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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/657

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GREETING BY GESTURE.

tata?" The clapping distinguishes the ceremony from that of mere prostration.

When the people of Londa wish to be excessively polite they bring a quantity of ashes or clay in a piece of skin, and, taking up handfuls, rub it on the chest and upper front part of each arm; others in saluting drum their ribs with their elbows; while still others touch the ground with one cheek after the other, and clap their hands. The chiefs go through the semblance of rubbing the sand on the arms, but only make a feint of picking it up. Among the Warna, an inferior in saluting a superior takes a piece of dried mud in his right hand; he first rubs his own left arm above the elbow and his left side, then, throwing the mud into his left hand, he in like manner rubs the right arm and side, all the time muttering away inquiries about his friend's health. Each time the chief's name is mentioned every one begins rubbing his breast with mud.

From these notes the elements of the clapping pantomime may be resolved into, first, beating or slapping the arms and upper parts of the breast, sometimes rubbing them with mud—these being ancient modes of expressing grief—and afterward the noise of the slaps is simulated by clapping the hands. It is well known that many peoples act both in pantomime and with speeches to disguise their happiness and thereby escape the notice of malevolent demons. It is also known that among certain tribes, on the meeting of friends who have been long absent, markedly when they have been in danger, the welcoming party gash their arms and breasts so as to draw blood, which placates the jealous gods on the joyous occasion. When the actions become simulated and symbolic, the claps in the examples cited may represent the wounding strokes, and the mud-stains imitate those of blood. When the superstition has decayed, such actions, and afterward their simulation, may be used as any happy greetings.

It is not forgotten, however, that clapping hands is used for applause and rejoicing, as in Ezekiel, xxv, 6: "Because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet, and rejoiced in heart." But "clap at" is used with hiss in Job, xxvii, 23, and also in Lamentations, ii, 15, to signify derision. In this respect the gesture shows the general nature of gesture-signs which, according to the manner of use and the context, can be applied with many shades of significance—indeed, by very slight changes can express opposite meanings. It is at least as flexible as oral speech, which gains the same result by collocations of words and modulations of voice.

Joy-weeping.—One of the most curious of the demonstrations upon the meeting of friends is that called "joy-weeping," which also may be connected with the dread of jealous demons. Cry-