The Homeric Hymns eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 142 pages of information about The Homeric Hymns.
was lifted on to a higher plane when it came to be taught that only the pure in heart can see God.” {78} The black native boys in Australia pass through a purgative ceremony to cure them of selfishness, and afterwards the initiator points to the blue vault of sky, bidding them behold “Our Father, Mungan-ngaur.”  This is very well meant, and very creditable to untutored savages:  and creditable ideas were not absent from the Eleusinia.  But when we use the quotation, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” our meaning, though not very definite, is a meaning which it would be hazardous to attribute to a black boy,—­or to Sophocles.  The idea of the New Life appears to occur in Australian Mysteries:  a tribesman is buried, and rises at a given signal.  But here the New Life is rather that of the lad admitted to full tribal privileges (including moral precepts) than that of a converted character.  Confirmation, rather than conversion, is the analogy.  The number of those analogies of ancient and savage with Christian religion is remarkable.  But even in Greek Mysteries the conceptions are necessarily not so purely spiritual as in the Christian creed, of which they seem half-conscious and fragmentary anticipations.  Or we may regard them as suggestions, which Christianity selected, accepted, and purified.



In what has been said as to the Greek Mysteries, I have regarded them as of native origin.  I have exhibited rites of analogous kinds in the germ, as it were, among savage and barbaric communities.  In Peru, under the Incas, we actually find Mama and Cora (Demeter and Kore) as Goddesses of the maize (Acosta), and for rites of sympathetic magic connected with the production of fertile harvests (as in the Thesmophoria at Athens) it is enough to refer to the vast collection in Mr. Frazer’s “Golden Bough.”  I have also indicated the closest of all known parallels to the Eleusinian in a medicine-dance and legend of the Pawnees.  For other savage Mysteries in which a moral element occurs, I have quoted Australian and African examples.  Thence I have inferred that the early Greeks might, and probably did, evolve their multiform mystic rites out of germs of such things inherited from their own prehistoric ancestors.  No process, on the other hand, of borrowing from Greece can conceivably account for the Pawnee and Peruvian rites, so closely analogous to those of Hellas.  Therefore I see no reason why, if Egypt, for instance, presents parallels to the Eleusinia, we should suppose that the prehistoric Greeks borrowed the Eleusinia from Egypt.  These things can grow up, autochthonous and underived, out of the soil of human nature anywhere, granting certain social conditions.  Monsieur Foucart, however, has lately argued in favour of an Egyptian origin of the Eleusinia. {82}

Project Gutenberg
The Homeric Hymns from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook