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ceremony has been performed with the first-fruits to make it safe to eat the new crop. Further, as the ceremony which made the animal victim's flesh safe to eat consisted in assigning to the god the share of the food which fell to him of right as a member of the clan, we should expect to find that the ceremony which made the corn lawful food consisted in inviting the god to partake of the first-fruits; and as a matter of fact we do find indications that this was actually the case. In the Tonga Isles the first-fruits of yams, etc., are offered to the divine Tooitonga. In Mexico, no one dared eat of the green maize before the festival in honour of the Maize-maiden, Xilonen ; ? and although we are not told that the goddess was supposed to consume the offerings, we may perhaps infer it from the fact that in Mexico new wine was taboo until the god of wine had in person (i.e. in the person of a man clad in the god's insignia, and supposed to be the earthly tabernacle of the divine spirit) visited the house and opened the cask. 3
But though we can thus catch a glimpse of a time when the first-fruits of the earth, like the flesh of the animal victim, furnished forth the joint meal of which both the god and his worshippers partook, and by which the bond of fellowship between them was renewed, still, the prevailing view in civilised times was that the first-fruits were a tribute paid to the deity. According to this relatively late view, the deity is no longer a spirit immanent in the corn, etc., but a god to whom mankind are debtors for the boon which he bestows upon them by causing the plant to grow: he is no longer one of a body of clansmen, all of whom have rights (if not equal rights) to share in the joint produce of the community; he is now the lord of the soil from which he causes crops to be yielded. In a word, the comparatively modern idea of property has been introduced into religion, and the relations between the gods and their worshippers have been adjusted to the requirements of the new conception,t and have been placed upon a property basis. Henceforth offerings of all kinds continued to be made as they had
1 Mariner, Tonga Islands, ii. 127. 2 Sahagun, ii. c. 28.
self with his
been made before this new social institution, but the tendency now was to interpret them as gifts from man to god. The animal which originally had been the god, and for long after was sacred in its own right as a member of the clan, was now property, and only became holy by being presented as a gift -“consecrated”—to the god. The "offerings” by which the worshipper had united himself with his god became property; and to be accepted as gifts must be valuable. Hence in the long run arose religious difficulties: the traditional ritual showed that the animal was consumed as food by the deity; the new view made that food a gift from the worshipper; thus the god had to be fed by man. The traditional custom of attaching offerings to tree or altar had for its object “ the attainment of some wish or the granting of some prayer”; the new view required that the offering should be a gift. Thus religion was in danger of becoming the art of giving something in order to get more in return, a species of higgling in the celestial market, ridiculed by Lucian, denounced by the Psalmist, and exposed in the Euthyphro. Amongst the Hebrews this danger was met by the teaching of the prophets that God requires no material oblation, but justice, mercy, and humility. Amongst the Hindoos the notion that sacrifice consists in the voluntary loss of property, and that thereby merit is acquired, reduced religion to mere magic; sacrifices of sufficient magnitude gave man the same power of absolute command over the gods as in folk-tales Solomon exercises over the djinn. It is true that, both in India and in Greece, philosophers argued for a higher view of sacrifice : thus Isocrates maintained that the truest sacrifice and service was for a man to make himself as good and just as possible ;3 and throughout the Upanishads the idea recurs that “there was something far better, far higher, far more enduring, than the right performance of sacrifice; that the object of the wise man should be to know, inwardly and consciously, the Great Soul of all; and
2 Εμπορική άρα τις αν είη, ώ Ευθύφρον, τέχνη ή οσιότης θεούς και ανθρώποις παρ' ållwy, Plato, Euthyphro, 14 E.
3 Isoc. Nicoc. 20 : où de Ouua TOÛTO Kállotov civai kal bepamelav meylotny, εάν ως βέλτιστον και δικαιότατον σαυτόν παρέχης.
that by this knowledge his individual soul would become united to the Supreme Being, the true and absolute self.” 1 But it is also true that this teaching remained practically sterile ; and the reason of the sterility seems to lie in the fact, the general law, that it is only by, and in the name of, religion that reforms in religion have been accomplished: it is only by a higher form of religion that a lower is expelled.
Finally, the gift-theory of sacrifice has in modern times contributed to a fundamentally erroneous conception of the history of religion. It has been supposed that all offerings were from the very beginning gifts, whereas in truth the earliest "offerings” were but means for placing the worshipper in physical contact and permanent communion with his god. This erroneous supposition has then been combined with the theory that to primitive man all supernatural powers were malevolent; and the conclusion has been drawn, that the offerings were intended to appease these malevolent gods, that religion had its origin in fear-whereas a god is a friendly power from whom man expects aid and protection, and with whom he seeks communion. Sometimes the two fallacies— the gift-theory of sacrifice and the fear-theory of religionare combined with the further error that ancestor-worship is the earliest form of religion, thus : “ The basis or core of worship is surely offering--that is to say, the propitiation of the ghost by just such gifts of food, drink, slaves, or women as the savage would naturally make to a living chief with whom he desired to curry favour.” 2 But the core of worship is communion; offerings in the sense of gifts are a comparatively modern institution both in ancestor-worship as in the worship of the gods; and ancestor-worship is later than, and modelled on, the worship of the gods.
1 Rhys Davids, Hibbert Lecture, 1881, p. 28.
What raised man from savagery to civilisation was the transition from a natural to an artificial basis of food-supply, i.e. was the domestication of animals and cultivation of plants; and such domestication and cultivation was, as we have endeavoured to show, the outcome, not the designed but none the less the inevitable outcome, of the earliest form of religion, that is, totemism, the worship of plants and animals. Having shown that religion gave the first impetus to material progress, we have now to show how material progress reacted on religion, how the widening circle of human activity brought man into more extensive contact with the forces of nature, rendering their co-operation with him more necessary, and giving him fresh reasons to establish friendly relations and a permanent alliance with the powers on whose goodwill the increase of his flocks or the fertility of his fields depended.
The hunter must have a knowledge of the habits of the quarry; the herdsman must know not only where to find pasture for his flocks, but, to some extent, the conditions which favour the growth of herbage: he has a very direct interest in the rains and the streams which water the earth. Further, he must be able to see some distance ahead, to be ready with his preparations to take care of the younglings of his herd when born; he must be able to compute time. Now, though it may appear to us that no very extensive observation would be required on the part of primitive man to discover that the same amount of time always elapsed between one new moon and the next, or to calculate how many days that period consisted of, yet when we remember that there still are savages unable to count more than five, and many who cannot count more than twenty, we shall see that very considerable mental effort must have been necessary before the savage could determine with certainty that the lunar month consisted of twenty-eight days; and from what we know of the natural man's aversion to exertion of any kind, we may be sure that he would not have taken this trouble except for some practical end and some manifest benefit to be derived from it. For the nomad, dependent on roots, berries, and the chase, the computation of time has no inducement. For the herdsman there is an evident advantage in being able to calculate in how many months he may expect his flocks to bring forth their young. Thus there are several natural forces with which, and on which, the herdsman has to reckon: streams, fountains, clouds, the sky and the moon. In the pastoral stage, man's interests have become wide enough to make him desire the co-operation of all these forces; and all, it is hardly necessary to remark, came to be worshipped by him in consequence.
For the agriculturist, even greater powers of prevision are necessary. "The cultivator must so arrange his labours that his land may be in tilth, and ready for the seed, at a time favourable to germination; the time of the growth of the plant must coincide with the season of rain, its blossoming with warm weather, and its maturity with the hottest sunshine.”1 To count by lunar months, in making all these calculations, would inevitably lead to error, for the interval from one midsummer to another is greater than twelve lunar months, and not so great as thirteen. We may conjecture that it was the loss and damage caused by the errors consequent on counting by lunar months that awoke early man to the necessity of better calculation, and led him to notice that from spring to summer the days grew longer, from summer to winter shorter, until eventually he discovered that the shadow of a familiar object cast by the noon-day sun is longest on the shortest day, the winter solstice; shortest on the longest day, the summer solstice, and then calculated the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Hence the four great festivals of the agricultural stage of
Payne, New World, i. 348.