« PreviousContinue »
for by sufficient evidence, and within our knowledge liable to mislead, if pushed to extremes. It offers plausible yet quite unsound explanations of points of mythology and theology which seem to have direct and reasonable explanations of their own. We may well shrink from using too confidently a method of myth-interpretation which can account for solar and lunar nature-myths, by referring them to traditions of human heroes and heroines who chanced to bear the names of Sun and Moon. As to animal-worship, when we find men paying distinct and direct reverence to the lion, the bear, or the crocodile as mighty superhuman beings, or adoring other beasts, birds, or reptiles as incarnations of spiritual deities, we can hardly supersede such well-defined developments of animistic religion, by seeking their origin in personal names of deceased ancestors, who chanced to be called Lion, Bear, or Crocodile.
The three motives of animal-worship which have been described, viz., direct worship of the animal for itself, in- | direct worship of it as a fetish acted through by a deity, and veneration for it as a totem or representative of a tribeancestor, no doubt account in no small measure for the phenomena of Zoolatry among the lower races, due allowance being also made for the effects of myth and symbolism, of which we may gain frequent glimpses. Notwithstanding the obscurity and complexity of the subject, a survey of Animal-worship as a whole may yet justify an ethnographic view of its place in the history of civilization. If we turn from its appearances among the less cultured races to notice the shapes in which it has held its place among peoples advanced to the stage of national organization and stereotyped religion, we shall find a reasonable cause for its new position in the theory of development and survival, whereby ideas at first belonging to savage theology have in part continued to spread and solidify in their original manner, while in part they have been changed to accommodate them to more advanced ideas, or have been defended from the attacks of reason by being set up as sacred mysteries. Ancient Egypt was
a land of sacred cats and jackals and hawks, whose mummies are among us to this day, but the reason of whose worship was a subject too sacred for the Father of History to dis
Egyptian animal-worship seems to show, in a double line, traces of a savage ancestry extending into Ages lying far behind even the remote antiquity of the Pyramids. Deities patronising special sacred animals, incarnate in their bodies, or represented in their figures, have nowhere better examples than the bull-dynasty of Apis, Horus wearing the head of his sacred hawk, Bubastis and her cat, Thoth and his cynocephalus and ibis, the cow-headed Hathor and the hippopotamus Typhon. Moreover, the local character of many of the sacred creatures, worshipped in certain nomes yet killed and eaten with impunity elsewhere, fits remarkably with that character of tribe-fetishes and deified totems with which Mr. M'Lennan's argument is concerned. See the men of Oxyrynchos reverencing and sparing the fish oxyrynchos, and those of Latopolis likewise worshipping the latos. At Apollinopolis men hated crocodiles and never lost a chance of killing them, while the people of the Arsinoite nome dressed geese and fish for these sacred creatures, adorned them with necklaces and bracelets, and mummified themi sumptuously when they died. In the modern world the most civilized people among whom animal-worship vigorously survives, lie within the range of Brahmanism, where the sacred animal, the deity incarnate in an animal or invested with or symbolized by its shape, may to this day be studied in clear example. The sacred cow is not merely to be spared, she is as a deity worshipped in annual ceremony, daily perambulated and bowed to by the pious Hindu, who offers her fresh grass and flowers; Hanuman the monkey-god has his temples and his idols, and in him Siva is incarnate, as Durga is in the jackal; the wise Ganesa wears the elephant's head;
· Herod. ii. ; Plutarch, De Iside & Osiride ; Strabo, xvii. 1; Wilkinson, • Ancient Eg.' vol. i. ch. iv. etc. Bunsen, 'Egypt's Place in Upiy. Hist, 2nd Edition, with notes by Birch, vol. i.
the divine king of birds, Garuda, is Vishnu's vehicle; the forms of fish, and boar, and tortoise, were assumed in those avatar-legends of Vishnu which are at the intellectual level of the Red Indian myths they so curiously resemble.' The conceptions which underlie the Hindu creed of divine animals were not ill displayed by that Hindu who, being shown the pictures of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with their respective man, lion, ox, and eagle, explained these quite naturally and satisfactorily as the avatars or vehicles of the four evangelists.
In Animal-worship, some of the most remarkable cases of development and survival belong to a class from which striking instances have already been taken. Serpent-worship unfortunately fell years ago into the hands of speculative writers, who mixed it up with occult philosophies, Druidical mysteries, and that portentous nonsense called the “ Arkite Symbolism," till now sober students hear the very name of Ophiolatry with a shiver. Yet it is in itself a rational and instructive subject of inquiry, especially notable for its width of range in mythology and religion. We may set out among the lower races, with such accounts as those of the Red Indian's reverence to the rattlesnake, as grandfather and king of snakes, as a divine protector able to give fair winds or cause tempests;? or of the worship of great snakes among the tribes of Peru before they received the religion of the Incas, as to whom an old author says, “ They adore the demon when he presents himself to them in the figure of some beast or serpent, and talks with them.” Thenceforth such examples of direct Ophiolatry may be traced on into classic and barbaric Europe; the great serpent which defended the citadel of Athens and enjoyed its monthly honey-cakes ;* the Roman genius loci appearing in the form of the snake (Nullus enim locus sine genio est, qui per anguem plerumque ostenditur);1 the old Prussian serpent-worship and offering of food to the household snakes; 2 the golden viper adored by the Lombards, till Barbatus got it in his hands and the goldsmiths made it into paten and chalice. To this day, Europe has not forgotten in nursery tales or more serious belief the snake that comes with its golden crown and drinks milk out of the child's porringer; the house-snake, tame and kindly but seldom seen, that cares for the cows and the children and gives omens of a death in the family; the pair of household snakes which have a mystic connexion of life and death with the husband and housewife themselves. * Serpent-worship, apparently of the directest sort, was prominent in the indigenous religions of Southern Asia. It now even appears to have maintained no mean place in early Indian Buddhism, for the sculptures of the Sanchi tope show scenes of adoration of the five-headed snakedeity in his temple, performed by a race of serpent-worshippers, figuratively represented with snakes growing from their shoulders, and whose raja himself has a five-headed snake arching hood-wise over his head. Here, moreover, the totem theory comes into contact with ophiolatry. The Sanskrit name of the snake, “nâga,” becomes also the accepted designation of its adorers, and thus mythological interpretation has to reduce to reasonable sense legends of serpent-races who turn out to be simply serpent-worshippers, tribes who have from the divine reptiles at once their generic name of Nâgas, and with it their imagined ancestral descent from serpents. In different ways, these Nâga tribes of South Asia are on the one hand analogues of the Snake Indians of America, and on the other of the Ophiogenes or Serpent-race of the Troad, kindred of the vipers whose bite they could cure by touch, and descendants of an ancient hero transformed into a snake.
1 Ward, “Hindoos,' vol. ii. p. 195, etc. 2 Schorncraft, part iii. p. 231 ; Brinton, p. 108, eto. 3 Garcilaso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales,' i. 9. • Herodot. viii. 41.
1 Servius ad Æn. v. 95.
+ Grimm, ‘D. M.' p. 650. Rochholz, Deutscher Glaube,' etc. vol. i. p. 146. Monnier, Traditions Populaires,' p. 644. Grohmann, Aberglauben aus Böhmen,' etc., p. 78. Ralston, “Songs of Russian People,' p. 175.
5 Fergusson, “Tree and Serpent Worship,' p. 55, etc. pl. xxiv. MLennan, 1. c. p. 563, etc.
Serpents hold a prominent place in the religions of the world, as the incarnations, shrines, or symbols of high deities. Such were the rattlesnake worshipped in the Natchez temple of the Sun, and the snake belonging in name and figure to the Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl ; 2 the snake as worshipped still by the Slave Coast negro, not for itself but for its indwelling deity; 3 the snake kept and fed with milk in the temple of the old Slavonic god Potrimpos; 4 the serpent-symbol of the healing deity Asklepios, who abode in or manifested himself through the huge tame snakes kept in his temples 5 (it is doubtful whether this had any original connexion with the adoption of the snake, from its renewal by casting its old slough, as the accepted emblem of new life or immortality in later symbolism); and lastly, the Phoenician serpent with its tail in its mouth, symbol of the world and of the Heaven-goil Taaut, in its original meaning probably a mythic world-snake like the Scandinavian Midgard-worm, but in the changed fancy of later ages adapted into an emblem of eternity. It scarcely seems proved that savage races, in all their mystic contemplations of the serpent, ever developed out of their own minds the idea, to us so familiar, of adopting it as a personification of evil.? In ancient times, we may ascribe this character perhaps to the monster whose well-known form is to be seen on the mummy-cases, the Apophis-serpent of the Egyptian
i Strabo, xiii. 1, 14.
J. G. Müller, · Amer. Urrel.' pp. 62, 585. 3 J. B. Schlegel, “Ewe-Sprache,' p. xiv. 4 Hanusch, 'Slaw. Myth.' p. 217. 6 Pausan. ii. 28 ; Ælian. xvi. 39. See Welcker, “Griech. Götterl.' vol. ii. p. 734.
6 Macrob. Saturnal. i. 9. Movers, Phönizier,' vol. i. p. 500.
7 Details such as in Schoolcraft, “Ind. Tribes,' part i. pp. 38, 414, may be ascribed to Christian intercourse. See Brinton, p. 121.