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was fully developed in India, what is said in the sixth verse of the hymn may have been adduced to confirm the superstition.
It seems clear, then, that at the time the Kankato na was written, the serpent was regarded with simple abhorrence. And we may remember, also, that even now, when the Indian cobra is revered as a Brahman of the highest caste, there is a reminiscence of his previous ill repute preserved in the common Hindu belief that a certain mark on his head was left there by the heel of Vishnu, Lord of Life, who trod on it when, in one of his avatars, he first stepped upon the earth. Although in the later mythology we find Vishnu, in the intervals between his avatars or incarnations, reposing on a serpent (Sesha), this might originally have signified only his lordship over it, though Sesha is also called Ananta, the Infinite. The idea of the Infinite is a late one, however, and the symbolisation of it by Sesha is consistent with a lower significance at first. In Hindu popular fables the snake appears in its simple character. Such is the fable of which so many variants are found, the most familiar in the West being that of Bethgelert, and which is the thirteenth of the 4th Hitopadesa. The Brahman having left his child alone, while he performs a rite to his ancestors, on his return finds a pet mungoose (nakula) smeared with blood. Supposing the mungoose has devoured his child, he slays it, and then discovers that the poor animal had killed a serpent which had crept upon the infant. In the Kankato na the word interpreted by Sáyana as mungoose (Viverra Mungo, or ichneumon) is not the same (nakula), but it evidently means some animal sufficiently unimportant to cast contempt upon the Serpent.
The universality of the Serpent as emblem of the healing art—found as such among the Egytians, Greeks, Germans, Aztecs, and natives of Brazil-suggests that its longevity
and power of casting its old skin, apparently renewing its youth, may have been the basis of this reputation. No doubt, also, they would have been men of scientific tendencies and of close observation who first learned the snake's susceptibilities to music, and how its poison might be drawn, or even its fangs, and who so gained reputation as partakers of its supposed powers. Through such primitive rationalism the Serpent might gain an important alliance and climb to make the asp-crown of Isis as goddess of health (the Thermuthis), to twine round the staff of Esculapius, to be emblem of Hippocrates, and ultimately survive to be the sign of the European leech, twining at last as a red stripe round the barber's pole. The primitive zoologist and snake-charmer wouid not only, in all likelihood, be a man cunning in the secrets of nature, but he would study to meet as far as he could the popular demand for palliatives and antidotes against snake-bites; all who escaped death after such wounds would increase his credit as a practitioner; and even were his mitigations necessarily few, his knowledge of the Serpent’s habits and of its varieties might be the source of valuable precautions.
Such probable facts as these must, of course, be referred to a period long anterior to the poetic serpent-symbolism of Egypt, and the elaborate Serpent mythology of Greece and Scandinavia. How simple ideas, having once gained popular prestige, may be caught up by theologians, poets, metaphysicians, and quacks, and modified into manifold forms, requires no proof in an age when we are witnessing the rationalistic interpretations by which the cross, the sacraments, and the other plain symbols are invested with all manner of philosophical meanings. The Serpent having been adopted as the sign-post of Egyptian and Assyrian doctors—and it may have been something of that kind that was set up by Moses in the wilderness-would naturally
become the symbol of life, and after that it would do duty in any capacity whatever.
An ingenious anthropologist, Mr. C. Staniland Wake,' supposes the Serpent in India to have been there also the symbol of præternatural and occult knowledge. Possibly this may have been so to a limited extent, and in postVedic times, but to me the accent of Hindu serpentmythology appears to be emphatically in the homage paid to it as the guardian of the treasures. I may mention here also the theory propounded by Miss A, W. Buckland in a paper submitted to the Anthropological Institute in London, March 10, 1874, on ‘The Serpent in connection with Primitive Metallurgy. In this learned monograph the writer maintains that a connection may be observed between the early serpent-worship and a knowledge of metals, and indeed that the Serpent was the sign of Turanian metallurgists in the same way as I have suggested that in Egypt and Assyria it was the sign of physicians. She believes that the Serpent must have played some part in the original discovery of the metals and precious stones by man, in recognition of which that animal was first assumed as a totem and thence became an emblem. She states that traditional and ornamentational evidences show that the Turanian races were the first workers in metals, and that they migrated westward, probably from India to Egypt and Chaldæa, and thence to Europe, and even to America, bearing their art and its sign; and that they filed before the Aryans, who had the further art of smelting, and that the Aryan myths of serpent-slaying record the overthrow of the Turanian serpent-worshippers.
I cannot think that Miss Buckland has made out a case for crediting nomadic Turanians with being the original
In a paper on the Origin of Serpent-worship, read before the Anthrophological Institute in London, December 17, 1872.
metallurgists; though it is not impossible that it may have been a Scythian tribe in Southern India who gave its fame to the gold of Ophir,' which Max Müller has shown to have been probably an Indian region.' But that these early jewellers may have had the Serpent as their sign or emblem is highly probable, and in explanation of it there seems little reason to resort to the hypothesis of aid having been given by the Serpent to man in his discovery of metals. Surely the jewelled decoration of the serpent would in itself have been an obvious suggestion of it as the emblem of gems. Where a reptile for some reasons associated with the snake—the toad-had not the like bright spots, the cognate superstition might arise that its jewel is concealed in its head. And, finally, when these reptiles had been connected with gems, the eye of either would easily receive added rays from manifold eye-beams of superstition.
We might also credit the primitive people with sufficient logical power to understand why they should infer that an animal so wonderfully and elaborately provided with deadliness as the Serpent should have tasks of corresponding importance. The medicine which healed man (therefore possibly gods), the treasures valued most by men (therefore by anthropomorphic deities), the fruit of immortality (which the gods might wish to monopolise),-might seem the supreme things of value, which the supreme perfection of the serpent's fang might be created to guard. This might be so in the heavens as well as in the world or the underworld. The rainbow was called the 'Celestial Serpent'in Persia, and the old notion that there is a bag of gold at the end of it is known to many an English and American child. Whatever may have been the nature of the original sug
..?«Science of Language,' i. 230.
UNDER WORLD PLUTOCRACY.
gestion, there are definite reasons why, when the Serpent was caught up to be part of combinations representing a Principle of Evil, his character as guardian of treasures should become of great importance. Wealth is the characteristic of the gods of the Hades, or unseen world beneath the surface of the earth.
In the vast Sinhalese demonology we find the highest class of demons (dewatawas) described as resident in golden palaces, glittering with gems, themselves with skins of golden hue, wearing cobras as ornaments, their king, Wessamony seated on a gem-throne and wielding a golden sword. Pluto is from the word for wealth (TTROŪTOS), as also is his Latin name Dis (dives). For such are lords of all beneath the sod, or the sea's surface. Therefore, it is important to observe, they own all the seeds in the earth so long as they remain seeds. So soon as they spring to flower, grain, fruitage, they belong not to the gods of Hades but to man: an idea which originated the myth of Persephone, and seems to survive in a school of extreme vegetarians, who refuse to eat vegetables not ripened in the sun.
These considerations may enable us the better to apprehend the earlier characters of Ahi, the Throttler, and Vritra, the Coverer. As guardians of such hidden treasures as metals and drugs the Serpent might be baroneted and invoked to bestow favours; but those particular serpents which by hiding away the cloud-cows withheld the rain, or choked the rivers with drought, all to keep under-world garners fat and those of the upper world lean, were to be combated. Against them man invoked the celestial deities, reminding them that their own altars must lack offerings if they did not vanquish these thievish Binders and Concealers.
The Serpent with its jewelled raiment, its self-renovating power, and its matchless accomplishments for lurking,