Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

FOOTPRINTS OF THE GREAT.

ARDLY any region of the world is without MA

certain consecrated footprints, believed to have been left by some great religious teacher ; over

; them temples are built, and around them pious offerings are suspended. In one place it is the footprint of Indra, in another of Krishna, in another of Buddha, and there is a famous footprint of Vishnu in Kashmir. On the summit of what is called Adam's Peak in Ceylon, there is a footprint to which all sects lay claim,- Buddhists calling it Buddha's ; Sivaites, Siva's ; Mahommetans, Adam's; Christians, St. Thomas's. This is the Sri-pada, or “beautiful footstep,'-a natural formation with but a

, -a faint resemblance to a footstep. Suggested by this, perhaps is the Phrabat (holy footprint) of Siam, which is artificial but very ancient, is five feet long by two broad, and on which has been carved nearly every symbol of oriental religion. It is the reputed footstep of Buddha, who is believed by his worshippers to have had all these sacred emblems upon his blessed feet. This footprint was a sacred thing before the Christian era (the toe of it was kissed by pilgrims 1,000 years before the Pope's). There are the artificial footprints on Mount Olivet, said to have been left by Christ as he ascended. Near Rome, in the Church of San Sebastiano outside the city, I saw in marble alleged footprints of Christ. Jesus is said to have appeared to Peter, who said "Lord, whither goest thou ?” and Jesus answered, “To Rome, to be crucified afresh !! The two prints of bare feet are generally surrounded by worshippers. At Poitiers in France there are two footprints of Christ in the Church of St. Radigonde, made when he appeared to her there to inform her of her coming martyrdom. There are even so-called footprints of Jesus in the Mosque of Omar; though among Mahommetans the most sacred footprints are on a stone in the temple of Mecca, said to be those of Ishmael, though others ascribe them to Abraham.

Now, while the superstition of sacred footprints may be traced from the East borne to us by Christian legend, we can track them in purely pagan survival, as they came by Indo-Germanic migration. In many parts of Germany there are formations, somewhat footshaped, which are attributed to demons, or giants, or sometimes to heroes. There are two immense natural hollows of this kind in the Hartz mountains, near the village of Magdesprung, where a giantess leaped down from the clouds to save one of her maidens from danger, and left these two footprints 200 feet apart. But it is in the corresponding folklore of England that we find the oriental accent of these stories. In this country we rarely find stones of a similar character called “footprints ;" though the footprint

[ocr errors]

on rock in the isle of Thanet was once very famous. Where St. Augustine first stepped ashore, when he came bringing the Christian religion to England, the rock was said to have received the mark of his foot like wax; and, said old Fuller, “ the Romanists will cry shame on our hard hearts if our obstinate unbelief, more stubborn than stone, will not as pliably receive the impression of this miracle." But in this country there are many curious hollowed or round stones which are called the devil's quoits. There is one I have seen in Dorset, which the devil pitched from the Portland rocks to Abbotsbury. Another huge stone in Scotland is said to have been pitched there from the distant highlands by Robert Bruce. But that such stones should be called quoits connects them with a long line of myths about the quoit hurled by mighty heroes, at the end of which line we come to the footstep of Buddha in Siam in the centre of which is the sacred quoit, or Chakkra, now adored above all things by Buddhists as symbol of the Law. Crossing the ocean you may find on a rock beside the sea in New England the large hollow called the Devil's Footstep. The pilgrims escaped bishops, but the devil followed them; and so it is that what began in the East as the track of a descended god, ends on the other hemisphere as the footstep of the devil.

But if you pass a few hundred miles into the interior of America you leave behind the last step of the Eastern superstition only to come upon its origin—in nature. In the farthest Alleghanies there is a mountain cleft

from summit to base, 1,300 feet, by a tributary of the Ohio river; and on the brow of that gorge a huge rock which the early red men carved all over with signs. The Indians call it the Cows' Rock: on it are graved the feet of all manner of beasts and birds, and human feet, and waving serpents, and many other forms. And what was this rock? Almost certainly it was an aboriginal newspaper. There the savage carved for others to recognise the token of what herd he had found, the direction his steps had taken, the danger to be avoided—whether the serpent or the special track of some hostile tribe-marked in gigantic size. The Indians were long since driven away from that region; but, had they been left there, those tracks might even now—their original use being lost-be worshipped as the footprints of invisible beings or legendary heroes.

Peter Lesley, the American geologist, helps us to put ourselves in the place of those primitive men. The wild pioneer swims the stream and rests upon the rock beyond. The wet mark of his foot is beside him, just the thing to tell the wanderers who follow with women and children the point where he landed. The wet footprint would soon vanish, but with his rude flint he carves it in simple lithograph, and there it remains. Or, possibly, he may do this for amusement, while he waits for others to approach. If afterward a settlement springs up there the use of the track will have ceased, its origin and meaning will be forgotten; and wherever real meaning is lost superstitution will always be ready to supply one of its own. So the footstep is attributed to god or demon.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »