In Christian countries, especially in modern times, the contents of one church are very like the furniture of another church; the functions in one resemble those in all, though on the Continent some shrines still retain relics and customs of the period when local saints had their peculiar rites. But it was a very different thing in Greece. The pilgrim who arrived at a temple never could guess what oddity or horror in the way of statues, sacrifices, or stories might be prepared for his edification. In the first place, there were HUMAN SACRIFICES. These are not familiar to low savages, if known to them at all. Probably they were first offered to barbaric royal ghosts, and thence transferred to gods. In the town of Salamis, in Cyprus, about the date of Hadrian, the devout might have found the priest slaying a human victim to Zeus,—an interesting custom, instituted, according to Lactantius, by Teucer, and continued till the age of the Roman Empire.(1)
(1) Euseb., Praep. Ev., iv. 17, mentions, among peoples practising human sacrifices, Rhodes, Salamis, Heliopolis, Chios, Tenedos, Lacedaemon, Arcadia and Athens; and, among gods thus honoured, Hera, Athene, Cronus, Ares, Dionysus, Zeus and Apollo. For Dionysus the Cannibal, Plutarch, Themist., 13; Porphyr., Abst., ii. 55. For the sacrifice to Zeus Laphystius, see Grote, i. c. vi., and his array of authorities, especially Herodotus, vii. 197. Clemens Alexandrinus (i. 36) mentions the Messenians, to Zeus; the Taurians, to Artemis, the folk of Pella, to Peleus and Chiron; the Cretans, to Zeus; the Lesbians, to Dionysus. Geusius de Victimis Humanis (1699) may be consulted.
At Alos in Achaia Phthiotis, the stranger MIGHT have seen an extraordinary spectacle, though we admit that the odds would have been highly against his chance of witnessing the following events. As the stranger approaches the town-hall, he observes an elderly and most respectable citizen strolling in the same direction. The citizen is so lost in thought that apparently he does not notice where he is going. Behind him comes a crowd of excited but silent people, who watch him with intense interest. The citizen reaches the steps of the town-hall, while the excitement of his friends behind increases visibly. Without thinking, the elderly person enters the building. With a wild and un-Aryan howl, the other people of Alos are down on him, pinion him, wreathe him with flowery garlands, and, lead him to the temple of Zeus Laphystius, or "The Glutton," where he is solemnly sacrificed on the altar. This was the custom of the good Greeks of Alos whenever a descendant of the house of Athamas entered the Prytaneion. Of course the family were very careful, as a rule, to keep at a safe distance from the forbidden place. "What a sacrifice for Greeks!" as the author of the Minos(1) says in that dialogue which is incorrectly attributed to Plato. "He cannot get out except to be sacrificed," says Herodotus, speaking of the unlucky descendant of Athamas. The custom appears to have existed as late as the time of the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius.(2)
(1) 315, c.; Plato, Laws, vi. 782, c.
(2) Argonautica, vii. 197.
Even in the second century, when Pausanias visited Arcadia, he found what seem to have been human sacrifices to Zeus. The passage is so very strange and romantic that we quote a part of it.(1) "The Lycaean hill hath other marvels to show, and chiefly this: thereon there is a grove of Zeus Lycaeus, wherein may men in nowise enter; but if any transgresses the law and goes within, he must die within the space of one year. This tale, moreover, they tell, namely, that whatsoever man or beast cometh within the grove casts no shadow, and the hunter pursues not the deer into that wood, but, waiting till the beast comes forth again, sees that it has left its shadow behind. And on the highest crest of the whole mountain there is a mound of heaped-up earth, the altar of Zeus Lycaeus, and the more part of Peloponnesus can be seen from that place. And before the altar stand two pillars facing the rising sun, and thereon golden eagles of yet more ancient workmanship. And on this altar they sacrifice to Zeus in a manner that may not be spoken, and little liking had I to make much search into this matter. BUT LET IT BE AS IT IS, AND AS IT HATH BEEN FROM THE BEGINNING." The words "as it hath been from the beginning" are ominous and significant, for the traditional myths of Arcadia tell of the human sacrifices of Lycaon, and of men who, tasting the meat of a mixed sacrifice, put human flesh between their lips unawares.(2) This aspect of Greek religion, then, is almost on a level with the mysterious cannibal horrors of "Voodoo," as practised by the secret societies of negroes in Hayti. But concerning these things, as Pausanias might say, it is little pleasure to inquire.
(1) Pausanias, viii. 2.
(2) Plato, Rep., viii. 565, d. This rite occurs in some African coronation ceremonies.
Even where men were not sacrificed to the gods, the tourist among the temples would learn that these bloody rites had once been customary, and ceremonies existed by way of commutation. This is precisely what we find in Vedic religion, in which the empty form of sacrificing a man was gone through, and the origin of the world was traced to the fragments of a god sacrificed by gods.(1) In Sparta was an altar of Artemis Orthia, and a wooden image of great rudeness and antiquity—so rude indeed, that Pausanias, though accustomed to Greek fetish-stones, thought it must be of barbaric origin. The story was that certain people of different towns, when sacrificing at the altar, were seized with frenzy and slew each other. The oracle commanded that the altar should be sprinkled with human blood. Men were therefore chosen by lot to be sacrificed till Lycurgus commuted the offering, and sprinkled the altar with the blood of boys who were flogged before the goddess. The priestess holds the statue of the goddess during the flogging, and if any of the boys are but lightly scourged, the image becomes too heavy for her to bear.
(1) The Purusha Sukhta, in Rig-Veda, x. 90.
The Ionians near Anthea had a temple of Artemis Triclaria, and to her it had been customary to sacrifice yearly a youth and maiden of transcendent beauty. In Pausanias's time the human sacrifice was commuted. He himself beheld the strange spectacle of living beasts and birds being driven into the fire to Artemis Laphria, a Calydonian goddess, and he had seen bears rush back among the ministrants; but there was no record that any one had ever been hurt by these wild beasts.(1) The bear was a beast closely connected with Artemis, and there is some reason to suppose that the goddess had herself been a she-bear or succeeded to the cult of a she-bear in the morning of time.(2)
(1) Paus., vii. 18, 19.
(2) See "Artemis", postea.
It may be believed that where symbolic human sacrifices are offered, that is, where some other victim is slain or a dummy of a man is destroyed, and where legend maintains that the sacrifice was once human, there men and women were originally the victims. Greek ritual and Greek myth were full of such tales and such commutations.(1) In Rome, as is well known, effigies of men called Argives were sacrificed.(2) As an example of a beast-victim given in commutation, Pausanias mentions(3) the case of the folk of Potniae, who were compelled once a year to offer to Dionysus a boy, in the bloom of youth. But the sacrifice was commuted for a goat.
(1) See Hermann, Alterthumer., ii. 159-161, for abundant examples.
(2) Plutarch, Quest. Rom. 32.
(3) ix. 8, 1.
These commutations are familiar all over the world. Even in Mexico, where human sacrifices and ritual cannibalism were daily events, Quetzalcoatl was credited with commuting human sacrifices for blood drawn from the bodies of the religious. In this one matter even the most conservative creeds and the faiths most opposed to change sometimes say with Tartuffe:—
Le ciel defend, de vrai, certains contentements, Mais on trouve avec lui des accommodements.
Though the fact has been denied (doubtless without reflection), the fact remains that the Greeks offered human sacrifices. Now what does this imply? Must it be taken as a survival from barbarism, as one of the proofs that the Greeks had passed through the barbaric status?
The answer is less obvious than might be supposed. Sacrifice has two origins. First, there are HONORIFIC sacrifices, in which the ghost or god (or divine beast, if a divine beast be worshipped) is offered the food he is believed to prefer. This does not occur among the lowest savages. To carnivorous totems, Garcilasso says, the Indians of Peru offered themselves. The feeding of sacred mice in the temples of Apollo Smintheus is well known. Secondly, there are expiatory or PIACULAR sacrifices, in which the worshipper, as it were, fines himself in a child, an ox, or something else that he treasures. The latter kind of sacrifice (most common in cases of crime done or suspected within the circle of kindred) is not necessarily barbaric, except in its cruelty. An example is the Attic Thargelia, in which two human scape-goats annually bore "the sins of the congregation," and were flogged, driven to the sea with figs tied round their necks, and burned.(1)
(1) Compare the Marseilles human sacrifice, Petron., 141; and for the Thargelia, Tsetzes, Chiliads, v. 736; Hellad. in Photius, p. 1590 f. and Harpoc. s. v.
The institution of human sacrifice, then, whether the offering be regarded as food, or as a gift to the god of what is dearest to man (as in the case of Jephtha's daughter), or whether the victim be supposed to carry on his head the sins of the people, does not necessarily date from the period of savagery. Indeed, sacrifice flourishes most, not among savages, but among advancing barbarians. It would probably be impossible to find any examples of human sacrifices of an expiatory or piacular character, any sacrifices at all, among Australians, or Andamanese, or Fuegians. The notion of presenting food to the supernatural powers, whether ghosts or gods, is relatively rare among savages.(1) The terrible Aztec banquets of which the gods were partakers are the most noted examples of human sacrifices with a purely cannibal origin. Now there is good reason to guess that human sacrifices with no other origin than cannibalism survived even in ancient Greece. "It may be conjectured," writes Professor Robertson Smith,(2) "that the human sacrifices offered to the Wolf Zeus (Lycaeus) in Arcadia were originally cannibal feasts of a Wolf tribe. The first participants in the rite were, according to later legend, changed into wolves; and in later times(3) at least one fragment of the human flesh was placed among the sacrificial portions derived from other victims, and the man who ate it was believed to become a were-wolf."(4) It is the almost universal rule with cannibals not to eat members of their own stock, just as they do not eat their own totem. Thus, as Professor Robertson Smith says, when the human victim is a captive or other foreigner, the human sacrifice may be regarded as a survival of cannibalism. Where, on the other hand, the victim is a fellow tribesman, the sacrifice is expiatory or piacular.
(1) Jevons, Introduction to the Science of Religion, pp. 161, 199.
(2) Encyc. Brit., s. v. "Sacrifice".
(3) Plato, Rep., viii. 565, D.
(4) Paus., viii. 2.
Among Greek cannibal gods we cannot fail to reckon the so-called "Cannibal Dionysus," and probably the Zeus of Orchomenos, Zeus Laphystius, who is explained by Suidas as "the Glutton Zeus". The cognate verb ((Greek text omitted)) means "to eat with mangling and rending," "to devour gluttonously". By Zeus Laphystius, then, men's flesh was gorged in this distressing fashion.
The evidence of human sacrifice (especially when it seems not piacular, but a relic of cannibalism) raises a presumption that Greeks had once been barbarians. The presumption is confirmed by the evidence of early Greek religious art.
When his curiosity about human sacrifices was satisfied, the pilgrim in Greece might turn his attention to the statues and other representations of the gods. He would find that the modern statues by famous artists were beautiful anthropomorphic works in marble or in gold and ivory. It is true that the faces of the ancient gilded Dionysi at Corinth were smudged all over with cinnabar, like fetish-stones in India or Africa.(1) As a rule, however, the statues of historic times were beautiful representations of kindly and gracious beings. The older works were stiff and rigid images, with the lips screwed into an unmeaning smile. Older yet were the bronze gods, made before the art of soldering was invented, and formed of beaten plates joined by small nails. Still more ancient were the wooden images, which probably bore but a slight resemblance to the human frame, and which were often mere "stocks".(2) Perhaps once a year were shown the very early gods, the Demeter with the horse's head, the Artemis with the fish's tails, the cuckoo Hera, whose image was of pear-wood, the Zeus with three eyes, the Hermes, made after the fashion of the pictures on the walls of sacred caves among the Bushmen. But the oldest gods of all, says Pausanias repeatedly, were rude stones in the temple or the temple precinct. In Achaean Pharae he found some thirty squared stones, named each after a god. "Among all the Greeks in the oldest times rude stones were worshipped in place of statues." The superstitious man in Theophrastus's Characters used to anoint the sacred stones with oil. The stone which Cronus swallowed in mistake for Zeus was honoured at Delphi, and kept warm with wool wrappings. There was another sacred stone among the Troezenians, and the Megarians worshipped as Apollo a stone cut roughly into a pyramidal form. The Argives had a big stone called Zeus Kappotas. The Thespians worshipped a stone which they called Eros; "their oldest idol is a rude stone".(3) It is well known that the original fetish-stone has been found in situ below the feet of the statue of Apollo in Delos. On this showing, then, the religion of very early Greeks in Greece was not unlike that of modern Negroes. The artistic evolution of the gods, a remarkably rapid one after a certain point, could be traced in every temple. It began with the rude stone, and rose to the wooden idol, in which, as we have seen, Pausanias and Porphyry found such sanctity. Next it reached the hammered bronze image, passed through the archaic marbles, and culminated in the finer marbles and the chryselephantine statues of Zeus and Athena. But none of the ancient sacred objects lost their sacredness. The oldest were always the holiest idols; the oldest of all were stumps and stones, like savage fetish-stones.
(1) Pausanias, ii. 2.
(2) Clemens Alex., Protrept. (Oxford, 1715). p. 41.
(3) Gill, Myths of South Pacific, p. 60. Compare a god, which proved to be merely pumice-stone, and was regarded as the god of winds and waves, having been drifted to Puka-Puka. Offerings of food were made to it during hurricanes.
Another argument in favour of the general thesis that savagery left deep marks on Greek life in general, and on myth in particular, may be derived from survivals of totemism in ritual and legend. The following instances need not necessarily be accepted, but it may be admitted that they are precisely the traces which totemism would leave had it once existed, and then waned away on the advance of civilisation.(1)
(1) The argument to be derived from the character of the Greek (Greek text omitted) as a modified form of the totem-kindred is too long and complex to be put forward here. It is stated in Custom and Myth, "The history of the Family," in M'Lennan's Studies in Early history, and is assumed, if not proved, in Ancient Society by the late Mr. Lewis Morgan.
That Greeks in certain districts regarded with religious reverence certain plants and animals is beyond dispute. That some stocks even traced their lineage to beasts will be shown in the chapter on Greek Divine Myths, and the presumption is that these creatures, though explained as incarnations and disguises of various gods, were once totems sans phrase, as will be inferred from various examples. Clemens Alexandrinus, again, after describing the animal-worship of the Egyptians, mentions cases of zoolatry in Greece.(1) The Thessalians revered storks, the Thebans weasels, and the myth ran that the weasel had in some way aided Alcmena when in labour with Heracles. In another form of the myth the weasel was the foster-mother of the hero.(2) Other Thessalians, the Myrmidons, claimed descent from the ant and revered ants. The religious respect paid to mice in the temple of Apollo Smintheus, in the Troad, Rhodes, Gela, Lesbos and Crete is well known, and a local tribe were alluded to as Mice by an oracle. The god himself, like the Japanese harvest-god, was represented in art with a mouse at his foot, and mice, as has been said, were fed at his shrine.(3) The Syrians, says Clemens Alexandrinus, worship doves and fishes, as the Elians worship Zeus.(4) The people of Delphi adored the wolf,(5) and the Samians the sheep. The Athenians had a hero whom they worshipped in the shape of a wolf.(6) A remarkable testimony is that of the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, ii. 124. "The wolf," he says, "was a beast held in honour by the Athenians, and whosoever slays a wolf collects what is needful for its burial." The burial of sacred animals in Egypt is familiar. An Arab tribe mourns over and solemnly buries all dead gazelles.(7) Nay, flies were adored with the sacrifice of an ox near the temple of Apollo in Leucas.(8) Pausanias (iii. 22) mentions certain colonists who were guided by a hare to a site where the animal hid in a myrtle-bush. They therefore adore the myrtle, (Greek text omitted). In the same way a Carian stock, the Ioxidae, revered the asparagus.(9) A remarkable example of descent mythically claimed from one of the lower animals is noted by Otfried Muller.(10) Speaking of the swan of Apollo, he says, "That deity was worshipped, according to the testimony of the Iliad, in the Trojan island of Tenedos. There, too, was Tennes honoured as the (Greek text omitted) of the island. Now his father was called Cycnus (the swan) in an oft-told and romantic legend.(11)... The swan, therefore, as father to the chief hero on the Apolline island, stands in distinct relation to the god, who is made to come forward still more prominently from the fact that Apollo himself is also called father of Tennes. I think we can scarcely fail to recognise a mythus which was local at Tenedos.... The fact, too, of calling the swan, instead of Apollo, the father of a hero, demands altogether a simplicity and boldness of fancy which are far more ancient than the poems of Homer."
(1) Op. cit., i. 34.
(2) Scholiast on Iliad, xix. 119.
(3) Aelian, H. A., xii. 5; Strabo, xiii. 604. Compare "Apollo and the Mouse, Custom and Myth, pp. 103-120.
(4) Lucian, De Dea Syria.
(5) Aelian, H. A., xii. 40.
(6) Harpocration, (Greek text omitted). Compare an address to the wolf-hero, "who delights in the flight and tears of men," in Aristophanes, Vespae, 389.
(7) Robertson Smith, Kinship in Early Arabia, pp. 195-204.
(8) Aelian, xi. 8.
(9) Plutarch, Theseus, 14.
(10) Proleg., Engl. trans., p. 204.
(11) (Canne on Conon, 28.)
Had Muller known that this "simplicity and boldness of fancy" exist to-day, for example, among the Swan tribe of Australia, he would probably have recognised in Cycnus a survival from totemism. The fancy survives again in Virgil's Cupavo, "with swan's plumes rising from his crest, the mark of his father's form".(1) Descent was claimed, not only from a swan Apollo, but from a dog Apollo.
(1) Aeneid, x. 187.
In connection with the same set of ideas, it is pointed out that several (Greek text omitted), or stocks, had eponymous heroes, in whose names the names of the ancestral beast apparently survived. In Attica the Crioeis have their hero (Crio, "Ram"), the Butadae have Butas ("Bullman"), the Aegidae have Aegeus ("Goat"), and the Cynadae, Cynus ("Dog"). Lycus, according to Harpocration (s. v.) has his statue in the shape of a wolf in the Lyceum. "The general facts that certain animals might not be sacrificed to certain gods" (at Athens the Aegidae introduced Athena, to whom no goat might be offered on the Acropolis, while she herself wore the goat skin, aegis), "while, on the other hand, each deity demanded particular victims, explained by the ancients themselves in certain cases to be hostile animals, find their natural explanation" in totemism.(1) Mr. Evelyn Abbott points out, however, that the names Aegeus, Aegae, Aegina, and others, may be connected with the goat only by an old volks-etymologie, as on coins of Aegina in Achaea. The real meaning of the words may be different. Compare (Greek text omitted), the sea-shore. Mr. J. G. Frazer does not, at present, regard totemism as proved in the case of Greece.(2)
(1) Some apparent survivals of totemism in ritual will be found in the chapter on Greek gods, especially Zeus, Dionysus, and Apollo.
(2) See his Golden Bough, an alternative explanation of these animals in connection with "The Corn Spirit".
As final examples of survivals from the age of barbarism in the religion of Greece, certain features in the Mysteries may be noted. Plutarch speaks of "the eating of raw flesh, and tearing to pieces of victims, as also fastings and beatings of the breast, and again in many places abusive language at the sacrifices, and other mad doings". The mysteries of Demeter, as will appear when her legend is criticised, contained one element all unlike these "mad doings"; and the evidence of Sophocles, Pindar, Plutarch and others demonstrate that religious consolations were somehow conveyed in the Eleusinia. But Greece had many other local mysteries, and in several of these it is undeniable the Greeks acted much as contemporary Australians, Zunis and Negroes act in their secret initiations which, however, also inculcate moral ideas of considerable excellence. Important as these analogies are, they appear to have escaped the notice of most mythologists. M. Alfred Maury, however, in Les Religions de la Grece, published in 1857, offers several instances of hidden rites, common to Hellas and to barbarism.
There seem in the mysteries of savage races to be two chief purposes. There is the intention of giving to the initiated a certain sacred character, which puts them in close relation with gods or demons, and there is the introduction of the young to complete or advancing manhood, and to full participation in the savage Church with its ethical ideas. The latter ceremonies correspond, in short, to confirmation, and they are usually of a severe character, being meant to test by fasting (as Plutarch says) and by torture (as in the familiar Spartan rite) the courage and constancy of the young braves. The Greek mysteries best known to us are the Thesmophoria and the Eleusinia. In the former the rites (as will appear later) partook of the nature of savage "medicine" or magic, and were mainly intended to secure fertility in husbandry and in the family. In the Eleusinia the purpose was the purification of the initiated, secured by ablutions and by standing on the "ram's-skin of Zeus," and after purifications the mystae engaged in sacred dances, and were permitted to view a miracle play representing the sorrows and consolations of Demeter. There was a higher element, necessarily obscure in nature. The chief features in the whole were purifications, dancing, sacrifice and the representation of the miracle play. It would be tedious to offer an exhaustive account of savage rites analogous to these mysteries of Hellas. Let it suffice to display the points where Greek found itself in harmony with Australian, and American, and African practice. These points are: (1) mystic dances; (2) the use of a little instrument, called turndun in Australia, whereby a roaring noise is made, and the profane are warned off; (3) the habit of daubing persons about to be initiated with clay or anything else that is sordid, and of washing this off; apparently by way of showing that old guilt is removed and a new life entered upon; (4) the performances with serpents may be noticed, while the "mad doings" and "howlings" mentioned by Plutarch are familiar to every reader of travels in uncivilised countries; (5) ethical instruction is communicated.
First, as to the mystic dances, Lucian observes:(1) "You cannot find a single ancient mystery in which there is not dancing.... This much all men know, that most people say of the revealers of the mysteries that they 'dance them out'" ((Greek text omitted)). Clemens of Alexandria uses the same term when speaking of his own "appalling revelations".(2) So closely connected are mysteries with dancing among savages, that when Mr. Orpen asked Qing, the Bushman hunter, about some doctrines in which Qing was not initiated, he said: "Only the initiated men of that dance know these things". To "dance" this or that means to be acquainted with this or that myth, which is represented in a dance or ballet d'action(3) ((Greek text omitted)). So widely distributed is the practice, that Acosta, in an interesting passage, mentions it as familiar to the people of Peru before and after the Spanish conquest. The text is a valuable instance of survival in religion. When they were converted to Christianity the Peruvians detected the analogy between our sacrament and their mysteries, and they kept up as much as possible of the old rite in the new ritual. Just as the mystae of Eleusis practised chastity, abstaining from certain food, and above all from beans, before the great Pagan sacrament, so did the Indians. "To prepare themselves all the people fasted two days, during which they did neyther company with their wives, nor eate any meate with salt or garlicke, nor drink any chic.... And although the Indians now forbeare to sacrifice beasts or other things publikely, which cannot be hidden from the Spaniardes, yet doe they still use many ceremonies that have their beginnings from these feasts and auntient superstitions, for at this day do they covertly make their feast of Ytu at the daunces of the feast of the Sacrament. Another feast falleth almost at the same time, whereas the Christians observe the solempnitie of the holy Sacrament, which DOTH RESEMBLE IT IN SOME SORT, AS IN DAUNCING, SINGING AND REPRESENTATIONS."(4) The holy "daunces" at Seville are under Papal disapproval, but are to be kept up, it is said, till the peculiar dresses used in them are worn out. Acosta's Indians also had "garments which served only for this feast". It is superfluous to multiply examples of the dancing, which is an invariable feature of savage as of Greek mysteries.
(1) (Greek text omitted), chap. xv. 277.
(2) Ap. Euseb., Praep. Ev., ii, 3, 6.
(3) Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.
(4) Acosta, Historie of the Indies, book v. chap. xxviii. London, 1604.
2. The Greek and savage use of the turndun, or bribbun of Australia in the mysteries is familiar to students. This fish-shaped flat board of wood is tied to a string, and whirled round, so as to cause a peculiar muffled roar. Lobeck quotes from the old scholia on Clemens Alexandrinus, published by Bastius in annotations on St. Gregory, the following Greek description of the turndun, the "bull-roarer" of English country lads, the Gaelic srannam:(1) (Greek text omitted)". "The conus was a little slab of wood, tied to a string, and whirled round in the mysteries to make a whirring noise. As the mystic uses of the turndun in Australia, New Zealand, New Mexico and Zululand have elsewhere been described at some length (Custom and Myth, pp. 28-44), it may be enough to refer the reader to the passage. Mr. Taylor has since found the instrument used in religious mysteries in West Africa, so it has now been tracked almost round the world. That an instrument so rude should be employed by Greek and Australians on mystic occasions is in itself a remarkable coincidence. Unfortunately, Lobeck, who published the Greek description of the turndun (Aglaophamus, 700), was unacquainted with the modern ethnological evidence.
(1) Pronounced strantham. For this information I am indebted to my friend Mr. M'Allister, schoolmaster at St. Mary's Loch.
3. The custom of plastering the initiated over with clay or filth was common in Greek as in barbaric mysteries. Greek examples may be given first. Demosthenes accuses Aeschines of helping his mother in certain mystic rites, aiding her, especially, by bedaubing the initiate with clay and bran.(1) Harpocration explains the term used ((Greek text omitted)) thus: "Daubing the clay and bran on the initiate, to explain which they say that the Titans when they attacked Dionysus daubed themselves over with chalk, but afterwards, for ritual purposes, clay was used". It may be urged with some force that the mother of Aeschines introduced foreign, novel and possibly savage rites. But Sophocles, in a fragment of his lost play, the Captives, uses the term in the same ritual sense—
(Greek text omitted).
(1) De Corona, 313.
The idea clearly was that by cleansing away the filth plastered over the body was symbolised the pure and free condition of the initiate. He might now cry in the mystic chant—
(Greek text omitted). Worse have I fled, better have I found.
That this was the significance of the daubing with clay in Greek mysteries and the subsequent cleansing seems quite certain. We are led straight to this conclusion by similar rites, in which the purpose of mystically cleansing was openly put forward. Thus Plutarch, in his essay on superstition, represents the guilty man who would be purified actually rolling in clay, confessing his misdeeds, and then sitting at home purified by the cleansing process ((Greek text omitted)).(1) In another rite, the cleansing of blood-guiltiness, a similar process was practised. Orestes, after killing his mother, complains that the Eumenides do not cease to persecute him, though he has been "purified by blood of swine".(2) Apollonius says that the red hand of the murderer was dipped in the blood of swine and then washed.(3) Athenaeus describes a similar unpleasant ceremony.(4) The blood of whelps was apparently used also, men being first daubed with it and then washed clean.(5) The word (Greek text omitted) is again the appropriate ritual term. Such rites Plutarch calls (Greek text omitted), "filthy purifications".(6) If daubing with dirt is known to have been a feature of Greek mysteries, it meets us everywhere among savages. In O-Kee-Pa, that curiously minute account of the Mandan mysteries, Catlin writes that a portion of the frame of the initiate was "covered with clay, which the operator took from a wooden bowl, and with his hand plastered unsparingly over". The fifty young men waiting for initiation "were naked and entirely covered with clay of various colours".(7) The custom is mentioned by Captain John Smith in Virginia. Mr. Winwood Reade found it in Africa, where, as among the Mandans and Spartans, cruel torture and flogging accompanied the initiation of young men.(8) In Australia the evidence for daubing the initiate is very abundant.(9) In New Mexico, the Zunis stole Mr. Cushing's black paint, as considering it even better than clay for religious daubing.(10)
(1) So Hermann, op. cit., 133.
(2) Eumenides, 273.
(3) Argonautica, iv. 693.
(4) ix. 78. Hermann, from whom the latter passages are borrowed, also quotes the evidence of a vase published by Feuerbach, Lehrbuch, p. 131, with other authorities.
(5) Plutarch, Quaest. Rom., 68.
(6) De Superstitione, chap. xii.
(7) O-Kee-Pa, London, 1867, p. 21.
(8) Savage Africa, case of Mongilomba; Pausanias, iii. 15.
(9) Brough Smyth, i. 60.
(10) Custma and Myth, p. 40.
4. Another savage rite, the use of serpents in Greek mysteries, is attested by Clemens Alexandrinus and by Demosthenes (loc. cit.). Clemens says the snakes were caressed in representations of the loves of Zeus in serpentine form. The great savage example is that of "the snake-dance of the Moquis," who handle rattle-snakes in the mysteries without being harmed.(1) The dance is partly totemistic, partly meant, like the Thesmophoria, to secure the fertility of the lands of the Moquis of Arizonas. The turndum or (Greek text omitted) is employed. Masks are worn, as in the rites of Demeter Cidiria in Arcadia.(2)
(1) The Snake-Dance of the Moquis. By Captain John G. Bourke, London, 1884.
(2) Pausanias, viii. 16.
5. This last point of contact between certain Greek and certain savage mysteries is highly important. The argument of Lobeck, in his celebrated work Aglaophamus, is that the Mysteries were of no great moment in religion. Had he known the evidence as to savage initiations, he would have been confirmed in his opinion, for many of the singular Greek rites are clearly survivals from savagery. But was there no more truly religious survival? Pindar is a very ancient witness that things of divine import were revealed. "Happy is he who having seen these things goes under the hollow earth. He knows the end of life, and the god-given beginning."(1) Sophocles "chimes in," as Lobeck says, declaring that the initiate alone LIVE in Hades, while other souls endure all evils. Crinagoras avers that even in life the initiate live secure, and in death are the happier. Isagoras declares that about the end of life and all eternity they have sweet hopes.
(1) Fragm., cxvi., 128 H. p. 265.
Splendida testimonia, cries Lobeck. He tries to minimise the evidence, remarking that Isocrates promises the very same rewards to all who live justly and righteously. But why not, if to live justly and righteously was part of the teaching of the mysteries of Eleusis? Cicero's evidence, almost a translation of the Greek passages already cited, Lobeck dismisses as purely rhetorical.(1) Lobeck's method is rather cavalier. Pindar and Sophocles meant something of great significance.
(1) De Legibus ii. 14; Aglaophamus, pp. 69-74.
Now we have acknowledged savage survivals of ugly rites in the Greek mysteries. But it is only fair to remember that, in certain of the few savage mysteries of which we know the secret, righteousness of life and a knowledge of good are inculcated. This is the case in Australia, and in Central Africa, where to be "uninitiated" is equivalent to being selfish.(1) Thus it seems not improbable that consolatory doctrines were expounded in the Eleusinia, and that this kind of sermon or exhortation was no less a survival from savagery than the daubing with clay, and the (Greek text omitted), and other wild rites.
(1) Making of Religion, pp. 193-197, 235.
We have now attempted to establish that in Greek law and ritual many savage customs and usages did undeniably survive. We have seen that both philosophical and popular opinion in Greece believed in a past age of savagery. In law, in religion, in religious art, in custom, in human sacrifice, in relics of totemism, and in the mysteries, we have seen that the Greeks retained plenty of the usages now found among the remotest and most backward races. We have urged against the suggestion of borrowing from Egypt or Asia that these survivals are constantly found in local and tribal religion and rituals, and that consequently they probably date from that remote prehistoric past when the Greeks lived in village settlements. It may still doubtless be urged that all these things are Pelasgic, and were the customs of a race settled in Hellas before the arrival of the Homeric Achaeans, and Dorians, and Argives, who, on this hypothesis, adopted and kept up the old savage Pelasgian ways and superstitions. It is impossible to prove or disprove this belief, nor does it affect our argument. We allege that all Greek life below the surface was rich in institutions now found among the most barbaric peoples. These institutions, whether borrowed or inherited, would still be part of the legacy left by savages to cultivated peoples. As this legacy is so large in custom and ritual, it is not unfair to argue that portions of it will also be found in myths. It is now time to discuss Greek myths of the origin of things, and decide whether they are or are not analogous in ideas to the myths which spring from the wild and ignorant fancy of Australians, Cahrocs, Nootkas and Bushmen.
CHAPTER X. GREEK COSMOGONIC MYTHS.
Nature of the evidence—Traditions of origin of the world and man—Homeric, Hesiodic and Orphic myths—Later evidence of historians, dramatists, commentators—The Homeric story comparatively pure—The story in Hesiod, and its savage analogues—The explanations of the myth of Cronus, modern and ancient—The Orphic cosmogony—Phanes and Prajapati—Greek myths of the origin of man—Their savage analogues.
The authorities for Greek cosmogonic myth are extremely various in date, character and value. The most ancient texts are the Iliad and the poems attributed to Hesiod. The Iliad, whatever its date, whatever the place of its composition, was intended to please a noble class of warriors. The Hesiodic poems, at least the Theogony, have clearly a didactic aim, and the intention of presenting a systematic and orderly account of the divine genealogies. To neither would we willingly attribute a date much later than the ninth century of our era, but the question of the dates of all the epic and Hesiodic poems, and even of their various parts, is greatly disputed among scholars. Yet it is nowhere denied that, however late the present form of some of the poems may be, they contain ideas of extreme antiquity. Although the Homeric poems are usually considered, on the whole, more ancient than those attributed to Hesiod,(1) it is a fact worth remembering that the notions of the origin of things in Hesiod are much more savage and (as we hold) much more archaic than the opinions of Homer.
(1) Grote assigns his Theogony to circ. 750 A.D. The Thegony was taught to boys in Greece, much as the Church Catechism and Bible are taught in England; Aeschines in Ctesiph., 135, p. 73. Libanius, 400 years after Christ (i. 502-509, iv. 874).
While Hesiod offers a complete theogony or genealogy of deities and heroes, Homer gives no more than hints and allusions to the stormy past of the gods. It is clear, however, that his conception of that past differed considerably from the traditions of Hesiod. However we explain it, the Homeric mythology (though itself repugnant to the philosophers from Xenophanes downwards) is much more mild, pure and humane than the mythology either of Hesiod or of our other Greek authorities. Some may imagine that Homer retains a clearer and less corrupted memory than Hesiod possessed of an original and authentic "divine tradition". Others may find in Homer's comparative purity a proof of the later date of his epics in their present form, or may even proclaim that Homer was a kind of Cervantes, who wished to laugh the gods away. There is no conceivable or inconceivable theory about Homer that has not its advocates. For ourselves, we hold that the divine genius of Homer, though working in an age distant rather than "early," selected instinctively the purer mythical materials, and burned away the coarser dross of antique legend, leaving little but the gold which is comparatively refined.
We must remember that it does not follow that any mythical ideas are later than the age of Homer because we first meet them in poems of a later date. We have already seen that though the Brahmanas are much later in date of compilation than the Veda, yet a tradition which we first find in the Brahmanas may be older than the time at which the Veda was compiled. In the same way, as Mr. Max Muller observes, "we know that certain ideas which we find in later writers do not occur in Homer. But it does not follow at all that such ideas are all of later growth or possess a secondary character. One myth may have belonged to one tribe; one god may have had his chief worship in one locality; and our becoming acquainted with these through a later poet does not in the least prove their later origin."(1)
(1) Hibbert Lectures, pp. 130, 131.
After Homer and Hesiod, our most ancient authorities for Greek cosmogonic myths are probably the so-called Orphic fragments. Concerning the dates and the manner of growth of these poems volumes of erudition have been compiled. As Homer is silent about Orpheus (in spite of the position which the mythical Thracian bard acquired as the inventor of letters and magic and the father of the mysteries), it has been usual to regard the Orphic ideas as of late introduction. We may agree with Grote and Lobeck that these ideas and the ascetic "Orphic mode of life" first acquired importance in Greece about the time of Epimenides, or, roughly speaking, between 620 and 500 B.C.(1) That age certainly witnessed a curious growth of superstitious fears and of mystic ceremonies intended to mitigate spiritual terrors. Greece was becoming more intimately acquainted with Egypt and with Asia, and was comparing her own religion with the beliefs and rites of other peoples. The times and the minds of men were being prepared for the clear philosophies that soon "on Argive heights divinely sang". Just as, when the old world was about to accept Christianity, a deluge of Oriental and barbaric superstitions swept across men's minds, so immediately before the dawn of Greek philosophy there came an irruption of mysticism and of spiritual fears. We may suppose that the Orphic poems were collected, edited and probably interpolated, in this dark hour of Greece. "To me," says Lobeck, "it appears that the verses may be referred to the age of Onomacritus, an age curious in the writings of ancient poets, and attracted by the allurements of mystic religions." The style of the surviving fragments is sufficiently pure and epic; the strange unheard of myths are unlike those which the Alexandrian poets drew from fountains long lost.(2) But how much in the Orphic myths is imported from Asia or Egypt, how much is the invention of literary forgers like Onomacritus, how much should be regarded as the first guesses of the physical poet-philosophers, and how much is truly ancient popular legend recast in literary form, it is impossible with certainty to determine.
(1) Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 317; Grote, iii. 86.
(2) Aglaophamus, i. 611.
We must not regard a myth as necessarily late or necessarily foreign because we first meet it in an "Orphic composition". If the myth be one of the sort which encounter us in every quarter, nay, in every obscure nook of the globe, we may plausibly regard it as ancient. If it bear the distinct marks of being a Neo-platonic pastiche, we may reject it without hesitation. On the whole, however, our Orphic authorities can never be quoted with much satisfaction. The later sources of evidence for Greek myths are not of great use to the student of cosmogonic legend, though invaluable when we come to treat of the established dynasty of gods, the heroes and the "culture-heroes". For these the authorities are the whole range of Greek literature, poets, dramatists, philosophers, critics, historians and travellers. We have also the notes and comments of the scholiasts or commentators on the poets and dramatists. Sometimes these annotators only darken counsel by their guesses. Sometimes perhaps, especially in the scholia on the Iliad and Odyssey, they furnish us with a precious myth or popular marchen not otherwise recorded. The regular professional mythographi, again, of whom Apollodorus (150 B.C.) is the type, compiled manuals explanatory of the myths which were alluded to by the poets. The scholiasts and mythographi often retain myths from lost poems and lost plays. Finally, from the travellers and historians we occasionally glean examples of the tales ("holy chapters," as Mr. Grote calls them) which were narrated by priests and temple officials to the pilgrims who visited the sacred shrines.
These "chapters" are almost invariably puerile, savage and obscene. They bear the stamp of extreme antiquity, because they never, as a rule, passed through the purifying medium of literature. There were many myths too crude and archaic for the purposes of poetry and of the drama. These were handed down from local priest to local priest, with the inviolability of sacred and immutable tradition. We have already given a reason for assigning a high antiquity to the local temple myths. Just as Greeks lived in villages before they gathered into towns, so their gods were gods of villages or tribes before they were national deities. The local myths are those of the archaic village state of "culture," more ancient, more savage, than literary narrative. Very frequently the local legends were subjected to the process of allegorical interpretation, as men became alive to the monstrosity of their unsophisticated meaning. Often they proved too savage for our authorities, who merely remark, "Concerning this a certain holy chapter is told," but decline to record the legend. In the same way missionaries, with mistaken delicacy, often refuse to repeat some savage legend with which they are acquainted.
The latest sort of testimony as to Greek myths must be sought in the writings of the heathen apologists or learned Pagan defenders of Paganism in the first centuries during Christianity, and in the works of their opponents, the fathers of the Church. Though the fathers certainly do not understate the abominations of Paganism, and though the heathen apologists make free use of allegorical (and impossible) interpretations, the evidence of both is often useful and important. The testimony of ancient art, vases, statues, pictures and the descriptions of these where they no longer survive, are also of service and interest.
After this brief examination of the sources of our knowledge of Greek myth, we may approach the Homeric legends of the origin of things and the world's beginning. In Homer these matters are only referred to incidentally. He more than once calls Oceanus (that is, the fabled stream which flows all round the world, here regarded as a PERSON) "the origin of the gods," "the origin of all things".(1) That Ocean is considered a person, and that he is not an allegory for water or the aqueous element, appears from the speech of Hera to Aphrodite: "I am going to visit the limits of the bountiful earth, and Oceanus, father of the gods, and mother Tethys, who reared me duly and nurtured me in their halls, when far-seeing Zeus imprisoned Cronus beneath the earth and the unvintaged sea".(2) Homer does not appear to know Uranus as the father of Cronus, and thus the myth of the mutilation of Uranus necessarily does not occur in Homer. Cronus, the head of the dynasty which preceded that of Zeus, is described(3) as the son of Rhea, but nothing is said of his father. The passage contains the account which Poseidon himself chose to give of the war in heaven: "Three brethren are we, and sons of Cronus whom Rhea bare—Zeus and myself, and Hades is the third, the ruler of the folk in the underworld. And in three lots were all things divided, and each drew a domain of his own." Here Zeus is the ELDEST son of Cronus. Though lots are drawn at hazard for the property of the father (which we know to have been customary in Homer's time), yet throughout the Iliad Zeus constantly claims the respect and obedience due to him by right of primogeniture.(4) We shall see that Hesiod adopts exactly the opposite view. Zeus is the YOUNGEST child of Cronus. His supremacy is an example of jungsten recht, the wide-spread custom which makes the youngest child the heir in chief.(5) But how did the sons of Cronus come to have his property in their hands to divide? By right of successful rebellion, when "Zeus imprisoned Cronus beneath the earth and the unvintaged sea". With Cronus in his imprisonment are the Titans. That is all that Homer cares to tell about the absolute beginning of things and the first dynasty of rulers of Olympus. His interest is all in the actual reigning family, that of the Cronidae, nor is he fond of reporting their youthful excesses.
(1) Iliad, xiv. 201, 302, 246.
(2) In reading what Homer and Hesiod report about these matters, we must remember that all the forces and phenomena are conceived of by them as PERSONS. In this regard the archaic and savage view of all things as personal and human is preserved. "I maintain," says Grote, "moreover, fully the character of these great divine agents as persons, which is the light in which they presented themselves to the Homeric or Hesiodic audience. Uranus, Nyx, Hypnos and Oneiros (heaven, night, sleep and dream) are persons just as much as Zeus or Apollo. To resolve them into mere allegories is unsafe and unprofitable. We then depart from the point of view of the original hearers without acquiring any consistent or philosophical point of view of our own." This holds good though portions of the Hesiodic genealogies are distinctly poetic allegories cast in the mould or the ancient personal theory of things.
(3) Iliad, xv. 187.
(4) The custom by which sons drew lots for equal shares of their dead father's property is described in Odyssey, xiv. 199-212. Here Odysseus, giving a false account of himself, says that he was a Cretan, a bastard, and that his half-brothers, born in wedlock, drew lots for their father's inheritance, and did not admit him to the drawing, but gave him a small portion apart.
(5) See Elton, Origins of English History, pp. 185-207.
We now turn from Homer's incidental allusions to the ample and systematic narrative of Hesiod. As Mr. Grote says, "Men habitually took their information respecting their theogonic antiquities from the Hesiodic poems." Hesiod was accepted as an authority both by the pious Pausanias in the second century of our era—who protested against any attempt to alter stories about the gods—and by moral reformers like Plato and Xenophanes, who were revolted by the ancient legends,(1) and, indeed, denied their truth. Yet, though Hesiod represents Greek orthodoxy, we have observed that Homer (whose epics are probably still more ancient) steadily ignores the more barbarous portions of Hesiod's narrative. Thus the question arises: Are the stories of Hesiod's invention, and later than Homer, or does Homer's genius half-unconsciously purify materials like those which Hesiod presents in the crudest form? Mr. Grote says: "How far these stories are the invention of Hesiod himself it is impossible to determine. They bring us down to a cast of fancy more coarse and indelicate than the Homeric, and more nearly resemble some of the holy chapters ((Greek text omitted)) of the more recent mysteries, such, for example, as the tale of Dionysus Zagreus. There is evidence in the Theogony itself that the author was acquainted with local legends current both at Krete and at Delphi, for he mentions both the mountain-cave in Krete wherein the newly-born Zeus was hidden, and the stone near the Delphian temple—the identical stone which Kronos had swallowed—placed by Zeus himself as a sign and marvel to mortal men. Both these monuments, which the poet expressly refers to, and had probably seen, imply a whole train of accessory and explanatory local legends, current probably among the priests of Krete and Delphi."
(1) Timaeeus, 41; Republic, 377.
All these circumstances appear to be good evidence of the great antiquity of the legends recorded by Hesiod. In the first place, arguing merely a priori, it is extremely improbable that in the brief interval between the date of the comparatively pure and noble mythology of the Iliad and the much ruder Theogony of Hesiod men INVENTED stories like the mutilation of Uranus, and the swallowing of his offspring by Cronus. The former legend is almost exactly parallel, as has already been shown, to the myth of Papa and Rangi in New Zealand. The later has its parallels among the savage Bushmen and Australians. It is highly improbable that men in an age so civilised as that of Homer invented myths as hideous as those of the lowest savages. But if we take these myths to be, not new inventions, but the sacred stories of local priesthoods, their antiquity is probably incalculable. The sacred stories, as we know from Pausanias, Herodotus and from all the writers who touch on the subject of the mysteries, were myths communicated by the priests to the initiated. Plato speaks of such myths in the Republic, 378: "If there is an absolute necessity for their mention, a very few might hear them in a mystery, and then let them sacrifice, not a common pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim; this would have the effect of very greatly diminishing the number of the hearers". This is an amusing example of a plan for veiling the horrors of myth. The pig was the animal usually offered to Demeter, the goddess of the Eleusinian mysteries. Plato proposes to substitute some "unprocurable" beast, perhaps a giraffe or an elephant.
To Hesiod, then, we must turn for what is the earliest complete literary form of the Greek cosmogonic myth. Hesiod begins, like the New Zealanders, with "the august race of gods, by earth and wide heaven begotten".(1) So the New Zealanders, as we have seen, say, "The heaven which is above us, and the earth which is beneath us, are the progenitors of men and the origin of all things". Hesiod(2) somewhat differs from this view by making Chaos absolutely first of all things, followed by "wide-bosomed Earth," Tartarus and Eros (love). Chaos unaided produced Erebus and Night; the children of Night and Erebus are Aether and Day. Earth produced Heaven, who then became her own lover, and to Heaven she bore Oceanus, and the Titans, Coeeus and Crius, Hyperion and Iapetus, Thea and Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, "and youngest after these was born Cronus of crooked counsel, the most dreadful of her children, who ever detested his puissant sire," Heaven. There were other sons of Earth and Heaven peculiarly hateful to their father,(3) and these Uranus used to hide from the light in a hollow of Gaea. Both they and Gaea resented this treatment, and the Titans, like "the children of Heaven and Earth," in the New Zealand poem, "sought to discern the difference between light and darkness". Gaea (unlike Earth in the New Zealand myth, for there she is purely passive), conspired with her children, produced iron, and asked her sons to avenge their wrongs.(4) Fear fell upon all of them save Cronus, who (like Tane Mahuta in the Maori poem) determined to end the embraces of Earth and Heaven. But while the New Zealand, like the Indo-Aryan myth,(5) conceives of Earth and Heaven as two beings who have never previously been sundered at all, Hesiod makes Heaven amorously approach his spouse from a distance. This was the moment for Cronus,(6) who stretched out his hand armed with the sickle of iron, and mutilated Uranus. As in so many savage myths, the blood of the wounded god fallen on the ground produced strange creatures, nymphs of the ash-tree, giants and furies. As in the Maori myth, one of the children of Heaven stood apart and did not consent to the deed. This was Oceanus in Greece,(7) and in New Zealand it was Tawhiri Matea, the wind, "who arose and followed his father, Heaven, and remained with him in the open spaces of the sky". Uranus now predicted(8) that there would come a day of vengeance for the evil deed of Cronus, and so ends the dynasty of Uranus.
(1) Theog., 45.
(2) Ibid., 116.
(3) Ibid., 155.
(4) Ibid., 166.
(5) Muir, v. 23, quoting Aitareya Brahmana, iv. 27: "These two worlds were once joined; subsequently they separated".
(6) Theog., 175-185.
(7) Apollod., i, 15.
(8) Theog., 209.
This story was one of the great stumbling-blocks of orthodox Greece. It was the tale that Plato said should be told, if at all, only to a few in a mystery, after the sacrifice of some rare and scarcely obtainable animal. Even among the Maoris, the conduct of the children who severed their father and mother is regarded as a singular instance of iniquity, and is told to children as a moral warning, an example to be condemned. In Greece, on the other hand, unless we are to take the Euthyphro as wholly ironical, some of the pious justified their conduct by the example of Zeus. Euthyphro quotes this example when he is about to prosecute his own father, for which act, he says, "Men are angry with ME; so inconsistently do they talk when I am concerned and when the gods are concerned".(1) But in Greek THE TALE HAS NO MEANING. It has been allegorised in various ways, and Lafitau fancied that it was a distorted form of the Biblical account of the origin of sin. In Maori the legend is perfectly intelligible. Heaven and earth were conceived of (like everything else), as beings with human parts and passions, linked in an endless embrace which crushed and darkened their children. It became necessary to separate them, and this feat was achieved not without pain. "Then wailed the Heaven, and exclaimed the Earth, 'Wherefore this murder? Why this great sin? Why separate us?' But what cared Tane? Upwards he sent one and downwards the other. He cruelly severed the sinews which united Heaven and Earth."(2) The Greek myth too, contemplated earth and heaven as beings corporeally united, and heaven as a malignant power that concealed his children in darkness.
(1) Euthyphro, 6.
(2) Taylor, New Zealand, 119.
But while the conception of heaven and earth as parents of living things remains perfectly intelligible in one sense, the vivid personification which regarded them as creatures with human parts and passions had ceased to be intelligible in Greece before the times of the earliest philosophers. The old physical conception of the pair became a metaphor, and the account of their rending asunder by their children lost all significance, and seemed to be an abominable and unintelligible myth. When examined in the light of the New Zealand story, and of the fact that early peoples do regard all phenomena as human beings, with physical attributes like those of men, the legend of Cronus, and Uranus, and Gaea ceases to be a mystery. It is, at bottom, a savage explanation (as in the Samoan story) of the separation of earth and heaven, an explanation which could only have occurred to people in a state of mind which civilisation has forgotten.
The next generation of Hesiodic gods (if gods we are to call the members of this race of non-natural men) was not more fortunate than the first in its family relations.
Cronus wedded his sister, Rhea, and begat Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and the youngest, Zeus. "And mighty Cronus swallowed down each of them, each that came to their mother's knees from her holy womb, with this intent that none other of the proud sons of heaven should hold his kingly sway among the immortals. Heaven and Earth had warned him that he too should fall through his children. Wherefore he kept no vain watch, but spied and swallowed down each of his offspring, while grief immitigable took possession of Rhea."(1) Rhea, being about to become the mother of Zeus, took counsel with Uranus and Gaea. By their advice she went to Crete, where Zeus was born, and, in place of the child, she presented to Cronus a huge stone swathed in swaddling bands. This he swallowed, and was easy in his mind. Zeus grew up, and by some means, suggested by Gaea, compelled Zeus to disgorge all his offspring. "And he vomited out the stone first, as he had swallowed it last."(2) The swallowed children emerged alive, and Zeus fixed the stone at Pytho (Delphi), where Pausanias(3) had the privilege of seeing it, and where, as it did not tempt the cupidity of barbarous invaders, it probably still exists. It was not a large stone, Pausanias says, and the Delphians used to pour oil over it, as Jacob did(4) to the stone at Bethel, and on feast-days they covered it with wraps of wool. The custom of smearing fetish-stones (which Theophrastus mentions as one of the practices of the superstitious man) is clearly a survival from the savage stage of religion. As a rule, however, among savages, fetish-stones are daubed with red paint (like the face of the wooden ancient Dionysi in Greece, and of Tsui Goab among the Hottentots), not smeared with oil.(5)
(1) Theog., 460, 465.
(2) Theog., 498.
(3) x. 245.
(4) Gen. xxviii. 18.
(5) Pausanias, ii. 2, 5. "Churinga" in Australia are greased with the natural moisture of the palm of the hand, and rubbed with red ochre.—Spencer and Gillen. They are "sacred things," but not exactly fetishes.
The myth of the swallowing and disgorging of his own children by Cronus was another of the stumbling-blocks of Greek orthodoxy. The common explanation, that Time ((Greek text omitted)) does swallow his children, the days, is not quite satisfactory. Time brings never the past back again, as Cronus did. Besides, the myth of the swallowing is not confined to Cronus. Modern philology has given, as usual, different analyses of the meaning of the name of the god. Hermann, with Preller, derives it from (Greek text omitted), to fulfil. The harvest-month, says Preller, was named Cronion in Greece, and Cronia was the title of the harvest-festival. The sickle of Cronus is thus brought into connection with the sickle of the harvester.(1)
(1) Preller, Gr. Myth., i. 44; Hartung, ii. 48; Porphyry, Abst., ii. 54. Welcker will not hear of this etymology, Gr. gott., i. 145, note 9.
The second myth, in which Cronus swallows his children, has numerous parallels in savage legend. Bushmen tell of Kwai Hemm, the devourer, who swallows that great god, the mantis insect, and disgorges him alive with all the other persons and animals whom he has engulphed in the course of a long and voracious career.(1) The moon in Australia, while he lived on earth, was very greedy, and swallowed the eagle-god, whom he had to disgorge. Mr. Im Thurn found similar tales among the Indians of Guiana. The swallowing and disgorging of Heracles by the monster that was to slay Hesione is well known. Scotch peasants tell of the same feats, but localise the myth on the banks of the Ken in Galloway. Basutos, Eskimos, Zulus and European fairy tales all possess this incident, the swallowing of many persons by a being from whose maw they return alive and in good case.
(1) Bleek, Bushman Folk-lore, pp. 6, 8.
A mythical conception which prevails from Greenland to South Africa, from Delphi to the Solomon Islands, from Brittany to the shores of Lake Superior, must have some foundation in the common elements of human nature.(1) Now it seems highly probable that this curious idea may have been originally invented in an attempt to explain natural phenomena by a nature-myth. It has already been shown (chapter v.) that eclipses are interpreted, even by the peasantry of advanced races, as the swallowing of the moon by a beast or a monster. The Piutes account for the disappearance of the stars in the daytime by the hypothesis that the "sun swallows his children". In the Melanesian myth, dawn is cut out of the body of night by Qat, armed with a knife of red obsidian. Here are examples(2) of transparent nature-myths in which this idea occurs for obvious explanatory purposes, and in accordance with the laws of the savage imagination. Thus the conception of the swallowing and disgorging being may very well have arisen out of a nature-myth. But why is the notion attached to the legend of Cronus?
(1) The myth of Cronus and the swallowed children and the stone is transferred to Gargantua. See Sebillot, Gargantua dans les Traditions Populaires. But it is impossible to be certain that this is not an example of direct borrowing by Madame De Cerny in her Saint Suliac, p. 69.
(2) Compare Tylor, Prim. Cult., i. 338.
That is precisely the question about which mythologists differ, as has been shown, and perhaps it is better to offer no explanation. However stories arise—and this story probably arose from a nature-myth—it is certain that they wander about the world, that they change masters, and thus a legend which is told of a princess with an impossible name in Zululand is told of the mother of Charlemagne in France. The tale of the swallowing may have been attributed to Cronus, as a great truculent deity, though it has no particular elemental signification in connection with his legend.
This peculiarly savage trick of swallowing each other became an inherited habit in the family of Cronus. When Zeus reached years of discretion, he married Metis, and this lady, according to the scholiast on Hesiod, had the power of transforming herself into any shape she pleased. When she was about to be a mother, Zeus induced her to assume the shape of a fly and instantly swallowed her.(1) In behaving thus, Zeus acted on the advice of Uranus and Gaea. It was feared that Metis would produce a child more powerful than his father. Zeus avoided this peril by swallowing his wife, and himself gave birth to Athene. The notion of swallowing a hostile person, who has been changed by magic into a conveniently small bulk, is very common. It occurs in the story of Taliesin.(2) Caridwen, in the shape of a hen, swallows Gwion Bach, in the form of a grain of wheat. In the same manner the princess in the Arabian Nights swallowed the Geni. Here then we have in the Hesiodic myth an old marchen pressed into the service of the higher mythology. The apprehension which Zeus (like Herod and King Arthur) always felt lest an unborn child should overthrow him, was also familiar to Indra; but, instead of swallowing the mother and concealing her in his own body, like Zeus, Indra entered the mother's body, and himself was born instead of the dreaded child.(3) A cow on this occasion was born along with Indra. This adventure of the (Greek text omitted) or swallowing of Metis was explained by the late Platonists as a Platonic allegory. Probably the people who originated the tale were not Platonists, any more than Pandarus was all Aristotelian.
(1) Hesiod, Theogonia, 886. See Scholiast and note in Aglaophamus, i. 613. Compare Puss in Boots and the Ogre.
(2) Mabinogion, p. 473.
(3) Black Yajur Veda, quoted by Sayana.
After Homer and Hesiod, the oldest literary authorities for Greek cosmogonic myths are the poems attributed to Orpheus. About their probable date, as has been said, little is known. They have reached us only in fragments, but seem to contain the first guesses of a philosophy not yet disengaged from mythical conditions. The poet preserves, indeed, some extremely rude touches of early imagination, while at the same time one of the noblest and boldest expressions of pantheistic thought is attributed to him. From the same source are drawn ideas as pure as those of the philosophical Vedic hymn,(1) and as wild as those of the Vedic Purusha Sukta, or legend of the fashioning of the world out of the mangled limbs of Purusha. The authors of the Orphic cosmogony appear to have begun with some remarks on Time ((Greek text omitted)). "Time was when as yet this world was not."(2) Time, regarded in the mythical fashion as a person, generated Chaos and Aether. The Orphic poet styles Chaos (Greek text omitted), "the monstrous gulph," or "gap". This term curiously reminds one of Ginnunga-gap in the Scandinavian cosmogonic legends. "Ginnunga-gap was light as windless air," and therein the blast of heat met the cold rime, whence Ymir was generated, the Purusha of Northern fable.(3) These ideas correspond well with the Orphic conception of primitive space.(4)
(1) Rig-Veda, x. 90.
(2) Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 470. See also the quotations from Proclus.
(3) Gylfi's Mocking.
(4) Aglaophamus, p. 473.
In process of time Chaos produced an egg, shining and silver white. It is absurd to inquire, according to Lobeck, whether the poet borrowed this widely spread notion of a cosmic egg from Phoenicia, Babylon, Egypt (where the goose-god Seb laid the egg), or whether the Orphic singer originated so obvious an idea. Quaerere ludicrum est. The conception may have been borrowed, but manifestly it is one of the earliest hypotheses that occur to the rude imagination. We have now three primitive generations, time, chaos, the egg, and in the fourth generation the egg gave birth to Phanes, the great hero of the Orphic cosmogony.(1) The earliest and rudest thinkers were puzzled, as many savage cosmogonic myths have demonstrated, to account for the origin of life. The myths frequently hit on the theory of a hermaphroditic being, both male and female, who produces another being out of himself. Prajapati in the Indian stories, and Hrimthursar in Scandinavian legend—"one of his feet got a son on the other"—with Lox in the Algonquin tale are examples of these double-sexed personages. In the Orphic poem, Phanes is both male and female. This Phanes held within him "the seed of all the gods,"(2) and his name is confused with the names of Metis and Ericapaeus in a kind of trinity. All this part of the Orphic doctrine is greatly obscured by the allegorical and theosophistic interpretations of the late Platonists long after our era, who, as usual, insisted on finding their own trinitarian ideas, commenta frigidissima, concealed under the mythical narrative.(3)
(1) Clemens Alexan., p. 672.
(2) Damascius, ap. Lobeck, i. 481.
(3) Aglaoph., i. 483.
Another description by Hieronymus of the first being, the Orphic Phanes, "as a serpent with bull's and lion's heads, with a human face in the middle and wings on the shoulders," is sufficiently rude and senseless. But these physical attributes could easily be explained away as types of anything the Platonist pleased.(1) The Orphic Phanes, too, was almost as many-headed as a giant in a fairy tale, or as Purusha in the Rig-Veda. He had a ram's head, a bull's head, a snake's head and a lion's head, and glanced around with four eyes, presumably human.(2) This remarkable being was also provided with golden wings. The nature of the physical arrangements by which Phanes became capable of originating life in the world is described in a style so savage and crude that the reader must be referred to Suidas for the original text.(3) The tale is worthy of the Swift-like fancy of the Australian Narrinyeri.
(1) Damascius, 381, ap. Lobeck, i. 484.
(2) Hermias in Phaedr. ap. Lobeck, i. 493.
(3) Suidas s. v. Phanes.
Nothing can be easier or more delusive than to explain all this wild part of the Orphic cosmogony as an allegorical veil of any modern ideas we choose to select. But why the "allegory" should closely imitate the rough guesses of uncivilised peoples, Ahts, Diggers, Zunis, Cahrocs, it is less easy to explain. We can readily imagine African or American tribes who were accustomed to revere bulls, rams, snakes, and so forth, ascribing the heads of all their various animal patrons to the deity of their confederation. We can easily see how such races as practise the savage rites of puberty should attribute to the first being the special organs of Phanes. But on the Neo-Platonic hypothesis that Orpheus was a seer of Neo-Platonic opinions, we do not see why he should have veiled his ideas under so savage an allegory. This part of the Orphic speculation is left in judicious silence by some modern commentators, such as M. Darmesteter in Les Cosmogonies Aryennes.(1) Indeed, if we choose to regard Apollonius Rhodius, an Alexandrine poet writing in a highly civilised age, as the representative of Orphicism, it is easy to mask and pass by the more stern and characteristic fortresses of the Orphic divine. The theriomorphic Phanes is a much less "Aryan" and agreeable object than the glorious golden-winged Eros, the love-god of Apollonius Rhodius and Aristophanes.(2)
(1) Essais Orientaux, p. 166.
(2) Argonautica, 1-12; Aves, 693.
On the whole, the Orphic fragments appear to contain survivals of savage myths of the origin of things blended with purer speculations. The savage ideas are finally explained by late philosophers as allegorical veils and vestments of philosophy; but the interpretation is arbitrary, and varies with the taste and fancy of each interpreter. Meanwhile the coincidence of the wilder elements with the speculations native to races in the lowest grades of civilisation is undeniable. This opinion is confirmed by the Greek myths of the origin of Man. These, too, coincide with the various absurd conjectures of savages.
In studying the various Greek local legends of the origin of Man, we encounter the difficulty of separating them from the myths of heroes, which it will be more convenient to treat separately. This difficulty we have already met in our treatment of savage traditions of the beginnings of the race. Thus we saw that among the Melanesians, Qat, and among the Ahts, Quawteaht, were heroic persons, who made men and most other things. But it was desirable to keep their performances of this sort separate from their other feats, their introduction of fire, for example, and of various arts. In the same way it will be well, in reviewing Greek legends, to keep Prometheus' share in the making of men apart from the other stories of his exploits as a benefactor of the men whom he made. In Hesiod, Prometheus is the son of the Titan Iapetus, and perhaps his chief exploit is to play upon Zeus a trick of which we find the parallel in various savage myths. It seems, however, from Ovid(1) and other texts, that Hesiod somewhere spoke of Prometheus as having made men out of clay, like Pund-jel in the Australian, Qat in the Melanesian and Tiki in the Maori myths. The same story is preserved in Servius's commentary on Virgil.(2) A different legend is preserved in the Etymologicum Magnum (voc. Ikonion). According to this story, after the deluge of Deucalion, "Zeus bade Prometheus and Athene make images of men out of clay, and the winds blew into them the breath of life". In confirmation of this legend, Pausanias was shown in Phocis certain stones of the colour of clay, and "smelling very like human flesh"; and these, according to the Phocians, were "the remains of the clay from which the whole human race was fashioned by Prometheus".(3)
(1) Ovid. Metam. i. 82.
(2) Eclogue, vi. 42.
(3) Pausanias, x. 4, 3.
Aristophanes, too, in the Birds (686) talks of men as (Greek text omitted), figures kneaded of clay. Thus there are sufficient traces in Greek tradition of the savage myth that man was made of clay by some superior being, like Pund-jel in the quaint Australian story.
We saw that among various rude races other theories of the origin of man were current. Men were thought to have come out of a hole in the ground or a bed of reeds, and sometimes the very scene of their first appearance was still known and pointed out to the curious. This myth was current among races who regarded themselves as the only people whose origin needed explanation. Other stories represented man as the fruit of a tree, or the child of a rock or stone, or as the descendant of one of the lower animals. Examples of these opinions in Greek legend are now to be given. In the first place, we have a fragment of Pindar, in which the poet enumerates several of the centres from which different Greek tribes believed men to have sprung. "Hard it is to find out whether Alalkomeneus, first of men, arose on the marsh of Cephissus, or whether the Curetes of Ida first, a stock divine, arose, or if it was the Phrygian Corybantes that the sun earliest saw—men like trees walking;" and Pindar mentions Egyptian and Libyan legends of the same description.(1) The Thebans and the Arcadians held themselves to be "earth-born". "The black earth bore Pelasgus on the high wooded hills," says an ancient line of Asius. The Dryopians were an example of a race of men born from ash-trees. The myth of gens virum truncis et duro robore nata, "born of tree-trunk and the heart of oak," had passed into a proverb even in Homer's time.(2) Lucian mentions(3) the Athenian myth "that men grew like cabbages out of the earth". As to Greek myths of the descent of families from animals, these will be examined in the discussion of the legend of Zeus.
(1) Preller, Aus. Auf., p. 158.
(2) Virgil Aen., viii. 315; Odyssey, xix. 163; Iliad, ii. xxii. 120; Juvenal, vi. 11. Cf. also Bouche Leclerq, De Origine Generis Humani.
(3) Philops. iii.
CHAPTER XI. SAVAGE DIVINE MYTHS.
The origin of a belief in GOD beyond the ken of history and of speculation—Sketch of conjectural theories—Two elements in all beliefs, whether of backward or civilised races—The Mythical and the Religious—These may be coeval, or either may be older than the other—Difficulty of study—The current anthropological theory—Stated objections to the theory—Gods and spirits—Suggestion that savage religion is borrowed from Europeans—Reply to Mr. Tylor's arguments on this head—The morality of savages.
"The question of the origin of a belief in Deity does not come within the scope of a strictly historical inquiry. No man can watch the idea of GOD in the making or in the beginning. We are acquainted with no race whose beginning does not lie far back in the unpenetrated past. Even on the hypothesis that the natives of Australia, for example, were discovered in a state of culture more backward than that of other known races, yet the institutions and ideas of the Australians must have required for their development an incalculable series of centuries. The notions of man about the Deity, man's religious sentiments and his mythical narratives, must be taken as we find them. There have been, and are, many theories as to the origin of the conception of a supernatural being or beings, concerned with the fortunes of mankind, and once active in the making of the earth and its inhabitants. There is the hypothesis of an original divine tradition, darkened by the smoke of foolish mortal fancies. There is the hypothesis of an innate and intuitive sensus numinis. There is the opinion that the notion of Deity was introduced to man by the very nature of his knowledge and perceptions, which compel him in all things to recognise a finite and an infinite. There is the hypothesis that gods were originally ghosts, the magnified shapes of ancestral spectres. There is the doctrine that man, seeking in his early speculations for the causes of things, and conscious of his own powers as an active cause, projected his own shadow on the mists of the unknown, and peopled the void with figures of magnified non-natural men, his own parents and protectors, and the makers of many of the things in the world.
"Since the actual truth cannot be determined by observation and experiment, the question as to the first germs of the divine conception must here be left unanswered. But it is possible to disengage and examine apart the two chief elements in the earliest as in the latest ideas of Godhead. Among the lowest and most backward, as among the most advanced races, there coexist the MYTHICAL and the RELIGIOUS elements in belief. The rational factor (or what approves itself to us as the rational factor) is visible in religion; the irrational is prominent in myth. The Australian, the Bushman, the Solomon Islander, in hours of danger and necessity 'yearns after the gods,' and has present in his heart the idea of a father and friend. This is the religious element. The same man, when he comes to indulge his fancy for fiction, will degrade this spiritual friend and father to the level of the beasts, and will make him the hero of comic or repulsive adventures. This is the mythical or irrational element. Religion, in its moral aspect, always traces back to the belief in a power that is benign and works for righteousness. Myth, even in Homer or the Rig-Veda, perpetually falls back on the old stock of absurd and immoral divine adventures.(1)
(1) M. Knappert here, in a note to the Dutch translation, denies the lowest mythical element to the Hebrews, as their documents have reached us.
"It would be rash, in the present state of knowledge, to pronounce that the germ of the serious Homeric sense of the justice and power of the Divinity is earlier or later than the germ of the Homeric stories of gods disguised as animals, or imprisoned by mortals, or kicked out of Olympus. The rational and irrational aspects of mythology and religion may be of coeval antiquity for all that is certainly known, or either of them, in the dark backward of mortal experience, may have preceded the other. There is probably no religion nor mythology which does not offer both aspects to the student. But it is the part of advancing civilisation to adorn and purify the rational element, and to subordinate and supersede the irrational element, as far as religious conservatism, ritual and priestly dogma will permit."
Such were the general remarks with which this chapter opened in the original edition of the present work. But reading, reflection and certain additions to the author's knowledge of facts, have made it seem advisable to state, more fully and forcibly than before, that, in his opinion, not only the puzzling element of myth, but the purer element of a religious belief sanctioning morality is derived by civilised people from a remote past of savagery. It is also necessary to draw attention to a singular religious phenomena, a break, or "fault," as geologists call it, in the religious strata. While the most backward savages, in certain cases, present the conception of a Being who sanctions ethics, and while that conception recurs at a given stage of civilisation, it appears to fade, or even to disappear in some conditions of barbarism. Among some barbaric peoples, such as the Zulus, and the Red Indians of French Canada when first observed, as among some Polynesians and some tribes of Western and Central Africa little trace of a supreme being is found, except a name, and that name is even occasionally a matter of ridicule. The highest religious conception has been reached, and is generally known, yet the Being conceived of as creative is utterly neglected, while ghosts, or minor gods, are served and adored. To this religious phenomenon (if correctly observed) we must attempt to assign a cause. For this purpose it is necessary to state again what may be called the current or popular anthropological theory of the evolution of Gods.
That theory takes varying shapes. In the philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer we find a pure Euhemerism. Gods are but ghosts of dead men, raised to a higher and finally to the highest power. In the somewhat analogous but not identical system of Mr. Tylor, man first attains to the idea of spirit by reflection on various physical, psychological and psychical experiences, such as sleep, dreams, trances, shadows, hallucinations, breath and death, and he gradually extends the conception of soul or ghost till all nature is peopled with spirits. Of these spirits one is finally promoted to supremacy, where the conception of a supreme being occurs. In the lowest faiths there is said, on this theory, to be no connection, or very little connection, between religion and morality. To supply a religious sanction of morals is the work of advancing thought.(1)
(1) Prim. Cult., ii. 381. Huxley's Science and Hebrew Tradition, pp. 346,372.
This current hypothesis is, confessedly, "animistic," in Mr. Tylor's phrase, or, in Mr. Spencer's terminology, it is "the ghost theory". The human soul, says Mr. Tylor, has been the model on which all man's ideas of spiritual beings, from "the tiniest elf" to "the heavenly Creator and ruler of the world, the Great Spirit," have been framed.(1) Thus it has been necessary for Mr. Tylor and for Mr. Spencer to discover first an origin of man's idea of his own soul, and that supposed origin in psychological, physical and psychical experiences is no doubt adequate. By reflection on these facts, probably, the idea of spirit was reached, though the psychical experiences enumerated by Mr. Tylor may contain points as yet unexplained by Materialism. From these sources are derived all really "animistic" gods, all that from the first partake of the nature of hungry ghosts, placated by sacrifices of food, though in certain cases that hunger may have been transferred, we surmise, by worshippers to gods not ORIGINALLY animistic.
(1) Prim. Cult., ii. 109
In answer to this theory of an animistic or ghostly origin of all gods, it must first be observed that all gods are not necessarily, it would seem, of animistic origin. Among certain of the lowest savages, although they believe in ghosts, the animistic conception, the spiritual idea, is not attached to the relatively supreme being of their faith. He is merely a powerful BEING, unborn, and not subject to death. The purely metaphysical question "was he a ghost?" does not seem always to have been asked. Consequently there is no logical reason why man's idea of a Maker should not be prior to man's idea that there are such things as souls, ghosts and spirits. Therefore the animistic theory is not necessary as material for the "god-idea". We cannot, of course, prove that the "god-idea" was historically prior to the "ghost-idea," for we know no savages who have a god and yet are ignorant of ghosts. But we can show that the idea of God may exist, in germ, without explicitly involving the idea of spirit. Thus gods MAY be prior in evolution to ghosts, and therefore the animistic theory of the origin of gods in ghosts need not necessarily be accepted.
In the first place, the original evolution of a god out of a ghost need not be conceded, because in perhaps all known savage theological philosophy the God, the Maker and Master, is regarded as a being who existed before death entered the world. Everywhere, practically speaking, death is looked on as a comparatively late intruder. He came not only after God was active, but after men and beasts had populated the world. Scores of myths accounting for this invasion of death have been collected all over the world.(1) Thus the relatively supreme being, or beings, of religion are looked on as prior to Death, therefore, not as ghosts. They are sometimes expressly distinguished as "original gods" from other gods who are secondary, being souls of chiefs. Thus all Tongan gods are Atua, but all Atua are not "original gods".(2) The word Atua, according to Mr. White, is "A-tu-a". "A" was the name given to the author of the universe, and signifies: "Am the unlimited in power," "The Conception," "the Leader," "the Beyond All". "Tua" means "Beyond that which is most distant," "Behind all matter," and "Behind every action". Clearly these conceptions are not more mythical (indeed A does not seem to occur in the myths), nor are they more involved in ghosts, than the unknown absolute of Mr. Herbert Spencer. Yet the word Atua denotes gods who are recognised as ghosts of chiefs, no less than it denotes the supreme existence.(3) These ideas are the metaphysical theology of a race considerably above the lowest level. They lend no assistance to a theory that A was, or was evolved out of, a human ghost, and he is not found in Maori MYTHOLOGY as far as our knowledge goes. But, among the lowest known savages, the Australians, we read that "the Creator was a gigantic black, once on earth, now among the stars". This is in Gippsland; the deities of the Fuegians and the Blackfoot Indians are also Beings, anthropomorphic, unborn and undying, like Mangarrah, the creative being of the Larrakeah tribe in Australia. "A very good man called Mangarrah lives in the sky.... He made everything" (blacks excepted). He never dies.(4) The Melanesian Vui "never were men," were "something different," and "were NOT ghosts". It is as a Being, not as a Spirit, that the Kurnai deity Munganngaur (Our Father) is described.(5) In short, though Europeans often speak of these divine beings of low savages as "spirits," it does not appear that the natives themselves advance here the metaphysical idea of spirit. These gods are just BEINGS, anthropomorphic, or (in myth and fable), very often bestial, "theriomorphic".(6) It is manifest that a divine being envisaged thus need not have been evolved out of the theory of spirits or ghosts, and may even have been prior to the rise of the belief in ghosts.
(1) See Modern Mythology, "Myths of Origin of Death".
(2) Mariner, ii. 127.
(3) White, Ancient History of the Maoris, vol. i. p. 4; other views in Gill's Myths of the Pacific. I am not committed to Mr. White's opinion.
(4) Journal Anthrop. Inst., Nov., 1894, p. 191.
(5) Ibid., 1886, p. 313.
(6) See Making of Religion, pp. 201-210, for a more copious statement.
Again, these powerful, or omnipotent divine beings are looked on as guardians of morality, punishers of sin, rewarders of righteousness, both in this world and in a future life, in places where ghosts, though believed in, ARE NOT WORSHIPPED, NOR IN RECEIPT OF SACRIFICE, and where, great grandfathers being forgotten, ancestral ghosts can scarcely swell into gods. This occurs among Andamanese, Fuegians and Australians, therefore, among non-ghost-worshipping races, ghosts cannot have developed into deities who are not even necessarily spirits. These gods, again, do not receive sacrifice, and thus lack the note of descent from hungry food-craving ghosts. In Australia, indeed, while ghosts are not known to receive any offerings, "the recent custom of providing food for it"—the dead body of a friend—"is derided by the intelligent old aborigines as 'white fellow's gammon'".(1)
(1) Dawson, Australian Aborigines, p. 51, 1881.
The Australians possess no chiefs like "Vich Ian Vohr or Chingachgook" whose ghosts might be said to swell into supreme moral deities. "Headmen" they have, leaders of various degrees of authority, but no Vich Ian Vohr, no semi-sacred representative of the tribe.(1) Nor are the ghosts of the Headmen known to receive any particular posthumous attention or worship. Thus it really seems impossible to show proof that Australian gods grew out of Australian ghosts, a subject to which we shall return.
(1) Howitt, Organisation of Australian Tribes, pp. 101-113. "Transactions of Royal Society of Victoria," 1889.
Some supporters of the current theory therefore fall back on the hypothesis that the Australians are sadly degenerate.(1) Chiefs, it is argued, or kings, they once had, and the gods are surviving ghosts of these wholly forgotten potentates. To this we reply that we know not the very faintest trace of Australian degeneration. Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Tylor have correctly argued that the soil of Australia has not yet yielded so much as a fragment of native pottery, nor any trace of native metal work, not a vestige of stone buildings occurs, nor of any work beyond the present native level of culture, unless we reckon weirs for fish-catching. "The Australian boomerang," writes Mr. Tylor, "has been claimed as derived from some hypothetical high culture, whereas the transition-stages through which it is connected with the club are to be observed in its own country, while no civilised race possesses the weapon."(2)