Ancient Mysteries Mythology Heathen Mythology

Heathen Mythology

Heathen Mythology
Catalog # SKU3283
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 2.00 lbs
Author Name Various
ISBN 10: 1610336399
ISBN 13: 9781610336390


Heathen Mythology

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There was something very pleasing and very poetical in the thought, that each river had its nymph, and every wood its god: that a visible power watched over even the domestic duties of the people, ready to punish or reward; and that, too in a manner so strange and immediate, that it must have greatly affected their minds in stimulating to good, or deterring from evil.

--New Edition, large 15 point font


They were, indeed, the days of "visible poetry;" the "young hunter," in the pursuit of his favourite sport, might image to his mind the form and figure of Diana, accompanying him in the chase, not perhaps without a holy fear lest she should become visible to him, and the fate of Acteon should prove to be his. The lover, as he sought the presence of his mistress, might, in his enamoured idea of her beauty, fancy that his idolatry was a real one, and that he wooed Venus in the form of a mortal: or, in the tremor which then as now pervaded the lover's bosom, he might fear that Jove himself would prove a rival, and, swan-like, or in some other as picturesque a form, win her he sought for his own: and thus, every class of society, from the patrician to the peasant, must have been imbued with feelings which, while they believed them to be religious, we regard but as poetical.

Leigh Hunt, who has said many things upon Mythology, quite as beautiful as his subject, remarks:- "From having a different creed of our own, and always encountering the Heathen Mythology in a poetical and fabulous shape, we are apt to have a false idea of the religious feeling of the ancients. We are in the habit of supposing, that they regarded their fables in the same poetical light as ourselves; that they could not possibly put faith in Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto; in the sacrifice of innocent turtle doves, the libation of wine, and the notions about Tartarus and Ixion.

"The greatest pleasure arising to a modern imagination from the ancient Mythology, is in a mingled sense of the old popular belief, and of the philosophical refinements upon it. We take Apollo, and Mercury and Venus, as shapes that existed in popular credulity, as the greater fairies of the ancient world: and we regard them, at the same time, as personifications of all that is beautiful and genial in the forms and tendencies of creation. But the result, coming, as it does too, through avenues of beautiful poetry, both ancient and modern, is so entirely cheerful, that we are apt to think it must have wanted gravity to more believing eyes. Every forest, to the mind's eye of a Greek, was haunted with superior intelligences. Every stream had its presiding nymph, who was thanked for her draught of water. Every house had its protecting gods which had blessed the inmate's ancestors; and which would bless him also, if he cultivated the social affections: for the same word which expressed piety towards the Gods, expressed love towards relations and friends. If in all this there was nothing but the worship of a more graceful humanity, there may be worships much worse as well as better.

"Imagine the feelings with which an ancient believer must have gone by the oracular oaks of Dodona, or the calm groves of the Eumenides, or the fountain where Proserpine vanished under ground with Pluto; or the laurelled mountain Parnassus, on the side of which was the temple of Delphi, where Apollo was supposed to be present in person. Imagine Plutarch, a devout and yet a liberal believer, when he went to study theology and philosophy at Delphi: with what feelings must he not have passed along the woody paths of the hill, approaching nearer every instant to the presence of the divinity, and not sure that a glance of light through the trees was not the lustre of the god himself going by. This is mere poetry to us, and very fine it is; but to him it was poetry, and religion, and beauty, and gravity and hushing awe, and a path as from one world to another."

G. Moir Bussey has also observed, with much elegance and feeling:-"The Mythology of the Ancients is one long romance in itself, full of poetry and passion-a mysterious compound of supernatural wonders and of human thoughts and feelings. It entrances us by its marvels in childhood; and in manhood we ponder over it, if not with the same rapturous delight as formerly, yet at least with such a sense of pleasure as that inspired by the perusal of a magnificent poem-the product of immortal mind-refreshing, invigorating, exalting. Beauty and strength-the might of man, and the majesty and sublimity of the misunderstood intelligences of the godhead, not only constituted the worship of the Greeks of old, but governed their lives, their actions, their laws, and the very aspirations of their hearts. They aimed at excellence in the highest, in order that their statues might be installed in their national temples as those of demi-gods, and the struggle brought them sufficient knowledge and energy to win deathless renown among men. All that they achieved, all that they meditated, bespeaks the soaring of a race bent upon conquering every obstacle-natural or artificial-which stood between them and absolute perfection, whether in legislation, in philosophy, in art, in science, in literature, in poetry, in war, or in dominion."



Semele, daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes, had yielded to the licentious Jupiter, and felt within her the effect of her indiscretion. Jealous at the object who had again taken her lord's affections, Juno sought for some mode in which to punish her, and taking the form of a nurse, suggested the desire of beholding the king of the Gods, arrayed in all his celestial glory. In vain did Jupiter, when pressed by Semele, implore her not to ask him to assume that form, which was too much for mortal eye to bear. Woman's wit and woman's fondness prevailed, and, in a moment of weakness, the God swore by the Styx, he would perform her request, and by this oath he was forced to abide. Armed with thunder, as a proof of his divinity, and in all the glory and majesty of his godhead, he presented himself to the presumptuous mortal, who, unable to bear his presence, fell scorched by his thunderbolt.

Jupiter, however, took the infant which Semele bore him, and confided it to the guardianship of the nymphs of the mountain of Nysa, who, for their care of the son of Jupiter, in process of time, were translated into heaven. When Bacchus, for thus was he named, had grown out of their guidance, Silenus became his preceptor and foster-father. This god, who is generally represented as fat and jolly, riding on an ass, crowned with flowers, and always intoxicated, could scarcely be considered as a tutor from whom Bacchus was likely to derive much good. In spite of the education he received through the medium of this being, however, the love of glory shone forth conspicuously in Bacchus.

After having valiantly combatted for Jupiter against the Giants when they invaded Olympus, he undertook his celebrated expedition into the East, to which he marched at the head of an army, composed of men as well as of women, all inspired with divine fury, armed with thyrsuses, and bearing cymbals, and other musical instruments. The leader was drawn in a chariot by a lion and a tiger, and was accompanied by Pan, Silenus, and all the satyrs. His conquests were easy and without bloodshed; the people easily submitted, and gratefully elevated to the rank of a god, the hero who taught them the use of the Vine, the cultivation of the earth, and the manner of making honey; amidst his benevolence to mankind, he was relentless in punishing all want of respect to his divinity. The refusal of Pentheus to acknowledge the godhead of Bacchus was fatal. He forbad his subjects to pay adoration to this new God, and when the Theban women had gone out of the city to celebrate his orgies, he ordered the God himself who conducted the religious multitude, to be seized. His orders were obeyed, but the doors of the prison in which Bacchus was confined, opened of their own accord. Pentheus became more irritated, and commanded his soldiers to destroy the band of Bacchanals. Bacchus, however, inspired the monarch himself with an ardent desire of witnessing the orgies.

Accordingly he hid himself in a wood on Mount Cithoeron, from whence he hoped to view all the ceremonies unperceived. But his curiosity proved fatal; he was descried by the Bacchanals, who rushed upon him. His mother was the first to attack him, her example was instantly followed by his two sisters, and his body was torn to pieces.

As Bacchus was returning triumphantly in his ship, from the conquest we have recorded, crowned with vine leaves, and flushed with victory, in passing near a beautiful island, he heard a plaintive voice and beheld a female, who implored him to yield her his support.

420 pages - 8½ x 11 softcover
ISBN-10: 1610336399
ISBN-13: 9781610336390

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