History of the Devil, by Paul Carus, , at sacred-texts.com
FROM A SURVEYAL of the accounts gleaned from Waitz, Lubbock, and Tylor, on the Primitive state of religion, the conviction impresses itself upon the student of demonology that Devil-worship naturally precedes the worship of a benign and morally good Deity. There are at least many instances in which we can observe a transition from the lower stage of Devil-worship to the higher stage of God-worship, and there seems to be no exception to the rule that fear is always the first incentive to religious worship. This is the reason why the dark figure of the Devil, that is to say, of a powerful evil deity, looms up as the most important personage in the remotest past of almost every faith. Demonolatry, or Devil-worship, is the first stage in the evolution of religion, for we fear the bad, not the good.
Mr. Herbert Spencer bases religion on the Unknown, declaring that the savage worships those powers which he does not understand. In order to give to religion a foundation which even the scientist does not dare to touch, he asserts the existence of an absolute Unknowable, and recommends it as the basis of the religion of the future. But
facts do not agree with Mr. Spencer's proposition. A German proverb says:
Or, as is sometimes said in English:
What is absolutely unknowable does not concern us, and the savage does not worship the thunder because he does not know what it is, but because he knows enough about the lightning that may strike his hut to be in awe of it. He worships the thunder because he dreads it; he is afraid of it on account of its known and obvious dangers which he is unable to control.
Let us hear the men who have carefully collected and sifted the facts. Waitz, in speaking in his Anthropologie (Vol. III., pp. 182, 330, 335, 345) of the Indians, who were not as yet semi-Christianised, states that the Florida tribes are said to have solemnly worshipped the Bad Spirit, Toia, who plagued them with visions, and to have had small regard for the Good Spirit, who troubled himself little about mankind. And Martins makes this characteristic remark of the rude tribes of Brazil:
"All Indians have a lively conviction of the power of an evil principle over them; in many there dawns also a glimpse of the good; but they revere the one less than they fear the other. It might be thought that they hold the Good Being weaker in relation to the fate of man than the Evil." 1
Capt. John Smith, the hero of the colonisation of Virginia, in 1607, describes the worship of Okee (a word
which apparently means that which is above our control) as follows: 1
"There is yet in Virginia no place discouered to bee so Savage in which the savages haue not a religion, Deare, and Bow and Arrowes. All thinges that were able to do them hurt beyond their prevention they adore with their kinde of divine worship; as the fire, water, lightning, thunder, our ordinance peeces, horses, &c. But their chiefe God they worship is the Diuell. Him they call Oke, 2 and serue him more of feare than loue. They say they haue conference with him and fashion themselues as neare to his shape as they can imagine. In their Temples they haue his image euill favouredly carued and then painted and adorned with chaines, copper, and beades, and couered with a skin in such manner as the deformity may well suit with such a God." (Original ed., p. 29.)
"In some part of the Country, they haue yearely a sacrifice of children. Such a one was at Quiyoughcohanock, some 10 miles from Iames Towne, and thus performed.
"Fifteene of the properest young boyes, betweene 10 and 15 yeares of age, they painted white. Hauing brought them forth, the people spent the forenoone in dancing and singing about them with rattles.
"In the afternoone, they put those children to the roote of a tree. By them, all the men stood in a guard, every one hauing a Bastinado in his hand, made of reeds bound together. This [these] made a lane betweene them all along, through which there were appointed 5 young men to fetch these children. So every one of the fiue went through the guard, to fetch a child, each after other by turnes: the guard fearelessly beating them with their Bastinadoes, and they patiently enduring and receauing all; defending the children with their naked bodies from the vnmercifull blowes they pay them soundly, though the children escape. All this while,
the women weepe and crie out very passionately; prouiding mats, skinnes, mosse, and drie wood, as things fitting their childrens funerals.
"After the children were thus passed the guard, the guard tore down the tree, branches and boughs, with such violence, that they rent the body and made wreathes for their heads, or bedecked their haire with the leaues. What else was done with the children was not seene; but they were all cast on a heape in a valley, as dead: where they made a great feast for al the company.
"The Werowance [chief] being demanded the meaning of this sacrifice, answered that the children were not all dead, but [only] that the Oke or Divell did sucke the blood from their left breast [of those], who chanced to be his by lot, till they were dead. But the rest were kept in the wildernesse by the yong men till nine moneths were expired, during which time they must not conuerse with any: and of these, were made their Priests and Coniurers.
"This sacrifice they held to bee so necessarie, that if they should omit it, their Oke or Divel and all their other Quiyoughcosughes (which are their other Gods) would let them haue no Deare, Turkies, Corne, nor fish: and yet besides, hee would make great slaughter amongst them.
"To divert them from this blind idolatrie, many vsed their best indeauours, chiefly with the Werowances of Quiyoughcohanock; whose devotion, apprehension, and good disposition much exceeded any in those Countries: who though we could not as yet preuaile withall to forsake his false Gods, yet this he did beleeue, that our God as much exceeded theirs, as our Gunnes did their Bowes and Arrows; and many times did send to the President, at Iames towne, men with presents, intreating them to pray to his God for raine, for his Gods would not send him any.
"And in this lamentable ignorance doe these poore soules sacrifice themselues to the Diuell, not knowing their Creator." (Original ed., pp. 32, 33, 34.) 1
Similar practices prevailed among almost all the Indian tribes who inhabited the islands and the two continents of America a few centuries ago. M. Bernhard Picart's illustration 1, drawn according to the report of Peter Martyr, 2 an eye-witness, proves that the tribes of Hispaniola, now commonly called Haiti, paid homage to the Supreme Being under the name of Jocanna, and their practices show that they were devil-worshippers of the worst kind. Even the most civilised Americans, the Mexicans, had not as yet outgrown this stage of religious belief. It is true that the idea of a white God of Love and Peace was as not quite foreign to them, but the fear of the horrible Huitzilopochtli still prompted them to stain the altars of his temples with the blood of human victims.
Human sacrifices are frequently mentioned in the Bible. Thus the King of Moab, when pressed hard by. the children of Israel, "took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall" (2 Kings, iv. 27). He succeeded by this terrible expedient in saving the city, for the biblical report continues: "And there was great indignation against Israel; and they [the Israelites] departed from him and returned to their own land."
The prophets were constantly preaching against the pagan practice of those Israelites who, in imitation of the religion of their neighbors, sought to "sacrifice their sons and daughters to devils," or let them "pass through the fire of Moloch to devour them"; but so near to the religious
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DEMONOLATROUS CEREMONIES OF THE OLD INHABITANTS OF HAITI. (After Picart.)
conception of the savage was even the purer faith of Israel that Jephtha still believed that God required of him "to offer his daughter up as a burnt offering." (Judges, xi. 29-40).
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HUMAN SACRIFICE AMONG THE GREEKS.
[Polyxena dies by the hand of Neoptolemus on the tomb of Achilles.--After an ancient cameo in Berlin.]
The most civilised nations on earth still preserve in their ancient legends traces of having at an early period of their religious development immolated human beings in propitiation of angry deities. When the glory of Athens was at its climax, Euripides dramatically represented the tragic fate of Polyxena who was sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles in order to pacify the dead hero's spirit and thereby ensure the safe return of the Greek army.
Progress in civilisation led to a modification but not to a direct abolition of human sacrifices. We find among more advanced savages, and even at the dawn of a higher civilisation, a practice whereby the victim, be it a child, a virgin, or a youth is offered up without slaughtering, and has a chance either to escape by good luck or to be rescued by some daring deed. Traces of this conception are found in the tales of Perseus and Andromeda, of Palnatoke the marksman, who, like William Tell, shot an apple from his
child's head, of Susano, in Japanese folk-lore, who slew the eight-headed serpent that annually devoured one of the daughters of a poor peasant, and similar ancient legends. At the same time human victims were supplanted by animals, as is indicated by various religious legends. Thus a hind was substituted for Iphigenia and a ram for Isaac.
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A HIND SUBSTITUTED FOR IPHIGENIA.
[Agamemnon, her father, veils his head, while Diomedes and Odysseus deliver the virgin over to Kalchas, the priest. Artemis appears in the clouds and a nymph brings the hind.--After a Pompeian fresco.]
Human sacrifices are one of the principal characteristic traits of Devil-worship, but not the only one. There are in addition other devilish practices which are based on the idea that the Deity takes delight in witnessing tortures, and the height of abomination is reached in cannibalism, which, as anthropology teaches us, is not due to scarcity of food, but can always be traced back to some religious superstition, especially to the notion that he who partakes of the heart or brain of his adversary acquires the courage, strength, and other virtues of the slain man.
The last remnants of the idea that the wrath of the Deity must be appeased by blood, and that we acquire spiritual powers by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the victim still linger with us to-day in the medieval
interpretations of certain church dogmas, and will only disappear before the searching light of a fearless and consistent religious reformation. We must remember, however, that certain superstitions, at early stages of the religious development of mankind, are as unavoidable as the various errors which science and philosophy pass through in their natural evolution.
Religion always begins with fear, and the religion of savages may directly be defined as "the fear of evil and the various efforts made to escape evil." Though the fear of evil in the religions of civilised nations plays no longer so prominent a part, we yet learn through historical investigations that at an early stage of their development almost all worship was paid to the powers of evil, who were regarded with special awe and reverence.
Actual Devil-worship continues until the positive power of good is recognised and man finds out by experience that the good, although its progress may be ever so slow, is always victorious in the end. It is natural that the power that makes for righteousness is by and by recognised as the supreme ruler of all powers, and then the power of evil ceases to be an object of awe; it is no longer worshipped and not even propitiated, but struggled against, and the confidence prevails of a final victory of justice, right, and truth.
7:1 Quoted from Tylor, Primitive Culture, II., p. 325.
8:1 "A map of Virginia. With a description of the covntrey, etc., written by Captaine Smith, etc. Oxford. Printed by Joseph Barnes. 1612."
8:2 In the little dictionary of the language of the savages of Virginia which is printed in the same pamphlet, Captain Smith translates "Oke" simply by "gods."
9:1 See The Works of Capt. John Smith of Willoughby etc. Edited by Edward Arber. Birmingham, 1884, pp. 74 ff.
10:1 The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Several Nations of the Known World. III., p. 129.
10:2 See his work, De rebus oceanicis et novo orbe.