Nothing simpler has been recovered from the past than the religious system of the Arunta Tribes of Central Australia, who, in their sacred rites, are self-portrayed as seekers after food. An important ceremony, that was designed to bring success in kangaroo-hunts, consisted in the letting of blood. Thus the blood was an offering to secure plenty of food. (N.T., p. 193, note.) In certain of the Intichiuma ceremonies blood is poured out freely as an offering on behalf of food. These ceremonies are performed for the purpose of insuring the increase of the animal or plant which gives its name to the Totem, the emu, the beetle, the kangaroo, or others. The blood was poured out on the earth as an oblation to the Earth-mother, even though she was only represented by the Emu-bird. The earliest religion, so to call it, was a cultus of the Mother who was propitiated as the “Only One” who was in the beginning. This was the primal providence or provider as the Great Mother, the Mother-earth, who was invoked with offerings of blood for food and drink. In Egypt she was given several characters. She was Abt; Khebt, or Ta-Urt, the Hippopotamus-headed; Rerit, or Shaat, the many-teated Sow; Hathor, the Cow; Rannut, the Serpent-woman, and others related to the phenomena of external nature as the source of life, of food and water.
The root of the whole matter was fecundity, and the goddess, who in later times was called the Mother of love in Egypt, originated in the giver of plenty as the goddess of fecundity. But the fecundity at first was that of Earth, the provider of food and drink. Hence, she was imaged by the Suckler who gave the image of life as Shaat the Sow, or Hathor the Cow. At this stage that which has been so often generalized by the phrase “Phallic worship” was propitiation of what we call Mother Nature=Mother-earth divinized, or idealized as superhuman in the likeness of the large-uddered Cow or the multimammalian Sow, which were figures in a cult of fecundity; the first and foremost object of the “worship” being the food and drink that were supplied by the Mother-earth who gave her life in sacrifice that men might live.
The Mother-earth, Dhurteemah, is still the primordial deity with the Bygah tribes of Seonee, India. They offer food to her as provider at every meal before they call on any other god or
goddess. With the Babylonians Nin-Ki-Gal, the Great Lady, is another form of the Earth-Mother. As Miss Kingsley shows, this primitive Earth-Mother of African origin still survives in Africa as the Earth-Goddess Nzambi, the Great Mother. There is “aye a something” that shows the stage of the beginning is still extant as Inner African, from which the thought and symbolism of Egypt were developed. In her account of “Fetish” according to different schools Miss Kingsley tells us the Earth-Goddess Nzambi is the paramount feature in the “Fetishtic” religion. “She is the Great Mother.” “Round her circle almost all the legends, in her lies the ultimate human hope of help and protection, or, in modern phrase, salvation.” (Kingsley, M. H., West African Studies, pp. 154, 155.) Previously the same writer had said “the school of Nkissi is mainly concerned with the worship of the mystery of the Power of Earth; Nkissi-nsi.” (Kingsley, West African Studies, p. 137.)
Now “the mystery of the power of earth,” or Nkissi-nsi, as Egyptian, is expressed by the word Kep, which is a name of the old Earth-Mother, Ta-Urt. The word Kep signifies mystery, to be mysterious; the mystery of fermentation, the mystery of fertilization, and of water as the source of life. This is as it was in Africa from the first; and as it was in the beginning so it remained in Egypt, allowing for development, to the last, for Apt, the old first Mother-earth, survives in the eschatology of the Ritual, still keeping her hippopotamus form, as “the Mistress of divine protections” and rekindler of the light of life from the spark when it had gone out in the dark of death. Thus, she who had brought to birth as the Mother-earth lived on as the bringer to rebirth for another life in the phase of eschatology. (Renouf, Book of the Dead, ch. 137A, 137B, notes. Also Vignette in Nebseni.)
The old first great mother, then, one of whose names is Khebt, was the Mother-earth in her primary character, and if we go back far enough we find the type is universal. The Mother-earth gave birthplace and food to all the children born of her. Isis, represented as the Sekhet or field, was still the Mother-earth. With the Algonkins, Mother-earth was the great grandmother of all. Mamapacha, worshipped by the Peruvian tribes, was the Mother-earth.
Following the pathetically-primitive custom of ceremonially eating the mother in honour, as the first giver of food, a cult emerges from the darkness of the past upon the way to worship; the worship of the Mother with young, who was the pregnant, therefore the great, Mother. This was a cult of supplication, propitiation, and thankfulness for food and liquid life, which made its offerings to the Mother-earth as the provider of plenty. Mother-earth is the Great Mother of the Moqui Indians, “Our Grandmother” with the Shawnees, and the Grandmother of the Karens in Burmah. Tari-Pennu is the Mother-earth to the Khonds of Orissa. The Finnish goddess, consort of Ukko, is the Mother-earth; Ops was the Roman Earth-Mother, whom we look on as a form of the Egyptian goddess Apt, or Ap. The ancient Germans worshipped Mother Hertha, who is identical by name with the
earth, and also with Ta-Urt, the Egyptian Mother-earth. There was a primitive kind or class of people known as earth-born aborigines, like the San of the Khoi-Khoi and the Chinese Miau-tze. These children of earth who came forth from the forest and the cave would naturally be divided first for recognition in two categories as the Children of the Tree and the Rock, which are spoken of by Hesiod as the two origins of mortals, both tree and rock being representatives of the earth as birthplace. This cult of the Earth-worshippers may account for the Earth-eaters, who still survive in Africa and also with the Indians of California. The tradition is common with the people of several countries that they issued originally from the ground. But to restore the lapsed meaning we have to read Earth for ground, and then identify the earth with one of her types as the Mother of all, who is the Great Mother in mythology. According to S. Powers, the Californian Indians think that their Prairie-Dog ancestors were moulded directly from the soil. If so, they have lost the clue which survives in mythology. The Coyote as a burrower in the ground is a type of the Mother-earth that was made the totem of the Coyote Indians. The birth of the human race from the Mother-earth is indicated both directly and indirectly in the legends of the Kaffirs. In these men issued from the ground, from the cleft in the rock, or a bed of reeds. Others say that Unkulunkulu split them out of a stone. It is still said of a great chief by the Zulus that he was not born; he was belched up by a Cow. The Cow, like the cloven stone, or the tree, was a female type of the Mother-earth. Thus represented, the earth becomes a rock, from which issued the race of men, or in the words of Isaiah, it is the rock whence they were hewn (ch. LI, 1) and the hole of the pit from whence they were digged. Also, as the rock was a type of the earth, the Great Mother, we can see how and wherefore in a following stage the stone pillar or the hole-stone should become a figure of the mythical Genetrix as it was of Hathor and the Paphian Venus; and why the stone seat should be an emblem of the Earth-Mother Isis as a figure of foundation. With the Bushmen the Earth-Mother has become the typical “Old Woman” of later language. Earth as the superhuman Mother is denoted in the Quiché legend in which it is said the human race descended from a cave-dwelling woman or female. Cave, pit, and cavern were the uterus, so to say, of Mother-earth as the place of coming forth, the Unnu, or opening of Neith; the Ununait of Hathor as the solar birthplace. Very naturally the mount was typical of Mother-earth in which the cave was a place of birth for man and beast. “The citizens of Mexico and those of Tlatelolco were wont to visit a hill called Cacatepec, because, as they said, it was their Mother” (Bancroft). Molina states that the principal sacred place or Huaca of the Mexican Yncas was that of the hill Huanacauri, from whence their ancestors were held to have commenced their journey (Spencer, Data of Sociology, ch. XXIV, 186). The mount with the cave in it was a natural figure of the Mother-earth to the Troglodites who were born and there came to consciousness. When the Navajos
issued from the womb (euphemistically from the bowels) of a great mountain near the San Juan River, that mountain is an image of the Mother-earth. The Oneida, Ojibway, and Dacotah Indians, who claim derivation from a sacred stone, at the same time trace their descent from the mountain of the race.
Naturally, the cave as birthplace of the Earth-Mother was identified with the uterine abode. We might say identified by it, that is by the emblem scrawled upon the rock from time immemorial. This figure, or similitude of the female, called the symbol of wickedness “in all the land” by Zechariah (ch. V, 8), portrayed through all the world, has ever been most prominent in the primitive art of the aborigines from Africa to Australia. Not as an object of worship, nor of degradation, but as a likeness of the human abode depicted in the birthplace of the Cavemen. The superhuman type of the motherhood appears in symbolism as the Cleft, the Gap, the Cave, as well as the Tree, the Sow, the Water-Cow, Crocodile, Lioness, and other zootypes. The human mother comes into view by means of her emblem, the hieroglyphic Ru or door of life in the divinized motherhood as the Vesica Piscis of later iconography. There is no getting outside of nature, either in the beginning or in the end. With the Arunta tribes of Central Australia a gorge among the hills at some local totem-centre is identified as the place of emanation from the Earth-Mother. This is exactly in keeping with the Gorge of Neith, whence issued the “younglings of Shu” as spirits of breathing-force. Local tradition tells that at the Emily Gap, near to Alice Springs, “certain Witchetty-Grubs became transformed into Witchetty-Men” (N.T., p. 123). Otherwise stated, the elemental souls passed into the mothers of that ilk to be specialised in the human form instead of becoming animal, bird, or reptile. If we take Hathor as the abode of birth, that is, the Mother-earth as the birthplace and the bringer-forth of life, the stone or conical pillar of Hathor was a type of this birthplace. Now, let us turn for a moment to the Erathipa-stone of the Arunta for the proof that the stone with an opening in it was a Totem of the Mother-earth, the stone out of which the Zulus say the human race was split in the beginning. There is no mistaking the nature of the Arunta stone. It is a representative image of the Mother in the very simplest form. According to the tradition, spirit-children issue from a hole in the Erathipa-stone. Over this aperture a black band is painted with charcoal. This completes that figure of the female which has been portrayed in all the earth as a symbol of the human mother applied to her who was externalized as the superhuman mother, the primeval birthplace. The Fijian pillar-stones were girdled round the waist with the primitive Cestus or Liku of hair, to typify pubescence and identify the motherhood. It is common for the Tree to be draped in female attire and hung with feminine ornaments, as when the Israelite women wove hangings for the Asherah. Two female figures of stone and wood are to be found not only in the Arunta Churinga, but at the head of all human descent and all the “stock-and-stone” worship of the world. They are recognized by Homer when Penelope says to Ulysses, “Tell me thy lineage, and whence
thou art, for thou dost not spring from the ancient Tree nor from the Rock” (Odyss. 19, 163), meaning that he must be an immortal, whereas these are two types of an origin that is of the earth. Hesiod also (Theog. 30, 35) speaks of the Tree and Rock as being amongst the mysteries of the beginning pertaining to the ever-living, blest immortals. The earlier name of the chief sanctuary in Israel, called Bethel, was Luz, or the Almond Tree. Bethel was the place of the stone-pillar, as the abode of the God, and Luz, the locality of the Tree. These, we repeat, are two primary and universal types of the feminine abode, represented by the Two Women in Australia and the Two Divine Sisters in Egypt. They are classed together also as objects of abhorrence in the later casting out of the primitive types. “Woe unto them that saith to the Wood Awake! to the dumb stone. Arise!” in the making of idols (Hab. II, 19). “The Stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it” (Hab. II, 11). The wood and stone of the Australian Churinga, which are Totemic types, are excommunicated in Israel as idols when they were no longer understood as symbols. They came to be looked upon as deities in themselves, set up for worship. Both Cæsar and Lucanus state that the gods of the Gauls were pillar-stones and tree-trunks. Nevertheless, these were not the gods. In Egypt both the Pillar and Tree were pedestals for the gods, and both were blended in the tree-pillar, or Tat of Ptah. As images of the Mother both were the Beth or abode, as Bringer-forth of the Divinity or Spirit which was the object of worship, as was the God of Jacob in the Conical Pillar and of Horus in the Tree. These two primordial and universal types of origin are coupled together in Logion V. of the logoi ihsou (p. 12). “Raise the Stone, and there thou shalt find me; cleave the wood, and there am I.” To raise the stone is to erect an altar. The Wood is one with the Tree. The Stone was raised and the Tree prepared for worship, because they were types of the Divine Abode, which represented the Two Women or Sisters who were the Two Mothers or Bringers-forth of the Race in the beginning. The perception that life was born of the Earth must have been as primordial as it was natural, and that which brings to birth is the Mother. Thus the race of human beings, in common with the animals, was born of Mother-earth. In Central Africa the natives claim that they came from a hole in the rock (Duff Macdonald). It is indeed a common African tradition. The stone or rock crops up continually as an emblem of the Earth or solid ground. The Earth itself was brought to a point and focussed in the ceremonial stone on which the offering was made. For instance, when the members of the Hakea-flower Totem perform their mystery to solicit food, one of the young men opens a vein in his arm and lets the liquid flow over the ceremonial stone until it is entirely covered with blood. A rock near Gouam, in the Marcian Islands, is locally regarded as the ancestor of the human race. The African birthplace denoted by the rock of earth and the forest-tree is indicated by the tradition of the Ovaherero which relates that Men were born from the Omumborombonga Tree, and that sheep and goats issued from a flat rock. (Reiderbecke, Rev. H., Missionary Labours, p. 263.) Now, the Great Goddess who was “worshipped” with the gory
rites of many lands originated as the Mother-earth who was fertilized with blood, and with the definite object of procuring food. This was the superhuman Mother who gave her own life in food, and to whom blood was offered as a propitiatory sacrifice for sustenance. Also in this rite the blood was poured out freely on the earth itself, as life for life. The Intichiuma ceremonies of the Arunta amply show that human blood was poured out on the earth as a sacrificial offering for food. Plenty of blood was shed for plenty of food. It was a mode of magical invocation that is still practised in the mysteries of black magic for the evocation of spirits. Food was the supreme object sought by primitive folk, and the giver of food and drink was propitiated and besought for more. This was naturally the Mother—the Mother-earth; the Mother in the water, in the tree, in the animals that were eaten. Hence the Intichiuma ceremonies of the Arunta are still performed for the increase of the animal or plant which gives its type (or name) to the Totem. “The sole object of these ceremonies is that of increasing the total food supply.” (Native Tribes, p. 169.) The Arunta of the Emu-totem pour out their blood lavishly upon the earth in asking for plenty of Emu, an image of which is painted on the ground to be deluged with blood. On the other hand, the men of the Witchetty-Grub totem, in praying for food, will paint their totem on the body of each man in red ochre, which is a local substitute for blood. Then they represent the mystery of transformation, from matter to spirit, from death to life, and await the emergence of the fully-developed insect from the cocoon of the chrysalis (N.T., pp. 175-6). In the one case blood was offered actually, in the other symbolically, but in both it was offered for continuance and increase of food. Thus the Intichiuma ceremony is a festival celebrated for the increase of food, especially of the totem that was eaten solemnly at the thanksgiving meal. Also the Corroboree of promiscuous intercourse takes place at this festival of invocation for plenty of food. And the drama of reproduction is humanly enacted, as it were, in aid of production in external nature.
The “blood of the martyrs” was not only the “seed of the Church” in later ages; the flesh and blood of the victim offered in sacrifice were also buried in the earth as seed for the future harvest. In West Africa it was a custom for a man and woman to be killed with spades and hoes in the month of March, and for their bodies to be buried in the middle of a newly-tilled field to secure a better crop. The Marimos, a Bechuana tribe, offer up a human victim for the welfare of their crops. The man chosen for a sacrifice is taken to the field and slain amongst the wheat, according to their phrase, to serve as seed. The custom was not only African. The Pawnee Indians offered the flesh and blood of a sacrificial victim at the time of seed-sowing. As late as the year 1837 a captive Sioux girl was sacrificed by them at the time of planting the maize. The flesh was torn in morsels to be buried in the earth, and the corn was sprinkled with drops of her propitiating blood. The appeal for food and drink was natural and universal. According to the ancient wisdom, this appeal was made to the Mother-earth as the source of life, who was imaged as the giver of sustenance in various forms, but first and foremost as the superhuman suckler, the Sow, the Water-Cow, or Milch-
Cow. Egypt has registered the permanent proof that a superhuman power was first besought for food and drink in the person of the Great Mother. The human mother who was eaten sacramentally had supplied the type for the Great Mother in mythology. The sacrifice was offered to the goddess on the hill-top, on the altar-stone, in the field or granary, or under the green tree, as these were different types of the Earth-Mother. The palm-tree that is being fecundated on the Mesopotamian monuments represents the Mother-earth as source of food, one form of which is the produce of the tree. The tree is female. The cone held in the hand of the Geni is an emblem of the male, or solar power by which the earth is fertilized. Earth is the mother of food, the universal matrix; the tree is but a type, like other representatives of the bringer-forth. The sacrifice portrayed beneath the tree upon the Hindu monuments is frankly phallic (Moor’s Hindu Pantheon).
Under whatsoever type or name, the so-called “tree-worship” or “phallic worship” is a festival of fertilization, celebrated in propitiation of the earth-goddess, who is the genetrix besought for food and sustenance, and blood was the primitive oblation made to the Mother-earth. This, however, was not the only one, as is shown by the invocatory rites.
The ancient Mother still survives amongst the Western Inoits in the same primeval character of Mother-earth; she who is the bringer of food, and who when in a merry mood will play at raining down melted fat in her capacity of the Great Mother who is pregnant with plenty, and who is designated Mother Plenty. We are not likely to get much nearer to primitive nature than amongst these Esquimaux, who still perform the mystery of generation and celebrate their Arctic Agapæ at the annual festival of fecundity. In one of the scenes the Shamans enact the resurrection of life as the reproduction of food. The prey is hunted to death with savage cries. Whilst fleeing from the pursuers the man in a mask, who acts the part of the animal seizes hold of a brand from the fire and hurls it aloft to the roof, so that when it falls back to the ground it throws out a shower of live sparks. What does this portend? asks Réclus. The answer is that, “surrounded as it is by its persecutors, the quarry forgets its danger to reproduce its species, an exploit which all the spectators greet with acclamation.” It is not enough to kill the prey; it must also reproduce itself, so that its race may not die out or food become scarce. This festival was universal once. It was celebrated all over the world as a drama of reproduction—first and foremost for the reproduction of food. The resurrection of food by reproduction in animal life is thus enacted at the Inoit festival, as it has been acted in a hundred other mysteries, Intichiuma, Eucharists, Corroborees, and religious revels. By the dim glimmer of this distant light we see the victim’s death was followed with the act of a begettal to new life. It was a drama of reproduction in which the sacrificial victim from the first had represented food—the new food of another year, or of another life in the religious mysteries. It was, we repeat, a drama of reproduction, in which the victim that died and was eaten as the Eucharist was symbolically reproduced in the Corroboree that followed. From very early times the sacrifice of a victim was solem-
nized, and followed by the phallic feast, whether in the Corroboree of the Arunta or the Christian Agapæ. First the sacrificial victim is slain and eaten, ante lucem, at the evening meal or Last Supper, and next the festival of reproduction was celebrated in the Agapæ. This reproduction was performed by universal promiscuity from a time when paternity was impersonal and the relationship of the sexes was that of all for all, when boundless licence was the only law befitting the Great Mother. This promiscuity is also recognizable when Tertullian repeats the charges that were brought against the conduct of the Christians at their festivals: “Dicimur scleratissimi de sacramento infanticidii et pabulo inde, et post, incesto convivium quod eversores luminum” (Tertullian, Apologeticum, ch. vii.).
We now come to the secondary cause of what has been called “phallic worship.” The first we found in Earth herself being imaged and propitiated as the Great Mother in the pre-anthropomorphic mould when she was represented by the Water-Cow, the Sow, the Goose, or other figure of food. Long before the god Seb was divinized as “the Father of Food,” the Earth was Mother of Food and gave drink as the wet-nurse, with the Sow as suckler of her children, and the cave in the rock as her womb.
The goddess Hathor, the Egyptian Venus, was the fairest representative of Mother-earth. She was propitiated as the Mother of Plenty, like the Inoit Sidné, and was imaged in the likeness of the cow or sow, as the figure of food and fecundity. She was also the goddess of generation, maternity, and child-birth, as well as of music and the dance, of loveliness and love. Length of time and the course of development have to be allowed for. The Greek Venus in her nudity is immeasurably distant from the goddess Hathor offering her milk to the glorified. Nevertheless, the Mother of Food was primary as Mother-earth, and the Goddess of Love explains the phallic nature of the later cult of fertilization.
The most exact and comprehensive title for the religion designated phallic worship would be the Cult of the Great Mother, taking Hathor for the type, who was the womb of life as Mother-earth, the suckler as the cow, the giver of food, shelter, and water as the tree, and who in the course of time became the Goddess of Love, of fecundity and child-birth. Moreover, in the later phallic cult the type had been changed from the cow to the human female. The primitive simplicity of “Hathor worship” was just that of the infant pulling and mumbling at the mother’s nipples, when the source of milky plenty was portrayed as superhuman in the likeness of the cow or sow; and when the representation became anthropomorphic this simplicity was lost.
The Cow or Sow was superseded by the Woman in the temples as the more alluring type of the great goddess. It is most naïvely-pitiful to see how the sex became the human organ of the superhuman power offering itself as Hathor in the Asherah-tree or as the house of God; acting the goddess as the great harlot of the cult in its debasement and deterioration. This, we repeat, was mainly a result of the representation becoming anthropomorphic. The Great Mother was the ideal in the minds of the devotees, she whose size had been imaged by the hippopotamus, whose sexual force had been repre-
sented by Sekhet as the lioness in heat. Thus, when the type was humanized the female of the greatest capacity would present the nearest likeness to the divinity, and be held most worthy of her at the festival of fertilization. The Great Mother, when represented in the human form, becomes the harlot of promiscuous intercourse performing the rite on behalf of the Great Mother in her tree-tent or rock-cave, or later sanctuary. Carver in his Travels relates that when amongst the Naudowessies he saw they paid uncommon respect to one of their women, who was looked up to, if not worshipped, as a person of high distinction, because on one occasion she invited forty of the principal warriors to her tent, provided them with a feast, and treated them all as her husbands. This, the Indians said, was an ancient custom by which a woman might win a husband of the first rank. (Lubbock, Origin of Civilization, p. 101.) She, like the Water-Cow, would be a type of the Great Mother, or Goddess of Fecundity, represented by the woman capable of entertaining all the males of the Totem at one time as the Great Mother indeed. It was as representatives of the Great Mother that the temple prostitutes attained pre-eminence in various lands, and afterwards were highly honoured as the servants of the goddess.
The Great Mother in the Mount was represented by such goddesses as Astarte, whose Ephebæ and Courtesans received her devotees in grottoes and caves that were hollowed out for the purpose in the Syrian hillsides. The temple of Hathor at Serabit-el-Khadem, discovered by Professor Petrie in the Peninsula of Sinai, was based originally on a cave in the rock, which was the Great Earth-Mother’s earliest shrine. In England there is or used to be a mild return to sexual promiscuity once a year. The confusion or “mingling on the Mound” was practised on the hill, though not in a very Belialistic way. In the present writer’s youth it was an Easter pastime for the lads and lasses to meet upon the “Beacon,” the “Steps,” or some other sacred hill—equivalent to the Mound, and kiss and romp and roll each other down the hill-side in a scene of fine confusion, and with much soiling and tearing at times of pretty frocks that had to be put on quite new for the saturnalia. All young folk were sweethearts in a kind of sexual promiscuity on Easter Day. In its way this was celebrated at the time of year when a reproduction of the fruits of the earth was dramatized and all the inimical influences that made for sterility, drought, and famine were figuratively driven away. As Herodotus relates, some 700,000 people used to assemble at Bubastis to celebrate the annual festival of the Great Mother Bast, who was known as the goddess of strong drink and sexual passion. The women who exposed their persons on the boats to the watchers on the shore were exhibiting the natural lure to signify that they were free to all comers, for this occasion only, in the service of the goddess, who was a lioness in heat. They were going to celebrate the great festival of reproduction. He says that when the barges passed the river-side towns some of the women danced on board, others stood up and exposed their persons to those who were watching them from the banks of the Nile. (B. II, 60.)
The phallic festival was periodically celebrated in honour of the Great Mother, the first supreme power in nature personalized as the goddess of fertility, the giver of food and drink, the celebration being in accordance with primitive usage and the promiscuous sexual intercourse of pre-Totemic times. The phallic festivals were chiefly repeated at the equinoxes—that is, at seed-time and harvest. The equinox was a figure of equality of all things being on a level. This fact is expressed in the names of our Fairs and Evens. Promiscuity was a mode of making things fair and even in the sexual saturnalia. High and low, rich and poor, young and old, “commingled on the mound,” the hill, the high places. It was a world in which old maids and bachelors were not allowed, and there was at most a six months’ lease for private ownership in womankind (from one equinox to the other). Hence we learn from the witches’ confessions that women were the strongest supporters of the “Sabbath.” Laws of Tabu were violated with impunity for this occasion only. At this time, and no other, men and women of the same Totem cohabited promiscuously. The Asherah is a sacred simulacrum of the goddess whose desire was to be for ever fecundated. And when the women of Israel set up the Asherah and wore the hangings for curtains of concealment (II Kings XXIII. 7) they became the representatives of the Great Mother who is denounced by the biblical writers as the Great Harlot, but who was a most popular Mother in Israel, and Sekhet her own second self in Egypt.
There is every reason for concluding that the unlimited excess indulged in promiscuity at the phallic festival was designed to represent the desire for an illimitable supply of food, the boundlessness of the one being dramatically rendered by the latitude and licence of the other. It was a magical mode of the mysteries in which the meaning was expressed in act as a primitive form of Sign-language addressed to the superhuman Power as the Great Mother. The customs of the savage, or, as we prefer to say, the aborigines, are modes of memorizing. For ages on ages their only means of keeping an historic record of the past, the sole mode of memorial, have been the customs; and with what faithful persistence these have been fulfilled. Promiscuous connubium is recognized by the Arunta as the condition that obtained in the remotest times. They connect it with the custom of exchanging wives at the Corroboree, saying this was the practice of the Alcheringa (N.T., pp. 96, 99). That was in the time beyond which nothing is or can be known, because nothing was formulated in the lawless state of utter promiscuity. Howitt relates that on one occasion, when the Aurora Australis was more alarming and portentous in appearance than usual, the Kurnai tribe beheld it with great terror, and betook themselves to intersexual communism by the exchange of wives as a mode of warding off the calamity supposed to be impending. (Howitt on some Australian beliefs.)
The root origin, then, of what has been called the phallic religion is also to be traced in a periodic celebration of the festival of reproduction, which was first applied to the renewal of food in the flesh of animals and the fruits of the earth, this reproduction being rendered in the grossest human guise on the hugest scale, and in the most prodigious manner befitting the Great Mother in communal connubium
with all her sons together. The festival of fertilization is a survival from the far-off past when the Mother-earth was the All and the Only One, to be propitiated as the giver of food. Being the Mother, she was represented by the female, who was at first pre-human, and finally human. Thenceforth woman was the living type of the mythical Great Mother, instead of the Cow or Sow, the Goat or the She-Bear; and at this festival all womankind were one in imaging the Mother who from the beginning had been the All-One. Nothing was recognized but the female, the typical organ of motherhood, which imaged the earth as mother of sustenance; the mother, who was propitiated and solicited in various ways, by oblations of blood and other offerings, was also invoked in the likeness of the human female to be fertilized in human fashion. She was the Great Mother, the All-One, and nothing less than the contributions of all could duly, hugely, adequately represent the oblation. In Drummond’s Œdipus Judaicus, pl. 13, there is a drawing from the Mithraic monuments according to Hyde, which shows that the seed-sowing at the festival of fertilization was illustrated in the human fashion by the male, and that the Earth-Goddess was fecundated as the female, who was represented by the women in the orgie of promiscuity. The mystery of reproduction was acted in the festival, as the vicarious mode of fecundating the Great Mother and Good Lady, by the bountiful sowing of human seed. It was a primitive mode of representing her, on behalf of whom all womenkind contributed vicariously. Call it “worship,” “phallic worship,” or any other “worship,” the supreme object of devotion at first was food and drink, which were represented by the earth in crop, the tree in fruit, the animal pregnant with young; by the Mammalia, the Water-Cow, the Sow, the Milch-Cow, the Goose, the Emu, the Kangaroo; and lastly by the goddesses and the women who represented Mother-Earth as Apt or Isis, Nin-Ki-Gal or Demeter, when the latter had been objectified in Hathor, the goddess of love, or Sekhet, the goddess of sexual communion, as divinity in female form. As it is said of Pepi in the Texts, “Thy sister Isis hath come to thee rejoicing in thy love. Thou hast had intercourse with her, and hast made her to conceive.” (Budge, Book of the Dead, Introduction, p. 134.) In these celebrations the woman took the place of the goddess. At the time when the begetters were not yet individualized a single pair of actors would have conveyed but little meaning. The soul of procreation was tribal, general, promiscuous, and the mode of reproduction in the most primitive mysteries was in keeping therewith. Reproduction by the soul of the tribe was rendered by all the members contributing to fecundate the Great Mother. Hence the phallic saturnalia, in which the reproduction of food, especially in the future life of the animals, and the continuation of the species were dramatized in a primitive phallic festival which survived eventually as the “love-feast” of the Christian cult.
Many examples could be cited of this custom, which was universal as it was primitive, and which may be looked upon as the festival of reproduction that represented the begettal of future food in human fashion and in connubium as it were with the Great Mother, the Mother-Nature, or the Mother-earth, like Pepi with his
divine sister Isis. In India to-day young girls are married to the Gods. The doctrine is the same in the Roman Cult when the Virgins are the dedicated Brides of Christ. In the earlier rite it was the Males who, like the Pharaoh Pepi, were married to the divine Mother who was personated by the women in the mysteries of the primitive religion. At such a time, whatsoever their status attained in civilization, the people lapsed pro tem. into a state of general promiscuity. The women lost all feeling of modesty and became raging Bacchantes. Men and women were more furious than animals in the indulgence of their passion at this wild debauch. As described by M. Réclus, divinized Mother-earth had to be stirred from her winter sleep by naïvely-lascivious spectacles for the purpose of exciting the spirit of fecundity. She was represented by young wantons of women, who danced and frolicked indescribably or lay down and scraped the ground with their heels, caressed it with their hands, and offered their embraces like so many naked Danæas wooing the fertilizing sun. In this saturnalia there was a general reversion to the practice of an earlier time somewhat analogous to the throw back of atavism in race, with this difference: the intentional lapse in moral status was but temporary, although periodically recurrent. It was a stripping off, or rather bursting out, of all the guises and disguises, trappings, ties, and stays of civilization, and running amok in all the nudity of nature.
There is a pathos of primitive simplicity in some of the appeals thus made in the lower ranges of the cult that is unparalleled in literature. The Thotigars of Southern India, at the festival of sowing seed, will insist that their wives shall make themselves common to all comers as an incitement for the Mother-earth to follow their example. The husbands improvize shelters by the road-side and stock them with provisions for their wives, and call upon the passers-by to “procure the public good and ensure an abundance of bread” (Réclus, P. F. P., p. 283). A propos of this same festival, Israel is charged by Hosea with having become a prostitute by letting herself out for hire upon the corn-floor! “Thou hast gone a-whoring from thy God; thou hast loved hire upon every corn-floor” (ch. IX, 1). In this case the harlot was a representative of the Mother-earth as goddess of corn who was being fertilized by proxy on the grand scale in the phallic festivities, which included connubium upon the corn-floor, as well as on the hill, under the green tree, or in the embrace of the earth itself.
Phallic religion, then, as here maintained, did not originate in a worship of the humans sex. The Great Mother, pregnant with plenty, was the object of propitiation and appeal, as the bringer to birth and the giver of food. This was the superhuman mother in mythology, and not the human parent, as in Totemism. “Phallic worship” originated in the cult of the motherhood. It was the Mother who was honoured; her body and blood were sacredly eaten in the primitive Eucharist, if not as an act of adoration, it was an act of primitive homage and affection. The type was then applied to Mother-earth as the giver of life, of food and drink, the Great Mother in mythology who was thus fertilized and fecundated as it were dramatically in the human fashion for increase of food.
The drama of reproduction also involved the mystery of resur-
rection and rebirth applied to the periodic renewal of food which was represented in character by the victim. Reproduction was represented in various modes of resurrection, including the dance. It was a common custom for the skin of the animal, bird, or reptile to be preserved entire and suspended on a pole as the sign of reproduction for another life. This might be the skin of the Ainu bear, who is invoked to “come back soon into an Ainu” whilst being offered up as a sacrifice. They then rejoice and sing, and both sexes dance in ranks as bears. Judging from other forms of the primitive Agapæ, we surmise that what is meant by the sexes dancing in ranks as bears is that the performers at this festival coupled together in the skins of the bear for the reproduction of their future food, which in this case was the bear, but elsewhere might be the buffalo, the bull, the boar, or other Totemic animal that was slain and eaten sacramentally. The resurrection acted in the mysteries of Amenta still continues the Totemic type when the reproducer is Osiris, the Bull of Eternity. It was the same festival of reproduction when the goat was the sacrificial type as when it was the bear, or calf, or lamb, or other zootype that was eaten, food being the primitive object in propitiating the superhuman Power. It was the mystery of reproduction when the goat was the sacrificial type as when it was the bear, the bull, the goat, the turtle, or any other Totemic type. The secret of the mystery is that food was the object of the festival of reproduction, and the Great Mother was propitiated for abundance of food. Sexual intercourse was known to be a mode of reproduction, and the performers not only danced in Totemic guise as animals, they acted the characters. In this mad festival of fertilization for the production of food men also dressed and acted as women; women dressed and acted as men, the function of each being thus apparently doubled. We know that in the Totemic mysteries the performers wore the skins of animals as a mode of acting in character, and when they acted thus in pairs it would inevitably give rise to statements that men and animals commingled in dark rites without distinction of nature. Now, the goat was a Jewish type, Totemic or religious, and the Jews were reputed to be goat-worshippers after the animal had been made a symbol of the evil Sut in Egypt. But the goat was at one time good, as a giver of food in flesh and milk, when those of the Totem would dance in the skin of the goat and be denounced by later ignorance as “worshippers” of the Shedim or of Satan. Thus amongst the mysteries that were continued by the primitive Christians is this of reproduction, which was first applied to food and finally to the human soul. Hence they were charged with “running after heifers,” just as the Jews were denounced for running after she-goats. The root of the whole matter is that in this festival of fructification the animals which are eaten for food are represented by the Totemic actors in the skins as reproducing themselves for food hereafter. The fact is disclosed by the Inoit ceremony in which the prey must reproduce itself before the sacrificial victim dies, so that the species shall live on and future food may be secured. The mystery was the same the wide world round. The early Christians had to be admonished against “running after heifers” in their mysteries performed at “Christmas and on other days.” This was the survival
of a primitive custom that, like all others, had its genesis in the nature that was blindly groping in the gloom with dark religious rites. The fact was patent in all the mysteries that promiscuous sexual intercourse was an act which came to be called religious. The Agapæ did not originate with what is termed Christianity, but was one of the most primitive institutions of the human race, which began as the festival of fertility when the invocation of the superhuman Power was for food and sustenance addressed to the Good Lady, the Earth-Goddess, the Great Mother, in her several elemental characters. It was a festival of fructification at which she was represented by the human female, the more the merrier, the primary object being future food far more than human offspring, and it was this desire that gave the touch of religious feeling to the orgy of the sexes in which the seed was sown broadcast, so to say, for future harvest.
Following Totemism, we find that Fetishism takes up the tale of development in Sign-language. By Fetishism the present writer means the reverent regard for amulets, talismans, mascots, charms, and luck-tokens that were worn or otherwise employed as magical signs of protecting power. Fetishism has been classified as the primal, universal religion of mankind. It has also been called “the very last corruption of religion.” (Max Müller, Nat. Rel., p. 196.) But it will not help us to comprehend the position of the primitive races by simply supposing them to have been in an attitude of worship when they were only groping mentally on all fours. On the contrary, we consider the so-called “fetishes” to be a residual result of Sign-language and Totemism, and do not look on Fetishism as an organized religious cult. The name of Fetishism was given by de Brosses, in his work on the cult of the fetish gods, published in 1760. The word fetish is said to be derived from a root which yields our word faith. Feitico, in Portuguese, is the name for an amulet, a talisman, or magical charm. The word would seem to have been adopted by the West Coast natives and applied to their gru-grus, ju-jus, enquizi, or mokisso, which are worn for mental medicine as the representative type of some protecting superhuman power. But Fetishism did not originate with the Portuguese. Also the same root-word is found in the Irish as fede. An ancient Irish wedding-ring in the shape of two hands clasped together was called a fede. This too was a fetish, as a sign of fidelity or faith. The same thing was signified by the Egyptian “Sa” for the amulet or magical charm. The word “Sa,” variously illustrated, denotes protection, aid, backing, defence, virtue, soul, efficacy. An earlier form of the word is Ka: there was a divinity named Sau, or Ka, who was the god of fetish-figures which are identifiable as amulets, charms, knots, skins, and other things that were worn as types of protective power. In Egypt, Sa or Ka was the author or creator of the types which became fetishtic. (Rit., ch. XVII.) Nothing can be more pathetic than the appeal that was made to Sa, the god of amulets. The word Sa also signifies touch. Thus the protecting power appealed to as the god of the fetish was the god of touch. The amulet brought the power nearer to be laid hold of, and made its presence veritable to this sense. Thus, Fetishism was a mode of Sign-language which supplied a tangible means of laying
hold of the nature powers that were to some extent apprehended as superhuman without being comprehended. Hence the talisman, the amulet, or magical charm is worn as something tangible, a thing to touch or clutch hold of, on purpose to keep in touch with the power represented by the fetish. This god of touch is still extant in the Church of Rome, as well as his amulets and charms, the cross, the rosary, and other fetish figures that are yet worn for protection, and are touched in time of need, to establish the physical link with the invisible Power with which it may be thought desirable to keep in touch.
But, it was not, as de Brosses said in his early generalization, that anything would serve promiscuously for a fetish. On the contrary, there was no fetish without some special symbolic value known to those who read these natural hieroglyphics. We see by the Zunis that one great reason for making fetish images and honouring them was that the so-called worship was a mode of laying hold upon the powers which they represented. This is common. The images are a means of taking tangible possession of the powers themselves through their hostages. The devotees thus have them in their power, and hold them as it were in captivity, to control, command, and even coerce or punish them. Hence the gods were sometimes beaten in the shape of their fetish images. The appeal was not always prayerful. Certain magical formulæ in the Egyptian Ritual were repeated as words of command. In saluting the two lions, the double-uræi and the two divine sisters, the deceased claims to command and compel them by his magical art (XXXVII, 1).
Magic is the power of influencing the elemental or ancestral spirits. Magical words are words with which to conjure and compel; magical processes were acted with the same intent. If the process consisted in simply tying a knot, it was a mode of covenanting and establishing a bond with the object of compelling fulfilment. The Fetishism of Inner Africa, with its elemental powers, its zootypology, its science of magic and mental medicine, its doctrine of transformation, its amulets and charms, came to its culmination in the typology, the mythology, the magic, the religious rites and customs of Egypt. Egypt will show us the final phase and perfect flower of that which had its rootage in the remotest past of humanity in the Dark Continent. Wearing the fetish as a charm, a medicine, a visible symbol of power, is common with the Negro races. Many of them delight in wearing a beltful of these around the body. If the Negro has to bear a heavier load than usual, he will clap on a fresh fetish for every pound of extra weight, because the fetishes represent a helpful power. If he has to carry 100 pounds weight he will want, say, half-a-dozen fetish images in his girdle. But if the weight be doubled he will require a dozen fetishes to enable him to sustain it. His fetishes represent power in various forms, whether drawn from the animal world or human, whether the tokens be a tooth, a claw, a skin, a horn, hair, a root, a bone, or only a stone. They represent a stored up power, for the Negro has faith in his fetishes, and that acts as a potent mental influence. If he has only a gree-gree of cord, he will tie it into knots, and every knot is the sign of increase in power
according to his reckoning. When it was known what the type or fetish signified as a representative figure, it could make no direct appeal to religious consciousness, nor evoke a feeling of reverence for itself, any more than the letters of the alphabet. Mere fetishism in the modern sense only comes in with ignorance of Sign-language. The Arunta have an emblem in their Churinga which is a very sacred fetish. This is associated with the Alcheringa spirits. When there is a battle the Churinga is supposed to endow its owner with courage. “So firm is their belief in this, that if two men were fighting, and one of them knew that the other carried a Churinga whilst he did not, he would certainly lose heart and without doubt be beaten” (Spencer and Gillen). We know that the Inner African custom of carrying a number of amulets and charms strung upon the body for protection was continued in ancient Egypt, because we see it employed in the equipment of the dead for their journey through the nether world. When the deceased enters the presence of the Typhonian powers in Amenta he exults in being prepared with “millions of charms,” or fetish images, which friendly hands have buried with his body, such as the terrible Eye of Horus, the Beetle of Transformation, the Tablet of Tahn, the Sceptre of Felspar, the Buckle of Stability, the Ankh-cross of Life, and other types of protecting power. With his fetishes outside and inside of his mummy, he exclaims, “I clothe and equip myself with thy spells, O Ra!” and so he faces the darkness of death in defiance of all the evil powers. Each amulet or fetish signifies some particular way of protecting, of preserving, transforming, reproducing, or renewing life, and reestablishing him for ever, the sun being representative of the power that revivifies for life eternal. We learn from the chapter on bringing the charms of a person in Hades that the amulets, spells, and talismans are equivalent to the powers of the mind, heart, and tongue of the deceased. He says, “I have made the gods strong, bringing all my charms to them” (ch. 23). In the chapter on stopping the crocodiles that come to make the deceased “lose his mind” in Amenta, we see how the earlier zootypes that once represented the powers of destruction have still kept their place, and can be turned to good account by him, as when the deceased cries, “Back, Crocodile of the West! There is an asp in my belly! There is a snake in my belly!”—the one being the symbol of royal supremacy, the other of transformation into new life. The primitive mode of portraying the powers in nature that were superior to the human was continued in this typology of the tomb. Thus the Manes cling to powers beyond the human, which were first represented by the natural types that have now become fetishtic; a means of claiming alliance with them and of clothing themselves in death with their shield of protection and panoply of power. In spirit-life the deceased clutches at the same types that were fetishes in this life, and holds on by the same assistance. He not only clothes himself with their images as talismans and spells, he transforms into their likeness to personate their superhuman forces. Thus he can pass underground as a tortoise, a beetle, or a shrewmouse; make way through the mud or the nets as an eel, through the water as a crocodile, through the dark as a jackal, or see in it as a cat; fly swiftly as a swallow, and soar through
the air or solar fire as the golden hawk; shed his past life like the tail of the tadpole that turns frog, or slough it like the skin of the serpent. In making his passage by means of manifold manifestations he exclaims, “I have flown as a hawk,” “I have cackled as a goose,” “I am the swallow” (as the soul of swiftness). He runs through the zootypes which represented the powers of the soul in various stages of development, and says: 1. I am the jackal. 2. I am the hawk. 3. I am the great fish. 4. I am the phœnix. 5. I am the serpent. 6. I am the ram. 7. I am the sun. In this passage the deceased transforms into these zootypes of the nature powers in order that he may go where the merely human faculties would fail to carry him through. He assumes their power by wearing representative images or fetishes—by impersonation of their parts and by incorporation of these potencies which are beyond the human, and therefore superhuman. Hence the exclamation, “I have incorporated Horus”—i.e., the youthful god who was for ever re-born in phenomenal manifestation as representative of the eternal in time, in whose likeness the mortal transformed into an immortal to realize the type. The Ritual contains many references to magic as a mode of transformation. The Osiris says: “My mouth makes the invocation of magical charms. I pray in magical formulæ” (31, 2-3). That is the precise explanation of the primitive modes of invocation and evocation, “I pray in magical formulæ.” And these magical formulæ were acted, performed, and signified by a thousand things that were done in place of being said: “My magical power gives vigour to my flesh” (64, 27). “Masters of Truth, who are free from evil, living for ever, lend me your forms. Give me possession of your magical charms,” “for I know your names” (72, 1, 2). Chapter 64, is spoken of as a hymn that caused the reader to go into a state of ecstasy. “He no longer sees, no longer hears, whilst reciting this pure and holy composition” (50, 33), which obviously points to the condition of trance that was attributed to the magical power of the formulæ. Urt-Hekau, great in magical words of power, is a title of Isis, who was considered the very great mistress of spells and magical incantations. It is said of her: “The beneficent sister repeateth the formulæ and provideth thy soul with her conjurations. Thy person is strengthened by all her formulæ of incantation.”
It is the power beyond the type that goes far to account for the origin and persistence of fetishism. The African knows well enough that the power is not necessarily resident in the fetish, which fails him continually and in the times of greatest need. But his trust is in the power that is represented by the fetish, the power that never dies, and therefore is eternal.
The magical incantations which accompany the gesture signs also prove that the appeal, whether in dumb show or in words, was being made to some superior superhuman force—that is, one of the elemental powers in mythology which became the goddesses and gods in the later eschatology. The hawk will show us how a fetish image was educed from a type or sign of superhuman force. The bird in Egypt was a symbol of the Horus sun on account of its swiftness and its soaring power. It was used to signify height, excellence, spirit, victory. And just as letters are reduced ideographs, so the hawk’s
foot and kite’s feather will denote the power first represented by the bird itself, and as such they are worn upon the person. They are the visible signs of swiftness or upward flight, and therefore a true medicine or fetish to speed one on. Also, when superhuman powers in nature were represented by the superhuman types or zootypes, it was not that the deceased changed into an animal or bird or reptile, either in this life or the next, when he is self-assimilated to the type. When the deceased in the Ritual says, “I am the lion,” he is clothing himself in the strength of the great power that had been represented by the lion, which might be that of Shu or of Atum-Ra. The wearers of the fetish images, whether on earth or in Amenta, are affiliated or assimilated to the power beyond by means of the type, whether this is represented by wearing the whole skin or a piece of it, the horn, the hoof, the tooth, or tail of the animal, the feathers of the bird or rattle of the snake. Thus, the horn of the bull, or a portion of it, might be worn to assimilate the wearer to Osiris, “the Bull of Eternity.” An old Fan hunter gave Miss Kingsley a little ivory half-moon which was specially intended “to make man see bush,” otherwise for her to see her way in the night of the forest (Trav. p. 102). So the eye of Horus which images the moon is given to the deceased for his night-light in the darkness of death. Horus presents the (solar) eye by day and Taht the lunar eye by night (Rit., ch. 144, 8). The eye was an emblem of great magical and protecting power. With many of the West Coast Africans the eyeballs of the dead, more particularly of Europeans, constitute a great medicine, fetish, or charm. Dr. Nassau told Miss Kingsley that he had known graves to have been rifled in search of them (Kingsley, M. H., Travels in West Africa, p. 449).
The amulets, charms, and tokens of magical power that were buried with the Egyptian dead became fetish on account of what they imaged symbolically, and fetishtic symbolism is Sign-language in one of its ideographic phases. The Usekh-collar indicated being set free from the bandages and rising again from the dead in the glorified form of the Sahu-mummy. The Tam-sceptre signified union with the loved and lost. As Egyptian, one of the fetish figures buried with the dead is the sign of the corner or angle, named Neka . It is the mystical corner-stone of the Masonic builder, and a sign of building on the square, for which the symbol stands. Building on the square, or a fourfold foundation, is to build for ever. Paul speaks as a Mason or a gnostic when he makes the mystical Christ the “chief cornerstone” in the temple that is builded “for an habitation of God in the spirit” (Eph. II. 20-22). The Ankh-cross signified the life to come, that is, the life everlasting. The Shen-ring imaged continuity for ever, in the circle of eternity. The heart of green basalt showed that the deceased in this life was sound-hearted. The beetle Kheper typified the self-reproducing power in nature which operates by transformation according to the laws of evolution. The jackal-headed User-sceptre was buried as an image of sustaining power, the vertebral column of Sut or Osiris that supported the heavens. The Tat, a pillar or tree-trunk, was an emblem of stability and type of the god Ptah as the fourfold support of the universe. We have heard much of the savage who was able to secrete his soul in a stone
or a tree, but without the gnosis by which alone such nursery-tales could be explained. Now, in one of the numerous changes made by the Osiris in Amenta he transforms into a stone (Rit., ch. 161), saying “I am the tablet of felspar.” This was the Uat-amulet that was placed in the tomb as a type of that which was for ever green, fresh and flourishing, equivalent to the green jade found in Neolithic graves. In this an evergreen was, so to say, made permanent in stone, and buried with the dead as a type of eternal youth. The deceased exclaims, “I am the column of green felspar” (Rit., ch. 160), and he rejoices in the stone being so hard that it cannot be crushed or even receive a scratch, saying, “If it is safe, I am safe; if it is uninjured, I am uninjured.” The power of this amulet was in its impenetrable hardness, which represented eternal permanence for the soul which it imaged. One of the most sacred fetishes in Egypt was an amulet of red stone, which represented the blood of Isis. That is the mother-blood in theology–the blood by which salvation came, to give eternal life–a sublimated form of the mother-blood in totemism, which came to give the human life. Isis, moreover, is the virgin divinized. We speak of the blood tie between mother and child. This was first figured by means of the totem, and naturally the figure became a fetish. The Egyptians, being more advanced, were able to manufacture fetishtic types like the Ankh-image of life, the Tat-emblem of stability, the Nefer-amulet of good luck, the Scarabæus of transformation, the serpent of eternity.
It must have been a work of proud accomplishment for primitive man when first he made a string of hair or of any fibrous material, and could tie a knot in it. We might say primitive woman, hers being the greater need. It is the goddess Ankh who wears the hemp-stalks on her head, the goddess Neith who is the knitter divinized. The knotted tie is one of the most primitive and important of all the African fetishes to be found in Egypt. It is the gree-gree of Inner Africa. The Ankh-tie itself is originally merely a piece of string called a strap. It is the sign of dress, of undress, to tie or fasten, and of linen hung up to dry. The tie in Egypt takes several forms in the Ankh, the Tet, the Sa. The Ankh denotes life. The Sa has ten loops or ties, which in the language of signs might signify a period of ten lunar months. The Tet-tie, now a buckle, represents the blood of Isis, the saving blood, the soul of blood derived from the virgin mother, which was imaged in the human Horus. The tie was the earliest form of the liku or loin-belt first worn by the female as the mother of life at the period that was indicated by nature for propagation and connubium. Necklaces were worn by the Egyptian women to which the tie-amulet of Isis formed a pendant, and indicated her protecting power. In others the amulet suspended was the Ankh of life, or the heart (Ab); the Tat-sign of stability, or the Neferu-symbol of good luck. These were all fetishes that were worn to establish the personal rapport and alliance with the respective powers, which are known by name when divinized.
Fetishes generally are objects held in honour as the representatives of some power that was worshipped when the feeling had attained that status. Thus a stone may be the sacred symbol of eternal duration; the frog a living symbol of the power of transformation;
the serpent a symbol of the power of self-renewal; the crocodile a zootype of the power that could see when itself was unseen. The sword-fish is sacred to the Negroes of Guinea. This they do not eat. But the sword when cut off and dried becomes a fetish. That is as a type of the superhuman power whose symbol is the sword. In the final phase amulets, charms, talismans, mascots, and tokens became fetishtic through being adopted and worn as visible or secret signs of some protecting power. They are as much ideographs as any others in the Egyptian hieroglyphics and as a mode of representation they belong to the ancient language of pre-verbal signs.
In Egypt the great First Mother Apt was propitiated as the “Mistress of Protection.” And the “protection” was signified by types of permanence and power that were natural at first, then artificial when the horn and tooth were succeeded by the ivory that was carved into amulets and charms, which objectified the power of protection for the living or the dead. The power of Apt was portrayed in nature by the hippopotamus, and a tooth of the animal would symbolize its strength. Hence we find that figures of the animal were shaped in ivory, or stone, to be worn as types of the “Mistress of Protection.” Figures of hippopotami carved out of red stone have been discovered lately in the prehistoric sites of Egypt, which were obviously intended to be worn as amulets.
Thus the fetish was at first a figure of the entire animal that represented the protecting power as the superhuman Mother Apt (Proc. S. of B. A., XXII, parts 4 and 5, p. 460). Afterwards the tooth, the horn, the hoof would serve to image the power when worn upon the person of the living or buried with the mummy of the dead. A tooth is one of the most primitive types of power. Lions’ teeth are worn by the Congo blacks as talismans or amulets. Crocodiles’ teeth are worn by the Malagasy; dogs’ teeth by the Sandwich Islanders; tiger-cats’ teeth by the Land Dyaks; boars’ teeth by the Kukis; hogs’ teeth by the natives of New Guinea; sharks’ teeth by the Maori. All these were fetish types as images of superhuman strength. When the Esquimaux Angekok goes forth to battle with the evil spirits and influences inimical to man, he arms himself with the claws of bears, the beaks of birds, the teeth of foxes, and other types of the nature powers which were primarily represented by the zootypes that bequeathed these, their remains, to the repertory of fetishism. Thus the primitive Inner African mode of representation was not only preserved in the wisdom of Egypt, it became eschatological in one phase just as it remained hieroglyphical in the other, and in both it was the outcome and consummation of African Sign-language.
That which has been designated telepathy and the transference of thought by the Society for Psychical Research was well known amongst the aboriginal races, and that knowledge was utilized in their system of mental magic, or what the red men term their medicine. The earliest medicine was mental, not physical, not what we term physic. The effects that were sought for had to be educed by an influence exerted on the mind, rather than by chemical qualities found in the physics. Hence the fetishes of the black or red aborigine are his medicine by name as well as by nature. These things served, like vaccination, traction-buckles, or “tar-water and
the Trinity,” as fetishes of belief so long as that belief might last. They constituted a mental medicine, and an access of strength or spiritual succour might be derived from the thought. Belief works wonders. Hence the image of power becomes protective and assisting; it supplies a medicine, as it is termed, a medicine to the mind; and the fetishes, therefore, are properly called a medicine. Thus the earliest healing power was mental. It was the influence of mind on mind, that operated chiefly by suggestion. This was extant before the time of drugs, when mental influence was considered magical, and the man whose power was greatest was the mage or the magician. When the fetish-monger came to think that the healing or helping power resided in the fetish itself, one of two things had occurred. Either the devotee had lost sight of the original representative value of the fetish, and in his ignorance had gone blind with superstition, or it had been discovered that certain natural products did contain stimulating properties and healing virtues in themselves, and thus the medicine of physics began to supplement the more primitive mental medicine of the earlier fetishism. But the mass of fetishes do not possess their power intrinsically or inherently; they have only a representative value, which continues to make successful appeal to belief long after it has passed out of knowledge. Thus we have the fetishism of a primitive intelligence mixed up and confused with the fetishism of later ignorance. The first mental medicine was derived by laying hold of the nature powers in some typical or representative way. For example, the fire-stone from heaven was a sign of primary power. This was worn as a mental medicine at first, but it becomes physic at a later stage when, as with the Burmese, a cure for ophthalmia is found in the scrapings of thunderbolts or meteoric stones. A medicine of immense power for the muscles is still made by the Chinese from the bones of a tiger which have been dug up after lying some months in the earth and ground into a most potent powder, whilst the blood and liver of the same animal supplies a medicine of mighty power—i.e., to the mind that can derive it by typical transference from the tiger. It is one of the most curious and instructive studies to trace this transformation of the earliest mental medicine into actual physics. For example, the nose-horn of the rhinoceros is an African fetish of the greatest potency. This represents the power of the animal, and when carried as a fetish, charm, or amulet it is a type of the power looked upon as assisting and protecting no matter where this power may be localized mentally. The rhinoceros being a persistent representative of power in and over water, its horn would naturally typify protection against the drowning element for boatmen and sailors. In the next stage the medicine is turned into physic by the horn being ground down and swallowed as a powder. Our familiar hartshorn derived its primal potency as a mental medicine from the horn of the deer, which was adopted as a type of renovation on account of the animal’s having the power periodically to shed and renew its horns, and the horn itself as an emblem of renovation was a good mental medicine long before essences were extracted or drugs compounded from it in the chemistry of physics. One might point to many things that supplied the mental medicines of fetishism before they were
ground down or calcined for the physic prescribed by our learned leeches of later times, who played the same ignorant part in dealing with these leavings of the past in this department of physics that the priests have played with the sweepings of ancient superstitions with which they have so long beguiled and ignorantly doctored us. The mode of assuming power by wearing of the skin as a fetish is still extant. The skin was worn as the only genuine garment of the magician or sorcerer. As we read in the Discovery of Witchcraft, the wizard’s outfit included a robe furred with foxskin, a breastplate of virgin parchment, and a dry thong of lion’s or hart’s skin for a girdle. The skin also survives as a part of the insignia worn in our law courts, colleges, and pulpits, where it still serves in Sign-language to determine a particular status; it likewise survives as the cap and tails on the head of the clown in a less serious kind of pantomime. Some years since the present writer was making an inquiry at the Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens respecting the sloughing of the serpent, when the attendant thought it was the “slough” of the serpent that was wanted. The writer then learned that this cast-off skin of the reptile was still sold in London as a charm, or fetish, a medicine of great potency, and that the sum of £5 was sometimes paid for one.
The fetishes acquired their sacred character, not as objects of worship, but from what they had represented in Sign-language; and the meaning still continued to be acted when the language was no longer read. The serpent was a symbol of renewal and self-renovation from the first, and thus the slough or skin remains a fetish to the end. We are so bound up together, the past with the present, and the doctrine of development is so vitally true, that we cannot understand the significance of a thousand things in survival which dominate or tyrannize over us to-day, until we can trace them back to their origin or learn something satisfactory about their primal meaning and the course of their evolution. Many queer customs and beliefs look unreasonable and irrational now which had a reason originally, although their significance may have been lost to us. Many simplicities of the early time have now become the mysteries of later ignorance, and we are made the victims of the savage customs bequeathed by primitive or prehistoric man, now clung to as sacred in our current superstition. It was a knowledge of these and kindred matters of the ancient mysteries that once made sacred the teachers of men, whereas it is the most complete ignorance of the natural beginnings that characterizes the priestly caste to-day concerning the primitive customs which still survive and dominate both men and women in the fetishism which has become hereditary now.
ELEMENTAL AND ANCESTRAL SPIRITS, OR THE
GODS AND THE GLORIFIED.
THE Fetishism and Mythology of Inner Africa, left dumb or unintelligible, first became articulate in the Valley of the Nile. Egypt alone preserved the primitive gnosis, and gave expression to it in the language of signs and symbols as mouthpiece of the old dark land. From her we learn that amulets, talismans, luck-tokens, and charms became fetishtic, because they represented some protecting power that was looked to for superhuman aid, and that this power belonged to one of two classes of spirits or superhuman beings which the Egyptians of the Ritual called “the Gods and the Glorified.” The first were elemental powers divinized. The second are the spirits of human ancestors, commonly called the ancestral spirits. The present object is to trace the origin of both, and to distinguish betwixt the one and the other, so as to discriminate elsewhere betwixt the two kinds of spirits, with the Egyptian wisdom for our guide.
According to the historian Manetho, who was a master of the secrets that were known to the Hir-Seshta, the keepers of chronology in Egypt had reckoned time and kept the register for a period of 24,900 years. This period Manetho divides under three divine dynasties with three classes of rulers, namely, the “Gods,” the “Heroes,” and the “Manes.” The reign of the gods was subdivided into seven sections with a deity at the head of each. Now, as will be shown, the “Gods” of Egypt originated in the primordial powers that were derived at first from the Mother-earth and the elements in external nature, and these gods became astronomical or astral, as the Khus or Glorious Ones in the celestial Heptanomis, or Heaven in seven divisions.
In their stellar character they became the Seven Glorious Ones whom we read of in the Ritual (ch. 17), who were seven with Horus in Orion; seven with Anup at the pole of heaven; seven with Taht, with Ptah, and finally with Ra and Osiris, as the Seven Lords of Eternity. These two divine dynasties, elemental and Kronian, were followed in the list of Manetho by the Manes or ancestral spirits. In his Hibbert Lectures, Renouf denied the existence of ancestor-worship in Egypt. Nevertheless, he was entirely wrong. The New Year’s Festival of the Ancestors determines that. This is referred to in the Calendar of Esné. It was solemnized on the 9th of
Taht, the first month of the Egyptian year, and was then of unknown antiquity.
The Egyptians entertained no doubt about the existence, the persistence, or the personality of the human spirit or ghost of man; and as we understand Manetho’s account of the Egyptian religion in the times before Mena, the worship of the ghosts or spirits of the dead was that which followed the two previous dynasties of the elemental powers of earth and the Kronidæ in the astronomical mythology. For the present purpose, however, the three classes mentioned fall into the two categories of beings which the Egyptians designated “the Gods and the Glorified.” The gods are superhuman powers, whether elemental or astronomical. The glorified are the souls once mortal which were propitiated as the spirit-ancestors, here called the Manes of the dead. Not that the Egyptian deities were what Herbert Spencer thought, “the expanded ghosts of dead men.” We know them from their genesis in nature as elemental powers or animistic spirits, which were divinized because they were superhuman, and therefore not human. Sut, as the soul of darkness; Horus, as the soul of light; Shu, as the soul of air or breathing force; Seb, as soul of earth; Nnu (or Num), as soul of water; Ra, as soul of the sun, were gods, but these were not expanded from any dead men’s ghosts. Most emphatically, man did not make his gods in his own image, for the human likeness is, we repeat, the latest that was applied to the gods or nature-powers. Egyptian mythology was founded on facts which had been closely observed in the ever-recurring phenomena of external nature, and were then expressed in the primitive language of signs. In the beginning was the void, otherwise designated the abyss. Darkness being the primordial condition, it followed naturally that the earliest type in mythical representation should be a figure of darkness. This was the mythical dragon, or serpent Apap, the devouring reptile, the monster all mouth, the prototype of evil in external nature, which rose up by night from the abyss and coiled about the Mount of Earth as the swallower of the light; who in another phase drank up all the water, as the fiery dragon of drought. The voice of this huge, appalling monster was the thunder that shook the firmament (Rit., ch. 39); the drought was its blasting breath that dried up the waters and withered vegetation. As a mythical figure of the natural fact, this was the original Ogre of the North, the giant who had no heart or soul in his body. Other powers born of the void were likewise elemental, with an aspect inimical to man. These were the spawn of darkness, drought and disease. In the Ritual they are called the Sami, demons of darkness, or the wicked Sebau, who for ever rose in impotent revolt against the powers that wrought for good. These Sami, or black spirits, and Sebau supplied fiends and spirits of darkness to later folklore and fairyology; and, like the evil Apap, the offspring also are of neither sex. Sex was introduced with the Great Mother in her hugest, most ancient form of the water cow, as representative of the Mother-earth and bringer forth of life amidst the waters of surrounding space. Her children were the elemental powers or forces, such as wind and water, earth and fire; but these are not to be confused with the evil progeny of Apap. Both are
elemental in their origin, but the first were baneful, whereas the latter are beneficent.
When the terrors of the elements had somewhat spent their force, and were found to be non-sentient and unintelligent, the chief objects of regard and propitiation were recognized in the bringers of food and drink and the breath of air as the elements of life. Those were the beneficent powers, born of the Old Mother as elemental forces, that preceded the existence of the gods or powers divinized. The transformation of an elemental power into a god can be traced, for example, in the deity Shu. Shu as an elemental force was representative of wind, air, or breath, and more especially the breeze of dawn and eve, which was the very breath of life to Africa. Darkness was uplifted or blown away by the breeze of dawn. The elemental force of wind was imaged as a panting lion couched upon the horizon or the mountain-top as lifter up of darkness or the sky of night. The power thus represented was animistic or elemental. Next, Shu was given his star, and he became the Red God, who attained the rank of stellar deity as one of the seven “Heroes” who obtained their souls in the stars of heaven. The lion of Shu was continued as the figure of his force; and thus a god was born, the warrior-god, who was one of the Heroes, or one of the powers in an astronomical character. Three of these beneficent powers were divinized as male deities in the Kamite Pantheon, under the names of Nnu, Shu, and Seb. Nnu was the producer of that water which in Africa was looked upon as an overflow of very heaven. Shu was giver of the breath of life. Seb was divinized, and therefore worshipped as the god of earth and father of food. These three were powers that represented the elements of water, air, and earth. Water is denoted by the name of Nnu. Shu carries the lion’s hinder part upon his head as the sign of force; the totem of Seb is the goose that lays the egg, a primitively perfect figure of food. These, as elemental powers or animistic souls, were life-givers in the elements of food, water, and breath. Not as begetters or creators, but as transformers from one phase of life to another, finally including the transformation of the superhuman power into the human product. There are seven of these powers altogether, which we shall have to follow in various phases of natural phenomena and on divers radiating lines of descent. Tentatively we might parallel:—Darkness=Sut; light=Horus; breathing power=Shu; water=Nnu (or Hapi); earth=Tuamutef (or Seb); fire=Khabsenuf; blood=Child-Horus. These were not derived from the ancestral spirits, once human, and no ancestral spirits ever were derived from them. Six of the seven were pre-human types. The seventh was imaged in the likeness of Child-Horus, or of Atum, the man. Two lists of names for the seven are given in the Ritual (ch. 17, I, 99-107), which correspond to the two categories of the elemental powers and the Glorious Ones, or Heroes. Speaking of the seven, the initiate in the mysteries says, “I know the names of the seven Glorious Ones. The leader of that divine company is An-ar-ef the Great by name.” The title here identifies the human elemental as the sightless mortal Horus—that is, Horus who was incarnated in the flesh at the head of the seven, to become the first in status, he who had been the latest in develop-
ment. In this chapter of the Ritual the seven have now become astronomical, with their stations fixed in heaven by Anup, whom we shall identify as deity of the Pole. “They do better,” says Plutarch, “who believe that the legends told of Sut, Osiris, and Isis do not refer to either gods or men, but to certain great powers that were superhuman, but not as yet divine” (Of Isis and Osiris, ch. 26). The same writer remarks that “Osiris and Isis passed from the rank of good demons (elementals) to that of deities” (ch. 30). This was late in the Kamite mythos, but it truly follows the earlier track of the great powers when these were Sut and Horus, Shu and Seb, and the other elemental forces that were divinized as gods.
In the astronomical mythology the nature-powers were raised to the position of rulers on high, and this is that beginning which was described by Manetho with “the gods” as the primary class of rulers, whose reign was divided into seven sections, or, as we read it, in a heaven of seven divisions—that is, the celestial Heptanomis. Certain of these can be distinguished in the ancient heavens yet as figures of the constellations which became their totems. Amongst such were the hippopotamus-bull of Sut, the crocodile-dragon of Sebek-Horus, the lion of Shu, the goose of Seb, the beetle of Kheper (Cancer), and other types of the starry souls on high, now designated deities, or the Glorious Ones, as the Khuti. The ancient mother, who had been the cow of earth, was elevated to the sphere as the cow of heaven. It was she who gave rebirth to the seven powers that obtained their souls in the stars, and who were known as “the Children of the Thigh” when that was her constellation. These formed the company of the seven Glorious Ones, who became the Ali or Elohim, divine masters, time-keepers, makers and creators, which have to be followed in a variety of phases and characters. The Egyptian gods were born, then, as elemental powers. They were born as such of the old first Great Mother, who in her character of Mother-earth was the womb of life, and therefore mother of the elements, of which there are seven altogether, called her children. The seven elemental powers acquired souls as gods in the astronomical mythology. They are given rebirth in heaven as the seven children of the old Great Mother. In the stellar mythos they are also grouped as the seven Khus with Anup on the Mount. They are the seven Taasu with Taht in the lunar-mythos, the seven Knemmu with Ptah in the solar mythos. They then pass into the eschatology as the seven souls of Ra, the Holy Spirit, and the seven great spirits glorified with Horus as the eighth in the resurrection from Amenta.
The Egyptians have preserved for us a portrait of Apt (Kheb, or Ta-Urt), the Great Mother, in a fourfold figure, as the bringer forth of the four fundamental elements of earth, water, air, and heat. As representative of the earth she is a hippopotamus, as representative of water she is a crocodile, and as the representative of breathing force she is a lioness, the human mother being imaged by the pendent breasts and procreant womb. Thus the mother of life is depicted as bringer forth of the elements of life, or at least four of these, as the elemental forces or “souls” of earth, water, fire, and air, which four are imaged in her compound corpulent figure, and were set forth as four of her seven children. Apt was also the mother of
sparks, or of souls as sparks of starry fire. She was the kindler of life from the spark that was represented by the star. This, we reckon, is the soul of Sut, her first-born, as the beneficent power of darkness. The power of water was imaged by Sebek-Horus as the crocodile. The power of wind or air, in one character, was that of the lion-god Shu; and the power of the womb is the Child-Horus, as the fecundator of his mother. These, with some slight variations, are four of the seven powers of the elements identified with the mother as the bringer forth of gods and men, whom we nowadays call Mother Nature.