born of sleep. “Plant worship,” says the same writer, “is the worship of a spirit originally human.” “Everywhere the plant spirit is shown by its conceived human form and ascribed human desires to have originated from a human personality.” In reply to this it can be shown from the oldest representations known, viz., those of Egypt, that the anthropomorphic mode of rendering was not primary, but the latest of all. Rannut, the goddess of plant life, was depicted as a serpent, before the human figure was assigned to her, the sloughing, self-renovating serpent being a zootype of renewal in a variety of phenomena, including vegetation. Nut in a female form gives the water of life from the tree, but she was previously Heaven itself in very person or Heaven typified as giver of the water from the tree or milk from the cow. Neither Nut nor Rannut was derived from a spirit originally human, but from a power in external nature that was known to be superhuman. Hathor in the tree was a divinity not derived from any mortal personality, and her figure of the divine female in the tree was preceded by that of the wet-nurse as a milch-cow and still earlier as the water-cow. In the Osirian mysteries the so-called “corn spirit” is derived from the water. At Philae the god=the corn spirit is represented with stalks of corn springing from his mummy, and, according to the inscription, this is Osiris of the mysteries who springs from the returning waters—as the bringer of food in the shape of corn. In a vignette to the Book of the Dead the power of water also is portrayed in “the Great Green One,” a spirit represented by the hieroglyphic lines that form a figure of water. This when divinized is Horus as the shoot of the papyrus plant, or the branch of endless years—a type of the eternal manifested by renewal in food produced from the element of water in the inundation (Pap. of Ani, p. 8). What the picture intimates is that water was the source of life to vegetation, and the figure in green arising from the element of water is the spirit of vegetation that was divinized in Horus as the “shoot” or “natzar,”—a figure that survives as “Jack” in the green who dances in the pastimes on May-day. Nowhere in the range of Egyptian symbolism does “the plant spirit” originate in or from a human personality. Mighty spirits were supposed to dwell in certain trees by the Battas of Sumatra, who would resent and revenge any injury done to them. Such mighty spirits or powers of the elements had grown up, as Egyptian, to become the goddesses and gods, as Hathor and Nut in the sycamore, Isis in the persea tree, Seb in the shrubs and plants, Horus in the papyrus, or Unbu in the golden bough.
A soul of self-renewing life in the earth or the tree had been imaged by the serpent, a soul of life in the water had been imaged by the fish, a soul of life in the air by the bird, the elements being represented by the zootypes which afterwards became totemic and finally fetishtic. Thus, if the tree were the Nanja of an Australian tribe it would stand for the life of the tribe and be the totem of the pre-human soul. And when the human soul had been discreted as an individual soul from the general or tribal soul, the sacred tree which imaged the life or soul of the tribe might be claimed to represent the soul of a man. This was what did occur. A definite case is known to Messrs. Spencer and Gillen in which a black
fellow earnestly pleaded with a white man not to cut down a particular tree, because it was the Nanja-tree, and he feared that if it were destroyed some evil would befall him personally. The tree quâ tree had been a type of self-renewing superhuman power, then a tribal totem bound up with the life of the tribe, and lastly it is said that the man believed his separate or discreted soul was in the tree, which furnished a place of refuge when his tree soul (or Miss Kingsley’s “bush soul”) was in danger.
The reader may depend upon it that primitive man who fancied he had a separate soul which he could hide for safety in a tree, a stone, or an egg is a very modern product indeed, the sheerest reflex image of his misinterpreters, who are but speculative theorists that have never mastered the language of the primitive signs. As already said, the supposed transmigration of human souls, of turtles, or of other zootypes was impossible when as yet there was no human soul. The soul that might transmigrate was pre-human, elemental, and totemic; a soul that was divisible according to its parts and elemental powers, but common to life in general and in all its forms in earth and water, air and tree, to man and reptile, fish, insect, bird, and beast. When the sacred bear is killed for food at Usu, Volcano Bay, by the Ainu, they shout, “We kill you, O bear! Come back soon into an Ainu.” That is as food, which in a sense is the transmigration of soul, but it is that elemental soul of food which is represented by the bear of eternity, and not a human soul. There was a doctrine of the transmigration of soul, or souls that were not human, to warrant the language of the Zuni Indian which he addressed to the turtle: “Ah! My poor dear lost child, or parent, my sister or brother to have been! Who knows which? May be my own great-grandfather or mother.” (Cushing, F. H., Century Magazine, May, 1883.) This, however, was no transmigration of human souls. We repeat, at that primitive stage of thought no soul was specialized as human. There were only animistic or totemic souls; and if the element derived from should be water and the totem be the turtle, the type would represent the soul that was common to both man and animal, as brother turtles of the water totem, the elemental power over all being imaged as the turtle that was eternal, one of the mystical ancestors in the Arunta Alcheringa, or one of the gods in Egypt. Moreover, when once the soul of blood born of woman had been discriminated as a human soul it was no longer possible to postulate a return of that same soul to the pre-human status. It was discreted for ever from the soul of the animal, fish, bird, and reptile. The kangaroo-man would no longer have the same soul as the kangaroo. There was no ground for thinking that the human soul would be reincorporated or reincarnated in the body of the beast or reptile, and therefore no foundation for the doctrine of reincarnation which has been applied to human souls, and consequently misapplied by modern reincarnationists who do not know one soul from another. But the metempsychosis of soul or souls did survive as a doctrine long after the human species had been discreted and individualized, and when the primitive significance was no longer understood. Readjustment of the standpoint was made in the Egyptian wisdom, but seldom if ever elsewhere. Thus, in Buddhist metaphysic the soul continued to pass (theoretically)
through the same “cycle of necessity” with the totemic souls which had been the pre-human creatures of the elements, like the “Inapertwa” of the Arunta. As a result of the soul, here termed totemic, having been at one time common to men and animals and the elemental powers, this led to a perplexing interchange of personality, or at least of shape, betwixt the superhuman powers, the men, and animals in the primitive mysteries and in the later folk-tales or legendary lore, in which we seem to hear the very aged mother-wisdom, or her misinterpreters, maundering in a state of dotage.
It must be borne in mind that the earliest mode of becoming was not by creating, but by transforming. For instance, when Ptah is imaged as the frog, or beetle, he is the deity as transformer, but when portrayed as the embryo in utero he images the creator or creative cause. A drama of transformation was performed in the totemic mysteries. The boy became a man by being changed into an animal, which animal was his totemic representative of the providing and protecting power. This was a mode of assimilating the human being to the divine or superhuman power when it had been imaged in the elemental stage by means of the particular totemic zootype, whether animal, bird, fish, insect, reptile, or plant. We gather from the magical practices of the western Inoits that when the sorcerer or spirit medium clothes himself in the skin of animals, the feathers of birds, teeth of serpents, and other magical emblems it is done to place himself en rapport with the kings of the beasts and the powers of the elements, for the purpose of deriving superhuman aid from these our “elder brothers.” This, of course, was the natural fact that has been described as making the transformation in the mystery of trance. In that state they were assimilated to and united in alliance with one or other of the primordial powers, each of which was represented by its totemic zootype. There were spirit mediums extant when the superhuman powers were elemental (not the ancestral spirits), and these were imaged by the animals and other zootypes. Thus the spirit mediums in alliance with certain of these powers might be said to assume their likeness as animals, just as in modern times the witch is reputed to transform into a cat or hare, or the wizard into a wolf. The blacksmiths in Africa, who are thought to work by spirit agency, are supposed in Abyssinia to transform themselves into hyenas. The sorcerers and witches, otherwise the spirit mediums, of the Mexicans were said to transform themselves into animals. The Khonds affirm that witches have the power of transforming themselves into tigers.
Again, when the goddess Neith and the Arunta women were insufflated by the wind the soul was thus derived directly from the element. But when the bird is introduced as the white vulture of Neith or the dove of Hathor the insufflation may be attributed to the bird of air or soul. So with the element of water. The descent of soul may be direct from the element or derived from some type of the element. For example, the Karens hold that the waters are inhabited by beings whose proper shape is that of dragons or crocodiles, but occasionally these appear as men and take wives of the children of men, as
do the sons of heaven in the Book of Enoch. Indeed, it is quite possible that this self-incorporation of the elemental powers in a human form through the mothers is the source of the Semitic legend relating to the sons of God who cohabited with the daughters of men. Of course, the phrase “sons of God” belongs to a later nomenclature. The elemental powers knew no God the Father. These in the Book of Enoch are the seven primary powers that were the Holy Watchers once in heaven and the heirs of life eternal, but whose origin was as powers of the elements such as pursued the Arunta daughters of men. And, whether elemental or astronomical, they were seven in number. They are charged with having forsaken their lofty station and with acting like the children of earth. They have “lain with women” and “defiled themselves with the daughters of men.” In the Book of Enoch the seven have acquired the character that was attained by the elemental powers, and have to be followed in the phase of legendary lore which obfuscates the ancient wisdom, though far less so than does the Book of Genesis. It was not as astronomical powers that the story could be told of the seven. But as elemental forces pursuing nice fat women–like the Arunta spirits of air–to incorporate themselves they could be described as beings who polluted themselves with women; they being spiritual or superhuman, whereas the daughters of men were of the earth earthy. This legend was represented finally in literature by what has been termed “the loves of the angels.” The complexion of these external spirits is likewise elemental. Their various colours are copied straight from nature, and not from the complexion of human beings. The spirit of darkness was black. The spirit of light was white. The spirit of water or vegetation was green. The spirit of air was blue. The spirit of fire was red. The spirit of the highest god upon the summit of the seven upward steps is golden, as Ra the divine or holy spirit in the final eschatology. Thus we can trace the black spirits and white, red spirits and grey, green, or blue, to an elemental origin and show that the spirit as a green man, a blue man, a black man (where there are no blacks), a white man (where there are no whites), a red man, or a golden child was derived directly from the elements and not from a ghost that was called into existence by the wizardry of dreams. When human spirits were recognized and portrayed the same types and colours were used. The human spirit issuing from the red flesh in death is painted blue. Not because spirits were seen to be of that complexion when “all was blue,” but because the spirit of air or anima had been an elemental spirit in the blue. The spirit in green (vegetation) remains the “green man” as wood spirit in Europe. The spirit of darkness is black as the bogey man, the black Sut in Egypt. The Zuni Indians described by Mr. Cushing have a system of praying to the seven great spirits, or nature gods, by means of the seven different colours which are painted on their prayer-sticks. Six of these colours represent the six regions into which space was divided, the four quarters, together with the height and depth or zenith and nadir. The powers thus localized are called the “makers of the paths of life,” on account of their relationship to the supreme one of the seven, who sits at the centre of
all, and who is the only one of them portrayed in the human form as the highest of the seven. Each of these has its own proper complexion, and the fetishes that represent the human powers are also determined by colours in the material from which they are modelled or the pigment with which they are painted. The particular power prayed to is identified to the ear by imitating the roar or cry of the beast that served for zootype, as well as to the eye by its own especial colour. And here it may be possible to trace what might be termed the “golden prayer” of the Zunis. In the ceremonies of their ancient mysteries an ear of corn is typical of renewal in a future life. In praying for plenty of food two ears of corn are laid on the body of a dead deer close to the heart. “Prayer meal” made from maize is held in the hand and scattered on the fetish image of the deer, whilst the prayer is addressed to the deer divinity or prey-god, as the power beyond the fetish. The corn-pollen is offered so that the spirit may clothe itself in yellow or in the wealth of harvest gold. If this prayer in yellow (equivalent to a prayer-book bound in gold, or at least gilt-edged) were addressed to the corn god by the Zuni when he prays for his daily bread and offers the flower of the yellow maize, the colour of the offering would identify it with the colour of the fetish, and therefore with the yellow lion as a zootype of the vivifying sun that ripened the corn to clothe the earth with vegetable gold. Like the Zuni Indians, the Tibetans still pray in accordance with a scheme of colours. A prayer was lately found upon a “praying wheel” addressed “To the yellow god, the black god, the white god, and the green god. Please kindly take us all up with you, and do not leave us unprotected, but destroy our enemies.” Some such colour scheme is apparent in Egypt when Horus is the white god, Osiris is the god in black, Shu the god in red, Amen the god in blue, Num the god in green.
In the Egyptian series of colours yellow likewise represented corn, which gave the name to the “yellow Neith.” The nature gods were appealed to and invoked in want or sickness as a primitive kind of doctors who were looked to as superhuman and whose powers were medicines. The power of the deer god was the deer medicine, and each medicine represented the special power that was besought in hunting each particular beast. These are the kind of “spirits” that were prayed to in colours by primitive races of men, and these colours, like the glorified globes in the druggist’s window, represented the powers of the different spirits as medicines. The native doctors of New Guinea have a scale of colours with which they paint their patient with the complexions of corresponding spirits. Different colours denoted different spirits of healing forces in nature that were representative of the seven elements and seven localities of the spirits. When the Omaha medicine-men are acting as healers of the sick they will use the movements and cry with the voices of their totemic animals. Not because the animals were a source of healing power in themselves, but because the totems had a spiritual relationship and were the representatives of powers beyond the human. Thus, in one case the spirits prayed to are identified by their colours, and in the other by their totemic zootypes. If we interpret this according to Egyptian symbolism, when the sick person was
suffering from asthma he would plead his suit in blue to the god of air or breathing-force whilst panting like a sick lion, and the medicine would be equivalent to a blue pill. In case of fever he would pray in green to the god in green, that is, to the water spirit, and would be going to the green god for a drink, as the thirsty soul in our day might seek the sign of the Green Dragon or the Green Man. And if he prayed in red it would be to the red Atum, or Horus, the child that was born red in the blood of Isis, as the saviour who came apparelled in that colour. The main object at present, however, is to distinguish animism from spiritualism by tracing the difference betwixt the elemental souls and the ancestral spirits, although animism is a most unsatisfactory title. The “anima” signifies one of the seven elemental souls, but does not comprehend the group. Here is one of several clues. The animistic nature powers were typified; the ancestral spirits are personalized. The elemental powers are commonly a group of seven, but spiritualism has no experience nor knowledge of seven human spirits that visit earth together, or traverse the planetary chain of seven worlds; nor is there any record of the dream personages coming and going in a group of seven, or in seven colours, not even as a septenary of nightmares born of seven generations of neurotic sufferers from sevenfold insomnia. In animism, mediums could not interview the serpent, bull, or turtle of eternity in spirit form. On the contrary, the animistic powers have had to be objectified and made apparent by means of these totemic types. Thus, in animism there are no spirits proper—that is, no spirits which appear as the doubles of the dead or phantasms of the living. It may be allowed that the spirits of the elements–of air, water, earth, fire, plant or tree–were in a sense ancestral, though not ancestral spirits. But the one were pre-human, the others are originally human. These animistic powers in the Arunta Alcheringa are called the ancestors who reproduce themselves by incorporation in the life on earth in the course of becoming man or animal. It was inevitable that there should be some confusion here and there betwixt the elemental souls and the ancestral spirits when the power to differentiate the one from the other by means of the type was lost or lapsing. It was Kalabar “fash,” the natives told Hutchinson, that the souls of men passed into monkeys. The Zulus also say there are Amatonga or ancestral spirits who are snakes, and who come back to visit the living in the guise of reptiles. Such “fash,” however, is just the confusion that follows the lapse of the most primitive wisdom. Both the monkey and the snake had been totemic types not only of the human brotherhoods, but also of the elemental powers or souls. Thus there was an elemental soul of the snake-totem and the ancestral spirits of that same ilk; and the snake remained as representative of both, to the confounding of the animistic soul with the ancestral spirit at a later stage. But those who kept fast hold of the true doctrine always and everywhere insisted that their ancestral spirits did not return to earth in the guise of monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, lions, hawks, or any other of the totemic zootypes. They did not mistake the “souls” of one category for “spirits” in the other, because they knew the differ-
ence. The same distinction that was made by the Egyptians betwixt the superhuman powers and the Manes, or the gods and the glorified, is more or less identifiable all the world over.
Thus, the origin of spirits and of religion is twofold. At first the elemental powers are propitiated; next the ancestors are worshipped. The earliest form of a religious cult was founded in evocation and propitiation of the great Earth-mother, the giver of life and birth, of food and water, as the primary power in mythology, who was represented in Egypt by her zootypes the water-cow of Apt; the fruit-tree of Hathor, the sow of Rerit, the serpent of Rannut, who was first besought in worship as “the only one,” the great goddess, the Good Lady, the All-Mother who preceded the All-Father. The gods and goddesses of the oldest races were developed from these superhuman nature powers which originated with and from the earth as the Universal Great Mother, and not from the ancestral human spirits. Also the one is universally differentiated from the other. The two classes of gods and spirits, elemental and ancestral, are still propitiated and invoked by the natives of West Africa. As Miss Kingsley tells us, one class is called the Well-disposed Ones. These are the ancestral spirits, which are differentiated from the other class, that is referred to as “them,” the generic name for non-human spirits. (West African Studies, p. 132.)
The religion of the Yao is now pre-eminently a worship of the ancestral spirits, but “beyond and above the spirits of their fathers and chiefs localized on the hills, the Yao speak of others that they consider superior; only their home is more associated with the country which the Yao left in the beginning.” (Duff Macdonald, vol. I, p. 71.) This was that land of the gods who were the primordial elemental powers, the old home or primeval paradise of many races.
The Yao also distinguished clearly betwixt the elemental power and its zootype. “It is usual,” says Mr. Macdonald, “to distinguish between the spirit and the form it takes. A spirit often appears as a serpent. When a man kills a serpent thus belonging to a spirit he goes and makes an apology to the offended god, saying, ‘Please, please, I did not know that it was your serpent!’” (Africana, vol. I, pp. 62, 63.) The Thlinkeets emphatically assert that the ancestor of the wolf clan does not reappear to them in the wolf form. The Maori likewise are among those who distinguish betwixt the Atuas that represent the ancient nature powers and the spirits which reappear as spectres in the human form. They recognize the difference between the totemic type and the ancestral human spirit. It is our modern metaphysical explanation and the vague theories of universal animism that confuse the gods and ghosts together, elemental spirits with human, and the zootypes with the pre-totemic ancestors. The Ainu people recognize two classes of gods and spirits. The first are known as the “distant gods,” those who are remote from human beings. The others are the “near at hand,” corresponding to the spirit ancestors of other races. (Batchelor, Rev. Y., The Ainu of Japan, p. 87.) The Shintoism of the Japanese shows the same dual origin of a cult that is primitive and universal, which was based first on a propitiation of the nature powers, and secondly on the worship of ancestral spirits. The number and the nature of these powers as the Great Mother and
the seven or the eight Kami are the same in Japan as in the land of Kam. The Veddahs of Ceylon, who worship “the shades of their ancestors and their children,” also hold that “the air is peopled with spirits; that every rock, every tree, every forest, and every hill, in short every feature of nature, has its genius loci.” Here again we have the two classes of ancestral spirits, human in origin, and the animistic spirits derivable from the elements. The “gods” of the Samoans were those elemental powers that were represented by the zootypes. “These gods,” says Turner, “are supposed to appear in some visible incarnation, and the particular thing (or living type) in which the god appeared was to the Samoan an object of veneration. It was, in fact, his ‘idol’ (or his totem). One, for instance, saw his god in the eel, another in the shark, another in the lizard,” and so on through all the range of external nature. (Turner, Samoa, p. 17, ed. 1884.)
With the Eskimo the nature spirits are quite distinct from the ghosts of human beings. Some of the former are allowed to the common people as objects of religious regard, but it is the spirits of human beings, the dead ancestors or relatives of the living, who inspire or otherwise manifest through the abnormal medium called the Angekok. Everywhere it is the reappearing spirits of the dead, and they alone, who can demonstrate a continuity of existence for the living. The original powers or gods of the elements that were represented by the zootypes are very definitely discriminated by the Tongans from the spirits of human beings. They do not mix up or confuse their gods with their ghosts. Their primal gods were not ghosts. These do not come as apparitions in the human likeness, or as shadows of the dead. When they appear to men, it is said to be in their primitive guise of lizards, porpoises, water-snakes, and other elemental totemic types; whereas the ghosts of nobles and chiefs, who alone are supposed to have the power of coming back, or of being on view, are not permitted to appear in the shape of lizards, porpoises, and water-snakes, the representatives of the original gods. So the Banks Islanders recognize and distinguish two classes of supernatural powers, in the spirits of the dead and those that never have been human. These are their gods and ghosts, the gods and the glorified. The nature powers are called Tamate, the ghosts are designated Vui. As with the Tongans, the Papuan ghosts of the nobles are nearest in status to the great or primary powers, but are not to be confounded with them; being of different origin in this world, they do not blend together in the next. This shows that in both cases the gnosis is not quite extinct. (Codrington, Journal Anthrop. Institute, February, 1881.) Kramer tells us that the Niassans worship both gods and ancestors, and that the two kinds of superhuman beings are never confounded by them. The two are kept perfectly distinct, and each has a different terminology. (Cited by Max Müller in Anthropological Religion, Lecture X.) This distinction made betwixt the elemental gods and the ghosts of ancestors is shown by the Institutes of Menu. “Let an offering to the gods be made at the beginning and end of the Sraddha. It must not begin and end with an offering to ancestors, for he who begins and ends it with an oblation to the Pitris quickly perishes with his progeny.” (Works of Sir W. Jones, vol. III, pp. 146-7.) Amongst