Animism - The Seed of Religion

ABSENTEE GODS

out the curious fact that these High nature-gods maintain no permanently prominent place in religions. They reign, but they do not govern.

Savage theology, expressing doubtless the experience of primitive man as to the distribution of good and evil in the world, teaches that the good gods abide in their own place and take no heed of mankind, while the malevolent deities
are in a constant state of jealous and mischievous activity. Hence the former drop out of notice, fall into the background, while the others survive changes of religion." 28

The Hindu supreme god Parameshwar is responsible for the existence of everybody and everything, but is too exalted to be troubled about everyday affairs. On the other hand, the tutelary godlings should be appealed to for help in worldly concerns, and the demons must be propitiated to prevent things going wrong. In Southern India the natives render nominal allegiance to one or more of the great gods of Brahmanism, but the ordinary villager thinks that these august deities concern themselves but little with his affairs, and his real worship is paid to Mariamman, the dread goddess of smallpox and

28 Risley, Census of India (1901), p. 410.

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cholera, and to the special goddess of his village. 29

Among the Musquakie Indians "Geechee Manito-ah, who dwells in the sun, is not very active in mischief himself, though he was in the old, old time.

But he is the father and author of all mischievous beings. He consorted with witches, and they became the mothers of immortal demons. He seldom meddles with men. He lives in the caves with the wicked dead, and rules over them." 30

Miss Mary Kingsley says that "the god in the sense we use the word is in essence the same in all of the Bantu tribes I have met with on the Coast; a non-interfering and therefore a neghgible quantity. He varies his name; Anzambi, Nyambi, Ukuku, Suku, and Azan, but a better investigation shows that Nyam of the Fans is practically identical with
Suku of the Congo. They regard their god as the creator of man, plants, animals, and the earth, and they hold that having done this, he takes no further interest in the affair. But not so the crowd of spirits with which the universe is peopled; they take only too much interest,

29 Risley, Census of India (1901), p. 364.
30 M. A. Owen, Folklore of the Musquakie Indians
(1902), p. 35.

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and the Bantu wishes they would not, and is perpetually saying so in his prayers, a large percentage whereof amount to 'Go away; we don't want you.

Come not into this house, this village, or its plantation.'

He knows from experience that the spirits pay little heed to these objurgations, and as they are the people who must be
attended to, he develops a cult whereby they may be managed, used, and understood. This cult is what we call witchcraft." 31

The Battas of Sumatra say that their chief god, Debati Hasi Asi, has done nothing since he created the world, having committed its government to his three sons, who rule by vakeels or proxies. Of the Greek peasant of to-day. Sir Rennell Rodd says that " much as he would shudder at the accusation of any taint of paganism, the ruling of the Fates is more immediately real to him than any divine omnipotence." 32

Mutatis mutandis, the remark has equal application to the Roman Catholic peasant at the shrine of his local saint, and to the rustic who consults a wise woman. Mr. Tozer, in his Highlands of Turkey, says that "it is rather the minor deities and those asso-

31 Travels in West Africa, p. 442.
32 Folklore of Modem Greece, p. 140.

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ciated with man's ordinary life that have escaped the brunt of the storm, and returned to live in a dim twilight of popular belief." 33

Returning for a moment to India, where, in Sir Alfred Lyall's words, "we seem to step suddenly out of the modern world of formal definite creeds, back into the disorderly supernaturaiism of prae-Christian ages," we find that the great gods of Hindooism, the supreme triad, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, and other deities of the higher class which collectively
constitute the Hindoo ofl&cial pantheon, are the deities of the richer or higher classes, but to the ordinary peasant of Northern India they are little more than a name. Indra, the old Vedic weather-god, has been completely elbowed out as an object of worship by special rain-gods.

"The once mighty Varuna has also become a degraded weather-godling, and sailors worship their boat as his fetish when they start on a voyage."

The reverses of fortune among these hierarchies have illustration in Harda, or Hardaur, the cholera-god of Northern India. Originally a deification of a notable man who lived in the reign of Akbar, and worshipped in nearly every village in Upper India, he has become neglected,

33 Vol. ii. p. 307.

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Animism - The Seed of Religion

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