« PreviousContinue »
banquet of the flesh and blood of the men who are to die in this war," &c. There is remarkable definiteness in the Peruvian idea that the souls of human victims are transmitted to another life in divine as in funeral sacrifice; at one great ceremony, where children of each tribe were sacrificed to propitiate the gods, “ they strangled the children, first giving them to eat and drink, that they might not enter the presence of the Creator discontented and hungry." 3 Similar ideas of spiritual sacrifice appear in other regions of the world. Thus in West Africa we read of the tree-fetish enjoying the spirit of the food-offering, but leaving its substance, and an account of the religion of the Gold Coast mentions how each great wong or deity has his house, and his priest and priestess to clean the room and give him daily bread kneaded with palm-oil, “ of which, as of all gifts of this kind, the wong eats the invisible soul.” 3 So, in India, the Limbus of Darjeeling make small offerings of grain, vegetables, and sugar-cane, and sacrifice cows, pigs, fowls, &c., on the declared principle “the life breath to the gods, the flesh to ourselves." 4 It seems likely that such meaning may largely explain the sacrificial practices of other religions. In conjunction with these accounts, the unequivocal meaning of funeral sacrifices, whereby offerings are conveyed spiritually into the possession of spirits of the dead, may perhaps justify us in inferring that similar ideas of spiritual transmission prevail extensively among the many nations whose sacrificial rites we know in fact, but cannot trace with certainty to their original significance.
Having thus examined the manner in which the operation of sacrifice is considered to take physical effect, whether indefinitely or definitely, and having distinguished its actual transmission as either substantial, essential, or spiritual,
i Sahagun, lib. vi. in Kingsborough, vol. v.
2 “Rites and Laws of Yncas,' tr. and ed. by C. R. Markham, pp. 55, 58, 166. See ante, p. 385 (possible connexion of smoke with soul).
3 Waitz, vol. ii. pp. 188, 196. Steinhauser, 1. c. p. 136. See also Schlegel, * Ewe-Sprache,' p. xv. ; Magyar, “Süd-Afrika,' p. 273.
* A. Campbell in “Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. vii. p. 153.
let us now follow the question of the sacrificer's motive in presenting the sacrifice. Important and complex as this problem is, its key is so obvious that it may be almost throughout treated by mere statement of general principle. If the main proposition of animistic natural religion be granted, that the idea of the human soul is the model of the idea of deity, then the analogy of man's dealings with man ought, inter alia, to explain his motives in sacrifice. It does so, and very fully. The proposition may be maintained in wide generality, that the common man's present to the great man, to gain good or avert evil, to ask aid or to condone offence, needs only substitution of deity for chief, and proper adaptation of the means of conveying the gift to him, to produce a logical doctrine of sacrificial rites, in great measure explaining their purpose directly as they stand, and elsewhere suggesting what was the original meaning which has passed into changed shape in the course of ages. Instead of offering a special collection of evidence here on this proposition, it may be enough to ask attentive reference to any extensive general collection of accounts of sacrifice, such for instance as those cited for various purposes in these volumes. It will be noticed that offerings to divinities may be classed in the same way as earthly gifts. The occasional gift made to meet some present emergency, the periodical tribute brought by subject to lord, the royalty paid to secure possession or protection of acquired wealth, all these have their evident and well-marked analogues in the sacrificial systems of the world. It may impress some minds with a stronger sense of the sufficiency of this theory of sacrifice, to consider how the transition is made in the same imperceptible way from the idea of substantial value received, to that of ceremonial homage rendered, whether the recipient be man or god. We do not find it easy to analyse the impression which a gift makes on our own feelings, and to separate the actual value of the object from the sense of gratification in the giver's good-will or respect, and thus we may well scruple to define closely how
uncultured men work out this very same distinction in their dealings with their deities. In a general way it may be held that the idea of practical acceptableness of the food or valuables presented to the deity, begins early to shade into the sentiment of divine gratification or propitiation by a reverent offering, though in itself of not much account to so mighty a divine personage. These two stages of the sacrificial idea may be fairly contrasted, the one among the Karens who offer to a demon arrack or grain or a portion of the game they kill, considering invocation of no avail without a gift, the other among the negroes of Sierra Leone, who sacrifice an ox“ to make God glad very much, and do Kroomen good.”?
Hopeless as it may be in hundreds of accounts of sacrifice to guess whether the worshipper means to benefit or merely to gratify the deity, there are also numbers of cases in which the thought in the sacrificer's mind can scarcely be more than an idea of ceremonial homage. One of the bestmarked sacrificial rites of the world is that of offering by fire or otherwise morsels or libations at meals. This ranges from the religion of the North American Indian to that of the classic Greek and the ancient Chinese, and still holds its place in peasant custom in Europe. Other groups of cases pass into yet more absolute formality of reverence. See the Guinea negro passing in silence by the sacred tree or cavern, and dropping a leaf or a sea-shell as an offering to the local spirit;4 the Talein of Birma holding up the dish at his meal to offer it to the nat, before the company fall to ;5 the Hindu holding up a little of his rice in his
2 R. Clarke, Sierra Leone,' p. 43.
3 Smith, “ Virginia,' in 'Pinkerton,' vol. xiii. p. 41. Welcker, 'Griech. Götterlehre,' vol. ii. p. 693. Legge, “Confucius,' p. 179. Grohmann, ‘Aberglauben aus Böhmen,' p. 41, etc.
4 J. L. Wilson, ‘W. Afr.' p. 218; Bosman, 'Guinea,' in 'Pinkerton,' vol. xvi. p. 400.
6 Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 387.
fingers to the height of his forehead, and offering it in thought to Siva or Vishnu before he eats it. The same argument applies to the cases ranging far and wide through religion, where, whatever may have been the original intent of the sacrifice, it has practically passed into a feast. A banquet where the deity has but the pretence and the worshippers the reality, may seem to us a mere mockery of sacrifice. Yet how sincerely men regard it as a religious ceremony, the following anecdote of a North American Indian tribe will show. A travelling party of Potawatomis, for three days finding no game, were in great distress for want of food. On the third night, a chief, named Saugana, had a dream, wherein a person appearing to him showed him that they were suffering because they had set out without a sacrificial feast. He had started on this important journey, the dreamer said, “ as a white man would,” without making any religious preparation. Therefore the Great Spirit had punished them with scarcity. Now, however, twelve men were to go and kill four deer before the sun was thus high (about nine o'clock). The chief in his dream had seen these four deer lying dead, the hunters duly killed them, and the sacrificial feast was held. Further illustrative examples of such sacred banquets may be chosen through the long range of culture. The Zulus propitiate the Heaven-god above with a sacrifice of black cattle, that they may have rain ; the village chiefs select the oxen, one is killed, the rest are merely mentioned; the flesh of the slaughtered ox is eaten in the house in perfect silence, a token of humble submission; the bones are burnt outside the village; and after the feast they chant in musical sounds, a song without words.3 The Serwatty Islanders sacrifice buffalos, pigs, goats, and fowls to the idols when an individual or the community undertakes an affair or expedition of importance, and as the carcases are devoured by the devotees, this ensures a respectable attendance when the offerings are numerous. Thus among rude tribes of Northern India, sacrifices of beasts are accompanied by libations of fermented liquor, and in fact sacrifice and feast are convertible words. Among the Aztecs, prisoners of war furnished first an acceptable sacrifice to the deity, and then the staple of a feast for the captors and their friends ;3 while in ancient Peru whole flocks of sacrificed llamas were eaten by the people. The history of Greek religion plainly records the transition from the early holocausts devoted by fire to the gods, to the great festivals where the sacrifices provided meat for the public banquets held to honour them in ceremonial homage.5
1 Roberts, Oriental Illustrations,' p. 545. 3 M Toy, Paptist Indian Missions,' p. 305. 3 Callaway, 'Religion of Amazulu,' p. 59. See Casalis, p. 252.
Beside this development from gift to homage, there arises also a doctrine that the gist of sacrifice is rather in the worshipper giving something precious to himself, than in the deity receiving benefit. This may be called the abnegation-theory, and its origin may be fairly explained by considering it as derived from the original gift-theory.
Taking our own feelings again for a guide, we know how it satisfies us to have done our part in giving, even if the gift be ineffectual, and how we scruple to take it back if not received, but rather get rid of it in some other way—it is corban. Thus we may enter into the feelings of the Assinaboin Indians, who considered that the blankets and pieces of cloth and brass kettles and such valuables abandoned in the woods as a medicine-sacrifice, might be carried off by any friendly party who chanced to discover them ;6 or of the Ava Buddhists bringing to the temples offerings of boiled rice and sweetmeats and cocoa-nut fried
3 Prescott, Mexico,' book i. ch. iii.
6 Welcker, “Griech. Götterlehre,' vol. i. p. 50; Pauly, 'Real-Encyclo pedie,'s. v. 'Sacrificia.'
6 Tanner's · Nar.' p. 154 ; see also Waitz, vol. iii. p. 167.