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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/530

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492 Reviews.

with force and justice the explicit statements of Messrs. Spencer and Gillen as to the physiological views of the Arunta on the subject of conception. His analysis of the native ideas on what he denominates magico-religious power — what has elsewhere been called orenda and mana — is acute and interesting. He insists on the intimate relation between myth and rite. When he comes, however, to deal with the myths, he analyses them somewhat too curiously, applying criteria to them which would occur only to an educated European — the very fault he finds with Dr. Frazer and Mr. Lang in reference to other matters. He is puzzled, for instance, by the hybrid nature of the animals brought on the scene. Sometimes they act as animals pure and simple ; sometimes they are described as making use of human implements and weapons ; sometimes they appear as the ancestors of the present race of human beings ; sometimes, on the contrary, they are descended from former races of men. The author dis- tinguishes two native theories of evolution ; and when he cannot avail himself of these, he explains the animals on very slender grounds merely as representatives of totemic clans. The fact is that the stories originate in the interpretation of the external world by the savage thinker in the terms of his own conscious- ness — an interpretation he could not escape with the limited knowledge he possessed. He could not and did not draw the line we now draw between humanity and other forms of being. Moreover, his habitual vagueness of thought and want of logical coherence rendered him unconscious of the contradictions in his speculations. Hence to seek explanations and distinctions is very often to seek what really cannot be found.

As M. van Gennep properly points out, the stories are not all oetiological. But their historical value is very small. M. van Gennep lays stress on the fact that, perhaps with one exception, no recorded legend attempts to explain the most important characteristic of totemism, namely, the sexual and alimentary taboos, although plenty of them represent the ancestors as acting exactly contrary to the present rules in freely eating the totemic animal or vegetable and having sexual relations with persons of their own totems ; yet the contradiction neither puzzles nor astonishes the natives. There is good reason why the Arunta