Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/172

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ried in hammocks, wear silk, maintain a numerous retinue, with large umbrellas of their own order, flags, trumpets, and other musical instruments. But, on their entrance at the royal gate, all these insignia are laid aside." Even in mediæval Europe, submission to a conqueror or superior was expressed by this laying aside of such parts of the dress and appendages as were associated with dignity, and the consequent appearance in such relatively-impoverished state as consisted with servitude. Thus, in France, in 1467, the headmen of a conquered town, surrendering to a victorious duke, "brought to his camp with them three hundred of the best citizens in their shirts, bareheaded, and bare-legged, who presented the keies of the citie to him, and yielded themselves to his mercy." And the doing of feudal homage included observances of kindred meaning. Saint Simon, describing one of the latest instances, and naming among other ceremonies gone through the giving up of sword, gloves, and hat, says that this was done "to strip the vassal of his marks of dignity in presence of his lord." So that, whether it be the putting on of coarse clothing or the putting off of fine clothing and its appendages, the meaning is the same.

Acts of propitiation of this kind, like those of other kinds, extend themselves from the feared being who is visible to the feared being who is no longer visible—the ghost and the god. On remembering that among the Hebrews the putting on sackcloth and ashes went along with cutting off the hair, self-bleeding, and making marks on their bodies—all to pacify the ghost; on reading that the habit continues in the East, so that a mourning lady described by Mr. Salt was covered with sackcloth and sprinkled over with ashes, and so that Buckhardt "saw the female relations of a deceased chief running through all the principal streets, their bodies half naked, and the little clothing they had on being rags, while the head, face, and breast," were "almost entirely covered with ashes"—it becomes clear that the semi-nakedness, the torn garments, and the coarse garments, expressing submission to a living superior, serve also to express submission to one who, dying and becoming a ghost, has so acquired a power that is feared.[1] The inference that this is the meaning of the act is verified

  1. Tracing the natural genesis of ceremonies leads us to interpretations of what otherwise seem arbitrary differences of custom; as instance the use of white for mourning in China, and of black farther west. A mourning dress must have coarseness as its essential primitive character: this is implied by the foregoing argument; and for this there is direct as well as inferential evidence. By the Romans, mourning habits were made of a cheap and coarse stuff; and the like was the case with the mourning habits of the Greeks. Now, the sackcloth named in the Bible as used to signify mourning and humiliation was made of hair, which, among pastoral peoples, was the most available material for textile fabrics; and the hair used being ordinarily mere or less dark in color, the darkness of color incidentally became the most conspicuous character of these coarse fabrics, as distinguished from fabrics made of other materials, lighter, and admitting of being dyed. Relative darkness coming thus to be distinctive of a mourning dress, the contrast was naturally intensified; and eventually the color became black. Contrariwise in China. Here, with a swarming agricultural population, not rear-