Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/45

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35
EVOLUTION OF CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.

—oblations to a deity and presents to a person. The original identity is well shown by the words of Guhl concerning the Greeks: "Gifts, as an old proverb says, determine the acts of gods and kings;" and it is equally well shown by a verse in the Psalms (Ixxvi. 11): "Vow and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared." Moreover, we shall find a parallelism in the details that is extremely significant.

Food and drink, which constitute the earliest kind of propitiatory gift to a living person, and also the earliest kind of propitiatory gift to a ghost, remain everywhere the essential components of an oblation to a deity. As, where political power is evolving, the presents irregularly and then regularly sent to the chief, at first consist mainly of sustenance; so, where ancestor-worship, developing, has expanded the ghost into a god, the offerings, becoming habitual, have as elements common to them in all places and times, things to eat and drink. That this is so in low societies at large, no proof is needed; and that it is so in higher societies is also a familiar fact, though a fact ignored where its significance is most worthy to be marked. If a Zulu slays an ox to secure the good-will of his dead relative's ghost, who complains to him in a dream that he has not been fed—if among the Zulus this private act develops into a public act when a bullock is periodically killed as "a propitiatory offering to the spirit of the king's immediate ancestor"—we may, without impropriety, ask whether there do not thus arise such acts as those of an Egyptian king who by hecatombs of oxen hopes to please the ghost of his deified father; but it is not supposable that there was any kindred origin for the sacrifices of cattle to Jahveh, concerning which such elaborate directions are given in Leviticus. When we read that among the Greeks "it was customary to pay the same offices to the gods which men stand in need of—the temples were their houses, sacrifices their food, altars their tables"—it is permissible to observe the analogy between these presents of eatables made to gods and the presents of eatables made at graves to the dead, as being both derived from like presents made to the living; but that the presentation of meat, bread, fruits, and liquors, to Jahveh had a kindred derivation, is a thought not to be entertained—not even though we have a complete parallel between the cakes which Abraham bakes for the refreshment of the Lord when he comes to visit him in his tent on the plains of Mamre and the showbread kept on the altar and from time to time replaced by other bread fresh and hot. Here, however, recognizing these parallelisms, it may be added that though in later Hebrew times the original and gross interpretation of sacrifices became obscured, and though the primitive theory has since undergone gradual dissipation, yet the form survives. The offertory of our Church still retains the words, "accept our alms and oblations;" and at her coronation Queen Victoria offered on the altar, by the hands of the archbishop, "an altar-cloth of gold and an