Experts have been unable to understand the origin of the practice of routine male circumcision. Most of the literature shows no awareness of phimosis - its frequency - or the sexual and erectile problems which can be cured by circumcision. If routine circumcision had been introduced for this most obvious reason of eliminating difficult foreskins; then the importance of an alternative modern method, suitable to our culture's attitudes in this day and age, would be clear.

updates and supporting education on new site :

Religion and Ethics

M.A., D.D.






First Impression ... 1910
Latest Impression ... 1971



Disposal of the ablated prepuce.
Tabued foods.
Instruments employed.
Who are circumcised.
Who circumcise.
Where performed, and in whose presence.
Age when circumcision is performed.
Effect on legal and social status.
In connexion with other initiation rites.
Opposition to circumcision.
Origins and motives of circumcision.
Preparation for sexual life.
Obviation of peril from sexual relations.
Test of endurance.
Tribal mark.
Sanctification of the generative faculties.
Social distinction.
To increase sexual pleasure.
Connected with belief in re-incarnation.
Mark of Subjection.


p. 659

Introductory (L. H. GRAY), p. 659.
American (L. SPENCE), p. 670.
Egyptian (G. FOUCART), p. 670.
Muslim (D.S. MARGOLIOUTH), p. 677.
Semitic (G.A. BARTON), p. 679.

CIRCUMCISION (Introductory).-The term 'circumcision' is applied, in its strict sense, to a wide-spread surgical operation for the ablation of the male prepuce, and also, with a looser connotation, to simple incision of the prepuce, or even to two operations on the female genitals - clitoridectomy and ablation of the labia minora (the so-called 'female circumcision'). The operation on males is very common, not only among many primitive peoples as well as among some which have attained a high degree of civilization, but even in modern surgery, where it is, of course, performed solely for sanitary and therapeutic reasons - an explanation which, though not uncommonly urged, is not wholly satisfactory in accounting for its ultimate origin or for its practice among primitive races. The corresponding female operation is far more rare, both surgically and as a rite.

ANATOMICAL ASPECTS.-The male prepuce is a loose fold of skin, lined on the inner side with mucous membrane, covering the glans penis, at whose base (the corona glandis) it is attached to the penis ; while on the under side of the organ it has a further union with the glans by a fold termed the fraenum praeputii. On the corona glandis open the glandulae odoriferae,which generate a sebaceous secretion called smegma praeputii In modern surgery the necessity for circumcision arises chiefly in case of phimosis, a condition, whether congenital or acquired, in which the prepuce cannot be retracted so as to uncover the glans (this condition often giving rise to retention of urine, balanitis from accumulation of smegma, calculous concentrations, impotence, prolapsus ani, cancer of the penis, balanoposthitis, and other complaints), or in hypertrophy of the prepuce.

In its characteristic form the operation of circumcision consists in drawing forward the prepuce (with proper precaution as by a shield to prevent any incision of the glans) which, when sufficiently protracted, is amputated, the flow of blood, which is relatively slight, being checked by some styptic. Among primitive peoples as well as among Jews and Muhammadans, the wound is then permitted to heal ; but in modern surgical practice a more complete operation is performed.

After the ablation has been effected, it will be found that the surgeon has removed only a circle of skin, while the mucous membrane lining the prepuce still tightly embraces the glans; this he slits up, by introducing the point of a pair of scissors at the preputial orifice; and then, trimming off the angles of the flaps of mucous membrane, and sometimes snipping, across the fraenum, he turns back the mucous membrane, and attaches it to the edge of the cutaneous incision by sutures, usually of silk or catgut. Union readily takes place by simple dressing.

The physiological change arising from circumcision, apart from obviation of the dangers of phimosis or the inconvenience of hypertrophy is that the mucous membrane covering the glans becomes obdurated and approximates the character of epidermis, thus lessening liability to venereal and other infections.

MALE CIRCUMCISION.-(a) Geography.-Disregarding modern surgical circumcision, which, being entirely sanitary and therapeutic in purpose, does not here concern us, the operation may be said to be almost world-wide, with the exception of Europe and non-Semitic Asia. The Indo-Germanic peoples, the Mongols, and the Finno-Ugric races (except where they have been influenced by Muhammadanism) alone are entirely unacquainted with it. (1) It can scarcely have been practised in pre-Aryan India (obviously we have no data, regarding pre Indo-Germanic Europe), for there in no allusion to it in Sanscrit literature and no trace of it in modern India, even among peoples untouched by Hindu civilization. The custom is best known popularly from the Semites, especially the Hebrews and Muhammadans, as well as from the ancient Egyptians and Colchians (the latter, according to Herodotus [ii. 104 f.], closely akin to the Egyptians), while something analogous was practised by some American Indians (for all these see the following sections). lt is also

1) As a mere curiosity, mention may be made, in this connection, of the very probable Tradition, reported by Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. i. 130), that Pythagoras, while in Egypt, underwent circumcision that he might be reckoned among the higher classes, and be initiated into the esoteric wisdom of the Egyptians.

p. 660 col. a

observed, at various ages, among many African and Polynesian peoples, who will here be particularly considered.

A convenient summary of the geographical distribution of non-Semitic circumcision is given by Andree (AA xiii. 74): 'Die Westkuste (von Afrika) nebst Hinterländern gehört ihr- geringe Unterbrechungen ausgenomrnen-vom Senegal bis Bennguella. Die Kaffernvölker mit Ausnahme der Zulu beschneiden, ebenso fast alle Ostafrikaner, die Galle jedoch ausgenomrnen. Sie herrscht auf Madagaskar, bei den christlichen Abessinier, Bogos und Kopten. Im Herzen des schwarzen Erdltheils ist sie von den Monbuttu und Akka geübt. Fast alle Eingeborenen des australischen Continente, die Sudwestecke ausgenommen, haben die Beschneidung; sie kommt vor in Melanesien, die Papuas von Neu-Guinea abgerechnet. Unter den Polynesiern fehlt sie den Maori. Vereinzelt ist sie bei nord-, mittel- und südamerikanischen Stämmen anzutreffen. Nach einer flüchtigen Schätzung sind es 200 Millionen Menschen, der siebenter Theil aller, die sie ausüben.'

(translation: RS: 'Circumcision is practiced throughout the West-coast of Afrika including inland areas, with few breaks except between Senegal and Bennguella. The Kaffernvölker circumcise excepting the Zulu, likewise almost all East-Africans, excepting the Galle. The custom predominates in Madagaskar, among the Christian Abysinians, Bogos and Kopten. At the center of the African world this is practiced by the Monbuttu and Akka. Almost all natives of the Australian continent practice circumcision, excepting in the South-West, ; it occurs in Melanesien excepting the Papuas of Neu-Guinea. In the Polynesiern island it is missing only among the Maori. Occasionally being found in North middle and South America. At a rough guess it is practiced by 200 Million, one seventh of all people.')

(b) Varieties.-The most rudimentary form of male circumcision is a simple gash of the prepuce. This seems to be especially characteristic of the American continent and the Pacific islands, being found among the Totonacs of eastern Mexico and probably among the Mayas, as well as among the Orang, Buenua and in Tahiti, in the Marquesas, Waihu, Tonga, Samoa, Kunaie, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, and the Nitendi Islands. In similar fashion, insection of the back of the prepuce in practised among some Australian tribes, and especially in East New Guinea and other Melanesian districts, as in Tanna (one of the New Hebrides) and in Fiji, while in Tonga the operation in performed by the simple process of tearing the prepuce with the fingers. Among the Somali , Masai, Wajagga, and a few of the Kikuyu, a similar cut is made on the upper part of the glans, and the resulting flaps of skin are permitted to hang from the fraenum.

In the Aarau Archipelago and in Seranglao the upper part of the prepuce is pinched off (for the motive in these territories see below, under (m) (v). Among the Tatars a wedge-shaped piece is excised from the prepuce ; and an Arab tribe between Abu Arish and Hejaz not only ablate the prepuce but also make an incision on the skin on the upper side of the penis extending the entire length of the organ, and in addition, abscise a portion of the skin of the lower part of the abdomen. In Jewish circumcision there is a noteworthy deviation, which has a special reason. The original rite was doubtless simple ablation of the prepuce; but with contact with classical civilisation, the desire not to be different from the uncircumcised Greeks who surrounded themselves in the Gymnasia led the Jews to resort to the operation of epispasm, by which § (I Mac 1,19; cf. 1 Co 7,18, Jos. Ant.. xii. v. 1, and also the Talmudic passages cited in JE iv. 93, see also the 'Semitic' section below; for a description of the operation, which in now scarcely performed, 'except possibly to restore lose of substance from accident or disease' [E. M. L.] cf. Celsus, xxv. 1). To obviate the possibility of such concealment of Judaism, the Rabbis, probably after Bar Cochba's war (early 2nd cent. A.D.), made peri`ah (exposure of the glans) an indispensable requisite td valid circumcision. In this operation, after the excision has been completed, the mohel ("circumciser ') seizes the inner lining of the prepuce, which still covers the glans, with the thumb-nail and index-finger of each hand, and tears it so that he can roll it fully back over the glans and expose the latter completely' (Friedenwald . in JE iv. 99)

By far the most remarkable operation complementary to circumcision is the ariltha, or mika, characteristic of Australia, and normally performed about a year after circumcision proper. This is defined as, sub-incision of the penis, so that the penile urethra is laid open from the meatus right back to the junction with the scrotum ' (Spencer-Gillen, p. 263) This operation, as performed m the Boula district, is described as follows by Roth (Ethnolog. Stud. p. 178):

p. 660 col. b

While the man on top (the lad being held supine on the ground) holds the penis firm and tense with both hands, the actual operator, seated on the ground in front, makes a superficial incision, through skin only, extending, from the external meatus down to near the scrotal pouch in a line with the median raphé; a deeper incision is next made with the same stone knife along the same line as the first, and, starting from the external orifice, opens up the canal as it is pushed onwards. The extent of the wound is apparently inconsistent. 1 have observed it varying from a little over half an inch in some to a gash opening up almost the whole of the penis as low down as half an inch from the scrotum, in others.' Among the Yaroinga of the Upper Georgina district the operation consists of two vertical cuts into the urethra extending from the external orifice, with a third independently transverse one below, the resulting flap of skin being allowed to take its own time apparently in subsequently rotting off down to the transverse cut`(ib.).

Among the Bani Chams actual circumcision in no longer practised, though it is represented ritually by a mock ceremony, performed by the head priest with a wooden knife, and connected with namegiving (see above, p. 345).

(c) Disposal of the ablated prepuce.-According to a Talmudic Tradition, the tribe of Levi, which alone during the Exodus observed the obligation of circumcision, piled up the ablated foreskins in the wilderness and covered them with earth, a practice which later became General (Kohler, in JE iv. 93). Among the East African Wakiku the prepuce in buried in the ground in front of the boy just circumcised; while the African Bara father throws it into the river. From fear of its being used in black magic the Turks bury the prepuce as they do parings of nails, etc., and from a like motive the Amaxosa Kafir boy carries away his prepuce and buries it in a sacred spot. On the West Coast of Africa the prepuce, soaked in brandy, is swallowed by the boy operated on ; the Arabs of Algiers wrap it in a cloth and put it on a tree or animal, which then becomes the gift to the operator; and the Hova of Madagascar wrap it in a banana leaf, which is given to a calf to eat. Among the Wolof, on the other hand, the prepuce is dried and carried by the lad circumcised, the object being the promotion of virility 1). The Sakalava of Madagascar formerly made the operator swallow the prepuce which he had just ablated (the prepuce of the crown-prince is still swallowed by his uncle in Madagascar), but at the present time the foreskin is shot from a gun (a practise also observed by the Antankarana of the same island), or is fastened to a spear which is thrown over the house of the lad`s father ; if the spear falls sticking in the earth, it is a good omen. The triangular pieces excised by the Taters are given to the boys mothers, who wrap them in cloth and keep them; but if the mothers are dead or absent the pieces are often simply thrown away. Among the Australian Urabunna the stomach of each elder brother is touched with the foreskin, which is then placed on a fire-stick and buried without special ceremony or further attention (for a somewhat similar usage, probably Midianitish rather than Hebrew, and apparently performed under exceptional circumstances, see -Ex 4,24f., and cf. Semitic section of this art. p. 679).

lt is in Australia that precautions are most generally taken in disposing of the ablated prepuce. The northern Arunta bury it, together with the blood caused by the operation ; at Fowler Bay it is swallowed by the operator (compare the former usage of the Sakalava) ; among the southern Arunta the younger brother swallows his elder brother's prepuce to make himself strong and tall ;

1) Cf. the wearing of the penis of slain warriors by the victors among the people of Mowat to increase the conqueror's strength by the courage of the dead; the eating of the genitals of beasts killed among some North American Indian tribes, these parts being torn with the teeth, never cut with an edged tool; the making of the testicles, heart and liver of slain enemies into a broth and war-paint in South Africa ; and the Central Australian usage of administering blood from the genitals in case of severe illness (Crawley, Mystic Rose, London, 1902, p. 106f.).

p. 661 col.a

the Kalkodoon of Cloninny (North Queensland) string it on twine of human hair and hang it around the mother's neck to keep the devil away'; the Anula bury it beside a pool to make the water-lilies grow ; and the Warramunga put it in a hole inside in a tree by the witchetty grub, to increase the number of these edible delicacies. Among the Unmatjera,

«the boy puts his severed foreskin on a shield, covers it up with a broad spear-thrower, and then carries it in the darkness of night, lest any woman should ask what he is doing, to a hollow tree, in which he deposits it. He tells no one where he has hidden it, except a man who stands to him in the relation of father's sister's son' (Frazer, Independent Rev. iv. 211 ; cf. the disposal of the ablated labia in Java (below, 3(c)). The reason alleged for this custom is that, according to Tradition, the early mythical ancestors of the tribe placed their foreskins in their nanja trees, that is their local totem centres, the trees from which their spirits came forth at birth, and to which they would return at death' (ib.; for Frazer's deductions from these Australian practices, see below under (m)(w) ; and for a somewhat similar Javanese custom in connexion with female circumcision, under 3(c).

Finally among the Yaroinga of the upper Georgina District, the blood shed in circumcision is drunk by the women of the tribe as a strengthening draught (cf. below 3(b)).

(d) Tabued foods. -The tabu of certain foods during the period immediately following circumcision is recorded only sporadically. Bread may be eaten, and fresh milk drunk, among the Muhammadans of Bosnia, but the drinking of water unhallows the rite. Among the Australian Urabunna the jew lizard (supposed to create sexual desire, and always forbidden to women) is tabu at this time, as are opossums, snakes, echidnas, and all lizards at sub-incision in Central Australia. Some rudimentary traces of hygiene may be present in the tabu of meat in the Congo Basin and the regions east of Loanda to the kingdom of Muata Jamwo, as well as in the prohibition of pork in Wydah and the coast region of West Africa

(e) Instruments employed.-Circumcision is, as a rule, performed with the ordinary iron or steel instruments (particularly razors) in common use among the peoples practising it. Exceptions are not, however, unknown. There are distinct records among the Hebrews of the use of hard stone (the flint' [§] of Ex 4, 24, [although in this case the sudden exigency of the occasion does not absolutely require the assumption of a survival of primitive usage] and Jos 5,2f.), which was also employed by the ancient Egyptians, an well as by the American Totonacs, the modern Alnajas of Abyssinia, and the Australians, and sometimes in Morocco. Post Biblical Jewish tradition also permits the use of glass or of any other cutting material excepting reeds (Ploss Das Kind, i. 347 f.)

In Tonga, besides the simple tearing of the prepuce with the fingers (already noted), a splinter of bamboo or a mussel shell may be employed -, and , the Marolongs of South Africa used a " fire-stone " (meteorite), but now circumcise with an assegai' (Jacobs, in JE iv. 97). In Central Australia there is a tradition that circumcision was performed by means of a fire-stick before the introduction of stone knives, but the practice was discontinued because of the excessive mortality resulting from the use of the sticks (Spencer-Gillen, p. 394) ; and among the Bani Chams a wooden knife is used in the mock ceremony which represents the ritual survival of Muhammadan circumcision.

(f) Who are circumcised. -Among nearly all peoples that observe circumcision it is requisite for every male to submit to the operation if he is to enjoy full tribal rights (cf. below, (k) ; illustrations of this as among the Hebrews, are too obvious to need Citation. In a few cases, however, there is divergence from this general rule. In ancient Egypt, circumcision was restricted to priests and warriors (but see CIRCUMCISION [Eg.]), and it

p. 661 col.b

was likewise peculiar to the higher classes among the Aztecs (and probably the Mayas) and in Rook Island (between New Guinea & New Britain). Contrariwise, in Tonga the highest chief was the one person exempt from the rite.

An interesting case of the gradual introduction of circumcision may be witnessed in some of the New Hebrides group. 'lt has come up from Ambrym to the lower end of Pentecost, as a prevailing custom, and not very lately. lt is done at any age, whenever the boy's friends choose to make the feast. lt is not a mark of initiation and has no religious or superstitious character; it is a social distinction... There is no doubt that the custom, for it is not a rite, has come across from the eastwards to the Southern New Hebrides' (Codrington, Melanesians, Oxford, 1891 p- 234).

(g) Who circumcise.-In primitive conditions it would naturally be some near kinsman who would perform the operation of circumcision. Among the early Hebrews this was apparently the head of the household or the father (Gn 17, 23ff.), though in case of special necessity it might perhaps be performed even by the mother (cf. possibly Ex 4. 25 ; 1 Mac 1 60 is not decisive in view of v. 61 ; for a divergent view, see the 'Semitic' section of this art.), while a leader or man of importance might also cause it to be performed (Jos 5, 2ff, 1 Mac 2, 46). In later times, however, the rite was performed by a specially trained man, usually called mohel ('circumciser'). In Nias, in the Malay Archipelago, it is likewise the father who circumcises ; but in Nukahiva, in the Marquesas group, on the contrary the father is the one person who is debarred from performing circumcision. From the Heb. use of § (lit. `circumciser`) and § (lit. `circumcised`) in the senses of 'wife's father' and 'daughter's husband' respectively, it would appear, since them terms first occur in connexion with Midianites (Ex 3,1 4,16,25f. , Nu 10,29 , Jg 12,16). and Sodomites (Gn 19, 12- 14), that among these two peoples circumcision was performed by the future father-in-law. From these passages the words § and § seem to have passed into the Heb. vocabulary with an entire loss of their original meaning, connoting merely 'father-in-law' and 'son-in-law' respectively (e.g. Dt27,23[feminine), Jgl5,6, 19,4f,7,9, 1 S 18,18, 2 K 8,27 Neh 6,18, Jer 7, 34, JI 2,16). The most respected member of the family is chosen by the Antankarana of Madagascar, and among the Mandingo of West Africa the village elders perform it. The priest is the operator in Morocco, Samaria, Western Mexico, Tahiti, the Sandwich Islands, the Marquesas, and Easter Island, as well as among the Totonacs, as is the head priest in the mock survival among the Bani Chams, and the 'witch doctor' among such African tribes as the Masai, Wanika, and Wakikuya. Too much cannot, however, be safely deduced from the choice of priests as circumcisers, for Andree (op. cit. p. 75) rightly calls attention to the fact that among primitive peoples the priest and the physician are commonly united in the same person, and the operation falls within the domain of the latter.' In Persia, Turkestan, and Upper Egypt the barber (with quasi-surgical functions like his mediaeval European confrère) takes the place of the priest ; and in Samoa, as among the African Wakamba, Wanika, and Kikuyu, a paid professional (somewhat analogous to the Jewish mohel) officiates The smith is the circumciser among the West African Sarakolese, and in Kita (French Sudan ; cf. the blacksmith`s wife as the circumciser of girls in the same districts, below, 3(f)); and in Samoa cases are even reported in which boys circumcise each other. Among the Falashas, three old women perform the operation (cf. the occasional circumcision by women among the ancient Hebrews) ; and perhaps the most remarkable officiant of all is the common executioner, who is the circumciser among the Sakalava of Madagascar. Among the Australian Unmatjera the father-in-law (apparently like the Midianites

p. 662 col. a

and Sodomites; see above) performs the rite ; while among the Urabunna the operator in cases of ariltha is the oknia (the man who stands in the relation of father to the lad), though the previous operation of circumcision is performed by the grandfather and the mother's brother.

(h) Where performed, and in whose presence. -From the nature of circumcision it is usually performed only in the presence of persons of the same sex as the individual operated on, and generally in a secluded place (on tabu of this nature cf. Crawley, op. cit. p. 297f.). Almost the only instance of exception to this rule in the case of male circumcision is among the Central African Manuema, who perform the rite in the presence of women. At the same time, as just noted, women operate among the semi-Judaized Falashan (no definite conclusions may be drawn, in the present writer's opinion, for normal Hebrew usage from Ex 4,25, 1 Mac l, 60f). The Totonacs circumcised in the temple, and the Hebrews in the father's house, although as early as the Geonic time the ceremony had been transferred from the house of the parents to the synagogue, where it took place after the service in the presence of the whole congregation ' (Kohler, JE iv. 95). In the Congo region, on the other hand, circumcision is performed in a special hut. Previous to circumcision, various preparatory trainings, of brief duration, are often required, as among the Australians. These do not, however, materially affect the character of the rite, and come more properly under the head of initiation (q.v. ; cf. also art AUSTERITIES, particularly 2, 8 (3-4)). Except among the Jews, and possibly among the Tontonacs (in view of the fact that they circumcised in their temples), distinctly religious ceremonies in connexion with circumcision are extremely rare, being recorded only in the case of the New Caledonians and the Fijians.

(i) Age when circumcision is performed. -It is a significant fact that circumcision, whatever explanation may be offered for it, it is almost invariably performed before or at the age of puberty, or at latest before marriage. The sole exceptions to this rule occur among the Hebrews, where peculiar conditions caused such violation of the general principle. Abraham and his household were naturally uncircumcised until the Divine covenant had been formally instituted by God, this taking place when Abraham was 99 years old (Gn 17, 23ff; in the light of this no particular deduction can be drawn from the fact that Ishmael then happened to be 13 years of age) ; proselytes and persons inter-marrying with the Hebrews would naturally be circumcised after attaining puberty (cf. Gn 34,14ff, Ex l2,48). By far the most noteworthy passage in this connexion is Jos 5,2-9, which states that 'all the people that came out of Egypt . . .. were circumcised . but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.' This younger generation Joshua circumcised after crossing the Jordan. The passage may well be taken as it stands, though the critical school seek, without due consideration of the early age at which circumcision is performed among many peoples (see below) to see in it an implication that the primitive

Hebrews practised the rite, like numerous other tribes, at the age of puberty, `the circumcision of young warriors at that age signifying the consecration of their manhood to their task as men of the covenant battling against the uncircumcised inhabitants' (Kohler, op. cit. iv. 93). And the fact that even Moses neglected to circumcise his son (Ex 4,25) was very probably due to his Midianitish marriage, since the Midianites, like the Sodomites apparently performed the rite shortly before marriage (see above, (g), and below, (m)(o)).

p. 662 col. b

Waiving these sporadic exceptions, the various ages at which circumcision is performed may be tabulated as follows -

Soon after birth": Totonacs (eastern Mexico), and probably Mayas
8 days: Jews, Samaritans, Abyssinians, South American Guamo, 0tomaco, and Saliva (Orinoco region).
Multiple of 7 days: South-Western Arabs.
1-2 months: Wazegua of East Africa. Before the end of the first year: African Ovaherero, As soon as the child can walk: Washambala
2-8 years Muhammadans of Kashgar.
2-10 years: Muhamnadans of Turkestan.
3-4 years: Masai, Usambara (East Africa), Persian Muhammadans (the last never later than 13).
4-5 years: Karakurtchins (Central Asia)
5 years: Aneityum (New Hebrides), Muhammadans of Algiers (the latter never later than 7).
5-10 years: Upper Egypt 6-8 years: Kabyles
6-13 years: Turks.
7 years: Swahili
7-8 years: Akkra (Gold Coast)
7-10 years: Tanna (New Hebrides).
7 years and later: New Caledonia
8 years: Bakwiri (Kamerun) Tahiti
8-10 years: Somali, Kafirs, Congo, Negroes, Samoa
Before 10 years: Muhammadans in general
10-12 years: many South American tribes.
12 years: Ewe (West Africa) Limo lo Pahalaa (Celebes)
12-13 years: Ishmaelites, Sarakolese (West Africa).
12-14 years: Mandingo (Sudan). 12-16 years Wydah and cost region (West Africa; sometimes as late as 20)
14 years : Ancient Egypt, Bambarra, Kafirs, Bechuana, Fiji
14-16 years: Angaardi (Murchison River , West Australia).
15 years: Bani Chams (ritual survival performed as a mock ceremony
15-16 years: Wolof (Senegambia).
16-17 years: Wakikuyu (East Africa).
When the first hairs appear on the face : many South Australian tribes.
Puberty : Melanesians in general, Nukahiva (Marquesas),
Wakamba, Wanika (both between Lake Victoria and the coast),
Amaxosa, Basuto.

These specific years can, of course, be taken only as approximate , and divergent years are sometimes recorded by different observers for the same people, as for Akkra (7-8 years and 12-13), Masai (3-4 years and puberty), Kafirs (8-10 years and puberty), and Tahiti (8 and 14 years). In at least some cases part of the discrepancy may be due to the custom of performing circumcisions en masse, as among the Masai, Wanika, Wakikuyu, Mandingo, Sarakolese, and Bechuana, as well as in Kita, the Congo basin, and Tahiti.

(j) Effect on legal and social status.-Generally speaking in the words of the anonymous contributor on the African Banaka and-Bapuku to Steinmetz, Rechtsverhaltnisse von eingeborenen Völkern in Afrika und Ozeanien (Berlin, 1903, p. 40 f.),

'ohne Beschneidung ist der Mann kein Mann, er ist schwach, nichts; er wird beschimpft, verlästert und sogar verbannt; er geht einsam umher, kann keine Frau bekommen. Nur der Beschnittene ist ein rechter Mann, der erbberechtigt ist und arbeiten und fechten kann.'

(translation: RS: "without circumcision a man is not a man, he is weak, nothing, he is cursed, derided and even exiled; he goes around alone, can get no women. Only the circumcised is a real man, who has a heritage and who can work and fight.)

Thus the child passes, on circumcision, from the harem or from the society of women to that of men, among the Turks, Malays of Menangkabau, Papuans, Nias, Hovas of Madagascar, and African Swahili, Wakikuyu, Basutos, Kafirs, and Mandingo; and he now also, as in Upper Egypt, enters upon a religious life. The rite is occasionally connected with the giving of a permanent name to the child, as among the Jews (cf. Lk 1, 59 - 2,21), many South Australian tribes (as the Dieri, near Adelaide), and the South American Tecunas (on the Upper Solimoes, in Brazil), as well as in the mock ceremony among the Bani Chams. Only after circumcision can the youth marry among the African Masai, Wakwafi, Peuhls of Futa-Jallon, Bechuana, and Diakite-Sarakolese, as well as in Bambuk, Angola, and Kita, among the Hebrews (cf. Gn 34,15-17), and apparently among the Midianites and Sodomites (see above, (g)). Among the South Australians along the Peake River, youths

p. 663 col. a

can indeed associate with women after circumcision, but they are forbidden to marry before they have been sub-incised, a rule which holds generally wherever ariltha is practised in Australia. women refuse to have intercourse with uncircumcised men among the Bafiote of the Loango Coast, while the Bakwiri women of Kamerun believe that physical harm would result to them from sexual relations with such men, and in Old Calabar lack of circumcision in either sex is ground for divorce. The uncircumcised are excluded from society generally by the Wanika of East Africa; and the Mombuttu, Bongo, and Mittu of Central Africa refuse to eat with those who have not been circumcised. ' Uncircumcised' is a term of insult, not only as applied to the Philistines (Jg. 14,3 15,18 1 S 17,26-36 31,4 etc.), but also among the South Australians and in Rook Island. Before circumcision a child is ritually unclean among the East African Amaxosa ; and the Masai, Wakwafi, and Kikuyu consider iron implements tabu to the uncircumcised, which, in view of the sanctity attached to this metal among primitive peoples, is certainly a significant fact.

Only after circumcision can the Malinka and Bambarra, along the upper Niger, bear arms or have a voice in the council; and not till then has a Peuhl or a Basuto the right and duty of taking part in warfare. In Kita in the French Sudan, an uncircumcised man can, it is true, bear arms, but he is debarred from all rights of inheritance; and, in like manner, inheritance is conditional on circumcision among the Masai, Wakwafi, Damara, Hambo, and Wanika; while the Damara reckon a man's age from the time of his circumcision, not counting the previous years at all. In view of all this, it is not astonishing that, just as, 'uncircumcised' is a contemptuous epithet among some peoples, as noted above, so circumcision is a mark of proud distinction among Jews, Mombuttu, etc., and is even restricted to certain classes among Aztecs, Egyptians, and Melanesians (see above, (f)); while, though circumcision is not universal in Madagascar, no one who has not undergone the operation can become either a soldier or an official.

(k) In connexion with other initiation rites. -Attention has been called by Post (Grundriss der ethnolog. Jurisprudenz, Oldenburg, 1894-95, ii. 36f. ; cf. also art. AUSTERITIES, 8 (3), for further literature) to the fact that those peoples who perform circumcision at the age of puberty not infrequently combine it with usages distinctive of formal declaration of, and initiation into, manhood. Among the Kafirs and Bechuana the lad just circumcised is flogged until the blood flows, all the while being admonished of his duties; and the Bantu squirt cayenne pepper on the wounded penis. The young Basuto, for three months after circumcision, remain away from home, receiving instruction in all that they must henceforth observe as men ; while among the Mandingo the newly circumcised rove at will for two months from village to village, exempt from all labour, and everywhere dancing and singing, their hosts welcoming them with all good cheer. Elsewhere, among the Peuhls, in Darfur, and on the coast of Guinea, those who have just undergone circumcision may with impunity violate the usual regulation governing sexual relations and property rights (for African details of these adjuncts to circumcision, see Post, Afrikan Jurisprudenz Oldenburg, 1887, ii. 291-293).

This licence, at least so far as sexual relations are concerned, is admirably explained by Crawley (op. cit. p. 309 f.) as being a 'trial' of one sex by the other, 'as if the preparation necessitated putting it to the test; and thereby each sex is practically

p. 663 col. b

"inoculated" against the other, by being "inoculated" with each other, in view of the more permanent alliance of wedlock.' Attention is called below (m) to the Kikuyu fear of the consequences of the first sexual congress; and, in like fashion, many Central African tribes believe that both sexes must sustain sexual relations as soon as may be after initiation, or they will die. After circumcision, Kafir boys have the right of intercourse with any unmarried woman they wish, and similar customs prevail along the Congo and in Senegal ;

while, in like manner 'immediately after circumcision a Ceramese boy must have intercourse with some girl, it matters not with whom, " by way of curing the wound." This is continued till the blood ceases to flow' (Crawley, citing Riedel, De sluik- en kroesharige Rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, The Hague, 1886, p. 139).

(l) Opposition to circumcision.-The Jews alone, with their rigid adherence to circumcision and their haughty attitude toward all others than themselves, have had to bear the brunt of opposition and ridicule because of a rite that was, to the nations surrounding them, distinctively characteristic of them ; and the , 'curti Iudaei' were the objects of the sneers of the Graeco-Roman world from Horace (Sat. 1. ix. 70) onward (cf. Reinach, Textes d'auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au judaisme, Paris, 1895). Far more serious to the Jews than mockery were the efforts made, though in vain, by Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Mac l,48 60f.) and Hadrian (cf. JE vi. 135) to suppress circumcision, together with all other distinctive features of Judaism. The same intense hatred of circumcision is manifested by the Mandaeans, who will not admit Jews to their number, though Christians are permissible proselytes; and who, in the case of a Mandaean forcibly circumcised by Muhammadans, only with extreme reluctance received him again, condemning his descendants to perpetual isolation from their fellowship, and forbidding them to marry Mandaeans (Siouffi, Études sur la religion des Soubbas ou Sabéens, Paris, 1880, p. 72, note 3).

A controversy early arose in the primitive Church, as is well known, regarding circumcision, the Hellenistic party denying its necessity, and the Judaizing faction affirming it (cf. Ac 11,2; 15,1-5; 21,21). St. Paul, however, though he himself had been circumcised and had, under Jewish pressure, performed the rite on St. Timothy (Ph 3,5;, Ac 16,3), and though he was far from depreciating it (Ro 3,1f.), decided that it was unessential, at least in the case of Gentile converts (Ac 15,19ff ; cf. Gal 5,2-4). Indeed, he regarded the mere presence or absence of physical circumcision as equally immaterial (Ro 3,30f; 4,9ff - 1 Co 7,18f,- Gal 5,6 6,12ff-, Col.3,11), since the only true circumcision was spiritual (Ro 2,25ff.- Ph 3,3ff. Col 2,11ff.-), the Pauline attitude being here closely akin to that of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 4,4 - 6,10 - 9,26; cf. Dt 10,16 - 13,6). Though under divergent circumstances divergent modes of procedure might be advisable (cf. Ac 16,3 with Gal 2,1ff-), St. Paul`s one principle being that he might by all means save some (1 Co 9,19ff-), he maintains that the guiding principle here must be personal honesty of conviction as to what was right for each particular individual (cf. Gal 2,11ff-§), he himself feeling most keenly that he was entrusted with the, 'gospel of the uncircumcision' as St. Peter was with the gospel of the circumcision' (Gal 2,7-9).

The final victory in the struggle rested with the Gentile Christians, who advocated uncircumcision, and only one or two of the early heresies retained it. To these belong the judaistic Ebionites (see EBIONISM), who boasted of their possession of circumcision as being 'the sign and stamp of the prophets and of the righteous,' even as it was of Christ Himself, basing their own practice immedi-

p. 664 col. a

ately on Mt 10,25 (Iren. Haer. xxx. 26); while a similar attitude was taken by Cerinthus (cf. the passages cited by Hilgenfeld, Ketzergesh. des unchristhentums,- Leipzig, 1884, p. 414), who, despite the conclusions of Peake (above, p. 320), must at least in this respect have been what he is usually considered, a Judaizing Gnostic.

In the later history of the Church, circumcision is seldom a problem. Nevertheless, the Third Council of Toledo (8 May 589) found it necessary to prohibit Jews from purchasing Christian slaves, enacting that any Jew circumcising such a slave (on the basis of Gn 17,12f-) should forfeit him ; and this canon was incorporated by Recared in the Leges Visigothorum (ed. Zeumer, Hanover, 1894, p. 305 [ = xii. ii. 12]) in the words, 'ille autem qui Christianum mancipium circumciderit, oninem facultatem amittat et fisco adgregetur.' the official pronouncement of the Roman Church on the subject is given in the bull of Eugene IV., Cantate Domino (4 Feb. 1441), which, after affirming that the requirements and ceremonies of the old Law, however proper for their time, have been abrogated by the coming of our Lord and the Sacraments of the NT, continues -

'Omnibus igitur, qui Christiano nomine gloriantur. praecipit omnino (sacrosancta Romana Ecclesia), quocunque tempore, vel ante vel post baptismum, a circumcisione cessandum; quoniam sive quis in ea spem ponat sive non, sine interitu salutis aeternae observari omnino non potest' (Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, Freiburg, 1908, p. 247).

But the most astonishing attack on circumcision has come from the Jews themselves. This attitude arose chiefly in connexion with the problem of the reception of proselytes. As early as the first half-century after the destruction of the Temple, the tanna Joshua ben Hananiah pleaded that proselytes might be exempt from the rite (JE x. 223) ; but the question was not broached again until 1843, when the extreme radicals of the Frankfurt 'Verein der Reformfreunde' declared circumcision optional. This naturally evoked vehement protests, even from non-conservative Jews, and for the time the movement failed. In 1869, however, the Reformed leader, Isaac M. Wise, proposed the admission of proselytes without circumcision ; and this usage, being officially sanctioned by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, held at New York in 1892, is now generally followed by Reformed synagogues (for further details, see JE iv. 96, 216, x. 357, 359).

(m) Origins and motives of circumcision.-To account for the origin of circumcision the most divergent theories have been proposed, some worthless, and others at least partially satisfactory. The names of the rite, so far as their etymology is clear, add little to our knowledge. Of these perhaps the most significant is the Arab. hatana, 'circumcise,' as compared not only witli Arab. hatuna, , 'to become akin to some one through bis wife' but especially with Heb. §, 'wife's father,' §, 'daughter's husband.' ' bridegroom,' and § 'wedding' 'marriage' (see on these words above, (g)). The Arab. tahhara, 'to circumcise,' and tathir, 'circumcision,' however, properly mean only 'to purify' and 'purification,' which may, as Kohler (op.cit. p. 93) suggests, 'indicate the later religious view'. The Syr. gar, the ordinary verb for 'circumcise', means simply 'cut,' and rnay be compared with the Gr. and Lat § and circumcido, lit. 'cut around." A number of African terms are given by Andree (op. cit. p. 64), but their precise connotation in unknown to the present writer. The exact meaning of the common Heb. term § is disputed, though, according to

1 In hot countries the Penis is peculiarly liable to disease from retention of smegma behind the glans, therefore to 'cut around' and to 'purify' may have had a reference to hygienic considerations, and have become a religious observance (cf. next paragraph) - [E. M. L.]

p. 664 col. b

Haupt (AJSL xxii. 250 f.), it is 'a denominative verb derived from möl, " front " = mäl, = ma'äl,, from §, "to be in front"; cf. Arab. § "first" . . . The verb mul, " to circumcise." is a privative denominative meaning " to remove the front"' Among the Muhammadan Malays the rite is called buang malu, `casting away of shame'; while in the Gaelic version of the Travels of Sir John Mandeville, where the Scripture account of Isaac and Ishmael is given, the term "heathen baptism" (baistedh Genntlidhi) is applied to to circumcision' (Joyce, Social Hist. of Anc. Ireland, London, 1903, i. 235).

lt is a curious fact that few peoples practising the rite have any legend or theory as to its origin. When questioned, they generally reply that they du not know why they do it, or say that 'it was done by our fathers,' the latter reason being assigned even by the natives of Goazacoaleo in southern Mexico (NR i. 666). Even as mild a legend, evidently pointing to the introduction of the custom from some other tribe, as that found among the Basuto (Ploss, Das Kind (2), i. 364), forms an exception to the general ignorance. 'The Origins of Routine Male Circumcision some one came who sought to induce them to accept circumcision. Since, however, they first wished to be assured that it would not cause their death, they made the test on a stranger; and, when they saw that he suffered no harm, they then accepted the rite.' In this connexion, allusion may be made to a curious belief and practice, now abolished, of the Kikuyu of East Africa (Cayzac Anthropos v. 317). The first time that a newly circumcised youth has sexual relations with a woman, it results in the death of one or the other (on the perils of sexual intercourse according to primitive psychology, especially for the first time, see above (k) and cf. Crawley, op cit., passim). Accordingly those who have just undergone the rite assemble in bands of fifteen or twenty, and, surprising some old woman in a lonely place, abuse her, and finally knock out her brains with a stone, her death freeing the youths from all peril. For a like reason newly circumcised girls have intercourse with an uncircumcised child,. but this child, not being considered a human being, in not subsequently killed.

The various suggested explanations of the origin of circumcision may now briefly be considered.

(n) Hygienic. - This explanation is a very old one, being recorded by Herodotus (§ ii 37) for the ancient Egyptians, but specifically alleged among modern peoples only by the Samoans (1) The theory has the support of so able a scholar as Steinmetz (op. cit., passim) but the lack of hygienic concepts among primitive peoples renders the hypothesis extremely improbable ; and its acceptance in the popular mind is doubtless due to modern surgical reasons for its performance.

(o) Preparation for sexual life. -This theory has far more in its favour, in view of the wide-spread practice of circumcision at the age of puberty (for examples, see above (i)), In addition, this view is supported by the etymological connexion between hatana and Heb. §, etc. (see preceding col.) and it is alleged to have been the original cause among the primitive Hebrews by Barton (Sem. Origins, London, 1902, pp. 100, 280f.), though it seems to the present writer that he is incorrect in pressing Gn 34,14ff. and Ex 4,25f. in this connexion the one passage being better explicable as requiring circumcision before amalgamation (in other respects as well as in marriage) with the Hebrews, and the latter being the excited, or perhaps angry, exclamation of a Midianitish woman, who was probably familiar with circumcision just before marriage, and had, perhaps, induced Moses to postpone the rite for this very reason (cf. above, (g)). Still less is Barton justified in explaining Jos 5,2ff. as referring to, 'the marriageable young men.' Some of these men were, indeed, doubtless just at the marriageable age ; but others (cf. vv.,5-7) must have been far beyond the age of puberty. Yet the theory is at least partly correct,

1) I think also that something of the same reason dictated the operation of male circumcision with the idea of discouraging masturbation. -[E. M. L.]

p. 665 col. a

lt was, and is, a preparation for sexual life in so far as it is a preparation for the duties and privileges of manhood in general (cf. below, (x)(y)); and the hypothesis receives some support from what was apparently the practice of the Midianites and Sodomites (see above, (g)).

The theory here considered has been learnedly advocated by Ploss (op. cit. i. 368 f.), who sees in it an attempt to correct nature, and, by averting phimosis, to ensure offspring for the person operated on. The frequent performance of the rite long before puberty, he interprets as 'an effort to guarantee the child a posterity as numerous as possible (for another explanation, see below (x)(y)). The desire to correct nature receives a striking exemplification among the modern Arabs, who 'declare that only in man is an impediment like the foreskin found, and wonder how it is possible for reproduction to occur among uncircumcised Christians' (Barton, op. cit. p. 101, citing Doughty, Arabia Deserta, Cambridge, 1888, i. 341, 410); and Rosenbaum (Lustseuche im Alterthume, Halle, 1839, p. 366f.) similarly held that circumcision was designed to promote fertility.

(p) Obviation of peril from sexual relations. -This theory is defended by Crawley (op. cit. p. 137 f.). Denying that circumcision either prevents disease or had any real sanitary idea as its basis, though 'when the religious habit became rational, the fallacy of sanitary intention in circumcision became prominent, and may often have been the reason for the continuance of the practice,' he holds that

'the last factor in the principle . . . is one very closely connected with contact, and applies especially to such practices as circumcision. The deleterious emanation from strange or new things is identical in theory with human emanations, not only from strange or unhandselled beings, but from characteristic parts of such, and in later thought, from such parts of one's own personality. This dangerous emanation is any physical secretion religiously regarded, and its retention is prevented by cutting away separable parts which would easily harbour it. . . . This primitive notion is the same with those of personal cleanliness and of the removal of separable parts of a tabooed person. . . . When the part is cut off, there result the ideas first of securing the safety of the rest by sacrificing a part and secondly, of sacrificing such part to a deity so as to consecrate the rest, by making it less "impure" or "taboo" . . . Circumcision and artificial hymen-perforation thus originated in the intention both to obviate hylo-idealistic danger resulting from apparent closure, and, to remove a separable part of a taboo organ. . . . This removal also explains the practise of excision. The other ideas follow later, and, the safety both of the individual and of those who will have contact is the more necessary because that contact is with the other, the dangerous sex.' lt is thus that he explains the Hebrew and Egyptian view of circumcision as cleansing ; while Sir A. B. Ellis infers that circumcision amongst the Yoruba and Ewe peoples is a sacrifice of a portion of the organ, which the god [Elegbra, a phallic deity] inspires, to ensure the well-being of the rest

(q) Test of endurance.-This interpretation is maintained by Zaborowski (`Circoncision, sa superstition en Adrique,' in L'Anthropologie, vii. 653-675, De la Circoncision des garçons et d'excision des filles comme pratique d'initiation,' in BSAP, 4th ser., v. 81-104), and, at least in Africa, his view receives a certain degree of confirmation through the connexion of circumcision with undoubted endurance tests (cf. above, (k)).

In Arabia, also, circumcision is associated with a test of endurance. During the performance of the mutilation practiced by the Arabs between Abu Arish and Hejaz (described above, p. 660a). the person being operated upon is required to hold in his hand a lance, with its butt resting on his foot; he must not betray the slightest expression of pain, or allow the lance to quiver. Similar rules are found elsewhere, notably in Australia

All this, however, is scarcely sufficient to make circumcision an endurance test par excellence, since stolidity is an absolute requisite in many rites besides circumcision, especially those of any sort of initiatory character (cf. art. AUSTERITIES, INITIATION,).

(r) Tribal mark.-This theory is defended for the Hebrews, at least in part, by Barton (op. cit. p. 98 f.), on the basis of Gn 17,10-12, Ex 4,24f, 12,43., as being for a (or "the") token of a covenant (§) between Jahweh and Abraham. To this it may well be objected that the concealment of the part of the body affected by such a mark renders this explanation improbable; yet there is no doubt, even granting this objection, that the possession

p. 665 col.b

of circumcision has operated, not only among the Hebrews, but also among many primitive peoples to produce a heightening of tribal pride and consciousness of tribal unity, as it is evinced by haughty contempt for all who are uncircumcised (cf. above, (j)). lt must be admitted, however, that nowhere, except among the ancient Hebrews (if Gn 17,10-12 is really to be so interpreted ; but see below under (t), is such a concept of the meaning of circumcision apparently felt.

(s) Sacrifice.-This hypothesis seems best to explain the American forms of circumcision, especially among the Mexicans and Mayas (see 'American' section of this art.), and has been urged for the West African Yoruba and Ewe (see above, (c)); while a similar view has also been advanced to account for the obscure Ex 4,24f, with the idea that the circumcision of Gershom ransomed either his life or that of his father, Moses, from the wrath of Jahweh. And Barton (op. cit. p. 100; below, p. 679; cf. Jeremias, in Chantepie de la Saussaye, Lehrb. der Religionsgesch.', Tubingen, 1905, i. 381) holds that the circumstances under which the rite 'is performed in Arabia point to the origin of circumcision as a sacrifice to the goddess of fertility by which the child was placed under her protection, and its reproductive powers consecrated to her service.' The mere fact, however, that sacrifice is offered in Arabia in connexion with circumcision scarcely warrants us in assuming that the rite itself (except in America) is sacrificial in origin. Lagrange, in his É tude sur les religions sémetiques (Paris, 1905), modifies this theory by making, circumcision a sacrifice of a part to save the whole an explanation which is not altogether convincing. On the possible connexion of sacrifice and sanctification with circumcision, see conclusion.

(t) Sanctification of the generative faculties.- This theory, which is closely connected with the one just discussed, is advocated, for example, by Valeton (in Chantepie der Naturvöker vi. 28 40 f.), who based his conclusions on certain Polynesian customs.

Among many Polynesians and Melanesians there was the greatest reluctance to permit the bared glans penis to be seen, though, in all other respects, what we should call modesty was conspicuous by its absence. Even those islanders who did not practise circumcision bound the prepuce tightly over the glans. In like fashion, the glans was thrust, in the Admirality Islands, into the cleft of a snail-shell; on the Humbolt Bay (New Guinea) little gourds were worn over the glans; the African Kafirs put little tufts of pepo or bits of leather over this part; the South American Bororos Cabacaes (a Tupi tribe) thrust it into a wooden ring; and the New Caledonians cover it with a girdle which holds it against the abdomen, permitting the remainder of the genitals to remain in full view (cf., further, Gerland, op. cit. vi , 575 d.). For this reason, Gerland concluded that

'man schlitzte die Vorhaut auf, um den den Göttern besondere heiligen, lebenspendenden Theil nicht zu verhüllen, man band ihn (aber wohl erst viel später, als sich polynesische Eigenthümlichkeit streng entwickelt hatte) wieder zu, um den Theil, der wegen seiner Heiligkeit streng Tabu d. h. den Göttern angehörig war, den Blicken der Menschen zu entziehen, damit kein Bruch des Tabu entstehe.'

(translation RS: "they cut the foreskin open, in order that this to God especially holy life giving organ not to cover up, they covered it up (but well first later, as Polynesian customs had greatly developed) in order that the part because of its spiritual strongly taboo, i.e. belonged to the Gods, to remove it from the sight of men, in order not to break the taboo")

With this he further compares Gn. 17,10-I2 (for another explanation, see above, (e), and thus also he explains the tatuing of the glans among the Tongans and other Polynesians. The theory has met with little favour, being deemed too artificial (cf. Ploss op. cit. i 370 f.) yet it must be remembered that the genitals are distinctly recognised as sacred among at least some peoples. Only thus can he explain the early Hebrew rite of swearing with the 'hand under the thigh' of the person to whom the oath is made (Gn24,2. 9. 47,29) this part of the body being known to be that from which life proceeds (cf. Gn 35,11 46,26

Ex 1,5, Jg 8,30, 1 K 8,19). And it may be suggested that a similar feeling of sanctity was, at least in some cases, one of the factors, that led to the almost universal tabu laid upon the genitals, of both sexes (though especially of women, where the sense of property rights (see art. ADULTERY) also played an important part), and their concealment, thus being possibly a partial explanation of the sentiment of modesty in regard to sexual matters. lt must also be borne in mind that sanctification may here possibly be construed as the result of sacrifice (see preceding paragraph, and below, (z).

(u) Social distinction. -This factor appears only among the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, and a few

p. 666 col. a

other peoples (see above, (f)); and the case of certain islands of the New Hebrides group suggests that, in some instances at least, a custom introduced from other tribes; (cf. the Basuto legend quoted above, p. 664b) was adopted first, as new fashions generally are by the higher classes, and then was gradually extended till, it became universal among the people concerned. On this theory, the curious exemption of the highest chief in Tonga from the rite (above, (f)) would be explained by the theory that he was too august to be subject to alien customs. But this phenomenon in extremely rare, and there in absolutely no reason to suppose that circumcision was primarily restricted to any one class. Its performance on every Australian of the tribes in which it is practiced at all, and the similar phenomenon in Africa, as well as the express command in Gn. 17,10-14 34,14ff, Ex 12,48, all militate against such a hypothesis.

(v) To increase sexual pleasure.-While Philo ('de Circumcisione,' in Opera, ed. Mangey, ii. 210) and Maimonides (More Nebuchim, xlix. 391 f.) maintained that the object of circumcision was to check lust, Burton (Mem. of the Anthropolog. Soc.i. 318) put forth the theory that 'removal of the prepuce blunts the sensitivity of the penis and protracts the act of Venus.' This remarkable explanation can scarcely be taken seriously (for a much more plausible reverse reason, to discourage onanism, see above (a)), though it was alleged by a native to be the reason for the semi-ariltha practised along the north-west coast of Australia (Milucho-Maclay, ZE, 1880, p. 87). While the general attitude of Australians toward their women is scarcely such as to make this tender consideration of their feelings probable, such may, nevertheless, be a partial motive in regions where greater refinement (or perhaps degeneracy) exists. This in, according to Ploss (Das Weib-9, i. 569 f.), the reason for the pinching off of a part of the prepuce in the Aarau Archipelago and in Seranglao (cf. above, (b)).

With this Ploss compares the Dayak use of piercing the glans with a silver needle, and, after the wound heals, of inserting in it small rods of brass, ivory, silver, or bamboo, the silver rods sometimes being perforated at both ends for little bundles of bristles. In similar fashion, the Alfurese of North Celebes the Battas of Sumatra, the Javanese, the Chinese, und the Sudanese often bind various substances on the corona to increase the size of the penis, and so to augment its friction in the vagina; while like practices are also recorded for India (Schmidt, Beitrage zur ind. Erotik, Leipzig, 1902, p. 937f.)

(w) Connected with belief in re-incarnation. -On the basis of the Australian Unmatjera tradition recorded above (c), sub fin.), Frazer ('Origin of Circumcision,' in Independent Rev. iv. 204-218) has put forth a theory which may offer a partial explanation of the rite, at least for Australia, though the present writer is not convinced that it is wholly satisfactory.

'If' writes Frazer,'as seems highly probable, such a custom as that recorded by the tradition ever prevailed, its intention could hardly be any other than that of securing the future birth and re-incarnation of the owner of the foreskin when he should have died and his spirit returned to its abode in the tree.... lt might well be thought that a man's new birth would be facilitated, it in his lifetime he could lay up a stock of vital energy for the use of his disembodied spirit after death. That he did, apparently, by detaching a vital portion of himself, namely, the foreskin, and depositing it in his nanja tree or rock, or whatever it might be' (211 f.) In ariltha (see below, (z)), likewise, 'this strengthening and fertilizing virtue of the blood was applied, like the foreskin at circumcision, to lay up a store of energy in the nanja spot, against the time when the man's feeble ghost would need it .... That portion, whether the foreskin or the blood, was, in a manner, seed sown in order to grow up and provide his immortal spirit with a new body when his old body had mouldered in the dust ... the removal of a vital part of the person which shall serve as a link between two successive incarnations, by preparing for the novice a new body to house his spirit when its present tabernacle shall have been worn out' (214). in this connexion Frazer calls attention to Ezk. 32,19. 21 24f. (cf. also Ezk. 28,10 31,18), although these passages do not necessarily imply that the uncircumcised were debarred from resurrection, while the circumcised might again come to life (for folk-tales of the 'renewal of life in the dismembered dead' type, see CF, ch iv.).

p. 666 col. b

(x) Mark of Subjection. -The idea of Herbert Spencer (cited by Jacobs JE iv. 98), that circumcision 'was a mark of subjection introduced by conquering warriors to supersede the punishment of death,' hardly deserves mention, much less discussion.

(y) Initiation.-In by far the great majority of cases circumcision is, as the examples collected above imply, and as Jacobs (op. cit.) concludes, initiatory in character. In this way the theories that it is a preparation for sexual life, an effort to avert sexual peril, a test of endurance, and a tribal mark (above, (o)(p)(q)(y)) are all seen to be part truths, since all these factors, and more besides, are necessary for the complete life of manhood. It is, then, but natural that the rite should normally be performed about the age of puberty. At the same time, since the rite must be performed some time, it appears that, for various reasons (chiefly, perhaps, the realization that circumcision becomes more painful, and even more dangerous, the longer it is postponed), the operation frequently takes place long before puberty, and even, as among the Hebrews, Wazegua, Ovaherero, and others (for examples, see above, (i), in tender infancy (for another explanation of early circumcision, see above, (b)). It is, as Andree (op. cit. p. 75) rightly says, 'most usually a socio-political act, performed at the age of puberty' (on the religious-problems involved see conclusion).

(z) Ariltha.-This operation, often called 'artificial hypospadias,' has already been described (above, (b)), as has Frazer's explanation of it (above, (w)) It was formerly held, largely on the authority of Milucho-Maclay-(cf. Ploss, Das Kind2, i. 358 f., ii. 422 f.), that the object of this operation was Malthusian, since the ejection of semen, taking place immediately in front of the scrotum, was so that the few men unoperated on were believed to procreate the entire offspring of the tribe. These conclusions are now known to be wrong.

In the first place, 'the natives, one and all in these tribes, believe that the child is the direct result of the entrance into the mother of an ancestral spirit individual. They have no idea of procreation as being directly associated with sexual intercourse [see art. CHASTITY, p. 479b), and firmly believe that children can be born without this taking place' (Spencer-Gillen b, p. 330). In the second place, the Australian mode of coitus (Roth, op. cit. p. 179) in which the man squats on his haunches, drawing the supine woman toward him, does secure the discharge of the semen into its natural receptacle.

It may perhaps be hesitatingly suggested, in lack of any better explanation, that the operation is designed to make the male genitals resemble the female, the opened meatus answering to the rima pudendorum, the flaps of corpus spongiosum to the labia etc., while micturation is performed of necessity in the female position. This explanation is the reverse of that suggested by Roth (see below, 3(l)) and bears a certain amount of analogy, with the 'effeminates'of many American Indian tribes, who, after suffering atrophy of the genitals through excessive masturbation, etc., dress as women, and conduct themselves as such (cf. Waitz, Anthropol. der Naturvölker, iii. 113, 383; Fewkes in 25 RBEW, 1907, p. 31 ; NR, passim; Crawley, op. cit. p. 210f). -at- At the same time, analogous operations performed in Fiji, at various ages, and sometimes repeatedly on the same individual, are declared to be strictly therapeutic in intention (de Marzan, Anthropos v. 808 f.).

Conclusion.-A survey of circumcision as a whole leads the present writer, at least, to conclude that there is no one cause that will satisfactorily account fur every phase of the rite. One argument, and only one, of those cited above may be ruled out at once as worthless-the idea that circumcision was a mark of subjection (x). Two others, that it was a mark of social distinction (u), and that it was designed to increase sexual pleasure (v), may explain a very few instances. The plea that it was hygienic (n) can, even if found empirically to be true, scarcely have been the original motive - the Egyptians, in their report to Herodotus, were too civilized to serve as credible narrators of primitive usage, even if they were not giving a rational-

p. 667 col. a

istic interpretation which would commend itself to a foreign traveller (and the same thing may possibly hold of the Samoans). the hypothesis that re-incarnation was aided by circumcision (w) explains one curious tradition, and is not without analogous ideas elsewhere; but that it accounts for the rite as a whole seems very doubtful. The theory of sacrifice (s), from which may have developed that of sanctification of the reproductive powers and their tabu (t), even as the concepts of preparation for sexual life, obviation of sexual danger, endurance tests, and tribal marks (o)(p)(q)(y) are apparently combined in initiation (y), has undoubtedly been a factor, if not the factor, among some peoples. And among the Hebrews the rite may have had the meaning of the sanctification of the reproductive organs to Jahweh, 'He who causes to be' (on the etymology of §, cf. Barton op. cit. pp. 282-285 ; see also Kittel, in PRE viii. 533 ff., and the literature cited in Oxf. Heb. Lex. p. 218), as well as of initiation into the Hebrew community (cf. Gn 17,10ff. Ex 12,48 and perhaps Gn 34,14ff, though the last passage might be explained, on a strained hypothesis as a ruse of the sons of Jacob to get the Shechemites into their power). From this point of view, the Hebrews would have had the most perfect idea of circumcision, as including both the great sources-sanctification of the sexual organs, and initiation.

It is even possible that, despite the variety of motives to which reference has already been made, all kinds of circumcision are ultimately reducible, not to two causes (sacrifice or sanctification of the reproductive faculties and initiation), but to one, sacrifice; since initiation, with its accompanying austerities, may conceivably be regarded as itself a sacrifice to the tribal deity to gain admission to the people whom he protects.

Is circumcision a religious rite? This is denied, except in sporadic instances, by Andree (op. cit. p. 75), and attention has already been called (above, (h) to the extreme rarity of specifically religious rites in connexion with circumcision. Much depends, of course, on one's definition of religion ; but, in view of the fact that among most primitive peoples religion is practically co-extensive with life, and still more in consideration of the ceremonies, such as feasts and the like, connected with the performance of the rite, the present writer strongly feels that in its inception, and late into its development, circumcision was essentially religious. This is self evident among those peoples where circumcision is regarded either as a sacrifice or as sanctification of the genital organs (above, (s)(t)). The religious explanation also seems to hold good if circumcision is considered as preparation for sexual life, as obviation of the perils connected with sexual union, or as initiation in general (above, (o)(p)(y)) the three reasons for which, ostensibly at least, it is most generally performed. For to the primitive mind all matters connected with the reproductive functions and with their operations and results are essentially connected will religion, as Crawley has shown in his Mystic Rose; and all rites of initiation are likewise primarily religious (see INITIATION). If, as tentatively suggested above, even initiation in ultimately to be traced back to sacrifice, the religious origin of circumcision would be beyond question. Despite the lack of rites specifically declared to be religious in the majority of cases of circumcision, therefore, its origin seems to the present writer to be, under any hypothesis, religious; while survivals or primitive religious concepts are preserved even among peoples to whom the religious aspects of circumcision have become more or less blurred.

It is difficult, and perhaps over-subtle in consideration of the mental equipment of primitive

p. 667 col. b

man, to deduce all circumcision from any single cause, it is impossible to derive it from any one centre. The attempt was, indeed, made by R. Hartmann (Völker Afrika's, Leipzig, 1879, p. 178), who held that circumcision originated in Africa, whence it spread, through the Egyptians, to the Semites and to Asia. Borrowing is, of course, found among some peoples (see above, pp. 661, 664), and may well have been more prevalent than is generally known (that the Africans have been widely influenced in this respect by Muhammadanism is obvious); yet the possibility of independent origin and of various reasons must also be reckoned with. That such independent development actually took place is proved beyond all doubt by the existence of circumcision in America and Australia, where no sane person would allege African influence.

p. 669-670

LITERATURE.-comparatively little of the large literature on circumcision is available for ethnological consideration, most of it being concerned either with the surgical or the Hebrew aspects , and no small amount being superficial defences of wild and morbid theories. A considerable quantity of the older material is collected in Waitz-Gerland, Anthropol. der Naturvölker. Leipzig, 1860-77, i.2 121 f., ii. 111 f-, 251, 390, vi 28, 40 f., 560 f., 783 f. ; and newer sources are furnished by accounts of travels and by such periodicals as JAI Anthropos, etc. Among older works mention may be made of Salomon, Die Beschneidung Brunswick, 1844, pp. 1-43; while Redmondino. Hist. of circumcision, London, is a typical treatise to be shunned. By far the best studies are by H. Ploss, Das Kind, Leipzig, 1884, i. 342-394, ii. 423f., 437f., 440, 442-446; Ploss-Bartels, Das Weib Leipzig, 1908, i. 261-277, 569; R. Andree, - Die Beschneidung.` in A A (1880) xiii 53-78; Spencer-Gillen-a, ch. vii Spencer-Gillen-b, ch. xi. . W. E. Roth, Ethnolog. Stud. among the North-West Central Queensland Aborigines, Brisbane, 1897 p. 170 ff. ; Wilken, 'Besnijdenis bij de volken van den ind. archipel,' in Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde van Nederlansch Indië, 1885. A considerable bibliography. especially from the surgical point of view, is given by Tomès.' Della Circumcisione, Florence, 1895, pp. 67-71, and in Indez Catalogue of the Surgeon-Major's Library, Washington, 1st and 2nd ser., s.v. 'Circumcision (ritual).' The special thanks of the present writer are due to his friend arid physician, Ernest M. Lyon M.D., of Newark, N.J., for kind assistance in regard to the medical portions of the present art. ; his notes are indicated by the initials E. M. L


§ = Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic words have been replaced with the sign § (RS)

p. 669
... Like male circumcision, again, female circumcision can be traced to no one centre, but evolved independently in Africa, Australia, and America.