Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/779

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CRIMINAL FESTIVALS

ings, and massacres would be supposed by their adorers to be pleasing; in fact, the Tahitians believed that their god Oro was very well satisfied when wars were bloody; and the Chibchas said that no sacrifice was so dear to the gods as sacrifices of human blood. For this reason many were killed among the most savage peoples in honor of ancestors and the gods. These religious crimes, too, were individual and collective—that is, the sacrifice was sometimes performed by one man, sometimes by a family, and sometimes by a whole tribe, according as a personal, a family, or a tribal concern was to be commended to the gods.

According to this view, we should be tempted to believe that when crime began to be the object of legal repression and moral repulsion, all these individual and collective crimes, festivals, and human sacrifices would disappear. It is not so. By a curious contradiction, individual crime has disappeared sooner than collective crime. The branding by the public opinion of peoples who have become sufficiently civilized, of murder, theft, and cannibalism as offenses, may have prevented individuals from committing them, but did not prevent the whole people celebrating the criminal festivals which their savage customs had engendered, although they were contradictory of the changed condition of public morality. In fact, we find among very civilized peoples official festivals and ceremonies which are wholly worthy of the most savage races.

It is a general belief among primitive peoples that human blood, possessing marvelous qualities, assures fertility to the fields and stability to houses, and on that account a large number of homicides are committed among such peoples: for each man tries to assure the benefits of bloodshed to his own fields or to his house. Among the civilized Aryans of India this barbarous custom existed no longer; whoever killed a man to use his blood for such a purpose would have been condemned as a murderer; but the ancient usage still survived in public ceremonies.

War is often made by primitive peoples for the purpose of eating the enemy who is slain, for the enemy is then only a special kind of game. With some peoples who have advanced a little, and who have abolished their cannibalistic customs, we find that human flesh is the essential dish in certain banquets celebrated in honor of victories. In Dahomey, after fortunate wars, there were public festivals in which banquets of human flesh were a sacred custom, although the Dahomeyans were not cannibals; and it was the king's function to eat the heart of an enemy's chief slain in war.

What is called juridical anthropophagy occasionally gives rise to a peculiar species of criminal festivals. Among the Battas of Sumatra, a numerous people, agricultural, peaceful, and law-