Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

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 Hamáh, 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.
I am he that placed Adam in my Paradise.
I am he that made Nimrod a hot burning fire.
I am he that guided Ahmet mine elect,
I gifted him with my way and guidance.
Mine are all existences together,
They are my gift and under my direction.
I am he that possesseth all majesty,
And beneficence and charity are from my grace,
I am he that entereth the heart in my zeal;
And I shine through the power of my awfulness and majesty.
I am he to whom the lion of the desert came :
I rebuked him and he became like stone.
I am he to whom the serpent came,
And by my will I made him like dust.
I am he that shook the rock and made it tremble,
And sweet water flowed therefrom from every side."

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

* 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


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


children to think of the still secretly-worshipped idols as frightful and bestial beings. It is important, therefore, that we should guard against confusing the speculative or moral attempts of mankind to personify pain and evil with the ugly and brutal demons and devils of artificial superstition, oftenest pictured on church walls. Some

Fig. 2.-Handle of Hindu Chalics.

times they are set to support water-spouts, often the brackets that hold their foes, the saints. It is a very ancient device. Our figure 2 is from the handle of a chalice in possession of Sir James Hooker, meant probably to hold the holy water of Ganges. These are



not genuine demons or devils, but carefully caricatured deities. Who that looks upon the grinning bestial forms carved about the roof of any old church—as those on Melrose Abbey and York Cathedral 1– which, there is reason to believe, represent the primitive deities driven from the interior by potency of holy water, and chained to the uncongenial service of supporting the roof-gutter—can see in these gargoyles (Fr. gargouille, dragon), anything but carved imprecations 2 Was it to such ugly beings, guardians of their streams, hills, and forests, that our ancestors consecrated the holly and mistletoe, or with such that they associated their flowers, fruits, and homes? They were caricatures inspired by missionaries, made to repel and disgust, as the images of saints beside them were carved in beauty to attract. If the pagans had been the artists, the good looks would have been on the other side. And indeed there was an art of which those pagans were the unconscious possessors, through which the true characters of the imaginary beings they adored have been transmitted to us. In the fables of their folklore we find the Fairies that represent the spirit of the gods and goddesses to which they are easily traceable. That goddess who in christian times was pictured as a hag riding on a broom-stick was Frigga, the Earth-mother, associated with the first sacred affections clustering around the hearth; or Freya, whose very name was consecrated

* The significance of the gargoyles on the churches built on the foundations of pagan temples may be especially observed at York, where the forms of various animals well known to Indo-Germanic mythology appear. They are probably copies of earlier designs, surviving from the days when the plan of Gregory for the conversion of temples prevailed. “The temples of the idols in that nation,’ wrote the Pope, A. c. 601, “ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed ; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected and relics placed. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God."—Bede, Eccl. Hist. ch. 30.

« ZurückWeiter »