Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/415

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CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.

signify not peace only but submission. Speaking of the Peruvians, Cieza says, "The men and boys came out with green boughs and palm-leaves to seek for mercy;" and among the Greeks, too, a suppliant carried an olive-branch. Wall-paintings left by the ancient Egyptians show us palm-branches carried in funeral processions to propitiate the dead; and, at the present time, "a wreath of palm-branches stuck in the grave" is common in a Moslem cemetery in Egypt. A statement of Wallis respecting the Tahitians shows it passing into a religious observance: a pendant left flying on the beach the natives regarded with fear, bringing green boughs and hogs, which they laid down at the foot of the staff. And that a portion of a tree was anciently an appliance of worship in the East is shown by the direction in Leviticus xxiii. 40, to take the "boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees," etc., and "rejoice before the Lord:" a verification being furnished by the description of the chosen in heaven, who stand before the throne with "palms in their hands" (Revelation vii. 9). The explanation, when we get the clew, is simple. Many travelers' narratives illustrate the fact that laying down weapons on approaching strangers is taken to imply pacific intentions: the obvious reason being that opposite intentions are thus negatived. Of the Kaffirs, for instance, Barrow says, "'A messenger of peace' is known by this people from his laying down his hassagai or spear on the ground, at the distance of two hundred paces from those to whom he is sent, and by advancing thence with extended arms:" the extension of the arms evidently having the purpose of showing that he has no weapon secreted. But how is the absence of weapons to be shown when so far off that weapons, if carried, are invisible? Simply by carrying other things which are visible; and boughs covered with leaves are the most convenient and generally available things for this purpose. A verification is at hand. The Tasmanians had a way of deceiving those who inferred from the green boughs they were bringing in their hands that they were weaponless. They practised the art of holding their spears between their toes as they walked: "The black. . . . approaching him in pretended amity, trailed between his toes the fatal spear." Arbitrary, then, as this usage seems when observed in its later forms only, it proves to be by no means arbitrary when traced back to its origin. Taken as evidence that the advancing stranger is without arms, the green bough is primarily a sign that he is not an enemy. It is thereafter joined with other marks of friendship. It survives when the propitiation passes into submission. And so it becomes incorporated with various other actions which express reverence and worship.

One more instance I must add, because it conspicuously shows us how there grow up the interpretations of ceremonies as artificially devised actions, when their natural origins are unknown. Describing Arab marriages, Baker says: "There is much feasting, and the unfor-