Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/366

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in Southern Congo, where the French had a trading-post. But did not the Delphic Pythoness likewise derive her name from a serpent, the great Python of Parnassus, begotten in the ocean-mud of the Deucalian Delude? The Hebrew word Ob is the equivalent of the Grecian ophis and the Chaldean oheb, a dragon, a serpent; and in the Vulgate the witch of Endor, the "woman who had an Ob," is described as a mulier pythonica; and the "consulters with familiar spirits" (Deuteronomy, xviii, 11) as "men who worshiped Ob," the temple of Bel (a contraction of Ob-El, the snake-god) was covered with representations of flying serpents, the wings having been added to indicate the swiftness of the miraculous Python—perhaps the prototype of the Chinese dragon, of our "old serpent," and possibly of the mediaeval dragon-myths. On one of the temples of Thebes Belzoni discovered "a row of figures representing three human beings resting upon their knees and with their heads struck off. Before them a serpent-god (un dio pythonico) erects his crest on a level with their throats, ready to drink the stream of life as it flows from their veins." Columella, the Roman Huxley, mentions a district of the province of Numidia where the natives tried to break the spell of a summer drought by practicing strange rites with a captive serpent. In the mythology of the Edda the Midgard-snake encircles the globe of the whole earth, and the rupture of its folds will usher in the final return of Chaos. According to Plutarch, the Edonian witches of Thrace practiced their charms by the aid of a tutelary deity in the form of a snake, which they carried from hill to hill in search of a propitious conjuncture of times and places; and among the Veddahs of Ceylon Sir Emerson Tennent ("Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Physical, Historical, and Political") found traces of a very similar superstition; The staff of Æsculapius and the caduceus of Mercury were entwined with serpents; and, when the pious Æneas sacrifices at the tomb of his father, the "genius of the sepulchre" emerges in the form of a miraculous snake. The two mysterious strangers who announce the mission of Buddha vanish in the castle-hall, and when the messengers of the king follow them to the gate two furtive serpents glide forth: "The gods come ofttimes thus."

Yet Professor Ritter holds that ophiolatry is the oldest form of demonism of devil-worship, the subtile and deadly serpent being the fittest symbol of the tempter. Barthélemy-Sainte-Hilaire inclines to the opinion that the Egyptian god-serpent was the emblem of immortality, the idea being derived from the shedding of his skin; the caves of Elephantine bristle with serpent-heads; and the strangest, but possibly the only correct theory, is Sir W. Jones's conjecture that these shapes are nothing but a modification of that rude symbol of the vis generativa—the old Indian phallus.

Monkey-worship is peculiar to Hindostan, and can hardly be explained by the usefulness or the superhuman attributes of poor Hanuman. Yet its antiquity is attested by the sculptures of Ellora and