Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 225The heaven of each is but what each desires."
Heaven was born of the sky,[391:1] and nurtured by cunning priests, who made man a coward and a slave.
Hell was built by priests, and nurtured by the fears and servile fancies of man during the ages when dungeons of torture were a recognized part of every government, and when God was supposed to be an infinite tyrant, with infinite resources of vengeance.
The devil is an imaginary being, invented by primitive man to account for the existence of evil, and relieve God of his responsibility. The famous Hindoo Rakshasas of our Aryan ancestors—the dark and evil clouds personified—are the originals of all devils. The cloudy shape has assumed a thousand different forms, horrible or grotesque and ludicrous, to suit the changing fancies of the ages.
But strange as it may appear, the god of one nation became the devil of another.
The rock of Behistun, the sculptured chronicle of the glories of Darius, king of Persia, situated on the western frontier of Media, on the high-road from Babylon to the eastward, was used as a "holy of holies." It was named Bagistane—"the place of the Baga"—referring to Ormuzd, chief of the Bagas. When examined with the lenses of linguistic science, the "Bogie" or "Bug-a-boo" or "Bugbear" of nursery lore, turns out to be identical with the Slavonic "Bog" and the "Baga" of the cuneiform inscriptions, both of which are names of the Supreme Being. It is found also in the old Aryan "Bhaga," who is described in a commentary of the Rig-Veda as the lord of life, the giver of bread, and the bringer of happiness. Thus, the same name which, to the Vedic poet, to the Persian of the time of Xerxes, and to the modern Russian, suggests the supreme majesty of deity, is in English associated with an ugly and ludicrous fiend. Another striking illustration is to be found in the word devil itself. When traced back to its primitive source, it is found to be a name of the Supreme Being.[391:2]
The ancients had a great number of festival days, many of which are handed down to the present time, and are to be found in Christianity.
We have already seen that the 25th of December was almost a universal festival among the ancients; so it is the same with the spring festivals, when days of fasting are observed.
The Hindoos hold a festival, called Siva-ratri, in honor of Siva, about the middle or end of February. A strict fast is observed during the day. They have also a festival in April, when a strict fast is kept by some.[392:1]
At the spring equinox most nations of antiquity set apart a day to implore the blessings of their god, or gods, on the fruits of the earth. At the autumnal equinox, they offered the fruits of the harvest, and returned thanks. In China, these religious solemnities are called "Festivals of gratitude to Tien."[392:2] The last named corresponds to our "Thanksgiving" celebration.
One of the most considerable festivals held by the ancient Scandinavians was the spring celebration. This was held in honor of Odin, at the beginning of spring, in order to welcome in that pleasant season, and to obtain of their god happy success in their projected expeditions.
Another festival was held toward the autumn equinox, when they were accustomed to kill all their cattle in good condition, and lay in a store of provision for the winter. This festival was also attended with religious ceremonies, when Odin, the supreme god, was thanked for what he had given them, by having his altar loaded with the fruits of their crops, and the choicest products of the earth.[392:3]
There was a grand celebration in Egypt, called the "Feast of Lamps," held at Sais, in honor of the goddess Neith. Those who did not attend the ceremony, as well as those who did, burned lamps before their houses all night, filled with oil and salt: thus all Egypt was illuminated. It was deemed a great irreverence to the goddess for any one to omit this ceremony.[392:4]
The Hindoos also held a festival in honor of the goddesses Lakshmi and Bhavanti, called "The feast of Lamps."[392:5] This festival has been handed down to the present time in what is called "Candlemas day," or the purification of the Virgin Mary.
The most celebrated Pagan festival held by modern Christians is that known as "Sunday," or the "Lord's day."
All the principal nations of antiquity kept the seventh day of the week as a "holy day," just as the ancient Israelites did. This was owing to the fact that they consecrated the days of the week to the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The seventh day was sacred to Saturn from time [Pg 393]immemorial. Homer and Hesiod call it the "Holy Day."[393:1] The people generally visited the temples of the gods, on that day, and offered up their prayers and supplications.[393:2] The Acadians, thousands of years ago, kept holy the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th of each month as Salum (rest), on which certain works were forbidden.[393:3] The Arabs anciently worshiped Saturn under the name of Hobal. In his hands he held seven arrows, symbols of the planets that preside over the seven days of the week.[393:4] The Egyptians assigned a day of the week to the sun, moon, and five planets, and the number seven was held there in great reverence.[393:5]
The planet Saturn very early became the chief deity of Semitic religion. Moses consecrated the number seven to him.[393:6]
In the old conception, which finds expression in the Decalogue in Deuteronomy (v. 15), the Sabbath has a purely theocratic significance, and is intended to remind the Hebrews of their miraculous deliverance from the land of Egypt and bondage. When the story of Creation was borrowed from the Babylonians, the celebration of the Sabbath was established on entirely new grounds (Ex. xx. 11), for we find it is because the "Creator," after his six days of work, rested on the seventh, that the day should be kept holy.
The Assyrians kept this day holy. Mr. George Smith says:
"In the year 1869, I discovered among other things a curious religious calendar of the Assyrians, in which every month is divided into four weeks, and the seventh days or 'Sabbaths,' are marked out as days on which no work should be undertaken.[393:7]
The question now arises, how was the great festival day changed [Pg 394]from the seventh—Saturn's day—to the