Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/651

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
633
GREETING BY GESTURE.

It is the opposite of the transverse motion which shows negation, discordance, enmity, crossness. A lower inclination, either of head or hand, is emphatic, and often shows respect, not necessarily fear, as made to the older and wiser as also to the more powerful by rank or physical prowess. Forms of kindred expressions are still so common as to be classed as natural or involuntary. The head erect 01 thrown back with the eyes fixed to meet those of others shows haughtiness, defiance, or impudence. Casting down the eyes with an assisting inclination of the head is the evidence of modesty, yielding, gentleness, or subservience, according to the degree of action. Hanging the head may, however, exhibit dissent accompanied by shame. Le Page du Pratz gives an account of the gesture as observed by him among the Natchez at about 1718: "In the war-songs the great chief recites his exploits. Those who know them to be true respond with a long 'hou!' and certify their truth. Applause in the councils is also by the sound 'hou!' Their want of satisfaction is given by lowering the head and maintaining silence."

A more poetical and rather metaphorical variation sometimes occurs from the pretense of the unsupportable glory and brilliance of the dignitary approached, where the eyelids must be partially closed, a bow of the head assisting in their shading, and the hands sometimes advanced as an additional screen, in which motion the salam has a supposable origin. Curiously enough, this gesture, regarded as purely Oriental, was observed by Marquette on his visit to the Illinois in 1673, where "the Host stood before the Cabin, having both his Hands lifted up to Heaven, opposite to the Sun, insomuch that it darted its rays thro' his Fingers, upon his Face; and when we came near him, he told us, What a fair Day this is since thou comest to visit us!" Adair tells that the Southern tribes in the United States never bowed to one another, but did in their religious ceremonies, which perhaps was with reference to the effulgent rays of the sun, the object of their special adoration. Such instances tend to show that the origin of the bow was not always in the abjectness of physical fear.

Touching the ground in connection with salutation, though asserted to be derived from kneeling or prostration, does not necessarily arise from fear, or indicate any more than the relative higher and lower station. For instance, at Amorgos in the Cyclades the priest, on entering his father's house, touched the ground with his fingers, as a token of respect, before embracing him. His sisters touched the ground with their fingers before kissing the proffered hand of their brother. In each case there was expressed affection while the rank was recognized by the lowering reference to the ground. In the second dispatch of Cortes he