In: RITUAL, Four Psychoanalytic Studies
By Theodor Reik
PREFACE BY SIGMUND FREUD
Copyright 1946 by Theodor Reik
All Rights Reserved
First Evergreen Edition 1962
Manufactured in the United States of America
This edition published by arrangement with International
Universities Press, Inc.
(THE RAM'S HORN)
Wer weiss! Der Baum glaubt
auf zu Dir zu rauschen—
Und doch ist's nur Dein Sturm, der durch ihn weht—
So—sprichst—vielleicht aus mir—Du—zu Dir selber . . .
Zwiesprach von Dir—mit Dir—ist mein Gebet!
I. THE FIRST PROBLEM
SOME little time ago I was present at a gathering of
people who were greatly interested in music, and
turned on the origin of musical
art. As the various theories put forward did not seem to
throw much light on the subject, one of those taking
part in the
discussion suggested that perhaps the sagas
and myths of ancient peoples could give some account
of the beginnings of music. He observed that a certain
truth is often concealed in these produc-
tions of human phantasies, and that the expert student
may be able to interpret their drift.
of Ambros’2 History of Music was consulted,
and furnished a bewildering abundance of myths de-
discovery of music among the Indians,
Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks.3 The common feature
in these myths is that in them all the invention
of the first musical instruments is ascribed to gods
and demi-gods: Orpheus, Arion, Hermes, Osiris, Athene
and Marsyas—everywhere it is a god who communi-
sufferings to human beings by means of sounds.
But it was pointed out that there is one exception to this
rule, and that the people upon whose religion and
1 Read before the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society, January 5, 1919.
2 A. W. Ambros, Geschichte der Musik, 3. Auflage, Leipzig, 1887, Bd. I.
3 Two books by Engel, Musical Myths and Facts, 2 vols., London, 1870, and
the Music of the Most Ancient Nations, London. 1864, give a detailed review of
this material. Some allusions to myths of present-day savage peoples concern-
ing the origin of music are found in Richard Wallaschek's Primitive Music
London, 1893, p. 259.
rests the greatest part of our civilisation
had no myth
of the origin of music, and did not derive it from God.
The invention of the oldest musical instruments is men-
and casually in the Bible, and ascribed to
an ordinary mortal named Jubal.
'And how does our scriptural authority explain this
said our hostess, turning to me with
friendly irony. The prohibition of images in the Old
Testament immediately occurred to my mind, but was
as we shall see—and I had to admit
with some shame that I could not give any explanation
of this peculiar fact.
This was the rather trivial cause of my interest
of music. My investigations gradually took me
far away from my starting-point, but eventually brought
me back to it after a long though not circuitous
feel sure that the wide and surprising prospect that
will be opened up will compensate somewhat for the
tediousness of the journey.
In Genesis iv. 21, it is said that Adah bare Jubal,
*he was the father of all such as handle the harp
and organ'. This tradition is interesting for several
reasons: its deviation from other myths has already
but its brevity, which contrasts with the
more elaborate stories of the origin of music, is also
worth noting, and, further, the name of the first
significant. The name Jubal is from the same root as
j6bel hiv,1 which signifies ram's horn or trumpet; so that
the name of the inventor is identified with that
which is of importance in a religious cult.
Attempts have been made to interpret this fact, but
etymology, as well as the fraternal relationship of Jabel and Jubal in
Genesis iv., might yield far-reaching
conclusions as regards both the original
meaning of the Cain-Abel story and the genealogical
tree of the primitive family, if the following elucidation were taken into account.
Tradition in the Orient still maintains that
Jubal was a Canaanite. This
tradition, according to Chadrim, Voyage en
Perse, tome v. p. 69, exists at the
present time in Persia and Arabia, where the
musicians and sinners are called
Kayne, i.e. descendants of Cain. Has not the
obscure memory of an old deed of
violence connected with the invention of music
persisted in this derivation?
Perhaps a comparison of the myths of Marsyas,
Orpheus and other heroes of
the first musical art would yield a number
of surprising results.
THE SHOFAR 223
without success; it still remains
obscure. It may be
pointed out that some investigators have tried to recog-
nise Abel, Cain's unfortunate brother, in Jubal. The
brief statement in Genesis has, therefore, only added a
to the previous one.
It would certainly be appropriate to see whether we
cannot reach an explanation by investigating the
of music in ancient Judaism. We know that its most
important and most frequent use was in connection with
the religious cult. The reports about the function
come, however, from a relatively late period, and
we have, therefore, to fall back on hypotheses as to the
pre-Jahvistic period of music, and these can only
by indefinite and meagre allusions in the Bible.
If we may believe such an eminent authority as Hugo
Gressmann,1 music among the Hebrews
was used in sor-
cery earlier than in religion. The bells on the vestments
of the high priest tinkled when he went into the Holy
Place in order that he should not die. Gressmann
the belief that the sound of bells as a protection
against the wrath of God is primitive. In ancient times
bells and similar musical instruments were probably
drive away demons which take up their abode in or
about the Holy Place. Wellhausen found such bells used
as an apotropaic amulet among the heathen Arabs.2
are found in every corner of the world.
In the Bacchanalian feasts, the Saturnalia, and the
Lupercalia, it was thought that the sound of cymbals
drove away malicious demons who might im-
pair the fertility which the ceremonies were intended
to promote. Demons appear to hate sounds made by
the sound of large and small bells. The
Chinese from time immemorial beat the tamtam and
rattled chains in order to drive into darkness the
wishes to devour the son and heir. Among the Abys-
sinian Christians the sistrum is used simply as a demon
1 Hugo Gressmann, Musik und Musikinstrumente im Alten Testament,
1903, S. 5.
2 Reste arabischen Heidentums, 2. Auflage. S. 165.
rattle. According to Gressmann the same idea
is still ex-
pressed to-day by the Catholic priests when they recite
the formula for the consecration of church bells. Gress-
of these phenomena is certainly sug-
gestive though not complete. He abstracts from them a
defensive mechanism which is common to other protect-
or customs. Thus the Arabs call the moaning
of demons heard in the desert ažif al ğinn—an expres-
also of musical instruments—and according
to its intensity compare it with thunder, the sound of
cymbals, beating of kettle-drums, ringing of bells,
sounds. The noise which the ğinns make is driven
away by the noise of human beings.' We shall return to
story of the conquest of Jericho seems to record a
magical application of music. In the tradition which has
come down to us, the noise of the trumpets is a
merely accompanies a marvel of Jahve's omni-
potence. What is the purpose of the noise? Perhaps it
was originally a magic representation of the falling
walls of the fortress which imitated the event it was
intended to produce. Robertson Smith believes that the
blowing of trumpets in the temple can also be explained
from the point
of view of magic—perhaps the imitation
Gressmann thinks, however, that an older though in-
is also involved, and that the blowing of
trumpets originally had the same object as the crying
aloud and calling out of the priests of Baal on
The Deity, who has so much to do and is perchance
occupied elsewhere, has to be called loudly in order to
attention. Such an indelicate method of call-
ing attention to oneself seems to us very improper, but
it is certain that a similar tendency originally
prayer. Silent prayer is quite a late phenomenon. When
Hannah uttered a silent prayer in the temple, the priest
action so extraordinary that he thought
1 Robertson Smith, The Religion of the Semites.
2 I Kings xviii. 28. Gressmann, ibid. S. 9.
THE SHOFAR 225
she was intoxicated. The principle to be observed
with the Deity was originally—the louder
the better. One does not speak with God, one cries (אmק),
or calls out to Him (קצs).1 Hosea2 is
the first to reject
the crying-out, with the rite of self-cutting and scratch-
ing, as heathenish, and to demand instead a cry
to God. Incidentally it may be remarked that the
phrase 'It sounds like a Jewish school', which originated
in the Middle Ages and has obtained such peculiar
in our beloved city, and which referred to the loud-
ness and confused medley of voices in the temple, thus
finds its historical explanation. The original purpose
praying, which was really a crying to God, has be-
come lost to the popular consciousness, and only occa-
sionally breaks through in wit, as, for instance,
anecdote. An old man during the service on
the Day of Atonement rebukes one of those praying, who
is beating his breast very violently and very loudly
his sinfulness and remorse, in these words: 'Young
man, force will do nothing with Him up there'. We must
admit that Gressmann's work affords us a good deal of
light, but it
has yielded nothing really definite as to the
origin of music in ancient Judaism.
Perhaps the present Jewish religious cult will help us.
we meet with an unexpected obstacle;
kettle-drums, trumpets, zithers, flutes, triangles, cym-
bals and many percussive, wind, and string instruments
at the great feasts of the ancient Jews,
and enhanced their solemn mood, these are all silent
1 It may at once be premised that not only do the expressions of the prayer
change their form in the course of cultural development, but parallel with them
utterances of the god for whom they are intended. Jahve spoke in one way
to his votaries in the primitive time, and in another way to those who held a
deeper belief. Jahve on Sinai appears to the people in the burning thorn-bush
with the sound of trumpets and earthquakes, but manifests himself to Elijah
in another way; the Lord is not in the strong destroying wind, nor in the earth-
quake nor in the fire, but in the gentle breeze (I Kings xix. 11-13).
Da flammt ein blitzendes Verheeren
Dem Pfade vor des Donnerschlags;
Doch deine Boten, Herr, verehren
Das sanfte Wandeln
(Prolog im Himmel.)
2 Hosea vii. 14.
226 RITUAL: PSYCHO-ANALYTIC STUDIES
since that 9 Ab., August 17, A.D. 70, upon which date
the fate of the Jews was decided for two thousand
instrument only has been retained by the un-
fortunate people in their dispersion and condemnation.1
This instrument, however, is a remarkable one, and
it offers will now be our theme. At the outset it
must be pointed out that we are stepping into the most
obscure region of the Jewish liturgy, a terra incognita
to a primitive forest, reverently avoided by
the science of religion, rich in confusing, mysterious,
frequently even uncanny characteristics, but in
curiosity is strained to the uttermost. It will demand
our closest attention to remain sure of our bearings.
II. THE SHOFAR
The shofar is not only the sole primitive instrument
which still plays a part in the ritual of Judaism,
but it is
one of the oldest wind instruments known. Professor
Steintal has expressed the opinion2 that the shofar
shows 'that quite in our neighbourhood, I might
us, things are found which are prehistoric. . . .'
The horn of the antelope and primitive bull, and
hollowed-out tusks of the mammoth are found as wind
in prehistoric burial-places.3 While all other
instruments had undergone technical improvements the
shofar has retained its prehistoric simplicity and
But our interest in the shofar, which is already
awakened by its antiquity, will be increased when we
leam that it is not a musical instrument. It is
'no melody can be played on it and that it cannot pro-
duce different sounds'. Hipkins5 states,
1 No importance need be attached to the modem and assimilative use of the
organ, etc., in the Reform Service.
of a report concerning the discovery of a shofar (Verhandlungen
der Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, 1880).
3 Carl Stumpf, Die
Anfänge der Musik, Leipzig, 1911, S. 35.
4 Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie.
5 A. J. Hipkins, Musical Instruments, etc., Edinburgh, 1888, p. 12.
few sounds which can be produced from the shofar also testify to its
Compare Wallaschek's remarks (Primitive Music, p. 151) on the
sounds of other
THE SHOFAR 227
three sounds can be obtained by
blowing the shofar.
Busch's theory of the relationship of music to noise
suggests itself here. We shall see that the remarkable
characteristics of this primitive instrument afford
of the many and important problems which
arise from its function in the rite.
However, we must not anticipate, but first of all leam
what a shofar is and what it looks like. The accompany-
portrays three examples of the shofar,
and gives some idea of this peculiar instrument. Its chief
features are its shape and the material of which
sists. In shape it is always curved, the hom of all animals
except the bull may be used for it. The Talmud1 and
'Aruk2 give the reason for this exception,
avoid awakening the memory of the fatal
episode of the golden calf. The shofar may be engraved
but not painted. The Mishnah Rosh ha-Shanah (iii.
two kinds of shofar; that used at the New
Year's Feast was made from the horn of the wild goat,
the jadi, with the mouthpiece covered with gold,
used on Fast Days was a ram's horn with the mouth-
piece covered with silver. The shofar used in the syna-
gogues at the present time has no ornamentation;
is quite right in assuming3 that 'it probably re-
presents a more ancient form than the instrument de-
scribed in the Mishnah’. A shofar
that has been broken
and stuck together must not be used; but if it has merely
had a hole in it it may be used provided that the hole
has been effectually closed so that the sound is
women and children were for-
bidden to hear the sound of the shofar; this prohibition,
however, has been forgotten, and now they usually
hear it blown. Besides this curved hom, the straight
Fétis) shows the first four tones (i.e. one of the equal halves) of the diatonic scale.
An instrument from ancient Mexico called by Baker, Shalmei, has the first five tones of the diatonic scale in major . . .',
Rosh ha-Shanah, iii. 2.
Adier, 'The Shofar. Its Use and Origin', Annual Report of the Smith-sonian Institution, 1892, p. 442.
The illustrations are taken from the Annual Report of
the Smithsonian Institu-tion. 1892, p. 440. Further illustrations of shofars are to be found in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
FIG. 1.—Shofar of
the great Synagogue. Aldgate, London.
FIG. 2.—Shofar which was exhibited at
the Anglo-Jewish Exhibition. Probably
from the time before the banishment of the
English Jews (1290).
FIG. 3.—Shofar with inscriptions.
THE SHOFAR 229
variety and the trumpet are also used as wind
in the ancient Jewish cult. The difference lies only
in the shape and material. The hom as an old and con-
secrated instrument is found as κερατίυη and σάλπιγξ among
and as lituus and buccina among the Romans.
The hypothesis is supported by numerous facts that
have all evolved from a simple horn
of an animal, and have been perfected by technical
improvements and the use of bronze, silver and gold.1
blow-hom, the progenitor of all these
improved types, was gradually superseded by them, and
remains only in the form of the shofar and the signal
horn of primitive
peoples. In Hebrew there are two
words for the horn of the same animal, keren and jôbel,
denoted the animal itself. Adler has
referred2 to a similar ambiguity of the Hebrew keren,
horn, and the Latin cornu—words which
denote both a wind instrument and the horn of an
animal; the German horn and the French cornet have
Now that we have a general idea of the shofar we may
pass on to its use in ancient Judaism. The law-giving
consummated amidst lightning and thunder
and the terrifying sounds of the shofar. Abraham ibn
Ezra believes that the Jews did not know of the
the revelation on Sinai, and were far more terrified
by the unusual sounds than by the storm that accom-
panied the revelation. In ancient Palestine the
used for a summons or alarm. The people were
assembled together by means of its raucous sounds when
laws, orders and institutions had to be proclaimed.
the year of Jôbel, which takes its name from
the horn. The sound of the shofar was heard at every
1 The Egyptians also had a similar bent horn called chnue which was blown
at sacrifices. The Greek κέρας was made out of the horn of a bison or similar
animal. The above supposed development of the horn instrument is confirmed
by Varro, De lingua lot. v. 117: 'Ea(cornua),quae nunc sunt ex aere, tunc fiebant
e bubulo cornu'. The matter is
discussed further by Johann Weiss, Die musika-
lischen Instrumente in den
Heiligen Schriften des Testaments, Graz, 1895, S. 92.
For similar instruments
among uncivilised people see Cyrus Adler, ibid. p. 448.
2 Ibid. p. 450.
3 Exodus xix. 16-19 and xx. 18.
solemn procession. When the A ron
Elohim, the Ark of
the Covenant, was transferred to the new city of Zion,1
David and the whole House of Israel conveyed the
Jahve amid jubilations and the sound of the shofar.
The prophet Ezekiel2 knew it as a signal horn:
‘2. Son of man, speak to the children of thy
say unto them. When I bring the sword upon a land,
if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and
set him for their watchman:
‘3. If when he seeth the sword come
upon the land, he
blows the trumpet, and warn the people;
‘4. Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet,
and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take
him away, his
blood shall be upon his own head.
‘5. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not
warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that
shall deliver his soul.
‘6. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow
not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if
come, and take any person from among them, he
is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require
at the watchman's hand.'
In Jeremiah,3 too, the shofar
proclaims danger, and
this fact is expressed in the same simple and deeply
impressive manner as in the last quotation:
‘19. My bowels, my bowels! I am pained
at my very
heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my
peace, because thou hast heard, 0 my soul, the sound of
the alarm of war.'
In the Bible we read that the sound of the shofar, the
blare of the horn, the teru'ah was
heard in the melee.
Job speaks of the Kôl Shofar in describing a battle.4
The shofar serves, therefore, to terrify the enemy,
the barditus of the ancient Germans.5 Indeed its
terrifying purpose is the most prominent feature
1 2 Samuel vi. 15, and I Chron. xiii. 7-9. 2 Ezekiel
iv. 19. 4 Job xxxix. 24. 5 Judges
employment. This is evident not only from
belief that the shofar was first heard on Mount Sinai,
but also from the words of Amos: 'Shall a trumpet be
blown in the city, and the people be not afraid?1
the Lord says:2 'Cry aloud, spare not, lift up
thy voice like a trumpet, and show thy people their
transgression'. We recognise here an association,
slight one, of the ram's hom with sin, an association
which stands out most clearly in its use on New Year's
Day and the Day of Atonement. Isaiah's exhortation,
to which the
above quotation forms the prelude, was
given, as appears from its contents, on the occasion of a
fast and feast of expiation. It becomes clear from
why on the Day of the Lord, the Yom Jahve,
the divine judgement, which the prophets describe so
impressively, is always accompanied by the sound
Zephaniah, who foresaw Judas's downfall, pro-
claims,3 "A day of the trumpet and alarm against the
fenced cities, and against the high towers'. Joel
the awful day,4 'Blow ye the trumpet in Zion,
and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the
inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of
for it is nigh at hand'. The hom, however, will
be heard not only on the Day of Judgement, but also on
the Day of Resurrection, of National Resurrection,
tones will sound forth:5 'And it shall come to pass
in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and
come which were ready to perish in the land of
Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall
worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem'.
was also blown at the coronation of a king.
Absalom sends out spies and says:6 'As soon as ye hear
the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom
Hebron'. The shofar is expressly mentioned
at Solomon's anointment and at Jehu's proclamation.7
Although the ram's hom had a multiplicity of uses
never employed for trivial purposes; it is always at
iii. 6. 2 Isaiah Iviii. j. 3 Zephaniah
i. 16. 4 Joel ii. i.
5 Isaiah xxvii. 13. 6 2
Samuel xv. 10. 7 I Kings i. 34, 39. and 2 fangs ix. 13.
solemn moments in the life of the people that
it is heard,
and even in
secular events it is only on serious occa-
sions, as in the din of battle, at the proclamation of a
law, or on the approach of danger. It seems strange that
the use of the instrument has been more and more re-
stricted until finally it is blown only at two feasts
religious life. The dissolution
of the national state can
in part explain this fact. During the Middle Ages
and to-day it is used on a number of occasions, though
certainly in a very limited degree, among great Jewish
communities in the East where its sound was heard in
Old Testament times. It resounds in time of danger
when an enemy or a flood threatens. According to
Talmud the shofar sounds
when a boat is sinking,1 and
when a famine or drought is impending.2 Here again the
shofar is used as a signal.3 But the blowing of the
has become more and more confined
to the religious
Besides the use of the ram's hom on festival days
previously played a part
on some occasions of which
obscure traces and remnants are to be found among
the Galician and Polish Jews, for example, at excom-
munication. The great excommunication, the Herem of
the Bible, is the same kind of institution as the taboo
among the savages. The Talmud mentions the use of
1 [The blowing of the shofar at a time of serious danger and distress occurred
as recently as 1913, when the steamship Voltwno was burned at sea on October
10, 1913. The following account is taken from The Burning of the ' Volturno'. By Arthur
Spurgeon, Cassell & Company, Limited, London, 1913, p. 35.
‘The strangest part
of the company on board was undoubtedly a group of
Jews. mostly Russians,
who were emigrating to New York. When the Volturno
feft Rotterdam the Feast
of the Atonement was near, and therefore the Uranian
Steamship Company obtained
for the use of the Jewish passengers a sacred
scrool and sacred horn,
so that they could hold their celebrations during the
voyage. I may add that
the scrool, which is written on parchment in Hebrew
characters, was loaned
to the Company for the voyage by the Rotterdam
synagogue at a cost of
'There was a Rabbi at the head of this band of Jews, who, coming from
interior, had most of them never seen the sea, or ships that go down
to the sea.
One can imagine their horror when in the midst of a lonely ocean they
that the ship which kept them afloat upon the water was furiously
They brought out their scrool, they sounded their hom, they knelt
gether on the deck and read the scrool, and recited their prayers
during the day.'—TRANS.]
2 Ta'anit, I6B.