« ZurückWeiter »
88 IHOT AND COLD WINDS.
faith that the devil belongs to the region of ice, and that their dead must be buried in the direction of the happy abodes of Brimir and Sindri, Fire and Cinders' M. François Lenormant has written an extremely instructive chapter in comparison of the Accadian and the Finnish mythologies. He there shows that they are as one and the same tree, adapted to antagonistic climates." With similar triad, runes, charms, and even names in some cases, their regard for the fire worshipped by both varies in a way that seems at first glance somewhat anomalous. The Accadians in their fire-worship exhausted the resources of praise in ascription of glory and power to the flames; the Finns in their cold home celebrated the fire festival at the winter solstice, littered invocations over the fire, and the mother of the family, with her domestic libation, said: ‘Always rise so high, O my flame, but burn not larger nor more ardent!’ This diminution of enthusiasm in the Northern fire-worshipper, as compared with the Southern, may only be the result of euphemism in the latter; or perhaps while the formidable character of the fire-god among the primitive Assyrians is indicated in the utter prostration before him characteristic of their litanies and invocations, in the case of the Finns the perpetual presence of the more potent cold led to the less excessive adoration. These ventured to recognise the faults of fire. The true nature of this anomaly becomes visible when we consider that the great demon, dreaded by the two countries drawing their cult from a common source, represented the excess of the power most dreaded. The demon in each case was a wind; among the Finns the north wind, among the Accadians the south-west (the most fiery) wind. The Finnish demon was Hiisi, speeding on his pale horse YULFTIDE. 80
* “La Magie chez les Chaldéens," iii.
through the air, with a terrible train of monster dogs, cats, furies, scattering pain, disease, and death." The Accadian demon, of which the bronze image is in the Louvre, is the body of a dog, erect on eagle's feet, its arms pointed with lion's paws; it has the tail of a scorpion and the head of a skeleton, half stripped of flesh, preserving the eyes, and mounted with the horns of a goat. It has four outspread wings. On the back of this ingeniously horrible image is an inscription in the Accadian language, apprising us that it is the demon of the south-west wind, made to be placed at the door or window, to avert its hostile action. As we observe such figures as these on the one hand, and on the other the fair beings imagined to be antagonistic to them; as we note in runes and incantations how intensely the ancients felt themselves to be surrounded by these good and evil powers, and, reading nature so, learned to see in the seasons successively conquering and conquered by each other, and alternation of longer days and longer nights, the changing fortunes of a never-ending battle; we may better realise the meaning of solstitial festivals, the customs that gathered around Yuletide and New Year, and the manifold survivals from them which annually masquerade in christian costume and names. To our sun-worshipping ancestor the new year meant the first faint advantage of the warmer time over winter, as nearly as he could fix it. The hovering of day between superiority of light and darkness is now named after doubting Thomas. At Yuletide the dawning victory of the sun is seen as a holy infant in a manger amid beasts of the stall. The old nature-worship has bequeathed to christian belief a close-fitting mantle. But the old idea of a war between the wintry and the warm powers still haunts the period of
* Lönnrot, ‘Abhandlung über die Magische Medicin der Finnen."
the New Year; and the twelve days and nights, once believed to be the period of a fiercely-contested battle between good and evil demons, are still regarded by many as a period for especial watchfulness and prayer. New Year's Eve, in the north of England still “Hogmanay,'— probably O. N. h5%u-nøtt, midwinter-night, when the sacrifices of Thor were prepared, formerly had many observances which reflected the belief that good and evil ghosts were contending for every man and woman : the air was believed to be swarming with them, and watch must be kept to see that the protecting fire did not go out in any household; that no strange man, woman, or animal approached,—possibly a demon in disguise. Sacred plants were set in doors and windows to prevent the entrance of any malevolent being from the multitudes filling the air. John Wesley, whose noble heart was allied with a mind strangely open to stories of hobgoblins, led the way of churches and sects back into this ancient atmosphere. Nevertheless, the rationalism of the age has influenced St. Wesley's Feast—Watchnight. It can hardly recognise its brother in the Boar's Head Banquet of Queen's College, Oxford, which celebrated victory over tusky winter, the decapitated demon whose bristles were once icicles fallen beneath the sylvan spirits of holly and rosemary. Yet what the Watchnight really signifies in the antiquarian sense is just that old culminating combat between the powers of fire and frost, once believed to determine human fates. In White Russia, on New Year's Day, when the annual elemental battle has been decided, the killed and wounded on one hand, and the fortunate on the other, are told by carrying from house to house the rich and the poor Kolyadas. These are two children, one dressed in fine attire, and crowned with a wreath of full ears of grain, the other ragged, and wearing a wreath of
THE KOL VADAS. 9I
threshed straw. These having been closely covered, each householder is called in, and chooses one. If his choice chances upon the ‘poor Kolyada,” the attending chorus chant a mournful strain, in which he is warned to expect a bad harvest, poverty, and perhaps death; if he selects the ‘rich Kolyada,' a cheerful song is sung promising him harvest, health, and wealth. The natives of certain districts of Dardistan assign political and social significance to their Feast of Fire, which is celebrated in the month preceding winter, at new moon, just after their meat provision for the season is laid in to dry. Their legend is, that it was then their national hero slew their ancient tyrant and introduced good government. This legend, related elsewhere, is of a tyrant slain through the discovery that his heart was made of snow. He was slain by the warmth of torches. In the celebrations all the men of the villages go forth with torches, which they swing round their heads, and throw in the direction of Ghilgit, where the snow-hearted tyrant so long held his castle. When the husbands return home from their torchthrowing a little drama is rehearsed. The wives refuse them entrance till they have entreated, recounting the benefits they have brought them ; after admission the husband affects sulkiness, and must be brought round with caresses to join in the banquet. The wife leads him forward with this song:—‘Thou hast made me glad, thou favourite of the Rajah Thou hast rejoiced me, oh bold horseman I am pleased with thee who so well usest the gun and sword | Thou hast delighted me, oh thou invested with a mantle of honours Oh great happiness, I will buy it by giving pleasure's price Oh thou nourishment to us, heap of corn, store of ghee—delighted will I buy it all by giving pleasure's price ''
A Scottish Munasa — Rudra — Siva's lightning eye—The flaming sword–Limping demons—Demons of the storm—Helios, Elias, Perun—Thor arrows—The Bob-tailed Dragon —Whirlwind— Japanese thunder god—Christian survivals—Jinni—Inundations —Noah—Nik, Nicholas, Old Nick—Nixies—Hydras—Demons of the Danube—Tides—Survivals in Russia and England.
DURING some recent years curious advertisements have appeared in a journal of Edinburgh, calling for pious persons to occupy certain hours of the night with holy exercises. It would appear that they refer to a band of prayerful persons who provide that there shall be an unbroken round of prayers during every moment of the day and night. Their theory is, that it is the usual cessation of christian prayers at night which causes so many disasters. The devils being then less restrained, raise storms and all elemental perils. The praying circle, which hopes to bind these demons by an uninterrupted chain of prayers, originated, as I am informed, in the pious enthusiasm of a lady whose kindly solicitude in some pre-existent sister was no doubt personified in the Hindu Munasa, who, while all gods slept, sat in the shape of a serpent on a branch of Euphorbia to preserve mankind from the venom of snakes. It is to be feared, however, that it is hardly the wisdom of the serpent which is on prayerful watch at Edinburgh, but