Page images

concerning the posture of the dead in their graves and the living in their temples, practices which may be classed under the general heading of Orientation.

While the setting 'sun has shown to men, from savage ages onward, the western region of death, the rising sun has displayed a scene more hopeful, an eastern home of deity. It seems to be the working out of the solar analogy, on the one hand in death as sunset, on the other in new life as sunrise, that has produced two contrasted rules of burial, which agree in placing the dead in the sun's path, the line of east and west. Thus the natives of Australia have in some districts well-marked thoughts of the western land of the dead, yet the custom of burying the dead sitting with face to the east is also known among them. The Samoans and Fijians, agreeing that the land of the departed lies in the far west, bury the corpse lying with head east and feet west;' the body would but have to rise and walk straight onward to follow its soul home. This idea is stated explicitly among the Winnebagos of North America; they will sometimes bury a dead man sitting up to the breast in a hole in the ground, looking westward; or graves are dug east and west, and the bodies laid in them with the head eastward, with the motive "that they may look towards the happy land in the west."3 With these customs may be compared those of certain South American tribes. The Yumanas bury their dead bent double with faces looking toward the heavenly region of the sunrise, the home of their great good deity, who they trust will take their souls with him to his dwelling ;* the Guarayos bury the corpses with heads turned to the east, for it is in the eastern sky that their god Tamoi, the Ancient of Heaven, has his happy hunting-grounds where the dead will meet again.

· Grey, ‘ Australia,' vol. ii. p. 327.
2 Turner, ' Polynesia,' p. 230. Seemann, 'Viti,' p. 151.
3 Schoolcraft, ‘Indian Tribes,' part iv. p. 54.
4 Martius, 'Ethnog. Amer.' vol. i. p. 485.
6 D'Orbigny, 'L'Homme Americain,' vol. ii. Pp. 319, 330.

On the other hand the Peruvian custom was to place the dead huddled up in a sitting posture and with faces turned to the west. Barbaric Asia may be represented by the modern Ainos of Yesso, burying the dead lying robed in white with the head to the east, " because that is where the sun rises;" or by the Tunguz who bury with the head to the west; or by the inedieval Tatars, raising a great mound over the dead, and setting up thereon a statue with face turned toward the east, holding a drinking-cup in his hand before his navel ; or by the modern Siamese, who do not sleep with their heads to the west, because it is in this significant position that the dead are burned. The burial of the dead among the ancient Greeks in the line of east and west, whether according to Athenian custom of the head toward the sunset, or the converse, is another link in the chain of custom.3 Thus it is not to late and isolated fancy, but to the carrying on of ancient and widespread solar ideas, that we trace the well-known legend that the body of Christ was laid with the head toward the west, thus looking eastward, and the Christian usage of digging graves east and west, which prevailed through mediæval times and is not yet forgotten. The rule of laying the head to the west, and its meaning that the dead shall rise looking toward the east, are perfectly stated in the following passage from an ecclesiastical treatise of the 16th century: "Debet autem quis sic sepeliri, ut capite ad occidentem posito, pedes dirigat ad orientem, in quo quasi ipsa positione orat: et innuit quod promptus est, ut de occasu festinet ad ortum :de mundo ad seculum,"4

1 Rivero and Tschudi, ‘Peruvian Antiquities,' p. 202. See also Arbousset and Daumas, "Voyage,' p. 277 (Kafirs).

2 Bickmore, in ‘Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. vii. p. 20. Georgi, “Reise,' vol. i. p. 266. Gul. de Rubruquis in Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 78. Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii.

p. 228.

3 Ælian. Var. Hist. v. 14, vii. 19; Plutarch. Solon, x. ; Diog. Laert. Solon; Welcker, vol. i. p. 404.

4 Beda in Die S. Paschæ. Durand, Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, lib. vii. c. 35-9. Brand, ‘Popular Antiquities,' vol. ii. pp. 295, 318.

Where among the lower races sun-worship begins to con. solidate itself in systematic ritual, the orientation of the worshipper and the temple becomes usual and distinct. The sun-worshipping Comanches, preparing for the warpath, will place their weapons betimes on the east side of the lodge to receive the sun's first rays; it is a remnant of old solar rite, that the Christianized Pueblo Indians of New Mexico turn to the sun at his rising. It has been already noticed how in old times each morning at sunrise the Sunchief of the Natchez of Louisiana stood facing the east at the door of his house, and smoked toward the sun first, before he turned to the other three quarters of the world.? The cave temple of the sun-worshipping Apalaches of Florida had its opening looking east, and within stood the priests on festival days at dawn, waiting till the first rays entered to begin the appointed rites of chant and incense and offering. In old Mexico, where sun-worship was the central doctrine of the complex religion, men knelt in prayer towards the east, and the doors of the sanctuaries looked mostly westward. It was characteristic of the solar worship of Peru that even the villages were habitually built on slopes toward the east, that the people might see and greet the national deity at his rising. In the temple of the sun at Cuzco, his splendid golden disc on the western wall looked out through the eastern door, so that as he rose his first beams fell upon it, reflected thence to light up the sanctuary.5

In Asia, the ancient Aryan religion of the sun manifests itself not less plainly in rites of orientation. They have their place in the weary ceremonial routine which the Brah

Gregg, 'Commerce of Prairies,' vol. i. pp. 270, 273 ; vol. ii. p. 318. 2 Charlevoix, Nouvelle France,' vol. vi. p. 178. 3 Rochefort, ‘Iles Antilles,' p. 365.

4 ('lavigero, ‘Messico,' vol. ii. p. 24; J. G. Müller, p. 641. See Oviedo, 'Nicaragua,' p. 29.

5 J. G. Müller, p. 363 ; Prescott, Peru,' book i. ch. 3. Garcilaso de la Vega, ‘Commentarios Reales,' lih, iii. c. 20, says it was at the east end; cf. lib. vi. c. 21 (llama sacrificed with head to east).

man must daily accomplish. When he has performed the dawn ablution, and meditated on the effulgent sun-light which is Brahma, the supreme soul, he proceeds to worship the sun, standing on one foot and resting the other against his ankle or heel, looking toward the east, and holding his hands open before him in a hollow form. At noon, when he has again adored the sun, it is sitting with his face to the east that he must read his daily portion of the Veda ; it is looking toward the east that his offering of barley and water must be first presented to the gods, before he turns to north and south ; it is with first and principal direction to the east that the consecration of the fire and the sacrificial implements, a ceremony which is the groundwork of all his religious acts, has to be performed. The siguificance of such reverence paid by adorers of the sun to the glorious eastern region of his rising, may be heightened to us by setting beside it a ceremony of a darker faith, displaying the awe-struck horror of the western home of death. The antithesis to the eastward consecration by the orthodox Brahmans is the westward consecration by the Thugs, worshippers of Kali the death-goddess. In honour of Kali their victims were murdered, and to her the sacred pickaxe was consecrated, wherewith the graves of the slain were dug. At the time of the suppression of Thuggee, Englishmen had the consecration of the pickaxe performed in makebelieve in their presence by those who well knew the dark ritual. On the dreadful implement no shadow of any living thing must fall, its consecrator sits facing the west to perform the fourfold washing and the sevenfold passing through the fire, and then, it being proved duly consecrated by the omen of the cocoa-nut divided at a single cut, it is placed on the ground, and the bystanders worship it, turning to the west.”

These two contrasted rites of east and west established


Colebrooke, 'Essays,' vol. i., iv. and v. 2 Illustrations of the History and Practices of the Thugs,' London, 1837,

themselves and still remain established in modern European religion. In judging of the course of history that has brought about this state of things, it scarcely seems that Jewish influence was effective. The Jewish temple had the entrance in the east, and the sanctuary in the west. Sunworship was an abomination to the Jews, and the orientation especially belonging to it appears as utterly opposed to Jewish usage, in Ezekiel's horror-stricken vision: "and, behold, at the door of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, about five-and-twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of Jehovah, and their faces toward the east, and they worshipped the sun toward the east.") Nor is there reason to suppose that in later ages such orientation gained ground in Jewish ceremony. The solar rites of other nations whose ideas were prominent in the early development of Christianity, are sufficient to account for the rise of Christian orientation. On the one hand there was the Asiatic sun-worship, perhaps specially related to the veneration of the rising sun in old Persian religion, and which has left relics in the east of the Turkish empire into modern years ; Christian sects praying toward the sun, and Yezidis turning to the east as their kibleh and burying their dead looking thither.? On the other hand, orientation was recognized in classic Greek religion, not indeed in slavish obedience to a uniform law, but as a principle to be worked out in converse ways.

Thus it was an Athenian practice for the temple to have its entrance east, looking out through which the divine image stood to behold the rising sun. This rule it is that Lucian refers to, when he talks of the delight of gazing toward the loveliest and most longed-for of the day, of welcoming the sun as he peeps forth, of taking one's fill of light through the wide-open doors, even as the

Ezek. viii. 16. Mishna, Sukkoth,' v. See Fergusson in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' s. v. •Temple.'

2 Hyde, “Veterum Persarum Religionis Historia,' ch. iv. Niebuhr, * Reisebeschreibung nach Arabien,' vol. i. p. 396. Layard, Nineveh,' vol. i. ch. ix.

« PreviousContinue »