« ForrigeFortsæt »
first to some definite period, as for instance to twelve years (or, since as some priesthoods were quinquennial, perhaps to five years), then for life, provided that natural death was not allowed to interfere with the suicide or execution which was in the bond. To prevent this last contingency, some peoples made the appearance of the first indication of old age, the first physical blemish, a sign for execution, and to the end a physical blemish in a priest was widely deprecated: “sacerdos non integri corporis quasi mali ominis res vitanda est.” 1
It seems, then, that the functions habitually performed by the priest in the civilised states of ancient times, and the powers which he exercised less frequently, and the restrictions which were laid upon him, were all inherited by him from his predecessor the divine priest. It seems also that the similar restrictions and the similar sanctity of the ordinary king of historic times were inherited by him from his predecessor the divine king. And the existence of these divine priests and divine kings—in all quarters of the globe, as the instances accumulated by the learning of Mr. Frazer show-points to the fact that in the early history of the race, in patriarchal times, each wandering community of fellow-tribesmen had over it a person who was in some sense divine, both priest and king, and whose death, voluntary or imposed, at the end of a year, was regarded by the community and accepted by the victim as imperative in the highest interests of the community. We have therefore to inquire why this was believed ; and it is only proper that we should begin by stating Mr. Frazer's answer to the question.
Mr. Frazer thinks that men began by believing themselves to be possessed of magical powers, and consequently that the distinction between men and gods was somewhat blurred-apparently that it was difficult or impossible for primitive man to tell whether a certain person, his own ruler in this case, was a very great magician or a god. Further, apparently the primitive community seem to have come to the conclusion that their chief was a god, and that, having got hold of a god, it was desirable to retain him for purposes of their own. But the god might grow old and feeble, which would be a pity, and he might die and so slip through their hands altogether. Both misfortunes, however, could be averted by inducing his soul to migrate into another healthy young body. This was effected by killing the god : his soul then had perforce to leave its old body, and by some means, not quite clear, it was supposed to enter the body of the murderer, who thus became the new god. Eventually, however, according to Mr. Frazer, men learned to distinguish between magic and religion, and then they placed their faith in the former no longer, but in prayer and sacrifice—not now deeming themselves indistinguishable from gods.
1 Seneca, Controv. So in Mexico, Sahagun (pp. 62 and 97 of the French trans.). 1 Supra, p. 177-9.
The doctrine that magic is prior to, or even in origin coeval with, religion has already failed to win our assent, and we have also argued that the idea of man's coercing the gods for his own ends belongs to a different set of thoughts and feelings from those in which religion originates, and must be later in point of development, because gods must exist first before coercion can be applied to them. We do not, therefore, propose to repeat our arguments on the general question of the priority of religion or magic. Nor do we propose to traverse the statement that divine power can be transmitted by the person who possesses it to someone else. What we are here concerned to show is that, apart from these questions, there is evidence to show, first, that these kings and priests were not gods, and, next, that the divine powers they possessed were not native to them and inherent in them, in virtue of their magic, but communicated to them or derived by them from the gods.
This may take us a step further towards the answer to the main question of this chapter, namely, how and why did the community come to regard it as the privilege or duty of some one particular member to exercise the priestly function of dealing the first and fatal blow at the sacrificial victim? To answer that it was because that person was the chief of the tribe, will not advance us much now that we recognise the
' If it be argued that the magical means of coercion may have existed before the gods did, we must refer the reader again to our attempt to show that all guch magic is derived from, or rather a distortion or parody of, the worship of the gods.
original unity of the kingly and the priestly office: the king was the person who exercised the priestly function, and the priest was the person who discharged the kingly office. In other words, we have seen how kings came to exist, and how priests came to be: our problem now is how did a man come to be king-priest ? Not by inheritance, because the office was originally annual, and was terminated by the death, voluntary or imposed, of the king-priest at the end of the year. Nor by election, because the office was open to anyone who chose to take it with the penalty attached-hence it died out in some cases for want of volunteers. Mr. Frazer's solution apparently is that it was originally the greatest magician, or, what in consequence of the primitive incapacity to distinguish between men and gods comes to the same thing, a god. We have therefore to inquire whether the divine priests and kings were gods or indistinguishable from gods.
To begin with, it will be conceded that the Sibyl, who temporarily possessed supernatural knowledge, was distinguishable and distinct from Apollo who “possessed” her; the worshippers of Dionysus, who were endowed with superhuman strength, different from the god whom they worshipped. The more extensive powers of causing food to grow which were exercised in Savage Island by the king_until the office fell and remained vacant—were exercised by him as high priest, and therefore he too seems to be a priest as distinct from a god. And Father Grueber spoke of the Lama as “veluti Deum verum et vivum," and says "numinis instar adoratur.” Now, in Mexico, where the priest was allowed to evade the violent death which attached to his office, on condition that he found a substitute (a war-captive), the distinction between the human victim and the god was always steadily preserved, in spite of the fact that for the year preceding the sacrifice the captive was dressed in the insignia of the god and styled by the name of the god, just as in Greece the priestesses of the Leukippides were themselves called the Leukippides.' Thus Father Acosta says: “They tooke a captive such as they thought good, and afore they did sacrifice him vnto their idolls, they gave him the name of the idoll, saying, he did represent the same idoll. And during the time that this representation lasted, which was for a yeere in some feasts ... they reverenced and worshipped him in the same maner as the proper idoll; .. the feast being come and hee growne fatte, they killed him, opened him, eat him, making a solempne sacrifice of him.” 1 The presumption therefore is that the South Indian king in Quilacare who at the end of twelve years of reigning had to kill himself in public, in front of an idol, and who “performed this sacrifice to the idol and undertook this martyrdom for love of the idol,” ? like the Aztec victim,“ did represent the same idoll." But though most or all of the Aztec deities had human representatives of the kind described, the distinction is always maintained between the human “image,” as he was called in Mexico, and the actual idol or god to whom and before whom he was sacrificed. And the Mexican idea doubtless was all that was intended by the king of Iddah when he told the English officers of the Niger Expedition with unintentional offensiveness : “God made me after His own image; I am all the same as God; and He appointed me a king." 3 At any rate his concluding words do not lend much support to Mr. Frazer's theory that it is by being magicians that men come to be divine kings and priests. On the contrary, they constitute an explicit statement of the king of Iddah's consciousness that his sacred office was bestowed upon him and his powers delegated to him from above. Now, this belief, that the divine spirit can and does enter into men and fill them in a greater or less degree, is universal. On the truth of the belief the historian has not to pronounce: he has only to note that the universality of the consciousness, if it cannot demonstrate, neither can it impair, the truth of the belief. Nor does it follow that, because man has often mistaken the conditions under which the Holy Spirit descends upon man, or the tokens of its manifestation, therefore the belief is untrue. The belief in the universality of causation is none the less true because particular things have been and often are supposed to stand as caugo and effect to each other and are not really so related. The sacrificial and sacramental meal, which from the beginning has been the centre of all religion, has from the beginning also always been a moment in which the consciousness has been present to man of communion with the god of his prayers—without that consciousness man had no motive to continue the practice of the rite. In the beginning, again, the sacramental meal required, for the annual renewal of the blood-covenant, that the worshipper should partake of the body and blood of the victim : this participation was the condition and cause of the communication of spiritual and supernatural protection to the worshipper against the supernatural dangers by which primitive man was surrounded. It was by drinking the blood of sacrifice that the priestess of Apollo in Deiras obtained the power of prophecy and became “possessed” by the god. Amongst the Scandinavians a blood-offering gave even the sacred altar-stone the power of prophecy; and the Balonda and Barotse have a similar “medicine” with which they can make images of wood and clay prophesy. But the blood or the fat of the victim or the oil obtained from it might be sprinkled or smeared on the altar-stone or on the lintel of a house to indicate the presence and protection of the god; and in the same way the oil used in the consecration of the king indicated that it was not in virtue of his own merits—still less of his magical powers but of the entry in him of the divine spirit that “divine right” was bestowed upon him and that he became king. Again, it was of the skin of the victim that the first idols probably were made: the Kuriles make their idols by wrapping an image in the skin of an animal they have slaughtered for the purpose, and the custom of dressing an idol thus was known to the Greeks. In all these cases the use of the skin was probably not merely symbolical but was supposed to ensure the god's actual presence in the idol, just as in Northern Europe enveloping the human representative of the vegetation spirit in a sheaf or green leaves probably imparted a divine character to him. In the same way, when the human “image" of an Aztec deity was dressed in the insignia of the god, it was not merely a ceremonial attire but was
1 Paus. III. xvi.
* Acosta, History of the Indies (Grimston's translation in the Hakluyt Society's edition, ii. 323). G. B. i. 224.
* Ibid. 42.