Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/507

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GHOST WORSHIP AND TREE WORSHIP

GHOST WORSHIP AND TREE WORSHIP.[1]
By GRANT ALLEN.
I.

FROM the myth of Attis itself, with its strange old-world implications, let us turn our attention next to the more general subject of plant and tree worship, of which the special case of the Phrygian god would appear to be only a particular example.

It will be evident at once from what has gone before that I accept on the whole, without reservation of any kind, Mr. Frazer's main view as to the importance of tree spirits and the soul of vegetation in early religions. But, then, I also accept as proved almost beyond the possibility of doubt Mr. Herbert Spencer's luminous theory of the origin of polytheism from ghost worship and ancestor worship. Not only do I believe that Mr. Spencer has adequately made good his main thesis of the derivation of gods from heroic ancestors, but I have also received considerable encouragement in my faith to this effect, from Mr. William Simpson's brilliant and admirable paper on The Worship of Death, a paper much less widely known among thinkers on this subject than it deserves to be. Mr. Simpson, who is the well known special artist of the Illustrated London News, has been led by his direct observations in the many lands he has visited in the performance of his duties to form independently a theory identical in every essential respect with Mr. Herbert Spencer's. Examination of temples, or their equivalents, in endless lands, from China to Peru, has convinced him at last that in almost every case the temple begins as a tomb or shrine of a dead person, and the worship is primarily offered to the actual ghost of the man or woman interred within it.

Now, between these two views—Mr. Spencer's and Mr. Frazer's—I am aware there would appear at first sight to be an immense discrepancy. I believe Mr. Frazer himself, in particular, would regard them as nothing short of absolutely irreconcilable. To judge from one pregnant passage in The Golden Bough (vol. i, p. 253), Mr. Frazer would appear to hold that the earliest gods of mankind in the hunting and pastoral stage of society took the form of animals, and that, in the agricultural stage, gods were envisaged rather as corn or fruit trees, or assumed the shape of a human being representing the corn or fruit spirit. I can find no-


  1. From The Attis of Caius Valerius Catullus. Translated into English Verse, with Dissertations on the Myth of Attis, on the Origin of Tree Worship, and on the Galliambic Metre, by Grant Allen, B. A., formerly Postmaster of Merton College, Oxford. London: David Nutt. 1892.