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Taboo

Prohibitions not sanctioned by western science or law but by traditional custom. For example, Maoris (Polynesian New Zealanders) are said to have had a taboo on cutting trees to build canoes such that before any tree was cut the boat builder had to give a feast to "propitiate the spirits" of the tree. The actual effect of this was to raise the price of cutting trees and therefore discourage over-use of the forest. This taboo turns out to be rational as a means of protecting the forest. A modern version is urgently needed.

In Nigeria the only remaining native forest in some areas is to be found in traditional shrines.

According to Robert Graves (White Goddess) Scandinavians and Saxons had a taboo on eating horses except at a feast held once a year. When the feast was abolished by Christian missionaries the taboo remained without remission. Latin peoples did not have the feast and therefore do not feel the taboo and so feel no reluctance in eating horse meat.

Various mind altering drugs have been taboo in most societies and to be used only by those authorized by tradition - healers and shamans. A renewal of this taboo would be beneficial.

Christian missionaries tended to condemn all taboos in societies outside Europe as being "pagan" or "satanic" . In doing so they may have destabilized many of the systems which governed these societies - especially those concerned with marriage but also those governing the forests. Some of the spread of AIDS in Africa may be a result of the disruption of the traditional teachings of restraint; and so is the desertification.

Muslims have taboos against pig meat and alcohol.

A taboo on the use of fossil fuels may be a useful social tool in dealing with climate catastrophe.

Last revised 9/09/07


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