chapter  XVI
8 Pages


Dr. Marett, in one of his essays on primitive religion, has adduced various instances of a supposed “ pre-animistic,” or at any rate “ non-animistic,” religious notion with savages, and he even claims to have conclusively shown “ that, in some cases, animistic inter­ pretations have been superimposed on what previously bore a nonanimistic sense.” 1 However, when we subject these instances to a critical examination, we easily find that in all cases where their signi­ ficance is clear, they involve animism pure and simple, Dr. Marett obviously being, in his pre-animistic interpretation of them, influenced by his preconceived opinion about “ rudimentary ” religion. One of Dr. Marett’s cases refers to the ideas of the South American Indians. The Fuegians, we are told by Admiral Fitzroy, abstain from killing young ducks on the ground that if they do, “ Rain come down, snow come down, hail come down, wind blow, blow, very much blow.” The storm is sent by a “ big man ” who lives in the woods.2 If any attention is to be paid to this doubtful notice of a passing traveller, we have probably here only a simple instance of sympathetic magic, sea-birds being naturally easily associated with water, and perhaps also, in Tierra del Fuego, with storms. But it seems to me advisable to take Fitzroy’s statement about the Fuegians, who for “ moral ” reasons abstain from killing ducks, with the same distrust as his statement about the “ big man ” of the woods, who by modern ethnologists-even by those who maintain Fuegian “ monotheism ”— has been admitted to be a mere creation of the fancy. The other instances of an “ animatistic ” notion, mentioned by Dr. Marett, have no better foundation. The writer points out that, for example, such phenomena as thunderstorms, eclipses, eruptions, and the like, are apt to awake feelings of awe in primitive man, and to be regarded as manifestations of the supernatural or as “ powers ” in a general sense, without being necessarily set down to the operation of spirits. “ Thus, when a thunderstorm is seen approaching in South Africa,

1 Marett, op. cit., p. x. 2 Marett, op. cit., p. 16.