Myth, Ritual and Religion, by Andrew Lang

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.

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