Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/265

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Reviews. 227

monotheism of the Malagasy, and as to the borrowing, either from Jewish or Arab sources, of their religious ideas, and insists on the importance of exact scientific enquiry, he passes on to discuss the Malagasy notion of taboo. The native word is fady. In the course of a careful analysis it is compared with words of similar meaning in other tongues and with its Mala- gasy correlatives, especially tohhia and hasinia, which signify respectively contagion and power. The conclusion arrived at is that in the last analysis the true sense of fady is da?igerous, all the other senses of prohibited^ tmlucky, ill-omened, and so forth being derivatives. M. van Gennep then proceeds to enquire why an act is considered dangerous, and why every- one agrees to consider it so. He insists on the social character of taboo, discusses its force and its sanctions. He shows that the sanctions are for the most part supernatural, and conse- quently that the root-idea oi fady is religious. In the religious sense, and particularly in regard to the cult of ancestors or to the customs they established, it is that an act is primarily dangerous. The juridical value of a prohibition is the result of evolution, and is not original.

A review is then undertaken of the details of Malagasy taboos, so far as they are known. Taboos of the abnormal, the new, and the strange ; taboos of the sick, and of the dead ; taboos of the chief; clan, caste, and class taboos; sexual taboos; taboos of children, and family taboos; taboos of property; taboos of place and of time occupy successive chapters. The author then discusses at length animal and vegetable taboos. In connection with them he investigates the question of Mala- gasy totemism. Throughout the work he has occasion again and again to point out how defective our information is. It has been gathered in the first place by missionaries, and more recently by French officials and travellers, none of whom seem to have appreciated the points necessary to be observed and recorded. The accounts of Malagasy custom and belief which they have either formally drawn up, or which are to be gathered from their writings, are indeed priceless, because they are the only source, and in some respects a fairly full source, of infor- mation. But the point of view is not usually that of a