Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/141

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Psychology and Ethnology. 131

mothers kept their babies by their side on their couch while the husband slept in some other house. I tried to explain that our custom was due to care for the baby lest the mother should crush it in her sleep, and I reminded her of King Solomon's judgment; but, as it appeared that Fijian mothers never roll on to their babies, my argument failed. Now, Melaia's argument was quite right as far as Fijian women go ; a Fijian mother who put her child away at night would show a lack of motherly love, for a loving mother likes to have her baby always by her side; a Fijian mother who slept with her husband within eighteen months of childbirth must be lustful indeed to fly so in the face of a stringent public opinion. But Melaia was utterly wrong when she argued from Fijian practice to European psychology; a European mother likes to have the child beside her, but our softer beds and more agitated sleep make it dangerous to do so, and so loving foresight checks the natural impulse.

An intelligent young Fijian once remarked to me that White Men had such an enormous number of taboos to observe. I pointed out to him that we were trained and broken in to observe them from our earliest childhood, and as we grew up got quite to enjoy them. " I understand now," he observed, " I had always thought European children were so harshly treated ; I now see the reason why." He too had been applying to us the psychological method.

It is because savages interpret our customs psycho- logically that they think us wicked, or daft, or both,

A customary action is no clue to the state of mind behind it ; in our own churches, while the whole congregation is going through the same performance, yet we know that it includes the greatest diversity of temperaments and opinions, and even their present state of mind cannot be inferred from the prayers they are saying, or the hymns they are singing; the sermon, if it is interesting and fixes the attention of the audience, is the only part from which we may infer approximately some of the emotions and