"Die Beschneidung bei Mann und Weib"
Gustav Feller. New Brandenburg. (1931)
"Circumcision in Man and Woman"
translated: David Berger MA
American Ethnological Press New York (1934)
AMS Press (1974) extracts from p. 92 - 207
revised: R. Stuart
| Freud - Riek
Ethnologists rejection of Zeller
Marks of beauty or not
Freud (pp. 131 ff.) has adopted the Darwinian picture of the primitive
horde, according to which the strongest man drove off his rivals in
order himself to retain complete mastery of his harem, and has sketched
the primeval scene which I quote literally: "One day the expelled brothers
(sons) got together, slew their father and consumed him and put an end
to the paternal horde. In union they dared and brought about what would
have been impossible for the individual. Perhaps some cultural advance,
the manipulation of a new weapon, gave them the feeling of superiority.
To have consumed the slain man as well is natural for the cannibal.
The brutal, primitive father was certainly the envied and feared model
of every one of the brothers. Now, by means of the act of eating him,
they completed their identification with him, they assimilated a part
of his strength. The totemmeal is perhaps the first festival of mankind,
the repetition and memorial of this notable, criminal deed, from which
so much took its inception- social organization, moral restrictions
and religion". According to Freud, then, mutually contradictory emotions
toward the father would have arisen among the patricides, which psychoanalysis
terms the ambivalence of the father-complex. They hated their father,
who, on the basis of his strength, had expelled them, but at the same
time they loved and admired him. After they had removed him and thus
appeased their hatred and accomplished their desire for identification
with him, the suppressed, tender emotions must have arisen. This took
place in the form of remorse, a consciousness of guilt arose, which
coincided with the feeling of remorse that was already present. What
the dead man had formerly prevented by his existence they now forbade
themselves out of the psychic situation of "subsequent obedience".
1) The origin of consciousness of guilt can be explained
only out of the conflict of one's own instinctive actions and the suppressive
prohibitions of an existing social community. (B.)
They retrieved their deed by prohibiting the killing of the substitute
for the father, the totem, and renounced the fruits of their bloody
victory by abandoning the women who had now become free. Out of the
consciousness of guilt of the son they created the two fundamental taboos
of totemism, which, for that very reason, necessarily coincided with
the two suppressed desires of the Oedipus-complex. Whoever acted contrary
to them became guilty of the only two crimes that concern primitive
society. (Zeller, p. 119.)
The incestuous desires slumbering in the child upon awakening not only
threaten the father, but the whole social community. These desires now
had to be suppressed in an effective manner. Circumcision would be one
of these conductors of the incest-instinct. It satisfies -according
to psychoanalysis- the inimical impulses of the father who is afraid
of his growing son, particularly because the latter wishes to rob him
of his wife (2) . The boy must be punished: in this sense circumcision
is castration, it is its equivalent, its symbol. By means of castration
sexual intercourse, especially incest, is to be prevented. But circumcision
is also a symbol of death. The many rites and ceremonies of the monster
or spirit who kills and devours the not yet initiated and consecrated,
with which their totem-animal, their ancestor, must really be identified,
all point to this. It is a matter of requital, because primevally the
sons have killed their father and now fear a recurrence. The tortures
and torments are only an attendant phenomenon to the two main hostile
motives of the father: castration and death. We quote the founder of
this theory, Reik, who writes (pp. 89-91): "We have previously found
the simulation of killing bound
2 This speculation overlooks the fact that in the meantime
the woman, the Mother of the son, has become at least twelve years older
(since the birth of her first son), and thus, considering the incestuous
bent of the father (which psychoanalysis does not consider) and his
polygynous instincts; lost all importance in this question.
up with the operation of circumcision: circumcision is not a commutation
of human sacrifice but rather killing and circumcision are two separate
actions, connected only by the unconscious emotional life, of which
the first represents punishment for the unconscious desire of killing
the father, the second, punishment for the desire of incest of the young
people in their 'most dangerous age.' If we took into consideration
the intimate connection of these factors that are fundamental to both,
we should not be surprised to find in the rites of resurrection as well
a reaction against the threat of castration, which circumcision represents
both genetically and symbolically. As a matter of fact, such is the
case. Let us recall those variations of the initiation ceremonies in
which it is assumed that spirits in the forest take away certain parts
of the body from the boys and give them new ones in exchange, e.g. better
intestines, lungs, etc. Let us further picture to ourselves that identification
with the totem-animal or the ancestral spirits confers the powers and
capabilities, indeed, even the bodily characteristics, of the totem.
It is not difficult to find in this identification that factor which
is an alleviation of the threat of castration, namely, the imaginative
desire of exchanging one's own little penis for the big one of his father.
Indeed, it can even be said that it is this imaginative desire that
is present in the consciousness of peoples in a more or less distorted
form as the only sense of circumcision. If natives are questioned as
to the purpose of circumcision, their answer coincides with the judgement
of authorities on the subject, anthropologists and ethnologists, saying
that it is an operation to facilitate sexual intercourse or to intensify
its pleasure. But the imaginative desire of the primitive given above,
of receiving the larger penis of the totem or father instead of that
amputated from one's self, by identification with the father, gives
us an exact ethno-psychological parallel to certain infantile reactions
threat of castration. That operation and disjunction of the organ at
the hands of spirits in primitive initiation rites is similar in every
respect to the imagination of little Hans, whose 'podel' and 'weewee-maker'
(penis, B.) an installator took away to bring him two larger copies
of those valuable parts of the body 'just like daddy's'. An unconscious
connection between the two rites is found in the fact that the states
of death and resurrection represent symbolically the relaxation and
erection of the penis".
It is interesting to see how Reik logically connects circumcision among
the Jews with his psychoanalytic speculation and interprets it accordingly.
It was a valuable contribution that once and for all the holy custom
of the Israelites was declared to be simply a counterpart of the "barbaric"
rites of the puberty initiations of the savage. Moreover, in the "bar-mitzva"
of the masculine Israelites, which coincides with the confirmation of
Christians, the institution of initiation of boys is preserved to the
present day just as in leaving-examinations or any other declarations
Reik (p. 122) follows this up: "The connection of the brith with circumcision
is just as little a matter of chance as the feast of the covenant in
which the followers of Jehovah identify themselves with him, and, also,
the fact of the giving of the laws - brith itself can mean law
- which is connected so intimately with the conclusion of the covenant
(Sinai) may be paralleled with the rites of puberty. The promise of
numerous offspring corresponds to the primitive license for sexual intercourse
just as that of the promised land, sexual-symbolically, presents the
prospect of a substitute for the beloved mother. The threats which Yahweh
utters in the case of a transgression of the covenant are fundamentally
the same as those which the Au-
stralian negroes heap on the matured youths. The psychoanalysis of
the rites of puberty will permit seeing in the significant occurrences
of masculine initiations that are found today in the bush the modern
counterpart of the dispensation of Mt. Sinai".
After circumcision, exactly as at the conclusion of those puberty initiations
that do not include circumcision at all, the boy is received into society
as a valuable citizen of equal rank, who from now on enjoys all the
rights previously denied him. Sexual intercourse, in particular, is
now granted to him freely: his identification card, his badge for marriage
is obvious enough.
"Many Central Australian tribes believe that after initiation a boy
must have sexual intercourse or die. In Serange, one of the Molukka
Islands, the young man must have intercourse with young girls, no matter
which, directly after circumcision 'in order that the wound heal'. (Crawley)
That is continued until the wound has stopped bleeding. Among the Kikuyu
of West Africa (? B.) it is believed that the first cohabitation the
newly circumcised practice will lead either to their own or their partners'
death. They seek to escape this melancholy fate by the following means.
After the performance of the rites of puberty the men collect in groups
of fifteen to twenty, fall upon several old women in solitary places,
abuse them sexually and then kill them. The death of these old women
frees the youths of all danger." (1)
1) Chazac, La Religion des Kikuyu. Anthropos, Vol. II,
p. 317, 1910, (Reik, p. 96), Crawley, The Mystic Rose, pp. 309 ff.,
Reik (p. 99) is of the opinion, in connection with this, "that it
was only late that permission for sexual intercourse after circumcision
lifted the general ban and that this belongs to an advanced stage of
development. Originally this prohibition remained effectual in spite
of. the operation. Thus the young men of the Aranda and other tribes
of central Australia, in the 'good, old times,' had to wait for the
women promised them until the first grey hairs showed in their beards".
Now Zeller has extended the explanation of the idea of circumcision
advanced by psychoanalysis on the basis of intensive studies of initiation
rites of boys in the literature pertaining to the subject and with consideration
of most of the other explanations suggested. We quote his conclusions
literally; but in order that they be not removed from their proper context,
we must first give a few descriptions of incision.
Langsdorff relates the following on the circumcision of the Nuhakiwans:
"Circumcision or the slitting up and extension of the foreskin is a
general operation among the Nuhakiwans (South Sea Islanders) which is
not performed until rather late, usually when the boy has reached sexual
maturity. A small rod covered by a piece of cloth is inserted under
the foreskin, which is then ripped up with a sharp stone and the wound
rubbed in with the juice of a plant (pahpa). Although severe inflammation
sometimes results, it usually passes away in ten to twelve days. Anyone
may perform the operation except the father of the boy. The operator
is called tahba; he is retained in the house of the patient until
all inflammation is gone, where he is served with abundant pork, and
when leaving he receives a pig as remuneration. Cleanliness is apparently
intended at this operation".
We find another report on incision in Kramer (pp. 61 f.): "Circumcision,
in this case not an actual 'cutting around', but a simple splitting
of the foreskin, that is, an incision into the upper edge, as is generally
customary in Indonesia, is performed in the following manner: spatula
is inserted under the foreskin and the latter severed by a blow with
some sharp object such as a shark's tooth, a shell, a bamboo knife,
and recently, of course, a steel knife. It is performed among the Samoan
youth similarly as among the Mohammedans, at the appearance of puberty,
always between the seventh and fifteenth
year. Religious customs, as is the case among other peoples ... seem
never to have been connected with the operation in Samoa. It is performed
usually by one experienced in it. The leading motive for Samoa seems
to have been that of cleanliness for it is said that no Samoan girl
would sleep with one who was uncircumcised".
While Kramer as a physician is inclined to accept the hygienic value
of the concept of cleanliness as the original reason for the introduction
of circumcision and to consider everything else, such as religious rites,
to be secondary, both of the Sarasins (p. 52 ff.) in view of the incision
which they found on the Celebes, are of a different opinion: "Smashing
out of the teeth (in boys only of the crown) is customary, the teeth
being partly sawed through first and then broken off. The boys themselves
choose the time. Since the operation is performed on all men and women,
it may originally have been a sacrifice of a part of the body in lieu
of the whole, as is suspected to be the case also with circumcision.
The latter operation is performed on all boys, a round rod being inserted
under the foreskin, down the whole length of which the prepuce is split,
but not removed; this is incision, not circumcision. The wound was shown
us, a very harmless incision but quite useful against possible phimosis".
I am in full agreement with Bryk`s following footnotes
- it is essential to remember that Bryk is merely relating what others
have suggested as origin, he does this picturesquely building a framework
for his more elementary theories - at the same time commenting - often
sarcastically- in his footnotes(RS)
Zeller remarks on this (pp. 132 ff.):
"Perforation among the Karesau Islanders has been described. Circumcision
is also performed at the same time as this operation on the older boys,
but the eleven to thirteen year olds are only perforated. Nor are these
circumcised later. This surgical manipulation of the masculine organ,
which in addition is performed with an instrument indicating the totem,
a cassowary bone, can certainly not be termed 'a surgical act of preparation
for the sexual function of the man'. Since even after this manipulation
the foreskin still covers the glans, and consequently, with the excep-
tion of a few scars, the organ is in no way changed,(1) it cannot be
a question here of the correction of nature, which Heinrich Ploss considers
to be the original reason for every circumcision. If this view were
to be accepted, the omission of circumcision in the case of the younger
boys would have to be explained, since only that could be a correction
of nature in the sense of Ploss. The reason for perforation must be
sought for elsewhere.
1) A change does take place in so far as the prepuce
may now be drawn back without difficulty. (B.)
"the omission of circumcision in the case of the
younger boys would have to be explained," RS though many cultural "irrational"
reasons may have developed, rationally speaking, among 11 - 13 yr. olds
even a small perforation would assist any stretching necessary before
marriage, whereas older boys needed the full cure - thus the medicinal
purpose was effected and also an appropriate measure of pain delivered
to initiates of different ages ... perforation is simply another cure
perhaps to an even greater extent one could call it a preventative measure,
- similar to stretching the foreskin which Bryk refers to later.....
"The commonest form of manipulation of the penis is circumcision in
its literal sense. In addition it is the best known since the Jews also
perform it, The procedure is not the same, of course, among all peoples,
but the amputation of the foreskin is always present. (2) I may assume
the explanations suggested to be well known. I must first establish
certain facts: in our first part we have found no circumcision that
was not performed without special rites.(3) We cannot very well deny
the religious background of these rites. Even Ploss and Andree cannot
shut their eyes to these facts, but maintain that the religious rites
have nothing to do with the origin of circumcision, having been connected
with them only subsequently. The explanation they suggest presupposes
that observation and detached contemplation existed among savages before
religious usages, for the correction of nature as the origin of circumcision
demands this assumption. (4) Now it seems to me that the religious factor
is quite generally the primary one, and the other, if it is at all to
be considered, only secondary. We shall occupy ourselves very intensively
with these ceremonies, which will lead us to totemism almost every time.
Some light is thrown on the subject by the treatment of the ampu-
2) Not always. Cf. Merker on the Masai, Luchan on the
Hottentots, Bryk on the Kikuyu. (B.)
3) Tessman, Czekanowski und Kramer mention circumcisions
without rites. (B.)
4) The perception of pain and difficulty by sexual
intercourse does not require "detached contemplation".
tated foreskin. It is seldom thrown aside negligently. Usually it is
buried in a particular spot; this also includes burying it in an ant
hill, where the ants effect its complete annihilation. In this custom
the fear that some magician could cast a spell over the foreskin and
thereby cause its previous owner great harm, may have been decisive.
But the supernatural is indicated in the custom of entombing the foreskin
in a mountain cave together with bullroarers (spirit voices) as Frobenius
describes it of the Durru. A similar entombment is carried out by various
Australian tribes, according to Frazer; they place the foreskins in
totem-trees, totem-rocks and other totem-centers, which serve as the
abodes of the souls of the departed while they wait for rebirth. Among
the Hova the father of the boy must eat the foreskin with a banana,
or it is wrapped in a banana leaf and given to a calf to eat.
"If circumcision were really only an act of preparation for procreation,
would there be any sense in treating the foreskin in this remarkable
1) The cultic treatment of the amputated foreskin is
something quite secondary, dictated later by the magical conceptions
of the tribes in question. (B.)
"Subincision is confined to Australia. That the explanation suggested
by Ploss and Andree cannot prevail here either need not be shown in
detail. We are acquainted with the view of Strehlow on this point and
shall quote only the opinion of E. Eylmann: (2)
2) Erhard Eylmann, Die Eingeborenen der Kolonie Sudaustralien,
Berlin, 1908, pp. 122 ff.
"Let us first assume that the natives had introduced subincision in
order to prevent over-population.
"It is clear to everyone that they could have arrived at the conclusion
that a splitting of the organ would lead to a diminution of births simply
and entirely by logical thinking. In such a case it was necessary that
they know, of course, the function of the seminal fluid. However, this
is not the case.
"Let us look about then for another possibility that could have led
to the mutilation of the penis. As we know, the young lad, in being
received into the circle of men, must be subjected to specific tortures,
many of which leave permanent disfigurations behind. Splitting the masculine
organ is one of these tortures. I doubt that the reader will contradict
me if I maintain that this highly painful operation could have had the
purpose merely of furnishing the lad with a permanent mark of distinction
and to make him an obedient member of the society by means of intense
bullying, or, if we prefer, 'to test his courage and staunchness'.(1)
1) Qui tacet consentire videtur, therefore I do contradict
and point, among other things, to the explanation 1 have suggested.
"Missionaries of Hermannsburg and Kitalpanina, asserted to me that
the boys of the stations were less guilty of moral transgression after
subincision than before it, even if, as 'young men', they remained unmarried
for years.(2) If the missionaries were not mistaken, one could draw
the conclusion from their observation that sexual excitability was reduced
as a result of this splitting of the penis.
2) Again a false conclusion; a false reason is concluded
from the apparent effect. Through the official reception into the society
of men, every circumcised boy (in Africa as well) becomes more serious;
he casts off the clothes of his youth, the course of his life is now
"Strehlow and Eylmann, therefore, agree in the main, but especially
when rejecting diminution of births as the cause of subincision. It
is an important point that the young men, after subincision, become
less prone to moral transgression, as Eylmann relates. Strehlow gives
this very point as the reason for subincision, namely, the restriction
of the sexual excesses of the youth.
"The last kind of circumcision is partial testicular extirpation. I
need not waste any words on the reliability of the source. The significance
of this form of circumci-
sion is obvious. It is castration, in spite of the fact that only one
testicle is excised.
"Thus we arrive at the explanation of circumcision suggested by psychoanalysis
in its broad sense. We have already become acquainted with it, but on
account of its great importance we repeat it cursorily. Psychoanalysis
sees in circumcision an unconscious symbol of castration, designed to
prevent the young boy, tending toward incest with his mother, from carrying
out his unconscious desire. Circumcision (castration) is performed by
the men because they feel they are threatened by the unconscious desires
of the boys, directed toward their wives.(1) By this act, coitus, and
consequently incest, are made symbolically impossible and the hostile
feelings of the boy against his father become purposeless. As we have
seen, the symbol of castration is used for testicular extirpation.
1) The circumcised youth, whether married or unmarried,
sets his desires especially upon unfamiliar women; cf. Bryk, Voodoo-Eros,
p. 112. (B.)
"In the case of subincision, the explanation, rejected however, by
Strehlow and Eylmann, that a diminishing in the number of births is
thus attained, needs only a slight change: that sexual intercourse in
general is thus prevented.(2) We have the symbol of castration, then,
here also. But this statement demands some support, with which Strehlow
himself furnishes us, in the reasons given him by the natives themselves
for circumcision and subincision. According to these, the boys, who
are entering their 'wild oats' years, must be brought under the dominion
of the old men by circumcision; they must be brought up in obedience.
The men resist the insubordination of the boys resulting from their
hostile emotions. If they did not practice circumcision, the young men
2) Since subincision is performed on all men, then according
to Zeller the whole tribe would be symbolically prevented from practicing
sexual intercourse, which Zeller can hardly assume as being intended.
murder the members of their tribe and devour them.(1) Thus relates
the legend of the hawk-men. Translated into psychoanalysis, the interpretation
is as follows: if you men do not circumcise (castrate) the boys, they
will follow their hostile impulses, and kill and devour you, as the
sons did to their father in the primeval horde.
1) All the other primitive peoples who are unacquainted
with circumcision or have rejected it seem to get along without circumcision.
"In addition, circumcision is meant to put a brake to the excesses
of the boys, who are at a critical age. It is easily comprehensible
that during this time of sexual ripening, a desire for incest actually
exists, which is just what the men fear and seek to annul; this is shown
by the strong incestual instinct among the Australians, manifested by
their complicated marriage prohibitions. By castration a final barrier
would be put before it. But for reasons of procreation, it must remain
a symbol . (2) The two points elucidated here distinctly show that circumcision
is an act inimical to the boy.
2) Castration must consequently be relinquished; the
symbol of a substitute is not very effective, the whole thing is a farce
which any incestuous person can easily see through.
"The two following points have their origin in affection for the boy,
for they say that circumcision prevents the prepuce growing together,
and that subincision is to make the boy supple. The ambivalence of the
emotions is made manifest here.
"Point five (? the next point RS) gives
us in a few strokes a copy of the Freudian primeval horde. In the former
the father takes possession of all the females for his own use, in the
latter it is the old men who take all the girls and women for themselves,
giving the sons nothing for a long time, and finally only an old woman.
It is obvious that the old men, who have the power, will not let go
of a custom that grants them such privileges. On the other hand the
youths, who are thus deprived of marriage possibilities for a long time,
must harbor particularly hostile emotions
toward the men who keep the women from them, emotions at least as strong
as their unsatisfied sexual instincts. Consequently the men are in greater
danger here than among other peoples where such limitations do not exist.
This is possibly the reason why we find two kinds of circumcision among
the Australians, circumcision proper and subincision, while the latter
is to be found nowhere else.
"If one examines the results of circumcision, there is actually to
be found, as Eylmann reports, the effect desired by the fathers. Moral
transgressions, among which incest is probably included, are not so
common as formerly; a brake has been set to these instincts. Thus the
symbol of castration effects a limitation necessarily lying in the direction
of the sexual instinct.
"It is obvious that among the Australians it was originally not at
all a matter of preparation for the sexual function.
"Perforation also, which in older boys is bound up with circumcision,
can be proved to be a symbol of castration, since directly after the
operation even among those candidates who are already married, all sexual
intercourse is strictly forbidden for a certain time.(1) Here, then,
the effect which circumcision is to have as a symbol of castration is
produced artificially by a prohibition. It is this very prohibition
which distinctly shows what the fathers really want. The continence
imposed upon the boys during their initiation, or, as it could also
be termed, the enforced sexual impotence prevents them equally well
from committing incest as complete castration would. This prohibition
is confined temporarily to the initiation since it is not necessary
any more after it, when the boys have suppressed their infantile emotions
and become identified with the fathers. The moment of the sexual continence
1) This prohibition is almost universal for all those
newly circumcised until their complete convalescence. (B.)
by the fathers is very important, since it occurs in most of the initiation
rites of boys.
"Let us now consider the other ... well-known explanations suggested.
First we, have the following group of researches: H. Ploss, R. Andree,
H. Schurtz, and L. Frobenius. All, with slight variations, subscribe
to the same view. We have already approached this opinion without psychoanalysis.
But psychoanalysis does not reject these explanations directly. If the
natives themselves declare that circumcision is to facilitate the act
of procreation, and perhaps intensify its pleasure as well, or that
it is performed for hygienic reasons, this motivation is not to be cast
aside without consideration.
"If psychoanalysis admits the justification of this motivation, it
professes two opinions that appear incompatible, indeed, even directly
opposed to each other. But the contrast is easily neutralized by the
ambivalence of the emotions in the fathers. In most races, the hostile
emotions of the fathers have been relegated to the subconscious through
centuries of repression, and only the friendly emotions are now manifest.
Today the natives explain circumcision as a friendly and benevolent
act which is useful and salutary to the boys.
"Thus Ploss and his followers base themselves, in their explanations,
only on the friendly side of this ambivalence, while psychoanalysis
takes both into consideration . . . Accordingly, both sides of this
ambivalence must still be verified today, and it is for this very reason
that it is impossible to advance an explanation that holds only to one
"We shall not spend too much time on the explanation suggested by Otto
Stoll. He sees in circumcision nothing more than one of the many kinds
of tortures to which boys are exposed during their initiation. The sexual
organ is simply another base for bloody mutilation . . . Stoll is quite
alone in this opinion".
It is not possible to place all other tortures on the same plane with
circumcision. Let it be mentioned in passing that every one of the other
forms of torment is separately determined psychically. In regard to
several points Zeller agrees with the explanation suggested by B. Renz;
he establishes the religious standpoint of circumcision and thus occupies
the same ground. Zeller writes again: 'Then there follows the view that
the sexual factor is decisive for the act of circumcision; that it is
a case of the worship of sexuality or fruitfulness'.
"Psychoanalysis does not at all reject such a conception, but does
maintain that it is not the only valid one; because the other side of
the emotional ambivalence must also be taken into consideration ...
"As a result the following interesting fact is determined, that the
more the friendly side of the ambivalence of emotions becomes established,
the more the hostile side is suppressed into the unconscious and the
higher the nation is culturally. The case of Australia is important
as showing a state in which the friendly and hostile sides are still
in the balance, to a certain extent . . The idea of alliance, which
Renz gives as the reason for circumcision, is applicable rather to the
whole initiation, since all those initiated at the same time remain
allied for the rest of their lives. She says that circumcision plays
a part in this alliance in that it furnishes a sign of union. Although
blood brotherhood occurs, as we shall see, still it seems to me that
circumcision cannot be motivated in this way. The idea of alliance is
most marked in Jewish circumcision where it represents the covenant
with the One God. But one must beware of drawing general conclusions
from a circumcision that is more a survival of a former initiation ceremony,
and, moreover, is practiced by a people that is highly advanced culturally."
Nor can Zeller allow circumcision as the original sign of the tribe.
For, since circumcision is so wide-spread, it
would frequently happen that all the neighboring tribes would have
a similar sign. Zeller cannot subscribe to the opinion that circumcision
is a rebirth from the stomach of a spirit, represented by all kinds
of isolation huts, etc., .as Frazer and Renz contend, for the reason
that circumcision appears first and only then does isolation from the
external world follow. The other arguments advanced by Frazer in support
of his rebirth-theory were likewise criticized by Zeller. Instead of
a rebirth, he sees in everything a symbolic killing of the youth during
the act of circumcision. Zeller continues:
"With this conception of circumcision as a symbol of killing I go further
than psychoanalysis. It sees in circumcision only a symbol of castration
and not a killing ... The treatment of the foreskin after circumcision,
as well as other ceremonies, must lead to the view that, besides the
point of castration, circumcision represents also a symbol of death.
It is likewise a sacrifice of the boy and accordingly belongs in the
same class with cutting of the hair, the tooth operation, surgical manipulation
of the lobe of the ear, the septum of the nose, etc.... Very few sources
mention anything about the treatment of the wound. Usually its healing
is left to nature; occasionally the relatives take measures to alleviate
or accelerate recovery. There is a purpose in this absence of treatment
of the wound, for primitive man is very well versed in cures for other
wounds. But if two sources tell us that the wound is not only not treated,
but actually afflicted with unbearable pains, that certainly looks like
(1) Zeller goes too far here. Whoever is acquainted
with the original preparation of foods among primitive people, which
consists or consisted mainly in poisonous plants, would seem justified,
by analogy, in concluding that the women who prepared the food wished
to poison their husbands. That these antiseptics have the effect of
poisons may very well point to the primitive state of therapeutics here,
but does not at all justify drawing the conclusion that Zeller does.
Zeller sums up his suggested psychoanalytical explanation as follows:
"Wherever circumcision is practiced it is always performed during the
years of puberty. In those cases where it is performed during the first
years of the boy's life, a secondary shift of the custom has taken
"Circumcision is a symbol of castration but at the same time also a
symbol of the killing and sacrifice of the whole person.
"The tooth operations signify a sacrifice of the sexual organs and
in a broader sense a sacrifice of the whole person. They are substitutes
for circumcision. The cutting of the hair likewise represents a symbolic
sacrifice of the whole body.
"Tatooing was originally a typical torment and hostile action of the
father toward his son. In the course of time it has developed into a
tribal sign and means of adornment.
"Tortures and torments likewise were originally hostile acts of the
fathers against the boys as a punishment for their unconscious incestuous
lusts and patricidal desires. But as a result of centuries of suppression
the hostile side of the emotional ambivalence of the fathers was thrown
more or less into the unconscious, so that today, in the main, it is
only the friendly side that consciously appears. It explains these tortures
as tests of courage and staunchness, serving to inure the boys against
hardships. Both explanations together possess validity, but one alone
does not. The rites of killing, in which category belong also, besides
the direct symbol of devouring, the indirect symbols of isolation, sleep.
silence, etc., are the requital unconsciously paid the sons by their
fathers for their murderous designs. Wherever the symbolic killing occurs
through a monster or spirit, the men identify themselves with them.
"The spirit presiding over the initiation is in most cases a totem
in the form of a monster or some ancestral figure. It follows from this,
as also from other rites, that the religious factor was originally one
of the chief constituents of every initiation of boys.
"Sacrifices and sacrificial meals usually affect totem animals. By
the transgression of the taboo against killing and eating the totem
animals, a very intimate relationship is thought to arise between the
already initiated and the novices.
"Sexual precepts form a great part of the instructions received by
the youths. Especially incest is strictly forbidden. The reason for
this is to be found in the fear the men have of the boys' desires, the
satisfaction of which could become dangerous to them.
"The instruction in the dance has as its purpose the bringing about
of an identification of the boys with the spirit of the initiation.
"The reappearance of the boys out of isolation in the form of a rebirth
corresponds to the primitive view that the soul of one who is dead may
attain to life again only through the medium of a rebirth, by penetrating
into the body of the new-born individual.
"The initiation of boys in its totality is a great process of suppression
forced upon the boys by the fathers, the accomplishment of which is
necessary for the preservation of the social structure".
The explanation advanced by Zeller has been rejected by ethnologists
We have purposely taken up the subject of the initiations of boys and
the psychoanalytical speculations derived from them at as great length
as possible, since without them the problem of circumcision would have
been elucidated in a very one-sided manner. Circumcision is most intimately
bound up with the initiations of boys into manhood, and thus may not
be torn out of this, its historical connection. Today it constitutes
the chief factor of these initiations. But if, in spite of this, we
do not subscribe to the conception of the psychoanalytic school, it
is for the reason that we believe we can prove that circumcision arose
independently and not out of the
initiation rites, rather as a consequence of them: that it did arise
out of purely physiological and psychological factors that dominate
The latest explanation advanced by Preuss (II) applies only to individual
cases: "At the initiation rites, continued life in the beyond seems
to have been bound up with a long prosperous life on earth as a self-understood
consequence. During the time of the solemnities, the sexual element,
logically leading to death, was marked either during or before sexual
maturity. Circumcisions of the genitalia of any kind whatsoever, so
far as they occur among other peoples, do not necessarily embrace within
themselves any other idea than that of a badge and guarantee that coitus
may take place without the consequence of death".
If a negro is asked why he circumcised himself, he usually gives no
answer because he does not know. In many cases the reason he gives is
an esthetic motive: (Bryk, I, p. 55), it is performed because it is
maridati, because it is beautiful: that is, in a broader sense,
because it has an erotic effect. Even if it is certain that this is
a discernment resulting from the custom of circumcision, this explanation
in itself is of a "magic" nature, because it confuses effect with cause.
Ludolf (Lib. III, c. I) received a similar explanation from the Abyssinian
king Claudius: "Our circumcision, indeed, is performed to follow the
usage of the country, just like cutting into the face in Aethiopia and
Nubia and perforating the ear among the Indians. Moreover, what we do,
we do not do in observation of the Mosaic laws, but rather because of
a human custom".
That is, circumcision is specifically put into a class with artificial
body decorations, ornamental scars or perforations of the ear, and it
is not practiced for religious reasons. Westermarck still conceives
it as being purely esthetic. "The mutilations, after the eye had become
customed to them, gradually ceased to be fascinating and their performance
continued simply as a result of the force of custom or for a religious
reason", until it was neutralized by a new means of stimulation, clothing.
(Westermarck, p. 204.)
On the other hand, many nations that do not circumcise themselves find
the circumcised penis ugly. Antiquity, in its classical works of sculpture,
always emphasizes the long foreskin, and very recently, Doiteau attempted
to obtain proof, on the basis of an official inquiry at which artists
in particular took part, that the penis with the probiscidiform continuation
of the foreskin had a finer esthetic effect than the circumcised penis.
For this reason Doiteau (p. 173, f. 13) even invented a new method of
medicinal circumcision in which this note of the esthetic value of the
undenuded penis was given expression: the circumcised penis is made
to look as much as possible like one that is normal (uncircumcised).
Zacharias, bishop of Chrysopolis, had already explained the circumcision
of the sexual organ in particular with the purpose of making no other
visible organ weak or ugly (ne aliud membrum aut debile fieret aut
turpe, quid publice videretur), and claimed - strangely enough -
to have discovered in the prepuce the seat of the evil passion (...
in parte illa magis dominatur cupiscentia). (Glasberg, p. 214, note
Von Sydow also disavows the esthetic property of the circumcised organ.
Von Sydow (p. 141) is of the opinion that, judging by other artificial
deformations of parts of the human body, as, for example, the perforation
of the ears and lips in order to press rings and blocks into them, some
esthetic insert should be determinable for circumcision as well. Von
Sydow continues: "While these (deformations) serve the purpose of imparting
to the organ in question a specific ornamentation by means of the lip-plug,
etc., that is, to enrich the organ artificially, this point of view
of the esthetic in the treatment of the masculine sexual organ is, with
few exceptions, absolutely unfounded, - it is not a question of embellishment,
but of injury (1) that is applied to it. Certainly this organ, as no
other, is unprepared to serve as the bearer of a specific ornament.
But it, seems really striking that the most important member of the
masculine body is never given any more emphasis than by means of ornamented
or otherwise artistically displayed penis-tops (cf. on penistops F.
Luschan in Mitt. d. Anthr. Ges. Wien, 48 Bd. 1918, S. 67). The Baroque
period of Europe, as it is well known, was not the least bit timid in
making it visible in clothing. If one compares the solicitude usually
exhibited by primitive peoples in the decoration of every one of their
other members with the almost hostile joy they seem to take in the injury
of the phallus, one will readily heed the theory advanced by psychoanalysis
which conceives of circumcision as a self-defence on the part of the
old generation against the incestuous and murderous desires of the new".
(Th. Reik and M. Zeller are quoted.) "We may doubt whether the more
comprehensive problem of primitive rites can be elucidated by this theory
with universal validity. Our more important question at present is the
reason for the constant aversion to emphasizing the masculine organ
by ornamentation. Even if one considers all the puberty rites to be
explained, it still remains unexplained why later on, the older generation
still does not grant itself (that which out of fear, they would like
to suppress in the younger generation), the joy of decorating their
own organs, For what reason is this life-long lack of ornamentation
especially in this, the most important organ of all?
1) The author does not consider the fact that injuries
may be decorative; I mention in this connection simply the widely distributed
decorative scars. (B.)
"We shall content ourselves simply with noticing the
accomplishments of psychoanalysts who in their studies of primitive
peoples have pointed out that the beginning of the suppression of sexuality
is to be found in primitive culture. It is probably to this process
that must be ascribed the particular pertinacity with which the masculine
sexual organ is denied esthetic appreciation, to which, logically considered,
it would have the highest claim".
In discussing the mutilation of teeth (p. 146) von Sydow returns to
the theme just quoted. "These mutilations of the teeth, which sometimes
are of very wide compass, bring us back again to circumcision. For they
have this in common, that, in great measure, they mean no enrichment
esthetically, but rather the contrary. Tooth and phallus stand in a
particularly intimate relationship, the tooth symbolizing the masculine
organ in dreams. (Freud: "Traumdeutung", ges. Schr. III, 103 ff.) If
we have found ourselves forced to see in circumcision the manifestation
of suppression, then we have every reason now to argue a similar motive
as the intrinsic and universal reason for these tooth mutilations: In
both cases the antipathy against the sexual is expressed in so radical
a manner as to allow only the consideration of life and death".
The esthetic (erotic) instinct does not rest; and in the end, with
the spread of the custom of tattooing, the glans is also drawn into
the sphere of those parts of the body to be decorated. Gerland, Joest
and Adachi, as well as others, report this. Penis-cases are also worn
for similar motives.
According to Gerland (Waitz) it is remarkable "that the Polynesians
are uncommonly modest in regard to the glans, and still they are accustomed
to expose it by slitting the foreskin and (e.g. in Tonga) to tattoo
the glans thus exposed".
Gerland maintains that at the bottom of this dread of the sight of
the glans is not modesty but religiousness; this part was taboo and
the sight of it an offence. Gerland is of the opinion that the glans
was considered a pre eminent life-dispensing member, just as the navel
(which is also tabooed) is considered the point of departure of life,
and that it was for this reason that the part was originally provided
with a picture or sign of the god.
"The foreskin was slit up in order not to hide the life dispensing
part of the body, which was particularly holy to the gods; but it was
probably much later, when the Polynesian peculiarity had been strongly
developed, that it was tied up again in order to withdraw from the gaze
of mankind, that portion which on account of its holiness was strictly
taboo (i.e., belonged to the gods), in order to prevent a breach of
1) Among the inhabitants of Nukahiwa the foreskin is
drawn over the glans and tied up with a string (cf. U. Lisiansky, p.
Waitz remarks on this in a footnote: "Jewish circumcision as well is
to be conceived of in essentially the same manner. The connection here
is clearly seen: the life dispensing organ is consecrated to God for
the promised offspring".
Joest (p. 66) likewise mentions that the genitalia are tattooed. Adachi
(p. 356) tells of the case of a Japanese dice-player who had on his
glans three small, blue points which, during erection, turned out to
be three flies. He was particularly proud of this ornament because he
had it tattooed on while his penis was in a state of erection.
Why or how it is that the exposed glans is considered to have an esthetic
advantage will be seen in the treatment of the phallic motive. However,
let it be mentioned here, that the circumcised are often not unwilling
to display their genitalia. I repeatedly saw circumcised Sebeyi conversing
with women with the penis unconcernedly hanging out of their "togas".
And according to John-
ston this kind of exhibitionism is even considered the right thing
to do among the Massai (Westermarck, p. 187).
K. Th. Preuss has derived a new explanation for circumcision of a purely
magical nature from the tattooing of the glans: "Let us first examine
the case of tattooing of the sexual parts-and we must also include in
this category those parts of the body in the immediate vicinity of the
sexual organs, from the thigh to the navel. In the first place it is
necessary that we free ourselves altogether from the idea that primitive
man looked upon this natural, animal function, which is almost as usual
as metabolism, as correspondingly self-understood and natural. For all
magical puberty rites that we know are all primarily directed toward
the sexual act. And it is significant that, immediately before coitus,
purifications - evidently for the intensification of the magical power
- take place. The act then was something magical, not only on account
of the condition of excitement connected with it, but also on account
of the results of cohabitation.
"Consequently, when we find the sexual parts tattooed, we must think
of all the magical effects of the sexual orifices and particularly,
of course, of the 'magic' of the procreation of children, that are to
be imparted all at once at the time of puberty. And if the belief was
not present that the youth received this magical power entirely through
these ceremonies, there was at least the idea that the latent magical
properties had to be awakened and intensified by adjuvant magical means
to function. All at once the various kinds of circumcision all over
the world become clear. Even today it is here and there expressly stated
by the natives that it helps in the procreation of children".
Even the "timidity toward the prima nox" was connected with
Quite peculiar, even though in the sense of a physi-
ological explanation, is the interpretation of Dr. Jacobus X. - -,
who places the considerable length of the negro penis in a certain dependent
relationship to circumcision.
Exact figures on the length of the penis of negroes are given by the
French physician Jacobus X . . . In spite of its considerable length
(Jacobus X... therefore terms these "truly fearful machines the terror
of all black women") the penis is comparatively weak when erected, nor
does it ever become as hard as that of the European, Hindu and Chinese,
but rather remains as soft as black, elastic caoutehouk.
Dr. Jacobus X . . . considers circumcision a probable cause of such
hypertrophy of the penis. Karsch (p. 123) remarks on this: "Since, however,
circumcision is also customary among many peoples, without giving rise
to anything similar, the decisive influence will have to be ascribed
to race character".
According to Jacobus X... only a small amount of sebaceous smegma is
found under the foreskin of the negro; he does not say whether cleanliness
or a physiological peculiarity is the cause of it. The as yet uncircumcised
foreskin of the negro forms a pad in front of the glans. We have already
mentioned the defenders of the Cuibono-consideration who always
scent some idea of utility behind every human institution. They place
utility in the foreground; it determines circumcision which has the
purpose of prophylactically preventing various diseases (Phimosis, gonorrhoea
of the glans, balanitis, etc.). The explanation of Michaelis and Sachtleben
goes even further, seeing in circumcision a preventative and cure of
masturbation. Michaelis (p. 39) learned from an anonymous "knower of
nature" that circumcision prevented masturbation ... that onanism was
presumably too painful for one who was circumcised. Referring to this
wholesome state Michaelis asks: "why God in the New Testament had abolished
such a beneficent commandment
which prescribed the preventative for such a terrible depravity, one
that certainly could not be prevented by the greatest care on the part
of parents and guardians, and why he had not rather made it universal
through the Christian religion? or why he had not created our nature
better in the first place, and made it a rule with human beings, what
was now only an occasional exception, to be born without the projecting
1) This consideration reminds us of the question of
the skeptics (Origines) and the one put to Rabbi Hosaiah (according
to Beraschith Raba, Chap. II), why Adam had not been born without the
foreskin in the first place. "Man," was the answer of the sage, must
perfect himself and make himself what he should be by nature." Moreover,
Darwin has already called attention to the fact that in spite of thousands
of years of circumcision, the Jews still come into the world with the
foreskin. A clear thinker who is acquainted with the nature of heredity
can see no reason for circumcision being hereditary. Such a thought
could have come only from one whose thinking is prelogical. (B.)
But Michaelis, after lengthy consideration, doubts the efficiency
of circumcision as a preventitive against masturbation, not knowing
"whether I should readily believe that there are perhaps several varieties
of onanism (2) that become painful to one who is circumcised".
2) Michaelis seems to know of several modes of masturbation
which he calls "the sin of the apes." Why not of human beings? Manustupration
was not observed in apes in nature and is probably a result of their
Sachtleben (p. 107) is even more apodictic than Michaelis in respect
to the effectiveness of circumcision. He writes (p. 103): "circumcision
- as a preventitive and cure of onanism - may be performed not only
on children, but also youths and even adults without any danger to life
or any other disadvantage to health ... Circumcision is probably very
much more powerful and perhaps the most effective of all means ... The
pain (3) involved in the onanism or manustupration of those who are
circumcised is much too severe not to outweigh the pleasure combined
with the act. But this pain must be all the greater and inevitable the
more sensitive the tip of the glans is -the corona glandis- and
the higher the tension caused by the shortened foreskin in erection,
as it resists the pleasurable friction of the glans".
3) Sachtleben refers to Michaelis` anonymous authority.
He calls this quite untenable conception "my favorite hypothesis".
In the year 1842 this fantastic conception still stalks abroad. The
Frenchman Lallemand (p. 161) saw in circumcision a useful cure "for
involuntary seminal emissions", and for that reason himself introduced
circumcision against pollutions.
Also according to Jacobus X ... the circumcised negro seems to tend
less toward onanism than the uncircumcised. According to this author
masturbation very seldom occurs among the Senegal negroes.
"The friction of the very sensitive mucous membrane of the glans of
the circumcised organ requires a considerably longer time for a seminal
ejaculation in copulation. Only the uncircumcised Senegal boy masturbates
by drawing out the foreskin to a considerable length. But if he is circumcised
he considers masturbation opprobrious; moreover he now has women enough
to satisfy his sexual desires". (Karsch, p. 170.)
The statement that circumcised people do not masturbate or cannot even
masturbate is absolutely false. Manustupration is wide-spread among
the Jews (compare the blessing of the mohel,), the same is true
of the Islamitic Indians, among whom it is called "jalakh" and
is usually performed by plucking the frenulum about until the orgasm
sets in, which circumcised Arians also do in Europe. Also a circumcised
negro (Sebeyi) masturbated in my presence. Moreover, the Talmud forbids
onanism in men and women. (Wunderbar, p. 27.) Danz, in his effort to
disprove Sächtleben is guilty of exaggeration in the opposite direction
when he maintains that circumcision even encourages manustupration.
He makes the observation that "children who by nature had a short foreskin
and relatively exposed glans become manustuprists".(1)
1) As a matter of fact, it was as a result of masturbation
that they had drawn back the foreskin and exposed the glans. (B.)
He states that circumcision rather gives occasion for
onanism instead of preventing it. Salomon is of a similar opinion,
and he was circumcised himself.
Salomon (p. 26) not only does not believe that masturbation is made
impossible by circumcision, but that "on the contrary it is to be assumed
that as a result of the greater accessibility of the denuded glans,
and the stronger friction to which it is exposed, the sensation is intensified
and onanism only furthered although the objection could again be made
that the glans, having been exposed since childhood, must have suffered
a considerable loss of sensitivity. However, the results, in respect
to the prevalence of this evil, have shown no material advantages, and
thus the law of circumcision seems to have no connection with onanism".
And now we have the suggestion propounded by Tessman (pp. 99-101),
which is magical and based on a mimetic motive (like that of Philo):
in this case the serpent. The negro or primitive man endeavored to make
his sexual organ similar to the holy beast, with which he identified
"The religious motives for circumcision are more manifest, and, moreover,
are advanced as arguments by many peoples. It is generally insisted
by the Pangweh that better 'appearance' (1) had induced them to it,
but how did they come to think it 'appeared' better, when the organ
was circumcised? The answer may be derived from the thought of the 'first
man' explained on page 26 to excuse his sexual sin with the serpent,
and from the assumption that they wished to emphasize still more strongly
the similarity between the penis and the serpent by means of circumcision.
The old Jewish expression, that circumcision was a covenant with God,
could be said to be most appropriate, for since God had sent the serpent,
from whom all sin comes, there is actually a connection, a covenant
set up between the two. Since they arise from
1) The negroes themselves here gave Tessman an esthetic
similar views, circumcision and cults coincide among many negroes,
so that one may actually speak of circumcision festivals. Among the
Pangweh this is not the case, circumcision being performed quite independently
of the cults and in public".
According to Tessmann the serpent is simply the personification of
the penis, as can be seen from this Pangweh riddle:
"ebo nkok, e mine fe, i'
Rotten, fallen tree-stump
into which creeps a rhinoceros-snake".(1)
1) Bitis nasicornis Shaw.
I called Tessmann's explanation magical because, just like primitive
man, he concludes the origin, the motive, from the effect. The whole
serpent cult may be derived from a similar prelogical combination On
account of the external similarity of the serpent with the phallus they
were often confused and the serpent cult could in this manner be connected
with the phallus cult, of which it is the derivative and imitation;
as a result of this it was believed that the ancestor slept in the serpent
and visited the woman in this form: "One finds this conviction among
the Nandi of Africa who kill snakes, but spare those that sleep near
the bed(2) of a woman.
2) The Nandl do not sleep in a bed, but on cow-hides.
"It is always welcome and milk is offered it."(3) A pregnancy, that
is, a birth is expected as a result of its visit". (Harnik, Rolett.)
3) When I sojourned among the Nandi for several months,
the following was told about giant snakes, "If the serpent "gjalagvit"
is given no beer, it devours people. If a moran (circumcised man) is
going to the dance and catches sight of it at the root of a tree, he
runs away. Then the old men (boyot) come with a pan of beer; it drinks
up the beer, sleeps for two days and then goes its way." (B.)
Stekel (p. 111) remarks: "The serpent is perhaps the best known phallic
symbol that there is. The word for penis in the primitive language of
the Suaheli women
(German East Africa(1)) is the same as that of serpent".(2)
1) This has now become British East Africa. (Trans.)
2) Even today among the Italians lt is called now anguilla
(eel), now serpente (serpent), now pesce (fish) (Majocchi, p. 443).
Stekel calls attention to a piece of sculpture from New Guinea in
the Berlin Ethnological Museum that represents a woman out of whose
vaginal orifice a small, round snake with a small head very much like
a penis peeps out. (Stekel, p. 60.)
"This is probably the most frequent symbol of the penis, but it can
also stand for the feminine genitalia, (p. 60.)
"The serpent is an exquisite masculine sex symbol and represents the
phallus. It can also be used for the feminine organs, since all symbols
Modern oneiroscopy gives a phallic interpretation to dreams of snakes,
which are no rarity among women.(3) (Stekel, p. 111.)
3) Stekel tells the case of a woman who was terrified
by a very large snake (erect penis He states that the umbrella ( 1).
21) is also a phallic symbol, and that the broken or cut handle of an
umbrella is an allusion to circumcision!
The erect penis has always had the effect of growing, fructifying life
on the power and realm of human imagination and was therefore worshipped
everywhere as the phallus. Circumcision is beyond doubt intimately bound
up with this worship. Vatke, (p. 380) says: "Even circumcision could
have emanated from the Syrian and Phoenician cult, or at least have
become attached (4) to it very easily without the androgynous conception
of the nature of the god having been fundamental. For since the sexual
function was considered the main factor in the divine life, and the
sexual organ, as the phallus cult shows, holy, there could easily have
become attached to it the conception of total or partial sacrifice of
it, and one need hardly assume that later circumcision was a substitute
for previous customary castration, in the sense of the priests of Cybele
4) "The probable origin of circumcision can be determined
only from a view fundamentally similar to this, since other motives,
fruitfulness or cleanliness, cannot stand strict tests." 179
Further investigations have made valuable contributions not only in
demonstrating the phallic cult among the Israelites, but also in showing
that circumcision was dependent on it. Benzinger (p. 121) considers
circumcision "a means whereby was expressed the concept of consecration
to the life producing power of nature (Ishtar-Ashtoreth, Tammuz-Adonis,
etc.). Consonant with this is the fact that among most peoples circumcision
is connected with marriage. Also in Israel, it was originally not the
children but the marriageable youths who were circumcised. (Joshua,
5, 2-9, Gen. 34, 4-25.) That is, it was originally in no way connected
with the Yahweh cult among the Israelites".(1)
1) My emphasis. It is important that this discovery
finally penetrate the consciousness of authors dealing with the material
treated here, in order that once and for all the former speculative,
uncritical statement of the monotheistic origin of circumcision be scrapped,
and it be finally recognized that it obviously is derived from phallic
We have already discussed the relations between the serpent and the
prepuce, The Cabalists say: "The foreskin comes from the first serpent
which seduced Adam and Eve". "The serpent shall eat earth. The foreskin
is mecach hannachasch hakadmoni, i.e., of the power of the first
serpent, therefore the foreskin must be given to the serpent again to
eat". (Bodenschatz, p. 67.) -Also "to the tribe of Levi was ascribed
extensive ophidian descent, and indeed, its totem was a serpent" (Majocchi,
It is no matter of chance that it was the very tribe of Levi, which,
according to Preuss, retained circumcision although the others had long
before abolished it. More on the phallic cult of the Jews may be found
Karsch says on this (pp. 158-159): "According to H. H. Johnston's description
the phallic cult is probably nowhere so open and general in Africa as
it is at Stanley Pool. In the forests there are wonderful temples of
straw and wood containing the phallic symbol. So far as the
guarantor could determine there were no really lascivious ceremonies
connected with the phallic worship, at least the symbols were in the
eyes of the natives mere objects of veneration. The boys taking part
in initiation festivals are circumcised, and at the consecration, which
is a phallic service, apparently only men are present. They are called
inkimba, and are boys of fourteen and men to forty years of age.
They form a sort of Freemason society in which there are certain pass-words
or signs and also a kind of secret language, as in the case of certain