Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/268

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230 Reviews.

But he has overlooked the practice of circumcision, by which Sibree tells us, the children are said to be made " men," to be " consecrated " or " estabUshed." The ceremonies, like those of Australian initiation, were observed not for individual children, but every few years for the whole body of uncircumcised boys ; they lasted several days ; they were the occasion of great festivity. " It will be remarked," adds the missionary, after describing them, "how very important the ceremony is con- sidered, from the numerous and minute observances which have grown up around it in the course of the centuries during which it has been celebrated by the Malagasy."^ I think it may well be contended that in the Malagasy, especially the Hova, rites of circumcision, we have true initiation ceremonies, though probably in a decadent condition. The stage of civili- sation, indeed, at which the Malagasy had arrived before the advent of Christianity was far beyond that in which totemism is dominant. It can only arise and attain full development in savagery. Consequently, the utmost we can expect to find in Madagascar is decay and more or less disconnected survivals.

M. van Gennep discusses the fanany, a worm, snake, or lizard, in which a deceased Betsileo is reincarnated. He decides that it is not a totem; and it is clear that in the full sense of the term he is right. But he suggests that it is either a totemic survival or a totem in process of formation, and expresses the opinion that either of these hypotheses is capable of being sustained. This, however, cannot be, for the reason just stated. If the fauany behefs and practices have any rela- tion to totemism, the relationship must be that of survival.

On the whole the study of the alimentary taboos, of the legends intended to explain them, and of the rites of all sorts addressed to animals, leads the author to the opinion, expressed with some hesitation, that besides animal-worship (some of it having an economic bearing) and the belief in reincarnation of the vital force, " an attenuated totemism " is found in the island. In order to be quite satisfied as to the original signification of he taboos, however, he suggests that it would be enough to undertake a direct enquiry in a few localities, taking into

^Sibree, Great African Island, pp. 217-221.