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Polytheism comprises a class of Great Deities, ruling the course of Nature
and the life of Man-Childbirth-god--- Agriculture-god—War-god-God of the Dead-First Man as Divine Ancestor-Dualism ; its rudimentary and unethical nature among low races; its development through the course of culture—Good and Evil Deity-Doctrine of Divine Supremacy, distinct from, while tending towards, the doctrine of Monotheism-Idea of a Highest or Supreme Deity evolved in various forms; its place as completion of the Polytheistic system and outcome of the Animistic philosophy; its continuance and development among higher nations - General survey of Animism as & Philo. sophy of Religion-Recapitulation of the theory advanced as to its development through successive stages of culture ; its primary phases best represented among the lower races, while survivals of these among the higher races mark the transition from savage through barbaric to civilized faiths—Transition of Animism in the History of Religion ; its earlier and later stages as a Philosophy of the Universe ; its later stages as the principle of a Moral Institution.
POLYTHEISM acknowledges, beside great fetish-deities like Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, another class of great gods whose importance lies not in visible presence, but in the performance of certain great offices in the course of Nature and the life of Man. The lower races can furnish themselves with such deities, either by giving the recognized gods special duties to perform, or by attributing these functions to beings invented in divine personality for the purpose. The creation of such divinities is however carried to a much greater extent in the complex systems of the higher polytheism. For a compact group of examples showing to what different ideas men will resort for a deity to answer a special end, let us take the deity presiding over
Childbirth. In the West Indies, a special divinity occupied with this function took rank as one of the great indigenous fetish-gods ;' in the Samoan group, the household god of the father's or mother's family was appealed to;' in Peru the Moon takes to this office,3 and the same natural idea recurs in Mexico;4 in Esthonian religion the productive Earthmother appropriately becomes patroness of human birth;5 in the classic theology of Greece and Italy, the divine spouse of the Heaven-king, Hēra, Juno, favours and protects on earth marriage and the birth of children; and to conclude the list, the Chinese work out the problem from the manesworshipper's point of view, for the goddess whom they call 'Mother' and propitiate with many a ceremony and sacrifice to save and prosper their children, is held to have been in human life a skilful midwife.3
The deity of Agriculture may be a cosmic being affecting the weather and the soil, or a mythic giver of plants and teacher of their cultivation and use. Thus among the Iroquois, Heno the Thunder, who rides through the heavens on the clouds, who splits the forest-trees with the thunderbolt-stones he hurls at his enemies, who gathers the clouds and pours out the warm rains, was fitly chosen as patron of husbandry, invoked at seed-time and harvest, and called Grandfather by his children the Indians. It is interesting to notice again on the southern continent the working out of this idea in the Tupan of Brazilian tribes; Thunder and Lightning, it is recorded, they call Tupan, considering themselves to owe to him their hoes and the profitable art of tillage, and therefore acknowledging him as a deity.10
1 Herrera, 'Indias Occidentales,' Dec. i. 3, 3; J. G. Müller, ‘Amer. Urrel.' pp. 175, 221.
2 Turner, ‘Polynesia,' p. 174. 3 Rivero and Tschudi, ‘Peru,' p. 160. 4 Kingsborough, ‘Mexico,' vol. v. p. 179. 5 Castrén, ‘Finn. Myth.' p. 89. 6. Welcker, 'Griech. Götterl.' vol. i. p. 371. 7 Ovid. Fast. ii. 449. 8 Doolittle, Chinese,' vol. i. p. 264. Morgan, 'Iroquois,' p. 158.
19 De Laet, ‘Novus Orbis,' xv. 2 ; Waitz, vol. iii. p. 417; Brinton, pp. 152, 185 ; J. G. Müller, p. 271, &c.
Among the Guarani race, Tamoi the Ancient of Heaven had no less rightful claim, in his character of heaven-god, to be venerated as the divine teacher of agriculture to his people. In Mexico, Centeotl the Grain-goddess received homage and offerings at her two great festivals, and took care of the growth and keeping of the corn.? In Polynesia, we hear in the Society Islands of Ofanu the god of husbandry, in the Tonga Islands of Alo Alo the fanner, god of wind and weather, bearing office as god of harvest, and receiving his offering of yams when he had ripened them.3 A picturesque figure from barbaric Asia is Pheebee Yau, the Ceres of the Karens, who sits on a stump and watches the growing and ripening corn, to fill the granaries of the frugal and industrious. The Khonds worship at the same shrine, a stone or tree near the village, both Būrbi Pennu the goddess of new vegetation, and Pidzu Pennu the rain-god.5 Among Finns and Esths it is the Earth-mother who appropriately undertakes the task of bringing forth the fruits. And so among the Greeks it is the same being, Dēmētēr the Earth-mother, who performs this function, while the Roman Ceres who is confused with her is rather, as in Mexico, a goddess of grain and fruit.?
The War-god is another being wanted among the lower races, and formed or adapted accordingly. Areskove the Iroquois War-god seems to be himself the great celestial deity; for his pleasant food they slaughtered human victims, that he might give them victory over their enemies; as a pleasant sight for him they tortured the war-captives; on him the war-chief called in solemn council, and the warriors, shouting his name, rushed into the battle he was surveying
D'Orbigny, 'L'Homme Américain,' vol. ii. p. 319.
Clavigero, 'Messico,' vol. ii. pr. 16, 68, 75. 3 Ellis, ‘Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 333. Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 115. 4 Cross, in ‘Journ. Amer. Oriental Soc.' vol. iv. p. 316; Mason, p. 215.
Macpherson, 'India,' pp. 91, 355.
Castrén, ‘Finn. Myth.' p. 89. 7 Welcker, 'Griech. Götterl.' vol. ii. p. 467. Cox, 'Mythology of Aryan Nations,' vol. ii. p. 308.
from on high. Canadian Indians before the fight would look toward the sun, or addressed the Great Spirit as god of war; Floridan Indians prayed to the Sun before their wars. Araucanians of Chili entreated Pillan the Thunder-god that he would scatter their enemies, and thanked him amidst their cups after a victory.? The very name of Mexico seems derived from Mexitli, the national War-god, identical or identified with the hideous gory Huitzilopochtli. Not to attempt a general solution of the enigmatic nature of this inextricable compound parthenogenetic deity, we may notice the association of his principal festival with the winter-solstice, when his paste idol was shot through with an arrow, and being thus killed, was divided into morsels and eaten, wherefore the ceremony was called the teoqualo or'god-eating. This and other details tend to show Huitzilopochtli as originally a nature-deity, whose life and death were connected with the year's, while his functions of War-god may be of later addition.3 Polynesia is a region where quite an assortment of wargods may be collected. Such, to take but one example, was Tairi, war-god of King Kamehameha of the Sandwich Islands, whose hideous image, covered with red feathers, shark-toothed, mother-of-pearl-eyed, with helmet-crest of human hair, was carried into battle by his special priest, distorting his own face into hideous grins, and uttering terrific yells which were considered to proceed from the god. Two examples from Asia may show what different original conceptions may serve to shape such deities as these upon. The Khond War-god, who entered into all weapons, so that from instruments of peace they became weapons of war, who gave edge to the axe and point to the arrow, is the very personified spirit of tribal war,
1 J. G. Müller, ‘Amer. Urrel.' Pp. 141, 271, 274, 591, &c.
4 Ellis, ‘Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 326 ; vol. iv. p. 158. See also Mariner, ‘Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 112 ; Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 218.
his token is the relic of iron and the iron weapons buried in his sacred grove which stands near each group of hamlets, and his name is Loha Pennu or Iron-god. The Chinese War-god, Kuang Tä, on the other hand, is an ancient military ghost; he was a distinguished officer, as well as a 'faithful and honest courtier,' who flourished during the wars of the Han dynasty, and emperors since then have delighted to honour him by adding to his usual title more and more honorary distinctions. Looking at these selections from the army of War-gods of the different regions of the world, we may well leave their classic analogues, Arēs and Mars, as beings whose warlike function we recognise, but not so easily their original nature.3
It would be easy, going through the religious systems of Polynesia and Mexico, Greece and Rome, India and China, to give the names and offices of a long list of divinities, patrons of hunting and fishing, carpentering and weaving, and so forth. But studying here rather the continuity of polytheistic ideas than the analysis of polytheistic divinities, it is needless to proceed farther in the comparison of these deities of special function, as recognized to some extent in the lower civilization, before their elaborate development became one of the great features of the higher.
The great polytheistic deities we have been examining, concerned as they are with the earthly course of nature and human life, are gods of the living. But even in savage levels man began to feel an intellectual need of a God of the Dead, to reign over the souls of men in the next life, and this necessity has been supplied in various ways. Of the deities set up as lords of Deadman's Land, some are beings whose original meaning is obscure. Some are distinctly nature-deities appointed to this office, often for local reasons, as happening to belong to the regions where the dead take
| Macpherson, ‘India,' pp. 90, 360.
3 Welcker, 'Griech. Götterl.' vol. i. p. 413. Cox, 'Myth. of Aryan N.,' vol. ii. Pp. 254, 311.