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PRIMITIVE RELIGION AND MYTHOLOGY.

CHAPTER I.

ARYANS AND POLYNESIANS.

{Greek Nómikse sautw^j toûs goneîs è?inai Ðeoús}

THE religious feeling may be traced to the natural veneration of the child for the parent, joined to an innate belief in the immortality of the soul. What we know of the primitive religion of Aryans and Polynesians points to this source. They both venerated the spirits of deceased ancestors, believing that these spirits took an interest in their living descendants: moreover, they feared them, and were careful to observe the precepts handed down by tradition, as having been delivered by them while alive.

The souls of men deified by death were by the Latins called "Lares" or "Mânes," by the Greeks "Demons" or "Heroes." Their tombs were the temples of these divinities, and bore the inscription "Dis manibus," "{Greek Ðeoìs xðóniois};" and before the tomb was an altar for sacrifice. The term used by the Greeks and Romans to signify the worship of the dead is significant. The former used the word

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"{Greek patriáksein}" the latter "parentare," showing that the prayers were addressed to forefathers. "I prevail over my enemies," says the Brahmin, "by the incantations which my ancestors and my father have handed down to me."[1]

Similar to this was the common belief of the Maori of Polynesia, and still exists. A Maori of New Zealand writes thus: "The origin of knowledge of our native customs was from Tiki (the progenitor of the human race). Tiki taught laws to regulate work, slaying, man-eating: from him men first learnt to observe laws for this thing, and for that thing, the rites to be used for the dead, the invocation for the new-born child, for battle in the field, for the assault of fortified places, and other invocations very numerous. Tiki was the first instructor, and from him descended his instructions to our forefathers, and have abided to the present time. For this reason they have power. Thus says the song:--

E tama, tapu-nui, tapu-whakaharahara,
He mauri wehewehe na o tupuna,
Na Tiki, na Rangi, na Papa.

O child, very sacred--very, very sacred,
Shrine set apart by your ancestors,
By Tiki, by Rangi, by Papa.

The researches of philologists tend to show that all known languages are derived from one original parent source. The parent language from which the Aryan and Polynesian languages are derived must have been spoken at a very remote time; for no two forms of

[1. La Cité Antique par De Coulange.]

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language are now more diverse than these two are. In the Polynesian there is but the slightest trace of inflexion of words which is a general character of Aryan languages. The Polynesian language seems to have retained a very primitive form, remaining fixed and stationary; and this is confirmed by the fact that the forms of Polynesian language, whether spoken in the Sandwich Islands or in New Zealand, though their remoteness from each other indicates a very early separation, differ to so small a degree that they may be regarded as only different dialects of the same language. The Maori language is essentially conservative, containing no principle in its structure facilitating change. The component parts or roots of words are always apparent.

When we consider the great remoteness of time at which it is possible that a connection between Aryans and Polynesians could have existed, we are carried back to the contemplation of a very primitive condition of the human race. In the Polynesian family we can still discover traces of this primitive condition. We can also observe a similarity between the more antient form of religious belief and mythological tradition of the Aryans and that still existing among Polynesians; for which reason we think it allowable to apply to the interpretation of old Aryan myths the principle we discover to guide us as to the signification of Polynesian Mythology.

It was a favourite opinion with Christian apologists, Eusebius and others, that the Pagan deities represented deified men. Others consider them to signify

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the powers of external nature personified. For others they are, in many cases, impersonations of human passions and propensities reflected back from the mind of man. A fourth mode of interpretation would treat them as copies distorted and depraved of a primitive system of religion given by God to man.[1]

The writer does not give any opinion as to which of these theories he would give a preference. If, however, we look at the mythology of Greek and Latin Aryans from the Maori point of view the explanation of their myths is simple.

This mythology personified and deified the Powers of Nature, and represented them as the ancestors of all mankind; so these personified Powers of Nature were worshipped as deified ancestors. There is no authority for any other supposition. With regard to the two latter theories above referred to it may be remarked that fiction is always liable to be interpreted in a manner conformable to the ideas prevailing at any particular time, so that there would be a natural tendency, in modern times, to apply meanings never originally thought of to the interpretation of mythology. Man in early days, ignorant of the causes of natural phenomena, yet having a mind curious to inquire and trace observed effects to some cause, formulated his conceptions on imaginary grounds, which, although now manifestly false and absurd, yet were probably sufficiently credible in the infancy of knowledge.

There is a notable mental condition of the Polynesian

[1. Juventus mundi, p. 203.]

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to which we desire to direct attention. The Maori has a very limited notion of the abstract. All his ideas take naturally a concrete form. This inaptitude to conceive any abstract notions was, it is believed, the early mental condition of man. Hence the Powers of Nature were regarded by him as concrete objects, and were consequently designated as persons. And this opinion is confirmed by the fact that the researches of comparative philologists give proof that all words are, in their origin or roots, expressive of visible and sensuous phenomena,[1] and consequently that all abstract words are derivable from such roots. The absence, too, of all abstract and metaphysical ideas from Homer has been noticed by Mr Gladstone as very remarkable.

I have seen it stated in print that the New Zealander has no sentiment of gratitude; in proof of which it was mentioned that he has no word in his language to express gratitude. This is true; but the reason is that gratitude is an abstract word, and that Maori is deficient in abstract terms. It is an error to infer that he is ignorant of the sentiment of gratitude, or that he is unable to express that sentiment in appropriate arid intelligible words.

ARYAN MYTHOLOGY

The Aryans do not appear to have had any tradition of a Creation. They seem to have conceived of the Powers of Nature very much in the same way as the

[1. Max Müller, "Science of Language." Farrar, "Chapters on Language," p. 6.]

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Maori did,--namely, that the mysterious power of Generation was the operative cause of all things.

Hesiod in his Theogony relates that the first parent of all was Chaos.

From Chaos sprung Gaia (=Earth), Tartarus, Eros (=Love), Erebus, a dark son, Night, a dark daughter, and lastly, Day.

From Gaia alone sprung Ouranos (=Heaven), Hills, Groves, and Thalassa (=Sea).

From Heaven and Earth sprung Okeanos (=Ocean), Japetus, Kronos (=Saturn), Titans.

Hesiod also relates how Heaven confined his children in the dark caverns of Earth, and how Kronos avenged himself.

In the "Works and Days" Hesiod gives an account of the formation of the first human female out of Earth, from the union of whom, with Epimetheus, son of the Titan Japetus, sprung the human race.

So far Hesiod's account may be derived from Aryan myths. The latter and greater part, however, of Hesiod's Theogony cannot be accepted as a purely Aryan tradition; for colonists from Egypt and Phnicia had settled in Greece, at an early period, and had brought with them alien mythical fables which were adopted in a modified form, in addition to the antient family religion of worship of ancestors.

Herodotus asserts that Homer and Hesiod made the Theogony of the Greeks; and to a certain extent this may be true, for the bard was then invested with a kind of sacredness, and what he sung was held to be the

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effect of an inspiration. When he invoked the Muses his invocation was not a mere formal set of words introduced for the sake of ornament, but an act of homage due to the Divinities addressed, whose aid he solicited.[1]

The traditions prevalent in Botia would naturally be strongly imbued with fables of foreign origin; and Hesiod, who was a Botian by birth, by collecting these local traditions and presenting them to the public in an attractive form, no doubt contributed, as well as Homer, to establish a national form of religion, made up of old Aryan tradition and what had been imported by Phoenician and Egyptian colonists.

Thus Zeus and the other Olympian deities formed the centre of a national religious system; but at the same time the old Aryan religion of worship of ancestors maintained a paramount influence, and every tribe and every family had its separate form of worship of its own ancestors. The prayer of the son of Achilles, when in the act of sacrificing, Polyxena to the manes of his father, is a striking instance of the prevalent belief that the deified spirits of ancestors had power to influence the destinies of the living.

"O son of Peleus, my father, receive from me this libation, appeasing, alluring, the dead. Come now, that you may drink the black pure blood of a virgin, which we give to thee--both I and the army. And be kindly disposed to us, and grant us to loose the sterns

[1. Hom. Il., 2-484. Invocat. to Muses:--

Tell me now, O Muses, ye who dwell in Olympus;
For ye are goddesses, and are present, and know all things,
But we hear only rumour, and know not anything.

]

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of our ships, and the cables fastening to the shore, and all to reach home favoured with a prosperous return from Ilium."[1]

Euripides would not have put these words into the mouth of the son of Achilles had they not been in accord with the sympathies of an Athenian audience.

Comparing the Greek mythological traditions, such as they have come down to us, with those of the Maori, some striking resemblance is to be observed. First, there is the fact that both treat the elements of nature, and abstract notions as persons capable of propagating from each other by generation. In both Light springs out of Darkness. The sons of Heaven and Earth in both accounts conspire against their father for the same reason-that their father had confined them in darkness. And lastly the first human female, in both, is said to have been formed out of earth. The first woman, in the Maori Mythology, drags down her offspring to Po (=Night), meaning to death. And the first woman of the Greek Mythology, Pendora, {sic--Pandora} introduces all kinds of afflictions as an heritage for hers.

It is also to be noticed that just as Zeus and the Olympian Gods were national deities for Greeks, so their old mythical deities--Po, Rangi, Papa, Tiki, &c., were invoked alike by the whole Maori race, especially in the ceremonies required to free a person from the sacred restrictions comprised under the term tapu. They were the Maori national Gods, for they were their common ancestors. But at the same time

[1. Hecuba, l. 533-9.]

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every Maori tribe and family invoked independently each its own tribal and family ancestors, just as was the practice of the Greeks and Latins.

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Next: Chapter II. Maori Cosmogony and Mythology