« PreviousContinue »
hunger; nor can we pursue further the mysteries of the subterranean Persephone; but of the sorcery of Circe we must yet take some notice, after I have given the explanation of the Cybele myth by P. Franc. Pomey, in his "Pantheum mythicum seu fabulosa deorum historia," Leipsic, 1759; Karl Bart has treated at length of the Cureti, the Corybantes, Telchines, and the Dactyls, as well as of the Samothracian Cabiri in Germany.
Cybele, according to Pomey, p. 138, is the goddess of all that is earthly; nay, she is the earth itself. She bears a tower on her head, a key in her hand; because she bears and cherishes the towered cities, and because she locks up her treasures in winter, and then again unlocks them. She travels in a lofty car, because she is round, and floats in the air by the equipoise of her own weight. She is drawn by lions, to show that there is nothing so wild and untamed which may not be subdued by diligence and humanity, and made serviceable. Her dress is adorned with flowers of all colours, and with the forms of the most varied animals,—a circumstance that requires no explanation.
Her name, with various bye-names, springs from various causes. Originally, a daughter of heaven and the wife of time-Saturn-she has her name, according to Strabo and Suidas, from a mountain in Phrygia, where a sanctuary was first erected to her (or ἀπὸ τοῦ κυβισᾶν) because her priests with streaming hair, and with horrible action and dances, foretold future events. She was called Opshelp-because she brought help to all things; Rhea, from pé, to flow, because she flows round all things with blessings; Dydymene, from a Phrygian mountain; the mother of the gods, and by the Greeks Pasithea, that is, wãoi deóis unrp, the mother of all the gods. She was called the good goddess; also Fauna, the wood-goddess, etc. The place of her temple was Opertum; and thence Lucian sings:
"Nosse domus stygias, arcanaque ditis operti."
Although in all temples a certain degree of silence prevailed, yet this was most strictly observed in the worship of Cybele; for man honours God by silence, and especially that divinity from whom proceeds the beginning of all things. "Therefore," says Plutarch, "we honour man by
speaking the gods by silence." Idea she was called, from Mount Ida in Phrygia, where she was pre-eminently worshipped; Pessinuntia-the fallen from heaven, from a field in Phrygia, where her image was found, and whence the Phrygians first raised a temple to her. It was the custom in this temple, as in that of Bacchus, to celebrate their worship with obstreporous noise of many instruments, and amid many wild cries, whereby, strangely enough, the temple was not opened by hands but by prayer. Amongst the trees, the box and the pine were dedicated to her, because out of the first the pipes were cut, and the pine, on account of the boy Atys, whom Cybele loved, and whom she made the superintendent of her sanctuary on condition of perpetual chastity, but which he violated, and being enraged by the angry goddess, he mutilated himself, and would have committed suicide, to prevent which she changed him into a pine-tree."
The priests of Cybele were also called Galli, from a river in Phrygia of that name, the water of which, when drunk, drove people mad; and therefore the officiating priests cut themselves, and were called gallants. They had also other names, -as Cabiri, Corybantes, etc. etc., which we have frequently quoted. The Corybantes were so called, according to Strabo, from the shaking of their heads in the dance. The Telchines were said to be from Crete, and thence to have gone to Rhodes, and to have been celebrated sorcerers; or, if you will believe others, men, who, on account of their discoveries and proficiency in art, deserved well of the community: being said to be the first who made images of the gods.
There was in Greece originally no district of sorcery, in which a power opposed to nature and the gods could exhibit itself. But it was different in fabulous foreign countries, which richly furnished Greece with marvels and the power of working them. As far as concerned his own land, the youthful imagination of the Greek shaped the gods forth only in dark outlines. But foreign lands had their own marvellous creations of a wonder-believing power of imagination, to which belongs what Homer relates of sorcery and the might of sorcerers, and yet in which it is still obvious that the poet had an historical foundation for his fictions. Such are the Sirens, dwellers in unknown seas;
creatures of an extraordinary magic power, which does not arise from secret arts, but lies especially in the sweetness of their singing, with which the attractive and brain-bewildering power of the sea co-operated. Their action is, therefore, to be compared with that of Amphion and of Orpheus. Miraculous creatures, too, are the Cyclops and the Læstrygones, with whose original meaning we are acquainted: the Giants and Titans are only miraculous because they are now no longer to be found, and they are therefore placed in that unknown land, or in heaven.
Amongst these wonderful beings Circe holds a preeminent place, on account of her magic power and of her native country,-high Asia. "Prometheus did penance in the Caucasus, and to that neighbourhood belongs the notorious magic family, of which there is in Homer and afterwards so much mention, especially of Pasiphae, Etes, Circe, and Medea. In Homer nothing is more striking than the wholly un-Grecian nature of the representation of human sorcery. The whole family is derived from Helios by a syncretism apparent from the earliest times in Greece, in order to bring them nearer to the sphere of the gods, and to deduce their arts from them. Circe, herself a goddess, is the sister of Etes; both are children of Helios and Perse, or Perseis, the daughter of Oceanos. She is brought by Helios into the west. In Colchis there is yet a piece of land called from her Kipkator" (Wachsmuth, in the Athenæum, B. ii. p. 218).
The magic power of Circe is thus compared with that of the other gods, but continues so far foreign, that in order to effect her metamorphoses she mixes beforehand magic materials, φάρμακα λυγρὰ πανφάρμακος, and must touch her countrymen with a magic rod :
"On thrones around with downy coverings graced,
ODYSSEY, Book x.
The important magical expression eye, which occurs so frequently afterwards, does not occur so early as this; and the later magic formula to prevent sorcery and to detect it, so celebrated in subsequent ages, the Homeric Circe was not yet acquainted with.
But what, however, does present itself in Circe, is of the more accomplished form of sorcery. Thus, according to Apollodorus, she is a strange and terrible, yet at the same time divine being; and she, as such, absolved the Argonauts from the crime of murdering Absyrtus. Virgil gives her, besides the potentibus herbis, also carmina; that is, besides magic herbs also magic songs, and she now took rank as one of the prime sorceresses of antiquity.
Medea, the niece of Circe, is not mentioned by Homer, who speaks only of her father Ætes. Strange and terrible as is her aid in the combat between Jason and the Hydra, she was not in the older times by any means the terrible and necromantic child murderess, (Wachsmuth, a. a. O.) According to later legends, Medea took her abode in Greece, and knew the means of inflicting curses. She rose into a monster first under the hands of the tragic poets; the legends were continually collecting fresh incidents, and thus Medea. became worse from age to age-fama crescit eundo; and she is, for example, in the Argonautic expedition, the archsorceress, with all her mixing of poisons, her power of changing men into beasts, and her magic ointments.
Pasiphae, also, the sister of Etes and of Circe, was acquainted with the agency of magic, and by her the legends of the Idaic Dactyls are to be reconciled. In the same manner as the Greek came out of the distant Colchis, came the magic art from mysterious Egypt; yet without acquiring much influence. Hecate did not yet belong to the magic class in the days of Hesiod, and is a different person at this time to Selene. She derived her power only from Zeus, who honoured her so highly that he shared with her the power over the earth, the sun, and the heaven. She gives riches to mortals, and appears as the dispenser of order in war and in the assemblies of the people. That fabulous nocturnal darkness of hers, in which were the infernal dogs, the serpents, etc., is found only in connection with her in later times.
The connection, therefore, of Circe and the Phrygian mysteries is clear, and the explanation is after this too farfetched when we derive the name, according to Hermann, from "navigatio in orbem facta" (De myth. Græc. antiq.)
According to the researches and sagacious combinations of Bart, the Curetes were originally people who dwelt in thick mountain woods and caves, and were very skilful in rearing of cattle, in gathering honey, and shooting with arrows; and who being very warlike, sought their fortunes in war, and therefore introduced the sword, the shield, and the weapon-dance. They lived, according to Homer's Iliad, in Etolia, and, being expelled thence, afterwards in Acamania. In a religious point of view, the Curetes were, as we have seen, the ministers of the mother of the gods in the orgiestic festivals. They then constituted a sacerdotal caste, became demons, who educated the new-born Zeus, and were also in the service of other gods, from which cause Uranus, Demeter, etc., were called Curetes. Samothrace, as we have said, is the country of the Curetes, where they are called Anaken, and exercised proper electric powers. Bart enters fully into these views, and adds, that the Curetes were the guardians of the young Dionysius and Zeus. As Bacchus also belongs to this circle of the gods, it is necessary that we should notice his myth in reference to its primeval signification.
The ancient mythographers name three Dionysii. The Indian; the eldest, who gave wine and fruit. 2nd. The son of Dios and Persephone, or, according to others, of Demeter, who taught men to plough with oxen, and thence is represented with horses. 3rd. The son of Dios and Semele. The Lybians, moreover, had three Dionysii. In Egypt Osiris was synonymous with Dionysos. According to the character of the doctrine or the conception, Bart accepts two Dionysi. In the first appears the eldest one as Zagreus, the son of Jupiter and Persephone, and was torn asunder by the Titans. Apollo again put together his limbs, and preserved his heart, out of which arose the second Dionysos, born of Semele. Him also Hera persecuted, on which account Hermes brought him to Cybele, who suckled him and educated him with maternal care. He was either brought up on the sacred Mount Ida, or in Dodona, by the Hyades,