Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/308

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
290
MYTHOLOGY.

more distinct than these? When the Apache Indian pointed to the sky and asked the white man, 'Do you not believe that God, this Sun (que Dios, este Sol), sees what we do and punishes us when it is evil?' it is im- possible to say that this savage was talking in rhetorical simile.[1] There was something in the Homeric contemplation of the living personal Helios, that was more and deeper than metaphor. Even in far later ages, we may read of the outcry that arose in Greece against the astronomers, those blasphemous materialists who denied, not the divinity only, but the very personality of the sun, and declared him a huge hot ball. Later again, how vividly Tacitus brings to view the old personification dying into simile among the Romans, in contrast with its still enduring religious vigour among the German nations, in the record of Boiocalcus pleading before the Roman legate that his tribe should not be driven from their lands. Looking toward the sun, and calling on the other heavenly bodies as though, says the historian, they had been there present, the German chief demanded of them if it were their will to look down upon a vacant soil? (Solem deinde respiciens, et caetera sidera vocans, quasi coram interrogabat, vellentne contueri inane solum?)[2]

So it is with the stars. Savage mythology contains many a story of them, agreeing through all other difference in attributing to them animate life. They are not merely talked of in fancied personality, but personal action is attri- buted to them, or they are even declared once to have lived on earth. The natives of Australia not only say the stars in Orion's belt and scabbard are young men dancing a corroboree; they declare that Jupiter, whom they call 'Foot of Day' (Ginabong-Bearp), was a chief among the Old Spirits, that ancient race who were translated to heaven before man came on earth.[3] The Esquimaux did not stop short at calling the stars of Orion's belt the Lost Ones, and

1 Froebel, 'Central America,' p. 490.

2 Tac. Ann. xiii. 55.

3 Stanbridge, in 'Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. i. p. 301.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3