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Title: Custom and Myth - New Edition
Author: Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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        ANDREW LANG, M.A.

          _NEW EDITION_


      _All rights reserved_

              E. B. TYLOR
             Are Dedicated


Since the first publication of _Custom and Myth_, many other works
have appeared, dealing on the same principles with matters of belief,
fable and ritual. Were the book to be re-written, numerous fresh
pieces of evidence might be adduced in support of its conclusions. In
Mr. Frazer's _Golden Bough_ (Macmillan) the student will find a
carefully conceived argument, and a large collection of testimonies,
bearing on the wide diffusion, among savages and civilised peoples, of
ancient rites and ancient ideas. The works of Mannhardt have
practically been introduced to the English reader by Mr. Frazer, with
much new matter of his own. The main topics are the worship of human
gods and the superstitions connected with vegetation. To push a theory
too far is the common temptation of mythologists, and perhaps Mr.
Frazer's cornstalk does rather threaten to overshadow the whole earth
and exclude the light of sun and sky. But the reader, whatever his
opinions, will find great pleasure and profit in Mr. Frazer's
remarkable studies, and in those of Mannhardt, which were unknown to
myself when I wrote _Custom and Myth_.

In Miss Harrison's volume on Athenian Myths the student will find the
ætiological theory (namely, that many myths were invented to explain
obscure points of ritual) applied in a number of classical instances.
A singularly ingenious study of Roman myths is presented in Mr.
Jevons's edition of Plutarch's _Romaine Questions_ (Nutt). These are
recent instances of the use of the 'anthropological' method, first
firmly established by Mr. Tylor's _Primitive Culture_, and now holding
its own as a recognised instrument in the study of the historical
development of the imagination. In Rosscher's _Ausführliches Lexikon_
of Greek and Roman mythology, the earlier method of the philologists
is usually adopted, and the work, still in course of publication, is
most useful for its recondite learning.

These notes are meant for the guidance of any reader who may care to
push his studies further than the sketches of the present volume.

On one or two points some remarks may be necessary. The author has
been not unnaturally accused of seeing Totems everywhere. He would
therefore protest that he does not regard every beast and bird which
appears in myths or in religious art as necessarily a Totem. But he
inclines to think that where Celts or Greeks claim descent from a god
who pursued his amours in animal shape, or where a tribe bears the
name of an animal, regards that animal with religious respect, and
places its effigy beside that of a god, the Totemistic hypothesis
colligates the phenomena, and deserves consideration. These and other
early features of religion occur mainly in Greece after the Homeric
age. It has been suggested, for example, by Mr. Walter Leaf, that
Homer's people, the Achæans, were free from all such ideas as
Totemism, worship of the dead, ritual of purification for homicide,
the mysteries, and so forth. These were notions held by the Pelasgi,
and revived or retained by the Ionians, an older and distinct stock of
Pelasgian origin. I am unable to convince myself in this matter, not
knowing how much of the refinement in the Homeric poems is due to the
genius of the poet, who might ignore practices with which he was
familiar. They may have been Pelasgo-Ionians, who derived Helen's
birth from the Swan, or Homer may have chosen to slur over an Achæan
legend, and so on in other cases; for example, as to the descent of
the Myrmidons from Zeus in the shape of an Ant. On another point a
word may be said. One has been accused of believing that identical
popular tales, the same incident in the same sequence of plot, might
arise simultaneously in savage imaginations in all parts of the world.
In _Custom and Myth_ it will be plain that I say nothing of the sort.
'The Far-Travelled Tale' is one instance chosen to show that such a
story must probably have drifted, somehow, round the world. On the
other hand, in 'Cupid and Psyche,' it is asserted that _the central
incident_ might be invented wherever the nuptial taboo on which it is
based was recognised. The exact sequence of incidents in the 'Cupid
and Psyche' of Apuleius, on the other hand, could probably only be
invented once for all. But we find the central incident where we do
not find the sequence of incidents which make up 'Cupid and Psyche.' A
full statement of my ideas is prefixed to Miss Roalfe Cox's
_Cinderella_ (Folklore Society). As a rule, the incidents in _Märchen_
are common to all races; an artistic combination of many of these in a
plot must probably be due to a single imagination, and the plot must
have been diffused in the ways described in _Custom and Myth_.
Independently evolved myths may closely resemble each other when they
account for some natural phenomenon, or are based on some common
custom. Wherever a sequence of such incidents is found in a distinct
and artistic plot, we may provisionally assign diffusion from an
original centre as that cause. Singular as are the coincidences of
fancy, it is unlikely that they ever produced _exactly_ the same tale
in lands which have never been in communication with each other. I am
unable to conjecture why Mr. Jacobs, M. Cosquin, and probably other
critics, regard me as maintaining that all similar tales in all
countries have been independently evolved. I have always allowed for
the possibility both of diffusion and, to a certain extent, of
coincidence, as in the Red Indian forms of 'Cupid and Psyche' and of
'The Dead Bride,' a shape of the story of Eurydice. Discussion would
be simpler, if controversialists took the trouble to understand each

In the Report of the Folklore Congress of 1891 (p. 65) I find that I
said 'the suggestion that exactly the same plot, in exactly the same
shape, and with exactly the same incidents, can have been invented by
several persons independently, seems to me inconceivable,' and on p.
74 I find M. Cosquin alleging that my opinion is the very reverse,
followed by Mr. Jacobs (p. 85). I have tried to explain that I believe
in no such exact coincidences of imagination, though how far precisely
coincidence may go is a delicate question.



    INTRODUCTION                                 1

    THE METHOD OF FOLKLORE                      10

    THE BULL-ROARER                             29

    THE MYTH OF CRONUS                          45

    CUPID, PSYCHE, AND THE 'SUN-FROG'           64

    A FAR-TRAVELLED TALE                        87

    APOLLO AND THE MOUSE                       103

    STAR MYTHS                                 121

    MOLY AND MANDRAGORA                        143

    THE 'KALEVALA'                             156

    THE DIVINING ROD                           180

    HOTTENTOT MYTHOLOGY                        197

    FETICHISM AND THE INFINITE                 212


    THE ART OF SAVAGES                         276

    INDEX                                      305



Though some of the essays in this volume have appeared in various
serials, the majority of them were written expressly for their present
purpose, and they are now arranged in a designed order. During some
years of study of Greek, Indian, and savage mythologies, I have become
more and more impressed with a sense of the inadequacy of the
prevalent method of comparative mythology. That method is based on the
belief that myths are the result of a disease of language, as the
pearl is the result of a disease of the oyster. It is argued that men
at some period, or periods, spoke in a singular style of coloured and
concrete language, and that their children retained the phrases of
this language after losing hold of the original meaning. The
consequence was the growth of myths about supposed persons, whose
names had originally been mere 'appellations.' In conformity with this
hypothesis the method of comparative mythology examines the proper
names which occur in myths. The notion is that these names contain a
key to the meaning of the story, and that, in fact, of the story the
names are the germs and the oldest surviving part.

The objections to this method are so numerous that it is difficult to
state them briefly. The attempt, however, must be made. To desert the
path opened by the most eminent scholars is in itself presumptuous;
the least that an innovator can do is to give his reasons for
advancing in a novel direction. If this were a question of scholarship
merely, it would be simply foolhardy to differ from men like Max
Müller, Adalbert Kuhn, Bréal, and many others. But a revolutionary
mythologist is encouraged by finding that these scholars frequently
differ from each other. Examples will be found chiefly in the essays
styled 'The Myth of Cronus,' 'A Far-Travelled Tale,' and 'Cupid and
Psyche.' Why, then, do distinguished scholars and mythologists reach
such different goals? Clearly because their method is so precarious.
They all analyse the names in myths;[1] but, where one scholar decides
that the name is originally Sanskrit, another holds that it is purely
Greek, and a third, perhaps, is all for an Accadian etymology, or a
Semitic derivation. Again, even when scholars agree as to the original
root from which a name springs, they differ as much as ever as to the
meaning of the name in its present place. The inference is that the
analysis of names, on which the whole edifice of philological
'comparative mythology' rests, is a foundation of shifting sand. The
method is called 'orthodox,' but, among those who practise it, there
is none of the beautiful unanimity of orthodoxy.

These objections are not made by the unscholarly anthropologist alone.
Curtius has especially remarked the difficulties which beset the
'etymological operations' in the case of proper names. 'Peculiarly
dubious and perilous is mythological etymology. Are we to look for the
sources of the divine names in aspects of nature, or in moral
conceptions; in special Greek geographical conditions, or in natural
circumstances which are everywhere the same: in dawn with her rays, or
in clouds with their floods; are we to seek the origin of the names of
heroes in things historical and human, or in physical phenomena?'[2]
Professor Tiele, of Leyden, says much the same thing: 'The
uncertainties are great, and there is a constant risk of taking mere
_jeux d'esprit_ for scientific results.'[3] Every name has, if we can
discover or conjecture it, a meaning. That meaning--be it 'large' or
'small,' 'loud' or 'bright,' 'wise' or 'dark,' 'swift' or 'slow'--is
always capable of being explained as an epithet of the sun, or the
cloud, or of both. Whatever, then, a name may signify, some scholars
will find that it originally denoted the cloud, if they belong to one
school, or the sun or dawn, if they belong to another faction.
Obviously this process is a mere _jeu d'esprit_. This logic would be
admitted in no other science, and, by similar arguments, any name
whatever might be shown to be appropriate to a solar hero.

The scholarly method has now been applied for many years, and what are
the results? The ideas attained by the method have been so popularised
that they are actually made to enter into the education of children,
and are published in primers and catechisms of mythology. But what has
a discreet scholar to say to the whole business? 'The difficult task
of interpreting mythical names has, so far, produced few certain
results'--so writes Otto Schrader.[4] Though Schrader still has hopes
of better things, it is admitted that the present results are highly
disputable. In England, where one set of these results has become an
article of faith, readers chiefly accept the opinions of a single
etymological school, and thus escape the difficulty of making up their
minds when scholars differ. But differ scholars do, so widely and so
often, that scarcely any solid advantages have been gained in
mythology from the philological method.

The method of philological mythology is thus discredited by the
disputes of its adherents. The system may be called orthodox, but it
is an orthodoxy which alters with every new scholar who enters the
sacred enclosure. Even were there more harmony, the analysis of names
could throw little light on myths. In stories the names may well be,
and often demonstrably are, the latest, not the original, feature.
Tales, at first told of 'Somebody,' get new names attached to them,
and obtain a new local habitation, wherever they wander. 'One of the
leading personages to be met in the traditions of the world is really
no more than--Somebody. There is nothing this wondrous creature cannot
achieve; one only restriction binds him at all--that the name he
assumes shall have some sort of congruity with the office he
undertakes, _and even from this he oftentimes breaks loose_.'[5] We
may be pretty sure that the adventures of Jason, Perseus, Œdipous,
were originally told only of 'Somebody.' The names are later
additions, and vary in various lands. A glance at the essay on 'Cupid
and Psyche' will show that a history like theirs is known, where
neither they nor their counterparts in the Veda, Urvasi and Pururavas
were ever heard of; while the incidents of the Jason legend are
familiar where no Greek word was ever spoken. Finally, the names in
common use among savages are usually derived from natural phenomena,
often from clouds, sky, sun, dawn. If, then, a name in a myth can be
proved to mean cloud, sky, sun, or what not (and usually one set of
scholars find clouds where others see the dawn), we must not instantly
infer that the myth is a nature-myth. Though, doubtless, the heroes in
it were never real people, the names are as much common names of real
people in the savage state, as Smith and Brown are names of civilised

For all these reasons, but chiefly because of the fact that stories
are usually anonymous at first, that names are added later, and that
stories naturally crystallise round any famous name, heroic, divine,
or human, the process of analysis of names is most precarious and
untrustworthy. A story is told of Zeus: Zeus means sky, and the story
is interpreted by scholars as a sky myth. The modern interpreter
forgets, first, that to the myth-maker sky did not at all mean the
same thing as it means to him. Sky meant, not an airy, infinite,
radiant vault, but a person, and, most likely, a savage person.
Secondly, the interpreter forgets that the tale (say the tale of Zeus,
Demeter, and the mutilated Ram) may have been originally anonymous,
and only later attributed to Zeus, as unclaimed jests are attributed
to Sheridan or Talleyrand. Consequently no heavenly phenomena will be
the basis and explanation of the story. If one thing in mythology be
certain, it is that myths are always changing masters, that the old
tales are always being told with new names. Where, for example, is the
value of a philological analysis of the name of Jason? As will be seen
in the essay 'A Far-Travelled Tale,' the analysis of the name of Jason
is fanciful, precarious, disputed, while the essence of his myth is
current in Samoa, Finland, North America, Madagascar, and other lands,
where the name was never heard, and where the characters in the story
have other names or are anonymous.

For these reasons, and others too many to be adduced here, I have
ventured to differ from the current opinion that myths must be
interpreted chiefly by philological analysis of names. The system
adopted here is explained in the first essay, called 'The Method of
Folklore.' The name, Folklore, is not a good one, but 'comparative
mythology' is usually claimed exclusively by the philological

The second essay, 'The Bull-Roarer,' is intended to show that certain
peculiarities in the Greek mysteries occur also in the mysteries of
savages, and that on Greek soil they are survivals of savagery.

'The Myth of Cronus' tries to prove that the first part of the legend
is a savage nature-myth, surviving in Greek religion, while the sequel
is a set of ideas common to savages.

'Cupid and Psyche' traces another Aryan myth among savage races, and
attempts to show that the central incident of the tale may have had
its origin in a rule of barbarous etiquette.

'A Far-Travelled Tale' examines a part of the Jason myth. This myth
appears neither to be an explanation of natural phenomena (like part
of 'The Myth of Cronus'), nor based on a widespread custom (like
'Cupid and Psyche'). The question is asked whether the story may have
been diffused by slow filtration from race to race all over the globe,
as there seems no reason why it should have been invented separately
(as a myth explanatory of natural phenomena or of customs might be) in
many different places.

'Apollo and the Mouse' suggests hypothetically, as a possible
explanation of the tie between the God and the Beast, that
Apollo-worship superseded, but did not eradicate, Totemism. The
suggestion is little more than a conjecture.

'Star Myths' points out that Greek myths of stars are a survival from
the savage stage of fancy in which such stories are natural.

'Moly and Mandragora' is a study of the Greek, the modern, and the
Hottentot folklore of magical herbs, with a criticism of a scholarly
and philological hypothesis, according to which Moly is the dog-star
and Circe the moon.

'The Kalevala' is an account of the Finnish national poem; of all
poems that in which the popular, as opposed to the artistic, spirit is
strongest. The Kalevala is thus a link between _Märchen_ and
_Volkslieder_ on one side, and epic poetry on the other.

'The Divining Rod' is a study of a European and civilised
superstition, which is singular in its comparative lack of copious
savage analogues.

'Hottentot Mythology' is a criticism of the philological method,
applied to savage myth.

'Fetichism and the Infinite' is a review of Mr. Max Müller's theory
that a sense of the Infinite is the germ of religion, and that
Fetichism is secondary, and a corruption. This essay also contains a
defence of the _evidence_ on which the anthropological method relies.

The remaining essays are studies of the 'History of the Family,' and
of 'Savage Art.'

The essay on 'Savage Art' is reprinted, by the kind permission of
Messrs. Cassell & Co., from two numbers (April and May, 1882) of the
_Magazine of Art_. I have to thank the editors and publishers of the
_Contemporary Review_, the _Cornhill Magazine_, _Fraser's Magazine_,
and _Mind_, for leave to republish 'The Early History of the Family,'
'The Divining Rod,' and 'Star Myths,' 'The Kalevala,' and 'Fetichism.'
A few sentences in 'The Bull-Roarer,' and 'Hottentot Mythology,'
appeared in essays in the _Saturday Review_, and some lines of 'The
Method of Folklore' in the _Guardian_. To the editors of those
journals also I owe thanks for their courteous permission to make this
use of my old articles.

I must apologise for the controversial matter in the volume.
Controversy is always a thing to be avoided, but, in this particular
case, when a system opposed to the prevalent method has to be
advocated, controversy is unavoidable. My respect for the learning of
my distinguished adversaries is none the less great because I am not
convinced by their logic, and because my doubts are excited by their


[1] Some of the names in Greek myths are Greek, and intelligible. A
few others (such as Zeus) can be interpreted by aid of Sanskrit. But
even when the meaning of the name is known, we are little advanced in
interpretation of the myth.

[2] Compare De Cara: _Essame Critico_.

[3] _Revue de l'Hist. des Rel._, ii. 136.

[4] _Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte_, p. 431.

[5] _Prim. Cult._, i. 394.


After the heavy rain of a thunderstorm has washed the soil, it
sometimes happens that a child, or a rustic, finds a wedge-shaped
piece of metal or a few triangular flints in a field or near a road.
There was no such piece of metal, there were no such flints, lying
there yesterday, and the finder is puzzled about the origin of the
objects on which he has lighted. He carries them home, and the village
wisdom determines that the wedge-shaped piece of metal is a
'thunder-bolt,' or that the bits of flint are 'elf-shots,' the heads
of fairy arrows. Such things are still treasured in remote nooks of
England, and the 'thunder-bolt' is applied to cure certain maladies by
its touch.

As for the fairy arrows, we know that even in ancient Etruria they
were looked on as magical, for we sometimes see their points set, as
amulets, in the gold of Etruscan necklaces. In Perugia the arrow-heads
are still sold as charms. All educated people, of course, have long
been aware that the metal wedge is a celt, or ancient bronze axe-head,
and that it was not fairies, but the forgotten peoples of this island,
who used the arrows with the tips of flint. Thunder is only so far
connected with them that the heavy rains loosen the surface soil, and
lay bare its long-hidden secrets.

There is a science, Archæology, which collects and compares the
material relics of old races, the axes and arrow-heads. There is a
form of study, Folklore, which collects and compares the similar but
immaterial relics of old races, the surviving superstitions and
stories, the ideas which are in our time but not of it. Properly
speaking, folklore is only concerned with the legends, customs,
beliefs, of the Folk, of the people, of the classes which have least
been altered by education, which have shared least in progress. But
the student of folklore soon finds that these unprogressive classes
retain many of the beliefs and ways of savages, just as the Hebridean
people used spindle-whorls of stone, and bake clay pots without the
aid of the wheel, like modern South Sea Islanders, or like their own
prehistoric ancestors.[6] The student of folklore is thus led to
examine the usages, myths, and ideas of savages, which are still
retained, in rude enough shape, by the European peasantry. Lastly, he
observes that a few similar customs and ideas survive in the most
conservative elements of the life of educated peoples, in ritual,
ceremonial, and religious traditions and myths. Though such remains
are rare in England, we may note the custom of leading the dead
soldier's horse behind his master to the grave, a relic of days when
the horse would have been sacrificed.[7] We may observe the
persistence of the ceremony by which the monarch, at his coronation,
takes his seat on the sacred stone of Scone, probably an ancient
fetich stone. Not to speak, here, of our own religious traditions, the
old vein of savage rite and belief is found very near the surface of
ancient Greek religion. It wants but some stress of circumstance,
something answering to the storm shower that reveals the flint
arrow-heads, to bring savage ritual to the surface of classical
religion. In sore need, a human victim was only too likely to be
demanded; while a feast-day, or a mystery, set the Greeks dancing
serpent-dances or bear-dances like Red Indians, or swimming with
sacred pigs, or leaping about in imitation of wolves, or holding a
dog-feast, and offering dog's flesh to the gods.[8] Thus the student
of folklore soon finds that he must enlarge his field, and examine,
not only popular European story and practice, but savage ways and
ideas, and the myths and usages of the educated classes in civilised
races. In this extended sense the term 'folklore' will frequently be
used in the following essays. The idea of the writer is that mythology
cannot fruitfully be studied apart from folklore, while some knowledge
of anthropology is required in both sciences.

The science of Folklore, if we may call it a science, finds
everywhere, close to the surface of civilised life, the remains of
ideas as old as the stone elf-shots, older than the celt of bronze. In
proverbs and riddles, and nursery tales and superstitions, we detect
the relics of a stage of thought, which is dying out in Europe, but
which still exists in many parts of the world. Now, just as the flint
arrow-heads are scattered everywhere, in all the continents and isles,
and everywhere are much alike, and bear no very definite marks of the
special influence of race, so it is with the habits and legends
investigated by the student of folklore. The stone arrow-head buried
in a Scottish cairn is like those which were interred with Algonquin
chiefs. The flints found in Egyptian soil, or beside the tumulus on
the plain of Marathon, nearly resemble the stones which tip the reed
arrow of the modern Samoyed. Perhaps only a skilled experience could
discern, in a heap of such arrow-heads, the specimens which are found
in America or Africa from those which are unearthed in Europe. Even in
the products of more advanced industry, we see early pottery, for
example, so closely alike everywhere that, in the British Museum,
Mexican vases have, ere now, been mixed up on the same shelf with
archaic vessels from Greece. In the same way, if a superstition or a
riddle were offered to a student of folklore, he would have much
difficulty in guessing its _provenance_, and naming the race from
which it was brought. Suppose you tell a folklorist that, in a certain
country, when any one sneezes, people say 'Good luck to you,' the
student cannot say _à priori_ what country you refer to, what race you
have in your thoughts. It may be Florida, as Florida was when first
discovered; it may be Zululand, or West Africa, or ancient Rome, or
Homeric Greece, or Palestine. In all these, and many other regions,
the sneeze was welcomed as an auspicious omen. The little superstition
is as widely distributed as the flint arrow-heads. Just as the object
and use of the arrow-heads became intelligible when we found similar
weapons in actual use among savages, so the salutation to the sneezer
becomes intelligible when we learn that the savage has a good reason
for it. He thinks the sneeze expels an evil spirit. Proverbs, again,
and riddles are as universally scattered, and the Wolufs puzzle over
the same _devinettes_ as the Scotch schoolboy or the Breton peasant.
Thus, for instance, the Wolufs of Senegal ask each other, 'What flies
for ever, and rests never?'--Answer, 'The Wind.' 'Who are the comrades
that always fight, and never hurt each other?'--'The Teeth.' In
France, as we read in the 'Recueil de Calembours,' the people ask,
'What runs faster than a horse, crosses water, and is not
wet?'--Answer, 'The Sun.' The Samoans put the riddle, 'A man who
stands between two ravenous fishes?'--Answer, 'The tongue between the
teeth.' Again, 'There are twenty brothers, each with a hat on his
head?'--Answer, 'Fingers and toes, with nails for hats.' This is like
the French '_un père a douze fils?_'--'_l'an_.'[9] A comparison of M.
Rolland's 'Devinettes' with the Woluf conundrums of Boilat, the Samoan
examples in Turner's 'Samoa,' and the Scotch enigmas collected by
Chambers, will show the identity of peasant and savage humour.

A few examples, less generally known, may be given to prove that the
beliefs of folklore are not peculiar to any one race or stock of men.
The first case is remarkable: it occurs in Mexico and Ceylon, and has
been found in other regions. In _Macmillan's Magazine_[10] is
published a paper by Mrs. Edwards, called 'The Mystery of the Pezazi.'
The events described in this narrative occurred on August 28, 1876, in
a bungalow some thirty miles from Badiella. The narrator occupied a
new house on an estate called Allagalla. Her native servants soon
asserted that the place was haunted by a Pezazi. The English visitors
saw and heard nothing extraordinary till a certain night: an abridged
account of what happened then may be given in the words of Mrs.

    Wrapped in dreams, I lay on the night in question tranquilly
    sleeping, but gradually roused to a perception that
    discordant sounds disturbed the serenity of my slumber. Loth
    to stir, I still dosed on, the sounds, however, becoming, as
    it seemed, more determined to make themselves heard! and I
    awoke to the consciousness that they proceeded from a belt of
    adjacent jungle, and resembled the noise that would be
    produced by some person felling timber.

    Shutting my ears to the disturbance, I made no sign, until,
    with an expression of impatience, E---- suddenly started up,
    when I laid a detaining grasp upon his arm, murmuring that
    there was no need to think of rising at present--it must be
    quite early, and the kitchen cooly was doubtless cutting
    firewood in good time. E---- responded, in a tone of slight
    contempt, that no one could be cutting firewood at that hour,
    and the sounds were more suggestive of felling jungle; and he
    then inquired how long I had been listening to them. Now
    thoroughly aroused I replied that I had heard the sounds for
    some time, at first confusing them with my dreams, but soon
    sufficiently awakening to the fact that they were no mere
    phantoms of my imagination, but a reality. During our
    conversation the noises became more distinct and loud; blow
    after blow resounded, as of the axe descending upon the tree,
    followed by the crash of the falling timber. Renewed blows
    announced the repetition of the operations on another tree,
    and continued till several were devastated.

It is unnecessary to tell more of the tale. In spite of minute
examinations and close search, no solution of the mystery of the
noises, on this or any other occasion, was ever found. The natives, of
course, attributed the disturbance to the _Pezazi_ or goblin. No one
perhaps has asserted that the Aztecs were connected by ties of race
with the people of Ceylon. Yet when the Spaniards conquered Mexico,
and when Sahagun (one of the earliest missionaries) collected the
legends of the people, he found them, like the Cingalese, strong
believers in the mystic tree-felling. We translate Sahagun's account
of the 'midnight axe':--

    When so any man heareth the sound of strokes in the night as
    if one were felling trees, he reckons it an evil boding. And
    this sound they call _youaltepuztli_ (_youalli_, night; and
    _tepuztli_, copper), which signifies 'the midnight hatchet.'
    This noise cometh about the time of the first sleep, when all
    men slumber soundly, and the night is still. The sound of
    strokes smitten was first noted by the temple-servants,
    called _tlamacazque_, at the hour when they go in the night
    to make their offering of reeds or of boughs of pine, for so
    was their custom, and this penance they did on the
    neighbouring hills, and that when the night was far spent.
    Whenever they heard such a sound as one makes when he splits
    wood with an axe (a noise that may be heard afar off), they
    drew thence an omen of evil, and were afraid and said that
    the sounds were part of the witchery of Tezcatlipoca, that
    often thus dismayeth men who journey in the night. Now, when
    tidings of these things came to a certain brave man, one
    exercised in war, he drew near, being guided by the sound,
    till he came to the very cause of the hubbub. And when he
    came upon it, with difficulty he caught it, for the thing was
    hard to catch; natheless at last he overtook that which ran
    before him; and behold, it was a man without a heart, and, on
    either side of the chest, two holes that opened and shut, and
    so made the noise. Then the man put his hand within the
    breast of the figure and grasped the breast and shook it
    hard, demanding some grace or gift.

As a rule, the grace demanded was power to make captives in war. The
curious coincidence of the 'midnight axe,' occurring in lands so
remote as Ceylon and Mexico, and the singular attestation by an
English lady of the actual existence of the disturbance, makes this
_youaltepuztli_ one of the quaintest things in the province of the
folklorist. But, whatever the cause of the noise, or of the beliefs
connected with the noise, may be, no one would explain them as the
result of community of _race_ between Cingalese and Aztecs. Nor would
this explanation be offered to account for the Aztec and English
belief that the creaking of furniture is an omen of death in a house.
Obviously, these opinions are the expression of a common state of
superstitious fancy, not the signs of an original community of

Let us take another piece of folklore. All North-country English folk
know the _Kernababy_. The custom of the 'Kernababy' is commonly
observed in England, or, at all events, in Scotland, where the writer
has seen many a kernababy. The last gleanings of the last field are
bound up in a rude imitation of the human shape, and dressed in some
tag-rags of finery. The usage has fallen into the conservative hands
of children, but of old 'the Maiden' was a regular image of the
harvest goddess, which, with a sickle and sheaves in her arms,
attended by a crowd of reapers, and accompanied with music, followed
the last carts home to the farm.[12] It is odd enough that 'the
Maiden' should exactly translate Κόρη, the old Sicilian name of the
daughter of Demeter. 'The Maiden' has dwindled, then, among us to the
rudimentary kernababy; but ancient Peru had her own Maiden, her
Harvest Goddess. Here it is easy to trace the natural idea at the
basis of the superstitious practice which links the shores of the
Pacific with our own northern coast. Just as a portion of the yule-log
and of the Christmas bread were kept all the year through, a kind of
nest-egg of plenteous food and fire, so the kernababy, English or
Peruvian, is an earnest that corn will not fail all through the year,
till next harvest comes. For this reason the kernababy used to be
treasured from autumn's end to autumn's end, though now it commonly
disappears very soon after the harvest home. It is thus that Acosta
describes in Grimston's old translation (1604) the Peruvian kernababy
and the Peruvian harvest home:--

    This feast is made comming from the chacra or farme unto the
    house, saying certaine songs, and praying that the Mays
    (maize) may long continue, the which they call _Mama cora_.

What a chance this word offers to etymologists of the old school: how
promptly they would recognise, in _mama_ mother--μήτηρ, and in
_cora_--κόρη, the Mother and the Maiden, the feast of Demeter and
Persephone! However, the days of that old school of antiquarianism are
numbered. To return to the Peruvian harvest home:--

    They take a certaine portion of the most fruitefull of the
    Mays that growes in their farmes, the which they put in a
    certaine granary which they do calle Pirua, with certaine
    ceremonies, watching three nightes; they put this Mays in the
    richest garments they have, and, being thus wrapped and
    dressed, they worship this Pirua, and hold it in great
    veneration, saying it is the Mother of the Mays of their
    inheritances, and that by this means the Mays augments and is
    preserved. In this moneth they make a particular sacrifice,
    and the witches demand of this Pirua, 'if it hath strength
    sufficient to continue until the next yeare,' and if it
    answers 'no,' then they carry this Mays to the farme to
    burne, whence they brought it, according to every man's
    power, then they make another Pirua, with the same
    ceremonies, saying that they renue it, to the ende that the
    seede of the Mays may not perish.

The idea that the maize can speak need not surprise us; the Mexican
held much the same belief, according to Sahagun:--

    It was thought that if some grains of maize fell on the
    ground he who saw them lying there was bound to lift them,
    wherein, if he failed, he harmed the maize, which plained
    itself of him to God, saying, 'Lord, punish this man, who saw
    me fallen and raised me not again; punish him with famine,
    that he may learn not to hold me in dishonour.'

Well, in all this affair of the Scotch kernababy, and the Peruvian
_Mama cora_, we need no explanation beyond the common simple ideas of
human nature. We are not obliged to hold, either that the Peruvians
and Scotch are akin by blood, nor that, at some forgotten time, they
met each other, and borrowed each other's superstitions.[13] Again,
when we find Odysseus sacrificing a black sheep to the dead,[14] and
when we read that the Ovahereroes in South Africa also appease with a
black sheep the spirits of the departed, we do not feel it necessary
to hint that the Ovahereroes are of Greek descent, or have borrowed
their ritual from the Greeks. The connection between the colour black,
and mourning for the dead, is natural and almost universal.

Examples like these might be adduced in any number. We might show how,
in magic, negroes of Barbadoes make clay effigies of their enemies,
and pierce them, just as Greeks did in Plato's time, or the men of
Accad in remotest antiquity. We might remark the Australian black
putting sharp bits of quartz in the tracks of an enemy who has gone
by, that the enemy may be lamed; and we might point to Boris Godunof
forbidding the same practice among the Russians. We might watch
Scotch, and Australians, and Jews, and French, and Aztecs spreading
dust round the body of a dead man, that the footprints of his ghost,
or of other ghosts, may be detected next morning. We might point to a
similar device in a modern novel, where the presence of a ghost is
suspected, as proof of the similar workings of the Australian mind and
of the mind of Mrs. Riddell. We shall later turn to ancient Greece,
and show how the serpent-dances, the habit of smearing the body with
clay, and other odd rites of the mysteries, were common to Hellenic
religion, and to the religion of African, Australian, and American

Now, with regard to all these strange usages, what is the method of
folklore? The method is, when an apparently irrational and anomalous
custom is found in any country, to look for a country where a similar
practice is found, and where the practice is no longer irrational and
anomalous, but in harmony with the manners and ideas of the people
among whom it prevails. That Greeks should dance about in their
mysteries with harmless serpents in their hands looks quite
unintelligible. When a wild tribe of Red Indians does the same thing,
as a trial of courage, with real rattlesnakes, we understand the Red
Man's motives, and may conjecture that similar motives once existed
among the ancestors of the Greeks. Our method, then, is to compare the
seemingly meaningless customs or manners of civilised races with the
similar customs and manners which exist among the uncivilised and
still retain their meaning. It is not necessary for comparison of this
sort that the uncivilised and the civilised race should be of the same
stock, nor need we prove that they were ever in contact with each
other. Similar conditions of mind produce similar practices, apart
from identity of race, or borrowing of ideas and manners.

Let us return to the example of the flint arrow-heads. Everywhere
neolithic arrow-heads are pretty much alike. The cause of the
resemblance is no more than this, that men, with the same needs, the
same materials, and the same rude instruments, everywhere produced the
same kind of arrow-head. No hypothesis of interchange of ideas nor of
community of race is needed to explain the resemblance of form in the
missiles. Very early pottery in any region is, for the same causes,
like very early pottery in any other region. The same sort of
similarity was explained by the same resemblances in human nature,
when we touched on the identity of magical practices and of
superstitious beliefs. This method is fairly well established and
orthodox when we deal with usages and superstitious beliefs; but may
we apply the same method when we deal with myths?

Here a difficulty occurs. Mythologists, as a rule, are averse to the
method of folklore. They think it scientific to compare only the myths
of races which speak languages of the same family, and of races which
have, in historic times, been actually in proved contact with each
other. Thus, most mythologists hold it correct to compare Greek,
Slavonic, Celtic, and Indian stories, because Greeks, Slavs, Celts,
and Hindoos all speak languages of the same family. Again, they hold
it correct to compare Chaldæan and Greek myths, because the Greeks and
the Chaldæans were brought into contact through the Phœnicians, and
by other intermediaries, such as the Hittites. But the same
mythologists will vow that it is unscientific to compare a Maori or a
Hottentot or an Eskimo myth with an Aryan story, because Maoris and
Eskimo and Hottentots do not speak languages akin to that of Greece,
nor can we show that the ancestors of Greeks, Maoris, Hottentots, and
Eskimo were ever in contact with each other in historical times.

Now the peculiarity of the method of folklore is that it will venture
to compare (with due caution and due examination of evidence) the
myths of the most widely severed races. Holding that myth is a product
of the early human fancy, working on the most rudimentary knowledge of
the outer world, the student of folklore thinks that differences of
race do not much affect the early mythopœic faculty. He will not be
surprised if Greeks and Australian blacks are in the same tale.

In each case, he holds, all the circumstances of the case must be
examined and considered. For instance, when the Australians tell a
myth about the Pleiades very like the Greek myth of the Pleiades, we
must ask a number of questions. Is the Australian version authentic?
Can the people who told it have heard it from a European? If these
questions are answered so as to make it apparent that the Australian
Pleiad myth is of genuine native origin, we need not fly to the
conclusion that the Australians are a lost and forlorn branch of the
Aryan race. Two other hypotheses present themselves. First, the human
species is of unknown antiquity. In the moderate allowance of 250,000
years, there is time for stories to have wandered all round the
world, as the Aggry beads of Ashanti have probably crossed the
continent from Egypt, as the Asiatic jade (if Asiatic it be) has
arrived in Swiss lake-dwellings, as an African trade-cowry is said to
have been found in a Cornish barrow, as an Indian Ocean shell has been
discovered in a prehistoric bone-cave in Poland. This slow filtration
of tales is not absolutely out of the question. Two causes would
especially help to transmit myths. The first is slavery and
slave-stealing, the second is the habit of capturing brides from alien
stocks, and the law which forbids marriage with a woman of a man's own
family. Slaves and captured brides would bring their native legends
among alien peoples.

But there is another possible way of explaining the resemblance
(granting that it is proved) of the Greek and Australian Pleiad myth.
The object of both myths is to account for the grouping and other
phenomena of the constellations. May not similar explanatory stories
have occurred to the ancestors of the Australians, and to the
ancestors of the Greeks, however remote their home, while they were
still in the savage condition? The best way to investigate this point
is to collect all known savage and civilised stellar myths, and see
what points they have in common. If they all agree in character,
though the Greek tales are full of grace, while those of the
Australians or Brazilians are rude enough, we may plausibly account
for the similarity of myths, as we accounted for the similarity of
flint arrow-heads. The myths, like the arrow-heads, resemble each
other because they were originally framed to meet the same needs out
of the same material. In the case of the arrow-heads, the need was for
something hard, heavy, and sharp--the material was flint. In the case
of the myths, the need was to explain certain phenomena--the material
(so to speak) was an early state of the human mind, to which all
objects seemed equally endowed with human personality, and to which no
metamorphosis appeared impossible.

In the following essays, then, the myths and customs of various
peoples will be compared, even when these peoples talk languages of
alien families, and have never (so far as history shows us) been in
actual contact. Our method throughout will be to place the usage, or
myth, which is unintelligible when found among a civilised race,
beside the similar myth which is intelligible enough when it is found
among savages. A mean term will be found in the folklore preserved by
the non-progressive classes in a progressive people. This folklore
represents, in the midst of a civilised race, the savage ideas out of
which civilisation has been evolved. The conclusion will usually be
that the fact which puzzles us by its presence in civilisation is a
relic surviving from the time when the ancestors of a civilised race
were in the state of savagery. By this method it is not necessary that
'some sort of genealogy should be established' between the Australian
and the Greek narrators of a similar myth, nor between the Greek and
Australian possessors of a similar usage. The hypothesis will be that
the myth, or usage, is common to both races, not because of original
community of stock, not because of contact and borrowing, but because
the ancestors of the Greeks passed through the savage intellectual
condition in which we find the Australians.

The questions may be asked, Has race nothing, then, to do with myth?
Do peoples never consciously borrow myths from each other? The answer
is, that race has a great deal to do with the development of myth, if
it be race which confers on a people its national genius, and its
capacity of becoming civilised. If race does this, then race affects,
in the most powerful manner, the ultimate development of myth. No one
is likely to confound a Homeric myth with a myth from the Edda, nor
either with a myth from a Brahmana, though in all three cases the
substance, the original set of ideas, may be much the same. In all
three you have anthropomorphic gods, capable of assuming animal
shapes, tricky, capricious, limited in many undivine ways, yet endowed
with magical powers. So far the mythical gods of Homer, of the Edda,
of any of the Brahmanas, are on a level with each other, and not much
above the gods of savage mythology. This stuff of myth is _quod
semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus_, and is the original gift of the
savage intellect. But the final treatment, the ultimate literary form
of the myth, varies in each race. Homeric gods, like Red Indian,
Thlinkeet, or Australian gods, can assume the shapes of birds. But
when we read, in Homer, of the arming of Athene, the hunting of
Artemis, the vision of golden Aphrodite, the apparition of Hermes,
like a young man when the flower of youth is loveliest, then we
recognise the effect of race upon myth, the effect of the Greek genius
at work on rude material. Between the Olympians and a Thlinkeet god
there is all the difference that exists between the Demeter of Cnidos
and an image from Easter Island. Again, the Scandinavian gods, when
their tricks are laid aside, when Odin is neither assuming the shape
of worm nor of raven, have a martial dignity, a noble enduring spirit
of their own. Race comes out in that, as it does in the endless
sacrifices, soma drinking, magical austerities, and puerile follies of
Vedic and Brahmanic gods, the deities of a people fallen early into
its sacerdotage and priestly second childhood. Thus race declares
itself in the ultimate literary form and character of mythology, while
the common savage basis and stuff of myths may be clearly discerned in
the horned, and cannibal, and shape-shifting, and adulterous gods of
Greece, of India, of the North. They all show their common savage
origin, when the poet neglects Freya's command and tells of what the
gods did 'in the morning of Time.'

As to borrowing, we have already shown that in prehistoric times there
must have been much transmission of myth. The migrations of peoples,
the traffic in slaves, the law of exogamy, which always keeps bringing
alien women into the families--all these things favoured the migration
of myth. But the process lies behind history: we can only guess at it,
we can seldom trace a popular legend on its travels. In the case of
the cultivated ancient peoples, we know that they themselves believed
they had borrowed their religions from each other. When the Greeks
first found the Egyptians practising mysteries like their own, they
leaped to the conclusion that their own rites had been imported from
Egypt. We, who know that both Greek and Egyptian rites had many points
in common with those of Mandans, Zunis, Bushmen, Australians--people
quite unconnected with Egypt--feel less confident about the
hypothesis of borrowing. We may, indeed, regard Adonis, and Zeus
Bagæus, and Melicertes, as importations from Phœnicia. In later
times, too, the Greeks, and still more the Romans, extended a free
hospitality to alien gods and legends, to Serapis, Isis, the wilder
Dionysiac revels, and so forth. But this habit of borrowing was
regarded with disfavour by pious conservatives, and was probably, in
the width of its hospitality at least, an innovation. As Tiele
remarks, we cannot derive Dionysus from the Assyrian _Daian nisi_
'judge of men,' a name of the solar god Samas, without ascertaining
that the wine-god exercised judicial functions, and was a god of the
sun. These derivations, 'shocking to common-sense,' are to be
distrusted as part of the intoxication of new learning. Some Assyrian
scholars actually derive _Hades_ from _Bit Edi_ or _Bit Hadi_--'though
unluckily,' says Tiele, 'there is no such word in the Assyrian text.'
On the whole topic Tiele's essay[15] deserves to be consulted.
Granting, then, that elements in the worship of Dionysus, Aphrodite,
and other gods, may have been imported with the strange
Ægypto-Assyrian vases and jewels of the Sidonians, we still find the
same basis of rude savage ideas. We may push back a god from Greece to
Phœnicia, from Phœnicia to Accadia, but, at the end of the end, we
reach a legend full of myths like those which Bushmen tell by the camp
fire, Eskimo in their dark huts, and Australians in the shade of the
_gunyeh_--myths cruel, puerile, obscene, like the fancies of the
savage myth-makers from which they sprang.


[6] A study of the contemporary stone age in Scotland will be found in
Mitchell's _Past and Present_.

[7] About twenty years ago, the widow of an Irish farmer, in Derry,
killed her deceased husband's horse. When remonstrated with by her
landlord, she said, 'Would you have my man go about on foot in the
next world?' She was quite in the savage intellectual stage.

[8] 'At the solemn festival suppers, ordained for the honour of the
gods, they forget not to serve up certain dishes of young whelp's
flesh' (Pliny, _H. N._, xxix. 4).

[9] Compare Cleobulus, Fr. 2: Bergk, _Lyr. Gr._, iii. 201. Ed. 4.

[10] Nov., 1880.

[11] Mr. Leslie Stephen points out to me that De Quincey's brother
heard 'the midnight axe' in the Galapagos Islands (_Autobiographical
Sketches_, 'My Brother').

[12] 'Ah, once again may I plant the great fan on her corn-heap, while
she stands smiling by, Demeter of the threshing floor, with sheaves
and poppies in her hands' (Theocritus, vii. 155-157).

[13] In Mr. Frazer's _Golden Bough_ is a very large collection of
similar harvest rites.

[14] _Odyssey_, xi. 32.

[15] _Rev. de l'Hist. des Rel._, vol. ii.



As the belated traveller makes his way through the monotonous plains
of Australia, through the Bush, with its level expanses and clumps of
grey-blue gum trees, he occasionally hears a singular sound. Beginning
low, with a kind of sharp tone thrilling through a whirring noise, it
grows louder and louder, till it becomes a sort of fluttering windy
roar. If the traveller be a new-comer, he is probably puzzled to the
last degree. If he be an Englishman, country-bred, he says to himself,
'Why, that is the bull-roarer.' If he knows the colony and the ways of
the natives, he knows that the blacks are celebrating their tribal
mysteries. The roaring noise is made to warn all women to keep out of
the way. Just as Pentheus was killed (with the approval of Theocritus)
because he profaned the rites of the women-worshippers of Dionysus,
so, among the Australian blacks, men must, at their peril, keep out of
the way of female, and women out of the way of male, celebrations.

The instrument which produces the sounds that warn women to remain
afar is a toy familiar to English country lads. They call it the
bull-roarer. The common bull-roarer is an inexpensive toy which any
one can make. I do not, however, recommend it to families, for two
reasons. In the first place, it produces a most horrible and
unexampled din, which endears it to the very young, but renders it
detested by persons of mature age. In the second place, the character
of the toy is such that it will almost infallibly break all that is
fragile in the house where it is used, and will probably put out the
eyes of some of the inhabitants. Having thus, I trust, said enough to
prevent all good boys from inflicting bull-roarers on their parents,
pastors and masters, I proceed (in the interests of science) to show
how the toy is made. Nothing can be less elaborate. You take a piece
of the commonest wooden board, say the lid of a packing-case, about a
sixth of an inch in thickness, and about eight inches long and three
broad, and you sharpen the ends. When finished, the toy may be about
the shape of a large bay-leaf, or a 'fish' used as a counter (that is
how the New Zealanders make it), or the sides may be left plain in the
centre, and only sharpened towards the extremities, as in an
Australian example lent me by Mr. Tylor. Then tie a strong piece of
string, about thirty inches long, to one end of the piece of wood, and
the bull-roarer (the Australian natives call it _turndun_, and the
Greeks call it ῥόμβος) is complete. Now twist the end of the string
tightly about your finger, and whirl the bull-roarer rapidly round and
round. For a few moments nothing will happen. In a very interesting
lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, Mr. Taylor once exhibited
a bull-roarer. At first it did nothing particular when it was whirled
round, and the audience began to fear that the experiment was like
those chemical ones often exhibited at institutes in the country,
which contribute at most a disagreeable odour to the education of the
populace. But when the bull-roarer warmed to its work, it justified
its name, producing what may best be described as a mighty rushing
noise, as if some supernatural being 'fluttered and buzzed his wings
with fearful roar.' Grown-up people, of course, are satisfied with a
very brief experience of this din, but boys have always known the
bull-roarer in England as one of the most efficient modes of making
the hideous and unearthly noises in which it is the privilege of youth
to delight.

The bull-roarer has, of all toys, the widest diffusion, and the most
extraordinary history. To study the bull-roarer is to take a lesson in
folklore. The instrument is found among the most widely severed
peoples, savage and civilised, and is used in the celebration of
savage and civilised mysteries. There are students who would found on
this a hypothesis that the various races that use the bull-roarer all
descend from the same stock. But the bull-roarer is introduced here
for the very purpose of showing that similar minds, working with
simple means towards similar ends, might evolve the bull-roarer and
its mystic uses anywhere. There is no need for a hypothesis of common
origin, or of borrowing, to account for this widely diffused sacred

The bull-roarer has been, and is, a sacred and magical instrument in
many and widely separated lands. It is found, always as a sacred
instrument, employed in religious mysteries, in New Mexico, in
Australia, in New Zealand, in ancient Greece, and in Africa; while, as
we have seen, it is a peasant boy's plaything in England. A number of
questions are naturally suggested by the bull-roarer. Is it a thing
invented once for all, and carried abroad over the world by wandering
races, or handed on from one people and tribe to another? Or is the
bull-roarer a toy that might be accidentally hit on in any country
where men can sharpen wood and twist the sinews of animals into
string? Was the thing originally a toy, and is its religious and
mystical nature later; or was it originally one of the properties of
the priest, or medicine-man, which in England has dwindled to a
plaything? Lastly, was this mystical instrument at first employed in
the rites of a civilised people like the Greeks, and was it in some
way borrowed or inherited by South Africans, Australians, and New
Mexicans? Or is it a mere savage invention, surviving (like certain
other features of the Greek mysteries) from a distant state of
savagery? Our answer to all these questions is that in all probability
the presence of the ῥόμβος, or bull-roarer, in Greek mysteries was
a survival from the time when Greeks were in the social condition of

In the first place the bull-roarer is associated with mysteries and
initiations. Now mysteries and initiations are things that tend to
dwindle and to lose their characteristic features as civilisation
advances. The rites of baptism and confirmation are not secret and
hidden; they are common to both sexes, they are publicly performed,
and religion and morality of the purest sort blend in these
ceremonies. There are no other initiations or mysteries that
civilised modern man is expected necessarily to pass through. On the
other hand, looking widely at human history, we find mystic rites and
initiations numerous, stringent, severe, and magical in character, in
proportion to the lack of civilisation in those who practise them. The
less the civilisation, the more mysterious and the more cruel are the
rites. The more cruel the rites, the less is the civilisation. The red
hot poker with which Mr. Bouncer terrified Mr. Verdant Green at the
sham masonic rites would have been quite in place, a natural
instrument of probationary torture, in the Freemasonry of Australians,
Mandans, or Hottentots. In the mysteries of Demeter or Bacchus, in the
mysteries of a civilised people, the red-hot poker, or any other
instrument of torture, would have been out of place. But in the Greek
mysteries, just as in those of South Africans, Red Indians, and
Australians, the disgusting practice of bedaubing the neophyte with
dirt and clay was preserved. We have nothing quite like that in modern
initiations. Except at Sparta, Greeks dropped the tortures inflicted
on boys and girls in the initiations superintended by the cruel
Artemis.[16] But Greek mysteries retained the daubing with mud and the
use of the bull-roarer. On the whole, then, and on a general view of
the subject, we prefer to think that the bull-roarer in Greece was a
survival from savage mysteries, not that the bull-roarer in New
Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa is a relic of

Let us next observe a remarkable peculiarity of the _turndun_, or
Australian bull-roarer. The bull-roarer in England is a toy. In
Australia, according to Howitt and Fison,[17] the bull-roarer is
regarded with religious awe. 'When, on lately meeting with two of the
surviving Kurnai, I spoke to them of the turndun, they first looked
cautiously round them to see that no one else was looking, and then
answered me in undertones.' The chief peculiarity in connection with
the turndun is that women may never look upon it. The Chepara tribe,
who call it _bribbun_, have a custom that, 'if seen by a woman, or
shown by a man to a woman, the punishment to both is _death_.'

Among the Kurnai, the sacred mystery of the turndun is preserved by a
legend, which gives a supernatural sanction to secrecy. When boys go
through the mystic ceremony of initiation they are shown turnduns, or
bull-roarers, and made to listen to their hideous din. They are then
told that, if ever a woman is allowed to see a turndun, the earth will
open, and water will cover the globe. The old men point spears at the
boy's eyes, saying: 'If you tell this to any woman you will die, you
will see the ground broken up and like the sea; if you tell this to
any woman, or to any child, you will be killed!' As in Athens, in
Syria, and among the Mandans, the deluge-tradition of Australia is
connected with the mysteries. In Gippsland there is a tradition of
the deluge. 'Some children of the Kurnai in playing about found a
turndun, which they took home to the camp and showed the women.
Immediately the earth crumbled away, and it was all water, and the
Kurnai were drowned.'

In consequence of all this mummery the Australian women attach great
sacredness to the very name of the turndun. They are much less
instructed in their own theology than the men of the tribe. One woman
believed she had heard Pundjel, the chief supernatural being, descend
in a mighty rushing noise, that is, in the sound of the turndun, when
boys were being 'made men,' or initiated.[18] On turnduns the
Australian sorcerers can fly up to heaven. Turnduns carved with
imitations of water-flowers are used by medicine-men in rain-making.
New Zealand also has her bull-roarers; some of them, carved in relief,
are in the Christy Museum, and one is engraved here. I have no direct
evidence as to the use of these Maori bull-roarers in the Maori
mysteries. Their employment, however, may perhaps be provisionally

[Illustration: {A New Zealand bull-roarer}]

One can readily believe that the New Zealand bull-roarer may be
whirled by any man who is repeating a _Karakia_, or 'charm to raise
the wind':--

    Loud wind,
    Lasting wind,
    Violent whistling wind,
    Dig up the calm reposing sky,
      Come, come.

In New Zealand[19] 'the natives regarded the wind as an indication of
the presence of their god,' a superstition not peculiar to Maori
religion. The 'cold wind' felt blowing over the hands at
spiritualistic _séances_ is also regarded (by physical researchers) as
an indication of the presence of supernatural beings. The windy
roaring noise made by the bull-roarer might readily be considered by
savages, either as an invitation to a god who should present himself
in storm, or as a proof of his being at hand. We have seen that this
view was actually taken by an Australian woman. The hymn called
'breath' or _haha_, a hymn to the mystic wind, is pronounced by Maori
priests at the moment of the initiation of young men in the tribal
mysteries. It is a mere conjecture, and possibly enough capable of
disproof, but we have a suspicion that the use of the _mystica vannus
Iacchi_ was a mode of raising a sacred wind analogous to that employed
by whirlers of the turndun.[20]

Servius, the ancient commentator on Virgil, mentions, among other
opinions, this--that the _vannus_ was a sieve, and that it symbolised
the purifying effect of the mysteries. But it is clear that Servius
was only guessing; and he offers other explanations, among them that
the _vannus_ was a crate to hold offerings, _primitias frugum_.

We have studied the bull-roarer in Australia, we have caught a glimpse
of it in England. Its existence on the American continent is proved by
letters from New Mexico, and by the passage in Mr. Frank Cushing's
_Adventures in Zuni_.[21] In Zuni, too, among a semi-civilised Indian
tribe, or rather a tribe which has left the savage for the barbaric
condition, we find the bull-roarer.[22] Here, too, the instrument--a
'slat,' Mr. Cushing calls it--is used as a call to the ceremonial
observance of the tribal ritual. The Zunis have various 'orders of a
more or less sacred and sacerdotal character.' Mr. Cushing writes:--

    These orders were engaged in their annual ceremonials, of
    which little was told or shown me; but, at the end of four
    days, I heard one morning a _deep whirring noise_. Running
    out, I saw a procession of three priests of the bow, in
    plumed helmets and closely-fitting cuirasses, both of thick
    buckskin--gorgeous and solemn with sacred embroideries and
    war-paint, begirt with bows, arrows, and war-clubs, and each
    distinguished by his badge of degree--coming down one of the
    narrow streets. The principal priest carried in his arms a
    wooden idol, ferocious in aspect, yet beautiful with its
    decorations of shell, turquoise, and brilliant paint. It was
    nearly hidden by symbolic slats and prayer-sticks most
    elaborately plumed. He was preceded by a guardian with drawn
    bow and arrows, while another followed, _twirling the
    sounding slat_, which had attracted alike my attention and
    that of hundreds of the Indians, who hurriedly flocked to the
    roofs of the adjacent houses, or lined the street, bowing
    their heads in adoration, and scattering sacred prayer-meal
    on the god and his attendant priests. Slowly they wound their
    way down the hill, across the river, and off toward the
    mountain of Thunder. Soon an identical procession followed
    and took its way toward the western hills. I watched them
    long until they disappeared, and a few hours afterward there
    arose from the top of 'Thunder Mountain' a dense column of
    smoke, simultaneously with another from the more distant
    western mesa of 'U-ha-na-mi,' or 'Mount of the Beloved.'

    Then they told me that for four days I must neither touch nor
    eat flesh or oil of any kind, and for ten days neither throw
    any refuse from my doors nor permit a spark to leave my
    house, for 'This was the season of the year when the
    "grandmother of men" (fire) was precious.'

Here then, in Zuni, we have the bull-roarer again, and once more we
find it employed as a summons to the mysteries. We do not learn,
however, that women in Zuni are forbidden to look upon the
bull-roarer. Finally, the South African evidence, which is supplied by
letters from a correspondent of Mr. Tylor's, proves that in South
Africa, too, the bull-roarer is employed to call the men to the
celebration of secret functions. A minute description of the
instrument, and of its magical power to raise a wind, is given in
Theal's _Kaffir Folklore_, p. 209. The bull-roarer has not been made a
subject of particular research; very probably later investigations
will find it in other parts of the modern world besides America,
Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. I have myself been fortunate
enough to encounter the bull-roarer on the soil of ancient Greece and
in connection with the Dionysiac mysteries. Clemens of Alexandria, and
Arnobius, an early Christian father who follows Clemens, describe
certain toys of the child Dionysus which were used in the mysteries.
Among these are _turbines_, κῶνοι and ῥόμβοι. The ordinary
dictionaries interpret all these as whipping-tops, adding that
ῥόμβος is sometimes 'a magic wheel.' The ancient scholiast on
Clemens, however, writes: 'The κῶνος is a little piece of wood, to
which a string is fastened, and in the mysteries it is whirled round
to make a roaring noise.'[23] Here, in short, we have a brief but
complete description of the bull-roarer of the Australian _turndun_.
No single point is omitted. The κῶνος, like the _turndun_, is a
small object of wood, it is tied to a string, when whirled round it
produces a roaring noise, and it is used at initiations. This is not
the end of the matter.

In the part of the Dionysiac mysteries at which the toys of the child
Dionysus were exhibited, and during which (as it seems) the κῶνος,
or bull-roarer, was whirred, the performers daubed themselves all over
with clay. This we learn from a passage in which Demosthenes describes
the youth of his hated adversary, Æschines. The mother of Æschines, he
says, was a kind of 'wise woman,' and dabbler in mysteries. Æschines
used to aid her by bedaubing the initiate over with clay and bran.[24]
The word ἁπομάττων, here used by Demosthenes, is explained by
Harpocration as the ritual term for daubing the initiated. A story was
told as usual, to explain this rite. It was said that, when the Titans
attacked Dionysus and tore him to pieces, they painted themselves
first with clay, or gypsum, that they might not be recognised. Nonnus
shows, in several places, that down to his time the celebrants of the
Bacchic mysteries retained this dirty trick. Precisely the same trick
prevails in the mysteries of savage peoples. Mr. Winwood Reade[25]
reports the evidence of Mongilomba. When initiated, Mongilomba was
'severely flogged in the Fetich House' (as young Spartans were flogged
before the animated image of Artemis), and then he was 'plastered over
with goat-dung.' Among the natives of Victoria,[26] the 'body of the
initiated is bedaubed with clay, mud, charcoal powder, and filth of
every kind.' The girls are plastered with charcoal powder and white
clay, answering to the Greek gypsum. Similar daubings were performed
at the mysteries by the Mandans, as described by Catlin: and the Zunis
made raids on Mr. Cushing's black paint and Chinese ink for like
purposes. On the Congo, Mr. Johnson found precisely the same ritual in
the initiations. Here, then, not to multiply examples, we discover
two singular features in common between Greek and savage mysteries.
Both Greeks and savages employ the bull-roarer, both bedaub the
initiated with dirt or with white paint or chalk. As to the meaning of
the latter very un-Aryan practice, one has no idea, unless it
represents the impure uninitiated condition, cleansed later by
ceremonies of initiation. It is only certain that war parties of
Australian blacks bedaub themselves with white clay to alarm their
enemies in night attacks. The Phocians, according to Herodotus (viii.
27), adopted the same 'aisy stratagem,' as Captain Costigan has it.
Tellies, the medicine-man (μάντις), chalked some sixty Phocians,
whom he sent to make a night attack on the Thessalians. The sentinels
of the latter were seized with supernatural horror, and fled, 'and
after the sentinels went the army.' In the same way, in a night attack
among the Australian Kurnai,[27] 'they all rapidly painted themselves
with pipe-clay: red ochre is no use, it cannot frighten the enemy.'
If, then, Greeks in the historic period kept up Australian tactics, it
is probable that the ancient mysteries of Greece might retain the
habit of daubing the initiated which occurs in savage rites.

'Come now,' as Herodotus would say, 'I will show once more that the
mysteries of the Greeks resemble those of Bushmen.' In Lucian's
Treatise on Dancing,[28] we read, 'I pass over the fact that you
cannot find a single ancient mystery in which there is not dancing....
To prove this I will not mention the secret acts of worship, on
account of the uninitiated. But this much all men know, that most
people say of those who reveal the mysteries, that they "dance them
out."' Here Liddel and Scott write, rather weakly, 'to dance out, let
out, betray, probably of some dance which burlesqued these
ceremonies.' It is extremely improbable that, in an age when it was
still forbidden to reveal the ὄργια, or secret rites, those rites
would be mocked in popular burlesques. Lucian obviously intends to say
that the matter of the mysteries was set forth in _ballets d'action_.
Now this is exactly the case in the surviving mysteries of the
Bushmen. Shortly after the rebellion of Langalibalele's tribe, Mr.
Orpen, the chief magistrate in St. John's Territory, made the
acquaintance of Qing, one of the last of an all but exterminated
tribe. Qing 'had never seen a white man, except fighting,' when he
became Mr. Orpen's guide. He gave a good deal of information about the
myths of his people, but refused to answer certain questions. 'You are
now asking the secrets that are not spoken of.' Mr. Orpen asked, 'Do
you know the secrets?' Qing replied, 'No, only the initiated men of
that dance know these things.' To 'dance' this or that means, 'to be
acquainted with this or that mystery;' the dances were originally
taught by Cagn, the mantis, or grasshopper god. In many mysteries,
Qing, as a young man, was not initiated. He could not 'dance them

There are thus undeniably close resemblances between the Greek
mysteries and those of the lowest contemporary races.

As to the bull-roarer, its recurrence among Greeks, Zunis, Kamilaroi,
Maoris, and South African races, would be regarded by some students as
a proof that all these tribes had a common origin, or had borrowed the
instrument from each other. But this theory is quite unnecessary. The
bull-roarer is a very simple invention. Any one might find out that a
bit of sharpened wood, tied to a string, makes, when whirred, a
roaring noise. Supposing that discovery made, it is soon turned to
practical use. All tribes have their mysteries. All want a signal to
summon the right persons together, and warn the wrong persons to keep
out of the way. The church bell does as much for us, so did the shaken
_seistrum_ for the Egyptians. People with neither bells nor _seistra_
find the bull-roarer, with its mysterious sound, serve their turn. The
hiding of the instrument from women is natural enough. It merely makes
the alarm and absence of the curious sex doubly sure. The stories of
supernatural consequences to follow if a woman sees the turndun lend a
sanction. This is not a random theory, without basis. In Brazil the
natives have no bull-roarer, but they have mysteries, and the presence
of the women at the mysteries of the men is a terrible impiety. To
warn away the women the Brazilians make loud 'devil-music' on what are
called 'jurupari pipes.' Now, just as in Australia, _the women may not
see the jurupari pipes on pain of death_. When the sound of the
jurupari pipes is heard, as when the turndun is heard in Australia,
every woman flees and hides herself. The women are always executed if
they see the pipes. Mr. Alfred Wallace bought a pair of these pipes,
but he had to embark them at a distance from the village where they
were procured. The seller was afraid that some unknown misfortune
would occur if the women of his village set eyes on the juruparis.[30]

The conclusion from all these facts seems obvious. The bull-roarer is
an instrument easily invented by savages, and easily adopted into the
ritual of savage mysteries. If we find the bull-roarer used in the
mysteries of the most civilised of ancient peoples, the most probable
explanation is, that the Greeks retained both the mysteries, the
bull-roarer, the habit of bedaubing the initiate, the torturing of
boys, the sacred obscenities, the antics with serpents, the dances,
and the like, from the time when their ancestors were in the savage
condition. That more refined and religious ideas were afterwards
introduced into the mysteries seems certain, but the rites were in
many cases simply savage. Unintelligible (except as survivals) when
found among Hellenes, they become intelligible enough among savages,
because they correspond to the intellectual condition and magical
fancies of the lower barbarism. The same sort of comparison, the same
kind of explanation, will account, as we shall see, for the savage
myths as well as for the savage customs which survived among the


[16] Pausanias, iii. 15. When the boys were being cruelly scourged,
the priestess of Artemis Orthia held an ancient barbaric wooden image
of the goddess in her hands. If the boys were spared, the image grew
heavy; the more they were tortured, the lighter grew the image. In
Samoa the image (shark's teeth) of the god Taema is consulted before
battle. 'If it felt heavy, that was a bad omen; if light, the sign was
good'--the god was pleased (Turner's _Samoa_, p. 55).

[17] _Kamilaroi and Kurnai_, p. 268.

[18] Fison, _Journal Anthrop. Soc._, Nov., 1883.

[19] Taylor's _New Zealand_, p. 181.

[20] This is not the view of le Père Lafitau, a learned Jesuit
missionary in North America, who wrote (1724) a work on savage
manners, compared with the manners of heathen antiquity. Lafitau, who
was greatly struck with the resemblances between Greek and Iroquois or
Carib initiations, takes Servius's other explanation of the _mystica
vannus_, 'an osier vessel containing rural offerings of first fruits.'
This exactly answers, says Lafitau, to the Carib _Matoutou_, on which
they offer sacred cassava cakes.

[21] _The Century Magazine_, May, 1883.

[22] A minute account of the mysteries of Pueblo Indians, and their
use of the bull-roarer, will be found in Captain Bourke's _Snake Dance
of the Moquis_.

[23] Κῶνος ξυλάριον οὗ ἐξῆπται τὸ σπαρτίον καὶ ἐν ταῖς τελεταῖς
ἐδονεῖτο ἵνα ῥοιζῇ. Lobeck, _Aglaophamus_ (i. p. 700).

[24] _De Corona_, p. 313.

[25] _Savage Africa._ Captain Smith, the friend of Pocahontas,
mentions the custom in his work on Virginia, pp. 245-248.

[26] Brough Smyth, i. 60, using evidence of Howitt, Taplin, Thomas and

[27] _Kamilaroi and Kurnai_, p. 241.

[28] Περὶ ὀρχήσεως, c. 15.

[29] _Cape Monthly Magazine_, July, 1874.

[30] Wallace, _Travels on the Amazon_, p. 349.


In a Maori pah, when a little boy behaves rudely to his parents, he is
sometimes warned that he is 'as bad as cruel Tutenganahau.' If he asks
who Tutenganahau was, he is told the following story:--

'In the beginning, the Heaven, Rangi, and the Earth, Papa, were the
father and mother of all things. "In these days the Heaven lay upon
the Earth, and all was darkness. They had never been separated."
Heaven and Earth had children, who grew up and lived in this thick
night, and they were unhappy because they could not see. Between the
bodies of their parents they were imprisoned, and there was no light.
The names of the children were Tumatuenga, Tane Mahuta, Tutenganahau,
and some others. So they all consulted as to what should be done with
their parents, Rangi and Papa. "Shall we slay them, or shall we
separate them?" "Go to," said Tumatuenga, "let us slay them." "No,"
cried Tane Mahuta, "let us rather separate them. Let one go upwards,
and become a stranger to us; let the other remain below, and be a
parent to us." Only Tawhiri Matea (the wind) had pity on his own
father and mother. Then the fruit-gods, and the war-god, and the
sea-god (for all the children of Papa and Rangi were gods) tried to
rend their parents asunder. Last rose the forest-god, cruel
Tutenganahau. He severed the sinews which united Heaven and Earth,
Rangi and Papa. Then he pushed hard with his head and feet. Then
wailed Heaven and exclaimed Earth, "Wherefore this murder? Why this
great sin? Why destroy us? Why separate us?" But Tane pushed and
pushed: Rangi was driven far away into the air. "_They became visible,
who had hitherto been concealed between the hollows of their parents'
breasts._" Only the storm-god differed from his brethren: he arose and
followed his father, Rangi, and abode with him in the open spaces of
the sky.'

This is the Maori story of the severing of the wedded Heaven and
Earth. The cutting of them asunder was the work of Tutenganahau and
his brethren, and the conduct of Tutenganahau is still held up as an
example of filial impiety.[31] The story is preserved in sacred hymns
of very great antiquity, and many of the myths are common to the other
peoples of the Pacific.[32]

Now let us turn from New Zealand to Athens, as she was in the days of
Pericles. Socrates is sitting in the porch of the King Archon, when
Euthyphro comes up and enters into conversation with the philosopher.
After some talk, Euthyphro says, 'You will think me mad when I tell
you whom I am prosecuting and pursuing!' 'Why, has the fugitive
wings?' asks Socrates. 'Nay, he is not very volatile at his time of
life!' 'Who is he?' 'My father.' 'Good heavens! you don't mean that.
What is he accused of?' 'Murder, Socrates.' Then Euthyphro explains
the case, which quaintly illustrates Greek civilisation. Euthyphro's
father had an agricultural labourer at Naxos. One day this man, in a
drunken passion, killed a slave. Euthyphro's father seized the
labourer, bound him, threw him into a ditch, 'and then sent to Athens
to ask a diviner what should be done with him.' Before the answer of
the diviner arrived, the labourer literally 'died in a ditch' of
hunger and cold. For this offence, Euthyphro was prosecuting his own
father. Socrates shows that he disapproves, and Euthyphro thus defends
the piety of his own conduct: 'The impious, whoever he may be, ought
not to go unpunished. For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most
righteous of gods? Yet even they admit that Zeus bound his own father
Cronus, because he wickedly devoured his sons; and that Cronus, too,
had punished his own father, Uranus, for a similar reason, in a
nameless manner. And yet when _I_ proceed against _my_ father, people
are angry with me. This is their inconsistent way of talking, when the
gods are concerned, and when I am concerned.'

Here Socrates breaks in. He 'cannot away with these stories about the
gods,' and so he has just been accused of impiety, the charge for
which he died. Socrates cannot believe that a god, Cronus, mutilated
his father Uranus, but Euthyphro believes the whole affair: 'I can
tell you many other things about the gods which would quite amaze

       *       *       *       *       *

We have here a typical example of the way in which mythology puzzled
the early philosophers of Greece. Socrates was anxious to be pious,
and to respect the most ancient traditions of the gods. Yet at the
very outset of sacred history he was met by tales of gods who
mutilated and bound their own parents. Not only were such tales
hateful to him, but they were of positively evil example to people
like Euthyphro. The problem remained, how did the fathers of the
Athenians ever come to tell such myths?

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us now examine the myth of Cronus, and the explanations which have
been given by scholars. Near the beginning of things, according to
Hesiod (whose cosmogony was accepted in Greece), Earth gave birth to
Heaven. Later, Heaven, Uranus, became the husband of Gæa, Earth. Just
as Rangi and Papa, in New Zealand, had many children, so had Uranus
and Gæa. As in New Zealand, some of these children were gods of the
various elements. Among them were Oceanus, the deep, and Hyperion, the
sun--as among the children of Earth and Heaven, in New Zealand, were
the Wind and the Sea. The youngest child of the Greek Heaven and Earth
was 'Cronus of crooked counsel, who ever hated his mighty sire.' Now
even as the children of the Maori Heaven and Earth were 'concealed
between the hollows of their parents' breasts,' so the Greek Heaven
used to 'hide his children from the light in the hollows of Earth.'
Both Earth and her children resented this, and, as in New Zealand, the
children conspired against Heaven, taking Earth, however, into their
counsels. Thereupon Earth produced iron, and bade her children avenge
their wrongs.[34] Now fear fell on all of them, except Cronus, who,
like Tutenganahau, was all for action. Cronus determined to end the
embraces of Heaven and Earth. But, while the Maori myth conceives of
Heaven and Earth as of two beings which have never been separated
before, Hesiod makes Heaven amorously approach his wife from a
distance. Then Cronus stretched out his hand, armed with a sickle of
iron, or steel, and mutilated Uranus. Thus were Heaven and Earth
practically divorced. But as in the Maori myth one of the children of
Heaven clave to his sire, so, in Greek, Oceanus remained faithful to
his father.[35]

This is the first portion of the myth of Cronus. Can it be denied that
the story is well illustrated and explained by the New Zealand
parallel, the myth of the cruelty of Tutenganahau? By means of this
comparison, the meaning of the myth is made clear enough. Just as the
New Zealanders had conceived of Heaven and Earth as at one time
united, to the prejudice of their children, so the ancestors of the
Greeks had believed in an ancient union of Heaven and Earth. Both by
Greeks and Maoris, Heaven and Earth were thought of as living persons,
with human parts and passions. Their union was prejudicial to their
children, and so the children violently separated the parents. This
conduct is regarded as impious, and as an awful example to be avoided,
in Maori pahs. In Naxos, on the other hand, Euthyphro deemed that the
conduct of Cronus deserved imitation. If ever the Maoris had reached a
high civilisation, they would probably have been revolted, like
Socrates, by the myth which survived from their period of savagery.
Mr. Tylor well says,[36] 'Just as the adzes of polished jade, and the
cloaks of tied flax-fibre, which these New Zealanders were using but
yesterday, are older in their place in history than the bronze
battle-axes and linen mummy-cloths of ancient Egypt, so the Maori
poet's shaping of nature into nature-myth belongs to a stage of
intellectual history which was passing away in Greece five-and-twenty
centuries ago. The myth-maker's fancy of Heaven and Earth as father
and mother of all things naturally suggested the legend that they in
old days abode together, but have since been torn asunder.'

       *       *       *       *       *

That this view of Heaven and Earth is natural to early minds, Mr.
Tylor proves by the presence of the myth of the union and violent
divorce of the pair in China.[37] Puang-ku is the Chinese Cronus, or
Tutenganahau. In India,[38] Dyaus and Prithivi, Heaven and Earth, were
once united, and were severed by Indra, their own child.

This, then, is our interpretation of the exploit of Cronus. It is an
old surviving nature-myth of the severance of Heaven and Earth, a myth
found in China, India, New Zealand, as well as in Greece. Of course it
is not pretended that Chinese and Maoris borrowed from Indians and
Greeks, or came originally of the same stock. Similar phenomena,
presenting themselves to be explained by human minds in a similar
stage of fancy and of ignorance, will account for the parallel myths.

The second part of the myth of Cronus was, like the first, a
stumbling-block to the orthodox in Greece. Of the second part we offer
no explanation beyond the fact that the incidents in the myth are
almost universally found among savages, and that, therefore, in Greece
they are probably survivals from savagery. The sequel of the myth
appears to account for nothing, as the first part accounts for the
severance of Heaven and Earth. In the sequel a world-wide _Märchen_,
or tale, seems to have been attached to Cronus, or attracted into the
cycle of which he is centre, without any particular reason, beyond the
law which makes detached myths crystallise round any celebrated name.
To look further is, perhaps, _chercher raison où il n'y en a pas_.

The conclusion of the story of Cronus runs thus: He wedded his sister,
Rhea, and begat children--Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and, lastly,
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 children of Uranus should hold kingly sway
among the Immortals.' Cronus showed a ruling father's usual jealousy
of his heirs. It was a case of Friedrich Wilhelm and Friedrich. But
Cronus (acting in a way natural in a story perhaps first invented by
cannibals) swallowed his children instead of merely imprisoning them.
Heaven and Earth had warned him to beware of his heirs, and he could
think of no safer plan than that which he adopted. When Rhea was about
to become the mother of Zeus, she fled to Crete. Here Zeus was born,
and when Cronus (in pursuit of his usual policy) asked for the baby,
he was presented with a stone wrapped up in swaddling bands. After
swallowing the stone, Cronus was easy in his mind; but Zeus grew up,
administered a dose to his father, and compelled him to disgorge. 'The
stone came forth first, as he had swallowed it last.'[39] The other
children also emerged, all alive and well. Zeus fixed the stone at
Delphi, where, long after the Christian era, Pausanias saw it.[40] It
was not a large stone, Pausanias tells us, and the Delphians used to
anoint it with oil and wrap it up in wool on feast-days. All Greek
temples had their fetich-stones, and each stone had its legend. This
was the story of the Delphian stone, and of the fetichism which
survived the early years of Christianity. A very pretty story it is.
Savages more frequently smear their fetich-stones with red paint than
daub them with oil, but the latter, as we learn from Theophrastus'
account of the 'superstitious man,' was the Greek ritual.

       *       *       *       *       *

This anecdote about Cronus was the stumbling-block of the orthodox
Greek, the jest of the sceptic, and the butt of the early Christian
controversialists. Found among Bushmen or Australians the narrative
might seem rather wild, but it astonishes us still more when it occurs
in the holy legends of Greece. Our explanation of its presence there
is simple enough. Like the erratic blocks in a modern plain, like the
flint-heads in a meadow, the story is a relic of a very distant past.
The glacial age left the boulders on the plain, the savage tribes of
long ago left the arrow-heads, the period of savage fancy left the
story of Cronus and the rites of the fetich-stone. Similar rites are
still notoriously practised in the South Sea Islands, in Siberia, in
India and Africa and Melanesia, by savages. And by savages similar
tales are still told.

       *       *       *       *       *

We cannot go much lower than the Bushmen, and among Bushman divine
myths is room for the 'swallowing trick' attributed to Cronus by
Hesiod. The chief divine character in Bushman myth is the Mantis
insect. His adopted daughter is the child of Kwai Hemm, a supernatural
character, 'the all-devourer.' The Mantis gets his adopted daughter to
call the swallower to his aid; but Kwai Hemm swallows the Mantis, the
god-insect. As Zeus made his own wife change herself into an insect,
for the convenience of swallowing her, there is not much difference
between Bushman and early Greek mythology. Kwai Hemm is killed by a
stratagem, and all the animals whom he has got outside of, in a long
and voracious career, troop forth from him alive and well, like the
swallowed gods from the maw of Cronus.[41] Now, story for story, the
Bushman version is much less offensive than that of Hesiod. But the
Bushman story is just the sort of story we expect from Bushmen,
whereas the Hesiodic story is not at all the kind of tale we look for
from Greeks. The explanation is, that the Greeks had advanced out of a
savage state of mind and society, but had retained their old myths,
myths evolved in the savage stage, and in harmony with that condition
of fancy. Among the Kaffirs[42] we find the same 'swallow-myth.' The
Igongqongqo swallows all and sundry; a woman cuts the swallower with a
knife, and 'people came out, and cattle, and dogs.' In Australia, a
god is swallowed. As in the myth preserved by Aristophanes in the
'Birds,' the Australians believe that birds were the original gods,
and the eagle, especially, is a great creative power. The Moon was a
mischievous being, who walked about the world, doing what evil he
could. One day he swallowed the eagle-god. The wives of the eagle came
up, and the Moon asked them where he might find a well. They pointed
out a well, and, as he drank, they hit the Moon with a stone tomahawk,
and out flew the eagle.[43] This is oddly like Grimm's tale of 'The
Wolf and the Kids.' The wolf swallowed the kids, their mother cut a
hole in the wolf, let out the kids, stuffed the wolf with stones, and
sewed him up again. The wolf went to the well to drink, the weight of
the stones pulled him in, and he was drowned. Similar stories are
common among the Red Indians, and Mr. Im Thurn has found them in
Guiana. How savages all over the world got the idea that men and
beasts could be swallowed and disgorged alive, and why they fashioned
the idea into a divine myth, it is hard to say. Mr. Tylor, in
_Primitive Culture_,[44] adds many examples of the narrative. The
Basutos have it; it occurs some five times in Callaway's _Zula Nursery
Tales_. In Greenland the Eskimo have a shape of the incident, and we
have all heard of the escape of Jonah.

It has been suggested that night, covering up the world, gave the
first idea of the swallowing myth. Now in some of the stories the
night is obviously conceived of as a big beast which swallows all
things. The notion that night is an animal is entirely in harmony with
savage metaphysics. In the opinion of the savage speculator, all
things are men and animals. 'Ils se persuadent que non seulement les
hommes et les autres animaux, mais aussi que toutes les autres choses
sont animées,' says one of the old Jesuit missionaries in Canada.[45]
'The wind was formerly a person; he became a bird,' say the Bushmen.
_G' oö ka! Kui_ (a very respectable Bushman, whose name seems a little
hard to pronounce) once saw the wind-person at Haarfontein.

Savages, then, are persuaded that night, sky, cloud, fire, and so
forth, are only the _schein_, or sensuous appearance, of things that,
in essence, are men or animals. A good example is the bringing of
Night to Vanua Lava, by Qat, the 'culture-hero' of Melanesia. At
first it was always day, and people tired of it. Qat heard that Night
was at the Torres Islands, and he set forth to get some. Qong (Night)
received Qat well, blackened his eyebrows, showed him Sleep, and sent
him off with fowls to bring Dawn after the arrival of Night should
make Dawn a necessity. Next day Qat's brothers saw the sun crawl away
west, and presently Night came creeping up from the sea. 'What is
this?' cried the brothers. 'It is Night,' said Qat; 'sit down, and
when you feel something in your eyes, lie down and keep quiet.' So
they went to sleep. 'When Night had lasted long enough, Qat took a
piece of red obsidian, and cut the darkness, and the Dawn came

Night is more or less personal in this tale, and solid enough to be
cut, so as to let the Dawn out. This savage conception of Night, as
the swallower and disgorger, might start the notion of other
swallowing and disgorging beings. Again the Bushmen, and other savage
peoples, account for certain celestial phenomena by saying that 'a big
star has swallowed his daughter, and spit her out again.' While
natural phenomena, explained on savage principles, might give the data
of the swallow-myth, we must not conclude that all beings to whom the
story is attached are, therefore, the Night. On this principle Cronus
would be the Night, and so would the wolf in Grimm. For our purposes
it is enough that the feat of Cronus is a feat congenial to the savage
fancy and repugnant to the civilised Greeks who found themselves in
possession of the myth. Beyond this, and beyond the inference that the
Cronus myth was first evolved by people to whom it seemed quite
natural, that is, by savages, we do not pretend to go in our

       *       *       *       *       *

To end our examination of the myth of Cronus, we may compare the
solutions offered by scholars. As a rule, these solutions are based on
the philological analysis of the names in the story. It will be seen
that very various and absolutely inconsistent etymologies and meanings
of Cronus are suggested by philologists of the highest authority.
These contradictions are, unfortunately, rather the rule than the
exception in the etymological interpretation of myths.

       *       *       *       *       *

The opinion of Mr. Max Müller has always a right to the first hearing
from English inquirers. Mr. Müller, naturally, examines first the name
of the god whose legend he is investigating. He writes: 'There is no
such being as Kronos in Sanskrit. Kronos did not exist till long after
Zeus in Greece. Zeus was called by the Greeks the son of Time
(Κρόνος). This is a very simple and very common form of mythological
expression. It meant originally, not that time was the origin or
source of Zeus, but Κρονίων or Κρονίδης was used in the sense of
"connected with time, representing time, existing through all time."
Derivatives in -ιων and -ιδης took, in later times, the more
exclusive meaning of patronymics.... When this (the meaning of
Κρονίδης as equivalent to Ancient of Days) ceased to be understood,
... people asked themselves the question, Why is Ζεύς called
Κρονίδης? And the natural and almost inevitable answer was, Because
he is the son, the offspring of a more ancient god, Κρόνος. This may
be a very old myth in Greece; but the misunderstanding which gave rise
to it could have happened in Greece only. We cannot expect, therefore,
a god Κρόνος in the Veda.' To expect Greek in the Veda would
certainly be sanguine. 'When this myth of Κρόνος had once been
started, it would roll on irresistibly. If Ζεύς had once a father
called Κρόνος, Κρόνος must have a wife.' It is added, as
confirmation, that 'the name of Κρονίδης belongs originally to Zeus
only, and not to his later' (in Hesiod elder) 'brothers, Poseidon and

Mr. Müller says, in his famous essay on 'Comparative Mythology'[48]:
'How can we imagine that a few generations before that time' (the age
of Solon) 'the highest notions of the Godhead among the Greeks were
adequately expressed by the story of Uranus maimed by Kronos,--of
Kronos eating his children, swallowing a stone, and vomiting out alive
his whole progeny? Among the lowest tribes of Africa and America, we
hardly find anything more hideous and revolting.' We have found a good
deal of the sort in Africa and America, where it seems not out of

One objection to Mr. Müller's theory is, that it makes the mystery no
clearer. When Greeks were so advanced in Hellenism that their own
early language had become obsolete and obscure, they invented the god
Κρόνος, to account for the patronymic (as they deemed it)
Κρονίδης, son of Κρόνος. But why did they tell such savage and
revolting stories about the god they had invented? Mr. Müller only
says the myth 'would roll on irresistibly.' But why did the rolling
myth gather such very strange moss? That is the problem; and while Mr.
Müller's hypothesis accounts for the existence of a god called
Κρόνος, it does not even attempt to show how full-blown Greeks came
to believe such hideous stories about the god.

       *       *       *       *       *

This theory, therefore, is of no practical service. The theory of
Adalbert Kuhn, one of the most famous of Sanskrit scholars, and author
of _Die Herabkunft des Feuers_, is directly opposed to the ideas of
Mr. Müller. In Cronus, Mr. Müller recognises a god who could only have
come into being among Greeks, when the Greeks had begun to forget the
original meaning of 'derivatives in -ιων and -ιδης.' Kuhn, on the
other hand, derives Κρόνος from the same root as the Sanskrit
_Krāna_.[49] _Krāna_ means, it appears, _der für sich schaffende_, he
who creates for himself, and Cronus is compared to the Indian
Pragapati, about whom even more abominable stories are told than the
myths which circulate to the prejudice of Cronus. According to Kuhn,
the 'swallow-myth' means that Cronus, the lord of light and dark
powers, swallows the divinities of light. But in place of Zeus (that
is, according to Kuhn, of the daylight sky) he swallows a stone, that
is the sun. When he disgorges the stone (the sun), he also disgorges
the gods of light whom he had swallowed.

I confess that I cannot understand these distinctions between the
father and lord of light and dark (Cronus) and the beings he
swallowed. Nor do I find it easy to believe that myth-making man took
all those distinctions, or held those views of the Creator. However,
the chief thing to note is that Mr. Müller's etymology and Kuhn's
etymology of Cronus can hardly both be true, which, as their systems
both depend on etymological analysis, is somewhat discomfiting.

The next etymological theory is the daring speculation of Mr. Brown.
In _The Great Dionysiak Myth_[50] Mr. Brown writes: 'I regard Kronos
as the equivalent of Karnos, Karnaios, Karnaivis, the Horned God;
Assyrian, KaRNu; Hebrew, KeReN, horn; Hellenic, KRoNos, or KaRNos.'
Mr. Brown seems to think that Cronus is 'the ripening power of
harvest,' and also 'a wily savage god,' in which opinion one quite
agrees with him. Why the name of Cronus should mean 'horned,' when he
is never represented with horns, it is hard to say. But among the
various foreign gods in whom the Greeks recognised their own Cronus,
one Hea, 'regarded by Berosos as Kronos,' seems to have been
'horn-wearing.'[51] Horns are lacking in Seb and Il, if not in Baal
Hamon, though Mr. Brown would like to behorn them.

Let us now turn to Preller.[52] According to Preller, Κρόνος is
connected with κραίνω, to fulfil, to bring to completion. The
harvest month, the month of ripening and fulfilment, was called
κρονίων in some parts of Greece, and the jolly harvest-feast, with
its memory of Saturn's golden days, was named κρόνια. The sickle of
Cronus, the sickle of harvest-time, works in well with this
explanation, and we have a kind of pun in Homer which points in the
direction of Preller's derivation from κραίνω:--

    οὐδ’ ἄρα πώ οἱ ἐπεκραίαινε Κρονίων,

and in Sophocles ('Tr.' 126):--

    ὁ πάντα κραίνων βασιλεὺς Κρονίδας.

Preller illustrates the mutilation of Uranus by the Maori tale of
Tutenganahau. The child-swallowing he connects with Punic and
Phœnician influence, and Semitic sacrifices of men and children.
Porphyry[53] speaks of human sacrifices to Cronus in Rhodes, and the
Greeks recognised Cronus in the Carthaginian god to whom children were
offered up.

Hartung[54] takes Cronus, when he mutilates Uranus, to be the fire of
the sun, scorching the sky of spring. This, again, is somewhat out of
accord with Schwartz's idea, that Cronus is the storm-god, the
cloud-swallowing deity, his sickle the rainbow, and the blood of
Uranus the lightning.[55] According to Prof. Sayce, again,[56] the
blood-drops of Uranus are rain-drops. Cronus is the sun-god, piercing
the dark cloud, which is just the reverse of Schwartz's idea. Prof.
Sayce sees points in common between the legend of Moloch, or of Baal
under the name of Moloch, and the myth of Cronus. But Moloch, he
thinks, is not a god of Phœnician origin, but a deity borrowed from
'the primitive Accadian population of Babylonia.' Mr. Isaac Taylor,
again, explains Cronus as the sky which swallows and reproduces the
stars. The story of the sickle may be derived from the crescent moon,
the 'silver sickle,' or from a crescent-shaped piece of meteoric
iron--for, in this theory, the fetich-stone of Delphi is a piece of
that substance.

       *       *       *       *       *

It will be observed that any one of these theories, if accepted, is
much more 'minute in detail' than our humble suggestion. He who adopts
any one of them, knows all about it. He knows that Cronus is a purely
Greek god, or that he is connected with the Sanskrit _Krāna_, which
Tiele,[57] unhappily, says is 'a very dubious word.' Or the
mythologist may be quite confident that Cronus is neither Greek nor,
in any sense, Sanskrit, but Phœnician. A not less adequate
interpretation assigns him ultimately to Accadia. While the inquirer
who can choose a system and stick to it knows the exact nationality of
Cronus, he is also well acquainted with his character as a nature-god.
He may be Time, or perhaps he is the Summer Heat, and a horned god; or
he is the harvest-god, or the god of storm and darkness, or the
midnight sky,--the choice is wide; or he is the lord of dark and
light, and his children are the stars, the clouds, the summer months,
the light-powers, or what you will. The mythologist has only to make
his selection.

The system according to which we tried to interpret the myth is less
_ondoyant et divers_. We do not even pretend to explain everything. We
do not guess at the meaning and root of the word Cronus. We only find
parallels to the myth among savages, whose mental condition is fertile
in such legends. And we only infer that the myth of Cronus was
originally evolved by persons also in the savage intellectual
condition. The survival we explain as, in a previous essay, we
explained the survival of the bull-roarer, by the conservatism of the
religious instinct.


[31] _New Zealand_, Taylor, pp. 119-121. _Die heilige Sage der
Polynesier_, Bastian, pp. 36-39.

[32] A crowd of similar myths, in one of which a serpent severs Heaven
and Earth, are printed in Turner's _Samoa_.

[33] The translation used is Jowett's.

[34] _Theog._, 166.

[35] Apollodorus, i. 15.

[36] _Primitive Culture_, i. 325.

[37] Pauthier, _Livres sacrés de l'Orient_, p. 19.

[38] Muir's _Sanskrit Texts_, v. 23. Aitareya Brahmana.

[39] Hesiod, _Theog._, 497.

[40] Paus., x. 24.

[41] Bleek, _Bushman Folklore_, pp. 6-8.

[42] Theal, _Kaffir Folklore_, pp. 161-167.

[43] Brough Smyth, i. 432-433.

[44] i. 338.

[45] _Rel. de la Nouvelle-France_ (1636), p. 114.

[46] Codrington, in _Journal Anthrop. Inst._, Feb., 1881. There is a
Breton _Märchen_ of a land where people had to 'bring the Dawn' daily
with carts and horses. A boy, whose sole property was a cock, sold it
to the people of this country for a large sum, and now the cock brings
the Dawn, with a great saving of trouble and expense. The _Märchen_ is
a survival of the state of mind of the Solomon Islanders.

[47] _Selected Essays_, i. 460.

[48] _Ibid._, i. 311.

[49] _Ueber Entwicklungsstufen der Mythenbildung_ (1874), l. 148.

[50] ii. 127.

[51] _G. D. M._, ii. 127, 129.

[52] _Gr. My._, i. 144.

[53] _De Abst._, ii. 202, 197.

[54] _Rel. und Myth._, ii. 3.

[55] _Ursprung der Myth._, pp. 133, 1, 5, 139, 149.

[56] _Contemporary Review_, Sept., 1883.

[57] _Rev. de l'Hist. Rel._, i. 179.


'Once upon a time there lived a king and a queen,' says the old woman
in Apuleius, beginning the tale of Cupid and Psyche with that ancient
formula which has been dear to so many generations of children. In one
shape or other the tale of Cupid and Psyche, of the woman who is
forbidden to see or to name her husband, of the man with the vanished
fairy bride, is known in most lands, 'even among barbarians.'
According to the story the mystic prohibition is always broken: the
hidden face is beheld; light is brought into the darkness; the
forbidden name is uttered; the bride is touched with the tabooed
metal, iron, and the union is ended. Sometimes the pair are re-united,
after long searchings and wanderings; sometimes they are severed for
ever. Such are the central situations in tales like that of Cupid and

In the attempt to discover how the ideas on which this myth is based
came into existence, we may choose one of two methods. We may confine
our investigations to the Aryan peoples, among whom the story occurs
both in the form of myth and of household tale. Again, we may look for
the shapes of the legend which hide, like Peau d'Ane in disguise,
among the rude kraals and wigwams, and in the strange and scanty garb
of savages. If among savages we find both narratives like Cupid and
Psyche, and also customs and laws out of which the myth might have
arisen, we may provisionally conclude that similar customs once
existed among the civilised races who possess the tale, and that from
these sprang the early forms of the myth.

In accordance with the method hitherto adopted, we shall prefer the
second plan, and pursue our quest beyond the limits of the Aryan

The oldest literary shape of the tale of Psyche and her lover is found
in the Rig Veda (x. 95). The characters of a singular and cynical
dialogue in that poem are named Urvasi and Pururavas. The former is an
Apsaras, a kind of fairy or sylph, the mistress (and a _folle
maîtresse_, too) of Pururavas, a mortal man.[58] In the poem Urvasi
remarks that when she dwelt among men she 'ate once a day a small
piece of butter, and therewith well satisfied went away.' This
slightly reminds one of the common idea that the living may not eat in
the land of the dead, and of Persephone's tasting the pomegranate in

Of the dialogue in the Rig Veda it may be said, in the words of Mr.
Toots, that 'the language is coarse and the meaning is obscure.' We
only gather that Urvasi, though she admits her sensual content in the
society of Pururavas, is leaving him 'like the first of the dawns';
that she 'goes home again, hard to be caught, like the winds.' She
gives her lover some hope, however--that the gods promise immortality
even to him, 'the kinsman of Death' as he is. 'Let thine offspring
worship the gods with an oblation; in Heaven shalt thou too have joy
of the festival.'

In the Rig Veda, then, we dimly discern a parting between a mortal man
and an immortal bride, and a promise of reconciliation.

The story, of which this Vedic poem is a partial dramatisation, is
given in the Brahmana of the Yajur Veda. Mr. Max Müller has translated
the passage.[59] According to the Brahmana, 'Urvasi, a kind of fairy,
fell in love with Pururavas, and when she met him she said: Embrace me
three times a day, but never against my will, and let me never see you
without your royal garments, _for this is the manner of women_.'[60]
The Gandharvas, a spiritual race, kinsmen of Urvasi, thought she had
lingered too long among men. They therefore plotted some way of
parting her from Pururavas. Her covenant with her lord declared that
she was never to see him naked. If that compact were broken she would
be compelled to leave him. To make Pururavas break this compact the
Gandharvas stole a lamb from beside Urvasi's bed: Pururavas sprang up
to rescue the lamb, and, in a flash of lightning, Urvasi saw him
naked, contrary to the _manner of women_. She vanished. He sought her
long, and at last came to a lake where she and her fairy friends were
playing _in the shape of birds_. Urvasi saw Pururavas, revealed
herself to him, and, according to the Brahmana, part of the strange
Vedic dialogue was now spoken. Urvasi promised to meet him on the last
night of the year: a son was to be the result of the interview. Next
day, her kinsfolk, the Gandharvas, offered Pururavas the wish of his
heart. He wished to be one of them. They then initiated him into the
mode of kindling a certain sacred fire, after which he became immortal
and dwelt among the Gandharvas.

It is highly characteristic of the Indian mind that the story should
be thus worked into connection with ritual. In the same way the
Bhagavata Purana has a long, silly, and rather obscene narrative about
the sacrifice offered by Pururavas, and the new kind of sacred fire.
Much the same ritual tale is found in the Vishnu Purana (iv. 6, 19).

Before attempting to offer our own theory of the legend, we must
examine the explanations presented by scholars. The philological
method of dealing with myths is well known. The hypothesis is that the
names in a myth are 'stubborn things,' and that, as the whole
narrative has probably arisen from forgetfulness of the meaning of
language, the secret of a myth must be sought in analysis of the
proper names of the persons. On this principle Mr. Max Müller
interprets the myth of Urvasi and Pururavas, their loves, separation,
and reunion. Mr. Müller says that the story 'expresses the identity
of the morning dawn and the evening twilight.'[61] To prove this, the
names are analysed. It is Mr. Müller's object to show that though,
even in the Veda, Urvasi and Pururavas are names of persons, they were
originally 'appellations'; and that Urvasi meant 'dawn,' and Pururavas
'sun.' Mr. Müller's opinion as to the etymological sense of the name
would be thought decisive, naturally, by lay readers, if an opposite
opinion were not held by that other great philologist and comparative
mythologist, Adalbert Kuhn. Admitting that 'the etymology of Urvasi is
difficult,' Mr. Müller derives it from '_uru_, wide (εὐρύ), and a
root _as_ = to pervade.' Now the dawn is 'widely pervading,' and has,
in Sanskrit, the epithet urûkî, 'far-going.' Mr. Müller next assumes
that 'Eurykyde,' 'Eurynome,' 'Eurydike,' and other heroic Greek female
names, are 'names of the dawn'; but this, it must be said, is merely
an assumption of his school. The main point of the argument is that
Urvasi means 'far-going,' and that 'the far and wide splendour of
dawn' is often spoken of in the Veda. 'However, the best proof that
Urvasi was the dawn is the legend told of her and of her love to
Pururavas, a story that is true only of the sun and the dawn' (i.

We shall presently see that a similar story is told of persons in whom
the dawn can scarcely be recognised, so that 'the best proof' is not
very good.

The name of Pururavas, again, is 'an appropriate name for a solar
hero.' ... Pururavas meant the same as Πολυδεύκης, 'endowed with
much light,' for though _rava_ is generally used of sound, yet the
root _ru_, which means originally 'to cry,' is also applied to colour,
in the sense of a loud or crying colour, that is, red.[62] It is
interesting to learn that our Aryan fathers spoke of 'loud colours,'
and were so sensitive as to think violet 'loud.' Besides, Pururavas
calls himself Vasistha, which, as we know, is a name of the sun; and
if he is called Aido, the son of Ida, the same name is elsewhere
given[63] to Agni, the fire. 'The conclusion of the argument is that
antiquity spoke of the naked sun, and of the chaste dawn hiding her
face when she had seen her husband. Yet she says she will come again.
And after the sun has travelled through the world in search of his
beloved, when he comes to the threshold of Death and is going to end
his solitary life, she appears again, in the gloaming, the same as the
dawn, as Eos in Homer, begins and ends the day, and she carries him
away to the golden seats of the Immortals.'[64]

Kuhn objects to all this explanation, partly on what we think the
inadequate ground that there is no necessary connection between the
story of Urvasi (thus interpreted) and the ritual of sacred
fire-lighting. Connections of that sort were easily invented at random
by the compilers of the Brahmanas in their existing form. Coming to
the analysis of names, Kuhn finds in Urvasi 'a weakening of Urvankî
(_uru_ + _anc_), like _yuvaça_ from _yuvanka_, Latin _juvencus_; ...
the accent is of no decisive weight.' Kuhn will not be convinced that
Pururavas is the sun, and is unmoved by the ingenious theory of 'a
crying colour,' denoted by his name, and the inference, supported by
such words as _rufus_, that crying colours are red, and therefore
appropriate names of the red sun. The connection between Pururavas and
Agni, fire, is what appeals to Kuhn--and, in short, where Mr. Müller
sees a myth of sun and dawn, Kuhn recognises a fire-myth. Roth, again
(whose own name means _red_), far from thinking that Urvasi is 'the
chaste dawn,' interprets her name as _die geile_, that is, 'lecherous,
lascivious, lewd, wanton, obscene'; while Pururavas, as 'the Roarer,'
suggests 'the Bull in rut.' In accordance with these views Roth
explains the myth in a fashion of his own.[65]

Here, then, as Kuhn says, 'we have three essentially different modes
of interpreting the myth,'[66] all three founded on philological
analysis of the names in the story. No better example could be given
to illustrate the weakness of the philological method. In the first
place, that method relies on names as the primitive relics and germs
of the tale, although the tale may occur where the names have never
been heard, and though the names are, presumably, late additions to a
story in which the characters were originally anonymous. Again, the
most illustrious etymologists differ absolutely about the true sense
of the names. Kuhn is disposed to see fire everywhere, and
fire-myths; Mr. Müller to see dawn and dawn-myths; Schwartz to see
storm and storm-myths, and so on. As the orthodox teachers are thus at
variance, so that there is no safety in orthodoxy, we may attempt to
use our heterodox method.

None of the three scholars whose views we have glanced at--neither
Roth, Kuhn, nor Mr. Müller--lays stress on the saying of Urvasi,
'never let me see you without your royal garments, _for this is the
custom of women_.'[67] To our mind, these words contain the gist of
the myth. There must have been, at some time, a custom which forbade
women to see their husbands without their garments, or the words have
no meaning. If any custom of this kind existed, a story might well be
evolved to give a sanction to the law. 'You must never see your
husband naked: think what happened to Urvasi--she vanished clean
away!' This is the kind of warning which might be given. If the
customary prohibition had grown obsolete, the punishment might well be
assigned to a being of another, a spiritual race, in which old human
ideas lingered, as the neolithic dread of iron lingers in the Welsh

Our method will be, to prove the existence of singular rules of
etiquette, corresponding to the etiquette accidentally infringed by
Pururavas. We shall then investigate stories of the same character as
that of Urvasi and Pururavas, in which the infringement of the
etiquette is chastised. It will be seen that, in most cases, the bride
is of a peculiar and perhaps supernatural race. Finally, the tale of
Urvasi will be taken up again, will be shown to conform in character
to the other stories examined, and will be explained as a myth told to
illustrate, or sanction, a nuptial etiquette.

The lives of savages are bound by the most closely-woven fetters of
custom. The simplest acts are 'tabooed,' a strict code regulates all
intercourse. Married life, especially, moves in the strangest fetters.
There will be nothing remarkable in the wide distribution of the myth
turning on nuptial etiquette, if this law of nuptial etiquette proves
to be also widely distributed. That it is widely distributed we now
propose to demonstrate by examples.

The custom of the African people of the kingdom of Futa is, or was,
even stricter than the Vedic _custom of women_--'wives never permit
their husbands to see them unveiled for three years after their

In his _Travels to Timbuctoo_ (i. 94), Caillié says that the
bridegroom 'is not allowed to see his intended during the day.' He has
a tabooed hut apart, and 'if he is obliged to come out he covers his
face.' He 'remains with his wife only till daybreak'--like Cupid--and
flees, like Cupid, before the light. Among the Australians the chief
deity, if deity such a being can be called, Pundjel, 'has a wife
whose face he has never seen,' probably in compliance with some
primæval etiquette or taboo.[69]

Among the Yorubas 'conventional modesty forbids a woman to speak to
her husband, or even to see him, if it can be avoided.'[70] Of the
Iroquois Lafitau says: 'Ils n'oscent aller dans les cabanes
particulières où habitent leurs épouses que durant l'obscurité de la
nuit.'[71] The Circassian women live on distant terms with their lords
till they become mothers.[72] Similar examples of reserve are reported
to be customary among the Fijians.

In backward parts of Europe a strange custom forbids the bride to
speak to her lord, as if in memory of a time when husband and wife
were always of alien tribes, and, as among the Caribs, spoke different

In the Bulgarian 'Volkslied,' the Sun marries Grozdanka, a mortal
girl. Her mother addresses her thus:--

    Grozdanka, mother's treasure mine,
    For nine long years I nourished thee,
    For nine months see thou do not speak
    To thy first love that marries thee.

M. Dozon, who has collected the Bulgarian songs, says that this custom
of prolonged silence on the part of the bride is very common in
Bulgaria, though it is beginning to yield to a sense of the
ludicrous.[73] In Sparta and in Crete, as is well known, the
bridegroom was long the victim of a somewhat similar taboo, and was
only permitted to seek the company of his wife secretly, and in the
dark, like the Iroquois described by Lafitau.

Herodotus tells us (i. 146) that some of the old Ionian colonists
'brought no women with them, but took wives of the women of the
Carians, whose fathers they had slain. Therefore the women made a law
for themselves, and handed it down to their daughters, that they
should never sit at meat with their husbands, and _that none should
ever call her husband by his name_.' In precisely the same way, in
Zululand the wife may not mention her husband's name, just as in the
Welsh fairy tale the husband may not even know the name of his fairy
bride, on pain of losing her for ever. These ideas about names, and
freakish ways of avoiding the use of names, mark the childhood of
languages, according to Mr. Max Müller,[74] and, therefore, the
childhood of Society. The Kaffirs call this etiquette 'Hlonipa.' It
applies to women as well as men. A Kaffir bride is not called by her
own name in her husband's village, but is spoken of as 'mother of so
and so,' even before she has born a child. The universal superstition
about names is at the bottom of this custom. The Aleutian Islanders,
according to Dall, are quite distressed when obliged to speak to their
wives in the presence of others. The Fijians did not know where to
look when missionaries hinted that a man might live under the same
roof as his wife.[75] Among the Turkomans, for six months, a year, or
two years, a husband is only allowed to visit his wife by stealth.

The number of these instances could probably be increased by a little
research. Our argument is that the widely distributed myths in which a
husband or a wife transgresses some 'custom'--sees the other's face or
body, or utters the forbidden name--might well have arisen as tales
illustrating the punishment of breaking the rule. By a very curious
coincidence, a Breton sailor's tale of the 'Cupid and Psyche' class is
confessedly founded on the existence of the rule of nuptial

In this story the son of a Boulogne pilot marries the daughter of the
King of Naz--wherever that may be. In Naz a man is never allowed to
see the face of his wife till she has born him a child--a modification
of the Futa rule. The inquisitive French husband unveils his wife,
and, like Psyche in Apuleius, drops wax from a candle on her cheek.
When the pair return to Naz, the king of that country discovers the
offence of the husband, and, by the aid of his magicians, transforms
the Frenchman into a monster. Here we have the old formula--the
infringement of a 'taboo,' and the magical punishment--adapted to the
ideas of Breton peasantry. The essential point of the story, for our
purpose, is that the veiling of the bride is 'the custom of women,' in
the mysterious land of Naz. 'C'est l'usage du pays: les maris ne
voient leurs femmes sans voile que lorsqu'elles sont devenues mères.'
Now our theory of the myth of Urvasi is simply this: 'the custom of
women,' which Pururavas transgresses, is probably a traditional Aryan
law of nuptial etiquette, _l'usage du pays_, once prevalent among the
people of India.

If our view be correct, then several rules of etiquette, and not one
alone, will be illustrated in the stories which we suppose the rules
to have suggested. In the case of Urvasi and Pururavas, the rule was,
not to see the husband naked. In 'Cupid and Psyche,' the husband was
not to be looked upon at all. In the well-known myth of Mélusine, the
bride is not to be seen naked. Mélusine tells her lover that she will
only abide with him _dum ipsam nudam non viderit_.[77] The same taboo
occurs in a Dutch _Märchen_.[78]

We have now to examine a singular form of the myth, in which the
strange bride is not a fairy, or spiritual being, but an animal. In
this class of story the husband is usually forbidden to perform some
act which will recall to the bride the associations of her old animal
existence. The converse of the tale is the well-known legend of the
Forsaken Merman. The king of the sea permits his human wife to go to
church. The ancient sacred associations are revived, and the woman
returns no more.

    She will not come though you call all day
    Come away, come away.

Now, in the tales of the animal bride, it is her associations with her
former life among the beasts that are not to be revived, and when they
are re-awakened by the commission of some act which she has
forbidden, or the neglect of some precaution which she has enjoined,
she, like Urvasi, disappears.

       *       *       *       *       *

The best known example of this variant of the tale is the story of
Bheki, in Sanskrit. Mr. Max Müller has interpreted the myth in
accordance with his own method.[79] His difficulty is to account for
the belief that a king might marry a frog. Our ancestors, he remarks,
'were not idiots,' how then could they tell such a story? We might
reply that our ancestors, if we go far enough back, were savages, and
that such stories are the staple of savage myth. Mr. Müller, however,
holds that an accidental corruption of language reduced Aryan fancy to
the savage level. He explains the corruption thus: 'We find, in
Sanskrit, that Bheki, the frog, was a beautiful girl, and that one
day, when sitting near a well, she was discovered by a king, who asked
her to be his wife. She consented, _on condition that he should never
show her a drop of water_. One day, being tired, she asked the king
for water; the king forgot his promise, brought water, and Bheki
disappeared.' This myth, Mr. Müller holds, 'began with a short saying,
such as that "Bheki, the sun, will die at the sight of water," as we
should say that the sun will set, when it approaches the water from
which it rose in the morning.' But how did the sun come to be called
Bheki, 'the frog'? Mr. Müller supposes that this name was given to the
sun by some poet or fisherman. He gives no evidence for the following
statement: 'It can be shown that "frog" was used as a name for the
sun. Now at sunrise and sunset, when the sun was squatting on the
water, it was called the "frog."' At what historical period the
Sanskrit-speaking race was settled in seats where the sun rose and set
in water, we do not know, and 'chapter and verse' are needed for the
statement that 'frog' was actually a name of the sun. Mr. Müller's
argument, however, is that the sun was called 'the frog,' that people
forgot that the frog and sun were identical, and that Frog, or Bheki,
was mistaken for the name of a girl to whom was applied the old saw
about dying at sight of water. 'And so,' says Mr. Müller, 'the change
from sun to frog, and from frog to man, which was at first due to the
mere spell of language, would in our nursery tales be ascribed to
miraculous charms more familiar to a later age.' As a matter of fact,
magical metamorphoses are infinitely more familiar to the lowest
savages than to people in a 'later age.' Magic, as Castren observes,
'belongs to the lowest known stages of civilisation.' Mr. Müller's
theory, however, is this--that a Sanskrit-speaking people, living
where the sun rose out of and set in some ocean, called the sun, as he
touched the water, Bheki, the frog, and said he would die at the sight
of water. They ceased to call the sun the frog, or Bheki, but kept the
saying, 'Bheki will die at sight of water.' Not knowing who or what
Bheki might be, they took her for a frog, who also was a pretty wench.
Lastly, they made the story of Bheki's distinguished wedding and
mysterious disappearance. For this interpretation, historical and
linguistic evidence is not offered. When did a Sanskrit-speaking race
live beside a great sea? How do we know that 'frog' was used as a name
for 'sun'?

       *       *       *       *       *

We have already given our explanation. To the savage intellect, man
and beast are on a level, and all savage myth makes men descended from
beasts; while stories of the loves of gods in bestial shape, or the
unions of men and animals, incessantly occur. 'Unnatural' as these
notions seem to us, no ideas are more familiar to savages, and none
recur more frequently in Indo-Aryan, Scandinavian, and Greek
mythology. An extant tribe in North-West America still claims descent
from a frog. The wedding of Bheki and the king is a survival, in
Sanskrit, of a tale of this kind. Lastly, Bheki disappears, when her
associations with her old amphibious life are revived in the manner
she had expressly forbidden.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our interpretation may be supported by an Ojibway parallel. A hunter
named Otter-heart, camping near a beaver lodge, found a pretty girl
loitering round his fire. She keeps his wigwam in order, and 'lays his
blanket near the deerskin she had laid for herself. "Good," he
muttered, "this is my wife."' She refuses to eat the beavers he has
shot, but at night he hears a noise, '_krch, krch_, as if beavers were
gnawing wood.' He sees, by the glimmer of the fire, his wife nibbling
birch twigs. In fact, the good little wife is a beaver, as the pretty
Indian girl was a frog. The pair lived happily till spring came and
the snow melted and the streams ran full. Then his wife implored the
hunter to build her a bridge over every stream and river, that she
might cross dry-footed. 'For,' she said, 'if my feet touch water, this
would at once cause thee great sorrow.' The hunter did as she bade
him, but left unbridged one tidy runnel. The wife stumbled into the
water, and, as soon as her foot was wet, she immediately resumed her
old shape as a beaver, her son became a beaverling, and the brooklet,
changing to a roaring river, bore them to the lake. Once the hunter
saw his wife again among her beast kin. 'To thee I sacrificed all,'
she said, 'and I only asked thee to help me dry-footed over the
waters. Thou didst cruelly neglect this. Now I must remain for ever
with my people.'

       *       *       *       *       *

This tale was told to Kohl by 'an old insignificant squaw among the
Ojibways.'[80] Here we have a precise parallel to the tale of Bheki,
the frog-bride, and here the reason of the prohibition to touch water
is made perfectly unmistakable. The touch magically revived the
bride's old animal life with the beavers. Or was the Indian name for
beaver (_temaksé_) once a name for the sun?

A curious variant of this widely distributed _Märchen_ of the animal
bride is found in the mythical genealogy of the Raja of Chutia Nagpur,
a chief of the Naga, or snake race. It is said that Raja Janameja
prepared a _yajnya_, or great malevolently magical incantation, to
destroy all the people of the serpent race. To prevent this
annihilation, the supernatural being, Pundarika Nag, took a human
form, and became the husband of the beautiful Parvati, daughter of a
Brahman. But Pundarika Nag, being a serpent by nature, could not
divest himself, even in human shape, of his forked tongue and venomed
breath. And, just as Urvasi could not abide with her mortal lover,
after he transgressed the prohibition to appear before her naked, so
Pundarika Nag was compelled by fate to leave his bride, if she asked
him any questions about his disagreeable peculiarities. She did, at
last, ask questions, in circumstances which made Pundarika believe
that he was bound to answer her. Now the curse came upon him, he
plunged into a pool, like the beaver, and vanished. His wife became
the mother of the serpent Rajas of Chutia Nagpur. Pundarika Nag, in
his proper form as a great hooded snake, guarded his first-born child.
The crest of the house is a hooded snake with human face.[81]

Here, then, we have many examples of the disappearance of the bride or
bridegroom in consequence of infringement of various mystic rules.
Sometimes the beloved one is seen when he or she should not be seen.
Sometimes, as in a Maori story, the bride vanishes merely because she
is in a bad temper.[82] Among the Red Men, as in Sanskrit, the taboo
on water is broken, with the usual results. Now for an example in
which the rule against using _names_ is infringed.[83]

This formula constantly occurs in the Welsh fairy tales published by
Professor Rhys.[84] Thus the heir of Corwrion fell in love with a
fairy: 'They were married on the distinct understanding that the
husband was not to know her name, ... and was not to strike her with
iron, on pain of her leaving him at once.' Unluckily the man once
tossed her a bridle, the iron bit touched the wife, and 'she at once
flew through the air, and plunged headlong into Corwrion Lake.'

A number of tales turning on the same incident are published in
_Cymmrodor_, v. i. In these we have either the taboo on the name, or
the taboo on the touch of iron. In a widely diffused superstition iron
'drives away devils and ghosts,' according to the Scholiast on the
eleventh book of the _Odyssey_, and the Oriental Djinn also flee from
iron.[85] Just as water is fatal to the Aryan frog-bride and to the
Red Indian beaver-wife, restoring them to their old animal forms, so
the magic touch of iron breaks love between the Welshman and his fairy
mistress, the representative of the stone age.

In many tales of fairy-brides, they are won by a kind of force. The
lover in the familiar Welsh and German _Märchen_ sees the swan-maidens
throw off their swan plumage and dance naked. He steals the
feather-garb of one of them, and so compels her to his love. Finally,
she leaves him, in anger, or because he has broken some taboo. Far
from being peculiar to Aryan mythology, this legend occurs, as Mr.
Farrer has shown,[86] in Algonquin and Bornoese tradition. The Red
Indian story told by Schoolcraft in his _Algic Researches_ is most
like the Aryan version, but has some native peculiarities. Wampee was
a great hunter, who, on the lonely prairie, once heard strains of
music. Looking up he saw a speck in the sky: the speck drew nearer and
nearer, and proved to be a basket containing twelve heavenly maidens.
They reached the earth and began to dance, inflaming the heart of
Wampee with love. But Wampee could not draw near the fairy girls in
his proper form without alarming them. Like Zeus in his love
adventures, Wampee exercised the medicine-man's power of
metamorphosing himself. He assumed the form of a mouse, approached
unobserved, and caught one of the dancing maidens. After living with
Wampee for some time she wearied of earth, and, by virtue of a 'mystic
chain of verse,' she ascended again to her heavenly home.

Now is there any reason to believe that this incident was once part of
the myth of Pururavas and Urvasi? Was the fairy-love, Urvasi,
originally caught and held by Pururavas among her naked and struggling
companions? Though this does not appear to have been much noticed, it
seems to follow from a speech of Pururavas in the Vedic dialogue[87]
(x. 95, 8, 9). Mr. Max Müller translates thus: 'When I, the mortal,
threw my arms round those flighty immortals, they trembled away from
me like a trembling doe, like horses that kick against the cart.'[88]
Ludwig's rendering suits our view--that Pururavas is telling how he
first caught Urvasi--still better: 'When I, the mortal, held converse
with the immortals who had laid aside their raiment, like slippery
serpents they glided from me, like horses yoked to the car.' These
words would well express the adventure of a lover among the naked
flying swan-maidens, an adventure familiar to the Red Men as to
Persian legends of the Peris.

To end our comparison of myths like the tale of 'Cupid and Psyche,' we
find an example among the Zulus. Here[89] the mystic lover came in
when all was dark, and felt the damsel's face. After certain rites,
'in the morning he went away, he speaking continually, the girl not
seeing him. During all those days he would not allow the girl (_sic_),
when she said she would light a fire. Finally, after a magical
ceremony, he said, "Light the fire!" and stood before her revealed, a
shining shape.' This has a curious resemblance to the myth of Cupid
and Psyche; but a more curious detail remains. In the Zulu story of
Ukcombekcansini, the friends of a bride break a taboo and kill a
tabooed animal. Instantly, like Urvasi and her companions in the Yajur
Veda, the bride and her maidens disappear _and are turned into
birds_![90] They are afterwards surprised in human shape, and the
bride is restored to her lover.

Here we conclude, having traced parallels to Cupid and Psyche in many
non-Aryan lands. Our theory of the myth does not rest on etymology. We
have seen that the most renowned scholars, Max Müller, Kuhn, Roth, all
analyse the names Urvasi and Pururavas in different ways, and extract
different interpretations. We have found the story where these names
were probably never heard of. We interpret it as a tale of the
intercourse between mortal men and immortal maids, or between men and
metamorphosed animals, as in India and North America. We explain the
separation of the lovers as the result of breaking a taboo, or law of
etiquette, binding among men and women, as well as between men and

       *       *       *       *       *

The taboos are, to see the beloved unveiled, to utter his or her name,
to touch her with a metal 'terrible to ghosts and spirits,' or to do
some action which will revive the associations of a former life. We
have shown that rules of nuptial etiquette resembling these in
character do exist, and have existed, even among Greeks--as where the
Milesian, like the Zulu, women made a law not to utter their husbands'
names. Finally, we think it a reasonable hypothesis that tales on the
pattern of 'Cupid and Psyche' might have been evolved wherever a
curious nuptial taboo required to be sanctioned, or explained, by a
myth. On this hypothesis, the stories may have been separately
invented in different lands; but there is also a chance that they have
been transmitted from people to people in the unknown past of our
scattered and wandering race. This theory seems at least as probable
as the hypothesis that the meaning of an Aryan proverbial statement
about sun and dawn was forgotten, and was altered unconsciously into a
tale which is found among various non-Aryan tribes. That hypothesis
again, learned and ingenious as it is, has the misfortune to be
opposed by other scholarly hypotheses not less ingenious and learned.

       *       *       *       *       *

As for the sun-frog, we may hope that he has sunk for ever beneath the
western wave.


[58] That Pururavas is regarded as a mortal man, in relations with
some sort of spiritual mistress, appears from the poem itself (v. 8,
9, 18). The human character of Pururavas also appears in R. V., i. 31,

[59] _Selected Essays_, i. 408.

[60] The Apsaras is an ideally beautiful fairy woman, something
'between the high gods and the lower grotesque beings,' with 'lotus
eyes' and other agreeable characteristics. A list of Apsaras known by
name is given in Meyer's _Gandharven-Kentauren_, p. 28. They are often
regarded as cloud-maidens by mythologists.

[61] _Selected Essays_, i. 405.

[62] Cf. _ruber_, _rufus_, O.H.G. _rôt_, _rudhira_, ἐρυθρός; also
Sanskrit, _ravi_, sun.

[63] R. V., iii. 29, 3.

[64] The passage alluded to in Homer does not mean that dawn 'ends'
the day, but 'when the fair-tressed Dawn brought the full light of the
third day' (_Od._, v. 390).

[65] Liebrecht (_Zur Volkskunde_, 241) is reminded by Pururavas (in
Roth's sense of _der Brüller_) of loud-thundering Zeus, ἐρίγδουπος.

[66] _Herabkunft des Feuers_, pp. 86-89.

[67] Liebrecht (_Zur Volkskunde_, p. 241) notices the reference to the
'custom of women.' But he thinks the clause a mere makeshift,
introduced late to account for a prohibition of which the real meaning
had been forgotten. The improbability of this view is indicated by the
frequency of similar prohibitions in actual custom.

[68] Astley, _Collection of Voyages_, ii. 24. This is given by Bluet
and Moore on the evidence of one Job Ben Solomon, a native of Bunda in
Futa. 'Though Job had a daughter by his last wife, yet he never saw
her without her veil, as having been married to her only two years.'
Excellently as this prohibition suits my theory, yet I confess I do
not like Job's security.

[69] Brough Smyth, i. 423.

[70] Bowen, _Central Africa_, p. 303.

[71] Lafitau, i. 576.

[72] Lubbock, _Origin of Civilisation_ (1875), p. 75.

[73] _Chansons Pop. Bulg._, p. 172.

[74] _Lectures on Language_, Second Series, p. 41.

[75] J. A. Farrer, _Primitive Manners_, p. 202, quoting Seeman.

[76] Sébillot, _Contes Pop. de la Haute-Bretagne_, p. 183.

[77] Gervase of Tilbury.

[78] Kuhn, _Herabkunft_, p. 92. See also _South African Journal of
Folklore_, May, 1879, p. 46: 'As a rule, the bridegroom never sees his

[79] _Chips_, ii. 251.

[80] _Kitchi Gami_, p. 105.

[81] Dalton's _Ethnol. of Bengal_, pp. 165, 166.

[82] Taylor, _New Zealand_, p. 143.

[83] Liebrecht gives a Hindoo example, _Zur Volkskunde_, p. 239.

[84] _Cymmrodor_, iv. pt. ii.

[85] _Prim. Cult._, i. 140.

[86] _Primitive Manners_, p. 256.

[87] See Meyer, _Gandharven-Kentauren_, Benfey, _Pantsch._, i. 263.

[88] _Selected Essays_, i. 411.

[89] _Callaway_, p. 63.

[90] _Ibid._, p. 119.


A modern novelist has boasted that her books are read 'from Tobolsk to
Tangiers.' This is a wide circulation, but the widest circulation in
the world has probably been achieved by a story whose author, unlike
Ouida, will never be known to fame. The tale which we are about to
examine is, perhaps, of all myths the most widely diffused, yet there
is no ready way of accounting for its extraordinary popularity. Any
true 'nature-myth,' any myth which accounts for the processes of
nature or the aspects of natural phenomena, may conceivably have been
invented separately, wherever men in an early state of thought
observed the same facts, and attempted to explain them by telling a
story. Thus we have seen that the earlier part of the myth of Cronus
is a nature-myth, setting forth the cause of the separation of Heaven
and Earth. Star-myths, again, are everywhere similar, because men who
believed all nature to be animated and personal, accounted for the
grouping of constellations in accordance with these crude beliefs.[91]
Once more, if a story like that of 'Cupid and Psyche' be found among
the most diverse races, the distribution becomes intelligible if the
myth was invented to illustrate or enforce a widely prevalent custom.
But in the following story no such explanation is even provisionally

The gist of the tale (which has many different 'openings,' and
conclusions in different places) may be stated thus: A young man is
brought to the home of a hostile animal, a giant, cannibal, wizard, or
a malevolent king. He is put by his unfriendly host to various severe
trials, in which it is hoped that he will perish. In each trial he is
assisted by the daughter of his host. After achieving the adventures,
he elopes with the girl, and is pursued by her father. The runaway
pair throw various common objects behind them, which are changed into
magical obstacles and check the pursuit of the father. The myth has
various endings, usually happy, in various places. Another form of the
narrative is known, in which the visitors to the home of the hostile
being are, not wooers of his daughter, but brothers of his wife.[92]
The incidents of the flight, in this variant, are still of the same
character. Finally, when the flight is that of a brother from his
sister's malevolent ghost, in Hades (Japan), or of two sisters from a
cannibal mother or step-mother (Zulu and Samoyed), the events of the
flight and the magical aids to escape remain little altered. We shall
afterwards see that attempts have been made to interpret one of these
narratives as a nature-myth; but the attempts seem unsuccessful. We
are therefore at a loss to account for the wide diffusion of this
tale, unless it has been transmitted slowly from people to people, in
the immense unknown prehistoric past of the human race.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before comparing the various forms of the myth in its first
shape--that which tells of the mortal lover and the giant's or
wizard's daughter--let us give the Scottish version of the story. This
version was written down for me, many years ago, by an aged lady in
Morayshire. I published it in the _Revue Celtique_; but it is probably
new to story-comparers, in its broad Scotch variant.


    There once lived a king and a queen. They were long married
    and had no bairns: but at last the queen had a bairn, when
    the king was away in far countries. The queen would not
    christen the bairn till the king came back, and she said, 'We
    will just call him _Nicht Nought Nothing_ until his father
    comes home.' But it was long before he came home, and the boy
    had grown a nice little laddie. At length the king was on his
    way back; but he had a big river to cross, and there was a
    spate, and he could not get over the water. But a giant came
    up to him, and said, 'If you will give me Nicht Nought
    Nothing, I will carry you over the water on my back.' The
    king had never heard that his son was called Nicht Nought
    Nothing, and so he promised him. When the king got home
    again, he was very happy to see his wife again, and his young
    son. She told him that she had not given the child any name
    but Nicht Nought Nothing, until he should come home again
    himself. The poor king was in a terrible case. He said, 'What
    have I done? I promised to give the giant who carried me over
    the river on his back, Nicht Nought Nothing.' The king and
    the queen were sad and sorry, but they said, 'When the giant
    comes we will give him the hen-wife's bairn; he will never
    know the difference.' The next day the giant came to claim
    the king's promise, and he sent for the hen-wife's bairn; and
    the giant went away with the bairn on his back. He travelled
    till he came to a big stone, and there he sat down to rest.
    He said,

    'Hidge Hodge, on my back, what time of day is it?'

    The poor little bairn said, 'It is the time that my mother,
    the hen-wife, takes up the eggs for the queen's breakfast.'

    The giant was very angry, and dashed the bairn on the stone
    and killed it.

               *       *       *       *       *

    The same adventure is repeated with the gardener's son.

               *       *       *       *       *

    Then the giant went back to the king's house, and said he
    would destroy them all if they did not give him Nicht Nought
    Nothing this time. They had to do it; and when he came to the
    big stone, the giant said, 'What time of day is it?' Nicht
    Nought Nothing said, 'It is the time that my father the king
    will be sitting down to supper.' The giant said, 'I've got
    the right ane noo;' and took Nicht Nought Nothing to his own
    house and brought him up till he was a man.

    The giant had a bonny dochter, and she and the lad grew very
    fond of each other. The giant said one day to Nicht Nought
    Nothing, 'I've work for you to-morrow. There is a stable
    seven miles long and seven miles broad, and it has not been
    cleaned for seven years, and you must clean it to-morrow, or
    I will have you for my supper.'

    The giant's dochter went out next morning with the lad's
    breakfast, and found him in a terrible state, for aye as he
    cleaned out a bit, it aye fell in again. The giant's dochter
    said she would help him, and she cried a' the beasts o' the
    field, and a' the fowls o' the air, and in a minute they a'
    came, and carried awa' everything that was in the stable and
    made a' clean before the giant came home. He said, 'Shame for
    the wit that helped you; but I have a worse job for you
    to-morrow.' Then he told Nicht Nought Nothing that there was
    a loch seven miles long, and seven miles deep, and seven
    miles broad, and he must drain it the next day, or else he
    would have him for his supper. Nicht Nought Nothing began
    early next morning and tried to lave the water with his pail,
    but the loch was never getting any less, and he did no ken
    what to do; but the giant's dochter called on all the fish in
    the sea to come and drink the water, and very soon they drank
    it dry. When the giant saw the work done he was in a rage,
    and said, 'I've a worse job for you to-morrow; there is a
    tree seven miles high, and no branch on it, till you get to
    the top, and there is a nest, and you must bring down the
    eggs without breaking one, or else I will have you for my
    supper.' At first the giant's dochter did not know how to
    help Nicht Nought Nothing; but she cut off first her fingers
    and then her toes, and made steps of them, and he clamb the
    tree, and got all the eggs safe till he came to the bottom,
    and then one was broken. The giant's dochter advised him to
    run away, and she would follow him. So he travelled until he
    came to a king's palace, and the king and queen took him in
    and were very kind to him. The giant's dochter left her
    father's house, and he pursued her and was drowned. Then she
    came to the king's palace where Nicht Nought Nothing was. And
    she went up into a tree to watch for him. The gardener's
    dochter, going to draw water in the well, saw the shadow of
    the lady in the water, and thought it was herself, and said,
    'If I'm so bonny, if I'm so brave, do you send me to draw
    water?' The gardener's wife went out, and she said the same
    thing. Then the gardener went himself, and brought the lady
    from the tree, and led her in. And he told her that a
    stranger was to marry the king's dochter, and showed her the
    man: and it was Nicht Nought Nothing asleep in a chair. And
    she saw him, and cried to him, 'Waken, waken, and speak to
    me!' But he would not waken, and syne she cried,

        'I cleaned the stable, I laved the loch, and I clamb
            the tree,
                And all for the love of thee,
                And thou wilt not waken and speak to me.'

    The king and the queen heard this, and came to the bonny
    young lady, and she said,

    'I canna get Nicht Nought Nothing to speak to me for all that
    I can do.'

    Then were they greatly astonished when she spoke of Nicht
    Nought Nothing, and asked where he was, and she said, 'He
    that sits there in the chair.' Then they ran to him and
    kissed him and called him their own dear son, and he wakened,
    and told them all that the giant's dochter had done for him,
    and of all her kindness. Then they took her in their arms and
    kissed her, and said she should now be their dochter, for
    their son should marry her.

    And they lived happy all their days.

In this variant of the story, which we may use as our text, it is to
be noticed that a _lacuna_ exists. The narrative of the flight omits
to mention that the runaways threw things behind them which became
obstacles in the giant's way. One of these objects probably turned
into a lake, in which the giant was drowned.[93] A common incident is
the throwing behind of a comb, which changes into a thicket. The
formula of leaving obstacles behind occurs in the Indian collection,
the 'Kathasarit sagara' (vii. xxxix.). 'The Battle of the Birds,' in
Campbell's _Tales of the West Highlands_, is a very copious Gaelic
variant. Russian parallels are 'Vasilissa the Wise and the Water
King,' and 'The King Bear.'[94] The incident of the flight and the
magical obstacles is found in Japanese mythology.[95] The 'ugly woman
of Hades' is sent to pursue the hero. He casts down his black
head-dress, and it is instantly turned into grapes; he fled while she
was eating them. Again, 'he cast down his multitudinous and
close-toothed comb, and it instantly turned into bamboo sprouts.' In
the Gaelic version, the pursuer is detained by talkative objects which
the pursued leave at home, and this marvel recurs in Zululand, and is
found among the Bushmen. The Zulu versions are numerous.[96] Oddly
enough, in the last variant, the girl performs no magic feat, but
merely throws sesamum on the ground to delay the cannibals, for
cannibals are very fond of sesamum.[97]

       *       *       *       *       *

Here, then, we have the remarkable details of the flight, in Zulu,
Gaelic, Norse, Malagasy,[98] Russian, Italian, Japanese. Of all
incidents in the myth, the incidents of the flight are most widely
known. But the whole connected series of events--the coming of the
wooer; the love of the hostile being's daughter; the tasks imposed on
the wooer; the aid rendered by the daughter; the flight of the pair;
the defeat or destruction of the hostile being--all these, or most of
these, are extant, in due sequence, among the following races. The
Greeks have the tale, the people of Madagascar have it, the Lowland
Scotch, the Celts, the Russians, the Italians, the Algonquins, the
Finns, and the Samoans have it. Now if the story were confined to the
Aryan race, we might account for its diffusion, by supposing it to be
the common heritage of the Indo-European peoples, carried everywhere
with them in their wanderings. But when the tale is found in
Madagascar, North America, Samoa, and among the Finns, while many
scattered incidents occur in even more widely severed races, such as
Zulus, Bushmen, Japanese, Eskimo, Samoyeds, the Aryan hypothesis
becomes inadequate.

To show how closely, all things considered, the Aryan and non-Aryan
possessors of the tale agree, let us first examine the myth of Jason.

       *       *       *       *       *

The earliest literary reference to the myth of Jason is in the _Iliad_
(vii. 467, xxiii. 747). Here we read of Euneos, a son whom Hypsipyle
bore to Jason in Lemnos. Already, even in the _Iliad_, the legend of
Argo's voyage has been fitted into certain well-known geographical
localities. A reference in the _Odyssey_ (xii. 72) has a more antique
ring: we are told that of all barques Argo alone escaped the jaws of
the Rocks Wandering, which clashed together and destroyed ships. Argo
escaped, it is said, 'because Jason was dear to Hera.' It is plain,
from various fragmentary notices, that Hesiod was familiar with
several of the adventures in the legend of Jason. In the _Theogony_
(993-998) Hesiod mentions the essential facts of the legend: how Jason
carried off from Æetes his daughter, 'after achieving the adventures,
many and grievous, which were laid upon him.' At what period the home
of Æetes was placed in Colchis, it is not easy to determine.
Mimnermus, a contemporary of Solon, makes the home of Æetes lie 'on
the brink of ocean,' a very vague description.[99] Pindar, on the
other hand, in the splendid Fourth Pythian Ode, already knows Colchis
as the scene of the loves and flight of Jason and Medea.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Long were it for me to go by the beaten track,' says Pindar, 'and I
know a certain short path.' Like Pindar, we may abridge the tale of
Jason. He seeks the golden fleece in Colchis: Æetes offers it to him
as a prize for success in certain labours. By the aid of Medea, the
daughter of Æetes, the wizard king, Jason tames the fire-breathing
oxen, yokes them to the plough, and drives a furrow. By Medea's help
he conquers the children of the teeth of the dragon, subdues the snake
that guards the fleece of gold, and escapes, but is pursued by Æetes.
To detain Æetes, Medea throws behind the mangled remains of her own
brother, Apsyrtos, and the Colchians pursue no further than the scene
of this bloody deed. The savagery as this act survives even in the
work of a poet so late as Apollonius Rhodius (iv. 477), where we read
how Jason performed a rite of savage magic, mutilating the body of
Apsyrtos in a manner which was believed to appease the avenging ghost
of the slain. 'Thrice he tasted the blood, thrice spat it out between
his teeth,' a passage which the Scholiast says contains the
description of an archaic custom popular among murderers.

Beyond Tomi, where a popular etymology fixed the 'cutting up' of
Apsyrtos, we need not follow the fortunes of Jason and Medea. We have
already seen the wooer come to the hostile being, win his daughter's
love, achieve the adventures by her aid, and flee in her company,
delaying, by a horrible device, the advance of her pursuers. To these
incidents in the tale we confine our attention.

Many explanations of the Jason myth have been given by Scholars who
thought they recognised elemental phenomena in the characters. As
usual these explanations differ widely. Whenever a myth has to be
interpreted, it is certain that one set of Scholars will discover the
sun and the dawn, where another set will see the thunder-cloud and
lightning. The moon is thrown in at pleasure.

Preller[100] is a learned Scholar, with his own set of etymologies.
Jason is derived, he thinks, from ἰάομαι, to heal, because Jason
studied medicine under the Centaur Chiron. This is the view of the
Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (i. 554). Jason, to Preller's mind, is
a form of Asclepius, 'a spirit of the spring with its soft suns and
fertile rains.' Medea is the moon. Medea, on the other hand, is a
lightning goddess, in the opinion of Schwartz.[101] No philological
reason is offered. Mr. Brown writes: 'The moon, as the night-light,
linked with Idyia-Daeira, is itself knowing, and so appears as Mêdeia
("the Wise").'

We must suppose, it seems, that either the soft spring rains and the
moon, or the dawn and the sun, or the lightning and the thunder-cloud,
in one arrangement or another, irresistibly suggested, to early Aryan
minds, the picture of a wooer, arriving in a hostile home, winning a
maiden's love, achieving adventures by her aid, fleeing with her from
her angry father and delaying his pursuit by various devices. Why the
spring, the moon, the lightning, the dawn--any of them or all of
them--should have suggested such a tale, let Scholars determine when
they have reconciled their own differences. It is more to our purpose
to follow the myth among Samoans, Algonquins, and Finns. None of these
races speak an Aryan language, and none can have been beguiled into
telling the same sort of tale by a disease of Aryan speech.

Samoa, where we find our story, is the name of a group of volcanic
islands in Central Polynesia. They are about 3000 miles from Sydney,
were first observed by Europeans in 1722, and are as far removed as
most spots from direct Aryan influences. Our position is, however,
that in the shiftings and migrations of peoples, the Jason tale has
somehow been swept, like a piece of drift-wood, on to the coasts of
Samoa. In the islands, the tale has an epical form, and is chanted in
a poem of twenty-six stanzas. There is something Greek, in the free
and happy life of the Samoans--something Greek, too, in this myth of
theirs. There was once a youth, Siati, famous for his singing, a young
Thamyris of Samoa. But as, according to Homer, 'the Muses met Thamyris
the Thracian, and made an end of his singing, for he boasted and said
that he would vanquish even the Muses if he sang against them,' so did
the Samoan god of song envy Siati. The god and the mortal sang a
match: the daughter of the god was to be the mortal's prize if he
proved victorious. Siati won, and he set off, riding on a shark, as
Arion rode the dolphin, to seek the home of the defeated deity. At
length he reached the shores divine, and thither strayed Puapae,
daughter of the god, looking for her comb which she had lost. 'Siati,'
said she, 'how camest thou hither?' 'I am come to seek the song-god,
and to wed his daughter.' 'My father,' said the maiden, 'is more a god
than a man; eat nothing he hands you, never sit on a high seat, lest
death follow.' So they were united in marriage. But the god, like
Æetes, was wroth, and began to set Siati upon perilous tasks: 'Build
me a house, and let it be finished this very day, else death and the
oven await thee.'[102]

Siati wept, but the god's daughter had the house built by the evening.
The other adventures were to fight a fierce dog, and to find a ring
lost at sea. Just as the Scotch giant's daughter cut off her fingers
to help her lover, so the Samoan god's daughter bade Siati cut her
body into pieces and cast her into the sea. There she became a fish,
and recovered the ring. They set off to the god's house, but met him
pursuing them, with the help of his other daughter. 'Puapae and Siati
threw down the comb; and it became a bush of thorns in the way to
intercept the god and Puanli,' the other daughter. Next they threw
down a bottle of earth, which became a mountain; 'and then followed
their bottle of water, and that became a sea, and drowned the god and

This old Samoan song contains nearly the closest savage parallel to
the various household tales which find their heroic and artistic shape
in the Jason saga. Still more surprising in its resemblances is the
Malagasy version of the narrative. In the Malagasy story, the
conclusion is almost identical with the winding up of the Scotch fairy
tale. The girl hides in a tree; her face, seen reflected in a well, is
mistaken by women for their own faces, and the recognition follows in
due course.[104]

Like most Red Indian versions of popular tales, the Algonquin form of
the Jason saga is strongly marked with the peculiarities of the race.
The story is recognisable, and that is all.

The opening, as usual, differs from other openings. Two children are
deserted in the wilderness, and grow up to manhood. One of them loses
an arrow in the water; the elder brother, Panigwun, wades after it. A
magical canoe flies past: an old magician, who is alone in the canoe,
seizes Panigwun and carries him off. The canoe fleets along, like the
barques of the Phæacians, at the will of the magician, and reaches the
isle where, like the Samoan god of song, he dwells with his two
daughters. 'Here, my daughter,' said he, 'is a young man for your
husband.' But the daughter knew that the proposed husband was but
another victim of the old man's magic arts. By the daughter's advice,
Panigwun escaped in the magic barque, consoled his brother, and
returned to the island. Next day the magician, Mishosha, set the young
man to hard tasks and perilous adventures. He was to gather gulls'
eggs; but the gulls attacked him in dense crowds. By an incantation he
subdued the birds, and made them carry him home to the island. Next
day he was sent to gather pebbles, that he might be attacked and eaten
by the king of the fishes. Once more the young man, like the Finnish
Ilmarinen in Pohjola, subdued the mighty fish, and went back
triumphant. The third adventure, as in 'Nicht Nought Nothing,' was to
climb a tree of extraordinary height in search of a bird's nest. Here,
again, the youth succeeded, and finally conspired with the daughters
to slay the old magician. Lastly the boy turned the magician into a
sycamore tree, and won his daughter. The other daughter was given to
the brother who had no share in the perils.[105] Here we miss the
incident of the flight;[106] and the magician's daughter, though in
love with the hero, does not aid him to perform the feats. Perhaps an
Algonquin brave would scorn the assistance of a girl. In the
'Kalevala,' the old hero, Wäinämöinen, and his friend Ilmarinen, set
off to the mysterious and hostile land of Pohjola to win a bride. The
maiden of Pohjola loses her heart to Ilmarinen, and, by her aid, he
bridles the wolf and bear, ploughs a field of adders with a plough of
gold, and conquers the gigantic pike that swims in the Styx of Finnish
mythology. After this point the story is interrupted by a long sequel
of popular bridal songs, and, in the wandering course of the rather
aimless epic, the flight and its incidents have been forgotten, or are
neglected. These incidents recur, however, in the thread of somewhat
different plots. We have seen that they are found in Japan, among the
Eskimo, among the Bushmen, the Samoyeds, and the Zulus, as well as in
Hungarian, Magyar, Celtic, and other European household tales.

The conclusion appears to be that the central part of the Jason myth
is incapable of being explained, either as a nature-myth, or as a myth
founded on a disease of language. So many languages could not take the
same malady in the same way; nor can we imagine any series of natural
phenomena that would inevitably suggest this tale to so many diverse
races. We must suppose, therefore, either that all wits jumped and
invented the same romantic series of situations by accident, or that
all men spread from one centre, where the story was known, or that the
story, once invented, has drifted all round the world. If the last
theory be approved of, the tale will be like the Indian Ocean shell
found lately in the Polish bone-cave,[107] or like the Egyptian beads
discovered in the soil of Dahomey. The story will have been carried
hither and thither, in the remotest times, to the remotest shores, by
traders, by slaves, by captives in war, or by women torn from their
own tribe and forcibly settled as wives among alien peoples.

Stories of this kind are everywhere the natural property of mothers
and grandmothers. When we remember how widely diffused is the law of
exogamy, which forbids marriage between a man and woman of the same
stock, we are impressed by the number of alien elements which must
have been introduced with alien wives. Where husband and wife, as
often happened, spoke different languages, the woman would inevitably
bring the hearthside tales of her childhood among a people of strange
speech. By all these agencies, working through dateless time, we may
account for the diffusion, if we cannot explain the origin, of tales
like the central arrangement of incidents in the career of Jason.


[91] _Primitive Culture_, i. 357: 'The savage sees individual stars as
animate beings, or combines star-groups into living celestial
creatures, or limbs of them, or objects connected with them.'

[92] This formula occurs among Bushmen and Eskimo (Bleek and Rink).

[93] The events of the flight are recorded correctly in the Gaelic
variant 'The Battle of the Birds.' (Campbell, _Tales of the West
Highlands_, vol. i. p. 25.)

[94] Ralston, _Russian Folk Tales_, 132; Köhler, _Orient und
Occident_, ii. 107, 114.

[95] _Ko ti ki_, p. 36.

[96] _Callaway_, pp. 51, 53, 64, 145, 228.

[97] See also 'Petrosinella' in the _Pentamerone_, and 'The
Master-maid' in Dasent's _Tales from the Norse_.

[98] _Folklore Journal_, August, 1883.

[99] _Poetæ Minores Gr._, ii.

[100] _Gr. My._, ii. 318.

[101] _Sonne, Mond und Sterne_, pp. 213, 229.

[102] This proves that the tale belongs to the pre-Christian cannibal

[103] Turner's _Samoa_, p. 102. In this tale only the names of the
daughters are translated; they mean 'white fish' and 'dark fish.'

[104] _Folklore Journal_, August, 1883.

[105] Schoolcraft, _Algic Researches_, ii. 94-104.

[106] The Red Indian version of the flight is given in 'The Red Horse
of the Dacotahs,' _Century Magazine_, 1884.

[107] _Nature_, March 14, 1884.


Why is Apollo, especially the Apollo of the Troad, he who showered the
darts of pestilence among the Greeks, so constantly associated with a
mouse? The very name, Smintheus, by which his favourite priest calls
on him in the _Iliad_ (i. 39), might be rendered 'Mouse Apollo,' or
'Apollo, Lord of Mice.' As we shall see later, mice lived beneath the
altar, and were fed in the holy of holies of the god, and an image of
a mouse was placed beside or upon his sacred tripod. The ancients were
puzzled by these things, and, as will be shown, accounted for them by
'mouse-stories,' Σμινθιακοὶ λόγοι, so styled by Eustathius, the
mediæval interpreter of Homer. Following our usual method, let us ask
whether similar phenomena occur elsewhere, in countries where they are
intelligible. Did insignificant animals elsewhere receive worship:
were their effigies elsewhere placed in the temples of a purer creed?
We find answers in the history of Peruvian religion.

After the Spanish conquest of Peru, one of the European adventurers,
Don Garcilasso de la Vega, married an Inca princess. Their son, also
named Garcilasso, was born about 1540. His famous book, _Commentarias
Reales_, contains the most authentic account of the old Peruvian
beliefs. Garcilasso was learned in all the learning of the Europeans,
and, as an Inca on the mother's side, had claims on the loyalty of the
defeated race. He set himself diligently to collect both their
priestly and popular traditions, and his account of them is the more
trustworthy as it coincides with what we know to have been true in
lands with which Garcilasso had little acquaintance.

       *       *       *       *       *

To Garcilasso's mind, Peruvian religion seems to be divided into two
periods--the age before, and the age which followed the accession of
the Incas, and their establishment of sun-worship as the creed of the
State. In the earlier period, the pre-Inca period, he tells us 'an
Indian was not accounted honourable unless he was descended from a
fountain, river, 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.'[108] To these
worshipful creatures 'men offered what they usually saw them eat' (i.
53). But men were not content to adore large and dangerous animals.
'There was not an animal, how vile and filthy soever, that they did
not worship as a god,' including 'lizards, toads, and frogs.' In the
midst of these superstitions the Incas appeared. Just as the tribes
claimed descent from animals, great or small, so the Incas drew
_their_ pedigree from the sun, which they adored like the _gens_ of
the Aurelii in Rome.[109] Thus every Indian had his _pacarissa_, or,
as the North American Indians say, _totem_,[110] a natural object
from which he claimed descent, and which, in a certain degree, he
worshipped. Though sun-worship became the established religion,
worship of the animal _pacarissas_ was still tolerated. The
sun-temples also contained _huacas_, or images, of the beasts which
the Indians had venerated.[111] In the great temple of Pachacamac,
the most spiritual and abstract god of Peruvian faith, 'they
worshipped a she-fox and an emerald. The devil also appeared to them,
and spoke in the form of a tiger, very fierce.'[112] This toleration
of an older and cruder, in subordination to a purer, faith is a very
common feature in religious evolution. In Catholic countries, to this
day, we may watch, in Holy Week, the Adonis feast described by
Theocritus,[113] and the procession and entombment of the old god of

'The Incas had the good policy to collect all the tribal animal gods
into their temples in and round Cuzco, in which the two leading gods
were the Master of Life, and the Sun.' Did a process of this sort ever
occur in Greek religion, and were older animal gods ever collected
into the temples of such deities as Apollo?

       *       *       *       *       *

While a great deal of scattered evidence about many animals
consecrated to Greek gods points in this direction, it will be enough,
for the present, to examine the case of the Sacred Mice. Among races
which are still in the totemistic stage, which still claim descent
from animals and from other objects, a peculiar marriage law generally
exists, or can be shown to have existed. No man may marry a woman who
is descended from the same ancestral animal, and who bears the same
totem-name, and carries the same badge or family crest, as himself. A
man descended from the Crane, and whose family name is Crane, cannot
marry a woman whose family name is Crane. He must marry a woman of the
Wolf, or Turtle, or Swan, or other name, and her children keep her
family title, not his. Thus, if a Crane man marries a Swan woman, the
children are Swans, and none of them may marry a Swan; they must marry
Turtles, Wolves, or what not, and _their_ children, again, are
Turtles, or Wolves. Thus there is necessarily an eternal come and go
of all the animal names known in a district. As civilisation advances
these rules grow obsolete. People take their names from the father, as
among ourselves. Finally the dwellers in a given district, having
become united into a local tribe, are apt to drop the various animal
titles and to adopt, as the name of the whole tribe, the name of the
chief, or of the predominating family. Let us imagine a district of
some twenty miles in which there are Crane, Wolf, Turtle, and Swan
families. Long residence together, and common interests, have welded
them into a local tribe. The chief is of the Wolf family, and the
tribe, sinking family differences and family names, calls itself 'the
Wolves.' Such tribes were probably, in the beginning, the inhabitants
of the various Egyptian towns which severally worshipped the wolf, or
the sheep, or the crocodile, and abstained religiously (except on
certain sacrificial occasions) from the flesh of the animal that gave
them its name.[114]

       *       *       *       *       *

It has taken us long to reach the Sacred Mice of Greek religion, but
we are now in a position to approach their august divinity. We have
seen that the sun-worship superseded, without abolishing, the tribal
_pacarissas_ in Peru, and that the _huacas_, or images, of the sacred
animals were admitted under the roof of the temple of the Sun. Now it
is recognised that the temples of the Sminthian Apollo contained
images of sacred mice among other animals, and our argument is that
here, perhaps, we have another example of the Peruvian religious
evolution. Just as, in Peru, the tribes adored 'vile and filthy'
animals, just as the solar worship of the Incas subordinated these,
just as the _huacas_ of the beasts remained in the temples of the
Peruvian Sun; so, we believe, the tribes along the Mediterranean
coasts had, at some very remote prehistoric period, their animal
_pacarissas_; these were subordinated to the religion (to some extent
solar) of Apollo; and the _huacas_, or animal idols, survived in
Apollo's temples.

       *       *       *       *       *

If this theory be correct, we shall probably find the mouse, for
example, revered as a sacred animal in many places. This would
necessarily follow, if the marriage customs which we have described
ever prevailed on Greek soil, and scattered the mouse-name far and
wide.[115] Traces of the Mouse families, and of adoration, if
adoration there was of the mouse, would linger on in the following
shapes: (1) Places would be named from mice, and mice would be
actually held sacred in themselves. (2) The mouse-name would be given
locally to the god who superseded the mouse. (3) The figure of the
mouse would be associated with the god, and used as a badge, or a kind
of crest, or local mark, in places where the mouse has been a
venerated animal. (4) Finally, myths would be told to account for the
sacredness of a creature so undignified.

Let us take these considerations in their order:--

(1) If there were local mice tribes, deriving their name from the
worshipful mouse, certain towns settled by these tribes would retain a
reverence for mice.

In Chrysa, a town of the Troad, according to Heraclides Ponticus, mice
were held sacred, the local name for mouse being σμίνθος. Many
places bore this mouse-name, according to Strabo.[116] This is
precisely what would have occurred had the Mouse totem, and the Mouse
stock, been widely distributed.[117] The Scholiast[118] mentions
Sminthus as a place in the Troad. Strabo speaks of two places deriving
their name from Sminthus, or mouse, near the Sminthian temple, and
others near Larissa. In Rhodes and Lindus, the mouse place-name
recurs, 'and in many other districts' (Καὶ ἀλλόθι δε πολλαχόθι).
Strabo (x. 486) names Caressus, and Poeessa, in Ceos, among the other
places which has Sminthian temples, and, presumably, were once centres
of tribes named after the mouse.

Here, then, are a number of localities in which the Mouse Apollo was
adored, and where the old mouse-name lingered. That the mice were
actually held sacred in their proper persons we learn from Ælian. 'The
dwellers in Hamaxitus of the Troad worship mice,' says Ælian. 'In the
temple of Apollo Smintheus, mice are nourished, and food is offered to
them at the public expense, and white mice dwell beneath the
altar.'[119] In the same way we found that the Peruvians fed their
sacred beasts on what they usually saw them eat.

(2) The second point in our argument has already been sufficiently
demonstrated. The mouse-name 'Smintheus' was given to Apollo in all
the places mentioned by Strabo, 'and many others.'

(3) The figure of the mouse will be associated with the god, and used
as a badge, or crest, or local mark, in places where the mouse has
been a venerated animal.

The passage already quoted from Ælian informs us that there stood 'an
effigy of the mouse beside the tripod of Apollo.' In Chrysa,
according to Strabo (xiii. 604), the statue of Apollo Smintheus had a
mouse beneath his foot. The mouse on the tripod of Apollo is
represented on a bas-relief illustrating the plague, and the offerings
of the Greeks to Apollo Smintheus, as described in the first book of
the _Iliad_.[120]

       *       *       *       *       *

The mouse is not an uncommon local badge or crest in Greece. The
animals whose figures are stamped on coins, like the Athenian owl, are
the most ancient marks of cities. It is plausible conjecture that,
just as the Iroquois when they signed treaties with the Europeans used
their totems--bear, wolf, and turtle--as seals,[121] so the animals on
archaic Greek city coins represented crests or badges which, at some
far more remote period, had been totems.

The Argives, according to Pollux,[122] stamped the mouse on their
coins.[123] As there was a temple of Apollo Smintheus in Tenedos, we
naturally hear of a mouse on the coins of the island.[124] Golzio has
published one of these mouse coins. The people of Metapontum stamped
their money with a mouse gnawing an ear of corn. The people of Cumæ
employed a mouse dormant. Paoli fancied that certain mice on Roman
medals might be connected with the family of _Mus_, but this is rather

We have now shown traces, at least, of various ways in which an early
tribal religion of the mouse--the mouse _pacarissa_, as the Peruvians
said--may have been perpetuated. When we consider that the superseding
of the mouse by Apollo must have occurred, if it did occur, long
before Homer, we may rather wonder that the mouse left his mark on
Greek religion so long. We have seen mice revered, a god with a
mouse-name, the mouse-name recurring in many places, the _huaca_, or
idol of the mouse, preserved in the temples of the god, and the
mouse-badge used in several widely severed localities. It remains (4)
to examine the myths about mice. These, in our opinion, were probably
told to account for the presence of the _huaca_ of the mouse in
temples, and for the occurrence of the animal in religion, and his
connection with Apollo.

A singular mouse-myth, narrated by Herodotus, is worth examining for
reasons which will appear later, though the events are said to have
happened on Egyptian soil.[126] According to Herodotus, one Sethos, a
priest of Hephæstus (Ptah), was king of Egypt. He had disgraced the
military class, and he found himself without an army when Sennacherib
invaded his country. Sethos fell asleep in the temple, and the god,
appearing to him in a vision, told him that divine succour would come
to the Egyptians.[127] In the night before the battle, field-mice
gnawed the quivers and shield-handles of the foe, who fled on finding
themselves thus disarmed. 'And now,' says Herodotus, 'there standeth a
stone image of this king in the temple of Hephæstus, and in the hand
of the image a mouse, and there is this inscription, "Let whoso
looketh on me be pious."'

Prof. Sayce[128] holds that there was no such person as Sethos, but
that the legend 'is evidently Egyptian, not Greek, and the name of
Sennacherib, as well as the fact of the Assyrian attack, is correct.'
The legend also, though Egyptian, is 'an echo of the biblical account
of the destruction of the Assyrian army,' an account which omits the
mice. 'As to the mice, here,' says Prof. Sayce, 'we have to do again
with the Greek dragomen (_sic_). The story of Sethos was attached to
the statue of some deity which was supposed to hold a mouse in its
hand.' It must have been easy to verify this supposition; but Mr.
Sayce adds, 'mice were not sacred in Egypt, nor were they used as
symbols, or found on the monuments.' To this remark we may suggest
some exceptions. Apparently this one mouse _was_ found on the
monuments. Wilkinson (iii. 264) says mice do occur in the sculptures,
but they were not sacred. Rats, however, were certainly sacred, and as
little distinction is taken, in myth, between rats and mice as between
rabbits and hares. The rat was sacred to Ra, the Sun-god, and (like
all totems) was not to be eaten.[129] This association of the rat and
the Sun cannot but remind us of Apollo and his mouse. According to
Strabo, a certain city of Egypt did worship the shrew-mouse. The
Athribitæ, or dwellers in Crocodilopolis, are the people to whom he
attributes this cult, whom he mentions (xvii. 831) among the other
local animal-worships of Egypt.[130] Several porcelain examples of the
field-mouse sacred to Horus (commonly called Apollo by the Greeks) may
be seen in the British Museum.

That rats and field-mice were sacred in Egypt, then, we may believe on
the evidence of the Ritual of Strabo, and of many relics of Egyptian
art. Herodotus, moreover, is credited when he says that the statue
'had a mouse on its hand.' Elsewhere, it is certain that the story of
the mice gnawing the bowstrings occurs frequently as an explanation
of mouse-worship. One of the Trojan 'mouse-stories' ran--that
emigrants had set out in prehistoric times from Crete. The oracle
advised them to settle 'wherever they were attacked by the children of
the soil.' At Hamaxitus in the Troad, they were assailed in the night
by mice, which ate all that was edible of their armour and bowstrings.
The colonists made up their mind that these mice were 'the children of
the soil,' settled there, and adored the mouse Apollo.[131] A myth of
this sort may either be a story invented to explain the mouse-name; or
a Mouse tribe, like the Red Indian Wolves, or Crows, may actually have
been settled on the spot, and may even have resisted invasion.[132]
Another myth of the Troad accounted for the worship of the mouse
Apollo on the hypothesis that he had once freed the land from mice,
like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, whose pipe (still serviceable) is said
to have been found in his grave by men who were digging a mine.[133]

Stories like these, stories attributing some great deliverance to the
mouse, or some deliverance from mice to the god, would naturally
spring up among people puzzled by their own worship of the mouse-god
or of the mouse. We have explained the religious character of mice as
the relics of a past age in which the mouse had been a totem and mouse
family names had been widely diffused. That there are, and have been,
mice totems and mouse family names among Semitic stocks round the
Mediterranean is proved by Prof. Robertson Smith:[134] 'Achbor, the
mouse, is an Edomite name, apparently a stock name, as the jerboa and
another mouse-name are among the Arabs. The same name occurs in
Judah.' Where totemism exists, the members of each stock either do not
eat the ancestral animal at all, or only eat him on rare sacrificial
occasions. The totem of a hostile stock may be eaten by way of insult.
In the case of the mouse, Isaiah seems to refer to one or other of
these practices (lxvi.): 'They that sanctify themselves, and purify
themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's
flesh, and the abomination, and the _mouse_, shall be consumed
together, saith the Lord.' This is like the Egyptian prohibition to
eat 'the abominable' (that is, tabooed or forbidden) 'Rat of Ra.' If
the unclean animals of Israel were originally the totems of each clan,
then the mouse was a totem,[135] for the chosen people were forbidden
to eat 'the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind.'
That unclean beasts, beasts not to be eaten, were originally totems,
Prof. Robertson Smith infers from Ezekiel (viii. 10, 11), where 'we
find seventy of the elders of Israel--that is, the heads of
houses--worshipping in a chamber which had on its walls the figures of
all manner of unclean' (tabooed) 'creeping things, and quadrupeds,
_even all the idols of the House of Israel_.' Some have too hastily
concluded that the mouse was a sacred animal among the neighbouring
Philistines. After the Philistines had captured the Ark and set it in
the house of Dagon, the people were smitten with disease. They
therefore, in accordance with a well-known savage magical practice,
made five golden representations of the diseased part, and five golden
mice, as 'a trespass offering to the Lord of Israel,' and so restored
the Ark.[136] Such votive offerings are common still in Catholic
countries, and the mice of gold by no means prove that the Philistines
had ever worshipped mice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Turning to India from the Mediterranean basin, and the Aryan, Semitic,
and Egyptian tribes on its coasts, we find that the mouse was the
sacred animal of Rudra. 'The mouse, Rudra, is thy beast,' says the
Yajur Veda, as rendered by Grohmann in his _Apollo Smintheus_.
Grohmann recognises in Rudra a deity with most of the characteristics
of Apollo. In later Indian mythology, the mouse is an attribute of
Ganeça, who, like Apollo Smintheus, is represented in art with his
foot upon a mouse.

Such are the chief appearances of the mouse in ancient religion. If he
really was a Semitic totem, it may, perhaps, be argued that his
prevalence in connection with Apollo is the result of a Semitic leaven
in Hellenism. Hellenic invaders may have found Semitic mouse-tribes at
home, and incorporated the alien stock deity with their own
Apollo-worship. In that case the mouse, while still originally a
totem, would not be an Aryan totem. But probably the myths and rites
of the mouse, and their diffusion, are more plausibly explained on our
theory than on that of De Gubernatis: 'The Pagan Sun-god crushes
under his foot the Mouse of Night. When the cat's away, the mice may
play; the shadows of night dance when the moon is absent.'[137] This
is one of the quaintest pieces of mythological logic. Obviously, when
the cat (the moon) is away, the mice (the shadows) _cannot_ play:
there is no light to produce a shadow. As usually chances, the
Scholars who try to resolve all the features of myth into physical
phenomena do not agree among themselves about the mouse. While the
mouse is the night according to M. de Gubernatis, in Grohmann's
opinion the mouse is the lightning. He argues that the lightning was
originally regarded by the Aryan race as the 'flashing tooth of a
beast,' especially of a mouse. Afterwards men came to identify the
beast with his teeth, and, behold the lightning and the mouse are
convertible mythical terms! Now it is perfectly true that savages
regard many elemental phenomena, from eclipses to the rainbow, as the
result of the action of animals. The rainbow is a serpent;[138]
thunder is caused by the thunder-bird, who has actually been shot in
Dacotah, and who is familiar to the Zulus; while rain is the milk of a
heavenly cow--an idea recurring in the _Zend Avesta_. But it does not
follow because savages believe in these meteorological beasts that all
the beasts in myth were originally meteorological. Man raised a
serpent to the skies, perhaps, but his interest in the animal began on
earth, not in the clouds. It is excessively improbable, and quite
unproved, that any race ever regarded lightning as the flashes of a
mouse's teeth. The hypothesis is a _jeu d'esprit_, like the opposite
hypothesis about the mouse of Night. In these, and all the other
current theories of the Sminthian Apollo, the widely diffused worship
of ordinary mice, and such small deer, has been either wholly
neglected, or explained by the first theory of symbolism that occurred
to the conjecture of a civilised observer. The facts of savage
animal-worship, and their relations to totemism, seem still unknown to
or unappreciated by Scholars, with the exception of Mr. Sayce, who
recognises totemism as the origin of the zoomorphic element in
Egyptian religion.

Our explanation, whether adequate or not, is not founded on an
isolated case. If Apollo superseded and absorbed the worship of the
mouse, he did no less for the wolf, the ram, the dolphin, and several
other animals whose images were associated with his own. The Greek
religion was more refined and anthropomorphic than that of Egypt. In
Egypt the animals were still adored, and the images of the gods had
bestial heads. In Greece only a few gods, and chiefly in very archaic
statues, had bestial heads; but besides the other deities the sculptor
set the owl, eagle, wolf, serpent, tortoise, mouse, or whatever
creature was the local favourite of the deity.[139] Probably the deity
had, in the majority of cases, superseded the animal and succeeded to
his honours. But the conservative religious sentiment retained the
beast within the courts and in the suit and service of the
anthropomorphic god.[140]

The process by which the god ousted the beasts may perhaps be
observed in Samoa. There (as Dr. Turner tells us in his _Samoa_) each
family has its own sacred animal, which it may not eat. If this law be
transgressed, the malefactor is supernaturally punished in a variety
of ways. But, while each family has thus its totem, four or five
different families recognise, in owl, crab, lizard, and so on,
incarnations of the same god, say of Tongo. If Tongo had a temple
among these families, we can readily believe that images of the
various beasts in which he was incarnate would be kept within the
consecrated walls. Savage ideas like these, if they were ever
entertained in Greece, would account for the holy animals of the
different deities. But it is obvious that the phenomena which we have
been studying may be otherwise explained. It may be said that the
Sminthian Apollo was only revered as the enemy and opponent of mice.
St. Gertrude (whose heart was eaten by mice) has the same _rôle_ in
France.[141] The worship of Apollo, and the badge of the mouse, would,
on this principle, be diffused by colonies from some centre of the
faith. The images of mice in Apollo's temples would be nothing more
than votive offerings. Thus, in the church of a Saxon town, the verger
shows a silver mouse dedicated to Our Lady. 'This is the greatest of
our treasures,' says the verger. 'Our town was overrun with mice till
the ladies of the city offered this mouse of silver. Instantly all the
mice disappeared.' 'And are you such fools as to believe that the
creatures went away because a silver mouse was dedicated?' asked a
Prussian officer. 'No,' replied the verger, rather neatly; 'or long
ago we should have offered a silver Prussian.'


[108] _Comm. Real._, i. 75.

[109] See _Early History of the Family_, _infra_.

[110] The names _Totem_ and _Totemism_ have been in use at least since
1792, among writers on the North American tribes. Prof. Max Müller
(_Academy_, Jan., 1884) says the word should be, not _Totem_, but
_Ote_ or _Otem_. Mr. Tylor's inquiries among the Red Men support this.
Long, an interpreter among the Indians, introduced the word _Totamism_
in 1792; but Lafitau (1724) had already explained some classical myths
as survivals of Totemism.

[111] Christoval de Moluna (1570), p. 5.

[112] Cieza de Leon, p. 183.

[113] _Idyll_ xv.

[114] Sayce, _Herodotos_, p. 344; Herodotus, ii. 42; Wilkinson's
_Ancient Egyptians_ (1878, ii. 475, note 2); Plutarch, _De Is. et
Os._, 71, 72; Athenæus, vii. 299; Strabo, xvii. 813.

[115] The Mouse, according to Dalton, is still a totem among the
Oraons of Bengal. A man of the Mouse 'motherhood,' as the totem
kindred is locally styled, may not eat mice (esteemed a delicacy), nor
marry a girl who is a Mouse.

[116] xiii. 604. Casaub. 1620.

[117] There were Sminthiac feasts at Rhodes, Gela, Lesbos, and Crete
(De Witte, _Revue Numismatique_, N.S. iii. 3-11).

[118] _Iliad_, i. 39.

[119] Ælian, _H. A._, xii. 5.

[120] The bas-relief is published in Paoli's _Della Religi ne de'
Gentili_, Naples, 1771, p. 9; also by Fabretti, ad Cal. Oper. _de
Colum. Trajan._, p. 315. Paoli's book was written after the discovery
in Neapolitan territory of a small bronze image, hieratic in
character, representing a man with a mouse on his hand. Paoli's
engraving of this work of art, unluckily, does not enable us to
determine its date or _provenance_. The book is a mine of mouse-lore.

[121] Colden, _History of the Five Nations_, p. 15 (1727).

[122] _Onomast._, ix. segm. 84.

[123] De Witte says Pollux was mistaken here. In the _Revue
Numismatique_, N.S. iii., De Witte publishes coins of Alexandria, the
more ancient Hamaxitus, in the Troad. The Sminthian Apollo is
represented with his bow, and the mouse on his hand. Other coins show
the god with the mouse at his foot, or show us the lyre of Apollo
supported by mice. A bronze coin in the British Museum gives Apollo
with the mouse beside his foot.

[124] _Spanheim_, ad Fl. Joseph., vi. 1, p. 312.

[125] _Della Rel._, p. 174.

[126] Herodotus, ii. 141.

[127] Liebrecht (_Zur Volkskunde_, p. 13, quoting _Journal Asiatique_,
1st series, 3, 307) finds the same myth in Chinese annals. It is not a
god, however, but the king of the rats who appears to the distressed
monarch in his dream. Rats then gnaw the bowstrings of his enemies.
The invaders were Turks, the rescued prince a king of Khotan. The king
raised a temple, and offered sacrifice--to the rats? The same story of
rats gnawing bowstrings recurs, of all places, in the _Migration
Legend of the Greeks_ (Brinton, Philadelphia. 1884).

[128] _Herodotos_, p. 204.

[129] Wilkinson, iii. 249, quoting the Ritual xxxiii.: 'Thou devourest
the abominable rat of Ra, or the Sun.'

[130] Mr. Loftie has kindly shown me a green mouse containing the
throne-name of Thothmes III. The animals thus used as substitutes for
scarabs were also sacred, as the fish, rhinoceros, fly, all
represented in Mr. Loftie's collection. See his _Essay of Scarabs_, p.
27. It may be admitted that, in a country where Cats were gods, the
religion of the Mouse must have been struggling and oppressed.

[Illustration: {Two examples of scarab substitutes}]

[131] Strabo, xiii. 604.

[132] Eustathius on _Iliad_, i. 39.

[133] _A Strange and True Relation of the Prodigious Multitude of
Mice_, 1670.

[134] _Journal of Philol._, xvii. p. 96.

[135] Leviticus xi. 29.

[136] Samuel i. 5, 6.

[137] _Zool. Myth._, ii. 68.

[138] _Mélusine_, N.S. i.

[139] _De Iside et Osiride_, lxxvi.

[140] This hypothesis does not maintain that totemism prevailed in
Greece during historic times. Though Plutarch mentions a Carian
γένος, the Ioxidæ, of Attic descent, which revered asparagus, it is
probable that genuine totemism had died out of Greece many hundreds of
years before even Homer's time. But this view is not inconsistent with
the existence of survivals in religion and ritual.

[141] Rolland, _Faune populaire_.


Artemus Ward used to say that, while there were many things in the
science of astronomy hard to be understood, there was one fact which
entirely puzzled him. He could partly perceive how we 'weigh the sun,'
and ascertain the component elements of the heavenly bodies, by the
aid of _spectrum_ analysis. 'But what beats me about the stars,' he
observed plaintively, 'is how we come to know their names.' This
question, or rather the somewhat similar question, 'How did the
constellations come by their very peculiar names?' has puzzled
Professor Pritchard and other astronomers more serious than Artemus
Ward. Why is a group of stars called the _Bear_, or the _Swan_, or the
_Twins_, or named after the _Pleiades_, the fair daughters of the
Giant Atlas?[142] These are difficulties that meet even children when
they examine a 'celestial globe.' There they find the figure of a
bear, traced out with lines in the intervals between the stars of the
constellations, while a very imposing giant is so drawn that Orion's
belt just fits his waist. But when he comes to look at the heavens,
the infant speculator sees no sort of likeness to a bear in the
stars, nor anything at all resembling a giant in the neighbourhood of
Orion. The most eccentric modern fancy which can detect what shapes it
will in clouds, is unable to find any likeness to human or animal
forms in the stars, and yet we call a great many of the stars by the
names of men and beasts and gods. Some resemblance to terrestrial
things, it is true, every one can behold in the heavens. _Corona_, for
example, is like a crown, or, as the Australian black fellows know, it
is like a boomerang, and we can understand why they give it the name
of that curious curved missile. The _Milky Way_, again, does resemble
a path in the sky; our English ancestors called it _Watling
Street_--the path of the Watlings, mythical giants--and Bushmen in
Africa and Red Men in North America name it the 'ashen path' or 'the
path of souls.' The ashes of the path, of course, are supposed to be
hot and glowing, not dead and black like the ash-paths of modern
running-grounds. Other and more recent names for certain
constellations are also intelligible. In Homer's time the Greeks had
two names for the _Great Bear_; they called it the _Bear_, or the
_Wain_: and a certain fanciful likeness to a wain may be made out,
though no resemblance to a bear is manifest. In the United States the
same constellation is popularly styled the _Dipper_, and every one may
observe the likeness to a dipper or toddy-ladle.

But these resemblances take us only a little way towards appellations.
We know that we derive many of the names straight from the Greek; but
whence did the Greeks get them? Some, it is said, from the Chaldæans;
but whence did they reach the Chaldæans? To this we shall return
later, but, as to early Greek star-lore, Goguet, the author of
_L'Origine des Lois_, a rather learned but too speculative work of the
last century, makes the following characteristic remarks: 'The Greeks
received their astronomy from Prometheus. This prince, as far as
history teaches us, made his observations on Mount Caucasus.' That was
the eighteenth century's method of interpreting mythology. The myth
preserved in the 'Prometheus Bound' of Æschylus tells us that Zeus
crucified the Titan on Mount Caucasus. The French philosopher,
rejecting the supernatural elements of the tale, makes up his mind
that Prometheus was a prince of a scientific bent, and that he
established his observatory on the frosty Caucasus. But, even
admitting this, why did Prometheus give the stars animal names? Goguet
easily explains this by a hypothetical account of the manners of
primitive men. 'The earliest peoples,' he says, 'must have used
writing for purposes of astronomical science. They would be content to
design the constellations of which they wished to speak by the
hieroglyphical symbols of their names; hence the constellations have
insensibly taken the names of the chief symbols.' Thus, a drawing of a
bear or a swan was the hieroglyphic of the name of a star, or group of
stars. But whence came the name which was represented by the
hieroglyphic? That is precisely what our author forgets to tell us.
But he remarks that the meaning of the hieroglyphic came to be
forgotten, and 'the symbols gave rise to all the ridiculous tales
about the heavenly signs.' This explanation is attained by the process
of reasoning in a vicious circle from hypothetical premises
ascertained to be false. All the known savages of the world, even
those which have scarcely the elements of picture-writing, call the
constellations by the names of men and animals, and all tell
'ridiculous tales' to account for the names.

As the star-stories told by the Greeks, the ancient Egyptians, and
other civilised people of the old world, exactly correspond in
character, and sometimes even in incident, with the star-stories of
modern savages, we have the choice of three hypothesis to explain this
curious coincidence. Perhaps the star-stories, about nymphs changed
into bears, and bears changed into stars, were invented by the
civilised races of old, and gradually found their way amongst people
like the Eskimo, and the Australians, and Bushmen. Or it may be
insisted that the ancestors of Australians, Eskimo, and Bushmen were
once civilised, like the Greeks and Egyptians, and invented
star-stories, still remembered by their degenerate descendants. These
are the two forms of the explanation which will be advanced by persons
who believe that the star-stories were originally the fruit of the
civilised imagination. The third theory would be, that the 'ridiculous
tales' about the stars were originally the work of the savage
imagination, and that the Greeks, Chaldæans, and Egyptians, when they
became civilised, retained the old myths that their ancestors had
invented when they were savages. In favour of this theory it may be
said, briefly, that there is no proof that the fathers of
Australians, Eskimo, and Bushmen had ever been civilised, while there
is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the fathers of the Greeks
had once been savages.[143] And, if we incline to the theory that the
star-myths are the creation of savage fancy, we at once learn why they
are, in all parts of the world, so much alike. Just as the flint and
bone weapons of rude races resemble each other much more than they
resemble the metal weapons and the artillery of advanced peoples, so
the mental products, the fairy tales, and myths of rude races have
everywhere a strong family resemblance. They are produced by men in
similar mental conditions of ignorance, curiosity, and credulous
fancy, and they are intended to supply the same needs, partly of
amusing narrative, partly of crude explanation of familiar phenomena.

Now it is time to prove the truth of our assertion that the
star-stories of savage and of civilised races closely resemble each
other. Let us begin with that well-known group the _Pleiades_. The
peculiarity of the _Pleiades_ is that the group consists of seven
stars, of which one is so dim that it seems entirely to disappear, and
many persons can only detect its presence through a telescope. The
Greeks had a myth to account for the vanishing of the lost Pleiad. The
tale is given in the _Catasterismoi_ (stories of metamorphoses into
stars) attributed to Eratosthenes. This work was probably written
after our era; but the author derived his information from older
treatises now lost. According to the Greek myth, then, the seven stars
of the Pleiad were seven maidens, daughters of the Giant Atlas. Six of
them had gods for lovers; Poseidon admired two of them, Zeus three,
and Ares one; but the seventh had only an earthly wooer, and when all
of them were changed into stars, the maiden with the mortal lover hid
her light for shame.

Now let us compare the Australian story. According to Mr. Dawson
(_Australian Aborigines_), a writer who understands the natives well,
'their knowledge of the heavenly bodies greatly exceeds that of most
white people,' and 'is taught by men selected for their intelligence
and information. The knowledge is important to the aborigines on their
night journeys;' so we may be sure that the natives are careful
observers of the heavens, and are likely to be conservative of their
astronomical myths. The 'Lost Pleiad' has not escaped them, and this
is how they account for her disappearance. The _Pirt Kopan noot_ tribe
have a tradition that the _Pleiades_ were a queen and her six
attendants. Long ago the _Crow_ (our _Canopus_) fell in love with the
queen, who refused to be his wife. The _Crow_ found that the queen and
her six maidens, like other Australian _gins_, were in the habit of
hunting for white edible grubs in the bark of trees. The _Crow_ at
once changed himself into a grub (just as Jupiter and Indra used to
change into swans, horses, ants, or what not) and hid in the bark of a
tree. The six maidens sought to pick him out with their wooden hooks,
but he broke the points of all the hooks. Then came the queen with
her pretty bone hook; he let himself be drawn out, took the shape of a
giant, and ran away with her. Ever since there have only been six
stars, the six maidens, in the _Pleiad_. This story is well known, by
the strictest inquiry, to be current among the blacks of the West
District and South Australia.

Mr. Tylor, whose opinion is entitled to the highest respect, thinks
that this may be a European myth, told by some settler to a black in
the Greek form, and then spread about among the natives. He complains
that the story of the loss of the _brightest_ star does not fit the
facts of the case.

We do not know, and how can the Australians know, that the lost star
was once the brightest? It appears to me that the Australians,
remarking the disappearance of a star, might very naturally suppose
that the _Crow_ had selected for his wife that one which had been the
most brilliant of the cluster. Besides, the wide distribution of the
tale among the natives, and the very great change in the nature of the
incidents, seem to point to a native origin. Though the main
conception--the loss of one out of seven maidens--is identical in
Greek and in _Murri_, the manner of the disappearance is eminently
Hellenic in the one case, eminently savage in the other. However this
may be, nothing of course is proved by a single example. Let us next
examine the stars _Castor_ and _Pollux_. Both in Greece and in
Australia these are said once to have been two young men. In the
_Catasterismoi_, already spoken of, we read: 'The _Twins_, or
_Dioscouroi_.--They were nurtured in Lacedæmon, and were famous for
their brotherly love, wherefore, Zeus, desiring to make their memory
immortal, placed them both among the stars.' In Australia, according
to Mr. Brough Smyth (_Aborigines of Victoria_), _Turree_ (_Castor_)
and _Wanjel_ (_Pollux_) are two young men who pursue _Purra_ and kill
him at the commencement of the great heat. _Coonar toorung_ (the
mirage) is the smoke of the fire by which they roast him. In Greece it
was not Castor and Pollux, but _Orion_ who was the great hunter placed
among the stars. Among the Bushmen of South Africa, _Castor_ and
_Pollux_ are not young men, but young women, the wives of the Eland,
the great native antelope. In Greek star-stories the _Great Bear_
keeps watch, Homer says, on the hunter Orion for fear of a sudden
attack. But how did the Bear get its name in Greece? According to
Hesiod, the oldest Greek poet after Homer, the Bear was once a lady,
daughter of Lycaon, King of Arcadia. She was a nymph of the train of
chaste Artemis, but yielded to the love of Zeus, and became the
ancestress of all the Arcadians. Changed by Zeus to a bestial form,
she was shot by Artemis, and then translated by Zeus to the stars
(Apollod., iii. 8; Eustath., 1156; Bachofen, _Der Bär_, p. 14).[144]
Here we must notice first, that the Arcadians, like Australians, Red
Indians, and other wild races, and like the Bedouins, believed
themselves to be descended from a girl who became an animal. That the
early Egyptians did the same is not improbable; for names of animals
are found among the ancestors in the very oldest genealogical
papyrus,[145] as in the genealogies of the old English kings. Next the
Arcadians transferred the ancestral bear to the heavens, and, in doing
this, they resembled the Peruvians, of whom Acosta says: 'They adored
the star _Urchuchilly_, feigning it to be a _Ram_, and worshipped two
others, and say that one of them is a _sheep_, and the other a lamb
... others worshipped the star called the _Tiger_. _They were of
opinion that there was not any beast or bird upon the earth, whose
shape or image did not shine in the heavens._'

But to return to our bears. The Australians have, properly speaking,
no bears, though the animal called the native bear is looked up to by
the aborigines with superstitious regard. But among the North American
Indians, as the old missionaries Lafitau and Charlevoix observed, 'the
four stars in front of our constellation are a bear; those in the tail
are hunters who pursue him; the small star apart is the pot in which
they mean to cook him.'

It may be held that the Red Men derived their bear from the European
settlers. But, as we have seen, an exact knowledge of the stars has
always been useful if not essential to savages; and we venture to
doubt whether they would confuse their nomenclature and sacred
traditions by borrowing terms from trappers and squatters. But, if
this is improbable, it seems almost impossible that all savage races
should have borrowed their whole conception of the heavenly bodies
from the myths of Greece. It is thus that Egede, a missionary of the
last century, describes the Eskimo philosophy of the stars: 'The
notions that the Greenlanders have as to the origin of the heavenly
lights--as sun, moon, and stars--are very nonsensical; in that they
pretend they have formerly been as many of their own ancestors, who,
on different accounts, were lifted up to heaven, and became such
glorious celestial bodies.' Again, he writes: 'Their notions about the
stars are that some of them have been men, and others different sorts
of animals and fishes.' But every reader of Ovid knows that this was
the very mythical theory of the Greeks and Romans. The Egyptians,
again, worshipped Osiris, Isis, and the rest as _ancestors_, and there
are even modern scholars, like Mr. Loftie in his _Essay of Scarabs_,
who hold Osiris to have been originally a real historical person. But
the Egyptian priests who showed Plutarch the grave of Osiris, showed
him, too, the stars into which Osiris, Isis, and Horus had been
metamorphosed. Here, then, we have Greeks, Egyptians, and Eskimo, all
agreed about the origin of the heavenly lights, all of opinion that
'they have formerly been as many of their own ancestors.'

The Australian general theory is: 'Of the good men and women, after
the deluge, Pundjel (a kind of Zeus, or rather a sort of Prometheus of
Australian mythology) made stars. Sorcerers (_Biraark_) can tell which
stars were once good men and women.' Here the sorcerers have the same
knowledge as the Egyptian priests. Again, just as among the
Arcadians, 'the progenitors of the existing tribes, whether birds, or
beasts, or men, were set in the sky, and made to shine as stars.'[146]

We have already given some Australian examples in the stories of the
_Pleiades_, and of _Castor_ and _Pollux_. We may add the case of the
_Eagle_. In Greece the _Eagle_ was the bird of Zeus, who carried off
Ganymede to be the cup-bearer of Olympus. Among the Australians this
same constellation is called _Totyarguil_; he was a man who, when
bathing, was killed by a fabulous animal, a kind of kelpie; as Orion,
in Greece, was killed by the _Scorpion_. Like Orion, he was placed
among the stars. The Australians have a constellation named _Eagle_,
but he is our _Sirius_, or _Dog-star_.

The Indians of the Amazon are in one tale with the Australians and
Eskimo. 'Dr. Silva de Coutinho informs me,' says Professor Hartt,[147]
'that the Indians of the Amazonas not only give names to many of the
heavenly bodies, but also tell stories about them. The two stars that
form the shoulders of Orion are said to be an old man and a boy in a
canoe, chasing a _peixe boi_, by which name is designated a dark spot
in the sky near the above constellation.' The Indians also know
monkey-stars, crane-stars, and palm-tree stars.

The Bushmen, almost the lowest tribe of South Africa, have the same
star-lore and much the same myths as the Greeks, Australians,
Egyptians, and Eskimo. According to Dr. Bleek, 'stars, and even the
sun and moon, were once mortals on earth, or even animals or inorganic
substances, which happened to get translated to the skies. The sun
was once a man whose arm-pit radiated a limited amount of light round
his house. Some children threw him into the sky, and there he shines.'
The Homeric hymn to Helios, in the same way, as Mr. Max Müller
observes, 'looks on the sun as a half-god, almost a hero, who had once
lived on earth.' The pointers of the Southern Cross were 'two men who
were lions,' just as Callisto, in Arcadia, was a woman who was a bear.
It is not at all rare in those queer philosophies, as in that of the
Scandinavians, to find that the sun or moon has been a man or woman.
In Australian fable the moon was a man, the sun a woman of indifferent
character, who appears at dawn in a coat of red kangaroo skins, the
present of an admirer. In an old Mexican text the moon was a man,
across whose face a god threw a rabbit, thus making the marks in the

Many separate races seem to recognise the figure of a hare, where we
see 'the Man in the Moon.' In a Buddhist legend, an exemplary and
altruistic hare was translated to the moon. 'To the common people in
India the spots on the moon look like a hare, and Chandras, the god of
the moon, carries a hare: hence the moon is called _sasin_ or
_sasanka_, hare-mark. The Mongolians also see in these shadows the
figure of a hare.'[149] Among the Eskimo, the moon is a girl, who
always flees from her cruel brother, the sun, because he disfigured
her face. Elsewhere the sun is the girl, beloved by her own brother,
the moon; she blackens her face to avert his affection. On the Rio
Branco, and among the Tomunda, the moon is a girl who loved her
brother and visited him in the dark. He detected her wicked passion by
drawing his blackened hand over her face. The marks betrayed her, and,
as the spots on the moon, remain to this day.[150]

Among the New Zealanders and North American Indians the sun is a great
beast, whom the hunters trapped and thrashed with cudgels. His blood
is used in some New Zealand incantations; and, according to an
Egyptian myth, was kneaded into clay at the making of man. But there
is no end to similar sun-myths, in all of which the sun is regarded as
a man, or even as a beast.

To return to the stars--

The Red Indians, as Schoolcraft says, 'hold many of the planets to be
transformed adventurers.' The Iowas 'believed stars to be a sort of
living creatures.' One of them came down and talked to a hunter, and
showed him where to find game. The Gallinomeros of Central California,
according to Mr. Bancroft, believe that the sun and moon were made and
lighted up by the Hawk and the Coyote, who one day flew into each
other's faces in the dark, and were determined to prevent such
accidents in the future. But the very oddest example of the survival
of the notion that the stars are men or women is found in the 'Pax' of
Aristophanes. Trygæus in that comedy has just made an expedition to
heaven. A slave meets him, and asks him, 'Is not the story true, then,
that we become stars when we die?' The answer is, 'Certainly'; and
Trygæus points out the star into which Ios of Chios has just been
metamorphosed. Aristophanes is making fun of some popular Greek
superstition. But that very superstition meets us in New Zealand.
'Heroes,' says Mr. Tylor, 'were thought to become stars of greater or
less brightness, according to the number of their victims slain in

The Aryan race is seldom far behind, when there are ludicrous notions
to be credited or savage tales to be told. We have seen that
Aristophanes, in Greece, knew the Eskimo doctrine that stars are souls
of the dead. The Persians had the same belief,[151] 'all the
unnumbered stars were reckoned ghosts of men.'[152] The German
folklore clings to the same belief, 'Stars are souls; when a child
dies God makes a new star.' Kaegi quotes[153] the same idea from the
Veda, and from the Satapatha Brahmana the thoroughly Australian notion
that 'good men become stars.' For a truly savage conception, it would
be difficult, in South Africa or on the Amazons, to beat the following
story from the _Aitareya Brahmana_ (iii. 33). Pragapati, the Master of
Life, conceived an incestuous passion for his own daughter. Like Zeus,
and Indra, and the Austrian wooer in the Pleiad tale, he concealed
himself under the shape of a beast, a roebuck, and approached his own
daughter, who had assumed the form of a doe. The gods, in anger at the
awful crime, made a monster to punish Pragapati. The monster sent an
arrow through the god's body; he sprang into heaven, and, like the
Arcadian bear, this Aryan roebuck became a constellation. He is among
the stars of Orion, and his punisher, also now a star, is, like the
Greek Orion, a hunter. The daughter of Pragapati, the doe, became
another constellation, and the avenging arrow is also a set of stars
in the sky. What follows, about the origin of the gods called Adityas,
is really too savage to be quoted by a chaste mythologist.

It would be easy to multiply examples of this stage of thought among
Aryans and savages. But we have probably brought forward enough for
our purpose, and have expressly chosen instances from the most widely
separated peoples. These instances, it will perhaps be admitted,
suggest, if they do not prove, that the Greeks had received from
tradition precisely the same sort of legends about the heavenly bodies
as are current among Eskimo and Bushmen, New Zealanders and Iowas. As
much, indeed, might be inferred from our own astronomical
nomenclature. We now give to newly discovered stars names derived from
distinguished people, as _Georgium Sidus_, or _Herschel_; or, again,
merely technical appellatives, as _Alpha_, _Beta_, and the rest. We
should never think when 'some new planet swims into our ken' of
calling it _Kangaroo_, or _Rabbit_, or after the name of some hero of
romance, as _Rob Roy_, or _Count Fosco_. But the names of stars which
we inherit from Greek mythology--the _Bear_, the _Pleiades_, _Castor_
and _Pollux_, and so forth--are such as no people in our mental
condition would originally think of bestowing. When Callimachus and
the courtly astronomers of Alexandria pretended that the golden locks
of Berenice were raised to the heavens, that was a mere piece of
flattery constructed on the inherited model of legends about the
crown (_Corona_) of Ariadne. It seems evident enough that the older
Greek names of stars are derived from a time when the ancestors of the
Greeks were in the mental and imaginative condition of Iowas, Kanekas,
Bushmen, Murri, and New Zealanders. All these, and all other savage
peoples, believe in a kind of equality and intercommunion among all
things animate and inanimate. Stones are supposed in the Pacific
Islands to be male and female and to propagate their species. Animals
are believed to have human or superhuman intelligence, and speech, if
they choose to exercise the gift. Stars are just on the same footing,
and their movements are explained by the same ready system of
universal anthropomorphism. Stars, fishes, gods, heroes, men, trees,
clouds, and animals, all play their equal part in the confused dramas
of savage thought and savage mythology. Even in practical life the
change of a sorcerer into an animal is accepted as a familiar
phenomenon, and the power of soaring among the stars is one on which
the Australian Biraark, or the Eskimo Shaman, most plumes himself. It
is not wonderful that things which are held possible in daily practice
should be frequent features of mythology. Hence the ready invention
and belief of star-legends, which in their turn fix the names of the
heavenly bodies. Nothing more, except the extreme tenacity of
tradition and the inconvenience of changing a widely accepted name, is
needed to account for the human and animal names of the stars. The
Greeks received from the dateless past of savage intellect the myths,
and the names of the constellations, and we have taken them, without
inquiry, from the Greeks. Thus it happens that our celestial globes
are just as queer menageries as any globes could be that were
illustrated by Australians or American Indians, by Bushmen or Peruvian
aborigines, or Eskimo. It was savages, we may be tolerably certain,
who first handed to science the names of the constellations, and
provided Greece with the raw material of her astronomical myths--as
Bacon prettily says, that we listen to the harsh ideas of earlier
peoples 'blown softly through the flutes of the Grecians.'

This position has been disputed by Mr. Brown, in a work called _The
Law of Kosmic Order_. Mr. Brown's theory is that the early Accadians
named the zodiacal signs after certain myths and festivals connected
with the months. Thus the crab is a figure of 'the darkness power'
which seized the Accadian solar hero, Dumuzi, and 'which is constantly
represented in monstrous and drakontic form.' The bull, again, is
connected with night and darkness, 'in relation to the horned moon,'
and is, for other reasons, 'a nocturnal potency.' Few stars, to tell
the truth, are diurnal potencies. Mr. Brown's explanations appear to
me far-fetched and unconvincing. But, granting that the zodiacal signs
reached Greece from Chaldæa, Mr. Brown will hardly maintain that
Australians, Melanesians, Iowas, Amazon Indians, Eskimo, and the rest,
borrowed their human and animal stars from 'Akkadia.' The belief in
animal and human stars is practically universal among savages who have
not attained the 'Akkadian' degree of culture. The belief, as Mr.
Tylor has shown,[154] is a natural result of savage ideas. We
therefore infer that the 'Akkadians,' too, probably fell back for
star-names on what they inherited from the savage past. If the Greeks
borrowed certain star-names from the 'Akkadians,' they also, like the
Aryans of India, retained plenty of savage star-myths of their own,
fables derived from the earliest astronomical guesses of early

The first moment in astronomical science arrives when the savage,
looking at a star, says, like the child in the nursery poem, 'How I
wonder what you are!' The next moment comes when the savage has made
his first rough practical observations of the movements of the
heavenly body. His third step is to explain these to himself. Now
science cannot offer any but a fanciful explanation beyond the sphere
of experience. The experience of the savage is limited to the narrow
world of his tribe, and of the beasts, birds, and fishes of his
district. His philosophy, therefore, accounts for all phenomena on the
supposition that the laws of the animate nature he observes are
working everywhere. But his observations, misguided by his crude
magical superstitions, have led him to believe in a state of equality
and kinship between men and animals, and even inorganic things. He
often worships the very beasts he slays; he addresses them as if they
understood him; he believes himself to be descended from the animals,
and of their kindred. These confused ideas he applies to the stars,
and recognises in them men like himself, or beasts like those with
which he conceives himself to be in such close human relations. There
is scarcely a bird or beast but the Red Indian or the Australian will
explain its peculiarities by a myth, like a page from Ovid's
_Metamorphoses_. It was once a man or a woman, and has been changed to
bird or beast by a god or a magician. Men, again, have originally been
beasts, in his philosophy, and are descended from wolves, frogs, or
serpents, or monkeys. The heavenly bodies are traced to precisely the
same sort of origin; and hence, we conclude, come their strange animal
names, and the strange myths about them which appear in all ancient
poetry. These names, in turn, have curiously affected human beliefs.
Astrology is based on the opinion that a man's character and fate are
determined by the stars under which he is born. And the nature of
these stars is deduced from their names, so that the bear should have
been found in the horoscope of Dr. Johnson. When Giordano Bruno wrote
his satire against religion, the famous 'Spaccio della bestia
trionfante,' he proposed to banish not only the gods but the beasts
from heaven. He would call the stars, not the _Bear_, or the _Swan_,
or the _Pleiades_, but Truth, Mercy, Justice, and so forth, that men
might be born, not under bestial, but moral influences. But the beasts
have had too long possession of the stars to be easily dislodged, and
the tenure of the _Bear_ and the _Swan_ will probably last as long as
there is a science of Astronomy. Their names are not likely again to
delude a philosopher into the opinion of Aristotle that the stars are

This argument had been worked out to the writer's satisfaction when he
chanced to light on Mr. Max Müller's explanation of the name of the
_Great Bear_. We have explained that name as only one out of
countless similar appellations which men of every race give to the
stars. These names, again, we have accounted for as the result of
savage philosophy, which takes no great distinction between man and
the things in the world, and looks on stars, beasts, birds, fishes,
flowers, and trees as men and women in disguise. Mr. Müller's theory
is based on philological considerations. He thinks that the name of
the _Great Bear_ is the result of a mistake as to the meaning of
words. There was in Sanskrit, he says,[155] a root _ark_, or _arch_,
meaning 'to be bright.' She-stars are called _riksha_, that is, bright
ones, in the Veda. 'The constellations here called the Rikshas, in the
sense of the "bright ones," would be homonymous in Sanskrit with the
Bears. Remember also that, apparently without rhyme or reason, the
same constellation is called by Greeks and Romans the Bear.... There
is not the shadow of a likeness with a bear. You will now perceive the
influence of words on thought, or the spontaneous growth of mythology.
The name _Riksha_ was applied to the bear in the sense of the bright
fuscous animal, and in that sense it became most popular in the later
Sanskrit, and in Greek and Latin. The same name, "in the sense of the
bright ones," had been applied by the Vedic poets to the stars in
general, and more particularly to that constellation which in the
northern parts of India was the most prominent. The etymological
meaning, "the bright stars," was forgotten; the popular meaning of
Riksha (bear) was known to every one. And thus it happened that, when
the Greeks had left their central home and settled in Europe, they
retained the name of Arktos for the same unchanging stars; but, not
knowing why those stars had originally received that name, they ceased
to speak of them as _arktoí_, or many bears, and spoke of them as the

This is a very good example of the philological way of explaining a
myth. If once we admit that _ark_, or _arch_, in the sense of 'bright'
and of 'bear,' existed, not only in Sanskrit, but in the undivided
Aryan tongue, and that the name Riksha, bear, 'became in that sense
most popular in Greek and Latin,' this theory seems more than
plausible. But the explanation does not look so well if we examine,
not only the Aryan, but all the known myths and names of the Bear and
the other stars. Professor Sayce, a distinguished philologist, says we
may not compare non-Aryan with Aryan myths. We have ventured to do so,
however, in this paper, and have shown that the most widely severed
races give the stars animal names, of which the _Bear_ is one example.
Now, if the philologists wish to persuade us that it was decaying and
half-forgotten language which caused men to give the names of animals
to the stars, they must prove their case on an immense collection of
instances--on Iowa, Kaneka, Murri, Maori, Brazilian, Peruvian,
Mexican, Egyptian, Eskimo, instances. It would be the most amazing
coincidence in the world if forgetfulness of the meaning of their own
speech compelled tribes of every tongue and race to recognise men and
beasts, cranes, cockatoos, serpents, monkeys, bears, and so forth in
the heavens. How came the misunderstood words always to be
misunderstood in the same way? Does the philological explanation
account for the enormous majority of the phenomena? If it fails, we
may at least doubt whether it solves the one isolated case of the
Great Bear among the Greeks and Romans. It must be observed that the
philological explanation of Mr. Müller does not clear up the Arcadian
story of their own descent from a she-bear who is now a star. Yet
similar stories of the descent of tribes from animals are so
widespread that it would be difficult to name the race or the quarter
of the globe where they are not found. Are they all derived from
misunderstood words meaning 'bright'? These considerations appear to
be a strong argument for comparing not only Aryan, but all attainable
myths. We shall often find, if we take a wide view, that the
philological explanation which seemed plausible in a single case is
hopelessly narrow when applied to a large collection of parallel cases
in language of various families.

Finally, in dealing with star-myths, we adhere to the hypothesis of
Mr. Tylor: 'From savagery up to civilisation,' Akkadian, Greek, or
English, 'there may be traced in the mythology of the stars a course
of thought, changed, indeed, in application, yet never broken in its
evident connection from first to last. The savage sees individual
stars as animate beings, or combines star-groups into living celestial
creatures, or limbs of them, or objects connected with them; while at
the other extremity of the scale of civilisation the modern astronomer
keeps up just such ancient fancies, turning them to account in useful
survival, as a means of mapping out the celestial globe.'[156]


[142] The attempt is not to explain the origin of each separate name,
but only of the general habit of giving animal or human names to

[143] Mr. Herbert Spencer believes that the Australians were once more
civilised than at present. But there has never been found a trace of
pottery on the Australian continent, which says little for their
civilisation in the past.

[144] See C. O. Müller (_Prolog. zur Mythol._, Engl. transl., p. 17):
'Callisto is just nothing else than Artemis and her sacred animal
comprehended in one idea.' See also pp. 201-4. Müller (C. O.) very
nearly made the discovery that the gods of Greece may in some cases
have a bestial ancestry.

[145] Brugsch, _History of Egypt_, i. 32.

[146] Brough Smyth.

[147] _Amazonian Tortoise Myths_, p. 39.

[148] Sahagun, vii. 3.

[149] Grimm, _D. M._, Engl. transl., p. 716.

[150] Hartt, _op. cit._, p. 40. For a modern sun-man and his myth in
the Cyclades, see J. T. Bent, in the _Athenæum_, Jan. 17, 1885.

[151] Kaegi, _Der Rig Veda_, p. 217.

[152] _Mainjo-i-Khard_, 49, 22, ed. West.

[153] _Op. cit._, p. 98.

[154] _Prim. Cult._, i. 357.

[155] _Lectures on Language_, pp. 359, 362.

[156] Ideler (_Untersuchungen ueber den Ursprung der Sternnamen_) may
also be consulted.


'I have found out a new cure for rheumatism,' said the lady beside
whom it was my privilege to sit at dinner. 'You carry a potato about
in your pocket!'

Some one has written an amusing account of the behaviour of a man who
is finishing a book. He takes his ideas everywhere with him and broods
over them, even at dinner, in the pauses of conversation. But here was
a lady who kindly contributed to my studies and offered me folklore
and survivals in cultivated Kensington.

My mind had strayed from the potato cure to the New Zealand habit of
carrying a baked yam at night to frighten away ghosts, and to the old
English belief that a bit of bread kept in the pocket was sovereign
against evil spirits. Why should ghosts dread the food of mortals when
it is the custom of most races of mortals to feed ancestral ghosts?
The human mind works pretty rapidly, and all this had passed through
my brain while I replied, in tones of curiosity: 'A potato!'

'Yes; but it is not every potato that will do. I heard of the cure in
the country, and when we came up to town, and my husband was
complaining of rheumatism, I told one of the servants to get me a
potato for Mr. Johnson's rheumatism. "Yes, ma'am," said the man; "but
it must be a _stolen_ potato." I had forgotten that. Well, one can't
ask one's servants to steal potatoes. It is easy in the country, where
you can pick one out of anybody's field.' 'And what did you do?' I
asked. 'Oh, I drove to Covent Garden and ordered a lot of fruit and
flowers. While the man was not looking, I stole a potato--a very
little one. I don't think there was any harm in it.' 'And did Mr.
Johnson try the potato cure?' 'Yes, he carried it in his pocket, and
now he is quite well. I told the doctor, and he says he knows of the
cure, but he dares not recommend it.'

How oddly superstitions survive! The central idea of this modern folly
about the potato is that you must pilfer the root. Let us work the
idea of the healing of magical herb backwards, from Kensington to
European folklore, and thence to classical times, to Homer, and to the
Hottentots. Turning first to Germany, we note the beliefs, not about
the potato, but about another vegetable, the mandrake. Of all roots,
in German superstition, the Alraun, or mandrake is the most famous.
The herb was conceived of, in the savage fashion, as a living human
person, a kind of old witch-wife.[157]

Again, the root has a human shape. 'If a hereditary thief who has
preserved his chastity gets hung,' the broad-leafed, yellow-flowered
mandrake grows up, in his likeness, beneath the gallows from which he
is suspended. The mandrake, like the moly, the magical herb of the
Odyssey, is 'hard for men to dig.' He who desires to possess a
mandrake must stop his ears with wax, so that he may not hear the
deathly yells which the plant utters as it is being dragged out of the
earth. Then before sunrise on a Friday, the amateur goes out with a
dog, 'all black,' makes three crosses round the mandrake, loosens the
soil about the root, ties the root to the dog's tail, and offers the
beast a piece of bread. The dog runs at the bread, drags out the
mandrake root, and falls dead, killed by the horrible yell of the
plant. The root is now taken up, washed with wine, wrapped in silk,
laid in a casket, bathed every Friday, 'and clothed in a little new
white smock every new moon.' The mandrake acts, if thus considerately
treated, as a kind of familiar spirit. 'Every piece of coin put to her
over night is found doubled in the morning.' Gipsy folklore, and the
folklore of American children, keep this belief in doubling deposits.
The gipsies use the notion in what they call 'The Great Trick.' Some
foolish rustic makes up his money in a parcel which he gives to the
gipsy. The latter, after various ceremonies performed, returns the
parcel, which is to be buried. The money will be found doubled by a
certain date. Of course when the owner unburies the parcel he finds
nothing in it but brass buttons. In the same way, and with pious
confidence, the American boy buries a marble in a hollow log, uttering
the formula, 'What hasn't come here, _come!_ what's here, _stay_
here!' and expects to find all the marbles he has ever lost.[158] Let
us follow the belief in magical roots into the old Pagan world.

The ancients knew mandragora and the superstitions connected with it
very well. Dioscorides mentions _mandragorus_, or _antimelon_, or
_dircæa_, or _Circæa_, and says the Egyptians call it _apemoum_, and
Pythagoras 'anthropomorphon.' In digging the root, Pliny says 'there
are some ceremonies observed, first they that goe about this worke,
look especially to this that the wind be not in their face, but blow
upon their backs. Then with the point of a sword they draw three
circles round about the plant, which don, they dig it up afterwards
with their face unto the west.' Pliny says nothing of the fetich
qualities of the plant, as credited in modern and mediæval Germany,
but mentions 'sufficient it is with some bodies to cast them into
sleep with the smel of mandrago.' This is like Shakespeare's 'poppy
and mandragora, and all the drowsy syrups of the world.' Plato and
Demosthenes[159] also speak of mandragora as a soporific. It is more
to the purpose of magic that Columella mentions 'the _half-human_
mandragora.' Here we touch the origin of the mandrake superstitions.
The roots have a kind of fantastic resemblance to the human shape;
Pliny describes them as being 'of a fleshy substance and tender.' Now
it is one of the recognised principles in magic, that things like each
other, however superficially, affect each other in a mystic way, and
possess identical properties. Thus, in Melanesia, according to Mr.
Codrington,[160] 'a stone in the shape of a pig, of a bread-fruit, of
a yam, was a most valuable find,' because it made pigs prolific, and
fertilised bread-fruit trees and yam-plots. In Scotland, too, 'stones
were called by the names of the limbs they resembled, as "eye-stane,"
"head-stane." A patient washed the affected part of his body, and
rubbed it well with the stone corresponding.'[161] In precisely the
same way, the mandrake root, being thought to resemble the human body,
was credited with human and superhuman powers. Josephus mentions[162]
a plant 'not easily caught, which slips away from them that wish to
gather it, and never stands still' till certain repulsive rites are
performed. These rites cannot well be reported here, but they are
quite familiar to Red Indian and to Bushman magic. Another way to dig
the plant spoken of by Josephus is by aid of the dog, as in the German
superstition quoted from Grimm. Ælian also recommends the use of the
dog to pluck the herb aglaophotis, which shines at night.[163] When
the dog has dragged up the root, and died of terror, his body is to be
buried on the spot with religious honours and secret sacred rites.

So much for mandragora, which, like the healing potato, has to be
acquired stealthily and with peril. Now let us examine the Homeric
herb moly. The plant is thus introduced by Homer: In the tenth book of
the _Odyssey_, Circe has turned Odysseus's men into swine. He sets
forth to rescue them, trusting only to his sword. The god Hermes meets
him, and offers him 'a charmed herb,' 'this herb of grace' (φάρμακον
ἐσθλόν), whereby he may subdue the magic wiles of Circe.

The plant is described by Homer with some minuteness. 'It was black
at the root, but the flower was like to milk. "Moly," the gods call
it, but it is hard for mortal men to dig, howbeit with the gods all
things are possible.' The etymologies given of 'moly' are almost as
numerous as the etymologists. One derivation, from the old 'Turanian'
tongue of Accadia, will be examined later. The Scholiast offers the
derivation 'μωλύειν, to make charms of no avail'; but this is
exactly like Professor Blackie's etymological discovery that Erinys is
derived from ἐρινὺειν: 'he might as well derive _critic_ from
_criticise_.'[164] The Scholiast adds that moly caused death to the
person who dragged it out of the ground. This identification of moly
with mandrake is probably based on Homer's remark that moly is 'hard
to dig.' The black root and white flower of moly are quite unlike the
yellow flower and white fleshy root ascribed by Pliny to mandrake.
Only confusion is caused by regarding the two magical herbs as

But why are any herbs or roots magical? While some Scholars, like De
Gubernatis, seek an explanation in supposed myths about clouds and
stars, it is enough for our purpose to observe that herbs really have
medicinal properties, and that untutored people invariably confound
medicine with magic. A plant or root is thought to possess virtue, not
only when swallowed in powder or decoction, but when carried in the
hand. St. John's wort and rowan berries, like the Homeric moly, still
'make evil charms of none avail';

    Rowan, ash, and red threed
    Gar the witches tyne their speed,

says the Scotch rhyme. Any fanciful resemblance of leaf or flower or
root to a portion of the human body, any analogy based on colour, will
give a plant reputation for magical virtues. This habit of mind
survives from the savage condition. The Hottentots are great
herbalists. Like the Greeks, like the Germans, they expect
supernatural aid from plants and roots. Mr. Hahn, in his _Tsui Goam,
the Supreme Being of the Khoi Khoi_ (p. 82), gives the following

    Dapper, in his description of Africa, p. 621, tells us: 'Some
    of them wear round the neck, roots, which they find far
    inland, in rivers, and being on a journey they light them in
    a fire or chew them, if they must sleep the night out in the
    field. They believe that these roots keep off the wild
    animals. The roots they chew are spit out around the spot
    where they encamp for the night; and in a similar way, if
    they set the roots alight, they blow the smoke and ashes
    about, believing that the smell will keep the wild animals

    'I had often occasion to observe the practice of these
    superstitious ceremonies, especially when we were in a part
    of the country where we heard the roaring of the lions, or
    had the day previously met with the footprints of the king of
    the beasts.

    'The Korannas also have these roots as safeguards with them.
    If a Commando (a warlike expedition) goes out, every man will
    put such roots in his pockets and in the pouch where he keeps
    his bullets, believing that the arrows or bullets of the
    enemy have no effect, but that his own bullets will surely
    kill the enemy. And also before they lie down to sleep, they
    set these roots alight, and murmur: "My grandfather's root,
    bring sleep on the eyes of the lion and leopard and the
    hyena. Make them blind, that they cannot find us, and cover
    their noses, that they cannot smell us out." Also, if they
    have carried off large booty, or stolen cattle of the enemy,
    they light these roots and say: "We thank thee, our
    grandfather's root, that thou hast given us cattle to eat.
    Let the enemy sleep, and lead him on the wrong track, that he
    may not follow us until we have safely escaped."

    'Another sort of shrub is called _ābib_. Herdsmen,
    especially, carry pieces of its wood as charms, and if cattle
    or sheep have gone astray, they burn a piece of it in the
    fire, that the wild animals may not destroy them. And they
    believe that the cattle remain safe until they can be found
    the next morning.'[165]

Schweinfurth found the same belief in magic herbs and roots among the
Bongoes and Niam Niams in 'The Heart of Africa.' The Bongoes believe,
like the Homeric Greeks, that 'certain roots ward off the evil
influences of spirits.' Like the German amateurs of the mandrake, they
assert that 'there is no other resource for obtaining communication
with spirits, except by means of certain roots' (i. 306).

Our position is that the English magical potato, the German mandrake,
the Greek moly, are all survivals from a condition of mind like that
in which the Hottentots still pray to roots.

Now that we have brought mandragora and moly into connection with the
ordinary magical superstitions of savage peoples, let us see what is
made of the subject by another method. Mr. R. Brown, the learned and
industrious author of _The Great Dionysiak Myth_, has investigated the
traditions about the Homeric moly. He first[166] 'turns to Aryan
philology.' Many guesses at the etymology of 'moly' have been made.
Curtius suggests _mollis_, _molvis_, μῶλυ-ς, akin to μαλακὸς,
'soft.' This does not suit Mr. Brown, who, to begin with, is persuaded
that the herb is not a magical herb, _sans phrase_, like those which
the Hottentots use, but that the basis of the myth 'is simply the
effect of night upon the world of day.' Now, as moly is a name in use
among the gods, Mr. Brown thinks 'we may fairly examine the hypothesis
of a foreign origin of the term.' Any one who holds that certain Greek
gods were borrowed from abroad, may be allowed to believe that the
gods used foreign words, and, as Mr. Brown points out, there are
foreign elements in various Homeric names of imported articles,
peoples, persons, and so forth. Where, then, is a foreign word like
moly, which might have reached Homer? By a long process of research,
Mr. Brown finds his word in ancient 'Akkadian.' From Professor Sayce
he borrows a reference to Apuleius Barbarus, about whose life nothing
is known, and whose date is vague. Apuleius Barbarus may have lived
about four centuries after our era, and _he_ says that 'wild rue was
called moly by the Cappadocians.' Rue, like rosemary, and indeed like
most herbs, has its magical repute, and if we supposed that Homer's
moly was rue, there would be some interest in the knowledge. Rue was
called 'herb of grace' in English, holy water was sprinkled with it,
and the name is a translation of Homer's φάρμακον ἐσθλόν. Perhaps
rue was used in sprinkling, because in pre-Christian times rue had, by
itself, power against sprites and powers of evil. Our ancestors may
have thought it as well to combine the old charm of rue and the new
Christian potency of holy water. Thus there would be a distinct
analogy between Homeric moly and English 'herb of grace.'

'Euphrasy and rue' were employed to purge and purify mortal eyes.
Pliny is very learned about the magical virtues of rue. Just as the
stolen potato is sovereign for rheumatism, so 'rue stolen thriveth the
best.' The Samoans think that their most valued vegetables were stolen
from heaven by a Samoan visitor.[167] It is remarkable that rue,
according to Pliny, is killed by the touch of a woman in the same way
as, according to Josephus, the mandrake is tamed.[168] These passages
prove that the classical peoples had the same extraordinary
superstitions about women as the Bushmen and Red Indians. Indeed
Pliny[169] describes a magical manner of defending the crops from
blight, by aid of women, which is actually practised in America by the
Red Men.[170]

Here, then, are proofs enough that rue was magical outside of
Cappadocia. But this is not an argument on Mr. Brown's lines. The
Cappadocians called rue 'moly'; what language, he asks, was spoken by
the Cappadocians? Prof. Sayce (who knows so many tongues) says that
'we know next to nothing of the language of the Cappadocians, or of
the Moschi who lived in the same locality.' But where Prof. Sayce is,
the Hittites, if we may say so respectfully, are not very far off. In
this case he thinks the Moschi (though he admits we know next to
nothing about it) 'seem to have spoken a language allied to that of
the Cappadocians and Hittites.' That is to say, it is not impossible
that the language of the Moschi, about which next to nothing is known,
may have been allied to that of the Cappadocians, about which we know
next to nothing. All that we do know in this case is, that four
hundred years after Christ the dwellers in Cappadocia employed a word
'moly,' which had been Greek for at least twelve hundred years. But
Mr. Brown goes on to quote that one of the languages of which we know
next to nothing, Hittite, was 'probably allied to Proto-Armenian, and
perhaps Lykian, and was above all not Semitic.' In any case 'the
cuneiform mode of writing was used in Cappadocia at an early period.'
As even Professor Sayce declines to give more than a tentative reading
of a Cappadocian cuneiform inscription, it seems highly rash to seek
in this direction for an interpretation of a Homeric word 'moly,' used
in Cappadocia very many centuries after the tablets were scratched.
But, on the evidence of the Babylonian character of the cuneiform
writing on Cappadocian tablets, Mr. Brown establishes a connection
between the people of Accadia (who probably introduced the cuneiform
style) and the people of Cappadocia. The connection amounts to this.
Twelve hundred years after Homer, the inhabitants of Cappadocia are
said to have called rue 'moly.' At some unknown period, the Accadians
appear to have influenced the art of writing in Cappadocia. Apparently
Mr. Brown thinks it not too rash to infer that the Cappadocian use of
the word 'moly' is not derived from the Greeks, but from the
Accadians. Now in Accadian, according to Mr. Brown, _mul_ means
'star.' 'Hence _ulu_ or _mulu_ = μῶλυ, the mysterious Homerik
counter-charm to the charms of Kirkê' (p. 60). Mr. Brown's theory,
therefore, is that moly originally meant 'star.' Circe is the moon,
Odysseus is the sun, and 'what _watches over_ the solar hero at night
when exposed to the hostile lunar power, but the stars?' especially
the dog-star.

The truth is, that Homer's moly, whatever plant he meant by the name,
is only one of the magical herbs in which most peoples believe or have
believed. Like the Scottish rowan, or like St. John's wort, it is
potent against evil influences. People have their own simple reasons
for believing in these plants, and have not needed to bring down their
humble, early botany from the clouds and stars. We have to imagine, on
the other hand (if we follow Mr. Brown), that in some unknown past the
Cappadocians turned the Accadian word for a star into a local name of
a plant, that this word reached Homer, that the supposed old Accadian
myth of the star which watches over the solar hero retained its
vitality in Greek, and leaving the star clung to the herb, that Homer
used an 'Akkado-Kappadokian' myth, and that, many ages after, the
Accadian star-name in its perverted sense of 'rue' survived in
Cappadocia. This structure of argument is based on tablets which even
Prof. Sayce cannot read, and on possibilities about the alliances of
tongues concerning which we 'know next to nothing.' A method which
leaves on one side the common, natural, widely-diffused beliefs about
the magic virtue of herbs (beliefs which we have seen at work in
Kensington and in Central Africa), to hunt for moly among stars and
undeciphered Kappadokian inscriptions, seems a dubious method. We have
examined it at full length because it is a specimen of an erudite,
but, as we think, a mistaken way in folklore. M. Halévy's warnings
against the shifting mythical theories based on sciences so new as the
lore of Assyria and 'Akkadia' are by no means superfluous. 'Akkadian'
is rapidly become as ready a key to all locks as 'Aryan' was a few
years ago.[171]


[157] Grimm, _D. M._, Engl. transl., p. 1202.

[158] _Tom Sawyer_, p. 87.

[159] _Rep._, vi. 488. Dem., 10, 6.

[160] _Journal Anthrop. Inst._, Feb., 1881.

[161] Gregor, _Folklore of North-east Counties_, p. 40.

[162] _Wars of Jews_, vii. 6, 3.

[163] _Var. Hist._, 14, 27.

[164] Max Müller, _Selected Essays_, ii. 622.

[165] There is no end to Aryan parallels of savage practices. The
famous soma of the Veda is apparently now used like the Hottentot
roots. By the Zoroastrians 'it is used at incantations and sacrifices,
and thrown into the fire.' See Mr. Hootum Schindler, _Academy_, Jan.
31, 1885, p. 83.

[166] _Myth of Kirkê_, p. 80.

[167] Turner's _Samoa_.

[168] Josephus, _loc. cit._ For this, and many other references, I am
indebted to Schwartz's _Prähistorisch-anthropologische Studien_. In
most magic herbs the learned author recognises thunder and
lightning--a theory no less plausible than Mr. Brown's.

[169] Lib. xxviii.

[170] Schoolcraft, v.

[171] Mr. Brown (_Academy_, Jan. 3, 1885) says he freely acknowledges
that his 'suggestion might be quite incorrect'--which seems
possible--and that 'if Odysseus and Kirkê were sun and moon here is a
good starting-point for the theory that the moly was stellar.' This
reminds one of the preacher who demonstrated the existence of the
Trinity thus: 'For is there not, my brethren, one sun, and one
moon,--and one multitude of stars?'


It is difficult to account for the fact that the scientific curiosity
which is just now so busy in examining all the monuments of the
primitive condition of our race, should, in England at least, have
almost totally neglected to popularise the 'Kalevala,' or national
poem of the Finns. Besides its fresh and simple beauty of style, its
worth as a storehouse of every kind of primitive folklore, being as it
is the production of an _Urvolk_, a nation that has undergone no
violent revolution in language or institutions--the 'Kalevala' has the
peculiar interest of occupying a position between the two kinds of
primitive poetry, the ballad and the epic. So much difficulty has been
introduced into the study of the first developments of song, by
confusing these distinct sorts of composition under the name of
popular poetry, that it may be well, in writing of a poem which
occupies a middle place between epic and ballad, to define what we
mean by each.

The author of our old English _Art of Poesie_ begins his work with a
statement which may serve as a text: 'Poesie,' says Puttenham, writing
in 1589, 'is more ancient than the _artificiall_ of the Greeks and
Latines, coming by instinct of nature, and used by the savage and
uncivill, who were before all science and civilitie. This is proved by
certificate of merchants and travellers, who by late navigations have
surveyed the whole world, and discovered large countries, and strange
people, wild and savage, affirming that the American, the Perusine,
and the very canniball, do sing, and also say, their highest and
holiest matters in certain riming versicles.' Puttenham is here
referring to that instinct of primitive men, which compels them in all
moments of high-wrought feeling, and on all solemn occasions, to give
utterance to a kind of chant.[172] Such a chant is the song of Lamech,
when he had 'slain a man to his wounding.' So in the Norse sagas,
Grettir and Gunnar _sing_ when they have anything particular to say;
and so in the _Märchen_--the primitive fairy tales of all
nations--scraps of verse are introduced where emphasis is wanted. This
craving for passionate expression takes a more formal shape in the
lays which among all primitive peoples, as among the modern Greeks
to-day,[173] are sung at betrothals, funerals, and departures for
distant lands. These songs have been collected in Scotland by Scott
and Motherwell; their Danish counterparts have been translated by Mr.
Prior. In Greece, M. Fauriel and Dr. Ulrichs; in Provence, Damase
Arbaud; in Italy, M. Nigra; in Servia, Talvj; in France, Gérard de
Nerval--have done for their separate countries what Scott did for the
Border. Professor Child, of Harvard, is publishing a beautiful
critical collection of English _Volkslieder_, with all known variants
from every country.

A comparison of the collections proves that among all European lands
the primitive 'versicles' of the people are identical in tone, form,
and incident. It is this kind of early expression of a people's
life--careless, abrupt, brief, as was necessitated by the fact that
they were sung to the accompaniment of the dance--that we call
ballads. These are distinctly, and in every sense, popular poems, and
nothing can cause greater confusion than to apply the same title,
'popular,' to early epic poetry. Ballads are short; a long ballad, as
Mr. Matthew Arnold has said, creeps and halts. A true epic, on the
other hand, is long, and its tone is grand, noble, and sustained.
Ballads are not artistic; while the form of the epic, whether we take
the hexameter or the rougher _laisse_ of the French _chansons de
geste_, is full of conscious and admirable art. Lastly, popular
ballads deal with vague characters, acting and living in vague places;
while the characters of an epic are heroes of definite station, _whose
descendants are still in the land_, whose home is a recognisable
place, Ithaca, or Argos. Now, though these two kinds of early
poetry--the ballad, the song of the people; the epic, the song of the
chiefs of the people, of the ruling race--are distinct in kind, it
does not follow that they have no connection, that the nobler may not
have been developed out of the materials of the lower form of
expression. And the value of the 'Kalevala' is partly this, that it
combines the continuity and unison of the epic with the simplicity and
popularity of the ballad, and so forms a kind of link in the history
of the development of poetry. This may become clearer as we proceed to
explain the literary history of the Finnish national poem.

Sixty years ago, it may be said, no one was aware that Finland
possessed a national poem at all. Her people--who claim affinity with
the Magyars of Hungary, but are possibly a back-wave of an earlier
tide of population--had remained untouched by foreign influences since
their conquest by Sweden, and their somewhat lax and wholesale
conversion to Christianity: events which took place gradually between
the middle of the twelfth and the end of the thirteenth centuries.
Under the rule of Sweden, the Finns were left to their quiet life and
undisturbed imaginings, among the forests and lakes of the region
which they aptly called Pohja, 'the ends of things'; while their
educated classes took no very keen interest in the native poetry and
mythology of their race. At length the annexation of Finland by
Russia, in 1809, awakened national feeling, and stimulated research
into songs and customs which were the heirlooms of the people.

It was the policy of Russia to encourage, rather than to check, this
return on a distant past; and from the north of Norway to the slopes
of the Altai, ardent explorers sought out the fragments of unwritten
early poetry. These runes, or _Runots_, were chiefly sung by old men
called _Runoias_, to beguile the weariness of the long dark winters.
The custom was for two champions to engage in a contest of memory,
clasping each other's hands, and reciting in turn till he whose
memory first gave in slackened his hold. The 'Kalevala' contains an
instance of this practice, where it is said that no one was so hardy
as to clasp hands with Wäinämöinen, who is at once the Orpheus and the
Prometheus of Finnish mythology. These Runoias, or rhapsodists,
complain, of course, of the degeneracy of human memory; they notice
how any foreign influence, in religion or politics, is destructive to
the native songs of a race.[174] 'As for the lays of old time, a
thousand have been scattered to the wind, a thousand buried in the
snow; ... as for those which the Munks (the Teutonic knights) swept
away and the prayer of the priests overwhelmed, a thousand tongues
were not able to recount them.' In spite of the losses thus caused,
and in spite of the suspicious character of the Finns, which often
made the task of collection a dangerous one, enough materials remained
to furnish Dr. Lönnrot, the most noted explorer, with thirty-five
_Runots_, or cantos. These were published in 1835, but later research
produced the fifteen cantos which make up the symmetrical fifty of the
'Kalevala.' In the task of arranging and uniting these, Dr. Lönnrot
played the part traditionally ascribed to the commission of
Pisistratus in relation to the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_. Dr. Lönnrot cut
about and altered at pleasure the materials which come before us as
one poem. They have little unity now, and originally had none.

It cannot be doubted that, at whatever period the Homeric poems took
shape in Greece, they were believed to record the feats of the
supposed ancestors of existing families. Thus, for example,
Pisistratus, as a descendant of the Nelidæ, had an interest in
securing certain parts, at least, of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_
from oblivion. The same family pride embellished and preserved the
epic poetry of early France. There were in France but three heroic
houses, or _gestes_; and three corresponding cycles of _épopées_. Now,
in the 'Kalevala,' there is no trace of the influence of family
feeling; it was no one's peculiar care and pride to watch over the
records of the fame of this or that hero. The poem begins with a
cosmogony as wild as any Indian dream of creation; and the human
characters who move in the story are shadowy inhabitants of no very
definite lands, whom no family claim as their forefathers. The very
want of this idea of family and aristocratic pride gives the
'Kalevala' a unique place among epics. It is emphatically an epic of
the people, of that class whose life contains no element of progress,
no break in continuity; which from age to age preserves, in solitude
and close communion with nature, the earliest beliefs of grey
antiquity. The Greek epic, on the other hand, has, as Preller[175]
points out, 'nothing to do with natural man, but with an ideal world
of heroes, with sons of the gods, with consecrated kings, heroes,
elders, _a kind of specific race of men_. The people exist only as
subsidiary to the great houses, as a mere background against which
stand out the shining figures of heroes; as a race of beings fresh and
rough from the hands of nature, with whom, and with whose concerns,
the great houses and their bards have little concern.' This
feeling--so universal in Greece, and in the feudal countries of
mediæval Europe, that there are two kinds of men, the golden and the
brazen race, as Plato would have called them--is absent, with all its
results, in the 'Kalevala.'

Among the Finns we find no trace of an aristocracy; there is scarcely
a mention of kings, or priests; the heroes of the poem are really
popular heroes, fishers, smiths, husbandmen, 'medicine-men,' or
wizards; exaggerated shadows of the people, pursuing on a heroic
scale, not war, but the common daily business of primitive and
peaceful men. In recording their adventures, the 'Kalevala,' like the
shield of Achilles, reflects all the life of a race, the feasts, the
funerals, the rites of seed-time and harvest, of marriage and death,
the hymn, and the magical incantation.

Though without the interest of an unique position as a popular epic,
the 'Kalevala' is very valuable, both for its literary beauties and
for the confused mass of folklore which it contains.

Here old cosmogonies, attempts of man to represent to himself the
beginning of things, are mingled with the same wild imaginings as are
found everywhere in the shape of fairy-tales. We are hurried from an
account of the mystic egg of creation, to a hymn like that of the
Ambarval Brothers, to a strangely familiar scrap of a nursery story,
to an incident which we remember as occurring in almost identical
words in a Scotch ballad. We are among a people which endows
everything with human characters and life, which is in familiar
relations with birds, and beasts, and even with rocks and plants.
Ravens and wolves and fishes of the sea, sun, moon, and stars, are
kindly or churlish; drops of blood find speech, man and maid change to
snake or swan and resume their forms, ships have magic powers, like
the ships of the Phæacians.

Then there is the oddest confusion of every stage of religious
development: we find a supreme God, delighting in righteousness; Ukko,
the lord of the vault of air, who stands apart from men, and sends his
son, Wäinämöinen, to be their teacher in music and agriculture.

Across this faith comes a religion of petrified abstractions like
those of the Roman Pantheon. There are gods of colour, a goddess of
weaving, a goddess of man's blood, besides elemental spirits of woods
and waters, and the _manes_ of the dead. Meanwhile the working faith
of the people is the belief in magic--generally a sign of the lower
culture. It is supposed that the knowledge of certain magic words
gives power over the elemental bodies which obey them; it is held
that the will of a distant sorcerer can cross the lakes and plains
like the breath of a fantastic frost, with power to change an enemy to
ice or stone. Traces remain of the worship of animals: there is a hymn
to the bear; a dance like the bear-dance of the American Indians; and
another hymn tells of the birth and power of the serpent. Across all,
and closing all, comes a hostile account of the origin of
Christianity--the end of joy and music.

How primitive was the condition of the authors of this medley of
beliefs is best proved by the survival of the custom called
exogamy.[176] This custom, which is not peculiar to the Finns, but is
probably a universal note of early society, prohibits marriage between
members of the same tribe. Consequently, the main action, such as it
is, of the 'Kalevala' turns on the efforts made by the men of Kaleva
to obtain brides from the hostile tribe of Pohja.[177]

Further proof of ancient origin is to be found in what is the great
literary beauty of the poem--its pure spontaneity and simplicity. It
is the production of an intensely imaginative race, to which song came
as the most natural expression of joy and sorrow, terror or
triumph--a class which lay near to nature's secret, and was not out of
sympathy with the wild kin of woods and waters.

    'These songs,' says the prelude, 'were found by the wayside,
    and gathered in the depths of the copses; blown from the
    branches of the forest, and culled among the plumes of the
    pine-trees. These lays came to me as I followed the flocks,
    in a land of meadows honey-sweet and of golden hills.... The
    cold has spoken to me, and the rain has told me her runes;
    the winds of heaven, the waves of the sea, have spoken and
    sung to me; the wild birds have taught me, the music of many
    waters has been my master.'

The metre in which the epic is chanted resembles, to an English ear,
that of Mr. Longfellow's 'Hiawatha'--there is assonance rather than
rhyme; and a very musical effect is produced by the liquid character
of the language, and by the frequent alliterations.

This rough outline of the main characteristics of the 'Kalevala' we
shall now try to fill up with an abstract of its contents. The poem is
longer than the _Iliad_, and much of interest must necessarily be
omitted; but it is only through such an abstract that any idea can be
given of the sort of unity which does prevail amid the most utter

In the first place, what is to be understood by the word 'Kalevala'?
The affix _la_ signifies 'abode.' Thus, 'Tuonela' is 'the abode of
Tuoni,' the god of the lower world; and as 'kaleva' means 'heroic,'
'magnificent,' 'Kalevala' is 'The Home of Heroes.' The poem is the
record of the adventures of the people of Kalevala--of their strife
with the men of Pohjola, the place of the world's end. We may fancy
two old Runoias, or singers, clasping hands on one of the first nights
of the Finnish winter, and beginning (what probably has never been
accomplished) the attempt to work through the 'Kalevala' before the
return of summer. They commence _ab ovo_, or, rather, before the egg.
First is chanted the birth of Wäinämöinen, the benefactor and teacher
of men. He is the son of Luonnotar, the daughter of Nature, who
answers to the first woman of the Iroquois cosmogony. Beneath the
breath and touch of wind and tide, she conceived a child; but nine
ages of man passed before his birth, while the mother floated on 'the
formless and the multiform waters.' Then Ukko, the supreme God, sent
an eagle, which laid her eggs in the maiden's bosom, and from these
eggs grew earth and sky, sun and moon, star and cloud. Then was
Wäinämöinen born on the waters, and reached a barren land, and gazed
on the new heavens and the new earth. There he sowed the grain that is
the bread of man, chanting the hymn used at seed-time, calling on the
mother earth to make the green herb spring, and on Ukko to send down
clouds and rain. So the corn sprang, and the golden cuckoo--which in
Finland plays the part of the popinjay in Scotch ballads, or of the
three golden birds in Greek folk-songs--came with his congratulations.
In regard to the epithet 'golden,' it may be observed that gold and
silver, in the Finnish epic, are lavished on the commonest objects of
daily life.

This is a universal note of primitive poetry, and is not a peculiar
Finnish idiom, as M. Leouzon le Duc supposes; nor, as Mr. Tozer seems
to think, in his account of Romaic ballads, a trace of Oriental
influence among the modern Greeks. It is common to all the ballads of
Europe, as M. Ampère has pointed out, and may be observed in the
'Chanson de Roland,' and in Homer.

While the corn ripened, Wäinämöinen rested from his labours, and took
the task of Orpheus. 'He sang,' says the 'Kalevala,' of the origin of
things, of the mysteries hidden from babes, that none may attain to in
this sad life, in the hours of these perishable days. The fame of the
Runoia's singing excited jealousy in the breast of one of the men
around him, of whose origin the 'Kalevala' gives no account. This man,
Joukahainen, provoked him to a trial of song, boasting, like
Empedocles, or like one of the old Celtic bards, that he had been all
things. 'When the earth was made I was there; when space was unrolled
I launched the sun on his way.' Then was Wäinämöinen wroth, and by the
force of his enchantment he rooted Joukahainen to the ground, and
suffered him not to go free without promising him the hand of his
sister Aino. The mother was delighted; but the girl wept that she must
now cover her long locks, her curls, her glory, and be the wife of
'the old imperturbable Wäinämöinen.' It is in vain that her mother
offers her dainty food and rich dresses; she flees from home, and
wanders till she meets three maidens bathing, and joins them, and is
drowned, singing a sad song: 'Ah, never may my sister come to bathe in
the sea-water, for the drops of the sea are the drops of my blood.'
This wild idea occurs in the Romaic ballad, ἡ κόρη ταξιδεύτρια,
where a drop of blood on the lips of the drowned girl tinges all the
waters of the world. To return to the fate of Aino. A swift hare runs
(as in the Zulu legend of the Origin of Death) with the tale of sorrow
to the maiden's mother, and from the mother's tears flow rivers of
water, and therein are isles with golden hills where golden birds make
melody. As for the old, the imperturbable Runoia, he loses his claim
to the latter title, he is filled with sorrow, and searches through
all the elements for his lost bride. At length he catches a fish which
is unknown to him, who, like Atlas, 'knew the depths of all the seas.'
The strange fish slips from his hands, a 'tress of hair, of drowned
maiden's hair,' floats for a moment on the foam, and too late he
recognises that 'there was never salmon yet that shone so fair, above
the nets at sea.' His lost bride has been within his reach, and now is
doubly lost to him. Suddenly the waves are cloven asunder, and the
mother of Nature and of Wäinämöinen appears, to comfort her son, like
Thetis from the deep. She bids him go and seek, in the land of
Pohjola, a bride alien to his race. After many a wild adventure,
Wäinämöinen reaches Pohjola and is kindly entreated by Loutri, the
mother of the maiden of the land. But he grows homesick, and
complains, almost in Dante's words, of the bitter bread of exile.
Loutri will only grant him her daughter's hand on condition that he
gives her a _sampo_. A sampo is a mysterious engine that grinds meal,
salt, and money. In fact, it is the mill in the well-known fairy tale,
_Why the Sea is Salt_.[178]

Wäinämöinen cannot fashion this mill himself, he must seek aid at home
from Ilmarinen, the smith who forged 'the iron vault of hollow
heaven.' As the hero returns to Kalevala, he meets the Lady of the
Rainbow, seated on the arch of the sky, weaving the golden thread. She
promises to be his, if he will accomplish certain tasks, and in the
course of those he wounds himself with an axe. The wound can only be
healed by one who knows the mystic words that hold the secret of the
birth of iron. The legend of this evil birth, how iron grew from the
milk of a maiden, and was forged by the primeval smith, Ilmarinen, to
be the bane of warlike men, is communicated by Wäinämöinen to an old
magician. The wizard then solemnly curses the iron, _as a living
thing_, and invokes the aid of the supreme God Ukko, thus bringing
together in one prayer the extremes of early religion. Then the hero
is healed, and gives thanks to the Creator, 'in whose hands is the end
of a matter.'

Returning to Kalevala, Wäinämöinen sends Ilmarinen to Pohjola to make
the sampo, 'a mill for corn one day, for salt the next, for money the
next.' The fatal treasure is concealed by Loutri, and is obviously to
play the part of the fairy hoard in the 'Nibelungen Lied.'

With the eleventh canto a new hero, Ahti, or Lemminkainen, and a new
cycle of adventures, is abruptly introduced. Lemminkainen is a
profligate wanderer, with as many loves as Hercules. The fact that he
is regarded as a form of the sea-god makes it strange that his most
noted achievement, the seduction of the whole female population of his
island, should correspond with a like feat of Krishna's. 'Sixteen
thousand and one hundred,' says the Vishnu Purana, 'was the number of
the maidens; and into so many forms did the son of Madhu multiply
himself, so that every one of the damsels thought that he had wedded
her in her single person.' Krishna is the sun, perhaps, and the
maidens are the dew-drops; it is to be hoped that Lemminkainen's
connection with sea-water may save him from the solar hypothesis. His
first regular marriage is unhappy, and he is slain in trying to
capture a bride from the people of Pohjola. The black waters of the
river of forgetfulness sweep him away, and his comb, which he left
with his mother, bursts out bleeding--a frequent incident in Russian
and other fairy tales. In many household tales, the hero, before
setting out on a journey, erects a stick which will fall down when he
is in distress, or death. The natives of Australia use this form of
divination in actual practice, tying round the stick some of the hair
of the person whose fate is to be ascertained. Then, like Demeter
seeking Persephone, the mother questions all the beings of the world,
and their answers show a wonderful poetic sympathy with the silent
life of Nature. 'The moon said, I have sorrows enough of my own,
without thinking of thy child. My lot is hard, my days are evil. I am
born to wander companionless in the night, to shine in the season of
frost, to watch through the endless winter, to fade when summer comes
as king.' The sun is kinder, and reveals the place of the hero's body.
The mother collects the scattered limbs, the birds bring healing balm
from the heights of heaven, and after a hymn to the goddess of man's
blood, Lemminkainen is made sound and well, as the scattered
'fragments of no more a man' were united by the spell of Medea, like
those of Osiris by Isis, or of the fair countess by the demon
blacksmith in the Russian _Märchen_, or of the Carib hero mentioned by
Mr. M'Lennan,[179] or of the ox in the South African household tale.

With the sixteenth canto we turn to Wäinämöinen, who, like all epic
heroes, visits the place of the dead, Tuonela. The maidens who play
the part of Charon are with difficulty induced to ferry over a man
bearing no mark of death by fire or sword or water. Once among the
dead, Wäinämöinen refuses--being wiser than Psyche or Persephone--to
taste of drink. This 'taboo' is found in Japanese, Melanesian, and Red
Indian accounts of the homes of the dead. Thus the hero is able to
return and behold the stars. Arrived in the upper world, he warns men
to 'beware of perverting innocence, of leading astray the pure of
heart; they that do these things shall be punished eternally in the
depths of Tuoni. There is a place prepared for evil-doers, a bed of
stones burning, rocks of fire, worms and serpents.' This speech throws
but little light on the question of how far a doctrine of rewards and
punishments enters into primitive ideas of a future state. The
'Kalevala,' as we possess it, is necessarily, though faintly, tinged
with Christianity; and the peculiar vices which are here threatened
with punishment are not those which would have been most likely to
occur to the early heathen singers of this _runot_.

Wäinämöinen and Ilmarinen now go together to Pohjola, but the fickle
maiden of the land prefers the young forger of the sampo to his elder
and imperturbable companion. Like a northern Medea, or like the
Master-maid in Dr. Dasent's _Tales from the Norse_, or like the hero
of the Algonquin tale and the Samoan ballad, she aids her alien lover
to accomplish the tasks assigned to him. He ploughs with a plough of
gold the adder-close, or field of serpents; he bridles the wolf and
the bear of the lower world, and catches the pike that swim in the
waters of forgetfulness. After this, the parents cannot refuse their
consent, the wedding-feast is prepared, and all the world, except the
_séduisant_ Lemminkainen, is bidden to the banquet. The narrative now
brings in the ballads that are sung at a Finnish marriage.

First, the son-in-law enters the house of the parents of the bride,
saying, 'Peace abide with you in this illustrious hall.' The mother
answers, 'Peace be with you even in this lowly hut.' Then Wäinämöinen
began to sing, and no man was so hardy as to clasp hands and contend
with him in song. Next follow the songs of farewell, the mother
telling the daughter of what she will have to endure in a strange
home: 'Thy life was soft and delicate in thy father's house. Milk and
butter were ready to thy hand; thou wert as a flower of the field, as
a strawberry of the wood; all care was left to the pines of the
forest, all wailing to the wind in the woods of barren lands. But now
thou goest to another home, to an alien mother, to doors that grate
strangely on their hinges.' 'My thoughts,' the maiden replies, 'are as
a dark night of autumn, as a cloudy day of winter; my heart is sadder
than the autumn night, more weary than the winter day.' The maid and
the bridegroom are then lyrically instructed in their duties: the girl
is to be long-suffering, the husband to try five years' gentle
treatment before he cuts a willow wand for his wife's correction. The
bridal party sets out for home, a new feast is spread, and the
bridegroom congratulated on the courage he must have shown in stealing
a girl from a hostile tribe.

While all is merry, the mischievous Lemminkainen sets out, an unbidden
guest, for Pohjola. On his way he encounters a serpent, which he slays
by the song of serpent-charming. In this 'mystic chain of verse' the
serpent is not addressed as the gentle reptile, god of southern
peoples, but is spoken of with all hatred and loathing: 'Black
creeping thing of the low lands, monster flecked with the colours of
death, thou that hast on thy skin the stain of the sterile soil, get
thee forth from the path of a hero.' After slaying the serpent,
Lemminkainen reaches Pohjola, kills one of his hosts, and fixes his
head on one of a thousand stakes for human skulls that stood about
the house, as they might round the hut of a Dyak in Borneo. He then
flees to the isle of Saari, whence he is driven for his heroic
profligacy, and by the hatred of the only girl whom he has _not_
wronged. This is a very pretty touch of human nature.

He now meditates a new incursion into Pohjola. The mother of Pohjola
(it is just worth noticing that the leadership assumed by this woman
points to a state of society when the family was scarcely formed)
calls to her aid 'her child the Frost'; but the frost is put to shame
by a hymn of the invader's, a song against the Cold: 'The serpent was
his foster-mother, the serpent with her barren breasts; the wind of
the north rocked his cradle, and the ice-wind sang him to sleep, in
the midst of the wild marsh-land, where the wells of the waters
begin.' It is a curious instance of the animism, the vivid power of
personifying all the beings and forces of nature, which marks the
'Kalevala,' that the Cold speaks to Lemminkainen in human voice, and
seeks a reconciliation.

At this part of the epic there is an obvious lacuna. The story goes to
Kullervo, a luckless man, who serves as shepherd to Ilmarinen.
Thinking himself ill-treated by the heroic smith's wife, the shepherd
changes his flock into bears and wolves, which devour their mistress.
Then he returns to his own home, where he learns that his sister has
been lost for many days, and is believed to be dead. Travelling in
search of her he meets a girl, loves her, and all unwittingly commits
an inexpiable offence. 'Then,' says the 'Kalevala,' 'came up the new
dawn, and the maiden spoke, saying, "What is thy race, bold young
man, and who is thy father?" Kullervo said, "I am the wretched son of
Kalerva; but tell me, what is thy race, and who is thy father?" Then
said the maiden, "I am the wretched daughter of Kalerva. Ah! would God
that I had died, then might I have grown with the green grass, and
blossomed with the flowers, and never known this sorrow." With this
she sprang into the midst of the foaming waves, and found peace in
Tuoni, and rest in the waters of forgetfulness.' Then there was no
word for Kullervo, but the bitter moan of the brother in the terrible
Scotch ballad of the _Bonny Hind_, and no rest but in death by his own
sword, where grass grows never on his sister's tomb.

The epic now draws to a close. Ilmarinen seeks a new wife in Pohja,
and endeavours with Wäinämöinen's help to recover the mystic sampo. On
the voyage, the Runoia makes a harp out of the bones of a monstrous
fish, so strange a harp that none may play it but himself. When he
played, all four-footed things came about him, and the white birds
dropped down 'like a storm of snow.' The maidens of the sun and the
moon paused in their weaving, and the golden thread fell from their
hands. The Ancient One of the sea-water listened, and the nymphs of
the wells forgot to comb their loose locks with the golden combs. All
men and maidens and little children wept, amid the silent joy of
nature; nay, the great harper wept, and _of his tears were pearls

In the war with Pohjola the heroes were victorious, but the sampo was
broken in the fight, and lost in the sea, and that, perhaps, is 'why
the sea is salt.' Fragments were collected, however, and Loutri,
furious at the success of the heroes of Kalevala, sent against them a
bear, destructive as the boar of Calydon. But Wäinämöinen despatched
the monster, and the body was brought home with the bear-dance, and
the hymn of the bear. 'Oh, Otso,' cry 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.' The Finnish savants are probably right, who find here a trace
of the beast-worship which in many lands has placed the bear among the
number of the stars. Propitiation of the bear is practised by Red
Indians, by the Ainos of Japan, and (in the case of the 'native bear')
by Australians. The Red Indians have a myth to prove that the bear is
immortal, does not die, but, after his apparent death, rises again in
another body. There is no trace, however, that the Finns claimed, like
the Danes, descent from the bear. The Lapps, a people of confused
belief, worshipped him along with Thor, Christ, the sun, and the

But another cult, an alien creed, is approaching Kalevala. There is no
part of the poem more strange than the closing canto, which tells in
the wildest language, and through the most exaggerated forms of savage
imagination, the tale of the introduction of Christianity. Marjatta
was a maiden, 'as pure as the dew is, as holy as stars are that live
without stain.' As she fed her flocks, and listened to the singing of
the golden cuckoo, a berry fell into her bosom. After many days she
bore a child, and the people despised and rejected her, and she was
thrust forth, and her babe was born in a stable, and cradled in the
manger. Who should baptise the babe? The god of the wilderness
refused, and Wäinämöinen would have had the young child slain. Then
the infant rebuked the ancient Demigod, who fled in anger to the sea,
and with his magic song he built a magic barque, and he sat therein,
and took the helm in his hand. The tide bore him out to sea, and he
lifted his voice and sang: 'Times go by, and suns shall rise and set,
and then shall men have need of me, and shall look for the promise of
my coming that I may make a new sampo, and a new harp, and bring back
sunlight and moonshine, and the joy that is banished from the world.'
Then he crossed the waters, and gained the limits of the sea, and the
lower spaces of the sky.

Here the strange poem ends at its strangest moment, with the cry,
which must have been uttered so often, but is heard here alone, of a
people reluctantly deserting the gods that it has fashioned in its own
likeness, for a faith that has not sprung from its needs or fears. Yet
it cherishes the hope that this tyranny shall pass over: 'they are
gods, and behold they shall die, and the waves be upon them at last.'

As the 'Kalevala,' and as all relics of folklore, all _Märchen_ and
ballads prove, the lower mythology--the elemental beliefs of the
people--do survive beneath a thin covering of Christian conformity.
There are, in fact, in religion, as in society, two worlds, of which
the one does not know how the other lives. The class whose literature
we inherit, under whose institutions we live, at whose shrines we
worship, has changed as outworn raiment its manners, its gods, its
laws; has looked before and after, has hoped and forgotten, has
advanced from the wilder and grosser to the purest faith. Beneath the
progressive class, and beneath the waves of this troublesome world,
there exists an order whose primitive form of human life has been far
less changeful, a class which has put on a mere semblance of new
faiths, while half-consciously retaining the remains of immemorial

Obviously, as M. Fauriel has pointed out in the case of the modern
Greeks, the life of such folk contains no element of progress, admits
no break in continuity. Conquering armies pass and leave them still
reaping the harvest of field and river; religions appear, and they are
baptised by thousands, but the lower beliefs and dreads that the
progressive class has outgrown remain unchanged.

Thus, to take the instance of modern Greece, the high gods of the
divine race of Achilles and Agamemnon are forgotten, but the
descendants of the Penestæ, the _villeins_ of Thessaly, still dread
the beings of the popular creed, the Nereids, the Cyclopes, and the

The last lesson we would attempt to gather from the 'Kalevala' is
this: that a comparison of the _thoroughly popular_ beliefs of all
countries, the beliefs cherished by the non-literary classes whose
ballads and fairy tales have only recently been collected, would
probably reveal a general identity, concealed by diversity of name,
among the 'lesser people of the skies,' the elves, fairies, cyclopes,
giants, nereids, brownies, lamiæ. It could then be shown that some of
these spirits survive among the lower beings of the mythology of what
the Germans call a _cultur-volk_ like the Greeks or Romans. It could
also be proved that much of the narrative element in the classic epics
is to be found in a popular or childish form in primitive fairy tales.
The question would then come to be, Have the higher mythologies been
developed, by artistic poets, out of the materials of a race which
remained comparatively untouched by culture; or are the lower spirits,
and the more simple and puerile forms of myth, degradations of the
inventions of a cultivated class? In the majority of cases, the former
theory is correct.


[172] Talvj, _Charakteristik der Volkslieder_, p. 3.

[173] Fauriel, _Chants de la Grèce moderne_.

[174] Thus Scotland scarcely produced any ballads, properly speaking,
after the Reformation. The Kirk suppressed the dances to whose motion
the ballad was sung in Scotland, as in Greece, Provence, and France.

[175] L. Preller's _Ausgewählte Aufsätze_. Greek ideas on the origin
of Man. It is curious that the myth of a gold, a silver, and a copper
race occurs in South America. See Brasseur de Bourbourg's _Notes on
the Popol Vuh_.

[176] See essay on _Early History of the Family_.

[177] This constant struggle may be, and of course by one school of
comparative mythologists will be, represented as the strife between
light and darkness, the sun's rays, and the clouds of night, and so
on. M. Castren has well pointed out that the struggle has really an
historical meaning. Even if the myth be an elementary one, its
constructors must have been in the exogamous stage of society.

[178] Sampo _may_ be derived from a Thibetan word, meaning 'fountain
of good,' or it may possibly be connected with the Swedish _stamp_, a
hand-mill. The talisman is made of all the quaint odds and ends that
the Fetichist treasures, swan's feathers, flocks of wool, and so on.

[179] _Fortnightly Review_, 1869: 'The Worship of Plants and Animals.'

[180] Mr. M'Lennan in the _Fortnightly Review_, February, 1870.

[181] M. Schmidt, _Volksleben der Neugriechen_, finds comparatively
few traces of the worship of Zeus, and these mainly in proverbial


There is something remarkable, and not flattering to human sagacity,
in the periodical resurrection of superstitions. Houses, for example,
go on being 'haunted' in country districts, and no educated man
notices the circumstance. Then comes a case like that of the Drummer
of Tedworth, or the Cock Lane Ghost, and society is deeply moved,
philosophers plunge into controversy, and he who grubs among the dusty
tracts of the past finds a world of fugitive literature on forgotten
bogies. Chairs move untouched by human hands, and tables walk about in
lonely castles of Savoy, and no one marks them, till a day comes when
the furniture of some American cottage is similarly afflicted, and
then a shoddy new religion is based on the phenomenon. The latest
revival among old beliefs is faith in the divining rod. 'Our liberal
shepherds give it a _shorter_ name,' and so do our conservative
peasants, calling the 'rod of Jacob' the 'twig.' To 'work the twig' is
rural English for the craft of Dousterswivel in the _Antiquary_, and
perhaps from this comes our slang expression to 'twig,' or divine, the
hidden meaning of another. Recent correspondence in the newspapers has
proved that, whatever may be the truth about the 'twig,' belief in
its powers is still very prevalent. Respectable people are not ashamed
to bear signed witness to its miraculous powers of detecting springs
of water and secret mines. It is habitually used by the miners in the
Mendips, as Mr. Woodward found ten years ago; and forked hazel
divining rods from the Mendips are a recognised part of ethnological
collections. There are two ways of investigating the facts or fancies
about the rod. One is to examine it in its actual operation--a task of
considerable labour, which will doubtless be undertaken by the Society
for Psychical Research; the other, and easier, way is to study the
appearances of the divining wand in history, and that is what we
propose to do in this article.

When a superstition or belief is widely spread in Europe, as the faith
in the divining rod certainly is (in Germany rods are hidden under
babies' clothes when they are baptised), we naturally expect to find
traces of it in ancient times and among savages all over the modern
world. We have already examined in 'The Bull-Roarer' a very similar
example. We saw that there is a magical instrument--a small
fish-shaped piece of thin flat wood tied to a thong--which, when
whirled in the air, produces a strange noise, a compound of roar and
buzz. This instrument is sacred among the natives of Australia, where
it is used to call together the men, and to frighten away the women
from the religious mysteries of the males. The same instrument is
employed for similar purposes in New Mexico, and in South Africa and
New Zealand--parts of the world very widely distant from each other,
and inhabited by very diverse races. It has also been lately
discovered that the Greeks used this toy, which they called ῥόμβος,
in the Mysteries of Dionysus, and possibly it may be identical with
the _mystica vannus Iacchi_ (Virgil, _Georgics_, i. 166). The
conclusion drawn by the ethnologist is that this object, called
_turndun_ by the Australians, is a very early savage invention,
probably discovered and applied to religious purposes in various
separate centres, and retained from the age of savagery in the mystic
rites of Greeks and perhaps of Romans. Well, do we find anything
analogous in the case of the divining rod?

Future researches may increase our knowledge, but at present little or
nothing is known of the divining rod in classical ages, and not very
much (though that little is significant) among uncivilised races. It
is true that in all countries rods or wands, the Latin _virga_, have a
magical power. Virgil obtained his mediæval repute as a wizard because
his name was erroneously connected with _virgula_, the magic wand. But
we do not actually know that the ancient wand of the enchantress
Circe, in Homer, or the wand of Hermes, was used, like the divining
rod, to indicate the whereabouts of hidden wealth or water. In the
Homeric hymn to Hermes (line 529), Apollo thus describes the
_caduceus_, or wand of Hermes: 'Thereafter will I give thee a lovely
wand of wealth and riches, a golden wand with three leaves, which
shall keep thee ever unharmed.' In later art this wand, or _caduceus_,
is usually entwined with serpents; but on one vase, at least, the wand
of Hermes is simply the forked twig of our rustic miners and
water-finders. The same form is found on an engraved Etruscan

Now, was a wand of this form used in classical times to discover
hidden objects of value? That wands were used by Scythians and Germans
in various methods of casting lots is certain; but that is not the
same thing as the working of the twig. Cicero speaks of a fabled wand
by which wealth can be procured; but he says nothing of the method of
its use, and possibly was only thinking of the rod of Hermes, as
described in the Homeric hymn already quoted. There was a Roman
_satura_, by Varro, called 'Virgula Divina'; fragments remain, but
throw no light on the subject. A passage usually quoted from Seneca
has no more to do with the divining rod than with the telephone. Pliny
is a writer extremely fond of marvels; yet when he describes the
various modes of finding wells of water, he says nothing about the
divining wand. The isolated texts from Scripture which are usually
referred to clearly indicate wands of a different sort, if we except
Hosea iv. 12, the passage used as motto by the author of _Lettres qui
découvrent l'illusion des Philosophes sur la Baguette_ (1696). This
text is translated in our Bible, 'My people ask counsel at their
stocks, _and their staff declareth unto them_.' Now, we have here no
reference to the search for wells and minerals, but to a form of
divination for which the modern twig has ceased to be applied. In
rural England people use the wand to find water, but not to give
advice, or to detect thieves or murderers; but, as we shall see, the
rod has been very much used for these purposes within the last three

This brings us to the moral powers of the twig; and here we find some
assistance in our inquiry from the practices of uncivilised races. In
1719 John Bell was travelling across Asia; he fell in with a Russian
merchant, who told him of a custom common among the Mongols. The
Russian had lost certain pieces of cloth, which were stolen out of his
tent. The Kutuchtu Lama ordered the proper steps to be taken to find
out the thief. 'One of the Lamas took a bench with four feet, and
after turning it in several directions, at last it pointed directly to
the tent where the stolen goods were concealed. The Lama now mounted
across the bench, and soon carried it, or, as was commonly believed,
it carried him, to the very tent, where he ordered the damask to be
produced. The demand was directly complied with; for it is vain in
such cases to offer any excuse.'[183] Here we have not a wand, indeed,
but a wooden object which turned in the direction, not of water or
minerals, but of human guilt. A better instance is given by the Rev.
H. Rowley, in his account of the Mauganja.[184] A thief had stolen
some corn. The medicine-man, or sorcerer, produced two sticks, which
he gave to four young men, two holding each stick. The medicine-man
danced and sang a magical incantation, while a zebra-tail and a rattle
were shaken over the holders of the sticks. 'After a while, the men
with the sticks had spasmodic twitchings of the arms and legs; these
increased nearly to convulsions.... According to the native idea, _it
was the sticks which were possessed primarily_, and through them the
men, _who could hardly hold them_. The sticks whirled and dragged the
men round and round like mad, through bush and thorny shrub, and over
every obstacle; nothing stopped them; their bodies were torn and
bleeding. At last they came back to the assembly, whirled round again,
and rushed down the path to fall panting and exhausted in the hut of
one of a chief's wives. The sticks, rolling to her very feet,
denounced her as a thief. She denied it; but the medicine-man
answered, "The spirit has declared her guilty; the spirit never
lies."' The woman, however, was acquitted, after a proxy trial by
ordeal: a cock, used as her proxy, threw up the _muavi_, or

Here the points to be noted are, first, the violent movement of the
sticks, which the men could hardly hold; next, the physical agitation
of the men. The former point is illustrated by the confession of a
civil engineer writing in the _Times_. This gentleman had seen the rod
successfully used for water; he was asked to try it himself, and he
determined that it should not twist in his hands 'if an ocean rolled
under his feet.' Twist it did, however, in spite of all his efforts to
hold it, when he came above a concealed spring. Another example is
quoted in the _Quarterly Review_, vol. xxii. p. 374. A narrator, in
whom the editor 'had implicit confidence,' mentions how, when a lady
held the twig just over a hidden well, 'the twig turned so quick as
to snap, breaking near her fingers.' There seems to be no indiscretion
in saying, as the statement has often been printed before, that the
lady spoken of in the _Quarterly Review_ was Lady Milbanke, mother of
the wife of Byron. Dr. Hutton, the geologist, is quoted as a witness
of her success in the search for water with the divining rod. He says
that, in an experiment at Woolwich, 'the twigs twisted themselves off
below her fingers which were considerably indented by so forcibly
holding the rods between them.'[185] Next, the violent excitement of
the four young men of the Mauganja is paralleled by the physical
experience of the lady quoted in the _Quarterly Review_. 'A degree of
agitation was visible in her face when she first made the experiment;
she says this agitation was great' when she began to practise the art,
or whatever we are to call it. Again, in _Lettres qui découvrent
l'illusion_ (p. 93), we read that Jacques Aymar (who discovered the
Lyons murderer in 1692) _se sent tout ému_--feels greatly
agitated--when he comes on that of which he is in search. On page 97
of the same volume, the body of the man who holds the divining rod is
described as 'violently agitated.' When Aymar entered the room where
the murder, to be described later, was committed, 'his pulse rose as
if he were in a burning fever, and the wand turned rapidly in his
hands' (_Lettres_, p. 107). But the most singular parallel to the
performance of the African wizard must be quoted from a curious
pamphlet already referred to, a translation of the old French _Verge
de Jacob_, written, annotated, and published by a Mr. Thomas Welton.
Mr. Welton seems to have been a believer in mesmerism, animal
magnetism, and similar doctrines, but the coincidence of his story
with that of the African sorcerer is none the less remarkable. It is a
coincidence which must almost certainly be 'undesigned.' Mr. Welton's
wife was what modern occult philosophers call a 'Sensitive.' In 1851,
he wished her to try an experiment with the rod in a garden, and sent
a maid-servant to bring 'a certain stick that stood behind the parlour
door. In great terror she brought it to the garden, her hand firmly
clutched on the stick, nor could she let it go....' The stick was
given to Mrs. Welton, 'and it drew her with very considerable force to
nearly the centre of the garden, to a bed of poppies, where she
stopped.' Here water was found, and the gardener, who had given up his
lease as there was no well in the garden, had the lease renewed.

We began by giving evidence to show (and much more might be adduced)
that the belief in the divining rod, or in analogous instruments, is
not confined to the European races. The superstition, or whatever we
are to call it, produces the same effects of physical agitation, and
the use of the rod is accompanied with similar phenomena among
Mongols, English people, Frenchmen, and the natives of Central Africa.
The same coincidences are found in almost all superstitious practices,
and in the effects of these practices on believers. The Chinese use a
form of _planchette_, which is half a divining rod--a branch of the
peach tree; and 'spiritualism' is more than three-quarters of the
religion of most savage tribes, a Maori _séance_ being more impressive
than anything the civilised Sludge can offer his credulous patrons.
From these facts different people draw different inferences. Believers
say that the wide distribution of their favourite mysteries is a proof
that 'there is something in them.' The incredulous look on our modern
'twigs' and turning-tables and ghost stories as mere 'survivals' from
the stage of savage culture, or want of culture, when the fancy of
half-starved man was active and his reason uncritical.

The great authority for the modern history of the divining rod is a
work published by M. Chevreuil, in Paris, in 1854. M. Chevreuil,
probably with truth, regarded the wand as much on a par with the
turning-tables, which, in 1854, attracted a good deal of attention. He
studied the topic historically, and his book, with a few accessible
French tracts and letters of the seventeenth century, must here be our
guide. A good deal of M. Chevreuil's learning, it should be said, is
reproduced in Mr. Baring Gould's _Curious Myths of the Middle Ages_,
but the French author is much more exhaustive in his treatment of the
topic. M. Chevreuil could find no earlier book on the twig than the
_Testament du Frère Basil Valentin_, a holy man who flourished (the
twig) about 1413; but whose treatise is possibly apocryphal. According
to Basil Valentin, the twig was regarded with awe by ignorant
labouring men, which is still true. Paracelsus, though he has a
reputation for magical daring, thought the use of the twig 'uncertain
and unlawful'; and Agricola, in his _De Re Metallica_ (1546),
expresses a good deal of scepticism about the use of the rod in
mining. A traveller of 1554 found that the wand was _not_ used--and
this seems to have surprised him--in the mines of Macedonia. Most of
the writers of the sixteenth century accounted for the turning of the
rod by 'sympathy,' which was then as favourite an explanation of
everything as evolution is to-day. In 1630 the Baron de Beau Soleil of
Bohemia (his name sounds rather Bohemian) came to France with his
wife, and made much use of the rod in the search for water and
minerals. The Baroness wrote a little volume on the subject,
afterwards reprinted in a great storehouse of this lore, _La Physique
Occulte_, of Vallemont. Kircher, a Jesuit, made experiments which came
to nothing; but Gaspard Schott, a learned writer, cautiously declined
to say that the Devil was always 'at the bottom of it' when the rod
turned successfully. The problem of the rod was placed before our own
Royal Society by Boyle, in 1666, but the Society was not more
successful here than in dealing with the philosophical difficulty
proposed by Charles II. In 1679 De Saint Romain, deserting the old
hypothesis of secret 'sympathies,' explained the motion of the rod
(supposing it to move) by the action of _corpuscules_. From this time
the question became the playing ground of the Cartesian and other
philosophers. The struggle was between theories of 'atoms,' magnetism,
'corpuscules,' electric effluvia, and so forth, on one side, and the
immediate action of devils or of conscious imposture, on the other.
The controversy, comparatively simple as long as the rod only
indicated hidden water or minerals, was complicated by the revival of
the savage belief that the wand could 'smell out' moral offences. As
long as the twig turned over material objects, you could imagine
sympathies and 'effluvia' at pleasure. But when the wand twirled over
the scene of a murder, or dragged the expert after the traces of the
culprit, fresh explanations were wanted. Le Brun wrote to Malebranche
on July 8, 1689, to tell him that the wand only turned over what the
holder had the _intention_ of discovering.[186] If he were following a
murderer, the wand good-naturedly refused to distract him by turning
over hidden water. On the other hand, Vallemont says that when a
peasant was using the wand to find water, it turned over a spot in a
wood where a murdered woman was buried, and it conducted the peasant
to the murderer's house. These events seem inconsistent with Le Brun's
theory of _intention_. Malebranche replied, in effect, that he had
only heard of the turning of the wand over water and minerals; that it
then turned (if turn it did) by virtue of some such force as
electricity; that, if such force existed, the wand would turn over
open water. But it does not so turn; and, as physical causes are
constant, it follows that the turning of the rod cannot be the result
of a physical cause. The only other explanation is an intelligent
cause--either the will of an impostor, or the action of a spirit. Good
spirits would not meddle with such matters; therefore either the Devil
or an impostor causes the motion of the rod, if it _does_ move at
all. This logic of Malebranche's is not agreeable to believers in the
twig; but there the controversy stood, till, in 1692, Jacques Aymar, a
peasant of Dauphiné, by the use of the twig discovered one of the
Lyons murderers.

Though the story of this singular event is pretty well known, it must
here be briefly repeated. No affair can be better authenticated, and
our version is abridged from the 'Relations' of 'Monsieur le Procureur
du Roi, Monsieur l'Abbé de la Garde, Monsieur Panthot, Doyen des
Médecins de Lyon, et Monsieur Aubert, Avocat célèbre.'

On July 5, 1692, a vintner and his wife were found dead in the cellar
of their shop at Lyons. They had been killed by blows from a
hedging-knife, and their money had been stolen. The culprits could not
be discovered, and a neighbour took upon him to bring to Lyons a
peasant out of Dauphiné, named Jacques Aymar, a man noted for his
skill with the divining rod. The Lieutenant-Criminel and the Procureur
du Roi took Aymar into the cellar, furnishing him with a rod of the
first wood that came to hand. According to the Procureur du Roi, the
rod did not move till Aymar reached the very spot where the crime had
been committed. His pulse then rose, and the wand twisted rapidly.
'Guided by the wand or by some internal sensation,' Aymar now pursued
the track of the assassins, entered the court of the Archbishop's
palace, left the town by the bridge over the Rhone, and followed the
right bank of the river. He reached a gardener's house, which he
declared the men had entered, and some children confessed that three
men (_whom they described_) had come into the house one Sunday
morning. Aymar followed the track up the river, pointed out all the
places where the men had landed, and, to make a long story short,
stopped at last at the door of the prison of Beaucaire. He was
admitted, looked at the prisoners, and picked out as the murderer a
little hunchback (had the children described a hunchback?) who had
just been brought in for a small theft. The hunchback was taken to
Lyons, and he was recognised, on the way, by the people at all the
stages where he had stopped. At Lyons he was examined in the usual
manner, and confessed that he had been an accomplice in the crime, and
had guarded the door. Aymar pursued the other culprits to the coast,
followed them by sea, landed where they had landed, and only desisted
from his search when they crossed the frontier. As for the hunchback,
he was broken on the wheel, being condemned on his own confession. It
does not appear that he was put to the torture to make him confess. If
this had been done his admissions would, of course, have been as
valueless as those of the victims in trials for witchcraft.

This is, in brief, the history of the famous Lyons murders. It must be
added that many experiments were made with Aymar in Paris, and that
they were all failures. He fell into every trap that was set for him;
detected thieves who were innocent, failed to detect the guilty, and
invented absurd excuses; alleging, for example, that the rod would not
indicate a murderer who had confessed, or who was drunk when he
committed his crime. These excuses seem to annihilate the wild
contemporary theory of Chauvin and others, that the body of a murderer
naturally exhales an invisible _matière meurtrière_--peculiar
indestructible atoms, which may be detected by the expert with the
rod. Something like the same theory, we believe, has been used to
explain the pretended phenomena of haunted houses. But the wildest
philosophical credulity is staggered by a _matière meurtrière_ which
is disengaged by the body of a sober, but not by that of an
intoxicated, murderer, which survives tempests in the air, and endures
for many years, but is dissipated the moment the murderer confesses.
Believers in Aymar have conjectured that his real powers were
destroyed by the excitements of Paris, and that he took to imposture;
but this is an effort of too easy good-nature. When Vallemont defended
Aymar (1693) in the book called _La Physique Occulte_, he declared
that Aymar was physically affected to an unpleasant extent by _matière
meurtrière_, but was not thus agitated when he used the rod to
discover minerals. We have seen that, if modern evidence can be
trusted, holders of the rod are occasionally much agitated even when
they are only in search of wells. The story gave rise to a prolonged
controversy, and the case remains a judicial puzzle, but little
elucidated by the confession of the hunchback, who may have been
insane, or morbid, or vexed by constant questioning till he was weary
of his life. He was only nineteen years of age.

The next use of the rod was very much like that of 'tipping' and
turning tables. Experts held it (as did Le Père Ménestrier, 1694),
questions were asked, and the wand answered by turning in various
directions. By way of showing the inconsistency of all philosophies of
the wand, it may be said that one girl found that it turned over
concealed gold if she held gold in her hand, while another found that
it indicated the metal so long as she did _not_ carry gold with her in
the quest. In the search for water, ecclesiastics were particularly
fond of using the rod. The Maréchal de Boufflers dug many wells, and
found no water, on the indications of a rod in the hands of the Prieur
de Dorenic, near Guise. In 1700 a curé, near Toulouse, used the wand
to answer questions, which, like _planchette_, it often answered
wrong. The great _sourcier_, or water-finder, of the eighteenth
century was one Bleton. He declared that the rod was a mere index, and
that physical sensations of the searcher communicated themselves to
the wand. This is the reverse of the African theory, that the stick is
inspired, while the men who hold it are only influenced by the stick.
On the whole, Bleton's idea seems the less absurd, but Bleton himself
often failed when watched with scientific care by the incredulous.
Paramelle, who wrote on methods of discovering wells, in 1856, came to
the conclusion that the wand turns in the hands of certain individuals
of peculiar temperament, and that it is very much a matter of chance
whether there are, or are not, wells in the places where it turns.

On the whole, the evidence for the turning of the wand is a shade
better than that for the magical turning of tables. If there are no
phenomena of this sort at all, it is remarkable that the belief in
them is so widely diffused. But if the phenomena are purely
subjective, owing to the conscious or unconscious action of nervous
patients, then they are precisely of the sort which the cunning
medicine-man observes, and makes his profit out of, even in the
earliest stages of society. Once introduced, these practices never die
out among the conservative and unprogressive class of peasants; and,
every now and then, they attract the curiosity of philosophers, or win
the belief of the credulous among the educated classes. Then comes, as
we have lately seen, a revival of ancient superstition. For it were as
easy to pluck the comet out of the sky by the tail, as to eradicate
superstition from the mind of man.

Perhaps one good word may be said for the divining rod. Considering
the chances it has enjoyed, the rod has done less mischief than might
have been expected. It might very well have become, in Europe, as in
Asia and Africa, a kind of ordeal, or method of searching for and
trying malefactors. Men like Jacques Aymar might have played, on a
larger scale, the part of Hopkins, the witch-finder. Aymar was,
indeed, employed by some young men to point out, by help of the wand,
the houses of ladies who had been more frail than faithful. But at the
end of the seventeenth century in France, this research was not
regarded with favour, and put the final touch on the discomfiture of
Aymar. So far as we know, the hunchback of Lyons was the only victim
of the 'twig' who ever suffered in civilised society. It is true that,
in rural England, the movements of a Bible, suspended like a pendulum,
have been thought to point out the guilty. But even that evidence is
not held good enough to go to a jury.


[182] Preller, _Ausgewählte Aufsätze_, p. 154.

[183] Tylor, _Prim. Cult._, ii. 156. Pinkerton, vii. 357.

[184] _Universities Mission to Central Africa_, p. 217. _Prim. Cult._,
ii. 156, 157.

[185] Quoted in _Jacob's Rod_: London, n.d., a translation of _La
Verge de Jacob_, Lyon, 1693.

[186] _Lettres sur la Baguette_, pp. 106-112.


'What makes mythology mythological, in the true sense of the word, is
what is utterly unintelligible, absurd, strange, or miraculous.' So
says Mr. Max Müller in the January number of the _Nineteenth Century_
for 1882. Men's attention would never have been surprised into the
perpetual study and questioning of mythology if it had been
intelligible and dignified, and if its report had been in accordance
with the reason of civilised and cultivated races. What mythologists
wish to discover is the origin of the countless disgusting, amazing,
and incongruous legends which occur in the myths of all known peoples.
According to Mr. Müller--

    There are only two systems possible in which the irrational
    element in mythology can be accounted for. One school takes
    the irrational as a matter of fact; and if we read that
    Daphne fled from Phœbus, and was changed into a laurel tree,
    that school would say that there probably was a young lady
    called Aurora, like, for instance, Aurora Königsmark; that a
    young man called Robin, or possibly a man with red hair,
    pursued her, and that she hid behind a laurel tree that
    happened to be there. This was the theory of Euhemeros,
    re-established by the famous Abbé Bernier [Mr. Müller
    doubtless means Banier], and not quite extinct even now.
    According to another school, the irrational element in
    mythology is inevitable, and due to the influence of language
    on thought, so that many of the legends of gods and heroes
    may be rendered intelligible if only we can discover the
    original meaning of their proper names. The followers of this
    school try to show that Daphne, the laurel tree, was an old
    name for the dawn, and that Phoibos was one of the many names
    of the sun, who pursued the dawn till she vanished before his
    rays. Of these two schools, the former has always appealed to
    the mythologies of savage nations, as showing that gods and
    heroes were originally human beings, worshipped after their
    death as ancestors and as gods, while the latter has confined
    itself chiefly to an etymological analysis of mythological
    names in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, and other languages,
    such as had been sufficiently studied to admit of a
    scientific, grammatical, and etymological treatment.

This is a long text for our remarks on Hottentot mythology; but it is
necessary to prove that there are not two schools only of
mythologists: that there are inquirers who neither follow the path of
Abbé Banier, nor of the philologists, but a third way, unknown to, or
ignored by Mr. Müller. We certainly were quite unaware that Banier and
Euhemeros were very specially concerned, as Mr. Müller thinks, with
savage mythology; but it is by aid of savage myths that the school
unknown to Mr. Müller examines the myths of civilised people like the
Greeks. The disciples of Mr. Müller interpret all the absurdities of
Greek myth, the gods who are beasts on occasion, the stars who were
men, the men who become serpents or deer, the deities who are
cannibals and parricides and adulterers, as the result of the
influence of Aryan speech upon Aryan thought. Men, in Mr. Müller's
opinion, had originally pure ideas about the gods, and expressed them
in language which we should call figurative. The figures remained,
when their meaning was lost; the names were then supposed to be gods,
the _nomina_ became _numina_, and out of the inextricable confusion of
thought which followed, the belief in cannibal, bestial, adulterous,
and incestuous gods was evolved. That is Mr. Müller's hypothesis; with
him the evolution, a result of a disease of language, has been from
early comparative purity to later religious abominations. Opposed to
him is what may be called the school of Mr. Herbert Spencer: the
modern Euhemerism, which recognises an element of historical truth in
myths, as if the characters had been real characters, and which, in
most gods, beholds ancestral ghosts raised to a higher power.

There remains a third system of mythical interpretation, though Mr.
Müller says only two methods are possible. The method, in this third
case, is to see whether the irrational features and elements of
civilised Greek myth occur also in the myths of savages who speak
languages quite unlike those from whose diseases Mr. Müller derives
the corruption of religion. If the same features recur, are they as
much in harmony with the mental habits of savages, such as Bushmen and
Hottentots, as they are out of accord with the mental habits of
civilised Greeks? If this question can be answered in the affirmative,
then it may be provisionally assumed that the irrational elements of
savage myth are the legacy of savage modes of thought, and have
survived in the religion of Greece from a time when the ancestors of
the Greeks were savages. But inquirers who use this method do not in
the least believe that either Greek or savage gods were, for the more
part, originally real men. Both Greeks and savages have worshipped the
ghosts of the dead. Both Greeks and savages assign to their gods the
miraculous power of transformation and magic, which savages also
attribute to their conjurers or shamans. The mantle (if he had a
mantle) of the medicine-man has fallen on the god; but Zeus, or Indra,
was not once a real medicine-man. A number of factors combine in the
conception of Indra, or Zeus, as either god appears in Sanskrit or
Greek literature, of earlier or later date. Our school does not hold
anything so absurd as that Daphne was a real girl pursued by a young
man. But it has been observed that, among most savage races,
metamorphoses like that of Daphne not only exist in mythology, but are
believed to occur very frequently in actual life. Men and women are
supposed to be capable of turning into plants (as the bamboo in
Sarawak), into animals, and stones, and stars, and those metamorphoses
happen as contemporary events--for example, in Samoa.[187]

When Mr. Lane was living at Cairo, and translating the _Arabian
Nights_, he found that the people still believed in metamorphosis. Any
day, just as in the _Arabian Nights_, a man might find himself turned
by an enchanter into a pig or a horse. Similar beliefs, not derived
from language, supply the matter of the senseless incidents in Greek

Savage mythology is also full of metamorphoses. Therefore the
mythologists whose case we are stating, when they find identical
metamorphoses in the classical mythologies, conjecture that these were
first invented when the ancestors of the Aryans were in the
imaginative condition in which a score of rude races are to-day. This
explanation they apply to many other irrational elements in mythology.
They do not say 'Something like the events narrated in these stories
once occurred,' nor 'A disease of language caused the belief in such
events,' but 'These stories were invented when men were capable of
believing in their occurrence as a not unusual sort of incident.'

Philologists attempt to explain the metamorphoses as the result of
some oblivion and confusion of language. Apollo, they say, was called
the 'wolf-god' (Lukeios) by accident: his name really meant the 'god
of light.' A similar confusion made the 'seven shiners' into the
'seven bears.' These explanations are distrusted, partly because the
area to be covered by them is so vast. There is scarcely a star, tree,
or beast, but it has been a man or woman once, if we believe civilised
and savage myth. Two or three possible examples of myths originating
in forgetfulness of the meaning of words, even if admitted, do not
explain the incalculable crowd of metamorphoses. We account for these
by saying that, to the savage mind, which draws no hard and fast line
between man and nature, all such things are possible; possible enough,
at least, to be used as incidents in story. Again, as has elsewhere
been shown, the laxity of philological reasoning is often quite
extraordinary; while, lastly, philologists of the highest repute
flatly contradict each other about the meaning of the names and roots
on which they agree in founding their theory.[188]

By way of an example of the philological method as applied to savage
mythology, we choose a book in many ways admirable, Dr. Hahn's _Tsuni
Goam, the Supreme Being of the Khoi Khoi_.[189] This book is sometimes
appealed to as a crushing argument against the mythologists who adopt
the method we have just explained. Let us see if the blow be so very
crushing. To put the case in a nutshell, the Hottentots have commonly
been described as a race which worshipped a dead chief, or
conjurer--Tsui Goab his name is, meaning Wounded Knee, a not unlikely
name for a savage. Dr. Hahn, on the other hand, labours to show that
the Hottentots originally worshipped no dead chief, but (as a symbol
of the Infinite) the Red Dawn. The meaning of the name Red Dawn, he
says, was lost; the words which meant Red Dawn were erroneously
supposed to mean Wounded Knee, and thus arose the adoration and the
myths of a dead chief, or wizard, Tsui Goab, Wounded Knee. Clearly, if
this can be proved, it is an excellent case for the philological
school, an admirable example of a myth produced by forgetfulness of
the meaning of words. Our own opinion is that, even if Tsui Goab
originally meant Red Dawn, the being, as now conceived of by his
adorers, is bedizened in the trappings of the dead medicine-man, and
is worshipped just as ghosts of the dead are worshipped. Thus,
whatever his origin, his myth is freely coloured by the savage fancy
and by savage ideas, and we ask no more than this colouring to explain
the wildest Greek myths. What truly 'primitive' religion was, we make
no pretence to know. We only say that, whether Greek religion arose
from a pure fountain or not, its stream had flowed through and been
tinged by the soil of savage thought, before it widens into our view
in historical times. But it will be shown that the logic which
connects Tsui Goab with the Red Dawn is far indeed from being cogent.

Tsui Goab is thought by the Hottentots themselves to be a dead man,
and it is admitted that among the Hottentots dead men are adored.
'Cairns are still objects of worship,'[190] and Tsui Goab lies beneath
several cairns. Again, soothsayers are believed in (p. 24), and Tsui
Goab is regarded as a deceased soothsayer. As early as 1655, a witness
quoted by Hahn saw women worshipping at one of the cairns of Heitsi
Eibib, another supposed ancestral being. Kolb, the old Dutch
traveller, found that the Hottentots, like the Bushmen, revered the
mantis insect. This creature they called Gaunab. They also had some
moon myths, practised adoration of the moon, and danced at dawn.
Thunberg (1792) saw the cairn-worship, and, on asking its meaning, was
told that a Hottentot lay buried there.[191] Thunberg also heard of
the worship of the mantis, or grey grasshopper. In 1803 Liechtenstein
noted the cairn-worship, and was told that a renowned Hottentot
doctor of old times rested under the cairn. Appleyard's account of
'the name God in Khoi Khoi, or Hottentot,' deserves quoting in full:--

    Hottentot: Tsoei'koap.

    Namaqua: Tsoei'koap.

    Koranna: Tshu'koab, and the author adds: 'This is the word
    from which the Kafirs have probably derived their u-Tixo, a
    term which they have universally applied, like the
    Hottentots, to designate the Divine Being, since the
    introduction of Christianity. Its derivation is curious. It
    consists of two words, which together mean the "wounded
    knee." It is said to have been originally applied to a doctor
    or sorcerer of considerable notoriety and skill amongst the
    Hottentots or Namaquas some generations back, in consequence
    of his having received some injury in his knee. Having been
    held in high repute for extraordinary powers during life, he
    appeared to be invoked even after death, as one who could
    still relieve and protect; and hence, in process of time, he
    became nearest in idea to their first conceptions of God.'

Other missionaries make old Wounded Knee a good sort of being on the
whole, who fights Gaunab, a bad being. Dr. Moffat heard that 'Tsui
Kuap' was 'a notable warrior,' who once received a wound in the knee.
Sir James Alexander[192] found that the Namaquas believed their 'great
father' lay below the cairns on which they flung boughs. This great
father was Heitsi Eibib, and, like other medicine-men, 'he could take
many forms.' Like Tsui Goab, he died several times and rose again.
Hahn gives (p. 61) a long account of the Wounded Knee from an old
chief, and a story of the battle between Tsui Goab, who 'lives in a
beautiful heaven,' and Gaunab, who 'lives in a dark heaven.' As this
chief had dwelt among missionaries very long, we may perhaps discount
his remarks on 'heaven' as borrowed. Hahn thinks they refer to the red
sky in which Tsui Goab lived, and to the black sky which was the home
of Gaunab. The two characters in this crude religious dualism thus
inhabit light and darkness respectively.

       *       *       *       *       *

As far as we have gone, Tsui Goab, like Heitsi Eibib among the Namas,
is a dead sorcerer, whose graves are worshipped, while, with a common
inconsistency, he is also thought of as dwelling in the sky. Even
Christians often speak of the dead with similar inconsistency. Tsui
Goab's worship is intelligible enough among a people so credulous that
they took Hahn himself for a conjurer (p. 81), and so given to
ancestor-worship that Hahn has seen them worship their own fathers'
graves, and expect help from men recently dead (pp. 112, 113). But,
while the Khoi Khoi think that Tsui Goab was once a real man, we need
not share their Euhemerism. More probably, like Unkulunkulu among the
Zulus, Tsui Goab is an ideal, imaginary ancestral sorcerer and god. No
one man requires many graves, and Tsui Goab has more than Osiris
possessed in Egypt.

If the Egyptians in some immeasurably distant past were once on the
level of Namas and Hottentots, they would worship Osiris at as many
barrows as Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab are adored. In later times the
numerous graves of one being would require explanation, and
explanations would be furnished by the myth that the body of Osiris
was torn to pieces and each fragment buried in a separate tomb.

Again, lame gods occur in Greek, Australian, and Brazilian creeds, and
the very coincidence of Tsui Goab's lameness makes us sceptical about
his claims to be a real dead man. On the other hand, when Hahn tells
us that epical myths are now sung in the dances in honour of warriors
lately slain (p. 103), and that similar dances and songs were
performed in the past to honour Tsui Goab, this looks more as if Tsui
Goab had been an actual person. Against this we must set (p. 105) the
belief that Tsui Goab made the first man and woman, and was the
Prometheus of the Hottentots.

       *       *       *       *       *

So far Dr. Hahn has given us facts which entirely fit in with our
theory that an ancestor-worshipping people, believing in metamorphosis
and sorcery, adores a god who is supposed to be a deceased ancestral
sorcerer with the power of magic and metamorphosis. But now Dr. Hahn
offers his own explanation. According to the philological method, he
will 'study the names of the persons, until we arrive at the naked
root and original meanings of the words.' Starting then with Tsui
Goab, whom all evidence declares to be a dead lame conjurer and
warrior, Dr. Hahn avers that 'Tsui Goab, originally Tsuni Goam, was
the name by which the Red Men called the Infinite.' As the Frenchman
said of the derivation of _jour_ from _dies_, we may hint that the
Infinite thus transformed into a lame Hottentot 'bush-doctor' is
_diablement changé en route_. To a dead lame sorcerer from the
Infinite is a fall indeed. The process of the decline is thus
described. _Tsui Goab_ is composed of two roots, _tsu_ and _goa_.
_Goa_ means 'to go on,' 'to come on.' In Khoi Khoi _goa-b_ means 'the
coming on one,' the dawn, and _goa-b_ also means 'the knee.' Dr. Hahn
next writes (making a logical leap of extraordinary width), 'It is now
obvious that _//goab_ in Tsui Goab cannot be translated with
knee,'--why not?--'but we have to adopt the other metaphorical
meaning, the _approaching_ day, _i.e._, the dawn.' Where is the
necessity? In ordinary philology, we should here demand a number of
attested examples of _goab_, in the sense of dawn, but in Khoi Khoi we
cannot expect such evidence, as there are probably no texts. Next,
after arbitrarily deciding that all Khoi Khois misunderstand their own
tongue (for that is what the rendering here of _goab_ by 'dawn' comes
to), Dr. Hahn examines _tsu_, in _Tsui_. _Tsu_ means 'sore,'
'wounded,' 'painful,' as in 'wounded knee'--Tsui Goab. This does not
help Dr. Hahn, for 'wounded dawn' means nothing. But he reflects that
a wound is red, _tsu_ means wounded: therefore _tsu_ means red,
therefore Tsui Goab is the Red Dawn. Q.E.D.[193]

This kind of reasoning is obviously fallacious. Dr. Hahn's point could
only be made by bringing forward examples in which _tsu_ is employed
to mean red in Khoi Khoi. Of this use of the word _tsu_ he does not
give one single instance, and, in fact, does give another word for
'red,' or 'bloody.' His etymology is not strengthened by the fact that
Tsui Goab has once been said to live in the red sky. A red house is
not necessarily tenanted by a red man. Still less is the theory
supported by the hymn which says Tsui Goab paints himself with red
ochre. Most idols, from those of the Samoyeds to the Greek images of
Dionysus, are and have been daubed with red.[194] By such reasoning is
Tsui Goab proved to be the Red Dawn, while his gifts of prophecy
(which he shares with all soothsayers) are accounted for as attributes
of dawn, of the Vedic _Saranyu_.

Turning from Tsui Goab to his old enemy Gaunab, we learn that his name
is derived from _//gau_, 'to destroy,' and, according to old Hottentot
ideas, 'no one was the destroyer but the night' (p. 126). There is no
apparent reason why the destroyer should be the night, and the night
alone, any more than why 'a lame broken knee' should be 'red' (p.
126). Besides (p. 85), Gaunab is elsewhere explained, not as the
night, but as the malevolent ghost which is thought to kill people who
die what we call a 'natural' death. Unburied men change into this sort
of vampire, just as Elpenor, in the _Odyssey_, threatens, if unburied,
to become mischievous. There is another Gaunab, the mantis insect,
which is worshipped by Hottentots and Bushmen (p. 92). It appears that
the two Gaunabs are differently pronounced. However that may be, a
race which worships an insect might well worship a dead medicine-man.

The conclusion, then, to be drawn from an examination of Hottentot
mythology is merely this, that the ideas of a people will be reflected
in their myths. A people which worships the dead, believes in
sorcerers and in prophets, and in metamorphosis, will have for its god
(if he can be called a god) a being who is looked on as a dead prophet
and sorcerer. He will be worshipped with such rites as dead men
receive; he will be mixed up in such battles as living men wage, and
will be credited with the skill which living sorcerers claim. All
these things meet in the legend of Tsui Goab, the 'so-called supreme
being' of the Hottentots. His connection with the dawn is not
supported by convincing argument or evidence. The relation of the dawn
to the Infinite again rests on nothing but a theory of Mr. Max
Müller's.[195] His adversary, though recognised as the night, is
elsewhere admitted to have been, originally, a common vampire.
Finally, the Hottentots, a people not much removed from savagery, have
a mythology full of savage and even disgusting elements. And this is
just what we expect from Hottentots. The puzzle is when we find myths
as low as the story of the incest of Heitsi Eibib among the Greeks.
The reason for this coincidence is that, in Dr. Hahn's words, 'the
same objects and the same phenomena in nature will give rise to the
same ideas, whether social or mythical, among different races of
mankind,' especially when these races are in the same well-defined
state of savage fancy and savage credulity.

Dr. Hahn's book has been regarded as a kind of triumph over inquirers
who believe that ancestor-worship enters into myth, and that the purer
element in myth is the later. But where is the triumph? Even on Dr.
Hahn's own showing, ancestor-worship among the Hottentots has swamped
the adoration of the Infinite. It may be said that Dr. Hahn has at
least proved the adoration of the Infinite to be earlier than
ancestor-worship. But it has been shown that his attempt to establish
a middle stage, to demonstrate that the worshipped ancestor was really
the Red Dawn, is not logical nor convincing. Even if that middle stage
were established, it is a far cry from the worship of Dawn (supposed
by the Australians to be a woman of bad character in a cloak of red
'possum skin) to the adoration of the Infinite. Our own argument has
been successful if we have shown that there are not only two possible
schools of mythological interpretation--the Euhemeristic, led by Mr.
Spencer, and the Philological, led by Mr. Max Müller. We have seen
that it is possible to explain the legend of Tsui Goab without either
believing him to have been a real historical person (as Mr. Spencer
may perhaps believe), or his myth to have been the result of a
'disease of language,' as Mr. Müller supposes. We have explained the
legend and worship of a supposed dead conjurer as natural to a race
which believes in conjurers and worships dead men. Whether he was
merely an ideal ancestor and warrior, or whether an actual man has
been invested with what divine qualities Tsui Goab enjoys, it is
impossible to say; but, if he ever lived, he has long been adorned
with ideal qualities and virtues which he never possessed. The
conception of the powerful ancestral ghost has been heightened and
adorned with some novel attributes of power: the conception of the
Infinite has not been degraded, by forgetfulness of language, to the
estate of an ancestral ghost with a game leg.

       *       *       *       *       *

If this view be correct, myth is a disease of thought, far more than a
disease of language. The comparative importance of language and
thought was settled long ago, in our sense, by no less a person than
Pragapati, the Sanskrit Master of Life.

'Now a dispute once took place between Mind and Speech, as to which
was the better of the two. Both Mind and Speech said: "I am
excellent!" Mind said: "Surely I am better than thou, for thou dost
not speak anything that is not understood by me; and since thou art
only an imitator of what is done by me and a follower in my wake, I am
surely better than thou!" Speech said: "Surely I am better than thou,
for what thou knowest I make known, I communicate." They went to
appeal to Pragâpati for his decision. He (Pragâpati) decided in favour
of Mind, saying (to Speech): "Mind is indeed better than thou, for
thou art an imitator of its deeds, and a follower in its wake; and
inferior, surely, is he who imitates his better's deeds, and follows
in his wake."'

So saith the 'Satapatha Brahmana.'[196]


[187] Turner's _Samoa_, pp. 77, 119.

[188] See examples in 'A Far-travelled Tale,' 'Cupid and Psyche,' and
'The Myth of Cronus.'

[189] Trübner, 1881.

[190] Hahn, p. 23.

[191] _Ibid._, p. 45.

[192] _Expedition_, i. 166.

[193] Dr. Hahn (p. 27) gives _/ava_, or _/ana_, as Hottentot for
'red,' derived from _/au_, 'to bleed.'

[194] Hahn himself (p. 91) mentions a Hottentot god daubed with red
earth, and noticed as long ago as 1691.

[195] See 'Fetichism and the Infinite'.

[196] _Sacred Books of the East_, xii. 130, 131.


What is the true place of Fetichism, to use a common but unscientific
term, in the history of religious evolution? Some theorists have made
fetichism, that is to say, the adoration of odds and ends (with which
they have confused the worship of animals, of mountains, and even of
the earth), the first moment in the development of worship. Others,
again, think that fetichism is 'a corruption of religion, in Africa,
as elsewhere.' The latter is the opinion of Mr. Max Müller, who has
stated it in his _Hibbert Lectures_, on 'The Origin and Growth of
Religion, especially as illustrated by the Religions of India.' It
seems probable that there is a middle position between these two
extremes. Students may hold that we hardly know enough to justify us
in talking about the _origin_ of religion, while at the same time they
may believe that Fetichism is one of the earliest traceable steps by
which men climbed to higher conceptions of the supernatural. Meanwhile
Mr. Max Müller supports his own theory, that fetichism is a
'parasitical growth,' a 'corruption' of religion, by arguments mainly
drawn from historical study of savage creeds, and from the ancient
religious documents of India.

These documents are to English investigators ignorant of Sanskrit 'a
book sealed with seven seals.' The Vedas are interpreted in very
different ways by different Oriental scholars. It does not yet appear
to be known whether a certain word in the Vedic funeral service means
'goat' or 'soul'! Mr. Max Müller's rendering is certain to have the
first claim on English readers, and therefore it is desirable to
investigate the conclusions which he draws from his Vedic studies. The
ordinary anthropologist must first, however, lodge a protest against
the tendency to look for _primitive_ matter in the Vedas. They are the
elaborate hymns of a specially trained set of poets and philosophers,
living in an age almost of civilisation. They can therefore contain
little testimony as to what man, while still 'primitive,' thought
about God, the world, and the soul. One might as well look for the
first germs of religion, for _primitive_ religion strictly so called,
in _Hymns Ancient and Modern_ as in the Vedas. It is chiefly, however,
by way of deductions from the Vedas, that Mr. Max Müller arrives at
ideas which may be briefly and broadly stated thus: he inclines to
derive religion from man's sense of the Infinite, as awakened by
natural objects calculated to stir that sense. Our position is, on the
other hand, that the germs of the religious sense in early man are
developed, not so much by the vision of the Infinite, as by the idea
of Power. Early religions, in short, are selfish, not disinterested.
The worshipper is not contemplative, so much as eager to gain
something to his advantage. In fetiches, he ignorantly recognises
something that possesses power of an abnormal sort, and the train of
ideas which leads him to believe in and to treasure fetiches is one
among the earliest springs of religious belief.

Mr. Müller's opinion is the very reverse: he believes that a
contemplative and disinterested emotion in the presence of the
Infinite, or of anything that suggests infinitude or is mistaken for
the Infinite, begets human religion, while of this religion fetichism
is a later corruption.

       *       *       *       *       *

In treating of fetichism Mr. Müller is obliged to criticise the system
of De Brosses, who introduced this rather unfortunate term to science,
in an admirable work, _Le Culte des Dieux Fétiches_ (1760). We call
the work 'admirable,' because, considering the contemporary state of
knowledge and speculation, De Brosses' book is brilliant, original,
and only now and then rash or confused. Mr. Müller says that De
Brosses 'holds that all nations had to begin with fetichism, to be
followed afterwards by polytheism and monotheism.' This sentence would
lead some readers to suppose that De Brosses, in his speculations, was
looking for the origin of religion; but, in reality, his work is a
mere attempt to explain a certain element in ancient religion and
mythology. De Brosses was well aware that heathen religions were a
complex mass, a concretion of many materials. He admits the existence
of regard for the spirits of the dead as one factor, he gives Sabaeism
a place as another. But what chiefly puzzles him, and what he chiefly
tries to explain, is the worship of odds and ends of rubbish, and the
adoration of animals, mountains, trees, the sun, and so forth. When he
masses all these worships together, and proposes to call them all
Fetichism (a term derived from the Portuguese word for a talisman), De
Brosses is distinctly unscientific. But De Brosses is distinctly
scientific when he attempts to explain the animal-worship of Egypt,
and the respect paid by Greeks and Romans to shapeless stones, as
survivals of older savage practices.

The position of De Brosses is this: Old mythology and religion are a
tissue of many threads. Sabaeism, adoration of the dead, mythopœic
fancy, have their part in the fabric. Among many African tribes, a
form of theism, Islamite, or Christian, or self-developed, is
superimposed on a mass of earlier superstitions. Among these
superstitions, is the worship of animals and plants, and the cult of
rough stones and of odds and ends of matter. What is the origin of
this element, so prominent in the religion of Egypt, and present, if
less conspicuous, in the most ancient temples of Greece? It is the
survival, answers De Brosses, of ancient practices like those of
untutored peoples, as Brazilians, Samoyeds, Negroes, whom the
Egyptians and Pelasgians once resembled in lack of culture.

This, briefly stated, is the hypothesis of De Brosses. If he had
possessed our wider information, he would have known that, among
savage races, the worships of the stars, of the dead, and of plants
and animals, are interlaced by the strange metaphysical processes of
wild men. He would, perhaps, have kept the supernatural element in
magical stones, feathers, shells, and so on, apart from the triple
thread of Sabaeism, ghost-worship, and totemism, with its later
development into the regular worship of plants and animals. It must be
recognised, however, that De Brosses was perfectly well aware of the
confused and manifold character of early religion. He had a clear view
of the truth that what the religious instinct has once grasped, it
does not, as a rule, abandon, but subordinates or disguises, when it
reaches higher ideas. And he avers, again and again, that men laid
hold of the coarser and more material objects of worship, while they
themselves were coarse and dull, and that, as civilisation advanced,
they, as a rule, subordinated and disguised the ruder factors in their
system. Here it is that Mr. Max Müller differs from De Brosses. He
holds that the adoration of stones, feathers, shells, and (as I
understand him) the worship of animals are, even among the races of
Africa, a corruption of an earlier and purer religion, a 'parasitical
development' of religion.

However, Mr. Max Müller himself held 'for a long time' what he calls
'De Brosses' theory of fetichism.' What made him throw the theory
overboard? It was 'the fact that, while in the earliest accessible
documents of religious thought we look in vain for any very clear
traces of fetichism, they become more and more frequent everywhere in
the later stages of religious development, and are certainly more
visible in the later corruptions of the Indian religion, beginning
with the Âtharva_n_a, than in the earliest hymns of the Rig Veda.'
Now, by the earliest accessible documents of religious thought,
Professor Max Müller means the hymns of the Rig Veda. These hymns are
composed in the most elaborate metre, by sages of old repute, who, I
presume, occupied a position not unlike that of the singers and seers
of Israel. They lived in an age of tolerably advanced cultivation.
They had wide geographical knowledge. They had settled government.
They dwelt in States. They had wealth of gold, of grain, and of
domesticated animals. Among the metals, they were acquainted with that
which, in most countries, has been the latest worked--they used iron
poles in their chariots. How then can the hymns of the most
enlightened singers of a race thus far developed be called 'the
earliest religious documents'? Oldest they may be, the oldest that are
accessible, but this is a very different thing. How can we possibly
argue that what is absent in these hymns, is absent because it had not
yet come into existence? Is it not the very office of _pii vates et
Phœbo digna locuti_ to purify religion, to cover up decently its rude
shapes, as the unhewn stone was concealed in the fane of Apollo of
Delos? If the race whose noblest and oldest extant hymns were pure,
exhibits traces of fetichism in its later documents, may not that as
easily result from a recrudescence as from a corruption? Professor Max
Müller has still, moreover, to explain how the process of corruption
which introduced the same fetichistic practices among Samoyeds,
Brazilians, Kaffirs, and the people of the Âtharva_n_a Veda came to be
everywhere identical in its results.

Here an argument often urged against the anthropological method may be
shortly disposed of. 'You examine savages,' people say, 'but how do
you know that these savages were not once much more cultivated; that
their whole mode of life, religion and all, is not debased and
decadent from an earlier standard?' Mr. Müller glances at this
argument, which, however, cannot serve his purpose. Mr. Müller has
recognised that savage, or 'nomadic,' languages represent a much
earlier state of language than anything that we find for example, in
the oldest Hebrew or Sanskrit texts. 'For this reason,' he says,[197]
'the study of what I call _nomad_ languages, as distinguished from
_State_ languages, becomes so instructive. We see in them what we can
no longer expect to see even in the most ancient Sanskrit or Hebrew.
We watch the childhood of language with all its childish freaks.' Yes,
adds the anthropologist, and for this reason the study of savage
religions, as distinguished from State religions, becomes so
instructive. We see in them what we can no longer expect to see even
in the most ancient Sanskrit or Hebrew faiths. We watch the childhood
of religion with all its childish freaks. If this reasoning be sound
when the Kaffir tongue is contrasted with ancient Sanskrit, it should
be sound when the Kaffir faith is compared with the Vedic faith. By
parity of reasoning, the religious beliefs of peoples as much less
advanced than the Kaffirs as the Kaffirs are less advanced than the
Vedic peoples, should be still nearer the infancy of faith, still
'nearer the beginning.'

We have been occupied, perhaps, too long with De Brosses and our
apology for De Brosses. Let us now examine, as shortly as possible,
Mr. Max Müller's reasons for denying that fetichism is 'a primitive
form of religion.' The negative side of his argument being thus
disposed of, it will then be our business to consider (1) his
psychological theory of the subjective element in religion, and (2)
his account of the growth of Indian religion. The conclusion of the
essay will be concerned with demonstrating that Mr. Max Müller's
system assigns little or no place to the superstitious beliefs without
which, in other countries than India, society could not have come into
organised existence.

       *       *       *       *       *

In his polemic against Fetichism, it is not always very easy to see
against whom Mr. Müller is contending. It is one thing to say that
fetichism is a 'primitive form of religion,' and quite another to say
that it is 'the very beginning of all religion.' Occasionally he
attacks the 'Comtian theory,' which, I think, is not now held by many
people who study the history of man, and which I am not concerned to
defend. He says that the Portuguese navigators who discovered among
the negroes 'no other trace of any religious worship' except what they
called the worship of _feitiços_, concluded that this was the whole of
the religion of the negroes (p. 61). Mr. Müller then goes on to prove
that 'no religion consists of fetichism only,' choosing his examples
of higher elements in negro religion from the collections of Waitz. It
is difficult to see what bearing this has on his argument. De Brosses
(p. 20) shows that _he_, at least, was well aware that many negro
tribes have higher conceptions of the Deity than any which are
implied in fetich-worship. Even if no tribe in the world is
exclusively devoted to fetiches, the argument makes no progress.
Perhaps no extant tribe is in the way of using unpolished stone
weapons and no others, but it does not follow that unpolished stone
weapons are not primitive. It is just as easy to maintain that the
purer ideas have, by this time, been reached by aid of the
stepping-stones of the grosser, as that the grosser are the corruption
of the purer. Mr. Max Müller constantly asserts that the 'human mind
advanced by small and timid steps from what is intelligible, to what
is at first sight almost beyond comprehension' (p. 126). Among the
objects which aided man to take these small and timid steps, he
reckons rivers and trees, which excited, he says, religious awe. What
he will not suppose is that the earliest small and timid steps were
not unaided by such objects as the fetichist treasures--stones,
shells, and so forth, which suggest no idea of infinity. Stocks he
will admit, but not, if he can help it, stones, of the sort that
negroes and Kanekas and other tribes use as fetiches. His reason is,
that he does not see how the scraps of the fetichist can appeal to the
feeling of the Infinite, which feeling is, in his theory, the basis of

After maintaining (what is readily granted) that negroes have a
religion composed of many elements, Mr. Müller tries to discredit the
evidence about the creeds of savages, and discourses on the many
minute shades of progress which exist among tribes too often lumped
together as if they were all in the same condition. Here he will have
all scientific students of savage life on his side. It remains true,
however, that certain elements of savage practice, fetichism being one
of them, are practically ubiquitous. Thus, when Mr. Müller speaks of
'the influence of public opinion' in biassing the narrative of
travellers, we must not forget that the strongest evidence about
savage practice is derived from the 'undesigned coincidence' of the
testimonies of all sorts of men, in all ages, and all conditions of
public opinion. 'Illiterate men, ignorant of the writings of each
other, bring the same reports from various quarters of the globe,'
wrote Millar of Glasgow. When sailors, merchants, missionaries,
describe, as matters unprecedented and unheard of, such institutions
as polyandry, totemism, and so forth, the evidence is so strong,
because the witnesses are so astonished. They do not know that any one
but themselves has ever noticed the curious facts before their eyes.
And when Mr. Müller tries to make the testimony about savage faith
still more untrustworthy, by talking of the 'absence of recognised
authority among savages,' do not let us forget that custom (νόμος)
is a recognised authority, and that the punishment of death is
inflicted for transgression of certain rules. These rules generally
speaking, are of a religious nature, and the religion to which they
testify is of the sort known (too vaguely) as 'fetichistic.' Let us
keep steadily before our minds, when people talk of lack of evidence,
that we have two of the strongest sorts of evidence in the world for
the kind of religion which least suits Mr. Müller's argument--(1) the
undesigned coincidences of testimony, (2) the irrefutable witness and
sanction of elementary criminal law. Mr. Müller's own evidence is that
much-disputed work, where 'all men see what they want to see, as in
the clouds,' and where many see systematised fetichism--the Veda.[198]

The first step in Mr. Max Müller's polemic was the assertion that
Fetichism is nowhere unmixed. We have seen that the fact is capable of
an interpretation that will suit either side. Stages of culture
overlap each other. The second step in his polemic was the effort to
damage the evidence. We have seen that we have as good evidence as can
be desired. In the third place he asks, What are the antecedents of
fetich-worship? He appears to conceive himself to be arguing with
persons (p. 127) who 'have taken for granted that every human being
was miraculously endowed with the concept of what forms the predicate
of every fetich, call it power, spirit, or god.' If there are
reasoners so feeble, they must be left to the punishment inflicted by
Mr. Müller. On the other hand, students who regard the growth of the
idea of power, which is the predicate of every fetich, as a slow
process, as the result of various impressions and trains of early
half-conscious reasoning, cannot be disposed of by the charge that
they think that 'every human being was miraculously endowed' with any
concept whatever. They, at least, will agree with Mr. Max Müller that
there are fetiches and fetiches, that to one reverence is assigned for
one reason, to another for another. Unfortunately, it is less easy to
admit that Mr. Max Müller has been happy in his choice of ancient
instances. He writes (p. 99): 'Sometimes a stock or a stone was
worshipped because it was a forsaken altar or an ancient place of
judgment, sometimes because it marked the place of a great battle or a
murder, or the burial of a king.' Here he refers to Pausanias, book i.
28, 5, and viii. 13, 2.[199] In both of these passages, Pausanias, it
is true, mentions stones--in the first passage stones on which men
stood ὅσοι δίκας ὑπέχουσι καὶ οἱ διώκοντες, in the second,
barrows heaped up in honour of men who fell in battle. In neither
case, however, do I find anything to show that the stones were
worshipped. These stones, then, have no more to do with the argument
than the milestones which certainly exist on the Dover road, but which
are not the objects of superstitious reverence. No! the fetich-stones
of Greece were those which occupied the holy of holies of the most
ancient temples, the mysterious fanes within dark cedar or cypress
groves, to which men were hardly admitted. They were the stones and
blocks which bore the names of gods, Hera, or Apollo, names perhaps
given, as De Brosses says, to the old fetichistic objects of worship,
_after_ the anthropomorphic gods entered Hellas. This, at least, is
the natural conclusion from the fact that the Apollo and Hera of
untouched wood or stone were confessedly the _oldest_. Religion,
possessing an old fetich, did not incur the risk of breaking the run
of luck by discarding it, but wisely retained and renamed it. Mr. Max
Müller says that the unhewn lump may indicate a higher power of
abstraction than the worship paid to the work of Phidias; but in that
case all the savage adorers of rough stones _may_ be in a stage of
more abstract thought than these contemporaries of Phidias who had
such very hard work to make Greek thought abstract.

Mr. Müller founds a very curious argument on what he calls 'the
ubiquity of fetichism.' Like De Brosses, he compiles (from Pausanias)
a list of the rude stones worshipped by the early Greeks. He mentions
various examples of fetichistic superstitions in Rome. He detects the
fetichism of popular Catholicism, and of Russian orthodoxy among the
peasants. Here, he cries, in religions the history of which is known
to us, fetichism is secondary, 'and why should fetiches in Africa,
where we do not know the earlier development of religion, be
considered as primary?' What a singular argument! According to
Pausanias, this fetichism (if fetichism it is) _was_ primary, in
Greece. The _oldest_ temples, in their holiest place, held the oldest
fetich. In Rome, it is at least probable that fetichism, as in Greece,
was partly a survival, partly a new growth from the primal root of
human superstitions. As to Catholicism, the records of Councils, the
invectives of the Church, show us that, from the beginning, the
secondary religion in point of time, the religion of the Church,
laboured vainly to suppress, and had in part to tolerate, the primary
religion of childish superstitions. The documents are before the
world. As to the Russians, the history of their conversion is pretty
well known. Jaroslaf, or Vladimir, or some other evangelist, had whole
villages baptised in groups, and the pagan peasants naturally kept up
their primary semi-savage ways of thought and worship, under the
secondary varnish of orthodoxy. In all Mr. Max Müller's examples,
then, fetichism turns out to be _primary_ in point of time;
_secondary_ only, as subordinate to some later development of faith,
or to some lately superimposed religion. Accepting his statement that
fetichism is ubiquitous, we have the most powerful _à priori_ argument
that fetichism is primitive. As religions become developed they are
differentiated; it is only fetichism that you find the same
everywhere. Thus the bow and arrow have a wide range of distribution:
the musket, one not so wide; the Martini-Henry rifle, a still narrower
range: it is the primitive stone weapons that are ubiquitous, that are
found in the soil of England, Egypt, America, France, Greece, as in
the hands of Dieyries and Admiralty Islanders. And just as rough stone
knives are earlier than iron ones (though the same race often uses
both), so fetichism is more primitive than higher and purer faiths,
though the same race often combines fetichism and theism. No one will
doubt the truth of this where weapons are concerned; but Mr. Max
Müller will not look at religion in this way.

Mr. Max Müller's remarks on 'Zoolatry,' as De Brosses calls it, or
animal-worship, require only the briefest comment. De Brosses, very
unluckily, confused zoolatry with other superstitions under the head
of Fetichism. This was unscientific; but is it scientific of Mr. Max
Müller to discuss animal-worship without any reference to totemism?
The worship of sacred animals is found, in every part of the globe, to
be part of the sanction of the most stringent and important of all
laws, the laws of marriage. It is an historical truth that the society
of Ashantees, Choctaws, Australians, is actually constructed by the
operation of laws which are under the sanction of various sacred
plants and animals.[200] There is scarcely a race so barbarous that
these laws are not traceable at work in its society, nor a people
(especially an ancient people) so cultivated that its laws and
religion are not full of strange facts most easily explained as relics
of totemism. Now note that actual living totemism is always combined
with the rudest ideas of marriage, with almost repulsive ideas about
the family. Presumably, this rudeness is earlier than culture, and
therefore this form of animal-worship is one of the earliest religions
that we know. The almost limitless distribution of the phenomena,
their regular development, their gradual disappearance, all point to
the fact that they are all very early and everywhere produced by
similar causes.

Of all these facts, Mr. Max Müller only mentions one--that many races
have called themselves Snakes, and he thinks they might naturally
adopt the snake for ancestor, and finally for god. He quotes the
remark of Diodorus that 'the snake may either have been made a god
because he was figured on the banners, or may have been figured on the
banners because he was a god'; to which De Brosses, with his usual
sense, rejoins: 'We represent saints on our banners because we revere
them; we do not revere them because we represent them on our banners.'

In a discussion about origins, and about the corruption of religion,
it would have been well to account for institutions and beliefs almost
universally distributed. We know, what De Brosses did not, that
zoolatry is inextricably blent with laws and customs which surely must
be early, if not primitive, because they make the working faith of
societies in which male descent and the modern family are not yet
established. Any one who wishes to show that this sort of society is a
late corruption, not an early stage in evolution towards better
things, has a difficult task before him, which, however, he must
undertake, before he can prove zoolatry to be a corruption of

As to the worship of ancestral and embodied human spirits, which (it
has been so plausibly argued) is the first moment in religion, Mr. Max
Müller dismisses it, here, in eleven lines and a half. An isolated but
important allusion at the close of his lectures will be noticed in its

The end of the polemic against the primitiveness of fetichism deals
with the question, 'Whence comes the supernatural predicate of the
fetich?' If a negro tells us his fetich is a god, whence got he the
idea of 'god'? Many obvious answers occur. Mr. Müller says, speaking
of the Indians (p. 205): 'The concept of _gods_ was no doubt growing
up while men were assuming a more and more definite attitude towards
these semi-tangible and intangible objects'--trees, rivers, hills, the
sky, the sun, and so on, which he thinks suggested and developed, by
aid of a kind of awe, the religious feeling of the infinite. We too
would say that, among people who adore fetiches and ghosts, the
concept of gods no doubt silently grew up, as men assumed a more and
more definite attitude towards the tangible and intangible objects
they held sacred. Again, negroes have had the idea of god imported
among them by Christians and Islamites, so that, even if they did not
climb (as De Brosses grants that many of them do) to purer religious
ideas unaided, these ideas are now familiar to them, and may well be
used by them, when they have to explain a fetich to a European. Mr.
Max Müller explains the origin of religion by a term ('the Infinite')
which, he admits, the early people would not have comprehended. The
negro, if he tells a white man that a fetich is a god, transposes
terms in the same unscientific way. Mr. Müller asks: 'How do these
people, when they have picked up their stone or their shell, pick up,
at the same time, the concepts of a supernatural power, of spirit, of
god, and of worship paid to some unseen being?' But who says that men
picked up these ideas _at the same time_? These ideas were evolved by
a long, slow, complicated process. It is not at all impossible that
the idea of a kind of 'luck' attached to this or that object, was
evolved by dint of meditating on a mere series of lucky accidents.
Such or such a man, having found such an object, succeeded in hunting,
fishing, or war. By degrees, similar objects might be believed to
command success. Thus burglars carry bits of coal in their pockets,
'for luck.' This random way of connecting causes and effects which
have really no inter-relation, is a common error of early reasoning.
Mr. Max Müller says that 'this process of reasoning is far more in
accordance with modern thought'; if so, modern thought has little to
be proud of. Herodotus, however, describes the process of thought as
consecrated by custom among the Egyptians. But there are many other
practical ways in which the idea of supernatural power is attached to
fetiches. Some fetich-stones have a superficial resemblance to other
objects, and thus (on the magical system of reasoning) are thought to
influence these objects. Others, again, are pointed out as worthy of
regard in dreams or by the ghosts of the dead.[201] To hold these
views of the origin of the supernatural predicate of fetiches is not
'to take for granted that every human being was miraculously endowed
with the concept of what forms the predicate of every fetich.'

Thus we need not be convinced by Mr. Max Müller that fetichism (though
it necessarily has its antecedents in the human mind) is 'a corruption
of religion.' It still appears to be one of the most primitive steps
towards the idea of the supernatural.

What, then, is the subjective element of religion in man? How has he
become capable of conceiving of the supernatural? What outward objects
first awoke that dormant faculty in his breast? Mr. Max Müller
answers, that man has 'the faculty of apprehending the infinite'--that
by dint of this faculty he is capable of religion, and that sensible
objects, 'tangible, semi-tangible, intangible,' first roused the
faculty to religious activity, at least among the natives of India. He
means, however, by the 'infinite' which savages apprehend, not our
metaphysical conception of the infinite, but the mere impression that
there is 'something beyond.' 'Everything of which his senses cannot
perceive a limit, is to a primitive savage or to any man in an early
stage of intellectual activity _unlimited_ or _infinite_.' Thus, in
all experience, the idea of 'a beyond' is forced on men. If Mr. Max
Müller would adhere to this theory, then we should suppose him to mean
(what we hold to be more or less true) that savage religion, like
savage science, is merely a fanciful explanation of what lies beyond
the horizon of experience. For example, if the Australians mentioned
by Mr. Max Müller believe in a being who created the world, a being
whom they do not worship, and to whom they pay no regard (for, indeed,
he has become 'decrepit'), their theory is scientific, not religious.
They have looked for the causes of things, and are no more religious
(in so doing) than Newton was when he worked out his theory of
gravitation. The term 'infinite' is wrongly applied, because it is a
term of advanced thought used in explanation of the ideas of men who,
Mr. Max Müller says, were incapable of conceiving the meaning of such
a concept. Again, it is wrongly applied, because it has some modern
religious associations, which are covertly and fallaciously introduced
to explain the supposed emotions of early men. Thus, Mr. Müller says
(p. 177)--he is giving his account of the material things that awoke
the religious faculty--'the mere sight of the torrent or the stream
would have been enough to call forth in the hearts of the early
dwellers on the earth ... a feeling that they were surrounded on all
sides by powers invisible, infinite, or divine.' Here, if I understand
Mr. Müller, 'infinite' is used in our modern sense. The question is,
How did men ever come to believe in powers infinite, invisible,
divine? If Mr. Müller's words mean anything, they mean that a dormant
feeling that there were such existences lay in the breast of man, and
was wakened into active and conscious life, by the sight of a torrent
or a stream. How, to use Mr. Müller's own manner, did these people,
when they saw a stream, have mentally, at the same time, 'a feeling of
_infinite_ powers'? If this is not the expression of a theory of
'innate religion' (a theory which Mr. Müller disclaims), it is capable
of being mistaken for that doctrine by even a careful reader. The
feeling of 'powers infinite, invisible, divine,' _must_ be in the
heart, or the mere sight of a river could not call it forth. How did
the feeling get into the heart? That is the question.

The ordinary anthropologist distinguishes a multitude of causes, a
variety of processes, which shade into each other and gradually
produce the belief in powers invisible, infinite, and divine. What
tribe is unacquainted with dreams, visions, magic, the apparitions of
the dead? Add to these the slow action of thought, the conjectural
inferences, the guesses of crude metaphysics, the theories of isolated
men of religious and speculative genius. By all these and other forces
manifold, that emotion of awe in presence of the hills, the stars, the
sea, is developed. Mr. Max Müller cuts the matter shorter. The early
inhabitants of the earth saw a river, and the 'mere sight' of the
torrent called forth the feelings which (to us) seem to demand ages of
the operation of causes disregarded by Mr. Müller in his account of
the origin of Indian religion.

The mainspring of Mr. Müller's doctrine is his theory about
'apprehending the infinite.' Early religion, or at least that of
India, was, in his view, the extension of an idea of Vastness, a
disinterested emotion of awe.[202] Elsewhere, we think, early religion
has been a development of ideas of Force, an interested search, not
for something wide and far and hard to conceive, but for something
practically _strong_ for good and evil. Mr. Müller (taking no count in
this place of fetiches, ghosts, dreams and magic) explains that the
sense of 'wonderment' was wakened by objects only semi-tangible,
trees, which are _taller_ than we are, 'whose roots are beyond our
reach, and which have a kind of life in them.' 'We are dealing with a
quartenary, it may be a tertiary troglodyte,' says Mr. Müller. If a
tertiary troglodyte was like a modern Andaman Islander, a Kaneka, a
Dieyrie, would he stand and meditate in awe on the fact that a tree
was taller than he, or had 'a kind of life,' 'an unknown and
unknowable, yet undeniable something'?[203] Why, this is the sentiment
of modern Germany, and perhaps of the Indian sages of a cultivated
period! A troglodyte would look for a 'possum in the tree, he would
tap the trunk for honey, he would poke about in the bark after grubs,
or he would worship anything odd in the branches. Is Mr. Müller not
unconsciously transporting a kind of modern malady of thought into
the midst of people who wanted to find a dinner, and who might worship
a tree if it had a grotesque shape, that, for them, had a magical
meaning, or if _boilyas_ lived in its boughs, but whose practical way
of dealing with the problem of its life was to burn it round the stem,
chop the charred wood with stone axes, and use the bark, branches, and
leaves as they happened to come handy?

Mr. Müller has a long list of semi-tangible objects 'overwhelming and
overawing,' like the tree. There are mountains, where 'even a stout
heart shivers before the real presence of the _infinite_'; there are
rivers, those instruments of so sudden a religious awakening; there is
earth. These supply the material for semi-deities. Then come sky,
stars, dawn, sun and moon: 'in these we have the germs of what,
hereafter, we shall have to call by the name of deities.'

Before we can transmute, with Mr. Müller, these objects of a somewhat
vague religious regard into a kind of gods, we have to adopt Noiré's
philological theories, and study the effects of auxiliary verbs on the
development of personification and of religion. Noiré's philological
theories are still, I presume, under discussion. They are necessary,
however, to Mr. Müller's doctrine of the development of the vague
'sense of the infinite' (wakened by fine old trees, and high
mountains) into _devas_, and of _devas_ (which means 'shining ones')
into the Vedic gods. Our troglodyte ancestors, and their sweet feeling
for the spiritual aspect of landscape, are thus brought into relation
with the Rishis of the Vedas, the sages and poets of a pleasing
civilisation. The reverence felt for such comparatively refined or
remote things as fire, the sun, wind, thunder, the dawn, furnished a
series of stepping-stones to the Vedic theology, if theology it can be
called. It is impossible to give each step in detail; the process must
be studied in Mr. Müller's lectures. Nor can we discuss the later
changes of faith. As to the processes which produced the fetichistic
'corruption' (that universal and everywhere identical form of decay),
Mr. Müller does not afford even a hint. He only says that, when the
Indians found that their old gods were mere names, 'they built out of
the scattered bricks a new altar to the Unknown God'--a statement
which throws no light on the parasitical development of fetichism. But
his whole theory is deficient if, having called fetichism a
_corruption_, he does not show how corruption arose, how it operated,
and how the disease attacked all religions everywhere.

We have contested, step by step, many of Mr. Müller's propositions. If
space permitted, it would be interesting to examine the actual
attitude of certain contemporary savages, Bushmen and others, towards
the sun. Contemporary savages may be degraded, they certainly are not
primitive, but their _legends_, at least, are the oldest things they
possess. The supernatural elements in their ideas about the sun are
curiously unlike those which, according to Mr. Müller, entered into
the development of Aryan religion.

The last remark which has to be made about Mr. Müller's scheme of the
development of Aryan religion is that the religion, as explained by
him, does not apparently aid the growth of society, nor work with it
in any way. Let us look at a sub-barbaric society--say that of
Zululand, of New Zealand, of the Iroquois League, or at a savage
society like that of the Kanekas, or of those Australian tribes about
whom we have very many interesting and copious accounts. If we begin
with the Australians, we observe that society is based on certain laws
of marriage enforced by capital punishment. These laws of marriage
forbid the intermixing of persons belonging to the stock which
worships this or that animal, or plant. Now this rule, as already
observed, _made_ the 'gentile' system (as Mr. Morgan erroneously calls
it) the system which gradually reduces tribal hostility, by making
tribes homogeneous. The same system (with the religious sanction of a
kind of zoolatry) is in force and has worked to the same result, in
Africa, Asia, America, and Australia, while a host of minute facts
make it a reasonable conclusion that it prevailed in Europe. Among
these facts certain peculiarities of Greek and Roman and Hindoo
marriage law, Greek, Latin, and English tribal names, and a crowd of
legends are the most prominent.[204] Mr. Max Müller's doctrine of the
development of Indian religion (while admitting the existence of Snake
or Naga tribes) takes no account of the action of this universal
zoolatry on religion and society.

After marriage and after tribal institutions, look at _rank_. Is it
not obvious that the religious elements (magic and necromancy) left
out of his reckoning by Mr. Müller are most powerful in developing
rank? Even among those democratic paupers, the Fuegians, 'the
doctor-wizard of each party has much influence over his companions.'
Among those other democrats, the Eskimo, a class of wizards, called
Angakuts, become 'a kind of civil magistrates,' because they can cause
fine weather, and can magically detect people who commit offences.
Thus the germs of rank, in these cases, are sown by the magic which is
fetichism in action. Try the Zulus: 'the heaven is the chief's,' he
can call up clouds and storms, hence the sanction of his authority. In
New Zealand, every Rangatira has a supernatural power. If he touches
an article, no one else dares to appropriate it, for fear of terrible
supernatural consequences. A head chief is 'tapued an inch thick, and
perfectly unapproachable.' Magical power abides in and emanates from
him. By this superstition, an aristocracy is formed, and property (the
property, at least, of the aristocracy) is secured. Among the Red
Indians, as Schoolcraft says, 'priests and jugglers are the persons
that make war and have a voice in the sale of the land.' Mr. E. W.
Robertson says much the same thing about early Scotland. If Odin was
not a god with the gifts of a medicine-man, and did not owe his
chiefship to his talent for dealing with magic, he is greatly
maligned. The Irish Brehons also sanctioned legal decisions by magical
devices, afterwards condemned by the Church. Among the Zulus, 'the
_Itongo_ (spirit) dwells with the great man; he who dreams is the
chief of the village.' The chief alone can 'read in the vessel of
divination.' The Kaneka chiefs are medicine-men.

Here then, in widely distant regions, in early European, American,
Melanesian, African societies, we find those factors in religion which
the primitive Aryans are said to have dispensed with, helping to
construct society, rank, property. Is it necessary to add that the
ancestral spirits still 'rule the present from the past,' and demand
sacrifice, and speak to 'him who dreams,' who, therefore, is a strong
force in society, if not a chief? Mr. Herbert Spencer, Mr. Tylor, M.
Fustel de Coulanges, a dozen others, have made all this matter of
common notoriety. As Hearne the traveller says about the Copper River
Indians, 'it is almost necessary that they who rule them should
profess something a little supernatural to enable them to deal with
the people.' The few examples we have given show how widely, and among
what untutored races, the need is felt. The rudimentary government of
early peoples requires, and, by aid of dreams, necromancy, 'medicine'
(_i.e._, fetiches), _tapu_, and so forth, obtains, a supernatural

Where is the supernatural sanction that consecrated the chiefs of a
race which woke to the sense of the existence of infinite beings, in
face of trees, rivers, the dawn, the sun, and had none of the
so-called late and corrupt fetichism that does such useful social

To the student of other early societies, Mr. Müller's theory of the
growth of Aryan religion seems to leave society without cement, and
without the most necessary sanctions. One man is as good as another,
before a tree, a river, a hill. The savage organisers of other
societies found out fetiches and ghosts that were 'respecters of
persons.' Zoolatry is intertwisted with the earliest and most
widespread law of prohibited degrees. How did the Hindoos dispense
with the aid of these superstitions? Well, they did not quite dispense
with them. Mr. Max Müller remarks, almost on his last page (376), that
'in India also ... the thoughts and feelings about those whom death
had separated from us for a time, supplied some of the earliest and
most important elements of religion.' If this was the case, surely the
presence of those elements and their influence should have been
indicated along with the remarks about the awfulness of trees and the
suggestiveness of rivers. Is nothing said about the spirits of the
dead and their cult in the Vedas? Much is said, of course. But, were
it otherwise, then other elements of savage religion may also have
been neglected there, and it will be impossible to argue that
fetichism did not exist because it is not mentioned. It will also be
impossible to admit that the _Hibbert Lectures_ give more than a
one-sided account of the Origin of Indian Religion.

The perusal of Mr. Max Müller's book deeply impresses one with the
necessity of studying early religions and early societies
simultaneously. If it be true that early Indian religion lacked
precisely those superstitions, so childish, so grotesque, and yet so
useful, which we find at work in contemporary tribes, and which we
read of in history, the discovery is even more remarkable and
important than the author of the _Hibbert Lectures_ seems to suppose.
It is scarcely necessary to repeat that the negative evidence of the
Vedas, the religious utterances of sages, made in a time of what we
might call 'heroic culture,' can never disprove the existence of
superstitions which, if current in the former experience of the race,
the hymnists, as Barth observes, would intentionally ignore. Our
object has been to defend the 'primitiveness of fetichism.' By this we
do not mean to express any opinion as to whether fetichism (in the
strictest sense of the word) was or was not earlier than totemism,
than the worship of the dead, or than the involuntary sense of awe and
terror with which certain vast phenomena may have affected the
earliest men. We only claim for the powerful and ubiquitous practices
of fetichism a place _among_ the early elements of religion, and
insist that what is so universal has not yet been shown to be 'a
corruption' of something older and purer.

One remark of Mr. Max Müller's fortifies these opinions. If fetichism
be indeed one of the earliest factors of faith in the supernatural; if
it be, in its rudest forms, most powerful in proportion to other
elements of faith among the least cultivated races (and _that_ Mr.
Müller will probably allow)--among what class of cultivated peoples
will it longest hold its ground? Clearly, among the least cultivated,
among the fishermen, the shepherds of lonely districts, the peasants
of outlying lands--in short, among the _people_. Neglected by sacred
poets in the culminating period of purity in religion, it will linger
among the superstitions of the rustics. There is no real break in the
continuity of peasant life; the modern folklore is (in many points)
the savage ritual. Now Mr. Müller, when he was minimising the
existence of fetichism in the Rig Veda (the oldest collection of
hymns), admitted its existence in the Âtharva_n_a (p. 60).[205] On p.
151, we read 'the Atharva-veda-Sanhita is a later collection,
containing, besides a large number of Rig Veda verses, _some curious
relics of popular poetry connected with charms, imprecations, and
other superstitious usages_.' The italics are mine, and are meant to
emphasise this fact:--When we leave the sages, the Rishis, and look at
what is _popular_, look at what that class believed which of savage
practice has everywhere retained so much, we are at once among the
charms and the fetiches! This is precisely what one would have
expected. If the history of religion and of mythology is to be
unravelled, we must examine what the unprogressive classes in Europe
have in common with Australians and Bushmen, and Andaman Islanders. It
is the function of the people to retain in folklore these elements of
religion, which it is the high duty of the sage and the poet to purify
away in the fire of refining thought. It is for this very reason that
_ritual_ has (though Mr. Max Müller curiously says that it seems not
to possess) an immense scientific interest. Ritual holds on, with the
tenacity of superstition, to all that has ever been practised. Yet,
when Mr. Müller wants to know about _origins_, about actual ancient
_practice_, he deliberately turns to that 'great collection of ancient
poetry' (the Rig Veda) 'which has no special reference to sacrificial
acts,' not to the Brahmanas which are full of ritual.

To sum up briefly:--(1) Mr. Müller's arguments against the evidence
for, and the primitiveness of, fetichism seem to demonstrate the
opposite of that which he intends them to prove. (2) His own evidence
for _primitive_ practice is chosen from the documents of a
_cultivated_ society. (3) His theory deprives that society of the very
influences which have elsewhere helped the Tribe, the Family, Rank,
and Priesthoods to grow up, and to form the backbone of social


[197] _Lectures on Language._ Second Series, p. 41.

[198] A defence of the evidence for our knowledge of savage faiths,
practices, and ideas will be found in _Primitive Culture_, i. 9-11.

[199] A third reference to Pausanias I have been unable to verify.
There are several references to Greek fetich-stones in Theophrastus'
account of the Superstitious Man. A number of Greek sacred stones
named by Pausanias may be worth noticing. In Bœotia (ix. 16), the
people believed that Alcmene, mother of Heracles, was changed into a
stone. The Thespians worshipped, under the name of Eros, an unwrought
stone, ἄγαλμα παλαιότατον, 'their most ancient sacred object' (ix.
27). The people of Orchomenos 'paid extreme regard to certain stones,'
said to have fallen from heaven, 'or to certain figures made of stone
that descended from the sky' (ix. 38). Near Chæronea Rhea was said to
have deceived Cronus, by offering him, in place of Zeus, a stone
wrapped in swaddling bands. This stone, which Cronus vomited forth
after having swallowed it, was seen by Pausanias at Delphi (ix. 41).
By the roadside, near the city of the Panopeans, lay the stones out of
which Prometheus made men (x. 4). The stone swallowed in place of Zeus
by his father lay at the exit from the Delphian temple and was
anointed (compare the action of Jacob, Gen. xxviii. 18) with oil every
day. The Phocians worshipped thirty squared stones, each named after a
god (vii. xxii.). '_Among all the Greeks rude stones were worshipped
before the images of the gods._' Among the Trœzenians a sacred stone
lay in front of the temple, whereon the Trœzenian elders sat, and
purified Orestes from the murder of his mother. In Attica there was a
conical stone worshipped as Apollo (i. xliv.). Near Argos was a stone
called Zeus Cappotas, on which Orestes was said to have sat down, and
so recovered peace of mind. Such are examples of the sacred stones,
the oldest worshipful objects, of Greece.

[200] See Essays on 'Apollo and the Mouse' and 'The Early History of
the Family.'

[201] Here I may mention a case illustrating the motives of the
fetich-worshipper. My friend, Mr. J. J. Atkinson, who has for many
years studied the manners of the people of New Caledonia, asked a
native _why_ he treasured a certain fetich stone. The man replied
that, in one of the vigils which are practised beside the corpses of
deceased friends, he saw a lizard. The lizard is a totem, a worshipful
animal in New Caledonia. The native put out his hand to touch it, when
it disappeared and left a stone in its place. This stone he therefore
held sacred in the highest degree. Here then a fetich-stone was
indicated as such by a spirit in form of a lizard.

[202] Much the same theory is propounded in Mr. Müller's lectures on
'The Science of Religion.'

[203] The idea is expressed in a well-known parody of Wordsworth,
about the tree which--

    'Will grow ten times as tall as me
    And live ten times as long.'

[204] See Essay on 'The Early History of the Family.'

[205] Bergaigne's _La Religion Védique_ may be consulted for Vedic



What are the original forms of the human family? Did man begin by
being monogamous or polygamous, but, in either case, the master of his
own home and the assured central point of his family relations? Or
were the unions of the sexes originally shifting and precarious, so
that the wisest child was not expected to know his own father, and
family ties were reckoned through the mother alone? Again (setting
aside the question of what was 'primitive' and 'original'), did the
needs and barbarous habits of early men lead to a scarcity of women,
and hence to polyandry (that is, the marriage of one woman to several
men), with the consequent uncertainty about male parentage? Once more,
admitting that these loose and strange relations of the sexes do
prevail, or have prevailed, among savages, is there any reason to
suppose that the stronger races, the Aryan and Semitic stocks, ever
passed through this stage of savage customs? These are the main
questions debated between what we may call the 'historical' and the
'anthropological' students of ancient customs.

When Sir Henry Maine observed, in 1861, that it was difficult to say
what society of men had _not been_, originally, based on the
patriarchal family, he went, of course, outside the domain of history.
What occurred in the very origin of human society is a question
perhaps quite inscrutable. Certainly, history cannot furnish the
answer. Here the anthropologist and physiologist come in with their
methods, and even those, we think, can throw but an uncertain light on
the very 'origin' of institutions, and on strictly primitive man.

For the purposes of this discussion, we shall here re-state the chief
points at issue between the adherents of Sir Henry Maine and of Mr.
M'Lennan, between historical and anthropological inquirers.

1. Did man _originally_ live in the patriarchal family, or did he live
in more or less modified promiscuity, with uncertainty of blood-ties,
and especially of male parentage?

2. Did circumstances and customs at some time compel or induce man
(whatever his _original_ condition) to resort to practices which made
paternity uncertain, and so caused kinship to be reckoned through

3. Granting that some races have been thus reduced to matriarchal
forms of the family--that is, to forms in which the woman is the
permanent recognised centre--is there any reason to suppose that the
stronger peoples, like the Aryans and the Semites, ever passed through
a stage of culture in which female, not male, kinship was chiefly
recognised, probably as a result of polyandry, of many husbands to one

On this third question, it will be necessary to produce much evidence
of very different sorts: evidence which, at best, can perhaps only
warrant an inference, or presumption, in favour of one or the other
opinion. For the moment, the impartial examination of testimony is
more important and practicable than the establishment of any theory.

(1) Did man _originally_ live in the patriarchal family, the male
being master of his female mate or mates, and of his children? On this
first point Sir Henry Maine, in his new volume,[206] may be said to
come as near proving his case as the nature and matter of the question
will permit. Bachofen, M'Lennan, and Morgan, all started from a
hypothetical state of more or less modified sexual promiscuity.
Bachofen's evidence (which may be referred to later) was based on a
great mass of legends, myths, and travellers' tales, chiefly about
early Aryan practices. He discovered _Hetärismus_, as he called it, or
promiscuity, among Lydians, Etruscans, Persians, Thracians, Cyrenian
nomads, Egyptians, Scythians, Troglodytes, Nasamones, and so forth.
Mr. M'Lennan's view is, perhaps, less absolutely stated than Sir Henry
Maine supposes. M'Lennan says[207] 'that there has been a stage in the
development of the human races, when there was no such appropriation
of women to particular men; when, in short, marriage, _as it exists
among civilised nations_, was not practised. Marriage, _in this
sense_, was yet undreamt of.' Mr. M'Lennan adds (pp. 130, 131), 'as
among other gregarious animals, the unions of the sexes were probably,
in the earliest times, loose, transitory, and, _in some degree_,

Sir Henry Maine opposes to Mr. M'Lennan's theory the statement of
Mr. Darwin: 'From all we know of the passions of all male
quadrupeds, promiscuous intercourse in a state of Nature is highly
improbable.'[208] On this first question, let us grant to Sir Henry
Maine, to Mr. Darwin, and to common-sense that if the very earliest
men were extremely animal in character, their unions while they
lasted were probably monogamous or polygamous. The sexual jealousy
of the male would secure that result, as it does among many other
animals. Let the first point, then, be scored to Sir Henry Maine:
let it be granted that if man was created perfect, he lived in the
monogamous family before the Fall: and that, if he was evolved as an
animal, the unchecked animal instincts would make for monogamy or
patriarchal polygamy in the strictly primitive family.

(2) Did circumstances and customs ever or anywhere compel or induce
man (whatever his original condition) to resort to practices which
made paternity uncertain, and so caused the absence of the patriarchal
family, kinship being reckoned through women? If this question be
answered in the affirmative, and if the sphere of action of the
various causes be made wide enough, it will not matter much to Mr.
M'Lennan's theory whether the strictly primitive family was
patriarchal or not. If there occurred a fall from the primitive
family, and if that fall was extremely general, affecting even the
Aryan race, Mr. M'Lennan's adherents will be amply satisfied. Their
object is to show that the family, even in the Aryan race, was
developed through a stage of loose savage connections. If that can be
shown, they do not care much about primitive man properly so called.
Sir Henry Maine admits, as a matter of fact, that among certain races,
in certain districts, circumstances have overridden the sexual
jealousy which secures the recognition of male parentage. Where women
have been few, and where poverty has been great, jealousy has been
suppressed, even in the Venice of the eighteenth century. Sir H. Maine
says: 'The usage' (that of polyandry--many husbands to a single wife)
'seems to me one which circumstances overpowering morality and decency
might at any time call into existence. It is known to have arisen in
the native Indian army.' The question now is, what are the
circumstances that overpower morality and decency, and so produce
polyandry, with its necessary consequences, when it is a recognised
institution--the absence of the patriarchal family, and the
recognition of kinship through women? Any circumstances which cause
great scarcity of women will conduce to those results. Mr. M'Lennan's
opinion was, that the chief cause of scarcity of women has been the
custom of female infanticide--of killing little girls as _bouches
inutiles_. Sir Henry Maine admits that 'the cause assigned by M'Lennan
is a _vera causa_--it is capable of producing the effects.'[209] Mr.
M'Lennan collected a very large mass of testimony to prove the wide
existence of this cause of paucity of women. Till that evidence is
published, I can only say that it was sufficient, in Mr. M'Lennan's
opinion, to demonstrate the wide prevalence of the factor which is
the mainspring of his whole system.[210] How frightfully female
infanticide has prevailed in India, every one may read in the official
reports of Col. M'Pherson, and other English authorities. Mr. Fison's
_Kamilaroi and Kurnai_ contains some notable, though not to my mind
convincing, arguments on the other side. Sir Henry Maine adduces
another cause of paucity of women: the wanderings of our race, and
expeditions across sea.[211] This cause would not, however, be
important enough to alter forms of kinship, where the invaders (like
the early English in Britain) found a population which they could
conquer and whose women they could appropriate.

Apart from any probable inferences that may be drawn from the presumed
practice of female infanticide, actual ascertained facts prove that
many races do not now live, or that recently they did not live, in the
patriarchal or modern family. They live, or did live, in polyandrous
associations. The Thibetans, the Nairs, the early inhabitants of
Britain (according to Cæsar), and many other races,[212] as well as
the inhabitants of the Marquesas Islands, and the Iroquois (according
to Lafitau), practise, or have practised, polyandry.

We now approach the third and really important problem--(3) Is there
any reason to suppose that the stronger peoples, like the Aryans and
the Semites, ever passed through a stage of culture in which female,
not male, kinship was chiefly recognised, probably as a result of

Now the nature of the evidence which affords a presumption that Aryans
have all passed through Australian institutions, such as polyandry, is
of extremely varied character. Much of it may undoubtedly be explained
away. But such strength as the evidence has (which we do not wish to
exaggerate) is derived from its convergence to one point--namely, the
anterior existence of polyandry and the matriarchal family among
Aryans before and after the dawn of real history.

For the sake of distinctness we may here number the heads of the
evidence bearing on this question. We have--

1. The evidence of inference from the form of capture in bridal

2. The evidence from exogamy: the law which forbids marriage between
persons of the same family name.

3. The evidence from totemism--that is, the derivation of the family
name and crest or badge, from some natural object, plant or
animal.[213] Persons bearing the name may not intermarry, nor, as a
rule, may they eat the object from which they derive their family name
and from which they claim to be descended.

4. The evidence from the _gens_ of Rome, or γένος of ancient Greece,
in connection with Totemism.

5. The evidence from myth and legend.

6. The evidence from direct historical statements as to the prevalence
of the matriarchal family, and inheritance through the maternal line.

To take these various testimonies in their order, let us begin with--

(1) The form of capture in bridal ceremonies. That this form survived
in Sparta, Crete, in Hindoo law, in the traditions of Ireland, in the
popular rustic customs of Wales, is not denied.

If we hold, with Mr. M'Lennan, that scarcity of women (produced by
female infanticide or otherwise) is the cause of the habit of
capturing wives, we may see, in survivals of this ceremony of capture
among Aryans, a proof of early scarcity of women, and of probable
polyandry. But an opponent may argue, like Mr. J. A. Farrer in
_Primitive Manners_, that the ceremony of capture is mainly a
concession to maiden modesty among early races. Here one may observe
that the girls of savage tribes are notoriously profligate and
immodest about illicit connections. Only honourable marriage brings a
blush to the cheek of these young persons. This is odd, but, in the
present state of the question, we cannot lean on the evidence of the
ceremony of capture. We cannot demonstrate that it is derived from a
time when paucity of women made capture of brides necessary. Thus
'honours are easy' in this first deal.

(2) The next indication is very curious, and requires much more
prolonged discussion. The custom of _Exogamy_ was first noted and
named by Mr. M'Lennan. Exogamy is the prohibition of marriage within
the supposed blood-kinship, as denoted by the family name. Such
marriage, among many backward races, is reckoned incestuous, and is
punishable by death. Certain peculiarities in connection with the
family name have to be noted later. Now, Sir Henry Maine admits that
exogamy, as thus defined, exists among the Hindoos. 'A Hindoo may not
marry a woman belonging to the same _gotra_, all members of the
_gotra_ being theoretically supposed to have descended from the same
ancestor.' The same rule prevails in China. 'There are in China large
bodies of related clansmen, each generally bearing the same clan-name.
They are exogamous; no man will marry a woman having the same
clan-name with himself.' It is admitted by Sir Henry Maine that this
wide prohibition of marriage was the early Aryan rule, while advancing
civilisation has gradually permitted marriage within limits once
forbidden. The Greek Church now (according to Mr. M'Lennan), and the
Catholic Church in the past, forbade intermarriages 'as far as
relationship could be known.' The Hindoo rule appears to go still
further, and to prohibit marriage as far as the common _gotra_ name
seems merely to indicate relationship.

As to the ancient Romans, Plutarch says: 'Formerly they did not marry
women connected with them by blood, any more than they now marry aunts
or sisters. It was long before they would even intermarry with
cousins.'[214] Plutarch also remarks that, in times past, Romans did
not marry συγγενίδας, and if we may render this 'women of the same
_gens_,' the exogamous prohibition in Rome was as complete as among
the Hindoos. I do not quite gather from Sir Henry Maine's account of
the Slavonic house communities (pp. 254, 255) whether they dislike
_all_ kindred marriages, or only marriage within the 'greater
blood'--that is, within the kinship on the male side. He says: 'The
South Slavonians bring their wives into the group, in which they are
socially organised, from a considerable distance outside.... Every
marriage which requires an ecclesiastical dispensation is regarded as

On the whole, wide prohibitions of marriage are archaic: the widest
are savage; the narrowest are modern and civilised. Thus the Hindoo
prohibition is old, barbarous and wide. 'The barbarous Aryan,' says
Sir Henry Maine, 'is generally exogamous. He has a most extensive
table of prohibited degrees.' Thus exogamy seems to be a survival of
barbarism. The question for us is, Can we call exogamy a survival from
a period when (owing to scarcity of women and polyandry) clear ideas
of kinship were impossible? If this can be proved, exogamous Aryans
either passed through polyandrous institutions, or borrowed a savage
custom derived from a period when ideas of kinship were obscure.

If we only knew the origin of the prohibition to marry within the
family name all would be plain sailing. At present several theories of
the origin of exogamy are before the world. Mr. Morgan, the author of
_Ancient Society_, inclines to trace the prohibition to a great early
physiological discovery, acted on by primitive men by virtue of a
_contrat social_. Early man discovered that children of unsound
constitutions were born of nearly-related parents. Mr. Morgan says:
'Primitive men very early discovered the evils of close
interbreeding.' Elsewhere Mr. Morgan writes: 'Intermarriage in the
_gens_ was prohibited, to secure the benefits of marrying out with
unrelated persons.' This arrangement 'was a product of high
intelligence,' and Mr. Morgan calls it a 'reform.'[215]

Let us examine this very curious theory. First: Mr. Morgan supposes
early man to have made a discovery (the evils of the marriage of near
kin) which evades modern physiological science. Modern science has not
determined that the marriages of kinsfolk are pernicious. Is it
credible that savages should discover a fact which puzzles science? It
may be replied that modern care, nursing, and medical art save
children of near marriages from results which were pernicious to the
children of early man. Secondly: Mr. Morgan supposes that barbarous
man (so notoriously reckless of the morrow as he is) not only made
the discovery of the evils of interbreeding, but acted on it with
promptitude and self-denial. Thirdly: Mr. Morgan seems to require, for
the enforcement of the exogamous law, a _contrat social_. The larger
communities meet, and divide themselves into smaller groups, within
which wedlock is forbidden. This 'social pact' is like a return to the
ideas of Rousseau. Fourthly: The hypothesis credits early men with
knowledge and discrimination of near degrees of kin, which they might
well possess if they lived in patriarchal families, but which, _ex
hypothesi_, they could not possess. But it represents that they did
not act on their knowledge. Instead of prohibiting marriage between
parents and children, cousins, nephews and aunts, uncles and nieces,
they prohibited marriage within the limit of the name of the kin. This
is still the Hindoo rule, and, if the Romans really might not at one
time marry within the _gens_, it was the Roman rule. Now observe, this
rule fails to effect the very purpose for which _ex hypothesi_ it was
instituted. Where the family name goes by the male side, marriages
between cousins are permitted, as in India and China. These are the
very marriages which some theorists now denounce as pernicious. But,
if the family name goes by the female side, marriages between
half-brothers and half-sisters are permitted, as in ancient Athens and
among the Hebrews of Abraham's time. Once more, the exogamous
prohibition excludes, in China, America, Africa, Australia, persons
who are in no way akin (according to our ideas) from intermarriage.
Thus Mr. Doolittle writes,[216] 'Males and females of the same surname
will never intermarry in China. Cousins who have not the same
ancestral surname may intermarry. Though the ancestors of persons of
the same surname have not known each other for thousands of years,
they may not intermarry.' The Hindoo _gotra_ rule produces the same

For all these reasons, and because of the improbability of the
physiological discovery, and of the moral 'reform' which enforced it;
and again, because the law is not of the sort which people acquainted
with near degrees of kinship would make; and once more because the law
fails to effect its presumed purpose, while it does attain ends at
which it does not aim--we cannot accept Mr. Morgan's suggestion as to
the origin of exogamy. Mr. M'Lennan did not live to publish a subtle
theory of the origin of exogamy, which he had elaborated. In _Studies
in Ancient History_ he hazarded a conjecture based on female

    We believe the restrictions on marriage to be connected with
    the practice in early times of female infanticide, which
    rendering women scarce, led at once to polyandry within the
    tribe, and the capturing of women from without.... Hence the
    cruel custom which, leaving the primitive human hordes with
    very few young women of their own, occasionally with none,
    and in any case seriously disturbing the balance of the sexes
    within the hordes, forces them to prey upon one another for
    wives. Usage, induced by necessity, would in time establish a
    prejudice among the tribes observing it, a prejudice strong
    as a principle of religion--as every prejudice relating to
    marriage is apt to be--against marrying women of their own

Mr. M'Lennan describes his own hypothesis as 'a suggestion thrown out
at what it was worth.'[217] In his later years, as we have said, he
developed a very subtle and ingenious theory of the origin of exogamy,
still connecting it with scarcity of women, but making use of various
supposed stages and processes in the development of the law. That
speculation remains unpublished. To myself, the suggestion given in
_Studies in Ancient History_ seems inadequate. I find it difficult to
conceive that the frequent habit of stealing women should indispose
men to marry the native women they had at hand. That this
indisposition should grow into a positive law, and the infringement of
the law be regarded as a capital offence, seems more inconceivable. My
own impression is, that exogamy may be connected with some early
superstition or idea of which we have lost the touch, and which we can
no longer explain.[218] Possibly it may be only one form of the Totem
taboo. You may not marry a woman of your totem, as you may not eat an
animal of the species.

Thus far, the consideration of exogamy has thrown no clear light on
the main question--the question whether the customs of civilised races
contain relics of female kinship. On Mr. Lewis Morgan's theory of
exogamy, that Aryan custom is unconnected with female kinship,
polyandry, and scarcity of women. On Mr. M'Lennan's theory, exogamy is
the result of scarcity of women, and implies polyandry and female
kinship. But neither theory has seemed satisfactory. Yet we need not
despair of extracting some evidence from exogamy, and that evidence,
on the whole, is in favour of Mr. M'Lennan's general hypothesis. (1)
The exogamous prohibition must have first come into force _when
kinship was only reckoned on one side of the family_. This is obvious,
whether we suppose it to have arisen in a society which reckoned by
male or by female kinship. In the former case, the law only prohibits
marriage with persons of the father's, in the second case with persons
of the mother's, family name, and these only it recognises as kindred.
(2) Our second point is much more important. The exogamous prohibition
must first have come into force _when kinship was so little understood
that it could best be denoted by the family name_. This would be
self-evident, if we could suppose the prohibition to be intended to
prevent marriages of relations.[219] Had the authors of the
prohibition been acquainted with the nature of near kinships, they
would simply (as we do) have forbidden marriage between persons in
those degrees. The very nature of the prohibition, on the other hand,
shows that kinship was understood in a manner all unlike our modern
system. The limit of kindred was everywhere the family name: a limit
which excludes many real kinsfolk and includes many who are not
kinsfolk at all. In Australia especially, and in America, India, and
Africa, to a slighter extent, that definition of kindred by the family
name actually includes alligators, smoke, paddy melons, rain,
crayfish, sardines, and what you please.[220] Will any one assert,
then, that people among whom the exogamous prohibition arose were
organised on the system of the patriarchal family, which permits the
nature of kinship to be readily understood at a glance? Is it not
plain that the exogamous prohibition (confessedly Aryan) must have
arisen in a stage of culture when ideas of kindred were confused,
included kinship with animals and plants, and were to us almost, if
not quite, unintelligible? It is even possible, as Mr. M'Lennan
says,[221] 'that the prejudice against marrying women of the same
group may have been established _before the facts of blood
relationship had made any deep impression on the human mind_.' How the
exogamous prohibition tends to confirm this view will next be set
forth in our consideration of _Totemism_.

(3) _The Evidence from Totemism._--Totemism is the name for the custom
by which a stock (scattered through many local tribes) claims descent
from and kindred with some plant, animal, or other natural object.
This object, of which the effigy is sometimes worn as a badge or
crest, members of the stock refuse to eat. As a general rule, marriage
is prohibited between members of the stock--between all, that is, who
claim descent from the same object and wear the same badge. The
exogamous limit, therefore, is denoted by the stock-name and crest,
and kinship is kinship in the wolf, bear, potato, or whatever other
object is recognised as the original ancestor. Finally, as a general
rule, the stock-name is derived through the mother, and where it is
derived through the father there are proofs that the custom is
comparatively modern. It will be acknowledged that this sort of
kindred, which is traced to a beast, bird, or tree, which is
recognised in every person bearing the same stock-name, which is
counted through females, and which governs marriage customs, is not
the sort of kindred that would naturally arise among people regulated
on the patriarchal or monandrous family system. Totemism, however, is
a widespread institution prevailing all over the north of the American
continent, also in Peru (according to Garcilasso de la Vega); in
Guiana (the negroes have brought it from the African Gold Coast, where
it is in full force, as it also is among the Bechuanas); in India
among Hos, Garos, Kassos, and Oraons; in the South Sea Islands, where
it has left strong traces in Mangaia; in Siberia, and especially in
the great island continent of Australia. The Semitic evidences for
totemism (animal-worship, exogamy, descent claimed through females)
are given by Professor Robertson Smith, in the _Journal of Philology_,
ix. 17, _Animal Worship and Animal Tribes among the Arabs, and in the
Old Testament_. Many other examples of totemism might be adduced
(especially from Egypt), but we must restrict ourselves to the
following questions:--

1. What light is thrown on the original form of the family by
totemism? 2. Where we find survivals of totemism among civilised
races, may we conclude that these races (through scarcity of women)
had once been organised on other than the patriarchal model?

As to the first question, we must remember that the origin and
determining causes of totemism are still unknown. Mr. M'Lennan's
theory of the origin of totemism has never been published.[222] It may
be said without indiscretion that Mr. M'Lennan once thought totemism
arose at a period when ideas of kinship scarcely existed at all. 'Men
only thought of marking one off from another,' as Garcilasso de la
Vega says: the totem was but a badge worn by all the persons who found
themselves existing in close relations; perhaps in the same cave or
set of caves. People united by contiguity, and by the blind sentiment
of kinship not yet brought into explicit consciousness, might mark
themselves by a badge, and might thence derive a name, and, later,
might invent a myth of their descent from the object which the badge
represented. I do not know whether it has been observed that the
totems are, as a rule, objects which may be easily drawn or tattooed,
and still more easily indicated in gesture-language. Some interesting
facts will be found in the _First Annual Report of the Bureau of
Ethnology_, p. 458 (Washington, 1881). Here we read how the 'Crow'
tribe is indicated in sign-language by 'the hands held out on each
side, striking the air in the manner of flying.' The Bunaks (another
bird tribe) are indicated by an imitation of the cry of the bird. In
mentioning the Snakes, the hand imitates the crawling motion of the
serpent, and the fingers pointed up behind the ear denote the Wolves.
Plainly names of the totem sort are well suited to the convenience of
savages, who converse much in gesture-language. Above all, the very
nature of totemism shows that it took its present shape at a time when
men, animals, and plants were conceived of as physically akin; when
names were handed on through the female line; when exogamy was the
rule of marriage, and when the family theoretically included all
persons bearing the same family name, that is, all who claimed kindred
with the same plant, animal, or object, whether the persons are really
akin or not. These ideas and customs are not the ideas natural to men
organised in the patriarchal family.

The second question now arises: Can we infer from survivals of
totemism among Aryans that these Aryans had once been organised on the
full totemistic principle, probably with polyandry, and certainly with
female descent? Where totemism now exists in full force, there we find
exogamy and derivation of the family name through women, the latter
custom indicating uncertainty of male parentage in the past. Are we to
believe that the same institutions have existed wherever we find
survivals of totemism? If this be granted, and if the supposed
survivals of totemism among Aryans be accepted as genuine, then the
Aryans have distinctly come through a period of kinship reckoned
through women, with all that such an institution implies.[223] For
indications that the Aryans of Greece and India have passed through
the stage of totemism, the reader may be referred to Mr. M'Lennan's
'Worship of Plants and Animals' (_Fortnightly Review_, 1869, 1870).
The evidence there adduced is not all of the same value, and the
papers are only a hasty rough sketch based on the first testimonies
that came to hand. Probably the most important 'survival' of totemism
in Greek legend is the body of stories about the amours of Zeus in
animal form. Various noble houses traced their origin to Zeus or
Apollo, who, as a bull, tortoise, serpent, swan, or ant, had seduced
the mother of the race. The mother of the Arcadians became a she-bear,
like the mother of the bear stock of the Iroquois. As we know plenty
of races all over the world who (like Greek royal houses) trace their
descent from serpents, tortoises, swans, and so forth, it is a fair
hypothesis that the ancestors of the Greeks once believed in the same
fables. In later times the swan, serpent, ant, or tortoise was
explained as an _avatar_ of Zeus. The process by which an
anthropomorphic god or hero succeeds to the exploits of animals, of
theriomorphic gods and heroes, is the most common in mythology, and is
illustrated by actual practice in modern India. When the Brahmins
convert a pig-worshipping tribe of aboriginals, they tell their
proselytes that the pig was an avatar of Vishnu. The same process is
found active where the Japanese have influenced the savage Ainos, and
persuaded them that their bear- or dog-father was a manifestation of a
deity. We know from Plutarch (_Theseus_, vii. viii.) that one Carian
γένος, the Ioxidæ, revered the asparagus because it was friendly to
their ancestress, as a totem should be. A vaguer indication of
totemism may perhaps be detected in the ancient theriomorphic statues
of Greek gods, as the Ram-Zeus and the Horse-headed Demeter, and in
the various animals and plants which were sacred to each god and
represented as his companions.[224]

The hints of totemism among the ancient Irish are interesting. One
hero, Conaire, was the son of a bird, and before his birth his father
(the bird) told the woman (his mother) that the child must never eat
the flesh of fowls. 'Thy son shall be named Conaire, and that son
shall not kill birds.'[225] The hero Cuchullain, being named after
the dog, might not eat the flesh of the dog, and came by his ruin
after transgressing this totemistic taboo. Races named after animals
were common in ancient Ireland. The red-deer and the wolves were
tribes dwelling near Ossory, and Professor Rhys, from the frequency
of dog names, inclines to believe in a dog totem in Erin. According
to the ancient Irish 'Wonders of Eri,' in the _Book of Glendaloch_,
'the descendants of the wolf are in Ossory,' and they could still
transform themselves into wolves.[226] As to our Anglo-Saxon
ancestors, there is little evidence beyond the fact that the names
(in many cases patronymics) of the early settlements of Billings,
Arlings, and the rest, are undeniably derived from animals and
plants. The manner in which those names are scattered locally is
precisely like what results in America, Africa, and Australia from
the totemistic organisation.[227] In Italy the ancient custom by
which animals were the leaders of the _Ver sacrum_ or armed migration
is well known. The Piceni had for their familiar animal or totem (if
we may call it so) a woodpecker; the Hirpini were like the
'descendants of the wolf' in Ossory, and practised a wolf-dance in
which they imitated the actions of the animal.

Such is a summary of the evidence which hints that Aryans may once
have been totemists, therefore savages, and therefore, again, had
probably been in a stage when women were scarce and each woman had
many husbands.

(4) _Evidence from the Gens or γένος._--There is no more puzzling
topic in the history of the ancient world than the origin and nature
of the community called by the Romans the _gens_, and by the Greeks
the γένος. To the present writer it seems that no existing community
of men, neither totem kin, nor clan, nor house community, nor _gotra_,
precisely answers to the _gens_ or the γένος. Our information about
these forms of society is slight and confused. The most essential
thing to notice for the moment is the fact that both in Greece and
Rome the γένος and _gens_ were extremely ancient, so ancient that
the γένος was decaying in Greece when history begins, while in Rome
we can distinctly see the rapid decadence and dissolution of the
_gens_. In the laws of the Twelve Tables, the _gens_ is a powerful and
respected corporation. In the time of Cicero the nature of the _gens_
is a matter but dimly understood. Tacitus begins to be confused about
the gentile nomenclature. In the Empire gentile law fades away. In
Greece, especially at Athens, the early political reforms transferred
power from the γένος to a purely local organisation, the Deme. The
Greek of historical times did not announce his γένος in his name (as
the Romans always did), but gave his own name, that of his father, and
that of his deme. Thus we may infer that in Greek and Roman society
the γένος and _gens_ were dying, not growing, organisations. In very
early times it is probable that foreign _gentes_ were adopted _en
bloc_ into the Roman Commonwealth. Very probably, too, a great family,
on entering the Roman bond, may have assumed, by a fiction, the
character and name of a _gens_. But that Roman society in historical
times, or that Greek society, could evolve a new _gens_ or γένος in
a normal natural way, seems excessively improbable.

Keeping in mind the antique and 'obsolescent' character of the _gens_
and γένος, let us examine the theories of the origin of these
associations. The Romans themselves knew very little about the matter.
Cicero quotes the dictum of Scævola the Pontifex, according to which
the _gens_ consisted of _all persons of the same gentile name_ who
were not in any way disqualified.[228] Thus, in America, or
Australia, or Africa, all persons bearing the same totem name belong
to that totem kin. Festus defines members of a _gens_ as persons of
the same stock and same family name. Varro says (in illustration of
the relationships of words and cases), 'Ab Æmilio homines orti Æmilii
sunt gentiles.' The two former definitions answer to the conception of
a totem kin, which is united by its family name and belief in identity
of origin. Varro adds the element, in the Roman _gens_, of common
descent from one male ancestor. Such was the conception of the _gens_
in historical times. It was in its way an association of kinsfolk,
real or supposed. According to the Laws of the Twelve Tables the
gentiles inherited the property of an intestate man without agnates,
and had the custody of lunatics in the same circumstances. The _gens_
had its own _sacellum_ or chapel, and its own _sacra_ or religious
rites. The whole _gens_ occasionally went into mourning when one of
its members was unfortunate. It would be interesting if it could be
shown that the _sacra_ were usually examples of ancestor-worship, but
the faint indications on the subject scarcely permit us to assert

On the whole, Sir Henry Maine strongly clings to the belief that the
_gens_ commonly had 'a real core of agnatic consanguinity from the
very first.' But he justly recognises the principle of imitation,
which induces men to copy any fashionable institution. Whatever the
real origin of the _gens_, many _gentes_ were probably copies based
on the fiction of common ancestry.

On Sir Henry Maine's system, then, the _gens_ rather proves the
constant existence of recognised male descents among the peoples where
it exists.[229]

The opposite theory of the _gens_ is that to which Mr. M'Lennan
inclined. 'The composition and organisation of Greek and Roman tribes
and commonwealths cannot well be explained except on the hypothesis
that they resulted from the joint operation, in early times, of
exogamy, and the system of kinship through females only.'[230] 'The
_gens_,' he adds, 'was composed of all the persons in the tribe
bearing the same name and accounted of the same stock. Were the
_gentes_ really of different stocks, as their names would imply and as
the people believed? If so, how came clans of different stocks to be
united in the same tribe?... How came a variety of such groups, of
different stocks, to coalesce in a local tribe?' These questions, Mr.
M'Lennan thought, could not be answered on the patriarchal hypothesis.
His own theory, or rather his theory as understood by the present
writer, may be stated thus. In the earliest times there were
homogeneous groups, which became totem kin. Let us say that, in a
certain district, there were groups called woodpeckers, wolves, bears,
suns, swine, each with its own little territory. These groups were
exogamous, and derived the name through the mother. Thus, in course of
time, when sun men married a wolf girl, and her children were wolves,
there would be wolves in the territory of the suns, and thus each
stock would be scattered through all the localities, just as we see in
Australia and America. Let us suppose that (as certainly is occurring
in Australia and America) paternal descent comes to be recognised in
custom. This change will not surprise Sir Henry Maine, who admits that
a system of male may alter, under stress of circumstances, to a system
of female descents. In course of time, and as knowledge and
common-sense advance, the old superstition of descent from a
woodpecker, a bear, a wolf, the sun, or what not, becomes untenable. A
human name is assumed by the group which had called itself the
woodpeckers or the wolves, or perhaps by a local tribe in which
several of these stocks are included. Then a fictitious human ancestor
is adopted, and perhaps even adored. Thus the wolves might call
themselves Claudii, from their chief's name, and, giving up belief in
descent from a wolf, might look back to a fancied ancestor named
Claudius. The result of these changes will be that an exogamous totem
kin, with female descent, has become a _gens_, with male kinship, and
only the faintest trace of exogamy. An example of somewhat similar
processes must have occurred in the Highland clans after the
introduction of Christianity, when the chief's Christian name became
the patronymic of the people who claimed kinship with him and owned
his sway.

Are there any traces at all of totemism in what we know of the Roman
_gentes_? Certainly the traces are very slight; perhaps they are only
visible to the eye of the intrepid anthropologist. I give them for
what they are worth, merely observing that they do tally, as far as
they go, with the totemistic theory. The reader interested in the
subject may consult the learned Streinnius's _De Gentibus Romanis_, p.
104 (Aldus, Venice, 1591).

Among well-known savage totems none is more familiar than the sun. Men
claim descent from the sun, call themselves by his name, and wear his
effigy as a badge.[231] Were there suns in Rome? The Aurelian _gens_
is thus described on the authority of Festus Pompeius: 'The Aurelii
were of Sabine descent. The Aurelii were so named from the sun
(_aurum_, _urere_, the burning thing), because a place was set apart
for them in which to pay adoration to the sun.' Here, at least, is an
odd coincidence. Among other gentile names, the Fabii, Cornelii,
Papirii, Pinarii, Cassii, are possibly connected with plants; while
wild etymology may associate Porcii, Aquilii, and Valerii with swine
and eagles. Pliny (_H. N._, xviii. 3) gives a fantastic explanation of
the vegetable names of Roman _gentes_. We must remember that vegetable
names are very common in American, Indian, African, and Australian
totem kin. Of sun names the Natchez and the Incas of Peru are familiar
examples. Turning from Rome to Greece, we find the γένος less
regarded and more decadent than the _gens_. Yet, according to Grote
(iii. 54) the γένος had--(1) _Sacra_, 'in honour of the same god,
supposed to be the primitive ancestor.' (2) A common burial-place. (3)
Certain rights of succession to property. (4) Obligations of mutual
help and defence. (5) Mutual rights and obligations to intermarry in
certain cases. (6) Occasionally possession of common property.

Traces of the totem among the Greek γένη are, naturally, few. Almost
all the known γένη bore patronymics derived from personal names. But
it is not without significance that the Attic demes often adopted the
names of obsolescent γένη, and that deme names were, as Mr. Grote
says (iii. 63), often 'derived from the plants and shrubs which grew
in their neighbourhood.' We have already seen that at least one
ancient γένος, the Ioxidæ, revered the plant which, as the myth ran,
befriended their ancestress. One thing is certain, the totem names,
and a common explanation of the totem names in Australia, correspond
with the names and Mr. Grote's explanation of the names of the Attic
demes. 'One origin of family names,' says Sir George Grey (ii. 228),
'frequently ascribed by the natives, is that they were derived from
some vegetable or animal being common in the district which the family
inhabited.' Some writers attempt to show that the Attic γένος was
once exogamous and counted kin on the mother's side, by quoting the
custom which permitted a man to marry his half-sister, the child of
his father but not of his mother. They infer that this permission is a
survival from the time when a man's _father's_ children were not
reckoned as his kindred, and when kinship was counted through mothers.
Sir Henry Maine (p. 105) prefers M. Fustel de Coulanges' theory, that
the marriage of half-brothers and sisters on the father's side was
intended to save the portion of the girl to the family estate. Proof
of this may be adduced from examination of all the recorded cases of
such marriages in Athens. But the reason thus suggested would have
equally justified marriage between brothers and sisters on both sides,
and this was reckoned incest. A well-known line in Aristophanes shows
how intense was Athenian feeling about the impiety of relations with a
sister uterine.

On the whole, the evidence which we have adduced tends to establish
some links between the ancient γένος and _gens_, and the totem
kindreds of savages. The indications are not strong, but they all
point in one direction. Considering the high civilisation of Rome and
Greece at the very dawn of history--considering the strong natural
bent of these peoples toward refinement--it is almost remarkable that
even the slight testimonies we have been considering should have

(5) On the evidence from myth and legend we propose to lay little
stress. But, as legends were not invented by anthropologists to prove
a point, it is odd that the traditions of Athens, as preserved by
Varro, speak of a time when names were derived from the mother, and
when promiscuity prevailed. Marriage itself was instituted by Cecrops,
the serpent, just as the lizard, in Australia, is credited with this
useful invention.[232] Similar legends among non-Aryan races, Chinese
and Egyptian, are very common.

(6) There remains the evidence of actual fact and custom among Aryan
peoples. The Lycians, according to Herodotus, 'have this peculiar
custom, _wherein they resemble no other men_, they derive their names
from their mothers, and not from their fathers, and through mothers
reckon their kin.' Status also was derived through the mothers.[233]
The old writer's opinion that the custom (so common in Australia,
America and Africa) was unique, is itself a proof of his good faith.
Bachofen (p. 390) remarks that several Lycian inscriptions give the
names of mothers only. Polybius attributes (assigning a fantastic
reason) the same custom of counting kin through mothers to the
Locrians.[234] The British and Irish custom of deriving descents
through women is well known,[235] and a story is told to account for
the practice. The pedigrees of the British kings show that most did
not succeed to their fathers, and the various records of early Celtic
morals go to prove that no other system of kinship than the maternal
would have possessed any value, so uncertain was fatherhood. These are
but hints of the prevalence of institutions which survived among
Teutonic races in the importance attached to the relationship of a
man's sister's son. Though no longer his legal heir, the sister's son
was almost closer than any other kinsman.[236]

We have now summarised and indicated the nature of the evidence which,
on the whole, inclines us to the belief of Mr. M'Lennan rather than of
Sir Henry Maine. The point to which all the testimony adduced
converges, the explanation which most readily solves all the
difficulties, is the explanation of Mr. M'Lennan. The Aryan races
have very generally passed through the stage of scarcity of women,
polyandry, absence of recognised male kinship, and recognition of
kinship through women. What Sir Henry Maine admits as the exception,
we are inclined to regard as having, in a very remote past, been the
rule. No one kind of evidence--neither traces of marriage by capture,
of exogamy, of totemism, of tradition, of noted fact among Lycians and
Picts and Irish--would alone suffice to guide our opinion in this
direction. But the cumulative force of the testimony strikes us as not
inconsiderable, and it must be remembered that the testimony has not
yet been assiduously collected.

Let us end by showing how this discussion illustrates the method of
Folklore. We have found anomalies among Aryans. We have seen the
_gens_ an odd, decaying institution. We have seen Greek families claim
descent from various animals, said to be Zeus, or another god, in
disguise. We have found them tracing kinship and deriving names from
the mother. We have found stocks with animal and vegetable names. We
have found half-brothers and sisters marrying. We have noted
prohibitions to marry any one of the same family name. All these
institutions are odd, anomalous, decaying things among Aryans, and the
more civilised the Aryans the more they decay. All of them are living,
active things among savages, and, far from being anomalous, are in
precise harmony with savage notions of the world. Surely, then, where
they seem decaying and anomalous, as among Aryans, these customs and
laws are mouldering relics of ideas and practices natural and
inevitable among savages.


[206] _Early Law and Custom._

[207] _Studies in Ancient History_, p. 127.

[208] _Descent of Man_, ii. 362.

[209] _Early Law and Custom_, p. 210.

[210] Here I would like to point out that Mr. M'Lennan's theory was
not so hard and fast as his manner (that of a very assured believer in
his own ideas) may lead some inquirers to suppose. Sir Henry Maine
writes, that both Mr. Morgan and Mr. M'Lennan 'seem to me to think
that human society went everywhere through the same series of changes,
and Mr. M'Lennan, at any rate, expresses himself as if all those
stages could be clearly discriminated from one another, and the close
of one and the commencement of another announced with the distinctness
of the clock-bell telling the end of the hour.' On the other hand, I
remember Mr. M'Lennan's saying that, in his opinion, 'all manner of
arrangements probably went on simultaneously in different places.' In
_Studies in Ancient History_, p. 127, he expressly guards against the
tendency 'to assume that the progress of the various races of men from
savagery has been a uniform progress: that all the stages which any of
them has gone through have been passed in their order by all.' Still
more to the point is his remark on polyandry among the very early
Greeks and other Aryans; 'it is quite consistent with my view that in
all these quarters (Persia, Sparta, Troy, Lycia, Attica, Crete, etc.)
monandry, and even the _patria potestas_, may have prevailed at

[211] _Early Law and Custom_, p. 212.

[212] _Studies in Ancient History_, pp. 140-147.

[213] _Totem_ is the name generally given by travellers and
interpreters to the family crests of the Red Indians. Cf. p. 105.

[214] Plutarch, _Quæst. Rom._, vi. Cf. M'Lennan, _The Patriarchal
Theory_, pp. 206-208.

[215] Cf. Maine, _Early Law and Custom_, pp. 227, 228.

[216] _Domestic Manners of the Chinese_, i. 99.

[217] _Fortnightly Review_, June 1, 1877.

[218] Cf. Sir John Lubbock, _Origin of Civilisation_, pp. 104, 125 _et

[219] We do not, however, make this presumption. Considering what sort
of affair truly _primitive_ marriage must have been, there may have
risen a prejudice against it within the group. Any one acquainted with
New Caledonian and Arab marriage usages will understand this

[220] _Kamilaroi and Kurnai_, p. 169. Natives call these objects their
kin, 'of one flesh' with them.

[221] _Studies_, p. 112.

[222] From _The Patriarchal Theory_ (Preface, p. vii.) it appears that
Mr. M'Lennan gave up his hypothesis and ceased to have any view on the
origin of totemism.

[223] Some critics have understood me to maintain that traces of Aryan
totemism survive. I merely point out indications which appear (when
taken with other evidence) to point in that direction. What other
equally plausible explanation is offered?

[224] Cf. 'Apollo and the Mouse,' p. 118.

[225] O'Curry, _Manners of Ancient Irish_, l. ccclxx., quoting Trin.
Coll. Dublin MS.

[226] See also Elton's _Origins of English History_, pp. 299-310.

[227] Kemble's _Saxons in England_, p. 258. _Politics of Aristotle_,
Bolland and Lang, p. 99.[A]

[A] Mr. Grant Allen kindly supplied me some time ago with a list of
animal and vegetable names preserved in the titles of ancient English
village settlements. Among them are: ash, birch, bear (as among the
Iroquois), oak, buck, fir, fern, sun, wolf, thorn, goat, horse, salmon
(the trout is a totem in America), swan (familiar in Australia), and
others. It may be argued, as by Mr. Isaac Taylor, that such names, in
England, merely described local characteristics, though, in Asia,
India, Africa, Australia, Samoa, Egypt, similar names are derived from

[228] 'Gentiles sunt qui inter se eodem nomine sunt. Qui ab ingenii
oriundi sunt. Quorum majorum nemo servitutem servivit. Qui capite non
sunt deminuti.'

[229] The arguments on the other side in M'Lennan's _Patriarchal
Theory_ seem overpowering.

[230] _Studies in Ancient History_, p. 212.

[231] _Fortnightly Review_, Oct., 1869: 'Archæologia Americana,' ii.

[232] Suidas, 3102.

[233] Herod., i. 173. It is not agreed that the Lycians were Aryans,
but surely the Locrians were!

[234] Cf. Bachofen, p. 309.

[235] Compare the _Irish Nennius_, p. 127.

[236] Tacitus, _Germania_, xx.


'Avoid Coleridge, he is _useless_,' says Mr. Ruskin. Why should the
poetry of Coleridge be useful? The question may interest the critic,
but we are only concerned with Mr. Ruskin here, for one reason. His
disparagement of Coleridge as 'useless' is a survival of the belief
that art should be 'useful.' This is the savage's view of art. He
imitates nature, in dance, song, or in plastic art, for a definite
practical purpose. His dances are magical dances, his images are made
for a magical purpose, his songs are incantations. Thus the theory
that art is a disinterested expression of the imitative faculty is
scarcely warranted by the little we know of art's beginnings. We shall
adopt, provisionally, the hypothesis that the earliest art with which
we are acquainted is that of savages contemporary or extinct. Some
philosophers may tell us that all known savages are only degraded
descendants of early civilised men who have, unluckily and
inexplicably, left no relics of their civilisation. But we shall argue
on the opposite theory, that the art of Australians, for example, is
really earlier in kind, more backward, nearer the rude beginnings of
things, than the art of people who have attained to some skill in
pottery, like the New Caledonians. These, again, are much more
backward, in a state really much earlier, than the old races of Mexico
and Peru; while they, in turn, show but a few traces of advance
towards the art of Egypt; and the art of Egypt, at least after the
times of the Ancient Empire, is scarcely advancing in the direction of
the flawless art of Greece. We shall be able to show how savage art,
as of the Australians, develops into barbarous art, as of the New
Zealanders; while the arts of strange civilisations, like those of
Peru and Mexico, advance one step further; and how, again, in the
early art of Greece, in the Greek art of ages prior to Pericles, there
are remains of barbaric forms which are gradually softened into
beauty. But there are necessarily breaks and solutions of continuity
in the path of progress.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--An Australian Shield.]

One of the oldest problems has already risen before us in connection
with the question stated: Is art the gratification of the imitative
faculty? Now, among the lowest, the most untutored, the worst equipped
savages of contemporary races, art is rather decorative on the whole
than imitative. The patterns on Australian shields and clubs, the
scars which they raise on their own flesh by way of tattooing, are
very rarely imitations of any objects in nature. The Australians, like
the Red Indians, like many African and some aboriginal Indian races,
Peruvians, and others, distinguish their families by the names of
various plants and animals, from which each family boasts its descent.
Thus you have a family called Kangaroos, descended, as they fancy,
from the kangaroo; another from the cockatoo, another from the black
snake, and so forth. Now, in many quarters of the globe, this custom
and this superstition, combined with the imitative faculty in man, has
produced a form of art representing the objects from which the
families claim descent. This art is a sort of rude heraldry--probably
the origin of heraldry. Thus, if a Red Indian (say a Delaware) is of
the family of the Turtle, he blazons a turtle on his shield or coat,
probably tattoos or paints his breast with a figure of a turtle, and
always has a turtle, _reversed_, designed on the pillar above his
grave when he dies, just as, in our mediæval chronicles, the leopards
of an English king are reversed on his scutcheon opposite the record
of his death. But the Australians, to the best of my knowledge, though
they are much governed by belief in descent from animals, do not
usually blazon their crest on their flesh, nor on the trees near the
place where the dead are buried. They have not arrived at this pitch
of imitative art, though they have invented or inherited a kind of
runes which they notch on sticks, and in which they convey to each
other secret messages. The natives of the Upper Darling, however, do
carve their family crests on their shields. In place of using
imitative art, the Murri are said, I am not quite sure with what
truth, to indicate the distinction of families by arrangements of
patterns, lines and dots, tattooed on the breast and arms, and carved
on the bark of trees near places of burial. In any case, the absence
of the rude imitative art of heraldry among a race which possesses all
the social conditions that produce this art is a fact worth noticing,
and itself proves that the native art of one of the most backward
races we know is not essentially imitative.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.]

Any one who will look through a collection of Australian weapons and
utensils will be brought to this conclusion. The shields and the clubs
are elaborately worked, but almost always without any representation
of plants, animals, or the human figure. As a rule the decorations
take the simple shape of the 'herring-bone' pattern, or such other
patterns as can be produced without the aid of spirals, or curves, or
circles. There is a natural and necessary cause of this choice of
decoration. The Australians, working on hard wood, with tools made of
flint, or broken glass, or sharp shell, cannot easily produce any
curved lines. Every one who, when a boy, carved his name on the bark
of a tree, remembers the difficulty he had with S and G, while he got
on easily with letters like M and A, which consist of straight or
inclined lines. The savage artist has the same difficulty with his
rude tools in producing anything like satisfactory curves or
spirals. We engrave above (Fig. 1) a shield on which an Australian has
succeeded, with obvious difficulty, in producing concentric ovals of
irregular shape. It may be that the artist would have produced perfect
circles if he could. His failure is exactly like that of a youthful
carver of inscriptions coming to grief over his G's and S's. Here,
however (Fig. 2), we have three shields which, like the ancient Celtic
pipkin (the tallest of the three figures in Fig. 3), show the earliest
known form of savage decorative art--the forms which survive under the
names of 'chevron' and 'herring-bone.' These can be scratched on clay
with the nails, or a sharp stick, and this primeval way of decorating
pottery made without the wheel survives, with other relics of savage
art, in the western isles of Scotland. The Australian had not even
learned to make rude clay pipkins, but he decorated his shields as the
old Celts and modern old Scotch women decorated their clay pots, with
the herring-bone arrangement of incised lines. In the matter of colour
the Australians prefer white clay and red ochre, which they rub into
the chinks in the woodwork of their shields. When they are determined
on an ambush, they paint themselves all over with white, justly
conceiving that their sudden apparition in this guise will strike
terror into the boldest hearts. But arrangements in black and white of
this sort scarcely deserve the name of even rudimentary art.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--Savage Ornamentation.]

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--An Australian Stele.]

The Australians sometimes introduce crude decorative attempts at
designing the human figure, as in the pointed shield opposite (Fig. 2,
_a_), which, with the other Australian designs, are from Mr. Brough
Smyth's _Aborigines of Victoria_. But these ambitious efforts usually
end in failure. Though the Australians chiefly confine themselves to
decorative art, there are numbers of wall-paintings, so to speak, in
the caves of the country which prove that they, like the Bushmen,
could design the human figure in action when they pleased. Their usual
preference for the employment of patterns appears to me to be the
result of the nature of their materials. In modern art our mechanical
advantages and facilities are so great that we are always carrying the
method and manner of one art over the frontier of another. Our poetry
aims at producing the effects of music; our prose at producing the
effects of poetry. Our sculpture tries to vie with painting in the
representation of action, or with lace-making in the production of
reticulated surfaces, and so forth. But the savage, in his art, has
sense enough to confine himself to the sort of work for which his
materials are fitted. Set him in the bush with no implements and
materials but a bit of broken shell and a lump of hard wood, and he
confines himself to decorative scratches. Place the black in the large
cave which Pundjel, the Australian Zeus, inhabited when on earth (as
Zeus inhabited the cave in Crete), and give the black plenty of red
and white ochre and charcoal, and he will paint the human figure in
action on the rocky walls. Later, we will return to the cave-paintings
of the Australians and the Bushmen in South Africa. At present we must
trace purely decorative art a little further. But we must remember
that there was once a race apparently in much the same social
condition as the Australians, but far more advanced and ingenious in
art. The earliest men of the European Continent, about whom we know
much, the men whose bones and whose weapons are found beneath the
gravel-drift, the men who were contemporary with the rhinoceros,
mammoth and cave-bear, were not further advanced in material
civilisation than the Australians. They used weapons of bone, of
unpolished stone, and probably of hard wood. But the remnants of their
art, the scraps of mammoth or reindeer bone in our museums, prove that
they had a most spirited style of sketching from the life. In a
collection of drawings on bone (probably designed with a flint or a
shell), drawings by palæolithic man, in the British Museum, I have
only observed one purely decorative attempt. Even in this the
decoration resembles an effort to use the outlines of foliage for
ornamental purposes. In almost all the other cases the palæolithic
artist has not decorated his bits of bone in the usual savage manner,
but has treated his bone as an artist treats his sketch-book, and has
scratched outlines of beasts and fishes with his sharp shell as an
artist uses his point. These ancient bones, in short, are the
sketch-books of European savages, whose untaught skill was far greater
than that of the Australians, or even of the Eskimo. When brought into
contact with Europeans, the Australian and Eskimo very quickly, even
without regular teaching, learn to draw with some spirit and skill. In
the Australian stele, or grave-pillar, which we have engraved (Fig.
4), the shapeless figures below the men and animals are the dead, and
the _boilyas_ or ghosts. Observe the patterns in the interstices. The
artist had lived with Europeans. In their original conditions,
however, the Australians have not attained to such free, artist-like,
and unhampered use of their rude materials as the mysterious European
artists who drew the mammoth that walked abroad amongst them.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--_a_, A Maori Design; _b_, Tattoo on a Maori's

We have engraved one solitary Australian attempt at drawing curved
lines. The New Zealanders, a race far more highly endowed, and, when
Europeans arrived amongst them, already far more civilised than the
Australians, had, like the Australians, no metal implements. But their
stone weapons were harder and keener, and with these they engraved the
various spirals and coils on hard wood, of which we give examples
here. It is sometimes said that New Zealand culture and art have
filtered from some Asiatic source, and that in the coils and spirals
designed, as in our engravings, on the face of the Maori chief, or on
his wooden furniture, there may be found debased Asiatic
influences.[238] This is one of the questions which we can hardly deal
with here. Perhaps its solution requires more of knowledge,
anthropological and linguistic, than is at present within the reach of
any student. Assuredly the races of the earth have wandered far, and
have been wonderfully intermixed, and have left the traces of their
passage here and there on sculptured stones, and in the keeping of the
ghosts that haunt ancient grave-steads. But when two pieces of
artistic work, one civilised, one savage, resemble each other, it is
always dangerous to suppose that the resemblance bears witness to
relationship or contact between the races, or to influences imported
by one from the other. New Zealand work may be Asiatic in origin, and
debased by the effect of centuries of lower civilisation and ruder
implements. Or Asiatic ornament may be a form of art improved out of
ruder forms, like those to which the New Zealanders have already
attained. One is sometimes almost tempted to regard the favourite
Maori spiral as an imitation of the form, not unlike that of a
bishop's crozier at the top, taken by the great native ferns. Examples
of resemblance, to be accounted for by the development of a crude
early idea, may be traced most easily in the early pottery of Greece.
No one says that the Greeks borrowed from the civilised people of
America. Only a few enthusiasts say that the civilised peoples of
America, especially the Peruvians, are Aryan by race. Yet the remains
of Peruvian palaces are often by no means dissimilar in style from the
'Pelasgic' and 'Cyclopean' buildings of gigantic stones which remain
on such ancient Hellenic sites as Argos and Mycenæ. The probability is
that men living in similar social conditions, and using similar
implements, have unconsciously and unintentionally arrived at like

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--From a Maori's Face.]

Few people who are interested in the question can afford to visit Peru
and Mycenæ and study the architecture for themselves. But any one who
is interested in the strange identity of the human mind everywhere,
and in the necessary forms of early art, can go to the British Museum
and examine the American and early Greek pottery. Compare the Greek
key pattern and the wave pattern on Greek and Mexican vases, and
compare the bird faces, or human faces very like those of birds, with
the similar faces on the clay pots which Dr. Schliemann dug up at
Troy. The latter are engraved in his book on Troy. Compare the
so-called 'cuttle-fish' from a Peruvian jar with the same figure on
the early Greek vases, most of which are to be found in the last of
the classical vase-rooms upstairs. Once more, compare the little clay
'whorls' of the Mexican and Peruvian room with those which Dr.
Schliemann found so numerous at Hissarlik. The conviction becomes
irresistible that all these objects, in shape, in purpose, in
character of decoration, are the same, because the mind and the
materials of men, in their early stages of civilisation especially,
are the same everywhere. You might introduce old Greek bits of
clay-work, figures or vases, into a Peruvian collection, or might
foist Mexican objects among the clay treasures of Hissarlik, and the
wisest archæologist would be deceived. The Greek fret pattern
especially seems to be one of the earliest that men learnt to draw.
The _svastika_, as it is called, the cross with lines at right angles
to each limb, is found everywhere--in India, Greece, Scotland,
Peru--as a natural bit of ornament. The allegorising fancy of the
Indians gave it a mystic meaning, and the learned have built I know
not what worlds of religious theories on this 'pre-Christian cross,'
which is probably a piece of hasty decorative work, with no original
mystic meaning at all.[239] Ornaments of this sort were transferred
from wood or bone to clay, almost as soon as people learned that early
art, the potter's, to which the Australians have not attained, though
it was familiar to the not distant people of New Caledonia. The style
of spirals and curves, again, once acquired (as it was by the New
Zealanders), became the favourite of some races, especially of the
Celtic. Any one who will study either the ornaments of Mycenæ, or
those of any old Scotch or Irish collection, will readily recognise in
that art the development of a system of ornament like that of the
Maoris. Classical Greece, on the other hand, followed more in the
track of the ancient system of straight and slanted lines, and we do
not find in the later Greek art that love of interlacing coils and
spirals which is so remarkable among the Celts, and which is very
manifest in the ornaments of the Mycenæan hoards--that is, perhaps, of
the ancient Greek heroic age. The causes of these differences in the
development of ornament, the causes that made Celtic genius follow one
track, and pursue to its æsthetic limits one early _motif_, while
classical art went on a severer line, it is, perhaps, impossible at
present to ascertain. But it is plain enough that later art has done
little more than develop ideas of ornament already familiar to
untutored races.

It has been shown that the art which aims at decoration is better
adapted to both the purposes and materials of savages than the art
which aims at representation. As a rule, the materials of the lower
savages are their own bodies (which they naturally desire to make
beautiful for ever by tattooing), and the hard substances of which
they fashion their tools and weapons. These hard substances, when
worked on with cutting instruments of stone or shell, are most easily
adorned with straight cut lines, and spirals are therefore found to
be, on the whole, a comparatively late form of ornament.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--Bushman Dog.]

We have now to discuss the efforts of the savage to represent. Here,
again, we have to consider the purpose which animates him, and the
materials which are at his service. His pictures have a practical
purpose, and do not spring from what we are apt, perhaps too hastily,
to consider the innate love of imitation for its own sake. In modern
art, in modern times, no doubt the desire to imitate nature, by
painting or sculpture, has become almost an innate impulse, an in-born
instinct. But there must be some 'reason why' for this; and it does
not seem at all unlikely that we inherit the love, the disinterested
love, of imitative art from very remote ancestors, whose habits of
imitation had a direct, interested and practical purpose. The member
of Parliament who mimics the crowing of a cock during debate, or the
street boy who beguiles his leisure by barking like a dog, has a
disinterested pleasure in the exercise of his skill; but advanced
thinkers seem pretty well agreed that the first men who imitated the
voices of dogs, and cocks, and other animals, did not do so merely for
fun, but with the practical purpose of indicating to their companions
the approach of these creatures. Such were the rude beginnings of
human language; and whether that theory be correct or not, there are
certainly practical reasons which impel the savage to attempt
imitative art. I doubt if there are many savage races which do not use
representative art for the purposes of writing--that is, to
communicate information to persons whom they cannot reach by the
voice, and to assist the memory, which, in a savage, is perhaps not
very strong. To take examples. A savage man meets a savage maid. She
does not speak his language, nor he hers. How are they to know
whether, according to the marriage laws of their race, they are lawful
mates for each other? This important question is settled by an
inspection of their tattooed marks. If a Thlinkeet man of the Swan
stock meets an Iroquois maid of the Swan stock they cannot speak to
each other, and the 'gesture-language' is cumbrous. But if both are
tattooed with the swan, then the man knows that this daughter of the
swan is not for him. He could no more marry her than Helen of Troy
could have married Castor, the tamer of horses. Both are children of
the Swan, as were Helen and Castor, and must regard each other as
brother and sister. The case of the Thlinkeet man and the Iroquois
maid is extremely unlikely to occur; but I give it as an example of
the practical use, among savages, of representative art.

Among the uses of art for conveying intelligence we notice that even
the Australians have what the Greeks would have called the σκυτάλη,
a staff on which inscriptions, legible to the Aborigines, are
engraven. I believe, however, that the Australian σκυτάλη is not
usually marked with picture-writing but with notches--even more
difficult to decipher. As an example of Red Indian picture-writing we
publish a scroll from Kohl's book on the natives of North America.
This rude work of art, though the reader may think little of it, is
really a document as important in its way as the Chaldæan clay tablets
inscribed with the record of the Deluge. The coarsely-drawn figures
recall, to the artist's mind, much of the myth of Manabozho, the
Prometheus and the Deucalion, the Cain and the Noah of the dwellers by
the great lake. Manabozho was a great chief, who had two wives that
quarrelled. The two stumpy half-figures (4) represent the wives; the
mound between them is the displeasure of Manabozho. Further on (5) you
see him caught up between two trees--an unpleasant fix, from which the
wolves and squirrels refused to extricate him. The kind of pyramid
with a figure at top (8) is a mountain, on which, when the flood came,
Manabozho placed his grandmother to be out of the water's way. The
somewhat similar object is Manabozho himself, on the top of his
mountain. The animals you next behold (10) were sent out by Manabozho
to ascertain how the deluge was faring, and to carry messages to his
grandmother. This scroll was drawn, probably on birch bark, by a Red
Man of literary attainments, who gave it to Kohl (in its lower
right-hand corner (11) he has pictured the event), that he might never
forget the story of the Manabozhian deluge. The Red Indians have
always, as far as European knowledge goes, been in the habit of using
this picture-writing for the purpose of retaining their legends,
poems, and incantations. It is unnecessary to say that the
picture-writing of Mexico and the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt are
derived from the same savage processes. I must observe that the hasty
indications of the figure used in picture-writing are by no means to
be regarded as measures of the Red Men's skill in art. They can draw
much better than the artist who recorded the Manabozhian legend, when
they please.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--Red Indian Picture-writing: the Legend of

In addition to picture-writing, Religion has fostered savage
representative art. If a man worships a lizard or a bear, he finds it
convenient to have an amulet or idol representing a bear or a lizard.
If one adores a lizard or a bear, one is likely to think that prayer
and acts of worship addressed to an image of the animal will please
the animal himself, and make him propitious. Thus the art of making
little portable figures of various worshipful beings is fostered, and
the craft of working in wood or ivory is born. As a rule, the savage
is satisfied with excessively rude representations of his gods.
Objects of this kind--rude hewn blocks of stone and wood--were the
most sacred effigies of the gods in Greece, and were kept in the
dimmest recesses of the temple. No Demeter wrought by the craft of
Phidias would have appeared so holy to the Phigalians as the strange
old figure of the goddess with the head of a mare. The earliest Greek
sacred sculptures that remain are scarcely, if at all, more advanced
in art than the idols of the naked Admiralty Islanders. But this is
anticipating; in the meantime it may be said that among the sources of
savage representative art are the need of something like writing, and
ideas suggested by nascent religion.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--Bushman Wall-painting.]

The singular war-picture (Fig. 9) from a cave in South Africa, which
we copy from the _Cape Monthly Magazine_, probably represents a
magical ceremony. Bushmen are tempting a great water animal--a
rhinoceros, or something of that sort--to run across the land, for the
purpose of producing rain. The connection of ideas is scarcely
apparent to civilised minds, but it is not more indistinct than the
connection between carrying a bit of the rope with which a man has
been hanged and success at cards--a common French superstition. The
Bushman cave-pictures, like those of Australia, are painted in black,
red, and white. Savages, like the Assyrians and the early Greeks, and
like children, draw animals much better than the human figure. The
Bushman dog in our little engraving (Fig. 7) is all alive--almost as
full of life as the dog which accompanies the centaur Chiron, in that
beautiful vase in the British Museum which represents the fostering of
Achilles. The Bushman wall-paintings, like those of Australia, seem
to prove that savage art is capable of considerable freedom, when
supplied with fitting materials. Men seem to draw better when they
have pigments and a flat surface of rock to work upon, than when they
are scratching on hard wood with a sharp edge of a broken shell.
Though the thing has little to do with art, it may be worth
mentioning, as a matter of curiosity, that the labyrinthine Australian
caves are decorated, here and there, with the mark of a red hand. The
same mysterious, or at least unexplained, red hand is impressed on the
walls of the ruined palaces and temples of Yucatan--the work of a
vanished people.

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--Palæolithic Art.]

[Illustration: Fig. 11.--Red Indian Art: the Thunder-bird.]

There is one singular fact in the history of savage art which reminds
us that savages, like civilised men, have various degrees of culture
and various artistic capacities. The oldest inhabitants of Europe who
have left any traces of their lives and handiwork must have been
savages. Their tools and weapons were not even formed of polished
stone, but of rough-hewn flint. The people who used tools of this sort
must necessarily have enjoyed but a scanty mechanical equipment, and
the life they lived in caves from which they had to drive the
cave-bear, and among snows where they stalked the reindeer and the
mammoth, must have been very rough. These earliest known Europeans,
'palæolithic men,' as they are called, from their use of the ancient
unpolished stone weapons, appear to have inhabited the countries now
known as France and England, before the great Age of Ice. This makes
their date one of incalculable antiquity; they are removed from us by
a 'dark backward and abysm of time.' The whole Age of Ice, the
dateless period of the polishers of stone weapons, the arrival of men
using weapons of bronze, the time which sufficed to change the climate
and fauna and flora of Western Europe, lie between us and palæolithic
man. Yet in him we must recognise a skill more akin to the spirit of
modern art than is found in any other savage race. Palæolithic man,
like other savages, decorated his weapons; but, as I have already
said, he did not usually decorate them in the common savage manner
with ornamental patterns. He scratched on bits of bone spirited
representations of all the animals whose remains are found mixed with
his own. He designed the large-headed horse of that period, and
science inclines to believe that he drew the breed correctly. His
sketches of the mammoth, the reindeer, the bear, and of many fishes,
may be seen in the British Museum, or engraved in such works as
Professor Boyd Dawkins's _Early Man in Britain_. The object from which
our next illustration (Fig. 12) was engraved represents a deer, and
was a knife-handle. Eyes at all trained in art can readily observe the
wonderful spirit and freedom of these ancient sketches. They are the
rapid characteristic work of true artists who know instinctively what
to select and what to sacrifice.

[Illustration: Fig. 12.--Palæolithic Art: a Knife-handle.]

[Illustration: Fig. 13.--Eskimo Drawing: a Reindeer Hunt.]

Some learned men, Mr. Boyd Dawkins among them, believe that the
Eskimo, that stunted hunting and fishing race of the Western Arctic
circle, are descendants of the palæolithic sketchers, and retain their
artistic qualities. Other inquirers, with Mr. Geikie and Dr. Wilson,
do not believe in this pedigree of the Eskimo. I speak not with
authority, but the submission of ignorance, and as one who has no
right to an opinion about these deep matters of geology and ethnology.
But to me, Mr. Geikie's arguments appear distinctly the more
convincing, and I cannot think it demonstrated that the Eskimo are
descended from our old palæolithic artists. But if Mr. Boyd Dawkins is
right, if the Eskimo derive their lineage from the artists of the
Dordogne, then the Eskimo are sadly degenerated. In Mr. Dawkins's
_Early Man_ is an Eskimo drawing of a reindeer hunt, and a palæolithic
sketch of a reindeer; these (by permission of the author and Messrs.
Macmillan) we reproduce. Look at the vigour and life of the ancient
drawing--the feathering hair on the deer's breast, his head, his
horns, the very grasses at his feet, are touched with the graver of a
true artist (Fig. 14). The design is like a hasty memorandum of
Leech's. Then compare the stiff formality of the modern Eskimo drawing
(Fig. 13). It is rather like a record, a piece of picture-writing,
than a free sketch, a rapid representation of what is most
characteristic in nature. Clearly, if the Eskimo come from palæolithic
man, they are a degenerate race as far as art is concerned. Yet, as
may be seen in Dr. Rink's books, the Eskimo show considerable skill
when they have become acquainted with European methods and models, and
they have at any rate a greater natural gift for design than the Red
Indians, of whose sacred art the Thunder-bird brooding over page 298
is a fair example. The Red Men believe in big birds which produce
thunder. Quahteaht, the Adam of Vancouver's Island, married one, and
this (Fig. 11) is she.

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--Palæolithic Sketch: a Reindeer.]

We have tried to show how savage decorative art supplied the first
ideas of patterns which were developed in various ways by the
decorative art of advancing civilisation. The same progress might be
detected in representative art. Books, like the guide-book to ancient
Greece which Pausanias wrote before the glory had quite departed,
prove that the Greek temples were museums in which the development of
art might be clearly traced. Furthest back in the series of images of
gods came things like that large stone which was given to Cronus when
he wished to swallow his infant child Zeus, and which he afterwards
vomited up with his living progeny. This fetich-stone was preserved at
Delphi. Next came wild bulks of beast-headed gods, like the
horse-headed Demeter of Phigalia, and it seems possible enough that
there was an Artemis with the head of a she-bear. Gradually the
bestial characteristics dropped, and there appeared such rude
anthropomorphic images of Apollo--more like South Sea idols than the
archer prince--as are now preserved in Athens. Next we have the stage
of semi-savage realism, which is represented by the metopes of Selinus
in Sicily, now in the British Museum, and by not a few gems and pieces
of gold work. Greek temples have fallen, and the statues of the gods
exist only in scattered fragments. But in the representative
collection of casts belonging to the Cambridge Archæological Museum,
one may trace the career of Greek art backwards from Phidias to the
rude idol.

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--Archaic Greek Gems.]

'Savage realism' is the result of a desire to represent an object as
it is known to be, and not as it appears. Thus Catlin, among the Red
Indians, found that the people refused to be drawn in profile. They
knew they had two eyes, and in profile they seemed only to have one.
Look at the Selinus marbles, and you will observe that figures, of
which the body is seen in profile, have the full face turned to the
spectator. Again, the savage knows that an animal has two sides; both,
he thinks, should be represented, but he cannot foreshorten, and he
finds the profile view easiest to draw. To satisfy his need of realism
he draws a beast's head full-face, and gives to the one head two
bodies drawn in profile. Examples of this are frequent in very archaic
Greek gems and gold work, and Mr. A. S. Murray suggests (as I
understand him) that the attitude of the two famous lions, which
guarded vainly Agamemnon's gate at Mycenæ, is derived from the archaic
double-bodied and single-headed beast of savage realism. Very good
examples of these oddities may be found in the _Journal of the
Hellenic Society_, 1881, pl. xv. Here are double-bodied and
single-headed birds, monsters, and sphinxes. We engrave (Fig. 15)
three Greek gems from the islands as examples of savagery in early
Greek art. In the oblong gem the archers are rather below the Red
Indian standard of design. The hunter figured in the first gem is
almost up to the Bushman mark. In his dress ethnologists will
recognise an arrangement now common among the natives of New
Caledonia. In the third gem the woman between two swans may be Leda,
or she may represent Leto in Delos. Observe the amazing rudeness of
the design, and note the modern waist and crinoline. The artists who
engraved these gems on hard stone had, of necessity, much better tools
than any savages possess, but their art was truly savage. To discover
how Greek art climbed in a couple of centuries from this coarse and
childish work to the grace of the Ægina marbles, and thence to the
absolute freedom and perfect unapproachable beauty of the work of
Phidias, is one of the most singular problems in the history of art.
Greece learned something, no doubt, from her early knowledge of the
arts the priests of Assyria and Egypt had elaborated in the valleys of
the Euphrates and the Nile. That might account for a swift progress
from savage to formal and hieratic art; but whence sprang the
inspiration which led her so swiftly on to art that is perfectly free,
natural, and god-like? It is a mystery of race, and of a divine gift.
'The heavenly gods have given it to mortals.'


[237] The illustrations in this article are for the most part copied,
by permission of Messrs. Cassell & Co., from the _Magazine of Art_, in
which the Essay appeared.

[238] Part of the pattern (Fig. 5, _b_) recurs on the New Zealand
Bull-roarer, engraved in the Essay on the Bull-roarer.

[239] See Schliemann's _Troja_, wherein is much learning and fancy
about the Aryan Svastika.


    Accadia, 62, 137, 151, 154

    Achbor, 115

    Acosta, 19

    Adityas, 135

    Æetes, 95

    Ælian, 109

    Æschines, 39

    Africa, 149

    -- customs of women in, 72

    -- divining rod in, 184-186

    Aleutians, 74

    Amazon, Indians of, 131

    Ancestor worship among Hottentots and elsewhere, 197-211

    Ancestors in stars, 129, 130

    Animal bride, 76

    -- deities, 103-120

    -- worship, 118

      bear in religion, 176
      descent claimed from, 104, 128
      in stars, 121-142
      sacred, 103-120
      sun regarded as a beast, 133

    Apollo and the mouse, 103-120

    Apollodorus, 49

    Apollonius Rhodius, 95

    Apsaras, 65

    Apsyrtos, 95

    Apuleius, 64, 75

    Arcadians, 128

    Ares, 126

    Argives, 110

    Aristophanes, 133

    Arktos, 141

    Arnobius, 39

    Art, early Greek, 303

    -- gods in, 118

    Art of Ojibways, 293

    -- of savages, 276-304

    -- Palæolithic, 297

    Artemis Orthia, 33

    Aryan myths parallel with savage, 83, 96, 97, 103-120, 141

    -- nuptial etiquette, 76

    -- race, 117

    Aryans and savages, 134-135

    -- sensitive to 'loud' colours, 69

    Ashanti, 24

    Assyria, army of, destroyed, 112

    Assyrian etymologies, 28

    Astley, 72

    Âtharva Veda, 216, 217

    Athens, owl of, 110

    Aurelii, 104

    Australia, 72

    -- arts of, 283

    -- divination in, 170

    -- Herbert Spencer on, 125

    -- moon myth, 54

    -- native stratagem, 41

    -- religion of, 231

    -- swallowing myth, 54

    Aymar, Jacques, 191-195

    Baal, 62

    -- Hamon, 61

    Ballad of 'Bonny Hind,' 175

    Ballads, 156-179

    Barbadoes, 20

    Bear among stars, 121

    -- Callisto changed into, 128

    -- in Finnish and other religions, 176

    -- Max Müller, Mr., on Great, 139

    -- Totem of Iroquois, 110

    -- tribes, 128

    Beaver, myth of, 79-81

    Bergaigne, 241

    Bernier (Abbé), 197

    Berosos, 60

    Bheki, 77-80

    Bible, 183

    Bleek, 54, 131

    Bongoes, 150

    Boyd, Dawkins, 299

    Brahmana Aitareya, 134

    -- Satapatha, 134

    Brahmanas, 69

    Brazil, mysteries in, 43

    Brown, Mr. Robert, 60

    -- on Moly, 151-153

    -- on star myths, 137

    Buddhist story, 132

    Bull-roarer, 29-44

    Bushmen, 41, 53, 147

    -- art of, 295

    -- their star myths, 122, 124, 131

    -- swallowing myth of, 53

    Callaway, 84

    Callisto, 132

    Campbell, J. F., 93

    Cannibals, 88

    Cappadocia, 152

    Castor and Pollux, in Australia, 128

    Castren, 78

    Catlin, 40

    Cat, recognised as the moon, 117

    Celts, art of, 289

    _Chanson de Geste_, 161

    Cheparas, 34

    Chevreuil on divining rod, 188

    China, _planchette_ in, 187

    Circe, 147, 154

    Clemens of Alexandria, 39

    Coins, 110

    Combs in Myths, 92, 98

    'Comparative Mythology,' 58

    Congo, mysteries on, 40

    Costigan, Captain, 41

    Crests, 109, 110

    Cronus, myth of, 45-63

    -- sickle of, 61

    Crow, 126

    Culture-Hero, 55

    'Cupid and Psyche,' 64-86

    Curtius, 3

    Cushing, 37

    Customs, savage Greek of expiation, 96

    Customs of women, 71, 73

    -- of savages, 72

    -- among Yorubas, 73

    -- in Australia, 72

    -- Aleutian, 74

    -- Bulgarian, 73

    -- Breton, 75

    -- Carib, 73

    -- Carian, 74

    -- Circassian, 73

    -- Futa, 72

    -- Fijian, 73, 74

    -- Iroquois, 73

    -- Kaffir, 74

    -- Milesian, 74

    -- in Naz, 75

    -- Spartan, 73

    -- Timbuctoo, 72

    -- Welsh, 74

    -- Zulu, 74

    Dacotah, 117

    Dalton, 81

    Dancing, Lucian on, 41

    Dawn, 203, 210

    -- myth, 56

    -- Urvasi recognised as, 68

    Dead, the home of the, 171

    -- worship of, 197-211, 239

    De Brosses, 214-216, 224, 227

    De Cara, 3

    De Gubernatis, 117, 148

    Delphi, fetich-stone of, 52

    Deluge myth, 34

    Demeter, 19

    -- and the ram, 6

    Demosthenes, 39, 40

    Devas, 234

    'Dionysiak Myth,' 60

    Divination in Australia, 170

    Divining rod, 180-196

    Dog-star, 154

    Dozon, 73

    Dumuzi, 137

    Edomites, 115

    Egypt, 27, 113

    -- cats sacred in, 113

    -- mouse myth in, 111

    -- rats sacred in, 113

    Emerald, worship of, 105

    Eos, 69

    Epic, Greek, its origin, 161

    -- of Finns, 156-179

    Eratosthenes, 125

    Eskimo, 130

    -- art of, 285

    -- moon myths, 132

    Euhemerism, 199

    Euhemeros, 197, 198

    Eustathius, 103

    Euthyphro, 46, 47

    _Exogamy_, 24, 102, 245-275

    -- in Finland, 164

    Ezekiel, 115

    Fairy-bride, 82

    Family, the history of, 245-275

    -- gods, 119

    Farrer, 82

    Fauriel, 178

    Fetich-stone of Delphi, 52

    Fetich-stones, 224

    Fetichism, 212-242

    Finns, poetry of, 156-179

    Folklore, 6

    -- method of, 10-28

    -- of plants, 143-155

    Food of dead men, 171

    -- tabooed, 115, 119

    Frog, myths of, 77, 80

    Frog, descent claimed from, 104

    Futa, 72

    Gallinomeros, 133

    Gandharvas, 66, 67

    Gaunab, 205-211

    Garcilasso de la Vega, 103-107

    _Gens_ (_see_ 'Family')

    Γένος (_see_ 'Family')

    'Gentile system,' 236

    Gervase (of Tilbury), 76

    Ghosts, 143, 233

    -- (ancestral), 199

    Giant, 90-92

    Giordano Bruno, 139

    Glacial age, 298

    Gods, family, 119

    -- horned, 60

    -- in art, 118

    -- in bestial form, 134

    -- in Samoa, 119

    -- lame, 206

    -- of Greece, 27

    -- of Hottentots, 197-211

    -- Vedic, 234

    -- Vedic and Brahmanic, 27

    Greece, fetich-stones in, 224

    Greeks, their star myths, 136

    Grimm, 56, 147

    Grohmann, 116, 117

    Guiana swallowing myth, 55

    Hades, 65

    Hahn, 149, 202-211

    Halévy, 155

    Hamelin, Piper of, 114

    Hare and moon, 132

    -- in Zulu myths, 168

    Harpocration, 40

    Hartung, 61

    Harvest home, superstitions of, 18

    Heaven and earth, 45

    -- -- Indian myth of, 50

    Heitsi Eibib, 209

    Hephæstus, 111, 112

    Herodotus, 41, 111

    Hesiod, 53, 94, 128

    Hittites, 153

    Homer, 69, 103, 122

    Horned gods, 60

    Horus, 113

    Hottentots, 197-211

    -- Herb-lore of, 143-155

    Howitt and Fison, 34

    _Huacas_, 105

    Human sacrifice, 61

    Ice, Age of, 298

    Il, 60

    Iliad, 103

    Inca, 103

    Indra, 134

    -- a 'shape-shifter,' 126

    Infinite, the, 206

    Initiation (_see_ 'Mysteries')

    Ioxidæ, 119

    Iron, a tabooed metal, 64

    -- the birth of, 169

    -- in Vedic India, 217

    Iroquois, 36, 110

    Isaiah, 115

    Isis, 130

    Israel, Totems of, 115

    Jacob, _Verge de_, 187

    Japanese, 93

    Jason, 5

    -- the myth of, 87-102

    -- the Red Indian parallel, 99

    -- Samoan parallel, 97

    Job Ben Solomon never saw his wife, 72

    Jonah, 55

    Jurupari pipes, 43

    Kaffir swallowing myth, 54

    Kaffirs, 38, 218

    Kalevala, 100, 156-179

    Kamilaroi, 34

    _Karnos_, _Karnu_, _Keren_, 60

    _Kathasarit sagara_, 92

    Kohl, 80

    Κῶνος, 39

    _Krāna_, 59

    Krishna, 170

    Κρονίδης, 57, 58

    Κρονίων, 57

    Κρόνος, 57, 61

    Kuhn, 59, 68, 69

    -- differs from Mr. Max Müller on etymology of Urvasi and Pururavas, 70

    -- sees fire myths everywhere, 70

    Kurnai, 34

    Kwai Hemm, 53

    Lafitau, 36, 73

    Language and thought, 211

    -- childhood of, 218

    Liebrecht, 70, 71, 112

    Lightning, 117

    Loftie, Mr., 113

    Long on 'Totamism,' 105

    Lönnrot, 160

    Lucian, 41

    Lyons, murder at, 191

    M'Lennan, Mr., on the family, 245-275

    Magic, 146

    -- Algonquin, 99

    -- in Vedas, 241

    -- note of lower culture, 78

    Maine, Sir Henry, on the family, 245-275

    Maize, superstition about, 20

    Malagasy Märchen, 93

    Malebranche, 190

    Mandragora, 143-155

    Mandrake, 144-152

    Manabozho, 293

    Mantis insect, 53, 208

    Maoris, art of, 286

    -- myths of, 45-50

      Algonquin, 82
      Bornoese, 82
      Dutch, 76
      features of, 157, 158, 163
      of _Nicht Nought Nothing_, 89
      of Swan Maidens, 82
      Russian, 93, 171
      Scotch, 89
      South African, 171
      West Highland, 93

    Marriage, early, 245-275

    -- law of exogamy in, 24, 102

    -- in connection with Totemism, 106-107

    Master of Life, 105

    Medea recognised as Moon, 96

    -- as Lightning, 96

    Melanesia, 55, 146

    Melanesian myths, 56

    _Mélusine_, 117

    -- myth of, 76

    Merman, forsaken, 76

    Mexico, 16

    Meyer, 66

    Milky Way, 122

    Mimnermus, 95

    Moloch, 62

    Moluna, Christoval de, 105

    Moly, 143-155

    Mongols, divining rod among, 184

    Moon and hare, 132

    -- Australian myth of, 54

    -- man in, 132

    -- Medea thought to be, 96

    -- myths, 132

    'Moon-cat,' 117

    Mouse and Apollo, 103-120

    'Mouse of Night,' 117

    Mouse tribe, 114

    Mouse-Apollo, 103-120

    Muir, 50

    Müller, Mr. Max, 57, 66, 67

    -- on childhood of language, 74, 218

    -- on etymology of Urvasi, 68, 69

    -- on fetichism, 212-242

    -- on Great Bear, 139, 140

    -- on Hottentot myths, 197-211

    -- on Hyperion, 132

    -- on myth of sun-frog, 77, 78

    -- on _Ote_, 105

    -- on spelling of _Totem_, 105

    -- version of Vedic hymn, 83

    Müller, C. O., 128

    _Murri_, 127

    Mysteries, 29-44

    -- Dionysiac, 39

    -- in Brazil, 43

    -- of Bushman, 42

    Myths, Accadian, 137

    -- Algonquin, 99

    -- Australian, 130

    -- Brazilian, 131

    -- Bushman, 131

    -- Chinese, of mice, 112

    -- diffusion of, 23, 24

    -- Egyptian, of mice, 112;
      of stars, 130

    -- Eskimo, 130, 132

    -- Finnish, 101

    -- Indian, of serpent, 81

    -- Japanese, 93

    -- names of taboo on, 82

    -- of animal bride, 76-80

    -- of beaver (Ojibway), 79

    -- of Cronus, 45-63

    -- of Finland, 156-179

    -- of Hottentots, 197-211

    -- of Jason, 87-102

    -- of Melanesia, 56

    -- of Mélusine, 76

    -- of mice, 103-120

    -- of night, 55

    -- of plants, 143-155

    -- of 'sun frog,' 77-80

    -- of swallowing, 53, 54

    -- of tabooed names, 82

    -- of wind, 55

    -- Peruvian, 129

    -- Samoan, 97

    -- Samoyed, 88

    -- solar, 131-133

    -- star, 121-142

    -- Zulu, 84, 85, 88, 93

      a 'disease of language,' 1
      philological method of, 201-211
      systems of interpretation of, 1-9
      views of Grohmann, 117
      -- of Gubernatis, 117

    Naga (or serpent) race, 81

    Names as germs of myths, 1

    -- arguments against, 2, 3

    -- of husbands not to be uttered by wives, 74

    Naz, a fabulous country, 75

    New Caledonia, 230

    New Mexico, 31

    New Zealand, 35, 143

    _Nicht Nought Nothing_, 89

    Night myth, 55

    Oceanus, 48

    Odin, 27

    Odysseus, 20

    'Odyssey,' 144, 147

    Œdipous, 5

    Ojibways, art of, 293

    -- myths, 79

    Orion, 121

    Osiris, barrows of, 205

    Osiris, 130

    Ovahereroes, 20

    Owl of Athens, 110

    -- sacred in Samoa, 119

    Pacarissa, Peruvian word for _Totem_, 104

    Pachacamac, 105

    Palæolithic man, his art, 299

    Pausanias, 33, 52, 223

    Pauthier, 50

    Paoli, 110

    Papa, 45, 46

    Peau d'Ane, 64

    Persephone, 19, 65, 171

    Perseus, 5

    Peru, art in, 288

    -- religion of, 103-107

    Pezazi, 15

    Philistines, 115, 116

    Philology, method of, in mythology, 97, 201

    Phocians, 41

    Picture-writing, 292

    Pindar, 95

    Piper, the Pied, 114

    _Planchette_, in China, 187

    Plants, folklore of, 143-155

    Pleiades, 23, 121

    -- in Australia, 126

    Popular element in myth and religion, 178, 179

    -- tales (_see_ 'Märchen')

    Poseidon, 126

    -- swallowing of, 51

    Pottery, common features of early, 22

    -- early, 289

    Pragapati, 59, 134, 211

    Preller, 61, 96

    Psyche, 171

    Puang-ku, 50

    Pundjel, 73, 130

    -- Australian god, 35

    Pururavas, 65-67, 76

    -- etymology of, disputed, 68, 69, 71

    Qat, 55

    Qing, 42

    Ra, 113

    -- rat of, 115

    Rainbow, 117

    Ram, in stars, 129

    -- Zeus and the, 6

    Rat, sacred in Egypt, 113

    Red Indians, 21, 152

    -- swallowing myth, 55

    Religion, Aryan, 212-242

    -- Greek and Egyptian, 118

    -- origins of, 212-242

    Rhodes, 61

    Ῥόμβος, 39

    Rhys, 82

    Riddles, 14

    Rikshas, 140

    Ritual, 113

    Robertson Smith on Totems, 115

    Rome, sun worship in, 104

    Roth differs from Müller and Kuhn as to etymology of Urvasi, 70

    Rowan, 154

    Rudra, mouse sacred to, 116

    Rue, 152

    Sacrifice, human, 61

    Sahagun, 16

    St. Gertrude, 119

    Samoa, 33

    -- animal worship in, 119

    Samoans, 152

    Samoyeds, myths of, 88

    Sampo, 169

    Sanskrit, 77, 140

    Saturn, 61

    Savage ideas in Greece, 119

    Savages, 72

    -- and Aryans, 135

    -- art of, 276-304

    -- fancy of, creates myths, _passim_

    -- their astronomy, 138

    -- their customs in regard to marriage etiquette, 73, 74

    Sayce, Prof., 62, 141, 151

    -- on myth of mice, 112

    -- on Totemism in Egypt, 118

    Scandinavia, gods of, 27

    Scarabs, 113

    Schliemann, 288

    Schrader, 4

    Schwartz, 61, 96

    -- sees storm myths everywhere, 71

    Seb, 60

    Semitic peoples, Totemism of, 115

    -- sacrifice, 61

    Sennacherib, 112

    Serpent, 117

    -- myth of, 81

    -- dance, 21

    Servius, 37

    Sethos, 111, 112

    Shaman, 136

    Siati, the Samoan Jason, 97

    Sickle of Cronus, 61

    Σμίνθιος, Σμινθεύς, 103-120

    Σμίνθος, 108

    Snakes as ancestors, 227

    Sneezing, superstition of, 14

    Sparta, 33

    Spencer, Herbert, 125, 199

    Spiritualism, 36

    Socrates, 46

    Solar myth (_see_ 'Sun')

    Sophocles, 61

    Sorcerers, 130

    Star myths, 121-142

    Stone Age, implements of, 12

    -- fetich, 224

    -- knives of, 226

    -- weapons, 125

    Strabo, 108-113

    Sun adored by Incas and Aurelii, 104

    -- as a beast, 133

    -- frog, 64-86

    -- god (Ra as), 113

    -- Medea and Jason explained as sun myth, 87-102

    -- myth in New Zealand, 133

    -- America, 133

    -- myth of, 131-133

    -- myths of frog explained as sun myth, 77

    -- Ra and Rudra as, 113-116

    -- worshipped in Peru and Rome, 104

    _Svastika_, 288, 289

    Swallowing myths, Indian, Basuto, Jewish, Zulu, Eskimo, 55

    -- of Australians, 54

    -- of Bushmen, 53

    -- of Kaffirs, 54

    Swan, Zeus as a, 126

    Tabooed meats in Israel, 115

    Taboo, 85

    -- on food of dead, 171

    -- on iron, 64

    Taboos, 73, 75

    -- on food, 113, 119

    Tale, far-travelled, 87-102

    'Tales of West Highlands,' 93

    Tales, Popular (_see_ 'Märchen')

    Taylor, Mr. Isaac, 62, 81

    Temples, Egyptian, 112

    -- Greek, 111

    -- Peruvian, 105

    Thamyris, 97

    Theal, 38

    Theocritus, 29

    -- on Adonis' feast, 105

    Thunder-bird, 117

    Tiele, 3, 62

    Toots, Mr., quoted, 65

    Tortures inflicted on boys, 33

    _Totam_, spelling of _Totem_ in 1792, 105

    _Totem_, or _Ote_, or _Otem_, 105

    -- in Egypt, 118

    -- in Greece (?), 109, 110

    -- in Israel, 115

    -- in Peru, 105

    Totemism, 227, 278, 279

    -- explained, 106, 107, 245-275

    -- in Egypt, 107

    -- in Greece, 107

    -- in relation to the family, 245-275

    -- of Semitic people, 115

    Totem not to be eaten, 113

    Troad, mice myths connected with, 103-120

    Tsui Goam, 149, 197-211

    Tumatuenga, 45 _et seq._

    Tuoni, Hades of Finns, 171

    Turndun (_see_ 'Bull-roarer')

    Turner, his 'Samoa,' 119

    Turtle, Totems of Iroquois, 110

    Tutenganahau, 45

    Tylor, 38, 50, 127

    -- on star myths, 142

    Uranus, 48, 61

    Urvasi, 65, 66, 67, 77

    -- etymology of, disputed, 68-71, 72

    Vannus Iacchi, 36, 37

    Veda, gods of, 212-242

    -- Rig, 65, 66

    Vedas, 213, 216, 217, 234, 241

    Vishnu Purana, 67

    Volkslieder, 157, 159

    Wäinämöinen (_see_ 'Kalevala')

    Wäinämöinen, 100

    Wallace, Alfred, 43, 44

    Water tabooed to frog and beaver brides, 77-80

    Welsh, 74

    -- fairy, 82

    'West Highlands, Tales of,' 93

    Wind, charms to raise, 35

    -- god of New Zealand, 45

    -- myth, 55

    Wives not to be seen, 72, 73

    -- not to use husband's name, 74

    Wolf and Kid, story of, 54

    -- Totem of Iroquois, 110

    Women, customs of, 71-75

    Yorubas, 73

    Zend Avesta, 117

    Zeus, 6, 47

    -- and the ram, 6

    -- as a beast, 134

    -- as medicine man, 200

    -- loves one of Pleiades, 126

    -- shares accomplishments of savage medicine men, 83

    -- swallowing myth of, 53

    Zoolatry, 226

    Zulu, myth of, 84

    Zulus, 117

    Zuni, 37


Transcriber's Note

Illustration captions in {curly brackets} have been added by the
transcriber for the convenience of the reader.

Archaic spelling is preserved as printed, as is variable spelling and
inconsistent hyphenation and accent usage in quoted material. Minor
punctuation errors and inconsistent hyphenation and accent usage in
the remainder of the text have been repaired.

Page 36 has a reference to 'physical researchers' in relation to
spiritualism. This may be an error for 'psychical researchers', but
as it is impossible to be certain, it is preserved as printed.

The following typographic errors have been repaired:

    Page 38--slas amended to slats--"It was nearly hidden by
    symbolic slats ..."

    Page 54, footnote 43--Smith amended to Smyth--"Brough
    Smyth, i. 432-433."

    Page 57--sun amended to son--"Zeus was called by the Greeks
    the son of Time ..."

    Page 58--Uranos amended to Uranus--"... were adequately
    expressed by the story of Uranus maimed by Kronos, ..."

    Page 96--Appollonius amended to Apollonius--"This is the view
    of the Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius ..."

    Page 130--zeus amended to Zeus--"... a kind of Zeus, or
    rather a sort of Prometheus ..."

    Page 284--he amended to we--"Later, we will return to the
    cave-paintings ..."

    Page 305--entry for Bernier, originally following the entry
    for Ballads, moved to its correct place in the index.

    Page 306--Chepparas amended to Cheparas--"Cheparas, 34"

    Page 309--196 amended to 197--"Myths, of Hottentots, 197-211"

    Page 310--ῥόμβος amended to Ῥόμβος--"Ῥόμβος, 39"

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