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alone it has the elemental breadth demanded by the phenomena to be accounted for. A difficult thing about it is that the author rejects the doctrine accepted of the time, that the same beliefs and practices can arise independently in two or more places. Unless there is in any case definite evidence to the contrary, he assumes that “no ethnologically significant innovation in customs or beliefs has ever been made twice.” It is his contention that the dragon myth was born in Egypt, developed in Babylonia, and in a time remote carried to China, India, and the Americas, and to all other parts of the earth. Granting this, it becomes not merely the one world-epic, but the proof that, before history began even as now, all races of men were in effectual contact.
The primitive custom at the basis of the myth is well established. The post of priest-king was enviable but dangerous. With each recurring spring he was expected to bring fertility to his land; but sometimes he was killed and a successor appointed each year, in imitation of the death of vegetation that preceded the resurrection of spring; and always when age overtook him he was slain, for what vital magic over nature was there left in his aging frame? To avoid this fate a mock king was erected to suffer in his stead; or a virgin was sacrificed; or in elaborate mummery a ritual murder was merely simulated.
Here in their simplest form appear all the elements of the dragon myth—a king who was thought to control the sources of water and the fertility of which it was the symbol; a slaying to be accomplished, and a woman who was at once a fertility symbol and a vicarious sacrifice. The king himself was the dragon, in its original form just a serpent symbol of his reputed control over water.
Thus stated the story is understandable, but it becomes confused and infinitely complex when it is dramatized in the mythology of ancient Egypt. A king who through his beneficent irrigation works is identified with the river Nile is translated by legend into the skies and becomes the water god Osiris, a member of the earliest Trinity. The second member of the Trinity, but the first in point of time, is Hathor, the Great Mother,-at one time identified with the cowry shell, the ear. liest form of fertility emblem, and then identified with the moon
and translated into the sky when primitive minds saw the lunar rhythm repeated in the sex life of woman. The third member of the Trinity is Horus, the Warrior Sun God, a son of Osiris. How an aging king, not yet a god, resolved that he would not be slain to make way for a younger man and called upon the Great Mother, already a goddess, to provide him with an elixir of life, which was blood, and how, in compliance with his entreaty, she nearly wiped out mankind before a substitute was provided-in reality the red waters of the Nile inundation—is allegorically recited in the ancient Egyptian narrative called the Destruction of Mankind.
In this and its companion legends, the Story of the Winged Disk and the Conflict between Horus and Set, are all the elements of the dragon saga. It would be futile to recite them in detail, for the thing has become so confused that in the words of Doctor Smith it amounts to this: “The early Trinity as the hero, armed with the Trinity as a weapon, slays the dragon, which is the same Trinity.” But the confusion has produced a concrete and comprehensible result, a composite wonder-beast in which are blended parts of real animals that symbolize both regeneration and destruction and that are the attributes of the several members of the early Trinity, and of Set, enemy of Horus and lord of chaos.
An archaic conception this may seem now, but what is there of the human or the cosmic that does not lie in it? The desire for unfading youth and continuing life on one side of the grave or the other is in it, and that is the heart history of humanity. The conflict between order and chaos is in it, and that is the story of nature. The theme of vicarious sacrifice is in it, and that is the deep mystery of religion. There is that in the tale which impelled the story-tellers of five millenniums to repeat it, to enrich its incidents and to weave the tissues of new meanings through it until it was at once a treatise on astronomy, a theory of meteorology and a philosophy of destiny; a record of the strife between winter and summer, night and day, justice and injustice, and good and evil fates, which is the world as men have found it.
Unquestionably the dragon of classic story and mediæval blazonry is the devil of Scripture; the biblical identification is
complete, and the bird-like features, leathern wings, and forked tail of this elemental creature of fable all are reproduced in familiar portraits of the enemy of mankind. This and the inner meaning of the dragon myth may be accepted, while its origin in Egypt and dissemination from one place throughout the world is probable. Doctor Smith, whose contentions are allembracing, makes other inferences which here will be outlined without comment:
The serpent in the Garden of Eden, the tree of life and Eve herself are all one. The deluge of Sumerian, Babylonian, and Hebrew legend is a disastrous Nile inundation dramatized. The ark is the moon-boat of Hathor. The pig owes its evil name to its identification with Set, who represents the evil side of the dragon's nature. The cowry shell, suspended from the girdle as a fertility emblem and not from any motives of modesty, became the origin of all clothing. Inland tribes which had no access to the shore copied the cowry in a plastic yellow metal, and this was the origin of the world-old quest for gold and the occasion of its use as money. The object of mummification was the continuance of life beyond the grave, the purpose in burning gums and spices was to restore to the mummy the odor and warmth of life; and these customs, related to each other and to the theme of the dragon saga, are also related to the development of architecture, sea trade, and medicine. Jade reached its mystic estate in China and other lands, because the men who sought gold for cowry amulets in Turkestan sought jade at the same time for seals, and in popular thought the two substances became confused. Through a similar confusion, diamonds attained in India the value they have since had everywhere. Pearls ranked beside both because they were thought to be particles of moon substances, emanations of the moon goddess her. self. The precious metals and precious stones became so not because of their rarity or beauty, but because of their magical power as symbols of the divine actors in the dragon story. The griffin of legend is merely a tentative dragon. The mandrake of legend is merely a stranded pearl shell, and the dog used to extract it from the earth is a terrestrial version of the Mediterranean dogfish to which had been transferred the demoniac powers of the sharks that guarded the pearl treasures of the east.
With the dragon began the unending search for the elixir of life.
These conclusions, some of which offer novel explanations for enigmatical things noted in this study, are at least a testimony that the dragon myth has traveled far, and in its travels has become related to many things. It is the most vital of all growths that have found root in the fecund soil of the imagination. It is a richly pictorial history of the groping sublimities of human thought. The dragon is one of two portraits which man has painted of himself.
Chapter VIII. Denizens of the Deep
BELIEF that the sea was in every respect like the land, and that its very waves were only a thicker atmosphere, was the main source of marine fable. In Celtic story, for example, Manannan sings to Bran that what he is sailing across is not the sea but a flowery plain, and the speckled salmon are lambs and calves. Mældune, voyaging over the ocean, descries beneath him a country with castles, people, and cattle. In the Pih r'an it is said that in the midst of the waters off Shantung there is sometimes the misty semblance of a palace, with towered walls about it, and the appearance of men and carriages and horses busily engaged; and this is called the Market of the Sea.
It was long held that every land animal had its counterpart in the ocean.
So there had to be mermen to match the men of the land. Such names as sea-mice, sea-spiders, sea-kites, seahares, sea-dragons, sea-lions, sea-oxen, and sea-horses, “the grisly wasserman” and “the horrible sea-satyr,” are the records of old belief. Pliny tells of a number of strange marine creatures, including elephants and rams, stranded on a Mediterranean beach, and of others with the heads of horses, asses, and bulls, which despoiled grain fields beside the Indian Ocean. The Chinese believed that all domestic animals in the Roman Orient came out of the sea. Proclaiming that the atmosphere was only diluted water, De Maillet, a French naturalist of the eighteenth century, contended that in the ocean was the original type of everything; that dogs descended from seals and men from tritons, while parroquets had their brilliant colors from gold, green, and violet fishes in the sea. There were fierce tribes of men in the north who seemed to him only lately emerged.
In classic legend, danger and marvel met mariners upon the strands along which they sailed in coasting voyages, and there was no need to go inland for adventure. The sirens sang their