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Chamberlain, Alexander F / The Child and Childhood in Folk-Thought Studies of the Activities and Influences of the Child Among Primitive Peoples, Their Analogues and Survivals in the Civilization of To-Day
Produced by David Moynihan, Lee Dawei, V-M sterman,
Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team





THE CHILD AND CHILDHOOD IN FOLK-THOUGHT

STUDIES OF THE ACTIVITIES AND INFLUENCES OF
THE CHILD AMONG PRIMITIVE PEOPLES, THEIR
ANALOGUES AND SURVIVALS IN THE
CIVILIZATION OF TO-DAY


THE CHILD AND CHILDHOOD
IN FOLK-THOUGHT
(THE CHILD IN PRIMITIVE CULTURE)

BY
ALEXANDER FRANCIS CHAMBERLAIN
M.A., PH.D.


TO

HIS FATHER AND HIS MOTHER

THEIR SON


Dedicates this Book

"Vom Vater hab' ich die Statur,
Des Lebens ernstes Fhren;
Vom Mutterchen die Frohnatur
Und Lust zu fabulieren."--_Goethe_.




PREFATORY NOTE.

The present volume is an elaboration and amplification of lectures on
"The Child in Folk-Thought," delivered by the writer at the summer
school held at Clark University in 1894. In connection with the
interesting topic of "Child-Study" which now engages so much the
attention of teachers and parents, an attempt is here made to indicate
some of the chief child-activities among primitive peoples and to point
out in some respects their survivals in the social institutions and
culture-movements of to-day. The point of view to be kept in mind is the
child and what he has done, or is said to have done, in all ages and
among all races of men.

For all statements and citations references are given, and the writer
has made every effort to place himself in the position of those whose
opinion he records,--receiving and reporting without distortion or
alteration.

He begs to return to his colleagues in the University, especially to its
distinguished president, the _genius_ of the movement for
"Child-Study" in America, and to the members of the summer school of
1894, whose kind appreciation of his efforts has mainly led to the
publication of this work, his sincerest gratitude for the sympathy and
encouragement which they have so often exhibited and expressed with
regard to the present and allied subjects of study and investigation in
the field of Anthropology, pedagogical and psychological.

A. F. CHAMBERLAIN

CLARK UNIVERSITY,
WORCESTER, Mass., April, 1895.




CONTENTS.


I. CHILD-STUDY

II. THE CHILD'S TRIBUTE TO THE MOTHER

III. THE CHILD'S TRIBUTE TO THE MOTHER (Continued)

IV. THE CHILD'S TRIBUTE TO THE FATHER

V. THE NAME CHILD

VI. THE CHILD IN THE PRIMITIVE LABORATORY

VII. THE BRIGHT SIDE OF CHILD-LIFE: PARENTAL AFFECTION

VIII. CHILDHOOD THE GOLDEN AGE

IX. CHILDREN'S FOOD

X. CHILDREN'S SOULS

XI. CHILDREN'S FLOWERS, PLANTS, AND TREES

XII. CHILDREN'S ANIMALS, BIRDS, ETC.

XIII. CHILD-LIFE AND EDUCATION IN GENERAL

XIV. THE CHILD AS MEMBER AND BUILDER OF SOCIETY

XV. THE CHILD AS LINGUIST

XVI. THE CHILD AS ACTOR AND INVENTOR

XVII. THE CHILD AS POET AND MUSICIAN

XVIII. THE CHILD AS TEACHER AND WISEACRE

XIX. THE CHILD AS JUDGE

XX. THE CHILD AS ORACLE-KEEPER AND ORACLE-INTERPRETER

XXI. THE CHILD AS WEATHER-MAKER

XXII. THE CHILD AS HEALER AND PHYSICIAN

XXIII. THE CHILD AS SHAMAN AND PRIEST

XXIV. THE CHILD AS HERO, ADVENTURER, ETC.

XXV. THE CHILD AS FETICH AND DIVINITY

XXVI. THE CHILD AS GOD: THE CHRIST-CHILD

XXVII. PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT PARENTS, FATHER AND MOTHER

XXVIII. PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT THE CHILD, MANKIND, GENIUS

XXIX. PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT MOTHER AND CHILD

XXX. PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT FATHER AND CHILD

XXXI. PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT CHILDHOOD, YOUTH, AND AGE

XXXII. PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT THE CHILD AND CHILDHOOD

INDEX TO PROVERBS

XXXIII. CONCLUSION

BIBLIOGRAPHY

SUBJECT-INDEX TO SECTION A OF BIBLIOGRAPHY

SUBJECT-INDEX TO SECTION B OF BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX I.--AUTHORITIES

INDEX II.--PLACES, PEOPLES, TRIBES, LANGUAGES

INDEX III.--SUBJECTS




CHAPTER I.


CHILD-STUDY.

Oneness with Nature is the glory of Childhood;
oneness with Childhood is the
glory of the Teacher.--_G. Stanley Hall_.


Homes ont l'estre comme metaulx,
Vie et augment des vegetaulx,
Instinct et sens comme les bruts,
Esprit comme anges en attributs.
[Man has as attributes: Being like metals,
Life and growth like plants,
Instinct and sense like animals,
Mind like angels.]--_Jehan de Meung_.


The Child is Father of the Man.--_Wordsworth_.

And he [Jesus] called to him a little child, and set him in the midst
of them.--_Matthew_ xviii. 2.


It was an Oriental poet who sang:--

"On parent knees, a naked, new-born child,
Weeping thou sat'st, while all around thee smiled;
So live, that, sinking in thy last, long sleep,
Calm thou mayst smile, while all around thee weep,"


and not so very long ago even the anthropologist seemed satisfied with
the approximation of childhood and old age,--one glance at the babe in
the cradle, one look at the graybeard on his deathbed, gave all the
knowledge desired or sought for. Man, big, burly, healthy, omniscient,
was the subject of all investigation. But now a change has come over the
face of things. As did that great teacher of old, so, in our day, has
one of the ministers of science "called to him a little child and set
him in the midst of them,"--greatest in the kingdom of anthropology is
assuredly that little child, as we were told centuries ago, by the
prophet of Galilee, that he is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The
child, together with woman, who, in so many respects in which the
essential human characteristics are concerned, so much resembles him, is
now beyond doubt the most prominent figure in individual, as well as in
racial, anthropology. Dr. D. G. Brinton, in an appreciative notice of
the recent volume on _Man and Woman_, by Havelock Ellis, in which
the secondary sexual differences between the male and the female
portions of the human race are so well set forth and discussed, remarks:
"The child, the infant in fact, alone possesses in their fulness 'the
chief distinctive characters of humanity. The highest human types, as
represented in men of genius, present a striking approximation to the
child-type. In man, from about the third year onward, further growth is
to some extent growth in degeneration and senility.' Hence the true
tendency of the progressive evolution of the race is to become
child-like, to become feminine." (_Psych. Rev._ I. 533.)

As Dr. Brinton notes, in this sense women are leading evolution--Goethe
was right: _Das Ewig-weibliche zieht uns hinan_. But here belongs
also the child-human, and he was right in very truth who said: "A little
child shall lead them." What new meaning flashes into the words of the
Christ, who, after declaring that "the kingdom of God cometh not with
observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the
kingdom of God is within you," in rebuke of the Pharisees, in rebuke of
his own disciples, "called to him a little child and set him in the
midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and
become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of
heaven." Even physically, the key to the kingdom of heaven lies in
childhood's keeping.

Vast indeed is now the province of him who studies the child. In
Somatology,--the science of the physical characteristics and
constitution of the body and its members,--he seeks not alone to observe
the state and condition of the skeleton and its integuments during life,
but also to ascertain their nature and character in the period of
prenatal existence, as well as when causes natural, or unnatural,
disease, the exhaustion of old age, violence, or the like, have induced
the dissolution of death.

In Linguistics and Philology, he endeavours to discover the essence and
import of those manifold, inarticulate, or unintelligible sounds, which,
with the long flight of time, develop into the splendidly rounded
periods of a Webster or a Gladstone, or swell nobly in the rhythmic
beauties of a Swinburne or a Tennyson.

In Art and Technology, he would fain fathom the depths of those rude
scribblings and quaint efforts at delineation, whence, in the course of
ages, have been evolved the wonders of the alphabet and the marvellous
creations of a Rubens and an Angelo.

In Psychology, he seeks to trace, in childish prattlings and lore of the
nursery, the far-off beginnings of mythology, philosophy, religion.
Beside the stories told to children in explanation of the birth of a
sister or a brother, and the children's own imaginings concerning the
little new-comer, he may place the speculations of sages and theologians
of all races and of all ages concerning birth, death, immortality, and
the future life, which, growing with the centuries, have ripened into
the rich and wholesome dogmas of the church.

Ethnology, with its broad sweep over ages and races of men, its
searchings into the origins of nations and of civilizations, illumined
by the light of Evolution, suggests that in the growth of the child from
helpless infancy to adolescence, and through the strong and trying
development of manhood to the idiosyncrasies of disease and senescence,
we have an epitome in miniature of the life of the race; that in
primitive tribes, and in those members of our civilized communities,
whose growth upward and onward has been retarded by inherited tendencies
which it has been out of their power to overcome, or by a _milieu_
and environment, the control and subjugation of which required faculties
and abilities they did not possess, we see, as it were, ethnic children;
that in the nursery, the asylum, the jail, the mountain fastnesses of
earth, or the desert plains, peopled by races whose ways are not our
ways, whose criteria of culture are far below ours, we have a panorama
of what has transpired since, alone and face to face with a new
existence, the first human beings partook of the fruit of the tree of
knowledge and became conscious of the great gulf, which, after
millenniums of struggle and fierce competition, had opened between the
new, intelligent, speaking anthropoids and their fellows who straggled
so far behind.

Wordsworth has said: "The child is father of the man," and a German
writer has expanded the same thought:--


"Die Kindheit von heute
Ist die Menschheit von morgen,
Die Kindheit von heute
Ist die Menschheit von gestern."
["The childhood of to-day
Is the manhood of to-morrow,
The childhood of to-day
Is the manhood of yesterday."]


In brief, the child is father of the man and brother of the race.

In all ages, and with every people, the arcana of life and death, the
mysteries of birth, childhood, puberty, adolescence, maidenhood,
womanhood, manhood, motherhood, fatherhood, have called forth the
profoundest thought and speculation. From the contemplation of these
strange phenomena sprang the esoteric doctrines of Egypt and the East,
with their horrible accompaniments of vice and depravity; the same
thoughts, low and terrible, hovered before the devotees of Moloch and
Cybele, when Carthage sent her innocent boys to the furnace, a sacrifice
to the king of gods, and Asia Minor offered up the virginity of her
fairest daughters to the first-comer at the altars of the earth-mother.
Purified and ennobled by long centuries of development and unfolding,
the blossoming of such conceptions is seen in the great sacrifice which
the Son of Man made for the children of men, and in the cardinal
doctrine of the religion which he founded,--"Ye must be born
again,"--the regeneration, which alone gave entrance into Paradise.

The Golden Age of the past of which, through the long lapse of years,
dreamers have dreamt and poets sung, and the Golden City, glimpses of
whose glorious portal have flashed through the prayers and meditations
of the rapt enthusiast, seem but one in their foundation, as the Eden of
the world's beginning and the heaven that shall open to men's eyes, when
time shall be no more, are but closely allied phases, nay, but one and
the same phase, rather, of the world-old thought,--the ethnic might have
been, the ought to be of all the ages. The imagined, retrospect
childhood of the past is twin-born with the ideal, prospective childhood
of the world to come. Here the savage and the philosopher, the child and
the genius, meet; the wisdom of the first and of the last century of
human existence is at one. Childhood is the mirror in which these
reflections are cast,--the childhood of the race is depicted with the
same colours as the childhood of the individual. We can read a larger
thought into the words of Hartley Coleridge:--


"Oh what a wilderness were this sad world,
If man were always man, and never child."


Besides the anthropometric and psycho-physical investigations of the
child carried on in the scientific laboratory with exact instruments and
unexceptionable methods, there is another field of "Child-Study" well
worthy our attention for the light it can shed upon some of the dark
places in the wide expanse of pedagogical science and the art of
education.

Its laboratory of research has been the whole wide world, the
experimenters and recorders the primitive peoples of all races and all
centuries,--fathers and mothers whom the wonderland of parenthood
encompassed and entranced; the subjects, the children of all the
generations of mankind.

The consideration of "The Child in Folk-Thought,"--what tribe upon
tribe, age after age, has thought about, ascribed to, dreamt of, learned
from, taught to, the child, the parent-lore of the human race, in its
development through savagery and barbarism to civilization and
culture,--can bring to the harvest of pedagogy many a golden sheaf.

The works of Dr. Ploss, _Das kleine Kind_, _Das Kind_, and
_Das Weib_, encyclopdic in character as the two last are, covering
a vast field of research relating to the anatomy, physiology, hygiene,
dietetics, and ceremonial treatment of child and mother, of girl and
boy, all over the world, and forming a huge mine of information
concerning child-birth, motherhood, sex-phenomena, and the like, have
still left some aspects of the anthropology of childhood practically
untouched. In English, the child has, as yet, found no chronicler and
historian such as Ploss. The object of the present writer is to treat of
the child from a point of view hitherto entirely neglected, to exhibit
what the world owes to childhood and the motherhood and the fatherhood
which it occasions, to indicate the position of the child in the march
of civilization among the various races of men, and to estimate the
influence which the child-idea and its accompaniments have had upon
sociology, mythology, religion, language; for the touch of the child is
upon them all, and the debt of humanity to the little children has not
yet been told. They have figured in the world's history and its
folk-lore as _magi_ and "medicine-men," as priests and
oracle-keepers, as physicians and healers, as teachers and judges, as
saints, heroes, discoverers, and inventors, as musicians and poets,
actors and labourers in many fields of human activity, have been
compared to the foolish and to the most wise, have been looked upon as
fetiches and as gods, as the fit sacrifice to offended Heaven, and as
the saviours and regenerators of mankind. The history of the child in
human society and of the human ideas and institutions which have sprung
from its consideration can have here only a beginning. This book is
written in full sympathy with the thought expressed in the words of the
Latin poet Juvenal: _Maxima debetur pueris reverentia_, and in the
declaration of Jean Paul: "I love God and every little child."




CHAPTER II.


THE CHILD'S TRIBUTE TO THE MOTHER.

A good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.--_English Proverb_.

The first poet, the first priest, was the first mother.
The first empire was a woman and her children.--_O. T. Mason_.

When society, under the guidance of the "fathers of the church," went
almost to destruction in the dark ages, it was the "mothers of the
people" who saved it and set it going on the new right path.
--_Zmigrodski_ (adapted).

The story of civilization is the story of the mother.
--_Zmigrodski_.

One mother is more venerable than a thousand fathers.
--_Laws of Manu_.

If the world were put into one scale, and my mother into the other, the
world would kick the beam.--_Lord Langdale_.


_Names of the Mother_.

In _A Song of Life_,--a book in which the topic of sex is treated
with such delicate skill,--occurs this sentence: "The motherhood of
mammalian life is the most sacred thing in physical existence" (120.
92), and Professor Drummond closes his _Lowell Institute Lectures on
the Evolution of Man_ in the following words: "It is a fact to which
too little significance has been given, that the whole work of organic
nature culminates in the making of Mothers--that the animal series end
with a group which even the naturalist has been forced to call the
_Mammalia_. When the savage mother awoke to her first tenderness, a
new creative hand was at work in the world" (36. 240). Said Henry Ward
Beecher: "When God thought of Mother, he must have laughed with
satisfaction, and framed it quickly,--so rich, so deep, so divine, so
full of soul, power, and beauty, was the conception," and it was unto
babes and sucklings that this wisdom was first revealed. From their lips
first fell the sound which parents of later ages consecrated and
preserved to all time. With motherhood came into the world song,
religion, the thought of immortality itself; and the mother and the
child, in the course of the ages, invented and preserved most of the
arts and the graces of human life and human culture. In language,
especially, the mother and the child have exercised a vast influence. In
the names for "mother," the various races have recognized the debt they
owe to her who is the "fashioner" of the child, its "nourisher" and its
"nurse." An examination of the etymologies of the words for "mother" in
all known languages is obviously impossible, for the last speakers and
interpreters of many of the unwritten tongues of the earth are long
since dead and gone. How primitive man--the first man of the
race--called his mother, we can but surmise. Still, a number of
interesting facts are known, and some of these follow.

The word _mother_ is one of the oldest in the language; one of the
very few words found among all the great branches of the widely
scattered Aryan race, bearing witness, in ages far remote, before the
Celt, the Teuton, the Hellene, the Latin, the Slav, and the Indo-Iranian
were known, to the existence of the family, with the _mother_
occupying a high and honourable place, if not indeed the highest place
of all. What the etymological meaning was, of the primitive Aryan word
from which our _mother_ is descended, is uncertain. It seems,
however, to be a noun derived, with the agent-suffix _-t-r_, from
the root _ma_, "to measure." Skeat thinks the word meant originally
"manager, regulator [of the household]," rejecting, as unsupported by
sufficient evidence, a suggested interpretation as the "producer."
Kluge, the German lexicographer, hesitates between the "apportioner,
measurer," and the "former [of the embryo in the womb]." In the language
of the Klamath Indians of Oregon, _p'gishap_, "mother," really
signifies the "maker."

The Karankawas of Texas called "mother," _kaninma_, the "suckler,"
from _kanin_, "the female breast." In Latin _mamma_, seems to
signify "teat, breast," as well as "mother," but Skeat doubts whether
there are not two distinct words here. In Finnish and some other
primitive languages a similar resemblance or identity exists between the
words for "breast" and "mother." In Lithuanian, _mte_--cognate
with our _mother_--signifies "wife," and in the language of the
Caddo Indians of Louisiana and Texas _sssin_ means both "wife" and
"mother." The familiar "mother" of the New England farmer of the "Old
Homestead" type, presents, perhaps, a relic of the same thought. The
word _dame_, in older English, from being a title of respect for
women--there is a close analogy in the history of _sire_--came to
signify "mother." Chaucer translates the French of the _Romaunt of the
Rose_, "Enfant qui craint ni pre ni mre Ne pent que bien ne le
comperre," by "For who that dredeth sire ne dame Shall it abie in bodie
or name," and Shakespeare makes poor Caliban declare: "I never saw a
woman, But only Sycorax, my dam." Nowadays, the word _dam_ is
applied only to the female parent of animals, horses especially. The
word, which is one with the honourable appellation _dame_, goes
back to the Latin _domina_, "mistress, lady," the feminine of
_dominus_, "lord, master." In not a few languages, the words for
"father" and "mother" are derived from the same root, or one from the
other, by simple phonetic change. Thus, in the Sandeh language of
Central Africa, "mother" is _n-amu_, "father," _b-amu_; in the
Cholona of South America, _pa_ is "father," _pa-n_, "mother";
in the PEntlate of British Columbia, "father" is _ma_, "mother,"
_ta_, while in the Songish _mn_ is "father" and _tan_
"mother" (404. 143).

Certain tongues have different words for "mother," according as it is a
male or a female who speaks. Thus in the Okanakn, a Salish dialect of
British Columbia, a man or a boy says for "mother," _sk'i_, a
woman or a girl, _tm_; in Kalispelm the corresponding terms for
"my mother" are _isk'i_ and _intoop_. This distinction,
however, seems not to be so common as in the case of "father."

In a number of languages the words for "mother" are different when the
latter is addressed and when she is spoken of or referred to. Thus in
the Kwakiutl, Nootka, and atloltq, three British Columbia tongues, the
two words for "mother" are respectively _t_, _abuk_;
_t_, _abEmp_; _nikH_, _tn_. It is to be noted,
apparently, that the word used in address is very often simpler, more
primitive, than the other. Even in English we find something similar in
the use of _ma_ (or _mama_) and _mother_.

In the Gothic alone, of all the great Teutonic dialects,--the language
into which Bishop Wulfila translated the Scriptures in the fourth
century,--the cognate equivalent of our English _mother_ does not
appear. The Gothic term is _aithiei,_ evidently related to
_atta,_ "father," and belonging to the great series of nursery
words, of which our own _ma, mama,_ are typical examples. These are
either relics of the first articulations of the child and the race,
transmitted by hereditary adaptation from generation to generation, or
are the coinages of mother and nurse in imitation of the cries of
infancy.

These simple words are legion in number and are found over the whole
inhabited earth,--in the wigwam of the Redskin, in the tent of the nomad
Bedouin, in the homes of cultured Europeans and Americans. Dr. Buschmann
studied these "nature-sounds," as he called them, and found that they
are chiefly variations and combinations of the syllables _ab, ap, am,
an, ad, at, ba, pa, ma, na, da, ta,_ etc., and that in one language,
not absolutely unrelated to another, the same sound will be used to
denote the "mother" that in the second signifies "father," thus
evidencing the applicability of these words, in the earliest stages of
their existence, to either, or to both, of the parents of the child
(166. 85). Pott, while remarking a wonderful resemblance in the names
for parents all over the world, seeks to establish the rather doubtful
thesis that there is a decided difference in the nature of the words for
"father" and those for "mother," the former being "man-like, stronger,"
the latter "woman-like, mild" (517. 57).

Some languages apparently do not possess a single specialized word for
"mother." The Hawaiian, for example, calls "mother and the sisters of
the mother" _makua wahine,_ "female parent," that being the nearest
equivalent of our "mother," while in Tonga, as indeed with us to-day,
sometimes the same term is applied to a real mother and to an adopted
one (100. 389). In Japan, the paternal aunt and the maternal aunt are
called "little mother." Similar terms and appellations are found in
other primitive tongues. A somewhat extended discussion of names for
"mother," and the questions connected with the subject, will be found in
Westermarck (166. 85). Here also will be found notices of the names
among various peoples for the nearest relatives of the mother and
father. Incidentally it is worth noting that Westermarck controverts
Professor Vambry's opinion that the Turko-Tartar words for "mother,"
_ana_, _ene_, originally meant "nurse" or "woman" (from the
root _an_, _en_), holding that exactly the reverse is the
fact, "the terms for _mother_ being the primitive words." He is
also inclined to think that the Aryan roots _pa_, "to protect, to
nourish," and _ma_, "to fashion," came from _pa_, "father,"
and _ma_, "mother," and not _vice vers_. Mr. Bridges, the
missionary who has studied so well the Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego,
states that "the names _imu_ and _dabi_--father and
mother--have no meaning apart from their application, neither have any
of their other very definite and ample list of terms for relatives,
except the terms _macu_ [cf. _magu_, "parturition"] and
_macipa_ [cf. _cipa_, "female"], son and daughter." This
statement is, however, too sweeping perhaps (166. 88).

According to Colonel Mallery, the Ute Indians indicate "mother" by
placing the index finger in the mouth (497a. 479). Clark describes the
common Indian sign as follows: "Bring partially curved and compressed
right hand, and strike with two or three gentle taps right or left
breast, and make sign for _female_; though in conversation the
latter is seldom necessary. Deaf mutes make sign for _female_, and
cross hands as in their sign for _baby_, and move them to front and
upwards" (420. 262). Somewhat similar is the sign for "father": "Bring
the compressed right hand, back nearly outwards, in front of right or
left breast, tips of fingers few inches from it; move the hand, mostly
by wrist action, and gently tap the breast with tips of fingers two or
three times, then make sign for _male_. Some Indians tap right
breast for 'father,' and left for 'mother.' Deaf-mutes make sign for
_male_, and then holding hands fixed as in their sign for
_baby_, but a little higher, move the hands to front and upwards"
(420. 167).

Interesting is the following statement of Mr. Codrington, the well-known
missionary to the Melanesians:--

"In Mota the word used for 'mother' is the same that is used for the
division [tribe?] _veve_, with a plural sign _ra veve_. And it
is not that a man's kindred are so called after his mother, but that his
mother is called his kindred, as if she were the representative of the
division to which he belongs; as if he were not the child of a
particular woman, but of the whole kindred for whom she brought him into
the world." Moreover, at Mota, in like fashion, "the word for 'consort,'
'husband,' or 'wife,' is in a plural form _ra soai_, the word used
for members of a body, or the component parts of a canoe" (25. 307-8).


_Mother-Right_.

Since the appearance of Bachofen's famous book on the matriarchate,
"mother-right," that system of society in which the mother is paramount
in the family and the line of inheritance passes through her, has
received much attention from students of sociology and primitive
history.

Post thus defines the system of mother-right:--

"The matriarchate is a system of relationship according to which the
child is related only to his mother and to the persons connected with
him through the female line, while he is looked upon as not related to
his father and the persons connected with him through the male line.
According to this system, therefore, the narrowest family circle
consists not, as with us to-day, of father, mother, and child, but of
mother, mother's brother, and sister's child, whilst the father is
completely wanting, and the mother's brother takes the father's place
with the sister's children. The real father is not the father of his own
children, but of his nephews and nieces, whilst the brother of his wife
is looked upon as father to his children. The brothers and sisters of
the mother form with her a social group, to which belong also the
children of the sisters, the children of the daughters of the sisters,
etc., but not the children of the brothers, the children of the sisters'
sons, etc. With every husband the relationship ceases" (127. I. 13-14).

The system of mother-right prevails widely over the whole globe; in some
places, however, only in fragmentary condition. It is found amongst
nearly all the native tribes of America; the peoples of Malaysia,
Melanesia, Australia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, the Dravidian tribes of
India; in Africa it is found in the eastern Sahara, the Soudan, the east
and west coast, and in the centre of the continent, but not to the
exclusion, altogether, of father-right, while in the north the intrusion
of Europeans and the followers of Islam has tended to suppress it.
Traces of its former existence are discovered among certain of the
ancient tribes of Asia Minor, the old Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans,
Teutons, the Aryans of India, the Chinese, Japanese, etc.

Mother-right has been recognized by many sociologists as a system of
family relationship, perhaps the most widespread, perhaps the most
primitive of all. Dr. Brinton says:--

"The foundation of the gentile system, as of any other family life, is
... the mutual affection between kindred. In the primitive period this
is especially between children of the same mother, not so much because
of the doubt of paternity, as because physiologically and obviously, it
is the mother in whom is formed, and from whom alone proceeds, the
living being" (412. 47).

Professor O. T. Mason, in the course of his interesting address on
"Woman's Share in Primitive Culture," remarks (112. 10):--

"Such sociologists as Morgan and McLennan affirm that the primitive
society had no family organization at all. They hypothecate a condition
in which utter promiscuity prevailed. I see no necessity for this. There
is some organization among insects. Birds mate and rear a little family.
Many animals set up a kind of patriarchal horde. On the other hand, they
err greatly who look among savages for such permanent home life as we
enjoy. Marriages are in groups, children are the sons and daughters of
these groups; divorces are common. The fathers of the children are not
known, and if they were, they would have no authority on that account.
The mother never changes her name, the children are named after her, or,
at least, are not named after the father. The system of gentes prevails,
each gens consisting of a hypothetical female ancestress, and all her
descendants through females. These primitive men and women, having no
other resort, hit upon this device to hold a band of kin together. Here
was the first social tie on earth; the beginning of the state. The first
empire was a woman and her children, regardless of paternity. This was
the beginning of all the social bonds which unite us. Among our own
Indians mother-right was nearly universal. Upon the death of a chief
whose office was hereditary, he was succeeded, not by his son, but by
the son of a sister, or an aunt, or a niece; all his property that was
not buried with him fell to the same parties, could not descend to his
children, since a child and the father belonged to different gentes."
McLennan has discussed at some length the subject of kinship in ancient
Greece (115. 193-246), and maintains that "the system of double kinship,
which prevailed in the time of Homer, was preceded by a system of
kinship through females only," referring to the cases of Lycaon,
Tlepolemus, Helen, Arnaeus, Glaucus, and Sarpedon, besides the evidence
in the _Orestes_ of Euripides, and the _Eumenides_ of
Aeschylus. In the last, "the jury are equally divided on the plea [that
Orestes was not of kin to his mother, Clytemnestra, whom he had killed,
--"Do you call _me_ related by blood to my mother?"], and Orestes
gains his cause by the casting vote of Athene." According to tradition,
"in Greece, before the time of Cecrops, children always bore the name of
their mothers," in marked contrast to tha state of affairs in Sparta,
where, according to Philo, "the marriage tie was so loose that men lent
their wives to one another, and cared little by whom children were
begotten, provided they turned out strong and healthy."

We have preserved for us, by Plutarch and others, some of the opinions
of Greek philosophers on the relation of the father and the mother to
the child. Plato is represented as calling "mind the conception, idea,
model, and _father_; and matter the mother, _nurse_, or seat
and region capable of births." Chrysippus is said to have stated: "The
foetus is nourished in the womb like a plant; but, being born, is
refrigerated and hardened by the air, and its spirit being changed it
becomes an animal," a view which, as McLennan points out, "constitutes
the mother the mere nurse of her child, just as a field is of the seed
sown in it."

The view of Apollo, which, in the council of the gods, influenced Athene
to decide for Orestes, is this:--

"The bearer of the so-called offspring is not _the mother_ of it,
but only the nurse of the newly conceived foetus. It is the male who is
the author of its being; while she, as a stranger, for a stranger,
preserves the young plant for those for whom the god has not blighted it
in the bud. And I will show you a proof of this assertion; one
_may_ become a father without a mother. There stands by a witness
of this in the daughter of Olympian Zeus, who was not even nursed [much
less engendered or begotten] in the darkness of the womb" (115. 211).
"This is akin to the wild discussion in the misogynistic Middle Ages
about the possibility of _lucina sine concubitu_. The most recent
and most scholarly discussion of all questions involved in
"mother-right" will be found people in the world; for it stands on
record that the five companies (five hundred men) recruited from the
Iroquois of New York and Canada during our civil war stood first on the
list among all the recruits of our army for height, vigour, and
corporeal symmetry" (412. 82). And it was this people too who produced
Hiawatha, a philosophic legislator and reformer, worthy to rank with
Solon and Lycurgus, and the founder of a great league whose object was
to put an end to war, and unite all the nations in one bond of
brotherhood and peace.

Among the Choctaw-Muskogee tribes, women-chiefs were also known; the
Yuchis, Chetimachas, had "Queens"; occasionally we find female rulers
elsewhere in America, as among the Winnebagos, the Nah-ane, etc.
Scattered examples of gynocracy are to be found in other parts of the
world, and in their later development some of the Aryan races have been
rather partial to women as monarchs, and striking instances of a like
predilection are to be met with among the Semitic tribes,--Boadicea,
Dido, Semiramis, Deborah are well-known cases in point, to say nothing
of the Christian era and its more enlightened treatment of woman.

The fate of women among those peoples and in those ages where extreme
exaltation of the male has been the rule, is sketched by Letourneau in
his chapter on _The Condition of Women_ (100. 173-185); the
contrast between the Australians, to whom "woman is a domestic animal,
useful for the purposes of genesic pleasure, for reproduction, and, in
case of famine, for food," the Chinese, who can say "a newly-married
woman ought to be merely as a shadow and as an echo in the house," the
primitive Hindus, who forbade the wife to call her husband by name, but
made her term him "master, lord," or even "god," and even some of our
modern races in the eye of whose law women are still minors, and the
Iroquois, is remarkable. Such great differences in the position and
rights of women, existing through centuries, over wide areas of the
globe, have made the study of comparative pedagogy a most important
branch of human sociology. The mother as teacher has not been, and is
not now, the same the world over.

As men holding supreme power have been termed "father," women have in
like manner been called "mother." The title of the queen-mother in
Ashanti is _nana,_ "Grandmother" (438. 259), and to some of the
Indian tribes of Canada Queen Victoria is the "Great White Mother," the
"Great Mother across the Sea." In Ashanti the "rich, prosperous, and
powerful" are termed _oman enna,_ "mothers of the tribe," and are
expected to make suitably large offerings to the dead, else there will
be no child born in the neglectful family for a certain period (438.
228).

With the Romans, _mater_ and its derivative _matrona,_ came to
be applied as titles of honour; and beside the rites of the
_parentalia_ we find those of the _matronalia_ (492. 454).

In the ancient Hebrew chronicles we find mention of Deborah, that
"mother in Israel."

With us, off whose tongues "the fathers," "forefathers," "ancestors"
(hardly including ancestresses) and the like rolled so glibly, the
"Pilgrim Fathers" were glorified long before the "Pilgrim Mothers," and
hardly yet has the mother of the "father of his country" received the
just remembrance and recognition belonging to her who bore so noble and
so illustrious a son. By and by, however, it is to be hoped, we shall be
free from the reproach cast upon us by Colonel Higginson, and wake up to
the full consciousness that the great men of our land have had mothers,
and proceed to re-write our biographical dictionaries and encyclopdias
of life-history.

In Latin _mater,_ as does _mother_ with us, possessed a wide
extent of meaning, "mother, parent, producer, nurse, preparer, cause,
origin, source," etc. _Mater omnium artium necessitas,_ "Necessity
is the mother of invention," and similar phrases were in common use, as
they are also in the languages of to-day. Connected with _mater_ is
_materia,_ "matter,"--_mother_-stuff, perhaps,--and from it
is derived _matrimonium,_ which testifies concerning primitive
Roman sociology, in which the mother-idea must have been prominent,
something we cannot say of our word _marriage,_ derived ultimately
from the Latin _mas,_ "a male."

Westermarck notes the Nicaraguans, Dyaks, Minahassers, Andaman
Islanders, Pdam, Munda Kols, Santals, Moors of the Western Soudan,
Tuaregs, Teda, among the more or less primitive peoples with whom woman
is held in considerable respect, and sometimes, as among the Munda Kols,
bears the proud title "mistress of the house" (166. 500, 501). As
Havelock Ellis remarks, women have shown themselves the equals of men as
rulers, and most beneficial results have flowed from their exercise of
the great political wisdom, and adaptation to statecraft which seems to
belong especially to the female sex. The household has been a
training-school for women in the more extended spheres of human
administrative society.


_Alma Mater._

The college graduate fondly calls the institution from which he has
obtained his degree _Alma Mater_, "nourishing, fostering,
cherishing mother," and he is her _alumnus_ (foster-child,
nourished one). For long years the family of the benign and gracious
mother, whose wisdom was lavished upon her children, consisted of sons
alone, but now, with the advent of "sweeter manners, purer laws,"
daughters have come to her also, and the _alumnae_, "the sweet
girl-graduates in their golden hair," share in the best gifts their
parent can bestow. To Earth also, the term _Alma Mater_ has been
applied, and the great nourishing mother of all was indeed the first
teacher of man, the first university of the race.

_Alma, alumnus, alumna_, are all derived from _alo_, "I
nourish, support." From the radical _al_, following various trains
of thought, have come: _alesco_, "I grow up"; _coalesco_, "I
grow together"; _adolesco_, "I grow up,"--whence _adolescent_,
etc.; _obsolesco_, "I wear out"; _alimentum_, "food";
_alimonium_, "support"; _altor, altrix_, "nourisher";
_altus_, "high, deep" (literally, "grown"); _elementum_,
"first principle," etc. Connected With _adolesco_ is
_adultus_, whence our _adult_, with the radical of which the
English word _old_ (_eld_) is cognate.



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Library mainpage -> Chamberlain, Alexander F -> The Child and Childhood in Folk-Thought Studies of the Activities and Influences of the Child Among Primitive Peoples, Their Analogues and Survivals in the Civilization of To-Day