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When Owain had seen the other fields of punishment; with their fiery serpents and toads, and the fires where sinners were hung up by their offending members, and roasted on spits, and basted with molten metal, and turned about on a great wheel of fire, and when he had passed the Devil's Mouth over the awful bridge, he reached the fair white glassy wall of the Earthly Paradise, reaching upward and upward, and saw before him the beautiful gate, whence issued a ravishing perfume. Then he soon forgot his pains and sorrows.
“ As he stode, and was so fayne,
And myche solempnyté he herde.” The procession welcomed Owain, and led him about, show. ing him the beauties of that country :
“ Hyt was grene, and fulle of flowres
Of mony dyvers colowres;
Hyt was grene on every syde,
There was no wronge, but ever rygth,
The poem, in fifteenth-century English, from which these passages are taken, is a version of the original legend of earlier date, and as such contrasts with a story really dating from early in the fifteenth century— William Staunton's descent into Purgatory, where the themes of the old sincerely-believed visionary lore are fading into moral allegory, and the traveller sees the gay gold and silver collars and girdles burning into the wearer's flesh, and the jags that men were clothed in now become adders and dragons, sucking and stinging them, and the fiends drawing down the skin of women's shoulders into pokes, and smiting into their heads with burning hammers their gay chaplets of gold and jewels turned to burning nails, and so forth. Late in this fifteenth century, St. Patrick's Purgatory fell into discredit, but even the destruction of the entrancebuilding, in 1497, by Papal order, did not destroy the ideal road. About 1693, an excavation on the spot brought to light a window with iron stanchions; there was a cry for holy water to keep the spirits from breaking out from prison, and the priest smelt brimstone from the dark cavity below, which, however, unfortunately turned out to be a cellar. In still later times, the yearly pilgrimage of tens of thousands of votaries to the holy place has kept up this interesting survival from the lower culture, whereby a communication may still be traced, if not from Earth to Hades, at least from the belief of the New Zealander to that of the Irish peasant.
To study and compare the ideal regions where man has placed the abodes of departed souls is not an unprofitable task. True, geography has now mapped out into mere earth and water the space that lay beyond the narrower sea and land known to the older nations, and astronomy no longer recognizes the flat earth trodden by men as being the roof of subterranean halls, nor the sky as being a solid firmament, shutting out men's gaze from strata or spheres of empyræan regions beyond. Yet if we carry our minds back to the state of knowledge among the lower races, we shall not find it hard to understand the early conceptions as to the locality of the regions beyond the grave. They are no secrets of high knowledge made known to sages of old; they are the natural fancies which childlike ignorance would frame in any age. The regularity with which such conceptions repeat themselves over the world bears testimony to the regularity of the processes by which opinion is formed among mankind. At the same time, the student who carefully compares them will find in them a perfect illustration of an important principle, widely applicable to the general theory of the formation of human opinion. When a problem has presented itself to mankind at large, susceptible of a number of solutions about equally plausible, the result is that the several opinions thus produced will be found lying scattered in country after country. The problem here is, given the existence of souls of the dead who from time to time visit the living, where is the home of these ghosts? Why men in one district should have preferred the earth, in another the under-world, in another the sky, as the abode of departed souls, is a question often difficult to answer. But we may at least see how again and again the question was taken in hand, and how out of the three or four available answers some people adopted one, some another, some several at once. Primitive theologians had all the world before them where to choose their place of rest for the departed, and they used to the full their speculative liberty.
Firstly, when the land of souls is located on the surface of the earth, there is choice of fit places among wild and cloudy precipices, in secluded valleys, in far-off plains and islands. In Borneo, Mr. St. John visited the heaven of the Idaan race, on the summit of Kina Balu, and the native guides, who feared to pass the night in this abode of spirits, showed the traveller the moss on which the souls of their ancestors fed, and the footprints of the ghostly buffaloes that followed them. On Gunung Danka, a mountain in West Java, there is such another 'Earthly Paradise.' The Sajira who dwell in the district indeed profess themselves Mohammedans, but they secretly maintain their old belief, and at death or funeral they enjoin the soul in solemn form to set aside the Moslem Allah, and to take the way to the dwellingplace of his own forefathers' souls :
• Step up the bed of the river, and cross the neck of land, Where the aren trees stand in a clump, and the pinangs in a row, Thither direct thy steps, Laillah being set aside.”
Mr. Jonathan Rigg had lived ten years among these people, and knew them well, yet had never found out that their paradise was on this mountain. When at last he heard of it, he made the ascent, finding on the top only a few riverstones, forming one of the balai, or sacred cairns, common in the district. But the popular belief, that a tiger would devour the chiefs who permitted a violation of the sacred place, soon received the sort of confirmation which such beliefs receive everywhere, for a tiger killed two children a
few days later, and the disaster was of course ascribed to Mr. Rigg's profanation. The Chilians said that the soul goes westward over the sea to Gulcheman, the dwellingplace of the dead beyond the mountains; life, some said, was all pleasure there, but others thought that part would be happy and part miserable. Hidden among the mountains of Mexico lay the joyous garden-land of Tlalocan, where maize, and pumpkins, and chilis, and tomatos never failed, and where abode the souls of children sacrificed to Tlaloc, its god, and the souls of such as died by drowning or thunderstroke, or by leprosy or dropsy, or other acute disease. A survival of such thought may be traced into mediaval civilization, in the legends of the Earthly Paradise, the fire-girt abode of saints not yet raised to highest bliss, localized in the utmost East of Asia, where earth stretches up towards heaven. When Columbus sailed westward across the Atlantic to seek the “ new heaven and a new earth" he had read of in Isaiah, he found them, though not as he sought. It is a quaint coincidence that he found there also, though not as he sought it, the Earthly Paradise which was another main object of his venturous quest. The Haitians described to the white men their Coaibai, the paradise of the dead, in the lovely Western valleys of their island, where the souls hidden by day among the cliffs came down at night to feed on the delicious fruit of the mameytrees, of which the living ate but sparingly, lest the souls of their friends should want.5
Secondly, there are Australians who think that the spirit of the dead hovers a while on earth, and goes at last toward
St. John,'Far East,' vol. i. p. 278. Rigg in 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. iv. p. 119. See also Ellis, “Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 397 ; Bastian, Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 83 ; Irving, 'Astoria,' p. 142.
? Molina, “Chili,' vol. ii. p. 89.
* Brasseur, Mexique,' vol. iii. p. 496 ; Sahagun, iii. App. c. 2, x. c. 29 ; Clavigero, vol. ii. p. 5.
* See Wright, 1. c. etc. ; Alger, p. 391 ; Maundevile, etc.
5 History of Colon,' ch. 61; Pet. Martyr. Dec. i. lib. ix. ; Irving, ‘Life of Columbus,' vol. ii. p. 121.