The word holiness (qodesh) in primitive Hebrew usage partook of the nature of taboo, and came to be applied to whatever, whether thing or person, stood in close relation to deity and belonged to him, and could not, therefore, be used or treated like other objects not so related, and so was separated or stood apart.
The system of taboo was connected with their religious rites.
Disease and death were often connected with the violation of taboo, the offended gods thus punishing the offenders.
When Vancouver visited the islands in 1792, he left sheep and neat cattle, 3 protected by a ten years' taboo, and laid down the keel of a European ship for Kamehameha.
(2) Things were made taboo by being dedicated to the god; and it is this form of taboo which is still kept up. If, e.g., any one wishes to preserve his coco-nuts from being taken, he will put something upon the trees to indicate that they are sacred or dedicated.
There are various other subjects and occasions of taboo, but the institution has not the oppressive and all-pervading character which it has in Polynesia.
Its first beginnings are seen in the imitative tendencies of animals by which the young of one generation acquire some of the habits of their parents, and by which gregarious and social animals acquire a community of procedure ensuring the advantage of the group. " Taboo," the systematic imposition by the community of restrictions upon the conduct of the individual, is one of its earliest manifestations in primitive man and can be observed even in animal communities.
In such cases the holiness or taboo (q.v.) is traditional, or anyhow not imparted at a given moment by human intervention.
There were two ways by which things might become taboo: (I) by contact with anything belonging to the god, as his visible representation or his priest.
It is the note of every great religious reformer, Moses, Buddha, Paul, Mani, Mahomet, St Francis, Luther, to enlighten and direct it to higher aims, substituting a true personal holiness for a ritual purity or taboo, which at the best was viewed as a kind of physical condition and contagion, inherent as well in things and animals as in man.
Primary and secondary senses of the term between them cover so much ground that it is not surprising to find taboo used in Polynesia as a name for the whole system of religion, founded as it largely is on prohibitions and abstinences.
One spell is stronger than another, one taboo more inviolable than another.
The food that is taboo must only be consumed by persons who are equally taboo or pure.
Cursing is, equally with consecration, a taboo imposed on a thing or person.
The spirits also sometimes inhabit certain birds or fishes, which are then taboo, as food, to the family; but they will help to catch them for others.
Thus too it comes that the chiefs, and all belonging to them, are taboo as regards the common people.
The ripening coco-nuts are taboo as long as the breadfruit lasts, thus securing the former for future use; or it is put on after a death, and the nuts thus saved are given to the family - a kindness to them, and a mark of respect for the dead.
Such abstinences as the above, though based on taboo, that is, on a reluctance to eat the totem or sacred animal, are yet ascetic in so far as they involve much self-denial.
Primitive religions are like so many similar beads on a string; and the concern of the student of comparative religion is at this stage mainly with the nature of the string, to wit, the common conditions of soul and society that make, say, totemism, or taboo, very much the same thing all the savage world over, when we seek to penetrate to its essence.
Altogether, in mana we have what is par excellence the primitive religious idea in its positive aspect, taboo representing its negative side, since whatever has mana is taboo, and whatever is taboo has mana.
There were many curious examples of the taboo with regard to actions connected with royalty, and also in the words used which relate to Malagasy sovereigns and their surroundings.
That which is taboo, for instance, the person of the king, or woman's blood, is poison or medicine according as it is manipulated, being inherently just n potentiality for wonder-working in any direction.
Jevons (in An Introduction to the History of Religion, vii.) distinguishes between " things taboo," which have the mystic contagion inherent in them, and " things tabooed," to which the taboo-infection has been transmitted.
(1908), the story had its origin in a rite - the taboo of military spoils, which led to their being heaped up on consecrated ground that they might not be touched.
Sometimes it is a "taboo" which has been broken and gives Death power over man.
Usually some custom or " taboo " is represented as having been broken, when death has followed.
The official policy of Baron Kallay, for 20 years the administrator of Bosnia, was to taboo the name of Serb in the hope of creating a distinct " Bosnian " nationality.
Primitive Semitic customs recognize that when persons are laid under a ban or taboo (herem) restrictions are imposed on contact with them, and that the breach of these involves supernatural dangers.
In New Ireland a carved chalk figure of the deceased, indicating the sex, is procured, and entrusted to the chief of a village, who sets it up in a funeral hut in the middle of a large taboo house adorned with plants.
It may be noted in consecration how nicely the taboo or contagion, whether of holiness or unholiness, can be localized.
Performances in German are under a popular taboo, and they are never given in a theatre at Budapest.
Under the category of religious observances may perhaps come those held previously to the departure of the great trading or lakatoi fleet: their taboo-proclaiming customs, their ceremonial and sacred initiation ceremonies for boys and girls on reaching puberty, when masks are worn and the "bull-roarer" swung, as also the harvest festivals, at which great trophies of the produce of field and forest are erected, preparatory to a big feast enlivened with music and dancing.
The primitive notion that perhaps comes nearest to our " sacred," whilst it immediately underlies the meanings of the Latin sacer and sanctus, is that of a taboo, a Polynesian term for which equivalents can be quoted from most savage vocabularies.