Myth, Ritual and Religion

Andrew Lang

First published in 1887.

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Table of Contents

  1. Systems of Mythology.

    Definitions of religion — Contradictory evidence —“Belief in spiritual beings”— Objection to Mr. Tylor’s definition — Definition as regards this argument — Problem: the contradiction between religion and myth — Two human moods — Examples — Case of Greece — Ancient mythologists — Criticism by Eusebius — Modern mythological systems — Mr. Max Muller — Mannhardt.

  2. New System Proposed.

    Chap. I. recapitulated — Proposal of a new method: Science of comparative or historical study of man — Anticipated in part by Eusebius, Fontenelle, De Brosses, Spencer (of C. C. C., Cambridge), and Mannhardt — Science of Tylor — Object of inquiry: to find condition of human intellect in which marvels of myth are parts of practical everyday belief — This is the savage state — Savages described — The wild element of myth a survival from the savage state — Advantages of this method — Partly accounts for wide DIFFUSION as well as ORIGIN of myths — Connected with general theory of evolution — Puzzling example of myth of the water-swallower — Professor Tiele’s criticism of the method — Objections to method, and answer to these — See Appendix B.

  3. The Mental Condition of Savages — Confusion with Nature — Totemism.

    The mental condition of savages the basis of the irrational element in myth — Characteristics of that condition: (1) Confusion of all things in an equality of presumed animation and intelligence; (2) Belief in sorcery; (3) Spiritualism; (4) Curiosity; (5) Easy credulity and mental indolence — The curiosity is satisfied, thanks to the credulity, by myths in answer to all inquiries — Evidence for this — Mr. Tylor’s opinion — Mr. Im Thurn — Jesuit missionaries’ Relations — Examples of confusion between men, plants, beasts and other natural objects — Reports of travellers — Evidence from institution of totemism — Definition of totemism — Totemism in Australia, Africa, America, the Oceanic Islands, India, North Asia — Conclusions: Totemism being found so widely distributed, is a proof of the existence of that savage mental condition in which no line is drawn between men and the other things in the world. This confusion is one of the characteristics of myth in all races.

  4. The Mental Condition of Savages — Magic — Metamorphosis — Metaphysic — Psychology.

    Claims of sorcerers — Savage scientific speculation — Theory of causation — Credulity, except as to new religious ideas —“Post hoc, ergo propter hoc”— Fundamental ideas of magic — Examples: incantations, ghosts, spirits — Evidence of rank and other institutions in proof of confusions of mind exhibited in magical beliefs.

  5. Nature Myths.

    Savage fancy, curiosity and credulity illustrated in nature myths — In these all phenomena are explained by belief in the general animation of everything, combined with belief in metamorphosis — Sun myths, Asian, Australian, African, Melanesian, Indian, Californian, Brazilian, Maori, Samoan — Moon myths, Australian, Muysca, Mexican, Zulu, Macassar, Greenland, Piute, Malay — Thunder myths — Greek and Aryan sun and moon myths — Star myths — Myths, savage and civilised, of animals, accounting for their marks and habits — Examples of custom of claiming blood kinship with lower animals — Myths of various plants and trees — Myths of stones, and of metamorphosis into stones, Greek, Australian and American — The whole natural philosophy of savages expressed in myths, and survives in folk-lore and classical poetry; and legends of metamorphosis.

  6. Non-aryan Myths of the Origin of the World and of Man.

    Confusions of myth — Various origins of man and of things — Myths of Australia, Andaman Islands, Bushmen, Ovaherero, Namaquas, Zulus, Hurons, Iroquois, Diggers, Navajoes, Winnebagoes, Chaldaeans, Thlinkeets, Pacific Islanders, Maoris, Aztecs, Peruvians — Similarity of ideas pervading all those peoples in various conditions of society and culture.

  7. Indo-aryan Myths — Sources of Evidence.

    Authorities — Vedas — Brahmanas — Social condition of Vedic India — Arts — Ranks — War — Vedic fetishism — Ancestor worship — Date of Rig-Veda Hymns doubtful — Obscurity of the Hymns — Difficulty of interpreting the real character of Veda — Not primitive but sacerdotal — The moral purity not innocence but refinement.

  8. Indian Myths of the Origin of the World and of Man.

    Comparison of Vedic and savage myths — The metaphysical Vedic account of the beginning of things — Opposite and savage fable of world made out of fragments of a man — Discussion of this hymn — Absurdities of Brahmanas — Prajapati, a Vedic Unkulunkulu or Qat — Evolutionary myths — Marriage of heaven and earth — Myths of Puranas, their savage parallels — Most savage myths are repeated in Brahmanas.

  9. Greek Myths of the Origin of the World and Man.

    The Greeks practically civilised when we first meet them in Homer — Their mythology, however, is full of repulsive features — The hypothesis that many of these are savage survivals — Are there other examples of such survival in Greek life and institutions? — Greek opinion was constant that the race had been savage — Illustrations of savage survival from Greek law of homicide, from magic, religion, human sacrifice, religious art, traces of totemism, and from the mysteries — Conclusion: that savage survival may also be expected in Greek myths.

  10. Greek Cosmogonic Myths.

    Nature of the evidence — Traditions of origin of the world and man — Homeric, Hesiodic and Orphic myths — Later evidence of historians, dramatists, commentators — The Homeric story comparatively pure — The story in Hesiod, and its savage analogues — The explanations of the myth of Cronus, modern and ancient — The Orphic cosmogony — Phanes and Prajapati — Greek myths of the origin of man — Their savage analogues.

  11. Savage Divine Myths.

    The origin of a belief in GOD beyond the ken of history and of speculation — Sketch of conjectural theories — Two elements in all beliefs, whether of backward or civilised races — The Mythical and the Religious — These may be coeval, or either may be older than the other — Difficulty of study — The current anthropological theory — Stated objections to the theory — Gods and spirits — Suggestion that savage religion is borrowed from Europeans — Reply to Mr. Tylor’s arguments on this head — The morality of savages.

  12. Gods of the Lowest Races.

    Savage religion mysterious — Why this is so — Australians in 1688 — Sir John Lubbock — Roskoff — Evidence of religion — Mr. Manning — Mr. Howitt — Supreme beings — Mr. Tylor’s theory of borrowing — Reply — Morality sanctioned — Its nature — Satirical rite —“Our Father”— Mr. Ridley on a creator — Mr. Langloh Parker — Dr. Roth — Conclusion — Australians’ religious.

  13. Gods of the Lowest Races.

    Bushmen gods — Cagn, the grasshopper? — Hottentot gods —“Wounded knee,” a dead sorcerer — Melanesian gods — Qat and the spider — Aht and Maori beasts-gods and men-gods — Samoan form of animal-gods — One god incarnate in many animal shapes — One for each clan — They punish the eating of certain animals.

  14. American Divine Myths

    Novelty of the “New World”— Different stages of culture represented there — Question of American Monotheism — Authorities and evidence cited — Myths examined: Eskimo, Ahts, Thlinkeets, Iroquois, the Great Hare — Dr. Brinton’s theory of the hare — Zuni myths — Transition to Mexican mythology.

  15. Mexican Divine Myths

    European eye-witnesses of Mexican ritual — Diaz, his account of temples and Gods__Sahagun, his method — Theories of the god Huitzilopochtli — Totemistic and other elements in his image and legend — Illustrations from Latin religion — “God-eating”— The calendar — Other gods — Their feasts and cruel ritual — Their composite character — Parallels from ancient classical peoples — Moral aspects of Aztec gods.

  16. The Mythology of Egypt

    Antiquity of Egypt — Guesses at origin of the people — Chronological views of the religion — Permanence and changes — Local and syncretic worship — Elements of pure belief and of totemism — Authorities for facts — Monuments and Greek reports — Contending theories of modern authors — Study of the gods, their beasts, their alliances and mutations — Evidence of ritual — A study of the Osiris myth and of the development of Osiris-Savage and theological elements in the myth — Moral aspect of the religion — Conclusion.

  17. Gods of the Aryans of India.

    Difficulties of the study — Development of clan-gods — Departmental gods-Divine patronage of morality — Immorality mythically attributed to gods — Indra — His love of Soma — Scandal about Indra — Attempts to explain Indra as an elemental god — Varuna — Ushas — The Asvins — Their legend and theories about it — Tvashtri — The Maruts — Conclusions arrived at.

  18. Greek Divine Myths

    Gods in myth, and God in religion — The society of the gods like that of men in Homer — Borrowed elements in Greek belief — Zeus — His name — Development of his legend — His bestial shapes explained — Zeus in religion — Apollo — Artemis — Dionysus — Athene — Aphrodite — Hermes — Demeter — Their names, natures, rituals and legends — Conclusions.

  19. Heroic and Romantic Myths.

    A new class of myths — Not explanatory — Popular tales — Heroic and romantic myths —(1) Savage tales —(2) European Contes —(3) Heroic myths — Their origin — Diffusion — History of their study — Grimm’s theory — Aryan theory — Benfey’s theory — Ancient Egyptian stories examined — Wanderung’s theorie — Conclusion.

Preface to New Impression.

When this book first appeared (1886), the philological school of interpretation of religion and myth, being then still powerful in England, was criticised and opposed by the author. In Science, as on the Turkish throne of old, “Amurath to Amurath succeeds”; the philological theories of religion and myth have now yielded to anthropological methods. The centre of the anthropological position was the “ghost theory” of Mr. Herbert Spencer, the “Animistic” theory of Mr. E. R. Tylor, according to whom the propitiation of ancestral and other spirits leads to polytheism, and thence to monotheism. In the second edition (1901) of this work the author argued that the belief in a “relatively supreme being,” anthropomorphic was as old as, and might be even older, than animistic religion. This theory he exhibited at greater length, and with a larger collection of evidence, in his Making of Religion.

Since 1901, a great deal of fresh testimony as to what Mr. Howitt styles the “All Father” in savage and barbaric religions has accrued. As regards this being in Africa, the reader may consult the volumes of the New Series of the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, which are full of African evidence, not, as yet, discussed, to my knowledge, by any writer on the History of Religion. As late as Man, for July, 1906, No. 66, Mr. Parkinson published interesting Yoruba legends about Oleron, the maker and father of men, and Oro, the Master of the Bull Roarer.

From Australia, we have Mr. Howitt’s account of the All Father in his Native Tribes of South-East Australia, with the account of the All Father of the Central Australian tribe, the Kaitish, in North Central Tribes of Australia, by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen (1904), also The Euahlayi Tribe, by Mrs. Langley Parker (1906). These masterly books are indispensable to all students of the subject, while, in Messrs. Spencer and Gillen’s work cited, and in their earlier Native Tribes of Central Australia, we are introduced to savages who offer an elaborate animistic theory, and are said to show no traces of the All Father belief.

The books of Messrs. Spencer and Gillen also present much evidence as to a previously unknown form of totemism, in which the totem is not hereditary, and does not regulate marriage. This prevails among the Arunta “nation,” and the Kaitish tribe. In the opinion of Mr. Spencer (Report Australian Association for Advancement of Science, 1904) and of Mr. J. G. Frazer (Fortnightly Review, September, 1905), this is the earliest surviving form of totemism, and Mr. Frazer suggests an animistic origin for the institution. I have criticised these views in The Secret of the Totem (1905), and proposed a different solution of the problem. (See also “Primitive and Advanced Totemism” in Journal of the Anthropological Institute, July, 1906.) In the works mentioned will be found references to other sources of information as to these questions, which are still sub judice. Mrs. Bates, who has been studying the hitherto almost unknown tribes of Western Australia, promises a book on their beliefs and institutions, and Mr. N. W. Thomas is engaged on a volume on Australian institutions. In this place the author can only direct attention to these novel sources, and to the promised third edition of Mr. Frazer’s The Golden Bough.

A. L.

Preface to New Edition.

The original edition of Myth, Ritual and Religion, published in 1887, has long been out of print. In revising the book I have brought it into line with the ideas expressed in the second part of my Making of Religion (1898) and have excised certain passages which, as the book first appeared, were inconsistent with its main thesis. In some cases the original passages are retained in notes, to show the nature of the development of the author’s opinions. A fragment or two of controversy has been deleted, and chapters xi. and xii., on the religion of the lowest races, have been entirely rewritten, on the strength of more recent or earlier information lately acquired. The gist of the book as it stands now and as it originally stood is contained in the following lines from the preface of 1887: “While the attempt is made to show that the wilder features of myth survive from, or were borrowed from, or were imitated from the ideas of people in the savage condition of thought, the existence — even among savages — of comparatively pure, if inarticulate, religious beliefs is insisted on throughout”. To that opinion I adhere, and I trust that it is now expressed with more consistency than in the first edition. I have seen reason, more and more, to doubt the validity of the “ghost theory,” or animistic hypothesis, as explanatory of the whole fabric of religion; and I present arguments against Mr. Tylor’s contention that the higher conceptions of savage faith are borrowed from missionaries.1 It is very possible, however, that Mr. Tylor has arguments more powerful than those contained in his paper of 1892. For our information is not yet adequate to a scientific theory of the Origin of Religion, and probably never will be. Behind the races whom we must regard as “nearest the beginning” are their unknown ancestors from a dateless past, men as human as ourselves, but men concerning whose psychical, mental and moral condition we can only form conjectures. Among them religion arose, in circumstances of which we are necessarily ignorant. Thus I only venture on a surmise as to the germ of a faith in a Maker (if I am not to say “Creator”) and Judge of men. But, as to whether the higher religious belief, or the lower mythical stories came first, we are at least certain that the Christian conception of God, given pure, was presently entangled, by the popular fancy of Europe, in new Marchen about the Deity, the Madonna, her Son, and the Apostles. Here, beyond possibility of denial, pure belief came first, fanciful legend was attached after. I am inclined to surmise that this has always been the case, and, in the pages on the legend of Zeus, I show the processes of degeneration, of mythical accretions on a faith in a Heaven-God, in action. That “the feeling of religious devotion” attests “high faculties” in early man (such as are often denied to men who “cannot count up to seven”), and that “the same high mental faculties . . . would infallibly lead him, as long as his reasoning powers remained poorly developed, to various strange superstitions and customs,” was the belief of Mr. Darwin.2 That is also my view, and I note that the lowest savages are not yet guilty of the very worst practices, “sacrifice of human beings to a blood-loving God,” and ordeals by poison and fire, to which Mr. Darwin alludes. “The improvement of our science” has freed us from misdeeds which are unknown to the Andamanese or the Australians. Thus there was, as regards these points in morals, degeneracy from savagery as society advanced, and I believe that there was also degeneration in religion. To say this is not to hint at a theory of supernatural revelation to the earliest men, a theory which I must, in limine disclaim.

In vol. ii. p. 19 occurs a reference, in a note, to Mr. Hartland’s criticism of my ideas about Australian gods as set forth in the Making of Religion. Mr. Hartland, who kindly read the chapters on Australian religion in this book, does not consider that my note on p. 19 meets the point of his argument. As to the Australians, I mean no more than that, AMONG endless low myths, some of them possess a belief in a “maker of everything,” a primal being, still in existence, watching conduct, punishing breaches of his laws, and, in some cases, rewarding the good in a future life. Of course these are the germs of a sympathetic religion, even if the being thus regarded is mixed up with immoral or humorous contradictory myths. My position is not harmed by such myths, which occur in all old religions, and, in the middle ages, new myths were attached to the sacred figures of Christianity in poetry and popular tales.

Thus, if there is nothing “sacred” in a religion because wild or wicked fables about the gods also occur, there is nothing “sacred” in almost any religion on earth.

Mr. Hartland’s point, however, seems to be that, in the Making of Religion, I had selected certain Australian beliefs as especially “sacred” and to be distinguished from others, because they are inculcated at the religious Mysteries of some tribes. His aim, then, is to discover low, wild, immoral myths, inculcated at the Mysteries, and thus to destroy my line drawn between religion on one hand and myth or mere folk-lore on the other. Thus there is a being named Daramulun, of whose rites, among the Coast Murring, I condensed the account of Mr. Howitt.3 From a statement by Mr. Greenway4 Mr. Hartland learned that Daramulun’s name is said to mean “leg on one side” or “lame”. He, therefore, with fine humour, speaks of Daramulun as “a creator with a game leg,” though when “Baiame” is derived by two excellent linguists, Mr. Ridley and Mr. Greenway, from Kamilaroi baia, “to make,” Mr. Hartland is by no means so sure of the sense of the name. It happens to be inconvenient to him! Let the names mean what they may, Mr. Hartland finds, in an obiter dictum of Mr. Howitt (before he was initiated), that Daramulun is said to have “died,” and that his spirit is now aloft. Who says so, and where, we are not informed,5 and the question is important.

For the Wiraijuri, IN THEIR MYSTERIES, tell a myth of cannibal conduct of Daramulun’s, and of deceit and failure of knowledge in Baiame.6 Of this I was unaware, or neglected it, for I explicitly said that I followed Mr. Howitt’s account, where no such matter is mentioned. Mr. Howitt, in fact, described the Mysteries of the Coast Murring, while the narrator of the low myths, Mr. Matthews, described those of a remote tribe, the Wiraijuri, with whom Daramulun is not the chief, but a subordinate person. How Mr. Matthews’ friends can at once hold that Daramulun was “destroyed” by Baiame (their chief deity), and also that Daramulun’s voice is heard at their rites, I don’t know.7 Nor do I know why Mr. Hartland takes the myth of a tribe where Daramulun is “the evil spirit who rules the night,”8 and introduces it as an argument against the belief of a distant tribe, where, by Mr. Howitt’s account, Daramulun is not an evil spirit, but “the master” of all, whose abode is above the sky, and to whom are attributed powers of omnipotence and omnipresence, or, at any rate, the power “to do anything and to go anywhere. . . . To his direct ordinances are attributed the social and moral laws of the community.”9 This is not “an evil spirit”! When Mr. Hartland goes for scandals to a remote tribe of a different creed that he may discredit the creed of the Coast Murring, he might as well attribute to the Free Kirk “the errors of Rome”. But Mr. Hartland does it!10 Being “cunning of fence” he may reply that I also spoke loosely of Wiraijuri and Coast Murring as, indifferently, Daramulunites. I did, and I was wrong, and my critic ought not to accept but to expose my error. The Wiraijuri Daramulun, who was annihilated, yet who is “an evil spirit that rules the night,” is not the Murring guardian and founder of recognised ethics.

But, in the Wiraijuri mysteries, the master, Baiame, deceives the women as to the Mysteries! Shocking to US, but to deceive the women as to these arcana, is, to the Australian mind in general, necessary for the safety of the world. Moreover, we have heard of a lying spirit sent to deceive prophets in a much higher creed. Finally, in a myth of the Mystery of the Wiraijuri, Baiame is not omniscient. Indeed, even civilised races cannot keep on the level of these religious conceptions, and not to keep on that level is — mythology. Apollo, in the hymn to Hermes, sung on a sacred occasion, needs to ask an old vine-dresser for intelligence. Hyperion “sees all and hears all,” but needs to be informed, by his daughters, of the slaughter of his kine. The Lord, in the Book of Job, has to ask Satan, “Whence comest thou?” Now for the sake of dramatic effect, now from pure inability to live on the level of his highest thought, man mythologises and anthropomorphises, in Greece or Israel, as in Australia.

It does not follow that there is “nothing sacred” in his religion. Mr. Hartland offers me a case in point. In Mrs. Langloh Parker’s Australian Legendary Tales (pp. 11, 94), are myths of low adventures of Baiame. In her More Australian Legendary Tales (pp. 84-99), is a very poetical and charming aspect of the Baiame belief. Mr. Hartland says that I will “seek to put” the first set of stories out of court, as “a kind of joke with no sacredness about it”. Not I, but the Noongahburrah tribe themselves make this essential distinction. Mrs. Langloh Parker says:11 “The former series” (with the low Baiame myths) “were all such legends as are told to the black picaninnies; among the present are some they would not be allowed to hear, touching as they do on sacred things, taboo to the young”. The blacks draw the line which I am said to seek to draw.

In yet another case12 grotesque hunting adventures of Baiame are told in the mysteries, and illustrated by the sacred temporary representations in raised earth. I did not know it; I merely followed Mr. Howitt. But I do not doubt it. My reply is, that there was “something sacred” in Greek mysteries, something purifying, ennobling, consoling. For this Lobeck has collected (and disparaged) the evidence of Pindar, Sophocles, Cicero and many others, while even Aristophanes, as Prof. Campbell remarks, says: “We only have bright sun and cheerful life who have been initiated and lived piously in regard to strangers and to private citizens”.13 Security and peace of mind, in this world and for the next, were, we know not how, borne into the hearts of Pindar and Sophocles in the Mysteries. Yet, if we may at all trust the Fathers, there were scenes of debauchery, as at the Mysteries of the Fijians (Nanga) there was buffoonery (“to amuse the boys,” Mr. Howitt says of some Australian rites), the story of Baubo is only one example, and, in other mysteries than the Eleusinian, we know of mummeries in which an absurd tale of Zeus is related in connection with an oak log. Yet surely there was “something sacred” in the faith of Zeus! Let us judge the Australians as we judge Greeks. The precepts as to “speaking the straightforward truth,” as to unselfishness, avoidance of quarrels, of wrongs to “unprotected women,” of unnatural vices, are certainly communicated in the Mysteries of some tribes, with, in another, knowledge of the name and nature of “Our Father,” Munganngaur. That a Totemistic dance, or medicine-dance of Emu hunting, is also displayed14 at certain Mysteries of a given tribe, and that Baiame is spoken of as the hero of this ballet, no more deprives the Australian moral and religious teaching (at the Mysteries) of sacred value, than the stupid indecency whereby Baubo made Demeter laugh destroys the sacredness of the Eleusinia, on which Pindar, Sophocles and Cicero eloquently dwell. If the Australian mystae, at the most solemn moment of their lives, are shown a dull or dirty divine ballet d’action, what did Sophocles see, after taking a swim with his pig? Many things far from edifying, yet the sacred element of religious hope and faith was also represented. So it is in Australia.

These studies ought to be comparative, otherwise they are worthless. As Mr. Hartland calls Daramulun “an eternal Creator with a game leg” who “died,” he may call Zeus an “eternal father, who swallowed his wife, lay with his mother and sister, made love as a swan, and died, nay, was buried, in Crete”. I do not think that Mr. Hartland would call Zeus “a ghost-god” (my own phrase), or think that he was scoring a point against me, if I spoke of the sacred and ethical characteristics of the Zeus adored by Eumaeus in the Odyssey. He would not be so humorous about Zeus, nor fall into an ignoratio elenchi. For my point never was that any Australian tribe had a pure theistic conception unsoiled and unobliterated by myth and buffoonery. My argument was that AMONG their ideas is that of a superhuman being, unceasing (if I may not say eternal), a maker (if I may not say a Creator), a guardian of certain by no means despicable ethics, which I never proclaimed as supernormally inspired! It is no reply to me to say that, in or out of Mysteries, low fables about that being are told, and buffooneries are enacted. For, though I say that certain high ideas are taught in Mysteries, I do not think I say that in Mysteries no low myths are told.

I take this opportunity, as the earliest, to apologise for an error in my Making of Religion concerning a passage in the Primitive Culture of my friend Mr. E. B. Tylor. Mr. Tylor quoted15 a passage from Captain John Smith’s History of Virginia, as given in Pinkerton, xiii. pp. 13-39, 1632. In this passage no mention occurs of a Virginian deity named Ahone but “Okee,” another and more truculent god, is named. I observed that, if Mr. Tylor had used Strachey’s Historie of Travaile (1612), he would have found “a slightly varying copy” of Smith’s text of 1632, with Ahone as superior to Okee. I added in a note (p. 253): “There is a description of Virginia, by W. Strachey, including Smith’s remarks published in 1612. Strachey interwove some of this work with his own MS. in the British Museum.” Here, as presently will be shown, I erred, in company with Strachey’s editor of 1849, and with the writer on Strachey in the Dictionary of National Biography. What Mr. Tylor quoted from an edition of Smith in 1632 had already appeared, in 1612, in a book (Map of Virginia, with a description of the Countrey) described on the title-page as “written by Captain Smith,” though, in my opinion, Smith may have had a collaborator. There is no evidence whatever that Strachey had anything to do with this book of 1612, in which there is no mention of Ahone. Mr. Arber dates Strachey’s own MS. (in which Ahone occurs) as of 1610-1615.16 I myself, for reasons presently to be alleged, date the MS. mainly in 1611-1612. If Mr. Arber and I are right, Strachey must have had access to Smith’s MS. before it was published in 1612, and we shall see how he used it. My point here is that Strachey mentioned Ahone (in MS.) before Smith’s book of 1612 was published. This could not be gathered from the dedication to Bacon prefixed to Strachey’s MS., for that dedication cannot be earlier that 1618.17 I now ask leave to discuss the evidence for an early pre-Christian belief in a primal Creator, held by the Indian tribes from Plymouth, in New England, to Roanoke Island, off Southern Virginia.

The God Ahone.

An insertion by a manifest plagiary into the work of a detected liar is not, usually, good evidence. Yet this is all the evidence, it may be urged, which we have for the existence of a belief, in early Virginia, as to a good Creator, named Ahone. The matter stands thus: In 1607-1609 the famed Captain John Smith endured and achieved in Virginia sufferings and adventures. In 1608 he sent to the Council at home a MS. map and description of the colony. In 1609 he returned to England (October). In May, 1610, William Strachey, gent., arrived in Virginia, where he was “secretary of state” to Lord De la Warr. In 1612 Strachey and Smith were both in England. In that year Barnes of Oxford published A Map of Virginia, with a description, etc., “written by Captain Smith,” according to the title-page. There was annexed a compilation from various sources, edited by “W. S.,” that is, NOT William Strachey, but Dr. William Symonds. In the same year, 1612, or in 1611, William Strachey wrote his Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia, at least as far as page 124 of the Hakluyt edition of 1849.18

If Strachey, who went out with Lord De la Warr as secretary in 1610, returned with him (as is likely), he sailed for England on 28th March, 1611. In that case, he was in England in 1611, and the passages cited leave it dubious whether he wrote his book in 1611, 1612, or in both years.19

Strachey embodies in his work considerable pieces of Smith’s Map of Virginia and Description, written in 1608, and published in 1612. He continually deserts Smith, however, adding more recent information, reflections and references to the ancient classics, with allusions to his own travels in the Levant. His glossary is much more extensive than Smith’s, and he inserts a native song of triumph over the English in the original.20 Now, when Strachey comes to the religion of the natives21 he gives eighteen pages (much of it verbiage) to five of Smith’s.22 What Smith (1612) says of their chief god I quote, setting Strachey’s version (1611-1612) beside it.

SMITH (Published, 1612).

But their chiefe God they worship is the Diuell. Him they call Oke, and serue him more of feare than loue. They say they have conference with him, and fashion themselues as near to his shape as they can imagine. In their Temples, they have his image euile favouredly carved, and then painted, and adorned with chaines, copper, and beades; and covered with a skin, in such manner as the deformity may well suit with such a God. By him is commonly the sepulcher of their Kings.

STRACHEY (Written, 1611-12).

But their chief god they worship is no other, indeed, then the divell, whome they make presentments of, and shadow under the forme of an idoll, which they entitle Okeus, and whome they worship as the Romans did their hurtful god Vejovis, more for feare of harme then for hope of any good; they saie they have conference with him, and fashion themselves in their disguisments as neere to his shape as they can imagyn. In every territory of a weroance is a temple and a priest, peradventure two or thrie; yet happie doth that weroance accompt himself who can detayne with him a Quiyough-quisock, of the best, grave, lucky, well instructed in their misteryes, and beloved of their god; and such a one is noe lesse honoured then was Dianae’s priest at Ephesus, for whome they have their more private temples, with oratories and chauneells therein, according as is the dignity and reverence of the Quiyough-quisock, which the weroance wilbe at charge to build upon purpose, sometyme twenty foote broad and a hundred in length, fashioned arbour wyse after their buylding, having comonly the dore opening into the east, and at the west end a spence or chauncell from the body of the temple, with hollow wyndings and pillers, whereon stand divers black imagies, fashioned to the shoulders, with their faces looking down the church, and where within their weroances, upon a kind of biere of reedes, lye buryed; and under them, apart, in a vault low in the ground (as a more secrett thing), vailed with a matt, sitts their Okeus, an image ill-favouredly carved, all black dressed, with chaynes of perle, the presentment and figure of that god (say the priests unto the laity, and who religiously believe what the priests saie) which doth them all the harme they suffer, be yt in their bodies or goods, within doores or abroad; and true yt is many of them are divers tymes (especyally offendors) shrewdly scratched as they walke alone in the woods, yt may well be by the subtyle spirit, the malitious enemy to mankind, whome, therefore, to pacefie and worke to doe them good (at least no harme) the priests tell them they must do these and these sacrifices unto (them) of these and these things, and thus and thus often, by which meanes not only their owne children, but straungers, are sometimes sacrificed unto him: whilst the great god (the priests tell them) who governes all the world, and makes the sun to shine, creating the moone and stars his companyons, great powers, and which dwell with him, and by whose virtues and influences the under earth is tempered, and brings forth her fruiets according to her seasons, they calling Ahone; the good and peaceable god requires no such dutyes, nor needes be sacrificed unto, for he intendeth all good unto them, and will doe noe harme, only the displeased Okeus, looking into all men’s accions, and examining the same according to the severe scale of justice, punisheth them with sicknesse, beats them, and strikes their ripe corn with blastings, stormes, and thunder clapps, stirrs up warre, and makes their women falce unto them. Such is the misery and thraldome under which Sathan hath bound these wretched miscreants.

I began by calling Strachey a plagiary. The reader will now observe that he gives far more than he takes. For example, his account of the temples is much more full than that of Smith, and he adds to Smith’s version the character and being of Ahone, as what “the priests tell them”. I submit, therefore, that Strachey’s additions, if valid for temples, are not discredited for Ahone, merely because they are inserted in the framework of Smith. As far as I understand the matter, Smith’s Map of Virginia (1612) is an amended copy, with additions, by Smith or another writer of that description, which he sent home to the Council of Virginia, in November, 1608.23 To the book of 1612 was added a portion of “Relations” by different hands, edited by W. S., namely, Dr. Symonds. Strachey’s editor, in 1849, regarded W. S. as Strachey, and supposed that Strachey was the real author of Smith’s Map of Virginia, so that, in his Historie of Travaile, Strachey merely took back his own. He did not take back his own; he made use of Smith’s MS., not yet published, if Mr. Arber and I rightly date Strachey’s MS. at 1610-15, or 1611-12. Why Strachey acted thus it is possible to conjecture. As a scholar well acquainted with Virginia, and as Secretary for the Colony, he would have access to Smith’s MS. of 1608 among the papers of the Council, before its publication. Smith professes himself “no scholer”.24 On the other hand, Strachey likes to show off his Latin and Greek. He has a curious, if inaccurate, knowledge of esoteric Greek and Roman religious antiquities, and in writing of religion aims at a comparative method. Strachey, however, took the trouble to copy bits of Smith into his own larger work, which he never gave to the printers.

Now as to Ahone. It suits my argument to suppose that Strachey’s account is no less genuine than his description of the temples (illustrated by a picture by John White, who had been in Virginia in 1589), and the account of the Great Hare of American mythology.25 This view of a Virginian Creator, “our chief god” “who takes upon him this shape of a hare,” was got, says Strachey, “last year, 1610,” from a brother of the Potomac King, by a boy named Spilman, who says that Smith “sold” him to Powhattan.26 In his own brief narrative Spelman (or Spilman) says nothing about the Cosmogonic Legend of the Great Hare. The story came up when Captain Argoll was telling Powhattan’s brother the account of creation in Genesis (1610).

Now Strachey’s Great Hare is accepted by mythologists, while Ahone is regarded with suspicion. Ahone does not happen to suit anthropological ideas, the Hare suits them rather better. Moreover, and more important, there is abundant corroborative evidence for Oke and for the Hare, Michabo, who, says Dr. Brinton, “was originally the highest divinity recognised by them, powerful and beneficent beyond all others, maker of the heavens and the world,” just like Ahone, in fact. And Dr. Brinton instructs us that Michabo originally meant not Great Hare, but “the spirit of light”.27 Thus, originally, the Red Men adored “The Spirit of Light, maker of the heavens and the world”. Strachey claims no more than this for Ahone. Now, of course, Dr. Brinton may be right. But I have already expressed my extreme distrust of the philological processes by which he extracts “The Great Light; spirit of light,” from Michabo, “beyond a doubt!” In my poor opinion, whatever claims Michabo may have as an unique creator of earth and heaven —“God is Light,”— he owes his mythical aspect as a Hare to something other than an unconscious pun. In any case, according to Dr. Brinton, Michabo, regarded as a creator, is equivalent to Strachey’s Ahone. This amount of corroboration, valeat quantum, I may claim, from the Potomac Indians, for the belief in Ahone on the James River. Dr. Brinton is notoriously not a believer in American “monotheism”.28

The opponents of the authenticity of Ahone, however, will certainly argue: “For Oke, or Oki, as a redoubted being or spirit, or general name for such personages, we have plentiful evidence, corroborating that of Smith. But what evidence as to Ahone corroborates that of Strachey?” I must confess that I have no explicit corroborative evidence for Ahone, but then I have no accessible library of early books on Virginia. Now it is clear that if I found and produced evidence for Ahone as late as 1625, I would be met at once with the retort that, between 1610 and 1625, Christian ideas had contaminated the native beliefs. Thus if I find Ahone, or a deity of like attributes, after a very early date, he is of no use for my purpose. Nor do I much expect to find him. But do we find Winslow’s Massachusetts God, Kiehtan, named AFTER 1622 (“I only ask for information”), and if we don’t, does that prevent Mr. Tylor from citing Kiehtan, with apparent reliance on the evidence?29

Again, Ahone, though primal and creative, is, by Strachey’s account, a sleeping partner. He has no sacrifice, and no temple or idol is recorded. Therefore the belief in Ahone could only be discovered as a result of inquiry, whereas figures of Oke or Okeus, and his services, were common and conspicuous.30 As to Oke, I cannot quite understand Mr. Tylor’s attitude. Summarising Lafitau, a late writer of 1724, Mr. Tylor writes: “The whole class of spirits or demons, known to the Caribs by the name of cemi, in Algonkin as manitu, in Huron as oki, Lafitau now spells with capital letters, and converts them each into a supreme being”.31 Yet in Primitive Culture, ii., 342, 1891, Mr. Tylor had cited Smith’s Okee (with a capital letter) as the “chief god” of the Virginians in 1612. How can Lafitau be said to have elevated oki into Oki, and so to have made a god out of “a class of spirits or demons,” in 1724, when Mr. Tylor had already cited Smith’s Okee, with a capital letter and as a “chief god,” in 1612? Smith, rebuked for the same by Mr. Tylor, had even identified Okee with the devil. Lafitau certainly did not begin this erroneous view of Oki as a “chief god” among the Virginians. If I cannot to-day produce corroboration for a god named Ahone, I can at least show that, from the north of New England to the south of Virginia, there is early evidence, cited by Mr. Tylor, for a belief in a primal creative being, closely analogous to Ahone. And this evidence, I think, distinctly proves that such a being as Ahone was within the capacity of the Indians in these latitudes. Mr. Tylor must have thought in 1891 that the natives were competent to a belief in a supreme deity, for he said, “Another famous native American name for the supreme deity is Oki”.32 In the essay of 1892, however, Oki does not appear to exist as a god’s name till 1724. We may now, for earlier evidence, turn to Master Thomas Heriot, “that learned mathematician” “who spoke the Indian language,” and was with the company which abandoned Virginia on 18th June, 1586. They ranged 130 miles north and 130 miles north-west of Roanoke Island, which brings them into the neighbourhood of Smith’s and Strachey’s country. Heriot writes as to the native creeds: “They believe that there are many gods which they call Mantoac, but of different sorts and degrees. Also that there is one chiefe God that hath beene from all eternitie, who, as they say, when he purposed first to make the world, made first other gods of a principall order, to be as instruments to be used in the Creation and Government to follow, and after the Sunne, Moone and Starres as pettie gods, and the instruments of the other order more principall. . . . They thinke that all the gods are of humane shape,” and represent them by anthropomorphic idols. An idol, or image, “Kewasa” (the plural is “Kewasowok”), is placed in the temples, “where they worship, pray and make many offerings”. Good souls go to be happy with the gods, the bad burn in Popogusso, a great pit, “where the sun sets”. The evidence for this theory of a future life, as usual, is that of men who died and revived again, a story found in a score of widely separated regions, down to our day, when the death, revival and revelation occurred to the founder of the Arapahoe new religion of the Ghost Dance. The belief “works for righteousness”. “The common sort . . . have great care to avoyde torment after death, and to enjoy blesse,” also they have “great respect to their Governors”.

This belief in a chief god “from all eternitie” (that is, of unexplained origin), may not be convenient to some speculators, but it exactly corroborates Strachey’s account of Ahone as creator with subordinates. The evidence is of 1586 (twenty-six years before Strachey), and, like Strachey, Heriot attributes the whole scheme of belief to “the priestes”. “This is the sum of their religion, which I learned by having speciall familiaritie with some of their priests.”33 I see no escape from the conclusion that the Virginians believed as Heriot says they did, except the device of alleging that they promptly borrowed some of Heriot’s ideas and maintained that these ideas had ever been their own. Heriot certainly did not recognise the identity. “Through conversing with us they were brought into great doubts of their owne (religion), and no small admiration of ours; of which many desired to learne more than we had the meanes for want of utterance in their language to expresse.” So Heriot could not be subtle in the native tongue. Heriot did what he could to convert them: “I did my best to make His immortall glory knowne”. His efforts were chiefly successful by virtue of the savage admiration of our guns, mathematical instruments, and so forth. These sources of an awakened interest in Christianity would vanish with the total destruction and discomfiture of the colony, unless a few captives, later massacred, taught our religion to the natives.34

I shall cite another early example of a New England deity akin to Ahone, with a deputy, a friend of sorcerers, like Okee. This account is in Smith’s General History of New England, 1606-1624. We sent out a colony in 1607; “they all returned in the yeere 1608,” esteeming the country “a cold, barren, mountainous rocky desart”. I am apt to believe that they did not plant the fructifying seeds of grace among the natives in 1607-1608. But the missionary efforts of French traders may, of course, have been blessed; nor can I deny that a yellow-haired man, whose corpse was found in 1620 with some objects of iron, may have converted the natives to such beliefs as they possessed. We are told, however, that these tenets were of ancestral antiquity. I cite E. Winslow, as edited by Smith (1623-24):—

“Those where in this Plantation (New Plymouth) say Kiehtan35 made all the other Gods: also one man and one woman, and with them all mankinde, but how they became so dispersed they know not. They say that at first there was no king but Kiehtan, that dwelleth far westerly above the heavens, whither all good men go when they die, and have plentie of all things. The bad go thither also and knock at the door, but (‘the door is shut’) he bids them go wander in endless want and misery, for they shall not stay there. They never saw Kiehtan,36 but they hold it a great charge and dutie that one race teach another; and to him they make feasts and cry and sing for plenty and victory, or anything that is good.

“They have another Power they call Hobamock, which we conceive the Devill, and upon him they call to cure their wounds and diseases; when they are curable he persuades them he sent them, because they have displeased him; but, if they be mortal, then he saith, ‘Kiehtan sent them’; which makes them never call on him in their sickness. They say this Hobamock appears to them sometimes like a man, a deer, or an eagle, but most commonly like a snake; not to all but to their Powahs to cure diseases, and Undeses . . . and these are such as conjure in Virginia, and cause the people to do what they list.” Winslow (or rather Smith editing Winslow here), had already said, “They believe, as do the Virginians, of many divine powers, yet of one above all the rest, as the Southern Virginians call their chief god Kewassa (an error), and that we now inhabit Oke. . . . The Massachusetts call their great god Kiehtan.”37

Here, then, in Heriot (1586), Strachey (1611-12) and Winslow (1622), we find fairly harmonious accounts of a polydaemonism with a chief, primal, creative being above and behind it; a being unnamed, and Ahone and Kiehtan.

Is all this invention? Or was all this derived from Europeans before 1586, and, if so, from what Europeans? Mr. Tylor, in 1873, wrote, “After due allowance made for misrendering of savage answers, and importation of white men’s thoughts, it can hardly be judged that a divine being, whose characteristics are often so unlike what European intercourse would have suggested, and who is heard of by such early explorers among such distant tribes, could be a deity of foreign origin”. NOW, he “can HARDLY be ALTOGETHER a deity of foreign origin”.38 I agree with Mr. Tylor’s earlier statement. In my opinion Ahone — Okeus, Kiehtan — Hobamock, correspond, the first pair to the usually unseen Australian Baiame (a crystal or hypnotic vision of Baiame scarcely counts), while the second pair, Okeus and Hobamock, answer to the Australian familiars of sorcerers, Koin and Brewin; the American “Powers” being those of peoples on a higher level of culture. Like Tharramulun where Baiame is supreme, Hobamock appears as a snake (Asclepius).

For all these reasons I am inclined to accept Strachey’s Ahone as a veritable element in Virginian belief. Without temple or service, such a being was not conspicuous, like Okee and other gods which had idols and sacrifices.

As far as I see, Strachey has no theory to serve by inventing Ahone. He asks how any races “if descended from the people of the first creation, should maintain so general and gross a defection from the true knowledge of God”. He is reduced to suppose that, as descendants of Ham, they inherit “the ignorance of true godliness.” (p. 45). The children of Shem and Japheth alone “retained, until the coming of the Messias, the only knowledge of the eternal and never-changing Trinity”. The Virginians, on the other hand, fell heir to the ignorance, and “fearful and superstitious instinct of nature” of Ham (p. 40). Ahone, therefore, is not invented by Strachey to bolster up a theory (held by Strachey), of an inherited revelation, or of a sensus numinis which could not go wrong. Unless a proof be given that Strachey had a theory, or any other purpose, to serve by inventing Ahone, I cannot at present come into the opinion that he gratuitously fabled, though he may have unconsciously exaggerated.

What were Strachey’s sources? He was for nine months, if not more, in the colony: he had travelled at least 115 miles up the James River, he occasionally suggests modifications of Smith’s map, he refers to Smith’s adventures, and his glossary is very much larger than Smith’s; its accuracy I leave to American linguists. Such a witness, despite his admitted use of Smith’s text (if it is really all by Smith throughout) is not to be despised, and he is not despised in America.39 Strachey, it is true, had not, like Smith, been captured by Indians and either treated with perfect kindness and consideration (as Smith reported at the time), or tied to a tree and threatened with arrows, and laid out to have his head knocked in with a stone; as he alleged sixteen years later! Strachey, not being captured, did not owe his release (1) to the magnanimity of Powhattan, (2) to his own ingenious lies, (3) to the intercession of Pocahontas, as Smith, and his friends for him, at various dates inconsistently declared. Smith certainly saw more of the natives at home: Strachey brought a more studious mind to what he could learn of their customs and ideas; and is not a convicted braggart. I conjecture that one of Strachey’s sources was a native named Kemps. Smith had seized Kemps and Kinsock in 1609. Unknown authorities (Powell? and Todkill?) represent these two savages as “the most exact villaines in the country”.40 They were made to labour in fetters, then were set at liberty, but “little desired it”.41 Some “souldiers” ran away to the liberated Kemps, who brought them back to Smith.42 Why Kemps and his friend are called “two of the most exact villains in the country” does not appear. Kemps died “of the surveye” (scurvey, probably) at Jamestown, in 1610-11. He was much made of by Lord De la Warr, “could speak a pretty deal of our English, and came orderly to church every day to prayers”. He gave Strachey the names of Powhattan’s wives, and told him, truly or not, that Pocahontas was married, about 1610, to an Indian named Kocoum.43 I offer the guess that Kemps and Machumps, who came and went from Pocahontas, and recited an Indian prayer which Strachey neglected to copy out, may have been among Strachey’s authorities. I shall, of course, be told that Kemps picked up Ahone at church. This did not strike Strachey as being the fact; he had no opinion of the creed in which Ahone was a factor, “the misery and thraldome under which Sathan has bound these wretched miscreants”. According to Strachey, the priests, far from borrowing any part of our faith, “feare and tremble lest the knowledge of God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ be taught in these parts”.

Strachey is therefore for putting down the priests, and, like Smith (indeed here borrowing from Smith), accuses them of sacrificing children. To Smith’s statement that such a rite was worked at Quiyough-cohanock, Strachey adds that Sir George Percy (who was with Smith) “was at, and observed” a similar mystery at Kecoughtan. It is plain that the rite was not a sacrifice, but a Bora, or initiation, and the parallel of the Spartan flogging of boys, with the retreat of the boys and their instructors, is very close, and, of course, unnoted by classical scholars except Mr. Frazer. Strachey ends with the critical remark that we shall not know all the certainty of the religion and mysteries till we can capture some of the priests, or Quiyough-quisocks.

Students who have access to a good library of Americana may do more to elucidate Ahone. I regard him as in a line with Kiehtan and the God spoken of by Heriot, and do not believe (1) that Strachey lied; (2) that natives deceived Strachey; (3) that Ahone was borrowed from “the God of Captain Smith”.

1 Tylor, “Limits of Savage Religion.” Journal of the Anthropological Institute, vol. xxi.

2 Descent of Man, p. 68, 1871.

3 J. A. I., xiii. pp. 440-459.

4 Ibid., xxi. p. 294.

5 Ibid., xiii. p. 194.

6 J. A. I., xxv. p. 297.

7 Ibid., May, 1895, p. 419.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., xiii. pp. 458, 459.

10 Folk-Lore, ix., No. iv., p. 299.

11 More Legendary Tales, p. xv.

12 J. A. I., xxiv. p. 416.

13 Religion in Greek Literature, p. 259. It is to be regretted that the learned professor gives no references. The Greek Mysteries are treated later in this volume.

14 See A picture of Australia, 1829, p. 264.

15 Prim. Cult. ii. p. 342.

16 Arber’s Smith, p. cxxxiii.

17 Hakluyt Society, Strachey, 1849, pp. xxi., xxii.

18 For proof see p. 24. third line from foot of page, where 1612 is indicated. Again, see p. 98, line 5, where “last year” is dated as “1610, about Christmas,” which would put Strachey’s work at this point as actually of 1611; prior, that is, to Smith’s publication. Again, p. 124, “this last year, myself being at the Falls” (of the James River), “I found in an Indian house certain clawes . . . which I brought away and into England”.

19 Mr. Arber dates the MS. “1610-1615,” and attributes to Strachey Laws for Virginia, 1612.

20 Strachey, pp. 79-80. He may have got the song from Kemps or Machumps, friendly natives.

21 Pp. 82-100.

22 Arber, pp. 74-79.

23 Arber, p. 444.

24 Arber, p. 442.

25 Strachey, p. 98-100.

26 “Spilman’s Narrative,” Arber, cx.-cxiv.

27 Myths of the New World, p. 178.

28 Myths of the New World, p. 53.

29 Primitive Culture, ii. p. 342.

30 Okee’s image, as early as 1607, was borne into battle against Smith, who captured the god (Arber, p. 393). Ahone was not thus en evidence.

31 Journal of Anthrop. Inst., Feb., 1892, pp. 285, 286.

32 Prim. Cult,, ii. p. 342.

33 According to Strachey, Heriot could speak the native language.

34 Heriot’s Narrative, pp. 37-39. Quaritch, London, 1893.

35 In 1873 Mr. Tylor regarded Dr. Brinton’s etymology of Kiehtan as = Kittanitowit = “Great Living Spirit,” as “plausible”. In his edition of 1891 he omits this etymology. Personally I entirely distrust the philological theories of the original sense of old divine names as a general rule.

36 “They never saw Kiehtan.” So, about 1854, “The common answer of intelligent black fellows on the Barwon when asked if they know Baiame . . . is this: ‘Kamil zaia zummi Baiame, zaia winuzgulda’; ‘I have not seen Baiame, I have heard or perceived him’. If asked who made the sky, the earth, the animals and man, they always answer ‘Baiame’.” Daramulun, according to the same authority in Lang’s Queensland, was the familiar of sorcerers, and appeared as a serpent. This answers, as I show, to Hobamock the subordinate power to Kiehtan in New England and to Okee, the familiar of sorcerers in Virginia. (Ridley, J. A. I., 1872, p. 277.)

37 Arber, pp. 767, 768.

38 Prim. Cult., ii. 340, 1873, 1892.

39 Arber, cxvii. Strachey mentions that (before his arrival in Virginia) Pocahontas turned cart-wheels, naked, in Jamestown, being then under twelve, and not yet wearing the apron. Smith says she was ten in 1608, but does not mention the cart-wheels. Later, he found it convenient to put her age at twelve or thirteen in 1608. Most American scholars, such as Mr. Adams, entirely distrust the romantic later narratives of Smith.

40 The Proeeedings, etc., by W. S. Arber, p. 151.

41 Ibid., p. 155.

42 Ibid., p. 157.

43 Strachey, pp. 54, 55.

Chapter 1.

Systems of Mythology.

Definitions of religion — Contradictory evidence —“Belief in spiritual beings”— Objection to Mr. Tylor’s definition — Definition as regards this argument — Problem: the contradiction between religion and myth — Two human moods — Examples — Case of Greece — Ancient mythologists — Criticism by Eusebius — Modern mythological systems — Mr. Max Muller — Mannhardt.

The word “Religion” may be, and has been, employed in many different senses, and with a perplexing width of significance. No attempt to define the word is likely to be quite satisfactory, but almost any definition may serve the purpose of an argument, if the writer who employs it states his meaning frankly and adheres to it steadily. An example of the confusions which may arise from the use of the term “religion” is familiar to students. Dr. J. D. Lang wrote concerning the native races of Australia: “They have nothing whatever of the character of religion, or of religious observances, to distinguish them from the beasts that perish”. Yet in the same book Dr. Lang published evidence assigning to the natives belief in “Turramullun, the chief of demons, who is the author of disease, mischief and wisdom”.1 The belief in a superhuman author of “disease, mischief and wisdom” is certainly a religious belief not conspicuously held by “the beasts”; yet all religion was denied to the Australians by the very author who prints (in however erroneous a style) an account of part of their creed. This writer merely inherited the old missionary habit of speaking about the god of a non-Christian people as a “demon” or an “evil spirit”.

Dr. Lang’s negative opinion was contradicted in testimony published by himself, an appendix by the Rev. Mr. Ridley, containing evidence of the belief in Baiame. “Those who have learned that ‘God’ is the name by which we speak of the Creator, say that Baiame is God.”2

As “a minimum definition of religion,” Mr. Tylor has suggested “the belief in spiritual beings”. Against this it may be urged that, while we have no definite certainty that any race of men is destitute of belief in spiritual beings, yet certain moral and creative deities of low races do not seem to be envisaged as “spiritual” at all. They are regarded as EXISTENCES, as BEINGS, unconditioned by Time, Space, or Death, and nobody appears to have put the purely metaphysical question, “Are these beings spiritual or material?”3 Now, if a race were discovered which believed in such beings, yet had no faith in spirits, that race could not be called irreligious, as it would have to be called in Mr. Tylor’s “minimum definition”. Almost certainly, no race in this stage of belief in nothing but unconditioned but not expressly spiritual beings is extant. Yet such a belief may conceivably have existed before men had developed the theory of spirits at all, and such a belief, in creative and moral unconditioned beings, not alleged to be spiritual, could not be excluded from a definition of religion.4

For these reasons we propose (merely for the purpose of the present work) to define religion as the belief in a primal being, a Maker, undying, usually moral, without denying that the belief in spiritual beings, even if immoral, may be styled religious. Our definition is expressly framed for the purpose of the argument, because that argument endeavours to bring into view the essential conflict between religion and myth. We intend to show that this conflict between the religious and the mythical conception is present, not only (where it has been universally recognised) in the faiths of the ancient civilised peoples, as in Greece, Rome, India and Egypt, but also in the ideas of the lowest known savages.

It may, of course, be argued that the belief in Creator is itself a myth. However that may be, the attitude of awe, and of moral obedience, in face of such a supposed being, is religious in the sense of the Christian religion, whereas the fabrication of fanciful, humorous, and wildly irrational fables about that being, or others, is essentially mythical in the ordinary significance of that word, though not absent from popular Christianity.

Now, the whole crux and puzzle of mythology is, “Why, having attained (in whatever way) to a belief in an undying guardian, ‘Master of Life,’ did mankind set to work to evolve a chronique scandaleuse about HIM? And why is that chronique the elaborately absurd set of legends which we find in all mythologies?”

In answering, or trying to answer, these questions, we cannot go behind the beliefs of the races now most immersed in savage ignorance. About the psychology of races yet more undeveloped we can have no historical knowledge. Among the lowest known tribes we usually find, just as in ancient Greece, the belief in a deathless “Father,” “Master,” “Maker,” and also the crowd of humorous, obscene, fanciful myths which are in flagrant contradiction with the religious character of that belief. That belief is what we call rational, and even elevated. The myths, on the other hand, are what we call irrational and debasing. We regard low savages as very irrational and debased characters, consequently the nature of their myths does not surprise us. Their religious conception, however, of a “Father” or “Master of Life” seems out of keeping with the nature of the savage mind as we understand it. Still, there the religious conception actually is, and it seems to follow that we do not wholly understand the savage mind, or its unknown antecedents. In any case, there the facts are, as shall be demonstrated. However the ancestors of Australians, or Andamanese, or Hurons arrived at their highest religious conception, they decidedly possess it.5 The development of their mythical conceptions is accounted for by those qualities of their minds which we do understand, and shall illustrate at length. For the present, we can only say that the religious conception uprises from the human intellect in one mood, that of earnest contemplation and submission: while the mythical ideas uprise from another mood, that of playful and erratic fancy. These two moods are conspicuous even in Christianity. The former, that of earnest and submissive contemplation, declares itself in prayers, hymns, and “the dim religious light” of cathedrals. The second mood, that of playful and erratic fancy, is conspicuous in the buffoonery of Miracle Plays, in Marchen, these burlesque popular tales about our Lord and the Apostles, and in the hideous and grotesque sculptures on sacred edifices. The two moods are present, and in conflict, through the whole religious history of the human race. They stand as near each other, and as far apart, as Love and Lust.

It will later be shown that even some of the most backward savages make a perhaps half-conscious distinction between their mythology and their religion. As to the former, they are communicative; as to the latter, they jealously guard their secret in sacred mysteries. It is improbable that reflective “black fellows” have been morally shocked by the flagrant contradictions between their religious conceptions and their mythical stories of the divine beings. But human thought could not come into explicit clearness of consciousness without producing the sense of shock and surprise at these contradictions between the Religion and the Myth of the same god. Of this we proceed to give examples.

In Greece, as early as the sixth century B. C., we are all familiar with Xenophanes’ poem6 complaining that the gods were credited with the worst crimes of mortals — in fact, with abominations only known in the orgies of Nero and Elagabalus. We hear Pindar refusing to repeat the tale which told him the blessed were cannibals.7 In India we read the pious Brahmanic attempts to expound decently the myths which made Indra the slayer of a Brahman; the sinner, that is, of the unpardonable sin. In Egypt, too, we study the priestly or philosophic systems by which the clergy strove to strip the burden of absurdity and sacrilege from their own deities. From all these efforts of civilised and pious believers to explain away the stories about their own gods we may infer one fact — the most important to the student of mythology — the fact that myths were not evolved in times of clear civilised thought. It is when Greece is just beginning to free her thought from the bondage of too concrete language, when she is striving to coin abstract terms, that her philosophers and poets first find the myths of Greece a stumbling-block.

All early attempts at an interpretation of mythology are so many efforts to explain the myths on some principle which shall seem not unreasonable to men living at the time of the explanation. Therefore the pious remonstrances and the forced constructions of early thinkers like Xenophanes, of poets like Pindar, of all ancient Homeric scholars and Pagan apologists, from Theagenes of Rhegium (525 B. C.), the early Homeric commentator, to Porphyry, almost the last of the heathen philosophers, are so many proofs that to Greece, as soon as she had a reflective literature, the myths of Greece seemed impious and IRRATIONAL. The essays of the native commentators on the Veda, in the same way, are endeavours to put into myths felt to be irrational and impious a meaning which does not offend either piety or reason. We may therefore conclude that it was not men in an early stage of philosophic thought (as philosophy is now understood)— not men like Empedocles and Heraclitus, nor reasonably devout men like Eumaeus, the pious swineherd of the Odyssey — who evolved the blasphemous myths of Greece, of Egypt and of India. We must look elsewhere for an explanation. We must try to discover some actual and demonstrable and widely prevalent condition of the human mind, in which tales that even to remote and rudimentary civilisations appeared irrational and unnatural would seem natural and rational. To discover this intellectual condition has been the aim of all mythologists who did not believe that myth is a divine tradition depraved by human weakness, or a distorted version of historical events.

Before going further, it is desirable to set forth what our aim is, and to what extent we are seeking an interpretation of mythology. It is not our purpose to explain every detail of every ancient legend, either as a distorted historical fact or as the result of this or that confusion of thought caused by forgetfulness of the meanings of language, or in any other way; nay, we must constantly protest against the excursions of too venturesome ingenuity. Myth is so ancient, so complex, so full of elements, that it is vain labour to seek a cause for every phenomenon. We are chiefly occupied with the quest for an historical condition of the human intellect to which the element in myths, regarded by us as irrational, shall seem rational enough. If we can prove that such a state of mind widely exists among men, and has existed, that state of mind may be provisionally considered as the fount and ORIGIN of the myths which have always perplexed men in a reasonable modern mental condition. Again, if it can be shown that this mental stage was one through which all civilised races have passed, the universality of the mythopoeic mental condition will to some extent explain the universal DIFFUSION of the stories.

Now, in all mythologies, whether savage or civilised, and in all religions where myths intrude, there exist two factors — the factor which we now regard as rational, and that which we moderns regard as irrational. The former element needs little explanation; the latter has demanded explanation ever since human thought became comparatively instructed and abstract.

To take an example; even in the myths of savages there is much that still seems rational and transparent. If savages tell us that some wise being taught them all the simple arts of life, the use of fire, of the bow and arrow, the barbing of hooks, and so forth, we understand them at once. Nothing can be more natural than that man should believe in an original inventor of the arts, and should tell tales about the imaginary discoverers if the real heroes be forgotten. So far all is plain sailing. But when the savage goes on to say that he who taught the use of fire or who gave the first marriage laws was a rabbit or a crow, or a dog, or a beaver, or a spider, then we are at once face to face with the element in myths which seems to us IRRATIONAL. Again, among civilised peoples we read of the pure all-seeing Varuna in the Vedas, to whom sin is an offence. We read of Indra, the Lord of Thunder, borne in his chariot, the giver of victory, the giver of wealth to the pious; here once more all seems natural and plain. The notion of a deity who guides the whirlwind and directs the storm, a god of battles, a god who blesses righteousness, is familiar to us and intelligible; but when we read how Indra drank himself drunk and committed adulteries with Asura women, and got himself born from the same womb as a bull, and changed himself into a quail or a ram, and suffered from the most abject physical terror, and so forth, then we are among myths no longer readily intelligible; here, we feel, are IRRATIONAL stories, of which the original ideas, in their natural sense, can hardly have been conceived by men in a pure and rational early civilisation. Again, in the religions of even the lowest races, such myths as these are in contradiction with the ethical elements of the faith.

If we look at Greek religious tradition, we observe the coexistence of the RATIONAL and the apparently IRRATIONAL elements. The RATIONAL myths are those which represent the gods as beautiful and wise beings. The Artemis of the Odyssey “taking her pastime in the chase of boars and swift deer, while with her the wild wood-nymphs disport them, and high over them all she rears her brow, and is easily to be known where all are fair,”8 is a perfectly RATIONAL mythic representation of a divine being. We feel, even now, that the conception of a “queen and goddess, chaste and fair,” the abbess, as Paul de Saint-Victor calls her, of the woodlands, is a beautiful and natural fancy, which requires no explanation. On the other hand, the Artemis of Arcadia, who is confused with the nymph Callisto, who, again, is said to have become a she-bear, and later a star; and the Brauronian Artemis, whose maiden ministers danced a bear-dance,9 are goddesses whose legend seems unnatural, and needs to be made intelligible. Or, again, there is nothing not explicable and natural in the conception of the Olympian Zeus as represented by the great chryselephantine statue of Zeus at Olympia, or in the Homeric conception of Zeus as a god who “turns everywhere his shining eyes, and beholds all things, and protects the righteous, and deals good or evil fortune to men.” But the Zeus whose grave was shown in Crete, or the Zeus who played Demeter an obscene trick by the aid of a ram, or the Zeus who, in the shape of a swan, became the father of Castor and Pollux, or the Zeus who deceived Hera by means of a feigned marriage with an inanimate object, or the Zeus who was afraid of Attes, or the Zeus who made love to women in the shape of an ant or a cuckoo, is a being whose myth is felt to be unnatural and bewildering.10 It is this IRRATIONAL and unnatural element, as Mr. Max Muller says, “the silly, senseless, and savage element,” that makes mythology the puzzle which men have so long found it. For, observe, Greek myth does not represent merely a humorous play of fancy, dealing with things religiously sacred as if by way of relief from the strained reverential contemplation of the majesty of Zeus. Many stories of Greek mythology are such as could not cross, for the first time, the mind of a civilised Xenophanes or Theagenes, even in a dream. THIS was the real puzzle.

We have offered examples — Savage, Indian, and Greek — of that element in mythology which, as all civilised races have felt, demands explanation.

To be still more explicit, we may draw up a brief list of the chief problems in the legendary stories attached to the old religions of the world — the problems which it is our special purpose to notice. First we have, in the myths of all races, the most grotesque conceptions of the character of gods when mythically envisaged. Beings who, in religion, leave little to be desired, and are spoken of as holy, immortal, omniscient, and kindly, are, in myth, represented as fashioned in the likeness not only of man, but of the beasts; as subject to death, as ignorant and impious.

Most pre-Christian religions had their “zoomorphic” or partially zoomorphic idols, gods in the shape of the lower animals, or with the heads and necks of the lower animals. In the same way all mythologies represent the gods as fond of appearing in animal forms. Under these disguises they conduct many amours, even with the daughters of men, and Greek houses were proud of their descent from Zeus in the shape of an eagle or ant, a serpent or a swan; while Cronus and the Vedic Tvashtri and Poseidon made love as horses, and Apollo as a dog. Not less wild are the legends about the births of gods from the thigh, or the head, or feet, or armpits of some parent; while tales describing and pictures representing unspeakable divine obscenities were frequent in the mythology and in the temples of Greece. Once more, the gods were said to possess and exercise the power of turning men and women into birds, beasts, fishes, trees, and stones, so that there was scarcely a familiar natural object in the Greek world which had not once (according to legend) been a man or a woman. The myths of the origin of the world and man, again, were in the last degree childish and disgusting. The Bushmen and Australians have, perhaps, no story of the origin of species quite so barbarous in style as the anecdotes about Phanes and Prajapati which are preserved in the Orphic hymns and in the Brahmanas. The conduct of the earlier dynasties of classical gods towards each other was as notoriously cruel and loathsome as their behaviour towards mortals was tricksy and capricious. The classical gods, with all their immortal might, are, by a mythical contradiction of the religious conception, regarded as capable of fear and pain, and are led into scrapes as ludicrous as those of Brer Wolf or Brer Terrapin in the tales of the Negroes of the Southern States of America. The stars, again, in mythology, are mixed up with beasts, planets and men in the same embroglio of fantastic opinion. The dead and the living, men, beasts and gods, trees and stars, and rivers, and sun, and moon, dance through the region of myths in a burlesque ballet of Priapus, where everything may be anything, where nature has no laws and imagination no limits.

Such are the irrational characteristics of myths, classic or Indian, European or American, African or Asiatic, Australian or Maori. Such is one element we find all the world over among civilised and savage people, quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. It is no wonder that pious and reflective men have, in so many ages and in so many ways, tried to account to themselves for their possession of beliefs closely connected with religion which yet seemed ruinous to religion and morality.

The explanations which men have given of their own sacred stories, the apologies for their own gods which they have been constrained to offer to themselves, were the earliest babblings of a science of mythology. That science was, in its dim beginnings, intended to satisfy a moral need. Man found that his gods, when mythically envisaged, were not made in his own moral image at its best, but in the image sometimes of the beasts, sometimes of his own moral nature at its very worst: in the likeness of robbers, wizards, sorcerers, and adulterers. Now, it is impossible here to examine minutely all systems of mythological interpretation. Every key has been tried in this difficult lock; every cause of confusion has been taken up and tested, deemed adequate, and finally rejected or assigned a subordinate place. Probably the first attempts to shake off the burden of religious horror at mythical impiety were made by way of silent omission. Thus most of the foulest myths of early India are absent, and presumably were left out, in the Rig-Veda. “The religious sentiment of the hymns, already so elevated, has discarded most of the tales which offended it, but has not succeeded in discarding them all.”11 Just as the poets of the Rig-Veda prefer to avoid the more offensive traditions about Indra and Tvashtri, so Homer succeeds in avoiding the more grotesque and puerile tales about his own gods.12 The period of actual apology comes later. Pindar declines, as we have seen, to accuse a god of cannibalism. The Satapatha Brahmana invents a new story about the slaying of Visvarupa. Not Indra, but Trita, says the Brahmana apologetically, slew the three-headed son of Tvashtri. “Indra assuredly was free from that sin, for he is a god,” says the Indian apologist.13 Yet sins which to us appear far more monstrous than the peccadillo of killing a three-headed Brahman are attributed freely to Indra.

While poets could but omit a blasphemous tale or sketch an apology in passing, it became the business of philosophers and of antiquarian writers deliberately to “whitewash” the gods of popular religion. Systematic explanations of the sacred stories, whether as preserved in poetry or as told by priests, had to be provided. India had her etymological and her legendary school of mythology.14 Thus, while the hymn SEEMED to tell how the Maruts were gods, “born together with the spotted deer,” the etymological interpreters explained that the word for deer only meant the many-coloured lines of clouds.15 In the armoury of apologetics etymology has been the most serviceable weapon. It is easy to see that by aid of etymology the most repulsive legend may be compelled to yield a pure or harmless sense, and may be explained as an innocent blunder, caused by mere verbal misunderstanding. Brahmans, Greeks, and Germans have equally found comfort in this hypothesis. In the Cratylus of Plato, Socrates speaks of the notion of explaining myths by etymological guesses at the meaning of divine names as “a philosophy which came to him all in an instant”. Thus we find Socrates shocked by the irreverence which styled Zeus the son of Cronus, “who is a proverb for stupidity”. But on examining philologically the name Kronos, Socrates decides that it must really mean Koros, “not in the sense of a youth, but signifying the pure and garnished mind”. Therefore, when people first called Zeus the son of Cronus, they meant nothing irreverent, but only that Zeus is the child of the pure mind or pure reason. Not only is this etymological system most pious and consolatory, but it is, as Socrates adds, of universal application. “For now I bethink me of a very new and ingenious notion, . . . that we may put in and pull out letters at pleasure, and alter the accents.”16

Socrates, of course, speaks more than half in irony, but there is a certain truth in his account of etymological analysis and its dependence on individual tastes and preconceived theory.

The ancient classical schools of mythological interpretation, though unscientific and unsuccessful, are not without interest. We find philosophers and grammarians looking, just as we ourselves are looking, for some condition of the human intellect out of which the absurd element in myths might conceivably have sprung. Very naturally the philosophers supposed that the human beings in whose brain and speech myths had their origin must have been philosophers like themselves — intelligent, educated persons. But such persons, they argued, could never have meant to tell stories about the gods so full of nonsense and blasphemy.

Therefore the nonsense and blasphemy must originally have had some harmless, or even praiseworthy, sense. What could that sense have been? This question each ancient mythologist answered in accordance with his own taste and prejudices, and above all, and like all other and later speculators, in harmony with the general tendency of his own studies. If he lived when physical speculation was coming into fashion, as in the age of Empedocles, he thought that the Homeric poems must contain a veiled account of physical philosophy. This was the opinion of Theagenes of Rhegium, who wrote at a period when a crude physicism was disengaging itself from the earlier religious and mythical cosmogonic systems of Greece. Theagenes was shocked by the Homeric description of the battle in which the gods fought as allies of the Achaeans and Trojans. He therefore explained away the affair as a veiled account of the strife of the elements. Such “strife” was familiar to readers of the physical speculations of Empedocles and of Heraclitus, who blamed Homer for his prayer against Strife.17

It did not occur to Theagenes to ask whether any evidence existed to show that the pre-Homeric Greeks were Empedoclean or Heraclitean philosophers. He readily proved to himself that Apollo, Helios, and Hephaestus were allegorical representations, like what such philosophers would feign — of fire, that Hera was air, Poseidon water, Artemis the moon, and the rest he disposed of in the same fashion.18

Metrodorus, again, turned not only the gods, but the Homeric heroes into “elemental combinations and physical agencies”; for there is nothing new in the mythological philosophy recently popular, which saw the sun, and the cloud, and the wind in Achilles, Athene, and Hermes.19

In the Bacchae (291-297), Euripides puts another of the mythological systems of his own time into the mouth of Cadmus, the Theban king, who advances a philological explanation of the story that Dionysus was sewn up in the thigh of Zeus. The most famous of the later theories was that of Euhemerus (316 B.C.). In a kind of philosophical romance, Euhemerus declared that he had sailed to some No-man’s-land, Panchaea, where he found the verity about mythical times engraved on pillars of bronze. This truth he published in the Sacra Historia, where he rationalised the fables, averring that the gods had been men, and that the myths were exaggerated and distorted records of facts. (See Eusebius, Praep. E., ii 55.) The Abbe Banier (La Mythologie expliquee par l’Histoire, Paris, 1738, vol. ii. p. 218) attempts the defence of Euhemerus, whom most of the ancients regarded as an atheist. There was an element of truth in his romantic hypothesis.20

Sometimes the old stories were said to conceal a moral, sometimes a physical, sometimes a mystical or Neo-platonic sort of meaning. As every apologist interpreted the legends in his own fashion, the interpretations usually disagreed and killed each other. Just as one modern mythologist sees the wind in Aeetes and the dawn in Medea, while another of the same school believes, on equally good evidence, that both Aeetes and Medea are the moon, so writers like Porphyry (270 A. D.) and Plutarch (60 A. D.) made the ancient deities types of their own favourite doctrines, whatever these might happen to be.

When Christianity became powerful, the Christian writers naturally attacked heathen religion where it was most vulnerable, on the side of the myths, and of the mysteries which were dramatic representations of the myths. “Pretty gods you worship,” said the Fathers, in effect, “homicides, adulterers, bulls, bears, mice, ants, and what not.” The heathen apologists for the old religion were thus driven in the early ages of Christianity to various methods of explaining away the myths of their discredited religion.

The early Christian writers very easily, and with considerable argumentative power, disposed of the apologies for the myths advanced by Porphyry and Plutarch. Thus Eusebius in the Praeparatio Evangelica first attacks the Egyptian interpretations of their own bestial or semi-bestial gods. He shows that the various interpretations destroy each other, and goes on to point out that Greek myth is in essence only a veneered and varnished version of the faith of Egypt. He ridicules, with a good deal of humour, the old theories which resolved so many mythical heroes into the sun; he shows that while one system is contented to regard Zeus as mere fire and air, another system recognises in him the higher reason, while Heracles, Dionysus, Apollo, and Asclepius, father and child, are all indifferently the sun.

Granting that the myth-makers were only constructing physical allegories, why did they wrap them up, asks Eusebius, in what WE consider abominable fictions? In what state were the people who could not look at the pure processes of Nature without being reminded of the most hideous and unnatural offences? Once more: “The physical interpreters do not even agree in their physical interpretations”. All these are equally facile, equally plausible, and equally incapable of proof. Again, Eusebius argues, the interpreters take for granted in the makers of the myths an amount of physical knowledge which they certainly did not possess. For example, if Leto were only another name for Hera, the character of Zeus would be cleared as far as his amour with Leto is concerned. Now, the ancient believers in the “physical phenomena theory” of myths made out that Hera, the wife of Zeus, was really the same person under another name as Leto, his mistress. “For Hera is the earth” (they said at other times that Hera was the air), “and Leto is the night; but night is only the shadow of the earth, and therefore Leto is only the shadow of Hera.” It was easy, however, to prove that this scientific view of night as the shadow of earth was not likely to be known to myth-makers, who regarded “swift Night” as an actual person. Plutarch, too, had an abstruse theory to explain the legend about the dummy wife — a log of oak-wood, which Zeus pretended to marry when at variance with Hera.21

This quarrel, he said, was merely the confusion and strife of elements. Zeus was heat, Hera was cold (she had already been explained as earth and air), the dummy wife of oak-wood was a tree that emerged after a flood, and so forth. Of course, there was no evidence that mythopoeic men held Plutarchian theories of heat and cold and the conflict of the elements; besides, as Eusebius pointed out, Hera had already been defined once as an allegory of wedded life, and once as the earth, and again as the air, and it was rather too late to assert that she was also the cold and watery element in the world. As for his own explanation of the myths, Eusebius holds that they descend from a period when men in their lawless barbarism knew no better than to tell such tales. “Ancient folk, in the exceeding savagery of their lives, made no account of God, the universal Creator (here Eusebius is probably wrong) . . . but betook them to all manner of abominations. For the laws of decent existence were not yet established, nor was any settled and peaceful state ordained among men, but only a loose and savage fashion of wandering life, while, as beasts irrational, they cared for no more than to fill their bellies, being in a manner without God in the world.” Growing a little more civilised, men, according to Eusebius, sought after something divine, which they found in the heavenly bodies. Later, they fell to worshipping living persons, especially “medicine men” and conjurors, and continued to worship them even after their decease, so that Greek temples are really tombs of the dead.22 Finally, the civilised ancients, with a conservative reluctance to abandon their old myths [greek], invented for them moral or physical explanations, like those of Plutarch and others, earlier and later.23

As Eusebius, like Clemens of Alexandria, Arnobius, and the other early Christian disputants, had no prejudice in favour of Hellenic mythology, and no sentimental reason for wishing to suppose that the origin of its impurities was pure, he found his way almost to the theory of the irrational element in mythology which we propose to offer.

Even to sketch the history of mythological hypothesis in modern times would require a book to itself. It must suffice here to indicate the various lines which speculation as to mythology has pursued.

All interpretations of myth have been formed in accordance with the ideas prevalent in the time of the interpreters. The early Greek physicists thought that mythopoeic men had been physicists. Aristotle hints that they were (like himself) political philosophers.24 Neo-platonists sought in the myths for Neo-platonism; most Christians (unlike Eusebius) either sided with Euhemerus, or found in myth the inventions of devils, or a tarnished and distorted memory of the Biblical revelation.

This was the theory, for example, of good old Jacob Bryant, who saw everywhere memories of the Noachian deluge and proofs of the correctness of Old Testament ethnology.25

Much the same attempt to find the Biblical truth at the bottom of savage and ancient fable has been recently made by the late M. Lenormant, a Catholic scholar.26

In the beginning of the present century Germany turned her attention to mythology. As usual, men’s ideas were biassed by the general nature of their opinions. In a pious kind of spirit, Friedrich Creuzer sought to find SYMBOLS of some pure, early, and Oriental theosophy in the myths and mysteries of Greece. Certainly the Greeks of the philosophical period explained their own myths as symbols of higher things, but the explanation was an after-thought.27 The great Lobeck, in his Aglaophamus (1829), brought back common sense, and made it the guide of his vast, his unequalled learning. In a gentler and more genial spirit, C. Otfried Muller laid the foundation of a truly scientific and historical mythology.28 Neither of these writers had, like Alfred Maury,29 much knowledge of the myths and faiths of the lower races, but they often seem on the point of anticipating the ethnological method.

When philological science in our own century came to maturity, in philology, as of old in physics and later in symbols, was sought the key of myths. While physical allegory, religious and esoteric symbolism, verbal confusion, historical legend, and an original divine tradition, perverted in ages of darkness, have been the most popular keys in other ages, the scientific nineteenth century has had a philological key of its own. The methods of Kuhn, Breal, Max Muller, and generally the philological method, cannot be examined here at full length.30 Briefly speaking, the modern philological method is intended for a scientific application of the old etymological interpretations. Cadmus in the Bacchae of Euripides, Socrates in the Cratylus of Plato, dismiss unpalatable myths as the results of verbal confusion. People had originally said something quite sensible — so the hypothesis runs — but when their descendants forgot the meaning of their remarks, a new and absurd meaning followed from a series of unconscious puns.31 This view was supported in ancient times by purely conjectural and impossible etymologies. Thus the myth that Dionysus was sewn up in the THIGH of Zeus [greek] was explained by Euripides as the result of a confusion of words. People had originally said that Zeus gave a pledge [greek] to Hera. The modern philological school relies for explanations of untoward and other myths on similar confusions. Thus Daphne is said to have been originally not a girl of romance, but the dawn (Sanskirt, dahana: ahana) pursued by the rising sun. But as the original Aryan sense of Dahana or Ahana was lost, and as Daphne came to mean the laurel — the wood which burns easily — the fable arose that the tree had been a girl called Daphne.32

This system chiefly rests on comparison between the Sanskrit names in the Rig-Veda and the mythic names in Greek, German, Slavonic, and other Aryan legends. The attempt is made to prove that, in the common speech of the undivided Aryan race, many words for splendid or glowing natural phenomena existed, and that natural processes were described in a figurative style. As the various Aryan families separated, the sense of the old words and names became dim, the nomina developed into numina, the names into gods, the descriptions of elemental processes into myths. As this system has already been criticised by us elsewhere with minute attention, a reference to these reviews must suffice in this place. Briefly, it may be stated that the various masters of the school — Kuhn, Max Muller, Roth, Schwartz, and the rest — rarely agree where agreement is essential, that is, in the philological foundations of their building. They differ in very many of the etymological analyses of mythical names. They also differ in the interpretations they put on the names, Kuhn almost invariably seeing fire, storm, cloud, or lightning where Mr. Max Muller sees the chaste Dawn. Thus Mannhardt, after having been a disciple, is obliged to say that comparative Indo-Germanic mythology has not borne the fruit expected, and that “the CERTAIN gains of the system reduce themselves to the scantiest list of parallels, such as Dyaus = Zeus = Tius, Parjanya = Perkunas, Bhaga = Bog, Varuna = Uranos” (a position much disputed), etc. Mannhardt adds his belief that a number of other “equations”— such as Sarameya = Hermeias, Saranyus = Demeter Erinnys, Kentauros = Gandharva, and many others — will not stand criticism, and he fears that these ingenious guesses will prove mere jeux d’esprit rather than actual facts.33 Many examples of the precarious and contradictory character of the results of philological mythology, many instances of “dubious etymologies,” false logic, leaps at foregone conclusions, and attempts to make what is peculiarly Indian in thought into matter of universal application, will meet us in the chapters on Indian and Greek divine legends.34 “The method in its practical working shows a fundamental lack of the historical sense,” says Mannhardt. Examples are torn from their contexts, he observes; historical evolution is neglected; passages of the Veda, themselves totally obscure, are dragged forward to account for obscure Greek mythical phenomena. Such are the accusations brought by the regretted Mannhardt against the school to which he originally belonged, and which was popular and all-powerful even in the maturity of his own more clear-sighted genius. Proofs of the correctness of his criticism will be offered abundantly in the course of this work. It will become evident that, great as are the acquisitions of Philology, her least certain discoveries have been too hastily applied in alien “matter,” that is, in the region of myth. Not that philology is wholly without place or part in the investigation of myth, when there is agreement among philologists as to the meaning of a divine name. In that case a certain amount of light is thrown on the legend of the bearer of the name, and on its origin and first home, Aryan, Greek, Semitic, or the like. But how rare is agreement among philologists!

“The philological method,” says Professor Tiele,35 “is inadequate and misleading, when it is a question of discovering the ORIGIN of a myth, or the physical explanation of the oldest myths, or of accounting for the rude and obscene element in the divine legends of civilised races. But these are not the only problems of mythology. There is, for example, the question of the GENEALOGICAL relations of myths, where we have to determine whether the myths of peoples whose speech is of the same family are special modifications of a mythology once common to the race whence these peoples have sprung. The philological method alone can answer here.” But this will seem a very limited province when we find that almost all races, however remote and unconnected in speech, have practically much the same myths.

1 See Primitive Culture, second edition, i. 419.

2 Lang’s Queensland, p. 445, 1861.

3 See The Making of Religion, pp. 201-210.

4 “The history of the Jews, nay, the history of our own mind, proves to demonstration that the thought of God is a far easier thought, and a far earlier, than that of a spirit.” Father Tyrrell, S. J., The Month, October, 1898. As to the Jews, the question is debated. As to our own infancy, we are certainly taught about God before we are likely to be capable of the metaphysical notion of spirit. But we can scarcely reason from children in Christian houses to the infancy of the race.

5 The hypothesis that the conception was borrowed from European creeds will be discussed later. See, too, “Are Savage Gods borrowed from Missionaries?” Nineteenth Century, January, 1899.

6 Ritter and Preller, Hist. Philos., Gothae, 1869, p. 82.

7 Olympic Odes, i., Myers’s translation: “To me it is impossible to call one of the blessed gods a cannibal. . . . Meet it is for a man that concerning the gods he speak honourably, for the reproach is less. Of thee, son of Tantalus, I will speak contrariwise to them who have gone before me.” In avoiding the story of the cannibal god, however, Pindar tells a tale even more offensive to our morality.

8 Odyssey, vi. 102.

9 [greek]; compare Harpokration on this word.

10 These are the features in myth which provoke, for example, the wonder of Emeric-David. “The lizard, the wolf, the dog, the ass, the frog, and all the other brutes so common on religious monuments everywhere, do they not all imply a THOUGHT which we must divine?” He concludes that these animals, plants, and monsters of myths are so many “enigmas” and “symbols” veiling some deep, sacred idea, allegories of some esoteric religious creed. Jupiter, Paris, 1832, p. lxxvii.

11 Les Religions de l’Inde, Barth, p. 14. See also postea, “Indian Myths”.

12 The reasons for Homer’s reticence are probably different in different passages. Perhaps in some cases he had heard a purer version of myth than what reached Hesiod; perhaps he sometimes purposely (like Pindar) purified a myth; usually he must have selected, in conformity with the noble humanity and purity of his taste, the tales that best conformed to his ideal. He makes his deities reluctant to drag out in dispute old scandals of their early unheroic adventures, some of which, however, he gives, as the kicking of Hephaestus out of heaven, and the imprisonment of Ares in a vessel of bronze. Compare Professor Jebb’s Homer, p. 83: “whatever the instinct of the great artist has tolerated, at least it has purged these things away.” that is, divine amours in bestial form.

13 Satapatha Brahmana, Oxford, 1882, vol. i. p. 47.

14 Rig-Veda Sanhita. Max Muller, p. 59.

15 Postea, “Indian Divine Myths”.

16 Jowett’s Plato, vol. i. pp. 632, 670.

17 Is. et Osir., 48.

18 Scholia on Iliad, xx. 67. Dindorf (1877), vol. iv. p. 231. “This manner of apologetics is as old as Theagenes of Rhegium. Homer offers theological doctrine in the guise of physical allegory.”

19 Grote, Hist, of Greece, ed. 1869, i. p. 404.

20 See Block, Euhemere et sa Doctrine, Mons, 1876.

21 Pausanias, ix. 31.

22 Praep. E., ii. 5.

23 Ibid., 6,19.

24 Met., xi. 8,19.

25 Bryant, A New System, wherein an Attempt is made to Divest Tradition of Fable, 1774.

26 Les Origines de l’Histoire d’apres le Bible, 1880-1884.

27 Creuzer, Symbolik und Mythologie, 2d edit., Leipzig, 1836-43.

28 Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology, English trans., London, 1844.

29 Histoire des Religions de la Grece Antique, Paris, 1857.

30 See Mythology in Encyclop. Brit. and in La Mythologie (A. L.), Paris, 1886, where Mr. Max Muller’s system is criticised. See also Custom and Myth and Modern Mythology.

31 That a considerable number of myths, chiefly myths of place names, arise from popular etymologies is certain: what is objected to is the vast proportion given to this element in myths.

32 Max Muller, Nineteenth Century, December, 1885; “Solar Myths,” January, 1886; Myths and Mythologists (A. L). Whitney, Mannhardt, Bergaigne, and others dispute the etymology. Or. and Ling. Studies, 1874, p. 160; Mannhardt, Antike Wald und Feld Kultus (Berlin, 1877), p. xx.; Bergaigne, La Religion Vedique, iii. 293; nor does Curtius like it much, Principles of Greek Etymology, English trans., ii. 92, 93; Modern Mythology (A. L.), 1897.

33 Baum und Feld Kultus, p. xvii. Kuhn’s “epoch-making” book is Die Herabkunft des Feuers, Berlin, 1859. By way of example of the disputes as to the original meaning of a name like Prometheus, compare Memoires de la Societe de Linguistique de Paris, t. iv. p. 336.

34 See especially Mannhardt’s note on Kuhn’s theories of Poseidon and Hermes, B. u. F. K., pp. xviii., xix., note 1.

35 Rev. de l’Hist. des Rel., xii. 3, 260, Nov., Dec., 1885.

Chapter 2.

New System Proposed.

Chap. I. recapitulated — Proposal of a new method: Science of comparative or historical study of man — Anticipated in part by Eusebius, Fontenelle, De Brosses, Spencer (of C. C. C., Cambridge), and Mannhardt — Science of Tylor — Object of inquiry: to find condition of human intellect in which marvels of myth are parts of practical everyday belief — This is the savage state — Savages described — The wild element of myth a survival from the savage state — Advantages of this method — Partly accounts for wide DIFFUSION as well as ORIGIN of myths — Connected with general theory of evolution — Puzzling example of myth of the water-swallower — Professor Tiele’s criticism of the method — Objections to method, and answer to these — See Appendix B.

The past systems of mythological interpretation have been briefly sketched. It has been shown that the practical need for a reconciliation between RELIGION and MORALITY on one side, and the MYTHS about the gods on the other, produced the hypotheses of Theagenes and Metrodorus, of Socrates and Euemerus, of Aristotle and Plutarch. It has been shown that in each case the reconcilers argued on the basis of their own ideas and of the philosophies of their time. The early physicist thought that myth concealed a physical philosophy; the early etymologist saw in it a confusion of language; the early political speculator supposed that myth was an invention of legislators; the literary Euhemerus found the secret of myths in the course of an imaginary voyage to a fabled island. Then came the moment of the Christian attacks, and Pagan philosophers, touched with Oriental pantheism, recognised in myths certain pantheistic symbols and a cryptic revelation of their own Neo-platonism. When the gods were dead and their altars fallen, then antiquaries brought their curiosity to the problem of explaining myth. Christians recognised in it a depraved version of the Jewish sacred writings, and found the ark on every mountain-top of Greece. The critical nineteenth century brought in, with Otfried Muller and Lobeck, a closer analysis; and finally, in the sudden rise of comparative philology, it chanced that philologists annexed the domain of myths. Each of these systems had its own amount of truth, but each certainly failed to unravel the whole web of tradition and of foolish faith.

Meantime a new science has come into existence, the science which studies man in the sum of all his works and thoughts, as evolved through the whole process of his development. This science, Comparative Anthropology, examines the development of law out of custom; the development of weapons from the stick or stone to the latest repeating rifle; the development of society from the horde to the nation. It is a study which does not despise the most backward nor degraded tribe, nor neglect the most civilised, and it frequently finds in Australians or Nootkas the germ of ideas and institutions which Greeks or Romans brought to perfection, or retained, little altered from their early rudeness, in the midst of civilisation.

It is inevitable that this science should also try its hand on mythology. Our purpose is to employ the anthropological method — the study of the evolution of ideas, from the savage to the barbarous, and thence to the civilised stage — in the province of myth, ritual, and religion. It has been shown that the light of this method had dawned on Eusebius in his polemic with the heathen apologists. Spencer, the head of Corpus, Cambridge (1630-93), had really no other scheme in his mind in his erudite work on Hebrew Ritual.1 Spencer was a student of man’s religions generally, and he came to the conclusion that Hebrew ritual was but an expurgated, and, so to speak, divinely “licensed” adaptation of heathen customs at large. We do but follow his guidance on less perilous ground when we seek for the original forms of classical rite and myth in the parallel usages and legends of the most backward races.

Fontenelle in the last century, stated, with all the clearness of the French intellect, the system which is partially worked out in this essay — the system which explains the irrational element in myth as inherited from savagery. Fontenelle’s paper (Sur l’Origine des Fables) is brief, sensible, and witty, and requires little but copious evidence to make it adequate. But he merely threw out the idea, and left it to be neglected.2

Among other founders of the anthropological or historical school of mythology, De Brosses should not be forgotten. In his Dieux Fetiches (1760) he follows the path which Eusebius indicated — the path of Spencer and Fontenelle — now the beaten road of Tylor and M’Lennan and Mannhardt.

In anthropology, in the science of Waitz, Tylor, and M’Lennan, in the examination of man’s faith in the light of his social, legal, and historical conditions generally, we find, with Mannhardt, some of the keys of myth. This science “makes it manifest that the different stages through which humanity has passed in its intellectual evolution have still their living representatives among various existing races. The study of these lower races is an invaluable instrument for the interpretation of the survivals from earlier stages, which we meet in the full civilisation of cultivated peoples, but whose origins were in the remotest fetichism and savagery.”3

It is by following this road, and by the aid of anthropology and of human history, that we propose to seek for a demonstrably actual condition of the human intellect, whereof the puzzling qualities of myth would be the natural and inevitable fruit. In all the earlier theories which we have sketched, inquirers took it for granted that the myth-makers were men with philosophic and moral ideas like their own — ideas which, from some reason of religion or state, they expressed in bizarre terms of allegory. We shall attempt, on the other hand, to prove that the human mind has passed through a condition quite unlike that of civilised men — a condition in which things seemed natural and rational that now appear unnatural and devoid of reason, and in which, therefore, if myths were evolved, they would, if they survived into civilisation, be such as civilised men find strange and perplexing.

Our first question will be, Is there a stage of human society and of the human intellect in which facts that appear to us to be monstrous and irrational — facts corresponding to the wilder incidents of myth — are accepted as ordinary occurrences of everyday life? In the region of romantic rather than of mythical invention we know that there is such a state. Mr. Lane, in his preface to the Arabian Nights, says that the Arabs have an advantage over us as story-tellers. They can introduce such incidents as the change of a man into a horse, or of a woman into a dog, or the intervention of an Afreet without any more scruple than our own novelists feel in describing a duel or the concealment of a will. Among the Arabs the agencies of magic and of spirits are regarded as at least as probable and common as duels and concealments of wills seem to be thought by European novelists. It is obvious that we need look no farther for the explanation of the supernatural events in Arab romances. Now, let us apply this system to mythology. It is admitted that Greeks, Romans, Aryans of India in the age of the Sanskrit commentators, and Egyptians of the Ptolemaic and earlier ages, were as much puzzled as we are by the mythical adventures of their gods. But is there any known stage of the human intellect in which similar adventures, and the metamorphoses of men into animals, trees, stars, and all else that puzzles us in the civilised mythologies, are regarded as possible incidents of daily human life? Our answer is, that everything in the civilised mythologies which we regard as irrational seems only part of the accepted and natural order of things to contemporary savages, and in the past seemed equally rational and natural to savages concerning whom we have historical information.4 Our theory is, therefore, that the savage and senseless element in mythology is, for the most part, a legacy from the fancy of ancestors of the civilised races who were once in an intellectual state not higher, but probably lower, than that of Australians, Bush-men, Red Indians, the lower races of South America, and other worse than barbaric peoples. As the ancestors of the Greeks, Aryans of India, Egyptians and others advanced in civilisation, their religious thought was shocked and surprised by myths (originally dating from the period of savagery, and natural in that period, though even then often in contradiction to morals and religion) which were preserved down to the time of Pausanias by local priesthoods, or which were stereotyped in the ancient poems of Hesiod and Homer, or in the Brahmanas and Vedas of India, or were retained in the popular religion of Egypt. This theory recommended itself to Lobeck. “We may believe that ancient and early tribes framed gods like unto themselves in action and in experience, and that the allegorical softening down of myths is the explanation added later by descendants who had attained to purer ideas of divinity, yet dared not reject the religion of their ancestors.”5 The senseless element in the myths would, by this theory, be for the most part a “survival”; and the age and condition of human thought whence it survived would be one in which our most ordinary ideas about the nature of things and the limits of possibility did not yet exist, when all things were conceived of in quite other fashion; the age, that is, of savagery.

  1. In material equipment the perfect savage is he who employs tools of stone and wood, not of metal; who is nomadic rather than settled; who is acquainted (if at all) only with the rudest forms of the arts of potting, weaving, fire-making, etc.; and who derives more of his food from the chase and from wild roots and plants than from any kind of agriculture or from the flesh of domesticated animals.

  2. In psychology the savage is he who (extending unconsciously to the universe his own implicit consciousness of personality) regards all natural objects as animated and intelligent beings, and, drawing no hard and fast line between himself and the things in the world, is readily persuaded that men may be metamorphosed into plants, beasts and stars; that winds and clouds, sun and dawn, are persons with human passions and parts; and that the lower animals especially may be creatures more powerful than himself, and, in a sense, divine and creative.

  3. In religion the savage is he who (while often, in certain moods, conscious of a far higher moral faith) believes also in ancestral ghosts or spirits of woods and wells that were never ancestral; prays frequently by dint of magic; and sometimes adores inanimate objects, or even appeals to the beasts as supernatural protectors.

  4. In society the savage is he who (as a rule) bases his laws on the well-defined lines of totemism — that is, claims descent from or other close relation to natural objects, and derives from the sacredness of those objects the sanction of his marriage prohibitions and blood-feuds, while he makes skill in magic a claim to distinguished rank.

Such, for our purpose, is the savage, and we propose to explain the more “senseless” factors in civilised mythology as “survivals” of these ideas and customs preserved by conservatism and local tradition, or, less probably, borrowed from races which were, or had been, savage.

It is universally admitted that “survivals” of this kind do account for many anomalies in our institutions, in law, politics, society, even in dress and manners. If isolated fragments of earlier ages abide in these, it is still more probable that other fragments will survive in anything so closely connected as is mythology with the conservative religious sentiment and tradition. Our object, then, is to prove that the “silly, savage, and irrational” element in the myths of civilised peoples is, as a rule, either a survival from the period of savagery, or has been borrowed from savage neighbours by a cultivated people, or, lastly, is an imitation by later poets of old savage data.6 For example, to explain the constellations as metamorphosed men, animals, or other objects of terrestrial life is the habit of savages,7— a natural habit among people who regard all things as on one level of personal life and intelligence. When the stars, among civilised Greeks or Aryans of India, are also popularly regarded as transformed and transfigured men, animals and the like, this belief may be either a survival from the age when the ancestors of Greeks and Indians were in the intellectual condition of the Australian Murri; or the star-name and star-myth may have been borrowed from savages, or from cultivated peoples once savage or apt to copy savages; or, as in the case of the Coma Berenices, a poet of a late age may have invented a new artificial myth on the old lines of savage fancy.

This method of interpreting a certain element in mythology is, we must repeat, no new thing, though, to judge from the protests of several mythologists, it is new to many inquirers. We have seen that Eusebius threw out proposals in this direction; that Spencer, De Brosses, and Fontenelle unconsciously followed him; and we have quoted from Lobeck a statement of a similar opinion. The whole matter has been stated as clearly as possible by Mr. B. B. Tylor:—

“Savages have been for untold ages, and still are, living in the myth-making stage of the human mind. It was through sheer ignorance and neglect of this direct knowledge how and by what manner of men myths are really made that their simple philosophy has come to be buried under masses of commentator’s rubbish . . . ”8 Mr. Tylor goes on thus (and his words contain the gist of our argument): “The general thesis maintained is that myth arose in the savage condition prevalent in remote ages among the whole human race; that it remains comparatively unchanged among the rude modern tribes who have departed least from these primitive conditions, while higher and later civilisations, partly by retaining its actual principles, and partly by carrying on its inherited results in the form of ancestral tradition, continued it not merely in toleration, but in honour”.9 Elsewhere Mr. Tylor points out that by this method of interpretation we may study myths in various stages of evolution, from the rude guess of the savage at an explanation of natural phenomena, through the systems of the higher barbarisms, or lower civilisations (as in ancient Mexico), and the sacerdotage of India, till myth reaches its most human form in Greece. Yet even in Greek myth the beast is not wholly cast out, and Hellas by no means “let the ape and tiger die”. That Mr. Tylor does not exclude the Aryan race from his general theory is plain enough.10 “What is the Aryan conception of the Thunder-god but a poetic elaboration of thoughts inherited from the savage stage through which the primitive Aryans had passed?”11

The advantages of our hypothesis (if its legitimacy be admitted) are obvious. In the first place, we have to deal with an actual demonstrable condition of the human intellect. The existence of the savage state in all its various degrees, and of the common intellectual habits and conditions which are shared by the backward peoples, and again the survival of many of these in civilisation, are indubitable facts. We are not obliged to fall back upon some fanciful and unsupported theory of what “primitive man” did, and said, and thought. Nay, more; we escape all the fallacies connected with the terms “primitive man”. We are not compelled (as will be shown later)12 to prove that the first men of all were like modern savages, nor that savages represent primitive man. It may be that the lowest extant savages are the nearest of existing peoples to the type of the first human beings. But on this point it is unnecessary for us to dogmatise. If we can show that, whether men began their career as savages or not, they have at least passed through the savage status or have borrowed the ideas of races in the savage status, that is all we need. We escape from all the snares of theories (incapable of historical proof) about the really primeval and original condition of the human family.

Once more, our theory naturally attaches itself to the general system of Evolution. We are enabled to examine mythology as a thing of gradual development and of slow and manifold modifications, corresponding in some degree to the various changes in the general progress of society. Thus we shall watch the barbaric conditions of thought which produce barbaric myths, while these in their turn are retained, or perhaps purified, or perhaps explained away, by more advanced civilisations. Further, we shall be able to detect the survival of the savage ideas with least modification, and the persistence of the savage myths with least change, among the classes of a civilised population which have shared least in the general advance. These classes are, first, the rustic peoples, dwelling far from cities and schools, on heaths or by the sea; second, the conservative local priesthoods, who retain the more crude and ancient myths of the local gods and heroes after these have been modified or rejected by the purer sense of philosophers and national poets. Thus much of ancient myth is a woven warp and woof of three threads: the savage donnee, the civilised and poetic modification of the savage donnee, the version of the original fable which survives in popular tales and in the “sacred chapters” of local priesthoods. A critical study of these three stages in myth is in accordance with the recognised practice of science. Indeed, the whole system is only an application to this particular province, mythology, of the method by which the development either of organisms or of human institutions is traced. As the anomalies and apparently useless and accidental features in the human or in other animal organisms may be explained as stunted or rudimentary survivals of organs useful in a previous stage of life, so the anomalous and irrational myths of civilised races may be explained as survivals of stories which, in an earlier state of thought and knowledge, seemed natural enough. The persistence of the myths is accounted for by the well-known conservatism of the religious sentiment — a conservatism noticed even by Eusebius. “In later days, when they became ashamed of the religious beliefs of their ancestors, they invented private and respectful interpretations, each to suit himself. For no one dared to shake the ancestral beliefs, as they honoured at a very high rate the sacredness and antiquity of old associations, and of the teaching they had received in childhood.”13

Thus the method which we propose to employ is in harmony both with modern scientific procedure and with the views of a clear-sighted Father of the Church. Consequently no system could well be less “heretical” and “unorthodox”.

The last advantage of our hypothesis which need here be mentioned is that it helps to explain the DIFFUSION no less than the ORIGIN of the wild and crazy element in myth. We seek for the origin of the savage factor of myth in one aspect of the intellectual condition of savages. We say “in one aspect” expressly; to guard against the suggestion that the savage intellect has no aspect but this, and no saner ideas than those of myth. The DIFFUSION of stories practically identical in every quarter of the globe may be (provisionally) regarded as the result of the prevalence in every quarter, at one time or another, of similar mental habits and ideas. This explanation must not be pressed too hard nor too far. If we find all over the world a belief that men can change themselves and their neighbours into beasts, that belief will account for the appearance of metamorphosis in myth. If we find a belief that inanimate objects are really much on a level with man, the opinion will account for incidents of myth such as that in which the wooden figure-head of the Argo speaks with a human voice. Again, a widespread belief in the separability of the soul or the life from the body will account for the incident in nursery tales and myths of the “giant who had no heart in his body,” but kept his heart and life elsewhere. An ancient identity of mental status and the working of similar mental forces at the attempt to explain the same phenomena will account, without any theory of borrowing, or transmission of myth, or of original unity of race, for the world-wide diffusion of many mythical conceptions.

But this theory of the original similarity of the savage mind everywhere and in all races will scarcely account for the world-wide distribution of long and intricate mythical PLOTS, of consecutive series of adroitly interwoven situations. In presence of these long romances, found among so many widely severed peoples, conjecture is, at present, almost idle. We do not know, in many instances, whether such stories were independently developed, or carried from a common centre, or borrowed by one race from another, and so handed on round the world.

This chapter may conclude with an example of a tale whose DIFFUSION may be explained in divers ways, though its ORIGIN seems undoubtedly savage. If we turn to the Algonkins, a stock of Red Indians, we come on a popular tradition which really does give pause to the mythologist. Could this story, he asks himself, have been separately invented in widely different places, or could the Iroquois have borrowed from the Australian blacks or the Andaman Islanders? It is a common thing in most mythologies to find everything of value to man — fire, sun, water — in the keeping of some hostile power. The fire, or the sun, or the water is then stolen, or in other ways rescued from the enemy and restored to humanity. The Huron story (as far as water is concerned) is told by Father Paul Le Jeune, a Jesuit missionary, who lived among the Hurons about 1636. The myth begins with the usual opposition between two brothers, the Cain and Abel of savage legend. One of the brothers, named Ioskeha, slew the other, and became the father of mankind (as known to the Red Indians) and the guardian of the Iroquois. The earth was at first arid and sterile, but Ioskeha destroyed the gigantic frog which had swallowed all the waters, and guided the torrents into smooth streams and lakes.14

Now where, outside of North America, do we find this frog who swallowed all the water? We find him in Australia.

“The aborigines of Lake Tyers,” remarks Mr. Brough Smyth, “say that at one time there was no water anywhere on the face of the earth. All the waters were contained in the body of a huge frog, and men and women could get none of them. A council was held, and . . . it was agreed that the frog should be made to laugh, when the waters would run out of his mouth, and there would be plenty in all parts.”

To make a long story short, all the animals played the jester before the gigantic solemn frog, who sat as grave as Louis XV. “I do not like buffoons who don’t make me laugh,” said that majestical monarch. At last the eel danced on the tip of his tail, and the gravity of the prodigious Batrachian gave way. He laughed till he literally split his sides, and the imprisoned waters came with a rush. Indeed, many persons were drowned, though this is not the only Australian version of the Deluge.

The Andaman Islanders dwell at a very considerable distance from Australia and from the Iroquois, and, in the present condition of the natives of Australia and Andaman, neither could possibly visit the other. The frog in the Andaman version is called a toad, and he came to swallow the waters in the following way: One day a woodpecker was eating honey high up in the boughs of a tree. Far below, the toad was a witness of the feast, and asked for some honey. “Well, come up here, and you shall have some,” said the woodpecker. “But how am I to climb?” “Take hold of that creeper, and I will draw you up,” said the woodpecker; but all the while he was bent on a practical joke. So the toad got into a bucket he happened to possess, and fastened the bucket to the creeper. “Now, pull!” Then the woodpecker raised the toad slowly to the level of the bough where the honey was, and presently let him down with a run, not only disappointing the poor toad, but shaking him severely. The toad went away in a rage and looked about him for revenge. A happy thought occurred to him, and he drank up all the water of the rivers and lakes. Birds and beasts were perishing, woodpeckers among them, of thirst. The toad, overjoyed at his success, wished to add insult to the injury, and, very thoughtlessly, began to dance in an irritating manner at his foes. But then the stolen waters gushed out of his mouth in full volume, and the drought soon ended. One of the most curious points in this myth is the origin of the quarrel between the woodpecker and the toad. The same beginning — the tale of an insult put on an animal by hauling up and letting him down with a run — occurs in an African Marchen.15

Now this strangely diffused story of the slaying of the frog which had swallowed all the water seems to be a savage myth of which the more heroic conflict of Indra with Vrittra (the dragon which had swallowed all the waters) is an epic and sublimer version.16 “The heavenly water, which Vrittra withholds from the world, is usually the prize of the contest.”

The serpent of Vedic myth is, perhaps, rather the robber-guardian than the swallower of the waters, but Indra is still, like the Iroquois Ioskeha, “he who wounds the full one”.17 This example of the wide distribution of a myth shows how the question of diffusion, though connected with, is yet distinct from that of origin. The advantage of our method will prove to be, that it discovers an historical and demonstrable state of mind as the origin of the wild element in myth. Again, the wide prevalence in the earliest times of this mental condition will, to a certain extent, explain the DISTRIBUTION of myth. Room must be left, of course, for processes of borrowing and transmission, but how Andamanese, Australians and Hurons could borrow from each other is an unsolved problem.

Finally, our hypothesis is not involved in dubious theories of race. To us, myths appear to be affected (in their origins) much less by the race than by the stage of culture attained by the people who cherish them. A fight for the waters between a monstrous dragon like Vrittra and a heroic god like Indra is a nobler affair than a quarrel for the waters between a woodpecker and a toad. But the improvement and transfiguration, so to speak, of a myth at bottom the same is due to the superior culture, not to the peculiar race, of the Vedic poets, except so far as culture itself depends on race. How far the purer culture was attained to by the original superiority of the Aryan over the Andaman breed, it is not necessary for our purpose to inquire. Thus, on the whole, we may claim for our system a certain demonstrable character, which helps to simplify the problems of mythology, and to remove them from the realm of fanciful guesses and conflicting etymological conjectures into that of sober science. That these pretensions are not unacknowledged even by mythologists trained in other schools is proved by the remarks of Dr. Tiele.18

Dr. Tiele writes: “If I were obliged to choose between this method” (the system here advocated) “and that of comparative philology, it is the former that I would adopt without the slightest hesitation. This method alone enables us to explain the fact, which has so often provoked amazement, that people so refined as the Greeks, . . . or so rude, but morally pure, as the Germans, . . . managed to attribute to their gods all manner of cowardly, cruel and disorderly conduct. This method alone explains the why and wherefore of all those strange metamorphoses of gods into beasts and plants, and even stones, which scandalised philosophers, and which the witty Ovid played on for the diversion of his contemporaries. In short, this method teaches us to recognise in all those strange stories the survivals of a barbaric age, long passed away, but enduring to later times in the form of religious traditions, of all traditions the most persistent. . . . Finally, this method alone enables us to explain the origin of myths, because it endeavours to study them in their rudest and most primitive shape, thus allowing their true significance to be much more clearly apparent than it can be in the myths (so often touched, retouched, augmented and humanised) which are current among races arrived at a certain degree of culture.”

The method is to this extent applauded by a most competent authority, and it has been warmly accepted by a distinguished French school of students, represented by M. Gaidoz. But it is obvious that the method rests on a double hypothesis: first, that satisfactory evidence as to the mental conditions of the lower and backward races is obtainable; second, that the civilised races (however they began) either passed through the savage state of thought and practice, or borrowed very freely from people in that condition. These hypotheses have been attacked by opponents; the trustworthiness of our evidence, especially, has been assailed. By way of facilitating the course of the exposition and of lessening the disturbing element of controversy, a reply to the objections and a defence of the evidence has been relegated to an Appendix.19 Meanwhile we go on to examine the peculiar characteristics of the mental condition of savages and of peoples in the lower and upper barbarisms.

1 De Legibus Hebraeorum Ritualibus, Tubingae, 1782.

2 See Appendix A., Fontenelle’s Origine des Fables.

3 Mannhardt op. cit. p. xxiii.

4 We have been asked to DEFINE a savage. He cannot be defined in an epigram, but by way of choice of a type:—

5 Aglaoph., i. 153. Had Lobeck gone a step farther and examined the mental condition of veteres et priscae gentes, this book would have been, superfluous. Nor did he know that the purer ideas were also existing among certain low savages.

6 We may be asked why do savages entertain the irrational ideas which survive in myth? One might as well ask why they eat each other, or use stones instead of metal. Their intellectual powers are not fully developed, and hasty analogy from their own unreasoned consciousness is their chief guide. Myth, in Mr. Darwin’s phrase, is one of the “miserable and indirect consequences of our highest faculties”. Descent of Man, p. 69.

7 See Custom and Myth, “Star-Myths”.

8 Primitive Culture, 2nd edit., i. p. 283.

9 Op. cit., p. 275.

10 Primitive Culture, 2nd edit., ii. 265.

11 Pretty much the same view seems to be taken by Mr. Max Muller (Nineteenth Century, January, 1882) when he calls Tsui Goab (whom the Hottentots believe to be a defunct conjuror) “a Hottentot Indra or Zeus”.

12 Appendix B.

13 Praep. E., ii. 6, 19.

14 Relations de la Nouvelle France, 1636, p. 103 (Paris, Cramoisy, 1637).

15 Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 429, 430; Brinton, American Hero Myths, i. 55. Cf. also Relations de la Nouvelle France, 1636, 1640, 1671; (Sagard, Hist. du Canada, 1636, p. 451;) Journal Anthrop. Inst., 1881.

16 Ludwig, Der Rig-Veda, iii. p. 337. See postea, “Divine Myths of India”.

17 Gubernatis, Zoological Myth. ii. 395, note 2. “When Indra kills the serpent he opens the torrent of the waters” (p. 393). See also Aitareya Brahmana, translated by Haug, ii. 483.

18 Rev. de l’Hist. des Rel., “Le Mythe de Cronos,” January, 1886. Dr. Tiele is not, it must be noted, a thorough adherent of our theory. See Modern Mythology: “The Question of Allies”.

19 Appendix B.

Chapter 3.

The Mental Condition of Savages — Confusion with Nature — Totemism.

The mental condition of savages the basis of the irrational element in myth — Characteristics of that condition: (1) Confusion of all things in an equality of presumed animation and intelligence; (2) Belief in sorcery; (3) Spiritualism; (4) Curiosity; (5) Easy credulity and mental indolence — The curiosity is satisfied, thanks to the credulity, by myths in answer to all inquiries — Evidence for this — Mr. Tylor’s opinion — Mr. Im Thurn — Jesuit missionaries’ Relations — Examples of confusion between men, plants, beasts and other natural objects — Reports of travellers — Evidence from institution of totemism — Definition of totemism — Totemism in Australia, Africa, America, the Oceanic Islands, India, North Asia — Conclusions: Totemism being found so widely distributed, is a proof of the existence of that savage mental condition in which no line is drawn between men and the other things in the world. This confusion is one of the characteristics of myth in all races.

We set out to discover a stage of human intellectual development which would necessarily produce the essential elements of myth. We think we have found that stage in the condition of savagery. We now proceed to array the evidence for the mental processes of savages. We intend to demonstrate the existence in practical savage life of the ideas which most surprise us when we find them in civilised sacred legends.

For the purposes of this inquiry, it is enough to select a few special peculiarities of savage thought.

1. First we have that nebulous and confused frame of mind to which all things, animate or inanimate, human, animal, vegetable, or inorganic, seem on the same level of life, passion and reason. The savage, at all events when myth-making, draws no hard and fast line between himself and the things in the world. He regards himself as literally akin to animals and plants and heavenly bodies; he attributes sex and procreative powers even to stones and rocks, and he assigns human speech and human feelings to sun and moon and stars and wind, no less than to beasts, birds and fishes.1

2. The second point to note in savage opinion is the belief in magic and sorcery. The world and all the things in it being vaguely conceived of as sensible and rational, obey the commands of certain members of the tribe, chiefs, jugglers, conjurors, or what you will. Rocks open at their order, rivers dry up, animals are their servants and hold converse with them. These magicians cause or heal diseases, and can command even the weather, bringing rain or thunder or sunshine at their will.2 There are few supernatural attributes of “cloud-compelling Zeus” or of Apollo that are not freely assigned to the tribal conjuror. By virtue, doubtless, of the community of nature between man and the things in the world, the conjuror (like Zeus or Indra) can assume at will the shape of any animal, or can metamorphose his neighbours or enemies into animal forms.

3. Another peculiarity of savage belief naturally connects itself with that which has just been described. The savage has very strong ideas about the persistent existence of the souls of the dead. They retain much of their old nature, but are often more malignant after death than they had been during life. They are frequently at the beck and call of the conjuror, whom they aid with their advice and with their magical power. By virtue of the close connection already spoken of between man and the animals, the souls of the dead are not rarely supposed to migrate into the bodies of beasts, or to revert to the condition of that species of creatures with which each tribe supposes itself to be related by ties of kinship or friendship. With the usual inconsistency of mythical belief, the souls of the dead are spoken of, at other times, as if they inhabited a spiritual world, sometimes a paradise of flowers, sometimes a gloomy place, which mortal men may visit, but whence no one can escape who has tasted of the food of the ghosts.

4. In connection with spirits a far-reaching savage philosophy prevails. It is not unusual to assign a ghost to all objects, animate or inanimate, and the spirit or strength of a man is frequently regarded as something separable, capable of being located in an external object, or something with a definite locality in the body. A man’s strength and spirit may reside in his kidney fat, in his heart, in a lock of his hair, or may even be stored by him in some separate receptacle. Very frequently a man is held capable of detaching his soul from his body, and letting it roam about on his business, sometimes in the form of a bird or other animal.

5. Many minor savage beliefs might be named, such as the common faith in friendly or protecting animals, and the notion that “natural deaths” (as we call them) are always UNNATURAL, that death is always caused by some hostile spirit or conjuror. From this opinion comes the myth that man is naturally not subject to death: that death was somehow introduced into the world by a mistake or misdeed is a corollary. (See “Myths of the Origin of Death” in Modern Mythology.)

6. One more mental peculiarity of the savage mind remains to be considered in this brief summary. The savage, like the civilised man, is curious. The first faint impulses of the scientific spirit are at work in his brain; he is anxious to give himself an account of the world in which he finds himself. But he is not more curious than he is, on occasion, credulous. His intellect is eager to ask questions, as is the habit of children, but his intellect is also lazy, and he is content with the first answer that comes to hand. “Ils s’arretent aux premieres notions qu’ils en ont,” says Pere Hierome Lalemant.3 “Nothing,” says Schoolcraft, “is too capacious (sic) for Indian belief.”4 The replies to his questions he receives from tradition or (when a new problem arises) evolves an answer for himself in the shape of STORIES. Just as Socrates, in the Platonic dialogues, recalls or invents a myth in the despair of reason, so the savage has a story for answer to almost every question that he can ask himself. These stories are in a sense scientific, because they attempt a solution of the riddles of the world. They are in a sense religious, because there is usually a supernatural power, a deus ex machina, of some sort to cut the knot of the problem. Such stories, then, are the science, and to a certain extent the religious tradition, of savages.5

Now these tales are necessarily cast in the mould of the savage ideas of which a sketch has been given. The changes of the heavenly bodies, the processes of day and night, the existence of the stars, the invention of the arts, the origin of the world (as far as known to the savage), of the tribe, of the various animals and plants, the origin of death itself, the origin of the perplexing traditional tribal customs, are all accounted for in stories. At the same time, an actual divine Maker is sometimes postulated. The stories, again, are fashioned in accordance with the beliefs already named: the belief in human connection with and kinship with beasts and plants; the belief in magic; the belief in the perpetual possibility of metamorphosis or “shape shifting”; the belief in the permanence and power of the ghosts of the dead; the belief in the personal and animated character of all the things in the world, and so forth.

No more need be said to explain the wild and (as it seems to us moderns) the irrational character of savage myth. It is a jungle of foolish fancies, a walpurgis nacht of gods and beasts and men and stars and ghosts, all moving madly on a level of common personality and animation, and all changing shapes at random, as partners are changed in some fantastic witches’ revel. Such is savage mythology, and how could it be otherwise when we consider the elements of thought and belief out of which it is mainly composed? We shall see that part of the mythology of the Greeks or the Aryans of India is but a similar walpurgis nacht, in which an incestuous or amorous god may become a beast, and the object of his pursuit, once a woman, may also become a beast, and then shift shapes to a tree or a bird or a star. But in the civilised races the genius of the people tends to suppress, exclude and refine away the wild element, which, however, is never wholly eliminated. The Erinyes soon stop the mouth of the horse of Achilles when he begins, like the horse in Grimm’s Goose Girl, to hold a sustained conversation.6 But the ancient, cruel, and grotesque savage element, nearly overcome by Homer and greatly reduced by the Vedic poets, breaks out again in Hesiod, in temple legends and Brahmanic glosses, and finally proves so strong that it can only be subdued by Christianity, or rather by that break between the educated classes and the traditional past of religion which has resulted from Christianity. Even so, myth lingers in the folk-lore of the non-progressive classes of Europe, and, as in Roumania, invades religion.

We have now to demonstrate the existence in the savage intellect of the various ideas and habits which we have described, and out of which mythology springs. First, we have to show that “a nebulous and confused state of mind, to which all things, animate or inanimate, human, animal, vegetable or inorganic, seem on the same level of life, passion and reason,” does really exist.7 The existence of this condition of the intellect will be demonstrated first on the evidence of the statements of civilised observers, next on the evidence of the savage institutions in which it is embodied.

The opinion of Mr. Tylor is naturally of great value, as it is formed on as wide an acquaintance with the views of the lower races as any inquirers can hope to possess. Mr. Tylor observes: “We have to inform ourselves of the savage man’s idea, which is very different from the civilised man’s, of the nature of the lower animals. . . . The sense of an absolute psychical distinction between man and beast, so prevalent in the civilised world, is hardly to be found among the lower races.”8 The universal attribution of “souls” to all things — the theory known as “Animism”— is another proof that the savage draws no hard and fast line between man and the other things in the world. The notion of the Italian country-people, that cruelty to an animal does not matter because it is not a “Christian,” has no parallel in the philosophy of the savage, to whom all objects seem to have souls, just as men have. Mr. Im Thurn found the absence of any sense of a difference between man and nature a characteristic of his native companions in Guiana. “The very phrase, ‘Men and other animals,’ or even, as it is often expressed, ‘Men and animals,’ based as it is on the superiority which civilised man feels over other animals, expresses a dichotomy which is in no way recognised by the Indian. . . . It is therefore most important to realise how comparatively small really is the difference between men in a state of savagery and other animals, and how completely even such difference as exists escapes the notice of savage men . . . It is not, therefore, too much to say that, according to the view of the Indians, other animals differ from men only in bodily form and in their various degrees of strength; in spirit they do not differ at all.”9 The Indian’s notion of the life of plants and stones is on the same level of unreason, as we moderns reckon reason. He believes in the spirits of rocks and stones, undeterred by the absence of motion in these objects. “Not only many rocks, but also many waterfalls, streams, and indeed material objects of every sort, are supposed each to consist of a body and a spirit, as does man.”10 It is not our business to ask here how men came by the belief in universal animation. That belief is gradually withdrawn, distinctions are gradually introduced, as civilisation and knowledge advance. It is enough for us if the failure to draw a hard and fast line between man and beasts, stones and plants, be practically universal among savages, and if it gradually disappears before the fuller knowledge of civilisation. The report which Mr. Im Thurn brings from the Indians of Guiana is confirmed by what Schoolcraft says of the Algonkin races of the northern part of the continent. “The belief of the narrators and listeners in every wild and improbable thing told helps wonderfully in the original stories, in joining all parts together. The Indian believes that the whole visible and invisible creation is animated. . . . To make the matter worse, these tribes believe that animals of the lowest as well as highest class in the chain of creation are alike endowed with reasoning powers and faculties. As a natural conclusion they endow birds, beasts and all other animals with souls.”11 As an example of the ease with which the savage recognises consciousness and voluntary motion even in stones, may be cited Kohl’s account of the beliefs of the Objibeways.12 Nearly every Indian has discovered, he says, an object in which he places special confidence, and to which he sacrifices more zealously than to the Great Spirit. The “hope” of Otamigan (a companion of the traveller) was a rock, which once advanced to meet him, swayed, bowed and went back again. Another Indian revered a Canadian larch, “because he once heard a very remarkable rustling in its branches”. It thus appears that while the savage has a general kind of sense that inanimate things are animated, he is a good deal impressed by their conduct when he thinks that they actually display their animation. In the same way a devout modern spiritualist probably regards with more reverence a table which he has seen dancing and heard rapping than a table at which he has only dined. Another general statement of failure to draw the line between men and the irrational creation is found in the old Jesuit missionary Le Jeune’s Relations de la Nouvelle France.13 “Les sauvages se persuadent que non seulement les hommes et les autres animaux, mais aussi que toutes les autres choses sont animees.” Again: “Ils tiennent les poissons raisonnables, comme aussi les cerfs”. In the Solomon Islands, Mr. Romilly sailed with an old chief who used violent language to the waves when they threatened to dash over the boat, and “old Takki’s exhortations were successful”.14 Waitz15 discovers the same attitude towards the animals among the negroes. Man, in their opinion, is by no means a separate sort of person on the summit of nature and high above the beasts; these he rather regards as dark and enigmatic beings, whose life is full of mystery, and which he therefore considers now as his inferiors, now as his superiors. A collection of evidence as to the savage failure to discriminate between human and non-human, animate and inanimate, has been brought together by Sir John Lubbock.16

To a race accustomed like ourselves to arrange and classify, to people familiar from childhood and its games with “vegetable, animal and mineral,” a condition of mind in which no such distinctions are drawn, any more than they are drawn in Greek or Brahmanic myths, must naturally seem like what Mr. Max Muller calls “temporary insanity”. The imagination of the savage has been defined by Mr. Tylor as “midway between the conditions of a healthy, prosaic, modern citizen, and of a raving fanatic, or of a patient in a fever-ward”. If any relics of such imagination survive in civilised mythology, they will very closely resemble the productions of a once universal “temporary insanity”. Let it be granted, then, that “to the lower tribes of man, sun and stars, trees and rivers, winds and clouds, become personal, animate creatures, leading lives conformed to human or animal analogies, and performing their special functions in the universe with the aid of limbs like beasts, or of artificial instruments like men; or that what men’s eyes behold is but the instrument to be used or the material to be shaped, while behind it there stands some prodigious but yet half-human creature, who grasps it with his hands or blows it with his breath. The basis on which such ideas as these are built is not to be narrowed down to poetic fancy and transformed metaphor. They rest upon a broad philosophy of nature; early and crude, indeed, but thoughtful, consistent, and quite really and seriously meant.”17

For the sake of illustration, some minor examples must next be given of this confusion between man and other things in the world, which will presently be illustrated by the testimony of a powerful and long diffused set of institutions.

The Christian Quiches of Guatemala believe that each of them has a beast as his friend and protector, just as in the Highlands “the dog is the friend of the Maclaines”. When the Finns, in their epic poem the Kalewala, have killed a bear, they implore the animal to forgive them. “Oh, Ot-so,” chant the singers, “be not angry that we come near thee. The bear, the honey-footed bear, was born in lands between sun and moon, and he died, not by men’s hands, but of his own will.”18 The Red Men of North America19 have a tradition showing how it is that the bear does not die, but, like Herodotus with the sacred stories of the Egyptian priests, Mr. Schoolcraft “cannot induce himself to write it out”.20 It is a most curious fact that the natives of Australia tell a similar tale of THEIR “native bear”. “He did not die” when attacked by men.21 In parts of Australia it is a great offence to skin the native bear, just as on a part of the west coast of Ireland, where seals are superstitiously regarded, the people cannot be bribed to skin them. In New Caledonia, when a child tries to kill a lizard, the men warn him to “beware of killing his own ancestor”.22 The Zulus spare to destroy a certain species of serpents, believed to be the spirits of kinsmen, as the great snake which appeared when Aeneas did sacrifice was held to be the ghost of Anchises. Mexican women23 believed that children born during an eclipse turn into mice. In Australia the natives believe that the wild dog has the power of speech; whoever listens to him is petrified; and a certain spot is shown where “the wild dog spoke and turned the men into stone”;24 and the blacks run for their lives as soon as the dog begins to speak. What it said was “Bones”.

These are minor examples of a form of opinion which is so strong that it is actually the chief constituent in savage society. That society, whether in Ashantee or Australia, in North America or South Africa, or North Asia or India, or among the wilder tribes of ancient Peru, is based on an institution generally called “totemism”. This very extraordinary institution, whatever its origin, cannot have arisen except among men capable of conceiving kinship and all human relationships as existing between themselves and all animate and inanimate things. It is the rule, and not the exception, that savage societies are founded upon this belief. The political and social conduct of the backward races is regulated in such matters as blood-feud and marriage by theories of the actual kindred and connection by descent, or by old friendship, which men have in common with beasts, plants, the sun and moon, the stars, and even the wind and the rain. Now, in whatever way this belief in such relations to beasts and plants may have arisen, it undoubtedly testifies to a condition of mind in which no hard and fast line was drawn between man and animate and inanimate nature. The discovery of the wide distribution of the social arrangements based on this belief is entirely due to Mr. J. F. M’Lennan, the author of Primitive Marriage. Mr. M’Lennan’s essays (“The Worship of Plants and Animals,” “Totems and Totemism”) were published in the Fortnightly Review, 1869-71. Any follower in the footsteps of Mr. M’Lennan has it in his power to add a little evidence to that originally set forth, and perhaps to sift the somewhat uncritical authorities adduced.25

The name “Totemism” or “Totamism” was first applied at the end of the last century by Long26 to the Red Indian custom which acknowledges human kinship with animals. This institution had already been recognised among the Iroquois by Lafitau,27 and by other observers. As to the word “totem,” Mr. Max Muller28 quotes an opinion that the interpreters, missionaries, Government inspectors, and others who apply the name totem to the Indian “family mark” must have been ignorant of the Indian languages, for there is in them no such word as totem. The right word, it appears, is otem; but as “totemism” has the advantage of possessing the ground, we prefer to say “totemism” rather than “otemism”. The facts are the same, whatever name we give them. As Mr. Muller says himself,29 “every warrior has his crest, which is called his totem”;30 and he goes on to describe a totem of an Indian who died about 1793. We may now return to the consideration of “otemism” or totemism. We approach it rather as a fact in the science of mythology than as a stage in the evolution of the modern family system. For us totemism is interesting because it proves the existence of that savage mental attitude which assumes kindred and alliance between man and the things in the world. As will afterwards be seen, totemism has also left its mark on the mythologies of the civilised races. We shall examine the institution first as it is found in Australia, because the Australian form of totemism shows in the highest known degree the savage habit of confusing in a community of kinship men, stars, plants, beasts, the heavenly bodies, and the forces of Nature. When this has once been elucidated, a shorter notice of other totemistic races will serve our purpose.

The society of the Murri or black fellows of Australia is divided into local tribes, each of which possesses, or used to possess, and hunt over a considerable tract of country. These local tribes are united by contiguity, and by common local interests, but not necessarily by blood kinship. For example, the Port Mackay tribe, the Mount Gambier tribe, the Ballarat tribe, all take their names from their district. In the same way we might speak of the people of Strathclyde or of Northumbria in early English history. Now, all these local tribes contain an indefinite number of stocks of kindred, of men believing themselves to be related by the ties of blood and common descent. That descent the groups agree in tracing, not from some real or idealised human parent, but from some animal, plant, or other natural object, as the kangaroo, the emu, the iguana, the pelican, and so forth. Persons of the pelican stock in the north of Queensland regard themselves as relations of people of the same stock in the most southern parts of Australia. The creature from which each tribe claims descent is called “of the same flesh,” while persons of another stock are “fresh flesh”. A native may not marry a woman of “his own flesh”; it is only a woman of “fresh” or “strange” flesh he may marry. A man may not eat an animal of “his own flesh”; he may only eat “strange flesh”. Only under great stress of need will an Australian eat the animal which is the flesh-and-blood cousin and protector of his stock.31 (These rules of marriage and blood, however, do not apply among the Arunta of Central Australia, whose Totems (if Totems they should be called) have been developed on very different lines.32) Clearer evidence of the confusion between man and beast, of the claiming of kin between man and beast, could hardly be.

But the Australian philosophy of the intercommunion of Nature goes still farther than this. Besides the local divisions and the kindred stocks which trace their descent from animals, there exist among many Australian tribes divisions of a kind still unexplained. For example, every man of the Mount Gambier local tribe is by birth either a Kumite or a Kroki. This classification applies to the whole of the sensible universe. Thus smoke and honeysuckle trees belong to the division Kumite, and are akin to the fishhawk stock of men. On the other hand, the kangaroo, summer, autumn, the wind and the shevak tree belong to the division Kroki, and are akin to the black cockatoo stock of men. Any human member of the Kroki division has thus for his brothers the sun, the wind, the kangaroo, and the rest; while any man of the Kumite division and the crow surname is the brother of the rain, the thunder, and the winter. This extraordinary belief is not a mere idle fancy — it influences conduct. “A man does not kill or use as food any of the animals of the same subdivision (Kroki or Kumite) with himself, excepting when hunger compels, and then they express sorrow for having to eat their wingong (friends) or tumanang (their flesh). When using the last word they touch their breasts, to indicate the close relationship, meaning almost a portion of themselves. To illustrate: One day one of the blacks killed a crow. Three or four days afterwards a Boortwa (a man of the crow surname and stock), named Larry, died. He had been ailing for some days, but the killing of his wingong (totem) hastened his death.”33 Commenting on this statement, Mr. Fison observes: “The South Australian savage looks upon the universe as the Great Tribe, to one of whose divisions he himself belongs; and all things, animate and inanimate, which belong to his class are parts of the body corporate whereof he himself is part”. This account of the Australian beliefs and customs is borne out, to a certain extent, by the evidence of Sir George Grey,34 and of the late Mr. Gideon Scott Lang.35 These two writers take no account of the singular “dichotomous” divisions, as of Kumite and Kroki, but they draw attention to the groups of kindred which derive their surnames from animals, plants, and the like. “The origin of these family names,” says Sir George Grey, “is attributed by the natives to different causes. . . . One origin frequently assigned by the natives is, that they were derived from some vegetable or animal being very common in the district which the family inhabited.” We have seen from the evidence of Messrs. Fison and Howitt that a more common native explanation is based on kinship with the vegetable or plant which bestows the family surname. Sir George Gray mentions that the families use their plant or animal as a crest or kobong (totem), and he adds that natives never willingly kill animals of their kobong, holding that some one of that species is their nearest friend. The consequences of eating forbidden animals vary considerably. Sometimes the Boyl-yas (that is, ghosts) avenge the crime. Thus when Sir George Grey ate some mussels (which, after all, are not the crest of the Greys), a storm followed, and one of his black fellow improvised this stave:—

     Oh, wherefore did he eat the mussels?
     Now the Boyl-yas storms and thunders make;
     Oh, wherefore would he eat the mussels?

There are two points in the arrangements of these stocks of kindred named from plants and animals which we shall find to possess a high importance. No member of any such kindred may marry a woman of the same name and descended from the same object.36 Thus no man of the Emu stock may marry an Emu woman; no Blacksnake may marry a Blacksnake woman, and so forth. This point is very strongly put by Mr. Dawson, who has had much experience of the blacks. “So strictly are the laws of marriage carried out, that, should any sign of courtship or affection be observed between those ‘of one flesh,’ the brothers or male relatives of the woman beat her severely.” If the incestuous pair (though not in the least related according to our ideas) run away together, they are “half-killed”; and if the woman dies in consequence of her punishment, her partner in iniquity is beaten again. No “eric” or blood-fine of any kind is paid for her death, which carries no blood-feud. “Her punishment is legal.”37 This account fully corroborates that of Sir George Grey.38

Our conclusion is that the belief in “one flesh” (a kinship shared with the animals) must be a thoroughly binding idea, as the notion is sanctioned by capital punishment.

Another important feature in Australian totemism strengthens our position. The idea of the animal kinship must be an ancient one in the race, because the family surname, Emu, Bandicoot, or what not, and the crest, kobong, or protecting and kindred animal, are inherited through the mother’s side in the majority of stocks. This custom, therefore, belongs to that early period of human society in which the woman is the permanent and recognised factor in the family while male parentage is uncertain.39 One other feature of Australian totemism must be mentioned before we leave the subject. There is some evidence that in certain tribes the wingong or totem of each man is indicated by a tattooed representation of it upon his flesh. The natives are very licentious, but men would shrink from an amour with a woman who neither belonged to their own district nor spoke their language, but who, in spite of that, was of their totem. To avoid mistakes, it seems that some tribes mark the totem on the flesh with incised lines.40 The natives frequently design figures of some kind on the trees growing near the graves of deceased warriors. Some observers have fancied that in these designs they recognised the totem of the dead men; but on this subject evidence is by no means clear. We shall see that this primitive sort of heraldry, this carving or painting of hereditary blazons, is common among the Red Men of America.41

Though a large amount of evidence might be added to that already put forward, we may now sum up the inferences to be drawn from the study of totemism in Australia. It has been shown (1) that the natives think themselves actually akin to animals, plants, the sun, and the wind, and things in general; (2) that those ideas influence their conduct, and even regulate their social arrangements, because (3) men and women of the kinship of the same animal or plant may not intermarry, while men are obliged to defend, and in case of murder to avenge, persons of the stock of the family or plant from which they themselves derive their family name. Thus, on the evidence of institutions, it is plain that the Australians are (or before the influence of the Europeans became prevalent were) in a state of mind which draws no hard and fast line between man and the things in the world. If, therefore, we find that in Australian myth, men, gods, beasts, and things all shift shapes incessantly, and figure in a coroboree dance of confusion, there will be nothing to astonish us in the discovery. The myths of men in the Australian intellectual condition, of men who hold long conversations with the little “native bear,” and ask him for oracles, will naturally and inevitably be grotesque and confused.42

It is “a far cry” from Australia to the West Coast of Africa, and it is scarcely to be supposed that the Australians have borrowed ideas and institutions from Ashantee, or that the people of Ashantee have derived their conceptions of the universe from the Murri of Australia. We find, however, on the West African Coast, just as we do in Australia, that there exist large local divisions of the natives. These divisions are spoken of by Mr. Bowditch (who visited the country on a mission in 1817) as nations, and they are much more populous and powerful (as the people are more civilised) than the local tribes of Australia. Yet, just as among the local tribes of Australia, the nations of the West African Coast are divided into stocks of kindred, each STOCK having its representatives in each NATION. Thus an Ashantee or a Fantee may belong to the same stock of kindred as a member of the Assin or Akini nation. When an Ashantee of the Annona stock of kindred meets a Warsaw man of the same stock they salute and acknowledge each other as brothers. In the same way a Ballarat man of the Kangaroo stock in Australia recognises a relative in a Mount Gambier man who is also a Kangaroo. Now, with one exception, all the names of the twelve stocks of West African kindreds, or at least all of them which Mr. Bowditch could get the native interpreters to translate, are derived from animals, plants and other natural objects, just as in Australia.43 Thus Quonna is a buffalo, Abrootoo is a cornstalk, Abbradi a plantain. Other names are, in English, the parrot, the wild cat, red earth, panther and dog. Thus all the natives of this part of Africa are parrots, dogs, buffaloes, panthers, and so forth, just as the Australians are emus, iguanas, black cockatoos, kangaroos, and the rest. It is remarkable that there is an Incra stock, or clan of ants, in Ashantee, just as there was a race of Myrmidons, believed to be descended from or otherwise connected with ants, in ancient Greece. Though Bowditch’s account of these West African family divisions is brief, the arrangement tallies closely with that of Australia. It is no great stretch of imagination to infer that the African tribes do, or once did, believe themselves to be of the kindred of the animals whose names they bear.44 It is more or less confirmatory of this hypothesis that no family is permitted to use as food the animal from which it derives its name. We have seen that a similar rule prevails, as far as hunger and scarcity of victuals permit it to be obeyed, among the natives of Australia. The Intchwa stock in Ashantee and Fantee is particularly unlucky, because its members may not eat the dog, “much relished by native epicures, and therefore a serious privation”. Equally to be pitied were the ancient Egyptians, who, if they belonged to the district of the sheep, might not eat mutton, which their neighbours, the Lycopolitae, devoured at pleasure. These restrictions appear to be connected with the almost universal dislike of cannibals to eat persons of their own kindred except as a pious duty. This law of the game in cannibalism has not yet been thoroughly examined, though we often hear of wars waged expressly for the purpose of securing food (human meat), while some South American tribes actually bred from captive women by way of securing constant supplies of permitted flesh.45 When we find stocks, then, which derive their names from animals and decline to eat these animals, we may at least SUSPECT that they once claimed kinship with the name-giving beasts. The refusal to eat them raises a presumption of such faith. Old Bosman46 had noticed the same practices. “One eats no mutton, another no goat’s flesh, another no beef, swine’s flesh, wild fowl, cocks with white feathers, and they say their ancestors did so from the beginning of the world.”

While in the case of the Ashantee tribes, we can only infer the existence of a belief in kinship with the animals from the presence of the other features of fully developed totemism (especially from the refusal to eat the name-giving animal), we have direct evidence for the opinion in another part of Africa, among the Bechuanas.47 Casalis, who passed twenty-three years as a missionary in South Africa, thus describes the institution: “While the united communities usually bear the name of their chief or of the district which they inhabit” (local tribes, as in Australia), “each stock (tribu) derives its title from an animal or a vegetable. All the Bechuanas are subdivided thus into Bakuenas (crocodile-men), Batlapis (men of the fish), Banarer (of the buffalo), Banukus (porcupines), Bamoraras (wild vines), and so forth. The Bakuenas call the crocodile their father, sing about him in their feasts, swear by him, and mark the ears of their cattle with an incision which resembles the open jaws of the creature.” This custom of marking the cattle with the crest, as it were, of the stock, takes among some races the shape of deforming themselves, so as the more to resemble the animal from which they claim descent. “The chief of the family which holds the chief rank in the stock is called ‘The Great Man of the Crocodile’. Precisely in the same way the Duchess of Sutherland is styled in Gaelic ‘The Great Lady of the Cat,’” though totemism is probably not the origin of this title.

Casalis proceeds: “No one would dare to eat the flesh or wear the skin of the animal whose name he bears. If the animal be dangerous — the lion, for example — people only kill him after offering every apology and asking his pardon. Purification must follow such a sacrifice.” Casalis was much struck with the resemblance between these practices and the similar customs of North American races. Livingstone’s account48 on the whole corroborates that of Casalis, though he says the Batau (tribe of the lion) no longer exists. “They use the word bina ‘to dance,’ in reference to the custom of thus naming themselves, so that when you wish to ascertain what tribe they belong to, you say, ‘What do you dance?’ It would seem as if this had been part of the worship of old.” The mythological and religious knowledge of the Bushmen is still imparted in dances; and when a man is ignorant of some myth he will say, “I do not dance that dance,” meaning that he does not belong to the guild which preserves that particular “sacred chapter”.49

Casalis noticed the similarity between South African and Red Indian opinion about kinship with vegetables and beasts. The difficulty in treating the Red Indian belief is chiefly found in the abundance of the evidence. Perhaps the first person who ever used the word “totemism,” or, as he spells it, “totamism,” was (as we said) Mr. Long, an interpreter among the Chippeways, who published his Voyages in 1791. Long was not wholly ignorant of the languages, as it was his business to speak them, and he was an adopted Indian. The ceremony of adoption was painful, beginning with a feast of dog’s flesh, followed by a Turkish bath and a prolonged process of tattooing.50 According to Long,51 “The totam, they conceive, assumes the form of some beast or other, and therefore they never kill, hurt, or eat the animal whose form they think this totam bears”. One man was filled with religious apprehensions, and gave himself up to the gloomy belief of Bunyan and Cowper, that he had committed the unpardonable sin, because he dreamed he had killed his totem, a bear.52 This is only one example, like the refusal of the Osages to kill the beavers, with which they count cousins,53 that the Red Man’s belief is an actual creed, and does influence his conduct.

As in Australia, the belief in common kin with beasts is most clearly proved by the construction of Red Indian society. The “totemistic” stage of thought and manners prevails. Thus Charlevoix says,54 “Plusieurs nations ont chacune trois familles ou tribus principales, AUSSI ANCIENNES, A CE QU’IL PAROIT, QUE LEUR ORIGINE. Chaque tribu porte le nom d’un animal, et la nation entiere a aussi le sien, dont elle prend le nom, et dont la figure est sa marque, ou, se l’on veut, ses armoiries, on ne signe point autrement les traites qu’en traceant ces figures.” Among the animal totems Charlevoix notices porcupine, bear, wolf and turtle. The armoiries, the totemistic heraldry of the peoples of Virginia, greatly interested a heraldic ancestor of Gibbon the historian,55 who settled in the colony. According to Schoolcraft,56 the totem or family badge, of a dead warrior is drawn in a reverse position on his grave-post. In the same way the leopards of England are drawn reversed on the shield of an English king opposite the mention of his death in old monkish chronicles. As a general rule,57 persons bearing the same totem in America cannot intermarry. “The union must be between various totems.” Moreover, as in the case of the Australians, “the descent of the chief is in the female line”. We thus find among the Red Men precisely the same totemistic regulations as among the Aborigines of Australia. Like the Australians, the Red Men “never” (perhaps we should read “hardly ever”) eat their totems. Totemists, in short, spare the beasts that are their own kith and kin. To avoid multiplying details which all corroborate each other, it may suffice to refer to Schoolcraft for totemism among the Iowas58 and the Pueblos;59 for the Iroquois, to Lafitau, a missionary of the early part of the eighteenth century. Lafitau was perhaps the first writer who ever explained certain features in Greek and other ancient myths and practices as survivals from totemism. The Chimera, a composite creature, lion, goat and serpent, might represent, Lafitau thought, a league of three totem tribes, just as wolf, bear and turtle represented the Iroquois League.

The martyred Pere Rasles, again, writing in 1723,60 says that one stock of the Outaonaks claims descent from a hare (“the great hare was a man of prodigious size”), while another stock derive their lineage from the carp, and a third descends from a bear; yet they do not scruple, after certain expiatory rites, to eat bear’s flesh. Other North American examples are the Kutchin, who have always possessed the system of totems.61

It is to be noticed, as a peculiarity of Red Indian totemism which we have not observed (though it may exist) in Africa, that certain stocks claim relations with the sun. Thus Pere Le Petit, writing from New Orleans in 1730, mentions the Sun, or great chief of the Natchez Indians.62 The totem of the privileged class among the Natchez was the sun, and in all myths the sun is regarded as a living being, who can have children, who may be beaten, who bleeds when cut, and is simply on the same footing as men and everything else in the world. Precisely similar evidence comes from South America. In this case our best authority is almost beyond suspicion. He knew the native languages well, being himself a half-caste. He was learned in the European learning of his time; and as a son of the Incas, he had access to all surviving Peruvian stores of knowledge, and could collect without difficulty the testimonies of his countrymen. It will be seen63 that Don Garcilasso de la Vega could estimate evidence, and ridiculed the rough methods and fallacious guesses of Spanish inquirers. Garcilasso de la Vega was born about 1540, being the son of an Inca princess and of a Spanish conqueror. His book, Commentarias Reales,64 was expressly intended to rectify the errors of such Spanish writers as Acosta. In his account of Peruvian religion, Garcilasso distinguishes between the beliefs of the tribes previous to the rise of the Inca empire and the sun-worship of the Incas. But it is plain, from Garcilasso’s own account and from other evidence, that under the Incas the older faiths and fetichisms survived, in subordination to sun-worship, just as Pagan superstitions survived in custom and folk-lore after the official recognition of Christianity. Sun-worship, in Peru, and the belief in a Supreme Creator there, seem even, like Catholicism in Mexico, China and elsewhere, to have made a kind of compromise with the lower beliefs, and to have been content to allow a certain amount of bowing down in the temples of the elder faiths. According, then, to Garcilasso’s account of Peruvian totemism, “An Indian was not looked upon as honourable unless he was descended from a fountain, river,65 or lake, or even from the sea, OR FROM A WILD ANIMAL, such as a bear, lion, tiger, eagle, or the bird they call cuntur (condor), or some other bird of prey “.66 A certain amount of worship was connected with this belief in kinship with beasts and natural objects. Men offered up to their totems “what they usually saw them eat”.67 On the seacoasts “they worshipped sardines, skates, dog-fish, and, for want of larger gods, crabs. . . . There was not an animal, how vile and filthy soever, that they did not worship as a god,” including “lizards, toads and frogs.” Garcilasso (who says they ate the fish they worshipped) gives his own theory of the origin of totemism. In the beginning men had only sought for badges whereby to discriminate one human stock from another. “The one desired to have a god different from the other. . . . They only thought of making one different from another.” When the Inca emperors began to civilise the totemistic stocks, they pointed out that their own father, the sun, possessed “splendour and beauty” as contrasted with “the ugliness and filth of the frogs and other vermin they looked upon as gods”.68 Garcilasso, of course, does not use the North American word totem (or ote or otem) for the family badge which represented the family ancestors. He calls these things, as a general rule, pacarissa. The sun was the pacarissa of the Incas, as it was of the chief of the Natchez. The pacarissa of other stocks was the lion, bear, frog, or what not. Garcilasso accounts for the belief accorded to the Incas, when they claimed actual descent from the sun, by observing69 that “there were tribes among their subjects who professed similar fabulous descents, though they did not comprehend how to select ancestors so well as the Incas, but adored animals and other low and earthly objects”. As to the fact of the Peruvian worship of beasts, if more evidence is wanted, it is given, among others, by Cieza de Leon,70 who contrasts the adoration of the Roman gods with that offered in Peru to brutes. “In the important temple of Pacha-camac (the spiritual deity of Peru) they worshipped a she-fox or vixen and an emerald.” The devil also “appeared to them and spoke in the form of a tiger, very fierce”. Other examples of totemism in South America may be studied in the tribes on the Amazon.(10) Mr. Wallace found the Pineapple stock, the Mosquitoes, Woodpeckers, Herons, and other totem kindreds. A curious example of similar ideas is discovered among the Bonis of Guiana. These people were originally West Coast Africans imported as slaves, who have won their freedom with the sword. While they retain a rough belief in Gadou (God) and Didibi (the devil), they are divided into totem stocks with animal names. The red ape, turtle and cayman are among the chief totems.(11)

10 Acuna, p. 103; Wallace, Travels on Amazon (1853), pp. 481-506.

11 Crevaux, Voyages dans l’Amerique du Sud, p. 59.

After this hasty examination of the confused belief in kinship with animals and other natural objects which underlies institutions in Australia, West and South Africa, North and South America, we may glance at similar notions among the non-Aryan races of India. In Dalton’s Ethnology of Bengal,71 he tells us that the Garo clans are divided into maharis or motherhoods. Children belong to the mahari of the mother, just as (in general) they derive their stock name and totem from the mother’s side in Australia and among the North American Indians. No man may marry (as among the Red Indians and Australians) a woman belonging to his own stock, motherhood or mahari. So far the maharis of Bengal exactly correspond to the totem kindred. But do the Maharis also take their names from plants and animals, and so forth? We know that the Killis, similar communities among the Bengal Hos and Mundos, do this.72 “The Mundaris, like the Oraons, adopt as their tribal distinction the name of some animal, and the flesh of that animal is tabooed to them as food; for example, the eel, the tortoise.” This is exactly the state of things in Ashanti. Dalton mentions also73 a princely family in Nagpur which claims descent from “a great hooded snake”. Among the Oraons he found74 tribes which might not eat young mice (considered a dainty) or tortoises, and a stock which might not eat the oil of the tree which was their totem, nor even sit in its shade. “The family or tribal names” (within which they may not marry) “are usually those of animals or plants, and when this is the case, the flesh of some part of the animal or the fruit of the tree is tabooed to the tribe called after it.”

An excellent sketch of totemism in India is given by Mr. H. H. Risley of the Bengal Civil Service:—75

“At the bottom of the social system, as understood by the average Hindu, stands a large body of non-Aryan castes and tribes, each of which is broken up into a number of what may be called totemistic exogamous septs. Each sept bears the name of an animal, a tree, a plant, or of some material object, natural or artificial, which the members of that sept are prohibited from killing, eating, cutting, burning, carrying, using, etc.”76

Mr. Risley finds that both Kolarians, as the Sonthals, and Dravidians, as the Oraons, are in this state of totemism, like the Hos and Mundas. It is most instructive to learn that, as one of these tribes rises in the social scale, it sloughs off its totem, and, abandoning the common name derived from bird, beast, or plant, adopts that of an eponymous ancestor. A tendency in this direction has been observed by Messrs. Fison and Howitt even in Australia. The Mahilis, Koras and Kurmis, who profess to be members of the Hindu community, still retain the totemistic organisation, with names derived from birds, beasts and plants. Even the Jagannathi Kumhars of Orissa, taking rank immediately below the writer-caste, have the totems tiger, snake, weasel, cow, frog, sparrow and tortoise. The sub-castes of the Khatlya Kumhars explain away their totem-names “as names of certain saints, who, being present at Daksha’s Horse-sacrifice, transformed themselves into animals to escape the wrath of Siva,” like the gods of Egypt when they fled in bestial form from the wrath of Set.

Among the non-Aryan tribes the marriage law has the totemistic sanction. No man may marry a woman of his totem kin. When the totem-name is changed for an eponym, the non-Aryan, rising in the social scale, is practically in the same position as the Brahmans, “divided into exogamous sections (gotras), the members of which profess to be descended from the mythical rishi or inspired saint whose name the gotra bears”. There is thus nothing to bar the conjecture that the exogamous gotras of the whole Brahmans were once a form of totem-kindred, which (like aspiring non-Aryan stocks at the present day) dropped the totem-name and renamed the septs from some eponymous hero, medicine-man, or Rishi.

Constant repetition of the same set of facts becomes irksome, and yet is made necessary by the legitimate demand for trustworthy and abundant evidence. As the reader must already have reflected, this living mythical belief in the common confused equality of men, gods, plants, beasts, rivers, and what not, which still regulates savage society,77 is one of the most prominent features in mythology. Porphyry remarked and exactly described it among the Egyptians —“common and akin to men and gods they believed the beasts to be.”78 The belief in such equality is alien to modern civilisation. We have shown that it is common and fundamental in savagery. For instance, in the Pacific, we might quote Turner,79 and for Melanesia, Codrington,80 while for New Zealand we have Taylor.81 For the Jakuts, along the banks of the Lena in Northern Asia, we have the evidence of Strahlenberg, who writes: “Each tribe of these people look upon some particular creature as sacred, e.g., a swan, goose, raven, etc., and such is not eaten by that tribe” though the others may eat it.82 As the majority of our witnesses were quite unaware that the facts they described were common among races of whom many of them had never even heard, their evidence may surely be accepted as valid, especially as the beliefs testified to express themselves in marriage laws, in the blood-feud, in abstinence from food, on pillars over graves, in rude heraldry, and in other obvious and palpable shapes. If we have not made out, by the evidence of institutions, that a confused credulity concerning the equality and kinship of man and the objects in nature is actually a ruling belief among savages, and even higher races, from the Lena to the Amazon, from the Gold Coast to Queensland, we may despair of ever convincing an opponent. The survival of the same beliefs and institutions among civilised races, Aryan and others, will later be demonstrated.83 If we find that the mythology of civilised races here agrees with the actual practical belief of savages, and if we also find that civilised races retain survivals of the institutions in which the belief is expressed by savages, then we may surely infer that the activity of beasts in the myths of Greece springs from the same sources as the similar activity of beasts in the myths of Iroquois or Kaffirs. That is to say, part of the irrational element in Greek myth will be shown to be derived (whether by inheritance or borrowing) from an ascertained condition of savage fancy.

1 “So fasst auch das Alterthum ihren Unterschied von den Menschen ganz anders als die spatere Zeit.”— Grimm, quoted by Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 17.

2 See Roth in North-West Central Queensland Aborigines, chapter xii., 1897.

3 Relations de la Nouvelle France, 1648, p. 70.

4 Algic Researches, i. 41.

5 “The Indians (Algonkins) conveyed instruction — moral, mechanical and religious — through traditionary fictions and tales.”— Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, i. 12.

6 Iliad, xix. 418.

7 Creuzer and Guigniaut, vol. i. p. 111.

8 Primitive Culture, i. 167-169.

9 Among the Indians of Guiana (1883), p. 350.

10 Op. Cit., 355.

11 Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, i. 41.

12 Kohl, Wanderings Round Lake Superior, pp. 58, 59; Muller, Amerikan Urrelig., pp. 62-67.

13 1636, p. 109.

14 Western Pacific, p. 84.

15 Anthropologie der Natur-Volker, ii. 177.

16 Origin of Civilisation, p. 33. A number of examples of this mental attitude among the Bushmen will be found in chap. v., postea.

17 Primtive Culture, i. 285.

18 Kalewala, in La Finlande, Leouzon Le Duc (1845), vol. ii. p. 100; cf. also the Introduction.

19 Schoolcraft, v. 420.

20 See similar ceremonies propitiatory of the bear in Jewett’s Adventures among the Nootkas, Edinburgh, 1824.

21 Brough Smyth, i. 449.

22 J. J. Atkinson’s MS.

23 Sahagun, ii. viii. 250; Bancroft, iii. 111. Compare stories of women who give birth to animals in Melusine, 1886, August-November. The Batavians believe that women, when delivered of a child, are frequently delivered at the same time of a young crocodile as a twin. Hawkesworth’s Voyages, iii. 756. Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 17 et seq.

24 Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 497.

25 See also Mr. Frazer’s Totemism, and Golden Bough, with chapter on Totemism in Modern Mythology.

26 Voyages and Travels, 1791.

27 Moeurs des Sauvages (1724), p. 461.

28 Academy, December 15, 1883.

29 Selected Essays (1881), ii. 376.

30 Compare Mr. Max Muller’s Contributions to the Science of Mythology.

31 Dawson, Aborigines, pp. 26, 27; Howitt and Fison, Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 169.

32 Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia.

33 Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 169.

34 Travels, ii. 225.

35 Lang, Lecture on Natives of Australia, p. 10.

36 Taplin, The Nerrinyeri. p. 2. “Every tribe, regarded by them as a family, has its ngaitge, or tutelary genius or tribal symbol, in the shape of some bird, beast, fish, reptile, insect, or substance. Between individuals of the same tribe no marriage can take place.” Among the Narrinyeri kindred is reckoned (p. 10) on the father’s side. See also (p. 46) ngaitge = Samoan aitu. “No man or woman will kill their ngaitge,” except with precautions, for food.

37 Op. cit., p. 28.

38 Ibid., ii. 220.

39 Cf. Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht; M’Lennan, Primitive Marriage, passim; Encycl. Brit. s. v. Family.

40 Fison, op. cit., p. 66.

41 Among other recent sources see Howitt in “Organisation of Australian Tribes” (Transactions of Royal Society of Victoria, 1889), and Spencer and Gillen, Natives of Central Australia. In Central Australia there is a marked difference in the form of Totemism.

42 Brough Smyth, i. 447, on MS. authority of W. Thomas.

43 The evidence of native interpreters may be viewed with suspicion. It is improbable, however, that in 1817 the interpreters were acquainted with the totemistic theory of mythologists, and deliberately mistranslated the names of the stocks, so as to make them harmonise with Indian, Australian, and Red Indian totem kindreds. This, indeed, is an example where the criterion of “recurrence” or “coincidence” seems to be valuable. Bowditch’s Mission to Ashantee (1873), p. 181.

44 This view, however, does not prevail among the totemistic tribes of British Columbia, for example.

45 Cieza de Leon (Hakluyt Society), p. 50. This amazing tale is supported by the statement that kinship went by the female side (p. 49); the father was thus not of the kin of his child by the alien woman. Cieza was with Validillo in 1538.

46 In Pinkerton, xvi. 400.

47 E. Casalis, Les Bassoutos, 1859.

48 Missionary Travels (1857), p. 13.

49 Orpen, Cape Monthly Magazine, 1872.

50 Long, pp. 46-49.

51 Ibid., p. 86.

52 Ibid., p. 87.

53 Schoolcraft, i. 319.

54 Histoire de la France-Nouvelle, iii. 266.

55 Introductio ad Latinam Blasoniam, by John Gibbon, Blue Mantle, London, 1682. “The dancers, were painted some party per pale, gul and sab, some party per fesse of the same colours;” whence Gibbon concluded “that heraldry was ingrafted naturally into the sense of the humane race”.

56 Vol. i. p. 356.

57 Schoolcraft, v. 73.

58 Ibid., iii. 268.

59 Ibid., iv. 86.

60 Kip’s Jesuits in America i. 33.

61 Dall’s Alaska, pp. 196-198.

62 Kip, ii. 288.

63 Appendix B.

64 See translation in Hakluyt Society’s Collection.

65 Like many Greek heroes. Odyssey, iii. 489. “Orsilochus, the child begotten of Alpheus.”

66 Comm. Real., i. 75.

67 Ibid., 53.

68 Ibid., 102.

69 Ibid., 83.

70 Cieza de Leon (Hakluyt Society), p. 183.

71 Dalton, p. 63.

72 Ibid., p. 189.

73 Ibid., p. 166.

74 Ibid., p. 254.

75 The Asiatic Quarterly, No. 3, Essay on “Primitive Marriage in Bengal.”

76 Here we may note that the origin of exogamy itself is merely part of a strict totemistic prohibition. A man may not “use” an object within the totem kin, nor a woman of the kin. Compare the Greek idiom [greek].

77 See some very curious and disgusting examples of this confusion in Liebrecht’s Zur Volkskunde, pp. 395, 396 (Heilbronn, 1879).

78 De Abst., ii. 26.

79 Nineteen Years in Polynesia, p. 238, and Samoa by the same author. Complete totemism is not asserted here, and is denied for Melanesia.

80 Journ. Anthrop. Inst., “Religious Practices in Melanesia”.

81 New Zealand, “Animal Intermarriage with Men”.

82 Description of Asia (1783), p. 383.

83 Professor Robertson Smith, Kinship in Arabia, attempts to show that totemism existed in the Semitic races. The topic must be left to Orientalists.

Chapter 4.

The Mental Condition of Savages — Magic — Metamorphosis — Metaphysic — Psychology.

Claims of sorcerers — Savage scientific speculation — Theory of causation — Credulity, except as to new religious ideas —“Post hoc, ergo propter hoc”— Fundamental ideas of magic — Examples: incantations, ghosts, spirits — Evidence of rank and other institutions in proof of confusions of mind exhibited in magical beliefs.

“I mean eftsoons to have a fling at magicians for their abominable lies and monstrous vanities.”— PLINY, ap. Phil. Holland.

“Quoy de ceux qui naturellement se changent en loups, en juments, et puis encores en hommes?”— MONTAIGNE, Apologie pour Raymond de Sebonde.

The second feature in the savage intellectual condition which we promised to investigate was the belief in magic and sorcery. The world and all the things in it being conceived of vaguely as sensible and rational, are supposed to obey the commands of certain members of each tribe, such as chiefs, jugglers, or conjurors. These conjurors, like Zeus or Indra, can affect the weather, work miracles, assume what shapes, animal, vegetable, or inorganic, they please, and can metamorphose other persons into similar shapes. It has already been shown that savage man has regarded all THINGS as PERSONS much on a level with himself. It has now to be shown WHAT KIND OF PERSON HE CONCEIVES HIMSELF TO BE. He does not look on men as civilised races regard them, that is, as beings with strict limitations. On the other hand, he thinks of certain members of his tribe as exempt from most of the limitations, and capable of working every miracle that tradition has ever attributed to prophets or gods. Nor are such miraculous powers, such practical omnipotence, supposed by savages to be at all rare among themselves. Though highly valued, miraculous attainments are not believed to be unusual. This must be kept steadily in mind. When myth-making man regards the sky or sun or wind as a person, he does not mean merely a person with the limitations recognised by modern races. He means a person with the miraculous powers of the medicine-man. The sky, sun, wind or other elemental personage can converse with the dead, and can turn himself and his neighbours into animals, stones and trees.

To understand these functions and their exercise, it is necessary to examine what may be called savage science, savage metaphysics, and the savage theory of the state of the dead. The medicine-man’s supernatural claims are rooted in the general savage view of the world, of what is possible, and of what (if anything) is impossible. The savage, even more than the civilised man, may be described as a creature “moving about in worlds not realised”. He feels, no less than civilised man, the need of making the world intelligible, and he is active in his search for causes and effects. There is much “speculation in these eyes that he doth glare withal”. This is a statement which has been denied by some persons who have lived with savages. Thus Mr. Bates, in his Naturalist on the Amazon,1 writes: “Their want of curiosity is extreme. . . . Vicente (an Indian companion) did not know the cause of thunder and lightning. I asked him who made the sun, the stars, the trees. He didn’t know, and had never heard the subject mentioned in his tribe.” But Mr. Bates admits that even Vicente had a theory of the configuration of the world. “The necessity of a theory of the earth and water had been felt, and a theory had been suggested.” Again, Mr. Bates says about a certain Brazilian tribe, “Their sluggish minds seem unable to conceive or feel the want of a theory of the soul”; and he thinks the cause of this indolence is the lack “of a written language or a leisured class”. Now savages, as a rule, are all in the “leisured class,” all sportsmen. Mr. Herbert Spencer, too, has expressed scepticism about the curiosity attributed to savages. The point is important, because, in our view, the medicine-man’s powers are rooted in the savage theory of things, and if the savage is too sluggish to invent or half consciously evolve a theory of things, our hypothesis is baseless. Again, we expect to find in savage myths the answer given by savages to their own questions. But this view is impossible if savages do not ask themselves, and never have asked themselves, any questions at all about the world. On this topic Mr. Spencer writes: “Along with absence of surprise there naturally goes absence of intelligent curiosity”.2 Yet Mr. Spencer admits that, according to some witnesses, “the Dyaks have an insatiable curiosity,” the Samoans “are usually very inquisitive,” and “the Tahitians are remarkably curious and inquisitive”. Nothing is more common than to find travellers complaining that savages, in their ardently inquiring curiosity, will not leave the European for a moment to his own undisturbed devices. Mr. Spencer’s savages, who showed no curiosity, displayed this impassiveness when Europeans were trying to make them exhibit signs of surprise. Impassivity is a point of honour with many uncivilised races, and we cannot infer that a savage has no curiosity because he does not excite himself over a mirror, or when his European visitors try to swagger with their mechanical appliances. Mr. Herbert Spencer founds, on the statements of Mr. Bates already quoted, a notion that “the savage, lacking ability to think and the accompanying desire to know, is without tendency to speculate”. He backs Mr. Bates’s experience with Mungo Park’s failure to “draw” the negroes about the causes of day and night. They had never indulged a conjecture nor formed an hypothesis on the matter. Yet Park avers that “the belief in one God is entire and universal among them”. This he “pronounces without the smallest shadow of doubt”. As to “primitive man,” according to Mr. Spencer, “the need for explanations about surrounding appearances does not occur to him”. We have disclaimed all knowledge about “primitive man,” but it is easy to show that Mr. Spencer grounds his belief in the lack of speculation among savages on a frail foundation of evidence.

Mr. Spencer has admitted speculation, or at least curiosity, among New Caledonians, New Guinea people, Dyaks, Samoans and Tahitians. Even where he denies its existence, as among the Amazon tribes mentioned by Mr. Bates, we happen to be able to show that Mr. Bates was misinformed. Another traveller, the American geologist, Professor Hartt of Cornell University, lived long among the tribes of the Amazon. But Professor Hartt did not, like Mr. Bates, find them at all destitute of theories of things — theories expressed in myths, and testifying to the intellectual activity and curiosity which demands an answer to its questions. Professor Hartt, when he first became acquainted with the Indians of the Amazon, knew that they were well supplied with myths, and he set to work to collect them. But he found that neither by coaxing nor by offers of money could he persuade an Indian to relate a myth. Only by accident, “while wearily paddling up the Paranamirim of the Ituki,” did he hear the steersman telling stories to the oarsmen to keep them awake. Professor Hartt furtively noted down the tale, and he found that by “setting the ball rolling,” and narrating a story himself, he could make the natives throw off reserve and add to his stock of tales. “After one has obtained his first myth, and has learned to recite it accurately and spiritedly, the rest is easy.” The tales published by Professor Hartt are chiefly animal stories, like those current in Africa and among the Red Indians, and Hartt even believed that many of the legends had been imported by Negroes. But as the majority of the Negro myths, like those of the Australians, give a “reason why” for the existence of some phenomenon or other, the argument against early man’s curiosity and vivacity of intellect is rather injured, even if the Amazonian myths were imported from Africa. Mr. Spencer based his disbelief in the intellectual curiosity of the Amazonian tribes and of Negroes on the reports of Mr. Bates and of Mungo Park. But it turns out that both Negroes and Amazonians have stories which do satisfy an unscientific curiosity, and it is even held that the Negroes lent the Amazonians these very stories.3 The Kamschadals, according to Steller, “give themselves a reason why for everything, according to their own lively fancy, and do not leave the smallest matter uncriticised”.4 As far, then, as Mr. Spencer’s objections apply to existing savages, we may consider them overweighed by the evidence, and we may believe in a naive savage curiosity about the world and desire for explanations of the causes of things. Mr. Tylor’s opinion corroborates our own: “Man’s craving to know the causes at work in each event he witnesses, the reasons why each state of things he surveys is such as it is and no other, is no product of high civilisation, but a characteristic of his race down to its lowest stages. Among rude savages it is already an intellectual appetite, whose satisfaction claims many of the moments not engrossed by war or sport, food or sleep. Even in the Botocudo or the Australian, scientific speculation has its germ in actual experience.”5 It will be shown later that the food of the savage intellectual appetite is offered and consumed in the shape of explanatory myths.

But we must now observe that the “actual experience,” properly so called, of the savage is so limited and so coloured by misconception and superstition, that his knowledge of the world varies very much from the conceptions of civilised races. He seeks an explanation, a theory of things, based on his experience. But his knowledge of physical causes and of natural laws is exceedingly scanty, and he is driven to fall back upon what we may call metaphysical, or, in many cases “supernatural” explanations. The narrower the range of man’s knowledge of physical causes, the wider is the field which he has to fill up with hypothetical causes of a metaphysical or “supernatural” character. These “supernatural” causes themselves the savage believes to be matters of experience. It is to his mind a matter of experience that all nature is personal and animated; that men may change shapes with beasts; that incantations and supernatural beings can cause sunshine and storm.

A good example of this is given in Charlevoix’s work on French Canada.6 Charlevoix was a Jesuit father and missionary among the Hurons and other tribes of North America. He thus describes the philosophy of the Red Men: “The Hurons attribute the most ordinary effects to supernatural causes”.7 In the same page the good father himself attributes the welcome arrival of rainy weather and the cure of certain savage patients to the prayers of Pere Brebeuf and to the exhibition of the sacraments. Charlevoix had considerably extended the field in which natural effects are known to be produced by natural causes. He was much more scientifically minded than his savage flock, and was quite aware that an ordinary clock with a pendulum cannot bring bad luck to a whole tribe, and that a weather-cock is not a magical machine for securing unpleasant weather. The Hurons, however, knowing less of natural causes and nothing of modern machinery, were as convinced that his clock was ruining the luck of the tribe and his weather-cock spoiling the weather, as Father Charlevoix could be of the truth of his own inferences. One or two other anecdotes in the good father’s history and letters help to explain the difference between the philosophies of wild and of Christian men. The Pere Brebeuf was once summoned at the instigation of a Huron wizard or “medicine-man” before a council of the tribe. His judges told the father that nothing had gone right since he appeared among them. To this Brebeuf replied by “drawing the attention of the savages to the absurdity of their principles”. He admitted8 the premise that nothing had turned out well in the tribe since his arrival. “But the reason,” said he, “plainly is that God is angry with your hardness of heart.” No sooner had the good father thus demonstrated the absurdity of savage principles of reasoning, than the malignant Huron wizard fell down dead at his feet! This event naturally added to the confusion of the savages.

Coincidences of this sort have a great effect on savage minds. Catlin, the friend of the Mandan tribe, mentions a chief who consolidated his power by aid of a little arsenic, bought from the whites. The chief used to prophesy the sudden death of his opponents, which always occurred at the time indicated. The natural results of the administration of arsenic were attributed by the barbarous people to supernatural powers in the possession of the chief.9 Thus the philosophy of savages seeks causas cognoscere rerum, like the philosophy of civilised men, but it flies hastily to a hypothesis of “supernatural” causes which are only guessed at, and are incapable of demonstration. This frame of mind prevails still in civilised countries, as the Bishop of Nantes showed when, in 1846, he attributed the floods of the Loire to “the excesses of the press and the general disregard of Sunday”. That “supernatural” causes exist and may operate, it is not at all our intention to deny. But the habit of looking everywhere for such causes, and of assuming their interference at will, is the main characteristic of savage speculation. The peculiarity of the savage is that he thinks human agents can work supernaturally, whereas even the Bishop reserved his supernatural explanations for the Deity. On this belief in man’s power to affect events beyond the limits of natural possibility is based the whole theory of MAGIC, the whole power of sorcerers. That theory, again, finds incessant expression in myth, and therefore deserves our attention.

The theory requires for its existence an almost boundless credulity. This credulity appears to Europeans to prevail in full force among savages. Bosman is amazed by the African belief that a spider created the world. Moffat is astonished at the South African notion that the sea was accidentally created by a girl. Charlevoix says, “Les sauvages sont d’une facilite a croire ce qu’on leur dit, que les plus facheuse experiences n’ont jamais pu guerir”.10 But it is a curious fact that while savages are, as a rule, so credulous, they often laugh at the religious doctrines taught them by missionaries. Elsewhere they recognise certain essential doctrines as familiar forms of old. Dr. Moffat remarks, “To speak of the Creation, the Fall and the Resurrection, seemed more fabulous, extravagant and ludicrous to them than their own vain stories of lions and hyaenas.” Again, “The Gospel appeared too preposterous for the most foolish to believe”.11 While the Zulus declared that they used to accept their own myths without inquiry,12 it was a Zulu who suggested to Bishop Colenso his doubts about the historical character of the Noachian Deluge. Hearne13 knew a Red Man, Matorabhee, who, “though a perfect bigot with regard to the arts and tricks of the jugglers, could yet by no means be impressed with a belief of any part of OUR religion”. Lieutenant Haggard, R.N., tells the writer that during an eclipse at Lamoo he ridiculed the native notion of driving away a beast which devours the moon, and explained the real cause of the phenomenon. But his native friend protested that “he could not be expected to believe such a story”. Yet other savages aver an old agreement with the belief in a moral Creator.

We have already seen sufficient examples of credulity in savage doctrines about the equal relations of men and beasts, stars, clouds and plants. The same readiness of belief, which would be surprising in a Christian child, has been found to regulate the rudimentary political organisations of grey barbarians. Add to this credulity a philosophy which takes resemblance, or contiguity in space, or nearness in time as a sufficient reason for predicating the relations of cause and effect, and we have the basis of savage physical science. Yet the metaphysical theories of savages, as expressed in Maori, Polynesian, and Zuni hymns, often amaze us by their wealth of abstract ideas. Coincidence elsewhere stands for cause.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, is the motto of the savage philosophy of causation. The untutored reasoner speculates on the principles of the Egyptian clergy, as described by Herodotus.14 “The Egyptians have discovered more omens and prodigies than any other men; for when aught prodigious occurs, they keep good watch, and write down what follows; and then, if anything like the prodigy be repeated, they expect the same events to follow as before.” This way of looking at things is the very essence of superstition.

Savages, as a rule, are not even so scientific as the Egyptians. When an untoward event occurs, they look for its cause among all the less familiar circumstances of the last few days, and select the determining cause very much at random. Thus the arrival of the French missionaries among the Hurons was coincident with certain unfortunate events; therefore it was argued that the advent of the missionaries was the cause of the misfortune. When the Bechuanas suffered from drought, they attributed the lack of rain to the arrival of Dr. Moffat, and especially to his beard, his church bell, and a bag of salt in his possession. Here there was not even the pretence of analogy between cause and effect. Some savages might have argued (it is quite in their style), that as salt causes thirst, a bag of salt causes drought; but no such case could be made out against Dr. Moffat’s bell and beard. To give an example from the beliefs of English peasants. When a cottage was buried by a little avalanche in 1772, the accident was attributed to the carelessness of the cottagers, who had allowed a light to be taken out of their dwelling in Christmas-tide.15 We see the same confusion between antecedence and consequence in time on one side, and cause and effect on the other, when the Red Indians aver that birds actually bring winds and storms or fair weather. They take literally the sense of the Rhodian swallow-song:—

     The swallow hath come,
     Bringing fair hours,
     Bringing fair seasons,
     On black back and white breast.16

Again, in the Pacific the people of one island always attribute hurricanes to the machinations of the people of the nearest island to windward. The wind comes from them; therefore (as their medicine-men can notoriously influence the weather), they must have sent the wind. This unneighbourly act is a casus belli, and through the whole of a group of islands the banner of war, like the flag of freedom in Byron, flies against the wind. The chief principle, then, of savage science is that antecedence and consequence in time are the same as effect and cause.17 Again, savage science holds that LIKE AFFECTS LIKE, that you can injure a man, for example, by injuring his effigy. On these principles the savage explains the world to himself, and on these principles he tries to subdue to himself the world. Now the putting of these principles into practice is simply the exercise of art magic, an art to which nothing seems impossible. The belief that his Shamans or medicine-men practise this art is universal among savages. It seriously affects their conduct, and is reflected in their myths.

The one general rule which governs all magical reasoning is, that casual connection in thought is equivalent to causative connection in fact. Like suggests like to human thought by association of ideas; wherefore like influences like, or produces analogous effects in practice. Any object once in a man’s possession, especially his hair or his nails, is supposed to be capable of being used against him by a sorcerer. The part suggests the whole. A lock of a man’s hair was part of the man; to destroy the hair is to destroy its former owner. Again, whatever event follows another in time suggests it, and may have been caused by it. Accompanying these ideas is the belief that nature is peopled by invisible spiritual powers, over which magicians and sorcerers possess influence. The magic of the lower races chiefly turns on these two beliefs. First, “man having come to associate in thought those things which he found by experience to be connected in fact, proceeded erroneously to invert their action, and to conclude that association in thought must involve similar connection in reality. He thus attempted to discover, to foretell, and to cause events, by means of processes which we now see to have only an ideal significance.”18 Secondly, man endeavoured to make disembodied spirits of the dead, or any other spirits, obedient to his will. Savage philosophy presumes that the beliefs are correct, and that their practical application is successful. Examples of the first of the two chief magical ideas are as common in unscientific modern times or among unscientific modern people as in the savage world.

The physicians of the age of Charles II. were wont to give their patients “mummy powder,” that is, pulverised mummy. They argued that the mummy had lasted for a very long time, and that the patients ought to do so likewise. Pliny imagined that diamonds must be found in company with gold, because these are the most perfect substances in the world, and like should draw to like. Aurum potabile, or drinkable gold, was a favourite medical nostrum of the Middle Ages, because gold, being perfect, should produce perfect health. Among savages the belief that like is caused by like is exemplified in very many practices. The New Caledonians, when they wish their yam plots to be fertile, bury in them with mystic ceremonies certain stones which are naturally shaped like yams. The Melanesians have reduced this kind of magic to a system. Among them certain stones have a magical efficacy, which is determined in each case by the shape of the stone. “A stone in the shape of a pig, of a bread-fruit, of a yam, was a most valuable find. No garden was planted without the stones which were to increase the crop.”19 Stones with a rude resemblance to beasts bring the Zuni luck in the chase.

The spiritual theory in some places is mixed up with the “like to like” theory, and the magical stones are found where the spirits have been heard twittering and whistling. “A large stone lying with a number of small ones under it, like a sow among her sucklings, was good for a childless woman.”20 It is the savage belief that stones reproduce their species, a belief consonant with the general theory of universal animation and personality. The ancient belief that diamonds gendered diamonds is a survival from these ideas. “A stone with little disks upon it was good to bring in money; any fanciful interpretation of a mark was enough to give a character to the stone and its associated Vui” or spirit in Melanesia. In Scotland, stones shaped like various parts of the human body are expected to cure the diseases with which these members may be afflicted. “These stones were called by the names of the limbs which they represented, as ‘eye-stone,’ ‘head-stone’.” The patient washed the affected part of the body, and rubbed it well with the stone corresponding.21

To return from European peasant-magic to that of savages, we find that when the Bushmen want wet weather they light fires, believing that the black smoke clouds will attract black rain clouds; while the Zulus sacrifice black cattle to attract black clouds of rain.22 Though this magic has its origin in savage ignorance, it survives into civilisation. Thus the sacrifices of the Vedic age were imitations of the natural phenomena which the priests desired to produce.23 “C’etait un moyen de faire tombre la pluie en realisant, par les representations terrestres des eaux du nuage et de l’eclair, les conditions dans lesquelles celui-ci determine dans le ciel l’epanchement de celles-la.” A good example of magical science is afforded by the medical practice of the Dacotahs of North America.24 When any one is ill, an image of his disease, a boil or what not, is carved in wood. This little image is then placed in a bowl of water and shot at with a gun. The image of the disease being destroyed, the disease itself is expected to disappear. Compare the magic of the Philistines, who made golden images of the sores which plagued them and stowed them away in the ark.25 The custom of making a wax statuette of an enemy, and piercing it with pins or melting it before the fire, so that the detested person might waste as his semblance melted, was common in mediaeval Europe, was known to Plato, and is practised by Negroes. Some Australians take some of the hair of an enemy, mix it with grease and the feathers of the eagle, and burn it in the fire. This is “bar” or black magic. The boarding under the chair of a magistrate in Barbadoes was lifted not long ago, and the ground beneath was found covered with wax images of litigants stuck full of pins.

The war-magic of the Dacotahs works in a similar manner. Before a party starts on the war-trail, the chief, with various ceremonies, takes his club and stands before his tent. An old witch bowls hoops at him; each hoop represents an enemy, and for each he strikes a foeman is expected to fall. A bowl of sweetened water is also set out to entice the spirits of the enemy.26 The war-magic of the Aryans in India does not differ much in character from that of the Dacotahs. “If any one wishes his army to be victorious, he should go beyond the battle-line, cut a stalk of grass at the top and end, and throw it against the hostile army with the words, Prasahe kas trapasyati? — O Prasaha, who sees thee? If one who has such knowledge cuts a stalk of grass and throws the parts at the hostile army, it becomes split and dissolved, just as a daughter-in-law becomes abashed and faints when seeing her father-in-law,”— an allusion, apparently, to the widespread tabu which makes fathers-in-law, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, and mothers-in-law avoid each other.27

The hunt-dances of the Red Indians and Australians are arranged like their war-magic. Effigies of the bears, deer, or kangaroos are made, or some of the hunters imitate the motions of these animals. The rest of the dancers pretend to spear them, and it is hoped that this will ensure success among the real bears and kangaroos.

Here is a singular piece of magic in which Europeans and Australian blacks agree. Boris Godunoff made his servants swear never to injure him by casting spells with the dust on which his feet or his carriage wheels had left traces.28 Mr. Howitt finds the same magic among the Kurnai.29 “Seeing a Tatungolung very lame, I asked him what was the matter. He said, ‘Some fellow has put BOTTLE in my foot’. I found he was probably suffering from acute rheumatism. He explained that some enemy must have found his foot-track and have buried in it a piece of broken bottle. The magic influence, he believed, caused it to enter his foot.” On another occasion a native told Mr. Howitt that he had seen black fellows putting poison in his foot-tracks. Bosman mentions a similar practice among the people of Guinea. In Scottish folk-lore a screw nail is fixed into the footprint of the person who is to be injured.

Just as these magical efforts to influence like by like work their way into Vedic and other religions, so they are introduced into the religion of the savage. His prayers are addresses to some sort of superior being, but the efficacy of the prayer is often eked out by a little magic, unless indeed we prefer to suppose that the words of the supplication are interpreted by gesture-speech. Sproat writes: “Set words and gestures are used according to the thing desired. For instance, in praying for salmon, the native rubs the backs of his hands, looks upwards, and mutters the words, ‘Many salmon, many salmon’. If he wishes for deer, he carefully rubs both eyes; or, if it is geese, he rubs the back of his shoulder, uttering always in a sing-song way the accustomed formula. . . . All these practices in praying no doubt have a meaning. We may see a steady hand is needed in throwing the salmon-spear, and clear eyesight in finding deer in the forest.”30

In addition to these forms of symbolical magic (which might be multiplied to any extent), we find among savages the belief in the power of songs of INCANTATION. This is a feature of magic which specially deserves our attention. In myths, and still more in marchen or household tales, we shall constantly find that the most miraculous effects are caused when the hero pronounces a few lines of rhyme. In Rome, as we have all read in the Latin Delectus, it was thought that incantations could draw down the moon. In the Odyssey the kinsfolk of Odysseus sing “a song of healing” over the wound which was dealt him by the boar’s tusk. Jeanne d’Arc, wounded at Orleans, refused a similar remedy. Sophocles speaks of the folly of muttering incantations over wounds that need the surgeon’s knife. The song that salved wounds occurs in the Kalewala, the epic poem of the Finns. In many of Grimm’s marchen, miracles are wrought by the repetition of snatches of rhyme. This belief is derived from the savage state of fancy. According to Kohl,31 “Every sorrowful or joyful emotion that opens the Indian’s mouth is at once wrapped up in the garb of a wabanonagamowin (chanson magicale). If you ask one of them to sing you a simple innocent hymn in praise of Nature, a spring or jovial hunting stave, he never gives you anything but a form of incantation, with which he says you will be able to call to you all the birds from the sky, and all the foxes and wolves from their caves and burrows.”32 The giant’s daughter in the Scotch marchen, Nicht, Nought, Nothing, is thus enabled to call to her aid “all the birds of the sky”. In the same way, if you ask an Indian for a love-song, he will say that a philtre is really much more efficacious. The savage, in short, is extremely practical. His arts, music and drawing, exist not pour l’art, but for a definite purpose, as methods of getting something that the artist wants. The young lover whom Kohl knew, like the lover of Bombyca in Theocritus, believed in having an image of himself and an image of the beloved. Into the heart of the female image he thrust magic powders, and he said that this was common, lovers adding songs, “partly elegiac, partly malicious, and almost criminal forms of incantation”.33

Among the Indo-Aryans the masaminik or incantations of the Red Man are known as mantras.34 These are usually texts from the Veda, and are chanted over the sick and in other circumstances where magic is believed to be efficacious. Among the New Zealanders the incantations are called karakias, and are employed in actual life. There is a special karakia to raise the wind. In Maori myths the hero is very handy with his karakia. Rocks split before him, as before girls who use incantations in Kaffir and Bushman tales. He assumes the shape of any animal at will, or flies in the air, all by virtue of the karakia or incantation.35

Without multiplying examples in the savage belief that miracles can be wrought by virtue of physical CORRESPONDANCES, by like acting on like, by the part affecting the whole, and so forth, we may go on to the magical results produced by the aid of spirits. These may be either spirits of the dead or spiritual essences that never animated mortal men. Savage magic or science rests partly on the belief that the world is peopled by a “choir invisible,” or rather by a choir only occasionally visible to certain gifted people, sorcerers and diviners. An enormous amount of evidence to prove the existence of these tenets has been collected by Mr. Tylor, and is accessible to all in the chapters on “Animism” in his Primitive Culture. It is not our business here to account for the universality of the belief in spirits. Mr. Tylor, following Lucretius and Homer, derives the belief from the reasonings of early men on the phenomena of dreams, fainting, shadows, visions caused by narcotics, hallucinations, and other facts which suggest the hypothesis of a separable life apart from the bodily organism. It would scarcely be fair not to add that the kind of “facts” investigated by the Psychical Society — such “facts” as the appearance of men at the moment of death in places remote from the scene of their decease, with such real or delusive experiences as the noises and visions in haunted houses — are familiar to savages. Without discussing these obscure matters, it may be said that they influence the thoughts even of some scientifically trained and civilised men. It is natural, therefore, that they should strongly sway the credulous imagination of backward races, in which they originate or confirm the belief that life can exist and manifest itself after the death of the body.36

Some examples of savage “ghost-stories,” precisely analogous to the “facts” of the Psychical Society’s investigations, may be adduced. The first is curious because it offers among the Kanekas an example of a belief current in Breton folk-lore. The story is vouched for by Mr. J. J. Atkinson, late of Noumea, New Caledonia. Mr. Atkinson, we have reason to believe, was unacquainted with the Breton parallel. To him one day a Kaneka of his acquaintance paid a visit, and seemed loth to go away. He took leave, returned, and took leave again, till Mr. Atkinson asked him the reason of his behaviour. He then explained that he was about to die, and would never see his English friend again. As he seemed in perfect health, Mr. Atkinson rallied him on his hypochondria; but the poor fellow replied that his fate was sealed. He had lately met in the wood one whom he took for the Kaneka girl of his heart; but he became aware too late that she was no mortal woman, but a wood-spirit in the guise of the beloved. The result would be his death within three days, and, as a matter of fact, he died. This is the groundwork of the old Breton ballad of Le Sieur Nan, who dies after his intrigue with the forest spectre.37 A tale more like a common modern ghost-story is vouched for by Mr. C. J. Du Ve, in Australia. In the year 1860, a Maneroo black fellow died in the service of Mr. Du Ve. “The day before he died, having been ill some time, he said that in the night his father, his father’s friend, and a female spirit he could not recognise, had come to him and said that he would die next day, and that they would wait for him. Mr. Du Ye adds that, though previously the Christian belief had been explained to this man, it had entirely faded, and that he had gone back to the belief of his childhood.” Mr. Fison, who prints this tale in his Kamilaroi and Kurnai,38 adds, “I could give many similar instances which have come within my own knowledge among the Fijians, and, strange to say, the dying man in all these cases kept his appointment with the ghosts to the very day”.

In the Cruise of the Beagle is a parallel anecdote of a Fuegian, Jimmy Button, and his father’s ghost.

Without entering into a discussion of ghosts, it is plain that the kind of evidence, whatever its value may be, which convinces many educated Europeans of the existence of “veridical” apparitions has also played its part in the philosophy of uncivilised races. On this belief in apparitions, then, is based the power of the savage sorcerers and necromants, of the men who converse with the dead and are aided by disembodied spirits. These men have greatly influenced the beginnings of mythology. Among certain Australian tribes the necromants are called Birraark.39 “The Kurnai tell me,” says Mr. Howitt, “that a Birraark was supposed to be initiated by the ‘Mrarts (ghosts) when they met him wandering in the bush. . . . It was from the ghosts that he obtained replies to questions concerning events passing at a distance or yet to happen, which might be of interest or moment to his tribe.” Mr. Howitt prints an account of a spiritual seance in the bush.40 “The fires were let go down. The Birraark uttered a cry ‘coo-ee’ at intervals. At length a distant reply was heard, and shortly afterwards the sound as of persons jumping on the ground in succession. A voice was then heard in the gloom asking in a strange intonation, ‘What is wanted?’ Questions were put by the Birraark and replies given. At the termination of the seance, the spirit-voice said, ‘We are going’. Finally, the Birraark was found in the top of an almost inaccessible tree, apparently asleep.”41 There was one Birraark at least to every clan. The Kurnai gave the name of “Brewin” (a powerful evil spirit) to a Birraark who was once carried away for several days by the Mrarts or spirits.42 It is a belief with the Australians, as, according to Bosman, it was with the people of the Gold Coast, that a very powerful wizard lives far inland, and the Negroes held that to this warlock the spirits of the dead went to be judged according to the merit of their actions in life. Here we have a doctrine answering to the Greek belief in “the wizard Minos,” Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus, and to the Egyptian idea of Osiris as judge of the departed.43 The pretensions of the sorcerer to converse with the dead are attested by Mr. Brough Smyth.44 “A sorcerer lying on his stomach spoke to the deceased, and the other sitting by his side received the precious messages which the dead man told.” As a natural result of these beliefs, the Australian necromant has great power in the tribe. Mr. Howitt mentions a case in which a group of kindred, ceasing to use their old totemistic surname, called themselves the children of a famous dead Birraark, who thus became an eponymous hero, like Ion among the Ionians.45 Among the Scotch Highlanders the position and practice of the seer were very like those of the Birraark. “A person,” says Scott,46 “was wrapped up in the skin of a newly slain bullock and deposited beside a waterfall or at the bottom of a precipice, or in some other strange, wild and unusual situation, where the scenery around him suggested nothing but objects of horror. In this situation he revolved in his mind the question proposed and whatever was impressed on him by his exalted imagination PASSED FOR THE INSPIRATION OF THE DISEMBODIED SPIRITS who haunt these desolate recesses.” A number of examples are given in Martin’s Description of the Western Islands.47 In the Century magazine (July, 1882) is a very full report of Thlinkeet medicine-men and metamorphoses.

The sorcerer among the Zulus is, apparently, of a naturally hysterical and nervous constitution. “He hears the spirits who speak by whistlings speaking to him.”48 Whistling is also the language of the ghosts in New Caledonia, where Mr. Atkinson informs us that he has occasionally put an able-bodied Kaneka to ignominious flight by whistling softly in the dusk. The ghosts in Homer make a similar sound, “and even as bats flit gibbering in the secret place of a wondrous cavern, . . . even so the souls gibbered as they fared together” (Odyssey, xxiv. 5). “The familiar spirits make him” (that Zulu sorcerer) “acquainted with what is about to happen, and then he divines for the people.” As the Birraarks learn songs and dance-music from the Mrarts, so the Zulu Inyanga or diviners learn magical couplets from the Itongo or spirits.49

The evidence of institutions confirms the reports about savage belief in magic. The political power of the diviners is very great, as may be observed from the fact that a hereditary chief needs their consecration to make him a chief de jure.50 In fact, the qualities of the diviner are those which give his sacred authority to the chief. When he has obtained from the diviners all their medicines and information as to the mode of using the isitundu (a magical vessel), it is said that he often orders them to be killed. Now, the chief is so far a medicine-man that he is lord of the air. “The heaven is the chief’s,” say the Zulus; and when he calls out his men, “though the heaven is clear, it becomes clouded by the great wind that arises”. Other Zulus explain this as the mere hyperbole of adulation. “The word of the chief gives confidence to his troops; they say, ‘We are going; the chief has already seen all that will happen in his vessel’. Such then are chiefs; they use a vessel for divination.”51 The makers of rain are known in Zululand as “heaven-herds” or “sky-herds,” who herd the heaven that it may not break out and do its will on the property of the people. These men are, in fact, [greek], “cloud-gatherers,” like the Homeric Zeus, the lord of the heavens. Their name of “herds of the heavens” has a Vedic sound. “The herd that herds the lightning,” say the Zulus, “does the same as the herder of the cattle; he does as he does by whistling; he says, ‘Tshu-i-i-i. Depart and go yonder. Do not come here.’” Here let it be observed that the Zulus conceive of the thunder-clouds and lightning as actual creatures, capable of being herded like sheep. There is no metaphor or allegory about the matter,52 and no forgetfulness of the original meaning of words. The cloud-herd is just like the cowherd, except that not every man, but only sorcerers, and they who have eaten the “lightning-bird” (a bird shot near the place where lightning has struck the earth), can herd the clouds of heaven. The same ideas prevail among the Bushmen, where the rainmaker is asked “to milk a nice gentle female rain”; the rain-clouds are her hair. Among the Bushmen Rain is a person. Among the Red Indians no metaphor seems to be intended when it is said that “it is always birds who make the wind, except that of the east”. The Dacotahs once killed a thunder-bird53 behind Little Crow’s village on the Missouri. It had a face like a man with a nose like an eagle’s bill.54

The political and social powers which come into the hands of the sorcerers are manifest, even in the case of the Australians. Tribes and individuals can attempt few enterprises without the aid of the man who listens to the ghosts. Only he can foretell the future, and, in the case of the natural death of a member of the tribe, can direct the vengeance of the survivors against the hostile magician who has committed a murder by “bar” or magic. Among the Zulus we have seen that sorcery gives the sanction to the power of the chief. “The winds and weather are at the command” of Bosman’s “great fetisher”. Inland from the Gold Coast,55 the king of Loango, according to the Abbe Proyart, “has credit to make rain fall on earth”. Similar beliefs, with like political results, will be found to follow from the superstition of magic among the Red Indians of North America. The difficulty of writing about sorcerers among the Red Indians is caused by the abundance of the evidence. Charlevoix and the other early Jesuit missionaries found that the jongleurs, as Charlevoix calls the Jossakeeds or medicine-men, were their chief opponents. As among the Scotch Highlanders, the Australians and the Zulus, the Red Indian jongleur is visited by the spirits. He covers a hut with the skin of the animal which he commonly wears, retires thither, and there converses with the bodiless beings.56 The good missionary like Mr. Moffat in Africa, was convinced that the exercises of the Jossakeeds were verily supernatural. “Ces seducteurs ont un veritable commerce avec le pere du mensonge.”57 This was denied by earlier and wiser Jesuit missionaries. Their political power was naturally great. In time of war “ils avancent et retardent les marches comme il leur plait”. In our own century it was a medicine-man, Ten Squa Ta Way, who by his magical processes and superstitious rites stirred up a formidable war against the United States.58 According to Mr. Pond,59 the native name of the Dacotah medicine-men, “Wakan,” signifies “men supernaturally gifted”. Medicine-men are believed to be “wakanised” by mystic intercourse with supernatural beings. The business of the wakanised man is to discern future events, to lead and direct parties on the war-trail, “to raise the storm or calm the tempest, to converse with the lightning or thunder as with familiar friends”.60 The wakanised man, like the Australian Birraark and the Zulu diviner, “dictates chants and prayers”. In battle “every Dacotah warrior looks to the Wakan man as almost his only resource”. Belief in Wakan men is, Mr. Pond says, universal among the Dacotahs, except where Christianity has undermined it. “Their influence is deeply felt by every individual of the tribe, and controls all their affairs.” The Wakan man’s functions are absorbed by the general or war-chief of the tribe, and in Schoolcraft (iv. 495), Captain Eastman prints copies of native scrolls showing the war-chief at work as a wizard. “The war-chief who leads the party to war is always one of these medicine-men.” In another passage the medicine-men are described as “having a voice in the sale of land”. It must be observed that the Jossakeed, or medicine-man, pure and simple, exercises a power which is not in itself hereditary. Chieftainship, when associated with inheritance of property, is hereditary; and when the chief, as among the Zulus, absorbs supernatural power, then the same man becomes diviner and chief, and is a person of great and sacred influence. The liveliest account of the performances of the Maori “tohunga” or sorcerer is to be found in Old New Zealand,61 by the Pakeha Maori, an English gentleman who had lived with the natives like one of themselves. The tohunga, says this author,62 presided over “all those services and customs which had something approaching to a religious character. They also pretended to power by means of certain familiar spirits, to foretell future events, and even in some cases to control them. . . . The spirit ‘entered into’ them, and, on being questioned, gave a response in a sort of half whistling, half-articulate voice, supposed to be the proper language of spirits.” In New South Wales, Mrs. Langlot Parker has witnessed a similar exhibition. The “spirits” told the truth in this case. The Pakeha Maori was present in a darkened village-hall when the spirit of a young man, a great friend of his own, was called up by a tohunga. “Suddenly, without the slightest warning, a voice came out of the darkness. . . . The voice all through, it is to be remembered, was not the voice of the tohunga, but a strange melancholy sound, like the sound of a wind blowing into a hollow vessel. ‘It is well with me; my place is a good place.’ The spirit gave an answer to a question which proved to be correct, and then ‘Farewell,’ cried the spirit FROM DEEP BENEATH THE GROUND. ‘Farewell,’ again, FROM HIGH IN AIR. ‘Farewell,’ once more came moaning through the distant darkness of the night.” As chiefs in New Zealand no less than tohungas can exercise the mystical and magical power of tabu, that is, of imparting to any object or person an inviolable character, and can prevent or remit the mysterious punishment for infringement of tabu, it appears probable that in New Zealand, as well as among the Zulus and Red Indians, chiefs have a tendency to absorb the sacred character and powers of the tohungas. This is natural enough, for a tohunga, if he plays his cards well, is sure to acquire property and hereditary wealth, which, in combination with magical influence, are the necessary qualifications for the office of the chieftain.

Here is the place to mention a fact which, though at first sight it may appear to have only a social interest, yet bears on the development of mythology. Property and rank seem to have been essential to each other in the making of social rank, and where one is absent among contemporary savages, there we do not find the other. As an example of this, we might take the case of two peoples who, like the Homeric Ethiopians, are the outermost of men, and dwell far apart at the ends of the world. The Eskimos and the Fuegians, at the extreme north and south of the American continent, agree in having little or no private property and no chiefs. Yet magic is providing a kind of basis of rank. The bleak plains of ice and rock are, like Attica, “the mother of men without master or lord”. Among the “house-mates” of the smaller settlements there is no head-man, and in the larger gatherings Dr. Rink says that “still less than among the house-mates was any one belonging to such a place to be considered a chief”. The songs and stories of the Eskimo contain the praises of men who have risen up and killed any usurper who tried to be a ruler over his “place-mates”. No one could possibly establish any authority on the basis of property, because “superfluous property, implements, etc., rarely existed”. If there are three boats in one household, one of the boats is “borrowed” by the community, and reverts to the general fund. If we look at the account of the Fuegians described in Admiral Fitzroy’s cruise, we find a similar absence of rank produced by similar causes. “The perfect equality among the individuals composing the tribes must for a long time retard their civilisation. . . . At present even a piece of cloth is torn in shreds and distributed, and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise till there is property of some sort by which he might manifest and still increase his authority.” In the same book, however, we get a glimpse of one means by which authority can be exercised. “The doctor-wizard of each party has much influence over his companions.” Among the Eskimos this element in the growth of authority also exists. A class of wizards called Angakut have power to cause fine weather, and, by the gift of second-sight and magical practices, can detect crimes, so that they necessarily become a kind of civil magistrates. These Angekkok or Angakut have familiar spirits called Torngak, a word connected with the name of their chief spiritual being, Torngarsak. The Torngak is commonly the ghost of a deceased parent of the sorcerer. “These men,” says Egede, “are held in great honour and esteem among this stupid and ignorant nation, insomuch that nobody dare ever refuse the strictest obedience when they command him in the name of Torngarsak.” The importance and actual existence of belief in magic has thus been attested by the evidence of institutions, even among Australians, Fuegians and Eskimos.

It is now necessary to pass from examples of tribes who have superstitious respect for certain individuals, but who have no property and no chiefs, to peoples who exhibit the phenomenon of superstitious reverence attached to wealthy rulers or to judges. To take the example of Ireland, as described in the Senchus Mor, we learn that the chiefs, just like the Angakut of the Eskimos, had “power to make fair or foul weather” in the literal sense of the words.63 In Africa, in the same way, as Bosman, the old traveller, says, “As to what difference there is between one negro and another, the richest man is the most honoured,” yet the most honoured man has the same magical power as the poor Angakuts of the Eskimos.

“In the Solomon Islands,” says Dr. Codrington, “there is nothing to prevent a common man from becoming a chief, if he can show that he has the mana (supernatural power) for it.”64

Though it is anticipating a later stage of this inquiry, we must here observe that the sacredness, and even the magical virtues of barbarous chiefs seem to have descended to the early leaders of European races. The children of Odin and of Zeus were “sacred kings”. The Homeric chiefs, like those of the Zulus and the Red Men, and of the early Irish and Swedes, exercised an influence over the physical universe. Homer65 speaks of “a blameless king, one that fears the gods, and reigns among many men and mighty, and the black earth bears wheat and barley, and the sheep bring forth and fail not, and the sea gives store of fish, and all out of his good sovereignty”.

The attributes usually assigned by barbarous peoples to their medicine-men have not yet been exhausted. We have found that they can foresee and declare the future; that they control the weather and the sensible world; that they can converse with, visit and employ about their own business the souls of the dead. It would be easy to show at even greater length that the medicine-man has everywhere the power of metamorphosis. He can assume the shapes of all beasts, birds, fishes, insects and inorganic matters, and he can subdue other people to the same enchantment. This belief obviously rests on the lack of recognised distinction between man and the rest of the world, which we have so frequently insisted on as a characteristic of savage and barbarous thought. Examples of accredited metamorphosis are so common everywhere, and so well known, that it would be waste of space to give a long account of them. In Primitive Culture66 a cloud of witnesses to the belief in human tigers, hyaenas, leopards and wolves is collected.67 Mr. Lane68 found metamorphosis by wizards as accredited a working belief at Cairo as it is among Abipones, Eskimo, or the people of Ashangoland. In various parts of Scotland there is a tale of a witch who was shot at when in the guise of a hare. In this shape she was wounded, and the same wound was found on her when she resumed her human appearance. Lafitau, early in the last century, found precisely the same tale, except that the wizards took the form of birds, not of hares, among the Red Indians. The birds were wounded by the magical arrows of an old medicine-man, Shonnoh Koui Eretsi, and these bolts were found in the bodies of the human culprits. In Japan, as we learn from several stories in Mr. Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan, people chiefly metamorphose themselves into foxes and badgers. The sorcerers of Honduras69 “possess the power of transforming men into wild beasts, and were much feared accordingly”. Among the Cakchiquels, a cultivated people of Guatemala, the very name of the clergy, haleb, was derived from their power of assuming animal shapes, which they took on as easily as the Homeric gods.70 Regnard, the French dramatist, who travelled among the Lapps at the end of the seventeenth century (1681), says: “They believe witches can turn men into cats;” and again, “Under the figures of swans, crows, falcons and geese, they call up tempests and destroy ships”.71 Among the Bushmen “sorcerers assume the forms of beasts and jackals”.72 Dobrizhoffer (1717-91), a missionary in Paraguay, found that “sorcerers arrogate to themselves the power of transforming themselves into tigers”.73 He was present when the Abipones believed that a conversion of this sort was actually taking place: “Alas,” cried the people, “his whole body is beginning to be covered with tiger-spots; his nails are growing”. Near Loanda, Livingstone found that a “chief may metamorphose himself into a lion, kill any one he choses, and then resume his proper form”.74 Among the Barotse and Balonda, “while persons are still alive they may enter into lions and alligators”.(10) Among the Mayas of Central America “sorcerers could transform themselves into dogs, pigs and other animals; their glance was death to a victim”.(11) The Thlinkeets think that their Shamans can metamorphose themselves into animals at pleasure; and a very old raven was pointed out to Mr. C. E. S. Wood as an incarnation of the soul of a Shaman.(12) Sir A. C. Lyall finds a similar belief in flourishing existence in India. The European superstition of the were-wolf is too well known to need description. Perhaps the most curious legend is that told by Giraldus Cambrensis about a man and his wife metamorphosed into wolves by an abbot. They retained human speech, made exemplary professions of Christian faith, and sent for priests when they found their last hours approaching. In an old Norman ballad a girl is transformed into a white doe, and hunted and slain by her brother’s hounds. The “aboriginal” peoples of India retain similar convictions. Among the Hos,(13) an old sorcerer called Pusa was known to turn himself habitually into a tiger, and to eat his neighbour’s goats, and even their wives. Examples of the power of sorcerers to turn, as with the Gorgon’s head, their enemies into stone, are peculiarly common in America.(14) Hearne found that the Indians believed they descended from a dog, who could turn himself into a handsome young man.(15)

10 Livingstone, p. 642.

11 Bancroft, ii.

12 Century Magazine, July, 1882.

13 Dalton’s Ethnology of Bengal, p. 200.

14 Dorman, pp. 130, 134; Report of Ethnological Bureau, Washington, 1880-81.

15 A Journey, etc., p. 342.

Let us recapitulate the powers attributed all over the world, by the lower people, to medicine-men. The medicine-man has all miracles at his command. He rules the sky, he flies into the air, he becomes visible or invisible at will, he can take or confer any form at pleasure, and resume his human shape. He can control spirits, can converse with the dead, and can descend to their abodes.

When we begin to examine the gods of MYTHOLOGY, savage or civilised, as distinct from deities contemplated, in devotion, as moral and creative guardians of ethics, we shall find that, with the general, though not invariable addition of immortality, they possess the very same accomplishments as the medicine-man, peay, tohunga, jossakeed, birraark, or whatever name for sorcerer we may choose. Among the Greeks, Zeus, mythically envisaged, enjoys in heaven all the attributes of the medicine-man; among the Iroquois, as Pere le Jeune, the old Jesuit missionary, observed,75 the medicine-man enjoys on earth all the attributes of Zeus. Briefly, the miraculous and supernatural endowments of the gods of MYTH, whether these gods be zoomorphic or anthropomorphic, are exactly the magical properties with which the medicine-man is credited by his tribe. It does not at all follow, as Euemerus and Mr. Herbert Spencer might argue, that the god was once a real living medicine-man. But myth-making man confers on the deities of myth the magical powers which he claims for himself.

1 Vol. ii. p. 162.

2 Sociology, p. 98.

3 See Amazonian Tortoise-Myth., pp. 5, 37, 40; and compare Mr. Harris’s Preface to Nights with Uncle Remus.

4 Steller, p. 267. Cf. Farrer’s Primitive Manners, p. 274.

5 Primitive Culture, i. 369.

6 Histoire de la France-Nouvelle.

7 Vol. i. p. 191.

8 Vol. i. p. 192.

9 Catlin, Letters, ii. 117.

10 Vol. ii. p. 378.

11 Missionary Labours, p. 245.

12 Callaway, Religion of Amazulus, i. 35.

13 Journey among the Indians, 1795, p. 350.

14 II. p. 82.

15 Shropshire Folk-Lore, by Miss Burne, iii. 401.

16 Brinton, Myths of New World, p. 107.

17 See account of Zuni metaphysics in chapter on American Divine Myths.

18 Primitive Culture, i. 14.

19 Rev. R. H. Codrington, Journ. Anth. Inst., February, 1881.

20 Codrington, Journ. Anth. Soc., x. iii. 276.

21 Gregor, Folk-Lore of North-East Counties, p. 40.

22 Callaway, i. 92.

23 Bergaigne, Religion Vedique, i. 126-138, i., vii., viii.

24 Schoolcraft, iv. 491.

25 1 Samuel vi. 4, 5.

26 Schoolcraft, iv. 496.

27 Aitareya Brahmana, iii. 22.

28 Rambaud’s History of Russia, English trans., i. 351.

29 Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 250.

30 Savage Life, p. 208.

31 Page 395.

32 Cf. Comparetti’s Traditional Poetry of the Finns.

33 Kitchi gami, pp. 395, 397.

34 Muir, Sanskrit Texts, v. 441, “Incantations from the Atharva Veda”.

35 Taylor’s New Zealand; Theal’s Kaffir Folk-Lore, South-African Folk-Lore Journal, passim; Shortland’s Traditions of the New Zealanders, pp. 130-135.

36 See the author’s Making of Religion, 1898.

37 It may, of course, be conjectured that the French introduced this belief into New Caledonia.

38 Page 247.

39 Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 253.

40 Page 254.

41 In the Jesuit Relations (1637), p. 51, we read that the Red Indian sorcerer or Jossakeed was credited with power to vanish suddenly away out of sight of the men standing around him. Of him, as of Homeric gods, it might be said, “Who has power to see him come or go against his will?”

42 Here, in the first edition, occurred the following passage: “The conception of Brewin is about as near as the Kurnai get to the idea of a God; their conferring of his name on a powerful sorcerer is therefore a point of importance and interest”. Mr. Howitt’s later knowledge demonstrates an error here.

43 Bosman in Pinkerton, xvi. p. 401.

44 Aborigines of Australia, i. 197.

45 In Victoria, after dark the wizard goes up to the clouds and brings down a good spirit. Dawkins, p. 57. For eponymous medicine-men see Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 231.

46 Lady of the Lake, note 1 to Canto iv.

47 P. 112.

48 Callaway, Religious System of the Amazules, p. 265.

49 On all this, see “Possession” in The Making of Religion.

50 Callaway, p. 340.

51 Callaway, Religions System of the Amazules, p. 343.

52 Ibid., p. 385.

53 Schoolcraft, iii. 486.

54 Compare Callaway, p. 119.

55 Pinkerton, xvi. 401.

56 Charlevoix, i. 105. See “Savage Spiritualism” in Cock Lane and Common Sense.

57 Ibid., iii. 362.

58 Catlin, ii. 17.

59 In Schoolcraft, iv. 402.

60 Pond, in Schoolcraft, iv. 647.

61 Auckland, 1863.

62 Page 148.

63 Early History of Institutions, p. 195.

64 Journ. Anth. Inst., x. iii. 287, 300, 309.

65 Od., xix. 109.

66 Vol. i. pp. 309-315.

67 See also M’Lennan on Lykanthropy in Encyclopedia Britannica.

68 Arabian Nights, i. 51.

69 Bancroft, Races of Pacific Coast, i. 740.

70 Brinton, Annals of the Cakchiquels, p. 46.

71 Pinkerton, i. 471.

72 Bleek, Brief Account of Bushman Folk-Lore, pp. 15, 40.

73 English translation of Dobrizhoffer’s Abipones, i. 163.

74 Missionary Travels, p. 615.

75 Relations (1636), p. 114.

Chapter 5.

Nature Myths.

Savage fancy, curiosity and credulity illustrated in nature myths — In these all phenomena are explained by belief in the general animation of everything, combined with belief in metamorphosis — Sun myths, Asian, Australian, African, Melanesian, Indian, Californian, Brazilian, Maori, Samoan — Moon myths, Australian, Muysca, Mexican, Zulu, Macassar, Greenland, Piute, Malay — Thunder myths — Greek and Aryan sun and moon myths — Star myths — Myths, savage and civilised, of animals, accounting for their marks and habits — Examples of custom of claiming blood kinship with lower animals — Myths of various plants and trees — Myths of stones, and of metamorphosis into stones, Greek, Australian and American — The whole natural philosophy of savages expressed in myths, and survives in folk-lore and classical poetry; and legends of metamorphosis.

The intellectual condition of savages which has been presented and established by the evidence both of observers and of institutions, may now be studied in savage myths. These myths, indeed, would of themselves demonstrate that the ideas which the lower races entertain about the world correspond with our statement. If any one were to ask himself, from what mental conditions do the following savage stories arise? he would naturally answer that the minds which conceived the tales were curious, indolent, credulous of magic and witchcraft, capable of drawing no line between things and persons, capable of crediting all things with human passions and resolutions. But, as myths analogous to those of savages, when found among civilised peoples, have been ascribed to a psychological condition produced by a disease of language acting after civilisation had made considerable advances, we cannot take the savage myths as proof of what savages think, believe and practice in the course of daily life. To do so would be, perhaps, to argue in a circle. We must therefore study the myths of the undeveloped races in themselves.

These myths form a composite whole, so complex and so nebulous that it is hard indeed to array them in classes and categories. For example, if we look at myths concerning the origin of various phenomena, we find that some introduce the action of gods or extra-natural beings, while others rest on a rude theory of capricious evolution; others, again, invoke the aid of the magic of mortals, and most regard the great natural forces, the heavenly bodies, and the animals, as so many personal characters capable of voluntarily modifying themselves or of being modified by the most trivial accidents. Some sort of arrangement, however, must be attempted, only the student is to understand that the lines are never drawn with definite fixity, that any category may glide into any other category of myth.

We shall begin by considering some nature myths — myths, that is to say, which explain the facts of the visible universe. These range from tales about heaven, day, night, the sun and the stars, to tales accounting for the red breast of the ousel, the habits of the quail, the spots and stripes of wild beasts, the formation of rocks and stones, the foliage of trees, the shapes of plants. In a sense these myths are the science of savages; in a sense they are their sacred history; in a sense they are their fiction and romance. Beginning with the sun, we find, as Mr. Tylor says, that “in early philosophy throughout the world the sun and moon are alive, and, as it were, human in their nature”.1 The mass of these solar myths is so enormous that only a few examples can be given, chosen almost at random out of the heap. The sun is regarded as a personal being, capable not only of being affected by charms and incantations, but of being trapped and beaten, of appearing on earth, of taking a wife of the daughters of men. Garcilasso de la Vega has a story of an Inca prince, a speculative thinker, who was puzzled by the sun-worship of his ancestors. If the sun be thus all-powerful, the Inca inquired, why is he plainly subject to laws? why does he go his daily round, instead of wandering at large up and down the fields of heaven? The prince concluded that there was a will superior to the sun’s will, and he raised a temple to the Unknown Power. Now the phenomena which put the Inca on the path of monotheistic religion, a path already traditional, according to Garcilasso, have also struck the fancy of savages. Why, they ask, does the sun run his course like a tamed beast? A reply suited to a mind which holds that all things are personal is given in myths. Some one caught and tamed the sun by physical force or by art magic.

In Australia the myth says that there was a time when the sun did not set. “It was at all times day, and the blacks grew weary.” Norralie considered and decided that the sun should disappear at intervals. He addressed the sun in an incantation (couched like the Finnish Kalewala in the metre of Longfellow’s Hiawatha); and the incantation is thus interpreted: “Sun, sun, burn your wood, burn your internal substance, and go down”. The sun therefore now burns out his fuel in a day, and goes below for fresh firewood.2

In New Zealand the taming of the sun is attributed to the great hero Maui, the Prometheus of the Maoris. He set snares to catch the sun, but in vain, for the sun’s rays bit them through. According to another account, while Norralie wished to hasten the sun’s setting, Maui wanted to delay it, for the sun used to speed through the heavens at a racing pace. Maui therefore snared the sun, and beat him so unmercifully that he has been lame ever since, and travels slowly, giving longer days. “The sun, when beaten, cried out and revealed his second great name, Taura-mis-te-ra.”3 It will be remembered that Indra, in his abject terror when he fled after the slaying of Vrittra, also revealed his mystic name. In North America the same story of the trapping and laming of the sun is told, and attributed to a hero named Tcha-ka-betch. In Samoa the sun had a child by a Samoan woman. He trapped the sun with a rope made of a vine and extorted presents. Another Samoan lassoed the sun and made him promise to move more slowly.4 These Samoan and Australian fancies are nearly as dignified as the tale in the Aitareya Brahmana. The gods, afraid “that the sun would fall out of heaven, pulled him up and tied him with five ropes”. These ropes are recognised as verses in the ritual, but probably the ritual is later than the ropes. In Mexico we find that the sun himself (like the stars in most myths) was once a human or pre-human devotee, Nanahuatzin, who leapt into a fire to propitiate the gods.5 Translated to heaven as the sun, Nanahuatzin burned so very fiercely that he threatened to reduce the world to a cinder. Arrows were therefore shot at him, and this punishment had as happy an effect as the beatings administered by Maui and Tcha-ka-betch. Among the Bushmen of South Africa the sun was once a man, from whose armpit a limited amount of light was radiated round his hut. Some children threw him up into the sky, and there he stuck, and there he shines.6 In the Homeric hymn to Helios, as Mr. Max Muller observes, “the poet looks on Helios as a half god, almost a hero, who had once lived on earth,” which is precisely the view of the Bushmen.7 Among the Aztecs the sun is said to have been attacked by a hunter and grievously wounded by his arrows.8 The Gallinomeros, in Central California, seem at least to know that the sun is material and impersonal. They say that when all was dark in the beginning, the animals were constantly jostling each other. After a painful encounter, the hawk and the coyote collected two balls of inflammable substance; the hawk (Indra was occasionally a hawk) flew up with them into heaven, and lighted them with sparks from a flint. There they gave light as sun and moon. This is an exception to the general rule that the heavenly bodies are regarded as persons. The Melanesian tale of the bringing of night is a curious contrast to the Mexican, Maori, Australian and American Indian stories which we have quoted. In Melanesia, as in Australia, the days were long, indeed endless, and people grew tired; but instead of sending the sun down below by an incantation when night would follow in course of nature, the Melanesian hero went to Night (conceived of as a person) and begged his assistance. Night (Qong) received Qat (the hero) kindly, darkened his eyes, gave him sleep, and, in twelve hours or so, crept up from the horizon and sent the sun crawling to the west.9 In the same spirit Paracelsus is said to have attributed night, not to the absence of the sun, but to the apparition of certain stars which radiate darkness. It is extraordinary that a myth like the Melanesian should occur in Brazil. There was endless day till some one married a girl whose father “the great serpent,” was the owner of night. The father sent night bottled up in a gourd. The gourd was not to be uncorked till the messengers reached the bride, but they, in their curiosity, opened the gourd, and let night out prematurely.10

The myths which have been reported deal mainly with the sun as a person who shines, and at fixed intervals disappears. His relations with the moon are much more complicated, and are the subject of endless stories, all explaining in a romantic fashion why the moon waxes and wanes, whence come her spots, why she is eclipsed, all starting from the premise that sun and moon are persons with human parts and passions. Sometimes the moon is a man, sometimes a woman and the sex of the sun varies according to the fancy of the narrators. Different tribes of the same race, as among the Australians, have different views of the sex of moon and sun. Among the aborigines of Victoria, the moon, like the sun among the Bushmen, was a black fellow before he went up into the sky. After an unusually savage career, he was killed with a stone hatchet by the wives of the eagle, and now he shines in the heavens.11 Another myth explanatory of the moon’s phases was found by Mr. Meyer in 1846 among the natives of Encounter Bay. According to them the moon is a woman, and a bad woman to boot. She lives a life of dissipation among men, which makes her consumptive, and she wastes away till they drive her from their company. While she is in retreat, she lives on nourishing roots, becomes quite plump, resumes her gay career, and again wastes away. The same tribe, strangely enough, think that the sun also is a woman. Every night she descends among the dead, who stand in double lines to greet her and let her pass. She has a lover among the dead, who has presented her with a red kangaroo skin, and in this she appears at her rising. Such is the view of rosy-fingered Dawn entertained by the blacks of Encounter Bay. In South America, among the Muyscas of Bogota, the moon, Huythaca, is the malevolent wife of the child of the sun; she was a woman before her husband banished her to the fields of space.12 The moon is a man among the Khasias of the Himalaya, and he was guilty of the unpardonable offence of admiring his mother-in-law. As a general rule, the mother-in-law is not even to be spoken to by the savage son-in-law. The lady threw ashes in his face to discourage his passion, hence the moon’s spots. The waning of the moon suggested the most beautiful and best known of savage myths, that in which the moon sends a beast to tell mortals that, though they die like her, like her they shall be born again.13 Because the spots in the moon were thought to resemble a hare they were accounted for in Mexico by the hypothesis that a god smote the moon in the face with a rabbit;14 in Zululand and Thibet by a fancied translation of a good or bad hare to the moon.

The Eskimos have a peculiar myth to account for the moon’s spots. Sun and moon were human brother and sister. In the darkness the moon once attempted the virtue of the sun. She smeared his face over with ashes, that she might detect him when a light was brought. She did discover who her assailant had been, fled to the sky, and became the sun. The moon still pursues her, and his face is still blackened with the marks of ashes.15 Gervaise16 says that in Macassar the moon was held to be with child by the sun, and that when he pursued her and wished to beat her, she was delivered of the earth. They are now reconciled. About the alternate appearance of sun and moon a beautifully complete and adequate tale is told by the Piute Indians of California. No more adequate and scientific explanation could possibly be offered, granting the hypothesis that sun and moon are human persons and savage persons. The myth is printed as it was taken down by Mr. De Quille from the lips of Tooroop Eenah (Desert Father), a chief of the Piutes, and published in a San Francisco newspaper.

“The sun is the father and ruler of the heavens. He is the big chief. The moon is his wife and the stars are their children. The sun eats his children whenever he can catch them. They flee before him, and are all the time afraid when he is passing through the heavens. When he (their father) appears in the morning, you see all the stars, his children, fly out of sight — go away back into the blue of the above — and they do not wake to be seen again until he, their father, is about going to his bed.

“Down deep under the ground — deep, deep, under all the ground — is a great hole. At night, when he has passed over the world, looked down on everything and finished his work, he, the sun, goes into his hole, and he crawls and creeps along it till he comes to his bed in the middle part of the earth. So then he, the sun, sleeps there in his bed all night.

“This hole is so little, and he, the sun, is so big, that he cannot turn round in it; and so he must, when he has had all his sleep, pass on through, and in the morning we see him come out in the east. When he, the sun, has so come out, he begins to hunt up through the sky to catch and eat any that he can of the stars, his children, for if he does not so catch and eat he cannot live. He, the sun, is not all seen. The shape of him is like a snake or a lizard. It is not his head that we can see, but his belly, filled up with the stars that times and times he has swallowed.

“The moon is the mother of the heavens and is the wife of the sun. She, the moon, goes into the same hole as her husband to sleep her naps. But always she has great fear of the sun, her husband, and when he comes through the hole to the nobee (tent) deep in the ground to sleep, she gets out and comes away if he be cross.

“She, the moon, has great love for her children, the stars, and is happy to travel among them in the above; and they, her children, feel safe, and sing and dance as she passes along. But the mother, she cannot help that some of her children must be swallowed by the father every month. It is ordered that way by the Pah-ah (Great Spirit), who lives above the place of all.

“Every month that father, the sun, does swallow some of the stars, his children, and then that mother, the moon, feels sorrow. She must mourn; so she must put the black on her face for to mourn the dead. You see the Piute women put black on their faces when a child is gone. But the dark will wear away from the face of that mother, the moon, a little and a little every day, and after a time again we see all bright the face of her. But soon more of her children are gone, and again she must put on her face the pitch and the black.”

Here all the phenomena are accounted for, and the explanation is as advanced as the Egyptian doctrine of the hole under the earth where the sun goes when he passes from our view. And still the Great Spirit is over all: Religion comes athwart Myth.

Mr. Tylor quotes17 a nature myth about sun, moon and stars which remarkably corresponds to the speculation of the Piutes. The Mintira of the Malayan Peninsula say that both sun and moon are women. The stars are the moon’s children; once the sun had as many. They each agreed (like the women of Jerusalem in the famine), to eat their own children; but the sun swallowed her whole family, while the moon concealed hers. When the sun saw this she was exceedingly angry, and pursued the moon to kill her. Occasionally she gets a bite out of the moon, and that is an eclipse. The Hos of North-East India tell the same tale, but say that the sun cleft the moon in twain for her treachery, and that she continues to be cut in two and grow again every month. With these sun and moon legends sometimes coexists the RELIGIOUS belief in a Creator of these and of all things.

In harmony with the general hypothesis that all objects in nature are personal, and human or bestial, in real shape, and in passion and habits, are the myths which account for eclipses. These have so frequently been published and commented on18 that a long statement would be tedious and superfluous. To the savage mind, and even to the Chinese and the peasants of some European countries, the need of an explanation is satisfied by the myth that an evil beast is devouring the sun or the moon. The people even try by firing off guns, shrieking, and clashing cymbals, to frighten the beast (wolf, pig, dragon, or what not) from his prey. What the hungry monster in the sky is doing when he is not biting the sun or moon we are not informed. Probably he herds with the big bird whose wings, among the Dacotahs of America and the Zulus of Africa, make thunder; or he may associate with the dragons, serpents, cows and other aerial cattle which supply the rain, and show themselves in the waterspout. Chinese, Greenland, Hindoo, Finnish, Lithunian and Moorish examples of the myth about the moon-devouring beasts are vouched for by Grimm.19 A Mongolian legend has it that the gods wished to punish the maleficent Arakho for his misdeeds, but Arakho hid so cleverly that their limited omnipotence could not find him. The sun, when asked to turn spy, gave an evasive answer. The moon told the truth. Arakho was punished, and ever since he chases sun and moon. When he nearly catches either of them, there is an eclipse, and the people try to drive him off by making a hideous uproar with musical and other instruments.20 Captain Beeckman in 1704 was in Borneo, when the natives declared that the devil “was eating the moon”.

Dr. Brinton in his Myths and Myth-Makers gives examples from Peruvians, Tupis, Creeks, Iroquois and Algonkins. It would be easy, and is perhaps superfluous, to go on multiplying proofs of the belief that sun and moon are, or have been, persons. In the Hervey Isles these two luminaries are thought to have been made out of the body of a child cut in twain by his parents. The blood escaped from the half which is the moon, hence her pallor.21 This tale is an exception to the general rule, but reminds us of the many myths which represent the things in the world as having been made out of a mutilated man, like the Vedic Purusha. It is hardly necessary, except by way of record, to point out that the Greek myths of sun and moon, like the myths of savages, start from the conception of the solar and lunar bodies as persons with parts and passions, human loves and human sorrows. As in the Mongolian myth of Arakho, the sun “sees all and hears all,” and, less honourable than the Mongolian sun, he plays the spy for Hephaestus on the loves of Ares and Aphrodite. He has mistresses and human children, such as Circe and Aeetes.22

The sun is all-seeing and all-penetrating. In a Greek song of to-day a mother sends a message to an absent daughter by the sun; it is but an unconscious repetition of the request of the dying Ajax that the heavenly body will tell his fate to his old father and his sorrowing spouse.23

Selene, the moon, like Helios, the sun, was a person, and amorous. Beloved by Zeus, she gave birth to Pandia, and Pan gained her affection by the simple rustic gift of a fleece.24 The Australian Dawn, with her present of a red kangaroo skin, was not more lightly won than the chaste Selene. Her affection for Endymion is well known, and her cold white glance shines through the crevices of his mountain grave, hewn in a rocky wall, like the tombs of Phrygia.25 She is the sister of the sun in Hesiod, the daughter (by his sister) of Hyperion in the Homeric hymns to Helios.

In Greece the aspects of sun and moon take the most ideal human forms, and show themselves in the most gracious myths. But, after all, these retain in their anthropomorphism the marks of the earliest fancy, the fancy of Eskimos and Australians. It seems to be commonly thought that the existence of solar myths is denied by anthropologists. This is a vulgar error. There is an enormous mass of solar myths, but they are not caused by “a disease of language,” and — all myths are not solar!

There is no occasion to dwell long on myths of the same character in which the stars are accounted for as transformed human adventurers. It has often been shown that this opinion is practically of world-wide distribution.26 We find it in Australia, Persia, Greece, among the Bushmen, in North and South America, among the Eskimos, in ancient Egypt, in New Zealand, in ancient India — briefly, wherever we look. The Sanskrit forms of these myths have been said to arise from confusion as to the meaning of words. But is it credible that, in all languages, however different, the same kind of unconscious puns should have led to the same mistaken beliefs? As the savage, barbarous and Greek star-myths (such as that of Callisto, first changed into a bear and then into a constellation) are familiar to most readers, a few examples of Sanskrit star-stories are offered here from the Satapatha Brahmana.27 Fires are not, according to the Brahmana ritual, to be lighted under the stars called Krittikas, the Pleiades. The reason is that the stars were the wives of the bears (Riksha), for the group known in Brahmanic times as the Rishis (sages) were originally called the Rikshas (bears). But the wives of the bears were excluded from the society of their husbands, for the bears rise in the north and their wives in the east. Therefore the worshipper should not set up his fires under the Pleiades, lest he should thereby be separated from the company of his wife. The Brahmanas28 also tell us that Prajapati had an unholy passion for his daughter, who was in the form of a doe. The gods made Rudra fire an arrow at Prajapati to punish him; he was wounded, and leaped into the sky, where he became one constellation and his daughter another, and the arrow a third group of stars. In general, according to the Brahmanas, “the stars are the lights of virtuous men who go to the heavenly world”.29

Passing from savage myths explanatory of the nature of celestial bodies to myths accounting for the formation and colour and habits of beasts, birds and fishes, we find ourselves, as an old Jesuit missionary says, in the midst of a barbarous version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It has been shown that the possibility of interchange of form between man and beast is part of the working belief of everyday existence among the lower peoples. They regard all things as on one level, or, to use an old political phrase, they “level up” everything to equality with the human status. Thus Mr. Im Thurn, a very good observer, found that to the Indians of Guiana “all objects, animate or inaminate, seem exactly of the same nature, except that they differ by the accident of bodily form”. Clearly to grasp this entirely natural conception of primitive man, the civilised student must make a great effort to forget for a time all that science has taught him of the differences between the objects which fill the world.30 “To the ear of the savage, animals certainly seem to talk.” “As far as the Indians of Guiana are concerned, I do not believe that they distinguish such beings as sun and moon, or such other natural phenomena as winds and storms, from men and other animals, from plants and other inanimate objects, or from any other objects whatsoever.” Bancroft says about North American myths, “Beasts and birds and fishes fetch and carry, talk and act, in a way that leaves even Aesop’s heroes quite in the shade”.31

The savage tendency is to see in inanimate things animals, and in animals disguised men. M. Reville quotes in his Religions des Peuples Non-Civilise’s, i. 64, the story of some Negroes, who, the first time they were shown a cornemuse, took the instrument for a beast, the two holes for its eyes. The Highlander who looted a watch at Prestonpans, and observing, “She’s teed,” sold it cheap when it ran down, was in the same psychological condition. A queer bit of savage science is displayed on a black stone tobacco-pipe from the Pacific Coast.32 The savage artist has carved the pipe in the likeness of a steamer, as a steamer is conceived by him. “Unable to account for the motive power, he imagines the paddle to be linked round the tongue of a coiled serpent, fastened to the tail of the vessel,” and so he represents it on the black stone pipe. Nay, a savage’s belief that beasts are on his own level is so literal, that he actually makes blood-covenants with the lower animals, as he does with men, mingling his gore with theirs, or smearing both together on a stone;33 while to bury dead animals with sacred rites is as usual among the Bedouins and Malagasies to-day as in ancient Egypt or Attica. In the same way the Ainos of Japan, who regard the bear as a kinsman, sacrifice a bear once a year. But, to propitiate the animal and his connections, they appoint him a “mother,” an Aino girl, who looks after his comforts, and behaves in a way as maternal as possible. The bear is now a kinsman, [greek], and cannot avenge himself within the kin. This, at least, seems to be the humour of it. In Lagarde’s Reliquiae Juris Ecclesiastici Antiquissimae a similar Syrian covenant of kinship with insects is described. About 700 A. D., when a Syrian garden was infested by caterpillars, the maidens were assembled, and one caterpillar was caught. Then one of the virgins was “made its mother,” and the creature was buried with due lamentations. The “mother” was then brought to the spot where the pests were, her companions bewailed her, and the caterpillars perished like their chosen kinsman, but without extorting revenge.34 Revenge was out of their reach. They had been brought within the kin of their foes, and there were no Erinnyes, “avengers of kindred blood,” to help them. People in this condition of belief naturally tell hundreds of tales, in which men, stones, trees, beasts, shift shapes, and in which the modifications of animal forms are caused by accident, or by human agency, or by magic, or by metamorphosis. Such tales survive in our modern folk-lore. To make our meaning clear, we may give the European nursery-myth of the origin of the donkey’s long ears, and, among other illustrations, the Australian myth of the origin of the black and white plumage of the pelican. Mr. Ralston has published the Russian version of the myth of the donkey’s ears. The Spanish form, which is identical with the Russian, is given by Fernan Caballero in La Gaviota.

“Listen! do you know why your ears are so big?” (the story is told to a stupid little boy with big ears). “When Father Adam found himself in Paradise with the animals, he gave each its name; those of THY species, my child, he named ‘donkeys’. One day, not long after, he called the beasts together, and asked each to tell him its name. They all answered right except the animals of THY sort, and they had forgotten their name! Then Father Adam was very angry, and, taking that forgetful donkey by the ears, he pulled them out, screaming ‘You are called DONKEY!’ And the donkey’s ears have been long ever since.” This, to a child, is a credible explanation. So, perhaps, is another survival of this form of science — the Scotch explanation of the black marks on the haddock; they were impressed by St. Peter’s finger and thumb when he took the piece of money for Caesar’s tax out of the fish’s mouth.

Turning from folk-lore to savage beliefs, we learn that from one end of Africa to another the honey-bird, schneter, is said to be an old woman whose son was lost, and who pursued him till she was turned into a bird, which still shrieks his name, “Schneter, Schneter”.35 In the same way the manners of most of the birds known to the Greeks were accounted for by the myth that they had been men and women. Zeus, for example, turned Ceyx and Halcyon into sea-fowls because they were too proud in their married happiness.36 To these myths of the origin of various animals we shall return, but we must not forget the black and white Australian pelican. Why is the pelican parti-coloured?37 For this reason: After the Flood (the origin of which is variously explained by the Murri), the pelican (who had been a black fellow) made a canoe, and went about like a kind of Noah, trying to save the drowning. In the course of his benevolent mission he fell in love with a woman, but she and her friends played him a trick and escaped from him. The pelican at once prepared to go on the war-path. The first thing to do was to daub himself white, as is the custom of the blacks before a battle. They think the white pipe-clay strikes terror and inspires respect among the enemy. But when the pelican was only half pipe-clayed, another pelican came past, and, “not knowing what such a queer black and white thing was, struck the first pelican with his beak and killed him. Before that pelicans were all black; now they are black and white. That is the reason.”38

“That is the reason.” Therewith native philosopy is satisfied, and does not examine in Mr. Darwin’s laborious manner the slow evolution of the colour of the pelican’s plumage. The mythological stories about animals are rather difficult to treat, because they are so much mixed up with the topic of totemism. Here we only examine myths which account by means of a legend for certain peculiarities in the habits, cries, or colours and shapes of animals. The Ojibbeways told Kohl they had a story for every creature, accounting for its ways and appearance. Among the Greeks, as among Australians and Bushmen, we find that nearly every notable bird or beast had its tradition. The nightingale and the swallow have a story of the most savage description, a story reported by Apollodorus, though Homer39 refers to another, and, as usual, to a gentler and more refined form of the myth. Here is the version of Apollodorus. “Pandion” (an early king of Athens) “married Zeuxippe, his mother’s sister, by whom he had two daughters, Procne and Philomela, and two sons, Erechtheus and Butes. A war broke out with Labdas about some debatable land, and Erechtheus invited the alliance of Tereus of Thrace, the son of Ares. Having brought the war, with the aid of Tereus, to a happy end, he gave him his daughter Procne to wife. By Procne, Tereus had a son, Itys, and thereafter fell in love with Philomela, whom he seduced, pretending that Procne was dead, whereas he had really concealed her somewhere in his lands. Thereon he married Philomela, and cut out her tongue. But she wove into a robe characters that told the whole story, and by means of these acquainted Procne with her sufferings. Thereon Procne found her sister, and slew Itys, her own son, whose body she cooked, and served up to Tereus in a banquet. Thereafter Procne and her sister fled together, and Tereus seized an axe and followed after them. They were overtaken at Daulia in Phocis, and prayed to the gods that they might be turned into birds. So Procne became the nightingale, and Philomela the swallow, while Tereus was changed into a hoopoe.”40 Pausanias has a different legend; Procne and Philomela died of excessive grief.

These ancient men and women metamorphosed into birds were HONOURED AS ANCESTORS by the Athenians.41 Thus the unceasing musical wail of the nightingale and the shrill cry of the swallow were explained by a Greek story. The birds were lamenting their old human sorrow, as the honey-bird in Africa still repeats the name of her lost son.

Why does the red-robin live near the dwellings of men, a bold and friendly bird? The Chippeway Indians say he was once a young brave whose father set him a task too cruel for his strength, and made him starve too long when he reached man’s estate. He turned into a robin, and said to his father, “I shall always be the friend of man, and keep near their dwellings. I could not gratify your pride as a warrior, but I will cheer you by my songs.”42 The converse of this legend is the Greek myth of the hawk. Why is the hawk so hated by birds? Hierax was a benevolent person who succoured a race hated by Poseidon. The god therefore changed him into a hawk, and made him as much detested by birds, and as fatal to them, as he had been beloved by and gentle to men.43 The Hervey Islanders explain the peculiarities of several fishes by the share they took in the adventures of Ina, who stamped, for example, on the sole, and so flattened him for ever.44 In Greece the dolphins were, according to the Homeric hymn to Dionysus, metamorphosed pirates who had insulted the god. But because the dolphin found the hidden sea-goddess whom Poseidon loved, the dolphin, too, was raised by the grateful sea-god to the stars.45 The vulture and the heron, according to Boeo (said to have been a priestess in Delphi and the author of a Greek treatise on the traditions about birds), were once a man named Aigupios (vulture) and his mother, Boulis. They sinned inadvertently, like Oedipus and Jocasta; wherefore Boulis, becoming aware of the guilt, was about to put out the eyes of her son and slay herself. Then they were changed, Boulis into the heron, “which tears out and feeds on the eyes of snakes, birds and fishes, and Aigupios into the vulture which bears his name”. This story, of which the more repulsive details are suppressed, is much less pleasing and more savage than the Hervey Islanders’ myth of the origin of pigs. Maaru was an old blind man who lived with his son Kationgia. There came a year of famine, and Kationgia had great difficulty in finding food for himself and his father. He gave the blind old man puddings of banana roots and fishes, while he lived himself on sea-slugs and shellfish, like the people of Terra del Fuego. But blind old Maaru suspected his son of giving him the worst share and keeping what was best for himself. At last he discovered that Kationgia was really being starved; he felt his body, and found that he was a mere living skeleton. The two wept together, and the father made a feast of some cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit, which he had reserved against the last extremity. When all was finished, he said he had eaten his last meal and was about to die. He ordered his son to cover him with leaves and grass, and return to the spot in four days. If worms were crawling about, he was to throw leaves and grass over them and come back four days later. Kationgia did as he was instructed, and, on his second visit to the grave, found the whole mass of leaves in commotion. A brood of pigs, black, white and speckled, had sprung up from the soil; famine was a thing of the past, and Kationgia became a great chief in the island.46

“The owl was a baker’s daughter” is the fragment of Christian mythology preserved by Ophelia. The baker’s daughter behaved rudely to our Lord, and was changed into the bird that looks not on the sun. The Greeks had a similar legend of feminine impiety by which they mythically explained the origin of the owl, the bat and the eagle-owl. Minyas of Orchomenos had three daughters, Leucippe, Arsippe and Alcathoe, most industrious women, who declined to join the wild mysteries of Dionysus. The god took the shape of a maiden, and tried to win them to his worship. They refused, and he assumed the form of a bull, a lion, and a leopard as easily as the chiefs of the Abipones become tigers, or as the chiefs among the African Barotse and Balonda metamorphose themselves into lions and alligators.47 The daughters of Minyas, in alarm, drew lots to determine which of them should sacrifice a victim to the god. Leucippe drew the lot and offered up her own son. They then rushed to join the sacred rites of Dionysus, when Hermes transformed them into the bat, the owl and the eagle-owl, and these three hide from the light of the sun.48

A few examples of Bushman and Australian myths explanatory of the colours and habits of animals will probably suffice to establish the resemblance between savage and Hellenic legends of this character. The Bushman myth about the origin of the eland (a large antelope) is not printed in full by Dr. Bleek, but he observes that it “gives an account of the reasons for the colours of the gemsbok, hartebeest, eland, quagga and springbok”.49 Speculative Bushmen seem to have been puzzled to account for the wildness of the eland. It would be much more convenient if the eland were tame and could be easily captured. They explain its wildness by saying that the eland was “spoiled” before Cagn, the creator, or rather maker of most things, had quite finished it. Cagn’s relations came and hunted the first eland too soon, after which all other elands grew wild. Cagn then said, “Go and hunt them and try to kill one; that is now your work, for it was you who spoilt them”.50 The Bushmen have another myth explanatory of the white patches on the breasts of crows in their country. Some men tarried long at their hunting, and their wives sent out crows in search of their husbands. Round each crow’s neck was hung a piece of fat to serve as food on the journey. Hence the crows have white patches on breast and neck.

In Australia the origins of nearly all animals appear to be explained in myths, of which a fair collection is printed in Mr. Brough Symth’s Aborigines of Victoria.51 Still better examples occur in Mrs. Langloh Parker’s Australian Legends. Why is the crane so thin? Once he was a man named Kar-ween, the second man fashioned out of clay by Pund-jel, a singular creative being, whose chequered career is traced elsewhere in our chapter on “Savage Myths of the Origin of the World and of Man”. Kar-ween and Pund-jel had a quarrel about the wives of the former, whom Pund-jel was inclined to admire. The crafty Kar-ween gave a dance (jugargiull, corobboree), at which the creator Pund-jel was disporting himself gaily (like the Great Panjandrum), when Kar-ween pinned him with a spear. Pund-jel threw another which took Kar-ween in the knee-joint, so that he could not walk, but soon pined away and became a mere skeleton. “Thereupon Pund-jel made Kar-ween a crane,” and that is why the crane has such attenuated legs. The Kortume, Munkari and Waingilhe, now birds, were once men. The two latter behaved unkindly to their friend Kortume, who shot them out of his hut in a storm of rain, singing at the same time an incantation. The three then turned into birds, and when the Kortume sings it is a token that rain may be expected.

Let us now compare with these Australian myths of the origin of certain species of birds the Greek story of the origin of frogs, as told by Menecrates and Nicander.52 The frogs were herdsmen metamorphosed by Leto, the mother of Apollo. But, by way of showing how closely akin are the fancies of Greeks and Australian black fellows, we shall tell the legend without the proper names, which gave it a fictitious dignity.


“A woman bore two children, and sought for a water-spring wherein to bathe them. She found a well, but herdsmen drove her away from it that their cattle might drink. Then some wolves met her and led her to a river, of which she drank, and in its waters she bathed her children. Then she went back to the well where the herdsmen were now bathing, and she turned them all into frogs. She struck their backs and shoulders with a rough stone and drove them into the waters, and ever since that day frogs live in marshes and beside rivers.”

A volume might be filled with such examples of the kindred fancies of Greeks and savages. Enough has probably been said to illustrate our point, which is that Greek myths of this character were inherited from the period of savagery, when ideas of metamorphosis and of the kinship of men and beasts were real practical beliefs. Events conceived to be common in real life were introduced into myths, and these myths were savage science, and were intended to account for the Origin of Species. But when once this train of imagination has been fired, it burns on both in literature and in the legends of the peasantry. Every one who writes a Christmas tale for children now employs the machinery of metamorphosis, and in European folk-lore, as Fontenelle remarked, stories persist which are precisely similar in kind to the minor myths of savages.

Reasoning in this wise, the Mundas of Bengal thus account for peculiarities of certain animals. Sing Bonga, the chief god, cast certain people out of heaven; they fell to earth, found iron ore, and began smelting it. The black smoke displeased Sing Bonga, who sent two king crows and an owl to bid people cease to pollute the atmosphere. But the iron smelters spoiled these birds’ tails, and blackened the previously white crow, scorched its beak red, and flattened its head. Sing Bonga burned man, and turned woman into hills and waterspouts.53

Examples of this class of myth in Indo-Aryan literature are not hard to find. Why is dawn red? Why are donkeys slow? Why have mules no young ones? Mules have no foals because they were severely burned when Agni (fire) drove them in a chariot race. Dawn is red, not because (as in Australia) she wears a red kangaroo cloak, but because she competed in this race with red cows for her coursers. Donkeys are slow because they never recovered from their exertions in the same race, when the Asvins called on their asses and landed themselves the winners.54 And cows are accommodated with horns for a reason no less probable and satisfactory.55

Though in the legends of the less developed peoples men and women are more frequently metamorphosed into birds and beasts than into stones and plants, yet such changes of form are by no means unknown. To the north-east of Western Point there lies a range of hills, inhabited, according to the natives of Victoria, by a creature whose body is made of stone, and weapons make no wound in so sturdy a constitution. The blacks refuse to visit the range haunted by the mythic stone beast. “Some black fellows were once camped at the lakes near Shaving Point. They were cooking their fish when a native dog came up. They did not give him anything to eat. He became cross and said, ‘You black fellows have lots of fish, but you give me none’. So he changed them all into a big rock. This is quite true, for the big rock is there to this day, and I have seen it with my own eyes.”56 Another native, Toolabar, says that the women of the fishing party cried out yacka torn, “very good”. A dog replied yacka torn, and they were all changed into rocks. This very man, Toolabar, once heard a dog begin to talk, whereupon he and his father fled. Had they waited they would have become stones. “We should have been like it, wallung,” that is, stones.

Among the North American Indians any stone which has a resemblance to the human or animal figure is explained as an example of metamorphosis. Three stones among the Aricaras were a girl, her lover and her dog, who fled from home because the course of true love did not run smooth, and who were petrified. Certain stones near Chinook Point were sea-giants who swallowed a man. His brother, by aid of fire, dried up the bay and released the man, still alive, from the body of the giant. Then the giants were turned into rocks.57 The rising sun in Popol Vuh (if the evidence of Popol Vuh, the Quichua sacred book, is to be accepted) changed into stone the lion, serpent and tiger gods. The Standing Rock on the Upper Missouri is adored by the Indians, and decorated with coloured ribbons and skins of animals. This stone was a woman, who, like Niobe, became literally petrified with grief when her husband took a second wife. Another stone-woman in a cave on the banks of the Kickapoo was wont to kill people who came near her, and is even now approached with great respect. The Oneidas and Dacotahs claim descent from stones to which they ascribe animation.58 Montesinos speaks of a sacred stone which was removed from a mountain by one of the Incas. A parrot flew out of it and lodged in another stone, which the natives still worship.59 The Breton myth about one of the great stone circles (the stones were peasants who danced on a Sunday) is a well-known example of this kind of myth surviving in folk-lore. There is a kind of stone Actaeon60 near Little Muniton Creek, “resembling the bust of a man whose head is decorated with the horns of a stag”.61 A crowd of myths of metamorphosis into stone will be found among the Iroquois legends in Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1880-81. If men may become stones, on the other hand, in Samoa (as in the Greek myth of Deucalion), stones may become men.62 Gods, too, especially when these gods happen to be cuttlefish, might be petrified. They were chased in Samoa by an Upolu hero, who caught them in a great net and killed them. “They were changed into stones, and now stand up in a rocky part of the lagoon on the north side of Upolu.”63 Mauke, the first man, came out of a stone. In short,64 men and stones and beasts and gods and thunder have interchangeable forms. In Mangaia65 the god Ra was tossed up into the sky by Maui and became pumice-stone. Many samples of this petrified deity are found in Mangaia. In Melanesia matters are so mixed that it is not easy to decide whether a worshipful stone is the dwelling of a dead man’s soul or is of spiritual merit in itself, or whether “the stone is the spirit’s outward part or organ”. The Vui, or spirit, has much the same relations with snakes, owls and sharks.(10) Qasavara, the mythical opponent of Qat, the Melanesian Prometheus, “fell dead from heaven” (like Ra in Mangia), and was turned into a stone, on which sacrifices are made by those who desire strength in fighting.

10 Codrington, Journ. Anthrop. Inst., February, 1881.

Without delaying longer among savage myths of metamorphosis into stones, it may be briefly shown that the Greeks retained this with all the other vagaries of early fancy. Every one remembers the use which Perseus made of the Gorgon’s head, and the stones on the coast of Seriphus, which, like the stones near Western Point in Victoria, had once been men, the enemies of the hero. “Also he slew the Gorgon,” sings Pindar, “and bare home her head, with serpent tresses decked, to the island folk a stony death.” Observe Pindar’s explanatory remark: “I ween there is no marvel impossible if gods have wrought thereto”. In the same pious spirit a Turk in an isle of the Levant once told Mr. Newton a story of how a man hunted a stag, and the stag spoke to him. “The stag spoke?” said Mr. Newton. “Yes, by Allah’s will,” replied the Turk. Like Pindar, he was repeating an incident quite natural to the minds of Australians, or Bushmen, or Samoans, or Red Men, but, like the religious Pindar, he felt that the affair was rather marvellous, and accounted for it by the exercise of omnipotent power.66 The Greek example of Niobe and her children may best be quoted in Mr. Bridges’ translation from the Iliad:—

     And somewhere now, among lone mountain rocks
     On Sipylus, where couch the nymphs at night
     Who dance all day by Achelous’ stream,
     The once proud mother lies, herself a rook,
     And in cold breast broods o’er the goddess’ wrong.
                         — Prometheus the fire-bringer.67

In the Iliad it is added that Cronion made the people into stones. The attitude of the later Greek mind towards these myths may be observed in a fragment of Philemon, the comic poet. “Never, by the gods, have I believed, nor will believe, that Niobe the stone was once a woman. Nay, by reason of her calamities she became speechless, and so, from her silence, was called a stone.”68

There is another famous petrification in the Iliad. When the prodigy of the snake and the sparrows had appeared to the assembled Achaeans at Aulis, Zeus displayed a great marvel, and changed into a stone the serpent which swallowed the young of the sparrow. Changes into stone, though less common than changes into fishes, birds and beasts, were thus obviously not too strange for the credulity of Greek mythology, which could also believe that a stone became the mother of Agdestis by Zeus.

As to interchange of shape between men and women and PLANTS, our information, so far as the lower races are concerned, is less copious. It has already been shown that the totems of many stocks in all parts of the world are plants, and this belief in connection with a plant by itself demonstrates that the confused belief in all things being on one level has thus introduced vegetables into the dominion of myth. As far as possessing souls is concerned, Mr. Tylor has proved that plants are as well equipped as men or beasts or minerals.69 In India the doctrine of transmigration widely and clearly recognises the idea of trees or smaller plants being animated by human souls. In the well-known ancient Egyptian story of “The Two Brothers,”70 the life of the younger is practically merged in that of the acacia tree where he has hidden his heart; and when he becomes a bull and is sacrificed, his spiritual part passes into a pair of Persea trees. The Yarucaris of Bolivia say that a girl once bewailed in the forest her loverless estate. She happened to notice a beautiful tree, which she adorned with ornaments as well as she might. The tree assumed the shape of a handsome young man —

     She did not find him so remiss,
     But, lightly issuing through,
     He did repay her kiss for kiss,
     With usury thereto.71

J. G. Muller, who quotes this tale from Andree, says it has “many analogies with the tales of metamorphosis of human beings into trees among the ancients, as reported by Ovid”. The worship of plants and trees is a well-known feature in religion, and probably implies (at least in many cases) a recognition of personality. In Samoa, metamorphosis into vegetables is not uncommon. For example, the king of Fiji was a cannibal, and (very naturally) “the people were melting away under him”. The brothers Toa and Pale, wishing to escape the royal oven, adopted various changes of shape. They knew that straight timber was being sought for to make a canoe for the king, so Pale, when he assumed a vegetable form, became a crooked stick overgrown with creepers, but Toa “preferred standing erect as a handsome straight tree”. Poor Toa was therefore cut down by the king’s shipwrights, though, thanks to his brother’s magic wiles, they did not make a canoe out of him after all.72 In Samoa the trees are so far human that they not only go to war with each other, but actually embark in canoes to seek out distant enemies.73 The Ottawa Indians account for the origin of maize by a myth in which a wizard fought with and conquered a little man who had a little crown of feathers. From his ashes arose the maize with its crown of leaves and heavy ears of corn.74

In Mangaia the myth of the origin of the cocoa-nut tree is a series of transformation scenes, in which the persons shift shapes with the alacrity of medicine-men. Ina used to bathe in a pool where an eel became quite familiar with her. At last the fish took courage and made his declaration. He was Tuna, the chief of all eels. “Be mine,” he cried, and Ina was his. For some mystical reason he was obliged to leave her, but (like the White Cat in the fairy tale) he requested her to cut off his eel’s head and bury it. Regretfully but firmly did Ina comply with his request, and from the buried eel’s head sprang two cocoa trees, one from each half of the brain of Tuna. As a proof of this be it remarked, that when the nut is husked we always find on it “the two eyes and mouth of the lover of Ina”.75 All over the world, from ancient Egypt to the wigwams of the Algonkins, plants and other matters are said to have sprung from a dismembered god or hero, while men are said to have sprung from plants.76 We may therefore perhaps look on it as a proved point that the general savage habit of “levelling up” prevails even in their view of the vegetable world, and has left traces (as we have seen) in their myths.

Turning now to the mythology of Greece, we see that the same rule holds good. Metamorphosis into plants and flowers is extremely common; the instances of Daphne, Myrrha, Hyacinth, Narcissus and the sisters of Phaethon at once occur to the memory.

Most of those myths in which everything in Nature becomes personal and human, while all persons may become anything in Nature, we explain, then, as survivals or imitations of tales conceived when men were in the savage intellectual condition. In that stage, as we demonstrated, no line is drawn between things animate and inanimate, dumb or “articulate speaking,” organic or inorganic, personal or impersonal. Such a mental stage, again, is reflected in the nature-myths, many of which are merely “aetiological,”— assign a cause, that is, for phenomena, and satisfy an indolent and credulous curiosity.

We may be asked again, “But how did this intellectual condition come to exist?” To answer that is no part of our business; for us it is enough to trace myth, or a certain element in myth, to a demonstrable and actual stage of thought. But this stage, which is constantly found to survive in the minds of children, is thus explained or described by Hume in his Essay on Natural Religion: “There is an universal tendency in mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object those qualities . . . of which they are intimately conscious”.77 Now they believe themselves to be conscious of magical and supernatural powers, which they do not, of course, possess. These powers of effecting metamorphosis, of “shape-shifting,” of flying, of becoming invisible at will, of conversing with the dead, of miraculously healing the sick, savages pass on to their gods (as will be shown in a later chapter), and the gods of myth survive and retain the miraculous gifts after their worshippers (become more reasonable) have quite forgotten that they themselves once claimed similar endowments. So far, then, it has been shown that savage fancy, wherever studied, is wild; that savage curiosity is keen; that savage credulity is practically boundless. These considerations explain the existence of savage myths of sun, stars, beasts, plants and stones; similar myths fill Greek legend and the Sanskrit Brahmanes. We conclude that, in Greek and Sanskrit, the myths are relics (whether borrowed or inherited) of the savage mental STATUS.

1 Primitive Culture, i. 288.

2 Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 430.

3 Taylor, New Zealand, p. 131.

4 Turner, Samoa, p. 20.

5 Sahagun, French trans., vii. ii.

6 Bleck, Hottentot Fables, p. 67; Bushman Folk-Lore, pp. 9, 11.

7 Compare a Californian solar myth: Bancroft, iii. pp. 85, 86.

8 Bancroft, iii. 73, quoting Burgoa, i. 128, 196.

9 Codrington, Journ. Anthrop. Inst., February, 1881.

10 Contes Indiens du Bresil, pp. 1-9, by Couto de Magalhaes. Rio de Janeiro, 1883. M. Henri Gaidoz kindly presented the author with this work.

11 Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 432.

12 Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 353.

13 Bleek, Reynard in South Africa, pp. 69-74.

14 Sahagun, viii. 2.

15 Crantz’s History of Greenland, i. 212.

16 Royaume de Macacar, 1688.

17 Primitive Culture, i. 356.

18 Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. i.; Lefebure, Les Yeux d’Horus.

19 Teutonic Mythology, English trans., ii. 706.

20 Moon-Lore by Rev. T. Harley, p. 167.

21 Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 45.

22 See chapter on Greek Divine Myths.

23 Sophocles, Ajax, 846.

24 Virgil, Georgics, iii. 391.

25 Preller, Griech. Myth., i. 163.

26 Custom and Myth, “Star-Myths”; Primitive Culture, i. 288, 291; J. G. Muller, Amerikanischen Urreligionen, pp. 52, 53.

27 Sacred Books of the East, i. 283-286.

28 Aitareya Bramana, iii. 33.

29 Satapatha Brahmana, vi. 5, 4, 8. For Greek examples, Hesiod, Ovid, and the Catasterismoi, attributed to Eratosthenes, are useful authorities. Probably many of the tales in Eratosthenes are late fictions consciously moulded on traditional data.

30 Journ. Anthrop. Inst., xi. 366-369. A very large and rich collection of testimonies as to metamorphosis will be found in J. G. Muller’s Amerikanischen Urreligionen, p. 62 et seq.; while, for European superstitions, Bodin on La Demonomanie des Sorciers, Lyon, 1598, may be consulted.

31 Vol. iii. p. 127.

32 Magazine of Art, January, 1883.

33 “Malagasy Folk-Tales,” Folk-Lore Journal, October, 1883.

34 We are indebted to Professor Robertson Smith for this example, and to Miss Bird’s Journal, pp. 90, 97, for the Aino parallel.

35 Barth, iii. 358.

36 Apollodorus, i. 7 (13, 12).

37 Sahagun, viii. 2, accounts for colours of eagle and tiger. A number of races explain the habits and marks of animals as the result of a curse or blessing of a god or hero. The Hottentots, the Huarochiri of Peru, the New Zealanders (Shortland, Traditions, p. 57), are among the peoples which use this myth.

38 Brough Symth, Aborigines of Australia, i. 477, 478.

39 Odyssey, xix. 523.

40 A Red Indian nightingale-myth is alluded to by J. G. Muller, Amerik. Urrel., p. 175. Some one was turned into a nightingale by the sun, and still wails for a lost lover.

41 Pausanias, i. v. Pausanias thinks such things no longer occur.

42 Schoolcraft, ii. 229, 230.

43 Boeo, quoted by Antoninus Liberalis.

44 Gill, South Sea Myths, pp. 88-95.

45 Artemidorus in his Love Elegies, quoted by the Pseud-Eratosthenes.

46 Gill, Myths and Songs from South Pacific, pp. 135-138.

47 Livingstone, Missionary Travels, pp. 615, 642.

48 Nicander, quoted by Antoninus Liberalis.

49 Brief Account of Bushmen Folk-Lore, p. 7.

50 Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

51 Vol. i. p. 426 et seq.

52 Antoninus Liberalis, xxxv.

53 Dalton, pp. 186, 187.

54 Aitareya Brahmana, ii. 272, iv. 9.

55 iv. 17.

56 Native narrator, ap. Brough Smyth, i. 479.

57 See authorities ap. Dorman, Primitive Superstitions, pp. 130-138.

58 Dorman, p. 133.

59 Many examples are collected by J. G. Muller, Amerikanischen Urreligionen, pp. 97, 110, 125, especially when the stones have a likeness to human form, p. 17a. “Im der That werden auch einige in Steine, oder in Thiere and Pflanzen verwandelt.” Cf. p. 220. Instances (from Balboa) of men turned into stone by wizards, p. 309.

60 Preller thinks that Actaeon, devoured by his hounds after being changed into a stag, is a symbol of the vernal year. Palaephatus (De Fab. Narrat.) holds that the story is a moral fable.

61 Dorman, p. 137.

62 Turner’s Samoa, p. 299.

63 Samoa, p. 31.

64 Op. cit., p. 34.

65 Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 60.

66 Pindar, Pyth. x., Myers’s translation.

67 xxiv. 611.

68 The Scholiast on Iliad, xxiv. 6, 7.

69 Primitive Culture, i. 145; examples of Society Islanders, Dyaks, Karens, Buddhists.

70 Maspero, Contes Egyptiens, p. 25.

71 J. G. Muller, Amerik. Urrel., p. 264.

72 Turner’s Samoa, p. 219.

73 Ibid.. p. 213.

74 Amerik. Urrel., p. 60.

75 Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 79.

76 Myths of the Beginning of Things.

77 See Appendix B.

Chapter 6.

Non-aryan Myths of the Origin of the World and of Man.

Confusions of myth — Various origins of man and of things — Myths of Australia, Andaman Islands, Bushmen, Ovaherero, Namaquas, Zulus, Hurons, Iroquois, Diggers, Navajoes, Winnebagoes, Chaldaeans, Thlinkeets, Pacific Islanders, Maoris, Aztecs, Peruvians — Similarity of ideas pervading all those peoples in various conditions of society and culture.

The difficulties of classification which beset the study of mythology have already been described. Nowhere are they more perplexing than when we try to classify what may be styled Cosmogonic Myths. The very word cosmogonic implies the pre-existence of the idea of a cosmos, an orderly universe, and this was exactly the last idea that could enter the mind of the myth-makers. There is no such thing as orderliness in their mythical conceptions, and no such thing as an universe. The natural question, “Who made the world, or how did the things in the world come to be?” is the question which is answered by cosmogonic myths. But it is answered piecemeal. To a Christian child the reply is given, “God made all things”. We have known this reply discussed by some little girls of six (a Scotch minister’s daughters, and naturally metaphysical), one of whom solved all difficulties by the impromptu myth, “God first made a little place to stand on, and then he made the rest”. But savages and the myth-makers, whose stories survive into the civilised religions, could adhere firmly to no such account as this. Here occurs in the first edition of this book the following passage: “They (savages) have not, and had not, the conception of God as we understand what we mean by the word. They have, and had at most, only the small-change of the idea God,”— here the belief in a moral being who watches conduct; here again the hypothesis of a pre-human race of magnified, non-natural medicine-men, or of extra-natural beings with human and magical attributes, but often wearing the fur, and fins, and feathers of the lower animals. Mingled with these faiths (whether earlier, later, or coeval in origin with these) are the dread and love of ancestral ghosts, often transmuting themselves into worship of an imaginary and ideal first parent of the tribe, who once more is often a beast or a bird. Here is nothing like the notion of an omnipotent, invisible, spiritual being, the creator of our religion; here is only la monnaie of the conception.”

It ought to have occurred to the author that he was here traversing the main theory of his own book, which is that RELIGION is one thing, myth quite another thing. That many low races of savages entertain, in hours of RELIGIOUS thought, an elevated conception of a moral and undying Maker of Things, and Master of Life, a Father in Heaven, has already been stated, and knowledge of the facts has been considerably increased since this work first appeared (1887). But the MYTHICAL conceptions described in the last paragraph coexist with the religious conception in the faiths of very low savages, such as the Australians and Andamanese, just as the same contradictory coexistence is notorious in ancient Greece, India, Egypt and Anahuac. In a sense, certain low savages HAVE the “conception of God, as we understand what we mean by the word”. But that sense, when savages come to spinning fables about origins, is apt to be overlaid and perplexed by the frivolity of their mythical fancy.

With such shifting, grotesque and inadequate fables, the cosmogonic myths of the world are necessarily bewildered and perplexed. We have already seen in the chapter on “Nature Myths” that many things, sun, moon, the stars, “that have another birth,” and various animals and plants, are accounted for on the hypothesis that they are later than the appearance of man — that they originally WERE men. To the European mind it seems natural to rank myths of the gods before myths of the making or the evolution of the world, because our religion, like that of the more philosophic Greeks, makes the deity the fount of all existences, causa causans, “what unmoved moves,” the beginning and the end. But the myth-makers, deserting any such ideas they may possess, find it necessary, like the child of whom we spoke, to postulate a PLACE for the divine energy to work from, and that place is the earth or the heavens. Then, again, heaven and earth are themselves often regarded in the usual mythical way, as animated, as persons with parts and passions, and finally, among advancing races, as gods. Into this medley of incongruous and inconsistent conceptions we must introduce what order we may, always remembering that the order is not native to the subject, but is brought in for the purpose of study.

The origin of the world and of man is naturally a problem which has excited the curiosity of the least developed minds. Every savage race has its own myths on this subject, most of them bearing the marks of the childish and crude imagination, whose character we have investigated, and all varying in amount of what may be called philosophical thought.

All the cosmogonic myths, as distinct from religious belief in a Creator, waver between the theory of construction, or rather of reconstruction, and the theory of evolution, very rudely conceived. The earth, as a rule, is mythically averred to have grown out of some original matter, perhaps an animal, perhaps an egg which floated on the waters, perhaps a handful of mud from below the waters. But this conception does not exclude the idea that many of the things in the world, minerals, plants and what not, are fragments of the frame of a semi-supernatural and gigantic being, human or bestial, belonging to a race which preceded the advent of man.1 Such were the Titans, demi-gods, Nurrumbunguttias in Australia. Various members of this race are found active in myths of the creation, or rather the construction, of man and of the world. Among the lowest races it is to be noted that mythical animals of supernatural power often take the place of beings like the Finnish Wainamoinen, the Greek Prometheus, the Zulu Unkulunkulu, the Red Indian Manabozho, himself usually a great hare.

The ages before the development or creation of man are filled up, in the myths, with the loves and wars of supernatural people. The appearance of man is explained in three or four contradictory ways, each of which is represented in the various myths of most mythologies. Often man is fashioned out of clay, or stone, or other materials, by a Maker of all things, sometimes half-human or bestial, but also half-divine. Sometimes the first man rises out of the earth, and is himself confused with the Creator, a theory perhaps illustrated by the Zulu myth of Unkulunkulu, “The Old, Old One”. Sometimes man arrives ready made, with most of the animals, from his former home in a hole in the ground, and he furnishes the world for himself with stars, sun, moon and everything else he needs. Again, there are many myths which declare that man was evolved out of one or other of the lower animals. This myth is usually employed by tribesmen to explain the origin of their own peculiar stock of kindred. Once more, man is taken to be the fruit of some tree or plant, or not to have emerged ready-made, but to have grown out of the ground like a plant or a tree. In some countries, as among the Bechuanas, the Boeotians, and the Peruvians, the spot where men first came out on earth is known to be some neighbouring marsh or cave. Lastly, man is occasionally represented as having been framed out of a piece of the body of the Creator, or made by some demiurgic potter out of clay. All these legends are told by savages, with no sense of their inconsistency. There is no single orthodoxy on the matter, and we shall see that all these theories coexist pell-mell among the mythological traditions of civilised races. In almost every mythology, too, the whole theory of the origin of man is crossed by the tradition of a Deluge, or some other great destruction, followed by revival or reconstruction of the species, a tale by no means necessarily of Biblical origin.

In examining savage myths of the origin of man and of the world, we shall begin by considering those current among the most backward peoples, where no hereditary or endowed priesthood has elaborated and improved the popular beliefs. The natives of Australia furnish us with myths of a purely popular type, the property, not of professional priests and poets, but of all the old men and full-grown warriors of the country. Here, as everywhere else, the student must be on his guard against accepting myths which are disguised forms of missionary teaching.2

In Southern Australia we learn that the Boonoorong, an Australian coast tribe, ascribe the creation of things to a being named Bun-jel or Pund-jel. He figures as the chief of an earlier supernatural class of existence, with human relationships; thus he “has a wife, WHOSE FACE HE HAS NEVER SEEN,” brothers, a son, and so on. Now this name Bun-jel means “eagle-hawk,” and the eagle-hawk is a totem among certain stocks. Thus, when we hear that Eagle-hawk is the maker of men and things we are reminded of the Bushman creator, Cagn, who now receives prayers of considerable beauty and pathos, but who is (in some theories) identified with kaggen, the mantis insect, a creative grasshopper, and the chief figure in Bushman mythology.3 Bun-jel or Pund-jel also figures in Australian belief, neither as the creator nor as the eagle-hawk, but “as an old man who lives at the sources of the Yarra river, where he possesses great multitudes of cattle”.4 The term Bun-jel is also used, much like our “Mr.,” to denote the older men of the Kurnai and Briakolung, some of whom have magical powers. One of them, Krawra, or “West Wind,” can cause the wind to blow so violently as to prevent the natives from climbing trees; this man has semi-divine attributes. From these facts it appears that this Australian creator, in myth, partakes of the character of the totem or worshipful beast, and of that of the wizard or medicine-man. He carried a large knife, and, when he made the earth, he went up and down slicing it into creeks and valleys. The aborigines of the northern parts of Victoria seem to believe in Pund-jel in what may perhaps be his most primitive mythical shape, that of an eagle.5 This eagle and a crow created everything, and separated the Murray blacks into their two main divisions, which derive their names from the crow and the eagle. The Melbourne blacks seem to make Pund-jel more anthropomorphic. Men are his (Greek text omitted) figures kneaded of clay, as Aristophanes says in the Birds. Pund-jel made two clay images of men, and danced round them. “He made their hair — one had straight, one curly hair — of bark. He danced round them. He lay on them, and breathed his breath into their mouths, noses and navels, and danced round them. Then they arose full-grown young men.” Some blacks seeing a brickmaker at work on a bridge over the Yarra exclaimed, “Like ’em that Pund-jel make ’em Koolin”. But other blacks prefer to believe that, as Pindar puts the Phrygian legend, the sun saw men growing like trees.

The first man was formed out of the gum of a wattle-tree, and came out of the knot of a wattle-tree. He then entered into a young woman (though he was the first man) and was born.6 The Encounter Bay people have another myth, which might have been attributed by Dean Swift to the Yahoos, so foul an origin does it allot to mankind.

Australian myths of creation are by no means exclusive of a hypothesis of evolution. Thus the Dieyrie, whose notions Mr. Gason has recorded, hold a very mixed view. They aver that “the good spirit” Moora-Moora made a number of small black lizards, liked them, and promised them dominion. He divided their feet into toes and fingers, gave them noses and lips, and set them upright. Down they fell, and Moora-Moora cut off their tails. Then they walked erect and were men.7 The conclusion of the adventures of one Australian creator is melancholy. He has ceased to dwell among mortals whom he watches and inspires. The Jay possessed many bags full of wind; he opened them, and Pund-jel was carried up by the blast into the heavens. But this event did not occur before Pund-jel had taught men and women the essential arts of life. He had shown the former how to spear kangaroos, he still exists and inspires poets. From the cosmogonic myths of Australia (the character of some of which is in contradiction with the higher religious belief of the people to be later described) we may turn, without reaching a race of much higher civilisation, to the dwellers in the Andaman Islands and their opinions about the origin of things.

The Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, are remote from any shores, and are protected from foreign influences by dangerous coral reefs, and by the reputed ferocity and cannibalism of the natives. These are Negritos, and are commonly spoken of as most abject savages. They are not, however, without distinctions of rank; they are clean, modest, moral after marriage, and most strict in the observance of prohibited degrees. Unlike the Australians, they use bows and arrows, but are said to be incapable of striking a light, and, at all events, find the process so difficult that, like the Australians and the farmer in the Odyssey,8 they are compelled “to hoard the seeds of fire”. Their mythology contains explanations of the origin of men and animals, and of their own customs and language.

The Andamanese, long spoken of as “godless,” owe much to Mr. Man, an English official, who has made a most careful study of their beliefs.9 So extraordinary is the contradiction between the relative purity and morality of the RELIGION and the savagery of the myths of the Andamanese, that, in the first edition of this work, I insisted that the “spiritual god” of the faith must have been “borrowed from the same quarter as the stone house” in which he is mythically said to live. But later and wider study, and fresh information from various quarters, have convinced me that the relative purity of Andamanese religion, with its ethical sanction of conduct, may well be, and probably is, a natural unborrowed development. It is easy for MYTH to borrow the notion of a stone house from our recent settlement at Port Blair. But it would not be easy for RELIGION to borrow many new ideas from an alien creed, in a very few years, while the noted ferocity of the islanders towards strangers, and the inaccessibility of their abode, makes earlier borrowing, on a large scale at least, highly improbable. The Andamanese god, Puluga, is “like fire” but invisible, unborn and immortal, knowing and punishing or rewarding, men’s deeds, even “the thoughts of their hearts”. But when once mythical fancy plays round him, and stories are told about him, he is credited with a wife who is an eel or a shrimp, just as Zeus made love as an ant or a cuckoo. Puluga was the maker of men; no particular myth as to how he made them is given. They tried to kill him, after the deluge (of which a grotesque myth is told), but he replied that he was “as hard as wood”. His legend is in the usual mythical contradiction with the higher elements in his religion.

Leaving the Andaman islanders, but still studying races in the lowest degree of civilisation, we come to the Bushmen of South Africa. This very curious and interesting people, far inferior in material equipment to the Hottentots, is sometimes regarded as a branch of that race.10 The Hottentots call themselves “Khoi-khoi,” the Bushmen they style “Sa”. The poor Sa lead the life of pariahs, and are hated and chased by all other natives of South Africa. They are hunters and diggers for roots, while the Hottentots, perhaps their kinsmen, are cattle-breeders.11 Being so ill-nourished, the Bushmen are very small, but sturdy. They dwell in, or rather wander through, countries which have been touched by some ancient civilisation, as is proved by the mysterious mines and roads of Mashonaland. It is singular that the Bushmen possess a tradition according to which they could once “make stone things that flew over rivers”. They have remarkable artistic powers, and their drawings of men and animals on the walls of caves are often not inferior to the designs on early Greek vases.12

Thus we must regard the Bushmen as possibly degenerated from a higher status, though there is nothing (except perhaps the tradition about bridge-making) to show that it was more exalted than that of their more prosperous neighbours, the Hottentots. The myths of the Bushmen, however, are almost on the lowest known level. A very good and authentic example of Bushman cosmogonic myth was given to Mr. Orpen, chief magistrate of St. John’s territory, by Qing, King Nqusha’s huntsman. Qing “had never seen a white man, but in fighting,” till he became acquainted with Mr. Orpen.13 The chief force in Bushmen myth is by Dr. Bleek identified with the mantis, a sort of large grasshopper. Though he seems at least as “chimerical a beast” as the Aryan creative boar, the “mighty big hare” of the Algonkins, the large spider who made the world in the opinion of the Gold Coast people, or the eagle of the Australians, yet the insect (if insect he be), like the others, has achieved moral qualities and is addressed in prayer. In his religious aspect he is nothing less than a grasshopper. He is called Cagn. “Cagn made all things and we pray to him,” said Qing. “Coti is the wife of Cagn.” Qing did not know where they came from; “perhaps with the men who brought the sun”. The fact is, Qing “did not dance that dance,” that is, was not one of the Bushmen initiated into the more esoteric mysteries of Cagn. Till we, too, are initiated, we can know very little of Cagn in his religious aspect. Among the Bushmen, as among the Greeks, there is “no religious mystery without dancing”. Qing was not very consistent. He said Cagn gave orders and caused all things to appear and to be made, sun, moon, stars, wind, mountains, animals, and this, of course, is a lofty theory of creation. Elsewhere myth avers that Cagn did not so much create as manufacture the objects in nature. In his early day “the snakes were also men”. Cagn struck snakes with his staff and turned them into men, as Zeus, in the Aeginetan myth, did with ants. He also turned offending men into baboons. In Bushman myth, little as we really know of it, we see the usual opposition of fable and faith, a kind creator in religion is apparently a magician in myth.

Neighbours of the Bushmen, but more fortunate in their wealth of sheep and cattle, are the Ovaherero. The myths of the Ovaherero, a tribe dwelling in a part of Hereraland “which had not yet been under the influence of civilisation and Christianity,” have been studied by the Rev. H. Reiderbecke, missionary at Otyozondyupa. The Ovaherero, he says, have a kind of tree Ygdrasil, a tree out of which men are born, and this plays a great part in their myth of creation. The tree, which still exists, though at a great age, is called the Omumborombonga tree. Out of it came, in the beginning, the first man and woman. Oxen stepped forth from it too, but baboons, as Caliban says of the stars, “came otherwise,” and sheep and goats sprang from a flat rock. Black people are so coloured, according to the Ovaherero, because when the first parents emerged from the tree and slew an ox, the ancestress of the blacks appropriated the black liver of the victim. The Ovakuru Meyuru or “OLD ONES in heaven,” once let the skies down with a run, but drew them up again (as the gods of the Satapatha Brahmana drew the sun) when most of mankind had been drowned.14 The remnant pacified the OLD ONES (as Odysseus did the spirits of the dead) by the sacrifice of a BLACK ewe, a practice still used to appease ghosts by the Ovaherero. The neighbouring Omnambo ascribe the creation of man to Kalunga, who came out of the earth, and made the first three sheep.15

Among the Namaquas, an African people on the same level of nomadic culture as the Ovaherero, a divine or heroic early being called Heitsi Eibib had a good deal to do with the origin of things. If he did not exactly make the animals, he impressed on them their characters, and their habits (like those of the serpent in Genesis) are said to have been conferred by a curse, the curse of Heitsi Eibib. A precisely similar notion was found by Avila among the Indians of Huarochiri, whose divine culture-hero imposed, by a curse or a blessing, their character and habits on the beasts.16 The lion used to live in a nest up a tree till Heitsi Eibib cursed him and bade him walk on the ground. He also cursed the hare, “and the hare ran away, and is still running”.17 The name of the first man is given as Eichaknanabiseb (with a multitude of “clicks”), and he is said to have met all the animals on a flat rock, and played a game with them for copper beads. The rainbow was made by Gaunab, who is generally a malevolent being, of whom more hereafter.

Leaving these African races, which, whatever their relative degrees of culture, are physically somewhat contemptible, we reach their northern neighbours, the Zulus. They are among the finest, and certainly among the least religious, of the undeveloped peoples. Their faith is mainly in magic and ghosts, but there are traces of a fading and loftier belief.

The social and political condition of the Zulu is well understood. They are a pastoral, but not a nomadic people, possessing large kraals or towns. They practise agriculture, and they had, till quite recently, a centralised government and a large army, somewhat on the German system. They appear to have no regular class of priests, and supernatural power is owned by the chiefs and the king, and by diviners and sorcerers, who conduct the sacrifices. Their myths are the more interesting because, whether from their natural scepticism, which confuted Bishop Colenso in his orthodox days, or from acquaintance with European ideas, they have begun to doubt the truth of their own traditions.18 The Zulu theory of the origin of man and of the world commences with the feats of Unkulunkulu, “the old, old one,” who, in some legends, was the first man, “and broke off in the beginning”. Like Manabozho among the Indians of North America, and like Wainamoinen among the Finns, Unkulunkulu imparted to men a knowledge of the arts, of marriage, and so forth. His exploits in this direction, however, must be considered in another part of this work. Men in general “came out of a bed of reeds”.19 But there is much confusion about this bed of reeds, named “Uthlanga”. The younger people ask where the bed of reeds was; the old men do not know, and neither did their fathers know. But they stick to it that “that bed of reeds still exists”. Educated Zulus appear somewhat inclined to take the expression in an allegorical sense, and to understand the reeds either as a kind of protoplasm or as a creator who was mortal. “He exists no longer. As my grandfather no longer exists, he too no longer exists; he died.” Chiefs who wish to claim high descent trace their pedigree to Uthlanga, as the Homeric kings traced theirs to Zeus. The myths given by Dr. Callaway are very contradictory.

In addition to the legend that men came out of a bed of reeds, other and perhaps even more puerile stories are current. “Some men say that they were belched up by a cow;” others “that Unkulunkulu split them out of a stone,”20 which recalls the legend of Pyrrha and Deucalion. The myth about the cow is still applied to great chiefs. “He was not born; he was belched up by a cow.” The myth of the stone origin corresponds to the Homeric saying about men “born from the stone or the oak of the old tale”.21

In addition to the theory of the natal bed of reeds, the Zulus, like the Navajoes of New Mexico, and the Bushmen, believe in the subterranean origin of man. There was a succession of emigrations from below of different tribes of men, each having its own Unkulunkulu. All accounts agree that Unkulunkulu is not worshipped, and he does not seem to be identified with “the lord who plays in heaven”— a kind of fading Zeus — when there is thunder. Unkulunkulu is not worshipped, though ancestral spirits are worshipped, because he lived so long ago that no one can now trace his pedigree to the being who is at once the first man and the creator. His “honour-giving name is lost in the lapse of years, and the family rites have become obsolete.”22

The native races of the North American continent (concerning whose civilisation more will be said in the account of their divine myths) occupy every stage of culture, from the truly bestial condition in which some of the Digger Indians at present exist, living on insects and unacquainted even with the use of the bow, to the civilisation which the Spaniards destroyed among the Aztecs.

The original facts about religion in America are much disputed, and will be more appropriately treated later. It is now very usual for anthropologists to say, like Mr. Dorman, “no approach to monotheismn had been made before the discovery of America by Europeans, and the Great Spirit mentioned in these (their) books is an introduction by Christianity”.23 “This view will not bear examination,” says Mr. Tylor, and we shall later demonstrate the accuracy of his remark.24 But at present we are concerned, not with what Indian religion had to say about her Gods, but with what Indian myth had to tell about the beginnings of things.

The Hurons, for example (to choose a people in a state of middle barbarism), start in myth from the usual conception of a powerful non-natural race of men dwelling in the heavens, whence they descended, and colonised, not to say constructed, the earth. In the Relation de la Nouvelle France, written by Pere Paul le Jeune, of the Company of Jesus, in 1636, there is a very full account of Huron opinion, which, with some changes of names, exists among the other branches of the Algonkin family of Indians.

They recognise as the founder of their kindred a woman named Ataentsic, who, like Hephaestus in the Iliad, was banished from the sky. In the upper world there are woods and plains, as on earth. Ataentsic fell down a hole when she was hunting a bear, or she cut down a heaven-tree, and fell with the fall of this Huron Ygdrasil, or she was seduced by an adventurer from the under world, and was tossed out of heaven for her fault. However it chanced, she dropped on the back of the turtle in the midst of the waters. He consulted the other aquatic animals, and one of them, generally said to have been the musk-rat, fished25 up some soil and fashioned the earth.26 Here Ataentsic gave birth to twins, Ioskeha and Tawiscara. These represent the usual dualism of myth; they answer to Osiris and Set, to Ormuzd and Ahriman, and were bitter enemies. According to one form of the myth, the woman of the sky had twins, and what occurred may be quoted from Dr. Brinton. “Even before birth one of them betrayed his restless and evil nature by refusing to be born in the usual manner, but insisting on breaking through his parent’s side or arm-pit. He did so, but it cost his mother her life. Her body was buried, and from it sprang the various vegetable productions,” pumpkins, maize, beans, and so forth.27

According to another version of the origin of things, the maker of them was one Michabous, or Michabo, the Great Hare. His birthplace was shown at an island called Michilimakinak, like the birthplace of Apollo at Delos. The Great Hare made the earth, and, as will afterwards appear, was the inventor of the arts of life. On the whole, the Iroquois and Algonkin myths agree in finding the origin of life in an upper world beyond the sky. The earth was either fished up (as by Brahma when he dived in the shape of a boar) by some beast which descended to the bottom of the waters, or grew out of the tortoise on whose back Ataentsic fell. The first dwellers in the world were either beasts like Manabozho or Michabo, the Great Hare, or the primeval wolves of the Uinkarets,28 or the creative musk-rat, or were more anthropomorphic heroes, such as Ioskeha and Tawiscara. As for the things in the world, some were made, some evolved, some are transformed parts of an early non-natural man or animal. There is a tendency to identify Ataentsic, the sky-woman, with the moon, and in the Two Great Brethren, hostile as they are, to recognise moon and sun.29

Some of the degraded Digger Indians of California have the following myth of the origin of species. In this legend, it will be noticed, a species of evolution takes the place of a theory of creation. The story was told to Mr. Adam Johnston, who “drew” the narrator by communicating to a chief the Biblical narrative of the creation.30 The chief said it was a strange story, and one that he had never heard when he lived at the Mission of St. John under the care of a Padre. According to this chief (he ruled over the Po-to-yan-te tribe or Coyotes), the first Indians were coyotes. When one of their number died, his body became full of little animals or spirits. They took various shapes, as of deer, antelopes, and so forth; but as some exhibited a tendency to fly off to the moon, the Po-to-yan-tes now usually bury the bodies of their dead, to prevent the extinction of species. Then the Indians began to assume the shape of man, but it was a slow transformation. At first they walked on all fours, then they would begin to develop an isolated human feature, one finger, one toe, one eye, like the ascidian, our first parent in the view of modern science. Then they doubled their organs, got into the habit of sitting up, and wore away their tails, which they unaffectedly regret, “as they consider the tail quite an ornament”. Ideas of the immortality of the soul are said to be confined to the old women of the tribe, and, in short, according to this version, the Digger Indians occupy the modern scientific position.

The Winnebagoes, who communicated their myths to Mr. Fletcher,31 are suspected of having been influenced by the Biblical narrative. They say that the Great Spirit woke up as from a dream, and found himself sitting in a chair. As he was all alone, he took a piece of his body and a piece of earth, and made a man. He next made a woman, steadied the earth by placing beasts beneath it at the corners, and created plants and animals. Other men he made out of bears. “He created the white man to make tools for the poor Indians”— a very pleasing example of a teleological hypothesis and of the doctrine of final causes as understood by the Winnebagoes. The Chaldean myth of the making of man is recalled by the legend that the Great Spirit cut out a piece of himself for the purpose; the Chaldean wisdom coincides, too, with the philosophical acumen of the Po-to-yan-te or Coyote tribe of Digger Indians. Though the Chaldean theory is only connected with that of the Red Men by its savagery, we may briefly state it in this place.

According to Berosus, as reported by Alexander Polyhistor, the universe was originally (as before Manabozho’s time) water and mud. Herein all manner of mixed monsters, with human heads, goat’s horns, four legs, and tails, bred confusedly. In place of the Iroquois Ataentsic, a woman called Omoroca presided over the mud and the menagerie. She, too, like Ataentsic, is sometimes recognised as the moon. Affairs being in this state, Bel-Maruduk arrived and cut Omoroca in two (Chokanipok destroyed Ataentsic), and out of Omoroca Bel made the world and the things in it. We have already seen that in savage myth many things are fashioned out of a dead member of the extra-natural race. Lastly, Bel cut his own head off, and with the blood the gods mixed clay and made men. The Chaldeans inherited very savage fancies.32

One ought, perhaps, to apologise to the Chaldeans for inserting their myths among the fables of the least cultivated peoples; but it will scarcely be maintained that the Oriental myths differ in character from the Digger Indian and Iroquois explanations of the origin of things. The Ahts of Vancouver Island, whom Mr. Sproat knew intimately, and of whose ideas he gives a cautious account (for he was well aware of the limits of his knowledge), tell a story of the usual character.33 They believe in a member of the extra-natural race, named Quawteaht, of whom we shall hear more in his heroic character. As a demiurge “he is undoubtedly represented as the general framer, I do not say creator, of all things, though some special things are excepted. He made the earth and water, the trees and rocks, and all the animals. Some say that Quawteaht made the sun and moon, but the majority of the Indians believe that he had nothing to do with their formation, and that they are deities superior to himself, though now distant and less active. He gave names to everything; among the rest, to all the Indian houses which then existed, although inhabited only by birds and animals. Quawteaht went away before the apparent change of the birds and beasts into Indians, which took place in the following manner:—

“The birds and beasts of old had the spirits of the Indians dwelling in them, and occupied the various coast villages, as the Ahts do at present. One day a canoe manned by two Indians from an unknown country approached the shore. As they coasted along, at each house at which they landed, the deer, bear, elk, and other brute inhabitants fled to the mountains, and the geese and other birds flew to the woods and rivers. But in this flight, the Indians, who had hitherto been contained in the bodies of the various creatures, were left behind, and from that time they took possession of the deserted dwellings and assumed the condition in which we now see them.”

Crossing the northern continent of America to the west, we are in the domains of various animal culture-heroes, ancestors and teachers of the human race and the makers, to some extent, of the things in the world. As the eastern tribes have their Great Hare, so the western tribes have their wolf hero and progenitor, or their coyote, or their raven, or their dog. It is possible, and even certain in some cases, that the animal which was the dominant totem of a race became heir to any cosmogonic legends that were floating about.

The country of the Papagos, on the eastern side of the Gulf of California, is the southern boundary of the province of the coyote or prairie wolf. The realm of his influence as a kind of Prometheus, or even as a demiurge, extends very far northwards. In the myth related by Con Quien, the chief of the central Papagos,34 the coyote acts the part of the fish in the Sanskrit legend of the flood, while Montezuma undertakes the role of Manu. This Montezuma was formed, like the Adams of so many races, out of potter’s clay in the hands of the Great Spirit. In all this legend it seems plain enough that the name of Montezuma is imported from Mexico, and has been arbitrarily given to the hero of the Papagos. According to Mr. Powers, whose manuscript notes Mr. Bancroft quotes (iii. 87), all the natives of California believe that their first ancestors were created directly from the earth of their present dwelling-places, and in very many cases these ancestors were coyotes.

The Pimas, a race who live near the Papagos on the eastern coast of the Gulf of California, say that the earth was made by a being named Earth-prophet. At first it appeared like a spider’s web, reminding one of the West African legend that a great spider created the world. Man was made by the Earth-prophet out of clay kneaded with sweat. A mysterious eagle and a deluge play a great part in the later mythical adventures of war and the world, as known to the Pimas.35

In Oregon the coyote appears as a somewhat tentative demiurge, and the men of his creation, like the beings first formed by Prajapati in the Sanskrit myth, needed to be reviewed, corrected and considerably augmented. The Chinooks of Oregon believe in the usual race of magnified non-natural men, who preceded humanity.

These semi-divine people were called Ulhaipa by the Chinooks, and Sehuiab by the Lummies. But the coyote was the maker of men. As the first of Nature’s journeymen, he made men rather badly, with closed eyes and motionless feet. A kind being, named Ikanam, touched up the coyote’s crude essays with a sharp stone, opening the eyes of men, and giving their hands and feet the powers of movement. He also acted as a “culture-hero,” introducing the first arts.36

Moving up the West Pacific coast we reach British Columbia, where the coyote is not supposed to have been so active as our old friend the musk-rat in the great work of the creation. According to the Tacullies, nothing existed in the beginning but water and a musk-rat. As the animal sought his food at the bottom of the water, his mouth was frequently filled with mud. This he spat out, and so gradually formed by alluvial deposit an island. This island was small at first, like earth in the Sanskrit myth in the Satapatha Brahmana, but gradually increased in bulk. The Tacullies have no new light to throw on the origin of man.37

The Thlinkeets, who are neighbours of the Tacullies on the north, incline to give crow or raven the chief role in the task of creation, just as some Australians allot the same part to the eagle-hawk, and the Yakuts to a hawk, a crow and a teal-duck. We shall hear much of Yehl later, as one of the mythical heroes of the introduction of civilisation. North of the Thlinkeets, a bird and a dog take the creative duties, the Aleuts and Koniagas being descended from a dog. Among the more northern Tinnehs, the dog who was the progenitor of the race had the power of assuming the shape of a handsome young man. He supplied the protoplasm of the Tinnehs, as Purusha did that of the Aryan world, out of his own body. A giant tore him to pieces, as the gods tore Purusha, and out of the fragments thrown into the rivers came fish, the fragments tossed into the air took life as birds, and so forth.38 This recalls the Australian myth of the origin of fish and the Ananzi stories of the origin of whips.39

Between the cosmogonic myths of the barbarous or savage American tribes and those of the great cultivated American peoples, Aztecs, Peruvians and Quiches, place should be found for the legends of certain races in the South Pacific. Of these, the most important are the Maoris or natives of New Zealand, the Mangaians and the Samoans. Beyond the usual and world-wide correspondences of myth, the divine tales of the various South Sea isles display resemblances so many and essential that they must be supposed to spring from a common and probably not very distant centre. As it is practically impossible to separate Maori myths of the making of things from Maori myths of the gods and their origin, we must pass over here the metaphysical hymns and stories of the original divine beings, Rangi and Papa, Heaven and Earth, and of their cruel but necessary divorce by their children, who then became the usual Titanic race which constructs and “airs” the world for the reception of man.40 Among these beings, more fully described in our chapter on the gods of the lower races, is Tiki, with his wife Marikoriko, twilight. Tane (male) is another of the primordial race, children of earth and heaven, and between him and Tiki lies the credit of having made or begotten humanity. Tane adorned the body of his father, heaven (Rangi), by sticking stars all over it, as disks of pearl-shells are stuck all over images. He was the parent of trees and birds, but some trees are original and divine beings. The first woman was not born, but formed out of the sun and the echo, a pretty myth. Man was made by Tiki, who took red clay, and kneaded it with his own blood, or with the red water of swamps. The habits of animals, some of which are gods, while others are descended from gods, follow from their conduct at the moment when heaven and earth were violently divorced. New Zealand itself, or at least one of the isles, was a huge fish caught by Maui (of whom more hereafter). Just as Pund-jel, in Australia, cut out the gullies and vales with his knife, so the mountains and dells of New Zealand were produced by the knives of Maui’s brothers when they crimped his big fish.41 Quite apart from those childish ideas are the astonishing metaphysical hymns about the first stirrings of light in darkness, of “becoming” and “being,” which remind us of Hegel and Heraclitus, or of the most purely speculative ideas in the Rig-Veda.42 Scarcely less metaphysical are the myths of Mangaia, of which Mr. Gill43 gives an elaborate account.

The Mangaian ideas of the world are complex, and of an early scientific sort. The universe is like the hollow of a vast cocoa-nut shell, divided into many imaginary circles like those of mediaeval speculation. There is a demon at the stem, as it were, of the cocoa-nut, and, where the edges of the imaginary shell nearly meet, dwells a woman demon, whose name means “the very beginning”. In this system we observe efforts at metaphysics and physical speculation. But it is very characteristic of rude thought that such extremely abstract conceptions as “the very beginning” are represented as possessing life and human form. The woman at the bottom of the shell was anxious for progeny, and therefore plucked a bit out of her own right side, as Eve was made out of the rib of Adam. This piece of flesh became Vatea, the father of gods and men. Vatea (like Oannes in the Chaldean legend) was half man, half fish. “The Very Beginning” begat other children in the same manner, and some of these became departmental gods of ocean, noon-day, and so forth. Curiously enough, the Mangaians seem to be sticklers for primogeniture. Vatea, as the first-born son, originally had his domain next above that of his mother. But she was pained by the thought that his younger brothers each took a higher place than his; so she pushed his land up, and it is now next below the solid crust on which mortals live in Mangaia. Vatea married a woman from one of the under worlds named Papa, and their children had the regular human form. One child was born either from Papa’s head, like Athene from the head of Zeus, or from her armpit, like Dionysus from the thigh of Zeus. Another child may be said, in the language of dog-breeders, to have “thrown back,” for he wears the form of a white or black lizard. In the Mangaian system the sky is a solid vault of blue stone. In the beginning of things the sky (like Ouranos in Greece and Rangi in New Zealand) pressed hard on earth, and the god Ru was obliged to thrust the two asunder, or rather he was engaged in this task when Maui tossed both Ru and the sky so high up that they never came down again. Ru is now the Atlas of Mangaia, “the sky-supporting Ru”.44 His lower limbs fell to earth, and became pumice-stone. In these Mangaian myths we discern resemblances to New Zealand fictions, as is natural, and the tearing of the body of “the Very Beginning” has numerous counterparts in European, American and Indian fable. But on the whole, the Mangaian myths are more remarkable for their semi-scientific philosophy than for their coincidences with the fancies of other early peoples.

The Samoans, like the Maoris and Greeks, hold that heaven at first fell down and lay upon earth.45 The arrowroot and another plant pushed up heaven, and “the heaven-pushing place” is still known and pointed out. Others say the god Ti-iti-i pushed up heaven, and his feet made holes six feet deep in the rocks during this exertion. The other Samoan myths chiefly explain the origin of fire, and the causes of the characteristic forms and habits of animals and plants. The Samoans, too, possess a semi-mythical, metaphysical cosmogony, starting from NOTHING, but rapidly becoming the history of rocks, clouds, hills, dew and various animals, who intermarried, and to whom the royal family of Samoa trace their origin through twenty-three generations. So personal are Samoan abstract conceptions, that “SPACE had a long-legged stool,” on to which a head fell, and grew into a companion for Space. Yet another myth says that the god Tangaloa existed in space, and made heaven and earth, and sent down his daughter, a snipe. Man he made out of the mussel-fish. So confused are the doctrines of the Samoans.46

Perhaps the cosmogonic myths of the less cultivated races have now been stated in sufficient number. As an example of the ideas which prevailed in an American race of higher culture, we may take the Quiche legend as given in the Popol Vuh, a post-Christian collection of the sacred myths of the nation, written down after the Spanish conquest, and published in French by the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg.47

The Quiches, like their neighbours the Cakchiquels, were a highly civilised race, possessing well-built towns, roads and the arts of life, and were great agriculturists. Maize, the staple of food among these advanced Americans, was almost as great a god as Soma among the Indo-Aryans. The Quiches were acquainted with a kind of picture-writing, and possessed records in which myth glided into history. The Popol Vuh, or book of the people, gives itself out as a post-Columbian copy of these traditions, and may doubtless contain European ideas. As we see in the Commentarias Reales of the half-blood Inca Garcilasso de la Vega, the conquered people were anxious to prove that their beliefs were by no means so irrational and so “devilish” as to Spanish critics they appeared. According to the Popol Vuh, there was in the beginning nothing but water and the feathered serpent, one of their chief divine beings; but there also existed somehow, “they that gave life”. Their names mean “shooter of blow-pipe at coyote,” “at opossum,” and so forth. They said “Earth,” and there WAS earth, and plants growing thereon. Animals followed, and the Givers of life said “Speak our names,” but the animals could only cluck and croak. Then said the Givers, “Inasmuch as ye cannot praise us, ye shall be killed and eaten”. They then made men out of clay; these men were weak and watery, and by water they were destroyed. Next they made men of wood and women of the pith of trees. These puppets married and gave in marriage, and peopled earth with wooden mannikins. This unsatisfactory race was destroyed by a rain of resin and by the wild beasts. The survivors developed into apes. Next came a period occupied by the wildest feats of the magnified non-natural race and of animals. The record is like the description of a supernatural pantomime — the nightmare of a god. The Titans upset hills, are turned into stone, and behave like Heitsi Eibib in the Namaqua myths.

Last of all, men were made of yellow and white maize, and these gave more satisfaction, but their sight was contracted. These, however, survived, and became the parents of the present stock of humanity.

Here we have the conceptions of creation and of evolution combined. Men are MADE, but only the fittest survive; the rest are either destroyed or permitted to develop into lower species. A similar mixture of the same ideas will be found in one of the Brahmanas among the Aryans of India. It is to be observed that the Quiche myths, as recorded in Popol Vuh, contain not only traces of belief in a creative word and power, but many hymns of a lofty and beautifully devotional character.

“Hail! O Creator, O Former! Thou that hearest and understandest us, abandon us not, forsake us not! O God, thou that art in heaven and on the earth, O Heart of Heaven, O Heart of Earth, give us descendants and posterity as long as the light endures.”

This is an example of the prayers of the men made out of maize, made especially that they might “call on the name” of the god or gods. Whether we are to attribute this and similar passages to Christian influence (for Popol Vuh, as we have it, is but an attempt to collect the fragments of the lost book that remained in men’s minds after the conquest), or whether the purer portions of the myth be due to untaught native reflection and piety, it is not possible to determine. It is improbable that the ideas of a hostile race would be introduced into religious hymns by their victims. Here, as elsewhere in the sacred legends of civilised peoples, various strata of mythical and religious thought coexist.

No American people reached such a pitch of civilisation as the Aztecs of Anahuac, whose capital was the city of Mexico. It is needless here to repeat the story of their grandeur and their fall. Obscure as their history, previous to the Spanish invasion, may be, it is certain that they possessed a highly organised society, fortified towns, established colleges or priesthoods, magnificent temples, an elaborate calendar, great wealth in the precious metals, the art of picture-writing in considerable perfection, and a despotic central government. The higher classes in a society like this could not but develop speculative systems, and it is alleged that shortly before the reign of Montezuma attempts had been made to introduce a pure monotheistic religion. But the ritual of the Aztecs remained an example of the utmost barbarity. Never was a more cruel faith, not even in Carthage. Nowhere did temples reek with such pools of human blood; nowhere else, not in Dahomey and Ashanti, were human sacrifice, cannibalism and torture so essential to the cult that secured the favour of the gods. In these dark fanes — reeking with gore, peopled by monstrous shapes of idols bird-headed or beast-headed, and adorned with the hideous carvings in which we still see the priest, under the mask of some less ravenous forest beast, tormenting the victim — in these abominable temples the Castilian conquerors might well believe that they saw the dwellings of devils.

Yet Mexican religion had its moral and beautiful aspect, and the gods, or certain of the gods, required from their worshippers not only bloody hands, but clean hearts.

To the gods we return later. The myths of the origin of things may be studied without a knowledge of the whole Aztec Pantheon. Our authorities, though numerous, lack complete originality and are occasionally confused. We have first the Aztec monuments and hieroglyphic scrolls, for the most part undeciphered. These merely attest the hideous and cruel character of the deities. Next we have the reports of early missionaries, like Sahagun and Mendieta, of conquerors, like Bernal Diaz, and of noble half-breeds, such as Ixtlilxochitl.48

There are two elements in Mexican, as in Quiche, and Indo-Aryan, and Maori, and even Andaman cosmogonic myth. We find the purer religion and the really philosophic speculation concurrent with such crude and childish stories as usually satisfy the intellectual demands of Ahts, Cahrocs and Bushmen; but of the purer and more speculative opinions we know little. Many of the noble, learned and priestly classes of Aztecs perished at the conquest. The survivors were more or less converted to Catholicism, and in their writings probably put the best face possible on the native religion. Like the Spanish clergy, their instructors, they were inclined to explain away their national gods by a system of euhemerism, by taking it for granted that the gods and culture-heroes had originally been ordinary men, worshipped after their decease. This is almost invariably the view adopted by Sahagun. Side by side with the confessions, as it were, of the clergy and cultivated classes coexisted the popular beliefs, the myths of the people, partaking of the nature of folk-lore, but not rejected by the priesthood.

Both strata of belief are represented in the surviving cosmogonic myths of the Aztecs. Probably we may reckon in the first or learned and speculative class of tales the account of a series of constructions and reconstructions of the world. This idea is not peculiar to the higher mythologies, the notion of a deluge and recreation or renewal of things is almost universal, and even among the untutored Australians there are memories of a flood and of an age of ruinous winds. But the theory of definite epochs, calculated in accordance with the Mexican calendar, of epochs in which things were made and re-made, answers closely to the Indo-Aryan conception of successive kalpas, and can only have been developed after the method of reckoning time had been carried to some perfection. “When heaven and earth were fashioned, they had already been four times created and destroyed,” say the fragments of what is called the Chimalpopoca manuscript. Probably this theory of a series of kalpas is only one of the devices by which the human mind has tried to cheat itself into the belief that it can conceive a beginning of things. The earth stands on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, and it is going too far to ask what the tortoise stands on. In the same way the world’s beginning seems to become more intelligible or less puzzling when it is thrown back into a series of beginnings and endings. This method also was in harmony with those vague ideas of evolution and of the survival of the fittest which we have detected in myth. The various tentative human races of the Popol Vuh degenerated or were destroyed because they did not fulfil the purposes for which they were made. In Brahmanic myth we shall see that type after type was condemned and perished because it was inadequate, or inadequately equipped — because it did not harmonise with its environment.49 For these series of experimental creations and inefficient evolutions vast spaces of time were required, according to the Aztec and Indo-Aryan philosophies. It is not impossible that actual floods and great convulsions of nature may have been remembered in tradition, and may have lent colour and form to these somewhat philosophic myths of origins. From such sources probably comes the Mexican hypothesis of a water-age (ending in a deluge), an earth-age (ending in an earthquake), a wind-age (ending in hurricanes), and the present dispensation, to be destroyed by fire.

The less philosophic and more popular Aztec legend of the commencement of the world is mainly remarkable for the importance given in it to objects of stone. For some reason, stones play a much greater part in American than in other mythologies. An emerald was worshipped in the temple of Pachacamac, who was, according to Garcilasso, the supreme and spiritual deity of the Incas. The creation legend of the Cakchiquels of Guatemala50 makes much of a mysterious, primeval and animated obsidian stone. In the Iroquois myths51 stones are the leading characters. Nor did Aztec myth escape this influence.

There was a god in heaven named Citlalatonac, and a goddess, Citlalicue. When we speak of “heaven” we must probably think of some such world of ordinary terrestrial nature above the sky as that from which Ataentsic fell in the Huron story. The goddess gave birth to a flint-knife, and flung the flint down to earth. This abnormal birth partly answers to that of the youngest of the Adityas, the rejected abortion in the Veda, and to the similar birth and rejection of Maui in New Zealand. From the fallen flint-knife sprang our old friends the magnified non-natural beings with human characteristics, “the gods,” to the number of 1600. The gods sent up the hawk (who in India and Australia generally comes to the front on these occasions), and asked their mother, or rather grandmother, to help them to make men, to be their servants. Citlalicue rather jeered at her unconsidered offspring. She advised them to go to the lord of the homes of the departed, Mictlanteuctli, and borrow a bone or some ashes of the dead who are with him. We must never ask for consistency from myths. This statement implies that men had already been in existence, though they were not yet created. Perhaps they had perished in one of the four great destructions. With difficulty and danger the gods stole a bone from Hades, placed it in a bowl, and smeared it with their own blood, as in Chaldea and elsewhere. Finally, a boy and a girl were born out of the bowl. From this pair sprang men, and certain of the gods, jumping into a furnace, became sun and moon. To the sun they then, in Aztec fashion, sacrificed themselves, and there, one might think, was an end of them. But they afterwards appeared in wondrous fashions to their worshippers, and ordained the ritual of religion. According to another legend, man and woman (as in African myths) struggled out of a hole in the ground.52

The myths of the peoples under the empire of the Incas in Peru are extremely interesting, because almost all mythical formations are found existing together, while we have historical evidence as to the order and manner of their development. The Peru of the Incas covered the modern state of the same name, and included Ecuador, with parts of Chili and Bolivia. M. Reville calculates that the empire was about 2500 miles in length, four times as long as France, and that its breadth was from 250 to 500 miles. The country, contained three different climatic regions, and was peopled by races of many different degrees of culture, all more or less subject to the dominion of the Children of the Sun. The three regions were the dry strip along the coast, the fertile and cultivated land about the spurs of the Cordilleras, and the inland mountain regions, inhabited by the wildest races. Near Cuzco, the Inca capital, was the Lake of Titicaca, the Mediterranean, as it were, of Peru, for on the shores of this inland sea was developed the chief civilisation of the new world.

As to the institutions, myths and religion of the empire, we have copious if contradictory information. There are the narratives of the Spanish conquerors, especially of Pizarro’s chaplain, Valverde, an ignorant bigoted fanatic. Then we have somewhat later travellers and missionaries, of whom Cieza de Leon (his book was published thirty years after the conquest, in 1553) is one of the most trustworthy. The “Royal Commentaries” of Garcilasso de la Vega, son of an Inca lady and a Spanish conqueror, have often already been quoted. The critical spirit and sound sense of Garcilasso are in remarkable contrast to the stupid orthodoxy of the Spaniards, but some allowance must be made for his fervent Peruvian patriotism. He had heard the Inca traditions repeated in boyhood, and very early in life collected all the information which his mother and maternal uncle had to give him, or which could be extracted from the quipus (the records of knotted cord), and from the commemorative pictures of his ancestors. Garcilasso had access, moreover, to the “torn papers” of Blas Valera, an early Spanish missionary of unusual sense and acuteness. Christoval de Moluna is also an excellent authority, and much may be learned from the volume of Rites and Laws of the Yncas.53

The political and religious condition of the Peruvian empire is very clearly conceived and stated by Garcilasso. Without making due allowance for that mysterious earlier civilisation, older than the Incas, whose cyclopean buildings are the wonder of travellers, Garcilasso attributes the introduction of civilisation to his own ancestors. Allowing for what is confessedly mythical in his narrative, it must be admitted that he has a firm grasp of what the actual history must have been. He recognises a period of savagery before the Incas, a condition of the rudest barbarism, which still existed on the fringes and mountain recesses of the empire. The religion of that period was mere magic and totemism. From all manner of natural objects, but chiefly from beasts and birds, the various savage stocks of Peru claimed descent, and they revered and offered sacrifice to their totemic ancestors.54 Garcilasso adds, what is almost incredible, that the Indians tamely permitted themselves to be eaten by their totems, when these were carnivorous animals. They did this with the less reluctance as they were cannibals, and accustomed to breed children for the purposes of the cuisine from captive women taken in war.55 Among the huacas or idols, totems, fetishes and other adorable objects of the Indians, worshipped before and retained after the introduction of the Inca sun-totem and solar cult, Garcilasso names trees, hills, rocks, caves, fountains, emeralds, pieces of jasper, tigers, lions, bears, foxes, monkeys, condors, owls, lizards, toads, frogs, sheep, maize, the sea, “for want of larger gods, crabs” and bats. The bat was also the totem of the Zotzil, the chief family of the Cakchiquels of Guatemala, and the most high god of the Cakchiquels was worshipped in the shape of a bat. We are reminded of religion as it exists in Samoa. The explanation of Blas Valera was that in each totem (pacarissa) the Indians adored the devil.

Athwart this early religion of totems and fetishes came, in Garcilasso’s narrative, the purer religion of the Incas, with what he regards as a philosophic development of a belief in a Supreme Being. According to him, the Inca sun-worship was really a totemism of a loftier character. The Incas “knew how to choose gods better than the Indians”. Garcilasso’s theory is that the earlier totems were selected chiefly as distinguishing marks by the various stocks, though, of course, this does not explain why the animals or other objects of each family were worshipped or were regarded as ancestors, and the blood-connections of the men who adored them. The Incas, disdaining crabs, lizards, bats and even serpents and lions, “chose” the sun. Then, just like the other totemic tribes, they feigned to be of the blood and lineage of the sun.

This fable is, in brief, the Inca myth of the origin of civilisation and of man, or at least of their breed of men. As M. Reville well remarks, it is obvious that the Inca claim is an adaptation of the local myth of Lake Titicaca, the inland sea of Peru. According to that myth, the Children of the Sun, the ancestors of the Incas, came out of the earth (as in Greek and African legends) at Lake Titicaca, or reached its shores after wandering from the hole or cave whence they first emerged. The myth, as adapted by the Incas, takes for granted the previous existence of mankind, and, in some of its forms, the Inca period is preceded by the deluge.

Of the Peruvian myth concerning the origin of things, the following account is given by a Spanish priest, Christoval de Moluna, in a report to the Bishop of Cuzco in 1570.56 The story was collected from the lips of ancient Peruvians and old native priests, who again drew their information in part from the painted records reserved in the temple of the sun near Cuzco. The legend begins with a deluge myth; a cataclysm ended a period of human existence. All mankind perished except a man and woman, who floated in a box to a distance of several hundred miles from Cuzco. There the creator commanded them to settle, and there, like Pund-jel in Australia, he made clay images of men of all races, attired in their national dress, and then animated them. They were all fashioned and painted as correct models, and were provided with their national songs and with seed-corn. They then were put into the earth, and emerged all over the world at the proper places, some (as in Africa and Greece) coming out of fountains, some out of trees, some out of caves. For this reason they made huacas (worshipful objects or fetishes) of the trees, caves and fountains. Some of the earliest men were changed into stones, others into falcons, condors and other creatures which we know were totems in Peru. Probably this myth of metamorphosis was invented to account for the reverence paid to totems or pacarissas as the Peruvians called them. In Tiahuanaco, where the creation, or rather manufacture of men took place, the creator turned many sinners into stones. The sun was made in the shape of a man, and, as he soared into heaven, he called out in a friendly fashion to Manco Ccapac, the Ideal first Inca, “Look upon me as thy father, and worship me as thy father”. In these fables the creator is called Pachyachachi, “Teacher of the world”. According to Christoval, the creator and his sons were “eternal and unchangeable”. Among the Canaris men descend from the survivor of the deluge, and a beautiful bird with the face of a woman, a siren in fact, but known better to ornithologists as a macaw. “The chief cause,” says the good Christoval, “of these fables was ignorance of God.”

The story, as told by Cieza de Leon, runs thus:57 A white man of great stature (in fact, “a magnified non-natural man”) came into the world, and gave life to beasts and human beings. His name was Ticiviracocha, and he was called the Father of the Sun.58 There are likenesses of him in the temple, and he was regarded as a moral teacher. It was owing apparently to this benevolent being that four mysterious brothers and sisters emerged from a cave — Children of the Sun, fathers of the Incas, teachers of savage men. Their own conduct, however, was not exemplary, and they shut up in a hole in the earth the brother of whom they were jealous. This incident is even more common in the marchen or household tales than in the regular tribal or national myths of the world.59 The buried brother emerged again with wings, and “without doubt he must have been some devil,” says honest Cieza de Leon. This brother was Manco Ccapac, the heroic ancestor of the Incas, and he turned his jealous brethren into stones. The whole tale is in the spirit illustrated by the wilder romances of the Popol Vuh.

Garcilasso gives three forms of this myth. According to “the old Inca,” his maternal uncle, it was the sun which sent down two of his children, giving them a golden staff, which would sink into the ground at the place where they were to rest from wandering. It sank at Lake Titicaca. About the current myths Garcilasso says generally that they were “more like dreams” than straightforward stories; but, as he adds, the Greeks and Romans also “invented fables worthy to be laughed at, and in greater number than the Indians. The stories of one age of heathenism may be compared with those of the other, and in many points they will be found to agree.” This critical position of Garcilasso’s will be proved correct when we reach the myths of Greeks and Indo-Aryans. The myth as narrated north-east of Cuzco speaks of the four brothers and four sisters who came out of caves, and the caves in Inca times were panelled with gold and silver.

Athwart all these lower myths, survivals from the savage stage, comes what Garcilasso regards as the philosophical Inca belief in Pachacamac. This deity, to Garcilasso’s mind, was purely spiritual: he had no image and dwelt in no temple; in fact, he is that very God whom the Spanish missionaries proclaimed. This view, though the fact has been doubted, was very probably held by the Amautas, or philosophical class in Peru.60 Cieza de Leon says “the name of this devil, Pachacamac, means creator of the world”. Garcilasso urges that Pachacamac was the animus mundi; that he did not “make the world,” as Pund-jel and other savage demiurges made it, but that he was to the universe what the soul is to the body.

Here we find ourselves, if among myths at all, among the myths of metaphysics — rational myths; that is, myths corresponding to our present stage of thought, and therefore intelligible to us. Pachacamac “made the sun, and lightning, and thunder, and of these the sun was worshipped by the Incas”. Garcilasso denies that the moon was worshipped. The reflections of the sceptical or monotheistic Inca, who declared that the sun, far from being a free agent, “seems like a thing held to its task,” are reported by Garcilasso, and appear to prove that solar worship was giving way, in the minds of educated Peruvians, a hundred years before the arrival of Pizarro and Valverde with his missal.61

From this summary it appears that the higher Peruvian religion had wrested to its service, and to the dynastic purposes of the Incas, a native myth of the familiar class, in which men come ready made out of holes in the ground. But in Peru we do not find nearly such abundance of other savage origin myths as will be proved to exist in the legends of Greeks and Indo-Aryans. The reason probably is that Peru left no native literature; the missionaries disdained stories of “devils,” and Garcilasso’s common sense and patriotism were alike revolted by the incidents of stories “more like dreams” than truthful records. He therefore was silent about them. In Greece and India, on the other hand, the native religious literature preserved myths of the making of man out of clay, of his birth from trees and stones, of the fashioning of things out of the fragments of mutilated gods and Titans, of the cosmic egg, of the rending and wounding of a personal heaven and a personal earth, of the fishing up from the waters of a tiny earth which grew greater, of the development of men out of beasts, with a dozen other such notions as are familiar to contemporary Bushmen, Australians, Digger Indians, and Cahrocs. But in Greece and India these ideas coexist with myths and religious beliefs as purely spiritual and metaphysical as the belief in the Pachacamac of Garcilasso and the Amautas of Peru.

1 Macrobius, Saturnal., i. xx.

2 Taplin, The Narrinyeri. “He must also beware of supposing that the Australians believe in a creator in our sense, because the Narrinyeri, for example, say that Nurundere ‘made everything’. Nurundere is but an idealised wizard and hunter, with a rival of his species.” This occurs in the first edition, but “making all things” is one idea, wizardry is another.

3 Bleek, Brief Account of Bushman Mythology, p. 6; Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874, pp. 1-13; Kamilaroi and Kurnai, pp. 210, 324.

4 Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 210.

5 Brough Smyth, Natives of Victoria, vol. i. p. 423.

6 Meyer, Aborigines of Encounter Bay. See, later, “Gods of the Lowest Races”.

7 Gason’s Dieyries, ap. Native Tribes of South Australia, p. 20.

8 Odyssey, v. 490.

9 Journ. Anthrop. Soc., vol. xii. p. 157 et seq.

10 See “Divine Myths of the Lower Races”.

11 Hahu, Tsuni Goam, p. 4. See other accounts in Waitz, Anthropologie, ii. 328.

12 Custom and Myth, where illustrations of Bushman art are given, pp. 290-295.

13 Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

14 An example of a Deluge myth in Africa, where M. Lenormant found none.

15 South African Folk-Lore Journal, ii. pt. v. p. 95.

16 Fables of Yncas (Hakluyt Society), p. 127.

17 Tsuni Goam, pp. 66, 67.

18 These legends have been carefully collected and published by Bishop Callaway (Trubner & Co., 1868).

19 Callaway, p. 9.

20 Without anticipating a later chapter, the resemblances of these to Greek myths, as arrayed by M. Bouche Leclercq (De Origine Generis Humani), is very striking.

21 Odyssey, xix. 103.

22 See Zulu religion in The Making of Religion, pp. 225-229, where it is argued that ghost worship has superseded a higher faith, of which traces are discernible.

23 Origin of Primitive Superstitions, p. 15.

24 Primitive Culture, 1873, ii. p. 340.

25 Relations, 1633. In this myth one Messon, the Great Hare, is the beginner of our race. He married a daughter of the Musk-rat.

26 Here we first meet in this investigation a very widely distributed myth. The myths already examined have taken the origin of earth for granted. The Hurons account for its origin; a speck of earth was fished out of the waters and grew. In M. H. de Charencey’s tract Une Legende Cosmogonique (Havre, 1884) this legend is traced. M. de Charencey distinguishes (1) a continental version; (2) an insular version; (3) a mixed and Hindoo version. Among continental variants he gives a Vogul version [Revue de Philologie et d’Ethnographie, Paris, 1874, i. 10]. Numi Tarom (a god who cooks fish in heaven) hangs a male and female above the abyss of waters in a silver cradle. He gives them, later, just earth enough to build a house on. Their son, in the guise of a squirrel, climbs to Numi Tarom, and receives from him a duck-skin and a goose-skin. Clad in these, like Yehl in his raven-skin or Odin in his hawk-skin, he enjoys the powers of the animals, dives and brings up three handfuls of mud, which grow into our earth. Elempi makes men out of clay and snow. The American version M. de Charencey gives from Nicholas Perrot (Mem. sur les Moers, etc., Paris, 1864, i. 3). Perrot was a traveller of the seventeenth century. The Great Hare takes a hand in the making of earth out of fished-up soil. After giving other North American variants, and comparing the animals that, after three attempts, fish up earth to the dove and raven of Noah, M. de Charencey reaches the Bulgarians. God made Satan, in the skin of a diver, fish up earth out of Lake Tiberias. Three doves fish up earth, in the beginning, in the Galician popular legend (Chodzko, Contes des Paysans Slaves, p. 374). In the INSULAR version, as in New Zealand, the island is usually fished up with a hook by a heroic angler (Japan, Tonga, Tahiti, New Zealand). The Hindoo version, in which the boar plays the part of musk-rat, or duck, or diver, will be given in “Indian Cosmogonic Myths”.

27 Brinton, American Hero-Myths, p. 54. Nicholas Perrot and various Jesuit Relations are the original authorities. See “Divine Myths of America”. Mr. Leland, in his Algonkin Tales, prints the same story, with the names altered to Glooskap and Malsumis, from oral tradition. Compare Schoolcraft, v. 155, and i. 317, and the versions of PP. Charlevoix and Lafitau. In Charlevoix the good and bad brothers are Manabozho and Chokanipok or Chakekanapok, and out of the bones and entrails of the latter many plants and animals were fashioned, just as, according to a Greek myth preserved by Clemens Alexandrinus, parsley and pomegranates arose from the blood and scattered members of Dionysus Zagreus. The tale of Tawiscara’s violent birth is told of Set in Egypt, and of Indra in the Veda, as will be shown later. This is a very common fable, and, as Mr. Whitley Stokes tells me, it recurs in old Irish legends of the birth of our Lord, Myth, as usual, invading religion, even Christian religion.

28 Powell, Bureau of Ethnology, i. 44.

29 Dr. Brinton has endeavoured to demonstrate by arguments drawn from etymology that Michabos, Messou, Missibizi or Manabozho, the Great Hare, is originally a personification of Dawn (Myths of the New World, p. 178). I have examined his arguments in the Nineteenth Century, January, 1886, which may be consulted, and in Melusine, January, 1887. The hare appears to be one out of the countless primeval beast-culture heroes. A curious piece of magic in a tradition of the Dene Hareskins may seem to aid Dr. Brinton’s theory: “Pendant la nuit il entra, jeta au feu une tete de lievre blanc et aussitot le jour se fit”. — Petitot, Traditions Indiennes, p. 173. But I take it that the sacrifice of a white hare’s head makes light magically, as sacrifice of black beasts and columns of black smoke make rainclouds.

30 Schoolcraft, vol. v.

31 Ibid., iv. 228.

32 Cf. Syncellus, p. 29; Euseb., Chronic. Armen., ed. Mai, p. 10; Lenormant, Origines de l’Histoire, i. 506.

33 Sproat, Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, pp. 210, 211.

34 Davidson, Indian Affairs Report, 1865, p. 131; Bancroft, iii. 75.

35 Communicated to Mr. Bancroft by Mr. Stout of the Pima Agency.

36 (Frauchere’s Narrative, 258; Gibb’s Chinook Vocabulary; Parker’s exploring Tour, i. 139;) Bancroft, iii. 96.

37 Bancroft, iii. 98; Harmon’s Journey, pp. 302, 303.

38 Hearne, pp. 342, 343; Bancroft, iii. 106.

39 See “Divine Myths of Lower Races”. M. Cosquin, in Contes de Lorraine, vol. i. p. 58, gives the Ananzi story.

40 See “Divine Myths of Lower Races”.

41 Taylor, New Zealand, pp. 115-121; Bastian, Heilige Sage der Polynesier, pp. 36-50; Shortland, Traditions of New Zealanders.

42 See chapter on “Divine Myths of the Lower Races,” and on “Indian Cosmogonic Myths”

43 Myths and Songs from the South Pacific, pp. 1-22.

44 Gill, p. 59.

45 Turner’s Samoa, p. 198.

46 Turner’s Samoa, pp. 1-9.

47 See Popol Vuh in Mr. Max Muller’s Chips from a German Workshop, with a discussion of its authenticity. In his Annals of the Cakchiquels, a nation bordering on the Quiches, Dr. Brinton expresses his belief in the genuine character of the text. Compare Bancroft, iii. p. 45. The ancient and original Popol Vuh, the native book in native characters, disappeared during the Spanish conquest.

48 Bancroft’s Native Races of Pacific Coast of North America, vol. iii., contains an account of the sources, and, with Sahagun and Acosta, is mainly followed here. See also J. G. Muller, Ur. Amerik. Rel., p. 507. See chapter on the “Divine Myths of Mexico”.

49 As an example of a dim evolutionary idea, note the myths of the various ages as reported by Mendieta, according to which there were five earlier ages “or suns” of bad quality, so that the contemporary human beings were unable to live on the fruits of the earth.

50 Brinton, Annals of the Cakchiquels.

51 Erminie Smith, Bureau of Ethnol. Report, ii.

52 Authorities: Ixtlil.; Kingsborough, ix. pp. 205, 206; Sahagun, Hist. Gen., i. 3, vii. 2; J. G. Muller, p. 510, where Muller compares the Delphic conception of ages of the world; Bancroft, iii. pp. 60, 65.

53 A more complete list of authorities, including the garrulous Acosta, is published by M. Reville in his Hibbert Lectures, pp. 136, 137. Garcilasso, Cieza de Leon, Christoval de Moluna, Acosta and the Rites and Laws have all been translated by Mr. Clements Markham, and are published, with the editor’s learned and ingenious notes, in the collection of the Hakluyt Society. Care must be taken to discriminate between what is reported about the Indians of the various provinces, who were in very different grades of culture, and what is told about the Incas themselves.

54 Com. Real., vol. i., chap. ix., x. xi. pp. 47-53.

55 Cieza de Leon, xii., xv., xix., xxi., xxiii., xxvi., xxviii., xxxii. Cieza is speaking of people in the valley of Cauca, in New Granada.

56 Rites and Laws of the Yncas, p. 4, Hakluyt Society, 1873.

57 Second Part of the Chronicles of Peru, p 5.

58 See Making of Religion, pp. 265-270. Name and God are much disputed.

59 The story of Joseph and the marchen of Jean de l’Ours are well-known examples.

60 Com. Real., vol. i. p. 106.

61 Garcilasso, viii. 8, quoting Blas Valera.

Chapter 7.

Indo-aryan Myths — Sources of Evidence.

Authorities — Vedas — Brahmanas — Social condition of Vedic India — Arts — Ranks — War — Vedic fetishism — Ancestor worship — Date of Rig-Veda Hymns doubtful — Obscurity of the Hymns — Difficulty of interpreting the real character of Veda — Not primitive but sacerdotal — The moral purity not innocence but refinement.

Before examining the myths of the Aryans of India, it is necessary to have a clear notion of the nature of the evidence from which we derive our knowledge of the subject. That evidence is found in a large and incongruous mass of literary documents, the heritage of the Indian people. In this mass are extremely ancient texts (the Rig-Veda, and the Atharva-Veda), expository comments of a date so much later that the original meaning of the older documents was sometimes lost (the Brahmanas), and poems and legendary collections of a period later still, a period when the whole character of religious thought had sensibly altered. In this literature there is indeed a certain continuity; the names of several gods of the earliest time are preserved in the legends of the latest. But the influences of many centuries of change, of contending philosophies, of periods of national growth and advance, and of national decadence and decay, have been at work on the mythology of India. Here we have myths that were perhaps originally popular tales, and are probably old; here again, we have later legends that certainly were conceived in the narrow minds of a pedantic and ceremonious priesthood. It is not possible, of course, to analyse in this place all the myths of all the periods; we must be content to point out some which seem to be typical examples of the working of the human intellect in its earlier or its later childhood, in its distant hours of barbaric beginnings, or in the senility of its sacerdotage.

The documents which contain Indian mythology may be divided, broadly speaking, into four classes. First, and most ancient in date of composition, are the collections of hymns known as the Vedas. Next, and (as far as date of collection goes) far less ancient, are the expository texts called the Brahmanas. Later still, come other manuals of devotion and of sacred learning, called Sutras and Upanishads; and last are the epic poems (Itihasas), and the books of legends called Puranas. We are chiefly concerned here with the Vedas and Brahmanas. A gulf of time, a period of social and literary change, separates the Brahmanas from the Vedas. But the epics and Puranas differ perhaps even still more from the Brahmanas, on account of vast religious changes which brought new gods into the Indian Olympus, or elevated to the highest place old gods formerly of low degree. From the composition of the first Vedic hymn to the compilation of the latest Purana, religious and mythopoeic fancy was never at rest.

Various motives induced various poets to assign, on various occasions the highest powers to this or the other god. The most antique legends were probably omitted or softened by some early Vedic bard (Rishi) of noble genius, or again impure myths were brought from the obscurity of oral circulation and foisted into literature by some poet less divinely inspired. Old deities were half-forgotten, and forgotten deities were resuscitated. Sages shook off superstitious bonds, priests forged new fetters on ancient patterns for themselves and their flocks. Philosophy explained away the more degrading myths; myths as degrading were suggested to dark and servile hearts by unscientific etymologies. Over the whole mass of ancient mythology the new mythology of a debased Brahmanic ritualism grew like some luxurious and baneful parasite. It is enough for our purpose if we can show that even in the purest and most antique mythology of India the element of traditional savagery survived and played its part, and that the irrational legends of the Vedas and Brahmanas can often be explained as relics of savage philosophy or faith, or as novelties planned on the ancient savage model, whether borrowed or native to the race.

The oldest documents of Indian mythology are the Vedas, usually reckoned as four in number. The oldest, again, of the four, is the Sanhita (“collection”) of the Rig-Veda. It is a purely lyrical assortment of the songs “which the Hindus brought with them from their ancient homes on the banks of the Indus”. In the manuscripts, the hymns are classified according to the families of poets to whom they are ascribed. Though composed on the banks of the Indus by sacred bards, the hymns were compiled and arranged in India proper. At what date the oldest hymns of which this collection is made up were first chanted it is impossible to say with even approximate certainty. Opinions differ, or have differed, between 2400 B.C. and 1400 B.C. as the period when the earliest sacred lyrics of the Veda may first have been listened by gods and men. In addition to the Rig-Veda we have the Sanhita of the Sama-Veda, “an anthology taken from the Rik-Samhita, comprising those of its verses which were intended to be chanted at the ceremonies of the soma sacrifice”.1 It is conjectured that the hymns of the Sama-Veda were borrowed from the Rig-Veda before the latter had been edited and stereotyped into its present form. Next comes the Yajur-Veda, “which contains the formulas for the entire sacrificial ceremonial, and indeed forms its proper foundations,” the other Vedas being devoted to the soma sacrifice.2 The Yajur-Veda has two divisions, known as the Black and the White Yajur, which have common matter, but differ in arrangement. The Black Yajur-Veda is also called the Taittirya, and it is described as “a motley undigested jumble of different pieces”.3 Last comes Atharva-Veda, not always regarded as a Veda properly speaking. It derives its name from an old semi-mythical priestly family, the Atharvans, and is full of magical formulae, imprecations, folk-lore and spells. There are good reasons for thinking this late as a collection, however early may be the magical ideas expressed in its contents.4

Between the Vedas, or, at all events, between the oldest of the Vedas, and the compilation of the Brahmanas, these “canonised explanations of a canonised text,”5 it is probable that some centuries and many social changes intervened.6

If we would criticise the documents for Indian mythology in a scientific manner, it is now necessary that we should try to discover, as far as possible, the social and religious condition of the people among whom the Vedas took shape. Were they in any sense “primitive,” or were they civilised? Was their religion in its obscure beginnings or was it already a special and peculiar development, the fruit of many ages of thought? Now it is an unfortunate thing that scholars have constantly, and as it were involuntarily, drifted into the error of regarding the Vedas as if they were “primitive,” as if they exhibited to us the “germs” and “genesis” of religion and mythology, as if they contained the simple though strange utterances of PRIMITIVE thought.7 Thus Mr. Whitney declares, in his Oriental and Linguistic Studies, “that the Vedas exhibit to us the very earliest germs of the Hindu culture”. Mr. Max Muller avers that “no country can be compared to India as offering opportunities for a real study of the genesis and growth of religion”.8 Yet the same scholar observes that “even the earliest specimens of Vedic poetry belong to the modern history of the race, and that the early period of the historical growth of religion had passed away before the Rishis (bards) could have worshipped their Devas or bright beings with sacred hymns and invocations”. Though this is manifestly true, the sacred hymns and invocations of the Rishis are constantly used as testimony bearing on the beginning of the historical growth of religion. Nay, more; these remains of “the modern history of the race” are supposed to exhibit mythology in the process of making, as if the race had possessed no mythology before it reached a comparatively modern period, the Vedic age. In the same spirit, Dr. Muir, the learned editor of Sanskrit Texts, speaks in one place as if the Vedic hymns “illustrated the natural workings of the human mind in the period of its infancy”.9 A brief examination of the social and political and religious condition of man, as described by the poets of the Vedas, will prove that his infancy had long been left behind him when the first Vedic hymns were chanted.

As Barth observes, the very ideas which permeate the Veda, the idea of the mystic efficacy of sacrifice, of brahma, prove that the poems are profoundly sacerdotal; and this should have given pause to the writers who have persisted in representing the hymns as the work of primitive shepherds praising their gods as they feed their flocks.10 In the Vedic age the ranks of society are already at least as clearly defined as in Homeric Greece. “We men,” says a poet of the Rig-Veda,11 “have all our different imaginations and designs. The carpenter seeks something that is broken, the doctor a patient, the priest some one who will offer libations. . . . The artisan continually seeks after a man with plenty of gold. . . . I am a poet, my father is a doctor, and my mother is a grinder of corn.” Chariots and the art of the chariot-builder are as frequently spoken of as in the Iliad. Spears, swords, axes and coats of mail were in common use. The art of boat-building or of ship-building was well known. Kine and horses, sheep and dogs, had long been domesticated. The bow was a favourite weapon, and warriors fought in chariots, like the Homeric Greeks and the Egyptians. Weaving was commonly practised. The people probably lived, as a rule, in village settlements, but cities or fortified places were by no means unknown.12 As for political society, “kings are frequently mentioned in the hymns,” and “it was regarded as eminently beneficial for a king to entertain a family priest,” on whom he was expected to confer thousands of kine, lovely slaves and lumps of gold. In the family polygamy existed, probably as the exception. There is reason to suppose that the brother-in-law was permitted, if not expected, to “raise up seed” to his dead brother, as among the Hebrews.13 As to literature, the very structure of the hymns proves that it was elaborate and consciously artistic. M. Barth writes: “It would be a great mistake to speak of the primitive naivete of the Vedic poetry and religion”.14 Both the poetry and the religion, on the other hand, display in the highest degree the mark of the sacerdotal spirit. The myths, though originally derived from nature-worship, in an infinite majority of cases only reflect natural phenomena through a veil of ritualistic corruptions.15 The rigid division of castes is seldom recognised in the Rig-Veda. We seem to see caste in the making.16 The Rishis and priests of the princely families were on their way to becoming the all-powerful Brahmans. The kings and princes were on their way to becoming the caste of Kshatriyas or warriors. The mass of the people was soon to sink into the caste of Vaisyas and broken men. Non-Aryan aborigines and others were possibly developing into the caste of Sudras. Thus the spirit of division and of ceremonialism had still some of its conquests to achieve. But the extraordinary attention given and the immense importance assigned to the details of sacrifice, and the supernatural efficacy constantly attributed to a sort of magical asceticism (tapas, austere fervour), prove that the worst and most foolish elements of later Indian society and thought were in the Vedic age already in powerful existence.

Thus it is self-evident that the society in which the Vedic poets lived was so far from being PRIMITIVE that it was even superior to the higher barbarisms (such as that of the Scythians of Herodotus and Germans of Tacitus), and might be regarded as safely arrived at the threshold of civilisation. Society possessed kings, though they may have been kings of small communities, like those who warred with Joshua or fought under the walls of Thebes or Troy. Poets were better paid than they seem to have been at the courts of Homer or are at the present time. For the tribal festivals special priests were appointed, “who distinguished themselves by their comprehensive knowledge of the requisite rites and by their learning, and amongst whom a sort of rivalry is gradually developed, according as one tribe or another is supposed to have more or less prospered by its sacrifices”.17 In the family marriage is sacred, and traces of polyandry and of the levirate, surviving as late as the epic poems, were regarded as things that need to be explained away. Perhaps the most barbaric feature in Vedic society, the most singular relic of a distant past, is the survival, even in a modified and symbolic form, of human sacrifice.18

As to the religious condition of the Vedic Aryans, we must steadily remember that in the Vedas we have the views of the Rishis only, that is, of sacred poets on their way to becoming a sacred caste. Necessarily they no more represent the POPULAR creeds than the psalmists and prophets, with their lofty monotheistic morality, represent the popular creeds of Israel. The faith of the Rishis, as will be shown later, like that of the psalmists, has a noble moral aspect. Yet certain elements of this higher creed are already found in the faiths of the lowest savages. The Rishis probably did not actually INVENT them. Consciousness of sin, of imperfection in the sight of divine beings, has been developed (as it has even in Australia) and is often confessed. But on the whole the religion of the Rishis is practical — it might almost be said, is magical. They desire temporal blessings, rain, sunshine, long life, power, wealth in flocks and herds. The whole purpose of the sacrifices which occupy so much of their time and thought is to obtain these good things. The sacrifice and the sacrificer come between gods and men. On the man’s side is faith, munificence, a compelling force of prayer and of intentness of will. The sacrifice invigorates the gods to do the will of the sacrificer; it is supposed to be mystically celebrated in heaven as well as on earth — the gods are always sacrificing. Often (as when rain is wanted) the sacrifice imitates the end which it is desirable to gain.19 In all these matters a minute ritual is already observed. The mystic word brahma, in the sense of hymn or prayer of a compelling and magical efficacy, has already come into use. The brahma answers almost to the Maori karakia or incantation and charm. “This brahma of Visvamitra protects the tribe of Bharata.” “Atri with the fourth prayer discovered the sun concealed by unholy darkness.”20 The complicated ritual, in which prayer and sacrifice were supposed to exert a constraining influence on the supernatural powers, already existed, Haug thinks, in the time of the chief Rishis or hymnists of the Rig-Veda.21

In many respects the nature of the idea of the divine, as entertained by the Rishis of the Rig-Veda, is still matter for discussion. In the chapter on Vedic gods such particulars as can be ascertained will be given. Roughly speaking, the religion is mainly, though not wholly, a cult of departmental gods, originally, in certain cases, forces of Nature, but endowed with moral earnestness. As to fetishism in the Vedas the opinions of the learned are divided. M. Bergaigne22 looks on the whole ritual as, practically, an organised fetishism, employed to influence gods of a far higher and purer character. Mr. Max Muller remarks, “that stones, bones, shells, herbs and all the other so-called fetishes, are simply absent in the old hymns, though they appear in more modern hymns, particularly those of the Atharva-Veda. When artificial objects are mentioned and celebrated in the Rig-Veda, they are only such as might be praised even by Wordsworth or Tennyson — chariots, bows, quivers, axes, drums, sacrificial vessels and similar objects. They never assume any individual character; they are simply mentioned as useful or precious, it may be as sacred.”23

When the existence of fetish “herbs” is denied by Mr. Max Muller, he does not, of course, forget Soma, that divine juice. It is also to be noted that in modern India, as Mr. Max Muller himself observes, Sir Alfred Lyall finds that “the husbandman prays to his plough and the fisher to his net,” these objects being, at present, fetishes. In opposition to Mr. Max Muller, Barth avers that the same kind of fetishism which flourishes to-day flourishes in the Rig-Veda. “Mountains, rivers, springs, trees, herbs are invoked as so many powers. The beasts which live with man — the horse, the cow, the dog, the bird and the animals which imperil his existence — receive a cult of praise and prayer. Among the instruments of ritual, some objects are more than things consecrated — they are divinities; and the war-chariot, the weapons of defence and offence, the plough, are the objects not only of benedictions but of prayers.”24 These absolute contradictions on matters of fact add, of course, to the difficulty of understanding the early Indo-Aryan religion. One authority says that the Vedic people were fetish-worshippers; another authority denies it.

Were the Rishis ancestor-worshippers? Barth has no doubt whatever that they were. In the pitris or fathers he recognises ancestral spirits, now “companions of the gods, and gods themselves. At their head appear the earliest celebrants of the sacrifice, Atharvan, the Angiras, the Kavis (the pitris, par excellence) equals of the greatest gods, spirits who, BY DINT OF SACRIFICE, drew forth the world from chaos, gave birth to the sun and lighted the stars,”— cosmical feats which, as we have seen, are sometimes attributed by the lower races to their idealised mythic ancestors, the “old, old ones” of Australians and Ovahereroes.

A few examples of invocations of the ancestral spirits may not be out of place.25 “May the Fathers protect me in my invocation of the gods.” Here is a curious case, especially when we remember how the wolf, in the North American myth, scattered the stars like spangles over the sky: “The fathers have adorned the sky with stars”.26

Mr. Whitney (Oriental and Linguistic Studies, First Series, p. 59) gives examples of the ceremony of feeding the Aryan ghosts. “The fathers are supposed to assemble, upon due invocation, about the altar of him who would pay them homage, to seat themselves upon the straw or matting spread for each of the guests invited, and to partake of the offerings set before them.” The food seems chiefly to consist of rice, sesame and honey.

Important as is the element of ancestor-worship in the evolution of religion, Mr. Max Muller, in his Hibbert Lectures, merely remarks that thoughts and feelings about the dead “supplied some of the earliest and most important elements of religion”; but how these earliest elements affect his system does not appear. On a general view, then, the religion of the Vedic poets contained a vast number of elements in solution — elements such as meet us in every quarter of the globe. The belief in ancestral ghosts, the adoration of fetishes, the devotion to a moral ideal, contemplated in the persons of various deities, some of whom at least have been, and partly remain, personal natural forces, are all mingled, and all are drifting towards a kind of pantheism, in which, while everything is divine, and gods are reckoned by millions, the worshipper has glimpses of one single divine essence. The ritual, as we have seen, is more or less magical in character. The general elements of the beliefs are found, in various proportions, everywhere; the pantheistic mysticism is almost peculiar to India. It is, perhaps, needless to repeat that a faith so very composite, and already so strongly differentiated, cannot possibly be “primitive,” and that the beliefs and practices of a race so highly organised in society and so well equipped in material civilisation as the Vedic Aryans cannot possibly be “near the beginning”. Far from expecting to find in the Veda the primitive myths of the Aryans, we must remember that myth had already, when these hymns were sung, become obnoxious to the religious sentiment. “Thus,” writes Barth, “the authors of the hymns have expurgated, or at least left in the shade, a vast number of legends older than their time; such, for example, as the identity of soma with the moon, as the account of the divine families, of the parricide of Indra, and a long list might be made of the reticences of the Veda. . . . It would be difficult to extract from the hymns a chapter on the loves of the gods. The goddesses are veiled, the adventures of the gods are scarcely touched on in passing. . . . We must allow for the moral delicacy of the singers, and for their dislike of speaking too precisely about the gods. Sometimes it seems as if their chief object was to avoid plain speaking. . . . But often there is nothing save jargon and indolence of mind in this voluntary obscurity, for already in the Veda the Indian intellect is deeply smitten with its inveterate malady of affecting mystery the more, the more it has nothing to conceal; the mania for scattering symbols which symbolise no reality, and for sporting with riddles which it is not worth while to divine.”27 Barth, however, also recognises amidst these confusions, “the inquietude of a heart deeply stirred, which seeks truth and redemption in prayer”. Such is the natural judgment of the clear French intellect on the wilfully obscure, tormented and evasive intellect of India.

It would be interesting were it possible to illuminate the criticism of Vedic religion by ascertaining which hymns in the Rig-Veda are the most ancient, and which are later. Could we do this, we might draw inferences as to the comparative antiquity of the religious ideas in the poems. But no such discrimination of relative antiquity seems to be within the reach of critics. M. Bergaigne thinks it impossible at present to determine the relative age of the hymns by any philological test. The ideas expressed are not more easily arrayed in order of date. We might think that the poems which contain most ceremonial allusions were the latest. But Mr. Max Muller says that “even the earliest hymns have sentiments worthy of the most advanced ceremonialists”.28

The first and oldest source of our knowledge of Indo-Aryan myths is the Rig-Veda, whose nature and character have been described. The second source is the Atharva-Veda with the Brahmanas. The peculiarity of the Atharva is its collection of magical incantations spells and fragments of folklore. These are often, doubtless, of the highest antiquity. Sorcery and the arts of medicine-men are earlier in the course of evolution than priesthood. We meet them everywhere among races who have not developed the institution of an order of priests serving national gods. As a collection, the Atharva-Veda is later than the Rig-Veda, but we need not therefore conclude that the IDEAS of the Atharva are “a later development of the more primitive ideas of the Rig-Veda”. Magic is quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus; the ideas of the Atharva-Veda are everywhere; the peculiar notions of the Rig-Veda are the special property of an advanced and highly differentiated people. Even in the present collected shape, M. Barth thinks that many hymns of the Atharva are not much later than those of the Rig-Veda. Mr. Whitney, admitting the lateness of the Atharva as a collection, says, “This would not necessarily imply that the main body of the Atharva hymns were not already in existence when the compilation of the Rig-Veda took place”.29 The Atharva refers to some poets of the Rig (as certain hymnists in the Rig also do) as earlier men. If in the Rig (as Weber says) “there breathes a lively natural feeling, a warm love of nature, while in the Atharva, on the contrary, there predominates an anxious apprehension of evil spirits and their magical powers,” it by no means follows that this apprehension is of later origin than the lively feeling for Nature. Rather the reverse. There appears to be no doubt30 that the style and language of the Atharva are later than those of the Rig. Roth, who recognises the change, in language and style, yet considers the Atharva “part of the old literature”.31 He concludes that the Atharva contains many pieces which, “both by their style and ideas, are shown to be contemporary with the older hymns of the Rig-Veda”. In religion, according to Muir,32 the Atharva shows progress in the direction of monotheism in its celebration of Brahman, but it also introduces serpent-worship.

As to the Atharva, then, we are free to suppose, if we like, that the dark magic, the evil spirits, the incantations, are old parts of Indian, as of all other popular beliefs, though they come later into literature than the poetry about Ushas and the morality of Varuna. The same remarks apply to our third source of information, the Brahmanas. These are indubitably comments on the sacred texts very much more modern in form than the texts themselves. But it does not follow, and this is most important for our purpose, that the myths in the Brahmanas are all later than the Vedic myths or corruptions of the Veda. Muir remarks,33 “The Rig-Veda, though the oldest collection, does not necessarily contain everything that is of the greatest age in Indian thought or tradition. We know, for example, that certain legends, bearing the impress of the highest antiquity, such as that of the deluge, appear first in the Brahmanas.” We are especially interested in this criticism, because most of the myths which we profess to explain as survivals of savagery are narrated in the Brahmanas. If these are necessarily late corruptions of Vedic ideas, because the collection of the Brahmanas is far more modern than that of the Veda, our argument is instantly disproved. But if ideas of an earlier stratum of thought than the Vedic stratum may appear in a later collection, as ideas of an earlier stratum of thought than the Homeric appear in poetry and prose far later than Homer, then our contention is legitimate. It will be shown in effect that a number of myths of the Brahmanas correspond in character and incident with the myths of savages, such as Cahrocs and Ahts. Our explanation is, that these tales partly survived, in the minds perhaps of conservative local priesthoods, from the savage stage of thought, or were borrowed from aborigines in that stage, or were moulded in more recent times on surviving examples of that wild early fancy.

In the age of the Brahmanas the people have spread southwards from the basin of the Indus to that of the Ganges. The old sacred texts have begun to be scarcely comprehensible. The priesthood has become much more strictly defined and more rigorously constituted. Absurd as it may seem, the Vedic metres, like the Gayatri, have been personified, and appear as active heroines of stories presumably older than this personification. The Asuras have descended from the rank of gods to that of the heavenly opposition to Indra’s government; they are now a kind of fiends, and the Brahmanas are occupied with long stories about the war in heaven, itself a very ancient conception. Varuna becomes cruel on occasion, and hostile. Prajapati becomes the great mythical hero, and inherits the wildest myths of the savage heroic beasts and birds.

The priests are now Brahmans, a hereditary divine caste, who possess all the vast and puerile knowledge of ritual and sacrificial minutiae. As life in the opera is a series of songs, so life in the Brahmanas is a sequence of sacrifices. Sacrifice makes the sun rise and set, and the rivers run this way or that.

The study of Indian myth is obstructed, as has been shown, by the difficulty of determining the relative dates of the various legends, but there are a myriad of other obstacles to the study of Indian mythology. A poet of the Vedas says, “The chanters of hymns go about enveloped in mist, and unsatisfied with idle talk”.34 The ancient hymns are still “enveloped in mist,” owing to the difficulty of their language and the variety of modern renderings and interpretations. The heretics of Vedic religion, the opponents of the orthodox commentators in ages comparatively recent, used to complain that the Vedas were simply nonsense, and their authors “knaves and buffoons”. There are moments when the modern student of Vedic myths is inclined to echo this petulant complaint. For example, it is difficult enough to find in the Rig-Veda anything like a categoric account of the gods, and a description of their personal appearance. But in Rig-Veda, viii. 29, 1, we read of one god, “a youth, brown, now hostile, now friendly; a golden lustre invests him”. Who is this youth? “Soma as the moon,” according to the commentators. M. Langlois thinks the sun is meant. Dr. Aufrecht thinks the troop of Maruts (spirits of the storm), to whom, he remarks, the epithet “dark-brown, tawny” is as applicable as it is to their master, Rudra. This is rather confusing, and a mythological inquirer would like to know for certain whether he is reading about the sun or soma, the moon, or the winds.

To take another example; we open Mr. Max Muller’s translation of the Rig-Veda at random, say at page 49. In the second verse of the hymn to the Maruts, Mr. Muller translates, “They who were born together, self-luminous, with the spotted deer (the clouds), the spears, the daggers, the glittering ornaments. I hear their whips almost close by, as they crack them in their hands; they gain splendour on their way.” Now Wilson translates this passage, “Who, borne by spotted deer, were born self-luminous, with weapons, war-cries and decorations. I hear the cracking of their whips in their hands, wonderfully inspiring courage in the fight.” Benfey has, “Who with stags and spears, and with thunder and lightning, self-luminous, were born. Hard by rings the crack of their whip as it sounds in their hands; bright fare they down in storm.” Langlois translates, “Just born are they, self-luminous. Mark ye their arms, their decorations, their car drawn by deer? Hear ye their clamour? Listen! ’tis the noise of the whip they hold in their hands, the sound that stirs up courage in the battle.” This is an ordinary example of the diversities of Vedic translation. It is sufficiently puzzling, nor is the matter made more transparent by the variety of opinion as to the meaning of the “deer” along with which the Maruts are said (by some of the translators) to have been born. This is just the sort of passage on which a controversy affecting the whole nature of Vedic mythological ideas might be raised. According to a text in the Yajur Veda, gods, and men, and beasts, and other matters were created from various portions of the frame of a divine being named Prajapati.35 The god Agni, Brahmans and the goat were born from the mouth of Prajapati. From his breast and arms came the god Indra (sometimes spoken of as a ram), the sheep, and of men the Rajanya. Cows and gods called Visvadevas were born together from his middle. Are we to understand the words “they who were born together with the spotted deer” to refer to a myth of this kind — a myth representing the Maruts and deer as having been born at the same birth, as Agni came with the goat, and Indra with the sheep? This is just the point on which the Indian commentators were divided.36 Sayana, the old commentator, says, “The legendary school takes them for deer with white spots; the etymological school, for the many-coloured lines of clouds”. The modern legendary (or anthropological) and etymological (or philological) students of mythology are often as much at variance in their attempts to interpret the traditions of India.

Another famous, and almost comic, example of the difficulty of Vedic interpretation is well known. In Rig-Veda, x. 16, 4, there is a funeral hymn. Agni, the fire-god, is supplicated either to roast a goat or to warm the soul of the dead and convey it to paradise. Whether the soul is to be thus comforted or the goat is to be grilled, is a question that has mightily puzzled Vedic doctors.37 Professor Muller and M. Langlois are all for “the immortal soul”, the goat has advocates, or had advocates, in Aufrecht, Ludwig and Roth. More important difficulties of interpretation are illustrated by the attitude of M. Bergaigne in La Religion Vedique, and his controversy with the great German lexicographers. The study of mythology at one time made the Vedas its starting-point. But perhaps it would be wise to begin from something more intelligible, something less perplexed by difficulties of language and diversities of interpretation.

In attempting to criticise the various Aryan myths, we shall be guided, on the whole, by the character of the myths themselves. Pure and elevated conceptions we shall be inclined to assign to a pure and elevated condition of thought (though such conceptions do, recognisably, occur in the lowest known religious strata), and we shall make no difficulty about believing that Rishis and singers capable of noble conceptions existed in an age very remote in time, in a society which had many of the features of a lofty and simple civilisation. But we shall not, therefore, assume that the hymns of these Rishis are in any sense “primitive,” or throw much light on the infancy of the human mind, or on the “origin” of religious and heroic myths. Impure, childish and barbaric conceptions, on the other hand, we shall be inclined to attribute to an impure, childish, and barbaric condition of thought; and we shall again make no difficulty about believing that ideas originally conceived when that stage of thought was general have been retained and handed down to a far later period. This view of the possible, or rather probable, antiquity of many of the myths preserved in the Brahmanas is strengthened, if it needed strengthening, by the opinion of Dr. Weber.38 “We must indeed assume generally with regard to many of those legends (in the Brahmanas of the Rig-Veda) that they had already gained a rounded independent shape in tradition before they were incorporated into the Brahmanas; and of this we have frequent evidence in the DISTINCTLY ARCHAIC CHARACTER OF THEIR LANGUAGE, compared with that of the rest of the text.”

We have now briefly stated the nature and probable relative antiquity of the evidence which is at the disposal of Vedic mythologists. The chief lesson we would enforce is the necessity of suspending the judgment when the Vedas are represented as examples of primitive and comparatively pure and simple natural religion. They are not primitive; they are highly differentiated, highly complex, extremely enigmatic expressions of fairly advanced and very peculiar religious thought. They are not morally so very pure as has been maintained, and their purity, such as it is, seems the result of conscious reticence and wary selection rather than of primeval innocence. Yet the bards or editors have by no means wholly excluded very ancient myths of a thoroughly savage character. These will be chiefly exposed in the chapter on “Indo-Aryan Myths of the Beginnings of Things,” which follows.

1 Weber, History of Indian Literature, Eng. transl., p. 63.

2 Ibid., p. 86.

3 Ibid, p. 87. The name Taittirya is derived from a partridge, or from a Rishi named Partridge in Sanskrit. There is a story that the pupils of a sage were turned into partridges, to pick up sacred texts.

4 Barth (Les Religions de l’Inde, p. 6) thinks that the existence of such a collection as the Atharva-Veda is implied, perhaps, in a text of the Rig-Veda, x. 90, 9.

5 Whitney, Oriental and Linguistic studies, First Series, p. 4.

6 Max Muller, Biographical Essays, p. 20. “The prose portions presuppose the hymns, and, to judge from the utter inability of the authors of the Brahmanas to understand the antiquated language of the hymns, these Brahmanas must be ascribed to a much later period than that which gave birth to the hymns.”

7 Ibid., Rig-Veda Sanhita, p. vii.

8 Hibbert Lectures, p. 131.

9 Nothing can prove more absolutely and more briefly the late character of Vedic faith than the fact that the faith had already to be defended against the attacks of sceptics. The impious denied the existence of Indra because he was invisible. Rig-Veda, ii. 12, 5; viii. 89, 3; v. 30, 1-2; vi. 27, 3. Bergaigne, ii. 167. “Es gibt keinen Indra, so hat der eine und der ander gesagt” (Ludwig’s version).

10 Les Religions de l’Inde, p. 27.

11 ix. 112.

12 Ludwig, Rig-Veda, iii. 203. The burgs were fortified with wooden palisades, capable of being destroyed by fire. “Cities” may be too magnificent a word for what perhaps were more like pahs. But compare Kaegi, The Rig-Veda, note 42, Engl. transl. Kaegi’s book (translated by Dr. Arrowsmith, Boston, U.S., 1886) is probably the best short manual of the subject.

13 Deut. xxv. 5; Matt. xxii. 24.

14 Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, i. 245.

15 Ludwig, iii. 262.

16 On this subject see Muir, i. 192, with the remarks of Haug. “From all we know, the real origin of caste seems to go back to a time anterior to the composition of the Vedic hymns, though its development into a regular system with insurmountable barriers can be referred only to the later period of the Vedic times.” Roth approaches the subject from the word brahm, that is, prayer with a mystical efficacy, as his starting-point. From brahm, prayer, came brahma, he who pronounces the prayers and performs the rite. This celebrant developed into a priest, whom to entertain brought blessings on kings. This domestic chaplaincy (conferring peculiar and even supernatural benefits) became hereditary in families, and these, united by common interests, exalted themselves into the Brahman caste. But in the Vedic age gifts of prayer and poetry alone marked out the purohitas, or men put forward to mediate between gods and mortals. Compare Ludwig, iii. 221.

17 Weber, p. 37.

18 Wilson, Rig-Veda, i. p. 59-63; Muir, i. ii.; Wilson, Rig-Veda i. p. xxiv., ii. 8 (ii. 90); Aitareya Brahmana, Haug’s version, vol. ii. pp. 462, 469.

19 Compare “The Prayers of Savages” in J. A. Farrer’s Primitive Manners, and Ludwig, iii. 262-296, and see Bergaigne, La Religion Vedique, vol. i. p. 121.

20 See texts in Muir, i. 242.

21 Preface to translation of Aitareya Brahmana, p. 36.

22 La Religion Vedique, vol. i. p. 123. “Le culte est assimilable dans une certaine mesure aux incantations, aux pratiques magiques.”

23 Hibbert Lectures, p. 198.

24 Barth, Les Religions de l’Inde, p. 7, with the Vedic texts.

25 Rig-Veda, vi. 52,4.

26 Ibid., x. 68, xi.

27 Les Religions de l’Inde, p. 21.

28 History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 556.

29 Journal of the American Oriental Society. iv. 253.

30 Muir, ii. 446.

31 Ibid., ii. 448.

32 Ibid., ii. 451.

33 Muir, iv. 450.

34 Rig-Veda, x. 82, 7, but compare Bergaigne, op. cit., iii. 72, “enveloppes de nuees et de murmures”.

35 Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., i. 16.

36 Max Muller, Rig-Veda Sanhita, trans., vol. i. p. 59.

37 Muir, v. 217.

38 History of Indian Literature, English trans., p. 47.

Chapter 8.

Indian Myths of the Origin of the World and of Man.

Comparison of Vedic and savage myths — The metaphysical Vedic account of the beginning of things — Opposite and savage fable of world made out of fragments of a man — Discussion of this hymn — Absurdities of Brahmanas — Prajapati, a Vedic Unkulunkulu or Qat — Evolutionary myths — Marriage of heaven and earth — Myths of Puranas, their savage parallels — Most savage myths are repeated in Brahmanas.

In discussing the savage myths of the origin of the world and of man, we observed that they were as inconsistent as they were fanciful. Among the fancies embodied in the myths was noted the theory that the world, or various parts of it, had been formed out of the body of some huge non-natural being, a god, or giant, or a member of some ancient mysterious race. We also noted the myths of the original union of heaven and earth, and their violent separation as displayed in the tales of Greeks and Maoris, to which may be added the Acagchemem nation in California.1 Another feature of savage cosmogonies, illustrated especially in some early Slavonic myths, in Australian legends, and in the faith of the American races, was the creation of the world, or the recovery of a drowned world by animals, as the raven, the dove and the coyote. The hatching of all things out of an egg was another rude conception, chiefly noted among the Finns. The Indian form occurs in the Satapatha Brahmana.2 The preservation of the human race in the Deluge, or the creation of the race after the Deluge, was yet another detail of savage mythology; and for many of these fancies we seemed to find a satisfactory origin in the exceedingly credulous and confused state of savage philosophy and savage imagination.

The question now to be asked is, do the traditions of the Aryans of India supply us with myths so closely resembling the myths of Nootkas, Maoris and Australians that we may provisionally explain them as stories originally due to the invention of savages? This question may be answered in the affirmative. The Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas contain a large store of various cosmogonic traditions as inconsistent as the parallel myths of savages. We have an Aryan Ilmarinen, Tvashtri, who, like the Finnish smith, forged “the iron vault of hollow heaven” and the ball of earth.3 Again, the earth is said to have sprung, as in some Mangaian fables, “from a being called Uttanapad”.4 Again, Brahmanaspati, “blew the gods forth like a blacksmith,” and the gods had a hand in the making of things. In contrast with these childish pieces of anthropomorphism, we have the famous and sublime speculations of an often-quoted hymn.5 It is thus that the poet dreams of the days before being and non-being began:—

“There was then neither non-entity nor entity; there was no atmosphere nor sky above. What enveloped (all)? . . . Was it water, the profound abyss? Death was not then, nor immortality: there was no distinction of day or night. That One breathed calmly, self-supported; then was nothing different from it, or above it. In the beginning darkness existed, enveloped in darkness. All this was undistinguishable water. That One which lay void and wrapped in nothingness was developed by the power of fervour. Desire first arose in It, which was the primal germ of mind (and which) sages, searching with their intellect, have discovered to be the bond which connects entity with non-entity. The ray (or cord) which stretched across these (worlds), was it below or was it above? There were there impregnating powers and mighty forces, a self-supporting principle beneath and energy aloft. Who knows? who here can declare whence has sprung, whence this creation? The gods are subsequent to the development of this (universe); who then knows whence it arose? From what this creation arose, and whether (any one) made it or not, he who in the highest heaven is its ruler, he verily knows, or (even) he does not know.”6

Here there is a Vedic hymn of the origin of things, from a book, it is true, supposed to be late, which is almost, if not absolutely, free from mythological ideas. The “self-supporting principle beneath and energy aloft” may refer, as Dr. Muir suggests, to the father, heaven above, and the mother, earth beneath. The “bond between entity and non-entity” is sought in a favourite idea of the Indian philosophers, that of tapas or “fervour”. The other speculations remind us, though they are much more restrained and temperate in character, of the metaphysical chants of the New Zealand priests, of the Zunis, of Popol Vuh, and so on. These belong to very early culture.

What is the relative age of this hymn? If it could be proved to be the oldest in the Veda, it would demonstrate no more than this, that in time exceedingly remote the Aryans of India possessed a philosopher, perhaps a school of philosophers, who applied the minds to abstract speculations on the origin of things. It could not prove that mythological speculations had not preceded the attempts of a purer philosophy. But the date cannot be ascertained. Mr. Max Muller cannot go farther than the suggestion that the hymn is an expression of the perennis quaedam philosophia of Leibnitz. We are also warned that a hymn is not necessarily modern because it is philosophical.7 Certainly that is true; the Zunis, Maoris, and Mangaians exhibit amazing powers of abstract thought. We are not concerned to show that this hymn is late; but it seems almost superfluous to remark that ideas like those which it contains can scarcely be accepted as expressing man’s earliest theory of the origin of all things. We turn from such ideas to those which the Aryans of India have in common with black men and red men, with far-off Finns and Scandinavians, Chaldaeans, Haidahs, Cherokees, Murri and Maori, Mangaians and Egyptians.

The next Vedic account of creation which we propose to consider is as remote as possible in character from the sublime philosophic poem. In the Purusha Sukta, the ninetieth hymn of the tenth book of the Rig-Veda Sanhita, we have a description of the creation of all things out of the severed limbs of a magnified non-natural man, Purusha. This conception is of course that which occurs in the Norse myths of the rent body of Ymir. Borr’s sons took the body of the Giant Ymir and of his flesh formed the earth, of his blood seas and waters, of his bones mountains, of his teeth rocks and stones, of his hair all manner of plants, of his skull the firmament, of his brains the clouds, and so forth. In Chaldean story, Bel cuts in twain the magnified non-natural woman Omorca, and converts the halves of her body into heaven and earth. Among the Iroquois in North America, Chokanipok was the giant whose limbs, bones and blood furnished the raw material of many natural objects; while in Mangaia portions of Ru, in Egypt of Set and Osiris, in Greece of Dionysus Zagreus were used in creating various things, such as stones, plants and metals. The same ideas precisely are found in the ninetieth hymn of the tenth book of the Rig-Veda. Yet it is a singular thing that, in all the discussions as to the antiquity and significance of this hymn which have come under our notice, there has not been one single reference made to parallel legends among Aryan or non-Aryan peoples. In accordance with the general principles which guide us in this work, we are inclined to regard any ideas which are at once rude in character and widely distributed, both among civilised and uncivilised races, as extremely old, whatever may be the age of the literary form in which they are presented. But the current of learned opinions as to the date of the Purusha Sukta, the Vedic hymn about the sacrifice of Purusha and the creation of the world out of fragments of his body, runs in the opposite direction. The hymn is not regarded as very ancient by most Sanskrit scholars. We shall now quote the hymn, which contains the data on which any theory as to its age must be founded:—8

“Purusha has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet. On every side enveloping the earth, he overpassed (it) by a space of ten fingers. Purusha himself is this whole (universe), whatever is and whatever shall be. . . . When the gods performed a sacrifice with Purusha as the oblation, the spring was its butter, the summer its fuel, and the autumn its (accompanying) offering. This victim, Purusha, born in the beginning, they immolated on the sacrificial grass. With him the gods, the Sadhyas, and the Rishis sacrificed. From that universal sacrifice were provided curds and butter. It formed those aerial (creatures) and animals both wild and tame. From that universal sacrifice sprang the Ric and Saman verses, the metres and Yajush. From it sprang horses, and all animals with two rows of teeth; kine sprang from it; from it goats and sheep. When (the gods) divided Purusha, into how many parts did they cut him up? What was his mouth? What arms (had he)? What (two objects) are said (to have been) his thighs and feet? The Brahman was his mouth; the Rajanya was made his arms; the being (called) the Vaisya, he was his thighs; the Sudra sprang from his feet. The moon sprang from his soul (Mahas), the sun from his eye, Indra and Agni from his mouth, and Yaiyu from his breath. From his navel arose the air, from his head the sky, from his feet the earth, from his ear the (four) quarters; in this manner (the gods) formed the world. When the gods, performing sacrifice, bound Purusha as a victim, there were seven sticks (stuck up) for it (around the fire), and thrice seven pieces of fuel were made. With sacrifice the gods performed the sacrifice. These were the earliest rites. These great powers have sought the sky, where are the former Sadhyas, gods.”

The myth here stated is plain enough in its essential facts. The gods performed a sacrifice with a gigantic anthropomorphic being (Purusha = Man) as the victim. Sacrifice is not found, as a rule, in the religious of the most backward races of all; it is, relatively, an innovation, as shall be shown later. His head, like the head of Ymir, formed the sky, his eye the sun, animals sprang from his body. The four castes are connected with, and it appears to be implied that they sprang from, his mouth, arms, thighs and feet. It is obvious that this last part of the myth is subsequent to the formation of castes. This is one of the chief arguments for the late date of the hymn, as castes are not distinctly recognised elsewhere in the Rig-Veda. Mr. Max Muller9 believes the hymn to be “modern both in its character and in its diction,” and this opinion he supports by philological arguments. Dr. Muir10 says that the hymn “has every character of modernness both in its diction and ideas”. Dr Haug, on the other hand,11 in a paper read in 1871, admits that the present form of the hymn is not older than the greater part of the hymns of the tenth book, and than those of the Atharva Veda; but he adds, “The ideas which the hymn contains are certainly of a primeval antiquity. . . . In fact, the hymn is found in the Yajur-Veda among the formulas connected with human sacrifices, which were formerly practised in India.” We have expressly declined to speak about “primeval antiquity,” as we have scarcely any evidence as to the myths and mental condition for example, even of palaeolithic man; but we may so far agree with Dr. Haug as to affirm that the fundamental idea of the Purusha Sukta, namely, the creation of the world or portions of the world out of the fragments of a fabulous anthropomorphic being is common to Chaldeans, Iroquois, Egyptians, Greeks, Tinnehs, Mangaians and Aryan Indians. This is presumptive proof of the antiquity of the ideas which Dr. Muir and Mr. Max Muller think relatively modern. The savage and brutal character of the invention needs no demonstration. Among very low savages, for example, the Tinnehs of British North America, not a man, not a god, but a DOG, is torn up, and the fragments are made into animals.12 On the Paloure River a beaver suffers in the manner of Purusha. We may, for these reasons, regard the chief idea of the myth as extremely ancient — infinitely more ancient than the diction of the hymn.

As to the mention of the castes, supposed to be a comparatively modern institution, that is not an essential part of the legend. When the idea of creation out of a living being was once received it was easy to extend the conception to any institution, of which the origin was forgotten. The Teutonic race had a myth which explained the origin of the classes eorl, ceorl and thrall (earl, churl and slave). A South American people, to explain the different ranks in society, hit on the very myth of Plato, the legend of golden, silver and copper races, from which the ranks of society have descended. The Vedic poet, in our opinion, merely extended to the institution of caste a myth which had already explained the origin of the sun, the firmament, animals, and so forth, on the usual lines of savage thought. The Purusha Sukta is the type of many other Indian myths of creation, of which the following13 one is extremely noteworthy. “Prajapati desired to propagate. He formed the Trivrit (stoma) from his mouth. After it were produced the deity Agni, the metre Gayatri, . . . of men the Brahman, of beasts the goat; . . . from his breast, and from his arms he formed the Panchadasa (stoma). After it were created the God Indra, the Trishtubh metre, . . . of men the Rajanya, of beasts the sheep. Hence they are vigorous, because they were created from vigour. From his middle he formed the Saptadasa (stoma). After it were created the gods called the Yisvadevas, the Jagati metre, . . . of men the Vaisya, of beasts kine. Hence they are to be eaten, because they were created from the receptacle of food.” The form in which we receive this myth is obviously later than the institution of caste and the technical names for metres. Yet surely any statement that kine “are to be eaten” must be older than the universal prohibition to eat that sacred animal the cow. Possibly we might argue that when this theory of creation was first promulgated, goats and sheep were forbidden food.14

Turning from the Vedas to the Brahmanas, we find a curiously savage myth of the origin of species.15 According to this passage of the Brahmana, “this universe was formerly soul only, in the form of Purusha”. He caused himself to fall asunder into two parts. Thence arose a husband and a wife. “He cohabited with her; from them men were born. She reflected, ‘How does he, after having produced me from himself, cohabit with me? Ah, let me disappear.’ She became a cow, and the other a bull, and he cohabited with her. From them kine were produced.” After a series of similar metamorphoses of the female into all animal shapes, and a similar series of pursuits by the male in appropriate form, “in this manner pairs of all sorts of creatures down to ants were created”. This myth is a parallel to the various Greek legends about the amours in bestial form of Zeus, Nemesis, Cronus, Demeter and other gods and goddesses. In the Brahmanas this myth is an explanation of the origin of species, and such an explanation as could scarcely have occurred to a civilised mind. In other myths in the Brahmanas, Prajapati creates men from his body, or rather the fluid of his body becomes a tortoise, the tortoise becomes a man (purusha), with similar examples of speculation.16

Among all these Brahmana myths of the part taken by Prajapati in the creation or evoking of things, the question arises who WAS Prajapati? His role is that of the great Hare in American myth; he is a kind of demiurge, and his name means “The Master of Things Created,” like the Australian Biamban, “Master,” and the American title of the chief Manitou, “Master of Life”,17 Dr. Muir remarks that, as the Vedic mind advances from mere divine beings who “reside and operate in fire” (Agni), “dwell and shine in the sun” (Surya), or “in the atmosphere” (Indra), towards a conception of deity, “the farther step would be taken of speaking of the deity under such new names as Visvakarman and Prajapati”. These are “appellatives which do not designate any limited functions connected with any single department of Nature, but the more general and abstract notions of divine power operating in the production and government of the universe”. Now the interesting point is that round this new and abstract NAME gravitate the most savage and crudest myths, exactly the myths we meet among Hottentots and Nootkas. For example, among the Hottentots it is Heitsi Eibib, among the Huarochiri Indians it is Uiracocha, who confers, by curse or blessing, on the animals their proper attributes and characteristics.18 In the Satapatha Brahmana it is Prajapati who takes this part, that falls to rude culture-heroes of Hottentots and Huarochiris.19 How Prajapati made experiments in a kind of state-aided evolution, so to speak, or evolution superintended and assisted from above, will presently be set forth.

In the Puranas creation is a process renewed after each kalpa, or vast mundane period. Brahma awakes from his slumber, and finds the world a waste of water. Then, just as in the American myths of the coyote, and the Slavonic myths of the devil and the doves, a boar or a fish or a tortoise fishes up the world out of the waters. That boar, fish, tortoise, or what not, is Brahma or Vishnu. This savage conception of the beginnings of creation in the act of a tortoise, fish, or boar is not first found in the Puranas, as Mr. Muir points out, but is indicated in the Black Yajur Veda and in the Satapatha Brahmana.20 In the Satapatha Brahmana, xiv. 1, 2, 11, we discover the idea, so common in savage myths — for example, in that of the Navajoes — that the earth was at first very small, a mere patch, and grew bigger after the animal fished it up. “Formerly this earth was only so large, of the size of a span. A boar called Emusha raised her up.” Here the boar makes no pretence of being the incarnation of a god, but is a mere boar sans phrase, like the creative coyote of the Papogas and Chinooks, or the musk-rat of the Tacullies. This is a good example of the development of myths. Savages begin, as we saw, by mythically regarding various animals, spiders, grasshoppers, ravens, eagles, cockatoos, as the creators or recoverers of the world. As civilisation advances, those animals still perform their beneficent functions, but are looked on as gods in disguise. In time the animals are often dropped altogether, though they hold their place with great tenacity in the cosmogonic traditions of the Aryans in India. When we find the Satapatha Brahmana alleging21 “that all creatures are descended from a tortoise,” we seem to be among the rude Indians of the Pacific Coast. But when the tortoise is identified with Aditya, and when Adityas prove to be solar deities, sons of Aditi, and when Aditi is recognised by Mr. Muller as the Dawn, we see that the Aryan mind has not been idle, but has added a good deal to the savage idea of the descent of men and beasts from a tortoise.22

Another feature of savage myths of creation we found to be the introduction of a crude theory of evolution. We saw that among the Potoyante tribe of the Digger Indians, and among certain Australian tribes, men and beasts were supposed to have been slowly evolved and improved out of the forms first of reptiles and then of quadrupeds. In the mythologies of the more civilised South American races, the idea of the survival of the fittest was otherwise expressed. The gods made several attempts at creation, and each set of created beings proving in one way or other unsuited to its environment, was permitted to die out or degenerated into apes, and was succeeded by a set better adapted for survival.23 In much the same way the Satapatha Brahmana24 represents mammals as the last result of a series of creative experiments. “Prajapati created living beings, which perished for want of food. Birds and serpents perished thus. Prajapati reflected, ‘How is it that my creatures perish after having been formed?’ He perceived this: ‘They perish from want of food’. In his own presence he caused milk to be supplied to breasts. He created living beings, which, resorting to the breasts, were thus preserved. These are the creatures which did not perish.”

The common myth which derives the world from a great egg — the myth perhaps most familiar in its Finnish shape — is found in the Satapatha Brahmana.25 “In the beginning this universe was waters, nothing but waters. The waters desired: ‘How can we be reproduced?’ So saying, they toiled, they performed austerity. While they were performing austerity, a golden egg came into existence. It then became a year. . . . From it in a year a man came into existence, who was Prajapati. . . . He conceived progeny in himself; with his mouth he created the gods.” According to another text,26 “Prajapati took the form of a tortoise”. The tortoise is the same as Aditya.27

It is now time to examine the Aryan shape of the widely spread myth about the marriage of heaven and earth, and the fortunes of their children. We have already seen that in New Zealand heaven and earth were regarded as real persons, of bodily parts and passions, united in a secular embrace. We shall apply the same explanation to the Greek myth of Gaea and of the mutilation of Cronus. In India, Dyaus (heaven) answers to the Greek Uranus and the Maori Rangi, while Prithivi (earth) is the Greek Gaea, the Maori Papa. In the Veda, heaven and earth are constantly styled “parents”;28 but this we might regard as a mere metaphorical expression, still common in poetry. A passage of the Aitareya Brahmana, however, retains the old conception, in which there was nothing metaphorical at all.29 These two worlds, heaven and earth, were once joined. Subsequently they were separated (according to one account, by Indra, who thus plays the part of Cronus and of Tane Mahuta). “Heaven and earth,” says Dr. Muir, “are regarded as the parents not only of men, but of the gods also, as appears from the various texts where they are designated by the epithet Devapatre, ‘having gods for their children’.” By men in an early stage of thought this myth was accepted along with others in which heaven and earth were regarded as objects created by one of their own children, as by Indra,30 who “stretched them out like a hide,” who, like Atlas, “sustains and upholds them”31 or, again, Tvashtri, the divine smith, wrought them by his craft; or, once more, heaven and earth sprung from the head and feet of Purusha. In short, if any one wished to give an example of that recklessness of orthodoxy or consistency which is the mark of early myth, he could find no better example than the Indian legends of the origin of things. Perhaps there is not one of the myths current among the lower races which has not its counterpart in the Indian Brahmanas. It has been enough for us to give a selection of examples.

1 Bancroft, v. 162.

2 Sacred Books of the East, i. 216.

3 Muir, v. 354.

4 Rig-Veda, x. 72, 4.

5 Ibid., x. 126.

6 Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., v. 357.

7 History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 568.

8 Rig-Veda, x. 90; Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., i. 9.

9 Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 570.

10 Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., i. 12.

11 Sanskrit Text, 2nd edit., ii. 463.

12 Hearne’s Journey, pp. 342-343.

13 Taittirya Sanhita, or Yajur-Veda, vii. i. 1-4; Muir, 2nd edit., i. 15.

14 Mr. M’Lennan has drawn some singular inferences from this passage, connecting, as it does, certain gods and certain classes of men with certain animals, in a manner somewhat suggestive of totemism (Fornightly Review), February, 1870.

15 Satapatha Brahmana, xiv. 4, 2; Muir, 2nd edit., i. 25.

16 Similar tales are found among the Khonds.

17 Bergaigne, iii. 40.

18 Avila, Fables of the Yncas, p. 127.

19 English translation, ii. 361.

20 Muir, 2nd edit., vol. i. p. 52.

21 Muir, 2nd edit., vol. i. p. 54.

22 See Ternaux Compans’ Nouvelles Annales des Voyages, lxxxvi. p. 5. For Mexican traditions, “Mexican and Australian Hurricane World’s End,” Bancroft, v. 64.

23 This myth is found in Popol Vuh. A Chinook myth of the same sort, Bancroft, v. 95.

24 ii. 5, 11; Muir, 2nd edit., i. 70.

25 xi. 1, 6, 1; Muir, Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, 1863.

26 Satapatha Brahmana, vii. 4, 3, 5.

27 Aitareya Brahmana, iii. 34 (11, 219), a very discreditable origin of species.

28 Muir, v. 22.

29 iv. 27; Haug, ii. 308.

30 Rig-Veda, viii. 6, 5.

31 Ibid., iii. 32, 8.

Chapter 9.

Greek Myths of the Origin of the World and Man.

The Greeks practically civilised when we first meet them in Homer — Their mythology, however, is full of repulsive features — The hypothesis that many of these are savage survivals — Are there other examples of such survival in Greek life and institutions? — Greek opinion was constant that the race had been savage — Illustrations of savage survival from Greek law of homicide, from magic, religion, human sacrifice, religious art, traces of totemism, and from the mysteries — Conclusion: that savage survival may also be expected in Greek myths.

The Greeks, when we first make their acquaintance in the Homeric poems, were a cultivated people, dwelling, under the government of royal families, in small city states. This social condition they must have attained by 1000 B.C., and probably much earlier. They had already a long settled past behind them, and had no recollection of any national migration from the “cradle of the Aryan race”. On the other hand, many tribes thought themselves earth-born from the soil of the place where they were settled. The Maori traditions prove that memories of a national migration may persist for several hundred years among men ignorant of writing. Greek legend, among a far more civilised race, only spoke of occasional foreign settlers from Sidon, Lydia, or Egypt. The Homeric Greeks were well acquainted with almost all the arts of life, though it is not absolutely certain that they could write, and certainly they were not addicted to reading. In war they fought from chariots, like the Egyptians and Assyrians; they were bold seafarers, being accustomed to harry the shores even of Egypt, and they had large commercial dealings with the people of Tyre and Sidon. In the matter of religion they were comparatively free and unrestrained. Their deities, though, in myth, capricious in character, might be regarded in many ways as “making for righteousness”. They protected the stranger and the suppliant; they sanctioned the oath, they frowned on the use of poisoned arrows; marriage and domestic life were guarded by their good-will; they dispensed good and evil fortune, to be accepted with humility and resignation among mortals.

The patriarchal head of each family performed the sacrifices for his household, the king for the state, the ruler of Mycenae, Agamemnon, for the whole Achaean host encamped before the walls of Troy. At the same time, prophets, like Calchas, possessed considerable influence, due partly to an hereditary gift of second-sight, as in the case of Theoclymenus,1 partly to acquired professional skill in observing omens, partly to the direct inspiration of the gods. The oracle at Delphi, or, as it is called by Homer, Pytho, was already famous, and religion recognised, in various degrees, all the gods familiar to the later cult of Hellas. In a people so advanced, so much in contact with foreign races and foreign ideas, and so wonderfully gifted by nature with keen intellect and perfect taste, it is natural to expect, if anywhere, a mythology almost free from repulsive elements, and almost purged of all that we regard as survivals from the condition of savagery. But while Greek mythology is richer far than any other in beautiful legend, and is thronged with lovely and majestic forms of gods and goddesses, nymphs and oreads ideally fair, none the less a very large proportion of its legends is practically on a level with the myths of Maoris, Thlinkeets, Cahrocs and Bushmen.

This is the part of Greek mythology which has at all times excited most curiosity, and has been made the subject of many systems of interpretation. The Greeks themselves, from almost the earliest historical ages, were deeply concerned either to veil or explain away the blasphemous horrors of their own “sacred chapters,” poetic traditions and temple legends. We endeavour to account for these as relics of an age of barbarism lying very far behind the time of Homer — an age when the ancestors of the Greeks either borrowed, or more probably developed for themselves, the kind of myths by which savage peoples endeavour to explain the nature and origin of the world and all phenomena.

The correctness of this explanation, resting as it does on the belief that the Greeks were at one time in the savage status, might be demonstrated from the fact that not only myths, but Greek life in general, and especially Greek ritual, teemed with surviving examples of institutions and of manners which are found everywhere among the most backward and barbarous races. It is not as if only the myths of Greece retained this rudeness, or as if the Greeks supposed themselves to have been always civilised. The whole of Greek life yields relics of savagery when the surface is excavated ever so slightly. Moreover, that the Greeks, as soon as they came to reflect on these matters at all, believed themselves to have emerged from a condition of savagery is undeniable. The poets are entirely at one on this subject with Moschion, a writer of the school of Euripides. “The time hath been, yea, it HATH been,” he says, “when men lived like the beasts, dwelling in mountain caves, and clefts unvisited of the sun. . . . Then they broke not the soil with ploughs nor by aid of iron, but the weaker man was slain to make the supper of the stronger,” and so on.2 This view of the savage origin of mankind was also held by Aristotle:3 “It is probable that the first men, whether they were produced by the earth (earth-born) or survived from some deluge, were on a level of ignorance and darkness”.4 This opinion, consciously held and stated by philosophers and poets, reveals itself also in the universal popular Greek traditions that men were originally ignorant of fire, agriculture, metallurgy and all the other arts and conveniences of life, till they were instructed by ideal culture-heroes, like Prometheus, members of a race divine or half divine. A still more curious Athenian tradition (preserved by Varro) maintained, not only that marriage was originally unknown, but that, as among Australians and some Red Indians, the family name, descended through the mother, and kinship was reckoned on the female side before the time of Cecrops.5

While Greek opinion, both popular and philosophical, admitted, or rather asserted, that savagery lay in the background of the historical prospect, Greek institutions retained a thousand birth-marks of savagery. It is manifest and undeniable that the Greek criminal law, as far as it effected murder, sprang directly from the old savage blood-feud.6 The Athenian law was a civilised modification of the savage rule that the kindred of a slain man take up his blood-feud. Where homicide was committed WITHIN the circle of blood relationship, as by Orestes, Greek religion provided the Erinnyes to punish an offence which had, as it were, no human avenger. The precautions taken by murderers to lay the ghost of the slain man were much like those in favour among the Australians. The Greek cut off the extremities of his victim, the tips of the hands and feet, and disposed them neatly beneath the arm-pits of the slain man.7 In the same spirit, and for the same purpose, the Australian black cuts off the thumbs of his dead enemy, that the ghost too may be mutilated and prevented from throwing at him with a ghostly spear. We learn also from Apollonius Rhodius and his scholiast that Greek murderers used thrice to suck in and spit out the gore of their victims, perhaps with some idea of thereby partaking of their blood, and so, by becoming members of their kin, putting it beyond the power of the ghosts to avenge themselves. Similar ideas inspire the worldwide savage custom of making an artificial “blood brotherhood” by mingling the blood of the contracting parties. As to the ceremonies of cleansing from blood-guiltiness among the Greeks, we may conjecture that these too had their primitive side; for Orestes, in the Eumenides, maintains that he has been purified of his mother’s slaughter by sufficient blood of swine. But this point will be illustrated presently, when we touch on the mysteries.

Ritual and myth, as might be expected, retained vast masses of savage rites and superstitious habits and customs. To be “in all things too superstitious,” too full of deisidaimonia, was even in St. Paul’s time the characteristic of the Athenians. Now superstition, or deisidaimonia, is defined by Theophrastus,8 as “cowardice in regard to the supernatural” ([greek]). This “cowardice” has in all ages and countries secured the permanence of ritual and religious traditions. Men have always argued, like one of the persons in M. Renan’s play, Le Pretre de Nemi, that “l’ordre du monde depend de l’ordre des rites qu’on observe”. The familiar endurable sequence of the seasons of spring, and seed-sowing, and harvest depend upon the due performance of immemorial religious acts. “In the mystic deposits,” says Dinarchus, “lies the safety of the city.”9 What the “mystic deposits” were nobody knows for certain, but they must have been of very archaic sanctity, and occur among the Arunta and the Pawnees.

Ritual is preserved because it preserves LUCK. Not only among the Romans and the Brahmans, with their endless minute ritual actions, but among such lower races as the Kanekas of New Caledonia, the efficacy of religious functions is destroyed by the slightest accidental infraction of established rules.10 The same timid conservatism presides over myth, and in each locality the mystery-plays, with their accompanying narratives, preserved inviolate the early forms of legend. Myth and ritual do not admit of being argued about. “C’etait le rite etabli. Ce n’etait pas plus absurde qu’autre chose,” says the conservative in M. Renan’s piece, defending the mode of appointment of

     The priest who slew the slayer,
     And shall himself be slain.

Now, if the rites and myths preserved by the timorousness of this same “cowardice towards the supernatural” were originally evolved in the stage of savagery, savage they would remain, as it is impious and dangerous to reform them till the religion which they serve perishes with them. These relics in Greek ritual and faith are very commonly explained as due to Oriental influences, as things borrowed from the dark and bloody superstitions of Asia. But this attempt to save the native Greek character for “blitheness” and humanity must not be pushed too far.11 It must be remembered that the cruder and wilder sacrifices and legends of Greece were strictly LOCAL; that they were attached to these ancient temples, old altars, barbarous xoana, or wooden idols, and rough fetish stones, in which Pausanias found the most ancient relics of Hellenic theology. This is a proof of their antiquity and a presumption in favour of their freedom from foreign influence. Most of these things were survivals from that dimly remembered prehistoric age in which the Greeks, not yet gathered into city states, lived in villages or kraals, or pueblos, as we should translate [greek], if we were speaking of African or American tribes. In that stage the early Greeks must have lacked both the civic and the national or Panhellenic sentiment; their political unit was the clan, which, again, answered in part to the totem kindred of America, or Africa, or Australia.12 In this stagnant condition they could not have made acquaintance with the many creeds of Semitic and other alien peoples on the shores of the Levant.13 It was later, when Greece had developed the city life of the heroic age, that her adventurous sons came into close contact with Egypt and Phoenicia.

In the colonising time, still later — perhaps from 900 B.C. downwards — the Greeks, settled on sites whence they had expelled Sidonians or Sicanians, very naturally continued, with modifications, the worship of such gods as they found already in possession. Like the Romans, the Greeks easily recognised their own deities in the analogous members of foreign polytheistic systems. Thus we can allow for alien elements in such gods and goddesses as Zeus Asterios, as Aphrodite of Cyprus or Eryx, or the many-breasted Ephesian Artemis, whose monstrous form had its exact analogue among the Aztecs in that many-breasted goddess of the maguey plant whence beer was made. To discern and disengage the borrowed factors in the Hellenic Olympus by analysis of divine names is a task to which comparative philology may lawfully devote herself; but we cannot so readily explain by presumed borrowing from without the rude xoana of the ancient local temples, the wild myths of the local legends, the sacra which were the exclusive property of old-world families, Butadae or Eumolpidae. These are clearly survivals from a stage of Greek culture earlier than the city state, earlier than the heroic age of the roving Greek Vikings, and far earlier than the Greek colonies. They belong to that conservative and immobile period when the tribe or clan, settled in its scattered kraals, lived a life of agriculture, hunting and cattle-breeding, engaged in no larger or more adventurous wars than border feuds about women or cattle. Such wars were on a humbler scale than even Nestor’s old fights with the Epeians; such adventures did not bring the tribe into contact with alien religions. If Sidonian merchantmen chanced to establish a factory near a tribe in this condition, their religion was not likely to make many proselytes.

These reasons for believing that most of the wilder element in Greek ritual and myth was native may be briefly recapitulated, as they are often overlooked. The more strange and savage features meet us in LOCAL tales and practices, often in remote upland temples and chapels. There they had survived from the society of the VILLAGE status, before villages were gathered into CITIES, before Greeks had taken to a roving life, or made much acquaintance with distant and maritime peoples.

For these historical reasons, it may be assumed that the LOCAL religious antiquities of Greece, especially in upland districts like Arcadia and Elis, are as old, and as purely national, as free from foreign influences as any Greek institutions can be. In these rites and myths of true folk-lore and Volksleben, developed before Hellas won its way to the pure Hellenic stage, before Egypt and Phoenicia were familiar, should be found that common rude element which Greeks share with the other races of the world, and which was, to some extent, purged away by the genius of Homer and Pindar, pii vates et Phaebo digna locuti.

In proof of this local conservatism, some passages collected by K. F. Hermann in his Lehrbuch der Griechischen Antiquitaten14 may be cited. Thus Isocrates writes,15 “This was all their care, neither to destroy any of the ancestral rites, nor to add aught beyond what was ordained”. Clemens Alexandrinus reports that certain Thessalians worshipped storks, “IN ACCORDANCE WITH USE AND WONT”.16 Plato lays down the very “law of least change” which has been described. “Whether the legislator is establishing a new state or restoring an old and decayed one, in respect of gods and temples, . . . if he be a man of sense, he will MAKE NO CHANGE IN ANYTHING which the oracle of Delphi, or Dodona, or Ammon has sanctioned, in whatever manner.” In this very passage Plato17 speaks of rites “derived from Tyrrhenia or Cyprus” as falling within the later period of the Greek Wanderjahre. On the high religious value of things antique, Porphyry wrote in a late age, and when the new religion of Christ was victorious, “Comparing the new sacred images with the old, we see that the old are more simply fashioned, yet are held divine, but the new, admired for their elaborate execution, have less persuasion of divinity,”— a remark anticipated by Pausanias, “The statues Daedalus wrought are quainter to the outward view, yet there shows forth in them somewhat supernatural”.18 So Athenaeus19 reports of a visitor to the shrine of Leto in Delos, that he expected the ancient statue of the mother of Apollo to be something remarkable, but, unlike the pious Porphyry, burst out laughing when he found it a shapeless wooden idol. These idols were dressed out, fed and adorned as if they had life.20 It is natural that myths dating from an age when Greek gods resembled Polynesian idols should be as rude as Polynesian myths. The tenacity of LOCAL myth is demonstrated by Pausanias, who declares that even in the highly civilised Attica the Demes retained legends different from those of the central city — the legends, probably, which were current before the villages were “Synoecised” into Athens.21

It appears, then, that Greek ritual necessarily preserves matter of the highest antiquity, and that the oldest rites and myths will probably be found, not in the Panhellenic temples, like that in Olympia, not in the NATIONAL poets, like Homer and Sophocles, but in the LOCAL fanes of early tribal gods, and in the LOCAL mysteries, and the myths which came late, if they came at all, into literary circulation. This opinion is strengthened and illustrated by that invaluable guide-book of the artistic and religious pilgrim written in the second century after our era by Pausanias. If we follow him, we shall find that many of the ceremonies, stories and idols which he regarded as oldest are analogous to the idols and myths of the contemporary backward races. Let us then, for the sake of illustrating the local and savage survivals in Greek religion, accompany Pausanias in his tour through Hellas.

In Christian countries, especially in modern times, the contents of one church are very like the furniture of another church; the functions in one resemble those in all, though on the Continent some shrines still retain relics and customs of the period when local saints had their peculiar rites. But it was a very different thing in Greece. The pilgrim who arrived at a temple never could guess what oddity or horror in the way of statues, sacrifices, or stories might be prepared for his edification. In the first place, there were HUMAN SACRIFICES. These are not familiar to low savages, if known to them at all. Probably they were first offered to barbaric royal ghosts, and thence transferred to gods. In the town of Salamis, in Cyprus, about the date of Hadrian, the devout might have found the priest slaying a human victim to Zeus — an interesting custom, instituted, according to Lactantius, by Teucer, and continued till the age of the Roman Empire.22

At Alos in Achaia Phthiotis, the stranger MIGHT have seen an extraordinary spectacle, though we admit that the odds would have been highly against his chance of witnessing the following events. As the stranger approaches the town-hall, he observes an elderly and most respectable citizen strolling in the same direction. The citizen is so lost in thought that apparently he does not notice where he is going. Behind him comes a crowd of excited but silent people, who watch him with intense interest. The citizen reaches the steps of the town-hall, while the excitement of his friends behind increases visibly. Without thinking, the elderly person enters the building. With a wild and un-Aryan howl, the other people of Alos are down on him, pinion him, wreathe him with flowery garlands, and, lead him to the temple of Zeus Laphystius, or “The Glutton,” where he is solemnly sacrificed on the altar. This was the custom of the good Greeks of Alos whenever a descendant of the house of Athamas entered the Prytaneion. Of course the family were very careful, as a rule, to keep at a safe distance from the forbidden place. “What a sacrifice for Greeks!” as the author of the Minos23 says in that dialogue which is incorrectly attributed to Plato. “He cannot get out except to be sacrificed,” says Herodotus, speaking of the unlucky descendant of Athamas. The custom appears to have existed as late as the time of the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius.24

Even in the second century, when Pausanias visited Arcadia, he found what seem to have been human sacrifices to Zeus. The passage is so very strange and romantic that we quote a part of it.25 “The Lycaean hill hath other marvels to show, and chiefly this: thereon there is a grove of Zeus Lycaeus, wherein may men in nowise enter; but if any transgresses the law and goes within, he must die within the space of one year. This tale, moreover, they tell, namely, that whatsoever man or beast cometh within the grove casts no shadow, and the hunter pursues not the deer into that wood, but, waiting till the beast comes forth again, sees that it has left its shadow behind. And on the highest crest of the whole mountain there is a mound of heaped-up earth, the altar of Zeus Lycaeus, and the more part of Peloponnesus can be seen from that place. And before the altar stand two pillars facing the rising sun, and thereon golden eagles of yet more ancient workmanship. And on this altar they sacrifice to Zeus in a manner that may not be spoken, and little liking had I to make much search into this matter. BUT LET IT BE AS IT IS, AND AS IT HATH BEEN FROM THE BEGINNING.” The words “as it hath been from the beginning” are ominous and significant, for the traditional myths of Arcadia tell of the human sacrifices of Lycaon, and of men who, tasting the meat of a mixed sacrifice, put human flesh between their lips unawares.26 This aspect of Greek religion, then, is almost on a level with the mysterious cannibal horrors of “Voodoo,” as practised by the secret societies of negroes in Hayti. But concerning these things, as Pausanias might say, it is little pleasure to inquire.

Even where men were not sacrificed to the gods, the tourist among the temples would learn that these bloody rites had once been customary, and ceremonies existed by way of commutation. This is precisely what we find in Vedic religion, in which the empty form of sacrificing a man was gone through, and the origin of the world was traced to the fragments of a god sacrificed by gods.27 In Sparta was an altar of Artemis Orthia, and a wooden image of great rudeness and antiquity — so rude indeed, that Pausanias, though accustomed to Greek fetish-stones, thought it must be of barbaric origin. The story was that certain people of different towns, when sacrificing at the altar, were seized with frenzy and slew each other. The oracle commanded that the altar should be sprinkled with human blood. Men were therefore chosen by lot to be sacrificed till Lycurgus commuted the offering, and sprinkled the altar with the blood of boys who were flogged before the goddess. The priestess holds the statue of the goddess during the flogging, and if any of the boys are but lightly scourged, the image becomes too heavy for her to bear.

The Ionians near Anthea had a temple of Artemis Triclaria, and to her it had been customary to sacrifice yearly a youth and maiden of transcendent beauty. In Pausanias’s time the human sacrifice was commuted. He himself beheld the strange spectacle of living beasts and birds being driven into the fire to Artemis Laphria, a Calydonian goddess, and he had seen bears rush back among the ministrants; but there was no record that any one had ever been hurt by these wild beasts.28 The bear was a beast closely connected with Artemis, and there is some reason to suppose that the goddess had herself been a she-bear or succeeded to the cult of a she-bear in the morning of time.29

It may be believed that where symbolic human sacrifices are offered, that is, where some other victim is slain or a dummy of a man is destroyed, and where legend maintains that the sacrifice was once human, there men and women were originally the victims. Greek ritual and Greek myth were full of such tales and such commutations.30 In Rome, as is well known, effigies of men called Argives were sacrificed.31 As an example of a beast-victim given in commutation, Pausanias mentions32 the case of the folk of Potniae, who were compelled once a year to offer to Dionysus a boy, in the bloom of youth. But the sacrifice was commuted for a goat.

These commutations are familiar all over the world. Even in Mexico, where human sacrifices and ritual cannibalism were daily events, Quetzalcoatl was credited with commuting human sacrifices for blood drawn from the bodies of the religious. In this one matter even the most conservative creeds and the faiths most opposed to change sometimes say with Tartuffe:—

     Le ciel defend, de vrai, certains contentements,
     Mais on trouve avec lui des accommodements.

Though the fact has been denied (doubtless without reflection), the fact remains that the Greeks offered human sacrifices. Now what does this imply? Must it be taken as a survival from barbarism, as one of the proofs that the Greeks had passed through the barbaric status?

The answer is less obvious than might be supposed. Sacrifice has two origins. First, there are HONORIFIC sacrifices, in which the ghost or god (or divine beast, if a divine beast be worshipped) is offered the food he is believed to prefer. This does not occur among the lowest savages. To carnivorous totems, Garcilasso says, the Indians of Peru offered themselves. The feeding of sacred mice in the temples of Apollo Smintheus is well known. Secondly, there are expiatory or PIACULAR sacrifices, in which the worshipper, as it were, fines himself in a child, an ox, or something else that he treasures. The latter kind of sacrifice (most common in cases of crime done or suspected within the circle of kindred) is not necessarily barbaric, except in its cruelty. An example is the Attic Thargelia, in which two human scape-goats annually bore “the sins of the congregation,” and were flogged, driven to the sea with figs tied round their necks, and burned.33

The institution of human sacrifice, then, whether the offering be regarded as food, or as a gift to the god of what is dearest to man (as in the case of Jephtha’s daughter), or whether the victim be supposed to carry on his head the sins of the people, does not necessarily date from the period of savagery. Indeed, sacrifice flourishes most, not among savages, but among advancing barbarians. It would probably be impossible to find any examples of human sacrifices of an expiatory or piacular character, any sacrifices at all, among Australians, or Andamanese, or Fuegians. The notion of presenting food to the supernatural powers, whether ghosts or gods, is relatively rare among savages.34 The terrible Aztec banquets of which the gods were partakers are the most noted examples of human sacrifices with a purely cannibal origin. Now there is good reason to guess that human sacrifices with no other origin than cannibalism survived even in ancient Greece. “It may be conjectured,” writes Professor Robertson Smith,35 “that the human sacrifices offered to the Wolf Zeus (Lycaeus) in Arcadia were originally cannibal feasts of a Wolf tribe. The first participants in the rite were, according to later legend, changed into wolves; and in later times36 at least one fragment of the human flesh was placed among the sacrificial portions derived from other victims, and the man who ate it was believed to become a were-wolf.”37 It is the almost universal rule with cannibals not to eat members of their own stock, just as they do not eat their own totem. Thus, as Professor Robertson Smith says, when the human victim is a captive or other foreigner, the human sacrifice may be regarded as a survival of cannibalism. Where, on the other hand, the victim is a fellow tribesman, the sacrifice is expiatory or piacular.

Among Greek cannibal gods we cannot fail to reckon the so-called “Cannibal Dionysus,” and probably the Zeus of Orchomenos, Zeus Laphystius, who is explained by Suidas as “the Glutton Zeus”. The cognate verb ([greek]) means “to eat with mangling and rending,” “to devour gluttonously”. By Zeus Laphystius, then, men’s flesh was gorged in this distressing fashion.

The evidence of human sacrifice (especially when it seems not piacular, but a relic of cannibalism) raises a presumption that Greeks had once been barbarians. The presumption is confirmed by the evidence of early Greek religious art.

When his curiosity about human sacrifices was satisfied, the pilgrim in Greece might turn his attention to the statues and other representations of the gods. He would find that the modern statues by famous artists were beautiful anthropomorphic works in marble or in gold and ivory. It is true that the faces of the ancient gilded Dionysi at Corinth were smudged all over with cinnabar, like fetish-stones in India or Africa.38 As a rule, however, the statues of historic times were beautiful representations of kindly and gracious beings. The older works were stiff and rigid images, with the lips screwed into an unmeaning smile. Older yet were the bronze gods, made before the art of soldering was invented, and formed of beaten plates joined by small nails. Still more ancient were the wooden images, which probably bore but a slight resemblance to the human frame, and which were often mere “stocks”.39 Perhaps once a year were shown the very early gods, the Demeter with the horse’s head, the Artemis with the fish’s tails, the cuckoo Hera, whose image was of pear-wood, the Zeus with three eyes, the Hermes, made after the fashion of the pictures on the walls of sacred caves among the Bushmen. But the oldest gods of all, says Pausanias repeatedly, were rude stones in the temple or the temple precinct. In Achaean Pharae he found some thirty squared stones, named each after a god. “Among all the Greeks in the oldest times rude stones were worshipped in place of statues.” The superstitious man in Theophrastus’s Characters used to anoint the sacred stones with oil. The stone which Cronus swallowed in mistake for Zeus was honoured at Delphi, and kept warm with wool wrappings. There was another sacred stone among the Troezenians, and the Megarians worshipped as Apollo a stone cut roughly into a pyramidal form. The Argives had a big stone called Zeus Kappotas. The Thespians worshipped a stone which they called Eros; “their oldest idol is a rude stone”.40 It is well known that the original fetish-stone has been found in situ below the feet of the statue of Apollo in Delos. On this showing, then, the religion of very early Greeks in Greece was not unlike that of modern Negroes. The artistic evolution of the gods, a remarkably rapid one after a certain point, could be traced in every temple. It began with the rude stone, and rose to the wooden idol, in which, as we have seen, Pausanias and Porphyry found such sanctity. Next it reached the hammered bronze image, passed through the archaic marbles, and culminated in the finer marbles and the chryselephantine statues of Zeus and Athena. But none of the ancient sacred objects lost their sacredness. The oldest were always the holiest idols; the oldest of all were stumps and stones, like savage fetish-stones.

Another argument in favour of the general thesis that savagery left deep marks on Greek life in general, and on myth in particular, may be derived from survivals of totemism in ritual and legend. The following instances need not necessarily be accepted, but it may be admitted that they are precisely the traces which totemism would leave had it once existed, and then waned away on the advance of civilisation.41

That Greeks in certain districts regarded with religious reverence certain plants and animals is beyond dispute. That some stocks even traced their lineage to beasts will be shown in the chapter on Greek Divine Myths, and the presumption is that these creatures, though explained as incarnations and disguises of various gods, were once totems sans phrase, as will be inferred from various examples. Clemens Alexandrinus, again, after describing the animal-worship of the Egyptians, mentions cases of zoolatry in Greece.42 The Thessalians revered storks, the Thebans weasels, and the myth ran that the weasel had in some way aided Alcmena when in labour with Heracles. In another form of the myth the weasel was the foster-mother of the hero.43 Other Thessalians, the Myrmidons, claimed descent from the ant and revered ants. The religious respect paid to mice in the temple of Apollo Smintheus, in the Troad, Rhodes, Gela, Lesbos and Crete is well known, and a local tribe were alluded to as Mice by an oracle. The god himself, like the Japanese harvest-god, was represented in art with a mouse at his foot, and mice, as has been said, were fed at his shrine.44 The Syrians, says Clemens Alexandrinus, worship doves and fishes, as the Elians worship Zeus.45 The people of Delphi adored the wolf,46 and the Samians the sheep. The Athenians had a hero whom they worshipped in the shape of a wolf.47 A remarkable testimony is that of the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, ii. 124. “The wolf,” he says, “was a beast held in honour by the Athenians, and whosoever slays a wolf collects what is needful for its burial.” The burial of sacred animals in Egypt is familiar. An Arab tribe mourns over and solemnly buries all dead gazelles.48 Nay, flies were adored with the sacrifice of an ox near the temple of Apollo in Leucas.49 Pausanias (iii. 22) mentions certain colonists who were guided by a hare to a site where the animal hid in a myrtle-bush. They therefore adore the myrtle, [greek]. In the same way a Carian stock, the Ioxidae, revered the asparagus.50 A remarkable example of descent mythically claimed from one of the lower animals is noted by Otfried Muller.(10) Speaking of the swan of Apollo, he says, “That deity was worshipped, according to the testimony of the Iliad, in the Trojan island of Tenedos. There, too, was Tennes honoured as the (Greek text omitted) of the island. Now his father was called Cycnus (the swan) in an oft-told and romantic legend.(11) . . . The swan, therefore, as father to the chief hero on the Apolline island, stands in distinct relation to the god, who is made to come forward still more prominently from the fact that Apollo himself is also called father of Tennes. I think we can scarcely fail to recognise a mythus which was local at Tenedos. . . . The fact, too, of calling the swan, instead of Apollo, the father of a hero, demands altogether a simplicity and boldness of fancy which are far more ancient than the poems of Homer.”

10 Proleg., Engl. trans., p. 204.

11 (Canne on Conon, 28.)

Had Muller known that this “simplicity and boldness of fancy” exist to-day, for example, among the Swan tribe of Australia, he would probably have recognised in Cycnus a survival from totemism. The fancy survives again in Virgil’s Cupavo, “with swan’s plumes rising from his crest, the mark of his father’s form”.51 Descent was claimed, not only from a swan Apollo, but from a dog Apollo.

In connection with the same set of ideas, it is pointed out that several [greek], or stocks, had eponymous heroes, in whose names the names of the ancestral beast apparently survived. In Attica the Crioeis have their hero (Crio, “Ram”), the Butadae have Butas (“Bullman”), the Aegidae have Aegeus (“Goat”), and the Cynadae, Cynus (“Dog”). Lycus, according to Harpocration (s. v.) has his statue in the shape of a wolf in the Lyceum. “The general facts that certain animals might not be sacrificed to certain gods” (at Athens the Aegidae introduced Athena, to whom no goat might be offered on the Acropolis, while she herself wore the goat skin, aegis), “while, on the other hand, each deity demanded particular victims, explained by the ancients themselves in certain cases to be hostile animals, find their natural explanation” in totemism.52 Mr. Evelyn Abbott points out, however, that the names Aegeus, Aegae, Aegina, and others, may be connected with the goat only by an old volks-etymologie, as on coins of Aegina in Achaea. The real meaning of the words may be different. Compare (Greek text omitted), the sea-shore. Mr. J. G. Frazer does not, at present, regard totemism as proved in the case of Greece.53

As final examples of survivals from the age of barbarism in the religion of Greece, certain features in the Mysteries may be noted. Plutarch speaks of “the eating of raw flesh, and tearing to pieces of victims, as also fastings and beatings of the breast, and again in many places abusive language at the sacrifices, and other mad doings”. The mysteries of Demeter, as will appear when her legend is criticised, contained one element all unlike these “mad doings”; and the evidence of Sophocles, Pindar, Plutarch and others demonstrate that religious consolations were somehow conveyed in the Eleusinia. But Greece had many other local mysteries, and in several of these it is undeniable the Greeks acted much as contemporary Australians, Zunis and Negroes act in their secret initiations which, however, also inculcate moral ideas of considerable excellence. Important as these analogies are, they appear to have escaped the notice of most mythologists. M. Alfred Maury, however, in Les Religions de la Grece, published in 1857, offers several instances of hidden rites, common to Hellas and to barbarism.

There seem in the mysteries of savage races to be two chief purposes. There is the intention of giving to the initiated a certain sacred character, which puts them in close relation with gods or demons, and there is the introduction of the young to complete or advancing manhood, and to full participation in the savage Church with its ethical ideas. The latter ceremonies correspond, in short, to confirmation, and they are usually of a severe character, being meant to test by fasting (as Plutarch says) and by torture (as in the familiar Spartan rite) the courage and constancy of the young braves. The Greek mysteries best known to us are the Thesmophoria and the Eleusinia. In the former the rites (as will appear later) partook of the nature of savage “medicine” or magic, and were mainly intended to secure fertility in husbandry and in the family. In the Eleusinia the purpose was the purification of the initiated, secured by ablutions and by standing on the “ram’s-skin of Zeus,” and after purifications the mystae engaged in sacred dances, and were permitted to view a miracle play representing the sorrows and consolations of Demeter. There was a higher element, necessarily obscure in nature. The chief features in the whole were purifications, dancing, sacrifice and the representation of the miracle play. It would be tedious to offer an exhaustive account of savage rites analogous to these mysteries of Hellas. Let it suffice to display the points where Greek found itself in harmony with Australian, and American, and African practice. These points are: (1) mystic dances; (2) the use of a little instrument, called turndun in Australia, whereby a roaring noise is made, and the profane are warned off; (3) the habit of daubing persons about to be initiated with clay or anything else that is sordid, and of washing this off; apparently by way of showing that old guilt is removed and a new life entered upon; (4) the performances with serpents may be noticed, while the “mad doings” and “howlings” mentioned by Plutarch are familiar to every reader of travels in uncivilised countries; (5) ethical instruction is communicated.

First, as to the mystic dances, Lucian observes:54 “You cannot find a single ancient mystery in which there is not dancing. . . . This much all men know, that most people say of the revealers of the mysteries that they ‘dance them out’" ([greek]). Clemens of Alexandria uses the same term when speaking of his own “appalling revelations”.55 So closely connected are mysteries with dancing among savages, that when Mr. Orpen asked Qing, the Bushman hunter, about some doctrines in which Qing was not initiated, he said: “Only the initiated men of that dance know these things”. To “dance” this or that means to be acquainted with this or that myth, which is represented in a dance or ballet d’action56 ([greek]). So widely distributed is the practice, that Acosta, in an interesting passage, mentions it as familiar to the people of Peru before and after the Spanish conquest. The text is a valuable instance of survival in religion. When they were converted to Christianity the Peruvians detected the analogy between our sacrament and their mysteries, and they kept up as much as possible of the old rite in the new ritual. Just as the mystae of Eleusis practised chastity, abstaining from certain food, and above all from beans, before the great Pagan sacrament, so did the Indians. “To prepare themselves all the people fasted two days, during which they did neyther company with their wives, nor eate any meate with salt or garlicke, nor drink any chic. . . . And although the Indians now forbeare to sacrifice beasts or other things publikely, which cannot be hidden from the Spaniardes, yet doe they still use many ceremonies that have their beginnings from these feasts and auntient superstitions, for at this day do they covertly make their feast of Ytu at the daunces of the feast of the Sacrament. Another feast falleth almost at the same time, whereas the Christians observe the solempnitie of the holy Sacrament, which DOTH RESEMBLE IT IN SOME SORT, AS IN DAUNCING, SINGING AND REPRESENTATIONS.”57 The holy “daunces” at Seville are under Papal disapproval, but are to be kept up, it is said, till the peculiar dresses used in them are worn out. Acosta’s Indians also had “garments which served only for this feast”. It is superfluous to multiply examples of the dancing, which is an invariable feature of savage as of Greek mysteries.

2. The Greek and savage use of the turndun, or bribbun of Australia in the mysteries is familiar to students. This fish-shaped flat board of wood is tied to a string, and whirled round, so as to cause a peculiar muffled roar. Lobeck quotes from the old scholia on Clemens Alexandrinus, published by Bastius in annotations on St. Gregory, the following Greek description of the turndun, the “bull-roarer” of English country lads, the Gaelic srannam:58 [greek]”. “The conus was a little slab of wood, tied to a string, and whirled round in the mysteries to make a whirring noise. As the mystic uses of the turndun in Australia, New Zealand, New Mexico and Zululand have elsewhere been described at some length (Custom and Myth, pp. 28-44), it may be enough to refer the reader to the passage. Mr. Taylor has since found the instrument used in religious mysteries in West Africa, so it has now been tracked almost round the world. That an instrument so rude should be employed by Greek and Australians on mystic occasions is in itself a remarkable coincidence. Unfortunately, Lobeck, who published the Greek description of the turndun (Aglaophamus, 700), was unacquainted with the modern ethnological evidence.

3. The custom of plastering the initiated over with clay or filth was common in Greek as in barbaric mysteries. Greek examples may be given first. Demosthenes accuses Aeschines of helping his mother in certain mystic rites, aiding her, especially, by bedaubing the initiate with clay and bran.59 Harpocration explains the term used ([greek]) thus: “Daubing the clay and bran on the initiate, to explain which they say that the Titans when they attacked Dionysus daubed themselves over with chalk, but afterwards, for ritual purposes, clay was used”. It may be urged with some force that the mother of Aeschines introduced foreign, novel and possibly savage rites. But Sophocles, in a fragment of his lost play, the Captives, uses the term in the same ritual sense —


The idea clearly was that by cleansing away the filth plastered over the body was symbolised the pure and free condition of the initiate. He might now cry in the mystic chant —

     Worse have I fled, better have I found.

That this was the significance of the daubing with clay in Greek mysteries and the subsequent cleansing seems quite certain. We are led straight to this conclusion by similar rites, in which the purpose of mystically cleansing was openly put forward. Thus Plutarch, in his essay on superstition, represents the guilty man who would be purified actually rolling in clay, confessing his misdeeds, and then sitting at home purified by the cleansing process ((Greek text omitted)).60 In another rite, the cleansing of blood-guiltiness, a similar process was practised. Orestes, after killing his mother, complains that the Eumenides do not cease to persecute him, though he has been “purified by blood of swine”.61 Apollonius says that the red hand of the murderer was dipped in the blood of swine and then washed.62 Athenaeus describes a similar unpleasant ceremony.63 The blood of whelps was apparently used also, men being first daubed with it and then washed clean.64 The word [greek] is again the appropriate ritual term. Such rites Plutarch calls [greek], “filthy purifications”.65 If daubing with dirt is known to have been a feature of Greek mysteries, it meets us everywhere among savages. In O-Kee-Pa, that curiously minute account of the Mandan mysteries, Catlin writes that a portion of the frame of the initiate was “covered with clay, which the operator took from a wooden bowl, and with his hand plastered unsparingly over”. The fifty young men waiting for initiation “were naked and entirely covered with clay of various colours”.66 The custom is mentioned by Captain John Smith in Virginia. Mr. Winwood Reade found it in Africa, where, as among the Mandans and Spartans, cruel torture and flogging accompanied the initiation of young men.67 In Australia the evidence for daubing the initiate is very abundant.68 In New Mexico, the Zunis stole Mr. Cushing’s black paint, as considering it even better than clay for religious daubing.(10)

10 Custma and Myth, p. 40.

4. Another savage rite, the use of serpents in Greek mysteries, is attested by Clemens Alexandrinus and by Demosthenes (loc. cit.). Clemens says the snakes were caressed in representations of the loves of Zeus in serpentine form. The great savage example is that of “the snake-dance of the Moquis,” who handle rattle-snakes in the mysteries without being harmed.69 The dance is partly totemistic, partly meant, like the Thesmophoria, to secure the fertility of the lands of the Moquis of Arizonas. The turndum or [greek] is employed. Masks are worn, as in the rites of Demeter Cidiria in Arcadia.70

5. This last point of contact between certain Greek and certain savage mysteries is highly important. The argument of Lobeck, in his celebrated work Aglaophamus, is that the Mysteries were of no great moment in religion. Had he known the evidence as to savage initiations, he would have been confirmed in his opinion, for many of the singular Greek rites are clearly survivals from savagery. But was there no more truly religious survival? Pindar is a very ancient witness that things of divine import were revealed. “Happy is he who having seen these things goes under the hollow earth. He knows the end of life, and the god-given beginning.”71 Sophocles “chimes in,” as Lobeck says, declaring that the initiate alone LIVE in Hades, while other souls endure all evils. Crinagoras avers that even in life the initiate live secure, and in death are the happier. Isagoras declares that about the end of life and all eternity they have sweet hopes.

Splendida testimonia, cries Lobeck. He tries to minimise the evidence, remarking that Isocrates promises the very same rewards to all who live justly and righteously. But why not, if to live justly and righteously was part of the teaching of the mysteries of Eleusis? Cicero’s evidence, almost a translation of the Greek passages already cited, Lobeck dismisses as purely rhetorical.72 Lobeck’s method is rather cavalier. Pindar and Sophocles meant something of great significance.

Now we have acknowledged savage survivals of ugly rites in the Greek mysteries. But it is only fair to remember that, in certain of the few savage mysteries of which we know the secret, righteousness of life and a knowledge of good are inculcated. This is the case in Australia, and in Central Africa, where to be “uninitiated” is equivalent to being selfish.73 Thus it seems not improbable that consolatory doctrines were expounded in the Eleusinia, and that this kind of sermon or exhortation was no less a survival from savagery than the daubing with clay, and the [greek], and other wild rites.

We have now attempted to establish that in Greek law and ritual many savage customs and usages did undeniably survive. We have seen that both philosophical and popular opinion in Greece believed in a past age of savagery. In law, in religion, in religious art, in custom, in human sacrifice, in relics of totemism, and in the mysteries, we have seen that the Greeks retained plenty of the usages now found among the remotest and most backward races. We have urged against the suggestion of borrowing from Egypt or Asia that these survivals are constantly found in local and tribal religion and rituals, and that consequently they probably date from that remote prehistoric past when the Greeks lived in village settlements. It may still doubtless be urged that all these things are Pelasgic, and were the customs of a race settled in Hellas before the arrival of the Homeric Achaeans, and Dorians, and Argives, who, on this hypothesis, adopted and kept up the old savage Pelasgian ways and superstitions. It is impossible to prove or disprove this belief, nor does it affect our argument. We allege that all Greek life below the surface was rich in institutions now found among the most barbaric peoples. These institutions, whether borrowed or inherited, would still be part of the legacy left by savages to cultivated peoples. As this legacy is so large in custom and ritual, it is not unfair to argue that portions of it will also be found in myths. It is now time to discuss Greek myths of the origin of things, and decide whether they are or are not analogous in ideas to the myths which spring from the wild and ignorant fancy of Australians, Cahrocs, Nootkas and Bushmen.

1 Odyssey, xx. 354.

2 Moschion; cf. Preller, Ausgewahlte Aufsatze, p. 206.

3 Politics, ii. 8-21; Plato, Laws, 667-680.

4 Compare Horace, Satires, i. 3, 99; Lucretius, v. 923.

5 Suidas, s.v. “Prometheus”; Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xviii. 9.

6 Duncker, History of Greece, Engl. transl., vol. ii. p. 129.

7 See “Arm-pitting in Ancient Greece,” in the American Journal of Philology, October, 1885, where a discussion of the familiar texts in Aeschylus and Apollonius Rhodius will be found.

8 Characters.

9 Ap. Hermann, Lehrbuch, p. 41; Aglaophamus, 965.

10 Thus the watchers of the dead in New Caledonia are fed by the sorcerer with a mess at the end of a very long spoon, and should the food miss the mouth, all the ceremonies have to be repeated. This detail is from Mr. J. J. Atkinson.

11 Claus, De Antiq. Form. Dianae, 6,7,16.

12 As C. O. Muller judiciously remarks: “The scenes of nine-tenths of the Greek myths are laid in PARTICULAR DISTRICTS OF GREECE, and they speak of the primeval inhabitants, of the lineage and adventures of native heroes. They manifest an accurate acquaintance with individual localities, which, at a time when Greece was neither explored by antiquaries, nor did geographical handbooks exist, could be possessed only by the inhabitants of these localities.” Muller gives, as examples, myths of bears more or less divine. Scientific Mythology, pp. 14, 15.

13 Compare Claus, De Dianae Antiquissima Natura, p. 3.

14 Zweiter Theil, 1858.

15 Areop., 30.

16 Clem. Alex., Oxford, 1715, i. 34.

17 Laws, v. 738.

18 De. Abst., ii. 18; Paus., ii. 4, 5.

19 xiv. 2.

20 Hermann, op. cit., p. 94, note 10.

21 Pausanias, i. 14, 6.

22 Euseb., Praep. Ev., iv. 17, mentions, among peoples practising human sacrifices, Rhodes, Salamis, Heliopolis, Chios, Tenedos, Lacedaemon, Arcadia and Athens; and, among gods thus honoured, Hera, Athene, Cronus, Ares, Dionysus, Zeus and Apollo. For Dionysus the Cannibal, Plutarch, Themist., 13; Porphyr., Abst., ii. 55. For the sacrifice to Zeus Laphystius, see Grote, i. c. vi., and his array of authorities, especially Herodotus, vii. 197. Clemens Alexandrinus (i. 36) mentions the Messenians, to Zeus; the Taurians, to Artemis, the folk of Pella, to Peleus and Chiron; the Cretans, to Zeus; the Lesbians, to Dionysus. Geusius de Victimis Humanis (1699) may be consulted.

23 315, c.; Plato, Laws, vi. 782, c.

24 Argonautica, vii. 197.

25 Pausanias, viii. 2.

26 Plato, Rep., viii. 565, d. This rite occurs in some African coronation ceremonies.

27 The Purusha Sukhta, in Rig-Veda, x. 90.

28 Paus., vii. 18, 19.

29 See “Artemis”, postea.

30 See Hermann, Alterthumer., ii. 159-161, for abundant examples.

31 Plutarch, Quest. Rom. 32.

32 ix. 8, 1.

33 Compare the Marseilles human sacrifice, Petron., 141; and for the Thargelia, Tsetzes, Chiliads, v. 736; Hellad. in Photius, p. 1590 f. and Harpoc. s. v.

34 Jevons, Introduction to the Science of Religion, pp. 161, 199.

35 Encyc. Brit., s. v. “Sacrifice”.

36 Plato, Rep., viii. 565, D.

37 Paus., viii. 2.

38 Pausanias, ii. 2.

39 Clemens Alex., Protrept. (Oxford, 1715). p. 41.

40 Gill, Myths of South Pacific, p. 60. Compare a god, which proved to be merely pumice-stone, and was regarded as the god of winds and waves, having been drifted to Puka-Puka. Offerings of food were made to it during hurricanes.

41 The argument to be derived from the character of the Greek (Greek text omitted) as a modified form of the totem-kindred is too long and complex to be put forward here. It is stated in Custom and Myth, “The history of the Family,” in M’Lennan’s Studies in Early history, and is assumed, if not proved, in Ancient Society by the late Mr. Lewis Morgan.

42 Op. cit., i. 34.

43 Scholiast on Iliad, xix. 119.

44 Aelian, H. A., xii. 5; Strabo, xiii. 604. Compare “Apollo and the Mouse, Custom and Myth, pp. 103-120.

45 Lucian, De Dea Syria.

46 Aelian, H. A., xii. 40.

47 Harpocration, [greek]. Compare an address to the wolf-hero, “who delights in the flight and tears of men,” in Aristophanes, Vespae, 389.

48 Robertson Smith, Kinship in Early Arabia, pp. 195-204.

49 Aelian, xi. 8.

50 Plutarch, Theseus, 14.

51 Aeneid, x. 187.

52 Some apparent survivals of totemism in ritual will be found in the chapter on Greek gods, especially Zeus, Dionysus, and Apollo.

53 See his Golden Bough, an alternative explanation of these animals in connection with “The Corn Spirit”.

54 [greek], chap. xv. 277.

55 Ap. Euseb., Praep. Ev., ii, 3, 6.

56 Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

57 Acosta, Historie of the Indies, book v. chap. xxviii. London, 1604.

58 Pronounced strantham. For this information I am indebted to my friend Mr. M’Allister, schoolmaster at St. Mary’s Loch.

59 De Corona, 313.

60 So Hermann, op. cit., 133.

61 Eumenides, 273.

62 Argonautica, iv. 693.

63 ix. 78. Hermann, from whom the latter passages are borrowed, also quotes the evidence of a vase published by Feuerbach, Lehrbuch, p. 131, with other authorities.

64 Plutarch, Quaest. Rom., 68.

65 De Superstitione, chap. xii.

66 O-Kee-Pa, London, 1867, p. 21.

67 Savage Africa, case of Mongilomba; Pausanias, iii. 15.

68 Brough Smyth, i. 60.

69 The Snake-Dance of the Moquis. By Captain John G. Bourke, London, 1884.

70 Pausanias, viii. 16.

71 Fragm., cxvi., 128 H. p. 265.

72 De Legibus ii. 14; Aglaophamus, pp. 69-74.

73 Making of Religion, pp. 193-197, 235.

Chapter 10.

Greek Cosmogonic Myths.

Nature of the evidence — Traditions of origin of the world and man — Homeric, Hesiodic and Orphic myths — Later evidence of historians, dramatists, commentators — The Homeric story comparatively pure — The story in Hesiod, and its savage analogues — The explanations of the myth of Cronus, modern and ancient — The Orphic cosmogony — Phanes and Prajapati — Greek myths of the origin of man — Their savage analogues.

The authorities for Greek cosmogonic myth are extremely various in date, character and value. The most ancient texts are the Iliad and the poems attributed to Hesiod. The Iliad, whatever its date, whatever the place of its composition, was intended to please a noble class of warriors. The Hesiodic poems, at least the Theogony, have clearly a didactic aim, and the intention of presenting a systematic and orderly account of the divine genealogies. To neither would we willingly attribute a date much later than the ninth century of our era, but the question of the dates of all the epic and Hesiodic poems, and even of their various parts, is greatly disputed among scholars. Yet it is nowhere denied that, however late the present form of some of the poems may be, they contain ideas of extreme antiquity. Although the Homeric poems are usually considered, on the whole, more ancient than those attributed to Hesiod,1 it is a fact worth remembering that the notions of the origin of things in Hesiod are much more savage and (as we hold) much more archaic than the opinions of Homer.

While Hesiod offers a complete theogony or genealogy of deities and heroes, Homer gives no more than hints and allusions to the stormy past of the gods. It is clear, however, that his conception of that past differed considerably from the traditions of Hesiod. However we explain it, the Homeric mythology (though itself repugnant to the philosophers from Xenophanes downwards) is much more mild, pure and humane than the mythology either of Hesiod or of our other Greek authorities. Some may imagine that Homer retains a clearer and less corrupted memory than Hesiod possessed of an original and authentic “divine tradition”. Others may find in Homer’s comparative purity a proof of the later date of his epics in their present form, or may even proclaim that Homer was a kind of Cervantes, who wished to laugh the gods away. There is no conceivable or inconceivable theory about Homer that has not its advocates. For ourselves, we hold that the divine genius of Homer, though working in an age distant rather than “early,” selected instinctively the purer mythical materials, and burned away the coarser dross of antique legend, leaving little but the gold which is comparatively refined.

We must remember that it does not follow that any mythical ideas are later than the age of Homer because we first meet them in poems of a later date. We have already seen that though the Brahmanas are much later in date of compilation than the Veda, yet a tradition which we first find in the Brahmanas may be older than the time at which the Veda was compiled. In the same way, as Mr. Max Muller observes, “we know that certain ideas which we find in later writers do not occur in Homer. But it does not follow at all that such ideas are all of later growth or possess a secondary character. One myth may have belonged to one tribe; one god may have had his chief worship in one locality; and our becoming acquainted with these through a later poet does not in the least prove their later origin.”2

After Homer and Hesiod, our most ancient authorities for Greek cosmogonic myths are probably the so-called Orphic fragments. Concerning the dates and the manner of growth of these poems volumes of erudition have been compiled. As Homer is silent about Orpheus (in spite of the position which the mythical Thracian bard acquired as the inventor of letters and magic and the father of the mysteries), it has been usual to regard the Orphic ideas as of late introduction. We may agree with Grote and Lobeck that these ideas and the ascetic “Orphic mode of life” first acquired importance in Greece about the time of Epimenides, or, roughly speaking, between 620 and 500 B.C.3 That age certainly witnessed a curious growth of superstitious fears and of mystic ceremonies intended to mitigate spiritual terrors. Greece was becoming more intimately acquainted with Egypt and with Asia, and was comparing her own religion with the beliefs and rites of other peoples. The times and the minds of men were being prepared for the clear philosophies that soon “on Argive heights divinely sang”. Just as, when the old world was about to accept Christianity, a deluge of Oriental and barbaric superstitions swept across men’s minds, so immediately before the dawn of Greek philosophy there came an irruption of mysticism and of spiritual fears. We may suppose that the Orphic poems were collected, edited and probably interpolated, in this dark hour of Greece. “To me,” says Lobeck, “it appears that the verses may be referred to the age of Onomacritus, an age curious in the writings of ancient poets, and attracted by the allurements of mystic religions.” The style of the surviving fragments is sufficiently pure and epic; the strange unheard of myths are unlike those which the Alexandrian poets drew from fountains long lost.4 But how much in the Orphic myths is imported from Asia or Egypt, how much is the invention of literary forgers like Onomacritus, how much should be regarded as the first guesses of the physical poet-philosophers, and how much is truly ancient popular legend recast in literary form, it is impossible with certainty to determine.

We must not regard a myth as necessarily late or necessarily foreign because we first meet it in an “Orphic composition”. If the myth be one of the sort which encounter us in every quarter, nay, in every obscure nook of the globe, we may plausibly regard it as ancient. If it bear the distinct marks of being a Neo-platonic pastiche, we may reject it without hesitation. On the whole, however, our Orphic authorities can never be quoted with much satisfaction. The later sources of evidence for Greek myths are not of great use to the student of cosmogonic legend, though invaluable when we come to treat of the established dynasty of gods, the heroes and the “culture-heroes”. For these the authorities are the whole range of Greek literature, poets, dramatists, philosophers, critics, historians and travellers. We have also the notes and comments of the scholiasts or commentators on the poets and dramatists. Sometimes these annotators only darken counsel by their guesses. Sometimes perhaps, especially in the scholia on the Iliad and Odyssey, they furnish us with a precious myth or popular marchen not otherwise recorded. The regular professional mythographi, again, of whom Apollodorus (150 B.C.) is the type, compiled manuals explanatory of the myths which were alluded to by the poets. The scholiasts and mythographi often retain myths from lost poems and lost plays. Finally, from the travellers and historians we occasionally glean examples of the tales (“holy chapters,” as Mr. Grote calls them) which were narrated by priests and temple officials to the pilgrims who visited the sacred shrines.

These “chapters” are almost invariably puerile, savage and obscene. They bear the stamp of extreme antiquity, because they never, as a rule, passed through the purifying medium of literature. There were many myths too crude and archaic for the purposes of poetry and of the drama. These were handed down from local priest to local priest, with the inviolability of sacred and immutable tradition. We have already given a reason for assigning a high antiquity to the local temple myths. Just as Greeks lived in villages before they gathered into towns, so their gods were gods of villages or tribes before they were national deities. The local myths are those of the archaic village state of “culture,” more ancient, more savage, than literary narrative. Very frequently the local legends were subjected to the process of allegorical interpretation, as men became alive to the monstrosity of their unsophisticated meaning. Often they proved too savage for our authorities, who merely remark, “Concerning this a certain holy chapter is told,” but decline to record the legend. In the same way missionaries, with mistaken delicacy, often refuse to repeat some savage legend with which they are acquainted.

The latest sort of testimony as to Greek myths must be sought in the writings of the heathen apologists or learned Pagan defenders of Paganism in the first centuries during Christianity, and in the works of their opponents, the fathers of the Church. Though the fathers certainly do not understate the abominations of Paganism, and though the heathen apologists make free use of allegorical (and impossible) interpretations, the evidence of both is often useful and important. The testimony of ancient art, vases, statues, pictures and the descriptions of these where they no longer survive, are also of service and interest.

After this brief examination of the sources of our knowledge of Greek myth, we may approach the Homeric legends of the origin of things and the world’s beginning. In Homer these matters are only referred to incidentally. He more than once calls Oceanus (that is, the fabled stream which flows all round the world, here regarded as a PERSON) “the origin of the gods,” “the origin of all things”.5 That Ocean is considered a person, and that he is not an allegory for water or the aqueous element, appears from the speech of Hera to Aphrodite: “I am going to visit the limits of the bountiful earth, and Oceanus, father of the gods, and mother Tethys, who reared me duly and nurtured me in their halls, when far-seeing Zeus imprisoned Cronus beneath the earth and the unvintaged sea”.6 Homer does not appear to know Uranus as the father of Cronus, and thus the myth of the mutilation of Uranus necessarily does not occur in Homer. Cronus, the head of the dynasty which preceded that of Zeus, is described7 as the son of Rhea, but nothing is said of his father. The passage contains the account which Poseidon himself chose to give of the war in heaven: “Three brethren are we, and sons of Cronus whom Rhea bare — Zeus and myself, and Hades is the third, the ruler of the folk in the underworld. And in three lots were all things divided, and each drew a domain of his own.” Here Zeus is the ELDEST son of Cronus. Though lots are drawn at hazard for the property of the father (which we know to have been customary in Homer’s time), yet throughout the Iliad Zeus constantly claims the respect and obedience due to him by right of primogeniture.8 We shall see that Hesiod adopts exactly the opposite view. Zeus is the YOUNGEST child of Cronus. His supremacy is an example of jungsten recht, the wide-spread custom which makes the youngest child the heir in chief.9 But how did the sons of Cronus come to have his property in their hands to divide? By right of successful rebellion, when “Zeus imprisoned Cronus beneath the earth and the unvintaged sea”. With Cronus in his imprisonment are the Titans. That is all that Homer cares to tell about the absolute beginning of things and the first dynasty of rulers of Olympus. His interest is all in the actual reigning family, that of the Cronidae, nor is he fond of reporting their youthful excesses.

We now turn from Homer’s incidental allusions to the ample and systematic narrative of Hesiod. As Mr. Grote says, “Men habitually took their information respecting their theogonic antiquities from the Hesiodic poems.” Hesiod was accepted as an authority both by the pious Pausanias in the second century of our era — who protested against any attempt to alter stories about the gods — and by moral reformers like Plato and Xenophanes, who were revolted by the ancient legends,10 and, indeed, denied their truth. Yet, though Hesiod represents Greek orthodoxy, we have observed that Homer (whose epics are probably still more ancient) steadily ignores the more barbarous portions of Hesiod’s narrative. Thus the question arises: Are the stories of Hesiod’s invention, and later than Homer, or does Homer’s genius half-unconsciously purify materials like those which Hesiod presents in the crudest form? Mr. Grote says: “How far these stories are the invention of Hesiod himself it is impossible to determine. They bring us down to a cast of fancy more coarse and indelicate than the Homeric, and more nearly resemble some of the holy chapters ([greek]) of the more recent mysteries, such, for example, as the tale of Dionysus Zagreus. There is evidence in the Theogony itself that the author was acquainted with local legends current both at Krete and at Delphi, for he mentions both the mountain-cave in Krete wherein the newly-born Zeus was hidden, and the stone near the Delphian temple — the identical stone which Kronos had swallowed — placed by Zeus himself as a sign and marvel to mortal men. Both these monuments, which the poet expressly refers to, and had probably seen, imply a whole train of accessory and explanatory local legends, current probably among the priests of Krete and Delphi.”

All these circumstances appear to be good evidence of the great antiquity of the legends recorded by Hesiod. In the first place, arguing merely a priori, it is extremely improbable that in the brief interval between the date of the comparatively pure and noble mythology of the Iliad and the much ruder Theogony of Hesiod men INVENTED stories like the mutilation of Uranus, and the swallowing of his offspring by Cronus. The former legend is almost exactly parallel, as has already been shown, to the myth of Papa and Rangi in New Zealand. The later has its parallels among the savage Bushmen and Australians. It is highly improbable that men in an age so civilised as that of Homer invented myths as hideous as those of the lowest savages. But if we take these myths to be, not new inventions, but the sacred stories of local priesthoods, their antiquity is probably incalculable. The sacred stories, as we know from Pausanias, Herodotus and from all the writers who touch on the subject of the mysteries, were myths communicated by the priests to the initiated. Plato speaks of such myths in the Republic, 378: “If there is an absolute necessity for their mention, a very few might hear them in a mystery, and then let them sacrifice, not a common pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim; this would have the effect of very greatly diminishing the number of the hearers”. This is an amusing example of a plan for veiling the horrors of myth. The pig was the animal usually offered to Demeter, the goddess of the Eleusinian mysteries. Plato proposes to substitute some “unprocurable” beast, perhaps a giraffe or an elephant.

To Hesiod, then, we must turn for what is the earliest complete literary form of the Greek cosmogonic myth. Hesiod begins, like the New Zealanders, with “the august race of gods, by earth and wide heaven begotten”.11 So the New Zealanders, as we have seen, say, “The heaven which is above us, and the earth which is beneath us, are the progenitors of men and the origin of all things”. Hesiod12 somewhat differs from this view by making Chaos absolutely first of all things, followed by “wide-bosomed Earth,” Tartarus and Eros (love). Chaos unaided produced Erebus and Night; the children of Night and Erebus are Aether and Day. Earth produced Heaven, who then became her own lover, and to Heaven she bore Oceanus, and the Titans, Coeeus and Crius, Hyperion and Iapetus, Thea and Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, “and youngest after these was born Cronus of crooked counsel, the most dreadful of her children, who ever detested his puissant sire,” Heaven. There were other sons of Earth and Heaven peculiarly hateful to their father,13 and these Uranus used to hide from the light in a hollow of Gaea. Both they and Gaea resented this treatment, and the Titans, like “the children of Heaven and Earth,” in the New Zealand poem, “sought to discern the difference between light and darkness”. Gaea (unlike Earth in the New Zealand myth, for there she is purely passive), conspired with her children, produced iron, and asked her sons to avenge their wrongs.14 Fear fell upon all of them save Cronus, who (like Tane Mahuta in the Maori poem) determined to end the embraces of Earth and Heaven. But while the New Zealand, like the Indo-Aryan myth,15 conceives of Earth and Heaven as two beings who have never previously been sundered at all, Hesiod makes Heaven amorously approach his spouse from a distance. This was the moment for Cronus,16 who stretched out his hand armed with the sickle of iron, and mutilated Uranus. As in so many savage myths, the blood of the wounded god fallen on the ground produced strange creatures, nymphs of the ash-tree, giants and furies. As in the Maori myth, one of the children of Heaven stood apart and did not consent to the deed. This was Oceanus in Greece,17 and in New Zealand it was Tawhiri Matea, the wind, “who arose and followed his father, Heaven, and remained with him in the open spaces of the sky”. Uranus now predicted18 that there would come a day of vengeance for the evil deed of Cronus, and so ends the dynasty of Uranus.

This story was one of the great stumbling-blocks of orthodox Greece. It was the tale that Plato said should be told, if at all, only to a few in a mystery, after the sacrifice of some rare and scarcely obtainable animal. Even among the Maoris, the conduct of the children who severed their father and mother is regarded as a singular instance of iniquity, and is told to children as a moral warning, an example to be condemned. In Greece, on the other hand, unless we are to take the Euthyphro as wholly ironical, some of the pious justified their conduct by the example of Zeus. Euthyphro quotes this example when he is about to prosecute his own father, for which act, he says, “Men are angry with ME; so inconsistently do they talk when I am concerned and when the gods are concerned”.19 But in Greek THE TALE HAS NO MEANING. It has been allegorised in various ways, and Lafitau fancied that it was a distorted form of the Biblical account of the origin of sin. In Maori the legend is perfectly intelligible. Heaven and earth were conceived of (like everything else), as beings with human parts and passions, linked in an endless embrace which crushed and darkened their children. It became necessary to separate them, and this feat was achieved not without pain. “Then wailed the Heaven, and exclaimed the Earth, ‘Wherefore this murder? Why this great sin? Why separate us?’ But what cared Tane? Upwards he sent one and downwards the other. He cruelly severed the sinews which united Heaven and Earth.”20 The Greek myth too, contemplated earth and heaven as beings corporeally united, and heaven as a malignant power that concealed his children in darkness.

But while the conception of heaven and earth as parents of living things remains perfectly intelligible in one sense, the vivid personification which regarded them as creatures with human parts and passions had ceased to be intelligible in Greece before the times of the earliest philosophers. The old physical conception of the pair became a metaphor, and the account of their rending asunder by their children lost all significance, and seemed to be an abominable and unintelligible myth. When examined in the light of the New Zealand story, and of the fact that early peoples do regard all phenomena as human beings, with physical attributes like those of men, the legend of Cronus, and Uranus, and Gaea ceases to be a mystery. It is, at bottom, a savage explanation (as in the Samoan story) of the separation of earth and heaven, an explanation which could only have occurred to people in a state of mind which civilisation has forgotten.

The next generation of Hesiodic gods (if gods we are to call the members of this race of non-natural men) was not more fortunate than the first in its family relations.

Cronus wedded his sister, Rhea, and begat Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and the youngest, Zeus. “And mighty Cronus swallowed down each of them, each that came to their mother’s knees from her holy womb, with this intent that none other of the proud sons of heaven should hold his kingly sway among the immortals. Heaven and Earth had warned him that he too should fall through his children. Wherefore he kept no vain watch, but spied and swallowed down each of his offspring, while grief immitigable took possession of Rhea.”21 Rhea, being about to become the mother of Zeus, took counsel with Uranus and Gaea. By their advice she went to Crete, where Zeus was born, and, in place of the child, she presented to Cronus a huge stone swathed in swaddling bands. This he swallowed, and was easy in his mind. Zeus grew up, and by some means, suggested by Gaea, compelled Zeus to disgorge all his offspring. “And he vomited out the stone first, as he had swallowed it last.”22 The swallowed children emerged alive, and Zeus fixed the stone at Pytho (Delphi), where Pausanias23 had the privilege of seeing it, and where, as it did not tempt the cupidity of barbarous invaders, it probably still exists. It was not a large stone, Pausanias says, and the Delphians used to pour oil over it, as Jacob did24 to the stone at Bethel, and on feast-days they covered it with wraps of wool. The custom of smearing fetish-stones (which Theophrastus mentions as one of the practices of the superstitious man) is clearly a survival from the savage stage of religion. As a rule, however, among savages, fetish-stones are daubed with red paint (like the face of the wooden ancient Dionysi in Greece, and of Tsui Goab among the Hottentots), not smeared with oil.25

The myth of the swallowing and disgorging of his own children by Cronus was another of the stumbling-blocks of Greek orthodoxy. The common explanation, that Time ([greek]) does swallow his children, the days, is not quite satisfactory. Time brings never the past back again, as Cronus did. Besides, the myth of the swallowing is not confined to Cronus. Modern philology has given, as usual, different analyses of the meaning of the name of the god. Hermann, with Preller, derives it from [greek], to fulfil. The harvest-month, says Preller, was named Cronion in Greece, and Cronia was the title of the harvest-festival. The sickle of Cronus is thus brought into connection with the sickle of the harvester.26

The second myth, in which Cronus swallows his children, has numerous parallels in savage legend. Bushmen tell of Kwai Hemm, the devourer, who swallows that great god, the mantis insect, and disgorges him alive with all the other persons and animals whom he has engulphed in the course of a long and voracious career.27 The moon in Australia, while he lived on earth, was very greedy, and swallowed the eagle-god, whom he had to disgorge. Mr. Im Thurn found similar tales among the Indians of Guiana. The swallowing and disgorging of Heracles by the monster that was to slay Hesione is well known. Scotch peasants tell of the same feats, but localise the myth on the banks of the Ken in Galloway. Basutos, Eskimos, Zulus and European fairy tales all possess this incident, the swallowing of many persons by a being from whose maw they return alive and in good case.

A mythical conception which prevails from Greenland to South Africa, from Delphi to the Solomon Islands, from Brittany to the shores of Lake Superior, must have some foundation in the common elements of human nature.28 Now it seems highly probable that this curious idea may have been originally invented in an attempt to explain natural phenomena by a nature-myth. It has already been shown (chapter v.) that eclipses are interpreted, even by the peasantry of advanced races, as the swallowing of the moon by a beast or a monster. The Piutes account for the disappearance of the stars in the daytime by the hypothesis that the “sun swallows his children”. In the Melanesian myth, dawn is cut out of the body of night by Qat, armed with a knife of red obsidian. Here are examples29 of transparent nature-myths in which this idea occurs for obvious explanatory purposes, and in accordance with the laws of the savage imagination. Thus the conception of the swallowing and disgorging being may very well have arisen out of a nature-myth. But why is the notion attached to the legend of Cronus?

That is precisely the question about which mythologists differ, as has been shown, and perhaps it is better to offer no explanation. However stories arise — and this story probably arose from a nature-myth — it is certain that they wander about the world, that they change masters, and thus a legend which is told of a princess with an impossible name in Zululand is told of the mother of Charlemagne in France. The tale of the swallowing may have been attributed to Cronus, as a great truculent deity, though it has no particular elemental signification in connection with his legend.

This peculiarly savage trick of swallowing each other became an inherited habit in the family of Cronus. When Zeus reached years of discretion, he married Metis, and this lady, according to the scholiast on Hesiod, had the power of transforming herself into any shape she pleased. When she was about to be a mother, Zeus induced her to assume the shape of a fly and instantly swallowed her.30 In behaving thus, Zeus acted on the advice of Uranus and Gaea. It was feared that Metis would produce a child more powerful than his father. Zeus avoided this peril by swallowing his wife, and himself gave birth to Athene. The notion of swallowing a hostile person, who has been changed by magic into a conveniently small bulk, is very common. It occurs in the story of Taliesin.31 Caridwen, in the shape of a hen, swallows Gwion Bach, in the form of a grain of wheat. In the same manner the princess in the Arabian Nights swallowed the Geni. Here then we have in the Hesiodic myth an old marchen pressed into the service of the higher mythology. The apprehension which Zeus (like Herod and King Arthur) always felt lest an unborn child should overthrow him, was also familiar to Indra; but, instead of swallowing the mother and concealing her in his own body, like Zeus, Indra entered the mother’s body, and himself was born instead of the dreaded child.32 A cow on this occasion was born along with Indra. This adventure of the [greek] or swallowing of Metis was explained by the late Platonists as a Platonic allegory. Probably the people who originated the tale were not Platonists, any more than Pandarus was all Aristotelian.

After Homer and Hesiod, the oldest literary authorities for Greek cosmogonic myths are the poems attributed to Orpheus. About their probable date, as has been said, little is known. They have reached us only in fragments, but seem to contain the first guesses of a philosophy not yet disengaged from mythical conditions. The poet preserves, indeed, some extremely rude touches of early imagination, while at the same time one of the noblest and boldest expressions of pantheistic thought is attributed to him. From the same source are drawn ideas as pure as those of the philosophical Vedic hymn,33 and as wild as those of the Vedic Purusha Sukta, or legend of the fashioning of the world out of the mangled limbs of Purusha. The authors of the Orphic cosmogony appear to have begun with some remarks on Time ([greek]). “Time was when as yet this world was not.”34 Time, regarded in the mythical fashion as a person, generated Chaos and Aether. The Orphic poet styles Chaos [greek], “the monstrous gulph,” or “gap”. This term curiously reminds one of Ginnunga-gap in the Scandinavian cosmogonic legends. “Ginnunga-gap was light as windless air,” and therein the blast of heat met the cold rime, whence Ymir was generated, the Purusha of Northern fable.35 These ideas correspond well with the Orphic conception of primitive space.36

In process of time Chaos produced an egg, shining and silver white. It is absurd to inquire, according to Lobeck, whether the poet borrowed this widely spread notion of a cosmic egg from Phoenicia, Babylon, Egypt (where the goose-god Seb laid the egg), or whether the Orphic singer originated so obvious an idea. Quaerere ludicrum est. The conception may have been borrowed, but manifestly it is one of the earliest hypotheses that occur to the rude imagination. We have now three primitive generations, time, chaos, the egg, and in the fourth generation the egg gave birth to Phanes, the great hero of the Orphic cosmogony.37 The earliest and rudest thinkers were puzzled, as many savage cosmogonic myths have demonstrated, to account for the origin of life. The myths frequently hit on the theory of a hermaphroditic being, both male and female, who produces another being out of himself. Prajapati in the Indian stories, and Hrimthursar in Scandinavian legend —“one of his feet got a son on the other”— with Lox in the Algonquin tale are examples of these double-sexed personages. In the Orphic poem, Phanes is both male and female. This Phanes held within him “the seed of all the gods,”38 and his name is confused with the names of Metis and Ericapaeus in a kind of trinity. All this part of the Orphic doctrine is greatly obscured by the allegorical and theosophistic interpretations of the late Platonists long after our era, who, as usual, insisted on finding their own trinitarian ideas, commenta frigidissima, concealed under the mythical narrative.39

Another description by Hieronymus of the first being, the Orphic Phanes, “as a serpent with bull’s and lion’s heads, with a human face in the middle and wings on the shoulders,” is sufficiently rude and senseless. But these physical attributes could easily be explained away as types of anything the Platonist pleased.40 The Orphic Phanes, too, was almost as many-headed as a giant in a fairy tale, or as Purusha in the Rig-Veda. He had a ram’s head, a bull’s head, a snake’s head and a lion’s head, and glanced around with four eyes, presumably human.41 This remarkable being was also provided with golden wings. The nature of the physical arrangements by which Phanes became capable of originating life in the world is described in a style so savage and crude that the reader must be referred to Suidas for the original text.42 The tale is worthy of the Swift-like fancy of the Australian Narrinyeri.

Nothing can be easier or more delusive than to explain all this wild part of the Orphic cosmogony as an allegorical veil of any modern ideas we choose to select. But why the “allegory” should closely imitate the rough guesses of uncivilised peoples, Ahts, Diggers, Zunis, Cahrocs, it is less easy to explain. We can readily imagine African or American tribes who were accustomed to revere bulls, rams, snakes, and so forth, ascribing the heads of all their various animal patrons to the deity of their confederation. We can easily see how such races as practise the savage rites of puberty should attribute to the first being the special organs of Phanes. But on the Neo-Platonic hypothesis that Orpheus was a seer of Neo-Platonic opinions, we do not see why he should have veiled his ideas under so savage an allegory. This part of the Orphic speculation is left in judicious silence by some modern commentators, such as M. Darmesteter in Les Cosmogonies Aryennes.43 Indeed, if we choose to regard Apollonius Rhodius, an Alexandrine poet writing in a highly civilised age, as the representative of Orphicism, it is easy to mask and pass by the more stern and characteristic fortresses of the Orphic divine. The theriomorphic Phanes is a much less “Aryan” and agreeable object than the glorious golden-winged Eros, the love-god of Apollonius Rhodius and Aristophanes.44

On the whole, the Orphic fragments appear to contain survivals of savage myths of the origin of things blended with purer speculations. The savage ideas are finally explained by late philosophers as allegorical veils and vestments of philosophy; but the interpretation is arbitrary, and varies with the taste and fancy of each interpreter. Meanwhile the coincidence of the wilder elements with the speculations native to races in the lowest grades of civilisation is undeniable. This opinion is confirmed by the Greek myths of the origin of Man. These, too, coincide with the various absurd conjectures of savages.

In studying the various Greek local legends of the origin of Man, we encounter the difficulty of separating them from the myths of heroes, which it will be more convenient to treat separately. This difficulty we have already met in our treatment of savage traditions of the beginnings of the race. Thus we saw that among the Melanesians, Qat, and among the Ahts, Quawteaht, were heroic persons, who made men and most other things. But it was desirable to keep their performances of this sort separate from their other feats, their introduction of fire, for example, and of various arts. In the same way it will be well, in reviewing Greek legends, to keep Prometheus’ share in the making of men apart from the other stories of his exploits as a benefactor of the men whom he made. In Hesiod, Prometheus is the son of the Titan Iapetus, and perhaps his chief exploit is to play upon Zeus a trick of which we find the parallel in various savage myths. It seems, however, from Ovid45 and other texts, that Hesiod somewhere spoke of Prometheus as having made men out of clay, like Pund-jel in the Australian, Qat in the Melanesian and Tiki in the Maori myths. The same story is preserved in Servius’s commentary on Virgil.46 A different legend is preserved in the Etymologicum Magnum (voc. Ikonion). According to this story, after the deluge of Deucalion, “Zeus bade Prometheus and Athene make images of men out of clay, and the winds blew into them the breath of life”. In confirmation of this legend, Pausanias was shown in Phocis certain stones of the colour of clay, and “smelling very like human flesh”; and these, according to the Phocians, were “the remains of the clay from which the whole human race was fashioned by Prometheus”.47

Aristophanes, too, in the Birds (686) talks of men as [greek], figures kneaded of clay. Thus there are sufficient traces in Greek tradition of the savage myth that man was made of clay by some superior being, like Pund-jel in the quaint Australian story.

We saw that among various rude races other theories of the origin of man were current. Men were thought to have come out of a hole in the ground or a bed of reeds, and sometimes the very scene of their first appearance was still known and pointed out to the curious. This myth was current among races who regarded themselves as the only people whose origin needed explanation. Other stories represented man as the fruit of a tree, or the child of a rock or stone, or as the descendant of one of the lower animals. Examples of these opinions in Greek legend are now to be given. In the first place, we have a fragment of Pindar, in which the poet enumerates several of the centres from which different Greek tribes believed men to have sprung. “Hard it is to find out whether Alalkomeneus, first of men, arose on the marsh of Cephissus, or whether the Curetes of Ida first, a stock divine, arose, or if it was the Phrygian Corybantes that the sun earliest saw — men like trees walking;” and Pindar mentions Egyptian and Libyan legends of the same description.48 The Thebans and the Arcadians held themselves to be “earth-born”. “The black earth bore Pelasgus on the high wooded hills,” says an ancient line of Asius. The Dryopians were an example of a race of men born from ash-trees. The myth of gens virum truncis et duro robore nata, “born of tree-trunk and the heart of oak,” had passed into a proverb even in Homer’s time.49 Lucian mentions50 the Athenian myth “that men grew like cabbages out of the earth”. As to Greek myths of the descent of families from animals, these will be examined in the discussion of the legend of Zeus.

1 Grote assigns his Theogony to circ. 750 A.D. The Thegony was taught to boys in Greece, much as the Church Catechism and Bible are taught in England; Aeschines in Ctesiph., 135, p. 73. Libanius, 400 years after Christ (i. 502-509, iv. 874).

2 Hibbert Lectures, pp. 130, 131.

3 Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 317; Grote, iii. 86.

4 Aglaophamus, i. 611.

5 Iliad, xiv. 201, 302, 246.

6 In reading what Homer and Hesiod report about these matters, we must remember that all the forces and phenomena are conceived of by them as PERSONS. In this regard the archaic and savage view of all things as personal and human is preserved. “I maintain,” says Grote, “moreover, fully the character of these great divine agents as persons, which is the light in which they presented themselves to the Homeric or Hesiodic audience. Uranus, Nyx, Hypnos and Oneiros (heaven, night, sleep and dream) are persons just as much as Zeus or Apollo. To resolve them into mere allegories is unsafe and unprofitable. We then depart from the point of view of the original hearers without acquiring any consistent or philosophical point of view of our own.” This holds good though portions of the Hesiodic genealogies are distinctly poetic allegories cast in the mould or the ancient personal theory of things.

7 Iliad, xv. 187.

8 The custom by which sons drew lots for equal shares of their dead father’s property is described in Odyssey, xiv. 199-212. Here Odysseus, giving a false account of himself, says that he was a Cretan, a bastard, and that his half-brothers, born in wedlock, drew lots for their father’s inheritance, and did not admit him to the drawing, but gave him a small portion apart.

9 See Elton, Origins of English History, pp. 185-207.

10 Timaeeus, 41; Republic, 377.

11 Theog., 45.

12 Ibid., 116.

13 Ibid., 155.

14 Ibid., 166.

15 Muir, v. 23, quoting Aitareya Brahmana, iv. 27: “These two worlds were once joined; subsequently they separated”.

16 Theog., 175-185.

17 Apollod., i, 15.

18 Theog., 209.

19 Euthyphro, 6.

20 Taylor, New Zealand, 119.

21 Theog., 460, 465.

22 Theog., 498.

23 x. 245.

24 Gen. xxviii. 18.

25 Pausanias, ii. 2, 5. “Churinga” in Australia are greased with the natural moisture of the palm of the hand, and rubbed with red ochre. — Spencer and Gillen. They are “sacred things,” but not exactly fetishes.

26 Preller, Gr. Myth., i. 44; Hartung, ii. 48; Porphyry, Abst., ii. 54. Welcker will not hear of this etymology, Gr. gott., i. 145, note 9.

27 Bleek, Bushman Folk-lore, pp. 6, 8.

28 The myth of Cronus and the swallowed children and the stone is transferred to Gargantua. See Sebillot, Gargantua dans les Traditions Populaires. But it is impossible to be certain that this is not an example of direct borrowing by Madame De Cerny in her Saint Suliac, p. 69.

29 Compare Tylor, Prim. Cult., i. 338.

30 Hesiod, Theogonia, 886. See Scholiast and note in Aglaophamus, i. 613. Compare Puss in Boots and the Ogre.

31 Mabinogion, p. 473.

32 Black Yajur Veda, quoted by Sayana.

33 Rig-Veda, x. 90.

34 Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 470. See also the quotations from Proclus.

35 Gylfi’s Mocking.

36 Aglaophamus, p. 473.

37 Clemens Alexan., p. 672.

38 Damascius, ap. Lobeck, i. 481.

39 Aglaoph., i. 483.

40 Damascius, 381, ap. Lobeck, i. 484.

41 Hermias in Phaedr. ap. Lobeck, i. 493.

42 Suidas s. v. Phanes.

43 Essais Orientaux, p. 166.

44 Argonautica, 1-12; Aves, 693.

45 Ovid. Metam. i. 82.

46 Eclogue, vi. 42.

47 Pausanias, x. 4, 3.

48 Preller, Aus. Auf., p. 158.

49 Virgil Aen., viii. 315; Odyssey, xix. 163; Iliad, ii. xxii. 120; Juvenal, vi. 11. Cf. also Bouche Leclerq, De Origine Generis Humani.

50 Philops. iii.

Chapter 11.

Savage Divine Myths.

The origin of a belief in GOD beyond the ken of history and of speculation — Sketch of conjectural theories — Two elements in all beliefs, whether of backward or civilised races — The Mythical and the Religious — These may be coeval, or either may be older than the other — Difficulty of study — The current anthropological theory — Stated objections to the theory — Gods and spirits — Suggestion that savage religion is borrowed from Europeans — Reply to Mr. Tylor’s arguments on this head — The morality of savages.

“The question of the origin of a belief in Deity does not come within the scope of a strictly historical inquiry. No man can watch the idea of GOD in the making or in the beginning. We are acquainted with no race whose beginning does not lie far back in the unpenetrated past. Even on the hypothesis that the natives of Australia, for example, were discovered in a state of culture more backward than that of other known races, yet the institutions and ideas of the Australians must have required for their development an incalculable series of centuries. The notions of man about the Deity, man’s religious sentiments and his mythical narratives, must be taken as we find them. There have been, and are, many theories as to the origin of the conception of a supernatural being or beings, concerned with the fortunes of mankind, and once active in the making of the earth and its inhabitants. There is the hypothesis of an original divine tradition, darkened by the smoke of foolish mortal fancies. There is the hypothesis of an innate and intuitive sensus numinis. There is the opinion that the notion of Deity was introduced to man by the very nature of his knowledge and perceptions, which compel him in all things to recognise a finite and an infinite. There is the hypothesis that gods were originally ghosts, the magnified shapes of ancestral spectres. There is the doctrine that man, seeking in his early speculations for the causes of things, and conscious of his own powers as an active cause, projected his own shadow on the mists of the unknown, and peopled the void with figures of magnified non-natural men, his own parents and protectors, and the makers of many of the things in the world.

“Since the actual truth cannot be determined by observation and experiment, the question as to the first germs of the divine conception must here be left unanswered. But it is possible to disengage and examine apart the two chief elements in the earliest as in the latest ideas of Godhead. Among the lowest and most backward, as among the most advanced races, there coexist the MYTHICAL and the RELIGIOUS elements in belief. The rational factor (or what approves itself to us as the rational factor) is visible in religion; the irrational is prominent in myth. The Australian, the Bushman, the Solomon Islander, in hours of danger and necessity ‘yearns after the gods,’ and has present in his heart the idea of a father and friend. This is the religious element. The same man, when he comes to indulge his fancy for fiction, will degrade this spiritual friend and father to the level of the beasts, and will make him the hero of comic or repulsive adventures. This is the mythical or irrational element. Religion, in its moral aspect, always traces back to the belief in a power that is benign and works for righteousness. Myth, even in Homer or the Rig-Veda, perpetually falls back on the old stock of absurd and immoral divine adventures.1

“It would be rash, in the present state of knowledge, to pronounce that the germ of the serious Homeric sense of the justice and power of the Divinity is earlier or later than the germ of the Homeric stories of gods disguised as animals, or imprisoned by mortals, or kicked out of Olympus. The rational and irrational aspects of mythology and religion may be of coeval antiquity for all that is certainly known, or either of them, in the dark backward of mortal experience, may have preceded the other. There is probably no religion nor mythology which does not offer both aspects to the student. But it is the part of advancing civilisation to adorn and purify the rational element, and to subordinate and supersede the irrational element, as far as religious conservatism, ritual and priestly dogma will permit.”

Such were the general remarks with which this chapter opened in the original edition of the present work. But reading, reflection and certain additions to the author’s knowledge of facts, have made it seem advisable to state, more fully and forcibly than before, that, in his opinion, not only the puzzling element of myth, but the purer element of a religious belief sanctioning morality is derived by civilised people from a remote past of savagery. It is also necessary to draw attention to a singular religious phenomena, a break, or “fault,” as geologists call it, in the religious strata. While the most backward savages, in certain cases, present the conception of a Being who sanctions ethics, and while that conception recurs at a given stage of civilisation, it appears to fade, or even to disappear in some conditions of barbarism. Among some barbaric peoples, such as the Zulus, and the Red Indians of French Canada when first observed, as among some Polynesians and some tribes of Western and Central Africa little trace of a supreme being is found, except a name, and that name is even occasionally a matter of ridicule. The highest religious conception has been reached, and is generally known, yet the Being conceived of as creative is utterly neglected, while ghosts, or minor gods, are served and adored. To this religious phenomenon (if correctly observed) we must attempt to assign a cause. For this purpose it is necessary to state again what may be called the current or popular anthropological theory of the evolution of Gods.

That theory takes varying shapes. In the philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer we find a pure Euhemerism. Gods are but ghosts of dead men, raised to a higher and finally to the highest power. In the somewhat analogous but not identical system of Mr. Tylor, man first attains to the idea of spirit by reflection on various physical, psychological and psychical experiences, such as sleep, dreams, trances, shadows, hallucinations, breath and death, and he gradually extends the conception of soul or ghost till all nature is peopled with spirits. Of these spirits one is finally promoted to supremacy, where the conception of a supreme being occurs. In the lowest faiths there is said, on this theory, to be no connection, or very little connection, between religion and morality. To supply a religious sanction of morals is the work of advancing thought.2

This current hypothesis is, confessedly, “animistic,” in Mr. Tylor’s phrase, or, in Mr. Spencer’s terminology, it is “the ghost theory”. The human soul, says Mr. Tylor, has been the model on which all man’s ideas of spiritual beings, from “the tiniest elf” to “the heavenly Creator and ruler of the world, the Great Spirit,” have been framed.3 Thus it has been necessary for Mr. Tylor and for Mr. Spencer to discover first an origin of man’s idea of his own soul, and that supposed origin in psychological, physical and psychical experiences is no doubt adequate. By reflection on these facts, probably, the idea of spirit was reached, though the psychical experiences enumerated by Mr. Tylor may contain points as yet unexplained by Materialism. From these sources are derived all really “animistic” gods, all that from the first partake of the nature of hungry ghosts, placated by sacrifices of food, though in certain cases that hunger may have been transferred, we surmise, by worshippers to gods not ORIGINALLY animistic.

In answer to this theory of an animistic or ghostly origin of all gods, it must first be observed that all gods are not necessarily, it would seem, of animistic origin. Among certain of the lowest savages, although they believe in ghosts, the animistic conception, the spiritual idea, is not attached to the relatively supreme being of their faith. He is merely a powerful BEING, unborn, and not subject to death. The purely metaphysical question “was he a ghost?” does not seem always to have been asked. Consequently there is no logical reason why man’s idea of a Maker should not be prior to man’s idea that there are such things as souls, ghosts and spirits. Therefore the animistic theory is not necessary as material for the “god-idea”. We cannot, of course, prove that the “god-idea” was historically prior to the “ghost-idea,” for we know no savages who have a god and yet are ignorant of ghosts. But we can show that the idea of God may exist, in germ, without explicitly involving the idea of spirit. Thus gods MAY be prior in evolution to ghosts, and therefore the animistic theory of the origin of gods in ghosts need not necessarily be accepted.

In the first place, the original evolution of a god out of a ghost need not be conceded, because in perhaps all known savage theological philosophy the God, the Maker and Master, is regarded as a being who existed before death entered the world. Everywhere, practically speaking, death is looked on as a comparatively late intruder. He came not only after God was active, but after men and beasts had populated the world. Scores of myths accounting for this invasion of death have been collected all over the world.4 Thus the relatively supreme being, or beings, of religion are looked on as prior to Death, therefore, not as ghosts. They are sometimes expressly distinguished as “original gods” from other gods who are secondary, being souls of chiefs. Thus all Tongan gods are Atua, but all Atua are not “original gods”.5 The word Atua, according to Mr. White, is “A-tu-a”. “A” was the name given to the author of the universe, and signifies: “Am the unlimited in power,” “The Conception,” “the Leader,” “the Beyond All”. “Tua” means “Beyond that which is most distant,” “Behind all matter,” and “Behind every action”. Clearly these conceptions are not more mythical (indeed A does not seem to occur in the myths), nor are they more involved in ghosts, than the unknown absolute of Mr. Herbert Spencer. Yet the word Atua denotes gods who are recognised as ghosts of chiefs, no less than it denotes the supreme existence.6 These ideas are the metaphysical theology of a race considerably above the lowest level. They lend no assistance to a theory that A was, or was evolved out of, a human ghost, and he is not found in Maori MYTHOLOGY as far as our knowledge goes. But, among the lowest known savages, the Australians, we read that “the Creator was a gigantic black, once on earth, now among the stars”. This is in Gippsland; the deities of the Fuegians and the Blackfoot Indians are also Beings, anthropomorphic, unborn and undying, like Mangarrah, the creative being of the Larrakeah tribe in Australia. “A very good man called Mangarrah lives in the sky. . . . He made everything” (blacks excepted). He never dies.7 The Melanesian Vui “never were men,” were “something different,” and “were NOT ghosts”. It is as a Being, not as a Spirit, that the Kurnai deity Munganngaur (Our Father) is described.8 In short, though Europeans often speak of these divine beings of low savages as “spirits,” it does not appear that the natives themselves advance here the metaphysical idea of spirit. These gods are just BEINGS, anthropomorphic, or (in myth and fable), very often bestial, “theriomorphic”.9 It is manifest that a divine being envisaged thus need not have been evolved out of the theory of spirits or ghosts, and may even have been prior to the rise of the belief in ghosts.

Again, these powerful, or omnipotent divine beings are looked on as guardians of morality, punishers of sin, rewarders of righteousness, both in this world and in a future life, in places where ghosts, though believed in, ARE NOT WORSHIPPED, NOR IN RECEIPT OF SACRIFICE, and where, great grandfathers being forgotten, ancestral ghosts can scarcely swell into gods. This occurs among Andamanese, Fuegians and Australians, therefore, among non-ghost-worshipping races, ghosts cannot have developed into deities who are not even necessarily spirits. These gods, again, do not receive sacrifice, and thus lack the note of descent from hungry food-craving ghosts. In Australia, indeed, while ghosts are not known to receive any offerings, “the recent custom of providing food for it”— the dead body of a friend —“is derided by the intelligent old aborigines as ‘white fellow’s gammon’”.10

The Australians possess no chiefs like “Vich Ian Vohr or Chingachgook” whose ghosts might be said to swell into supreme moral deities. “Headmen” they have, leaders of various degrees of authority, but no Vich Ian Vohr, no semi-sacred representative of the tribe.11 Nor are the ghosts of the Headmen known to receive any particular posthumous attention or worship. Thus it really seems impossible to show proof that Australian gods grew out of Australian ghosts, a subject to which we shall return.

Some supporters of the current theory therefore fall back on the hypothesis that the Australians are sadly degenerate.12 Chiefs, it is argued, or kings, they once had, and the gods are surviving ghosts of these wholly forgotten potentates. To this we reply that we know not the very faintest trace of Australian degeneration. Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Tylor have correctly argued that the soil of Australia has not yet yielded so much as a fragment of native pottery, nor any trace of native metal work, not a vestige of stone buildings occurs, nor of any work beyond the present native level of culture, unless we reckon weirs for fish-catching. “The Australian boomerang,” writes Mr. Tylor, “has been claimed as derived from some hypothetical high culture, whereas the transition-stages through which it is connected with the club are to be observed in its own country, while no civilised race possesses the weapon.”13

Therefore the Australian, with his boomerang, represents no degeneration but advance on his ancestors, who had not yet developed the boomerang out of the club. If the excessively complex nature of Australian rules of prohibited degrees be appealed to as proof of degeneration from the stage in which they were evolved, we reply that civilisation everywhere tends not to complicate but to simplify such rules, as it also notoriously simplifies the forms of language.

The Australian people, when discovered, were only emerging from palaeolithic culture, while the neighbouring Tasmanians were frankly palaeolithic.14 Far from degenerating, the Australians show advance when they supersede their beast or other totem by an eponymous human hero.15 The eponymous hero, however, changed with each generation, so that no one name was fixed as that of tribal father, later perhaps to become a tribal god. We find several tribes in which the children now follow the FATHER’S class, and thus paternal kin takes the place of the usual early savage method of reckoning kinship by the mother’s side, elsewhere prevalent in Australia. In one of these tribes, dwelling between the Glenelg and Mount Napier, headmanship is hereditary, but nothing is said of any worship of the ghosts of chiefs. All this social improvement denotes advance on the usual Australian standard.16 Of degeneration (except when produced recently by European vices and diseases) I know no trace in Australia. Their highest religious conceptions, therefore, are not to be disposed of as survivals of a religion of the ghosts of such chiefs as the Australians are not shown ever to have recognised. The “God idea” in Australia, or among the Andamanese, must have some other source than the Ghost-Theory. This is all the more obvious because not only are ghosts not worshipped by the Australians, but also the divine beings who are alleged to form links between the ghost and the moral god are absent. There are no departmental gods, as of war, peace, the chase, love, and so forth. Sun, sky and earth are equally unworshipped. There is nothing in religion between a Being, on one hand (with a son or sons), and vague mischievous spirits, boilyas or mrarts, and ghosts (who are not worshipped), on the other hand. The friends of the idea that the God is an ancient evolution from the ghost of such a chief as is not proved to have existed, must apparently believe that the intermediate stages in religious evolution, departmental gods, nature gods and gods of polytheism in general once existed in Australia, and have all been swept away in a deluge of degeneration. That deluge left in religion a moral, potently active Father and Judge. Now that conception is considerably above the obsolescent belief in an otiose god which is usually found among barbaric races of the type from which the Australians are said to have degenerated. There is no proof of degeneracy, and, if degeneration has occurred, why has it left just the kind of deity who, in the higher barbaric culture, is not commonly found? Clearly this attempt to explain the highest aspect of Australian religion by an undemonstrated degeneration is an effort of despair.

While the current theory thus appears to break down over the deities of certain Australian tribes and of other low savages to be more particularly described later, it is not more successful in dealing with what we have called the “fault” or break in the religious strata of higher races. The nature of that “fault” may thus be described: While the deities of several low savage peoples are religiously regarded as guardians and judges of conduct both in this life and in the next, among higher barbarians they are often little, or not at all, interested in conduct. Again, while among Australians, and Andamanese, and Fuegians, there is hardly a verifiable trace, if any trace there be, of sacrifice to any divine being, among barbarians the gods beneath the very highest are in receipt even of human sacrifice. Even among barbarians the highest deity is very rarely worshipped with sacrifice. Through various degrees he is found to lose all claim on worship, and even to become a mere name, and finally a jest and a mockery. Meanwhile ancestral ghosts, and gods framed on the same lines as ghosts, receive sacrifice of food and of human victims. Once more, the high gods of low savages are not localised, not confined to any temple or region. But the gods of higher barbarians (the gods beneath the highest), are localised in this way, as occasionally even the highest god also is.

All this shows that, among advancing barbarians, the gods, if they started from the estate of gods among savages on the lowest level, become demoralised, limited, conditioned, relegated to an otiose condition, and finally deposed, till progressive civilisation, as in Greece, reinstates or invents purer and more philosophic conceptions, without being able to abolish popular and priestly myth and ritual.

Here, then, is a flaw or break in the strata of religion. What was the cause of this flaw? We answer, the evolution, through ghosts, of “animistic” gods who retained the hunger and selfishness of these ancestral spirits whom the lowest savages are not known to worship.

The moral divine beings of these lowest races, beings (when religiously regarded) unconditioned, in need of no gift that man can give, are not to be won by offerings of food and blood. Of such offerings ghosts, and gods modelled on ghosts, are notoriously in need. Strengthened and propitiated by blood and sacrifice (not offered to the gods of low savages), the animistic deities will become partisans of their adorers, and will either pay no regard to the morals of their worshippers, or will be easily bribed to forgive sins. Here then is, ethically speaking, a flaw in the strata of religion, a flaw found in the creeds of ghost-worshipping barbarians, but not of non-ghost-worshipping savages. A crowd of venal, easy-going, serviceable deities has now been evolved out of ghosts, and Animism is on its way to supplant or overlay a rude early form of theism. Granting the facts, we fail to see how they are explained by the current theory which makes the highest god the latest in evolution from a ghost. That theory wrecks itself again on the circumstance that, whereas the tribal or national highest divine being, as latest in evolution, ought to be the most potent, he is, in fact, among barbaric races, usually the most disregarded. A new idea, of course, is not necessarily a powerful or fashionable idea. It may be regarded as a “fad,” or a heresy, or a low form of dissent. But, when universally known to and accepted by a tribe or people, then it must be deemed likely to possess great influence. But that is not the case; and among barbaric tribes the most advanced conception of deity is the least regarded, the most obsolete.

An excellent instance of the difference between the theory here advocated, and that generally held by anthropologists, may be found in Mr. Abercromby’s valuable work, Pre-and Proto-Historic Finns, i. 150-154. The gods, and other early ideas, says Mr. Abercromby, “could in no sense be considered as supernatural”. We shall give examples of gods among the races “nearest the beginning,” whose attributes of power and knowledge can not, by us at least, be considered other than “supernatural”. “The gods” (in this hypothesis) “were so human that they could be forced to act in accordance with the wishes of their worshippers, and could likewise be punished.” These ideas, to an Australian black, or an Andamanese, would seem dangerously blasphemous. These older gods “resided chiefly in trees, wells, rivers and animals”. But many gods of our lowest known savages live “beyond the sky”. Mr. Abercromby supposes the sky god to be of later evolution, and to be worshipped after man had exhausted “the helpers that seemed nearest at hand . . . in the trees and waters at his very door”. Now the Australian black has not a door, nor has he gods of any service to him in the “trees and waters,” though sprites may lurk in such places for mischief. But in Mr. Abercromby’s view, some men turned at last to the sky-god, “who in time would gain a large circle of worshippers”. He would come to be thought omnipotent, omniscient, the Creator. This notion, says Mr. Abercromby, “must, if this view is correct, be of late origin”. But the view is not correct. The far-seeing powerful Maker beyond the sky is found among the very backward races who have not developed helpers nearer man, dwelling round what would be his door, if door he was civilised enough to possess. Such near neighbouring gods, of human needs, capable of being bullied, or propitiated by sacrifice, are found in races higher than the lowest, who, for their easily procurable aid, have allowed the Maker to sink into an otiose god, or a mere name. Mr. Abercromby unconsciously proves our case by quoting the example of a Samoyede. This man knew a Sky-god, Num; that conception was familiar to him. He also knew a familiar spirit. On Mr. Abercromby’s theory he should have resorted for help to the Sky-god, not to the sprite. But he did the reverse: he said, “I cannot approach Num, he is too far away; if I could reach him I should not beseech thee (the familiar spirit), but should go myself; but I cannot”. For this precise reason, people who have developed the belief in accessible affable spirits go to them, with a spell to constrain, or a gift to bribe, and neglect, in some cases almost forget, their Maker. But He is worshipped by low savages, who do not propitiate ghosts and who have no gods in wells and trees, close at hand. It seems an obvious inference that the greater God is the earlier evolved.

These are among the difficulties of the current anthropological theory. There is, however, a solution by which the weakness of the divine conception, its neglected, disused aspect among barbaric races, might be explained by anthropologists, without regarding it as an obsolescent form of a very early idea. This solution is therefore in common use. It is applied to the deity revealed in the ancient mysteries of the Australians, and it is employed in American and African instances.

The custom is to say that the highest divine being of American or African native peoples has been borrowed from Europeans, and is, especially, a savage refraction from the God of missionaries. If this can be proved, the shadowy, practically powerless “Master of Life” of certain barbaric peoples, will have degenerated from the Christian conception, because of that conception he will be only a faint unsuccessful refraction. He has been introduced by Europeans, it is argued, but is not in harmony with his new environment, and so is “half-remembered and half forgot”.

The hypothesis of borrowing admits of only one answer, but that answer should be conclusive. If we can discover, say in North America, a single instance in which the supreme being occurs, while yet he cannot possibly be accounted for by any traceable or verifiable foreign influence, then the burden of proof, in other cases, falls on the opponent. When he urges that other North American supreme beings were borrowed, we can reply that our crucial example shows that this need not be the fact. To prove that it is the fact, in his instances, is then his business. It is obvious that for information on this subject we must go to the reports of the earliest travellers who knew the Red Indians well. We must try to get at gods behind any known missionary efforts. Mr. Tylor offers us the testimony of Heriot, about 1586, that the natives of Virginia believed in many gods, also in one chief god, “who first made other principal gods, and then the sun, moon and stars as petty gods”.17 Whence could the natives of Virginia have borrowed this notion of a Creator before 1586? If it is replied, in the usual way, that they developed him upwards out of sun, moon and star gods, other principal gods, and finally reached the idea of the Creator, we answer that the idea of the Maker is found where these alleged intermediate stages are NOT found, as in Australia. In Virginia then, as in Victoria, a Creator may have been evolved in some other way than that of gradual ascent from ghosts, and may have been, as in Australia and elsewhere, prior to verifiable ghost-worship. Again, in Virginia at our first settlement, the native priests strenuously resisted the introduction of Christianity. They were content with their deity, Ahone, “the great God who governs all the world, and makes the sun to shine, creating the moon and stars his companions. . . . The good and peaceable God . . . needs not to be sacrificed unto, for he intendeth all good unto them.” This good Creator, without sacrifice, among a settled agricultural barbaric race sacrificing to other gods and ghosts, manifestly cannot be borrowed from the newly arrived religion of Christianity, which his priests, according to the observer, vigorously resisted. Ahone had a subordinate deity, magisterial in functions, “looking into all men’s actions” and punishing the same, when evil. To THIS god sacrifices WERE made, and if his name, Okeus, is derived from Oki = “spirit,” he was, of course, an animistic ghost-evolved deity. Anthropological writers, by an oversight, have dwelt on Oki, but have not mentioned Ahone.18 Manifestly it is not possible to insist that these Virginian high deities were borrowed, without saying whence and when they were borrowed by a barbaric race which was, at the same time, rejecting Christian teaching.

Mr. Tylor writes, with his habitual perspicacity: “It is the widespread belief in the Great Spirit, whatever his precise nature and origin, that has long and deservedly drawn the attention of European thinkers to the native religions of the North American tribes”. Now while, in recent times, Christian ideas may undeniably have crystallised round “the Great Spirit,” it has come to be thought “that THE WHOLE DOCTRINE of the Great Spirit was borrowed by the savages from missionaries and colonists. But this view will not bear examination,” says Mr. Tylor.19

Mr. Tylor proceeds to prove this by examples from Greenland, and the Algonkins. He instances the Massachusett God, Kiehtan, who created the other gods, and receives the just into heaven. This was recorded in 1622, but the belief, says Winslow, our authority, goes back into the unknown past. “They never saw Kiehtan, but THEY HOLD IT A GREAT CHARGE AND DUTY THAT ONE AGE TEACH ANOTHER.” How could a deity thus rooted in a traditional past be borrowed from recent English settlers?

In these cases the hypothesis of borrowing breaks down, and still more does it break down over the Algonkin deity Atahocan.

Father Le Jeune, S.J., went first among the Algonkins, a missionary pioneer, in 1633, and suffered unspeakable things in his courageous endeavour to win souls in a most recalcitrant flock. He writes (1633): “As this savage has given me occasion to speak of their god, I will remark that it is a great error to think that the savages have no knowledge of any deity. I was surprised to hear this in France. I do not know their secrets, but, from the little which I am about to tell, it will be seen that they have such knowledge.

“They say that one exists whom they call Atahocan, who made the whole. Speaking of God in a wigwam one day, they asked me ‘what is God?’ I told them that it was He who made all things, Heaven and Earth. They then began to cry out to each other, ‘Atahocan! Atahocan! it is Atahocan!’”

There could be no better evidence that Atahocan was NOT (as is often said) “borrowed from the Jesuits”. The Jesuits had only just arrived.

Later (1634) Le Jeune interrogated an old man and a partly Europeanised sorcerer. They replied that nothing was certain; that Atahocan was only spoken of as “of a thing so remote,” that assurance was impossible. “In fact, their word Nitatohokan means, ‘I fable, I tell an old story’.”

Thus Atahocan, though at once recognised as identical with the Creator of the missionary, was so far from being the latest thing in religious evolution that he had passed into a proverb for the ancient and the fabulous. This, of course, is inconsistent with RECENT borrowing. He was neglected for Khichikouai, spirits which inspire seers, and are of some practical use, receiving rewards in offerings of grease, says Le Jeune.20

The obsolescent Atahocan seems to have had no moral activity. But, in America, this indolence of God is not universal. Mr. Parkman indeed writes: “In the primitive Indian’s conception of a God, the idea of moral good has no part”.21 But this is definitely contradicted by Heriot, Strachey, Winslow, already cited, and by Pere Le Jeune. The good attributes of Kiehtan and Ahone were not borrowed from Christianity, were matter of Indian belief before the English arrived. Mr. Parkman writes: “The moment the Indians began to contemplate the object of his faith, and sought to clothe it with attributes, it became finite, and commonly ridiculous”. It did so, as usual, in MYTHOLOGY, but not in RELIGION. There is nothing ridiculous in what is known of Ahone and Kiehtan. If they had a mythology, and if we knew the myths, doubtless they would be ridiculous enough. The savage mind, turned from belief and awe into the spinning of yarns, instantly yields to humorous fancy. As we know, mediaeval popular Christianity, in imagery, marchen or tales, and art, copiously illustrates the same mental phenomenon. Saints, God, our Lord, and the Virgin, all play ludicrous and immoral parts in Christian folk-tales. This is Mythology, and here is, beyond all cavil, a late corruption of Religion. Here, where we know the history of a creed, Religion is early, and these myths are late. Other examples of American divine ideas might be given, such as the extraordinary hymns in which the Zunis address the Eternal, Ahonawilona. But as the Zuni religion has only been studied in recent years, the hymns would be dismissed as “borrowed,” though there is nothing Catholic or Christian about them. We have preferred to select examples where borrowing from Christianity is out of the question. The current anthropological theory is thus confronted with American examples of ideas of the divine which cannot have been borrowed, while, if the gods are said to have been evolved out of ghosts, we reply that, in some cases, they receive no sacrifice, sacrifice being usually a note of ghostly descent. Again, similar gods, as we show, exist where ghosts of chiefs are not worshipped, and as far as evidence goes never were worshipped, because there is no evidence of the existence at any time of such chiefs. The American highest gods may then be equally free from the taint of ghostly descent.

There is another more or less moral North American deity whose evolution is rather questionable. Pere Brebeuf (1636), speaking of the Hurons, says that “they have recourse to Heaven in almost all their necessities, . . . and I may say that it is, in fact, God whom they blindly adore, for they imagine that there is an Oki, that is, a demon, in heaven, who regulates the seasons, bridles the winds and the waves of the sea, and helps them in every need. They dread his wrath, and appeal to him as witness to the inviolability of their faith, when they make a promise or treaty of peace with enemies. ‘Heaven hear us to-day’ is their form of adjuration.”22

A spiritual being, whose home is heaven, who rides on the winds, whose wrath is dreaded, who sanctions the oath, is only called “a demon” by the prejudice of the worthy father who, at the same time, admits that the savages have a conception of God — and that God, so conceived, is this demon!

The debatable question is, was the “demon,” or the actual expanse of sky, first in evolution? That cannot precisely be settled, but in the analogous Chinese case of China we find heaven (Tien) and “Shang-ti, the personal ruling Deity,” corresponding to the Huron “demon”. Shang-ti, the personal deity, occurs most in the oldest, pre-Confucian sacred documents, and, so far, appears to be the earlier conception. The “demon” in Huron faith may also be earlier than the religious regard paid to his home, the sky.23 The unborrowed antiquity of a belief in a divine being, creative and sometimes moral, in North America, is thus demonstrated. So far I had written when I accidentally fell in with Mr. Tylor’s essay on “The Limits of Savage Religion”.24 In that essay, rather to my surprise, Mr. Tylor argues for the borrowing of “The Great Spirit,” “The Great Manitou,” from the Jesuits. Now, as to the phrase, “Great Spirit,” the Jesuits doubtless caused its promulgation, and, where their teaching penetrated, shreds of their doctrine may have adhered to the Indian conception of that divine being. But Mr. Tylor in his essay does not allude to the early evidence, his own, for Oki, Atahocan, Kiehtan, and Torngursak, all undeniably prior to Jesuit influence, and found where Jesuits, later, did not go. As Mr. Tylor offers no reason for disregarding evidence in 1892 which he had republished in a new edition of Primitive Culture in 1891, it is impossible to argue against him in this place. He went on, in the essay cited (1892) to contend that the Australian god of the Kamilaroi of Victoria, Baiame, is, in name and attributes, of missionary introduction. Happily this hypothesis can be refuted, as we show in the following chapter on Australian gods.

It would be easy enough to meet the hypothesis of borrowing in the case of the many African tribes who possess something approaching to a rude monotheistic conception. Among these are the Dinkas of the Upper Nile, with their neighbours, whose creed Russegger compares to that of modern Deists in Europe. The Dinka god, Dendid, is omnipotent, but so benevolent that he is not addressed in prayer, nor propitiated by sacrifice. Compare the supreme being of the Caribs, beneficent, otiose, unadored.25 A similar deity, veiled in the instruction of the as yet unpenetrated Mysteries, exists among the Yao of Central Africa.26 Of the negro race, Waitz says, “even if we do not call them monotheists, we may still think of them as standing on the boundary of monotheism despite their innumerable rude superstitions”.27 The Tshi speaking people of the Gold Coast have their unworshipped Nyankupon, a now otiose unadored being, with a magisterial deputy, worshipped with many sacrifices. The case is almost an exact parallel to that of Ahone and Oki in America. THESE were not borrowed, and the author has argued at length against Major Ellis’s theory of the borrowing from Christians of Nyankupon.28

To conclude this chapter, the study of savage and barbaric religions seems to yield the following facts:—

1. Low savages. No regular chiefs. Great beings, not in receipt of sacrifice, sanctioning morality. Ghosts are not worshipped, though believed in. Polytheism, departmental gods and gods of heaven, earth, sky and so forth, have not been developed or are not found.

2. Barbaric races. Aristocratic or monarchic. Ghosts are worshipped and receive sacrifice. Polytheistic gods are in renown and receive sacrifice. There is usually a supreme Maker who is, in some cases, moral, in others otiose. In only one or two known cases (as in that of the Polynesian Taaroa) is he in receipt of sacrifice.

3. Barbaric races. (Zulus, monarchic with Unkulunkulu; some Algonquins (feebly aristocratic) with Atahocan). Religion is mainly ancestor worship or vague spirit worship; ghosts are propitiated with food. There are traces of an original divine being whose name is becoming obsolescent and a matter of jest.

4. Early civilisations. Monarchic or aristocratic. (Greece, Egypt, India, Peru, Mexico.) Polytheism. One god tends to be supreme. Religiously regarded, gods are moral; in myth are the reverse. Gods are in receipt of sacrifice. Heavenly society is modelled on that of men, monarchic or aristocratic. Philosophic thought tends towards belief in one pure god, who may be named Zeus, in Greece.

5. The religion of Israel. Probably a revival and purification of the old conception of a moral, beneficent creator, whose creed had been involved in sacrifice and anthropomorphic myth.

In all the stages thus roughly sketched, myths of the lowest sort prevail, except in the records of the last stage, where the documents have been edited by earnest monotheists.

If this theory be approximately correct, man’s earliest religious ideas may very well have consisted, in a sense, of dependence on a supreme moral being who, when attempts were made by savages to describe the modus of his working, became involved in the fancies of mythology. How this belief in such a being arose we have no evidence to prove. We make no hint at a sensus numinis, or direct revelation.

While offering no hypothesis of the origin of belief in a moral creator we may present a suggestion. Mr. Darwin says about early man: “The same high mental faculties which first led man to believe in unseen spiritual agencies, then in fetichism, polytheism and ultimately monotheism, would infallibly lead him, so long as his reasoning powers remained poorly developed, to various strange superstitions and customs”.29 Now, accepting Mr. Darwin’s theory that early man had “high mental faculties,” the conception of a Maker of things does not seem beyond his grasp. Man himself made plenty of things, and could probably conceive of a being who made the world and the objects in it. “Certainly there must be some Being who made all these things. He must be very good too,” said an Eskimo to a missionary.30 The goodness is inferred by the Eskimo from his own contentment with “the things which are made”.31

Another example of barbaric man “seeking after God” may be adduced.

What the Greenlander said is corroborated by what a Kaffir said. Kaffir religion is mainly animistic, ancestral spirits receive food and sacrifice — there is but an evanescent tradition of a “Lord in Heaven”. Thus a very respectable Kaffir said to M. Arbrousset, “your tidings (Christianity) are what I want; and I was seeking before I knew you. . . . I asked myself sorrowful questions. ‘Who has touched the stars with his hands? . . . Who makes the waters flow? . . . Who can have given earth the wisdom and power to produce corn?’ Then I buried my face in my hands.”

“This,” says Sir John Lubbock, “was, however, an exceptional case. As a general rule savages do not set themselves to think out such questions.”32

As a common fact, if savages never ask the question, at all events, somehow, they have the answer ready made. “Mangarrah, or Baiame, Puluga, or Dendid, or Ahone, or Ahonawilona, or Atahocan, or Taaroa, or Tui Laga, was the maker.” Therefore savages who know that leave the question alone, or add mythical accretions. But their ancestors must have asked the question, like the “very respectable Kaffir” before they answered it.

Having reached the idea of a Creator, it was not difficult to add that he was “good,” or beneficent, and was deathless.

A notion of a good powerful Maker, not subject to death because necessarily prior to Death (who only invaded the world late), seems easier of attainment than the notion of Spirit which, ex hypothesi, demands much delicate psychological study and hard thought. The idea of a Good Maker, once reached, becomes, perhaps, the germ of future theism, but, as Mr. Darwin says, the human mind was “infallibly led to various strange superstitions”. As St. Paul says, in perfect agreement with Mr. Darwin on this point, “they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened”.

Among other imaginations (right or wrong) was the belief in spirits, with all that followed in the way of instituting sacrifices, even of human beings, and of dropping morality, about which the ghost of a deceased medicine-man was not likely to be much interested. The supposed nearness to man, and the venal and partial character of worshipped gods and ghost-gods, would inevitably win for them more service and attention than would be paid to a Maker remote, unbought and impartial. Hence the conception of such a Being would tend to obsolescence, as we see that it does, and would be most obscured where ghosts were most propitiated, as among the Zulus. Later philosophy would attach the spiritual conception to the revived or newly discovered idea of the supreme God.

In all this speculation there is nothing mystical; no supernatural or supernormal interference is postulated. Supernormal experiences may have helped to originate or support the belief in spirits, that, however, is another question. But this hypothesis of the origin of belief in a good unceasing Maker of things is, of course, confessedly a conjecture, for which historical evidence cannot be given, in the nature of the case. All our attempts to discover origins far behind history must be conjectural. Their value must be estimated by the extent to which this or that hypothesis colligates the facts. Now our hypothesis does colligate the facts. It shows how belief in a moral supreme being might arise before ghosts were worshipped, and it accounts for the flaw in the religious strata, for the mythical accretions, for the otiose Creator in the background of many barbaric religions, and for the almost universal absence of sacrifice to the God relatively supreme. He was, from his earliest conception, in no need of gifts from men.

On this matter of otiose supreme gods, Professor Menzies writes, “It is very common to find in savage beliefs a vague far-off god, who is at the back of all the others, takes little part in the management of things, and receives little worship. But it is impossible to judge what that being was at an earlier time; he may have been a nature god, or a spirit who has by degrees grown faint, and come to occupy this position.”

Now the position which he occupies is usually, if not universally, that of the Creator. He could not arrive at this rank by “becoming faint,” nor could “a nature-god” be the Maker of Nature. The only way by which we can discover “what that being was at an earlier time” is to see what he IS at an earlier time, that is to say, what the conception of him is, among men in an earlier state of culture. Among them, as we show, he is very much more near, potent and moral, than among races more advanced in social evolution and material culture. We can form no opinion as to the nature of such “vague, far-off gods, at the back of all the others,” till we collect and compare examples, and endeavour to ascertain what points they have in common, and in what points they differ from each other. It then becomes plain that they are least far away, and most potent, where there is least ghostly and polytheistic competition, that is, among the most backward races. The more animism the less theism, is the general rule. Manifestly the current hypothesis — that all religion is animistic in origin — does not account for these facts, and is obliged to fly to an undemonstrated theory of degradation, or to an undemonstrated theory of borrowing. That our theory is inconsistent with the general doctrine of evolution we cannot admit, if we are allowed to agree with Mr. Darwin’s statement about the high mental faculties which first led man to sympathetic, and then to wild beliefs. We do not pretend to be more Darwinian than Mr. Darwin, who compares “these miserable and indirect results of our higher faculties” to “the occasional mistakes of the instincts of the lower animals”.

The opinion here maintained, namely, that a germ of pure belief may be detected amidst the confusion of low savage faith, and that in a still earlier stage it may have been less overlaid with fable, is in direct contradiction to current theories. It is also in contradiction with the opinions entertained by myself before I made an independent examination of the evidence. Like others, I was inclined to regard reports of a moral Creator, who observes conduct, and judges it even in the next life, as rumours due either to Christian influence, or to mistake. I well know, however, and could, and did, discount the sources of error. I was on my guard against the twin fallacies of describing all savage religion as “devil worship,” and of expecting to find a primitive “divine tradition”. I was also on my guard against the modern bias derived from the “ghost-theory,” and Mr. Spencer’s works, and I kept an eye on opportunities of “borrowing”.33 I had, in fact, classified all known idola in the first edition of this work, such as the fallacy of leading questions and the chance of deliberate deception. I sought the earliest evidence, prior to any missionary teaching, and the evidence of what the first missionaries found, in the way of belief, on their arrival. I preferred the testimony of the best educated observers, and of those most familiar with native languages. I sought for evidence in native hymns (Maori, Zuni, Dinka, Red Indian) and in native ceremonial and mystery, as these sources were least likely to be contaminated.

On the other side, I found a vast body of testimony that savages had no religion at all. But that testimony, en masse, was refuted by Roskoff, and also, in places, by Tylor. When three witnesses were brought to swear that they saw the Irishman commit a crime, he offered to bring a dozen witnesses who did NOT see him. Negative evidence of squatters, sailors and colonists, who did NOT see any religion among this or that race, is not worth much against evidence of trained observers and linguists who DID find what the others missed, and who found more the more they knew the tribe in question. Again, like others, I thought savages incapable of such relatively pure ideas as I now believe some of them to possess. But I could not resist the evidence, and I abandoned my a priori notions. The evidence forcibly attests gradations in the central belief. It is found in various shades, from relative potency down to a vanishing trace, and it is found in significant proportion to the prevalence of animistic ideas, being weakest where they are most developed, strongest where they are least developed. There must be a reason for these phenomena, and that reason, as it seems to me, is the overlaying and supersession of a rudely Theistic by an animistic creed. That one cause would explain, and does colligate, all the facts.

There remains a point on which misconception proves to be possible. It will be shown, contrary to the current hypothesis, that the religion of the lowest races, in its highest form, sanctions morality. That morality, again, in certain instances, demands unselfishness. Of course we are not claiming for that doctrine any supernatural origin. Religion, if it sanctions ethics at all, will sanction those which the conscience accepts, and those ethics, in one way or other, must have been evolved. That the “cosmical” law is “the weakest must go to the wall” is generally conceded. Man, however, is found trying to reverse the law, by equal and friendly dealing (at least within what is vaguely called “the tribe”). His religion, as in Australia, will be shown to insist on this unselfishness. How did he evolve his ethics?

“Be it little or be it much they get,” says Dampier about the Australians in 1688, “every one has his part, as well the young and tender as the old and feeble, who are not able to get abroad as the strong and lusty.” This conduct reverses the cosmical process, and notoriously civilised society, Christian society, does not act on these principles. Neither do the savages, who knock the old and feeble on the head, or deliberately leave them to starve, act on these principles, sanctioned by Australian religion, but (according to Mr. Dawson) NOT carried out in Australian practice. “When old people become infirm . . . it is lawful and customary to kill them.”34

As to the point of unselfishness, evolutionists are apt to account for it by common interest. A tribe in which the strongest monopolise what is best will not survive so well as an unselfish tribe in the struggle for existence. But precisely the opposite is true, aristocracy marks the more successful barbaric races, and an aristocratic slave-holding tribe could have swept Australia as the Zulus swept South Africa. That aristocracy and acquisition of separate property are steps in advance on communistic savagery all history declares. Therefore a tribe which in Australia developed private property, and reduced its neighbours to slavery, would have been better fitted to survive than such a tribe as Dampier describes.

This is so evident that probably, or possibly, the Dampier state of society was not developed in obedience to a recognised tribal interest, but in obedience to an affectionate instinct. “Ils s’entr’ aiment les une les autres,” says Brebeuf of the Hurons.35 “I never heard the women complain of being left out of feasts, or that the men ate the best portions . . . every one does his business sweetly, peaceably, without dispute. You never see disputes, quarrels, hatred, or reproach among them.” Brebeuf then tells how a young Indian stranger, in a time of want, stole the best part of a moose. “They did not rage or curse, they only bantered him, and yet to take our meat was almost to take our lives.” Brebeuf wanted to lecture the lad; his Indian host bade him hold his peace, and the stranger was given hospitality, with his wife and children. “They are very generous, and make it a point not to attach themselves to the goods of this world.” “Their greatest reproach is ‘that man wants everything, he is greedy’. They support, with never a murmur, widows, orphans and old men, yet they kill hopeless or troublesome invalids, and their whole conduct to Europeans was the reverse of their domestic behaviour.”

Another example of savage unselfish ethics may be found in Mr. Mann’s account of the Andaman Islanders, a nomad race, very low in culture. “It is a noteworthy trait, and one which deserves high commendation, that every care and consideration are paid by all classes to the very young, the weak, the aged, and the helpless, and these being made special objects of interest and attention, invariably fare better in regard to the comforts and necessaries of daily life than any of the otherwise more fortunate members of the community.”36

Mr. Huxley, in his celebrated Romanes Lecture on “Evolution and Morality,” laid stress on man’s contravention of the cosmic law, “the weakest must go to the wall”. He did not explain the evolution of man’s opposition to this law. The ordinary evolutionist hypothesis, that the tribe would prosper most whose members were least self-seeking, is contradicted by all history. The overbearing, “grabbing,” aristocratic, individualistic, unscrupulous races beat the others out of the field. Mr. Huxley, indeed, alleged that the “influence of the cosmic process in the evolution of society is the greater the more rudimentary its civilisation. Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process. . . . As civilisation has advanced, so has the extent of this interference increased. . . . ”37 But where, in Europe, is the interference so marked as among the Andamanese? We have still to face the problem of the generosity of low savages.

It is conceivable that the higher ethics of low savages rather reflect their emotional instincts than arise from tribal legislation which is supposed to enable a “tribe” to prosper in the struggle for existence. As Brebeuf and Dampier, among others, prove, savages often set a good example to Christians, and their ethics are, in certain cases, as among the Andamanese and Fuegians, and, probably among the Yao, sanctioned by their religion. But, as Mr. Tylor says, “the better savage social life seems but in unstable equilibrium, liable to be easily upset by a touch of distress, temptation, or violence”.38 Still, religion does its best, in certain cases, to lend equilibrium; though all the world over, religion often fails in practice.

1 M. Knappert here, in a note to the Dutch translation, denies the lowest mythical element to the Hebrews, as their documents have reached us.

2 Prim. Cult., ii. 381. Huxley’s Science and Hebrew Tradition, pp. 346,372.

3 Prim. Cult., ii. 109

4 See Modern Mythology, “Myths of Origin of Death”.

5 Mariner, ii. 127.

6 White, Ancient History of the Maoris, vol. i. p. 4; other views in Gill’s Myths of the Pacific. I am not committed to Mr. White’s opinion.

7 Journal Anthrop. Inst., Nov., 1894, p. 191.

8 Ibid., 1886, p. 313.

9 See Making of Religion, pp. 201-210, for a more copious statement.

10 Dawson, Australian Aborigines, p. 51, 1881.

11 Howitt, Organisation of Australian Tribes, pp. 101-113. “Transactions of Royal Society of Victoria,” 1889.

12 See Prof. Menzie’s History of Religion, pp. 16, 17, where a singular inconsistency has escaped the author.

13 Prim. Cult., i. 57, 67.

14 Tylor, preface to Ling Roth’s Aborigines of Tasmania, pp. v.-viii.

15 Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 231.

16 Kamilaroi and Kurnai, pp. 277, 278.

17 Prim. Cult., ii. 341.

18 History of Travaile into Virginia, by William Strachey, 1612.

19 Prim. Cult, ii. pp. 339, 340 (1873). For some reason, Mr. Tylor modifies this passage in 1891.

20 Relations, 1633, 1634.

21 Parkman, The Jesuits in North America. p. lxxviii.

22 Relations, 1636, pp. 106, 107.

23 See Tylor, Prim. Cult., ii. 362, and Making of Religion, p. 318; also Menzies, History of Religion, pp. 108,109, and Dr. Legge’s Chinese Classics, in Sacred Books of the East, vols. iii., xxvii., xxviii.

24 Journ. of Anthrop. Inst., vol. xxi., 1892.

25 Rochefort, Les Isles Antilles, p. 415. Tylor, ii. 337.

26 Macdonald, Africana, 1, 71, 72, 130, 279-301. Scott, Dictionary of the Manganja Language, Making of Religion, pp. 230-238. A contradictory view in Spencer, Ecclesiastical Institutions, p. 681.

27 Anthropologie, ii. 167.

28 Making of Religion, pp. 243-250.

29 Darwin, Descent of Man, i. p. 66.

30 Cranz, i. 199.

31 Romans, i. 19.

32 Origin of Civilisation, p. 201.

33 Making of Religion, p. 187.

34 Australian Aborigines, p. 62.

35 Relations, 1634, p. 29.

36 J. A. I., xii. p. 93.

37 Ethics of Evolution, pp. 81-84.

38 Prim. Cult., i. 51.

Chapter 12.

Gods of the Lowest Races.

Savage religion mysterious — Why this is so — Australians in 1688 — Sir John Lubbock — Roskoff — Evidence of religion — Mr. Manning — Mr. Howitt — Supreme beings — Mr. Tylor’s theory of borrowing — Reply — Morality sanctioned — Its nature — Satirical rite —“Our Father”— Mr. Ridley on a creator — Mr. Langloh Parker — Dr. Roth — Conclusion — Australians’ religious.

The Science of Anthropology can speak, with some confidence, on many questions of Mythology. Materials are abundant and practically undisputed, because, as to their myths, savage races have spoken out with freedom. Myth represents, now the early scientific, now the early imaginative and humorous faculty, playing freely round all objects of thought: even round the Superhuman beings of belief. But, as to his Religion, the savage by no means speaks out so freely. Religion represents his serious mood of trust, dependence or apprehension.

In certain cases the ideas about superhuman Makers and judges are veiled in mysteries, rude sketches of the mysteries of Greece, to which the white man is but seldom admitted. In other cases the highest religious conceptions of the people are in a state of obsolescence, are subordinated to the cult of accessible minor deities, and are rarely mentioned. While sacrifice or service again is done to the lower objects of faith (ghosts or gods developed out of ghosts) the Supreme Being, in a surprising number of instances, is wholly unpropitiated. Having all things, he needs nothing (at all events gets nothing) at men’s hands except obedience to his laws; being good, he is not feared; or being obsolescent (superseded, as it seems, by deities who can be bribed) he has shrunk to the shadow of a name. Of the gods too good and great to need anything, the Ahone of the Red Men in Virginia, or the Dendid of the African Dinkas, is an example. Of the obsolescent god, now but a name, the Atahocan of the Hurons was, while the “Lord in heaven” of the Zulus is, an instance. Among the relatively supreme beings revealed only in the mysteries, the gods of many Australian tribes are deserving of observation.

For all these reasons, mystery, absence of sacrifice or idol, and obsolescence, the Religion of savages is a subject much more obscure than their mythology. The truth is that anthropological inquiry is not yet in a position to be dogmatic; has not yet knowledge sufficient for a theory of the Origins of Religion, and the evolution of belief from its lowest stages and earliest germs. Nevertheless such a theory has been framed, and has been already stated.

We formulated the objections to this current hypothesis, and observed that its defenders must take refuge in denying the evidence as to low savage religions, or, if the facts be accepted, must account for them by a theory of degradation, or by a theory of borrowing from Christian sources. That the Australians are not degenerate we demonstrated, and we must now give reasons for holding that their religious conceptions are not borrowed from Europeans.

The Australians, when observed by Dampier on the North-west Coast in 1688, seemed “the miserablest people in the world,” without houses, agriculture, metals, or domesticated animals.1 In this condition they still remain, when not under European influence. Dampier, we saw, noted peculiarities: “Be it little or much they get, every one has his part, as well the young and tender as the old and feeble, who are not able to go abroad, as the strong and lusty”. This kind of justice or generosity, or unselfishness, is still inculcated in the religious mysteries of some of the race. Generosity is certainly one of the native’s leading features. He is always accustomed to give a share of his food, or of what he may possess, to his fellows. It may be, of course, objected to this that in doing so he is only following an old-established custom, the breaking of which would expose him to harsh treatment and to being looked on as a churlish fellow. It will, however, be hardly denied that, as this custom expresses the idea that, in this particular matter, every one is supposed to act in a kindly way towards certain individuals: the very existence of such a custom, even if it be only carried out in the hope of securing at some time a quid pro quo, shows that the native is alive to the fact that an action which benefits some one else is worthy to be performed. . . .

It is with the native a fixed habit to give away part of what he has.”2 The authors of this statement do not say that the duty is inculcated, in Central Australia, under religious sanction, in the tribal mysteries. This, however, is the case among the Kurnai, and some tribes of Victoria and New South Wales.3 Since Dampier found the duty practised as early as 1688, it will scarcely be argued that the natives adopted this course of what should be Christian conduct from their observations of Christian colonists.

The second point which impressed Dampier was that men and women, old and young, all lacked the two front upper teeth. Among many tribes of the natives of New South Wales and Victoria, the boys still have their front teeth knocked out, when initiated, but the custom does not prevail (in ritual) where circumcision and another very painful rite are practised, as in Central Australia and Central Queensland.

Dampier’s evidence shows how little the natives have changed in two hundred years. Yet evidence of progress may be detected, perhaps, as we have already shown. But one fact, perhaps of an opposite bearing, must be noted. A singular painting, in a cave, of a person clothed in a robe of red, reaching to the feet, with sleeves, and with a kind of halo (or set of bandages) round the head, remains a mystery, like similar figures with blue halos or bandages, clothed and girdled. None of the figures had mouths; otherwise, in Sir George Grey’s sketches, they have a remote air of Cimabue’s work.4 These designs were by men familiar with clothing, whether their own, or that of strangers observed by them, though in one case an unclothed figure carries a kangaroo. At present the natives draw with much spirit, when provided with European materials, as may be seen in Mrs. Langloh Parker’s two volumes of Australian Legendary Tales. Their decorative patterns vary in character in different parts of the continent, but nowhere do they now execute works like those in the caves discovered by Sir George Grey. The reader must decide for himself how far these monuments alone warrant an inference of great degeneration in Australia, or are connected with religion.

Such are the Australians, men without kings or chiefs, and what do we know of their beliefs?

The most contradictory statements about their religion may be found in works of science Mr. Huxley declared that “their theology is a mere belief in the existence, powers and dispositions (usually malignant) of ghost-like entities who may be propitiated or scared away; but no cult can be properly said to exist. And in this stage theology is wholly independent of ethics.” This, he adds, is “theology in its simplest condition”.

In a similar sense, Sir John Lubbock writes: “The Australians have no idea of creation, nor do they use prayers; they have no religious forms, ceremonies or worship. They do not believe in the existence of a Deity, nor is morality in any way connected with their religion, if it can be so called.”5

This remark must be compared with another in the same work (1882, p. 210). “Mr. Ridley, indeed, . . . states that they have a traditional belief in one supreme Creator, called Baiamai, but he admits that most of the witnesses who were examined before the Select Committee appointed by the Legislative Council of Victoria in 1858 to report on the Aborigines, gave it as their opinion that the natives had no religious ideas. It appears, moreover, from a subsequent remark, that Baiamai only possessed ‘traces’ of the three attributes of the God of the Bible, Eternity, Omnipotence and Goodness”.6

Mr. Ridley, an accomplished linguist who had lived with wild blacks in 1854-58, in fact, said long ago, that the Australian Bora, or Mystery, “involves the idea of dedication to God “. He asked old Billy Murri Bundur whether men worshipped Baiame at the Bora? “Of course they do,” said Billy. Mr. Ridley, to whose evidence we shall return, was not the only affirmative witness. Archdeacon Gunther had no doubt that Baiame was equivalent to the Supreme Being, “a remnant of original traditions,” and it was Mr. Günther, not Mr. Ridley, who spoke of “traces” of Baiame’s eternity, omnipotence and goodness. Mr. Ridley gave similar reports from evidence collected by the committee of 1858. He found the higher creeds most prominent in the interior, hundreds of miles from the coast.

Apparently the reply of Gustav Roskoff to Sir John Lubbock (1880) did not alter that writer’s opinion. Roskoff pointed out that Waitz-Gerland, while denying that Australian beliefs were derived from any higher culture, denounced the theory that they have no religion as “entirely false”. “Belief in a Good Being is found in South Australia, New South Wales, and the centre of the south-eastern continent.”7 The opinion of Waitz is highly esteemed, and that not merely because, as Mr. Max Müller has pointed out, he has edited Greek classical works. Avec du Grec on nepeut gâter rien. Mr. Oldfield, in addition to bogles and a water-spirit, found Biam (Baiame) and Namba-jundi, who admits souls into his Paradise, while Warnyura torments the bad under earth.8 Mr. Eyre, publishing in 1845, gives Baiame (on the Morrum-bidgee, Biam; on the Murray, Biam-Vaitch-y) as a source of songs sung at dances, and a cause of disease. He is deformed, sits cross-legged, or paddles a canoe. On the Murray he found a creator, Noorele, “all powerful, and of benevolent character,” with three unborn sons, dwelling “up among the clouds”. Souls of dead natives join them in the skies. Nevertheless “the natives, as far as yet can be ascertained, have no religious belief or ceremonies”; and, though Noorele is credited with “the origin of creation,” “he made the earth, trees, water, etc.,” a deity, or Great First Cause, “can hardly be said to be acknowledged”.9

Such are the consistent statements of Mr. Eyre! Roskoff also cites Mr. Ridley, Braim, Cunningham, Dawson, and other witnesses, as opposed to Sir John Lubbock, and he includes Mr. Tylor.10 Mr. Tylor, later, found Baiame, or Pei-a-mei, no earlier in literature than about 1840, in Mr. Hale’s United States Exploring Expedition11 Previous to that date, Baiame, it seems, was unknown to Mr. Threlkeld, whose early works are of 1831-1857. He only speaks of Koin, a kind of goblin, and for lack of a native name for God, Mr. Threlkeld tried to introduce Jehova-ka-biruê, and Eloi, but failed. Mr. Tylor, therefore, appears to suppose that the name, Baiame, and, at all events, his divine qualities, were introduced by missionaries, apparently between 1831 and 1840.12 To this it must be replied that Mr. Hale, about 1840, writes that “when the missionaries first came to Wellington” (Mr. Threlkeld’s own district) “Baiame was worshipped there with songs”. “These songs or hymns, according to Mr. Threlkeld, were passed on from a considerable distance. It is notorious that songs and dances are thus passed on, till they reach tribes who do not even know the meaning of the words.”13

In this way Baiame songs had reached Wellington before the arrival of the missionaries, and for this fact Mr. Threlkeld (who is supposed not to have known Baiame) is Mr. Hale’s authority. In Mr. Tylor’s opinion (as I understand it) the word Baiame was the missionary translation of our word “Creator,” and derived from Baia “to make”. Now, Mr. Ridley says that Mr. Greenway “discovered” this baia to be the root of Baiame. But what missionary introduced the word before 1840? Not Mr. Threlkeld, for he (according to Mr. Tylor), did not know the word, and he tried Eloi, and Jehova-ka-biru£, while Immanueli was also tried and also failed14 Baiame, known in 1840, does not occur in a missionary primer before Mr. Ridley’s Gurre Kamilaroi (1856), so the missionary primer did not launch Baiame before the missionaries came to Wellington. According to Mr. Hale, the Baiame songs were brought by blacks from a distance (we know how Greek mysteries were also colportés to new centres), and the yearly rite had, in 1840, been for three years in abeyance. Moreover, the etymology, Baia “to make” has a competitor in “Byamee = Big Man”.15 Thus Baiame, as a divine being, preceded the missionaries, and is not a word of missionary manufacture, while sacred words really of missionary manufacture do not find their way into native tradition. Mr. Hale admits that the ideas about Baiame may “possibly” be of European origin, though the great reluctance of the blacks to adopt any opinion from Europeans makes against that theory.16

It may be said that, if Baiame was premissionary, his higher attributes date after Mr. Ridley’s labours, abandoned for lack of encouragement in 1858. In 1840, Mr. Hale found Baiame located in an isle of the seas, like Circe, living on fish which came to his call. Some native theologians attributed Creation to his Son, Burambin, the Demiurge, a common savage form of Gnosticism.

On the nature of Baiame, we have, however, some curious early evidence of 1844-45. Mr. James Manning, in these years, and earlier, lived “near the outside boundaries of settlers to the south”. A conversation with Goethe, when the poet was eighty-five, induced him to study the native beliefs. “No missionaries,” he writes, “ever came to the southern district at any time, and it was not till many years later that they landed in Sydney on their way to Moreton Bay, to attempt, in vain, to Christianise the blacks of that locality, before the Queensland separation from this colony took place.” Mr. Manning lost his notes of 1845, but recovered a copy from a set lent to Lord Audley, and read them, in November, 1882, to the Royal Society of New South Wales. The notes are of an extraordinary character, and Mr. Manning, perhaps unconsciously, exaggerated their Christian analogies, by adopting Christian terminology. Dean Cowper, however, corroborated Mr. Manning’s general opinion, by referring to evidence of Archdeacon Gunther, who sent a grammar, with remarks on “Bhaime, or Bhaiame,” from Wellington to Mr. Max Müller. “He received his information, he told me, from some of the oldest blacks, who, he was satisfied, could not have derived their ideas from white men, as they had not then had intercourse with them.” Old savages are not apt to be in a hurry to borrow European notions. Mr. Manning also averred that he obtained his information with the greatest difficulty. “They required such secrecy on my part, and seemed so afraid of being heard even in the most secret places, that, in one or two cases, I have seen them almost tremble in speaking.” One native, after carefully examining doors and windows, “stood in a wooden fireplace, and spoke in a tone little above a whisper, and confirmed what I had before heard”. Another stipulated that silence must be observed, otherwise the European hands might question his wife, in which case he would be obliged to kill her. Mr. Howitt also found that the name of Darumulun (in religion) is too sacred to be spoken except almost in whispers, while the total exclusion of women from mysteries and religious knowledge, on pain of death, is admitted to be universal among the tribes.17 Such secrecy, so widely diffused, is hardly compatible with humorous imposture by the natives.

There is an element of humour in all things. Mr. Manning, in 1882, appealed to his friend, Mr. Mann, to give testimony to the excellency of Black Andy, the native from whom he derived most of his notes, which were corroborated by other black witnesses. Mr. Mann arose and replied that “he had never met one aborigine who had any true belief in a Supreme Being”. On cross-examination, they always said that they had got their information from a missionary or other resident. Black Andy was not alluded to by Mr. Mann, who regarded all these native religious ideas as filtrations from European sources. Mr. Palmer, on the other hand, corroborated Mr. Manning, who repeated the expression of his convictions.18 Such, then, is the perplexed condition of the evidence.

It may be urged that the secrecy and timidity of Mr. Manning’s informants, corresponding with Mr. Howitt’s experience, makes for the affirmative side; that, in 1845, when Mr. Manning made his notes, missionaries were scarce, and that a native “cross-examined” by the sceptical and jovial Mr. Mann, would probably not contradict. (Lubbock, O. of C. p. 4.) Confidence is only won by sympathy, and one inquirer will get authentic legends and folklore from a Celt, while another of the ordinary English type will totally fail On this point Mr. Manning says: “Sceptics should consider how easy it might be for intelligent men to pass almost a lifetime among the blacks in any quarter of this continent without securing the confidence even of the best of the natives around them, through whom they might possibly become acquainted with their religious secrets, secrets which they dare not reveal to their own women at all, nor to their adult youths until the latter have been sworn to reticence under that terrifying ceremony which my notes describe”. In the same way Mrs. Langloh Parker found that an European neighbour would ask, “but have the blacks any legends?” and we have cited Mr. Hartt on the difficulty of securing legends on the Amazon, while Mr. Sproat had to live long among, and become very intimate with, the tribes of British Columbia, before he could get any information about their beliefs. Thus, the present writer is disinclined to believe that the intelligence offered to Mr. Manning with shy secrecy in 1845 was wholly a native copy of recently acquired hints on religion derived from Europeans, especially as Mr. Howitt, who had lived long among the Kurnai, and had written copiously on them, knew nothing of their religion, before, about 1882, he was initiated and admitted to the knowledge like that of Mr. Manning in 1845 The theory of borrowing is also checked by the closely analogous savage beliefs reported from North America before a single missionary had arrived, and from Africa. For the Australian, African and American ideas have a common point of contact, not easily to be explained as deduced from Christianity. According, then, to Mr. Manning, the natives believed in a being called Boyma, who dwells in heaven, “immovably fixed in a crystal rock, with only the upper half of a supernatural body visible”. Now, about 1880, a native described Baiame to Mr. Howitt as “a very great old man with a beard,” and with crystal pillars growing out of his shoulders which prop up a supernal sky. This vision of Baiame was seen by the native, apparently as a result of the world-wide practice of crystal-gazing.19 Mr. Tylor suspects “the old man with the beard” as derived from Christian artistic representations, but old men are notoriously the most venerated objects among the aborigines. Turning now to Mrs. Langloh Parker’s More Australian Legendary Tales (p. 90), we find Byamee “fixed to the crystal rock on which he sat in Bullimah” (Paradise). Are we to suppose that some savage caught at Christian teaching, added this feature of the crystal rock from “the glassy sea” of the Apocalpyse, or from the great white throne, and succeeded in securing wide acceptance and long persistence for a notion borrowed from Europeans? Is it likely that the chief opponents of Christianity everywhere, the Wirreenuns or sorcerers, would catch at the idea, introduce it into the conservative ritual of the Mysteries, and conceal it from women and children who are as open as adults to missionary influence? Yet from native women and children the belief is certainly concealed.

Mr. Manning, who prejudices his own case by speaking of Boyma as “the Almighty,” next introduces us to a “Son of God” equal to the father as touching his omniscience, and otherwise but slightly inferior. Mr. Eyre had already reported on the unborn sons of Noorele, “there is no mother”. The son of Boyma’s name is Grogoragally. He watches over conduct, and takes the good to Ballima (Bullimah in Mrs. Langloh Parker), the bad to Oorooma, the place of fire (gumby). Mr. Eyre had attested similar ideas of future life of the souls with Noorele. (Eyre, ii. 357.) In Mrs. Langloh Parker’s book a Messenger is called “the All-seeing Spirit,” apparently identical with her Wallahgooroonbooan, whose voice is heard in the noise of the tundun, or bull-roarer, used in the Mysteries.20

Grogoragally is unborn of any mother. He is represented by Mr. Manning as a mediator between Boyma and the race of men. Here our belief is apt to break down, and most people will think that Black Andy was a well-instructed Christian catechumen. This occurred to Mr. Manning, who put it plainly to Andy. He replied that the existence of names in the native language for the sacred persons and places proved that they were not of European origin. “White fellow no call budgery place (paradise) ‘Ballima,’ or other place ‘Oorooma,’ nor God ‘Boyma,’ nor Son ‘Grogoragally,’ only we black fellow think and call them that way in our own language, before white fellow came into the country.” A son or deputy of the chief divine being is, in fact, found among the Kurnai and in other tribes. He directs the mysteries. Here, then, Andy is backed by Mr. Howitt’s aboriginal friends. Their deity sanctioned morality “before the white men came to Melbourne” (1835) and was called “Our Father” at the same date.21 Several old men insisted on this, as a matter of their own knowledge. They were initiated before the arrival of Europeans. Archdeacon Gunther received the same statements from old aborigines, and Mr. Palmer, speaking of other notions of tribes of the North, is perfectly satisfied that none of their ideas were derived from the whites.22 In any case, Black Andy’s intelligence and logic are far beyond what most persons attribute to his race. If we disbelieve him, it must be on the score, I think, that he consciously added European ideas to names of native origin. On the other hand, analogous ideas, not made so startling as in Mr. Manning’s Christian terminology, are found in many parts of Australia.

Mr. Manning next cites Moodgeegally, the first man, immortal, a Culture Hero, and a messenger of Boyma’s. There are a kind of rather mediaeval fiends, Waramolong, who punish the wicked (murderers, liars and breakers of marriage laws) in Gumby. Women do not go to Ballima, Boyma being celibate, and women know nothing of all these mysteries; certainly this secrecy is not an idea of Christian origin. If women get at the secret, the whole race must be exterminated, men going mad and slaying each other. This notion we shall see is corroborated. But if missionaries taught the ideas, women must know all about them already. Mr. Manning’s information was confirmed by a black from 300 miles away, who called Grogoragally by the name of Boymagela. There are no prayers, except for the dead at burial: corroborated by Mrs. Langloh Parker’s beautiful Legend of Eerin. “Byamee,” the mourners cry, “let in the spirit of Eerin to Bullimah. Save him from Eleanbah wundah, abode of the wicked. For Eerin was faithful on earth, faithful to the laws you left us!”23 The creed is taught to boys when initiated, with a hymn which Mr. Manning’s informant dared not to reveal. He said angrily that Mr. Manning already knew more than any other white man. Now, to invent a hymn could not have been beyond the powers of this remarkable savage, Black Andy. The “Sons” of Baiame answer, we have seen, to those ascribed to Noorele, in Mr. Eyre’s book. They also correspond to Daramulun where he is regarded as the son of Baiame, while the Culture Hero, Moodgeegally, founder of the Mysteries, answers to Tundun, among the Kurnai.24 We have, too, in Australia, Dawed, a subordinate where Mangarrah is the Maker in the Larrakeah tribe.25

In some cases, responsibility for evil, pain, and punishment, are shifted from the good Maker on to the shoulders of his subordinate. This is the case, in early Virginia, with Okeus, the subordinate of the Creator, the good Ahone.26 We have also, in West Africa, the unpropitiated Nyankupon, with his active subordinate, who has human sacrifices, Bobowissi;27 and Mulungu, in Central Africa, “possesses many powerful servants, but is himself kept a good deal behind the scenes of earthly affairs, like the gods of Epicurus”.28 The analogy, as to the Son, interpreter of the divine will, in Apollo and Zeus (certainly not of Christian origin!) is worth observing. In the Andaman Islands, Mr. Mann, after long and minute inquiry from the previously un-contaminated natives, reports on an only son of Puluga, “a sort of archangel,” who alone is permitted to live with his father, whose orders it is his duty to make known to the moro-win, his sisters, ministers of Puluga, the angels, that is, inferior ministers of Puluga’s will.29

It is for science to determine how far this startling idea of the Son is a natural result of a desire to preserve the remote and somewhat inaccessible and otiose dignity of the Supreme Being from the exertion of activity; and how far it is a savage refraction of missionary teaching, even where it seems to be anterior to missionary influences, which, with these races, have been almost a complete failure. The subject abounds in difficulty, but the sceptic must account for the marvellously rapid acceptance of the European ideas by the most conservative savage class, the doctors or sorcerers; for the admission of the ideas into the most conservative of savage institutions, the Mysteries; for the extreme reticence about the ideas in presence of the very Europeans from whom they are said to have been derived; and in some cases for the concealment of the ideas from the women, who, one presumes, are as open as the men to missionary teaching. It is very easy to talk of “borrowing,” not so easy to explain these points on the borrowing theory, above all, when evidence is frequent that the ideas preceded the arrival of Christian teachers.

On this crucial point, the question of borrowing, I may cite Mr. Mann as to the Andamanese beliefs. Mr. Mann was for eleven years in the islands, and for four years superintended our efforts to “reclaim” some natives. He is well acquainted with the South Andaman dialect, and has made studies of the other forms of the language. This excellent witness writes: “It is extremely improbable that their legends were the result of the teaching of missionaries or others”. They have no tradition of any foreign arrivals, and their reputation (undeserved) as cannibals, with their ferocity to invaders, “precludes the belief” that any one ever settled there to convert or instruct them. “Moreover, to regard with suspicion, as some have done, the genuineness of such legends argues ignorance of the fact that numerous other tribes, in equally remote or isolated localities, have, when first discovered, been found to possess similar traditions on the subject under consideration,” Further, “I have taken special care not only to obtain my information on each point from those who are considered by their fellow tribesmen as authorities, but [also from those] who, from having had little or no intercourse with other races, were in entire ignorance regarding any save their own legends,” which, “they all agree in stating, were handed down to them by their first parent, To-mo, and his immediate descendants”.30 What Mr. Mann says concerning the unborrowed character of Andaman beliefs applies, of course, to the yet more remote and inaccessible natives of Australia.

In what has been, and in what remains to be said, it must be remembered that the higher religious ideas attributed to the Australians are not their only ideas in this matter. Examples of their wild myths have already been offered, they are totemists, too, and fear, though they do not propitiate, ghosts. Vague spirits unattached are also held in dread, and inspire sorcerers and poets,31 as also does the god Bunjil.32

Turning from early accounts of Australian religion, say from 1835 to 1845, we look at the more recent reports. The best evidence is that of Mr. Howitt, who, with Mr. Fison, laid the foundations of serious Australian anthropology in Kamilaroi and Kurnai (1881). In 1881, Mr. Howitt, though long and intimately familiar with the tribes of Gippsland, the Yarra, the Upper Murray, the Murumbidgee, and other districts, had found no trace of belief in a moral Supreme Being. He was afterwards, however, initiated, or less formally let into the secret, by two members of Brajerak (wild) black fellows, not of the same tribe as the Kurnai. The rites of these former aborigines are called Kuringal. Their supreme being is Daramulun “believed in from the sea-coast across to the northern boundary claimed by the Wolgal, about Yass and Gundagai, and from Omeo to at least as far as the Shoalhaven River. . . . He was not, as it seems to me, everywhere thought to be a malevolent being, but he was dreaded as one who could severely punish the trespasses committed against these tribal ordinances and customs, whose first institution is ascribed to him. . . . It was taught also that Daramulun himself watched the youths from the sky, prompt to punish by sickness or death the breach of his ordinances.” These are often mere taboos; an old man said: “I could not eat Emu’s eggs. He would be very angry, and perhaps I should die.” It will hardly be argued that the savages have recently borrowed from missionaries this conception of Daramulun, as the originator and guardian of tribal taboos. Opponents must admit him as of native evolution in that character at least. The creed of Daramulun is not communicated to women and children. “It is said that the women among the Ngarego and Wolgal knew only that a great being lived beyond the sky, and that he was spoken of by them as Papang (Father). This seemed to me when I first heard it to bear so suspicious a resemblance to a belief derived from the white men, that I thought it necessary to make careful and repeated inquiries. My Ngarego and Wolgal informants, two of them old men, strenuously maintained that it was so before the white men came.” They themselves only learned the doctrine when initiated, as boys, by the old men of that distant day. The name Daramulun, was almost whispered to Mr. Howitt, and phrases were used such as “He,” “the man,” “the name I told you of”. The same secrecy was preserved by a Woi-worung man about Bunjil, or Pund-jel, “though he did not show so much reluctance when repeating to me the ‘folk-lore’ in which the ‘Great Spirit’ of the Kulin plays a part”. “He” was used, or gesture signs were employed by this witness, who told how his grandfather had warned him that Bunjil watched his conduct from a star, “he can see you and all you do down here,”—“before the white men came to Melbourne.” (1835).33

Are we to believe that this mystic secrecy is kept up, as regards white men, about a Being first heard of from white men? And is it credible that the “old men,” the holders of tribal traditions, and the most conservative of mortals, would borrow a new divinity from “the white devils,” conceal the doctrine from the women (as accessible to missionary teaching as themselves), adopt the new Being as the founder of the antique mysteries, and introduce him into the central rite? And can the natives have done so steadily, ever since about 1840 at least? To believe all this is to illustrate the credulity of scepticism.

Mr. Howitt adds facts about tribes “from Twofold Bay to Sydney, and as far west, at least, as Hay”. Here, too, Daramulun instituted the rites; his voice is heard in the noise of the whirling mudji (bull-roarer). “The muttering of thunder is said to be his voice ‘calling to the rain to fall, and make the grass grow up green’.” Such are “the very words of Umbara, the minstrel of the tribe”.34

At the rites, respect for age, for truth, for unprotected women and married women, and other details of sexual morality, is inculcated partly in obscene dances. A magic ceremony, resembling mesmeric passes, and accompanied by the word “Good” (nga) is meant to make the boys acceptable to Daramulun. A temporary image of him is made on raised earth (to be destroyed after the rites), his attributes are then explained. “This is the Master (Biamban) who can go anywhere and do anything.”35 An old man is buried, and rises again. “This ceremony is most impressive.” “The opportunity is taken of impressing on the mind of youth, in an indelible manner, those rules of conduct which form the moral law of the tribe.” “There is clearly a belief in a Great Spirit, or rather an anthropomorphic Supernatural Being, the Master of All, whose abode is above, the sky, and to whom are attributed powers of omnipotence and omnipresence, or, at any rate, the power to do anything and go anywhere. . . . To his direct ordinance are attributed the social and moral laws of the community.” Mr. Howitt ends, “I venture to assert that it can no longer be maintained that [the Australians] have no belief which can be called religious — that is, in the sense of beliefs which govern tribal and individual morality under a supernatural sanction”.36

Among the rites is one which “is said to be intended to teach the boys to speak the straightforward truth, and the kabos (mystagogues) thus explain it to them “.37

It is, perhaps, unfortunate that Mr. Howitt does not give a full account of what the morality thus sanctioned includes. Respect for age, for truth, for unprotected women, and for nature (as regards avoiding certain unnatural vices) are alone spoken of, in addition to taboos which have no relation to developed morality. Mr. Palmer, in speaking of the morality inculcated in the mysteries of the Northern Australians, adds to the elements of ethics mentioned by Mr. Howitt in the south, the lesson “not to be quarrelsome”. To each lad is given, “by one of the elders, advice so kindly, fatherly and impressive, as often to soften the heart, and draw tears from the youth”.38

So far, the morality religiously sanctioned is such as men are likely to evolve, and probably no one will maintain that it must have been borrowed from Europeans. It is argued that the morality is only such as the tribes would naturally develop, mainly in the interests of the old (the ruling class) and of social order (Hart-land, op. cit. pp. 316-329). What else did any one ever suppose the mores of a people to be, plus whatever may be allowed for the effects of kindliness, or love, which certainly exists? I never hinted at morals divinely and supernormally revealed. All morality had been denied to the Australians. Yet in the religious rites they are “taught to speak the straightforward truth”! As regards women, there are parts of Australia where disgusting laxity prevails, except in cases prohibited by the extremely complex rules of forbidden degrees. Such parts are Central Australia and North-west Central Queensland.39

Another point in Mr. Howitt’s evidence deserves notice. He at first wrote “The Supreme Being who is believed in by all the tribes I refer to here, either as a benevolent or more frequently as a malevolent being, it seems to me represents the defunct headman “. We have seen that Mr. Howitt came to regard “malevolence” as merely the punitive aspect of the “Supreme Being “. As to the theory that such a being represents a dead headman, no proof is anywhere given that ghosts of headmen are in any way propitiated. Even “corpse-feeding” was represented to Mr. Dawson by intelligent old blacks, as “white fellows’ gammon”.40 Mrs. Langloh Parker writes to me that she, when she began to study the blacks, “had, I must allow, a prejudice in favour of Mr. Herbert Spencer’s theory — it seemed so rational, but, accepting my savages’ evidence, I must discard it”. As to “offerings of food to the dead,” Mrs. Langloh Parker found that nothing was offered except food “which happened to be in the possession of the corpse,” at his decease.

For these reasons it is almost inconceivable that the “Supreme Being” should “represent a dead headman,” as to dead men of any sort no tribute is paid. Mr. Howitt himself appears to have abandoned the hypothesis that Daramulun represents a dead headman, for he speaks of him as the “Great Spirit,” or rather an “anthropomorphic Supernatural Being”,41

A Great Spirit might, conceivably, be developed out of a little spirit, even out of the ghost of a tribesman. But to the conception of a “supernatural anthropomorphic being,” the idea of “spirit” is not necessary. Men might imagine such an entity before they had ever dreamed of a ghost.

Having been initiated into the secrets of one set of tribes, Mr. Howitt was enabled to procure admission to those of another group of “clans,” the Kurnai. For twenty-five years the Jeraeil, or mystery, had been in abeyance, for they are much in contact with Europeans. The old men, however, declared that they exactly reproduced (with one confessed addition) the ancestral ceremonies. They were glad to do it, for their lads “now paid no attention either to the words of the old men, or to those of the missionaries”.42

This is just what usually occurs. When we meet a savage tribe we destroy the old bases of its morality and substitute nothing new of our own. “They pay no attention to the words of the missionaries,” but loaf, drink and gamble like station hands “knocking down a cheque “.

Consequently a rite unknown before the arrival of Europeans is now introduced at the Jeraeil. Swift would have been delighted by this ceremony. “It was thought that the boys, having lived so much among the whites, had become selfish and no longer willing to share that which they obtained by their own exertions, or had given to them, with their friends.” The boys were, therefore, placed in a row, and the initiator or mystagogue stooped over the first boy, and, muttering some words which I could not catch, he kneaded the lad’s stomach with his hands. This he did to each one successively, and by it the Kurnai supposed the “greediness” [greek] “of the youth would be expelled”.43

So far from unselfishness being a doctrine borrowed by the Kurnai from Christians, and introduced into their rites, it is (as we saw in the case of the Arunta of Central Australia) part of the traditional morality —“the good old ancestral virtues,” says Mr. Howitt — of the tribes. A special ceremony is needed before unselfishness can be inspired among blacks who have lived much among adherents of the Gospel.

Thus “one satiric touch” seems to demonstrate that the native ethics are not of missionary origin.

After overcoming the scruples of the old men by proving that he really was initiated in the Kuringal, Mr. Howitt was admitted to the central rite of the Kurnai “showing the Grandfather”. The essence of it is that the mystae have their heads shrouded in blankets. These are snatched off, the initiator points solemnly to the sky with his throwing stick (which propels the spears) and then points to the Tundun, or bull-roarer. This object [greek] was also used in the Mysteries of ancient Greece, and is still familiar in the rites of savages in all quarters of the world.

“The ancestral beliefs” are then solemnly revealed. It seems desirable to quote freely the “condensed” version of Mr. Howitt. “Long ago there was a great Being called Mungan-ngaur.” Here a note adds that Mungan means “Father,” and “ngaur” means “Our”.

“He has no other name among the Kurnai. In other tribes the Great Supreme Being, besides being called ‘father,’ has a name, for example Bunjil, Baiame, Daramulun.” “This Being lived on the earth, and taught the Kurnai . . . all the arts they know. He also gave them the names they bear. Mungan-gnaur had a son” (the Sonship doctrine already noticed by Mr. Manning) “named Tundun (the bull-roarer), who was married, and who is the direct ancestor — the Weintwin or father’s father — of the Kurnai. Mungan-ngaur instituted the Jeraeil (mysteries) which was conducted by Tundun, who made the instruments” (a large and a small bull-roarer, as also in Queensland) “which bear the name of himself and his wife.

“Some tribal traitor impiously revealed the secrets of the Jeraeil to women, and thereby brought down the anger of Mungan upon the Kurnai. He sent fire which filled the wide space between earth and sky. Men went mad, and speared one another, fathers killing their children, husbands their wives, and brethren each other.” This corroborates Black Andy. “Then the sea rushed over the land, and nearly all mankind were drowned. Those who survived became the ancestors of the Kurnai. . . . Tundun and his wife became porpoises” (as Apollo in the Homeric hymn became a dolphin), “Mungan left the earth, and ascended to the sky, where he still remains.”44

Here the Son is credited with none of the mediatorial attributes in Mr. Manning’s version, but universal massacre, as a consequence of revealing the esoteric doctrine, is common to both accounts.

Morals are later inculcated.

1. “To listen to and obey the old men.

2. “To share everything they have with their friends.

3. “To live peaceably with their friends.

4. “Not to interfere with girls or married women.

5. “To obey the food restrictions until they are released from them by the old men.” [As at Eleusis.]

These doctrines, and the whole belief in Mungan-ngaur, “the Kurnai carefully concealed from me,” says Mr. Howitt, “until I learned them at the Jeraeil”.45 Mr. Howitt now admits, in so many words, that Mungan-ngaur “is rather the beneficent father, and the kindly though severe headman of the whole tribe. . . . than the malevolent wizard”. . . . He considers it “perhaps indicative of great antiquity, that this identical belief forms part of the central mysteries of a tribe so isolated as the Kurnai, as well as of those of the tribes which had free communication one with another”.

As the morals sanctioned by Mungan-ngaur are simply the extant tribal morals (of which unselfishness is a part, as in Central Australia), there seems no reason to attribute them to missionaries — who are quite unheeded. This part of the evidence may close with a statement of Mr. Howitt’s: “Beyond the vaulted sky lies the mysterious home of that great and powerful Being who is Bunjil, Baiame, or Dara-mulun in different tribal languages, but who in all is known by a name, the equivalent of the only one used by the Kurnai, which is Mungan-ngaur, Our Father”.46

Other affirmative evidence might be adduced. Mr. Ridley, who wrote primers in the Kamilaroi language as early as in 1856 (using Baiame for God), says: “In every part of Australia where I have conversed with the aborigines, they have a traditional belief in one Supreme Creator,” and he wonders, as he well may, at the statement to the contrary in the Encyclopedia Britannica, which rests solely on the authority, of Dr. Lang, in Queensland. Of names for the Supreme Being, Mr. Ridley gives Baiame, Anamba; in Queensland, Mumbal (Thunder) and, at Twofold Bay, “Dhu-rumbulum, which signifies, in the Namoi, a sacred staff, originally given by Baiame, and is used as the title of Deity”.47

By “staff” Mr. Ridley appears to indicate the Tundun, or bull-roarer. This I venture to infer from Mr. Matthews’ account of the Wiradthuri (New South Wales) with whom Dhuramoolan is an extinct bugbear, not answering to Tundun among the Kurnai, who is subordinate, as son, to Mungan-ngaur, and is associated with the mystic bull-roarer, as is Gayandi, the voice of the Messenger of Baiame, among Mrs. Langloh Parker’s informants.48 In one tribe, Dara-mulun used to carry off and eat the initiated boys, till he was stopped and destroyed by Baiame. This myth can hardly exist, one may suppose, among such tribes as consider Daramulun to preside over the mysteries.

Living in contact with the Baiame-worshipping Kamilaroi, the Wiradthuri appear to make a jest of the power of Daramulun, who (we have learned) is said to have died, while his “spirit” dwells on high.49 Mr. Green way also finds Turramulan to be subordinate to Baiame, who “sees all, and knows all, if not directly, through Turramulan, who presides at the Bora. . . . Turramulan is mediator in all the operations of Baiame upon man, and in all man’s transactions with Baiame. Turramulan means “leg on one side only,” “one-legged”. Here the mediatorial aspect corroborates Mr. Manning’s information.50 I would suggest, periculo meo, that there may have been some syncretism, a Baiame-worshipping tribe adopting Daramulun as a subordinate and mediator; or Baiame may have ousted Daramulun, as Zeus did Cronos.

Mr. Ridley goes on to observe that about eighteen years ago (that is, in 1854) he asked intelligent blacks “if they knew Baiame”. The answer was: “Kamil zaia zummi Baiame, zaia winuzgulda,” “I have not seen Baiame, I have heard or perceived him”. The same identical answer was given in 1872 “by a man to whom I had never before spoken”. “If asked who made the sky, the earth, the animals and man, they always answer ‘Baiame’.” Varieties of opinion as to a future life exist. All go to Baiame, or only the good (the bad dying eternally), or they change into birds!51

Turning to North-west Central Queensland we find Dr. Roth (who knows the language and is partly initiated) giving Mul-ka-ri as “a benevolent, omnipresent, supernatural being. Anything incomprehensible.” He offers a sentence: “Mulkari tikkara ena” = “Lord (who dwellest) among the sky”. Again: “Mulkari is the supernatural power who makes everything which the blacks cannot otherwise account for; he is a good, beneficent person, and never kills any one”. He initiates medicine men. His home is in the skies. He once lived on earth, and there was a culture-hero, inventing magic and spells. That Mulkari is an ancestral ghost as well as a beneficent Maker I deem unlikely, as no honours are paid to the dead. “Not in any way to refer to the dead appears to be an universal rule among all these tribes.”52 Mulkari has a malignant opposite or counterpart.

Nothing is said by Dr. Roth as to inculcation of these doctrines at the Mysteries, nor do Messrs. Spencer and Gillen allude to any such being in their accounts of Central Australian rites, if we except the “self-existing” “out of nothing” Ungambikula, sky-dwellers.

One rite “is supposed to make the men who pass through it more kindly,” we are not told why.53 We have also an allusion to “the great spirit Twangirika,” whose voice (the women are told) is heard in the noise of the bull-roarer.54

“The belief is fundamentally the same as that found in all Australian tribes,” write the authors, in a note citing Tundun and Daramulun. But they do not tell us whether the Arunta belief includes the sanction, by Twangirika, of morality. If it does not, have the Central Australians never developed the idea, or have they lost it? They have had quite as much experience of white men (or rather much more) than the believers in Baiame or Bunjil, “before the white men came to Melbourne,” and, if one set of tribes borrowed ideas from whites, why did not the other?

The evidence here collected is not exhaustive. We might refer to Pirnmeheal, a good being, whom the blacks loved before they were taught by missionaries to fear him.55

Mr. Dawson took all conceivable pains to get authentic information, and to ascertain whether the belief in Pirnmeheal was pre-European. He thinks it was original. The idea of “god-borrowing” is repudiated by Manning, Gunther, Ridley, Green-way, Palmer, Mrs. Langloh Parker and others, speaking for trained observers and (in several cases) for linguists, studying the natives on the spot, since 1845. It is thought highly improbable by Mr. Hale (1840). It is rejected by Waitz-Gerland, speaking for studious science in Europe. Mr. Howitt, beginning with distrust, seems now to regard the beliefs described as of native origin. On the other hand we have Mr. Mann, who has been cited, and the great authority of Mr. E. B. Tylor, who, however, has still to reply to the arguments in favour of the native origin of the beliefs which I have ventured to offer. Such arguments are the occurrence of Baiame before the arrival of missionaries; the secrecy, as regards Europeans, about ideas derived (Mr. Tylor thinks) from Europeans; the ignorance of the women on these heads; the notorious conservatism of the “doctors” who promulgate the creed as to ritual and dogma, and the other considerations which have been fully stated. In the meanwhile I venture to think, subject to correction, that, while Black Andy may have exaggerated, or Mr. Manning may have coloured his evidence by Christian terminology, and while mythical accretions on a religious belief are numerous, yet the lowest known human race has attained a religious conception very far above what savages are usually credited with, and has not done so by way of the “ghost-theory” of the anthropologists. In this creed sacrifice and ghost-worship are absent.56

It has seemed worth while to devote space and attention to the Australian beliefs, because the vast continent contains the most archaic and backward of existing races. We may not yet have a sufficient collection of facts microscopically criticised, but the evidence here presented seems deserving of attention. About the still more archaic but extinct Tasmanians and their religion, evidence is too scanty, too casual, and too conflicting for our purpose.57

1 Early Voyages to Australia, pp. 102-111. Hakluyt Society.

2 Spencer and Gillen, Natives of Central Australia, p. 48.

3 Howitt, Journal Anthrop. Inst., 1885, p. 310.

4 Grey’s Journals of Expeditions of Discovery in North- West and Western Australia, in the years 1837-39, vol i., pp. 200-263. Sir George regarded the pictures as perhaps very ancient. The natives “chaffed” him when he asked for traditions on the subject.

5 Lubbock, Origin of Civilisation, p. 158,1870. In 1889, for “a deity” “a true Deity”.

6 Cf. J. A. I., 1872, 257-271.

7 Waitz-Gerland, Anthropologic, vi. 794 et seq.

8 Oldfield, Translations of Ethnol. Soc., iii. 208. On this evidence I lay no stress.

9 Eyre, Journals, ii. pp. 355-358.

10 Roskoff, Das Religionstoesen der Rohesten Naturvolher, pp. 37-41.

11 Ethnology and Philology, p. 110. 1846.

12 Tylor, The Limits of Savage Religion, J. A. I., vol. xxi. 1892.

13 Roth, Natives of N.-W. Central Queensland, p. 117.

14 Ridley, speaking of 1855. Lang’s Queensland, p. 435.

15 Mrs. Langloh Parker, More Australian Legendary Tales. 1898. Glossary.

16 Op. cit., p. 110.

17 Howitt,.7. A. I., xiii. 193.

18 Mr. Mann told a story of native magic, viewed by himself, which might rouse scepticism among persons not familiar with what these conjurers can do.

19 J. A. I., xvi. p. 49, 60.

20 More Legendary Tales, p. 86.

21 J. A., xiii. p. 192, 193,

22 Op. cit., p. 290.

23 More Australian Tales, p. 96.

24 Howitt, J. A. /., 1885, p. 313.

25 J. A. I., Nov., 1894, p. 191.

26 William Strachey, Hakluyt Society, chapter vii., date, 1612.

27 Ellis, Religion of the Tshi-speaking Races.

28 Macdonald, Africana, vol. i. p. 67.

29J. A. I., xii. p. 158.

30 J. A. I., xii. pp. 156, 157.

31 Ibid.y xvi., pp. 330, 331. On Bunjil.

32 In Folk-Lore, December, 1898, will be found an essay, Mr. Hartland, on my account of Australian gods. Instancing many wild or comic myths (some of them unknown to me when I wrote ‘The Making of Religion’), Mr. Hartland seems to argue that these destroy the sacredness of other coexisting native beliefs of a higher kind. But, on this theory, what religion is sacred? All have contradictory myths. See Introduction.

33 J. A. I.f xiii, 1884, pp. 192, 193.

34 J. A. I., 1884, p. 446.

35 Op. cit., p. 453.

36 J. A. I., 1884, p. 459.

37 J. A. 1., xiii. 444.

38 Ibid., xlii 296.

39 Spencer and Gillen, and Roth.

40 Dawson, Aborigines of Australia.

41 J. A. I., 1884, p. 458.

42J. A. I.,1885, p. 304.

43 Op. cit., pp. 310, 311.

44 Op. cit., pp. 313, 314.

45 Op. cit. 321, note 3

46 J. A. I., xvi. 64.

47 J. A. I., ii. (1872), 268, 270.

48 Ibid., xxv. 298.

49 J. A. I., xii. 194.

50 Ibid., vii. 242.

51 Ibid., ii. 269.

52 Roth, pp. 14, 36, 116, 153,158, 165.

53 Spencer and Gillen, p. 369.

54 Ibid., p. 246.

55 Dawson, The Australian Aborigines.

56 These Australian gods are confusing. 1. Daramulun is supreme among the Coast Murring. J. A. I., ziv. 432-459. 2. Baiame is supreme, Daramulun is an extinct bugbear, among the Wiradthuri. J. A. I., xxv. 298. 3. Baiame is supreme, Daramulun is “mediator,” among the Kamilaroi. J. A. I., vii. 242.

57 See Ling Roth’s Tasmanians.

Chapter 13.

Gods of the Lowest Races.

Bushmen gods — Cagn, the grasshopper? — Hottentot gods —“Wounded knee,” a dead sorcerer — Melanesian gods — Qat and the spider — Aht and Maori beasts-gods and men-gods — Samoan form of animal-gods — One god incarnate in many animal shapes — One for each clan — They punish the eating of certain animals.

Passing from Australia to Africa, we find few races less advanced than the Bushmen (Sa-n, “settlers,” in Nama). Whatever view may be taken of the past history of the Bushmen of South Africa, it is certain that at present they are a race on a very low level of development. “Even the Hottentots,” according to Dr. Bleek, “exceed the Bushmen in civilisation and political organisation”.1

Before investigating the religious myths of the Bushmen, it must be repeated that, as usual, their religion is on a far higher level than their mythology. The conception of invisible or extra-natural powers, which they entertain and express in moments of earnest need, is all unlike the tales which they tell about their own.

Our main authorities at present for Bushman myths are contained in A Brief Account of Bushman Folk-lore, Bleek, London, 1875; and in A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen, by Mr. Orpen, Chief Magistrate, St. John’s Territory, Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874. Some information may also be gleaned from the South African Folk-lore Journal, 1879-80, gods, if gods such mythical beings may be called. Thus Livingstone says: “On questioning intelligent men among the Bakwains as to their former knowledge of good and evil, of God and the future state, they have scouted the idea of any of them ever having been without a tolerably clear conception on all these subjects”.2 Their ideas of sin were the same as Livingstone’s, except about polygamy, and apparently murder. Probably there were other trifling discrepancies. But “they spoke in the same way of the direct influence exercised by God in giving rain in answer to the prayers of the rain-makers, and in granting deliverance in times of danger, as they do now, before they ever heard of white men “. This was to be expected. In short, the religion of savages, in its childlike and hopeful dependence on an invisible friend or friends, in its hope of moving him (or them) by prayer, in its belief that he (or they) “make for righteousness,” is absolutely human. On the other side, as in the myths of Greece or India, stand the absurd and profane anecdotes of the gods.

We now turn to a Bushman’s account of the religious myths of his tribe. Shortly after the affair of Langa-libalele, Mr. Orpen had occasion to examine an unknown part of the Maluti range, the highest mountains in South Africa. He engaged a scout named Qing, son of a chief of an almost exterminated clan of hill Bushmen. He was now huntsman to King Nqusha, Morosi’s son, on the Orange River, and had never seen a white man, except fighting. Thus Qing’s evidence could not be much affected by European communications. Mr. Orpen secured the services of Qing, who was a young man and a mighty hunter. By inviting him to explain the wall-pictures in caves, Mr. Orpen led him on to give an account of Cagn, the chief mythical being in Bushman religion. “Cagn made all things, and we pray to him,” said Qing. “At first he was very good and nice, but he got spoilt through fighting so many things.” “The prayer uttered by Qing, ‘in a low imploring voice,’ ran thus: ‘O Cagn, O Cagn, are we not your children? Do you not see our hunger? Give us food.’” Where Cagn is Qing did not know, “but the elands know. Have you not hunted and heard his cry when the elands suddenly run to his call?”3 Now comes in myth. Cagn has a wife called Coti. “How came he into the world? Perhaps with those who brought the sun; . . . only the initiated men of that dance know these things.”4

Cagn had two sons, Cogaz and Gcwi. He and they were “great chiefs,” but used stone-pointed digging sticks to grub up edible roots! Cagn’s wife brought forth a fawn, and, like Cronus when Rhea presented him with a foal, Cagn was put to it to know the nature and future fortunes of this child of his. To penetrate the future he employed the ordinary native charms and sorcery. The remainder of the myth accounts for the origin of elands and for their inconvenient wildness. A daughter of Cagn’s married “snakes who were also men,” the eternal confusion of savage thought. These snakes became the people of Cagn. Cagn had a tooth which was “great medicine”; his force resided in it, and he lent it to people whom he favoured. The birds (as in Odin’s case) were his messengers, and brought him news of all that happened at a distance.5

He could turn his sandals and clubs into dogs, and set them at his enemies. The baboons were once men, but they offended Cagn, and sang a song with the burden, “Cagn thinks he is clever”; so he drove them into desolate places, and they are accursed till this day. His strong point was his collection of charms, which, like other Bushmen and Hottentots, he kept “in his belt”. He could, and did, assume animal shapes; for example, that of a bull-eland. The thorns were once people, and killed Cagn, and the ants ate him, but his bones were collected and he was revived. It was formerly said that when men died they went to Cagn, but it has been denied by later Bushmen sceptics.

Such is Qing’s account of Cagn, and Cagn in myth is plainly but a successful and idealised medicine-man whose charms actually work. Dr. Bleek identifies his name with that of the mantis insect. This insect is the chief mythological personage of the Bushmen of the western province. Kággen his name is written. Dr. Bleek knew of no prayer to the mantis, but was acquainted with addresses to the sun, moon and stars. If Dr. Bleek’s identification is correct, the Cagn of Qing is at once human and a sort of grasshopper, just as Pund-jel was half human, half eagle-hawk.

“The most prominent of the mythological figures,” says Dr. Bleek, speaking of the Bushmen, “is the mantis.” His proper name is Kaggen, but if we call him Cagn, the interests of science will not seriously suffer. His wife is the “Dasse Hyrax”. Their adopted daughter is the porcupine, daughter of Khwdi hemm, the All-devourer. Like Cronus, and many other mythological persons, the All-devourer has the knack of swallowing all and sundry, and disgorging them alive. Dr. Bleek offers us but a wandering and disjointed account of the mantis or Cagn, who is frequently defeated by other animals, such as the suricat. Cagn has one point at least in common with Zeus. As Zeus was swallowed and disgorged by Cronus, so was Cagn by Khwái hemm. As Indra once entered into the body of a cow, so did Cagn enter into the body of an elephant. Dr. Bleek did not find that the mantis was prayed to, as Cagn was by Qing. The moon (like sun and stars) is, however, prayed to, and “the moon belongs to the mantis,” who, indeed, made it out of his old shoe! The chameleon is prayed to for rain on occasion, and successfully.

The peculiarity of Bushman mythology is the almost absolute predominance of animals. Except “an old woman,” who appears now and then in these incoherent legends, their myths have scarcely one human figure to show. Now, whether the Bushmen be deeply degenerate from a past civilisation or not, it is certain that their myths are based on their actual condition of thought, unless we prefer to say that their intellectual condition is derived from their myths. We have already derived the constant presence and personal action of animals in myth from that savage condition of the mind in which “all things, animate or inanimate, human, animal, vegetable or inorganic, seem on the same level of life, passion and reason” (chap. iii.). Now, there can be no doubt that, whether the Bushman mind has descended to this stage or not, in this stage it actually dwells at present. As examples we may select the following from Dr. Bleek’s Bushman Folk-lore. Díalkwáin told how the death of his own wife was “foretold by the springbok and the gems-bok”. Again, for examples of living belief in community of nature with animals, Dialkwain mentioned an old woman, a relation, and friend of his own, who had the power “of turning herself into a lioness”. Another Bushman, Kabbo, retaining, doubtless, his wide-awake mental condition in his sleep, “dreamed of lions which talked”. Another informant explained that lions talk like men “by putting their tails in their mouth”.

This would have pleased Sydney Smith, who thought that “if lions would meet and growl out their observations to each other,” they might sensibly improve in culture. Again, “all things that belong to the mantis can talk,” and most things do belong to that famous being. In “News from Zululand,”6 in a myth of the battle of Isandlwana, a blue-buck turns into a young man and attacks the British.

These and other examples demonstrate that the belief in the personal and human character and attributes of animals still prevails in South Africa. From that living belief we derive the personal and human character and attributes of animals, which, remarkable in all mythologies, is perhaps specially prominent in the myths of the Bushmen.

Though Bushman myth is only known to us in its outlines, and is apparently gifted with even more than the due quantity of incoherence, it is perhaps plain that animals are the chief figures in this African lore, and that these Bushmen gods, if ever further developed, will retain many traces of their animal ancestry.

From the Bushmen we may turn to their near neighbours, the Hottentots or Khoi-Khoi. Their religious myths have been closely examined in Dr. Hahn’s Tsuni Goam, the Supreme Being of the Khoi-Khoi. Though Dr. Hahn’s conclusions as to the origin of Hottentot myth differ entirely from our own, his collection and critical study of materials, of oral traditions, and of the records left by old travellers are invaluable. The early European settlers at the Cape found the Khoi-Khoi, that is, “The Men,” a yellowish race of people, who possessed large herds of cattle, sheep and goats.7 The Khoi-Khoi, as nomad cattle and sheep farmers, are on a much higher level of culture than the Bushmen, who are hunters.8

The languages of the two peoples leave “no more doubt as to their primitive relationship” (p. 7). The wealth of the Khoi-Khoi was considerable and unequally distributed, a respectable proof of nascent civilisation. The rich man was called gou, aob, that is “fat”. In the same way the early Greeks called the wealthy “[greek]”.9 As the rich man could afford many wives (which gives him a kind of “commendation” over men to whom he allots his daughters), he “gradually rose to the station of a chief”.10 In domestic relations, Khoi-Khoi society is “matriarchal” (pp. 19-21 ).11

All the sons are called after the mother, the daughters after the father. Among the arts, pottery and mat-making, metallurgy and tool-making are of ancient date. A past stone age is indicated by the use of quartz knives in sacrifice and circumcision. In Khoi-Khoi society seers and prophets were “the greatest and most respected old men of the clan” (p. 24). The Khoi-Khoi of to-day have adopted a number of Indo-European beliefs and customs, and “the Christian ideas introduced by missionaries have amalgamated . . . with the national religious ideas and mythologies,” for which reasons Dr, Hahn omits many legends which, though possibly genuine, might seem imported (pp. 30, 31).

A brief historical abstract of what was known to old travellers of Khoi-Khoi religion must now be compiled from the work of Dr. Hahn.

In 1655 Corporal Müller found adoration paid to great stones on the side of the paths. The worshippers pointed upwards and said Hette hie, probably “Heitsi Eibib,” the name of a Khoi-Khoi extra-natural being. It appears (p. 37) that Heitsi Eibib “has changed names” in parts of South Africa, and what was his worship is now offered “to |Garubeb, or Tsui |Goab”. In 1671 Dapper found that the Khoi-Khoi “believe there is one who sends rain on earth; . . . they also believe that they themselves can make rain and prevent the wind from blowing”. Worship of the moon and of “erected stones” is also noticed. In 1691 Nicolas Witsen heard that the Khoi-Khoi adored a god which Dr. Hahn (p. 91) supposes to have been “a peculiar-shaped stone-fetish,” such as the Basutos worship and spit at. Witsen found that the “god” was daubed with red earth, like the Dionysi in Greece. About 1705 Valentyn gathered that the people believed in “a great chief who dwells on high,” and a devil; “but in carefully examining this, it is nothing else but their somsomas and spectres“ (p. 38). We need not accept that opinion. The worship of a “great chief” is mentioned again in 1868. In 1719 Peter Kolb, the German Magister, published his account of the Hottentots, which has been done into English.12 Kolb gives Gounja Gounja, or Gounja Ticqvoa, as the divine name; “they say he is a good man, who does nobody any hurt, . . . and that he dwells far above the moon “.13 This corresponds to the Australian Pirnmeheal. Kolb also noted propitiation of an evil power. He observed that the Khoi-Khoi worship the mantis insect, which, as we have seen, is the chief mythical character among the Bushmen.14

Dr. Hahn remarks, “Strangely enough the Namaquas also call it |Gaunab, as they call the enemy of Tsui |Goab”.15 In Kolb’s time, as now, the rites of the Khoi (except, apparently, their worship at dawn) were performed beside cairns of stones. If we may credit Kolb, the Khoi-Khoi are not only most fanatical adorers of the mantis, but “pay a religious veneration to their saints and men of renown departed”. Thunberg (1792) noticed cairn-worship and heard of mantis-worship. In 1803 Lichtenstein saw cairn-worship. With the beginning of the present century we find in Apple-yard, Ebner and others Khoi-Khoi names for a god, which are translated “Sore-Knee” or “Wounded-Knee “.

This title is explained as originally the name of a “doctor or sorcerer” of repute, “invoked even after death,” and finally converted into a deity. His enemy is Gaunab, an evil being, and he is worshipped at the cairns, below which he is believed to be buried.16 About 1842 Knudsen considered that the Khoi-Khoi believed in a dead medicine-man, Heitsi Eibib, who could make rivers roll back their waves, and then walk over safely, as in the märchen of most peoples. He was also, like Odin, a “shape-shifter,” and he died several times and came to life again.17

Thus the numerous graves of Heitsi Eibib are explained by his numerous deaths. In Egypt the numerous graves of Osiris were explained by the story that he was mutilated, and each limb buried in a different place. Probably both the Hottentot and the Egyptian legend were invented to account for the many worshipped cairns attributed to the same corpse.

We now reach the myths of Heitsi Eibib and Tsui |Goab collected by Dr. Hahn himself. According to the evidence of Dr. Hahn’s own eyes, the working religion of the Khoi-Khoi is “a firm belief in sorcery and the arts of living medicine-men on the one hand, and, on the other, belief in and adoration of the powers of the dead” (pp. 81, 82, 112, 113). Our author tells us that he met in the wilds a woman of the “fat” or wealthy class going to pray at the grave and to the manes of her own father. “We Khoi-Khoi always, if we are in trouble, go and pray at the graves of our grandparents and ancestors.” They also sing rude epic verses, accompanied by the dance in honour of men distinguished in the late Namaqua and Damara war. Now it is alleged by Dr. Hahn that prayers are offered at the graves of Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab, as at those of ancestors lately dead, and Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab within living memory were honoured by song and dance, exactly like the braves of the Damara war.

The obvious and natural inference is that Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab were and are regarded by their worshippers as departed but still helpful ancestral warriors or medicine-men. We need not hold that they ever were actual living men; they may be merely idealised figures of Khoi-Khoi wisdom and valour. Here, as elsewhere, Animism, ghost-worship, is potent, and, in proportion, theism declines.

Here Dr. Hahn offers a different explanation, founded on etymological conjecture and a philosophy of religion. According to him, the name of Tsui Goab originally meant, not wounded knee, but red dawn. The dawn was worshipped as a symbol or suggestion of the infinite, and only by forgetfulness and false interpretation of the original word did the Khoi-Khoi fall from a kind of pure theosophy to adoration of a presumed dead medicine-man. As Dr. Hahn’s ingenious hypothesis has been already examined by us,18 it is unnecessary again to discuss the philological basis of his argument.

Dr. Hahn not only heard simple and affecting prayers addressed to Tsui Goab, but learned from native informants that the god had been a chief, a warrior, wounded in his knee in battle with Gaunab, another chief, and that he had prophetic powers. He still watches the ways of men (p. 62) and punishes guilt. Universal testimony was given to the effect that Heitsi Eibib also had been a chief from the East, a prophet and a warrior. He apportioned, by blessings and curses, their present habits to many of the animals. Like Odin, he was a “shape-shifter,” possessing the medicine-man’s invariable power of taking all manner of forms. He was on one occasion born of a cow, which reminds us of a myth of Indra. By another account he was born of a virgin who tasted a certain kind of grass. This legend is of wonderfully wide diffusion among savage and semi-civilised races.19

The tales about Tsui Goab and Heitsi Eibib are chiefly narratives of combats with animals and with the evil power in a nascent dualism, Gaunab, “at first a ghost,” according to Hahn (p. 85), or “certainly nobody else but the Night” (pp. 125, 126). Here there is some inconsistency. If we regard the good power, Tsui Goab, as the Red Dawn, we are bound to think the evil power, Gaunab, a name for the Night. But Dr. Hahn’s other hypothesis, that the evil power was originally a malevolent ghost, seems no less plausible. In either case, we have here an example of the constant mythical dualism which gives the comparatively good being his perpetual antagonist — the Loki to his Odin, the crow to his eagle-hawk. In brief, Hottentot myth is pretty plainly a reflection of Hottentot general ideas about ancestor worship, ghosts, sorcerers and magicians, while, in their religious aspect, Heitsi Eibib or Tsui Goab are guardians of life and of morality, fathers and friends.

A description of barbarous beliefs not less scholarly and careful than that compiled by Dr. Hahn has been published by the Rev. R. H. Codrington.20 Mr. Codrington has studied the myths of the Papuans and other natives of the Melanesian group, especially in the Solomon Islands and Banks Island. These peoples are by no means in the lowest grade of culture; they are traders in their way, builders of canoes and houses, and their society is interpenetrated by a kind of mystic hierarchy, a religious Camorra. The Banks Islanders21 recognise two sorts of intelligent extra-natural beings — the spirits of the dead and powers which have never been human.

The former are Tamate, the latter Vui— ghosts and genii, we might call them. Vuis are classed by Mr. Codrington as “corporeal” and “incorporeal,” but he thinks the corporeal Vuis have not human bodies. Among corporeal Vuis the chief are the beings nearest to gods in Melanesian myths — the half god, half “culture-hero,” I Qat, his eleven brothers, and his familiar and assistant, Marawa. These were members of a race anterior to that of the men of to-day, and they dwelt in Vanua Levu. Though now passed away from the eyes of mortals, they are still invoked in prayer. The following appeal by a voyaging Banks Islander resembles the cry of the shipwrecked Odysseus to the friendly river:—

“Qat! Marawa! look down upon us; smooth the sea for us two, that I may go safely on the sea. Beat down for me the crests of the tide-rip; let the tide-rip settle down away from me; beat it down level that it may sink and roll away, and I may come to a quiet landing-place.”

Compare the prayer of Odysseus:—

“‘Hear me, O king, whosoever thou art; unto thee am I come as to one to whom prayer is made, while I flee the rebukes of Poseidon from the deep. . . . ’ So spake he, and the god straightway stayed his stream and withheld his waves, and made the water smooth before him, and brought him safely to the mouth of the river.”

But for Qat’s supernatural power and creative exploits,22 “there would be little indeed to show him other than a man”. He answers almost precisely to Maui, the “the culture-hero” of New Zealand. Qat’s mother either was, or, like Niobe, became a stone.

He was the eldest (unlike Maui) of twelve brothers, among whom were Tongaro the Wise and Tongaro the Fool. The brothers were killed by an evil gluttonous power like Kwai Hemm and put in a food chest. Qat killed the foe and revived his brothers, as the sons of Cronus came forth alive from their father’s maw. His great foe — for of course he had a foe — was Qasavara, whom he destroyed by dashing him against the solid firmament of sky. Qasavara is now a stone (like the serpent displayed by Zeus at Aulis23), on which sacrifices are made. Qat’s chief friend is Marawa, a spider, or a Vui in the shape of a spider. The divine mythology of the Melanesians, as far as it has been recovered, is meagre. We only see members of a previous race, “magnified non-natural men,” with a friendly insect working miracles and achieving rather incoherent adventures.

Much on the same footing of civilisation as the Melanesians were the natives of Tonga in the first decade of this century. The Tongan religious beliefs were nearly akin to the ideas of the Samoans and of the Solomon Islanders. In place of Vuis they spoke of Hotooas (Atuas), and like the Vuis, those spiritual beings have either been purely spiritual from the beginning or have been incarnate in humanity and are now ghosts, but ghosts enjoying many of the privileges of gods. All men, however, have not souls capable of a separate existence, only the Egi or nobles, possess a spiritual part, which goes to Bolotoo, the land of gods and ghosts, after death, and enjoys “power similar to that of the original gods, but less”.

It is open to philosophers of Mr. Herbert Spencer’s school to argue that the “original gods” were once ghosts like the others, but this was not the opinion of the Tongans. They have a supreme Creator, who alone receives no sacrifice.24 Both sorts of gods appear occasionally to mankind — the primitive deities particularly affect the forms of “lizards, porpoises and a species of water-snake, hence those animals are much respected”.25

Whether each stock of Tongans had its own animal incarnation of its special god does not appear from Mariner’s narrative. The gods took human morality under their special protection, punishing the evil and rewarding the good, in this life only, not in the land of the dead. When the comfortable doctrine of eternal punishment was expounded to the Tongans by Mariner, the poor heathen merely remarked that it “was very bad indeed for the Papalangies” or foreigners. Their untutored minds, in their pagan darkness, had dreamed of no such thing. The Tongans themselves are descended from some gods who set forth on a voyage of discovery out of Bolotoo. Landing on Tonga, these adventurers were much pleased with the island, and determined to stay there; but in a few days certain of them died. They had left the deathless coasts for a world where death is native, and, as they had eaten of the food of the new realm, they would never escape the condition of mortality. This has been remarked as a widespread belief. Persephone became enthralled to Hades after tasting the mystic pomegranate of the underworld.

In Samoa Siati may not eat of the god’s meat, nor Wainamoinen in Pohjola, nor Thomas the Rhymer in Fairyland. The exploring gods from Bolotoo were in the same way condemned to become mortal and people the world with mortal beings, and all about them should be méa máma, subject to decay and death.26 It is remarkable, if correctly reported, that the secondary gods, or ghosts of nobles, cannot reappear as lizards, porpoises and water-snakes; this is the privilege of the original gods only, and may be an assumption by them of a conceivably totemistic aspect. The nearest approach to the idea of a permanent supreme deity is contained in the name of Táli y Toobo —“wait there, Toobo”— a name which conveys the notion perhaps of permanence or eternity. “He is a great chief from the top of the sky to the bottom of the earth.”27

He is invoked both in war and peace, not locally, but “for the general good of the natives”. He is the patron, not of any special stock or family, but of the house in which the royal power is lodged for the time. Alone of gods he is unpropitiated by food or libation, indicating that he is not evolved out of a hungry ghost. Another god, Toobo Toty or Toobo the Mariner, may be a kind of Poseidon. He preserves canoes from perils at sea. On the death of the daughter of Finow, the king in Mariner’s time, that monarch was so indignant that he threatened to kill the priest of Toobo Toty. As the god is believed to inspire the priest, this was certainly a feasible way of getting at the god. But Toobo Toty was beforehand with Finow, who died himself before he could carry the war into Bolotoo.28 This Finow was a sceptic; he allowed that there were gods, because he himself had occasionally been inspired by them; “but what the priests tell us about their power over mankind I believe to be all false”. Thus early did the conflict of Church and State declare itself in Tonga. Human sacrifices were a result of priestcraft in Tonga, as in Greece. Even the man set to kill a child of Toobo Toa’s was moved by pity, and exclaimed O iaooe chi vale! (“poor little innocent!”) The priest demanded this sacrifice to allay the wrath of the gods for the slaying of a man in consecrated ground.29 Such are the religious ideas of Tonga; of their mythology but little has reached us, and that is under suspicion of being coloured by acquaintance with the stories of missionaries.

The Maoris, when first discovered by Europeans, were in a comparatively advanced stage of barbarism. Their society had definite ranks, from that of the Rangatira, the chief with a long pedigree, to the slave. Their religious hymns, of great antiquity, have been collected and translated by Grey, Taylor, Bastian and others. The mere possession of such hymns, accurately preserved for an unknown number of years by oral tradition, proves that the mythical notions of the Maoris have passed through the minds of professed bards and early physical speculators. The verses, as Bastian has observed (Die Heilige Sage der Polynesier), display a close parallel to the roughest part of the early Greek cosmogonies, as expounded by Hesiod. Yet in the Maori hymns there are metaphysical ideas and processes which remind one more of Heraclitus than of Hesiod, and perhaps more of Hegel than of either. Whether we are to regard the abstract conceptions or the rude personal myths of gods such as A, the Beyond All, as representing the earlier development of Maori thought, whether one or the other element is borrowed, not original, are questions which theorists of different schools will settle in their own way to their own satisfaction. Some hymns represent the beginning of things from a condition of thought, and Socrates might have said of the Maori poets as he did of Anaxagoras, that compared with other early thinkers, they are “like sober men among drunkards”. Thus one hymn of the origins runs thus:—

From the conception the increase,

From the increase the swelling,

From the swelling the thought,

From the thought the remembrance,

From the remembrance the desire.

The word became fruitful,

It dwelt with the feeble glimmering,

It brought forth Night.

From the nothing the begetting,

It produced the atmosphere which is above us.

The atmosphere above dwelt with the glowing sky,

Forthwith was produced the sun.

Then the moon sprang forth.

They were thrown up above as the chief eyes of heaven,

Then the heavens became light.

The sky which floats above dwelt with Hawaiki,30

And produced (certain islands).

Then follow genealogies of gods, down to the chief in whose family this hymn was traditional.31

Other hymns of the same character, full of such metaphysical and abstract conceptions as “the proceeding from the nothing,” are quoted at great length.

These extracts are obviously speculative rather than in any sense mythological The element of myth just shows itself when we are told that the sky dwelt with the earth and produced certain islands. But myth of a familiar character is very fully represented among the Maoris. Their mythical gods, though “mixed up with the spirits of ancestors,” are great natural powers, first Heaven and Earth, Rangi and Papa, the parents of all. These are conceived as having originally been united in such a close embrace, the Heaven lying on the Earth, that between their frames all was darkness, and in darkness the younger gods, Atua, O-te-po, their children, were obliged to dwell. These children or younger gods (answering to the Cronidæ) were the god of war (Tumatauenga), the forest-god (Tane Mahuta), in shape a tree, the wind-god (Tawhiri Matea), the gods of cultivated and natural fruits, the god of ocean (Tangaroa). These gods were unable to endure the dungeon and the darkness of their condition, so they consulted together and said: “Let us seek means whereby to destroy Heaven and Earth, or to separate them from each other”. The counsel of Tane Mahuta prevailed: “Let one go upwards and become a stranger to us; let the other remain below and be a parent to us”. Finally, Tane Mahuta rent asunder Heaven and Earth, pushing Heaven up where he has ever since remained. The wind-god followed his father, abode with him in the open spaces of the sky, and thence makes war on the trees of the forest-god, his enemy. Tangaroa went, like Poseidon, to the great deep, and his children, the reptiles and fishes, clove part to the waters, part to the dry land. The war-god, Tu, was more of a human being than the other gods, though his “brethren” are plants, fish and reptiles. Still, Tu is not precisely the first man of New Zealand.

Though all these mythical beings are in a sense departmental gods, they yield in renown to a later child of their race, Maui, the great culture-hero, who is an advanced form of the culture-heroes, mainly theriomorphic, of the lower races.32

Maui, like many heroes of myth, was a youngest son. He was prematurely born (a similar story comes in the Brahmanic legend of the Adityas); his mother wrapped him up in her long hair and threw him out to sea. A kinsman rescued him, and he grew up to be much the most important member of his family, like Qat in his larger circle of brethren. Maui it was who snared the sun, beat him,33 and taught him to run his appointed course, instead of careering at will and at any pace he chose about the heavens.

He was the culture-hero who invented barbs for spears and hooks; he turned his brother into the first dog, whence dogs are sacred, he fished New Zealand out of the sea; he stole fire for men. How Maui performed this feat, and how he “brought death into the world and all our woe,” are topics that belong to the myths of Death and of the Fire-Stealer.34 Maui could not only change men into animals, but could himself assume animal shapes at will.

Such is a brief account of the ancient traditions of mythical Maori gods and of the culture-hero. In practice, the conception of Atua (or a kind of extra-natural power or powers) possesses much influence in New Zealand. All manner of spirits in all manner of forms are Atuas. “A great chief was regarded as a malignant god in life, and a still worse one after death.”35 Again, “after Maui came a host of gods, each with his history and wonderful deeds. . . . These were ancestors who became deified by their respective tribes,”36— a statement which must be regarded as theoretical.

It is odd enough, if true, that Maru should be the war-god of the southern island, and that the planet Mars is called after him Maru. “There were also gods in human forms, and others with those of reptiles. . . . At one period there seems to have been a mixed offspring from the same parents. Thus while Tawaki was of the human form, his brethren were taniwa and sharks; there were likewise mixed marriages among them.” These legends are the natural result of that lack of distinction between man and the other things in the world which, as we demonstrated, prevails in early thought. It appears that the great mythical gods of the Maoris have not much concern with their morality. The myths are “but a magnified history of their chiefs, their wars, murders and lusts, with the addition of some supernatural powers”— such as the chiefs are very apt to claim.37 In the opinion of a competent observer, the gods, or Atua, who are feared in daily life, are “spirits of the dead,” and their attention is chiefly confined to the conduct of their living descendants and clansmen. They inspire courage, the leading virtue. When converted, the natives are said not to expel, but merely to subordinate their Atua, “believing Christ to be a more powerful Atua”.38

The Maoris are perhaps the least elevated race in which a well-developed polytheism has obscured almost wholly that belief in a moral Maker which we find among the lowest savages who have but a rudimentary polytheism. When we advance to ancient civilised peoples, like the Greeks, we shall find the archaic Theism obscured, or obliterated, in a similar way.

In the beliefs of Samoa (formerly called the Navigators’ Islands, and discovered by a Dutch expedition in 1722) may be observed a most interesting moment in the development of religion and myth. In many regions it has been shown that animals are worshipped as totems, and that the gods are invested with the shape of animals. In the temples of higher civilisations will be found divine images still retaining in human form certain animal attributes, and a minor worship of various beasts will be shown to have grouped itself in Greece round the altars of Zeus, or Apollo, or Demeter. Now in Samoa we may perhaps trace the actual process of the “transition,” as Mr. Tylor says, “from the spirit inhabiting an individual body to the deity presiding over all individuals of a kind”. In other words, whereas in Australia or America each totem-kindred reveres each animal supposed to be of its own lineage — the “Cranes” revering all cranes, the “Kangaroos” all kangaroos — in Samoa the various clans exhibit the same faith, but combine it with the belief that one spiritual deity reveals itself in each separate animal, as in a kind of avatar. For example, the several Australian totem-kindreds do not conceive that Pund-jel incarnates himself in the emu for one stock, in the crow for another, in the cockatoo for a third, and they do not by these, but by other means, attain a religious unity, transcending the diversity caused by the totemic institutions. In Samoa this kind of spiritual unity is actually reached by various stocks.

The Samoans were originally spoken of by travellers as the “godless Samoans,” an example of a common error. Probably there is no people whose practices and opinions, if duly investigated, do not attest their faith in something of the nature of gods. Certainly the Samoans, far from being “godless,” rather deserve the reproach of being “in all things too superstitious”. “The gods were supposed to appear in some visible incarnation, and the particular thing in which his god was in the habit of appearing was to the Samoanan object of veneration.”39

Here we find that the religious sentiment has already become more or less self-conscious, and has begun to reason on its own practices. In pure totemism it is their kindred animal that men revere. The Samoans explain their worship of animals, not on the ground of kinship and common blood or “one flesh” (as in Australia), but by the comparatively advanced hypothesis that a spiritual power is in the animal. “One, for instance, saw his god in the eel, another in the shark, another in the turtle, another in the dog, another in the owl, another in the lizard,” and so on, even to shell-fish. The creed so far is exactly what Garcilasso de la Vega found among the remote and ruder neighbours of the Incas, and attributed to the pre-Inca populations. “A man,” as in Egypt, and in totemic countries generally, “would eat freely of what was regarded as the incarnation of the god of another man”, but the incarnation of his own god he would consider it death to injure or eat. The god was supposed to avenge the insult by taking up his abode in that person’s body, and causing to generate there the very thing which he had eaten until it produced death. The god used to be heard within the man, saying, “I am killing this man; he ate my incarnation”. This class of tutelary deities they called aitu fale, or “gods of the house,” gods of the stock or kindred. In totemistic countries the totem is respected per se, in Samoa the animal is worshipful because a god abides within him. This appears to be a theory by which the reflective Samoans have explained to themselves what was once pure totemism.

Not only the household, but the village has its animal gods or god incarnate in an animal As some Arab tribes piously bury dead gazelles, as Athenians piously buried wolves, and Egyptians cats, so in Samoa “if a man found a dead owl by the roadside, and if that happened to be the incarnation of his village god, he would sit down and weep over it, and beat his forehead with a stone till the blood came. This was supposed to be pleasing to the deity. Then the bird would be wrapped up and buried with care and ceremony, as if it were a human body. This, however, was not the death of the god.” Like the solemnly sacrificed buzzard in California, like the bull in the Attic Dupolia, “he was supposed to be yet alive and incarnate in all the owls in existence”.40

In addition to these minor and local divinities, the Samoans have gods of sky, earth, disease and other natural departments.41 Of their origin we only know that they fell from heaven, and all were incarnated or embodied in birds, beasts, plants, stones and fishes. But they can change shapes, and appear in the moon when she is not visible, or in any other guise they choose. If in Samoa the sky-god was once on the usual level of sky-gods elsewhere, he seems now to be degenerate.

1 See Waitz, Anthrop. Nat. Volk, ii. 323-329.

2 Missionary Travels, p. 158.

3 Another Bushman prayer, a touching appeal, is given in Alexander’s Expedition, ii. 125, and a Khoi-Khoi hymn of prayer is in Hahn, pp. 56, 57.

4 Cf. Custom and Myth, pp. 41, 42. It appears that the Bushmen, like the Egyptians and Greeks, hand down myths through esoteric societies, with dramatic mysteries.

5 Compare with the separable vigour of Cagn, residing in his tooth, the European and Egyptian examples of a similar myth — the lock of hair of Minos, the hair of Samson — in introduction to Mrs. Hunt’s Grimm’s Household Stories, p. lxxv.

6 Folk-lore Journal of South Africa, i. iv. 83.

7 Op. cit. i. pp. 1, 32.

8 Ibid., p. 5.

9 Herodotus, v. 30.

10 Op. cit., p. 16.

11 But speaking of the wife, Kolb calls “the poor wretch” a “drudge, exposed to the insults of her children” — English transl., p. 162.

12 Second edition, London, 1788.

13 Engl. transl., 95.

14 Engl, transl., i. 97, gives a picture of Khoi-Khoi adoring the mantis.

15 Page 42; compare pp. 92, 125.

16 Alexander, Expedition, i 166; Hahn, op. cit., pp. 69, 50, where Moffat is quoted.

17 Hahn, p. 66.

18 Custom and Myth, pp. 197-211.

19 Le Fits de la Vierge, H. de Charency, Havre, 1879. A tale of incest by Heitsi Eibib, may be compared with another in Muir’s Sanskrit Texts, iv. 39.

20 Journal Anthrop. Inst., February, 1881.

21 Op. cit., p. 267.

22 See “Savage Myths of the Origin of Things”.

23 Iliad, ii. 315-318.

24 Mariner, ii. 205.

25 Mariner’s Tonga Islands, Edin., 1827, ii 99-101.

26 Mariner, ii. 115.

27 Ibid., ii. 205.

28 Mariner, i. 307, it 107.

29 Compare the ayos of the Alcmænidæ.

30 The islands of Hawaiki, being then the only land known, is put for Papa, the earth.

31 Taylor, New Zealand, pp. 110-112.

32 Te-Heu-Heu, a powerful chief, described to Mr. Taylor the departmental character of his gods. “Is there one maker of things among Europeans? Is not one a carpenter, another a blacksmith, another a shipbuilder? So it was in the beginning. One made this, another that. Tane made trees, Ru mountains, Tangaroa fish, and so forth.” Taylor, New Zealand, p. 108, note.

33 The sun, when beaten, cried out and revealed his great name, exactly as Indra did in his terror and flight after slaying the serpent. Taylor, op. cit., p. 131.

34 See La Mythologie, A. L., Paris, 1886.

35 Taylor, op. cit., pp. 134, 136.

36Op. cit., p. 136.

37 Op. cit., p. 137.

38 Shortland, Trad, and Superst. of New Zealanders, 1856, pp. 83-85.

39 Turner’s Samoa, p. 17.

40 [greek] Porph., De Abst.t ii. 29; Samoa, p. 21.

41 I am careful not to call Samoan sacred animals “Totems.” to which Mr. Tylor justly objects, but I think the Samoan belief has Totemistic origins.

Chapter 14.

American Divine Myths

Novelty of the “New World “— Different stages of culture represented there — Question of American Monotheism — Authorities and evidence cited — Myths examined: Eskimo, Ahts, Thlinkeets, Iroquois, the Great Hare — Dr. Brinton’s theory of the hare — Zuni myths — Transition to Mexican mythology.

The divine myths of the vast American continent are a topic which a lifetime entirely devoted to the study could not exhaust. At best it is only a sketch in outline that can be offered in a work on the development of mythology in general. The subject is the more interesting as anything like systematic borrowing of myths from the Old World is all but impossible, as has already been argued in chapter xi. America, it is true, may have been partially “discovered” many times; there probably have been several points and moments of contact between the New and the Old World. Yet at the time when the Spaniards landed there, and while the first conquests and discoveries were being pursued, the land and the people were to Europeans practically as novel as the races and territories of a strange planet.1 But the New World only revealed the old stock of humanity in many of its familiar stages of culture, and, consequently, with the old sort of gods, and myths, and creeds.

In the evolution of politics, society, ritual, and in all the outward and visible parts of religion, the American races ranged between a culture rather below the ancient Egyptian and a rudeness on a level with Australian or Bushman institutions. The more civilised peoples, Aztecs and Peruvians, had many peculiarities in common with the races of ancient Egypt, China and India; where they fell short was in the lack of alphabet or syllabary. The Mexican MSS. are but an advanced picture-writing, more organised than that of the Ojibbeways; the Peruvian Quipus was scarcely better than the Red Indian wampum records. Mexicans and Peruvians were settled in what deserved to be called cities; they had developed a monumental and elaborately decorated architecture; they were industrious in the arts known to them, though ignorant of iron. Among the Aztecs, at least, weapons and tools of bronze, if rare, were not unknown. They were sedulous in agriculture, disciplined in war, capable of absorbing and amalgamating with conquered tribes.

In Peru the ruling family, the Incas, enjoyed all the sway of a hierarchy, and the chief Inca occupied nearly as secure a position, religious, social and political, as any Rameses or Thothmes. In Mexico, doubtless, the monarch’s power was at least nominally limited, in much the same way as that of the Persian king. The royal rule devolved on the elected member of an ancient family, but once he became prince he was surrounded by imposing ceremony. In both these two civilised peoples the priesthood enjoyed great power, and in Mexico, though not so extensively, if at all, in Peru, practised an appalling ritual of cannibalism and human sacrifice. It is extremely probable, or rather certain, that both of these civilisations were younger than the culture of other American peoples long passed away, whose cities stand in colossal ruin among the forests, whose hieroglyphs seem undecipherable, and whose copper-mines were worked at an unknown date on the shore of Lake Superior. Over the origin and date of those “crowned races” it were vain to linger here. They have sometimes left the shadows of names — Toltecs and Chichimecs — and relics more marvellous than the fainter traces of miners and builders in Southern and Central Africa. The rest is silence. We shall never know why the dwellers in Palenque deserted their majestic city while “the staircases were new, the steps whole, the edges sharp, and nowhere did traces of wear and tear give certain proof of long habitation”.2 On a much lower level than the great urban peoples, but tending, as it were, in the same direction, and presenting the same features of state communism in their social arrangements, were, and are, the cave and cliff dwellers, the agricultural village Indians (Pueblo Indians) of New Mexico and Arizona. In the sides of the cañons towns have been burrowed, and men have dwelt in them like sand-martins in a sand-bank. The traveller views “perpendicular cliffs everywhere riddled with human habitations, which resemble the cells of a honeycomb more than anything else”. In lowland villages the dwellings are built of clay and stone.

“The San Juan valley is strewn with ruins for hundreds of miles; some buildings, three storeys high, of masonry, are still standing.”3 The Moquis, Zunis and Navahos of to-day, whose habits and religious rites are known from the works of Mr. Cushing, Mr. Matthews, and Captain John G. Bourke, are apparently descendants of “a sedentary, agricultural and comparatively cultivated race,” whose decadence perhaps began “before the arrival of the Spaniards.”4

Rather lower in the scale of culture than the settled Pueblo Indians were the hunter tribes of North America generally. They dwelt, indeed, in collections of wigwams which were partially settled, and the “long house” of the Iroquois looks like an approach to the communal system of the Pueblos.5 But while such races as Iroquois, Mandans and Ojibbeways cultivated the maize plant, they depended for food more than did the Pueblo peoples on success in the chase. Deer, elk, buffalo, the wild turkey, the bear, with ducks and other birds, supplied the big kettle with its contents. Their society was totemistic, as has already been described; kinship, as a rule, was traced through the female line; the Sachems or chiefs and counsellors were elected, generally out of certain totem-kindreds; the war-chiefs were also elected when a military expedition started on the war-path; and Jossakeeds or medicine-men (the title varied in different dialects) had no small share of secular power.

In war these tribes displayed that deliberate cruelty which survived under the Aztec rulers as the enormous cannibal ritual of human sacrifice. A curious point in Red Indian custom was the familiar institution of scalping the slain in war. Other races are head-hunters, but scalping is probably peculiar to the Red Men and the Scythians.6

On a level, yet lower than that of the Algonkin and other hunter tribes, are the American races whom circumstances have driven into desolate infertile regions; who live, like the Ahts, mainly on fish; like the Eskimos, in a world of frost and winter; or like the Fuegians, on crustaceans and seaweed. The minute gradations of culture cannot be closely examined here, but the process is upwards, from people like the Fuegians and Diggers, to the builders of the kitchen-middens — probably quite equals of the Eskimos7— and so through the condition of Ahts, Thlinkeets, Cahrocs and other rude tribes of the North-west Pacific Coast, to that of Sioux, Blackfeet, Mandans, Iroquois, and then to the settled state of the Pueblo folk, the southern comforts of the Natchez, and finally to the organisation of the Mayas, and the summit occupied by the Aztecs and Incas.

Through the creeds of all these races, whether originally of the same stock or not, run many strands of religious and mythical beliefs — the very threads that are woven into the varied faiths of the Old World. The dread of ghosts; the religious adoration paid to animals; the belief in kindred and protecting beasts; the worship of inanimate objects, roughly styled fetishes; a certain reverence for the great heavenly bodies, sun, moon and Pleiades; a tendency to regard the stars, with all other things and phenomena, as animated and personal — with a belief in a Supreme Creator, these are the warp, as it were, of the fabric of American religion.8

In one stage of culture one set of those ideas may be more predominant than in another stage, but they are present in all. The zoo-morphic or theriomorphic mythologies and creeds are nowhere more vivacious than in America. Not content with the tribal zoomorphic guardian and friend, the totem, each Indian was in the habit of seeking for a special animal protector of his own. This being, which he called his Manitou, revealed itself to him in the long fasts of that savage sacrament which consecrates the entrance on full manhood. Even in the elaborate religions of the civilised races, Peruvians and Aztecs, the animal deities survive, and sacred beasts gather in the shrine of Pachacamac, or a rudimentary remnant of ancestral beak or feather clings to the statue of Huitzilopochtli. But among the civilised peoples, in which the division of labour found its place and human ranks were minutely discriminated, the gods too had their divisions and departments. An organised polytheism prevailed, and in the temples of Centeotl and Tlazolteotl, Herodotus or Pausanias would have readily recognised the Demeter and the Aphrodite of Mexico.

There were departmental gods, and there was even an obvious tendency towards the worship of one spiritual deity, the Bretwalda of all the divine kings, a god on his way to becoming single and supreme. The religions and myths of America thus display, like the myths and religions of the Old World, the long evolution of human thought in its seeking after God. The rude first draughts of Deity are there, and they are by no means effaced in the fantastic priestly designs of departmental divinities.

The question of a primitive American monotheism has been more debated than even that of the “Heno-theism” of the Aryans in India. On this point it must be said that, in a certain sense, probably any race of men may be called monotheistic, just as, in another sense, Christians who revere saints may be called polytheistic.9

It has been constantly set forth in this work that, in moments of truly religious thought, even the lowest tribes turn their minds towards a guardian, a higher power, something which watches and helps the race of men. This mental approach towards the powerful friend is an aspiration, and sometimes a dogma; it is religious, not mythological; it is monotheistic, not polytheistic. The Being appealed to by the savage in moments of need or despair may go by a name which denotes a hawk, or a spider, or a grasshopper, but we may be pretty sure that little thought of such creatures is in the mind of the worshipper in his hour of need.10

Again, the most ludicrous or infamous tales may be current about the adventures and misadventures of the grasshopper or the hawk. He may be, as mythically conceived, only one out of a crowd of similar magnified non-natural men or lower animals. But neither his companions nor his legend are likely to distract the thoughts of the Bushman who cries to Cagn for food, or of the Murri who tells his boy that Pund-jel watches him from the heavens, or of the Solomon Islander who appeals to Qat as he crosses the line of reefs and foam. Thus it may be maintained that whenever man turns to a guardian not of this world, not present to the senses, man is for the moment a theist, and often a monotheist. But when we look from aspiration to doctrine, from the solitary ejaculation to ritual, from religion to myth, it would probably be vain to suppose that an uncontaminated belief in one God only, the maker and creator of all things, has generally prevailed, either in America or elsewhere. Such a belief, rejecting all minor deities, consciously stated in terms and declared in ritual, is the result of long ages and efforts of the highest thought, or, if once and again the intuition of Deity has flashed on some lonely shepherd or sage like an inspiration, his creed has usually been at war with the popular opinions of men, and has, except in Islam, won its disciples from the learned and refined. America seems no exception to so general a rule.

An opposite opinion is very commonly entertained, because the narratives of missionaries, and even the novels of Cooper and others, have made readers familiar with such terms as “the Great Spirit” in the mouths of Pawnees or Mohicans. On the one hand, taking the view of borrowing, Mrs. E. A. Smith says: “‘The Great Spirit,’ so popularly and poetically know as the God of the Red Man,’ and ‘the happy hunting-ground,’ generally reported to be the Indian’s idea of a future state, are both of them but their ready conception of the white man’s God and heaven”.11 Dr. Brinton, too,12 avers that “the Great Spirit is a post-Christian conception.” In most cases these terms are entirely of modern origin, coined at the suggestion of missionaries, applied to the white man’s God. . . .

The Jesuits’ Relations state positively that there was “no one immaterial God recognised by the Algonkin tribes, and that the title ‘The Great Manito’ was introduced first by themselves in its personal sense.” The statement of one missionary cannot be taken, of course, to bind all the others. The Pere Paul le Jeune remarks: “The savages give the name of Manitou to whatsoever in nature, good or evil, is superior to man. Therefore when we speak of God, they sometimes call him ‘The Good Manitou,’ that is, ‘The Good Spirit’.”13 The same Pere Paul le Jeune14 says that by Manitou his flock meant un ange ou quelque nature puissante. Il y’en a de bons et de mauvais. The evidence of Pere Hierosme Lallemant15 has already been alluded to, but it may be as well to repeat that, while he attributes to the Indians a kind of unconscious religious theism, he entirely denies them any monotheistic dogmas. With Tertullian, he writes, Exclamant vocem naturaliter Christianam. “To speak truth, these peoples have derived from their fathers no knowledge of a god, and before we set foot in their country they had nothing but vain fables about the origin of the world. Nevertheless, savages as they were, there did abide in their hearts a secret sentiment of divinity, and of a first principle, author of all things, whom, not knowing, they yet invoked. In the forest, in the chase, on the water, in peril by sea, they call him to their aid.”

This guardian, it seems, receives different names in different circumstances. Myth comes in; the sky is a God; a Manitou dwelling in the north sends ice and snow; another dwells in the waters, and many in the winds.16 The Pere Allouez17 says, “They recognise no sovereign of heaven or earth”. Here the good father and all who advocate a theory of borrowing are at variance with Master Thomas Heriot, “that learned Mathematician“ (1588). In Virginia “there is one chiefe god, that has beene from all eternitie,” who “made other gods of a principal order”.18 Near New Plymouth, Kiehtan was the chief god, and the souls of the just abode in his mansions.19 We have already cited Alione, and shown that he and the other gods found by the first explorers, are certainly not of Christian origin.

A curious account of Red Indian religion may be extracted from a work styled A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner during a Thirty Years’ Residence among the Indians (New York, 1830). Tanner was caught when a boy, and lived as an Indian, even in religion. The Great Spirit constantly appears in his story as a moral and protecting deity, whose favour and help may be won by “prayers, which are aided by magical ceremonies and dances. Tanner accepted and acted on this part of the Indian belief, while generally rejecting the medicine men, who gave themselves out for messengers or avaters of the Great Spirit. Tanner had frequent visions of the Great Spirit in the form of a handsome young man, who gave him information about the future. “Do I not know,” said the appearance, “when you are hungry and in distress? I look down upon you at all times, and it is not necessary you should call me with such loud cries”. (p. 189).

Almost all idea of a tendency towards monotheism vanishes when we turn from the religions to the myths of the American peoples. Doubtless it may be maintained that the religious impulse or sentiment never wholly dies, but, after being submerged in a flood of fables, reappears in the philosophic conception of a pure deity entertained by a few of the cultivated classes of Mexico and Peru. But our business just now is with the flood of fables. From north to south the more general beliefs are marked with an early dualism, and everywhere are met the two opposed figures of a good and a bad extra-natural being in the shape of a man or beast. The Eskimos, for example, call the better being Torngarsuk. “They don’t all agree about his form or aspect. Some say he has no form at all; others describe him as a great bear, or as a great man with one arm, or as small as a finger. He is immortal, but might be killed by the intervention of the god Crepitus.”20

“The other great but malignant spirit is a nameless female,” the wife or mother of Torngarsuk. She dwells under the sea in a habitation guarded by a Cerberus of her own, a huge dog, which may be surprised, for he sleeps for one moment at a time. Torngarsuk is not the maker of all things, but still is so much of a deity that many, “when they hear of God and his omnipotence, are readily led to the supposition that probably we mean their Torngarsuk “. All spirits are called Torngak, and soak = great; hence the good spirit of the Eskimos in his limited power is “the Great Spirit”.21 In addition to a host of other spirits, some of whom reveal themselves affably to all, while others are only accessible to Angakut or medicine-men, the Eskimos have a Pluto, or Hades, or Charos of their own. He is meagre, dark, sullen, and devours the bowels of the ghosts. There are spirits of fire, water, mountains, winds; there are dog-faced demons, and the souls of abortions become hideous spectres, while the common ghost of civilised life is familiar. The spirit of a boy’s dead mother appeared to him in open day, and addressed him in touching language: “Be not afraid; I am thy mother, and love thee!” for here, too, in this frozen and haunted world, love is more strong than death.22

Eskimo myth is practical, and, where speculative, is concerned with the fortunes of men, alive or dead, as far as these depend on propitiating the gods or extra-natural beings. The Eskimo myth of the origin of death would find its place among the other legends of this sort.23

As a rule, Eskimo myth, as far as it has been investigated, rather resembles that of the Zulus. Märchen or romantic stories are very common; tales about the making of things and the actions of the pre-human beings are singularly scarce. Except for some moon and star myths, and the tale of the origin of death, hardly any myths, properly so called, are reported. “Only very scanty traces,” says Rink, “have been found of any kind of ideas having been formed as to the origin and early history of the world and the ruling powers or deities.”24

Turning from the Eskimos to the Ahts of Vancouver’s Island, we find them in possession of rather a copious mythology. Without believing exactly in a supreme, they have the conception of a superior being, Quawteaht, no mere local nor tribal deity, but known in every village, like Osiris in Egypt. He is also, like Osiris and Baiame, the chief of a beautiful, far-off, spiritual country, but he had his adventures and misadventures while he dwelt on earth. The malevolent aspect of things — storms, disease and the rest — is either Quawteaht enraged, or the manifestation of his opponent in the primitive dualism, Tootooch or Chay-her, the Hades or Pluto of the Ahts. Like Hades, Chay-her is both a person and a place — the place of the dead discomforted, and the ruler of that land, a boneless form with a long grey beard. The exploits of Quawteaht in the beginning of things were something between those of Zeus and of Prometheus.

“He is the general framer — I do not say creator of all things, though some special things are excepted.”25 Quawteaht, in the legend of the loon (who was once an injured Indian, and still wails his wrongs), is represented as conscious of the conduct of men, and as prone to avenge misdeeds.26 In person Quawteaht was of short stature, with very strong hairy arms and legs.27 There is a touch of unconscious Darwinism in this description of “the first Indian”. In Quawteaht mingle the rough draughts of a god and of an Adam, a creator and a first man. This mixture is familiar in the Zulu Unkulunkulu. Unlike Prometheus, Quawteaht did not steal the seed of fire. It was stolen by the cuttlefish, and in some legends Quawteaht was the original proprietor. Like most gods, he could assume the form of the beasts, and it was in the shape of a great whale that he discomfited his opponent Tootooch.28 It does not appear that Tootooch receives any worship or adoration, such as is offered to the sun and moon.

Leaving the Ahts for the Thlinkeets, we find Yehl, the god or hero of the introduction of the arts, who, like the Christ of the Finnish epic or Maui in New Zealand, was born by a miraculous birth. His mother was a Thlinkeet woman, whose boys had all been slain. As she wandered disconsolate by the sea-shore, a dolphin or whale, taking pity upon her. bade her drink a little salt water and swallow a pebble. She did so, and in due time bore a child, Yehl, the hero of the Thlinkeets. Once, in his youth, Yehl shot a supernatural crane, skinned it, and whenever he wished to fly, clothed himself in the bird’s skin. Yet he is always known as a raven. Hence there is much the same confusion between Yehl and the bird as between Amun in Egypt and the ram in whose skin he was once pleased to reveal himself to a mortal. In Yehl’s youth occurred the deluge, produced by the curse of an unfriendly uncle of his own; but the deluge was nothing to Yehl, who flew up to heaven, and anchored himself to a cloud by his beak till the waters abated. Like most heroes of his kind, Yehl brought light to men. The heavenly bodies in his time were kept in boxes by an old chief. Yehl, by an ingenious stratagem, got possession of the boxes. To fly up to the firmament with the treasure, to open the boxes, and to stick stars, sun and moon in their proper places in the sky, was to the active Yehl the work of a moment.

Fire he stole, like Prometheus, carrying a brand in his beak till he reached the Thlinkeet shore. There the fire dropped on stones and sticks, from which it is still obtained by striking the flints or rubbing together the bits of wood. Water, like fire, was a monopoly in those days, and one Khanukh kept all of it in his own well. Khanukh was the ancestor of the Wolf family among the Thlinkeets, as Yehl is the first father of the stock called Ravens. The wolf and raven thus answer to the mythic creative crow and cockatoo in Australian mythology, and take sides in the primitive dualism. When Yehl went to steal water from Khanukh, the pair had a discussion, exactly like that between Joukahainen and Waina-moinen in the epic of the Finns, as to which of them had been longer in the world. “Before the world stood in its place, I was there,” says Yehl; and Wainamoinen says, “When earth was made, I was there; when space was unrolled, I launched the sun on his way”. Similar boasts occur in the poems of Empedocles and of Taliesin. Khanukh, however, proved to be both older and more skilled in magic than Yehl. Yet the accomplishment of flying once more stood Yehl in good stead, and he carried off the water, as Odin, in the form of a bird, stole Suttung’s mead, by flying off with it in his beak. Yehl then went to his own place.29

In the myths of the other races on the North-west Pacific Coast nothing is more remarkable than the theriomorphic character of the heroes, who are also to a certain extent gods and makers of things.

The Koniagas have their ancestral bird and dog, demiurges, makers of sea, rivers, hills, yet subject to “a great deity called Schljam Schoa,” of whom they are the messengers and agents.30 The Aleuts have their primeval dog-hero, and also a great old man, who made people, like Deucalion, and as in the Macusi myth, by throwing stones over his shoulder.31

Concerning the primal mythical beings of the great hunter and warrior tribes of America, Algonkins, Hurons and Iroquois, something has already been said in the chapter on “Myths of the Origin of Things”.

It is the peculiarity of such heroes or gods of myth as the opposing Red Indian good and evil deities that they take little part in the affairs of the world when once these have been started.32 Ioskeha and Tawiscara, the good and bad primeval brothers, have had their wars, and are now, in the opinion of some, the sun and the moon.33 The benefits of Ioskeha to mankind are mainly in the past; as, for example, when, like another Indra, he slew the great frog that had swallowed the waters, and gave them free course over earth.34

Ioskeha is still so far serviceable that he “makes the pot boil,” though this may only be a way of recalling the benefits conferred on man by him when he learned from the turtle how to make fire. Ioskeha, moreover is thanked for success in the chase, because he let loose the animals from the cave in which they lived at the beginning. As they fled he spoiled their speed by wounding them with arrows; only one escaped, the wind-swift wolf. Some devotees regarded Ioskeha as the teacher of agriculture and the giver of great harvests of maize. In 1635 Ioskeha was seen, all meagre and skeleton-like, tearing a man’s leg with his teeth, a prophecy of famine. A more agreeable apparition of loskeha is reported by the Pere Barthelemy Vimont.35 When an Iroquois was fishing, “a demon appeared to him in the shape of a tall and beautiful young man. ‘Be not afraid,’ said this spirit; ‘I am the master of earth, whom you Hurons worship under the name of Ioskeha; the French give me the erroneous name of Jesus, but they know me not.’” Ioskeha then gave some directions for curing the small-pox. The Indian’s story is, of course, coloured by what he knew of missionary teaching, but the incident should be compared with the “medicine dream” of John Tanner.

The sky, conceived as a person, held a place rather in the religion than in the mythology of the Indians. He was approached with prayer and sacrifice, and “they implored the sky in all their necessities”.36 “The sky hears us,” they would say in taking an oath, and they appeased the wrath of the sky with a very peculiar semi-cannibal sacrifice.37

What Ioskeha was to the Iroquois, Michabo or Manibozho was to the Algonkin tribes. There has been a good deal of mystification about Michabo or Manibozho, or Messou, who was probably, in myth, a hare sans phrase, but who has been converted by philological processes into a personification of light or dawn. It has already been seen that the wild North Pacific peoples recognise in their hero and demiurge animals of various species; dogs, ravens, muskrats and coyotes have been found in this lofty estimation, and the Utes believe in “Cin-au-av, the ancient of wolves”.38 It would require some labour to derive all the ancient heroes and gods from misconceptions about the names of vast natural phenomena like light and dawn, and it is probable that Michabo or Mani-bozho, the Great Hare of the Algonkins, is only a successful apotheosised totem like the rest. His legend and his dominion are very widely spread. Dr. Brinton himself (p. 153) allows that the great hare is a totem. Perhaps our earliest authority about the mythical great hare in America is William Strachey’s Travaile into Virginia.39

Among other information as to the gods of the natives, Strachey quotes the remarks of a certain Indian: “We have five gods in all; our chief god appears often unto us in the likeness of a mighty great hare; the other four have no visible shape, but are indeed the four wynds”. An Indian, after hearing from the English the Biblical account of the creation, explained that “our god, who takes upon him the shape of a hare, . . . at length devised and made divers men and women”. He also drove away the cannibal Manitous. “That godlike hare made the water and the fish and a great deare.” The other four gods, in envy, killed the hare’s deer. This is curiously like the Bushman myth of Cagn, the mantis insect, and his favourite eland. “The godly hare’s house” is at the place of sun-rising; there the souls of good Indians “feed on delicious fruits with that great hare,” who is clearly, so far, the Virginian Osiris.40 Dr. Brinton has written at some length on “this chimerical beast,” whose myth prevails, he says, “from the remotest wilds of the North-west to the coast of the Atlantic, from the southern boundary of Carolina to the cheerless swamps of Hudson’s Bay. . . . The totem” (totem-kindred probably is meant) “clan which bore his name was looked up to with peculiar respect.” From this it would appear that the hare was a totem like another, and had the same origin, whatever that may have been. According to the Pere Allouez, the Indians “ont en veneration toute particuliere, une certaine beste chimerique, qu’ils n’ont jamais veue sinon en songe, ils Tappelient Missibizi,” which appears to be a form of Michabo and Mani-bozho.41

In 1670 the same Pere Allouez gives some myths about Michabo. “C’est-a-dire le grand lievre,” who made the world, and also invented fishing-nets. He is the master of life, and can leap eight leagues at one bound, and is beheld by his servants in dreams. In 1634 Pere Paul le Jeune gives a longer account of Messou, “a variation of the same name,” according to Dr. Brinton, as Michabo. This Messou reconstructed the drowned world out of a piece of clay brought him by an otter, which succeeded after the failure of a raven sent out by Messou. He afterwards married a muskrat, by whom he became the father of a flourishing family. “Le brave reparateur de l’univers est le frere aisné de toutes les bestes,” says the mocking missionary.42 Messou has the usual powers of shape-shifting, which are the common accomplishments of the medicine-man or conjuror, se transformant en mille sortes d’animaux.43 He is not so much a creator as a demiurge, inferior to a mysterious being called Atahocan. But Atahocan is obsolescent, and his name is nearly equivalent to an old wife’s fable, a story of events au temps jadis.44 “Le mot Nitatoho-can signifie, ‘Je dis un vieux conte fait à plaisir’.”

These are examples of the legends of Michabo or Manibozho, the great hare. He appears in no way to differ from the other animals of magical renown, who, in so many scores of savage myths, start the world on its way and instruct men in the arts. His fame may be more widely spread, but his deeds are those of eagle, crow, wolf, coyote, spider, grasshopper, and so forth, in remote parts of the world. His legend is the kind of legend whose origin we ascribe to the credulous fancy of early peoples, taking no distinction between themselves and the beasts. If the hare was indeed the totem of a successful and honoured kindred, his elevation is perfectly natural and intelligible.

Dr. Brinton, in his Myths of the New World (New York, 1876), adopts a different line of explanation. Michabo, he says, “was originally the highest divinity recognised by them, powerful and beneficent beyond all others, maker of the heavens and the world”. We gladly welcome him in that capacity in religion. But it has already been shown that Michabo is only, in myth, the reparateur de l’univers, and that he has a sleeping partner — a deity retired from business. Moreover, Dr. Brinton’s account of Michabo, “powerful and beneficent beyond all others, maker of the heavens and the world,” clashes with his own statement, that “of monotheism as displayed in the one personal definite God of the Semitic races” (to whom Dr. Brinton’s description of Michabo applies) “there is not a single instance on the American continent.”45 The residences and birthplaces of Michabo are as many as those of the gods of Greece. It is true that in some accounts, as in Strachey’s, “his bright home is in the rising sun”. It does not follow that the hare had any original connection with the dawn. But this connection Dr. Brinton seeks to establish by philological arguments. According to this writer, the names (Manibozho, Nanibozhu, Missibizi, Michabo, Messou) “all seem compounded, according to well-ascertained laws of Algonkin euphony, from the words corresponding to great and hare or rabbit, or the first two perhaps from spirit and hare“.46 But this seeming must not be trusted. We must attentively examine the Algonkin root wab, when it will appear “that in fact there are two roots having this sound. One is the initial syllable of the word translated hare or rabbit, but the other means white, and from it is derived the words for the east, the dawn, the light, the day, and the morning. Beyond a doubt (sic) this is the compound in the names Michabo and Manibozho, which therefore mean the great light, the spirit of light, of the dawn, or the east.”

Then the war of Manibozho became the struggle of light and darkness. Finally, Michabo is recognised by Dr. Brinton as “the not unworthy personification of the purest conceptions they possessed concerning the Father of All,”47 though, according to Dr. Brinton in an earlier passage, they can hardly be said to have possessed such conceptions.48 We are not responsible for these inconsistencies. The degeneracy to the belief in a “mighty great hare,” a “chimerical beast,” was the result of a misunderstanding of the root wab in their own language by the Algonkins, a misunderstanding that not only affected the dialects in which the root wab occurred in the hare’s name, but those in which it did not!

On the whole, the mythology of the great hunting and warrior tribes of North America is peopled by the figures of ideal culture-heroes, partly regarded as first men, partly as demiurges and creators. They waver in outward aspect between the beautiful youths of the “medicine-dreams” and the bestial guise of totems and protecting animals. They have a tendency to become identified with the sun, like Osiris in Egypt, or with the moon. They are adepts in all the arts of the medicine-man, and they are especially addicted to animal metamorphosis. In the long winter evenings, round the camp-fire, the Indians tell such grotesque tales of their pranks and adventures as the Greeks told of their gods, and the Middle Ages of the saints.49

The stage in civilisation above that of the hunter tribes is represented in the present day by the settled Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona. Concerning the faith of the Zunis we fortunately possess an elaborate account by Mr. Frank Cushing.50 Mr. Cushing was for long a dweller in the clay pueblos of the Zuñis, and is an initiated member of their sacred societies. He found that they dealt at least as freely in metaphysics as the Maoris, and that, like the Australians, “they suppose sun, moon and stars, the sky, earth and sea, in all their phenomena and elements, and all inanimate objects, as well as plants, animals and men, to belong to one great system of all conscious and interrelated life, in which the degrees of relationship seem to be determined largely, if not wholly, by the degrees of resemblance”. This, of course, is stated in terms of modern self-conscious speculation. When much the same opinions are found among the Kamilaroi and Kurnai of Australia, they are stated thus: “Some of the totems divide not mankind only, but the whole universe into what may almost be called gentile divisions”.51

“Everything in nature is divided between the classes. The wind belongs to one and the rain to another. The sun is Wutaroo and the moon is Yungaroo. . . . The South Australian savage looks upon the universe as the great tribe, to one of whose divisions he himself belongs, and all things, animate or inanimate, which belong to his class are parts of the body corporate, whereof he himself is part. They are almost parts of himself”.

Manifestly this is the very condition of mind out of which mythology, with all existing things acting as dramatis personæ, must inevitably arise.

The Zuni philosophy, then, endows all the elements and phenomena of nature with personality, and that personality is blended with the personality of the beast “whose operations most resemble its manifestation”. Thus lightning is figured as a serpent, and the serpent holds a kind of mean position between lightning and man. Strangely enough, flint arrow-heads, as in Europe, are regarded as the gift of thunder, though the Zunis have not yet lost the art of making, nor entirely abandoned, perhaps, the habit of using them. Once more, the supernatural beings of Zuni religion are almost invariably in the shape of animals, or in monstrous semi-theriomorphic form. There is no general name for the gods, but the appropriate native terms mean “creators and masters,” “makers,” and “finishers,” and “immortals”. All the classes of these, including the class that specially protects the animals necessary to men, “are believed to be related by blood “. But among these essences, the animals are nearest to man, most accessible, and therefore most worshipped, sometimes as mediators. But the Zuni has mediators even between him and his animal mediators, and these are fetishes, usually of stone, which accidentally resemble this or that beast-god in shape. Sometimes, as in the Egyptian sphinx, the natural resemblance of a stone to a living form has been accentuated and increased by art. The stones with a natural resemblance to animals are most valued when they are old and long in use, and the orthodox or priestly theory is that they are petrifactions of this or that beast. Flint arrow-heads and feathers are bound about them with string.

All these beliefs and practices inspire the Zuñi epic, which is repeated, at stated intervals, by the initiated to the neophytes. Mr. Cushing heard a good deal of this archaic poem in his sacred capacity. The epic contains a Zuñi cosmogony. Men, as in so many other myths, originally lived in the dark places of earth in four caverns. Like the children of Uranus and Gæa, they murmured at the darkness. The “holder of the paths of life,” the sun, now made two beings out of his own substance; they fell to the earth, armed with rainbow and lightning, a shield and a magical flint knife. The new-comers cut the earth with a flint-knife, as Qat cut the palpable dark with a blade of red obsidian in Melanesia. Men were then lifted through the hole on the shield, and began their existence in the sunlight, passing gradually through the four caverns. Men emerged on a globe still very wet; for, as in the Iroquois and other myths, there had been a time when “water was the world “. The two benefactors dried the earth and changed the monstrous beasts into stones. It is clear that this myth accounts at once for the fossil creatures found in the rocks and for the merely accidental resemblance to animals of stones now employed as fetishes.52 In the stones is believed to survive the “medicine” or magic, the spiritual force of the animals of old.

The Zuñis have a culture-hero as usual, Po’shai-an-k’ia, who founded the mysteries, as Demeter did in Greece, and established the sacred orders. He appeared in human form, taught men agriculture, ritual, and then departed. He is still attentive to prayer. He divided the world into regions, and gave the animals their homes and functions, much as Heitsi Eibib did in Namaqualand. These animals carry out the designs of the culture-hero, and punish initiated Zuñis who are careless of their religious duties and ritual. The myths of the sacred beasts are long and dismal, chiefly aetiological, or attempts to account by a fictitious narrative for the distribution and habits of the various creatures. Zuñi prayers are mainly for success in the chase; they are directed to the divine beasts, and are reinforced by magical ceremonies. Yet a prayer for sport may end with such a truly religious petition as this: “Grant me thy light; give me and my children a good trail across life “. Again we read: “This day, my fathers, ye animal gods, although this country be filled with enemies, render me precious. . . . Oh, give ye shelter of my heart from them!” Yet in religious hymns the Zuñis celebrate Ahonawilona, “the Maker and Container of All, the All Father,” the uncreated, the unbegotten, who “thought himself out into space”. Here is monotheism among fetishists.53

The faith of the Zuñis, with its metaphysics, its devoutness and its magic ritual, may seem a kind of introduction to the magic, the ritual and the piety of the ancient Aztecs. The latter may have grown, in a long course of forgotten ages, out of elements like those of the Zuñi practice, combined with the atrocious cruelty of the warrior tribes of the north. Perhaps in no race is the extreme contrast between low myth, and the highest speculation, that of “the Eternal thinking himself out into space,” so marked as among the Zuñis. The highly abstract conception of Ahonawilona was unknown to Europeans when this work first appeared.

1 Reville, Hibbert Lectures, 1884, p. 8

2 Nadaillac, Prehistoric America, p. 328.

3Nadaillac, p. 222.

4 Ibid., p. 257. See Bourke’s Snake-Dance of the Natives of Arizona, and the fifth report of the Archaeological Institute of America, with an account of the development of Pueblo buildings. It seems scarcely necessary to discuss Mr. Lewis Morgan’s attempt to show that the Aztecs of Cortes’s time were only on the level of the modern Pueblo Indians.

5 Mr. Lewis Morgan’s valuable League of the Iroquois and the Iroquois Book of Rites (Brinton, Philadelphia, 1883) may be consulted.

6 Herodotus, iv. 64. The resemblance between Scythian and Red Indian manners exercised the learned in the time of Grotius. It has been acutely remarked by J. G. Müller, that in America one stage of society, as developed in the Old World, is absent. There is no pastoral stage. The natives had neither domesticated kine, goats nor sheep. From this lack of interest in the well-being of the domesticated lower animals he is inclined to deduce the peculiarly savage cruelty of American war and American religion. Sympathy was undeveloped. Possibly the lack of tame animals may have encouraged the prevalence of human sacrifice. The Brahmana shows how, in Hindostan, the lower animals became vicarious substitutes for man in sacrifice, as the fawn of Artemis or the ram of Jehovah took the place of Iphigenia or of Isaac. Cf. J. G. Müller, Oeschichte der Amerikanisehen Urreligionen, pp. 22, 23.

7 Nadaillac, Prehistoric America, p. 66.

8 The arguments against the borrowing of the Creator from missionaries have already been stated.

9 Gaidoz, Revue Critique, March, 1887.

10 There are exceptions, as when the Ojibbeway, being in danger, appeals to his own private protecting Manitou, perhaps a wild duck; or when the Zuni cries to “Ye animal gods, my fathers!” (Bureau of Ethnol., 1880-81, p. 42.) Thus we can scarcely agree entirely with M. Maurice Vernes when he says, “All men are monotheistic in the fervour of adoration or in moments of deep thought”. (L’Histoire des Religions, Paris, 1887, p. 61.) The tendency of adoration and of speculation is, however, monotheistic.

11 Bureau of Ethnology’s Second Report, p. 52.

12 Myths of the New World, New York, 1876, p. 58.

13 Relations de la Novelle France, 1637, p. 49.

14 Relations, 1633, p. 17.

15 1648, p. 77.

16 The Confessions of Kah-ge-ga-gah Bowh, a converted Crane of the Ojibbeways, may be rather a suspicious document. Kah, to shorten his noble name, became a preacher and platform- speaker of somewhat windy eloquence, according to Mr. Longfellow, who had heard him. His report is that in youth he sought the favour of the Manitous (Mon-e-doos he calls them), but also revered Ke-sha-mon-e-doo, the benevolent spirit, “who made the earth with all its variety and smiling beauty”. But his narrative is very unlike the Indian account of the manufacture of the world by this or that animal, already given in “Myths of the Origin of Things”. The benevolent spirit, according to Kah’s father, a medicine- man, dwelt in the sun (Copway, Recollections of a Forest Life, London, s. a. pp. 4, 5). Practical and good-natured actions of the Great Spirit are recorded on p. 35. He directs starving travellers by means of dreams.

17 Relations, 1667, p. 1.

18 Arber, Captain John Smith, p. 321.

19 Op. cit., p. 768.

20 The circumstances in which this is possible may be sought for in Crantz, History of Greenland, London, 1767, vol. i. p. 200

21 Crantz, op. cit., i. 207. note.

22 Op. cit., i. 209

23 Cf. Modern Mythology, “The Origin of Death”.

24 He adds that this “seems sufficiently to show that such mythological speculations have been, in respect to other nations, also the product of a later stage of culture”. That this position is erroneous is plain from the many myths here collected from peoples lower in culture than the Eskimos. Cf. Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimos.

25 Sproat, Savage Life, London, 1868, p. 210.

26 Op. cit., p. 182.

27Ibid. i. p. 179.

28Ibid. i. p. 177.

29 Bancroft, iii. 100-102 [Holmberg, Eth. Skiz., p. 61].

30 Ibid., 104, quoting Dall’s Alaska, p. 405, and Lisiansky’s Voyage, pp. 197, 198.

31 Brett’s Indians of Guiana, p. 384.

32 Erminie Smith, in Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1880- 81, publishes a full, but not very systematic, account of Iroquois gods of to-day. Thunder, the wind, and echo are the chief divine figures. The Titans or Jotuns, the opposed supernatural powers, are giants of stone. “Among the most ancient of the deities were their most remote ancestors, certain animals who later were transformed into human shapes, the name of the animals being preserved by their descendants, who have used them to designate their gentes or clans.” The Iroquois have a strange and very touching version of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (op. cit., p. 104). It appears to be native and unborrowed; all the details are pure Iroquois.

33 Relations de la Nouvelle France, 1636, p. 102.

34 Ibid. i. p. 108.

35 Relations, 1640, p. 92.

36 Op. cit. i. 1636, p. 107.

37 For Pawnees and Blackfeet see Grinnell, Pawnee and Blackfoot Legends (2 vols.).

38 Powell, in Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-80, p. 43.

39 Circa 1612; reprinted by the Hakjuyt Society.

40 History of Travaile, pp. 98, 99. This hare we have alluded to in vol. i. p. 184, but it seems worth while again to examine Dr. Brinton’s theory more closely.

41 Relations, 1637, p. 13

42 Relations, 1634, p. 13.

43 Op. cit., 1633, p. 16.

44 Op. cit., 1634, p. 13.

45 Relations, pp. 63, 176.

46 Op. cit., p. 178.

47 Relations, p. 183.

48 Op. cit., p. 53.

49 A full collection of these, as they survive in oral tradition, with an obvious European intermixture, will be found in Mr. Leland’s Algonquin Legends, London, 1884, and in Schoolcraft’s Hiawatha Legends, London, 1856. See especially the Manibozho legend.

50 Report of Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, 1880-81.

51 Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 167.(p. 170). Mrs. Langloh Parker, in a letter to me, remarks that Baiame alone is outside of this conception, and is common to all classes, and totems, and class divisions.

52 Report, etc, p. 15.

53 Cushing, Report, Ethnol. Bureau, 1891-92, p. 379.

Chapter 15.

Mexican Divine Myths

European eye-witnesses of Mexican ritual — Diaz, his account of temples and Gods__Sahagun, his method — Theories of the god Huitzilopochtli — Totemistic and other elements in his image and legend — Illustrations from Latin religion — “God-eating”— The calendar — Other gods — Their feasts and cruel ritual — Their composite character — Parallels from ancient classical peoples — Moral aspects of Aztec gods.

The religion of the Mexicans was a compound of morality and cruelty so astonishing that its two aspects have been explained as the contributions of two separate races. The wild Aztecs from the north are credited with having brought to a high pitch of organised ritual the ferocious customs of the Red Indians. The tortures which the tribes inflicted on captives taken in war were transmuted into the cannibal sacrifices and orgies of bloodshed with which the Aztec temples reeked. The milder elements, again, the sense of sin which found relief in confession and prayer, are assigned to the influence of Mayas, and especially of Toltecs, a shadowy and perhaps an imaginary people. Our ignorance of Mexican history before the Spanish conquest is too deep to make any such theory of the influence of race on religion in Mexico more than merely plausible. The facts of ritual and of myth are better known, thanks to the observations of such an honest soldier as Bernal Diaz and such a learned missionary as Sahagun. The author of the Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España was a Spanish Franciscan, and one of the earliest missionaries (1529) in Mexico. He himself describes the method by which he collected his information about the native religion. He summoned together the chief men of one of the provinces, who, in turn, chose twelve old men well seen in knowledge of the Mexican practices and antiquities. Several of them were also scholars in the European sense, and had been taught Latin. The majority of the commission collected and presented “pictures which were the writings formerly in use among them,” and the “grammarians” or Latin-learned Aztecs wrote in European characters and in Aztec the explanations of these designs. When Sahagun changed his place of residence, these documents were again compared, re-edited and enlarged by the assistance of the native gentlemen in his new district, and finally the whole was passed through yet a third “sieve,” as Sahagun says, in the city of Mexico. The completed manuscript had many ups and downs of fortune, but Sahagun’s book remains a source of almost undisputed authenticity.

Probably no dead religion whose life was among a people ignorant of syllabaries or of the alphabet is presented to us in a more trustworthy form than the religion of Mexico. It is necessary, however, to discount the theories of Sahagun and his converts, who though they never heard of Euhemerus, habitually applied the euhemeristic doctrine to their facts. They decided that the gods of the Aztecs had once been living men and conjurors, worshipped after their decease. It is possible, too, that a strain of Catholic piety has found its way into the long prayers of the heathen penitents, as reported by Sahagun.1 Sahagun gives us a full account of the Mexican mythology. What the gods, as represented by idols and adored in ritual, were like, we learn from a gallant Catholic soldier, Bernal Diaz.2 “Above the altars,” he writes, “were two shapes like giants, wondrous for height and hugeness. The first on the right was Huichilobos (Huitzilopochtli), their god of war. He had a big head and trunk, his eyes great and terrible, and so inlaid with precious stones that all his head and body shone with stars thereof. Great snakes of gold and fine stones were girdled about his flanks; in one hand he held a bow, and arrows in the other, and a little idol called his page stood by his side. . . . Thereby also were braziers, wherein burned the hearts of three Indians, torn from their bodies that very day, and the smoke of them and the savour of incense were the sacrifice. The walls of this oratory were black and dripping with gouts of blood, and likewise the floor that stank horribly.” Such was the aspect of a Mexican shrine before the Spaniards introduced their faith.

As to the mythical habits of the Aztec Olympians in general, Sahagun observes that “they were friends of disguise, and changed themselves often into birds or savage beasts”. Hence he, or his informants, infer that the gods have originally been necromancers or medicine-men, now worshipped after death; a natural inference, as magical feats of shape-shifting are commonly ascribed “everywhere to witches and warlocks”. As a matter of fact, the Aztec gods, though bedizened with the attributes of mortal conjurors, and with the fur and feathers of totems, are, for the most part, the departmental deities of polytheism, each ruling over some province of nature or of human activity. Combined with these are deities who, in their origin, were probably ideal culture-heroes, like Yehl, or Qat, or Prometheus. The long and tedious myths of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca appear to contain memories of a struggle between the gods or culture-heroes of rival races. Such struggles were natural, and necessary, perhaps, before a kind of syncretism and a general tolerance could unite in peace the deities of a realm composed of many tribes originally hostile. In a cultivated people, made up out of various conquered and amalgamated tribes, we must expect polytheism, because their Olympus is a kind of divine representative assembly. Anything like monotheism, in such a state, must be the result of philosophic reflection. “A laughable matter it is,” says Bernal Diaz, “that in each province the Indians have their gods, and the gods of one province or town are of no profit to the people of another. Thus have they an infinite number of idols, to each of which they sacrifice.”3

He might have described, in the same words, the local gods of the Egyptian nomes, for a similar state of things preceded, and to some extent survived, the syncretic efforts of Egyptian priesthood. Meanwhile, the Teocallis, or temples of Mexico, gave hospitable shelter to this mixed multitude of divinities. Hard by Huitzilopochtli was Tezcatlipoca (Tezcatepuca, Bernal calls him), whose chapel “stank worse than all the shambles of Castile”. He had the face of a bear and shining eyes, made of mirrors called Tezcut. He was understood by Bernal to be the Mexican Hades, or warden of the dead. Not far off was an idol, half-human and half-lizard, “the god of fruits and harvest, I remember not his name,” and all his chapel walls dripped blood.

In the medley of such a pantheon, it is difficult to arrange the deities on any principle of order. Beginning with Huitzilopochtli, as perhaps the most famous, it is to be observed that he indubitably became and was recognised as a god of battles, and that he was also the guide and protector who (according to the Aztec painted scriptures) led the wandering fathers through war and wilderness to the promised land of Mexico. His birth was one of those miraculous conceptions which we have seen so frequently in the myths and märchen of the lower and the higher races. It was not by swallowing a berry, as in Finland, but by cherishing in her bosom a flying ball of feathers that the devout woman, Coatlicue, became the mother of Huitzilopochtli. All armed he sprang to the light, like Athene from the head of Zeus, and slew his brothers that had been born by natural generation. From that day he received names of dread, answering to Deimos and Phobos.4

By another myth, euhemeristic in character, Huitziton (the name is connected with huitzilin, the humming-bird) was the leader of the Aztecs in their wanderings. On his death or translation, his skull gave oracles, like the head of Bran in the Welsh legend. Sahagun, in the first page of his work, also euhemerises Huitzilopochtli, and makes him out to have been a kind of Hercules doublé with a medicine-man; but all this is mere conjecture. The position of Huitzilopochtli as a war-god, guardian and guide through the wilderness is perfectly established, and it is nearly as universally agreed that his name connects him with the humming-bird, which his statue wore on its left foot. He also carried a green bunch of plumage upon his head, shaped like the bill of a small bird Now, as J. G. Müller has pointed out, the legend and characteristics of Huitzilopochtli are reproduced, by a coincidence startling even in mythology, in the legend and characteristics of Picus in Latium. Just as Huitzilopochtli wore the humming-bird indicated by his name on his foot, so Picus was represented with the woodpecker of his name on his head.5

On the subject of Picus one may consult Ovid, Metamorph, xiv. 314. Here the story runs that Circe loved Picus, whom she met in the woods. He disdained her caresses, and she turned him into the woodpecker, “with his garnet head”. “Et fulvo cervix pnecingitur auro.”

According to Virgil (J. Sn., vii. 187), the statue of this Picus was settled in an old Laurentian temple or palace of unusual sanctity, surrounded by images of the earlier gods. The woodpeckers, pici, are known Martio cognomine, says Pliny (10, 18, 20, § 40), and so connected with the Roman war-god, Picas Martius.

In his Romische Mythologie, i. 336, 337, Preller makes no use of these materials for comparison, though the conduct and character of the other beast of war, the wolf, as guide and protector of the Hirpi (wolves), and worshipped by them with wolf-dances, is an obvious survival of totemism. The Picini have their animal leader, Picus, the woodpecker, the Hirpi have their animal leader, the wolf, just as the humming-bird was the leader of the Aztecs.

In these Latin legends, as in the legends of Huit-zilopochtli, the basis, as J. G. Müller sees, is the bird — the humming-bird in one case, the woodpecker in the other. The bird is then euhemerised or brought into anthropomorphic form. It is fabled that he was originally a man (like Picus before Circe enchanted him to a bird’s shape), or, in Mexico, a man named Huitziton, who during the Aztec migrations heard and pursued a little bird that cried “Tinni,” that is, “Follow, follow”.6 Now we are all familiar with classical legends of races that were guided by a bird or beast to their ultimate seats. Müller mentions Battus and the raven, the Chalcidians and the dove, the Cretans and the dolphin, which was Apollo, Cadmus and the cow; the Hirpi, or wolves, who followed the wolf. In the same way the Picini followed the woodpecker, Picus, from whom they derived their name, and carried a woodpecker on their banners. Thus we may connect both the Sabine war-gods and the bird of the Mexican war-gods with the many guiding and protecting animals which occur in fable. Now a guiding and protecting animal is almost a synonym for a totem. That the Sabine woodpecker had been a totem may be pretty certainly established on the evidence of Plutarch. The people called by his name (Picini) declined, like totemists everywhere, to eat their holy bird, in this case the woodpecker.7

The inference is that the humming-bird whose name enters into that of Huitzilopochtli, and whose feathers were worn on his heel, had been the totem of an Aztec kindred before Huitzilopochtli, like Picus, was anthropomorphised. On the other hand, if Huitzilopochtli was once the Baiame of the Aztecs, their Guide in their wanderings, he might, in myth, be mixed up with a totem or other worshipful animal. “Before this god was represented in human form, he was merely a little humming-bird, Huitziton; but as the anthropomorphic processes advanced, the bird became an attribute, emblem, or symbol of the deity.”8 If Huitzilopochtli is said to have given the Aztecs fire, that boon is usually regarded by many races, from Normandy to Australia, as the present given to men by a bird; for example, the fire-crested wren.9 Thus understood, the ornithological element in Huitzilopochtli is purely totemic. While accepting the reduction of him to a hummingbird, M. Reville ingeniously concludes that he was “a derivative form of the sun, and especially of the sun of the fair season”. If the bird was worshipped, it was not as a totem, but as “the divine messenger of the spring,” like “the plover among the Latins”.10 Attempts have been made, with no great success, to discover the cosmical character of the god from the nature of his feasts.

The Mexican calendar, “the Aztec year,” as described at considerable length by Sahagun, was a succession of feasts, marked by minute and elaborate rites of a magical character. The gods of rain were frequently propitiated, so was the goddess of maize, the mountain god, the mother of the gods, and many other divinities. The general theory of worship was the adoration of a deity, first by innumerable human sacrifices, next by the special sacrifice of a man for male gods, of a woman for each goddess. The latter victims were regarded as the living images or incarnations of the divinities in each case; for no system of worship carried farther the identification of the god with the sacrifice, and of both with the officiating priest. The connection was emphasised by the priest’s wearing the newly-flayed skins of the victims, just as in Greece, Egypt and Assyria the fawn-skin, or bull-hide, or goat-skin, or fish-skin of the victims is worn by the celebrants. Finally, an image of the god was made out of paste, and this was divided into morsels and eaten in a hideous sacrament by those who communicated.11

From the special ritual of Huitzilopochtli Mr. Tylor conjectures that this “inextricable compound parthenogenetic god may have been originally” a nature deity whose life and death were connected with the year”.12 This theory is based on the practice at the feast called Panquetzaliztli.13 “His paste idol was shot through with an arrow,” says Mr. Tylor, “and being thus killed, was divided into morsels and eaten; wherefore the ceremony was called Teoqualo, or ‘god-eating,’ and this was associated with the winter solstice.” M. Reville says that this feast coincided with our month of December, the beginning of the cold and dry season, Huitzilopochtli would die with the verdure, the flowers and all the beauteous adornments of spring and summer; but like Adonis, like Osiris, and so many other solar deities, he only died to live and to return again. Before identifying him with the sun, it may be remarked that the Aztec feast of the return of the gods was celebrated in the twelfth month and the paste sacrifice of Huitzilopochtli was in the fifteenth.

There were eighteen months in the Aztec year, and the year began on the 2nd of February. The return of the gods was, therefore, in September, and the paste sacrifice of Huitzilopochtli in December. Clearly the god who dies in the winter solstice cannot be thought to “return” late in September. Huitzilopochtli had another feast on the first day of the ninth month, that is, between June and July, when much use was made of floral decorations, and “they offered him the first flowers of the year,” although flowers were used two months earlier, in the seventh month and in the fourth month.14

But the Mexican calendar is hard to deal with. Müller places the feasts of Huitzilopochtli in the middle of May, the middle of August, and the middle of December.15 He combines his facts with a legend which made Huitzilopochtli to be the son of the goddess of vegetation. J. G. Müller’s whole argument is learned and acute, but errs probably in attempting to extract a consecutive symbolical sense out of the chaos of myth. Thus he writes: “When the myth makes the god the son of the mother of plants, it divides his essence from that of his mother, and thus Huitzilopochtli, however closely akin to the plant world, is not the plant world itself “. This is to consider more curiously than the myth-makers. The name of the patron goddess of the flower-wearers in feasts was Coatlicue or Coatlan, which is also the name of the mother of Huitzilopochtli; its meaning is “serpent petticoated”.16

When Müller goes on to identify Huitzilopochtli with the bunch of feathers that fell into his mother’s breast before his birth, and that again with the humming-bird, and that again with the honey-sucking bird as the “means of fructifying the plants,” and, finally, with the männliche befrwchtende Naturkraft, we have left myth far behind, and are in a region of symbolism and abstract thought, where one conjecture is as good as another. The hypothesis is that men, feeling a sense of religious reverence for the germinal force in Nature, took the humming-bird for its emblem, and so evolved the myth of the birth of Huitzilopochtli, who at once fructifies and is born from the bosom of vernal Nature. It would be rash and wrong to deny that such ideas are mixed in the medley of myth. But, as a rule, the sacred animal (as the humming-bird) is sacred first in itself, probably as a totem or as a guide and protector, and the symbolical sense is a forced interpretation put later on the facts.17 We can hardly go farther, with safety, than the recognition of mingled aspects and elements in Huitzilopochtli as the totem, the tribal god, the departmental war-god, and possibly he is the god of the year’s progress and renewal. His legend and ritual are a conglomerate of all these things, a mass of ideas from many stages of culture.

An abstract comparatively brief must suffice for the other Aztec deities.

Tezcatlipoca is a god with considerable pretensions to an abstract and lofty divinity. His appearance was not prepossessing; his image, as Bernal has described it, wore the head of a bear, and was covered with tiny mirrors.18 Various attributes, especially the mirror and a golden ear, showed him forth as the beholder of the conduct of men and the hearer of prayer. He was said, while he lived on earth, to have been a kind of Ares in the least amiable aspect of the god, a maker of wars and discord.19 Wealth and power were in his gift. He was credited with ability to destroy the world when he chose. Seats were consecrated to him in the streets and the public places; on these might no man sit down.

He was one of the two gods whose extraordinary birth, and death by “happy despatch,” that their vitality might animate the motionless sun, have already been described.20 Tezcatlipoca, like most of the other gods, revived, and came back from the sky to earth. At a place called Tulla he encountered another god or medicine-man, Quetzalcoatl, and their legends become inextricably entangled in tales of trickery, animal metamorphosis, and perhaps in vague memories of tribal migrations. Throughout Tezcatlipoca brought grief on the people called Toltecs, of whom Quetzalcoatl was the divine culture-hero.21 His statues, if we may believe Acosta, did him little credit. “In Cholula, which is a commonwealth of Mexico, they worship a famous idol, which was the god of merchandise. . . . It had the forme of a man, but the visage of a little bird with a red bill and above a combe full of wartes.”22

A ready way of getting a view of the Mexican Pantheon is to study Sahagun’s two books on the feasts of the gods, with their ritual. It will become manifest that the worship was a worship, on the whole, of departmental gods of the elements, of harvest, of various human activities, such as love and commerce, and war and agriculture. The nature of the worship, again, was highly practical. The ceremonies, when not mere offerings of human flesh, were commonly representations on earth of desirable things which the gods were expected to produce in the heavenly sphere. The common type of all such magical ceremonies, whereby like is expected to produce like, has been discussed in the remarks on magic (chapter iv.). The black smoke of sacrifice generates clouds; the pouring forth of water from a pitcher (as in the Attic Thesmophoria) induces the gods to pour forth rain. Thus in Mexico the rain-god (Tlaloc, god of waters) was propitiated with sacrifices of children. “If the children wept and shed abundant tears, they who carried them rejoiced, being convinced that rain would also be abundant.”23 The god of the maize, again (Cinteotl, son of the maize-goddess), had rites resembling those of the Greek Pyanepsion and Eiresione. The Aztecs used to make an image of the god, and offer it all manner of maize and beans.24 Curiously enough, the Greeks also regarded their Pyanepsion as a bean-feast. A more remarkable analogy is that of the Peruvian Mama Cora, the figure of a goddess made of maize, which was asked “if it hath strength sufficient to continue until the next year,” and of which the purpose was, “that the seed of the maize may not perish”.25 This corn image of the corn goddess, preserved through all the year and replaced in the next year by a fresh image, is the Attic [greek], a branch of olive hung with a loaf and with all the fruits of the season, and set up to stand for all the year in front of each house. “And it remains for a year, and when it is dry and withered next year they make a fresh one.”26

Children were sacrificed in Mexico to this deity. In the rites of a goddess of harvest, as has been said, torches were borne by the dancers, as in the Eleusinia; and in European and Oriental folk-lore.27 Demeter was the Greek harvest goddess, in whose rites torches had a place. One of her names is Demeter Erinnys. Mr. Max Müller recognises Erinnys as the dawn. Schwartz connects Demeter Erinnys with the thunderstorm. The torch in the hand of Demeter is the lightning, according to Schwartz. It is interesting, whether the torch be the torch of dawn, or of storm, or neither, to see the prevalence of these torch festivals in rural rites in Mexico, Greece and modern Europe. The idea of the peasants is that the lights scare away evil spirits.28 In the Mexican rite, a woman, representing the goddess and dressed in her ornaments, was sacrificed. The same horrid ceremony accompanied the feast of the mother of the gods, Teteo Innan.29 In this rite the man who represented the son of the goddess wore a mask of the skin from the thigh of the female victim who had personated the goddess herself. The wearing of the skin established a kinship between the man and the woman, as in the many classical, ancient and savage rituals where the celebrants wear the hides of the sacrificed beasts. There was a god of storm called “cloudy serpent,” Mixcoatl, whose rites were not more humane. The Mexican Aphrodite was named Tlaçolteotl,30 “the impure”.

About her character the Aztecs had no illusions. She listened to the confessions of the most loathsome sinners, whom she perhaps first tempted to err, and then forgave and absolved. Confession was usually put off till people had ceased to be likely to sin. She is said to have been the wife of Tlaloc, carried off by Tezcatlipoca. “She must have been the aquatic vegetation of marshy lands,” says M. Roville, “possessed by the god of waters till the sun dries her up and she disappears.” This is an amusing example of modern ingenuity. It resembles M. Reville’s assertion that Tlaloc, the rain-god, “had but one eye, which shows that he must be ultimately identified as an ancient personification of the rainy sky, whose one eye is the sun”. A rainy sky has usually no “eye” at all, and, when it has, in this respect it does not differ from a cloudless sky.

A less lovely set of Olympians than the Aztec gods it is difficult to conceive. Yet, making every allowance for Catholic after-thoughts, there can be no doubt that the prayers, penances and confessions described at length by Sahagun indicate a firm Mexican belief that even these strange deities “made for righteousness,” loved good, and, in this world and the next, punished evil. However it happened, whatever accidents of history or of mixture of the races in the dim past caused it, the Aztecs carried to extremes the religious and the mythical ideas. They were exceedingly pious in their attitude of penitence and prayer; they were more fierce and cruel in ritual, more fantastic in myth, than the wildest of tribes, tameless and homeless, ignorant of agriculture or of any settled and assured existence. Even the Inquisition of the Spanishof the sixteenth century was an improvement on the unheard-of abominations of Mexican ritual. As in all fully developed polytheisms of civilised races among the Aztecs we lose sight of the moral primal Being of low savage races. He is obscured by deities of a kind not yet evolved in the lowest culture.

1 For a brief account of Sahagun and the fortunes of his book, see Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, iii. 231, note 61. The references here to Sahagun’s own work are to the translation by MM. Jourdanet and Simeon, published by Masson, Paris, 1880. Bernal Diaz is referred to in the French edition published by M. Lemerre in 1879.

2 Veridique Histoire, chap, xcii.

3 Bernal Diaz, chap. xcii.

4 Clavigero, Staria Ant. del Mexico, ii. 17, 19; Bancroft, iii. 290.

5 J. G. Muller, Uramerik. Rel., p. 595.

6 Bancroft, iii. 69, note, quoting Torquemada.

7 Quoest. Rom., xxi.

8 J. G. Muller, op. cit. i. p. 596.

9 Bosquet, La Normandie Merveilleuse, Paris, 1845; Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, vol. i.; Kuhn, Herabkunft, p. 109; Journal Anthrop. Inst., November, 1884; Sproat, Savage Life (the cuttlefish), p. 178; Bancroft, iii. 100.

10 Hibbert Lectures, 1884, English trans., pp. 54, 55. The woodpecker seems a better Latin example than the plover.

11 Copious details as to the sacraments, human sacrifices, paste figures of gods, and identity of god and victim, will be found in Sahagun’s second and third books. The magical character of the ritual deserves particular attention. See many examples of gods made of flour and eaten in Liebrecht’s Zur Volkskunde, “Der aufgegessene Gott,” p. 436. It will be noted that the feasts of the corn goddess, like the rites of Demeter, were celebrated with torch-dances. The ritual of the month Quecholli (iii. 33, 144) is a mere medicine hunt, as Tanner and the Red Indians call it, a procuring of magical virtue for the arrows, as in the Zuni mysteries to- day. Compare Report of Bureau of Ethnology, vol. ii., “Zuni Prey Gods”.

12 Primitive Culture, ii. 307; Clavigero, Messico, ii. 17, 81.

13 Sahagun, ii. 15, and Appendix, iii. 2, 3.

14 Ibid. i. ii 9.

15 Uramerik. Rel. v. p. 602.

16 Sahagun, ii. 8

17 Compare Maspero on “Egyptian Beast-Gods,” Rev. de l’Hist. des Rel., vol. i. and chapter postea, on “Egyptian Divine Myths”.

18The name means “shining mirror”. Acosta makes him the god of famine and pestilence (p. 353).

19 Sahagun, i. 3.

20 Antea, “Myths of the Origins of Things “.

21 Sahagnn, iii. 5, 6.

22 Acosta, Nalurall and Morall Historic of the East and West Indies, London, 1604.

23 Sahagun. ii. 2, 3.

24 Ibid., ii. 4, 24.

25 Acosta, Hist Nat., 1604, p. 413.

26 See Schol. in Aristoph. Plut., 1054, and other texts, quoted by Mannhardt, Arntike Waldund Feld Cultus, ii. 221, note 3.

27 Mannhardt, op. cit., ii. 263, i. 501, 502; Schwartz, Prähistorisch Anthropologische Studien, p. 79.

28 Compare the French jour des brandons.

29See Sahagun, ii. 30.

30 Ibid., i. 12.

Chapter 16.

The Mythology of Egypt

Antiquity of Egypt — Guesses at origin of the people — Chronological views of the religion — Permanence and changes — Local and syncretic worship — Elements of pure belief and of totemism — Authorities for facts — Monuments and Greek reports — Contending theories of modern authors — Study of the gods, their beasts, their alliances and mutations — Evidence of ritual — A study of the Osiris myth and of the development of Osiris-Savage and theological elements in the myth — Moral aspect of the religion — Conclusion.

Even to the ancients Egypt was antiquity, and the Greeks sought in the dateless mysteries of the Egyptian religion for the fountain of all that was most mysterious in their own. Curiosity about the obscure beginnings of human creeds and the first knowledge of the gods was naturally aroused by that spectacle of the Pantheon of Egypt. Her highest gods were abstractions, swathed, like the Involuti of the Etrurians, in veils of mystic doctrine; yet in the most secret recess of her temples the pious beheld “a crocodile, a cat, or a serpent, a beast rolling on a purple couch”.1

In Egypt, the earlier ages and the later times beheld a land dominated by the thought of death, whose shadow falls on the monarch on his crowning day, whose whisper bids him send to far-off shores for the granite and the alabaster of the tomb. As life was ruled by the idea of death; so was fact conquered by dream, and all realities hastened to lose themselves in symbols; all gods rushed to merge their identity in the sun, as moths fly towards the flame of a candle. This spectacle of a race obedient to the dead and bowing down before the beasts, this procession of gods that were their own fathers and members together in Ra, wakened the interest of the Greeks, who were even more excited by the mystery of extreme age that hid the beginnings of Egypt. Full of their own memories and legends of tribal movements, of migrations, of invasions, the Greeks acknowledged themselves children of yesterday in face of a secular empire with an origin so remote that it was scarcely guessed at in the conjectures of fable. Egypt presented to them, as to us, the spectacle of antique civilisation without a known beginning. The spade of to-day reveals no more than the traditions of two thousand years ago. The most ancient relics of the earliest dynasty are the massive works of an organised society and an accomplished art. There is an unbridged interval between the builders of the mysterious temple hard by the Sphinx and their predecessors, the chippers of palaeolithic flint axes in the river drift. We know not whence the Egyptians came; we only trifle with hypotheses when we conjecture that her people are of an Asiatic or an African stock; we know not whether her gods arose in the fertile swamps by Nile-side, or whether they were borne in arks, like the Huitzilopochtli of Mexico, from more ancient seats by the piety of their worshippers. Yet as one great river of mysterious source flows throughout all Egypt, so through the brakes and jungles of her religion flows one great myth from a distant fountain-head, the myth of Osiris.2

The questions which we have to ask in dealing with the mythology of Egypt come under two heads: First, What was the nature of Egyptian religion and myth? Secondly, How did that complex mass of beliefs and practices come into existence?

The question, What was the religion of Egypt? is far from simple. In a complete treatise on the topic, it would be necessary to ask in reply, At what period, in what place, and among what classes of society did the religion exist which you wish to investigate? The ancient Egyptian religion had a lifetime so long that it almost requires to be meted by the vague measures of geological time. It is historically known to us, by the earliest monuments, about the date at which Archbishop Usher fixed the Creation. Even then, be it noticed, the religion of Egypt was old and full-grown; there are no historical traces of its beginnings. Like the material civilisation, it had been fashioned by the unrecorded Sheshoa Hor, “the servants of Horus,” patriarchs dwelling with the blessed. In the four or five thousand years of its later existence, Egyptian religion endured various modifications.3 It was a conservative people, and schooled by the wisdom of the sepulchre. But invaders, Semitic, Ethiopian and Greek, brought in some of their own ideas. Priestly colleges developed novel dogmas, and insensibly altered ritual The thought of hundreds of generations of men brooded, not fruitlessly, over the problems of the divine nature. Finally, it is likely that in Egypt, as elsewhere, the superstitions of the least educated and most backward classes, and of subject peoples on a lower level of civilisation, would again and again break up, and win their way to the surface of religion. Thus a complete study of Egyptian faiths would be chronological — would note the setting and rising of the stars of elder and later deities.

The method of a systematic history of Egyptian religion would not be regulated by chronology alone. Topographical and social conditions would also claim attention. The favoured god or gods of one nome (administrative district), or of one town, or of one sacred metropolis, were not the gods of another metropolis, or town, or nome, though some deities were common to the whole country. The fundamental character might be much the same in each case, but the titles, and aspects, and ritual, and accounts of the divine genealogy varied in each locality. Once more, the “syncretic” tendency kept fusing into one divine name and form, or into a family triad of gods (mother, father and son), the deities of different districts, which, beneath their local peculiarities, theologians could recognise as practically the same.

While political events and local circumstances were thus modifying Egyptian religion, it must never be forgotten that the different classes of society were probably by no means at one in their opinions. The monuments show us what the kings believed, or at least what the kings practised, record the prayers they uttered and the sacrifices they offered. The tombs and the papyri which contain the Book of the Dead and other kindred works reveal the nature of belief in a future life, with the changes which it underwent at different times. But the people, the vast majority, unlettered and silent, cannot tell us what they believed, or what were their favourite forms of adoration. We are left to the evidence of amulets, of books of magic, of popular tales, surviving on a papyrus here and there, and to the late testimony of Greek writers — Herodotus, Diodorus, the author of the treatise De Osiride et hide, and others. While the clergy of the twentieth dynasty were hymning the perfections of Ammon Ra —“so high that man may not attain unto him, dweller in the hidden place, him whose image no man has beheld”— the peasant may have been worshipping, like a modern Zulu, the serpents in his hovel, or may have been adoring the local sacred cat of his village, or flinging stones at the local sacred crocodile of his neighbours. To the enlightened in the later empire, perhaps to the remotest unknown ancestors also, God was self-proceeding, self-made, manifest in the deities that were members together in him of godhead. But the peasant, if he thinks of the gods at all, thinks of them walking the earth, like our Lord and the saints in the Norse nursery tales, to amuse themselves with the adventures of men. The peasant spoke of the Seven Hathors, that come like fairy godmothers to the cradle of each infant, and foretell his lot in life.4

It is impossible, of course, to write here a complete history of Egyptian religion, as far as it is to be extracted from the books and essays of learned moderns; but it has probably been made clear that when we speak of the religion and mythology of Egypt, we speak of a very large and complicated subject. Plainly this is a topic which the lay student will find full of pitfalls, and on which even scholars may well arrive at contradictory opinions. To put the matter briefly, where one school finds in the gods and the holy menagerie of Egyptian creeds the corruption of a primitive monotheism, its opponents see a crowd of survivals from savagery combined with clearer religious ideas, which are the long result of civilised and educated thought.5 Both views may be right in part.

After this preamble let us endeavour to form a general working idea of what Egyptian religion was as a whole. What kind of religion did the Israelites see during the sojourn in Egypt, or what presented itself to the eyes of Herodotus? Unluckily we have no such eye-witnesses of the earlier Egyptian as Bernal Diaz was of the Aztec temples. The Bible says little that is definite about the theological “wisdom of the Egyptians”. When confronted with the sacred beasts, Herodotus might have used with double truth the Greek saw: “A great ox has trod upon my tongue”.6 But what Herodotus hinted at or left unsaid is gathered from the evidence of tombs and temple walls and illuminated papyri.

One point is certain. Whatever else the religion of Egypt may at any time have been, it struck every foreign observer as polytheism.7 Moreover, it was a polytheism like another. The Greeks had no difficulty, for example, in recognising amongst these beast-headed monsters gods analogous to their own. This is demonstrated by the fact that to almost every deity of Egypt they readily and unanimously assigned a Greek divine name. Seizing on a certain aspect of Osiris and of his mystery-play, they made him Dionysus; Hor became Apollo; Ptah, Hephaestus: Ammon Ra, Zeus; Thoth, Hermes, and so on with the rest. The Egyptian deities were recognised as divine beings, with certain (generally ill-defined) departments of Nature and of human activity under their care. Some of them, like Seb (earth) and Nut (heaven), were esteemed elemental forces or phenomena, and were identified with the same personal phenomena or forces, Uranus and Gæa, in the Greek system, where heaven and earth were also parents of many of the gods.

Thus it is indisputably clear that Egyptian religion had a polytheistic aspect, or rather, as Maspero says, was “a well-marked polytheism”; that in this regard it coincided with other polytheisms, and that this element must be explained in the Egyptian, as it is explained in the Greek or the Aztec, or the Peruvian or the Maori religion.8 Now an explanation has already been offered in the mythologies previously examined. Some gods have been recognised, like Rangi and Papa, the Maori heaven and earth (Nut and Seb), as representatives of the old personal earth and heaven, which commend themselves to the barbaric fancy. Other gods are the informing and indwelling spirits of other phenomena, of winds or sea or woods. Others, again, whatever their origin, preside over death, over the dead, over the vital functions, such as love, or over the arts of life, such as agriculture; and these last gods of departments of human activity were probably in the beginning culture-heroes, real, or more likely ideal, the first teachers of men.

In polytheisms of long standing all these attributes and functions have been combined and reallotted, and the result we see in that confusion which is of the very essence of myth. Each god has many birth-places, one has many sepulchres, all have conflicting genealogies. If these ideas about other polytheisms be correct, then it is probable that they explain to a great extent the first principles of the polytheism of Egypt They explain at least the factors in Egyptian religion, which the Greeks recognised as analogous with their own, and which are found among polytheists of every degree of culture, from New Zealand to Hellas. If ever Ptah, or any other name, represented “Our Father” as he is known to the most backward races, he was buried into the background by gods evolved from ghosts, by departmental gods, and by the gods of races amalgamated in the course of conquest and settlement.

Leaving on one side, then, for the moment, the vast system of ancestor-worship and of rites undertaken for the benefit of the dead, and leaving aside the divinity of the king, polytheism was the most remarkable feature of Egyptian religion. The foreign traveller in the time of the pyramid-builders, as in the time of Ramses II., or of the Ptolemies, or of the Roman domination, would have found a crowd of gods in receipt of honour and of sacrifice. He would have learned that one god was most adored in one locality, another in another, that Ammon Ra was predominant in Thebes; Ra, the sun-god, in Heliopolis; Osiris in Abydos, and so forth. He would also have observed that certain animals were sacred to certain gods, and that in places where each beast was revered, his species was not eaten, though it might blamelessly be cooked and devoured in the neighbouring nome or district, where another animal was dominant. Everywhere, in all nomes and towns, the adoration of Osiris, chiefly as the god and redeemer of the dead, was practised.9

While these are the general characteristics of Egyptian religion, there were inevitably many modifications in the course of five thousand years. If one might imagine a traveller endowed, like the Wandering Jew, with endless life, and visiting Egypt every thousand, or every five hundred years, we can fancy some of the changes in religion which he would observe. On the whole, from the first dynasty and the earliest monuments to the time when Hor came to wear a dress like that of a Roman centurion, the traveller would find the chief figures of the Pantheon recognisably the same. But there would be novelties in the manner of worshipping and of naming or representing them. “In the oldest tombs, where the oldest writings are found, there are not many gods mentioned — there are Osiris, Horus, Thot, Seb, Nut, Hathor, Anubis, Apheru, and a couple more.”10 Here was a stock of gods who remained in credit till “the dog Anubis” fled from the Star of Bethlehem. Most of these deities bore birth-marks of the sky and of the tomb. If Osiris was “the sun-god of Abydos,” he was also the murdered and mutilated culture-hero. If Hor or Horus was the sun at his height, he too had suffered despiteful usage from his enemies. Seb and Nut (named on the coffin of Mycerinus of the fourth dynasty in the British Museum) were our old friends the personal heaven and earth. Anubis, the jackal, was “the lord of the grave,” and dead kings are worshipped no less than gods who were thought to have been dead kings. While certain gods, who retained permanent power, appear in the oldest monuments, sacred animals are also present from the first.

The gods, in fact, of the earliest monuments were beasts. Here is one of the points in which a great alteration developed itself in the midst of Egyptian religion. Till the twelfth dynasty, when a god is mentioned (and in those very ancient remains gods are not mentioned often), “he is represented by his animal, or with the name spelled out in hieroglyphs, often beside the bird or beast”.11 “The jackal stands for Anup (Anubis), the frog for Hekt, the baboon for Tahuti (Thoth). It is not till after Semitic influence had begun to work in the country that any figures of gods are found.” By “figures of gods” are meant the later man-shaped or semi-man-shaped images, the hawk-headed, jackal-headed, and similar representations with which we are familiar in the museums. The change begins with the twelfth dynasty, but becomes most marked under the eighteenth. “During the ancient empire,” says M. Maspero, “I only find monuments at four points — at Memphis, at Abydos, in some parts of Middle Egypt, at Sinai, and in the valley of Hammamat. The divine names appear but occasionally, in certain unvaried formulæ. Under the eleventh and twelfth dynasties Lower Egypt comes on the scene. The formulæ are more explicit, but the religious monuments rare. From the eighteenth dynasty onwards, we have representations of all the deities, accompanied by legends more or less developed, and we begin to discover books of ritual, hymns, amulets, and other objects.”12 There are also sacred texts in the Pyramids.

Other changes, less important than that which turned the beast-god into a divine man or woman, often beast-headed, are traced in the very earliest ages. The ritual of the holy bulls (Hapi, Apis) makes its official appearance under the fourth king of the first, and the first king of the second dynasties.13 Mr. Le Page Renouf, admitting this, thinks the great development of bull-worship later.14 In the third dynasty the name of Ra, sun, comes to be added to the royal names of kings, as Nebkara, Noferkara, and so forth.15 Osiris becomes more important than the jackal-god as the guardian of the dead. Sokar, another god of death, shows a tendency to merge himself in Osiris. With the successes of the eighteenth dynasty in Thebes, the process of syncretism, by which various god-names and god-natures are mingled, so as to unite the creeds of different nomes and provinces, and blend all in the worship of the Theban Ammon Ra, is most notable. Now arise schools of theology; pantheism and an approach to monotheism in the Theban god become probable results of religious speculations and imperial success. These tendencies are baffled by the break-up of the Theban supremacy, but the monotheistic idea remains in the esoteric dogmas of priesthoods, and survives into Neo-Platonism. Special changes are introduced — now, as in the case of worship of the solar disk by a heretic king; earlier, as in the prevalence of Set-worship, perhaps by Semitic invaders.16

It is impossible here to do more than indicate the kind of modification which Egyptian religion underwent. Throughout it remained constant in certain features, namely, the local character of its gods, their usefulness to the dead (their Chthonian aspect), their tendency to be merged into the sun, Ra, the great type and symbol and source of life, and, finally, their inability to shake off the fur and feathers of the beasts, the earliest form of their own development. Thus life, death, sky, sun, bird, beast and man are all blended in the religious conceptions of Egypt. Here follow two hymns to Osiris, hymns of the nineteenth and twentieth dynasties, which illustrate the confusion of lofty and almost savage ideas, the coexistence of notions from every stage of thought, that make the puzzle of Egyptian mythology.

“Hail to thee, Osiris, eldest son of Seb, greatest of the six deities born of Nut, chief favourite of thy father, Ra, the father of fathers; king of time, master of eternity; one in his manifestations, terrible. When he left the womb of his mother he united all the crowns, he fixed the urseus (emblem of sovereignty) on his head. God of many shapes, god of the unknown name, thou who hast many names in many provinces; if Ra rises in the heavens, it is by the will of Osiris; if he sets, it is at the sight of his glory.”17

In another hymn18 Osiris is thus addressed: “King of eternity, great god, risen from the waters that were in the beginning, strong hawk, king of gods, master of souls, king of terrors, lord of crowns, thou that art great in Hnes, that dost appear at Mendes in the likeness of a ram, monarch of the circle of gods, king of Amenti (Hades), revered of gods and men, who so knoweth humility and reckoneth deeds of righteousness, thereby knows he Osiris.”19

Here the noblest moral sentiments are blended with Oriental salutations in the worship of a god who, for the moment, is recognised as lord of lords, but who is also a ram at Mendes. This apparent confusion of ideas, and this assertion of supremacy for a god who, in the next hymn, is subjected to another god, mark civilised polytheism; but the confusion was increased by the extreme age of the Egyptian faith, and by the doubt that prevailed as to the meaning of tradition. “The seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Dead“ which seems to contain a statement of the system of the universe as understood at Heliopolis under the first dynasties, “is known to us by several examples of the eleventh and twelfth dynasties.” Each of the verses had already been interpreted in three or four different ways; so different, that, according to one school, the Creator, Râ-Show, was the solar fire; according to another school, not the fire, but the waters! The Book of the Dead, in fact, is no book, but collections of pamphlets, so to speak, of very different dates. “Plan or unity cannot be expected,” and glosses only some four thousand years old have become imbedded in really ancient texts.20 Fifteen centuries later the number of interpretations had considerably increased.21

Where the Egyptians themselves were in helpless doubt, it would be vain to offer complete explanations of their opinions and practices in detail; but it is possible, perhaps, to account for certain large elements of their beliefs, and even to untie some of the knots of the Osirian myth.

The strangest feature in the rites of Egypt was animal-worship, which appeared in various phases. There was the local adoration of a beast, a bird, or fish, to which the neighbours of other districts were indifferent or hostile. There was the presence of the animal in the most sacred penetralia of the temple; and there was the god conceived of, on the whole, as anthropomorphic, but often represented in art, after the twelfth dynasty, as a man or woman with the head of a bird or beast.22

These points in Egyptian religion have been the great puzzle both of antiquity and of modern mythology. The common priestly explanations varied. Sometimes it was said that the gods had concealed themselves in the guise of beasts during the revolutionary wars of Set against Horus.23 Often, again, animal-worship was interpreted as symbolical; it was not the beast, but the qualities which he personified that were adored.24 Thus Anubis, really a jackal, is a dog, in the explanations of Plutarch, and is said to be worshipped for his fidelity, or because he can see in the night, or because he is the image of time. “As he brought forth all things out of himself, and contains all things within himself, he gets the title of dog.”25 Once more, and by a nearer approach to what is probably the truth, the beast-gods were said to be survivals of the badges (representing animals) of various tribal companies in the forces of Osiris. Such were the ideas current in Graeco-Roman speculation, nor perhaps is there any earlier evidence as to the character of native interpretation of animal-worship. The opinion has also been broached that beast-worship in Egypt is a refraction from the use of hieroglyphs. If the picture of a beast was one of the signs in the writing of a god’s name, adoration might be transferred to the beast from the god. It is by no means improbable that this process had its share in producing the results.26 Some of the explanations of animal-worship which were popular of old are still in some favour.

Mr. Le Page Renouf appears to hold that there was something respectably mythical in the worship of the inhabitants of zoological and botanical gardens, something holy apparent at least to the devout.27 He quotes the opinion attributed to Apollonius of Tyana, that the beasts were symbols of deity, not deities, and this was the view of “a grave opponent”. Mr. Le Page Renouf also mentions Porphyry’s theory, that “under the semblance of animals the Egyptians worship the universal power which the gods have revealed in the various forms of living nature”.28 It is evident, of course, that all of these theories may have been held by the learned in Egypt, especially after the Christian era, in the times of Apollonius and Porphyry; but that throws little light on the motives and beliefs of the pyramid-builders many thousands of years before, or of the contemporary peasants with their worship of cats and alligators. In short, the systems of symbolism were probably made after the facts, to account for practices whose origin was obscure. Yet another hypothesis is offered by Mr. Le Page Renouf, and in the case of Set and the hippopotamus is shared by M. Maspero. Tiele also remarks that some beasts were promoted to godhead comparatively late, because their names resembled names of gods.29

The gods, in certain cases, received their animal characteristics by virtue of certain unconscious puns or mistakes in the double senses of words. Seb is the earth. Seb is also the Egyptian name for a certain species of goose, and, in accordance with the homonymous tendency of the mythological period of all nations, the god and the bird were identified.30 Seb was called “the Great Cackler”.31 Again, the god Thoth was usually represented with the head of an ibis. A mummied ibis “in the human form is made to represent the god Thoth”.32 This connection between Thoth and the ibis Mr. Le Page Renouf explains at some length as the result of an etymological confusion.33 Thus metaphorical language reacted upon thought, and, as in other religions, obtained the mastery.

While these are the views of a distinguished modern Egyptologist, another Egyptologist, not less distinguished, is of an entirely opposite opinion as to the question on the whole. “It is possible, nay, certain,” writes M. Maspero, “that during the second Theban empire the learned priests may have thought it well to attribute a symbolical sense to certain bestial deities. But whatever they may have worshipped in Thoth-Ibis, it was a bird, and not a hieroglyph, that the first worshippers of the ibis adored.”34 M. Meyer is of the same opinion, and so are Professor Tiele and M. Perrot.35

While the learned have advanced at various periods these conflicting theories of the origin of Egyptian animal-worship, a novel view was introduced by Mr. M’Lennan. In his essays on Plant and Animal Worship, he regarded Egyptian animal-worship as only a consecrated and elaborate survival of totemism. Mr. Le Page Renouf has ridiculed the “school-boy authorities on which Mr. M’Lennan relied”.36 Nevertheless, Mr. M’Lennan’s views are akin to those to which M. Maspero and MM. Perrot and Chipiez are attached, and they have also the support of Professor Sayce.

“These animal forms, in which a later myth saw the shapes assumed by the affrighted gods during the great war between Horus and Typhon, take us back to a remote prehistoric age, when the religious creed of Egypt was still totemism. They are survivals from a long-forgotten past, and prove that Egyptian civilisation was of slow and independent growth, the latest stage only of which is revealed to us by the monuments. Apis of Memphis, Mnevis of Heliopolis, and Pachis of Hermonthis are all links that bind together the Egypt of the Pharaohs and the Egypt of the stone age. These were the sacred animals of the clans which first settled in these localities, and their identification with the deities of the official religion must have been a slow process, never fully carried out, in fact, in the minds of the lower classes.”37

Thus it appears that, after all, even on philological showing, the religions and myths of a civilised people may be illustrated by the religions and myths of savages. It is in the study of savage totemism that we too seek a partial explanation of the singular Egyptian practices that puzzled the Greeks and Romans, and the Egyptians themselves. To some extent the Egyptian religious facts were purely totemistic in the strict sense.

Some examples of the local practices and rites which justify this opinion may be offered. It has been shown that the totem of each totem-kindred among the lower races is sacred, and that there is a strict rule against eating, or even making other uses of, the sacred animal or plant.38 At the same time, one totem-kindred has no scruple about slaying or eating the totem of any other kindred. Now similar rules prevailed in Egypt, and it is not easy for the school which regards the holy beasts as emblems, or as the results of misunderstood language, to explain why an emblem was adored in one village and persecuted and eaten in the next. But if these usages be survivals of totemism, the practice at once ceases to be isolated, and becomes part of a familiar, if somewhat obscure, body of customs found all over the world. “The same animal which was revered and forbidden to be slaughtered for the altar or the table in one part of the country was sacrificed and eaten in another.”39

Herodotus bears testimony to this habit in an important passage. He remarks that the people of the Theban nome whose god, Ammon Ra, or Khnum, was ram-headed, abstain from sheep and sacrifice goats; but the people of Mendes, whose god was goat-headed, abstain from goats, sacrifice sheep, and hold all goats in reverence.40

These local rites, at least in Roman times, caused civil brawls, for the customs of one town naturally seemed blasphemous to neighbours with a different sacred animal. Thus when the people of Dog-town were feasting on the fish called oxyrrhyncus, the citizens of the town which revered the oxyrrhyncus began to eat dogs, to which there is no temptation. Hence arose a riot.41

The most singular detail in Juvenal’s famous account of the war between the towns of Ombi and Tentyra does not appear to be a mere invention. They fought “because each place loathes the gods of its neighbours”. The turmoil began at a sacred feast, and the victors devoured one of the vanquished. Now if the religion were really totemistic, the worshippers would be of the same blood as the animal they worshipped, and in eating an adorer of the crocodile, his enemies would be avenging the eating of their own sacred beast. When that beast was a crocodile, probably nothing but starvation or religious zeal could induce people to taste his unpalatable flesh. Yet “in the city Apollinopolis it is the custom that every one must by all means eat a bit of crocodile; and on one day they catch and kill as many crocodiles as they can, and lay them out in front of the temple “. The mythic reason was that Typhon, in his flight from Horus, took the shape of a crocodile. Yet he was adored at various places where it was dangerous to bathe on account of the numbers and audacity of the creatures. Mummies of crocodiles are found in various towns where the animal was revered.42

It were tedious to draw up a list of the local sacred beasts of Egypt;43 but it seems manifest that the explanation of their worship as totems at once colligates it with a familiar set of phenomena. The symbolic explanations, on the other hand, are clearly fanciful, mere jeux d’esprit. For example, the sacred shrew-mouse was locally adored, was carried to Butis on its death, and its mummy buried with care, but the explanation that it “received divine honours because it is blind, and darkness is more ancient than light,” by no means accounts for the mainly local respect paid to the little beast.44

If this explanation of the local worship of sacred beasts be admitted as plausible, the beast-headed gods, or many of them, may be accounted for in the same way. It is always in a town where a certain animal is locally revered that the human-shaped god wearing the head of the same animal finds the centre and chief holy place of his worship. The cat is great in Bubastis, and there is Bast, and also the cat-headed Sekhet45 of Memphis. The sheep was great in Thebes, and there was the sacred city of the ram-headed Khnum or Ammon Ra.46 If the crocodile was held in supreme regard at Ombos, there, too, was the sacred town of the crocodile-headed god, Sebak.

While Greek writers like Porphyry and Plutarch and Jamblichus repeat the various and inconsistent Egyptian allegorical accounts of the origin of those beast-headed gods, the facts of their worship and chosen residence show that the gods are only semi-anthropomorphic refinements or successors of the animals. It has been said that these representations are later in time, and it is probable that they are later in evolution, than the representations of the deities as mere animals. Nor, perhaps, is it impossible to conjecture how the change in art was made. It is a common ritual custom for the sacrificer to cover himself with the skin and head of the animal sacrificed. In Mexico we know that the Aztec priests wore the flayed skins of their human victims. Herodotus mentions that on the one awful day when a sheep was yearly sacrificed in Thebes, the statue of Zeus, as he calls him, was draped in the hide of the beast. In the same way certain Californian tribes which worship the buzzard sacrifice him, “himself to himself,” once a year, and use his skin as a covering in the ritual.47 Lucian gives an instance in his treatise De Deâ Syriâ (55): “When a man means to go on pilgrimage to Hierapolis, he sacrifices a sheep and eats of its flesh. He then kneels down and draws the head over his own head, praying at the same time to the god.” Chaldean works of art often represent the priest in the skin of the god, sometimes in that of a fish.48

It is a conjecture not unworthy of consideration that the human gods with bestial heads are derived from the aspect of the celebrant clad in the pelt of the beast whom he sacrifices. In Egyptian art the heads of the gods are usually like masks, or flayed skins superimposed on the head of a man.49 If it be asked why the celebrant thus disguises himself in the sacrifice, it is only possible to reply by guess-work. But the hypothesis may be hazarded that this rite was one of the many ways in which the sacred animal has been propitiated in his death by many peoples. It is a kind of legal fiction to persuade him that, like the bear in the Finnish Kalewala and in the Red Indian and Australian legend, “he does not die”. His skin is still capering about on other shoulders.50

While Egyptian myth, religion and ritual is thus connected with the beliefs of the lower races, the animal-worship presents yet another point of contact. Not only were beasts locally adored, but gods were thought of and represented in the shape of various different beasts. How did the evolution work its way? what is the connection between a lofty spiritual conception, as of Ammon Ra, the lord of righteousness, and Osiris, judge of the dead, and bulls, rams, wolves, cranes, hawks, and so forth? Osiris especially had quite a collection of bestial heads, and appeared in divers bestial forms.51 The bull Hapi “was a fair and beautiful image of the soul of Osiris,” in late ritual.52 We have read a hymn in which he is saluted as a ram. He also “taketh the character of the god Bennu, with the head of a crane,” and as Sokar Osiris has the head of a hawk.53 These phenomena could not but occur, in the long course of time, when political expediency, in Egypt, urged the recognition of the identity of various local deities. In the same way “Ammon Ra, like most of the gods, frequently took the character of other deities, as Khem, Ra and Chnumis, and even the attributes of Osiris “.54

There was a constant come and go of attributes, and gods adopted each other’s symbols, as kings and emperors wear the uniform of regiments in each other’s service. Moreover, it is probable that the process so amply illustrated in Samoan religion had its course in Egypt, and that different holy animals might be recognised as aspects of the same deity. Finally, the intricate connection of gods and beasts is no singular or isolated phenomenon. From Australia upwards, a god, perhaps originally, conceived of as human and moral in character, is also recognised in a totem, as Pund-jel in the eagle-hawk. Thus the confusion of Egyptian religion is what was inevitable in a land where new and old did not succeed and supersede each other, but coexisted on good terms. Had religion not been thus confused, it would have been a solitary exception among the institutions of the country.55

A brief and summary account of the chief figures in the Egyptian pantheon will make it sufficiently plain that this is a plausible theory of the gods of Egypt, and a probable interpretation of their adventures.

Accepting the classification proposed by M. Maspero, and remembering the limitations under which it holds good, we find that:—

1. The gods of death and the dead were Sokari, Isis and Osiris, the young Horus and Nephthys.56

2. The elemental gods were Seb and Nut, of whom Seb is the earth and Nut the heavens. These two, like heaven and earth in almost all mythologies, are represented as the parents of many of the gods. The other elemental deities are but obscurely known.

3. Among solar deities are at once recognised Ra and others, but there was a strong tendency to identify each of the gods with the sun, especially to identify Osiris with the sun in his nightly absence.57 Each god, again, was apt to be blended with one or more of the sacred animals. “Ra, in his transformations, assumed the form of the lion, cat and hawk.”58 “The great cat in the alley of persea trees at Heliopolis, which is Ra, crushed the serpent.”59

In different nomes and towns, it either happened that the same gods had different names, or that analogies were recognised between different local gods; in which case the names were often combined, as in Ammon-Ra, Sabek-Ra, Sokar-Osiris, and so forth.

Athwart all these classes and compounds of gods, and athwart the theological attempt at constructing a monotheism out of contradictory materials, came that ancient idea of dualism which exists in the myths of the most backward peoples. As Pund-jel in Australia had his enemy, the crow, as in America Yehl had his Khanukh, as Ioskeha had his Tawiscara, so the gods of Egypt, and specially Osiris, have their Set or Typhon, the spirit who constantly resists and destroys.

With these premises we approach the great Osirian myth.


The great Egyptian myth, the myth of Osiris, turns on the antagonism of Osiris and Set, and the persistence of the blood-feud between Set and the kindred of Osiris.60 To narrate and as far as possible elucidate this myth is the chief task of the student of Egyptian mythology.

Though the Osiris myth, according to Mr. Le Page Renouf, is “as old as Egyptian civilisation,” and though M. Maspero finds the Osiris myth in all its details under the first dynasties, our accounts of it are by no means so early.61

They are mainly allusive, without any connected narrative. Fortunately the narrative, as related by the priests of his own time, is given by the author of De Iside et Osiride, and is confirmed both by the Egyptian texts and by the mysterious hints of the pious Herodotus. Here we follow the myth as reported in the Greek tract, and illustrated by the monuments.

The reader must, for the moment, clear his mind of all the many theories of the meaning of the myth, and must forget the lofty, divine and mystical functions attributed by Egyptian theologians and Egyptian sacred usage to Osiris. He must read the story simply as a story, and he will be struck with its amazing resemblances to the legends about their culture-heroes which are current among the lowest races of America and Africa.

Seb and Nut — earth and heaven — were husband and wife. In the De Iside version, the sun cursed Nut that she should have no child in month or year; but thanks to the cleverness of a new divine co-respondent, five days were added to the calendar. This is clearly a later edition to the fable. On the first of those days Osiris was born, then Typhon or Set, “neither in due time, nor in the right place, but breaking through with a blow, he leaped out from his mother’s side”.62

Isis and Nephthys were later-born sisters. The Greek version of the myth next describes the conduct of Osiris as a “culture-hero”. He instituted laws, taught agriculture, instructed the Egyptians in the ritual of worship, and won them from “their destitute and bestial mode of living”. After civilising Egypt, he travelled over the world, like the Greek Dionysus, whom he so closely resembles in some portions of his legend that Herodotus supposed the Dionysiac myth to have been imported from Egypt.63 In the absence of Osiris, his evil brother, Typhon, kept quiet. But, on the hero’s return, Typhon laid an ambush against him, like Ægisthus against Agamemnon. He had a decorated coffer (mummy-case?) made of the exact length of Osiris, and offered this as a present to any one whom it would fit. At a banquet all the guests tried it; but when Osiris lay down in it, the lid was closed and fastened with nails and melted lead. The coffer, Osiris and all, was then thrown into the Nile. Isis, arrayed in mourning robes like the wandering Demeter, sought Osiris everywhere lamenting, and found the chest at last in an erica tree that entirely covered it. After an adventure like that of Demeter with Triptolemus, Isis obtained the chest. During her absence Typhon lighted on it as he was hunting by moonlight; he tore the corpse of Osiris into fourteen pieces, and scattered them abroad. Isis sought for the mangled remnants, and, whenever she found one, buried it, each tomb being thenceforth recognised as “a grave of Osiris”. Precisely the same fable occurs in Central Australian myths of the Alcheringa, or legendary past.64

The wives “search for the murdered man’s mutilated parts”. It is a plausible suggestion that, if graves of Osiris were once as common in Egypt as cairns of Heitsi Eibib are in Namaqualand to-day, the existence of many tombs of one being might be explained as tombs of his scattered members, and the myth of the dismembering may have no other foundation. On the other hand, it must be noticed that a swine was sacrificed to Osiris, at the full moon, and it was in the form of a black swine that Typhon assailed Horus, the son of Osiris, whose myth is a doublure or replica, in some respects, of the Osirian myth itself.65 We may conjecture, then, that the fourteen portions into which the body of Osiris was rent may stand for the fourteen days of the waning moon.66 It is well known that the phases of the moon and lunar eclipses are almost invariably accounted for in savage science by the attacks of a beast — dog, pig, dragon, or what not — on the heavenly body. Either of these hypothesis (the Egyptians adopted the latter)67 is consistent with the character of early myth, but both are merely tentative suggestions.68

The phallus of Osiris was not recovered, and the totemistic habit which made the people of three different districts abstain from three different fish —lepidotus, phagrus and oxyrrhyncus— was accounted for by the legend that these fish had devoured the missing portion of the hero’s body.

So far the power of evil, the black swine Typhon, had been triumphant. But the blood-feud was handed on to Horus, son of Isis and Osiris. To spur Horus on to battle, Osiris returned from the dead, like Hamlet’s father. But, as is usual with the ghosts of savage myth, Osiris returned, not in human, but in bestial form as a wolf.69 Horus was victorious in the war which followed, and handed Typhon over bound in chains to Isis. Unluckily Isis let him go free, whereon Horus pushed off her crown and placed a bull’s skull on her head.

There the Greek narrator ends, but70 he expressly declines to tell the more blasphemous parts of the story, such as “the dismemberment of Horus and the beheading of Isis”. Why these myths should be considered “more blasphemous” than the rest does not appear.

It will probably be admitted that nothing in this sacred story would seem out of place if we found it in the legends of Pund-jel, or Cagn, or Yehl, among Australians, Bushmen, or Utes, whose own “culture-hero,” like the ghost of Osiris, was a wolf. This dismembering of Osiris in particular resembles the dismembering of many other heroes in American myth; for example, of Chokanipok, out of whom were made vines and flint-stones. Objects in the mineral and vegetable world were explained in Egypt as transformed parts or humours of Osiris, Typhon and other heroes.71

Once more, though the Egyptian gods are buried here and are immortal in heaven, they have also, like the heroes of Eskimos and Australians and Indians of the Amazon, been transformed into stars, and the priests could tell which star was Osiris, which was Isis, and which was Typhon.72 Such are the wild inconsistencies which Egyptian religion shares with the fables of the lowest races. In view of these facts it is difficult to agree with Brugsch73 that “from the root and trunk of a pure conception of deity spring the boughs and twigs of a tree of myth, whose leaves spread into a rank impenetrable luxuriance “. Stories like the Osiris myth — stories found all over the whole world — spring from no pure religious source, but embody the delusions and fantastic dreams of the lowest and least developed human fancy and human speculation. And these flourish, like mistletoe on the oak, over the sturdier growth of a religious conception of another root.

The references to the myth in papyri and on the monuments, though obscure and fragmentary, confirm the narrative of the De Iside. The coffer in which Osiris foolishly ventured himself seems to be alluded to in the Harris magical papyrus.74 “Get made for me a shrine of eight cubits. Then it was told to thee, O man of seven cubits, How canst thou enter it? And it had been made for thee, and thou hast reposed in it.”

Here, too, Isis magically stops the mouths of the Nile, perhaps to prevent the coffer from floating out to sea. More to the point is one of the original “Osirian hymns” mentioned by Plutarch.75 The hymn is on a stele, and is attributed by M. Chabas, the translator, to the seventeenth dynasty.76 Osiris is addressed as the joy and glory of his parents, Seb and Nut, who overcomes his enemy. His sister, Isis, accords to him due funeral rites after his death and routs his foes. Without ceasing, without resting, she sought his dead body, and wailing did she wander round the world, nor stopped till she found him. Light flashed from her feathers.77 Horus, her son, is king of the world.

Such is a precis of the mythical part of the hymn. The rest regards Osiris in his religious capacity as a sovereign of nature, and as the guide and protector of the dead. The hymn corroborates, as far as it goes, the narrative of the Greek two thousand years later. Similar confirmation is given by “The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys,” a papyrus found within a statue of Osiris in Thebes. The sisters wail for the dead hero, and implore him to “come to his own abode”. The theory of the birth of Horus here is that he was formed out of the scattered members of Osiris, an hypothesis, of course, inconsistent with the other myths (especially with the myth that he dived for the members of Osiris in the shape of a crocodile),78 and, therefore, all the more mythical.

The “Book of Respirations,” finally, contains the magical songs by which Isis was feigned to have restored breath and life to Osiris.79 In the representations of the vengeance and triumph of Horus on the temple walls of Edfou in the Ptolemaic period, Horus, accompanied by Isis, not only chains up and pierces the red hippopotamus (or pig in some designs), who is Set, but, exercising reprisals, cuts him into pieces, as Set cut Osiris. Isis instructs Osiris as to the portion which properly falls to each of nine gods. Isis reserves his head and “saddle”; Osiris gets the thigh; the bones are given to the cats. As each god had his local habitation in a given town, there is doubtless reference to local myths. At Edfou also the animal of Set is sacrificed, symbolically in his image made of paste, a common practice in ancient Mexico.80

Many of these myths, as M. Naville remarks, are doubtless ratiological: the priests, as in the Brahmanas, told them to account for peculiar parts of the ritual, and to explain strange local names. Thus the names of many places are explained by myths setting forth that they commemorate some event in the campaign of Horus against Set. In precisely the same way the local superstitions, originally totemic, about various animals were explained by myths attaching these animals to the legends of the gods.

Explanations of the Osiris myth thus handed down to us were common among the ancient students of religion. Many of them are reported in the familiar tract De Iside et Osiride. They are all the interpretations of civilised men, whose method is to ask themselves, “Now, if I had told such a tale as this, or invented such a mystery-play of divine misadventures, what meaning could I have intended to convey in what is apparently blasphemous nonsense?” There were moral, solar, lunar, cosmical, tellurian, and other methods of accounting for a myth which, in its origin, appears to be one of the world-wide early legends of the strife between a fabulous good being and his brother, a fabulous evil being. Most probably some incidents from a moon-myth have also crept into, or from the first made part of, the tale of Osiris. The enmity of Typhon to the eyes of Horus, which he extinguishes, and which are restored,81 has much the air of an early mythical attempt to explain the phenomena of eclipses, or even of sunset. We can plainly see how local and tribal superstitions, according to which this or that beast, fish, or tree was held sacred, came to be tagged to the general body of the myth. This or that fish was not eaten; this or that tree was holy; and men who had lost the true explanation of these superstitions explained them by saying that the fish had tasted, or the tree had sheltered.

This view of the myth, while it does not pretend to account for every detail, refers it to a large class of similar narratives, to the barbarous dualistic legends about the original good and bad extra-natural beings, which are still found current among contemporary savages. These tales are the natural expression of the savage fancy, and we presume that the myth of the mutilated Osiris survived in Egypt, just as the use of flint-headed arrows and flint knives survived during millenniums in which bronze and iron were perfectly familiar. The cause assigned is adequate, and the process of survival is verified.

Whether this be the correct theory of the fundamental facts of the myth or not, it is certain that the myth received vast practical and religious developments. Orisis did not remain the mere culture-hero of whom we have read the story, wounded in the house of his friends, dismembered, restored and buried, reappearing as a wolf or bull, or translated to a star. His worship pervaded the whole of Egypt, and his name grew into a kind of hieroglyph for all that is divine.

“The Osirian type, in its long evolution, ended in being the symbol of the whole deified universe — underworld and world of earth, the waters above and the waters below. It is Osiris that floods Egypt in the Nile, and that clothes her with the growing grain. His are the sacred eyes, the sun that is born daily and meets a daily death, the moon that every month is young and waxes old. Osiris is the soul that animates these, the soul that vivifies all things, and all things are but his body. He is, like Ra of the royal tombs, the earth and the sun, the creator and the created.”82

Such is the splendid sacred vestment which Egyptian theology wove for the mangled and massacred hero of the myth. All forces, all powers, were finally recognised in him; he was sun and moon, and the maker of all things; he was the truth and the life; in him all men were justified.

On the origin of the myth philology throws no light. M. Lefebure recognises in the name Osiris the meaning of “the infernal abode,” or “the nocturnal residence of the sacred eye,” for, in the duel of Set and Horus, he sees a mythical account of the daily setting of the sun.83 “Osiris himself, the sun at his setting, became a centre round which the other incidents of the war of the gods gradually crystallised.” Osiris is also the earth. It would be difficult either to prove or disprove this contention, and the usual divergency of opinion as to the meaning and etymology of the word “Osiris” has always prevailed.84 The Greek85 identifies Osiris with Hades. “Both,” says M. Lefebure, “originally meant the dwellings — and came to mean the god — of the dead.” In the same spirit Anubis, the jackal (a beast still dreaded as a ghost by the Egyptians), is explained as “the circle of the horizon,” or “the portals of the land of darkness,” the gate kept, as Homer would say, by Hades, the mighty warden. Whether it is more natural that men should represent the circle of the horizon or the twilight at sunset as a jackal, or that a jackal-totem should survive as a god, mythologists will decide for themselves.86

The jackal, by a myth that cannot be called pious, was said to have eaten his father, Osiris. Mr. Frazers theory of Osiris as somehow connected with vegetation will be found in his Golden Bough. His master, Mannhardt, the great writer on vegetation myths, held that Osiris was the sun.

The conclusions to be drawn from so slight a treatment of so vast a subject are, that in Egypt, as elsewhere, a mythical and a religious, a rational and an irrational stream of thought flowed together, and even to some extent mingled their waters. The rational tendency, declared in prayers and hymns, amplifies the early human belief in a protecting and friendly personal power making for righteousness. The irrational tendency, declared in myth and ritual, retains and elaborates the early human confusions of thought between man and beast and god, things animate and inanimate. On the one hand, we have almost a recognition of supreme divinity; on the other, savage rites and beliefs, shared by Australians and Bushmen. It is not safe or scientific to call one of those tendencies earlier than the other; perhaps we know no race so backward that it is not influenced by forms of both. Nor is it safe or scientific to look on ruder practices as corruptions of the purer beliefs. Perhaps it may never be possible to trace both streams to the same fountain-head; probably they well up from separate springs in the nature of man. We do but recognise and contrast them; the sources of both are lost in the distance, where history can find no record of actual experience. Egyptian religion and myth are thus no isolated things; they are but the common stuff of human thought, decorated or distorted under a hundred influences in the course of unknown centuries of years.

1 Clem. Alex., Pædagog., iii. 2 (93).

2 As to the origin of the Egyptians, the prevalent belief among the ancients was that they had descended the Nile from the interior of Africa. Cf. Diodorus Siculus, iii. 8. Modern theorists occasionally lean in this direction. Dumichen, Geschichte des Alien Ægyptiens, i. 118. Again, an attempt has been made to represent them as successful members of a race whereof the Bushmen of South Africa are the social failures. M. Maspero conceives, once more, that the Egyptians were “proto-Semitic,” ethnologically related to the people of Eastern Asia, and the grammar of their language has Semitic affinities. But the connection, if it ever existed, is acknowledged to be extremely remote. Maspero, Hist, de l’Orient, 4th edit., p. 17. De Rouge writes, “Tout nous ramène vers la parenté primitive de Mitsraim (Egyptains) et de Canaan” (Recherches sur les Muniments, p. 11).

3 Professor Lieblein, maintaining this view, opposes the statement of Mr. Le Page Renouf, who writes: “The earliest monuments which have been discovered present to us the very same fully developed civilisation and the same religion as the later monuments” (Hib. Lectures, 1880, p. 81). But it is superfluous to attack a position which Mr. Le Page Renouf does not appear really to hold. He admits the existence of development and evolution in Egyptian religious thought “I believe, therefore, that, after closely approaching the point at which polytheism might have turned into monotheism, the religious thought of Egypt turned aside into a wrong track” (Op. cit, p. 236).

4 Compare Maspero, Hist, de l’Orient., 4th edit., pp. 279- 288, for the priestly hymns and the worship of beasts. “The lofty thoughts remained the property of a small number of priests and instructed people; they did not penetrate the mass of the population. Far from that, the worship of animals, goose, swallow, cat, serpent, had many more followers than Amnion Ra could count.” See also Tiele, Manuel de l’Hist. des Rel., Paris, 1880, pp. 46, 47. For the folk-lore of wandering gods see Maspero, Contes Egyptiens, Paris, 1882, p. 17.

5 The English leader of the former school, the believer in a primitive purity, corrupted and degraded but not extinguished, is Mr. Le Page Renouf (Hibbert Lectures, London, 1879). It is not always very easy to make out what side Mr. Le Page Renouf does take. For example, in his Hibbert Lectures, p. 89, he speaks somewhat sympathetically of the “very many eminent scholars, who, with full knowledge of all that can be said to the contrary, maintain that the Egyptian religion is essentially monotheistic”. He himself says that “a power without a name or any mythological characteristic is constantly referred to in the singular number, and can only be regarded as the object of that sensus numinis, or immediate perception of the Infinite.” which is “the result of an intuition as irresistible as the impressions of our senses”. If this be not primitive instinctive monotheism, what is it? Yet Mr. Le Page Renouf says that Egyptian polytheism, after closely approaching the point where it might have become monotheism, went off on a wrong track; so the Egyptians after all were polytheists, not monotheists (op. cit., p. 235). Of similar views are the late illustrious Vicomte de Rouge, M. Mariette, M. Pierret, and Brugsch Pasha (Rel. und Myth, der Alien Egypter, vol i., Leipzig, 1884). On the other side, on the whole regarding Egyptian creeds as a complex mass of early uncivilised and popular ideas, with a later priestly religion tending towards pantheism and monotheism, are M. Maspero, Professor Tiele, Professor Lieblein (English readers may consult his pamphlet, Egyptian Religion, Leipzig, 1884), M. Edward Meyer, (Geschichte des Alterthums, Stuttgart, 1884), Herr Pietsch. mann (Zeitschrtftfur Ethnologic, Berlin, 1878, art. “Fetisch Dienst”), and Professor Tiele (Manuel de l’Histoire des Religions, Paris, 1880, and ”History of Egyptian Religion, English translation, 1882).

6 Æschylus, Agamemnon, 37, [greek]

7 Maspero, Musée de Boulaq, p. 150; Le Page Renouf, Hib. Led., pp. 85,86.

8 “It is certainly erroneous to consider Egyptian religion as a polytheistic corruption of a prehistoric monotheism. It is more correct to say that, while polytheistic in principle, the religion developed in two absolutely opposite directions. On one side, the constant introduction of new gods, local or foreign; on the other, a groping after a monotheism never absolutely reached. The learned explained the crowd of gods as so many incarnations of the one hidden uncreated deity.”— Tiele, Manuel de l’Histoire des Religions, p. 46.

9 On the different religions of different nomes, and especially the animal worship, see Pietschmann, Der Ægyptische Fetischdienst und Götterglaube, Zeitschrtft für Ethnologie, 1878, p. 168.

10 Lieblein, Egyptian Religion, p. 7.

11 Flinders Petrie, Arts of Ancient Egypt, p. 8.

12 Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, i. 124.

13 Brugsch, History of Egypt, English transl., i. 59, 60.

14 Hib. Lect., pp. 237, 238.

15 Op. cit. i. p. 56.

16 For Khunaten, and his heresy of the disk in Thebes, see Brugsch, op. cit., i. 442. It had little or no effect on myth. Tiele says (Hist. Egypt. Rel., p. 49), “From the most remote antiquity Set is one of the Osirian circle, and is thus a genuine Egyptian deity”.

17 From Abydos, nineteenth dynasty. Maspero, Musee de Boulaq, pp. 49,50.

18 Twentieth dynasty. Op. cit., p. 48.

19 “This phase of religious thought,” says Mr. Page Renouf, speaking of what he calls monotheism, “is chiefly presented to us in a large number of hymns, beginning with the earliest days of the eighteenth dynasty. It is certainly much more ancient, but. . . . none of the hymns of that time have come down to us.” See a very remarkable pantheistic hymn to Osiris, “lord of holy transformations,” in a passage cited, Hib. Lect., p. 218, and the hymns to Amnion Ra, “closely approaching the language of monotheism,” pp. 225, 226. Excellent examples of pantheistic litanies of Ra are translated from originals of the nineteenth dynasty, in Records of the Past, viii. 105-128. The royal Osiris is identified with Ra. Here, too, it is told how Ra smote Apap, the serpent of evil, the Egyptian Ahi.

20 Cf. Tiele, Hist Egypt. Rel., pp. 26-29, and notes.

21 Maspero, Musee de Boulaq, p. 149.

22 As to the animals which were sacred and might not be eaten in various nomes, an account will be found in Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians, ii. 467. The English reader will find many beast-headed gods in the illustrations to vol. iii. The edition referred to is Birch’s, London, 1878. A more scientific authority is Lanzoni, Dizion. Mit.

23 De Is. et Os., lxxii.

24 Op. cit., xi.

25 Ibid., xliv.

26 Pietschmann, op. cit., p. 163, contends that the animal-worship is older than these Egyptian modes of writing the divine names, say of Amnion Ra or Hathor. Moreover, the signs were used in writing the names because the gods were conceived of in these animal shapes.

27 Hibbert Lectures, pp. 6, 7.

28 De Abst., iv. c. 9.

29 Theolog. Tidjsch., 12th year, p. 261.

30 For a statement of the theory of “homonymous tendency,” see Selected Essays, Max Müller, i. 299, 245. For a criticism of the system, see Mythology in Encyclop, Brit., or in La Mythologie, A. Lang, Paris, 1886.

31 Hibbert Lectures, 1880, p. 111.

32 Wilkinson, iii. 325.

33 Op. cit., pp. 116, 117, 237.

34 Revue de l' Histoire des Religions, vol. i.

35 Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, p. 72; Tiele, Manuel, p. 45; Perrot and Chipiez, Egyptian Art, English transl., i. 54. Hist. Egypt. Rel., pp. 97, 103. Tiele finds the origin of this animal-worship in “animism,” and supposes that the original colonists or conquerors from Asia found it prevalent in and adopted it from an African population. Professor Tiele does not appear, when he wrote this chapter, to have observed the world-wide diffusion of animal-worship in totem ism, for he says, “Nowhere else does the worship of animals prevail so extensively as among African peoples”.

36 Hibbert Lectures, pp. 6, 30.

37 Herodotus, p. 344.

38 This must be taken generally. See Spencer and Gillen in the Natives of Central Australia, where each kin helps the others to kill its own totem.

39 Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, ii. 467.

40 Herodotus, ii. 42-46. The goat-headed Mendesian god Pan, as Herodotus calls him, is recognised by Dr. Birch as the goat-headed Ba-en-tattu. Wilkinson, ii. 512, note 2.

41 De Is. et Os., 71, 72.

42 Wilkinson, iii. 329. Compare AElian, x. 24, on the enmity between worshippers of crocodiles and hawks (and Strabo, xvii. 558). The hawk-worshippers averred that the hawk was a symbol of fire; the crocodile people said that their beast was an emblem of water; but why one city should be so attached to water-worship and its neighbour to tire-worship does not appear.

43 A good deal of information will be found in Wilkinson’s third volume, but must be accepted with caution.

44 Wilkinson, iii. 33; Plutarch, Sympos., iv. quaest. 5; Herodot, ii. 67.

45 Wilkinson, iii. 286. But the cat, though Bubastis was her centre and metropolis, was sacred all over the land. Nor was puss only in this proud position. Some animals were universally worshipped.

46 The inconsistencies of statement about this ram-headed deity in Wilkinson are most confusing. Ammon is an adjective = “hidden,” and is connected with the ram-headed Khnum, and with the hawk-headed Ra, the sun.

47 [Robinson, Life in California, pp. 241, 803;] Herodotus, ii. 42.

48 Menant, Recherehes, ii. 49. See a collection of cases in our Cupid and Psyche, pp. lviii., lix.

49 The idea is Professor Robertson Smith’s.

50 For examples of propitiation of slain animals by this and other arts, see Prim. Cult, i. 467, 469. When the Koriaks slay a bear or wolf, they dress one of their people in his skin, and dance round him, chanting excuses. We must not forget, while offering this hypothesis of the origin of beast-headed gods, that representations of this kind in art may only be a fanciful kind of shorthand. Everyone knows the beasts which, in Christian art, accompany the four Evangelists. These do not, of course, signify that St. John was of the eagle totem kin, and St. Mark of the stock of the lion. They are the beasts of Ezekiel and the Apocalypse, regarded as types of the four Gospel writers. Moreover, in mediaeval art, the Evangelists are occasionally represented with the heads of their beasts — John with an eagle’s head, Mark with a lion’s, Luke with that of an ox. See Bulletin, Com. Hist. Archeol., iv. 1852. For this note I am indebted to M. H. Gaidoz.

51 Cf. Wilkinson, iii. 86, 87.

52 De Is. et Os., 29.

53Wilkinson, iii. 82.

54Op. cit., iii, 9.

55 The peculiarity of Egypt, in religion and myth as in every other institution, is the retention of the very rudest and most barbarous things side by side with the last refinements of civilisation (Tiele, Manuel, p. 44). The existence of this conservatism (by which we profess to explain the Egyptian myths and worship) is illustrated, in another field, by the arts of everyday life, and by the testimony of the sepulchres of Thebes. M. Passalacqua, in some excavations at Quoarnah (Gurna), struck on the common cemetery of the ancient city of Thebes. Here he found “the mummy of a hunter, with a wooden bow and twelve arrows, the shaft made of reed, the points of hardened wood tipped with edged flints. Hard by lay jewels belonging to the mummy of a young woman, pins with ornamental heads, necklaces of gold and lapis-lazuli, gold earrings, scarabs of gold, bracelets of gold,” and so forth (Chabas, Etudes sur l’Antiquity Historique, p. 390). The refined art of the gold-worker was contemporary, and this at a late period, with the use of flint-headed arrows, the weapons commonly found all over the world in places where the metals had never penetrated. Again, a razor-shaped knife of flint has been unearthed; it is inscribed in hieroglyphics with the words, “The great Sam, son of Ptah, chief of artists “. The “Sams” were members of the priestly class, who fulfilled certain mystic duties at funerals. It is reported by Herodotus that the embalmers opened the bodies of the dead with a knife of stone; and the discovery of such a knife, though it had not belonged to an embalmer, proves that in Egypt the stone age did not disappear, but coexisted throughout with the arts of metal-working. It is alleged that flint chisels and stone hammers were used by the workers of the mines in Sinai, even under Dynasties XII., XIX. The soil of Egypt, when excavated, constantly shows that the Egyptians, who in the remote age of the pyramid-builders were already acquainted with bronze, and even with iron, did not therefore relinquish the use of flint knives and arrow-heads when such implements became cheaper than tools of metal, or when they were associated with religion. Precisely in the same way did the Egyptians, who, in the remotest known times, had imposing religious ideas, decline to relinquish the totems and beast-gods and absurd or blasphemous myths which (like flint axes and arrow-heads) are everywhere characteristic of savages. The fact is, that the Egyptian mind, when turned to divine matters, was constantly working on, and working over, the primeval stuff of all mythologies and of all religions. First, there is the belief in a moral guardian and father of men; this is expressed in the sacred hymns. Next, there is the belief in “a strange and powerful race, supposed to have been busy on earth before the making, or the evolution, or the emergence of man”; this is expressed in the mythical legends. The Egyptians inherited a number of legends of extra-natural heroes, not unlike the savage Qat, Cagn, Yehl, Pund-jel, Ioskeha and Quahteaht, the Maori Tutenganahau and the South Sea Tangaroa. Some of these were elemental forces, personified in human or bestial guise; some were merely idealised medicine-men. Their “wanderings, rapes and manslaughters and mutilations,” as Plutarch says, remained permanently in legend. When these beings, in the advance of thought, had obtained divine attributes, and when the conception of abstract divinity, returning, perhaps, to its first form, had become pure and lofty, the old legends became so many stumbling-blocks to the faithful. They were explained away as allegories (every student having his own allegorical system), or the extranatural beings were taken (as by Plutarch) to be “demons, not gods “.

56 Their special relation to the souls of the departed is matter for a separate discussion.

57 “The gods of the dead and the elemental gods were almost all identified with the sun, for the purpose of blending them in a theistic unity” (Maspero, Rev. de l’hist. des Rel., i. 126).

58 Birch, in Wilkinson, iii. 59.

59Le Page Renouf, op. cit., p. 114.

60 Herodotus, ii. 144.

61 The principal native documents are the Magical Harris Papyrus, of the nineteenth or twentieth dynasty, translated by M. Chabas (Records of the Past, x. 137); the papyrus of Nebseni (eighteenth dynasty), translated by M. Naville, and in Records of Past, x. 159; the hymn to Osiris, on a stele (eighteenth dynasty) translated by M. Chabas (Rev. Archeol., 1857; Records of Past, iv. 99); “The Book of Respirations,” mythically said to have been made by Isis to restore Osiris — “Book of the Breath of Life” (the papyrus is probably of the time of the Ptolemies — Records of Part, iv. 119); “The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys,” translated by M. de Horrack (Records of Past, ii. 117). There is also “The Book of the Dead”: the version of M. Pierret, (Paris, 1882) is convenient in shape (also Birch, in Bunsen, vol. v.). M. de Naville’s new edition is elaborate and costly, and without a translation. Sarcophagi and royal tombs (Champollion) also contain many representations of the incidents in the myth. “The myth of Osiris in its details, the laying out of his body by his wife Isis and his sister Nephthys, the reconstruction of his limbs, his mythical chest, and other incidents connected with his myth are represented in detail in the temple of Philae” (Birch, ap. Wilkinson, iii. 84). The reverent awe of Herodotus prevents him from describing the mystery-play on the sufferings of Osiris, which he says was acted at Sais, ii. 171, and ii. 61, 67, 86. Probably the clearest and most consecutive modern account of the Osiris myth is given by M. Lefebure in Les Yeux d’Horus et Osiris. M. Lefebure’s translations are followed in the text; he is not, however, responsible for our treatment of the myth. The Ptolemaic version of the temple of Edfou is published by M. Naville, Mythe d’Horus (Geneva, 1870).

62 De Iside et Osiride, xii. It is a most curious coincidence that the same story is told of Indra in the Rig- Veda, iv. 18, 1. “This is the old and well-known path by which all the gods were born: thou mayst not, by other means, bring thy mother unto death.” Indra replies, “I will not go out thence, that is a dangerous way: right through the side will I burst”. Compare (Leland, Algonquin Legends, p. 15) the birth of the Algonquin Typhon, the evil Malsumis, the wolf. “Glooskap said, ‘I will be born as others are’.” But the evil Malsumis thought himself too great to be brought forth in such a manner, and declared that he would burst through his mother’s side. Mr. Leland’s note, containing a Buddhist and an Armenian parallel, but referring neither to Indra nor Typhon, shows the bona fides of the Algonquin report. The Bodhisattva was born through his mother’s right side (Kern.. Der Buddhismus, 30). The Irish version is that our Lord was born through the crown of the head of the Virgin, like Athene. Saltair na Rann, 7529, 7530. Se« also Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 490. For the Irish and Buddhist legends (there is an Anglo-Saxon parallel) I am indebted to Mr Whitley Stokes. Probably the feeling that a supernatural child should have no natural birth, and not the borrowing of ideas, accounts for those strange similarities of myth.

63 “Osiris is Dionysus in the tongue of Hellas” (Herodotus, ii. 144, ii. 48). “Most of the details of the mystery of Osiris, as practised by the Egyptians, resemble the Dionysus mysteries of Greece. . . . Methinks that Melampus, Amythaon’s son, was well seen in this knowledge, for it was Melampus that brought among the Greeks the name and rites and phallic procession of Dionysus.” (Compare Dels, et Os., xxxv.) The coincidences are probably not to be explained by borrowing; many of them are found in America.

64 Spencer and Gillen, p. 399.

65 In the Edfou monuments Set is slain and dismembered in the shape of a red hippopotamus (Naville, Mythe d’Horus, p. 7).

66 The fragments of Osiris were sixteen, according to the texts of Deuderah, one for each nome.

67 De Is. et Os., xxxv.

68 Compare Lefebure, Les Yeux d’Horus, pp. 47 48.

69 Wicked squires in Shropshire (Miss Burns, Shropshire Folk- Lore) “come” as bulls. Osiris, in the Mendes nonie, “came” as a ram (Marietta, Denderah, iv. 75).

70 De Is, et Os., xx.

71Magical Text, nineteenth dynasty, translated by Dr. Birch Records of Past vi. 115; Lefebure, Osiris, pp. 100, 113,124, 205; Livre des Morts chap. xvii.; Records of Past, x. 84.

72 Custom and Myth, “Star Myths”; De Rouge, Nouv. Not., p. 197; Lefebure, Osiris, p. 213.

73 Religion und Mythologie, p. 99.

74 Records of Past, x. 154.

75 De Is. et Os., 211.

76 Rev. Archeol., May, 1857.

77 The Greek version says that Isis took the form of a swallow.

78 Mariette, Denderah, iv. 77, 88, 89.

79 Records of Past, iv. 121.

80 Herodotus, ii. 47; De. Is. et Os., 90. See also Porphyry’s Life of Pythagoras, who sacrificed a bull made of paste, Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 436.

81 Livre des Moris, pp. 112, 118.

82 Lefebure, Osiris, p. 248.

83 Osiris, p. 129. So Lieblein, op. cit., p. 7.

84 See the guesses of etymologists (Osiris, pp. 132,133). Horus has even been connected with the Greek Hera, as the atmosphere!

85 De Is. Os., 75.

86 Le Page Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 112-114, 237.

Chapter 17.

Gods of the Aryans of India.

Difficulties of the study — Development of clan-gods — Departmental gods-Divine patronage of morality — Immorality mythically attributed to gods — Indra — His love of Soma — Scandal about Indra — Attempts to explain Indra as an elemental god — Varuna — Ushas — The Asvins — Their legend and theories about it — Tvashtri — The Maruts — Conclusions arrived at.

Nothing in all mythology is more difficult than the attempt to get a clear view of the gods of Vedic India. The perplexed nature of the evidence has already been explained, and may be briefly recapitulated. The obscure documents on which we have to rely, the Vedas and the Brahmanaa, contain in solution the opinions of many different ages and of many different minds. Old and comparatively modern conceptions of the deities, pious efforts to veil or to explain away what seemed crude or profane, the puerilities of ritual, half-conscious strivings in the direction of monotheism or pantheism, clan or family prejudices, rough etymological guesses, and many other elements of doubt combine to confuse what can never have been clear. Savage legends, philosophic conjectures, individual predilections are all blended into the collection of hymns called the Rig- Veda. Who can bring order into such a chaos?

An attempt to unravel the tangled threads of Indian faith must be made. The gods of the Vedas are, on the whole, of the usual polytheistic type, though their forms mix into each other like shadows cast by a flickering fire. The ideas which may be gathered about them from the ancient hymns have, as usual, no consistency and no strict orthodoxy. As each bard of each bardic family celebrates a god, he is apt to make him for the occasion the pre-eminent deity of all.1 This way of conceiving of the gods leads naturally (as thought advances) in the direction of a pantheistic monotheism, a hospitable theology which accepts each divine being as a form or manifestation of the supreme universal spirit. It is easy, however, to detect certain attributes more or less peculiar to each god. As among races far less forward in civilisation, each of the greater powers has his own special department, however much his worshippers may be inclined to regard him as really supreme sovereign. Thus Indra is mainly concerned with thunder and other atmospheric phenomena: these are his department; but Vayu is the wind or the god of the wind, and Agni as fire or the god of fire is necessarily not unconnected with the lightning. The Maruts, again, are the storm-winds, or gods of the storm-winds; Mitra and Varuna preside over day and night; Ushas is the dawn or the goddess of dawn, and Tvashtri is the mechanic among the deities, corresponding more or less closely to the Greek Hephaestus.

Though many of these beings are still in Vedic poetry departmental powers with provinces of their own in external Nature, they are also supposed to be interested not only in the worldly, but in the moral welfare of mankind, and are imagined to “make for righteousness “. It is true that the myths by no means always agree in representing the gods as themselves moral. Incest and other hideous offences are imputed to them, and it is common to explain these myths as the result of the forgotten meanings of sayings which originally were only intended to describe processes of nature, especially of the atmosphere. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that this explanation is correct, we can scarcely be expected to think highly of the national taste which preferred to describe pure phenomena like dawn and sunset in language which is appropriate to the worst crimes in the human calendar. It is certain that the Indians, when they came to reflect and philosophise on their own religion (and they had reached this point before the Veda was compiled), were themselves horrified by the immoralities of some of their gods. Yet in Vedic times these gods were already acknowledged as beings endowed with strong moral attributes and interested in the conduct of men. As an example of this high ethical view, we may quote Mr. Max Muller’s translation of part of a hymn addressed to Varuna.2

“Take from me my sin like a fetter, and we shall increase, O Varuna, the spring of thy law. Let not the thread be cut while I weave my song! Let not the form of the workman break before the time. . . . Like as a rope from a calf, remove from me my sin, for away from thee I am not master even of the twinkling of an eye. . . . Move far away from me all self-committed guilt, and may I not, O king, suffer for what others have committed. Many dawns have not yet dawned; grant me to live in them, O Varuna.” What follows is not on the same level of thought, and the next verse contains an appeal to Varuna to save his worshipper from the effect of magic spells. “Whether it be my companion or a friend who, while I was asleep and trembling, uttered fearful spells against me, whether it be a thief or a wolf who wishes to hurt me, protect us against them, O Varuna.”3 Agni, again, the god of fire, seems to have no original connection with righteousness. Yet even Agni4 is prayed to forgive whatever sin the worshipper may have committed through folly, and to make him guiltless towards Aditi.5 The goddess Aditi once more, whether her name (rendered the “boundless”) be or be not “one of the oldest names of the dawn,”6 is repeatedly called on by her worshippers to “make them sinless”. In the same way sun, dawn, heaven, soma, and earth are implored to pardon sin.

Though the subject might be dwelt on at very great length, it is perhaps already apparent that the gods of the Vedic poetry are not only potent over regions of the natural world, but are also conceived of, at times, as being powers with ethical tendencies and punishers of mortal guilt. It would be difficult to overstate the ethical nobility of certain Vedic hymns, which even now affect us with a sense of the “hunger and thirst after righteousness” so passionately felt by the Hebrew psalmists. How this emotion, which seems naturally directed to a single god, came to be distributed among a score, it is hard to conjecture. But all this aspect of the Vedic deities is essentially the province of the science of religion rather than of mythology. Man’s consciousness of sin, his sense of being imperfect in the sight of “larger other eyes than ours,” is a topic of the deepest interest, but it comes but by accident into the realm of mythological science. That science asks, not with what feelings of awe and gratitude the worshipper approaches his gods, but what myths, what stories, are told to or told by the worshipper concerning the origin, personal characteristics and personal adventures of his deities. As a rule, these stories are a mere chronique scandaleuse, full of the most absurd and offensive anecdotes, and of the crudest fictions. The deities of the Vedic poems, so imposing when regarded as vast natural forces, or as the spiritual beings that master vast natural forces, so sympathetic when looked on as merciful gods conscious of, yet lenient towards, the sins of perishing mortals, have also their mythological aspect and their chronique scandaleuse.7

It is, of course, in their anthropomorphic aspect that the Vedic deities share or exceed the infirmities of mortals. The gods are not by any means always regarded as practically equal in supremacy. There were great and small, young and old gods,8 though this statement, with the habitual inconsistency of a religion without creeds and articles, is elsewhere controverted. “None of you, O gods, is small or young; you are all great.”9 As to the immortality and the origin of the gods, opinions are equally divided among the Vedic poets and in the traditions collected in the Brahmanas. Several myths of the origin of the gods have already been discussed in the chapter on “Aryan Myths of the Creation of the World and of Man”. It was there demonstrated that many of the Aryan myths were on a level with those current among contemporary savages all over the world, and it was inferred that they originally sprang from the same source, the savage imagination.

In this place, while examining the wilder divine myths, we need only repeat that, in one legend, heaven and earth, conceived of as two sentient living beings of human parts and passions, produced the Aryan gods, as they did the gods of the New Zealanders and of other races. Again, the gods were represented in the children of Aditi, and this might be taken either in a high and refined sense, as if Aditi were the infinite region from which the solar deities rise,10 or we may hold that Aditi is the eternal which sustains and is sustained by the gods,11 or the Indian imagination could sink to the vulgar and half-magical conception of Aditi as a female, who, being desirous of sons, cooked a Brahmandana oblation for the gods, the Sadhyas.12

Various other gods and supernatural beings are credited with having created or generated the gods. Indra’s father and mother are constantly spoken of, and both he and other gods are often said to have been originally mortal, and to have reached the heavens by dint of that “austere fervour,” that magical asceticism, which could do much more than move mountains. The gods are thus by no means always credited in Aryan mythology with inherent immortality. Like most of the other deities whose history we have been studying, they had struggles for pre-eminence with powers of a titanic character, the Asuras. “Asura, ‘living,’ was originally an epithet of certain powers of Nature, particularly of the sky,” says Mr. Max Müller.13 As the gods also are recognised as powers of Nature, particularly of the sky, there does not seem to be much original difference between Devas and Asuras.14 The opposition between them may be “secondary,” as Mr. Max Müller says, but in any case it too strongly resembles the other wars in heaven of other mythologies to be quite omitted. Unluckily, the most consecutive account of the strife is to be found, not in the hymns of the Vedas, but in the collected body of mythical and other traditions called the Brahmanas.15

The story in the Brahmana begins by saying that throughout. See the Oxford translation. Prajapati (the producer of things, whose acquaintance we have made in the chapter on cosmogonic myths) was half mortal and half immortal. After creating things endowed with life, he created Death, the devourer. With that part of him which was mortal he was afraid of Death, and the gods were also “afraid of this ender, Death”. The gods in this tradition are regarded as mortals. Compare the Black Yajur Veda:16The gods were formerly just like men. They desired to overcome want, misery, death, and to go to the divine assembly. They saw, took and sacrificed with this Chaturvimsatiratra, and in consequence overcame want, misery and death, and reached the divine assembly.” In the same Veda we are told that the gods and Asuras contended together; the gods were less numerous, but, as politicians make men peers, they added to their number by placing some bricks in the proper position to receive the sacrificial fire. They then used incantations: “Thou art a multiplier”; and so the bricks became animated, and joined the party of the gods, and made numbers more equal.17

To return to the gods in the Satapatha Brahmana and their dread of death. They overcame him by certain sacrifices suggested by Prajapati. Death resented this, and complained that men would now become immortal and his occupation would be gone. To console him the gods promised that no man in future should become immortal with his body, but only through knowledge after parting with his body. This legend, at least in its present form, is necessarily later than the establishment of minute sacrificial rules. It is only quoted here as an example of the opinion that the gods were once mortal and “just like men”. It may be urged, and probably with truth, that this belief is the figment of religious decadence. As to the victory of the gods over the Asuras, that is ascribed by the Satapatha Brahmana18 to the fact that, at a time when neither gods nor Asuras were scrupulously veracious, the gods invented the idea of speaking the truth. The Asuras stuck to lying. The first results not unnaturally were that the gods became weak and poor, the Asuras mighty and rich. The gods at last overcame the Asuras, not by veracity, but by the success of a magical sacrifice. Earlier dynasties of gods, to which the generation of Indra succeeded, are not unfrequently mentioned in the Rig- Veda.19

On the whole, the accounts of the gods and of their nature present in Aryan mythology the inconsistent anthropomorphism, and the mixture of incongruous and often magical and childish ideas, which mark all other mythological systems. This will become still more manifest when we examine the legends of the various gods separately, as they have been disentangled by Dr. Muir and M. Bergaigne from the Vedas, and from the later documents which contain traditions of different dates.

The Vedas contain no such orderly statements of the divine genealogies as we find in Hesoid and Homer. All is confusion, all is contradiction.20 In many passages heaven and earth, Dyaus and Prithivi, are spoken of as parents of the other gods. Dyaus is commonly identified, as is well known, with Zeus by the philologists, but his legend has none of the fulness and richness which makes that of Zeus so remarkable. Before the story of Dyaus could become that of Zeus, the old Aryan sky or heaven god had to attract into his cycle that vast collection of miscellaneous adventures from a thousand sources which fill the legend of the chief Hellenic deity. In the Veda, Dyaus appears now, as with Prithivi,21 the parent of all, both men and gods, now as a created thing or being fashioned by Indra or by Tvashtri.22 He is “essentially beneficent, but has no marked individuality, and can only have become the Greek Zeus by inheriting attributes from other deities “.23

Another very early divine person is Aditi, the mother of the great and popular gods called Adityas. “Nothing is less certain than the derivation of the name of Aditi,” says M. Paul Regnaud.24

M. Regnaud finds the root of Aditi in ad, to shine. Mr. Max Müller looks for the origin of the word in a, privative, and da, to bind; thus Aditi will mean “the boundless,” the “infinite,” a theory rejected by M. Regnaud. The expansion of this idea, with all its important consequences, is worked out by Mr. Max Müller in his Hibbert Lectures. “The dawn came and went, but there remained always behind the dawn that heaving sea of light or fire from which she springs. Was not this the invisible infinite? And what better name could be given than that which the Vedic poets gave to it, Aditi, the boundless, the yonder, the beyond all and everything.” This very abstract idea “may have been one of the earliest intuitions and creations of the Hindu mind” (p. 229). M. Darmesteter and Mr. Whitney, on the other hand, explain Aditi just as Welcker and Mr. Max Müller explain Cronion. There was no such thing as a goddess named Aditi till men asked themselves the meaning of the title of their own gods, “the Adityas”. That name might be interpreted “children of Aditi,” and so a goddess called Aditi was invented to fit the name, thus philologically extracted from Adityas.25

M. Bergaigne26 finds that Aditi means “free,” “untrammelled,” and is used both as an adjective and as a name.

This vague and floating term was well suited to convey the pantheistic ideas natural to the Indian mind, and already notable in the Vedic hymns. “Aditi,” cries a poet, “is heaven; Aditi is air; Aditi is the father, the mother and the son; Aditi is all the gods; Aditi is that which is born and which awaits the birth.”27 Nothing can be more advanced and metaphysical. Meanwhile, though Aditi is a personage so floating and nebulous, she figures in fairly definite form in a certain myth. The Rig-Veda (x. 72, 8) tells us the tale of the birth of her sons, the Adityas. “Eight sons were there of Aditi, born of her womb. To the gods went she with seven; Martanda threw she away.” The Satapatha Brahmana throws a good deal of light on her conduct. Aditi had eight sons; but there are only seven gods whom men call Adityas. The eighth she bore a shapeless lump, of the dimensions of a man, as broad as long, say some. The Adityas then trimmed this ugly duckling of the family into human shape, and an elephant sprang from the waste pieces which they threw away; therefore an elephant partakes of the nature of man. The shapen eighth son was called Vivasvat, the sun.28

It is not to be expected that many, if any, remains of a theriomorphic character should cling to a goddess so abstract as Aditi. When, therefore, we find her spoken of as a cow, it is at least as likely that this is only part of “the pleasant unconscious poetry” of the Veda, as that it is a survival of some earlier zoomorphic belief. Gubernatis offers the following lucid account of the metamorphosis of the infinite (for so he understands Aditi) into the humble domestic animal: “The inexhaustible soon comes to mean that which can be milked without end” (it would be more plausible to say that what can be milked without end soon comes to mean the inexhaustible), “and hence also a celestial cow, an inoffensive cow, which we must not offend. . . . The whole heavens being thus represented as an infinite cow, it was natural that the principal and most visible phenomena of the sky should become, in their turn, children of the cow.” Aditi then is “the great spotted cow”. Thus did the Vedic poets (according to Gubernatis) descend from the unconditioned to the byre.

From Aditi, however she is to be interpreted, we turn to her famous children, the Adityas, the high gods.

There is no kind of consistency, as we have so often said, in Vedic mythical opinion. The Adityas, for example, are now represented as three, now as seven; for three and seven are sacred numbers. To the triad a fourth is sometimes added, to the seven an eighth Aditya. The Adityas are a brotherhood or college of gods, but some of the members of the fraternity have more individual character than, for example, the Maruts, who are simply a company with a tendency to become confused with the Adityas. Considered as a triad, the Adityas are Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman. The name of Varuna is commonly derived from vri (or Var),29 to cover, according to the commentator Sayana, because “he envelops the wicked in his snares,” the nets which he carries to capture the guilty. As god of the midnight sky, Varuna is also “the covering” deity, with his universal pall of darkness. Varuna’s name has frequently been compared to that of Uranus [greek], the Greek god of heaven, who was mutilated by his son Cronos.

Supposing Varuna to mean the heaven, we are not much advanced, for dyu also lias the same meaning; yet Dyaus and Varuna have little in common. The interpreters of the Vedas attempted to distinguish Mitra from Varuna by making the former the god of the daylight, the latter the god of the midnight vault of heaven. The distinction, like other Vedic attempts at drawing a line among the floating phantasms of belief, is not kept up with much persistency.

Of all Vedic deities, Varuna has the most spiritual and ethical character. “The grandest cosmical functions are ascribed to Varuna.” “His ordinances are fixed and unassailable.” “He who should flee far beyond the sky would not escape Varuna the king.” He is “gracious even to him who has committed sin”. To be brief, the moral sentiments, which we have shown to be often present in a pure form, even in the religion of savages, find a lofty and passionate expression in the Vedic psalms to Varuna.30 But even Varuna has not shaken off all remains of the ruder mythopoeic fancy. A tale of the grossest and most material obscenity is told of Mitra and Varuna in the Rig- Veda itself — the tale of the birth of Vasistha.31

In the Aitareya Brahmana (ii. 460) Varuna takes a sufficiently personal form. He has somehow fallen heir to a role familiar to us from the Russian tale of Tsar Morskoi, the Gaelic “Battle of the Birds,” and the Scotch “Nicht, Nought, nothing”32 Varuna, in short, becomes the giant or demon who demands from the king the gift of his yet unborn son.

Harischandra is childless, and is instructed to pray to Varuna, promising to offer the babe as a human sacrifice. When the boy is born, Harischandra tries to evade the fulfilment of his promise. Finally a young Brahman is purchased, and is to be sacrificed to Varuna as a substitute for the king’s son. The young Brahman is supernaturally released.

Thus even in Vedic, still more in Brahmanic myth, the vague and spiritual form of Varuna is brought to shame, or confused with some demon of lower earlier legends.

There are believed on somewhat shadowy evidence to be traces of a conflict between Varuna and Indra (the fourth Aditya sometimes added to the triad), a conflict analogous to that between Uranus and Cronos.33 The hymn, as M. Bergaigne holds, proves that Indra was victorious over Varuna, and thereby obtained possession of fire and of the soma juice. But these births and battles of gods, who sometimes are progenitors of their own fathers, and who seem to change shapes with demons, are no more to be fixed and scientifically examined than the torn plumes and standards of the mist as they roll up a pass among the mountain pines.34

We next approach a somewhat better defined and more personal figure, that of the famous god Indra, who is the nearest Vedic analogue of the Greek Zeus. Before dealing with the subject more systematically, it may be interesting to give one singular example of the parallelisms between Aryan and savage mythology.

In his disquisition on the Indian gods, Dr. Muir has been observing35 that some passages of the Rig- Veda imply that the reigning deities were successors of others who had previously existed. He quotes, in proof of this, a passage from Rig- Veda, iv. 18, 12: “Who, O Indra, made thy mother a widow? Who sought to kill thee, lying or moving? What god was present in the fray when thou didst slay thy father, seizing him by the foot?” According to M. Bergaigne,36 Indra slew his father, Tvashtri, for the purpose of stealing and drinking the soma, to which he was very partial. This is rather a damaging passage, as it appears that the Vedic poet looked on Indra as a parricide and a drunkard. To explain this hint, however, Sayana the ancient commentator, quotes a passage from the Black Yajur Veda which is no explanation at all. But it has some interest for us, as showing how the myths of Aryans and Hottentots coincide, even in very strange details. Yajna (sacrifice) desired Dakshina (largesse). He consorted with her. Indra was apprehensive of this. He reflected, “Whoever is born of her will be this”. He entered into her. Indra himself was born of her. He reflected, “Whoever is born of her besides me will be this”. Having considered, he cut open her womb. She produced a cow. Here we have a high Aryan god passing into and being born from the womb of a being who also bore a cow. The Hottentot legend of the birth of their god, Heitsi Eibib, is scarcely so repulsive.37

“There was grass growing, and a cow came and ate of that grass, and she became pregnant” (as Hera of Ares in Greek myth), “and she brought forth a young bull. And this bull became a very large bull.” And the people came together one day in order to slaughter him. But he ran away down hill, and they followed him to turn him back and catch him. But when they came to the spot where he had disappeared, they found a man making milk tubs. They asked this man, “Where is the bull that passed down here?” He said, “I do not know; has he then passed here?” And all the while it was he himself, who had again become Heitsi Eibib. Thus the birth of Heitsi Eibib resembled that of Indra as described in Rig-Veda, iv. 18, 10. “His mother, a cow, bore Indra, an unlicked calf.”38 Whatever view we may take of this myth, and of the explanation in the Brahmana, which has rather the air of being an invention to account for the Vedic cow-mother of Indra, it is certain that the god is not regarded as an uncreated being.39

It seems incontestable that in Vedic mythology Tvashtri is regarded as the father of Indra.40 Thus (ii. 17, 6) Indra’s thunderbolts are said to have been fashioned by his father. Other proofs are found in the account of the combat between father and son. Thus (iii. 48, 4) we read, “Powerful, victorious, he gives his body what shape he pleases. Thus Indra, having vanquished Tvashtri even at his birth, stole and drank the soma.”41 These anecdotes do not quite correspond with the version of Indra’s guilt given in the Brahmanas. There it is stated42 that Tvashtri had a three-headed son akin to the Asuras, named Vairupa. This Vairupa was suspected of betraying to the Asuras the secret of soma. Indra therefore cut off his three heads.

Now Vairupa was a Brahman, and Indra was only purified of his awful guilt, Brahmanicide, when earth, trees and women accepted each their share of the iniquity. Tvashtri, the father of Vairupa, still excluded Indra from a share of the soma, which, however, Indra seized by force. Tvashtri threw what remained of Indra’s share into the fire with imprecations, and from the fire sprang Vritra, the enemy of Indra. Indra is represented at various times and in various texts as having sprung from the mouth of Purusha, or as being a child of heaven and earth, whom he thrust asunder, as Tutenganahau thrust asunder Rangi and Papa in the New Zealand myth. In a passage of the Black Yajur Veda, once already quoted, Indra, sheep and the Kshattriya caste were said to have sprung from the breast and arms of Prajapati.43 In yet another hymn in the Rig- Veda he is said to have conquered heaven by magical austerity. Leaving the Brahmanas aside, Mr. Perry44 distinguishes four sorts of Vedic texts on the origin of Indra:—

  1. Purely physical.

  2. Anthropomorphic.

  3. Vague references to Indra’s parents.

  4. Philosophical speculations.

Of the first class,45 it does not appear to us that the purely physical element is so very pure after all. Heaven, earth, Indra, “the cow,” are all thought of as personal entities, however gigantic and vague.

In the second or anthropomorphic myths we have46 the dialogue already referred to, in which Indra, like Set in Egypt and Malsumis or Chokanipok in America, insists on breaking his way through his mother’s side.47

In verse 5 his mother exposes Indra, as Maui and the youngest son of Aditi were exposed. Indra soon after, as precocious as Heitsi Eibib, immediately on his birth kills his father.48 He also kills Vritra, as Apollo when new-born slew the Python. In iii. 48, 2, 3, he takes early to soma-drinking. In x. 153, 1, women cradle him as the nymphs nursed Zeus in the Cretan cave.

In the third class we have the odd myth,49 “while an immature boy, he mounted the new waggon and roasted for father and mother a fierce bull “.

In the fourth class a speculative person tries50 to account for the statement that Indra was born from a horse, “or the verse means that Agni was a horse’s son”. Finally, Sayana51 explains nothing, but happens to mention that the goddess Aditi swallowed her rival Nisti, a very primitive performance, and much like the feat of Cronos when he dined on his family, or of Zeus when he swallowed his wife.

Thus a fixed tradition of Indra’s birth is lacking in the Veda, and the fluctuating traditions are not very creditable to the purity of the Aryan fancy. In personal appearance Indra was handsome and ruddy as the sun, but, like Odin and Heitsi Eibib and other gods and wizards, he could assume any shape at will. He was a great charioteer, and wielded the thunderbolt forged for him by Tvashtri, the Indian Hephaestus. His love of the intoxicating soma juice was notorious, and with sacrifices of this liquor his adorers were accustomed to inspire and invigorate him. He is even said to have drunk at one draught thirty bowls of soma. Dr. Haug has tasted it, but could only manage one teaspoonful. Indra’s belly is compared by his admirers to a lake, and there seems to be no doubt that they believed the god really drank their soma, as Heitsi Eibib really enjoys the honey left by the Hottentots on his grave. “I have verily resolved to bestow cows and horses. I have quaffed the soma. The draughts which I have drunk impel me as violent blasts. I have quaffed the soma. I surpass in greatness the heaven and the vast earth. I have quaffed the soma. I am majestic, elevated to the heavens. I have quaffed the soma.”52 So sings the drunken and bemused Indra, in the manner of the Cyclops in Euripides, after receiving the wine, the treacherous gift of Odysseus.

According to the old commentator Sayana, Indra got at the soma which inspired him with his drinking-song by assuming the shape of a quail.

The great feats of Indra, which are constantly referred to, are his slaughter of the serpent Vritra, who had taken possession of all the waters, and his recovery of the sun, which had also been stolen.53

These myths are usually regarded as allegorical ways of stating that the lightning opens the dark thundercloud, and makes it disgorge the rain and reveal the sun. Whether this theory be correct or not, it is important for our purpose to show that the feats thus attributed to Indra are really identical in idea with, though more elevated in conception and style, than certain Australian, Iroquois and Thlinkeet legends. In the Iroquois myth, as in the Australian,54 a great frog swallowed all the waters, and was destroyed by Ioskeha or some other animal. In Thlinkeet legends, Yehl, the raven-god, carried off to men the hidden sun and the waters. Among these lower races the water-stealer was thought of as a real reptile of some sort, and it is probable that a similar theory once prevailed among the ancestors of the Aryans. Vritra and Ahi, the mysterious foes whom Indra slays when he recovers the sun and the waters, were probably once as real to the early fancy as the Australian or Iroquois frog. The extraordinary myth of the origin of Vritra, only found in the Brahmanas, indicates the wild imagination of an earlier period. Indra murdered a Brahman, a three-headed one, it is true, but still a Brahman. For this he was excluded from the banquet and was deprived of his favourite soma. He stole a cup of it, and the dregs, thrown into the fire with a magical imprecation, became Vritra, whom Indra had such difficulty in killing. Before attacking Vritra, Indra supplied himself with Dutch courage. “A copious draught of soma provided him with the necessary courage and strength.” The terror of the other gods was abject.55 After slaying him, he so lost self-possession that in his flight he behaved like Odin when he flew off in terror with the head of Suttung.56

If our opinion be correct, the elemental myths which abound in the Veda are not myths “in the making,” as is usually held, but rather myths gradually dissolving into poetry and metaphor. As an example of the persistence in civilised myth of the old direct savage theory that animals of a semi-supernatural sort really cause the heavenly phenomena, we may quote Mr. Darmesteter’s remark, in the introduction to the Zendavesta: “The storm floods that cleanse the sky of the dark fiends in it were described in a class of myths as the urine of a gigantic animal in the heavens”.57 A more savage and theriomorphic hypothesis it would be hard to discover among Bushmen or Nootkas.58 Probably the serpent Vritra is another beast out of the same menagerie.

If our theory of the evolution of gods is correct, we may expect to find in the myths of Indra traces of a theriomorphic character. As the point in the ear of man is thought or fabled to be a relic of his arboreal ancestry, so in the shape of Indra there should, if gods were developed out of divine beasts, be traces of fur and feather. They are not very numerous nor very distinct, but we give them for what they may be worth.

The myth of Yehl, the Thlinkeet raven-god, will not have been forgotten. In his raven gear Yehl stole the sacred water, as Odin, also in bird form, stole the mead of Suttung. We find a similar feat connected with Indra. Gubernatis says:59

“In the Rig-Veda Indra often appears as a hawk. While the hawk carries the ambrosia through the air, he trembles for fear of the archer Kricanus, who, in fact, shot off one of his claws, of which the hedgehog was born, according to the Aitareya Brahmana, and according to the Vedic hymn, one of his feathers, which, falling on the earth, afterwards became a tree.”60 Indra’s very peculiar relations with rams are also referred to by Gubernatis.61 They resemble a certain repulsive myth of Zeus, Demeter and the ram referred to by the early Christian fathers. In the Satapatha Brahmana62 Indra is called “ram of Medhatithi,” wife of Vrishanasva. Indra, like Loki, had taken the part of a woman.63 In the shape of a ram he carried off Medhatithi, an exploit like that of Zeus with Ganymede.64

In the Vedas, however, all the passages which connect Indra with animals will doubtless be explained away as metaphorical, though it is admitted that, like Zeus, he could assume whatever form he pleased.65 Vedic poets, probably of a late period, made Indra as anthropomorphic as the Homeric Zeus. His domestic life in the society of his consort Indrani is described.66 When he is starting for the war, Indrani calls him back, and gives him a stirrup-cup of soma. He and she quarrel very naturally about his pet monkey.67

In this brief sketch, which is not even a summary, we have shown how much of the irrational element, how much, too, of the humorous element, there is in the myths about Indra. He is a drunkard, who gulps down cask, spigot and all.68

He is an adulterer and a “shape-shifter,” like all medicine-men and savage sorcerers. He is born along with the sheep from the breast of a vast non-natural being, like Ymir in Scandinavian myth; he metamorphoses himself into a ram or a woman; he rends asunder his father and mother, heaven and earth; he kills his father immediately after his birth, or he is mortal, but has attained heaven by dint of magic, by “austere fervour”. Now our argument is that these and such as these incongruous and irrational parts of Indra’s legend have no necessary or natural connection with the worship of him as a nature-god, an elemental deity, a power of sky and storm, as civilised men conceive storm and sky. On the other hand, these legends, of which plenty of savage parallels have been adduced, are obviously enough survivals from the savage intellectual myths, in which sorcerers, with their absurd powers, are almost on a level with gods. And our theory is, that the irrational part of Indra’s legend became attached to the figure of an elemental divinity, a nature-god, at the period when savage men mythically attributed to their gods the qualities which were claimed by the most illustrious among themselves, by their sorcerers and chiefs. In the Vedas the nature-god has not quite disengaged himself from these old savage attributes, which to civilised men seem so irrational. “Trailing clouds of” anything but “glory” does Indra come “from heaven, which is his home.” If the irrational element in the legend of Indra was neither a survival of, nor a loan from, savage fancy, why does it tally with the myths of savages?

The other Adityas, strictly so called (for most gods are styled Adityas now and then by way of compliment), need not detain us. We go on to consider the celebrated soma.

Soma is one of the most singular deities of the Indo-Aryans. Originally Soma is the intoxicating juice of a certain plant.69 The wonderful personifying power of the early imagination can hardly be better illustrated than by the deification of the soma juice. We are accustomed to hear in the märchen or peasant myths of Scotch, Russian, Zulu and other races, of drops of blood or spittle which possess human faculties and intelligence, and which can reply, for example, to questions. The personification of the soma juice is an instance of the same exercise of fancy on a much grander scale. All the hymns in the ninth book of the Rig- Veda, and many others in other places, are addressed to the milk-like juice of this plant, which, when personified, holds a place almost as high as that of Indra in the Indo-Aryan Olympus. The sacred plant was brought to men from the sky or from a mountain by a hawk, or by Indra in guise of a hawk, just as fire was brought to other races by a benevolent bird, a raven or a cow. According to the Aitareya Brahmana (ii. 59), the gods bought some from the Gandharvas in exchange for one of their own number, who was metamorphosed into a woman, “a big naked woman” of easy virtue. In the Satapatha Brahmana,70 the gods, while still they lived on earth, desired to obtain soma, which was then in the sky.

A Gandharva robbed the divine being who had flown up and seized the soma, and, as in the Aitareya Brahmana, the gods won the plant back by the aid of Vach, a woman-envoy to the amorous Gandharvas. The Black Yajur Veda has some ridiculous legends about Soma (personified) and his thirty-three wives, their jealousies, and so forth. Soma, in the Rig- Veda, is not only the beverage that inspires Indra, but is also an anthropomorphic god who created and lighted up the sun,71 and who drives about in a chariot. He is sometimes addressed as a kind of Atlas, who keeps heaven and earth asunder.72 He is prayed to forgive the violations of his law.73 Soma, in short, as a personified power, wants little of the attributes of a supreme deity.74

Another, and to modern ideas much more poetical personified power, often mentioned in the Vedas, is Ushas, or the dawn. As among the Australians, the dawn is a woman, but a very different being from the immodest girl dressed in red kangaroo-skins of the Murri myth. She is an active maiden, who75 “advances, cherishing all things; she hastens on, arousing footed creatures, and makes the birds fly aloft. . . . The flying birds no longer rest after thy dawning, O bringer of food (?). She has yoked her horses from the remote rising-place of the sun. . . . Resplendent on thy massive car, hear our invocations.” Ushas is “like a fair girl adorned by her mother. . . . She has been beheld like the bosom of a bright maiden. . . . ”

“Born again and again though ancient, shining with an ever uniform hue, she wasteth away the life of mortals.” She is the sister of Night, and the bright sun is her child. There is no more pure poetry in the Vedic collections than that which celebrates the dawn, though even here the Rishis are not oblivious of the rewards paid to the sacrificial priests.76 Dawn is somewhat akin to the Homeric Eos, the goddess of the golden throne,77 she who loved a mortal and bore him away, for his beauty’s sake, to dwell with the immortals. Once Indra, acting with the brutality of the Homeric Ares, charged against the car of Ushas and overthrew it.78

In her legend, however, we find little but pure poetry, and we do not know that Ushas, like Eos, ever chose a mortal lover. Such is the Vedic Ushas, but the Brahmanas, as usual, manage either to retain or to revive and introduce the old crude element of myth. We have seen that the Australians account to themselves for the ruddy glow of the morning sky by the hypothesis that dawn is a girl of easy virtue, dressed in the red opossum-skins she has received from her lovers. In a similar spirit the Aitareya Brahmana (iv. 9) offers brief and childish ætiological myths to account for a number of natural phenomena. Thus it explains the sterility of mules by saying that the gods once competed in a race; that Agni (fire) drove in a chariot drawn by mules and scorched them, so that they do not conceive. But in this race Ushas was drawn by red cows; “hence after the coming of dawn there is a reddish colour”. The red cows of the Brahmana may pair off with the red opossums of the Australian imagination.

We now approach a couple of deities whose character, as far as such shadowy things can be said to have any character at all, is pleasing and friendly. The Asvins correspond in Vedic mythology to the Dioscuri, the Castor and Polydeuces of Greece. They, like the Dioscuri, are twins, are horsemen, and their legend represents them as kindly and helpful to men in distress. But while the Dioscuri stand forth in Greek legend as clearly and fairly fashioned as two young knights of the Panathenaic procession, the Asvins show as bright and formless as melting wreaths of mist.

The origin of their name has been investigated by the commentator Yaska, who “quotes sundry verses to prove that the two Asvins belong together” (sic).79 The etymology of the name is the subject, as usual, of various conjectures. It has been derived from Asva, a horse, from the root as, “to pervade,” and explained as a patronymic from Asva, the sun. The nature of the Asvins puzzled the Indian commentators no less than their name. Who, then, are these Asvins? “Heaven and earth,” say some.80

The “some” who held this opinion relied on an etymological guess, the derivation from as “to pervade “. Others inclined to explain the Asvins as day and night, others as the sun and moon, others — Indian euhemerists — as two real kings, now dead and gone. Professor Roth thinks the Asvins contain an historical element, and are “the earliest bringers of light in the morning sky”. Mr. Max Müller seems in favour of the two twilights. As to these and allied modes of explaining the two gods in connection with physical phenomena, Muir writes thus: “This allegorical method of interpretation seems unlikely to be correct, as it is difficult to suppose that the phenomena in question should have been alluded to under such a variety of names and circumstances. It appears, therefore, to be more probable that the Rishis merely refer to certain legends which were popularly current of interventions of the Asvins in behalf of the persons whose names are mentioned.” In the Veda81 the Asvins are represented as living in fraternal polyandry, with but one wife, Surya, the daughter of the sun, between them. They are thought to have won her as the prize in a chariot-race, according to the commentator Sayana. “The time of their appearance is properly the early dawn,” when they receive the offerings of their votaries.82 “When the dark (night) stands among the tawny cows, I invoke you, Asvins, sons of the sky.”83 They are addressed as young, beautiful, fleet, and the foes of evil spirits.

There can be no doubt that, when the Vedas were composed, the Asvins shone and wavered and were eclipsed among the bright and cloudy throng of gods, then contemplated by the Rishis or sacred singers. Whether they had from the beginning an elemental origin, and what that origin exactly was, or whether they were merely endowed by the fancy of poets with various elemental and solar attributes and functions, it may be impossible to ascertain. Their legend, meanwhile, is replete with features familiar in other mythologies. As to their birth, the Rig- Veda has the following singular anecdote, which reminds one of the cloud-bride of Ixion, and of the woman of clouds and shadows that was substituted for Helen of Troy: “Tvashtri makes a wedding for his daughter. Hearing this, the whole world assembled. The mother of Yama, the wedded wife of the great Vivasvat, disappeared. They concealed the immortal bride from mortals. Making another of like appearance, they gave her to Vivasvat. Saranyu bore the two Asvins, and when she had done so, deserted the twins.”84 The old commentators explain by a legend in which the daughter of Tvashtri, Saranyu, took on the shape of a mare. Vivasvat followed her in the form of a horse, and she became the mother of the Asvins, “sons of the horse,” who more or less correspond to Castor and Pollux, sons of the swan. The Greeks were well acquainted with local myths of the same sort, according to which, Poseidon, in the form of a horse, had become the parent of a horse by Demeter Erinnys (Saranyu?), then in the shape of a mare. The Phigaleians, among whom this tale was current, worshipped a statue of Demeter in a woman’s shape with a mare’s head. The same tale was told of Cronus and Philyra.85 This myth of the birth of gods, who “are lauded as Asvins” sprung from a horse,86 may be the result of a mere volks etymologie.

Some one may have asked himself what the word Asvins meant; may have rendered it “sprung from a horse,” and may either have invented, by way of explanation, a story like that of Cronus and Philyra, or may have adapted such a story, already current in folk-lore, to his purpose; or the myth may be early, and a mere example of the prevalent mythical fashion which draws no line between gods and beasts and men. It will probably be admitted that this and similar tales prove the existence of the savage element of mythology among the Aryans of India, whether it be borrowed, or a survival, or an imitative revival.

The Asvins were usually benefactors of men in every sort of strait and trouble. A quail even invoked them (Mr. Max Müller thinks this quail was the dawn, but the Asvins were something like the dawn already), and they rescued her from the jaws of a wolf. In this respect, and in their beauty and youth, they answer to Castor and Pollux as described by Theocritus. “Succourers are they of men in the very thick of peril, and of horses maddened in the bloody press of battle, and of ships that, defying the setting and the rising of the stars in heaven, have encountered the perilous breath of storms.”87

A few examples of the friendliness of the Asvins may be selected from the long list given by Muir. They renewed the youth of Kali. After the leg of Vispala had been cut off in battle, the Asvins substituted an iron leg! They restored sight to Rijrasva, whom his father had blinded because, in an access of altruism, he had given one hundred and one sheep to a hungry she-wolf. The she-wolf herself prayed to the Asvins to succour her benefactor.88 They drew the Rishi Rebha out of a well. They made wine and liquors flow from the hoof of their own horse.89 Most of the persons rescued, quail and all, are interpreted, of course, as semblances of the dawn and the twilight. Goldstucker says they are among “the deities forced by Professor Müller to support his dawn-theory”. M. Bergaigne also leans to the theory of physical phenomena. When the Asvins restore sight to the blind Kanva, he sees no reason to doubt that “the blind Kanva is the sun during the night, or Agni or Soma is concealment”. A proof of this he finds in the statement that Kanva is “dark”; to which we might reply that “dark” is still a synonym for “blind” among the poor.90

M. Bergaigne’s final hypothesis is that the Asvins “may be assimilated to the two celebrants who in the beginning seemed to represent the terrestrial and celestial fires”. But this origin, he says, even if correctly conjectured, had long been forgotten.

Beyond the certainty that the Asvins represent the element of kindly and healing powers, as commonly conceived of in popular mythology — for example, in the legends of the saints — there is really nothing certain or definite about their original meaning.

A god with a better defined and more recognisable department is Tvashtri, who is in a vague kind of way the counterpart of the Greek Hephaestus. He sharpens the axe of Brahmanaspiti, and forges the bolts of Indra. He also bestows offspring, is a kind of male Aphrodite, and is the shaper of all forms human and animal. Saranyu is his daughter. Professor Kuhn connects her with the storm-cloud, Mr. Max Müller with the dawn.91 Her wedding in the form of a mare to Vivasvat in the guise of a horse has already been spoken of and discussed. Tvashtri’s relations with Indra, as we have shown, are occasionally hostile; there is a blood-feud between them, as Indra slew Tvashtri’s three-headed son, from whose blood sprang two partridges and a sparrow.92

The Maruts are said to be gods of the tempest, of lightning, of wind and of rain. Their names, as usual, are tortured on various by the etymologists. Mr. Max Müller connects Maruts with the roots mar, “to pound,” and with the Roman war-god Mars. Others think the root is mar, “to shine”. Benfey93 says “that the Maruts (their name being derived from mar, ‘to die’) are personfications of the souls of the departed”.

Their numbers are variously estimated. They are the sons of Rudra and Prisni. Rudra as a bull, according to a tale told by Sayana, begat the Maruts on the earth, which took the shape of a cow. As in similar cases, we may suppose this either to be a survival or revival of a savage myth or a merely symbolical statement. There are traces of rivalry between Indra and the Maruts. It is beyond question that the Rishis regard them as elementary and mainly as storm-gods. Whether they were originally ghosts (like the Australian Mrarts, where the name tempts the wilder kind of etymologists), or whether they are personified winds, or, again, winds conceived as persons (which is not quite the same thing), it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to determine.

Though divers of the Vedic gods have acquired solar characteristics, there is a regular special sun-deity in the Veda, named Surya or Savitri. He answers to the Helios of the Homeric hymn to the sun, conceived as a personal being, a form which he still retains in the fancy of the Greek islanders.94 Surya is sometimes spoken of as a child of Aditi’s or of Dyaus and Ushas is his wife, though she also lives in Spartan polyandry with the Asvin twins.95 Like Helios Hyperion, he beholds all things, the good and evil deeds of mortals. He is often involved in language of religious fervour.96 The English reader is apt to confuse Surya with the female being Surya. Surya is regarded by Grassmann and Roth as a feminine personification of the sun.97 M. Bergaigne looks on Surya as the daughter of the sun or daughter of Savitri, and thus as the dawn. Savitri is the sun, golden-haired and golden-handed. From the Satapatha Brahmana98 it appears that people were apt to identify Savitri with Prajapati.99

These blendings of various conceptions and of philosophic systems with early traditions have now been illustrated as far as our space will permit. The natural conclusion, after a rapid view of Vedic deities, seems to be that they are extremely composite characters, visible only in the shifting rays of the Indian fancy, at a period when the peculiar qualities of Indian thought were already sufficiently declared. The lights of ritualistic dogma and of pantheistic and mystic and poetic emotion fall in turn, like the changeful hues of sunset, on figures as melting and shifting as the clouds of evening. Yet even to these vague shapes of the divine there clings, as we think has been shown, somewhat of their oldest raiment, something of the early fancy from which we suppose them to have floated up ages before the Vedas were compiled in their present form. If this view be correct, Vedic mythology does by no means represent what is primitive and early, but what, in order of development, is late, is peculiar, and is marked with the mark of a religious tendency as strongly national and characteristic as the purest Semitic monotheism. Thus the Veda is not a fair starting-point for a science of religion, but is rather, in spite of its antiquity, a temporary though advanced resting-place in the development of Indian religious speculation and devotional sentiment.100

1 Muir, v. 125. Compare Muir, i. 348, on the word Kusikas, implying, according to Benfey, that Indra “is designated as the sole or chief deity of this tribe “. Cf, also Hang, Ait. Br., ii. 384.

2 Rig-Veda, ii. 28; Hibbert Lectures, p. 284.

3 An opposite view is expressed in Weber’s Hist, of Sansk. Literature.

4 Rig- Veda, iv. 12, 4; viii. 93, 7.

5 For divergent opinions about Aditi, compare Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, xii. 1, pp. 40-42; Muir, v. 218.

6 Max Müller, Hibbert Lectures, p. 228.

7 Here we must remind the reader that the Vedas do not offer us all these tales, nor the worst of them. As M. Barth says, “Le sentiment religieux a ecarte la plupart de ces mythes ainsi que beaucoup d’autres qui le choquaient, mais il ne les a pas ecartes tous” (Religions de l’Inde, p. 14).

8 Rig-Veda, i. 27,13.

9 Ibid., viii. 30; Muir, v. 12.

10 Max Müller, Hibbert Lectures, p. 230.

11 Roth, in Muir, iv. 56.

12 Taittirya Brahmana, i. 1, 9, 1; Muir, v. 55, 1, 27.

13 Hibbert Lectures, p. 318.

14 In the Atharva Veda it is said that a female Asura once drew Indra from among the gods (Muir, v. 82). Thus gods and Asuras are capable of amorous relations.

15 Satapatha Br.

16 Taittirya Sanhita; Muir, v. 15, note 22.

17 According to a later legend, or a legend which we have received in a later form, the gods derived immortality from drinking of the churned ocean of milk. They churned it with Mount Mandara for a staff and the serpent Hasuki for a cord. The Ramayana and Mahabharata ascribe this churning to the desire of the gods to become immortal. According to the Mahabharata, a Daitya named Rahu insinuated himself among the gods, and drank some of the draught of immortality. Vishnu beheaded him before the draught reached lower than his throat; his head was thus immortal, and is now a constellation. He pursues the sun and moon, who had spied him among the gods, and causes their eclipses by his ferocity. All this is on a level with Australian mythology.

18 Muir, iv. 6a.

19 Ibid., v. 16.

20 Certain myths of the beginnings of things will be found in the chapter on cosmogonic traditions.

21 Muir, v. 21-24.

22 Ibid., v. 30.

23 Bergaigne, iii. 112.

24 Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, xii. 1, 40.

25 The Brahmanic legend of the birth of the Adityas (Aitareya Brahmana iii. 33) is too disgusting to be quoted.

26 Religion Vedique, iii. 88.

27 Rig- Veda, i. 89, 10.

28 Muir, iv. 15.

29 Max Müller, Select Essays, i. 871.

30 Muir, v. 66.

31 Rig. Veda, vii. 33, 2.

32 See Custom, and Myth, “A Far-Travelled Tale,” and our chapter postea, on “Romantic Myths”.

33 Rig- Veda, x. 124.

34 Bergaigne, iii. 147.

35 Sanskrit Texts, v. 16,17.

36 Religion Vedique, iii. 99.

37 Tsuni Goam, Hahn, p.

38 Ludwig, Die farse hat den groszen, starken, nicht zu venoundenden stier, den tosenden Indra, geboren.

39 As to the etymological derivation and original significance of the name of Indra, the greatest differences exist among philologists. Yaska gives thirteen guesses of old, and there are nearly as many modern conjectures. In 1846 Roth described Indra as the god of “the bright clear vault of heaven” (Zeller’s Theologisches Jahrbuch, 1846, p. 352). Compare for this and the following conjectures, E. D. Perry, Journal of American Oriental Society, vol. i. p. 118. Roth derived the “radiance” from idh, indh, to kindle. Roth afterwards changed his mind, and selected in or inv, to have power over. Lassen (Indisclie Allerthumskunde, 2nd ed., i. p. 893) adopted a different derivation. Benfey (Or. und Occ, 1862, p. 48) made Indra God, not of the radiant, but of the rainy sky. Mr. Max Müller (lectures on Science of Language, ii. 470) made Indra “another conception of the bright blue sky,” but (p. 473, note 35) he derives Indra from the same root as in Sanskrit gives indu, drop or sap, that is, apparently, rainy sky, the reverse of blue. It means originally “the giver of rain,” and Beufey is quoted ut supra. In Chips, ii. 91, Indra becomes “the chief solar deity of India “. Muir (Texts, v. 77) identifies the character of Indra with that of Jupiter Pluvius, the Rainy Jove of Rome. Grassman (Dictionary, s. v.) calls Indra “the god of the bright firmament”. Mr. Perry takes a distinction, and regards Indra as a god, not of sky, but of air, a midgarth between earth and sky, who inherited the skyey functions of Dyu. In the Veda Mr. Perry finds him “the personification of the thunderstorm”. And so on!

40 On the parentage of Indra, Bergaigne writes, iii. 58.

41 iii. 61. Bergaigne identifies Tvashtri and Vritra. Cf. Aitareya Brahmana, ii. 483, note 5.

42 Aitareya Brahmana, it 483, note 6.

43 Muir, i. 16.

44 Op. cit., p. 124.

45 Rig- Veda, iv. 17, 4, 2, 12; iv. 22, 4; i. 63, 1; viii. 59, 4; viii. 6, 28-30.

46 Ibid., iv. 18,1.

47 Cf. “Egyptian Divine Myths”

48 Why do Indra and his family behave in this bloodthirsty way? Hillebrandt says that the father is the heaven which Indra “kills” by covering it with clouds. But, again, Indra kills his father by concealing the sun. He is abandoned by his mother when the clear sky, from which he is born, disappears behind the veil of cloud. Is the father sun or heaven? is the mother clear sky, or, as elsewhere, the imperishability of the daylight? (Perry, op. cit., p. 149).

49 Rig- Veda, viii. 68, 15.

50 Ibid., x. 73, 10.

51 Ibid., x. 101, 12. For Sayana, see Mr. Perry’s Essay, Journal A. 0. S. 1882, p. 180.