chapter  XIII
28 Pages

CONFIRMATION AND ENGAGEMENT

A T the beginning of the chain of culture appear one or two simple precautionary and educational measures applied to boys and girls on reaching the age of puberty ; at our end of the chain are confirmation and a more or less lengthy period of education. In both of these, and in all intermediate stages and developments, the chief ideas behind the ceremonies of so-called initiation are concerned with the going-out of childhood and the entering-upon the state of manhood and womanhood.1 The putting away of the old life of childhood and sexlessness, and the taking-up of the responsibilities, social and sexual, of the new, and also the education imparted, were often dramatised amongst early peoples by sympathetic processes. As noticed before,2 this kind of rehearsal was meant to ensure the proper performance of the duties represented in the mystery-play. We also find useful instruction given as to the duties of manhood and of womanhood, the sexual relation and marriage ; girls are entrusted with such feminine lore as the women possess, while the boys

are entrusted with the tribal history and secrets by the old men, the repositories of power, and the real and responsible guardians of the State. The excellence not only of the military and political, but also of the moral instruction given at initiation has often been remarked.1 [In short, as Dr Malinowski has well put it, though perhaps a little exaggerating this aspect of the initiation ceremonies, these are " a ritual and dramatic expression of the supreme power and value of tradition in primitive societies ; they also serve to impress this power and value upon the minds of each generation, and they are at the same time an extremely efficient means of transmitting tribal lore, of ensuring continuity of tradition and of maintaining tribal cohesion."] 2

Leaving this aspect of primitive confirmation, we proceed to examine the dangers spiritual and material, of the old life, which are cast aside, and of the new life, which are to be faced, to both of which the ceremonies at puberty have reference.