Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/165

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shown to Christ by the woman with the box of ointment; and that the "catching hold of him by the feet" on the part of Mary Magdalene, doubtless accompanied by kissing, was not exceptional, we are shown by the description of a like act on the part of the Shunamite woman to Elisha. At the present day among the Arabs inferiors kiss the feet, the knees, or the garments, of their superiors. Kissing the shah's and the sultan's feet is now a form of homage in Persia and in Turkey; and Sir R. K. Porter narrates that, in acknowledgment of a present, a Persian "threw himself on the ground, kissed my knees and my feet, and wept with a joy that stifled his expression of thanks."

Kissing the hand is a less humiliating observance than kissing the feet, because it goes along with a less complete prostration. To kiss the feet implies bringing the head close to the ground; while there cannot be kissing of the hand without more or less raising of the body. This difference of implication is recognized in regions remote from one another. In Tonga, "when a person salutes a superior relation, he kisses the hand of the party; if a very superior relation, he kisses the foot." And D'Arvieux states that the women who wait on the Arabian princesses kiss their hands when they do them the favor not. to suffer them to kiss their feet or the border of their robe. The prevalence of this obeisance, as expressing loving submission, is so great as to render illustration superfluous.

What is implied where, instead of kissing another's hand, the person making the obeisance kisses his own hand? Is the one symbolic of the other, and meant to be the nearest approach to it possible under the circumstances? This appears a hazardous inference; but there is evidence justifying it. According to D'Arvieux, as quoted by Prof. Paxton—

"An Oriental pays his respects to a person of superior station by kissing his hand and putting it to his forehead; but, if the superior be of a condescending temper, he will snatch away his hand as soon as the other has touched it; then the inferior puts his own fingers to his lips and afterward to his forehead."

This, I think, makes it clear that the common custom of kissing the hand to another originally expressed the wish, or the willingness, to kiss his hand.

Here, as before, the observance, beginning as a spontaneous propitiation of conqueror by conquered, of master by slave, of ruler by ruled, and which we have just seen becomes, by extension under a modified form, a social propitiation, early passes also into a religious propitiation: to the ghost, and to the deity developed from the ghost, these actions of love and liking are used. That embracing of the feet, associated with kissing them, which we have seen occurred among the Hebrews as an obeisance to the living person, Egyptian wall-paintings represent as an obeisance made to the mummy inclosed in its case; and then, in pursuance of this action, we have kissing the feet of statues of