The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

The foundation of the above fables is supposed to be the fact that the salamander really does secrete from the pores of his body a milky juice, which when he is irritated is produced in considerable quantity, and would doubtless, for a few moments, defend the body from fire.  Then it is a hibernating animal, and in winter retires to some hollow tree or other cavity, where it coils itself up and remains in a torpid state till the spring again calls it forth.  It may therefore sometimes be carried with the fuel to the fire, and wake up only time enough to put forth all its faculties for its defence.  Its viscous juice would do good service, and all who profess to have seen it, acknowledge that it got out of the fire as fast as its legs could carry it; indeed, too fast for them ever to make prize of one, except in one instance, and in that one the animal’s feet and some parts of its body were badly burned.

Dr. Young, in the “Night Thoughts,” with more quaintness than good taste, compares the sceptic who can remain unmoved in the contemplation of the starry heavens to a salamander unwarmed in the fire: 

   “An undevout astronomer is mad!

   “O, what a genius must inform the skies! 
    And is Lorenzo’s salamander-heart
    Cold and untouched amid these sacred fires?”

CHAPTER XXXVII

Eastern mythology—­Zoroaster—­Hindu mythology—­castes—­Buddha—­ grand Lama

ZOROASTER

Our knowledge of the religion of the ancient Persians is principally derived from the Zendavesta, or sacred books of that people.  Zoroaster was the founder of their religion, or rather the reformer of the religion which preceded him.  The time when he lived is doubtful, but it is certain that his system became the dominant religion of Western Asia from the time of Cyrus (550 B.C.) to the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great.  Under the Macedonian monarchy the doctrines of Zoroaster appear to have been considerably corrupted by the introduction of foreign opinions, but they afterwards recovered their ascendency.

Zoroaster taught the existence of a supreme being, who created two other mighty beings and imparted to them as much of his own nature as seemed good to him.  Of these, Ormuzd (called by the Greeks Oromasdes) remained faithful to his creator, and was regarded as the source of all good, while Ahriman (Arimanes) rebelled, and became the author of all evil upon the earth.  Ormuzd created man and supplied him with all the materials of happiness; but Ahriman marred this happiness by introducing evil into the world, and creating savage beasts and poisonous reptiles and plants.  In consequence of this, evil and good are now mingled together in every part of the world, and the followers of good and evil—­the adherents of Ormuzd and Ahriman—­carry on incessant war.  But this state of things will not last forever.  The time will come when the adherents of Ormuzd shall everywhere be victorious, and Ahriman and his followers be consigned to darkness forever.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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