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The Homeric Hymns A New Prose translation and Essays, Literary and Mythological

Page: 22

The “Book of the Dead” was a guidebook of the itinerary of Egyptian souls. Very probably similar instruction was given to the initiate at Eleusis. But the Fijians also have p. 91a regular theory of what is to be done and avoided on “The Path of the Shades.” The shade is ferried by Ceba (Charon) over Wainiyalo (Lethe); he reaches the mystic pandanus tree (here occurs a rite); he meets, and dodges, Drodroyalo and the two devouring Goddesses; he comes to a spring, and drinks, and forgets sorrow at Wai-na-dula, the “Water of Solace.” After half-a-dozen other probations and terrors, he reaches the Gods, “the dancing-ground and the white quicksand; and then the young Gods dance before them and sing. . . . ” {91a}

Now turn to Plutarch. {91b} Plutarch compares the soul’s mortal experience with that of the initiate in the Mysteries. “There are wanderings, darkness, fear, trembling, shuddering, horror, then a marvellous light: pure places and meadows, dances, songs, and holy apparitions.” Plutarch might be summarising p. 92the Fijian belief. Again, take the mystic golden scroll, found in a Greek grave at Petilia. It describes in hexameters the Path of the Shade: the spring and the white cypress on the left: “Do not approach it. Go to the other stream from the Lake of Memory; tell the Guardians that you are the child of Earth and of the starry sky, but that yours is a heavenly lineage; and they will give you to drink of that water, and you shall reign with the other heroes.”

Tree, and spring, and peaceful place with dance, song, and divine apparitions, all are Fijian, all are Greek, yet nothing is borrowed by Fiji from Greece. Many other Greek inscriptions cited by M. Foucart attest similar beliefs. Very probably such precepts as those of the Petilia scroll were among the secret instructions of Eleusis. But they are not so much Egyptian as human. Chibiabos is assuredly not borrowed from Osiris, nor the Fijian faith from the “Book of the Dead.” “Sacred things,” not to be shown to man, still less to woman, date from the “medicine p. 93bag” of the Red Indian, the mystic tribal bundles of the Pawnees, and the churinga, and bark “native portmanteaux,” of which Mr. Carnegie brought several from the Australian desert.

Demeter and <strong><a href=Persephone sending Triptolemos on his mission. Marble relief found at Eleusis—now in Athens" src="images/lang92s.jpg" />

For all Greek Mysteries a satisfactory savage analogy can be found. These spring straight from human nature: from the desire to place customs, and duties, and taboos under divine protection; from the need of strengthening them, and the influence of the elders, by mystic sanctions; from the need of fortifying and trying the young by probations of strength, secrecy, and fortitude; from the magical expulsion of hostile influences; from the sympathetic magic of early agriculture; from study of the processes of nature regarded as personal; and from guesses, surmises, visions, and dreams as to the fortunes of the wandering soul on its way to its final home. I have shown all these things to be human, universal, not sprung from one race in one region. Greek Mysteries are based on all these natural early p. 94conceptions of life and death. The early Greeks, like other races, entertained these primitive, or very archaic ideas. Greece had no need to borrow from Egypt; and, though Egypt was within reach, Greece probably developed freely her original stock of ideas in her own fashion, just as did the Incas, Aztecs, Australians, Ojibbeways, and the other remote peoples whom I have selected. The argument of M. Foucart, I think, is only good as long as we are ignorant of the universally diffused forms of religious belief which correspond to the creeds of Eleusis or of Egypt. In the Greek Mysteries we have the Greek guise,—solemn, wistful, hopeful, holy, and pure, yet not uncontaminated with archaic buffoonery,—of notions and rites, hopes and fears, common to all mankind. There is no other secret.


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