Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/64

This page has been validated.

beautiful (crown of light) Aurora, surprised by the morning cloud, the raven, in the embrace of another lover, the night.

In the Norse mythology the ravens that sit on Odin's shoulders are the clouds that are seen on either side of the rising sun. As the sun mounts higher and the heat increases, the clouds are dissipated, to return again in the evening when the air is cooler and the sun sinks into the western sea. The wolves have doubtless the same nebulous origin as the ravens; the name of one of them, Freki, most probably being a reminiscence if not a direct derivative of the Sanskrit vrikas (wolf), which, as we have before stated, in the Vedic hymns signifies the black night or the howling storm-cloud.

In the Semitic languages, from the prolific root arab, one of the meanings of which is to be black, was formed the Hebrew oreb (raven), ereb (evening, land of the setting sun), etc. From the same root also come Erebos and Arabia hence, on linguistic grounds alone, it is impossible to decide whether Elijah was fed by the ravens or the Arabians.

The legend of Schamir is found in most of the languages of Europe, but in variously modified forms. In one place it is a stone, in another a worm, and in yet another it is a plant. Their agreement, however, in the power to rend rocks and to discover hidden treasures shows the origin of the myth to have been the storm-cloud which carries the thunderbolt, and with it rends the hardest rocks.

In the Egyptian mythology the reason assigned for dedicating the hawk to Horus is the bold flight which the bird is observed to make toward the sun without being dazzled by its rays;[1] but the reason for dedicating the crow to the same god is not so apparent, though it is probable that under the forms both of the wolf and the crow was represented the black night as an invariable and necessary follower of the god of day. Ælian says that in the temple of Apollo at Delphi was the statue of a wolf, and that the reason the wolf was sacred to this god was because he was born of Latona, or nursed by her, under this form.[2] It was doubtless a wolf of the same species that suckled the warlike twins of Silvia, at a later age, on the banks of the Tiber.

In both the Hindoo and the Greek mythologies we find the owl intimately associated with the crow—the owl, like the crow, being one of the demons of the night; but, as the owl was the representative of the bright night, or the moon, there was a constant warfare going on between them. The Pancatantra describes a battle between the owls and the crows, the casus belli being the opposition of the crows to the owl being elected king of birds. Aristotle, too, gravely informs us as a fact of natural history that "the crow and the owl also are enemies, for at mid-day the crow, taking advantage of the dim sight of the owl, secretly seizes and devours its eggs, and the owl eats those of the crow during the night."[3]

  1. Pritchard, op. cit, p. 318.
  2. Ælian, "Hist. Animal.," lib. x, chap. xx.
  3. Aristotle, "Hist. Animal.," lib. ix, chap. ii.