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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: 317

Hu, Beli, Budd and Buddu-gre.[550:3]

The same worship which we have found in the Old World, from the farthest East to the remotest West, may also be traced in America, from its simplest or least clearly defined form, among the roving hunters and squalid Esquimaux of the North, through every intermediate stage of development, to the imposing systems of Mexico and Peru, where it took a form nearly corresponding that which it at one time sustained on the banks of the Ganges, and on the plains of Assyria.[550:4]

[Pg 551]

Father Acosta, speaking of the Mexicans, says:

"Next to Viracocha, or their Supreme God, that which most commonly they have, and do adore, is the Sun; and after, those things which are most remarkable in the celestial or elementary nature, as the Moon, Stars, Sea, and Land.

"Whoso shall merely look into it, shall find this manner which the Devil hath used to deceive the Indians, to be the same wherewith he hath deceived the Greeks and Romans, and other ancient Gentiles, giving them to understand that these notable creatures, the Sun, Moon, Stars, and elements, had power or authority to do good or harm to men."[551:1]

We see, then, that the gods and heroes of antiquity were originally personifications of certain elements of Nature, and that the legends of adventures ascribed to them are merely mythical forms of describing the phenomena of these elements.

These legends relating to the elements of Nature, whether they had reference to the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, or a certain natural phenomenon, became, in the course of time, to be regarded as accounts of men of a high order, who had once inhabited the earth. Sanctuaries and temples were erected to these heroes, their bones were searched for, and when found—which was always the case—were regarded as a great source of strength to the town that possessed them; all relics of their stay on earth were hallowed, and a form of worship was specially adapted to them.

The idea that heavenly luminaries were inhabited by spirits, of a nature intermediate between God and men, first led mortals to address prayers to the orbs over which they were supposed to preside. In order to supplicate these deities, when Sun, Moon, and Stars were not visible, they made images of them, which the priests consecrated with many ceremonies. Then they pronounced solemn invocations to draw down the spirits into the statues provided for their reception. By this process it was supposed that a mysterious connection was established between the spirit and the image, so that prayers addressed to one were thenceforth heard by the other. This was probably the origin of image worship everywhere.

The motive of this worship was the same among all nations of antiquity, i. e., fear. They supposed that these deities were irritated by the sins of men, but, at the same time, were merciful, and capable of being appeased by prayer and repentance; for this reason men offered to these deities sacrifices and prayers. How natural that such should have been the case, for, as Abbé Dubois observes: "To the rude, untutored eye, the 'Host of Heaven,' clothed in that calm beauty which distinguishes an Oriental night, might well appear to be instinct with some divine principle, endowed with consciousness, and the power to influence, from its throne of unchanging splendor on high, the fortunes of transitory mortals."


FOOTNOTES:


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