Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/March 1891/Greeting by Gesture II
|GREETING BY GESTURE.|
By GARRICK MALLERY.
Salutations without contact.—The salutation now most prevalent among civilized people is the bow. That, in its abbreviated form, consists in a forward inclination of the head, sometimes accentuated by a corresponding motion of the arms, as in the salam, sometimes deepened by the depression of the upper part of the body. It is regarded by Herbert Spencer as merely a modification from the expressions of physical fear and bodily subjection noticed among subhuman animals and the lowest races of man. It originates, he says, with abject prostration and groveling, to which crawling and kneeling succeed, and the bow is but a simulated and partial prostration. An argument for this explanation is drawn from usages of savages and of antiquity.
A large class of obeisances undoubtedly had their origin in the attitudes of deprecation. A modern and familiar instance, also illustrative of the religious attitude of adoration and supplication, is in the "hands up" of our Western plains, which is an old Indian gesture sign for "no fight" or "surrender"—the palm of the empty hand being held toward the person to whom the surrender is made or implied. The Thlinkits, in addition to holding up their hands as a confession of utter helplessness, also turn their backs. The concept of peace is close to that of surrender, and the Indian sign described is often used simply for "friend." The members of the Wonkomarra tribe salute one another on meeting by throwing their hands up to their heads. The etiquette of the Todas is in point to show that prostration and groveling are voluntarily performed in ceremony. One party falls at the other's feet, crouching, and the other places first the right and next the left foot on the prostrate head. But all this is done with high good humor as being the correct etiquette, and by no means cruel in the one party or shameful to the other. In southern India the inferior prostrates himself with extended arms to show entire helplessness. In Japan the host and hostess fall on their knees and lower their faces to the floor, the nose and chin resting on the back of the right hand, to which the visitor responds in the same manner. Sometimes both parties distinctly and repeatedly strike the floor with their heads.
It must also be admitted that the principle of the superior preserving an easy posture and the inferior assuming one of physical inconvenience is obvious in many ceremonials. In the court of France the right of sitting in the presence of the monarch, though on a low, armless, and backless stool called a tabouret, was jealously guarded, the exceptions even in favor of age and sex being made by special edict; and, although prostration is Mr. Spencer's great original of all respectful forms, recumbency in the court mentioned was not to be imagined. A quaint illustration of this is in the device by which alone it was considered possible for Louis XIII to pay a necessary visit to Cardinal Richelieu when confined to his bed. The king had another bed prepared, and on his arrival at once lay down on it himself, so that his subject had at least no advantage over him. The same concept rules the customs of many lands. In Monbutto no servant is permitted to address his superior except in a stooping posture with his hands upon his knees. The Hindoo in the presence of a Brahman raises his folded hands to his forehead, touching it with the balls of his thumbs, uttering at the same time a word meaning "prostration," which clearly explains the gesture. But notwithstanding this array of examples in favor of the origin of the bow from physical fear, there is reason to believe it had a separate and independent course of evolution, and that the subject is much more complex than as hitherto presented.
Mr. Spencer's theory about the origin of the bow must refer exclusively to the actions of the inferior toward the superior, in the same manner that his theory of the derivation of the handshake, really hand-grasp, depends upon the conduct of equals. Both motions, however, are interconnected, and the weight of testimony inclines against both of his explanations. Most of his views expressed in his chapters on Ceremonial Institutions are beyond controversy, but regarding some portions in the narrow field of the present discussion there is now more known, through scientifically conducted explorations, than when those chapters were written. It is now possible to approach the subject from a direction to which Darwin led the way in his volume on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, and from study of the sign-language as still extant among some bodies of men.
Among several tribes the chief must never see any head more elevated than his own, so that the sitting posture, though one of greater ease, is one of respect. This is mentioned by the French missionaries in 1611 regarding the Iroquois and northern Algonquins. Sitting and kneeling are more distinct in territory than in concept. The male foot-scrape and the female courtesy, recently common in Europe in connection with the bow, may be relics of kneeling or simply of pretended lowering of the stature. Japan was emphatically the "kneeling country." The very costume of the Tycoon's court required the silk trousers to form an angle at the heels so as to trail far behind, thus simulating kneeling even when walking. But the Japanese habitually did not sit except in a semi-kneeling crouch, so that kneeling was to them the normal mode of lowering the person. In some other countries it was also forbidden to stand erect in the ruler's presence, but sitting took the place of kneeling. In Java sitting down is a mark of respect; in the Mariana Islands the inferior squats to speak to a superior, who would consider himself degraded by sitting in the presence of one who should be objectively as well as figuratively "below" him. Similar rules of etiquette prevail in Rotouma. Some of the African kings ingeniously reconcile the relative elevation with their own comfort by sitting down themselves while their subjects squat, kneel, or crouch. Prof. Hovelacque explains the dismounting of Kirghiz horsemen, when they salute, on the principle of descending from an elevation through courtesy. It is, however, probable that such dismounting is required as a measure of precaution, on the same principle that a horseman approaching a military picket is required to dismount before giving the countersign. This is both to insure the countersign being spoken so low as not to be overheard, and also to render less feasible a sudden attack and dash through the lines.
The relative elevation is an example of what is taught by oral as well as sign language to express the concepts of superior and inferior, above and below, high and low. A Cheyenne sign for "chief" pantomimically shows "he who stands still and commands;" but the most common sign consists in raising the index-finger held upward, vertically to and above the head, the concept being "the one who is above others." The same sign has variants in many lands. Baker was greeted at Shoa by each native seizing both his hands and raising his arms three times to their full stretch above his head. Perhaps this was to make him give the sign of chief, which as in fact made by them through him implied, "you are our superior," "we submit to you."
The Andamanese salute by raising one leg and touching the lower part of the thigh with the hand. This gesture, which among some peoples is insulting, in the light afforded by sign-language may mean, "I am supposed to be sitting"—equal to the modern "your servant." With this expression may be compared the custom of the Zambesi, who, according to Livingstone, show respect by slapping their thighs, and gratitude for presents by holding them in one hand and with the other slapping their thighs.
The punctilios relating to the fundamental rule that rank is defined by elevation are carried to absurdity in the Orient. When an English carriage was procured for the Rajah of Lombok it was found impossible to use it because the driver's seat was the highest, and for the same reason successive kings of Ava refused to ride in the carriages presented to them by ambassadors. In Burmah, that a floor overhead should be occupied would be felt as a degradation, contrary to civilized ideas that the lower stories are the most honorable. In Siam, on the principle that no man can raise his head to the level of his superior, he must not cross a bridge if one of higher rank chances to be passing below, and no mean person may walk upon a floor above that occupied by his betters. On the same principle the furniture or stage setting for old ceremonies required the dais or raised platform for the seats of dignitaries. That elevation has become convenient for preserving order to officers presiding over assemblies, so that their seat has grown in prominence, while the royal or nobiliary dais has become exceptional or at least occasional.
From this executed concept of higher and lower the mere diminution of stature by bowing the head has possibly some relation. Explanation may be suggested by two salutations of the Chinese. Ceremonially they bend forward more or less deeply, with hands joined on the breast. Their less formal greeting is to raise the arms in front with the hands joined, thus forming an arch the elevation of which specifies the degree of respect. The Cossacks "bow to the girdle"—that is, bend forward so as to form a right angle at the waist.
In gesture-speech, the consensus throughout the world is that a forward inclination of the head, or in its place a similar motion of the hand in advance with an easy descent, as if in the curve of least resistance, signifies assent, approval, agreement. 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 describes his reception by the principal Mexicans, each of whom put his own hand to the ground and then kissed it. A yet clearer illustration is shown in the practice still existing in some parts of Germany, that the inferior calling upon a high official should knock at the door, whether open or closed, of the latter's apartments, not at the convenient level of his hand, but low down near the flooring, thereby humbly indicating his station. An actual lowering of the head is required in these cases, but normally it is not seen and is only incidental to the main action. A truly gallant sentiment appears in the custom in some Dutch cities of bowing when passing the house where a lady friend resides, even though it may be certain that the salute can not be seen. Her presence, real or supposed, receives the compliment.
In southeastern Africa, two chiefs, each claiming to be at least the other's equal, can never meet because the initiative in salutation acknowledges the superiority in rank of the chief saluted. If no salutation is made, the followers fall to blows and war begins. But among the Mbengas it is the duty of the highest in position to make the first salutation, a curious example of the coincidence between the low types of man and the latest culture which rules that a lady has the privilege as well as duty of recognition. Such salutes must always be returned, and indeed nearly all forms and expressions of greeting must be reciprocated as made, even among savages who are the representatives of antiquity, this fact militating against the degrading origin of the bow, which could only apply when made by one party—viz., the inferior. To adduce one instance among many: The king of the Hoorn Islands, early in the seventeenth century, receiving the party of discovery, held his hands against each other with his face above them for two hours, lowering himself nearly to the ground, and remaining so until the visitor had paid him the like reverence. Until then the ceremony was incomplete.
The uncovering of the masculine head, with or without the forward bow, by removal of whatever head-dress is upon it, is also explained by Mr. Spencer on the principle of fear. It means to him a removal of part of the clothing as symbolical of the whole, and thereby is an abbreviation of the exhibition or pretense of poverty, helplessness, and abjectness by which the wrath or greed of a tyrant is deprecated. In support of this view many usages are cited in which whole or partial nakedness and displayed misery seem to become ceremonial. It is also true that the respective costumes of the master and servants were often designed to assert that the former alone was big. Not only such titles as Highness, Celsitude, and Altitude implied elevation before mentioned, but those like Majesty and Magnitude demanded the show of relative size. Similar devices to distinguish the great appear in sign-language and picture-writing. In the ancient Egyptian pictures the king was always enormous and his surrounders were very small fellahs. The Mexican glyphs also signify great by big. Yet these devices do not conclusively show the effect of fear. They are but symbolic of high and low, big and little, as those figurative terms are applied to-day in English, and with corresponding significance in all languages, to discriminate between stations and ranks.
There are, however, instances directly opposed to the theory that uncovering is a mark of inferiority, and others are traceable to divers concepts. The Oriental custom of uncovering the feet, arising, as generally understood, in the imputation of holiness to a locality, has a curious parallel, if not an explanation, in the experience of Lewis and Clarke in 1805. The Western Indians, before the ceremonial smoke, "pulled off their moccasins, a custom which. . . imprecates on themselves the misery of going barefoot forever, if they are faithless to their words," on their thorny lands. A similar imprecation having regard to the burning sands in lands where the practice was first noticed might have induced it there. Should the religious ceremony in time be performed only at certain places or in buildings, the original significance would be lost and the locality itself simply considered holy. It is perhaps not fair to adduce historical cases in which the inferiors were expected to don their most sumptuous raiment to do honor to the king or general, while the latter, perhaps in affectation, was clad more soberly than any of his retinue. But there are many savage and ancient examples in which, instead of uncovering being the form for respect, envelopment, or indeed muffling, was adopted. Though generally in the Orient respect requires the feet to be bared, the head must be covered. The Israelite practice is familiar, and many other peoples, e. g., the Malabarese and the Malays, preserve covering on their heads in their temples and pagodas to show reverence. Although the New-Irelanders in respect take off the usual head-gear, they place their hands on their heads as a more honorable covering. Quakers, in avoiding the usual Christian ceremony of uncovering on taking an affirmation and on other religious occasions, use a pagan ceremony by insisting on keeping on their hats.
The Thibetans when before the dolai-lama remove their hats, cross their arms over the breast, and stick out the tongue drawn to a point. A collation of the known cases of the curious salute by the pointed tongue leads to the suggestion that it is connected with the conception before mentioned that the subject is too great to admit of speech. The extended tongue prevents speech as completely and even more obviously than does the covering of the mouth by the hand. It is, however, possible that the gesture symbolically signifies reaching out for a good taste, which, also has been discussed. This gesture is common among the Australians, who are said to stick out the tongue in respect, not in derision, as we would regard the action, as also did Isaiah in his query, "Against whom make you a wide mouth and draw out the tongue?" But close observers report that the Australian tribes wholly unaffected by Europeans do not thrust forward the tongue, but extend it downward from the widely opened mouth as in the preparation for licking. The action of these people, perhaps the lowest of all humanity, is similar to the tasting and sniffing by the subhuman animals to distinguish friends.
Cyrus beheaded two satraps because they omitted to place their hands inside their sleeves when they saluted him. Captain Speke had trouble in Uganda lest he should not be admitted into the king's presence wearing his usual dress, without the concealment of his trousers by flowing robes. Probably the origin of these rules of etiquette was the restriction from free motion of the arms and legs of the subjects, so as to insure greater safety to the ruler. In the one hundred and seventieth of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments Prince Camaralzaman showed respect for his father by keeping his hands joined behind his back and covered by his sleeves, but when he became angry with the king he unclasped his hands from behind and rolled his sleeves up on his arms. This is the fighting attitude, and shows that the posture and muffling of respect were adopted because they were the converse of the free pose appropriate for contention. With the same concept a Sakaptin chief, in the early part of this century, threw his robe down on the ground as a sign of displeasure, though not intending an attack.
Other considerations may be mentioned in the direct line of militancy so often discussed in the Synthetic Philosophy, but not definitely in this connection. Apart from the purely ornamental head-gear, such as feathers, horse-hair, fur, and other attachments, the earliest coverings for the head were for defensive purposes. The abandonment of defensive as well as of offensive armor, though once a mark of defeat and subjection, is now more generally a sign of peace and friendship. Some African tribes not only ostentatiously lay down all weapons but remove the upper portion of their clothing to show that neither arms nor armor are concealed. Some formal military salutes still prevailing may be consulted upon the same topic. The theory of these is to render the saluter actually or symbolically powerless for the time. This is the case with the firing of unshotted guns, the dropping of the sword-point, and presenting the musket. The common military salute, in which the empty hand, with palm outward, is raised to the visor, is less objective and more symbolical. similarly, the special naval salute by lowering sails and manning yards places the vessel in a position of inaction. In the same manner the removal of his helmet left the ancient warrior defenseless in the most vulnerable, often the only protected, part of his person. This action, therefore, would present a better argument for the surrender than for the beggary theory, and it is strengthened by the fact that women, who did not wear helmets, have not generally been required to remove their head-gear in public. It is also to be noticed, in reference to the interconnection of ceremonials, that the motion of removing the hat is normally downward, thus including the concept of assuming an inferior height before discussed. The crest, which often showed the warrior's cognizance, as the flag shows that of nations, was lowered, as the flag is, in formal respect. A pretended or symbolized uncovering and lowering appears when the English and French prolétaires and peasants pull a lock of their hair in servile obeisance to their superiors.
The special privilege in old Spain of wearing the hat in the presence of the sovereign may be compared with the limitation of sitting in the French court, before mentioned. Spanish grandees were distinguished by the cherished prerogative of wearing their hats before their king when his hat was on, though not when he was uncovered. Mr. H. Ling Roth, in his excellent paper On Salutations, falls into a small error on this subject. It was not, in the time of the Tudors, "the custom in England, when a gentleman lost his bonnet, for all those who were with him to doff theirs," nor was it simply the omission of that act as one of ordinary politeness which indicated the coming fall of Thomas Cromwell. That the courtiers should retain their hats while he was uncovered, was much more distinctly than mere rudeness the assertion that they did not consider him to be their ruler. All ambassadors have the privilege, though now seldom used, of putting on their hats when they read their reception speeches, the sovereign principal being then more specially represented than on any other occasion. When the Cossacks met for counsel, not being then an army but a brotherhood, they kept on their hats, but their ataman, when addressing them and explaining his cause, removed his head-covering. When he asserted command as the head of the army he donned his hat, and the same members of the council, before covered, removed theirs.
In most parts of the civilized world the hat, in ordinary greeting, is now seldom wholly removed from the head, and the latter is but slightly inclined. The action is much abbreviated, and doffing is simulated by a touch of the brim, or by a great variety of jerks or waves of the hand and arm to which the head-covering is the point d'appui. These motions are full of interest to the gesture-reader. They generally suppose some degree of real or perfunctory respect, but may indicate pride as well as humility, familiar affection or cold formality, welcome or aversion, even irony or derision. The Poles and Cossacks use the phrase, "With the forehead to you" when, in fact, there is no bow made. This is on the same principle as the phrase, "I kiss your hands," when the hands are not kissed. Both expressions are relics of actions, and neither means more than the English "my respects." Likewise, through the Russian Empire, "I fall at your feet," is often said to men, and "I kiss your feet" to women, though those performances do not take place.
The above considerations lead to the conclusion that several known motions expressive of emotions, both separately and together, tend to explain the bow. Furthermore, these motions, and the emotions or concepts expressed by them, seem to be as ancient as any known to have been common among men. It will, therefore, appear that the genesis of our bow does not appear exclusively and among all peoples in the groveling of the whipped hound or the cowering of the dastard slave. Perhaps on examining all the tribes of men a theory that prostration was but an exaggerated bow might be as well maintained as one that the bow is a relic and symbol of prostration, but it is now only suggested that the two expressions may be independent.
Clapping Hands.—At this point an attempt may be made to explain the curious custom of clapping the hands in salutation.
Among the Uvinza, "when two 'grandees' meet, the junior leans forward, bends his knees, and places the palms of his hands on the ground on each side of his feet, while the senior claps his own hands six or seven times. They then change round, and the junior slaps himself first under the left armpit, and then under the right. But, when a 'swell' meets an inferior, the superior only claps his hands, and does not fully return the salutation by following the motions of the one who first salutes. On two commoners meeting, they pat their stomachs, then clap hands at each other, and finally shake" (i. e., take) "hands. These greetings are observed to an unlimited extent, and the sound of patting and clapping is almost unceasing." Serpa Pinto found this ceremonial clapping in violent exercise among the Ambuellas. Paul du Chaillu reports the salute of the Ishogos to be clapping the hands together and stretching them out alternately several times. Among the Walunga, in the morning, on every side a continuous clapping of hands goes on, with the accompaniment of "Kwi-tata, Tcwi-tata?" which is their mode of saying, "How d'ye do?" If a chief passes, they drop on their knees, bow their heads to tho ground, clap vigorously, and humbly mutter, "Kwi-tata, kwi-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. Crying, "both, with tears and with howls at such times of gladness, is known in many lands. It has been lately reported among the Andamanese and was noticed by Cabeza de Vaca in 1527 among the Caddoes of Texas and Louisiana. It may also be construed as mentioned about the ancient Israelites in the twenty-ninth, thirty-third, and forty-fifth chapters of Genesis, where weeping is recorded at the meeting of Jacob and Rachel, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and Benjamin. Singularly enough, the same practice was found existing fifty years ago in central Australia, where parents upon meeting children after a long absence fell upon their necks and wept bitterly. The Tahitians cut themselves with shark's teeth and indulge in loud wailing to testify gladness at the arrival of a friend, and the New-Zealanders scarify themselves with lava on such meetings.
Dr. E. B. Tylor explains the practice as mourning for those who had died during the interval of separation, thus following Hennepin in his account of La Salle's visit to the Biskatronge nation in 1685 as follows: "At their arrival those people fell a-crying most bitterly for a quarter of an hour. This is their custom whenever there comes any strangers afar off amongst them, because their arrival puts them in mind of their deceased relations which they imagine to be upon a great journey, and whose return they expect every hour." The proceeding is explained in the account by Alexander Henry of the Assiniboin feasts in 1776 which were begun by the violent weeping of the whole party, and the reason they gave was that it was in memory of their deceased relatives whose absence was brought fresh into their minds. This religious ceremonial of the Indians was mistaken by some travelers for salutation, which it only resembled as the formal grace before meat resembles the modern "goodmorning" or the libation among the Romans was analogous to the "salve" of their daily life.
Hennepin's explanation does not apply to the large majority of the cases known, and indeed is properly grief-weeping. If joy-weeping is not to be classed with the tricks to deceive the jealous gods, it possibly arises from the familiar agitation in which the signs of extreme joy and mirth are similar to those of grief. Most of us have laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks. Such exhibitions may have induced the real or imitative expression of joy by crying. In this connection it is curious that the English word "greeting," defined as a kind salutation, is still preserved in the lowland Scotch dialect with the sense of weeping or mourning.
The Heart.—Gestures of salutation, the motions of which are directly connected with the heart, have some special interest.
In some Oriental countries the mere bow-was not held to be enough. Sometimes the right hand was placed across the head. Sometimes the hand was put first to the forehead and then to the heart—perhaps to symbolize that intellect and love are at the disposal of the one addressed. In this simple form, but as an invocation, the sign has been translated as "may my head be the penalty if my heart be false!" A similar gesture, imitating with the hand the act of cutting the throat, and sometimes before and sometimes afterward touching the heart, is represented as having the same significance, "On my head be it!"
In Greece the ancient style of greeting a priest is still observed by placing the hand on the breast and inclining forward; and the Lander party in the Niger basin were obliged to bend forward and to place their hands with solemnity on their heads and breasts. Tribes of Eskimos in 1833 saluted by patting their breasts and pointing to the heavens. In the same year a Kansas warrior grasped hands with the party greeted and then pressed his own bare breast. In 1886 tribes of eastern equatorial Africa, with the same intent of friendship, grasped hands and rapped their own breasts. All these gestures meant that the heart was "good," perhaps poetically then it beat in sympathy. The Fuegians, as a greeting of friendship, pat their own breasts, concluding by three hand-slaps given at the same time on the breast and back of the friend, then bare their own bosoms for a return of the slaps. A Texan tribe, in 1685, expressed friendship by laying their hands on their hearts, and evidently expected La Salle's party to respond in the same manner, which was done. A Ha-vasu-paí, of Arizona, grasps the hand of a friend on meeting, moving the hand up and down in time to the words of his greeting; and, as he lets it go, lifts his own hollow palm toward his mouth, then, with a sudden and graceful motion, passes it down over his heart. Here, in addition to the concluding emphasis connected with the heart, there is a motion which might be mistaken for hand-kissing, and also the nearest approach to "shaking" the hand among savages or barbarians which has been accurately reported. But to beat the time of a rhythmic formula is very different from the English pump-handle shake, even when it was less hideous than the last "fad" with the raised elbow, and its intent is the very opposite of Mr. Spencer's struggle.
Two of the special signs for "good" in the sign-language of the Indians may be mentioned as in point. Hold the extended right hand, back up, in front of and close to the left breast, fingers extended, touching, and pointing to left (index-finger usually rests against the breast in this position); move the hand briskly, well out to front and right, keeping it in the same horizontal plane. Concept, "Level with the heart." Or pass the opened right hand, palm downward, through an arc of about ninety degrees from the heart, about two feet horizontally forward and to the right. "Heart easy or smooth." "My bosom's lord sits lightly on its throne."
The kalmucks salute their high chiefs by pressing the forehead with the clinched hand, and then touching the chief's side with the same hand. The chief responds by placing one of his hands on the saluter's shoulders. This may be translated as "My head is dependent on the emotion of your heart"; and the response is, "I accept your offering, and recognize that I possess you."
Intimately connected with the imagery of the heart is the union by exchange of blood. In ancient Persia, as in modern Africa, it was common to open a vein and then present the blood to be drunk by the friend. This was and is often mutual. Perhaps it is straining the illustration to infer that when the Wanika, after the hand-grasp, press together the balls of their respective thumbs, it is to effect the union of the pulsations. It is, however, in point that the Norse pledge of friendship was to allow the blood to flow between the pierced and grasped hands, and it has been conjectured that "striking hands," often alluded to in the Old Testament (e. g., Proverbs, vi, 1) as a ceremony of covenant, meant an actual intermingling of blood from the pierced palms, or at least was a relic and symbol of that form. But it is fanciful to explain the simple hand-grasp from this blood-mixing; indeed, all symbolism should be closely scrutinized. Stanley reports that the natives of Panga, as a peace greeting being at a distance from the party greeted—poured water on their own heads and sprinkled their bodies with it. Much of the symbolism about the solvent and cleansing qualities of water, including origins of lustration and baptism, might be deduced from this performance, but it was simply the sign of coolness and refreshment elsewhere mentioned in these pages.
Miscellaneous Salutes.—It is impossible, within present limits, to detail the world's many forms of gestural salutation. They, like all gesture-signs, show different conceptions of the same general intent and different modes of expressing the same concept. They are also in many cases so abbreviated and modulated as to be intelligible in their present forms only through comparison and investigation. A few salutes having special interest may be mentioned.
The important mystic agency of saliva has before been noticed in connection with the hand-grasp. It is too large a topic to be now dwelt upon; but some examples may be given of its immediate connection with salutation. Among the Masai, spitting expresses the greatest good-will and the best of wishes. It takes the place of the compliments of the season. They spit when they meet, and do the same on parting. In some of the South Sea islands they spit on the hands and then rub the face of the complimented person. Schweinfurth says of the Dyoor that mutual spitting betokened the most affectionate good-will.
The inhabitants of Hainan gracefully greet a guest by extending the arms, the hands open with the finger-tips touching, or nearly so, and drawing them inward with an inviting motion. They bid farewell by extending the open hands with the palms upward and slightly inclined outward, in a movement as if handing the friend on his way. In arctic America there is a queer example of returning a kiss for a blow. A stranger coming to the village is regaled with chant and dance, after which he folds his arms, and the head Ancoot hits him as hard as he can on the cheek, often knocking him down. The actors then change parts, and the visitor knocks him in the same way, after which they kiss (probably on the cheek, but not described), and the ceremony is over.
In this connection the supposed hand-kissing struggle to explain the hand-grasp may again be mentioned with an additional criticism. The hand-grasp was common among those peoples of the world who now use it in greeting before altruism had made so much progress as to reverse many of the old conventions of precedence.
After examination of the whole subject there appears to be significance in the connection before suggested between the offering of the unarmed hand and the strictly military salute with sword, rifle, and cannon. They all display temporary defenselessness, though not now through fear, but the reverse—trust and confidence—and they are always returned with rivalry only in the demonstration of amity. This is but one instance to prove that militancy is not a mere incarnation of evil and drag upon civilization. Spencer accuses it of paralyzing humanity through fear, of originating deception and lies, and of antagonism to justice and mercy. But militancy has shown a most interesting and instructive evolution within itself. Modern armies, by the education and discipline enforced, furnish to the world perhaps as large a number of really valuable men as they cost.
It will be noticed that in proportion to advance in civilization and culture, gestural salutations—as is also true of the verbal—are exchanged or returned, thus denoting a mutual sentiment or sympathy. A gesture of greeting is now seldom made exclusively by one class to be merely received by another, but meets with reciprocity, though often in abbreviation. It is not contended that the most degrading theory of the origin of some of the gestures treated of may not be correctly applied to some tribes and regions, though it is suggested, from the information given by sign-language and from many compared facts, that among other peoples those gestures originated in different and independent concepts. But if cowardice and slavishness gave the true and only explanation, still more pointed would be the lesson taught by the modern general exchange of the same courteous action between strong and weak, rich and poor.
The history of salutations does not directly show the contest of good and evil or of any principles, but it illustrates the transition from egoism to altruism. Whatever was a custom, men considered to be right, while it lasted. Men have not at any time chosen between industrialism and militarism, but an evolution has proceeded in industrialism and militarism themselves as also in peoples, who have advanced, though slowly and with stumbles, from lower to higher planes of culture. Differing environments affected their earliest conceptions and practices, and expedited or delayed their march. Those peoples who have reached civilization and enlightenment can still find the representatives of their early greetings among remote savages, and perhaps trace some of the salutations above mentioned to subhuman ancestors. Ages before the great poet wrote, the human race obeyed the precept, to
"Move upward, working out the beast,
And let the ape and tiger die."