Her tears were supposed to cause the inundation of the Nile. At times she had the head of a cow, which identified her with the cow of whom the sun was born. The hawk was deified because one of these birds brought to the priests of Thebes a book, tied round with a scarlet thread, containing the rites and ceremonies to be [Pg 17] observed in the worship of the gods. The wolf was adored because Osiris arose in the shape of that animal from the infernal regions, and assisted Isis and her son Horus to battle against Typhon.
The cat was revered as an emblem of the moon, for its various spots, fruitfulness, and activity in the night. The goat which, by the by, is said to be absent from the earth and present with Satan a part of every twenty-four hours of the day, and can never be seen from sunrise to sunrise without being lost sight of for a longer or shorter time was honoured as the representation of manhood in full vigour, and was worshipped, from gratitude to the gods, for multiplying the people of the country.
The crocodile was also advanced to the dignity of a god. If one killed any of the sacred animals designedly, he was put to death,—if involuntarily, his punishment was referred to the priests; but if a man killed a hawk, a cat, or an ibis, whether designedly or not, he died without mercy. During a severe famine, when the Egyptians became cannibals, not one of them was known to have tasted the sacred animals.
All revered animals were kept at great expense, and when they died costly funerals took place.
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When a cat died, the family it belonged to expressed great grief, and prayed and fasted several days. In cases of fire, more care was taken to preserve the feline animals than the most valuable property in the house. Dead cats, which were almost invariably embalmed, were sometimes carried from remote parts to be interred in the city of Bubastis, and hawks and moles were buried with great solemnity at Butos, even though they should have died in foreign countries. Juvenal mentions that leeks and onions were objects of worship, and others say that the lotus was also sacred in various parts of the East.
The priests were both physicians and interpreters of oracles; they carefully [Pg 18] observed the phenomena of nature, and registered every uncommon occurrence. From such observations, they calculated the results of other events of similar nature. Hence arose the practice of divination, and afterwards that of dispensing oracles. Oracles were erected in every part of Egypt. Even the sacred animals had their several oracles. The Apis was consulted by observing into which of his chambers he entered. By a certain principle understood, the omen was regarded as foretelling good or evil.
The barbarous custom of sacrificing human victims was long in force in Egypt, and prevailed down to the reign of Amasis, by whom it was abolished. Not to give too severe a shock to the superstitious feelings of the people, wax figures, representing human beings, were permitted to be substituted for the living mortals. These customs were, no doubt, what sorcerers and witches imitated at their midnight feasts in after ages, and which led old women to imagine that, by making wax images of those whom they intended to injure, and sticking sharp instruments into them at one time, and at another time exposing them to a scorching heat before a fire, they would wreak their vengeance upon the individuals whom the figures represented.
We have it from more than one learned writer, that the cruel and gloomy worship of Egypt arose from a belief that Typhon was labouring incessantly to counteract the happiness of mankind. He was considered to be greedy and voracious, and that it was necessary to glut his altars with blood in order to appease his anger. Magic was a science in which the Egyptians excelled. Its attainment was esteemed the highest exertion of human intellect. Some imagined that the invention of magic exceeded human invention, and they pretended that the angel who fell in love with the antediluvian women taught it, and that the principles thereof were preserved by Ham after the Deluge, and that he communicated them to his son Mizraim; but others ascribed the invention to Hermes.
The Egyptian priests, taking advantage of the people's credulity, taught that the sun, moon, and whole host of heaven were endowed with intelligence, and exerted an influence over the destinies of men; and they the priests pretended to work miracles, and obtain oracles and omens. They also laid claim to the power of interpreting dreams. The Egyptians believed that the souls of men went into other bodies at death,—such as had been virtuous going into exalted bodies, but the vicious passing into mean reptiles and other contemptible creatures.
After remaining in a state of punishment for a certain number of years, they were supposed to pass into more exalted beings. Praise was not bestowed indiscriminately upon every person who died, however exalted his position. Characters were given by judges, after inquiry into the life and conduct of the deceased. The judges sat on the opposite side of a lake; and while they crossed the lake, he who sat at the helm was called Charon, which gave rise to the fable among the Greeks, that Charon conducted the souls of deceased persons into the infernal regions. The great city of Babylon owed its origin to the ambition of the proud people who built the tower of Babel.
In course of time Babylon rose to great grandeur, but superstition became so prevalent that it proved a snare to the inhabitants. Like the heathen around, they worshipped fire and images. The Babylonians pretended to great skill in astrology, soothsaying, and magic. The Chaldeans, so called in a strict sense, were a society of pretenders to learning, priests, philosophers, astrologers, and soothsayers, who, it is said, dwelt in a region by themselves, and the rest of the people were called Babylonians.
While Babylon was in its glory, prophets predicted that dreadful judgments would befall it. And so it happened. On the very night the destruction came, the king, alarmed by the mysterious handwriting on the wall, consulted his magicians; and Daniel, who had been made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers, made known the sad end of Belshazzar and his kingdom.
The Medes and Persians worshipped the sun, fire, water, the earth, the winds, and deities without number. Human sacrifices, as in other idolatrous countries, were offered by them, and they burned their children in fiery furnaces appropriated to their idols. At first the gods they worshipped were Arimanius, the god of evil, and [Pg 21] Oromasdes, the giver of all good. Plutarch says that Oromasdes created several inferior gods or genii, and that Arimanius created many devils.
The former also created twenty-four devils, and enclosed them in an egg; but the latter broke the egg, and by that means let out the demons, and created a mixture of good and evil. The religion of the Persians underwent a variety of revolutions. Temples were built for the worship of fire, prior to which Magian priests kept the sacred fire burning on mountain tops under considerable difficulties. They fed it with wood stripped of the bark; they were prohibited from blowing the fire with their breath or with bellows, lest it should be polluted.
Had one done either, he would have been punished with death. The Jews had the real fire from heaven, and the Magi pretended to have received theirs from the upper regions likewise. The Gaures held that the earth was inhabited at first by two persons. They had a tradition that Eve brought twins into the world every day, and that for one thousand years death had no power over her seed.
They believed that a select company of angels were appointed guardians of mankind, but that, notwithstanding this, evil increased: men grew wicked and perverse in their ways, and therefore the deluge was sent to sweep them away. The Gaures had their guardian angels for every month and day throughout the year, and to them they devoted their prayers. New Year's Day was a high day with them, and they had a great many lucky and unlucky days.
The Persians hold that at the last judgment every man must pass along a bridge no wider than a razor's edge; that the unbelievers and the wicked will certainly in their passage fall into hell, there to be for ever and ever tormented; but that the faithful shall be so guided and supported that they shall pass the bridge swifter than a bird can fly through the air, and enter into paradise, and seat themselves on the banks of the river of delight, which, they [Pg 22] say, is shaded by a tree of such immense size, that if a man were to ride forty thousand years, he would not pass the extent of one of its leaves.
In Persia it was a common belief that there were many prophets living between the days of Adam and Mohammed, who were created before the world was made. Their prophets, according to history, were possessed of the power of working miracles; and charms and amulets were common in the country. Pilgrims who went to Mecca invariably kissed a black stone, regarding which there is a curious legend: Abraham, we are informed, tied his camel to this stone when he went to sacrifice Ishmael, for the Mohammedans represent Hagar as Abraham's lawful wife, and Ishmael his heir. There is another tradition, that when Abraham was about to build the Kaaba, held in great veneration, the stones marched thither of themselves ready hewn and polished, and that the black stone, being left out when the building was completed, demanded of Abraham why it had not been used in the sacred structure.
The prophet told the stone not to be disappointed, for he would cause it to be more honoured than any stone in the building, by commanding all the faithful to kiss it as they went in procession. The faithful people were wont to meet at the place which they supposed was Adam and Eve's trysting place after the expulsion, for it is related in one of their legends that the first man and woman wandered about the world, separately, hundreds of years after the Fall.
The Persians were extremely addicted to the study and practice of the black art and all magical incantations, supposing that by such mysterious operations they could influence the elements and all the products of nature. When any one was suspected to have died an unnatural death, the surviving relatives consulted spirits, with the view of discovering the cause of it. Sometimes the relatives alleged that a spell had been cast on the spirits consulted, which prevented their giving answers to [Pg 23] interrogatories.
In that case, magicians were employed to remove the fascination. A suspected murderer was submitted to a severe ordeal:—A particular liquid was poured upon the arm or thigh of the unfortunate person; but before the fluid was used it was boiled, while the supposed criminal's name was repeatedly mentioned. The moment the liquid began to boil, they commenced to address their imaginary spirits in the following terms: "Is the party on whom I pour this water guilty or not? If he is, may it scald him and shrivel up his skin. People anxious to know the result of approaching warlike engagements put a vessel full of water, mixed with particular ingredients, over a fire.
As soon as the water commenced to boil they performed magical incantations, which, as they imagined, irresistibly attracted the titular genius of their enemies, and obliged the spirit or god to plunge himself into it. In this painful situation they confined him for a considerable time. When he had endured sufficient penance to humble him, he was questioned relative to the success of the war.
The information sought was delivered, as the people thought, through the appearance of the scum on the water. By turning a red-hot pot upside down, attended with magical incantations, they imagined the courage of their soldiers exposed to its heat could be raised. Canaanites, Syrians, and Arabians were all superstitious, and given to idolatry. These people had various idols, regarding which there are strange fables.
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An idol worshipped by the Philistines and Syrians, called Derceto, has an interesting history. Near Askelon there was a deep lake, abounding with fish. Not far from the lake stood the temple of this famous goddess, the mother of Semiramis, who had the face of a woman, and the rest [Pg 24] of her body resembling part of a fish, for which the Syrians assigned the following reason:—Venus having conceived a hatred against Derceto, caused her to fall in love with a young Syrian, whom she subsequently murdered, and then threw herself into the lake, where she was transformed into the shape of a fish with a woman's face; for which reason the Syrians did not eat any fish, but worshipped them as gods.
There is a legend of Abraham, before he left Ur of the Chaldeans, which exhibits the contempt he had of idols. It is said he took an opportunity of breaking in pieces all the idols he could reach, except Baal, and that he suspended about the neck of this idol the axe with which he had performed the destruction. The people coming to see what had been done, supposed that Baal was the author of the mischief.
Some say that Abraham accomplished the exploit in his father's shop during his absence, and that Terah, returning home, inquired how the work of destruction had taken place. Abraham told him that the idols had quarrelled about an offering of flour that an old woman had brought them, and that Baal had proved the strongest, and broke all the rest to pieces. The Arabians, Ishmael's offspring, were equally guilty of idolatry.
So far did they carry this sin, that they actually worshipped idols under the shape of Egyptian thorns. In early times the thorns were adored in the open fields, but subsequently altars and temples were erected for their worship. The Arabians worshipped Assaf under the shape of a calf; and they had a goddess named Beltha, supposed to be the Venus of the Greeks.
The Sabeans were the principal worshippers of this goddess; and such was their devotion to her, that they regularly presented to her a portion of their plunder. The religion of the Carthaginians and Tyrians was horrid and barbarous. Nothing of moment was undertaken without consulting the gods, which was done in [Pg 25] various ridiculous ways. Hercules was the god in whom the people placed most confidence. He was invoked before they went on any important expedition; and when their armies were victorious, sacrifices were offered to him.
One of the chief deities that they worshipped was Urania, or the moon, to whom they appealed when overtaken by calamities, such as drought, excessive rain, destructive hail, thunder, and dangerous storms. Urania was the queen of heaven mentioned in the Scriptures, to whom even the Jewish women offered cakes, etc.
Carthaginians, in worshipping Saturn, offered up human sacrifices to him. Even princes and other great men were wont, in times of distress, to sacrifice their most beloved children to this deity. People who had not any children of their own, purchased infants that they might offer them as victims to this idol, with the view of inducing him to fulfil their desires. Diodorus relates that when Agathocles was going to besiege Carthage, the people imputed all their misfortunes to the anger of Saturn, because, that instead of offering up to him children nobly born, he had been fraudulently put off with the offspring of slaves and foreigners.
To atone for past shortcomings, two hundred children of the best families in Carthage were sacrificed, and further, to obtain the god's favour, three hundred adult citizens immolated themselves. Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, was an idolator, as were also his descendants. Nineveh was the seat of his empire. As the sun and moon became early objects of worship among the Assyrians, so in later days they adored the fire as their substitute,—a form of worship that was common among the ancients in many lands.
The Assyrians published abroad that the gods of other nations could not stand before their fire-gods. A competition took place. A vast number of idols were brought from foreign nations, but as they were composed of wood, the god Ur or fire consumed them. After many contests, [Pg 26] an Egyptian priest discovered a plan of destroying the reputation of this idol, which had become the terror of alien people. He caused the hollow figure of an image to be made of perforated earth, with the holes stuffed with wax, and the large internal cavity filled with water.
He then challenged the god Ur to oppose his god Canopus,—a challenge which was accepted by the Chaldean priests. No sooner did the heat that was expected to devour the Egyptian idol begin to take effect, than, the wax being melted, the water gushed out and extinguished the fire.
Before the Assyrian empire was joined to that of Babylon, Nisroch was the god worshipped in Nineveh, and it was in the temple of this idol that the great Sennacherib was murdered. This idol was in the shape of a bird—a dove or an eagle—made, if we can believe the Jewish rabbis, from a plank of Noah's ark. The people repented at the preaching of Jonah, but it was not long before they relapsed into their former idolatry and general wickedness. Herodotus was of opinion that the Greeks derived their religion and superstition from the Egyptians; Plutarch arrived at another conclusion; while many maintained that [Pg 27] Orpheus brought the mysteries of religion into Greece.
Whoever is right, this we know, that the Greeks became so prone to worship ancient deities, and so anxious to do homage to all the divinities, that they erected altars to unknown gods, for fear they would fail in their duty to any power that could assist them in time of need. Above all gods, Jupiter was held in the highest esteem.
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He was regarded as the president of law and justice, as the protector of cities, as governor and director of their councils, and as chief of their societies. To him they ascribed thunder, and supposed it was he who delivered them from the Persians, and who assisted them to buy and sell to advantage. They erected altars to him in the courts of their houses and before their gates. Regarding him as the god of strangers, they received and entertained visitors with great ceremony. As a sign of fidelity, the right hand of fellowship was given to a stranger, to whom salt was presented, in token that his person would be safe under the entertainer's roof.
A stranger's bottle was kept, and when a visitor arrived at the door the head of the family and he joined feet together on the threshold. A cup of wine was drunk to an unknown person before his name was asked. To return respect to those in the house, the stranger did reverence to the genius of the place, and saluted the ground with a kiss. When one sojourned in a strange land, he was expected to conform to the recognised customs thereof; and on taking his departure he not only bade farewell to those with whom he had become acquainted, but took leave of their deities.
When an important agreement was entered into, Jupiter was sacrificed to, and called to witness the covenant. The Greeks purified themselves after frightful dreams; they wore charmed rings to protect themselves from witchcraft; they were accustomed to spit three times on seeing a madman; and they spat every time the devil's name was mentioned in their hearing. Stones were cast [Pg 28] at every cat and weasel met by one when commencing a journey, and the meeting of a bitch with whelps was carefully avoided.
The crowing of hens and the whistling of maidens were listened to with as great fear as the hissing of a serpent. If a rat or a mouse ate a hole in one's clothes, evil, it was thought, was about to befall the luckless owner. The people had days of good luck and of bad omen. They cut their hair, and sacrificed it to rivers. They marked the flight of birds, particularly that of the owl. On seeing this night bird flying overhead at the battle of Salamis, the soldiers considered it a good sign, took courage, and won the fight. When one was going round an altar, he took care to keep his right hand towards it.
People anointed sacred stones in token of thankfulness, as Jacob poured oil on the stone he took for a pillow at Bethel. To know if one was in love, special notice was taken of his garland at a feast, and from its appearance the wearer's feelings were supposed to be known, though it might be thought there was no necessity for such observation; for, according to an old proverb, "Love and the cough can never be concealed.
If one could not secure a lady's affections in the usual way of courting, he endeavoured to get something of hers into his possession in order to bewitch her. Having received a glove, a ring, or any other article, he operated on it in a magical way, and thus obtained his desire. If a lady's girdle was properly tied into a true-lover's knot, she could not resist loving him who performed the charming trick.
Another way of softening a woman's heart was by throwing a bitten apple into her lap. If she received it and ate the fruit, her affections were won. All the tokens and charms did not come from the gentleman's side, for it was not unusual for a lady, when she wanted to control a lover's affections, to send him charmed garlands, roses, or bitten apples. Cakes were bestowed on the bride on her marriage day; and there was a custom among the Greeks and Romans of combing her hair with a spear which had belonged to a man that lost his life in a fight, or with a weapon that had been used in killing a man.
If this was done, she was sure to have brave sons. As the bride rose to leave her father's house, she was carried over the threshold; and as she entered her husband's house, a practice similar to that observed among other nations was followed,—throwing figs and other fruit at her head, as an omen of fruitfulness. It was also the custom for a servant, on first coming into his new home, to have palm branches and various ornaments placed on his head, to secure prosperity. As the bride was led into her chamber, there was a sieve carried along with her, and a pestle hung at the door, implying that afterwards she was to assist in the household duties.
When the bride and bridegroom were together in the house, they ate an apple between them, to signify the pleasantness and harmony they were to enjoy in after life. Recourse was had to augury, the day before the wedding, to ascertain whether the married life was to be prosperous. Before the bride retired for the night, she was bathed with water drawn from nine different springs. The time of the year the Grecians deemed most lucky for marriage was the first month of winter. This was contrary to the views of the Persians, who considered spring the proper season for entering into the matrimonial state.
The Greeks thought it better to get married in the first or second quarter of the moon rather than when it was waning. General rules were at times departed from, for occasionally astrologers were consulted as to the most auspicious day and hour for the happy lovers being united. When a child came into the world, three men kept watch all night to keep away evil spirits.
One of those on guard was armed with an axe, another with a pestle, and the third with a broom. Each protector kept his implement swinging through the air, to prevent the approach of the dreaded beings. As soon as a child was born it was washed in water or wine, and wrapped in a cloth worn by the mother when she was a virgin.
In the cloth were wrought the image of the Gorgon and the snakes of that monster's head, together with the likenesses of two dragons. When the child was five days old, it was carried about the hearth to introduce it to the Penates. Arrangements were then made for naming the child. A feast was prepared, at which there were doves, thrushes, coleworts, and toasted cheese, besides many other things. The feast was kept up for seven days. The mother, in gratitude for her child, sacrificed to Diana, and the father returned thanks to the nymphs for giving him a fruitful wife. If the little stranger died in infancy, it had only a cold funeral without fire, or any burial service or mourning.
Sons, as soon as they were three years old, were registered in the tribe. A feast was then prepared, called "the shearing feast," because at that time the youngster's hair was cut, and consecrated to one of their gods. The Athenians had a law, that if any one happened to discover a dead body, whether of a friend or a stranger, he should cast earth on it three times; and the Romans had a similar law.
If a Greek omitted this duty, he was bound to make satisfaction by sacrificing a sow-pig. But some went farther, and insisted that whoever saw a dead body and did not cast dust upon it, was both a law-breaker and an accursed person. The people feared that [Pg 31] the gods underground were angry if the dead were left uncovered with their kindred dust. No greater imprecation could have been cast at an enemy than that he might not be covered with the earth.
Hence it was that the ancients stood in great fear of death on the ocean, for there their bodies could not be interred. When one went to sea, it was not uncommon for him to tie a reward to his body, that in case he should be drowned and his body found, the finder would see it buried, and so become entitled to the treasure.
Next to the happiness of being assured that the body would be buried, was that of being interred in one's own country, and not among strangers. When a man died far from home, frequent solemn invocations were made for his soul, which, it was thought, could hear and understand what was said by friends even in distant lands. At the burial of one that was slain in battle, his comrades marched three times round the burning pile or grave, shaking their arms, and throwing swords, bridles, belts, and other articles into the fire or grave after the body. When a soldier fell fighting in the field, and his body could not be found, he was honoured with the carriage of an empty bier, and funeral ceremonies as if his remains were present.
If a man killed himself, the hand with which the deed was committed was cut off, and buried in another place to that in which the other part of the body was interred. If one man killed another in a righteous cause, the slayer washed his hands and held up the weapon that had been used towards the sun, with the blood on it, to show that he feared not though the heavens as well as the earth knew what he had done.
The ancients were of opinion that if one were slain by a relative, the blood could never be thoroughly wiped off the blade that had cut down the individual. And for fear the Furies would avenge the death of one killed by a relation, amulets and spells were provided to prevent untoward events. The [Pg 32] most powerful charms were supposed to be parts of the slain individual. Therefore the fingers, toes, and other extreme parts of the body were cut off and worn under the arm-pits, to prevent the murdered person's ghost taking revenge for the unlawful deed.
In preparing a body for burial, the Greeks took a piece of money and put it into the mouth, to give to the ferryman Charon. With the money a small quantity of pudding or cheese was put in for Cerberus, to propitiate him. As a corpse was being carried out to be interred, the deceased was commended to the protection of the infernal gods. To burn a body was considered more honourable than to lay it in the cold grave, for the Greeks thought that the divine and purer part of man was carried by fire to the abode of the gods above.
This belief induced fanatical persons, when tired of life below, to burn themselves, that they might all the sooner take their flight to the regions of bliss. If a high wind sprang up when a body was being consumed by flames, it was regarded as a favourable omen.
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On the body being consumed, the fire was extinguished with red wine. After a funeral, the people fumigated the house with brimstone, and cleansed themselves by passing over a fire. They then kept a feast, or rather feasts, at which they sacrificed to Mercury, that he might carry the soul of the deceased to the realms of happiness.
At the same time the ghosts of relations were sacrificed to. Those who petitioned the gods had garlands about their necks, or green boughs in their hands. The branches were either laurel or olive, because the former signified triumph, and the latter peace and goodwill. Swine and swine's flesh were held in high esteem by the Greeks and Romans, for various reasons—one of which was that Jupiter was nursed by a sow. It was the custom to drink healths or toasts, and the last one before going to bed was to Mercury, that he might give sound sleep and [Pg 33] pleasant dreams.
Great men would, on a high occasion, drink to a favourite, and hand him the cup to keep.
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When a person drank to the health of one he loved, he partook of part of the liquor, and poured the remainder of the wine on the ground. Drinking cups in remote times were made from bulls' horns. The Greeks consecrated their horses to the sun, and before engaging in war they consulted their prophets and diviners. In particular, they paid great attention to the utterances of Egyptian priestesses kept by them. Then, similar to the manner of the Jews, Persians, and others, the Greeks consecrated to the gods, in the event of obtaining victory, portions of goods secured from the vanquished; and even relations were offered in sacrifice to the gods supposed to have given triumph to the victorious armies.
A Greek general did not think it lucky to march his forces before full moon, or until the seventh day of the month. Sacrifices were offered to the water when an army came to a river,—a custom observed by other nations. Certain words were never pronounced by the Greeks. For instance, they carefully withheld their lips from uttering "prison;" and if they happened to hear what they thought an unlucky speech, they replied, "Let it return to thine own head.
Sneezing was so superstitiously regarded, that it came to be counted among the number of gods. It was deemed inauspicious if a host sent his guests away from a feast without giving each of them a piece of cake, or such like, to take home. The cracking of a table and the spilling of wine or salt were regarded as evil omens. When a Greek ship was in danger in a storm, one of the crew or a passenger was chosen by lot, and thrown overboard, like Jonah, to appease the spirit that ruled the winds and the waves. The old Roman delusions and customs were as extraordinary as those of any nation with which history has made us acquainted.
The augurs pretended to foretell future events from the flight of birds and the chirping and feeding of fowls, and also from other appearances. Auspicium was properly the foretelling of future events from the inspection of birds; augurium from any omen or prodigy whatever. The augurs are supposed to have derived tokens of futurity chiefly from five sources—appearances in the heavens such as thunder or lightning , from the singing or flight of birds, from the feeding of fowls, from the movements of quadrupeds, and from uncommon accidents.
The birds which chiefly gave omens by sound were ravens, crows, owls, and cocks,—and those by flight, eagles and vultures. Contempt of the augurs, and neglect of their intimations, were said to be followed by dire misfortunes. Omens coming from the left were generally supposed by the Romans to be lucky. The Romans, as the Greeks had done before them, took omens from quadrupeds crossing their path or appearing in unaccustomed places.
The augurs taught the people how to draw conclusions from sneezing, spilling salt, and other accidents, called dira. Drawing of lots was frequently resorted to by the Romans wishing to pry into futurity. The lots were dice, or articles resembling those instruments of chance. They were thrown into an urn filled with water, or cast as dice in the ordinary way. If there was any difficulty in ascertaining the import of the dice throwing, the priests were employed to interpret. Future events were frequently inquired into by an inquisitive person cutting the branch of a tree into small pieces, and distinguishing them by certain marks, and then scattering them at random on a white cloth.
The searcher after knowledge having prayed to the gods, took up the slips three times, and interpreted according to the marks. Future events were often inquired into by reading the first line or passage which happened to turn up on opening a book, or by observing the stars. It was supposed to be lucky to be born under a certain star, and unlucky to come into the world under another.
Astrologers were consulted regarding one's natal hour. Fortune-tellers and books of fate were consulted on the most trivial occasions; and persons aspiring to the magistracy, after saying their prayers in the open air, had recourse to augury with the view of ascertaining whether the gods favoured their cause.
Great attention was paid by the Romans to dreams, and persons of disordered minds were supposed to possess the faculty of presaging future events. Omens of futurity were also drawn from the appearance of the entrails of animals offered in sacrifice to the gods. The flame and smoke [Pg 36] from the altar were noticed, and so were the circumstances attending the driving, felling, and bleeding of the victim. Sibylline books were inspected by appointment of the senate at perilous times, as they were supposed to contain the fate of the Roman Empire. There was something mysterious about the origin of the sibylline books.
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Matin is one of 15 who, along with the other Burdwan blast accused, was trained in both Simulia and Mokimnagar madrassas run by JMB. The development comes close on the heels of the arrest of Kodor Gazi, brother-in-law of Kausar alias Boma Mizan and an accused in the Khagragarh blast of Matin had escaped from Burdwan hours after the blast. He was given eight days of transit remand.
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