Evolution of the Dragon, by G. Elliot Smith, , at sacred-texts.com
In these pages I have made no attempt to deal with the far-reaching and intricate problems of the diffusion abroad of the practices and beliefs which I have been discussing. But the thoughts and the aspirations of every cultured people are permeated through and through with their influence.
It is important to remember that in almost every stage of the development of these complex customs and ideas not merely the "finished product" but also the ingredients out of which it was built up were being scattered abroad.
I shall briefly refer to certain evidence from Asia and America in illustration of this fact and in substantiation of the reality of the diffusion to the East of some of the beliefs I have been discussing.
The unity of Egyptian and Babylonian ideas is nowhere more strikingly demonstrated than in the essential identity of the attributes of Osiris and Ea. It affords the most positive proof of the derivation of the beliefs from some common source, and reveals the fact that Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations must have been in intimate cultural contact at the beginning of their developmental history. "In Babylonia, as in Egypt, there were differences of opinion regarding the origin of life and the particular natural element which represented the vital principle." "One section of the people, who were represented by the worshippers of Ea, appear to have believed that the essence of life was contained in water. The god of Eridu was the source of the 'water of life'." 1
"Offerings of water and food were made to the dead," not primarily so that they might be "prevented from troubling the living," 2 but to supply them with the means of sustenance and to
reanimate them to help the suppliants. It is a common belief that these and other procedures were inspired by fear of the dead. But such a statement does not accurately represent the attitude of mind of the people who devised these funerary ceremonies. For it is not the enemies of the dead or those against whom he had a grudge that run a risk at funerals, but rather his friends; and the more deeply he was attached to a particular person the greater the danger for the latter. For among many people the belief obtains that when a man dies he will endeavour to steal the "soul-substance" of those who are dearest to him so that they may accompany him to the other world. But as stealing the "soul-substance" 1 means death, it is easy to misunderstand such a display of affection. Hence most people who long for life and hate death do their utmost to evade such embarrassing tokens of love; and most ethnologists, misjudging such actions, write about "appeasing the dead". It was those whom the gods loved who died young.
Ea was not only the god of the deep, but also "lord of life," king of the river and god of creation. Like Osiris "he fertilized parched and sunburnt wastes through rivers and irrigating canals, and conferred upon man the sustaining 'food of life'. The goddess of the dead commanded her servant to 'sprinkle the Lady Ishtar with the water of life'" (op. cit. p. 44).
In Chapter III. of Mr. Mackenzie's book, from which I have just
quoted, there is an interesting collection of quotations clearly showing that the conception of the vitalizing properties of the body moisture of gods is not restricted to Egypt, but is found also in Babylonia and India, in Western Asia and Greece, and also in Western Europe.
It has been suggested that the name Ishtar has been derived from. Semitic roots implying "she who waters," "she who makes fruitful". 1
Barton claims that: "The beginnings of Semitic religion as they were conceived by the Semites themselves go back to sexual relations the Semitic conception of deity embodies the truthgrossly indeed, but nevertheless embodies itthat 'God is love'" (op. cit. p. 107). [This statement, however, is very misleadingsee Appendix C, p. 75.]
Throughout the countries where Semitic 2 influence spread the primitive Mother-Goddesses or some of their specialized variants are found. But in every case the goddess is associated with many distinctive traits which reveal her identity with her homologues in Cyprus, Babylonia, and Egypt.
Among the Sumerians "life comes on earth through the introduction of water and irrigation". 3 "Man also results from a union between the water-gods."
The Akkadians held views which were almost the direct antithesis of these. To them "the watery deep is disorder, and the cosmos, the order of the world, is due to the victory of a god of light and spring over the monster of winter and water; man is directly made by the gods". 4
"The Sumerian account of Beginnings centres around the production by the gods of water, Enki and his consort Nin-ella (or Dangal), of a great number of canals bringing rain to the desolate fields of a dry continent. Life both of vegetables and animals follows the profusion of the vivifying waters. In the process of life's production besides Enki, the personality of his consort is very conspicuous. She is called
[paragraph continues] Nin-Ella, 'the pure Lady,' Damgal-Nunna, the 'great Lady of the Waters,' Nin-Tu, 'the Lady of Birth'" (p. 301). The child of Enki and Nin-ella was the ancestor of mankind. 1
"In later traditions, the personality of that Great Lady seems to have been overshadowed by that of Ishtar, who absorbed several of her functions" (p. 301).
Professor Carnoy fully demonstrates the derivation of certain early so-called "Aryan" beliefs from Chaldea. In the Iranian account of the creation "the great spring Ardvī Sūra Anāhita is the life-increasing, the herd-increasing, the fold-increasing who makes prosperity for all countries (Yt. 5, 1) that precious spring is worshipped as a goddess and is personified as a handsome and stately woman. She is a fair maid, most strong, tall of form, high-girded. Her arms are white and thick as a horse's shoulder or still thicker. She is full of gracefulness" (Yt. 5, 7, 64, 78). "Professor Cumont thinks that Anāhita is Ishtar she is a goddess of fecundation and birth. Moreover in Achæmenian inscriptions Anāhita is associated with Ahura Mazdāh and Mithra, a triad corresponding to the Chaldean triad: Sin-Shamash-Ishtar. Ἀνάιτις in Strabo and other Greek writers is treated as Ἀφροδίτη" (p. 302).
But in Mesopotamia also the same views were entertained as in Egypt of the functions of statues.
"The statues hidden in the recesses of the temples or erected on the summits of the 'Ziggurats' became imbued, by virtue of their consecration, with the actual body of the god whom they represented." Thus Marduk is said to "inhabit his image" (Maspero, op. cit. p. 64).
This is precisely the idea which the Egyptians had. Even at the present day it survives among the Dravidian peoples of India. 2 They make images of their village deities, which may be permanent or only temporary, but in any case they are regarded not as actual deities but as the "bodies" so to speak into which these deities can enter. They are sacred only when they are so animated by the goddess. The
ritual of animation is essentially identical with that found in Ancient Egypt. Libations are poured out; incense is burnt; the bleeding right fore-leg of a buffalo constitutes the blood-offering. 1 When the deity is reanimated by these procedures and its consciousness restored by the blood-offering it can hear appeals and speak.
The same attitude towards their idols was adopted by the Polynesians. "The priest usually addressed the image, into which it was imagined the god entered when anyone came to inquire his will." 2
But there are certain other aspects of these Indian customs that are of peculiar interest. In my Ridgeway essay (op. cit. supra) I referred to the means by which in Nubia the degradation of the oblong Egyptian mastaba gave rise to the simple stone circle. This type spread to the west along the North African littoral, and also to the Eastern desert and Palestine. At some subsequent time mariners from the Red Sea introduced this practice into India.
[It is important to bear in mind that two other classes of stone circles were invented. One of them was derived, not from the mastaba itself, but from the enclosing wall surrounding it (see my Ridgeway essay, Fig. 13, p. 531, and compare with Figs. 3 and 4, p. 510, for illustrations of the transformed mastaba-type). This type of circle (enclosing a dolmen) is found both in the Caucasus-Caspian area as well as in India. A highly developed form of this encircling type of structure is seen in the famous rails surrounding the Buddhist stupas and dagabas. A third and later form of circle, of which Stonehenge is an example, was developed out of the much later New Empire Egyptian conception of a temple.]
But at the same time, as in Nubia, and possibly in Libya, the mastaba was being degraded into the first of the three main varieties of stone circle, other, though less drastic, forms of simplification of the
mastaba were taking place, possibly in Egypt itself, but certainly upon the neighbouring Mediterranean coasts. In some respects the least altered copies of the mastaba are found in the so-called "giant's graves" of Sardinia and the "horned cairns" of the British Isles. But the real features of the Egyptian serdab, which was the essential part, the nucleus so to speak, of the mastaba, are best preserved in the so-called "holed dolmens" of the Levant, the Caucasus, and India. [They also occur sporadically in the West, as in France and Britain.]
Such dolmens and more simplified forms are scattered in Palestine, 1 but are seen to best advantage upon the Eastern Littoral of the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the neighbourhood of the Caspian. They are found only in scattered localities between the Black and Caspian Seas. As de Morgan has pointed out, 2 their distribution is explained by their association with ancient gold and copper mines. They were the tombs of immigrant mining colonies who had settled in these definite localities to exploit these minerals.
Now the same types of dolmens, also associated with ancient mines, 3 are found in India. There is some evidence to suggest that these degraded types of Egyptian mastabas were introduced into India at some time after the adoption of the other, the Nubian modification of the mastaba which is represented by the first variety of stone circle. 4
I have referred to these Indian dolmens for the specific purpose of illustrating the complexities of the processes of diffusion of culture. For not only have several variously specialized degradation-products of the same original type of Egyptian mastaba reached India, possibly by different routes and at different times, but also many of the ideas
that developed out of the funerary ritual in Egypt--of which the mastaba was merely one of the manifestationsmade their way to India at various times and became secondarily blended with other expressions of the same or associated ideas there. I have already referred to the essential elements of the Egyptian funerary ritualthe statues, incense, libations, and the restas still persisting among the Dravidian peoples.
But in the Madras Presidency dolmens are found converted into Siva temples. 1 Now in the inner chamber of the shrinewhich represents the homologue of the serdabin place of the statue or bas-relief of the deceased or of the deity, which is found in some of them (see Plate 1), there is the stone linga-yoni emblem in the position corresponding to that in which, in the later temple in the same locality (Kambaduru), there is an image of Parvati, the consort of Siva.
The earliest deities in Egypt, both Osiris and Hathor, were really expressions of the creative principle. In the case of Hathor, the goddess was, in fact, the personification of the female organs of reproduction. 2 In these early Siva temples in India these principles of creation were given their literal interpretation, and represented frankly as the organs of reproduction of the two sexes. The gods of creation were symbolized by models in stone of the creating organs. Further illustrations of the same principle are witnessed in the Indonesian megalithic monuments which Perry calls "dissoliths". 3
The later Indian temples, both Buddhist and Hindu, were developed from these early dolmens, as Mr. Longhurst's reports so clearly demonstrate. But from time to time there was an influx of new ideas from the West which found expression in a series of modifications of the architecture. Thus India provides an admirable illustration of this principle of culture contact. A series of waves of megalithic culture introduced purely Western ideas. These were developed by the local people in their own way, constantly intermingling a variety of cultural influences to weave them into a distinctive
fabric, which was compounded partly of imported, partly of local threads, woven locally into a truly Indian pattern. In this process of development one can detect the effects of Mycenean accretions (see for example Longhurst's Plate XIII), probably modified during its indirect transmission by Phnician and later influences; and also the more intimate part played by Babylonian, Egyptian, and, later, Greek and Persian art and architecture in directing the course of development of Indian culture.
Incidentally, in the course of the discussions in the foregoing pages, I have referred to the profound influence of Egyptian, Babylonian and Indian ideas in Eastern Asia. Perry's important book (op. cit. supra) reveals their efforts in Indonesia. Thence they spread across the Pacific to America.
In the "Migrations of Early Culture" (p. 114) I called attention to the fact that among the Aztecs water was poured upon the head of the mummy. This ritual procedure was inspired by the Egyptian idea of libations, for, according to Brasseur de Bourbourg, the pouring out of the water was accompanied by the remark "Cest cette eau que to as reçue en venant au monde".
But incense-burning and blood-offering were also practised in America. In an interesting memoir 1 on the practice of blood-letting by piercing the ears and tongue, Mrs. Zelia Nuttall reproduces a remarkable picture from a "partly unpublished MS. of Sahagun's work preserved in Florence". "The image of the sun is held up by a man whose body is partly hidden, and two men, seated opposite to each other in the foreground, are in the act of piercing the helices or external borders of their ears." But in addition to these blood-offerings to the sun, two priests are burning incense in remarkably Egyptian-like censers, and another pair are blowing conch-shell trumpets.
But it was not merely the use of incense and libations and the identities in the wholly arbitrary attributes of the American pantheon that reveal the sources of their derivation in the Old World. When the Spaniards first visited Yucatan they found traces of a Maya baptismal rite which the natives called zihil, signifying "to be born again". At the ceremony also incense was burnt. 2
The forehead, the face, the fingers and toes were moistened. "After they had been thus sprinkled with water, the priest arose and removed the cloths from the heads of the children, and then cut off with a stone knife a certain bead that was attached to the head from childhood." 1
[The custom of wearing such a bead during childhood is found in Egypt at the present day.]
In the case of the girls, their mothers "divested them of a cord which was worn during their childhood, fastened round the loins, having a small shell that hung in front ('una conchuela asida que les venia a dar encima de la parte honesta'Landa). The removal of this signified that they could marry." 2
This use of shells is found in the Soudan and East Africa at the present day. 3 The girdle upon which the shells were hung is the prototype of the cestus of Hathor, Ishtar, Aphrodite, Kali and all the goddesses of fertility in the Old World. It is an admirable illustration of the fact that not only were the finished products, the goddesses and their fantastic repertory of attributes, transmitted to the New World, but also the earliest and most primitive ingredients out of which the complexities of their traits were compounded.
In Chapter III ("The Birth of Aphrodite") I shall explain what an important part the invention of this girdle played in the development of the material side of civilization and the even vaster influence it exerted upon beliefs and ethics. It represents the first stage in the evolution of clothing; and it was responsible for originating the belief in love-philtres and in the possibility of foretelling the future.
It would lead me too far from my main purpose in this book to discuss the widespread geographical distribution and historical associations of the customs of baptism and pouring libations among different peoples. I may, however, refer the reader to an article by Mr. Elsdon Best, entitled "Ceremonial Performances Pertaining to Birth, as Performed by the Maori of New Zealand in Past Times" (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. XLIV, 1914, p. 127), which sheds a clear light upon the general problem.
The whole subject of baptismal ceremonies is well worth detailed study as a remarkable demonstration of the spread of culture in early times.
Click to enlarge
FIG. 6.REPRESENTATION OF THE ANCIENT MEXICAN WORSHIP OF THE SUN
The image of the sun is held up by a man in front of his face; two men blow conch-shell trumpets; another pair burn incense; and a third pair make blood-offerings by piercing their earsafter Zelia Nuttall.
62:1 Donald A. Mackenzie, "Myths of Babylonia and Assyria," p. 44 et seq.
62:2 Dr. Alan Gardiner has protested against the assertions of "some Egyptologists, influenced more by anthropological theorists than by the unambiguous evidence of the Egyptian texts," to the effect that "the funerary rites and practices of the Egyptians were in the main precautionary measures serving to protect the living against the dead" (Article "Life and Death (Egyptian)," Hastings Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics). I should like to emphasize the fact that the "anthropological theorists," who so frequently put forward these claims have little more justification for them than "some p. 63 Egyptologists". Careful study of the best evidence from Babylonia, India, Indonesia, and Japan, reveals the fact that anthropologists who make such claims have in many cases misinterpreted the facts. In an article on "Ancestor Worship" by Professor Nobushige Hozumi in A. Stead's "Japan by the Japanese" (1904) the true point of view is put very clearly: "The origin of ancestor-worship is ascribed by many eminent writers to the dread of ghosts and the sacrifices made to the souls of ancestors for the purpose of propitiating them. It appears to me more correct to attribute the origin of ancestor-worship to a contrary cause. It was the love of ancestors, not the dread of them" [Here he quotes the Chinese philosophers Shiu-ki and Confucius in corroboration] that impelled men to worship. "We celebrate the anniversary of our ancestors, pay visits to their graves, offer flowers, food and drink, burn incense and bow before their tombs, entirely from a feeling of love and respect for their memory, and no question of 'dread' enters our minds in doing so" (pp. 281 and 282). [See, however, Appendix B, p. 74.]
63:1 For, as I have already explained, the idea so commonly and mistakenly conveyed by the term "soul-substance" by writers on Indonesian and Chinese beliefs would be much more accurately rendered simply by the word "life," so that the stealing of it necessarily means death.
64:1 Barton, op. cit. p. 105.
64:2 The evidence set forth in these pages makes it clear that such ideas are not restricted to the Semites: nor is there any reason to suppose that they originated amongst them.
64:3 Albert J. Carnoy, "Iranian Views of Origins in Connexion with Similar Babylonian Beliefs," Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. XXXVI, 1916, pp. 300-20.
64:4 This is Professor Carnoy's summary of Professor Jastrow's views as expressed in his article "Sumerian and Akkadian Views of Beginnings".
65:1 Jastrow's interpretation of a recently-discovered tablet published by Langdon under the title The Sumerian Epic of Paradise, the Flood and the Fall of Man.
65:2 I have already (p. 43) mentioned the fact that it is still preserved in China also.
66:1 Henry Whitehead (Bishop of Madras), "The Village Deities of Southern India," Madras Government Museum, Bull., Vol. V, No. 3, 1907; Wilber Theodore Elmore, "Dravidian Gods in Modern Hinduism: A Study of the Local and Village Deities of Southern India," University Studies: University of Nebraska, Vol. XV, No. 1, Jan., 1915. Compare the sacrifice of the fore-leg of a living calf in EgyptA. E. P. B. Weigall, "An Ancient Egyptian Funeral Ceremony," Journal of Egyptian Archæology, Vol. II, 1915, p. 10. Early literary references from Babylonia suggest that a similar method of offering blood was practised there.
66:2 William Ellis, "Polynesian Researches," 2nd edition, 1832, Vol. I, p. 373.
67:1 See H. Vincent, "Canaan daprès lexploration récente," Paris, 1907, p. 395.
67:2 "Les Premières Civilizations," Paris, 1909, p. 404: Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse, Tame VIII, archéol.; and Mission Scientifique au Caucase, Tome I.
67:3 W. J. Perry, "The Relationship between the Geographical Distribution of Megalithic Monuments and Ancient Mines," Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Vol. 60, Part I, 24th Nov., 1915.
67:4 The evidence for this is being prepared for publication by Captain Leonard Munn, R.E., who has personally collected the data in Hyderabad.
68:1 Annual Report of the Archæological Department, Southern Circle, Madras, for the year 1915-1916. See for example Mr. A. H. Longhurst's photographs and plans (Plates I-IV) and especially that of the old Siva temple at Kambaduru, Plate IV (b).
68:2 As I shall show in "The Birth of Aphrodite" (Chapter III).
68:3 W. J. Perry, "The Megalithic Culture of Indonesia".
69:1 "A Penitential Rite of the Ancient Mexicans," Archæological and Ethnological Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Vol. I, No. 7, 1904.
69:2 Bancroft, op. cit. Vol. II, pp. 682 and 683.
70:1 Op. cit. p. 684.
70:3 See J. Wilfrid Jackson, op. cit. supra.