Mr. Darwin says (" Descent of Man," n, 369) that in not one single country from the polar regions in the north to the confines of New Zealand in the south, was tattooing unknown among the aborigines; and the practice, as we are informed by history, was consistently followed not only by the Assyrians, Thraeians, Egyptians and other races of the East, but by the primitive inhabitants of both America and Britain.
The mischief and havoc wnieh blondes have created in all ages of the world is historical. AppoUonius tells us that Jason's golden hair was what captivated Medea, ("Jasonia flava coma incendit cor Medea;"); that Castor and Pollux, who wrought such devastation with the ladies in their time, were both yellow-haired, as were also Patroclus and Achilles; and Leland praises Ginthera, King Arthur's wife, for her beautiful blonde tresses. Homer does the same for Helen; Venus is pictured as a blonde; so arc Queen Dido, Paris, and Menelaus. Our Savior Himself, "fairest among ten thousand," is represented in the old paintings as having long, golden-brown ringlets, and it is said (Plin. 1-37-3) that Sabina Poppsa's amber-colored hair set the fashion for all Rome in Nero's day.
The fashions in this art were too numerous to even mention in a work of this character, there being no portion of the human body, except the eyeballs, which escaped the disfiguring custom.
The Small-Bird tribe of the Omahas left "a little hair in front to represent a bill, some behind the head for a tail, and a portion on either side as wings;" and the sub-elan of the Turtles had the hair somewhat similarly arranged, to represent the legs, head and tail of the titulary animal. Several of the Indian tribes have their totems tattooed on their bodies, and others, the figures of various animals, which Mr. Frazer judges to be remnants of the totem marks.1 This practice of tattooing, while admittedly a mark of clanship, had nevertheless, according to the best authorities, its origin in the idea of personal decoration.' Some other customs had reference to religion, such as that of the Pelew Islanders who believed that perforating the septum of the nose was necessary to eternal happiness; and that of the Nicaraguans who, in flattening their children's heads, did so, as they claim, at the express command of their gods.'
The Greenlanders believed that if their girls were not ornamented by stitches of black thread between the eyes, and on the forehead and chin, they would be turned into drip-tubs in the land of souls, and placed under the lamps to catch the drip.' The natives of New Andalusia, and the Pelew Islands, have their teeth blackened, as an indispensable mark of beauty; those of the Philippines and Japan, red, from betel chewing; and in Africa and Australia a few of the front teeth are knocked out in infancy, as a mark of personal distinction. In fact, fashion, all over the world, is largely a matter of the view-point; and when we feel inclined to laugh at the young Bunjogee buck, with a splinter of rock stuck through his nose, and his kinky topknot swelled to enormous dimensions by a big ball of black cotton, there is not such a startling difference after all between him and the modern young lady, with her beauty patch and "pompadour-rat,"—at least in the mere grotesqueness of fashion.
Both recall to one's mind very forcibly the remark of the Congo negro to his boy, when the European missionary, with his long black coat and high hat, hove into view—"now look out, pickaninny—if you don't be good the oboe-man will make you look just like that!"
In the Tenimber Group, the boyB decorate their hair with leaves, flowers and grasses, to please the girls, as they begin to feel the sexual craving; but before puberty, and after the marrying age, the men's hair is cropped short. In Australia, a girl is painted at her first menstruation, the period when she is ready for the copulative act; and in Equatorial Africa she is rubbed with black, red, and white paint, in the course of a public ceremony which attends the same interesting period, and which Reade very consistently associates with the Phallic practices of Egypt and Chaldea.1
It ia well known that the worship of Baal Peor among the Hebrews, of Lingam in India, of Priapus at Rome, and of Phallus in Syria, Egypt and Greece, was founded on similar principles, and celebrated with similar rites. Whether the Hindus borrowed it from Egypt, or the latter from them, is immaterial at present; but in the ceremony referred to, as well as in many others found scattered throughout Central Africa, it U not difficult to trace, not only evidences of early intercourse between Africa and Egypt, but that wholesale prostitution which, under the garb of religion, once reigned like a mistress from the Ganges to the Nile.
Since the god could not descend from his pedestal to take, personally, the immense crop of maidenheads offered to him daily, it had to be done by proxy; and in the discharge of this delicate duty the priests found their chiefest and pleasantest occupation. The maiden was of course dressed and decorated for the occasion; and from the customs observed, no doubt, are derived many of those common not only to Africa, but in Brazil, and other South and Central American communities, where the girl, as soon as she is ready to be courted, is painted about the eyes and subjected to various other ceremonials.
When Mertens asked the natives of Lukanor what tattooing signified among them, one replied—"it has the same object aa your clothes, to please the women;"1 and Bancroft informs us * that young Kadiak wives "secure the affection of their husbands by tattooing their breasts, and adorning their faces with black lines."
In Samoa, great licentiousness and prostitution were associated with the practice of tattooing; and the "matai," in preparing the young girl for the embraces of her husband, did not hesitate to take his toll occasionally as she passed through his hands. Indeed, I fear there are not many professing Christians who, manipulating the naked body of an amorously inclined young lady—which the Samoan girls proverbially are—for days, and even weeks together, would prove much better or stronger than the poor " matai," In Tahiti, the chiefs had finally to prohibit tattooing entirely, on account of the obscene practices by which it came in time to be surrounded;' and its obscenity is not strange, when we consider that it had its origin in a divine source, as had tattooing itself. The leeend is as follows:
The god, Taaroa, had a daughter named Hinae-reeremonoi. In order to preserve her chastity she was made " pahio," and confined in a fenced enclosure, attended only by her mother. Her brothers, captivated by her beauty, wanted to seduce her (they were not at all conventional in those days), and strove by every means in their power to woo her from the care of her mother. Finally, one brother invented the tattoo mark, Taomaro, and decorating themselves with it they capered before her.
It was too much for the maiden's virtue; she broke the enclosure, " flew the coop " as it were; and the young rascals accomplished the purpose which, we shrewdly suspect, was not such a difficult matter after all.'
Thus the sons of Taaroa became the gods of tattooing; their images were kept in the temples of those who practised the art; and it would be unreasonable to suppose that, in perpetuating its outward observance, the sentiment which first inspired it should be entirely neglected; so we find that, at every step of the tattooer's progress, prayers were breathed to the lascivious young gods to make the operation successful, and as fraught with pleasure to the subject as it had been to the gods themselves.'
It is quite probable that a similar motive lay at the bottom of both painting and tattooing the body. The former very likely antedated the latter, tattooing being resorted to as a means of making permanent the aesthetic decorations of painting. Even Europeans, and civilized Americans, cannot help admitting that tattooing does improve the savage appearance. Beechey asserts as much concerning the Gambier Islanders; and Yate remarks that "nothing can excel the beautiful regularity with which the faces and thighs of the New Zealanders are tattooed."'
All the facts go to show that this, as well as every other species of self-decoration, or mutilation, was intended to stimulate the sexual desire of the opposite sex. Probably its first idea—for it seems strange to us that piercing the lips, or nose-septum, or coloring the body, should be resorted to as a mere piece of coquetry—wag to attract.attention, just as with our modern young lady the beauty patch, or artificial dimple, is intended to supplement the graces of nature with the charm of novelty.
In explanation of an anomaly which has been currently remarked, that among savage races it is man who resorts most frequently to the arts of personal adornment, not woman, it may be stated that among savage races it is man only who runs the risk of being condemned to celibacy. Woman may be a slave, a beast of burden, and kneel, as Mr. Macdonald says she does in Central Africa, to the lord of creation in addressing him, but she rarely fails in securing a husband. Hence she pays little attention to her personal appearance, knowing she possesses a secret charm which will land her victim at any time, and it is man who has to do the hustling to keep himself up to par as a masculine beauty.