Birth of Gods
The prehistoric people faced several challenges, and weather was the biggest one. Favourable season provided them with food, water and comfort; during bad weather, they faced the scarcity of the same. Climatologists have discovered that the earth witnessed the last Ice Age between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago; people had largely inadequate protection against that extreme cold weather. They spent their nights in the natural caves or huts made of bamboos, wild grasses, bones or skins. Scientists have found that humans invented leathers to wear and footwear in this period. Hunger, fear of wild animals and winter nights were the prime challenges for the people of the Ice Age.
Humans had learnt to ignite fire by striking two stones well before the Ice Age. Now, people must have perceived fire as a power that could provide them warmth like the sun. During nights, fire was the only possible source of warmth, light and protection from wild animals. Igniting fire by striking two stones was a difficult and time-consuming task; it was a game of chance. Therefore, people must have considered each ignition to be a miracle or blessing of some divine power.
The Ice Age people maintained a running fire round the clock and used it to ignite a new fire every time. After sunset, they sat around the fireplace to keep themselves warm, and its smoke kept wild animals away. And they must have begun several human activities such as storytelling, companionship, gossip, teaching, music or singing. The utility of fire and difficulty encountered in igniting must have elevated hearths to a divine status. The Ice Age people, for obvious reasons, must have worshipped hearths. There is much historic evidence of fire worship all over the world.
Apart from fire, the Ice Age people would have eagerly waited for the sunrise to seek warmth. As soon as they saw the saffron light of dawn, they stood still for a sunbath. Their head and hands faced the rising sun, as if they were worshipping it. During many millennia of the last Ice Age, most people must have spent their mornings in this posture.
People must have appreciated that they were dependent upon sunlight for warming, gathering, hunting and protecting them from wild animals. At the same time, they had no other equally potent source of light and warmth. After prolong observations, people must have concluded that their life would be impossible without sunlight. The above visualization indicates that during the last Ice Age, people might have identified the sun as their saviour.
At some point in time—we do not know exactly when this happened—people in various far-flung parts of the world developed an instinct. Whenever people encountered some power beyond their control that could harm or help them, they began to worship that power. They believed that worship protected them and sought blessing of that power. All over the globe, people adopted similar methods of worship: folding hands, bowing, kneeling, floral offering, praying, sacrificing, etc. During prayers, they sang flattering songs to seek the mercy of that power.
After exhaustive discussions and observations, they must have surmised that the sun was their saviour and was beyond their control. After acquiring this knowledge, humans must have initiated the practice of worshipping the sun to seek its mercy. There is enough evidence to assert that ancient people all over the world chanted flattering poems dedicated to the sun. Historians believe that people composed and chanted these poems millennia before their transcription. This indicates that solar worship must have begun in the last Ice Age. The most concrete evidence of prehistoric solar worship is Stonehenge at Salisbury in England.
Apart from cold, people faced wind, cloud, thunder, lightning and rain that too without clothes and houses. Therefore, storms made human life miserable in the Ice Age. After each storm, priests and others must have begun discussing the reasons behind the destruction. Consequently, the priest must have imagined some power in the sky that comes in the form of thunder and lightning. They would have looked upon storm as the malevolent act or the wrath of that divine power residing in the sky—the sky god. People and priests must have perceived that the wrath of the sky god could endanger their lives. At the same time, the sky god was beyond their control. After this knowledge, they must have concluded that worship was the only remedy to subside the anger of such a power.
History mentions that this sky god frightened humans all over the world. This god was the most worshipped god of ancient period and ruled the world for many millennia. As late as the year 1752, Benjamin Franklin discovered the shocking power of electricity in lightning. Before him, many people considered lightning as an expression of the wrath of the sky god.
Today, it is obvious that ancient people worshipped the sun, the sky and fire; they chanted glorifying hymns addressed to these powers. Gradually, priests invented the art of writing and wrote these poems of worship. The oldest literature of the world comprised the flattering poems dedicated to the sun, the sky, fire and other local gods.
Prehistoric people learnt the religious activities in the same way they learnt to make tools, to ignite fire, to speak language and do many more things. Some divine power did not command or reveal these prayers or rituals: these developed spontaneously in thousands of human groups all over the world. In fact, people worshipped anything that could help or harm them. The next chapter will describe the challenges faced by the human race at the end of the last Ice Age.