Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/171

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147
ETU-WORSHIP.

them! and the still more deadly civil wars that raged between the worshippers of the Oxyrinchus fish and the dog-worshippers of Cynopolis, when the latter were guilty of fishing in the Nile, and not only capturing the holy fish, but also eating them.

No salmon commissioners could be more wrathful at the wilful destruction of salmon-fry than were these fish-adoring Egyptians when tidings of the crime reached their city. Swift vengeance followed; for the deified dogs, worshipped by the gluttonous offenders, were caught and sacrificed to appease the wrath of the fish-gods, their flesh affording a delicious feast for the priests. This of course led to a prolonged civil war, and the sacking of towns and bloodshed were only checked by the arrival of the Roman legions, who punished both parties, and reduced them to order. Such wars continued from time to time, even so late as the fourth century after Christ, by which time, however, various cities (notably that of Oxyrinchus) had adopted the new faith, and the cells set apart for sacred animals were tenanted by the monks.

If we follow out this subject, it may perhaps bring us nearer home than we imagine; for just as the Australian blacks are divided into clans bearing the name of the animal, or even the plant, from which they believe themselves to be descended, and which they must on no account eat or gather—and are thus known as "The Black Snakes," "The Swans," "The Turtles," "The Kangaroos," &c.,—so our antiquarians tell us, that many of our tattooed or painted Anglo-Saxon ancestors bore the names of animals or plants, which doubtless were in truth the totem of their family. Thus the Bercings and Thornings traced their descent from the birch and thorn, and the Bookings from the beech; and the homes of these families still bear such names as Booking, Birchington, and Thornington. Elmington and Oakington are supposed to have been peopled by sons of the elm and of the oak; while Ashendon recalls the Ashings or Æscings, who bore the name of the sacred ash-tree; and the Fearnings of Farningham were supposed to descend from a humble fern.

Buckingham and Berrington are said to have derived their names from the Buccings and Berings, sons of the buck and of the bear; while the followers of the wolf did him honour by bestowing on their children such names as Wulfing, Eadwulf, Beowulf, or Ethelwulf. The sacred white horse (whose image remains to this day on the downs of Westbury and Wantage, as clearly defined as when first our Saxon ancestors scraped the green grass from off the chalk hillside) was the symbol reverenced by all Aryan races, and Hengest and Horsa, the leaders of the early English, bore names which entitled them to command their fellows. They have left their mark in such territorial names as Hengestesdun, Horstead, Horsington, and many more. The Otterings of Otterington owed allegiance to the otter.