Human Animals Part 5

Mrs. Heron stalks in with solemnity and stateliness, and cranes her neck to find something she has mislaid. She has a prying face, sharp nose, and small projecting chin.

Lion faces, tiger faces, cat faces, fox faces, fish faces, bird faces, sheep faces, and rat faces meet us at every turn.

Sheep men are mild in appearance, beaming with amiability, truthfulness, and freedom from cant. Ox faces are more robust, with wider and broader features, and a certain flatness of face. People of this appearance have good dispositions, good appetite, are stubborn in bargains perhaps, but reliable and trustworthy.

Hercules was depicted with a powerful neck, a small head, short and curly hair, which bore a striking resemblance to a vigorous and untamable bull, whilst Herod was like a fox, with thin face, cunning eye, restless head and neck, artful and deceptive with highly strung nerves.

The weasel man is thin, tall, sharp-eyed, always in a hurry, and the nose that augurs badly is that which is strikingly similar to the beak of a parrot. The parrot-man is filled with a sense of his own importance and is an endless prattler. Those who have a high and narrow forehead and a nose that terminates like the beak of a crow are sure to be subject to vile passions.

Beaumarchais said wittily, "Boire sans soif et faire l'amour en tout temps, c'est ce que distingue l'homme de la bete."

Artists, too, have attempted to depict the animal spirit that dwells in human beings. Sir Joshua Reynolds painted two portraits of young girls, one holding a cage with a mouse in it, the other a kitten. The former is called Muscipula,[24] the latter Felina, and it may be surmised that he intended to show in their features the imitative sympathy young children have with young animals, for Muscipula's expression is that of the mouse.

Charles Le Brun, the artist, worked out the same idea in a less symbolic and more practical manner, from the physiognomical aspect, in his series of drawings illustrative of the relation between human physiognomy and brute creation which depict man's features transformed in many animal countenances.

"Man is a talkative and religious ape," says J. Howard Moore in "The Universal Kinship,"[25] and goes on to point out that while man has expressed his opinion about animals constantly, he has never had the opportunity of hearing what animals have to say about human beings.

Although we know what a lion looks like when painted by a man, "human eyes have never yet been illumined by the sardonic lineaments of a man painted by a lion."[26]

Emerson expressed something of the same idea when confronting the inmates of a stable or menagerie. "What compassion," he cries, "do these imprisoning forms awaken! You may sometimes catch the glance of a dog which lays a kind of claim to sympathy and brotherhood. What!

somewhat of me down there? Does he know it? Can he, too, as I, go out of himself, see himself, perceive relations? We fear lest the poor brute should gain one dreadful glimpse of his condition, should learn in some moment the tough limitation of this fettering organisation. It was in this glance that Ovid got the hint of his metamorphosis; Calidasa of his transmigration of souls.

"For these fables are our own thoughts carried out. What keeps these wild tales in circulation for thousands of years? What but the wild fact to which they suggest some approximation of theory! Nor is the fact quite solitary, for in varieties of our own species where organisation seems to predominate over the genius of man, in Kalmuck or Malay or Flathead Indian, we are sometimes pained by the same feeling; and sometimes, too, the sharp-witted prosperous white man awakens it. In a mixed assembly we have chanced to see not only a glance at Abdiel so grand and keen, but also in other faces the features of the mink, of the bull, of the rat, and the barn-door fowl."[27]

The great Chinese Epic "A Journey to Heaven," depicts the gradual evolution of the beast into man and the transformation of character from unpromising materials into saints worthy of heaven. The monkey's ambition, the pig's love of ease and the horse's one talent of bearing burdens are all made to play their part in working out the salvation of man. One of the chief characters in the story is Sun Wu King, who personates the irrepressible human mind, an inventive genius full of resource who begins with monkey inquisitiveness to discover the reasons of things and presently develops into a man of science and an inventor.

The pig impersonates man's lower nature and demons represent the untamed passions of man. One demon having once been a clever, handsome man, became extremely ugly with a snout like a pig and long flapping ears. He tells his story thus: "Since I was born I have been stupid and loved ease night and day. I received the pill of nine Transformations and studied all the arts by which man could be united to the powers above and below, till at last I was able to fly with a light but strong body and was a guest in the celestial Court." Thence he was thrown out for misdemeanours and made to take the shape of a pig, but gradually he was weaned to better things and lost his animal propensities.


[21] Ruskin, "Frondes Agrestes," 1899, pp. 146-9.

[22] Moore, T. H., "The Universal Kinship," 1906, pp. 233-4.

[23] Mulford, Prentice, "The Gift of the Spirit," 1904. "Re-embodiment Universal in Nature," pp. 170-1.

[24] The original painting is at Holland House.

[25] 1906, p. 17.

[26] _Ibid._, p. 233.

[27] Emerson, "Works," 1903, Vol. IV. "Demonology," pp. 12-13.



According to the tradition of the scapegoat, the evil or lower side of man can be transferred from him to an animal. In this process of removing disease or sin, the bad spirit is expelled from the human being and enters the form of some beast. In India the scape-animal may be a pig, buffalo, a goat or a black cock.

The Jews had the custom of bringing a goat to the door of the Tabernacle and the high priest laid the sins of the people upon the animal, sending it thereafter away with its burden into the wilderness.

In Thibet a human scapegoat, dressed in goat's skin, is kicked out of the community as soon as the people have confessed their sins, and wealthy Moors keep a wild boar in their stables as a vehicle for the evil spirits to enter into which might otherwise injure their horses.

The Kaffirs sometimes take a goat in the presence of a sick man and confess sins over him. Then a few drops of the patient's blood are allowed to fall on the animal's head and the sickness is thought to be transferred, the animal being turned loose over the veld. The medicine-men of the Baganda races perform a similar operation, taking hold of the animal and tying upon it some herbs they have passed over the patient's body. Then the animal is driven away to waste land, and the sick man is supposed to recover. The Baganda people transmit the sins of a dead man to a calf, the animal being led three times round the bier and the hand of the dead man being placed on its head, by which act the calf takes upon itself the evil done by the deceased.

Then the scapegoat is driven on to waste land, where it cannot contaminate anybody.

Thus Christ, in the country of the Gadarenes, permitted devils to use swine as scapegoats when driving them out of two men possessed. The unclean spirits besought the favour of Him, and the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

St. Regulus, archbishop of Arles and Senlis, was once confronted by a man possessed of a devil. The devil besought him, saying, "If you cast me out suffer me to enter into the body of this ass," and the bishop said, "Go!" When the devil was about to enter into the ass, the animal, aware of his intention, made the sign of the cross on the ground with his fore-foot and the devil found it impossible to obtain his body and had to pass on, leaving the ass unmolested.

In another scapegoat story the devil leaves the possessed man in the form of two worms:

Jean de la Roque was a young nobleman of vicious habits. St. Francis of Paula hearing of the youth's evil ways sent a messenger to arrest him and had him locked up in a monastery. Roque was furious at this manner of tampering with his liberty and, vowing vengeance on those who detained him, beat on the door of his cell and uttered loud cries. At last, exhausted by passion, he lay down on the floor and slept. Then St.

Francis entered the cell and, waking the young sinner, said to him coldly, "How now, friend, what thinkest thou? Pull from thine ear that which torments thee so." The young man, still half asleep, put his hand to his right ear and drew forth a hideous hairy worm of monstrous size.

Then putting his hand to his left ear he drew forth another similar worm. Thus the devil by which he had been possessed came forth in the form of two worms, and the young man, returning to himself, threw himself at the saint's feet and prayed for pardon. He was formally admitted to the monastery and remained there as a monk until 1520.

Birds, too, have been employed to carry away any evil,--from leprosy to freckles.

The idea of the scapegoat is closely bound up with, and typifies the substitution of the Christ for sinners and His eternal removal of their transgressions.

In the legends of the saints, also, animals take upon themselves the burden of sins committed and no human beings are more closely related to the brute creation than the holy men, who frequently treated them as though they were brothers. St. Francis of Assisi spoke to birds and animals in the same tone that he used to his friends, and he often went into solitudes and preached to the cattle of the field, the fishes of the sea, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the forest; dumb creatures which listened attentively to the words of wisdom which fell from his lips. One day when he was preaching at Alviano, the swallows were twittering so loudly that he grew annoyed. Breaking off suddenly in his discourse, he said, "My sisters, the swallows, please keep peace while I am preaching." After that they disturbed him no more.

There are many stories in which saints are assisted in their work by animals. St. Gentius made a wolf which had eaten one of his oxen help him with the ploughing. St. Maidoc, having neither ox, horse nor ass, ordered a sea-cow to come from the ocean, which she did and, being harnessed to the plough, she furrowed his fields. When St. Malo settled down near Saintes, the neighbours made him a present of an ass, which was one day killed by a wolf. St. Malo said to the wild beast, "Since you have killed my ass you must serve me instead." The wolf performed his duties admirably for many years without a grumble.

A similar story is told about St. Santes of Urbino.

When St. Ronan was accused of being a vampire, Grallo, King of Quimper, horrified to hear of such a monster, set dogs upon him to prove the truth of the statement. As the savage animals rushed towards him the saint raised his right hand, made the sign of the cross, and said, "Stop! in the name of the Lord." The animals became gentle at once and fawned on the saint.

There are legends of the souls of saints being borne away by animals, of the souls of saints taking flight in the shape of birds, of saints changing from one animal form to another, of saints being approached by the devil in the form of animals, and of saints being worshipped in animal shape.

At the moment of the death of St. Vincent Ferrer, the windows of his bedchamber opened of their own accord and a number of winged creatures no larger than butterflies, white in colour and very beautiful, flew into the house. As the saint drew his last breath these winged creatures disappeared suddenly, leaving a delightful perfume behind them. Everyone was convinced that the butterflies were angels who had come to carry away the pure soul of the saint to paradise.

The same saint was said to be able to assume wings, whenever he wished, and, in the form of a bird-angel, to fly through the air in the hope of consoling and comforting anyone who was in trouble and required his assistance.

St. Benedict (A.D. 480-543) was tempted by the devil in the form of a blackbird. The saint had retired to a cavern in Subiaco, about fifty miles west of Rome, and the evil one resolved to do away with a holy man who might prove a great enemy to his kingdom upon earth. Taking the form of a bird, he hovered around the hermit's dwelling-place, sometimes approaching so close that the saint had only to put out his hand to touch the bird. Becoming suspicious of the bird's motives, however, St. Benedict made the sign of the cross and the evil spirit vanished instantly.

St. Peter of Verona was also set upon by the devil, this time in the shape of a horse. The holy man attracted large crowds to his church, and the devil, growing jealous, rushed into the midst of the congregation in the form of a black horse, stamping upon many present and causing a panic of fear among the rest. The saint made the sign of the cross and the phantom vanished in a cloud of smoke.

Sometimes the devil appears to saints in the form of a bull, and can work serious bodily harm, as in the case of St. Catherine of Sweden, daughter of prince Ulpho, who was brought up in the convent of Risburgh. The abbess was at matins one morning and the devil, assuming the form of a bull, tossed the child out of its cradle and left her half-dead in the middle of the floor. The abbess found her in this condition on her return, and the bull, addressing the holy woman, cried, "I should certainly have finished my work if God had permitted it," and then he vanished. The devil, according to tradition, has often been seen in the form of a dog,[28] and some of the saints were annoyed by such phantoms.

Simon Magus, the sorcerer, sent unto Peter the Apostle certain devils in the likeness of dogs to devour him. St. Peter, "not looking for such currish guests, consecrates certain morsels of bread and throws them to the dog-devils, and by the power of that bread they are all put to flight."[29]

When St. Stanislaus Kostka was preparing for admission into the society of Jesus he was taken ill and the devil appeared to him in the guise of a great black dog. The demon took the sick man three times by the throat and tried to throttle him, but Stanislaus after some difficulty succeeded in driving him away by making the sign of the cross.

Devils in the guise of rooks or crows annoyed St. Agnes of Mount Pulciano by attacking her with beaks, claws, and wings. The young girl with great presence of mind invoked the name of the Saviour and the whole flock flew off.

Chapter end

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