Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/248

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Müller, Barth avers that the same kind of fetishism which flourishes to-day, flourishes in the Rig-Veda. "Mountains, rivers, springs, trees, herbs are invoked as so many powers. The beasts which live with man—the horse, the cow, the dog, the bird, and the animals which imperil his existence—receive a cult of praise and prayer. Among the instruments of ritual, some objects are more than things consecrated—they are divinities; and the war-chariot, the weapons of defence and offence, the plough, are the objects not only of benedictions but of prayers."[1] These absolute contradictions on matters of fact add, of course, to the difficulty of understanding the early Indo-Aryan religion. One authority says that the Vedic people were fetish-worshippers; another authority denies it.

Were the Rishis ancestor-worshippers? Barth has no doubt whatever that they were. In the pitris or fathers he recognises ancestral spirits, now "companions of the gods, and gods themselves. At their head appear the earliest celebrants of the sacrifice, Atharvan, the Angiras, the Kavis (the pitris, par excellence) equals of the greatest gods, spirits who, by dint of sacrifice, drew forth the world from chaos, gave birth to the sun, and lighted the stars,"—cosmical feats which, as we have seen, are commonly attributed by the lower races to their idealised heroic ancestors, the "old, old ones" of Australians and Ovahereroes.

A few examples of invocations of the ancestral spirits may not be out of place.[2] "May the fathers

  1. Barth, Les Religions de l'Inde, p. 7, with the Vedic texts.
  2. Rig-Veda, vi. 52, 4.