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to the dead has been consummated in many an age and many a country. When the Red Indian will send with a dead man's soul the soul of a gun or a kettle, the corporeal gin and kettle may either be simply left to perish, or killed first by maiming the gun-barrel and dashing a hole through the bottom of the kettle. For the purpose in hand the one plan is as good as the other. Perhaps the idea of communicating with the world beyond the grave by means of the souls of inanimate objects reached its utmost development in the custom recorded by Marco Polo: “ "If the son of a Tartar die before he has been married, and the daughter of another die unmarried also, the parents of the deceased meet together, and celebrate a marriage between the dead, and making a draft in writing of that contract, they paint men and women for servants, and horses, and other creatures, with clothes of all sorts, and paper money, and burn them together with the contract; by the smoke whereof they say that all these things are carried to their children in another world, where they are married ; and the fathers and mothers consider themselves to be joined together in such a bond of affinity as if these marriages had been celebrated while the married pair were still alive.”
That the original purpose of sacrifices made to other spiritual beings, genii, fairies, gods, did not differ from that which in the first instance actuated those offered to the spirits of the dead, there seems no sufficient reason to doubt, for savage theology makes no specific distinction between these two classes of spirits. It is only through the direct keeping up of the attributes of the living man on the one hand, and the close correspondence with the phenomena of dreams on the other, that the nature and wants of the spirits of the dead have been shown to be so uniform, and have become so well-defined as to give us a very full understanding of the intention of sacrifices offered for their benefit. But savage notions of other spiritual beings, except in so far as they are strictly anthropomorphic, are more vague and difficult to grasp, and thus in examining into the primary meaning of sacrifices made to them, it is convenient to take the offerings to the dead as types of offerings in general, a leading position which the enormous importance of ghosts in the religion of the lowest human tribes is of itself almost enough to justify. But even the clear statement that the object of sacrificing to the gods is that they are to consume or enjoy the souls of the things sacrificed, is to be met with among savage tribes. “Of the great offerings of food made by the Fiji islanders," says the Rev. Thomas Williams, “native belief apportions merely the xoul thereof to the gods, who are described as being enormous eaters. The substance is consumed by the worshippers.” Again, it fits perfectly with Marco Polo's story of the marriage of the spirits of the dead bride and bridegroom that in an ordinary Chinese marriage of a living man and woman, one copy of the contract is burnt in the face of heaven and earth as a witness to good and evil spirits. To show how the soul of the victim goes to the gods to whom the sacrifice is made, the account given by Herodotus of the Getæ and their god Zamolxis may serve as well as another. They hold themselves,
, he says, to be immortal, for when they die they go to the demon Zamolxis. Every five years they choose one by lot, and despatch him as a messenger to this deity, commissioning him to make known their several wants. They send him thus; part of them hold up three spears, and others, seizing the messenger by the hands and feet, throw him up into the air, and he is caught upon the spears. Many centuries later, Dietmar of Merseburg puts on record the account he has heard of the great Scandinavian nine years' sacrifice, when “they immolate to their gods ninety and nine men, and as many horses, with dogs, and cocks offered in place of hawks, holding it for certain, as I have said before, that these will serve them in the shades below, and make atonement for crimes committed.” It is more consonant with the ideas to which we have been accustomed from childhood, for us to appreciate the motive of sending the souls of living creatures as messengers or servants to the gods, than of offering them mere food and drink. Yet, as I have said, there is no definite line of demarcation in the mind of man in a very early stage of education, on the one hand between the offerings to the spirits of the dead and those to other spirits, or on the other hand between the sacrifice of animate creatures and of inanimate things. The gods of the Khonds of Orissa, says Major Macpherson, have bodies of human form, but of ethereal texture, and their food (among other things) consists in the flavours and essences drawn from the offerings of their votaries. Whether or not these consecrated meats become poor and flavourless to the taste when the spirits have thus devoured their souls, I do not know, but even this idea has been recorded as found in existence somewhere.
For the truth of the theory here put forward as to the original motive of the rite of sacrifice, it is not at all necessary that this motive should be still generally apparent where we find the same rite practised by races comparatively high in culture. That in the course of intellectual progress in the world, ancient ceremonies should be carried on with meanings vastly changed from those which gave them birth, is so far from being a matter of surprise to the student, that it is what experience leads him to look for almost as a matter of course, and this is what seems to have happened in the present case.
Yet even here we may discern what may very well be a vestige of an earlier state of thought, when we see how the worshippers among so many tribes, when they have slain their beast and offered it to their deities, without scruple sit down and eat part or all of it themselves; for this proceeding is perfectly intelligible on the principle of the Fijian, that the gods have eaten its soul, while they are only devouring its body. It is usual to find that the higher races no longer literally believe that their gods really snuff up into their nostrils the savour of their burnt offerings, or really feed their ghostly bodies on ghostly food, which is the soul of bodily meat and drink, but the sacrifice is still offered that the death of the victim may symbolise, or be an actual substitute for, the death of the offending worshipper. Or more frequently the offering is still held to be acceptable because, though the receiver may not profit save by the idea of honour, fear, or gratitude so conveyed, the giver's merit is still the same. From the ghost of an offering to the idea of it, is no very abrupt transition. Thus (if this view be well founded) the ceremony assumes that changed meaning which language has followed also when we speak of “sacrificing” anything we value, and thus sacrifice now comes upon the same footing as those fasts, penances, and mortifications which are to have the like negative effect by the infliction of pain upon the worshipper.
Our popular ideas of the nature of sacrifice are to a great extent taken from the Jewish law and history; but these, as it seems to me, represent its meaning in a far advanced stage of thought and belief, where the ancient rite, once performed with a definite practical end, has now become a mere symbol taken up into a higher religious system. That this should be the case is quite consistent with the general tenour of the Biblical history, which scarcely concerns itself at all with any state of civilisation which an ethnographer would call low. A mention of a state of things when bronze and iron were unknown, and had to be invented; a ceremonial use of stone knives
, which looks like a lingering relic of the same Stone Age; the usual survival among the common people of the doctrines of a lower religious state, cropping out here in tendencies to relapse into idolatry and animal-worship; a few such points as these are all the details which the Bible gives us of a state of culture below the stage of thought and art to which the level of its earlier narrative belongs, and which has been not inaptly compared with that of the Bedouin of the desert and the city. Even the great funereal rite of the lower races, though holding its ground so often and so firmly in the higher races, is discarded by the Israelite; he leaves it to the "mighty fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war, and they have laid their swords under their heads.” We should be scarcely likely to find well marked among so far advanced a people, those rudimentary phases of religion and philosophy which may be observed among the savage tribes of even modern times. As to the way in which ceremonies survive the total change of their former meaning, if an instance be wanting to substantiate a process so familiar, it may be found in the fact that the
transition of this very rite of sacrifice into a third and distinct stage may still be studied among ourselves. From the mind of the Catholic or Protestant, who hangs a wreath of everlastings on the grave-cross, or flings flowers upon the coffin, the idea of sacrifice, of conferring a practical benefit on the departed spirit, has now mostly passed away. Pressed for an explanation, such a one would hardly maintain that the reason for the funeral offering was anything but a mere sentiment. But it is just such mere sentiments that the student of the lower phases of human nature is so often able to trace to their source, when he sees in them the relics, inherited through long and changing ages, of what were once cogent and practical views of life. The great class whose minds are set too narrowly on utilitarian ends, they whom Jacob Grimm so aptly described as being “sunk in the present," see poetic fancies, old wives' tales, peasants' superstitions, in a very different light from the ethnographer, who discerns in such things the long lingering remnants of a younger time. From the stage where the soul of the offering is thought to be fed upon by the soul of the departed friend, through the stage where the act of sacrifice is thought to convey to that soul a direct feeling of pleasure, down to the stage where the intention of the funeral garland has dwindled to the satisfaction of a mere imagination,—through all this utter change of signification the ceremony of the offering to the dead has held on its unbroken course, and will hold it till old men forget that they were once children, and a hard, middle-aged world that it, too, was once younger.
It is a help in understanding how the notion of personality became more and more restricted in the world, to notice the deep traces which may still be discerned of an intermediate stage, which allows a sort of individual life to some inanimate objects, but only to some. In two ways the history of language clearly records this transitional state. The first is in the distinction of grammatical gender, by masculine, feminine, and neuter, as in Latin and German, or still better by animate and inanimate, as in certain languages of North America. Thus, Mr. G. W. Cox, in his “ Tales of the Gods and Heroes,” aptly comments on the difference between the dead neuter övelpov and the personal masculine övelpos, the Dream who stands over Cræsus when he sleeps, and makes known to him the evils which shall befall him in his son. The Algonquin tribes of North America divide the world grammatically between two great classes, things animate and things inanimate ; but many things which our national scholar would put into the inanimate class here encroach upon the living; such are the sun and moon, the stars, trees and fruits, the stone altar of sacrifice, the eagle's feather, the kettle, the calumet and the wampum-belt. The other way in which language gives animate being to lifeless things is by giving them personal names; for, all the world over,
personal name means personal nature more or less seriously imagined. Thus, Sir George Grey's “ Polynesian Mythology” tells of the chief Ngahue and his two sharp stone axes, Tutauru and IIauhau-te-rangi; with these axes were made the canoes Arawa, Tainui, and the rest, and Tutauru was the axe with which they cut off the head of Uenuku; and the canoe of Taipa-rae-roa had two paddles, and their names were Rangihorona and Kautu-ki-te-rangi, and two balers, and their names were Tipuahoronuku and Rangi-ka-wheriko. Can we read these things and yet miss the sight of that childlike state of thought which survives in Thor's hammer Miölnir, whom the giants know as he comes flying through the air; in Arthur's brand Excalibur, whom the arm brandished three times, and drew him under in the mere; in the brand Tizona, whom the Cid apostrophises, “ Take heed, thou valiant sword,” and vows to bury in his own breast if she be overcome through cowardice of his?
When, prepared by such evidence as books of travel lay so plentifully before us, we come to study the mythological conceptions of sun and stars, trees and rivers, winds and clouds, we can see that these ideas rest upon a substratum which is neither poetic fancy nor transformed metaphor, but simply a philosophy of the nature of things, early and crude indeed, but quite soberly and seriously meant. In such phenomena of nature as bear most likeness to living animals in their look and habits, this view comes out very prominently. In the philosophy of the North American Indians, as Father Charlevoix says, the sun is a man, though of a higher species than ourselves, and the moon is his wife ; and the South Americans tell us the same thing. The heaven is a personal being, who pours down the rain and darts the lightning upon us. The earth is a mother who brings forth other living creatures, the trees and plants. This Mother Earth, says the New Zealand mythology, was once all but submerged in ancient days; and the beings who did this deed were TerribleRain, Long-continued-Rain, Fierce-Hail-Storms, and their children were Mist, and Heavy-Dew, and Light-Dew.
It is not, I think, at the very outset of our attempt to explain how Sun, or Rain, or River were conceived of as animated beings, that We have to ask the aid of that theory of mythology which Max Müller has put forth with such skill and marked success. The simple anthropomorphic view, as it seems to me, is itself the fundamental principle of mythology, and while it concerns itself with such visible, palpable, active, individual objects as these, Language only needs to accompany and express it. It is only in a further advanced stage that the celebrated definition of mythology as a “discase of language” need be brought into play, when myths come to be built upon mere names, and the notion of personality is stretched to take in whatsoever can be spoken of. Then Time and Nature arise as real entities, then the