« 上一頁繼續 »
when their origin is forgotten, and when they can only be explained by the assistance of Etymology. Enough has now been said, to shew the futility of any objections that may be taken to the deduction of some mysterious facts and names from an æra so remote as the Deluge; and a way has been opened out, to clear up some obscurities of ancient history, by only allowing a fair extent to that influence of superstition which, by an abuse of man's highest privilege, a subjection to a sense of religion, is sure to be generated in all unenlightened minds.
EVIDENCE THAT THE PATRIARCHS WERE DEIFIED IN INDIA,
BEGINNING WITH NOAH AND HIS SONS.
As a river wears away the rock on which it runs, so that, after the lapse of ages, nothing remains of the original channel but some projecting points where the stone has been harder or the current more tranquil, so the progress of civilisation wears away the surface of primeval usages, till at last we can only conjecture their original shape by observing here and there some relics still undestroyed, where its force has been less active, or the material more durable. In the unperishing works of a rude age, unsparing of labour, when required by religion, whether true or false, in the caves of Ellora, and the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Cromlechs of Ireland, and the Stonehenge of England, we may discern vestiges of opinions that once prevailed over all the ancient world; and though soon supplanted by the inventions of civilised society, as in Greece, and Italy, and Hindostan, they have retained a longer existence in more barbarous countries, and still survive in some. A strong sentiment of veneration for their ancestors prevailed in the earliest ages, the natural consequence of a patriarchal form
government, especially when the duration of life was so much prolonged beyond its present term, that a whole tribe might look up to one living head as their common parent, ruler, and instructor: it still prevails in those countries which have had little intercourse with the rest of mankind, and have lived for ages on the same spot, in a little microcosm of their own. Thus, for instance, we learn from Sir Stamford Raffles', that among the inhabitants of Pasumah, in the Island of Sumatra, a people almost unknown to Europe before his visit, “ the manes of their ancestors are held in the highest veneration, and are esteemed not inferior to the Gods themselves. They suppose them to take concern in the welfare of their posterity, over whom they are always watchful :” and in the neighbouring Island of Nias, “wooden images considered as representatives or memorials of their ancestors, for whom they have a great reverence, are regarded as a kind of lares or protecting household Gods.”2 Worship is performed to them in Pasumah by sacrificing a buffalo, a goat, or even a fowl, by prayer, and by fasting sometimes for fourteen days, but generally two or three ; and it is very remarkable, that Gunung Dempu', a volcanic mountain, is looked upon as the sacred abode of the Devas, and the souls of their ancestors occupy the regions of the moun
1 Memoirs of Sir S. Raffles, p. 337.
2 P. 493.
3 The natives conceive that the guardian genius of their country has his abode in Gunung Dempo, or the sacred mountain, and that the Devas and inferior deities have also their residence there, p. 324.
tains. The same superstitious veneration of ancestors marks the religion of the Hindoos : the Pitris, or Progenitors, are an inferior race of deities to whom oblations are offered, and from whom the Devas and Danavas proceeded. Now these were considered good and evil spirits, which can no otherwise be reconciled with their descent from the progenitors of the human race, than by supposing them to be in fact the heads, perhaps the priests, of two rival religious factions ?; the object of both being the introduction of new rites into the old patriarchal worship, and both being exalted by their adherents to the honours of a superior order of beings; with this difference only, that they who were ultimately successful in the contest were deemed good genii, and the unsuccessful met the usual fate of the unfortunate, and were declared bad. The peculiar character of their respective rites it may not be difficult to conjecture, when it is considered, that Deva is the name given by the sacred books of the Brahmins to the sun 3, and that Danava is the plural of Danu, who is also said to be their father. For “Nuh,” says Sir W. Jones, “is the
1 Institutes of Menu, c. iii. v. 201.
In the Mahabarit it is said, that 1072 years B. C. a Brahmin from Jarcund introduced the worship of idols, and in a manner obliter. ated all traces of the old religion. For then every great family moulded their silver and gold into images of their forefathers; and setting them up as objects of worship among their vassals, there arose in the land gods without number.
2 Dow's Hist. of Hindostan, i. 16.
3 There is no subject, says Mr. Wilford, on which the modern Brahmins are more reserved, than when closely interrogated on the title of Deva, or god, which their most sacred books give to the sun.
Dissertation on Egypt and the Nile.
proper name of Noah.” It is evident, that these Pitris have been confounded by an all-confounding superstition with the first restorers of the world after the flood : for they are considered “ Primeval deities who have laid arms aside,” ' and the dark half of each month was sacred to them, and the places on which they might be consulted were either on the summit of the highest mountain in the Island Suvarneya’, where the gardens of the Hesperides were placed by the Puranas, or else in a narrow cave in a small island; which are Arkite modes of worship, as will be seen hereafter. But it is certain, that they properly ascend no higher than to the second generation after the flood; for they are the offspring of another set of deities, seven in number, and inhabiting the mountain Meru, who were preserved in the ark, and are called Rishis or penitents, because they obtained their sanctity by a Lunar Penance. If we set aside the nonsense of modern Brahmins, the Lunar Penance mentioned in the Institutes cannot but appear remarkable, when it is considered that the Pitris are said to inhabit the moon. This is a point of so much importance, that I shall have occasion to revert to it hereafter: at
i Institutes of Menu, c. iii, v. 192.
This penance, say they, consists in the devotee eating for a whole month no more than thrice eighty mouthfuls of wild grains. The reward is the obtaining the same abode as Chandra the regent of the moon.— Moor's Pantheon, p. 92.
4 Institutes of Menu, c. i. v. 66.