Animism - The Seed of Religion


shouting the war-cry for the purpose of repelling them.

The spirits worshipped, or placated, as the foregoing example shows, even defied, cannot be set down in any sequence denoting corresponding order of place in the primitive mind.

We know, from savages extant, that they are the subjects of varying, and often conflicting, sensations, and, therefore, to assume any logical succession of ideas at still lower stages of development is to construct misleading theories.

The well-nigh uniform behaviour of the mind in the presence of similar phenomena has become a canon of anthropology,
strengthened by the fact that, at the same level of civilization, man everywhere devises and makes shifts with the same kind of tools and weapons.

But phenomena vary, and different physical and local conditions determine the prominence given to this or that power or spirit. An inland people, far from the sound and sight of sea, could not conceive an Oceanus or Poseidon; nor could the dwellers on an unbroken flat imagine a god-inhabited Horeb, Meru, Olympus, Asgard, or Nurang Buru


Besides the habitat, the civihzation attained rules the cult. Sun-worship and moon-worship have flourished side by side among many races and during long periods.

But there is a large body of evidence which proves the precedence of moon-worship before man had reached the agricultural stage when the more potent influences of the sun, and consequently his high place in the savage pantheon, were recognized. The explanation, as cogently given by Mr. Payne in his valuable History of the New World, is that "a connection is traced between the lunar phenomena and the food-supply in an earlier stage than that in which a connection is traced between the food-supply and the solar phenomena."

The approach and duration of the periods of supplies of uncultivated foods are measured by the successive reappearances and gradual changes of the moon, to which the savage attribute the supplies; hence "he assigns a prominent place to the moon-spirit, which he considers to be in the highest degree a benevolent one."

He regards her as the source of the moisture, greater at night than in the day, without which vegetation would perish; in this, and other ways, she "becomes regarded as the efficient cause of


growth in animals and plants."Of what festivals her varying phases were the occasion there is no need to tell; the religions of the Semitic and other races afford plentiful illustration.

Whilst it is at the agricultural stage that impetus was given to sun and earth worship, no period can be even roughly assigned to the choice of more abstract phenomena, such as the sky. air, light, and thunder, as separate objects of worship.

Through the mists, which can never be dispelled, there loom, huge and amorphous, impressive in their power and immanence, the great gods of the everlasting spaces, paired, in many a savage cosmogony, with the Earth goddess as father and mother of all.

In Polynesian myth we find the "begetter of gods and man, half man, half fish, to typify land and water, and it was said of him that his right eye was the sun, his left the moon.

So far removed was he that no worship was ever paid him, and no image made of him.

"Akin in this last-named feature, the significance of which wdll appear presently, is the Samoyed sky-god Num, who is too far away to be worshipped. The name of the supreme god among the Austrahan natives, Baiame, means "the  maker' or 'cutter out,'


as one cuts out patterns from a skin." The
Andaman Islanders tell of Puluga, creator of all
things, " who was never bom and will never
die," but who " is omniscient only by day, when
he can see."

The Hottentot Tsuni-Goab is the "red light of the Dawn," and the Finnish Ukko is the "Navel of the sky." The Polynesian Tangaloa, the bright dayhght, has as his brother "Rongo, the god of darkness and night." 27 Tangaloa is beneficent and peaceful; Rongo is the war-god and fomenter of strife, as, in the old Mazdeism, Ahriman and Ormuzd represent, but with an ethical meaning which had superseded the primitive nature myth, the conflict between light and darkness.

These examples, drawn from savage mythology, to which the reader's knowledge concerning the great gods of the
higher races will suggest additions, enable us to trace, if dimly, the lines along which man advanced from conceptions of Powers to conception of Spirits "made in his own image," in whose activities he explained the creation of the heavens
and the earth. The examples which follow bring

27 Gill's Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, p. H.


Animism - The Seed of Religion

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