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: 321That the peasant folk-lore of modern Europe still displays [Pg 559]episodes of nature-myth, may be seen in the following story of Vassalissa, the Beautiful.
Vassalissa's stepmother and two sisters, plotting against her life, send her to get a light at the house of Bàba Yagà, the witch, and her journey contains the following history of the Day, told, as Mr. Tylor says, in truest mythic fashion:
"Vassalissa goes and wanders, wanders in the forest. She goes, and she shudders. Suddenly before her bounds a rider, he himself white, and clad in white, and the trappings white. And Day began to dawn. She goes farther, when a second rider bounds forth, himself red, clad in red, and on a red horse. The Sun began to rise. She goes on all day, and towards evening arrives at the witch's house. Suddenly there comes again a rider, himself black, clad in all black, and on a black horse; he bounded to the gates of the Bàba Yagà, and disappeared as if he had sunk through the earth. Night fell. After this, when Vassalissa asks the witch, 'Who was the white rider?' she answered, 'That is my clear Day;' 'Who was the red rider?' 'That is my red Sun;' 'Who was the black rider?' 'That is my black Night. They are all my trusty friends.'"[559:1]
We have another illustration of allegorical mythology in the Grecian story of splitting open with his axe the head of Zeus, and Athene springing from it, full armed; for we perceive behind this savage imagery Zeus as the bright Sky, his forehead the East, Hephæstos as the young, not yet risen Sun, and Athene as the Dawn, the daughter of the Sky, stepping forth from the fountain-head of light,—with eyes like an owl, pure as a virgin; the golden; lighting up the tops of the mountains, and her own glorious Parthenon in her own favorite town of Athens; whirling the shafts of light; the genial warmth of the morning; the foremost champion in the battle between night and day; in full armor, in her panoply of light, driving away the darkness of night, and awakening men to a bright life, to bright thoughts, to bright endeavors.[559:2]
Another story of the same sort is that of Kronos. Every one is familiar with the story of Kronos, who devoured his own children. Now, Kronos is a mere creation from the older and misunderstood epithet Kronides or Kronion, the ancient of days. When these days or time had come to be regarded as a person the myth would certainly follow that he devoured his own children, as Time is the devourer of the Dawns.[559:3] Saturn, who devours his own children, is the same power whom the Greeks called Kronos (Time), which may truly be said to destroy whatever it has brought into existence.
The idea of a Heaven, the "Elysian fields," is also born of the sky.
The "Elysian plain" is far away in the West, where the sun [Pg 560]goes down beyond the bonds of the earth, when Eos gladdens the close of day as she sheds her violet tints over the sky. The "Abodes of the Blessed" are golden islands sailing in a sea of blue,—the burnished clouds floating in the pure ether. Grief and sorrow cannot approach them; plague and sickness cannot touch them. The blissful company gathered together in that far Western land inherits a tearless eternity.
Of the other details in the picture the greater number would be suggested directly by these images drawn from the phenomena of sunset and twilight. What spot or stain can be seen on the deep blue ocean in which the "Islands of the Blessed" repose forever? What unseemly forms can mar the beauty of that golden home, lighted by the radiance of a Sun which can never set? Who then but the pure in heart, the truthful and the generous, can be suffered to tread the violet fields? And how shall they be tested save by judges who can weigh the thoughts and the interests of the heart? Thus every soul, as it drew near that joyous land, was brought before the august tribunal of Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Aiakos; and they whose faith was in truth a quickening power, might draw from the ordeals those golden lessons which Plato has put into the mouth of Socrates, and some unknown persons into the mouths of Buddha and Jesus. The belief of earlier ages pictured to itself the meetings in that blissful land, the forgiveness of old wrongs, and the reconciliation of deadly feuds,[560:1] just as the belief of the present day pictures these things to itself.
The story of a War in Heaven, which was known to all nations of antiquity, is allegorical, and refers to the battle between light and darkness, sunshine and storm cloud.[560:2]
As examples of the prevalence of the legend relating to the struggle between the co-ordinate powers of good and evil, light and darkness, the Sun and the clouds, we have that of Phoibos and Python, Indra and Vritra, Sigurd and Fafuir, Achilleus and Paris, Oidipous and the Sphinx, Ormuzd and Ahriman, and from the character of the struggle between Indra and Vritra, and again [Pg 561]between Ormuzd and Ahriman, we infer that a myth, purely physical, in the land of the Five Streams, assumed a moral and spiritual meaning in Persia, and the fight between the co-ordinate powers of good and evil, gave birth to the dualism which from that time to the present has exercised so mighty an influence through the East and West.
The Apocalypse exhibits Satan with the physical attributes of Ahriman; he is called the "dragon," the "old serpent," who fights against God and his angels. The Vedic myth, transformed and exaggerated in the Iranian books,