TABOO. The word taboo is Polynesian, and means withdrawn from current use. " The field covered by taboos among savage and half-savage races in very wide, for there is no part of life in which the savage does not feel himself to be surrounded by mysterious agencies and recognise the need of walking warily. Moreover, all taboos do not belong to religion proper, that is, they are not always rules of conduct for the regulation of man's contact with deities that, when taken in the right way, may be counted on as friendly, but rather appear in many cases to •be precautions against the approach of malignant enemies—against contact with evil spirits and the like. Thus alongside of taboos that exactly correspond to rules of holiness, protecting the inviolability of idols and sanc tuaries, priests and chiefs, and generally of all persons and things pertaining to the gods and their worship, we find another kind of taboo which in the Semitic field has ifs parallel in rules of uncleanness. Women after child birth, men who have touched a dead body and so forth, are temporarily taboo and separated from human society, just as the same persons are unclean in Semitic religion.
In these cases the person under taboo is not regarded as holy, for he is separated from approach to the sanctuary as well as from contact with men; but hls act or con dition is somehow associated with supernatural dangers, arising, according to the common savage explanation, from the presence of formidable spirits which are shunned like an infectious disease. In most savage societies no sharp line seems to be drawn between the two kinds of taboo just indicated, and even in more advanced nations the notions of holiness and uncleanness often touch " (W. Robertson Smith, R.S.). Among the Syrians, and indeed among all the Semites, swine's flesh was taboo; it might not be eaten. Among the Syrians again the dove was taboo; it might not be touched. Among the Israelites it was not permitted to touch the sacred ark; and among the natives of Central Australia no ordinary person dares to approach a churinga.