Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/671

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

preserved as slaves, it became imperative that the taking of trophies from them should neither endanger life nor be highly injurious; and that hence, instead of jaws, teeth were taken; instead of hands, fingers; instead of scalps, hair. Similarly, in this case, the fatal mutilation disappearing left only such allied mutilation as did not seriously, or at all, decrease the value of the enslaved enemy.

That castration was initiated by trophy-taking I find no direct proof; but there is direct proof that prisoners have in some cases been treated in the way that trophy-taking of the implied kind would entail. Of Theobald, Marquis of Spoleto, we read in Gibbon that "his captives. . . . were castrated without mercy;" and, for thinking that there was once an enforced sacrifice of the kind indicated made to a conqueror, there is the further reason that we find a parallel sacrifice made to a deity. At the annual festivals of the Phrygian goddess Amma [Agdistis], "it was the custom for the young men to make themselves eunuchs with a sharp shell, crying out at the same time, 'Take this, Agdistis!' "There was a like practice among the Phœnicians; and Brinton names a severe self-mutilation of the ancient Mexican priests which seems to have included this. Coming in the way shown to imply subordination, this usage, like many ceremonial usages, has in some cases survived where its meaning is lost. The Hottentots enforce semi-castration at about eight or nine years of age; and a kindred custom exists among the Australians.

Naturally, of this class of mutilations, the less serious is the more prevalent. Circumcision occurs among unallied races in all parts of the world—among the Malayo-Polynesians in Tahiti, in Tonga, in Madagascar; among the Negritos of New Caledonia and Feejee; among African peoples, both of the coast and the interior, from Northern Abyssinia to Southern Caffre-land; in America, among some Mexican peoples, the Yucatanese, and the people of San Salvador; and we meet with it again in Australia. Even apart from the fact that their monuments prove it to have been practised by the Egyptians from their earliest recorded times, and even apart from the reasons for believing that it prevailed among the Arabian peoples at large, these proofs that circumcision is not limited to region or race sufficiently dispose of the current theological interpretation. They sufficiently dispose, too, of another interpretation not uncommonly given; for a general survey of the facts shows us that, while the usage does not prevail among the most cleanly races in the world, it is common among the most uncleanly races. Contrariwise, the facts taken in the mass are congruous with the general theory thus far verified.

It was shown that among the Abyssinians down to recent times the trophy taken by circumcision from an enemy's dead body is presented by each warrior to his chief, and how all such trophies taken after a battle are eventually presented to the king. If the vanquished enemies, instead of being killed, are made slaves, and if the warriors