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sollus, whole, and annus, year)?. All this is simply human nature.
It was only when with the progress of time some of these usages threatened to become abuses, and when single individuals or minorities declined to obey them, that the necessity arose for what we call laws, decisions carried by majorities or by force, and upheld by the threat of punishment to be inflicted by properly constituted authorities. The members of a community are seldom conscious of the object or the utility of their ancient usages, while legislation implies a clear conception of the necessity of a law. Hence it is chiefly for customs that a religious approval was afterwards required, while the laws, as such, were sufficiently protected by the sanction of the government and by the infliction of punishment.
Annual Festivals. Surprise has often been expressed at the prominent place which the sun occupies in many of the religious and sacrificial customs of the world. Why should the sun, it has often been asked, have been of such consequence to the ancient inhabitants of the earth ? People in our time think of the sun far away in the sky only; they forget that, as causing the regular succession of the seasons, the same sun was of truly vital importance to the early tillers of the soil, and that nothing was more natural than that they should have celebrated the yearly return of the sun and the seasons by social gatherings, festivals, processions, thank-offerings, and propitiatory sacrifices. To mention only a few of the ancient
I Sollenne, quod omnibus annis praestari debet,' Festus, p. 298; sollennia sacra dicuntur quae certis temporibus annisque fieri solent,' ibid., p. 344.
Vedic sacrifices, we find that the Agnihotra was performed twice every day; the Darsa pûr na mâsa at every new and full moon; the Kâturmâsya every fourth month, at the beginning of spring, the rainy season and autumn; the Âgrâyaneshti at harvesttime; the Pasubandha at the beginning of the rains. Such ceremonial acts, if repeated year after year, at the same seasons, would soon prove extremely useful for purely chronometrical purposes also; they would supply the first outlines of a calendar, and that calendar might in time assume a purely civil, instead of a religious character. But in spite of all that, it would be wrong to say that priests devised these annual festivals with the definite purpose of establishing a civil calendar. Here also it is quite true that what is fit, or rather what is found to be sensible and rational, survives, but it does not follow that this fitness was foreseen, and that the reasonableness, though it was there, was always perceived.
Istar and Tammuz. A clear instance of how mere customs, or the natural festivities connected with the chief events of the year, could lead to the formation of a myth and even of a religious belief, is supplied by the well-known story of Istar and Tammuz, which spread from Babylon to Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece, and which found its last refuge in the story of Adonis and Aphrodite.
We know that among the Semitic as well as among the Aryan nations, the sun was an absorbing object of thought, whether in its daily or in its annual character. In Babylon, for instance, the sun was not only the chief deity, but also the favourite subject of that daily gossip which we have learnt to call folk-lore, or legend
and myth. One of the most widely spread of those legends was the story of the love between the sun and the earth. Under different names that story has been told all over the world. Men could not help telling it, as soon as they began to tell anything. So long as their chief interest centred in the annual produce of the soil, so long, in fact, as their very life depended on the happy union of the fertile earth and the warm embraces of the sun, their thoughts were solar. One of the inevitable chapters in that solar legend was the tragedy of winter, when the happy union between earth and sun seemed dissolved, when the sun no longer smiled on the earth, but grew weak and old, and at last forsook the earth altogether. Then the earth is represented as trying to recover the sun and the warmth and life that flows from it, as descending into the dark regions in order to bring him back or to restore him to new life, and thus to recover the treasures of which all nature was robbed during the winter. Poetical fancy has clothed that simple theme in ever so many disguises, the most ancient of which is perhaps the Babylonian poem which recounts the descent of the goddess Istar into the nether world in search of the healing waters, which should restore to life her bridegroom, Tammuz. This poem has often been translated, and the translations vary considerably. Considering the difficulties of such a translation, the uncertainty in the rendering of many passages is perfectly intelligible. I give here some extracts from the last translation which Professor Sayce has published in his Hibbert Lectures (p. 221): "1. To the land whence none return, the region of (darkness),
Istar, the daughter of Sin (the moon), (inclined) her ear,
Yea, Istar herself, the daughter of Sin, inclined (her) ear
To the house from whose entrance there is no exit.' • 12. Istar, on arriving at the gate of Hades,
To the keeper of the gate addressed the word :
Hades. The keeper then informs Nin-ki-gal, who is also called Allat?, of Istar's arrival, and of her wish to obtain the water for her bridegroom. But Allat is angry. She commands Istar to be stripped and to be led before her, when she curses her, limb by limb. Then, however, all sorts of misfortunes fell on the whole earth. • 75. After that the lady Istar into Hades had descended, With the cow the bull would not unite, (the ass would not
approach the female,) The handmaid (in the street would not approach the freeman), The freeman ceased (to give his order).'
Then the messenger of the gods informed the Sungod of all the woe and destruction that had been wrought on earth through Istar's absence, and the Sungod thereon consulted with Sin, his father, and with Ea, the king. And Ea formed a being called Atsu-sanamir, (i. e. his rising is seen,) and sent him to Allat
Allat, the feminine of Allah, an idol mentioned in the Qur'ân ; see Sacred Books of the East, vol. vi. p. xii.
to demand the water for Istar and her bridegroom. Allat curses and swears, but she is obliged to set Istar free, to restore her garments, and to give to her the waters of life.
This is a short abstract of a most curious poem, so far as it can at present be deciphered 1. It represents the annual recovery of the vernal sun which follows after the woe and wailing of the earth or of the whole of nature during winter 2.
But we shall see that the full meaning of such a poem can only be restored by a careful study of the customs connected with the death and the revival of Tammuz. Ezekiel (viii. 14) saw in a vision the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. This shows that the original character of the sacred ceremonies connected with Tammuz consisted in bewailing his death, although naturally these lamentations would be followed by rejoicings on the return of Tammuz.
Now we are told that another purely Semitic name of Tammuz was Adonai, lit. my lord, and that under that name his worship was carried to the West. It was above all in the Phenician town of Gebal or Byblos that the death of Adonis, who is Adonai, was commemorated. Here, eight miles to the north
| We are told that the myth of Istar and Tammuz was originally Accadian, and that we have here only a later Babylonian or Semitic version of it. However that may be, the general meaning of the myth is clear.
2 Professor Tiele also, a most careful interpreter of myths, admits that the legend of Istar's descent into Hades is but a thinly veiled description of the earth-goddess, seeking below for the hidden waters of life, which shall cause the Sun-god and all nature with him to rise again from their sleep of death. (Actes du sixième Congrès international des Orientalistes, ii. 1, pp. 495 seq. ; Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 251.)