Method in the Study of Totemism - Andrew Lang - E-Book

Method in the Study of Totemism E-Book

Andrew Lang

1,99 €


This is a technical book that promotes the teachings and beliefs of totemism. This book discusses the various point of view of different scholars -Mr. Goldenweizer, Dr. Boas, Mr. Frazer, and others describe the origin, features of totemism, forms of totemism, and its divergence. It contains detailed engravings that describe a salient feature in the totemic life of some communities.

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Andrew Lang

Method in the Study of Totemism

EAN 8596547042761
DigiCat, 2022 Contact: [email protected]

Table of Contents



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Table of Contents

Is there any human institution which can be safely called "Totemism"? Is there any possibility of defining, or even describing Totemism? Is it legitimate—is it even possible, with due regard for "methodology" and logic—to seek for the "normal" form of Totemism, and to trace it through many Protean changes, produced by various causes, social and speculative? I think it possible to discern the main type of Totemism, and to account for divergences.

Quite the opposite opinion appears to be held by Mr. H. H. Goldenweizer in his "Totemism, an Analytic Study."[1] This treatise is acutely critical and very welcome, as it enables British inquirers about totemism to see themselves as they appear "in larger other eyes than ours." Our common error, we learn, is this: "A feature salient in the totemic life of some community is seized upon only to be projected into the life of the remote past, and to be made the starting-point of the totemic process. The intermediary stages and secondary features are supplied from local evidence, by analogy with other communities, or 'in accordance with recognised principles of evolution' [what are they?] and of logic. The origin and development, thus arrived at, are then used as principles of interpretation of the present conditions. Not one step in the above method of attacking the problem of totemism is logically justifiable."[2]

As I am the unjustifiable sinner quoted in this extract,[3] I may observe that my words are cited from a harmless statement to the effect that a self-consistent "hypothesis," or "set of guesses," which colligates all the known facts in a problem, is better than a self-contradictory hypothesis which does not colligate the facts.

Now the "feature salient in the totemic life of some communities," which I "project into the life of the remote past," and "make the starting-point of the totemic process" is the totemic name, animal, vegetable, or what not, of the totem-kin.

In an attempt to construct a theory of the origin of totemism, the choice of the totemic name as a starting-point is logically justifiable, because the possession of a totemic name is, universally, the mark of a totem-kin; or, as most writers prefer to say, "clan." How can you know that a clan is totemic, if it is not called by a totemic name? The second salient feature in the totemic life of some communities which I select as even prior to the totemic name, is the exogamy of the "clans" now bearing totemic names.

To these remarks Mr. Goldenweizer would reply (I put his ideas briefly) there are (1) exogamous clans without totemic names; and there are (2) clans with totemic names, but without exogamy.

To this I answer (1) that if his exogamous clan has not a totemic name, I do not quite see why it should be discussed in connection with totemism; but that many exogamous sets, bearing not totemic names, but local names or nicknames, can be proved to have at one time borne totemic names. Such exogamous sets, therefore, no longer bearing totemic names, are often demonstrably variations from the totemic type; and are not proofs that there is no such thing as a totemic type.

Secondly, I answer, in the almost unique case of "clans" bearing totemic names without being exogamous, that these "clans" have previously been exogamous, and have, under ascertained conditions, shuffled off exogamy. They are deviations from the prevalent type of clans with totemic names plus exogamy. They are exceptions to the rule, and, as such, they prove the rule. They are divergences from the type, and, as such, they prove the existence of the type from which they have diverged.

So far I can defend my own method: it starts from features that are universal, or demonstrably have been universal in totemism. There is "an organic unity of the features of totemism,"—of these two features, the essential features.

Lastly, Mr. Goldenweizer accuses us "Britishers," as he calls us, of neglecting in our speculations the effects of "borrowing and diffusion, of assimilation and secondary associations of cultural elements, in primitive societies."[4]

This charge I do not understand. There has been much discussion of possibilities of the borrowing and diffusion and assimilation of phratries, exogamy, and of totemic institutions; and of "ethnic influences," influences of races, in Australia. But the absence of historical information, the almost purely mythical character of tribal legends (in North-West America going back to the Flood, in Australia, to the "Dream Time"), with our ignorance of Australian philology, prevent us in this field from reaching conclusions.