« PreviousContinue »
worshipped the 'panes' bird, which seems to have been an eagle or vulture, and each year, in the temple of each village, one of them was solemnly killed without shedding blood, and the body burned. Yet the natives maintained and believed that it was the same individual bird they sacrificed each year, and more than this, that the same bird was slain by each of the villages. Among the comparatively cultured Peruvians, Acosta describes another theory of celestial archetypes. Speaking of star-deities, he says that shepherds venerated a certain star called Sheep, another star called Tiger protected men from tigers, &c.: ‘And generally, of all the animals and birds there are on the earth, they believed that a like one lived in heaven, in whose charge were their procreation and increase, and thus they accounted of divers stars, such as that they call Chacana, and Topatorca, and Mamana, and Mizco, and Miquiquiray, and other such, so that in a manner it appears that they were drawing towards the dogma of the Platonic ideas.'? The North American Indians also have speculated as to the common ancestors or deities of species. One missionary notes down their idea as he found it in 1634. "They say, moreover, that all the animals of each species have an elder brother, who is as it were the principle and origin of all the individuals, and this elder brother is marvellously great and powerful. The elder brother of the beavers, they told me, is perhaps as large as our cabin.' Another early account is that each species of animals has its archetype in the land of souls; there exists, for example, a manitu or archetype of all oxen, which animates all oxen. Here, again, occurs a noteworthy correspondence with the ideas of a distant
In Buyán, the island paradise of Russian myth, there
1 Brinton, 'Myths of New World,' p. 105.
? Acosta, “Historia de las Indias,' book v. c. iv. ; Rivero & Tschudi, pp. 161, 179; J. G. Müller, p. 365.
3 Le Jeune in Rel. des Jés, dans la Nouvelle France,' 1634, p. 13. Lafitau, 'Mæurs des Sauvages,' vol. i. p. 370. See also Waitz, vol. ii. p. 194 ; Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 327.
are to be found the Snake older than all snakes, and the prophetic Raven, elder brother of all ravens, and the Bird, the largest and oldest of all birds, with iron beak and copper claws, and the Mother of Bees, eldest among bees. Morgan's comparatively modern account of the Iroquois mentions their belief in a spirit of each species of trees and plants, as of oak, hemlock, maple, whortleberry, raspberry, spearmint, tobacco; most objects of nature being thus under the care of protecting spirits. The doctrine of such species-deities is perhaps nowhere more definitely stated than by Castrén in his 'Finnish Mythology.' In his description of the Siberian nature-worship, the lowest level is exemplified by the Samoyeds, whose direct worship of natural objects for themselves may perhaps indicate the original religious condition of the whole Turanian race. But the doctrine of the comparatively cultured heathen Finns was at a different stage. Here every object in nature has a haltia,' a guardian deity or genius, a being which was its creator and thenceforth became attached to it. These deities or genii are, however, not bound to each single transitory object, but are free personal beings which have movement, form, body, and soul. Their existence in no wise depends on the existence of the individual objects, for although no object in nature is without its guardian deity, this deity extends to the whole race or species. This ash-tree, this stone, this house, has indeed its particular ‘haltia,' yet these same ‘haltiat' concern themselves with other ash-trees, stones, and houses, of which the individuals may perish, but their presiding genii live on in the species. It seems as though some similar view ran through the doctrine of more civilized races, as in the well-known
1 Ralston, “Songs of the Russian People,' p. 375. The Slavonic myth of Buyán with its dripping oak and the snake Garafena lying beneath, is obviously connected with the Scandinavian myth of the dripping ash, Yggdrasill, the snake Nidhögg below, and the two Swans of the Urdharfount, parents of all swans.
2 Morgan, 'Iroquois,' p. 162.
Egyptian and Greek examples where whole species of animals, plants, or things, stand as symbolic of, and as protected by, particular deities. The thought appears with most perfect clearness in the Rabbinical philosophy which apportions to each of the 2100 species, of plants for instance, a presiding angel in heaven, and assigns this as the motive of the Levitical prohibition of mixtures among animals and plants. The interesting likeness pointed out by Father Acosta between these crude theological conceptions and the civilized philosophical conceptions which have replaced them, was again brought into view in the last century by the President De Brosses, in comparing the Red Indians' archetypes of species with the Platonic archetypal ideas.? As for animals and plants, the desire of naturalists to ascend to primal unity to some extent finds satisfaction in a theory tracing each species to an origin in a single pair. And though this is out of the question with inanimate objects, our language seems in suggestive metaphor to lay hold on the same thought, when we say of a dozen similar swords, or garments, or chairs, that they have the same pattern (patronus, as it were father), whereby they were shaped from their matter (materia, or mother substance).
Eisenmenger, 'Judenthum,' part ii. p. 376 ; Bastian, ‘Mensch,' vol. iii. h 31 2
2 De Brosses, 'Dieux Fétiches,' p. 58.
Higher Deities of Polytheism-Human characteristics applied to Deity
Lords of Spiritual Hierarchy-Polytheism : its course of development in lower and higher Culture—Principles of its investigation ; classification of Deities according to central conceptions of their significance and function – Heaven-god — Rain.god — Thunder-god — Wind-godsEarth-god-Water-god-Sea-god-Fire-god-Sun-god--Moon-god.
SURVEYING the religions of the world and studying the descriptions of deity among race after race, we may recur to old polemical terms in order to define a dominant idea of theology at large. Man so habitually ascribes to his deities human shape, human passions, human nature, that we may declare him an Anthropomorphite, an Anthropopathite, and (to complete the series) an Anthropophysite. In this state of religious thought, prevailing as it does through so immense a range among mankind, one of the strongest confirmations may be found of the theory here advanced concerning the development of Animism. This theory that the conception of the human soul is the very ‘fons et origo’ of the conceptions of spirit and deity in general, has been already vouched for by the fact of human souls being held to pass into the characters of good and evil demons, and to ascend to the rank of deities. But beyond this, as we consider the nature of the great gods of the nations, in whom the vastest functions of the universe are vested, it will still be apparent that these mighty deities are modelled on human souls, that in great measure their feeling and sympathy, their character and habit, their will and action, even their material and form, display throughout their adaptations, exaggerations and distortions, characteristics shaped upon those of the human spirit. The key to investigation of the Dii Majorum Gentium of the world is the reflex of humanity, and as we behold their figures in their proper districts of theology, memory ever brings back the Psalmist's words, Thou thoughtest I was altogether as thyself.'
The higher deities of Polytheism have their places in the general animistic system of mankind. Among nation after nation it is still clear how, man being the type of deity, human society and government became the model on which divine society and government were shaped. As chiefs and kings are among men, so are the great gods among the lesser spirits. They differ from the souls and minor spiritual beings which we have as yet chiefly considered, but the difference is rather of rank than of nature. They are personal spirits, reigning over personal spirits. Above the disembodied souls and manes, the local genii of rocks and fountains and trees, the host of good and evil demons, and the rest of the spiritual commonalty, stand these mightier deities, whose influence is less confined to local or individual interests, and who, as it pleases them, can act directly within their vast domain, or control and operate through the lower beings of their kind, their servants, agents, or mediators. The great gods of Polytheism, numerous and elaborately defined in the theology of the cultured world, do not however make their earliest appearance there. In the religions of the lower races their principal types were already cast, and thenceforward, for many an age of progressing or relapsing culture, it became the work of poet and priest, legend-monger and historian, theologian and philosopher, to develop and renew, to degrade and abolish, the mighty lords of the Pantheon.
With little exception, wherever a savage or barbaric system of religion is thoroughly described, great gods make their appearance in the spiritual world as distinctly as chiefs in the human tribe. In the lists, it is true, there are set down great deities, good or evil, who probably came