Abbildungen der Seite

Taking Westermarck as their most erudite and persuasive spokesman, we find him placing his reliance on four things: (1) the practical ignoring of the vast multitude of facts contradicting his theory; (2) the alleged testimony of a few savages; (3) the testimony of some of their visitors; (4) the alleged fact that the desire for self-decoration is strongest at the beginning of the age of puberty," the customs of ornamenting, mutilating, painting, and tattooing being "practised most zealously at that period of life." Concerning (1) nothing more need be said, as the large number of decisive facts I have collected exposes and neutralizes that stratagem. The other three arguments must be briefly considered.

A native of Lukunor being asked by Mertens what was the meaning of tattooing, answered: "It has the same object as your clothes; that is, to please the women." In reply to the question why he wore his ornaments, an Australian answered Bulmer: "In order to look well and make himself agreeable to the women." (Brough Smyth, I., 275.) To one who has studied savages not only anthropologically but psychologically, these stories have an obvious cock-and-bull aspect. A native of the Caroline Islands would have been as incapable of originating that philosophical comparison between the object of our clothes and of his tattooing as he would have been of writing Carlyle's Sartor Resartus. Human beings in his stage of evolution never consciously reflect on the reasons of things, and considerations of comparative psychology or esthetics are as much beyond his mental powers as problems in algebra or trigonometry. That such a sailor's yarn could be accepted seriously in an anthropologic treatise shows that anthropology is still in its cradle. The same is true of that Australian's alleged answer. The Australian is unequal to the mental effort of counting up to ten, and, like other savages, is easily fatigued by the simplest questions.' It is quite likely that Bulmer asked that native whether he ornamented himself" in order to look well and make himself agreeable to the women," and that the native answered “yes” merely to gratify him or to get rid of the troublesome ques1 See, for instance, Spix and Martius,

tion. The books of missionaries are full of such cases, and no end of confusion has been created in science by such false "facts." The answer given by that native is, moreover, utterly opposed to all the well-attested details I have given in the preceding pages regarding the real motives of Australians in "decorating" themselves; and to those facts I may now add this crushing testimony from Brough Smyth (I., 270): "The proper arrangement of their apparel, the ornamentation of their persons by painting, and attention to deportment, were important only when death struck down a warrior, when war was made, and when they assembled for a corroboree. In ordinary life little attention was given to the ornamenting of the person."



"The Australians throughout the continent scar their persons, as Mr. Curr assures us, only as a means of decoration," writes Westermarck (169), and in the pages preceding and following he cites other evidence of the same sort, such as Carver's assertion that the Naudowessies paint their faces red and black, which they esteem as greatly ornamental;" Tuckey's assumption that the natives of the Congo file their teeth and raise scars on the skin for purposes of ornament and principally" with the idea of rendering themselves agreeable to the women;" Riedel's assertion, that in the Tenimber group the lads decorate their locks with leaves, flowers, and feathers, "only in order to please the women;" Taylor's statement that in New Zealand it was the great ambition of the young to have fine tattooed faces, "both to render themselves attractive to the ladies, and conspicuous in war," etc.

Beginning with Curr, it must be conceded that he is one of the leading authorities on Australia, the author of a fourvolume treatise on that country and its natives. Yet his testimony on the point in question happens to be as worthless as that of the most hasty globe-trotter, partly because he had evidently paid little attention to it, and partly also, I fancy, because of the fatal tendency of men of science to blunder as soon as they touch the domain of esthetics. What he really

wrote (II., 275) is that Chatfield had informed him that scars were made by the natives on the right thigh" for the purpose of denoting the particular class to which they belong." This Curr doubts, "without further evidence," because it would conflict with the custom prevalent throughout the continent, "as far as known, which is to make these marks for ornament only." Now this is a pure assumption of Curr's, based on a preconceived notion, and contradicted by the specific evidence of a number of explorers who, as even Grosse is obliged to admit (75), “ unanimously account for a part at least of the scars as tribal marks.”1

If so eminent an authority as Curr can err so grievously, it is obvious that the testimony of other writers and casual observers must be accepted with extreme caution. Europeans and Americans are so accustomed to regard personal decorations as attempts to beautify the appearance that when they see them in savages there is a natural disposition to attribute them to the same motive. They do not realize that they are dealing with a most subtle psychological question. The chief source of confusion lies in their failure to distinguish between what is admired as a thing of beauty as such and what pleases them for other reasons. As Professor Sully has pointed out in his Handbook of Psychology (337):

"At the beginning of life there is no clear separation of what is beautiful from what is simply pleasing to the individual. As in the history of the race, so in that of the individual, the sense of beauty slowly extricates itself from pleasurable consciousness in general, and differentiates itself from the sense of what is personally useful and agreeable."

Bearing in mind this very important distinction between what is beautiful and what is merely pleasing because of its being useful and agreeable, we see at once that the words "decorative," "ornamental," "attractive," "handsome,' etc., are constantly used by writers on this subject in a mis

[ocr errors]

1 See e.g., Eyre, II, 333-335; Brough Smyth, I., XLI, 68, 295, II., 313; Ridley, Kamilaroi, 140; Journ. Roy. Soc. N. 8. W., 1882, 201; and the old authorities cited by Waitz-Gerland, VI., 740; cf. Frazer, 29. If Westermarck had been more anxious to ascertain the truth than to prove a theory, would he have found it necessary to ignore all this evidence, neglecting to refer even to Chatfield in speaking of Curr?

leading and question-begging way. We can hardly blame a man like Barrington for writing (11) that among the natives of Botany Bay "scars are, by both sexes, deemed highly ornamental"; but a scientific author who quotes such a sentence ought to be aware that the evidence did not justify Barrington in using any word but pleasing in place of "ornamental," because the latter implies and takes for granted the esthetic sense, the existence of which is the very thing to be proved. This remark applies generally to the evidence of this kind which Westermarck has so industriously collected, and which, on account of this undiscriminating, question-begging character, is entirely worthless. In all these cases the fact is overlooked that the "decorations" of one sex may be agreeable to the other for reasons that have nothing to do with the sense of beauty.

Briefly summed up, Westermarck's theory is that in painting, tattooing, and otherwise decorating his person, primitive man's original and conscious object was to beautify himself for the sake of gaining an advantage in courtship; whereas my theory is that all these decorations originally subserved useful purposes alone, and that even where they subsequently may have served in some instances as means to please the women, this was not as things of beauty but indirectly and unintentionally through their association with rank, wealth, distinction in war, prowess, and manly qualities in general. When Dobrizhoffer says (II., 12) that the Abipones, "more ambitious to be dreaded by their enemies than to be loved, to terrify than attract beholders, think the more they are scarred and sunburnt, the handsomer they are," he illustrates glaringly the slovenly and question-begging use of terms to which I have just referred; for, as his own reference to being loved and to attracting beholders shows, he does not use the word "handsome" in an esthetic sense, but as a synonyme for what is pleasing or worthy of approval on other grounds. If the scars of these Indians do please the women it is not because they are considered beautiful, but because they are tokens of martial prowess. To a savage woman nothing is so useful as mauly valor, and therefore nothing so agreeable as the signs

of it. In that respect the average woman's nature has not changed. The German high-school girl admires the scars in the face of a "corps-student," not, certainly, because she considers them beautiful, but because they stand for a daredevil, masculine spirit which pleases her.

When the Rev. R. Taylor wrote (321) that among the New Zealanders to have fine tattooed faces was the great ambition of the young, both to render themselves attractive to the ladies and conspicuous in war," he would have shown himself a better philosopher if he had written that by making themselves conspicuous in war with their tattooing they also make themselves attractive to the "ladies." That the sense of beauty is not concerned here becomes obvious when we include Robley's testimony (28, 15) that a Maori chief's great object was to excite fear among enemies, for which purpose in the older days he "rendered his countenance as terrible as possible with charcoal and red ochre "; while in more recent times, "not only to become more terrible in war, when fighting was carried on at close quarters, but to appear more distinguished and attractive to the opposite sex, must certainly be included" among the objects of tattooing. It is hardly necessary to point out that if we accept the sexual selection theory this expert testimony lands us in insuperable difficulty; for it is clearly impossible that on the same island, and in the same race, the painting and tattooing of the face should have the effect of terrifying the men and of appearing beautiful to the women. But if we discard the beauty theory and follow my suggestion, we have no difficulty whatever. Then we may grant that the facial daubs or skin mutilations may seem terrible or hideous to an enemy and yet please the women, because the women do not regard them as things of beauty, but as distinguishing marks of valiant warriors.

By way of illustrating his maxim that in every country, in every race, beauty stimulates passion," Westermarck cites. (257) part of a sentence by Lumholtz (213) to the effect that Australian women take much notice of a man's face, particularly of the part about the eyes. He does not cite the rest of the sentence-" and they like to see a frank and open, or

« ZurückWeiter »