Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/80

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Mexican women[1] believe that children born during an eclipse turn into mice. In Australia the natives believe that the wild dog has the power of speech; whoever listens to him is petrified; and a certain spot is shown where "the wild dog spoke and turned the men into stone;"[2] and the blacks run for their lives as soon as the dog begins to speak. What it said was "Bones."

These are minor examples of a form of opinion which is so strong that it is actually the chief constituent in savage society. That society, whether in Ashantee or Australia, in North America or South Africa, or North Asia or India, or among the wilder tribes of ancient Peru, is based on an institution generally called "totemism." This very extraordinary institution, whatever its origin, cannot have arisen except among men capable of conceiving kinship and all human relationships as existing between themselves and all animate and inanimate things. It is the rule, and not the exception, that savage societies are founded upon this belief. The political and social conduct of the backward races is regulated in such matters as blood-feud and marriage by theories of the actual kindred and connection by descent which men have in common with beasts, plants, the sun and moon, the stars, and even the wind and the rain. Now, in whatever way this belief in descent from beasts and plants may have arisen, it undoubtedly testifies to a

  1. Sahagun, ii. viii. 250; Bancroft, iii. III. Compare stories of women who give birth to animals in Mélusine, 1886, August–November. The Batavians believe that women, when delivered of a child, are frequently delivered at the same time of a young crocodile as a twin. Hawkesworth's Voyages, iii. 756.
  2. Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 479.