The Evolution of the Dragon Part 33

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[432: Mr. Donald Mackenzie has collected a good deal of folk-lore concerning the pig ("Myths of Egypt," pp. 66 _et seq._; also his books on Babylonian, Indian, and Cretan myths, _op. cit. supra_).]

[433: According to Sayce, "Hibbert Lectures," p. 153, note 6.]

[434: In Egypt not only was the sow identified with Isis, but "lucky pigs" were worn on necklaces just like the earlier cowry-amulets (Budge, "Guide to the Egyptian Collections" (British Museum), p. 96).]

[435: Malinowski, _Trans. and Proc. Royal Society, South Australia_, XXXIX, 1915, p. 587 _et. seq._]

[436: Seler, "Die Tierbilder der mexikanischen und der Maya-Handschriften," _Zeitsch. f. Ethnologie_, Bd. 41, 1909, p. 405, and Fig. 242 in Maudslay, "Biologia Centrali-Americana," Vol. III, Pl. 13.]

Gold and the Golden Aphrodite.

The evidence which has been collected by Mr. Wilfrid Jackson seems to suggest that the shell-cults originated in the neighbourhood of the Red Sea.

With the introduction of the practice of wearing shells on girdles and necklaces and as hair ornaments the time arrived when people living some distance from the sea experienced difficulty in obtaining these amulets in quantities sufficient to meet their demands. Hence they resorted to the manufacture of imitations of these shells in clay and stone. But at an early period in their history the inhabitants of the deserts between the Nile and the Red Sea (Hathor's special province) discovered that they could make more durable and attractive models of cowries and other shells by using the plastic yellow metal which was lying about in these deserts unused and unappreciated. This practice first gave to the metal gold an arbitrary value which it did not possess before. For the peculiar life-giving attributes of the shells modelled in the yellow metal came to be transferred to the gold itself. No doubt the lightness and especially the beauty of such gold models appealed to the early Egyptians, and were in large measure responsible for the hold gold acquired over mankind. But this was an outcome of the empirical knowledge gained from a practice that originally was inspired purely by cultural and not aesthetic motives. The earliest Egyptian hieroglyphic sign for gold was a picture of a necklace of such amulets; and this emblem became the determinative of the Great Mother Hathor, not only because she was originally the personification of the life-giving shells, but also because she was the guardian deity both of the Eastern wadys where the gold was found and of the Red Sea coasts where the cowries were obtained. Hence she became the "Golden Hathor," the prototype of the "Golden Aphrodite".

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--The Egyptian emblem for gold, the sign _nub_. It represents a collar from which golden amulets, probably representing cowries, are suspended.]

It is a significant token of the influence of these Egyptian incidents upon the history of the aegean that among the earliest gold ornaments found by Schliemann at Troy were a series of crude representations of cowries worn as pendants to a hair ornament.[437]

It is hardly necessary to insist upon the vast influence upon the history of civilization which this arbitrary value of gold has been responsible for exerting. For more than fifty centuries men have been searching for the precious metal, and have been spreading abroad throughout the world the elements of our civilization. It has been not only the chief factor in bringing about the contact of peoples[438] and incidentally in building up our culture, but it has been the cause, directly or indirectly, of most of the warfare which has afflicted mankind. Yet these mighty forces were let loose upon the world as the result of the circumstance that early searchers for an elixir of life used the valueless metal to make imitations of their shell amulets!

The identification of gold with cowries may not have been the primary reason for the invention of gold currency. In fact, Professor Ridgeway has called attention to certain historical events which in his opinion forced men to convert their jewellery into coinage. But the fact that cowries were the earliest form of currency may have prepared the way for the recognition of the use of gold for a similar purpose. Moreover, we know that long before a real gold currency came into being rings of gold were in Egypt a form of tribute and a sign of wealth. Cowries acquired their significance as currency as the result of incidents in some respects analogous to those which impelled the early Egyptians to make gold models of the shells. In places in Africa far removed from the sea where the practice has grown up of offering vast numbers of cowries to brides on the occasion of their marriage (as fertility amulets) or of putting the shells in the grave (to secure for the dead fresh vital energy), the people offered their most treasured possessions, such as their cattle, in exchange for the amulets which were believed to confer such priceless social and religious boons. Cattle were therefore given in exchange for cowries, or the shells were used for the purchase of wives. When the new significance as currency developed a remarkable confusion occurred. In many places cowries were placed in the mouth of the dead to confer the breath of life: but when the cowries acquired the new meaning as currency, the people who had lost all knowledge of the original significance of this practice explained the cowries as money with which to pay Charon's fare to the other world. Then, in many places, the cowry was replaced by an actual metallic coin. Most scholars fall into the same error as these ancient rationalists, and accept their explanation of the _obolus_ as though it were the real meaning of the act.

Another result of the use of gold models of shells as life-giving amulets was that the metal also acquired the reputation of being a giver of life,[439] which originally belonged merely to the shell or the imitation of its form, whatever the substance used for making the model.

Thus gold came to share the same magical reputation as the cowry and the pearl. It was also put to the same use: it was buried with the dead to confer a continuation of existence.

Not only was Hathor called _Nub_, _i.e._ "gold" or the golden Hathor: but the place where the funerary statue was made ("born") in Egypt was called the "House of Gold" and personified as a goddess who gave rebirth to the dead (Alan Gardiner, "The Tomb of Amenemhet," p. 95; and A. M.

Blackman, _Journal of Egyptian Archaeology_, Vol. IV, p. 127).

When ancient prospectors from the South exploited the rivers of Turkestan for alluvial gold and fresh water pearls, incidentally they also collected pebbles of jade for the purpose of making seals. The local inhabitants confused the properties of the stone with the magical reputation of the gold and the pearls. One outcome of this jade-fishing in Turkestan was the transference of the credit of life-giving to jade.

Prospectors searching for these precious materials gradually made their way east past Lob Nor, and eventually discovered the deposits of gold and jade in the Shensi province. Thus jade became the nucleus around which the distinctive civilization of China became crystallized. It played an obtrusive part not only in attracting men from the West and in determining the locality where the germs of Western civilization were planted in China, but also in giving Chinese culture its distinctive shape.

"The ancient Chinese, wishing to facilitate the resurrection of the dead, surrounded them with jade, gold, pearls, timber, and other things imbued with influences emitted from the heavens, or, in other words, with such objects as are pervaded with vital energy derived from the _Yang_ matter of which the heavens are the principal depository." (De Groot, _op. cit._, p. 316).

By a similar process diamonds acquired the same reputation in India when searchers after gold discovered the precious metal in Hyderabad, and the diamonds of Golconda came to be accredited with life-giving powers.[440]

According to the beliefs of the Indians "the Naga owns riches, the water of life, and a jewel that restores the dead to life".

Thus gold, pearls, jade, and diamonds in course of time acquired the reputation of elixirs of life, but the hold they established upon mankind was due to the fact (a) that the amulets made of these materials made a strong appeal to the aesthetic sense, and (b) the arbitrary value assigned to them made them desirable objects to search for.

In his "Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult" (1901) Sir Arthur Evans gives cogent reasons for the view that at the time when Mycenaean influence was powerful in Cyprus "the 'golden Aphrodite' of the Egyptians seems to play a much more important part than any form of Astarte or Mylitta"

(p. 52). "The Cypriote parallels will be found to have a fundamental importance as demonstrating in detail that these ['a simple form of the palmette pillar, approaching a fleur-de-lys in outline,' in association with its guardian monsters] are in fact taken over from the cult of Mentu-Ra, the Warrior Sun-god of Egypt, of Hathor, and of Horus"

(p. 52).

[437: So far as I am aware the fact that these objects were intended to represent cowries does not appear to have been recognized hitherto. I am indebted to Mr. Wilfrid Jackson for calling my attention to the figures 685 and 832 in Schliemann's "Ilios" (1880), and for identifying the objects.]

[438: See Perry, "Megalithic Monuments and Ancient Mines," _Proceedings and Memorials of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society_, 1916; also "War and Civilization," _Bulletin of the John Rylands Library_, 1918.]

[439: "Danae pregnant with immortal gold."]

[440: See Laufer, "The Diamond," also Munn, "The Ancient Gold Mines of Hyderabad," paper now being published in the _Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society_.]

Aphrodite as the Thunder-stone.

As a surrogate of the Great Mother, the Eye of Re, the thunder-weapon was also identified with any of her varied manifestations.

The thunderbolt is one of the manifestations of the life-giving and death-dealing Divine Cow, and therefore is able specially to protect mundane cows.[441]

There are numerous hints in the ancient literature of other countries in confirmation of the association of the Great Mother with "falling stars". "In a fragment of Sanchoniathon, Astarte, travelling about the habitable world, is said to have found a star falling through the air, which she took up and consecrated."[442]

Aphrodite also was looked upon as a meteoric stone that fell from the moon. In the "Iliad," Zeus is said to have sent Athena as a meteorite from heaven to earth.[443]

The association of Aphrodite with meteoric stones and the ancient belief that they fell from the moon serve to confirm the identification of these life-giving and death-dealing objects with the pearl and the thunderbolt. In Southern India the goddesses may be represented either by small stones or by pots of water, usually seven in number. During the ceremony around the stone-form of the goddess the _kappukaran_ runs thrice around the stone, as the mandrake-digger does around the plant.

The _pujari_ who represents the goddess is painted like a leopard (Hathor's lioness) and kills the sacrificial sheep. The goddess (like Hathor) is supposed to drink the blood of the sacrificial victims (Whitehead, _op. cit._, pp. 164-8).

Many factors played a part in the development of the beliefs about the origin of mankind from stones, with which the identification of the thunderbolt with the winged disk plays a part.

The idea that the cowry was the giver of life and the parent of men was also transferred to crude stone imitations of the shell. Perhaps the belief in such stones as creators of human beings may have been reinforced by finding actual fossilized shells within pebbles.[444]

A further corroboration of this theory was provided when the pearl came to be regarded as the quintessence of the life-giving substance of shells and as a little particle of moon-substance which fell as a drop of dew into the gaping oyster. Perry (_op. cit._, p. 78) refers to an Indonesian belief among the Tsalisen that their ancestors came out of the moon; and the chief of this people has a spherical stone which is said to represent the moon.

This association of the moon with round stones may be connected with the identification of the sun (as the winged disk) with a stone axe, when they came to be regarded as alternative weapons for the destruction or the creation of men. Perry records a story of a rock being lowered down from the sun, from which it was born, and out of a cleft in it man and woman emerged, as they were believed to have been born from the cleft in the cowry.

Then there are the Egyptian beliefs concerning stone statues, obelisks, or even unshaped blocks of stone which could be animated by human beings or gods.[445]

The cycle of these stories was completed when the "Eye of Re"

slaughtered the enemies of the god and they became identified with the followers of Set, "creatures of stone". Thus the evil eye petrified rebellious men: and so was launched upon its course the peculiar group of legends which in time encircled the world.

It is particularly significant that in Indonesia, in association with these ideas about stone-origins and petrifaction, Perry (p. 133) found also the clear-cut belief that the thunder-weapon was a stone, or the tooth of a cloud-dragon in the sky.

In Indonesia also petrifaction, thunder-stones, rain, floods, lightning, and an arrow shot to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning were the punishments traditionally assigned for certain offences, such as incest and laughing at animals.

The same people who introduced into the Malay Archipelago these characteristic fragments of the dragon-myth also believed that certain animals were impersonations of their gods: they also brought stories of incestuous unions on the part of their deities and rulers. To laugh at their sacred animals, or to imitate privileged customs permitted to their deities, but not to ordinary mortals, merited the same sort of punishments as were meted out to those other rebels against the ruling class and the gods in the home of these beliefs.[446]

To laugh at the divine animals, or to commit incest, which was a divine prerogative, was analogous to "the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,"

which in the New Testament is proclaimed an unpardonable offence, and in pagan legend was punished by the divine wrath, thunder, lightning, rain, floods, or petrifaction being the avenging instruments. Oedipus put out his own eyes to forestall the traditional wrath of the gods.

[441: Blinkenberg, _op. cit._, p. 70 _et seq._]

[442: Quoted by Layard, "Nineveh and its Remains," Vol. II, p. 457.]

[443: Cook, "Zeus," I, p. 760.]

[444: Striking examples of these stories about birth from split stones have been given by Perry, "Megalithic Culture of Indonesia," Chapter X, and de Groot's "Religious System of China". It is possible that the double meaning of the Egyptian word _set_, as "stone" and "mountain"

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The Evolution of the Dragon Part 33 summary

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