Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/160

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his face before the Roman Senate. In some cases this attitude of the conquered before the conqueror, thus used to signify entire subjection? has its meaning emphasized by repetition. Bootan supplies an instance: "They. . . . made before the rajah nine prostrations, which is the obeisance paid to him by his subjects whenever they are permitted to approach."

Every kind of ceremony is apt to have its primitive character obscured by abridgment; and by abridgment this profoundest of obeisances is rendered a less profound one. In the assumption of a full length prostration there is, almost of necessity, the passage through an attitude in which the body is on the knees with the head on the ground; and still more on rising, a drawing up of the knees is a needful preliminary to raising the head and getting on the feet. Hence this attitude may be considered as an incomplete prostration. It is a very general one. Among the Coast negroes, if a native "goes to visit his superior, or meets him by chance, he immediately falls on his knees, and thrice successively kisses the earth, claps his hands, wishes the superior a good day or night, and congratulates him." Laird tells us that, in acknowledgment of his inferiority, the king of the Brass people never spoke to the king of the Ibos "without going down on his knees, and touching the ground with his head." At Embomma, on the Congo, "the mode of salutation is by gently clapping the hands, and an inferior at the same time goes on his knees and kisses the bracelet on the superior's ankle."

Often the humility of this obeisance is increased by emphasizing the contact of the head with the earth. On the Lower Niger, "as a mark of great respect, men prostrate themselves, and strike their heads against the ground." When, in past times, the Emperor of Russia was crowned, the nobility did homage by "bending down their heads, and knocking them at his feet to the very ground." In China, at the present time, among the eight obeisances, increasing in humility, the fifth is kneeling and striking the head on the ground; the sixth, kneeling and thrice knocking the head, which again doubled makes the seventh, and trebled, the eighth: this last being due to the emperor and to Heaven. Of old, among the Hebrews, repetition had a kindred meaning. Remembering that this obeisance is variously exemplified, as when Nathan "bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground," and as when Abigail did the like to David, and Ruth to Boaz, we have the additional fact that "Jacob bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother."

From what has gone before it will be anticipated that this attitude of the conquered man, used by the slave before his master and the subject before his ruler, becomes that of the worshiper before his deity. The East, past and present, yields sufficient examples. That complete prostration is made, whether the being to be propitiated is visible or invisible, is shown us in Hebrew records by the statement that "Abra-