Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/159

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slave to the master: this last being the sequence of the first. Of old in the East such subjection was expressed when "Ben-hadad's servants girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the King of Israel." In Peru, where the militant type of organization was pushed to so great an excess, Garcilasso tells us that a sign of humility was to have the hands tied and a rope round the neck; that is, there was an assumption of those bonds which originally marked captives brought from the battle-field. Along with this mode of simulating slavery, another mode was employed when approaching the Ynca: servitude had to be indicated by carrying a burden; and "this taking up a load to enter the presence of Atahuallpa is a ceremony which was performed by all the lords who have reigned in that land."

These few extreme instances I give at the outset by way of showing the natural genesis of the obeisance as a means of obtaining mercy; first from a victor and then from a ruler. An adequate conception of the obeisance, however, includes another element. In the introductory chapter it was pointed out that sundry signs of pleasure, having a physio-psychological origin, which occur in presence of those for whom there is affection, pass into complimentary observances; because men are pleased by supposing themselves liked, and are therefore pleased by demonstrations of liking. Hence, while aiming to propitiate a superior by expressing submission to him, there is generally an endeavor further to propitiate him by exhibiting joy at his presence. Keeping in view, then, both these elements of the obeisance, let us now consider its varieties; with their political, religious, and social uses.


Though the loss of power to resist which prostration on the face implies does not reach the utter defenselessness implied by prostration on the back, yet it is sufficiently great to make it a sign of profound submission; and hence it occurs as an obeisance wherever despotism is unmitigated and subordination slavish. It was found in ancient America, where, before a Chibcha cazique, "people had to appear prostrate and with their faces touching the ground." We find it in Africa, where, "when he addresses the king, a Borghoo man stretches himself on the earth as flat as a flounder, in which attitude he lies, kissing the dust, till his business with his sovereign is at an end." Asia furnishes many cases of it: "When preferring a complaint, a Khond or Panoo will throw himself on his face, with hands joined, and a bunch of straw or grass in his mouth;" and while, in Siam, "before the nobles all subordinates are in a state of reverent prostration, the nobles themselves, in the presence of the sovereign, exhibit the same crawling obeisance." Similarly in Polynesia. Falling on the face is a mark of submission among the Sandwich-Islanders: the king did so to Cook when he first met him. And in the records of ancient historic peoples plenty of kindred illustrations are given: as when Mephibosheth fell on his face and did reverence before David; or when the King of Bithynia fell on