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GENERAL REVIEW.

VOL. XVIII.-No. I.

JANUARY, 1861.

BOSTON:

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UNIVERSALIST QUARTERLY

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GENERAL REVIEW.

ARTICLE I.

The Religion of Zoroaster.

[Continued from Volume xvii.]

The Bull and Cow. - The original Mazdayasnas were evidently a very simple pastoral people. Their wants are few, and their aspirations seldom lofty. In their earliest prayers and hymns their desires are for rain and fruitful seasons, for health, strength, long life, numerous children, and sometimes for immortality. They adore the Deity as the Creator of the cow, and pray for pastures and fodder “for the well-created cow.” This peculiar regard for the most useful of all the brute creation is evidenced alike by the earliest and the latest monuments of the faith. On pressing occasions they even declare themselves “ worshippers of the cow,””? but in this they entirely overstate the point, being under puculiar duress of circumstances. Another statement of theirs, however, is true, that they use a product of the cow in their purifications. The actual male animal is comparatively seldom mentioned, but there is a mythic character, the primal bull, which makes a great figure in the Zend books, and equally in the later works. He is one of the first things created; but he is soon pierced and killed by the deevs, when from his dead or dying body is produced 1 Yasna, xxxi. 9, xxxvii. 1. 2 Parsees; p. 12. 8 Ibid.

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VOL. XVIII.

all the animal and vegetable creation. We have not the means of demonstrating what we are yet pretty confident of, that this myth is entirely a figurative representation of the productiveness of the earth and of Nature. In the cognate hymns of the Veda, the clouds are represented as cows, whose milk falling in showers fertilizes the earth ; and in the Yasna the cow is named in connection with the sun. The same word, gau, signifies both a cow and the earth, and thus we have the usual double meaning and a constant fluctuation between a literal and metaphorical signification. The same term, too, which in the early Zend signifies the soul of the world, the later Parsee books use to denote the soul of the primal bull. Also in the mysteries of Mithra, the bull was interpreted to represent the earth. Such are a few of the indirect evidences that we have here the very common phenomenon of an early poetic figure gradually hardened into a dogma by subsequent misconception.

Ritual. - It will only be possible to give here a very cursive and general outline of what was an extremely intricate and burdensome ceremonial. The original division of the people was into priests, warriors, and tillers of the soil, which was precisely identical with the primitive three-fold distribution of castes in India ; but these castes do not appear to have ever been strictly hereditary. At least, the office of the priesthood, which alone has preserved its distinctness, is not now transmissible from father to son. All the public and more important ordinances of religion were confined to the priests. They were the ancient Magi, whom Herodotus recognized as a distinct tribe of the Medes. Their peculiar wisdom consisted in an ability to repeat the sacred hymns and formulas, perform the established ceremonies in their proper order, and a similar acquaintance with the provisions and distinctions of the law; to which was gradually added a mass of arbitrary and fanciful interpretations and traditions, and some pretensions to astrology. Confronted with European science, all the vaunted wisdom of the East becomes unmitigated folly. The principal acts of public worship bore a strong general resemblance to the celebration of the mass. The liturgy was not read, but repeated

4 Boundehesh.

5 xxxii. 10.

6 Zeitschrift D. M. G. ix. 692.

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