions. On the one hand it means to us sacred, consecrated: but on the other hand it means, uncanny, dangerous, forbidden, and unclean. The opposite for taboo is designated in Polynesian by the word noa and signifies something ordinary and generally accessible. Thus something like the concept of reserve inheres in taboo; taboo expresses itself essentially in prohibitions and restrictions. Our