Saturday, June 24, 2017
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODERN GHOST by Marjory MacMurchy 1902
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THERE is a curious distinction to be drawn between the modern ghost in life and in literature. The literary ghost accommodates itself to the requirements of the age; but the ghost in social intercourse remains unchanged. Take the earliest instances on record of supernatural appearances and you will find the same unsubstantial forms and lamenting voices, the same inability to forsake scenes of past violence and crime as may be discovered in any collection of modern records of the ghost, such, for instance, as the autobiography of Mr. Augustus J. C. Hare. But it is not so in literature. The student of the literary ghost will find in its history a gradual development, although the law of this development may not always hold good for the ghost-story in art is not a thing that has been easily come by in any generation. There is but one step between the jocose familiar and the awe-inspiring in supernatural literature; and a very slight touch of imagination will turn a thrill into a jest. Human nature cannot be terrified by the same stage property for any extended period of time; and the domination of brimstone is likely to become in a few years Charles Kingsley's thunder-box. There are, of course, shining exceptions; but the power of such imaginary scenes lies in the fact that the ghostly appearance has been united with no ordinary appeal to the heart of human nature; by a poignant reminder of the fact that these apparitions have been what men are now, and that the living at any moment may pass across that boundary. The real power of the ghost story lies in the fact that we are ignorant of so much that must lie before us. We cannot be certain that when daylight is past someone we know may not be in the dark. When we read in Homer how the Shades were driven away from the stream of blood till Ulysses could hear news of his distant home no living being can fail to recognize that inextinguishable claim that comes from being kindred.
The world has not yet outgrown the feeling of the dark any more than it can better the story of the Witch of Endor, which, whether it is considered as history or literature, maintains its position in the realm of the supernatural to this day: the frightened woman—"An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle,"— and the king, at the end of his little magnificent scope, lying all along upon the ground after the last word had been spoken, because he had no expedient left.
Beginning with the treatment of the devil in the miracle-plays, which was a kind of whistling in the dark to keep up the spirits of our sorely tried ancestors, we find the element of comedy in the supernatural. The miracle-play devil was apparently the predecessor of the modern clown in the circus. But the essence of the real ghost-story is not humorous. The Middle Ages could afford to treat the "Auld Ane" humorously, they had so many things to frighten them; we think we have so few, comparatively speaking, that it has produced a more economical treatment of the uncanny amongst our writers, with the possible exception of Miss Marie Corelli, who may not have meant to present Satan humorously, but who has not altogether failed in doing so. Mr. Stockton seems to own at present the humorous, quasi benevolent ghost, with an occasional "look-in" from Miss Carolyn Wells; but it is "a far cry" from belaboring the devil with a stick on a stage set up under the sky to the surreptitious presentation of pies in the dark. Such exploitations, however, are tours de force; they tickle the intellect, but they do not appeal to the inner fortress of man's being: it is the inner fortress only that the real ghost story is bent on storming.
It would be extremely useful to the present comparison if we could know what impression Shakespeare's ghosts made on an Elizabethan audience. Were they chilled with that sense of the presence of something fatal which ought to accompany the presentment of a visionary being, or were they only aware of how vital the ghost was to Hamlet or to Caesar, all admiring but not trembling, wrapt but not panic-stricken, as we are to-day? Certainly the witches in Macbeth afford the most humorous delight now to the exploring youngster who hunts out scene after scene to repeat their scarcely polite exhortations, leaving by choice the rest of the play unread.
As might be expected, ghosts were not popular in the late seventeenth, or in any part of eighteenth-century literature. It might be worth while for someone who is interested in the Shakespeare-Bacon controversy to look up Bacon's attitude toward the supernatural; but the whole fabric of that discussion is impervious to proof on the one side and the other. Dryden and Pope could find no use for ghosts other than merely intellectual superstructures; nor could any of these gay dramatists (using the adjective in the sense of Mr. Pinero's "The Gay Lord Quex") whose works no really proper person is supposed to have read. Ghosts came in again with the romantic revival; but during this period they are too picturesque to be terrifying to a present-day audience, whatever they were to the squires and ladies who read "The Mystery of Udolpho." We cannot help sympathizing with Miss Austen, who, with malice of forethought, laid a washing bill with emendations written in red ink in the secret hiding-place which the amiable young heroine of Northanger Abbey was so certain of finding. Scott's ghosts are all romantic; but one can find few better things than romance when it is associated with genius. The figure of Claverhouse in "Wandering Willie's Tale," sitting at the nameless banquet with his hand over the place where the silver bullet had gone in has not yet been dimmed by time. Stevenson chose that tale from Scott as one of the finest short stories that had ever been written; and when he came to write his own of the tailor, the appearance of whose body danced on the rock surrounded by the sea while he still seemed to his neighbors to be sleeping at his work, Scott's story was not far from his mind.
The ghost romantic was followed by a return to the ghost jocular, although it is not clear that Dickens did not mean to frighten his audience as well as his miser when he brought Scrooge up to Marley's ghost in the first place. But the coat-tail buttons settled that question; no modern public could be terrified of a ghost the appearance of whose visionary buttons was of more consequence than the spirit himself.
A writer in the Spectator once affirmed that thousands of people would welcome any proof of the appearance of a ghost, since it would be an indubitable indication of the continuance of existence. This attitude is, perhaps, responsible for a later development of the supernatural in literature, the ghost heavenly, of whom no one has written more vividly than Mrs. Oliphant. Her account of a visitation of spirits to a town in France, which is to be found in "A Beleaguered City," is supposed by good authorities to be her strongest bid for immortality. The very tremor of anxious souls presses out from the book; but sweetly, as if an angel had sobbed. Those who have a liking for good ghosts, the ghost in high places, cannot do better than read Mrs. Oliphant's "Stories of the Unseen"; and after making the acquaintance of "A Little Pilgrim," no one of discernment could think poorly of the spiritual insight of a generation that produced an author who could imagine such a country and people who found a keen degree of satisfaction in reading of it.
It is evident that as the modern ghost in literature develops it becomes more subtle, suggestive, and mysterious. The writer of a modern ghost-story has a far more difficult task than he would have had a hundred years ago, or any number of hundred years that one can count. But when the effect of the supernatural is once produced in modern times it is more lasting and cannot be so readily shaken off, because a ghost-story has now to be psychically true. The ghost-story in any age must be aimed at what men believe in that age. To-day we believe in the soul, and in the effect of sin and virtue; we are not supposed to believe in many things, but we do believe in that with ever-increasing earnestness. For the effect of virtue we have the work of Mrs. Oliphant. For the consideration of what men can reach, if they let themselves go long enough, we find at least one example in the work of Mr. Henry James. What shall we call Peter Quint and "the woman with the dreadful face" — the ghost intensive? There is no later development at present than Peter Quint, nor is there any sign that & later development will be needed for some years: we have not got accustomed to his horror yet. He belongs to the essence of a ghost-story and would daunt—well, anyone who thought about him. It is significant that there is not a hint in "The Turn of the Screw" that Peter Quint lives anywhere but where he used to live when he was supposed to be, at least, more materiaL How modern that is, and how sufficient to make us stop and wonder! There is no hint of any punishment, or, indeed, of any explanation; but a furtive watching and an endeavor to keep some power. What a world Peter Quint and his companion are away from Mr. Stockton's amiable quiddity, the pieman! Mr. James's is the real ghost, the legitimate descendant of "the sheeted dead who did squeak and gibber about the streets of Rome." Pete Quint establishes at least one thing, that the modern ghost has become an appeal to a spiritual condition, not to a physical one. The modern ghost is what we have been taught to call a soul; and that, even in the present generation, affords an inexhaustible theme for consideration. We know so little about spiritual eye; and it means so much. One of the strongest canons of art calls for reticence, a canon, indeed, which Mr. James does not violate. The next development of the ghost-story in literature scarcely foreshadows itself; but if the work of the Psychical Society is to count for anything, the plot ought to be found in the regions of spiritualism— spirit-writing, perhaps.
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Friday, June 23, 2017
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The root of socialism is cowardice. Here is the real source of the whole movement. It is the whine and the dream of the weakling’s base fear of rivalry, of competition. It is the duty of real men to circumvent and defeat, by war if necessary, by invasion if necessary, by conquest if necessary, by extermination if necessary, the despicable effeminacy of creatures unworthy of the name of men, because they fear to carry on the competitive struggle in which the true life of manhood consists. The socialist movement is popular because it appeals to these numerous creatures; panders to their baseness; promises them what they would be ashamed to desire or seek if they were men; and fools them to the top of their bent, while it misleads them into the pit of destruction. But who among the leaders of their political parties has the manliness to tell them the truth about this matter?
That the animating spirits of this movement fear to carry on the struggle for existence in its highest form—that they fear, in other words, the commercial and industrial competition which necessarily must exist, in so far as freedom exists—is about as certain as any fact concerning the minds of others can be; and it may be proved by their own teachings. And yet these people want us to believe that they are prepared, if parliamentary means fail them, to head a violent revolution to carry out their schemes. “Peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary,” are the words used. It is absolutely certain that they are not prepared to do anything of the kind. Persons who cannot stomach commercial and industrial competition would not stomach lead and cold steel. They would not stomach anything that placed their precious skins in danger. Fear of competition in its commercial and industrial form necessarily means fear of it in its more deadly shapes. In seeking to abolish competition these agitators reveal their true character, and prove that, however good they may be at barking, they are not likely to do much biting if danger is about. If parliamentary means fail them, all means will fail them, for they have nothing else, and never will have anything else.
Yes, you will doubtless say, but socialism is gaining ground in England, is coming more and more into favour with the masses, and whatever becomes popular with them cannot be a bad thing. We do not dispute the growing popularity of the movement. We only point out that England is not the world—that even the whole of Europe is not the world—that America is not the world. Survival in the struggle for existence is not, and cannot be, for those peoples who are afraid of the struggle itself. Slothful love of ease and fear of rivalry will, sooner or later, deservedly go down before whatever is animated by a manlier spirit. Rotten principles will destroy millions as surely as they will destroy units. The time required may be longer, but there are reckoning days for nations and empires as well as for individuals. When crowds go wrong there are means in existence for dealing with them. Democracy does not rule the process of the suns. We can conceive of a democracy animated by sound principles and noble aims, but it does not exist in this country to-day. This process makes for the victory of the best and the overthrow of the worst, let massed ignorance vote as it may, let its flattering misleaders promise what they may, let the dreams of both be as rosy as they may. Realities will disturb them rudely.
It is not so much the form as the spirit of socialism, or, rather its want of spirit, which disgusts one. Its note is always the note of baseness, of unworthy dread of individual freedom, which it is ready to sacrifice to any extent for the sake of collective insurance in everlasting food, etc., with beer and skittles thrown in, which it promises to all without being in a position to keep its word. It is ever the cry of the laziness that wants to have everything done for it by others, and that abhors having to exert itself to do anything for itself. Socialism is the cry of adult babyhood for public nurses and public pap-bottles.
Government is to do everything for the lazy socialist without charging him anything for it! In fact, its numerous functionaries, its vast armies of inspectors, and inspectors of inspectors, and inspectors of inspectors of inspectors; its crowds of officials of all kinds, swarming everywhere like locusts to eat the people out of house and home, are to live and work, on the dreamer’s theory, without consuming anything at all; so that the socialist may be able to obtain everything he wants free, absolutely free! For how else is this model of altruism to have so much gratuitously done for him? Even the functionaries of a socialist State could not live on nothing. They will not be workers of miracles, and even those who profess to perform such wonders seldom appear to be able to do the miracle of living for long without eating; and many of them are very costly beggars, until they become still more costly robbers and spiritual despots.
In this place it will be useful to clear away a misunderstanding. When the need for the struggle for existence, for the survival of the fittest and for the disappearance of their opposites, is insisted upon, the inference is sometimes drawn that those who insist on this need affirm by implication that nothing whatever should under any circumstances be done by the strong to soften the lot of the weak. Such an inference, however, is not warranted. There is room for love in the service of reason. Love is not the highest, but it comes near to the highest in proportion as it serves the highest. But the ideal of reason is strength, the greatest possible activity of mind and body for the greatest possible number of persons for the longest possible time. Towards this ideal the love that is guided by reason will ever work; and the love that is not guided by reason had better not exist. So long as the help which strength gives voluntarily to weakness—gives without governmental or collective compulsion in any shape or form—is not of such a character as to enable and encourage mental, moral, or physical weakness to multiply and extend itself in the country and in the world, but is of such a character as to lessen the mischief to which it ministers, no harm is done to society considered as a continuing succession of generations, and posterity is not injured by so wisely-governed a form of benevolence. But benevolence greatly needs to be wisely governed if it is to avoid sinning against the light of science, the only means of salvation, social and individual alike, and the only light of man. The essential thing is that there shall be a steady advancement towards reason’s ideal. The essential thing is that every kind of mental, moral, and physical inefficiency shall steadily grow less rather than more.
This brings us to another point. A violent, sudden, and wholesale destruction of the weak by the strong, which is sometimes said by socialists and communists to be the logic of the individualist position, would promote no steady improvement. It would produce only reaction, the natural fruit of violence and haste. Consequently it would only be less of a curse to its country, and to the world at large, than the blind, irrational sentimentalism now working so much evil in our midst by thoughtlessly providing facilities for, and encouraging the multiplication of, all forms of inefficiency; thus spreading the very mischief to which it ministers, and which it is the endeavour of all rational minds to steadily and surely remove.
When we urge that socialism is bad, we do not want it to be understood that we are contending that the system under which we are now living, which is largely socialistic, and a great part of the evil in which is, to a considerable extent, due to its socialistic laws and institutions, is the best of all possible systems for all possible time. On the contrary, we say, reform the present system in the direction of justice; of equal, even-handed justice, without class favour, and without class partiality; of justice for each and justice for all. This will mean getting rid of most, if not all, of its socialism. We do not say that human intelligence allied with political power will never devise better laws and institutions than those we have now to put up with. We do not oppose any change which is really for the better for this or subsequent generations. But socialism, or rather a larger dose of it, is not a change for the better; it is a change for the worse, as the facts about it clearly demonstrate. Whatever else the good and lasting system of the future may be, it will assuredly not be socialism. It will be a system in which there is far greater scope for healthy and bracing competition than exists now, as well as far greater security for the private property which such competition requires. In short, it will be an individualist system. Those are the best laws, those are the best institutions, which lead men to put forth their best faculties of mind and body to the uttermost, without injury to their health and without injustice to each other. This is a position of reason, which is that of men prepared to take the risks of personal freedom, instead of embracing collective slavery and then looking to the State to dry-nurse and molly-coddle them into adult babyhood.
But an economic and social gospel based upon fear of rivalry, fear of competition, fear of being killed with work, fear of paternal and maternal duties and responsibilities—fear, in short, of everything that makes a man a man or a woman a woman—cannot be entertained seriously by men who have any respect for themselves, or any desire for the lasting good of their species. Socialism is damned because it seeks to do by political means what cannot be done by such means. It would raise the poor, but no class in this world is really benefited without a change in its character as well as in its material circumstances; and no class in this world can be really elevated to a higher plane of mental, moral, and physical life without the constant exercise of personal economy, thrift, industry, valour, continence, and the other virtues. Nor is it desirable that the state of things should be otherwise. Outward prosperity that corresponds to no inward worth, to no nobility of mind and action, is a vain and empty thing. A good mind is the only good for itself, and other things are good just in so far as they make for it.
Those who seek to help the poor by taking from the rich merely because they are rich, only sink the poor lower in their own self-respect and in the respect of the rest of the world. They produce paupers, but not men. Those who seek to help the poor by relieving them of their duties and responsibilities as parents, only debase and enslave them. They produce loose, vicious, careless, shallow, idle characters, but not men, not women. They will sink their protégés low enough if they are but allowed to do so. This is why, far more in the interests of the poor than in those of the rich, the deadly poison of socialism, wherever it is found, and under whatever disguise it is sought to be concealed, ought to be not merely opposed, but utterly, completely, and for ever destroyed.
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Genius, Insanity and Johann Sebastian Bach by John Ferguson Nisbet 1912
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Pathologically speaking, music is as fatal a gift to its possessor as the faculty for poetry or letters; the biographies of all the greatest musicians being a miserable chronicle of the ravages of nerve-disorder, extending, like the Mosaic curse, to the third and fourth generation. The genealogy of the Bach family has been traced for a period BACH of over 200 years. The founder of the family was a baker named Veit Bach, who, in the sixteenth century, settled in Saxe-Gotha. He played the guitar, and taught music to his two sons. Prom these sprang numerous descendants, who not only cultivated music, but made it their means of livelihood, filling a number of official posts as organists or town musicians in Germany. Many of them, of course, were mediocrities, but one or two Bachs in every generation gained at least some local distinction. At first sight the growth of this highly musical family, which numbered at one time about 200 members, might be taken to prove the feasibility of producing by means of heredity a specially gifted race of men. If they did not marry in and in, the male Bachs, in many cases, chose musical wives, and music seemed with them to run in the blood. On a closer examination of the family history, however, the prospects of a successful breeding of musical geninses on the system adopted with Derby winners and prize oxen, not only diminish, but become reduced to the vanishing point. Of the great majority of the Bachs little or nothing is known beyond the dates of their births and deaths. Yet the meagreness of the record does not disguise the growing ravages of nerve-disorder in their midst, the evil culminating at the point where the musical genius of the family is at its greatest, namely in the person of Sebastian Bach.
One of the grandsons of old Veit Bach was blind, as well as eccentric enough to be the subject of many strange stories; other Bachs appear to have been addicted to drunkenness, and Spitta, the historian of the family, makes a regretful allusion to the sickness and general misery with which the several generations of Bachs had to contend. Christopher Bach, grandfather of Sebastian, died at forty-eight; he was a court musician, and his wife, herself the daughter of a musician, died the same year. Of his three sons, two were twins, John Ambrosius and John Christopher, born evidently of the same ovum, seeing that they had exactly the same temperament, suffered from the same disorders, and were so remarkably alike that even their wives could not distinguish them except by their clothes. Moreover, they died within two years of each other, and about the same early age as their father, whose feeble constitution they no doubt inherited. A sister of theirs, the aunt consequently of Sebastian, was an idiot. John Christopher had a sickly family, some of whom suffered from weakness of the eyes. It was John Ambrosius, however, who became the father of the most illustrious member of the family in whom, observes Spitta, 'the genius of the Bachs, after having diffused itself more or less widely through whole generations, culminated and exhausted itself.'
In Sebastian Bach the fatal inheritance of nerve-disorder first betrayed itself by short-sightedness in his youth. At sixty-five he became totally blind; a year later he was stricken with apoplexy, from which he died. Strange to say, ten days before his death, his sight was suddenly restored, from which it may be concluded that his blindness arose, not from a defect of the retina or a decay of the optic nerves, but from some disturbance of the visual centre of the brain, which the apoplexy temporarily corrected. Sebastian Bach was twice married, and had no fewer than twenty children. One of these was an idiot boy, who was thought for a time to have 'great genius.' Four other sons were musically gifted. With the whole family nerve-disorder played havoc. The eldest and most gifted son, Wilhelm Friedemann, was a man of obstinate and sombre disposition-more than half insane. He was said to be 'unable to adapt his style to circumstances.' During many years he depended for existence on the bounty of his friends, and died in extreme misery. Only a few of Bach's twenty children survived him, most of them indeed dying in childhood. One alone left issue, and with the death of Sebastian's solitary grandson, Wilhelm, court musician at Berlin, in 1846, the family of the great composer became extinct-a melancholy example of the unfitness of genius to perpetuate itself, or even to hold its own in the battle of life.
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A familiar passage in Virgil's Aeneid gives a vivid account of two monstrous sea serpents that strangled the priest Laocoon and his two sons during the seige of Troy. This description illustrates the antiquity of the belief in sea-serpents, a tradition which has extended down to the present day, and which is by no means confined to the ignorant or superstitious. Eminent scientists and men of letters have been prone to believe in the existence of such creatures, not only in the past but as late as the nineteenth century. The famous naturalist Philip Henry Gosse firmly believed in the existence of a marine monster still unknown to naturalists, and related to the extinct Enaliosauria, gigantic reptilian animals inhabiting the oceans long before the advent of man, and whose remains occur as evidence in the mesozoic series.
The sea-serpent is pretty fully discussed pro and con in Gosse's "Romance of Natural History," where will be found a reprint ot Sir Richard Owen's controversion, he arguing that if the so-called sea-serpents were saurian in their analogies as claimed, they must be air-breathers, would float when dead, and therefore if such creatures exist their remains would surely be discovered cast up on beaches. But such remains have never been found. And the learned author points out that the coasts of Norway, in which country the belief in the sea-serpent is almost a dogma, have been under scientific research for years, and yet not a single bone assignable to such an animal has ever been found there.
It must not be inferred that no snakes abide in the sea. There are numerous species of ophidians whose home is the boundless ocean, but none approaches the sea-serpent of old in size and fantasy. The true sea-snakes are frequently handsome creatures, variegated with colors, but are very poisonous. The Indian ocean tenants most of the known species, and, it is said, they sometimes congregate in immense numbers. In form they are peculiar by their flattened, broad, oar-like tails, adapted for swimming. Like most aquatic snakes they sometimes leave the sea for land, and there is on record the capture of a specimen in Java at a distance from the sea equalling a day's march.
Pontoppidan gives us the first extended account of the sea-serpent, which is to be found in his Natural History of Norway, of which an English edition appeared in London in 1755. The author was a bishop and should not therefore be guilty of exaggeration. This worthy man himself doubted the reality of the monster until weighty affirmative evidence was produced by Norwegian sailors, fishermen etc., so that the incredulity of Pontoppidan was so overcome that he calls skeptics "enemies of credulity." In his work are the sworn statements of persons who had seen the monster which he calls the Serpens marinus magnus.
That the serpent sheds its skin like other ophidians is affirmed by Pontoppidan, as the skin of one found served as a table cover at Kopperwiig, but as even Pontoppidan doubted the truth of such a statement he made inquiries concerning it but could get no definite information. It was learned, however, that a sea-snake had lain a whole week in a creek nearby, which on its departure, left behind it a skin which his informant declared he saw and handled.
Hans Egede in his natural history of Greenland (Das Alten Gronlandes Neue Perlustration, oder Naturell-Historie, etc., 1742) tells of a wonderful creature observed in Davis Strait in 1742. "It was such an exceedingly large animal, that when it raised itself out of the water its head reached as high as a mast, and the body was throughout as thick as a ship, compared with which it was easily three or four times as long. It had a long pointed muzzle, and spouted like a whale. On the upper part [Oberteil] of the body were two great broad feet or fins, and the very uneven skin seemed armed with scales. Otherwise it had the form of a snake, especially in regard to its posterior part, and when it again went under the water, it threw itself backwards, and stuck its tail out of the water at a height equal to a ships length." Such was the sea-serpent of Hans Egede, and on this description is evidently based the monster figured in the lower portion of the illustration by Pontoppidan. It is likely that Egede in stating the positions of the fins meant anterior instead of upper, for in the illustration the fins are not on the upper part of the body, which would be a curious anomaly. Probably Pontoppidan's figure is simply a reproduction of that of Egede, whose original work, in Danish, contained a picture of the animal described.
Pontoppidan concluded that there are various species of sea-serpents, and indeed, judging from the diversity of the descriptions given us, such a conclusion is unavoidable, unless one is skeptical to all that concerns the creatures. Disregarding size, which as a rule is not a specific characteristic, sea-serpents of various colors have been observed; some possessed a long shaggy mane, which in others is wanting. Observations nearly all coincide in that the creature moves with the head projecting from the water, but usually differ as to mode of locomotion, some simply gliding along, while one observer "distinctly made out three convolutions, which drew themselves slowly through the water."
Of the many explanations suggested by those who believe the sea-serpent to be the fancy of disordered brains or the invention of skippers and seamen who require new material for their stock of yarns, the most amusing and interesting are the reports of the captains of the ships Brazilian and Pekin, who, but not simultaneously, thought they had met with the terrible monster, and with great bravery went to the attack with boat and harpoon, when lo, what was discovered but a huge mass of sea-weed, torn from its fastenings by the roots, the latter as the mass floated along, projecting from the water, in one instance, a distance of sixteen feet, and was first believed by the skipper to be head of the monster, whose neck appeared "surmounted with a huge crest in the shape of a saw."
Ever since the first record of the sea-serpent it has turned-up periodically in one place or another. There are still many who are non-commital on the subject and who would take the side of Goldsmith, who said: To believe all that has been said of the sea-serpent, or kraken, would be credulity; to reject the possibility of their existence would be presumption.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017
No wild animal of Europe has won a fame at all comparable with that of the wolf. In myth, legend and history it figures above other beasts with an insistence which at first sight seems mysterious. What the grizzly bear is to our own far West, the tiger to India, the lion to parts of Africa, all that and much more was the wolf to our ancestors over the sea. Not only is it the chief hero among all brutes in the folk-lore of all countries of Europe, but it continues to this day to be an object of superstition among the peasantry, and its very name is a metaphor of dread.
The largest and most widely distributed of American wolves is not surpassed in strength, courage or sagacity by any European variety, and our pioneers were not without harrowing adventures with them. But our wolves acquired no such celebrity as their European congeners. The bear was generally regarded with more respect and fear by our early settlers, and its name rather than that of the wolf, is the one to conjure with in tales of wild peril. There is no essential difference between the bears of eastern North America and those once widely distributed over Europe. Why then is the wolf the “Terrible Beast" of most old tales from Scandinavia to Italy and from Spain to Russia? Philology has recently solved so many riddles that nowadays it is the fashion to explain everything by philological and etymological science, and the learned in old tongues would have us believe that the voluminous folk-lore of European peoples is largely a diverse rendering of old Grecian myths, or myths of antecedent Aryan stocks. But when the “glory that was Greece” had passed away all fancy did not die, nor did imagination cease to be stirred by stern adventure, and there is little doubt that a cruel experience of our European ancestors, with packs of famished medieval beasts, has had most to do with tales of wonder that are told around modern peasant hearth fires.
The truth is the wolf was a veritable terror in the middle ages. Ignorance of husbandry, spoliation by robber barons, wicked, reckless and protracted wars of petty sovereignties brought frequent famine. The wolf thrived where other animals declined. Hunger-driven, hunting in packs, sweeping with the dash of cavalry charges, it often destroyed such domestic animals as the cruel times had spared, devouring frequently the feeble, famished folk in the field, and even in their frail hutches. Animals like the bear might die of hunger in a wasted country where the wolf flourished and filled the land with fear. Perhaps all this is some part of the reason for a state of things that many have marveled at. Bears are still to be found in many parts of our eastern States, while the wolf is no longer known east of the Mississippi: in Europe the wolf remains in about the same proportion, while the bear has all but disappeared.
The wolf then, next to man himself, was the most terrible of medieval scourges, and as he was a constant thought of the child mind of our antecedents, he stimulated their imagination and intoxicated their fancy. He became the chief figure in tales of superhuman adventure, and fed their limitless beliefs. Then arose the horrid tales of were-wolves or man-wolves. It is not necessary to suppose this superstition a development of the classic tale of Lykaon, or any ancient myth. Lycanthropous beliefs are common to every race. In Japan men turn into foxes. To a negro anything that moves may be a bewitched, malignant person. The American Indian rather prefers to become a bear, but his fertile fancy is capable of believing mountain or cloud the metamorphosis of warrior or squaw. Yet these peoples inherited no Aryan traditions, are not versed in Grecian mythology and probably do not spend much time reading Ovid.
It is natural to believe that the werewolf superstitions of our forebears were the result of actual environment, and no crime, fantastic, weird, horrid, revolting, but what was alleged of these men-beasts, and firmly believed. In the very earliest stories of which we have any trace, men in wolf form might even be of good repute, and work for beneficent ends, but as Christianity swept over the Teuton barbarians of the North, religious fanaticism soon arrayed all that savored of magic on the side of the evil one.
No man knew but what at any moment his neighbor, friend or even his wife, or parent or children, might be transformed and do atrocious deeds. Here is a sample were-wolf story — there are hundreds of them:
A gentleman of Auvergne goes hunting and is attacked by a huge and ferocious wolf. The beast is invulnerable; the man’s gun has no effect. In a terrible hand to paw conflict the man has the good luck to back off one of the brute's forefeet and escapes. On the way home he examines the trophy, and finds to his astonishment that it has turned to a woman’s hand and his wife’s wedding ring encircles a finger. At home he finds his lady nursing the wound. What should a good medieval Christian do? He denounces his wife as a were-wolf and she is burned alive at Riom in the edified sight of thousands of the pious.
There were intermittent fevers of werewolf frenzy; the belief in them was as wide and as deep and as common as the belief in ghosts. Accused persons were tried before bishops of the church and condemned to the wheel or the stake on the slightest suspicion. An alibi from the scene of the crime counted for nothing, since the malignant spirit on entering a wolf’s skin might leave behind its human body if listed. And to add to the public credence confessions on the part of the accused were not wanting. Baring-Gould has collected many of these stories, and weird reading they are. England, Germany and France were infested with werewolves and instances of belief in them may be found among the peasantry at this day. In the sixteenth century such credulity was common. Bishops of the Catholic Church in Germany solemnly declared: “Were-wolves far more destructive than true and natural wolves.” It is not to be wondered at that with such a belief in the very air insane delusion sometimes led the feeble-minded to the conviction that they, themselves, were indeed were-wolves.
But a general decline in the belief in were-wolves came in the seventeenth century, and was replaced by beliefs in the supernatural power and sagacity of certain notable wolves. The beast was no longer a man or a woman, transformed, but a wolf whose intelligence, cunning and strength exceeded that of any man. When in some locality a fierce wolf committed depredations he was immediately endowed by the peasant’s fancy with superhuman attributes. It was no use to hunt him, for he was invulnerable; the hunter only went to his own death. All the marvelous stories of other wolves became a part of the career of the particular dreaded brute. His very daring protected him. As for cunning, Mr. Thompson’s “Lobo" was a mere bungling child in comparison. There are hundreds of stories of such distinguished wolves. One in Germany in the early part of the seventeenth century used to spring down the wide slanting chimney, across the blazing hearth-fire in winter evenings, and sit at supper with the affrighted family, who dared not object. He always ate the youngest for his dessert. Some thought him the evil one himself, and indeed with all his ferocity he did have one gentlemanly instinct; he never intruded twice upon the hospitality of the same but. The simple folk seem to have submitted tamer to the eating of their babes. But once this monster thought to vary his repast with a much-prized pig. That was too much. The peasant host found courage to kill the beast with a pitchfork, and as he expired he miraculously shrunk to the size of an ordinary wolf.
One comparatively recent example of this kind of wolf—hero is found in the Beast of Gévaudan. This ferocious animal terrorized two French departments for nearly a whole year in the early part of the last century. “He was placarded, like a political offender, and ten thousand francs were offered for his head. And yet when he was shot and sent to Versailles, behold, a common wolf, and even small for that.”
All sportsmen can testify that the spirit of exaggeration is not quite dead yet, though American wolves have not been treated as courteously in this respect as the European. There were and are, however, real facts upon which some of the fame of wolves may rest. If those of long ago had miraculous attributes, so had every contemporary priest and saint; if the same wonderful achievement is told of different wolves, that too, is quite as frequently the case with human celebrities; and, finally, if great fame is built on small achievements, do not we all know what humbugs nine-tenths of our popular heroes are? Wolves were once veritable scourges in Europe. They were abundant everywhere. Along lines of travel in England, huts of refuge were maintained. The beasts were finally extirpated there in the early part of the 16th century. In Scotland they survived until the 18th century. But in parts of continental Europe they are still found. In the year 1885, France paid a bounty on nearly one thousand slain wolves.
Of the fierceness of a pack of hungry wolves, one story from hundreds of a class told without exaggeration, may be given: In the winter of 1860 a party of English gentlemen who were wolf hunting in Norway drove from their inn to a locality infested by wolves, in a sledge made with thick high, plank sides. They were soon at their dangerous sport, but the wolves proved numerous and bold beyond expectation or any previous experience. The horses, becoming unmanageable, broke loose from the sledge and were pulled down and devoured by the wolves in the sight of the party. The beasts also ate those of their own kind which the hunters shot, and this seemed to make them more bloodthirsty. They kept increasing in numbers, and grew bolder as night fell. Finally it became necessary to overturn the sledge and crawl under it to avoid the springs of the boldest of the beasts. With hunting knives, holes were cut, through which the hunters shot, but they became so benumbed with cold that their fire had little effect. When it grew dark the wolves swarmed upon their extemporized fortress, and so fierce and desperate were they that in places they gnawed holes through the wood. It was a night of agony for the hunting party; but at daylight, the beasts became less bold, and the gentlemen were rescued by native hunters. The thick planking of the sledge alone saved them on a field where the remains of nearly a hundred wolves were counted.
There are numerous records of well authenticated instances of the display on the part of the wolf of great cunning, sagacity and strategy. They have “played possum” or feigned death under various tortures, and so effected escape. They have sometimes even drawn up set fish lines and taken the fish. And they have repeatedly sprung traps from the under side, and “have frequently been known to take the bait from a gun, without injury to themselves, by first cutting the line of communication between the two." They are also many examples of the domestication of wolves when captured young; and when tamed they have shown fondness for their masters. When domesticated they will mate with dogs toward whom in their wild state they seem to have a natural antipathy. But captured, partly tamed wolves have relapses into savagery and are not considered desirable pets. Whether the dog is a descendant from a common parentage with the wolf has long been a mooted question. Some authorities think dogs more nearly allied to the jackals, or to so-called wild dogs of certain lands. But all, together with foxes, belong to an extensive, widely scattered and interesting genus. It is one of nature’s many contradictions that an animal whose name is a synonym of ferocity and fear should differ scarcely at all anatomically or physiologically from the one which is man’s most faithful and trusted friend.
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Not long ago I heard a gentleman compare the Bible with other sacred books of the peoples of the earth such as the Koran of Mohammed and the writings of Confucius. He claimed that all these other books were the work of one mind and belonged exclusively to one people, one age, and one country. On the other hand, the Bible was the result of the inspiration of many men, men of every class of society, living in widely separated ages, and not all of the same race. Thus the Bible was so much better fitted for universal humanity than the others. There was this further difference, that the songs and hymns contained in these other scriptures glorified man, they were sung in praise of their heroes and great ones, while the songs and psalms of the Old and New Testaments glorified God, the Divine One was their theme; and, so far as man was concerned, it laid bare, with an unsparing hand, the weaknesses, the shortcomings, and the follies of the best men earth has ever seen, its motto being God alone is perfect.
As I sat and listened I thought that every argument, every assertion thus used in support of the Bible, could with equal truth be advanced in favor of the Book of Mormon. In all these respects they were very much alike.
If the Bible was written by many men in varied walks of life (which we admit), so was the Book of Mormon. Its writers were kings, governors, judges, generals, prophets, priests, scribes and others. Many of these officers when not engaged in their official duties were tillers of the soil or by their daily toil earned their daily bread. Again, they lived in various ages, covering the period of the world's history from the building of the Tower of Babel to early in the fifth century of the Christian era. Its first writer ante-dated Moses by several centuries, its latest closed his record long after John had written the Book of Revelation. Though to be accurately just, it has to be stated that we have only an abridgement of the writings of the earlier writers, those of the Jaredite race, but we do have actual extracts from the prophecies of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and also of other very ancient worthies, such as Zenos and Zenoch, the dates of whose existence on the earth is still unknown to us. All these men wrote, as did the writers of the Bible, the history of their day and times according to their understanding, and as the Spirit of the Lord directed their thoughts. All were not equally blessed in this direction, for all did not live equally near to God.
As in the Bible so in the Book of Mormon we not only have the writings of the men whose names the various books bear, for the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, is a collection of books, in that respect the parallel is exact and complete, but we have also copies of the sayings and writings of other worthies. These are given in their original form, some only in part, others complete. Thus we have embodied in the Book of Mosiah the Record of Zeniff, which contains not only this original record, but that of a later writer who gives an account of the doings of the Nephites in the land of Lehi-Nephi in the days of Zeniff s son and grandson, Noah and Limhi. It is not improbable from the tenor of the latter portion of this record, that it was written or revised by Alma, the elder.
Then again, in the Book of Mormon the Hymns or Psalms are all in praise of God. I recollect no passage in which man is glorified. Take the outpouring of Ammon's grateful heart after his return, with his brethren, from their mission to the Lamanites as one example; take Alma's recital of his experience, and Mormon's occasional outbursts of praise and exultation. The glory is always the Lords, and the honor is His, and the praise.
Then again, there is no more "whitewashing" of men's weaknesses, good men though they were, in the Book of Mormon than in the Bible. The murmuring of Lehi in the wilderness is not palliated, the harlotry of Corianton is not excused. The plain, bald facts are stated in as uncompromising a manner as lapses from correct conduct are described in the Bible. It is the truth, and the truth unvarnished that appears in both books.
Then in both cases, different from other sacred writings, neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon presents itself to us as a treatise on theology. Each is a history of the revelation of God's will to man, not to the same persons, but a revelation of God"s law given to divers persons for their benefit, yet not for theirs alone, but for all whom the word may reach. The statement of this revelation is so interwoven with the results to mankind of their reception or rejection of the message that it awakens human sympathies as the story runs. This would not be the case were the Bible and Book of Mormon confined to sermons, laws, parables, and psalms from which the human was almost entirely removed. I have often thought what a dreadful time the little Arab boys must have in learning the Koran. There is nothing in it that appeals to child nature. With us, no wise Sunday school teacher makes his class read year by year from the Doctrine and Covenants and from nothing else. That is the hardest of all our sacred books for youthful minds to find pleasure in. There are no stories in it like those of Joseph and David, or of Nephi and the sons of Helaman, or like that of the wonderful ministry of Christ among the Nephites. It is this feature, that the men and women of the Bible and of the Book of Mormon were so much like ourselves, that gives added strength to God's word contained therein. We learn lessons through their experience often without sensing it, lessons, which, to many would not be so easily learned if they simply came to us in the shape of "Thus saith the Lord, thou shalt not covet," or whatever the law might be. The Bible and Book of Mormon reach men's hearts in the same way, they teach, both precept and example, by direct instruction and indirect narrative.
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THE VENGEFUL BROOD OF LILITH AND SAMAEL BY R. P. Dow, Brooklyn, N. Y. 1917
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There are certain discrepancies in Genesis, more apparent than real, which have puzzled commentators in all ages, and of which early explanations differ radically from present ones adopted since it has become generally understood that Genesis is a compilation of earlier narratives, notably the Elohistic and Jahvistic. Dr. Briggs, of the Union Theological Seminary, has pointed out, too, that the form of Genesis is wholly poetical. This leads to a reasonable inference that if the text be regarded as dipping into allegory, one may arrive much more nearly at the truth. A stumbling block which has puzzled almost every child at Sunday School, as well as adults, is that Adam, the first man, and Eve; the first woman, had two children grown to maturity and both these sons had no difficulty whatever in finding human wives. Whom and whence?“ In the efforts to explain one encounters an earlier apparent discrepancy“ In Genesis I it is stated that after the earth, sea and sky had been separated, after the stars were set, after grass and herbs were grown, after whales, fowl, cattle and creeping things, “God created man in his own image—male and female created he them. God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply.” After this a Garden of Eden was created. Trees grew up to fruitfulness, “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” In ordinary nature this process would take some years, as a minimum. Still later (perhaps many centuries), Adam, described as created out of dust, “gave names to all cattle, fowls, beasts, but for Adam was not found an help-meet for him.” So God took one of his ribs, made a woman. This was Eve. To account for a population from which Cain and Seth got wives, later commentators claim that early commentators seized upon an Assyrian divinity and made her Adam’s first wife. This was Lilith, who subsequently appears as mothering a brood of zebub, or flies. A second brood of children attributed to her were Succubae, or devils which normally assume the female human form.
All mythology begins from a basis of fact. All myths, all demi-gods, all gods (except alone the Monotheos, amorphous, infinite) are the imperfect recollections, distorted by ages of tradition, of living humans. Zeus and Hera upon Olympus, Thor and Baldur, Beelzebub and Lilith were human as ourselves.
Whence came Lilith is only partially recorded. There is authority for regarding her as blonde, or, as Dante Gabriel Rossetti paraphrases, “with hair of ropes of gold.” If so, she would be Aryan, a predecessor of races of which the best known at present are the blue-eyed Scandinavians. The earliest extant account of Lilith is that in the Apocryphal Book, the alphabet of Ben Sira, dating perhaps from the tenth century A. D. Of course, this is no criterion of antiquity. It may be observed, parenthetically, that there was a great cult in southern Europe in the seventh century of Lilith worshippers, just as demon worship has spasmodically broken out in almost every century in some quarter. It may be observed, parenthetically, too, that the oldest existing manuscript of the Old Testament dates from the twelfth century A. D., although it is known from allusions long before Christ. One cannot judge from manuscript the age of any of the great books of Hebrew literature. Ben Sira states that Lilith was beautiful, with wavy long black hair. At all events this woman was so beautiful, so towering in intellectual gifts that she was known everywhere around the place where Babylon later was, and came to be worshipped as a goddess. There is Rabbinical authority that Adam was as the Arab or Jewish races now are, brown-eyed; and that he was created (or born) with a brown beard hanging to his waist. Perhaps, after humans multiplied, as told in Genesis I, Adam, first man, was prototype to head a great race, to become the child of destiny.
Life with Adam was not satisfactory. He claimed obedience, either of woman to man, or impersonally to the chosen of destiny. Lilith claimed equal rights, having been created out of the same clay, and at the same time. When she realized how hopelessly obstinate Adam was in his reactionary views, she reached a decision not unlike that of the end—of-the-nineteenth century Nora in Ibsen’s “Doll’s House.” She flew out of Eden and away from Adam, who in her stead got Eve for his second wife, taken from his thirteenth rib on the right side.
Note that in all tradition Lilith is able to fly, and so was more easily able to bear a brood of winged children. Note, too, that in their endeavor to reconcile the conflicting Biblical stories, the ancient Oriental adepts created legendary prototypes of suffragists and “antis.” Note, also, that Eve was quite the opposite in disposition, the type of absence of self will. She was dark, probably Ethiopian, like the later Queen of Sheba, who, marvelously beautiful, was probably negro. Eve served Adam with such fidelity and submissiveness that the poet declares she was a rib of his own body. Imagery can go no farther than this.
Lilith, having flown southward, met a certain Ba—al, married him, and settled in the valley of Jehannum.
Naturally, then, the loyal descendants of Adam could not speak too illy of this woman who abandoned Adam, and apparently originated divorce. Even Jehannum became accursed and the children of Israel were warned not to intermarry with this outcast posterity. The place developes into an abode of darkness, and further until, in the attempts to localize a Hell, it becomes one of the planes, Gehenna differing from Tophet. Similarly tradition has localized heaven in planes, the “seventh heaven” remaining as the highest attainable bliss. In the Mohammedan conception of Hell, Jehannum remains particularly the abode of reputationless women. Thus Lilith was consigned by tradition to consort only with devils.
The Phoenician whom Lilith married, and who shares her obloquy, is still recalled by name, Samael. The term Ba-al is Phoenician. In the time of Lilith the Phoenicians may or may not have completed their migration overland from the lower Red Sea district to the coast of Palestine. At all events they presumably maintained trade routes by sea or caravan along the coast. A Ba-al is merely a leading man, a captain, governor, anybody above the rank and file. This particular Ba-al, Samael, is beyond much doubt the man who appears in the Old Testament as Baalzebub, and in the New Testament as Beelzebul. The word zebul is Phoenician adopted into Hebrew. It means radically any elevation of ground, big or small. In Phoenicia this man was presumably lord of a mountain. In Hebrew, where he was to be spoken of only with contempt, he becomes master of a dunghill. Commentators of all ages have not overlooked that a manure pile is the breeding place of flies. In the New Testament only Beelzebul appears as a devil, not easily differentiated from Satan. The word zebub is also Phoenician, but it is also Hebrew from Exodus downward. It is most frequently translated “flies,” but quite probably includes all pestiferous insects. It occurs in four connections in the Old Testament, invariably as flies or the equivalent in other languages. There are the dead flies which cause the ointment to stink (Ecclesiastes); in Isaiah, “the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt.” For the references from Exodus one must await the paper on the Plague of Arab. Schindler’s “Biblische Lexicon” defines zebub as winged insects including Culex, Vespa, OEstrum, and Crabro. Others define it more broadly to include terrible things such as lions, tigers and scorpions.
The earliest Biblical allusion to Beelzebub is in 2 Kings. Here he is the false god of Ekron, whom children of Israel ran to invoke, just as they frequently worshipped a golden calf or other false divinity, meriting the rebuke of the orthodox. Inasmuch as Beelzebub is to appear as a devil, with home in Hell, and, as in Greek mythology Acheron is the river flowing around the boundaries of Hades, one naturally wonders whether the resemblance between the two words is accidental, or whether the origin of the myths is not similar. There is a passage in Pliny, the Roman bibliographer of natural history, first century A.D., mentioning the Cyreneans (a Greek colony on Phoenician soil) invoking the god Achorem to kill the flies which were producing a pestilence. This certainly suggests a triple etymological connection—Ekron, Acheron, Achorem. For eighteen centuries, however, commentators have been in error on this passage, pointing out Zeus Apomuios and Hercules with similar epithet. True, one of the attributes of Zeus and Jupiter is as a successful driver away of flies. The monstrous Hercules had similar great power over insects. When he finally settled down to live in Sicily, the Cicadas disturbing his noon naps, he struck them all perpetually dumb for fifty miles around. Both gods were fly killers. Beelzebub was their natural father and protector. With their annoyance he hit back at his Hebrew detractors.
Two or more broods of children were born to Samael and Lilith. Tradition makes plenty of mention of the second, the female devils, which made Lilith a mediaeval by-word, terror of women in childbirth, to be fought with amulets—an easier way than by righteous living. For the first brood there is more slender authority. Perhaps it was taken for granted that, as Beelzebub was father of flies, his wife Lilith must have been their mother. Per contra, if Lilith bore this brood of flies, Samael must have been the father, and hence his epithet. In very early Sanscrit authority a day each year was set apart for a festival for flies. They were fed and cajoled, not for themselves, but to placate the evil demon who fathered their existence. Compare also the Avestic account. Almost from the beginning the evil author of a half of existence brought into the world insects (translated as “wasps”) “which are very death to the cattle and the fields.” In all Egypt the wasp typified power of death over humanity (cf. BULL., April, 1916, testimony of the Tombs, p. 1 et seq). It may be noticed that in Hebrew literature the wasp is just as deadly. Its name here is tzir. In Exodus, “I will send hornets before thee, which will drive out the Hivite.” In Deuteronomy, “Moreover the Lord thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left and hide themselves from thee shall be destroyed.” In Joshua, “And I send the hornet before you, which drave out from before you, even the two Kings of the Amorites.” Even kings could not withstand the hornet of the Hebrews.
There should be noted, also, the similar Biblical conception of the bee. The word Deborah is often chosen as a Christian name with the idea that it typifies industry, frugality and beneficence. The Hebrews were well acquainted with honey, for one of the early promises was to lead them to “a land flowing with milk and honey”; but all mentions of the bee dwell upon its stinging end. In Deuteronomy, “The Amorites chased you as bees do.” In Psalm CXVIII, “They (mine enemies) compassed me like bees.” In Isaiah, predicting disaster to Judah, “And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall hiss for the bee that is in the land of Assyria [home of Lilith?]. And they shall come and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and in all bushes.” Thus it will be seen that Deborah signifies a vengeful beast whose sting is destruction.
In interpretation of the deborah of the riddle of Samson about the bees in the carcass of the lion there is no more renowned paper in entomology than that of the late Baron Osten Sacken on the Bugonia Myth, identifying this particular deborah with countless others as the once Palaearctic, now cosmopolitanly common Syrphid, Eristalis tenax.
The word Lilith is next to be consulted. The root lilatu, night or darkness, is not Hebrew, but is Assyrian. The Assyrian spelling for the woman is Lilit or Lilu. It is not necessarily a duplicated root, but probably is, the root being originally the monosyllable li. This seems to mean night, and the idea of night is from the darkened blueness of the sky. In Demonology Lilith always operates at night. Moreover throughout the East indigo and its dark color have etymologically gone hand in hand. Lilang or lilak are present Persian adjectives meaning dark blue. The Persian for indigo is nil, adjective nilak. The Sanscrit for dark blue is nila, and its noun, nili, is indigo. While there is no direct connection between Lilith and our familiar shrub, the lilac, no evidence that the flower was regarded sacred to that divinity, yet the root is the same. This flower is native to Assyria and thereabouts. In Persian it is variously called lilaj, lilang, or lilanj. In Ottoman Turkish it is leilag (authority W. W. Skeats), or as spelled at present, leilaq. The flower was brought to Europe before the crusades, probably by the Venetians. In Spain it remains lilac or is Hispanized as lila. Skeats, Etymological Dictionary, gives Anglo-Saxon lilie, not the lily, but the lilac; but gives no context on which his statement is supported. An English book of 1715 gives lilach.
One would imagine the same root for the Latin lilium, originally the night flower. Thus it dates back before the Greek LERION, the phonetic change from l to r being wholly in accord with law.
The word lilith occurs once in the Old Testament, the famous passage, Isaiah 34, 14: “The wild beast of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and_ the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl (lilith) also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.” Whether or not we accept the translation of the King James version, the horns of a dilemma remain—did the woman give the name to the bird, or did the bird, always of ill omen, furnish the name for the despised woman? Apparently the former. The translation as screech owl has been bitterly assailed, although it has the support of the Septuagint. The King James translators found themselves in a quandary for words to account for several owls and other birds. There was a cos of Leviticus, for which big owl seemed a feasible rendering. The other owls appear, one in this very passage of Isaiah. There are tinshemeth and yamshuph, for one horned owl being suggested (with marginal note of swan). The names of animals in the whole passage must be dubious in any translation, for they include unicorns, bullocks, cormorants (margin—pelican), bittern, owls, ravens, dragons, satyrs, great owls, and vultures. St. Jerome, following Symmachus, departed from precedent and took the word lamia, a name applied to a bird only in this place. The familiar Latin name for owl is noctua, which Linné appropriated for the owl moths, insects whose luminous eyes and heavy color render them excellent miniatures of the bird. In Horace, Appuleius and Tertullian Lamia is a witch delighting in sucking children’s blood, and so is not unlike the whole conception of Lilith. In the margin of the King James version the words “night monster” are suggested instead of screech owl, and this change was adopted in the Revised version. It was supported and probably originally suggested by several of the more scholarly mediaeval Rabbis. This is quite in keeping with Lilith, also, coming from men best acquainted with the Lilith tradition and at a time when it held strongest sway over men’s minds.
In Mohammedan countries where story telling is highly developed the Lilith myth has assumed many forms. Not the least interesting is one which Fitz Nigle quotes in the N. Y. Tribune as having obtained from his Egyptian guide.
“It was said she was formed in beauty’s mould with clay let down from heaven and to Adam joined on the side by a ligament like the Siamese twins, but that they quarrelled, so that the Lord cut them in twain with a flaming sword, and Lilith with her daughter, the fair Zelinda, wandered off to the land of Nod, where later on she became a witch-cat, while in the meantime Cain, as is mentioned in the Scriptures, went out into the land of Nod and took a wife—namely, Lilith’s daughter.
“In regard to Eve, Adam’s second wife, the legend states that a short time thereafter a pimple grew on Adam’s leg, which attained a very great size, and one day, when he scratched it, out popped Eve, who quickly grew to womanhood and was married to Adam. In the meantime the devil was watching proceedings, and asked Eve if she knew that Adam had had another wife, and she replied that she suspected that her husband had not told her about his past life. Then the devil asked her if she would like to get even with him and she replied in the affirmative. Then he told her to go into the garden and pick some of the grain which the Lord told them they should not eat and give it to Adam, which she did, and when they, as the Bible states, fell from their high estate and were banished from the garden the Lord gave Eve a couple of cats to comfort her in her affliction.
“Later on it is said that these cats were the ones which Noah intended to take in the ark, but his wife, the unbelieving Norida, who hated cats, protested against it. However, he insisted, and as they were walking up the gang-plank his wife suddenly pulled it in and threw them down into the water, which was boiling hot, and the cats were thus destroyed. But after the ark had been at sea a few weeks the rats and mice began to eat the grain, and Noah prayed for help, when the Lord caused the lion, which lay sick with a fever, to sneeze from out its nostrils a pair of cats, which soon destroyed the rodents, thus making them the most popular animals aboard the ship.
“Furthermore, when they landed on Mount Ararat and started with the other animals to travel to the Plains of Shinar the cats were given the head of the procession, and when they arrived there, and the people were building the Tower of Babel and the Lord confused their tongues, the voice of the cat, which heretofore had been sweet and melodious, was changed into its present raucous caterwauling.”
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