Canaanites, Syrians, and Arabians were all superstitious, and given to idolatry. These people had various idols, regarding which there are strange fables. An idol worshipped by the Philistines and Syrians, called Derceto, has an interesting history. Near Askelon there was a deep lake, abounding with fish. Not far from the lake stood the temple of this famous goddess, the mother of Semiramis, who had the face of a woman, and the rest of her body resembling part of a fish, for which the Syrians assigned the following reason:—Venus having conceived a hatred against Derceto, caused her to fall in love with a young Syrian, whom she subsequently murdered, and then threw herself into the lake, where she was transformed into the shape of a fish with a woman's face; for which reason the Syrians did not eat any fish, but worshipped them as gods. There is a legend of Abraham, before he left Ur of the Chaldeans, which exhibits the contempt he had of idols. It is said he took an opportunity of breaking in pieces all the idols he could reach, except Baal, and that he suspended about the neck of this idol the axe with which he had performed the destruction. The people coming to see what had been done, supposed that Baal was the author of the mischief. Some say that Abraham accomplished the exploit in his father's shop during his absence, and that Terah, returning home, inquired how the work of destruction had taken place. Abraham told him that the idols had quarrelled about an offering of flour that an old woman had brought them, and that Baal had proved the strongest, and broke all the rest to pieces.
The Arabians, Ishmael's offspring, were equally guilty of idolatry. So far did they carry this sin, that they actually worshipped idols under the shape of Egyptian thorns. In early times the thorns were adored in the open fields, but subsequently altars and temples were erected for their worship. The Arabians worshipped Assaf under the shape of a calf; and they had a goddess named Beltha, supposed to be the Venus of the Greeks. The Sabeans were the principal worshippers of this goddess; and such was their devotion to her, that they regularly presented to her a portion of their plunder.
The religion of the Carthaginians and Tyrians was horrid and barbarous. Nothing of moment was undertaken without consulting the gods, which was done in various ridiculous ways. Hercules was the god in whom the people placed most confidence. He was invoked before they went on any important expedition; and when their armies were victorious, sacrifices were offered to him. One of the chief deities that they worshipped was Urania, or the moon, to whom they appealed when overtaken by calamities, such as drought, excessive rain, destructive hail, thunder, and dangerous storms. Urania was the queen of heaven mentioned in the Scriptures, to whom even the Jewish women offered cakes, etc. Carthaginians, in worshipping Saturn, offered up human sacrifices to him. Even princes and other great men were wont, in times of distress, to sacrifice their most beloved children to this deity. People who had not any children of their own, purchased infants that they might offer them as victims to this idol, with the view of inducing him to fulfil their desires. Diodorus relates that when Agathocles was going to besiege Carthage, the people imputed all their misfortunes to the anger of Saturn, because, that instead of offering up to him children nobly born, he had been fraudulently put off with the offspring of slaves and foreigners. To atone for past shortcomings, two hundred children of the best families in Carthage were sacrificed, and further, to obtain the god's favour, three hundred adult citizens immolated themselves.
Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, was an idolator, as were also his descendants. Nineveh was the seat of his empire. As the sun and moon became early objects of worship among the Assyrians, so in later days they adored the fire as their substitute,—a form of worship that was common among the ancients in many lands. The Assyrians published abroad that the gods of other nations could not stand before their fire-gods. A competition took place. A vast number of idols were brought from foreign nations, but as they were composed of wood, the god Ur (or fire) consumed them. After many contests, an Egyptian priest discovered a plan of destroying the reputation of this idol, which had become the terror of alien people. He caused the hollow figure of an image to be made of perforated earth, with the holes stuffed with wax, and the large internal cavity filled with water. He then challenged the god Ur to oppose his god Canopus,—a challenge which was accepted by the Chaldean priests. No sooner did the heat that was expected to devour the Egyptian idol begin to take effect, than, the wax being melted, the water gushed out and extinguished the fire. Before the Assyrian empire was joined to that of Babylon, Nisroch was the god worshipped in Nineveh, and it was in the temple of this idol that the great Sennacherib was murdered. This idol was in the shape of a bird—a dove or an eagle—made, if we can believe the Jewish rabbis, from a plank of Noah's ark. The people repented at the preaching of Jonah, but it was not long before they relapsed into their former idolatry and general wickedness.
Greek Religion and Superstition—Whence the Greeks derived their Religion—Jupiter regarded as the President of the Law and Protector of Cities—Entertainment of Strangers—Dreams and Charms—Sacred Stones—Omens of Evil—Sacrificing the Hair—Flight of Birds—Compassing the Altar to the Right—Methods of discovering whether a Person was in Love—Love secured by Magic—Marriage Ceremonies—Most lucky time for Marriage—Way of protecting a Child from Evil Spirits—Divers magical Ceremonies—Strange Laws as to Dead Bodies—Fingers and Toes of Dead Men worn as Charms to frighten away Ghosts—Preparing a Body for Burial—Superstitious Customs—Swine and Swine's Flesh—Drinking Toasts—How Strangers were expected to behave in a Strange Land—Prophets consulted before Armies marched to Battle—Certain words avoided—Sneezing—Evil Omens—Throwing a Person overboard to save a Ship.
Herodotus was of opinion that the Greeks derived their religion and superstition from the Egyptians; Plutarch arrived at another conclusion; while many maintained that Orpheus brought the mysteries of religion into Greece. Whoever is right, this we know, that the Greeks became so prone to worship ancient deities, and so anxious to do homage to all the divinities, that they erected altars to unknown gods, for fear they would fail in their duty to any power that could assist them in time of need. Above all gods, Jupiter was held in the highest esteem. He was regarded as the president of law and justice, as the protector of cities, as governor and director of their councils, and as chief of their societies. To him they ascribed thunder, and supposed it was he who delivered them from the Persians, and who assisted them to buy and sell to advantage. They erected altars to him in the courts of their houses and before their gates. Regarding him as the god of strangers, they received and entertained visitors with great ceremony. As a sign of fidelity, the right hand of fellowship was given to a stranger, to whom salt was presented, in token that his person would be safe under the entertainer's roof. A stranger's bottle was kept, and when a visitor arrived at the door the head of the family and he joined feet together on the threshold. A cup of wine was drunk to an unknown person before his name was asked. To return respect to those in the house, the stranger did reverence to the genius of the place, and saluted the ground with a kiss. When one sojourned in a strange land, he was expected to conform to the recognised customs thereof; and on taking his departure he not only bade farewell to those with whom he had become acquainted, but took leave of their deities. When an important agreement was entered into, Jupiter was sacrificed to, and called to witness the covenant.
The Greeks purified themselves after frightful dreams; they wore charmed rings to protect themselves from witchcraft; they were accustomed to spit three times on seeing a madman; and they spat every time the devil's name was mentioned in their hearing. Stones were cast at every cat and weasel met by one when commencing a journey, and the meeting of a bitch with whelps was carefully avoided. The crowing of hens and the whistling of maidens were listened to with as great fear as the hissing of a serpent.
If a rat or a mouse ate a hole in one's clothes, evil, it was thought, was about to befall the luckless owner. The people had days of good luck and of bad omen. They cut their hair, and sacrificed it to rivers. They marked the flight of birds, particularly that of the owl. On seeing this night bird flying overhead at the battle of Salamis, the soldiers considered it a good sign, took courage, and won the fight. When one was going round an altar, he took care to keep his right hand towards it. People anointed sacred stones in token of thankfulness, as Jacob poured oil on the stone he took for a pillow at Bethel.
To know if one was in love, special notice was taken of his garland at a feast, and from its appearance the wearer's feelings were supposed to be known, though it might be thought there was no necessity for such observation; for, according to an old proverb, "Love and the cough can never be concealed."
If one could not secure a lady's affections in the usual way of courting, he endeavoured to get something of hers into his possession in order to bewitch her. Having received a glove, a ring, or any other article, he operated on it in a magical way, and thus obtained his desire. If a lady's girdle was properly tied into a true-lover's knot, she could not resist loving him who performed the charming trick. Another way of softening a woman's heart was by throwing a bitten apple into her lap. If she received it and ate the fruit, her affections were won. All the tokens and charms did not come from the gentleman's side, for it was not unusual for a lady, when she wanted to control a lover's affections, to send him charmed garlands, roses, or bitten apples.
On the wedding day, a bride, on coming to the house of her husband, found the doors hung with garlands made of herbs, flowers, and plants consecrated to certain gods and goddesses, which possessed peculiar virtues suitable for the occasion. Cakes were bestowed on the bride on her marriage day; and there was a custom among the Greeks and Romans of combing her hair with a spear which had belonged to a man that lost his life in a fight, or with a weapon that had been used in killing a man. If this was done, she was sure to have brave sons. As the bride rose to leave her father's house, she was carried over the threshold; and as she entered her husband's house, a practice similar to that observed among other nations was followed,—throwing figs and other fruit at her head, as an omen of fruitfulness. It was also the custom for a servant, on first coming into his new home, to have palm branches and various ornaments placed on his head, to secure prosperity. As the bride was led into her chamber, there was a sieve carried along with her, and a pestle hung at the door, implying that afterwards she was to assist in the household duties. When the bride and bridegroom were together in the house, they ate an apple between them, to signify the pleasantness and harmony they were to enjoy in after life. Recourse was had to augury, the day before the wedding, to ascertain whether the married life was to be prosperous. Before the bride retired for the night, she was bathed with water drawn from nine different springs. The time of the year the Grecians deemed most lucky for marriage was the first month of winter. This was contrary to the views of the Persians, who considered spring the proper season for entering into the matrimonial state. The Greeks thought it better to get married in the first or second quarter of the moon rather than when it was waning. General rules were at times departed from, for occasionally astrologers were consulted as to the most auspicious day and hour for the happy lovers being united.
Through magical influence, a husband could have been made to hate his wife; but, to regain his affections, a spider caught in early morn was confined in a box, protected by charms, prepared for its reception. When a child came into the world, three men kept watch all night to keep away evil spirits. One of those on guard was armed with an axe, another with a pestle, and the third with a broom. Each protector kept his implement swinging through the air, to prevent the approach of the dreaded beings. As soon as a child was born it was washed in water or wine, and wrapped in a cloth worn by the mother when she was a virgin. In the cloth were wrought the image of the Gorgon and the snakes of that monster's head, together with the likenesses of two dragons. When the child was five days old, it was carried about the hearth to introduce it to the Penates. Arrangements were then made for naming the child. A feast was prepared, at which there were doves, thrushes, coleworts, and toasted cheese, besides many other things. The feast was kept up for seven days. The mother, in gratitude for her child, sacrificed to Diana, and the father returned thanks to the nymphs for giving him a fruitful wife.
If the little stranger died in infancy, it had only a cold funeral without fire, or any burial service or mourning. Sons, as soon as they were three years old, were registered in the tribe. A feast was then prepared, called "the shearing feast," because at that time the youngster's hair was cut, and consecrated to one of their gods.
The Athenians had a law, that if any one happened to discover a dead body, whether of a friend or a stranger, he should cast earth on it three times; and the Romans had a similar law. If a Greek omitted this duty, he was bound to make satisfaction by sacrificing a sow-pig. But some went farther, and insisted that whoever saw a dead body and did not cast dust upon it, was both a law-breaker and an accursed person. The people feared that the gods underground were angry if the dead were left uncovered with their kindred dust. No greater imprecation could have been cast at an enemy than that he might not be covered with the earth. Hence it was that the ancients stood in great fear of death on the ocean, for there their bodies could not be interred. When one went to sea, it was not uncommon for him to tie a reward to his body, that in case he should be drowned and his body found, the finder would see it buried, and so become entitled to the treasure. Next to the happiness of being assured that the body would be buried, was that of being interred in one's own country, and not among strangers. When a man died far from home, frequent solemn invocations were made for his soul, which, it was thought, could hear and understand what was said by friends even in distant lands. At the burial of one that was slain in battle, his comrades marched three times round the burning pile or grave, shaking their arms, and throwing swords, bridles, belts, and other articles into the fire or grave after the body. When a soldier fell fighting in the field, and his body could not be found, he was honoured with the carriage of an empty bier, and funeral ceremonies as if his remains were present.
If a man killed himself, the hand with which the deed was committed was cut off, and buried in another place to that in which the other part of the body was interred. If one man killed another in a righteous cause, the slayer washed his hands and held up the weapon that had been used towards the sun, with the blood on it, to show that he feared not though the heavens as well as the earth knew what he had done. The ancients were of opinion that if one were slain by a relative, the blood could never be thoroughly wiped off the blade that had cut down the individual. And for fear the Furies would avenge the death of one killed by a relation, amulets and spells were provided to prevent untoward events. The most powerful charms were supposed to be parts of the slain individual. Therefore the fingers, toes, and other extreme parts of the body were cut off and worn under the arm-pits, to prevent the murdered person's ghost taking revenge for the unlawful deed. In preparing a body for burial, the Greeks took a piece of money and put it into the mouth, to give to the ferryman Charon. With the money a small quantity of pudding or cheese was put in for Cerberus, to propitiate him. As a corpse was being carried out to be interred, the deceased was commended to the protection of the infernal gods. To burn a body was considered more honourable than to lay it in the cold grave, for the Greeks thought that the divine and purer part of man was carried by fire to the abode of the gods above. This belief induced fanatical persons, when tired of life below, to burn themselves, that they might all the sooner take their flight to the regions of bliss. If a high wind sprang up when a body was being consumed by flames, it was regarded as a favourable omen. On the body being consumed, the fire was extinguished with red wine.
After a funeral, the people fumigated the house with brimstone, and cleansed themselves by passing over a fire. They then kept a feast, or rather feasts, at which they sacrificed to Mercury, that he might carry the soul of the deceased to the realms of happiness. At the same time the ghosts of relations were sacrificed to. Those who petitioned the gods had garlands about their necks, or green boughs in their hands. The branches were either laurel or olive, because the former signified triumph, and the latter peace and goodwill.
Swine and swine's flesh were held in high esteem by the Greeks and Romans, for various reasons—one of which was that Jupiter was nursed by a sow. It was the custom to drink healths or toasts, and the last one before going to bed was to Mercury, that he might give sound sleep and pleasant dreams. Great men would, on a high occasion, drink to a favourite, and hand him the cup to keep. When a person drank to the health of one he loved, he partook of part of the liquor, and poured the remainder of the wine on the ground. Drinking cups in remote times were made from bulls' horns. The Greeks consecrated their horses to the sun, and before engaging in war they consulted their prophets and diviners. In particular, they paid great attention to the utterances of Egyptian priestesses kept by them. Then, similar to the manner of the Jews, Persians, and others, the Greeks consecrated to the gods, in the event of obtaining victory, portions of goods secured from the vanquished; and even relations were offered in sacrifice to the gods supposed to have given triumph to the victorious armies. A Greek general did not think it lucky to march his forces before full moon, or until the seventh day of the month. Sacrifices were offered to the water when an army came to a river,—a custom observed by other nations.
Certain words were never pronounced by the Greeks. For instance, they carefully withheld their lips from uttering "prison;" and if they happened to hear what they thought an unlucky speech, they replied, "Let it return to thine own head." So far did they carry their superstition, that if one heard an unfavourable expression when he was about to drink, he would throw the liquor on the floor and call for another cup. Sneezing was so superstitiously regarded, that it came to be counted among the number of gods. It was deemed inauspicious if a host sent his guests away from a feast without giving each of them a piece of cake, or such like, to take home. The cracking of a table and the spilling of wine or salt were regarded as evil omens. When a Greek ship was in danger in a storm, one of the crew or a passenger was chosen by lot, and thrown overboard, like Jonah, to appease the spirit that ruled the winds and the waves.
Roman Delusions and Customs—Augury—Election to the Magistracy; Omens relative thereto—Tokens of Futurity—Dire Misfortunes followed the Contempt of Augurs—Drawing of Lots—Events foretold by reading the first passage that turned up on opening a Book—Lucky and Unlucky Stars—Fortune Tellers—Dreams—Omens drawn from Appearance of parts of Animals offered in Sacrifice—Sibylline Books, Charms, and Incantations—Spirits going about to observe Men's Actions—Unlucky Days—Dress of a Bride—Marriage Ceremonies—Anointing Door-posts with the Fat of Swine or of Wolves, and crossing the Threshold—Fire and Water—Bridal Feast and Nuptial Songs—Funeral Rites—Souls of Unburied Persons—The Expiring Breath—Customs at a Deathbed; the Cypress exhibited at Houses in which were Dead Bodies and Funeral Observances—Hobgoblins and Lares—Purifying with Water and Fire—Ghosts partial to Beans, etc.—Offerings made to appease the Manes—Persons reported to be Dead—Dead Bodies used for Magical purposes.
The old Roman delusions and customs were as extraordinary as those of any nation with which history has made us acquainted. The augurs pretended to foretell future events from the flight of birds and the chirping and feeding of fowls, and also from other appearances. "Augurium" and "auspicium" were generally used promiscuously. Auspicium was properly the foretelling of future events from the inspection of birds; augurium from any omen or prodigy whatever. The augurs are supposed to have derived tokens of futurity chiefly from five sources—appearances in the heavens (such as thunder or lightning), from the singing or flight of birds, from the feeding of fowls, from the movements of quadrupeds, and from uncommon accidents. The birds which chiefly gave omens by sound were ravens, crows, owls, and cocks,—and those by flight, eagles and vultures. Contempt of the augurs, and neglect of their intimations, were said to be followed by dire misfortunes. Omens coming from the left were generally supposed by the Romans to be lucky. Thunder on the left was regarded as a good sign, and so was the cawing of a crow on the same side; but it was considered more fortunate to hear the croaking of a raven on the right than on the left. The Romans, as the Greeks had done before them, took omens from quadrupeds crossing their path or appearing in unaccustomed places. The augurs taught the people how to draw conclusions from sneezing, spilling salt, and other accidents, called dira.
Drawing of lots was frequently resorted to by the Romans wishing to pry into futurity. The lots were dice, or articles resembling those instruments of chance. They were thrown into an urn filled with water, or cast as dice in the ordinary way. If there was any difficulty in ascertaining the import of the dice throwing, the priests were employed to interpret. Future events were frequently inquired into by an inquisitive person cutting the branch of a tree into small pieces, and distinguishing them by certain marks, and then scattering them at random on a white cloth. The searcher after knowledge having prayed to the gods, took up the slips three times, and interpreted according to the marks. Future events were often inquired into by reading the first line or passage which happened to turn up on opening a book, or by observing the stars. It was supposed to be lucky to be born under a certain star, and unlucky to come into the world under another. Astrologers were consulted regarding one's natal hour. Fortune-tellers and books of fate were consulted on the most trivial occasions; and persons aspiring to the magistracy, after saying their prayers in the open air, had recourse to augury with the view of ascertaining whether the gods favoured their cause.
Great attention was paid by the Romans to dreams, and persons of disordered minds were supposed to possess the faculty of presaging future events. Omens of futurity were also drawn from the appearance of the entrails of animals offered in sacrifice to the gods. The flame and smoke from the altar were noticed, and so were the circumstances attending the driving, felling, and bleeding of the victim. Sibylline books were inspected by appointment of the senate at perilous times, as they were supposed to contain the fate of the Roman Empire. There was something mysterious about the origin of the sibylline books. It is reported that a woman called Amalthaea, from a foreign country, came to Tarquin the Proud to sell nine sibylline books. Upon Tarquin refusing to give her the price asked, she went away and burned three of them. Returning soon after, she sought the same price for the remaining six. Still the price was refused, and she went away and burned other three books. She again came to the king, and demanded the same price for the three unconsumed volumes as she had asked for the nine. Tarquin, who first regarded the woman as a senseless old creature, became surprised at her strange behaviour, and inquired at the augurs what he should do. They advised him to give the woman the price she demanded. The woman delivered the books, and, after desiring that they should be carefully kept, disappeared, and was never seen again.
The use of charms and incantations originated in the worship of the heathen gods. As people in this country believe that spirits, good and bad, go about at night, so did the Romans suppose that their gods went up and down the earth during the night to observe the actions of men. The priests and others, when engaged in acts of piety or important business, took care, when turning, to move to the right. Every Roman avoided repeating words of bad omen. Certain days were reckoned unfortunate for the celebration of marriages. The month of May was thought an unlucky time for marriages being solemnized. The most fortunate time for weddings taking place was in the middle of June. The dress of a bride on her marriage day was a long white robe and her face was covered with a veil, in token of her modesty; her hair was divided with the point of a spear into six locks, and she was crowned with flowers. No marriage was celebrated before recourse to auspices. The nuptial ceremony was performed in the bride's father's house, or in the residence of the nearest relation. In the evening the bride was conducted to her husband's house, taken thither apparently by force from the arms of her mother or other relative, in memory of the violence used to the Sabine women. Three boys, whose parents were alive, attended her; two of them supported her by the arms, while the third walked before, bearing a flambeau of pine or thorn. Maid-servants followed with a distaff and wool, intimating that she was to spin as matrons formerly did. Many relations and friends attended the nuptial procession. The young men repeated jests and made sport as she passed along. The bride bound the door-posts of her new home with woollen fillets, and anointed them with the fat of swine or wolves, to prevent enchantments. She was lifted over the threshold, or lightly leaped over it, as it was thought ominous to put her foot upon it, because the threshold was sacred to Vesta, the goddess of virgins. Both she and her husband touched fire and water, as all things were supposed to be produced from these two elements. With the water their feet were bathed. The husband gave a feast, and musicians attended and sang the nuptial song. After supper the bride was conducted to her bed-chamber by matrons who had been only once married, and laid on her couch, which was covered with flowers; songs were then sung by young women before the chamber door till midnight. Next day another entertainment was given by the husband, when presents were sent to the bride by her friends and relations; and she began her family duties by performing sacred rites.
Great attention was paid to funeral ceremonies. Many people believed that the souls of the unburied were not admitted into the abodes of the dead before they had wandered about the Styx at least a hundred years. If one happened to discover an unburied body and did not throw earth on it, he was compelled to expiate his crime by sacrificing a hog to Ceres. When persons were at the point of death, their nearest relation present endeavoured to catch the expiring breath with their mouth, as they believed the soul or living principle went out by the mouth. The nearest relation among the Romans closed the eyes and mouth of the deceased, after putting money into the mouth for the ferryman who was to take the soul of the dead over the lake it had to cross. A branch of cypress placed at the door where the deceased lay, indicated that there was a dead body within. People were invited to public funerals by a herald. Magistrates and priests were supposed to be violated by seeing a corpse, and therefore the dead were generally buried at night with torch-light. At funeral processions pipers and other musicians attended, and women sang the funeral song or the praises of the deceased to the sound of the flute. By the law of the twelve tables, the number of flute players was restricted to ten. Next followed actors and buffoons, who danced and sang, while one of them imitated the deceased's words and actions when alive. Before the corpse there were carried the images of the deceased and of his ancestors. The ancients buried their dead at their own houses, whence arose the fear of hobgoblins, and a belief in lares, supposed to be the souls of the deceased.
When the body was laid in the tomb, the people present were sprinkled three times with pure water by the priest, and when the friends returned home they were again sprinkled. Beans, lettuces, bread, eggs, etc. were laid in the tombs, in the belief that the ghosts would come and eat them. Offerings were made to appease the manes. If a person, falsely reported to have been dead, returned home, he did not enter his house by the door, but went into it through the roof. Dead bodies were often violated for magical purposes, by stripping them of valuable articles, or cutting off fingers, toes, or arms. Wax images of deceased persons were made, and, after a variety of ridiculous ceremonies, burned on piles, from the tops of which eagles were let loose to convey to heaven the souls set free from the body.
Ethiopian Superstition—Sacred Bread—Customs of Ethiopian Monks—Heathen Indian Gods—Paraxacti and her three Sons—Thirty thousand millions of Gods—Fate of a Child written on its Forehead—Transmigration of Souls—Seven Seas—Mountain of Gold—Adder of monstrous size with a Hundred Heads—Vixnu—Dispute between Bruma, Vixnu, and Rutrem—Curse pronounced against the Thistle—Iranien the Giant—Transformation—Morning Star—Vixnu's different Forms—A King's Head kicked into the lowest Abyss—Prediction by Soothsayers—A Tyrant's Intentions frustrated—Vixnu's Guilt and Punishment; his Marriages and supposed future Appearance—Rutrem—A Son with Seven Heads—The Seven Stars as Nurses—Parvardi's Loss of her Husband and Birth of a Son—Rutrem's Revenge and its Consequences—The Indians' Offering to the Sun—The Ganges—The Giant Piamejuran—Superstitious Observances at Marriages—Disposal of Dead Bodies—Different degrees of Glory after Death—Reverence for the Cow—Ways of detecting Criminals—Addressing Oracles—Astronomy—Eclipse of the Moon—Magic—John Gondalez.
In Ethiopia, superstition was general over the entire empire. The Ethiopians used a sacred bread, called the corban. While this bread was being made, the baker was obliged to repeat seven psalms. Upon every loaf there were twelve impressions of the cross, and each cross was within a square. Ethiopian monks slept on a mat spread on the ground, and before lying down they stretched out their hands one hundred and fifty times in the form of a cross. Baptism was understood by the people of this empire to be a solemn ceremony that washed away all impurities; but the rite was observed by nearly all the ancient nations, in memory of the Deluge.
In an account of the empire of the Great Mogul, we find no end of superstitious observances. Each heathen Indian tribe had a separate god. Some tribes even worshipped boiled rice; after the same manner the Egyptians paid homage to leeks. Indian writers say that, in the beginning, a woman, whose name was Paraxacti (brought into existence by the great Creator), had three sons,—the first named Bruma, who came into life with five heads. He was endowed with the power of creating all inferior beings. The name of the second was Vixnu, appointed lord of providence and preserver of all things formed by Bruma. The third was named Rutrem, whose function or inclination was to destroy all things his other two brothers had made and preserved. Rutrem, like his brother Bruma, had five heads. Bruma assumed the form of a stag; and, to punish him for a serious crime he committed when in that shape, his brothers and thirty thousand millions of gods punished him by cutting off one of his heads.
According to the notions of Indian heathens, Bruma writes upon the forehead of every child an account of all that shall happen to him in the world. It is reported of Vixnu that he metamorphosed himself at pleasure. He first took the form and nature of a fish, and the second form assumed was that of a tortoise. The Indians believed there were seven seas in the world,—one of milk, of so delicious a nature that the gods ate butter made of it. One day, when the gods wanted to feast on the butter according to custom, they brought to the shore of the milk sea a high mountain of gold, which supported fourteen worlds that composed the universe. The uppermost part of the mountain served for a resting place, and over it was brought an adder of monstrous size, having a hundred heads. The gods made use of this adder as a rope, in order to get at the butter more easily; but while they were attempting to procure the butter, the giants, who had a continual hatred against the gods, drew the adder on the other side with so much violence that it shook the whole universe, and sunk it so low, that Vixnu, in his tortoise form, placed himself under it and supported it. Meanwhile the hundred-headed adder, being unable any longer to endure the pain the gods and giants inflicted on him, vomited poison upon the giants, which killed many of them on the spot. Vixnu afterwards assumed the form of a beautiful woman, and such of the giants as remained alive fell in love with the fair being. In this guise, he amused the giants till the gods had eaten all the butter.
In his third incarnation, Vixnu changed himself into the form of a hog, in consequence of the following circumstance:—One day a contest arose between the three gods, Bruma, Vixnu, and Rutrem, regarding the extent of their power. Rutrem undertook to go and hide himself, and at the same time promised to submit himself to him who should first discover his head and feet; but if they could not find these parts, then the baffled gods were to acknowledge him their superior. Bruma and Vixnu having agreed to this proposal, Rutrem vanished, and hid his head and feet in places a great distance from each other, where he imagined they could not be found. Bruma, in the likeness of a swan, commenced to search for the head, but, finding he could not obtain any trace of it, he resolved to return home. Just, however, as he was going to give up the search, he met the thistle flower, which came and saluted him, and showed the place where Rutrem had hid his head. Rutrem, exasperated, cursed the flower, and forbade it ever to enter his presence. For this reason, his followers prevented thistles being brought into their temples in any part of the East Indies.
For the purpose of finding the feet, Vixnu transformed himself into a hog, and went from place to place digging into the earth, but without success. For cogent reasons, Vixnu next assumed the form of a man and lion at the same time. Rutrem, it appears, conceived a strong friendship for one Iranien, a mighty giant, and granted him the privilege that no one should kill him either by day or by night. Instead of the giant proving grateful, he became proud and overbearing, and even insisted on being worshipped as a god. To punish the giant, Vixnu suddenly appeared before him in the form of a cloud, and then, taking the monster shape of a being half-man half-lion, resolved to take vengeance on the ungrateful wretch. In the evening, when Iranien was standing at the threshold of his door, Vixnu sprang at him, tore him to pieces, and drank his blood. But the blood affected Vixnu so much that he became stupid. Vixnu's fifth transformation was into a dwarf. At that time a cruel king's subjects appealed to Vixnu to relieve them of their oppressor, and, to carry out the people's desire, he, in the form of a dwarf, went to the city where the tyrant kept court. The dwarf begged from the king a grant of three feet of ground whereon to build himself a house. The tyrant was about to comply with the request, when the morning star, which attended the king in the character of secretary of state, suspected there was treason in the case. It was common, when requests were granted, for the king to take water into his mouth and pour some of it into the hand of the suppliant, and therefore the secretary, by the assistance of magic, slipped imperceptibly down the prince's throat, in order to prevent the water being thrown out. The magic had not the desired effect; for the king, finding something in his throat, forced a sharp instrument into it, which put out one of the secretary's eyes, and the water gushed out, ratifying the agreement. Vixnu changed himself into a monster so large that the whole earth was not sufficient to afford room for his feet. He then said to the king, "You have given me three feet of earth, and yet the whole world can scarcely contain one of my feet: where am I to place the other?" The tyrant, seeing deserved wrath awaiting him, laid his head down before Vixnu, who with one kick tossed it into the lowest abyss of hell. The wretched king, finding himself condemned to such a place of torment, begged pardon and mercy of Vixnu, but all the favour he received was one day's respite every year, to enable him to take part at a particular ceremony, to be observed in commemoration of his own downfall and punishment.
Vixnu's sixth form was that of a white man. He subdued many tyrants, and washed his hands in their blood. In this form he destroyed many giants, and compelled all the apes in the country to attend him. The last form Vixnu assumed was that of a black man, in which likeness his cunning and success were not less marked than when he was disguised in several of his former shapes. Here is another story told of him:—There was a great tyrant named Campsen, a violent persecutor of good men, who had a sister called Exudi. It happened that the soothsayers, of whom there were many in the country, having consulted the stars, told the king that Exudi would have eight children, and that the youngest of them would kill him. This enraged the monarch so much that he destroyed seven of her children as soon as they were born. Notwithstanding the natural affliction of the princess, she became pregnant for the eighth time, but, wonderful to relate, of no less a personage than the god Vixnu, who, unknown to her, succeeded in finding a place in her womb. Fearing the child would be conveyed beyond his reach as soon as it was born, the king placed spies everywhere to prevent the young prince's escape. The supposed father of the child succeeded in carrying him away, and placing him under the care of shepherds far up the mountains. Every effort was made by the baffled monarch to discover the young prince, and at last he found him. Desiring to be the executioner himself, he went and laid hold of the child to murder him. Just as the hand was raised to inflict the fatal blow, the prince vanished, and in his room appeared a little girl, whom the tyrant also attempted to kill; but she too, after mocking the king, disappeared uninjured. Vixnu grew from boyhood to manhood, when he raised an army against Campsen, whom he defeated and slew with his own hands, fulfilling the prediction of the soothsayers. Vixnu married two wives, but, neither of them pleasing him, he divorced them and espoused sixteen thousand shepherdesses. The people imagined that he would appear some time or another in the form of a horse, but thought that until that metamorphosis took place he would wallow in a sea of milk, with his head supported by a beautiful snake.
We are informed that Rutrem, the third son of Paraxacti, was much respected by the people, though, judging from the accounts transmitted to us, the wonder is that he was not detested. He married Parvardi, daughter of a king, whose dominion was in the mountains, with whom he lived a thousand years; but his two brothers, Bruma and Vixnu, having disapproved of the match, gathered together the thirty thousand millions of gods, and went in search of him. Accordingly he was found and dragged away from his wife, which caused him to wander up and down the earth in search of forbidden pleasures. One day the earth gave him a son with seven heads; but as a nurse could not be got to bring up the child, the seven stars undertook the task. Parvardi, disconsolate at the loss of her husband, went in search of him, but could not discover his place of abode. In her lonely state, she begged the gods would give her a son,—a request that was complied with, for a man-child dropped out of the sweat of her forehead. In the meantime Rutrem returned to his house, and, finding the child, became exceedingly enraged. His anger, however, turned into love on being informed of the miraculous manner in which he was born. The king of the mountains made a feast, to which the gods were invited, but Rutrem, his son-in-law, was not asked. This want of respect provoked him so much that he went to the banquet, and, laying hold of one of the gods, tore off a handful of hair from his head. From the hair a giant of enormous size started up, whose head reached to the firmament, and struck the sun with so great violence that all its teeth were knocked out. For this reason, the Indians refused to offer anything to the sun but what could be eaten without teeth. Not satisfied with knocking out the teeth of the sun, he bruised the moon so severely that the marks remain to the present day. He then killed several of the guests, among whom was his step-son, created from the sweat of his mother's forehead. Vinayaguien (that was the youth's name) lost his head, and had it replaced with that of an elephant. In the disfigured state into which he was turned, his father dispatched him in search of a wife as beautiful as his mother,—a task that proved endless, because there could not be found a woman equal in beauty to his maternal parent.
Rutrem married the River Ganges, which was represented under the form of a blooming woman. At that time there was a giant named Piamejuran, who had for several years undergone a severe penance for having offended Rutrem, but, becoming sensible of his offence, desired to be absolved. The favour was granted him, with the privilege of reducing to ashes everything he laid his hands upon. The power with which he was endowed proved his death. One day he went to the Ganges to bathe, and, lifting his hand to his forehead, it reduced him to dust.
At their marriages, the Indians were very superstitious, and paid great regard to omens. The consent of the parents being obtained, and a fortunate day appointed, the parties met with the relations, when the bridegroom threw three handfuls of rice on the head of the bride, and she cast an equal quantity at him. Part of the marriage ceremony consisted of the fathers of both bridegroom and bride putting a piece of money and a small quantity of water into the bride's hand. This being done, the bridegroom hung a ribbon, with a coin attached to it, round her neck.
As soon as a man died, his beard was shaved, his body washed, lime put into his mouth, and women rubbed his face with rice. When the body was burned, the deceased's ashes were thrown into the Ganges, for the water of that river was supposed to have a virtuous and holy influence on whatever it touched. The Brahmins believed that there were five different degrees of glory after death. Bruma, with his wife Sarassuadi, was in the fourth state attended by a large swan, on which he rode abroad, this god being supposed to be exceedingly fond of travelling. None but the most innocent were exalted to the fifth seat of glory.
Cows' dung was spread over the floors of Indian temples; and such was the people's reverence for the cow, that when sacrificing they poured milk on their altars. Their priests pretended that their gods had oracles, by which they could foretell future events. When several persons were suspected of stealing anything, and the guilty one could not be discovered by ordinary means, the priests wrote the names of the suspected persons on different pieces of paper, and laid them down before the altar, and invoked their oracle, after which they locked the doors, so that no person could get in. When they returned and found any paper removed, the person whose name was on it was declared to be the criminal. On the priests addressing their oracles, they became so excited that they remained for hours seemingly in great agony. After recovering, they explained to the people the sayings of the oracles. The Indians had tables of astronomy which they consulted. When the moon was eclipsed, they believed she was fighting with a black devil.
The Indians supposed that by means of magic a man could change himself into the form of a lion or any other animal he chose. We have heard of one John Gondalez, who changed himself into the shape of a lion, and in that form was shot by a Spaniard. The day on which Gondalez was fired at he was reported to be sick. A clergyman was called in to take his confession. The pious man, in giving an account of what he saw and heard, said, "I saw Gondalez's face and nose all bruised, and asked him how he had received the injuries. He told me that he had fallen from a tree and nearly killed himself. After this he accused the Spaniard of shooting at him. The affair was inquired into by a Spanish justice of the peace. My evidence was taken, and I told what Gondalez had said to me regarding his fall. The Spaniard swore that he had shot at a lion in a thick wood, where an Indian was not likely to be."
Gondalez was examined as to how he was not seen by the Spaniard when he went to look for the lion; to which he replied that he ran away lest the Spaniard should kill him. As Gondalez's dealings with the devil were well known to all in the neighbourhood, it was held that he had received his injuries when roaming as a four-footed beast; and therefore the justice discharged the Spaniard.
John Gomez the Wizard and Man-tiger—Lopez the Man-lion—Vermilion Marks rendered the Devil powerless—Sacrificing Children—Offerings to the Ganges—A Rajah offering himself as a Sacrifice—Preventatives against Disease—Various Superstitious Ceremonies—Sacrificing to the Gods of the Four Winds—How the Devil was kept away—King's Wives and Retainers going with the Dead Monarch into the other World—An eternal Succession of Worlds—Apes supposed to have Human Souls—Worshipping Demons—Drinking Blood—Prognosticating from the Cries of Beasts—Witchcraft and Magic—Singular Opinions and Customs—Watching Graves, and providing for the Dead—Foretelling Future Events at the New Moon—Method of discovering a False Swearer—Offerings to the Sea and Winds—Superstition in China—Chinese Genealogy and Worship—Opinion of their Gods and Goddesses—Sacrifices—Beggars—Magical Arts—False Worship—Comfort of the Dead provided for—Superstition in Japan—Fortune-telling—Idols—Gods and Goddesses—Five Hundred Children hatched from Eggs—Human Souls supposed to reside in Inferior Animals—Beasts held in great esteem—Statues of Witches and Magicians placed in Temples in Japan—Charms sold by Priests—Value of Charms—Fortunate and Unfortunate Days—A Fairy in the likeness of a Fox—A valuable Charm.
The gentleman (a clergyman) who told the story of John Gondalez, gives another tale equally interesting. John Gomez, the chief of an Indian town, was nearly eighty years of age, and reputed to be possessed of more than ordinary shrewdness. His advice was preferred to that of all other chiefs. He seemed to be a very godly Indian, and very seldom missed morning and evening prayers in the church. "He was suddenly taken ill," proceeds the clergyman; "and one of his friends, fearing that he might die without making confession, called me up at midnight, desiring me to go presently to John Gomez to help him to die. I therefore visited Gomez, who lay with his face muffled. He confessed, wept, and showed a willingness to die. I comforted him, after which I returned home to refresh myself. Scarcely had I crossed the threshold of my house than I was called on to visit the sick man a second time, and give him extreme unction. As I anointed him on his nose, lips, hands, eyes, and feet, I perceived he was swollen black and blue. I went home again, and after I had rested a little, an Indian called to buy candles to offer up for the soul of John Gomez, who, he told me, had departed. I went to the church, and found the grave being prepared for the deceased. Two Spaniards, to whom I spoke, told me of a great stir being made in the town concerning the death of Gomez. Amused at the information received, I desired a full and particular account of the whole circumstances. They told me that Gomez was the chief wizard of the town—that he was often changed into a tiger, and in that form walked about the mountains. Wondering at this statement, I went straight to the prison, where, I was told, I might obtain information on the subject. At the stronghold the officers communicated to me the whole matter. There were witnesses, they said, who saw a lion and a tiger fighting, and presently lost sight of them, but saw in their places Gomez and a man named Lopez. Gomez returned home much bruised, and on his deathbed declared to his friends that Lopez had killed him. Lopez was therefore taken into custody, and put in irons. The crown officers investigated the case with great care, and found that the body of Gomez was all bruised and torn in various places. Lopez, upon this, was taken to Guatemala, and there hanged, the evidence against him, in the estimation of the judges and people, being conclusive that he had fatally injured Gomez while the former was in the shape of a tiger, and the latter in the likeness of a lion."
The inhabitants of Bisnagar, Deccan, and elsewhere believed that the moment a priest marked any one on the forehead with vermilion, the devil had no power over the person thus distinguished. At Samorin there was a statue to which children were sacrificed. It was of brass, and, when heated by a furnace underneath it, the children were thrown into its mouth and consumed. Flowers were scattered upon the altars during the sacrifices, and herbs, steeped in the blood of a cock, perfumed the idol. The cock's throat was cut with a silver knife dipped in the blood of a hen. At the conclusion of the barbarous ceremony, the priest walked backwards from the altar to the middle of the chapel, where he threw a handful of corn over his head.
The Ganges, as is well known, was, and still is, worshipped by a large number of people. Vast numbers of pilgrims continually visit this great river. Formerly, if not now, they bathed in it in a peculiar fashion, holding short straws in their hands while they were performing their ablutions. Gold and silver were often thrown into the stream, in testimony of admiration.
At Quailacara a remarkable ceremony took place once every twelve years. On the morning of the important day, the rajah, who was both high priest and sovereign, offered himself a sacrifice to the gods. He first delivered an oration, and then with a sharp instrument cut off his nose, lips, and ears, and concluded the tragical event by cutting his throat. Similar ceremonies were performed in the same district by scores of deluded devotees, who bent their steps to the most celebrated temples, where they cut off their flesh, piece by piece, and then stabbed themselves to death. Their bodies were burned, and the ashes sold by the priests at high sums, as preservatives against disease. When the people came to bathe in the Ganges in the month of May, they erected piles of cows' dung, on which were placed baskets of rice, roots, and every description of vegetables. These were surrounded with wood besmeared with butter, and set on fire. From the appearance of the smoke and flame, those present pretended to discover whether the harvest was to be abundant or otherwise. At seed-time the priests took branches from trees, and walked in procession with them, going three times round the temples. A hole was then dug in the ground, and water from the Ganges poured into it. In this hole cows' dung and the branches were put and set on fire, and from the appearance of the flames the arch-priest was enabled to foretell what was to happen during the year. When a person was dying, he was carried to a river and dipped into it, that his soul and body might be purified. Happy was the individual who could be conveyed to the Ganges, because its waters were supposed to be possessed of virtues that did not exist in other rivers. Sometimes the hands of the dying person were tied to a cow's tail, and the invalid dragged through the water. If the cow emitted urine upon the person, it was considered a most salutary purification. If the fluid fell plentifully upon the expiring man, his friends testified their joy by loud acclamation, believing he was about to be numbered among the blessed. But when the cow did not supply the purifying liquid, the relatives showed their grief, for they thought their dying friend was going to a place of punishment.
At Assam and elsewhere, when a person was sick, sacrifices were offered to the god of the four winds. If the patient died, servants were kept beating on instruments of copper to keep away evil spirits, supposed to be hovering round the corpse. There was a belief that if an evil spirit passed over a dead body, the soul would return to the inanimate remains. At a funeral procession, men surrounded the coffin with drawn scimitars, to drive the devil away and help to confine him to his home of darkness. At a king's death, all his wives, ministers of state, and retainers surrounded the grave, and poisoned themselves, in order to accompany him into the other world. Horses, camels, elephants, and hounds were also interred along with his majesty, to be useful to him in the world of bliss.
In Pegu, the people believed in an eternal succession of worlds, and imagined that, as soon as one would be burned, another would spring out of its ashes. They thought that people devoured by crocodiles went to a place of perpetual happiness. The people believed that asses had human souls, and, reversing the theory of Darwin that human beings were the offspring of inferior animals, thought they were formerly men; but, to punish them for crimes they had been guilty of, the gods transformed them into their present shape. White elephants were much esteemed by the people. As the devil was worshipped, altars were erected in honour of him, and sacrifices were daily offered to appease his wrath and obtain his favour. Devout persons refused to taste food, before throwing part of it behind them for the dogs or devils to eat; for they imagined that every dog was possessed with evil spirits, if the animal was not Satan himself. It sometimes happened that a man left his house, swept clean and genteelly furnished, for the devil to take possession of it for a whole month.
On entering into a solemn agreement, the natives of Siam drank each other's blood. They attentively listened to the groans and cries of wild beasts, and prognosticated from them, and believed in witchcraft. They imagined, as spiritualists of the present time do, that answers were received from deceased friends or relations. Natives of the Philippine Islands had a notion that they could know, from seeing the first objects that presented themselves to them in the morning, whether they would be successful or unsuccessful in their undertakings during the day. If one of them happened to tread upon an insect when setting out on a journey, he would proceed no further. The islanders of the Moluccas watched the graves of their deceased relations seven nights, for fear the devil would steal the body away, and during that time the bed of the deceased was made as if he were alive. Further, victuals were prepared for him, lest he should return to earth and require nourishment. Many of the people wore bracelets, and on the appearance of the new moon a hen's neck was cut, and the bracelets dipped into the blood. From the appearance of the ornaments after being taken out, future events were brought to light. When the people of Ceylon were called upon to make oath, they wrapped their right hands in a cloth the previous night, and when they appeared in court, a caldron, containing a mixture of cows' dung and water, kept boiling over a strong fire, was in readiness for the deponents, subsequent to removing the bandages, to immerse their hands therein. This being done, their hands were again wrapped up until next day, when the fingers were rubbed with a linen cloth. He whose skin peeled off first, was declared to have spoken falsehoods; and he not only lost his cause, but was compelled to pay a penalty to the king. At the Maldive Islands, offerings were made to the sea when a voyage was about to be undertaken. Sacrifices were also offered to the winds, which was done by setting fire to a new boat, and consuming it to ashes. But if one was too poor to offer a boat, he threw into the ocean several cocks and hens; for it was the opinion that there was in the water a god that ate such things as were offered in sacrifice. One was warned not to spit against the wind when at sea. The ships and other vessels belonging to the people of these islands were consecrated to the gods of the sea and the winds.
Superstition in China was, and still is, both general and absurd in the extreme. The Chinese profess to have an uninterrupted genealogy of their kings for a period of twenty-four thousand years; but, notwithstanding their pretensions to antiquity, learned men suppose that these people are descendants of the Egyptians. On this difficult question, however, we do not propose to enter, and therefore proceed to notice a few of their ridiculous customs and notions. They have been idolaters for ages, and pay divine honours to numerous gods—particularly to Fo, who was deified and worshipped for more than a thousand years before the Christian era. The Chinese say that Fo was a king's son. As soon as the infant god was born, he could speak and walk. When young, he had four philosophers to instruct him, and at the age of thirty he began to work miracles. Report has it that he was born eight thousand times, and that his soul had passed through the bodies of many different animals. The doctrine of transmigration of souls was part of the people's creed, and this doctrine is still believed in by the people generally. Cang-y was the god of the lower heavens, and had power over life and death. He had three spirits constantly attending him, the first of whom sent rain to refresh and nourish the earth; the second was the god of the sea, to whom all their navigators made vows before going away with ships, and performed them on their return home; and the third presided over births and war. The great Chinese reformer, Confucius, was born four hundred and fifty years before Christianity was preached. As soon as he was born, two dragomans came to guard him against harm, and the stars bowed themselves before him. He married a wife, but, finding that she hindered him in his pursuit of knowledge, he put her away. He lived to the age of seventy years, when he died of a broken heart at beholding the evils around him. The highest honours were paid to him after death.
Hogs were offered in sacrifice to the gods. Wine was poured on the animals' ears, and if they shook their heads at this operation they were deemed proper objects to be offered, but if they remained motionless they were rejected.
On the 14th August of every year sacrifices were offered by the people to their ancestors, and all who assisted them at the solemn ceremonies were assured that they would receive particular favours from their dead relatives. Vast numbers of beggars constantly went about the country. If those mendicants were refused alms, they told the people that their souls would pass into the bodies of rats, mice, snakes, toads, and such other creatures as they knew the Chinese abhorred. Those mendicants told fortunes, and, if report speaks true, could raise the wind by striking the earth with a hammer of magical virtue. A ship captain, on going to sea, might have a fair wind and a prosperous voyage for a moderate sum. Divination was practised by means of household gods, of which there were many in the empire.
Conjurers and fortune-tellers were by law forbidden to frequent the houses of civil or military officers under the pretence of prophesying impending national calamities or successes, but the prohibition was not understood to prevent them telling fortunes and casting nativities by the stars in the usual manner. Whenever signs of calamity were observed in the heavens by the officers of the astronomical board, and they failed to give faithful notice thereof; they were punished with one hundred and twenty blows and two years' banishment. In later times a law was passed against sorcerers and magicians, prohibiting them, under pain of death, from employing spells and incantations, calculated to agitate and influence the minds of the people. Killing by magic was by statute placed among the most serious classes of offences. Magicians who raised evil spirits by means of magical books and dire imprecations, or who burned incense in honour of the images of their worship when they assembled by night to instruct their followers, were strangled.
It was enacted by the Chinese laws, that if any members of a private family performed the ceremony of the adoration of heaven and of the north star, and lighted the lamps of the sky and of that star, they were guilty of profanation, and liable to be punished with eighty blows. When a dead body was laid in the coffin, the mouth of the deceased was filled with corn, rice, silver, and gold; and scissors, tied up in purses, were put into the coffin, that the departed person might cut his nails as often as he pleased.
There was a sect in Japan called Jammabugi, who studied magic chiefly among the rocks and mountains. They procured a subsistence by pretending to tell fortunes. They possessed an almost incredible number of idols, one of which was Abbuto, noted for curing inveterate diseases, and for procuring a favourable wind at sea. To secure a quick passage, sailors and passengers were wont to throw money into the ocean as an offering to this idol.
The Japanese had gods for almost everything. A most ridiculous account is given of their goddess of riches. When a mortal, she had no children by her husband, which caused her to supplicate the gods to give her offspring. Her prayers were heard, and she produced five hundred eggs. Being afraid that if the eggs were hatched they would bring forth monsters, she packed them up in a box bearing a particular mark, and threw them into a river. An old fisherman found the box, and, seeing it full of eggs, carried it home to his wife. Not having a sufficient number of hens to hatch so many eggs, she put them into an oven, and, to the surprise of the aged couple, every egg produced a child. The two old people succeeded in bringing up the strange progeny to manhood, for they were all sons. They became robbers and beggars by turn; and it happened, one day during their rambles, that they came to their mother's house. From inquiries she made, it became clear that the young ruffians were her own children. She kept them, and reared them up to be virtuous and useful. She was afterwards taken up from the earth to be among the gods, where she remains, attended by her five hundred sons.
Apes and monkeys, as well as other creatures, were worshipped in Japan. So great faith did the people of that country put in the transmigration of souls, that they had hospitals for the reception of animals in whose bodies souls were supposed to reside. In a wood near Jeddo there were many sacred animals, daily fed by priests. These animals, the priests said, were animated by the souls of the most noble and illustrious heroes that ever lived. The people had such a profound veneration for stags, that they were to be seen in every street as numerous as the dogs in our country. If one killed a stag, not only was he condemned to die, but the houses where the deed was committed were razed to the ground. Dogs were held in great esteem. The inhabitants of every street were obliged to support a fixed number of them, they being quartered on the people like so many soldiers. When a dog died, it was buried among human remains. A man who killed a canine creature was punished with death. Fish were looked upon as sacred. Near the capital was a river that was so plentifully stocked with fish, that they thrust one another ashore, yet not one of them was injured. The people believed that if they touched one of the finny tribe, they would be smitten with leprosy, and it was considered an unpardonable sin to eat any of them. A belief prevailed, that fish possessed the souls of naval officers. Statues of witches, magicians, and devils find places in the Japan temples.
Charms were sold by the priests, which were represented to possess the virtue of curing diseases and driving away the devil. Money was sometimes borrowed on security of charms, not to be repaid in this world. A note was given, authorizing payment of the money in the land of spirits; and when the holder of the document died, his relations put it into his hand, believing that the debt would be duly paid to the deceased. The Japanese thought certain days were more fortunate than others. A table of their fortunate and unfortunate days was hung up in the passage of every house, for the guidance of the family when they went out. This table of days was prepared by a celebrated astrologer of universal knowledge in all mysteries, whether relating to the stars, dreams, or omens. Like other men of note in the East, he was born in a miraculous manner. His father was a prince, and his mother a fox. It appears that the lady fox being pursued by huntsmen, ran to and obtained protection from his highness. The creature discovered herself to be a fairy, and, throwing off her false appearance, became a beautiful princess. The prince being enamoured with her charms, married her, and had by her the celebrated astrologer spoken of. When he grew up he invented a set of mysterious terms, which he comprised within the compass of one verse, as a charm or protection for such persons as were compelled to work on unlucky days; and every one who repeated the verse reverently on the morning of an unlucky day, was preserved from all the evils that would have otherwise befallen him.
THE GODS AND GODDESSES OF HEATHEN NATIONS.
The Classification of Gods and Goddesses—Primeval Parent Chaos—Creation—Influence of Ether—The Human Race in danger of Perishing—Celestial Fire—Birth of Cupid—Banishment of Cupid from the Blest Abodes—Cupid's Armour—Fate—Eternal Decrees—Throne of Jove—Fortune and Happiness—Misfortune and Misery—Twofold Nature—Rewards and Punishments—First Man and Woman—Pan the Emblem of all Things—Power of Heathen Gods—Descriptions of Juno—Venus the Goddess of Love and Beauty—Rustics turned into Frogs—Vulcan—AEolus—Momus the Jester—The Carping God's Fault-finding—Improper Position of the Bull's Horns—Minerva as a House—Window in Man's Breast.
We do not intend to notice at great length the ancient opinions and writings concerning the deities which heathen nations thought presided over the world and the heavens, and influenced the affairs of the spheres above and below; but as much of comparatively modern superstition has been traced to mythology, generally so called, we cannot pass without observation the history of the gods, nor avoid giving such extracts therefrom as bear particularly on our subject, "The Collected Mysteries of all Nations."
The gods and goddesses of heathen nations were classified as follows:—1st, the celestial gods and goddesses; 2nd, the terrestrial deities; 3rd, the marine and river gods and goddesses; 4th, the infernal gods; 5th, the subordinate and miscellaneous deities; 6th, the ascriptious gods, demigods, and heroes; and 7th, the modal deities. Ancient writers speak thus:
"When the primeval parent Chaos, hoary with unnumbered ages, was first moved by the breath of Erebus, she brought forth her enormous first-born Hyle, and at the same portentous birth the amiable almighty Eros, chief of the immortals. They had no sooner come to light than they produced the terrible Titans."
Again we are informed that—"Ere the universe appeared; ere the sun mounted on high, or the moon gave her pale light; ere the vales were stretched out below, or the mountains reared their towering heads; ere the winds began to blow, or the rivers to flow, or plants or trees had sprung from the earth; while the heavens lay hid in the mighty mass, and the stars were unknown, the various parts of which the wondrous creation consists lay jumbled without form in the Abyss of Being." There, it is said, they had lain for ever and ever if the breath of the terrible Erebus, the spirit that dwelt in eternal darkness, had not gone forth and put the mass into vital agitation.
From another source we learn that, first of all, Chaos existed; next in order the broad Earth; and then Love appeared, the most beautiful of all things. Of Chaos sprang Erebus and dusty Night, and of Erebus and Night came Ether and smiling Day.
The Earth conceived by the influence of Ether, and brought forth man and every description of animal. The human race was in danger of perishing from the face of earth. Naked, needy, and ignorant, they passed their dreary days, living in caves and lurking in woods like wild beasts. They were alike destitute of laws and arts. Their food consisted of herbs. Often were they compelled to fly before the mountain tigers and bears of the forest, while they were nearly frozen to death. Thus they lived in wretchedness until Prometheus came to their relief. He called Pallas, the goddess of wisdom, to his aid. By her assistance he mounted to heaven, where he secretly held the reed he carried in his hand to the wheel of the sun's chariot. In this way he obtained the celestial fire, and conveyed it to Earth, where he presented it to man. Prometheus did not stop here: he instructed man in arts and industry of almost every description.
There is an interesting account of Cupid. The goddess of beauty, we are informed, brought forth a delicate infant, whom she gave to the Graces to nurse. Unhappily, the child neither throve in person, nor put forth feathers to cover the wings which he had. Under this affliction, Cupid's mother and nurses had recourse to the most ancient and infallible Themis, who gave this answer: That love came, for the most part, single into the world, but that the child would not thrive until his mother brought forth another son. Then the one would thrive in virtue of the other; but if the one died, the other could not long survive. Venus brought forth another son, Anteros. He no sooner came into being, than his elder brother Cupid grew, and his wings were soon fledged. So strong did the little urchin become, that he flew to heaven. There he associated with the Muses, became intimate with Mercury, kept company with Hymen, and grew in favour with every one except the implacable Momus. Unfortunately, Cupid became insolent and vain, behaving with arrogance to the superior powers. He made enmity reign where peace and concord should have been found. Feuds raged among the gods and goddesses on his account. To rid themselves of a pest, the rulers of heaven called an assembly of the gods, to consider how peace could be restored. Cupid was accused of being a public incendiary, a disturber of good order; and the fomenter of discord being found guilty, he was banished from the blest abodes; ordered to be a retainer of Ceres and Bacchus on earth; and doomed to have his wings stripped of their feathers, that he might not again infest the confines of heaven.
Cupid is now armed with two bows, one of which he bends with the aid of the Graces, to secure a happy smiling lot, and he with the other, blind-folded, lets fly his arrows, to the confusion and misery of many in life. Like his mother, he is constantly in want. He is eager, ravenous, and wandering about bare-footed, without home or habitation, sleeping before doors or by the wayside, under the open sky. But at the same time he is ever forming designs upon all that is beautiful, is forward, cunning, and fond of new tricks.
Fate mysteriously clings round this earth, the heavens, and the creatures in the regions above and below. When Jupiter heard of the death of his son Sarpedon, in great grief he called on Mercury to go instantly to the Fates, and bring from them the strong box in which the eternal decrees are laid up. Mercury went to the Fatal Sisters, and delivered his message. The Sisters smiled, and told him that the other end of the golden chain which secured the box with the unalterable decrees was so fixed to the throne of Jove, that were it to be unfastened, the master's seat itself might be shaken.
Jupiter holds in his hands the unerring balance of fate. Close to his throne stand the two inexhaustible urns—the one filled with good fortune and happiness, the other with misfortune and misery. Out of these is mixed a dose of life to every mortal man; and as the draught is, so are one's days embittered with disasters, or made pleasant with serenity, ease, and prosperity. To every star is allotted a mind, and all things have their fixed irrevocable laws. The human nature is twofold; and man, who lives well on earth, returns after death to the habitations of his congenial star, and there leads a blessed life; but, failing in his duties, he is doomed to live a thousand years in a degraded state. Sometimes a human soul is destined to animate a wild beast, never to be relieved until it reattain the purest of its first and best existence.
The Goths and Vandals entertained the opinion that the first man and woman were made of an ash-tree. Odin, it is said, gave them breath, Hener endowed them with reason, and Lodur injected blood into their veins, and provided them with beautiful faces.
Pan has been represented as the emblem of all things, and among the learned of early times he passed for the first and oldest of the divinities. His person is composed of various and opposite parts—a man and a goat. According to the most ancient Egyptians and Greeks, he had neither father nor mother, but sprang of Demogorgon at the same instant with the Fatal Sisters, the Parcae.
The power of the heathen gods and goddesses is reported as truly wonderful. Apollo turned Daphne, whom he loved, into a laurel, and his boy Hyacinth into a violet. Mars was the son of Jupiter and Juno, or, according to Ovid, of Juno alone, who conceived him at the smell of a flower shown her by the goddess Flora.
Juno is esteemed the goddess of kingdoms and riches. She is represented as a majestic beautiful woman, riding in a golden chariot drawn by peacocks, waving a sceptre in her hand, and wearing a crown set about with roses and lilies, and encircled with fair Iris, or the rainbow. She is also supposed to preside over matrimony and births, and is the guardian angel of woman.
Venus is the goddess of love and beauty; she sprang from the foam of the sea. As soon as she was born she was cast upon the island of Cyprus, where she was educated, and afterwards being carried to heaven, was married to Vulcan. Her image is fair and beautiful; she is clothed with purple, glittering with diamonds. There are two Cupids on her side, while around her are the Graces. Her chariot is of ivory, drawn by swans, doves, or swallows.
Whilst Latona was wandering through the fields of Lycia, she desired to drink from a spring at the bottom of a valley, but the country rustics drove her away. In spite of her entreaties, they refused to allow her to slake her thirst, whereupon, in wrath, she, cursing them, said, "May ye always live in this water!" Immediately they were turned into frogs, and leaped into the streams and pools, where they continued to exist.
Vulcan, notwithstanding his noble descent, is obliged to follow the trade of a blacksmith. On account of his deformity, he was cast down from heaven into the isle of Lemnos. His leg was broken by the fall. He erected a forge, where he makes thunderbolts for his father Jupiter and armour for the other gods. His servants are called Cyclops, because they have but one eye. Though Vulcan is unpleasant in the sight of others, Venus thinks him the most beautiful of all the divinities.
AEolus keeps the winds under his power in a cave in the AEolian Islands, where he dwells. He can raise storms and hurricanes, and restrain their rage at pleasure.
Momus is a jester, mocker, or mimic. His life is spent in idleness, merely observing the sayings and doings of the gods, and then censuring and deriding them. For instance, when Neptune was made a bull, Minerva a house, and Vulcan a man, Momus was appointed to judge as to whom the greatest skill was manifested in creation. The carping god disapproved of all. He found fault with the bull for not having his horns before his eyes in his forehead, that he might be enabled to push the surer. He condemned the house, because it was fixed and could not be carried away in case it was placed in a bad neighbourhood. But the god, he said, who made man, was most imprudent because he did not make a window in the human breast, that the thoughts might be seen.
Satyrs described—Diana's Retirement—Pallas, the Goddess of Shepherds and Pasture—The vile Flora—Pomona deceived—Celestial Nymphs—Terrestrial Nymphs—River Gods and Goddesses—Sirens—Witch Circe—Infernal Deities—Passage to Tartarus—Palace of Pluto—Judges of Hell—Goddesses of Destiny—Furies—Night, Death, and Sleep: by whom presided over—Names of Monsters condemned in the place of Punishment—Tartarian Regions—Delights of the Elysian Fields—Food and Drink of Pagan Gods—Festivals of Heathens—Colour of Gods—Sacrifices to Deities—Things sacred to Gods.
Satyrs are partly of human likeness and partly of bestial shape. They have heads of human form, with horns and brutish ears; they have crooked hands, rough hairy bodies, goats' legs and feet and tails. The chief of these monsters is the god Pan, the inventor of the musical pipe.
Diana, out of love to Chastity, avoids consort with men, retires into the woods, and there diverts herself with hunting, whence she is reckoned the goddess of the woods and the chase. Pallas is esteemed the goddess of shepherds and pasture, and is the reputed inventress of corn, and is thought by some to be Ceres or Vesta. Flora is the goddess of flowers. By a vile trade, she accumulated a vast amount of money, and made the people of Rome her heirs, who, in return, placed her among the divinities.
Ferona and Pomona are two goddesses of trees and fruits. The latter was advised by the god Vertumnus to enter the matrimonial state in the guise of a hagged old woman; but without success, till he appeared to her as a fair young man, and then she felt the power of love, and yielded to his wishes. The Nymphs are a company of neat charming virgins, living near the gardens of Pomona. They are of three classes:—1st the Celestial Nymphs, called Genii, who guide the spheres and dispense the influences of the stars to things on earth. 2nd, the Terrestrial Nymphs, as Dryades, who preside over the woods and live in the oaks; and Hamadryades, who are born and die with the oaks; the Oreades, who preside over the mountains; the Napaeae, who preside over the groves and valleys; the Limnatides, who look after the meadows and fields. 3rd, Marine Nymphs.
As the chief of the marine and river gods and goddesses, Neptune stands at the head. He is represented with black hair and blue eyes, arrayed in a mantle of azure, holding a trident in his right hand, and embracing his queen with his left arm. He stands upright in his chariot, drawn by sea horses, and is attended by nymphs. Proteus is the son of Neptune, but some say he is the offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. His business is to tend the sea-calves. He can turn himself into any shape. Triton, the son and trumpeter of Neptune, is a man to the middle and a dolphin below; he has two fore feet, like those of horses, and is provided with two tails. Oceanus is the son of C[oe]lum and Vesta, husband to Tethys, god of the sea, and father of the rivers and springs. Nereus, also the son of Oceanus and Tethys, is father of fifty daughters, called Nereides or Sea Nymphs. Palaemon and his mother Ino, together with the fisherman Glaucus, are reckoned among the sea deities. The Sirens resemble mermaids, having the faces of women, but bodies of flying fish. They are reported to be excellent songsters, that play on the Sicilian coasts, and tempt passengers on shore, where they sing them asleep and kill them. Scylla and Charybdis are two other sea monsters. Scylla is the daughter of Phorcys, and beloved by Glaucus, whom therefore the witch Circe by her enchantments turned into a rock, with dogs around her. Charybdis is a very ravenous woman, who stole Hercules's oxen, for which crime Jupiter struck her dead with a thunder-bolt, and then turned her into a gulf or whirlpool in the Sicilian Sea. The Sea Nymphs are the Nereides already referred to. The Naides or Naiades preside over fountains and springs; the Potameides preside over rivers, and Limniades over lakes.
In noticing the Infernal Deities, we shall describe the dismal regions, where wicked spirits dwell, and over which they are reported to preside. The name commonly given to these regions is Hades or Tartarus, understood to signify hell. The passage leading thereto is a wide dark cave, through which one has to pass by a steep rocky descent till he arrives at a gloomy grove and an unnavigable lake called Avernus, from which such poisonous vapours rise as to kill birds flying over it. Yet over this lake the souls of the dead must pass. To assist them, an old decrepit, long-bearded fellow, the oft-heard of Charon, attends with a ferry-boat to carry them to the other side, at a fare not less than a halfpenny.
After this there are four rivers to be passed over—Acheron, whose waters are very bitter; the Styx, a lake rather than a river, and so sacred to the gods, that if any of them swore by it and broke his oath, he was deprived of his godhead, and was prohibited from drinking nectar for a hundred years; the river Cocytus, which flows out of Styx with a lamentable groaning, resembling the painful sounds and exclamations of the damned; the river Phlegethon, so called because it swells with waves of fire and streams of flames.
The souls having passed these rivers, are conducted to the palace of Pluto, king of the infernal regions, where the gate is guarded by Cerberus, a dog with three heads, whose body is covered with snakes in place of hair. This dog is the porter of hell.
Pluto initiated funeral obsequies for the dead: he sits on a throne covered with darkness, holding a key in his hand, and crowned with ebony. Beside him is his queen Proserpina, whom he stole from Ceres.
Minos, AEacus, and Rhadamanthus are judges in hell. The first two are sons of Jupiter by Europa, and the last is his son by AEgina. These are believed to judge the souls of the dead.
The Fates are named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, and are the goddesses of destiny. They order and manage the fatal thread of life. Clotho draws the thread, Lachesis turns the wheel, and Atropos cuts the string asunder when spun to a due length.
The Furies, called sometimes Eumenides, Dirae, and Manes, are the daughters of Nox and Acheron: their names are Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera, and are known by the common name of Erinnys. They have faces like women, their looks are full of terror, they hold lighted torches in their hands, and snakes and serpents cling to their necks and shoulders. Their office is to punish the crimes of wicked men, and to torment and frighten them by following them with ghastly looks and burning material.
Erebus and Nox preside over darkness and the night; Mors over death; and Somnus is the god of sleep, who, by his servant Morpheus, sends dreams to men while asleep.
Besides others, there are in the infernal regions the following monsters:—The Centaurs, whose upper parts are human, but whose bodies and legs are those of a horse. They were begotten of a cloud by Ixion. Gorgon is a monster with three heads. The Harpies, born of Oceanus and Terra, have the faces of virgins, and the bodies of birds with claws. Their names are Ocypete, Aello, and Celeno. The Gorgons are Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale, daughters of Phorcys and Cete. They have heads covered with snakes instead of hair, which so terrifies beholders that they immediately turn into stones. The Lamiae and Empusae have each only one eye and one tooth. They have faces, necks, and breasts like women, but their bodies are covered with scales, and they have the tails of serpents. The Chim[oe]ra is a monster that vomits fire, and has the head and breast of a lion, the belly of a goat, and the tail of a dragon. The Sphinx, begotten of Typhon and Echidna, has the head and face of a virgin, the wings of a bird, and the body of a dog. A riddle she put forth being explained by [OE]dipus, so enraged her that she threw herself from a rock and was killed.
The most famous of the condemned in the place of punishment are the Giants; they are great in stature, and have horrible feet, like dragons. They make war against the celestial gods, but never prevail, and are struck down to hell by Jupiter's thunder-bolts and the arms of the gods. The principal offenders are Typhon, AEgaeon, Al[oe]us, and Tityus; and, to prevent them rising again, the Island of Sicily is fixed on Typhon, and Mount AEtna on AEgaeon, and Tityus is doomed to have a vulture always gnawing his liver, which grows afresh every month. Phlegias fired Apollo's temple at Delphi, for which he was sentenced to have a great stone hung over his head, ready every moment to fall and crush him to pieces. Ixion, for an assault on Juno, was struck down to hell, and tied to a wheel, which kept continually turning. Sisyphus is a notorious robber, condemned to roll a stone up to the top of a hill, which is made to roll down again immediately; and as he has to begin and roll it up again as soon as it comes down, his labour is perpetual. The Danaides are fifty virgins (sisters), who all but one, by the command of their father Danaus, slew their husbands on their wedding night. For this they were condemned to draw water out of a deep well, to fill a tub whose bottom was full of holes like a sieve. Tantalus invited the gods to a feast, and, to improve their divinity, he killed, boiled, and served up Pelops on the table before them to eat. They refused to partake of this horrid dish, and condemned Tantalus to stand in water which he could not drink, and to have meat placed before him which he could not taste, though suffering the pangs of hunger and thirst—a punishment he was to endure for ever.
In the Tartarian regions there is a place supposed to abound with all kinds of pleasures and delights, called Elysium, because thither the souls of good men are conveyed after being freed from the body. This is the heathen paradise, consisting of pleasant plains, the most verdant fields, the shadiest groves, and the finest and most temperate air that can be found. After the souls of the pious have spent many ages in these Elysian fields, they drink the water of the river Lethe, which makes them forget all things past; and then they return to the world and pass into new bodies.
The Pagan deities have ambrosia for their food, and nectar for their drink, both of which have the property of giving immortality to those who partake of them.
The festivals of the heathens were many, as almost every deity was allowed sacred honours. In sacrificing, the animals offered to the celestial deities were white, and those to the infernal gods were black. To Jupiter a white ox was sacrificed; to Neptune, Mars, and Apollo a bull, ram, and boar; to Ceres, milk, honey, and a sow-pig were offered; to AEsculapius, goats and poultry; to the Lares, a cock; to the Sun, a horse; to Juno, a she-lamb; to Venus, a dove; to Diana, a crow; to Pan and Minerva, she-goats; and to the Fauns, kids.
The fir and vine were sacred to Bacchus, the cypress to Pluto, the cedar to the Furies, the ash to Mars, the oak to Jove, the laurel to Apollo, the myrtle to Venus, the olive to Minerva, the poplar to Hercules, the pine to Cybele, and the rose to Venus.
Achilles's Mother—Prediction concerning the taking of Troy—Bravery, Armour, Love, and Death of Achilles—Acrisius's Daughter—Danae and her son Perseus—Ardea changed into a Bird—Pluto's Invisible Helmet—Minerva's Buckler—Mercury's Wings—Medusa deprived of Life—Sea Monster—A Gorgon's Head and its Virtues—Stheno and Euryale not subject to Old Age or Death—Minerva's Revenge against Medusa—Serpents in Africa and Pegasus produced by Medusa's Blood—Tales by the Daughters of Minyas—Punishment by Bacchus—The Search of Cadmus for his sister Europa—Halcyon's Sorrow—Transmigration—Strength and Exploits of Hercules—Love Potion—Hymen—Jason's Adventures—Power and Cruelty of Medea—How a Favourable Wind was procured—Manner in which Orion came into Existence—False Swearer punished—Palladium—The Life and Deeds of Paris—Golden Apple—Marriage of Peleus and Thetis—Impiety of Pentheus—Rhea and her Sons—Scylla turned into a Sea Monster.
Achilles's mother being endowed with a prophetic spirit, knew that her son would lose his life at Troy. She dipped him in the river Styx, by which he was rendered invulnerable, except in the heel, by which he was held during the operation. The seer Calchas announced that, without Achilles, Troy could not be taken. His mother, to keep him from danger, concealed him among King Lycomedes's daughters, disguised as a girl; but being discovered by Ulysses, he joined his countrymen, and sailed for the Trojan coast. After giving many proofs of his bravery and military prowess, he quarrelled with Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Grecian army, and in disgust withdrew from the contest. During the absence of Achilles, the Trojans were victorious; but his friend Patroclus, clad in his armour, having rashly encountered Hector, fell by the hand of that hero. Achilles, to revenge his death, resolved instantly to take the field. For this purpose, Vulcan, at the request of Thetis, made her son a complete suit of armour and weapons. With these celestial arms, many of the Trojans were put to death. Achilles, falling in love with Polyxena, a daughter of the Trojan king, whilst soliciting her hand in the temple of Minerva, was wounded by her brother Paris in the heel, which caused his death.
Acrisius, the son of Abas, king of Argos and Ocalea, being informed by an oracle that he would be put to death by his daughter Danae's son, confined her in a tower, to prevent her having children; but without effect, for Jupiter, in a golden shower, entered the chamber of Danae, and she became the mother of Perseus. She and her infant son were then, by order of Acrisius, exposed to the sea in a slender bark, which the wind drifted to Seriphus, where both were taken ashore by some fishermen and carried to Polydectes, the king of the island. The king conceived a violent attachment to the mother, but sought the destruction of the son. Danae and her son left Seriphus and went to Larissa. Danae built Ardea; and on its being burned, the inhabitants said it was changed into a bird. Perseus, by the aid of Pluto's invisible helmet, Minerva's buckler, and Mercury's wings (the Talaria), and short dagger made of diamonds (called Herpe), deprived Medusa, one of the Gorgons, of life, and carried off her head in triumph. He killed the sea monster to which Andromeda was exposed, and then married her. A memorable battle ensued at their nuptials. Phineus, the uncle of Andromeda, who passionately loved her, entered with a band of armed men, and attempted to carry her off by violence. But Perseus made a brave resistance; and at last, finding himself on the point of being overpowered, presented the Gorgon's head, which instantly turned all his enemies to stone in the posture in which they were then standing. Immediately after this he returned to Seriphus, in time to protect his mother from the insult of Polydectes, to whom Perseus showed the Gorgon's head, which converted him into stone also. Medusa, it will be remembered, was the only one of the three Gorgons who was mortal. Her sisters, Stheno and Euryale, were neither subject to old age nor death. She greatly surpassed the other two in elegance of figure and comeliness of face; but in nothing was her superiority more remarkable than in the beauty of her locks. Minerva, provoked either because her temple had been profaned, or because her personal charms had been slighted by Medusa, who had preferred her own beauty to that of the goddess, turned her fine hair, of which she boasted greatly, into serpents, and gave to her eyes the power of converting to stone all at whom she looked. The blood which fell from Medusa's head when Perseus carried it over Africa in his flight, was supposed to produce the numerous serpents which infest that country, and also the winged horse Pegasus.
But to return to Acrisius. Let us see whether the prediction of the Oracle, that foretold he would be put to death by his daughter's son, was fulfilled. The fame of his grandson, after his remarkable adventures, having reached the ears of Acrisius, he went to Larissa to see him, at the time Teutamis was celebrating funereal games in honour of his father. To this city Perseus had repaired with the view of distinguishing himself among the combatants. Here he accidentally killed, with a quoit, an old man, who was found to be his grandfather Acrisius, and thus verified the oracular prediction.