Max Mi??ller was a German scholar that studied the oldest Indian texts, the Vedas. The Vedas are considered to be some of the most beautiful poems ever written, and as Max studied them, he found that the writers of these poems did not write about gods in general, but that their “gods” represented certain forces of nature. As Max delved deeper and deeper into the text of the Vedas, he came to the conclusion that religion arose to what he deemed “a disease of nature”.
His hypothesis was that the first poets did not actually believe in God or in gods, but they used humanistic characteristics to personify the forces of nature and used symbols and Sanskrit in the poems. For example, they called the dawn “a beautiful woman putting on her makeup”. Later generations did not see the Sanskrit and symbols as metaphors of the language, but took the Vedas literally, thereby creating gods and goddesses from the poems. But what if Max had studied a different religion?
Would he have gotten the same conclusion that he had for his theory of religion? If Max Mi??ller would have studied the oral stories from the Kachina, or Indian Pueblo, he would have found a theory that was in some way related to the theory he had created while studying the Vedas. His theory would be reinforced by the similarities in the oral tradition of the cultures, nature worship, and the personification of nature into gods and goddesses.
Mi??ller’s work with the Vedas gave way to his belief that the first Indians did not believe in gods, but that later generations of the children of the Indian people did not see the metaphors as what they were, metaphors, but saw the words of the poems as what was true. Although, there is a touch of uncertainty when it comes to the creation of everything: “Who knows it for certain; who can proclaim it here; namely out of what it was born and where from his creations issued? The gods appeared only later-after the creation of the world. Who knows, then, out of what it has evolved! (Molloy 65). Largely in part that the Vedas were an oral religion for thousands of years, the same could be said if Mi??ller had studied the Kachina tales passed down by the Pueblo Indians.
The Pueblo Indians passed down oral stories from generation to generation, same as the Vedas, and due to the nature of oral stories it can be tough to decide if whether all of the stories started out this way or if by “disease of language” changed gradually with each re-telling. For instance, “Frank Hamilton Cushing, who lived among the Zunis for several years… elated to them the story of the Cock and Mouse… years later, a Zuni surprised Cushing by retelling the same story, or rather the Zuni version of it… ” (Hodge 61). The Pueblo’s Kachina stories could have started out with the Pueblo Indians worshipping nature, and humanizing nature by providing names and significance to certain objects. But as the years passed, and generations died away, new stories were born amidst the old, giving certain things in nature a being that created it, or a god that ruled it.
If Mi??ller would have listened to the oral stories of the Pueblo Indians, he would have discovered nature worship deeply embedded in each tale. The Vedas have a father of the gods, Dyai??s Pitr, whose name can be interpreted into “shining father”. But due to the fact that there are no capital letters in the Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, it makes it difficult to assume that these are names of gods, and not names given to different aspects of nature, such as the sun, moon, trees, rivers, et cetera. The Pueblos also have a “shining father” in their tales-the Sun God called Tawa Kachina.
Due largely to the fact that the sun replenishes the earth with its light thus springing forth life, and yet can also create great draughts with too many rays of light for too long, it is almost no wonder the Pueblos began to worship the sun. By giving it a name, the Pueblo were able to call to it, asking for more rain, or more sun when needed. Also, the Pueblo do not kill needlessly, unless in dire need for food: “Then they offer prayer-meal and prayer-sticks to the spirit of the deer and other game animals… hen the deer is brought in, it is covered with a woman’s shawl, with beads around its neck… ” (Hodge 58).
Another expression of nature worship is of specific animals. The bee is believed to bring the winds from each direction, which will bring the rain, because bees fly in all directions. The bear is considered to be one of the most sacred of animals and therefore never the object of a hunt, and only if by accident a bear were to die would the Pueblos use the meat. Even then, “They do not kill a bear except under the stress of great hunger, and then only by asking the bear’s pardon” (Hodge 60).
If Mi??ller were to have studied Kachina tales such as this detailing nature worship in such a way, he would have still found his theory to be true, thus that later generations created the gods and goddesses worshipped. As Mi??ller dove deeper and deeper into the sacred text of the Vedas, he concluded that the creators of the poems did not believe in any sort of gods or goddesses, but later generations created them. Only afterward did the personification of nature become gods and goddesses, as stated, “… The gods appeared only later-after the creation of the world.
Who knows, then, out of what it has evolved? ” (Molloy 65). The same can be found when looking deeply into the tales of the Kachina, the gods of the Pueblo Indians. “In ancient times, the Divine Ones, wishing that the world should be well guarded by those keen of sight and scent, changed the medicine-men who came to this world into Beast Gods. They changed one into the Bear to guard the west. One was converted into the Mountain Lion to guard the north. Another was made into the Badger to guard the south. Another was transformed into the Wolf to preside over the east.
A fifth was changed into the Eagle to guard the upper regions, and another became the Mole to guard the lower regions. Others were changed into Rattlesnakes and Ants to preside with wisdom over the earth” (Hodge 60). Another example is when the Pueblos use prayer-sticks, they offer them up “to the sun, the moon, and the rain-makers… made with downy feathers of the eagle, the most sacred of birds. After planting these sticks, the one who offers them to the Sky gods must not eat any animal food for four days” (Hodge 57).
Many of the animals found in nature are formed into gods, such as the Eagle Kachina, who in the story “Why Kachinas Wear Eagle Feathers” undresses out of his eagle feathers and saves a little boy (Hodge 6). The stories and tales of the Kachina gods show the humanization of the animals found in the wild, so it can be seen that if Mi??ller would have heard the Kachina stories, he would have come to the same theory that the religion began with the worship of animals and nature, then gradually turned into the gods revered by the Pueblos to this day.
In conclusion, Mi??ller’s theory of religion can easily be applied to the Kachina culture. Through time, it can be seen that each tale was grafted and shaped by word of mouth, as well as the Vedas, and it should also be noted that the worship of nature created the gods the Pueblos personified into beings. If Mi??ller would have decided to listen to the oral tales of the Pueblo Indians instead of read the Vedas, he could have very well arrived at the same theory he concluded by dissecting the sacred texts of the Vedas.