Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/266

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2 28 Reviews.

dispassionate and accurate observer ; while many of the English- men wrote for a public whose chief interest was the spread of their own particular type of religion, and for whom details of heathen ceremonies were of interest only as they were grotesque, or as they emphasised the darkness of the Gentiles.

Especially is the lack of information to be deplored on the subject of the relation between the animal and vegetable taboos on the one hand, and the beliefs and social organisation of the people on the other. M. van Gennep has not thought it necessary to discuss at length the racial connections of the popu- lation, though a thorough examination of these would perhaps throw light upon the problems which are his subject. It may be said in general terms that the population is not quite homo- geneous. The earliest inhabitants were probably of African race. They have been conquered and partly absorbed by peoples of Malayo-Polynesian descent, who now seem to form in blood as well as in culture the dominant race. There has been, besides, some Arab influence, chiefly upon the eastern shores of the island ; but, as M. van Gennep shows, it is easy to overrate it. At the time of the discovery, and down to the French conquest in the latter part of the last century, the hege- mony of the island was wielded by a tribe known as the Imerina or Hovas, occupying the central heights. The various tribal divi- sions may indicate some racial differences ; but the language and civilisation are common to the whole island, subject to comparatively unimportant dialectal and local variations. The Malagasy are very far from being savages. They are ingenious and successful cultivators of rice. They have a number of settled towns, the most important of which, Antananarivo, the capital of the island, has a population stated by Mr. Sibree in 1879 at "above 100,000." They spin, weave, and make pottery. They hold regular markets, and are accomplished traders. The taboos which they practise, and of which they are to some extent the victims, have come down to them from ancient times, when doubtless the Malagasy were less advanced than they are now. Among such taboos are taboos against wounding, killing, or eating certain animals. The question is whether these are of totemistic origin. M. van Gennep has analysed the evidence