Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 257
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 257
 
4. Names of Kings and other Sacred Persons tabooed
 
  WHEN we see that in primitive society the names of mere commoners, whether alive or dead, are matters of such anxious care, we need not be surprised that great precautions should be taken to guard from harm the names of sacred kings and priests. Thus the name of the king of Dahomey is always kept secret, lest the knowledge of it should enable some evil-minded person to do him a mischief. The appellations by which the different kings of Dahomey have been known to Europeans are not their true names, but mere titles, or what the natives call “strong names.” The natives seem to think that no harm comes of such titles being known, since they are not, like the birth-names, vitally connected with their owners. In the Galla kingdom of Ghera the birth-name of the sovereign may not be pronounced by a subject under pain of death, and common words which resemble it in sound are changed for others. Among the Bahima of Central Africa, when the king dies, his name is abolished from the language, and if his name was that of an animal, a new appellation must be found for the creature at once. For example, the king is often called a lion; hence at the death of a king named Lion a new name for lions in general has to be coined. In Siam it used to be difficult to ascertain the king’s real name, since it was carefully kept secret from fear of sorcery; any one who mentioned it was clapped into gaol. The king might only be referred to under certain high-sounding titles, such as “the august,” “the perfect,” “the supreme,” “the great emperor,” “descendant of the angels,” and so on. In Burma it was accounted an impiety of the deepest dye to mention the name of the reigning sovereign; Burmese subjects, even when they were far from their country, could not be prevailed upon to do so; after his accession to the throne the king was known by his royal titles only.
  Among the Zulus no man will mention the name of the chief of his tribe or the names of the progenitors of the chief, so far as he can remember them; nor will he utter common words which coincide with or merely resemble in sound tabooed names. In the tribe of the Dwandwes there was a chief called Langa, which means the sun; hence the name of the sun was changed from langa to gala, and so remains to this day, though Langa died more than a hundred years ago. Again, in the Xnumayo tribe the word meaning “to herd cattle” was changed from alusa or ayusa to kagesa, because u-Mayusi was the name of the chief. Besides these taboos, which were observed by each tribe separately, all the Zulu tribes united in tabooing the name of the king who reigned over the whole nation. Hence, for example, when Panda was king of Zululand, the word for “a root of a tree,” which is impando, was changed to nxabo. Again, the word for “lies” or “slander” was altered from amacebo to amakwata, because amacebo contains a syllable of the name of the famous King Cetchwayo. These substitutions are not, however, carried so far by the men as by the women, who omit every sound even remotely resembling one that occurs in a tabooed name. At the king’s kraal, indeed, it is sometimes

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