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by Andrew Lang

Volume One





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.


Chapter 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 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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

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.


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

[1] Tylor, "Limits of Savage Religion."  Journal of the
Anthropological Institute, vol. xxi.

[2] Descent of Man, p. 68, 1871.

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.[1]  From a statement by Mr.
Greenway[2] 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,[3] and the question is important.

[1] J. A. I., xiii. pp. 440-459.

[2] Ibid., xxi. p. 294.

[3] Ibid., xiii. p. 194.

For the Wiraijuri, IN THEIR MYSTERIES, tell a myth of cannibal
conduct of Daramulun's, and of deceit and failure of knowledge in
Baiame.[1]  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.[2]   Nor do I know why Mr.
Hartland takes the myth of a tribe where Daramulun is "the evil
spirit who rules the night,"[3] 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."[4]  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![5]  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.

[1] J. A. I., xxv. p. 297.

[2] Ibid., May, 1895, p. 419.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., xiii. pp. 458, 459.

[5] Folk-Lore, ix., No. iv., p. 299.

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:[1] "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.

[1] More Legendary Tales, p. xv.

In yet another case[1] 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".[2]  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 displayed[3] 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.

[1] J. A. I., xxiv. p. 416.

[2] 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.

[3] See A picture of Australia, 1829, p. 264.

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 quoted[1] 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.[2]  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.[3]  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

[1] Prim. Cult. ii. p. 342.

[2] Arber's Smith, p. cxxxiii.

[3] Hakluyt Society, Strachey, 1849, pp. xxi., xxii.


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

[1] 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".

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.[1]

[1] Mr. Arber dates the MS. "1610-1615," and attributes to Strachey
Laws for Virginia, 1612.

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.[1]  Now, when Strachey
comes to the religion of the natives[2] he gives eighteen pages
(much of it verbiage) to five of Smith's.[3]  What Smith (1612)
says of their chief god I quote, setting Strachey's version (1611-
1612) beside it.

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

[2] Pp. 82-100.

[3] Arber, pp. 74-79.

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 haue
conference with him, and fashion themselues as neare 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 couered 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.[1]  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".[2]  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

[1] Arber, p. 444.

[2] Arber, p. 442.

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.[1]
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.[2]  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

[1]  Strachey, p. 98-100.

[2] "Spilman's Narrative," Arber, cx.-cxiv.

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".[1]  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".[2]

[1] Myths of the New World, p. 178.

[2] Myths of the New World, p. 53.

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?[1]

[1] Primitive Culture, ii. p. 342.

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.[1]  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".[2]
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".[3]  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

[1] 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

[2] Journal of Anthrop. Inst., Feb., 1892, pp. 285, 286.

[3] Prim. Cult,, ii. p. 342.

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."[1]  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.[2]

[1] According to Strachey, Heriot could speak the native language.

[2] Heriot's Narrative, pp. 37-39. Quaritch, London, 1893.

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 is this Plantation [New Plymouth] say Kiehtan[1] 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,[2] 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.

[1] 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.

[2] "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.)

"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

[1] Arber, pp. 767, 768.

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".[1]  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).

[1] Prim. Cult., ii. 340, 1873, 1892.

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.[1]  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".[2]  They were made to
labour in fetters, then were set at liberty, but "little desired
it".[3]  Some "souldiers" ran away to the liberated Kemps, who
brought them back to Smith.[4]  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.[5]  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".

[1] 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.

[2] The Proeeedings, etc., by W. S. Arber, p. 151.

[3] Ibid., p. 155.

[4] Ibid., p. 157.

[5] Strachey, pp. 54, 55.

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".




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".

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

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."[1]

[1] Lang's Queensland, p. 445, 1861.

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?"[1]  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.[2]

[1] See The Making of Religion, pp. 201-210.

[2] "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.

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.[1]  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.

[1] 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.

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' poem[1] 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.[2]  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.

[1] Ritter and Preller, Hist. Philos., Gothae, 1869, p. 82.

[2] 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.

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

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,"[1] 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,[2] 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.[3]  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.

[1] Odyssey, vi. 102.

[2] [Greek word omitted]; compare Harpokration on this word.

[3] 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.

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."[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]  Yet sins which to us appear far more monstrous than
the peccadillo of killing a three-headed Brahman are attributed
freely to Indra.

[1] Les Religions de l'Inde, Barth, p. 14. See also postea, "Indian

[2] 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

[3] Satapatha Brahmana, Oxford, 1882, vol. i. p. 47.

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.[1]
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.[2]  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

[1] Rig-Veda Sanhita.  Max Muller, p. 59.

[2] Postea, "Indian Divine Myths".

[3] Jowett's Plato, vol. i. pp. 632, 670.

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.[1]

[1] Is. et Osir., 48.

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

[1] 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

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

[1] Grote, Hist, of Greece, ed. 1869, i. p. 404.

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.[1]

[1] See Block, Euhemere et sa Doctrine, Mons, 1876.

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.[1]

[1] Pausanias, ix. 31.

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.[1]  Finally, the civilised ancients, with a
conservative reluctance to abandon their old myths (Greek text
omitted), invented for them moral or physical explanations, like
those of Plutarch and others, earlier and later.[2]

[1] Praep. E., ii. 5.

[2] Ibid., 6,19.

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

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.[1]  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.

[1] Met., xi. 8,19.

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.[1]

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

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.[1]

[1] Les Origines de l'Histoire d'apres le Bible, 1880-1884.

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.[1]  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.[2]  Neither of these writers had, like Alfred
Maury,[3] much knowledge of the myths and faiths of the lower
races, but they often seem on the point of anticipating the
ethnological method.

[1] Creuzer, Symbolik und Mythologie, 2d edit., Leipzig, 1836-43.

[2] Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology, English
trans., London, 1844.

[3] Histoire des Religions de la Grece Antique, Paris, 1857.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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 text omitted) was explained by Euripides as the
result of a confusion of words.  People had originally said that
Zeus gave a pledge (Greek text omitted) 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.[3]

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

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.[1]  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.[2]  "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!

[1] 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.

[2] See especially Mannhardt's note on Kuhn's theories of Poseidon
and Hermes, B. u. F. K., pp. xviii., xix., note 1.

"The philological method," says Professor Tiele,[1] "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] Rev. de l'Hist. des Rel., xii. 3, 260, Nov., Dec., 1885.



Chapter 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

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.

[1] De Legibus Hebraeorum Ritualibus, Tubingae, 1782.

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.[1]

[1] See Appendix A., Fontenelle's Origine des Fables.

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."[1]

[1] Mannhardt op. cit. p. xxiii.

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.[1]  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."[2]
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] We have been asked to DEFINE a savage.  He cannot be defined in
an epigram, but by way of choice of a type:--

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

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

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.

[2] 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.

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.[1]  For example, to explain the constellations
as metamorphosed men, animals, or other objects of terrestrial life
is the habit of savages,[2]--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.

[1] 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.

[2] See Custom and Myth, "Star-Myths".

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. . ."[1]
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".[2]  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.[3]  "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?"[4]

[1] Primitive Culture, 2nd edit., i. p. 283.

[2] Op. cit., p. 275.

[3] Primitive Culture, 2nd edit., ii. 265.

[4] 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".

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)[1] 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.

[1] Appendix B.

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."[1]

[1] Praep. E., ii. 6, 19.

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.[1]

[1] Relations de la Nouvelle France, 1636, p. 103 (Paris, Cramoisy,

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

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

[1] 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.

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.[1]  "The
heavenly water, which Vrittra withholds from the world, is usually
the prize of the contest."

[1] Ludwig, Der Rig-Veda, iii. p. 337.  See postea, "Divine Myths
of India".

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".[1]  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.

[1] 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.

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.[1]

[1] 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".

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.[1]
Meanwhile we go on to examine the peculiar characteristics of the
mental condition of savages and of peoples in the lower and upper

[1] Appendix B.



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]

[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. 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.[1]  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.

[1] See Roth in North-West Central Queensland Aborigines, chapter
xii., 1897.

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.[1]  "Nothing," says Schoolcraft, "is too
capacious (sic) for Indian belief."[2]  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.[3]

[1] Relations de la Nouvelle France, 1648, p. 70.

[2] Algic Researches, i. 41.

[3] "The Indians (Algonkins) conveyed instruction--moral,
mechanical and religious--through traditionary fictions and
tales."--Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, i. 12.

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.[1]  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

[1] Iliad, xix. 418.

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.[1]  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

[1] Creuzer and Guigniaut, vol. i. p. 111.

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."[1]  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."[2]  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."[3]  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."[4]  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.[5]  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.[6]  "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".[7]  Waitz[8] 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.[9]

[1] Primitive Culture, i. 167-169.

[2] Among the Indians of Guiana (1883), p. 350.

[3] Op. Cit., 355.

[4] Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, i. 41.

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

[6] 1636, p. 109.

[7] Western Pacific, p. 84.

[8] Anthropologie der Natur-Volker, ii. 177.

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

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."[1]

[1] Primtive Culture, i. 285.

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."[1]  The Red Men of North America[2] 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".[3]  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.[4]  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".[5]  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 women[6]
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";[7]
and the blacks run for their lives as soon as the dog begins to
speak.  What it said was "Bones".

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

[2] Schoolcraft, v. 420.

[3] See similar ceremonies propitiatory of the bear in Jewett's
Adventures among the Nootkas, Edinburgh, 1824.

[4] Brough Smyth, i. 449.

[5] J. J. Atkinson's MS.

[6] 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.

[7] Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 497.

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.[1]

[1] See also Mr. Frazer's Totemism, and Golden Bough, with chapter
on Totemism in Modern Mythology.

The name "Totemism" or "Totamism" was first applied at the end of
the last century by Long[1] to the Red Indian custom which
acknowledges human kinship with animals.  This institution had
already been recognised among the Iroquois by Lafitau,[2] and by
other observers.  As to the word "totem," Mr. Max Muller[3] 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,[4] "every warrior has his crest, which is called his
totem";[5] 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.

[1] Voyages and Travels, 1791.

[2] Moeurs des Sauvages (1724), p. 461.

[3] Academy, December 15, 1883.

[4] Selected Essays (1881), ii. 376.

[5] Compare Mr. Max Muller's Contributions to the Science of

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.[1]
(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.[2])  Clearer
evidence of the confusion between man and beast, of the claiming of
kin between man and beast, could hardly be.

[1] Dawson, Aborigines, pp. 26, 27; Howitt and Fison, Kamilaroi and
Kurnai, p. 169.

[2] Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia.

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."[1]  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,[2] and of the late Mr. Gideon
Scott Lang.[3]  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?

[1] Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 169.

[2] Travels, ii. 225.

[3] Lang, Lecture on Natives of Australia, p. 10.

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.[1]  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."[2]  This account fully corroborates that of
Sir George Grey.[3]

[1] 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

[2] Op. cit., p. 28.

[3] Ibid., ii. 220.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]

[1] Cf. Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht; M'Lennan, Primitive Marriage,
passim; Encycl. Brit. s. v. Family.

[2] Fison, op. cit., p. 66.

[3] 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

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.[1]

[1] Brough Smyth, i. 447, on MS. authority of W. Thomas.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]  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
Bosman[4] 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."

[1] 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.

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

[3] 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.

[4] In Pinkerton, xvi. 400.

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.[1]
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.

[1] E. Casalis, Les Bassoutos, 1859.

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 account[1] 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

[1] Missionary Travels (1857), p. 13.

[2] Orpen, Cape Monthly Magazine, 1872.

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.[1]  According to Long,[2] "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.[3]  This is only one example, like the refusal
of the Osages to kill the beavers, with which they count cousins,[4]
that the Red Man's belief is an actual creed, and does influence
his conduct.

[1] Long, pp. 46-49.

[2] Ibid., p. 86.

[3] Ibid., p. 87.

[4] Schoolcraft, i. 319.

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,[1] "Plusieurs nations ont chacune trois familles
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,[2]
who settled in the colony.  According to Schoolcraft,[3] 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,[4] 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 Iowas[5] and the Pueblos;[6]
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.

[1] Histoire de la France-Nouvelle, iii. 266.

[2] 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".

[3] Vol. i. p. 356.

[4] Schoolcraft, v. 73.

[5] Ibid., iii. 268.

[6] Ibid., iv. 86.

The martyred Pere Rasles, again, writing in 1723,[1] 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.[2]

[1] Kip's Jesuits in America i. 33.

[2] Dall's Alaska, pp. 196-198.

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.[1]  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 seen[2] 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,[3] 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,[4] 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 ".[5]  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".[6]  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".[7]  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 observing[8] 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,[9]
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]

[1] Kip, ii. 288.

[2] Appendix B.

[3] See translation in Hakluyt Society's Collection.

[4] Like many Greek heroes.  Odyssey, iii. 489. "Orsilochus, the
child begotten of Alpheus."

[5] Comm. Real., i. 75.

[6] Ibid., 53.

[7] Ibid., 102.

[8] Ibid., 83.

[9] Cieza de Leon (Hakluyt Society), p. 183.

[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,[1] 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.[2]  "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 also[3] a princely
family in Nagpur which claims descent from "a great hooded snake".
Among the Oraons he found[4] 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."

[1] Dalton, p. 63.

[2] Ibid., p. 189.

[3] Ibid., p. 166.

[4] Ibid., p. 254.

An excellent sketch of totemism in India is given by Mr. H. H.
Risley of the Bengal Civil Service:--[1]

[1] The Asiatic Quarterly, No. 3, Essay on "Primitive Marriage in

"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."[1]

[1] 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 text omitted].

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,[1] 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."[2]  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,[3]
and for Melanesia, Codrington,[4] while for New Zealand we have
Taylor.[5]  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.[6]  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.[7]  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] See some very curious and disgusting examples of this confusion
in Liebrecht's Zur Volkskunde, pp. 395, 396 (Heilbronn, 1879).

[2] De Abst., ii. 26.

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

[4] Journ. Anthrop. Inst., "Religious Practices in Melanesia".

[5] New Zealand, "Animal Intermarriage with Men".

[6] Description of Asia (1783), p. 383.

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



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

"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

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
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.

[1] Vol. ii. p. 162.

[2] Sociology, p. 98.

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.[1]  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".[2]  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."[3]  It will be shown later that the food of
the savage intellectual appetite is offered and consumed in the
shape of explanatory myths.

[1] See Amazonian Tortoise-Myth., pp. 5, 37, 40; and compare Mr.
Harris's Preface to Nights with Uncle Remus.

[2] Steller, p. 267.  Cf. Farrer's Primitive Manners, p. 274.

[3] Primitive Culture, i. 369.

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.[1]  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".[2]  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 admitted[3] 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.

[1] Histoire de la France-Nouvelle.

[2] Vol. i. p. 191.

[3] Vol. i. p. 192.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Catlin, Letters, ii. 117.

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".[1]  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".[2]  While the
Zulus declared that they used to accept their own myths without
inquiry,[3] it was a Zulu who suggested to Bishop Colenso his
doubts about the historical character of the Noachian Deluge.
Hearne[4] 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.

[1] Vol. ii. p. 378.

[2] Missionary Labours, p. 245.

[3] Callaway, Religion of Amazulus, i. 35.

[4] Journey among the Indians, 1795, p. 350.

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.[1]  "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.

[1] II. p. 82.

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.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Shropshire Folk-Lore, by Miss Burne, iii. 401.

[2] Brinton, Myths of New World, p. 107.

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.[1]  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.

[1] See account of Zuni metaphysics in chapter on American Divine

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."[1]  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.

[1] Primitive Culture, i. 14.

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."[1]  Stones with a rude resemblance to beasts
bring the Zuni luck in the chase.

[1] Rev. R. H. Codrington, Journ. Anth. Inst., February, 1881.

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."[1]  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.[2]

[1] Codrington, Journ. Anth. Soc., x. iii. 276.

[2] Gregor, Folk-Lore of North-East Counties, p. 40.

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.[1]  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.[2]   "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.[3]  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.[4]  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.

[1] Callaway, i. 92.

[2] Bergaigne, Religion Vedique, i. 126-138, i., vii., viii.

[3] Schoolcraft, iv. 491.

[4] 1 Samuel vi. 4, 5.

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.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Schoolcraft, iv. 496.

[2] Aitareya Brahmana, iii. 22.

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

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.[1]  Mr. Howitt finds the same
magic among the Kurnai.[2]  "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

[1] Rambaud's History of Russia, English trans., i. 351.

[2] Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 250.

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."[1]

[1] Savage Life, p. 208.

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,[1] "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."[2]  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".[3]

[1] Page 395.

[2] Cf. Comparetti's Traditional Poetry of the Finns.

[3] Kitchi gami, pp. 395, 397.

Among the Indo-Aryans the masaminik or incantations of the Red Man
are known as mantras.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Muir, Sanskrit Texts, v. 441, "Incantations from the Atharva

[2] 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.

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.[1]

[1] See the author's Making of Religion, 1898.

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.[1]  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,[2] 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".

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

[2] Page 247.

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.[1]  "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.[2]  "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."[3]  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.[4]  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.[5]  The pretensions of the sorcerer to converse with the
dead are attested by Mr. Brough Smyth.[6]  "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.[7]  Among the Scotch
Highlanders the position and practice of the seer were very like
those of the Birraark.  "A person," says Scott,[8] "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
SPIRITS who haunt these desolate recesses."  A number of examples
are given in Martin's Description of the Western Islands.[9]  In the
Century magazine (July, 1882) is a very full report of Thlinkeet
medicine-men and metamorphoses.

[1] Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 253.

[2] Page 254.

[3] 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?"

[4] 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.

[5] Bosman in Pinkerton, xvi. p. 401.

[6] Aborigines of Australia, i. 197.

[7] 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.

[8] Lady of the Lake, note 1 to Canto iv.

[9] P. 112.

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."[1]  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.[2]

[1] Callaway, Religious System of the Amazules, p. 265.

[2] On all this, see "Possession" in The Making of Religion.

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.[1]  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."[2]  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 text
omitted], "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,[3]
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-bird[4] behind Little
Crow's village on the Missouri.  It had a face like a man with a
nose like an eagle's bill.[5]

[1] Callaway, p. 340.

[2] Callaway, Religions System of the Amazules, p. 343.

[3] Ibid., p. 385.

[4] Schoolcraft, iii. 486.

[5] Compare Callaway, p. 119.

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,[1] 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.[2]  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."[3]  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.[4]  According to Mr.
Pond,[5] 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".[6]  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,[7] by the
Pakeha Maori, an English gentleman who had lived with the natives
like one of themselves.  The tohunga, says this author,[8] 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.

[1] Pinkerton, xvi. 401.

[2] Charlevoix, i. 105.  See "Savage Spiritualism" in Cock Lane and
Common Sense.

[3] Ibid., iii. 362.

[4] Catlin, ii. 17.

[5] In Schoolcraft, iv. 402.

[6] Pond, in Schoolcraft, iv. 647.

[7] Auckland, 1863.

[8] Page 148.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Early History of Institutions, p. 195.

"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."[1]

[1] Journ. Anth. Inst., x. iii. 287, 300, 309.

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.  Homer[1] 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

[1] Od., xix. 109.

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 Culture[1] a cloud of witnesses to the belief
in human tigers, hyaenas, leopards and wolves is collected.[2]  Mr.
Lane[3] 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 Honduras[4]
"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.[5]  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".[6]
Among the Bushmen "sorcerers assume the forms of beasts and
jackals".[7]  Dobrizhoffer (1717-91), a missionary in Paraguay,
found that "sorcerers arrogate to themselves the power of
transforming themselves into tigers".[8]  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".[9]  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]

[1] Vol. i. pp. 309-315.

[2] See also M'Lennan on Lykanthropy in Encyclopedia Britannica.

[3] Arabian Nights, i. 51.

[4] Bancroft, Races of Pacific Coast, i. 740.

[5] Brinton, Annals of the Cakchiquels, p. 46.

[6] Pinkerton, i. 471.

[7] Bleek, Brief Account of Bushman Folk-Lore, pp. 15, 40.

[8] English translation of Dobrizhoffer's Abipones, i. 163.

[9] Missionary Travels, p. 615.

[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

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,[1] 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] Relations (1636), p. 114.



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

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

[1] Primitive Culture, i. 288.

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.[1]

[1] Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 430.

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."[1]
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.[2]  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.[3]  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.[4]  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.[5]  Among the Aztecs the sun is said to have been
attacked by a hunter and grievously wounded by his arrows.[6]  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.[7]  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

[1] Taylor, New Zealand, p. 131.

[2] Turner, Samoa, p. 20.

[3] Sahagun, French trans., vii. ii.

[4] Bleck, Hottentot Fables, p. 67; Bushman Folk-Lore, pp. 9, 11.

[5] Compare a Californian solar myth: Bancroft, iii. pp. 85, 86.

[6] Bancroft, iii. 73, quoting Burgoa, i. 128, 196.

[7] Codrington, Journ. Anthrop. Inst., February, 1881.

[8] 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.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]  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;[4] in Zululand and Thibet by a fancied translation of a
good or bad hare to the moon.

[1] Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 432.

[2] Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 353.

[3] Bleek, Reynard in South Africa, pp. 69-74.

[4] Sahagun, viii. 2.

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.[1]  Gervaise[2] 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.

[1] Crantz's History of Greenland, i. 212.

[2] Royaume de Macacar, l688.

"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 quotes[1] 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.

[1] Primitive Culture, i. 356.

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 on[1] 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.[2]  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.[3]
Captain Beeckman in 1704 was in Borneo, when the natives declared
that the devil "was eating the moon".

[1] Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. i.; Lefebure, Les Yeux d'Horus,

[2] Teutonic Mythology, English trans., ii. 706.

[3] Moon-Lore by Rev. T. Harley, p. 167.

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.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 45.

[2] See chapter on Greek Divine Myths.

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.[1]

[1] Sophocles, Ajax, 846.

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.[1]  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.[2]
She is the sister of the sun in Hesiod, the daughter (by his
sister) of Hyperion in the Homeric hymns to Helios.

[1] Virgil, Georgics, iii. 391.

[2] Preller, Griech. Myth., i. 163.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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
Brahmanas[3] 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".[4]

[1] Custom and Myth, "Star-Myths"; Primitive Culture, i. 288, 291;
J. G. Muller, Amerikanischen Urreligionen, pp. 52, 53.

[2] Sacred Books of the East, i. 283-286.

[3] Aitareya Bramana, iii. 33.

[4] 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.

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.[1]  "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".[2]

[1] 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.

[2] Vol. iii. p. 127.

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.[1]  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;[2] 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 text omitted], 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.[3]  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.

[1] Magazine of Art, January, 1883.

[2] "Malagasy Folk-Tales," Folk-Lore Journal, October, 1883.

[3] We are indebted to Professor Robertson Smith for this example,
and to Miss Bird's Journal, pp. 90, 97, for the Aino parallel.

"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".[1]  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.[2]  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?[3]  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

[1] Barth, iii. 358.

[2] Apollodorus, i. 7 (13, 12).

[3] 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.

[4] Brough Symth, Aborigines of Australia, i. 477, 478.

"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 Homer[1] 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."[2]  Pausanias has a different legend; Procne and
Philomela died of excessive grief.

[1] Odyssey, xix. 523.

[2] 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.

These ancient men and women metamorphosed into birds were HONOURED
AS ANCESTORS by the Athenians.[1]  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.

[1] Pausanias, i. v.  Pausanias thinks such things no longer occur.

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."[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]  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.[4]
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.[5]

[1] Schoolcraft, ii. 229, 230.

[1] Boeo, quoted by Antoninus Liberalis.

[3] Gill, South Sea Myths, pp. 88-95.

[4] Artemidorus in his Love Elegies, quoted by the Pseud-

[5] Gill, Myths and Songs from South Pacific, pp. 135-138.

"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.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Livingstone, Missionary Travels, pp. 615, 642.

[2] Nicander, quoted by Antoninus Liberalis.

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".[1]  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".[2]  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.

[1] Brief Account of Bushmen Folk-Lore, p. 7.

[2] Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Vol. i. p. 426 et seq.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Antoninus Liberalis, xxxv.


"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.[1]

[1] Dalton, pp. 186, 187.

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.[1]  And cows are accommodated
with horns for a reason no less probable and satisfactory.[2]

[1] Aitareya Brahmana, ii. 272, iv. 9.

[2] iv. 17.

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."[1]  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.

[1] Native narrator, ap. Brough Smyth, i. 479.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]
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
Actaeon[4] near Little Muniton Creek, "resembling the bust of a man
whose head is decorated with the horns of a stag".[5]  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.[6]  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."[7]
Mauke, the first man, came out of a stone.  In short,[8] men and
stones and beasts and gods and thunder have interchangeable forms.
In Mangaia[9] 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

[1] See authorities ap. Dorman, Primitive Superstitions, pp. 130-

[2] Dorman, p. 133.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] Dorman, p. 137.

[6] Turner's Samoa, p. 299.

[7] Samoa, p. 31.

[8] Op. cit., p. 34.

[9] Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 60.

[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.[1]  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.[2]

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."[3]

[1] Pindar, Pyth. x., Myers's translation.

[2] xxiv. 611.

[3] The Scholiast on Iliad, xxiv. 6, 7.

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.[1]  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,"[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]  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.[5]  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.[6]

[1] Primitive Culture, i. 145; examples of Society Islanders,
Dyaks, Karens, Buddhists.

[2] Maspero, Contes Egyptiens, p. 25.

[3] J. G. Muller, Amerik. Urrel., p. 264.

[4] Turner's Samoa, p. 219.

[5] Ibid.. p. 213.

[6] Amerik. Urrel., p. 60.

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".[1]  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.[2]  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.

[1] Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 79.

[2] Myths of the Beginning of Things.

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".[1]  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] See Appendix B.



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

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

[1] Macrobius, Saturnal., i. xx.

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.[1]

[1] 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.

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.[1]  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".[2]  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.[3]
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.

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

[2] Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 210.

[3] Brough Smyth, Natives of Victoria, vol. i. p. 423.

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.[1]  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

[1] Meyer, Aborigines of Encounter Bay.  See, later, "Gods of the
Lowest Races".

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.[1]  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.

[1] Gason's Dieyries, ap. Native Tribes of South Australia, p. 20.

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,[1] 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.

[1] Odyssey, v. 490.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Journ. Anthrop. Soc., vol. xii. p. 157 et seq.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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

[1] See "Divine Myths of the Lower Races".

[2] Hahu, Tsuni Goam, p. 4.  See other accounts in Waitz,
Anthropologie, ii. 328.

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

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.[1]  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.

[1] Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

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.[1]  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

[1] An example of a Deluge myth in Africa, where M. Lenormant found

[2] South African Folk-Lore Journal, ii. pt. v. p. 95.

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.[1]
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".[2]  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.

[1] Fables of Yncas (Hakluyt Society), p. 127.

[2] Tsuni Goam, pp. 66, 67.

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.[1]  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".[2]  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

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

[2] Callaway, p. 9.

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,"[1] 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".[2]

[1] 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.

[2] Odyssey, xix. 103.

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."[1]

[1] 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.

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".[1]  "This view will not bear
examination," says Mr. Tylor, and we shall later demonstrate the
accuracy of his remark.[2]  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.

[1] Origin of Primitive Superstitions, p. 15.

[2] Primitive Culture, 1873, ii. p. 340.

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, fished[1] up some soil and
fashioned the earth.[2]  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.[3]

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

[2] 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".

[3] 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.

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,[1] 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.[2]

[1] Powell, Bureau of Ethnology, i. 44.

[2] 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.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Schoolcraft, vol. v.

The Winnebagoes, who communicated their myths to Mr. Fletcher,[1]
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.

[1] Ibid., iv. 228.

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.[1]

[1] Cf. Syncellus, p. 29; Euseb., Chronic. Armen., ed. Mai, p. 10;
Lenormant, Origines de l'Histoire, i. 506.

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.[1]  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."

[1] Sproat, Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, pp. 210, 211.

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

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,[1]
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

[1] Davidson, Indian Affairs Report, 1865, p. 131; Bancroft, iii.

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.[1]

[1] Communicated to Mr. Bancroft by Mr. Stout of the Pima Agency.

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. [1]

[1] [Frauchere's Narrative, 258; Gibb's Chinook Vocabulary;
Parker's exploring Tour, i. 139;] Bancroft, iii. 96.

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.[1]

[1] Bancroft, iii. 98; Harmon's Journey, pp. 302, 303.

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.[1]
This recalls the Australian myth of the origin of fish and the
Ananzi stories of the origin of whips.[2]

[1] Hearne, pp. 342, 343; Bancroft, iii. 106.

[2] See "Divine Myths of Lower Races".  M. Cosquin, in Contes de
Lorraine, vol. i. p. 58, gives the Ananzi story.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]  Scarcely less metaphysical
are the myths of Mangaia, of which Mr. Gill[4] gives an elaborate

[1] See "Divine Myths of Lower Races".

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

[3] See chapter on "Divine Myths of the Lower Races," and on "Indian
Cosmogonic Myths"

[4] Myths and Songs from the South Pacific, pp. 1-22.

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".[1]  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.

[1] Gill, p. 59.

The Samoans, like the Maoris and Greeks, hold that heaven at first
fell down and lay upon earth.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Turner's Samoa, p. 198.

[2] Turner's Samoa, pp. 1-9.

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.[1]

[1] 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

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

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

[1] 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".

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.[1]
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.

[1] 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.

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 Guatemala[1]
makes much of a mysterious, primeval and animated obsidian stone.
In the Iroquois myths[2] stones are the leading characters.  Nor
did Aztec myth escape this influence.

[1] Brinton, Annals of the Cakchiquels.

[2] Erminie Smith, Bureau of Ethnol. Report, ii.

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.[1]

[1] 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.

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.[1]

[1] 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.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.

[1] Com. Real., vol. i., chap. ix., x. xi. pp. 47-53.

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

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

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.[1]  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."

[1] Rites and Laws of the Yncas, p. 4, Hakluyt Society, 1873.

The story, as told by Cieza de Leon, runs thus:[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]  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.

[1] Second Part of the Chronicles of Peru, p 5.

[2] See Making of Religion, pp. 265-270.  Name and God are much

[3] The story of Joseph and the marchen of Jean de l'Ours are well-
known examples.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Com. Real., vol. i. p. 106.

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.[1]

[1] Garcilasso, viii. 8, quoting Blas Valera.

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.



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

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

[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

[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.

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,"[1] it is probable that some
centuries and many social changes intervened.[2]

[1] Whitney, Oriental and Linguistic studies, First Series, p. 4.

[2] 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."

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.[1]  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".[2]  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".[3]  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.

[1] Ibid., Rig-Veda Sanhita, p. vii.

[2] Hibbert Lectures, p. 131.

[3] 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

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.[1]  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,[2] "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.[3]  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.[4]  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".[5]  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.[6]  The rigid division of castes is seldom recognised
in the Rig-Veda.  We seem to see caste in the making.[7]  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.

[1] Les Religions de l'Inde, p. 27.

[2] ix. 112.

[3] 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.

[4] Deut. xxv. 5; Matt. xxii. 24.

[5] Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, i. 245.

[6] Ludwig, iii. 262.

[7] 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.

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".[1]  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

[1] Weber, p. 37.

[2] 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.

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.[1]  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."[2]  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.[3]

[1] 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.

[2] See texts in Muir, i. 242.

[3] Preface to translation of Aitareya Brahmana, p. 36.

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. Bergaigne[1] 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

[1] La Religion Vedique, vol. i. p. 123.  "Le culte est assimilable
dans une certaine mesure aux incantations, aux pratiques magiques."

[2] Hibbert Lectures, p. 198.

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."[1]  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.

[1] Barth, Les Religions de l'Inde, p. 7, with the Vedic texts.

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.[1]  "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

[1] Rig-Veda, vi. 52,4.

[2] Ibid., x. 68, xi.

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."[1]  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.

[1] Les Religions de l'Inde, p. 21.

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".[1]

[1] History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 556.

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".[1]  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 doubt[2] 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".[3]  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,[4] the Atharva shows progress in the
direction of monotheism in its celebration of Brahman, but it also
introduces serpent-worship.

[1] Journal of the American Oriental Society. iv. 253.

[2] Muir, ii. 446.

[3] Ibid., ii. 448.

[4] Ibid., ii. 451.

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,[1] "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.

[1] Muir, iv. 450.

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

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".[1]
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.

[1] Rig-Veda, x. 82, 7, but compare Bergaigne, op. cit., iii. 72,
"enveloppes de nuees et de murmures".

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.

[1] Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., i. 16.

[2] Max Muller, Rig-Veda Sanhita, trans., vol. i. p. 59.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Muir, v. 217.

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.[1]  "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."

[1] History of Indian Literature, English trans., p. 47.

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.



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

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

[1] Bancroft, v. 162.

[2] Sacred Books of the East, i. 216.

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.[1]
Again, the earth is said to have sprung, as in some Mangaian
fables, "from a being called Uttanapad".[2]  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.[3]  It is thus that the poet dreams of the days
before being and non-being began:--

[1] Muir, v. 354.

[2] Rig-Veda, x. 72, 4.

[3] Ibid., x. 126.

"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."[1]

[1] Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., v. 357.

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.[1]  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.

[1] History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 568.

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:--[1]

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

"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 Muller[1] believes the hymn to
be "modern both in its character and in its diction," and this
opinion he supports by philological arguments.  Dr. Muir[2] says
that the hymn "has every character of modernness both in its
diction and ideas".  Dr Haug, on the other hand,[3] 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.[4]  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.

[1] Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 570.

[2] Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., i. 12.

[3] Sanskrit Text, 2nd edit., ii. 463.

[4] Hearne's Journey, pp. 342-343.

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
following[1] 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.[2]

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

[2] 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.

Turning from the Vedas to the Brahmanas, we find a curiously savage
myth of the origin of species.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Satapatha Brahmana, xiv. 4, 2; Muir, 2nd edit., i. 25.

[2] Similar tales are found among the Khonds.

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",[1] 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.[2]  In the Satapatha Brahmana it is
Prajapati who takes this part, that falls to rude culture-heroes of
Hottentots and Huarochiris.[3]  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.

[1] Bergaigne, iii. 40.

[2] Avila, Fables of the Yncas, p. 127.

[3] English translation, ii. 361.

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.[1]  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 alleging[2] "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.[3]

[1] Muir, 2nd edit., vol. i. p. 52.

[2] Muir, 2nd edit., vol. i. p. 54.

[3] See Ternaux Compans' Nouvelles Annales des Voyages, lxxxvi. p.
5.  For Mexican traditions, "Mexican and Australian Hurricane
World's End," Bancroft, v. 64.

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.[1]
In much the same way the Satapatha Brahmana[2] 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."

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

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

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.[1]  "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,[2] "Prajapati took the form of a tortoise".  The
tortoise is the same as Aditya.[3]

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

[2] Satapatha Brahmana, vii. 4, 3, 5.

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

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";[1]
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.[2]  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,[3] who "stretched them out like a hide," who, like Atlas,
"sustains and upholds them"[4] 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] Muir, v. 22.

[2] iv. 27; Haug, ii. 308.

[3] Rig-Veda, viii. 6, 5.

[4] Ibid., iii. 32, 8.



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.

[1] Odyssey, xx. 354.

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.[1]  This view of
the savage origin of mankind was also held by Aristotle:[2] "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".[3]  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.[4]

[1] Moschion; cf. Preller, Ausgewahlte Aufsatze, p. 206.

[2] Politics, ii. 8-21; Plato, Laws, 667-680.

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

[4] Suidas, s.v. "Prometheus"; Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xviii. 9.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.

[1] Duncker, History of Greece, Engl. transl., vol. ii. p. 129.

[2] 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.

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,[1] as
"cowardice in regard to the supernatural" ([Greek text omitted]).
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."[2]  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.

[1] Characters.

[2] Ap. Hermann, Lehrbuch, p. 41; Aglaophamus, 965.

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.[1]   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.

[1] 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.

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.[1]   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 text omitted], 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.[2]  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.[3]  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.

[1] Claus, De Antiq. Form. Dianae, 6,7,16.

[2] 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.

[3] Compare Claus, De Dianae Antiquissima Natura, p. 3.

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 Antiquitaten[1] may be
cited.  Thus Isocrates writes,[2] "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".[3]  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 Plato[4]
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".[5]  So Athenaeus[6] 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.[7]  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.[8]

[1] Zweiter Theil, 1858.

[2] Areop., 30.

[3] Clem. Alex., Oxford, 1715, i. 34.

[4] Laws, v. 738.

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

[6] xiv. 2.

[7] Hermann, op. cit., p. 94, note 10.

[8] Pausanias, i. 14, 6.

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.[1]

[1] 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.

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 Minos[1] 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.[2]

[1] 315, c.; Plato, Laws, vi. 782, c.

[2] Argonautica, vii. 197.

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.[1]
"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
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.[2]  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.

[1] Pausanias, viii. 2.

[2] Plato, Rep., viii. 565, d.  This rite occurs in some African
coronation ceremonies.

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.[1]  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.

[1] The Purusha Sukhta, in Rig-Veda, x. 90.

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.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Paus., vii. 18, 19.

[2] See "Artemis", postea.

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.[1]  In Rome, as is well known, effigies of men called
Argives were sacrificed.[2]  As an example of a beast-victim given
in commutation, Pausanias mentions[3] 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.

[1] See Hermann, Alterthumer., ii. 159-161, for abundant examples.

[2] Plutarch, Quest. Rom. 32.

[3] ix. 8, 1.

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

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.[1]

[1] 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.

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.[1]   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,[2]  "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 times[3] 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."[4]  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.

[1] Jevons, Introduction to the Science of Religion, pp. 161, 199.

[2] Encyc. Brit., s. v. "Sacrifice".

[3] Plato, Rep., viii. 565, D.

[4] Paus., viii. 2.

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 text omitted]) 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.[1]  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".[2]  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".[3]  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.

[1] Pausanias, ii. 2.

[2] Clemens Alex., Protrept. (Oxford, 1715). p. 41.

[3] Gill, Myths of South Pacific, p. 60.  Compare a god, which
proved to he 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.

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

[1] 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.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]
The Syrians, says Clemens Alexandrinus, worship doves and fishes,
as the Elians worship Zeus.[4]  The people of Delphi adored the
wolf,[5] and the Samians the sheep.  The Athenians had a hero whom
they worshipped in the shape of a wolf.[6]  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.[7]  Nay, flies
were adored with the sacrifice of an ox near the temple of Apollo
in Leucas.[8]  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 text omitted].  In
the same way a Carian stock, the Ioxidae, revered the asparagus.[9]
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

[1] Op. cit., i. 34.

[2] Scholiast on Iliad, xix. 119.

[3] Aelian, H. A., xii. 5; Strabo, xiii. 604.  Compare "Apollo and
the Mouse, Custom and Myth, pp. 103-120.

[4] Lucian, De Dea Syria.

[5] Aelian, H. A., xii. 40.

[6] Harpocration, [Greek text omitted].  Compare an address to the
wolf-hero, "who delights in the flight and tears of men," in
Aristophanes, Vespae, 389.

[7] Robertson Smith, Kinship in Early Arabia, pp. 195-204.

[8] Aelian, xi. 8.

[9] Plutarch, Theseus, 14.

[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".[1]  Descent was
claimed, not only from a swan Apollo, but from a dog Apollo.

[1] Aeneid, x. 187.

In connection with the same set of ideas, it is pointed out that
several [Greek text omitted], 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.[1]
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.[2]

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

[2] See his Golden Bough, an alternative explanation of these
animals in connection with "The Corn Spirit".

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

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:[1] "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 text omitted]).
Clemens of Alexandria uses the same term when speaking of his own
"appalling revelations".[2]  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'action[3] ([Greek text omitted]).  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
REPRESENTATIONS."[4]  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.

[1] [Greek text omitted], chap. xv. 277.

[2] Ap. Euseb., Praep. Ev., ii, 3, 6.

[3] Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

[4] Acosta, Historie of the Indies, book v. chap. xxviii.  London,

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:[1] [Greek text
omitted]".  "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.

[1] Pronounced strantham.  For this information I am indebted to my
friend Mr. M'Allister, schoolmaster at St. Mary's Loch.

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.[1]  Harpocration
explains the term used ([Greek text omitted]) 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--

    [Greek text omitted].

[1] De Corona, 313.

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--

     [Greek text omitted].
     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]).[1]  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".[2]  Apollonius says that the red hand of the murderer was
dipped in the blood of swine and then washed.[3]  Athenaeus
describes a similar unpleasant ceremony.[4]  The blood of whelps
was apparently used also, men being first daubed with it and then
washed clean.[5]  The word [Greek text omitted] is again the
appropriate ritual term.  Such rites Plutarch calls [Greek text
omitted], "filthy purifications".[6]  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".[7]  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.[8]  In Australia
the evidence for daubing the initiate is very abundant.[9]  In New
Mexico, the Zunis stole Mr. Cushing's black paint, as considering
it even better than clay for religious daubing.[10]

[1] So Hermann, op. cit., 133.

[2] Eumenides, 273.

[3] Argonautica, iv. 693.

[4] 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.

[5] Plutarch, Quaest. Rom., 68.

[6] De Superstitione, chap. xii.

[7] O-Kee-Pa, London, 1867, p. 21.

[8] Savage Africa, case of Mongilomba; Pausanias, iii. 15.

[9] Brough Smyth, i. 60.

[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.[1]  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 text
omitted] is employed.  Masks are worn, as in the rites of Demeter
Cidiria in Arcadia.[2]

[1] The Snake-Dance of the Moquis.  By Captain Jobn G. Bourke,
London, 1884.

[2] Pausanias, viii. 16.

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."[1]  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.

[1] Fragm., cxvi., 128 H. p. 265.

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.[1]
Lobeck's method is rather cavalier.  Pindar and Sophocles meant
something of great significance.

[1] De Legibus ii. 14; Aglaophamus, pp. 69-74.

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.[1]  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
text omitted], and other wild rites.

[1] Making of Religion, pp. 193-197, 235.

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.



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

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.

[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).

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."[1]

[1] Hibbert Lectures, pp. 130, 131.

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.[1]  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.[2]
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.

[1] Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 317; Grote, iii. 86.

[2] Aglaophamus, i. 611.

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".[1]  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".[2]  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 described[3] 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.[4]  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.[5]  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.

[1] Iliad, xiv. 201, 302, 246.

[2] 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.

[3] Iliad, xv. 187.

[4] 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.

[5] See Elton, Origins of English History, pp. 185-207.

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,[1] 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 text omitted]) 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."

[1] Timaeeus, 41; Republic, 377.

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".[1]  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".
Hesiod[2] 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,[3] 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.[4]  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,[5] 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,[6] 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,[7] 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 predicted[8] that
there would come a day of vengeance for the evil deed of Cronus,
and so ends the dynasty of Uranus.

[1] Theog., 45.

[2] Ibid., 116.

[3] Ibid., 155.

[4] Ibid., 166.

[5] Muir, v. 23, quoting Aitareya Brahmana, iv. 27: "These two
worlds were once joined; subsequently they separated".

[6] Theog., 175-185.

[7] Apollod., i, 15.

[8] Theog., 209.

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".[1]
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."[2]  The
Greek myth too, contemplated earth and heaven as beings corporeally
united, and heaven as a malignant power that concealed his children
in darkness.

[1] Euthyphro, 6.

[2] Taylor, New Zealand, 119.

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."[1]  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."[2]  The swallowed children emerged alive, and Zeus fixed the
stone at Pytho (Delphi), where Pausanias[3] 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 did[4] 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.[5]

[1] Theog., 460, 465.

[2] Theog., 498.

[3] x. 245.

[4] Gen. xxviii. 18.

[5] 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.

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 text omitted]) 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 text omitted], 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.[1]

[1] 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.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Bleek, Bushman Folk-lore, pp. 6, 8.

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.[1]  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
examples[2] 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?

[1] 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.

[2] Compare Tylor, Prim. Cult., i. 338.

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.[1]
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.[2]
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.[3]  A cow on this occasion was born along with Indra.  This
adventure of the [Greek text omitted] 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.

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

[2] Mabinogion, p. 473.

[3] Black Yajur Veda, quoted by Sayana.

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,[1] 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 text omitted]).  "Time was when
as yet this world was not."[2]  Time, regarded in the mythical
fashion as a person, generated Chaos and Aether.  The Orphic poet
styles Chaos [Greek text omitted], "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.[3]  These ideas
correspond well with the Orphic conception of primitive space.[4]

[1] Rig-Veda, x. 90.

[2] Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 470.  See also the quotations from

[3] Gylfi's Mocking.

[4] Aglaophamus, p. 473.

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.[1]  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,"[2] 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

[1] Clemens Alexan., p. 672.

[2] Damascius, ap. Lobeck, i. 481.

[3] Aglaoph., i. 483.

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.[3]  The tale is worthy of
the Swift-like fancy of the Australian Narrinyeri.

[1] Damascius, 381, ap. Lobeck, i. 484.

[2] Hermias in Phaedr. ap. Lobeck, i. 493.

[3] Suidas s. v. Phanes.

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.[1]  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.[2]

[1] Essais Orientaux, p. 166.

[2] Argonautica, 1-12; Aves, 693.

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 Ovid[1]
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.[2]  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".[3]

[1] Ovid. Metam. i. 82.

[2] Eclogue, vi. 42.

[3] Pausanias, x. 4, 3.

Aristophanes, too, in the Birds (686) talks of men as [Greek text
omitted], 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

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.[1]  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.[2]  Lucian mentions[3] 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] Preller, Aus. Auf., p. 158.

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

[3] Philops. iii.



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]

[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.

"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.[1]

[1] Prim. Cult., ii. 381.  Huxley's Science and Hebrew Tradition,
pp. 346,372.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Prim. Cult., ii. 109

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.[1]
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".[2]  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.[3]  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.[4]  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.[5]  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".[6]  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

[1] See Modern Mythology, "Myths of Origin of Death".

[2] Mariner, ii. 127.

[3] 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

[4] Journal Anthrop. Inst., Nov., 1894, p. 191.

[5] Ibid., 1886, p. 313.

[6] See Making of Religion, pp. 201-210, for a more copious

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'".[1]

[1] Dawson, Australian Aborigines, p. 51, 1881.

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.[1]  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.

[1] Howitt, Organisation of Australian Tribes, pp. 101-113.
"Transactions of Royal Society of Victoria," 1889.

Some supporters of the current theory therefore fall back on the
hypothesis that the Australians are sadly degenerate.[1]  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."[2]

[1] See Prof. Menzie's History of Religion, pp. 16, 17, where a
singular inconsistency has escaped the author.

[2] Prim. Cult., i. 57, 67.

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.[1]  Far from degenerating, the Australians
show advance when they supersede their beast or other totem by an
eponymous human hero.[2]  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.[3]  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.

[1] Tylor, preface to Ling Roth's Aborigines of Tasmania, pp. v.-

[2] Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 231.

[3] Kamilaroi and Kurnai, pp. 277, 278.

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

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

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".[1]  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.[2]
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.

[1] Prim. Cult., ii. 341.

[2] History of Travaile into Virginia, by William Strachey, 1612.

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.[1]

[1] Prim. Cult, ii. pp. 339, 340 (1873).  For some reason, Mr.
Tylor modifies this passage in 1891.

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
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

"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

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.[1]

[1] Relations, 1633, 1634.

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".[1]  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.

[1] Parkman, The Jesuits in North America. p. lxxviii.

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."[1]

[1] Relations, 1636, pp. 106, 107.

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.[1]  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".[2]  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.

[1] 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.

[2] Journ. of Anthrop. Inst., vol. xxi., 1892.

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.[1]  A similar deity,
veiled in the instruction of the as yet unpenetrated Mysteries,
exists among the Yao of Central Africa.[2]  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".[3]  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.[4]

[1] Rochefort, Les Isles Antilles, p. 415.  Tylor, ii. 337.

[2] 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.

[3] Anthropologie, ii. 167.

[4] Making of Religion, pp. 243-250.

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

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

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

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".[1]  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.[2]  The goodness is inferred by the
Eskimo from his own contentment with "the things which are made".[3]

[1] Darwin, Descent of Man, i. p. 66.

[2] Cranz, i. 199.

[3] Romans, i. 19.

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

[1] Origin of Civilisation, p. 201.

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

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".[1]  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.

[1] Making of Religion, p. 187.

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

[1] Australian Aborigines, p. 62.

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

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.[1]
"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."

[1] Relations, 1634, p. 29.

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

[1] J. A. I., xii. p. 93.

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. . . ."[1]
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.

[1] Ethics of Evolution, pp. 81-84.

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".[1]  Still, religion does its
best, in certain cases, to lend equilibrium; though all the world
over, religion often fails in practice.

[1] Prim. Cult., i. 51.

Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1