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A Scotch song says, ' The Devil is dead, and buried at Kirkcaldy ; ' if so, he did not die until he had created a world in his image. The natural world is overlaid by an unnatural religion, breeding bitterness around simplest thoughts, obstructions to science, estrange- ments not more reasonable than if they resulted from varying notions of lunar figures, — all derived from the Devil - bequeathed dogma that certain beliefs and disbeliefs are of infernal instigation.
Dogmas moulded in a fossil demonology make the foundation of institu- tions which divert wealth, learning, enterprise, to fictitious ends. It has not, therefore, been mere intellectual curiosity which has kept me working at this subject these many years, but an increasing conviction that the sequelae of such superstitions are exercising a still formid- able influence. When Father Delaporte lately published his book on the Devil, his Bishop wrote — ' Reverend Father, if every one busied himself with the Devil as you do, the kingdom of God would gain by it.
PART I. Their good names euphemistic — Their mixed character — Illustrations : Beelzebub, Loki — Demon-germs — The knowledge of good and evil — Distinction between Demon and Devil The degradation of Deities — Indicated in names — Legends of their fall I — Incidental signs of the divine origin of Demons and Devils. The ex-god— Deities demonised by conquest — Theological animosity — Illustration from the A vesta — Devil-worship an arrested Deism — Sheik Adi — Why Demons were painted ugly — Survivals of their beauty The beauty of the Serpent — Emerson on ideal forms — Michelet's thoughts on the viper's head — Unique characters of the Serpent — The Monkey's horror of Snakes — The Serpent protected by super- stition — Human defencelessness against its subtle powers — Dubufe's picture of the Fail of Man.
Beelzebub Calmet Handle of Hindu Chalice A Swallower Anthony's Lean Persecutor. Ancient Persian Medal Hercules and the Hydra Louvre. Japanese Demon Cerberus Calmet Canine Lar Herculaneum The Wolf as Confessor probably Dutch. Singhalese Demon of Serpents '. American Indian Demon Italian and Roman Genii Typhon Wilkinson Snouted Demon Demon found at Ostia Dives and Lazarus Russian, seventeenth century. The Knight and Death Greek Caricature of the Gods A Witch Mounted Delia Bella Serpent and Egg Tyre Serpent and Ark from a Greek coin j Swan-Dragon French From the Fresco at Arezzo From Albert Durer's ' Passion '.
Bellerophon and Chimaera Corinthian From the Temptation of St. Through neglect of it the glowing personifications and metaphors of the East have too generally migrated to the West only to find it a Medusa turning them to stone. Our prosaic literalism changes their ideals to idols. The time has come when we must learn rather to see ourselves in them : out of an age and civilisation where we live in habitual recognition of natural forces we may transport ourselves to a period and region where no sophisticated eye looks upon nature.go
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The sun is a chariot drawn by shining steeds and driven by a refulgent deity ; the stars ascend and move by arbitrary power or command ; the tree is the bower of a spirit ; the fountain leaps from the urn of a naiad. In such gay costumes did the laws of nature hold VOL. Tte costumes and masks have with us become materials for-. Without conceding too much f o Solar mythology, it may be pronounced tolerably clear that the earliest emotion of worship was born out of the wonder with which man looked up to the heavens above him. Amid the rapture of Vedic hymns to these sublimities we meet sharp questionings whether there be any such gods as the priests say, and suspicion is sometimes cast on sacrifices.
Demonology and Devil-lore
The forms that peopled the celestial spaces may have been those of ancestors, kings, and great men, but anterior to all forms was the poetic enthusiasm which built heavenly mansions for them ; and the crude cosmogonies of primitive science were probably caught up by this spirit, and consecrated as slowly as scientific generalisations now are.
Our modern ideas of evolution might suggest the reverse of this — that human worship began with things low and gradually ascended to high objects ; that from rude ages, in which adoration was directed to stock and stone, tree and reptile, the human mind climbed by degrees to the contemplation and reverence of celestial grandeurs.
But the accord of this view with our ideas of evolution is appa- rent only. The real progress seems here to have been from the far to the near, from the great to the small. There are many indications that such things were by no race considered intrinsically sacred, nor were they really worshipped until the origin of their sanctity was lost ; and even now, ages after their oracular or sym- bolical character has been fprgotten, the superstitions that have survived in connection with such insignificant objects point to an original association with the phenomena of the heavens.
No religions could, at first glance, seem wider apart than the worship of the serpent and that of the glorious sun ; yet many ancient temples are coverofl with symbols ' combining sun and snake, and no form is more familiar in Egypt than the solar serpent standing erect upon its tail, with rays around its head. Nor is this high relationship of the adored reptile found only in regions where it might have been raised up by ethnical combinations as the mere survival of a savage symbol.
William Craft, an African who resided for some time in the kingdom of Dahomey, informed me of the following incident which he had witnessed there. The sacred serpents are kept in a grand house, which they sometimes leave to crawl in their neighbouring grounds. One day a negro from some distant region encountered one of these animals and killed it. The people learning that one of their gods had been slain, seized the stranger, and having surrounded him with a circle of brushwood, set it on fire.
The poor wretch broke through the circle of fire and ran, pursued by the crowd, who struck him with heavy sticks. Smarting from the flames and blows, he pushed into a river ; but no sooner had he entered there than the pursuit ceased, and he was told that, having gone through fire and water, he was purified, and might emerge with safety.
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To this day the orthodox Israelites set beside their dead, before burial, the lighted candle and a basin of pure water. These have been associated in rabbinical mythology with the angels Michael genius of Water and Gabriel genius of Fire ; but they refer both to the phenomenal glories and the purifying effects of the two elements as reverenced by the Africans in one direction and the Parsees in another.
Not less significant are the facts which were attested at the witch-trials. It was shown that for their pretended divinations they used plants — as rue and vervain — well known in the ancient Northern religions, and often recog- nised as examples of tree-worship ; but it also appeared that around the cauldron, a mock zodiacal circle was drawn, and that every herb employed was alleged to have derived its potency from having been gathered at a certain hour of the night or day, a particular quarter of the moon, or from some spot where sun or moon did or did not shine upon it.
Ancient planet-worship is, indeed, still reflected in the habit of village herbalists, who gather their simples at certain phases of the moon, or at certain of those holy periods of the year which conform more or less to the pre-christian festivals. These are a few out of many indications that the small and senseless things which have become almost or quite fetishes were by no means such at first, but were mystically connected with the heavenly elements and splendours, like the animal forms in the zodiac.
The necessities of expression would, of course, operate to invest the primitive conceptions and interpretations of celestial phenomena with those pictorial images drawn from earthly objects of which the early languages are chiefly composed. In many cases that are met in the most ancient hymns, the designations of exalted objects are so little descriptive of them, that we may refer them to a period anterior to the formation of that refined and com- plex symbolism by which primitive religions have acquired a representation in definite characters.
The Vedic compari- sons of the various colours of the dawn to horses, or the rain-clouds to cows, denotes a much less mature develop- ment of thought than the fine observation implied in the connection of the forked lightning with the forked serpent- tongue and forked mistletoe, or symbolisation of the uni- verse in the concentric folds of an onion. It is the presence of these more mystical and complex ideas in religions which indicate a progress of the human mind from the large and obvious to the more delicate and occult, and the growth of the higher vision which can see small things in their large relationships.
Although the exaltation in the Vedas of Varuna as king of heaven, and as contained also in a drop of water, is in one verse, we may well recognise an immense distance in time between the two ideas there embodied. The first represents that primitive pantheism which is the counterpart of ignorance. An unclassified outward universe is the reflection of a mind without form and void : it is while all within is as yet undiscriminating wonder that the religious vesture of nature will be this undefined pantheism.
In some of the earlier hymns of the Rig- Veda, the Maruts, the storm-deities, are praised along with Indra, the sun ; Yama, king of Death, is equally adored with the goddess of Dawn. When each shall have be- come associated with some earthly object or fact, he or she will appear as friend or foe, and their connection with the sources of human pleasure and pain will be reflected in collisions and wars in the heavens.
The rebel clouds will be transformed to Titans and Dragons. The adored Maruts will be no longer storm-heroes with unsheathed swords of lightning, marching as the retinue of Indra, but fire-breathing monsters — Vritras and, Ahis, — and the morning and evening shadows from faithful watch-dogs become the treacherous hell-hounds, like Orthros and Cer- berus.
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The vehement antagonisms between animals and men, and of tribe against tribe, will be expressed in the conception of struggles among gods, who will thus be classified as good or evil deities. This was precisely what did occur. The primitive pan- theism was broken up : in its place the later ages beheld the universe as the arena of a tremendous conflict between good and evil Powers, who severally, In the process of time, marshalled each and everything, from a world to a worm, under their flaming banners.
Their good names euphemistic — Their mixed character— Illustrations : Beelzebub, Loki — Demon-germs — The knowledge of good and evil — Distinction between Demon and Devil The first pantheon of each race was built of intellectual speculations.
In a moral sense, each form in it might be described as more or less demonic; and, indeed, it may almost be affirmed that religion, considered as a service rendered to superhuman beings, began with the propitia- tion of demons, albeit they might be called gods. Man found that in the earth good things came with difficulty, while thorns and weeds sprang up everywhere. The evil powers seemed to be the strongest.
The best deity had a touch of the demon in him. The sun is the most bene- ficent, yet he bears the sunstroke along with the sunbeam, and withers the blooms he calls forth. The splendour, the might, the majesty, the menace, the grandeur and wrath of the heavens and the elements were blended in these personifications, and reflected in the trembling adoration paid to them. The flattering names given to these powers by their worshippers must be interpreted by the costly sacrifices with which men sought to propitiate them.
No sacrifice would have been offered originally to a purely benevolent power. But the descrip- tions of the Erinyes by the Greek poets — especially of iEschylus, who pictures them as black, serpent-locked, with eyes dropping blood, and calls them hounds — show that Saranyu as morning light, and thus the revealer of deeds of darkness, had gradually been degraded into a personification of the Curse. And yet, while recognising the name Eumenides as euphemistic, we may admire none the less the growth of that rationalism which ultimately found in the epithet a suggestion of the soul of good in things evil, and almost restored the beneficent sense of Saranyu.
But he who has not found them gentle knows not whence come the ills of life. Cowering generations had tried to soothe the remorseless avengers by complimentary phrases. The worship of the serpent, originating in the same fear, similarly raised that animal into the region where poets could invest it with many profound and beautiful signi- ficances.
The intermediate processes by which the good and evil were detached, and advanced to separate personification, '""'. The relationship, for instance, between Baal and Baal-zebub cannot be doubted. The one represents the Sun in his glory as quickener of Nature and painter of its beauty, the other the insect- breeding power of the Sun. Baal-zebub is the Fly-god. The title Fly-god is parallelled by the reverent epithet airojivio?
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There is a story of a peasant woman in a French church who was found kneeling before a marble group, and was warned by a priest that she was worshipping the wrong figure — namely, Beelzebul?. In Saemund's Edda the evil-minded Loki says : — Odin! The two became detached very slowly ; for their separa- tion implied the crumbling away of a great religion, and its distribution into new forms ; and a religion requires, relatively, as long to decay as it does to grow, as we who live under a crumbling religion have good reason to know.
Polyhistor, i. His remark recalled to me the Eddaic story of Loki's entrance into the assembly of gods in the halls of Oegir.