Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/90

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

described as a superstition; and, indeed, this name would be given to a large proportion of survivals, such for instance as may be collected by the hundred from books of folk-lore and occult science. But the term superstition now implies a reproach, and though this reproach may be often cast deservedly on fragments of a dead lower culture embedded in a living higher one, yet in many cases it would be harsh, and even untrue. For the ethnographer's purpose, at any rate, it is desirable to introduce such a term as 'survival,' simply to denote the historical fact which the word 'superstition' is now spoiled for expressing. Moreover, there have to be included as partial survivals the mass of cases where enough of the old habit is kept up for its origin to be recognizable, though in taking a new form it has been so adapted to new circumstances as still to hold its place on its own merits.

Thus it would be seldom reasonable to call the children's games of modern Europe superstitions, though many of them are survivals, and indeed remarkable ones. If the games of children and of grown-up people be examined with an eye to ethnological lessons to be gained from them, one of the first things that strikes us is how many of them are only sportive imitations of the serious business of life. As children in modern civilized times play at dining and driving horses and going to church, so a main amusement of savage children is to imitate the occupations which they will carry on in earnest a few years later, and thus their games are in fact their lessons. The Esquimaux children's sports are shooting with a tiny bow and arrow at a mark, and building little snow-huts, which they light up with scraps of lamp-wick begged from their mothers.[1] Miniature boomerangs and spears are among the toys of Australian children; and even as the fathers keep up as a recognized means of getting themselves wives the practice of carrying them off by violence, so playing at such Sabine marriage has been noticed as one of the regular games of the little

  1. Klemm, 'Cultur-Geschichte,' vol. ii. p. 209.