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Religion

종교 탐방

Systems of Religious and Spiritual Belief

 

2 Nature Worship

 
 

In the history of religions and cultures, nature worship as a definite and complex system of belief or as a predominant form of religion has not been well documented. Among primitive peoples the concept of nature as a totality is unknown; only individual natural phenomena--e.g., stars, rain, and animals--are comprehended as natural objects or forces that influence them and are thus in some way worthy of being venerated or placated. Nature as an entity in itself, in contrast with man, human society and culture, or even God, is a philosophical or poetic conception that has been developed among advanced civilizations. This concept of nature worship, therefore, is limited primarily to scholars involved in or influenced by the modern (especially Western) study of religion. (see also  primitive religion, nature, philosophy of)

 

2.1 NATURE AS A SACRED TOTALITY

To students of religion, the closest example of what may be termed nature worship is perhaps most apparent in ancient or nonliterate cultures in which there is a high god as the lord in heaven who has withdrawn from the immediate details of the governing of the world. This kind of high god -- the Deus otiosushidden, or idle, god--is one who has delegated all work on earth to what are called " nature spirits," which are the forces or personifications of the forces of nature. High gods exist, for example, in such indigenous religions on Africa's west coast as that of the Dyola of Guinea. In such religions the spiritual environment of man is functionally structured by means of personified natural powers, or nature spirits. (see also  sacred and profane)

Pantheism (a belief system in which God is equated with the forces of the universe) or deism (a belief system based on a non-intervening creator of the universe), as was advocated in the rationalistic philosophy of religion of western Europe of the 16th to 18th centuries, is not appropriate in studies of nature worship in preliterate cultures. Worship of nature as an omnipotent entity, in the pantheistic sense, has not as yet been documented anywhere.

The power or force within nature that has most often been venerated, worshipped, or held in holy awe is mana. Mana, often designated as "impersonal power" or "supernatural power," is a term used by Polynesians and Melanesians that 19th-century Western anthropologists appropriated to apply to that which affected the common processes of nature. Mana was conceptually linked to North American Indian terms that conveyed the same or similar notions--e.g., orenda of the Iroquois, wakan of the Dakotas, and manitou of the Algonkin. Neither the designation "impersonal power" nor "supernatural power" implies what mana really means, however, because mana usually issues from persons or is used by them, and the concept of a supernatural sphere as distinct or separate from a natural sphere is seldom recognized by preliterate peoples.

Thus, a better designation for mana is "super force" or "extraordinary efficiency." A person has mana when he is successful, fortunate, and demonstrates extraordinary skill--e.g., as an artisan, warrior, or chief. Mana can also be obtained from the atuas (gods), providing that they themselves possess it. Derived from a root term that has aristocratic connotations, mana corresponds to Polynesian social classifications. The ariki, or alii, the nobility of Polynesia, have more power (mana), and the area that belongs to them and even the insignia associated with them have mana. Besides areas and symbolic elements that are associated with the ariki, many objects and animals having special relationships with chiefs, warriors, or priests have mana.

The concept of hasina of the Indonesian Hova (or Merina) on Madagascar is very similar to mana. It demonstrates the same aristocratic root character as the word mana, which is derived from the Indonesian manang ("to be influential, superior").

The Iroquoian term orenda, similar to mana, designates a power that is inherent in numerous objects of nature but that does not have essential personification or animistic (soul) elements. Orenda, however, is not a collective omnipotence. Powerful hunters, priests, and shamans have orenda to some degree. The wakandaor wakan, of the Sioux Indians is described similarly, but as Wakan-Tanka it may refer to a collective unity of gods with great power (wakan). The manitou of the Algonkin is not merely an impersonal power, comparable to the wakan, that is inherent in all things of nature but is also the personification of numerous manitous (powers), with a Great Manitou (Kitchi-Manitou) at the head. These manitous may even be designated as protective spirits that are akin to those of other North American Indians, such as the digi of the Apaches, boha of the Shoshones, and maxpe of the Crow, as well as the sila of the Eskimos. (see also  Iroquois)

The super forces (such as Mulungu, Imana, Jok, and others in Africa) that Western scholars have noted outside of the Austronesian-American circles of peoples are often wrongly interpreted as concepts of God. Only the barakah(derived from the pre-Islamic thought world of the Berbers and Arabs), the contagious superpower (or holiness) of the saints, and the power Nyama in western Sudan that works as a force within large wild animals, certain bush spirits, and physically handicapped people--appearing especially as a contagious power of revenge--may be added with a certain justification to that force of nature that is designated by mana. A striking similarity with mana may also be noted in the concepts of heil (good omen), saell (fortunate), and hamingja (luck) of the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples.

 

2.2 HEAVEN AND EARTH AS SACRED SPACES, FORCES, OR PROCESSES

Heaven and earth, as personified powers of nature and thus worthy of worship, are evidently not of equal age. Though from earliest times heaven was believed to be the residence of a high being or a prominent god, the earth as a personified entity is much rarer; it probably first occurred among archaic agrarian civilizations, and it continues to occur in some primitive societies in which agriculture is practiced. Gods of heaven, however, are characteristic spiritual beings of early and contemporary hunter and collector cultures and are found in almost all cultures. (see also  myth)

Primitive world views generally assume the earth to be simply given (i.e., as continuously existing). Sometimes the earth is believed to have emerged out of chaos or a primal sea or to have come into existence by the act of a heavenly god, transformer, or demiurge (creator). Even in such world views, however, the earth usually remains without a divine owner, unless through agriculture and the cult of the dead the earth is conceived as the underworld or as the source of the renewing powers of nature. The fact that heaven is animated by rain-giving clouds (with lightning and thunder) and by a regular chorus of warming and illuminating celestial bodies (sun, moon, and stars) led to concepts of the personification of heaven from earliest times. (see also  hunting and gathering society, creation myth)

 

2.2.1 Heaven.

Heavenly deities, as the personification of the physical aspects of the sky, appear in variations that are adapted to the types of cultures concerned. The listing offered below does not represent a unilinear development that is applicable everywhere.

 

2.2.1.1 The father of the family.

The god of heaven is often viewed as an ever-active father of the family, often called upon but rarely the recipient of sacrifices. He is able to intervene in human and natural affairs without the aid of an intermediary (e.g., priest, medicine man, or ancestors). As a numinous (spiritual) being, he is closer to man than other spiritual powers. He sends lightning and rain and rules the stars that are at most essential aspects of himself or are members of his family subject to him. He is the creator and the receiver of the dead. Modern scholars have designated such a being as the "high god," "supreme god," the "highest being" of the "original monotheism" (according to the theories of a German scholar, P.W. Schmidt), the idealized god of heaven (according to the views of an Italian historian of religion, Raffaele Pettazzoni), or the familiar father deity (according to the views of a British anthropologist, Andrew Lang). Very human, often comical, or even unethical and repulsive traits of such deities are often represented in myths that also sometimes include legends of animal or human ancestors.

This type of deity is generally found in its most developed form among the old hunter and collector peoples of the temperate and arid areas (e.g., forest Indians of North America, Indians of California and of Tierra del Fuego in South America, Australian Aborigines, and African Bushmen) and of the tropic primeval forests, where he is usually conceived as a storm and thunder being (e.g., Tore of the Ituri Pygmies or Karei of the Semang of the Andaman Islands). He is also worshipped among the pastoral peoples as the "blue" or "white" sky of the wide pastures in the steppes of northeastern Africa (e.g., Waka of the Galla) and of Central and North Asia (e.g., Torem, Num, and Tengri of the Ugrians, Samoyeds, and Mongols).

Among such peoples, heaven is often merged with an old hunting deity, the Lord of the Animals, or it allows the latter to exist as a hypostasis by his side.

 

2.2.1.2 The withdrawn god.

The god of heaven may be a Deus otiosuswho has, after completing the creation, withdrawn into heaven and abandoned the government of the world to the ancestors of men or to nature spirits that are dependent on him and act as mediators between him and men. This type of the god, who is able to intervene directly only when there are widespread existential necessities or needs (e.g., drought, pestilence, or war), can be found primarily where worship of the dead or worship of individual local "earth spirits"--not yet integrated into an all-inclusive earth deity--obscures everything else. This type of god occurs especially in areas of so-called primitive agriculture (e.g., large parts of Africa, Melanesia, and South America).

 

2.2.1.3 The first among equals.

The god of heaven also may be the head of a pantheon of gods, the first among equals, or the absolute ruler in a hierarchy of gods. This occurs in polytheism (belief in many gods) in its purest form. The deities associated with him are often related to him by family ties (genealogies of gods). Occasionally, the heavenly phenomena are distributed among members of the clan of gods, the god of heaven himself thus becoming rather vague. The divine pair heaven-earth represents only one among many possible combinations--e.g., Dyaus-pitri (= heaven, male) and Prthivi (= earth, female) in Vedic India or, with an unusual distribution of the sexes, Nut (= heaven, woman) and Geb (= earth, man) in ancient Egypt.

Occasionally, generations of gods succeed each other (e.g., Greece, western Asia). In such instances, the more universal god of heaven is often replaced by the younger god of thunderstorms (e.g., Zeus of the Greeks, Teshub of the Hittites, or Hadad of the Semites) or is even relegated to the background by a goddess, such as Inanna-Ishtar (the love or fertility goddess in Babylonia) or Amaterasu, the sun goddess of Japan.

In ancient China, Heaven (T'ien, or Shang Ti, the highest lord) ruled over the many more popular gods and was even closely related to the representatives of the Imperial household. Deification of the celestial emperor is a cultic practice that extends from Korea to Annam (part of Vietnam). The roots of the worship of heaven in Asia are probably the beliefs of central and northern Asiatic nomadic peoples in a solitary god of heaven. Gods of heaven, above or behind a pantheon (grouping of gods), probably originated in areas where a theocratic stratified bureaucracy existed or where sacral kingdoms exist or have existed--e.g., in The Sudan or northeastern Africa (Akan-Baule, Dahomey, Yoruba-Benin, Jukun, Buganda, and neighbouring states), western Indonesia, Polynesia and Micronesia, and in the advanced civilizations of pre-Columbian Meso-America and South America (see also Polytheism below). (see also  Chinese religion, East Asia, sacred kingship)

 

2.2.1.4 Heaven and earth deities as partners.

The god of heaven in many areas is a partner of an earth deity. In such cases, other numina (spirits) are missing or are subject to one of the two as spirits of nature or ancestors. Myths depicting the heaven-earth partnership usually describe the foundations or origins of the partnership in terms of a separation of a primeval chaos into heaven and earth or in terms of a later separation of heaven and earth that originally lay close together, and they describe the impregnation of the earth by the seed of the god (e.g., Hieros gamos, or the sacred marriage). This partnership of the god of heaven and the goddess of earth may be found in areas of Africa that have been influenced by advanced civilizations (especially The Sudan and northeastern Africa), in eastern Indonesia, and in some areas of America under the influence of advanced civilizations.

Not infrequently the god of heaven and the goddess of earth are fused into a hermaphroditic higher deity. This accords with certain traits of ancient civilizations which try to show in customs and myths that the dichotomies, for example, of heaven and earth, day and night, or man and woman, need to be surmounted in a kind of bisexual spiritual force. Certain myths express the loss of an original bisexuality of the world and people. In a creation myth found in the Vedas, for example, it was Purusa, an androgynous primal man, who separated into man and woman and from whom the world was created with all its contrasts. Another such creation myth is the cosmic egg, which was separated into the male sky and the female earth.

 

2.2.1.5 The god of heaven viewed dualistically.

In several religions the god of heaven has an antagonistic evil adversary who delights in destroying completely or partially the good creative deeds of the god of heaven. This helps to explain the insecurity of existence and concepts of ethical dualism. In most such cases, the contrasts experienced in the relationship between heaven and earth deities have been re-evaluated along ethical lines by means of exalting the heavenly elements at the expense of the earthly ones (especially in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sects in Europe, west central and northern Asia, and certain areas in the northern half of Africa). The figure of an antagonistic trickster or demiurge that has a somewhat ethical component may be the result of diffusion and is rather rare in primitive cultures--e.g., African Bushmen, Australian Aborigines, and North American Indians (see also Religious dualism below). (see also  trickster tale)

 

2.2.1.6 The god of heaven viewed monotheistically.

The god of heaven, viewed in his ethical aspect, is always an active, single god--e.g., Christian, Jewish, and Islamic monotheism (see also Monotheism below).

 

2.2.2 Earth.

Although in polytheistic religions the earth is usually represented as a goddess and associated with the god of heaven as her spouse, only rarely is there an elaborate or intensive cult of earth worship. There are in many religions mother goddesses who have elaborate cults and who have assumed the function of fertility for land and man, but they hardly have a chthonic (earth) basis. Some mother goddesses, such as Inanna-Ishtar, instead have a heavenly, astral origin. There are, however, subordinate figures of various pantheons, such as Nerthus (Jörd) in Germanic religion or Demeter and Persephone (earth mother and corn girl) in Greek religion, who have played greater roles than the world mother (Gaea). Among Indo-Europeans, western Asiatics (despite their various fertility deities), Chinese, and Japanese, the gods of heaven, sun, and thunderstorms have held a paramount interest.

When the common people have displayed intensive attention to "mother earth" (such as the practice of laying down newborn babies on the earth and many other rites), this partially reflects older cults that have remained relatively free from warrior and nation-building peoples with their emphasis on war (as in western Sudan, pre-Aryan India, and the Indian agrarian area of northern Mexico). The Andean earth-mother figure, Pacha-Mama, worshipped by the Peruvians, stands in sharp contrast to the sun religion of the Inca (the conquering lord of the Andes region). Earth deities are most actively venerated in areas in which people are closely bound to ancestors and to the cultivation of grain.

 

2.2.2.1 Mountains.

Especially prominent mountains are favourite places for cults of high places, particularly when they are isolated as island mountains, mountains with snowcaps, or uninhabited high mountain ranges. The psychological roots of the cults of high places lie in the belief that mountains are close to the sky (as heavenly ladders), that clouds surrounding the mountaintops are givers of rain, and that mountains with volcanoes form approaches to the fiery insides of the earth. (see also  sacred place)

Mountains, therefore, serve as the abodes of the gods, as the centres of the dead who live underground, as burial places for rainmakers (medicine men), and as places of oracles for soothsayers. In cosmogenic ( origin of the world) myths, mountains are the first land to emerge from the primeval water. They frequently become the cosmic mountain (i.e., the world conceived as a mountain) that is symbolically represented by a small hill on which a king stands at the inauguration. Pilgrimages to mountain altars or shrines are favourite practices of cults of high places. (see also  creation myth)

The larger mountain ranges and canyons between volcanic mountains--especially in Eurasia from the Pyrenees to the Alps, the Carpathian Mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, the Himalayas, the mountainous areas of northern China and Japan, and the mountainous areas of North and South America (the Rocky Mountains, the Andes)--are most often centres of cults of high places. Elevations of the East African Rift Valley (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), volcanic islands of the Pacific Ocean (e.g., Hawaii), and the mountains of the Indian Deccan have also served as centres of the cult of high places.

In the early civilizations, the cult of high places was closely combined with that of the earth; e.g., Olympus of the Greeks, the mountains of Enlil or of the Mountain Mother Cybele in western Asia, and the Meru mountain of India were believed to bring heaven and earth into a close relationship and were often viewed as the middle pillar of the world pillars upholding the sky. Bush and wild spirits ( Lord of the Animals) of the cultures of the hunters and collectors were often believed to reside in inaccessible mountainous areas (e.g., the Caucasus).

In addition to other mountain deities of a more recent date (e.g., God of the Twelve Mountains and the One-Legged Mountain God), the mountain deity Yama-no-kami has been demonstrated to be a deity of the hunt (i.e., god of the forest, Lord of the Animals) of ancient Japan. Through the worship of farmers, Yama-no-kami assumed the elements of a goddess of vegetation and agriculture. The mountain goddesses (earth mothers) of non-Aryan India still incorporate numerous features of hunt deities, and, because of indigenous influences, the Vedic (early Aryan scriptural) gods and their wives (e.g., Parvati, Uma, and Durga) have their abodes on mountains. The isolated mountains of East Africa, surrounded by clouds, are believed to be the dwelling places of the heaven and rain gods, and in the area of Zimbabwe there are pilgrimages to mountain sanctuaries that are viewed as the seats of the gods. (see also  Japanese religion, Indian religion)

Pre-Islamic peoples of North Africa and the extinct inhabitants of the Canary Islands ( Guanches) associated mountain worship with a cult of goats (and sheep), which, when practiced in rituals, was believed to secure rain and thunderstorms in the often arid landscape. Similar cults are also found on the Balkans and in the valleys of the southern Alps. (see also  animal)

 

2.2.2.2 Earthquakes.

According to the beliefs of many peoples, earthquakes originate in mountains. In areas of Africa where the concept of mana is particularly strong, many believe that the dead in the underworld are the causes of earthquakes, though in the Upper Nile, the Sudan, and East Africa an earth deity is sometimes blamed. In some areas a bearer who holds the world up--a concept that probably came from Arabia, Persia, India--is believed to cause an earthquake when he changes his position or when he moves his burden from one shoulder to the other. In the Arab world, on the east coast of Africa and in North Africa, an ox generally is viewed as the bearer, sometimes standing on a fish in the water. World bearers often are giants or heroes, such as Atlas, but they also may be animals: an elephant (India), a boar (Indonesia), a buffalo (Indonesia), a fish (Arabia, Georgia, and Japan), a turtle (America), or the serpent god Ndengei (Fiji). Generators of earthquakes also may be the gods of the underworld, such as Tuil, the earthquake god of the inhabitants of Kamchatka (a peninsula in eastern Siberia), who rides on a sleigh under the earth. The earthquake is driven away by noise, loud shouting, or poking with the pestle of a mortar. Among peoples with eschatological (last times) views, earthquakes announce the end of the world (Europe, western Asia).

 

2.2.2.3 Tides.

The view that the tides are caused by the moon can be found over almost all the earth. This regular natural phenomenon seldom gives rise to cults, but the ebb and flow of the coastal waters has stimulated mythological concepts. Not infrequently the moon acquires the status of a water deity because of this phenomenon. The Tlingit (of northwestern America) view the moon as an old woman, the mistress of the tides. The animal hero and trickster Yetl, the raven, is successful in conquering (with the aid of the mink) the seashore from the moon at low tide, and thus an extended area is gained for nourishment with small sea animals.

 

2.3 CELESTIAL PHENOMENA AS OBJECTS OF WORSHIP OR VENERATION

 

2.3.1 The sun.

Generally, the sun is worshipped more in colder regions and the moon in warm regions. Also, the sun is usually considered as male and the moon as female. Exceptions to these generalizations, however, are notable: the prevalent worship of the sun in hot, arid ancient Egypt and in parts of western Asia; the conception of the moon as a man (who frequently is believed to be the cause of menstruation) among primitive hunter peoples (African Bushmen, Australian Aborigines, and hunters of South America) and among certain pastoral and royal cultures of Africa (e.g., the Masai and the Khoikhoi); and the conception of the female sun ruling northern Eurasia from the Northern Sea to Japan and parts of North America. (see also  moon worship, Egyptian religion)

In many state cults of ancient civilizations, the sun plays a special role, particularly where it has replaced an old god of heaven (e.g., Egypt, Ethiopia, South India, and the Andes) and especially where it is viewed as a marker of time.

 

2.3.1.1 The sun as the centre of a state religion.

In Africa ancient Egypt was the main centre from which solar deity concepts emanated. The solar religion, promoted by the state, was concerned with the sun god Re (Atum-Re, Amon-Re, Chnum-Re), the sun falcon Horus, the scarab (Chepre), and a divine kingdom that was determined by the sun (e.g., pharaoh Akhenaton's solar monotheism c. 1350 BC). The sun religion reached, by way of Meroe (a sun sanctuary until the 6th century AD) and the Upper Nile, as far as western Ethiopia (e.g., the Hego cult in Kefa and the sun kings in Limmu) and Nigeria (e.g., Jukun). In the Orient the sun cult culminated in the religion of Mithra of Persia. Mithra was transported by Roman legionnaires to western Europe and became the Unconquerable Sun of the Roman military emperors. In Japan the Imperial deity in state Shinto is Amaterasu, the sun goddess from whom Jimmu Tenno, the first human emperor, descended. In Indonesia, where the descent of the princes from the sun also is a feature, the sun often replaces the deity of heaven as a partner of the earth. In Peru the ruling Inca was believed to be the sun incarnate ( Inti) and his wife the moon. A sun temple in Cuzco contains a representation of Inti as the oldest son of the creator god. The Natchez Indians of southeastern United States, who are culturally connected with Central America, called their king "Great Sun," and the noblemen were called "the Suns." (see also  Inca religion)

 

2.3.1.2 The sun as a subordinate deity.

The sun, within a polytheistic pantheon, often is revered as a special deity who is subordinate to the highest deity, usually the god of heaven. This may be observed in the great civilizations of ancient Europe and Asia: Helios (Greece); Sol (Rome); Mithra (Persia); Surya, Savitr, and Mitra (India); Utu (Sumer); and Shamash (Babylonian and other Semitic areas).

The sun not infrequently is considered female (Shams of some Arabs, Shaph of ancient Ugarit in Palestine, Sun of Arinna of the Hittites, as well as the female Sun of the Germans). Siberian people such as the Taimyr Samoyed (whose women pray in spring to the sun goddess in order to receive fertility or a rich calving of the reindeer) or the Tungus worship sun goddesses. They sacrifice to the sun goddess, and her symbols are embroidered on women's clothes.

 

2.3.1.3 The sun and moon as a divine pair.

A sun god is often related to a moon goddess as one member of a divine pair (in the place of heaven and earth as "world parents"). A sun-moon god exists among the Munda-Dravida in India (Singbonga); a sun-moon (earth) pair, partially seen as bisexual, exists in eastern Indonesia; and Nyambe (the sun) among the Rotse in Zambia is represented as united with the moon goddess as the ruling pair.

 

2.3.1.4 The sun as an attribute of the highest being.

The sun sometimes is viewed as a coordinated or subordinate attribute, or hypostasis, of the highest being. This may possibly occur because of a partially weakened influence of a stronger solarism in areas of older primitive peoples, such as in The Sudan, Upper Volta, Nigeria, northern East Africa, and Australia.

 

2.3.1.5 The sun as a mythical being.

The sun, in some religions, is conceived as a purely mythical being, who is cultically recognized in sun dances (e.g., prairie Indians) and in celebrations of the solstice, with jumps over fires, sports festivals, and other events. These rites may be either survivals of an earlier local cult of a sun deity or influences of such a cult.

 

2.3.2 The moon.

The moon is often personified in different ways and worshipped with ritual customs; nevertheless, in contrast to the sun, the moon is less frequently viewed as a powerful deity. It appears to be of great importance as the basis of a lunar calendar but not in the higher agrarian civilizations. The moon, infrequently associated with the highest god, is usually placed below heaven and the sun. When the moon with the sun together (instead of "heaven and earth") constitute an important pair of gods (world parents), it frequently assumes the features of an earth deity. In tropical South America, the sun and moon are usually purely mythical figures.

Between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, the moon is predominantly female. Only some remainders of ancient peoples (hunter peoples) view the moon as a male being (e.g., African Bushmen, Australian Aborigines, Congo Pygmies, Semang, Andamans, Chaco Indians, Ona, and some Brazilian tribes). In the few significant moon gods of the Oriental civilizations (Khons in Egypt, Sin-Nanna in Babylonia, Candra in India)--in contrast with the female Selene and Luna in the Greek-Roman culture, a more ancient substratum may possibly be present. Where the moon is considered as male, he often determines the sexual life of the woman, especially among the Aborigines of Australia.

The phenomenon of the moon that attracts all people is the sequence of its phases. The waxing and waning of the moon crescent is often interpreted as gaining or losing weight (eating, dieting). Thus, the Taulipang in Guayaná believe that the moon is first nourished well and then inadequately by his two wives, Venus and Jupiter. Where the moon is viewed as female, the phases represent pregnancy and delivery. Elsewhere, people see childhood, maturity, and dying as the phases of the moon: the first crescent is thus the rebirth or the replacement of the old by a new moon.

The appearance of the crescent or the full moon is sometimes celebrated by a rest from work, and some attempt to participate in the waxing and waning of the moon by analogous magical rites. Girls with small breasts stand in the full moonlight (in the Salzburg, Austria, area); persons who desire a tumor to decrease point to the waning moon; and newborn children often are exposed to the waning moonlight, or they and everything else that is desired to be healthy and permanent are dyed white; i.e., they are made "moonlike." Nearly everywhere, connections between the moon phases and the rhythm of nature (the tides) and humans (menstruation) are recognized.

The three dark days of the "death" of the moon are believed by many to be dangerous. During this period the moon is believed to be defeated in a battle with monsters who eat and later regurgitate the moon; or the moon is viewed as having been killed by other heavenly beings and later revived. The period is a time in which people, if possible, do not engage in a new enterprise.

The halo of the moon is also viewed as a bad omen among many peoples. Moon spots are regarded as testimonies of a battle with heavenly opponents. In addition to the popular Man in the Moon, there are also other figures represented: "the woman with the basket on her back," "the spinning woman," or "the weaving woman" (in Polynesia the woman who pounds tapa). The most popular animal figure recognized in the features of the moon, the rabbit (from Europe to America), presumably earned this role because of its fertility.

 

2.3.3 Eclipses of the sun and moon.

Eclipses of the sun or the moon--usually interpreted as a battle, as the dying, or the devouring of one of the two heavenly bodies--in many religions are met with anxiety, shouting, drum beating, shooting, and other noises. Many North American Indian tribes, Hottentots in Africa, Ainu in Japan, and the Minangkabau in Sumatra interpret the eclipses as fainting, sickness, or the death of the darkened heavenly body. In Arctic America, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Tlingits believe that the sun and moon have moved from their places in order to see that things are going right on earth. The explanation that heavenly monsters and beasts pursue the stars and attempt to injure and to kill them, however, is a view found over a larger area. Noise and shooting are believed to deter the monsters from their pursuit or to force them to return the celestial bodies if they have already been captured. In China and Thailand the monster is the heavenly dragon; in China, among the Germanic tribes, and among northern American Indians, dogs and wolves (coyotes) are the culprits; in Africa and Indonesia, they are snakes; in South America, the beast is the jaguar; and in India they are the star monsters Rahu and Ketu. The belief in the darkening of one star by the other in a battle--e.g., between the sun god Lisa and the moon goddess Gleti in Dahomey--is about as widespread. An eclipse may also be interpreted (as in Tahiti) as the lovemaking of sun and moon, who thus beget the stars and obscure each other in the process.

 

2.3.4 Stars and constellations.

Worship of the stars and constellations in the modern world survives only in a very corrupt or hidden manner. True star worship existed only among some ancient civilizations associated with Mesopotamia, where star worship was practiced. Mesopotamia, where both astronomy and astrology reached a high degree of refinement--especially after a Hellenizing renaissance of astronomy--was the origin of astral religions and myths that affected religions all over the world. Though the view is controversial, Mesopotamian astral worship and influence may have reached as far as Central and Andean America (by way of China or Polynesia). Sumerian, Elamite, and Hurrian contemplation of the stars influenced not only Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Egypt, Iran, and India but also other areas. Knowledge of the zodiac, the planets, and observation of precession extended from the West to south Asia--e.g., the Pythagoreans and Orphics (mystical philosophers) in the Mediterranean area and astrological mystical thinkers in India, Indonesia, China, and Polynesia. West Sudan, for example, was deeply influenced by the spirit of ancient Mediterranean and Oriental knowledge of the stars. (see also  Mesopotamian religion)

Apart from areas in The Sudan, northeast Africa, and Rhodesia (Mwene Matapa, or Monomotapa), not much of Africa has had any considerable knowledge of the stars. That knowledge of the stars is relatively limited among forest peoples, unless old hunting cultures survived, is explained by an Ekoi tribesman in southeast Nigeria, as follows: "Ekoi people do not trouble themselves about the stars, because the trees always hide them." Hunting pygmies likewise have never achieved any significant knowledge of the stars, which the Bushmen on the steppe have.

Knowledge of the stars in the areas of the true primitive peoples rarely leads to a worship of the stars. True star gods are rare, for example, in large parts of Africa. In Polynesia, where significant knowledge of the stars by the seafaring people and fishermen was learned in regular schools of astronomy, there seldom occurred what can be called true religious worship of the stars. Knowledge of the stars, however, is still relatively significant among the hunting peoples in the Southern Hemisphere, especially among the African Bushmen and Australian Aborigines, who were formerly untouched by the high civilizations. Economic considerations connected with the rising and setting of the stars, however, surpasses their mythological significance by far. The stars are usually considered to be living beings, particularly animals that have been transferred to the sky. They evidently are taken seriously primarily because they indicate by their rising and setting the appearance of game to be hunted or fruits to be collected.

The widespread African interpretation of the constellation Orion as a hunter, as game, or as a dog (from East Africa to the lower Congo and in the area of the Niger) is most likely a vestige from an earlier hunting period that has survived in agricultural civilizations. In a different form, the constellation Orion is still known in Europe as a hunter, in north Asia as a hunter of reindeer and elk, and in North America as a hunter of bears. In South America--outside the Andean empires--a whole series of astral beliefs of the ancient hunting culture has been preserved: the concepts of stars and constellations as Lords of the Animals, as helpers of the hunter, or as animals themselves.

Venus, the best known planet, has probably experienced its most significant personification in the figure of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna-Ishtar. She was viewed as a being, sometimes female and at other times bisexual. Through her identification with the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus, Inanna-Ishtar, the queen of heaven, still survives in Roman Catholic iconography--e.g., as the Virgin Mary standing on the moon. African cultures also have been significantly impressed by this planet, not only in the rare figure of a Zulu heavenly goddess who determines the agricultural work of the women but even more as the evening and morning star, who are the wives of the moon. In the royal culture of Mwene Monomotapa (Rhodesia) and its influences in Buganda and southern Congo, the king is related to the moon, and his wedding with the Venus women is a type of hieros gamos ("sacred wedding"). In large areas of Africa the concept of "Venus wives of the moon" is preserved, although the moon is usually considered as the wife (or sister) of the sun. This concept was most likely prevalent at a time when the moon-king ideology was widespread in the eastern half of Africa from the Nile to South Africa, perhaps indicating south Arabian influences. (see also  Ishtar)

The Pleiades, a group in the constellation of Taurus (six to seven adjacent stars), is viewed in many parts of the world as maidens who are pursued by men (e.g., hunters). The Pleiades is also interpreted as a mother hen with her chickens, especially in Eurasia, where the star Aldebaran, which is located close to the Pleiades, is often included as a part of the constellation. In Africa the Pleiades designates the beginning of the agricultural year. Therefore, in many Bantu languages the verb kulima ("to hoe") furnishes the basis for their designation kilimia, the Pleiades. In addition to East and South Africa there is still a smaller area in the western Sudan that retains this belief.

Polaris (the north star) enjoys a central significance among the Finno-Ugric and Turkish Tatars as "nail of the world" or "pillar of heaven." Among Altai Tatars Polaris is viewed as the negotiator of the god of heaven Ülgan; in Japan, Polaris is a god of heaven above the ninth layer of clouds.

The Milky Way, depending on a group's economy and life style, is often simply named after hunting or domestic animals: way of the tapir, the donkey, or the camel. It also is called the seam of the heavenly tent or a water stream. As the footsteps of God or the way of God, as the way of the dead, or as a deserted way of the gods, the Milky Way reveals older mythical conceptions, among which is that of the world (cosmic) tree. (see also  Milky Way Galaxy)

Aurora borealis, the northern lights of the polar regions, is frequently interpreted by Arctic and sub-Arctic peoples (e.g., Eskimo, Athapascan, Tlingit) as the reflection of the dance fire of the ghosts or of the peoples further in the north, as the "cooking of meat," or the ball game of these peoples. Northern Germanic tribes saw in it the splendor of the shields of Valkyrie (warrior women).

 

2.4 ELEMENTS AND FORCES OF NATURE

The natural forces of fire and water, which evidently exclude each other, are brought together in a unity of opposites in the worldviews of early archaic civilizations. Both forces are purifying as well as protective, and are viewed by many as being connected with the cosmic powers of the sun and moon. Where they are truly combined, often genetically, fire (as the sun) is usually male, and water (as the moon), female. Where the fire is included more into the chthonic (earthly) sphere it may also receive a feminine character (e.g., fire in the earth, preserved in the womb); where rain is viewed as the semen of heaven, which is usually personified as male, it takes on a male character.

 

2.4.1 Water.

Many of the qualities of water make it appear to be animated; on this basis it is psychologically understandable that water (e.g., rain, sea, lakes, and rivers) might become a natural phenomenon worthy of worship. Water is always in motion, changes color in the light of the stars, reflects the world and man, "speaks" with murmuring and roaring, brings new life to dried out vegetation, refreshes men and animals, the tired and the ill, and heals. Because it dissolves dirt it is also most suitable for purifying the soul (e.g., after the violation or the commission of a sin of any kind). Under certain circumstances, even pictures (icons) of gods have to be washed. Water also demonstrates destructive forces (seaquakes, floods, and storms). The most important mythical-religious facts symbolized by water are the following: the primal matter; the instrument of the purification and expiation; a vivifying force, a fructifying force; and a revealing and judging instrument.

 

2.4.1.1 Water as primal matter.

The conception of a primal body of water from which everything is derived is especially prevalent among peoples living close to coasts or in river areas--e.g., the Egyptian Nu (the primordial ocean) and the Mesopotamian Apsu (the primeval watery abyss) and Tiamat (the primeval chaos dragon). The earth may be fished out or emerges from the primeval water; heavenly beings (e.g., Ataentsik, ancestress of the North American Iroquois) appear on the emerged earth; and birds lay an egg that is later divided into two halves (heaven and earth) on the chaotic sea. Thus, water is viewed as the foundation of all things. A survival of the original primeval sea, in such myths, is the water that flows around the earth's disk (e.g., Oceanus).

 

2.4.1.2 Water as an instrument for purification and expiation.

Water is viewed as an instrument for purification and expiation, especially in arid areas. Cultic acts, in such areas, generally take place only after lustrations, sprinkling, or immersion in water. The same view holds true for entry into new communities or into life (e.g., baptism). Water lustration is especially necessary after touching the dead, and as a purificatory washing for priests and kings. Pictures of the gods also have had water poured over them. (see also  purification rite)

Myths of a great flood (the Deluge) are widespread over Eurasia and America. This flood, which destroys with a few exceptions a disobedient original population, is an expiation by the water, after which a new type of world is created. (see also  flood myth)

 

2.4.1.3 Water as a vivifying force.

Water is viewed as vivifying, like the heavenly rainwater that moistens the earth. Water also is equated with the flowing life forces of the body (e.g., blood, sweat, and semen). In order to replace the lost liquids, water was added to the mummified dead in Egypt. The African Ashanti designate their patrilinear groups as ntoro, which means water, river, and semen, and the Wogeo of Papua call their patrilinear clans dan; i.e., both water and semen. The myth of the Kasuar ancestress of the But of Papua related how Kasuar's blood became sea (and salt).

 

2.4.1.4 Water as fructifying.

Wherever early archaic culture spread the myth of the world parents heaven and earth, there also was a belief that heaven fructifies the earth with heaven's seed. The springs, pools, and rivers on the earth, therefore, may bring not only healing and expiation, but also fertility. The Scamander River in ancient Greece evidently was so personified; according to Aeschines, a 4th-century-BC Greek orator, girls bathed in it before marrying and said: "Scamander, accept my virginity." Magical rites in which water serves as a substitute for semen or the fertility of men are numerous.

At the corn festival Nsiä of the Bamessing (in Cameroon), which is celebrated in the dry season, the festival begins with the mourning of the dead vegetation. Reminiscent of the Egyptian Osiris and the Mesopotamian Tammuz festivals, the Nsiä festival emphasizes that the god who gave the nourishment has died and is being mourned like a chieftain. The chief, dying symbolically with the god, has to be strengthened with a miraculous "chieftain water," which has to be fetched by virgins of the chieftain's clan. For two weeks the chieftain drinks from the gourds of all the maidens after the women of the tribe have drunk from the holy water place.

Battles of gods and heroes with mythical beings, beasts, and monsters that hold back the fructifying water are widespread in mythology. The liberation of water during the mythical battle is equivalent to the end of the dry season or a drought, to the reviving of vegetation. In Indian mythology Indra slays Urtra; in Syrian and Palestinian mythology Baal battles with Leviathan; and in Huron (North American Indian) mythology Joskeha, the spring hero, kills the frog that attempted to restrain the water from flowing freely.

 

2.4.1.5 Water as a revealing or judging instrument.

Water also serves as an instrument that reveals and judges. Reflections in the water led to a whole series of oracles originating from an alleged prophetic or divinatory power of water. A visionary look into the water surface was believed to reveal the future as well as past misdeeds. This ancient custom may have been preserved in the use of crystal balls by modern fortune tellers. The custom of water divination is found in ancient Europe, North Africa, the Near East (e.g., Babylonian fortune telling by means of cups), eastern and northern Asia (where the use of metal mirrors by the shamans often replaces the water as a divining means), and in Southeast Asia and Polynesia. Where such means of divination were severely repressed, as in sub-Saharan Africa, these methods of mirror and water gazing were changed into manipulated water ordeals.

Water is also used as a judging element: in ordeals believed to demonstrate the judgment of the gods, water ordeals (e.g., immersion in water), as well as the more frequent fire ordeals, appear. Here also the purifying character of the water plays a role.

 

2.4.2 Fire.

Worship of fire is widespread, especially in areas where the earthly fire is believed to be the image of the heavenly fire.

Because of various psychological reasons, fire is considered to be a personified animated or living power: it moves vehemently, devours, and becomes hungrier; it spreads fast into a giant blaze and is red like human blood and warm like the human body. It makes the plants that it has devoured suitable for fertilizing the earth; it shines brightly in the night and, by transference, may have "eternal life" or by constant rekindling can be made into a "perpetual fire." In cremation it separates the body from the soul; it drives away predatory animals and insects that cause pestilence.

Its chief functions are similar to those of its main adversary, water: to purify and to ward off evil, especially from home and hearth. Fire magically drives away rain, but with its smoke it also attracts rain clouds during a period of drought. Fire is believed to have both heavenly and earthly origins: it is brought by lightning, and it lives in the volcano of the underworld.

Stories are told of ancestors, heroes, or animals of primeval times who purloined the fire from the higher numina (spiritual powers). Bringers of civilization, similar to the Greek god Prometheus, fetch it--often together with fruits of the field, iron, or musical instruments--from heaven. Like Prometheus, Nommo, the primal being among the Dogon in Mali, brings fire and the first fruits of the field down to the earth. Prometheus steals the fire from the blacksmith Hephaestus, but Nommo himself is the first blacksmith. In both areas this cultural achievement is celebrated with annual torchlight parades (in Greece, called Promethea festivals). Elsewhere, birds, or animals, such as the dog (especially in Africa), who is closely allied to the hearth fire of man, are the bringers of fire. Animals often fetch the fire from the Lord of the Animals in the bush. (see also  animal worship)

Where geysers and volcanos indicate that the oldest fire is beneath the surface of the earth, fire is brought forth by animals and heroes. The Maori hero Maui seizes it from his ancestress Mahuike in the depth of the earth and puts it into a tree. Since that time it has been possible to get fire from the wood of the trees (e.g., the fire borer). In areas practicing a definite ancestor worship, hunters obtained the fire from the subterranean world of the dead (as in East Africa). Previous to the Iron Age (15th century-2nd century BC), the generating of fire with the aid of fire borers, or fire saws, was viewed as a sexual act (male and female fire wood), especially in East and South Africa, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. In the creation myths of the Dayak of Borneo, fire is produced by rubbing a liana (male) on a tree (female) and is interpreted as coitus. The Tlingit (of northwest America) tell a story of the magical conception of a girl by the sawdust of the fire borer. The boring for the new state fire in the Loango empire (West Africa) coincides with the public coitus of a young couple. (see also  phallic symbol)

This conceptual framework seems to be a late consequence of earlier ideas of fire in the body of humans, especially of women, as a centre of sexual life. Such views are probably most pronounced among the Aborigines of Papua and Australia. The Marind in New Guinea, who, in their myth of the origin of fire view it as being derived from the sexual act, undertake the new boring of fire in connection with a cultic act in which the raping of a girl is the central rite. Elsewhere in New Guinea, there is a concept that fire lies in the genitals of women, especially of the first woman.

When iron-smelting techniques by means of fire became common among Neolithic (New Stone Age) peoples of similar mentality, as in Indonesia and Africa, the making of iron in shaft furnaces (considered as female) and bellows (male) has been interpreted as coitus with a subsequent birth (especially among the Bantu).

In archaic civilizations with sacral kings, the sacred perpetual fire (i.e., the state fire) of the residences and temples of the royal ancestors was believed to have a phallic element. It was cared for by virgins, who were viewed as wives of the fire. Vestal virgins of this kind are documented in ancient Rome, Mwene Matapa (Africa), and pre-Columbian America. Among the Maya of Central America, an order of fire caretakers was founded by a deified "virgin of the fire." Extinguishing and rekindling of fire at the inauguration of a prince points to the idea of a spirit of the princes in the state fire and also to the cyclical renewal of the state in the purifying fire, which signifies the beginning of a new era.

Fire gods are found less frequently in primitive cultures than in archaic civilizations. That fire gods are not yet known in some ancient Oriental areas is probably because of the advanced development of a sun deity.

Iranian fire worship was derived from the cult of the god Atar, but it was made a central act in Zoroastrianism (a religion founded by the 6th-century-BC Iranian prophet Zoroaster). Fire worship continues to be practiced among the Parsis (modern Zoroastrians) of India: in temples the sacred fire is maintained by a priest using sandalwood, while his mouth is bound with a purifying shawl; fire in new temples is kindled from the fire of the old temples; household fires are not permitted to go out and are greeted in the morning by the members of the household and offered sandalwood; and Aryan cremation practices are renounced because the fire would be contaminated, and the dead are thus deposited in the "temples of silence."

 

2.4.3 Weather.

The worship of atmospheric powers can only with difficulty be separated from the worship of heaven. In most cases the high god in heaven is also the god of thunderstorms and rain. Specific gods of wind and storm are found especially in countries with tornadoes and hurricanes (e.g., the Maya deity Huracan). People (e.g., the Tuareg and Arabs) in arid countries and deserts, dried out by the wind, speak of sand funnel spirits or of a desert god, such as the "boneless Kon" of the Peruvians. (see also  climate)

From northern Europe to the tropical forests, thunderstorm deities rule heaven and earth. The most famous group of these numina (spiritual beings) are the Indo-European thunder gods (Thor-Donar of the Germans, Taranis of the Celts, Perkunis of the Slavs, Indra of the Indians, Zeus-Jupiter of the Greeks and Romans), who throw their thunderbolts or bundles of lightning. The Finnish god Ukko and the Basque god Orko probably stem from the same root; these gods still continue in the popular beliefs of Eastern Europe or Latin America today, such as St. Elijah or Santiago. These deities are related to the west Asiatic gods Teshub and Hadad (associated with the steer and with lightning) but also to the thunder god Shango of the Nigerian Yoruba, who is accompanied by a ram (as Thor uses a he-goat for pulling his wagon). Shango, as Yakuta, throws thunderbolts (i.e., stone axes) to the earth, as does the Mayan rain god, Chac.

The goat, the ram, or horses appear as companions of weather gods or as animals that pull the thundering sky vehicle. In other cultures thunderbirds are the companions of the thunder gods or are the lightning itself. The lightning bird Zu, or Imdugud, occurs in ancient Mesopotamia, and the Garuda (with Wadjra) in Vedic India. Thunderbirds are represented (sometimes with arrows or spears in their bill or fangs) on archaeological artifacts of the Bronze Age in Dodona, Minussinsk in Siberia, Dong Son in Vietnam, and on pots in north Peru; they are described in myths of the Pueblo and prairie Indians and among East and South Africans.

Where prayers or sacrifices to gods and ancestors in the religious cult are not effective in producing rain, rain magic, which is practiced universally in similar rites, is often able to accomplish it. Trained magicians usually perform such rites, but ancestral priests or "persons holding power" also may do so. In rain magic, sprinkling, spitting, or immersion of people or things is often used to call down heavenly moisture. Smoke clouds to attract the rain accomplish the same purpose. There also must be suitable vestments (fresh greens, skins or pelts of water animals), body painting (representing clouds), or adornment with bird down. The colour black in the clothing or on a killed or exposed animal is believed to be especially effective. Animals held responsible for holding the rain or water back (frogs, snakes, or mythological dragons) must be challenged. The sound of rain or thunder is produced with "bull-roarers," whistling, noise pots, rattles, and chains. If excessive rain is to be stopped, the injunction to perform or refrain from certain acts (e.g., the prohibition of washing, boiling water, burning objects, making noise, and whistling) must be observed. (see also  rainmaking)

The rainbow often is considered a being, generally in the form of an animal, who swallows and holds back rain or water. The rainbow serpent (as a double bow also conceived as bisexual) is a figure that is found especially in the tropics of Africa, south Asia, north Australia ("ungud" snake), and Brazil. Elsewhere, the rainbow is viewed as a heavenly bridge that connects the worlds of gods and men: the Bifröst bridge in the Edda (a Norse saga); the bridge of the soul boats in Indonesia or of the creator god in Africa; and the path of the Greek goddess Iris. In Christian iconography, the rainbow is the throne of Christ; among Arabs and some Bantu of Central Africa it is the bow of god, and among the Nandi, Masai, and the Californian Yuki it is the robe of god.

2.5 WORSHIP OF ANIMALS

Among the numerous animals that are prominent in religion and magic, the wild animals of the forests, the sea, and the air that are most important for the hunter are the most significant. Hunters and collectors, rooted in the earliest cultures of man, believed that they not only had to kill animals--which were important for their economy as nourishment and raw materials--but also that they had to avoid their revenge. The feeling of a close connection between men and animals that has been lost to the highly civilized people (broadly speaking) led to an anthropomorphizing of animals. They were not only considered as living beings but were humanized to such an extent that the borderline between man and animal became virtually nonexistent and animals were held responsible for crises. (see also  animalism)

The religious magical attitude by which primitive peoples confront animals may be called animalism, regardless of whether the animal is thought to have life (animatism) or to have a soul (animism). See below, Animism .

The best known form of what may be called animal worship is totemism. An anthropologist, Sir James Frazer, defined totemism as "an intimate relation which is supposed to exist between a group of kindred people on one side and a species of natural or artificial objects on the other side, which objects are called the totems of the human group" (Totemism and Exogamy, 1910). Frazer added that the mentioned "species" generally is more "natural" than "artificial." In this "intimate relation" the animal has the prerogative and in true totemism this relationship represents a more or less reverent attitude of man toward his animal partner. In totemism the relationship with the animal has not only merged into the realm of religion but has at the same time become a phenomenon of social life. See below, Totemism . (Ed.)

   


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