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Taboo or Tabu

tabooed, nature, ceremonies, tribe, persons, particular, death and personal

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TABOO* or TABU, a word of very ex tended meamng used by South Sea Islanders, to denote something consecrated, sacred, forbid den to be touched, or set aside for particular uses or persons. It is applied both to persons and things, and both to the object prohibited and to the persons against whom the prohibi tion extends. Thus a consecrated piece of ground is taboo, the act of consecrating it is called taboo, and the persons who are excluded from entering are also said to be tabooed. It is taboo among certain tribes, for any inferior to touch the body of a chief living or dead, or alWthing. belonging to him; to eat in his pres ence. or anythmg he has touched; to cross his threshold otherwise than on the hands or knees, or to mention his name. A partiCular article of food is sometimes tabooed at a cer tain season in order to preserve it against a season of scarcity, etc. In the case of a ceriotis infringement of the taboo the punishment is death; in less heinous cases a sort of outlawry, 'the neighbors being permitted 'to appropriate or destroy the offender's goods.

The word °taboo* has been adopted into English to designate similar customs among races, apart from those from which the term was derived; and has assumed a colloquial sense which is altogether non-religious and negative, though the word was originally used more to designate definite religious ceremonies that were oblig-atory upon the tribe or upon the individ uals composing it These ceremonies were ob served at certain stated times and under cer tain conditions, generally in connection with important undertakings. In many Indian tribes of America, the warrior who succeeded in kill ing an enemy was required, on his return to his home, to undergo certain purification cere monies before he could again resume his former relations with the members of his tribe. Until these ceremonies had been performed, not only were these former relationships tabooed to him, but he was himself tabooed to the tribe; and any one violating the conditions of the taboo became himself tabooed. •Always during the period of cluration of the taboo. the individual or individuals subject to it are denied the exer cise of certain privileges. The taboo may be temporary or permanent; it may be ceremonial, belonging to a fixed and definite period in life, or it may be occasional. Most ancient races had a particular taboo connected with birth, puberty, marriage, death, and even with periods previous to birth and after death; with the as sumption of public office and with almost every undertalcing in life. Probably most of these .

customs had their origin in the fear of the superior power of certain deities or evil-dis posed spirits and a desire to propitiate them. But in time many of them came to be of a more or less religions and formal nature, and thus many religious observances were formerly taboo in character. Very numerous are the things which have been subject to taboo; but they may be classed under a few more or less definite heads of a general nature. These in clude objects unclean in their nature, or through mythical, superstitious or religious association; things supposed to belong to, to be possessed by, or to be influenced by spirits or beings feared on account of their mysterious power; strange or unknown objects or customs which it is the part of good sense to propitiate before hand in case they should prove powerful and ill-disposed. The dread power of priests and rulers was especially feared for it was held lit tle inferior, if any, to that of ghosts, loitches, and the supernatural people in general, and superstitious animals.

Opposed to those taboos of fear were those inspired by a desire of personal advantage. Of this nature were the offerings and prayers of fered to household gods and to certain deities before undertalcing atiy enterprise of a personal nature. The priest, as the representative of the tribe or the nation, performed the same ceremonies for them and with the same end in vievr. In connection with these ceremonies there were certain taboos. On opening a cask or bag of wine, the first cupful was tabooed to all but the gods of growth and fertility who made the production of the wine possible. The firstlings of the flock were given to the pro tector of the herds, the ancient god of hunt ing; the first fish caught by the fisherman, the first game taken by the hunter, the first ripe fruit and vegetables grown by the husbandman were all, in like manner, tabooed to their pos sessors. There was not a movement or inter est in life without its taboo of a similar na ture. Not infrequently the two ruling motives of fear and hope of personal gain are found combined in the same taboo, for a much feared and suspected superior being might, if propi tiated, become a valuable ally and helper in time of need.

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