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: 316The gods and goddesses of the ancient Persians were also personifications of the Sun, Moon, Stars, the elements, &c.
Ormuzd, "The King of Light," was god of the Firmament, and the "Principle of Goodness" and of Truth. He was called "The Eternal Source of Sunshine and Light," "The Centre of all that exists," "The First-born of the Eternal One," "The Creator," "The Sovereign Intelligence," "The All-seeing," "The Just Judge." He was described as "sitting on the throne of the good and the perfect, in regions of pure light," crowned with rays, and with a ring on his finger—a circle being an emblem of infinity; sometimes as a venerable, majestic man, seated on a Bull, their emblem of creation.
"Mithras the Mediator" was the god-Sun. Their most splendid ceremonials were in honor of Mithras. They kept his birth-day, with many rejoicings, on the twenty-fifth of December, when the Sun perceptibly begins to return northward, after his long winter journey; and they had another festival in his honor, at the vernal equinox. Perhaps no religious festival was ever more splendid than the "Annual Salutation of Mithras," during which forty days were set apart for thanksgiving and sacrifice. The procession to salute the god was formed long before the rising of the Sun. The High Priest was followed by a long train of the Magi, in spotless white robes, chanting hymns, and carrying the sacred fire on silver censers. Then came three hundred and sixty-five youths in scarlet, to represent the days of the year and the color of fire. These were followed by the Chariot of the Sun, empty, decorated with garlands, and drawn by superb white horses harnessed with pure gold. Then came a white horse of magnificent size, his forehead blazing with gems, in honor of Mithras. Close behind him rode the king, in a chariot of ivory inlaid with gold, followed by his royal kindred in embroidered garments, and a long train of nobles riding on camels richly caparisoned. This gorgeous retinue, facing the East, slowly ascended Mount Orontes. Arrived at the summit, the High Priest assumed his tiara wreathed with myrtle, and hailed the first rays of the rising Sun with incense and prayer. The other Magi gradually joined him in singing hymns to Ormuzd, the source of all blessing, [Pg 549]by whom the radiant Mithras had been sent to gladden the earth and preserve the principle of life. Finally, they all joined in one universal chorus of praise, while king, princes and nobles, prostrated themselves before the orb of day.
The Hebrews worshiped the Sun, Moon, Stars, and "all the host of heaven."[549:1] El-Shaddai was one of the names given to the god Sun. Parkhurst, in his "Hebrew Lexicon," says, "El was the very name the heathens gave to their god Sol, their Lord or Ruler of the hosts of heaven." El, which means "the strong one in heaven"—the Sun, was invoked by the ancestors of all the Semitic nations, before there were Babylonians in Babylon, Phenicians in Sydon and Tyrus, before there were Jews in Mesopotamia or Jerusalem.[549:2]
The Sun was worshiped by the Hebrews under the names of Baal, Moloch, Chemosh, &c.; the Moon was Ashtoreth, the "Queen of Heaven."[549:3]
The gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans were the same as the gods of the Indian epic poems. We have, for example: Zeupiter (Jupiter), corresponding to Dyaus-pitar (the Heaven-father), Juno, corresponding to Parvati (the Mother Goddess), and Apollo, corresponding to Crishna (the Sun, the Saviour).[549:4] Another name for the Sun among those people was Bacchus. An Orphic verse, referring to the Sun, says, "he is called Dionysos (a name of Bacchus) because he is carried with a circular motion through the immensely extended heavens."[549:5]
Dr. Prichard, in his "Analysis of Egyptian Mythology,"[549:6] speaking of the ancient Greeks and Romans, says:
"That the worship of the powers of nature, mitigated, indeed, and embellished, constituted the foundation of the Greek and Roman religion, will not be disputed by any person who surveys the fables of the Olympian Gods with a more penetrating eye than that of a mere antiquarian."
M. De Coulanges, speaking of them, says:
"The Sun, which gives fecundity; the Earth, which nourishes; the Clouds, by turns beneficent and destructive,—such were the different powers of which they could make gods. But from each one of these elements thousands of gods were created; because the same physical agent, viewed under different aspects, received from men different names. The Sun, for example, was called in one place Hercules (the glorious); in another, Phœbus (the shining); and still again, Apollo (he who drives away night or evil); one called him Hyperion (the elevated being); another, Alexicacos (the beneficent); and in the course of time groups of men, who had given these various names to the brilliant luminary, no longer saw that they had the same god."[549:7]
Richard Payne Knight says:
"The primitive religion of the Greeks, like that of all other nations not enlightened by Revelation, appears to have been elementary, and to have consisted in an indistinct worship of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Earth, and the Waters, or rather, the spirits supposed to preside over these bodies, and to direct their motions, and regulate their modes of existence. Every river, spring or mountain had its local genius, or peculiar deity; and as men naturally endeavored to obtain the favor of their gods by such means as they feel best adapted to win their own, the first worship consisted in offering to them certain portions of whatever they held to be most valuable. At the same time, the regular motions of the heavenly bodies, the stated returns of summer and winter, of day and night, with all the admirable order of the universe, taught them to believe in the existence and agency of such superior powers; the irregular and destructive efforts of nature, such as lightnings and tempests, inundations and earthquakes, persuaded them that these mighty beings had passions and affections similar to their own, and only differed in possessing greater strength, power, and intelligence."[550:1]
When the Grecian astronomers first declared that the Sun was not a person, but a huge hot ball, instantly an outcry arose against them. They were called "blaspheming atheists," and from that time to the present, when any new discovery is made which seems to take away from man his god, the cry of "Atheist" is instantly raised.
If we turn from the ancient Greeks and Romans, and take a look still farther West and North, we shall find that the gods of all the Teutonic nations were the same as we have seen elsewhere. They had Odin or Woden—from whom we have our Wednesday—the Al-fader (the Sky), Frigga, the Mother Goddess (the Earth), "Baldur the Good," and Thor—from whom we have our Thursday (personifications of the Sun), besides innumerable other genii, among them Freyja—from whom we have our Friday—and as she was the "Goddess of Love," we eat fish on that day.[550:2]
The gods of the ancient inhabitants of what are now called the "British Islands" were identically the same. The Sun-god worshiped by the Ancient Druids was called