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is given to the gods. Asura means a spirit. But in the process of time asura, like dæmon, came to have a sinister meaning: the gods were called suras, the demons asuras, and these were said to contend together. But in Persia the asuras-demonised in India-retained their divinity, and gave the name ahura to the supreme deity, Ormuzd (Ahura-mazda). On the other hand, as Mr. Muir supposes, Varenya, applied to evil spirits of darkness in the Zendavesta, is cognate with Varuna (Heaven); and the Vedic Indra, king of the gods—the Sun-is named in the Zoroastrian religion as one of the chief councillors of that Prince of Darkness.
But in every country conquered by a new religion, there will always be found some, as we have seen, who will hold on to the old deity under all his changed fortunes. These will be called 'bigots,' but still they will adhere to the ancient belief and practise the old rites. Sometimes even after they have had to yield to the popular terminology, and call the old god a devil, they will find some reason for continuing the transmitted forms. It is probable that to this cause was originally due the religions which have been developed into what is now termed Devil-worship. The distinct and avowed worship of the evil Power in preference to the good is a rather startling phenomenon when presented baldly; as, for example, in a prayer of the Madagascans to Nyang, author of evil, quoted by Dr. Réville :
O Zamhor! to thee we offer no prayers. The good god needs no asking. But we must pray to Nyang. Nyang must be appeased. O Nyang, bad and strong spirit, let not the thunder roar over our heads! Tell the sea to keep within its bounds! Spare, O Nyang, the ripening fruit, and dry not up the blossoming rice! Let not our women bring forth children on the accursed days. Thou reignest, and this thou knowest, over the wicked ; THE SACRED PEACOCK.
and great is their number, O Nyang. Torment not, then, any longer the good folk !’1
This is natural, and suggestive of the criminal under sentence of death, who, when asked if he was not afraid to meet his God, replied, “Not in the least; it's that other party I'm afraid of.' Yet it is hardly doubtful that the worship of Nyang began in an era when he was by no means considered morally baser than Zamhor. How the theory of Dualism, when attained, might produce the phenomenon called Devil-worship, is illustrated in the case of the Yezedis, now so notorious for that species of religion. Their theory is usually supposed to be entirely represented by the expression uttered by one of them, 'Will not Satan, then, reward the poor Izedis, who alone have never spoken ill of him, and have suffered so much for him ??? But these words are significant, no doubt, of the underlying fact: they have never spoken ill of the Satan they worship. The Mussulman calls the Yezedi a Satan-worshipper only as the early Zoroastrian held the worshipper of a deva to be the same. The chief object of worship among the Yezedis is the figure of the bird Taous, a half-mythical peacock. Professor King of Cambridge traces the Taous of this Assyrian sect to the “sacred bird called a phænix,” whose picture, as seen by Herodotus (ii. 73) in Egypt, is described by him as 'very like an eagle in outline and in size, but with plumage partly gold-coloured, partly crimson, and which was said to return to Heliopolis every five hundred years, there to burn itself on the altar of the Sun, that another might rise from its ashes.3 Now the name Yezedis is simply Izeds, genii; and we are thus pointed to Arabia, where we find the belief in genii
1.The Devil,' &c., from the French of the Rev. A. Réville, p. 5. ? Tylor's ‘Primitive Culture,' vol. ii. p. 299. 3 • The Gnostics,' &c., by C. W. King, M.A., p. 15.3.
is strongest, and also associated with the mythical bird Rokh of its folklore. There we find Mohammed rebuking the popular belief in a certain bird called Hamâh, which was said to take form from the blood near the brain of a dead person and fly away, to return, however, at the end of every hundred years to visit that person's sepulchre. But this is by no means Devil-worship, nor can we find any trace of that in the most sacred scripture of the Yezedis, the ‘Eulogy of Sheikh Adi.' This Sheikh inherited from his father, Moosafir, the sanctity of an incarnation of the divine essence, of which he (Adi) speaks as 'the Allmerciful.'
By his light he hath lighted the lamp of the morning.
The reverence shown in these sacred sentences for Hebrew names and traditions—as of Adam in Paradise, Marah, and the smitten rock—and for Ahmet (Mohammed), ap
1 Those who wish to examine this matter further will do well to refer to Badger, 'Nestorians and their Rituals,' in which the whole of the 'Eulogy' is translated ; and to Layard, Ninevah and Babylon,' in which there is a translation of the same by Hormuzd Rassam, the King of Abyssinia's late prisoner.
pears to have had its only requital in the odious designation of the worshippers of Taous as Devil-worshippers, a label which the Yezedis perhaps accepted as the Wesleyans and Friends accepted such names as ‘Methodist' and 'Quaker.'
Mohammed has expiated the many deities he degraded to devils by being himself turned to an idol (mawmet), a term of contempt all the more popular for its resemblance to 'mummery.' Despite his denunciations of idolatry, it is certain that this earlier religion represented by the Yezedis has never been entirely suppressed even among his own followers. In Dr. Leitner's interesting collection there is a lamp, which he obtained from a mosque; made in the shape of a peacock, and this is but one of many similar relics of primitive or alien symbolism found among the Mussulman tribes.
The evolution of demons and devils out of deities was made real to the popular imagination in every country where the new religion found art existing, and by alliance with it was enabled to shape the ideas of the people. The theoretical degradation of deities of previously fair association could only be completed where they were presented to the eye in repulsive forms. It will readily occur to every one that a rationally conceived demon or devil would not be repulsive. If it were a demon that man wished to represent, mere euphemism would prevent its being rendered odious. The main characteristic of a demon—that which distinguishes it from a devil-is, as we have seen, that it has a real and human-like motive for whatever evil it causes. If it afflict or consume man, it is not from mere malignancy, but because impelled by the pangs of hunger, lust, or other suffering, like the famished wolf or shark. And if sacrifices of food were offered to satisfy its need, equally we might expect that
WHY DEMONS WERE PAINTED UGLY.
no unnecessary insult would be offered in the attempt to portray it. But if it were a devil-a being actuated by simple malevolence-one of its essential functions, temptation, would be destroyed by hideousness. For the work of seduction we might expect a devil to wear the form of an angel of light, but by no means to approach his intended victim in any horrible shape, such as would repel every mortal. The great representations of evil, whether imagined by the speculative or the religious sense, have never been, originally, ugly. The gods might be described as falling swiftly like lightning out of heaven, but in the popular imagination they retained for a long time much of their splendour. The very ingenuity with which they were afterwards invested with ugliness in religious art, attests that there were certain popular sentiments about them which had to be distinctly reversed. It was because they were thought beautiful that they must be painted ugly; it was because they were—even among converts to the new religion-still secretly believed to be kind and helpful, that there was employed such elaboration of hideous designs to deform them. The pictorial representations of demons and devils will come under a more detailed examination hereafter: it is for the present sufficient to point out that the traditional blackness or ugliness of demons and devils, as now thought of, by no means militates against the fact that they were once the popular deities. The contrast, for instance, between the horrible physiognomy given to Satan in ordinary christian art, and the theological representation of him as the Tempter, is obvious. Had the design of Art been to represent the theological theory, Satan would have been portrayed in a fascinating form. But the design was not that; it was to arouse horror and antipathy for the native deities to which the ignorant clung tenaciously. It was to train