The Connection Between The Mosaic And Pagan Sacrifices -- By: Karl Christ Bähr
BSac 31:124 (Oct 1874) p. 693
The Connection Between The Mosaic And Pagan Sacrifices1
A comparison of the Mosaic ritual with pagan superstitions, with particular reference to the subject of sacrifices, would seem to promise some aid towards a more correct view of the import of Jewish sacrifices. In entering, as it is now proposed to do, on such a comparison, one has to lament that the materials for it are not more abundant; or rather, that they do not exist in such a form that the most advantageous use can be made of them. Without promising, however, any thing like a complete description of the almost endlessly diverse and complicated systems of pagan worship, we will venture on this comparison.
The idea of sacrifice seems to be more prominent, and to have assumed a more precise and definite shape, among the Hindoos than among any other Oriental people. The Hindoo worship is rich in sacrificial rites to an almost unexampled degree; but we are spared the necessity of an enumeration and comparison of the nearly countless parts of this ritual, by the fact that one species of sacrifice in use among the Hindoos has a prominence superior to all others; so much so, as to render a reference to these others superfluous. The sacrifice we have now in view, is that one which is spoken of in the religious books of the Hindoos as the king of sacrifices, and to which they give the name of Aswamehda, or sacrifice of horses. All others rank as subordinate to this, are of altogether inferior importance and efficacy. It may, therefore,
BSac 31:124 (Oct 1874) p. 694
be justly supposed to embody in itself, in the purest and most complete form, the Hindoo conception of sacrifice. It is consequently a matter of special moment to gain, if possible, a proper idea of its nature.
We are fortunately not left to gather the nature and import of this sacrifice by inference from the ritual with which it is connected. On the contrary, we find in the sacred books of the Hindoos positive statements in regard to it, sufficiently ample and explicit to remove all ambiguity.
According to the sacred books, then, the horse, which in the Aswamehda is offered in sacrifice, is the Viradsch, that is, the life principle pervading the whole universe, and in which the Divine Being reveals himself. For this reason the name Viradsch is sometimes translated, as, for instance, by Von Hanmer, “the universally revealed original Being.” Every part of the horse symbolizes some particular component of the world as existing in space and time. The head is the symbol of the morning; the eye, of the sun; the open mouth represents fire, or the natural heat which pervades ...
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