The Evolution of the Dragon Part 32

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The G.o.d himself is represented as addressing it in these words: "The tempest of battle, my weapon of fifty heads, which like the great serpent of seven heads is yoked with seven heads, which like the strong serpent of the sea (sweeps away) the foe".

In the j.a.panese story which I have quoted, the number of the dragon's heads is given as _seven_ or _eight_; and de Visser is at a loss to know why "the number eight should be stereotyped in these stories of [j.a.panese] dragons".[421]

I have already emphasized the world-wide a.s.sociation of the seven-headed dragon with storms. The Argonaut (usually called "Nautilus" by cla.s.sical scholars) was the prophet of ill-luck and the storm-bringer: but, true to the paradox that runs through the whole tissue of mythology, this form of the Great Mother is also a benevolent warner against storms. This seems to be another link between the seven-headed dragon and these cephalopoda.

I would suggest, merely as a tentative working hypothesis, that the process of blending the seven _avatars_ of the dragon into a seven-headed dragon may have been facilitated by its identification with the _Pterocera_ and the octopus. We know that the octopus and the sh.e.l.l-fish were forms a.s.sumed by the dragon (see p. 172): the confusion between the numbers seven and eight is such as might have been created during the transference of the _Pterocera's_ attributes to the octopus (_vide supra_, p. 170); and the Babylonian reference to "the fish with seven wings," which was afterwards rationalized into "a great serpent with seven heads," seems to provide the clue which explains the origin of the seven-headed dragon. If Hathor was a seven-fold G.o.ddess and at the same time was identified with the seven-spiked spider-sh.e.l.l (_Pterocera_), the process of converting the sh.e.l.l-fish's seven "wings"

into seven heads would be a very simple one for an ancient story-teller.

If this hypothesis has any basis in fact, the circ.u.mstance that the beliefs concerning the _Pterocera_ must (from the habitat of the sh.e.l.l-fish) have come into existence upon the sh.o.r.es of Southern Arabia would explain the appearance of the derived myth of the seven-headed dragon in Babylonia.

My attention was first called to the possibility of the octopus being the parent of the seven-headed dragon, and one of the forms a.s.sumed by the thunderbolt, by the design upon a krater from Apulia.[422] The weapon seemed to be a conventionalization of the octopus. Though further research has led me to distrust this interpretation, it has convinced me of the intimate a.s.sociation of the octopus and the derived spiral ornament with thunder and the dragon, and has suggested that the process of blending the seven demons into a seven-headed demon has been a.s.sisted by the symbolism of the octopus and the _Pterocera_.

[414: "The Celtic Dragon Myth," by J. F. Campbell, with the "Geste of Fraoch and the Dragon," translated with introduction by George Henderson, Edinburgh, 1911, p. 134.]

[415: My italics.]

[416: Henry Whitehead (Bishop of Madras), "The Village G.o.ds of South India," Oxford, 1916, p. 24.]

[417: "The Celtic Dragon Myth," p. 136.]

[418: See Chapter I, p. 47.]

[419: I do not propose to discuss here the interesting problems raised by this identification of the dragon with a man's good or evil spirit.

But it is worthy of note that while the Babylonian might be possessed by seven evil spirits, the Egyptian could have as many as fourteen good spirits or _kas_. In a form somewhat modified by the Indian and Indonesian channels, through which they must have pa.s.sed, these beliefs still persist in Melanesia; and the illuminating account of them given by C. E. Fox and F. W. Drew ("Beliefs and Tales of San Cristoval,"

_Journ. Roy. Anthropol. Inst._, Vol. XLV, 1915, p. 161), makes it easier to us to form some conception of their original meaning in ancient Babylonia and Egypt. The _ataro_ which possesses a man (and there may be as many as a hundred of these "ghosts") leaves his body at death and usually enters a shark (or in other cases an octopus, skate, turtle, crocodile, hawk, kingfisher, tree, or stone).]

[420: Vol. II, 19, 11-18, and 65, quoted by Sayce, _Hibbert Lectures_, p. 282.]

[421: _Op. cit._, p. 150.]

[422: A. B. Cook, "Zeus," Vol. I, p. 337, in which (Fig. 269) the rider in the car is _welcoming_ the thunderbolt as a divine gift from heaven, _i.e._ as a life-amulet, a giver of fertility and good luck. For a design representing the octopus as a weapon of the G.o.d Eros see the t.i.tle-page of Usener's "Die Sintfluthsagen," 1899.]

The Pig.

I have already referred to the circ.u.mstances that were responsible for the identification of the cow with the Great Mother, the sky, and the moon. Once this had happened, the process seems to have been extended to include other animals which were used as food, such as the sheep, goat, pig, and antelope (or gazelle and deer). In Egypt the cow continued to occupy the pre-eminent place as a divine animal; and the cow-cult extended from the Mediterreanean to equatorial Africa, to Western Europe, and as far East as India. But in the Mediterranean area the pig played a more prominent part than it did in Egypt.[423] In the latter country Osiris, Isis, and especially Set, were identified with the pig; and in Syria the place of Set as the enemy of Osiris (Adonis) was taken by an actual pig. But throughout the Eastern Mediterranean the pig was also identified with the Great Mother and a.s.sociated with lunar and sky phenomena. In fact at Troy the pig was represented[424] with the star-shaped decorations with which Hathor's divine cow (in her role as a sky-G.o.ddess) was embellished in Egypt. To complete the identification with the cow-mother Cretan fable represents a sow suckling the infant Minos or the youthful Zeus-Dionysus as his Egyptian prototype was suckled by the divine cow.

Now the cowry-sh.e.l.l was called [Greek: choiros] by the Greeks. The pig, in fact, was identified both with the Great Mother and the sh.e.l.l; and it is clear from what has been said already in these pages that the reason for this strange h.o.m.ology was the fact that originally the Great Mother was nothing more than the cowry-sh.e.l.l.

But it was not only with the sh.e.l.l itself that the pig was identified but also with what the sh.e.l.l symbolized. Thus the term [Greek: choiros]

had an obscene significance in addition to its usual meaning "pig" and its acquired meaning "cowry". This fact seems to have played some part in fixing upon the pig the notoriety of being "an unclean animal".[425]

But it was mainly for other reasons of a very different kind that the eating of swine-flesh was forbidden. The tabu seems to have arisen originally because the pig was a sacred animal identified with the Great Mother and the Water G.o.d, and especially a.s.sociated with both these deities in their lunar aspects.

According to a Cretan legend the youthful G.o.d Zeus-Dionysus was suckled by a sow. For this reason "the Cretans consider this animal sacred, and will not taste of its flesh; and the men of Praesos perform sacred rites with the sow, making her the first offering at the sacrifice".[426]

But when the pig also a.s.sumed the role of Set, as the enemy of Osiris, and became the prototype of the devil, an active aversion took the place of the sacred tabu, and inspired the belief in the unwholesomeness of pig flesh. To this was added the unpleasant reputation as a dirty animal which the pig itself acquired, for the reasons which I have already stated.

I have already referred to the irrelevance of Miss Jane Harrison's denial of the birth of Aphrodite from the sea (p. 141). Miss Harrison does not seem to have realized that in her book[427] she has collected evidence which is much more relevant to the point at issue. For, in the interesting account of the Eleusinian Mysteries (pp. 150 _et seq._), she has called attention to the important rite upon the day "called in popular parlance '[Greek: halade mystai],' 'to the sea ye mystics'" (p.

152), which, I think, has a direct bearing upon the myth of Aphrodite's birth from the sea.

The Mysteries were celebrated at full moon; and each of the candidates for admission "took with him his own pharmakos,[428] a young pig".

"Arrived at the sea, each man bathed with his pig" (p. 152). On one occasion, so it is said, "when a mystic was bathing his pig, a sea-monster ate off the lower part of his body" (p. 153). So important was the pig in this ritual "that when Eleusis was permitted (B.C.

350-327) to issue her autonomous coinage it is the pig she chooses as the sign and symbol of her mysteries" (p. 153).

"On the final day of the Mysteries, according to Athenaeus, two vessels called _plemochoae_ are emptied, one towards the East and the other towards the West, and at the moment of outpouring a mystic formulary was p.r.o.nounced.... What the mystic formulary was we cannot certainly say, but it is tempting to connect the libation of the _plemochoae_ with a formulary recorded by Proclos. He says 'In the Eleusinian mysteries, looking up to the sky they cried aloud "Rain," and looking down to earth they cried "Be fruitful"'" (p. 161).

In these latter incidents we see, perhaps, a distant echo of Hathor's pots of blood-coloured beer that were poured out upon the soil, which in a later version of the story became the symbol of the inundation of the river and the token of the earth's fruitfulness. The personification in the Great Mother of these life-giving powers of the river occurred at about the same time; and this was rationalized by the myth that she was born of the sea. She was also identified with the moon and a sow. Hence these Mysteries were celebrated, both in Egypt and in the Mediterranean, at full moon, and the pig played a prominent part in them. The candidates washed the sacrificial pig in the sea, not primarily as a rite of purification,[429] as is commonly claimed, but because the sacrificial animal was merely a surrogate of the cowry, which lived in the sea, and of the Great Mother,[430] who was sprung from the cowry and hence born of the sea. In the story of the man carrying the pig being attacked by a sea-monster, perhaps we have an incident of that widespread story of the shark guarding the pearls. We have already seen how it was distorted into the fantastic legend of the dog's role in the digging up of mandrakes. In the version we are now considering the pearl's place is taken by the pig, both of them surrogates of the cowry.

The object of the ceremony of carrying the pig into the sea was not the cleansing of "the unclean animal," nor was it _primarily_ a rite of purification in any sense of the term: it was simply a ritual procedure for identifying the sacrifice with the G.o.ddess by putting it in her own medium, and so transforming the surrogate of the sea-sh.e.l.l, the prototype of the sea-born G.o.ddess, into the actual Great Mother.

The question naturally arises: what was the real purpose of the sacrifice of the pig?

In the story of the Destruction of Mankind we have seen that originally a human victim was slain for the purpose of obtaining the life-giving human blood to rejuvenate the ageing king. Two circ.u.mstances were responsible for the modification of this procedure. In the first place, there was the abandonment of human sacrifice and the subst.i.tution of either beer coloured red with ochre to resemble blood (or in other cases red wine) or the actual blood of an animal sacrifice in place of the human blood. Secondly, the blood of the Great Mother herself (personified in the special _avatar_ that was recognized in a particular locality, the cow in one place, the pig in another, and so on) was regarded as more potent as a life-giving force than that of a mere mortal human being. It is possible, perhaps even probable, that this was the real reason for the abandoning of human sacrifice and the subst.i.tution of an animal for a human being. For it is unlikely that, in the rude state of society which had become familiarized with and brutalized by the practice of these b.l.o.o.d.y rites of homicide, ethical motives alone would have prompted the abolition of the custom of human sacrifice, to which such deep significance was attached. The subst.i.tution of the animal was prompted rather by the idea of obtaining a more potent elixir from the life-blood of the Great Mother herself in her cow- or sow-forms.

In the transitional stage of the process of subst.i.tution of an animal for a human being some confusion seems to have arisen as to the ritual meaning of the new procedure. If Moret's account of the Egyptian Mysteries[431] is correct--and without a knowledge of Egyptian philology I am not competent to express an opinion upon this matter--the attempt was made to identify the animal victim of sacrifice with the human being whose place it had taken. In the procession a human being wore the skin of an animal; and, according to Moret, there was a ceremony of pa.s.sing a human being through the skin as a ritual procedure for transforming the mock victim into the animal which was to be sacrificed in his place. If there is any truth in this interpretation, such a ceremony must have been prompted by a misunderstanding of the meaning of the sacrifice, unless the identification of the sacrificial animal with the G.o.ddess was merely a secondary rationalization of the subst.i.tution which had been made for ethical or some other reasons.

We know that the dead were often buried in the skins of sacrificial animals, and so identified with the life-giving deities and given rebirth. We know also that in certain ceremonies the appropriate skins were worn by those who were impersonating particular G.o.ds or G.o.ddesses.

The wearing of these skins of divine animals seems to have been prompted not so much by the idea of a reincarnation in animal form as by the desire for identification and communion with the particular deity which the animal represented. The whole question, however, is one of great complexity, which can only be settled by a critical study of the texts by some scholar who keeps clearly before his mind the real issues, and refuses to take refuge in the stereotyped evasions of conventional methods of interpretation.

The sacrifice of the sow to Demeter is merely a late variant of Hathor's sacrifice of a human being to rejuvenate the king Re. How the real meaning of the story became distorted I have already explained in Chapter II ("Dragons and Rain G.o.ds"). The killing of the sow to obtain a good harvest is h.o.m.ologous with the sacrifice of a maiden to obtain a good inundation of the river. The sow is the surrogate of the beautiful princess of the fairy tale. Instead of the maiden being slain, in one case, as Andromeda, she is rescued by the hero, in the other her place is taken by a sow. These late rationalizations are merely glosses of the deep motives which more than fifty centuries ago seem to have prompted early pharmacologists to obtain a more potent elixir than human blood by stealing from the heights of Olympus the divine blood of the life-giving deities themselves.

The pig was identified not only with the Great Mother, but with Osiris and Set also. With the pig's lunar and astral a.s.sociations I do not propose to deal in these pages, as the astronomical aspects of the problems are so vast as to need much more s.p.a.ce than the limits imposed in this statement. But it is important to note that the identification of Set with a pig was perhaps the main factor in riveting upon this creature the fetters of a reputation for evil. The evil dragon was the representative of both Set and the Great Mother (Sekhet or Tiamat); and both of them were identified with the pig. Just as Set killed Osiris, so the pig gave Adonis his mortal injury.[432] When these earthly incidents were embellished with a celestial significance, the conflict of Horus with Set was interpreted as the struggle between the forces of light and order and the powers of darkness and chaos. When worshipped as a tempest-G.o.d the Mesopotamian Rimmon was known as "the pig"[433] and, as "the wild boar of the desert," was a form of Set.

I have discussed the pig at this length because the use of the words [Greek: choiros] by the Greeks, and _porcus_ and _porculus_ by the Romans, reveals the fact that the terms had the double significance of "pig" and "cowry-sh.e.l.l". As it is manifestly impossible to derive the word "cowry" from the Greek word for "pig," the only explanation that will stand examination is that the two meanings must have been acquired from the identification of both the cowry and the pig with the Great Mother and the female reproductive organs. In other words, the pig-a.s.sociations of Aphrodite afford clear evidence that the G.o.ddess was originally a personification of the cowry.[434]

The fundamental nature of the identification of the cowry, the pig, and the Great Mother, the one with the other, is revealed not merely in the archaeology of the aegean, but also in the modern customs and ancient pictures of the most distant peoples. For example, in New Guinea the place of the sacrificial pig may be taken by the cowry-sh.e.l.l;[435] and upon the chief facade of the east wing of the ancient American monument, known as the Casa de las Monjas at Chichen Itza, the hieroglyph of the planet Venus is placed in conjunction with a picture of a wild pig.[436]

[423: And also, in a misunderstood form, even as far as America.]

[424: Schliemann, "Ilios," Fig. 1450, p. 616.]

[425: This is seen in the case of the Persian word _khor_, which means both "pig" and "harlot" or "filthy woman". The possibility of the derivation of the old English word "[w]h.o.r.e" from the same source is worth considering.]

[426: L. R. Farnell, "Cults of the Greek States," Vol. I, p. 37.]

[427: "Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion."]

[428: Which, in fact, was intended as the equivalent of [Greek: pharmakon athanasias], "the redeeming blood".]

[429: Blackman ("Sacramental Ideas and Usages in Ancient Egypt,"

_Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology_, March, 1918, p. 57; and May, 1918, p. 85) has shown that the idea of purification was certainly entertained.]

[430: In some places an image of the G.o.ddess was washed in the sea.]

[431: "Mysteres egyptiens."]

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The Evolution of the Dragon Part 32 summary

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