Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/34

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Presidential Address.

to this question we may point to India, where the whole social fabric of Hinduism is reared on the foundation of the caste system, the main feature of which is the preservation of purity of race or caste by avoidance of contact. Or we may cite totemism with its accompaniment of exogamy. Here it is impossible to say where Belief ends and Custom begins. We can only perceive that the whole social system is moulded by obscure beliefs about the relations between the human race, the brute creation, and inanimate nature.

But it is certainly more difficult to perceive the connection between Belief and Custom in Europe, and especially in England, where the old village system has been so entirely broken up, and the old social groups disintegrated. In Ireland something of an older state of things still remains. Their agrarian system differs from ours, the ancient customs of inheritance still linger among the peasantry, and the sense of family solidarity and mutual responsibility is still strong. Penniless members of the family group quarter themselves together without ceremony on their richer brethren, and marriage continues to be a family affair, not merely the concern of the contracting parties only. There is a different tone of thought, and a corresponding difference in practice. But in England the whole trend of our social system for the past few generations has been increasingly individualistic. Individual ownership of land prevails, individual occupation, individual cultivation. Self-help is the approved principle of action in all classes. Every adult must struggle for himself, must make his own way, and marriage becomes more and more a matter for the individuals themselves alone. The influence of the traditional solidarities wanes on every hand. Yet even here, when society re-moulds itself and men gather into groups again, common belief is a factor in re-creating common action. We see Roman Catholics intermarrying among themselves, each individual Nonconformist chapel tending to become the nucleus of a social set, and