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Indian Michabu in his various characters of Heaven-god and Water-god, Creator of the Earth and first ancestor of Man, or who examines the personality of the Polynesian Maui in his relation to Sun, lord of Heaven or Hades, first Man, and South Sea Island hero, will sympathize with the Semitic or Aryan student bewildered among the heterogeneous attributes of Baal and Astarte, Herakles and Athene. Sir William Jones scarcely overstated the perplexity of the problem in the following remarkable forecast delivered more than a century ago, in the first anniversary discourse before the Asiatic Society of Bengal, at a time when glimpses of the relation of the Hindu to the Greek Pantheon were opening into a new broad view of comparative theology in his mind. “We must not be surprised,' he says, 'at finding, on a close examination, that the characters of all the Pagan deities, male and female, melt into each other and at last into one or two; for it seems a well-founded opinion, that the whole crowd of gods and goddesses in ancient Rome, and modern Váránes [Benares] mean only the powers of nature, and principally those of the Sun, expressed in a variety of ways and by a multitude of fanciful names. As to the travelling of gods from country to country, and the changes they are apt to suffer on the road, we may judge by examples of what has happened within our knowledge. It is not merely that one nation borrows a god from another with its proper figure and attributes and rites, as where in Rome the worshipper of the Sun might take his choice whether he would adore in the temple of the Greek Apollo, the Egyptian Osiris, the Persian Mithra, or the Syrian Elagabalus. The intercourse of races can produce quainter results than this. Any Orientalist will appreciate the wonderful hotchpot of Hindu and Arabic language and religion in the following details, noted down among rude tribes of the Malay Peninsula. We hear of Jin Bumi the Earth-god (Arabic jin = demon, Sanskrit bhûmi = earth); incense is burnt to Jewajewa (Sanskrit dewa = god) who intercedes with Pirman the
supreme invisible deity above the sky (Brahma ?); the Moslem Allah Taala, with his wife Nabi Mahamad (Prophet Mohammed), appear in the Hinduized characters of creator and destroyer of all things; and while the spirits worshipped in stones are called by the Hindu term of 'dewa' or deity, Moslem conversion has so far influenced the mind of the stone-worshipper, that he will give to his sacred boulder the title of a Prophet Mohammed. If we would have examples nearer home, we may trace the evil demon Aeshma Daeva of the ancient Persian religion becoming the Asmodeus of the book of Tobit, afterwards to find a place in the devilry of the middle ages, and to end his career as the Diable Boiteux of Le Sage.
Sage. Even the Aztec war-god Huitzilopochtli may be found figuring as the demon Vizlipuzli in the popular drama of Doctor Faustus.
In ethnographic comparisons of the religions of mankind, unless there is evidence of direct relation between gods belonging to two peoples, the safe and reasonable principle is to limit the identification of deities to the attributes they have in common. Thus it is proper to compare the Dendid of the White Nile with the Aryan Indra, in so far as both are Heaven-gods and Rain-gods; the Aztec Tonatiuh with the Greek Apollo, in so far as both are Sun-gods; the Australian Baiame with the Scandinavian Thor, in so far as both are Thunder-gods. The present purpose of displaying Polytheism as a department of Animism does not require that elaborate comparison of systems which would be in place in a manual of the religions of the world. The great gods may be scientifically ranged and treated according to their fundamental ideas, the strongly-marked and intelligible conceptions which, under names often obscure and personalities often mixed and mystified, they stand to represent. It is enough to show the similarity of principle on which the theologic mind of the lower races shaped those old familiar types of deity, with which our first acquaintance was gained in the pantheon of classic mytho
1 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. i. pp. 33, 255, 275, 338, vol. ii. p. 692.
logy. It will be observed that not all, but the principal figures, belong to strict Nature-worship. These may be here first surveyed. They are Heaven and Earth, Rain and Thunder, Water and Sea, Fire and Sun and Moon, worshipped either directly for themselves, or as animated by their special deities, or these deities are more fully set apart and adored in anthropomorphic shape--a group of conceptions distinctly and throughout based on the principles of savage fetishism. True, the great Nature-gods are huge in strength and far-reaching in influence, but this is because the natural objects they belong to are immense in size or range of action, pre-eminent and predominant among lesser fetishes, though still fetishes themselves.
In the religion of the North American Indians, the Heaven-god displays perfectly the gradual blending of the material sky itself with its personal deity. In the early times of French colonization, Father Brebeuf mentions the Hurons addressing themselves to the earth, rivers, lakes, and dangerous rocks, but above all to heaven, believing that it is all animated, and some powerful demon dwells therein. He describes them as speaking directly to heaven by its personal name 'Aronhiaté !' Thus when they throw tobacco into the fire as sacrifice, if it is Heaven they address, they say ‘Aronhiaté! (Heaven !) behold my sacrifice, have pity on me, aid me!' They have recourse to Heaven in almost all their necessities, and respect this great body above all creatures, remarking in it particularly something divine. They imagine in the sky an 'oki,' i.e. demon or power, which rules the seasons of the year and controls the winds and waves. They dread its anger, calling it to witness when they make some important promise or treaty, saying, Heaven hears what we do this day, and fearing chastisement should their word be broken. One of their renowned sorcerers said, Heaven will be angry if men mock him; when they cry every day to Heaven, Aronhiaté! yet give him nothing, he will avenge himself. Etymology again suggests
the divine sky as the inner meaning of the Iroquois supreme deity, Taronhiawagon the 'sky-comer' or 'skyholder,' who had his festival about the winter solstice, who brought the ancestral race out of the mountain, taught them hunting, marriage, and religion, gave them corn and beans, squashes and potatoes and tobacco, and guided them on their migrations as they spread over the land. Among the North American tribes, not only does the conception of the personal divine Heaven thus seem the fundamental idea of the Heaven-god, but it may expand under Christian influence into a yet more general thought of divinity in the Great Spirit in Heaven. In South Africa, the Zulus speak of the Heaven as a person, ascribing to it the power of exercising a will, and they also speak of a Lord of Heaven, whose wrath they deprecate during a thunderstorm. In the native legends of the Zulu princess in the country of the Half-Men, the captive maiden expostulates personally with the Sky, for only acting in an ordinary way, and not in the way she wishes, to destroy her enemies :
'Listen, yon heaven. Attend ; mayoya, listen.
It thunders to produce rain and change of season.' Thereupon the clouds gather tumultuously; the princess sings again and it thunders terribly, and the Heaven kills the Half-Men round about her, but she is left unharmed.2 West Africa is another district where the Heaven-god reigns, in whose attributes may be traced the transition from the direct conception of the personal sky to that of the supreme creative deity. Thus in Bonny, one word serves for god, heaven, cloud; and in Aquapim, Yankupong is at once the highest god and the weather. Of this latter deity, the
1 Brebeuf in ‘Rel. des Jés.,' 1636, p. 107; Lafitau, 'Mæurs des Sauvages Amériquains,' vol. i. p. 132. Schoolcraft, 'Iroquois,' p. 36, &c. 237. Brinton, 'Myths of New World,' pp. 48, 172. J. G. Müller, ‘Amer. Urrelig.' p. 119.
2 Callaway, ‘Zulu Tales,' vol. i. p. 203.
Nyankupon of the Oji nation, it is remarked by Riis, * The idea of him as a supreme spirit is obscure and uncertain, and often confounded with the visible heavens or sky, the upper world (sorro) which lies beyond human reach; and hence the same word is used also for heavens, sky, and even for rain and thunder.'1 The same transition from the divine sky to its anthropomorphic deity shows out in the theology of the Tatar tribes. The rude Samoyed's mind scarcely if at all separates the visible personal Heaven from the divinity united with it under one and the same name, Num. Among the more cultured Finns, the cosmic attributes of the Heaven-god, Ukko the Old One, display the same original nature; he is the ancient of Heaven, the father of Heaven, the bearer of the Firmament, the god of the Air, the dweller on the Clouds, the Cloud-driver, the shepherd of the Cloud-lambs.2 So far as the evidence of language, and document, and ceremony, can preserve the record of remotely ancient thought, China shows in the highest deity of the state religion a like theologic development. Tien, Heaven, is in personal shape the Shang-ti or Upper Emperor, the Lord of the Uni
The Chinese books may idealize this supreme divinity; they may say that his command is fate, that he rewards the good and punishes the wicked, that he loves and protects the people beneath him, that he manifests himself through events, that he is a spirit full of insight, penetrating, fearful, majestic. Yet they cannot refine him so utterly away into an abstract celestial deity, but that language and history still recognize him as what he was in the beginning, Tien, Heaven.
Waitz, ‘Anthropologie,' vol. ii. p. 168, &c. ; Burton, ‘W. & W. fr. W. Afr.' p. 76.
Castrén, ‘Finn. Myth.' p. 7, &c. 3 Plath, ‘Religion und Cultus der alten Chinesen,' part i. p. 18, &c. ; part ii. p. 32; Doolittle, 'Chinese,' vol. ii. p. 396. See Max Müller, * Lectures,' 2nd S. p. 437 ; Legge, 'Con us,' p. 100. For further evidence as to savage and barbaric worship of the Heaven as Supreme Deity, see chap. xvii.