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MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE

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« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2009, 11:07:51 pm »

have been discovered, of racial types resembling those of early Egypt or early Crete, but remarkable evidence has been forthcoming which not only establishes the great antiquity of certain artistic motifs -of finished artistic skill and even of certain customs that afterwards appeared on the Island of Minos and in the Nilotic and Tigro-Euphratean areas.

The links with Crete are so close and suggestive that writers like Angelo Mosso have expressed the belief in the Neolithic and Cretan origin of Aurignacian and Magdalenian art. But the geologists have established beyond a shadow of doubt that the civilization of which this art is an eloquent expression must be assigned to the latter part of the Pleistocene period, when the reindeer roamed through the valleys of France.

Those ancient Palæolithic hunters were skilled artists and carvers of bone and ivory. They painted and engraved on cave roofs the figures of animals with a realism and freedom which were never surpassed in Greece; they also carved ivory female figurines in the round which are worthy of comparison with similar artistic products of Egypt, and not always to their disadvantage.

"The resemblances", writes Mosso, "between the most ancient female figures in France and the Neolithic figures of Crete and Egypt are very striking." Among the rock pictures of women he sees "the girdle and the Egyptian mode of hairdressing". Describing a Palæolithic painting, he writes: "The women's hair flows down upon their shoulders like that of the Minoan women; the bosom is uncovered and the breasts much developed. The triangular shape of the heads indicates a hood or a kind of mitre. Two of them wear a bracelet on the upper arm near the elbow, and all have a very slender waist, with the body shaped like an hour-glass." He

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« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2009, 11:08:09 pm »

also comments in another instance on the skirts, which were also characteristic of Crete. 1Comparisons between the Cretan frescoes and the Palæolithic cave-paintings of Spain and France have likewise been made by the Abbé Breuil, Don Juan Cabre Aguila, and other Continental archæologists.

One of the racial types which existed during the Aurignacian and Magdalenian periods, or stages of culture, was the Cro-Magnon. It can still be traced in Europe, especially in the French Dordogne valley, and among the Berbers in North Africa, as Dr. Collignon has shown. 2 Evidence of Cro-Magnon migration in Late Pleistocene times has also been forthcoming from Belgium, while traces of their burial customs have been found in Moravia and elsewhere. How and by what route Aurignacian influence reached Crete, after the lapse of thousands of years, we have as yet no means of knowing. It seems reasonable to assume that this civilization did not end without leaving heirs somewhere. The Greeks were heirs of Crete, and yet it is but quite recently that this fact has been fully demonstrated.

Not only has the antiquity of European art been established; the Palæolithic data which have been accumulated emphasize also the remote beginnings of certain magical and religious beliefs and practices. The suggestion is thus rendered plausible that some of the widespread myths and folk-tales may be as old as the French and Spanish cave-paintings and ivory carvings. Who will venture, for instance, to date the origin of that far-travelled tale about the lovers who escape from the giant's den and throw down pebbles which become mountains and twigs which create forests, to delay their angry



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« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2009, 11:08:19 pm »

pursuer? The late Mr. Andrew Lang has shown that it is found in Zulu, Gaelic, Norse. Malagasy, Russian, Italian, and Japanese folk-literatures. The author "will never", he wrote, "be known to fame", although, among storytellers, he has achieved "the widest circulation in the world". 1

A now popular hypothesis, first urged by Hugh Miller, is usually held to offer a conclusive explanation for the wonderful resemblances between certain legends collected in various parts of the world. "I have seen", Miller wrote about eighty years ago, "in the museum of the Northern Institution (Inverness) a very complete collection of stone battle-axes. some of which have been formed little earlier than the last age. by the rude natives of America and the South Sea Islands, while others, which have been dug out of the cairns and tumuli of our own country, bear witness to the unrecorded feuds and forgotten battle-fields of twenty centuries ago. I was a good deal struck by the resemblance which they bear to each other; a resemblance so complete, that the most practised eye can hardly distinguish between the weapons of the old Scot and the New Zealander. . . . Man in a savage state is the same animal everywhere, and his constructive powers, whether employed in the formation of a legendary story or of a battle-axe, seem to expatiate almost everywhere in the same ragged track of invention. For even the traditions of this first stage may be identified., like his weapons of war, all the world over." 2

Since Miller's day experts have become so familiar with the stone implements and weapons of primitive men that they experience no difficulty, not only in distinguishing between the characteristic products of various



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« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2009, 11:08:34 pm »

countries, but also of the various ages, or stages of culture, in one particular area. We find ourselves, however, on less sure ground when we deal with traditional tales. Miller's hypothesis in regard to these must still receive acceptance but with certain qualifications. It certainly accounts for striking resemblances, although not for equally striking differences. If it were to be urged in every instance, the work of research would be stultified and rendered somewhat barren. "There is a well-known tendency", as Mr. Hogarth reminds us, "to find one formula to explain all things, and an equally notorious one to overwork the latest formula." 1

The intensive study of the mythology of a particular civilization, like that of Crete or Egypt, for instance, reveals marked local divergencies which are not easily accounted for. It is an extremely risky proceeding, therefore, when we find a fragment of a legend, or a clue to some archaic religious custom, in a cultural centre like Crete, to undertake the work of reconstruction by selecting something from Australia, adding a Chinese idea, and completing the whole with contributions from Russia, Greenland, or Mexico. We may find similar symbols in different countries, but it does not follow that they had originally all the same significance; similar alphabetical signs have not always the same phonetic values. The human mind is not like a mould which produces automatically the same shapes for the same purposes, or the same ideas to account for the same problems, in every part of the world.

Myths are products of beliefs, and beliefs are products of experiences. They are also pictorial records of natural phenomena. Mankind have not had the same experiences everywhere, nor have they found the world


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« Reply #19 on: February 25, 2009, 11:08:49 pm »

lacking in variety of contour and climate. Certain peoples, for instance, have achieved progress in civilizations based on the agricultural mode of life. Their beliefs have consequently been influenced by their agricultural experiences, and their myths have been given an agricultural significance. Before the Calendar was invented, the farmer who profited from the experiences of his ancestors, and handed on his knowledge to posterity, did not speak about "ploughing in spring" and "reaping in autumn", or explain the futility of sowing seed, say, in December and expecting crops in April. He framed instead a system of myths which guided the agricultural operations of his kin for long centuries. In India, which suffers at one season from great heat and drought, he conceived the Drought Demon which imprisoned the fertilizing waters in a mountain cave. just when the world is about to perish, the god Indra comes to its rescue armed with his thunderbolt. He attacks and slays the demon, exclaiming:

I am the hurler of the bolt of thunder;
For man flow freely now the gleaming waters.

After this thunder-battle, rain descends in torrents, the withered grass sprouts luxuriantly, and the rice harvest follows.

In Babylonia the demon is the water-monster Tiamat, who enters the Euphrates and causes it to flood. She is slain and cut up by Merodach, who thus sets the world in order. Then the farmer sows his seeds. In Egypt the inundation of the Nile is brought about by Ra, who, having undertaken to destroy his human enemies, relents and withdraws the waters, so that seeds may be cast in the fertilized soil and the harvest gathered in season. Pious worshippers of the deities who controlled the forces

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« Reply #20 on: February 25, 2009, 11:09:19 pm »

of nature were expected to perform ceremonies and offer sacrifices to assist or propitiate them. Thus the local forms of religion were shaped by local phenomena of which the myths are reflections.

Peoples who lived among the mountains and followed the pastoral mode of life had different experiences from those who found their food-supply in river valleys. In districts where the rainfall was regular and abundant they knew nothing of India's droughts, or Egypt's floods. On the other hand, they might have experiences of binding frost, fierce blizzards, and snow-blocked passes, which forced them to migrate to districts where they could winter their flocks and herds. Their myths were consequently based on experiences and natural phenomena which contrasted sharply with those of the Nilotic and Tigro-Euphratean peoples, with the result that their systems of religious beliefs developed upon different lines. Similarly, peoples who dwelt upon islands and along sea-coasts and gathered the harvest of the deep, and forest-dwellers who lived on fruits and trophies of the chase, formulated and perpetuated modes of thought which were products of their particular modes of life in different environments. It is obvious, therefore, that the mind of man did not everywhere follow "the same rugged track of invention". In different districts and at different periods sections of mankind achieved independent development on sharply differentiated lines, with the result that religious conceptions, like outstanding racial types, had their areas of characterization.

Consideration should next be given to cultural influence resulting from contact. The oscillations of climate which followed the last glacial epoch caused widespread migrations of peoples. Racial types which are still recognizable were already fixed; mankind at the dawn of

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« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2009, 11:09:34 pm »

the Neolithic or Late Stone Age had attained full mental 1 and physical development. Races were distributed far and wide, and settlers favoured those areas which were suitable for their habits of life. The barriers of ice and snow which had separated peoples for thousands of years vanished before the warm sun, and as the various races prospered and increased they came into contact with one another. Let us picture a pastoral tribe issuing from a region of steppe lands and entering a valley occupied by agriculturists. They come with a heritage of beliefs and customs as alien as their language to those who rear crops and dwell in villages. The small farmers regard them as demons, and go out to battle to conquer or be conquered. If the invaders prevail, they remain in the district and in time fuse with the conquered. Then the beliefs of the mingled peoples are fused also. The result is a compromise between the distinctive religions. In the valley the earlier faith secures ascendancy because the invaders have no agricultural religion and no words even for "corn" and "furrow" and "plough". But a portion of the conquerors follow their old habits of life as pastoralists and hunters, and occupy the grazing-lands round the valley and among the hills, where they find a new Olympus for their gods. In time a pantheon is formed which embraces the deities of conquered and conquerors.

Trade springs up between various communities and the influence of culture flows along the trade routes. The knowledge of how to grow corn passes from tribe to tribe. But the isolated hunters in a northern valley who become agriculturists do not simply import implements and seeds; those who instruct them how to till the soil instruct them also regarding the ceremonies which are necessary to ensure growth and the harvest.


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So the agricultural religion of Egypt or Babylon passes through Europe and Asia, and is adopted by peoples who mix with it their own peculiar local practices inherited for untold generations from their remote ancestors.

In Denmark the northern huntsman and fisherman came into contact with the little farmers from the south, or tribes who had acquired the southern art of agriculture. They learned to sow the seed in sorrow and to beat their breasts when they cut the corn, and thus slew the corn spirit, and to return rejoicing carrying the sheaves. Magical ceremonies were considered to be as essential to agricultural success as ploughs and reaping-hooks, Consequently they adopted the magical ceremonies that had origin somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean or in the Nile valley. So we find in Denmark the myth of Scef, the child god, who comes over the sea with the first sheaf of corn, which so closely resembles the Babylonian myth of Tammuz, who comes as a child from the Underworld and the Deep every new year.

The non-agricultural mountain-folk, who migrated hither and thither, knew naught of the corn-child. They conceived of a god who shaped the mountains with his hammer, the thunderbolt; each blow was a peal of thunder. He also hammered the sky into shape. Meteorites which fell from the sky were found to be of iron; it was consequently believed that the sky was formed of iron, which became known as "the metal of heaven". Iron was regarded as a protective charm. It was associated with the great deity who slew demons. A mortal had only to "touch iron" to drive demons away, for by doing so he established a magical connection between himself and the hammer deity.

Worshippers of the mountain-god went northward and called him Thor. In Asia Minor he was Tarku and

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« Reply #22 on: February 25, 2009, 11:09:52 pm »

Teshub; in India, Indra, son of Dyaus; in Greece, Zeus. Those worshippers who reached Palestine called him Pathach (the Hebrew name), and those who settled in Egypt knew him as Ptah, and, although thunderstorms are rare in Egypt, the Memphites never forgot the hammer of Ptah and the heaven of iron which he had beaten into shape. In time Ptah acquired new attributes. As the artisan-god he was credited with the invention of the Egyptian potter's wheel, on which he shaped the sun and moon, and the first man and woman. He was thus localized. Yet he ever remained distinctive among the deities of Egypt.

Tradition dies hard. Once an idea became impressed on the human mind it remained there, and new ideas were superimposed upon it. The Egyptians achieved great progress as thinkers and artisans, yet they dung to beliefs and customs of savage origin. So did the Greeks, who never forgot Cronos, the bloodthirsty god who swallowed his children and had to be murdered by his heir. It does not follow, however, that this tendency to conserve ancient beliefs and modes of thought was opposed to the growth of culture, or that men and women who perpetuated them were as ignorant and bloodthirsty as their primitive ancestors. In our own day an individual with a university degree may dread to spill salt, regard a black cat as lucky, and refuse to occupy a hotel bedroom numbered 13. Motor-cars and flying-machines carry mascots, as did the galleys of ancient Egypt, Crete, and Phœnicia. The writer has seen a Girton girl perpetuating a religious custom of her remote ancestors by attaching a rag to a tree that overhangs a "wishing well", and wishing silently her wish quite as fervently as do less highly cultured members of her sex in places as far removed as the Scottish Highlands and the Island of Crete.

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Superstitious practices which are familiar in our everyday lives have a long history. They have survived nearly two thousand years of Christian influence. Who will undertake to date their origins? They may go back to the Bronze Age, the Late Stone Age, and even to the interglacial periods of the Palæolithic Age. The following comparative notes will serve to illustrate the antiquity of at least one remarkable folk-belief.

In Upper Egypt discovery has been made of bodies which were buried in hot dry sands about sixty centuries ago. Not only have the bones, skin, hair, muscles, and eyes been preserved, but even the internal organs. The contents of stomachs and intestines have been examined by Dr. Netolitzky, the Russian scientist, who ascertained in this way what food the ancient people ate. "The occasional presence of the remains of mice in the alimentary canals of children, under circumstances which prove that the small rodent had been eaten after being skinned, is", writes Professor Elliot Smith, "a discovery of very great interest, for Dr. Netolitzky informs me that the body of a mouse was the last resort of medical practitioners in the East several millennia later as the remedy for children in extremis." 1 Until comparatively recently the liver of a mouse was in the Scottish Highlands the "old wife's cure" for children dangerously ill. The writer was informed regarding it in more than one locality, long before the Egyptian discovery was made, by women who professed to have had experience of the efficacy of the mouse cure.

The ashes of a mouse baked alive used to be a cure for rheumatism in Suffolk. In Lincolnshire fried mice were given to children suffering from whooping-cough and quinsy. According to Henderson 2 a whooping-cough



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« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2009, 11:11:57 pm »

patient in the northern counties had to be seated on a donkey, with face towards the tail, when the mouse was being eaten. The custom of entombing a live mouse in an ash-tree, to cure children or charm cattle against attack, prevailed in Leicestershire. 1 A similar custom obtained in Scotland, where the shrew-mouse was believed to paralyse a limb it chanced to creep over. 2 The traditional fear of mice among women is of interest in this connection. Roasted mouse was, in the north-eastern counties of Scotland, a cure for cold or sore throat.

In Egypt the mouse was associated with the lunar god Thoth, who cured Horus when he was bitten by the scorpion, restored the sight of his eye which was blinded by the black Set pig, and assisted in uniting the fragments of the body of Osiris. The mouse crouches at the base of his rod of destiny, on which he measured out the lives of men. 3 In Greece the mouse was associated with Apollo. This god was identified by the Romans with the sun, but Homer knew him as Smintheus Apollo, "Mouse Apollo", who struck down the Greeks with his arrows of pestilence. 4 According to Strabo, there were many places which bore the Apollo mouse name. 5 Mouse feasts were held at Rhodes, Gela, Lesbos, and Crete. According to a Trojan story, the settlement took place in Anatolia of Cretans who were advised by an oracle to select the first place where they were attacked by the children of the soil. At Hamaxitus, in the Troad, a swarm of mice ate their bow-strings and the leather of their armour, and they decided to make that place their home. 6 In India







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the mouse was associated with Rudra, to whom the poet prayed:

Give unto me of thy medicines, Rudra,
So that my years may reach to a hundred. 1

Rudra, like Apollo, sent diseases, and was therefore able to prevent and cure them.

The mouse feasts referred to by ancient writers may have been held to ensure long life among those who, like the Egyptians, connected the mouse with the moon, the source of fertility and growth and the measurer of the days of man. The Egyptian lunar god Khonsu was the divine physician and the love-god. All fertility deities, indeed, cured diseases. The King of Mitanni sent the image of Ishtar to Thebes when Pharaoh Amenhotep III was ill. Isaiah refers to the mouse-eating practice: "They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord." 2 When the Philistines, who came from Crete, were stricken by a pestilence, they placed five golden mice in the ark and sent it back to the Israelites. 3 Thus we find the Highland mouse-cure belief going back for 6000 years and reaching to the remotest areas settled by representatives of the Mediterranean race. Other superstitions may be as old, or older. The ancient Egyptians, like our own people, inherited beliefs from their savage ancestors.

The evidence summarized in this volume (Chapter II) regarding Palæolithic customs and beliefs tends to emphasize that, while mankind everywhere may arrive at similar conclusions under similar circumstances, some conceptions were handed down by tradition and distributed over wide




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« Reply #24 on: February 25, 2009, 11:12:43 pm »

areas by wandering peoples long before the dawn of the Neolithic period in Europe and Egypt. If the mouse cure can be traced back for sixty centuries it may well have been known for a further sixty centuries. In Palæolithic times, at least 20,000 years ago, the spine of a fish was laid on the corpse when it was entombed, just as the "ded" amulet, which was the symbol of the backbone of Osiris, was laid on the neck of the Egyptian mummy. Anthropologists have favoured the theory that the animal-headed deities of Egypt are links between animal and anthropomorphic deities. Animal-headed deities with arms uplifted in the Egyptian attitude of adoration figure in Palæolithic cave-drawings. The process of change, if such it was, must therefore have commenced thousands of years before the Dynastic Egyptians became supreme in the Nile valley. It used to be urged that the Phœnicians were the inventors of alphabetic script, but linearized signs "of curiously alphabetic aspect--at times even in groups--are seen engraved on reindeer horns or ivory, or on the surface of the rock itself", which were the work of Palæolithic folk in the Fourth Glacial Period. "Certain signs", says Sir Arthur Evans, from whom we quote, "carved on a fragment of reindeer horn, are specially interesting from the primitive anticipation that they present of the Phœnician alef. . . . It is interesting to observe that among the existing peoples of the extreme north of Europe, whose conditions most nearly represent those of the old Reindeer folk, the relics of pure pictography were preserved to modern times. . . . These Lapp pictographs themselves belong to a widely diffused primitive group--illustrated by the paintings and carvings on rocks and other materials--which extends across the whole Fenno-Tataric region from the White Sea to the Urals and throughout Siberia to the borders of China.

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« Reply #25 on: February 25, 2009, 11:13:16 pm »



Terra-cotta Disk from Phæstos, with pictographic script which reads from the centre outwards, but has not been deciphered. It is believed to have come from Lycia, Asia Minor. Heads with feather head-dress similar to that worn by the Philistines appear on the disk.

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« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2009, 11:13:54 pm »



INSCRIBED TABLETS FOUND IN CRETE

 

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« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2009, 11:14:17 pm »

p. xxxiii

It was probably from an early offshoot of this great family of pictorial signs that the elaborate characters of the Chinese writing were ultimately evolved." Similar pictographs are found in Scandinavia, Ireland, Brittany, Portugal, Spain, North-West Africa, the Canaries, in the Maritime Alps, the Vosges, Dalmatia, in Transylvania, and on early Trojan artifacts. 1

In addition to the pictographs there also passed from the Palæolithic into the Neolithic and Bronze Ages certain burial customs, decorative designs developed from animal drawings, the custom of shaping figurines of the mother goddess with female characteristics emphasized, and the bell-shaped skirt which found favour in Crete. Palæolithic pottery found in Belgium has Neolithic characteristics. It has also been demonstrated, as stated, that what is known as the Azilian stage of culture links the cultures of the Early and Late Stone Ages. After the close of the Fourth Glacial Period the early pioneers of the Mediterranean race came into contact in Europe with the remnants of the Palæoliths and mingled with them in localities. Among a large number of skulls taken recently from an old Glasgow graveyard, into which an Infirmary extension intruded, were a considerable sprinkling of Palæolithic types. The interments at this part were made during the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century. Apparently there were descendants of the Palæoliths among the makers of modern Glasgow.

Certain beliefs and customs and folk-tales appear also to have survived with the peoples of the Reindeer Period, among whom they were prevalent. And as the culture of that period (the Fourth Glacial Epoch) developed from the cultures of the earlier periods, it is possible that some surviving modes of thought may have obtained for


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40,000 years. The Chellean hand-axe of the Second Interglacial Period in France was distributed far and wide; it travelled across the Italian land-bridge to Africa and penetrated as far as Cape Colony; it was imitated in Asia and passed across the Behring Straits land-bridge to America. and reached the utmost southern limits of South America. It never reached Australia. Perhaps Mr. Lang's "far-travelled tale" was similarly given widespread distribution at a remote period in the history of the human races. The culture of a particular people reached remote corners of the globe to which descendants of its originators may never have penetrated. We are familiar with this phenomenon even at the present day. It should be borne in mind, therefore, that although the mind of man may have in primitive times conceived similar ideas and invented similar tales in various regions widely separated, the masses of humanity on the whole have also been more prone to conserve what they have acquired than to welcome something new. Nothing impresses the student of comparative mythology more than the barrenness of the primitive mind. New ideas are the exception rather than the rule. Changes in religious ideas were forced upon ancient peoples either by intruding aliens or by the influence exercised by physical phenomena in new areas of settlement. Even when a change occurred the past was not entirely cut off. Rather a fusion was effected of the new ideas with the old.

In dealing with a mythology like that of Crete, which has not yet been rendered articulate, for the script has still to be deciphered, we expect to find traces of more than one stage of development in religious ideas, and also of the ideas of settlers on the island of peoples from different cultural centres. Certain relics suggest Egyptian influence and others point to an intimate connection with

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archaic Grecian beliefs. No doubt Crete inherited much from Egypt; and certain Greek States in which Cretan colonists settled borrowed much from Crete. It remains to be proved, however, that the Cretans, after settling on their island, developed on the same lines as primitive peoples elsewhere, or even that they previously passed through the different stages of religious culture regarding which evidence has been gleaned from various parts of the world.

It is sometimes assumed that the religious history of the human race is marked by well--defined layers of thought--Naturalism or Naturism, Totemism, Animism, Demonology, Tribal Monotheism which with the fusion of tribes leads to Polytheism, and then ultimately sole Monotheism. All these stages may be traced in a particular area. But we must not expect to find them everywhere. Human thought has not accumulated strata of ideas in regular sequence, like geological or archaeological strata. Sonic peoples, for instance, have never conceived of a personal god, or even of distinctive animistic spirit groups. Mr. Risley has shown that the jungle-dwellers of Chota Nagpur fear and attempt to propitiate "not a person at all in any sense of the word. If one must state the case in positive terms," he adds, "I should say that the idea which lies at the root of their religion is that of Power, or rather of many Powers. . . . Closer than this he does not seek to define the object to which he offers his victim, or whose symbol he daubs with vermilion at the appointed season. Some sort of Power is there, and that is enough for him. . . . All over Chota Nagpur we find sacred groves, the abode of equally indeterminate things, who are represented by no symbols and of whose form and function no one can give an intelligible account. They have not yet been clothed with individual attributes;

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« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2009, 11:14:33 pm »

they linger on as survivals of the impersonal stage of religion." 1 The Australian natives, on the other hand, and even those who are more primitive than the Chota Nagpur jungle-dwellers, have a god whose voice is imitated by the "bull roarer". Palæolithic man of the Reindeer Age, as has been said, had animal-headed deities and shaped, in ivory, figurines of the mother goddess. In Egypt and Babylonia there were composite deities, half animal and half human, from the earliest times of which we have knowledge. The Chinese have deities also, but have specialized as ancestor-worshippers. Argue as we may regarding well-defined "mental processes", it must be recognized that religious phenomena all over the world cannot be explained by a single hypothesis, and that we are not justified in assuming that the same stages, or all the recognized stages, of development can be traced everywhere. There may have been Totemic beliefs in Crete and Greece and there may not. Until definite proof is forthcoming that there were, the problem must remain an open one. Similarly, we should hesitate to accept the hypotheses that patriarchal conditions were preceded by matriarchal and that goddesses preceded gods everywhere. In India the gods were prominent in the Vedic period; during the post-Vedic period goddesses ceased to be vague and became outstanding personalities as "Great Mothers". 2

This brings us to an interesting phase of Cretan religious and social life. From the evidence afforded by idols, pictorial art, symbols, and traditions it would appear that the goddess cult was supreme on the island, Priestesses were as prominent as they were at Dodona. In fact, women appear to have taken a leading part in



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religious ceremonies, as Jeremiah found was the case in Jerusalem, where women baked cakes which were offered to the "Queen of Heaven", the Eastern mother-goddess. "Probably in Minoan Crete", writes Mr. Hall, "women played a greater part than they did even in Egypt, and it may eventually appear that religious matters, perhaps even the government of the State itself as well, were largely controlled by women. It is certain they must have lived on a footing of greater equality with the men than in any other ancient civilization, and we see in the frescoes of Knossos conclusive indications of an open and easy association of men and women, corresponding to our idea of 'Society', at the Minoan Court unparalleled till our own day." 1 Among the goddess worshippers of Sumeria women enjoyed a high social status also. But among the Semites of the god cult this was not the case. Women were not depicted in Assyria as in Crete. It was when Babylonian influences entered the Assyrian Court that Queen Sammu-ramat--the Semiramis of tradition-rose into prominence. Professor Sayce has drawn attention to the significant fact that when the Semites translated the Sumerian hymns they transposed "women and men" (equivalent to our "ladies and gentlemen") into "men and women". The law of descent by the female line which obtained in Egypt and elsewhere among peoples of the Mediterranean race was probably a relic of customs which had a religious significance.

The view has been strongly advocated that in all primitive communities matriarchal conditions preceded patriarchal conditions, and goddess worship the worship of gods. It is not now generally accepted, however: some peoples seem to have been worshippers of male


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« Reply #29 on: February 25, 2009, 11:14:51 pm »

deities and others of female deities from the earliest times. The fusion of the god and goddess cults in Egypt and Babylonia and elsewhere was probably one of the results of the fusion of peoples. In some countries, where patriarchal peoples formed military aristocracies, they may have ordered succession by the male line. But there is also evidence to show that they adopted the wiser method of marrying the heiresses of estates and thrones to win the allegiance of the masses. "Mother-right" prevailed in Egypt, for instance, until the end. The problem involved is too complex to be accounted for by a single hypothesis.

It would appear that the activities of the Cretan women were chiefly confined to indoor life. As in Egypt, they were depicted by painters with white skins, while the men were, with the exception of princes, given red skins. Women were also more elaborately attired and bejewelled than men.

In dealing with ancient civilizations it is of importance to take note of burial customs. There can be little doubt that these have been ever closely associated with religious beliefs. What are known to archæologists as "ceremonial burials" must have been performed, it is reasonable to suppose, with some degree of ceremony with purpose either to promote the welfare of the deceased or to secure the protection of the living. The Dynastic Egyptians, for instance, mummified their dead because they believed that the soul could not continue to exist in the Otherworld unless the body were preserved intact in the tomb. On the other hand, the Homeric Achæans burned their dead, so that the soul might be transferred by fire to Hades, from which it would never again return. 1 In pre-Dynastic Egypt the


p. xxxix

body was laid in a shallow grave in crouched position, with food-vessels, implements, and weapons beside it. A similar custom prevailed in Babylonia and throughout Europe in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Dwellers on the northern sea-coast of Europe set their dead adrift in boats, as was Balder in the Eddic legend and Sceaf in the Beowulf poem. Others buried their dead in caves, threw them to wild beasts, or ate them.

In some cases it would appear that the beliefs connected with burial were suggested by local phenomena. In Upper Egypt bodies are naturally mummified in the hot dry sands. It is possible, therefore, that the custom of embalming the dead may have grown up among that section of the Egyptian people whose religious beliefs were formulated in the area where the corpse was naturally preserved. They may have been horrified to find that bodies did not remain intact in new districts to which they migrated. But the custom of burning the dead cannot be explained in this way.

Burial customs may not always afford us definite clues regarding religious beliefs. It does not follow that the pre-Dynastic Egyptians, the Babylonian Sumerians, and the Neolithic Europeans who favoured crouched burials had all the same ideas regarding the destiny of men, or the same beliefs regarding the Otherworld. Different conceptions might be prevalent in a single country. It is found that in Wales, for instance, ideas about the future state varied considerably. Folk-lore and mediæval poetry have references to an Underworld in which the dead continue to live in organized communities and work and fight as they were accustomed to do upon earth, to happy islands situated far out to sea, to fairy dwellings below rivers and lakes where souls exist like fairies, and to the woods of Caledonia where shades wander about as did

p. xl

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