Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/109

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WORSHIP OF ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENA.

whence it was reported back on February 15th with, certain helpful amendments. On February 23d it was taken up, when Senator Frye said: "That is a public bill of very great importance. ... It is a bill recommended by the President and Secretary of State, and indorsed by nearly all the boards of trade, chambers of commerce, and maritime associations." The bill was then passed and sent to the House of Representatives, when it was referred to its Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

PRIMITIVE WORSHIP OF ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENA.
By the Count GOBLET D'ALVIELLA.

ATMOSPHERICAL manifestations, or the aggregate of the phenomena whose theatre is the atmosphere, present a mysterious appearance to primitive man, which, whether it seem beneficent or fearful, is always of a nature vividly to impress the imagination. Hence man very early regarded these phenomena as individualities endowed with body and soul, or as superhuman personalities, which he was afterward led to make an object of worship. This is easily shown to be the fact in the case of the dawn and twilight, wind, rain, clouds, whirlwinds, and water-spouts, lightning and thunder, echoes, the rainbow, the aurora borealis, the mirage, etc. Rain has at times been represented as honey or seed which fell from the sky to fertilize the earth, as in the myth of Danæ; the peoples of India have personified the waters of the sky as the milkings of cows; a step further, and we have the goddess of rain. The Khonds of central India fabled that these waters were poured upon the earth through a sieve by a nymph who was called Pizou Pennou.

The clouds have been personified under the form of serpents, dragons, birds, or wolves; in the mythology of peoples who suffer from drought these personifications take the shape of thieves and receivers, which carry off the waters and keep them captive. Such assimilations may appear strange at first sight; it is hard for us to imagine that man could have compared the clouds to such objects. The philological school supposes that man began by giving the clouds the names of animals whose forms they most frequently affected; but at last these appellations lost their character, which was in its origin simply metaphorical, and thus arose the idea of assimilating the clouds to the animals whose names they bore. This theory is not without some foundation, but it is not in general indispensable to look to changes in language. Man, especially childish, primitive man, is