The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies

Page: 5

Ques. How did the belief in the heathen deities originate?

Ans. When the early traditions of the human race became corrupt, the sublime idea of one God, self-existent and eternal, was lost or obscured. We find it, though vaguely perhaps, in the character and attributes of certain divinities, as the Zeus (Jupiter) of the Greek, and the Alfâdur of Scandinavian mythology. There are passages in the early Greek poets which show clearly a belief in the unity of God. In the verses attributed to the mythic poet Orpheus, and generally known as Orphic Remains, we find the following:

“One self-existent lives; created things
Arise from him; and He is all in all.
No mortal sight may see Him, yet Himself
Sees all that live; * * *
* * * For He alone
All heavenly is, and all terrestrial things
Are wrought by Him. First, midst and last he holds
With His omniscient grasp.”

The same idea is expressed in the verses of the poet Aratus, quoted by St. Paul in his address to the Athenians on the Hill of Mars.

Instead of ministering spirits obeying the will [18] of the Supreme Being, and communicating that will to man, there arose a number of inferior deities, each exercising some peculiar and partial sovereignty. The god whom the warrior invoked in battle was powerless to bless the field he cultivated in time of peace; the power of Jupiter was worshipped in the rolling thunder; but when the earth trembled or fiery torrents burst from the mountain top, the wrath of Pluto must be appeased, and sacrifices were offered to the infernal powers. The strife and turbulence of nature were attributed to the gods, who became in some manner identified with the elements they were supposed to govern.