Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

festivals, countenanced by or incorporated in Christianity. Spring-tide, reckoned by so many peoples as New-Year, has in great measure had its solar characteristics transferred to the Paschal festival. The Easter bonfires with which the North German hills used to be ablaze mile after mile, are not altogether given up by local custom On Easter morning in Saxony and Brandenburg, the peasants still climb the hill-tops before dawn, to see the rising sun give his three joyful leaps, as our forefathers used to do in England in the days when Sir Thomas Browne so quaintly apologized for declaring that “the sun doth not dance on Easter Day." The solar rite of the New Fire, adopted by the Roman Church as a Paschal ceremony, may still be witnessed in Europe, with its solemn curfew on Easter Ere, and the ceremonial striking of the new holy fire. On Easter Eve, under the solemn auspices of the Greek Church, a mob of howling fanatics crush and trample to death the victims who faint and fall in their struggles to approach the most shameless imposture of modern Christendom, the miraculous fire from heaven' which descends into the Holy Sepulchre. Two other Christian festivals have not merely had solar rites transferred to them, but seem distinctly themselves of solar origin. The Roman winter-solstice festival, as celebrated on December 25 (VIII. Kal. Jan.) in connexion with the worship of the Sun-god Mithra, appears to have been instituted in this special form by Aurelian about A.D. 273, and to this festival the day owes its apposite name of Birthday of the Unconquered Sun, “ Dies Natalis Solis invicti." With full symbolic appropriateness, though not with historical justification, the day was adopted in the Western Church, where it appears to have been generally introduced by the 4th century, and whence in time it passed to the Eastern Church, as the solemn anniversary of the birth of Christ, the Christian Dies Natalis, Christmas Day.

· Grimm, 'Deutsche Myth. p. 581, etc. Wuttke, pp. 17, 93. Brand, · Pop. Ant.' vol. i. p. 157, etc. • Early Hist. of Mankind,' p. 260. Murray's * Handbook for Syria and Palestine,' 1868, p. 162.

Attempts have been made to ratify this date as matter of history, but no valid nor even consistent early Christian tradition vouches for it. The real solar origin of the festival is clear from the writings of the Fathers after its institution. In religious symbolism of the material and spiritual sun, Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa discourse on the glowing light and dwindling darkness that follow the Nativity, while Leo the Great, among whose people the earlier solar meaning of the festival evidently remained in strong remembrance, rebukes in a sermon the pestiferous persuasion, as he calls it, that this solemn day is to be honoured not for the birth of Christ, but for the rising, as they say, of the new sun. As for modern memory of the sun-rites of mid-winter, Europe recognizes Christmas as a primitive solar festival by bonfires which our." yule-log," the “souche de Noël,” still keeps in mind; while the adaptation of ancient solar thought to Christian allegory is as plain as ever in the Christmas service chant, “Sol novus oritur."2 The solar Christmas festival has its pendant at Midsummer. The summer solstice was the great season of fire-festivals throughout Europe, of bonfires on the heights, of dancing round and leaping through the fires, of sending blazing fire-wheels to roll down from the hills into the valleys in sign of the sun's descending course. These ancient rites attached themselves in Christendom to St. John's Eve. It seems as though the same train of symbolism which had adapted the midwinter festival to the Nativity, may have suggested the dedication of the midsummer festival to John the Baptist, in clear allusion to his words, “ He must increase, but I must decrease."

1 See Panly, 'Real-Encyclop.'s. v. ‘Sol;' Bingham, 'Antiquities of Christian Church,' book xx. ch.iv. ; Neander, ' Church Hist.' vol. iii. p. 437 ; Beausobre, Hist. de Manichée,' vol. ii. p. 691 ; Gibbon, ch. xxii.; Creuzer, 'Symbolik,' vol. i. p. 761, etc.

2 Grimm, 'D. M.' pp. 593, 1223. Brand, ‘Popular Antiquities,' vol. i. p. 467. Monnier, Traditions Populaires,' p. 188.

3 Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 583 ; Brand, vol. i. p. 298 ; Wuttke, pp. 14, 140. Beausubre, l. c.

Moon-worship, naturally ranking below Sun-worship in importance, ranges through nearly the same district of culture. There are remarkable cases in which the Moon is recognized as a great deity by tribes who take less account, or none at all, of the Sun. The rude savages of Brazil seem especially to worship or respect the moon, by which they regulate their time and festivals, and draw their omens. They would hold up their hands to the moon with wonder-struck exclamations of teh! teh! they would have children smoked by the sorcerers to preserve them from moon-given sickness, or the women would hold up their babes to the luminary. The Botocudos are said to give the highest rank among the heavenly bodies to Taru the Moon, as causing thunder and lightning and the failure of vegetables and fruits, and as even sometimes falling to the earth, whereby many men die. 1 An old account of the Caribs describes them as esteeming the Moon more than the Sun, and at new moon coming out of their houses crying “Behold the Moon !” 2 The Ahts of Vancouver's Island, it is stated, worship the Sun and Moon, particularly the full moon and the sun ascending to the zenith. Regarding the Moon as husband and the Sun as wife, their prayers are more generally addressed to the Moon as the superior deity; he is the highest object of their worship, and they speak of him as “looking down upon the earth in answer to prayer, and seeing everybody. With a somewhat different turn of mythic fancy, the Hurons seem to have considered Aataentsic the Moon as maker of the earth and man, and grandmother of Iouskeha the Sun, with whom she governs the world. In Africa, Moon-worship is prominent in an immense district where Sun-worship is unknown or insignificant. Among south-central tribes, men will watch for the

1 Spix and Martius, ' Reise in Brasilien,' vol. i. pp. 377, 381 ; Martius, • Ethnog. Amer.' vol. i. p. 327 ; Pr. Max. v. Wied, vol. ii. p. 58 ; J. G. Müller, pp. 218, 254 ; also Musters, “Patagonians,' pp. 58, 179.

De la Borde, .Caraibes.' p. 525. 3 Sproat, “Savage Life,' p. 206 ; ` Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. v. p. 253. * Brebeuf in ‘Rel. des Jes.' 1535, p. 34.

" 3

[ocr errors]

first glimpse of the new Moon, which they hail with shouts of kua! and vociferate prayers to it; on such an occasion Dr. Livingstone's Makololo prayed, “Let our journey with the white man be prosperous !” etc. These people keep holiday at new-moon, as indeed in many countries her worship is connected with the settlement of periodic festivals. Negro tribes seem almost universally to greet the new Moon, whether in delight or disgust. The Guinea people fling themselves about with droll gestures, and pretend to throw firebrands at it; the Ashango men behold it with superstitious fear; the Fetu negroes jumped thrice into the air with hands together and gave thanks. The Congo people fell on their knees, or stood and clapped their hands, crying, So may I renew my life as thou art renewed ! ”3 The Hottentots are described early in the last century as dancing and singing all night at new and full moon, calling the Moon the Great Captain, and crying to him “Be greeted !” “Let us get much honey!” “May our cattle get much to eat and give much milk !” With the same thought as that just noticed in the district north-west of them, the Hottentots connect the Moon in legend with that fatal message sent to Man, which ought to have promised to the human race a moon-like renewal of life, but which was perverted into a doom of death like that of the beast who brought it.*

The more usual status of the Moon in the religions of the world is, as nature suggests, that of a subordinate companion deity to the Sun, such a position as is acknowledged in the precedence of Sunday to Monday. Their various mutual relations as brother and sister, husband and wife, have already been noticed here as matter of mythology. As wide-lying rude races who place them thus side by side in their theology, it is enough to mention the Delawares of

Livingstone, 'S. Afr.'p. 235 ; Waitz, vol. ii. pp. 175, 342. 9 Römer, Guinea,' p. 84; Du Chaillu, “Ashango-land,'p. 428 ; see Purchas, vol. v. p. 766. Müller, ‘Fetu,' p. 47.

3 Merolla, 'Congo,' in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. p. 273.

4 Kolle, ‘Beschryving van de Kaap de Goede Hoop,' part i. xxix. See ante, vol. i. p. 355.


North-America, the Ainos of Yesso, the Bodos of NorthEast India, the Tunguz of Siberia. This is the state of things which continues at higher levels of systematic civilization. Beside the Mexican Tonatiuh the Sun, Metztli the Moon had a smaller pyramid and temple ; 5 in Bogota, the Moon, identified in local myth with the Evil Deity, had her place and figure in the temple beside the Sun her husband ; 6 the Peruvian Mother-Moon, Mama-Quilla, had her silver disc-face to match the golden one of her brother and husband the Sun, whose companion she had been in the legendary civilizing of the land.7 In the ancient Kamireligion of Japan, the supreme Sun-god ranks high above the Moon-god, who was worshipped under the form of a fox.8 Among the historic nations of the Old World, documents of Semitic culture show Sun and Moon side by side. For one, we may take the Jewish law, to stone with stones till they died the man or woman who “hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven.” For another, let us glance over the curious record of the treaty-oath between Philip of Macedon and the general of the Carthaginian and Libyan army, which so well shows how the original identity of nature-deities may be forgotten in their different local shapes, so that the same divinity may come twice or even three times over in as many national names and forms. Herakles and Apollo stand in company with the personal Sun, and as well as the personal Moon there is to be seen the Carthaginian goddess, whom there is good reason to look on as herself wholly or partly of lunar nature. This is the list of deities invoked : “Before Zeus and Hera and

I Loskiel, 'Ind. of N. A.' part i. p. 43.
- Bickmore, 'Ainos,' in ‘Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. vii. p. 20.
3 Hodgson, ‘Abor. of India,' p. 167.

Georgi, 'Reise im Russ. R.' vol. i. p. 275. 5 Clavigero, Messico,' vol. ii. pp. 9, 35; Tylor, Mexico,'l. c. 6 Waitz, vol. iv. p. 362. 7 Prescott, 'Peru,' vol. i. p. 90. But compare Garcilaso de la Vega, iii. 21. & Siebold, ‘Nippon,' part v. p. 9.

« PreviousContinue »