« ForrigeFortsæt »
with a kind of religious veneration; and in this manner the sun and moon came to be regarded as divinities, and whatever object on earth, animate or inanimate, inspired them with wonder or awe, was adopted by some tribe or nation as the sacred representative of the mysterious power which had called all things into being, and which they could not comprehend. Hence we find the sun and moon among the earliest objects of religious adoration—the latter luminary being invariably placed in a subordinate position with regard to the former, probably on account of its inferior magnitude, and its lesser influence upon the earth. Thus the moon was worshipped by the Scandinavians on the second day of the week, while the . worship of the sun was celebrated on the first; the moon was represented by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks as the sister of the sun; and in India, Persia, and Syria, in all of which countries the sun had its representative in the national mythology, the moon does not appear to have been honoured in a like manner. An infinite variety of natural objects, some animate and others inanimate, were likewise regarded with reverence; and this system of religious worship, which is called Fetichism, is that which is invariably found among tribes the lowest in the scale of intellectual development, as those of Africa and Polynesia. The negroes of Benin regard with superstitious reverence a curious insect called the 'walking leaf, from its resemblance to a leaf in colour and form; the pagan Laplanders set up stones of remarkable form, and adore them; and in every country in the world there is some river, or fountain, or rock, which was once an object of veneration and worship.
The phenomena of the universe at length became the subjects of rational study and philosophic investigation with a few minds more advanced than the rest, and it can scarcely be doubted that the Chaldeans, the Magi, and the Gymnosophists soon perceived the absurdities of Fetichism. For the esoteric doctrines of these early philosophers the reader is referred to the Paper on 'Ancient Philosophic Sects. In this place we have only to shew how the superstructure of the ancient mythologies was raised upon
pantheistic foundation laid by the Gymnosophists, and probably by the Magi, the Chaldeans, and the Egyptian priests likewise. The great error of the Indian sages was in permitting reverence to be offered by the unenlightened masses, who were unable to comprehend their esoteric doctrines, to any object which the worshipper chose to regard as the visible representative of the great and mysterious Om. The Magi, on the contrary, only permitted the adoration of the sun, as the grandest object which could possibly be selected to serve as a symbol of divinity; and from this circumstance arose the great difference which afterwards came to exist between the religious systems of India and Persia ; for while there arose in the former country the most cumbrous mythology that the imagination of man has ever conceived, the Persians, though they at length fell into the error of regarding the sun as a deity, never became image-worshippers, even in the period of the greatest corruption of the national créed. To give a full account of the various mythologies of the ancient world does not come within the design of the present Paper ; but it is necessary to the understanding of the rites and mysteries which rose out of them, that the principal deities should be briefly described, with the origin of their worship, and the manner in which it passed from one country to another.
Om, the Sanscrit name of the infinite, eternal, and incomprehensible Power of the Vedas, is a compound word, expressing at once creation, preservation, and destruction; and hence the first step in the popular construction of the Indian mythology was to separate the three ideas, the great attributes of Om, and represent each as a distinct divinity. This Indian trinity consists of Brahma, the Creator ; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Sheva, the Destroyer; and on certain occasions the three, called collectively Trimarti, are worshipped together. In the celebrated caverntemple of Elephanta, and in other parts of India, the Trimarti are sculptured in the same mass of stone; but separately, Vishnu and Sheva are more worshipped than Brahma. The last is represented as a goldcoloured figure, with four heads and four arms; Vishnu of a blue colour, with blue eyes and four arms, a crescent upon his forehead, a necklace of skulls, and a club in each right hand; and Sheva as a black figure, with a very terrible countenance. There is so much confusion in the wild tales of the Indian mythology, that it is sometimes difficult to identify the divinities who figure in them; and Sheva and Vishnu are often found exercising the attributes of each other. Crishna is supposed by some to be the same as Vishnu; but we are inclined to believe that this deity originally personified the sun. Muhadev seems identical with Sheva, to whom the mythologists have given a wife in the person of Doorga or Kalee, who occupies a prominent place in the stories of the conflicts between the gods and the giants, the latter figuring as conspicuously in the early myths of India as in those of Greece and Scandinavia. She is represented black, like her husband, with four arms, and with eyebrows dripping blood; she wears a necklace of skulls, like Vishnu ; her earrings are human bodies; and the hands of the giants whom she has slain hang at her girdle. The other divinities of India are innumerable, and are probably, for the most part, deified heroes of the earliest ages.
The religious observances which form the worship of these gods are numerous and burdensome, and if performed strictly, would engross the entire time of the worshipper ; but they are necessarily abridged, though they still encroach too much upon the moral and social duties. They commence with ablutions and prayers, then the worshipper prostrates himself before the rising sun, and proceeds to the inaudible recitation of certain texts of the Shasters, or commentaries upon the Vedas. Other observances required are offering cakes and water to the gods, and feeding animals reputed sacred Las oxen, monkeys, &c. The fruits and cakes offered are allowed to remain upon the altars a certain time, after which they are eaten by the attendants. Animal oblations are offered only upon the altars of the terrible Doorga, to whom existing records prove human victims to have been sacrificed in ancient times. The offerings are most abundant at the annual festivals of the gods, when immense numbers assemble in the open areas before the temples, and after making their offerings, amuse themselves with dancing and singing. The festival of Doorga is the Saturnalia of the East, and the dances and songs are of the most indecent description. That of Juggernaut, which, we are happy to say, is not celebrated with half the zeal that it used to be, is marked by the self-immolation of many of the god's infatuated worshippers. The image of the god, with those of his brother and sister, Bala-rama and Soobhadra, is placed in & colossal car, ornamented with mythological paintings of the most demoralising tendency; and the car is then dragged through the streets by the multitude, many of whom voluntarily throw themselves under the wheels, and are either crushed to death or horribly mangled. Religious pilgrimages to the sources of the Ganges and the Jumna, to the junction of these rivers at Allahabad, to the holy city of Benares, and other places, are also frequently performed; and at Allahabad half a lac of rupees (£5000 sterling) has been received in one year for permission to bathe at the junction of the sacred rivers.
The sun appears to have been in all countries the first object deified-in India as Crislına, in Persia as Mithra, in Syria as Baal, and in Assyria and Babylonia as Belus. The remains of a large and beautiful temple of the sun still exist at Balbec or Baalbec, and the temple of Belus at Babylon is described by classic historians as the oldest and most magnificent in the world. Its towers were remarkably lofty, and among its riches were several images of massive gold, one of which is said to have been forty feet high. In a chamber at the summit of the highest tower was a magnificent bed, to which priests nightly conducted a female remain in the society of the god. The Syrians, besides Baal, had a female divinity named Astarte, who is considered to be the same as the Venus of the Greeks, and in whose grand temple at Hieropolis three hundred priests were daily engaged in offering sacrifices upon her altars.
In Egypt, the sun was personified by Osiris, and the moon by Isis, who is represented as his sister and wife. Typhon, who holds the same place in the Egyptian mythology as Sheva does in the Indian, and Ahrimanes in the Persian, was called the brother of Osiris, and is the same as the Typhæus of the Greeks. His introduction into the Egyptian pantheon, however, is probably of much later date than those of Osiris and Isis. The worship of the two latter was universal in Egypt, and the people were taught by the priests that the annual inundations of the Nile were caused by the tears which the goddess shed on the anniversary of the murder of Osiris by their brother Typhon. Serapis is supposed by some authors to have been the same as Osiris, and Apollodorus asserts that this god was the same as Apis; but Herodotus, though he gives a very minute account of the Egyptian divinities, does not mention him at all. Certain mysteries were connected with the worship of this god, which, with those of Isis, will be described hereafter. The most magnificent temples of Serapis were at Memphis, Alexandria, and Canopus. Apis was worshipped under the form of a black bull, into which the soul of Osiris was believed to have entered, the two gods being the same under different names; the temple of this brute-worship was at Memphis; but a bull was also worshipped at Heliopolis, under the name Mnevis, and the latter supposed to have been sacred to Isis. Anubis is described by the mythologists as the son of Osiris, and was represented with the head of a dog.
The annual festival observed in honour of Isis lasted nine days, and was made the occasion of much licentiousness. The priests walked in procession, barefooted, and clothed in garments of white linen; and vessels of wheat and barley were borne, from a mythical tradition that the goddess had first taught the Egyptians to cultivate the earth. During the night the priests were engaged in the performance of various rites in the temples, the sacred
birds were regaled with delicacies, and hymns were sung by young female choristers. The worship of Isis was introduced into Italy, but was suppressed by a decree of the senate in the reign of Augustus, on account of the licentiousness which accompanied the celebration of the Isiac festivals. Those of Osiris were of the same character, which applies also to those of Apis—the name given to the sacred bull of Memphis. The latter festival lasted seven days, during which the sacred bull was led in solemn procession through the streets by the priests, the people running by the animal's side, with every demonstration of joy, stroking him, prostrating themselves before him, or presenting him with food. The sacred bull was only permitted to attain a certain age, when he was led by the priests, with many solemn ceremonies, to the Nile, in the waters of which he was drowned; the carcass was then embalmed, and buried with much ceremony by the priests. When the last rites had been offered to the deceased, the priests shaved their heads, as a sign of the deepest mourning, and the people of Memphis uttered mournful cries and lamentations, as it Osiris were just dead for the first time. Another bull had to be sought for the temple; and in order that the animal in which the spirit of the god had incarnated itself might be more readily discovered, there were certain marks by which it was always distinguished. Its colour was always black; on its forehead was a square white spot; on its back the figure of an eagle; and on its right side a white crescent, in allusion to Isis; the hairs of its tail were double; and under its tongue was a protuberance in the form of a beetle. A very precise and fanciful description; but it is probable that artificial means were resorted to by the wily priests to give to the animal these distinguishing and indispensable characteristics. When a bull possessing them was found, the mourning for his predecessor was changed for demonstrations of the most exuberant joy, with which his appearance was everywhere hailed. The animal was not lodged in the temple at Memphis until the expiration of forty days, and during this period only women were permitted to approach it. Auguries were drawn from his eating or rejecting the food offered him : the former case being regarded as a favourable omen, and the latter as one of evil. Germanicus, when he visited Egypt, consulted the sacred bull of Memphis in this manner. The festival of Apis was being celebrated when Cambyses invaded Egypt, and the conqueror ordered the priests to appear before him, and bring the god with them. On seeing the sacred bull, he was so enraged at their idolatrous and superstitious practice, that he wounded it with his sword, ordered the priests to be flogged, and forbade the continuance of the festival under the penalty of death. On account of the tradition respecting Osiris, oxen generally were regarded witlı a feeling of veneration by the Egyptians; but their superstitious reverence for the crocodile, the serpent, the cat, the ibis, and the beetle, for onions and for the lotus-flower, was probably a relic of the Fetichism of their ancestors. The festival of Adonis was introduced into Egypt from Phænicia, in which country it lasted two days; but the Egyptians prolonged its celebration during eight days. During the first half of the period, the death of Adonis was mourned with a frightful howling and wilā lamentations; but during the latter days of the festival, no sounds save those of the most extravagant joy were heard. Men and women ran about the streets, wearing garlands of Aowers, crying: 'Our Adonis lives! Adonis is returned to us!' and all the young women who neglected to join in the general rejoicing were compelled to submit to an odious alternative during one day. No business was transacted during the celebration of this festival, from a belief that it was unlucky to do so; and the disasters which attended the expedition of Nicias to Sicily were ascribed to the circumstance of the fleet having sailed from Athens while the people were mourning for Adonis.
The mythology of the Greeks was a work of the same gradual construction as that of the Hindoos and the Egyptians; but being less ancient, its divinities were not entirely indigenous to the country. The gods of Greece were probably more numerous than those. of India, though the lapse of time has since swelled the number of the Eastern deities to such a degree that they now exceed in number those of the ancient Greeks. They may be classed in four divisions, according to the manner of their introduction into the national pantheon: the first including those which arose from the early Fetichism; the second, those which personified certain passions and emotions of the mind; the third, those whose worship was introduced from Egypt; and the fourth, those supernumerary deities who appear to have been adopted at a later period, to make out a complete genealogy and history of the divine personages whom the national imagination had enthroned upon Olympus. To the first class belong Apollo, Diana, Neptune, and Vulcan, among the primary divinities, and a number of secondary ones, personifications of the winds, the stars, rivers, fountains, &c.; but among these there is evidently an order of time, and Apollo and Diana must be considered as the earliest personifications of the Greek mythology. Though it has been disputed whether Helios, the sun, Apollo, and Phoebus, were the same, the point has not been satisfactorily determined; and from the manner in which they are confounded by the ancients themselves, it seems evident that they were regarded as the same in the popular belief. At the same time it may be fairly admitted that the worship of the sun preceded that of the imaginary deity in whose person it was represented, as we know that the sun was the object of adoration among the Persians long before that luminary was personified in the god Mithra. The sun was among the first objects of religious veneration in all parts of the world-in Mexico and Peru as well as in the East--and hence we may reasonably conclude that it was the first object of Fetichist worship personified by the Greeks as well as by other nations. When it is considered that the Greek mythology was not the growth of one epoch, but required centuries for its progressive development, and that even the Apollo of one time differs in many respects from the Apollo of an earlier or later date, it is easy to understand how doubts should at length have arisen respecting his original deification. The worship of this deity was the most ancient in Greece, and the most widely diffused through all the Grecian states and colonies. He was represented as a handsome young man, with a glory of rays, like the beams of the sun, round his head; in later times the Grecian sculptors represented him with a bow in one hand and a lyre in the other, and a crown of laurel upon his head. Diana personified the moon, and was