Images de page
[ocr errors]


sacrifice. That which is good for food is good for sacrifice, is the principle guiding in their selection.” The same principle has been already noted as prevailing in the sacrifices of India, Assyria, and Egypt; although in these last named countries many animals which are "good for food" are not “in use for human except as they are served up at the table of the gods. In the primitive New World it was the same as in the primitive Old World. Referring to the sacrifices in ancient Peru, Réville says, "It should be noted that they only sacrificed edible animals, which [as he would understand it] is a clear proof that the intention was to feed the gods";3. and it certainly seems a clear proof that the intention was to feed the worshipers who shared the sacred food.

That this sharing of the proffered and accepted sacrifice, in divine-human inter-communion, was counted a sharing of the divine nature, by the communicant, seems evident, as widely as the world-wide custom extended. The inter-union was wrought by intermingled blood; the inter-communion gave a common progress to the common nature. The blood gave common life; the flesh gave common nourishment. “Almost everywhere," says Réville, "but especially

1 Edkins's Relig. in China, p. 22, note.

2 See pages 159, 168, 172, supra.

3 Réville's Native Relig. of Mex. and Peru, p. 183.


* Ibid., p. 76.



among the Aztecs, we find the notion, that the victim devoted to a deity, and therefore destined to pass into his substance, and to become by assimilation an integral part of him, is already co-substantial with him, has already become part of him; so that the worshiper in his turn, by himself assimilating a part of the victim's flesh, unites himself in substance with the divine being. And now observe [continues this student in the science of comparative religion] that in all religions the longing, whether grossly or spiritually apprehended, to enter into the closest possible union with the adored being, is fundamental. This longing is inseparable from the religious sentiment itself, and becomes imperious wherever that sentiment is warm; and this consideration is enough to convince us that it is in harmony with the most exalted tendencies of our nature, but may likewise, in times of ignorance, give rise to the most deplorable aberrations." This observation is the more noteworthy, in that it is made by so pronounced a rationalist as Réville.

It would even seem to be indicated, by all the trend of historic facts, that cannibalism-gross, repulsive, inhuman cannibalism-had its basis in man's perversion of this outreaching of his nature (whether that outreaching were first directed by revelation, or by divinely given innate promptings) after inter-union and

inter-communion with God; after life in God's life, and after growth through the partaking of God's food, or of that food which represents God. The studies of many observers in widely different fields have led both the rationalistic and the faith-filled student to conclude, that in their sphere of observation it was a religious sentiment, and not a mere animal craving, either craving,—either through a scarcity of food, or from a spirit of malignity,—that was at the bottom of cannibalistic practices there; even if that field were an exception to the world's fields generally. And now we have a glimpse of the nature and workings of that religious sentiment which prompted cannibalism wherever it has been practised.

Man longed for oneness of life with God. Oneness of life could come only through oneness of blood. To secure such oneness of life, man would give of his own blood, or of that substitute blood which could best represent himself. Counting himself in oneness of life with God, through the covenant of blood, man has sought for nourishment and growth through partaking of that food which in a sense was life, and which in a larger sense gave life, because it was the food of God, and because it was the food which stood for God. In misdirected pursuance of this thought, men have given the blood of a consecrated human victim to bring themselves into union with God; and then they



have eaten of the flesh of that victim which had supplied the blood which made them one with God. This seems to be the basis of fact in the premises; whatever may be the understood philosophy of the facts. Why men reasoned thus, may indeed be in question. That they reasoned thus, seems evident.

Certain it is, that, where cannibalism has been studied in modern times, it has commonly been found to have had originally, a religious basis; and the inference is a fair one, that it must have been the same wherever cannibalism existed in earlier times. Even in some regions where cannibalism has long since been prohibited, there are traditions and traces of its former existence as a purely religious rite. Thus, in India, little images of flour paste or clay are now. made for decapitation, or other mutilation, in the temples,1 in avowed imitation of human beings, who were once offered and eaten there. Referring to the frequency of human sacrifices in India, in earlier and in later times, and to these emblematic substitutes for them, now employed, the Abbe Dubois says: "In the kingdom of Tanjore there is a village called Tirushankatam Kudi, where a solemn festival is celebrated every year, at which great multitudes of people assemble, each votary bringing with him one of those 1 See page 176 f., supra.

Des. of Man. and Cust. of India, Part III., chap. 7.


little images of dough into the temple dedicated to Vishnu, and there cutting off the head in honor of that god. This ceremony, which is annually performed with great solemnity, was instituted in commemoration of a famous event which happened in that village.

"Two virtuous persons lived there, Sirutenden and his wife Vanagata-ananga, whose faith and piety Vishnu was desirous to prove. He appeared to them, and demanded no other service of them but that of sacrificing, with their own hands, their only and much beloved son Siralen, and serving up his flesh for a repast. The parents with heroic courage, surmounting the sentiments and chidings of nature, obeyed without hesitation, and submitted to the pleasure of the god. So illustrious an act of devotion is held worthy of this annual commemoration, at which the sacrifice is emblematically renewed. The same barbarous custom is preserved in many parts of India; and the ardor with which the people engage in it leaves room to suspect that they still regret the times when they would have been at liberty to offer up to their sanguinary gods the reality, instead of the symbol."

Such a legend as this, taken in conjunction with the custom which perpetuates it, and with all the known history of human sacrifices, in India and elsewhere, furnishes evidence that cannibalism as a religious rite

« PrécédentContinuer »