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Francis A.Countway 
Library of Medicine 


n c 

Digitized by tine Internet Archive 

in 2010 witin funding from 

Open Knowledge Commons and Harvard Medical School 



D E M O N O L Q^N^^ 




VOL. I. 



Copyright, 1879, 



Three Friars, says a legend, hid themselves near the 
Witch Sabbath orgies that they might count the devils ; 
but the Chief of these, discovering the friars, said — ' Reve- 
rend Brothers, our army is such that if all the Alps, their 
rocks and glaciers, were equally divided among us, none 
would have a pound's weight.' This was in one Alpine 
valley. Any one who has caught but a glimpse of the 
world's Walpurgis Night, as revealed in Mythology and 
Folklore, must agree that this courteous devil did not 
overstate the case. Any attempt to catalogue the evil 
spectres which have haunted mankind were like trying to 
count the shadows cast upon the earth by the rising sun. 
This conviction has grown upon the author of this work at 
every step in his studies of the subject. 

In 1859 I contributed, as one of the American 'Tracts 
for the Times,' a pamphlet entitled 'The Natural History 
of the Devil.' Probably the chief value of that essay was 
to myself, and this in that its preparation had revealed 
to me how pregnant with interest and importance was 
the subject selected. Subsequent researches in the same 
direction, after I had come to reside in Europe, revealed 
how slight had been my conception of the vastness of the 
domain upon which that early venture was made. In 
1872, while preparing a series of lectures for the Royal 


Institution on Demonology, it appeared to me that the 
best I could do was to print those lectures with some 
notes and additions ; but after they were delivered there 
still remained with me unused the greater part of materials 
collected in many countries, and the phantasmal creatures 
which I had evoked would not permit me to rest from my 
labours until I had dealt with them more thoroughly. 

The fable of Thor's attempt to drink up a small spring, 
and his failure because it was fed by the ocean, seems 
aimed at such efforts as mine. But there is another 
aspect of the case which has yielded me more encourage- 
ment. These phantom hosts, however unmanageable as 
to number, when closely examined, present comparatively 
few types; they coalesce by hundreds; from being at first 
overwhelmed by their multiplicity, the classifier finds 
himself at length beating bushes to start a new variety. 
Around some single form — the physiognomy, it may 
be, of Hunger or Disease, of Lust or Cruelty — ignorant 
imagination has broken up nature into innumerable bits 
which, like mirrors of various surface, reflect the same in 
endless sizes and distortions; but they vanish if that 
central fact be withdrawn. 

In trying to conquer, as it were, these imaginary 
monsters, they have sometimes swarmed and gibbered 
around me in a mad comedy which travestied their tragic 
sway over those who believed in their reality. Gargoyles 
extended their grin over the finest architecture, cor- 
nices coiled to serpents, the very words of speakers 
started out of their conventional sense into images that 
tripped my attention. Only as what I believed right 
solutions were given to their problems were my sphinxes 
laid ; but through this psychological experience it 


appeared that when one was so laid his or her legion 
disappeared also. Long ago such phantasms ceased to 
haunt my nerves, because I discovered their unreality ; 
I am now venturing to beheve that their mythologic 
forms cease to haunt my studies, because I have found 
out their reality. 

Why slay the slain .'' Such may be the question that 
will arise in the minds of many who see this book. A 
Scotch song says, ' The Devil is dead, and buried at 
Kirkcaldy ; ' if so, he did not die until he had created 
a world in his image. The natural world is overlaid 
by an unnatural religion, breeding bitterness around 
simplest thoughts, obstructions to science, estrange- 
ments not more reasonable than if they resulted from 
varying notions of lunar figures, — all derived from 
the Devil - bequeathed dogma that certain beliefs and 
disbeliefs are of infernal instigation. Dogmas moulded 
in a fossil demonology make the foundation of institu- 
tions which divert wealth, learning, enterprise, to fictitious 
ends. It has not, therefore, been mere intellectual 
curiosity which has kept me working at this subject 
these many years, but an increasing conviction that the 
sequelae of such superstitions are exercising a still formid- 
able influence. When Father Delaporte lately published 
his book on the Devil, his Bishop wrote — ' Reverend Father, 
if every one busied himself with the Devil as you do, 
the kingdom of God would gain by it.' Identifying the 
kingdom here spoken of as that of Truth, it has been 
with a certain concurrence in the Bishop's sentiment 
that I have busied myself with the work now given to 
the public. 






Origin of Deism — Evolution from the far to the near — Illustrations from 

Witchcraft — The primitive Pantheism — The dawn of Dualism . I 



Their good names euphemistic — Their mixed character — Illustrations : 
Beelzebub, Loki — Demon-germs — The knowledge of good and 
evil — Distinction between Demon and Devil ... 7 



The degradation of Deities — Indicated in names — Legends of their fall 

— Incidental signs of the divine origin of Demons and Devils . 15 



The ex-god — Deities demonised by conquest — Theological animosity — 
Illustration from the A vesta — Devil-worship an arrested Deism — 
Sheik Adi — Why Demons were painted ugly — Survivals of their 
beauty ........ 22 

VOL. I. b 




The obstructions of man — The twelve chief classes— Modifications of 

particular forms for various functions — Theological Demons . 34 




Hunger-demons — Kephn — Miru — Kagura — Rahu the Hindu sun- 
devourer — The earth monster at Pelsall — A Franconian custom — 
Sheitan as moon-devourer — Hindu offerings to the dead — Ghoul — 
Goblin — Vampyres — Leanness of demons^— Old Scotch custom — 
The origin of sacrifices ...... 41 



Demons of fire — Agni — Asmodeus — Prometheus — Feast of fire — 
Moloch — Tophet — Genii of the lamp— Bel-fires — Hallovee'en— 
Negro superstitions — Chinese fire-god — Volcanic and incendiary 
demons — Mangaian fire-demon — Demons' fear of water . . 57 



Descent of Ishtar into Hades — Bardism— Baldur— Herakles — Christ — 
Survivals of the Frost Giant in Slavonic and other countries — The 
Clavie — The Frozen Hell — The Northern abode of Demons — 
North side of churches ...... 77 



A Scottish Munasa — Rudra — Siva's lightning eye — The flaming sword — 
Limping Demons — Demons of the storm — Helios, Elias, Perun — 



Thor arrows — The Bob-tailed Dragon — Whirlwind — Japanese 
Thunder God — Christian survivals — ^Jinni — Inundations — Noah — 
Nik, Nicholas, Old Nick — Nixies — Hydras — Demons of the 
Danube — Tides — Survivals in Russia and England . . 92 



Animal demons distinguished — Trivial sources of Mythology — Hedge- 
hog — Fox — Transmigrations in Japan — Horses bewitched — Rats 
— Lions — Cats — The Dog — Goethe's horror of dogs — Supersti- 
tions of the Parsees, people of Travancore, and American Negroes, 
Red Indians, &c. — Cynocephaloi — The Wolf — Traditions of the 
Nez Perces — Fenris — Fables — The Boar — The Bear — Serpent — 
Every animal power to harm demonised — Horns . . . 121 



Aryas, Dasyus, Nagas — Yakkhos — Lycians — Ethiopians — Hirpini — 
Polites — Sosipolis — Were-wolves — Goths and Scythians — Giants 
and Dwarfs — Berserkers — Britons — Iceland — Mimacs — Gog and 
Magog . ....... 150 




Indian Famine and Sun-spots — Sun-worship — Demon of the Desert 
— The Sphinx — Egyptian Plagues described by Lepsius : Locusts, 
Hurricane, Flood, Mice, Flies — The Sheikh's ride — Abaddon — 
Set — Typhon — The Cain wind — Seth — Mirage — The Desert Eden 
— Azazel — Tawiscara and the Wild-rose . . . . 1 70 



Mephistopheles on crags — Emerson on Monadnoc — Ruskin on Alpine 
peasants — Holy and unholy mountains — The Devil's Pulpit — 
Montagnards — Tarns — Tenjo — T'ai-shan — Apocatequil — Tyrol- 
ese legends — Rock ordeal — Scylla and Charybdis — Scottish giants 
— Pontifex — Devil's bridges — Le geant Yeous . . . 190 





Maya — Natural Treacheries — Misleaders— Glamour — Lorelei — Chinese 
Mermaid — Transformations — Swan Maidens — Pigeon Maidens — 
The Seal-skin — Nudity — Teufelsee—Gohlitsee— Japanese Siren 

Dropping Cave — Venusberg — Godiva — Will-o'-Wisp — Holy 

Fr'aulein — The Forsaken Merman — The Water- Man — Sea Phan- 
tom — Sunken Treasures — Suicide . . . . . 210 



Shadows — Night Deities — Kobolds — Walpurgisnacht— Night as Abet- 
tor of Evil-doers — Nightmare — Dreams — Invisible Foes — ^Jacob 
and his Phantom — Nott — The Prince of Darkness — The Brood of 
Midnight— Second- Sight — Spectres of Souter Fell — The Moon- 
shine Vampyre — Glamour — Glam and Grettir — A Story of Dart- 
moor . . • • • - • • 231 



The Plague Phantom— Devil-dances — Destroying Angels — Ahriman 
in Astrology-- Saturn — Satan and Job — Set — The Fatal Seven — 
Yakseyo — The Singhalese Pretraya — Reeri — Maha Sohon. — 
Morotoo — Luther on Disease-demons — Gopolu — Madan — Cattle- 
demon in Russia — Bihlweisen — The Plough . . . 249 



The Vendetta of Death — Teoyaomiqui — Demon of Serpents — Death 
on the Pale Horse — Kali — War-gods — Satan as Death — Death- 
beds — Thanatos — Yama — Yimi — Towers of Silence — Alcestis — 
Herakles, Ciirist, and Death — Hell — Salt — Azrael — Death and 
the Cobbler — Dance of Death — Death as Foe and as Friend . 269 





The Holy Tree of Travancore — The growth of Demons in India, and 
their decline — The Nepaul Iconoclast — Moral Man and unmoral 
Nature — Man's physical and mental migrations — Heine's ' Gods 
in Exile ' — The Goban Saor — Master Smith — A Greek caricature 
of the Gods — The Carpenter v. Deity and Devil — Extermination 
of the Were-wolf — Refuges of Demons — The Giants reduced to 
Little People — Deities and Demons returning to nature . . 299 



The Demons' bequest to their conquerors — Nondescripts — Exaggera- 
tions of Tradition — Saurian Theory of Dragons — The Dragon not 
primitive in Mythology — Monsters of Egyptian, Iranian, Vedic, 
and Jewish Mythologies — Turner's Dragon — Delia Bella — The 
Conventional Dragon ^ . . . . . .318 



The beauty of the Serpent — Emerson on ideal forms — Michelet's 
thoughts on the viper's head — Unique characters of the Serpent — 
The Monkey's horror of Snakes — The Serpent protected by super- 
stition — Human defencelessness against its subtle powers — 
Dubufe's picture of the Fall of Man .... 325 



An African Serpent-drama in America — The Veiled Serpent — The Ark 
of the Covenant — Aaron's Rod — The Worm — An Episode on the 
Dii Involuti — The Scrapes — The Bambino at Rome — Serpent- 
transformations ....... 





The Naturalistic Theory of Apophis— The Serpent of Time— Epic of 
the Worm— The Asp of Melite — Vanquishers of Time— Nachash- 
Beriach— The Serpent- Spy— Treading on Serpents . . 340 



The Kankato na — The Vedic Serpents not worshipful — Ananta and 
Sesha— The Healing Serpent — The guardian of treasures — Miss 
Buckland's theory — Primitive rationalism — Underworld plutocracy 
— Rain and lightning — Vritra — History of the word ' Ahi ' — The 
Adder — Zohak — A Teutonic Laokoon .... 348 



The Serpent's gem — The Basilisk's eye — Basiliscus mitratus^House- 
snakesin Russia and Germany — King-snakes — Heraldic Dragon — 
Henry III. — Melusina — The Laidley Worm — Victorious Dragons 
— Pendragon — Merlin and Vortigern — Medicinal dragons . 361 


THE dragon's EYE. 

The Eye of Evil — Turner's Dragons — Cloud-phantoms — Paradise and 
the Snake — Prometheus and Jove — Art and Nature — Dragon 
forms : Anglo-Saxon, Italian, Egyptian, Greek, German — The 
modern conventional Dragon . . . . . 372 



The pre-Munchausenite world — The Colonial Dragon — lo's journey 
— Medusa — British Dragons — The Communal Dragon^Savage 
.Saviours — A Mimac helper — The Brutal Dragon — Woman pro- 
tected—The Saint of the Mikados ..... 384 





Demi-gods — Alcestis — Herakles — The Ghilghit Fiend — Incarnate de- 
liverer of Ghilghit — A Dardistan Madonna — The religion of 
Atheism — Resuscitation of Dragons — St. George and his Dragon 
— Emerson and Ruskin on George — Saintly allies of the Dragon . 394 


THE dragon's breath. 

Medusa — Phenomena of recurrence — The Brood of Echidna and their 
survival — Behemoth and Leviathan — The Mouth of Hell — The 
Lambton Worm — Ragnar — The Lambton Doom — The Worm's 
Orthodoxy — The Serpent, Superstition, and Science . . 406 



Dore's ' Love and Fate ' — Moira and Moirae — The ' Fates ' of ^schylus 
— Divine absolutism surrendered — Jove and Typhon — Commu- 
tation of the Demon's share — Popular fatalism — Theological fatal- 
ism — Fate and Necessity — Deification of Will — Metaphysics, past 
and present . . . . . . . 420 

VOL. I. 



I. Beelzebub (Calmet) ...... 


2, Handle of Hindu Chalice ...... 


3. A Swallower . . . . 


4. St. Anthony's Lean Persecutor . . . . . 


5. Ancient Persian Medal ...... 


6. Hercules and the Hydra (Louvre) .... 


7. Japanese Demon ...... 


8. Cerberus (Calmet) ...... 


9. Canine Lar (Herculaneum) ..... 


10. The Wolf as Confessor (probably Dutch) . 


II. Singhalese Demon of Serpents . . . . 


12. American Indian Demon x. . . ■ . 


13. Italian and Roman Genii . . . . 

• 157 

14. Typhon (Wilkinson) . . 


15. Snouted Demon ...... 


16. Demon found at Ostia ..... 

. 265 

17. Teoyaomiqui ....... 


18. Kali . . ; 


19. Dives and Lazarus (Russian, seventeenth century) . 

. 281 

20. The Knight and Death ..... 

• 293 

21. Greek Caricature of the Gods .... 


22. A Witch Mounted (Delia Bella) .... 


23. Serpent and Egg (Tyre) ..... 

• 32s 

24. Serpent and Ark (from a Greek coin) . . . 


25. Anguish ....... 


26. Swan-Dragon (French) ..... 

• 379 

27. Anglo-Saxon Dragons (Csedmon MS., tenth century) 


28. From the Fresco at Arezzo ..... 


29. From Albert Durer's ' Passion ' . . . 


30. Chimaera ....... 


31. Bellerophon and Chimsera (Corinthian) 


32. From the Temptation of St. Anthony 





Origin of Deism — Evolution from the far to the near — Illustrations 
from witchcraft — The primitive Pantheism — The dawn of 

A COLLEGE in the State of Ohio has adopted for its 
motto the words ' Orient thyself.' This significant ad- 
monition to Western youth represents one condition of 
attaining truth in the science of mythology. Through 
neglect of it the glowing personifications and metaphors 
of the East have too generally migrated to the West only 
to find it a Medusa turning them to stone. Our prosaic 
literalism changes their ideals to idols. The time has 
come when we must learn rather to see ourselves in them : 
out of an age and civilisation where we live in habitual 
recognition of natural forces we may transport ourselves 
to a period and region where no sophisticated eye looks 
upon nature. The sun is a chariot drawn by shining 
steeds and driven by a refulgent deity ; the stars ascend 
and move by arbitrary power or command ; the tree is the 
bower of a spirit ; the fountain leaps from the urn of a 
naiad. In such gay costumes did the laws of nature hold 
VOL. I. A 


their carnival until Science struck the hour for unmasking. 
The costumes and masks have with us become materials 
for studying the history of the human mind, but to know 
them we must translate our senses back into that phase of 
our own early existence, so far as is consistent with carry- 
ing our culture with us. 

Without conceding too much to Solar mythology, it may 
be pronounced tolerably clear that the earliest emotion of 
worship was born out of the wonder with which man looked 
up to the heavens above him. The splendours of the morn- 
ing and evening; the azure vault, painted with frescoes of 
cloud or blackened by the storm ; the night, crowned with 
constellations : these awakened imagination, inspired awe, 
kindled admiration, and at length adoration, in the being 
who had reached intervals in which his eye was lifted 
above the earth. Amid the rapture of Vedic hymns to 
these sublimities we meet sharp questionings whether 
there be any such gods as the priests say, and suspicion is 
sometimes cast on sacrifices. The forms that peopled the 
celestial spaces may have been those of ancestors, kings, 
and great men, but anterior to all forms was the poetic 
enthusiasm which built heavenly mansions for them ; and 
the crude cosmogonies of primitive science were probably 
caught up by this spirit, and consecrated as slowly as 
scientific generalisations now are. 

Our modern ideas of evolution might suggest the reverse 
of this — that human worship began with things low and 
gradually ascended to high objects ; that from rude ages, 
in which adoration was directed to stock and stone, tree 
and reptile, the human mind climbed by degrees to the 
contemplation and reverence of celestial grandeurs. But 
the accord of this view with our ideas of evolution is appa- 
rent only. The real progress seems here to have been 
from the far to the near, from the great to the small. It 


is, indeed, probably inexact to speak of the worship of 
stock and stone, weed and wort, insect and reptile, as 
primitive. There are many indications that such things 
were by no race considered intrinsically sacred, nor were 
they really worshipped until the origin of their sanctity 
was lost ; and even now, ages after their oracular or sym- 
bolical character has been forgotten, the superstitions that 
have survived in connection with such insignificant objects 
point to an original association with the phenomena of the 
heavens. No religions could, at first glance, seem wider 
apart than the worship of the serpent and that of the 
glorious sun ; yet many ancient temples are covered with 
symbols combining sun and snake, and no form is more 
familiar in Egypt than the solar serpent standing erect 
upon its tail, with rays around its head. 

Nor is this high relationship of the adored reptile found 
only in regions where it might have been raised up by 
ethnical combinations as the mere survival of a savage 
symbol. William Craft, an African who resided for some 
time in the kingdom of Dahomey, informed me of the 
following incident which he had witnessed there. The 
sacred serpents are kept in a grand house, which they 
sometimes leave to crawl in their neighbouring grounds. 
One day a negro from some distant region encountered 
one of these animals and killed it. The people learning 
that one of their gods had been slain, seized the stranger, 
and having surrounded him with a circle of brushwood, set 
it on fire. The poor wretch broke through the circle of 
fire and ran, pursued by the crowd, who struck him with 
heavy sticks. Smarting from the flames and blows, he 
rushed into a river ; but no sooner had he entered there 
than the pursuit ceased, and he was "told that, having 
gone through fire and water, he was purified, and might 
emerge with safety. Thus, even in that distant and savage 


region, serpent-worship was associated with fire-worship 
and river-worship, which have a wide representation in 
both Aryan and Semitic symbolism. To this day the 
orthodox Israelites set beside their dead, before burial, 
the lighted candle and a basin of pure water. These have 
been associated in rabbinical mythology with the angels 
Michael (genius of Water) and Gabriel (genius of Fire) ; 
but they refer both to the phenomenal glories and the 
purifying effects of the two elements as reverenced by the 
Africans in one direction and the Parsees in another. 

Not less significant are the facts which were attested at 
the witch-trials. It was shown that for their pretended 
divinations they used plants — as rue and vervain — well 
known in the ancient Northern religions, and often recog- 
nised as examples of tree-worship ; but it also appeared 
that around the cauldron a mock zodiacal circle was 
drawn, and that every herb employed was alleged to have 
derived its potency from having been gathered at a certain 
hour of the night or day, a particular quarter of the moon, 
or from some spot where sun or moon did or did not shine 
upon it. Ancient planet-worship is, indeed, still reflected 
in the habit of village herbalists, who gather their simples 
at certain phases of the moon, or at certain of those holy 
periods of the year which conform more or less to the 
pre-christian festivals. 

These are a few out of many indications that the 
small and senseless things which have become almost or 
quite fetishes were by no means such at first, but were 
mystically connected with the heavenly elements and 
splendours, like the animal forms in the zodiac. In one 
of the earliest hymns of the Rig-Veda it is said — ' This 
earth belongs to Varuna {Ovpavoi) the king, and the wide 
sky : he is contained also in this drop of water.' As the 
sky was seen reflected in the shining curve of a dew-drop, 


even so in the shape or colour of a leaf or flower, the 
transformation of a chrysalis, or the burial and resurrection 
of a scarabasus' egg, some sign could be detected making 
it answer in place of the typical image which could not 
yet be painted or carved. 

The necessities of expression would, of course, operate 
to invest the primitive conceptions and interpretations of 
celestial phenomena with those pictorial images drawn 
from earthly objects of which the early languages are 
chiefly composed. In many cases that are met in the 
most ancient hymns, the designations of exalted objects 
are so little descriptive of them, that we may refer them to 
a period anterior to the formation of that refined and com- 
plex symbolism by which primitive religions have acquired 
a representation in definite characters. The Vedic compari- 
sons of the various colours of the dawn to horses, or the 
rain-clouds to cows, denotes a much less mature develop- 
ment of thought than the fine observation implied in the 
connection of the forked lightning with the forked serpent- 
tongue and forked mistletoe, or symbolisation of the uni- 
verse in the concentric folds of an onion. It is the presence 
of these more mystical and complex ideas in religions which 
indicate a progress of the human mind from the large and 
obvious to the more delicate and occult, and the growth 
of the higher vision which can see small things in their 
large relationships. Although the exaltation in the Vedas 
of Varuna as king of heaven, and as contained also in a 
drop of water, is in one verse, we may well recognise an 
immense distance in time between the two ideas there 
embodied. The first represents that primitive pantheism 
which is the counterpart of ignorance. An unclassified 
outward universe is the reflection of a mind without form 
and void : it is while all within is as yet undiscriminating 
wonder that the religious vesture of nature will be this 
undefined pantheism. The fruit of the tree of the know- 


ledge of good and evil has not yet been tasted. In some 
of the earlier hymns of the Rig- Veda, the Maruts, the 
storm-deities, are praised along with Indra, the sun ; 
Yama, king of Death, is equally adored with the goddess 
of Dawn. ' No real foe of yours is known in heaven, nor 
in earth.' ' The storms are thy allies.' Such is the high 
optimism of sentences found even in sacred books which 
elsewhere mask the dawn of the Dualism which ulti- 
mately superseded the harmony of the elemental Powers. 
* I create light and I create darkness, I create good and 
I create evil.' ' Look unto Yezdan, who causeth the 
shadow to fall.' But it is easy to see what must be the 
result when this happy family of sun-god and storm-god 
and fire-god, and their innumerable co-ordinate divinities, 
shall be divided by discord. When each shall have be- 
come associated with some earthly object or fact, he or she 
will appear as friend or foe, and their connection with the 
sources of human pleasure and pain will be reflected in 
collisions and wars in the heavens. The rebel clouds will 
be transformed to Titans and Dragons. The adored 
Maruts will be no longer storm-heroes with unsheathed 
swords of lightning, marching as the retinue of Indra, 
but fire-breathing monsters — Vritras and Ahis, — and the 
morning and evening shadows From faithful watch-dogs 
become the treacherous hell-hounds, like Orthros and Cer- 
berus. The vehement antagonisms between animals and 
men. and of tribe against tribe, will be expressed in the 
conception of struggles among gods, who will thus be 
classified as good or evil deities. 

This was precisely what did occur. The primitive pan- 
theism was broken up : in its place the later ages beheld 
the universe as the arena of a tremendous conflict between 
good and evil Powers, who severally, in the process of 
time, marshalled each and everything, from a world to a 
worm, under their flaming banners. 

( 7 ) 



Their good names euphemistic — Their mixed character — Illustrations : 
Beelzebub, Loki — Demon-germs — The knowledge of good and 
evil — Distinction between Demon and Devil. 

The first pantheon of each race was built of intellectual 
speculations. In a moral sense, each form in it might be 
described as more or less demonic ; and, indeed, it may 
almost be affirmed that religion, considered as a service 
rendered to superhuman beings, began with the propitia- 
tion of demons, albeit they might be called gods. Man 
found that in the earth good things came with difficulty, 
while thorns and weeds sprang up everywhere. The evil 
powers seemed to be the strongest. The best deity had a 
touch of the demon in him. The sun is the most bene- 
ficent, yet he bears the sunstroke along with the sunbeam, 
and withers the blooms he calls forth. The splendour, the 
might, the majesty, the menace, the grandeur and wrath 
of the heavens and the elements were blended in these 
personifications, and reflected in the trembling adoration 
paid to them. The flattering names given to these powers 
by their worshippers must be interpreted by the costly 
sacrifices with which men sought to propitiate them. No 
sacrifice would have been offered originally to a purely 
benevolent power. The Furies were called the Eumenides, 
'the well-meaning,' and there arises a temptation to regard 


the name as preserving the primitive meaning of the San- 
skrit original of Erinys, namely, Saranyu, which signifies 
the morning light stealing over the sky. But the descrip- 
tions of the Erinyes by the Greek poets — especially of 
^schylus, who pictures them as black, serpent-locked, 
with eyes dropping blood, and calls them hounds — show 
that Saranyu as morning light, and thus the revealer of 
deeds of darkness, had gradually been degraded into a 
personification of the Curse. And yet, while recognising 
the name Eumenides as euphemistic, we may admire none 
the less the growth of that rationalism which ultimately 
found in the epithet a suggestion of the soul of good in 
things evil, and almost restored the beneficent sense of 
Saranyu. ' I have settled in this place,' says Athene in 
the * Eumenides' of ^schylus, 'these mighty deities, hard 
to be appeased ; they have obtained by lot to administer 
all things concerning men. But he who has not found 
them gentle knows not whence come the ills of hfe.' But 
before the dread Erinyes of Homer's age had become 
the 'venerable goddesses' {aefival 6ea\) of popular phrase 
in Athens, or the Eumenides of the later poet's high 
insight, piercing their Gorgon form as portrayed by him- 
self, they had passed through all the phases of human 
terror. Cowering generations had tried to soothe the 
remorseless avengers by complimentary phrases. The 
worship of the serpent, originating in the same fear, 
similarly raised that animal into the region where poets 
could invest it with many profound and beautiful signi- 
ficances. But these more distinctly terrible deities are 
found in the shadowy border-land of mythology, from 
which we may look back into ages when the fear in 
which worship is born had not yet been separated into 
its elements of awe and admiration, nor the heaven 
of supreme forces divided into ranks of benevolent and 


malevolent beings ; and, on the other hand, we may look 
forward to the ages in which the moral consciousness of 
man begins to form the distinctions between good and 
evil, right and wrong, which changes cosmogony into reli- 
gion, and impresses every deity of the mind's creation to 
do his or her part in reflecting the physical and moral 
struggles of inankind. 

The intermediate processes by which the good and evil 
were detached, and advanced to separate personification, 

Fig. I. — Beelzebub (Calmet). 

cannot always be traced, but the indications of their work 
are in most cases sufficiently clear. The relationship, for 
instance, between Baal and Baal-zebub cannot be doubted. 
The one represents the Sun in his glory as quickener of 
Nature and painter of its beauty, the other the insect- 
breeding power of the Sun. Baal-zebub is the Fly-god. 
Only at a comparatively recent period did the deity of 

lo FLY- GODS. 

the Philistines, whose oracle was consulted by Ahaziah 
(2 Kings i.), suffer under the reputation of being 'the 
Prince of Devils,' his name being changed by a mere pun 
to Beelzebul (dung-god). It is not impossible that the 
modern Egyptian mother's hesitation to disturb flies 
settling on her sleeping child, and the sanctity attributed 
to various insects, originated in the awe felt for him. The 
title Fly-god is parallelled by the reverent epithet airoixvio^, 
applied to Zeus as worshipped at Elis,^ the Myiagrus deus 
of the Romans,^ and the Myiodes mentioned by Pliny.^ 
Our picture is probably from a protecting charm, and evi- 
dently by the god's believers. There is a story of a peasant 
woman in a French church who was found kneeling before 
a marble group, and was warned by a priest that she 
was worshipping the wrong figure — namely, Beelzebub. 
'Never mind,' she replied, 'it is well enough to have 
friends on both sides.' The story, though now only ben 
trovaio, would represent the actual state of mind in many 
a Babylonian invoking the protection of the Fly-god 
against formidable swarms of his venomous subjects. 

Not less clear is the illustration supplied by Scandi- 
navian mythology. In Ssemund's Edda the evil-minded 
Loki says : — 

Odin ! dost thou remember 

"When we in early days 

Blended our blood together ? 

The two became detached very slowly ; for their separa- 
tion implied the crumbling away of a great religion, and 
its distribution into new forms ; and a religion requires, 
relatively, as long to decay as it does to grow, as we who 
live under a crumbling religion have good reason to know. 
Protap Chunder Mozoomdar, of the Brahmo-Somaj, in 
an address in London, said, 'The Indian Pantheon has 

* Pausan. v. 14, 2. '^ Solin. Polyhistor, i. ^ Pliny, xxix. 6, 34, init. 


many millions of deities, and no space is left for the 
Devil.' He might have added that these deities have dis- 
tributed between them all the work that the Devil could 
perform if he were admitted. His remark recalled to me 
the Eddaic story of Loki's entrance into the assembly of 
gods in the halls of Oegir. Loki — destined in a later age 
to be identified with Satan — is angrily received by the 
deities, but he goes round and mentions incidents in the 
life of each one which show them to be little if any better 
than himself. The gods and goddesses, unable to reply, 
confirm the cynic's criticisms in theologic fashion by tying 
him up with a serpent for cord. 

The late Theodore Parker is said to have replied to a 
Calvinist who sought to convert him — ' The difference 
between us is simple : your god is my devil.' There 
can be little question that the Hebrews, from whom the 
Calvinist inherited his deity, had no devil in their mytho- 
logy, because the jealous and vindictive Jehovah was 
quite equal to any work of that kind, — as the hardening 
of Pharaoh's heart, bringing plagues upon the land, or 
deceiving a prophet and then destroying him for his false 
prophecies.^ The same accommodating relation of the 
primitive deities to all natural phenomena will account for 
the absence of distinct representatives of evil of the most 
primitive religions. 

The earliest exceptions to this primeval harmony of the 
gods, implying moral chaos in man, were trifling enough : 
the occasional monster seems worthy of mention only to 
display the valour of the god who slew him. But such 
were demon-germs, born out of the structural action of the 
human mind so soon as it began to form some philosophy 
concerning a universe upon which it had at first looked 
with simple wonder, and destined to an evolution of vast 

^ Ezekiel xiv. 9. 


import when the work of moralising upon them should 

Let us take our stand beside our barbarian, but no 
longer savage, ancestor in the far past. We have watched 
the rosy morning as it waxed to a blazing noon: then 
swiftly the sun is blotted out, the tempest rages, it is a 
sudden night lit only by the forked lightning that strikes 
tree, house, man, with angry thunder-peal. From an in- 
structed age man can look upon the storm blackening the 
sky not as an enemy of the sun, but one of its own super- 
lative effects ; but some thousands of years ago, when we 
were all living in Eastern barbarism, we could not con- 
ceive that a luminary whose very business it was to give 
light, could be a party to his own obscuration. We then 
looked with pity upon the ignorance of our ancestors, who 
had sung hymns to the storm-dragons, hoping to flatter 
them into quietness; and we came by irresistible logic 
to that Dualism which long divided the visible, and still 
divides the moral, universe into two hostile camps. 

This is the mother-principle out of which demons (in the 
ordinary sense of the term) proceeded. At first few, as 
distinguished from the host of deities by exceptional harm- 
fulness, they were multiplied with man's growth in the 
classification of his world. Their principle of existence 
is capable of indefinite expansion, until it shall include all 
the realms of darkness, fear, and pain. In the names of 
demons, and in the fables concerning them, the struggles 
of man in his ages of weakness with peril, want, and death, 
are recorded more fully than in any inscriptions on stone. 
Dualism is a creed which all superficial appearances attest. 
Side by side the desert and the fruitful land, the sun- 
shine and the frost, sorrow and joy, life and death, sit 
weaving around every life its vesture of bright and sombre 
threads, and Science alone can detect how each of these 


casts the shuttle to the other. Enemies to each other 
they will appear in every realm which knowledge has not 
mastered. There is a refrain, gathered from many ages, 
in William Blake's apostrophe to the tiger : — 

Tiger ! tiger ! burning bright 
In the forests of the night ; 
What immortal hand or eye 
Framed thy fearful symmetry ? 

In what distant deeps or skies 
Burned that fire within thine eyes ? 
On what wings dared he aspire ? 
What the hand dared seize the fire ? 

When the stars threw down their spears 
V And water heaven with their tears, j 

?lDid he smile his work to see ? -<^ 

( Did he who made the lamb make thee ? 

That which one of the devoutest men of genius whom 
England has produced thus asked was silently answered 
in India by the serpent-worshipper kneeling with his 
tongue held in his hand ; in Egypt, by Osiris seated on a 
throne of chequer.^ 

It is necessary to distinguish clearly between the Demon 
and the Devil, though, for some purposes, they must be 
mentioned together. The world was haunted with demons 
for many ages before there was any embodiment of their 
spirit in any central form, much less any conception of a 
Principle of Evil in the universe. The early demons had 
no moral character, not any more than the man-eating 
tiger. There is no outburst of moral indignation ming- 
ling with the shout of victory when Indra slays Vritra, 
and Apollo's face is serene when his dart pierces the 
Python. It required a much higher development of the 
moral sentiment to give rise to the conception of a devil. 

^ As in the Bembine Tablet in the Bodleian Library. 


Only that intensest light could cast so black a shadow- 
athwart the world as the belief in a purely malignant spirit. 
To such a conception — love of evil for its own sake — the 
word Devil is limited in this work ; Demon is applied 
to beings whose harmfulness is not gratuitous, but inci- 
dental to their own satisfactions. 

Deity and Demon are forms of the same word, and the 
latter has simply suffered degradation by the conventional 
use of it to designate the less beneficent powers and 
qualities, which originally inhered in every deity, after 
they were detached from these and separately personified. 
Every bright god had his shadow, so to say ; and under 
the influence of Dualism this shadow attained a distinct 
existence and personality in the popular imagination. 
The principle having once been established, that what 
seemed beneficent and what seemed the reverse must be. 
ascribed to different powers, it is obvious that the evolu- 
tion of demons must be continuous, and their distribution 
co-extensive with the ills that flesh is heir to. 

( IS ) 



The degradation of deities — Indicated in names — Legends of 
their fall — Incidental signs of the divine origin of demons 
and devils. 

The atmospheric conditions having been prepared in the 
human mind for the production of demons, the particular 
shapes or names they would assume would be determined 
by a variety of circumstances, ethnical, climatic, political, 
or even accidental. They would, indeed, be rarely acci- 
dental; but Professor Max Miiller, in his notes to the 
Rig- Veda, has called attention to a remarkable instance 
in which the formation of an imposing mythological figure 
of this kind had its name determined by what, in all pro- 
bability, was an accident. There appears in the earliest 
Vedic hymns the name of Aditi, as the holy Mother of 
many gods, and thrice there is mentioned the female name 
Diti. But there is reason to believe that Diti is a mere 
reflex of Aditi, the a being dropped originally by a re- 
citer's license. The later reciters, however, regarding 
every letter in so sacred a book, or even the omission of 
a letter, as of eternal significance, Diti — this decapitated 
Aditi — was evolved into a separate and powerful being, 
and, every niche of beneficence being occupied by its god 
or goddess, the new form was at once relegated to the 
newly-defined realm of evil, where she remained as the 


mother of the enemies of the gods, the Daityas. Un- 
happily this accident followed the ancient tendency by 
which the Furies and Vices have, with scandalous con- 
stancy, been described in the feminine gender. 

The close resemblance between these two names of 
Hindu mythology, severally representing the best and 
the worst, may be thus accidental, and only serve to show 
how the demon-forming tendency, after it began, was able 
to press even the most trivial incidents into its service. But 
generally the names of demons, and for whole races of 
demons, report far more than this; and in no inquiry 
more than that before us is it necessary to remember 
that names are things. The philological facts supply 
a remarkable confirmation of the statements already made 
as to the original identity of demon and deity. The word 
'demon' itself, as we have said, originally bore a good 
instead of an evil meaning. The Sanskrit deva, ' the 
shining one,' Zend daeva, correspond with the Greek ^eo?, 
Latin deits, Anglo-Saxon Tiw; and remain in ' deity,' 
' deuce' (probably; it exists in Armorican, teuz, a phantom), 
'devel' (the gipsy name for God), and in 'demon.' The 
Demon of Socrates represents the personification of a 
being still good, but no doubt on the path of decline from 
pure divinity. Plato declares that good men when they 
die become 'demons,' and he says 'demons are reporters 
and carriers between gods and men.' Our familiar word 
bogey, a sort of nickname for an evil spirit, comes from the 
Slavonic word for God — bog. Appearing here in the West 
as bogey (Welsh bwg, a goblin), this word bog began, pro- 
bably, as the ' Baga ' of cuneiform inscriptions, a name of 
the Supreme Being, or possibly the Hindu ' Bhaga,' Lord 
of Life. In the 'Bishop's Bible' the passage occurs, 
' Thou shalt not be afraid of any bugs by night : ' the 
word has been altered to ' terror.' When we come to 


the particular names of demons, we find many of them 
bearing traces of the splendours from which they have 
declined. ' Siva,' the Hindu god of destruction, has a 
meaning ('auspicious') derived from Svi, 'thrive' — thus 
related ideally to Pluto, ' wealth' — and, indeed, in later 
ages, appears to have ga:ined the greatest elevation. In 
a story of the Persian poem Masnavi, Ahriman is men- 
tioned with Bahman as a fire-fiend, of which class are the 
Magian demons and the Jinns generally ; which, the sanc- 
tity of fire being considered, is an evidence of their high 
origin. Avicenna says that the genii are ethereal animals. 
Lucifer — light-bearing — is the fallen angel of the morning 
star. Loki — the nearest to an evil power of the Scan- 
dinavian personifications — is the German leucht, or light, 
Azazel — a word inaccurately rendered ' scape-goat ' ia 
the Bible — appears to have been originally a deity, as 
the Israelites were originally required to ofi"er up one 
goat to Jehovah and another to Azazel, a name which 
appears to signify the ' strength of God.' Gesenius and 
Ewald regard Azazel as a demon belonging to the pre- 
Mosaic religion, but it can hardly be doubted that the 
four arch-demons mentioned by the _Rabbins — Samael, 
Azazel, Asael, and Maccathiel — are personifications of the 
elements as energies of the deity. Samael would appear 
to mean the 'left hand of God;' Azazel, his strength; 
Asael, his reproductive force ; and Maccathiel, his retri- 
butive power. 

Although Azazel is now one of the Mussulman names 
for a devil, it would appear to be nearly related to Al 
Uzza of the Koran, one of the goddesses of whom the 
significant tradition exists, that once when Mohammed 
had read, from the Sura called ' The Star,' the question, 
' What think ye of Allat, Al Uzza, and Manah, that other 
third goddess?' he himself added, 'These are the most 
VOL. I. B 


high and beauteous damsels, whose intercession is to be 
hoped for/ the response being afterwards attributed to a 
suggestion of Satan.^ Belial is merely a word for godless- 
ness ; it has become personified through the misunder- 
standing of the phrase in the Old Testament by the 
translators of the Septuagint, and thus passed into chris- 
tian use, as in 2 Cor. vi. 15, 'What concord hath Christ 
with Belial ? ' The word is not used as a proper name in 
the Old Testament, and the late creation of a demon out 
of it may be set down to accident. 

Even where the names of demons and devils bear no 
such traces of their degradation from the state of deities, 
there are apt to be characteristics attributed to them, or 
myths connected with them, which point in the direction 
indicated. Such is the case with Satan, of whom much 
must be said hereafter, whose Hebrew name signifies the 
adversary, but who, in the Book of Job, appears among the 
sons of God. The name given to the devil in the Koran — 
Eblis — is almost certainly diabolos Arabicised ; and while 
this Greek word is found in Pindar ^ (5th century B.C.), 
meaning a slanderer, the fables in the Koran concerning 
Eblis describe him as a fallen angel of the highest rank. 

One of the most striking indications of the fall of de- 
mons from heaven is the wide-spread belief that they are 
lame. Mr. Tylor has pointed out the curious persistence 
of this idea in various ethnical lines of development.^ 
Hephaistos was lamed by his fall when hurled by Zeus 
from Olympos ; and it is not a little singular that in 
the English travesty of limping Vulcan, represented in 
Wayland the Smith,* there should appear the suggestion, 

^ See Sale's Koran, p. 281. - Pindar, Fragm., 270. 

2 Tylor's 'Early Hist of Mankind,' p. 358; 'Prim. Cult.,' vol. ii. p. 230. 
•* The Gascons of Labourd call the devil 'Seigneur Voland,' and some 
revere him as a patron. 


remarked by Mr. Cox, of the name ' Vala ' (seducer), 
one of the designations of the dragon destroyed by Indra. 
' In Sir Walter Scott's romance,' says Mr. Cox, ' Wayland 
is a mere impostor, who avails himself of a popular super- 
stition to keep up an air of mystery about himself and 
his work, but the character to which he makes pretence 
belongs to the genuine Teutonic legend.' ^ The Persian 
demon Aeshma — the Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit 
— appears with the same characteristic of lameness in 
the ' Diable Boiteux ' of Le Sage. The christian devil's 
clubbed or cloven foot is notorious. 

Even the horns popularly attributed to the devil ma> 
possibly have originated with the aureole which indicates 
the glory of his ' first estate.' Satan is depicted in various 
relics of early art wearing the aureole, as in a miniature 
of the tenth century (from Bible No. 6, Bib. Roy.), given 
by M. Didron.2 The same author has shown that Pan 
and the Satyrs, who had so much to do with the shaping 
of our horned and hoofed devil, originally got their 
horns from the same high source as Moses in the old 
Bibles,^ and in the great statue of him at Rome by Michel 

It is through this mythologic history that the most 
powerful demons have been associated in the popular 
imagination with stars, planets, — Ketu in India, Saturn 
and Mercury the ' Infortunes,' — comets, and other celestial 
phenomena. The examples of this are so numerous that 
it is impossible to deal with them here, where I can only 
hope to offer a few illustrations of the principles affirmed ; 
and in this case it is of less importance for the English 

1 ' Myth, of the Aryan Nations,' vol. ii. p. 327. 

2 'Christian Iconography,' Bohn, p. 158. 

•^ ' Videbant faciem egredientis Moysis esse cornutam.' — Vulg. Exod. 
xxxiv. 35. 


reader, because of the interesting volume in which the 
subject has been specially dealt with.^ Incidentally, too, 
the astrological demons and devils must recur from time 
to time in the process of our inquiry. But it will pro- 
bably be within the knowledge of some of my readers 
that the dread of comets and of meteoric showers yet 
lingers in many parts of Christendom, and that fear of 
unlucky stars has not passed away with astrologers. 
There is a Scottish legend told by Hugh Miller of an 
avenging meteoric demon. A shipmaster who had moored 
his vessel near Morial's Den, amused himself by watching 
the lights of the scattered farmhouses. After all the rest 
had gone out one light lingered for some time. When 
that light too had disappeared, the shipmaster beheld a 
large meteor, which, with a hissing noise, moved towards 
the cottage. A dog howled, an owl whooped ; but when 
the fire-ball had almost reached the roof, a cock crew from 
within the cottage, and the meteor rose again. Thrice 
this was repeated, the meteor at the third cock-crow 
ascending among the stars. On the following day the 
shipmaster went on shore, purchased the cock, and took 
it away with him. Returned from his voyage, he looked 
for the cottage, and found nothing but a few blackened 
stones. Nearly sixty years ago a human skeleton was 
found near the spot, doubled up as if the body had been 
huddled into a hole : this revived the legend, and pro- 
bably added some of those traits which make it a true bit 
of mosaic in the mythology of Astraea.^ 

The fabled 'fall of Lucifer' really signifies a process 
similar to that which has been noticed in the case of 
Saranyu. The morning star, like the morning light, as 

1 ' Myths and Marvels of Astronomy.' By R. A. Proctor. Chatto & 
Windus, 1878. 

^ ' Scenes and Legends,' &€., p. 73. 


revealer of the deeds of darkness, becomes an avenger, 
and by evolution an instigator of the evil it originally- 
disclosed and punished. It may be remarked also that 
though we have inherited the phrase * Demons of Dark- 
ness,' it was an ancient rabbinical belief that the demons 
went abroad in darkness not only because it facilitated 
their attacks on man, but because being of luminous form.s, 
they could recognise each other better with a background 
of darkness. 

( 22 ) 



The ex-god — Deities demonised by conquest — Theological animo- 
sity — Illustration from the Avesta — Devil-worship an arrested 
Deism — Sheik Adi — Why demons were painted ugly — Survivals 
of their beauty. 

The phenomena of the transformation of deities into 
demons meet the student of Demonology at every step. 
We shall have to consider many examples of a kind simi- 
lar to those which have been mentioned in the preceding 
chapter ; but it is necessary to present at this stage of 
our inquiry a sufficient number of examples to establish 
the fact that in every country forces have been at work 
to degrade the primitive gods into types of evil, as 
preliminary to a consideration of the nature of those 

We find the history of the phenomena suggested in the 
German word for idol, Abgott — ex-god. Then we have 
' pagan,' villager, and 'heathen,' of the heath, denoting those 
who stood by their old gods after others had transferred 
their faith to the new. These words bring us to consider the 
influence upon religious conceptions of the struggles which 
have occurred between races and nations, and consequently 
between their religions. It must be borne in mind that by 
the time any tribes had gathered to the consistency of a 
nation, one of the strongest forces of its coherence would 


be its priesthood. So soon as it became a general belief 
that there were in the universe good and evil Powers, there 
must arise a popular demand for the means of obtaining 
their favour ; and this demand has never failed to obtain a 
supply of priesthoods claiming to bind or influence the 
prseternatural beings. These priesthoods represent the 
strongest motives and fears of a people, and they were 
gradually intrenched in great institutions involving power- 
ful interests. Every invasion or collision or mingling of 
races thus brought their respective religions into contact 
and rivalry ; and as no priesthood has been known to con- 
sent peaceably to its own downfall and the degradation of 
its own deities, we need not wonder that there have been 
perpetual wars for religious ascendency. It is not unusual 
to hear sects among ourselves accusing each other of 
idolatry. In earlier times the rule was for each religion 
to denounce its opponent's gods as devils. Gregory the 
Great wrote to his missionary in Britain, the Abbot Mel- 
litus, second Bishop of Canterbury, that * whereas the 
people were accustomed to sacrifice many oxen in honour 
of demons, let them celebrate a religious and solemn festi- 
val, and not slay the animals to the devil (diabolo), but to 
be eaten by themselves to the glory of God.' Thus the 
devotion of meats to those deities of our ancestors which 
the Pope pronounces demons, which took place chiefly at 
Yule-tide, has survived in our more comfortable Christmas 
banquets. This was the fate of all the deities which 
Christianity undertook to suppress. But it had been the 
habit of religions for many ages before. They never 
denied the actual existence of the deities they were en- 
gaged in suppressing. That would have been too great 
an outrage upon popular beliefs, and might have caused a 
reaction ; and, besides, each new religion had an interest 
of its own in preserving the basis of belief in these invisible 


beings. Disbelief in the very existence of the old gods 
might be followed by a sceptical spirit that might en- 
danger the new. So the propagandists maintained the 
existence of native gods, but called them devils. Some- 
times wars or intercourse between tribes led to their 
fusion ; the battle between opposing religions was drawn, 
in which case there would be a compromise by which 
several deities of different origin might continue together 
in the same race and receive equal homage. The differing 
degrees of importance ascribed to the separate persons of 
the Hindu triad in various localities of India, suggest it as 
quite probable that Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva signalled in 
their union the political unity of certain districts in that 
country.^ The blending of the names of Confucius and 
Buddha, in many Chinese and Japanese temples, may show 
us an analogous process now going on, and, indeed, the 
various ethnical ideas combined in the christian Trinity 
render the fact stated one of easy interpretation. But the 
religious difficulty was sometimes not susceptible of com- 
promise. The most powerful priesthood carried the day, 
and they used every ingenuity to degrade the gods of 
their opponents. Agathodemons were turned into kako- 
demons. The serpent, worshipped in many lands, might 
be adopted as the support of sleeping Vishnu in India, 
might be associated with the rainbow (' the heavenly ser- 

^ ' Any Orientalist will appreciate the wonderful hotchpot of Hindu and 
Arabic language and religion in the following details, noted down among rude 
tribes of the Malay Peninsula. We hear of Jin Bumi, the earth-god (Arabic 
jin = demon, Sanskrit bhiimi — earth) ; incense is burnt to Jewajewa (San- 
skrit dewa — god), who intercedes with Pirman, the supreme invisible deity 
above the sky (Brahma?) ; the Moslem Allah Taala, with his wife Nabi 
Mahamad (Prophet Mohammed), appear in the Hinduised chai-acters of 
creator and destroyer of all things ; and while the spirits worshipped in stones 
are called by the Hindu term of 'dewa' or deity, Moslem conversion has so 
far influenced the mind of the stone-worshipper that he will give to his sacred 
boulder the name of Prophet Mohammed.' — Tylor's ' Primitive Culture,' vol. 
ii. p. 230. 


pent') in Persia, but elsewhere was cursed as the very 
genius of evil. 

The operation of this force in the degradation of deities, 
is particularly revealed in the Sacred Books of Persia. 
In that country the great religions of the East would 
appear to have contended against each other with especial 
fury, and their struggles were probably instrumental in 
causing one or more of the early migrations into Western 
Europe. The great celestial war between Ormuzd and 
Ahriman — Light and Darkness — corresponded with a 
violent theological conflict, one result of which is that 
the word deva, meaning ' deity ' to Brahmans, means 
'devil' to Parsees. The following extract from the 
Zend-Avesta will serve as an example of the spirit in 
which the war was waged : — 

'All your devas are only manifold children of the Evil 
Mind — and the great one who worships the Saoma of lies 
and deceits ; besides the treacherous acts for which you are 
notorious throughout the seven regions of the earth. 

' You have invented all the evil which men speak and 
do, which is indeed pleasant to the Devas, but is devoid of 
all goodness, and therefore perishes before the insight of 
the truth of the wise. 

' Thus you defraud men of their good minds and of 
their immortahty by your evil minds — as well through 
those of the Devas as that of the Evil Spirit — through 
evil deeds and evil words, whereby the power of liars 
grows.' 1 

That is to say — Ours is the true god : your god is a 

The Zoroastrian conversion of deva (deus) into devil 
does not alone represent the work of this odimn theologi- 
aim. In the early hymns of India the appellation asuras 

^ Yagna, 32. 


is given to the gods. Asura means a spirit. But in the 
process of time asura, Hke daemon, came to have a sinister 
meaning: the gods were called suras, the demons asuras, 
and these were said to contend together. But in Persia 
the asuras — demonised in India — retained their divinity, 
and gave the name ahura to the supreme deity, Ormuzd 
(Ahura-mazda). On the other hand, as Mr. Muir sup- 
poses, Varenya, applied to evil spirits of darkness in the 
Zendavesta, is cognate with Varuna (Heaven) ; and the 
Vedic Indra, king of the gods — the Sun — is named in the 
Zoroastrian religion as one of the chief councillors of that 
Prince of Darkness. 

But in every country conquered by a new religion, there 
will always be found some, as we have seen, who will hold 
on to the old deity under all his changed fortunes. These 
will be called ' bigots/ but still they will adhere to the 
ancient belief and practise the old rites. Sometimes even 
after they have had to yield to the popular terminology, 
and call the old god a devil, they will find some reason for 
continuing the transmitted forms. It is probable that to 
this cause was originally due the religions which have been 
developed into what is now termed Devil-worship. The 
distinct and avowed worship of the evil Power in preference 
to the good is a rather startling phenomenon when pre- 
sented baldly ; as, for example, in a prayer of the Mada- 
gascans to Nyang, author of evil, quoted by Dr. Reville : — 
' O Zamhor ! to thee we offer no prayers. The good 
god needs no asking. But we must pray to Nyang. 
Nyang must be appeased. O Nyang, bad and strong 
spirit, let not the thunder roar over our heads ! Tell the 
sea to keep within its bounds I Spare, O Nyang, the 
ripening fruit, and dry not up the blossoming rice ! Let 
not our women bring forth children on the accursed days. 
Thou reignest, and this thou knowest, over the wicked ; 


and great is their number, O Nyang. Torment not, then, 
any longer the good folk ! ' ^ 

This is natural, and suggestive of the criminal under 
sentence of death, who, when asked if he was not afraid to 
meet his God, replied, ' Not in the least; it's that other party 
I'm afraid of.' Yet it is hardly doubtful that the worship 
of Nyang began in an era when he was by no means con- 
sidered morally baser than Zamhor. How the theory of 
Dualism, when attained, might produce the phenomenon 
called Devil-worship, is illustrated in the case of the Yeze- 
dis, now so notorious for that species of religion. Their 
theory is usually supposed to be entirely represented by the 
expression uttered by one of them, ' Will not Satan, then, 
reward the poor Izedis, who alone have never spoken ill 
of him, and have suffered so much for him .? ' ^ But these 
words are significant, no doubt, of the underlying fact: 
they ' have never spoken ill of ' the Satan they worship. 
The Mussulman calls the Yezedi a Satan-worshipper only 
as the early Zoroastrian held the worshipper of a deva to 
be the same. The chief object of worship among the 
Yezedis is the figure of the bird Taotis, a half-mythical 
peacock. Professor King of Cambridge traces the Taous 
of this Assyrian sect to the " sacred bird call-ed a phoenix," 
whose picture, as seen by Herodotus (ii. 73) in Egypt, is 
described by him as 'very like an eagle in outline and 
in size, but with plumage partly gold-coloured, partly 
crimson,' and which was said to return to Heliopolis 
every five hundred years, there to burn itself on the altar 
of the Sun, that another might rise from its ashes.^ 
Now the name Yezedis is simply Izeds, genii ; and we are 
thus pointed to Arabia, where we find the belief in genii 

^ ' The Devil, ' &c., from the French of the Rev. A. Reville, p. 5. 

^ Tylor's ' Primitive Culture, ' vol. ii. p. 299. 

3 'The Gnostics,' &c., by C. W. King, M.A., p. 153. 


is strongest, and also associated with the mythical bird 
Rokh of its folklore. There we find Mohammed rebuking 
the popular belief in a certain bird called Hamah, which was 
said to take form from the blood near the brain of a dead 
person and fly away, to return, however, at the end of 
every hundred years to visit that person's sepulchre. But 
this is by no means Devil-worship, nor can we find any 
trace of that in the most sacred scripture of the Yezedis, 
the ' Eulogy of Sheikh Adi.' This Sheikh inherited from 
his father, Moosafir, the sanctity of an incarnation of the 
divine essence, of which he (Adi) speaks as ' the All- 

By his light he hath lighted the lamp of the morning. 

I am he that placed Adam in my Paradise. 

I am he that made Nimrod a hot burning fire. 

I am he that guided Ahmet mine elect, 

I gifted him with my way and guidance. 

Mine are all existences together. 

They are my gift and under my direction. 

I am he that possesseth all majesty. 

And beneficence and charity are from my grace, 

I am he that entereth the heart in my zeal ; 

And I shine through the power of my awfulness and majesty. 

I am he to whom the lion of the desert came : 

I rebuked him and he became like stone. 

I am he to whom the serpent came, 

And by my will I made him like dust. 

I am he that shook the rock and made it tremble. 

And sweet water flowed therefrom from every side.^ 

The reverence shown in these sacred sentences for Hebrew 
names and traditions — as of Adam in Paradise, Marah, 
and the smitten rock — and for Ahmet (Mohammed), ap- 

^ Those who wish to examine this matter further will do well to refer to 
Badger, 'Nestorians and their Rituals,' in which the whole of the 'Eulogy' 
is translated; and to Layard, 'Ninevah and Babylon,' in which there is a 
translation of the same by Hormuzd Rassam, the King of Abyssinia's late 


pears to have had its only requital in the odious designa- 
tion of the worshippers of Taons as Devil-worshippers, 
a label which the Yezedis perhaps accepted as the V/es- 
leyans and Friends accepted such names as 'Methodist' 
and ' Quaker.' 

Mohammed has expiated the many deities he degraded 
to devils by being himself turned to an idol (mawmet), 
a term of contempt all the more popular for its resem- 
blance to ' mummery.' Despite his denunciations of idol- 
atry, it is certain that this earlier religion represented by 
the Yezedis has never been entirely suppressed even 
among his own followers. In Dr. Leitner's interesting 
collection there is a lamp, which he obtained from a 
mosque, made in the shape of a peacock, and this is but 
one of many similar relics of primitive or alien symbolism 
found among the Mussulman tribes. 

The evolution of demons and devils out of deities was 
made real to the popular imagination in every country 
where the new religion found art existing, and by alliance 
with it was enabled to shape the ideas of the people. The 
theoretical degradation of deities of previously fair asso- 
ciation could only be completed where they were pre- 
sented to the eye in repulsive forms. It will readily 
occur to every one that a rationally conceived demon or 
devil would not be repulsive. If it were a demon that 
man wished to represent, mere euphemism would prevent 
its being rendered odious. The main characteristic of a 
demon — that which distinguishes it from a devil — is, as 
we have seen, that it has a real and human-like motive 
for whatever evil it causes. If it afflict or consume man, 
it is not from mere malignancy, but because impelled by 
the pangs of hunger, lust, or other suffering, like the 
famished wolf or shark. And if sacrifices of food were 
offered to satisfy its need, equally we might expect that 


no unnecessary insult would be offered in the attempt to 
portray it. But if it were a devil — a being actuated by 
simple malevolence — one of its essential functions, temp- 
tation, would be destroyed by hideousness. For the work 
of seduction we might expect a devil to wear the form of 
an angel of light, but by no means to approach his in- 
tended victim in any horrible shape, such as would repel 
every mortal. The great representations of evil, whether 
imagined by the speculative or the religious sense, have 
never been, originally, ugly. The gods might be described 
as falling swiftly like lightning out of heaven, but in the 
popular imagination they retained for a long time much 
of their splendour. The very ingenuity with which they 
were afterwards invested with ugliness in religious art, 
attests that there were certain popular sentiments about 
them which had to be distinctly reversed. It was because 
they were thought beautiful that they must be painted 
ugly ; it was because they were— =-even among converts 
to the new religion — still secretly believed to be kind 
and helpful, that there was employed such elaboration of 
hideous designs to deform them. The pictorial repre- 
sentations of demons and devils will come under a more 
detailed examination hereafter : it is for the present suffi- 
cient to point out that the traditional blackness or ugliness 
of demons and devils, as now thought of, by no means 
militates against the fact that they were once the popular 
deities. The contrast, for instance, between the horrible 
physiognomy given to Satan in ordinary christian art, 
and the theological representation of him as the Tempter, 
is obvious. Had the design of Art been to represent 
the theological theory, Satan would have been portrayed 
in a fascinating form. But the design was not that ; it 
was to arouse horror and antipathy for the native deities 
to which the ignorant clung tenaciously. It was to train 



children to think of the still secretly-worshipped idols as 
frightful and bestial beings. It is important, therefore, 
that we should guard against confusing the speculative or 
moral attempts of mankind to personify pain and evil 
with the ugly and brutal demons and devils of artificial 
superstition, oftenest pictured on church walls. Some- 

Fig. 2. — Handle of Hindu Chalice. 

times they are set to support water-spouts, often the 
brackets that hold their foes, the saints. It is a very 
ancient device. Our figure 2 is from the handle of a 
chalice in possession of Sir James Hooker, meant pro- 
bably to hold the holy water of Ganges. These are 


not genuine demons or devils, but carefully caricatured 
deities. Who that looks upon the grinning bestial forms 
carved about the roof of any old church — as those on 
Melrose Abbey and York Cathedral^ — which, there is 
reason to believe, represent the primitive deities driven 
from the interior by potency of holy water, and chained to 
the uncongenial service of supporting the roof-gutter — can 
see in these gargoyles (Fr. gargouille, dragon), anything 
but carved imprecations ? Was it to such ugly beings, 
guardians of their streams, hills, and forests, that our an- 
cestors consecrated the holly and mistletoe, or with such 
that they associated their flowers, fruits, and homes ? They 
were caricatures inspired by missionaries, made to repel 
and disgust, as the images of saints beside them were 
carved in beauty to attract. If the pagans had been the 
artists, the good looks would have been on the other side. 
And indeed there was an art of which those pagans were 
the unconscious possessors, through which the true char- 
acters of the imaginary beings they adored have been 
transmitted to us. In the fables of their folklore we find 
the Fairies that represent the spirit of the gods and god- 
desses to which they are easily traceable. That goddess 
who in christian times was pictured as a hag riding on 
a broom-stick was Frigga, the Earth-mother, associated 
with the first sacred affections clustering around the 
hearth ; or Freya, whose very name was consecrated 

^ The significance of the gargoyles on the churches buih on the foundations 
of pagan temples may be especially observed at York, where the forms of 
various animals well known to Indo-Germanic mythology appear. They are 
probably copies of earlier designs, surviving from the days when the plan of 
Gregory for the conversion of temples prevailed. ' The temples of the idols 
in that nation,' wrote the Pope, A.c. 6oi, 'ought not to be destroyed; but 
let the idols that are in them be destroyed ; let holy water be made and 
sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected and relics placed. For if 
those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the 
worsliip of devils to the service of the true God.' — Bede, Eccl. Hist. ch. 30, 


in frau, woman and wife. The mantle of Bertha did 
not cover more tenderness when it fell to the shoulders 
of Mary. The German child's name for the pre-chris- 
tian Madonna was Mother Rose : distaff in hand, she 
watched over the industrious at their household work : 
she hovered near the cottage, perhaps to find there some 
weeping Cinderella and give her beauty for ashes. 

VOL. I. 

( 34 ) 



The obstructions of man — The twelve chief classes — Modifica- 
tions of particular forms for various functions — Theological 

The statements made concerning the fair names of the 
chief demons and devils which have haunted the imagina- 
tion of mankind, heighten the contrast between their celes- 
tial origin and the functions attributed to them in their 
degraded forms. The theory of Dualism, representing a 
necessary stage in the mental development of every race, 
called for a supply of demons, and the supply came from 
the innumerable dethroned, outlawed, and fallen deities 
and angels which had followed the subjugation of races 
and their religions. But though their celestial origin might 
linger around them in some slight legend or characteristic 
as well as in their names, the evil phenomenon to which 
each was attached as an explanation assigned the real 
form and work with which he or she was associated in 
popular superstition. We therefore find in the demons in 
which men have believed a complete catalogue of the ob- 
stacles with which they have had to contend in the long 
struggle for existence. In the devils we discover equally 
the history of the moral and religious struggles through 
which priesthoods and churches have had to pass. And 
the relative extent of this or that particular class of de- 


mons or devils, and the intensity of belief in any class as 
shown in the number of survivals from it, will be found to 
reflect pretty faithfully the degree to which the special evil 
represented by it afflicted primitive man, as attested by 
other branches of pre-historic investigation. 

As to function, the demons we shall have to consider 
are those representing — i. Hunger; 2. Excessive Heat; 3. 
Excessive Cold ; 4. Destructive elements and physical 
convulsions ; 5. Destructive animals ; 6. Human enemies ; 

7. The Barrenness of the Earth, as rock and desert; 

8. Obstacles, as the river or mountain ; 9. Illusion, seduc- 
tive, invisible, and mysterious agents, causing delusions; 
10. Darkness (especially when unusual). Dreams, Night- 
mare ; II. Disease; 12. Death. 

These classes are selected, in obedience to necessary 
limitations, as representing the twelve chief labours of 
man which have given shape to the majority of his haunt- 
ing demons, as distinguished from his devils. Of course 
all classifications of this character must be understood as 
made for convenience, and the divisions are not to be too 
sharply taken. What Plotinus said of the gods, that each 
contained all the rest, is equally true of both demons and 
devils. The demons of Hunger are closely related to the 
demons of Fire : Agni devoured his parents (two .sticks 
consumed by the flame they produce) ; and from them we 
pass easily to elemental demons, like the lightning, or 
demons of fever. And similarly we find a relationship be- 
tween other destructive forces. Nevertheless, the distinc- 
tions drawn are not fanciful, but exist in clear and unmis- 
takable beliefs as to the special dispositions and employ- 
ments of demons ; and as we are not engaged in dealing 
with natural phenomena, but with superstitions concerning 
them, the only necessity of this classification is that it 
shall not be arbitrary, but shall really simplify the im- 


mense mass of facts which the student of Demonology 
has to encounter. 

But there are several points which require especial at- 
tention as preliminary to a consideration of these various 
classes of demons. 

First, it is to be borne in mind that a single demonic 
form will often appear in various functions, and that these 
must not be confused. The serpent may represent the 
lightning, or the coil of the whirlwind, or fatal venom ; 
the earthquake may represent a swallowing Hunger-demon, 
or the rage of a chained giant. The separate functions 
must not be lost sight of because sometimes traceable to a 
single form, nor their practical character suffer disguise 
. through their fair euphemistic or mythological names. 

Secondly, the same form appears repeatedly in a dia- 
bolic as well as a demonic function, and here a clear 
distinction must be maintained in the reader's mind. The 
distinction already taken between a demon and a devil is 
not arbitrary : the word demon is related to deity ; the 
word devil, though sometimes connected with the Sanskrit 
deva, has really no relation to it, but has a bad sense as 
' calumniator : ' but even if there were no such etymolo- 
gical identity and difference, it would be necessary to 
distinguish such widely separate offices as those represent- 
ing the afflictive forces of nature where attributed to 
humanly appreciable motives on the one hand, and evils 
ascribed to pure malignancy or a principle of evil on 
the other. The Devil may, indeed, represent a further 
evolution in the line on which the Demon has appeared ; 
Ahriman the Bad in conflict with Ormuzd the Good may 
be a spiritualisation of the conflict between Light and 
Darkness, Sun and Cloud, as represented in the Vedic 
Indra and Vritra ; but the two phases represent different 
classes of ideas, indeed different worlds, and the apprehen- 


sion of both requires that they shall be carefully distin- 
guished even when associated with the same forms and 

Thirdly, there is an important class of demons which the 
reader may expect to find fully treated of in the part of 
my work more particularly devoted to Demonology, which 
must be deferred, or further traced in that portion relating 
to the Devil ; they are forms which in their original con- 
ception were largely beneficent, and have become of evil 
repute mainly through the anathema of theology. The 
chequer-board on which Osiris sat had its development in 
hosts of primitive shapes of light opposing shapes of dark- 
ness. The evil of some of these is ideal ; others are morally 
amphibious : Teraphim, Lares, genii, were ancestors of the 
guardian angels and patron saints of the present day ; they 
were oftenest in the shapes of dogs and cats and aged 
human ancestors, supposed to keep watch and ward about 
the house, like the friendly Domovoi respected in Russia ; 
the evil disposition and harmfulness ascribed to them are 
partly natural but partly also theological, and due to the 
difficulty of superseding them with patron saints and 
angels. The degradation of beneficent beings, already 
described in relation to large demonic and diabolic forms, 
must be understood as constantly acting in the smallest 
details of household superstition, with what strange re- 
action and momentous result will appear when we come 
to consider the phenomena of Witchcraft. 

Finally, it must be remarked that the nature of our 
inquiry renders the consideration of the origin of myths — 
whether ' solar ' or other — of secondary importance. Such 
origin it will be necessary to point out and discuss inci- 
dentally, but our main point will always be the forms in 
which the myths have become incarnate, and their modi- 
fications in various places and times, these being the result 


of those actual experiences with which Demonology is 
chiefly concerned. A myth, as many able writers have 
pointed out, is, in its origin, an explanation by the un- 
civilised mind of some natural phenomenon — not an alle- 
gory, not an esoteric conceit For this reason it possesses 
fluidity, and takes on manifold shapes. The apparent sleep 
of the sun in winter may be represented in a vast range of 
myths, from the Seven Sleepers to the Man in the Moon 
of our nursery rhyme ; but the variations all have relation 
to facts and circumstances. Comparative Mythology is 
mainly concerned with the one thread running through 
them, and binding them all to the original myth ; the task 
of Demonology is rather to discover the agencies which 
have given their several shapes. If it be shown that 
Orthros and Cerberus were primarily the morning and 
evening twilight or howling winds, either interpretation is 
here secondary to their personification as dogs. Demono- 
logy would ask, Why dogs .'' why pot bulls } Its answer in 
each case detaches from the anterior myth its mode, and 
shows this as the determining force of further myths. 






Hunger-demons — Kephn — Miru — Kagura — R£hu the Hindu sun- 
devourer — The earth monster at Pelsall — A Franconian custom 
— Sheitan as moon-devourer — Hindu offerings to the dead-^ 
Ghoul — Goblin — Vampyres — Leanness of demons — Old Scotch 
custom. — The origin of sacrifices. 

In every part of the earth man's first struggle was for his 
daily food. With only a rude implement of stone or bone 
he had to get fish from the sea, bird from the air, beast 
from the forest. For ages, with such poor equipment, he 
had to wring a precarious livelihood from nature. He 
saw, too, every living form around him similarly trying to 
satisfy its hunger. There seemed to be a Spirit of Hunger 
abroad. And, at the same time, there was such a resist- 
ance to man's satisfaction of his need — the bird and fish 
so hard to get, the stingy earth so ready to give him a 
stone when he asked for bread — that he came to the con- 
clusion that there must be invisible voracious beings who 
wanted all good things for themselves. So the ancient 
world was haunted by a vast brood of Hunger-demons, 
There is an African tribe, the Karens, whose representa- 


tion of the Devil (Kephn) is a huge stomach floating 
through the air ; and this repulsive image may be regarded 
as the type of nearly half the demons which have haunted 
the human imagination. This, too, is the terrible Miru, 
with her daughters and slave, haunting the South Sea 
Islander. ' The esoteric doctrine of the priests was, that 
souls leave the body ere breath has quite gone, and travel 
to the edge of a cliff facing the setting sun (Ra). A large 
wave now approaches the base of the cliff, and a gigantic 
bua tree, covered with fragrant blossoms, springs up from 
Avaiki (nether world) to receive on its far-reaching branches 
human spirits, who are mysteriously impelled to cluster on 
its limbs. When at length the mystic tree is covered 
with human spirits, it goes down with its living freight to 
the nether world. Akaanga, the slave of fearful Miru, 
mistress of the invisible world, infallibly catches all these 
unhappy spirits in his net and laves them to and fro in 
a lake. In these waters the captive ghosts exhaust them- 
selves by wriggling about like fishes, in the vain hope of 
escape. The net is pulled up, and the half-drowned spirits 
enter into the presence of dread Miru, who is ugliness per- 
sonified. The secret of Miru's power over her intended 
victims is the ' kava ' root {Piper niythisticum). A bowl 
of this drink is prepared for each visitor to the shades by 
her four lovely daughters. Stupefied with the draught, 
the unresisting victims are borne off to a mighty oven and 
cooked. Miru, her peerless daughters, her dance-loving 
son, and the attendants, subsist exclusively on human 
spirits decoyed to the nether world and then cooked. The 
drinking-cups of Miru are the skulls of her victims. She 
is called in song ' Miru-the-ruddy,' because her cheeks ever 
glow with the heat of the oven where her captives are 
cooked. As the surest way to Miru's oven is to die a 
natural death, one need not marvel that the Rev. Mr. Gill, 


who made these statements before the Anthropological 
Institute in London (February 8, 1876), had heard 'many- 
anecdotes of aged warriors, scarcely able to hold a spear, 
insisting on being led to the field of battle in the hope 
of gaining the house of the brave.' As the South Sea 
paradise seems to consist in an eternal war-dance, or, in 
one island, in an eternal chewing of sugar-cane, it is 
not unlikely that the aged seek violent death chiefly to 
avoid the oven. We have here a remarkable illustra- 
tion of the distinguishing characteristic of the demon. 
Fearful as Miru is, it may be noted that there is not one 
gratuitous element of cruelty in her procedure. On the 
contrary, she even provides her victims with an anaesthetic 
draught. Her prey is simply netted, washed, and cooked, 
as for man are his animal inferiors. In one of the 
islands (Aitutakij, Miru is believed to resort to a device 
which is certainly terrible — namely, the contrivance that 
each soul entering the nether world shall drink a bowl of 
living centipedes ; but this is simply with the one end in 
view of appeasing her own pangs of hunger, for the object 
and effect of the draught is to cause the souls to drown 
themselves, it being apparently only after entire death 
that they can be cooked and devoured by Miru and her 

Fortunately for the islanders, Miru is limited in her tor- 
tures to a transmundane sphere, and room is left for many 
a slip between her dreadful cup and the human lip. The 
floating stomach Kephn is, however, not other-worldly. 
We see, however, a softened form of him in some other 
tribes. The Greenlanders, Finns, Laps, conceived the idea 
that there is a large paunch-demon which people could 
invoke to go and suck the cows or consume the herds of 
their enemies ; and the Icelanders have a superstition that 
some people can construct such a demon out of bones and 


skins, and send him forth to transmute the milk or flesh 
of cattle into a supply of flesh and blood. A form of 
this kind is represented in the Japanese Kagura (figure 3), 
the favourite mask of January dancers and drum-beaters 
seeking money. The Kagura is in precise contrast with 
the Pretas (Siarn), which, though twelve miles in height, 
are too thin to be seen, their mouths being so small as to 
render it impossible to satisfy their fearful hunger. 

The pot-bellies given to demons in Travancore and 
other districts of India, and the blood-sacrifices by 
which the natives propitiate them 
— concerning which a missionary 
naively remarks, that even these 
heathen recognise, though in cor- 
rupted form, 'the great truth that 
without shedding of blood there 
is no remission of sins ' ^ — refer to 
the Hunger-demon. They are the 
brood of Kali, girt round with 
human skulls, 
ig. 3.— wALLowER. "Wio. expedition which went out 

to India to observe the last solar eclipse was inci- 
dentally the means of calling attention to a remark- 
able survival of the Hunger-demon in connection with 
astronomic phenomena. While the English observers 
were arranging their apparatus, the natives prepared a 
pile of brushwood, and, so soon as the eclipse began, 
they set fire to this pile and began to shout and yell 
as they danced around it. Not less significant were the 
popular observances generally. There was a semi-holi- 
day in honour of the eclipse. The ghauts were crowded 
with pious worshippers. No Hindu, it is thought, ought 
to do any work whatever during an eclipse, and there 

1 'The Land of Charity,' by Rev. Samuel Mateer, p. 214. 


was a general tendency to prolong the holiday a little 
beyond the exact time when the shadow disappears, and 
indeed to prolong it throughout the day. All earthenware 
vessels used for cooking were broken, and all cooked food 
in the houses at the time of the eclipse was thrown out. 
It is regarded as a time of peculiar blessings if taken in 
the right way, and of dread consequences to persons in- 
clined to heterodoxy or neglect of the proper observances. 
Between nine and ten in the evening two shocks of an earth- 
quake occurred, the latter a rather unpleasant one, shaking 
the tables and doors in an uncomfortable fashion for several 
seconds. To the natives it was no surprise — they believe 
firmly in the connection of eclipses and earthquakes.^ 

Especially notable is the breaking of their culinary 
utensils by the Hindus during an eclipse. In Copen- 
hagen there is a collection of the votive weapons of 
ancient Norsemen, every one broken as it was offered 
up to the god of their victory in token of good faith, lest 
they should be suspected of any intention to use again 
what they had given away. For the same reason the cup 
was offered — broken — with the libation. The Northman 
felt himself in the presence of the Jotunn (giants), whose 
name Grimm identifies as the Eaters- For the Hindu 
of to-day the ceremonies appropriate at an eclipse, how- 
ever important, have probably as little rational meaning 
as the occasional Belfirc that lights up certain dark corners 
of Europe has for those who build it. But the traditional 
observances have come up from the childhood of the world, 
when the eclipse represented a demon devouring the sun, 
who was to have his attention called by outcries and 
prayers to the fact that if it was fire he needed there was 
plenty on earth ; and if food, he might have all in their 
houses, provided he would consent to satisfy his appetite 

^ London ' Times ' Calcutta correspondence. 


with articles of food less important than the luminaries of 

Such is the shape now taken in India of the ancient 
myth of the eclipse. When at the churning of the ocean 
to find the nectar of immortality, a demon with dragon- 
tail was tasting that nectar, the sun and moon told on 
him, but not until his head had become immortal ; and it 
is this head of Rahu which seeks now to devour the in- 
formers — the Sun and Moon.^ Mythologically, too, this 
Rahu has been divided ; for we shall hereafter trace the 
dragon-tail of him to the garden of Eden and in the chris- 
tian devil, whereas in India he has been improved from a 
vindictive to a merely voracious demon. 

The fires kindled by the Hindus to frighten Rahu on 
his latest appearance might have defeated the purpose of 
the expedition by the smoke it was sending up, had not 
two officers leaped upon the fire and scattered its fuel ; but 
just about the time when these courageous gentlemen were 
trampling out the fires of superstition whose smoke would 
obscure the vision of science, an event occurred in England 
which must be traced to the same ancient belief — the 
belief, namely, that when anything is apparently swallowed 
up, as the sun and moon by an eclipse, or a village by 
earthquake or flood, it is the work of a hungry dragon, 
earthworm, or other monster. The Pelsall mine was 
flooded, and a large number of miners drowned. When 
the accident became known in the village, the women went 

^ The Persian poet Sadi uses the phrase, 'The whale swallowed Jonah,' as 
a familiar expression for sunset; which is in curious coincidence with a 
Mimac (Nova Scotian) myth that the holy hero Glooscap was carried to the 
happy Sunset Land in a whale. The story of Jonah has indeed had interest- 
ing variants, one of them being that legend of Cannes, the fish-god, emerging 
from the Red Sea to teach Babylonians the arts (a saga of Dagon) ; but the 
phrase in the Book of Jonah — 'the belly of Hell' — had a prosaic significance 
for the christian mind, and, in connection with speculations concerning Behe- 
moth and Leviathan, gave us the mediaeval Mouth of Hell. 


out with the families of the unfortunate men, and sat beside 
the mouth of the flooded pit, at the bottom of which the 
dead bodies yet remained. These women then yelled 
down the pit with voices very different from ordinary 
lamentation. They also refused unanimously to taste 
food of any kind, saying, when pressed to do so, that so 
long as they could refrain from eating, their husbands 
might still be spared to them. When, finally, one poor 
woman, driven by the pangs of hunger, was observed to 
eat a crust of bread, the cries ceased, and the women, 
renouncing all hope, proceeded in silent procession to their 
homes in Pelsall. 

The Hindu people casting their food out of the window 
during an eclipse, the Pelsall wives refusing to eat when 
the mine is flooded, are acting by force of immemorial 
tradition, and so are doing unconsciously what the African 
woman does consciously when she surrounds the bed of 
her sick husband with rice and meat, and beseeches the 
demon to devour them instead of the man. To the same 
class of notions belong the old custom of trying to dis- 
cover the body of one drowned by means of a loaf of 
bread with a candle stuck in it, which it was said would 
pause above the body, and the body might be made to 
appear by firing a gun over it — that is, the demon hold- 
ing it would be frightened off. A variant, too, is the 
Persian custom of protecting a woman in parturition by 
spreading a table, with a lamp at each corner, with seven 
kinds of fruits and seven different aromatic seeds upon it. 

In 1769, when Pennant made his 'Scottish Tour,' he 
found fully observed in the Highlands the ceremony of 
making the Beltane Cake on the first of May, and dedi- 
cating its distributed fragments to birds and beasts of 
prey, with invocation to the dread being of whom they 
were the supposed agents to spare the herds. Demons 


especially love milk : the Lambton Worm required nine 
cows' milk daily; and Jerome mentions a diabolical baby 
which exhausted six nurses. 

The Devil nominally inherits, among the peasantry of 
Christendom, the attributes of the demons which preceded 
him ; but it must be understood that in every case where 
mere voracity is ascribed to the Devil, a primitive demon 
is meant, and of this fact the superstitious peasant is 
dimly conscious. In Franconia, when a baker is about to 
put dough biscuits into an oven to be baked, he will first 
throw half-a-dozen of them into the fire, saying, 'There, 
poor devil ! those are for you.' If pressed for an explana- 
tion, he will admit his fear that but for this offering his 
biscuits are in danger of coming out burnt ; but that the 
' poor devil ' is not bad-hearted, only driven by his hunger 
to make mischief. The being he fears is, therefore, clearly 
not the Devil at all — whose distinction is a love of wicked- 
ness for its own sake — but the half-starved gobbling ghosts 
of whom, in christian countries, ' Devil ' has become the 
generic name. Of their sacrifices, Grace before meat is a 
remnant. In Moslem countries, however, 'Sheitan' com- 
bines the demonic and the malignant voracities. During 
the late lunar eclipse, the inhabitants of Pera and Con- 
stantinople fired guns over their houses to drive ' Sheitan ' 
(Satan) away from the moon, for, whoever the foe, the 
Turk trusts in gunpowder. But superstitions represent- 
ing Satan as a devourer are becoming rare. In the 
church of Notre Dame at Hal, Belgium, the lectern 
shows a dragon attempting to swallow the Bible, which 
is supported on the back of an eagle. 

There is another and much more formidable form in 
which the Hunger-demon appears in Demonology. The 
fondness for blood, so characteristic of supreme gods, was 
distributed as a special thirst through a large class of 


demons. In the legend of Ishtar descending to Hades ^ 

to seek some beloved one, she threatens if the door be not 

opened — 

I will raise the dead to be devourers of the living ! 
Upon the living shall the dead prey ! 

This menace shows that the Chaldaean and Babylonian 
belief in the vampyre, called Akhkharu in Assyrian, was 
fully developed at a very early date. Although the 
Hunger- demon was very fully developed in India, it 
does not appear to have been at any time so cannibalistic, 
possibly because the natives were not great flesh-eaters. 
In some cases, indeed, we meet with the vampyre super- 
stition ; as in the story of Vikram and the Vampyre, and 
in the Tamil drama of Harichandra, where the frenzied 
Sandramati says to the king, ' I belong to the race of 
elves, and I have killed thy child in order that I might 
feed on its delicate flesh.' Such expressions are rare 
enough to warrant suspicion of their being importations. 
The Vetala's appetite is chiefly for corpses. The poor 
hungry demons of India — such as the Bhiit, a dismal, 
ravenous ghost, dreaded at the moon-wane of the month 
Katik (Oct.— Nov.) — was not supposed to devour man, but 
only man's food. The Hindu demons of this class may 
be explained by reference to the sraddha, or oblation to 
ancestors, concerning which we read directions in the 
Manu Code. ' The ancestors of men are satisfied a 
whole month with tila, rice, &c. ; two months with fish, 
&c. The Manes say. Oh, may that man be born in our 
line who may give us milky food, with honey and pure 
butter, both on the thirteenth of the moon and when the 
shadow of an elephant falls to the east ! ' The blood- 
thirsty demons of India have pretty generally been 
caught up like Kali into a higher symbolism, and their 

1 Tablet K 162 in the British Museum. See 'Records of the Past,' i. 141. 
VOL. I. D 


voracity systematised and satisfied in sacrificial commuta- 
tions. The popular belief in the southern part of that 
country is indicated by Professor Monier Williams, in a 
letter written from Southern India, wherein he remarks 
that the devils alone require propitiation. It is generally 
a simple procedure, performed by offerings of food or other 
articles supposed to be acceptable to disembodied beings. 
For example, when a certain European, once a terror to 
the district in which he lived, died in the South of India, 
the natives were in the constant habit of depositing 
brandy and cigars on his tomb to propitiate his spirit, 
supposed to roam about the neighbourhood in a restless 
manner, and with evil proclivities. The very same was 
done to secure the good offices of the philanthropic spirit 
of a great European sportsman, who, when he was alive, 
delivered his district from the ravages of tigers. Indeed 
all evil spirits are thought to be opposed by good ones, 
who, if duly propitiated, make it their business to guard 
the inhabitants of particular places from demonic in- 
truders. Each district, and even every village, has its 
guardian genius, often called its Mother.^ 

Such ideas as these are represented in Europe in some 
varieties of the Kobold and the Goblin (Gk. /to/SaXo?). 
Though the goblin must, according to folk-philosophy, be 
fed with nice food, it is not a deadly being; on the con- 
trary, it is said the Gobelin tapestry derives its name 
because the secret of its colours was gained from these 
ghosts. Though St. Taurin expelled one from Evreux, 
he found it so polite that he would not send it to hell, 
and it still haunts the credulous there and at Caen, with- 
out being thought very formidable. 

The demon that ' lurks in graveyards ' is universal, 
and may have suggested cremation. In the East it is 

1 London 'Times,' July ii, 1877. 


represented mainly by such forms as the repulsive ghoul, 
which preys on dead bodies; but it has been developed 
in some strange way to the Slavonic phantom called Vam- 
pyre, whose peculiar Tearfulness is that it represents the 
form in which any deceased person may reappear, not 
ghoul-like to batten on the dead, but to suck the blood of 
the living. This is perhaps the most formidable survival 
of demonic superstition now existing in the world. 

A people who still have in their dictionary such a word 
as 'miscreant' (misbeliever) can hardly wonder that the 
priests of the Eastern Church fostered the popular belief 
that heretics at death changed into drinkers of the blood 
of the living. The Slavonic vampyres have declined in 
England and America to be the ' Ogres,' who ' smell the 
blood of an Englishman,' but are rarely supposed to enjoy 
it ; but it exposes the real ugliness of the pious supersti- 
tions sometimes deem.ed pretty, that, in proportion to the 
intensity of belief in supernaturalism, the people live in 
terror of the demons that go about seeking whom they may 
devour. In Ru^ia the watcher beside a corpse is armed 
with holy charms against attack from it at midnight. A 
vampyre may be the soul of any outcast from the Church, 
or one over whose corpse, before burial, a cat has leaped 
or a bird flown. It may be discovered in a graveyard by 
leading a black colt through ; the animal will refuse to 
tread on the vampyre's grave, and the body is taken out 
and a stake driven through it, always by a single blow. 
A related class of demons are the 'heart-devourers.' They 
touch their victim with an aspen or other magical twig; 
the heart falls out, and is, perhaps, replaced by some baser 
one. Mr. Ralston mentions a Mazovian story in which 
a hero awakes with the heart of a hare, and remains a 
coward ever after ;i and in another case a quiet peasant 

^ ' Songs of the Russian People,' p. 409. 


received a cock's heart and was always crowing. The 
Werewolf, in some respects closely related to the vam- 
pyre, also pursues his ravages among the priest-ridden 
peasantry of the South and East. 

In Germany, though the more horrible forms of the 
superstition are rare, the 'Nachzehrer' is much dreaded. 
Even in various Protestant regions it is thought safest that 
a cross should be set beside every grave to impede any 
demonic propensities that may take possession of the 
person interred; and where food is not still buried with the 
corpse to assuage any pangs of hunger that may arise, a 
few grains of corn or rice are scattered upon it in remini- 
scence of the old custom. In Diesdorf it is believed that 
if money is not placed in the dead person's mouth at 
burial, or his name not cut from his shirt, he is likely to 
become a Nachzehrer, and that the ghost will come forth 
in the form of a pig. It is considered a sure preventative 
of such a result to break the neck of the dead body. On 
one occasion, it is there related, several persons of one 
family having died, the suspected corpse was exhumed, 
and found to have eaten up its own grave-clothes. 

Dr. Dyer, an eminent physician of Chicago, Illinois, 
told me (1875) that a case occurred in that city within his 
personal knowledge, where the body of a woman who had 
died of consumption was taken out of the grave and the 
lungs burned, under a belief that she was drawing after 
her into the grave some of her surviving relatives. In 
1874, according to the Providence JoiLrnal, in the village of 
Peacedale, Rhode Island, U.S., Mr. William Rose dug up 
the body of his own daughter, and burned her heart, under 
the belief that she was wasting away the lives of other 
members of his family. 

The characteristics of modern 'Spiritualism' appear to 
indicate that the superstitious have outgrown this ancient 


fear of ghostly malevolence where surrounded by civilisa- 
tion. It is very rare in the ancient world or in barbarous 
regions to find any invocations for the return of the spirits 
of the dead. Mr. Tylor has quoted a beautiful dirge used 
by the Ho tribe of India, beginning — 

We never scolded you, never wronged you ; 
Come to us back ! 

But generally funereal customs are very significant of the 
fear that spirits may return, and their dirges more in the 
vein of the Bodo of North-East India : ' Take and eat : 
heretofore you have eaten and drunk with us, you can do 
so no more : you were one of us, you can be so no longer : 
we come no more to you, come you not to us.' ' Even,' 
says Mr. Tylor, 'in the lowest culture we find flesh hold- 
ing its own against spirit, and at higher stages the house- 
holder rids himself with little scruple of an unwelcome 
inmate. The Greenlanders would carry the dead out by 
the -v^indow, not by the door, while an old woman, waving 
a firebrand behind, cried ' Piklerrukpok ! ' i.e., ' There is 
nothing more to be had here ! ' the Hottentots removed 
the dead from the hut by an opening broken out on pur- 
pose, to prevent him from finding the way back ; the 
Siamese, with the same intention, break an opening through 
the house wall to carry the cofiin through, and then hurry 
it at full speed thrice round the house ; the Siberian Chu- 
washes fling a red-hot stone after the corpse is carried out, 
for an obstacle to bar the soul from coming back ; so 
Brandenburg peasants pour out a pail of water at the door 
after the coffin to prevent the ghost from walking ; and 
Pomeranian mourners returning from the churchyard leave 
behind the straw from the hearse, that the wandering soul 
may rest there, and not come back so far as home.' ^ 

^ ' Primitive Culture.' 



It may be remarked, in this connection, that in nearly- 
all the pictures of demons and devils, they are represented 
as very lean. The exceptions will be found generally in 
certain Southern and tropical demons which represent 
cloud or storm — Typhon, for instance — and present a 
swollen or bloated appearance. No Northern devil is fat. 
Shakespeare ascribes to Csesar a suspicion of leanness — 

Yond' Cassius hath a lean and hungry look ; 
He thinks too much : such men are dangerous. 

When Antony defends Cassius, Csesar only replies, 'Would 
he were fatter ! ' This mistrust of leanness is a reflection 

Fig. 4.— St. Anthony's Lean Persecutor (Salvator Rosa). 

from all the Hunger-demons ; it interprets the old sayings 
that a devil, however fair in front, may be detected by 
hollowness of the back, and that he is usually so thin as 
to cast no shadow.^ 

^ Csesarius D'Heisterbach, Miracul. iii. 


Illustrations of the Hunger-demon and its survivals 
might be greatly multiplied, were it necessary. It need 
only, however, be mentioned that it is to this early and 
most universal conception of praeternatural danger that 
the idea of sacrifice as well as of fasting must be ascribed. 
It is, indeed, too obvious to require extended demonstra- 
tion that the notion of offering fruits and meat to an 
invisible being could only have originated in the belief that 
such being was hungry, however much the spiritualisation 
of such offerings may have attended their continuance 
among enlightened peoples. In the evolution of purer 
deities, Fire — * the devouring element ' — was substituted 
for a coarser method of accepting sacrifices, and it became 
a sign of baser beings — such as the Assyrian Akhkharu, 
and the later Lamia — to consume dead bodies with their 
teeth ; and this fire was the spiritual element in the idola- 
tries whose objects were visible. But the original accent of 
sacrifice never left it. The Levitical Law says : ' The two 
kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the 
flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it 
shall he take away. And the priest shall burn them upon 
the altar : it is the food of the offering made by fire for a 
sweet savour : all the fat is the Lord's. It shall be a per- 
petual statute for your generations throughout all your 
dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.' ^ We find 
the Hunger-demon shown as well in the wrath of Jehovah 
against the sons of Eli for eating the choice parts of the 
meats offered on his altar, as in that offering of tender 
inifants to Moloch which his priests denounced, or in 
Saturn devouring his children, whom Aryan faith de- 
throned ; and they all reappear as phantoms thinly veiled 
above the spotless Lamb offered up on Calvary, the sacri- 
ficed Macaria ('Blessed'), the pierced heart of Mary. 

^ Lev. iii. 15. 


The beautiful boy Menoeceus must be sacrificed to save 
Thebes ; the gods will not have aged and tough Creon, 
though a king, in his place. Iphigenia, though herself 
saved from the refined palate of Artemis, through the 
huntress's fondness for kid's blood, becomes the priestess 
of human sacrifices. The human offering deemed half- 
divine could alone at last satisfy the Deity, gathered in 
his side this sheaf of sacrificial knives, whetted in many 
lands and ages, and in his self-sacrifice the Hunger-demon 
himself was made the victim. Theologians have been 
glad to rescue the First Person of their Trinity from asso- 
ciation with the bloodthirsty demons of barbarous ages 
by describing the sacrifice of Jesus as God himself becom- 
ing the victim of an eternal, law. But, whatever may be 
said of this complex device, it is sufficient evidence that 
man's primitive demon which personified his hunger has 
ended with being consumed on his own altar. For though 
fasting is a survival of the same savage notion that man 
may secure benefits from invisible beings by leaving them 
the food, it is a practice which survives rather through 
the desire of imitating ascetic saints than because of any 
understood principle. The strange yet natural consum- 
mation adds depth of meaning to the legend of Odin 
being himself sacrificed in his disguise on the Holy Tree 
at Upsala, where human victims were hung as offerings to 
him ; and to his rune in the Havamal — 

I know that I hung 
On a wind-rocked tree 
Nine whole nights, 
With a spear wounded, 
And to Odin offered 
Myself to myself 

{ 57 ) 



Demons of Fire — Agni — Asmodeus — Prometheus — Feast of fire — 
Moloch — Tophet — Genii of the lamp — Bel-fires — Hallowe'en — 
Negro superstitions — Chinese fire-god — Volcanic and incendiary 
demons — Mangaian fire-demon — Demons' fear of water. 

Fire was of old the element of fiends. No doubt this 
was in part due to the fact that it also was a devouring 
element. Sacrifices were burnt; the demon visibly con- 
sumed them. But the great flame-demons represent 
chiefly the destructive and painful action of intense heat. 
They originate in regions of burning desert, of sunstroke, 
and drouth. 

Agni, the Hindu god of fire, was adored in Vedic 
hymns as the twin of Indra. 

' Thy appearance is fair to behold, thou bright-faced 
Agni, when like gold thou shinest at hand ; thy brightness 
comes like the lightning of heaven ; thou showest splen- 
dour like the splendour of the bright sun. 

' Adorable and excellent Agni, emit the moving and 
graceful smoke. 

' The flames of Agni are luminous, powerful, fearful, 
and not to be trusted, 

' I extol the greatness of that showerer of rain, whom 
men celebrate as the slayer of Vritra : the Agni, Vaiswa- 
nara, slew the stealer of the waters.' 


The slaying of Vritra, the monster, being tlie chief 
exploit of Indra, Agni could only share in it as being the 
flame that darted with Indra's weapon, the disc (of the 

' Thou (Agni) art laid hold off with difficulty, like the 
young of tortuously twining snakes, thou who art a con- 
sumer of many forests as a beast is of fodder.' 

Petrifaction awaits all these glowing metaphors of early 
time. Verbal inspiration will make Agni a literally tortu- 
ous serpent and consuming fire. His smoke, called Kali 
(black), is now the name of Siva's terrible bride. 

Much is said in Vedic hymns of the method of pro- 
ducing the sacred flame symbolising Agni ; namely, the 
rubbing together of two sticks. ' He it is whom the two 
sticks have engendered, like a new-born babe.' It is a 
curious coincidence that a similar phrase should describe 
' the devil on two sticks,' who has come by way of Persia 
into European romance. Asmodeus was a lame demon, 
and his 'two sticks' as 'Diable Boiteux' are crutches; 
but his lameness may be referable to the attenuated ex- 
tremities suggested by spires of flame — ' tortuously twining 
snakes,' — rather than to the rabbinical myth that he broke 
his leg on his way to meet Solomon. Benfey identified 
Asmodeus as Zend Aeshma-daeva, demon of lust. His 
goat-feet and fire-coal eyes are described by Le Sage, and 
the demon says he was lamed by falling from the air, like 
Vulcan, when contending with Pillardoc. It is not difficult 
to imagine how flame engendered by the rubbing of sticks 
might have attained personification as sensual passion, 
especially among Zoroastrians, who would detach from 
the adorable Fire all associations of evil. It would har- 
monise well with the Persian tendency to diabolise Indian 
gods, that they should note the lustful character occa- 
sionally ascribed to Agni in the Vedas. ' Him alone, the 


ever-youthful Agni, men groom like a horse in the evening 
and at dawn ; they bed him as a stranger in his couch ; 
the light of Agni, the worshipped male, is lighted.' Agni 
was the Indian 'Brulefer' or love-charmer, and patron of 
marriage; the fire-god Hephaistos was the husband of 
Aphrodite; the day of the Norse thunder-and-lightning 
god Thor (Thursday), is in Scandinavian regions con- 
sidered the luckiest for marriages. 

The process of obtaining fire by friction is represented 
by a nobler class of myths than that referred to. In the 
Mahdbhdrata the gods and demons together churn the 
ocean for the nectar of immortality ; and they use for 
their churning-stick the mountain Manthara. This word 
appears in pramantha, which means a fire-drill, and from 
it comes the great name of Prometheus, who stole fire 
from heaven, and conferred on mankind a boon which 
rendered them so powerful that the jealousy and wrath 
of Zeus were excited. This fable is generally read in its 
highly rationalised and mystical form, and on this account 
belongs to another part of our general subject ; but it may 
be remarked here that the Titan so terribly tortured by 
Zeus could hardly have been regarded, originally, as the 
friend of man. At the time when Zeus was a god genu- 
inely worshipped — when he first stood forth as the sup- 
planter of the malign devourer Saturn — it could have been 
no friend of man who was seen chained on the rock for 
ever to be the vulture's prey. It was fire in some destruc- 
tive form which must have been then associated with 
Prometheus, and not that power by which later myths 
represented his animating with a divine spark the man of 
clay. The Hindu myth of churning the ocean for the 
immortal draught, even if it be proved that the ocean is 
heaven and the draught lightning, does not help us much. 
The traditional association of Prometheus with the Arts 


might almost lead one to imagine that the early use of 
fire by some primitive inventor had brought upon him the 
wrath of his mates, and that Zeus' thunderbolts repre- 
sented some early ' strike ' against machinery. 

It is not quite certain that it may not have been through 
some euphemistic process that Fire-worship arose in Persia. 
Not only does fire occupy a prominent place in the tor- 
tures inflicted by Ahriman in the primitive Parsee Inferno, 
but it was one of the weapons by which he attempted 
to destroy the heavenly child Zoroaster. The evil magi- 
cians kindled a fire in the desert and threw the child on 
it ; but his mother, Dogdo, found him sleeping tranquilly 
on the flames, which were as a pleasant bath, and his 
face shining like Zohore and Moschteri (Jupiter and 
Mercury).^ The Zoroastrians also held that the earth 
would ultimately be destroyed by fire; its metals and 
minerals, ignited by a comet, would form streams which all 
souls would have to pass through : they would be pleasant 
to the righteous, but terrible to the sinful, — who, however, 
would come through, purified, into paradise, the last to 
arrive being Ahriman himself. 

The combustible nature of many minerals under the 
surface of the earth, — which was all the realm of Hades 
(invisible), — would assist the notion of a fiery abode for 
the infernal gods. Our phrase ' plutonic rock' would then 
have a very prosaic sense. Pliny says that in his time 
sulphur was used to keep off evil spirits, and it is not 
impossible that it first came to be used as a medicine by 
this route.2 

Fire -festivals still exist in India, where the ancient 

^ Du Perron, 'Vie de Zoroastre.' 

^ The principle similia similibus cwantur is a very ancient one ; but 
though it may have originated in a euphemistic or propitiatory aim, the 
homceopathist may claim that it could hardly have lived unless it had been 
found to have some practical advantages. 


raiment of Agni has been divided up and distributed 
among many deities. At the popular annual festival in 
honour of Dharma Rajah, called the Feast of Fire, the 
devotees walk barefoot over a glowing fire extending forty 
feet. It lasts eighteen days, during which time those that 
make a vow to keep it must fast, abstain from women, 
lie on the bare ground, and walk on a brisk fire. The 
eighteenth day they assemble on the sound of instru- 
ments, their heads crowned with flowers, their bodies 
daubed with saffron, and follow the figures of Dharma 
Rajah and Draupadi his wife in procession. When they 
come to the fire, they stir it to animate its activity, and 
take a little of the ashes, with which they rub their fore- 
heads; and when the gods have been carried three times 
round it they walk over a hot fire, about forty feet. Some 
carry their children in their arms, and others lances, 
sabres, and standards. After the ceremony the people 
press to collect the ashes to rub their foreheads with, and 
obtain from devotees the flowers with which they were 
adorned, "and which they carefully preserve.-*- 

The passion of Agni reappears in Draupadi purified by 
fire for her five husbands, and especially her union with 
Dharma Rajah, son of Yama, is celebrated in this unor- 
thodox passion-feast. It has been so much the fashion 
for travellers to look upon all 'idolatry' with biblical eyes, 
that we cannot feel certain with Sonnerat that there was 
anything more significant in the carrying of children by 
the devotees, than the supposition that what was good 
for the parent was equally beneficial to the child. But 
the identification of Moloch with an Aryan deity is not 
important; the Indian Feast of Fire and the rites of 
Moloch are derived by a very simple mental process from 
the most obvious aspects of the Sun as the quickening 

^ Sonnerat's 'Travels,' ii. 38. 


and the consuming power in nature. The child offered to 
Moloch was offered to the god by whom he was generated, 
and as the most precious of all the fruits of the earth for 
which his genial aid was implored and his destructive in- 
tensity deprecated. Moloch, a word that means ' sacrifice,' 
was in all probability at first only a local (Ammonite) per- 
sonification growing out of an ancient shrine of Baal. The 
Midianite Baal accompanied the Israelites into the wilder- 
ness, and that worship was never thoroughly eradicated. In 
the Egyptian Confession of Faith, which the initiated took 
even into their graves inscribed upon a scroll, the name of 
God is not mentioned, but is expressed only by the words 
Nuk pu Nuk, ' I am he who I am.' ^ The flames of the 
burning bush, from which these same words came to Moses, 
were kindled from Baal, the Sun ; and we need not wonder 
that while the more enlightened chiefs of Israel pre- 
served the higher ideas and symbols of the countries they 
abandoned, the ignorant would still cling to Apis (the 
Golden Calf), to Ashtaroth, and to Moloch. Amos (v. 26), 
and after him Stephen the martyr (Acts vii. 43), reproach 
the Hebrews with having carried into the wilderness the 
tabernacle of their god Moloch. And though the passing 
of children through the fire to Moloch was, by the Mosaic 
Law, made a capital crime, the superstition and the corre- 
sponding practice retained such strength that we find 
Solomon building a temple to Moloch on the Mount of 
Olives (i Kings xi. 7), and, long after, Manasseh making 
his son pass through the fire in honour of the same god. 

It is certain from the denunciations of the prophets^ 
that the destruction of children in these flames was actual. 
From Jeremiah xix. 6, as well as other sources, we know 
that the burnings took place in the Valley of Tophet or 

^ Deutsch, 'Literary Remains,' p. 178. 
^ Isa. Ivii. 5 ; Ezek. xvi. 20 ; Jer. xix. 5. 


Hinnom (Gehenna). The idol Moloch was of brass, and 
its throne of brass ; its head was that of a calf, and wore 
a royal crown ; its stomach was a furnace, and when the 
children were placed in its arms they were consumed by 
the fierce heat, — their cries being drowned by the beating 
of drums ; from which, toph meaning a ' drum,' the place 
was also called Tophet. In the fierce war waged against 
alien superstitions by Josiah, he defiled Gehenna, filling it 
with ordure and dead men's bones to make it odious, 
' that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass 
through the fire to Moloch ' (2 Kings xxiii. 10), and a 
perpetual fire was kept there to consume the filth of Jeru- 

From this horrible Gehenna, with its perpetual fire, its 
loathsome worm, its cruelties, has been derived the picture 
of a never-ending Hell prepared for the majority of human 
beings by One who, while they live on earth, sends the 
rain and sunshine alike on the evil and the good. Wo 
Chang, a Chinaman in London, has written to a journal^ his 
surprise that our religious teachers should be seized with 
such concern for the victims of Turkish atrocities in Bul- 
garia, while they are so calm in view of the millions burn- 
ing, and destined to burn endlessly, in the flames of hell. 
Our Oriental brothers will learn a great deal from our 
missionaries ; among other things, that the theological god 
of Christendom is still Moloch. 

The Ammonites, of whom Moloch was the special de- 
mon, appear to have gradually blended with the Arabians. 
These received from many sources their mongrel super- 
stitions, but among them were always prominent the 
planet-gods and fire-gods, whom their growing mono- 
theism (to use the word still in a loose sense) transformed 
to powerful angels and genii. The genii of Arabia are 

^ The 'Jewish World.' 


slaves of the lamp ; they are evoked by burning tufts of 
hair ; they ascend as clouds of smoke. Though, as sub- 
ordinate agents of the Fire-fiend, they may be consumed 
by flames, yet those who so fight them are apt to suffer 
a like fate, as in the case of the Lady of Beauty in the 
Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Many stories of this 
kind preceded the declarations of the Old Testament, 
that Jehovah breathes fire and brimstone, his breath 
kindling Tophet ; and also the passages of the Koran, 
and of the New Testament describing Satan as a fiery 

Various superstitions connecting infernal powers with 
fire survive among the Jews of some remote districts of 
Europe. The Passover is kept a week by the Jewish in- 
habitants in the villages on the Vosges mountains and on 
the banks of the Rhine. The time of omer is the interval 
between the Passover and Pentecost, the seven weeks 
elapsing from the departure from Egypt and the giving of 
the law, marked in former days by the off'ering of an omer 
of barley daily at the temple. It is considered a fearful 
time, during which every Jew is particularly exposed to 
the evil influence of evil spirits. There is something 
dangerous and fatal in the air; every one should be on 
the watch, and not tempt the schedim (demons) in any 
way. Have a strict eye upon your cattle, say the Jews, 
for the sorceress will get into your stables, mount your 
cows and goats, bring diseases upon them, and turn their 
milk sour. In the latter case, try to lay your hand upon 
the suspected person ; shut her up in a room with a basin 
of sour milk, and beat the milk with a hazel-wand, pro- 
nouncing God's name three times. Whilst you are doing 
this, the sorceress will make great lamentation, for the blows 
are falling upon her. Only stop when you see blue flames 
dancing on the surface of the milk, for then the charm is 


broken. If at nightfall a beggar comes to ask for a little 
charcoal to light his fire, be very careful not to give it, 
and do not let him go without drawing him three times 
by his coat-tail ; and without losing time, throw some large 
handfuls of salt on the fire. In all of which we may 
trace traditions of parched wildernesses and fiery ser- 
pents, as well as of Abraham's long warfare with the Fire- 
worshippers, until, according to the tradition, he was 
thrown into the flames he refused to worship. 

It is probable that in all the popular superstitions which 
now connect devils and future punishments with fire 
are blended both the apotheosis and the degradation of 
demons. The first and most universal of deities being 
the Sun, whose earthly representative is fire, the student 
of Comparative Mythology has to pick his way very 
carefully in tracing by any ethnological path the innumer- 
able superstitions of European folklore in which Fire- 
worship is apparently reflected. The collection of facts 
and records contained in a work so accessible to all who 
care to pursue the subject as that of Brand and his editors,^ 
renders it unnecessary that I should go into the curious 
facts to any great extent here. The uniformity of the 
traditions by which the midsummer fires of Northern 
Europe have been called Baal-fires or Bel-fires warrant 
the belief that they are actually descended from the 
ancient rites of Baal, even apart from the notorious fact 
that they have so generally been accompanied by the 
superstition that it is a benefit to children to leap over or 
be passed through such fires. That this practice still sur- 
vives in out-of-the way places of the British Empire ap- 
pears from such communications as the following (from the 

^'Observations on Popular iAntiquities,' &c., by John Brand. With the 
additions of Sir Henry Ellis. An entirely new and revised edition. Chatto 
& Windus, 1877. See especially the chapter on 'Summer Solstice,' p. 165. 
VOL. I. E 


Times), which are occasionally addressed to the London 
journals: — 'Lerwick (Shetland), July 7, 1871. — SiR, — It 
may interest some of your readers to know that last night 
(being St. John's Eve, old style) I observed, within a mile 
or so of this town, seven bonfires blazing, in accordance 
with the immemorial custom of celebrating the Midsum- 
mer solstice. These fires were kindled on various heights 
around the ancient hamlet of Sound, and the children 
leaped over them, and ' passed through the fire to Moloch,' 
just as their ancestors would have done a thousand years 
ago on the same heights, and their still remoter progeni- 
tors in Eastern lands many thousand years ago. This 
persistent adherence to mystic rites in this scientific epoch 
seems to me worth taking note of. — A. J.' 

To this may be added the following recent extract from 
a Scotch journal : — 

' Hallowe'en was celebrated at Balmoral Castle with 
unusual ceremony, in the presence of her Majesty, the 
Princess Beatrice, the ladies and gentlemen of the royal 
household, and a large gathering of the tenantry. The 
leading features of the celebration were a torchlight pro- 
cession, the lighting of large bonfires, and the burning in 
effigy of witches and warlocks. Upwards of 150 torch- 
bearers assembled at the castle as dark set in, and sepa- 
rated into two parties, one band proceeding to Invergelder, 
and the other remaining at Balmoral. The torches were 
lighted at a quarter before six o'clock, and shortly after 
the Queen and Princess Beatrice drove to Invergelder, 
followed by the Balmoral party of torchbearers. The two 
parties then united and returned in procession to the front 
of Balmoral Castle, where refreshments were served to all, 
and dancing was engaged in round a huge bonfire. Sud- 
denly there appeared from the rear of the Castle a gro- 
tesque apparition representing a witch with a train of fol- 


lowers dressed like sprites, who danced and gesticulated in 
all fashions. Then followed a warlock of demoniac shape, 
who was succeeded by another warlock drawing a car, 
on which was seated the figure of a witch, surrounded 
by other figures in the garb of demons. The unearthly 
visitors having marched several times round the burn- 
ing pile, the principal figure was taken from the car and 
tossed into the flames amid the burning of blue lights 
and a display of crackers and fireworks. The health of 
her Majesty the Queen was then pledged, and drunk with 
Highland honours by the assembled hundreds. Dancing 
was then resumed, and was carried on till a late hour 
at night.' 

The Sixth Council of Constantinople (an. 680), by its 
sixty -fifth canon, forbids these fires in the following 
terms: — 'Those bonefires that are kindled by certain 
people before their shops and houses, over which also 
they use ridiculously to leap, by a certain ancient custom, 
we command them from henceforth to cease. Whoever, 
therefore, shall do any such thing, if he be a clergyman, 
let him be deposed ; if he be a layman, let him be excom- 
municated. For in the Fourth Book of the Kings it is 
thus written : And Manasseh built an altar to all the host 
of heaven, in the two courts of the Lord's house, and 
made his children to pass through the fire.' There is a 
charming naivete in this denunciation. It is no longer 
doubtful that this ' bonefire ' over which people leaped 
came from the same source as that Gehenna from which 
the Church derived the orthodox theory of hell, as we 
have already seen. When Shakespeare speaks (Macbeth) 
of 'the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire,'^ he is, 
with his wonted felicity, assigning the flames of hell and 

^ ' Pyra, a bonefire, wherein men's bodyes were burned.' — Cooper's The- 
saurus. Probably from Fr. bon ; Wedgewood gives Dan. batm, beacon. 


the fires of Moloch and Baal their right archseological 

In my boyhood I have often leaped over a bonfire in a 
part of the State of Virginia mainly settled by Scotch 
families, with whom probably the custom migrated thither. 
In the superstitions of the negroes of that and other 
Southern States fire plays a large part, but it is hardly 
possible now to determine whether they have drifted there 
from Africa or England. Sometimes there are queer coin- 
cidences between their notions and some of the early 
legends of Britain. Thus, the tradition of the shepherd 
guided by a distant fire to the entrance of King Arthur's 
subterranean hall, where a flame fed by no fuel coming 
through the floor reveals the slumbering monarch and 
his court, resembles somewhat stories I have heard from 
negroes of their being led by. distant fires to lucky — 
others say unlucky — or at any rate enchanted spots. A 
negro belonging to my father told me that once, as he 
was walking on a country road, he saw a great fire in the 
distance ; he supposed it must be a house on fire, and 
hastened towards it, meantime much puzzled, since he 
knew of no house in that direction. As he went on his 
way he turned into a small wood near which the fire 
seemed to be, but when he emerged, all he found was a 
single fire-coal burning in the path. There were no other 
traces whatever of fire, but just then a large dog leaped 
past him with a loud bark and disappeared. 

In a letter on * Voudouism in Virginia,' which appeared 
in the New York Tribune, dated Richmond, September 
17, 1875, occurs an account of a class of superstitions 
generally kept close from the whites, as I have always 
believed because of their purely African origin. As will 
be seen, fire represents an important element in the super- 
stitious practices. 


* If an ignorant negro is smitten with a disease which 
he cannot comprehend, he often imagines himself the 
victim of witchcraft, and having no faith in ' white folks' 
physic' for such ailments, must apply to one of these 
quacks. A physician residing near this city was invited 
by such a one to witness his mode of procedure with a 
dropsical patient for whom the physician in question had 
occasionally charitably prescribed. Curiosity led him to 
attend the seance, having previously informed the quack 
that since the case was in such hands he relinquished all 
connection with it. On the coverlet of the bed on which 
the sick man lay was spread a quantity of bones, feathers, 
and other trash. The charlatan went through with a series 
of so-called conjurations, burned feathers, hair, and tiny 
fragments of wood in a charcoal furnace, and mumbled 
gibberish past the physician's comprehension. He then 
proceeded to rip open the pillows and bolsters, and took 
from them some queer conglomerations of feathers. These 
he said had caused all the trouble. Sprinkling a whitish 
powder over them, he burnt them in his furnace. A black 
offensive smoke was produced, and he announced trium- 
phantly that the evil influence was destroyed and that the 
patient would surely get well. He died not many days 
later, believing, in common with all his friends and rela- 
tives, that the conjurations of the 'trick doctor' had failed 
to save him only because resorted to too late.' 

The following account of a spell from which his wife 
was rescued, was given me by a negro in Virginia : — 

' The wizard,' to quote the exact words of my infor- 
mant, ' threw a stick on a chest ; the stick bounded like 
a trapball three times ; then he opened the chest, took out 
something looking like dust or clay, and put it into a cup 
with water over a fire ; then he poured it over a board 
(after chopping it three times), which he then put up 


beneath the shingles of the house. Returning to the chest 
he took a piece of old chain, near the length of my hand, 
took a hoe and buried the chain near the sill of the door 
of my wife's house where she would pass ; then he went 
away. I saw my wife coming and called to her not to 
pass, and to go for a hoe and dig up the place. She did 
this, and I took up the chain, which burned the ends of 
all my fingers clean off. The same night the conjuror 
came back : my wife took two half dollars and a quarter 
in silver and threw them on the ground before him. The 
man seemed as if he was shocked, and then offered her 
his hand, which she refused to take, as I had bid her not 
to let him touch her. He left and never came to the house 
again. The spell was broken.' 

I am convinced that this is a pure Voudou procedure, 
and it is interesting in several regards. The introduction 
of the chain may have been the result of the excitement of 
the time, for it was during the war when negroes were 
breaking their chains. The fire and water show how 
wide-spread in Africa is that double ordeal which, as we 
have seen, is well known in the kingdom of Dahomey.^ 
But the mingling of something like dust' with the water 
held in a cup over the fire, is strongly suggestive of the 
Jewish method of preparing holy water, 'the water of 
separation.' ' For an unclean person they shall take of 
the dust of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and 
running water shall be put thereto in a vessel.' ^ The 
fiery element of the mixture was in this case imported 
with the ashes of the red heifer. As for this sacrifice of 
the red heifer itself^ it was plainly the propitiation of a 
fiery demon. In Egypt red hair and red animals of all 
kinds were considered infernal, and all the details of this 

^ See Chapter i. Compare Numbers xxxi. 23. 
^ Numbers xix, 17. ^ Ibid. xix. 2, seq. 


sacrifice show that the colour of this selected heifer was 
typical. The heifer was not a usual sacrifice : a red one 
was obviously by its colour marked for the genii of fire — 
the terrible Seven — and not to be denied them. Its blood 
was sprinkled seven times before the tabernacle, and the 
rest was utterly consumed — including the hide, which is 
particularly mentioned — and the ashes taken to make the 
'water of separation.' Calmet notes, in this connection, 
that the Apis of India was red-coloured. 

The following interesting story of the Chinese Fire-god 
was supplied to Mr. Dennys^ by Mr. Play fair of H.M. 
Consulate, to whom it was related in Peking : — 

' The temples of the God of Fire are numerous in 
Peking, as is natural in a city built for the most part of 
very combustible materials. The idols representing the god 
are, with one exception, decked with red beards, typifying 
by their colour the element under his control. The excep- 
tional god has a white beard, and ' thereby hangs a tale.' 

'A hundred years ago the Chinese imperial revenue 
was in much better case than it is now. At that time 
they had not yet come into collision with Western Powers, 
and the word 'indemnity' had not, so far, found a place 
in their vocabulary ; internal rebellions were checked as 
soon as they broke out, and, in one word, Kien Lung was 
in less embarrassed circumstances than Kwang Hsu; he 
had more money to spend, and did lay out a good deal in 
the way of palaces. His favourite building, and one on 
which no expense had been spared, was the ' Hall of Con- 
templation.' This hall was of very large dimensions ; the 
rafters and the pillars which supported the roof were of a size 
such as no trees in China furnish now-a-days. They were 
not improbably originally sent as an ofiering by the tribu- 
tary monarch of some tropical country, such as Burmah or 

^ ' Folklore of China,' p. 121. 


Siam. Two men could barely join hands round the pillars; 
they were cased in lustrous jet-black lacquer, which, while 
adding to the beauty of their appearance, was also supposed 
to make them less liable to combustion. Indeed, every 
care was taken that no fire should approach the building ; 
no lighted lamp was allowed in the precincts, and to have 
smoked a pipe inside those walls would have been punished 
with death. The floor of the hall was of different-coloured 
marbles, in a mosaic of flowers and mystic Chinese char- 
acters, always kept polished like a mirror. The sides of 
the room were lined with rare books and precious manu- 
scripts. It was, in short, the finest palace in the imperial 
city, and it was the pride of Kien Lung. 

'Alas for the vanity of human wishes! In spite of 
every precaution, one night a fire broke out, and the Hall 
of Contemplation was in danger. The Chinese of a century 
ago were not without fire-engines, and though miserably 
inefficient as compared with those of our London fire 
brigade, they were better than nothing, and a hundred of 
them were soon working round the burning building. The 
Emperor himself came out to superintend their efforts and 
encourage them to renewed exertions. But the hall was 
doomed ; a more than earthly power was directing the 
flames, and mortal efforts were of no avail. For on one of 
the burning rafters Kien Lung saw the figure of a little old 
man, with a long white beard, standing in a triumphant 
attitude. 'It is the God of Fire,' said the Emperor, 'we 
can do nothing;' so the building was allowed to blaze in 
peace. Next day Kien Lung appointed a commission to 
go the round of the Peking temples in order to discover in 
which of them there was a Fire-god with a white beard, 
that he might worship him, and appease the offended deity. 
The search was fruitless ; all the Fire-gods had red beards. 
But the commission had done its work badly; being highly 


respectable mandarins of genteel families, they had con- 
fined their search to such temples as were in good repair 
and of creditable exterior. Outside the north gate of the 
imperial city was one old, dilapidated, disreputable shrine 
which they had overlooked. It had been crumbling away 
for years, and even the dread figure of the God of Fire, 
which sat above the altar, had not escaped desecration. 
'Time had thinned his flowing locks,' and the beard had 
fallen away altogether. One day some water-carriers who 
frequented the locality thought, either in charity or by way 
of a joke, that the face would look the better for a new 
beard. So they unravelled some cord, and with the frayed- 
out hemp adorned the beardless chin. An official passing 
the temple one day peeped in out of curiosity, and saw the 
hempen beard. 'Just the thing the Emperor was inquiring 
about,' said he to himself, and he took the news to the 
palace without delay. Next day there was a state visit to 
the dilapidated temple, and Kien Lung made obeisance 
and vowed a vow. 

*0 Fire-god,' said he, 'thou hast been wroth with me 
in that I have built me palaces, and left thy shrine un- 
honoured and in ruins. Here do I vow to build thee a 
temple surpassed by none other of the Fire-gods in 
Peking; but I shall expect thee in future not to meddle 
with my palaces.' 

'The Emperor was as good as his word. The new 
temple is on the site of the old one, and the Fire-god has 
a flowing beard of fine white hair.' 

In the San Francisco Bulletin, I recently read a de- 
scription of the celebration by the Chinese in that city 
of their Feast for the Dead, in which there are some 
significant features. The chief attention was paid, says 
the reporter, to a figure 'representing what answers in 
their theology to our devil, and v/hom they evidently 


think it necessary to propitiate before proceeding with 
their worship over individual graves.' This figure is on 
the west side of their temple ; before and around it candles 
and joss-sticks were kept burning. On the east side was 
the better-looking figure, to which they paid comparatively 
little attention. 

It was of course but natural that the demons of fire 
should gradually be dispelled from that element in its 
normal aspects, as its uses became more important through 
human invention, and its evil possibilities were mastered. 
Such demons became gradually located in the region of 
especially dangerous fires, as volcanoes and boiling springs. 
The Titan whom the ancients believed struggling beneath 
-^tna remained there as the Devil in the christian age. 
St Agatha is said to have prevented his vomiting fire for 
a century by her prayers. St. Philip ascended the same 
mountain, and with book and candle pronounced a prayer 
of exorcism, at which three devils came out like fiery 
flying stones, crying, ' Woe is us ! we are still hunted 
by Peter through Philip the Elder ! ' The volcanoes 
originated the belief that hell is at the earth's centre, 
and their busy Vulcans of classic ages have been easily 
transformed into sulphurous lords of the christian Hell. 
Such is the mediaeval Haborym, demon of arson, with his 
three heads — man, cat, and serpent — who rides through 
the air mounted on a serpent, and bears in his hand a 
flaming torch. The astrologers assigned him command 
of twenty-six legions of demons in hell, and the super- 
stitious often saw him laughing on the roofs of burning 
houses.^ But still more dignified is Raum, who com- 

^ In Russia the pigeon, from being anciently consecrated to tlie tliunder 
god, has become emblem of the Holy Ghost, or celestial fire, and as such the 
foe of earthly fire. Pigeons are trusted as insurers against fire, and the flight 
jf one through a house is regarded as a kindly warning of conflagration. 


mands thirty legions, and who destroys villages ; hence, 
also, concerned in the destructions of war, he became the 
demon who awards dignities ; and although this made his 
usual form of apparition on the right bank of the Rhine 
that of the Odinistic raven, on the left bank he may be 
detected in the little red man who was reported as the 
familiar of Napoleon I. during his career. 

Among Mr. Gill's South Pacific myths is one of a Pro- 
metheus, Maui, who by assistance of a red pigeon gets 
from the subterranean fire-demon the secret of producing 
fire (by rubbing sticks), the demon (Mauike) being then 
consumed with his realm, and fire being brought to the 
upper world to remain the friend of man. In Vedic 
legend, when the world was enveloped in darkness, the 
gods prayed to Agni, who suddenly burst out as Tvashtri 
— pure fire, the Vedic Vulcan — to the dismay of the uni- 
verse. In Eddaic sagas, Loki was deemed the most 
voracious of beings until defeated in an eating match 
with Logi (devouring fire). 

Survivals of belief in the fiery nature of demons are very 
numerous. Thus it is a very comm.on belief that the Devil 
cannot touch or cross water, and may therefore be escaped 
by leaping a stream. This has sometimes been supposed 
to have something to do with the purifying character of 
water; but there are many instances in christian folklore 
where the Devil is shown quite independent of even holy 
water if it is not sprinkled on him or does not wet his feet. 
Thus in the Norfolk legend concerning St. Godric, the 
Devil is said to have thrown the vessel with its holy water 
at the saint's head out of anger at his singing a canticle 
which the Virgin taught him. But when the Devil 
attacked him in various ferocious animal shapes, St. Godric 
escaped by running into the Wear, where he sometimes 
stood all night in water up to his neck. 


The Kobolds get the red jackets they are said to wear 
from their fiery nature. Originally the lar familiaris of 
Germany, the Kobold became of many varieties ; but in 
one line he has been developed from the house-spirit, 
whose good or evil temper was recognised in the comforts 
or dangers of fire, to a special Stone-demon. The hell-dog 
in Faust's room takes refuge from the spell of ' Solomon's 
Key ' behind the stone, and is there transformed to human 
shape. The German maidens read many pretty oracles in 
the behaviour of the fire, and the like in that of its fellow 
Wahrsager the house-dog. It is indeed a widespread 
notion that imps and witches lurk about the fireside, 
obviously in cat and dog, and ride through the air on 
implements that usually stand about the fire, — shovel, 
tongs, or broom. In Paris it was formerly the custom to 
throw twenty-four cats into the fire on St. John's night, 
the animals being, according to M. De Plancy, emblems 
of the devil. So was replaced the holocaust of human 
witches, until at last civilisation rang out its curfew for all 
such fires as that. 

( 77 ) 



Descent of Ishtar into Hades— Bardism — Baldur — Hercules — Christ 
— Survivals of the Frost Giant in Slavonic and other countries — 
The Clavie — The Frozen Hell — The Northern abode of demons 
— North side of churches. 

Even across immemorial generations it is impossible to 
read without emotion the legend of the Descent of Ishtar 
into Hades.^ Through seven gates the goddess of Love 
passes in search of her beloved, and at each some of her 
ornaments and clothing are removed by the dread guar- 
dian. Ishtar enters naked into the presence of the Queen 
of Death. But gods, men, and herds languish in her 
absence, and the wonder-working Hea, the Saviour, so 
charms the Infernal Queen, that she bids the Judge of her 
realm, Annunak, absolve Ishtar from his golden throne. 
' He poured out for Ishtar the waters of life and let 
her go. 
Then the first gate let her forth, and restored to her 

the first garment of her body. 
The second gate let her forth, and restored to her the 

diamonds of her hands and feet. 
The third gate let her forth, and restored to her the 
central girdle of her waist. 

1 Tablet K 162 in Brit. Mus. Tr. by H. F. Talbot in ' Records of the 


The fourth gate let her forth, and restored to her the 

small lovely gems of her forehead. 
The fifth gate let her forth, and restored to her the 

precious stones of her head. 
The sixth gate let her forth, and restored to her the 

earrings of her ears. 
The seventh gate let her forth, and restored to her the 
great crown on her head.' 
This old miracle-play of Nature — the return of summer 
flower by flower — is deciphered from an ancient Assyrian 
tablet in a town within only a few hours of another, where 
a circle of worshippers repeat the same at every solstice ! 
Myfyr Morganwg, the Arch-Druid, adores still Hea by 
name as his Saviour, and at the winter solstice assembles 
his brethren to celebrate his coming to bruise the head of 
the Serpent of Hades (Annwn, nearly the same as in the 
tablet), that seedtime and harvest shall not fail.^ 

Is this a survival } No doubt ; but there is no cult in 
the world which, if ' scratched,' as the proverb says, will 
not reveal beneath it the same conception. However it 
may be spiritualised, every 'plan of salvation' is cast in 
the mould of Winter conquered by the Sun, the Descent 
of Love to the Under World, the delivery of the impri- 
soned germs of Life. 

It is very instructive to compare with the myth of 
Ishtar that of Hermodr, seeking the release of Baldur the 
Beautiful from Helheim. 

The deadly powers of Winter are represented in the 
Eddaic account of the death of Baldur, soft summer Light, 
the Norse Baal. His blind brother Hodr is Darkness; the 
demon who directed his arrow is Loki, subterranean fire ; 

^ The Western Mail, March 12, 1S74, contains a remarkable letter by the 
Arch-Druid, in which he maintains that 'Jesus' is a derivation from Hea or 
Hu, Light, and the christian system a corruption of Bardism. 


the arrow itself is of mistletoe, which, fostered by Winter, 
owes no duty to Baldur; and the realm to which he is 
borne is that of Hel, the frozen zone. Hermodr, having 
arrived, assured Hel that the gods were in despair for the 
loss of Baldur. The Queen replied that it should now be 
tried whether Baldur was so beloved. ' If, therefore, all 
things in the world, both living and lifeless, weep for him, 
he shall return to the .^sir.' In the end all wept but the 
old hag Thokk (Darkness), who from her cavern sang — 

Thokk will wail 
With dry eyes 
Baldur's bale-fire. 
Nought quick or dead 
For Carl's son care I. 
Let Hel hold her own. 

So Baldur remained in Helheim. The myth very closely 
resembles that of Ishtar's Descent. In similar accent the 
messenger of the Southern gods weeps and lacerates him- 
self as he relates the grief of the upper world, and all men 
and animals 'since the time that mother Ishtar descended 
into Hades.' But in the latter the messenger is successful, 
in the North he is unsuccessful. In the corresponding 
myths of warm and sunny climes the effort at release is 
more or less successful, in proportion to the extent of 
winter. In Adonis released from Hades for four months 
every year, and another four if he chose to abandon Per- 
sephone for Aphrodite, we have a reflection of a variable 
year. That, and the similar myth of Persephone, varied in 
the time specified for their passing in the upper and under 
worlds, probably in accordance with the climatic averages 
of the regions in which they were told. But in the tropics 
it was easy to believe the release complete, as in the myth 
of Ishtar. In Mangaian myths the hero, Maui, escapes 
from a nether world of fire, aided by a red pigeon. 


When this contest between Winter's Death and Spring's 
Life became humanised, it was as Hercules vanquish- 
ing Death and completely releasing Alcestis. When it 
became spiritualised it was as Christ conquering Death 
and Hell, and releasing the spirits from prison. The 
wintry desolation had to be artificially imitated in a 
forty days' fast and Lent, closing with a thrust from the 
spear (the mistletoe arrow) amid darkness (blind Hodr). 
But the myth of a swift resurrection had to be artifi- 
cially preserved in the far North. The legend of a full 
triumph over Death and Hell could never have originated 
among our Norse ancestors. Their only story resembling 
it, that of Iduna, related how her recovery from the Giants 
brought back health to the gods, not men. But it was 
from the South that men had to hear tidings of a rescue 
for the earth and man. 

We cannot realise now what glad tidings were they 
which told this new gospel to peoples sitting in regions of 
ice and gloom, after it had been imposed on them against 
their reluctant fears. In manifold forms the old combat 
was renewed in their festivals, and peoples who had long 
been prostrate and helpless before the terrible powers of 
nature were never weary of the Southern fables of heroic 
triumphs over them, long interpreted in the simple phy- 
sical sense. 

The great Demon of the Northern World is still Winter, 
and the hereditary hatred of him is such that he is still 
cursed, scourged, killed, and buried or drowned under 
various names and disguises. In every Slavonic country, 
says Mr. Ralston, there are to be found, about carnival 
time, traces of ancient rites, intended to typify the death 
of Winter and the birth of Spring or Summer. In Poland 
a puppet made of hemp or straw is flung into a pond or 
swamp with the words, ' The Devil take thee ! ' Then the 


participators in the deed scamper home, and if one of them 
stumbles and falls it is believed he will die within the year. 
In Upper Lausatia a similar figure is fastened on a pole to 
be pelted, then taken to the village boundary and thrown 
across it or cast into the water, its bearers returning 
with green boughs. Sometimes the figure is shrouded in 
white, representing snow, and bears in its hands a broom 
(the sweeping storm) and a sickle (the fatal reaper). In 
Russia the ' Straw Mujik ' is burned, and also in Bulgaria ; 
in the latter the bonfire is accompanied by the firing of 
guns, and by dances and songs to Lado, goddess of Spring, 
This reminiscence of Leto, on whose account Apollo slew 
the Python, is rendered yet more striking by the week of 
archery which accompanies it, recalling the sunbeam darts 
of the god. In Spain and Italy the demon puppet is 
scourged under the name of Judas, as indeed is the case 
in the annual Good Friday performance of Portuguese 
sailors in the London Docks. Mr. Tylor found in Mexico 
a similar custom, the Judas being a regular horned and 
hoofed devil. In Scotland the pre-christian accessories of 
a corresponding custom are more pronounced both in the 
time selected (the last day of the year, old style) and the 
place. * The Ciavie,' as the custom of burning the puppet 
of Winter is mysteriously called, occurred on January 12 
of this year (1878) at Burghead, a fishing village near 
Forres, where stands an old Roman altar locally named 
the * Douro.' A tar-barrel was set on fire and carried by 
a fisherman round the town, while the people shouted and 
hallooed. (If the man who carries the barrel falls it is an 
evil omen.) The lighted barrel, having gone round the 
town, was carried to the top of the hill and placed on 
the Douro. More fuel was added. The sparks as they 
fly upwards are supposed to be witches and evil spirits 
leaving the town ; the people therefore shout at and curse 
VOL. I. F 


them as they disappear in vacancy. When the burning 
tar-barrel falls in pieces, the fishwomen rush in and endea- 
vour to get a lighted bit of wood from its remains ; with 
this light the fire on the cottage hearth is at once kindled, 
and it is considered lucky to keep this flame alive all the 
rest of the year. The charcoal of the Clavie is collected 
and put in bits up the chimney to prevent the witches and 
evil spirits coming into the house. The Douro is covered 
with a thick layer of tar from the fires that are annually 
lighted upon it. Close to it is a very ancient Roman 

It is an instance of the irony of etymology that the word 
' Heir means a place of fireless darkness. Nor is the fact 
that the name of the Scandinavian demoness Hel, phoneti- 
cally corresponding with Kali, ' the Black One ' (Goth. 
Halja), whose abode was an icy hole, has her name pre- 
served as a place of fiery torment, without significance. la 
regions where cold was known to an uncomfortable extent 
as well as heat, we usually find it represented in the ideas of 
future punishment. The realm called Hades, meaning just 
the same as Hell, suggests cold. TertulHan and Jerome 
say that Christ's own phrases 'outer darkness' and the 
' gnashing (chattering) of teeth ' suggest a place of ex- 
treme cold alternating with the excessive heat. Traces of 
similar speculations are found with the Rabbins. Thus 
Rabbi Joseph says Gehenna had both water and fire. 
Noah saw the angel of death approaching and hid from 
him twelve months. Why twelve } Because (explains 
Rabbi Jehuda) such is the trial of sinners, — six in water, 
six in fire. Dante (following Virgil) has frigid as well as 
burning hells ; and the idea was refined by some scholiasts 
to a statement which would seem to make the alternations 
of future punishment amount to a severe ague and fever. 
Milton (Paradise Lost, ii.) has blended the rabbinical 


notions with those of Virgil (^En. vi.) in his terrible pic- 
ture of the frozen continent, where 

The parching air 
Burns frore, and cold performs th' effect of fire : 
Thither by harpy-footed Furies haled 
At certain revolutions all the damn'd 
Are brought ; and feel by turns the bitter change 
Of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce, 
From beds of raging fire to starve in ice 
Their soft etherial warmth, and there to pine 
Immovable, infix'd, and frozen round. 

With which may be compared Shakespeare's lines in 
* Measure for Measure ' — 

The de-lighted spirit 
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside 
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice- 
In Thibet hell is believed to have sixteen circles, eight 
burning, eight frozen, which M. Delepierre attributes to 
the rapid changes of their climate between the extremes of 
heat and cold.^ Plutarch, relating the vision of Thespesius 
in Hades, speaks of the frozen region there. Denys le 
Chartreux (De Poenis Inferni) says the severest of infernal 
torments is freezing. In the ' Kalendar of Shepherds ' 
(1506) a legend runs: — 'Lazarus sayde, 'I sawe a flode 
of frosone yce in the whiche envyous men and women 
were plonged unto the navyll, and then sodynly came a 
colde wynde ryght great that blewe and dyd depe downe 
all the envyous into the colde water that nothynge was 
seen of them.' Such, too, is Persian Arda Viraf's vision. 

The Demon of Cold has a habitat, naturally, in every 
Northern region. He is the Ke-mung of China, who 
— man-shaped, dragon-headed — haunts the Chang river, 
and causes rain-storms.^ In Greenland it is Erleursortok, 
who suffers perpetual agues, and leaps on souls at death 
1 'L'Enfer,' p. 5, 2 Dgnnys' 'Folklore of China,' p. 98. 


to satisfy his hunger. The Chenoos (demons) of the 
Mimacs of Nova Scotia present certain features of the race- 
demons, but are fearfully cold. The Chenoo weapon is a 
dragon's horn, his yell is fatal to the hearer, his heart is a 
block of ice. This heart must be destroyed if the demon 
is to be slain, but it can only be done by melting in the 
fire : the chief precaution required is that one is not 
drowned in the flood so caused. The icy demon survived 
long in Scotland. Sir James Melville, in his ' Memoirs,' 
says ' the spirit or devil that helped the Scottish witches 
to raise a storm in the sea of Norway was cold as ice and 
his body hard as iron ; his face was terrible, his nose like 
the beak of an eagle, great burning eyes, his hands and 
legs hairy, with claws on his nails like a griffin.' Dr. Fian 
was burnt for raising this demon to oppose James I. on his 
stormy passage from Denmark. 

This type of demon haunted people's minds in Scan- 
dinavia, where, though traditions of a flame demon (Loki) 
and the end of the world by fire were. imported, the popular 
belief seems to have been mainly occupied with Frost giants, 
and the formidable Oegir, god of the bleak sea east winds, 
preserved in our word awe (Anglo-Saxon ege), and more 
directly in the name of our familiar demon, the Ogre, so 
often slain in the child's Gladsheim. Loki (fire) was, in- 
deed, speedily relegated by the ^Esir (gods) to a hidden sub- 
terraneous realm, where his existence could only be known 
by the earthquakes, geysers, and Hecla eruptions which 
he occasioned. Yet he was to come forth at Ragnarok, 
the Twilight of the Gods. We can see a singular blend- 
ing of tropical and frigid zones — the one traditional, the 
other native — in the Prose Edda. Thus: — 'What will 
remain,' said Gangler, 'after heaven and earth and the 
whole universe shall be consumed, and after all the gods 
and the homes of Valhalla and all mankind shall have 


perished ? ' ' There will be many abodes,' replied Thridi, 
' some good, some bad. The best place of all to be in 
will be Gimil, in heaven ; and all who delight in quaffing 
good drink will find a great store in the hall called 
Brimir, which is also in heaven in the region Okolni. 
There is also a fair hall of ruddy gold, (for) Sindri, 
which stands on the mountains of Nida. In those halls 
righteous and well-minded men shall abide. In Na-strond 
there is a vast and direful structure with doors that face 
the north. It is formed entirely of the backs of serpents, 
wattled together like wicker-work. But the serpents' 
heads are turned towards the inside of the hall, and con- 
tinually vomit forth floods of venom, in which wade all 
those who commit murder or who forswear themselves. 
As it is said in the Voluspa: — 

She saw a hall 

Far from the sun 

In Nastrond standing, 

Northward the doors look, 

And venom-drops 

Fall in through loopholes. 

Formed is that hall 

Of wreathed serpents. 

There saw she wade 

Through heavy streams 

Men forsworn 

And murderers. 

These names for the heavenly regions and their occu- 
pants indicate sunshine and iire. Gimil means fire (o^hur): 
Brimir {briini, flame), the giant, and Sindri {cinder), the 
dwarf, jeweller of the gods, are raised to halls of gold. 
Nothing is said of a garden, or walking therein 'in the 
cool of the day.' On the other hand, Na-strond means 
Strand of the Dead, in that region whose ' doors face the 
north/ far from the sun,' we behold an inferno of extreme 


cold. Christianity has not availed to give the Icelanders 
any demonic name suggestive of fire. They speak of 
' Skratti ' (the roarer, perhaps our Old Scratch), and 
' Kolski ' {the coal black one), but promise nothing so lumi- 
nous and comfortable as fire or fire-fiend to the evil-doer. 

In the great Epic of the Nibelungen Liedv^Q have pro- 
bably the shape in which the Northman's dream of Para- 
dise finally cohered, — a Rose-garden in the South, guarded 
by a huge Worm (water-snake, or glittering glacial sea 
intervening), whose glowing charms, with Beauty (Chriem- 
hild) for their queen, could be won only by a brave dragon- 
slaying Siegfried. In passing by the pretty lakeside home 
of Richard Wagner, on my way to witness the Ammergau 
versi6n of another dragon-binding and paradise-regaining 
legend, I noted that the old name of the (Starnberg) 
lake was Wurmsee, from the dragon that once haunted it, 
while from the composer's window might be seen its ' Isle 
of Roses,' which the dragon guarded. Since then the 
myth of many forms has had its musical apotheosis at 
Bayreuth under his wand. 

England, partly perhaps on account of its harsh climate, 
once had the reputation of being the chief abode of demons. 
A demoness leaving her lover on the Continent says, ' My 
mother is calling me in England.'^ But England assigned 
them still higher latitudes ; in christianising Ireland, lona, 
and other islands far north, it was preliminary to expel 
the demons. ' The Clavie,' the ' Deis-iuil ' of Lewis 
and other Hebrides islands — fire carried round cattle to 
defend them from demons, and around mothers not yet 
churched, to keep the babes from being 'changed' — show 
that the expulsion still goes on, though in such regions 
Norse and christian notions have become so jumbled that 
it is 'fighting the devil with fire.' So in the Havamal men 
^ Procopius, ' De Bello Gothico, ' iv. 20. 


are warned to invoke 'fire for distempers ; ' and Gudrun 
sings — 

Raise, ye Jarls, an o.iken pile ; 

Let it under heaven the lightest be. 

May it burn a breast full of woes ! 

The fire round my heart its sorrows melt. 

The last line is in contrast with the Hindu saying, ' the 
flame of her husband's pyre cools the widow's breast.' 

The characters of the Northern Heaven and Hell sur- 
vive in the English custom of burying the dead on the 
southern side of a church. How widely this usage pre- 
vailed in Brand's time may be seen by reference to his 
chapter on churchyards. The north side of the graveyard 
was set apart for unbaptized infants and executed crimi- 
nals, and it was permitted the people to dance or play 
tennis in that part. Dr. Lee says that in the churchyard 
at Morwenstow the southern portion only contains graves,' 
the north part being untenanted ; as the Cornish believe 
(following old traditions) that the north is the region of 
demons. In some parishes of Cornwall when a baptism 
occurs the north door of the nave opposite the font is 
thrown open, so that the devil cast out may retire to his 
own region, the north.^ This accords with the saying in 
Martin's ' Month's Mind ' — ab aquilone omne malum. 

Indeed, it is not improbable that the fact noted by 
White, in his ' History of Selborne,' that 'the usual ap- 
proach to most country churches is by the south,' indicated 
a belief that the sacred edifice should turn its back on the 
region of demons. It is a singular instance of survival 
which has brought about the fact that people who listen 
devoutly to sermons describing the fiery character of Satan 
and his abode should surround the very churches in which 
those sermons are heard with evidences of their lingering 

■^ ' Memorials of the Rev. R. S. Hawkes. 


faith that the devil belongs to the region of ice, and that 
their dead must be buried in the direction of the happy 
abodes of Brimir and Sindri, — Fire and Cinders ! 

M. Francois Lenormant has written an extremely in- 
structive chapter in comparison of the Accadian and the 
Finnish mythologies. He there shows that they are as 
one and the same tree, adapted to antagonistic climates.^ 
With similar triad, runes, charms, and even names in some 
cases, their regard for the fire worshipped by both varies 
in a way that seems at first glance somewhat anomalous. 
The Accadians in their fire-worship exhausted the re- 
sources of praise in ascription of glory and power to the 
flames ; the Finns in their cold home celebrated the fire 
festival at the winter solstice, uttered invocations over the 
fire, and the mother of the family, with her domestic liba- 
tion, said: 'Always rise so high, O my flame, but burn 
not larger nor more ardent!' This diminution of enthu- 
siasm in the Northern fire-worshipper, as compared with 
the Southern, may only be the result of euphemism in the 
latter ; or perhaps while the formidable character of the 
fire-god among the primitive Assyrians is indicated in the 
utter prostration before him characteristic of their litanies 
and invocations, in the case of the Finns the perpetual 
presence of the more potent cold led to the less excessive 
adoration. These ventured to recognise the faults of 

The true nature of this anomaly becomes visible when 
we consider that the great demon, dreaded by the two 
countries drawing their cult from a common source, repre- 
sented the excess of the power most dreaded. The demon 
in each case was a wind ; among the Finns the north wind, 
among the Accadians the south-west (the most fiery) wind. 
The Finnish demon was Hiisi, speeding on his pale horse 
^ ' La Magie che;'. les Cbaldeens,' iii. 


through the air, with a terrible train of monster dogs, cats, 
furies, scattering pain, disease, and death.^ The Accadian 
demon, of which the bronze image is in the Louvre, is the 
body of a dog, erect on eagle's feet, its arms pointed with 
lion's paws ; it has the tail of a scorpion and the head of 
a skeleton, half stripped of flesh, preserving the eyes, and 
mounted with the horns of a goat. It has four out- 
spread wings. On the back of this ingeniously horrible 
image is an inscription in the Accadian language, appris- 
ing us that it is the demon of the south-west wind, made 
to be placed at the door or window, to avert its hostile 

As we observe such figures as these on the one hand, 
and on the other the fair beings imagined to be antagon- 
istic to them • as we note in runes and incantations how 
intensely the ancients felt themselves to be surrounded by 
these good and evil powers, and, reading nature so, learned 
to see in the seasons successively conquering and conquered 
by each other, and alternation of longer days and longer 
nights, the changing fortunes of a never-ending battle ; we 
may better realise the meaning of solstitial festivals, the 
customs that gathered around Yuletide and New Year, 
and the manifold survivals from them which annually 
masquerade in christian costume and names. To our 
sun-worshipping ancestor the new year meant the first 
faint advantage of the warmer time over winter, as nearly 
as he could fix it. The hovering of day between supe- 
riority of light and darkness is now named after doubting 
Thomas. At Yuletide the dawning victory of the sun is 
seen as a holy infant in a manger amid beasts of the stall. 
The old nature-worship has bequeathed to christian belief 
a close-fitting mantle. But the old idea of a war between 
the wintry and the warm powers still haunts the period of 

^ Lonnvot, ' Abliandlung iiber die Magische Medicin der Finnen.' 


the New Year ; and the twelve days and nights, once 
believed to be the period of a fiercely-contested battle be- 
tween good and evil demons, are still regarded by many 
as a period for especial watchfulness and prayer. New 
Year's Eve, in the north of England still ' Hogmanay,' — 
probably O. N. h'dku-nott, midwinter-night, when the sacri- 
fices of Thor were prepared, — formerly had many observ- 
ances which reflected the belief that good and evil ghosts 
were contending for every man and woman : the air was 
believed to be swarming with them, and watch must be 
kept to see that the protecting fire did not go out in any 
household ; that no strange man, woman, or animal ap- 
proached, — possibly a demon in disguise. Sacred plants 
were set in doors and windows to prevent the entrance of 
any malevolent being from the multitudes filling the 
air. John Wesley, whose noble heart was allied with 
a mind strangely open to stories of hobgoblins, led 
the way of churches and sects back into this ancient 
atmosphere. Nevertheless, the rationalism of the age 
has influenced St. Wesley's Feast — Watchnight. It can 
hardly recognise its brother in the Boar's Head Banquet of 
Queen's College, Oxford, which celebrated victory over 
tusky winter, the decapitated demon whose bristles were 
once icicles fallen beneath the sylvan spirits of holly and 
rosemary. Yet what the Watchnight really signifies in 
the antiquarian sense is just that old culminating combat 
between the powers of fire and frost, once believed to 
determine human fates. In White Russia, on New Year's 
Day, when the annual elemental battle has been decided, 
the killed and wounded on one hand, and the fortunate on 
the other, are told by carrying from house to house the 
rich and the poor Kol}'adas. These are two children, one 
dressed in fine attire, and crowned with a wreath of full 
ears of grain, the other ragged, and wearing a wreath of 


threshed straw. These having been closely covered, each 
householder is called in, and chooses one. If his choice 
chances upon the ' poor Kolyada,' the attending chorus 
chant a mournful strain, in which he is warned to expect 
a bad harvest, poverty, and perhaps death; if he selects 
the ' rich Kolyada,' a cheerful song is sung promising him 
harvest, health, and wealth. 

The natives of certain districts of Dardistan assign poli- 
tical and social significance to their Feast of Fire, which 
is celebrated in the month preceding winter, at new moon, 
just after their meat provision for the season is laid in to 
dry. Their legend is, that it was then their national hero 
slew their ancient tyrant and introduced good government. 
This legend, related elsewhere, is of a tyrant slain through 
the discovery that his heart was made of snow. He was 
slain by the warmth of torches. In the celebrations all 
the men of the villages go forth with torches, which they 
swing round their heads, and throw in the direction of 
Ghilgit, where the snow-hearted tyrant so long held his 
castle. When the husbands return home from their torch- 
throwing a little drama is rehearsed. The wives refuse 
them entrance till they have entreated, recounting the 
benefits they have brought them ; after admission the 
husband affects sulkiness, and must be brought round 
with caresses to join in the banquet. The wife leads him 
forward with this song: — 'Thou hast made me glad, thou 
favourite of the Rajah ! Thou hast rejoiced me, oh bold 
horseman ! I am pleased with thee who so well usest the 
gun and sword ! Thou hast delighted me, oh thou in- 
vested with a mantle of honours ! Oh great happiness, I 
will buy it by giving pleasure's price ! Oh thou nourish- 
ment to us, heap of corn, store of ghee — delighted will I 
buy it all by giving pleasure's price ! ' 

( 92 ) 



A Scottish Munasa — Rudra — Siva's lightning eye — The flaming 
sword — Limping demons — Demons of the storm — Helios, Elias, 
Perun — Thor arrows — The Bob-tailed Dragon — Whirlwind — 
Japanese thunder god — Christian survivals — Jinni — Inundations 
— Noah — Nik, Nicholas, Old Nick — Nixies— Hydras — Demons 
of the Danube — Tides — Survivals in Russia and England. 

During some recent years curious advertisements have 
appeared in a journal of Edinburgh, caUing for pious 
persons to occupy certain hours of the night with holy 
exercises. It would appear that they refer to a band of 
prayerful persons who provide that there shall be an un- 
broken round of prayers during every moment of the day 
and night. Their theory is, that it is the usual cessation 
of christian prayers at night which causes so many dis- 
asters. The devils being then less restrained, raise storms 
and all elemental perils. The praying circle, which hopes 
to bind these demons by an uninterrupted chain of prayers, 
originated, as I am informed, in the pious enthusiasm of 
a lady whose kindly solicitude in some pre-existent sister 
was no doubt personified in the Hindu Munasa, who, while 
all gods slept, sat in the shape of a serpent on a branch of 
Euphorbia to preserve mankind from, the venom of snakes. 
It is to be feared, however, that it is hardly the wisdom of 
the serpent which is on prayerful watch at Edinburgh, but 


rather a vigilance of that perilous kind which was exer- 
cised by ' Meggie o' the Shore,' anno 1785, as related by 
Hugh Miller.^ On a boisterous night, when two young 
girls had taken refuge in her cottage, they all heard about 
midnight cries of distress mingling with the roar of the 
sea. ' Raise the window curtain and look out,' said Meggie. 
The terrified girls did so, and said, ' There is a bright light 
in the middle of the Bay of Udall. It hangs over the 
water about the height of a ship's mast, and we can see 
something below it like a boat riding at anchor, with the 
white sea raging around her.' ' Now drop the curtain,' 
said Meggie ; ' I am no stranger, my lasses, to sights and 
noises like these — sights and noises of another world ; but 
I have been taught that God is nearer to me than any 
spirit can be ; and so have learned not to be afraid.' 
Afterwards it is not wonderful that a Cromarty yawl was 
discovered to have foundered, and all on board to have 
been drowned ; though Meggie's neighbours seemed to 
have preserved the legend after her faith, and made the 
scene described a premonition of what actually occurred. 
It was in a region where mariners when becalmed invoke 
the wind by whistling; and both the whistling and the 
praying, though their prospects in the future may be 
slender, have had a long career in the past. 

In the ' Rig- Veda ' there is a remarkable hymn to Rudra 
(the Roarer), which may be properly quoted here : — 

1. Sire of the storm gods, let thy favour extend to us ; 
shut us not out from the sight of the sun ; may our hero 
be successful in the onslaught. O Rudra, may we wax 
mighty in our offspring. 

2. Through the assuaging remedies conferred by thee, 
O Rudra, may we reach a hundred winters; drive away 
far from us hatred, distress, and all-pervading diseases. 

^ 'Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland.' Nimmo, 1876. 

94 RUBRA. 

3. Thou, O Rudra, art the most excellent of beings in 
glory, the strongest of the strong, O wielder of the bolt ; 
bear us safely through evil to the further shore ; ward off 
all the assaults of sin. 

4. May we not provoke thee to anger, O Rudra, by 
our adorations, neither through faultiness in praises, nor 
through wantonness in invocations ; lift up our heroes by 
thy remedies ; thou art, I hear, the chief physician among 

5. May I propitiate with hymns this Rudra who is wor- 
shipped with invocations and oblations ; may the tender- 
hearted, easily-entreated, tawny-haired, beautiful-chinned 
god not deliver us up to the plotter of evil [literally, to 
the mind meditating ' I kill 'J. 

6. The bounteous giver, escorted by the storm-gods, 
hath gladdened me, his suppliant, with most invigorat- 
ing food ; as one distressed by heat seeketh the shade, 
may I, free from harm, find shelter in the good-will of 

7. Where, O Rudra, is that gracious hand of thine, which 
is healing and comforting 1 Do thou, removing the evil 
which Cometh from the gods, O bounteous giver, have 
mercy upon me. 

8. To the tawny, the fair-complexioned dispenser of 
bounties, I send forth a great and beautiful song of praise; 
adore the radiant god with prostrations; we hymn the 
illustrious name of Rudra. 

9. Sturdy-limbed, many-shaped, fierce, tawny, he hath 
decked himself with brilliant ornaments of gold ; truly 
strength is inseparable from Rudra, the sovereign of this 
vast world. 

10. Worthy of worship, thou bearest the arrows and 
the bow ; worthy of worship, thou wearest a resplendent 
necklace of many forms; worthy of worship, thou rulest 

RUBRA. 95 

over this immense universe; there is none, O Rudra, 
mightier than thou. 

11. Celebrate the renowned and ever-youthful god who 
is seated on a chariot, who is, like a wild beast, terrible, 
fierce, and destructive ; have mercy upon the singer, O 
Rudra, when thou art praised ; may thy hosts strike down 
another than us. 

12. As a boy saluteth his father who approacheth and 
speaketh to him, so, O Rudra, I greet thee, the giver of 
much, the lord of the good ; grant us remedies when thou 
art praised. 

13. Your remedies, O storm-gods, which are pure and 
helping, O bounteous givers, which are joy-conferring, 
which our father Manu chose, these and the blessing and 
succour of Rudra I crave. 

14. May the dart of Rudra be turned aside from us, 
may the great malevolence of the flaming-god be averted ; 
unbend thy strong bow from those who are liberal with 
their wealth ; O generous god, have mercy upon our off- 
spring and our posterity {i.e., our children and children's 

15. Thus, O tawny Rudra, wise giver of gifts, listen to 
our cry, give heed to us here, that thou mayest not be 
angry with us, O god, nor slay us ; may we, rich in heroic 
sons, utter great praise at the sacrifice.^ 

In other hymns the malevolent character of Rudra is 
made still more prominent : — 

7. Slay not our strong man nor our little child, neither 
him who is growing nor him who is grown, neither our 
father nor our mother; hurt not, O Rudra, our dear 

8. Harm us not in our children and children's children, 
nor in our men, nor in our kine, nor in our horses. Smite 

^ 'Rig- Veda,' ii. 33. Tr. by Professor Evans of Michigan. 


not our heroes in thy wrath ; we wait upon thee perpetu- 
ally with offerings.^ 

In this hymn (verse i) Rudra is described as 'having- 
braided hair;' and in the ' Yajur-veda' and the 'Atharva- 
veda ' other attributes of Siva are ascribed to him, such as 
the epithet ntla-griva, or blue-necked. In the 'Rig-veda' 
Siva occurs frequently as an epithet, and means auspicious. 
It was used as a euphemistic epithet to appease Rudra, 
the lord of tempests ; and finally, the epithet developed 
into a distinct god. 

The parentage of Siva is further indicated in the legends 
that his glance destroyed the head of the youthful deity 
Ganesa, who now wears the elephant head, with which it 
was replaced ; and that the gods persuaded him to keep 
his eyes perpetually winking (like sheet-lightning), lest 
his concentrated look (the thunderbolt) should reduce the 
universe to ashes. With the latter legend the gaze of the 
evil eye in India might naturally be associated, though in 
the majority of countries this was rather associated with 
the malign influences ascribed to certain planets, especially 
Saturn ; the charms against the evil eye being marked 
over with zodiacal signs. The very myth of Siva's eye 
survives in the Russian demon Magarko ('Winker') and 
the Servian Vii, whose glance is said to have power to 
reduce men, and even cities, to ashes. 

The terrible Rudra is represented in a vast number of 
beliefs, some of them perhaps survivals ; in the rough sea 
and east-wind demon Oegir of the northern world, and 
Typhon in the south; and in Luther's faith that 'devils 
do house in the dense black clouds, and send storms, hail, 
thunder and lightning, and poison the air with their infernal 
stench,' a doctrine which Burton, the Anatomist of Melan- 

^ ' Rig- Veda,' i. 114. 


choly, too, maintained against the meteorologists of his 

Among the ancient Aryans h'ghtning seems to have 
been the supreme type of divine destructiveness. Rudra's 
dart, Siva's eye, reappear with the Singhalese prince of 
demons Wessamonny, described as wielding a golden 
sword, which, when he is angry, flies out of his hand, 
to which it spontaneously returns, after cutting off a 
thousand heads.^ A wonderful spear was borne by Odin, 
and was possibly the original Excalibur. The four-faced 
Sviatevit of Russia, whose mantle has fallen to St. George, 
whose statue was found at Zbrucz in 185 1, bore a horn of 
wine (rain) and a sword (lightning). 

In Greece similar swords were wielded by Zeus, and also 
by the god of war. Through Zeus and Ares, the original 
wielders of the lightning — Indra and Siva — became types 
of many gods and semi-divine heroes. The evil eye of 
Siva glared from the forehead of the Cyclopes, forgers of 
thunderbolts; and the saving disc of Indra flashed in 
the swords and arrows of famous dragon-slayers — Perseus, 
Pegasus, Hercules, and St. George. The same sword 
defended the Tree of Life in Eden, and was borne in 
the hand of Death on the Pale Horse (a white horse 
Vi^as sacrificed to Sviatevit in Russia within christian 
times). And, finally, we have the wonderful sword 
which obeys the command 'Heads off!' delighting all 
nurseries by the service it does to the King of the Golden 

' I beheld Satan as lightning falling out of heaven.' To 

the Greeks this falling of rebellious deities out of heaven 

accounted, as we have seen explained, for their lameness. 

But a universal phenomenon can alone account for the 

many demons with crooked or crippled legs (like ' Diable 

1 'Tour. Ceylon R. A. Soc.,' 1865-66. 
VOL. r. G 


Boiteux')-^ all around the world. The Namaquas of South 
Africa have a * deity' whose occupation it is to cause pain 
and death; his name is Tsui'knap, that is 'wounded knee.'^ 
Livingstone says of the Bakwains, another people of 
South Africa, ' It is curious that in all their pretended 
dreams or visions of their god he has always a crooked 
leg, like the Egyptian Thau.'^ In Mainas, South America, 
they believe in a treacherous demon, Uchuella-chaqui, or 
Lame-foot, who in dark forests puts on a friendly shape 
to lure Indians to destruction; but the huntsmen say 
they can never be deceived if they examine this demon's 
foot-track, because of the unequal size of the two feet.'^ 
The native Australians believed in a demon named Biam; 
he is black and deformed in his lower extremities ; they 
attributed to him many of their songs and dances, but 
also a sort of small-pox to which they were liable.^ We 
have no evidence that these superstitions migrated from a 
common centre ; and there can be little doubt that many 
of these crooked legs are traceable to the crooked light- 
ning.^ At the same time this is by no means inconsistent 
with what has been already said of the fall of Titans and 
angels from heaven as often accounting for their lameness 
in popular myths. But in such details it is hard to reach 
certainty, since so many of the facts bear a suspicious 
resemblance to each other, A wild boar with * distorted 
legs ' attacked St. Godric, and the temptation is strong 
to generalise on the story, but the legs probably mean 
only to certify that it was the devil. 

Dr. Schliemann has unearthed among his other trea- 
sures the remarkable fact that a temple of Helios (the 
sun) once stood near the site of the present Church of 

^ Welcker, ' Griechische Gotterlehre,' vol. i. p. 66i. ^ Moffat, p. 257. 

^ Livingstone, p. 124. ^ Poppig, ' Reise in Chile,' vol. ii. p. 358. 

^ Eyre, vol. ii. p. 362. ^ Tylor, ' Early Hist.,' p. 359. 


Elias, at Mycenae, which has from time immemorial been 
the place to which people repair to pray for rain.^ When 
the storm-breeding Sun was succeeded by the Prophet 
whose prayer evoked the cloud, even the name of the 
latter did not need to be changed. The discovery is the 
more interesting because it has always been a part of the 
christian folklore of that region that, when a storm with 
lightning occurs, it is ' Elias in his chariot of fire.' A 
similar phrase is used in some part of every Aryan 
country, with variation of the name : it is Woden, or King 
Waldemar, or the Grand Veneur, or sometimes God, who 
is said to be going forth in his chariot. 

These storm-demons in their chariots have their fore- 
runner in Vata or Vayu, the subject of one of the most 
beautiful Vedic hymns. ' I celebrate the glory of Vata's 
chariot ; its noise comes rending and resounding. Touch- 
ing the sky he moves onward, making all things ruddy ; 
and he comes propelling the dust of the earth. 

' Soul of the gods, source of the universe, this deity 
moves as he lists. His sounds have been heard, but his 
form is not seen ; this Vata let us worship with an obla- 
tion.' 2 

This last verse, as Mr. Muir has pointed out, bears a 
startling resemblance to the passage in John, ' The Wind 
bloweth where it listeth, and thou canst not tell whence it 
cometh or whither it goeth ; so is every one that is born 
of the Wind.' 3 

But an equally striking development of the Vedic idea 
is represented in the Siamese legend of Buddha, and in 
this case the Vedic Wind-god Vayu reappears by name 
for the Angels of Tempests, or Loka Phayu. The first 

^ So confirming the conjecture of Wachsmuth, in ' Das alte Grieclicnland 
im neucn,' p. 23. Eliai might also easily be associated with the name ^olus. 
2 ' Rig- Veda,' x. (Muir). » j^ii^ jii. g. 


portent, which preceded the descent of Buddha from the 
Tushita heavens was ' when the Angels of the Tempest, 
clothed in red garments, and with streaming hair, travel 
among the abodes of mankind crying, 'Attend all ye 
who are near to death ; repent and be not heedless ! The 
end of the world approaches, but one hundred thousand 
years more and it will be destroyed. Exert yourselves, 
then, exert yourselves to acquire merit. Above all things 
be charitable; abstain from doing evil; meditate with love 
to all beings, and listen to the teachings of holiness. For 
we are all in the mouth of the king of death. Strive then ear- 
nestly for meritorious fruits, and seek that which is good.' ^ 

Not less remarkable is the Targum of Jonathan Ben 
Uzziel to I Kings xix., where around Elias on the moun- 
tain gather ' a host of angels of the wind, cleaving the 
mountain and breaking the rocks before the Lord;' and 
after these, ' angels of commotion,' and next *of fire,' and, 
finally, 'voices singing in silence' preceded the descent of 
Jehovah, It can hardly be wondered that a prophet of 
whom this story was told, and that of the storm evoked 
from a small cloud, should be caught up into that chariot 
of the Vedic Vayu which has rolled on through all the 
ages of mythology. 

Mythologic streams seem to keep their channels almost 
as steadfastly as rivers, but as even these change at last or 
blend, so do the old traditions. Thus we find that while 
Thor and Odin remain as separate in survivals as Vayu 
and Parjanya in India, in Russia Elias has inherited not 
the mantle of the wind-god or storm-breeding sun, but of 
the Slavonic Thunderer Perun. There is little doubt that 
this is Parjanya, described in the 'Rig- Veda' as ' the thun- 
derer, the showcrer, the bountiful,'^ who 'strikes down 

^ * The Wheel of the Law,' by Henry Alabaster, Triibner & Co. 
2 . Rig. Veda,' V. 83 (Wilson). 


trees ' and ' the wicked.' ' The people of Novgorod,' says 
Herberstein, 'formerly offered their chief worship and 
adoration to a certain idol named Perun. When subse- 
quently they received baptism they removed it from its 
place, and threw it into the river Volchov ; and the story 
goes that it swam against the stream, and that near the 
bridge a voice was heard saying, ' This for you, O in- 
habitants of Novgorod, in memory of me;' and at the 
same time a certain rope was thrown upon the bridge. 
Even now it happens from time to time on certain days 
of the year that this voice of Perun may be heard, and on 
these occasions the citizens run together and lash each 
other with ropes, and such a tumult arises thereform that 
all the efforts of the governor can scarcely assuage it.' ^ 
The statue of Perun in Kief, says Mr. Ralston, had a trunk 
of wood, while the head was of silver, with moustaches of 
gold, and among its weapons was a mace. Afanasief states 
that in White-Russian traditions Perun is tall and well- 
shaped, with black hair and a long golden beard. This 
beard relates him to Barbarossa, and, perhaps, though 
distantly, with the wood-demon Barbatos, the Wild 
Archer, who divined by the songs of birds.^ Perun also 
has a bow which is 'sometimes identified with the rain- 
bow, an idea which is known also to the Finns. From it, 
according to the White Russians, are shot burning arrows, 
which set on fire all things that they touch. In many 
parts of Russia (as well as of Germany) it is supposed that 
these bolts sink deep into the soil, but that at the end of 
three or seven years they return to the surface in the shape 
of longish stones of a black or dark grey colour — probably 
belemnites, or masses of fused sand — which are called 
thunderbolts, and considered as excellent preservations 
against lightning and conflagrations. The Finns call them 
' ' Major's Tr.,' ii. ?6 - Wierus' ' Pseudomonarcliia Dsemon.' 


Ukonkiwi — the stone of thunder-god Ukko, and in Courland 
their name is Perkuhnsteine, which explains itself. In some 
cases the flaming dart of Perun became, in the imagina- 
tion of the people, a golden key. With it he unlocked the 
earth, and brought to light its concealed treasures, its 
restrained waters, its captive founts of light. With it 
also he locked away in safety fugitives who wished to be 
put out of the power of malignant conjurors, and per- 
formed various other good offices. Appeals to him to 
exercise these functions still exist in the spells used by the 
peasants, but his name has given way to that of some chris- 
tian personage. In one of them, for instance, the Arch- 
angel Michael is called upon to secure the invoker behind 
an iron door fastened by twenty-seven locks, the keys of 
which are given to the angels to be carried to heaven. 
In another, John the Baptist is represented as standing 
upon a stone in the Holy Sea \i.e., in heaven], resting 
upon an iron crook or staff, and is called upon to stay the 
flow of blood from a wound, locking the invoker's veins 
' with his heavenly key.' In this case the myth has passed 
into a rite. In order to stay a violent bleeding from the 
nose, a locked padlock is brought, and the blood is allowed 
to drop through its aperture, or the sufferer grasps a key 
in each hand, either plan being expected to prove effica- 
cious. As far as the key is concerned, the belief seems to 
be still maintained among ourselves.'^ 

The Key has a holy sense in various religions, and con- 
sequently an infernal key is its natural counterpart. The 
Vedic hymns, which say so much about the shutting and 
opening, imprisoning and releasing, of heavenly rains and 
earthly fruits by demons and deities, interpret many 
phenomena of nature, and the same ideas have arisen in 
many lands. We cannot be certain, therefore, that Calmet 
' 'Songs of the Russian People,' by W. R. S. Ralston, M.A. 



is right in assigning an Indian origin to the subjoined 
Figure 5, an ancient Persian medal. The signs of the zodiac 
on its body show it to be one of those celestial demons 
believed able to bind the beneficent or loose the formid- 
able powers of nature. The Key is of especial import in 
Hebrew faith. It was the high-priest Eliakim's symbol of 
office, as being also prefect in the king's house. * The 

key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder : 
he shall open and none shall shut; he shall shut and none 
shall open.'^ The Rabbins had a saying that God re- 
serves to himself four keys, which he will intrust not 

^ Isa. xxii. 22. It is remarkable that (according to Callimachus) Ceres 
bore a key on her shoulder. She kept the granary of the earth. 


even to the angels : the key of rain, the key of the grave, 
the key of fruitfulness, and the key of barrenness. It was 
the sign of one set above angels when Christ was seen 
with the keys of Hell and Death, or when he delivered 
the keys of heaven to Peter,^ — still thrust down the backs 
of protestant children to cure nose-bleed. 

The ubiquitous superstition which attributes the flint 
arrows of pre-historic races to gods, shot by them as light- 
ning, and, as some said, from a rainbow, is too childlike a 
theory to call for elaborate treatment. We need not, ethno- 
graphically, connect our 'Thor arrows' and 'Elf shots* 
with the stones hurled at mortals by the Thunder-Duke 
(Lui-tsz) of China. The ancient Parthians, who used to 
reply to the thunderstorm by shooting arrows at it, and the 
Turks, who attack an eclipse with guns, fairly represent 
the infancy of the human race, though perhaps with more 
than its average pluck. Dr. Macgowan relates, concerning 
the Lei-chau (Thunder District) of China, various myths 
which resemble those which surround the world. After 
thunderstorms, black stones, it is believed, may be found 
which emit light and peculiar sounds on being struck. In 
a temple consecrated to the Thunder Duke the people 
annually place a drum for that stormy demon to beat. The 
drum was formerly left on a mountain-top with a little 
boy as a sacrifice.^ Mr. Dennys^ speaks of the belief in 

^ Rev. i. i8.; Matt. xvi. 19. ' 'Journal N. C. B. R. A. S.,' 1853. 

3 ' Folklore of China,' p. 124. The drum held by the imp in Fig. 3 shows 
his relation to the thunder-god. In Japan the thunder-god is represented as 
having five drums strung together. The wind-god has a large bag of com- 
pressed air between his shoulders ; and he has steel claws, representing the 
keen and piercing wind. The Tartars in Siberia believe that a potent demon 
may be evoked by beating a drum ; their sorcerers provide a tame bear, who 
starts upon the scene, and from whom they pretend to get answers to questions. 
In Nova Scotian superstition we find demons charmed by drums into quietude. 
In India the temple-drum preserved such solemn associations even for the new 
theistic sect, the Brahmo-Somaj, that it is said to be still beaten as accom- 
paniment to the organ sent to their chief church by their English friends. 


the same country that violent winds and typhoons are 
caused by the passage through the air of the ' Bob-tailed 
Dragon,' and also of the rain-god Yii-Shiih. A storm-god 
connected with the ' Eagre,' or bore of the river Tsien- 
tang, presents a coincidence of name with the Scandi- 
navian Oegir, which would be hardly noticeable were it 
not for the very close resemblance between the folklore 
concerning the ' Bob-tailed Dragon ' and the storm-dragons 
of several Aryan races. Generally, in both China and 
Japan the Dragon is regarded with a veneration equal to 
the horror with which the serpent is visited. Of this 
phenomenon and its analogies in Britain I shall have an 
explanation to submit when we come to consider Dragon- 
myths more particularly. To this general rule the ' Bob- 
tailed Dragon ' of China is a partial exception. His fidelity 
as a friend led to the ill return of an attack by which his 
tail was amputated, and ever since his soured temper has 
shown itself in raising storms. When a violent tempest 
arises the Cantonese say, ' The Bob-tailed Dragon is pass- 
ing,' in the same proverbial way as the Aryan peasantries 
attribute the same phenomenon to their storm-gods. 

The notion is widely prevalent in some districts of 
France that all whirlwinds, however slight, are caused by 
wizards or witches, who are in them, careering through 
the air; and it is stated by the Melusine that in the 
department of the Orne storms are attributed to the 
clergy, who are supposed to be circling in them. The 
same excellent journal states that some years ago, in that 
department, a parishioner who saw his crops threatened 
by a hail-storm fired into the cloud. The next day he 
heard that the parish priest had broken his leg by a fall 
for which he could not account. 

The following examples are given by Kuhn. Near 
Stangenhag-en is a treasure hid in a mountain which Lord 


von Thumen tried to seek, but was caught up with his 
horse by a whirlwind and deposited at home again. The 
Devil is believed to be seated at the centre of every whirl- 
wind. At Biesenthal it is said a noble lady became the 
Wind's bride. She was in her time a famous rider and 
huntress, who rode recklessly over farmers' fields and 
gardens; now she is herself hunted by snakes and dragons, 
and may be heard howling in every storm. 

I suspect that the bristling hair so frequently portrayed 
in the Japanese Oni, Devils, refers to their frequent resi- 
dence at the centre of a gale of wind. Their demon of the 
storm is generally pictured throned upon a flower of flames, 
his upraised and extended fingers emitting the most terrific 
lightnings, which fall upon his victims and envelop them 
in flames. Sometimes, however, the Japanese artists poke 
fun at their thunder-god, and show him sprawling on the 
ground from the recoil of his own lightnings. The follow- 
ing extract from The Christian Herald (London, April 12, 
1877) will show how far the dread of this Japanese Oni 
extends : ' A pious father writes, ' A few days ago there 
was a severe thunderstorm, which seemed to gather very 
heavily in the direction where my son lived ; and I had a 
feeling that I must go and pray that he might be pro- 
tected, and not be killed by the lightning. The impres- 
sion seemed to say, * There is no time to be lost.' I obeyed, 
and went and knelt down and prayed that the Lord would 
spare his life. I believe he heard my prayer. My son 
called on me afterwards, and, speaking of the shower, said, 
' The lightning came downwards and struck the very hoe 
in my hands, and numbed me.' I said, ' Perhaps you 
would have been killed if some one had not been praying 
for you.' Since then he has been converted, and, I trust, 
will be saved in God's everlasting kingdom.' 

Such paragraphs may now strike even many christians 


as ' survivals.* But it is not so very long since some 
eminent clergymen looked upon Benjamin Franklin as 
the heaven-defying Ajax of Christendom, because he 
undertook to show people how they might divert the 
lightnings from their habitations. In those days Franklin 
personally visited a church at Streatham, whose steeple 
had been struck by lightning, and, after observing the 
region, gave an opinion that if the steeple were again 
erected without a lightning-rod, it would again be struck. 
The audacious man who ' snatched sceptres from tyrants 
and lightnings from heaven,' as the proverb ran, was not 
listened to: the steeple was rebuilt, and again demolished 
by lightning. 

The supreme god of the Quichuas (American), Viracvcha 
(' sea foam '), rises out of Lake Titicaca, and journeys with 
lightnings for all opposers, to disappear in the Western 
Ocean. The Quichua is mentally brother of the Arab 
camel-driver. ' The sea,' it is said in the 'Arabian Nights,' 
— 'the sea became troubled before them, and there arose 
from it a black pillar, ascending towards the sky, and 
approaching the meadow,' and 'behold it was a Jinn ^ of 
gigantic stature.' The Jinn is sometimes helpful as it is 
formidable ; it repays the fisherman who unseals it from 
the casket fished up from the sea, as fruitfulness comes 
out of the cloud no larger than a man's hand evoked by 
Elijah. The perilous Jinn described in the above extract 
is the waterspout. Waterspouts are attributed in China 
to the battles of dragons in the air, and the same country 
recognises a demon of high tides. The newest goddess in 
China is a canonised protectress against the shipwrecking 

^ Although the Koran and other authorities, as already stated, have asso.. 
ciated the Jinn with etherial fire, Arabic folklore is nearer tlie meaning of the 
word in assigning the name to all demons. The learned Arabic lexicographer 
of Beirut, P. Bustani, says ' The Jinn is the opposite of mankind, or it is 
whatever is veiled from the sense, whether angel or devil.' 


storm-demons of the coast, an exaltation recently pro- 
claimed by the Government of the empire in obedience, as 
the edict stated, to the belief prevailing among sailors. 
In this the Chinese are a long way behind the mariners 
and fishermen of the French coast, who have for centuries, 
by a pious philology, connected ' Maria' with 'La Maree' 
and * La Mer;' and whenever they have been saved from 
storms, bring their votive offerings to sea-side shrines of 
the Star of the Sea. 

The old Jewish theology, in its eagerness to claim for 
Jehovah the absolutism which would make him * Lord of 
lords,' instituted his responsibility for many doubtful per- 
formances, the burthen of which is now escaped by the 
device of saying that he 'permitted' them. In this way 
the Elohim who brought on the Deluge have been iden- 
tified with Jehovah. None the less must we see in the 
biblical account of the Flood the action of tempestuous 
water-demons. What power a christian would recognise 
in such an event were it related in the sacred books of 
another religion may be seen in the vision of the Apo- 
calypse-^' The Serpent cast out of his mouth a flood of 
water after the woman, that he might cause her to be 
carried away with the flood ; and the earth helped the 
woman and opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood.' 
This Demon of Inundation meets the explorer of Egyp- 
tian and Accadian inscriptions at every turn. The ter- 
rible Seven, whom even the God of P^ire cannot control, 
'break down the banks of the Abyss of Waters.'^ The 
God of the Tigris, Tourtak (Tartak of the Bible), is ' the 
great destroyer.' ^ Leviathan ' maketh the deep to boil 
like a pot:' 'when he raises up himself the mighty are 
afraid ; by reason of breakings they purify themselves,' ^ 

In the Astronomical Tablets, which Professor Sayce 

^ 'Cuneiform Ins.,' iv. 15. ^ lb. ii. 27. ^ Job xli. 



dates about B.C. 1600, we have the continual association of 
eclipse and flood : * On the fifteenth day an eclipse takes 
place. The king dies ; and rains in the heaven, floods in 
the channels are.' ' In the month of Elul (August), the 
fourteenth day, an eclipse takes place. . . . Northward 
... its shadow is seen ; and to the King of MuUias a crown 
is given. To the king the crown is an omen ; and over 
the king the- eclipse passes. Rains in heaven, floods in 
the channels flow. A famine is in the country. Men 
their sons for silver sell.' ' After a year the Air-god inun- 
dates.' ■■• 

In the Chaldseo-Babylonian cosmogony the three zones 
of the universe were ruled over by a Triad as follows : 
the Heaven by Anu ; the surface of the earth, including 
the atmosphere, by Bel ; the under-world by Nouah.^ 
This same Nouah is the Assyrian Hea or Saviour ; and 
it is Noah of the Bible. The name means a rest or 
residence, — the place where man may dwell. When Tia- 
mat the Dragon, or the Leviathan, opens ' the fountains of 
the great deep,' and Anu 'the windows of Heaven,' it is 
Hea or Noah w^ho saves the life of man. M, Francois 
Lenormant has shown this to be the probable sense of one 
of the most ancient Accadian fragments in the British 
Museum. In it allusion is made to 'the serpent of seven 
heads . . . that beats the sea.' ^ Hea, however, appears 
to be more clearly indicated in a 'fragment which Pro- 
fessor Sayce appends to this : — 

Below in the abyss the forceful multitudes may they sacrifice. 
The overwhelming fear of Anu in the midst of Heaven ejicircles 

his path. 
The spirits of earth, the mighty gods, withstand him not. 
The king like a lightning-flash opened. 

Records of the Past,' i. * Lenormant, ' La Magie.' 

^ ' Records of the Past,' iii. 129. 


Adar, the striker of the fortresses of the rebel band, opened. 

Like the streams in the circle of heaven I besprinkled the seed 

of men. 
His marching in the fealty of Bel to the temple I directed, 
(He is) the hero of the gods, the protector of mankind, far (and) 

near . . . 
O my lord, life of Nebo (breathe thy inspiration), incline thine ear. 
O Adar, hero, crown of light, (breathe) thy inspiration, (incline) 

thine ear. 
The overwhelming fear of thee may the sea know ... 
Thy setting (is) the herald of his rest from marching. 
In thy marching Merodach (is) at rest ^ . . . 
Thy father on his throne thou dost not smite. 
Bel on his throne thou dost not smite. 
The spirits of earth on their throne may he consume. 
May thy father into the hands of thy valour cause (them) to go forth. 
May Bel into the hands of thy valour cause (them) to go forth. 
(The king, the proclaimed) of Anu, the firstborn of the gods. 
He that stands before Bel, the heart of the life of the House of 

the Beloved.^ 
The hero of the mountain (for those that) die in multitudes. 
the one god, he will not urge.^ 

In this primitive fragment we find the hero of the 
mountain (Noah), invoking both Bel and Nebo, aerial and 
infernal Intelligences, and Adar the Chaldaean Hercules, 
for their * inspiration ' — that breath which, in the biblical 
story, goes forth in the form of the Dove (* the herald oi 
his rest ' in the Accadian fragment), and in the '■ wind ' 
by which the waters were assuaged (in the fragment ' the 
spirits of the earth ' which are given into the hand of the 
violent ' hero of the mountain,' whom alone the gods ' will 
not urge'). 

The Hydra may be taken as a type of the destructive 
water-demon in a double sense, for Its heads remain in 
many mythical forms. The Syrian Dagon and Atergatis, 
fish-deities, have bequeathed but their element to our 

' Tlie god of the Euphrates, The Assyrian has ' of the high places.' 

^ ' Records of the Past,' iii. 129, 130. 


Undines of romance. Some nymphs have so, long been 
detached from aqueous associations as to have made their 
names puzzHng, and their place in demonology more so. 
To the Nixy (z^^'%6)) of Germany, now merely mischievous 
like the British Pixy, many philologists trace the common 
phrase for the Devil, — * Old Nick.' I believe, however, 
that this phrase owes its popularity to St. Nicholas rather 
than to the Norse water-god whose place he was assigned 
after the christian accession. This saintly Poseidon, who, 
from being the patron of fishermen, gradually became asso- 
ciated with that demon whom. Sir Walter Scott said, * the 
British sailor feared when he feared nothing else,' was also 
of old the patron of pirates ; and robbers were called ' St. 
Nicholas' clerks.' 1 In Norway and the Netherlands the 
ancient belief in the demon Nikke was strong ; he was a 
kind of Wild Huntsman of the Sea, and has left many 
legends, of which ' The Flying Dutchman ' is one. But my 
belief is that, through his legendary relation to boys, St. 
Nicholas gave the name Old Nick its modern moral accent. 
Because of his reputation for having restored to life three 
murdered children St. Nicholas was made their "patron, and 
on his day, December 6, it was the old custom to consecrate 
a Boy-Bishop, who held office until the 28th of the month. 
By this means he became the moral appendage of the old 
Wodan god of the Germanic races, who was believed in 
winter time to find shelter in and shower benefits from 
evergreens, especially firs, on his favourite children who 
happened to wander beneath them. ' Bartel,' ' Klaubauf,' 
or whatever he might be called, was reduced to be the 
servant of St. Nicholas, whose name is iiow; jumbled into 
' Santaclaus.' According to the old custom he appeared 

\ ' Henry IV.,' Part ist, Act 2. ' Heart of Mid-Lothian,' xxv. An interest-' 
ing paper on this subject by Mr. Alexander Wilder, appeared in TAe Evolu- 
tion. New York, December 16, 1877. 


attended by his Knecht Klaubauf — personated by those 
who knew all about the children — bringing a sort of 
doomsday. The gifts having been bestowed on the good 
children, St Nicholas then ordered Klaubauf to put the 
naughty ones into his pannier and carry them off for 
punishment. The terror and shrieks thus caused have 
created vast misery among children, and in Munich and 
some other places the authorities have very properly made 
such tragedies illegal. But for many centuries it was the 
custom of nurses and mothers to threaten refractory 
children with being carried off at the end of the year by 
Nicholas ; and in this way each year closed, in the young 
apprehension, with a Judgment Day, a Weighing of Souls, 
and a Devil or Old Nick as agent of retribution. 

Nick has long since lost his aquatic character, and we 
find his name in the Far West (America) turning up as 
' The Nick of the Woods,' — the wild legend of a settler 
who, following a vow of vengeance for his wrongs, used to 
kill the red men while they slept, and was supposed to 
be a demon. The Japanese have a water-dragon — Kappa 
— of a retributive and moral kind, whose office it is to 
swallow bad boys who go to swim in disobedience to their 
parents' commands, or at improper times and places. It 
is not improbable that such dangers to the young origi- 
nated some of the water-demons, — probably such as are 
thought of as diminutive and mischievous, — e.g., Nixies. 
The Nixa was for a long time on the Baltic coast the 
female ' Old Nick,' and much feared by fishermen. Her 
malign disposition is represented in the Kelpie of Scotland, 
— a water-horse, believed to carry away the unwary by 
sudden floods to devour them. In Germany there was a 
river-goddess whose temple stood at Magdeburg, whence 
its name. A legend exists of her having appeared in the 
market there in christian costume, but she was detected by 



a continual dripping of water from the corner of her 
apron. In Germany the Nixies generally played the part 
of the naiads of ancient times.^ In Russia similar beings, 
called Rusalkas, are much more formidable. 

In many regions of Christendom it is related that these 
demons, relatives of the Swan-maidens, considered in 
another chapter, have been converted into friendly or even 
pious creatures, and baptized into saintly names. Some- 
times there are legends which reveal this transition. Thus 
it is related that in the year 1440, the dikes of Holland being 
broken down by a violent tempest, the sea overflowed the 
meadows ; and some maidens of the town of Edam, in 
West Friesland, going in a boat to milk their cows, espied 
a mermaid em.barrassed in the mud, the waters being very 
shallow. They took it into their boat and brought it to 
Edam, and dressed it in women's apparel, and taught it 
to spin. It ate as they did, but could not be brought to 
speak. It was carried to Haarlem, where it lived for some 
years, though showing an inclination to water. Parival, 
who tells the story, relates that they had conveyed to it 
some notions of the existence of a deity, and it made its 
reverences devoutly whenever it passed a crucifix. 

Another creature of the same species was in the year 
1 53 1 caught in the Baltic, and sent as a present to Sigis- 
mund. King of Poland. It was seen by all the persons 
about the court, but only lived three days. 

The Hydra — the torrent which, cut off in one direction, 
makes many headways in others — has its survivals in the 
many diabolical names assigned to boiling springs and to 
torrents that become dangerously swollen. In California 
the boiling springs called ' Devil's Tea-kettle ' and * Devil's 
Mush-pot ' repeat the * Devil's Punch-bowls ' of Europe, 
and the innumerable Devil's Dikes and Ditches. St. 

^ De Plancv. 
VOL. I. ' „ 



Gerard's Hill, near Pesth, on which the saint suffered 
martyrdom, is believed to be crowded with devils when- 
ever an inundation threatens the city ; they indulge in 
fiendish laughter, and play with the telescopes of the ob- 
servatory, so that they who look through them afterwards 
see only devils' and witches' dances ! ^ At Buda, across the 
river from Pesth, is the famous 'Devil's Ditch,' which the 

Fig. 6. — Hercules and the Hydra (Louvre). 

inhabitants use as a sewer while it is dry, making it a 
Gehenna to poison them with stenches, but which often 
becomes a devastating torrent when thaw comes on the 
Blocksberg. In 1874 the inhabitants vaulted it over to 
keep away the normal stench, but the Hydra-head so 

^ An individual by this means saw his wife among the witches, so detecting 
her unhallowed nature, which gave rise to a saying there that husbands must 
not be star-gazing on St. Gerard's Eve. 


lopped off grew again, and in July 1875 swallowed up a 
hundred people.^ 

The once perilous Strudel and Wirbel of the Danube 
are haunted by diabolical legends. From Dr. William 
Beattie's admirable work on ' The Danube ' I quote the 
following passages : — ' After descending the Greiner- 
schwall, or rapids of Grein above mentioned, the river 
rolls on for a considerable space, in a deep and almost 
tranquil volume, which, by contrast with the approaching 
turmoil, gives increased effect to its wild, stormy, and 
romantic features. At first a hollow, subdued roar, like 
that of distant thunder, strikes the ear and rouses the tra- 
veller's attention. This increases every second, and the 
stir and activity which now prevail among the hands on 
board show that additional force, vigilance, and caution 
are to be employed in the use of the helm and oars. The 
water is now changed in its colour — chafed into foam, and 
agitated like a seething cauldron. In front, and in the 
centre of the channel, rises an abrupt, isolated, and colossal 
rock, fringed with wood, and crested with a mouldering 
tower, on the summit of which is planted a lofty cross, to 
which in the moment of danger the ancient boatmen were 
wont to address their prayers for deliverance. The first 
sight of this used to create no little excitement and appre- 
hension on board ; the master ordered strict silence to be 
observed, the steersman grasped the helm with a firmer 
hand, the passengers moved aside, so as to leave free 
space for the boatmen, while the women and children were 
hurried into the cabin, there to await, with feelings of no 
little anxiety, the result of the enterprise. Every boat- 
man, with his head uncovered, muttered a prayer to his 
patron saint ; and away dashed the barge through the 
tumbling breakers, that seemed as if hurrying it on to 
1 London ' Times,' July 8, 1875. 


inevitable destruction. All these preparations, joined by 
the wildness of the adjacent scenery, the terrific aspect of 
the rocks, and the tempestuous state of the water, were 
sufficient to produce a powerful sensation on the minds 
even of those who had been all their lives familiar with 
dangers ; while the shadowy phantoms with which super- 
stition had peopled it threw a deeper gloom over the 
whole scene.' 

Concerning the whirlpool called Wirbel, and the sur- 
rounding ruins, the same author writes : ' Each of these 
mouldering fortresses was the subject of some miraculous 
tradition, which circulated at every hearth. The sombre 
and mysterious aspect of the place, its wild scenery, and 
the frequent accidents which occurred in the passage, 
invested it with awe and terror ; but above all, the super- 
stitions of the time, a belief in the marvellous, and the 
credulity of the boatmen, made the navigation of the 
Strudel and the Wirbel a theme of the wildest romance. 
At night, sounds that were heard far above the roar of the 
Danube issued from every ruin. Magical lights flashed 
through their loopholes and casements, festivals were held 
in the long-deserted halls, maskers glided from room to 
room, the waltzers maddened to the strains of an infernal 
orchestra, armed sentinels paraded the battlements, while 
at intervals the clash of arms, the neighing of steeds, and 
the shrieks of unearthly combatants smote fitfully on the 
boatmen's ear. But the tower on which these scenes were 
most fearfully enacted was that on the Longstone, com- 
monly called the ' Devil's Tower,' as it well deserved to 
be — for here, in close communion with his master, resided 
the ' Black Monk,' whose office it was to exhibit false 
lights and landmarks along the gulf, so as to decoy the 
vessels into the whirlpool, or dash them against the rocks. 
He was considerably annoyed in his quarters, however, on 


the arrival of the great Soliman in these regions ; for to 
repel the turbaned host, or at least to check their trium- 
phant progress to the Upper Danube, the inhabitants were 
summoned to join the national standard, and each to 
defend his own hearth. Fortifications were suddenly- 
thrown up, even churches and other religious edifices were 
placed in a state of military defence ; women and chil- 
dren, the aged and the sick, as already mentioned in our 
notice of Schaumburg, were lodged in fortresses, and thus 
secured from the violence of the approaching Moslem. 
Among the other points at which the greatest efforts were 
made to check the enemy, the passage of the Strudel and 
Wirbel was rendered as impregnable as the time and cir- 
cumstances of the case would allow. To supply materials 
for the work, patriotism for a time got the better of super- 
stition, and the said Devil's Tower was demolished and 
converted into a strong breastwork. Thus forcibly dis- 
lodged, the Black Monk is said to have pronounced a 
malediction on the intruders, and to have chosen a new 
haunt among the recesses of the Harz mountains.' 

When the glaciers send down their torrents and flood 
the Rhone, it is the immemorial belief that the Devil may 
be sometimes seen swimming in it, with a sword in one 
hand and a golden globe in the other. Since it is con- 
trary to all orthodox folklore that the Devil should be 
so friendly with water, the name must be regarded as a 
modern substitute for the earlier Rhone demon. We pro- 
bably get closer to the original form of the superstition 
in the Swiss Oberland, which interprets the noises of the 
Furka Glacier, which feeds the Rhone, as the groans of 
wicked souls condemned for ever to labour there in direct- 
ing the river's course; their mistress being a demoness 
who sometimes appears just before the floods, floating on 
a raft, and ordering the river to rise. 

ii8 ^OLUS. 

There is a tidal demonolatry also. The author of 
* Rambles in Northumberland ' gives a tradition concern- 
ing the river Wansbeck : * This river discharges itself into 
the sea at a place called Cambois, about nine miles to the 
eastward, and the tide flows to within five miles of Mor- 
peth. Tradition reports that Michael Scott, whose fame 
as a wizard is not confined to Scotland, would have 
brought the tide to the town had not the courage of the 
person failed upon whom the execution of this project 
depended. This agent of Michael, after his principal had 
performed certain spells, was to run from the neighbour- 
hood of Cambois to Morpeth without looking behind, and 
the tide would follow him. After having advanced a cer- 
tain distance he became alarmed at the roaring of the 
waters behind him, and forgetting the injunction, gave a 
glance over his shoulder to see if the danger was immi- 
nent, when the advancing tide immediately stopped, and 
the burgesses of Morpeth thus lost the chance of having 
the Wansbeck navigable between their town and the sea. 
It is also said that Michael intended to confer a similar 
favour on the inhabitants of Durham, by making the Wear 
navigable to their city ; but his good intentions, which were 
to be carried into effect in the same manner, were also 
frustrated by the cowardice of the person who had to guide 
the tide.' 

The gentle and just king ^olus, who taught his 
islanders navigation, in his mythologic transfiguration had 
to share the wayward dispositions of the winds he was 
said to rule ; but though he wrecked the Trojan fleet and 
many a ship, his old human heart remained to be trusted 
on the appearance of Halcyon. His unhappy daughter of 
that name cast herself into the sea after the shipwreck of 
her husband (Ceyx), and the two were changed into birds. 
It was believed that for seven days before and seven after 



the shortest day of the year, when the halcyon is breeding, 
^olus restrains his winds, and the sea is calm. The 
accent of this fable has been transmitted to some variants 
of the folklore of swans. In Russia the Tsar Morskoi or 
Water Demon's beautiful daughters (swans) may naturally 
be supposed to influence the tides which the fair bathers 
of our time are reduced to obey. In various regions the 
tides are believed to have some relation to swans, and to 
respect them. I have met with a notion of this kind in 
England. On the day of Livingstone's funeral there was 
an extraordinary tide in the Thames, which had been pre- 
dicted and provided for. The crowds which had gathered 
at the Abbey on that occasion repaired after the funeral 
to Westminster Bridge to observe the tide, and among 
them was a venerable disbeliever in science, who announced 
to a group that there would be no high tide, ' because the 
swans were nesting.' This sceptic was speedily put to 
confusion by the result, and perhaps one superstition the 
less remained in the circle that seemed to regard him as 
an oracle. 

The Russian peasantry live in much fear of the Rusalkas 
and Vodyanuie, water-spirits who, of course, have for their 
chief the surly Neptune Tsar Morskoi. In deprecation of 
this tribe, the peasant is careful not to bathe without a 
cross round the neck, nor to ford a stream on horseback 
without signing a cross on the water with a scythe or knife. 
In the Ukrain these water-demons are supposed to be the 
transformed souls of Pharaoh and his host when they were 
drowned, and they are increased by people who drown 
themselves. In Bohemia fishermen are known sometimes 
to refuse aid to one drowning, for fear the Vodyany will 
be offended and prevent the fish, over which he holds rule, 
from entering their nets. The wrath of such beings is 
indicated by the upheavals of water and foam ; and they 


are supposed especially mischievous in the spring, when 
torrents and floods are pouring from melted snow. Those 
undefined monsters which Beowulf slew, Grendel and his 
mother, are interpreted by Simrock as personifications of 
the untamed sea and stormy floods invading the low flat 
shores, whose devastations so filled Faust with horror (II. 
iv.), and in combating which his own hitherto desolating 
powers found their task. 

The Sea sweeps on in thousand quarters flowing, 
Itself unfruitful, barrenness bestowing ; 
It breaks, and swells, and rolls, and overwhelms 
The desert stretch of desolated realms. . . . 
Let that high joy be mine for evermore, 
To shut the lordly Ocean from the shore, 
The watery waste to limit and to bar, 
And push it back upon itself afar ! 

In such brave work Faust had many forerunners, whose 
art and courage have their monument in the fairer fables 
of all these elemental powers in which fear saw demons. 
Pavana, in India, messenger of the gods, rides upon the 
winds, and in his forty-nine forms, corresponding with the 
points of the Hindu compass, guards the earth, Solomon, 
too, journeyed on a magic carpet woven of the winds, which 
still serves the purposes of the Wise. From the churned 
ocean rose Lakshmi (after the solar origin was lost to the 
myth), Hindu goddess of prosperity; and from the sea- 
foam rose Aphrodite, Beauty. These fair forms had their 
true worshipper in the Northman, who left on mastered 
wind and wave his song as Emerson found it — 

The gale that wrecked you on the sand. 

It helped my rowers to row ; 
The storm is my best galley hand, 

And drives me where I go. 

( 121 ) 



Animal demons distinguished — Trivial sources of Mythology — Hedge- 
hog — Fox — Transmigrations in Japan — Horses bewitched — Rats 
— Lions — Cats — The Dog — Goethe's horror of dogs — Supersti- 
tions of the Parsees, people of Travancore, and American Negroes, 
Red Indians, &c. — Cynocephaloi — The Wolf — Traditions of the 
Nez Perces — Fenris — Fables — The Boar — The Bear — Serpent — 
Every animal power to harm demonised — Horns. 

The animal demons — those whose evil repute is the result 
of something in their nature which may be inimical to 
man — should be distinguished from the forms which have 
been diabolised by association with mythological person- 
ages or ideas. The lion, tiger, and wolf are examples of the 
one class ; the stag, horse, owl, and raven of the other. But 
there are circumstances which render it very difficult to 
observe this distinction. The line has to be drawn, if at 
all, between the measureless forces of degradation on the 
one side, discovering some evil in animals which, but for 
their bad associations, would not have been much thought 
of; and of euphemism on the other, transforming harmful 
beasts to benignant agents by dwelling upon some minor 

There are a few obviously dangerous animals, such asi 
the serpent, where it is easy to pick our way; we can 
recognise the fear that flatters it to an agathodemon and 


the diminished fear that pronounces it accurst.^ But what 
shall be said of the Goat ? Was there really anything 
in its smell or in its flesh when first eaten, its butting, 
or injury to plants, which originally classed it among the 
unclean animals ? or was it merely demonised because of 
its uncanny and shaggy appearance ? What explanation 
can be given of the evil repute of our household friend the 
Cat ? Is it derived by inheritance from its fierce ancestors 
of the jungle ? Was it first suggested by its horrible 
human-like sleep-murdering caterwaulings at night ? or 
has it simply suffered from a theological curse on the cats 
said to draw the chariots of the goddesses of Beauty ? 
The demonic Dog is, if anything, a still more complex 
subject. The student of mythology and folklore speedily 
becomes familiar with the trivial sources from which vast 
streams of superstition often issue. The cock's challenge 
to the all-detecting sun no doubt originated his omin- 
ous career from the Code of Manu to the cock-headed 
devils frescoed in the cathedrals of Russia. The fleshy, 
forked roots of a soporific plant issued in that vast Man- 
drake Mythology which has been the subject of many 
volumes, without being even yet fully explored. The 
Italians have a saying that ' One knavery of the hedgehog is 
worth more than many of the fox ; ' yet the nocturnal and 
hibernating habits and general quaintness of the humble 
hedgehog, rather than his furtive propensity to prey on 
eggs and chickens, must have raised him to the honours 
of demonhood. In various popular fables this little animal 
proves more than a match for the wolf and the serpent. 
It was in the form of a hedgehog that the Devil is said 
to have made the attempt to let in the sea through the 
Brighton Downs, which was prevented by a light being 

^ This Protean type of both demon and devil must accompany us so con- 
tinually through this volume that but little need be said of it in this chapter. 



brought, though the seriousness of the scheme is still 
attested in the Devil's Dyke. There is an ancient tradi- 
tion that when the Devil had smuggled himself into Noah's 
Ark, he tried to sink it by boring a hole; but this scheme 
was defeated, and the human race saved, by the hedgehog 
stuffing himself into the hole. In the Brighton story the 
Devil would appear to have remembered his former failure 
in drowning people, and to have appropriated the form 
which defeated him. 

The Fox, as incarnation of cunning, holds in the primi- 

Fig. 7. — Japanese Demon. 

tive belief of the Japanese almost the same position as 
the Serpent in the nations that have worshipped, until 
bold enough to curse it. In many of the early pictures 
of Japanese demons one may generally detect amid 
their human, wolfish, or other characters some traits of 
the kitsune (fox). He is always the soul of the three- 
eyed demon of Japan (fig. 7). He is the sagacious 
'Vizier,' as the Persian Desatir calls him, and is prac- 
tically the Japanese scape-goat. If a fox has appeared 
in any neighbourhood, the next trouble is attributed 

124 THE HARE. 

to his visit ; and on such occasions the sufferers and 
their friends repair to some ancient gnarled tree in which 
the fox is theoretically resident and propitiate him, just 
as would be done to a serpent in other regions. In Japan 
the fox is not regarded as always harmful, but generally 
so. He is not to be killed on any account. Being thus 
spared through superstition, the foxes increase sufficiently 
to supply abundant material for the continuance of its 
demonic character. ' Take us the foxes, the little foxes 
that spoil the vines,' ^ is an admonition reversed in Japan. 
The correspondence between the cunning respected in this 
animal and that of the serpent, reverenced elsewhere, is 
confirmed by Mr. Fitz Cunlifife Owen, who observed, as 
he informs me, that the Japanese will not kill even the 
poisonous snakes which crawl freely amid the decaying 
Buddhist temples of Nikko, one of the most sacred places 
in Japan, where once as many as eight thousand monastic 
Buddhists were harboured. It is the red fox that abounds 
in Japan, and its human-like cry at night near human habi- 
tations is such as might easily encourage these supersti- 
tions. But, furthermore, mythology supplies many illus- 
trations of a creditable tendency among rude tribes to 
mark out for special veneration or fear any force in nature 
finer than mere strength. Emerson says, ' Foxes are so 
cunning because they are not strong. ' In our Japanese 
demon, whose three eyes alone connect it with the prae- 
ternatural vision ascribed by that race to the fox, the 
harelip is very pronounced. That little animal, the Hare, 
is associated with a large mythology, perhaps because out 
of its weakness proceeds its main forces of survival — 
timidity, vigilance, and swiftness. The superstition con- 
cerning the hare is found in Africa. The same animal is 
the much-venerated good genius of the Calmucs, who call 

^ Canticles ii. 15. 


him Sakya-muni (Buddha), and say that on earth he sub- 
mitted himself to be eaten by a starving man, for which 
gracious deed he was raised to dominion over the moon, 
where they profess to see him. The legend is probably 
traceable back to the Sanskrit word sasin, moon, which 
means literally ' the hare-marked.' Sasa means ' hare.' 
Pausanias relates the story of the moon-goddess instructing 
exiles to build their city where they shall see a hare take 
refuge in a myrtle-grove.^ In the demonic fauna of Japan 
another cunning animal figures — the Weasel. The name of 
this demon is 'the sickle weasel,' and it also seems to 
occupy the position of a scape-goat. In the language of 
a Japanese report, 'When a person's clogs slip from under 
his feet, and he falls and cuts his face on the gravel, or 
when a person, who is out at night when he ought to 
have been at home, presents himself to his family with a 
freshly-scarred face, the wound is referred to the agency 
of the malignant invisible weasel and his sharp sickle.' 
In an aboriginal legend of America, also, two sister de- 
mons commonly take the form of weasels. 

The popular feeling which underlay much of the animal- 
worship in ancient times was probabjy that which is re- 
flected in the Japanese notions of to-day, as told in the 
subjoined sketch from an amusing book. 

' One of these visitors was an old man, who himself was 
at the time a victim of a popular superstition that the 
departed revisit the scenes of their life in this world in 
shapes of different animals. We noticed that he was not 
in his usual spirits, and pressed him to unburden his mind 
to us. He said he had lost his little son Chiosin, but that 
was not so much the cause of his grief as the absurd way 
in which his wife, backed up by a whole conclave of old 
women who had taken up their abode in his house to 

^ De Gubernatis, II. viii. 


comfort her, was going on. 'What do they all do?' we 
asked sympathetically. ' Why,' he replied, ' every beastly 
animal that comes to my house, there is a cry amongst 
them all, ' Chiosin, Chiosin has come back ! ' and the whole 
house swarms with cats and dogs and bats — for they say 
they are not quite sure which is Chiosin, and that they 
had better be kind to the lot than run the chance of treat- 
ing him badly; the consequence is, all these brutes are 
fed on my rice and meat, and now I am driven out of 
doors and called an unnatural parent because I killed a 
mosquito which bit me I ' ^ 

The strange and inexplicable behaviour of animals in 
cases of fear, panic, or pain has been generally attributed 
by ignorant races to their possession by demons. Of this 
nature is the story of the devil entering the herd of swine 
and carrying them into the sea, related in the New Testa- 
ment. It is said that even yet in some parts of Scotland 
the milkmaid carries a switch of the magical rowan to 
expel the demon that sometimes enters the cow. Pro- 
fessor Monier Williams writes from Southern India — 
' When my fellow-travellers and myself were nearly 
dashed to pieces over a precipice the other day by some 
restive horses on a ghat near Poona, we were told that the 
road at this particular point was haunted by devils who 
often caused similar accidents, and we were given to 
understand that we should have done well to conciliate 
Ganesa, son of the god Siva, and all his troops of evil 
spirits, before starting.' The same writer also tells us 
that the guardian spirits or ' mothers ' who haunt most 
regions of the Peninsula are believed to ride about on 
horses, and if they are angry, scatter blight and disease. 
Hence the traveller just arrived from Europe is startled 

^ ' Our Life in Japan ' (Jephson and Elmhirst, 9th Regiment), Chapman 
& Hall, 1869. 


and puzzled by apparitions of rudely-formed terra-cotta 
horses, often as large as life, placed by the peasantry 
round shrines in the middle of fields as acceptable pro- 
pitiatory offerings, or in the fulfilment of vows in periods 
of sickness.' ^ 

This was the belief of the Corinthians in the Taraxip- 
pos, or shade of Glaucus, who, having been torn in pieces 
by the horses with which he had been racing, and which 
he had fed on human flesh to make more spirited, re- 
mained to haunt the Isthmus and frighten horses during 
the races. 

There is a modern legend in the Far West (America) of 
a horse called 'The White Devil,' which, in revenge for 
some harm to its comrades, slew men by biting and tramp- 
ling them, and was itself slain after defying many attempts 
at its capture; but among the many ancient legends of 
demon-horses there are few which suggest anything about 
that animal hostile to man. His occasional evil character 
is simply derived from his association with man, and is 
therefore postponed. For a similar reason the Goat also 
must be dealt with hereafter, and as a symbolical animal. 
A few myths are met with which relate to its unplea- 
sant characteristics. In South Guinea the odour of goats 
is accounted for by the Saga that their ancestor having 
had the presumption to ask a goddess for her aromatic 
ointment, she angrily rubbed him with ointment of a 
reverse kind. It has also been said that it was regarded as 
a demon by the worshippers of Bacchus, because it cropped 
the vines ; and that it thus originated the Trageluphoi, or 
goat-stag monsters mentioned by Plato,^ and gave us also 
the word tragedy? But such traits of the Goat can have 
very little to do with its important relations to Mythology ^ 

^ London 'Times,' June li, 1877. 2 j^gp^ ^s§_ 

^ Literally, goat-song. More probably it has an astrological sense. 


and Demonology. To the list of animals demonised by- 
association must also be added the Stag. No doubt the 
anxious mothers, wives, or sweethearts of rash young 
huntsmen utilised the old fables of beautiful hinds which 
in the deep forests changed to demons and devoured their 
pursuers,^ for admonition ; but the fact that such stags had 
to transform themselves for evil work is a sufficient certifi- 
cate of character to prevent their being included among 
the animal demons proper, that is, such as have in whole 
or part supplied in their disposition to harm man the basis 
of a demonic representation. 

It will not be deemed wonderful that Rats bear a vene- 
rable rank in Demonology. The shudder which some 
nervous persons feel at sight of even a harmless mouse is 
a survival from the time when it was believed that in this 
form unshriven souls or unbaptized children haunted their 
former homes ; and probably it would be difficult to esti- 
mate the number of ghost-stories which have originated in 
their nocturnal scamperings. Many legends report the 
departure of unhallowed souls from human mouths in the 
shape of a Mouse. During the earlier Napoleonic wars 
mice were used in Southern Germany as diviners, by being 
set with inked feet on the map of Europe to show where 
the fatal Frenchmen would march. They gained this 
sanctity by a series of associations with force stretching 
back to the Hindu fable of a mouse delivering the ele- 
phant and the lion by gnawing the cords that bound them. 
The battle of the Frogs and Mice is ascribed to Homer. 
Mice are said to have foretold the first civil war in Rome 
by gnawing the gold in the temple. Rats appear in 
various legends as avengers. The uncles of King Popelus 
n., murdered by him and his wife and thrown into a lake, 
reappear as rats and gnaw the king and queen to death. 
^ E.?., the demon Huorco in the ' Pentamerone.' 

THE LION. 129 

The same fate overtakes Miskilaus of Poland, through the 
transformed widows and orphans he had wronged. Mouse 
Tower, standing in the middle of the Rhine, is the haunted 
monument of cruel Archbishop Hatto, of Mainz, who 
(anno 970) bade the famine-stricken people repair to his 
barn, wherein he shut them fast and burned them. But 
next morning an army of rats, having eaten all the corn 
in his granaries, darkened the roads to the palace. The 
prelate .sought refuge from them in the Tower, but they 
swam after, gnawed through the walls and devoured him.^ 

St. Gertrude, wearing the funereal mantle of Holda, 
commands an army of mice. In this respect she succeeds 
to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who also leads off children ; 
and my ingenious friend Mr. John Fiske suggests that this 
may be the reason why Irish servant-maids often show 
such frantic terror at sight of a mouse.^ The care of 
children is often intrusted to them, and the appearance of 
mice prognosticated of old the appearance of the praeter- 
natural rat-catcher and psychopomp. Pliny says that in 
his time it was considered fortunate to meet a white rat. 
The people of Bassorah always bow to these revered ani- 
mals when seen, no doubt to propitiate them. 

The Lion is a symbol of majesty and of the sun in his 
glory (reached in the zodiacal Leo), though here and there 
his original demonic character appears, — as in the com- 
bats of Indra, Samson, and Herakles with terrible lions. 
Euphemism, in one sense, fulfils the conditions of Sam- 
son's riddle — Sweetness coming out of the Strong — and 
has brought honey out of the Lion. His cruel character 
has subtly fallen to Sirius the Dog-star, to whom are 
ascribed the drought and malaria of ' dog-days' (when the 

^ See De Gubernatis' 'Zoological Mythology,' which contains further curious 
details on this subject. 

^ ' Myths and Myth-makers.' Boston : Osgood & Co. 

VOL. I. J 


sun is in Leo) ; but the primitive fact is intimated in seve- 
ral fables like that of Aristseus, who, born after his mother 
had been rescued from the Lybian lion, was worshipped 
in Ceos as a saviour from both droughts and lions. The 
Lion couching at the feet of beautiful Doorga in India, re- 
appears drawing the chariot of Aphrodite, and typifies the 
potency of beauty rather than, as Emerson interprets, that 
beauty depends on strength. The chariot of the Norse 
Venus, Freyja, was drawn by Cats, diminished forms of her 
Southern sister's steeds. It was partly by these routes the 
Cat came to play the sometimes beneficent role in Russian, 
and to some extent in German, French, and English folk- 
lore, — e.g.. Puss in Boots, Whittington and his Cat, and 
Madame D'Aulnoy's La Chatte Blanche. The demonic 
characteristics of the destructive cats have been inherited 
by the black, — or, as in Macbeth, the brindled, — cat. In 
Germany the approach of a cat to a sick-bed announces 
death ; to dream of one is an evil omen. In Hungary it 
is said every black cat becomes a witch at the age of 
seven. It is the witch's favourite riding-horse, but may 
sometimes be saved from such servitude by incision of the 
sign of the cross. A scratch from a black cat is thought 
to be the beginning of a fatal spell. 

De Gubernatis ^ has a very curious speculation con- 
cerning the origin of our familiar fable the Kilkenny 
Cats, which he traces to the German superstition which 
dreads the combat between cats as presaging death to 
one who witnesses it ; and this belief he finds reflected in 
the Tuscan child's ' game of souls,' in which the devil and 
angel are supposed to contend for the soul. The author 
thinks this may be one outcome of the contest between 
Night and Twilight in Mythology ; but, if the connec- 
tion can be traced, it would probably prove to be derived 

^ ' Zoological Mythology,' p. 64. 


from the struggle between the two angels of Death, one 
variation of which is associated with the legend of the 
strife for the body of Moses. The Book of Enoch says 
that Gabriel was sent, before the Flood, to excite the man- 
devouring giants to destroy one another. In an ancient 
Persian picture in my possession, animal monsters are 
shown devouring each other, while their proffered victim, 
like Daniel, is unharmed. The idea is a natural one, and 
hardly requires comparative tracing. 

Dr. Dennys tells us that in China there exists precisely 
the same superstition as in Scotland as to the evil omen 
of a cat (or dog) passing over a corpse. Brand and Pen- 
nant both mention this, the latter stating that the cat or 
dog that has so done is killed without mercy. This fact 
would seem to show that the fear is for the living, lest the 
soul of the deceased should enter the animal and become 
one of the innumerable werewolf or vampyre class of 
demons. But the origin of the superstition is no doubt 
told in the Slavonic belief that if a cat leap over a corpse 
the deceased person will become a vampyre. 

In Russia the cat enjoys a somewhat better reputation 
than it does in most other countries. Several peasants in 
the neighbourhood of Moscow assured me that while they 
would never be willing to remain in a church where a dog 
had entered, they would esteem it a good sign if a cat 
came to church. One aged woman near Moscow told me 
that when the Devil once tried to creep into Paradise he 
took the form of a mouse : the Dog and Cat were on 
guard at the gates, and the Dog allowed the evil one to 
pass, but the Cat pounced on him, and so defeated another 
treacherous attempt against human felicity. 

The Cat superstition has always been strong in Great 
Britain. It is, indeed, in one sense true, as old Howell 
wrote (1647) — ' We need not cross the sea for examples 

132 THE DOG. 

of this kind, we have too many (God wot) at home: 
King James a great while was loath to believe there 
were witches; but that which happened to my Lord 
Francis of Rutland's children convinced him, who were 
bewitched by an old woman that was a servant of Belvoir 
Castle, but, being displeased, she contracted with the 
Devil, who conversed with her in the form of a Cat, whom 
she called Rutterkin, to make away those children out of 
mere malignity and thirst of revenge.' It is to be feared 
that many a poor woman has been burned as a v/itch 
asfainst whom her cherished cat was the chief witness. 
It would be a curious psychological study to trace how 
far the superstition owns a survival in even scientific 
minds, — as in Buffon's vituperation of the cat, and in the 
astonishing story, told by Mr. Wood, of a cat which saw 
a ghost (anno 1877) ! 

The Dog, so long the faithful friend of man, and even, 
possibly, because of the degree to which he has caught 
his master's manners, has a large demonic history. In 
the Semitic stories there are many that indicate the path 
by which ' dog ' became the Mussulman synonym of 
infidel; and the one dog Katmir who in Arabic legend 
was admitted to Paradise for his faithful watching three 
hundred and nine years before the cave of the Seven 
Sleepers,^ must have drifted among the Moslems from 
India as the Ephesian Sleepers did from the christian 
world. In the beautiful episode of the ' Mahabharata,' 
Yudhisthira having journeyed to the door of heaven, 
refuses to enter into that happy abode unless his faithful 
dog is admitted also. He is told by Indra, ' My heaven 
hath no place for dogs ; they steal away our offerings on 
earth;' and again, 'If a dog but behold a sacrifice, men 
esteem it unholy and void.' This difficulty was solved 

^ Koran, xviii. 



by the Dog — Yama in disguise — revealing himself and 
praising his friend's fidelity. It is tolerably clear that it 
is to his connection with Yama, god of Death, and under 
the evolution of that dualism which divided the universe 
into upper and nether, that the Dog was degraded among 
our Aryan ancestors ; at the same time his sometimes 
wolfish disposition and some other natural characters sup- 
plied the basis of his demonic character. He was at once 
a dangerous and a corruptible guard. 

In the early Vedic Mythology it is the abode of the 
gods that is guarded by the two dogs, identified by solar 

Fig. 8.— Cerberus (Calmet). 

mythologists as the morning and evening twilight: a 
later phase shows them in the service of Yama, and they 
reappear in the guardian of the Greek Hades, Cerberus, 
and Orthros. The first of these has been traced to the 
Vedic Sarvara, the latter to the monster Vritra. 'Orthros' 
is the phonetical equivalent of Vritra. The bitch Sarama, 
mother of the two Vedic dogs, proved a treacherous 


guard, and was slain by Indra. Hence the Russian 
peasant comes fairly by another version of how the Dog, 
while on guard, admitted the Devil into heaven on being 
thrown a bone. But the two watch- dogs of the Hindu 
myth do not seem to bear an evil character. In a funeral 
hymn of the 'Rig- Veda' (x. 14), addressed to Yama, King 
of Death, we read : — ' By an auspicious path do thou 
hasten past the two four-eyed brindled dogs, the offspring 
of Sarama ; then approach the beautiful Pitris who re- 
joice together with Yama. Intrust him, O Yama, to thy' 
two watch-dogs, four-eyed, road-guarding, and man- 
observing. The two brown messengers of Yama, broad of 
nostril and insatiable, wander about among men ; may 
they give us again to-day the auspicious breath of life 
that we may see the sun ! ' 

And now thousands of years after this was said we find 
the Dog still regarded as the seer of ghosts, and watcher 
at the gates of death, of whose opening his howl forewarns. 
The howling of a dog on the night of December 9, 1871, 
at Sandringham, where the Prince of Wales lay ill, was 
thought important enough for newspapers to report to a 
shuddering country. I read lately of a dog in a German 
village which was supposed to have announced so many 
deaths that he became an object of general terror, and 
was put to death. In that country belief in the demonic 
character of the dog seems to have been strong enough 
to transmit an influence even to the powerful brain of 

In Goethe's poem, it was when Faust was walking with 
the student Wagner that the black Dog appeared, rushing 
around them in spiral curves — spreading, as Faust said, 'a 
magic coil as a snare around them;'^ that after this dog 

* Wagner. Behold him stop — upon his belly crawl . . , 
The clever scholar of the students, he ! 



had followed Faust into his study, it assumed a monstrous 
shape, until changed to a mist, from which Mephistopheles 
steps forth — ' the kernel of the brute ' — in guise of a travel- 
ling scholar. This is in notable coincidence with the 
archaic symbolism of the Dog as the most frequent form 
of the ' Lares ' (fig. 9), or household genii, originally 
because of its vigilance. The form 
here presented is nearly identical 
with the Cynocephalus, whom the 
learned author of ' Mankind : their 
Origin and Destiny,' identifies as the 
Adamic being set as a watch and in- 
structor in Eden (Gen. xvi. 15), an 
example of which, holding pen and 
tablet (as described by Horapollo), 
is given in that work from Philse. 
Chrysippus says that these were 
afterwards represented as young 
men clothed with dog-skins. Remnants of the tutelary 
character of the dog are scattered through German folk- 
lore : he is regarded as oracle, ghost-seer, and gifted with 
second sight; in Bohemia he is sometimes made to Hck 
an infant's face that it may see well. 

The passage in ' Faust' has been traced to Goethe's anti- 
pathy to dogs, as expressed in his conversation with Falk 
at the time of Wieland's death. * Annihilation is utterly 
out of the question ; but the possibility of being caught on 
the way by some more powerful and yet baser monas, and 
subordinated to it; this is unquestionably a very serious 
consideration ; and I, for my part, have never been able 
entirely to divest myself of the fear of it, in the way of a 
mere observation of nature.' At this moment, says Falk, 
a dog was heard repeatedly barking in the street. Goethe, 
sprang hastily to the window^ and called to it : 'Take what 

Fig. g, ^Canine Lar 


form you will, vile larva, you shall not subjugate me ! 
After some pause, he resumed with the remark: 'This 
rabble of creation is extremely offensive. It is a perfect 
pack of monades with which we are thrown together in 
this planetary nook ; their company will do us little honour 
with the inhabitants of other planets, if they happen to 
hear anything about them.' 

In visiting the house where Goethe once resided in 
Weimar, I was startled to find as the chief ornament of 
the hall a large bronze dog, of full size, and very dark, 
looking proudly forth, as if he possessed the Goethean 
monas after all. However, it is not probable that the 
poet's real dislike of dogs arose solely from that specula- 
tion about monades. It is more probable that in observing 
the old wall-picture in Auerbach's cellar, wherein a dog 
stands beside Mephistopheles, Goethe was led to consider 
carefully the causes of that intimacy. Unfortunately, and 
notwithstanding the fables and the sentiment which invest 
that animal, there are some very repulsive things about 
him, such as his tendency to madness and the infliction 
on man of a frightful death. The Greek Mania's 'fleet 
hounds' (Bacchae 977) have spread terrors far and wide. 

Those who carefully peruse the account given by Mr. 
Lewes of the quarrel between Karl August and Goethe, 
on account of the opposition of the latter to the introduc- 
tion of a performing dog on the Weimar stage — an incident 
which led to his resignation of his position of intendant of 
the theatre — may detect this aversion mingling with his 
disgust as an artist ; and it may be also suspected that 
it was not the mere noise which caused the tortures he 
described himself as having once endured at Gottingen 
from the barking of dogs. 

It is, however, not improbable that in the wild notion of 
Goethe, joined with his cynophobia, we find a survival of 


the belief of the Parsees of Surat, who venerate the Dog 
above all other animals, and who, when one is dying, place 
a dog's muzzle near his mouth, and make it bark twice, so 
that it may catch the departing soul, and bear it to the 
waiting angel. 

The devil- worshippers of Travancore to this day declare 
that the evil power approaches them in the form of a Dog, 
as Mephistopheles approached Faust. But before the 
superstition reached Goethe's poem it had undergone 
many modifications ; and especially its keen scent had 
influenced the Norse imagination to ascribe to it prseter- 
natural wisdom. Thus we read in the Saga of Hakon the 
Good, that when Eystein the Bad had conquered Dron- 
theim, he offered the people choice of his slave Thorer or 
his dog Sauer to be their king. They chose the Dog. 
' Now the dog was by witchcraft gifted with three men's 
wisdom ; and when he barked he spoke one word and 
barked two.' This Dog wore a collar of gold, and sat on 
a throne, but, for all his wisdom and power, seems to have 
been a dog still; for when some wolves invaded the cattle, 
he attacked and was torn to pieces by them. 

Among the negroes of the Southern States in America 
I have found the belief that the most frequent form of a 
diabolical apparition is that of a large Dog with fiery eyes, 
which may be among them an original superstition attri- 
butable to their horror of the bloodhound, by which, in 
some regions, they were pursued when attempting to escape. 
Among the whites of the same region I have never been 
able to find any instance of the same belief, though belief 
in the presage of the howling dog is frequent ; and it is 
possible that this is a survival from some region in Africa, 
where the Dog has an evil name of the same kind as the 
scape-goat. Among some tribes in Fazogl there is an 
annual carnival at which every one does as he likes. The 


king is then seated in the open air, a dog tied to the leg 
of his chair, and the animal is then stoned to death. 

Mark Twain ^ records the folklore of a village of Mis- 
souri, where we find lads quaking with fear at the howling 
of a 'stray dog' in the night, but indifferent to the howl- 
ing of a dog they recognise, which may be a form of the 
common English belief that it is unlucky to be followed 
by a ' strange ' dog. From the same book it appears also 
that the dog will always have his head in the direction of 
the person whose doom is signified : the lads are entirely 
relieved when they find the howling animal has his back 
turned to them. 

It is remarkable that these fragments of European 
superstition should meet in the Far West a plentiful crop 
of their like which has sprung up among the aborigines, 
as the following extract from Mr. Brinton's work, ' Myths 
of the New World,' will show : ' Dogs were supposed to 
stand in some peculiar relation to the moon, probably 
because they howl at it and run at night, uncanny practices 
which have cost them dear in reputation. The custom 
prevailed among tribes so widely asunder as Peruvians, 
Tupis, Creeks, Iroquois, Algonquins, and Greenland 
Eskimos to thrash the curs most soundly during an 
eclipse. The Creeks explained this by saying that the 
big Dog was swallowing the sun, and that by whipping the 
Httle ones they could make him desist. What the big Dog 
was they were not prepared to say. We know. It was 
the night goddess, represented by the Dog, who was thus 
shrouding the world at mid-day. In a better sense, they 
represented the more agreeable characteristics of the lunar 
goddess. Xochiquetzal, most fecund of Aztec divinities, 
patroness of love, of sexual pleasure, and of child-birth, 
was likewise called Itzcidnan, which, literally translated, 
1 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.' London : Chalto & Windus. 


is ' bitch-mother.' This strange and to us so repugnant 
title for a goddess was not without parallel elsewhere. 
When in his wars the Inca Pachacutec carried his arms 
into the province of Huanca, he found its inhabitants had 
installed in their temples the figure of a Dog as their 
highest deity. . . . This canine canonisation explains why 
in some parts of Peru a priest was called, by way of honour, 
allco, Dog ! . . . Many tribes on the Pacific coast united in 
the adoration of a wild species, the coyote, the Canis latrans 
of naturalists.' Of the Dog-demon Chantico the legend 
of the Nahuas was, ' that he made a sacrifice to the gods 
without observing a preparatory fast, for which he was 
punished by being changed into a Dog. He then invoked 
the god of death to deliver him, which attempt to evade 
a just punishment so enraged the divinities that they 
immersed the world in water/ 

The common phrase 'hell-hounds' has come to us by 
various routes. Diana being degraded to Hecate, the dogs 
of Hades, Orthros and Cerberus, multiplied into a pack of 
hounds for her chase, were degraded with her into infernal 
howlers and hunters. A like degradation of Odin's hunt 
took place at a later date. The Wild Huntsman, being a 
diabolical character, is considered elsewhere. Concern- 
ing the Dog, it may be further said here, that there are 
probably various characteristics of that animal reflected in 
his demonic character. His liability to become rabid, and 
to afflict human beings with hydrophobia, appears to have 
had some part in it. Spinoza alludes to the custom in his 
time of destroying persons suffering from this canine rabies 
by suffocation ; and his English biographer and editor, 
Dr. Willis, tells me that in his boyhood in Scotland he 
always heard this spoken of as the old custom. That such 
treatment could have prevailed can hardly be ascribed to 
anything but a belief in the demonic character of the rabid 


dog, cognate with the unconscious superstition which still 
causes rural magistrates to order a dog which has bitten 
any one to be slain. The notion is, that if the dog goes 
mad thereafter, the man will also. Of course it would be 
rational to preserve the dog's life carefully, in order that, if 
it continues healthy, the bitten may feel reassured, as he 
cannot be if it be dead. 

But the degradation of the dog had a cause even in his 
fidelity as a watch. For this, as we have just seen, made 
him a common form among Lares or domestic demons. 
The teraphim also were often in this shape. Christianity 
had therefore a special reason for ascribing an infernal 
character to these little idols, which interfered with the 
popular dependence on the saints. It will thus be seen 
that there were many causes operating to create that for- 
midable class of demons which were called in the Middle 
Ages Cynocephaloi. The ancient holy pictures of Russia 
especially abound in these dog-headed devils ; in the six- 
teenth century they were frequently represented rending 
souls in hell ; and sometimes the dragon of the Apocalypse 
is represented with seven horrible canine heads. 

M. Toussenel, in his transcendental interpretations, has 
identified the Wolf as the bandit and outlaw.^ The pro- 
verbial mediaeval phrase for an outlaw — one who wears a 
teste l(Bve, caput lupinum^ wulfesheofod, which the ingenious 
author perhaps remembered — is of good antiquity. The 
wolf is called robber in the ' Rig- Veda,' and he is there also 
demonised, since we find him fleeing before a devotee. (In 
the Zend ' Vendidad' the souls of the pious fear to meet the 
wolf on the way to heaven.) The god Pushan is invoked 
against the evil wolf, the malignant spirit.^ Cardano says 

^ ' Spirit of the Beasts of France,' ch. i, 

2 'Rigv.' i. 105, i8, 42, 2 ; ' Vendidad, 'xix. 108. Quoted by De Gubernatis 
a- Zoolog. Mythology, ' ii. 142), to whose invaluable work I am largely indebted 
in this chapter. 

THE WOLF. 14 1 

that to dream of a wolf announces a robber. There is in 
the wolf, at the same time, that always attractive love of 
liberty which, in the well-known fable, makes him pre- 
fer leanness to the comfort of the collar-wearing dog, 
which makes him among demonic animals sometimes the 
same as the mighty huntsmen Nimrod and shaggy Esau 
among humanised demons. One is not surprised to find 
occasionally good stories about the wolf. Thus the Nez 
Perces tribe in America trace the origin of the human 
race to a wolf. They say that originally, when there were 
nothing but animals, there was a huge monster which 
devoured them whole and alive. This monster swal- 
lowed a wolf, who, when he entered its belly, found the 
animals therein snarling at and biting one another as 
they had done on the earth outside. The wolf exhorted 
them that their common sufferings should teach them 
friendliness, and finally he induced them to a system of 
co-operation by which they made their way out through 
the side of the monster, which instantly perished. The 
animals so released were at once transformed to men, 
how and why the advocates of co-operation will readily 
understand, and founded the Nez Perces Indians. The 
myths of Asia and Europe are unhappily antipodal to this 
in spirit and form, telling of human beings transformed to 
wolves. In the Norse Mythology, however, there stands 
a demon wolf whose story bears a touch of feeling, though 
perhaps it was originally the mere expression for physical 
law. This is the wolf Fenris, which, from being at first 
the pet of the gods and lapdog of the goddesses, became 
so huge and formidable that Asgard itself was endan- 
gered. All the skill and power of the gods could not 
forge chains which might chain him ; he snapped them 
like straws and toppled over the mountains to which he 
was fastened. But the little Elves workinsf underground 


made that chain so fine that none could see or feel it, — ■ 
fashioned it out of the beards of women, the breath of fish, 
noise of the cat's footfall, spittle of birds, sinews of bears, 
roots of stones, — by which are meant things non-existent. 
This held him. Fenris is chained till the final destruction, 
when he shall break loose and devour Odin. The fine 
chain that binds ferocity, — is it the love that can tame all 
creatures t Is it the sunbeam that defines to the strongest 
creature its habitat .'' 

The two monsters formed when Rahu was cloven in 
twain, in Hindu Mythology, reappear in Eddaic fable as 
the wolves SkoU and Hati, who pursue the sun and moon. 
As it is said in the Voluspa : — 

Eastward in the Iron-wood 
The old one sitteth, 
And there bringeth forth 
Fenrir's fell kindred. 
Of these one, the mightiest. 
The moon's devourer, 
In form most fiend-like, 
And filled with the life-blood 
Of the dead and the dying. 
Reddens with ruddy gore 
The seats of the high gods. 

Euphemism attending propitiation of such monsters 
may partly explain the many good things told of wolves 
in popular legend. The stories of the she-wolf nourish- 
ing children, as Romulus and Remus, are found in many 
lands. They must, indeed, have had some prestige, to 
have been so largely adopted in saintly tradition. Like 
the bears that Elisha called to devour the children, the 
wolves do not lose their natural ferocity by becoming 
pious. They devour heretics and sacrilegious people. 
One guarded the head of St. Edmund the Martyr of 
England ; another escorted St. Oddo, Abbot of Cluny, as 



his ancestors did the priests of Cluny. The skin of the 
wolf appears in folklore as a charm against hydrophobia ; 
its teeth are best for cutting children's gums, and its bite, if 
survived, is an assurance against any future wound or pain. 
The tragedy which is so foolishly sprung upon the 
nerves of children, Little Red Riding-Hood, shows the 
wolf as a crafty animal. There are many legends of a like 
character which have made it a favourite figure in which 

Fig. 10.— The Wolf as Confessor (probably Dutch). 

to represent pious impostors. In our figure 10, the wolf 
appears as the ' dangerous confessor ; ' it was intendedj as 
Mr. Wright thought, for Mary of Modena, Queen of James 
II., and Father Petre. At the top of the original are the 
words '' Converte Angliain' and beneath, ' It is a foolish 
sheep that makes the wolf her confessor.' The craft of the 
wolf is represented in a partly political partly social turn 
given by an American fabulist to one of yEsop's fables. 

144 THE BOAR. 

The wolf having accused the lamb he means to devour of 
fouling the stream, and receiving answer that the lamb was ■ 
drinking farther down the current, alters the charge and 
says, ' You opposed my candidature at the caucus two 
years ago.' ' I was not then born,' replies the lamb. The 
wolf then says, 'Any one hearing my accusations would 
testify that I am insane and not responsible for my 
actions,' and thereupon devours the lamb with full faith in 
a jury of his countrymen. M. Toussenel says the wolf is 
a terrible strategist, albeit the less observant have found 
little in his character to warrant this attribute of craft, his 
physiognomy and habits showing him a rather transparent 
highwayman. It is probable that the fables of this charac- 
ter have derived that trait from his association with demons 
and devils supposed to take on his shape. 

In a beautiful hymn to the Earth in the * Atharva Veda' 
it is said, ' The Earth, which endureth the burden of the 
oppressor, beareth up the abode of the lofty and of the 
lowly, sufifereth the hog, and giveth entrance to the wild 
boar.' Boar-hounds in Brittany and some other regions 
are still kept at Government expense. There are many 
indications of this kind that in early times men had to 
defend themselves vigorously against the ravages of the 
wild boar, and, as De Gubernatis remarks,^ its character 
is generally demoniacal. The contests of Hercules with 
the Erymanthian, and of Meleager with the Caly- 
donian, Boar, are enough to show that it was through its 
dangerous character that he became sacred to the gods of 
war. Mars and Odin. But it is also to be remembered 
that the third incarnation of Vishnu was as a Wild Boar; 
and as the fearless exterminator of snakes the pig merited 
this association with the Preserver. Provided with a thick 
coat of fat, no venom can harm him unless it be on the 

1 ' Zoolog. Myth.,' ii. 7. Triibner & Co. 



lip. It may be this ability to defy the snake-ordeal which, 
after its uncleanliness had excepted the hog from human 
voracity in some regions, assigned it a diabolical character. 
In rabbinical fable the hog and rat were created by Noah 
to clear the Ark of filth ; but the rats becoming a nuisance, 
he evoked a cat from the lion's nose. 

It is clear that our Asiatic and Norse ancestors never 
had such a ferocious beast to encounter as the Grisly 
Bear {Ursus horribilis) of America, else the appearances 
of this animal in Demonology could never have been so 
respectable. The comparatively timid Asiatic Bear {U. 
labiatus), the small and almost harmless Thibetan species 
{U. Thzbctanus), would appear to have preponderated over 
the fiercer but rarer Bears of the North in giving us the 
Indo-Germanic fables, in which this animal is, on the 
whole, a favourite. Emerson finds in the fondness of the 
English for their national legend of ' Beauty and the 
Beast ' a sign of the Englishman's own nature. ' He is a 
bear with a soft place in his heart ; he says No, and helps 
you.' The old legend found place in the heart of a par- 
ticularly representative American also — Theodore Parker, 
who loved to call his dearest friend ' Bear,' and who, on 
arriving in Europe, went to Berne to see his favourites, 
from which its name is derived. The fondness of the 
Bear for honey — whence its Russian name, inedv-jed, 
'honey-eater' — had probably something to do with its 
dainty taste for roses and its admiration for female beauty, 
as told in many myths. In his comparative treatment of 
the mythology of the Bear, De Gubernatis ^ mentions the 
transformation of King Trisankus into a bear, and con- 
nects this with the constellation of the Great Bear ; but 
it may with equal probability be related to the many 
fables of princes who remain under the form of a bear 

^ 'Zooloe. Myth.,' ii. loZ seq. 
VOL.1. a J' ' ^ ^ 


until the spell is broken by the kiss of some maiden. It 
is worthy of note that in the Russian legends the Bear is 
by no means so amiable as in those of our Western folk- 
lore. In one, the Bear-prince lurking in his fountain holds 
by the beard the king who, while hunting, tries to quench 
his thirst, and releases him only after a promise to deliver 
up whatever he has at home without his knowledge ; 
the twins, Ivan and Maria, born during his absence, are 
thus doomed — are concealed, but discovered by the bear, 
who carries them away. They are saved by help of 
the bull. When escaping the bear Ivan throws down 
a comb, which becomes a tangled forest, which, how- 
ever, the bear penetrates ; but the spread-out towel 
which becomes a lake of fire sends the bear back.^ It 
is thus the ferocious Arctic Bear which gives the story 
its sombre character. Such also is the Russian tale 
of the Bear with iron hairs, which devastates the king- 
dom, devouring the inhabitants until Ivan and Helena 
alone remain ; after the two in various ways try to escape, 
their success is secured by the Bull, which, more kindly 
than Elisha, blinds the Bear with his horns.^ (The Bear 
retires in winter.) In Norwegian story the Bear becomes 
milder, — a beautiful youth by night, whose wife loses him 
because she wishes to see him by lamplight : her place is 
taken by a long-nosed princess, until, by aid of the golden 
apple and the rose, she recovers her husband. In the 
Pentameron,^ Pretiosa, to escape the persecutions of her 
father, goes into the forest disguised as a .she-bear ; she 
nurses and cures the prince, who is enamoured of her, and 
at his kiss becomes a beautiful maid. The Bear thus has 
a twofold development in folklore. He used to be killed 
(13th century) at the end of the Carnival in Rome, as the 

^ Afanasief, v. 28. ^ Ibid., v. 27. 

^ ii. 6 (De Gubernatis, li. 117). 


Devil.^ The Siberians, if they have killed a bear, hang his 
skin on a tree and apologise humbly to it, declaring that 
they did not forge the metal that pierced it, and they 
meant the arrow for a bird ; from which it is plain that 
they rely more on its stupidity than its good heart. In 
Canada, when the hunters kill a bear, one of them ap- 
proaches it and places between his teeth the stem of his 
pipe, breathes in the bowl, and thus, filling with smoke 
the animal's mouth, conjures its soul not to be offended at 
his death. As the bear's ghost makes no reply, the hunts- 
man, in order to know if his prayer is granted, cuts the 
thread under the bear's tongue, and keeps it until the end 
of the hunt, when a large fire is kindled, and all the band 
solemnly throw in it what threads of this kind they have ; 
if these sparkle and vanish, as is natural, it is a sign that 
the bears are appeased.^ In Greenland the great demon, 
at once feared and invoked, especially by fishermen, is 
Torngarsuk, a huge Bear with a human arm. He is in- 
visible to all except his priests, the Anguekkoks, who are 
the only physicians of that people. 

The extreme point of demonic power has always been 
held by the Serpent. So much, however, will have to be 
said of the destructiveness and other characteristics of this 
animal when we come to consider at length its unique 
position in Mythology, that I content myself here with a 
pictorial representation of the Singhalese Demon of Ser- 
pents. If any one find himself shuddering at sight of a 

^ Rather the devil of lust than of cruelty, according to Du Cange : "Occi- 
dunt ursum, occiditur diabolus, id est, temptator nostrae carnis." 

2 De Plancy (Diet. Inf.), who also relates an amusing legend of the bear 
who came to a German choir, as seen by a sleepy chorister as he awoke ; the 
naive narrator of which adds, that this was the devil sent to hold the singers 
to their duty ! Tlie Lives of the Saints abound with legends of pious bears, 
such as that commemorated along with St. Sergius in Troitska Lavra, near 
Moscow ; and that which St. Gallus was ungracious enough to banish from 
Switzerland a'ter it had brought him firewood in proof of its conversion. 



snake, even in a country where they are few and compara- 
tively harmless, perhaps this figure (ii) may suggest the 
final cause of the shudder. 

In conclusion, it may be said that not only every animal 
ferocity, but every force which can be exerted injuriously, 
has had its demonic representations. Every claw, fang. 

Fig. II. — Singhalese Demon of Serpents. 

sting, hoof, horn, has been as certain to be catalogued 
and labelled in demonology as in physical science. It is 
remarkable also how superstition rationalises. Thus the 
horn in the animal world, though sometimes dangerous to 
man, was more dangerous to animals, which, as foes of the 
horned animals, were foes to man's interests. The early 
herdsman knew the value of the horn as a defence against 
dog and wolf, besides its other utilities. Consequently, 
although it was necessary that the horn-principle, so to 
say, in nature must be regarded as one of its retractile and 
cruel features, man never demonised the animals whose 
butt was most dangerous, but for such purpose transferred 



the horns to the head of some nondescript creature. The 
horn has thus become a natural weapon of man-demons. 
The same evolution has taken place in America ; for, 
although among its aboriginal legends we may meet with 
an occasional demon-buffalo, such are rare and of apocry- 
phal antiquity. The accompanying American figure (12) 
is from a photograph sent me by the President of Van- 
derbilt University, Tennessee, who found it in an old 

Fig. 12. — American Indian Demon. 

mound (Red Indian) in the State of Georgia. It is pro- 
bably as ancient as any example of a human head with 
horns in the world ; and as it could not have been in- 
fluenced by European notions, it supplies striking evi- 
dence that the demonisation of the forces and dangers 
of nature belongs to the structural action of the human 

( 150 ) 



Aryas, Dasyus, Nagas — Yakkhos — Lycians — Ethiopians — Hirpini— 
Polites — Sosipolis — Were-wolves— Goths and Scythians — Giants 
and Dwarfs — Berserkers — Britons — Iceland — Mimacs — Gog and 


We paint the Devil black, says George Herbert. On the 
other hand the negro paints him white, with reason enough. 
The name of the Devil at Mozambique is Muzungu Maya, 
or Wicked White Man. Of this demon they make little 
images of extreme hideousness, which are kept by people 
on the coast, and occasionally displayed, in the belief that 
if the White Devil is lurking near them he will vanish out 
of sheer disgust with a glimpse of his own ugliness. The 
hereditary horror of the kidnapper displayed in this droll 
superstition may possibly have been assisted by the fami- 
liarity with all things infernal represented in the language 
of the white sailors visiting the coast. Captain Basil Hall, 
on visiting Mozambique about fifty years ago, found that 
the native dignitaries had appropriated the titles of English 
noblemen, and a dumpy little Duke of Devonshire met him 
with his whole vocabulary of English, — ' How do you do, 
sir. Very glad see you. Damn your eyes. Johanna man 
like English very much. God damn. That very good .-' 
Eh ? Devilish hot, sir. What news ? Hope your ship stay 
too long while very. Damn my eye. Very fine day.' 
In most parts of India Siva also is painted white, which 


would indicate that there too was found reason to associate 
diabolism with the white face. It is said the Thugs 
spared Englishmen because their white faces suggested 
relationship to Siva. In some of the ancient Indian 
books the monster whom Indra slew, Vritra, is called 
Dasyu (enemy), a name which in the Vedas designates 
the Aborigines as contrasted with the Aryans of the 
North. ' In the old Sanskrit, in the hymns of the 
Veda, arya occurs frequently as a national name and as a 
name of honour, comprising the worshippers of the gods 
of the Brahmans, as opposed to their enemies, who are 
called in the Veda Dasyus. Thus one of the gods, Indra, 
who in some respects answers to the Greek Zeus, is invoked 
in the following words (Rigveda, i. 57, 8) : — ' Know thou 
the Aryas, O Indra, and those who are Dasyus ; punish the 
lawless, and deliver them unto thy servant ! Be thou the 
mighty helper of the worshippers, and I will praise all 
these thy deeds at the festivals.' ^ 

Naglok (snakeland) was at an early period a Hindu 
name for hell. But the Nagas were not real snakes, — in 
that case they might have fared better, — but an aboriginal 
tribe in Ceylon, believed by the Hindus to be of serpent 
origin, — 'naga' being an epithet for 'native.'^ The Sin- 
ghalese, on the other hand, have adapted the popular 
name for demons in India, 'Rakshasa,' in their Rakseyo, a 
tribe of invisible cannibals without supernatural powers 
(except invisibility), who no doubt merely embody the 
traditions of some early race. The dreaded powers were 
from another tribe designated Yakkhos (demons), and be- 

1 Max Miiller, ' Science of Language,' i. 275. 

'■^ The term is now used very vaguely. Mr. Talboys Wheeler, speaking of 
the ' Scythic Nagas ' (Hist, of India, i. 147), says : ' In process of time these 
Nagas became identified with serpents, and the result has been a strange con 
fusion between serpents and human beings.' In the ' Padma Purana ' we read 
of ' serpent-like men.' (See my 'Sacred Anthology,' p. 263.) 


lieved to have the power of rendering themselves invisible. 
Buddha's victories over these demonic beings are related 
in the ' Mahawanso,' ' It was known (by inspiration) by the 
vanquishers that in Lanka, filled by yakkhos, . . . would be 
the place where his religion would be glorified. In like 
manner, knowitig that in the centre of Lanka, on the de- 
lightful bank of a river, ... in the agreeable Mahanaga 
garden, . . . there was a great assembly of the principal 
yakkhos, . . . the deity of happy advent, approaching 
that great congregation, . . . immediately over their 
heads hovering in the air, . . . struck terror into them 
by rains, tempests, and darkness. The yakkhos, over- 
whelmed with awe, supplicated of the vanquisher to be 
released from their terror. . . . The consoling vanquisher 
thus replied : ' I will release ye yakkhos from this your 
terror and affliction : give ye unto me here by unanimous 
consent a place for me to alight on.' All these yakkhos 
replied : ' Lord, we confer on thee the whole of Lanka, 
grant thou comfort to us.' The vanquisher thereupon 
dispelling their terror and cold shivering, and spread- 
ing his carpet of skin on the spot bestowed on him, 
he -there seated himself. He then caused the aforesaid 
carpet, refulgent with a fringe of flames, to extend itself 
on all sides : they, scorched by the flames, (receding) stood 
around on the shores (of the island) terrified. The Saviour 
then caused the delightful isle of Giri to approach for 
them. As soon as they transferred themselves thereto 
(to escape the conflagration), he restored it to its former 

This legend, which reminds one irresistibly of the ex- 
pulsion of reptiles by saints from Ireland, and other 
Western regions, is the more interesting if it be considered 
that these Yakkhos are the Sanskrit Yakshas, attendants 

^ ' Mahawanso ' (Turnour), pp. 3, 6. , 


on Kuvera, the god of wealth, employed in the care of 
his garden and treasures. They are regarded as generally 
inoffensive. The transfer by English authorities of the 
Tasmanians from their native island to another, .with the 
result of their extermination, may suggest the possible 
origin of the story of Giri. 

Buddha's dealings with the serpent-men or nagas is 
related as follows in the same volume : — 

'The vanquisher (2>., of the five deadly sins), . . . in the 
fifth year of his buddhahood, while residing at the garden 
of (the prince) Jeto, observing that, on account of a disputed 
claim for a gem-set throne between t! naga Mahodaro 
and a similar Chalodaro, a maternal uncle and nephew, a 
conflict was at hand, . . . taking with him his sacred dish 
and robes, out of compassion to the nagas, visited Nagadipo, 
. . . These mountain nagas were, moreover, gifted with 
supernatural powers. . . . The Saviour and dispeller of the 
darkness of sin, poising himself in the air over the centre 
of the assembly, caused a terrifying darkness to these 
nagas. Attending to the prayer of the dismayed nagas, 
he again called forth the light of day. They, overjoyed at 
having seen the deity of felicitous advent, bowed down at 
the feet of the divine teacher. To them the vanquisher 
preached a sermon of reconciliation. Both parties rejoic- 
ing thereat, made an offering of the gem-throne to the 
divine sage. The divine teacher, alighting on the earth, 
seated himself on the throne, and was served by the naga 
kings with celestial food and beverage. The lord of the 
universe procured for eighty kotis of nagas, dwelling on 
land and in the waters, the salvation of the faith and the 
state of piety.' 

At every step in the conversion of the native Singhalese, 
— the demons and serpent-men, — Buddha and his apos- 
tles are represented as being attended by the devas, — the 


deities of India, — who are spoken of as if glad to become 
menials of the new religion. But we find Zoroaster using 
this term in a demonic sense, and describing alien wor- 
shippers as children of the Devas (a Semite would say, 
Sons of Belial). And in the conventional Persian pictures 
of the Last Judgment (moslem), the archfiend has the 
Hindu complexion. A similar phenomenon may be 
observed in various regions. In the mediaeval frescoes of 
Moscow, representing infernal tortures, it is not very 
difficult to pick out devils representing the physical char- 
acteristics of most of the races with which the Muscovite 
has struggled in early times. There are also black Ethio- 
pians among them, which may be a result of devils being 
considered the brood of Tchernibog, god of Darkness ; 
but may also, not impossibly, have come of such apocry- 
phal narratives as that ascribed to St. Augustine. ' I was 
already Bishop of Hippo when I went into Ethiopia with 
some servants of Christ, there to preach the gospel. In 
this country we saw many men and women without heads, 
who had two great eyes in their breasts ; and in countries 
still more southerly we saw a people who had but one eye 
in their foreheads.' ^ 

In considering animal demons, the primitive demonisa- 
tion of the Wolf has been discussed. But it is mainly as 
a transformation of man and a type of savage foes that 
this animal has been a prominent figure in Mythology. 

Professor Max Miiller has made it tolerably clear that 
Bellerophon means Slayer of the Hairy ; and that Belleros 
is the transliteration of Sanskrit varvara, a term applied 
to the dark Aborigines by their Aryan invaders, equivalent 
to barbarians.^ This points us for the origin of the title 
rather to Bellerophon's conquest of the Lycians, or Wolf- 
men, than to his victory over the Chimaera. The story of 

' Ser. xxxiii. Hardly consistent with De Civ. Dei, xvi. 8. " 'Chips,' ii. 


Lycaon and his sons — barbarians defying the gods and 
devouring human flesh — turned into wolves by Zeus, con- 
nects itself with the Lycians (hairy, wolfish barbarians), 
whom Bellerophon conquered. 

It was not always, however, the deity that conquered in 
such encounters. In the myth of Soracte, the Wolf is seen 
able to hold his own against the gods. Soranus, wor- 
shipped on Mount Soracte, was at Rome the god of Light, 
and is identified with Apollo by Virgil.^ A legend states 
that he became associated with the infernal gods, though 
called Diespiter, because of the sulphurous exhalations 
from the side of Mount Soracte. It is said that once 
when some shepherds were performing a sacrifice, some 
wolves seized the flesh ; the shepherds, following them, 
were killed by the poisonous vapours of the mountain to 
which the wolves retreated. An oracle gave out that this 
was a punishment for their pursuing the sacred animals ; 
and a general pestilence also having followed, it was 
declared that it could only cease if the people were all 
changed to wolves and lived by prey. Hence the Hirpini, 
from the Sabine ' hirpus^ a wolf. The story is a variant 
of that of the Hirpinian Samnites, who were said to have 
received their name from their ancestors having followed 
a sacred wolf when seeking their new home. The Wolf 
ceremonies were, like the Roman Lupercalia, for pur- 
poses of purification. The worshippers ran naked through 
blazing fires. The annual festival, which Strabo describes 
as occurring in the grove of Feronia, goddess of Nature, 
became at last a sort of fair. Its history, however, is 
very significant of the formidable character of the Hirpini, 
or Wolf-tribe, which could alone have given rise to such 
euphemistic celebrations of the wolf. 

It is interesting to note that in some regions this wolf 
•^ ' Sancti custos Soractis Apollo.' — ^n. xi. 785. 


of superstition was domesticated into a dog. Pierius says 
there was a temple of Vulcan in Mount ^Etna, in whose 
grove were dogs that fawned on the pious, but rent the 
polluted worshippers. It will be seen by the left form 
of Fig. 13 that the wolf had a diminution, in pictorial 
representation similar to that which the canine Lares 
underwent (p. 135). This picture is referred by John 
Beaumont^ to Cartarius' work on 'The Images of the 
Gods of the Ancients; ' the form wearing a wolf's skin 
and head is that of the demon Polites, who infested 
Temesa in Italy, according to a story related by Pausanias, 
Ulysses, in his wanderings, having come to this town, one 
of his companions was stoned to death for having ravished 
a virgin ; after which his ghost appeared in form of this 
demon, which had to be appeased, by the direction of 
the oracle of Apollo, by the annual sacrifice to him of 
the most beautiful virgin in the place. Euthymus, 
enamoured of a virgin about to be so offered, gave 
battle to this demon, and, having expelled him from 
the country, married the virgin. However, since the in- 
fernal powers cannot be deprived of their rights without 
substitution, this saviour of Temesa disappeared in the 
river Csecinus. 

The form on the right in Fig. 13 represents the genius 
of the city of Rome, and is found on some of Hadrian's 
coins ; he holds the cornucopia and the sacrificial dish. 
The child and the serpent in the same picture represent 
the origin of the demonic character attributed to the 
Eleans by the Arcadians. This child-and-serpent symbol, 
which bears resemblance to certain variants of Bel and 
the Dragon, no doubt was brought to Elea, or Velia in 
Italy, by the Phocseans, when they abandoned their Ionian 
homes rather than submit to Cyrus, and founded that 
1 'Treatise of Spirits,' by Jolin Beaumont, Gent., London, 1705. 



town, B.C. 544. The two forms were jointly worshipped 
with annual sacrifices in the temple of Lucina, under the 
name Sosipolis. The legend of this title is related by 
Pausanias. When the Arcadians invaded the Eleans, a 
woman came to the Elean commander with an infant at her 
breast, and said that she had been admonished in a dream 

Fig. 13. — Italian and Roman Genii. 

to place her child in front of the army. This was done ; 
as the Arcadians approached the child was changed to a 
serpent, and, astounded at the prodigy, they fled without 
giving battle. The child was represented by the Eleans 
decorated with stars, and holding the cornucopia ; by the 
Arcadians, no doubt, in a less celestial way. It is not 
uncommon in Mythology to find the most dangerous 
demons represented under some guise of weakness, as, 
for instance, among the South Africans, some of whom 
recently informed English officers that the Galeikas were 
led against them by a terrible sorcerer in the form of a 
hare. The mo&t fearful traditional demon ever slain by 


hero in Japan was Shuden Dozi — the Child-faced Drinker. 
In Ceylon the apparition of a demon is said to be frequently 
under the form of a woman with a child in her arms. 

Many animal demons are mere fables for the ferocity of 
human tribes. The Were- wolf superstition, which exists still 
in Russia, where the transform.ed monster is called volkod- 
Idk {yolk, a wolf, and dlak, hair), might even have originated 
in the costume of Norse barbarians and huntsmen. The 
belief was always more or less rationalised, resembling that 
held by Verstegan three hundred years ago, and which 
may be regarded as prevalent among both the English and 
Flemish people of his day. ' These Were-wolves,' he says, 
' are certain sorcerers, who, having anointed their bodies 
with an ointment they make by the instinct of the devil, 
and putting on a certain enchanted girdle, do not only 
unto the view of others seem as wolves, but to their own 
thinking have both the nature and shape of wolves so long 
as they wear the said girdle ; and they do dispose them- 
selves as very wolves, in worrying and killing, and waste 
of human creatures.' During the Franco-German war of 
1870-71, a family of ladies on the German side of the 
Rhine, sitting up all night in apprehension, related to me 
such stories of the ' Turcos' that I have since found no 
difficulty in understanding the belief in weird and praeter- 
natural wolves which once filled Europe with horror. The 
facility with which the old Lycian wolf-girdle, so to say, 
was caught up and worn in so many countries where race- 
wars were chronic for many ages, renders it nearly certain 
that this superstition (Lycanthropy), however it may have 
originated, was continued through the custom of ascribing 
demonic characteristics to hostile and fierce races. It has 
been, indeed, a general opinion that the theoretical belief 
originated in the Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis. 
Thus Shakspere : — 


Thou almost makes me waver in my faith, 

To hold opinion with Pythagoras, 

That souls of animals infuse themselves 

Into the trunks of men : thy currish spirit 

Governed a wolf, who, hanged for human slaughter, 

Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet, 

And whilst thou layest in thy unhallowed dam 

Infused itself in thee ; for thy desires 

Are wolfish, bloody, starved, and ravenous. 

But the superstition is much older than Pythagoras, who,' 
no doubt, tried to turn it into a moral theory of retribu- 
tions, — as indeed did Plato in his story of the Vision of 
Er the Armenian. 

Professor Weber and others have adduced evidence in- 
dicating that although belief in the transformation of men 
into beasts was not developed in the Vedic age of India, 
the matrix of it was there. But of our main fact — the 
association of demonic characters with certain tribes — 
India has presented many examples. In the mountains 
of Travancore there are tribes which are still generally 
believed to be on terms of especial familiarity with the 
devils of that region ; and the dwellers on the plains relate 
that on these mountains gigantic demons, sixteen or seven- 
teen feet high, may sometimes be seen hurling firebrands 
at each other. 

Professor Monier Williams contributes an interesting 
note concerning this general phase of South - Indian 
demonology. ' Furthermore, it must not be forgotten 
that although a belief in devils and homage to bhutas, 
or spirits, of all kinds is common all over India, yet 
what is called devil-worship is far more systematically 
practised in the South of India and Ceylon than in the 
North. And the reason may be that as the invading 
Aryans advanced towards Southern India, they found 
portions of it peopled by wild aboriginal savages, whose 


behaviour and aspect appeared to them to resemble that 
of devils. The Aryan mind, therefore, naturally pictured 
to itself the regions of the South as the chief resort 
and stronghold of the demon race, and the dread of 
demonical agency became more deeply rooted in Southern 
India than in the North. Curiously enough, too, it is 
commonly believed in Southern India that every wicked 
man contributes by his death to swell the ever-increasing 
ranks of devil legions. His evil passions do not die with 
him ; they are intensified, concentrated, and perpetuated 
in the form of a malignant and mischievous spirit.' ^ 

It is obvious that this principle may be extended from 
individuals to entire tribes. The Cimmerians were re- 
garded as dwelling in a land allied with hell. In the 
legend of the Alhambra, as told by Washington Irving, 
the astrologer warns the Moorish king that the beautiful 
damsel is no doubt one of those Gothic sorceresses of 
whom they have heard so much. Although, as we have 
seen, England was regarded on the Continent as an island 
of demons because of its northern latitude, probably some 
of its tribes were of a character dangerous enough to pro- 
long the superstition. The nightmare elves were believed 
to come from England, and to hurry away through the 
keyholes at daybreak, saying ' The bells are calling in 
England.'^ Visigoth probably left us our word bigot; 
and ' Goths and Vandals ' sometimes designate English 
roughs, as 'Turks' those of Constantinople. Herodotus 
says the Scythians of the Black Sea regarded the Neu- 
rians as wizards, who transformed themselves into wolves 

^ London ' Times,' June ii, 1877. 

2 Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaube, ' 402. Pliny (iv. 16) says : ' Albion insula sic 
dicta ab albis rupibus quas mare alluit.' This etymon of Albion from the 
white cliffs is very questionable ; but, since Alb and generally related, 
it might have suggested the notion about English demons. Heine identifies 
the ' White Island,' or Pluto's realm of Continental folklore, as England. 


for a few days annually ; but the Scythians themselves 
are said by Herodotus to have sprung from a monster, 
half-woman half-serpent ; and possibly the association of 
the Scotch with the Scythians by the Germans, who called 
them both Scutten, had something to do with the uncanny 
character ascribed to the British Isles. Sir Walter Raleigh 
described the Red Men of America as gigantic monsters. 
'Red Devils' is still the pioneer's epithet for them in the 
Far V/est. The hairy Dukes of Esau were connected with 
the goat, and demonised as Edom ; and Ishmael was not 
believed much better by the more peaceful Semitic tribes. 
Such notions are akin to those which many now have 
of the Thugs and Bashi-Bazouks, and are too uniform 
and natural to tax much the ingenuity of Comparative 

Underlying many of the legends of giants and dwarfs 
may be found a similar demonologic formation. A prin- 
ciple of natural selection would explain the existence of 
tribes, which, though of small stature, are able to hold their 
own against the larger and more powerful by their supe- 
rior cunning. That such equalisation of apparently un- 
equal forces has been known in pre-historic ages may be 
gathered from many fables. Before Bali, the monarch 
already mentioned, whose power alarmed the gods them- 
selves, Vishnu appeared as a dwarf, asking only so much 
land as he could measure with three steps ; the apparently 
ridiculous request granted, the god strode over the whole 
earth with two steps and brought his third on the head of 
Bali. In Scandinavian fable we have the young giantess 
coming to her mother with the plough and ploughman 
in her apron, which she had picked up in the field. To 
her child's inquiry, * What sort of beetle is this I found 
wriggling in the sand } ' the giantess replies, ' Go put 
it back- in the place where thou hast found it. We 
VOL. I. L 


must be gone out of this land, for these little people 
will dwell in it.' 

The Sagas contain many stories which, while written in 
glorification of the ' giant ' race, relate the destruction of 
their chiefs by the magical powers of the dwarfs. I must 
limit myself to a few notes on the Ynglinga Saga. ' In 
Swithiod,' we are told, ' are many great domains, and many 
wonderful races of men, and many kinds of languages. 
There are giants, and there are dwarfs, and there are also 
blue men. There are wild beasts, and dreadfully large 
dragons.' We learn that in Asaland was a great chief, 
Odin, who went out to conquer Vanaland. The Vana- 
landers are declared to have magic arts, — such as are 
ascribed to Finns and Lapps to this day by the more 
ignorant of their neighbours. But that the people of Asa- 
land learned their magic charms. ' Odin was the cleverest 
of them all, and from him all the others learned their 
magic arts.' ' Odin could make his enemies in battle 
blind, or deaf, or terror-struck, and their weapons so blunt 
that they could no more cut than a willow twig ; on the 
other hand, his men rushed forward without armour, were 
as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were as 
strong as bears or wild bulls, and killed people at a blow, 
and neither fire nor iron told upon them. These were 
called Berserkers.' (From bcr, bear, and serkr, sark or 
coat ; the word being probably, as Maurer says, a survival 
of an earlier belief in the transformation of men into 
bears.) But the successors of Odin did not preserve his 
occult power. Svegdir, for instance, saw a large stone 
and a dwarf at the door entering in it. The dwarf called 
him to come in and he should see Odin. ' Swedger ran 
into the stone, which instantly closed behind him, and 
Swedger never came back.' The witchcraft of the Finn 
people is said to have led Vanlandi (Svegdir's son) to his 


death by Mara (night-mare). Vanlandi's son too, Visbur, 
fell a victim to sorcery. Such legends as these, and many 
others which may be found in Sturleson's Heimskringla, 
have influenced our popular stories whose interest turns 
on the skill with which some little Jack or Thumbling 
overcomes his adversary by superior cunning. 

Superstitions concerning dwarf-powers are especially 
rife in Northumberland, where they used to be called 
Duergar, and they were thought to abound on the hills 
between Rothbury and Elsdon. They mislead with 
torches. One story relates that a traveller, beguiled at 
night into a hut where a dwarf prepared a comfortable fire 
for him, found himself when daylight returned sitting upon 
the edge of a deep rugged precipice, where the slightest 
movement had caused him to be dashed to pieces.^ The 
Northumbrian stories generally, however, do not bear the 
emphasis of having grown out of aboriginal conditions, or 
even of having been borrowed for such. The legends of 
Scotland, and of the South- West of England, appear to me 
much more suggestive of original struggles between large 
races and small. They are recalled by the superstitions 
which still linger in Norway concerning the Lapps, who 
are said to carry on unholy dealings with gnomes. 

In the last century the ' Brownie ' was commonly spoken 
of in Scotland as appearing in shape of ' a tall man,' and 
the name seems to refer to the brown complexion of 
that bogey, and its long brown Jiair, hardly Scottish.- 
It is generally the case that Second Sight, which once 
attained the dignity of being called ' Deuteroscopia,' sees 
a doomed man or woman shrink to the size of a dwarf. 
The 'tall man ' is not far off in such cases. ' In some age 
of the world more remote than even that of Alypos,' says 

^ Richardson's 'Borderer's Fable-Book,' vi. 97. 
^ Martin, Appendix to Report on ' Ossian,' p. 310. 


Hugh Miller, ' the whole of Britain was peopled by giants 
— a fact amply supported by early English historians and 
the traditions of the North of Scotland. Diocletian, king 
of Syria, say the historians, had thirty-three daughters, 
who, like the daughters of Danaus, killed their husbands 
on their wedding night. The king, their father, in abhor- 
rence of the crime, crowded them all into a ship, which he 
abandoned to the mercy of the waves, and which was 
drifted by tides and winds till it arrived on the coast of 
Britain, then an uninhabited island. There they lived 
solitary, subsisting on roots and berries, the natural pro- 
duce of the soil, until an order of demons, becoming ena- 
moured of them, took them for their wives ; and a tribe of 
giants, who must be regarded as the true aborigines of the 
country, if indeed the demons have not a prior claim, were 
the fruit of these marriages. Less fortunate, however, than 
even their prototypes the Cyclops, the whole tribe was 
extirpated a few ages after by Brutus the parricide, who, 
with a valour to which mere bulk could offer no effectual 
resistance, overthrew Gog-Magog and Termagol, and a 
whole host of others with names equally terrible. Tradi- 
tion is less explicit than the historians in what relates to 
the origin and extinction of the race, but its narratives of 
their prowess are more minute. There is a large and 
ponderous stone in the parish of Edderston which a 
giantess of the tribe is said to have flung from the point of 
a spindle across the Dornoch Firth ; and another, within a 
few miles of Dingwall, still larger and more ponderous, 
which was thrown by a person of the same family, and 
which still bears the marks of a gigantic finger and 
thumb.' 1 

Perhaps we may find the mythological descendants of 
these Titans, and also of the Druids, in the so-called 

^ ' Scenes and Legends,' p. 13. 


'Great Men' once dreaded by Highlanders. The natives 
of South Uist believed that a valley, called Glenslyte, 
situated between two mountains on the east side of 
the island, was haunted by these Great Men, and that if 
any one entered the valley without formally resigning 
themselves to the conduct of those beings, they would 
infallibly become mad. Martin, having remonstrated with 
the people against this superstition, was told of a woman's 
having come out of the valley a lunatic because she had 
not uttered the spell of three sentences. They also told 
him of voices heard in the air. The Brownie (' a tall man 
with very long brown hair '), who has cow's milk poured 
out for him on a hill in the same region, probably of this 
giant tribe, might easily have been demonised at the 
time when the Druids were giving St. Columba so much 
trouble, and trying to retain their influence over the 
people by professing supernatural powers.-^ 

The man of the smaller stature, making up for his 
inferiority by invention, perhaps first forged the sword, the 
coat of mail, and the shield, and so confronted the giant 
with success. The god with the Hammer might thus 
supersede the god of the Flint Spear. Magic art seemed 
to have rendered invulnerable the man from whom the 
arrow rebounded. 

It would appear from King Olaf Tryggvason's Saga 
that nine hundred years ago the Icelanders and the Danes 
reciprocally regarded each other as giants and dwarfs. 
The Icelanders indited lampoons against the Danes which 
allude to their diminutive size : — 

The gallant Harald in the field 
Between his legs lets drop his shield, 
Into a pony he was changed, &c. 

On the other hand, the Danes had by no means a con- 

1 Dr. James Browne's ' History of the Highlands,' p. 113. 

i66 MIMACS. 

temptuous idea of their Icelandic enemies, as the following 
narrative from Heimskringla proves. ' King Harald told 
a warlock to hie to Iceland in some altered shape, and to 
try what he could learn therfe to tell him : and he set out 
in the shape of a whale. And when he came near to the 
land he went to the west side of Iceland, north around 
the land, when he saw all the mountains and hills full of 
land-serpents, some great, some small. When he came to 
Vapnafiord he went in towards the land, intending to go 
on shore ; but a huge dragon rushed down the dale against 
him, with a train of serpents, paddocks, and toads, that 
blew poison towards him. Then he turned to go west- 
ward around the land as far as Eyafiord, and he went into 
the fiord. Then a bird flew against him, which was so 
great that its wings stretched over the mountains on either 
side of the fiord, and many birds, great and small, with it. 
Then he swam further west, and then south into Breida- 
fiord. When he came into the fiord a large grey bull ran 
against him, wading into the sea^ and bellowing fearfully, 
and he was followed by a crowd of land-serpentfe. From 
thence he went round by Reikaness and wanted to land at 
Vikarsted, but there came down a hill-giant against him 
with an iron stafT in his hands. He was a head higher 
than the mountains, and many other giants followed him.' 
The most seductive Hesperian gardens of the South and 
East do not appear to have been so thoroughly guarded or 
defended as Iceland, and one can hardly call it cowardice 
when (after the wizard-whale brought back the log of its 
voyage) it is recorded : ' Then the Danish king turned about 
with his fleet and sailed back to Denmark.' 

It is a sufficiently curious fact that the Mimacs, abori- 
gines of Nova Scotia,^ were found with a whale-story, 
already referred to (p. 46), so much like this. They also 

^ ' North American Review,' January 1871. 


have the legend of an ancient warrior named Booin, who 
possessed the praeternatural powers especially ascribed to 
Odin, those 0/ raising storms, causing excessive cold, in- 
creasing or diminishing his size, and assuming any shape. 
Besides the fearful race of gigantic ice-demons dreaded by 
this tribe, as elsewhere stated (p. 84), they dread also a 
yellow-horned dragon called Cheepichealm, (whose form 
the great Booin sometimes assumes). They make offer- 
ings to the new moon. They believe in pixies, calling 
them Wigguladum-moochkik, 'very little people.' They 
anciently believed in two great spirits, good and evil, 
both called Manitoos ; since their contact with christians 
only the evil one has been so called. 

The entire motif of the Mimac Demonology is, to my 
mind, that of early conflicts with some formidable races. 
It is to be hoped that travellers will pay more attention to 
this unique race before it has ceased to exist. The Chinese 
theory of genii is almost exactly that of the Mimacs. The 
Chinese genii are now small as a moth, now fill the world ; 
can assume any form ; they command demons ; they never 
die, but, at the end of some centuries, ride to heaven on a 
dragon's back.^ Ordinarily the Chinese genii use the 
yellow heron as an aerial courser. The Mimacs believe in 
a large praeternatural water-bird, Culloo, which devours 
ordinary people, but bears on its back those who can tame 
it by magic. 

Mr. Mayers, in his ' Chinese Reader's Manual,' suggests 
that the designation of Formosa as ' Isles of the Genii ' 
(San Shen Shan) by the Chinese, has some reference to 
their early attempts at colonisation in Japan. Su Fuh, a 
necromancer, who lived B.C. 219, is said to have announced 
their discovery, and at the head of a troop of young men 
and maidens, voyaged with an expedition towards them, 

^ Dennys, p. 8 1 et seq. 


but, when within sight of the magic islands, were driven 
back by contrary winds. 

Gog and Magog stand in London Guildhall, though 
much diminished in stature, to suit the English muscles 
that had to bear them in processions, monuments of the 
praeternatural size attributed to the enemies which the 
Aryan race encountered in its great westward migrations. 
Even to-day, when the progress of civilisation is harassed 
by untamed Scythian hordes, how strangely fall upon our 
ears the ancient legends and prophecies concerning them ! 

Thus saith the Lord Jehovah : 

Behold I am against thee, O Gog, 

Prince of Rosh, of Meshech, and of Tubul : 

And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee ; 

And I will cause thee to come up from the north parts, 

And will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel : 

And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand. 

And will cause thine arrows to fall from thy right hand. 

Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, 

Thou and all thy bands.^ 

In the Koran it is related of Dhulkarnein : — ' He jour- 
neyed from south to north until he came between the two 
mountains, beneath which he found a people who could 
scarce understand what was said. And they said, O Dhul- 
karnein, verily Gog and Magog waste the land ; shall we, 
therefore, pay thee tribute, on condition that thou build a 
rampart between us and them } He answered. The power 
wherewith my Lord hath strengthened me is better than 
your tribute ; but assist me strenuously and I will set a 
strong wall between you and them. . . . Wherefore when 
this wall was finished, Gog and Magog could not scale it, 
neither could they dig through it. And Dhulkarnein said, 
This is a mercy from my Lord ; but when the prediction 
of my Lord shall come to be fulfilled, he will reduce the 
wall to dust.' 

^ Ezekiel xxxix. 


The terror inspired by these barbarians is reflected in 
the prophecies of their certain irruption from their super- 
naturally-built fastnesses ; as in Ezekiel : — 

Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, 
Thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, 
Thou and all thy bands, 
And many people with thee ; 

and in the Koran, ' Gog and Magog shall have a passage 
open for them, and they shall hasten from every high 
hill ; ' and in the Apocalypse, ' Satan shall be loosed out of 
his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which 
are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to 
gather them in battle : the number of whom is as the sand 
of the sea.' Five centuries ago Sir John Maundeville was 
telling in England the legend he had heard in the East. 
* In that same regioun ben the mountaynes of Caspye, that 
men clepen Uber in the contree. Betwene the mountaynes 
the Jews of 10 lynages ben enclosed, that men clepen 
Gothe and Magothe : and they mowe not gon out on no 
syde. There weren enclosed 22 kynges, with hire peple, 
that dwelleden betwene the mountayns of Sythe. There 
King Alisandre chacede hem betwene the mountaynes, and 
there he thought for to enclose hem thorghe work of his 
men. But when he saughe that he might not doon it, ne 
bringe it to an ende, he preyed to God of Nature, that he 
wolde performe that that he had begoune. And all were 
it so, that he was a Payneme, and not worthi to ben herd, 
zit God of his grace closed the mountaynes to gydre : so 
that thei dwellen there, all fast ylokked and enclosed with 
highe mountaynes all aboute, saf only on o syde; and on 
that syde is the See of Caspye.' 

( I70 ) 



Indian famine and Sun-spots — Sun-worship — Demon of the Desert 
— The Sphinx — Egyptian plagues described by Lepsius : Locusts, 
Hurricane, Flood, Mice, FHes — The Sheikh's ride^Abaddon — 
Set — Typhon — The Cain wind — Seth — Mirage — The Desert Eden 
— Azazel — Tawiscara and the Wild Rose. 

In their adoration of rain-giving Indra as also a solar 
majesty, the ancient Hindus seem to have been fully aware 
of his inconsistent habits. ' Thy inebriety is most intense,' 
exclaims the eulogist, and soothingly adds, ' Thou desirest 
that both thy inebriety and thy beneficence should be the 
means of destroying enemies and distributing riches.' ^ 
Against famine is invoked the thunderbolt of Indra, and it 
is likened to the terrible Tvashtri, in whose fearful shape 
(pure fire) Agni once appeared to the terror of gods and 
men.^ This Tvashtri was not an evil being himself, but, 
as we have seen, an artificer for the gods similar to 
Vulcan ; he was, however, father of a three-headed monster 
who has been identified with Vritra. Though these early 
worshippers recognised that their chief trouble was 
connected with ' glaring heat' (which Tvashtri seems to 
mean in the passage just referred to), Indra's celebrants 
beheld him superseding his father Dyaus, and reigning 
in the day's splendour as well as in the cloud's 
bounty. This monopolist of parts in their theogony 
1 ' Rig- Veda,' iv. 175, 5 (Wilson). - Ibid., i. 133, 6. 


anticipated Jupiter Pluvius. Vedic mythology is per- 
vaded with stories of the demons that arrested the rain 
and stole the cloud-cows of Indra — shutting them away 
in caves, — and the god is endlessly praised for dealing 
death to such. He slays Vritra, the ' rain-arresting,' and 
Dribhika, Bala, Urana, Arbuda, ' devouring Swasna,' ' un- 
absorbable Sushna,' Pipru, Namuchi, Rudhikra, Varchin 
and his hundred thousand descendants;^ the deadly 
strangling serpent Ahi, especial type of Drouth as it dries 
up rivers ; and through all these combats with the alleged 
authors of the recurring Barrenness and Famine, as most 
of these monsters were, the seat of the evil was the Sun- 
god's adorable self ! 

Almost pathetic does the long and vast history appear 
just now, when competent men of science are giving us 
good reason to believe that right knowledge of the sun, 
and the relation of its spots to the rainfall, might have 
covered India with ways and means which would have 
adapted the entire realm to its environment, and wrested 
from Indra his hostile thunderbolt — the sunstroke of 
famine. The Hindus have covered their lands with 
temples raised to propitiate and deprecate the demons, 
and to invoke the deities against such sources of drouth 
and famine. Had they concluded that famine was the 
result of inexactly quartered sun-dials, the land would 
have been covered with perfect sun-dials ; but the famine 
would have been more destructive, because of the in- 
creasing withdrawal of mind and energy from the true 
cause, and its implied answer. Even so were conflagra- 
tions in London attributed to inexact city clocks; the 
clocks would become perfect, the conflagrations more 
numerous, through misdirection of vigilance. But how 
much wiser are we of Christendom than the Hindus ? 

^ ' Rig- Veda,' vi. 14. 


They have adapted their country perfectly for propitia- 
tion of famine-demons that do not exist, at a cost which 
would long ago have rendered them secure from the 
famine-forces that do exist. We have similarly covered 
Christendom with a complete system of securities against 
hells and devils and wrathful deities that do not exist, 
while around our churches, chapels, cathedrals, are the 
actually-existent seething hells of pauperism, shame, and 

' Nothing can advance art in any district of this accursed 
machine-and-devil-driven England until she changes her 
mind in many things.' So wrote John Ruskin recently. 
Of course, so long as the machine toils and earns wealth 
and other power which still goes to support and further 
social and ecclesiastical forms, constituted with reference 
to salvation from a devil or demons no longer believed in, 
the phrase ' machine-and-devil-driven' is true. Until the 
invention and enterprise of the nation are administered in 
the interest of right ideas, we may still sigh, like John 
Sterling, for ' a dozen men to stand up for ideas as 
Cobden and his friends do for machinery.' But it still 
remains as true that all the machinery and wealth of 
England devoted to man might make its every home 
happy, and educate every inhabitant, as that every idola- 
trous temple in India might be commuted into a shield 
against famine. 

Our astronomers and economists have enabled us to see 
clearly how the case is with the country whose temples 
offer no obstruction to christian vision. The facts point 
to the conclusion that the sun-spots reach their maximum 
and minimum of intensity at intervals of eleven years, and 
that their high activity is attended with frequent fluctua- 
tions of the magnetic needle, and increased rainfall. In 
181 1, and since then, famines in India have, with one 


exception, followed years of minimum sun-spots.^ These 
facts are sufficiently well attested to warrant the belief 
that English science and skill will be able to realise in 
India the provision which Joseph is said to have made for 
the seven lean years of which Pharaoh dreamed. 

Until that happy era shall arrive, the poor Hindus will 
only go on alternately adoring and propitiating the sun, 
as its benign or its cruel influences shall fall upon them. 
The artist Turner said, ' The sun is God.' The superb effects 
of light in Turner's pictures could hardly have come from 
any but a sun-worshipper dwelling amid fogs. Unfami- 
liarity often breeds reverence. There are few countries in 
which the sun, when it does shine, is so likely to be greeted 
with enthusiasm, and observed in all its variations of splen- 
dour, as one in which its appearance is rare. Yet the 
superstition inherited from regions where the sun is equally 
a desolation was strong enough to blot out its glory in the 
mind of a writer famous in his time, Tobias Swinden, M.A., 
who wrote a work to prove the sun to be the abode of the 
damned.^ The speculation may now appear only curious, 
but, probably, it is no more curious than a hundred years 
from now will seem to all the vulgar notion of future fiery 
torments for mankind, the scriptural necessity of which 
led the fanciful rector to his grotesque conclusion. These 
two extremes — the Sun-wor&hip of Turner, the Sun-horror 
of Swinden, — survivals in England, represent the two anta- 
gonistic aspects of the sun, which were of overwhelming 
import to those who dwelt beneath its greatest potency. 
His ill-humour, or his hunger and thirst, in any year trans- 
formed the earth to a desert, and dealt death to thousands. 

In countries where drouth, barrenness, and consequent 

^ 'The Nineteenth Century,' November 1877. Article: 'Sun-Spots and 
Famines,' by Norman Lockyer and W. W. Hunter. 

2 ' An Inquiry into the Nature and Place of Hell,' by Tobias Swinden, M.A., 
late Rector of Cuxton-in-Kent. 1727. 


famine were occasional, as in India, it would be an inevi- 
table result that they would represent the varying moods 
of a powerful will, and in such regions we naturally find 
the most extensive appliances for propitiation. The pre- 
ponderant number of fat years would tell powerfully on 
the popular imagination in favour of priestly intercession, 
and the advantage of sacrifices to the great Hunger-demon 
who sometimes consumed the seeds of the earth. But in 
countries where barrenness was an ever-present, visible, 
unvarying fact, the Demon of the Desert would represent 
Necessity, a power not to be coaxed or changed. People 
dwelling in distant lands might invent theoretical myths 
to account for the desert. It might be an accident result- 
ing from the Sun-god having given up his chariot one day 
to an inexperienced driver who came too close to the 
earth. But to those who lived beside the desert it could 
only seem an infernal realm, quite irrecoverable. The 
ancient civilisation of Egypt, so full of grandeur, might, in 
good part, have been due to the lesson taught them by the 
desert, that they could not change the conditions around 
them by any entreaties, but must make the best of what 
was left If such, indeed, was the force that built the 
ancient civilisation whose monuments remain so macfnifi- 
cent in their ruins, its decay might be equally accounted 
for when that primitive faith passed into a theological 
phase. For as Necessity is the mother of invention. Fate 
is fatal to the same. Belief in facts, and laws fixed in the 
organic nature of things, stimulates man to study them 
and constitute his life with reference to them ; but belief 
that things are fixed by the arbitrary decree of an indivi- 
dual power is the final sentence of enterprise. Fate might 
thus steadily bring to ruin the grandest achievements of 

Had we only the true history of the Sphinx — the 



Binder — we might find it a landmark between the rise and 
decline of Egyptian civilisation. When the great Limita- 
tion surrounding the powers of man was first personified 
with that mystical grandeur, it would stand in the desert 
not as the riddle but its solution. No such monument was 
ever raised by Doubt. But once personified and outwardly 
shaped, the external Binder must bind thought as well ; 
nay, will throttle thought if it cannot pierce through the 
stone and discover the meaning of it. ' How true is that 
old fable of -the Sphinx who sat by the wayside pro- 
pounding her riddle to the passengers, which if they could 
not answer she destroyed them ! Such a Sphinx is this 
Life of ours to all men and societies of men. Nature, like 
the Sphinx, is of womanly celestial loveliness and tender- 
ness ; the face and bosom of a goddess, but ending in claws 
and the body of a lioness. There is in her a celestial 
beauty, — which means celestial order, pliancy to wisdom ; 
but there is also a darkness, a ferocity, fatality, which are 
infernal. She is a goddess, but one not yet disimprisoned ; 
one still half-imprisoned, — the articulate, lovely still en- 
cased in the inarticulate, chaotic. How true ! And does 
she not propound her riddles to us .'' Of each man she asks 
daily, in mild voice, yet with a terrible significance, ' Know- 
est thou the meaning of this Day ? What thou canst do 
To-day, wisely attempt to do.' Nature, Universe, Destiny, 
Existence, howsoever we name this grand unnameable 
Fact, in the midst of which we live and struggle, is as a 
heavenly bride and conquest to the wise and brave, to them 
who can discern her behests and do them ; a destroying 
fiend to them who cannot. Answer her riddle, it is well 
with thee. Answer it not, pass on regarding it not, it will 
answer itself; the solution for thee is a thing of teeth and 
claws ; Nature to thee is a dumb lioness, deaf to thy 
pleadings, fiercely devouring. Thou art not now her vie- 


torious bridegroom ; thou art her mangled victim, scattered 
on the precipices, as a slave found treacherous, recreant, 
ought to be, and must.' ^ 

On the verge of the Desert, Prime Minister to the Ne- 
cropolis at whose gateway it stands, the Sphinx reposes 
amid the silence of science and the centuries. Who built 
it } None can answer, so far as the human artist, or the 
king under whom he worked, is concerned. But the ideas 
and natural forces which built the Sphinx surround even 
now the archaeologist who tries to discover its history and 
chronology. As fittest appendage to Carlyle's interpreta- 
tion, let us read some passages from Lepsius. 

' The Oedipus for this king of the Sphinxes is yet want- 
ing. Whoever would drain the immeasurable sand-flood 
which buries the tombs themselves, and lay open the base 
of the Sphinx, the ancient temple-path, and the surround- 
ing hills, could easily decide it. But with the enigmas of 
history there are joined many riddles and wonders of 
nature, which I must not leave quite unnoticed. The newest 
of all, at least, I must describe. 

T had descended with Abeken into a mummy-pit, to 
open some newly discovered sarcophagi, and was not a 
little astonished, upon descending, to find myself in a regu- 
lar snow-drift of locusts, which, almost darkening the 
heavens, flew over our heads from the south-west from the 
desert in hundreds of thousands to the valley. I took it 
for a single flight, and called my companions from the 
tombs, where they were busy, that they might see this 
Egyptian wonder ere it was over. But the flight continued ; 
indeed the work-people said it had begun an hour before. 
Then we first observed that the whole region, near and 
far, was covered with locusts. I sent an attendant into 
the desert to discover the breadth of the flock. He ran 

1 Carlyle, ' Past and Present,' i. 2. 


for, the distance of a quarter of an hour, then returned and 
told us that, as far as he could see, there was no end to 
them. I rode home in the midst of the locust shower. 
At the edge of the fruitful plain they fell down in showers ; 
and so it went on the whole day until the evening, and so 
the next day from morning till evening, and the third ; 
in short to the sixth day, indeed in weaker flights much 
longer. Yesterday it did seem that a storm of rain in the 
desert had knocked down and destroyed the last of them. 
The Arabs are now lighting great smoke-fires in the fields, 
and clattering and making loud noises all day long to 
preserve their crops from the unexpected invasion. It 
will, however, do little good. Like a new animated vege- 
tation, these millions of winged spoilers cover even the 
neighbouring sand-hills, so that scarcely anything is to be 
seen of the ground ; and when they rise from one place 
they immediately fall down somewhere in the neighbour- 
hood ; they are tired with their long journey, and seem to 
have lost all fear of their natural enemies, men, animals, 
smoke, and noise, in their furious wish to fill their stomachs, 
and in the feeding of their immense number. The most 
wonderful thing, in my estimation, is their flight over the 
naked wilderness, and the instinct which has guided them 
from some oasis over the inhospitable desert to the fat 
soil of the Nile vale. Fourteen years ago, it seems, this 
Egyptian plague last visited Egypt with the same force. 
The popular idea is that they are sent by the comet which 
we have observed for twelve days in the South-west, and 
which, as it is now no longer obscured by the rays of the 
moon, stretches forth its stately tail across the heavens in 
the hours of the night. The Zodiacal light, too, so seldom 
seen in the north, has lately been visible for several nights 
in succession.' 

Other plagues of Egypt are described by Lepsius : — 
VOL. I. ^i 


' Suddenly the storm grew to a tremendous hurrica^ne, 
such as I have never seen in Europe, and hail fell upon us 
in such masses as almost to turn day into night. . . . Our 
tents lie in a valley, whither the plateau of the pyramids 
inclines, and are sheltered from the worst winds from the 
north and west. Presently I saw a dashing mountain flood 
hurrying down upon our prostrate and sand-covered tents, 
like a giant serpent upon its certain prey. The principal 
stream rolled on to the great tent; another arm threatened 
mine without reaching it. But everything that had been 
washed from our tents by the shower was torn away by 
the two streams, which joined behind the tents, and carried 
into a pool behind the Sphinx, where a great lake imme- 
diately formed, which fortunately had no outlet. Just 
picture this scene to yourself! Our tents, dashed down 
by the storm and heavy rain, lying between two mountain 
torrents, thrusting themselves in several places to the depth 
of six feet in the sand, and depositing our books, drawings, 
sketches, shirts, and instruments — yes, even our levers and 
iron crow-bars ; in short, everything they could seize, in 
the dark foaming mud-ocean. Besides this, ourselves wet 
to the skin, without hats, fastening up the weightier things, 
rushing after the lighter ones, wading into the lake to the 
waist to fish out what the sand had not yet swallowed; 
and all this was the work of a quarter of an hour, at the 
end of which the sun shone radiantly again, and announced 
the end of this flood by a bright and glorious rainbow. 

* Now comes the plague of mice, with which v/e were not 
formerly acquainted ; in my tent they grow, play, and 
whistle, as if they had been at home here all their lives, 
and quite regardless of my presence. At night they have 
already run across my bed and face, and yesterday I 
started terrified from my slumbers, as I suddenly felt the 
sharp tooth of such a daring guest at my foot. 


* Above me a canopy of gauze is spread, in order to keep 
off the flies, these most shameless of the plagues of Egypt, 
during the day, and the mosquitos at night. . . . Scorpions 
and serpents have not bitten us yet, but there are very 
malicious wasps, which have often stung us. 

' The dale (in the Desert) was wild and monotonous, 
nothing but sandstone rock, the surfaces of which were 
burned as black as coals, but turned into burning golden 
yellow at every crack, and every ravine, whence a number 
of sand-rivulets, like fire-streams from black dross, ran 
and filled the valleys. No tree, no tuft of grass had we 
yet seen, also no animals, except a few vultures and crows 
feeding on the carcase of the latest fallen camel. . . . Over 
a wild and broken path, and cutting stones, we came 
deeper and deeper into the gorge. The first wide basins 
were empty, we therefore left the camels and donkeys 
behind, climbed up the smooth granite wall, and thus pro- 
ceeded amidst these grand rocks from one basin to another ; 
they were all empty. Behind there, in the farthest ravine, 
the guide said there must be water, for it was never empty; 
but there proved to be not a single drop. We were obliged 
to return dry. . . . We saw the most beautiful mirages 
very early in the day; they most minutely resemble seas 
and lakes, in which mountains, rocks, and everything in 
their vicinity, are reflected as in the clearest water. They 
form a remarkable contrast with the staring dry desert, 
and have probably deceived many a poor wanderer, as the 
legend goes. If one be not aware that no water is there, 
it is quite impossible to distinguish the appearance from 
the reality. A few days ago I felt quite sure that I per- 
ceived an overflowing of the Nile, or a branch near El 
Mecheref, and rode towards it, but only found Bahr 
Sheitan, Satan's water, as the Arabs call it.' ^ 

^ 'Discoveries in Egypt,' &c. (Bentley.) 1852. 


Amid such scenery the Sphinx arose. Egypt was able 
to recognise the problem of blended barrenness and beauty 
— alternation of Nature's flowing breast and leonine claw 
— but could she return the right answer ? The primitive 
Egyptian answer may, indeed, as I have guessed, be the 
great monuments of her civilisation, but her historic solu- 
tion has been another world. This world a desert, with 
here and there a momentary oasis, where man may dance 
and feast a little, stimulated by the corpse borne round 
the banquet, ere he passes to paradise. So thought they 
and were deceived ; from generation to generation have 
they been destroyed, even unto this day. How destroyed, 
Lepsius may again be our witness. 

' The Sheikh of the Saadich-derwishes rides to the chief 
Sheikh of all the derwishes of Egypt, El Bekri. On the 
way thither, a great number of these holy folk, and others, 
too, who fancy themselves not a whit behind-hand in piety, 
throw themselves flat on the ground, with their faces down- 
ward, and so that the feet of one lie close to the head of 
the next ; over this living carpet the sheikh rides on his 
horse, which is led on each side by an attendant, in order 
to compel the animal to the unnatural march. Each body 
receives two treads of the horse ; most of them jump up 
again without hurt, but whoever suffers serious, or as it 
occasionally happens, mortal injury, has the additional 
ignominy to bear of not having pronounced, or not being 
able to pronounce, the proper prayers and magical charms 
that alone could save him.' 

'What a fearful barbarous worship' (the Sikr, in which 
the derwishes dance until exhausted, howling ' No God but 
Allah') 'which the astounded multitude, great and small, 
gentle and simple, gaze upon seriously, and with stupid 
respect, and in which it not unfrequently takes a part ! 
The invoked deity is manifestly much less an object of 



reverence than the fanatic saints who invoke him ; for mad, 
idiotic, or other psychologically-diseased persons are very 
generally looked upon as holy by the Mohammedans, and 
treated with great respect. It is the demoniacal, incompre- 
hensibly-acting, and therefore fearfully-observed, power of 
nature that the natural man always reveres when he per- 
ceives it, because he is sensible of some connection between 
it and his intellectual power, without being able to com- 
mand it ; first in the mighty elements, then in the wondrous 
but obscure law-governed instincts of animals, and at last 
in the yet more overpowering ecstatical or generally abnor- 
mal mental condition of his own race.' 

The right answer to the enigma of the Sphinx is Man. 
But this creature prostrating himself under the Sheikh's 
horse, or under the invisible Sheikh called Allah, and 
ascribing sanctity to the half-witted, is not Man at all. 
Those hard-worked slaves who escaped into the wilder- 
ness, and set up for worship an anthropomorphic Supreme 
Will, and sought their promised milk and honey in this 
world alone, carried with them the only force that could 
rightly answer the Sphinx. Their Allah or Elohim they 
heard say, — * Why howlest thou to me 1 Go forward.' 
Somewhat more significant than his usual jests was that 
cartoon of Ptmch which represented the Sphinx with 
relaxed face smiling recognition on the most eminent of 
contemporary Israelites returning to the land of his race's 
ancient bondage, to buy the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal 
half answers the Sphinx ; when man has subdued the 
Great Desert to a sea, the solution will be complete, and 
the Sphinx may cast herself into it. 

Far and wide through the Southern world have swarmed 
the locusts described by Lepsius, and with them have 
migrated many superstitions. The writer of this well re- 
members the visit of the so-called ' Seventeen-year locusts,' 



to the region of Virginia where he was born, and across 
many years can hear the terrible never-ceasing roar coming 
up from the woods, uttering, as all agreed, the ominous 
word ' Pharaoh.' On each wing every eye could see the 
letter W, signifying War. With that modern bit of ancient 
Egypt in my memory, I find the old Locust-mythology 
sufficiently impressive. 

By an old tradition the Egyptians, as described by 
Lepsius, connected the locusts with the comet. In the 
Apocalypse (ix.) a falling star is the token of the descent 
of the Locust-demon to unlock the pit that his swarms 
may issue forth for their work of destruction. Their 
king Abaddon, in Greek Apollyon, — Destroyer, — has had 
an evolution from being the angel of the two (rabbinical) 
divisions of Hades to the successive Chiefs of Saracenic 
hordes. It is interesting to compare the graphic description 
of a locust-storm in Joel, with its adaptation to an army 
of human destroyers in the Apocalypse. And again the 
curious description of these hosts of Abaddon in the latter 
book, partly repeat the strange notions of the Bedouins 
concerning the locust, — one of whom, says Niebuhr, * com- 
pared the head of the locust to that of the horse; its 
breast to that of a lion ; its feet to those of a camel ; its 
body to that of the serpent ; its tail to that of the scorpion ; 
its horns (antennae) to the locks of hair of a virgin.' The 
present generation has little reason to deny the appropri- 
ateness of the biblical descriptions of Scythian hordes as 
locusts. * The land is as the garden of Eden before them, 
and behind them a desolate wilderness.' 

The ancient seeming contest between apparent Good 
and Evil in Egypt, was represented in the wars of Ra and 
Set. It is said (Gen. iv. 26), * And to Seth, to him also 
was born a son ; and he called his name Enos ; then began 
men to call upon the name of the Lord.' Aquila reads 

SET. 1S3 

this — ' Then Seth began to be called by the name of the 
Lord.' Mr. Baring-Gould remarks on this that Seth was 
at first regarded by the Egyptians as the deity of light 
and civilisation, but that they afterwards identified as 
Typhon, because he was the chief god of the Hyksos or 
shepherd kings ; and in their hatred of these oppressors 
the name of Seth was everywhere obliterated from their 
monuments, and he was represented as an ass, or with an 
ass's head.^ But the earliest date assigned to the Hyksos 
dominion in Egypt, B.C. 2000, coincides with that of the 
Egyptian planisphere in Kircher,^ where Seth is found 
identified with Sirius, or the dog-headed Mercury, in Capri- 
corn. This is the Sothiac Period, or Cycle of the Dog- 
star. He was thus associated with the goat and the winter 
solstice, to which (B.C. 2000) Capricorn was adjacent. That 
Seth or Set became the name for the demon of disorder 
and violence among the Egyptians is, indeed, probably 
due to his being a chief god, among some tribes Baal 
himself, among the Asiatics, before the time of the Hyksos. 
It was already an old story to put their neighbours' Light 
for their own Darkness. The Ass's ears they gave him 
referred not to his stupidity, but to his hearing everything, 
as in the case of the Ass of Apuleius, and the ass Nicon 
of Plutarch, or, indeed, the many examples of the same 
kind which preceeded the appearance of this much mis- 
understood animal as the steed of Christ's triumphal entry 
into Jerusalem. In Egyptian symbolism those long ears 
were as much dreaded as devils' horns. From the eyes of 
Ra all beneficent things, from the eyes of Set all noxious 
things, were produced. Amen-Ra, as the former was 
called, slew the son of Set, the great serpent Naka, which 
in one hymn is perhaps tauntingly said to have * saved his 

1 'Legends of Old Testament Characters,' i. p. 83. 
■■' GEdip., 1. II. ii. See 'Mankind : their Origin and Destiny,' p. 699. 

1 84 TYPHON. 

feet.* Amen-Ra becomes Horus and Set becomes Typhon. 
The Typhonian myth is very complex, and includes the 
conflict between the Nile and all its enemies — the croco- 
diles that lurk in it, the sea that swallows it, the drouth 
that dries it, the burning heat that brings malaria from it, 
the floods that render it destructive — and Set was through 
it evolved to a point where he became identified with 
Saturn, Sheitan, or Satan. Plutarch, identifying Set with 
Typho, says that those powers of the universal Soul, 
which are subject to the influences of passions, and in the 
material system whatever is noxious, as bad air, irregular 
seasons, eclipses of the sun and moon, are ascribed to 
Typho. The name Set, according to him, means 'violent' 
and 'hostile;' and he was described as 'double-headed,' 
*he who has two countenances,' and 'the Lord of the 
World.' Not the least significant fact, in a moral sense, is 
that Set or Typho is represented as the brother of Osiris 
whom he slew. 

Without here going into the question of relationship 
between Typhaon and Typhoeus, we may feel tolerably 
certain that the fire-breathing hurricane-monster Typhaon 
of Homer, and the hundred-headed, fierce-eyed roarer 
Typhoeus — son of Tartarus, father of Winds and Harpies 
— represent the same ferocities of Nature. No fitter place 
was ever assigned him than the African desert, and the 
story of the gods and goddesses fleeing before Typhon into 
Egypt, and there transforming themselves into animals, 
from terror, is a transparent tribute to the dominion over 
the wilderness of sand exercised by the typhoon in its 
many moods. The vulture-harpy tearing the dead is his 
child. He is many-headed ; now hot, stifling, tainted ; now 
tempestuous ; here sciroc, there hurricane, and often tor- 
nado. It may be indeed that as at once coiled in the 
whirlwind and blistering, he is the fiery serpent to appease 



whom Moses lifted the brasen serpent for the worship of 
Israel. I have often seen snakes hung up by negroes in 
Virginia, to bring rain in time of drouth. Typhon, as may 
easily be seen by the accompanying figure (14), is a hun- 
gry and thirsty demon. His tongue is lolling out with 
thirst.^ His later connection with the underworld is shown 
in various myths, one of which 
seems to suggest a popular belief 
that Typhon is not pleased with 
the mummies withheld from him, 
and that he can enjoy his human 
viands only through burials of the 
dead. In Egypt, after the Coptic 
Easter Monday — called Shemmen- 
Nesseem (smelling the zephyr) 
— come the fifty-days' hot wind, 
called Khamseen or Cain wind. 
After slaying Abel, Cain wandered 
amid such a wind, tortured with 
fever and thirst. Then he saw two 
birds fight in the air ; one having 
killed the other scratched a hole 
in the desert sand and buried it. 
Cain then did the like by his bro- Fig. 14.— Typhon (Wilkinson). 
ther's body, when a zephyr sf^rang up and cooled his fever. 
But still, say the Alexandrians, the fifty-days' hot Cain 
wind return annually. 

In pictures of the mirage, or in cloud-shapes faintly 
illumined by the afterglow, the dwellers beside the plains 
of sand saw, as in phantasmagoria, the gorgeous palaces, 
the air-castles, and mysterious cities, which make the 
romance of the desert. Unwilling to believe that such 
realms of barrenness had ever been created by any good 

^ Compare Kali, Fig. i8. 


god, they beheld in dreams, which answer to nature's own 
mirage-dreaming, visions of dynasties passed away, of 
magnificent palaces and monarchs on whose pomp and 
heaven-defying pride the fatal sand-storm had fallen, and 
buried their glories in the dust for ever. The desert be- 
came the emblem of immeasurable all-devouring Time, 
In many of these legends there are intimations of a belief 
that Eden itself lay where now all is unbroken desert. In 
the beautiful legend in the Midrash of Solomon's voyage 
on the Wind, the monarch alighted near a lofty palace of 
gold, 'and the scent there was like the scent of the garden 
of Eden.' The dust had so surrounded this palace that 
Solomon and his companions only learned that there had 
been an entrance from an eagle in it thirteen centuries 
old, which had heard from its father the tradition of an 
entrance on the western side. The obedient Wind having 
cleared away the sand, a door was found on whose lock 
was written, '' Be it known to you, ye sons of men, that we 
dwelt in this palace in prosperity and delight many years. 
When the famine came upon us we ground pearls in the 
mill instead of wheat, but it profited us nothing.' Amid 
marvellous splendours, from chamber to chamber garnished 
with ruby, topaz, emerald, Solomon passed to a mansion 
on whose three gates were written admonitions of the 
transitory nature of all things but — Death. ' Let not for- 
tune deceive thee.' 'The world is given from one to 
another.' On the third gate was written, ' Take pro- 
vision for thy journey, and make ready food for thyself 
while it is yet day ; for thou shalt not be left on the 
earth, and thou knowest not the day of thy Death.' 
This gate Solomon opened and saw within a life-like 
image seated : as the monarch approached, this image 
cried with a loud voice, 'Come hither, ye children of Satan; 
see 1 King Solomon is come to destroy you.' Then fire 

AZAZEL. 187 

and smoke issued from the nostrils of the image ; and there 
were loud and bitter cries, with earthquake and thunder. 
But Solomon uttered against them the Ineffable Name, 
and all the images fell on their faces, and the sons of Satan 
fled and cast themselves into the sea, that they might not 
fall into the hands of Solomon. The king then took from 
the neck of the image a silver tablet, with an inscription 
which he could not read, until the Almighty sent a youth 
to assist him. It said : — ' I, Sheddad, son of Ad, reigned 
over a thousand thousand provinces, and rode on a thou- 
sand thousand horses ; a thousand thousand kings were 
subject to me, and a thousand thousand warriors I slew 
Yet in the hour that the Angel of Death came against me, 
I could not withstand him. Whoso shall read this writing 
let him not trouble himself greatly about this world, for 
the end of all men is to die, and nothing remains to man 
but a good name.' ^ 

Azazel — 'strong against God' — is the biblical name of 
the Demon of the Desert (Lev. xvi.). ' Aaron shall cast 
lots upon the two goats : one lot for Jehovah, and the 
other for Azazel. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon 
which the lot for Jehovah fell, and offer him for a sin- 
offering : But the goat, on which the lot for Azazel fell, 
shall be presented alive before Jehovah, to make an atone- 
ment with him, to let him go to Azazel in the wilderness. 
. . . And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head 
of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of 
the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all 
their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and 
send him away by the hand of a fit man into the desert. 
And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto 

■^ Soc. of Heb. Literature's Publications. 2d Series. * Legends from the 
Midrash,' by Thomas Chenery (Triibner & Co.). The same legend is referred 
to in the story of the Astrologer in Washington Irving's ' Alhambra. ' 


a land not inhabited ; and he shall let go the goat in the 
desert.' Of the moral elements here involved much will 
have to be said hereafter. This demon ultimately turned 
to a devil ; and persisting through both forms is the familiar 
principle that it is ' well enough to have friends on both 
sides ' so plainly at work in the levitical custom ; but it is 
particularly interesting to observe that the same animal 
should be used as offerings to the antagonistic deities. In 
Egyptian Mythology we find that the goat had precisely 
this two-fold consecration. It was sacred to Chem, the 
Egyptian Pan, god of orchards and of all fruitful lands ; 
and it became also sacred to Mendes, the * Destroyer/ or 
'Avenging Power' of Ra. It will thus be seen that the 
same principle which from the sun detached the fructify- 
ing from the desert-making power, and made Typhon 
and Osiris hostile brothers, prevailed to send the same 
animal to Azazel in the Desert and Jehovah of the milk 
and honey land. Originally the goat was supreme. The 
Samaritan Pentateuch opens, ' In the beginning the Goat 
created the heaven and the earth,' In the Hebrew cul- 
ture-myth of Cain and Abel, also brothers, there may be 
represented, as Goldziher supposes, the victory of the agri- 
culturist over the nomad or shepherd ; but there is also 
traceable in it the supremacy of the Goat, Mendez or 
Azima, ' Abel brought the firstling of the goats.' 

Very striking is the American (Iroquois) myth of the 
conflict between Joskeha and Tawiscara, — the White One 
and the Dark One. They were twins, born of a virgin 
who died in giving them life. Their grandmother was the 
moon (Ataensic, she who bathes). These brothers fought, 
Joskeha using as weapon the horns of a stag, Tawiscara 
the wild-rose. The latter fled sorely wounded, and the 
blood gushing from him turned to flint-stones. The victor, 
who used the stag-horns (the same weapon that Frey uses 


against Beli, in the Prose Edda, and denoting perhaps a 
primitive bone-age art), destroyed a monster frog which 
swallowed all the waters, and guided the torrents into 
smooth streams and lakes. He stocked the woods with 
game, invented fire, watched and watered crops, and with- 
out him, says the old missionary Brebeuf, ' they think they 
could not boil a pot.' The use by the desert-demon 
Tawiscara of a wild rose as his weapon is a beautiful touch 
in this myth. So much loveliness grew even amid the 
hard flints. One is reminded of the closing scene in the 
second part of Goethe's Faust. There, when Faust has 
realised the perfect hour to which he can say, ' Stay, thou 
art fair ! ' by causing by his labour a wilderness to blossom 
as a rose, he lies down in happy death; and when the 
demons come for his soul, angels pelt them with roses, 
which sting them like flames. Not wild roses were these, 
such as gave the Dark One such poor succour. The 
defence of Faust is the roses he has evoked from briars. 

( 19° ) 



Mephistopheles on Crags — Emerson on Monadnoc — Ruskin on Alpine 
peasants — Holy and Unholy Mountains — The Devil's Pulpit — 
Montagnards — Tarns — Tenjo — T'ai-shan — Apocatequil — Tyro- 
lese Legends — Rock Ordeal — Scylla and Charybdis — Scottish 
Giants — Pontifex — Devil's Bridges — Le g^ant Ydous. 

Related to the demons of Barrenness, and to the hostile 
human demons, but still possessing characteristics of their 
own, are the demons supposed to haunt gorges, mountain 
ranges, ridges of rocks, streams which cannot be forded 
and are yet unbridged, rocks that wreck the raft or boat. 
Each and every obstruction that stood in the way of man's 
plough, or of his first frail ship, or his migration, has been 
assigned its demon. The reader of Goethe's page has 
only to turn to the opening lines of Walpurgisnacht in 
Fatist to behold the real pandemonium of the Northern 
man, as in Milton he may find that of the dweller amid 
fiery deserts and volcanoes. That labyrinth of vales, 
crossed with wild crag and furious torrent, is the natural 
scenery to surround the orgies of the phantoms which flit 
from the uncultured brain to uncultured nature. Else- 
where in Goethe's great poem, Mephistopheles pits against 
the philosophers the popular theory of the rugged remnants 
of chaos in nature, and the obstacles before which man is 


Faust. For me this mountain mass rests nobly" dumb ; 

I ask not whence it is, nor why 'tis come ? 
, Herself when Nature in herself did found 

This globe of earth, she then did purely round ; 

The summit and abyss her pleasure made, 

Mountain to mountain, rock to rock she laid ; 

The hillocks down she neatly fashion'd then, 

To valleys soften'd them with gentle train. 

Then all grew green and bloom' d, and in her joy 

She needs no foolish spoutings to employ. 
MepMstopheles. So say ye ! It seems clear as noon to ye, 

Yet he knows who was there the contrary. 

I was hard by below, when seething flame 

Swelled the abyss, and streaming fire forth came ; 

When Moloch's hammer forging rock to rock. 

Far flew the fragment- cliffs beneath the shock : 

Of masses strange and huge the land was full ; 

Who clears away such piles of hurl'd misrule ? 

Philosophers the reason cannot see ; 

There lies the rock, and they must let it be. 

We have reflected till ashamed we've grown ; 

The common folk can thus conceive alone, 

And in conception no disturbance know. 

Their wisdom ripen'd has long while ago : 

A miracle it is, they Satan honour show. 

My wanderer on faith's crutches hobbles on 

Towards the devil's bridge and devil's stone.^ 

The great American poet made his pilgrimage to the 
mountain so beautiful in the distance, thinking to find 
there the men of equal elevation. Did not Milton describe 
Freedom as ' a mountain nymph ? ' 

To myself I oft recount 
The tale of many a famous mount, — 
Wales, Scotland, Uri, Hungary's dells ; 
Roys, and Scanderbergs, and Tells. 
Here Nature shall condense her powers, 
Her music, and her meteors, 
And lifting man to the blue deep 
Where stars their perfect courses keep, 

^ Faust, ii. Act 4 (Hayward's Translation). 


Like wise preceptor, lure his eye 
To sound the science of the sky. 

But instead of finding there the man using those crags as 
a fastness to fight pollution of the mind, he 

searched the region round 
And in low hut my monarch found : 
He was no eagle, and no earl ; — 
Alas ! my foundling was a churl, 
With heart of cat and Cyes of bug, 
Dull victim of his pipe and mug.^ 

Ruskin has the same gloomy report to make of the 
mountaineers of Europe. ' The wild goats that leap along 
those rocks have as much passion of joy in all that fair 
work of God as the men that toil among them. Perhaps 
more.' ' Is it not strange to reflect that hardly an even- 
ing passes in London or Paris but one of those cottages 
is painted for the better amusement of the fair and idle, 
and shaded with pasteboard pines by the scene-shifter ; 
and that good and kind people, — poetically minded, — 
delight themselves in imagining the happy life led by 
peasants who dwell by Alpine fountains, and kneel to 
crosses upon peaks of rock .'' that nightly we lay down our 
gold to fashion forth simulacra of peasants, in gay ribbons 
and white bodices, singing sweet songs and bowing grace- 
fully to the picturesque crosses ; and all the while the 
veritable peasants are kneeling, songlessly, to veritable 
crosses in another temper than the kind and fair audiences 
dream of, and assuredly with another kind of answer than 
is got out of the opera catastrophe.' ^ 

The writer remembers well the emphasis with which a 
poor woman at whose cottage he asked the path to the 
Natural Bridge in Virginia said, * I don't know why so 
many people come to these rocks ; for my part, give m.e a 

^ 'Emerson's Poems. Monadnoc' ^ 'Modern Painters,' Part V. 19. 


level country/ Many ages lay between that aged crone 
and Emerson or Ruskin, and they were ages of heavy war 
with the fortresses of nature. The fabled ordeals of water 
and fire through which the human race passed were asso- 
ciated with Ararat and Sinai, because to migrating or 
farming man the mountain was always an ordeal, irrespec- 
tive even of its torrents or its occasional lava-streams. A 
terrible vista is opened by the cry of Lot, ' I cannot escape 
to the mountain lest some evil take me!' Not even the 
fire consuming Sodom in the plains could nerve him to 
dare cope with the demons of the steep places. As time 
went on, devotees proved to the awe-stricken peasantries 
their sanctity and authority by combating those mountain 
demons, and erecting their altars in the ' high places.' So 
many summits became sacred. But this very sanctity was 
the means of bringing on successive demoniac hordes to 
haunt them ; for every new religion saw in those altars in 
* high places ' not victories over demons, but demon-shrines. 
And thus mountains became the very battlefields between 
rival deities, each demon to his or her rival ; and the con- 
flict lasts from the cursing of the ' high places ' by the 
priests of Israel^ to the Devil's Pulpits of the Alps and 
Apennines. Among the beautiful frescoes at Baden is 
that of the Angel's and the Devil's Pulpit, by Gdtzen- 
berger. Near Gernsbach, appropriately at the point where 
the cultivable valley meets the unconquerable crests of 
rock, stand the two pulpits from which Satan and an 
Angel contended, when the first christian missionaries 
had failed to convert the rude foresters. When, by the 
Angel's eloquence, all were won from the Devil's side 
except a few witches and usurers, the fiend tore up great 
masses of rock and built the ' Devil's Mill ' on the moun- 

^ Bel's mountain, ' House of the Beloved,' is called 'high place ' in Assy- 
rian, and would be included in these curses (' Records of the Past,' iii. 129). 
VOL. I. N 


tain-top ; and he was hurled down by the Ahnighty on the 
rocks near ' Lord's Meadow,' where the marks of his claws 
may still be seen, and where, by a diminishing number of 
undiminished ears, his groans are still heard when a storm 
rages through the valley. 

Such conflicts as these have been in some degree asso- 
ciated with every mountain of holy or unholy fame. Each 
was in its time a prosaic Hill Difficulty, with Hons by no 
means chained, to affright the hearts of Mistrust and Timo- 
rous, till Dervish or Christian impressed there his holy 
footprint, visible from Adam's Peak to Olivet, or built 
there his convents, discernible froto Meru and Olympus 
to Pontyprydd and St. Catharine's Hill. By necessary 
truces the demons and deities repair gradually to their 
respective summits, — Seir and Sinai hold each their own. 
But the Holy Hills have never equalled the number of 
Dark Mountains^ dreaded by man. These obstructive 
demons made the mountains Moul-ge and Nin-ge, names 
for the King and Queen of the Accadian Hell ; they made 
the Finnish Mount Kippumaki the abode of all Pests. 
They have identified their name (Elf) with the Alps, given 
nearly every tarn an evil fame, and indeed created a 
special class of demons, ' Montagnards,' much dreaded by 
mediaeval miners, whose faces they sometimes twisted so 
that they must look backward physically, as they were 
much in the habit of doing mentally, for ever afterward. 
Gervais of Tilbury, in his Chronicle, declares that on the 
top of Mount Canigon in France, which has a very inac- 
cessible summit, there is a black lake of unknown depth, 
at whose bottom the demons have a palace, and that if any 
one drops a stone into that water, the wrath of the moun- 
tain demons is shown in sudden and frightful tempests. 
From a like tarn in Cornwall, as Cornish Folklore claims, 

^ Jer. xiii. i6. 

TEN -JO. 195 

on an accessible but very tedious hill, came up the hand 
which received the brand Escalibore when its master 
could wield it no more, — as told in the Morte D' Arthur, 
with, however, clear reference to the sea. 

I cannot forbear enlivening my page with the following 
sketch of a visit of English officers to the realm of Ten-jo, 
the long-nosed Mountain-demon of Japan, which is very 
suggestive of the mental atmosphere amid which such 
spectres exist. The mountains and forests of Japan are, 
say these writers, inhabited as thickly by good and evil 
spirits as the Hartz and Black Forest, and chief among 
them, in horrible sanctity, is 0-yama, — the word echoes 
the Hindu Yama, Japanese Amma, kings of Hades, — 
whose demon is Ten-jo. ' Abdul and Mulney once started, 
on three days' leave, with the intention of climbing to the 
summit — not of Ten-jo's nose, but of the mountain ; their 
principal reason for so doing being simply that they were 
told by every one that they had better not. They first 
tried the ascent on the most accessible side, but fierce 
two-sworded yakomins jealously guarded it; and they 
were obliged to make the attempt on the other, which 
was almost inaccessible, and was Ten-jo's region. The 
villagers at the base of the mountain begged them to give 
up the project ; and one old man, a species of patriarch, 
reasoned with them. ' What are you going to do when 
you get to the top.-*' he asked. Our two friends were 
forced to admit that their course, then, would be very 
similar to that of the king of France and his men — come 
down again. 

The old man laughed pityingly, and said, * Well, go if 
you like ; but, take my word for it, Ten-jo will do you an 

They asked who Ten-jo was. 

'Why Ten-jo,' said the old man, 'is an evil spirit, with 


a long nose, who will dislocate your limbs if you persist in 
going up the mountain on this side.' 

* How do you know he has got a long nose ? ' they asked, 
* Have you ever seen him ? ' 

' Because all evil spirits have long noses ' — here Mulney 
hung his head, — ' and/ continued the old man, not noticing 
how dreadfully personal he was becoming to one of the 
party, * Ten-jo has the longest of the lot. Did you ever 
know a man with a long nose who was good ? ' 

' Come on,' said Mulney hurriedly to Abdul, 'or the old 
fool will make me out an evil spirit.' 

' Syonara,' said the old man as they walked away, ' but 
look out for Ten-jo ! ' 

After climbing hard for some hours, and not meeting a 
single human being, — not even the wood-cutter could be 
tempted by the fine timber to encroach on Ten-jo's pre- 
cincts, — they reached the top, and enjoyed a magnificent 
view. After a rest they started on their descent, the worst 
part of which they had accomplished, when, as they were 
walking quietly along a good path, Abdul's ankle turned 
under him, and he went down as if he had been shot, with 
his leg broken in two places. With difficulty Mulney man- 
aged to get him to the village they had started from, and 
the news ran like wild-fire that Ten-jo had broken the leg 
of one of the adventurous tojins. 

' I told you how it would be,' exclaimed the old man, 
' but you would go. Ah, Ten-jo is a dreadful fellow ! ' 

All the villagers, clustering round, took up the cry, and 
shook their heads. Ten-jo's reputation had increased won- 
derfully by this accident. Poor Abdul was on his back 
for eleven weeks, and numbers of Japanese — for he was a 
general favourite amongst them — went to see him, and to 
express their regret and horror at Ten-jo's behaviour.^ 
^ ' Our Life in Japan.' By Jephson and Elmhirst. 



It is obvious that to a demon dwelling in a high moun- 
tain a long nose would be' variously useful to poke into 
the affairs of people dwelling in the plains, and also to 
enjoy the scent of their sacrifices offered at a respectful 
distance. That feature of the face which Napoleon I. 
regarded as of martial importance, and which is prominent 
in the warriors marked on the Mycense pottery, has gene- 
rally been a physiognomical characteristic of European 
ogres, who are blood-smellers. That the significance of 
Ten-jo's long nose is this, appears probable when we com- 
pare him with the Calmuck dem.on Erlik, whose long nose 
is for smelling out the dying. The Cossacks believed that 
the protector of the earth was a many-headed elephant. 
The snouted demon (figure 15) is from a picture of Christ 
delivering Adam and Eve from hell, by Lucas Van Ley- 
den, 1521. 

Fig. 15.— Snouted Demon. 

The Chinese Mountains also have their demons. The 
demon of the mountain T'ai-shan, in Shantung, is believed 
to regulate the punishments of men in this world and the 
next. Four other demon princes rule over the principal 
mountain chains of the Empire. Mr. Dennys remarks 
that mountainous localities are so regularly the homes of 
fairies in Chinese superstition that some connection be- 
tween the fact and the relation of ' Elf to 'Alp' in Europe 


is suggested.^ But this coincidence is by no means so 
remarkable as the appearance among these Chinese moun- 
tain sprites of the magical ' Sesame,' so familiar to us in 
Arabian legend. The celebrated mountain Ku'en Lun 
(usually identified with the Hindoo Kush) is said to be 
peopled with fairies, who cultivate upon its terraces the 
' fields of sesamum and gardens of coriander seeds/ which 
are eaten as ordinary food by those who possess the gift 
of longevity. 

In the superstitions of the American Aborigines we find 
gigantic demons who with their hands piled up mountain- 
chains as their castles, from whose peak-towers they hurled 
stones on their enemies in the plains, and slung them to 
the four corners of the earth.^ Such was the terrible 
Apocatequil, whose statue was erected on the mountains, 
with that of his mother on the one hand and his brother 
on the other. He was Prince of Evil and the chief god of 
the Peruvians. From Quito to Cuzco every Indian would 
give all he possessed to conciliate him. Five priests, two 
stewards, and a crowd of slaves served his image. His 
principal temple was surrounded by a considerable village, 
whose inhabitants had no other occupation than to wait 
on him.^ 

The plaudits which welcomed the first railway train that 
sped beneath the Alps, echoing amid their crags and 
gorges, struck with death the old phantasms which had so 
long held sway in the imagination of the Southern pea- 
santry. The great tunnel was hewn straight through the 
stony hearts of giants whom Christianity had tried to slay, 
and, failing that, baptised and adopted. It is in the Tyrol 

^ Another derivation of Elf (Alf) is to connect it with Sanskrit A/pa = ]itile ; 
so that the Elves are the Little Folk. Professor Buslaef of Moscow suggests 
connection with the Greek Alphito, a spectre. See pp. i6on. and 223. 
2 Brinton, p. 85. ^ Ibid., p. 166. 


that we find the clearest survivals of the old demons of 
obstruction, the mountain monarchs. Such is Jordan the 
Giant of Kohlhiitte chasm, near Ungarkopf, whose story, 
along with others, is so prettily told by the Countess Von 
Gunther. This giant is something of a Ten-jo as to nose, 
for he smells * human meat' where his pursued victims are 
hidden, and his snort makes things tremble as before a 
tempest ; but he has not the intelligence ascribed to large 
noses, for the boys ultimately persuade him that the way 
to cross a stream is to tie a stone around his neck, and he 
is drowned. One of the giants of Albach could carry a 
rock weighing 10,000 pounds, and his comrades, while 
carrying others of 700 pounds, could leap from stone to 
stone across rivers, and stoop to catch the trout with their 
hands as they leaped. The ferocious Oreo, the mountain- 
ghost who never ages, fulfils the tradition of his classic 
name by often appearing as a monstrous black dog, from 
whose side stones rebound, and fills the air with a bad 
smell (like Mephisto). His employment is hurling way- 
farers down precipices. In her story of the ' Unholdenhof ' 
— or ' monster farm ' in the Stubeithal — the Countess Von 
Gunther describes the natural character of the mountain 

' It was on this self-same spot that the forester and his 
son took up their abode, and they became the dread and 
abomination of the whole surrounding country, for they 
practised, partly openly and partly in secret, the most mani- 
fold iniquities, so that their nature and bearing grew into 
something demoniacal. As quarrellers very strong, and as 
enemies dreadfully revengeful, they showed their diaboli- 
cal nature by the most inhuman deeds, which brought 
down injury not only on those against whom their wrath 
was directed, but also upon their families for centuries. 
In the heights of the mountains they turned the beds of the 

200 HEIMO. 

torrents, and devastated by this means the most flourish- 
ing tracts of land ; on other places the Unholde set on 
fire whole mountain forests, to allow free room for the 
avalanches to rush down and overwhelm the farms. 
Through certain means they cut holes and fissures in the 
rocks, in which, during the summer, quantities of water 
collected, which froze in the winter, and then in the spring 
the thawing ice split the rocks, which then rolled down 
into the valleys, destroying everything before them. . . . 
But at last Heaven's vengeance reached them. An earth- 
quake threw the forester's house into ruins, wild torrents 
tore over it, and thunderbolts set all around it in a 
blaze ; and by fire and water, with which they had sin- 
ned, father and son perished, and were condemned to 
everlasting torments. Up to the present day they are 
to be seen at nightfall on the mountain in the form of 
two fiery boars.' ^ 

Some of these giants, as has been intimated, were con- 
verted. Such was the case with Heimo, who owned and 
devastated a vast tract of country on the river Inn, which, 
however, he bridged — whence Innsbruck — when he became 
a christian and a monk. This conversion was a terrible 
disappointment to the devil, who sent a huge dragon to 
stop the building of the monastery; but Heimo attacked 
the dragon, killed him, and cut out his tongue. With 
this tongue, a yard and a half long, in his hand, he is 
represented in his statue, and the tongue is still pre- 
served in the cloister. Heimo became a monk at 
Wilten, lived a pious life, and on his death was buried 
near the monastery. The stone coffin in which the gigantic 
bones repose is shown there, and measures over twenty- 
eight feet. 

Of nearly the same character as the Mountain Demons, 

^ 'Tales and Legends of the Tyrol.' (Chapman and Hall, 1874.) 


and possessing even more features of the Demons of Bar- 
renness, are the monsters guarding rocky passes. They 
are distributed through land, sea, and rivers. The famous 
rocT<:s between Italy and Sicily bore the names of dan- 
gerous monsters, Scylla and Charybdis, which have now 
become proverbial expressions for alternative perils be- 
setting any enterprise. According to Homer, Scylla was 
a kind of canine monster with six long necks, the mouths 
paved each with three rows of sharp teeth ; while Charyb- 
dis, sitting under her fig-tree, daily swallowed the waters 
and vomited them up again.^ Distantly related to these 
fabulous monsters, probably, are many of the old notions of 
ordeals undergone between rocks standing close together, or 
sometimes through holes in rocks, of which examples are 
found in Great Britain. An ordeal of this kind exists at 
Pera, where the holy well is reached through a narrow slit. 
Visitors going there recently on New Year's Day were 
warned by the dervish in charge — ' Look through it at the 
water if you please, but do not essay to enter unless your 
consciences are completely free from sin, for as sure as 
you try to pass through with a taint upon your soul, you 
will be gripped by the rock and held there for ever.' ^ The 
' Bocca della Verita' — a great stone face like a huge mill- 
stone — stands in the portico of the church S. Maria in 
Cosmedin at Rome, and its legend is that a suspected 
person was required to place his hand through the open 
mouth ; if he swore falsely it would bite off the hand — 
the explanation now given being that a swordsman was 
concealed behind to make good the judicial shrewdness 
of the stone in case the oath were displeasing to the 

The myth of Scylla, which relates that she was a beau- 
tiful maiden, beloved by Glaucus, whom Circe through 

^ Od. xii. 73 ; 235, (Src, ^ London Daily Telegraph Correspondence. 


jealousy transformed to a monster by throwing magic 
herbs into the well where she was wont to bathe, is 
recalled by various European legends. In Thuringia, on 
the road to Oberhof, stands the Red Stone, with its rose- 
bush, and a stream issuing from beneath it, where a beau- 
tiful maid is imprisoned. Every seven years she may be 
seen bathing in the stream. On one occasion a peasant 
passing by heard a sneeze in the rock, and called out, 
' God help thee ! ' The sneeze and the benediction were 
repeated, until at the seventh time the man cried, ' Oh, 
thou cursed witch, deceive not honest people ! ' As he 
then walked off, a wailing voice came out of the stone, 
' Oh, hadst thou but only wished the last time that God 
would help me, He would have helped me, and thou 
wouldst have delivered me ; now I must tarry till the 
Day of Judgment! ' The voice once cried out to a wed- 
ding procession passing by the stone, ' To-day wed, next 
year dead;' and the bride having died a year after, 
wedding processions dread the spot. 

The legends of giants and giantesses, so numerous in 
Great Britain, are equally associated with rocky mountain- 
passes, or the boulders they were supposed to have tossed 
thence when sportively stoning each other. They are the 
Tor of the South and Ben of the North. The hills of Ross- 
shire in Scotland are mythological monuments of Cailliach- 
more, great woman, who, while carrying a pannier filled 
with earth and stones on her back, paused for a moment 
on a level spot, now the site of Ben-Vaishard, when the 
bottom of the pannier gave way, forming the hills. The 
recurrence of the names Gog and Magog in Scotland 
suggests that in mountainous regions the demons were 
especially derived from the hordes of robbers and savages, 
among whom, in their uncultivable hills, the ploughshare 
could never conquer the spear and club. 


Richard Doyle enriched the first Exhibition of the 
Grosvenor Gallery in London, 1877, with many beautiful 
pictures inspired by European Folklore. They were a 
pretty garniture for the cemetery of dead religions. The 
witch once seen on her broom departing from the high 
crags of Cuhillan, cheered by her faithful dwarf, is no longer 
unlovely as in the days when she was burned by proxy 
in some poor human hag ; obedient to art — a more potent 
wand than her own — she reascends to the clouds from 
which she was borne, and is hardly distinguishable from 
them. Slowly man came to learn with the poet — 

It was the mountain streams that fed 
The fair green plain's amenities. ^ 

Then the giants became fairies, and not a few of these wore 
at last the mantles of saints. A similar process has been 
undergone by another subject, which finds its pretty epitaph 
in the artist's treatment. We saw in two pictures the Dame 
Blanche of Normandy, lurking in the ravine beside a stream 
under the dusk, awaiting yon rustic wood-cutter who is 
presently horizontal in the air in that mad dance, after 
which he will be found exhausted. As her mountain-sister 
is faintly shaped out of the clouds that cap Cuhillan, this 
one is an imaginative outgrowth of the twilight shadows, the 
silvery glintings of moving clouds mirrored in pools, and her 
tresses are long luxuriant grasses. She is of a sisterhood 
which passes by hardly perceptible gradations into others, 
elsewhere described — the creations of Illusion and Night. 
She is not altogether one of these, however, but a type of 
more direct danger — the peril of fords, torrents, thickets, 
marshes, and treacherous pools, which may seem shallow, 
but are deep. 

The water-demons have been already described in their 

^ John Sterling. 


obvious aspects, but it is nfecessary to mention here the 
simple obstructive river-demons haunting fords and burns, 
and hating bridges. Many tragedies, and many personi- 
fications of the forces which caused them, preceded the 
sanctity of the title Pontifex. The torrent that roared 
across man's path seemed the vomit of a demon : the sacred 
power was he who could bridge it. In one of the most 
beautiful celebrations of Indra it is said : ' He tranquillised 
this great river so that it might be crossed ; he conveyed 
across it in safety the sages who had been unable to pass 
over it, and who, having crossed, proceeded to realise the 
wealth they sought ; in the exhilaration of the soma, Indra 
has done these deeds.' ^ In Ceylon, the demon Tota still 
casts malignant spells about fords and ferries. 

Many are the legends of the opposition offered by de- 
mons to bridge-building, and of the sacrifices which had to 
be made to them before such works could be accomplished. 
A few specimens must suffice us. Mr. Dennys relates a 
very interesting one of the ' Loh-family bridge' at Shang- 
hai. Difficulty having been found in laying the foundations, 
the builder vowed to Heaven two thousand children if the 
stones could be placed properly. The goddess addressed 
said she would not require their lives, but that the number 
named would be attacked by small-pox, which took 
place, and half the number died. A Chinese author says, 
* If bridges are not placed in proper positions, such as 
the laws of geomancy indicate, they may endanger the 
lives of thousands, by bringing about a visitation of small- 
pox or sore eyes.' At Hang-Chow a tea-merchant cast 
himself into the river Tsien-tang as a sacrifice to the 
Spirit of the dikes, which were constantly being washed 

The 'Devil's Bridges,' to which Mephistopheles alludes 

1 ' Rig- Veda,' ii. 15, 5. Wilson. 1854. 


so proudly, are frequent in Germany, and most of them, 
whether natural or artificial, have diabolical associations. 
The oldest structures often have legends in which are re- 
flected the conditions exacted by evil powers, of those 
who spanned the fords in which men had often been 
drowned. Of this class is the Montafon Bridge in the 
Tyrol, and another is the bridge at Ratisbon. The legend 
of the latter is a fair specimen of those which generally 
haunt these ancient structures. Its architect was appren- 
tice to a master who was building the cathedral, and laid 
a wager that he would bridge the Danube before the other 
laid the coping-stone of the sacred edifice. But the work 
of bridging the river was hard, and after repeated failures 
the apprentice began to swear, and wished the devil had 
charge of the business ! Whereupon he of the cloven foot 
appeared in guise of a friar, and agreed to build the fifteen 
arches — for a consideration. The fee was to be the first 
three that crossed the bridge. The cunning apprentice 
contrived that these three should not be human, but a dog, 
a cock, and a hen. The devil, in wrath at the fraud, tore 
the animals to pieces and disappeared ; a procession of 
monks passed over the bridge and made it safe ; and there- 
on are carved figures of the three animals. In most of the 
stories it is a goat which is sent over and mangled, that 
poor animal having preserved its character as scape-goat 
in a great deal of the Folklore of Christendom. The Dan- 
ube was of old regarded as under the special guardianship 
of the Prince of Darkness, who used to make great efforts 
to obstruct the Crusaders voyaging down it to rescue the 
Holy Land from pagans. On one occasion, near the con- 
fluence of the Vilz and Danube, he began hurling huge 
rocks into the river-bed from the cliffs; the holy warriors 
resisted successfully by signing the cross and singing an 
anthem, but the huge stone first thrown caused a whirl 


and swell in that part of the river, which were very dan- 
gerous until it was removed by engineers. 

It is obvious, especially to the English, who have so long 
found a defensive advantage in the silver streak of sea that 
separates them from the Continent, that an obstacle, whether 
of mountain-range or sea, would, at a certain point in the 
formation of a nation, become as valuable as at another it 
might be obstructive. Euphemism is credited with having 
given the friendly name ' Euxine ' to the rough ' Axine ' 
Sea, — ' terrible to foreigners.' But this is not so certain. 
Many a tribe has found the Black Sea a protection and a 
friend. In the case of mountains, their protective advan- 
tages would account at once for Milton's celebration of 
Freedom as a mountain nymph, and for the stupidity of 
the people that dwell amid them, so often remarked ; the 
very means of their independence would also be the cause 
of their insulation and barbarity. It is for those who go 
to and fro that knowledge is increased. The curious and 
inquiring are most apt to migrate ; the enterprising will 
not submit to be shut away behind rocks and mountains ; 
by their departure there would be instituted, behind the 
barriers of rock and hill, a survival of the stupidest. 
These might ultimately come to worship their chains and 
cover their craggy prison-walls with convents and crosses. 
The demons of aliens would be their gods. The climbing 
Hannibals would be their devils. It might have been 
expected, after the passages quoted from Mr. Ruskin 
concerning the bovine condition of Alpine peasantries, 
that he would salute the tunnel through Mont Cenis. 
The peasantries who would see in the sub-alpine engine a 
demon are extinct. Admiration of the genii of obstruc- 
tion, and horror of the demons that vanquished them, are 
discoverable only in folk-tales distant enough to be pretty, 
such as the interesting Serbian story of ' Satan's jugglings 


and God's might,' in which fairies hiding in successively- 
opened nuts vainly try to oppose with fire and flood a she- 
demon pursuing a prince and his bride, to whose aid at last 
comes a flash of lightning which strikes the fiend dead. 

One of the beautiful * Contes d'une Grand'mere/ by- 
George Sand, Le geant Yeous, has in it the sense of many 
fables born of man's struggle with obstructive nature. 
With her wonted felicity she places the scene of this true 
human drama near the mountain Yeous, in the Pyrenees, 
whose name is a far-off echo of Zeus. The summit bore 
an enormous rock which, seen from a distance, appeared 
somewhat like a statue. The peasant Miquelon, who had 
his little farm at the mountain's base, whenever he passed 
made the sign of the cross and taught his little son 
Miquel to do the same, telling him that the great form 
was that of a pagan god, an enemy of the human race. 
An avalanche fell upon the home and garden of Miquelon; 
the poor man himself was disabled for life, his house and 
farm turned in a moment into a wild mass of stones. 
Miquel looked up to the summit of Yeous ; the giant had 
disappeared ; henceforth it was the mighty form of an 
organic monster which the boy saw stretched over what 
had once been their happy home and smiling acres. The 
family went about begging, Miquelon repeating his strange 
appeal, ' Le geant s'est couche sur moi.' But when at last 
the old man dies, the son resolves to fulfil the silent dream 
of his life; he will encounter the giant Yeous still in 
possession of his paternal acres. With eyes of the young 
world this boy sees starting up here and there amid the 
vast debris, the head of the demon he wishes to crush. 
He hurls stones hither and thither where some fearful 
feature or limb appears. He is filled with rage ; his 
dreams are filled with attacks on the giant, in which the 
colossal head tumbles only to reappear on the shoulders ; 
every broken limb has the self-repairing power. There is 


no progress. But as the boy grows, and the contest grows, 
and need comes, there gathers in Miquel a desire to clear 
the ground. When he begins to think, it is no longer the 
passion to avenge his father on the stony giant which 
possesses him, but to recover their lost garden. Thus, 
indeed, the giant himself could alone be conquered. The 
huge rocks are split by gunpowder, some fragments are 
made into fences, others into a comfortable mansion for 
Miquel's mother and sisters. When the garden smiles 
again, and all are happy the demon form is no longer 

This little tale interprets with fine insight the demono- 
logy of barrenness and obstruction. The boy's wrath 
against the unconscious cause of his troubles is the rage 
often observed in children who retaliate upon the table or 
chair on which they have been bruised, and it repeats 
embryologically the rage of the world's boyhood inspired 
by ascription of personal motives to inanimate obstruc- 
tions. Possibly such wrath might have added something 
to the force with which man entered upon his combat 
with nature \ but George Sand's tale reminds us that 
whatever was gained in force was lost in its misdirection. 
Success came in the proportion that fury was replaced 
by the youth's growing recognition that he was dealing 
with facts that could not be raged out of existence. It is 

^ ' Du monstre qui m'avait tant ennuye, il n'etait plus question ; il etait pour 
jamais r^duit au silence. II n'avait pltis forme de geant. Deja en partie 
convert de verdure, de mousse et de clematites qui avaient grimpe sur la 
partie oil j'avais cesse de passer, il n'etait plus laid ; bientot on ne le verrait 
plus du tout. Je me sentais si heureux que je voulus lui pardonner, et, me 
tournant vers lui : — A present, lui dis-je, tu dormiras tous tes jours et tous tes 
nuits sans que je te derange. Le mauvais esprit qui etait en toi est vaincu, je 
lui defends de revenir. Je t'en ai delivre en te for9ant a devenir utile a quel- 
que chose ; que la foudre t'epargne et que la neige te soit legere ! II me 
sembla passer, le long de I'escarpenient, comme un grand soupir de resigna- 
tion qui se perdit dans les hauteurs. Ce fut la derniere fois que je I'entendais, 
et je ne I'ai jamais revu autre qu'il n'est maintenant.' 


crowned when he makes friends with the unconquerable 
remnant of the giant, and sees that he is not altogether 

It is at this stage that the higher Art, conversant with 
Beauty, enters to relieve man of many moral wounds 
received in the struggle. Clothed with moss and clematis, 
Yeous appears not so hideous after all. Further invested 
by the genius of a Turner, he would be beautiful. Yeous 
is a fair giant after all, only he needed finish. He is a 
type of nature. 

The boyhood of the world has not passed away with 
Miquel. We find a fictitious dualism cherished by the 
lovers of nature in their belief or feeling that nature 
exerts upon man some spiritual influence. Ruskin 
has said that in looking from the Campanile at Venice 
to the circle of snow which crowns the Adriatic, and 
then to the buildings which contain the works of Titian 
and Tintoret, he has felt unable to answer the question 
of his own heart. By which of these — the nature or the 
manhood — has God given mightier evidence of Himself.-' 
So nature may teach the already taught. While Ruskin 
looks from the Campanile, the peasant is fighting the 
mountain and calling its rocky grandeurs by the devil's 
name ; before the pictures he kneels. Untaught by art 
and science, the mind can derive no elevation from nature, 
can find no sympathy in it. It is a false notion that there 
is any compensation for the ignorant, denied access to 
art-galleries, in ability to pass their Sundays amid natural 
scenery. Health that may bring them, but mentally they 
are still inside the prison-walls from which look the stony 
eyes of Fates and Furies. Natural sublimities cannot 
refine minds crude as themselves ; they must pass through 
thought before they can feed thought; it is nature trans- 
figured in art that changes the snow-clad mountain from a 
heartless giant to a saviour in snow-pure raiment. 
VOL. I. O 

( 210 ) 



Maya — Natural Treacheries — Misleaders — Glamour — Lorelei — 
Chinese Mermaid — Transformations — Swan Maidens — Pigeon 
Maidens — The Seal-skin — Nudity — Teufelsee — Gohlitsee — ^Japa- 
nese Siren — Dropping Cave — Venusberg — Godiva — Will-o'-Wisp 
— Holy Fraulein — The Forsaken Merman — The Water-Man — 
Sea Phantom — Sunken Treasures — Suicide. 

Most beautiful of all the goddesses of India is Maya, 
Illusion. In Hindu iconography she is portrayed in dra- 
pery of beautiful colours, with decoration of richest gems 
and broidery of flowers. From above her crown falls a 
veil which, curving above her knees, returns on the other 
side, making, as it were, also an apron in which are held 
fair animal forms — prototypes of the creation over which 
she has dominion. The youthful yet serious beauty of her 
face and head is surrounded with a semi-aureole, fringed 
with soft lightning, striated with luminous sparks ; and 
these are background for a cruciform nimbus made of 
three clusters of rays. Maya presses her full breasts, from 
which flow fountains of milk which fall in graceful streams 
to mingle with the sea on which she stands. 

So to our Aryan ancestors appeared the spirit that 
paints the universe, flushing with tints so strangely impar- 
tial fruits forbidden and unforbidden for man and beast. 
Mankind are slandered by the priest's creed, Populus vult 
decipi ; they are justly vindicated in Plato's aphorism, 

MAYA. 211 

' Unwillingly is the soul deprived of truth ; ' but still they 
are deceived. Large numbers are truly described by 
Swedenborg, who found hells whose occupants believed 
themselves in heaven and sang praises therefor. Such 
praises we may hear in the loud laughter proceeding from 
dens where paradise has been gained by the cheap charm 
of a glass of gin or a prostitute's caress. Serpent finds its 
ideal in serpent. In heaven, says Swedenborg, we shall 
see things as they are. But it is the adage of those who 
have lost their paradise, and eat still the dry dust of reality 
not raised by science ; the general world has not felt that 
divine curse, or it has been wiped away so that the most 
sensual fool may rejoice in feeling himself God's darling, 
and pities the paganism of Plato. Man and beast are cer- 
tain that they do see things as they are. Maya's milk is 
tinctured from the poppies of her robe ; untold millions of 
misgivings have been put to sleep by her tender bounty ; 
the waters that sustain her are those of Lethe. 

But beneath every illusive heaven Nature stretches also 
an illusive hell. The poppies lose their force at last, and 
under the scourge of necessity man wakes to find all his 
paradise of roses turned to briars. Maya's breast-fountains 
pass deeper than the surface — from one flows soft Lethe, 
the other issues at last in Phlegethon. Fear is even a 
more potent painter than Hope, and out of the mani- 
fold menaces of Nature can at last overlay the fairest 
illusions. It is a pathetic fact, that so soon as man be- 
gins to think his first theory infers a will at work wher- 
ever he sees no cause ; his second, to suppose that it will 
harm him ! 

Harriet Martineau's account of her childish terror 
caused by seeing some prismatic colours dancing on the 
wall of a vacant room she was entering — * imps ' that had 
no worse origin than a tremulous candelabrum, but which 


haunted her nerves through life — is an experience which 
may be traced in the haunted childhood of every nation. 
There are other phenomena besides these prismatic 
colours, which have had an evil name in popular super- 
stition, despite their beauty. Strange it might seem to a 
Buddhist that yon exquisite tree with its blood-red buds 
should be called the Judas-tree, as to us that the graceful 
swan which might be the natural emblem of purity should 
be associated with witchcraft ! But the student of mytho- 
logy will at every moment be impressed by the fact that 
myths oftener represent a primitive science than mere 
fancies and conceits. The sinuous neck of the swan, its 
passionate jealousy, and the uncanny whistle, or else 
dumbness, found where, from so snowy an outside, melody 
might have been looked for, may have made this animal 
the type of a double nature. The treacherous brilliants of 
the serpent, or honey protected by stings, or the bright 
blossoms of poisons, would have trained the instinct which 
apprehends evil under the apparition of beauty. This, 
as we shall have occasion to see, has had a controlling 
influence upon the ethical constitution of our nature. 
But it is at present necessary to observe that the primi- 
tive science generally reversed the induction of our 
later philosophy ; for where an evil or pain was dis- 
covered in anything, it concluded that such was its 
raison d'etre, and its attractive qualities were simply a 
demon's treacherous bait. However, here are the first 
stimulants to self-control in the lessons that taught dis- 
trust of appearances. 

Because many a pilgrim perished through a confidence 
in the lake-pictures of the mirage which led to carelessness 
about economising his skin of water, the mirage gained its 
present name — Bahr Sheitan, or Devil's Water. The 
' Will o' wisp,' which appeared to promise the night- wan- 



derer warmth or guidance, but led him into a bog, had its 
excellent directions as to the place to avoid perverted by 
an unhappy misunderstanding into a wilful falsehood, and 
has been branded ignis faUms. Most of the mimicries 
in nature gradually became as suspicious to the primi- 
tive observer as aliases to a magistrate. The thing that 
seemed to be fire, or water, but was not ; the insect or 
animal which took its hue or form from some other, from 
the leaf-spotted or stem-striped cats to that innocent insect 
whose vegetal disguise has gained for it the familiar name 
of ' Devil's Walking-stick ; ' the humanlike hiss, laugh, or 
cry of animals ; the vibratory sound or movement which so 
often is felt as if near when it really is far ; the sand which 
seems hard but sinks; the sward which proves a bog;— 
all these have their representation in the demonology ox 
delusion. The Coroados of Brazil says that the Evil One 
'sometimes transforms (himself) into a swamp, &c., leads 
him astray, vexes him, brings him into danger, and even 
kills him.' ^ It is like an echo of Burton's account. * Ter- 
restrial devils are those lares, genii, faunes, satyrs, wood- 
nymphs, foliots, fairies, Robin Good-fellows, trulli, &c., 
which, as they are most conversant with men, so they do 
them most harm. These are they that dance on heaths 
and greens, as Lavater thinks with Trithemius, and, as 
Olaus Magnus adds, leave that green circle which we 
commonly find in plain fields. They are sometimes seen 
by old women and children. Hieron. Pauli, in his descrip- 
tion of the city of Bercino, Spain, relates how they have 
been familiarly seen near that town, about fountains and 
hills. ' Sometimes,' saith Trithemius, ' they lead simple 
people into the recesses of mountains and show them won- 
derful sights,' &c. Giraldus Cambrensis gives an instance of 
a monk of Wales that was so deluded. Paracelsus reckons 
^ Von Spix and Von Martin's ' Travels in Brazil,' p. 243. 


up many places in Germany where they do usually walk 
about in little coats, some two feet long.^ Real dangers 
beset the woods and mountain passes, the swamp and 
quicksand ; in such forms did they haunt the untamed 
jungles of imagination ! 

Over that sea on which Maya stands extends the 
silvery wand of Glamour. It descended to the immortal 
Old Man of the Sea, favourite of the nymphs, oracle 
of the coasts, patron of fishermen, friend of Proteus, who 
could see through all the sea's depths and assume all 
shapes. How many witcheries could proceed from the 
many-tinted sea to affect the eyes and enable them to see 
Triton with his wreathed horn, and mermaids combing their 
hair, and marine monsters, and Aphrodite poised on the 
white foam ! Glaucoma it may be to the physicians ; but 
Glaucus it is in the scheme of Maya, who has never left 
land or sea without her witness. Beside the Polar Sea a 
Samoyed sailor, asked by Castren 'where is Num' {i.e., 
Jumala, his god), pointed to the dark distant sea, and 
said. He is there. 

To the ancients there were two seas, — the azure above, 
and that beneath. The imaginative child in its develop- 
ment passes all those dreamy coasts ; sees in clouds moun- 
tains of snow on the horizon, and in the sunset luminous 
seas laving golden isles. When as yet to the young world 
the shining sun was Berchta, the white fleecy clouds were 
her swans. When she descended to the sea, as a thousand 
stories related, it was to repeat the course of the sun for 
all tribes looking on a westward sea. No one who has 
read that charming little book, ' The Gods in Exile,' ^ will 
wonder at the happy instinct of learning shown in Heine's 

^ 'Anatomy of Melancholy.' Fifteenth Edition, p. 124. 
^'Les Dieux en Exile.' Heiniich Heine. Revue des Deux Mondes, 
April, 1853. 

LORELEI. ^ 215 

little poem, 'Sonnenuntergang,'^ wherein we see shining 
solar Beauty compelled to become the spinning housewife, 
or reluctant spouse of Poseidon : — 

A lovely dame whom the old ocean-god 

For convenience once had married ; 

And in the day-time she wanders gaily 

Through the high heaven, purple-arrayed, 

And all in diamonds gleaming, 

And all beloved, and all amazing 

To every worldly being, 

And every worldly being rejoicing 

With warmth and splendour from her glances. 

Alas ! at evening, sad and unwilling, 

Back must she bend her slow steps 

To the dripping house, to the barren embrace 

Of grisly old age. 

This of course is Heinesque, and has no relation to any 
legend of Bertha, but is a fair specimen of mythology in 
the making, and is quite in the spirit of many of the myths 
that have flitted around sunset on the sea. Whatever the 
explanation of their descent, the Shining One and her 
fleecy retinue were transformed. When to sea or lake 
came Berchta (or Perchta), it was as Bertha of the Large 
Foot {i.e., webbed), or of the Long Nose (beak), and 
her troop were Swan-maidens. Their celestial character 
was changed with that of their mistress. They became 
familiars of sorcerers and sorceresses. To ' wear yellow 
slippers' became the designation of a witch. 

How did these fleecy white cloud-phantoms become 
demonised } What connection is there between them and 
the enticing Lorelei and the dangerous Rhine-daughters 
watching over golden treasures, once, perhaps, metaphors 
of moonlight ripples .-• They who have listened to the 
wild laughter of these in Wagner's opera. Das Rheingold, 

^ 'Book of Songs.' Translated by Charles E. Leiand. New York : Henry 
Holt & Co. 1874. 


and their weird ' Heiayaheia ! ' can hardly fail to suspect 
that they became associated with the real human nymphs 
whom the summer sun still finds freely sporting in the 
bright streams of Russia, Hungary, Austria, and East 
Germany, naked and not ashamed. Many a warning 
voice against these careless Phrynes, who may have left 
tattered raiment on the shore to be transfigured in the 
silvery waves, must have gone forth from priests and anxious 
mothers. Nor would there be wanting traditions enough 
to impress such warnings. Few regions have been with- 
out such stories as those which the traveller Hiouen- 
Thsang (7th century) found in Buddhist chronicles of the 
Rakshasis of Ceylon. ' They waylay the merchants who 
land in the isle, and, changing themselves to women of 
great beauty, come before them with fragrant flowers and 
music ; attracting them with kind words to the town of 
Iron, they offer them a feast, and give themselves up to 
pleasure with them ; then shut them in an iron prison, and 
eat them one after the other.* 

There is a strong accent of human nature in the usual 
plot of the Swan-maiden legend, her garments s]tolen 
while she bathes, and her willingness to pay wondrous 
prices for them — since they are her feathers and her swan- 
hood, without which she must remain for ever captive of 
the thief. The stories are told in regions so widely sun- 
dered, and their minor details are so different, that we may 
at any rate be certain that they are not all traceable solely 
to fleecy clouds. Sometimes the garments of the demoness 
— and these beings are always feminine — are not feathery, 
as in the German stories, but seal-skins, or of nondescript 
red tissue. Thus, the Envoy Li Ting-yuan (1801) records 
a Chinese legend of a man named Ming-hng-tzu, a poor 
and worthy farmer without family, who, on going to draw 
water from a spring near his house, saw a woman bathing 


in it. She had hung her clothes on a pine tree, and, in 
punishment for her ' shameless ways' and for her fouling 
the well, he carried off the dress. The clothing was un- 
like the familiar Lewchewan in style, and ' of a ruddy sun- 
set colour.' The woman, having finished her bath, cried 
out in great anger, ' What thief has been here in broad 
day .'' Bring back my clothes, quick.' She then perceived 
Ming-ling-tzu, and threw herself on the ground before him. 
He began to scold her, and asked why she came and 
fouled his water ; to which she replied that both the pine 
tree and the well were made by the Creator for the use of 
all. The farmer entered into conversation with her, and 
pointed out that fate evidently intended her to be his wife, 
as he absolutely refused to give up her clothes, while with- 
out them she could not get away. The result was that 
they were married. She lived with him for ten years, and 
bore him a son and a daughter. At the end of that time 
her fate was fulfilled : she ascended a tree during the 
absence of her husband, and having bidden his children 
farewell, glided off on a cloud and disappeared.^ 

In South Africa a parallel myth, in its demonological 
aspect, bears no trace of a cloud origin. In this case a 
Hottentot, travelling with a Bush woman and her child, 
met a troop of wild horses. They were all hungry ; and 
the woman, taking off a petticoat made of human skin, 
was instantly changed into a lioness. She struck down a 
horse, and lapped its blood ; then, at the request of the 
Hottentot, who in his terror had climbed a tree, she re- 
sumed her petticoat and womanhood, and the friends, after 
a meal of horseflesh, resumed their journey.^ Among the 
Minussinian Tartars these demons partake of the nature 
of the Greek Harpies ; they are bloodthirsty vampyre- 
demons who drink the blood of men slain in battle, darken 

^ Dennys. ^ Bleek, ' Hotteatot Fables,' p, 58. 


the air in their flight, and house themselves in one great 
black fiend.i As we go East the portrait of the Swan- 
maiden becomes less dark, and she is not associated with 
the sea or the under-world. Such is one among the Ma- 
lays, related by Mr. Tylor. In the island of Celebes it is 
said that seven nymphs came down from the sky to bathe, 
and were seen by Kasimbaha, who at first thought them 
white doves, but in the bath perceived they were women. 
He stole the robe of one of them, Utahagi, and as she 
could not fly without it, she became his wife and bare him 
a son. She was called Utahagi because of a single magic 
white hair she had ; this her husband pulled out, when 
immediately a storm arose, and she flew to heaven. The 
child was in great grief, and the husband cast about how 
he should follow her up into the sky. 

The Swan-maiden appears somewhat in the character of 
a Nemesis in a Siberian myth told by Mr. Baring-Gould. 
A certain Samoyed who had stolen a Swan-maiden's 
robe, refused to return it unless she secured for him the 
heart of seven demon robbers, one of whom had killed 
the Samoyed's mother. The robbers were in the habit of 
hanging up their hearts on pegs in their tent. The Swan- 
maiden procured them. The Samoyed smashed six of the 
hearts ; made the seventh robber resuscitate his mother, 
whose soul, kept in a purse, had only to be shaken over 
the old woman's grave for that feat to be accomplished, 
and the Swan-maiden got back her plumage and flew away 

In Slavonic Folklore the Swan-maiden is generally of a 
dangerous character, and if a swan is killed they are care- 
ful not to show it to children for fear they will die. When 
they appear as ducks, geese, and other water-fowl, they 
are apt to be more mischievous than when they come as 

^ Baring-Gould, 'Curious Myths,' &c, ^ Ibid., ii. 299. 


pigeons ; and it is deemed perilous to kill a pigeon, as 
among sailors it was once held to kill an albatross. Afana- 
sief relates a legend which shows that, even when asso- 
ciated with the water-king, the Tsar Morskoi or Slavonic 
Neptune, the pigeon preserves its beneficent character. A 
king out hunting lies down to drink from a lake (as in the 
story related on p. 146), when Tsar Morskoi seizes him by 
the beard, and will not release him until he agrees to give 
him his infant son. The infant prince, deserted on the 
edge of the fatal lake, by advice of a sorceress hides in 
some bushes, whence he presently sees twelve pigeons 
arrive, which, having thrown off their feathers, disport 
themselves in the lake. At length a thirteenth, more 
beautiful than the rest, arrives, and her sorochka (shift) 
Ivan seizes. To recover it she agrees to be his wife, and, 
having told him he will find her beneath the waters, re- 
sumes her pigeon-shape and flies away. Beneath the lake 
he finds a beautiful realm, and though the Tsar Morskoi 
treats him roughly and imposes heavy tasks on him, the 
pigeon-maiden (Vassilissa) assists him, and they dwell 
together happily.^ 

In Norse Mythology the vesture of the uncanny maid is 
oftenest a seal-skin, and a vein of pathos enters the legends. 
Of the many legends of this kind, still believed in Sweden 
and Norway, one has been pleasantly versified by Miss 
Eliza Keary. A fisherman having found a pretty white 
seal-skin, took it home with him. At night there was a 
wailing at his door ; the maid enters, becomes his wife, and 
bears him three children. But after seven years she finds 
the skin, and with it ran to the shore. The eldest child 
tells the story to the father on his return home. 

Then we three, Daddy, 
Ran after, crying, ' Take us to the sea ! 

1 ' Shaski ' vi. 48. 

220 NUDITY. 

Wait for us, Mammy, we are coming too ! 
Here's Alice, Willie can't keep up with you ! 
Mammy, stop — just for a minute or two ! ' 

At last we came to where the hill 
Slopes straight down to the beach, 
And there we stood all breathless, still 
Fast clinging each to each. 

We saw her sitting upon a stone, 
Putting the little seal-skin on. 

O Mammy ! Mammy ! 
She never said goodbye, Daddy, 

She didn't kiss us three ; 
She just put the little seal-skin on 
And slipt into the sea ! 

Some of the legends of this character are nearly as realistic 
as Mr. Swinburne's ' Morality' of David and Bathsheba. 
To imagine the scarcity of wives in regions to which the 
primitive Aryan race migrated, we have only to remember 
the ben trovato story of Californians holding a ball in 
honour of a bonnet, in the days before women had fol- 
lowed them in migration. To steal Bathsheba's clothes, 
and so capture her, might at one period have been suffi- 
ciently common in Europe to require all the terrors 
contained in the armoury of tradition concerning the 
demonesses that might so be taken in, and might so 
tempt men to take them in. In the end they might 
disappear, carrying off treasures in the most prosaic 
fashion, or perhaps they might bring to one's doors a small 
Trojan war. It is probable that the sentiment of modesty, 
so far as it is represented in the shame of nudity, was the 
result of prudential agencies. Though the dread of nudity 
has become in some regions a superstition in the female 
mind strong enough to have its martyrs — as was seen at 
the sinking of the Northjleet and the burning hotel in St. 
Louis — it is one that has been fostered by men in distrust 
of their own animalism. In barbarous regions, where 
civilisation introduces clothes, the women are generally 


the last to adopt them ; and though Mr. Herbert Spencer 
attributes this to female conservatism, it appears more 
probable that it is because the men are the first to lose 
their innocence and the women last to receive anything 
expensive. It is noticeable how generally the Swan- 
maidens are said in the myths to be captured by violence 
or stratagem. At the same time the most unconscious 
temptress might be the means of breaking up homes and 
misleading workmen, and thus become invested with all 
the wild legends told of the illusory phenomena of nature 
in popular mythology. 

It is marvellous to observe how ail the insinuations of 
the bane were followed by equal dexterities in the ante- 
dote. The fair tempters might disguise their intent in 
an appeal to the wayfarer's humanity ; and, behold, there 
were a thousand well-attested narratives ready for the 
lips of wife and mother showing the demoness appealing 
for succour to be fatalest of all ! 

There is a stone on the Miiggelsberger, in Altmark, 
which is said to cover a treasure ; this stone is sometimes 
called ' Devil's Altar,' and sometimes it is said a fire is seen 
there which disappears when approached. It lies on the 
verge of Teufelsee, — a lake dark and small, and believed to 
be fathomless. Where the stone lies a castle once stood 
which sank into the ground with its fair princess. But from 
the underground castle there is a subterranean avenue to a 
neighbouring hill, and from this hill of an evening some- 
times comes an old woman, bent over her staff. Next 
day there will be seen a most beautiful lady combing her 
long golden hair. To all who pass she makes her entrea- 
ties that they will set her free, her pathetic appeals being 
backed by offer of a jewelled casket which she holds. The 
only means of liberating her is, she announces, that some 
one shall bear her on his shoulders three times round 


Teufelsee church without looking back. The experiment 
has several times been made. One villager at his first 
round saw a large hay-waggon drawn past him by four 
mice, and following it with his eyes received blows on the 
ears. Another saw a waggon drawn by four coal-black 
fire-breathing horses coming straight against him, started 
back, and all disappeared with the cry * Lost again for 
ever ! ' A third tried and almost got through. He was 
found senseless, and on recovering related that when he 
took the princess on his shoulders she was light as a 
feather, but she grew heavier and heavier as he bore 
her round. Snakes, toads, and all horrible animals with 
fiery eyes surrounded him ; dwarfs hurled blocks of wood 
and stones at him ; yet he did not look back, and had 
nearly completed the third round, when he saw his village 
burst into flames ; then he looked behind — a blow felled 
him — and he seems to have only lived long enough to tell 
this story. The youth of Kopernick are warned to steel 
their hearts against any fair maid combing her hair near 
Teufelsee. But the folklore of the same neighbourhood 
admits that it is by no means so dangerous for dames to 
listen to appeals of this kind. In the Gohlitzsee, for 
example, a midwife was induced to plunge in response to 
a call for aid ; having aided a little Merwoman in travail, 
she was given an apronful of dust, which appeared odd 
until on shore it proved to be many thalers. 

In countries where the popular imagination, instead of 
being scientific, is trained to be religiously retrospective, 
it relapses at the slightest touch into the infantine specu- 
lations of the human race. Not long ago, standing at a 
shop-window in Ostend where a * Japanese Siren ' was on 
view, the clever imposture interested me less than the 
comments of the passing and pausing observers. The 
most frequent wonders seriously expressed were, whether 


she sang, or combed her hair, or was under a doom, or had 
a soul to be saved. Every question related to Circe, 
Ulysses and the Sirens, and other conceptions of anti- 
quity. The Japanese artists rightly concluded they could 
float their Siren in any intellectual waters where Jonah 
in his whale could pass, or a fish appear with its penny. 
Nay, even in their primitive form the Sirens find their 
kith and kin still haunting all the coasts of northern 
Europe. A type of the Irish and Scottish Siren may be 
found in the very complete legend of one seen by John 
Reid, shipmaster of Cromarty. With long flowing yellow 
hair she sat half on a rock, half in water, nude and beau- 
tiful, half woman half fish, and John managed to catch and 
hold her tight till she had promised to fulfil three wishes ; 
then, released, she sprang into the sea. The wishes were 
all fulfilled, and to one of them (though John would never 
reveal it) the good-luck of the Reids was for a century 
after ascribed.^ 

The scene of this legend is the 'Dropping Cave,' and 
significantly near the Lover's Leap. One of John's wishes 
included the success of his courtship. These Caves run 
parallel with that of Venusberg, where the minstrel Tann- 
hauser is tempted by Venus and her nymphs. Heine 
finishes off his description of this Frau Venus by saying 
he fancied he met her one day in the Place Br^da. 'What 
do you take this lady to be.-*' asked he of Balzac, who 
was with him. ' She is a mistress,' replied Balzac. ' A 
duchess rather,' returned Heine. But the friends found 
on further explanation that they were both quite right. 
Venus' doves, soiled for a time, were spiritualised at last 
and made white, while the snowy swan grew darker. An 
old German word for swan, elbiz, originally denoting its 
whiteness (albus), furthered its connection with all ' elfish ' 

^ Hugh Miller, 'Scenes and Legends,' p. 293. 

224 GOniVA. 

beings — elf being from the same word, meaning white ; 
but, as in Goethe's 'Erl Konig,' often disguising a 
dark character. The Swan and the Pigeon meet (with 
some modifications) as symbols of the Good and Evil 
powers in the legend of Lohengrin. The witch trans- 
forms the boy into a Swan, which, however, draws to 
save his sister, falsely accused of his murder, the Knight 
of the Sangreal, who, when the mystery of his holy 
name is inquired into by his too curious bride, is borne 
away by white doves. These legends all bear in them, 
however faintly, the accent of the early conflict of religion 
with the wild passions of mankind. Their religious bear- 
ings bring us to inquiries which must be considered at a 
later phase of our work. But apart from purely moral 
considerations, it is evident that there must have been 
practical dangers surrounding the early social chaos amid 
which the first immigrants in Europe found themselves. 

Although the legend of Lady Godiva includes elements 
of another origin, it is probable that in the fate of Peeping 
Tom there is a distant reflection of the punishment some- 
times said to overtake those who gazed too curiously upon 
the Swan-maiden without her feathers. The devotion of 
the nude lady of Coventry would not be out of keeping 
with one class of these mermaiden myths. There is a 
superstition, now particularly strong in Iceland, that all 
fairies are children of Eve, whom she hid away on an 
occasion when the Lord came to visit her, because they 
were not washed and presentable. So he condemned 
them to be for ever invisible. This superstition seems 
to be related to an old debate whether these praeter- 
natural beings are the children of Adam and Eve or 
not. A Scotch story bears against that conclusion. A 
beautiful nymph, with a slight robe of green, came from 
the sea and approached a fisherman while he was 


reading his Bible. She asked him if it contained any 
promise of mercy for her. He replied that it contained 
an offer of salvation to 'all the children of Adam;' 
whereupon with a loud shriek she dashed into the sea 
again. Euphemism would co-operate with natural com- 
passion in saying a good word for 'the good little people,' 
whether hiding in earth or sea. In Altmark, 'Will-o'- 
wisps' are believed to be the souls of unbaptized children 
— sometimes of lunatics — unable to rest in their graves ; 
they are called ' Light-men,' and it is said that though they 
may sometimes mislead they often guide rightly, especially 
if a small coin be thrown them, — this being also an African 
plan of breaking a sorcerer's spell. Christianity long after 
its advent in Germany had to contend seriously with cus- 
toms and beliefs found in some lakeside villages where the 
fishermen regarded themselves as in friendly relations with 
the praeternatural guardians of the waters, and unto this 
day speak of their presiding sea-maiden as a Holy Frau- 
lein. They hear her bells chiming up from the depths in 
holy seasons to mingle with those whose sounds are wafted 
from church towers ; and it seems to have required many 
fables, told by prints of fishermen found sitting lifeless on 
their boats while listening to them, to gradually transfer 
reverence to the new christian fairy. 

It may be they heard some such melody as that which 
has found its finest expression in Mr. Matthew Arnold's 
' Forsaken Merman : ' — 

Children dear, was it yesterday 

(Call yet once) that she went away ? 

Once she sate with you and me, 

On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea. 

And the youngest sate on her knee. 
She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well, 
When down swung the sound of the far-off bell. 
She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sea ; 
VOL. I. P 


She said : ' I must go, for my kinsfolk pray 
In the little grey church on the shore to-day. 
'Twill be Easter-time in the world — ah me ! 
And I lose my poor soul, Merman, herewith thee.' 
I said, ' Go up, dear heart, through the waves. 
Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea- caves.' 
She smil'd, she went up through the surf in the bay. 
Children dear, was it yesterday ? 

Perhaps we should find the antecedents of this Merman's 
lost Margaret, whom he called back in vain, in the Danish 
ballad of ' The Merman and the Marstig's Daughter/ who, 
in Goethe's version, sought the winsome May in church, 
thither riding as a gay knight on 

horse of the water clear, 
The saddle and bridle of sea-sand were. 

They went from the church with the bridal train, 
They danced in glee, and they danced full fain ; 
They danced them down to the salt-sea strand, 
And they left them standing there, hand in hand. 

' Now wait thee, love, with my steed so free, 
And the bonniest bark I'll bring for thee.' 
And when they passed to the white, white sand, 
The ships came sailing on to the land ; 

But when they were out in the midst of the sound, 
Down went they all in the deep profound ! 
Long, long on the shore, when the winds were high, 
They heard from the waters the maiden's cry. 

1 rede ye, damsels, as best I can — 
Tread not the dance with the Water-Man ! 

According to other legends, however, the realm under-sea 
was not a place for weeping. Child-eyes beheld all that 
the Erl-king promised, in Goethe's ballad — 

Wilt thou go, bonny boy ? v/ilt thou go with me ? 
My daughters shall wait on thee daintily ; 
My daughters around thee in dance shall sweep, 
And rock thee and kiss thee, and sing thee to sleep ! 


Or perhaps child-eyes, lingering in the burning glow of 
manhood's passion, might see in the peaceful sea some 
picture of lost love like that so sweetly described in Heine's 
'Sea Phantom:' — 

But I still leaned o'er the side of the vessel, 

Gazing with sad-dreaming glances 

Down at the water, clear as a mirror, 

Looking yet deeper and deeper, — 

Till far in the sea's abysses, 

At first like dim wavering vapours, 

Then slowly — slowly — deeper in colour, 

Domes of churches and towers seemed rising, 

And then, as clear as day, a city grand .... 

Infinite longing, wondrous sorrow, 

Steal through my heart, — 

My heart as yet scarce healed ; 

It seems as though its wounds, forgotten, 

By loving lips again were kissed. 

And once again were bleeding 

Drops of burning crimson, 

Which long and slowly trickle down 

Upon an ancient house below there 

In the deep, deep sea-town. 

On an ancient, high-roofed, curious house, 

Where, lone and melancholy, 

llelow by the window a maiden sits, 

Her head on her arm reclined, — 

Like a poor and uncared-for child ; 

And I know thee, thou poor and long-sorrowing child ! 

... I meanwhile, my spirit all grief, 

Over the whole broad world have sought thee, 

And ever have sought thee, 

Thou dearly beloved. 

Thou long, long lost one, 

Thou finally found one, — 

At last I have found thee, and now am gazing 

Upon thy sweet face. 

With earnest, faithful glances. 

Still sweetly smiling ; 

And never will I again on earth leave thee. 

I am coming adown to thee, 


And with longing, wide-reaching embraces, 
Love, I leap down to thy heart ! 

The temptations of fishermen to secure objects seen at 
the bottom of transparent lakes, sometimes appearing like 
boxes or lumps of gold, and even more reflections of 
objects in the upper world or air, must have been sources 
of danger ; there are many tales of their being so beguiled 
to destruction. These things were believed treasures of 
the little folk who live under water, and would not part 
with them except on payment. In Blumenthal lake, 'tis 
said, there is an iron-bound yellow coffer which fishermen 
often have tried to raise, but their cords are cut as it nears 
the surface. At the bottom of the same lake valuable 
clothing is seen, and a woman who once tried to secure it 
was so nearly drowned that it is thought safer to leave it. 
The legends of sunken towns (as in Lake Paarsteinchen 
and Lough Neagh), and bells (whose chimes may be heard 
on certain sacred days), are probably variants of this class 
of delusions. They are often said to have been sunk by 
some final vindictive stroke of a magician or witch re- 
solved to destroy the city no longer trusting them. Land- 
slides, engulfing seaside homes, might originate legends 
like that of King Gradlon's daughter Dahut, whom the 
Breton peasant sees in rough weather on rocks around 
Poul-Dahut, where she unlocked the sluice-gates on the 
city Is in obedience to her fiend-lover. 

If it be remembered that less than fifty years ago Dr. 
Belon^ thought it desirable to anatomise gold fishes, and 
prove in various ways that it is a fallacy to suppose they 
feed on pure gold (as many a peasant near Lyons declares 
of the laurets sold daily in the market), it will hardly be 
thought wonderful that perilous visions of precious things 
were seen by early fi.shermen in pellucid depths, and that 
1 'The 'Mirror,' April 7, 1832. 


these should at last be regarded as seductive arts of 
Lorelei, who have given many lakes and rivers the reputa- 
tion of requiring one or more annual victims. 

Possibly it was through accumulation of many dreams 
about beautiful realms beneath the sea or above the 
clouds that suicide became among the Norse folk so 
common. It was a proverb that the worst end was to die 
in bed, and to die by suicide was to be like Egil, and 
Omund, and King Hake, like nearly all the heroes who 
so passed to Valhalla. The Northman had no doubt con- 
cerning the paradise to which he was going, and did not 
wish to reach it enfeebled by age. But the time would 
come when the earth and human affection must assert 
their claims, and the watery tribes be pictured as cruel 
devourers of the living. Even so would the wood-nymphs 
and mountain-nymphs be degraded, and fearful legends of 
those lost and wandering in dark forests be repeated to 
shuddering childhood. The actual dangers would mask 
themselves in the endless disguises of illusion, the wold 
and wave be peopled with cruel and treacherous seducers. 
Thus suicide might gradually lose its charms, and a dismal 
underworld of heartless gnomes replace the grottoes and 

We may close this chapter with a Scottish legend relat- 
ing to the ' Shi'ichs,' or Men of Peace, in which there is a 
strange intimation of a human mind dreaming that it 
dreams, and so far on its way to waking. A woman was 
carried away by these shadowy beings in order that she 
might suckle her child which they had previously stolen. 
During her retention she once observed the Shi'ichs anoint- 
ing their eyes from a caldron, and seizing an opportunity, 
she managed to anoint one of her own eyes with the oint- 
ment. With that one eye she now saw the secret abode 
and all in it ' as they really were.' The deceptive splendour 


had vanished. The gaudy ornaments of a fairy grot had 
become the naked walls of a gloomy cavern. When this 
woman had returned to live among human beings again, 
her anointed eye saw much that others saw not ; among 
other things she once saw a ' man of peace,' invisible to 
others, and asked him about her child. Astonished at 
being recognised, he demanded how she had been able to 
discover him ; and when she had confessed, he spit in her 
eye and extinguished it for ever. 

( 231 ) 



Shadows — Night Deities — Kobolds — Walpurgisnacht — Night as Abet- 
tor of Evil-doers — Nightmare — Dreams — Invisible Foes — Jacob 
and his Phantom — Nott — The Prince of Darkness — The Brood of 
Midnight — Second-Sight — Spectres of Souter Fell — The Moon- 
shine Vampyre — Glamour — Glam and Grettir — A Story of Dart- 

From the little night which clings to man even by day — 
his own shadow — to the world's great shade of darkness, 
innumerable are the coverts from which have emerged the 
black procession of phantoms which have haunted the 
slumbers of the world, and betrayed the enterprise of man. 
How strange to the first man seemed that shadow walk- 
ing beside him, from the time when he saw it as a ghost 
tracking its steps and giving him his name for a ghost, on 
to the period in which it seemed the emanation of an 
occult power, as to them who brought their sick into the 
streets to be healed by the passing shadow of Peter; and 
still on to the day when Beaumont wrote — 

Our acts our angels are, or good or ill, 
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still ; 

or that in which Goethe found therein the mystical symbol 
of the inward arrest of our moral development, and said 
' No man can jump off of his shadow.' And then from the 
culture of Europe we pass to the Feejee-Islanders, and find 
them believing that every man has two spirits. One is his 


shadow, which goes to Hades ; the other is his image as 
reflected in water, and it is supposed to stay near the place 
where the man dies.^ But, like the giants of the Brocken, 
these demons of the Shadow are trembled at long after 
they are known to be the tremblers themselves mirrored 
on air. Have we not priests in England still fostering the 
belief that the baptized child goes attended by a white 
spirit, the unbaptized by a dark one ? Why then need we 
apologise for the Fijians ? 

But little need be said here of demons of the Dark, for 
they are closely related to the phantasms of Delusion, of 
Winter, and others already described. Yet have they dis- 
tinctive characters. As many as were the sunbeams were 
the shadows ; every goddess of the Dawn (Ushas) cast her 
shadow ; every Day was swallowed up by Night. This is 
the cavern where hide the treacherous Panis (fog) in Vedic 
mythology, they who steal and hide Indra's cows ; this is 
the realm of Hades (the invisible) ; this is the cavern of 
the hag Thokk (dark) in Scandinavian mythology, — she 
who alone of all in the universe refused to weep for Baldur 
when he was shut up in Helheim, where he had been sent 
by the dart of his blind brother Hodr (darkness). In the 
cavern of Night sleep the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, and 
Barbarossa, and all slumbering phantoms whose genius is 
the night-winged raven. Thorr, the Norse Hercules, once 
tried to lift a cat — as it seemed to him — from the ground ; 
but it was the great mid-earth serpent which encircles the 
whole earth. Impossible feat as it was for Thorr — who 
got only one paw of the seeming cat off the ground — in 
that glassless and gasless era, invention has accomplished 
much in that direction ; but the black Cat is still domi- 
ciled securely among idols of the mental cave. 

There is an Anglo-Saxon word, cof-godas (lit. cove-gods), 

^ ' The Origin of Civilisation,' &c. By Sir John Lubbock. 


employed as the equivalent of the Latin lares (the Penates, 
too, are interpreted as cof-godit, cofa signifying the inner 
recess of a housQ, penetrale). The word in German corre- 
sponding to this cofa, is koben ; and from this Hildebrand 
conjectures kob-o Id to be derived. The latter part of the 
word he supposes to be wait (one who ' presides over," e.g., 
Walter) ; so that the original form would be kob-walt. ^ 
Here, then, in the recesses of the household, among the 
least enlightened of its members — the menials, who still 
often neutralise the efforts of rational people to dispel the 
delusions of their children — the discredited deities and 
demons of the past found refuge, and through a little bap- 
tismal change of names are familiars of millions unto this 
day. In the words of the ancient Hebrew, ' they lay in 
their own houses prisoners of darkness, fettered with the 
bonds of a long night.' ' No power of the fire might give 
them light, neither could the bright flames of the stars 
lighten that horrible night.' ^ Well is it added, ' Fear is 
nothing else but a betraying of the succours which reason 
offereth,' a truth which finds ample illustration in the 
Kobolds. These imaginary beings were naturally asso- 
ciated with the dark recesses of mines. .There they gave 
the name to our metal Cobalt. The value of Cobalt was 

^ Hildebrand in Grimm's ' Worterbuch.' 

^ Wisdom of Solomon, xvii. What this impressive chapter says of the 
delusions of the guilty are equally true of those of ignorance. ' Tlrey sleeping 
the same sleep that night . . . were partly vexed with monstrous apparitions, 
and partly fainted, their heart failing them . . . whosoever there fell down 
was straitly kept, shut up in a prison without iron bars. . . . Whether it were 
a whistling wind, or a melodious noise of birds among the spreading branches, 
or a pleasing fall of water running violently, or a terrible sound of stones cast 
down, or a running that could not be seen of skipping beasts, or a roaring 
voice of most savage wild beasts, or a rebounding echo from the hollow 
mountains : these things made them to swoon for fear. The whole world 
shined with clear light . . . over them only was spread a heavy night, an 
image of that darkness which should afterv^^ard receive them : but yet were 
they to themselves more grievous than that darkness.' 


not understood until the 17th century, and the metal was 
first obtained by the Swedish chemist Brandt in 1733. 
The miners had believed that the silver was stolen away 
by Kobolds, and these ' worthless' ores left in its place. 
Nickel had the like history, and is named after Old Nick. 
So long did those Beauties slumber in the cavern of 
Ignorance till Science kissed them with its sunbeam, and 
led them forth to decorate the world ! 

How passed this (mental) cave-dweller even amid the 
upper splendours and vastnesses of his unlit world ? A 
Faust guided by his Mephistopheles only amid inter- 
minable Hartz labyrinths. 

How sadly rises, incomplete and ruddy, 

The moon's lone disk, with its belated glow, 

And lights so dimly, that, as one advances, 

At every step one strikes a rock or tree ! 

Let us then use a Jack-o'-lantern's glances : 

I see one yonder, burning merrily. 

Ho, there ! my friend ! I'll levy thine attendance : 

Why waste so vainly thy resplendence ? 

Be kind enough to light us up the steep ! 

Tell me, if we still are standing, 
Or if further we're ascending ? 
All is turning, whirling, blending, 
Trees and rocks with grinning faces, 
Wandering lights that spin in mazes, 
Still increasing and expanding.^ 

It could only have been at a comparatively late period 
of social development that Sancho's benediction on the 
inventor of sleep could have found general response. The 
Red Indian found its helplessness fatal when the ' Nick of 
the Woods' was abroad ; the Scotch sailor found in it a 
demon's opiate when the ' Nigg of the Sea' was gathering 
his storms above the sleeping watchman. It was among 

^ Bayard Taylor's ' Faust.' Walpurgis-night. 


the problems of Job, the cooperation of darkness with 

The eye of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight ; 

He saith, No eye will see me, 

And putteth a mask upon his face. 

In the dark men break into houses ; 

In the day-time they shut themselves up ; 

They are strangers to the light. 

The morning to them is the shadow of death ; 

They are familiar with the dark terrors of midnight. 

Besides this fact that the night befriends and masks 
every treacherous foe, it is also to be remembered that 
man is weakest at night. Not only is he weaker than by 
day in the veil drawn over his senses, but physiologically 
also. When the body is wearied out by the toils or com- 
bats of the day, and the mind haunted by dreams of 
danger, there are present all the terrors which Byron por- 
trays around the restless pillow of Sardanapalus. The 
war-horse of the day becomes a night-mare in the dark- 
ness. In the Heimskringla it is recorded : ' Vanland, 
Svegdir's son, succeeded his father and ruled over the 
Upsal domain. He was a great warrior, and went far 
around in different lands. Once he took up his winter 
abode in Finland with Snio the Old, and got his daughter 
Drisa in marriage ; but in spring he set out leaving Drisa 
behind, and although he had promised to return within 
three years he did not come back for ten. Then Drisa 
sent a message to the witch Hulda ; and sent Visbur, her 
son by Vanland, to Sweden. Drisa bribed the witch-wife 
Hulda, either that she should bewitch Vanland to return 
to Finland or kill him. When this witch-work was going 
on Vanland was at Upsal, and a great desire came over 
him to go. to Finland, but his friends and counsellors 
advised him against it, and said the witchcraft of the Fin 
people showed itself in this desire of his to go there. He 


then became very drowsy, and laid himself down to sleep; 
but when he had slept but a little while he cried out, say- 
ing, ' Mara was treading on him.' His men hastened to 
help him ; but when they took hold of his head she trod 
on his legs, and when they laid hold of his legs she pressed' 
upon his head ; and it was his death.' ^ 

This witch is, no doubt, Hildur, a Walkyr of the Edda, 
leading heroes to Walhalla. Indeed, in Westphalia, night- 
mare is called Walriderske. It is a curious fact that 
' Mara' should be preserved in the French word for night- 
mare, Cauche-mar, ' cauche ' being from Latin calcare, to 
tread. Through Teutonic folklore this Night-demon of 
many names, having floated from England in a sieve 
paddled with cow-ribs, rides to the distress of an increas- 
ingly unheroic part of the population. Nearly always still 
the 'Mahrt' is said to be a pretty woman, — sometimes, 
indeed, a sweetheart is involuntarily transformed to one, 
— every rustic settlement abounding with tales of how the 
demoness has been captured by stopping the keyhole, 
calling the ridden sleeper by his baptismal name, and 
making the sign of the cross ; by such process the wicked 
beauty appears in human form, and is apt to marry the 
sleeper, with usually evil results. The fondness of cats for 
getting on the breasts of sleepers, or near their breath, for 
warmth, has made that animal a common form of the 
' Mahrt.' Sometimes it is a black fly with red ring around 
its neck. This demoness is believed to suffer more pain 
than it inflicts, and vainly endeavours to destroy herself 

In savage and nomadic times sound sleep being an ele- 
ment of danger, the security which required men to sleep 
on their arms demanded also that they should sleep as it 
were with one eye open. Thus there might have arisen 
both the intense vividness which demons acquired by 

' i. 22S. 

DREAMS. 237 

blending subjective and objective impressions, and the 
curious inability, so frequent among barbarians and not 
unknown among the men civilised, to distinguish dream 
from fact. The habit of day-dreaming seems, indeed, 
more general than is usually supposed. Dreams haunt 
all the region of our intellectual twilight, — the borderland 
of mystery, where rise the sources of the occult and the 
mystical which environ our lives. The daily terrors of 
barbarous life avail to haunt the nerves of civilised people, 
now many generations after they have passed away, with 
special and irrational shudders at certain objects or noises: 
how then must they have haunted the dreams of humanity 
when, like the daughter of Nathan the Wise, rescued from 
flames, it passed the intervals of strife 

With nerves unstrung through fear, 
And fire and flame in all she sees or fancies ; 
Her soul awake in sleep, asleep when wide aw.;ke ? 

Among the sources of demoniac beliefs few indeed are 
more prolific than Dreams. * The witchcraft of sleep,' 
says Emerson, ' divides with truth the empire of our lives. 
This soft enchantress visits two children lying locked in 
each other's arms, and carries them asunder by wide 
spans of land and sea, wide intervals of time. 'Tis super- 
fluous to think of the dreams of multitudes ; the astonish- 
ment remains that one should dream ; that we should 
resign so quietly this deifying reason and become the 
theatre of delusions, shows, wherein time, space, persons, 
cities, animals, should dance before us in merry and mad 
confusion, a delicate creation outdoing the prime and 
flower of actual nature, antic comedy alternating with 
horrid spectres. Or we seem busied for hours and days in 
peregrinations over seas and lands, in earnest dialogues, 
strenuous actions for nothings and absurdities, cheated by 
spectral jokes, and waking suddenly with ghostly laughter. 


to be rebuked by the cold lonely silent midnight, and to 
rake with confusion in memory among the gibbering non- 
sense to find the motive of this contemptible cachinna- 
tion.' ^ 

It has always been the worst of periods of religious 
excitement that they shape the dreams of old and young, 
and find there a fearful and distorted, but vivid and 
realistic, embodiment of their feverish experiences. In 
the days of witchcraft thousands visited the Witches' Sab- 
baths, as they believed and danced in the Walpurgis 
orgies, borne (by hereditary orthodox canon) on their own 
brooms up their own chimneys ; and to-day, by the same 
morbid imaginations, the victims are able to see them- 
selves or others elongated, levitated, floating through the 
air. If people only knew how few are ever really wide- 
awake, these spiritual nightmares would soon reach their 
termination. The natural terrors before which helpless man 
once cowered, have been prolonged past all his real victories 
over his demons by a succession of such nightmares, so 
that the vulgar religion might be portrayed somewhat 
as Richard Wagner described his first tragedy, in which, 
having killed off" forty-two of his characters, he had to 
bring them back as ghosts to carry on the fifth act ! 

The perils of darkness, as ambush of foes human and 
animal, concealer of pitfalls, misguider of footsteps, mis- 
director of aims, were more real than men can well imagine 
in an age of gaslight plus the policeman. The myth of 
Joshua commanding the sun to stand still; thecryof Ajax 
when darkness fell on the combat, ' Grant me but to see ! ' 
refer us to the region from which come all childish shudders 
at going into the dark. The limit of human courage is 
reached where its foe is beyond the reach of its force. 
Fighting in the dark may even be suicidal. A German 
^ North American Review. March 1877. 


fable of blindfold zeal — the awakened sleeper demolishing 
his furniture and knocking out his own teeth in the attempt 
to punish cats — has its tragical illustrations also. But 
none of these actual dangers have been of more real evil 
to man than the demonisation of them. This rendered 
his very skill a blunder, his energy weakness. If it was 
bad to retreat in the dusk from an innocent bush into an 
unrecognised well, it was worse to meet the ghost with 
rune or crucifix and find it an assassin. When man fights 
with his shadow, he instantly makes it the demon he fears; 
ghoul-like it preys upon his paralysed strength, vampyre- 
like it sucks his blood, and he is consigned disarmed to 
the evil that is no shadow. The Scottish Sinclair march- 
ing through Norway, in the i6th century, owes his monu- 
ment at Wiblungen rather to the magpie believed to pre- 
cede him as a spy, with night and day upon its wings, 
than to his own prowess or power. 

In a sense all demons, whatever their shapes, are the 
ancient brood of night. Mental darkness, even more moral 
darkness within, supply the phantasmagoria in which un- 
known things shape themselves as demons. Esau is already 
reconciled, but guilty Jacob must still wrestle with him 
as a phantom of Fear till daybreak. A v/ork has already 
been written on ' The Night-side of Nature,' but it would 
require many volumes to tell the story of what monsters 
have been conjured out of the kind protecting darkness. 
How great is the darkness which man makes for himself 
out of the imagination which should be his light and vision ! 
Much of the so-called ' religion ' of our time is but elaborate 
demoniculture and artificial preservation of mental Wal- 
purgis-nights. Nott (Night) says the Edda rides first on 
her horse called Hrimfaxi (frost-maned), which every 
morning as he ends his course bedews the earth with the 
foam that falls from his bit. Though the horse of Dav — 


Skinfaxi, or Shining-mane— follows hard after her, yet the 
foam is by no means drunk up by his fires. Foam of the 
old phantasms still lingers in our mediaeval liturgies, and 
even falls afresh where the daylight is shut out that altar- 
candles may burn, or for other dark seances are prepared 
the conditions necessary for whatsoever loves not the 

What we call the Dark Ages were indeed spiritually a 
perpetual seance with lights lowered. Nay, human super- 
stition was able to turn the very moon and stars into mere 
bluish night-tapers, giving just light enough to make the 
darkness visible in fantastic shapes fluttering around the 
Prince of Darkness, — or Non-existence in Chief! How 
much of the theosophic speculation of our time is the 
mere artificial conservation of that darkness .'' How much 
that still flits bat-winged from universities, will, in the future, 
be read with the same wonder as that with which even the 
more respectable bats can now read account of the mid- 
night brood which now for the most part sleep tranquilly 
in such books as Burton's 'Anatomy of Melancholy'.? 
' There are,' he says, ' certain spirits which Miraldus calls 
Ambulones, that walk about midnight on great heaths 
and desert places, which (saith Lavater) draw men out 
of their way, and lead them all night by a byway, or 
quite bar them of their way. These have several names 
in several places. We commonly call them Pucks. 
In the deserts of Lop, in Asia, such illusions of walk- 
ing spirits are often perceived, as you may read in M. 
Paulus, the Venetian, his travels. If one lose his com- 
pany by chance, these devils will call him by his name, 
and counterfeit voices of his companions to seduce 
him. Lavater and Cicogna have a variety of examples 
of spirits and walking devils in this kind. Sometimes 
they sit by the wayside to give men falls, and make 


their horses stumble and start as they ride (according to 
the narration of that holy man Ketellus in Nubrigensis, 
that had an especial grace to see devils) j and if a man 
curse and spur his horse for stumbling, they do heartily 
rejoice at it.' 

While observing a spirited and imaginative picture by 
Macallum of the Siege of Jerusalem, it much interested 
me to observe the greater or less ease with which other 
visitors discovered the portents in the air which, follow- 
ing the narrative of Josephus, the artist had vaguely por- 
trayed. The chariots and horsemen said to have been 
seen before that event were here faintly blent with in- 
definite outlines of clouds; and while some of the artist's 
friends saw them with a distinctness greater, perhaps, than 
that with which they impressed the eye of the artist him- 
self, others could hardly be made to see anything except 
shapeless vapour, though of course they all agreed that 
they were there and remarkably fine. 

It would seem that thus, in a London studio, there were 
present all the mental pigments for frescoing the air and 
sky with those visions of aerial armies or huntsmen which 
have become so normal in history as to be, in a subjective 
sense, natural. In the year 1763, an author, styling him- 
self Theophilus Insulanus, published at Edinburgh a book 
on Second-Sight, in which he related more than a hundred 
instances of the power he believed to exist of seeing 
events before they had occurred, and whilst, of course, 
they did not exist. It is not difficult in reading them 
to see that they are all substantially one and the same 
story, and that the sight in operation was indeed second ; 
for man or womian, at once imaginative and illiterate, 
have a second and supernumerary pair of eyes inherited 
from the traditional superstitions and ghost stories which 
fill all the air they breathe from the cradle to the grave. 
VOL. I. Q 


While the mind is in this condition, that same nature 
whose apparitions and illusions originally evoked and 
fostered the glamoury, still moves on with her minglings 
of light and shade, cloud and mirage, giving no word of 
explanation. There are never wanting the shadowy forms 
without that cast their shuttles to the dark idols of the 
mental cave, together weaving subtle spells round the 
half-waking mind. 

In the year 1743 all the North of England and Scot- 
land was in alarm on account of some spectres which 
were seen on the mountain of Souter Fell in Cumberland. 
The mountain is about half-a-mile high. On a summer 
evening a farmer and his servant, looking from Wilton 
Hall, half a mile off, saw the figures of a man and a dog 
pursuing some horses along the mountain-side, which is 
very steep ; and on the following morning they repaired 
to the place, expecting to find dead bodies, but finding 
none. About one year later a troop of horsemen were 
seen riding along the same mountain-side by one of the 
same persons, the servant, who then called others who 
also saw the aerial troopers. After a year had elapsed 
the above vision was attested before a magistrate by two 
of those who saw it. The event occurred on the eve of 
the Rebellion, when horsemen were exercising, and when 
also the popular mind along the Border may be supposed 
to have been in a highly excited condition. 

What was seen on this strongly-authenticated occasion .'* 
Was anything seen ,'' None can tell. It is open to us to 
believe that there may have been some play of mirage. 
As there are purely aerial echoes, so are there aerial re- 
flectors for the eye. On the other hand, the vision so 
nearly resembles the spectral processions which have 
passed through the mythology of the world, that we can 
never be sure that it was not the troop of King Arthur, 


emerging from Avallon to announce the approaching 
strife. A few fleecy, strangely-shaped clouds, chasing 
each other along the hillside in the evening's dusk would 
have amply sufficed to create the latter vision, and the 
danger of the time would easily have supplied all the 
Second-Sight required to reveal it to considerable num- 
bers. In questions of this kind a very small circumstance 
— a phrase, a name, perhaps — may turn the balance of 
probabilities. Thus it may be noted that, in the instance 
just related, the vision was seen on the steep side of 
Souter Fell. Fell means a hill or a steep rock, as in 
Drachenfels. But as to Souter, although, as Mr. Robert 
Ferguson says, the word may originally have meant sheep,^ 
it is found in Scotland used as ' shoemaker ' in connec- 
tion with the fabulous giants of that region. Sir Thomas 
Urquhart, in the seventeenth century, relates it as the 
tradition of the two promontories of Cromarty, called 
' Soutans,' that they were the work-stools of two giants 
who supplied their comrades with shoes and buskins. 
Possessing but one set of implements, they used to fling 
these to each other across the opening of the firth, where 
the promontories are only two miles apart. In process 
of time the name Soutar, shoemaker, was bequeathed by 
the craftsmen to their stools. It is not improbable that 
the name gradually connected itself with other places 
bearing traditions connecting them with the fabulous 
race, and that in this way the Souter Fell, from mean- 
ing in early times much the same as Giants' Hill, pre- 
served even in 1743—44 enough of the earlier uncanny 
associations to awaken the awe of Borderers in a time 
of rebellion. The vision may therefore have been seen 
by light which had journeyed all the way from the mytho- 

^ In his very valuable work, ' Northmen in Cumberland and Westmoreland.' 
Longmans. 1856. 


logic heavens of ancient India : substantially subjective — 
such stuff as dreams and dreamers are made of — no doubt 
there were outer clouds, shapes and afterglows enough, 
even in the absence of any fata morgana to supply 
canvas and pigment to the cunning artist that hides in 
the eye. 

In an old tale, the often-slain Vampyre-bat only re- 
quests, with pathos, that his body may be laid where no 
sunlight, but only the moonlight, will fall on it — only that ! 
But it is under the moonshine that it always gains new 
life. No demon requires absolute darkness, but half- 
darkness, in which to live: enough light to disclose a 
Somewhat, but not enough to define and reveal its nature, 
is just what has been required for the bat-eyes of fable 
and phantasy, which can make vampyre of a sparrow or 
giant out of a windmill. 

Glamour ! A marvellous history has this word of the 
artists and poets, — sometimes meaning the charm with 
which the eye invests any object ; or, in Wordsworth's 
phrase, 'the light that never was on land or sea.' But no 
artist or poet ever rose to the full height of the simple 
term itself, which well illustrates Emerson's saying, 
' Words are fossil poetry.' Professor Cowell of Cambridge 
says : ' Glam, or in the nominative Gldmr^ is also a poeti- 
cal name for the Moon. It does not actually occur in the 
ancient literature, but it is given in the glossary in the 
Prose Edda in the list of the very old words for the Moon.' 
Vigfusson in his dictionary says, 'The word is interesting 
on account of its identity with Scot. Glamour, which shows 
that the tale of Glam was common to Scotland and Ice- 
land, and this much older than Grettir (in the year 1014).' 
The Ghost or Goblin Glam seems evidently to have arisen 
from a personification of the delusive and treacherous 
effects of moonlight on the benighted traveller, 


Quale per incertam lunam sub luce maligna 
Est iter in sylvis. 

Now, there is a curious old Sanskrit word, glau or gldv, 
which is explained in all the old native lexicons as mean- 
ing ' the moon.' It might either be taken as * waning/ or 
in a casual sense * obscuring.' 

The following lines from an early mediaeval poet, Bhasa 
(seventh century), will illustrate the deceptive character of 
moonlight from a Hindu point of view. The strong and 
wild Norse imagination delights in what is terrible and 
gloomy : the Hindu loves to dwell on the milder and 
quieter aspects of human life. 

* The cat laps the moonbeams in the bowl of water, 
thinking them to be milk : the elephant thinks that the 
moonbeams, threaded through the intervals of the trees, 
are the fibres of the lotus-stalk. The woman snatches at 
the moonbeams as they lie on the bed, taking them for 
her muslin garment : oh, how the moon, intoxicated with 
radiance, bewilders all the world ! ' 

A similar passage, no doubt imitated from this, is also 
quoted : 

* The bewildered herdsmen place the pails under the 
cows, thinking that the milk is flowing ; the maidens also 
put the blue lotus blossom in their ears, thinking that it is 
the white ; the mountaineer's wife snatches up the jujube 
fruit, avaricious for pearls. Whose mind is not led astray 
by the thickly clustering moonbeams ? ' ^ 

In the Icelandic legend of the struggle between the 
hero Grettir, translated by Magnussen and Morris (Lon- 
don, 1869), the saga supplies a scenery as archaeological 
as if the philologists had been consulted. * Bright moon- 
light was there without, and the drift was broken, now 

1 'Journal of Philology, ' vi. No. II. On the Word Glamour and the Legend 
of Glam, by Professor Cowell. 


drawn over the moon, now driven off from her ; and even 
as Glam fell, a cloud was driven from the moon, and Glam 
glared up against her,' When the hero beheld these glar- 
ing eyes of the giant Ghost, he felt some fiendish craft in 
them, and could not draw his short sword, and ' lay well 
nigh 'twixt home and hell.' This half-light of the moon, 
which robs the Strong of half his power, is repeated in 
Glam's curse : ' Exceedingly eager hast thou sought to 
meet me, Grettir, but no wonder will it be deemed, though 
thou gettest no good hap of me ; and this I must tell thee, 
that thou now hast got half the strength and manhood 
which was thy lot if thou hadst not met me : now I m.ay 
not take from thee the strength which thou hast got before 
this ; but that may I rule, that thou shalt never be mightier 
than now thou art . . . therefore this weird I lay on thee, 
ever in those days to see these eyes with thine eyes, and 
thou wilt find it hard to be alone — and that shalt drag 
thee unto death.' 

The ]\Ioon-demon's power is limited to the spell of 
illusion he can cast. Presently he is laid low ; the ' short 
sword' of a sunbeam pales, decapitates him. But after 
Glam is burned to cold coals, and his ashes buried in skin 
of a beast 'where sheep-pastures were fewest, or the ways 
of men,' the spell lay upon the hero's eyes. ' Grettir said 
that his temper had been nowise bettered by this, that he 
was worse to quiet than before, and that he deemed all 
trouble worse than it was ; but that herein he found the 
greatest change, in that he was become so fearsome a man 
in the dark, that he durst go nowhither alone after night- 
fall, for then he seemed to see all kinds of horrors. And 
that has fallen since into a proverb, that Glam lends eyes, 
or gives Glamsight to those who see things nowise as they 

In reading which one may wonder how this world would 


look if for a little moment one's eyes could be purged of 
glamour. Even at the moon's self one tries vainly to look: 
where Hindu and Zulu see a hare, the Arab sees coils of a 
serpent, and the Englishman sees a man ; and the most 
intelligent of these several races will find it hard to see in 
the moon aught save what their primitive ancestors saw. 
And this small hint of the degree to which the wisest, like 
Merlin, are bound fast in an air-prison by a Vivien whose 
spells are spun from themselves, would carry us far could 
we only venture to follow it out. ' The Moon,' observed 
Dr. Johnson unconsciously, ' has great influence in vulgar 
philosophy.' How much lunar theolog}' have we around 
us, so that many from the cradle to the grave get no clear 
sight of nature or of themselves ! Ver}^ closely did Carlyle 
come to the fable of Glam when speaking of Coleridge's 
' prophetic moonshine,' and its effect on poor John Sterling. 
' If the bottled moonshine be actuallj^ substance .-' Ah, 
could one but believe in a church while finding it incred- 
ible ! . . . The bereaved young lady has taken the veil 
then ! . . . To such lengths can transcendental moonshine, 
cast by some morbidly radiating Coleridge into the chaos 
of a fermenting life, act magically there, and produce 
divulsions and convulsions and diseased developments.' 
One can almost fancy Carlyle had ringing in his memor\' 
the old Scottish ballad of the Rev. Ro'oert Kirk, translator 
of the Psalms into Gaelic, who, while walking in his night- 
gown at Aberfoyle, was ' snatched away to the joyless 
Elfin bower.' 

It was between the night and day 
"\Mien the fair)--king has power. 

The item of the night-gown might have already prepared 
us for the couplet ; and it has perhaps even a mystical 
connection with the vestment of the ' black dragoon" which 


Sterling once saw patrolling in every parish, to whom, how- 
ever, he surrendered at last. 

A story is told of a man wandering on a dark night 
over Dartmoor, whose feet slipped over the edge of a pit. 
He caught the branch of a tree suspended over the terrible 
chasm, but unable to regain the ground, shrieked for help. 
None came, though he cried out till his voice was gone ; 
and there he remained dangling in agony until the grey 
light revealed that his feet were only a few inches from the 
solid ground. Such are the chief demons that bind man 
till cockcrow. Such are the apprehensions that waste 
also the moral and intellectual strength of man, and mur- 
der his peace as he regards the necessary science of his 
time to be cutting some frail tenure sustaining him over a 
bottomless pit, instead of a release from real terror to the 
solid ground 

( 249 ) 



The Plague Phantom — Devil-dances — Destroying Angels — Ahriman 
in Astrology- — Saturn — Satan and Job — Set — The Fatal Seven — 
Yakseyo — The Singhalese Pretraya — Reeri — Maha Sohon — ■ 
Morotoo — Luther on Disease-demons — Gopolu — Madan — Cattle- 
demon in Russia — Bihlweisen — The Plough. 

A FAMILIAR fable in the East tells of one who met a fear- 
ful phantom, which in reply to his questioning answered — 
' I am Plague : I have come from yon city where ten 
thousand lie dead : one thousand were slain by me, the 
rest by Fear.' Perhaps even this story does not fully 
report the alliance between the plague and fear ; for it is 
hardly doubtful that epidemics retain their power in the 
East largely because they have gained personification 
through fear as demons whose fatal power man can neither 
prevent nor cure, before which he can only cower and pray. 
In the missionary school at Canterbury the young men 
prepare themselves to help the ' heathen' medically, and 
so they go forth with materia medica in one hand, and in 
the other an infallible revelation from heaven reporting 
plagues as the inflictions of Jehovah, or the destroying 
angel, or Satan, and the healing of disease the jealously 
reserved monopoly of God.^ 

^ 2 Chron. xvi. 12 ; 2 Kings xx. ; Mark v. 26 ; James v. 14 ; &c., &c. The 
Catholic Church follows the prescription by St. James of prayer and holy 


The demonisation of diseases is not wonderful. To 
thoughtful minds not even science has dispelled the 
mystery which surrounds many of the ailments that afflict 
mankind, especially the normal diseases besetting children, 
hereditary complaints, and the strange liabilities to infec- 
tion and contagion. A genuine, however partial, observa- 
tion would suggest to primitive man some connection 
between the symptoms of many diseases and the myste- 
rious universe of which he could not yet recognise himself 
an epitome. There were indications that certain troubles 
of this kind were related to the seasons, consequently to 
the celestial rulers of the seasons, — to the sun that smote 
by day, and the moon at night. Professor Monie'r 
Williams, describing the Devil-dances of Southern India, 
says that there seems to be an idea among them that 
when pestilences are rife exceptional measures must be 
taken to draw off the malignant spirits, supposed to cause 
them, by tempting them to enter into these wild dancers, 
and so become dissipated. He witnessed in Ceylon a 
dance performed by three men who personated the forms 
and phases of typhus fever.^ These dances probably be- 
long to the same class of ideas as those of the dervishes 
in Persia, whose manifold contortions are supposed to 
repeat the movements of planets. They are invocations 
of the souls of good stars, and propitiations of such as are 

anointing for the sick only after medical aid — of which Asa died when he pre- 
ferred it to the Lord — has failed ; i.e. extreme unction, Castelar remarks that 
the Conclave which elected Pius IX. sat in the Quirinal rather than the Vati- 
can, ' because, while it hoped for the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in every 
place, it feared that in the palace par excellence divine inspirations would not 
sufficiently counteract the effluvias of the fever.' The legal prosecutions of 
the ' Peculiar People ' for obeying the New Testament command in case of 
sickness supply a notable example of the equal hypocrisy of the protestant 
age. England has distributed the Bible as a divine revelation in 150 different 
languages ; and in London it punishes a sect for obedience to one of its plain- 
est directions. 

^ London 'Times,' June 11, 1877. 


evil. Belief in such stellar and planetary influences has 
pervaded every part of the world, and gave rise to astro- 
logical dances. ' Gebelin says that the minuet was the 
danse oblique of the ancient priests of Apollo, performed in 
their temples. The diagonal line and the two parallels de- 
scribed in this dance were intended to be symbolical of the 
zodiac, and the twelve steps of which it is composed were 
meant for the twelve signs and the months of the year. 
The dance round the Maypole and the Cotillon has the 
same origin. Diodorus tells us that Apollo was adored with 
dances, and in the island of lona the god danced all night. 
The christians of St. Thomas till a very late day celebrated 
their worship with dances and songs. Calmet says there 
were dancing-girls in the temple at Jerusalem.' ^ 

The influence of the Moon upon tides, the sleeplessness 
it causes, the restlessness of the insane under its occasional 
light, and such treacheries of moonshine as we have already 
considered, have populated our uninhabited satellite with 
demons. Lunar legends have decorated some well-founded 
suspicions of moonlight. The mother draws the curtain 
between the moonshine and her little Endymion, though 
not because she sees in the waning moon a pining Selene 
whose kiss may waste away the beauty of youth. A mere 
survival is the 'bowing to the new moon:' a euphonism 
traceable to many myths about ' lunacy,' among them, as 
I think, to Delilah (' languishing'), in whose lap the solar 
Samson is shorn of his locks, leaving him only the blind 
destructive strength of the ' moonstruck.' 

In the purely Semitic theories of the Jews we find dis- 
eases ascribed to the wrath of Jehovah, and their cure to 
his merciful mood. ' Jehovah will make thy plagues won- 

^ 'Mankind : their Origin and Destiny' (Longmans, 1872), p. 91. See also 
Voltaire's Dictionary for an account of the sacred dances in the Catholic 
Churches of Spain. 


derful, and the plagues of thy seed; ... he will bring upon 
thee all the diseases of Egypt whereof thou wast afraid.' ^ 
The emerods which smote the worshippers of Dagon were 
ascribed directly to the hand of Jehovah.^ In that vague 
degree of natural dualistic development which preceded 
the full Iranian influence upon the Jews, the infliction of 
diseases was delegated to an angel of Jehovah, as in the 
narratives of smiting the firstborn of Egypt, wasting the 
army of Sennacherib, and the pestilence sent upon Israel 
for David's sin. In the progress of this angel to be a 
demon of disease we find a phase of ambiguity, as shown 
in the hypochondria of Saul. ' The spirit of Jehovah 
departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah 
troubled him.' ^ 

All such ambiguities disappeared under the influence of 
Iranian dualism. In the Book of Job we find the infliction 
of diseases and plagues completely transferred to a power- 
ful spirit, a fully formed opposing potentate. The ' sons 
of God,' who in the first chapter of Job are said to have pre- 
sented themselves before Jehovah, may be identified in the 
thirty-eighth as the stars which shouted for joy at the crea- 
tion. Satan is the wandering or malign planet which leads 
in the Ahrimanic side of the Persian planisphere. In the 
cosmographical theology of that countr}^ Ormuzd was to 
reign for six thousand years, and then Ahriman was to 
reign for a similar period. The moral associations of this 
speculation are discussed elsewhere ; it is necessary here 
only to point out the bearing of the planispheric concep- 
tion upon the ills that flesh is heir to. Ahriman is the 
'star-serpent' of the Zendavasta. 'When the paris ren- 

^ Deut. xxviii. 60. ^ i Sam. v. 6. 

^ I Sam. xvi. 14. In chap, xviii. 10, this evil spirit is said to have proceeded 
from Elohim, a difference indicating a further step in that evolution of Jeho- 
vah into a moral ruler which is fully traced in our chapter on ' Elohim and 
J ehovah. ' 


dered this world desolate, and overran the universe ; when 
the star-serpent made a path for himself between heaven 
and earth,' &c. ; ' when Ahriman rambles on the earth, let 
him who takes the form of a serpent glide on the earth ; 
let him who takes the form of the wolf run on the earth, 
and let the violent north wind bring weakness.' ^ 

The dawn of Ormuzd corresponds with April. The sun 
returns from winter's death by sign of the lamb (our Aries), 
and thenceforth every month corresponds with a thousand 
years of the reign of the Beneficent. September is denoted 
by the Virgin and Child. To the dark domain of Ahriman 
the prefecture of the universe passes by Libra, — the same 
balances which appear in the hand of Satan. The star- 
serpent prevails over the Virgin and Child. Then follow 
the months of the scorpion, the centaur, goat, &c., every 
month corresponding to a thousand years of the reign of 

While this scheme corresponds in one direction with the 
demons of cold, and in another with the entrance and 
reign of moral evil in the world, beginnings of disease 
on earth were also ascribed to this seventh thousand of 
years when the Golden Age had passed. The depth of 
winter is reached in domicile of the goat, or of Sirius, 
Seth, Saturn, Satan — according to the many variants. 
And these, under their several names, make the great 
* infortune ' of astrology, wherein old Culpepper amply 
instructed our fathers. ' In the general, consider that 
Saturn is an old worn-out planet, weary, and of little 
estimation in this world ; he causeth long and tedious 
sicknesses, abundance of sadness, and a Cartload of doubts 
and fears ; his nature is cold, and dry, and melancholy. 

^ Boundesch, ii. pp. 158, 1S8, For an exhaustive treatment of the astro- 
logical theories and pictures of the planispheres, see ' Mankind : their Origin 
and Destiny ' (Longmans, 1872). 

254 SATURN. 

And take special notice of this, that when Saturn is Lord 
of an Eclipse (as he is one of the Lords of this), he governs 
all the rest of the planets, but none can govern him. 
MelancJwly is made of all the /minors in the body of man, 
bnt no Jmmor of melancholy. He is envious, and keeps 
his anger long, and speaks but few words, but when he 
speaks he speaks to purpose. A man of deep cogita- 
tions ; he will plot mischief when men are asleep ; he 
hath an admirable memory, and remembers to this day 
how William the Bastard abused him ; he cannot en- 
dure to be a slave ; he is poor with the poor, fearful 
with the fearful ; he plots mischief against the Superiours, 
with them that plot mischief against them ; have a care 
of him. Kings and MAGISTRATES of Europe ; he will show 
you what he can do in the effects of this Eclipse ; he is 
old, and therefore hath large experience, and will give 
perilous counsel ; he moves but slowly, and therefore doth 
the more mischief; all the planets contribute their natures 
and strength to him, and when he sets on doing mischief 
he will do it to purpose ; he doth not regard the company 
of the rest of the Planets, neither do any of the rest of the 
Planets regard his ; he is a barren Planet, and therefore 
delights not in women ; he brings the Pestilence ; he is 
destructive to the fruits of the earth ; he receives his light 
from the Sun, and yet he hates the Sun that gives it 

Many ages anterior to this began in India the dread of 

1 ' Catastrophe Magnatum : or the Fall of Monarchie. A Caveat to Magis- 
trates, deduced from the Eclipse of the Sunne, March 29, 1652. With a pro- 
bable Conjecture of the Determination of the Effects. By Nich. Culpeper, 
Gent., Stud, in Astrol. and Phys. Dan. ii. 21, 22 : He changeth the times 
and the seasons : he removeth Kings, and selteth up Kittgs : he givelh zvisdome 
to the Wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding : he revealeth the 
deep and secret things, he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth 
with him, London : Printed for T. Vere and Nath. Brooke, in the Old 
Baily, and at the Angel in Cornhil, 1652.' 


Ketu, astronomically the ninth planet, mythologlcally the 
tail of the demon Rahu, cut in twain as already told 
(p. 46), supposed to be the prolific source of comets, 
meteors, and falling stars, also of diseases. From this 
Ketu or dragon's tail were born the Arunah Ketavah 
(Red Ketus or apparitions), and Ketu has become almost 
another word for disease.^ 

Strongly influenced as were the Jews by the exact divi- 
sion of the duodecimal period between Good and Evil, 
affirmed by the Persians, they never lost sight of the ulti- 
mate supremacy of Jehovah. Though Satan had gradually 
become a voluntary genius of evil, he still had to receive 
permission to afHict, as in the case of Job, and during the life- 
time of Paul appears to have been still denied that 'power 
of death ' which is first asserted by the unknown author of 
the Epistle to the Hebrews.^ Satan's especial office was 
regarded as the infliction of disease. Paul delivers the 
incestuous Corinthian to Satan ' for the destruction of the 
flesh,' and he also attributed the sickness and death of 
many to their communicating unworthily.^ He also recog- 
nises his own ' thorn in the flesh ' as ' an angel from Satan,' 
though meant for his moral advantage.^ 

A penitential Psalm (Assyrian) reads as follows : — 

my Lord ! my sins are many, my trespasses are great; 
and the wrath of the gods has plagued me with disease, 
and with sickness and sorrow. 

1 fainted, but no one stretched forth his hand ! 
I groaned, but no one drew nigh ! 

I cried aloud, but no one heard ! 

O Lord, do not abandon thy servant ! 

In the waters of the great storm seize his hand ! 

^ See the Dictionary of Bohtlingk and Roth. ^ Keb. ii. 14. 

* I Cor. V. 5 ; xi. 30. ■* 2 Cor. xii. 7. 


The sins which he has committed turn them to right- 

This Psalm would hardly be out of place in the English 
burial-service, which deplores death as a visitation of 
divine wrath. Wherever such an idea prevails, the natural 
outcome of it is a belief in demons of disease. In ancient 
Egypt — following the belief in Ra the Sun, from whose 
eyes all pleasing things proceeded, and Set, from whose 
eyes came all noxious things, — from the baleful light of 
Set's eyes were born the Seven Hathors, or Fates, whose 
names are recorded in the Book of the Dead. Mr. Fox 
Talbot has translated ' the Song of the Seven Spirits : ' — 

They are seven ! they are seven ! 

In the depths of ocean they are seven ! 

In the heights of heaven they are seven ! 

In the ocean-stream in a palace they were born ! 

Male they are not : female they are not ! 

Wives they have not : children are not born to them ! 

Rule they have not : government they know not ! 

Prayers they hear not ! 

They are seven ! they are seven ! twice over they are seven ! ^ 

These demons have a way of herding together; the 
Assyrian tablets abundantly show that their occupation 
was manifested by diseases, physical and mental. One 
prescription runs thus : — 

The god (....) shall stand by his bedside : 

Those seven evil spirits he shall root out, and shall expel them from 

his body : 
And those seven shall never return to the sick man again ! 

It is hardly doubtful that these were the seven said to 

1 ' Records of the Past,' iii. p. 136. Tr. by Mr. Fox Talbot. 

" Ibid., iii. p. 143. The refrain recalls the lines of Edgar A. Pee : — 

They are neither man nor woman, 
They are neither brute nor human, 
They are ghouls ! 


have been cast out of Mary Magdalen ; for their father 
Set is Shedim (devils) of Deut. xxxii. 17, and Shaddai 
(God) of Gen. xvi. i. But the fatal Seven turn to the 
seven fruits that charm away evil influences at parturition 
in Persia, also the Seven Wise Women of the same country 
traditionally present on holy occasions. When Arda Viraf 
was sent to Paradise by a sacred narcotic to obtain intelli- 
gence of the true faith, seven fires were kept burning for 
seven days around him, and the seven wise women chanted 
hymns of the Avesta.^ 

The entrance of the seven evil powers into a dwelling 
was believed by the Assyrians to be preventible by setting 
in the doorway small images, such as those of the sun- 
god (Hea) and the moon-goddess, but especially of Marduk, 
corresponding to Serapis the Egyptian Esculapius. These 
powers were reinforced by writing holy texts over and on 
each side of the threshold. ' In the night time bind around 
the sick man's head a sentence taken from a good book.' 
The phylacteries of the Jews were originally worn for the 
same purpose. They were called Tefila, and were related 
to teraphim, the little idols ^ used by the Jews to keep out 
demons — such as those of Laban, which his daughter 
Rachel stole. 

The resemblance of teraphim to the Tarasca (connected 
by some with G. repa?, a monster) of Spain may be noted, 
— the serpent figures carried about in Corpus Christi 
processions. The latter word is known in the south of 
France also, and gave its name to the town Tarascon. 
The legend is that an amphibious monster haunted the 
Rhone, preventing navigation and committing terrible 
ravages, until sixteen of the boldest inhabitants of the 

^ The Pahlavi Text has been prepared by Destur Jamaspji Asa, and tran- 
slated by Haug and West. Triibner, 1872. 
•' Cf. fig. 9. 

VOL. I. ^ 


district resolved to encounter it. Eight lost their lives, 
but the others, having- destroyed the monster, founded the 
town of Tarascon, where the ' Fete de la tarasque' is still 
kept up.^ Calmet, Sedley, and others, however, believe 
that teraphim is merely a modification of seraphim, and 
the Tefila, or phylacteries, of the same origin. 

The phylactery was tied into a knot. Justin Martyr 
says that the Jewish exorcists used ' magic ties or knots.' 
The origin of this custom among the Jews and Baby- 
lonians may be found in the Assyrian Talismans preserved 
in the British Museum, of which the following has been 
translated by Mr. Fox Talbot : — 

Hea says : Go, my son ! 
Take a woman's kerchief, 

Bind it round thy right hand, loose it from the left hand ! 
Knot it with seven knots : do so twice : 
Sprinkle it with bright wine : 
Bind it round the head of the sick man : 
Bind it round his hands and feet, like manacles and fetters. 
Sit down on his bed : 
Sprinkle holy water over him. 
He shall hear the voice of Hea, 
Darkness shall protect him ! 

And Marduk, eldest son of Heaven, shall find him a happy- 

The number seven holds an equally high degree of 
potency in Singhalese demonolatry, which is mainly occu- 
pied with diseases. The Capuas or conjurors of that 
island enumerate 240,000 magic spells, of which all except 
one are for evil, which implies a tolerably large prepon- 
derance of the emergencies in which their countervailing 
efforts are required by their neighbours. That of course 
can be easily appreciated by those who have been taught 
that all human beings are included under a primal curse. 

1 Larousse's * Diet. Universel.' 

2 'Records,' &c., iii. p. 141. Marduk is the Chaldsean Hercules. 


The words of Micah, ' Thou wilt cast all their sins into the 
depths of the sea,' ^ are recalled by the legend of these 
evil spells of Ceylon. The king of Oude came to marry 
one of seven princesses, all possessing prseternatural 
powers, and questioned each as to her art. Each declared 
her skill in doing harm, except one who asserted her power 
to heal all ills which the others could inflict. The king 
having chosen this one as his bride, the rest were angry, 
and for revenge collected all the charms in the world, en- 
closed them in a pumpkin — the only thing that can con- 
tain spells without being reduced to ashes — and sent this 
infernal machine to their sister. It would consume every- 
thing for sixteen hundred miles round ; but the messenger 
dropped it in the sea. A god picked it up and presented 
it to the King of Ceylon, and these, with the healing 
charm known to his own Queen, make the 240,000 spells 
known to the Capuas of that island, who have no doubt 
deified the rescuer of the spells on the same principle that 
inspires some seaside populations to worship Providence 
more devoutly on the Sunday after a valuable wreck in 
their neighbourhood. 

The astrological origin of the evils ascribed to the 
Yakseyo (Demons) of Ceylon, and the horoscope which is 
a necessary preliminary to any dealing with their influ- 
ences ; the constant recurrence of the number seven, 
denoting origin with races holding the seven-planet 
theories of the universe ; and the fact that all demons are 
said, on every Saturday evening, to attend an assemblage 
called Yaksa Sabawa (Witches' Sabbath), are facts that 
may well engage the attention of Comparative Mytholo- 
gists.2 In Dardistan the evil spirits are called Yatsh ; 

■^ Micah vii. 19. 

^ See the excellent article in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the R. A.S., 
by Dundris De Silva Gooneratnee Modliar (1865-66). With regard to this 


they dwell ' in the regions of snow,' and the overthrow of 
their reign over the country is celebrated at the new moon 
of Daykio, the month preceding winter. 

The largest proportion of the Disease Demons of Ceylon 
are descended from its Hunger Demons. The Preta there 
is much the same phantom as in Siam, only they are not 
quite so tall.^ They range from two to four hundred feet 
in height, and are so numerous that a Pali Buddhist book 
exhorts people not to throw stones, lest they should harm 
one of these harmless starveling ghosts, who die many 
times of hunger, and revive to suffer on in expiation of 
their sins in a previous existence. They are harmless in 
one sense, but filthy ; and bad smells are personified in 
them. The great mass of demons resemble the Pretraya, 
in that their king (Wessamony) has forbidden them to 
satisfy themselves directly upon their victims, but by in- 
flicting diseases they are supposed to receive an imagina- 
tive satisfaction somewhat like that of eating people. 

Reeri is the Demon of Blood-disease. His form is that 
of a man with face of a monkey ; he is fiery red, rides on a 
red bull, and all hemorrhages and diseases of the blood are 
attributed to him. Reeri has eighteen different disguises 
or avatars. One of these recalls his earlier position as a 
demon of death, before Vishnu revealed to Capuas the 
means of binding him : he is now supposed to be present 
at every death-bed in the form of a delighted pigmy, one 
span and six inches high. On such occasions he bears a 

sanctity of the number seven it may be remarked that it has spread through 
the world with Christianity, — seven churches, seven gifts of the Spirit, seven 
sins and virtues. It is easy therefore to mistake orthodox doctrines for sur- 
vivals. In the London ' Times' of June 24, 1875, there was reported an in- 
quest at Corsham, Wiltshire, on the body of Miriam Woodham, who died 
under the prescriptions of William Bigwood, herbalist. It was shown that 
he used pills made of seven herbs. This was only shown to be a ' pagan 
survival when Bigwood stated that the herbs were 'governed by the sun.' 
i See p. 44. 


cock in one hand, a club in the other, and in his mouth a 
corpse. In the same country Maha Sohon is the ' great 
graveyard demon.' He resides in a hill where he is sup- 
posed to surround himself with carcases. He is 122 feet 
high, has four hands and three eyes, and a red skin. He 
has the head of a bear; the legend being that while quar- 
relling with another giant his head was knocked off, and 
the god Senasura was gracious enough to tear off the 
head of a bear and clap it on the decapitated giant. His 
capua threatens him with a repetition of this catastrophe 
if he does not spare any threatened victim who has called 
in his priestly aid. Except for this timidity about his 
head, Maha is formidable, being chief of 30,000 demons. 
But curiously enough he is said to choose for his steeds 
the more innocent animals, — goat, deer, horse, elephant, 
and hog. 

One of the demons most dreaded in Ceylon is the 
' Foreign Demon ' Morotoo, said to have come from the 
coast of Malabar, and from his residence in a tree dissemi- 
nated diseases which could not be cured until, the queen 
being afflicted, one capua was found able to master him. 
Seven-eighths of the charms used in restraining the dis- 
ease-demons of Ceylon, of which I have mentioned but a 
few, are in the Tamil tongue. In various parts of India 
are found very nearly the same systematic demonolatry 
and ' devil-dancing ; ' for example in Travancore, to whose 
superstitions of this character the Rev. Samuel Mateer has 
devoted two chapters in his work ' The Land of Charity.' 

The great demon of diseases in Ceylon is entitled Maha 
Cola Sanni Yakseya. His father, a king, ordered his queen 
to be put to death in the behef that she had been faithless 
to him. Her body was to be cut in two pieces, one of 
which was to be hung upon a tree {Ukberiyd), the other to 
be thrown at its foot to the dogs. The queen before her 


execution said, 'If this charge be false, may the child in 
my womb be born this instant a demon, and may that 
demon destroy the whole of this city and its unjust king.' 
So soon as the executioners had finished their work, the 
two severed parts of the queen's body reunited, a child 
was born who completely devoured his mother, and then 
repaired to the graveyard (Sohon), where for a time 
he fattened on corpses. Then he proceeded to inflict 
mortal diseases upon the city, and had nearly depopulated 
it when the gods Iswara and Sekkra interfered, descending 
to subdue him in the disguise of mendicants. Possibly 
the great Maha Sohon mentioned above, and the Sohon 
(graveyard) from which Sanni dealt out deadliness, may 
be best understood by the statement of the learned writer 
from whom these facts are quoted, that, 'excepting the 
Buddhist priests, and the aristocrats of the land, whose 
bodies were burnt in regular funeral-piles after death, the 
corpses of the rest of the people were neither burned nor 
buried, but thrown into a place called Sohona, which was 
an open piece of ground in the jungle, generally a hollow 
among the hills, at the distance of three or four miles from 
any inhabited place, where they were left in the open air 
to be decomposed or devoured by dogs and wild beasts.' ^ 
There would appear to be even more ground for the dread 
of the Great Graveyard Demon in many parts of Chris- 
tendom, where, through desire to preserve corpses for a 
happy resurrection, they are made to steal through the 
water-veins of the earth, and find their resurrection as fell 
diseases. Iswara and Sekkra were probably two reformers 
who persuaded the citizens to bury the poor deep in the 
earth; had they been wise enough to place the dead where 
nature would give them speedy resurrection and life in 
grass and flowers, it would not have been further recorded 

1 'Jour. Ceylon R. A. Soc.,' 1865-66, 


that ' they ordered him (the demon) to abstain from eating 
men, but gave him Wurrun or permission to inflict disease 
on mankind, and to obtain ofl'erings.' This is very much 
the same as the privilege given our Western funeral agen- 
cies and cemeteries also ; and when the Modliar adds that 
Sanni ' has eighteen principal attendants,' one can hardly 
help thinking of the mummers, gravediggers, chaplains, 
all engaged unconsciously in the work of making the 
earth less habitable. 

The first of the attendants of this formidable avenger of 
his mother's wrongs is named Bhoota Sanni Yakseya, 
Demon of Madness. The whole demonolatry and devil- 
dancing of that island are so insane that one is not sur- 
prised that this Bhoota had but little special development. 
It is amid clear senses we might naturally look for full 
horror of madness, and there indeed do we find it. One 
of the most horrible forms of the disease-demon was the 
personification of madness among the Greeks, as Mania.^ 
In the Heracles Ftirens of Euripides, where Madness, ' the 
unwedded daughter of black Night,' and sprung of ' the 
blood of Coelus/ is evoked from Tartarus for the express 
purpose of imbreeding in Hercules 'child-slaying distur- 
bances of reason,' there is a suggestion of the hereditary 
nature of insanity. Obedient to the vindictive order of 
Juno, ' in her chariot hath gone forth the marble-visaged, 
all-mournful Madness, the Gorgon of Night, and with the 
hissing of hundred heads of snakes, she gives the goad to 
her chariot, on mischief bent.' We may plainly see that the 

^ This demoness is not to be connected with the Italian Mania, probably of 
Etruscan origin, with which nurses frightened children. This Mania, from an 
old word mantis signifying 'good,' was, from the relation of her name to 
Manes, supposed to be mother of the Lares, whose revisitations of the 
earth were generally of ill omen. According to an oracle which said heads 
should be offered for the sake of heads, children were sacrificed to this house- 
hold fiend up to the time of Junius Brutus, who substituted poppy-heads. 


religion which embodied such a form was itself ending in 
madness. Already ancient were the words [xavrLKT^ (p'"o~ 
phecy) and (juaviKr] (madness) when Plato cited their 
identity to prove one kind of madness the special gift of 
Heaven : ^ the notion lingers in Dryden's line, ' Great wits 
to madness sure are near allied;' and survive in regions 
where deference is paid to lunatics and idiots. Other 
diseases preserve in their names indications of similar 
association : e.g., Nympholepsy, St. Vitus's Dance, St. 
Anthony's Fire. Wesley attributes still epilepsy to ' pos- 
session.' This was in pursuance of ancient beliefs. 
Typhus, a name anciently given to every malady accom- 
panied with stupor (Tvcf)o<;), seemed the breath of feverish 
Typhon. Max Muller connects the word quinsy with 
Sanskrit amh, ' to throttle,' and Ahi the throttling serpent, 
its medium being aftgina ; and this again is Kvvdj^^r), dog- 
throtthng, the Greek for quinsy.^ 

The genius of William Blake, steeped in Hebraism, 
never showed greater power than in his picture of Plague. 
A gigantic hideous form, pale-green, with the slime of 
stagnant pools, reeking with vegetable decays and gan- 
grene, the face livid with the motley tints of pallor and 
putrescence, strides onward with extended arms like a 
sower sowing his seeds, only in this case the germs of his 
horrible harvest are not cast from the hands, but emanate 
from the fingers as being of their essence. Such, to the 
savage mind, was the embodiment of malaria, sultriness, 
rottenness, the putrid Pretraya, invisible, but smelt and 
felt. Such, to the ignorant imagination, is the Destroying 
Angel to which rationalistic artists and poets have tried to 
add wings and majesty; but which in the popular mind 
was no doubt pictured more like this form found at Ostia 

^ Phoedrus, i. 549. Cf. Ger. se/i^ and si//y. 
^ ' Lect. on Language,' i. 435. 



(fig. 16), and now passing in the Vatican for a Satan, — 
probably a demon of the Pontine Marshes, and of the fever 
that still has victims of its fatal cup (p. 291). In these 
fearful forms the poor savage believed with such an in- 
tensity that he was able to shape the brain of man to his 
phantasy; bringing about the ano- 
maly that the great reformer, 
Luther, should affirm, even while 
fighting superstition, that a Chris- 
tian ought to know that he lives 
in the midst of devils, and that 
the devil is nearer to him than his 
coat or his shirt. The devils, he 
tells us, are all around us, and are 
at every moment seeking to en- 
snare our lives, salvation, and hap- 
piness. There are many of them 
in the woods, waters, deserts, and 
in damp muddy places, for the pur- 
pose of doing folk a mischief They 
also house in the dense black clouds, 
and send storms, hail, thunder and 
lightning, and poison the air with 
their infernal stench. In one place, Luther tells us that the 
devil has more vessels and boxes full of poison, with which 
he kills people, than all the apothecaries in the whole world. 
He sends all plagues and diseases among men. We may 
be sure that when any one dies of the pestilence, is 
drowned, or drops suddenly dead, the devil does it. 

Knowing nothing of Zoology, the primitive man easily 
falls into the belief that his cattle — the means of life — may 
be the subjects of sorcery, Jesus sending devils into a 
herd of swine may have become by artificial process a 
divine benefactor in the eye of Christendom, but the myth 

Fig. 16. — Demon found at 



makes Him bear an exact resemblance to the dangerous 
sorcerer that fills the savage mind with dread. It is 
probable that the covetous eye denounced in the deca- 
logue means the evil eye, which was supposed to blight 
an object intensely desired but not to be obtained. 

Gopolu, already referred to (p. 136) as the Singhalese 
demon of hydrophobia, bears the general name of the 
' Cattle Demon.' He is said to have been the twin of the 
demigod Mangara by a queen on the Coromandel coast. 
The mother died, and a cow suckled the twins, but after- 
wards they quarrelled, and Gopolu being slain was trans- 
formed into a demon. He repaired to Arangodde, and 
fixed his abode in a Banyan where there is a large bee- 
hive, whence proceed many evils. The population around 
this Banyan for many miles being prostrated by diseases, 
the demigod Mangara and Pattini (goddess of chastity) 
admonished the villagers to sacrifice a cow regularly, and 
thus they were all resuscitated. Gopolu now sends all 
cattle diseases. India is full of the like superstitions. The 
people of Travancore especially dread the demon Madan, 
' he who is like a cow,' believed to strike oxen with sud- 
den illness, — sometimes men also. 

In Russia we find superstition sometimes modified by 
common sense. Though the peasant hopes that Zegory 
(St. George) will defend his cattle, he begins to see the 
chief foes of his cattle. As in the folk-song — 

We have gone around the field, 

We have called Zegory. . . . 

O thou, our brave Zegory, 

Save our cattle. 

In the field and beyond the field, 

In the forest and beyond the forest, 

Under the bright moon. 

Under the red sun. 

From the rapacious wolf. 


From the cruel bear, 
From the cunning beast.^ 

Nevertheless when a cattle plague occurs many villages 
relapse into a normally extinct state of mind. Thus, a 
few years ago, in a village near Moscow, all the women, 
having warned the men away, stripped themselves entirely 
naked and drew a plough so as to make a furrow en- 
tirely around the village. At the point of juncture in this 
circle they buried alive a cock, a cat, and a dog. Then 
they filled the air with lamentations, crying — 'Cattle 
Plague ! Cattle Plague ! spare our cattle ! Behold, we 
offer thee cock, cat, and dog ! ' The dog is a demonic 
character in Russia, while the cat is sacred ; for once when 
the devil tried to get into Paradise in the form of a mouse, 
the dog allowed him to pass, but the cat pounced on him 
— the two animals being set on guard at the door. The 
offering of both seems to represent a desire to conciliate 
both sides. The nudity of the women may have been to 
represent to the hungry gods their utter poverty, and ina- 
bility to give more ; but it was told me in Moscow, where 
I happened to be staying at the time, that it would be 
dangerous for any man to draw near during the perform- 

In Altmark ^ the demons who bewitch cattle are called 
' Bihlweisen,' and are believed to bury certain diabolical 
charms under thresholds over which the animals are to 
pass, causing them to wither away, the milk to cease, etc. 
The prevention is to wash the cattle with a lotion of sea 
cabbage boiled with infusion of wine. In the same pro- 
vince it is related that once there appeared in a harvest- 
field at one time fifteen, at another twelve men (appa- 
rently), the latter headless. They all laboured with 

^ Ralston's ' Songs of the Russian People,' p. 230. 

2 ' Sagen der Altmark.' Von A. Kuhn. Berlin, 1843. 


scythes, but though the rustling could be heard no grain 
fell. When questioned they said nothing, and when the 
people tried to seize them they ran away, cutting fruit- 
lessly as they ran. The priests found in this a presage of 
the coming cattle plague. The Russian superstition of 
the plough, above mentioned, is found in fragmentary sur- 
vivals in Altmark. Thus, it is said that to plough around 
a village and then sit under the plough (placed upright), 
will enable any one to see the witches ; and in some 
villages, some bit of a plough is hung up over a doorway 
through which cattle pass, as no devil can then approach 
them. The demons have a natural horror of honest work, 
and especially the culture of the earth. Goethe, as we 
have seen, notes their fear of roses: perhaps he remem- 
bered the legend of Aspasia, who, being disfigured by a 
tumour on the chin, was warned by a dove-maiden to dis- 
miss her physicians and try a rose from the garland of 
Venus ; so she recovered health and beauty. 

{ 269 ) 



The Vendetta of Death — Teoyaomiqui — Demon of Serpents — Death 
on the Pale Horse — KaH — War-gods — Satan as Death — Death- 
beds — Thanatos — Yama — ^Yimi — Towers of Silence — Alcestis — 
Hercules, Christ, and Death — Hel — Salt — Azrael — Death and 
the Cobbler — Dance of Death — Death as Foe, and as Friend. 

Savage races believe that no man dies except by sorcery. 
Therefore every death must be avenged. The Actas of 
the Philippines regard the ' Indians ' as the cause of the 
deaths among them ; and when one of them loses a relative, 
he lurks and watches until he has spied an ' Indian ' and 
killed him.^ It is a progress from this when primitive 
man advances to the belief that the fatal sorcerer is an 
invisible man — a demon. When this doctrine is taught in 
the form of a belief that death entered the world through 
the machinations of Satan, and was not in the original 
scheme of creation, it is civilised ; but when it is inculcated 
under a set of African or other non-christian names, it is 

The following sketch, by Mr. Gideon Lang, will show 
the intensity of this conviction among the natives of New 
South Wales : — 

' While at Nanima I constantly saw one of these, named 
Jemmy, a remarkably fine man, about twenty-eight years 

1 Wake's ' Evolution of Morality,' i. 107. 


of age, who was the ' model Christian ' of the missionaries, 
and who had been over and over again described in their 
reports as a living proof that, taken in infancy, the natives 
were as capable of being truly christianised as a people who 
had had eighteen centuries of civilisation. I confess that I 
strongly doubted, but still there was no disputing the 
apparent facts. Jemmy was not only familiar with the 
Bible, which he could read remarkably well, but he was 
even better acquainted with the more abstruse tenets of 
Christianity ; and so far as the whites could see, his be- 
haviour was in accordance with his religious acquirements. 
One Sunday morning I walked down to the black fellows' 
camp, to have a talk with Jemmy, as usual. I found him 
sitting in his gunyah, overlooking a valley of the Mac- 
quarrie, whose waters glanced brightly in the sunshine of 
the delicious spring morning. He was sitting in a state of 
nudity, excepting his waistcloth, very earnestly reading 
the Bible, which indeed was his constant practice ; and 
I could see that he was perusing the Sermon on the 
Mount. I seated myself, and waited till he concluded 
the chapter, when he laid down the Bible, folded his 
hands, and sat with his eyes fixed abstractedly on his 
fire. I bade him ' good morning,' which he acknow- 
leged without looking up. I then said, 'Jemmy, what 
is the meaning of your spears being stuck in a circle 
round you } ' He looked me steadily in the eyes, and 
said solemnly and with suppressed fierceness, 'Mother's 
dead ! ' I said that I was very sorry to hear it ; ' but what 
had her death to do with the spears being stuck around 
so .? ' ' Began black-fellow killed her ! ' was the fierce and 
gloomy reply. ' Killed by a Bogan black ! ' I exclaimed : 
* why, your mother has been dying a fortnight, and Dr. 
Curtis did not expect her to outlive last night, which you 
know as well as I do.' His only reply was a dogged 


repetition of the words : ' A Bogan black-fellow killed 
her ! ' I appealed to him as a Christian — to the Sermon 
on the Mount, that he had just been reading ; but he 
absolutely refused to promise that he would not avenge 
his mother's death. In the afternoon of that day we 
were startled by a yell which can never be mistaken by 
•any person who has once heard the wild war-whoop of the 
blacks when in battle array. On marching out we saw all 
the black fellows of the neighbourhood formed into a line, 
and following Jemmy in an imaginary attack upon an 
enemy. Jemmy himself disappeared that evening. On 
the following Wednesday morning I found him sitting 
complacently in his gunyah, plaiting a rope of human 
hair, which I at once knew to be that of his victim. 
Neither of us spoke ; I stood for some time watching him 
as he worked with a look of mocking defiance of the anger 
he knew I felt. I pointed to a hole in the middle of his 
fire, and said, ' Jemmy, the proper place for your Bible is 
there.' He looked up with his eyes flashing as I turned 
away, and I never saw him again. I afterwards learned 
that he had gone to the district of the Bogan tribe, where 
the first black he met happened to be an old friend 
and companion of his own. This man had just made 
the first cut in the bark of a tree, which he was about 
to climb for an opossum ; but on hearing footsteps he 
leaped down and faced round, as all blacks do, and whites 
also, when blacks are in question. Seeing that it was only 
Jemmy, however, he resumed his occupation, but had no 
sooner set to work than Jemmy sent a spear through his 
back and nailed him to the tree.^ 

Perhaps if Jemmy could have been cross-examined by 
the non-missionary mind, he might have replied with some 
effect to Mr. Lang's suggestion that he ought to part with 

^ ' The Aborigines of Australia ' (1S65), p. 15. 


his Bible. Surely he must have found in that volume a 
sufficient number of instances to justify his faith in the 
power of demons over human health and life. Might he 
not have pondered the command, ' thou shalt not suffer a 
witch to live,' and imagined that he was impaling another 
Manasseh, who ' used enchantments, and used witchcraft, 
and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards (and) 
wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke 
Him to anger.' ^ Those who hope that the Bible may 
carry light into the dark places of superstition and habita- 
tions of cruelty might, one would say, reflect upon the 
long contest which European science had with bibliolators 
in trying to relieve the popular mind from the terrors of 
witchcraft, whose genuineness it was (justly) declared con- 
trary to the Scriptures to deny. There are districts in 
Great Britain and America, and many more on the con- 
tinent of Europe, where the spells that waste and destroy 
are still believed in ; where effigies of wax or even onions 
are labelled with some hated name, and stuck over with 
pins, and set near fires to be melted or dried up, in full 
belief that some subject of the charm will be consumed 
by disease along with the object used. Under every roof 
where such coarse superstitions dwell the Bible dwells 
beside them, and experience proves that the infallibility 
of all such talismans diminishes /^rz'/^i'j'?^. 

What the savage is really trying to slay when he goes 
forth to avenge his relative's death on the first alien he 
finds may be seen in the accompanying figure (17), which 
represents the Mexican goddess of death — Teoyaomi- 
qui. The image is nine feet high, and is kept in a 
museum in the city of Mexico. Mr. Edward B. Tylor, 
from whose excellent book of travels in that country 
the figure is copied, says of it : — ' The stone known as 

^ 2 Chron. xxxiii, 6. 


the statue of the war-goddess is a huge block of basalt 
covered with sculptures. The antiquaries think that the 
figures on it stand for different personages, and that it is 

Fig. 17.— Teoyaomiqui. 

three gods — Huitzilopochtli, the god of war ; Teoyaomi- 
qui, his wife; and Mictlanteuctli, the god of hell. It has 
necklaces of alternate hearts and dead men's hands, with 
death's heads for a central ornament. At the bottom of 

the block is a strange sprawling figure, which one cannot 
VOL. I- S 


see now, for it is the base which rests on the ground ; but 
there are two shoulders projecting from the idol, which 
show plainly that it did not stand on the ground, but was 
supported aloft on the tops of two pillars. The figure 
carved upon the bottom represents a monster holding a 
skull in each hand, while others hang from his knees and 
elbows. His mouth is a mere oval ring, a common feature 
of Mexican idols, and four tusks project just above it. 
The new moon laid down like a bridge forms his forehead, 
and a star is placed on each side of it. This is thought to 
have been the conventional representation of Mictlan- 
teuctli (Lord of the Land of the Dead), the god of hell, 
which was a place of utter and eteranal darkness. Pro- 
bably each victim as he was led to the altar could look up 
between the two pillars and see the hideous god of hell 
staring down upon him from above. There is little doubt 
that this is the famous war-idol which stood on the great 
teocalli of Mexico, and before which so many thousands of 
human beings were sacrificed. It lay undisturbed under 
ground in the great square, close to the very site of the 
teocalli, until sixty years ago. For many years after that 
it was kept buried, lest the sight of one of their old deities 
might be too exciting for the Indians, who, as I have 
mentioned before, had certainly not forgotten it, and 
secretly ornamented it with garlands of flowers while it 
remained above ground.' 

If my reader will now turn to the (fig. ii) portrait of 
the Demon of Serpents, he will find a conception funda- 
mentally similar to the Mexican demoness of death or 
slaughter, but one that is not shut up in a museum of anti- 
quities ; it still haunts and terrifies a vast number of the 
people born in Ceylon. He is the principal demon invoked 
in Ceylon by the malignant sorcerers in performing the 
84,000 different charms that afflict evils {Hooniyaii). His 


general title is Oddy Cumara HOONIYAN Dewatawa; 
but he has a special name for each of his six several 
apparitions, the chief of these being Cali Oddisey, or 
demon of incurable diseases, therefore of death, and Naga- 
Oddisey, demon of serpents — deadliest of animals. Be- 
neath him is the Pale Horse which has had its career 
so long and far, — even to the White Mare on vhich, in 
some regions, Christ is believed to revisit the earth every 
Christmas ; and also the White Mare of Yorkshire Folk- 
lore which bore its rider from Whitestone Cliff to hell. 
This Singhalese form also, albeit now associated by 
Capuas with fatal disease, was probably at first, like 
the Mexican, a war goddess and god combined, as is 
shown by the uplifted sword, and reeking hand uplifted in 
triumph. Equally a god of war is our ' Death on the Pale 
Horse,' which christian art, following the so-called Apoca- 
lypse, has made so familiar. * I looked, and behold a pale 
horse : and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell 
followed with him. And power was given to him over the 
fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with 
hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.' 
, This is but a travesty of the Greek Ares, the Roman Mars, 
or god of War. In the original Greek form Ares was not 
solely the god of war, but of destruction generally. In 
the CEdipus Tyrannus of Sophocles we have the popular 
conception of him as one to whom the deadly plague is 
ascribed. He is named as the ' god unhonoured among 
gods,' and it is said : — ' The city is wildly tossing, and no 
more can lift up her head from the waves of death ;.wither- 
ing the ripening grain in the husks, withering the kine in 
their pastures ; blighted are the babes through the failing 
labours of women ; the fire-bearing god, horrid Pestilence, 
having darted down, ravages the city ; by him the house 

2 76 KALL 

of Cadmus is empty, and dark Hades enriched with groans 
and lamentations.' 

Mother of the deadliest ' Galas ' of Singhalese demono- 
latry, sister of the Scandinavian Hel in name and nature, 
is Kali. Although the Hindu writers repudiate the idea 
that there is any devil among their three hundred and 
thirty millions of deities, it is difficult to deny Kali that 
distinction. Her wild dance of delight over bodies of the 
slain would indicate pleasure taken in destruction for its 
own sake, so fulfilling the definition of a devil ; but, on the 
other hand, there is a Deccan legend that reports her as 
devouring the dead, and this would make her a hunger- 
demon. We may give her the benefit of the doubt, and 
class her among the demons — or beings whose evil is not 
gratuitous — all the more because the mysteriously protrud- 
ing tongue, as in the figure of Typhon (p. 185), probably 
suggests thirst. Hindu legend does, indeed, give another 
interpretation, and say that when she was dancing for joy 
at having slain a hundred-headed giant demigod, the 
shaking of the earth was so formidable that Siva threw 
himself among the slain, whom she was crushing at every 
step, hoping to induce her to pause ; but when, unheeding, 
she trod upon the body of her husband, she paused and 
thrust out her tongue from surprise and shame. The 
Vedic description of Agni as an tigj'a (ogre), with 'tongue 
of flame,' may better interpret Kali's tongue. It is said 
Kali is pleased for a hundred years by the blood of a tiger ; 
for a thousand by that of a man ; for a hundred thousand 
by the blood of three men. 

How are we to understand this dance of Death, and the 
further legend of her tossing dead bodies into the air for 
amusement .-* Such a figure found among a people who 
shudder at taking life even from the lowest animals is 

KALI. • 21 'J 

hardly to be explained by the destructiveness of nature 

Fig. i8.— Kali. 

personified in her spouse Siva. Her looks and legends 

27S durgA. 

alike represent slaughter by human violence. May it not 
be that Kali represents some period when the abhorrence 
of taking life among a vegetarian people — a people, too, 
believing in transmigration — might have become a public 
danger ? When Krishna appeared it was, according to 
the Bhagavat Gita, as charioteer inciting Arjoon to war. 
There must have been various periods when a peaceful 
people must fall victims to more savage neighbours unless 
they could be stimulated to enter on the work of destruc- 
tion with a light heart. There may have been periods 
when the human Kalis of India might stimulate their hus- 
bands and sons to war with such songs as the women of 
Dardistan sing at the Feast of Fire (p. 91), The amour of 
the Greek goddess of Beauty with the god of War, leaving 
her lawful spouse the Smith, is full of meaning. The 
Assyrian Venus, Istar, appeared in a vision, with wings and 
halo, bearing a bow and arrow for Assurbanipal. The Thug 
appears to have taken some such view of Kali, regarding 
her as patroness of their plan for reducing population. 
They are said to have claimed that Kali left them one of 
her teeth for a pickaxe, her rib for a knife, her garment's 
hem for a noose, and wholesale murder for a religion. The 
uplifted right hand of the demoness has been interpreted as 
intimating a divine purpose in the havoc around her, and ' 
it is possible that some such euphemism attached to the 
attitude before the Thug accepted it as his own benediction 
from this highly decorated personage of human cruelty. 

The ancient reverence for Kali has gradually passed to 
her mitigated form — Durga. Around her too are visible 
the symbols of destruction ; but she is supposed to be 
satisfied with pumpkin-animals, and the weapons in her 
ten hands are believed to be directed against the enemies 
of the gods, especially against the giant king Muheshu. 
She is mother of the beautiful boy Kartik, and of the 

WAR-GODS. 279 

elephant-headed inspirer of knowledge Ganesa. She is 
reverenced now as female energy, the bestower of beauty 
and fruitfulness on women. 

The identity of war-gods and death-demons, in the 
most frightful conceptions which have haunted the human 
imagination, is of profound significance. These forms do 
not represent peaceful and natural death, not death by old 
age, — of which, alas, those who cowered before them knew 
but little, — but death amid cruelty and agony, and the 
cutting down of men in the vigour of life. That indeed 
was terrible, — even more than these rude images could 

But there are other details in these hideous forms. The 
priest has added to the horse and sword of war the adored 
serpent, and hideous symbols of the ' Land of the Dead.' 
For it is not by terror of death, but of what he can per- 
suade men lies beyond, that the priest has reigned over 
mankind. When Isabel (in 'Measure for Measure') is 
trying to persuade her brother that the sense of death lies 
most in apprehension, the sentenced youth still finds death 
' a fearful thing.' 

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where ; 

To lie in cold obstruction and to rot ; 

This sensible warm motion to become 

A kneaded clod ; and the delighted spirit 

To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside 

In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice ; 

To be imprisoned in the viewless winds, 

And blown with violence round about 

The pendent world ; or to be worse than worst 

Of these, that lawless and incertain thoughts 

Imagine howling ! — 'tis too horrible ! 

The weariest and most loathed worldly life 

That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment 

Can lay on nature, is a paradise 

To what we fear of death. 

In all these apprehensions of Claudio there is no thought 


of annihilation. What if he had seen death as an eternal 
sleep ? Let Hamlet answer : — 

To die, — to sleep ; — 
No more ; — and, by a sleep, to say we end 
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks 
That flesh is heir to, — 'tis a consummation 
Devoutly to be wished. 

The greater part of the human race still belong to reli- 
gions which, in their origin, promised eternal repose as the 
supreme final bliss. Had death in itself possessed horrors 
for the human mind, the priest need not have conjured up 
beyond it those tortures that haunted Hamlet with the 
dreams of possible evils beyond which make even the 
wretched rather bear the ills they have than fly to others 
they know not of. It would have been sufficient sanction 
to promise immortality only to the pious. But as in 
Claudio's shuddering lines every hell is reflected — whether 
of ice, fire, or brutalisation — so are the same mixed with 
the very blood and brain of mankind, even where literally 
outgrown. Christianity superadded to the horrors by im- 
porting the idea that death came by human sin, and so by 
gradual development ascribing to Satan the power of 
death ; thereby forming a new devil who bore in him the 
power to make death a punishment. How the matter 
stood in the mediaeval belief may be seen in figure i9,copied 
from a Russian Bible of the (early) seventeenth century. 
Lazarus smiles to see the nondescript soul of Dives torn 
from him by a devil with a hook, while another drowns 
the groans with a drum. Satan squirts an infernal baptism 
on the departing soul, and the earnest co-operation of the 
archangel justifies the satisfaction of Lazarus and Abra- 
ham. This degraded belief is still found in the almost 
gleeful pulpit-picturings of physical agonies as especially 
attending the death-beds of 'infidels,' — as Voltaire and 



Paine, — and its fearful result is found in the degree to 
which priesthoods are still able to paralyse the common 
sense and heart of the masses by the barbaric ceremonials 

Fig. 19. — Dives and Lazarus (Russian; 17th cent.). 

with which they are permitted to surround death, and the 
arrogant line drawn between unorthodox goats and credu- 
lous sheep by ' consecrated ' ground. 


Mr. Keary, in his interesting volume on 'The Dawn of 

History,! says that it has been suggested that the youthful 

winged figure on the drum of a column from the temple 

of Diana at Ephesus to the British Museum, may be a 

representation of Thanatos, Death. It would be agreeable 

to believe that the only important representation of Death 

left by Greek art is that exquisite figure, whose high 

tribute is that it was at first thought to be Love ! The 

figure is somewhat like the tender Eros of preraphaelite 

art, and with the same look of gentle melancholy. Such 

a sweet and simple form of Death would be worthy of 

the race which, amid all the fiery or cold rivers of the 

underworld which had gathered about their religion, still 

saw running there the soft-flowing stream of forgetfulness. 

Let one study this Ephesian Thanatos reverently — no 

engraving or photograph can do it even partial justice — 

and then in its light read those myths of Death which 

seem to bear us back beyond the savagery of war and the 

artifices of priests to the simpler conceptions of humanity. 

In its serene light we may especially read both Vedic and 

Iranian hymns and legends of Yama. 

The first man to die became the powerful Yama of the 

Hindus, the monarch of the dead ; and he became invested 

with metaphors of the sun that had set.^ In a solemn and 

pathetic hymn of the Vedas he is said to have crossed the 

rapid waters, to have shown the way to many, to have first 

known the path on which our fathers crossed over.^ But 

in che splendours of sunset human hope found its prophetic 

pictures of a heaven beyond. The Vedic Yama is ever 

the friend. It is one of the most picturesque facts of 

mythology that, after Yama had become in India another 

1 Published by Mozle; and Smith, 1S7S. 
- Max Miiller. ' Lectures on Language,' ii. p. 562, et seq. 
3 See the beautifully translated funereal hymn of the Veda in Professor 
Whitney's 'Oriental and Linguistic Studies,' p. 52, etc. 


name for Death, the same name reappeared in Persia, and 
in the Avesta, as a type at once of the Golden Age in the 
past and of paradise in the future. 

Such was the Iranian Yima. He was that ' flos regum' 
whose reign represented ' the ideal of human happi- 
ness, when there was neither illness nor death, neither 
heat nor cold,' and who has never died. ' According to 
the earlier traditions of the Avesta,' says Spiegel, *Jima 
does not die, but when evil and misery began to prevail 
on earth, retires to a smaller space, a kind of garden or 
Eden, where he continues his happy life with those who 
remained true to him.' Such have been the antecedents 
of our many beautiful myths which ascribe even an earthly 
immortality to the great, — to Barbarossa, Arthur, and even 
to the heroes of humbler races as Hiawatha and Glooscap 
of North American tribes, — who are or were long believed 
to have ' sailed into the fiery sunset,' or sought some fair 
island, or to slumber in a hidden grotto, until the world 
shall have grown up to their stature and requires their 

In Japan the (Sintoo) god of Hell is now named Amma, 
and one may suspect that it is some imitation of Yama by 
reason of the majesty he still retains in the popular con- 
ception. He is pictured as a grave man, wearing a judicial 
cap, and no cruelties seem to be attributed to him per- 
sonally, but only to the 07ii or demons of whom he is lord. 

The kindly characteristics of the Hindu Yama seem in 
Persia to have been replaced by the bitterness of Ahriman, 
or Anra-mainyu, the genius of evil. Haug interprets Anra- 
mainyu as ' Death-darting.' The word is the counterpart 
of Speiita-mainyu, and means originally the ' throttling 
spirit;' being thus from anh, philologically the root of all 
evil, as we shall see when we consider its dragon brood. 
Professor Whitney translates the name ' Malevolent.' But, 


whatever may be the meaning of the word, there is little 
doubt that the Twins of Vedic Mythology — Yama and 
Yami — parted into genii of Day and Night, and were ulti- 
mately spiritualised in the Spirit of Light and Spirit of 
Darkness which have made the basis of all popular theology 
from the time of Zoroaster until this day. 

Nothing can be more remarkable than the extreme 
difference between the ancient Hindu and the Persian view 
of death. As to the former it was the happy introduction 
to Yama, to the latter it was the visible seal of Ahriman's 
equality with Ormuzd. They held it in absolute horror. 
The Towers of Silence stand in India to-day as monu- 
ments of this darkest phase of the Parsi belief The dead 
body belonged to Ahriman, and was left to be devoured 
by wild creatures ; and although the raising of towers for 
the exposure of the corpse, so limiting its consumption to 
birds, has probably resulted from a gradual rationalism 
which has from time to time suggested that by such 
means souls of the good may wing their way to Ormuzd, 
yet the Parsi horror of death is strong enough to give rise 
to such terrible suspicions, even if they were unfounded, 
as those which surrounded the Tower (Khao's Dokhma) 
in Jime 1877. The strange behaviour of the corpse-bearers 
in leaving one tower, going to another, and afterwards (as 
was said) secretly repairing to the first, excited the belief 
that a man had been found alive in the first and was after- 
wards murdered. The story seems to have begun with 
certain young Parsis themselves, and, whether it be true 
or not, they have undoubtedly interpreted rightly the 
ancient feeling of that sect with regard to all that had 
been within the kingdom of the King of Terrors. ' As 
sickness and death,' says Professor Whitney, ' were sup- 
posed to be the work of the malignant powers, the dead 
body itself was regarded with superstitious horror. It had 


been gotten by the demons into their own peculiar posses- 
sion, and became a chief medium through which they 
exercised their defihng action upon the living. Every- 
thing that came into its neighbourhood was unclean, and 
to a certain extent exposed to the influences of the male- 
volent spirits, until purified by the ceremonies which the 
law prescribed.' ^ It is to be feared this notion has crept 
in among the Brahmans; the Indian Mirror (May 26, 
1878) states that a Chandernagore lady, thrown into the 
Ganges, but afterwards found to be alive, was believed to 
be possessed by Dano (an evil spirit), and but for inter- 
ference would have found a watery grave. The Jews also 
were influenced by this belief, and to this day it is for- 
bidden a Cohen, or descendant of the priesthood, to touch 
a dead body. 

The audience at the Crystal Palace which recently 
witnessed the performance of Euripides' Alcesiis could 
hardly, it is to be feared, have realised the relation of 
the drama to their own religion. Apollo induces the 
Fates to consent that Admetus shall not die provided 
he can find a substitute for him. The pure Alcestis steps 
forward and devotes herself to death to save her hus- 
band. Apollo tries to persuade Death to give back 
Alcestis, but Death declares her fate demanded by justice. 
While Alcestis is dying, Admetus bids her entreat the 
gods for pity; but Alcestis says it is a god who has 
brought on the necessity, and adds, * Be it so ! ' She sees 
the hall of the dead, with ' the winged Pluto staring from 
beneath his black eyebrows.' She reminds her husband 
of the palace and regal sway she might have enjoyed 
in Thessaly had she not left it for him. Bitterly does 
Pheres reproach Admetus for accepting life through the 
vicarious suffering and death of another. Then comes 
■^ ' The Avesta.' ' Oriental and Linguistic Studies,' p. 196. 


Hercules ; he vanquishes Death ; he leads forth Alcestis 
from 'beneath into the light' With her he comes into 
the presence of Admetus, who is still in grief Admetus 
cannot recognise her ; but when he recognises her with 
joy, Hercules warns him that it is not lawful for Alcestis 
to address him ' until she is unbound from her consecra- 
tion to the gods beneath, and the third day come! 

It only requires a change of names to make Alcestis a 
Passion-play, The unappeasable Justice which is as a 
Fate binding the deity, though it may be satisfied vica- 
riously; 'the last enemy, Death;' the atonement by sacri- 
fice of a saintly human being, who from a father's palace 
is brought by love freely to submit to death ; the son of a 
god (Zeus) by a human mother (Alcmene), — the god-man 
Herakles, — commissioned to destroy earthly evils by 
twelve great labours, — descending to conquer Death and 
deliver one of the 'spirits in prison,' the risen spirit not 
recognised at first, as Jesus was not by Mary ; still bearing 
the consecration of the grave until the third day, which 
forbade intercourse with the living (' Touch me not, for I 
am not yet ascended to my Father'),— all these enable us 
to recognise in the theologic edifices around us the frag- 
ments oi a crumbled superstition as they lay around 

From the old pictures of Christ's triumphal pilgrimage 
on earth parallels for the chief Labours of Herakles may 
be found ; he is shown treading on the lion, asp, dragon, 
and Satan ; but the myths converge in the Descent into 
Hades and the conquest of Death. It is remarkable that 
in the old pictures of Christ delivering souls from Hades 
he is generally represented closely followed by Eve, whose 
form so emerging would once have been to the greater 
part of Europe already familiar as that of either Alcestis, 
Eurydice, or Persephone. One of the earliest examples 


of the familiar subject, Christ conquering Death, is that 
in the ancient (tenth century) Missal of Worms, — that city 
whose very name preserves the record of the same com- 
bat under the guise of Siegfried and the Worm, or Dragon. 
The cross is now the sword thrust near the monster's 
mouth. The picture illustrates the chant of Holy Week : 
' De manu Mortis liberabo eos, de Morte redimam eos. 
Ero Mors tua, O Mors ; morsus tuus ero, inferne.' From 
the pierced mouth of Death are vomited flames, which 
remind us of his ethnical origin ; but it is not likely 
that to the christianised pagans of Worms the picture 
could ever have conveyed an impression so weirdly hor- 
rible as that of their own goddess of Death, Hel. ' Her 
hall is called Elvidnir, realm of the cold storm : Hunger 
is her table ; Starvation, her knife ; Delay, her man ; Slow- 
ness, her maid ; Precipice, her threshold ; Care, her bed ; 
burning Anguish, the hangings of her apartments. One 
half of her body is livid, the other half the colour of human 

With the Scandinavian picture of the Abode of Death 
may be compared the description of the Abode of Nin-ki- 
gal, the Assyrian Queen of Death, from a tablet in the 
British Museum, translated by Mr. Fox Talbot : ^ — 

To the House men enter — but cannot depart from : 

To the Road men go — but cannot return. 

The abode of darkness and famme 

Where Earth is their food : their nourishment Clay : 

Light is not seen ; in darkness they dwell : 

Ghosts, like birds, flutter their wings there ; 

On the door and the gate-posts the dust lies undisturbed. 

The Semitic tribes, undisturbed, like the importers of 
their theology into the age of science, by the strata in 
which so many perished animal kingdoms are entombed, 
attributed all death, even that of animals, to the forbidden 

^ ' Records of the Past,' i. 143. 

288 SALT. 

fruit. The Rabbins say that not only Adam and Eve, but 
the animals in Eden, partook of that fruit, and came under 
the power of Sammael the Violent, and of his agent Azrael, 
the demon of Death. The Phoenix, having refused this 
food, preserved the power of renovating itself. 

It is an example of the completeness and consistency 
with which a theory may organise its myth, that the fatal 
demons are generally represented as abhorring salt — the 
preserving agent and foe of decay. The ' Covenant of 
Salt ' among the ancient Jews probably had this signifi- 
cance, and the care with which Job salted his sacrifice is 
considered elsewhere. Aubrey says, ' Toads (Saturnine 
animals) are killed by putting salt upon them. I have 
seen the experiment.' The devil, as heir of death-demons, 
appears in all European folklore as a hater of salt. ' A 
legend, told by Heine, relates that a knight, wandering in 
a wood in Italy, came upon a ruin, and in it a wondrous 
statue of the goddess of Beauty. Completely fascinated, 
the knight haunted the spot day after day, until one evening 
he was met by a servant who invited him to enter a villa 
which he had not before remarked. What was his surprise 
to be ushered into the presence of the living image of his 
adored statue! Amid splendour and flowers the enrap- 
tured knight is presently seated with his charmer at a 
banquet. Every luxury of the world is there ; but there 
is no salt ! When he hints this want a cloud passes over 
the face of his Beauty. Presently he asks the servant to 
bring the salt; the servant does so, shuddering; the knight 
helps himself to it. The next sip of wine he takes elicits 
a cry from him : it is liquid fire. Madness seizes upon 
him ; caresses, burning kisses follow, until he falls asleep 
on the bosom of his goddess. But what visions ! Now he 
sees her as a wrinkled crone, next a great bat bearing a 
torch as it flutters around him, and again as a frightful 


monster, whose head he cuts off in an agony of terror. 
When the knight awakes it is in his own villa. He hastens 
to his ruin, and to the beloved statue ; he finds her fallen 
from the pedestal, and the beautiful head cut from the 
neck lying at her feet. 

The Semitic Angel of Death is a figure very different 
from any that we have considered. He is known in theo- 
logy only in the degradation which he suffered at the 
hands of the Rabbins, but originally was an awful but by 
no means evil genius. The Persians probably imported 
him, under the name of Asuman, for we do not find him 
mentioned in their earlier books, and the name has a re- 
semblance to the Hebrew shamad, to exterminate, which 
would connect it with the biblical ' destroyer ' Abaddon. 
This is rendered more probable because the Zoroastrians 
believed in an earlier demon, Vizaresha, who carried souls 
after death to the region of Deva-worshippers (India). 
The Chaldaic Angel of Death, Malk-ad Mousa, may have 
derived his name from the legerd of his having approached 
Moses with the object of forcing his soul out of his body, 
but, being struck by the glory of Moses' face, and by virtue 
of the divine name on his rod, was compelled to retire. 
The legend is not so ancient as the name, and was pos- 
sibly a Saga suggested by the name; it is obviously the 
origin of the tradition of the struggle between Michael and 
Satan for the body of Moses (Jude 9.). This personifica- 
tion had thus declined among the Jews into being evil 
enough to be identified with Samael, — who, in the Book of 
the Assumption of Moses, is named as his assailant, — and 
subsequently with Satan himself, named in connection with 
the New Testament version. It was on account of this 
degradation of a being described in the earlier books of 
the Bible as the commissioner of Jehovah that there was 
gradually developed among the Jews two Angels of Death, 

VOL. I. T 

290 AZRAEL, 

one (Samael, or his agent Azrael) for those who died out 
of the land of Israel, and the other (Gabriel) for those who 
had the happier lot of dying in their own country. 

This relegation of Samael to the wandering Jews — who 
if they died abroad were not supposed to reach Paradise 
with facility, if at all — is significant. For Samael is pretty 
certainly a conception borrowed from outlying Semitic 
tribes. What that conception was we find in Job xviii. 18, 
where he is * the king of Terrors,' and still more in the 
Arabic Azrael. The legend of this typical Angel of Death 
is that he was promoted to his high office for special ser- 
vice. When Allah was about to create man he sent the 
angels Gabriel, Michael, and Israfil to the earth to bring 
clay of different colours for that purpose ; but the Earth 
warned them that the being about to be formed would 
rebel against his creator and draw down a curse upon her 
(the Earth), and they returned without bringing the clay. 
Then Azrael was sent by Allah, and he executed his com- 
mission without fear ; and for this he was appointed the 
angel to separate souls from bodies. Azrael had subordi- 
nate angels under him, and these are alluded to in the 
opening lines of the Sura 79 of the Koran : 

By the angels who tear forth the souls of some with violence ; 
And by those who draw forth the souls of others with gentleness. 

The souls of the righteous are drawn forth with gentleness, 
those of the wicked torn from them in the way shown in 
the Russian picture (Fig. 19), which is indeed an illustra- 
tion of the same mythology. 

These terrible tasks were indeed such as were only too 
likely to bring Azrael into the evil repute of an execu- 
tioner in the course of time ; but no degradation of him 
seems to have been developed among the Moslems. He 
seems to have been associated in their minds with Fate, 
and similar stories were told of him. Thus it is related that 

OSRAIN. 291 

once when Azrael was passing by Solomon he gazed 
intently upon a man with whom Solomon was conversing. 
Solomon told his companion that it was the Angel of 
Death who was looking at him, and the man replied, ' He 
seems to want me : order the wind to carry me from 
hence into India ;' when this was done Azrael approached 
Solomon and said, ' I looked earnestly at that man from 
wonder, for I was commanded to take his soul in India.' ^ 

Azrael was often represented as presenting to the lips 
a cup of poison. It is probable that this image arose from 
the ancient ordeal by poison, whereby draughts, however 
manipulated beforehand with reference to the results, were 
popularly held to be divinely mingled for retributive or 
beneficent effects. 'Cup' thus became among Semitic 
tribes a symbol of Fate. The ' cup of consolation,' 'cup 
of wrath,' cup, of trembling,' which we read of in the Old 
Testament ; the ' cup of blessing,' and ' cup of devils,' 
spoken of by Paul, have this significance. The cup of 
Nestor, ornamented with the dove (Iliad, xi. 632), was 
probably a 'cup of blessing,' and Mr. Schliemann has found 
several of the same kind at Mycenae. The symbol was 
repeatedly used by Christ, — ' Let this cup pass from me,' 
' The cup that my Father hath given me to drink shall I 
not drink it,' ' Are ye able to drink of the cup that I drink 
of,' — and the familiar association of Azrael's cup is ex- 
pressed in the phrase ' taste of death.' 

One of the most pleasing modifications of the belief in 
the Angel of Death is that found by Lepsius^ among the 
Mohammedan negroes of Kordofan. Osrain (Azrael), it is 
said, receives the souls of the dead, and leads the good to 
their reward, the bad to punishment. ' He lives in a tree, 
el segerat mohana (the tree of fulfilling), which has as many 

^ Sale's 'Koran' (ed. 1836). See pp. 4, 339, 475- 
^ ' Discoveries,' &c., p. 223. 


leaves as there are inhabitants in the world. On each leaf 
is a name, and when a child is born a new one grows. If 
any one becomes ill his leaf fades, and should he be 
destined to die, Osrain breaks it off. Formerly he used to 
come visibly to those whom he was going to carry away, 
and thus put them in great terror. Since the prophet's 
time, however, he has become invisible ; for when he came 
to fetch Mohammed's soul he told him that it was not 
good that by his visible appearance he should frighten 
mankind. They might then easily die of terror, before 
praying ; for he himself, although a courageous and 
spirited man, was somewhat perturbed at his appearance. 
Therefore the prophet begged God to make Osrain 
invisible, which prayer was granted.' Mr. Mackenzie 
adds on this that, among the Moravian Jews, at new 
moon a branch is held in its light, and the name of a 
person pronounced : his face will appear between the 
horns of the moon, and should he be destined to die the 
leaves will fade. 

' Mr. John Ruskin has been very severe upon the Italians 
for the humour with which they introduce Death as a 
person of their masque. ' When I was in Venice in 1850, 
he says, ' the most popular piece of the comic opera was 
" Death and the Cobbler," in which the point of the plot 
was the success of a village cobbler as a physician, in con- 
sequence of the appearance of Death to him beside the 
bed of every patient who was not to recover ; and the 
most applauded scene in it was one in which the physician, 
insolent in success, and swollen with luxury, was himself 
taken down into the abode of Death, and thrown into an 
agony of terror by being shown lives of men, under the 
form of wasting lamps, and his own ready to expire.' On 
which he expresses the opinion that 'this endurance of 
fearful images is partly associated with indecency, partly 


with general fatuity and weakness of mind.' ^ But may it 
not rather be the healthy reaction from morbid images of 
terror, with which a purely natural and inevitable event 
has so long been invested by priests, and portrayed in such 
popular pictures as ' The Dance of Death ? ' The mocking 
laughter with which the skeletons beset the knight in our 
picture (Fig. 20), from the wall of La Chaise Dieu, Auvergne, 

Fig. 20. — The Knight and Death. 

marks the priestly terrorism, which could not fail to be 
vulgarised even more by the frivolous. In 1424 there was 
a masquerade of the Dance of Death in the Cemetery of 
the Innocents at Paris, attended by the Duke of Bedford 
and the Duke of Burgundy, just returned from battle. It 
may have been the last outcome in the west of Kali's 
dance over the slain ; but it is fortunate when Fanaticism 
has no worse outcome than Folly. The Skeleton Death 

^ ' Modern Painters,' Part V. xix. 


has the advantage over earlier forms of suggesting the 
naturalness of death. It is more scientific. The gradual 
discovery by the people that death is not caused by sin 
has largely dissipated its horrors in regions where the 
ignorance and impostures of priestcraft are of daily obser- 
vation ; and although the reaction may not be expressed 
with good taste, there would seem to be in it a certain 
vigour of nature, reasserting itself in simplicity. 

In the northern world we are all too sombre in the 
matter. It is the ages of superstition which have moulded 
our brains, and too generally given to our natural love of 
life the unnatural counterpart of a terror of death. What 
has been artificially bred into us can be cultivated out of 
us. There are indeed deaths corresponding to the two 
Angels — the death that comes by lingering disease and 
pain, and that which comes by old age. There are indeed 
Azraels in our cities who poison the food and drink of the 
people, and mingle death in the cup of water; and of them 
there should be increasing horror until the gentler angel 
abides with us, and death by old age becomes normal. The 
departure from life being a natural condition of entering 
upon it, it is melancholy indeed that it should be ideally 
confused with the pains and sorrows often attending it. 
It is fabled that Menippus the Cynic, travelling through 
Hades, knew which were the kings there by their howling 
louder than the rest. They howled loudest because they 
had parted from most pleasures on earth. But all the 
happy and young have more reason to lament untimely 
death than kings. The only tragedy of Death is the ruin 
of living Love. Mr. Watts, in his great picture of Love 
and Death (Grosvenor Gallery, 1877), revealed the real 
horror. Not that skeleton which has its right time and 
place, not the winged demon (called angel), who has no 
right time or place, is here, but a huge, hard, heartless 


form, as of man half-blocked out of marble ; a terrible 
emblem of the remorseless force that embodies the incom- 
pleteness and ignorance of mankind — a force that steadily 
crushes hearts where intellects are devoting their energies 
to alien worlds. Poor Love has little enough science ; his 
puny arm stretched out to resist the colossal form is weak 
as the prayers of agonised parents and lovers directed 
against never-swerving laws; he is almost exhausted; his 
lustrous wings are broken and torn in the struggle ; the 
dove at his feet crouches mateless ; the rose that climbed 
on his door is prostrate ; over his shoulder the beam-like 
arm has set the stony hand against the door where the 
rose of joy must fall. 

The aged when they die do but follow the treasures 
that have gone before. One by one the old friends have 
left them, the sweet ties parted, and the powers to 
enjoy and help become feeble. When of the garden 
that once bloomed around them memory alone is left, 
friendly is death to scatter also the leaves of that last 
rose where the loved ones are sleeping. This is the real 
office of death. Nay, even when it comes to the young 
and happy it is not Death but Disease that is the real 
enemy ; in disease there is almost no compensation at all 
but learning its art of war; but Death is Nature's pity for 
helpless pain ; where love and knowledge can do no more 
it comes as a release from sufferings which were sheer tor- 
ture if prolonged. The presence of death is recognised 
oftenest by the cessation of pain. Superstition has done 
few heavier wrongs to humanity than by the mysterious 
terrors with which it has invested that change which, to 
the simpler ages, was pictured as the gentle river Lethe, 
flowing from the abode of sleep, from which the shades 
drank oblivion alike of their woes and of the joys from 
which they were torn. 






The Holy Tree of Travancore — The growth of Demons in India and 
their decline — The Nepaul Iconoclast — Moral Man and unmoral 
Nature — Man's physical and mental migrations — Heine's ' Gods 
in Exile' — The Goban Saor — Master Smith — A Greek caricature 
of the Gods — The Carpenter v. Deity and Devil — Extermination 
of the Werewolf — Refuges of Demons — The Giants reduced to 
Little People — Deities and Demons returning to nature. 

Having indicated, necessarily in mere outline and by 
selected examples, the chief obstacles encountered by 
primitive man, and his apprehensions, which he personi- 
fied as demons, it becomes my next task to show how and 
why many of these demons declined from their terrible 
proportions and made way for more general forms, ex- 
pressing comparatively abstract conceptions of physical 
evil. This will involve some review of the processes 
through which man's necessary adaptation to his earthly 
environment brought him to the era of Combat with 
multiform obstruction. 

There was, until within a few recent years, in a mountain 
of Travancore, India, an ancient, gigantic Tree, regarded by 


the natives as the residence of a powerful and dangerous 
deity who reigned over the mountains and the wild beasts.^ 
Sacrifices were offered to this tree, sermons preached before 
it, and it seems to have been the ancient cathedral of the 
district. Its trunk was so large that four men with out- 
stretched arms could not compass it. 

This tree in its early growth may symbolise the up- 
springing of natural religion. Its first green leaves may 
be regarded as corresponding to the first crude imagina- 
tions of man as written, for instance, on leaves of the 
Vedas. Perceiving in nature, as we have seen, a power of 
contrivance like his own, a might far superior to his own, 
man naturally considered that all things had been created 
and were controlled by invisible giants ; and bowing help- 
lessly beneath them sang thus his hymns and supplications. 

* This earth belongs to Varuna, the king, and the wide 
sky, with its ends far apart : the two seas (sky and ocean) 
are Varuna's loins ; he is also contained in this drop of 
water. He who would flee far beyond the sky even he 
would not be rid of Varuna. His spies proceed from 
heaven towards this earth.' 

' Through want of strength, thou ever strong and bright 
god, have I gone wrong : have mercy, have mercy ! ' 

' However we break thy laws from day to day, men as 
we are, O god Varuna, do not deliver us to death ! ' 

'Was it an old sin, Varuna, that thou wished to destroy 
the friend who alv/ays praises thee! ' 

*0 Indra, have mercy, give me my daily bread! Raise 
up wealth to the worshipper, thou mighty Dawn ! ' 

' Thou art the giver of horses, Indra, thou art the giver 
of cows, the giver of corn, the strong lord of wealth : the 
old guide of man disappointing no desires : to him we 

^ The history of this tree which I use for a parable is told in the Rev. 
Samuel Mateer's 'Land of Charity.' London: John Snow & Co. 1871. 


address this song. All this wealth around here is known 
to be thine alone : take from it conqueror, bring it hither !' 
In these characteristic sentences from various hymns we 
behold man making his first contract with the ruling powers 
of nature : so much adoration and flattery on his part for 
so much benefit on theirs. But even in these earliest 
hymns there are intimations that the gods were not fulfil- 
ling their side of the engagement. ' Why is it/ pleads the 
worshipper, 'that you wish to destroy one who always 
praises you .-* Was it an old sin ,?' The simple words un- 
consciously report how faithfully man was performing his 
part of the contract. Having omitted no accent of the 
prayer, praise, or ritual, he supposes the continued indif- 
ference of the gods must be due to an old sin, one he has 
forgotten, or perhaps one committed by some ancestor. 

In this state of mind the suggestion would easily take 
root that words alone were too cheap to be satisfactory to 
the gods. There must be offerings. Like earthly kings 
they must have their revenues. We thus advance to the 
phase of sacrifices. But still neither in answer to prayer, 
flattery, or sacrifice did the masses receive health or wealth. 
Poverty, famine, death, still continued their remorseless 
course with the silent machinery of sun, moon, and star. 

But why, then, should man have gone on fulfilling his 
part of the contract — believing and worshipping deities, 
who when he begged for corn gave him famine, and when 
he asked for fish gave him a serpent .'' The priest inter- 
vened with ready explanation. And here we may consult 
the holy Tree of Travancore again "i Why should that 
particular Tree — of a species common in the district and 
not usually very large — have grown so huge "i ' Because 
it is holy,' said the priest. ' Because it was believed holy,' 
says the fact. For ages the blood and ashes of victims fed 
its roots and swelled its trunk; until, by an argument not 


confined to India, the dimensions of the superstition were 
assumed to prove its truth. When the people complained 
that all their offerings and worship did not bring any 
returns the priest replied, You stint the gods and they 
stint you. The people offered the fattest of their flocks 
and fruits : More yet ! said the priest. They built fine 
altars and temples for the gods : More yet ! said the priest. 
They built fine houses for the priests, and taxed them- 
selves to support them. And when thus, fed by popular 
sacrifices and toils, the religion had grown to vast power, 
the priest was able to call to his side the theologian for 
further explanation. The theologian and the priest said — 
* Of course there must be good reasons why the gods do 
not answer all your prayers (if they did not answer some 
you would be utterly consumed) ; mere mortals must not 
dare to inquire into their mysteries ; but that there are 
gods, and that they do attend to human affairs, is made 
perfectly plain by this magnificent array of temples, and 
by the care with which they have supplied all the wants 
of us, their particular friends, whose cheeks, as you see, 
hang down with fatness,' 

If, after this explanation, any scepticism or rebellion arose 
among the less favoured, the priest might easily add — 
' Furthermore, we and our temples are now institutions ; 
we are so strong and influential that it is evident that the 
gods have appointed us to be their representatives on 
earth, the dispensers of their favours. Also, of their dis- 
favours. We are able to make up for the seeming indif- 
ference of the gods, rewarding you if you give us honour 
and wealth, but ruining you if you turn heretical.' 

So grew the holy Tree. But strong as it was there was 
something stronger. Some few years ago a missionary 
from London went to Travancore, and desired to build a 
chapel near the same tree, no doubt to be in the way of 


its worshippers and to borrow some of the immemorial 
sanctity of the spot. This missionary fixed a hungry eye 
upon that holy timber, and reflected how much holier it 
would be if ending its career in the beams of a christian 
chapel. So one day — English authorities being con- 
veniently near — he and his workmen began to cut down 
the sacred Tree. The natives gradually gathered around, 
and looked on with horror. While the cutting proceeded 
a tiger drew near, but shouts drove him off: the natives 
breathed freer; the demon had come and looked on, but 
could not protect the Tree from the Englishman. They 
still shuddered, however, at the sacrilege, and when at last 
the Holy Tree of Travancore fell, its crash was mingled 
with the cries and screams of its former worshippers. The 
victorious missionary may be pointing out in his chapel 
the cut-up planks which reveal the impotence of the deity 
so long feared by the natives ; and perhaps he is telling 
them of the bigness of his Tree, and claiming its flourish- 
ing condition in Europe as proof of its supernatural char- 
acter. Possibly he may omit to mention the blood and 
ashes which have fattened the root and enlarged the trunk 
of his Holy Tree ! 

That Tree in Travancore could never have been so 
destroyed if the primitive natural religion in which lay its 
deeper root had not previously withered. The gods, the 
natural forces, which through so many ages had not 
heeded man's daily martyrdoms, had now for a long time 
been shown quite as impotent to protect their own shrines, 
images, holy trees, and other interests. The priests as 
vainly invoked those gods to save their own country from 
subjugation by other nations with foreign gods, as the 
masses had invoked their personal aid. For a long time 
the gods in some parts of India have received only a 
formal service, coextensive with their association with a 


lingering order, or as part of princely establishments ; 
but they topple down from time to time, as the masses 
realise their freedom to abandon them with impunity. 
They are at the mercy of any strong heretic who arises. 
The following narrative, quoted by Mr. Herbert Spencer, 
presents a striking example of what some Hindoos had 
been doing before the missionary cut down the Tree at 
Travancore : — 

' A Nepaul king. Rum Bahadur, whose beautiful queen, 
finding her lovely face had been disfigured by small- 
pox, poisoned herself, cursed his kingdom, her doctors, 
and the gods of Nepaul, vowing vengeance on all. Having 
ordered the doctors to be flogged, and the right ear and 
nose of each to be cut off, he then wreaked his vengeance 
on the gods of Nepaul, and after abusing them in the most 
gross way, he accused them of having obtained from him 
12,000 goats, some hundred-weights of sweetmeats, 2000 
gallons of milk, &c., under false pretences. He then 
ordered all the artillery, varying from three to twelve- 
pounders, to be brought in front of the palace. All the 
guns were then loaded to the muzzle, and down he marched 
to the headquarters of the Nepaul deities. All the guns 
were drawn up in front of the several deities, honouring 
the most sacred with the heaviest metal. When the order 
to fire was given, many of the chiefs and soldiers ran away 
panic-stricken, and others hesitated to obey the sacri- 
legious order ; and not till several gunners had been cut 
down were the guns opened. Down came the gods and 
the goddesses from their hitherto sacred positions ; and 
after six hours' heavy cannonading, not a vestige of the 
deities remained.' 

However panic-stricken the Nepaulese may have been 
at this ferocious manifestation, it was but a storm bred 
out of a more g-eneral mental and moral condition. Rum 


Bahadur only laid low in a few moments images of gods 
who, passing from the popular interest, had been succes- 
sively laid to sleep on the innumerable shelves of Hindu 
mythology. The early Dualism was developed into Moral 
Man on one side, and Unmoral Nature on the other, 
Man had discovered that moral order in nature was repre- 
sented solely by his own power : by his culture or neglect 
the plant or animal grew or withered, and where his control 
did not extend, there sprang the noxious weed or beast. 
So far as good gods had been imagined they were re- 
spected nov/ only as incarnate in men. But the active 
powers of evil still remained, hurtful and hateful to man, 
and the pessimist view of nature became inevitable. To 
man engaged in his Jife-and-death struggle with nature 
many a beauty which now nourishes the theist's optimism 
was lost. The fragrant flower was a weed to the man 
hungry for bread, and he viewed many an idle treasure 
with the disappointment of Sadi when, travelling in the 
desert, he found a bag in which he hoped to discover grain, 
but found only pearls. Fatal to every deity not anthro- 
pomorphic was the long pessimistic phase of human faith. 
Each became more purely a demon, and passed on the 
road to become a devil. 

Many particular demons man conquered as he pro- 
gressively carried order amid the ruggedness and wildness 
of his planet. Every new weapon or implement he in- 
vented punctured a thousand phantoms. Only in the 
realms he could not yet conquer remained the hostile 
forces to which he ascribed praeternatural potency, because 
not able to pierce them and see .through them. Never- 
theless, the early demonic forms had to give way, for man 
had discovered that they were not his masters. He could 
cut down the Upas and root up the nightshade ; he had 
bruised many a serpent's head and slain many a wolf. 
VOL. I. u 


In detail innumerable enemies had been proved his in- 
feriors in strength and intelligence. Important migrations 
took place : man passes, geographically, away from the 
region of some of his worst enemies, inhabits countries 
more fruitful, less malarious, his habitat exceeding that of 
his animal foe in range ; and, still better, he passes by 
mental migration out of the stone age, out of other help- 
less ages, to the age of metal and the skill to fashion and 
use it. He has made the fire-fiend his friend. No longer 
henceforth a naked savage, with bit of stone or bone only 
to meet the crushing powers of the world and win its 
reluctant supplies ! 

There is a sense far profounder than its charming play 
of fancy in Heine's account of the ' Gods in Exile,' an 
essay which Mr. Pater well describes as ' full of that 
strange blending of sentiment which is characteristic of 
the traditions of the Middle Age concerning the Pagan 
religions.' ^ Heine writes : * Let me briefly remind the 
reader how the gods of the older world, at the time 
of the definite triumph of Christianity, that is, in the 
third century, fell into painful embarrassments, which 
greatly resembled certain tragical situations of their earlier 
life. They now found themselves exposed to the same 
troublesome necessities to which they had once before 
been exposed during the primitive ages, in that revo- 
lutionary epoch when the Titans broke out of the cus- 
tody of Orcus, and, piling Pelion on Ossa, scaled Olympus. 
Unfortunate gods ! They had, then, to take flight ignomi- 
niously, and hide themselves among us here on earth under 
all sorts of disguises. Most of them betook themselves to 
Egypt, where for greater security they assumed the form 
of animals, as is generally known. Just in the same way 
they had to take flight again, and seek entertainment in 
^ 'Studies in the History of the Renaissance.' Macmillan & Co. 1873. 


remote hiding-places, when those iconoclastic zealots, the 
black brood of monks, broke down all the temples, and 
pursued the gods with fire and curses. Many of these 
unfortunate emigrants, entirely deprived of shelter and am- 
brosia, had now to take to vulgar handicrafts as a means 
of earning their bread. In these circumstances, many, 
whose sacred groves had been confiscated, let themselves 
out for hire as wood-cutters in Germany, and had to drink 
beer instead of nectar. Apollo seems to have been con- 
tent to take service under graziers, and as he had once kept 
the cows of Admetus, so he lived now as a shepherd in 
Lower Austria. Here, however, having become suspected, 
on account of his beautiful singing, he was recognised by a 
learned monk as one of the old pagan gods, and handed 
over to the spiritual tribunal. On the rack he confessed 
that he was the god Apollo ; and before his execution he 
begged that he might be suffered to play once more upon 
the lyre and to sing a song. And he played so touchingly, 
and sang with such magic, and was withal so beautiful in 
form and feature that all the women wept, and many of 
them were so deeply impressed that they shortly after- 
wards fell sick. And some time afterwards the people 
wished to drag him from the grave again, that a stake 
might be driven through his body, in the belief that he had 
been a vampire, and that the sick women would by this 
means recover. But they found the grave empty.' 

Naturally : it is hard to bury Apollo. The next time he 
appeared was, no doubt, as musical director in the nearest 
cathedral. The young singers and artists discovered by 
such severe lessons that it was dangerous to sing Pagan 
ballads too realistically ; that a cowl is capable of a high 
degree of decoration ; that Pan's pipe sounds well evolved 
into an organ; that Cupids look just as well if called 
Cherubs. It is odd that it should have required Robert 


Browning three centuries away to detect the real form and 

face beneath the vestment of the Bishop who orders his 

tomb at Saint Praxed's Church : — 

The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me, 

Those Pans and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance 

Some tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so, 

The Saviour at his sermon on the mount, 

Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan 

Ready to twitch the Nymph's last garment off, 

And Moses with the tables. ... 

So in one direction grew the hermitage to the Vatican ; so 
Zeus regained his throne by exchanging his thunderbolts 
for Peter's keys, and Mars regained his steed as St. George, 
and Hercules as Christ wrestles with Death once more. 
But while these artificial restorations were going on in 
one direction, in another some of the gods were passing 
through many countries, outwitting and demolishing their 
former selves as lowered to demons. There are many 
legends which report this strange phase of development, 
one of the finest being that of The Goban Saor, told by 
Mr. Kennedy. The King of Munster sent for this wonder- 
ful craftsman to build him a castle. The Goban could 
fashion a spear with three strokes of his hammer — St. 
Patrick, who found the Trinity in the shamrock, may have 
determined the number of strokes, — and when he wished 
to drive in nails high up, had only to throw his hammer 
at them. On his way to work for the King, Goban, ac- 
companied by his son, passed the night at the house of 
a farmer, whose daughters — one dark and industrious, the 
other fair and idle — received from him (Goban) three bits 
of advice : ' Always have the head of an old woman by 
the hob ; warm yourselves with your work in the morn- 
ing ; and some time before I come back take the skin of a 
newly-killed sheep to the market, and bring itself and the 
price of it home again.' As Goban, with his son, journeyed 


on, they found a poor man vainly trying to roof his house 
with three joists and mud ; and by simply making one end 
of each joist rest on the middle of another, the other ends 
being on the wall, the structure was perfect. He relieved 
puzzled carpenters by putting up for them the pegless and 
nailless bridge described in Caesar's Commentaries. Hav- 
ing done various great things, Goban returns to the home- 
stead of the girls who had received his three bits of advice. 
The idle one had, of course, blundered at each point, and 
been ridiculed in the market for her proposition to bring 
back the sheep's skin and its price. The other, by kindly 
taking in an aged female relative, by working till she was 
warm, and by plucking and selling the wool of the sheep's 
skin and bringing home the latter, had obeyed the Goban's 
advice, and was selected as his daughter-in-law — the prince 
attending the wedding. Now, as to building the castle, 
Goban knew that the King had employed on previous 
castles four architects and then slain them, so that they 
should never build another palace equal to his. He there- 
fore says he has left at home a necessary implement which 
his wife will only give to himself or one of royal blood. 
The King sends his son, who is kept as hostage till the 
husband's safe return. 

This is the Master Smith of Norse fable, who has a chair 
from which none can rise, and who therein binds the devil ; 
which again is the story of Hephaistos, and the chair 
in which he entrapped Hera until she revealed the secret 
of his birth. The ' devil ' whom the Master Smith entraps 
is, in Norse mythology, simply Loki : and as Loki is a 
degraded Hephaistos, fire in its demonic forms, we have 
in all these legends the fire-fiend fought with fire. 

This re-dualisation of the gods into demonic and saintly 
forms had a long preparation. The forces that brought it 
about may be seen already beginning in Hesiod's repre- 


sentations of the gods, in their presentation on the stage 
by Euripides, in a manner certain to demonise them to the 
vulgar, and to subject them to such laughter among scholars 
as still rings across the ages in the divine dialogues of 
Lucian. What the gods had become to the Lucians 
before they reached the Heines may be gathered from 
the accompanying caricature (Fig. 2\)} Nothing can be 
more curious than the encounters of the gods with their 
dead selves, their Manes. What unconscious ingenuity in 
the combinations ! St. Martin on his grey steed divides 
with the beggar the cloud-cloak of Wodan on his black 
horse, treading down just such paupers in his wild hunt ; 
as saint he now shelters those whom as storm-demon he 
chilled ; but the identity of Junker Martin is preserved 
in both titles and myths, and the Martinhorns (cakes), 
twisted after fashion of the horns of goat or buck pur- 
sued by Wodan, are deemed potent like horse-shoes to 
defend house or stable from the outlawed god. ^ 

■^ Concerning which Mr. Wright says : ' It is taken from an oxybaphon 
which was brought from the Continent to England, where it passed into the 
collection of Mr. William Hope. . . . The Hyperborean Apollo himself 
appears as a quack-doctor, on his temporary stage, covered by a sort of roof, 
and approached by wooden steps. On the stage lies Apollo's luggage, con- 
sisting of a bag, a bow, and his Scythian cap. Chiron (XIPQN) is represented 
as labouring under the effects of age and blindness, and supporting himself 
by the aid of a crooked staff, as he repairs to the Delphian quack-doctor for 
relief. The figure of the centaur is made to ascend by the aid of a com- 
panion, both being furnished with the masks and other .attributes of the comic 
performers. Above are the mountains, and on them the nymphs of Parnassus 
(NTM4>AI), who, like all the other actors in the scene, are disguised with 
masks, and those of a very gross character. . . . Even a pun is employed 
to heighten the drollery of the scene, for instead of IITGIAS, the Pythian, 
placed over the head of the burlesque Apollo, it seems evident that the 
artist had written IIEIGIAS, the consoler.' — ' History of Caricature,' p. i8. 
Eut who is the leaf-crowned figure, without mask, on the right hand ? Was 
it some early Offenbach, who found such representation of the gods welcome 
at Athens where the attempt to produce our modern Offenbach's Belle Helha 
recently caused a theatrical riot? 

2 Wuttke. ' Volksaberglaube,' l8. 



The more impressive and attractive myths transferred 
to christian saints — as the flowers sacred to Freyja became 
Our Lady's-glove, or shpper, or smock — there remained to 
the old gods, in their own name, only the repulsive and 
puerile, and by this means they were doomed at once to 
become unmitigated knaves and fools. If Titans, Jotunn 
or Jinni, they were giant humbugs, whom any small Hans 

Fig. 21. — Greek Caricature of ihe Gods. 

or Jack might outwit and behead. Our Fairy lore is full 
of stories which show that in the North as well as in Latin 
countries there had already been a long preparation for 
the contempt poured by Christianity upon the Norse 
deities. Many of the stories, as they now stand in Folk- 
tales, speak of the vanquished demon or giant as the devil, 
but it is perfectly easy to detach the being meant from the 
name so indiscriminately bestowed by christian priests upon 
most of the outlawed deities. In Lithuania, where survived 
too much reverence for some of the earlier deities to admit 


of their being identified with the devil, we still find them 
triumphed over by the wit and skill of the artisan. Such 
is, the case in a favourite popular legend of that country in 
which Perkunas — the ancient Thunder-god, corresponding 
to Perun in Russia — is involved in disgrace along with the 
devil by the sagacity and skill of a carpenter. The aged 
god, the venerable Devil, and the young Carpenter, united 
for a journey. Perkun kept the beasts off with thunder 
and lightning, the Devil hunted up food, the Carpenter 
cooked. At length they built a hut and lived in it, and 
planted the ground with vegetables. Presently a thief 
invaded their garden. Perkun and the Devil successively 
tried to catch him, but were well thrashed ; whereas the 
Carpenter by playing the fiddle fascinated the thief, who 
was a witch, a hag whose hand the fiddler managed to get 
into a split tree (under pretence of giving her a music 
lesson), holding her there till she gave up her iron waggon 
and the whip which she had used on his comrades. After 
this the three, having decided to separate, disputed as to 
which should have the hut; and they finally agreed that it 
should be the possession of him who should succeed in 
frightening the two others. The Devil raised a storm 
which frightened Perkun, and Perkun with his thunder 
and lightning frightened the Devil ; but the Carpenter 
held out bravely, and, in the middle of the night, came 
in with the witch's waggon, and, cracking her whip, the 
Devil and Perkun both took flight, leaving the Carpenter 
in possession of the hut.^ 

So far as Perkun is concerned, and may be regarded 
as representative of the gods, the hut may be symbol of 
Europe, and the Carpenter type of the power which 
conquered all that was left of them after their fair or 

^ Schleicher, 'Litauische Marchen,' 141-145. Mr. Ralston's translation 


noble associations had been transferred to christian forms. 
Somewhat later, the devil was involved in a like fate, as 
we shall have to consider in a future chapter. 

The most horrible superstitions, if tracked in their 
popular development, reveal with special impressiveness 
the progressive emancipation of man from the phantasms 
of ferocity which represented his primal helplessness. The 
universal werewolf superstition, for instance, drew its un- 
speakable horrors from deep and wide-spreading roots. 
Originating, probably, in occasional relapses to canni- 
balism among tribes or villages which found themselves 
amid circumstances as urgent as those which sometimes 
lead a wrecked crew to draw lots which shall die to sup- 
port the rest, it would necessarily become demonised by 
the necessity of surrounding cannibalism with dangers 
worse than starvation. But it would seem that individuals 
are always liable, by arrest of development which usually 
takes the form of disease or insanity, to be dragged back 
to the savage condition of their race. In the course of 
this dark history, we note first an increasing tendency to 
show the means of the transformation difficult. In the 
Volsunga Saga it is by simply putting on a 'wolf-shirt' 
(wolfskin) that a man may become a wolf. Then it is 
said it is done by a belt made of the skin of a man who 
has been hung — all executed persons being sacred to 
Wodan (because not dying a natural death), to whom also 
the wolf was sacred. Then it is added, that the belt must 
be marked with the signs of the zodiac, and have a buckle 
Avith seven teeth. Then it is said that ' only a seventh 
son ' is possessed of this diabolical power ; or others say 
one whose brows meet over his nose. The means of 
detecting werewolves and retransforming them to human 
shape multiplied as those of transformation diminished in 
number, and such remedies reflected the advance of human 


skill. The werewolf could be restored by crossing his path 
with a knife or polished steel; by a sword laid on the 
ground with point towards him ; by a silver ball. Human 
skill was too much for him. In Posen mothers had dis- 
covered that one who had bread in his or her mouth could 
by even such means discover werewolves ; and fathers, to 
this hint about keeping 'the wolf from the door,' added 
that no one could be attacked by any such monster if he 
were in a cornfield. The Slav levelled a plough at him. 
Thus by one prescription and another, and each represent- 
ing a part of man's victory over chaos, the werewolf was 
driven out of all but a few 'unlucky' days in the year, and 
especially found his last refuge in Twelfth Night. But 
even on that night the werewolf might be generally escaped 
by the simple device of not speaking of him. If a wolf 
had to be spoken of he was then called Vermin, and Dr. 
Wuttke mentions a parish priest named Wolf in East 
Prussia who on Twelfth Night was addressed as Mr. 
Vermin ! The actual wolf being already out of the forests 
in most places by art of the builder and the architect ; the 
phantasmal wolf driven out of fear for most of the year 
by man's recognition of his own superiority to this exter- 
minated beast ; even the proverbial ' ears ' of the vanishing 
werewolf ceased to be visible when on his particular fest- 
night his name was not mentioned. 

The last execution of a man for being an occasional 
werewolf was, I believe, in 1589, near Cologne, there being 
some evidence of cannibalism. But nine years later, in 
France, where the belief in the Loiip-garoit had been 
intense, a man so accused was simply shut up in a mad- 
house. It is an indication of the revolution which has 
occurred, that when next governments paid attention to 
werewolves it was because certain vagabonds went about 
professing to be able to transform themselves into wolves, 


in order to extort money from the more weak-minded and 
ignorant peasants.^ There could hardly be conceived a 
more significant history : the werewolf leaves where he 
entered. Of ignorance and weakness trying, too often 
in vain, *to keep the wolf from the door,' was born this 
voracious phantom ; with the beggar and vagabond, sur- 
vivals of helplessness become inveterate, he wanders thin 
and crafty. He keeps out of the way of all culture, 
whether of field or mind. So is it indeed with all demons 
in decline — of which I can here only adduce a few char- 
acteristic examples. So runs the rune — 

When the barley there is, 
Then the devils whistle; 
When the barley is threshed, 
Then the devils whine; 
When the barley is ground, 
Then the devils roar; 
When the flour is produced, 
Then the devils perish. 

The old Scottish custom, mentioned by Sir Walter 
Scott, of leaving around each cultivated field an untilled 

^ Of this latter kind of hungry werewolf a specimen still occasionally revisits 
the glimpses of the moonshine which, for too many minds, still replaces day- 
light. So recently as January 17, 1878, one Kate Bedwell, a 'pedlar,' was 
sentenced in the Marylebone Police Court, London, to three months' hard 
labour for obtaining various sums of money, amounting to 9s. lod., by 
terrorism, from Eliza Rolf, a cook. The pedlar came to the plaintiff's place 
of work and asked her if she would like to have her fortune told. Eliza re- 
plied, 'No, I know it; it is hard work or starving.' The fortune-teller asked 
her next time if she would have her planet ruled ; the other still said no ; but 
her nerves yielded when the ' Drud ' told her ' she lived under three stars, one 
good the others bad, and that she could disfigure her or turn her into some- 
thing else.' 'Thank God, she did not!' exclaimed the poor woman in 
court. However, she seemed to have trusted rather in her money than in 
any other providence for her immunity from an unhappy transformation. 
But even into this rare depth of ignorance enough light had penetrated to 
enable Eliza to cope with her werewolf in the civilised . way of haling her 
before a magistrate. "When Fenris gets three months with hard labour, he 
no doubt realises that he has exceeded his mental habitat, and that the 
invisible cords have bound him at last. 


fringe, called the Gitde Maris Croft, is derived from the 
ancient belief that unless some wild place is left to the 
sylvan spirits they will injure the grain and vegetables ; 
and, no doubt, some such notion leads the farmers of 
Thurgau still to graft mistletoe upon their fruit-trees. 
Many who can smile at such customs do yet preserve in 
their own minds, or those of their servants or neighbours, 
crofts which the ploughshare of science is forbidden to 
touch, and where the praeternatural troops still hide their 
shrivelled forms. But this wild girdle becomes ever 
narrower, and the images within it tend to blend with 
rustling leaf and straw, and the insects, and to be other- 
wise invisible, save to that second sight which is received 
from Glam. As in some shadow-pantomime, the deities 
and demons pursue each other in endless procession, drop- 
ping down as awe-inspiring Titans, vanishing as grotesque 
pigmies — vanishing beyond the lamp into Nothingness! 

So came most of the monsters we have been describing 
— Animals, Volcanoes, Icebergs, Deserts, though they 
might be — by growing culture and mastery of nature to 
be called ' the little people ;' and perhaps it is rather 
through pity than euphemism when they were so often 
called, as in Ireland {Duine Mathd), * the good little 
people.' ^ At every step in time or space back of the era 
of mechanic arts the little fairy gains in physical pro- 
portions. The house-spirits (Domovoi) of Russia are full- 
sized, shaggy human-shaped beings. In Lithuania the 
corresponding phantoms (Kaukas) average only a foot in 
height. The Krosnyata, believed in by the Slavs on 
the Baltic coast, are similarly small ; and by way of the 
kobolds, elves, fays, travelling westward, we find the size 

^ Elf has, indeed, been referred by some to the Sanskrit alpa = little; but 
the balance of authority is in favour of the derivation given in a former 


of such shapes diminishing, until warnings are given that 
the teeth must never be picked with a straw, that slender 
tube being a favourite residence of the elf! In Bavaria 
a little red chafer with seven spots {Coccinella septeni- 
pimctatci) is able to hold Thor with his lightnings, and in 
other regions is a form of the goddess of Love!^ Our 
English name for the tiny beetle ' Lady-bug ' is derived 
from the latter notion ; and Mr. Karl Blind has expressed 
the opinion that our children's rune — 

Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home, 

Thy house is on fire, thy children will roam — 

is last echo of the Eddaic prophecies of the destruction of 
the universe by the fire-fiend Loki ! ^ Such reductions of 
the ancient gods, demons, and terrors to tiny dimensions 
would, of course, be only an indirect result of the general 
cause stated. They were driven from the great world, and 
sought the small world : they survived in the hut and were 
adapted to the nerves of the nursery. So alone can Tithonos 
live on : beyond the age for which he is born he shrinks to 
a grasshopper; and it is now by only careful listening that 
in the chirpings of the multitudinous immortals, of which 
Tithonos is type, may be distinguished the thunders and 
roarings of deities and demons that once made the earth 
to tremble. 

1 Mannhardt, ' Gotter,' 287. 

2 Freia-Holda, the Teutonic goddess of Love. * Cornhill Magazine,' May, 

( 3i8 ) 



The Demons' bequest to their conquerors — Nondescripts — Exaggera- 
tions of tradition — Saurian Theory of Dragons — The Dragon not 
primitive in Mythology — Monsters of Egyptian, Iranian, Vedic, 
and Jewish Mythologies — Turner's Dragon — Delia Bella — The 
Conventional Dragon. 

After all those brave victories of man over the first 
chaos, organic and inorganic, whose effect upon his 
phantasms has been indicated ; after fire had slain its 
thousands, and iron its tens of thousands of his demons, 
and the rough artisan become a Nemesis with his rudder 
and wheel pursuing the hosts of darkness back into Night 
and Invisibility ; still stood the grim fact of manyformed 
pain and evil in the world, still defying the ascending 
purposes of mankind. Moreover, confronting these, he is 
by no means so different mentally from that man he 
was before conquering many foes in detail, and laying 
their phantoms, as he was morally. More courage man 
had gained, and more defiance ; and, intellectually, a step 
had been taken, if only one : he had learned that his evils 
are related to each other. Hunger is of many heads and 
forms. Its yawning throat may be seen in the brilliant sky 
that lasts till it is as brass, in the deluge, the earthquake, 
in claw and fang; and then these together do but relate 
the hunger-brood to Fire and Ferocity ; the summer sun- 


beam may be venomous as a serpent, and the end of them 
all is Death. Some tendency to these more general con- 
ceptions of an opposing principle and power in the world 
seems to be represented in that phase of development at 
which nondescript forms arise. These were the con- 
quered demons' bequest. 

It is, of course, impossible to measure the various forces 
which combined to produce the complex symbolical forms 
of physical evil. Tradition is not always a good draughts- 
man, and in portraying for a distant generation in Ger- 
many a big snake killed in India might not be exact as 
to the number of its heads or other details. Heroes before 
Falstaff were liable to overstate their foes in buckram. The 
less measurable a thing by fact, the more immense in 
fancy : werewolves of especial magnitude haunted regions 
where there had not been actual wolves for centuries ; 
huge serpents play a large part in the annals of Ireland, 
where not even the smallest have been found. But after 
all natural influences have been considered, one can hardly 
look upon the sphynx, the chimsera, or on a conven- 
tional dragon, without perceiving that he is in presence of 
a higher creation than a demonic bear or a giant ruffian. 
The fundamental difference between the two classes is that 
one is natural, the other praeternatural. Of course a were- 
wolf is as praeternatural as a gryphon to the eye of science, 
but as original expressions of human imagination the 
former could hardly have been a more miraculous monster 
than the Siamese twins to intelligent people to-day. The 
demonic forms are generally natural, albeit caricatured or 
exaggerated. And this effort at a praeternatural concep- 
tion is, in this early form, by no means mere superstition ; 
rather is it poetic and artistic, — a kind of crude effort at 
allgenieinheit, at realisation of the types of evil — the claw- 
principle, fang- principle in the universe, the physiognomies 


of venom and pain detached from forms to which they are 

Some of the particular forms we have been considering 
are, indeed, by no means of the prosaic type. Such con- 
ceptions as Rahu, Cerberus, and several others, are tran- 
sitional between the natural and mystical conceptions ; 
while the sphynx, however complete a combination of ideal 
forms, is not all demonic. In this Part III. are included 
those forms whose combination is not found in objective 
nature, but which are yet travesties of nature and genuine 
fauna of the human mind. 

Perhaps it may be thought somewhat arbitrary that I 
should describe all these intermediate forms between 
demon and devil by the term DRAGON ; but I believe 
there is no other fabulous form which includes so many 
individual types of transition, or whose evolution may be 
so satisfactorily traced from the point where it is linked 
with the demon to that where it bequeathes its characters 
to the devil. While, however, this term is used as the 
best that suggests itself, it cannot be accepted as limiting 
our inquiry or excluding other abstract forms which ideally 
correspond to the dragon, — the generalised expression for 
an active, powerful, and intelligent enemy to mankind, a 
being who is antagonism organised, and able to command 
every weapon in nature for an antihuman purpose. 

The opinion has steadily gained that the conventional 
dragon is the traditional form of some huge Saurian. It 
has been suggested that some of those extinct forms may 
have been contemporaneous with the earliest men, and 
that the traditions of conflicts with them, transmitted 
orally and pictorially, have resulted in preserving their 
forms in fable (proximately). The restorations of Saurians 
on their islet at the Crystal Palace show how much com- 
mon sense there is in this theory. The discoveries of 


Professor Marsh of Yale College have proved that the 
general form of the dragon is startlingly prefigured in 
nature ; and Mr. Alfred Tylor, in an able paper read 
before the Anthropological Society, has shown that we 
are very apt to be on the safe side in sticking to the 
theory of an ' object-origin' for most things. 

Concerning this theory, it may be said that the earliest 
descriptions, both written and pictorial, which have been 
discovered of the reptilian monsters around which grew the 
germs of our dragon-myths, are crocodiles or serpents, 
and not dragons of any conventional kind, — with a few 
doubtful exceptions. In an Egyptian papyrus there is a 
hieroglyphic picture of San-nu Hut-ur, 'plunger of the 
sea;' it is a marine, dolphin-like monster, with four feet, 
and a tail ending in a serpent's head.^ With wings, this 
might approach the dragon-form. Again, Amen-Ra slew 
Naka, and this serpent 'saved his feet.' Possibly the 
phrase is ironical, and means that the serpent saved 
nothing ; but apart from that, the poem is too highly 
metaphorical — the victorious god himself being described 
in it as a ' beautiful bull' — for the phrase to be important. 
On Egyptian monuments are pictured serpents with human 
heads and members, and the serpent Nahab-ka is pictured 
on amulets with two perfect human legs and feet.^ Winged 
serpents are found on Egyptian monuments, but almost as 
frequently with the incredible number of four as with the 
conceivable two wings of the pterodactyl. The forms of 
the serpents thus portrayed with anthropomorphic legs 
and slight wings are, in their main shapes, of ordinary 
species. In the Iranian tradition of the temptation of the 
first man and woman, ]\Ieschia and Meschiane, by the 

1 ' Records of the Past,' vi. 124. 

^ See Cooper's ' Serpent-Myths of Ancient Eg}^t,' figs. 109 and 112. Serapis 
as a human-headed serpent is shown in the same essay (from Sharpe), fig. 119. 
VOL. I. X 


'two-footed serpent of lies.' And it is possible that out of 
this myth of the ' two-footed ' serpent grew the puzzling 
legend of Genesis that the serpent of Eden was sentenced 
thereafter to crawl on his belly. The snake's lack of feet, 
however, might with equal probability have given rise 
to the explanation given in mussulman and rabbinical 
stories of his feet being cut off by the avenging angel. 
But the antiquity of the Iranian myth is doubtful ; while 
the superior antiquity of the Hindu fable of Rahu, to 
which it seems related, suggests that the two legs of the 
Ahriman serpent, like the four arms of serpent-tailed 
Rahu, is an anthropomorphic addition. In the ancient 
planispheres we find the ' crooked serpent ' mentioned in 
the Book of Job, but no dragon. 

The two great monsters of Vedic mythology, Vritra and 
Ahi, are not so distinguishable from each other in the 
Vedas as in more recent fables. Vritra is very frequently 
called Vritra Ahi— Ahi being explained in the St. Peters- 
burg Dictionary as ' the Serpent of the Heavens, the demon 
Vritra.' Ahi literally means 'serpent,' answering to the 
Greek e;;^t-9, e'^i-hva\ and when anything is added it ap- 
pears to be anthropomorphic — heads, arms, eyes — as in 
the case of the Egyptian serpent-monsters. The Vedic 
demon Urana is described as having three heads, six eyes, 
and ninety-nine arms. 

There would appear to be as little reason for ascribing 
to the Tannin of the Old Testament the significance of 
dragon, though it is generally so translated. It is used 
under circumstances which show it to mean whale, serpent, 
and various other beasts. Jeremiah (xiv. 6) compares them 
to wild asses snuffing the wind, and Micah (i. 8) describes 
their 'wailing.' The fiery serpents said to have afflicted 
Israel in the wilderness are called seraphim, but neither in 
their natural or mythological forms do they anticipate our 



conventional dragon beyond the fiery character that is 
blended with the serpent character. Nor dd the descrip- 
tions of Behemoth and Leviathan comport with the dragon- 

The serpent as an animal is a consummate development. 
Its feet, so far from having been amputated, as the fables 
say, in punishment of its sin, have been withdrawn beneath 
the skin as crutches used in a feebler period. It is found 
as a tertiary fossil. Since, therefore, the dragon form ex 
hypothesi is a reminiscence of the huge, now fossil, Saurians 
which preceded the serpent in time, the early mythologies 
could hardly have so regularly described great serpents 
instead of dragons. If the realistic theory we are dis- 
cussing were true, the earliest combats — those of Indra, 
for instance — ought to have been with dragons, and the 
serpent enemies would have multiplied as time went on ; 
but the reverse is the case — the (alleged) extinct forms 
being comparatively modern in heroic legend. 

Mr. John Ruskin once remarked upon Turner's picture of 
the Dragon guarding the Hesperides, that this conception 
so early as 1806, when no Saurian skeleton was within the 
artist's reach, presented a 
singular instance of the sci- 
entific imagination. As a 
coincidence with such ex- 
tinct forms Turner's dragon 
is surpassed by the monster 
on which a witch rides in 
one of the engravings of 
Delia Bella, published in 
1637. In that year, on the 
occasion of the marriage of 
the grand duke Ferdinand II. in Florence, there was a 
masque (T Inferno, whose representations were engraved by 

22.— A Witch Mounted 
(Delia Bella). 


Delia Bella, of which this is one, so that it may be rather 
to some scenic artist than to the distinguished imitator of 
Callot that we owe this grotesque form, which the late Mr. 
Wright said ' might have been borrowed from some distant 
geological period.' If so, the fact would present a curious 
coincidence with the true history of Turner's Dragon ; for 
after Mr. Ruskin had published his remark about the scien- 
tific imagination represented in it, an old friend of the artist 
declared that Turner himself had told him that he copied 
that dragon from a Christmas spectacle in Drury Lane 
theatre. But Turner had shown the truest scientific in- 
stinct in repairing to the fossil-beds of human imagina- 
tion, and drawing thence the conventional form which 
never had existence save as the structure of cumulative 

( 325 ) 



The beauty of the Serpent — Emerson on ideal forms — Michelet's 
thoughts on the viper's head — Unique characters of the Serpent — 
The monkey's horror of Snakes — The Serpent protected by super- 
stition — Human defencelessness against its subtle powers — 
Dubufe's picture of the Fall of Man. 

In the accompanying picture, a medal of the ancient city 
of Tyre, two of the most beautiful forms of nature are 
brought together, — the Serpent and the Egg. Mr. D. R. 
Hay has shown the end- 
less extent to which the 
oval arches have been 
reproduced in the cera- 
mic arts of antiquity ; 
and the same sense of 
symmetry which made 
the Greek vase a combi- 
nation of Eggs prevails 
in the charm which the 
same graceful outline 
possesses wherever sug- 
gested, — as in curves of 
the swan, crescent of 
the moon, the elongated shell, — on which Aphrodite may 
well be poised, since the same contours find their con- 
summate expression in the flowing lines attaining their 
repose in the perfect form of woman. The Serpent — 

F!g. 23. — Serpent and Egg (Tyre). 


model of the ' line of grace and beauty ' — has had an 
even larger fascination for the eye of the artist and the 
poet. It is the one active form in nature which cannot be 
ungraceful, and to estimate the extent of its use in decora- 
tion is impossible, because all undulating and coiling lines 
are necessarily serpent forms. But in addition to the per- 
fections of this form — which fulfil all the ascent of forms in 
Swedenborg's mystical morphology, circular, spiral, perpe- 
tual-circular, vortical, celestial — the Serpent bears on it, as 
it were, gems of the underworld that seem to find their 
counterpart in galaxies. 

One must conclude that Serpent-worship is mainly 
founded in fear. The sacrifices offered to that animal are 
alone sufficient to prove this. But as it is certain that the 
Serpent appears in symbolism and poetry in many ways 
which have little or no relation to its terrors, we may well 
doubt whether it may not have had a career in the human 
imagination previous to either of the results of its reign 
of terror, — worship and execration. It is the theory of 
Pestalozzi that every child is born an artist, and through 
its pictorial sense must be led on its first steps of education. 
The infant world displayed also in its selection of sacred 
trees and animals a profound appreciation of beauty. The 
myths in which the Serpent is represented as kakodemon 
refer rather to its natural history than to its appearance ; 
and even when its natural history came to be observed, there 
was — there now is — such a wide discrepancy between its 
physiology and its functions, also between its intrinsic 
characters and their relation to man, that we can only accept 
its various aspects in mythology without attempting to trace 
their relative precedence in time. 

The past may in this case be best interpreted by the pre- 
sent. How different now to wise and observant men are 
the suggestions of this exceptional form in nature ! 


Let us read a passage concerning it from Ralph Waldo 
Emerson : — 

' In the old aphorism, nature is ahvays self-similai^ In 
the plant, the eye or germinative point opens to a leaf, then 
to another leaf, with a power of transforming the leaf into 
radicle, stamen, pistil, petal, bract, sepal, or seed. The 
whole art of the plant is still to repeat leaf on leaf without 
end, the more or less of heat, light, moisture, and food, 
determining the form it shall assume. In the animal, nature 
makes a vertebra, or a spine of vertebrae, and helps herself 
still by a new spine, with a limited power of modifying its 
form, — spine on spine, to the end of the world. A poetic 
anatomist, in our own day, teaches that a snake being a 
horizontal line, and man being an erect line, constitute a 
right angle; and between the lines ofthis mystical quadrant, 
all animated beings find their place : and he assumes the 
hair-worm, the span-worm, or the snake, as the type or pre- 
diction of the spine. Manifestly, at the end of the spine, 
nature puts out smaller spines, as arms ; at the end of the 
arms, new spines, as hands ; at the other end she repeats 
the process, as legs and feet. At the top of the column she 
puts out another spine, which doubles or loops itself over^ 
as a span-worm, into a ball, and forms the skull, with 
extremities again : the hands being now the upper jaw, the 
feet the lower jaw, the fingers and toes being represented 
this time by upper and lower teeth. This new spine is 
destined to high uses. It is a new man on the shoulders of 
the last.' 1 

As one reads this it might be asked, How could its ideal- 
ism be more profoundly pictured for the eye than in the 
Serpent coiled round the &^^y — the seed out of which all 
these spines must branch out for their protean variations.'' 
What refrains of ancient themes subtly sound between the 
^ ' Representative Men,' American edition of 1850, p. 108. 


lines, — from the Serpent doomed to crawl on its belly in 
the dust, to the Serpent that is lifted up ! 

Now let us turn to the page of Jules Michelet, and read 
what the Serpent signified to one mood of his sympathetic 

' It was one of my saddest hours when, seeking in nature 
a refuge from thoughts of the age, I for the first time 
encountered the head of the viper. This occurred in a 
valuable museum of anatomical imitations. 

The head marvellously imitated and enormously en- 
larged, so as to remind one of the tiger's and the jaguar's, 
exposed in its horrible form a something still more 
horrible. You seized at once the delicate, infinite, fear- 
fully prescient precautions by which the deadly machine 
is so potently armed. Not only is it provided with 
numerous keen-edged teeth, not only are these teeth 
supplied with an ingenious reservoir of poison which 
slays immediately, but their extreme fineness which 
renders them liable to fracture is compensated by an 
advantage that perhaps no other animal possesses, 
namely, a magazine of supernumerary teeth, to supply 
at need the place of any accidentally broken. Oh, what 
provisions for killing ! What precautions that the victim 
shall not escape ! What love for this horrible creature ! 
I stood by it scandalised^ if I may so speak, and with 
a sick soul. Nature, the great mother, by whose side 
I had taken refuge, shocked me with a maternity so 
cruelly impartial. Gloomily I walked away, bearing on 
my heart a darker shadow than rested on the day itself, 
one of the sternest in winter. I had come forth like a 
child ; I returned home like an orphan, feeling the notion 
of a Providence dying away within me.' ^ 

Many have so gone forth and so returned ; some to 

1 'L'Oiseau,' par Jules Michelet. 


say, ' There is no God ; ' a few to say (as is reported of 
a living poet), 'I believe in God, but am against him;' 
but some also to discern in the viper's head Nature's 
ironclad, armed with her best science to defend the 
advance of form to humanity along narrow passes. 

The primitive man was the child that went forth when 
his world was also a child, and when the Serpent was still 
doing its part towards making him and it a man. It 
was a long way from him to the dragon-slayer; but it is 
much that he did not merely cower ; he watched and 
observed, and there is not one trait belonging to his 
deadly crawling contemporaries that he did not note 
and spiritualise in such science as was possible to him. 

The last-discovered of the topes in India represents 
Serpent-worshippers gathered around their deity, holding 
their tongues with finger and thumb. No living form 
in nature could be so fitly regarded in that attitude. Not 
only is the Serpent normally silent, but in its action it 
has ' the quiet of perfect motion.' The maximum of 
force is shown in it, relatively to its size, along with the 
minimum of friction and visible effort. Footless, wingless, 
as a star, its swift gliding and darting is sometimes like 
the lightning whose forked tongue it seemed to incarnate. 
The least touch of its ingenious tooth is more destructive 
than the lion's jaw. What mystery in its longevity, in 
its self-subsistence, in its self-renovation ! Out of the 
dark it comes arrayed in jewels, a crawling magazine of 
death in its ire, in its unknown purposes able to renew 
its youth, and fable for man imperishable life ! Wonderful 
also are its mimicries. It sometimes borrows colours of 
the earth on which it reposes, the trees on which it hangs, 
now seems covered with eyes, and the ' spectacled snake ' 
appeared to have artificially added to its vision. Alto- 
gether it is unique among natural forms, and its vast 


history in religious speculation and mythology does 
credit to the observation of primitive man. 

Recent experiments have shown the monkeys stand in 
the greatest terror of snakes. Such terror is more and 
more recognised as a survival in the European man. The 
Serpent is almost the only animal which can follow a 
monkey up a tree and there attack its young. Our 
arboreal anthropoid progenitors could best have been 
developed in some place naturally enclosed and fortified, 
as by precipices which quadrupeds could not scale, but 
which apes might reach by swinging and leaping from 
trees. But there could be no seclusion where the Serpent 
could not follow. I am informed by the King of Bonny 
that in his region of Africa the only serpent whose worship 
is fully maintained is the Nomboh (Leaper), a small snake, 
white and glistening, whose bite is fatal, and which, climb- 
ing into trees, springs thence upon its prey beneath, and 
can travel far by leaping from branch to branch. The 
first arboreal man who added a little to the natural 
defences of any situation might stand in tradition as 
a god planting a garden ; but even he would not be 
supposed able to devise any absolute means of defence 
against the subtlest of all the beasts. Among the 
three things Solomon found too wonderful for him was 
'the way of a serpent upon a rock' (Prov. xxx. 19). 
This comparative superiority of the Serpent to any and all 
devices and contrivances known to primitive men — whose 
proverbs must have made most of Solomon's wisdom — 
would necessarily have its effect upon the animal and 
mental nerves of our race in early times, and the Serpent 
would find in his sanctity a condition favourable to ' 
survival and multiplication. It is this fatal power of 
superstition to change fancies into realities which we 
find still protecting the Serpent in various countries. 


From being venerated as the arbiter of life and death, it 
might thus actually become such in large districts of 
country. In Dubufe's picture of the Fall of Man, the 
wrath of Jehovah is represented by the lightning, which 
has shattered the tree beneath which the offending pair 
are now crouching ; beyond it Satan is seen in human 
shape raising his arm in proud defiance against the 
blackened sky. So would the Serpent appear. His 
victims were counted by many thousands where the 
lightning laid low one. Transmitted along the shudder- 
ing nerves of many generations came the confession of 
the Son of Sirach, ' There is no head above the head of a 

( 332 ) 



An African Serpent-drama in America — The Veiled Serpent — The Ark 
of the Covenant — Aaron's Rod — The Worm — An Episode on the 
Dii Involuti — The Scrapes — The Bambino at Rome — Serpent- 

On the eve of January i, 1863, — that historic New Year's 
Day on which President Lincoln proclaimed freedom to 
American slaves, — I was present at a Watchnight held by 
negroes in a city of that country. In opening the meeting 
the preacher said, — though in words whose eloquent short- 
comings I cannot reproduce : — ' Brethren and sisters, the 
President of the United States has promised that, if the 
Confederates do not lay down their arms, he will free all 
their slaves to-morrow. They have not laid down their 
arms. To-morrow will be the day of liberty to the op- 
pressed. But we all know that evil powers are around 
the President. While we sit here they are trying to make 
him break his word. But we have come together to watch, 
and see that he does not break his word. Brethren, the 
bad influences around the President to-night are stronger 
than any Copperheads.^ The Old Serpent is abroad to- 
night, with all his emissaries, in great power. His wrath 
is great, because he knows his hour is near. He will be in 

^ A deadly Southern snake, coloured like the soil on which it lurks, had 
become the current name for politicians who, while professi"g loyalty to the 
Union, aided those who sought to overthrow it. 


this church this evening. As midnight comes on we shall 
hear his rage. But, brethren and sisters, don't be alarmed. 
Our prayers will prevail. His head will be bruised. His 
back will be broken. He will go raging to hell, and God 
Almighty's New Year will make the United States a true 
land of freedom.' 

The sensation caused among the hundreds of negroes 
present by these words was profound ; they were frequently 
interrupted by cries of ' Glory ! ' and there were tears ot 
joy. But the scene and excitement which followed were 
indescribable. A few moments before midnight the con- 
gregation were requested to kneel, which they did, and 
prayer succeeded prayer with increasing fervour. Pre- 
sently a loud, prolonged hiss was heard. There were 
cries — ' He's here ! he's here ! ' Then came a volley of 
hisses ; they seemed to proceed from every part of the 
room, hisses so entirely like those of huge serpents that 
the strongest nerves were shaken ; above them rose the 
preacher's prayer that had become a wild incantation, and 
ecstatic ejaculations became so universal that it was a 
marvel what voices were left to make the hisses. Finally, 
from a neighbouring steeple the twelve strokes of mid- 
night sounded on the frosty air, and immediately the 
hisses diminished, and presently died away altogether, 
and the New Year that brought freedom to four millions 
of slaves was ushered in by the jubilant chorus of all 
present singing a hymn of victory. 

Far had come those hisses and that song of victory, ter- 
minating the dragon-drama of America. In them was the 
burden of Ezekiel : ' Son of man, set thy face against 
Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and 
against all Egypt, saying, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah : 
Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the 
great dragon that lieth in the midst of the rivers ... I 
will put a hook in thy jaws.' In them was the burden of 


Isaiah : ' In that day Jehovah with his sore and great and 
strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, 
even Leviathan that crooked serpent : he shall slay the 
dragon that is in the sea.' In it was the cry of Zophar: 
' His meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps 
within him. He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall 
vomit them up again : God shall cast them out of his 
belly.' And these Hebrew utterances, again, were but the 
distant echoes of far earlier voices of those African slaves 
still seen pictured with their chains on the ruined walls of 
Egypt, — voices that gathered courage at last to announce 
the never-ending struggle of man with Oppression, as that 
combat between god and serpent which never had a nobler 
event than when the dying hiss of Slavery was heard in 
America, and the victorious Sun rose upon a New World 
of free and equal men. 

The Serpent thus exalted in America to a type of op- 
pression is very different from any snake that may this 
day be found worshipped as a deity by the African in his 
native land. The swarthy snake-worshipper in his migra- 
tion took his god along with him in his chest or basket — at 
once ark and altar — and in that hiding-place it underwent 
transformations. He emerged as the protean emblem of 
both good and evil. In a mythologic sense the serpent 
certainly held its tail in its mouth. No civilisation has 
reached the end of its typical supremacy. 

Concerning the accompanying Eleusinian form (Fig. 24), 
Calmet says : — * The mysterious trunk, 
coffer, or basket, may be justly reckoned 
among the most remarkable and sacred 
instruments of worship, which formed part 
of the processional ceremonies in the 
Fig. 24.— Serpent and heathen world. This was held so sacred 

Akk (from a Greek , i , • , , i i • i i j. 

coin). that it was not publicly exposed to view, 

or publicly opened, but was reserved for the inspection 


of the initiated, the fully initiated only. Completely to 
explain this symbol would require a dissertation 5 and, 
indeed, it has been considered, more or less, by those who 
have written on the nature of the Ark of the testimony 
among the Hebrews, Declining the inquiry at present, 
we merely call the attention of the reader to what this 
mystical coffer was supposed to contain — a serpent ! ' 
The French Benedictine who wrote this passage, though 
his usual candour shames the casuistry of our own time, 
found it necessary to conceal the Hebrew Ark : it was 
precisely so that the occupant of the Ark was originally 
concealed ; and though St. John exorcised it from the 
Chalice its genius lingers in the Pyx, before whose Host 
'lifted up' the eyes of worshippers are lowered. 

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (chap, ix.), de- 
scribing the Tabernacle, says : ' After the second veil, the 
tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all ; which had 
the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid 
round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that 
had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables 
of the covenant' But this rod of Aaron, which, by bud- 
ding, had swallowed up all rival pretensions to the tribal 
priesthood, was the same rod which had been changed to 
a serpent, and swallowed up the rod-serpents of the sor- 
cerers in Pharaoh's presence. So soft and subtle is ' the 
way of a serpent upon a rock ! ' 

This veihng of the Serpent, significant of a great deal, is 
characteristic even of the words used to name it. Of these 
I have selected one to head this chapter, because it is one 
of the innumerable veils which shielded this reptile's trans- 
formation from a particular external danger to a demonic 
type. This general description of things that wind about 
or turn {vermes, traced by some to the Sanskrit root hvar, 
' curved '), gradually came into use to express the demon 

336 THE WORM. 

serpents. Dante and Milton call Satan a worm. No 
doubt among the two hundred names for the Serpent, said 
to be mentioned in an Arabic work, we should find parallels 
to this old adaptation of the word ' worm.' In countries — 
as Germany and England — where no large serpents are 
found, the popular imagination could not be impressed by 
merely saying that Siegfried or Lambton had slain a 
snake. The tortuous character of the snake was preserved, 
but, by that unconscious dexterity which so often appears 
in the making of myths, it was expanded so as to include 
a power of supernatural transformation. The Lambton 
worm comes out of the well very small, but it afterwards 
coils in nine huge folds around its hill. The hag-ridden 
daughter of the King of Northumberland, who 

crept into a hole a worm 
And out stept a fair ladye, 

did but follow the legendary rule of the demonic serpent 

Why was the Serpent slipped into the Ark or cofifer and 
hid behind veils 1 To answer this will require here an 

In the Etruscan theology and ceremonial the supreme 
power was lodged with certain deities that were never seen. 
They were called the Dii Involuti, the veiled gods. Not 
even the priests ever looked upon them. When any dire 
calamity occurred, it was said these mysterious deities had 
spoken their word in the council of the gods, — a word 
always final and fatal. 

There have been fine theories on the subject, and the 
Etruscans have been complimented for having high trans- 
cendental views of the invisible nature of the Divine Being. 
But a more prosaic theory is probably true. These gods 
were wrapped up because they were not fit to be seen. 
The rude carvings of some savage tribe, they had been 


seen and adored at first : temples had been built for them, 
and their priesthood had grown powerful ; but as art ad- 
vanced and beautiful statues arose, these rude designs 
could not bear the contrast, and the only way of preserv- 
ing reverence for them, and the institutions grown up 
around them, was to hide them out of sight altogether. 
Then it could be said they were so divinely beautiful 
that the senses would be overpowered by them. 

There have been many veiled deities, and though their 
veils have been rationalised, they are easily pierced. The 
inscription on the temple of Isis at Sais was : ' I am 
that which has been, which is, and which shall be, and no 
one has yet lifted the veil that hides me.' Isis at this time 
had probably become a negro Madonna, like that still 
worshipped in Spain as holiest of images, and called by the 
same title, ' Our Immaculate Lady.' As the fair race and 
the dark mingled in Egypt, the primitive Nubian com- 
plexion and features of Isis could not inspire such reverence 
as more anciently, and before her also a curtain was hung. 
The Ark of Moses carried this veil into the wilderness, and 
concealed objects not attractive to look at — probably two 
scrawled stones, some bones said to be those of Joseph, a 
pot of so-called manna, and the staff said to have once 
been a serpent and afterwards blossomed. Fashioned by 
a rude tribe, the Ark was a fit thing to hide, and hidden it 
has been to this day. When the veil of the Temple was 
rent, — allegorically at the death of Christ, actually by 
Titus, — nothing of the kind was found ; and it would seem 
that the Jews must long have been worshipping before a 
veil with emptiness behind it. Paul discovered that the 
veil said to have covered the face of Moses when he de- 
scended from Sinai was a myth ; it meant that the people 

should not see to the end of what was nevertheless tran- 
VOL. I. Y 


sient. 'Their minds were blinded; for unto this day, 
when Moses is read, that veil is on their heart.' 

Kircher says the Seraphs of Egypt were images without 
any emmency of limbs, rolled as it were in swaddling 
clothes, partly made of stone, partly of metal, wood, or 
shell. Similar images, he says, were called by the Romans 
'secret gods.' As an age of scepticism advanced, it was 
sometimes necessary that these ' involuti ' should be 
slightly revealed, lest it should be said there was no god 
there at all. Such is the case with the famous bambino of 
Aracoeli Church in Rome. This effigy, said to have been 
carved by a pilgrim out of a tree on the Mount of Olives, 
and painted by St. Luke while the pilgrim was sleeping, 
is now kept in its ark, and visitors are allowed to see part 
of its painted face. When the writer of this requested a 
sight of the whole form, or of the head at any rate, the 
exhibiting priest was astounded at the suggestion. No 
doubt he was right : the only wonder is that the face is not 
hid also, for a more ingeniously ugly thing than the flat, 
blackened, and rouged visage of the bambino it were diffi- 
cult to conceive. But it wears a very cunning veil never- 
theless. The face is set in marvellous brilliants, but these 
are of less effect in hiding its ugliness than the vesture of 
mythology around it. The adjacent walls are covered 
with pictures of the miracles it has performed, and which 
have attracted to it such faith that it is said at one time 
to have received more medical fees than all the physicians 
in Rome together. Priests have discovered that a veil 
over the mind is thicker than a veil on the god. Such 
is the popular veneration for the bambino, that, in 1849, 
the Republicans thought it politic to present the monks 
with the Pope's state coach to carry the idol about. In the 
end it was proved that the Pope was securely seated beside 


the bambino, and he presently emerged from behind his 
veil also. 

There came, then, a period when the Serpent crept be- 
hind the veil, or lid of the ark, or into a chalice, — a very- 
small worm, but yet able to gnaw the staff of Solomon. 
No wisdom could be permitted to rise above fear itself, 
though its special sources might be here and there reduced 
or vanquished. The snake had taught man at last its arts 
of war. Man had sumrnoned to his aid the pig, and the 
ibis made havoc among the reptiles ; and some of that 
terror which is the parent of that kind of devotion passed 
away. When it next emerged, it was in twofold guise, — as 
Agathodemon and Kakodemon, — but in both forms as the 
familiar of some higher being. It was as the genius of 
Minerva, of Esculapius, of St. Euphemia. We have already 
seen him (Fig. 13) as the genius of the Eleans, the Soso- 
polis, where also we see the Serpent hurrying into his 
cavern, leaving the mother and child to be worshipped 
in the temple of Lucina. In christian symbolism the 
Seraphim — ' burning {sdraf) serpents ' — veiled their faces 
and forms beneath their huge wings, crossed in front, and 
so have been able to become ' the eminent,' and to join in 
the praises of modern communities at being delivered from 
just such imaginary fiery worms as themselves ! 

( 340 ) 



The Naturalistic Theory of Apophis — The Serpent of Time — Epic of 
the Worm — The Asp of M elite — Vanquishers of Time — Nachash- 
Beriach — The Serpent-Spy — Treading on Serpents. 

The considerations advanced in the previous chapter enable 
us to dismiss with facility many of the rationalistic inter- 
pretations which have been advanced to explain the 
monstrous serpents of sacred books by reference to ima- 
ginary species supposed to be now extinct. Flying serpents, 
snakes many-headed, rain-bringing, woman-hating, &c., 
may be suffered to survive as the fauna of bibliolatrous 
imaginations. Such forms, however, are of such mytho- 
logic importance that it is necessary to watch carefully 
against this method of realistic interpretation, especially 
as there are many actual characteristics of serpents suffi- 
ciently mysterious to conspire with it. A recent instance 
of this literalism may here be noticed. 

Mr. W. R. Cooper^ supposes the evil serpent of Egyptian 
Mythology to have a real basis in ' a large and unidentified 
species of coluber, of great strength and hideous longitude,' 
which * was, even from the earliest ages, associated as the 
representative of spiritual, and occasionally physical evil, 
and was named Hof, Rehof, or Apophis, the 'destroyer, the 
enemy of the gods, and the devoiLver of the souls of men.' 

^ See his learned and valuable treatise, 'The Serpent Myths of Ancient 
Egypt.' Hardwicke, 1873. 


That such a creature, he adds, * once inhabited the Libyan 
desert, we have the testimony of both Hanno the Cartha- 
ginian and Lucan the Roman, and if it is now no longer an 
inhabitant of that region, it is probably owing to the 
advance of civilisation having driven it farther south.' 

Apart from the extreme improbability that African 
exploration should have brought no rumours of such a 
monster if it existed, it may be said concerning Mr. Cooper's 
theory: (i.) If, indeed, the references cited were to a reptile 
now unknown, we might be led by mythologic analogy to 
expect that it would have been revered beyond either the 
Asp or the Cobra. In proportion to the fear has generally 
beei;! the exaltation of its objects. Primitive peoples have 
generally gathered courage to pour invective upon evil 
monsters when — either from their non-existence or rarity — 
there was least danger of its being practically resented as a 
personal affront. (2.) The regular folds of Apophis on 
the sarcophagus of Seti I, and elsewhere are so evidently 
mystical and conventional that, apparently, they refer to a 
serpent-form only as the guilloche on a wall may refer to 
sea-waves. Apophis (or Apap) would have been a decora- 
tive artist to fold himself in such order. 

These impossible labyrinthine coils suggest Time, as 
the serpent with its tail in its mouth signifies Eternity, — 
an evolution of the same idea. This was the interpre- 
tation given by a careful scholar, the late William Hickson,^ 
to the procession of nine persons depicted on the sarco- 
phagus mentioned as bearing a serpent, each holding a 
fold, all being regular enough for a frieze. ' The scene,' says 
this author, ' appears to relate to the Last Judgment, for 
Osiris is seen on his throne, passing sentence on a crowd 
before him ; and in the same tableaux are depicted the 
river that divides the living from the dead, and the bridge 

^ ' Time and Faith,' i. 204. Groombridge, 1857. 



of life. The death of the serpent may possibly be intended 
to symbolise the end of time.' This idea of long duration 
might be a general one relating to all time, or it might 
refer to the duration of individual life ; it involved natur- 
ally the evils and agonies of life ; but the fundamental 
conception is more simple, and also more poetic, than even 
these implications, and it means eternal waste and decay. 
One has need only to sit before a clock to see Apophis : 
there coil upon coil winds the ever-moving monster, whose 
tooth is remorseless, devouring little by little the strength 
and majesty of man, and reducing his grandest achieve- 
ments — even his universe — to dust. Time is the undying 

God having made me worm, I make you — smoke. 

Though safe your nameless essence from my stroke. 
Yet do I gnaw no less 

Love in the heart, stars in the livid space, — 

God jealous, — making vacant thus your place, — 
And steal your witnesses. 

Since the star ilames, man would be wrong to teach 
That the grave's worm cannot such glory reach ; 

Naught real is save me. 
Within the blue, as 'neath the marble slab I lie, 
I bite at once the star within the sky. 

The apple on the tree. 

To gnaw yon star is not more tough to me 
Than hanging grapes on vines of Sicily ; 

I clip the rays that fall ; 
Eternity yields not to splendours brave- 
Fly, ant, all creatures die, and nought can save 

The constellations all. 

The starry ship, high in the ether sea, 

Must split and wreck in the end : this thing shall be : 

The broad-ringed Saturn toss 
To ruin : Sirius, touched by me, decay. 
As the small boat from Ithaca away 

That steers to Kalymnos.^ 

^ • The Epic of the Worm,' by Victor Hugo, 
from ' La Legende des Siecles ' 

Translated by Bayard Taylor 


The natural history of Apophis, so far as he has any, 
is probably suggested in the following passage cited 
by Mr. Cooper from Wilkinson: — '.^lian relates many 
strange stories of the asp, and the respect paid to it 
by the Egyptians ; but we may suppose that in his six- 
teen species of asps other snakes were included. He 
also speaks of a dragon which was sacred in the Egyp- 
tian Melite, and another kind of snake called Paries or 
Paruas, dedicated to ^sculapius. The serpent of Melite 
had priests and ministers, a table and bowl. It was kept 
in a tower, and fed by the priests with cakes made of flour 
and honey, which they placed there in a bowl. Having 
done this they retired. The next day, on returning to the 
apartment, the food was found to be eaten, and the same 
quantity was again put into the bowl, for it was not lawful 
for any one to see the sacred reptile.' ^ 

It was in this concealment from the outward eye that 
the Serpent was able to assume such monstrous proportions 
to the eye of imagination ; and, indeed, it is not beyond 
conjecture that this serpent of Melite, coming in conflict 
with Osirian worship, was degraded and demonised into 
that evil monster (Apophis) whom Horus slew to avenge 
his destruction of Osiris (for he was often identified with 

Though Horus cursed and slew this terrible demon- 
serpent, he reappears in all Egyptian Mythology with 
undiminished strength, and all evil powers were the brood 

^ Bruce relates of the Abyssinians that a serpent is commonly kept in their 
houses to consult for an augury of good or evil. Butter and honey are placed 
before it, of which if it partake, the omen is good ; if the serpent refuse to eat, 
some misfortune is sure to happen. This custom seems to throw a light on the 
passage — ' Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil 
and choose the good' (Isa. vii. 15). — Time and Faith, i. 60. 

Compare the apocryphal tale of Bel and the Dragon. Bel was a healing 
god of the Babylonians, and the Dragon whom he slew may have been 
regarded in later times as his familiar. 


of himself or Typhon, who were sometimes described as 
brothers and sometimes as the same beings. From the 
' Ritual of the Dead ' we learn that it was the high privilege 
and task of the heroic dead to be reconstructed and go 
forth to encounter and subdue the agents of Apophis, who 
sent out to engage them the crocodiles Seb, Hem, and 
Shui, and other crocodiles from north, south, east, and west ; 
the hero having conquered these, acquires their might, and 
next prevails over the walking viper Ru ; and so on with 
other demons called 'precursors of Apophis,' until their 
prince himself is encountered and slain, all the hero's 
guardian deities attending to fix a knife in each of the 
monster's folds. These are the Vanquishers of Time, — 
the immortal. 

In Apophis we find the Serpent fairly developed to a 
principle of evil. He is an ' accuser of the sun ;' the twelve 
gateways into Hades are surmounted by his representa- 
tives, which the Sun must pass — twelve hours of night. He 
is at once the 'Nachash beriach' and 'Nachash aktalon' — 
the 'Cross-bar serpent' and the 'Tortuous serpent' — which 
we meet with in Isa. xxvii. i : 'In that day the Lord 
with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish 
leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked 
serpent.' The marginal translation in the English version 
is ' crossing like a bar,' instead of piercing, and the Vul- 
gate has serpens vectis. This refers to the moral function 
of the serpent, as barring the way, or guarding the door. 
No doubt this is the 'crooked serpent' of Job xxvi. 13, 
for the astrological sense of it does not invalidate the 
terrestrial significance. Imagination could only project 
into the heavens what it had learned on earth. , Bochart 
in identifying ' Nachash-beriach ' as 'the flying Serpent,' 
is quite right : the Seraph, or winged Serpent, which 
barred the way to the tree of life in Eden, and in some 

THE SPY, 345 

traditions was the treacherous guard at the gate of the 
garden, and which bit Israel in the wilderness, was this 
same protean Apophis. For such tasks, and to soar 
into the celestial planisphere, the Serpent must needs 
have wings ; and thus it is already far on its way to 
become the flying Dragon. But in one form, as the 
betrayer of man, it must lose its wings and crawl upon 
the ground for ever. The Serpent is thus not so much 
agathodemon and kakodemon in one form, as a principle 
of destructiveness which is sometimes employed by the 
deity to punish his enemies, as Horus employs fiery Kheti, 
but sometimes requires to be himself punished. 

There have been doubts whether the familiar derivation 
of o0i9, serpent, from oi/r, the eye, shall continue. Some 
connect the Greek word with eyi'^, but Curtius maintains 
that the old derivation from o-v/r is correct,-^ Even were 
this not the etymology, the popularity of it would equally 
suggest the fact that this reptile was of old supposed 
to kill with its glance ; and it was also generally regarded 
as gifted with praeternatural vision. By a similar pro- 
cess to that which developed avenging Furies out of the 
detective dawn — Erinys from Saranyu, Satan from Lucifer^ 
— this subtle Spy might have become also a retributive 
and finally a malignant power. The Furies were por- 
trayed bearing serpents in their hands, and each of these 
might carry ideally the terrors of Apophis : Time also is 
a detective, and the guilty heard it saying, 'Your sin will 
find you out,' 

Through many associations of this kind the Serpent 
became at an early period an agent of ordeal. Any one 
handling it with impunity was regarded as in league 
with it, or specially hedged about by the deity whose 

^ ' Principles of Greek Etymology,' ii. 63. English translation. 
"See pp. 8 and 20. 


' hands formed the crooked serpent.' It may have been 
as snake-charmers that Moses and Aaron appeared be- 
fore Pharaoh and influenced his imagination ; or, if the 
story be a myth, its existence still shows that serpent 
performances would then have been regarded as creden- 
tials of divine authentication. So when Paul was ship- 
wrecked on Malta, where a viper is said to have fastened 
on his hand, the barbarians, having at first inferred that 
he was a murderer, 'whom though he hath escaped the 
sea, yet Vengeance suffereth not to live,' concluded he 
was a god when they found him unharmed. Innumerable 
traditions preceded the words ascribed to Christ (Luke x. 
19), 'Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents 
and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and 
nothing shall by any means hurt you.' It is instructive to 
compare this sentence attributed to Christ with the notion 
of the barbarians concerning Paul's adventure, whatever it 
may have been. Paul's familiarity with the Serpent seems 
to them proof that he is a god. Such also is the idea 
represented in Isa. xi. 8, ' The sucking child shall play 
on the hole of the asp.' But the idea of treading on 
serpents marks a period more nearly corresponding to 
that of the infant Hercules strangling the serpents. Yet 
though these two conceptions — serpent -treading, and 
serpent - slaying — approach each other, they are very 
different in source and significance, both morally and 
historically. The word used in Luke, iraTelv, conveys the 
idea of walking over something in majesty, not in hostility; 
it must be interpreted by the next sentence (x. 20), ' Not- 
withstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject 
unto you (ra irvevjjbara VTrorda-creTat).' The serpent-slayer 
or dragon-slayer is not of Semitic origin. The awful 
supremacy of Jehovah held all the powers of destruction 
chained to his hand ; and to ask man if he could draw out 


Leviathan with a hook was only another form of reminding 
him of his own inferiority to the creator and lord of Levia- 
than. How true the Semitic ideas running though the 
Bible, and especially represented in the legend of Paul 
in Malta, are to the barbarian nature is illustrated by an 
incident related in Mr. Brinton's ' Myths of the New 
World.' The pious founder of the Moravian Brotherhood, 
Count Zinzendorf, was visiting a missionary station among 
the Shawnees in the Wyoming Valley, America. Recent 
quarrels with the white people had so irritated the red 
men that they resolved to make him their victim. After 
he had retired to his hut several of the braves softly peered 
in. Count Zinzendorf was seated before a fire, lost in 
perusal of the Scriptures ; and while the red men gazed 
they saw what he did not — a huge rattlesnake trailing 
across his feet to gather itself in a coil before the comfort- 
able warmth of the fire. Immediately they forsook their 
murderous purpose, and retired noiselessly, convinced that 
this was indeed a divine man. 

( 348 ) 



The Kankato na — The Vedic Serpents not worshipful — Ananta and 
Sesha — The Healing Serpent — The guardian of treasures — Miss 
Buckland's theory — Primitive rationalism — Underworld pluto- 
cracy — Rain and lightning — Vritra — History of the word ' Ahi' 
— The Adder — Zohlk — A Teutonic Laokoon. 

That Serpent -worship in India was developed by- 
euphemism seems sufficiently shown in the famous Vedic 
hymn called Kankato na, recited as an antidote against 
all venom, of which the following is a translation: — 

' I. Some creature of little venom; some creature of 
great venom; orsome venomous aquatic reptile ; creatures 
of two kinds, both destructive of life, or poisonous, unseen 
creatures, have anointed me with their poison. 

' 2. The antidote coming to the bitten person destroys 
the unseen venomous creatures ; departing it destroys 
them ; deprived of substance it destroys them by its 
odour ; being ground it pulverises them. 

*3. Blades of sara grass, of kiisara, of darhba, of sazrya, 
of iminja, of virana, all the haunt of unseen venomous 
creatures, have together anointed me with their venom. 

' 4. The cows had lain down in their stalls ; the wild 
beasts had retreated to their lairs ; the senses of men were 
at rest; when the unseen venomous creatures anointed me 
with their venom. 


* 5, Or they may be discovered in the dark, as thieves 
in the dusk of evening ; for although they be unseen yet 
all are seen by them ; therefore, men be vigilant. 

' 6. Heaven, serpents, is your father ; Earth, your 
mother ; Soma, your brother ; Aditi, your sister ; unseen, 
all-seeing, abide in your holes ; enjoy your own good 

' 7. Those who move with their shoulders, those who 
move with their bodies, those who sting with sharp fangs, 
those who are virulently venomous ; what do ye here, ye 
unseen, depart together far from us. 

' 8. The all-seeing Sun rises in the East, the destroyer 
of the unseen, driving away all the unseen venomous 
creatures, and all evil spirits. 

' 9. The Sun has risen on high, destroying all the many 
poisons; Aditya, the all-seeing, the destroyer of the unseen, 
rises for the good of living beings. 

' 10. I deposit the poison in the solar orb, like a leathern 
bottle in the house of a vendor of spirits ; verily that ador- 
able Sun never dies ; nor through his favour shall we die 
of the venom ; for, though afar off, yet drawn by his 
coursers he will overtake the poison : the science of anti- 
dotes converted thee, Poison, to ambrosia. 

'II. That insignificant little bird has swallowed thy 
venom ; she does not die ; nor shall we die ; for although 
afar off, yet, drawn by his coursers, the Sun will overtake 
the poison : the science of antidotes has converted thee, 
Poison, to ambrosia. 

' 12. May the thrice-seven sparks of Agni consume the 
influence of the venom ; they verily do not perish ; nor 
shall we die ; for although afar off, the Sun, drawn by his 
coursers, will overtake the poison : the science of antidotes 
has converted thee, Poison, to ambrosia. 

'13. I recite the names of ninety and nine rivers, the 


destroyers of poison : although afar off, the Sun, drawn by 
his coursers, will overtake the poison : the science of anti- 
dotes will convert thee, Poison, to ambrosia, 

' 14. May the thrice-seven peahens, the seven-sister 
rivers, carry off, O Body, thy poison, as maidens with 
pitchers carry away water. 

' 15. May the insignificant mungoose carry off thy 
venom, Poison : if not, I will crush the vile creature with 
a stone : so may the poison depart from my body, and go 
to distant regions. 

'16. Hastening forth at the command of Agastya, thus 
spake the mungoose : The venom of the scorpion is in- 
nocuous; Scorpion, thy venom is innocuous.' 1 

Though, in the sixth verse of this hymn, the serpents 
are said to be born of Heaven and Earth, the context 
does not warrant the idea that any homage to them is 
intended ; they are associated with the evil Rakshasas, 
the Sun and Agni being represented as their haters and 
destroyers. The seven-sister rivers (streams of the sacred 
Ganges) supply an antidote to their venom, and certain 
animals, the partridge and the mungoose, are said, though 
insignificant, to be their superiors. The science of anti- 
dotes alluded to is that which Indra taught to Dadhyanch, 
who lost his head for communicating it to the Aswins, It 
is notable, however, that in the Vedic period there is no- 
thing which represents the serpent as medicinal, unless by 
a roundabout process we connect the expression in the 
Rig-Ved'a that the wrath of the Maruts, or storm-gods, is 
' as the ire of serpents,' with the fact that their chief, Rudra, 
is celebrated as the bestower of ' healing herbs,' and they 
themselves solicited for 'medicaments.' This would be 
stretching the sense of the hymns too far. It is quite pos- 
sible, however, that at a later day, when serpent-worship 

^ ' Rig-veda,' v. (Wilson). 



was fully developed in India, what is said in the sixth 
verse of the hymn may have been adduced to confirm the 

It seems clear, then, that at the time the Kankato na was 
written, the serpent was regarded with simple abhorrence. 
And we may remember, also, that even now, when the 
Indian cobra is revered as a Brahman of the highest caste, 
there is a reminiscence of his previous ill repute preserved 
in the common Hindu belief that a certain mark on his 
head was left there by the heel of Vishnu, Lord of Life, who 
trod on it when, in one of his avatars, he first stepped 
upon the earth. Although in the later mythology we find 
Vishnu, in the intervals between his avatars or incarnations, 
reposing on a serpent {Seska), this might originally have 
signified only his lordship over it, though Sesha is also 
called Ana?ita, the Infinite. The idea of the Infinite is a 
late one, however, and the symbolisation of it by Sesha is 
consistent with a lower significance at first. In Hindu 
popular fables the snake appears in its simple character. 
Such is the fable of which so many variants are found, the 
most familiar in the West being that of Bethgelert, and 
which is the thirteenth of the 4th Hitopadesa. The Brah- 
man having left his child alone, while he performs a rite to 
his ancestors, on his return finds a pet mungoose (nakula) 
smeared with blood. Supposing the mungoose has de- 
voured his child, he slays it, and then discovers that the 
poor animal had killed a serpent which had crept upon 
the infant. In the Kankato na the word interpreted by 
Sdyana as mungoose {Viverra Mungo, or ichneumon) is 
not the same [nakula), but it evidently means some animal 
sufhciently unimportant to cast contempt upon the Serpent. 

The universality of the Serpent as emblem of the healing 
art — found as such among the Egytians, Greeks, Germans, 
Aztecs, and natives of Brazil — suggests that its longevity 


and power of casting its old skin, apparently renewing its 
youth, may have been the basis of this reputation. No 
doubt, also, they would have been men of scientific tenden- 
cies and of close observation who first learned the snake's 
susceptibilities to music, and how its poison might be drawn, 
or even its fangs, and who so gained reputation as partakers 
of its supposed powers. Through such primitive rational- 
ism the Serpent might gain an important alliance and climb 
to make the asp-crown of Isis as goddess of health (the 
Thermuthis), to twine round the staff of Esculapius, to 
be emblem of Hippocrates, and ultimately survive to be 
the sign of the European leech, twining at last as a red 
stripe round the barber's pole. The primitive zoologist 
and snake-charmer would not only, in all likelihood, be a 
man cunning in the secrets of nature, but he would study 
to meet as far as he could the popular demand for pallia- 
tives and antidotes against snake-bites; all who escaped 
death after such wounds would increase his credit as a 
practitioner ; and even were his mitigations necessarily few, 
his knowledge of the Serpent's habits and of its varieties 
might be the source of valuable precautions. 

Such probable facts as these must, of course, be referred 
to a period long anterior to the poetic serpent-symbolism 
of Egypt, and the elaborate Serpent mythology ot Greece 
and Scandinavia. How simple ideas, having once gained 
popular prestige, may be caught up by theologians, poets, 
metaphysicians, and quacks, and modified into manifold 
forms, requires no proof in an age when we are witnessing 
the rationalistic interpretations by which the cross, the 
sacraments, and the other plain symbols are invested with 
all manner of philosophical meanings. The Serpent hav- 
ing been adopted as the sign-post of Egyptian and Assyrian 
doctors — and it may have been something of that kind that 
was set up by Moses in the wilderness — would naturally 


become the symbol of life, and after that it would do duty 
in any capacity whatever. 

An ingenious anthropologist, Mr. C. Staniland Wake,^ 
supposes the Serpent in India to have been there also the 
symbol of praeternatural and occult knowledge. Possibly 
this may have been so to a limited extent, and in post- 
Vedic times, but to me the accent of Hindu serpent- 
mythology appears to be emphatically in the homage paid 
to it as the guardian of the treasures. I may mention here 
also the theory propounded by Miss A. W. Buckland in 
a paper submitted to the Anthropological Institute in 
London, March 10, 1874, on 'The Serpent in connection 
with Primitive Metallurgy.' In this learned monograph 
the writer maintains that a connection may be observed 
between the early serpent-worship and a knowledge of 
metals, and indeed that the Serpent was the sign of Tura- 
nian metallurgists in the same way as I have suggested 
that in Egypt and Assyria it was the sign of physicians. 
She believes that the Serpent must have played some part 
in the original discovery of the metals and precious stones 
by man, in recognition of which that animal was first 
assumed as a totem and thence became an emblem. 
She states that traditional and ornamentational evidences 
show that the Turanian races were the first workers in 
metals, and that they migrated westward, probably from 
India to Egypt and Chaldaea, and thence to Europe, and 
even to America, bearing their art and its sign ; and that 
they fled before the Aryans, who had the further art of 
smelting, and that the Aryan myths of serpent-slaying 
record the overthrow of the Turanian serpent- worshippers. 

I cannot think that Miss Buckland has made out a case 
for crediting nomadic Turanians with being the original 

^ In a paper on the ' Origin of Sei-pent-worship,' read before the Anthro- 
phological Institute in London, December 17, 1872. 

VOL. I. Z 


metallurgists; though it is not impossible that it may- 
have been a Scythian tribe in Southern India who gave 
its fame to * the gold of Ophir,' which Max Miiller 
has shown to have been probably an Indian region.^ 
But that these early jewellers may have had the Serpent 
as their sign or emblem is highly probable, and in ex- 
planation of it there seems little reason to resort to the 
hypothesis of aid having been given by the Serpent to man 
in his discovery of metals. Surely the jewelled decoration 
of the serpent would in itself have been an obvious sug- 
gestion of it as the emblem of gems. Where a reptile for 
some reasons associated with the snake — the toad — had 
not the like bright spots, the cognate superstition might 
arise that its jewel is concealed in its head. And, finally, 
when these reptiles had been connected with gems, the eye 
of either would easily receive added rays from manifold 
eye-beams of superstition. 

We might also credit the primitive people with sufficient 
logical power to understand why they should infer that an 
animal so wonderfully and elaborately provided with dead- 
liness as the Serpent should have tasks of corresponding 
importance. The medicine which healed man (therefore 
possibly gods), the treasures valued most by men (therefore 
by anthropomorphic deities), the fruit of immortality (which 
the gods might wish to monopolise), — might seem the 
supreme things of value, which the supreme perfection of 
the serpent's fang might be created to guard. This might 
be so in the heavens as well as in the world or the under- 
world. The rainbow was called the ' Celestial Serpent ' in 
Persia, and the old notion that there is a bag of gold at the 
end of it is known to many an English and American 

Whatever may have been the nature of the original sug- 

^ 'Science of Language,' i. 230. 


gestlon, there are definite reasons why, when the Serpent 
was caught up to be part of combinations representing a 
Principle of Evil, his character as guardian of treasures 
should become of great importance. Wealth is the 
characteristic of the gods of the Hades, or unseen world 
beneath the surface of the earth. 

In the vast Sinhalese demonology we find the highest 
class of demons (dewatawas) described as resident in golden 
palaces, glittering with gems, themselves with skins of 
golden hue, wearing cobras as ornaments, their king, 
Wessamony seated on a gem-throne and wielding a golden 
sword. Pluto is from the word for wealth {'7rXovTo<;), as also 
is his Latin name Dis (dives). For such are lords of all 
beneath the sod, or the sea's surface. Therefore, it is impor- 
tant to observe, they own all the seeds in the earth so long 
as they remain seeds. So soon as they spring to flower, 
grain, fruitage, they belong not to the gods of Hades but to 
man : an idea which originated the myth of Persephone, 
and seems to survive in a school of extreme vegetarians, 
who refuse to eat vegetables not ripened in the sun. 

These considerations may enable us the better to appre- 
hend the earher characters of Ahi, the Throttler, and Vritra, 
the Coverer. As guardians of such hidden treasures as 
metals and drugs the Serpent might be baroneted and 
invoked to bestow favours ; but those particular serpents 
which by hiding away the cloud-cows withheld the rain, or 
choked the rivers with drought, all to keep under-world 
garners fat and those of the upper world lean, were to 
be combated. Against them man invoked the celestial 
deities, reminding them that their own altars must lack 
offerings if they did not vanquish these thievish Binders 
and Concealers, 

The Serpent with its jewelled raiment, its self-renovating 
power, and its matchless accomplishments for lurking. 


hiding-, fatally striking, was gradually associated with 
undulations of rivers and sea- waves on the earth, with 
the Milky-way, with ' coverers ' of the sky — night and 
cloud — above all, with the darting, crooked, fork-tongued 
lightning. It may have been the lightning that was 
the Amrita churned out of the azure sea in the myth 
of the ' Mahabhdrata,' when the gods and demons turned 
the mountain with a huge serpent for cord (p. 59), mean- 
ing the descent of fire, or its discovery ; but other fair 
and fruitful things emerged also, — the goddess of wine, 
the cow of plenty, the tree of heaven. The inhabitants 
of Burmah still have a custom of pulling at a rope to pro-, 
duce rain. A rain party and a drought party tug against 
each other, the rain party being allowed the victory, which, 
in the popular notion is generally followed by rain. \ 
have often seen snakes hung up after being killed to bring 
rain, in the State of Virginia. For there also rain means 
wealth. It is there believed also that, however much it may 
be crushed, a snake will not die entirely until it thunders. 
These are distant echoes of the Vedic sentences. ' Friend 
Vishnu,' says Indra, ' stride vastly ; sky give room for the 
thunderbolt to strike ; let us slay Vritra and let loose the 
waters.' 'When, Thunderer, thou didst by thy might slay 
Vritra, who stopped up the streams, then thy dear steeds 

Vritra, though from the same root as Varuna (the sky), 
means at first a coverer of the sky — cloud or darkness ; 
hence eventually he becomes the hider, the thief, who 
steals and conceals the bounties of heaven — a rainless 
cloud, a suffocating night; and eventually Vritra coalesces 
with the most fearful phantasm of the Aryan mind — the 
serpent Ahi. 

The Greek word for Adder, e%t9, is a modification of 
Ahi. Perhaps there exists no more wonderful example 


of the unconscious idealism of human nature than the 
history of the name of the great Throttler, as it has been 
traced by Professor Max Miiller. The Serpent was also 
called ahi in Sanskrit, in Greece echis or echidna, in Latin 
unguis. The root is ah in Sanskrit, or amh, which means 
to press together, to choke, to throttle. It is a curious 
root this amh, and it still lives in several modern words, 
In Latin it appears as ango, anxi, anctum, to strangle ; in 
angina, quinsy; in angor, suffocation. But angor meant 
not only quinsy or compression of the neck : it assumed a 
moral import, and signifies anguish or anxiety. The two 
adjectives angustus, narrow, and anxiiis, uneasy, both came 
from the same root. In Greek the root retained its natural 
and material meaning; in eggys, near, and echis, serpent, 
throttler. But in Sanskrit it was chosen with great truth 
as the proper name of sin. Evil no doubt presented itself 
under various aspects to the human mind, and its names 
are many; but none so expressive as those derived from 
our root amh, to throttle. Amhas in Sanskrit means sin, 
but it does so only because it meant originally throttling 
— the consciousness of sin being like the grasp of the 
assassin on the throat of the victim. All who have seen 
and contemplated the statue of Laokoon and his sons, 
with the serpent coiled around them from head to foot, 
may realise what those ancients felt and saw when they 
called sin amhas, or the throttler. This amhas is the same 
as the Greek agos, sin. In Gothic the same root has pro- 
duced agis, in the sense of fear, and from the same source 
we have awe, in awful, i.e., fearful, and ug in ugly. The 
English anguish is from the French angoise, a corruption 
of the Latin angusticE, a strait.^ In this wonderful history 
of a word, whose biography, as Max Miiller in his Hib- 
bert Lectures said of Deva, might fill a volume, may also 

^ ' Lectures on Language,' i. 435. 



be included our ogre, and also the German unke, which 
means a * frog ' or ' toad,' but originally a * snake ' — espe- 
cially the little house-snake which plays a large part in 
Teutonic folklore, and was supposed to bring good luck.^ 

This euphemistic vari- 
ant is, however, the only 
exception I can find 
to the baleful branches 
into which the root 
ah has grown through 
the world; one of its 
fearful fruits being the 
accompanying figure, 
copied from one of the 
ornamental bosses of 
Wells Cathedral. 
Fig. .5.-AN.UISH. The Adder demonhas 

been universal. Herodotus relates that from a monster, half- 
woman, half-serpent, sprang the Scythians, and the fable has 
often been remembered in the history of the Turks. The 
* Zohdk ' of Firdusi is the Iranian form of Ahi. The name is 
the Arabicised form of the ' Azhi Dahaka' of the Avesta, 
the ' baneful serpent * vanquished by Thra6taono (Traitana 
of the Vedas), and this Iranian name again (Dasaka) is Ahi. 
The name reappears in the Median Astyages.^ Zohak is 
represented as having two serpents growing out of his 
shoulders.^ which the late Professor Wilson supposed might 
have been suggested by a phrase in the Kankato na (ye 
ansyd ye angyah) which he translates, ' Those who move 
with their shoulders, those who move with their bodies,' 
which, however, may mean 'those produced on the 

^ Grimm's ' Mythology,' p. 650 ff. Siiiuock, p. 440. 

^ Roth, in the 'Journal of the German Oriental Society,' vol. ii. p. 216 ff., 
has elucidated the whole myth. 

ZOHAK. 359 

shoulders, biting with them,' and 'might furnish those 
who seek for analogies between Iranian and Indian legends 
with a parallel in the story of Zohak.' The legend alluded 
to is a favourite one in Persia, where it is used to point a 
moral, as in the instruction of the learned Saib to the 
Prince, his pupil. Saib related to the boy the story of 
King Zohak, to whom a magician came, and, breathing on 
him, caused two serpents to come forth from the region of 
his breast, and told him they would bring him great glory 
and pleasure, provided he would feed these serpents with 
the poorest of his subjects. This Zohak did ; and he had 
great pleasure and wealth until his subjects revolted and 
shut the King up in a cavern where he became himself a 
prey to the two serpents. The young Prince to whom this 
legend was related was filled with horror, and begged Saib 
to tell him a pleasanter one. The teacher then related 
that a young Sultan placed his confidence in an artful 
courtier who filled his mind with false notions of greatness 
and happiness, and introduced into his heart Pride and 
Voluptuousness. To those two passions the young Sultan 
sacrificed the interests of his kingdom, until his subjects 
banished him ; but his Pride and Voluptuousness remained 
in him, and, unable to gratify them in his exile, he died of 
rage and despair. The prince-pupil said, ' I like this story 
better than the other.' ' And yet,' said Saib, ' it is the 

It is curious that this old Persian fable should have 
survived in the witch-lore of America, and at last sup- 
plied Nathaniel Hawthorne with the theme of one of 
his beautiful allegorical romances, — that, namely, of the 
man with a snake in his bosom which ever threatened to 
throttle him if he did not feed it. It came to the Ameri- 
can fabulist through many a mythical skin, so to say. 
One of the most beautiful it has worn is a story which is 


still told by mothers to their children in some districts of 
Germany. It relates that a little boy and girl went into 
the fields to gather strawberries. After they had gathered 
they met an aged woman, who asked for some of the fruit. 
The little girl emptied her basket into the old woman's 
lap; but the boy clutched his, and said he wanted his 
berries for himself. When they had passed on the old woman 
called them back, and presented to each a little box. The 
girl opened hers, and found in it two white caterpillars 
which speedily became butterflies, then grew to be angels 
with golden wings, and bore her away to Paradise. The 
boy opened his box, and from it issued two tiny black 
worms ; these swiftly swelled to huge serpents, which, 
twining all about the boy's limbs, drew him away into 
the dark forest ; where this Teutonic Laokoon still re- 
mains to illustrate in his helplessness the mighty power 
of little faults to grow into bad habits and bind the whole 

36i ) 



The Serpent's gem — The Basilisk's eye — Basiliscus mitratus — House- 
snakes in Russia and Germany — King-snakes — Heraldic dragon — 
Henry III. — Melusina — The Laidley Worm — Victorious dragons 
— Pendragon — Merlin and Vortigern — Medicinal dragons. 

A DRAGOON once presented himself before Frederick the 
Great and offered the king a small pebble, which, he said, 
had been cut from the head of a king-snake, and would no 
doubt preserve the throne. Frederick probably trusted 
more to dragoons than dragons, but he kept the little 
curiosity, little knowing, perhaps, that it would be as pro- 
lific of legends as the cock's egg, to which it is popularly 
traceable, in cockatrices (whose name may have given rise 
to the cock-fables) or basilisks. It has now taken its 
place in German folklore that Frederick owed his great- 
ness to a familiar kept near him in the form of a basilisk. 
But there are few parts of the world where similar legends 
might not spring up and coil round any famous reputation. 
An Indian newspaper, the Lawrence Gazette, -having men- 
tioned that the ex-king of Oudh is a collector of snakes, 
adds — * Perhaps he wishes to become possessed of the 
precious jewel which some serpents are said to contain, or 
of that species of snake by whose means, it is said, a per- 
son can fly in the air.' Dr. Dennys, in whose work on 
Chinese Folklore this is quoted, finds the same notion in 


China. In one story a foreigner repeatedly tries to pur- 
chase a butcher's bench, but the butcher refuses to sell it, 
suspecting there must be some hidden value in the article ; 
for this reason he puts the bench by, and when the 
foreigner returns a year afterwards, learns from him that 
lodged in the bench was a snake, kept alive by the blood 
soaking through it, which held a precious gem in its mouth 
— quite worthless after the snake was dead. Cursing his 
stupidity at having put the bench out of use, the butcher 
cut it open and found the serpent dead, holding in its 
mouth something like the eye of a dried fish. 

Here we have two items which may only be accidental, 
and yet, on the other hand, possibly possess significance. 
The superior knowledge about the serpent attributed to a 
'foreigner' may indicate that such stories in China are 
traditionally alien, imported with the Buddhists ; and 
the comparison of the dead gem to an eye may add a 
little to the probabilities that this magical jewel, whether 
in head of toad or serpent, is the reptile's eye as seen by 
the glamour of human eyes. The eye of the basilisk is at 
once its wealth-producing, its fascinating, and its paralysing 
talisman, though all these beliefs have their various sources 
and their several representations in mythology. That it 
was seen as a gem was due, as I think, to the jewelled 
skin of most serpents, which gradually made them symbols 
of riches; that it was believed able to fascinate maybe 
attributed to the general principles of illusion already 
considered ; but its paralysing power, its evil eye, connects 
it with a notion, found alike in Egypt and India, that 
the serpent kills with its eye. Among Sanskrit words for 
serpent are ^ drig-visha' and ' drishti-visha' — literally 
' having poison in the eye.' 

While all serpents were lords and guardians of wealth, 
certain of them were crested, or had small horns, which 


conveyed the idea of a crowned and imperial snake, the 
^aa CKiarKO'i. Naturalists have recognised this origin of the 
name by giving the same {Basilisais mitrattis) to a genus 
of Inguanidse, remarkable for a membranous crest not 
only on the occiput but also along the back, which this 
lizard can raise and depress at pleasure. But folklore, the 
science of the ignorant, had established the same connec- 
tion by alleging that the basilisk is hatched from the 
of a black cock, — which was the peasant's explanation of 
the word cockatrice. De Plancy traces one part of the 
belief to a disease which causes the cock to produce a 
small egg-like substance ; but the resemblance between 
its comb and the crests of serpent and frog ^ was the pro- 
bable link between them ; while the ancient eminence of 
the cock as the bird of dawn relegated the origin of the 
basilisk to a very exceptional member of the family — a 
black cock in its seventh year. The useful fowl would 
seem, however, to have suffered even so slightly mainly 
through a phonetic misconception. The word 'cocka- 
trice ' is ' crocodile ' transformed. We have it in the 
Old French 'cocatrix,' which again is from the Spanish 
'cocotriz,' meaning 'crocodile,' — KpoKoBetXo^ ; which Hero- 
dotus, by the way, uses to denote a kind of lizard, 
and whose sanctity has extended from the Nile to the 
Danube, where folklore declares that the skeleton of 
the lizard presents an image of the passion of Christ, 
and it must never be harmed. Thus ' cockatrice ' has 
nothing to do with 'cock' or 'coq,' though possibly the 
coincidence of the sound has marred the ancient fame 
of the ' Bird of Dawn.' Indeed black cocks have been 
so generally slain on this account that they were for a 
long time rare, and so the basilisks had a chance of 

^ I have in my possession a specimen of the horned frog of America, and it 
is sufficiently curious. 


becoming extinct. There were fabulous creatures enough, 
however, to perpetuate the basilisk's imaginary powers, 
some of which will be hereafter considered. We may de- 
vote the remainder of this chapter to the consideration of 
a variant of dragon-mythology, which must be cleared out 
of our way in apprehending the Dragon. This is the 
agathodemonic or heraldic Dragon, which has inherited 
the euphemistic characters of the treasure-guarding and 
crowned serpent. 

In Slavonic legend the king-serpent plays a large part, 
and innumerable stories relate the glories of some peasant 
child that, managing to secure a tiny gem from his crown, 
while the reptilian monarch was bathing, found the jewel 
daily surrounded with new treasures. This is the same 
serpent which, gathering up the myths of lightning and of 
comets, flies through many German legends as the red 
Drake, Kolbuk, Alp, or Alberflecke, dropping gold when it 
is red, corn if blue, and yielding vast services and powers 
to those who can magically master it. The harmless ser- 
pents of Germany were universally invested with agatho- 
demonic functions, though they still bear the name that 
relates them to Ahi, viz., unken. Of these household- 
snakes Grimm and Simrock give much information. It 
is said that in fields and houses they approach solitary 
children and drink milk from the dish with them. On 
their heads they wear golden crowns, which they lay down 
before drinking, and sometimes forget when they retire. 
They watch over children in the cradle, and point out to 
their favourites where treasures are hidden. To kill them 
brings misfortune. If the parents surprise the snake with 
the child and kill it, the child wastes away. Once the 
snake crept into the mouth of a pregnant woman, and 
when the child was born the snake was found closely 
coiled around its neck, and could only be untwined by a 


milk-bath ; but it never left the child's side, ate and slept 
with it, and never did it harm. If such serpents left a house 
or farm, prosperity went with them. In some regions it is 
said a male and female snake appear whenever the master 
or mistress of the house is about to die, and the legends of 
the Unkeji sometimes relapse into the original fear out of 
which they grew. Indeed, their vengeance is everywhere 
much dreaded, while their gratitude, especially for milk, is 
as imperishable as might be expected from their ancestor's 
quarrel with Indra about the stolen cows. In the Gesta 
Romanomm it is related that a milkmaid was regularly 
approached at milking-time by a large snake to which 
she gave milk. The maid having left her place, her suc- 
cessor found on the milking-stool a golden crown, on 
which was inscribed ' In Gratitude.' The crown was sent 
to the milkmaid who had gone, but from that time the 
snake was never seen again.^ 

In England serpents were mastered by the vows of a 
saintly Christian. The Knight Bran in the Isle of Wight 
is said to have picked up the cockatrice t^g, to have been 
pursued by the serpents, which he escaped by vowing to 
build St. Lawrence Church in that island, — the &gg having 
afterwards brought him endless wealth and uniform success 
in combat. With the manifold fables concerning the royal 
dragon would seem to blend traditions of the astrological, 
celestial, and lightning serpents. But these would coincide 
with a development arising from the terrestrial worms 
and their heroic slayers. The demonic dragon with his 
terrible eye might discern from afar the advent of his 
predestined destroyer. It might seek to devour him in 
infancy. As the comet might be deemed a portent of 
some powerful prince born on earth, so it might be a com- 
pliment to a royal family, on the birth of a prince, to report 
^ Gesta Rom., cap, 68. Grimm's Myth., 650 ff. Simrock, p. 400. 


that a dragon had been seen. Nor would it be a long step 
from this office of the dragon as the herald of greatness to 
placing that monster on banners. From these banners 
would grow sagas of dragons encountered and slain. The 
devices might thus multiply. Some process of this kind 
would account for the entirely good reputation of the 
dragon in China and Japan, where it is the emblem of all 
national grandeur. It would also appear to underlie 
the proud titles of the Pythian Apollo and Bellerophon, 
gained from the monsters they were said to have slain. 
The city of Worms takes its name from the serpent 
instead of its slayer.i Pendragon, in the past — and even 
our dragoon of the present — are names in which the 
horrors of the monster become transformed in the hero's 
fame. The dragon, says Mr. Hardwicke, was the standard 
of the West Saxons, and of the English previous to the Nor- 
man Conquest. It formed one of the supporters of the royal 
arms borne by all the Tudor monarchs, with the exception 
of Queen Mary, who substituted the eagle. Several of 
the Plantagenet kings and princes inscribed a figure of 
the dragon on their banners and shields. Peter Langtoffe 
says, at the battle of Lewis, fought in 1264, 'The king 
schewed forth his schild, his dragon full austere.' ■ Another 
authority says the said king (Henry III.) ordered to be 
made 'a dragon in the manner of a banner, of a certain 
red silk embroidered with gold ; its tongue like a flaming 
fire must always seem to be moving ; its eyes must be 
made of sapphire, or of some other "tone suitable for that 
purpose.' ^ 

It will thus be seen that an influence has been intro- 
duced into dragon-lore which has no relation whatever to 
the demon itself. This will explain those variants of the 

^ Others derive the name fiom the ancient Borbetomagus. 
^ Traditions, p. 44. 


legend of Melusina — the famous woman-serpent — which 
invest her with romance. Melusina, whose indiscreet hus- 
band glanced at her in forbidden hours, when she was in 
her serpent shape, was long the glory of the Chateau de 
Lusignan, where her cries announced the approaching 
death of her descendants. There is a peasant family still 
dwelling in Fontainebleau Forest who claim to be de- 
scended from Melusina; and possibly some instance of this 
kind may have dropped like a seed into the memory 
of the author of ' Elsie Venner ' to reappear in one of the 
finest novels of our generation. The corresponding senti- 
ment is found surrounding the dragon in the familiar 
British legend of the Laidley 1 Worm. The king of North- 
umberland brought home a new Queen, who was also a 
sorceress, and being envious of the beauty of her step- 
daughter, changed that poor princess into the worm which 
devastated all Spindleton Heugh, For seven miles every 
green thing was blighted by its venom, and seven cows 
had to yield their daily supplies of milk. Meanwhile the 
king and his son mourned the disappearance of the prin- 
cess. The young prince fitted out a ship to go and slay 
the dragon. The wicked Queen tries unsuccessfully to 
prevent the expedition. The prince leaps from his ship 
into the shallow sea, and wades to the rock around which 
the worm lay coiled. But as he drew near the monster 
said to him : 

Oh, quit thy sword, and bend thy bow, 

And give me kisses three ; 
If I'm not won ere the sun goes down, 

Won I shall never be. 
He quitted his sword and bent his bow, 

He gave her kisses three ; 
She crept into a hole a worm, 

But out stept a ladye. 

^ Loathely. 


In the end the prince managed to have the wicked Queen 
transformed into a toad, which in memory thereof, as every 
Northumbrian boy knows, spits fire to this day : but it is 
notable that the sorceress was not transformed into a 
dragon, as the story would probably have run if the dragon 
form had not already been detached from its original 
character, and by many noble associations been rendered 
an honourable though fearful shape for maidens like this 
princess and like Melusina. 

In the same direction point the legends which show 
dragons as sometimes victorious over their heroic assail- 
ants. Geoffrey of Monmouth so relates of King Morvidus 
of Northumbria, who encountered a dragon that came 
from the Irish Sea, and was last seen disappearing in 
the monster's jaws ' like a small fish.' A more famous 
instance is that of Beowulf, whose Anglo-Saxon saga is 
summed up by Professor Morley as follows : — ' Afterward 
the broad land came under the sway of Beowulf. He 
held it well for fifty winters, until in the dark night a 
dragon, which in a stone mound watched a hoard of gold 
and cups, won mastery. It was a hoard heaped up in sin, 
its lords were long since dead ; the last earl before dying 
hid it in the earth-cave, and for three hundred winters the 
great scather held the cave, until some man, finding by 
chance a rich cup, took it to his lord. Then the den was 
^searched while the worm slept ; again and again when the 
dragon awoke there had been theft. He found not the man 
but wasted the whole land with fire ; nightly the fiendish 
air-flyer made fire grow hateful to the sight of men. Then 
it was told to Beowulf. . . . He sought out the dragon's 
den and fought with him in awful strife. One wound the 
poison-worm struck in the flesh of Beowulf.' Whereof 
Beowulf died. 

Equally significant is the legend that when King Arthur 


had embarked at Southampton on his expedition against 
Rome, about midnight he saw in a dream ' a bear flying 
in the air, at the noise of which all the shores trembled ; 
also a terrible dragon, flying from the west, which 
enlightened the country with the brightness of its eyes. 
When these two met they had a dreadful fight, but the 
dragon with its fiery breath burned the bear which as- 
saulted him, and threw him down scorched to the earth.' 
This vision was taken to augur Arthur's victory. The father 
of Arthur had already in a manner consecrated the 
symbol, being named Uther Pendragon (dragon's head). 
On the death of his brother Aurelius, it was told ' there 
appeared a star of wonderful magnitude and brightness,' 
darting forth a ray, at the end of which was a globe of 
fire, in form of a dragon, out of whose mouth issued two 
rays, one of which seemed to stretch out itself towards the 
Irish Sea, and ended in seven lesser rays.' Merlin in- 
terpreted this phenomenon to mean that Uther would be 
made king and conquer various regions; and after his 
first victory Uther had two golden dragons made, one of 
which he presented to Winchester Cathedral, retaining 
the other to attend him in his wars. 

In the legend of Merlin and Vortigern we find the 
Dragon so completely developed into a merely warrior- 
like symbol that its moral character has to be determined 
by its colour. As in the two armies of serpents seen by 
Zoroaster, in Persian legends, which fought in the air, 
the victory of the white over the black foreshowing the 
triumph of Ormuzd over Ahriman, the tyranny of Vor- 
tigern is represented by a red dragon, while Aurelius and 
Uther are the two heads of a white dragon. Merlin, about 
to be buried alive, in pursuance of the astrologer's decla- 
ration to Vortigern that so only would his ever-falling wall 

stand firm, had revealed that the recurring disaster was 
VOL. I. 2 A 


caused by the struggle of these two dragons underground. 
When the monsters were unearthed they fought terribly, 
until the white one 

Hent the red with all his might, 
And to the ground he him cast, 
And, with the fire of his blast, 
Altogether brent the red, 
That never of him was founden shred ; 
But dust upon the ground he lay. 

The white dragon vanished and was seen no more ; but 
the tyrant Vortigern fulfilled the fate of the red dragon, 
being burnt in his castle near Salisbury. These two 
dragons met again, however, as red and white roses. 

Many developments corresponding to these might be 
cited. One indeed bears a startling resemblance to our 
English legends. Of King Nuat Meiamoun, whose con- 
quest of Egypt is placed by G. Maspero about B.C. 664-654, 
the Ethiopian ' Stele of the Dream ' relates : — ' His Majesty 
beheld a dream in the night, two snakes, one to his right, 
the other to his left, (and) when His Majesty awoke . . . 
he said : ' Explain these things to me on the moment,' and 
lo ! they explained it to him, saying : ' Thou wilt have the 
Southern lands, and seize the Northern, and the two 
crowns will be put on thy head, (for) there is given unto 
thee the earth in all its width and its breadth.' These 
two snakes were probably suggested by the tirm of the 
Egyptian diadem. 

Beyond the glory reflected upon a monster from his 
conqueror, there would be reason why the alchemist and 
the wizard should encourage that aspect of the dragon. 
The more perilous that Gorgon whose blood Esculapius 
used, the more costly such medicament ; while, that the 
remedy may be advantageous, the monster must not be 
wholly destructive. This is so with the now destructive 


now preservative forces of nature, and how they may blend 
in the theories, and subserve the interests, of pretenders is 
well shown in a German work on Alchemy (1625) quoted 
by Mr. Hardwicke. ' There is a dragon lives in the 
forest, who has no want of poison ; when he sees the sun 
or fire he spits venom, which flies about fearfully. No 
living animal can be cured of it ; even the basilisk does 
not equal him. He who can properly kill this serpent 
has overcome all his danger. His colours increase in 
death; physic is produced from his poison, which he 
entirely consumes, and eats his own venomous tail. 
This must be accomplished by him, in order to produce 
the noblest balm. Such great virtue as we will point 
out herein that all the learned shall rejoice.' 

It will be readily understood that these traditions and 
fables would combine to 'hedge about a king' by ascrib- 
ing to him familiarity with a monster so formidable to 
common people, and even investing him with its attri- 
butes. The dragon's name, Spa/cwi', derived from the San- 
skrit word for serpent {drig-vishd), came to mean ' the thing 
that sees.' While this gave rise to many legends of pras- 
ternatural powers- of vision gained by tasting or bathing 
in a dragon's blood, as in the poem of Siegfried ; or from 
waters it guarded, as ' Eye Well,' in which Guy's dragon 
dipped its tail to recover from wounds ; the Sanskrit sense 
of eye-poisoning was preserved in legends of occult and 
dangerous powers possessed by kings, — one of the latest 
being the potent evil eye popularly ascribed in Italy to 
the late Pius IX. But these stories are endless; the legends 
adduced will show the sense of all those which, if unex- 
plained, m.ight interfere with our clear insight into the 
dragon itself, whose further analysis will prove it to be 
wholly bad, — the concentrated terrors of nature. 

"( 372 ) 


THE dragon's eye. 

The Eye of Evil— Turner's Dragons — Cloud-phantoms — Paradise and 
the Snake — Prometheus and Jove — Art and Nature — Dragon 
forms : Anglo-Saxon, Italian, Egyptian, Greek, German — The 
modern conventional Dragon. 

The etymologies of the words Dragon and Ophis given 
in the preceding chapter, ideally the same, both refer to 
powers of the serpent which it does not possess in nature, 
— the praeternatural vision and the glance that kills. The 
real nature of the snake is thus overlaid ; we have now to 
deal with the creation of another world. 

There are various conventionalised types of the Dragon, 
but through them all one feature is constant, — the idealised 
serpent. Its presence is the demonic or supernatural sign. 
The heroic dragon-slayer must not be supposed to have 
wrestled with mere flesh and blood, in whatever powerful 
form. The combat which immortalises him is waged with 
all the pains and terrors of earth and heaven concentrated 
and combined in one fearful form. 

Impossible and phantasmal as was this form in nature, 
its mystical meaning in the human mind was terribly real. 
It was this Eye of anti-human nature which filled man with 
dismay, and conjured up the typical phantom. It was this 
Pain, purposed and purposing, the Agony of far-searching 
vision, subtlest skill, silently creeping, winged, adapted to 


meet his every device with a cleverer device, which gra- 
dually impressed mankind with belief in a general prin- 
ciple of antagonism to human happiness. 

It is only as a combination that any dragon form is 
miraculous. Every constituent feature and factor of it is 
in nature, but here they are rolled together in one pande- 
monic expression and terror. Yet no such form loses its 
relations with nature : it is lightning and tempest, fever- 
bearing malaria and fire, venom and fang, slime and 
jungle, all the ferocities of the earth, air, and heavens, 
gathering to their fatal artistic force, and waylaying man 
at every step in his advance. In Turner's picture of 
Apollo slaying the Python there is a marvellous sugges- 
tion of the natural conceptions from which the dragon was 
evolved. The fearful folds of the monster, undulating 
with mound and rock on which he lies, at points almost 
blend with tangle of bushes and the jagged chaos amid 
which he stretches. The hard, wild, cruel aspects of in- 
animate nature seem here and there rankly swelling to 
horrible life, as yet but half-distinguishable from the 
stony-hearted matrix ; the crag begins to coil and quiver, 
the jungle puts forth in claws ; but above all appear the 
monstrous EYES, in which the forces of pain, hardship, 
obstacle have at last acquired purpose and direction. 
The god confronts them with eyes yet keener ; his arrow, 
feathered with eyebeams, has reached its mark, straight 
between the monster's eyes ; but there is no more anger 
in his face than might mar the calm strength of a gardener 
clearing away the stone and thicket that make the con- 
stituent parts of Python. 

If we turn now to the neighbouring picture in the 
National Gallery by the same artist, the Hesperian 
Gardens and their Guard, we behold the Dragon on his 
high crag outlining and vitalising not only the edge of 


rock but also the sky it meets. His breath steams up 
into cloud. The heavens also have their terrors, which 
take on eyes and coils. On the line of the horizon were 
hung the pictures of the primitive art-gallery. Imagina- 
tion painted them with brush dipped now in blackness of 
the storm, now in fires of the lightning or the sunset, but 
the forms were born of experience, of earthly struggle, 
defeat, and victory. 

As I write these words, I lay aside my pen to look 
across a little lake amid the lonely hills of Wales to a 
sunset which is flooding the sky with glory. Through the 
almost greenish sky the wind is bearing fantastic clouds, 
that sometimes take the shape of chariots, in which cloud- 
veiled forms are seated, and now great birds with varie- 
gated plumage, all hastening as it were to some gathering- 
place of aerial gods. Beneath a long bar of maroon-tint 
stretches a sea of yellow light, on the hither side of which 
is set a garden of fleecy trees touched with golden fruit. 
Amid them plays a fountain of changing colours. On the 
left has stood, fast as a mountain range, a mass of dark- 
blue cloud with uneven peaks ; suddenly a pink faint glow 
shines from behind that leaden mass, and next appears, 
sinuous with its long indented top, the mighty folds of a 
fiery serpent. Nay, its head is seen, its yawning lacertine 
jaws, its tinted crest. It is sleepless Ladon on his high 
barrier keeping watch and ward over the Hesperian 

Juno set him there, but he is the son of Ge, — the earth. 
The tints of heaven invest and transform, and in a sense 
create him ; but he would never have been born mytholo- 
gically had it not been that in this world stings hover near 
all sweetness, danger environs beauty, and, as Plato said, 
'Good things come hard.' The grace and lustre of the 
serpent with his fatal fang preceded him, and all the perils 


that lurk beneath things fair and fascinating. So far 
there is nothing essentially moral or unmoral about him. 
This dragon is a shape designed by primitive meteorology 
and metaphysics together. Man has asked what is so, 
and this is the answer : he has not yet asked why it is so, 
whether it ought to be so, and whether it may not be 
otherwise. The challenge has not yet been given, the era 
of combat not yet arrived. The panoplied guard and 
ally of gods as unmoral as himself has yet to be trans- 
formed under the touch of the religious sentiment, and 
expelled from the heaven of nobler deities as a dragon 
cast down, deformed, and degraded for ever. 

As thought goes on, such allies compromise their em- 
ployers ; the creator's work reflects the creator's character ; 
and after many timorous ages we find the dragon-guarded 
deities going down with their cruel defenders. It is not 
without significance that in the Sanskrit dictionary the 
most ancient of all words for god, Asura, has for its 
primary meaning 'demon' or 'devil:' the gods and 
dragons united to churn the ocean for their own wealth, 
and in the end they were tarred with one brush. I have 
already described in the beginning of this work the degra- 
dation of deities, and need here barely recall to the reader's 
memory the forces which operated to that result. The 
bearing of that force upon the celestial or paradise-guard- 
ing Serpent is summed up in one quatrain of Omar 
Khayyam : — - 

O Thou who man of baser earth didst make, 
And e'en in Paradise devised the Snake ; 
For all the sin wherewith the face of man 

Is blackened, man's forgiveness give — and take ! 

The heart of humanity anticipated its logic by many 
ages, and, long before the daring genius of the Persian 
poet wrote this immortal epitaph on the divine allies of the 


Serpent, heroes had given battle to the whole fraternity. 
Nay, in their place had arisen a new race of gods, whose 
theoretical omnipotence was gladly surrendered in the 
interest of their righteousness ; and there was now war in 
heaven; the dragon and his allies were cast down, and man 
was now free to fight them as enemies of the gods as well 
as himself. Woe henceforth to any gods suspected of 
taking sides with the dragon in this man's life-and-death 
struggle with the ferocities of nature, and with his own 
terrors reflected from them ! The legend of Prometheus 
was their unconsciously-given ' notice to quit,' though it 
waited many centuries for its great interpreter. It is 
Goethe who alone has seen how pale and weak grow 
Jove's fireworks before the thought-thunderbolts of the 
artist, launched far beyond the limitations that chain him 
in nature. Gods are even yet going down in many lands 
before the sublime sentence of Prometheus : — 

Curtain thy heavens, thou Jove, with clouds and mist, 
And, like a boy that moweth thistles down, 
Unloose thy spleen on oaks and mountain-tops ; 
Yet canst thou not deprive me of my earth, 
Nor of my hut, the which thou didst not build, 
Nor of my hearth, whose little cheerful flame 
Thou enviest me ! 

I know not aught within the universe 

More slight, more pitiful than you, ye gods ! 

Who nurse your majesty with scant supplies 

Of offerings wrung from fear, and muttered prayers, 

And needs must starve, were't not that babes and beggars 

Are hope-besotted fools ! 

When I was yet a child, and knew not whence 
My being came, nor where to turn its powers, 
Up to the sun I bent my wildered eye, 
As though above, within its glorious orb, 
There dwelt an ear to listen to my plaint, 
A heart, like mine, to pity the oppressed. 


Who gave me succour 

Against the Titans in their tyrannous might ? 
Who rescued me from death — from slavery ? 
Thou ! — thou, my soul, burning with hallowed fire, 
Thou hast thyself alone achieved it all ! 
Yet didst thou, in thy young simplicity, 
Glow with misguided thankfulness to him 
That slumbers on in idlesse there above ! 

I reverence thee ? 

Wherefore ? Hast thou ever 

Lightened the sorrows of the heavy laden ? 

Thou ever stretch thy hand to still the tears 

Of the perplexed in spirit ? 

Was it not 

Almighty Time, and ever-during Fate — 

My lords and thine — that shaped and fashioned me 

Into the MAN I am ? 

Belike it was thy dream 

That I should hate life — fly to wastes and wilds, 

For that the buds of visionary thought 

Did not all ripen into goodly flowers ? 

Here do I sit and mould 

Men after mine own image — 

A race that may be like unto myself, 

To sufl"er, weep ; to enjoy, and to rejoice ; 

And, like myself, unheeding all of thee ! 

The myth of Prometheus reveals the very dam of all 
dragons, — the mere terrorism of nature which paralysed 
the energies of man. Man's first combat was to be with 
his own quailing heart. Apollo driving back the Argives 
to their ships with the image of the Gorgon's head on 
Jove's shield is Homer's picture of the fears that unnerved 
heroes : — 

Phoebus himself the rushing battle led ; 
A veil of clouds involved his radiant head : 
High held before him, Jove's enormous shield 
Portentous shone, and shaded all the field : 
Vulcan to Jove th' immortal gift consigned, 
To scatter hosts, and terrify mankind. . . . 


Deep horror seizes ev'ry Grecian breast, 
Their force is humbled, and their fear confest. 
So flies a herd of oxen, scattered wide, 
No swain to guard them, and no day to guide. 
When two fell lions from the mountain come. 
And spread the carnage thro' the shady gloom. . . 
The Grecians gaze around with wild despair, 
Confused, and weary all their pow'rs with prayer.^ 

A generation whose fathers remembered the time when 
men educated in universities regarded Franklin with his 
lightning-rod as ' heaven-defying,' can readily understand 
the legend of Vulcan — type of the untamed force of fire — 
being sent to bind Prometheus, master of fire.'^ How 
much fear of the forces of nature, as personified by super- 
stition, levelled against the first creative minds and hands 
the epithets which Franklin heard, and which still fall 
upon the heads of some scientific investigators ! Storm, 
lightning, rock, ocean, vulture, — these blend together with 
the intelligent cruelty of Jove in the end ; and behold, the 
Dragon ! The terrors of nature, which drive cowards to 
their knees, raise heroes to their height. Then it is a 
flame of genius matched against mad thunderbolts. 
Whether the jealous nature-god be Jehovah forbidding 
sculpture, demanding an altar of unhewn stone, and re- 
fusing the fruits of Cain's garden, or Zeus jealous of the 
artificer's flame, they are thrown into the Opposition by 
the artist ; and when the two next meet, he of the thunder- 
bolt with all his mob will be the Dragon, and Prometheus 
will be the god, sending to its heart his arrow of light. 

The dragon forms which have become familiar to us 
through mediaeval and modern iconography are of com- 
paratively little importance as illustrating the social or 
spiritual conditions out of which they grew, and of which 
they became emblems. They long ago ceased to be de- 
scriptive, and in the rude periods or places a very few 
^ Pope's 'Homer,' Book xv. ^ Seep. 59. 



scratches were sometimes enough to indicate the dragon ; 
such mere suggestions in the end allowing large freedom 
to subsequent designers in varying original types. 

Fig. 26.— Swan-Dragon (French). 

As to external form, the various shapes of the more primi- 
tive dragons have been largely determined by the mythologic 
currents amid which they have fallen, though their original 
basis in nature may gene- 
rally be traced. I n the far 
North, where the legends 
of swan-maidens, pigeon- 
maidens, and vampyres 
were paramount in the 
Middle Ages, we find the 
bird-shaped dragon very 
common. Sometimes the 
serpent-characteristics are 
pronounced,' as in this 
ancient French Swan- 
Dragon (Fig. 26) ; but, 
again, and esp-ecially in 
regions where serpents 
are rare and comparatively innocuous, the serpent tail is 
often conventionalised away, as in this initial V from the 

-Angi.o-Saxon Dragons (Caedmon 
MS., tenth century). 


Csedmon Manuscript, tenth century (Fig. 27), a fair example 
of the ornamental Anglo-Saxon dragon. The cuttlefish 
seems to have suggested the animalised form of the Hydra, 
which in turn helped to shape the Dragon of the Apoca- 
lypse. Yet the Hydra in pictorial representation appears 
to have been influenced by Assyrian ideas; for although 
the monster had nine heads, it is often given seven (number 
of the Hathors, or Fates) by the engravers, as in Fig. 6. 
The conflicts of Hercules with the Hydra repeated that of 
Bel with Tiamat ('the Deep'), and had no doubt its 

Fig. 28. — From the Fresco at Arezzo. 

counterpart in that of Michael with the Dragon, — the 
finest representation of which, perhaps, is the great fresco 
by Spinello (fourteenth century) at Arezzo, a group from 
which is presented in Fig. 28. In this case the wings 
represent those always attributed in Semitic mytho- 
logy to the Destroying Angel. The Egyptian Dragon, 
of which the crocodile is the basis, at an early period 
entered into christian symbolism, and gradually effaced 
most of the pagan monsters. The crocodile and the alli- 
gator, besides being susceptible of man}^ horrible varia- 


tions in pictorial treatment, were particularly acceptable 
to the christian propaganda, because of the sanctity attached 
to them by African tribes, — a sanctity which continues to 
this day in many parts of that country, where to kill one 
of these reptiles is beheved to superinduce dangerous 
inundations. In Semitic traditions, also, Leviathan was 
generally identified as a demonic crocodile, and the feat 
of destroying him was calculated to impress the imagina- 
tions of all varieties of people in the Southern countries for 
which Christianity struggled so long. This form contributed 

Fig. 29. — From Albert Durer's ' Passion.' 

some of its characters to the lacertine dragons which were 
so often painted in the Middle Ages, with what effect may 
be gathered from the accompanying design by Albert 
Durer (Fig. 29). In this loathsome creature, which seeks 
to prevent deliverance of ' the spirits in prison,' we 
may remark the sly and cruel eye : the praeternatural 
vision of such monsters was still strong in the tradi- 
tions of the sixteenth century. In looking at this lizard- 
guard at the mouth of hell we may realise that it has 
been by some principle of psychological selection that 

,3 Ha 


tlic rci)t.ili<in kingdom {^r.'uliially ^^'li^c(l .supremacy in 
these portrayals of the repulsive. If we compare with 
h'i^. 29 the well-lciiovvii form of llic ('himn-ra (I'ij^ 30), 
most of us will be conscious of a sense of iclief; for thoiu.,di 
the reptilian form is present in the latter, it is but an aj)- 
penda^e — almost an ornament — to the lion. It is impos- 
sible lo feci any loalliin;.' towards this spiiilcd 'I'lisomatos, 
and one may reco<^nise in if a dif'frrenf animus fioui that 
wliich depicted the christian draj^on. One was meant to 

ii'iiur iv 

attest the bohhicss oi the- hero who daicd to assail it; the 
other was meant, in addition to, to excite hatred and 
liorror of the monster assailed. We may, therefore, fmd 
a very distinct line drawn bi-tween such forms as the 
("hinia-ia and sueh as the llydia, or our conventional 
l)ra,t;()ii. 'I'lie hairy inhabitants of l.yeia, human or 
bestial, whom l'i;lleroph()n eon(|uer(Ml,' were" not meant to 
be sueh an ab.'.li.Kt t:xpression of the- evil ])rineiplc; in 
nalui'e as the l)r,i;M)U, and while ihey are tjeneralised, the 

' ^^t^^i- !'• '5t. 


elements included are also limited. But the Dragon, with 
its claws, wings, scales, barbed and coiling tail, its fiery- 
breath, forked tongue, and frequent horns, includes the 
organic, inorganic, the terrestrial and atmospheric, and is 
the combination of harmful contrivances in nature. 

Nearly all of th% Dragon forms, whatever their original 
types and their region, are represented in the conventional 
monster of tlie European stage, which meets the popular 
conception. This Dragon is a masterpiece of the popular 
imagination, and it required many generations to give it 
artistic shape. Every Christmas he appears in some 
London pantomime, with aspect similar to that which 
he has worn for many ages. His body is partly green, 
with memories of the sea and of slime, and partly 
brown or dark, with lingering shadow of storm-clouds. 
The lightning flames still in his red eyes, and flashes 
from his fire-breathing mouth. The thunderbolt of Jove, 
the spear of VVodan, are in the barbed point of his tail. 
His huge wings — batlike, spiked — sum up all the my- 
thical life of extinct Harpies and Vampyres. Spine of 
crocodile is on his neck, tail of the serpent, and all the 
jigged ridges of rocks and sharp thorns of jungles 
bristle around him, while the ice of glaciers and brassy 
glitter of sunstrokes are in his scales. He is ideal of all 
that is hard, obstructive, perilous, loathsome, horrible in 
nature: every detail of him has been seen through and 
vanquished by man, here or there, but in selection and 
combination they rise again as principles, and conspire 
to form one great generalisation of the forms of Pain — 
the sum of eveiy creature's worst. 

( 3^4 ) 



The pre-Munchausenite world — The Colonial Dragon — lo's journey 
^-Medusa — British Dragons — The Communal Dragon — Savage 
Saviours — A Mimac helper — The Brutal Dragon — Woman pro- 
tected — The Saint of the Mikados. 

The realm of the Unknown has now, by exploration of 
our planet and by science, been pretty well pressed into 
annexation with the Unknowable. In early periods, how- 
ever, unexplored lands and seas existed only in the human 
imagination, and men appear to have included them within 
the laws of analogy as slowly as their descendants so 
included the planets. The monstrous forms with which 
superstition now peoples regions of space that cannot be 
visited could then dwell securely in parts of the world 
where their existence or non-existence could not be veri- 
fied. Science had not yet shown the simplicity and unity 
underlying the superficial varieties of nature ; and though 
Rudolf Raspe appeared many times, and related the 
adventures of his Baron Munchausen in many languages, it 
was only a hundred years ago that he managed to raise 
a laugh over them. It has taken nearly another hundred 
to reveal the humour of Munchausenisms that relate to 
invisible and future worlds. 

The Dragon which now haunts the imagination of a few 
compulsory voyagers beyond the grave originated in 


speculations concerning the unseen shores of equally 
mythical realms, whose burning zones and frozen seas 
had not yet been detached from this planet to make the 
Inferno of another. In our section on Demonology we 
have considered many of these imaginary forms in detail, 
limiting ourselves generally to the more realistic embodi- 
ments of special obstacles. Just above that formation 
comes the stratum in which we find the separate features 
of the previous demonic fauna combining to forms which 
indicate the new creative power which, as we have seen, 
makes nature over again in its own image. 

Beginning thus on the physical plane, with a view of 
passing to the social, political, and metaphysical arenas 
where man has successively met his Dragons, we may first 
consider the combination of terrors and perils, real and 
imaginary, which were confronted by the early colonist. 
I will venture to call this the COLONIAL DRAGON. 

This form may be represented by any of those forms 
against which the Prometheus of ^schylus cautions lo 
on her way to the realm which should be called Ionia. 
' When thou shalt have crossed the stream that bounds 
the continents to the rosy realms of the morning where 
the sun sets forth, . . . thou shalt reach beyond the roaring 
sea Cisthene's Gorgonian plains, where dwell the Phorkides, 
. . . and hard by are their three winged sisters, the Snake- 
haired Gorgons, by mortals abhorred, on whom none of 
human race can look and live. ... Be on thy guard 
against the Gryphons, sharp-fanged hounds of Jove that 
never bark, and against the cavalry host of one-eyed 
Arimaspians, dwelling on the gold-gushing fount, the 
stream of Pluto. Thou wilt reach a distant land, a dark 
tribe, near to the fount of the sun, where runs the river 
iEthiops.' 1 

^ ^sch. Prom. 790, &c. 
VOL. I. 2 B 



One who has looked upon Leonardo da Vinci's Medusa 
at Florence — one of the finest interpretations of a mytho- 
logic subject ever painted — may comprehend what to the 
early explorer and colonist were the fascinations of those 
rumoured regions where nature was fair but girt round 
with terrors. The Gorgon's head alone is given, with its 
fearful tangle of serpent tresses ; her face, even in its pain, 
possesses the beauty that may veil a fatal power; from 
her mouth is exhaled a vapour which in its outline has 
brought into life vampyre, newt, toad, and loathsome 

Fig. 31. — Bellerophon and Chimera (Corinthian). 

nondescript creatures. Here is the malaria of undrained 
coasts, the vermin of noxious nature. The source of these 
must be destroyed before man can found his city ; it is the 
fiery poisonous breath of the Colonial Dragon. 

Most of the Dragon-myths of Great Britain appear to 
have been importations of the Colonial monsters. Per- 
haps the most famous of these in all Europe was the 
Chimaera, which came westward upon coins, Bellerophon 
having become a national hero at Corinth — almost super- 


seding the god of war himself — and his effigy spread with 
many migrations. Our conventional figure of St. George 
is still Bellerophon, though the Dragon has been substi- 
tuted for Chimasra, — a change which christian tradition 
and national respect for the lion rendered necessary (Fig. 
31). Corresponding to this change in outward representa- 
tion, the monster- myths of Great Britain have been gra- 
dually pressed into service as moral and religious lessons. 
The Lambton Worm illustrates the duty of attending mass 
and sanctity of the sabbath ; the demon serpents of 
Ireland and Cornwall prove the potency of holy exorcism ; 
and this process of moralisation has extended, in the case 
of the Boar, whose head graces the Christmas table at 
Queen's College, Oxford, to an illustration of the value of 
Aristotelian philosophy. It was with a volume of Aris- 
totle that the monster was slain, the mythologic affinities 
of the legend being quaintly preserved in the item that it 
was thrust down the boar's throat. 

But these modifications are very transparent, the British 
legends being mainly variants of one or two original myths 
which appear to have grown out of the heraldic devices 
imported by ancient families. These probably acquired 
realistic statement through the prowess and energy of 
chieftains, and were exaggerated by their descendants, 
perhaps also connected with some benefit to the com- 
munity, in order to strengthen the family tenure of its 
estates. For this kind of duty the Colonial Dragon was 
the one usually imported by the family romancer or poet. 
The multiplication of these fables is, indeed, sufficiently 
curious. It looks as if there were some primitive agrarian 
sentiment which had to be encountered by aid of 
appeals to exceptional warrant. The family which could 
trace its title to an estate to an ancestor who rescued 
the whole district, was careful to preserve some memorial 


of the feat. On account of the interests concerned in old 
times we should be guarded in receiving the rationalised 
interpretations of such myths, which have become tradi- 
tional in some localities. The barbaric achievements of 
knights did not lose in the ballads of minstrels any mar- 
vellous splendours, but gained many; and most of these 
came from the south and east. The Dragon which Guy 
of Warwick slew still retained traces of Chimaera; it had 
' paws as a lion.' Sir William Dugdale thought that this 
was a romanticised version of a real combat which Guy 
fought with a Danish chief, A.C. 926. Similarly the Dragon 
of Wantley has been reduced to a fraudulent barrister. 

The most characteristic of this class of legends is that of 
Sockburn. Soon after the Norman conquest the Conyers 
family received that manor by episcopal grant, the tradi- 
tion being that it was because Sir John Conyers, Knight, 
slew a huge Worm which had devoured many people. 
The falchion with which this feat was achieved is still 
preserved, and I believe it is still the custom, when a new 
bishop visits that diocese, for the lord of Sockburn to pre- 
sent this sword. The lord of the manor meets the bishop 
in the middle of the river Tees, and says : — ' My Lord 
Bishop, I here present you with the falchion wherewith 
the Champion Conyers slew the Worm, Dragon, or fiery 
flying Serpent, which destroyed man, woman, and child, 
in memory of which the king then reigning gave him the 
manor of Sockburn to hold by this tenure, — that upon the 
first entrance of every bishop into the country this falchion 
should be presented.' The bishop returns the sword and 
wishes the ford long enjoyment of the tenure, which 
has been thus held since the year 1396. The family 
tradition is that the Dragon was a Scotch intruder named 
Comyn, whom Conyers compelled to kneel before the 
episcopal tlirone. The Conyers family of Sockburn seem 


to have been at last overtaken by a Dragon which was too 
much for them : the last knight was taken from a work- 
house barely in time not to die there. 

In the 'Memoirs of the Somervilles' we read that one of 
that family acquired a parish by slaying a ' hydeous mon- 
ster in forme of a worme.' ^ 

The wode Laird of Laristone 
Slew the Worme of Worme's Glen, 
And wan all Linton parochine. 

It was ' in lenth 3 Scots yards, and somewhat bigger than 

an ordinary man's leg, with a hede more proportionable 

to its lenth than its greatness ; its forme and collour (like) 

to our common muir adders.' 

This was a very moderate dragon compared with others, 

by slaying which many knights won their spurs: this, 

for example, which Sir Dygore killed in the fourteenth 

century — 

A Dragon great and grymme, 

Full of fyre, and also of venymme : 
With a wide throte and tuskes grete, 
Uppon that knight fast gan he bete ; 
And as a Lionn then was his fete, 
His tayle was long and ful unmete ; 
Between his hede and his tayle 
Was xxii. fote withouten fayie ; 
His body was like a wine tonne, 
He shone full bright ageynst the sunne ; 
His eyes were bright as any glasse, 
His scales were hard as any brasse. 

The familiar story of St. Patrick clearing the snakes out 
of Ireland, and the Cornish version of it,' in which the exor- 
cist is St. Petrox, presents some features which relate it to 
the colonist's combat with his dragon, though it is more 
interesting in other aspects. The Colonial Dragon in- 
cludes the diseases, the wild beasts, the savages, and all 

1 Vol. i. p. 38. 


manner of obstructions which environ a new country. 
But when these difficulties have been surmounted, the 
young settlement has still its foes to contend with, — war- 
like invaders from without, ambitious members within. 
We then find the Dragon taking on the form of a public 
enemy, and his alleged slayer is representative of the 
commune, — possibly in the end to transmit its more real de- 
vourer. Most of the British Dragon-myths have expanded 
beyond the stage in which they represent merely the 
struggles of immigrants with wild nature, and include 
the further stage where they represent the formation of 
the community. The growth of patriotism at length is 
measured by its shadow. The Colonial is transformed to 
the Communal Dragon. Many Dragon-myths are adap- 
tations of the ancient symbolism to hostes communes : such 
are the monsters described as desolating villages and dis- 
tricts, until they are- encountered by antagonists animated 
by public spirit. Such antagonists are distinguishable 
from the heroes that go forth to rescue the maiden in dis- 
tress : their chief representative in mythology is Herakles, 
most of whose labours reveal the man of self-devotion 
redressing public wrongs, and raising the standard of 
humxanity as well as civilisation. 

The age of chivalry has its legend in the Centaurs 
and Cheiron. The Hippo-centaurs are mounted savages: 
Cheiron is the true knight, withstanding monsters in his 
own shape, saving Peleus from them, and giving hospi- 
tality to the Argonauts. The mounted man was dragon 
to the man on foot until he became the chevalier ; then 
the demonic character passed to the strategist who had 
no horse. It is curious enough to find existing among 
the Mormons a murderous order calling themselves 
Danites, or Destroying Angels, after the text of Gen. xlix. 
17, 'Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the 


path, that biteth the horse's heel that his rider shall fall 
backward.' The Ritter, however, so far as his Dragon 
was concerned, was as one winged, and every horse a 
Pegasus when it bore him to decide the day between the 
adder and its victim. It is remarkable that the Mormons 
should have carried from the East a cruel superstition to 
find even among the Red Men, who are disappearing before 
the western march of Saxon strength, more gentle fables. 

Among the Mimacs, the aborigines of Nova Scotia, 
there is a legend of a young hero named Keekwajoo, who, 
in seeking for a wife, is befriended by a good sage named 
Glooscap, who warns him against a powerful magician 
disguised as a beaver, and two demon sisters, who will 
waylay him in the disguise of large weasels. The youth 
is admonished to beat a certain drum as his canoe passes 
them, and he is saved as Orpheus in passing Cerberus and 
Ulysses in sailing past the Syrens. The weasels, hearing 
the music, aspire to wed the stars, but find themselves in 
an indescribable nest at the top of a tall white pine.^ 

The chevalier encounters also the BRUTAL Dragon, 
whose victim is Woman. From immemorial time man's 
captive, unable to hold her own against brute force, she is 
at the mercy of all who are insensible to the refined and 
passive powers. The rock-bound Andromeda, the pur- 
sued Leto, or whatever fair maid it may be that the 
Dragon-slayer rescues, may have begun mythologically 
as emblem of the Dawn, whose swallower is the Night 
Cloud ; but in the end she symbolises a brighter dawn, — 
that of civility and magnanimity among men. 

It is a notable fact that far away in Japan we should 
find a Dragon-myth which would appear to represent, 
with rare beauty, the social evolution we have been con- 
sidering. Their great mythological Serpent, Yamati-no- 
^ 'North American Review,' January 1871. 


oroti, that is, the serpent of eight heads and tails, stretching 
over eight valleys, would pretty certainly represent a river 
annually overflowing its banks. One is reminded by this 
monster of the accounts given by Mencius of the difficulties 
with streams which the Chinese had to surmount before 
they could make the Middle States habitable. But this 
Colonial Dragon, in the further evolution of the country, 
reappears as the Brutal Dragon. The admirable legend 
relates that, while the rest of the world were using stone 
implements, there came into the possession of Sosano-o- 
no-Mikoto (the Prince of Sosano) a piece of iron which 
was wrought into a sword. That maiden-sword of the 
world was fleshed to save a maiden from the jaws of a 
monster. The prince descended from heaven to a bank 
of the river Hino Kawa, and the country around seemed 
uninhabited ; but presently he saw a chopped stick float- 
ing down the stream, and concluded that there must 
be beings dwelling farther up ; so he travelled until he 
came to a spot where he beheld an aged man and his 
wife (Asinaduti and Tenaduti), with their beautiful 
daughter, Hime of Inada. The three were weeping 
bitterly, and the prince was informed that Hime was 
the last of their daughters, seven of whom had been 
devoured by a terrible serpent. This serpent had eight 
heads, and the condition on which it had ceased to deso- 
late the district was that one of these eight maidens should 
be brought annually to this spot to satisfy his voracity. 
The last had now been brought to complete the dreadful 
compact. The Japanese are careful to distinguish this 
serpent from a dragon, with them an agathodemon. It 
had no feet, and its heads branched by as many necks from 
a single body, this body being so large that it stretched 
over eight valleys. It was covered with trees and moss, 
and its belly was red as blood. The prince doubted if 


even with his sword he could encounter such a monster, 
so he resorted to stratagem ; he obtained eight vast bowls, 
filled them with eight different kinds of wine, and, "having 
built a fence with the same number of openings, set a bowl 
in each. The result may be imagined : the eight heads in 
passing over the bowls paused, drank deep, and were soon 
in a state of beastly intoxication. In this condition the 
heads were severed from their neck, and the maiden saved 
to wed the first Mikado Prince. 

( 394 ) 



Demigods — Alcestis — Herakles — The Ghilghit Fiend — Incarnate de- 
liverer of Ghilghit — A Dardistan Madonna — The religion of 
Atheism — ^Resuscitation of Dragons — St. George and his Dragon 
— Emerson and Ruskin on George — Saintly allies of the Dragon. 

Theology has pronounced Incarnation a mystery, but 
nothing is simpler. The demigod is man's appeal from 
the gods. It may also be, as Emerson says, that * when 
the half-gods go the gods arrive,' but it is equally true 
that their coming signals the departure of deities which 
man had long invoked in vain. The great Heraklean 
myth presents us the ideal of godlike force united to 
human sympathy. Ra (the Sun) passing the twelve gates 
(Hours) of Hades (Night)^ is humanised in Herakles and 
his Twelve Labours. He is Son of Zeus by a human 
mother — Alcmene — and his labours for human welfare, as 
well as his miraculous conception, influenced Christianity. 
The divine Man assailing the monsters of divine creation 
represents human recognition of the fact that moral order 
in nature is co-extensive with the control of mankind. 
One expression of this perception is the Alcestis of Euri- 
pides, whose significance in relation to death we have 

' Alcestis,' as I have written in another work, ' is one of 
the few ancient Greek melodramas. The majority of 

^ 'Records of the Past,' x. 79. ^ Page 285. 


dramas left us by the poets of Greece turn upon religious 
themes, and usually they are tragedies. It is evident that 
to them the popular religion around them was itself a 
tragedy. Their heroes and heroines — such as Prometheus 
and Macaria — were generally victims of the jealousy or 
caprice of the gods ; and though the poets display in their 
dramas the irresistible power of the gods, they do so with- 
out reverence for that power, and generally show the 
human victims to be more honourable than the gods. But 
the 'Alcestis' of Euripides is not a tragedy; it ends hap- 
pily, and in the rescue of one of those victims of the gods. 
It stands as about the first notice served on the gods that 
the human heart had got tired of their high-handed pro- 
ceedings, and they might prepare to quit the thrones of a 
universe unless they could exhibit more humanity. . . . 
Knowing that neither he nor any other deity can legally 
resist the decree of another deity, Apollo is reduced to 
hope for help from man. Human justice may save when 
divine justice sacrifices. He prophesies to Death that 
although he may seize Alcestis, a man will come who will 
conquer him, and deliver that woman from the infernal 
realm. . . . Then Hercules comes on the scene. He has 
been slaying lion and dragon, and he now resolves to con- 
quer Death and deliver Alcestis. This he does.'^ 

In this pre-christian yet christian Passion Play, the part 
played by the heart of woman is equally heroic with that 
which represents the honour of man. So in the religion 
which followed there was an effort to set beside the incar- 
nate vanquisher of infernal powers the pierced heart of 
Mary. But among all the legends of this character it were 
difficult to find one more impressive than that which Dr. 
Leitner found in Dardistan, and one which, despite its 

1 'Alcestis in England.' Printed by the South Place Society, Finsbuiy, 
London. 1877. 


length, will repay a careful perusal. This legend of the 
origin of the Ghilghit tribe and government was told by a 

' Once upon a time there lived a race at Ghilghit whose 
origin is uncertain. Whether they sprung from the soil or 
had immigrated from a distant region is doubtful ; so much 
is believed that they were Gayupi, i.e.^ spontaneous, abori- 
gines, unknown. Over them ruled a monarch who was a 
descendant of the evil spirits, the Yatsh, who terrorised 
over the world. His name was Shiribadatt, and he re- 
sided at a castle in front of which was a course for the per- 
formance of the manly game of Polo, His tastes were 
capricious, and in every one of his actions his fiendish 
origin could be discerned. The natives bore his rule with 
resignation, for what could they effect against a monarch 
at whose command even magic aids were placed .? How- 
ever, the country was rendered fertile, and round the capi- 
tal bloomed attractive. The heavens, or rather the vir- 
tuous Peris, at last grew tired of his tyranny, for he had 
crowned his iniquities by indulging in a propensity for 
cannibalism. This taste had been developed by an acci- 
dent. One day his cook brought him some mutton broth 
the like of which he had never tasted. After much inquiry 
as to the nature of the food on which the sheep had been 
brought up, it was eventually traced to an old woman, its 
first owner. She stated that her child and the sheep were 
born on the same day, and losing the former, she had con- 
soled herself by suckling the latter. This was a revelation 
to the tyrant. He had discovered the secret of the palata- 
bility of the broth, and was determined to have a never- 
ending supply of it. So he ordered that his kitchen should 
be regularly provided with children of a tender age, whose 
flesh, when converted into broth, would remind him of the 
exquisite dish he had once so much relished. This cruel 


order was carried out. The people of the country were 
dismayed at such a state of things, and sought shghtly to 
improve it by sacrificing, in the first place, all orphans and 
children of neighbouring tribes. The tyrant, however, was 
insatiable, and soon was his cruelty felt by many families 
at Ghilghit, who were compelled to give up their children 
to slaughter. 

* Relief came at last. At the top of the mountain Ko, 
which it takes a day to ascend, and which overlooks the 
village of Doyur, below Ghilghit, on the other side of the 
river, appeared three figures. They looked like men, but 
much more strong and handsome. In their arms they 
carried bows and arrows, and turning their eyes in the 
direction of Doyur, they perceived innumerable flocks of 
sheep and cattle grazing on a prairie between that village 
and the foot of the mountain. The three strangers were 
brothers, and none of them had been born at the same 
time. It was their intention to make Azru Shemsher, the 
youngest. Rajah of Ghilghit, and, in order to achieve their 
purpose, they hit upon the following plan. On the already 
noticed prairie, which is called Diding^, a sportive calf was 
gambolling towards and away from its mother. It was the 
pride of its owner, and its brilliant red colour could be seen 
from a distance. ' Let us see who is the best marksman,' 
exclaimed the eldest, and, saying this, he shot' an arrow in 
the direction of the calf, but missed his aim. The second 
brother also tried to hit it, but also failed. At last, Azru 
Shemsher, who took a deep interest in the sport, shot his 
arrow, which pierced the poor animal from side to side and 
killed it. The brothers, whilst descending, congratulated 
Azru on his sportsmanship, and on arriving at the spot 
where the calf was lying, proceeded to cut its throat and 
to take out from its body the titbits, namely, the kidneys and 
the liver. 


' They then roasted these dehcacies, and invited Azru 
to partake of them first. He respectfully declined, on the 
ground of his youth, but they urged him to do so, 'in 
order,' they said, ' to reward you for such an excellent 
shot.' Scarcely had the meat touched the lips of Azru 
than the brothers got up, and, vanishing into the air, called 
out, ' Brother ! you have touched impure food, which Peris 
never should eat, and we have made use of your ignorance 
of this law, because we want to make you a human being ^ 
who shall rule over Ghilghit ; remain, therefore, at Doyur.' 
Azru, in deep grief at the separation, cried, 'Why remain 
at Doyur, unless it be to grind corn .'' ' ' Then,' said the 
brothers, ' go to Ghilghit.' ' Why,' was the reply, ' go to 
Ghilghit, unless it be to work in the gardens .-' ' ' No, no,' 
was the last and consoling rejoinder; 'you will assuredly 
become the king of this country, and deliver it from its 
merciless oppressor ! ' No more was heard of the depart- 
ing fairies, and Azru remained by himself, endeavouring 
to gather consolation from the great mission which had 
been bestowed on him. A villager met him, and, struck 
by his appearance, offered him shelter in his house. Next 
morning he went on the roof of his host's house, and call- 
ing out to him to come up, pointed to the Ko mountain, 
on which, he said, he plainly discerned a wild goat. The 
incredulous villager began to fear he had harboured a 
maniac, if no worse character ; but Azru shot off his arrow, 
and, accompanied by the villager (who had assembled some 
friends for protection, as he was afraid his young guest 
might be an associate of robbers, and lead him into a trap), 
went in the direction of the mountain. There, to be sure, 
at the very spot that was pointed out, though many miles 
distant, was lying the wild goat, with Azru's arrow trans- 
fixing its body. The astonished peasants at once hailed 

^ Eating meat was the process of incarnation. 


him as their leader, but he exacted an oath of secrecy 
from them, for he had come to deliver them from their 
tyrant, and would keep his incognito till such time as 
his plans for the destruction of the monster would be 

' He then took leave of the hospitable people of Doyur, 
and went to Ghilghit. On reaching this place, which is 
scarcely four miles distant from Doyur, he amused himself 
by prowling about in the gardens adjoining the royal, resi- 
dence. There he met one of the female companions of 
Shiribadatt's daughter fetching water for the princess. This 
lady was remarkably handsome, and of a sweet disposi- 
tion. The companion rushed back, and told the young 
lady to look from over the ramparts of the castle at a 
wonderfully handsome young man whom she had just 
met. The princess placed herself in a place from which 
she could observe any one approaching the fort. Her 
maid then returned, and induced Azru to come with her 
in the Polo ground, in front of the castle; the princess 
was smitten with his beauty, and at once fell in love with 
him. She then sent word to the young prince to come 
and see her. When he was admitted into her presence 
he for a long time denied being anything more than a 
common labourer. At last he confessed to being a fairy's 
child, and the overjoyed princess offered him her heart 
and hand. It may be mentioned here that the tyrant 
Shiribadatt had a wonderful horse, which could cross a 
mile at every jump, and which its rider had accustomed to 
jump both into and out of the fort, over its walls. So 
regular were the leaps which this famous animal could 
take that he invariably alighted at the distance of a mile 
from the fort, and at the same place. On that very day 
on which the princess had admitted young Azru into the 
fort King Shiribadatt was out hunting, of which he was 

400 777^ HEART OF ICE. 

desperately fond, and to which he used sometimes to 
devote a week or two at a time. 

'We must now return to Azru, whom we left conversing 
with the princess. Azru remained silent when the lady- 
confessed her love. Urged to declare his sentiments, he 
said that he would not marry her unless she bound herself 
to him by the most stringent oath ; this she did, and they 
became in the sight of God as if they were wedded man 
and wife. He then announced tliat he had come to 
destroy her father, and asked her to kill him herself. 
This she refused ; but as she had sworn to aid him in 
every way she could, he finally induced her to promise 
that she would ask her father where his soul was. ' Refuse 
food,' said Azru, * for three or four days, and your father, 
who is devotedly fond of you, will ask for the reason of 
your strange conduct ; then say, ' Father, you are often 
staying away from me for several days at a time, and I am 
getting distressed lest something should happen to you; 
do reassure me by letting me know where your soul is, 
and let me feel certain that your life is safe.' This the 
princess promised to do, and when her father returned 
refused food for several days. The anxious Shiribadatt 
made inquiries, to which she replied by making the already 
named request. The tyrant was for a few moments thrown 
into mute astonishment, and finally refused compliance 
with her preposterous demand. The love-smitten lady 
went on starving herself, till at last her father, fearful for 
his daughter's life, told her not to fret herself about him 
as his sold was of snow, in the snows, and that he could 
only perish by fire. The princess communicated this infor- 
mation to her lover, Azru went back to Doyur and the 
villages around, and assembled his faithful peasants. Them 
he asked to take twigs of the fir-tree, bind them together, 
and light them ; then to proceed in a body with torches 


to the castle in a circle, keep close together, and surround 
it on every side. He then went and dug out a very deep 
hole, as deep as a well, in the place where Shiribadatt's 
horse used to alight, and covered it with green boughs. 
The next day he received information that the torches were 
ready. He at once ordered the villagers gradually to draw 
near the fort in the manner which he had already indicated. 

King Shiribadatt was then sitting in his castle ; near 
him his treacherous daughter, who was so soon to lose her 
parent. All at once he exclaimed, * I feel very close ; go 
out, dearest, and see what has happened.' The girl went 
out, and saw torches approaching from a distance ; but 
fancying it to be something connected with the plans of 
her husband, she went back and said it was nothing. The 
torches came nearer and nearer, and the tyrant became 
exceedingly restless. ' Air, air,' he cried, * I feel very ill ; 
do see, daughter, what is the matter.' The dutiful lady 
went, and returned with the same answer as before. At 
last the torch-bearers had fairly surrounded the fort, and 
Shiribadatt, with a presentiment of impending danger, 
rushed out of the room, saying, ' that he felt he was 
dying.' He then ran to the stables and mounted his 
favourite charger, and with one blow of the whip made 
him jump over the wall of the castle. Faithful to its 
habit the noble animal alighted at the same place, but, 
alas ! only to find itself engulfed in a treacherous pit. 
Before the king had time to extricate himself the villagers 
had run up with their torches. ' Throw them upon him,' 
cried Azru. With one accord all the blazing wood was 
thrown upon Shiribadatt, who miserably perished.' 

Azru was then most enthusiastically proclaimed king, 

celebrated his nuptials with the fair traitor, and, as sole 

tribute, exacted the offering of one sheep annually, instead 

of the human child, from every one of the natives. 
VOL. I. 2 


When Azru had safely ascended the throne he ordered 
the tyrant's place to be levelled to the ground. The 
willing peasants, manufacturing spades of iron, flocked to 
accomplish a grateful task, and sang whilst demolishing 
his castle : — 

' My nature is of a hard metal,' said Shiri and Badatt. 
' Why hard ? I, Koto, the son of the peasant Dem Singh, 
am alone hardy ; with this iron spade I raze to the 
ground thy kingly house. Behold now, although thou 
art of race accursed, of Shatsho Malika, I, Dem Singh's 
son, am of a hard metal ; for with this iron spade I level 
thy very palace ; look out ! look out ! ' ^ 

An account of the Feast of Torches, instituted as a 
memorial of this tradition, has already been given in 
another connection.^ The legend, the festival, and the 
song just quoted constitute a noble human epic. That 
startling defiance of the icy-hearted god by the human- 
hearted peasant, that brave cry of the long cowering 
wretch who at last holds in his spade an iron weapon 
to wield against the hardness of nature, are the sublime 
paean of the Dragon-slayer. Look out, ye snow-gods ! 
Man's heart is there, and woman's heart; their courage, 
plus the spade, can level your palaces ; their love will 
melt you, their arts and sciences kill you : so fatal may be 
torches ! 

All great religions were born in this grand atheism. As 
the worship of Herakles meant the downfall of Zeus, the 
worship of Christ meant the overthrow of both Jove and 
Jehovah. Every race adores the epoch when their fathers 
grew ashamed of their gods and identified them as dragons 
— the supreme cruelties of nature — welcoming the man 

^ ' Results of a Tour in Dardistan, Kashmir,' &c., by Clievalier Dr. G. W. 
Leitner, Lahore, vol. i. part iii. Triibner & Co. 
2 Page 91. 


who first rose from his knees and defied them. But in the 
end the Priests of tlie Dragon manage to secure a com- 
promise, and by labelling him with the name of his slayer, 
manage to resuscitate and re-enthrone him. For, as we 
shall presently see, the Dragon never really dies. 

Christianity did not fail to avail itself of the Dragon- 
slayer's prestige, which had preceded it in Europe and in 
Africa. It could not afford to offer for popular reverence 
saints less heroic than pagan warriors and demigods. The 
old Dragon-myths, especially those which made the fame 
of Herakles, were appropriated to invest saintly forms. St 
Michael, St. Andrew, St. Margaret, and many another, were 
pictured subduing or treading, on Dragons. Christ was 
shown crushing the serpent Sin, spearing the dragon Death, 
or even issuing from its impotent jaws, like Jason from the 
Dragon.^ But in this competition for the laurels of dead 
Dragon-slayers, and fierce hostility to dragons already 
slain, the real Dragon was left to revive and flourish in 
security, and in the end even inherited the mantle and the 
palm of his own former conqueror. 

The miscarriage of canonisation in the case of St. George 
is a small and merely curious thing in itself; but it is 
almost mystical in \its ^incidence Math the great miscar- 
riage which brought^^e cross of Christ to authorise the 
crucifixions of the men most like him for a thousand years. 

Mr. John Ruskin has sharply challenged Ralph Waldo 
Emerson's penetrating touch on the effigy that decorates 
the escutcheons of England and Russia. ' George of 
Cappadocia,' says Emerson, 'born at Epiphania in Cilicia, 
was a low parasite, who got a lucrative contract to supply 
the army with bacon. A rogue and an informer, he got 
rich and was forced to run from justice. He saved his 

^ In the Etruscan Museum at Rome there is a fine representation of this. 
The old belief was that a dragon could only be attacked successfully inside. 


money, embraced Arianism, collected a library, and got 
promoted by a faction to the episcopal throne of Alexan- 
dria. When Julian came, A.D. 361, George was dragged 
to prison. The prison was burst open by the mob, and 
George was lynched as he deserved. And this precious 
knave became in good time Saint George of England, 
patron of chivalry, emblem of victory and civility, and the 
pride of the best blood of the modern world.' Whereon 
Emerson further remarks that 'nature trips us up when 
we strut' 

It is certainly rather hard for the founder of the St. 
George Association to be told that his patron was no 
Dragon-slayer at all, but the Dragon's ally. Mr. Ruskin 
may be right in contending that whatever may have been 
the facts, they who made George patron saint of England 
still meant their homage for a hero, or at any rate not for 
a rogue ; but he is unsatisfactory in his argument that our 
St. George was another who died for his faith seventy 
years before the bacon-contractor. Even if the Ruskin 
St. George, said to have suffered under Diocletian, could 
be shown historical, his was a very commonplace martyr- 
dom compared with that of a bishop torn in pieces by a 
' pagan ' mob. The distant christian nations would never 
have listened to the pagan version of the story even had 
it reached them. A bishop so martyred would have been 
the very man to give their armies a watchword. The 
martyr was portrayed as a Dragon-slayer only as a title 
might be added to the name of one knighted, or the badge 
of an order set upon his breast ; the heraldic device grew 
into a variant of the common legend which suggests the 
origin of the mythical George. ' The magician Athanasius, 
successively an opponent of Christianity, a convert, and a 
martyr, is his chief antagonist ; and the city of Alexandria 
appears as the Empress Alexandria, the wife of Diocletian, 


and herself a convert and a martyr.' This sentence from 
Smith's ' Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography ' tells 
more than Professor Ruskin's seventeenth-century autho- 
rity. The Dragon is the same Athanasius whose creed 
sends forth its anathemas in churches dedicated to the 
Arian canonised for having slain him ! 

Though it be granted that they who made George of 
Cappadocia the ideal hero of England reallj^ intended 
their homage for a martyr and hero, it must equally be 
acknowledged that his halo was clearly drawn from Dra- 
gon-fire. He was a man who had taken to the sword, and 
by it perished ; so much was known and announced in his 
canonisation. He was honoured as 'the Victor' among 
the Greeks, therefore to-day patron of Russia; as protec- 
tor of Crusaders, therefore now patron of England ; thus 
is he saint of a war waged by the strong against the weak, 
in interest of a church and priesthood against human free- 
dom; therefore George was taking the side of the Dragon 
against Christ, restoring the priestly power he had assailed, 
and delivering up his brave brothers in all history to be 
nailed to Christianity as a cross. 

Let George remain ! Whether naming fashionable 
temples or engraved on gold coinSi the fictitious Dragon- 
slayer will remain the right saint in the right place so long 
as the real Dragon-slayer is made to name every power 
he hated, and to consecrate every lie in whose mouth he 
darted his spear. 

( 4o6 ) 


THE dragon's breath. 

Medusa — Phenomena of recurrence — The Brood of Echidna and their 
survival — Behemoth and Leviathan — The Mouth of Hell — The 
Lambton Worm — Ragnar — The Lambton Doom — The Worm's 
Orthodoxy — The Serpent, Superstition, and Science. 

ASURA has already been mentioned as the most ancient 
Aryan name for deity. The meaning of it is, the Breather. 
It has also been remarked that in the course of time the 
word came to signify both the good and the evil spirit. 
What this evil breath meant in nature is told in Leonardo 
da Vinci's picture of the expiring Medusa, referred to 
on p. 386, from whose breath noxious creatures are pro- 
duced. It may have been that the artist meant only to 
interpret the Gorgon as a personification of the malarious 
vapours of nature and their organic kindred ; if so, he 
painted better than he knew, and has suggested that fatal 
vitality of the evil power which raised it to its throne as a 
principle coeternal with good. 

The phenomena of recurrence in things evil made for 
man the mystery of iniquity. The darkness may be dis- 
persed, but it returns ; the storm may clear away, but 
it gathers again ; inundations, sickly seasons, dog-days, 
Cain-winds, they go and return ; the cancer is cut out and 
grows again ; the tyrant may be slain, tyranny survives. 
The serpent slipping from one skin to another coils steadily 
into the symbol of endlessness. In another expression it 


is the poisonous breath of the Dragon. It is this breath 
that cannot be killed ; the special incarnations of it, any 
temporary brood of it, may be destroyed, but the principle 
in nature which produces them cannot be exterminated. 

Dragon fables have this undertone to their brave strain. 
In the Rig Veda (v. 32) it is said that when Indra slew 
Ahi, ' another more powerful was generated.' Isaiah (xiv. 
29) cries, 'Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the 
rod of him that smote thee is broken : for out of the 
serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit 
shall be a fiery flying serpent.' Herakles struggles with 
the giant robber, Antaeus, only to find the demon's 
strength restored by contact with the earth. He kills 
one head of the Hydra only to see two grow in its 
place ; and even when he has managed to burn away 
these, the central head is found to be immortal, and he 
can only hide it under a rock. That one is the self- 
multiplying principle of evil. The vast brood of Echidna 
in mythology expresses the brood of evil in nature. 
Echidna, daughter of Ge and Tartarus, Earth and Hell — 
phonetic reappearance of Ahi — is half-serpent, half- woman, 
with black eyes, fearful and bloodthirsty. She becomes 
the mother of fire-breathing Typhon, buried beneath the 
earth by Jove's lightning when he aspired to scale Olym- 
pus ; of the Dragon that guarded the Hesperian garden ; 
of the Sphinx which puzzled and devoured ; of three- 
headed Cerberus ; of the eagle that preyed on rock-bound 
Prometheus ; of the Nemaean lion which Herakles slew ; 
of Chimaera ; and of Scylla the monster whom Homer 
describes sitting between two large rocks waylaying mari- 
ners on the way from Italy to Sicily, — possessing twelve 
feet, six long necks and mouths, each with three rows of 
rushing teeth. 

The Dragon that Cadmus slew also had terrible teeth ; 


and it will be remembered that when these teeth were 
sown they sprang up as armed men. Like them, the ancient 
Dragon-myths were also sown, broadcast, in the mental 
and moral fields, cleared and ploughed by a new theology, 
and they sprang up as dogmas more hard and cruel than 
the ferocious forces of nature which gave birth to their 
ancestral monsters. 

What the superstitious method of interpreting nature, 
forced as it is to personify its painful as well as its plea- 
sant phenomena, inevitably results in, finds illustration 
in the two great lines of tradition — the Aryan and the 
Semitic — which have converged to form the christian 

The Hebrew personification, Jehovah, originating in a 
rude period, became invested with many savage and im- 
moral traditions ; but when his worshippers had reached 
a higher moral culture, national sentiment had become too 
deeply involved with the sovereign majesty of their deity 
for his alleged actions to be criticised, or his absolute 
supremacy and omnipotence to be questioned, even to 
save his moral character. Thus, the Rabbins appear to 
have been at their wits' end to account for the existence 
of the two great monsters which had got into their 
sacred records — from an early mythology — Behemoth 
and Leviathan. Unwilling to admit that Jehovah had 
created foes to his own kingdom, or that creatures 
which had become foes to it were beyond his power to 
control, they worked out a theory that Behemoth and 
Leviathan were made and preserved by special order of 
Jehovah to execute his decrees at the Messianic Day of 
Judgment. They probably corresponded at an earlier 
period with the gryphon, or grabber, and the serpent 
which bit, guardians at the gate of paradise; but the need 
of such guards, biters, and spies by the all-powerful all- 


seeing Shaddai having been recognised, the monsters had 
to be rationalised into accord with his character as a retri- 
butive ruler. Hence Behemoth and Leviathan are repre- 
sented as being fattened with the wicked, who die in order 
to be the food of the righteous during the unsettled times 
that follow the revelation of the Messiah ! Behemoth is 
Jehovah's 'cattle on a thousand hills' {Ps. 1. 10). In 
Pireque de Rabbi Eliezur he is described as feeding daily 
upon a thousand mountains on which the grass grows 
again every night; and the Jordan supplies him with 
drink, as it is said in Job (xl, 23), ' he trusteth that he can 
draw up Jordan into his mouth.' In the Talmud these 
monsters are divided into two pairs, but are said to have 
been made barren lest their progeny should destroy the 
earth. They are kept in the wilderness of Dendain, the 
mythical abode of the descendants of Cain, east of Eden, 
for the unique purpose mentioned. 

But now we may remark the steady progress of these 
monsters to the bounds of their mythological habitat. 
There came a time when Behemoth and Leviathan were 
hardly more presentable than other personified horrors. 
They too must ' take the veil,' — a period in the history of 
mythical, corresponding to extinction in that of actual, 
monsters. The following passage in the Book of Enoch 
is believed by Professor Drummond to be a later insertion, 
probably from the Book of Noah, and as early as the 
middle of the first century : — ' In that day two monsters 
shall be divided; a female monster named Leviathan, to 
dwell in the abyss of the sea, above the sources of the 
waters ; but the male is called Behemoth, which occupies 
with its breast a desolate wilderness named Dendain, on 
the east of the garden where the elect and righteous 
dwell, where my grandfather (Enoch) was taken up, being 
the seventh from Adam, the first man whom the Lord of 


the spirits created. And I asked that other angel to show 
me the might of these monsters, how they were separated 
in one day, and one was set in the depth of the sea, the 
other on the firm land of the wilderness. And he spoke 
to me, ' Thou son of man, thou desirest in this to know 
what has been concealed.' And the other angel who went 
with me, and showed me what is in concealment, spake, 
... * These two monsters are prepared conformably to 
the greatness of God to be fed, in order that the penal 
judgment of God may not be in vain.' ^ 

We may thus see that there were antecedents to the 
sentiment of Aquinas, — ' Beati in regno coelesti videbunt 
poenas damnatorum, ut beatitudo illis magis complaceat.' 
Or, perhaps, one might say rather to the logic of Aquinas ; 
for though he saw that it would be necessary for souls in 
bliss to be happy at vision of the damned or else deficient 
in bliss, it is said he could hardly be happy from think- 
ing of the irreversible doom of Satan himself It would 
appear that only the followers of the Genevan who antici- 
pated his god's hell for Servetus managed to adapt their 
hearts to such logic, and glory in the endless tortures of 
their fellow-creatures. 

An eloquent minister in New York, Octavius B. Froth- 
ingham, being requested to write out his views on the 
* question ' of everlasting damnation, began with the re- 
mark that he felt somewhat as a sportsman suddenly 
called upon to hunt the Iguanodon. Really it is Behe- 
moth and Leviathan he was called to deal with. Levia- 
than transmitted from Jonah to the Middle Ages the idea 
of 'the belly of Hell,' and Behemoth's jaws expanded in 
the 'mouth of Hell ' of the Miracle-plays; and their utility, 
as described in the Book of Enoch, perhaps originated the 

^ ' The Jewish Messiah,' &c. By James Drummond, B.A. Longmans & 
Co. (1877). See in this valuable work chapter xxi. 


doctrine of souls tasting heavenly joys from the agonies of 
others. The dogma of Hell has followed the course of its 
prototype with precision. It has arrived at just that 
period when, as in the case of Enoch's inquiring, the in- 
vestigator finds it has taken the veil. Theologians shake 
their heads, call it a terrible question, write about free-will 
and sin, but only a few, of the fatuous sort, confess belief 
in the old-fashioned Hell where the worm dieth not and 
the fire is not quenched. 

Let us now take under consideration the outcome of 
the Aryan Dragon, which has travelled far to meet Behe- 
moth in the west. And it is probable that we could not, 
with much seeking, find an example so pregnant with 
instruction for our present inquiry as our little Durham 
folk-tale of the Lambton Worm. 

This Worm is said to have been slain by Sir Lambton, 
crusader, and ancestor of the Earls of Durham. This 
young Lambton was a wild fellow ; he was fond of fishing 
in the river Wear, which runs near Durham Castle, and he 
had an especial taste for fishing there on Sunday ro.orn- 
ings. He was profane, and on Sundays, when the people 
were all going to mass, they were often shocked by hear- 
ing the loud oaths which Lambton uttered whenever he 
had no rise. One Sunday morning something got hold of 
his hook, pulled strong, and he made sure of a good trout ; 
what was his disappointment when instead thereof he 
found at the end of his line a tiny black worm. He tore 
it off with fierce imprecations and threw it in a well near 
by. However, soon after this the young man joined the 
crusaders and went off to the Holy Land, where he dis- 
tinguished himself by slaying many Saracens. 

But while he was off there things were going on badly 
around Durham Castle. Some peasant passing that well 
into which the youth had cast the tiny black worm looked 


into it, and beheld a creature that made him shudder, — a 
diabolical big snake with nine ferocious eyes. A little 
time only had elapsed before this creature had grown too 
large for the well to hold it, and it came out and crawled 
on, making a path of desolation, breakfasting on a village, 
until it came to a small hill. Around that hill it coiled 
with nine coils, each weighty enough to make a separate 
terrace. One may still see this hill with its nine terraces, 
and be assured of the circumstances by peasants residing 
near. Having taken up its headquarters on this hill, the 
nine-eyed monster was in the habit of sallying forth every 
day and satisfying his hunger by devouring the plumpest 
family he could find, until at length the people consulted 
an oracle — some say a witch, others again a priest — and 
were told that the monster would be satisfied if it were 
given each day the milk of nine cows. So nine cows were 
got together, and a plucky dairymaid was found to milk 
the cows and carry it to the dragon. If a single gill of the 
milk was missing the monster took a dire revenge upon 
the nearest village. This was the unpleasant situation 
which young Lambton found when he returned home 
from the crusades. He was now an altered man. He 
was no longer given to fishing and profanity. He felt 
keenly that by raising the demon out of the river Wear he 
had brought woe upon his neighbours, and he resolved to 
engage the Worm in single combat. But he learned 
that it had already been fought by several knights, and 
had slain them, while no wounds received by itself availed 
anything, since, if it were cut in twain, the pieces grew 
together again. The knight then consulted the oracle, 
witch or priest, and was told that he could prevail in the 
combat on certain conditions. He must provide himself 
with special armour, all over which must be large razor- 
blades. He must manage to entice the worm into the 


middle of the river Wear, in whose waters the combat 
must take place. And, finally, he must vow to slay as a 
sacrifice the first livino- thing- he should meet after his vie- 
tory. These conditions having- been fulfilled, the knight 
entered the stream. The dragon, not having received his 
milk as usual that morning, crawled from his hill seeking 
whom he might devour, and seeing the knight in the river, 
went at him. Quickly he coiled around the armour, but 
its big razors cut him into many sections ; and these sec- 
tions could not piece themselves together again because 
the current of the river washed them swiftly away. 

Now, observe how this dragon was pieced together 
mythologically. He is a storm cloud. He begins smaller 
than a man's hand and swells to huge dimensions; that 
characteristic of the howling storm was represented in the 
howling wolf Fenris of Norse Mythology, who was a little 
pet, a sort of lapdog for the gods at first, but when full 
grown broke the chains that tied him to mountains, and 
was only fettered at last by the thread finer than cobweb, 
which was really the sunbeam conquering winter. Then, 
when this worm was cut in two, the parts came together 
again. This feature of recurrence is especially character- 
istic of Hydras. In the Egyptian ' Tale of Setnau,' Ptah- 
nefer-ka saw the river-snake twice resume its form after 
he had killed it with his sword, — he succeeded the third 
time by placing sand between the two parts ; and what 
returning floods taught the ancient scribe remained to 
characterise the dragon encountered by Guy of Warwick, 
which recovered from every wound by dipping its tail in 
the well it had guarded. The Lernean Hydra had nine 
heads, the Lambton Worm nine eyes and nine folds, 
and drank nine cows' milk. His fondness for the milk 
of cows connects him straightly with the dragon Vritra, 
whom Indra slew because he stole Indra's cows (that is, 


the good clouds, whose milk is gentle rain, and do no 
harm), and shut them up in a cavern to enjoy their milk 
himself. That is the oldest Dragon fable on record, and 
it is said in the Rig- Veda that beneath Indra's thunder- 
bolt the monster broke up into pieces, and was washed 
away in a current of water. Finally, in being destroyed 
at last by razor blades, the dragon is connected with that 
slain by Ragnar, in whose armour the sun-darts of Apollo 
had turned to icicles. In the ' Death-Song of Ragnar 
Lodbrach,' preserved by Olaus Wormius, it is said that 
King Ella of Northumberland having captured that, terror 
of the North (8th cent.), ordered him to be thrown into a 
pit of serpents. His surname, Lodbrach, or Hair Breeches, 
had been given because of his method of slaying a Worm 
which devastated Gothland, whose king had promised his 
daughter to the man who should slay the same. Ragnar 
dressed himself in hairy skins, and threw water over the 
hair, which, freezing, encased him in an armour of ice. 
The Worm, unable to bite through this, was impaled by 
Ragnar. Another version is that Ragnar killed two ser- 
pents which the King of Gothland had set to guard his 
daughter, but which had grown to such size that they 
terrified the country. It may be observed that the Lamb- 
ton story christianises the Ragnar legend, showing that to 
be done in atonement for sin which in the other was done 
for love. The Cornish legend of St. Petrox has also taken 
a hint from Ragnar, and announces the rescue of christians 
from the serpent-pit in which the pagan hero perished. 
The icicles reappear on the slayer of the dragon of Want- 
ley, represented by long spikes bristling from his armour. 

The Knight Lambton, remembering his vow to slay as 
a sacrifice the first living thing he might meet after the 
combat, had arranged that a dog should be placed where it 
would attract his eye. But it turned out that his own father 


came rushing to him. As he could not kill his father, he 
consulted the oracle again to know what would be the 
penalty of non-fulfilment of his vow. It was that no 
representative of the family should die in his bed for nine 
generations. The notion is still found in that neighbour- 
hood that no Earl of Durham has since then died in his 
bed. The nine generations have long passed since any 
crusading Lambton lived, but several peasants of the dis- 
trict closed their narrative with, ' Strange to say, no Earl of 
Durham has died in his bed ! ' At the castle I talked 
with a servant on the estate while looking at the old 
statues of the knight, worm, and dairymaid, all kept there, 
and he told me he had heard that the late Earl, as death 
drew nigh, asked to sit up — insisted — and died in a chair. 
If there be any truth in this, it would show that the family 
itself has some morbid feeling about the legend which has 
been so long told them with pride. The old well from 
which the little worm emerged a monster is now much 
overgrown, but I was told that it was for a long time a 
wishing-well, and the pins cast in by rustics may still be 
seen at the bottom of it. 

Pins are the last offerings at the Worm's Well ; ' wishes ' 
its last prayers ; but where go now the coins and the 
prayers.^ To propitiate a power and commute a doom 
resting upon much the same principles as those repre- 
sented in the Lambton legend. A community desolated 
because one man is sinful miniatures a world's doom 
for Adam's sin. The demand of a human sacrifice is more 
clear in the Sockburn story, where Conyers offered up his 
only son to the Holy Ghost in the parish church before 
engaging the Dragon, that being a condition of success 
prescribed by the ' Oracle' or ' Sybil.' This claim of the 
infernal powers represented by the Worm — many-eyed, 
all-seeing — cannot be set aside; Lambton's filial love 


may resist it only to have it pass as the hereditary doom 
of his family, representing an imputed sin. ' For I, the 
Lord thy God, am a jealous God, and visit the sins of 
the fathers on the children unto the third and fourth 

There are processes of this kind in nature, hereditary 
evils, transmitted diseases and disgraces, and afflictions of 
many through the offences of one. But a fearful Nemesis 
follows the deification and adoration of them. ' How can 
I be happy in heaven,' said a tender-hearted lady to her 
clerical adviser, 'when I must see others in hell.?' 'You 
will be made to see that it is all for the best' ' If I 
am to be made so heartless, I prefer to go to hell.' This 
genuine conversation reports the doom of all deities 
whose extension is in dragons. Hell implies a Dragon 
as its representative and ruler. Theology may induce 
the abject and cowardly to subject their human hearts 
to the process of induration required for loyalty to 
such powers, but in the end it makes atheism the only 
salvation of brave, pure, and loving natures. The Dragons' 
breath has clouded the ancient heavens and blighted the 
old gods ; but the starry ideals they pursue in vain. Behe- 
moth has supplied sirloins to many priesthoods for a long 
time, but he has at last become too tough even for their 
teeth, and they feed him less carefully every year. Nay, 
he is encountered now and then by his professional feeders, 
and has found even in Westminster Abbey his Guy of 

Nor could this desp'rate champion daunt 
A Dun Cow bigger than elephant ; 
But he, to prove his courage sterling, 
Cut from her enormous side a sirloin. 

The Worms — whether vSemitic Leviathan or Aryan 
Dragon — are nearly fossilised as to their ancient form. 


The sacrifice of Jephtha's daughter to the one, and of 
young Conyers to the other, found commutation in the 
case of man's rescue from Satan by Christ's descent to 
Hades, and in the substitution of nine uneasy deaths for the 
demanded parricide in the Lambton case ; and the most 
direct * survival ' of these may be found in any country lad 
trying to cure his warts by providing a weed for them to 
adhere to. Their end in Art v/as in such forms as this starve- 
ling creature of Callot's (Fig. 32), whose thin, spectacled 

Fig. 32.— From the Temptation of St. Anthony (Callot). 

rider, tilting at St. Anthony, denotes as well the doom of all 
powers, however lofty, whose majesty requires tali aicxilio et 
istis defensoribus. The Dragon passes and leaves a roar of 
laughter behind him, in which even St. Anthony could now 
join. But Leviathan and Lambton Worm have combined 
and merged their hfe in a Dogma; it is a Dogma as remorse- 
less and voracious as its prototype, and requires to be fed 
with all the milk of human kindness, or it at once begins 
to gnaw the foundations of Christendom itself. Christi- 
anity rests upon the past work of the Worm in Paradise, 
and its present work in Hell. It makes no real difference 
whether man's belief in a universe enmeshed in serpent- 
coils be expressed in the Hindu's cowering adoration of 
VOL. 1/ 2D 


the venomous potentate, or the christian's imprecation 
upon it : fundamentally it is serpent-worship in each case. 
Vishnu reposes on his celestial Serpent; the god of Dogma 
maintains his government by support of the infernal Ser- 
pent. Fear beheld him appearing in Durham to vindicate 
the mass and the Sabbath ; but the same fear still sees 
him in the fiery world punishing Sabbath-breakers and 
blasphemers against his Creator and chief. That fear built 
every cathedral in Christendom, and they must crumble 
with the phantasm evoked for their creation. 

The Serpent in itself is a perfect type of all evil in 
nature. It is irreconcilable with the reign of a perfectly 
good and omnipotent man over the universe. No amount 
of casuistry can explain its co-existence with anthropo- 
morphic Love and Wisdom, as all acknowledge when a 
parallel casuistry attempts to defend any other god than 
their own from deeds that are, humanly considered, evil. 
It is just as easy to defend the jealousy and cruelty of 
Jove, on the ground that his ways are not as our ways, as 
it is to defend similar tempers in Jehovah. The monster 
sent by one to devour Prometheus is ethically atwin with 
the snake created by the other to bite the heel of man. 

Man is saved from the superstitious evolution of the 
venomous Serpent into a Dragon by recognising its real 
evolution as seen by the eye of Science. Science alone 
can tell the true story of the Serpent, and justify its place 
in nature. It forbids man his superstitious method of 
making a god in his own image, and his egotistic method 
of judging nature according to his private likes and dis- 
likes, his convenience or inconvenience. Taught by Science 
man may, with a freedom the barbarian cannot feel, exter- 
minate the Serpent ; with a freedom the christian cannot 
know, he may see in that reptile the perfection of that 
economy in nature which has ever defended the advancing 


forms of life. It judges the good and evil of every form 
with reference to its adaptation to its own purposes. Thus 
Science alone wields the spear of Ithuriel, and beneath its 
touch every Dragon shrinks instantly to its little shape in 
nature to be dealt with according to what it is. 

( 420 ) 



Dore's ' Love and Fate ' — Moira and Moirae — The ' Fates ' of -^schylus 
— Divine absolutism surrendered — Jove and Typhon — Commu- 
tation of the Demon's share — Popular fatalism — Theological 
fatalism — Fate and Necessity — Deification of Will — Metaphysics, 
past and present. 

GUSTAVE DORE has painted a picture of ' Love and Fate,' 
in which the terrible hag is portrayed towering above the 
tender Eros, and while the latter is extending the thread 
as far as he can, the wrinkled hands of Destiny are the 
boundaries of his power, and the fatal shears close upon 
the joy he has stretched to its inevitable limit. To the 
ancient mind these two forms made the two great realms 
of the universe, their powers meeting in the fruit with a 
worm at its core, in seeds of death germinating amid the 
play of life, in all the limitations of man. They are pro- 
jected in myths of Elysium and Hades, Eden and the Ser- 
pent, Heaven and Hell, and their manifold variants. 

Perhaps there is no one line of mythological develop- 
ment which more clearly and impressively illustrates the 
forces under which grew the idea of an evil principle, than 
the changes which the personification of Fate underwent 
in Greece and Rome. The Moira, or Fate with Homer, is 
only a secondary cause, if that, and simply carries out the 
decrees of her father, Zeus. Zeus is the real Fate. Never- 


theless, while this is the Homeric theory or theology, 
there are intimations (see chap, xxvii. part 4) that the real 
awe of men was already transferred from Zeus to the 
Erinnyes. This foreshadows a change of government. 
With Hesiod we find, instead of one, three Moirae. They 
are no longer offspring of Zeus, but, as it were, his Cabinet. 
They do not act independently of him, but when, in pur- 
suance of their just counsels, Zeus issues decrees, the 
Moirae administer them. Next we find the Moirae of 
Hesiod developed by other writers into final Recorders ; 
they write the decrees of Zeus on certain indestructible 
tablets, after which they are irrevocable and inevitable. 
With yEschylus we find the Moirae developed into inde- 
pendent and supreme powers, above Zeus himself. The 
chained Prometheus looks not to Zeus but to Fate for his 
final liberation. 

Chortts. Who, then, is the guide of Necessity ? 

Prometheus. The tri-form Fates and the unforgetting Furies. 

Cho. Is Zeus, then, less powerful than they ? 

Prom. At least 'tis certain he cannot escape his own doom. 

Cho. And what can be Zeus' doom but everlasting rule ? 

Prom. This ye may not learn ; press it not. 

Cho. Surely some solemn mystery thou hidest. 

Prom. Turn to some other theme : for this disclosure time has not 
ripened : it must be veiled in deep mystery, for by the keeping of 
this secret shall come my liberty from base chains and misery. 

These great landmarks represent successive revolutions 
in the Olympian government. Absolutism became bur- 
thensome : as irresponsible monarch, Zeus became respon- 
sible for the woes of the world, and his priests were 
satisfied to have an increasing share of that responsibility 
allotted to his counsellors, until finally the whole of it is 
transferred. From that time the countenance of Zeus, or 
Jupiter, shines out unclouded by resp£)nsibility for human 
misfortunes and earthly evils ; and, on the other hand, the 


once beautiful Fates are proportionately blackened, and 
they become hideous hag's, the aged and lame crones of 
popular belief in Greece and Rome, every line of whose 
ugliness would have disfigured the face of Zeus had he 
not been subordinated to them. 

Moira means ' share,' and originally, perhaps, meant 
simply the power that meted out to each his share of life, 
and of the pains and pleasures woven in it till the term be 
reached. But as the Fates gained more definite personality 
they began to be regarded as having also a ' share ' of 
their own. They came to typify all the dark and formid- 
able powers as to their inevitableness. No divine power 
could set them aside, or more than temporarily subdue 
them. Fate measured out her share to the remorseless 
Gorgon as well as to the fairest god. But where destructive 
power was exercised in a way friendly to man, the Fates 
are put somewhat in the background, and the feat is claimed 
for some god. Such, in the ' Prometheus ' of ^schylus, 
is the spirit of the wonderful passage concerning Typhon, 
rendered with tragic depth by Theodore Buckley: — 'I 
commiserated too,' says the rock-bound Prometheus, 'when 
I beheld the earth-born inmate of the Cilician caverns, 
a tremendous prodigy, the hundred -headed impetuous 
Typhon, overpowered by force ; who withstood all the 
gods, hissing slaughter from his hungry jaws, and from 
his eyes there flashed a hideous glare as if he would 
perforce overthrow the sovereignty of Jove. But the 
sleepless shaft of Jupiter came upon him, the descend- 
ing thunderbolt breathing forth flame- which scared him 
out of his presumptuous bravadoes ; for having been 
smitten to his very soul he was crumbled to a cinder, and 
thunder-blasted in his prowess. And now, a hapless and 
paralysed form, is he lying hard by a narrow frith, pressed 
down beneath the roots of -^tna. And, seated on the 


topmost peaks, Vulcan forges the molten masses whence 
there shall burst forth floods, devouring with full jaws the 
level fields of fruitful Sicily ; with rage such as this shall 
Typhon boil over in hot artillery of a never glutted fire- 
breathing storm ; albeit he hath been reduced to ashes by 
the thunderbolt of Jupiter.' 

In this passage we see Jove invested with the glory of 
defeating a great demon; but we also recognise the demon 
still under the protection of Fate. Destiny must bear that 
burthen. So was it said in the Apocalypse Satan should 
be loosed after being bound in the Pit a thousand years ; 
and so Mohammed declared Gog and Magog should break 
loose with terror and destruction from the mountain-prison 
in which Allah had cast them. The destructive Principle 
had its ' share ' as well as the creative and preservative 
Principles, and could not be permanently deprived of it. 
Gradually the Fates of various regions and names were 
identified with the deities, whose interests, gardens, or 
treasures they guarded ; and when some of these deities 
were degraded their retainers were still more degraded, 
while in other cases deities were enabled to maintain fair 
fame by fables of their being betrayed and their good 
intentions frustrated by such subordinates. Thus we find 
a certain notion of technical and ofiicial power investing 
such figures as Satan, Ahriman, Iblis, and the Dragon, as 
if the upper gods could not disown or reverse altogether 
the bad deeds done by these commissioners. 

But the large though limited degree of control neces- 
sarily claimed for the greatest and best gods had to be 
represented theologically. Hence there was devised a 
system of Commutation. The Demon or Dragon, though 
abusing his power, could not have it violently withdrawn, 
but might be compelled to accept some sacrifice in lieu of 
the precise object sought by his voracity. These substi- 


tutions are found in every theological system, and to 
apply them to individuals constitutes the raison d'etre of 
every priesthood. In the progress towards civilisation the 
substitutes diminish in value, and finally they become 
merely nominal and ceremonial, — an ^'^'gy of a man 
instead of the man, or wine instead of blood. At first the 
commutation was often in the substitution of persons of 
lower for others of higher rank, as when slaves or wives 
were, or are, sacrificed to assure paradise to the master or 
husband. Thus, Death is allowed to take Alcestis instead 
of Admetus. A higher degree of civilisation substitutes 
animals for human victims. In keeping with this is the 
legend of Christ's sending demons out of two men into a 
herd of swine : ^ which, again, is referable to the same class 
of ideas as the legend that followed concerning Jesus him- 
self as a vicarious offering; mankind in this case being the 
herd, as compared with the son of a god, and the transfer 
of the Satanic power from the human race to himself, for 
even a little time, being accepted in theology as an equi- 
valent, on account of the divine dignity of the being who 
descended into hell. It was some time, however, before 
theology worked out this theory as it now stands, the 
candid fathers having rejoiced in the belief that the con- 
tract for commutation on its face implied that Christ was 
to remain for ever in hell, Satan being outwitted in this. 

The ancient Babylonian charms often end with the 
refrain : — ' May the enchantment go forth and to its own 
dwelling-place betake itself.' Every evil spirit was sup- 
posed to have an appropriate dwelling, as in the case of 
Judas, into whom Satan entered,^ and of whom it is said 
he 'by transgression fell, that he might go to his own 
place.^ Very ingenious are some of the ancient specula- 

^ Matt. viii. 30. ^ Luke xxiii. 3. ^ Acts i. 25. 


tions concerning the habitations and congenial resorts of 
demons. In some regions the colour of a disease on the 
skin is supposed to indicate the tastes of the demon 
causing it; and the spells of exorcism end by assigning 
him to something of the same hue. The demon of jaun- 
dice is generally consigned to the yellow parrots, and 
inflammation to the red or scarlet weeds. Their colours 
are respected. Humanity is little considered in the Eastern 
formulas of this kind, and it is pretty generally the case 
that in praying against plague or famine, populations are 
often found selecting a tribe to which their trouble is 
adjured to betake itself. ' May Nin-cigal,' says a Baby- 
lonian exorcism, ' turn her face towards another place ; 
may the noxious spirit go forth and seize another; may 
the female cherub and the female demon settle upon his 
body ; may the king of heaven preserve, may the king of 
earth preserve ! ' 

So is it in regions and times which we generally think of 
as semi-barbarous. But every now and then communities 
which fancy themselves civilised and enlightened are 
brought face to face with the popular fatalism in its pagan 
form, and are shocked thereat, not remembering that it is 
equally the dogma of vicarious satisfaction or atonement. 
A lady residing in the neighbourhood of the Traunsee, 
Austria, informs me that recently two men were nearly 
drowned in that lake, being rescued at the last moment 
and brought to life with great difficulty. But this inci- 
dent, instead of causing joy among the neighbours of the 
men, excited their displeasure ; and this not because the 
rescued were at all unpopular, but because of a wide- 
spread notion that the Destinies required two lives, that 
they would have to be presently satisfied with two others, 
and that since the agonies of the drowning men had 
passed into unconsciousness, it would have been better to 


surrender the selected victims to their fate. At Elsinore, 
in Denmark, when the sea moans it is said to 'want some- 
body,' and it is generally the case that some story of a 
person just drowned circulates afterwards. 

While the early mythological forms of the Fates diminish 
and pass away as curious superstitions, they return in meta- 
physical disguises. They gather their kindred in primitive 
sciences and cosmogonies, and finding their old home swept 
free of pagan demons, and, garnished with philosophic 
phrases, they enter as grave theories ; but their subtlety 
and their sting is with them, and the last state of the 
house they occupy is worse than the first. 

Yes, worse : for all that man ever won of courage or 
moral freedom, by conquering his dragons in detail, he 
surrenders again to the phantom - forces they typified 
when he gives up his mind to belief in a power not him- 
self that makes for evil. The terrible conclusion that Evil 
is a positive and imperishable Principle in the universe 
carries in it the poisonous breath of every Dragon. It 
lurks in all theology which represents the universe as an 
arena of struggle between good and evil Principles, and 
human life as a war of the soul against the flesh. It ani- 
mates all the pious horrors which identify Materialism 
with wickedness. It nestles in the mind which imagines 
a personal deity opposed by any part of nature. It coils 
around every heart which adores absolute sovereign Will, 
however apotheosised. 

All of these notions, most of all belief in a supreme arbi- 
trary Will, are modern disguises of P'ate ; and belief in 
Fate is the one thing fatal to human culture and energy. 
The notion of Fate {fat?im, the word spoken) carries in it 
the conception of arbitrariness in the universe, of power 
deliberately exerted without necessary reference to the 
nature of things ; and it is precisely opposed to that idea 


of Necessity taught by Science, which is another name for 
the supremacy of Law. Happily the notion of a universe 
held at the mercy of a personal decree is suicidal in a 
world full of sorrows and agonies, which, on such a theory, 
can only be traced to some individual caprice or male- 
volence. However long abject fear may silence the lips 
of the suffering, rebellion is in their hearts. Every blow 
inflicted, directly or permissively, by mere Will, however 
omnipotent, every agony that is consciously detached 
from universal organic necessity, in order that it may be 
called ' providential,' can arouse no natural feeling in man 
nobler than indignation. The feeling of a suitor in a 
court of law, who knows that the adverse judgment that 
ruins him has no root in the facts or the law, but proceeds 
from the prejudice or whim of the judge, can be nowise 
different from that of a mother who sees her son stricken 
down by death, and hears at his grave that he was con- 
sumed by the wrath of a god who might have yielded to 
her prayer, but refused it. The heart's protest may be 
throttled for a time by the lingering coil of terror, but 
it is there, and christian theologians will be as anxious 
to protect their deity from it, at whatever cost to his 
sovereignty, as their predecessors who invented the Cabi- 
net of Women to relieve Jove from responsibility. 

Metaphysics — which appear to have developed into 
the art of making things look true in words when their 
untruth in fact has been detected — have indeed already 
set about the task just predicted. Eminent divines are 
found writing about matter and spirit, freedom and natural 
law, as solemnly as if all this discussion were new, and 
had never been carried out to its inevitable results. 
They can only put in christian or modern phraseology 
conclusions which have been reached again and again 
in the history of human speculation. The various schools 


of Buddhist and Vedantist philosophy have come by 
every conceivable route to their fundamental unity of 
belief in God, Soul, and Matter ; in a pessimist visible 
nature, an ideal invisible nature, and a human soul held 
in matter like a frog in a snake's mouth, but able by cer- 
tain mysterious, mostly metaphysical or verbal, tactics, 
to gain release, and pass into a corresponding situation in 
the deity. 

'As a king, whose son had strayed away from him and 
lived in ignorance of his father among the Veddahs (wild 
men), will, on discovering his son, exclaim, ' Come to me, 
my darling son!' and make him a participator of the 
happiness he himself enjoys, even so will the Supreme 
God present himself before the soul when in distress — the 
soul enmeshed in the net of the five Veddahs (senses), 
and, severing that soul from Pasam (Matter), assimilate it 
to himself, and bless it at his holy feet.' 

It is too late for man to be interested in an 'omni- 
potent ' Personality, whose power is mysteriously limited 
at the precise point when it is needed, and whose moral 
government is another name for man's own control of 
nature. Nevertheless, this Oriental pessimism is the Paul- 
ine theory of Matter, and it is the speculative protoplasm 
out of which has been evolved, in many shapes, that 
personification which remains for our consideration — the 










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