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Evolution of the Dragon, by G. Elliot Smith, [1919], at

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There are reasons for believing that the chief episodes in Aphrodite's past point to the Red Sea for their inspiration, though many other factors, due partly to local circumstances and partly to contact with other civilizations, contributed to the determination of the traits of the Mediterranean goddess of love. In Babylonia and India there are very definite signs of borrowing from the same source. It is important, therefore, to look for further evidence to Arabia as the obvious bond of union both with Phœnicia and Babylonia.

The claim made in Roscher's Lexicon der Mythologie that the Assyrian Ishtar, the Phœnician Ashtoreth (Astarte), the Syrian Atargatis (Derketo), the Babylonian Belit (Mylitta) and the Arabian Ilat (Al-ilat) were all moon-goddesses has given rise to much rather aimless discussion, for there can be no question of their essential homology with Hathor and Aphrodite. Moreover, from the beginning, all goddesses—and especially this most primitive stratum of fertility deities—were for obvious reasons intimately associated with the moon. 1 But the cyclical periodicity of the moon which suggested the analogy with the similar physiological periodicity of women merely explains the association of the moon with women. The influence of the moon upon dew and the tides, perhaps, suggested its controlling power over water and emphasized the life-giving function which its association with women had already suggested. For reasons which have been explained already, water was associated more especially with fertilization by the male. Hence the symbolism of the moon came to include the control of both the male and the female processes of reproduction. 2

The literature relating to the development of these ideas with reference

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to the moon has been summarized by Professor Hutton Webster. 1 He shows that "there is good reason for believing that among many primitive peoples the moon, rather than the sun, the planets or any of the constellations, first excited the imagination and aroused feelings of superstitious awe or of religious veneration".

Special attention was first devoted to the moon when agricultural pursuits compelled men to measure time and determine the seasons. The influence of the moon on water, both the tides and dew, brought it within the scope of the then current biological theory of fertilization. This conception was powerfully corroborated by the parallelism of the moon's cycles and those of womankind, which was interpreted by regarding the moon as the controlling power of the female reproductive functions. Thus all of the earliest goddesses who were personifications of the powers of fertility came to be associated, and in some cases identified, with the moon.

In this way the animation and deification of the moon was brought about: and the first sky deity assumed not only all the attributes of the cowry, i.e. the female reproductive functions, but also, as the controller of water, many of those which afterwards were associated with Osiris. The confusion of the male fertilizing powers of Osiris with the female reproductive functions of Hathor and Isis may explain 'how in some places the moon became a masculine deity, who, however, still retained his control over womankind, and caused the phenomena of menstruation by the exercise of his virile powers. 2 But the moon-god was also a measurer of time and in this aspect was specially personified in Thoth.

The assimilation of the moon with these earth-deities was probably responsible for the creation of the first sky-deity. For once the conception developed of identifying a deity with the moon, and the Osirian beliefs associated with the deification of a dead king grew up, the moon became the impersonation of the spirit of womankind, some mortal woman who by death had acquired divinity.

After the idea had developed of regarding the moon as the spirit

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of a dead person, it was only natural that, in course of time, the sun and stars should be brought within the scope of the same train of thought, and be regarded as the deified dead. When this happened, the sun not unnaturally soon leapt into a position of pre-eminence. As the moon represented the deified female principle the sun became the dominant male deity Re. The stars also became the spirits of the dead.

Once this new conception of a sky-world was adumbrated a luxuriant crop of beliefs grew up to assimilate the new beliefs with the old, and to buttress the confused mixture of incompatible ideas with a complex scaffolding of rationalization.

The sun-god Horus was already the son of Osiris. Osiris controlled not only the river and the irrigation canals, but also the rain-clouds. The fumes of incense conveyed to the sky-gods the supplications of the worshippers on earth. Incense was not only "the perfume that deifies," but also the means by which the deities and the dead could pass to their doubles in the newly invented sky-heaven. The sun-god Re was represented in his temple not by an anthropoid statue, but by an obelisk, 1 the gilded apex of which pointed to heaven and "drew down" the dazzling rays of the sun, reflected from its polished surface, so that all the worshippers could see the manifestations of the god in his temple.

These events are important, not only for creating the sky-gods and the sky-heaven, but possibly also for suggesting the idea that even a mere pillar of stone, whether carved or uncarved, upon which no attempt had been made to model the human form, could represent the deity, or rather could become the "body" to be animated by the god. 2 For once it was admitted, even in the home of these ancient ideas concerning the animation of statues, that it was not essential for the idol to be shaped into human form, the way was opened for less cultured peoples, who had not acquired the technical skill to carve statues, simply to erect stone pillars or unshaped masses of stone or

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wood for their gods to enter, when the appropriate ritual of animation was performed. 1

This conception of the possibility of gods, men, or animals dwelling in stones spread in course of time throughout the world, but in every place where it is found certain arbitrary details of the methods of animating the stone reveal the fact that all these legends must have been derived from the same source.

The complementary belief in the possibility of the petrifaction of men and animals has a similarly extensive geographical distribution. The history of this remarkable incident I shall explain in the lecture on "Dragons and Rain Gods" (Chapter II.). 2


56:1 I am not concerned here with the explanation of the means by which their home became transferred to the planet Venus.

56:2 In his discussion of the functions of the Fravashis in the Iranian Yasht, the late Professor Moulton suggested the derivation of the word from the Avestan root var, "to impregnate," so that fravaŝi might mean "birth-promotion". But he was puzzled by a reference to water. "Less easy to understand is their intimate connexion with the Waters" ("Early Religious Poetry of Persia," pp. 142 and 143). But the Waters were regarded as fertilizing agents. This is seen in the Avestan Anahita, who was "the presiding genie of Fertility and more especially of the Waters" (W. J. Phythian-Adams, "Mithraism," 1915, p. 13).

57:1 "Rest Days," New York, 1916, pp. 124 et seq.

57:2 Wherever these deities of fertility are found, whether in Egypt, Babylonia, the Mediterranean Area, Eastern Asia, and America, illustrations of this confusion of sex are found. The explanation which Dr. Rendel Harris offers of this confusion in the case of Aphrodite seems to me not to give due recognition to its great antiquity and almost world-wide distribution.

58:1 L. Borchardt, "Das Re-heiligtum des Königs Ne-woser-re".

For a good exposition of this matter see A. Moret, "Sanctuaires de l’ancien Empire Égyptien," Annales du Musée Guimet, 1912, p. 265.

58:2 It is possible that the ceremony of erecting the dad columns may have played some part in the development of these beliefs. (On this see A. Moret, "Mystères Égyptiens," 1913, pp. 13-17.)

59:1 Many other factors played a part in the development of the stories of the birth of ancestors from stones. I have already referred to the origin of the idea of the cowry (or some other shell) as the parent of mankind. The place of the shell was often taken by roughly carved stones, which of course were accredited with the same power of being able to produce men, or of being a sort of egg from which human beings could be hatched. It is unlikely that the finding of fossilized animals played any leading rôle in the development of these beliefs, beyond affording corroborative evidence in support of them after other circumstances had been responsible for originating the stories. The more circumstantial Oriental stories of the splitting of stones giving birth to heroes and gods may have been suggested by the finding in pebbles of fossilized shells—themselves regarded already as the parents of mankind. But such interpretations were only possible because all the predisposing circumstances had already prepared the way for the acceptance of these specific illustrations of a general theory.

These beliefs may have developed before and quite independently of the ideas concerning the animation of statues; but if so the latter event would have strengthened and in some places become merged with the other story.

59:2 For an extensive collection of these remarkable petrifaction legends in almost every part of the world, see E. Sidney Hartland's "The Legend of Perseus," especially Volumes I and III. These distinctive stories will be found to be complexly interwoven with all the matters discussed in this address.

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