Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

A UAVERAZ CUSTOMS. 53

fear of ghostly malevolence where surrounded by civilisation. It is very rare in the ancient world or in barbarous regions to find any invocations for the return of the spirits of the dead. Mr. Tylor has quoted a beautiful dirge used by the Ho tribe of India, beginning—

We never scolded you, never wronged you;
Come to us back

But generally funereal customs are very significant of the fear that spirits may return, and their dirges more in the vein of the Bodo of North-East India: ‘Take and eat : heretofore you have eaten and drunk with us, you can do so no more : you were one of us, you can be so no longer: we come no more to you, come you not to us.” “Even,' says Mr. Tylor, “in the lowest culture we find flesh holding its own against spirit, and at higher stages the householder rids himself with little scruple of an unwelcome inmate. The Greenlanders would carry the dead out by the window, not by the door, while an old woman, waving a firebrand behind, cried ‘Piklerrukpok l’ i.e., “There is nothing more to be had here !’ the Hottentots removed the dead from the hut by an opening broken out on purpose, to prevent him from finding the way back; the Siamese, with the same intention, break an opening through the house wall to carry the coffin through, and then hurry it at full speed thrice round the house; the Siberian Chuwashes fling a red-hot stone after the corpse is carried out, for an obstacle to bar the soul from coming back; so Brandenburg peasants pour out a pail of water at the door after the coffin to prevent the ghost from walking; and Pomeranian mourners returning from the churchyard leave behind the straw from the hearse, that the wandering soul may rest there, and not come back so far as home.”

* “Primitive Culture.”

54 J. EAAV DEMOMS.

It may be remarked, in this connection, that in nearly all the pictures of demons and devils, they are represented as very lean. The exceptions will be found generally in certain Southern and tropical demons which represent cloud or storm—Typhon, for instance—and present a swollen or bloated appearance. No Northern devil is fat. Shakespeare ascribes to Caesar a suspicion of leanness—

Yond Cassius hath a lean and hungry look:
He thinks too much : such men are dangerous.

When Antony defends Cassius, Caesar only replies, ‘Would he were fatter!’ This mistrust of leanness is a reflection

Fig. 4.—St. ANTHoNY's LEAN Persecutor (Salvator Rosa). from all the Hunger-demons; it interprets the old sayings that a devil, however fair in front, may be detected by hollowness of the back, and that he is usually so thin as to cast no shadow."

* Caesarius D'Heisterbach, Miracul. iii.

[graphic]

SACRIFICES. 55

Illustrations of the Hunger-demon and its survivals might be greatly multiplied, were it necessary. It need only, however, be mentioned that it is to this early and most universal conception of praeternatural danger that the idea of sacrifice as well as of fasting must be ascribed. It is, indeed, too obvious to require extended demonstration that the notion of offering fruits and meat to an invisible being could only have originated in the belief that such being was hungry, however much the spiritualisation of such offerings may have attended their continuance among enlightened peoples. In the evolution of purer' deities, Fire—‘the devouring element’—was substituted for a coarser method of accepting sacrifices, and it became a sign of baser beings—such as the Assyrian Akhkharu, and the later Lamia—to consume dead bodies with their teeth; and this fire was the spiritual element in the idolatries whose objects were visible. But the original accent of sacrifice never left it. The Levitical Law says: ‘The two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the Lord's. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.” We find the Hunger-demon shown as well in the wrath of Jehovah against the sons of Eli for eating the choice parts of the meats offered on his altar, as in that offering of tender infants to Moloch which his priests denounced, or in Saturn devouring his children, whom Aryan faith dethroned; and they all reappear as phantoms thinly veiled above the spotless Lamb offered up on Calvary, the sacrificed Macaria (“Blessed”), the pierced heart of Mary.

* Lev. iii. 15.

56 FASTING.

The beautiful boy Menoeceus must be sacrificed to save Thebes; the gods will not have aged and tough Creon, though a king, in his place. Iphigenia, though herself saved from the refined palate of Artemis, through the huntress's fondness for kid's blood, becomes the priestess of human sacrifices. The human offering deemed halfdivine could alone at last satisfy the Deity, gathered in his side this sheaf of sacrificial knives, whetted in many lands and ages, and in his self-sacrifice the Hunger-demon himself was made the victim. Theologians have been glad to rescue the First Person of their Trinity from association with the bloodthirsty demons of barbarous ages by describing the sacrifice of Jesus as God himself becoming the victim of an eternal law. But, whatever may be said of this complex device, it is sufficient evidence that man's primitive demon which personified his hunger has ended with being consumed on his own altar. For though fasting is a survival of the same savage notion that man may secure benefits from invisible beings by leaving them the food, it is a practice which survives rather through the desire of imitating ascetic saints than because of any understood principle. The strange yet natural consummation adds depth of meaning to the legend of Odin being himself sacrificed in his disguise on the Holy Tree at Upsala, where human victims were hung as offerings to him ; and to his rune in the Havamal—

I know that I hung

On a wind-rocked tree

Nine whole nights,

With a spear wounded,

And to Odin offered
Myself to myself.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

FIRE was of old the element of fiends. No doubt this was in part due to the fact that it also was a devouring element. Sacrifices were burnt; the demon visibly consumed them. But the great flame-demons represent chiefly the destructive and painful action of intense heat. They originate in regions of burning desert, of sunstroke, and drouth. Agni, the Hindu god of fire, was adored in Vedic hymns as the twin of Indra. “Thy appearance is fair to behold, thou bright-faced Agni, when like gold thou shinest at hand; thy brightness comes like the lightning of heaven; thou showest splendour like the splendour of the bright sun. “Adorable and excellent Agni, emit the moving and graceful smoke. “The flames of Agni are luminous, powerful, fearful, and not to be trusted. “I extol the greatness of that showerer of rain, whom men celebrate as the slayer of Vritra: the Agni, Vaiswanara, slew the stealer of the waters.'

« ZurückWeiter »