Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/46

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36
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ingot of gold," a sword, then bread and wine for the commmunion, then a purse of gold, followed by a prayer "to receive these oblations."

Looked at without bias, the evidence coming from all parts of the world thus proves that oblations are at first literally presents. Animals are given to kings, slain on graves, sacrificed in temples; cooked food is furnished to chiefs, laid on tombs, placed on altars; first-fruits are presented alike to living rulers, to dead rulers, to gods; here beer, here wine, here chica, is sent to a visible potentate and poured out as libation to an invisible deity; incense, in some places burned before distinguished persons, is burned before gods in various places; and, besides such consumable things, valuables of every kind, given to secure goodwill, are accumulated in the treasures of kings and in the temples of gods.

There is one further remark of moment. We saw that the present to the visible ruler was at first propitiatory because of its intrinsic worth, but came afterward to have an extrinsic propitiatory effect as implying loyalty. Similarly, the presents to the invisible ruler, primarily considered as directly useful, secondarily come to signify obedience; and their secondary meaning gives that ceremonial character to sacrifice which still survives.

 

And now we come upon a remakable sequence. As the present to the ruler eventually develops into political revenue, so the present to the god eventually develops into ecclesiastical revenue.

Let us set out with that earliest stage in which no definite organization, either political or ecclesiastical, exists, and in which the last is represented by the medicine-man, whose function is more that of expelling malicious ghosts than propitiating ghosts regarded as placable. At this stage the present to the supernatural being is often shared between him and those who propitiate him: the supposition, commonly vague and unsettled, being either that the supernatural being takes a substantial part of the food offered, or else that he feeds on its supposed spiritual essence while the votaries consume the material shell. The meaning of this, already indicated in the case of some other early usages, is that while the supernatural being is propitiated by the present of food, there is, by eating together, established between him and his propitiators a bond of union: implying protection on the one side and allegiance on the other. The primitive notion that the nature of a thing, inhering in all its parts, is acquired by those who consume it, and that therefore those who consume two parts of one thing acquire from it some nature in common which binds them together—that same notion which initiates the practice of forming a brotherhood by partaking of one another's blood, which instigates the funeral rite of blood-offering, which suggests the practices of the sorcerer, and which gives strength to the claims established by joining in the same meal, originates this prevalent usage of consuming part of the present of food made to the