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also called Atrin, or devourers, and are palpably the
earliest originals of the giants and ogres of our
nurseiy tales. They can take any form at will, but
their natural one is that of a huge mis-shapen giant,
" like a cloud,'* with hair and beard of the colour of
the red lightniog. They go about open-mouthed,
gnashing their monstrous teeth and snuffing after
himian flesh. Their strength waxes most terrible in
twilight, and they know how to increase its effect by
all sorts of magic. They carry off their human prey
through the air, tear open the living bodies, and with
their faces plunged among the entrails they suck up

* n.M. p. 514,


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tie warm blood as it gushes from the heart. After
they have gorged themselves they dance merrily.
Sometimes it happens that a giantess, smitten with
love for the imperilled man, rescues him from the
Rakshasa, and changes her shape for his sake into
that of a beautiful maiden. Besides the demon giants
there are demon dwarfs also, called Panis.

The collective appellation of the Vedic gods is
D^vas, and this name has passed into most of the
Indo-European languages ; for corresponding to the
Sanscrit dSva is the Latin deus, Greek the6s, Lithu-
anian d^was, Lettish dews. Old Prussian deiws, Irish
dia, Welch duw, Cornish duy. Among the German
races the word d^va survives only in the Norse
plural tivar, gods ; and among those of the Slave
stock, the Servians alone preserve a trace of it in the
word diw, giant. The daevas of the Modes and
Persians were in early times degraded from the rank
of gods to that of demons by a religious revolution,
just as the heathen gods of the Germans were
declared by the Christian missionaries to be devils ;
and the modem Persian div, and Armenian dev,
mean an evil spirit. D^v^ is deri^d frpm div,
heaven (properly "the shining"), and means the
heavenly being.

Hence it appears that certain gods 'were common


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to all the Indo-Europeans before their dispersion, and
the greatest of those " heavenly ' beings must have
been he who was heaven itself — Div (nom. DyS,us,
gen. Div^s). He is addressed in the Vedic hypms
as Dyaush pita, i. e., Heaven Father, and his wife is
Mata Prithivi, Mother Earth. He is the Zeus Pater
of the Greeks, the Jupiter of the Romans,* the
German Tins, Norse Tyr. Dyaush pitS, was the god
of the blue firmament, but even in the Vedic times
his grandeur was already on the wane. Indra, the
new lord of the firmament, had left him little more
than a titular sovereignty in his own domain, whilst
Varuna, another heavenly monarch, who was still in
the plenitude of his power, commanded more
respect than the Toi fainiant, his neighbour. The
all-covering Varuna,* the Uranos of the Greeks, was
lord of the celestial sea and of the realm of light
above it, that highest heaven in which the Fathers
dwelt with their king Yama. After the southern
branch of the Aryans had entered India, Varuna
was brought down from the upper regions, to be
thenceforth the god of the earthly sea, which had

* Ze6s (gen. Di6s) = Defis, = Dy&us ; Jupiter (Diapiter) = Diy-
pater ; or Diespiter = Dyaus- pater.

+ Varuna and the demon Vritri both derive their names from var,
vri, to coyer, enfold.

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then for the first time hecome known to his

"Whilst the sun was still a wheel, a store of gold, a
swan or a flamingo, an eagle, falcon, horse, and many
other things, it was also the eye of Varuna ; just
as among the Anglo-Saxons and other Germans it
'was held to be the eye of Woden. Vanma and
Mithra (the friend), the god of dayhght, used to sit
together at morning on a golden throne, and journey
at evening in a brazen car. At the same time there
was a special god of the sun, Savitar or SArya, who
also had his beaming chariot, drawn by two, seven,
or ten red or golden coloured mares, caUed Haritas,
a name in which Professor Max Miiller has recognised
the original of the Greek Charites* The ideas of
the horse-sun and the wheel-sim had naturally
coalesced to form the chariot, and then the divine
charioteer followed as a matter of course. The utter
inconsistency of all these various representations of
the same visible object did not give the Vedic
hymnists the least concern. They took their
materials as they foimd them in the floating speech
and unmethodised conceptions of their people, and
used them with the freedom of an imagination
which had never been taught to run in critical
♦ " Oxford Essays," 1856, p. 81.


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harness. It is diflScult at this day for men whose
hereditary ideas of nature and its phenomena are
such as the long growth of science has made them —
it is diflBcult fot- minds thus trained and furnished to
go back to the point of view from which the primi-
tive Aryans looked upon a world wherein they had
everything to learn for themselves. To them it was
by no means self-evident that the sun which shone
upon them to-day was the same they had seen
yesterday or the day before; on the contrary it
seemed to them quite as reasonable to suppose that
every new day had its new sun. The Greek
mythology shows us a whole people of suns* in the
Cyclops, giants with one eye, round as a wheel, in
their foreheads. They were akin to the heavenly
giants and dwelt with the Phaeacians, the navigators
of the cloud-sea, in the broad Hypereia,f the upper-
land, i e., heaven, until the legend transplanted
them both to the western horizon.

The morning twilight is represented in the Vedas
by twin gods, and the ruddy dawn by the goddess
Ushas, who is one in name and fact with the Greek
E6s. Her light was conceived to be a herd of red
cows, and she herself figures in some hymns as a

♦ W. Grimm, " Die Sage von Polyphem." p. 27 ff.
t Homer, Od. tU. ^S, 206.


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quail. Vartikft, the Sanscrit name of the bird,
corresponds etymologically with ortyx, its Greek
name ; and in the myths of Greece and Asia Minor
the quail is a symbol of light or heat. Instead of
one Ushas, a plurality is sometimes mentioned, and
indeed there was no end of them, since every new
dawn appeared to be a new goddess.

The twin brothers who chase away the demons of
the night and bring on the morning, are the Asvins,
or Eiders. There are points of resemblance between
them and the twin sons of Leda which may be more
than casual They are extolled for having rescued
many men from danger, and particularly for the aid
they frequently afforded to storm-beaten sailors,
whom they carried safely to shore in their chariot, or
on the backs of their horses. They were boimteous
givers, too, of wealth, food, and divine remedies for
the ills that flesh is heir to. The wife of Cyavana, the
son of Bhrigu, with whom they were in love, induced
them by stratagem to renew her husband's youth,
and this they effected by bathing him in a lake,
from which the bather emerges with whatever age he
pleases. Here we have for the first time that "foim-
tain of youth" which reappears, after so long a
period of apparent oblivion, in the poems of the
middle ages. The renovating lake is the cloud water


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which contains the drink of immortality, the amrita
of the Vedas, the ambf osia of the Greeks.

This heavenly beverage was brought down to earth
and bestowed on mortals by the god Soma, the per-
sonification of the soma plant, which the Hindus now
identify with the Asclepias acida, or Sarcostemma
viminale. This is a plant containing a milky juice
of a sweetish subacid flavour, which, being miled
with honey and other ingredients, yielded to the
enraptured Aryans the first fermented liquor their
race had ever known. The poetic fire with which
Bums sings the praises of John Barleycorn may
help us, but only in a faint degree^ to comprehend
the tumult of delight and wonder, the devout ecstasy,
with which the first draught of the miraculous soma
J)Ossessed the sotds of a simple race of water-drinking
nomades. What a Vedic hymn would Bums have
raised had he been one .of them 1 But there was
not wanting many a sacred poet to commemorate
the glorious event, nor did it fail to be hallowed in
the traditions of succeeding generations from the
Ganges to the Atlantic. Among all the Indo-Euro-
peans it gave rise to a multitude of mjrths and
legends, having for their subject the simultaneous
descent of fire, of the soul of man, and of the drink
of the gods. One of the synonymes of soma is


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j madhu, which means a mixed drink ; and this word

is the methu of the Greeks, and the mead of our
own Saxon, Norse, smd Oelto-British ancestora

The Gandharves, a tribe of demigods, are repre-
sented in some of the Vedic legends as custodians of
the amrita, or soma^ and as keeping such close watch
over it that only by force and cunning can the thirsty
gods obtain a supply of the immortal beverage. The
horses of these Gandharves are highly renowned,
and they themselves often assume the form of their
favourite animals. Among Dr. Kuhn's many inter-
esting discoveries, not the least curious is that of
the identity of these Gandharves, in name and in
nature, with the half-human, half-equine Kentaurs,
or Centaurs, of Grecian fable. The parallel between
the Aryan and the Greek semihorses holds good even
as to the fight with the gods for the divine drink,
which the former refused to share with the latter.
The Kentaurs had a butt, or tun, of precious wine,
which was given to them by Dionysos, or Bacchus.

I Pholos, one of their number, allowed Hercules to
drink of this wine, and that was the cause of the
war between the son of Jove and the Kentaurs.
The divine perfume of the wine was wafted to the
nostrils of its absent owners, and rushing to the spot

J they assailed their kinsman's guest with stones and

D 2


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other missiles. This scene of turbulence, though
described as having occurred on earth, must be
imderstood as a piece of cloud-history. The Ken-
taurs, like the Gandharves, were undoubtedly cloud-
demons, or demigods, and the wine butt of the
former corresponds to the vessel in which the latter
kept their amrita, or soma, and which is called in
Sanscrit Jcabandha, a word that signifies both butt
and cloud.

According to Nonnus, the Kentaurs were sons of the
Hyades, the rainy constellation, who are also spoken
of as the nurses of Dionysos. Asklepiades states
that the most distinguished amongst these starry
nymphs was named Ambrosia. Euripides speaks
of the fountains of ambrosia, the drink of inunor-
tality, as situated at the verge of the ocean, the
region where heaven and earth meet together, and
the clouds rise and falL


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The gods Agni and Soma are described in the
Vedas as descending to earth to strengthen the
dominion of their own race, the Devas, who are at
war with their rivals, the Asuras, and to exalt men to
the gods. The story of this great event is variously
told. One of its many versions as relates to Agni,
the god of fire, is that he had hid himself in a cavern
in heaven, and that MiLtarisvan, a god, or demi*
god, brought him out from it and delivered him to
Manu, the first man, or to Bhrigu, the father of the
mythical family of that name. M&tarisvan is thus a
prototype of Prometheus, and the analogy between
them will appear still closer when we come to see in
what way both were originally believed to have
kindled the heavenly fire which they brought down
to earth. The process was the same as that by
which Indra kindles the lightning, and which is
daily imitated in the Hindu temples in the produc*


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tion of sacred fire. It is so like churning, that both
operations are designated by the same word.

" In churning in India^ the stick is moved by a
rope passed round the handle of it, and round a post
planted in the ground as a pivot ; the ends of the
rope being drawn backwards and forwards by the
hands of the chumer, gives the stick a rotatory
motion amidst the milk, and this produces the sepa-
ration of its component parts." — Wilson, Rig Veda,
I. 28, 4 n.

" The process by which fire is obtained from wood
is called chmning, as it resembles that by which
butter in India is separated from milk. The New
Hollanders obtain fire by a similar process. It con-
sists in drilling one piece of arani wood into another
by pulling a string, tied to it, with a jerk with one
hand, while the other is slackened, and so alternately
till the wood takes fire. The fire is received on
cotton or flax held in the hand of an assistant
Brahman." — Stevenson, Sdma^Veda, Pref. VII.

Besides the chum, there is another well-known
domestic machine to which the "chark," or fire
generator of India, is nearly related. This is the
mangle or instrument for smoothing linen by means
of rollers. Mangle is a corruption of mandel (from
the root mand, or manth, which implies rotatory


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motion), and aa a verb it weans properly to jx)ll, in
whicla sense it i^ still used in provincial German, Jjx
North Germany the peasants say, when they hear the
bw rumbling of distant thimder, Ifse S^rr QqU
Tnangelt, " The Lord is ma^gling," or rolling— roll-
ing the thunder. The same verb in Sanscrit is
manthcmii, which is always used to denote the pro*
cess of churning, whether the product sought be
butter, or fire, or a mixture of the ingredients for
making soma-mead. The drilling, or churning, stiq^
is called mantha, manthara, or, with a prefix, pra*
mantha. The Hindu epics tell how that once upon
a time the Devas, or gods, and their opponents, the
Asuras, made a truce, and joined together in churn-
ing the ocean to procure amrita, the di'ink of immpr
tality (p. 34). They took Mount Mandara for a
churning stick, and wrapping the great serpent Sesha
round it for a rope, they made the mountain spin
round to and fro, the Devas pulling at the serpent's
tail, and the Asuras at its head. Mount Mandara
was more anciently written Manthara, and manthara
is the Sanscrit name of the churning stick which is
used in every dairy in India^

The invention of the ebark was au event of
immeastirable importance in the history of Aryan
civilisation. Scattered through the traditions of the


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race there axe glimpses of a time when the progeni-
tors of those who were to "carry to their fullest
growth all the elements of active life with which our
nature is endowed/' had not yet acquired the art of
kindling fire at will. From that most abject con-
dition of savage life they were partially raised by the
discovery that two dry sticks could be set on fire by
long rubbing together. But the work of kindling
two sticks by parallel Motion, effected by the hand
alone, was slow and laborious, and at best of but
uncertain eflScacy. A little mechanical contrivance,
of the simplest and rudest kind, completely changed
the character of the operation. • The chark was
invented, and firom that moment the destiny of the
Aryan race was secured. Never again could the
extinction of a solitary fire become an appalling
calamity under which a whole tribe might have to
sit down helpless, naked, and famishing, until relief
was brought them by the eruption of a volcano or
the spontaneous combustion of a forest. The most
terrible of elements, and yet the kindliest and most
genial, had become the submissive servant of man^
punctual at his call, and ready to do whatever work
he required of it. Abroad it helped him to subdue
the earth and have dominion over it ; at home it
was the minister to his household wants, the


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centre and the guardian genius of his domestic

Always prompt to explain the ways of nature by

their own ways and those of the creatures about

them, the Aryans saw in the fire-chum, or chark, a

working model of the apparatus by which the fires of

heaven were kindled. The lightning was churned

out of the sun or the clouds ; the sun wheel that had

been extinguished at night, was rekindled in the

morning with the pramantha of the Asvins. The

fire-chum was regarded as a sacred thing by all

branches of Indo-Europeans. It is still in daily use

in the temples of the Hindus, and among others of

the race here and there recourse is had to it on

solemn occasions to this day. In Greece it gave

birth to the sublime legend of Prometheus. Greek

tragedy had its rise in the recital of rude verses in a

cart by uncouth actors daubed with lees of wine.

The noblest production of the Greek tragic stage was

but a transcendant version of the story of a stick

twirling in a hole in a block of wood.

To rub fire out of a chark is to get something that
does not come to hand of its own accord, and to get
it by brisk, if not violent action. Hence we find,
along with pramantha, the fire-churning stick, another
word of the same stock, pramatka, signifying theft ;


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for manthami had come by a very natural transition
to be used in the secondary sense of snatching away,
appropriating, stealing. In one of these senses it
passed into the Greek language, and became the
verb manthariS, to learn, that is to say, to appro-
priate knowledge, whence prometheia, foreknow-
ledge, forethought. In like manner the French
a/pprendre, to learn, means originally to lay hold on,
to acquire. Derivatives of pramantha and pramatha
are also found in Greek. A Zeus Promantheus ia
mentioned by Lycophron as having been worshipped
by th^ Thurians, and Prometheus is the glorious
Titan who stole fire from heaven. This is the
explicit meaning of the name ; but, furthermore, it
has implicitly the signification of fire-kindler. Pro-
metheus appears distinctly in the latter chai-acter
when he splits the head of Zeus, and Athene springs
forth from it all armed ; for this myth undoubtedly
imports the birth of the Ughtning goddess from the
cloud. In other versions of the story, Hephaistos
takes the place of Prometheus, but this only shows
that the latter was, in like manner as the former, a
god of fire. At all events in this myth of the birth
of Athene, Prometheus figures solely as a fire-
kindler, and not at all as a fire-stealer * and since
in all the older myths, nam^s were not mere names


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and nothing more, but had a meaning which served
as gi*oundwork for the story, it follows that in this
instance the name must have had reference to the
Sanscrit pramantha. This conclusion is strong
enough to stand alone, but it seems also to be cor-
roborated by a name belonging to the later epic
times of the Hindus. In the MahsLbh^ata and some
other works, Siva, who has taken the place of the
older fire gods, Agni and Rudra, has a troop of fire*
kindling attendants called Pramathas, or Pramathas.

Prometheus is then essentially the same as the
Vedic M^tarisvaa He is the pramantha personi*
fied ; but his name, like its kindred verb, soon
acquired a more abstract and spiritual meaning on
Grecian ground. The memory of its old etymon
died out, and thenceforth it signified the Prescient,
the Foreseeing. Given such a Prometheus, it followed
abnost as a matter of course that the Greek story-
tellers shotdd provide him with a brother, Epime-
theus, his mental opposite, one who was wise after
the event, and always too late.

With the fire he brought down from heaven,
Prometheus gave life to the human bodies which he
had formed of clay at Panopeus, in Phocis. Here
again his legend is in close coincidence with that
of Matarisvan, for Panopeus was the seat of the


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Phlegyans, a mythical race, wliose name has the
same root as that of the Bhrigus,* and the same
meaning also — ^fulgent burning. Both races incurred
the displeasure of the gods for their presumption and
insolence. Phlegyas and others of his blood were
condemned to the torments of Tartarus. Bhrigu is
of course let off more easily in the Brahmanic
legend which tells of his offences, for the Brahmans
numbered him among their pious ancestors; but
his father, Varuna, sends him on a penitential tour
to several hells, that he may see how the wicked
are punished, and be warned by their fate.

After what has gone before, the reader will per-
haps be prepared to discover a new meaning in the
words of Diodorus (v. 67), a meaning not fully com-
prehended by that writer himself, when he says of
Prometheus, that according to the mythographers he
stole fire from the gods, but -that in reality he was
the inventor of the fire-making instrument.

The Aryan method of kindling sacred fire was
practised by the Greeks and Romans down to a late
period of their respective histories. The Greeks

• Prom the same root as Bhrigu come the German word llitz. Old
German, Uih, lightning; Anglo-Saxon,. ftWcan, and with the nasal,
German, llinken, English, llinh^ to twinkle, shine, glitter, and also to
wink, as the resnlt of a sudden glitter.—See Wedgwood, Diet. Engl


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called the instrument used for the purpose pyreia,
and the drilling stick trupa/non. The kinds of wood
which were fittest to form one or other of the two
parts of which the instrument consisted are specified
by Theophrastus and Pliny, both of whom agree that
the laurel (daphne) made the best trupanon, and
next to it thorn and some other kinds of hard wood ;
whilst ivy, athragene, and Vitis sylvestris, were to be
preferred for the lower part of the pyreia. Festus
states that when the vestal fire at Eome happened
to go out, it was to be rekindled with fire obtained
by drilling a flat piece of auspicious wood (tabulam
felicis materiae). We gather from Theophrastus and
Pliny whence it was that the chosen wood derived
its " auspicious " character, for they both lay parti-
cular stress upon the fact, that the ^three kinds
recommended by them were parasites, or — what
amounted to the same thing in their eyes— climbers,
that attached themselves to trees. The Veda pre-
scribes for the same purpose the wood of an asvattha
(religious fig), growing upon a sami (Acacia suma).*
The idea of a marriage, suggested by such a union
of the two trees, is also developed in the Veda with
great amplitude and minuteness of detail, and is a

* The sami sprang from heavenly fire sent down to earth, and the
asvattha from the vessel which contained it.


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very prominent element in the whole cycle of myths
connected with the chart

Among the Germans, as Grimm remarks, fire that
had long been in human use, and had been propa-
gated from brand to brand, was deemed unfit for
holy purposes. As holy water needed to be drawn
fresh from the well, in like manner fire which had
become common and profane was to be replaced
by a new and pure flame, which was called " wild-^
fire," in contrast with the tame domesticated
element. "Tire from the flint was no doubt fairly
entitled to be called new and fresh, but either this
method of procuring it was thought too common, or
its production from wood was regarded as more
ancient and hallowed." ♦

The holy fires of the Germanic races are of two
classes. To the first class belong those which the
Church, findiDg herself unable to suppress them,
took under her own protection, and associated with
the memory of Christian saiuts, or of the Redeemer.
These are the Easter fires, and those of St. John's
day, Michaelmas, Martinmas, and Christmas. The
second class consists of the " needfires," which have
retained their heathen character unaltered to the
present day. With occasional exceptions in the case
♦ D.M, 569.


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of the St. John's day fires, those of the first class are
never lighted by friction, yet the Church has not
quite succeeded in effacing the vestiges of their
heathen origin. This is especially evident in the
usages of many districts where the purity of the
Easter fire (an idea borrowed from pagan tradition)
is secured by deriving the kindling flame either

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