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346

TREADING ON SERPENTS.

“hands formed the crooked serpent.' It may have been as snake-charmers that Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh and influenced his imagination; or, if the story be a myth, its existence still shows that serpent performances would then have been regarded as credentials of divine authentication. So when Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, where a viper is said to have fastened on his hand, the barbarians, having at first inferred that he was a murderer, 'whom though he hath escaped the sea, yet Vengeance suffereth not to live, concluded he was a god when they found him unharmed. Innumerable traditions preceded the words ascribed to Christ (Luke x. 19), “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.' It is instructive to compare this sentence attributed to Christ with the notion of the barbarians concerning Paul's adventure, whatever it may have been. Paul's familiarity with the Serpent seems to them proof that he is a god. Such also is the idea represented in Isa. xi. 8, “The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp.' But the idea of treading on serpents marks a period more nearly corresponding to that of the infant Hercules strangling the serpents. Yet though these two conceptions — serpent-treading, and serpent-slaying - approach each other, they are very different in source and significance, both morally and historically. The word used in Luke, mateiv, conveys the idea of walking over something in majesty, not in hostility; it must be interpreted by the next sentence (x. 20), ‘Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you (Ta Tveúuara útotáo detai). The serpent-slayer or dragon-slayer is not of Semitic origin. The awful supremacy of Jehovah held all the powers of destruction chained to his hand; and to ask man if he could draw out

ANECDOTE OF ZINZENDORF.

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Leviathan with a hook was only another form of reminding him of his own inferiority to the creator and lord of Leviathan. How true the Semitic ideas running though the Bible, and especially represented in the legend of Paul in Malta, are to the barbarian nature is illustrated by an incident related in Mr. Brinton's ‘Myths of the New World.' The pious founder of the Moravian Brotherhood, Count Zinzendorf, was visiting a missionary station among the Shawnees in the Wyoming Valley, America. Recent quarrels with the white people had so irritated the red men that they resolved to make him their victim. After he had retired to his hut several of the braves softly peered in. Count Zinzendorf was seated before a fire, lost in perusal of the Scriptures; and while the red men gazed they saw what he did not—a huge rattlesnake trailing across his feet to gather itself in a coil before the comfortable warmth of the fire. Immediately they forsook their murderous purpose, and retired noiselessly, convinced that this was indeed a divine man.

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CHAPTER VI.

THE SERPENT IN INDIA.

The Kankato na—The Vedic Serpents not worshipful - Ananta and

Sesha—The Healing Serpent—The guardian of treasures-Miss Buckland's theory – Primitive rationalism - Underworld plutocracy-Rain and lightning—Vritra-History of the word ' Ahi' -The Adder-Zohák-A Teutonic Laokoon,

THAT Serpent- worship in India was developed by euphemism seems sufficiently shown in the famous Vedic hymn called Kankato na, recited as an antidote against all venom, of which the following is a translation:

'I. Some creature of little venom; some creature of great venom; or some venomous aquatic reptile ; creatures of two kinds, both destructive of life, or poisonous, unseen creatures, have anointed me with their poison.

2. The antidote coming to the bitten person destroys the unseen venomous creatures; departing it destroys them ; deprived of substance it destroys them by its odour; being ground it pulverises them.

3. Blades of sara grass, of kusara, of darhba, of sairya, of munja, of virana, all the haunt of unseen venomous creatures, have together anointed me with their venom.

'4. The cows had lain down in their stalls; the wild beasts had retreated to their lairs; the senses of men were at rest; when the unseen venomous creatures anointed me with their venom,

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5. Or they may be discovered in the dark, as thieves in the dusk of evening; for although they be unseen yet all are seen by them; therefore, men be vigilant.

6. Heaven, serpents, is your father; Earth, your mother ; Soma, your brother; Aditi, your sister; unseen, all-seeing, abide in your holes ; enjoy your own good pleasure.

7. Those who move with their shoulders, those who move with their bodies, those who sting with sharp fangs, those who are virulently venomous; what do ye here, ye unseen, depart together far from us.

8. The all-seeing Sun rises in the East, the destroyer of the unseen, driving away all the unseen venomous creatures, and all evil spirits.

*9. The Sun has risen on high, destroying all the many poisons; Aditya, the all-seeing, the destroyer of the unseen, rises for the good of living beings.

'10. I deposit the poison in the solar orb, like a leathern bottle in the house of a vendor of spirits; verily that adorable Sun never dies ; nor through his favour shall we die of the venom ; for, though afar off, yet drawn by his coursers he will overtake the poison : the science of antidotes converted thee, Poison, to ambrosia.

'11. That insignificant little bird has swallowed thy venom; she does not die; nor shall we die ; for although afar off, yet, drawn by his coursers, the Sun will overtake the poison : the science of antidotes has converted thee, Poison, to ambrosia.

'12. May the thrice-seven sparks of Agni consume the influence of the venom ; they verily do not perish; nor shall we die ; for although afar off, the Sun, drawn by his coursers, will overtake the poison : the science of antidotes has converted thec, Poison, to ambrosia.

13. I recite the names of ninety and nine rivers, the

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VEDIC SERPENTS NOT WORSHIPFUL.

destroyers of poison : although afar off, the Sun, drawn by his coursers, will overtake the poison : the science of antidotes will convert thee, Poison, to ambrosia.

'14. May the thrice-seven peahens, the seven-sister rivers, carry off, O Body, thy poison, as maidens with pitchers carry away water.

‘15. May the insignificant mungoose carry off thy venom, Poison : if not, I will crush the vile creature with a stone : so may the poison depart from my body, and go to distant regions.

'16. Hastening forth at the command of Agastya, thus spake the mungoose: The venom of the scorpion is innocuous; Scorpion, thy venom is innocuous.'1

Though, in the sixth verse of this hymn, the serpents are said to be born of Heaven and Earth, the context does not warrant the idea that any homage to them is intended; they are associated with the evil Rakshasas, the Sun and Agni being represented as their haters and destroyers. The seven-sister rivers (streams of the sacred Ganges) supply an antidote to their venom, and certain animals, the partridge and the mungoose, are said, thougii insignificant, to be their superiors. The science of antidotes alluded to is that which Indra taught to Dadhyanch, who iost his head for communicating it to the Aswins. It is notable, however, that in the Vedic period there is nothing which represents the serpent as medicinal, unless by a roundabout process we connect the expression in the Rig-Veda that the wrath of the Maruts, or storm-gods, is 'as the ire of serpents,' with the fact that their chief, Rudra, is celebrated as the bestower of 'healing herbs,' and they themselves soiicited for 'medicaments. This would be stretching the sense of the hymns too far. It is quite possible, however, that at a later day, when serpent-worship

I'Rig-veda,' v. (Wilson).

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