that is to say, to pronounce a conditional curse upon himself. Cursing is resorted to not only for the purpose

of punishing thieves or compelling them to restore what they have stolen, but also as a means of preventing theft. In the South Sea Islands it is a common practice to protect property by making it taboo, and the tabooing of an object is, as Dr. Codrington puts it, “ a prohibition with a curse expressed or implied.' The curse is then, in many cases, deposited in some article which is attached to the thing or place it is intended to protect. The mark of taboo, in Polynesia called rahui or raui, sometimes consists of a cocoa-nut leaf plaited in a particular way, sometimes of a wooden image of a man or a carved post stuck in the ground, sometimes of a bunch of human hair or a piece of an old mat, and so forth. In Samoa there were various forms of taboo which formed a powerful check on stealing, especially from plantations and fruit-trees, and each was known by a special name indicating the sort of curse which the owner wished would fall on the thief. Thus, if a man desired that a sea-pike should run into the body of the person who attempted to steal, say, his bread-fruits, he would plait some cocoa-nut leaflets in the form of a seapike, and suspend it from one or more of the trees which he wanted to protect.

This was called the “sea-pike taboo"; and any ordinary thief would be terrified to touch a tree from which this was suspended, believing that, if he did so, a fish of the said description would dart up and mortally wound him the next time he went to the sea. The “ white shark taboo ” was done by plaiting a cocoa- nut leaf in the form of a shark, and was tantamount to an

I von Struve, in Das Ausland, 1880, p. 796 (Samoyedes). Worcester, Philippine Islands, p. 412 (Mangyans of Mindoro). Turner, Nineteen Years in Polynesia, p. 292 sq. (Samoans). Bosman, op. cit. p. 125 (Negroes of the Gold Coast). Bowdich, Mission to Ashantee, p. 267 ; &c.

% Codrington, Melanesians, p. 215.
3 Taylor White, in Jour. Polynesian

Soc. i. 275.

4 Hamilton, Maori Art, p. 102 ; Thomson, Story of New Zealand, i. 102 ; Polack, op. cit. ii. 70 (Maoris). Ellis, Polynesian Researches, ini. 116 (Tahitians).

5 Thomson, op. cit. i. 102 (Maoris). See also Colenso, op. cit. p. 34 (Maoris); Ellis, Polynesian Researches, iii. 201 (Tahitians).

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expressed imprecation that the thief might be devoured by the white shark when he went to fish. The “ cross-stick taboo,” again, consisted of a stick suspended horizontally from the tree, and meant that any thief touching the tree would have a disease running right across his body and remaining fixed there till he died. Exactly equivalent to the taboo of the Pacific Islanders is the pomali of the natives of Timor ; “ a few palm leaves stuck outside a garden as a sign of the pomali will preserve its produce from thieves as effectually as the threatening notice of mantraps, spring-guns, or a savage dog, would do with us.' Among the Santals, whenever a person “is desirous of protecting a patch of jungle from the axes of the villagers, or a patch of grass from being grazed over, or a newly sown field from being trespassed upon, he erects a bamboo in his

grass or field, to which is affixed a tuft of straw, or in the case of jungle some prominent and lofty tree has the same prohibitory mark attached, which mark is well understood and strictly observed by all parties interested.”3 So also in Madagascar “on rencontre sur les chemins, on voit dans les champs de longs bâtons munis à leur sommet d'un paquet d'herbes et qui sont plantés en terre soit pour interdire le passage du terrain soit pour indiquer que les récoltes sont réservées à l'usage d'individus déterminés." + Among the Washambala the owner of a field sometimes puts a stick wound round with a banana leaf on the road to it, believing that anybody who without permission enters the field “will be subject to the curse of this charm.” 5 The Wadshagga protect a doorless hut against burglars by placing a banana leaf over the threshold, and any maliciously inclined person who dares to step over it is supposed to get ill or die. The Akka “stick an arrow in a bunch of bananas still on the stalk to mark it as their own


1 Turner, Nineteen years in Polynesia, p. 294 399.

Bengal, xx. 568.

van Gennep, Tabou et totémisme à adagascar, p. $99. • Lang, in Steinmetz, Rechtsverhält. nisse, p. 263.

2 Wallace, Malay Archipelago, p. 149 sq.

3 Sherwill, ‘Tour through the Ráj. mahal Hills,' in Jour. Asiatic Soc.

6 Volkens, op. cit. p. 254.




when ripe," and then not even the owner of the tree would think of touching the fruit so claimed by others. Of the Barotse we are told that “when they do not want a thing touched they spit on straws and stick them all about the object.”? When a Balonda has placed a beehive on a tree, he ties a “piece of medicine” round the trunk, and this will prove sufficient protection against thieves. Jacob of Edessa tells us of a Syrian priest who wrote a curse and hung it on a tree, that nobody might eat the fruit. In the early days of Islam a masterful man reserved water for his own use by hanging pieces of fringe of his red blanket on a tree beside it, or by throwing them into the pool ;5 and in modern Palestine nobody dares to touch the piles of stones which are placed on the boundaries of landed property. The old inhabitants of Cumaná on the Caribbean Sea used to mark off their plantations by a single cotton thread, in the belief that anybody tampering with these boundary marks would speedily die.? A similar idea seems still to prevail among the Indians of the Amazon. Among the Jurís a traveller noticed that in places where the hedge surrounding a field was broken, it was replaced by a cotton string ; and when Brazilian Indians leave their huts they often wind a piece of the same material round the latch of the door. Sometimes they also hang baskets, rags,

flaps of bark on their landmarks. In these and in various other instances just referred to it is not expressly stated that the taboo mark embodies a curse, but their similarity to cases in which it does so is striking enough to




p. 285.

Junker, Travels in Africa during ground as a threat that if the owner the Years 1882-1886, p. 86.

cultivated the land “malo leto periturus 2 Decle, op. cit. p. 77.

esset insidiis eorum, qui scopulos * Livingstone, Missionary Travels, posuissent"; and so great was the fear

of such stones that nobody would go • Robertson Smith, Religion of the near a field where they had been put. Semiles, p. 164, n. 1.

7 Gomara, Primera parte de la * Ibid. p. 336, n. 1.

historia general de las Indias, ch. 79 © Pierotti, Customs and Traditions (Biblioteca de autores españoles, xxii. of Palestine, p. 95 sq. According to 206). Roman sources (Digesta, xlvii. 11. 9), von Martius, Von dem Rechtsthere was in the province of Arabia an sustande

den Ureinwohnern offence called OKOTELO Mós, which con- Brasiliens, p. 37 sq. sisted in laying stones on an enemy's VOL. II




9 Ibid. p. 34.

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preclude much doubt about their real meaning. It is true that an object which is sacred by itself may, on that account, protect everything in its neighbourhood ;' in Morocco any article deposited in the horm of a saint is safe, and among pagan Africans the same effect is produced by using fetishes as protectors of fields or houses.” But a thing of inherent holiness may also be chosen for taboo purposes for the reason that its sanctity is supposed to give particular efficacy to any curse with which it may be loaded

We have previously noticed another method of charging a curse with magic energy, namely, by giving it the form of an appeal to a supernatural being. So also spirits or gods are frequently invoked in curses referring to theft. On the Gold Coast, “ when the owner of land sees that some one has been making a clearing on his land, he cuts the young inner branches of the palm tree and hangs them about the place where the trespass has been committed. As he hangs each leaf he says something to the following effect : “The person who did this and did not make it known to me before he did it, if he comes here to do any other thing, may fetish Katawere (or Tanor or Fofie or other fetish) kill him and all his family.' In Samoa, in the case of a theft, the suspected persons had to swear before the chiefs, each one invoking the village god to send swift destruction if he had committed the crime ; and if all had sworn and the culprit was still undiscovered, the chiefs solemnly made a similar invocation on behalf of the

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1.C. van Gennep, op. cit. p. 185 (natives of Madagascar). It was an ancient Roman usage to inter the dead in the field belonging to the family, and in the works of the elder Cato there is a formula according to which the Italian labourer prayed the manes to take good care against thieves (Fustel de Coulanges, op. cit. p. 75). Cicero says (Pro domo, 41) that the house of each citizen was sacred because his household gods were there.

2 Rowley, Africa Unveiled, p. 174. Bastian, Afrikanische Reisen, p. 78 sq. Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa, p. 85. Cf. Schneider, Die Religion

der afrikanischen Naturvölker, p. 230.
If we knew the ceremonies with which
magicians transform ordinary material
objects into fetishes, we might perhaps
find that they charge them with curses.
Dr. Nassau says (op. cit. p. 85):-"For
every human passion or desire of every
part of our nature, for our thousand
necessities or wishes, a fetich can be
made, its operation being directed to
the attainment of one specified wish."
See also Schultze, Der Fetischismus,
p. 109.
3 Supra, i. 564.

Jour. African Soc. xviii.
January, 1906, p. 203.


thief.: The Hawaiians seem likewise to have appealed to an avenging deity in certain cursing ceremonies, which they performed for the purpose of detecting or punishing thieves. In ancient Greece it was a custom to dedicate a lost article to a deity, with a curse for those who kept it. Of the Melanesian taboo, again, Dr. Codrington observes that the power at the back of it “is that of the ghost or spirit in whose name, or in reliance upon whom,

, it is pronounced.”! In Ceylon, “to prevent fruit being stolen, the people hang up certain grotesque figures around the orchard and dedicate it to the devils, after which none of the native Ceylonese will dare even to touch the fruit on any account. Even the owner will not venture to use it till it be first liberated from the dedication." 5 On the landmarks of the ancient Babylonians, generally consisting of stone pillars in the form of a phallus, imprecations were inscribed with appeals to various deities. One of these boundary stones contains the following curse directed against the violator of its sacredness :-“Upon this man may the great gods Anu, Bêl, Ea, and Nusku, look wrathfully, uproot his foundation, and destroy his offspring ”; and similar invocations are then made to many other gods.

Now we can understand why gods so frequently take notice of offences against property. They are invoked in curses uttered against thieves ; the invocation in a curse easily develops into a genuine prayer, and where this is the case the god is supposed to punish the offender of his own free will. Besides, he may be induced to do so by offerings. And when often appealed to in connection with theft, a supernatural being may finally come to be looked upon as a guardian of property. This, for instance, I take to be the explanation of the belief prevalent among the Berbers · Turner, Samoa, p. 19.

* Codrington, op. cit. p. 215; Nineteen Years in Polynesiu, p. 292 5 Percival, Account of the Island of

Ceylon, p. 198. Jarves, History of the Hawaiian 6 Trumbull, The Threshold Covenant, Islands, p. 20.

p. 166 sq. Bilprecht, quoted ibid. Rouse, Greek Votive Offerings,

p. 167 599.


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p. 339.

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