Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/November 1889/Israelite and Indian: A Parallel in Planes of Culture I
By GARRICK MALLERY.
AXIOMS and postulates long limited man's study of man. This hampering has been peculiarly marked in reference to America, the assumption being that it must have been peopled from the eastern hemisphere, and that its languages, religions, and customs must have been inherited from nations registered in Eurasian records. Whatever was found here was assumed to have come through descent or derivation. The conceptions of autogeny and of independent growth, by which men in the same plane of culture act and think alike, with only the modifications of environment, had not arisen to explain observed facts.
Many authors have contended that the North American Indians were descendants of the "ten lost tribes of Israel." Prominent among them was James Adair, whose work, highly useful with regard to the customs of the southeastern Indians, among whom he spent many years, was mainly devoted to proof of the proposition. The Rev. Ethan Smith is also conspicuous. Even the latest general treatise on the Indians, published last year, and bearing the comprehensive title, "The American Indian," favors the same theory.
The authors of the school mentioned rest their case on the fact, which I freely admit with greater emphasis, that an astounding number of customs of the North American Indians are the same as those recorded of the ancient Israelites. The lesson to be derived from this parallel is, however, very different from that drawn by those who have advocated the descent in question.
The argument, strongly urged, derived from an alleged similarity between Hebrew and some Indian languages, especially in identity of certain vocables, may be dismissed forthwith. Perhaps the most absurd of all the coincidences insisted upon by Adair was the religious use of sounds represented by him to be the same as the word Jehovah. The "lost" Israelites when deported did not use orally the name given in the English version as "Jehovah," and the mode of its spelling and pronunciation is at this moment in dispute, though generally accepted as Jahveh; therefore, it would be most extraordinary if the tribes of Indians supposed to be descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel should at this time know how to pronounce a name which their alleged ancestors practically did not possess.
Father Lafiteau was so much excited by coincidence in sound of some of the Iroquoian names and expressions with the language of the ancient inhabitants of Thrace and Lycia that he based thereon a theory of descent. On similar grounds ancestors of the Indians have been found among the Phœnicians, Scandinavians, Welsh, Irish, Carthaginians, Egyptians, Tartars, Hindus, Malays, Chinese, Japanese, and all the islanders of Polynesia. It is not wonderful that, with the choice of three hundred Indian languages, besides their dialects, from which to make selections of sounds, some one should be likened to some other language, for all spoken languages can in that manner—i.e., by a comparison of vocables—show identity of sound and a percentage of coincidences of significance. Philology now applies more discriminating rules of comparison.
But all arguments that the Indians are descended from the "lost tribes" are demolished by the fact, now generally accepted, that those tribes were not lost, but that most of their members were deported and absorbed, their traces remaining during centuries, and that others fled to Jerusalem and Egypt. If any large number of them had remained in a body, and had migrated at a time long before the Columbian discovery, but later than the capture of Samaria in the seventh century b.c, their journey from Mesopotamia to North America would have required the assistance of miracles that have not been suggested except in the Book of Mormon.
For brevity, the term "Indians" may be used—leaving the blunder of Columbus where it belongs—without iterating their designation as North American, though I shall not treat of the aboriginal inhabitants south of the United States. This neglect of Mexico and Central and South America is not only to observe my own limits, but because some of the peoples of those regions had reached a culture stage in advance of the northern tribes. To avoid confusion, the term "Israelites" may designate all the nation. Although the tribes became divided into the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah, when it is necessary to speak of the northern tribes they may be designated as the kingdom of Samaria. The shortest term, Jews, would be incorrect, as the people now scattered over the world and called "Jews" are chiefly the descendants of the southern branch or fractional part of the children of Israel, and have a special history beyond that common to them and their congeners.
The parallel presented is not selected because its two counterparts are more similar to each other than either of them is to other bodies of people among the races of the earth. A similar parallel can be drawn between both the Indians and the Israelites and the Aryan peoples, from which I and most of my hearers are supposed to have descended. The selection is made for convenience, because this audience is assumed to be familiar with the Old Testament, so that quotations and citations from it are less necessary; and also because many of them in this, the Anthropologic Section, are familiar with the Indians, so that the collocation of facts without a prolix statement is sufficient for comparison.
Although the Indians are divided into fifty-eight linguistic stocks and three hundred languages, and although there is great variety in their manners, customs, and traditions, yet there is sufficient generic resemblance between all of them to afford typical instances, where European civilization and missionary influence have not effected serious change, or where the early authorities are reliable. It is essential to examine the other side of the parallel—the Israelites—at a period coincident in development with that of the Indians. That part of the history and records of the Israelites must be chiefly considered which relates to the times before they had formed a nationality and had become sedentary. The general use of writing was nearly contemporaneous with that nationality, and the era of King David is a proper demarkating line. The Indians never having arrived at the stage of nationality, though some of them (as the Iroquois and the Muskoki) were far on the road to it, and never having acquired a written language, their stage of culture at the Columbian discovery shows a degree of development comparable with that of the Israelite patriarchal period and the early Canaanite occupation before the rule of kings.
It is important to establish the time when writing was first known among the Israelites, because then their traditions would first become fixed. No reliable history can exist before writing. An illiterate people remembers only fables and myths; from these the history of the years before writing was used must be winnowed. There is no reason to suppose that the Hebrew language was written at the time of the exodus, though some such mnemonic system might have been invented as was used by several of the Indian tribes. If Moses had all the knowledge of the Egyptians, but no more, he could not have used any better mode of writing than their hieratic, in which it was not possible to write intelligibly any long document in the Hebrew language, simply because the advance made by the hieratic, in which the use of phonetics began, was not sufficient to express all the Hebrew vocables.
There has been an attempt to show that the old Hebrew alphabet, which has been classed as partly Phœnician and partly Babylonian, was obtained from Assyria at a time before the exodus, but the proposition is not yet established. Even if Assyrian characters adaptable to the Hebrew language did then exist, it is not probable that the Israelite herdsmen and bondmen did so adapt them. If any one of them—e.g., Moses—had done so as an individual act, the feat would have had but one historic parallel, which would have furnished another coincidence between Israelite and Indian. It was performed by the Cheroki, Sequoia, who in less prosaic days would have become the hero of a Kadmos myth. But Sequoia left very distinct marks of his invention, while there is no evidence that the Israelites possessed an alphabet before they settled in Canaan, and there are strong inferences against that supposition.
The compilers of the Old Testament felt no doubt that the law could have been written on Sinai at the time of the exodus. They knew how to write and knew that their predecessors for several generations had written, so it did not occur to them that there had ever been a time in which persons of the higher classes were ignorant of writing.
It is probable that in the days of Samuel the Israelites had made some progress in the art of writing. An alphabet had been known to some of them before; but its common use is of greater consequence, and that depends much upon the substances used for writing, their cost, and the convenience of procuring them. The use, not the mere invention, of writing, not only divides the mythical and the historical periods, but reacts upon the character of the people in all their institutions, forming a new epoch in culture. The people did, perhaps, write under David at about 1100 b.c.
Moses flourished about fifteen centuries before Christ, and the oldest legends relating to him are, in their present shape, four or five centuries later than his death. He did not practically organize a new formal state of society, or if he did, temporarily, by his personal power, it had no direct consequence or historical continuity. The old system of clans and religions continued as before. If the legislative portion of the Pentateuch was the work of Moses, it remained a dead letter for centuries, and not until the reign of Josiah did it become operative in the national history.
The historical account undoubtedly states that Moses was, by inspiration, the founder of the Torah; but the question is, What was that Torah? It was not the finished legislative code. Long after the exodus a dramatic account was furnished of the promulgation of the whole law at Sinai to produce a solemn impression, and thus the code, which had slowly and imperceptibly grown during centuries, was represented as having been pronounced on one occasion celebrated by tradition as momentous.
The code now ascribed to Moses was a revised code, and in an unusual sense a mosaic work. When the Israelites attained the use of writing they did as all people in the world have done when they began to use writing—i.e., they wrote out their own myths, traditions, and legends as they knew them at the time of writing. But during the long time in which the traditions were transmitted orally, the growth of the nation's ideas produced a change in them without any fabrication or design, and it is probable that the traditions affected only to this extent were set forth in the earlier documents, long since lost, namely, the "Book of the Wars of Jahveh" and the "Jasar." There were, however, special temptations in the later history of Israel, in the contests between the Elohists and the Jahvists, to manipulate the earlier documents. When the compilers belonging to the two schools produced the two versions, intermixed and confused in the books we now have, they differed from all people in history if the contestants, for political and personal power, did not color the records to suit their own views.
Students who have devoted their lives to the study of the last compilation have been able to identify, by linguistic and historical exegesis, the fragments of the original traditions, the epic tales of the first documents, the theocratic deductions and the later sacerdotal visions, though the two versions appear on the same page and sometimes in the same paragraph. The results of this immense labor by the Hebraists of this generation have lately been presented by Renan in a popular form. His works, as well as those of other authors whose names will be mentioned in this address, I have used freely, though generally without exact quotation.
In addition to the linguistic and historical tests, other internal evidences, especially the antedating of conceptions several centuries (some instances of which will be mentioned), show that the books, as now presented, were written long after the periods referred to in them.
The main document on the primitive age is the Book of Genesis, regarded for the reasons mentioned, not as literally historical, but as the tradition, written at a respectable antiquity, of an age that really existed. In examining it the historical part is discovered, not by belief in the miraculous, but by the proper comprehension of the mythical.
Much can be learned from myths and legends of the times anterior to strict history. The Homeric epics are not history, yet they throw a flood of light upon Greek life a millennium before the Christian era. The ante-Islam tales and the Arthurian and Niebelungen romances of the middle ages are not true in fact, yet they are storehouses, preserving the social life of the days when they were composed and to a less though still useful degree of the time embraced by the still earlier traditions. The generalizations derived from the details of ancient texts are truths obtained by induction.
It is expedient to make a disclaimer before entering upon the necessary comparisons of religions. I absolutely repudiate any attack upon any religion. Let us learn a lesson from the Indians, not only in tolerance but in politeness. One of the early Jesuit missionaries in Canada recounts how he pleased a Huron chief by his discourse upon the cosmology set forth in the Scriptures, and felt that he had secured a convert until the chief, thanking him for his information, added, "Now you have told me how your world was made, I will tell you how my world was made"; and proceeded to give the now familiar story of the woman falling from the sky, and the turtle. He was willing that the priest should retain his belief, with which his own, in his opinion, did not conflict. Dr. Franklin tells of a Susquehannock who, after a similar lecture from a Swedish missionary, was answered in the same manner; but this missionary became angry and interrupted the Indian, whereupon the latter solemnly rebuked him with pity: "I have listened politely to what you told me; if you had been properly brought up, you would have believed me as I believed you."
Religion, as accurately defined, embraces only the perficient relations between divinity and man, and the mode in which such relations operate. Popularly it includes cosmology and theology. For present convenience the broad subject may be divided into Religious Opinions and Religious Practices.
In this comparison, all religious views personally entertained must be laid aside and the study conducted strictly within the scope of anthropology. Modern thinkers adopt the rule not to use a miraculous factor when unnecessary. Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus. It is now regarded as puerile to explain all puzzling phenomena, as was done for ages—
"When solved complete was any portent odd
This attitude, however, is still not universal. When experience of observed facts and of the orderly working of the forces of nature are not sufficient for explanation, some minds yet resort to the miraculous. Others humbly confess ignorance and work for light. This light when gained is real and lasting, not the delusive hues of cloud-region, varying with each instant and to each observer's eye, and soon resolving into the same old mists and fogs from which escape was sought.
In their explanation of phenomena, all the peoples of the world have resorted to revelations. Every myth or early teaching is directly or indirectly through revelation; but as the revelation is on both sides of the equation, it can be eliminated from any parallel such as is now presented.
A cardinal of more than titular eminence was rash when, admitting that the doctrine of the devil and his command of demons was first learned by the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity, he insisted that it might be divine revelation, notwithstanding its immediate source. He said that if God made Balaam's ass speak, it would also be easy for him to provide that the heathen should give correct instruction. The non-existence of Satan is not demonstrable; so it may be well to examine into subjects on which we have knowledge, such as geology and astronomy. It appears from bricks in palaces at Nineveh that the Mosaic cosmology was also obtained from the same source as the Satanic doctrine. Any revelation on the subject would in order of time have been given to, and according to all evidence was promulgated by, the cultured Assyrians, not the ignorant captives. The priority, however, is of little moment, as the revolving dish-cover theory, whether as originally noted on clay or on rolls of sheep-skin, is now obsolete. All dependence on revelations practically means that those suiting us are true and all others false. When judgment upon the truth or falsehood of an alleged revelation can be made in accordance with the prejudices of the judge, the subject becomes too eclectic and elastic to be considered by science, or indeed by common sense.
The scope of anthropology is to study within the category of humanity. If theology comes from man's conceptions, it is embraced in anthropology. If theology is of divine origin, anthropology may discuss what men think and do about it. But the truth or falsity of revelation can not be dealt with in this address. To raise that point acts as a clóture, cutting off all debate.
Religious Opinions.—Religious writers have often explained the differences in beliefs among the various peoples of the world on the hypothesis that true religious knowledge was implanted at one time in the ancestors of all those peoples, and that the divergence now found is through decay of that supernatural information. The early missionaries to America, of all denominations, were imbued with this dogma and sought, and therefore found, evidences of the one primeval faith. Sometimes they limited themselves to the similar beliefs of the Indians and the Israelites, but often they passed beyond that stage to locate the vestiges of Christianity. These they said came by the hands of Christian pre-Columbian visitors, and one explanation was by the importation of the apostle Thomas. The coincidences found were exaggerated, but when facts were opposed they were not less satisfactory, as the adverse power of Satan then appeared. Such mental predetermination nearly destroys the value of those missionary accounts.
The most generally entertained parallel between the Indians and the Israelites, repeated by hundreds of writers, was that they both believed in one overruling God. This consensus, if true, would at once establish a beatific bridge of union between the two peoples, but its iris arch vanishes as it is viewed closely.
After careful examination, with the assistance of explorers and linguists, I reassert my statement, published twelve years ago, that no tribe or body of Indians, before missionary influence, entertained any formulated or distinct belief in a single, overruling "Great Spirit," or any being corresponding to the later Israelite or the Christian conception of God. All the statements of the missionaries and early travelers to the opposite effect are erroneous. Even some of the earliest writers discovered this truth. Lafiteau says that the names "Oki" and "Manito" were given to various spirits and genii. Champlain said that Oki was a name given to a man more valiant and skillful than common. Manito signifies "something beyond comprehension." A snake was often a manito, and seldom were snakes molested. "Hawaneu," reduced to correct vocables, only means loud-voiced—i.e., thunder. "Kitchi Manito" is not a proper name for one god, but an appellation of an entire class of great spirits. So with the Dakota term "Wakan," which means only the mysterious unknown. A watch is a wakan. The Chahta word presented as "God" for two centuries is now found to mean a "high hill."
Some Indians, perhaps, had a vague idea of some good spirit or being whom they did not worship and to whom they did not pray. They prayed and sacrificed to the active daimons, concerning whom they had many myths. In their various cosmologic myths there was sometimes a vague and unformulated being who started the machinery by which the myth proceeded; but when once started no further attention was paid to such originator. Perhaps some modern advanced thinkers have no clearer definition of a great first cause.
Praise has been lavished upon the Indians because they did not take the name of God in vain. The true statement, however, has a different significance. They did not, according to the best linguistic scholars, have any word corresponding with the English "God" either to use or misuse, and they deserve no more praise for avoidance of profanity than for their total abstinence from alcoholic drinks before such had been invented or imported. The terms too liberally translated as "Master of Life" and "Maker of Breath" were epithets merely. Perhaps there was an approach to a title of veneration when the method of their clan system was applied to supernatural persons, among whom there would naturally be a chief or great father of the "beast gods," on the same principle as there was a chieftaincy in tribes.
The missionaries who have persistently found what did not exist are not without excuse. Wholly independent of any design to force welcome answers, an interviewer who asks a leading question of an Indian can always obtain the answer which is supposed to be desired. The sole safe mode of reaching the Indian's mental attitude is to let him tell his myths and make his remarks in his own way and in his own language. When such texts are written out, translated, and studied they are of great value. It is only within about twelve years that this has been done in a systematic manner, but it has already resulted in the correction of many popular errors.
In attempting to translate the epithets mentioned, the missionaries and travelers often honestly used the word which, in their own conception, was the nearest equivalent. An instructive example is where Boscana describes a structure in southern California as a "temple." It was a circular fence, six feet high, not roofed in—a mere plaza for dancing; but the dancing was religious, and the word "temple" was the best one he could find, by which mistake he has perplexed archæologists who have sought in vain for the ruins.
A consideration not often weighed is that the only members of the Indian tribes who are willing to give their own ideas on religious matters to foreigners are precisely those who are most intelligent and most dissatisfied with their old stories. There were minds among them groping after something newer and better, and it would be easy to translate their vague longings into the conception of an overruling Providence. But the people had made no such advance.
The missionaries who announced that the Indians were fixed in the belief in one god were much troubled by the statement of the converted native, Hiaccomes, of Martha's Vineyard, who, having enumerated his thirty-seven gods, gave them all up. This, however, was a typical instance of the truth. The Indians had an indefinite number of so-called gods corresponding with the like indefinite number of the Elohim of the Israelites before the supremacy of Jahveh.
The biblical religion of Israel has been popularly held to be coeval with the world, but its own beginning was by no means archaic. About a thousand years before Christ it did not exist, and at least four hundred years were required for its development. The religious practices of David and Solomon did not materially differ from those of their neighbors in Palestine. Not until the time of Hezekiah, about seven hundred and twenty-five years before Christ, did the Israelite religion attain to a distinct formulation. Its ordinances and beliefs advanced from crudity and mutation to ripeness and establishment. It was a system long in growth, and so could not early possess authoritative documents.
The nomad Semite believed, with other barbarians, that he lived amid a supernatural environment. The world was surrounded and governed by the Elohim—myriads of active beings, seldom with distinct proper names, so that it was easy to regard them as a whole and confound them together. Yet the power bore different names in different tribes. In some cases it was called El, or Alon, or Eloah; in other cases Elion, Saddai, Baal, Adonai, Ram, Milik or Moloch.
The Elohim, though generally bound together, sometimes acted separately; thus each tribe gained in time its protecting god, whose function was to watch over it and direct it to success.
In the transition to nationality, the Israelites conceived a national god, Jahveh, who was not just, being partial toward Israel and cruel toward all other peoples. The worship of a national god is not monotheistic, but henotheistic, recognizing other gods of other peoples. The work of the later prophets consisted in restoring the attributes of the ancient elohism under the form of Jahveh, and in generalizing the religious cult of a special god.
Jahveh was not at first the god of the universe, but subsequently became so because he was the God of Israel, and very long afterward was claimed to be the only god, mainly because the Israelites claimed to be the peculiar people. Even down to the time of the prophet Isaiah, there was alternation of conflict and of co-ordination between Jahveh and the other gods of Canaan, especially Baal.
The revolution accomplished by the prophets did not change expressions. The concept of Jahveh was too deeply rooted to be removed, and the people spoke of Jahveh as they had formerly spoken of the Elohim. He thus became the supreme being who made and governed the world. In time even the name of Jahveh was suppressed and its utterance forbidden; and it was replaced by a purely theistic word meaning the Lord. Undoubtedly the prophets, at the time of the kings and later, taught the worship of one God, but the people were not converted to the doctrine until after the great captivity.
When established in Palestine, the Israelites entered into communion with the Canaanites, their kindred, and worshiped Baal. Later they frequently bowed down to the Dagon of the Philistines, probably because he was the god of their warlike victors. Solomon, perhaps from admiration of Sidonian culture, introduced the service of Astarte, which was intermitted; but later, Ahab established the worship of the Sidonian divinities in the kingdom of Samaria. It was subsequently readopted in the kingdom of Judah, and not until the reign of Josiah were the Sidonian altars finally demolished.
The true parallel, therefore, between the Indians and the Israelites, as to belief in a single overruling God, is not that both, but that neither, held it.
In the stage of barbarism all the phenomena of nature are attributed to the animals by which man is surrounded, or rather to the ancestral types of these animals, which are worshiped. This is the religion of zoötheism. Throughout the world, when advance was made from this plane, it was to a stage in which the powers and phenomena of nature are personified and deified. In this stage the gods are anthropomorphic, having the mental, moral, and social attributes of men, and represented under the forms of men. This is the religion of physitheism. The most advanced of the Indian tribes showed evidence of transition from zoötheism to physitheism. The Israelites, in the latter part of the period selected, showed the same transition in a somewhat higher degree than the Indians did when their independent progress was arrested.
It is needless to enlarge upon the animal gods of the Indians, or to furnish evidence that they gave some vague worship to the sun, the lightning, to fire and winds.
There is no doubt that the Israelites were for a long period in the stage of zoölatry. They persisted in the worship of animal gods—the golden calf, the brazen serpent, the fish-god, and the fly-god. The second commandment is explicitly directed against the worship of the daimons of air, earth, and water, which is known to have been common; and the existence of the prohibition shows the necessity for it, especially as it was formulated, after the practice had existed for centuries, by a religious party which sought to abolish that worship.
The god of Sinai was a god of storm and lightning, which phenomena were strange to the Israelites after their sojourn in plains. The ancient local god of the Canaanites began in the exodus to affect the religious concepts of the Israelites, so that they associated Jahveh with the god whose lands they were planting and whose influence they felt. Sinai was thenceforward the locality of their theology. Jahveh, through all after-changes, remained there as his home; he spoke with the voice of thunder, and never appeared without storm and earthquake.
Another class of gods connected with beast-worship and also with the totemic institution (to be hereafter specially noted) was tutelar, the special cult of tribes, clans, and individuals. It was conspicuous both among the Israelites and the Indians.
Jahveh may first have been a clan or tribal god, either of the clan to which Moses belonged or of the clan of Joseph, in the possession of which was the ark. No essential distinction was felt to exist between Jahveh and El, any more than between Ashur and El. Jahveh was only a special name of El, which had become current within a powerful circle, and which, therefore, was an acceptable designation of a national god. When other tutelar gods did not succeed, there was resort to Jahveh, probably in the early instances because he was the most celebrated of all the tutelar gods, and the reason for that celebrity was that the most powerful of the clans claimed him as tutelar.
Hecastotheism is a title given to the earliest form of religion known, which belongs specially to the plane of savagery. In it every object, animate or inanimate, which is remarkable in itself or becomes so by association, is a quasi god. The transition between savagery and barbarism, as well as between the religions of hecastotheism and zoötheisin, connected with them, was not sharply marked, so that all their features could coexist at a later era, though in differing degrees of importance.
This intermixture is found both among the Israelites and Indians. An illustration among many is in the worship of localities and of local gods. Conspicuous rocks, specially large trees, peculiar mountains, cascades, whirlpools, and similar objects received worship from the Indians; also the places where remarkable occurrences, as violent storms, had been noted; and among some tribes the particular ground on which the fasting of individuals had taken place, with its accompanying dreams. The Indians frequently marked these places, often by a pile of stones. The Dakotas, when they did not have the stones, used buffalo skulls.
In the Old Testament frequent allusions are made to a place becoming holy where dreams or remarkable events had occurred. They were designated by pillars. The Israelite compilers adopted the pillar of Bethel for the same reason that required Mohammed to adopt the Caaba. Though struggling for monotheism, they could not always directly antagonize the old hecastotheism.
Future State.—The topic of a future state may be divided into (1) the simple existence of the soul after death, (2) the resurrection of the body, and (3) a system of rewards and punishments in the next world.
The classical writers often distinguished two souls in the same person—one that wandered on the borders of the Styx until the proper honors had been given to the corpse; the other being a shadow, image, or simulacrum of the first, which remained in its tomb or prowled around it. The latter could be easily invoked by enchanters.
Some of the Indians thought that the souls of the dead passed to the country of their ancestors, from which they did not dare to return because there was too much suffering on the road forward and backward. Nevertheless, they believed that there was something spiritual which still existed with their human remains, and they tell stories of it. Thus there are two souls, and the Dakotas have four, one of which wanders about the earth and requires food, the second watches over the body, the third hovers around the village, and a fourth goes to the land of spirits.
The Iroquois and Hurons believed in a country for the souls of the dead, which they called the "country of ancestors." This is to the west, from which direction their traditions told that they had migrated. Spirits must go there after death by a very long and painful journey, past many rivers, and at the end of a narrow bridge fight with a dog like Cerberus, and some may fall into the water and be carried away over precipices. This road is all on the earth; but several of the Indian tribes consider the Milky Way to be the path of souls, those of human beings forming the main body of the stars, and their dogs, which also have souls, running on the sides. In their next world the Indians do the same as they customarily do here, but without life's troubles.
The Israelites believed in a doubling of the person by a shadow, a pale figure, which after death descended under the earth and there led a sad and gloomy existence. The abode of these poor beings was called Sheol. There was no recompense, no punishment. The greatest comfort was to be among ancestors and resting with them. There were some very virtuous men whom God carried up that they might be with him. Apart from these elect, dead men went into torpor. Man's good fortune was to be accorded a long term of years, with children to perpetuate his family and respect for his memory after death.
The Indians did not believe in existence after death in a positive and independent state. The spirit does not wholly leave the body and the body is not resurrected. Perhaps a good commentary upon their belief is furnished by a tribe of Oregon Indians who, hearing missionaries preach on the resurrection, immediately repaired to an old battle-field and built great heaps of stones on the graves of their fallen foes to prevent their coming up again. They did not want any of that.
Among the Israelites the resurrection of the body was a foreign idea imbibed during the captivities in Assyria and Babylonia. Perhaps the first reference made to it is in the prophet Daniel. It was not fully believed in so late as the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate.
Among the Indians privation of burial and funeral ceremonies was a disgraceful stigma and cruel punishment. There was trouble about children who died shortly after their birth, and also about those whose corpses were lost, as in the snow or in the waters. In ordinary cases of death the neglect of full and elaborate ceremonies caused misfortune to the tribe.
The story of the "happy hunting-ground" among the Indians has not been generally apprehended. As regards what we now consider to be moral conduct there was no criterion. A good Indian was one who was useful to his clan and family, and at the time of his death was not under charges of violating the clan rules, for which the Polynesian word tabu has been adopted. The moral idea of goodness of a Pani chief is to be a successful warrior or hunter. The actual condition at the moment of death decided the condition in the future far more than any conduct during the past. In the portions of the continent where the scalp was taken, the scalped man remained scalped in the world of spirits, though some tribes believed that scalping prevented his reaching that world. If he had but one leg or eye here, he had but one leg or eye afterward. In tribes where they cut off the ears of slain foes the spirit remained without ears. A special instance is where the victim was considered too brave to be scalped, but the conquerors cut off one hand and one foot from the corpse to keep him from inflicting injury upon the tribe of the conquerors in the next world. Some of the tribes thought that if an Indian died in the night he remained in total darkness ever afterward.
One of the most curious of their beliefs was in connection with drowning and hanging, the conceit being that the spirit (which was in the breath) did not escape from the body. This doctrine was made of special application to prevent suicide, which was generally performed either by hanging or drowning, the deduction being that suicides could not go to the home of the ancestors.
It is probable that the various trials which the spirit is supposed to undergo before reaching the other world were devised to secure confidence in the absence thereafter of the ghosts of the dead, because the same difficulty would attend their return. As without the assistance of mortuary rites the ghosts would not be able to reach their final home, their permanent absence was secured because there were no repetitions of those rites to assist their return. Fear of the ghosts, not only of enemies but of the dearest friends, generally prevailed. After a death all kinds of devices were employed to scare away the spirit. Sometimes a new exit, through which the corpse was taken, was cut through the wigwam and afterward filled up, it being supposed that the spirit could re-enter only by the passage through which it went out. Sometimes the whole wigwam was burned down. There was often a long period, which travelers called that of mourning, during which drums and rattles were used to drive away the spirits. After firearms were obtained, they were discharged in and around the late home of the deceased with the same object. The loud cries of so-called lamentation had probably a similar origin, and this is more marked when the lamenters were strangers to the dead, and even professionals, not unlike the Irish keeners.
In this general connection it is proper to allude to the common abstinence from pronouncing the true name of any dead person. This is more distinct than the sociologic custom where the man's true name should not be used in his life except on special occasions. There was some fear that, by calling his name, he might come back.
It would be wrong to accuse the Indians of want of feeling indicated by their horror of the dead. In one of the most ancient accounts—that of Cabeza de Vaca—it is declared that the parents and other relatives of the sick show much sympathy while life remains, but give none to the dead—do not speak of them or weep among themselves, or make any signs of grief or approach the body. This domestic reticence is entirely different from, but not antagonistic to, the obligatory mortuary rites which were practiced.
To secure the living from the presence of the spirits of the dead was the first object, and the second was to assist those spirits in the journey to their destination. These were the prevailing ideas of all the mortuary customs of the Indians. It may be true that there was in some cases (though missionary influence is to be suspected) a belief that there were two different regions in which the bad and the good would severally remain, but that was not of general acceptance. There was but one future country, and the only question was whether the spirits got there or not. There was no hell.
The Israelites, in their sacred books, do not show the influence of fears or hopes concerning a future state with reference to individual morality. Among them death at any age was not an inevitable necessity, as they thought that life might be prolonged to an indefinite extent, but it was inflicted as a punishment and their signs of mourning were acts of penitence and contrition, with the idea that the survivors might have been the cause of the death. All deaths were classed with public calamities, such as pestilence, famine, drought, or invasion, being the work of an enemy—perhaps a punishing god, perhaps a daimon or a witch. They regarded it so great an evil to die unlamented that it was one of the four great judgments against which they prayed, and it was called the burial of an ass. These are the inferences to be derived from the books as we have them. It is, however, questionable whether rites attending upon death were not with them similar in intent to those of the Indians—i.e., to provide, by means of those rites, for the future welfare of the departed, rather than in accordance with our modern sentiment, to show respect and personal sorrow. Passages of the Old Testament may be noted—e.g., the one telling how the bodies of Saul and his children were rescued from Bethshan and taken to Jabesh, where they were burned and the bones buried. The ceremony in this case and others seems to have been the burning of the flesh and the burial of the bones, as was frequently done by the Indians on occasions of haste, without waiting as usual for the decay of the flesh, the later gathering of the bones being at stated periods of years.
There is no evidence that the Israelites feared the corpse and its surroundings beyond that to be inferred from the ordinances concerning pollution, which, however, are significant.
Religious Practices.—There should, always be a cross-reference in thought between what in time became a religious practice and the earlier sociology, to be mentioned in its place, with which it was closely connected.
Josephus remarks about the Israelites that "beginning immediately from the earliest infancy, nothing was left of the very smallest consequence to be done at the pleasure and disposal of the person himself."
The same is true regarding the Indians. Their religious life is as intense and all-pervading as that of the Israelites. It is yet noticed in full effect among tribes as widely separated, both by space and language, as the Zuñi and the Ojibwa, and their practices are astonishingly similar in essence and even in many details to some of those still prevailing in civilization.
Among the Hurons and Iroquois there were religious rites for all occasions, among others for the birth of a child, for the first cutting of its hair, for its naming, and for its puberty, for the admission of a young man into the order of warriors, and the promotion from warrior to chieftain, for making a mystery-man, for first using a new canoe, for breaking tillage-ground, for sowing and harvest, for fixing the time to fish, for deciding upon a warlike expedition, for marriages, for the torturing of captives, for the cure of disease, for consulting magicians, invoking the daimons, and lamenting the dead.
Shamans.—Among the Indians there was frequently an established and recognized priesthood, provided by initiation into secret religious societies, corresponding in general authority to that of the Levites, although the order of the latter was instituted in a different manner, perhaps imitated from the exclusive class of the priesthood in Egypt. The shamans in all tribes derived a large part of their support from fixed contributions or fees.
Adair describes a special ceremony for the admission or consecration of a priest among the southern tribes, as follows: "At the time of making the holy fire for the yearly atonement of sin the Sagan clothes himself with a white ephod, which is a waistcoat without sleeves, and. sits down on a white buckskin, on a white seat, and puts on it some white beads, and wears a new pair of white buckskin moccasins, made by himself, and never wears these moccasins at any other time."
Similar exclusive use by the high priest of the garments used on the day of the atonement is mentioned in Leviticus.
In addition to the organized class referred to, there were other professional dealers in the supernatural who may be called conjurers, sorcerers, or prophets. They were independent of and often antagonistic to the regular shamans. Instance the Jossakeed of the Ojibwa, rivals of the Midé, as the Israelite prophets were of the Levites. At the time of the Judges the prophets were isolated and without any common doctrine. These irregular practitioners arrived at recognition individually by personal skill in an exhibition of supernatural power that is, they wrought miracles to prove themselves genuine.
At the time of the exodus there were, among all the Semitic tribes, sorcerers who possessed mysterious secrets and enjoyed some of the power of the elohim. They were paid to curse those whose ruin was desired. Balaam was the most distinguished sorcerer of that time.
One of the most frequent purposes for employing supernatural agency was to bring on rain in time of drought. The practitioner generally tried to delay his incantations as long as possible in hopes of a meteorologic change. Sometimes, on failure, he was killed, as he was supposed to be an enemy who possessed the power he professed but was unwilling to use it; and to prevent this dangerous ordeal in a dry season, he charged in advance certain crimes and "pollutions" against the people, on account of which all his skill would be in vain. The more skillful rain-makers among the Sioux and the Mandans managed not to be among the beginners, but toward the last of the various contestants. The rain would surely come some time, and when it came the incantations ceased. The shaman who held the floor at the right time produced the rain.
Frequent reference to rain-making is found in the Old Testament, in which the prophets were the actors.
The mystery-men were consulted on all occasions as sources of truth, not only to explain dreams, but to disclose secrets of all kinds; to predict successes in war; to tell the causes of sickness; to bring luck in the hunt or in fishing; to obtain stolen articles; and to produce ill luck and disease. Their processes, together with thaumaturgic exhibitions, included some empiric knowledge, and also tricks of sleight-of-hand and hypnotic passes.
The Chahta had a peculiar mode of finding the cure for disease, by singing successively a number of songs, each one of which had reference to a peculiar herb or mode of treatment. The preference of the patient for any song indicated the remedy.
The Israelites believed that diseases as well as accidents without apparent cause, and other disasters, were the immediate acts of the elohim or were caused by evil spirits; therefore they relied upon prophets, magicians, or enchanters for exorcism. Hezekiah's boil was cured by Isaiah. Benhadad, King of Syria, and Naaman, the Syrian, applied to the prophet Elisha. All the people resorted to their favorite mystery-men.
Even so late as the time of Josephus it was believed that Solomon had invented incantations by which diseases were cured, and some handed down by tradition were commonly used. Incense banished the devil, which also could be done by the liver of a fish. Certain herbs and roots had the same power. Their medical practices might be recited, with slight change of language, as those of the Indians. The further back examination is made into savagery and barbarism, the more prevalent faith-cure appears.
Witches.—The Indians were in constant dread of witches, wizards, and evil spirits; but the activity of the good spirits was not so manifest. They, however, told Adair how they were warned by what he calls angels, of an ambuscade, by which warning they escaped. Bad spirits, or devils, were the tutelar gods of enemies, to be resisted by a friendly tutelar. The idea of a personal Satan was not found before the arrival of the missionaries.
Among the Indians witches were often indicated by the dreams of victims. They were sometimes killed merely upon accusation, and it is interesting to notice, with relation to comparatively modern history, that the accused frequently confessed that they were sorcerers, and declared that they could and did transform themselves into animals, become invisible, and disseminate disease.
A sufficient reference to the Israelites in this connection is to quote the ordinance, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." This injunction, in the higher civilization, is observed by destroying the idea that witches live, ever have lived, or ever can live.
Dreams and Divinations.—The topics of inspiration by dreams and divination by oracles may be grouped together.
The Indians supposed that with, and sometimes without, a special fasting, and other devices to produce ecstasy, the spirits or daimons manifested themselves in dreams. It was sometimes possible in these dreams for the soul to leave the body, and even to visit the abode of departed spirits.
Among the Iroquoian tribes the suggestions made by dreams were implicitly followed, not only by the dreamer, but by those to whom he communicated his dreams. For instance, an Iroquois dreamed that his life depended upon his obtaining the wife of a friend, and, though the friend and his wife were living happily, and parted with great reluctance, he dreamer had his wish. The same tribe had a special feast which was called the "feast of dreams," and partook of the nature of Saturnalia. Every object demanded by the dreamers must be given to them. In some instances they were unable to remember their dreams, and the special interposition of the mystery-men was invoked to state what their dreams were in fact and what was their significance.
Among the invaluable reports of the Jesuit missionaries, one in 1639 gives the general statement that the Indians consulted dreams for all their decisions, generally fasting in advance; that, in fact, the dream was the master of their lives; it was the god of the country, and dictated their decisions concerning important matters—hunts, fishing, remedies, dances, games, and songs.
The belief in revelations through dreams was universal, and the power of explaining them was also by revelation. Their legends on this subject recall those about Joseph and Daniel. In addition, Job xxxiii, 15, 16, may be quoted:
"In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed,
"Then He openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instruction."
And in Deuteronomy a prophet is equivalent to a dreamer of dreams.
There were various oracles among the Indians. Those most interesting to me are connected with pictography. Among many tribes, especially the Mandan, Hidatsa and Minnitari, after certain fasts and exercises, hieroglyphics deciding the questions which had been propounded appeared next morning on rocks. They were deciphered by the shaman who had made them.
The apparatus by which Jahveh was consulted was the urim and thummim, a form of oracle described as connected with the ark. It ceased to be known in the fifth century before Christ, and is now but vaguely understood. From the description and tradition it could, physically, have been worked by a custodian.
Severe fasts were probably the most common religious practices of the Indians. These were continued until they saw visions, sometimes sought for personal benefit as deciding upon their names to be adopted from the advent of a guardian spirit, and sometimes for tribal advantage. The doctrine of all of them, as Father Lafiteau quaintly observes, was the same that prevailed among many people of his day, to lead the mind from gross and carnal obstructions of the body. The real effect was to produce mental disorder. This ecstasy obtained by fasting was often accelerated by profuse sweating and the use of purgative or emetic drinks. Violent and prolonged exercise by dancing in a circle until the actors dropped in a swoon sometimes concluded the ceremonies.
The Israelite prophets were excited to inspiration by external means, such as dances and orgiastic proceedings resembling those of the dervishes and those of the Indian mystery-men. Music was a general accompaniment of the ecstasy. When they were about to prophesy, they wrought themselves into a condition of frenzy. When Elisha sent one of the children of the prophets to anoint Jehu, it was said of him, "Wherefore cometh this mad fellow?"
Pollution and Purification.—The subject of pollution and purification has been much and properly insisted upon as affording a striking parallel between the Israelites and the Indians. The Indians made special huts for the women, at certain periods, when they were considered so unclean that nothing which they touched could be used. A Muskoki woman, after delivery of a child, was separated from her husband for three moons (eighty-four days). This may be compared with the Levitical law by which the mother of a female child was to be separated eighty days and of a male forty days. Dr. Boudinot says that in some Indian tribes there was similar distinction between male and female children.
Among the southern Indians wounded persons having running sores were confined beyond the village, and kept strictly separate, as by the Levitical law. An Israelite dying in any house or tent polluted all who were in it and all the furniture in it, and this pollution continued for seven days. All who touched a corpse or a grave were impure for the same time. Similarly, many of the Indians burned down the house where there had been a death.
Many writers have asserted, as one of the excellences of the Israelite customs, that the "purification" imposed upon those who had been engaged in a burial was a sanitary regulation, a measure rendered expedient in a hot country. As no great proportion of the Israelites generally inhabited a country hot to the degree indicated, and as none of them had any conception of disease or the cause of death, this explanation is hardly sufficient. Much later the compilers might have gained some sanitary knowledge by which the old superstition was utilized. Its true explanation is from supernatural, not from natural, concepts. It is probably connected with a point mentioned before—i.e., the avoidance of corpses from the fear of the spirit of the dead and of the bad spirit which had caused the death, and the purificatory ceremony was for the daimon, not for the disease. The neglect of sanitation is well illustrated among the Navajo, who are little affected by civilization. Upon the death of one of their members they block up the shelter containing the corpse, and, from fear of the spook or of the agent of death, or of both, not from fear of the corpse itself, they never again visit it. Other tribes simply piled stones on the corpse, which prevented its disturbance by beasts, but did not absorb the effluvium. Still others exposed the dead on scaffolds. To leave corpses to putrefy freely is certainly not a sanitary measure, yet it was a practice existing together with the mortuary rites before mentioned, though many of the tribes practiced earth-burial, and a few used cremation.
On a broad examination of the topic of "pollution," so styled by most writers, it seems to be best explained by our recent understanding of tabu.
Sacrifice.—Man once imagined forces superior to himself, who yet could be invoked and moved to and from any purpose. The divine world was produced in his own image, and he treated its gods as he liked to be treated by his inferiors. He believed that the way to placate the forces surrounding him was to win them over as men are won over, by making presents to them. This clearly continued among the Israelites until the eighth century b.c., but it is to be regarded as a stage succeeding a former condition of zoölatry and totemism, without notice of which its details can not be understood.
Most people sacrificed to their divinities plants, fruits, and herbs, and animals taken from their flocks. People who had no domestic animals offered those taken in the hunt. The Indians offered the maize from their fields and the animals of the chase, and threw into the fire or water tobacco, or other herbs which they used in the place of tobacco. Sometimes these objects were hung up in the air above their huts. The northern Algonquins tied living dogs to high rods, and let them expire. In a similar manner other Indians stuck up a deer, especially a white deer, on poles. The plains tribes gave the same elevation to the head or skin of an albino buffalo on mounds, not having poles convenient. The spotless red heifer of the Israelites may be compared with the spotless white animals of the chase.
The southern Indians always threw a small piece of the fattest of the meat into the fire when eating or before they began to eat. They commonly pulled their newly killed venison several times through the smoke of the fire—perhaps as a sacrifice, and perhaps to consume the life-spirit of the animal. They also burned a large piece and sometimes the whole carcass of the first buck they killed, either in the winter or the summer hunt. The Muskoki burn a piece of every deer they kill.
The Israelites offered daily sacrifice, in which a lamb (except the skin and entrails) was burned to ashes. In some of their sacrifices there was not only distinction between animals that were fit and unfit, but in the manner of treatment. Sometimes the victim was not to be touched, but should be entirely consumed by fire. In others the blood should be sprinkled around the altar and the fat and the entrails burned, the remainder of the body to be eaten by the priests. But it was a crime to eat flesh that had been offered in sacrifice to a false god—i.e., god of another people.
The offering of the first-fruits, and therefore of the first-born, to the divinity, was one of the oldest ideas of the Semites. Moloch and Jahveh were conceived as being the fire, devouring whatever was offered to it, so that to give to the fire was to give to the god. In time, a substitute was suggested; the first-born was replaced by an animal or a sum of money. This was called the "money of the lives."
The "green-corn dance" common to many Indian tribes, is essentially the same ceremony of thanksgiving, or, more correctly, rejoicing with payment, for the first-fruits of the earth. Adair says that at the festival of the first-fruits the Southern Indians drank plentifully of the cusseena and other bitter liquids, to cleanse their bodies, after which they bathed in deep water, then went sanctified to the feast. Their annual expiation of sin was sometimes at the beginning of the first new moon in which their corn became full-eared, and sometimes at the recurrent season of harvest. They cleansed their "temple" and every house in the village of everything supposed to pollute, carrying out even the ashes from the hearths. They never ate nor handled any part of a new harvest till some part of it had been offered up; then they had a long fast "till the rising of the second sun." On the third day of the fast the holy fire was brought out from the "temple," and it was produced, not from any old fire, but by the rubbing of sticks. It was then distributed to the people.
Lafiteau says that the first animal the young hunter kills he burns with fire as a sacrifice. Another festival was a kind of holocaust, where nothing of the victim was left, but it was all consumed, even to the bones, which were burned. There were also feasts of first-fruits.
The Dakotas allowed no particle of the food at any of their religious feasts to be left uneaten. All bones were collected and thrown into the water, that no dog might get them or woman trample over them. It was a rule among many of the tribes that no bones of the beast eaten should be broken. There is no doubt that this was connected with zoölatry, and was intended to prevent anger on the part of the ancestral or typical animal, the result of which would be the disappearance of the game. There were many other ceremonies of the same intent. When the Mandans had finished eating, they often presented a bowlful of the food to a buffalo-head, saying, "Eat this," evidently believing that, by using the head well, the living herds of buffalo would still come and supply them with meat.
It is probable that what many authors have called the "day of atonement" or "expiation" was really a general wiping out of offenses—a settlement of accounts between individuals and particularly between clans, after which there should be no reprisal. This is illustrated by a peculiar ceremony among the Iroquois, strongly resembling the scapegoat of the Israelites. A white dog, before being burned at the annual feast, was loaded with the confessions or repentings of the people, represented by strings of wampum. The statute of limitations then began to operate.
In the Jahvistic version, the passover, an old festival held in the spring, was historically connected with the departure from Egypt. The ceremonies are too well known to require narration, but will readily be compared with those of the Indians.
Incense.—The use of incense among Indians was the same as among Israelites—i.e., to bring and to please the spirit addressed. A genuine instance among the Iroquois was where tobacco was offered as late as 1882, and in archaic formal language still preserved, translated as follows:
Address to the fire: "Bless thy grandchildren, protect and strengthen them. By this tobacco we give thee a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and ask thy care to keep us from sickness and famine."
Address to the thunder: "O grandfather! thou large-voiced, enrich and bless thy grandchildren; cause it to rain, so that the earth may produce food for us. We give this tobacco, as thou hast kept us from all manner of monsters."
The Dakotas not only burned tobacco in their "buffalo medicine" to bring the herds, but often fragrant grass. Other tribes burned the leaves of the white cedar. These forms of incense were sometimes used to entice the inimical spirits, the shaman being supposed to be able, when they had arrived in the form of a bear or some other animal, to kill them with his rattle. Some of the Indians believed that incense and sacrifices generally were to be used only for the spirits from whom they feared harm. They said it was not necessary to trouble themselves about the good spirits, who were all right anyhow.
Fetiches.—Among many of the tribes of Indians there is a tribal totem (and often several clan totems) which, in later times becoming chiefly symbolic and emblematic, was once used in objective form for the most important religious purposes. Particularly, it was carried on extensive warlike expeditions. Adair, who calls it an "ark," describes it as made of pieces of wood, fastened together in the form of a square, to be carried on the back. It was never placed on the ground, nor did the bearers sit on the earth even when they halted. In many other tribes it was a bag of skins and its contents varied, but generally were "blessed" or "sacred" fragments of wood, stone, or bone. Among the Omaha it was a large shell, covered with various envelopes, and was never wholly exposed to sight, for that would occasion death or blindness.
A custodian was appointed every four years by the old men of the Blackfeet, to take charge of the sacred pipe, pipe-stem, mat, and other implements, which he alone was permitted to handle.
The ark of the Israelites was probably derived from the Egyptians, who had a real ark which was carried on the shoulders of the priests in processions. When the exodus began, the Egyptian ark for convenience was changed into a chest fitted with staves for bearers. It became the standard of their warring and wandering life.
In addition to what has been called the ark or tribal fetich, the mystery-bag that each Indian had is to be compared with the Israelite teraph, which was a family or tutelary fetich independent of the national worship, and later was the subject of frequent denunciation. It was probably made of carved wood, and was often carried on the person, but was generally held as a household god or domestic oracle. The teraphim markedly resembled the Roman penates.
This comparison is explanatory of the statement that neither the Israelites nor the Indians worshiped idols. Its truth depends upon what is considered to be an idol. If the definition is limited to the human form the assertion is true, because their religion was not anthropomorphic; but fetiches were certainly the objects of worship, the recrudescent forms of which, appearing even in civilization, have been amulets, lucky-stones, pieces of wood and charms.
Sabbath.—It is not possible, in discussing the Israelites, to neglect the institution of the Sabbath. The four quarters of the moon made an obvious division of the month, and wherever the new moon and full moon are made religious occasions there comes a cycle of fourteen or fifteen days, of which the week of seven or eight days forms half. It is significant that in the older parts of the Hebrew Scriptures the new moon and the Sabbath are almost invariably mentioned together. Among the Israelites, and perhaps among the Canaanites, joy on the new moon became the type of religious festivity in general. There is an indication that in old times the feast of the new moon lasted two days, so that an approximation to regular recurrence of the subdivisions constituting the week was gained. The Babylonians and Assyrians had an institution dividing the month into four parts, by which, on the days assigned, labor was forbidden; but originally the Israelites' abstinence from labor was only incidental to their not working at the same time that they were feasting. While they were nomads, with only intermittent work, they had no occasion for a fixed day of rest.
The new moons were at least as important as the Sabbath until the seventh century before Christ. When the local sacrifices were abolished and the rites and feasts were limited to the central altar, which practically could be visited only at rare intervals, the general festival of the new moon ceased. The Sabbath did not, but became an institution of law divorced from ritual. The connection between the week of seven days and the work of creation is now recognized as secondary. The original sketch of the decalogue probably did not contain any allusion to the creation, and it is even doubtful whether the original form of Genesis distributed creation over six days.
Subsequent history of the Sabbath shows a reflex action between religion and sociology. Religion prevailed against better arrangements for periods of rest. Sociology used religion to get what it could.
The Indians reached only the first part of the inception of the Sabbath in the ceremonies of the new and full moon, which were to them of great importance, those of the new moon being most noted.
Circumcision.—This, generally regarded as a distinctive mark of the Israelites, is by no means peculiar to them, and is found in so many parts of the world, with such evidences of great antiquity, as to contravene its attribution to them. Its origin is a subject of much dispute. As practiced indiscriminately in infancy, it is perhaps a surgical blunder. It is certain that among the Israelites it was not at first a religious rite. The operation was not then performed by the priesthood, but by a secular person of skill, without ceremonials. Afterward it was regarded as an initiatory ceremony, and as such its parallels connected with the sexual organization may be found all over the world, but as a special national distinction the declared object was not attained. Besides the Egyptians, Arabs and Persians, with whom the coincidence might be expected, many tribes of Africa, Central and South America, Madagascar, and scores of islands of the sea, show the same mark, and it has even been found in several of the North American tribes. The sole motive for alluding to this very comprehensive subject is to correct the popular belief that the custom is peculiar to the Israelites. In this as in many other alleged respects they were not "peculiar."