Evolution of the Dragon, by G. Elliot Smith, , at sacred-texts.com
Intimately linked with the subjects I have been discussing is the worship of the cow. It would lead me too far afield to enter into the details of the process by which the earliest Mother-Goddesses became so closely associated or even identified with the cow, and why the cow's horns became associated with the moon among the emblems
of Hathor. But it is essential that reference should be made to certain aspects of the subject.
I do not think there is any evidence to justify the common theory that the likeness of the crescent moon to a cow's horns was the reason for the association. On the other hand, it is clear that both the moon and the cow became identified with the Mother-Goddess quite independently the one of the other, and at a very remote period.
It is probable that the fundamental factor in the development of this association of the cow and the Mother-Goddess was the fact of the use of milk as food for human beings. For if the cow could assume this maternal function she was in fact a sort of foster-mother of mankind; and in course of time she came to be regarded as the actual mother of the human race and to be identified with the Great Mother.
Many other considerations helped in this process of assimilation. The use of cattle not merely as meat for the sustenance of the living but as the usual and most characteristic life-giving food for the dead naturally played a part in conferring divinity upon the cow, just as an analogous relationship made incense a holy substance and was responsible for the personification of the incense-tree as a goddess. This influence was still further emphasized in the case of cattle because they also supplied the blood which was used for the ritual purpose of bestowing consciousness upon the dead, and in course of time upon the gods also, so that they might hear and attend to the prayers of supplicants.
Other circumstances emphasize the significance attached to the cow: but it is difficult to decide whether they contributed in any way to the development of these beliefs or were merely some of the practices which were the result of the divination of the cow. The custom of placing butter in the mouths of the dead, in Egypt, Uganda, and India, the various ritual uses of milk, the employment of a cow's hide as a wrapping for the dead in the grave, and also in certain mysterious ceremonies, 1 all indicate the intimate connexion between the cow and the means of attaining a rebirth in the life to come.
I think there are definite reasons for believing that once the cow became identified with the Mother-Goddess as the parent of mankind
the first step was taken in the development of the curious system of ideas now known as "totemism".
This, however, is a complex problem which I cannot stay to discuss here.
When the cow became identified with the Great Mother and the moon was regarded as the dwelling or the personification of the same goddess, the Divine Cow by a process of confused syncretism came to be regarded as the sky or the heavens, to which the dead were raised up on the cow's back. When Re became the dominant deity, he was identified with the sky, and the sun and moon were then regarded as his eyes. Thus the moon, as the Great Mother as well as the Eye of Re, was the bond of identification of the Great Mother with an eye. This was probably how, the eye acquired the animating powers of the Giver of Life.
A whole volume might be written upon the almost world-wide diffusion of these beliefs regarding the cow, as far as Scotland and Ireland in the west, and in their easterly migration probably as far as America, to the confusion alike of its ancient artists and its modern ethnologists. 1
As an illustration of the identification of the cow's attributes with those of the life-giving Great Mother, I might refer to the late Professor Moulton's commentary 2 on the ancient Iranian Gâthâs, where cow's flesh is given to mortals by Yima to make them immortal. "May we connect it with another legend whereby at the Regeneration Mithra is to make men immortal by giving them to eat the fat of the primeval Cow from whose slain body, according to the Aryan legends adopted by Mithraism, mankind was first created?" 3
60:1 See A. Moret, op. cit. p. 81, inter alia.
61:1 See the Copan sculptured monuments described by Maudslay in Godman and Salvin's "Biologia Centrali-Americana," Archæology, Plate 46, representing "Stela D," with two serpents in the places occupied by the Indian elephants in Stela Bconcerning which see Nature, November 25, 1915. To one of these intertwined serpents is attached a cow-headed human dæmon. Compare also the Chiriqui figure depicted by MacCurdy, "A Study of Chiriquian Antiquities," Yale University Press, 1911, fig. 361, p. 209.
61:2 "Early Religious Poetry of Persia," pp. 42 and 43.
61:3 Op. cit. p. 43. But I think these legends accredited to the Aryans owe their parentage to the same source as the Egyptian beliefs concerning the cow, and especially the remarkable mysteries upon which Moret has been endeavouring to throw some light"Mystères Égyptiens," p. 43.