after her husband’s death, except at night, when she need not expect encounters. Whoever sees her is in danger of immediate death and therefore she herself warns others of her approach by hitting the trees with a wooden stick with every step she takes; these trees all wither. Another observation explains the nature of the danger inherent in a widow. In the district of Mekeo, British New Guinea, a widower forfeits all civil rights and lives like an outlaw. He may not tend a garden, or show himself in public, or enter the village or go on the street. He slinks about like an animal, in the high grass or in the bushes, and must hide in a thicket if he sees anybody, especially a woman, approaching. This last hint makes it easy for us to trace back the danger of the widower or widow to the danger of temptation. The husband who has lost his wife must evade the desire for a substitute; the widow has to contend with the same wish and beside this, she may arouse the desire of other men because she is without a master. Every such satisfaction through a substitute runs contrary to the intention of mourning and would cause the anger of the spirit to flare up.
- The same patient whose “impossibilities” I have correlated with taboo, (see above, p. 47) acknowledged that she always became indignant when she met anybody on the street who was dressed in mourning. “Such people should be forbidden to go out!” she said.