Human Animals Part 4

Ornaments of all kinds have to be borrowed in answer to her lightest whim. She asks for the lion's skin worn by a warrior, his silver ornaments, or other valuable articles difficult to procure. In some cases music is used as a means of charming away the _tigritiya_. Drums and other instruments strike up and the patient moves her body in time to the music and gradually increases her energy until the pace is furious and her motions so violent that it seems likely she will dislocate her limbs, if not her neck. Having lain on a bed of sickness, reduced to a mere bag of bones, such fatiguing exercises appear uncanny, but it is on this dancing and on her incantations that the ejection of the evil spirit depends.

Some of the dances imitate the antics of bush-hogs and other animals desirous of fun rather than of injury to human beings. In one of the Acawoio dances, each dancer has a kind of trumpet to which a rudely carved figure of some animal or reptile is fixed, and he impersonates this animal for the time being.[17]

Musical instruments used in the dances are frequently made of animal skins, and the Indians attribute special virtues to the wolf-skin.

It is said that a tom-tom or drum made of this animal's skin can silence any similar instrument made of sheep's skin from which no man can emit a sound while the wolf-skin vibrates.

Real animals often play a part in the ceremonial, especially snakes in the serpent dances and sacred animals in such dances as are dedicated to their worship.

In China a big dog is dressed up like a man and is carried round in a palanquin to break up a drought.

Masks and animal skins worn at dances are, of course, not confined to the use of primitive races, but have been employed since ancient days in every kind of masque, dance, and pantomime. Much might be written on their symbolic meaning, and attention may be drawn to the special instance of the _festa asinaria_ of mediaeval days at which dancers wore the heads of asses.

Besides the masks and animal skins, ordinary clothing was often made to represent special animals. For instance, at Athens, Artemis was worshipped in ceremonies at which young maidens attired in saffron gowns danced a particular movement and were called "bears."

The Royal family of Dahomey worship the leopard, and some of the king's wives are distinguished by the title of "leopard wives" and wear striped cloths to resemble the animal.

Many savages paint a rude picture of the animal they represent upon the clothes worn, and this is a special feature of some of the extraordinary snake dancers, especially amongst the Moquis.

These dances as well as those of the Hopis are expressions of clan totemism rather than of snake worship. Several figures in the Maya codices represent human beings, evidently personifying deities and wearing the symbolic masks of animal gods. One of the human figures in the Codex Cortesianus wears the mask of a snake. The Hopi usually carries only the head of the animal personified, but the Mexican dresses in the skin. In some examples the head-dress is most elaborate, the head being painted green, with open mouth and red lips dotted with black, two pendant white, tooth-shaped projections hanging from the upper jaw. From the mouth a red tongue lolls. The eye is oval, with curved lines drawn upon the pupil, and the whole is capped by a crescentic figure towering above the head. Three triangular-shaped plumes extend from the cap, and over the nose a red-coloured flap hangs. Though usually green, the heads are sometimes painted white or brown, but none is red or yellow. In the Hopi folk-tales it is said that the waters of the world come from the breasts of the great snake, and sometimes a female figure, bearing a snake as a head-dress, is symbolised with water flowing from her breasts. Another symbolic figure has a snake's body with curious markings and a head practically drawn in identical lines with that of a human being. No doubt this represents a man transformed into, or personifying, a snake. At any rate, he wears the mask and represents the feathered snake ceremonially.

A number of animals are represented in Tusayan ceremonials and are then called _Katcinas_, which means the supernatural being personified, as well as the dance or act of personification. Besides the coyote, the wolf, the cougar, the bear, the antelope, and the badger, which figure largely among the supernatural beings found in the Sia ritual, the hawk, the man eagle, the bee, butterfly, mountain sheep, and owl all play an important part in Tusayan ceremonial. No women wear _Katcina_ masks in a Hopi ceremony, the female _Katcinas_ being invariably represented by men. The masked dances amongst the Pueblos, in which animal personifications take place and masks are worn, are called _Katcina_ dances. They take place between January and August.[18]

The following strange ceremony is practised by Mexicans and is not unlike the Hopi snake dance. It is celebrated once in every eight years about October or November.

After fasting for some days, says one who has seen the dance, the natives disguised themselves in all manner of animal and bird dresses, and came up dancing to the chosen spot where the rain-god had been placed before a pool of water in which live snakes and frogs were swimming. The Macateca, which may be rendered "those from Deerland,"

then seized upon the wriggling reptiles with the mouth, never touching them with the hand, and attempted to swallow them alive, dancing all the time. He who managed to swallow the first snake cried out, "papa, papa" and danced round about the temple. After two days of these extraordinary exertions a procession was formed and all marched slowly four times round the temple. Then came a feast of fruit and pastry which had been placed ready in baskets for the purpose, and the ceremonial was ended. The old men and women present, knowing that there would be no repetition of the dance for eight years, wept bitterly at the close of the performance.

In a festival in vogue among the Cholutecas, a slave of good figure, and no personal blemish, is dressed for forty days in the same animal skin and mask which represent the special god to be personified.

The dresses of the Moquis during their serpent dances are fashioned of painted cotton kilts, of a reddish-yellow colour, decorated with narrow bands of yellow and green, and bordered by a narrow black stripe. At the bottom is a fringe of small bells of lead or tin. A snake is painted in the folds of the kilt, covered with white spots and bordered by narrow white lines. The arms and legs of the dancers are naked, but dangling to their heels behind they wear skins of the fox or coyote.

Marching solemnly round a sacred stone, they begin by shaking rattles and waving snake-wands to which eagle feathers are attached. After some chanting, a number of women, dressed in white and red mantles, come forward and scatter corn-meal from baskets with which they are provided. Presently the head priest, followed by a number of male performers, marching two and two, come forward towards the sacred rock, carrying live snakes in their mouths and hands. Some of the Indians tickle the heads, necks, and jaws of the wriggling serpents to distract their attention from those who are grasping their bodies firmly between their teeth.

When the snake-carriers reach the further end of the space cleared for the dance they spit the snakes out upon the ground and, facing the sacred rock, stamp the left foot twice, giving forth strange sounds, half grunt, half wail.

For nearly an hour this mad dance of wriggling snakes, rushing figures, and clouds of whirling corn-meal continues and then the snakes are released, the symbolic dance is over and the performers resume their ordinary clothes and, presumably, their natural human proclivities. The origin of this dance lies in the belief that the Moquis are descended from snakes and is told thus by the natives:--

"Many years ago the Moquis used to live on the other side of a high mountain beyond the San Juan River in Colorado. The chief thought he would take a trip down the big river, so he made himself a boat of a hollow cottonwood log, took some provisions and started down. The stream carried him to the sea-shore, where he found some shells. When he arrived on the beach he saw a number of houses on the cliff in which lived many men and women who had white under their eyes, and below that a white mark on their cheeks. That night he took one of the women as his wife. Shortly after his return the woman gave birth to snakes, and this was the origin of the snake family or clan which manages the dance. When she gave birth to these snakes they bit a number of the children of the Moquis. The Moquis then moved in a body to their present villages and they have this dance to conciliate the snakes so they won't bite their children."[19]

Snake worship and ancestor or spirit worship seems here combined in the same rite, and the Moquis evidently believe in the transmigration of souls. The dancers belong to a Secret Society, a sort of Serpent Brotherhood.

The peculiar qualities said to distinguish departed relatives, reappearing in the form of snakes, from the ordinary reptiles are that they will frequent the huts, never eat mice and show no fear of man.

"Sometimes," says Sir John Lubbock in his "Origin of Civilisation,"[20]

"a snake is recognised as the representative of a given man by some peculiar mark or scar, the absence of an eye, or some similar point of resemblance."

The noiseless movement and the rapid action of the serpent, combined with its fascinating gaze and magnetic power, no doubt lead savages to view it as a possessor of wisdom and embodiment of spirits.

The Kobena and other Indians of Brazil perform masked dances in honour of their dead. They have a butterfly dance in which two performers represent large blue butterflies fluttering in the sunshine. Darting swallows are also mimicked by masked dancers, as well as vultures, owls, fish, jaguars, and, curiously enough, the sloth, in which dance a man hangs for a long time to the bough of a tree or the cross-beam of a hut. Another strange sight is the sandfly dance, in which a swarm of masked men make the air dark with their antics.

All these performances are based on certain magical formulae. A mysterious force permeates the dancer, beneath his mask, and for the time being he has become a mighty animal demon or spirit, capable of unlimited powers.


[16] See E. W. Nelson's "The Eskimo about Bering Strait," in "Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology," 1899, Part II, p. 394 _et seq._

[17] Brett, W. H., "The Indian Tribes of Guiana," 1868, pp. 374-5.

[18] _See_ Fewkes, J. W., "Comparison of Sia and Tusayan Snake Ceremonials" and other tracts.

[19] Bourke, J. G., "The Snake-Dance of the Moquis of Arizona," 1884, p. 177.

[20] p. 180.



In remote ages man and animal were closely bound by a thousand ties.

Under barbaric conditions human beings and animals lived, as it were, in touch with one another, they were next-door neighbours in the primeval forests, their necessities were the same to a large extent and their tastes did not widely differ. Both were actuated by the need of shelter, food, and protection against enemies. Is it surprising, then, that primitive man was closely allied to his less intelligent brothers, and that he believed them to be endowed with feelings and desires akin to his own?

Owing to his powers of mental growth, however, it was not long before man's instincts developed above those of the beasts. He was still, in reality, a savage animal, but he had more skill and ingenuity in the art of killing, as soon as he began to realise that a stick, a stone, or other weapons could be used to beat out the life of other animals.

Gradually he found out that he possessed higher qualities on the mental plane, and that he had the power of conscious spiritual development which was apparently denied to brute creatures.

Many writers have endeavoured to formulate the great kinship which exists amongst all created beings in this particular aspect of the evolution of soul.

"There is not any matter, nor any spirit, nor any creature, but it is capable of a unity of some kind with other creatures," writes Ruskin;[21] "and in that unity is its perfection and theirs, and a pleasure also for the beholding of all other creatures that can behold. So the unity of spirits is partly in their sympathy and partly in their giving and taking, and always in their love; and these are their delight and their strength; for their strength is their co-working and army fellowship, and their delight is in their giving and receiving of alternate and perpetual good; their inseparable dependancy on each other's being, and their essential and perfect depending on their Creator's."

"Let us label beings by what they are," says a more modern writer,[22]

"by the souls that are in them and the deeds they do--not by their colour, which is pigment, nor by their composition, which is clay. There are philanthropists in feathers and patricians in fur, just as there are cannibals in the pulpit and saurians among the money-changers."

The great seer, Prentice Mulford, believed that the spirit of an animal could actually be re-embodied in a man or woman, and he thought that its prominent characteristics would appear in that man or woman. The mother might attract to her the spirit of some more intelligent or highly developed savage animal. That spirit would then lose its identity as a quadruped and reappear in the body of the new-born child.

"Remember," he writes, "that as to size and shape the spirit of a horse need not be like the horse materialised in flesh and blood.

Spirit takes hold of a mass of matter and holds that matter in accordance with its ruling desire and the amount of its intelligence.

An anaconda is but the faint spark of intelligence only awakened into desire to swallow and digest. Such low forms of life as the reptile or fish have not even awakened into affection for their young. The reptile, as to spirit or intellect, is but a remove from the vegetable. Trees have life of their own; they are gregarious, and grow in communities. The spirit of the old tree reanimates the new one.

There is in the vegetable kingdom the unconscious desire for refinement, for better forms of life. For this reason is the entire vegetable kingdom of a finer type than ages ago, when the world's trees and plants, though immense in size, were coarse in fibre and in correspondence with the animal life about them."

The true evolution, then, is that of spirit, taking on itself through successive ages many re-embodiments and adding to itself some new quality with each re-embodiment.

The survival of the fittest implies that the best qualities so gathered do survive. The lower, coarse and more savage are gradually sloughed off. The best qualities in all animal forms of life eventually are gathered in a man. He has so gained or absorbed into himself courage from the lion, cunning from the fox, rapaciousness from vulture and eagle. You often see the eagle or vulture beak on one person's face, the bulldog on that of another, the wolf, the fox, and so on. Faces hang out no false sign of the character of the spirit. Man, unconsciously recognising this, uses the terms "foxy," "wolfish," "snaky," and even "hoggish," in describing the character of certain individuals.[23]

Most people are able to find physical similarities between human beings and animals. The equine man who moves his ears is not rarely to be met with. The person who uncovers his canine teeth in a snarl is an even more common type. Short women who flap their arms and waddle in the style of penguins; tall ones who have the graceful sliding movement of the giraffe; persons of either sex who jerk along with hops like feathered creatures on a lawn are all to be met with any day.

Chapter end

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