Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

GE HEAVAWA. 63

Hinnom (Gehenna). The idol Moloch was of brass, and its throne of brass; its head was that of a calf, and wore a royal crown; its stomach was a furnace, and when the children were placed in its arms they were consumed by the fierce heat, their cries being drowned by the beating of drums; from which, toph meaning a ‘drum,' the place was also called Tophet. In the fierce war waged against alien superstitions by Josiah, he defiled Gehenna, filling it with ordure and dead men's bones to make it odious, ‘that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Moloch’ (2 Kings xxiii. Io), and a perpetual fire was kept there to consume the filth of Jerusalem. From this horrible Gehenna, with its perpetual fire, its loathsome worm, its cruelties, has been derived the picture of a never-ending Hell prepared for the majority of human beings by One who, while they live on earth, sends the rain and sunshine alike on the evil and the good. Wo Chang, a Chinaman in London, has written to a journal" his surprise that our religious teachers should be seized with such concern for the victims of Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria, while they are so calm in view of the millions burning, and destined to burn endlessly, in the flames of hell. Our Oriental brothers will learn a great deal from our missionaries; among other things, that the theological god of Christendom is still Moloch. The Ammonites, of whom Moloch was the special demon, appear to have gradually blended with the Arabians. These received from many sources their mongrel superstitions, but among them were always prominent the planet-gods and fire-gods, whom their growing monotheism (to use the word still in a loose sense) transformed to powerful angels and genii. The genii of Arabia are 64 JEWISH SUPERS7/77ONS

* The “Jewish World.”

slaves of the lamp; they are evoked by burning tufts of hair; they ascend as clouds of smoke. Though, as subordinate agents of the Fire-fiend, they may be consumed by flames, yet those who so fight them are apt to suffer a like fate, as in the case of the Lady of Beauty in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Many stories of this kind preceded the declarations of the Old Testament, that Jehovah breathes fire and brimstone, his breath kindling Tophet; and also the passages of the Koran, and of the New Testament describing Satan as a fiery fiend. Various superstitions connecting infernal powers with fire survive among the Jews of some remote districts of Europe. The Passover is kept a week by the Jewish inhabitants in the villages on the Vosges mountains and on the banks of the Rhine. The time of omer is the interval between the Passover and Pentecost, the seven weeks elapsing from the departure from Egypt and the giving of the law, marked in former days by the offering of an omer of barley daily at the temple. It is considered a fearful time, during which every Jew is particularly exposed to the evil influence of evil spirits. There is something dangerous and fatal in the air; every one should be on the watch, and not tempt the schedim (demons) in any way. Have a strict eye upon your cattle, say the Jews, for the sorceress will get into your stables, mount your cows and goats, bring diseases upon them, and turn their milk sour. In the latter case, try to lay your hand upon the suspected person; shut her up in a room with a basin of sour milk, and beat the milk with a hazel-wand, pronouncing God's name three times. Whilst you are doing this, the sorceress will make great lamentation, for the blows are falling upon her. Only stop when you see blue flames dancing on the surface of the milk, for then the charm is

[ocr errors]

broken. If at nightfall a beggar comes to ask for a little charcoal to light his fire, be very careful not to give it, and do not let him go without drawing him three times by his coat-tail; and without losing time, throw some large handfuls of salt on the fire. In all of which we may trace traditions of parched wildernesses and fiery serpents, as well as of Abraham's long warfare with the Fireworshippers, until, according to the tradition, he was thrown into the flames he refused to worship. It is probable that in all the popular superstitions which now connect devils and future punishments with fire are blended both the apotheosis and the degradation of demons. The first and most universal of deities being the Sun, whose earthly representative is fire, the student of Comparative Mythology has to pick his way very carefully in tracing by any ethnological path the innumerable superstitions of European folklore in which Fireworship is apparently reflected. The collection of facts and records contained in a work so accessible to all who care to pursue the subject as that of Brand and his editors," renders it unnecessary that I should go into the curious facts to any great extent here. The uniformity of the traditions by which the midsummer fires of Northern Europe have been called Baal-fires or Bel-fires warrant the belief that they are actually descended from the ancient rites of Baal, even apart from the notorious fact that they have so generally been accompanied by the superstition that it is a benefit to children to leap over or be passed through such fires. That this practice still survives in out-of-the way places of the British Empire appears from such communications as the following (from the

* ‘Observations on Popular Antiquities,’ &c., by John Brand. With the additions of Sir Henry Ellis. An entirely new and revised edition. Chatto & Windus, 1877. See especially the chapter on “Summer Solstice," p. 165. VOL. I. E

[ocr errors]

Times), which are occasionally addressed to the London journals:—‘LERWICK (Shetland), July 7, 1871.-SIR,-It may interest some of your readers to know that last night (being St. John's Eve, old style) I observed, within a mile or so of this town, seven bonfires blazing, in accordance with the immemorial custom of celebrating the Midsummer solstice. These fires were kindled on various heights around the ancient hamlet of Sound, and the children leaped over them, and ‘passed through the fire to Moloch,' just as their ancestors would have done a thousand years ago on the same heights, and their still remoter progenitors in Eastern lands many thousand years ago. This persistent adherence to mystic rites in this scientific epoch seems to me worth taking note of.-A. J.' To this may be added the following recent extract from a Scotch journal:— “Hallowe'en was celebrated at Balmoral Castle with unusual ceremony, in the presence of her Majesty, the Princess Beatrice, the ladies and gentlemen of the royal household, and a large gathering of the tenantry. The leading features of the celebration were a torchlight procession, the lighting of large bonfires, and the burning in effigy of witches and warlocks. Upwards of 150 torchbearers assembled at the castle as dark set in, and separated into two parties, one band proceeding to Invergelder, and the other remaining at Balmoral. The torches were lighted at a quarter before six o'clock, and shortly after the Queen and Princess Beatrice drove to Invergelder, followed by the Balmoral party of torchbearers. The two parties then united and returned in procession to the front of Balmoral Castle, where refreshments were served to all, and dancing was engaged in round a huge bonfire. Suddenly there appeared from the rear of the Castle a grotesque apparition representing a witch with a train of folPONFIRES. 67

lowers dressed like sprites, who danced and gesticulated in all fashions. Then followed a warlock of demoniac shape, who was succeeded by another warlock drawing a car, on which was seated the figure of a witch, surrounded by other figures in the garb of demons. The unearthly visitors having marched several times round the burning pile, the principal figure was taken from the car and tossed into the flames amid the burning of blue lights and a display of crackers and fireworks. The health of her Majesty the Queen was then pledged, and drunk with Highland honours by the assembled hundreds. Dancing was then resumed, and was carried on till a late hour at night.' The Sixth Council of Constantinople (an. 680), by its sixty-fifth canon, forbids these fires in the following terms:—“Those bonefires that are kindled by certain people before their shops and houses, over which also they use ridiculously to leap, by a certain ancient custom, we command them from henceforth to cease. Whoever, therefore, shall do any such thing, if he be a clergyman, let him be deposed; if he be a layman, let him be excommunicated. For in the Fourth Book of the Kings it is thus written: And Manasseh built an altar to all the host of heaven, in the two courts of the Lord's house, and made his children to pass through the fire.’ There is a charming naïveté in this denunciation. It is no longer doubtful that this “bonefire’ over which people leaped came from the same source as that Gehenna from which the Church derived the orthodox theory of hell, as we have already seen. When Shakespeare speaks (Macbeth) of ‘the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire,” he is, with his wonted felicity, assigning the flames of hell and

* “Pyra, a bonefire, wherein men's bodyes were burned.”—Cooper's The. saurus. Probably from Fr. bon ; Wedgewood gives Dan. baum, beacon.

« ZurückWeiter »