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: 319

[544:1] "All Paganism is at bottom a worship of nature in some form or other, and in all Pagan religions the deepest and most awe-inspiring attribute of nature was its power of reproduction." (Encyclo. Brit., art. "Christianity.")

[544:2] In Montfaucon's L'Antiquité Expliquée (vol. i.), may be seen a representation of the seven planets personified. It was by such personifications that the real objects worshiped became unknown. At first the real Sun, Moon, Stars, &c., would be worshiped, but as soon as man personified them, other terms would be introduced, and peculiar rites appropriated to each, so that in time they came to be considered as so many different deities.

[545:1] Thornton: Hist. China, vol. i. pp. 14, 49 and 50.

[545:2] Max Müller: The Science of Religion, p. 298.

[545:3] Indian Wisdom, p. 10.

[546:1] The emblem of Parvati, the "Mother Goddess," was the Yoni, and that of her consort Siva, the Lingham.

[546:2] Williams' Hinduism, p. 213.

[546:3] See Cox: Aryan Mytho., vol. ii. pp. 105 and 130.

[546:4] Ibid. p. 135.

[546:5] Ibid. p. 137.

[546:6] See Ibid. p. 88, and Moor's Hindu Pantheon, p. 63.

[547:1] "According to Champollion, the tomb of Ramses V. at Thebes, contains tables of the constellations and of their influence (on human beings) for every hour of every month of the year." (Kenrick's Egypt, vol. i. p. 456.)

[547:2] P. 118.

[549:2] Müller: The Science of Relig., p. 190.

[549:4] See Indian Wisdom, p. 426.

[549:5] Taylor's Mysteries, p. 163.

[549:6] Page 239.

[549:7] The Ancient City, p. 162.

[550:1] Ancient Art and Mythology, p. 1.

[550:2] See Mallet's Northern Antiquities. Though spoken of in Northern mythology as distinct, Frigga and Freyja are originally ONE.

[550:3] See Myths of the British Druids, p. 116.

[550:4] See Squire's Serpent Symbol.

[551:1] Acosta: vol. ii. pp. 303-305.

[Pg 552]


All the chief stories that we know so well are to be found in all times, and in almost all countries. Cinderella, for one, is told in the language of every country in Europe, and the same legend is found in the fanciful tales related by the Greek poets; and still further back, it appears in very ancient Hindoo legends. So, again, does Beauty and the Beast; so does our familiar tale of Jack, the Giant-Killer; so also do a great number of other fairy stories, each being told in different countries and in different periods, with so much likeness as to show that all the versions came from the same source, and yet with enough difference to show that none of the versions are directly copied from each other. "Indeed, when we compare the myths and legends of one country with another, and of one period with another, we find out how they have come to be so much alike, and yet in some things so different. We see that there must have been one origin for all these stories, that they must have been invented by one people, that this people must have been afterwards divided, and that each part or division of it must have brought into its new home the legends once common to them all, and must have shaped and altered these according to the kind of place in which they came to live; those of the North being sterner and more terrible, those of the South softer and fuller of light and color, and adorned with touches of more delicate fancy." And this, indeed, is really the case. All the chief stories and legends are alike, because they were first made by one people; and all the nations in which they are now told in one form or another tell them because they are all descended from this one common stock, the Aryan.

From researches made by Prof. Max Müller, the Rev. George W. Cox, and others, in England and Germany, in the science of Comparative Mythology, we begin to see something of these ancient forefathers of ours; to understand what kind of people they were, and to find that our fairy stories are really made out of their religion.

The mind of the Aryan peoples in their ancient home was full of imagination. They never ceased to wonder at what they saw and heard in the sky and upon the earth. Their language was highly figurative, and so the things which struck them with wonder, and which they could not explain, were described under forms and names which were familiar to them. "Thus, the thunder was to them the bellowing of a mighty beast, or the rolling of a great chariot. In the lightning they saw a brilliant serpent, or a spear shot across the sky, or a great fish darting swiftly through the sea of cloud. The clouds were heavenly cows, who shed milk upon the earth and refreshed it; or they were webs woven by heavenly [Pg 553]women who drew water from the fountains on high and poured it down as rain." Analogies which are but fancy to us, were realities to these men of past ages. They could see in the waterspout a huge serpent who elevated himself out of the ocean and reached his head to the skies. They could feel, in the pangs of hunger, a live creature gnawing within their bodies, and they heard the voices of the hill-dwarfs answering in the echo. The Sun, the first object which struck them with wonder, was, to them, the child of Night; the Dawn came before he was born, and died as he rose in the heavens. He strangled the serpents of the night; he went forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber, and like a giant, to run his course.[553:1] He had to do battle with clouds and storms.[553:2] Sometimes his light grew dim under their gloomy veil, and the children of men shuddered at the wrath of the hidden Sun.[553:3] Sometimes his ray broke forth, only, after brief splendor, to sink beneath a deeper darkness; sometimes he burst forth at the end of his course, trampling on the clouds which had dimmed his brilliancy, and bathing his pathway with blood.[553:4] Sometimes, beneath mountains of clouds and vapors, he plunged into the leaden sea.[553:5] Sometimes he looked benignly on the face of his mother or his bride who came to greet him at his journey's end.[553:6] Sometimes he was the lord of heaven and of light, irresistible in his divine strength; sometimes he toiled for others, not for himself, in a hard, unwilling servitude.[553:7] His light and heat might give light and destroy it.[553:8] His chariot might scorch the regions over which it passed, his flaming fire might burn up all who dared to look with prying eyes into his dazzling treasure-house.[553:9] He might be the child destined to slay his parents, or to be united at the last in an unspeakable peace, to the bright Dawn who for a brief space had gladdened his path in the morning.[553:10] He might be the friend of the children of men, and the remorseless foe of those powers of darkness who had stolen away his bride.[553:11] He might be a warrior whose eye strikes terror [Pg 554]into his enemies, or a wise chieftain skilled in deep and hidden knowledge.[554:1] Sometimes he might appear as a glorious being doomed to an early death, which no power could avert or delay.[554:2] Sometimes grievous hardships and desperate conflicts might be followed by a long season of serene repose.[554:3] Wherever he went, men might welcome him in love, or shrink from him in fear and anguish.[554:4] He would have many brides in many lands, and his offspring would assume aspects beautiful, strange or horrible.[554:5] His course might be brilliant and beneficent; or gloomy, sullen, and capricious.[554:6] As compelled to toil for others, he would be said to fight in quarrels not his own; or he might for a time withhold the aid of an arm which no enemy could withstand.[554:7] He might be the destroyer of all whom he loved, he might slay the Dawn with his kindling rays, he might scorch the Fruits, who were his children; he might woo the deep blue sky, the bride of heaven itself, and an inevitable doom might bind his limbs on the blazing wheel for ever and ever.[554:8] Nor in this crowd of phrases, all of which have borne their part in the formation of mythology, is there one which could not be used naturally by ourselves to describe the phenomena of the outward world, and there is scarcely one, perhaps, which has not been used by our own poets. There is a beauty in them, which can never grow old or lose its charm. Poets of all ages recur to them instinctively in times of the deepest grief or the greatest joy; but, in the words of Professor Max Müller, "it is impossible to enter fully into the thoughts and feelings which passed through the minds of the early poets when they formed names for that far East from whence even the early Dawn, the Sun, the Day, their own life seemed to spring. A new life flashed up every morning before their eyes, and the fresh breezes of the Dawn reached them like greetings wafted across the golden threshold of the sky from the distant lands beyond the mountains, beyond the clouds, beyond the dawn, beyond the immortal sea which brought us hither! The Dawn seemed to them to open golden gates for the Sun to pass in triumph; and while those gates were open, their eyes and their minds strove, in their childish way, to pierce beyond the limits of this finite world. That silent aspect wakened in the human mind the conception of the Infinite, the Immortal, the Divine; and the names of the Dawn became naturally the names of higher powers.[554:9]

[Pg 555]

"This imagery of the Aryans was applied by them to all they saw in the sky. Sometimes, as we have said, the clouds were cows; they were also dragons, which sought to slay the Sun; or great ships floating across the sky, and casting anchor upon earth; or rocks, or mountains, or deep caverns, in which evil deities hid the golden light. Then, also, they were shaped by fancy into animals of various kinds—the bear, the wolf, the dog, the ox; and into giant birds, and into monsters which were both bird and beast.

"The winds, again, in their fancy, were the companions or ministers of India, the sky-god. The spirits of the winds gathered into their host the souls of the dead—thus giving birth to the Scandinavian and Teutonic legend of the Wild Horseman, who rides at midnight through the stormy sky, with his long train of dead behind him, and his weird hounds before.[555:1] The Ribhus, or Arbhus, again, were the sunbeams or the lightning, who forged the armor of the gods, and made their thunderbolts, and turned old people young, and restored out of the hides alone the slaughtered cow on which the gods had feasted."[555:2]

Aryan myths, then, were no more than poetic fancies about light and darkness, cloud and rain, night and day, storm and wind; and when they moved westward and southward, the Aryan race brought these legends with it; and out of these were shaped by degrees innumerable gods and demons of the Hindoos, the devs and jinns of the Persians; the great gods, the minor deities, and nymphs, and fauns, and satyrs of Greek mythology and poetry; the stormy divinities, the giants, and trolls of the cold and rugged North; the dwarfs of the German forests; the elves who dance merrily in the moonlight of an English summer; and the "good people" who play mischievous tricks upon stray peasants among the Irish hills. Almost all, indeed, that we have of a legendary kind comes to us from our Aryan forefathers—sometimes scarcely changed, sometimes so altered that we have to puzzle out the links between the old and the new; but all these myths and traditions, and old-world stories, when we come to know the meaning of them, take us back to the time when the Aryan race dwelt together in the high lands of central Asia, and they all mean the same things—that is, the relation between the Sun and the earth, the succession of night and day, of winter and summer, of storm and calm, of cloud and tempest, and golden sunshine, and bright blue sky. And this is the source from which we get our fairy stories, and tales of gods and heroes; for underneath all of them there are the same fanciful meanings, only changed and altered in the way of putting them by the lapse of ages [Pg 556]of time, by the circumstances of different countries, and by the fancy of those who kept the wonderful tales alive without knowing what they meant.

Thousands of years ago, the Aryan people began their march out of their old country in mid-Asia. From the remains of their language, and the likeness of their legends to those among other nations, we know that ages and ages ago their country grew too small for them, so they were obliged to move away from it. Some of them turned southward into India and Persia, and some of them went westward into Europe—the time, perhaps, when the land of Europe stretched from the borders of Asia to the islands of Great Britain, and when there was no sea between them and the main land. How they made their long and toilsome march we know not. But, as Kingsley writes of such a movement of an ancient tribe, so we may fancy these old Aryans marching westward—"the tall, bare-limbed men, with stone axes on their shoulders and horn bows at their backs, with herds of gray cattle, guarded by huge lap-eared mastiffs, with shaggy white horses, heavy-horned sheep, and silky goats, moving always westward through the boundless steppes, whither or why we know not, but that the Al-Father had sent them forth. And behind us (he makes them say) the rosy snow-peaks died into ghastly gray, lower and lower, as every evening came; and before us the plains spread infinite, with gleaming salt-lakes, and ever fresh tribes of gaudy flowers. Behind us, dark lines of living beings streamed down the mountain slopes; around us, dark lines crawled along the plains—all westward, westward ever. Who could stand against us? We met the wild asses on the steppe, and tamed them, and made them our slaves. We slew the bison herds, and swam broad rivers on their skins. The python snake lay across our path; the wolves and wild dogs snarled at us out of their coverts; we slew them and went on. Strange giant tribes met us, and eagle visaged hordes, fierce and foolish; we smote them, hip and thigh, and went on, westward ever."[556:1] And so they went on, straight toward the West, or, as they turned North and South, and thus overspread new lands, they brought with them their old ways of thought and forms of belief, and the stories in which these had taken form;