And yet to others a little of both.
Riya's Foundling by Algis Budrys
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Bridei Chronicles volume 1. Add a Review. Add To List. No Copies Found. Also in This Series. Nothing of moment was undertaken without consulting the gods, which was done in [Pg 25] various ridiculous ways. Hercules was the god in whom the people placed most confidence. He was invoked before they went on any important expedition; and when their armies were victorious, sacrifices were offered to him. One of the chief deities that they worshipped was Urania, or the moon, to whom they appealed when overtaken by calamities, such as drought, excessive rain, destructive hail, thunder, and dangerous storms.
Urania was the queen of heaven mentioned in the Scriptures, to whom even the Jewish women offered cakes, etc. Carthaginians, in worshipping Saturn, offered up human sacrifices to him. Even princes and other great men were wont, in times of distress, to sacrifice their most beloved children to this deity. People who had not any children of their own, purchased infants that they might offer them as victims to this idol, with the view of inducing him to fulfil their desires. Diodorus relates that when Agathocles was going to besiege Carthage, the people imputed all their misfortunes to the anger of Saturn, because, that instead of offering up to him children nobly born, he had been fraudulently put off with the offspring of slaves and foreigners.
To atone for past shortcomings, two hundred children of the best families in Carthage were sacrificed, and further, to obtain the god's favour, three hundred adult citizens immolated themselves. Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, was an idolator, as were also his descendants. Nineveh was the seat of his empire. As the sun and moon became early objects of worship among the Assyrians, so in later days they adored the fire as their substitute,—a form of worship that was common among the ancients in many lands.
The Assyrians published abroad that the gods of other nations could not stand before their fire-gods. A competition took place. A vast number of idols were brought from foreign nations, but as they were composed of wood, the god Ur or fire consumed them. After many contests, [Pg 26] an Egyptian priest discovered a plan of destroying the reputation of this idol, which had become the terror of alien people.
He caused the hollow figure of an image to be made of perforated earth, with the holes stuffed with wax, and the large internal cavity filled with water. He then challenged the god Ur to oppose his god Canopus,—a challenge which was accepted by the Chaldean priests. No sooner did the heat that was expected to devour the Egyptian idol begin to take effect, than, the wax being melted, the water gushed out and extinguished the fire. Before the Assyrian empire was joined to that of Babylon, Nisroch was the god worshipped in Nineveh, and it was in the temple of this idol that the great Sennacherib was murdered.
This idol was in the shape of a bird—a dove or an eagle—made, if we can believe the Jewish rabbis, from a plank of Noah's ark. The people repented at the preaching of Jonah, but it was not long before they relapsed into their former idolatry and general wickedness.
Herodotus was of opinion that the Greeks derived their religion and superstition from the Egyptians; Plutarch arrived at another conclusion; while many maintained that [Pg 27] Orpheus brought the mysteries of religion into Greece. Whoever is right, this we know, that the Greeks became so prone to worship ancient deities, and so anxious to do homage to all the divinities, that they erected altars to unknown gods, for fear they would fail in their duty to any power that could assist them in time of need.
Above all gods, Jupiter was held in the highest esteem. He was regarded as the president of law and justice, as the protector of cities, as governor and director of their councils, and as chief of their societies. To him they ascribed thunder, and supposed it was he who delivered them from the Persians, and who assisted them to buy and sell to advantage.
They erected altars to him in the courts of their houses and before their gates. Regarding him as the god of strangers, they received and entertained visitors with great ceremony. As a sign of fidelity, the right hand of fellowship was given to a stranger, to whom salt was presented, in token that his person would be safe under the entertainer's roof. A stranger's bottle was kept, and when a visitor arrived at the door the head of the family and he joined feet together on the threshold. A cup of wine was drunk to an unknown person before his name was asked. To return respect to those in the house, the stranger did reverence to the genius of the place, and saluted the ground with a kiss.
When one sojourned in a strange land, he was expected to conform to the recognised customs thereof; and on taking his departure he not only bade farewell to those with whom he had become acquainted, but took leave of their deities. When an important agreement was entered into, Jupiter was sacrificed to, and called to witness the covenant. The Greeks purified themselves after frightful dreams; they wore charmed rings to protect themselves from witchcraft; they were accustomed to spit three times on seeing a madman; and they spat every time the devil's name was mentioned in their hearing.
Stones were cast [Pg 28] at every cat and weasel met by one when commencing a journey, and the meeting of a bitch with whelps was carefully avoided. The crowing of hens and the whistling of maidens were listened to with as great fear as the hissing of a serpent. If a rat or a mouse ate a hole in one's clothes, evil, it was thought, was about to befall the luckless owner. The people had days of good luck and of bad omen. They cut their hair, and sacrificed it to rivers.
They marked the flight of birds, particularly that of the owl. On seeing this night bird flying overhead at the battle of Salamis, the soldiers considered it a good sign, took courage, and won the fight.
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When one was going round an altar, he took care to keep his right hand towards it. People anointed sacred stones in token of thankfulness, as Jacob poured oil on the stone he took for a pillow at Bethel. To know if one was in love, special notice was taken of his garland at a feast, and from its appearance the wearer's feelings were supposed to be known, though it might be thought there was no necessity for such observation; for, according to an old proverb, "Love and the cough can never be concealed.
If one could not secure a lady's affections in the usual way of courting, he endeavoured to get something of hers into his possession in order to bewitch her.