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of Babylon also, though they appeared to their worshippers only in dreams and visions, were conceived to be human in their bodily shape, human in their passions, and human in their fate; for like men they were born into the world, and like men they loved and fought and even died." One of the most famous stories of the death of a god is told by Plutarch. It runs thus. In the reign of the emperor Tiberius a certain schoolmaster named Epitherses was sailing from Greece to Italy. The ship in which he had taken his passage was a merchantman and there were many other passengers on board. At evening, when they were off the Echinadian Islands, the wind died away, and the vessel drifted. close in to the island of Paxae. Most of the passengers were awake and many were still drinking wine after dinner, when suddenly a voice hailed the ship from the island, calling upon Thamus. The crew and passengers were taken by surprise, for though there was an Egyptian pilot named Thamus on board, few knew him even by name. Twice the cry was repeated, but Thamus kept silence. However at the third call he answered, and the voice from the shore, now louder than ever, said, “When you are come to Palodes, announce that the Great Pan is dead.” Astonishment fell upon all, and they consulted whether it would be better to do the bidding of the voice or not. At last Thamus resolved that, if the wind held, he would pass the place in silence, but if it dropped when they were off Palodes he would give the message. Well, when they were come to Palodes, there was a great calm ; so Thamus standing in the stern and looking towards the land cried out, as he had been bidden, “The Great Pan is dead.” The words had hardly passed his lips when a great sound of lamentation broke on their ears, as if a multitude were mourning. This strange story, vouched for by many on board, soon got wind at Rome, and Thamus was sent for and questioned by the emperor Tiberius himself, who caused inquiries to be made about the dead god.” It has been plausibly conjectured that the god thus lamented was not
mystical nature of the deity. Thus it into Christianity.
seems not impossible that the ancient * L. W. King, Babylonian Religion Egyptian doctrine of the divine Trinity and Mythology (London, 1899), p. 8. may have been distilled through Philo * Plutarch, Dedefectu oraculorum, 17. an old vintage piaculum.” “The
J II DEA 7TH OF THE GODS 5
Pan but Adonis, whose death, as we shall see, was annually bewailed in Greece and in the East, and whose Semitic name of Thammuz or Tammuz may have been transferred by mistake to the pilot in Plutarch's narrative." However this may be, stories of the same kind found currency in Western Asia down to the Middle Ages. An Arab writer relates that in the year I of 3 or 1064 A.D., in the reign of the caliph Caiem, a rumour went abroad through Bagdad, which soon spread all over the province of Irac, that some Turks out hunting in the desert had seen a black tent, where many men and women were beating their faces and uttering loud cries, as it is the custom to do in the East when some one is dead. And among the cries they distinguished these words, “The great King of the Jinn is dead, woe to this country !” In consequence of this a mysterious threat was circulated from Armenia to Chuzistan that every town which did not lament the dead King of the Jinn should utterly perish. Again, in the year 1203 or 1204 A.D. a fatal disease, which attacked the throat, raged in parts of Mosul and Irac, and it was divulged that a woman of the Jinn called Umm “Unclid or “Mother of the Grape-cluster” had lost her son, and that all who did not lament for him would fall victims to the epidemic. ..So men and women sought to save themselves from death by assembling and beating their faces, while they cried out in a lamentable voice, “O mother of the Grape-cluster, excuse us; the Grape-cluster is dead; we knew it not.”” If the high gods, who dwell remote from the fret and fever of this earthly life, are yet believed to die at last, it is not to be expected that a god who lodges in a frail tabernacle of flesh should escape the same fate. Now primitive peoples, as we have seen, sometimes believe that their safety and even that of the world is bound up with the life of one of these god-men or human incarnations of the divinity. Naturally, therefore, they take the utmost care of his life, out of a regard for their own.
1 F. Liebrecht, Gerrarius rom 7:/.
bury, p. 180.
“that the neglect of the usual ritual
But no amount of care and precaution will prevent the man-god from growing old and feeble and at last dying. His worshippers have to lay their account with this sad necessity and to, meet it as best they can. The danger is a formidable one ; \ for if the course of nature is dependent on the man-god's /life, what catastrophes may not be expected from the o
enfeeblement of his powers and their final extinction in
| death? There is only one way of averting these danger
for if the man-god dies what we call a natural death, it
means, according to the savage, that his soul has either o oluntarily departed from his body and refuses to return, or ;
\ more commonly that it has been extracted or at * detained in its wanderings by a demon or sorcerer" in `any of these cases the soul of the man-god is lost to his worshippers; and with it their prosperity is gone and their very existence endangered. Even if they could arrange to catch the soul of the dying god as it left his lips or his
nostrils and so transfer it to a successor, this would not effect their purpose ; for, thus dying of disease, his :
would necessarily leave his body in the last stage of weakness and exhaustion, and as such it would continue to d out a feeble existence in the body to which it might be transferred. Whereas by killing him his worshippers could, - ~ in the first place, make sure of catching his soul as it escaped
transferring it to a #. and, in the second place, by killing him before his natural force was abated,
*C they would secure that the world should not fall into decay Q with the decay of the man-god. Every purpose, therefore, `- was answered, and all dangers averted by thus killing the man-god and transferring his soul, while yet at its prime, to a vigorous successor. - _2^
Some of the reasons for preferring a violent death to the slow death of old age or disease are obviously as applicable
to common men as to the man-god. Thus the Mangaians think that “the spirits of those who die a natural death are excessively feeble and weak, as their bodies were at dissolution; whereas the spirits of those who are slain in battle are strong and vigorous, their bodies not having been reduced by disease.”" The Barongo believe that in the world beyond the grave the spirits of their dead ancestors appear with the exact form and lineaments which their bodies exhibited at the moment of dissolution. The spirits are young or old according as their bodies were young or old when they died. There are baby spirits who crawl about on all fours, and whose traces, according to legend, may be seen on the ground in the sacred grove of Matolo.” Hence, men sometimes prefer to kill themselves or to be killed before they grow feeble, in order that in the future life their souls may start fresh and vigorous as they left their bodies, instead of decrepit and worn out with age and disease. Thus in Fiji, “self-immolation is by no means rare, and they believe that as they leave this life, so they will remain ever after. This forms a powerful motive to escape from decrepitude, or from a crippled condition, by a voluntary death.” Or, as another observer of the Fijians puts it more fully, “the custom of voluntary suicide on the part of the old men, which is among their most extraordinary usages, is also connected with their superstitions respecting a future life. They believe that
persons enter upon the delights of their elysium with the
same faculties, mental and physical, that they possess at the hour of death, in short, that the spiritual life commences where the corporeal existence terminates. With these views, it is natural that they should desire to pass through this change before their mental and bodily powers are so enfeebled by age as to deprive them of their capacity for enjoyment. To this motive must be added the contempt which attaches to physical weakness among a nation of warriors, and the wrongs and insults which await those who are no longer able to protect themselves. When therefore a man finds his
1 W. W. Gill, Myths and Songs of * Ch. Wilkes, Marrative of the U.S. the South Pacific, p. 163. Exploring Expedition (London, 1845), * H. A. Junod, Les Ba-romsa iii. 96. (Neuchatel, 1898), p. 3S1 sq.
strength declining with the advance of age, and feels that he will soon be unequal to discharge the duties of this life, and to partake in the pleasures of that which is to come, he calls together his relations, and tells them that he is now worn out and useless, that he sees they are all ashamed of him, and that he has determined to be buried.” So on a day appointed they meet and bury him alive." In Vaté, one of the New Hebrides, the aged were buried alive at their own request. It was considered a disgrace to the family of an old chief if he was not buried alive.” Of the Kamants, a
Jewish tribe in Abyssinia, it is reported that “they never let'
a person die a natural death, but that if any of their relatives is nearly expiring, the priest of the village is called to cut his throat; if this be omitted, they believe that the departed soul has not entered the mansions of the blessed.””
But it is with the death of the god-man—the divine king
or priest—that we are here especially concerned. The people of Congo believed, as we have seen, that if their pontiff the Chitomé were to die a natural death, the world would perish, and the earth, which he alone sustained by his power and merit, would immediately be annihilated. Accordingly when he fell ill and seemed likely to die, the man who was destined to be his successor entered the pontiff's house with a rope or a club and strangled or clubbed him to death." The Ethiopian kings of Meroe were worshipped as gods; but whenever the priests chose, they sent a messenget to the king, ordering him to die, and alleging an oracle of the gods as their authority for the command. This command the kings always obeyed down to the reign of Ergamenes, a contemporary of Ptolemy. II., King of Egypt. Having received a Greek education which emancipated him from the superstitions of his countrymen, Ergamenes ventured to disregard the command of the priests, and, entering the Golden Temple with a body of soldiers, put the priests to
* U.S. Exploring Expedition, Eth- 3. Main Flad, A Short Description nology and Philology, by H. Hale of the Falasha and Aamants in Abys
(Philadelphia, 1846), p. 65. Cp. Th. sinia, p. 19.
J. E. Erskine, Journal of a Cruise among * J. B. Labat, Wesation historique de the Islands of the IPostern Pacific TEthiopie occidentale, i. 260 sq.; W. (London, 1853), p. 248. Winwood Reade, Sarase Africa, p.
* Turner, Samoa, p. 335. 362.