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Title: Myth, Ritual and Religion — Volume 1
Author: Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912
Language: English
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Volume One

By Andrew Lang





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

A. L.


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

(1) Tylor, "Limits of Savage Religion." Journal of the Anthropological
Institute, vol. xxi.

(2) Descent of Man, p. 68, 1871.

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

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

Mr. Hartland's point, however, seems to be that, in the Making of
Religion, I had selected certain Australian beliefs as especially
"sacred" and to be distinguished from others, because they are
inculcated at the religious Mysteries of some tribes. His aim, then, is
to discover low, wild, immoral myths, inculcated at the Mysteries, and
thus to destroy my line drawn between religion on one hand and myth or
mere folk-lore on the other. Thus there is a being named Daramulun, of
whose rites, among the Coast Murring, I condensed the account of Mr.
Howitt.(1) From a statement by Mr. Greenway(2) Mr. Hartland learned
that Daramulun's name is said to mean "leg on one side" or "lame". He,
therefore, with fine humour, speaks of Daramulun as "a creator with a
game leg," though when "Baiame" is derived by two excellent linguists,
Mr. Ridley and Mr. Greenway, from Kamilaroi baia, "to make," Mr.
Hartland is by no means so sure of the sense of the name. It happens to
be inconvenient to him! Let the names mean what they may, Mr. Hartland
finds, in an obiter dictum of Mr. Howitt (before he was initiated), that
Daramulun is said to have "died," and that his spirit is now aloft.
Who says so, and where, we are not informed,(3) and the question is

(1) J. A. I., xiii. pp. 440-459.

(2) Ibid., xxi. p. 294.

(3) Ibid., xiii. p. 194.

For the Wiraijuri, IN THEIR MYSTERIES, tell a myth of cannibal conduct
of Daramulun's, and of deceit and failure of knowledge in Baiame.(1)
Of this I was unaware, or neglected it, for I explicitly said that I
followed Mr. Howitt's account, where no such matter is mentioned. Mr.
Howitt, in fact, described the Mysteries of the Coast Murring, while
the narrator of the low myths, Mr. Matthews, described those of a
remote tribe, the Wiraijuri, with whom Daramulun is not the chief, but
a subordinate person. How Mr. Matthews' friends can at once hold that
Daramulun was "destroyed" by Baiame (their chief deity), and also that
Daramulun's voice is heard at their rites, I don't know.(2) Nor do I
know why Mr. Hartland takes the myth of a tribe where Daramulun is "the
evil spirit who rules the night,"(3) and introduces it as an argument
against the belief of a distant tribe, where, by Mr. Howitt's account,
Daramulun is not an evil spirit, but "the master" of all, whose abode
is above the sky, and to whom are attributed powers of omnipotence
and omnipresence, or, at any rate, the power "to do anything and to
go anywhere.... To his direct ordinances are attributed the social and
moral laws of the community."(4) This is not "an evil spirit"! When Mr.
Hartland goes for scandals to a remote tribe of a different creed
that he may discredit the creed of the Coast Murring, he might as well
attribute to the Free Kirk "the errors of Rome". But Mr. Hartland does
it!(5) Being "cunning of fence" he may reply that I also spoke loosely
of Wiraijuri and Coast Murring as, indifferently, Daramulunites. I did,
and I was wrong, and my critic ought not to accept but to expose my
error. The Wiraijuri Daramulun, who was annihilated, yet who is "an evil
spirit that rules the night," is not the Murring guardian and founder of
recognised ethics.

(1) J. A. I., xxv. p. 297.

(2) Ibid., May, 1895, p. 419.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid., xiii. pp. 458, 459.

(5) Folk-Lore, ix., No. iv., p. 299.

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

It does not follow that there is "nothing sacred" in his religion. Mr.
Hartland offers me a case in point. In Mrs. Langloh Parker's Australian
Legendary Tales (pp. 11, 94), are myths of low adventures of Baiame. In
her More Australian Legendary Tales (pp. 84-99), is a very poetical
and charming aspect of the Baiame belief. Mr. Hartland says that I will
"seek to put" the first set of stories out of court, as "a kind of
joke with no sacredness about it". Not I, but the Noongahburrah tribe
themselves make this essential distinction. Mrs. Langloh Parker says:(1)
"The former series" (with the low Baiame myths) "were all such legends
as are told to the black picaninnies; among the present are some they
would not be allowed to hear, touching as they do on sacred things,
taboo to the young". The blacks draw the line which I am said to seek to

(1) More Legendary Tales, p. xv.

In yet another case(1) grotesque hunting adventures of Baiame are
told in the mysteries, and illustrated by the sacred temporary
representations in raised earth. I did not know it; I merely followed
Mr. Howitt. But I do not doubt it. My reply is, that there was
"something sacred" in Greek mysteries, something purifying, ennobling,
consoling. For this Lobeck has collected (and disparaged) the evidence
of Pindar, Sophocles, Cicero and many others, while even Aristophanes,
as Prof. Campbell remarks, says: "We only have bright sun and cheerful
life who have been initiated and lived piously in regard to strangers
and to private citizens".(2) Security and peace of mind, in this world
and for the next, were, we know not how, borne into the hearts of Pindar
and Sophocles in the Mysteries. Yet, if we may at all trust the Fathers,
there were scenes of debauchery, as at the Mysteries of the Fijians
(Nanga) there was buffoonery ("to amuse the boys," Mr. Howitt says of
some Australian rites), the story of Baubo is only one example, and, in
other mysteries than the Eleusinian, we know of mummeries in which an
absurd tale of Zeus is related in connection with an oak log. Yet surely
there was "something sacred" in the faith of Zeus! Let us judge the
Australians as we judge Greeks. The precepts as to "speaking the
straightforward truth," as to unselfishness, avoidance of quarrels,
of wrongs to "unprotected women," of unnatural vices, are certainly
communicated in the Mysteries of some tribes, with, in another,
knowledge of the name and nature of "Our Father," Munganngaur. That a
Totemistic dance, or medicine-dance of Emu hunting, is also displayed(3)
at certain Mysteries of a given tribe, and that Baiame is spoken of
as the hero of this ballet, no more deprives the Australian moral and
religious teaching (at the Mysteries) of sacred value, than the stupid
indecency whereby Baubo made Demeter laugh destroys the sacredness of
the Eleusinia, on which Pindar, Sophocles and Cicero eloquently dwell.
If the Australian mystae, at the most solemn moment of their lives, are
shown a dull or dirty divine ballet d'action, what did Sophocles see,
after taking a swim with his pig? Many things far from edifying, yet the
sacred element of religious hope and faith was also represented. So it
is in Australia.

(1) J. A. I., xxiv. p. 416.

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

(3) See A picture of Australia, 1829, p. 264.

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

I take this opportunity, as the earliest, to apologise for an error in
my Making of Religion concerning a passage in the Primitive Culture of
my friend Mr. E. B. Tylor. Mr. Tylor quoted(1) a passage from Captain
John Smith's History of Virginia, as given in Pinkerton, xiii. pp.
13-39, 1632. In this passage no mention occurs of a Virginian deity
named Ahone but "Okee," another and more truculent god, is named. I
observed that, if Mr. Tylor had used Strachey's Historie of Travaile
(1612), he would have found "a slightly varying copy" of Smith's text of
1632, with Ahone as superior to Okee. I added in a note (p. 253): "There
is a description of Virginia, by W. Strachey, including Smith's remarks
published in 1612. Strachey interwove some of this work with his own MS.
in the British Museum." Here, as presently will be shown, I erred, in
company with Strachey's editor of 1849, and with the writer on Strachey
in the Dictionary of National Biography. What Mr. Tylor quoted from an
edition of Smith in 1632 had already appeared, in 1612, in a book
(Map of Virginia, with a description of the Countrey) described on the
title-page as "written by Captain Smith," though, in my opinion, Smith
may have had a collaborator. There is no evidence whatever that Strachey
had anything to do with this book of 1612, in which there is no mention
of Ahone. Mr. Arber dates Strachey's own MS. (in which Ahone occurs) as
of 1610-1615.(2) I myself, for reasons presently to be alleged, date
the MS. mainly in 1611-1612. If Mr. Arber and I are right, Strachey must
have had access to Smith's MS. before it was published in 1612, and we
shall see how he used it. My point here is that Strachey mentioned Ahone
(in MS.) before Smith's book of 1612 was published. This could not be
gathered from the dedication to Bacon prefixed to Strachey's MS., for
that dedication cannot be earlier that 1618.(3) I now ask leave to
discuss the evidence for an early pre-Christian belief in a primal
Creator, held by the Indian tribes from Plymouth, in New England, to
Roanoke Island, off Southern Virginia.

(1) Prim. Cult. ii. p. 342.

(2) Arber's Smith, p. cxxxiii.

(3) Hakluyt Society, Strachey, 1849, pp. xxi., xxii.


An insertion by a manifest plagiary into the work of a detected liar
is not, usually, good evidence. Yet this is all the evidence, it may be
urged, which we have for the existence of a belief, in early Virginia,
as to a good Creator, named Ahone. The matter stands thus: In 1607-1609
the famed Captain John Smith endured and achieved in Virginia sufferings
and adventures. In 1608 he sent to the Council at home a MS. map and
description of the colony. In 1609 he returned to England (October). In
May, 1610, William Strachey, gent., arrived in Virginia, where he was
"secretary of state" to Lord De la Warr. In 1612 Strachey and Smith
were both in England. In that year Barnes of Oxford published A Map
of Virginia, with a description, etc., "written by Captain Smith,"
according to the title-page. There was annexed a compilation from
various sources, edited by "W. S.," that is, NOT William Strachey,
but Dr. William Symonds. In the same year, 1612, or in 1611, William
Strachey wrote his Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia, at
least as far as page 124 of the Hakluyt edition of 1849.(1)

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

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

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

Strachey embodies in his work considerable pieces of Smith's Map of
Virginia and Description, written in 1608, and published in 1612. He
continually deserts Smith, however, adding more recent information,
reflections and references to the ancient classics, with allusions to
his own travels in the Levant. His glossary is much more extensive than
Smith's, and he inserts a native song of triumph over the English in the
original.(1) Now, when Strachey comes to the religion of the natives(2)
he gives eighteen pages (much of it verbiage) to five of Smith's.(3)
What Smith (1612) says of their chief god I quote, setting Strachey's
version (1611-1612) beside it.

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

(2) Pp. 82-100.

(3) Arber, pp. 74-79.

SMITH (Published, 1612).

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

STRACHEY (Written, 1611-12).

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

I began by calling Strachey a plagiary. The reader will now observe that
he gives far more than he takes. For example, his account of the temples
is much more full than that of Smith, and he adds to Smith's version the
character and being of Ahone, as what "the priests tell them". I submit,
therefore, that Strachey's additions, if valid for temples, are not
discredited for Ahone, merely because they are inserted in the framework
of Smith. As far as I understand the matter, Smith's Map of Virginia
(1612) is an amended copy, with additions, by Smith or another writer
of that description, which he sent home to the Council of Virginia,
in November, 1608.(1) To the book of 1612 was added a portion of
"Relations" by different hands, edited by W. S., namely, Dr. Symonds.
Strachey's editor, in 1849, regarded W. S. as Strachey, and supposed
that Strachey was the real author of Smith's Map of Virginia, so that,
in his Historie of Travaile, Strachey merely took back his own. He did
not take back his own; he made use of Smith's MS., not yet published, if
Mr. Arber and I rightly date Strachey's MS. at 1610-15, or 1611-12.
Why Strachey acted thus it is possible to conjecture. As a scholar well
acquainted with Virginia, and as Secretary for the Colony, he would have
access to Smith's MS. of 1608 among the papers of the Council, before
its publication. Smith professes himself "no scholer".(2) On the other
hand, Strachey likes to show off his Latin and Greek. He has a
curious, if inaccurate, knowledge of esoteric Greek and Roman religious
antiquities, and in writing of religion aims at a comparative method.
Strachey, however, took the trouble to copy bits of Smith into his own
larger work, which he never gave to the printers.

(1) Arber, p. 444.

(2) Arber, p. 442.

Now as to Ahone. It suits my argument to suppose that Strachey's account
is no less genuine than his description of the temples (illustrated by
a picture by John White, who had been in Virginia in 1589), and the
account of the Great Hare of American mythology.(1) This view of a
Virginian Creator, "our chief god" "who takes upon him this shape of a
hare," was got, says Strachey, "last year, 1610," from a brother of the
Potomac King, by a boy named Spilman, who says that Smith "sold" him
to Powhattan.(2) In his own brief narrative Spelman (or Spilman) says
nothing about the Cosmogonic Legend of the Great Hare. The story came
up when Captain Argoll was telling Powhattan's brother the account of
creation in Genesis (1610).

(1) Strachey, p. 98-100.

(2) "Spilman's Narrative," Arber, cx.-cxiv.

Now Strachey's Great Hare is accepted by mythologists, while Ahone is
regarded with suspicion. Ahone does not happen to suit anthropological
ideas, the Hare suits them rather better. Moreover, and more important,
there is abundant corroborative evidence for Oke and for the Hare,
Michabo, who, says Dr. Brinton, "was originally the highest divinity
recognised by them, powerful and beneficent beyond all others, maker of
the heavens and the world," just like Ahone, in fact. And Dr. Brinton
instructs us that Michabo originally meant not Great Hare, but "the
spirit of light".(1) Thus, originally, the Red Men adored "The Spirit of
Light, maker of the heavens and the world". Strachey claims no more than
this for Ahone. Now, of course, Dr. Brinton may be right. But I have
already expressed my extreme distrust of the philological processes
by which he extracts "The Great Light; spirit of light," from Michabo,
"beyond a doubt!" In my poor opinion, whatever claims Michabo may have
as an unique creator of earth and heaven--"God is Light,"--he owes his
mythical aspect as a Hare to something other than an unconscious pun. In
any case, according to Dr. Brinton, Michabo, regarded as a creator, is
equivalent to Strachey's Ahone. This amount of corroboration, valeat
quantum, I may claim, from the Potomac Indians, for the belief in
Ahone on the James River. Dr. Brinton is notoriously not a believer in
American "monotheism".(2)

(1) Myths of the New World, p. 178.

(2) Myths of the New World, p. 53.

The opponents of the authenticity of Ahone, however, will certainly
argue: "For Oke, or Oki, as a redoubted being or spirit, or general name
for such personages, we have plentiful evidence, corroborating that of
Smith. But what evidence as to Ahone corroborates that of Strachey?" I
must confess that I have no explicit corroborative evidence for Ahone,
but then I have no accessible library of early books on Virginia. Now
it is clear that if I found and produced evidence for Ahone as late
as 1625, I would be met at once with the retort that, between 1610 and
1625, Christian ideas had contaminated the native beliefs. Thus if I
find Ahone, or a deity of like attributes, after a very early date, he
is of no use for my purpose. Nor do I much expect to find him. But do we
find Winslow's Massachusetts God, Kiehtan, named AFTER 1622 ("I only
ask for information"), and if we don't, does that prevent Mr. Tylor from
citing Kiehtan, with apparent reliance on the evidence?(1)

(1) Primitive Culture, ii. p. 342.

Again, Ahone, though primal and creative, is, by Strachey's account,
a sleeping partner. He has no sacrifice, and no temple or idol is
recorded. Therefore the belief in Ahone could only be discovered as a
result of inquiry, whereas figures of Oke or Okeus, and his services,
were common and conspicuous.(1) As to Oke, I cannot quite understand Mr.
Tylor's attitude. Summarising Lafitau, a late writer of 1724, Mr. Tylor
writes: "The whole class of spirits or demons, known to the Caribs by
the name of cemi, in Algonkin as manitu, in Huron as oki, Lafitau now
spells with capital letters, and converts them each into a supreme
being".(2) Yet in Primitive Culture, ii., 342, 1891, Mr. Tylor had
cited Smith's Okee (with a capital letter) as the "chief god" of the
Virginians in 1612. How can Lafitau be said to have elevated oki into
Oki, and so to have made a god out of "a class of spirits or demons,"
in 1724, when Mr. Tylor had already cited Smith's Okee, with a capital
letter and as a "chief god," in 1612? Smith, rebuked for the same by Mr.
Tylor, had even identified Okee with the devil. Lafitau certainly
did not begin this erroneous view of Oki as a "chief god" among the
Virginians. If I cannot to-day produce corroboration for a god named
Ahone, I can at least show that, from the north of New England to the
south of Virginia, there is early evidence, cited by Mr. Tylor, for a
belief in a primal creative being, closely analogous to Ahone. And this
evidence, I think, distinctly proves that such a being as Ahone was
within the capacity of the Indians in these latitudes. Mr. Tylor must
have thought in 1891 that the natives were competent to a belief in a
supreme deity, for he said, "Another famous native American name for the
supreme deity is Oki".(3) In the essay of 1892, however, Oki does not
appear to exist as a god's name till 1724. We may now, for earlier
evidence, turn to Master Thomas Heriot, "that learned mathematician"
"who spoke the Indian language," and was with the company which
abandoned Virginia on 18th June, 1586. They ranged 130 miles north
and 130 miles north-west of Roanoke Island, which brings them into the
neighbourhood of Smith's and Strachey's country. Heriot writes as to the
native creeds: "They believe that there are many gods which they call
Mantoac, but of different sorts and degrees. Also that there is one
chiefe God that hath beene from all eternitie, who, as they say, when he
purposed first to make the world, made first other gods of a principall
order, to be as instruments to be used in the Creation and Government to
follow, and after the Sunne, Moone and Starres as pettie gods, and the
instruments of the other order more principall.... They thinke that all
the gods are of humane shape," and represent them by anthropomorphic
idols. An idol, or image, "Kewasa" (the plural is "Kewasowok"),
is placed in the temples, "where they worship, pray and make many
offerings". Good souls go to be happy with the gods, the bad burn in
Popogusso, a great pit, "where the sun sets". The evidence for this
theory of a future life, as usual, is that of men who died and revived
again, a story found in a score of widely separated regions, down to our
day, when the death, revival and revelation occurred to the founder
of the Arapahoe new religion of the Ghost Dance. The belief "works for
righteousness". "The common sort... have great care to avoyde torment
after death, and to enjoy blesse," also they have "great respect to
their Governors".

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

(2) Journal of Anthrop. Inst., Feb., 1892, pp. 285, 286.

(3) Prim. Cult,, ii. p. 342.

This belief in a chief god "from all eternitie" (that is, of unexplained
origin), may not be convenient to some speculators, but it exactly
corroborates Strachey's account of Ahone as creator with subordinates.
The evidence is of 1586 (twenty-six years before Strachey), and,
like Strachey, Heriot attributes the whole scheme of belief to "the
priestes". "This is the sum of their religion, which I learned by having
speciall familiaritie with some of their priests."(1) I see no escape
from the conclusion that the Virginians believed as Heriot says they
did, except the device of alleging that they promptly borrowed some of
Heriot's ideas and maintained that these ideas had ever been their own.
Heriot certainly did not recognise the identity. "Through conversing
with us they were brought into great doubts of their owne (religion),
and no small admiration of ours; of which many desired to learne more
than we had the meanes for want of utterance in their language to
expresse." So Heriot could not be subtle in the native tongue. Heriot
did what he could to convert them: "I did my best to make His immortall
glory knowne". His efforts were chiefly successful by virtue of the
savage admiration of our guns, mathematical instruments, and so forth.
These sources of an awakened interest in Christianity would vanish
with the total destruction and discomfiture of the colony, unless a few
captives, later massacred, taught our religion to the natives.(2)

(1) According to Strachey, Heriot could speak the native language.

(2) Heriot's Narrative, pp. 37-39. Quaritch, London, 1893.

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

"Those where in this Plantation (New Plymouth) say Kiehtan(1) made all
the other Gods: also one man and one woman, and with them all mankinde,
but how they became so dispersed they know not. They say that at first
there was no king but Kiehtan, that dwelleth far westerly above the
heavens, whither all good men go when they die, and have plentie of all
things. The bad go thither also and knock at the door, but ('the door is
shut') he bids them go wander in endless want and misery, for they shall
not stay there. They never saw Kiehtan,(2) but they hold it a great
charge and dutie that one race teach another; and to him they make
feasts and cry and sing for plenty and victory, or anything that is

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

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

"They have another Power they call Hobamock, which we conceive the
Devill, and upon him they call to cure their wounds and diseases; when
they are curable he persuades them he sent them, because they have
displeased him; but, if they be mortal, then he saith, 'Kiehtan sent
them'; which makes them never call on him in their sickness. They say
this Hobamock appears to them sometimes like a man, a deer, or an eagle,
but most commonly like a snake; not to all but to their Powahs to cure
diseases, and Undeses... and these are such as conjure in Virginia, and
cause the people to do what they list." Winslow (or rather Smith editing
Winslow here), had already said, "They believe, as do the Virginians,
of many divine powers, yet of one above all the rest, as the Southern
Virginians call their chief god Kewassa (an error), and that we now
inhabit Oke.... The Massachusetts call their great god Kiehtan."(1)

(1) Arber, pp. 767, 768.

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

Is all this invention? Or was all this derived from Europeans before
1586, and, if so, from what Europeans? Mr. Tylor, in 1873, wrote, "After
due allowance made for misrendering of savage answers, and importation
of white men's thoughts, it can hardly be judged that a divine being,
whose characteristics are often so unlike what European intercourse
would have suggested, and who is heard of by such early explorers among
such distant tribes, could be a deity of foreign origin". NOW, he "can
HARDLY be ALTOGETHER a deity of foreign origin".(1) I agree with
Mr. Tylor's earlier statement. In my opinion Ahone--Okeus,
Kiehtan--Hobamock, correspond, the first pair to the usually unseen
Australian Baiame (a crystal or hypnotic vision of Baiame scarcely
counts), while the second pair, Okeus and Hobamock, answer to the
Australian familiars of sorcerers, Koin and Brewin; the American
"Powers" being those of peoples on a higher level of culture. Like
Tharramulun where Baiame is supreme, Hobamock appears as a snake

(1) Prim. Cult., ii. 340, 1873, 1892.

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

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

What were Strachey's sources? He was for nine months, if not more, in
the colony: he had travelled at least 115 miles up the James River, he
occasionally suggests modifications of Smith's map, he refers to Smith's
adventures, and his glossary is very much larger than Smith's; its
accuracy I leave to American linguists. Such a witness, despite his
admitted use of Smith's text (if it is really all by Smith throughout)
is not to be despised, and he is not despised in America.(1) Strachey,
it is true, had not, like Smith, been captured by Indians and either
treated with perfect kindness and consideration (as Smith reported at
the time), or tied to a tree and threatened with arrows, and laid out
to have his head knocked in with a stone; as he alleged sixteen years
later! Strachey, not being captured, did not owe his release (1) to
the magnanimity of Powhattan, (2) to his own ingenious lies, (3) to
the intercession of Pocahontas, as Smith, and his friends for him, at
various dates inconsistently declared. Smith certainly saw more of the
natives at home: Strachey brought a more studious mind to what he could
learn of their customs and ideas; and is not a convicted braggart. I
conjecture that one of Strachey's sources was a native named Kemps.
Smith had seized Kemps and Kinsock in 1609. Unknown authorities (Powell?
and Todkill?) represent these two savages as "the most exact villaines
in the country".(2) They were made to labour in fetters, then were set
at liberty, but "little desired it".(3) Some "souldiers" ran away to the
liberated Kemps, who brought them back to Smith.(4) Why Kemps and his
friend are called "two of the most exact villains in the country"
does not appear. Kemps died "of the surveye" (scurvey, probably) at
Jamestown, in 1610-11. He was much made of by Lord De la Warr, "could
speak a pretty deal of our English, and came orderly to church every day
to prayers". He gave Strachey the names of Powhattan's wives, and told
him, truly or not, that Pocahontas was married, about 1610, to an Indian
named Kocoum.(5) I offer the guess that Kemps and Machumps, who came
and went from Pocahontas, and recited an Indian prayer which Strachey
neglected to copy out, may have been among Strachey's authorities. I
shall, of course, be told that Kemps picked up Ahone at church. This did
not strike Strachey as being the fact; he had no opinion of the creed in
which Ahone was a factor, "the misery and thraldome under which Sathan
has bound these wretched miscreants". According to Strachey, the
priests, far from borrowing any part of our faith, "feare and tremble
lest the knowledge of God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ be taught in
these parts".

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

(2) The Proeeedings, etc., by W. S. Arber, p. 151.

(3) Ibid., p. 155.

(4) Ibid., p. 157.

(5) Strachey, pp. 54, 55.

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

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



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

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

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

Dr. Lang's negative opinion was contradicted in testimony published by
himself, an appendix by the Rev. Mr. Ridley, containing evidence of
the belief in Baiame. "Those who have learned that 'God' is the name by
which we speak of the Creator, say that Baiame is God."(1)

(1) Lang's Queensland, p. 445, 1861.

As "a minimum definition of religion," Mr. Tylor has suggested "the
belief in spiritual beings". Against this it may be urged that, while we
have no definite certainty that any race of men is destitute of belief
in spiritual beings, yet certain moral and creative deities of low races
do not seem to be envisaged as "spiritual" at all. They are regarded
as EXISTENCES, as BEINGS, unconditioned by Time, Space, or Death, and
nobody appears to have put the purely metaphysical question, "Are these
beings spiritual or material?"(1) Now, if a race were discovered which
believed in such beings, yet had no faith in spirits, that race could
not be called irreligious, as it would have to be called in Mr. Tylor's
"minimum definition". Almost certainly, no race in this stage of belief
in nothing but unconditioned but not expressly spiritual beings is
extant. Yet such a belief may conceivably have existed before men had
developed the theory of spirits at all, and such a belief, in creative
and moral unconditioned beings, not alleged to be spiritual, could not
be excluded from a definition of religion.(2)

(1) See The Making of Religion, pp. 201-210.

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

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

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

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

In answering, or trying to answer, these questions, we cannot go behind
the beliefs of the races now most immersed in savage ignorance. About
the psychology of races yet more undeveloped we can have no historical
knowledge. Among the lowest known tribes we usually find, just as in
ancient Greece, the belief in a deathless "Father," "Master," "Maker,"
and also the crowd of humorous, obscene, fanciful myths which are in
flagrant contradiction with the religious character of that belief. That
belief is what we call rational, and even elevated. The myths, on the
other hand, are what we call irrational and debasing. We regard low
savages as very irrational and debased characters, consequently the
nature of their myths does not surprise us. Their religious conception,
however, of a "Father" or "Master of Life" seems out of keeping with
the nature of the savage mind as we understand it. Still, there the
religious conception actually is, and it seems to follow that we do not
wholly understand the savage mind, or its unknown antecedents. In
any case, there the facts are, as shall be demonstrated. However the
ancestors of Australians, or Andamanese, or Hurons arrived at their
highest religious conception, they decidedly possess it.(1) The
development of their mythical conceptions is accounted for by those
qualities of their minds which we do understand, and shall illustrate at
length. For the present, we can only say that the religious conception
uprises from the human intellect in one mood, that of earnest
contemplation and submission: while the mythical ideas uprise from
another mood, that of playful and erratic fancy. These two moods are
conspicuous even in Christianity. The former, that of earnest and
submissive contemplation, declares itself in prayers, hymns, and "the
dim religious light" of cathedrals. The second mood, that of playful
and erratic fancy, is conspicuous in the buffoonery of Miracle Plays, in
Marchen, these burlesque popular tales about our Lord and the Apostles,
and in the hideous and grotesque sculptures on sacred edifices. The two
moods are present, and in conflict, through the whole religious history
of the human race. They stand as near each other, and as far apart, as
Love and Lust.

(1) The hypothesis that the conception was borrowed from European
creeds will be discussed later. See, too, "Are Savage Gods borrowed from
Missionaries?" Nineteenth Century, January, 1899.

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

In Greece, as early as the sixth century B. C., we are all familiar with
Xenophanes' poem(1) complaining that the gods were credited with the
worst crimes of mortals--in fact, with abominations only known in the
orgies of Nero and Elagabalus. We hear Pindar refusing to repeat the
tale which told him the blessed were cannibals.(2) In India we read the
pious Brahmanic attempts to expound decently the myths which made Indra
the slayer of a Brahman; the sinner, that is, of the unpardonable sin.
In Egypt, too, we study the priestly or philosophic systems by which the
clergy strove to strip the burden of absurdity and sacrilege from their
own deities. From all these efforts of civilised and pious believers to
explain away the stories about their own gods we may infer one fact--the
most important to the student of mythology--the fact that myths were not
evolved in times of clear civilised thought. It is when Greece is just
beginning to free her thought from the bondage of too concrete language,
when she is striving to coin abstract terms, that her philosophers and
poets first find the myths of Greece a stumbling-block.

(1) Ritter and Preller, Hist. Philos., Gothae, 1869, p. 82.

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

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

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

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

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

If we look at Greek religious tradition, we observe the coexistence of
the RATIONAL and the apparently IRRATIONAL elements. The RATIONAL myths
are those which represent the gods as beautiful and wise beings. The
Artemis of the Odyssey "taking her pastime in the chase of boars and
swift deer, while with her the wild wood-nymphs disport them, and high
over them all she rears her brow, and is easily to be known where all
are fair,"(1) is a perfectly RATIONAL mythic representation of a divine
being. We feel, even now, that the conception of a "queen and goddess,
chaste and fair," the abbess, as Paul de Saint-Victor calls her, of
the woodlands, is a beautiful and natural fancy, which requires no
explanation. On the other hand, the Artemis of Arcadia, who is confused
with the nymph Callisto, who, again, is said to have become a she-bear,
and later a star; and the Brauronian Artemis, whose maiden ministers
danced a bear-dance,(2) are goddesses whose legend seems unnatural,
and needs to be made intelligible. Or, again, there is nothing not
explicable and natural in the conception of the Olympian Zeus as
represented by the great chryselephantine statue of Zeus at Olympia,
or in the Homeric conception of Zeus as a god who "turns everywhere his
shining eyes, and beholds all things, and protects the righteous, and
deals good or evil fortune to men." But the Zeus whose grave was shown in
Crete, or the Zeus who played Demeter an obscene trick by the aid of
a ram, or the Zeus who, in the shape of a swan, became the father of
Castor and Pollux, or the Zeus who deceived Hera by means of a feigned
marriage with an inanimate object, or the Zeus who was afraid of Attes,
or the Zeus who made love to women in the shape of an ant or a cuckoo,
is a being whose myth is felt to be unnatural and bewildering.(3) It
is this IRRATIONAL and unnatural element, as Mr. Max Muller says, "the
silly, senseless, and savage element," that makes mythology the puzzle
which men have so long found it. For, observe, Greek myth does
not represent merely a humorous play of fancy, dealing with things
religiously sacred as if by way of relief from the strained reverential
contemplation of the majesty of Zeus. Many stories of Greek mythology
are such as could not cross, for the first time, the mind of a civilised
Xenophanes or Theagenes, even in a dream. THIS was the real puzzle.

(1) Odyssey, vi. 102.

(2) (Greek word omitted); compare Harpokration on this word.

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

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

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

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

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

The explanations which men have given of their own sacred stories, the
apologies for their own gods which they have been constrained to offer
to themselves, were the earliest babblings of a science of mythology.
That science was, in its dim beginnings, intended to satisfy a moral
need. Man found that his gods, when mythically envisaged, were not made
in his own moral image at its best, but in the image sometimes of the
beasts, sometimes of his own moral nature at its very worst: in the
likeness of robbers, wizards, sorcerers, and adulterers. Now, it
is impossible here to examine minutely all systems of mythological
interpretation. Every key has been tried in this difficult lock; every
cause of confusion has been taken up and tested, deemed adequate, and
finally rejected or assigned a subordinate place. Probably the first
attempts to shake off the burden of religious horror at mythical impiety
were made by way of silent omission. Thus most of the foulest myths of
early India are absent, and presumably were left out, in the Rig-Veda.
"The religious sentiment of the hymns, already so elevated, has
discarded most of the tales which offended it, but has not succeeded
in discarding them all."(1) Just as the poets of the Rig-Veda prefer to
avoid the more offensive traditions about Indra and Tvashtri, so Homer
succeeds in avoiding the more grotesque and puerile tales about his own
gods.(2) The period of actual apology comes later. Pindar declines, as
we have seen, to accuse a god of cannibalism. The Satapatha Brahmana
invents a new story about the slaying of Visvarupa. Not Indra, but
Trita, says the Brahmana apologetically, slew the three-headed son of
Tvashtri. "Indra assuredly was free from that sin, for he is a god,"
says the Indian apologist.(3) Yet sins which to us appear far more
monstrous than the peccadillo of killing a three-headed Brahman are
attributed freely to Indra.

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

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

(3) Satapatha Brahmana, Oxford, 1882, vol. i. p. 47.

While poets could but omit a blasphemous tale or sketch an apology
in passing, it became the business of philosophers and of antiquarian
writers deliberately to "whitewash" the gods of popular religion.
Systematic explanations of the sacred stories, whether as preserved
in poetry or as told by priests, had to be provided. India had her
etymological and her legendary school of mythology.(1) Thus, while the
hymn SEEMED to tell how the Maruts were gods, "born together with the
spotted deer," the etymological interpreters explained that the word for
deer only meant the many-coloured lines of clouds.(2) In the armoury of
apologetics etymology has been the most serviceable weapon. It is
easy to see that by aid of etymology the most repulsive legend may be
compelled to yield a pure or harmless sense, and may be explained as
an innocent blunder, caused by mere verbal misunderstanding. Brahmans,
Greeks, and Germans have equally found comfort in this hypothesis. In
the Cratylus of Plato, Socrates speaks of the notion of explaining myths
by etymological guesses at the meaning of divine names as "a philosophy
which came to him all in an instant". Thus we find Socrates shocked by
the irreverence which styled Zeus the son of Cronus, "who is a proverb
for stupidity". But on examining philologically the name Kronos,
Socrates decides that it must really mean Koros, "not in the sense of
a youth, but signifying the pure and garnished mind". Therefore,
when people first called Zeus the son of Cronus, they meant nothing
irreverent, but only that Zeus is the child of the pure mind or pure
reason. Not only is this etymological system most pious and consolatory,
but it is, as Socrates adds, of universal application. "For now I
bethink me of a very new and ingenious notion,... that we may put in and
pull out letters at pleasure, and alter the accents."(3)

(1) Rig-Veda Sanhita. Max Muller, p. 59.

(2) Postea, "Indian Divine Myths".

(3) Jowett's Plato, vol. i. pp. 632, 670.

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

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

Therefore the nonsense and blasphemy must originally have had some
harmless, or even praiseworthy, sense. What could that sense have been?
This question each ancient mythologist answered in accordance with his
own taste and prejudices, and above all, and like all other and later
speculators, in harmony with the general tendency of his own studies.
If he lived when physical speculation was coming into fashion, as in
the age of Empedocles, he thought that the Homeric poems must contain a
veiled account of physical philosophy. This was the opinion of Theagenes
of Rhegium, who wrote at a period when a crude physicism was disengaging
itself from the earlier religious and mythical cosmogonic systems of
Greece. Theagenes was shocked by the Homeric description of the battle
in which the gods fought as allies of the Achaeans and Trojans. He
therefore explained away the affair as a veiled account of the strife
of the elements. Such "strife" was familiar to readers of the physical
speculations of Empedocles and of Heraclitus, who blamed Homer for his
prayer against Strife.(1)

(1) Is. et Osir., 48.

It did not occur to Theagenes to ask whether any evidence existed
to show that the pre-Homeric Greeks were Empedoclean or Heraclitean
philosophers. He readily proved to himself that Apollo, Helios, and
Hephaestus were allegorical representations, like what such philosophers
would feign,--of fire, that Hera was air, Poseidon water, Artemis the
moon, and the rest he disposed of in the same fashion.(1)

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

Metrodorus, again, turned not only the gods, but the Homeric heroes into
"elemental combinations and physical agencies"; for there is nothing new
in the mythological philosophy recently popular, which saw the sun, and
the cloud, and the wind in Achilles, Athene, and Hermes.(1)

(1) Grote, Hist, of Greece, ed. 1869, i. p. 404.

In the Bacchae (291-297), Euripides puts another of the mythological
systems of his own time into the mouth of Cadmus, the Theban king, who
advances a philological explanation of the story that Dionysus was sewn
up in the thigh of Zeus. The most famous of the later theories was that
of Euhemerus (316 B.C.). In a kind of philosophical romance, Euhemerus
declared that he had sailed to some No-man's-land, Panchaea, where he
found the verity about mythical times engraved on pillars of bronze.
This truth he published in the Sacra Historia, where he rationalised
the fables, averring that the gods had been men, and that the myths were
exaggerated and distorted records of facts. (See Eusebius, Praep. E.,
ii 55.) The Abbe Banier (La Mythologie expliquee par l'Histoire, Paris,
1738, vol. ii. p. 218) attempts the defence of Euhemerus, whom most of
the ancients regarded as an atheist. There was an element of truth in
his romantic hypothesis.(1)

(1) See Block, Euhemere et sa Doctrine, Mons, 1876.

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

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

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

Granting that the myth-makers were only constructing physical
allegories, why did they wrap them up, asks Eusebius, in what WE
consider abominable fictions? In what state were the people who could
not look at the pure processes of Nature without being reminded of
the most hideous and unnatural offences? Once more: "The physical
interpreters do not even agree in their physical interpretations". All
these are equally facile, equally plausible, and equally incapable of
proof. Again, Eusebius argues, the interpreters take for granted in the
makers of the myths an amount of physical knowledge which they certainly
did not possess. For example, if Leto were only another name for Hera,
the character of Zeus would be cleared as far as his amour with Leto is
concerned. Now, the ancient believers in the "physical phenomena theory"
of myths made out that Hera, the wife of Zeus, was really the same
person under another name as Leto, his mistress. "For Hera is the earth"
(they said at other times that Hera was the air), "and Leto is the
night; but night is only the shadow of the earth, and therefore Leto
is only the shadow of Hera." It was easy, however, to prove that this
scientific view of night as the shadow of earth was not likely to be
known to myth-makers, who regarded "swift Night" as an actual person.
Plutarch, too, had an abstruse theory to explain the legend about the
dummy wife,--a log of oak-wood, which Zeus pretended to marry when at
variance with Hera.(1)

(1) Pausanias, ix. 31.

This quarrel, he said, was merely the confusion and strife of elements.
Zeus was heat, Hera was cold (she had already been explained as earth
and air), the dummy wife of oak-wood was a tree that emerged after a
flood, and so forth. Of course, there was no evidence that mythopoeic
men held Plutarchian theories of heat and cold and the conflict of
the elements; besides, as Eusebius pointed out, Hera had already been
defined once as an allegory of wedded life, and once as the earth, and
again as the air, and it was rather too late to assert that she was also
the cold and watery element in the world. As for his own explanation of
the myths, Eusebius holds that they descend from a period when men in
their lawless barbarism knew no better than to tell such tales. "Ancient
folk, in the exceeding savagery of their lives, made no account of God,
the universal Creator (here Eusebius is probably wrong)... but betook
them to all manner of abominations. For the laws of decent existence
were not yet established, nor was any settled and peaceful state
ordained among men, but only a loose and savage fashion of wandering
life, while, as beasts irrational, they cared for no more than to fill
their bellies, being in a manner without God in the world." Growing
a little more civilised, men, according to Eusebius, sought after
something divine, which they found in the heavenly bodies. Later,
they fell to worshipping living persons, especially "medicine men" and
conjurors, and continued to worship them even after their decease,
so that Greek temples are really tombs of the dead.(1) Finally, the
civilised ancients, with a conservative reluctance to abandon their
old myths (Greek text omitted), invented for them moral or physical
explanations, like those of Plutarch and others, earlier and later.(2)

(1) Praep. E., ii. 5.

(2) Ibid., 6,19.

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

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

All interpretations of myth have been formed in accordance with the
ideas prevalent in the time of the interpreters. The early Greek
physicists thought that mythopoeic men had been physicists. Aristotle
hints that they were (like himself) political philosophers.(1)
Neo-platonists sought in the myths for Neo-platonism; most Christians
(unlike Eusebius) either sided with Euhemerus, or found in myth the
inventions of devils, or a tarnished and distorted memory of the
Biblical revelation.

(1) Met., xi. 8,19.

This was the theory, for example, of good old Jacob Bryant, who saw
everywhere memories of the Noachian deluge and proofs of the correctness
of Old Testament ethnology.(1)

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

Much the same attempt to find the Biblical truth at the bottom of savage
and ancient fable has been recently made by the late M. Lenormant, a
Catholic scholar.(1)

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

In the beginning of the present century Germany turned her attention to
mythology. As usual, men's ideas were biassed by the general nature of
their opinions. In a pious kind of spirit, Friedrich Creuzer sought to
find SYMBOLS of some pure, early, and Oriental theosophy in the myths
and mysteries of Greece. Certainly the Greeks of the philosophical
period explained their own myths as symbols of higher things, but
the explanation was an after-thought.(1) The great Lobeck, in his
Aglaophamus (1829), brought back common sense, and made it the guide of
his vast, his unequalled learning. In a gentler and more genial
spirit, C. Otfried Muller laid the foundation of a truly scientific
and historical mythology.(2) Neither of these writers had, like Alfred
Maury,(3) much knowledge of the myths and faiths of the lower races, but
they often seem on the point of anticipating the ethnological method.

(1) Creuzer, Symbolik und Mythologie, 2d edit., Leipzig, 1836-43.

(2) Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology, English trans.,
London, 1844.

(3) Histoire des Religions de la Grece Antique, Paris, 1857.

When philological science in our own century came to maturity, in
philology, as of old in physics and later in symbols, was sought the
key of myths. While physical allegory, religious and esoteric symbolism,
verbal confusion, historical legend, and an original divine tradition,
perverted in ages of darkness, have been the most popular keys in other
ages, the scientific nineteenth century has had a philological key
of its own. The methods of Kuhn, Breal, Max Muller, and generally the
philological method, cannot be examined here at full length.(1) Briefly
speaking, the modern philological method is intended for a scientific
application of the old etymological interpretations. Cadmus in the
Bacchae of Euripides, Socrates in the Cratylus of Plato, dismiss
unpalatable myths as the results of verbal confusion. People had
originally said something quite sensible--so the hypothesis runs--but
when their descendants forgot the meaning of their remarks, a new and
absurd meaning followed from a series of unconscious puns.(2) This view
was supported in ancient times by purely conjectural and impossible
etymologies. Thus the myth that Dionysus was sewn up in the THIGH of
Zeus (Greek text omitted) was explained by Euripides as the result of a
confusion of words. People had originally said that Zeus gave a pledge
(Greek text omitted) to Hera. The modern philological school relies for
explanations of untoward and other myths on similar confusions. Thus
Daphne is said to have been originally not a girl of romance, but the
dawn (Sanskirt, dahana: ahana) pursued by the rising sun. But as the
original Aryan sense of Dahana or Ahana was lost, and as Daphne came to
mean the laurel--the wood which burns easily--the fable arose that the
tree had been a girl called Daphne.(3)

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

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

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

This system chiefly rests on comparison between the Sanskrit names in
the Rig-Veda and the mythic names in Greek, German, Slavonic, and other
Aryan legends. The attempt is made to prove that, in the common speech
of the undivided Aryan race, many words for splendid or glowing natural
phenomena existed, and that natural processes were described in a
figurative style. As the various Aryan families separated, the sense of
the old words and names became dim, the nomina developed into numina,
the names into gods, the descriptions of elemental processes into myths.
As this system has already been criticised by us elsewhere with minute
attention, a reference to these reviews must suffice in this place.
Briefly, it may be stated that the various masters of the school--Kuhn,
Max Muller, Roth, Schwartz, and the rest--rarely agree where agreement
is essential, that is, in the philological foundations of their
building. They differ in very many of the etymological analyses of
mythical names. They also differ in the interpretations they put on the
names, Kuhn almost invariably seeing fire, storm, cloud, or lightning
where Mr. Max Muller sees the chaste Dawn. Thus Mannhardt, after having
been a disciple, is obliged to say that comparative Indo-Germanic
mythology has not borne the fruit expected, and that "the CERTAIN gains
of the system reduce themselves to the scantiest list of parallels,
such as Dyaus = Zeus = Tius, Parjanya = Perkunas, Bhaga = Bog, Varuna =
Uranos" (a position much disputed), etc. Mannhardt adds his belief that
a number of other "equations"--such as Sarameya = Hermeias, Saranyus =
Demeter Erinnys, Kentauros = Gandharva, and many others--will not stand
criticism, and he fears that these ingenious guesses will prove
mere jeux d'esprit rather than actual facts.(1) Many examples of the
precarious and contradictory character of the results of philological
mythology, many instances of "dubious etymologies," false logic, leaps
at foregone conclusions, and attempts to make what is peculiarly Indian
in thought into matter of universal application, will meet us in the
chapters on Indian and Greek divine legends.(2) "The method in its
practical working shows a fundamental lack of the historical sense,"
says Mannhardt. Examples are torn from their contexts, he observes;
historical evolution is neglected; passages of the Veda, themselves
totally obscure, are dragged forward to account for obscure Greek
mythical phenomena. Such are the accusations brought by the regretted
Mannhardt against the school to which he originally belonged, and
which was popular and all-powerful even in the maturity of his own more
clear-sighted genius. Proofs of the correctness of his criticism will
be offered abundantly in the course of this work. It will become evident
that, great as are the acquisitions of Philology, her least certain
discoveries have been too hastily applied in alien "matter," that is, in
the region of myth. Not that philology is wholly without place or part
in the investigation of myth, when there is agreement among philologists
as to the meaning of a divine name. In that case a certain amount of
light is thrown on the legend of the bearer of the name, and on its
origin and first home, Aryan, Greek, Semitic, or the like. But how rare
is agreement among philologists!

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

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

"The philological method," says Professor Tiele,(1) "is inadequate and
misleading, when it is a question of discovering the ORIGIN of a myth,
or the physical explanation of the oldest myths, or of accounting for
the rude and obscene element in the divine legends of civilised races.
But these are not the only problems of mythology. There is, for example,
the question of the GENEALOGICAL relations of myths, where we have
to determine whether the myths of peoples whose speech is of the same
family are special modifications of a mythology once common to the race
whence these peoples have sprung. The philological method alone can
answer here." But this will seem a very limited province when we find
that almost all races, however remote and unconnected in speech, have
practically much the same myths.

(1) Rev. de l'Hist. des Rel., xii. 3, 260, Nov., Dec., 1885.


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

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

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

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

(1) De Legibus Hebraeorum Ritualibus, Tubingae, 1782.

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

(1) See Appendix A., Fontenelle's Origine des Fables.

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

In anthropology, in the science of Waitz, Tylor, and M'Lennan, in
the examination of man's faith in the light of his social, legal, and
historical conditions generally, we find, with Mannhardt, some of the
keys of myth. This science "makes it manifest that the different stages
through which humanity has passed in its intellectual evolution have
still their living representatives among various existing races.
The study of these lower races is an invaluable instrument for the
interpretation of the survivals from earlier stages, which we meet in
the full civilisation of cultivated peoples, but whose origins were in
the remotest fetichism and savagery."(1)

(1) Mannhardt op. cit. p. xxiii.

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

Our first question will be, Is there a stage of human society and of
the human intellect in which facts that appear to us to be monstrous
and irrational--facts corresponding to the wilder incidents of myth--are
accepted as ordinary occurrences of everyday life? In the region of
romantic rather than of mythical invention we know that there is such
a state. Mr. Lane, in his preface to the Arabian Nights, says that the
Arabs have an advantage over us as story-tellers. They can introduce
such incidents as the change of a man into a horse, or of a woman into a
dog, or the intervention of an Afreet without any more scruple than our
own novelists feel in describing a duel or the concealment of a will.
Among the Arabs the agencies of magic and of spirits are regarded as at
least as probable and common as duels and concealments of wills seem
to be thought by European novelists. It is obvious that we need look no
farther for the explanation of the supernatural events in Arab romances.
Now, let us apply this system to mythology. It is admitted that Greeks,
Romans, Aryans of India in the age of the Sanskrit commentators, and
Egyptians of the Ptolemaic and earlier ages, were as much puzzled as
we are by the mythical adventures of their gods. But is there any
known stage of the human intellect in which similar adventures, and
the metamorphoses of men into animals, trees, stars, and all else
that puzzles us in the civilised mythologies, are regarded as possible
incidents of daily human life? Our answer is, that everything in the
civilised mythologies which we regard as irrational seems only part of
the accepted and natural order of things to contemporary savages, and in
the past seemed equally rational and natural to savages concerning whom
we have historical information.(1) Our theory is, therefore, that the
savage and senseless element in mythology is, for the most part, a
legacy from the fancy of ancestors of the civilised races who were once
in an intellectual state not higher, but probably lower, than that of
Australians, Bush-men, Red Indians, the lower races of South America,
and other worse than barbaric peoples. As the ancestors of the Greeks,
Aryans of India, Egyptians and others advanced in civilisation, their
religious thought was shocked and surprised by myths (originally dating
from the period of savagery, and natural in that period, though even
then often in contradiction to morals and religion) which were preserved
down to the time of Pausanias by local priesthoods, or which were
stereotyped in the ancient poems of Hesiod and Homer, or in the
Brahmanas and Vedas of India, or were retained in the popular religion
of Egypt. This theory recommended itself to Lobeck. "We may believe that
ancient and early tribes framed gods like unto themselves in action and
in experience, and that the allegorical softening down of myths is the
explanation added later by descendants who had attained to purer ideas
of divinity, yet dared not reject the religion of their ancestors."(2)
The senseless element in the myths would, by this theory, be for the
most part a "survival"; and the age and condition of human thought
whence it survived would be one in which our most ordinary ideas about
the nature of things and the limits of possibility did not yet exist,
when all things were conceived of in quite other fashion; the age, that
is, of savagery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is universally admitted that "survivals" of this kind do account for
many anomalies in our institutions, in law, politics, society, even in
dress and manners. If isolated fragments of earlier ages abide in these,
it is still more probable that other fragments will survive in anything
so closely connected as is mythology with the conservative religious
sentiment and tradition. Our object, then, is to prove that the "silly,
savage, and irrational" element in the myths of civilised peoples is,
as a rule, either a survival from the period of savagery, or has been
borrowed from savage neighbours by a cultivated people, or, lastly,
is an imitation by later poets of old savage data.(1) For example,
to explain the constellations as metamorphosed men, animals, or other
objects of terrestrial life is the habit of savages,(2)--a natural habit
among people who regard all things as on one level of personal life and
intelligence. When the stars, among civilised Greeks or Aryans of India,
are also popularly regarded as transformed and transfigured men, animals
and the like, this belief may be either a survival from the age when the
ancestors of Greeks and Indians were in the intellectual condition
of the Australian Murri; or the star-name and star-myth may have been
borrowed from savages, or from cultivated peoples once savage or apt to
copy savages; or, as in the case of the Coma Berenices, a poet of a late
age may have invented a new artificial myth on the old lines of savage

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

(2) See Custom and Myth, "Star-Myths".

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

"Savages have been for untold ages, and still are, living in the
myth-making stage of the human mind. It was through sheer ignorance and
neglect of this direct knowledge how and by what manner of men myths
are really made that their simple philosophy has come to be buried under
masses of commentator's rubbish..."(1) Mr. Tylor goes on thus (and his
words contain the gist of our argument): "The general thesis maintained
is that myth arose in the savage condition prevalent in remote ages
among the whole human race; that it remains comparatively unchanged
among the rude modern tribes who have departed least from these
primitive conditions, while higher and later civilisations, partly by
retaining its actual principles, and partly by carrying on its inherited
results in the form of ancestral tradition, continued it not merely in
toleration, but in honour".(2) Elsewhere Mr. Tylor points out that by
this method of interpretation we may study myths in various stages
of evolution, from the rude guess of the savage at an explanation of
natural phenomena, through the systems of the higher barbarisms, or
lower civilisations (as in ancient Mexico), and the sacerdotage of
India, till myth reaches its most human form in Greece. Yet even in
Greek myth the beast is not wholly cast out, and Hellas by no means "let
the ape and tiger die". That Mr. Tylor does not exclude the Aryan
race from his general theory is plain enough.(3) "What is the Aryan
conception of the Thunder-god but a poetic elaboration of thoughts
inherited from the savage stage through which the primitive Aryans had

(1) Primitive Culture, 2nd edit., i. p. 283.

(2) Op. cit., p. 275.

(3) Primitive Culture, 2nd edit., ii. 265.

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

The advantages of our hypothesis (if its legitimacy be admitted) are
obvious. In the first place, we have to deal with an actual demonstrable
condition of the human intellect. The existence of the savage state
in all its various degrees, and of the common intellectual habits and
conditions which are shared by the backward peoples, and again the
survival of many of these in civilisation, are indubitable facts. We are
not obliged to fall back upon some fanciful and unsupported theory of
what "primitive man" did, and said, and thought. Nay, more; we escape
all the fallacies connected with the terms "primitive man". We are not
compelled (as will be shown later)(1) to prove that the first men of all
were like modern savages, nor that savages represent primitive man.
It may be that the lowest extant savages are the nearest of existing
peoples to the type of the first human beings. But on this point it is
unnecessary for us to dogmatise. If we can show that, whether men began
their career as savages or not, they have at least passed through the
savage status or have borrowed the ideas of races in the savage
status, that is all we need. We escape from all the snares of theories
(incapable of historical proof) about the really primeval and original
condition of the human family.

(1) Appendix B.

Once more, our theory naturally attaches itself to the general system
of Evolution. We are enabled to examine mythology as a thing of gradual
development and of slow and manifold modifications, corresponding in
some degree to the various changes in the general progress of society.
Thus we shall watch the barbaric conditions of thought which produce
barbaric myths, while these in their turn are retained, or perhaps
purified, or perhaps explained away, by more advanced civilisations.
Further, we shall be able to detect the survival of the savage ideas
with least modification, and the persistence of the savage myths with
least change, among the classes of a civilised population which have
shared least in the general advance. These classes are, first, the
rustic peoples, dwelling far from cities and schools, on heaths or by
the sea; second, the conservative local priesthoods, who retain the more
crude and ancient myths of the local gods and heroes after these
have been modified or rejected by the purer sense of philosophers and
national poets. Thus much of ancient myth is a woven warp and woof of
three threads: the savage donnee, the civilised and poetic modification
of the savage donnee, the version of the original fable which survives
in popular tales and in the "sacred chapters" of local priesthoods. A
critical study of these three stages in myth is in accordance with the
recognised practice of science. Indeed, the whole system is only an
application to this particular province, mythology, of the method by
which the development either of organisms or of human institutions is
traced. As the anomalies and apparently useless and accidental features
in the human or in other animal organisms may be explained as stunted or
rudimentary survivals of organs useful in a previous stage of life, so
the anomalous and irrational myths of civilised races may be explained
as survivals of stories which, in an earlier state of thought and
knowledge, seemed natural enough. The persistence of the myths
is accounted for by the well-known conservatism of the religious
sentiment--a conservatism noticed even by Eusebius. "In later days, when
they became ashamed of the religious beliefs of their ancestors, they
invented private and respectful interpretations, each to suit himself.
For no one dared to shake the ancestral beliefs, as they honoured at a
very high rate the sacredness and antiquity of old associations, and of
the teaching they had received in childhood."(1)

(1) Praep. E., ii. 6, 19.

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

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

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

This chapter may conclude with an example of a tale whose DIFFUSION may
be explained in divers ways, though its ORIGIN seems undoubtedly savage.
If we turn to the Algonkins, a stock of Red Indians, we come on a
popular tradition which really does give pause to the mythologist. Could
this story, he asks himself, have been separately invented in widely
different places, or could the Iroquois have borrowed from the
Australian blacks or the Andaman Islanders? It is a common thing in most
mythologies to find everything of value to man--fire, sun, water--in
the keeping of some hostile power. The fire, or the sun, or the water
is then stolen, or in other ways rescued from the enemy and restored
to humanity. The Huron story (as far as water is concerned) is told by
Father Paul Le Jeune, a Jesuit missionary, who lived among the Hurons
about 1636. The myth begins with the usual opposition between two
brothers, the Cain and Abel of savage legend. One of the brothers, named
Ioskeha, slew the other, and became the father of mankind (as known
to the Red Indians) and the guardian of the Iroquois. The earth was at
first arid and sterile, but Ioskeha destroyed the gigantic frog which
had swallowed all the waters, and guided the torrents into smooth
streams and lakes.(1)

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

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

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

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

The Andaman Islanders dwell at a very considerable distance from
Australia and from the Iroquois, and, in the present condition of the
natives of Australia and Andaman, neither could possibly visit the
other. The frog in the Andaman version is called a toad, and he came to
swallow the waters in the following way: One day a woodpecker was eating
honey high up in the boughs of a tree. Far below, the toad was a witness
of the feast, and asked for some honey. "Well, come up here, and you
shall have some," said the woodpecker. "But how am I to climb?" "Take
hold of that creeper, and I will draw you up," said the woodpecker; but
all the while he was bent on a practical joke. So the toad got into a
bucket he happened to possess, and fastened the bucket to the creeper.
"Now, pull!" Then the woodpecker raised the toad slowly to the level of
the bough where the honey was, and presently let him down with a run,
not only disappointing the poor toad, but shaking him severely. The toad
went away in a rage and looked about him for revenge. A happy thought
occurred to him, and he drank up all the water of the rivers and lakes.
Birds and beasts were perishing, woodpeckers among them, of thirst. The
toad, overjoyed at his success, wished to add insult to the injury, and,
very thoughtlessly, began to dance in an irritating manner at his foes.
But then the stolen waters gushed out of his mouth in full volume, and
the drought soon ended. One of the most curious points in this myth is
the origin of the quarrel between the woodpecker and the toad. The same
beginning--the tale of an insult put on an animal by hauling up and
letting him down with a run--occurs in an African Marchen.(1)

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

Now this strangely diffused story of the slaying of the frog which had
swallowed all the water seems to be a savage myth of which the more
heroic conflict of Indra with Vrittra (the dragon which had swallowed
all the waters) is an epic and sublimer version.(1) "The heavenly water,
which Vrittra withholds from the world, is usually the prize of the

(1) Ludwig, Der Rig-Veda, iii. p. 337. See postea, "Divine Myths of

The serpent of Vedic myth is, perhaps, rather the robber-guardian than
the swallower of the waters, but Indra is still, like the Iroquois
Ioskeha, "he who wounds the full one".(1) This example of the wide
distribution of a myth shows how the question of diffusion, though
connected with, is yet distinct from that of origin. The advantage
of our method will prove to be, that it discovers an historical and
demonstrable state of mind as the origin of the wild element in
myth. Again, the wide prevalence in the earliest times of this mental
condition will, to a certain extent, explain the DISTRIBUTION of
myth. Room must be left, of course, for processes of borrowing and
transmission, but how Andamanese, Australians and Hurons could borrow
from each other is an unsolved problem.

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

Finally, our hypothesis is not involved in dubious theories of race. To
us, myths appear to be affected (in their origins) much less by the race
than by the stage of culture attained by the people who cherish them.
A fight for the waters between a monstrous dragon like Vrittra and a
heroic god like Indra is a nobler affair than a quarrel for the
waters between a woodpecker and a toad. But the improvement and
transfiguration, so to speak, of a myth at bottom the same is due to the
superior culture, not to the peculiar race, of the Vedic poets, except
so far as culture itself depends on race. How far the purer culture was
attained to by the original superiority of the Aryan over the Andaman
breed, it is not necessary for our purpose to inquire. Thus, on the
whole, we may claim for our system a certain demonstrable character,
which helps to simplify the problems of mythology, and to remove
them from the realm of fanciful guesses and conflicting etymological
conjectures into that of sober science. That these pretensions are not
unacknowledged even by mythologists trained in other schools is proved
by the remarks of Dr. Tiele.(1)

(1) Rev. de l'Hist. des Rel., "Le Mythe de Cronos," January, 1886. Dr.
Tiele is not, it must be noted, a thorough adherent of our theory. See
Modern Mythology: "The Question of Allies".

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

The method is to this extent applauded by a most competent authority,
and it has been warmly accepted by a distinguished French school of
students, represented by M. Gaidoz. But it is obvious that the method
rests on a double hypothesis: first, that satisfactory evidence as to
the mental conditions of the lower and backward races is obtainable;
second, that the civilised races (however they began) either passed
through the savage state of thought and practice, or borrowed very
freely from people in that condition. These hypotheses have been
attacked by opponents; the trustworthiness of our evidence, especially,
has been assailed. By way of facilitating the course of the exposition
and of lessening the disturbing element of controversy, a reply to
the objections and a defence of the evidence has been relegated to an
Appendix.(1) Meanwhile we go on to examine the peculiar characteristics
of the mental condition of savages and of peoples in the lower and upper

(1) Appendix B.


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

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

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

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

(1) "So fasst auch das Alterthum ihren Unterschied von den Menschen
ganz anders als die spatere Zeit."--Grimm, quoted by Liebrecht, Zur
Volkskunde, p. 17.

2. The second point to note in savage opinion is the belief in magic and
sorcery. The world and all the things in it being vaguely conceived of
as sensible and rational, obey the commands of certain members of the
tribe, chiefs, jugglers, conjurors, or what you will. Rocks open at
their order, rivers dry up, animals are their servants and hold converse
with them. These magicians cause or heal diseases, and can command even
the weather, bringing rain or thunder or sunshine at their will.(1)
There are few supernatural attributes of "cloud-compelling Zeus" or of
Apollo that are not freely assigned to the tribal conjuror. By virtue,
doubtless, of the community of nature between man and the things in the
world, the conjuror (like Zeus or Indra) can assume at will the shape
of any animal, or can metamorphose his neighbours or enemies into animal

(1) See Roth in North-West Central Queensland Aborigines, chapter xii.,

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

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

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

6. One more mental peculiarity of the savage mind remains to be
considered in this brief summary. The savage, like the civilised man, is
curious. The first faint impulses of the scientific spirit are at work
in his brain; he is anxious to give himself an account of the world
in which he finds himself. But he is not more curious than he is, on
occasion, credulous. His intellect is eager to ask questions, as is the
habit of children, but his intellect is also lazy, and he is content
with the first answer that comes to hand. "Ils s'arretent aux premieres
notions qu'ils en ont," says Pere Hierome Lalemant.(1) "Nothing," says
Schoolcraft, "is too capacious (sic) for Indian belief."(2) The replies
to his questions he receives from tradition or (when a new problem
arises) evolves an answer for himself in the shape of STORIES. Just as
Socrates, in the Platonic dialogues, recalls or invents a myth in the
despair of reason, so the savage has a story for answer to almost
every question that he can ask himself. These stories are in a sense
scientific, because they attempt a solution of the riddles of the world.
They are in a sense religious, because there is usually a supernatural
power, a deus ex machina, of some sort to cut the knot of the problem.
Such stories, then, are the science, and to a certain extent the
religious tradition, of savages.(3)

(1) Relations de la Nouvelle France, 1648, p. 70.

(2) Algic Researches, i. 41.

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

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

No more need be said to explain the wild and (as it seems to us moderns)
the irrational character of savage myth. It is a jungle of foolish
fancies, a walpurgis nacht of gods and beasts and men and stars and
ghosts, all moving madly on a level of common personality and animation,
and all changing shapes at random, as partners are changed in some
fantastic witches' revel. Such is savage mythology, and how could it
be otherwise when we consider the elements of thought and belief out of
which it is mainly composed? We shall see that part of the mythology of
the Greeks or the Aryans of India is but a similar walpurgis nacht, in
which an incestuous or amorous god may become a beast, and the object
of his pursuit, once a woman, may also become a beast, and then shift
shapes to a tree or a bird or a star. But in the civilised races the
genius of the people tends to suppress, exclude and refine away the wild
element, which, however, is never wholly eliminated. The Erinyes soon
stop the mouth of the horse of Achilles when he begins, like the horse
in Grimm's Goose Girl, to hold a sustained conversation.(1) But the
ancient, cruel, and grotesque savage element, nearly overcome by Homer
and greatly reduced by the Vedic poets, breaks out again in Hesiod, in
temple legends and Brahmanic glosses, and finally proves so strong that
it can only be subdued by Christianity, or rather by that break between
the educated classes and the traditional past of religion which has
resulted from Christianity. Even so, myth lingers in the folk-lore of
the non-progressive classes of Europe, and, as in Roumania, invades

(1) Iliad, xix. 418.

We have now to demonstrate the existence in the savage intellect of
the various ideas and habits which we have described, and out of which
mythology springs. First, we have to show that "a nebulous and confused
state of mind, to which all things, animate or inanimate, human, animal,
vegetable or inorganic, seem on the same level of life, passion and
reason," does really exist.(1) The existence of this condition of the
intellect will be demonstrated first on the evidence of the statements
of civilised observers, next on the evidence of the savage institutions
in which it is embodied.

(1) Creuzer and Guigniaut, vol. i. p. 111.

The opinion of Mr. Tylor is naturally of great value, as it is formed
on as wide an acquaintance with the views of the lower races as any
inquirers can hope to possess. Mr. Tylor observes: "We have to inform
ourselves of the savage man's idea, which is very different from the
civilised man's, of the nature of the lower animals.... The sense of an
absolute psychical distinction between man and beast, so prevalent in
the civilised world, is hardly to be found among the lower races."(1)
The universal attribution of "souls" to all things--the theory known as
"Animism"--is another proof that the savage draws no hard and fast line
between man and the other things in the world. The notion of the Italian
country-people, that cruelty to an animal does not matter because it is
not a "Christian," has no parallel in the philosophy of the savage,
to whom all objects seem to have souls, just as men have. Mr. Im Thurn
found the absence of any sense of a difference between man and nature
a characteristic of his native companions in Guiana. "The very phrase,
'Men and other animals,' or even, as it is often expressed, 'Men and
animals,' based as it is on the superiority which civilised man feels
over other animals, expresses a dichotomy which is in no way recognised
by the Indian.... It is therefore most important to realise how
comparatively small really is the difference between men in a state of
savagery and other animals, and how completely even such difference as
exists escapes the notice of savage men... It is not, therefore, too
much to say that, according to the view of the Indians, other animals
differ from men only in bodily form and in their various degrees of
strength; in spirit they do not differ at all."(2) The Indian's notion
of the life of plants and stones is on the same level of unreason, as we
moderns reckon reason. He believes in the spirits of rocks and stones,
undeterred by the absence of motion in these objects. "Not only many
rocks, but also many waterfalls, streams, and indeed material objects of
every sort, are supposed each to consist of a body and a spirit, as does
man."(3) It is not our business to ask here how men came by the belief
in universal animation. That belief is gradually withdrawn, distinctions
are gradually introduced, as civilisation and knowledge advance. It is
enough for us if the failure to draw a hard and fast line between man
and beasts, stones and plants, be practically universal among
savages, and if it gradually disappears before the fuller knowledge of
civilisation. The report which Mr. Im Thurn brings from the Indians of
Guiana is confirmed by what Schoolcraft says of the Algonkin races of
the northern part of the continent. "The belief of the narrators and
listeners in every wild and improbable thing told helps wonderfully in
the original stories, in joining all parts together. The Indian believes
that the whole visible and invisible creation is animated.... To make
the matter worse, these tribes believe that animals of the lowest as
well as highest class in the chain of creation are alike endowed with
reasoning powers and faculties. As a natural conclusion they endow
birds, beasts and all other animals with souls."(4) As an example of the
ease with which the savage recognises consciousness and voluntary
motion even in stones, may be cited Kohl's account of the beliefs of the
Objibeways.(5) Nearly every Indian has discovered, he says, an object
in which he places special confidence, and to which he sacrifices more
zealously than to the Great Spirit. The "hope" of Otamigan (a companion
of the traveller) was a rock, which once advanced to meet him, swayed,
bowed and went back again. Another Indian revered a Canadian larch,
"because he once heard a very remarkable rustling in its branches".
It thus appears that while the savage has a general kind of sense that
inanimate things are animated, he is a good deal impressed by their
conduct when he thinks that they actually display their animation. In
the same way a devout modern spiritualist probably regards with more
reverence a table which he has seen dancing and heard rapping than a
table at which he has only dined. Another general statement of failure
to draw the line between men and the irrational creation is found in
the old Jesuit missionary Le Jeune's Relations de la Nouvelle France.(6)
"Les sauvages se persuadent que non seulement les hommes et les autres
animaux, mais aussi que toutes les autres choses sont animees." Again:
"Ils tiennent les poissons raisonnables, comme aussi les cerfs". In the
Solomon Islands, Mr. Romilly sailed with an old chief who used violent
language to the waves when they threatened to dash over the boat, and
"old Takki's exhortations were successful".(7) Waitz(8) discovers the
same attitude towards the animals among the negroes. Man, in their
opinion, is by no means a separate sort of person on the summit of
nature and high above the beasts; these he rather regards as dark and
enigmatic beings, whose life is full of mystery, and which he therefore
considers now as his inferiors, now as his superiors. A collection of
evidence as to the savage failure to discriminate between human and
non-human, animate and inanimate, has been brought together by Sir John

(1) Primitive Culture, i. 167-169.

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

(3) Op. Cit., 355.

(4) Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, i. 41.

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

(6) 1636, p. 109.

(7) Western Pacific, p. 84.

(8) Anthropologie der Natur-Volker, ii. 177.

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

To a race accustomed like ourselves to arrange and classify, to people
familiar from childhood and its games with "vegetable, animal and
mineral," a condition of mind in which no such distinctions are drawn,
any more than they are drawn in Greek or Brahmanic myths, must
naturally seem like what Mr. Max Muller calls "temporary insanity".
The imagination of the savage has been defined by Mr. Tylor as "midway
between the conditions of a healthy, prosaic, modern citizen, and of a
raving fanatic, or of a patient in a fever-ward". If any relics of
such imagination survive in civilised mythology, they will very closely
resemble the productions of a once universal "temporary insanity". Let
it be granted, then, that "to the lower tribes of man, sun and stars,
trees and rivers, winds and clouds, become personal, animate creatures,
leading lives conformed to human or animal analogies, and performing
their special functions in the universe with the aid of limbs like
beasts, or of artificial instruments like men; or that what men's eyes
behold is but the instrument to be used or the material to be shaped,
while behind it there stands some prodigious but yet half-human
creature, who grasps it with his hands or blows it with his breath. The
basis on which such ideas as these are built is not to be narrowed
down to poetic fancy and transformed metaphor. They rest upon a
broad philosophy of nature; early and crude, indeed, but thoughtful,
consistent, and quite really and seriously meant."(1)

(1) Primtive Culture, i. 285.

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

The Christian Quiches of Guatemala believe that each of them has a beast
as his friend and protector, just as in the Highlands "the dog is
the friend of the Maclaines". When the Finns, in their epic poem the
Kalewala, have killed a bear, they implore the animal to forgive them.
"Oh, Ot-so," chant the singers, "be not angry that we come near thee.
The bear, the honey-footed bear, was born in lands between sun and moon,
and he died, not by men's hands, but of his own will."(1) The Red Men of
North America(2) have a tradition showing how it is that the bear does
not die, but, like Herodotus with the sacred stories of the Egyptian
priests, Mr. Schoolcraft "cannot induce himself to write it out".(3) It
is a most curious fact that the natives of Australia tell a similar tale
of THEIR "native bear". "He did not die" when attacked by men.(4) In
parts of Australia it is a great offence to skin the native bear,
just as on a part of the west coast of Ireland, where seals are
superstitiously regarded, the people cannot be bribed to skin them. In
New Caledonia, when a child tries to kill a lizard, the men warn him to
"beware of killing his own ancestor".(5) The Zulus spare to destroy a
certain species of serpents, believed to be the spirits of kinsmen, as
the great snake which appeared when Aeneas did sacrifice was held to
be the ghost of Anchises. Mexican women(6) believed that children born
during an eclipse turn into mice. In Australia the natives believe
that the wild dog has the power of speech; whoever listens to him is
petrified; and a certain spot is shown where "the wild dog spoke and
turned the men into stone";(7) and the blacks run for their lives as
soon as the dog begins to speak. What it said was "Bones".

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

(2) Schoolcraft, v. 420.

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

(4) Brough Smyth, i. 449.

(5) J. J. Atkinson's MS.

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

(7) Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 497.

These are minor examples of a form of opinion which is so strong that
it is actually the chief constituent in savage society. That society,
whether in Ashantee or Australia, in North America or South Africa,
or North Asia or India, or among the wilder tribes of ancient Peru,
is based on an institution generally called "totemism". This very
extraordinary institution, whatever its origin, cannot have arisen
except among men capable of conceiving kinship and all human
relationships as existing between themselves and all animate and
inanimate things. It is the rule, and not the exception, that savage
societies are founded upon this belief. The political and social conduct
of the backward races is regulated in such matters as blood-feud and
marriage by theories of the actual kindred and connection by descent, or
by old friendship, which men have in common with beasts, plants, the sun
and moon, the stars, and even the wind and the rain. Now, in whatever
way this belief in such relations to beasts and plants may have arisen,
it undoubtedly testifies to a condition of mind in which no hard and
fast line was drawn between man and animate and inanimate nature. The
discovery of the wide distribution of the social arrangements based
on this belief is entirely due to Mr. J. F. M'Lennan, the author of
Primitive Marriage. Mr. M'Lennan's essays ("The Worship of Plants and
Animals," "Totems and Totemism") were published in the Fortnightly
Review, 1869-71. Any follower in the footsteps of Mr. M'Lennan has it
in his power to add a little evidence to that originally set forth, and
perhaps to sift the somewhat uncritical authorities adduced.(1)

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

The name "Totemism" or "Totamism" was first applied at the end of the
last century by Long(1) to the Red Indian custom which acknowledges
human kinship with animals. This institution had already been recognised
among the Iroquois by Lafitau,(2) and by other observers. As to the
word "totem," Mr. Max Muller(3) quotes an opinion that the interpreters,
missionaries, Government inspectors, and others who apply the name
totem to the Indian "family mark" must have been ignorant of the Indian
languages, for there is in them no such word as totem. The right word,
it appears, is otem; but as "totemism" has the advantage of possessing
the ground, we prefer to say "totemism" rather than "otemism". The facts
are the same, whatever name we give them. As Mr. Muller says himself,(4)
"every warrior has his crest, which is called his totem";(5) and he
goes on to describe a totem of an Indian who died about 1793. We may
now return to the consideration of "otemism" or totemism. We approach
it rather as a fact in the science of mythology than as a stage in the
evolution of the modern family system. For us totemism is interesting
because it proves the existence of that savage mental attitude which
assumes kindred and alliance between man and the things in the world.
As will afterwards be seen, totemism has also left its mark on the
mythologies of the civilised races. We shall examine the institution
first as it is found in Australia, because the Australian form of
totemism shows in the highest known degree the savage habit of confusing
in a community of kinship men, stars, plants, beasts, the heavenly
bodies, and the forces of Nature. When this has once been elucidated, a
shorter notice of other totemistic races will serve our purpose.

(1) Voyages and Travels, 1791.

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

(3) Academy, December 15, 1883.

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

(5) Compare Mr. Max Muller's Contributions to the Science of Mythology.

The society of the Murri or black fellows of Australia is divided into
local tribes, each of which possesses, or used to possess, and hunt
over a considerable tract of country. These local tribes are united by
contiguity, and by common local interests, but not necessarily by blood
kinship. For example, the Port Mackay tribe, the Mount Gambier tribe,
the Ballarat tribe, all take their names from their district. In the
same way we might speak of the people of Strathclyde or of Northumbria
in early English history. Now, all these local tribes contain an
indefinite number of stocks of kindred, of men believing themselves to
be related by the ties of blood and common descent. That descent the
groups agree in tracing, not from some real or idealised human parent,
but from some animal, plant, or other natural object, as the kangaroo,
the emu, the iguana, the pelican, and so forth. Persons of the pelican
stock in the north of Queensland regard themselves as relations of
people of the same stock in the most southern parts of Australia. The
creature from which each tribe claims descent is called "of the same
flesh," while persons of another stock are "fresh flesh". A native may
not marry a woman of "his own flesh"; it is only a woman of "fresh" or
"strange" flesh he may marry. A man may not eat an animal of "his own
flesh"; he may only eat "strange flesh". Only under great stress of need
will an Australian eat the animal which is the flesh-and-blood cousin
and protector of his stock.(1) (These rules of marriage and blood,
however, do not apply among the Arunta of Central Australia, whose
Totems (if Totems they should be called) have been developed on very
different lines.(2)) Clearer evidence of the confusion between man and
beast, of the claiming of kin between man and beast, could hardly be.

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

(2) Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia.

But the Australian philosophy of the intercommunion of Nature goes still
farther than this. Besides the local divisions and the kindred
stocks which trace their descent from animals, there exist among many
Australian tribes divisions of a kind still unexplained. For example,
every man of the Mount Gambier local tribe is by birth either a Kumite
or a Kroki. This classification applies to the whole of the sensible
universe. Thus smoke and honeysuckle trees belong to the division
Kumite, and are akin to the fishhawk stock of men. On the other hand,
the kangaroo, summer, autumn, the wind and the shevak tree belong to
the division Kroki, and are akin to the black cockatoo stock of men. Any
human member of the Kroki division has thus for his brothers the sun,
the wind, the kangaroo, and the rest; while any man of the Kumite
division and the crow surname is the brother of the rain, the thunder,
and the winter. This extraordinary belief is not a mere idle fancy--it
influences conduct. "A man does not kill or use as food any of the
animals of the same subdivision (Kroki or Kumite) with himself,
excepting when hunger compels, and then they express sorrow for having
to eat their wingong (friends) or tumanang (their flesh). When using the
last word they touch their breasts, to indicate the close relationship,
meaning almost a portion of themselves. To illustrate: One day one of
the blacks killed a crow. Three or four days afterwards a Boortwa (a man
of the crow surname and stock), named Larry, died. He had been ailing
for some days, but the killing of his wingong (totem) hastened his
death."(1) Commenting on this statement, Mr. Fison observes: "The South
Australian savage looks upon the universe as the Great Tribe, to one
of whose divisions he himself belongs; and all things, animate and
inanimate, which belong to his class are parts of the body corporate
whereof he himself is part". This account of the Australian beliefs and
customs is borne out, to a certain extent, by the evidence of Sir George
Grey,(2) and of the late Mr. Gideon Scott Lang.(3) These two writers
take no account of the singular "dichotomous" divisions, as of Kumite
and Kroki, but they draw attention to the groups of kindred which derive
their surnames from animals, plants, and the like. "The origin of these
family names," says Sir George Grey, "is attributed by the natives to
different causes.... One origin frequently assigned by the natives is,
that they were derived from some vegetable or animal being very common
in the district which the family inhabited." We have seen from
the evidence of Messrs. Fison and Howitt that a more common native
explanation is based on kinship with the vegetable or plant which
bestows the family surname. Sir George Gray mentions that the families
use their plant or animal as a crest or kobong (totem), and he adds that
natives never willingly kill animals of their kobong, holding that some
one of that species is their nearest friend. The consequences of eating
forbidden animals vary considerably. Sometimes the Boyl-yas (that is,
ghosts) avenge the crime. Thus when Sir George Grey ate some mussels
(which, after all, are not the crest of the Greys), a storm followed,
and one of his black fellow improvised this stave:--

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

(1) Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 169.

(2) Travels, ii. 225.

(3) Lang, Lecture on Natives of Australia, p. 10.

There are two points in the arrangements of these stocks of kindred
named from plants and animals which we shall find to possess a high
importance. No member of any such kindred may marry a woman of the same
name and descended from the same object.(1) Thus no man of the Emu stock
may marry an Emu woman; no Blacksnake may marry a Blacksnake woman, and
so forth. This point is very strongly put by Mr. Dawson, who has had
much experience of the blacks. "So strictly are the laws of marriage
carried out, that, should any sign of courtship or affection be observed
between those 'of one flesh,' the brothers or male relatives of the
woman beat her severely." If the incestuous pair (though not in the
least related according to our ideas) run away together, they are
"half-killed"; and if the woman dies in consequence of her punishment,
her partner in iniquity is beaten again. No "eric" or blood-fine of any
kind is paid for her death, which carries no blood-feud. "Her punishment
is legal."(2) This account fully corroborates that of Sir George

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

(2) Op. cit., p. 28.

(3) Ibid., ii. 220.

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

Another important feature in Australian totemism strengthens our
position. The idea of the animal kinship must be an ancient one in the
race, because the family surname, Emu, Bandicoot, or what not, and the
crest, kobong, or protecting and kindred animal, are inherited through
the mother's side in the majority of stocks. This custom, therefore,
belongs to that early period of human society in which the woman is the
permanent and recognised factor in the family while male parentage is
uncertain.(1) One other feature of Australian totemism must be mentioned
before we leave the subject. There is some evidence that in certain
tribes the wingong or totem of each man is indicated by a tattooed
representation of it upon his flesh. The natives are very licentious,
but men would shrink from an amour with a woman who neither belonged to
their own district nor spoke their language, but who, in spite of that,
was of their totem. To avoid mistakes, it seems that some tribes mark
the totem on the flesh with incised lines.(2) The natives frequently
design figures of some kind on the trees growing near the graves of
deceased warriors. Some observers have fancied that in these designs
they recognised the totem of the dead men; but on this subject evidence
is by no means clear. We shall see that this primitive sort of heraldry,
this carving or painting of hereditary blazons, is common among the Red
Men of America.(3)

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

(2) Fison, op. cit., p. 66.

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

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

(1) Brough Smyth, i. 447, on MS. authority of W. Thomas.

It is "a far cry" from Australia to the West Coast of Africa, and it
is scarcely to be supposed that the Australians have borrowed ideas and
institutions from Ashantee, or that the people of Ashantee have derived
their conceptions of the universe from the Murri of Australia. We find,
however, on the West African Coast, just as we do in Australia, that
there exist large local divisions of the natives. These divisions are
spoken of by Mr. Bowditch (who visited the country on a mission in 1817)
as nations, and they are much more populous and powerful (as the people
are more civilised) than the local tribes of Australia. Yet, just as
among the local tribes of Australia, the nations of the West African
Coast are divided into stocks of kindred, each STOCK having its
representatives in each NATION. Thus an Ashantee or a Fantee may belong
to the same stock of kindred as a member of the Assin or Akini nation.
When an Ashantee of the Annona stock of kindred meets a Warsaw man of
the same stock they salute and acknowledge each other as brothers.
In the same way a Ballarat man of the Kangaroo stock in Australia
recognises a relative in a Mount Gambier man who is also a Kangaroo.
Now, with one exception, all the names of the twelve stocks of West
African kindreds, or at least all of them which Mr. Bowditch could get
the native interpreters to translate, are derived from animals, plants
and other natural objects, just as in Australia.(1) Thus Quonna is a
buffalo, Abrootoo is a cornstalk, Abbradi a plantain. Other names are,
in English, the parrot, the wild cat, red earth, panther and dog. Thus
all the natives of this part of Africa are parrots, dogs, buffaloes,
panthers, and so forth, just as the Australians are emus, iguanas, black
cockatoos, kangaroos, and the rest. It is remarkable that there is an
Incra stock, or clan of ants, in Ashantee, just as there was a race of
Myrmidons, believed to be descended from or otherwise connected with
ants, in ancient Greece. Though Bowditch's account of these West African
family divisions is brief, the arrangement tallies closely with that
of Australia. It is no great stretch of imagination to infer that the
African tribes do, or once did, believe themselves to be of the kindred
of the animals whose names they bear.(2) It is more or less confirmatory
of this hypothesis that no family is permitted to use as food the
animal from which it derives its name. We have seen that a similar rule
prevails, as far as hunger and scarcity of victuals permit it to be
obeyed, among the natives of Australia. The Intchwa stock in Ashantee
and Fantee is particularly unlucky, because its members may not eat
the dog, "much relished by native epicures, and therefore a serious
privation". Equally to be pitied were the ancient Egyptians, who, if
they belonged to the district of the sheep, might not eat mutton,
which their neighbours, the Lycopolitae, devoured at pleasure. These
restrictions appear to be connected with the almost universal dislike
of cannibals to eat persons of their own kindred except as a pious
duty. This law of the game in cannibalism has not yet been thoroughly
examined, though we often hear of wars waged expressly for the purpose
of securing food (human meat), while some South American tribes
actually bred from captive women by way of securing constant supplies of
permitted flesh.(3) When we find stocks, then, which derive their names
from animals and decline to eat these animals, we may at least SUSPECT
that they once claimed kinship with the name-giving beasts. The refusal
to eat them raises a presumption of such faith. Old Bosman(4) had
noticed the same practices. "One eats no mutton, another no goat's
flesh, another no beef, swine's flesh, wild fowl, cocks with white
feathers, and they say their ancestors did so from the beginning of the

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

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

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

(4) In Pinkerton, xvi. 400.

While in the case of the Ashantee tribes, we can only infer the
existence of a belief in kinship with the animals from the presence
of the other features of fully developed totemism (especially from the
refusal to eat the name-giving animal), we have direct evidence for the
opinion in another part of Africa, among the Bechuanas.(1) Casalis,
who passed twenty-three years as a missionary in South Africa, thus
describes the institution: "While the united communities usually bear
the name of their chief or of the district which they inhabit" (local
tribes, as in Australia), "each stock (tribu) derives its title from
an animal or a vegetable. All the Bechuanas are subdivided thus into
Bakuenas (crocodile-men), Batlapis (men of the fish), Banarer (of the
buffalo), Banukus (porcupines), Bamoraras (wild vines), and so forth.
The Bakuenas call the crocodile their father, sing about him in their
feasts, swear by him, and mark the ears of their cattle with an incision
which resembles the open jaws of the creature." This custom of marking
the cattle with the crest, as it were, of the stock, takes among some
races the shape of deforming themselves, so as the more to resemble the
animal from which they claim descent. "The chief of the family which
holds the chief rank in the stock is called 'The Great Man of the
Crocodile'. Precisely in the same way the Duchess of Sutherland is
styled in Gaelic 'The Great Lady of the Cat,'" though totemism is
probably not the origin of this title.

(1) E. Casalis, Les Bassoutos, 1859.

Casalis proceeds: "No one would dare to eat the flesh or wear the skin
of the animal whose name he bears. If the animal be dangerous--the
lion, for example--people only kill him after offering every apology and
asking his pardon. Purification must follow such a sacrifice." Casalis
was much struck with the resemblance between these practices and the
similar customs of North American races. Livingstone's account(1) on the
whole corroborates that of Casalis, though he says the Batau (tribe
of the lion) no longer exists. "They use the word bina 'to dance,' in
reference to the custom of thus naming themselves, so that when you wish
to ascertain what tribe they belong to, you say, 'What do you dance?'
It would seem as if this had been part of the worship of old." The
mythological and religious knowledge of the Bushmen is still imparted in
dances; and when a man is ignorant of some myth he will say, "I do not
dance that dance," meaning that he does not belong to the guild which
preserves that particular "sacred chapter".(2)

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

(2) Orpen, Cape Monthly Magazine, 1872.

Casalis noticed the similarity between South African and Red Indian
opinion about kinship with vegetables and beasts. The difficulty in
treating the Red Indian belief is chiefly found in the abundance of the
evidence. Perhaps the first person who ever used the word "totemism,"
or, as he spells it, "totamism," was (as we said) Mr. Long, an
interpreter among the Chippeways, who published his Voyages in 1791.
Long was not wholly ignorant of the languages, as it was his business to
speak them, and he was an adopted Indian. The ceremony of adoption was
painful, beginning with a feast of dog's flesh, followed by a Turkish
bath and a prolonged process of tattooing.(1) According to Long,(2)
"The totam, they conceive, assumes the form of some beast or other, and
therefore they never kill, hurt, or eat the animal whose form they think
this totam bears". One man was filled with religious apprehensions, and
gave himself up to the gloomy belief of Bunyan and Cowper, that he had
committed the unpardonable sin, because he dreamed he had killed his
totem, a bear.(3) This is only one example, like the refusal of the
Osages to kill the beavers, with which they count cousins,(4) that the
Red Man's belief is an actual creed, and does influence his conduct.

(1) Long, pp. 46-49.

(2) Ibid., p. 86.

(3) Ibid., p. 87.

(4) Schoolcraft, i. 319.

As in Australia, the belief in common kin with beasts is most clearly
proved by the construction of Red Indian society. The "totemistic" stage
of thought and manners prevails. Thus Charlevoix says,(1) "Plusieurs
nations ont chacune trois familles ou tribus principales, AUSSI
nom d'un animal, et la nation entiere a aussi le sien, dont elle
prend le nom, et dont la figure est sa marque, ou, se l'on veut, ses
armoiries, on ne signe point autrement les traites qu'en traceant ces
figures." Among the animal totems Charlevoix notices porcupine, bear,
wolf and turtle. The armoiries, the totemistic heraldry of the peoples
of Virginia, greatly interested a heraldic ancestor of Gibbon the
historian,(2) who settled in the colony. According to Schoolcraft,(3)
the totem or family badge, of a dead warrior is drawn in a reverse
position on his grave-post. In the same way the leopards of England are
drawn reversed on the shield of an English king opposite the mention
of his death in old monkish chronicles. As a general rule,(4) persons
bearing the same totem in America cannot intermarry. "The union must be
between various totems." Moreover, as in the case of the Australians,
"the descent of the chief is in the female line". We thus find among
the Red Men precisely the same totemistic regulations as among the
Aborigines of Australia. Like the Australians, the Red Men "never"
(perhaps we should read "hardly ever") eat their totems. Totemists,
in short, spare the beasts that are their own kith and kin. To avoid
multiplying details which all corroborate each other, it may suffice to
refer to Schoolcraft for totemism among the Iowas(5) and the Pueblos;(6)
for the Iroquois, to Lafitau, a missionary of the early part of the
eighteenth century. Lafitau was perhaps the first writer who ever
explained certain features in Greek and other ancient myths and
practices as survivals from totemism. The Chimera, a composite creature,
lion, goat and serpent, might represent, Lafitau thought, a league
of three totem tribes, just as wolf, bear and turtle represented the
Iroquois League.

(1) Histoire de la France-Nouvelle, iii. 266.

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

(3) Vol. i. p. 356.

(4) Schoolcraft, v. 73.

(5) Ibid., iii. 268.

(6) Ibid., iv. 86.

The martyred Pere Rasles, again, writing in 1723,(1) says that one stock
of the Outaonaks claims descent from a hare ("the great hare was a man
of prodigious size"), while another stock derive their lineage from the
carp, and a third descends from a bear; yet they do not scruple, after
certain expiatory rites, to eat bear's flesh. Other North American
examples are the Kutchin, who have always possessed the system of

(1) Kip's Jesuits in America i. 33.

(2) Dall's Alaska, pp. 196-198.

It is to be noticed, as a peculiarity of Red Indian totemism which we
have not observed (though it may exist) in Africa, that certain stocks
claim relations with the sun. Thus Pere Le Petit, writing from New
Orleans in 1730, mentions the Sun, or great chief of the Natchez
Indians.(1) The totem of the privileged class among the Natchez was the
sun, and in all myths the sun is regarded as a living being, who can
have children, who may be beaten, who bleeds when cut, and is simply
on the same footing as men and everything else in the world. Precisely
similar evidence comes from South America. In this case our best
authority is almost beyond suspicion. He knew the native languages well,
being himself a half-caste. He was learned in the European learning
of his time; and as a son of the Incas, he had access to all surviving
Peruvian stores of knowledge, and could collect without difficulty the
testimonies of his countrymen. It will be seen(2) that Don Garcilasso
de la Vega could estimate evidence, and ridiculed the rough methods and
fallacious guesses of Spanish inquirers. Garcilasso de la Vega was
born about 1540, being the son of an Inca princess and of a Spanish
conqueror. His book, Commentarias Reales,(3) was expressly intended to
rectify the errors of such Spanish writers as Acosta. In his account of
Peruvian religion, Garcilasso distinguishes between the beliefs of the
tribes previous to the rise of the Inca empire and the sun-worship of
the Incas. But it is plain, from Garcilasso's own account and from other
evidence, that under the Incas the older faiths and fetichisms survived,
in subordination to sun-worship, just as Pagan superstitions survived
in custom and folk-lore after the official recognition of Christianity.
Sun-worship, in Peru, and the belief in a Supreme Creator there, seem
even, like Catholicism in Mexico, China and elsewhere, to have made a
kind of compromise with the lower beliefs, and to have been content
to allow a certain amount of bowing down in the temples of the elder
faiths. According, then, to Garcilasso's account of Peruvian totemism,
"An Indian was not looked upon as honourable unless he was descended
from a fountain, river,(4) or lake, or even from the sea, OR FROM A WILD
ANIMAL, such as a bear, lion, tiger, eagle, or the bird they call cuntur
(condor), or some other bird of prey ".(5) A certain amount of worship
was connected with this belief in kinship with beasts and natural
objects. Men offered up to their totems "what they usually saw them
eat".(6) On the seacoasts "they worshipped sardines, skates, dog-fish,
and, for want of larger gods, crabs.... There was not an animal, how
vile and filthy soever, that they did not worship as a god," including
"lizards, toads and frogs." Garcilasso (who says they ate the fish
they worshipped) gives his own theory of the origin of totemism. In the
beginning men had only sought for badges whereby to discriminate one
human stock from another. "The one desired to have a god different from
the other.... They only thought of making one different from another."
When the Inca emperors began to civilise the totemistic stocks, they
pointed out that their own father, the sun, possessed "splendour and
beauty" as contrasted with "the ugliness and filth of the frogs and
other vermin they looked upon as gods".(7) Garcilasso, of course, does
not use the North American word totem (or ote or otem) for the family
badge which represented the family ancestors. He calls these things, as
a general rule, pacarissa. The sun was the pacarissa of the Incas, as it
was of the chief of the Natchez. The pacarissa of other stocks was
the lion, bear, frog, or what not. Garcilasso accounts for the belief
accorded to the Incas, when they claimed actual descent from the sun, by
observing(8) that "there were tribes among their subjects who professed
similar fabulous descents, though they did not comprehend how to select
ancestors so well as the Incas, but adored animals and other low and
earthly objects". As to the fact of the Peruvian worship of beasts, if
more evidence is wanted, it is given, among others, by Cieza de Leon,(9)
who contrasts the adoration of the Roman gods with that offered in Peru
to brutes. "In the important temple of Pacha-camac (the spiritual deity
of Peru) they worshipped a she-fox or vixen and an emerald." The devil
also "appeared to them and spoke in the form of a tiger, very fierce".
Other examples of totemism in South America may be studied in the
tribes on the Amazon.(10) Mr. Wallace found the Pineapple stock, the
Mosquitoes, Woodpeckers, Herons, and other totem kindreds. A curious
example of similar ideas is discovered among the Bonis of Guiana. These
people were originally West Coast Africans imported as slaves, who have
won their freedom with the sword. While they retain a rough belief in
Gadou (God) and Didibi (the devil), they are divided into totem stocks
with animal names. The red ape, turtle and cayman are among the chief

(1) Kip, ii. 288.

(2) Appendix B.

(3) See translation in Hakluyt Society's Collection.

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

(5) Comm. Real., i. 75.

(6) Ibid., 53.

(7) Ibid., 102.

(8) Ibid., 83.

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

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

(11) Crevaux, Voyages dans l'Amerique du Sud, p. 59.

After this hasty examination of the confused belief in kinship with
animals and other natural objects which underlies institutions in
Australia, West and South Africa, North and South America, we may glance
at similar notions among the non-Aryan races of India. In Dalton's
Ethnology of Bengal,(1) he tells us that the Garo clans are divided into
maharis or motherhoods. Children belong to the mahari of the mother,
just as (in general) they derive their stock name and totem from the
mother's side in Australia and among the North American Indians. No man
may marry (as among the Red Indians and Australians) a woman belonging
to his own stock, motherhood or mahari. So far the maharis of Bengal
exactly correspond to the totem kindred. But do the Maharis also take
their names from plants and animals, and so forth? We know that the
Killis, similar communities among the Bengal Hos and Mundos, do this.(2)
"The Mundaris, like the Oraons, adopt as their tribal distinction the
name of some animal, and the flesh of that animal is tabooed to them as
food; for example, the eel, the tortoise." This is exactly the state of
things in Ashanti. Dalton mentions also(3) a princely family in Nagpur
which claims descent from "a great hooded snake". Among the Oraons he
found(4) tribes which might not eat young mice (considered a dainty) or
tortoises, and a stock which might not eat the oil of the tree which
was their totem, nor even sit in its shade. "The family or tribal names"
(within which they may not marry) "are usually those of animals or
plants, and when this is the case, the flesh of some part of the animal
or the fruit of the tree is tabooed to the tribe called after it."

(1) Dalton, p. 63.

(2) Ibid., p. 189.

(3) Ibid., p. 166.

(4) Ibid., p. 254.

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

(1) The Asiatic Quarterly, No. 3, Essay on "Primitive Marriage in

"At the bottom of the social system, as understood by the average Hindu,
stands a large body of non-Aryan castes and tribes, each of which is
broken up into a number of what may be called totemistic exogamous
septs. Each sept bears the name of an animal, a tree, a plant, or of
some material object, natural or artificial, which the members of that
sept are prohibited from killing, eating, cutting, burning, carrying,
using, etc."(1)

(1) Here we may note that the origin of exogamy itself is merely part
of a strict totemistic prohibition. A man may not "use" an object within
the totem kin, nor a woman of the kin. Compare the Greek idiom (Greek
text omitted).

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

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

Constant repetition of the same set of facts becomes irksome, and yet
is made necessary by the legitimate demand for trustworthy and abundant
evidence. As the reader must already have reflected, this living
mythical belief in the common confused equality of men, gods, plants,
beasts, rivers, and what not, which still regulates savage society,(1)
is one of the most prominent features in mythology. Porphyry remarked
and exactly described it among the Egyptians--"common and akin to men
and gods they believed the beasts to be."(2) The belief in such equality
is alien to modern civilisation. We have shown that it is common and
fundamental in savagery. For instance, in the Pacific, we might quote
Turner,(3) and for Melanesia, Codrington,(4) while for New Zealand we
have Taylor.(5) For the Jakuts, along the banks of the Lena in Northern
Asia, we have the evidence of Strahlenberg, who writes: "Each tribe of
these people look upon some particular creature as sacred, e.g., a swan,
goose, raven, etc., and such is not eaten by that tribe" though the
others may eat it.(6) As the majority of our witnesses were quite
unaware that the facts they described were common among races of whom
many of them had never even heard, their evidence may surely be accepted
as valid, especially as the beliefs testified to express themselves in
marriage laws, in the blood-feud, in abstinence from food, on pillars
over graves, in rude heraldry, and in other obvious and palpable
shapes. If we have not made out, by the evidence of institutions, that
a confused credulity concerning the equality and kinship of man and the
objects in nature is actually a ruling belief among savages, and even
higher races, from the Lena to the Amazon, from the Gold Coast to
Queensland, we may despair of ever convincing an opponent. The survival
of the same beliefs and institutions among civilised races, Aryan and
others, will later be demonstrated.(7) If we find that the mythology of
civilised races here agrees with the actual practical belief of savages,
and if we also find that civilised races retain survivals of the
institutions in which the belief is expressed by savages, then we may
surely infer that the activity of beasts in the myths of Greece springs
from the same sources as the similar activity of beasts in the myths of
Iroquois or Kaffirs. That is to say, part of the irrational element
in Greek myth will be shown to be derived (whether by inheritance or
borrowing) from an ascertained condition of savage fancy.

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

(2) De Abst., ii. 26.

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

(4) Journ. Anthrop. Inst., "Religious Practices in Melanesia".

(5) New Zealand, "Animal Intermarriage with Men".

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

(1) Vol. ii. p. 162.

(2) Sociology, p. 98.

Mr. Spencer has admitted speculation, or at least curiosity, among New
Caledonians, New Guinea people, Dyaks, Samoans and Tahitians. Even where
he denies its existence, as among the Amazon tribes mentioned by Mr.
Bates, we happen to be able to show that Mr. Bates was misinformed.
Another traveller, the American geologist, Professor Hartt of Cornell
University, lived long among the tribes of the Amazon. But Professor
Hartt did not, like Mr. Bates, find them at all destitute of theories of
things--theories expressed in myths, and testifying to the intellectual
activity and curiosity which demands an answer to its questions.
Professor Hartt, when he first became acquainted with the Indians of the
Amazon, knew that they were well supplied with myths, and he set to work
to collect them. But he found that neither by coaxing nor by offers of
money could he persuade an Indian to relate a myth. Only by accident,
"while wearily paddling up the Paranamirim of the Ituki," did he
hear the steersman telling stories to the oarsmen to keep them awake.
Professor Hartt furtively noted down the tale, and he found that by
"setting the ball rolling," and narrating a story himself, he could make
the natives throw off reserve and add to his stock of tales. "After one
has obtained his first myth, and has learned to recite it accurately and
spiritedly, the rest is easy." The tales published by Professor Hartt
are chiefly animal stories, like those current in Africa and among the
Red Indians, and Hartt even believed that many of the legends had been
imported by Negroes. But as the majority of the Negro myths, like
those of the Australians, give a "reason why" for the existence of some
phenomenon or other, the argument against early man's curiosity and
vivacity of intellect is rather injured, even if the Amazonian myths
were imported from Africa. Mr. Spencer based his disbelief in the
intellectual curiosity of the Amazonian tribes and of Negroes on the
reports of Mr. Bates and of Mungo Park. But it turns out that both
Negroes and Amazonians have stories which do satisfy an unscientific
curiosity, and it is even held that the Negroes lent the Amazonians
these very stories.(1) The Kamschadals, according to Steller, "give
themselves a reason why for everything, according to their own lively
fancy, and do not leave the smallest matter uncriticised".(2) As far,
then, as Mr. Spencer's objections apply to existing savages, we may
consider them overweighed by the evidence, and we may believe in a naive
savage curiosity about the world and desire for explanations of the
causes of things. Mr. Tylor's opinion corroborates our own: "Man's
craving to know the causes at work in each event he witnesses, the
reasons why each state of things he surveys is such as it is and no
other, is no product of high civilisation, but a characteristic of his
race down to its lowest stages. Among rude savages it is already an
intellectual appetite, whose satisfaction claims many of the moments not
engrossed by war or sport, food or sleep. Even in the Botocudo or
the Australian, scientific speculation has its germ in actual
experience."(3) It will be shown later that the food of the savage
intellectual appetite is offered and consumed in the shape of
explanatory myths.

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

(2) Steller, p. 267. Cf. Farrer's Primitive Manners, p. 274.

(3) Primitive Culture, i. 369.

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

A good example of this is given in Charlevoix's work on French
Canada.(1) Charlevoix was a Jesuit father and missionary among the
Hurons and other tribes of North America. He thus describes the
philosophy of the Red Men: "The Hurons attribute the most ordinary
effects to supernatural causes".(2) In the same page the good father
himself attributes the welcome arrival of rainy weather and the cure
of certain savage patients to the prayers of Pere Brebeuf and to the
exhibition of the sacraments. Charlevoix had considerably extended
the field in which natural effects are known to be produced by natural
causes. He was much more scientifically minded than his savage flock,
and was quite aware that an ordinary clock with a pendulum cannot bring
bad luck to a whole tribe, and that a weather-cock is not a magical
machine for securing unpleasant weather. The Hurons, however, knowing
less of natural causes and nothing of modern machinery, were as
convinced that his clock was ruining the luck of the tribe and his
weather-cock spoiling the weather, as Father Charlevoix could be of
the truth of his own inferences. One or two other anecdotes in the good
father's history and letters help to explain the difference between the
philosophies of wild and of Christian men. The Pere Brebeuf was once
summoned at the instigation of a Huron wizard or "medicine-man" before
a council of the tribe. His judges told the father that nothing had gone
right since he appeared among them. To this Brebeuf replied by "drawing
the attention of the savages to the absurdity of their principles". He
admitted(3) the premise that nothing had turned out well in the tribe
since his arrival. "But the reason," said he, "plainly is that God is
angry with your hardness of heart." No sooner had the good father thus
demonstrated the absurdity of savage principles of reasoning, than the
malignant Huron wizard fell down dead at his feet! This event naturally
added to the confusion of the savages.

(1) Histoire de la France-Nouvelle.

(2) Vol. i. p. 191.

(3) Vol. i. p. 192.

Coincidences of this sort have a great effect on savage minds. Catlin,
the friend of the Mandan tribe, mentions a chief who consolidated his
power by aid of a little arsenic, bought from the whites. The chief used
to prophesy the sudden death of his opponents, which always occurred at
the time indicated. The natural results of the administration of arsenic
were attributed by the barbarous people to supernatural powers in the
possession of the chief.(1) Thus the philosophy of savages seeks causas
cognoscere rerum, like the philosophy of civilised men, but it flies
hastily to a hypothesis of "supernatural" causes which are only guessed
at, and are incapable of demonstration. This frame of mind prevails
still in civilised countries, as the Bishop of Nantes showed when, in
1846, he attributed the floods of the Loire to "the excesses of the
press and the general disregard of Sunday". That "supernatural" causes
exist and may operate, it is not at all our intention to deny. But
the habit of looking everywhere for such causes, and of assuming their
interference at will, is the main characteristic of savage speculation.
The peculiarity of the savage is that he thinks human agents can work
supernaturally, whereas even the Bishop reserved his supernatural
explanations for the Deity. On this belief in man's power to affect
events beyond the limits of natural possibility is based the whole
theory of MAGIC, the whole power of sorcerers. That theory, again, finds
incessant expression in myth, and therefore deserves our attention.

(1) Catlin, Letters, ii. 117.

The theory requires for its existence an almost boundless credulity.
This credulity appears to Europeans to prevail in full force among
savages. Bosman is amazed by the African belief that a spider created
the world. Moffat is astonished at the South African notion that the sea
was accidentally created by a girl. Charlevoix says, "Les sauvages
sont d'une facilite a croire ce qu'on leur dit, que les plus facheuse
experiences n'ont jamais pu guerir".(1) But it is a curious fact that
while savages are, as a rule, so credulous, they often laugh at
the religious doctrines taught them by missionaries. Elsewhere they
recognise certain essential doctrines as familiar forms of old.
Dr. Moffat remarks, "To speak of the Creation, the Fall and the
Resurrection, seemed more fabulous, extravagant and ludicrous to them
than their own vain stories of lions and hyaenas." Again, "The Gospel
appeared too preposterous for the most foolish to believe".(2) While
the Zulus declared that they used to accept their own myths without
inquiry,(3) it was a Zulu who suggested to Bishop Colenso his doubts
about the historical character of the Noachian Deluge. Hearne(4) knew
a Red Man, Matorabhee, who, "though a perfect bigot with regard to the
arts and tricks of the jugglers, could yet by no means be impressed with
a belief of any part of OUR religion". Lieutenant Haggard, R.N., tells
the writer that during an eclipse at Lamoo he ridiculed the native
notion of driving away a beast which devours the moon, and explained the
real cause of the phenomenon. But his native friend protested that "he
could not be expected to believe such a story". Yet other savages aver
an old agreement with the belief in a moral Creator.

(1) Vol. ii. p. 378.

(2) Missionary Labours, p. 245.

(3) Callaway, Religion of Amazulus, i. 35.

(4) Journey among the Indians, 1795, p. 350.

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

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, is the motto of the savage philosophy of
causation. The untutored reasoner speculates on the principles of the
Egyptian clergy, as described by Herodotus.(1) "The Egyptians have
discovered more omens and prodigies than any other men; for when aught
prodigious occurs, they keep good watch, and write down what follows;
and then, if anything like the prodigy be repeated, they expect the same
events to follow as before." This way of looking at things is the very
essence of superstition.

(1) II. p. 82.

Savages, as a rule, are not even so scientific as the Egyptians. When
an untoward event occurs, they look for its cause among all the less
familiar circumstances of the last few days, and select the determining
cause very much at random. Thus the arrival of the French missionaries
among the Hurons was coincident with certain unfortunate events;
therefore it was argued that the advent of the missionaries was the
cause of the misfortune. When the Bechuanas suffered from drought, they
attributed the lack of rain to the arrival of Dr. Moffat, and especially
to his beard, his church bell, and a bag of salt in his possession. Here
there was not even the pretence of analogy between cause and effect.
Some savages might have argued (it is quite in their style), that as
salt causes thirst, a bag of salt causes drought; but no such case could
be made out against Dr. Moffat's bell and beard. To give an example from
the beliefs of English peasants. When a cottage was buried by a little
avalanche in 1772, the accident was attributed to the carelessness of
the cottagers, who had allowed a light to be taken out of their dwelling
in Christmas-tide.(1) We see the same confusion between antecedence and
consequence in time on one side, and cause and effect on the other, when
the Red Indians aver that birds actually bring winds and storms or fair
weather. They take literally the sense of the Rhodian swallow-song:--

     The swallow hath come,
     Bringing fair hours,
     Bringing fair seasons,
     On black back and white breast.(2)

(1) Shropshire Folk-Lore, by Miss Burne, iii. 401.

(2) Brinton, Myths of New World, p. 107.

Again, in the Pacific the people of one island always attribute
hurricanes to the machinations of the people of the nearest island to
windward. The wind comes from them; therefore (as their medicine-men can
notoriously influence the weather), they must have sent the wind. This
unneighbourly act is a casus belli, and through the whole of a group
of islands the banner of war, like the flag of freedom in Byron, flies
against the wind. The chief principle, then, of savage science is that
antecedence and consequence in time are the same as effect and cause.(1)
Again, savage science holds that LIKE AFFECTS LIKE, that you can injure
a man, for example, by injuring his effigy. On these principles the
savage explains the world to himself, and on these principles he tries
to subdue to himself the world. Now the putting of these principles into
practice is simply the exercise of art magic, an art to which nothing
seems impossible. The belief that his Shamans or medicine-men practise
this art is universal among savages. It seriously affects their conduct,
and is reflected in their myths.

(1) See account of Zuni metaphysics in chapter on American Divine Myths.

The one general rule which governs all magical reasoning is, that casual
connection in thought is equivalent to causative connection in fact.
Like suggests like to human thought by association of ideas; wherefore
like influences like, or produces analogous effects in practice. Any
object once in a man's possession, especially his hair or his nails, is
supposed to be capable of being used against him by a sorcerer. The
part suggests the whole. A lock of a man's hair was part of the man; to
destroy the hair is to destroy its former owner. Again, whatever event
follows another in time suggests it, and may have been caused by
it. Accompanying these ideas is the belief that nature is peopled by
invisible spiritual powers, over which magicians and sorcerers possess
influence. The magic of the lower races chiefly turns on these two
beliefs. First, "man having come to associate in thought those things
which he found by experience to be connected in fact, proceeded
erroneously to invert their action, and to conclude that association in
thought must involve similar connection in reality. He thus attempted to
discover, to foretell, and to cause events, by means of processes
which we now see to have only an ideal significance."(1) Secondly,
man endeavoured to make disembodied spirits of the dead, or any other
spirits, obedient to his will. Savage philosophy presumes that the
beliefs are correct, and that their practical application is successful.
Examples of the first of the two chief magical ideas are as common in
unscientific modern times or among unscientific modern people as in the
savage world.

(1) Primitive Culture, i. 14.

The physicians of the age of Charles II. were wont to give their
patients "mummy powder," that is, pulverised mummy. They argued that the
mummy had lasted for a very long time, and that the patients ought to do
so likewise. Pliny imagined that diamonds must be found in company with
gold, because these are the most perfect substances in the world, and
like should draw to like. Aurum potabile, or drinkable gold, was a
favourite medical nostrum of the Middle Ages, because gold, being
perfect, should produce perfect health. Among savages the belief that
like is caused by like is exemplified in very many practices. The New
Caledonians, when they wish their yam plots to be fertile, bury in them
with mystic ceremonies certain stones which are naturally shaped like
yams. The Melanesians have reduced this kind of magic to a system. Among
them certain stones have a magical efficacy, which is determined in each
case by the shape of the stone. "A stone in the shape of a pig, of a
bread-fruit, of a yam, was a most valuable find. No garden was planted
without the stones which were to increase the crop."(1) Stones with a
rude resemblance to beasts bring the Zuni luck in the chase.

(1) Rev. R. H. Codrington, Journ. Anth. Inst., February, 1881.

The spiritual theory in some places is mixed up with the "like to like"
theory, and the magical stones are found where the spirits have been
heard twittering and whistling. "A large stone lying with a number of
small ones under it, like a sow among her sucklings, was good for a
childless woman."(1) It is the savage belief that stones reproduce
their species, a belief consonant with the general theory of universal
animation and personality. The ancient belief that diamonds gendered
diamonds is a survival from these ideas. "A stone with little disks upon
it was good to bring in money; any fanciful interpretation of a mark
was enough to give a character to the stone and its associated Vui" or
spirit in Melanesia. In Scotland, stones shaped like various parts
of the human body are expected to cure the diseases with which these
members may be afflicted. "These stones were called by the names of the
limbs which they represented, as 'eye-stone,' 'head-stone'." The patient
washed the affected part of the body, and rubbed it well with the stone

(1) Codrington, Journ. Anth. Soc., x. iii. 276.

(2) Gregor, Folk-Lore of North-East Counties, p. 40.

To return from European peasant-magic to that of savages, we find that
when the Bushmen want wet weather they light fires, believing that
the black smoke clouds will attract black rain clouds; while the Zulus
sacrifice black cattle to attract black clouds of rain.(1) Though this
magic has its origin in savage ignorance, it survives into civilisation.
Thus the sacrifices of the Vedic age were imitations of the natural
phenomena which the priests desired to produce.(2) "C'etait un moyen de
faire tombre la pluie en realisant, par les representations terrestres
des eaux du nuage et de l'eclair, les conditions dans lesquelles
celui-ci determine dans le ciel l'epanchement de celles-la." A good
example of magical science is afforded by the medical practice of the
Dacotahs of North America.(3) When any one is ill, an image of his
disease, a boil or what not, is carved in wood. This little image is
then placed in a bowl of water and shot at with a gun. The image of the
disease being destroyed, the disease itself is expected to disappear.
Compare the magic of the Philistines, who made golden images of the
sores which plagued them and stowed them away in the ark.(4) The custom
of making a wax statuette of an enemy, and piercing it with pins or
melting it before the fire, so that the detested person might waste
as his semblance melted, was common in mediaeval Europe, was known to
Plato, and is practised by Negroes. Some Australians take some of the
hair of an enemy, mix it with grease and the feathers of the eagle, and
burn it in the fire. This is "bar" or black magic. The boarding under
the chair of a magistrate in Barbadoes was lifted not long ago, and the
ground beneath was found covered with wax images of litigants stuck full
of pins.

(1) Callaway, i. 92.

(2) Bergaigne, Religion Vedique, i. 126-138, i., vii., viii.

(3) Schoolcraft, iv. 491.

(4) 1 Samuel vi. 4, 5.

The war-magic of the Dacotahs works in a similar manner. Before a party
starts on the war-trail, the chief, with various ceremonies, takes his
club and stands before his tent. An old witch bowls hoops at him; each
hoop represents an enemy, and for each he strikes a foeman is expected
to fall. A bowl of sweetened water is also set out to entice the spirits
of the enemy.(1) The war-magic of the Aryans in India does not differ
much in character from that of the Dacotahs. "If any one wishes his army
to be victorious, he should go beyond the battle-line, cut a stalk of
grass at the top and end, and throw it against the hostile army with the
words, Prasahe kas trapasyati?--O Prasaha, who sees thee? If one who has
such knowledge cuts a stalk of grass and throws the parts at the hostile
army, it becomes split and dissolved, just as a daughter-in-law becomes
abashed and faints when seeing her father-in-law,"--an allusion,
apparently, to the widespread tabu which makes fathers-in-law,
daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, and mothers-in-law avoid each other.(2)

(1) Schoolcraft, iv. 496.

(2) Aitareya Brahmana, iii. 22.

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

Here is a singular piece of magic in which Europeans and Australian
blacks agree. Boris Godunoff made his servants swear never to injure him
by casting spells with the dust on which his feet or his carriage wheels
had left traces.(1) Mr. Howitt finds the same magic among the Kurnai.(2)
"Seeing a Tatungolung very lame, I asked him what was the matter. He
said, 'Some fellow has put BOTTLE in my foot'. I found he was probably
suffering from acute rheumatism. He explained that some enemy must have
found his foot-track and have buried in it a piece of broken bottle. The
magic influence, he believed, caused it to enter his foot." On another
occasion a native told Mr. Howitt that he had seen black fellows putting
poison in his foot-tracks. Bosman mentions a similar practice among the
people of Guinea. In Scottish folk-lore a screw nail is fixed into the
footprint of the person who is to be injured.

(1) Rambaud's History of Russia, English trans., i. 351.

(2) Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 250.

Just as these magical efforts to influence like by like work their way
into Vedic and other religions, so they are introduced into the religion
of the savage. His prayers are addresses to some sort of superior being,
but the efficacy of the prayer is often eked out by a little magic,
unless indeed we prefer to suppose that the words of the supplication
are interpreted by gesture-speech. Sproat writes: "Set words and
gestures are used according to the thing desired. For instance, in
praying for salmon, the native rubs the backs of his hands, looks
upwards, and mutters the words, 'Many salmon, many salmon'. If he wishes
for deer, he carefully rubs both eyes; or, if it is geese, he rubs the
back of his shoulder, uttering always in a sing-song way the accustomed
formula.... All these practices in praying no doubt have a meaning. We
may see a steady hand is needed in throwing the salmon-spear, and clear
eyesight in finding deer in the forest."(1)

(1) Savage Life, p. 208.

In addition to these forms of symbolical magic (which might be
multiplied to any extent), we find among savages the belief in the power
of songs of INCANTATION. This is a feature of magic which specially
deserves our attention. In myths, and still more in marchen or household
tales, we shall constantly find that the most miraculous effects are
caused when the hero pronounces a few lines of rhyme. In Rome, as we
have all read in the Latin Delectus, it was thought that incantations
could draw down the moon. In the Odyssey the kinsfolk of Odysseus sing
"a song of healing" over the wound which was dealt him by the boar's
tusk. Jeanne d'Arc, wounded at Orleans, refused a similar remedy.
Sophocles speaks of the folly of muttering incantations over wounds
that need the surgeon's knife. The song that salved wounds occurs in
the Kalewala, the epic poem of the Finns. In many of Grimm's marchen,
miracles are wrought by the repetition of snatches of rhyme. This belief
is derived from the savage state of fancy. According to Kohl,(1) "Every
sorrowful or joyful emotion that opens the Indian's mouth is at once
wrapped up in the garb of a wabanonagamowin (chanson magicale). If you
ask one of them to sing you a simple innocent hymn in praise of Nature,
a spring or jovial hunting stave, he never gives you anything but a form
of incantation, with which he says you will be able to call to you all
the birds from the sky, and all the foxes and wolves from their caves
and burrows."(2) The giant's daughter in the Scotch marchen, Nicht,
Nought, Nothing, is thus enabled to call to her aid "all the birds of
the sky". In the same way, if you ask an Indian for a love-song, he
will say that a philtre is really much more efficacious. The savage, in
short, is extremely practical. His arts, music and drawing, exist not
pour l'art, but for a definite purpose, as methods of getting something
that the artist wants. The young lover whom Kohl knew, like the lover
of Bombyca in Theocritus, believed in having an image of himself and an
image of the beloved. Into the heart of the female image he thrust magic
powders, and he said that this was common, lovers adding songs, "partly
elegiac, partly malicious, and almost criminal forms of incantation".(3)

(1) Page 395.

(2) Cf. Comparetti's Traditional Poetry of the Finns.

(3) Kitchi gami, pp. 395, 397.

Among the Indo-Aryans the masaminik or incantations of the Red Man are
known as mantras.(1) These are usually texts from the Veda, and are
chanted over the sick and in other circumstances where magic is believed
to be efficacious. Among the New Zealanders the incantations are called
karakias, and are employed in actual life. There is a special karakia to
raise the wind. In Maori myths the hero is very handy with his karakia.
Rocks split before him, as before girls who use incantations in Kaffir
and Bushman tales. He assumes the shape of any animal at will, or flies
in the air, all by virtue of the karakia or incantation.(2)

(1) Muir, Sanskrit Texts, v. 441, "Incantations from the Atharva Veda".

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

Without multiplying examples in the savage belief that miracles can be
wrought by virtue of physical CORRESPONDANCES, by like acting on like,
by the part affecting the whole, and so forth, we may go on to the
magical results produced by the aid of spirits. These may be either
spirits of the dead or spiritual essences that never animated mortal
men. Savage magic or science rests partly on the belief that the
world is peopled by a "choir invisible," or rather by a choir only
occasionally visible to certain gifted people, sorcerers and diviners.
An enormous amount of evidence to prove the existence of these tenets
has been collected by Mr. Tylor, and is accessible to all in the
chapters on "Animism" in his Primitive Culture. It is not our business
here to account for the universality of the belief in spirits. Mr.
Tylor, following Lucretius and Homer, derives the belief from the
reasonings of early men on the phenomena of dreams, fainting, shadows,
visions caused by narcotics, hallucinations, and other facts which
suggest the hypothesis of a separable life apart from the bodily
organism. It would scarcely be fair not to add that the kind of "facts"
investigated by the Psychical Society--such "facts" as the appearance
of men at the moment of death in places remote from the scene of their
decease, with such real or delusive experiences as the noises and
visions in haunted houses--are familiar to savages. Without discussing
these obscure matters, it may be said that they influence the thoughts
even of some scientifically trained and civilised men. It is natural,
therefore, that they should strongly sway the credulous imagination of
backward races, in which they originate or confirm the belief that life
can exist and manifest itself after the death of the body.(1)

(1) See the author's Making of Religion, 1898.

Some examples of savage "ghost-stories," precisely analogous to the
"facts" of the Psychical Society's investigations, may be adduced. The
first is curious because it offers among the Kanekas an example of a
belief current in Breton folk-lore. The story is vouched for by Mr. J.
J. Atkinson, late of Noumea, New Caledonia. Mr. Atkinson, we have reason
to believe, was unacquainted with the Breton parallel. To him one day a
Kaneka of his acquaintance paid a visit, and seemed loth to go away. He
took leave, returned, and took leave again, till Mr. Atkinson asked him
the reason of his behaviour. He then explained that he was about to die,
and would never see his English friend again. As he seemed in perfect
health, Mr. Atkinson rallied him on his hypochondria; but the poor
fellow replied that his fate was sealed. He had lately met in the wood
one whom he took for the Kaneka girl of his heart; but he became aware
too late that she was no mortal woman, but a wood-spirit in the guise of
the beloved. The result would be his death within three days, and, as a
matter of fact, he died. This is the groundwork of the old Breton ballad
of Le Sieur Nan, who dies after his intrigue with the forest spectre.(1)
A tale more like a common modern ghost-story is vouched for by Mr. C.
J. Du Ve, in Australia. In the year 1860, a Maneroo black fellow died in
the service of Mr. Du Ve. "The day before he died, having been ill some
time, he said that in the night his father, his father's friend, and a
female spirit he could not recognise, had come to him and said that he
would die next day, and that they would wait for him. Mr. Du Ye adds
that, though previously the Christian belief had been explained to this
man, it had entirely faded, and that he had gone back to the belief of
his childhood." Mr. Fison, who prints this tale in his Kamilaroi and
Kurnai,(2) adds, "I could give many similar instances which have come
within my own knowledge among the Fijians, and, strange to say, the
dying man in all these cases kept his appointment with the ghosts to the
very day".

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

(2) Page 247.

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

Without entering into a discussion of ghosts, it is plain that the kind
of evidence, whatever its value may be, which convinces many educated
Europeans of the existence of "veridical" apparitions has also played
its part in the philosophy of uncivilised races. On this belief in
apparitions, then, is based the power of the savage sorcerers and
necromants, of the men who converse with the dead and are aided by
disembodied spirits. These men have greatly influenced the beginnings
of mythology. Among certain Australian tribes the necromants are called
Birraark.(1) "The Kurnai tell me," says Mr. Howitt, "that a Birraark
was supposed to be initiated by the 'Mrarts (ghosts) when they met
him wandering in the bush.... It was from the ghosts that he obtained
replies to questions concerning events passing at a distance or yet to
happen, which might be of interest or moment to his tribe." Mr. Howitt
prints an account of a spiritual seance in the bush.(2) "The fires were
let go down. The Birraark uttered a cry 'coo-ee' at intervals. At
length a distant reply was heard, and shortly afterwards the sound as of
persons jumping on the ground in succession. A voice was then heard in
the gloom asking in a strange intonation, 'What is wanted?' Questions
were put by the Birraark and replies given. At the termination of the
seance, the spirit-voice said, 'We are going'. Finally, the Birraark was
found in the top of an almost inaccessible tree, apparently asleep."(3)
There was one Birraark at least to every clan. The Kurnai gave the name
of "Brewin" (a powerful evil spirit) to a Birraark who was once carried
away for several days by the Mrarts or spirits.(4) It is a belief with
the Australians, as, according to Bosman, it was with the people of
the Gold Coast, that a very powerful wizard lives far inland, and the
Negroes held that to this warlock the spirits of the dead went to be
judged according to the merit of their actions in life. Here we have a
doctrine answering to the Greek belief in "the wizard Minos," Aeacus,
and Rhadamanthus, and to the Egyptian idea of Osiris as judge of the
departed.(5) The pretensions of the sorcerer to converse with the dead
are attested by Mr. Brough Smyth.(6) "A sorcerer lying on his stomach
spoke to the deceased, and the other sitting by his side received the
precious messages which the dead man told." As a natural result of these
beliefs, the Australian necromant has great power in the tribe. Mr.
Howitt mentions a case in which a group of kindred, ceasing to use their
old totemistic surname, called themselves the children of a famous
dead Birraark, who thus became an eponymous hero, like Ion among the
Ionians.(7) Among the Scotch Highlanders the position and practice
of the seer were very like those of the Birraark. "A person," says
Scott,(8) "was wrapped up in the skin of a newly slain bullock and
deposited beside a waterfall or at the bottom of a precipice, or in some
other strange, wild and unusual situation, where the scenery around him
suggested nothing but objects of horror. In this situation he revolved
in his mind the question proposed and whatever was impressed on him by
SPIRITS who haunt these desolate recesses." A number of examples are
given in Martin's Description of the Western Islands.(9) In the Century
magazine (July, 1882) is a very full report of Thlinkeet medicine-men
and metamorphoses.

(1) Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 253.

(2) Page 254.

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

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

(5) Bosman in Pinkerton, xvi. p. 401.

(6) Aborigines of Australia, i. 197.

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

(8) Lady of the Lake, note 1 to Canto iv.

(9) P. 112.

The sorcerer among the Zulus is, apparently, of a naturally hysterical
and nervous constitution. "He hears the spirits who speak by whistlings
speaking to him."(1) Whistling is also the language of the ghosts in New
Caledonia, where Mr. Atkinson informs us that he has occasionally put
an able-bodied Kaneka to ignominious flight by whistling softly in the
dusk. The ghosts in Homer make a similar sound, "and even as bats flit
gibbering in the secret place of a wondrous cavern,... even so the
souls gibbered as they fared together" (Odyssey, xxiv. 5). "The familiar
spirits make him" (that Zulu sorcerer) "acquainted with what is about
to happen, and then he divines for the people." As the Birraarks learn
songs and dance-music from the Mrarts, so the Zulu Inyanga or diviners
learn magical couplets from the Itongo or spirits.(2)

(1) Callaway, Religious System of the Amazules, p. 265.

(2) On all this, see "Possession" in The Making of Religion.

The evidence of institutions confirms the reports about savage belief
in magic. The political power of the diviners is very great, as may be
observed from the fact that a hereditary chief needs their consecration
to make him a chief de jure.(1) In fact, the qualities of the diviner
are those which give his sacred authority to the chief. When he has
obtained from the diviners all their medicines and information as to the
mode of using the isitundu (a magical vessel), it is said that he often
orders them to be killed. Now, the chief is so far a medicine-man that
he is lord of the air. "The heaven is the chief's," say the Zulus;
and when he calls out his men, "though the heaven is clear, it becomes
clouded by the great wind that arises". Other Zulus explain this as the
mere hyperbole of adulation. "The word of the chief gives confidence to
his troops; they say, 'We are going; the chief has already seen all that
will happen in his vessel'. Such then are chiefs; they use a vessel
for divination."(2) The makers of rain are known in Zululand as
"heaven-herds" or "sky-herds," who herd the heaven that it may not break
out and do its will on the property of the people. These men are, in
fact, (Greek text omitted), "cloud-gatherers," like the Homeric Zeus,
the lord of the heavens. Their name of "herds of the heavens" has a
Vedic sound. "The herd that herds the lightning," say the Zulus, "does
the same as the herder of the cattle; he does as he does by whistling;
he says, 'Tshu-i-i-i. Depart and go yonder. Do not come here.'" Here
let it be observed that the Zulus conceive of the thunder-clouds and
lightning as actual creatures, capable of being herded like sheep. There
is no metaphor or allegory about the matter,(3) and no forgetfulness of
the original meaning of words. The cloud-herd is just like the cowherd,
except that not every man, but only sorcerers, and they who have eaten
the "lightning-bird" (a bird shot near the place where lightning has
struck the earth), can herd the clouds of heaven. The same ideas prevail
among the Bushmen, where the rainmaker is asked "to milk a nice gentle
female rain"; the rain-clouds are her hair. Among the Bushmen Rain is a
person. Among the Red Indians no metaphor seems to be intended when it
is said that "it is always birds who make the wind, except that of the
east". The Dacotahs once killed a thunder-bird(4) behind Little Crow's
village on the Missouri. It had a face like a man with a nose like an
eagle's bill.(5)

(1) Callaway, p. 340.

(2) Callaway, Religions System of the Amazules, p. 343.

(3) Ibid., p. 385.

(4) Schoolcraft, iii. 486.

(5) Compare Callaway, p. 119.

The political and social powers which come into the hands of the
sorcerers are manifest, even in the case of the Australians. Tribes and
individuals can attempt few enterprises without the aid of the man who
listens to the ghosts. Only he can foretell the future, and, in the case
of the natural death of a member of the tribe, can direct the vengeance
of the survivors against the hostile magician who has committed a murder
by "bar" or magic. Among the Zulus we have seen that sorcery gives the
sanction to the power of the chief. "The winds and weather are at the
command" of Bosman's "great fetisher". Inland from the Gold Coast,(1)
the king of Loango, according to the Abbe Proyart, "has credit to make
rain fall on earth". Similar beliefs, with like political results, will
be found to follow from the superstition of magic among the Red Indians
of North America. The difficulty of writing about sorcerers among the
Red Indians is caused by the abundance of the evidence. Charlevoix
and the other early Jesuit missionaries found that the jongleurs,
as Charlevoix calls the Jossakeeds or medicine-men, were their chief
opponents. As among the Scotch Highlanders, the Australians and the
Zulus, the Red Indian jongleur is visited by the spirits. He covers
a hut with the skin of the animal which he commonly wears, retires
thither, and there converses with the bodiless beings.(2) The good
missionary like Mr. Moffat in Africa, was convinced that the exercises
of the Jossakeeds were verily supernatural. "Ces seducteurs ont un
veritable commerce avec le pere du mensonge."(3) This was denied
by earlier and wiser Jesuit missionaries. Their political power was
naturally great. In time of war "ils avancent et retardent les marches
comme il leur plait". In our own century it was a medicine-man, Ten Squa
Ta Way, who by his magical processes and superstitious rites stirred up
a formidable war against the United States.(4) According to Mr. Pond,(5)
the native name of the Dacotah medicine-men, "Wakan," signifies "men
supernaturally gifted". Medicine-men are believed to be "wakanised"
by mystic intercourse with supernatural beings. The business of the
wakanised man is to discern future events, to lead and direct parties on
the war-trail, "to raise the storm or calm the tempest, to converse with
the lightning or thunder as with familiar friends".(6) The wakanised
man, like the Australian Birraark and the Zulu diviner, "dictates chants
and prayers". In battle "every Dacotah warrior looks to the Wakan man
as almost his only resource". Belief in Wakan men is, Mr. Pond says,
universal among the Dacotahs, except where Christianity has undermined
it. "Their influence is deeply felt by every individual of the tribe,
and controls all their affairs." The Wakan man's functions are absorbed
by the general or war-chief of the tribe, and in Schoolcraft (iv. 495),
Captain Eastman prints copies of native scrolls showing the war-chief
at work as a wizard. "The war-chief who leads the party to war is always
one of these medicine-men." In another passage the medicine-men are
described as "having a voice in the sale of land". It must be observed
that the Jossakeed, or medicine-man, pure and simple, exercises a power
which is not in itself hereditary. Chieftainship, when associated with
inheritance of property, is hereditary; and when the chief, as among the
Zulus, absorbs supernatural power, then the same man becomes diviner
and chief, and is a person of great and sacred influence. The liveliest
account of the performances of the Maori "tohunga" or sorcerer is to be
found in Old New Zealand,(7) by the Pakeha Maori, an English gentleman
who had lived with the natives like one of themselves. The tohunga, says
this author,(8) presided over "all those services and customs which had
something approaching to a religious character. They also pretended to
power by means of certain familiar spirits, to foretell future events,
and even in some cases to control them.... The spirit 'entered into'
them, and, on being questioned, gave a response in a sort of half
whistling, half-articulate voice, supposed to be the proper language
of spirits." In New South Wales, Mrs. Langlot Parker has witnessed
a similar exhibition. The "spirits" told the truth in this case. The
Pakeha Maori was present in a darkened village-hall when the spirit of
a young man, a great friend of his own, was called up by a tohunga.
"Suddenly, without the slightest warning, a voice came out of the
darkness.... The voice all through, it is to be remembered, was not the
voice of the tohunga, but a strange melancholy sound, like the sound of
a wind blowing into a hollow vessel. 'It is well with me; my place is a
good place.' The spirit gave an answer to a question which proved to
be correct, and then 'Farewell,' cried the spirit FROM DEEP BENEATH THE
GROUND. 'Farewell,' again, FROM HIGH IN AIR. 'Farewell,' once more came
moaning through the distant darkness of the night." As chiefs in New
Zealand no less than tohungas can exercise the mystical and magical
power of tabu, that is, of imparting to any object or person an
inviolable character, and can prevent or remit the mysterious punishment
for infringement of tabu, it appears probable that in New Zealand,
as well as among the Zulus and Red Indians, chiefs have a tendency to
absorb the sacred character and powers of the tohungas. This is natural
enough, for a tohunga, if he plays his cards well, is sure to acquire
property and hereditary wealth, which, in combination with magical
influence, are the necessary qualifications for the office of the

(1) Pinkerton, xvi. 401.

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

(3) Ibid., iii. 362.

(4) Catlin, ii. 17.

(5) In Schoolcraft, iv. 402.

(6) Pond, in Schoolcraft, iv. 647.

(7) Auckland, 1863.

(8) Page 148.

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

It is now necessary to pass from examples of tribes who have
superstitious respect for certain individuals, but who have no property
and no chiefs, to peoples who exhibit the phenomenon of superstitious
reverence attached to wealthy rulers or to judges. To take the example
of Ireland, as described in the Senchus Mor, we learn that the chiefs,
just like the Angakut of the Eskimos, had "power to make fair or foul
weather" in the literal sense of the words.(1) In Africa, in the same
way, as Bosman, the old traveller, says, "As to what difference there
is between one negro and another, the richest man is the most honoured,"
yet the most honoured man has the same magical power as the poor
Angakuts of the Eskimos.

(1) Early History of Institutions, p. 195.

"In the Solomon Islands," says Dr. Codrington, "there is nothing to
prevent a common man from becoming a chief, if he can show that he has
the mana (supernatural power) for it."(1)

(1) Journ. Anth. Inst., x. iii. 287, 300, 309.

Though it is anticipating a later stage of this inquiry, we must here
observe that the sacredness, and even the magical virtues of barbarous
chiefs seem to have descended to the early leaders of European races.
The children of Odin and of Zeus were "sacred kings". The Homeric
chiefs, like those of the Zulus and the Red Men, and of the early Irish
and Swedes, exercised an influence over the physical universe. Homer(1)
speaks of "a blameless king, one that fears the gods, and reigns among
many men and mighty, and the black earth bears wheat and barley, and the
sheep bring forth and fail not, and the sea gives store of fish, and all
out of his good sovereignty".

(1) Od., xix. 109.

The attributes usually assigned by barbarous peoples to their
medicine-men have not yet been exhausted. We have found that they can
foresee and declare the future; that they control the weather and the
sensible world; that they can converse with, visit and employ about
their own business the souls of the dead. It would be easy to show at
even greater length that the medicine-man has everywhere the power of
metamorphosis. He can assume the shapes of all beasts, birds, fishes,
insects and inorganic matters, and he can subdue other people to the
same enchantment. This belief obviously rests on the lack of recognised
distinction between man and the rest of the world, which we have so
frequently insisted on as a characteristic of savage and barbarous
thought. Examples of accredited metamorphosis are so common everywhere,
and so well known, that it would be waste of space to give a long
account of them. In Primitive Culture(1) a cloud of witnesses to the
belief in human tigers, hyaenas, leopards and wolves is collected.(2)
Mr. Lane(3) found metamorphosis by wizards as accredited a working
belief at Cairo as it is among Abipones, Eskimo, or the people of
Ashangoland. In various parts of Scotland there is a tale of a witch who
was shot at when in the guise of a hare. In this shape she was
wounded, and the same wound was found on her when she resumed her human
appearance. Lafitau, early in the last century, found precisely the
same tale, except that the wizards took the form of birds, not of hares,
among the Red Indians. The birds were wounded by the magical arrows of
an old medicine-man, Shonnoh Koui Eretsi, and these bolts were found
in the bodies of the human culprits. In Japan, as we learn from several
stories in Mr. Mitford's Tales of Old Japan, people chiefly metamorphose
themselves into foxes and badgers. The sorcerers of Honduras(4) "possess
the power of transforming men into wild beasts, and were much feared
accordingly". Among the Cakchiquels, a cultivated people of Guatemala,
the very name of the clergy, haleb, was derived from their power of
assuming animal shapes, which they took on as easily as the Homeric
gods.(5) Regnard, the French dramatist, who travelled among the Lapps at
the end of the seventeenth century (1681), says: "They believe witches
can turn men into cats;" and again, "Under the figures of swans, crows,
falcons and geese, they call up tempests and destroy ships".(6) Among
the Bushmen "sorcerers assume the forms of beasts and jackals".(7)
Dobrizhoffer (1717-91), a missionary in Paraguay, found that "sorcerers
arrogate to themselves the power of transforming themselves into
tigers".(8) He was present when the Abipones believed that a conversion
of this sort was actually taking place: "Alas," cried the people, "his
whole body is beginning to be covered with tiger-spots; his nails are
growing". Near Loanda, Livingstone found that a "chief may metamorphose
himself into a lion, kill any one he choses, and then resume his proper
form".(9) Among the Barotse and Balonda, "while persons are still
alive they may enter into lions and alligators".(10) Among the Mayas of
Central America "sorcerers could transform themselves into dogs,
pigs and other animals; their glance was death to a victim".(11) The
Thlinkeets think that their Shamans can metamorphose themselves into
animals at pleasure; and a very old raven was pointed out to Mr. C. E.
S. Wood as an incarnation of the soul of a Shaman.(12) Sir A. C. Lyall
finds a similar belief in flourishing existence in India. The European
superstition of the were-wolf is too well known to need description.
Perhaps the most curious legend is that told by Giraldus Cambrensis
about a man and his wife metamorphosed into wolves by an abbot. They
retained human speech, made exemplary professions of Christian faith,
and sent for priests when they found their last hours approaching. In an
old Norman ballad a girl is transformed into a white doe, and hunted and
slain by her brother's hounds. The "aboriginal" peoples of India retain
similar convictions. Among the Hos,(13) an old sorcerer called Pusa
was known to turn himself habitually into a tiger, and to eat his
neighbour's goats, and even their wives. Examples of the power of
sorcerers to turn, as with the Gorgon's head, their enemies into stone,
are peculiarly common in America.(14) Hearne found that the Indians
believed they descended from a dog, who could turn himself into a
handsome young man.(15)

(1) Vol. i. pp. 309-315.

(2) See also M'Lennan on Lykanthropy in Encyclopedia Britannica.

(3) Arabian Nights, i. 51.

(4) Bancroft, Races of Pacific Coast, i. 740.

(5) Brinton, Annals of the Cakchiquels, p. 46.

(6) Pinkerton, i. 471.

(7) Bleek, Brief Account of Bushman Folk-Lore, pp. 15, 40.

(8) English translation of Dobrizhoffer's Abipones, i. 163.

(9) Missionary Travels, p. 615.

(10) Livingstone, p. 642.

(11) Bancroft, ii.

(12) Century Magazine, July, 1882.

(13) Dalton's Ethnology of Bengal, p. 200.

(14) Dorman, pp. 130, 134; Report of Ethnological Bureau, Washington,

(15) A Journey, etc., p. 342.

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

When we begin to examine the gods of MYTHOLOGY, savage or civilised, as
distinct from deities contemplated, in devotion, as moral and creative
guardians of ethics, we shall find that, with the general, though
not invariable addition of immortality, they possess the very same
accomplishments as the medicine-man, peay, tohunga, jossakeed, birraark,
or whatever name for sorcerer we may choose. Among the Greeks, Zeus,
mythically envisaged, enjoys in heaven all the attributes of the
medicine-man; among the Iroquois, as Pere le Jeune, the old Jesuit
missionary, observed,(1) the medicine-man enjoys on earth all the
attributes of Zeus. Briefly, the miraculous and supernatural
endowments of the gods of MYTH, whether these gods be zoomorphic or
anthropomorphic, are exactly the magical properties with which the
medicine-man is credited by his tribe. It does not at all follow, as
Euemerus and Mr. Herbert Spencer might argue, that the god was once a
real living medicine-man. But myth-making man confers on the deities of
myth the magical powers which he claims for himself.

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


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

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

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

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

(1) Primitive Culture, i. 288.

In Australia the myth says that there was a time when the sun did not
set. "It was at all times day, and the blacks grew weary." Norralie
considered and decided that the sun should disappear at intervals. He
addressed the sun in an incantation (couched like the Finnish Kalewala
in the metre of Longfellow's Hiawatha); and the incantation is thus
interpreted: "Sun, sun, burn your wood, burn your internal substance,
and go down". The sun therefore now burns out his fuel in a day, and
goes below for fresh firewood.(1)

(1) Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 430.

In New Zealand the taming of the sun is attributed to the great hero
Maui, the Prometheus of the Maoris. He set snares to catch the sun,
but in vain, for the sun's rays bit them through. According to another
account, while Norralie wished to hasten the sun's setting, Maui wanted
to delay it, for the sun used to speed through the heavens at a racing
pace. Maui therefore snared the sun, and beat him so unmercifully that
he has been lame ever since, and travels slowly, giving longer days.
"The sun, when beaten, cried out and revealed his second great name,
Taura-mis-te-ra."(1) It will be remembered that Indra, in his abject
terror when he fled after the slaying of Vrittra, also revealed his
mystic name. In North America the same story of the trapping and laming
of the sun is told, and attributed to a hero named Tcha-ka-betch. In
Samoa the sun had a child by a Samoan woman. He trapped the sun with a
rope made of a vine and extorted presents. Another Samoan lassoed
the sun and made him promise to move more slowly.(2) These Samoan and
Australian fancies are nearly as dignified as the tale in the Aitareya
Brahmana. The gods, afraid "that the sun would fall out of heaven,
pulled him up and tied him with five ropes". These ropes are recognised
as verses in the ritual, but probably the ritual is later than the
ropes. In Mexico we find that the sun himself (like the stars in most
myths) was once a human or pre-human devotee, Nanahuatzin, who leapt
into a fire to propitiate the gods.(3) Translated to heaven as the sun,
Nanahuatzin burned so very fiercely that he threatened to reduce
the world to a cinder. Arrows were therefore shot at him, and this
punishment had as happy an effect as the beatings administered by Maui
and Tcha-ka-betch. Among the Bushmen of South Africa the sun was once a
man, from whose armpit a limited amount of light was radiated round his
hut. Some children threw him up into the sky, and there he stuck, and
there he shines.(4) In the Homeric hymn to Helios, as Mr. Max Muller
observes, "the poet looks on Helios as a half god, almost a hero, who
had once lived on earth," which is precisely the view of the Bushmen.(5)
Among the Aztecs the sun is said to have been attacked by a hunter
and grievously wounded by his arrows.(6) The Gallinomeros, in Central
California, seem at least to know that the sun is material and
impersonal. They say that when all was dark in the beginning, the
animals were constantly jostling each other. After a painful encounter,
the hawk and the coyote collected two balls of inflammable substance;
the hawk (Indra was occasionally a hawk) flew up with them into heaven,
and lighted them with sparks from a flint. There they gave light as sun
and moon. This is an exception to the general rule that the heavenly
bodies are regarded as persons. The Melanesian tale of the bringing
of night is a curious contrast to the Mexican, Maori, Australian and
American Indian stories which we have quoted. In Melanesia, as in
Australia, the days were long, indeed endless, and people grew tired;
but instead of sending the sun down below by an incantation when night
would follow in course of nature, the Melanesian hero went to Night
(conceived of as a person) and begged his assistance. Night (Qong)
received Qat (the hero) kindly, darkened his eyes, gave him sleep,
and, in twelve hours or so, crept up from the horizon and sent the sun
crawling to the west.(7) In the same spirit Paracelsus is said to have
attributed night, not to the absence of the sun, but to the apparition
of certain stars which radiate darkness. It is extraordinary that a myth
like the Melanesian should occur in Brazil. There was endless day till
some one married a girl whose father "the great serpent," was the owner
of night. The father sent night bottled up in a gourd. The gourd was not
to be uncorked till the messengers reached the bride, but they, in their
curiosity, opened the gourd, and let night out prematurely.(8)

(1) Taylor, New Zealand, p. 131.

(2) Turner, Samoa, p. 20.

(3) Sahagun, French trans., vii. ii.

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

(5) Compare a Californian solar myth: Bancroft, iii. pp. 85, 86.

(6) Bancroft, iii. 73, quoting Burgoa, i. 128, 196.

(7) Codrington, Journ. Anthrop. Inst., February, 1881.

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

The myths which have been reported deal mainly with the sun as a person
who shines, and at fixed intervals disappears. His relations with the
moon are much more complicated, and are the subject of endless stories,
all explaining in a romantic fashion why the moon waxes and wanes,
whence come her spots, why she is eclipsed, all starting from the
premise that sun and moon are persons with human parts and passions.
Sometimes the moon is a man, sometimes a woman and the sex of the sun
varies according to the fancy of the narrators. Different tribes of the
same race, as among the Australians, have different views of the sex of
moon and sun. Among the aborigines of Victoria, the moon, like the sun
among the Bushmen, was a black fellow before he went up into the sky.
After an unusually savage career, he was killed with a stone hatchet
by the wives of the eagle, and now he shines in the heavens.(1) Another
myth explanatory of the moon's phases was found by Mr. Meyer in 1846
among the natives of Encounter Bay. According to them the moon is a
woman, and a bad woman to boot. She lives a life of dissipation among
men, which makes her consumptive, and she wastes away till they drive
her from their company. While she is in retreat, she lives on nourishing
roots, becomes quite plump, resumes her gay career, and again wastes
away. The same tribe, strangely enough, think that the sun also is a
woman. Every night she descends among the dead, who stand in double
lines to greet her and let her pass. She has a lover among the dead, who
has presented her with a red kangaroo skin, and in this she appears at
her rising. Such is the view of rosy-fingered Dawn entertained by the
blacks of Encounter Bay. In South America, among the Muyscas of Bogota,
the moon, Huythaca, is the malevolent wife of the child of the sun; she
was a woman before her husband banished her to the fields of space.(2)
The moon is a man among the Khasias of the Himalaya, and he was guilty
of the unpardonable offence of admiring his mother-in-law. As a general
rule, the mother-in-law is not even to be spoken to by the savage
son-in-law. The lady threw ashes in his face to discourage his passion,
hence the moon's spots. The waning of the moon suggested the most
beautiful and best known of savage myths, that in which the moon sends
a beast to tell mortals that, though they die like her, like her they
shall be born again.(3) Because the spots in the moon were thought to
resemble a hare they were accounted for in Mexico by the hypothesis
that a god smote the moon in the face with a rabbit;(4) in Zululand and
Thibet by a fancied translation of a good or bad hare to the moon.

(1) Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, i. 432.

(2) Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 353.

(3) Bleek, Reynard in South Africa, pp. 69-74.

(4) Sahagun, viii. 2.

The Eskimos have a peculiar myth to account for the moon's spots. Sun
and moon were human brother and sister. In the darkness the moon once
attempted the virtue of the sun. She smeared his face over with ashes,
that she might detect him when a light was brought. She did discover who
her assailant had been, fled to the sky, and became the sun. The moon
still pursues her, and his face is still blackened with the marks of
ashes.(1) Gervaise(2) says that in Macassar the moon was held to be with
child by the sun, and that when he pursued her and wished to beat her,
she was delivered of the earth. They are now reconciled. About the
alternate appearance of sun and moon a beautifully complete and adequate
tale is told by the Piute Indians of California. No more adequate
and scientific explanation could possibly be offered, granting the
hypothesis that sun and moon are human persons and savage persons. The
myth is printed as it was taken down by Mr. De Quille from the lips of
Tooroop Eenah (Desert Father), a chief of the Piutes, and published in a
San Francisco newspaper.

(1) Crantz's History of Greenland, i. 212.

(2) Royaume de Macacar, 1688.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Tylor quotes(1) a nature myth about sun, moon and stars which
remarkably corresponds to the speculation of the Piutes. The Mintira of
the Malayan Peninsula say that both sun and moon are women. The stars
are the moon's children; once the sun had as many. They each agreed
(like the women of Jerusalem in the famine), to eat their own children;
but the sun swallowed her whole family, while the moon concealed hers.
When the sun saw this she was exceedingly angry, and pursued the moon to
kill her. Occasionally she gets a bite out of the moon, and that is an
eclipse. The Hos of North-East India tell the same tale, but say
that the sun cleft the moon in twain for her treachery, and that she
continues to be cut in two and grow again every month. With these sun
and moon legends sometimes coexists the RELIGIOUS belief in a Creator of
these and of all things.

(1) Primitive Culture, i. 356.

In harmony with the general hypothesis that all objects in nature
are personal, and human or bestial, in real shape, and in passion
and habits, are the myths which account for eclipses. These have so
frequently been published and commented on(1) that a long statement
would be tedious and superfluous. To the savage mind, and even to the
Chinese and the peasants of some European countries, the need of an
explanation is satisfied by the myth that an evil beast is devouring the
sun or the moon. The people even try by firing off guns, shrieking, and
clashing cymbals, to frighten the beast (wolf, pig, dragon, or what not)
from his prey. What the hungry monster in the sky is doing when he is
not biting the sun or moon we are not informed. Probably he herds with
the big bird whose wings, among the Dacotahs of America and the Zulus
of Africa, make thunder; or he may associate with the dragons, serpents,
cows and other aerial cattle which supply the rain, and show themselves
in the waterspout. Chinese, Greenland, Hindoo, Finnish, Lithunian and
Moorish examples of the myth about the moon-devouring beasts are vouched
for by Grimm.(2) A Mongolian legend has it that the gods wished to
punish the maleficent Arakho for his misdeeds, but Arakho hid so
cleverly that their limited omnipotence could not find him. The sun,
when asked to turn spy, gave an evasive answer. The moon told the truth.
Arakho was punished, and ever since he chases sun and moon. When he
nearly catches either of them, there is an eclipse, and the people
try to drive him off by making a hideous uproar with musical and other
instruments.(3) Captain Beeckman in 1704 was in Borneo, when the natives
declared that the devil "was eating the moon".

(1) Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. i.; Lefebure, Les Yeux d'Horus.

(2) Teutonic Mythology, English trans., ii. 706.

(3) Moon-Lore by Rev. T. Harley, p. 167.

Dr. Brinton in his Myths and Myth-Makers gives examples from Peruvians,
Tupis, Creeks, Iroquois and Algonkins. It would be easy, and is perhaps
superfluous, to go on multiplying proofs of the belief that sun and moon
are, or have been, persons. In the Hervey Isles these two luminaries are
thought to have been made out of the body of a child cut in twain by his
parents. The blood escaped from the half which is the moon, hence her
pallor.(1) This tale is an exception to the general rule, but reminds us
of the many myths which represent the things in the world as having
been made out of a mutilated man, like the Vedic Purusha. It is hardly
necessary, except by way of record, to point out that the Greek myths
of sun and moon, like the myths of savages, start from the conception
of the solar and lunar bodies as persons with parts and passions, human
loves and human sorrows. As in the Mongolian myth of Arakho, the sun
"sees all and hears all," and, less honourable than the Mongolian sun,
he plays the spy for Hephaestus on the loves of Ares and Aphrodite. He
has mistresses and human children, such as Circe and Aeetes.(2)

(1) Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 45.

(2) See chapter on Greek Divine Myths.

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

(1) Sophocles, Ajax, 846.

Selene, the moon, like Helios, the sun, was a person, and amorous.
Beloved by Zeus, she gave birth to Pandia, and Pan gained her affection
by the simple rustic gift of a fleece.(1) The Australian Dawn, with her
present of a red kangaroo skin, was not more lightly won than the chaste
Selene. Her affection for Endymion is well known, and her cold white
glance shines through the crevices of his mountain grave, hewn in a
rocky wall, like the tombs of Phrygia.(2) She is the sister of the sun
in Hesiod, the daughter (by his sister) of Hyperion in the Homeric hymns
to Helios.

(1) Virgil, Georgics, iii. 391.

(2) Preller, Griech. Myth., i. 163.

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

There is no occasion to dwell long on myths of the same character in
which the stars are accounted for as transformed human adventurers.
It has often been shown that this opinion is practically of world-wide
distribution.(1) We find it in Australia, Persia, Greece, among the
Bushmen, in North and South America, among the Eskimos, in ancient
Egypt, in New Zealand, in ancient India--briefly, wherever we look. The
Sanskrit forms of these myths have been said to arise from confusion
as to the meaning of words. But is it credible that, in all languages,
however different, the same kind of unconscious puns should have led to
the same mistaken beliefs? As the savage, barbarous and Greek star-myths
(such as that of Callisto, first changed into a bear and then into a
constellation) are familiar to most readers, a few examples of Sanskrit
star-stories are offered here from the Satapatha Brahmana.(2) Fires are
not, according to the Brahmana ritual, to be lighted under the stars
called Krittikas, the Pleiades. The reason is that the stars were the
wives of the bears (Riksha), for the group known in Brahmanic times as
the Rishis (sages) were originally called the Rikshas (bears). But the
wives of the bears were excluded from the society of their husbands, for
the bears rise in the north and their wives in the east. Therefore
the worshipper should not set up his fires under the Pleiades, lest
he should thereby be separated from the company of his wife. The
Brahmanas(3) also tell us that Prajapati had an unholy passion for his
daughter, who was in the form of a doe. The gods made Rudra fire an
arrow at Prajapati to punish him; he was wounded, and leaped into the
sky, where he became one constellation and his daughter another, and the
arrow a third group of stars. In general, according to the Brahmanas,
"the stars are the lights of virtuous men who go to the heavenly

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

(2) Sacred Books of the East, i. 283-286.

(3) Aitareya Bramana, iii. 33.

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

Passing from savage myths explanatory of the nature of celestial bodies
to myths accounting for the formation and colour and habits of beasts,
birds and fishes, we find ourselves, as an old Jesuit missionary says,
in the midst of a barbarous version of Ovid's Metamorphoses. It has been
shown that the possibility of interchange of form between man and beast
is part of the working belief of everyday existence among the lower
peoples. They regard all things as on one level, or, to use an old
political phrase, they "level up" everything to equality with the human
status. Thus Mr. Im Thurn, a very good observer, found that to the
Indians of Guiana "all objects, animate or inaminate, seem exactly
of the same nature, except that they differ by the accident of bodily
form". Clearly to grasp this entirely natural conception of primitive
man, the civilised student must make a great effort to forget for a time
all that science has taught him of the differences between the objects
which fill the world.(1) "To the ear of the savage, animals certainly
seem to talk." "As far as the Indians of Guiana are concerned, I do not
believe that they distinguish such beings as sun and moon, or such other
natural phenomena as winds and storms, from men and other animals,
from plants and other inanimate objects, or from any other objects
whatsoever." Bancroft says about North American myths, "Beasts and birds
and fishes fetch and carry, talk and act, in a way that leaves even
Aesop's heroes quite in the shade".(2)

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

(2) Vol. iii. p. 127.

The savage tendency is to see in inanimate things animals, and in
animals disguised men. M. Reville quotes in his Religions des Peuples
Non-Civilise's, i. 64, the story of some Negroes, who, the first time
they were shown a cornemuse, took the instrument for a beast, the two
holes for its eyes. The Highlander who looted a watch at Prestonpans,
and observing, "She's teed," sold it cheap when it ran down, was in the
same psychological condition. A queer bit of savage science is displayed
on a black stone tobacco-pipe from the Pacific Coast.(1) The savage
artist has carved the pipe in the likeness of a steamer, as a steamer is
conceived by him. "Unable to account for the motive power, he imagines
the paddle to be linked round the tongue of a coiled serpent, fastened
to the tail of the vessel," and so he represents it on the black stone
pipe. Nay, a savage's belief that beasts are on his own level is so
literal, that he actually makes blood-covenants with the lower animals,
as he does with men, mingling his gore with theirs, or smearing both
together on a stone;(2) while to bury dead animals with sacred rites is
as usual among the Bedouins and Malagasies to-day as in ancient Egypt
or Attica. In the same way the Ainos of Japan, who regard the bear as a
kinsman, sacrifice a bear once a year. But, to propitiate the animal and
his connections, they appoint him a "mother," an Aino girl, who looks
after his comforts, and behaves in a way as maternal as possible. The
bear is now a kinsman, (Greek text omitted), and cannot avenge himself
within the kin. This, at least, seems to be the humour of it. In
Lagarde's Reliquiae Juris Ecclesiastici Antiquissimae a similar Syrian
covenant of kinship with insects is described. About 700 A. D., when a
Syrian garden was infested by caterpillars, the maidens were assembled,
and one caterpillar was caught. Then one of the virgins was "made its
mother," and the creature was buried with due lamentations. The "mother"
was then brought to the spot where the pests were, her companions
bewailed her, and the caterpillars perished like their chosen kinsman,
but without extorting revenge.(3) Revenge was out of their reach.
They had been brought within the kin of their foes, and there were no
Erinnyes, "avengers of kindred blood," to help them. People in this
condition of belief naturally tell hundreds of tales, in which men,
stones, trees, beasts, shift shapes, and in which the modifications of
animal forms are caused by accident, or by human agency, or by magic,
or by metamorphosis. Such tales survive in our modern folk-lore. To make
our meaning clear, we may give the European nursery-myth of the
origin of the donkey's long ears, and, among other illustrations, the
Australian myth of the origin of the black and white plumage of the
pelican. Mr. Ralston has published the Russian version of the myth
of the donkey's ears. The Spanish form, which is identical with the
Russian, is given by Fernan Caballero in La Gaviota.

(1) Magazine of Art, January, 1883.

(2) "Malagasy Folk-Tales," Folk-Lore Journal, October, 1883.

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

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

Turning from folk-lore to savage beliefs, we learn that from one end of
Africa to another the honey-bird, schneter, is said to be an old woman
whose son was lost, and who pursued him till she was turned into a bird,
which still shrieks his name, "Schneter, Schneter".(1) In the same way
the manners of most of the birds known to the Greeks were accounted for
by the myth that they had been men and women. Zeus, for example, turned
Ceyx and Halcyon into sea-fowls because they were too proud in their
married happiness.(2) To these myths of the origin of various animals
we shall return, but we must not forget the black and white Australian
pelican. Why is the pelican parti-coloured?(3) For this reason: After
the Flood (the origin of which is variously explained by the Murri), the
pelican (who had been a black fellow) made a canoe, and went about
like a kind of Noah, trying to save the drowning. In the course of his
benevolent mission he fell in love with a woman, but she and her friends
played him a trick and escaped from him. The pelican at once prepared to
go on the war-path. The first thing to do was to daub himself white,
as is the custom of the blacks before a battle. They think the white
pipe-clay strikes terror and inspires respect among the enemy. But when
the pelican was only half pipe-clayed, another pelican came past, and,
"not knowing what such a queer black and white thing was, struck the
first pelican with his beak and killed him. Before that pelicans were
all black; now they are black and white. That is the reason."(4)

(1) Barth, iii. 358.

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

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

(4) Brough Symth, Aborigines of Australia, i. 477, 478.

"That is the reason." Therewith native philosopy is satisfied, and does
not examine in Mr. Darwin's laborious manner the slow evolution of the
colour of the pelican's plumage. The mythological stories about animals
are rather difficult to treat, because they are so much mixed up with
the topic of totemism. Here we only examine myths which account by means
of a legend for certain peculiarities in the habits, cries, or colours
and shapes of animals. The Ojibbeways told Kohl they had a story for
every creature, accounting for its ways and appearance. Among the
Greeks, as among Australians and Bushmen, we find that nearly every
notable bird or beast had its tradition. The nightingale and the
swallow have a story of the most savage description, a story reported
by Apollodorus, though Homer(1) refers to another, and, as usual, to
a gentler and more refined form of the myth. Here is the version of
Apollodorus. "Pandion" (an early king of Athens) "married Zeuxippe, his
mother's sister, by whom he had two daughters, Procne and Philomela, and
two sons, Erechtheus and Butes. A war broke out with Labdas about some
debatable land, and Erechtheus invited the alliance of Tereus of Thrace,
the son of Ares. Having brought the war, with the aid of Tereus, to a
happy end, he gave him his daughter Procne to wife. By Procne, Tereus
had a son, Itys, and thereafter fell in love with Philomela, whom
he seduced, pretending that Procne was dead, whereas he had really
concealed her somewhere in his lands. Thereon he married Philomela, and
cut out her tongue. But she wove into a robe characters that told
the whole story, and by means of these acquainted Procne with her
sufferings. Thereon Procne found her sister, and slew Itys, her own son,
whose body she cooked, and served up to Tereus in a banquet. Thereafter
Procne and her sister fled together, and Tereus seized an axe and
followed after them. They were overtaken at Daulia in Phocis, and prayed
to the gods that they might be turned into birds. So Procne became the
nightingale, and Philomela the swallow, while Tereus was changed into a
hoopoe."(2) Pausanias has a different legend; Procne and Philomela died
of excessive grief.

(1) Odyssey, xix. 523.

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

These ancient men and women metamorphosed into birds were HONOURED AS
ANCESTORS by the Athenians.(1) Thus the unceasing musical wail of the
nightingale and the shrill cry of the swallow were explained by a
Greek story. The birds were lamenting their old human sorrow, as the
honey-bird in Africa still repeats the name of her lost son.

(1) Pausanias, i. v. Pausanias thinks such things no longer occur.

Why does the red-robin live near the dwellings of men, a bold and
friendly bird? The Chippeway Indians say he was once a young brave whose
father set him a task too cruel for his strength, and made him starve
too long when he reached man's estate. He turned into a robin, and said
to his father, "I shall always be the friend of man, and keep near their
dwellings. I could not gratify your pride as a warrior, but I will cheer
you by my songs."(1) The converse of this legend is the Greek myth of
the hawk. Why is the hawk so hated by birds? Hierax was a benevolent
person who succoured a race hated by Poseidon. The god therefore changed
him into a hawk, and made him as much detested by birds, and as fatal
to them, as he had been beloved by and gentle to men.(2) The Hervey
Islanders explain the peculiarities of several fishes by the share they
took in the adventures of Ina, who stamped, for example, on the sole,
and so flattened him for ever.(3) In Greece the dolphins were, according
to the Homeric hymn to Dionysus, metamorphosed pirates who had insulted
the god. But because the dolphin found the hidden sea-goddess whom
Poseidon loved, the dolphin, too, was raised by the grateful sea-god to
the stars.(4) The vulture and the heron, according to Boeo (said to have
been a priestess in Delphi and the author of a Greek treatise on the
traditions about birds), were once a man named Aigupios (vulture) and
his mother, Boulis. They sinned inadvertently, like Oedipus and Jocasta;
wherefore Boulis, becoming aware of the guilt, was about to put out the
eyes of her son and slay herself. Then they were changed, Boulis into
the heron, "which tears out and feeds on the eyes of snakes, birds and
fishes, and Aigupios into the vulture which bears his name". This
story, of which the more repulsive details are suppressed, is much less
pleasing and more savage than the Hervey Islanders' myth of the origin
of pigs. Maaru was an old blind man who lived with his son Kationgia.
There came a year of famine, and Kationgia had great difficulty in
finding food for himself and his father. He gave the blind old man
puddings of banana roots and fishes, while he lived himself on sea-slugs
and shellfish, like the people of Terra del Fuego. But blind old Maaru
suspected his son of giving him the worst share and keeping what was
best for himself. At last he discovered that Kationgia was really being
starved; he felt his body, and found that he was a mere living skeleton.
The two wept together, and the father made a feast of some cocoa-nuts
and bread-fruit, which he had reserved against the last extremity. When
all was finished, he said he had eaten his last meal and was about to
die. He ordered his son to cover him with leaves and grass, and return
to the spot in four days. If worms were crawling about, he was to throw
leaves and grass over them and come back four days later. Kationgia did
as he was instructed, and, on his second visit to the grave, found the
whole mass of leaves in commotion. A brood of pigs, black, white and
speckled, had sprung up from the soil; famine was a thing of the past,
and Kationgia became a great chief in the island.(5)

(1) Schoolcraft, ii. 229, 230.

(1) Boeo, quoted by Antoninus Liberalis.

(3) Gill, South Sea Myths, pp. 88-95.

(4) Artemidorus in his Love Elegies, quoted by the Pseud-Eratosthenes.

(5) Gill, Myths and Songs from South Pacific, pp. 135-138.

"The owl was a baker's daughter" is the fragment of Christian mythology
preserved by Ophelia. The baker's daughter behaved rudely to our Lord,
and was changed into the bird that looks not on the sun. The Greeks had
a similar legend of feminine impiety by which they mythically explained
the origin of the owl, the bat and the eagle-owl. Minyas of Orchomenos
had three daughters, Leucippe, Arsippe and Alcathoe, most industrious
women, who declined to join the wild mysteries of Dionysus. The god
took the shape of a maiden, and tried to win them to his worship. They
refused, and he assumed the form of a bull, a lion, and a leopard as
easily as the chiefs of the Abipones become tigers, or as the chiefs
among the African Barotse and Balonda metamorphose themselves into
lions and alligators.(1) The daughters of Minyas, in alarm, drew lots to
determine which of them should sacrifice a victim to the god. Leucippe
drew the lot and offered up her own son. They then rushed to join the
sacred rites of Dionysus, when Hermes transformed them into the bat,
the owl and the eagle-owl, and these three hide from the light of the

(1) Livingstone, Missionary Travels, pp. 615, 642.

(2) Nicander, quoted by Antoninus Liberalis.

A few examples of Bushman and Australian myths explanatory of the
colours and habits of animals will probably suffice to establish the
resemblance between savage and Hellenic legends of this character. The
Bushman myth about the origin of the eland (a large antelope) is not
printed in full by Dr. Bleek, but he observes that it "gives an account
of the reasons for the colours of the gemsbok, hartebeest, eland, quagga
and springbok".(1) Speculative Bushmen seem to have been puzzled to
account for the wildness of the eland. It would be much more convenient
if the eland were tame and could be easily captured. They explain
its wildness by saying that the eland was "spoiled" before Cagn, the
creator, or rather maker of most things, had quite finished it. Cagn's
relations came and hunted the first eland too soon, after which all
other elands grew wild. Cagn then said, "Go and hunt them and try to
kill one; that is now your work, for it was you who spoilt them".(2)
The Bushmen have another myth explanatory of the white patches on
the breasts of crows in their country. Some men tarried long at their
hunting, and their wives sent out crows in search of their husbands.
Round each crow's neck was hung a piece of fat to serve as food on the
journey. Hence the crows have white patches on breast and neck.

(1) Brief Account of Bushmen Folk-Lore, p. 7.

(2) Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

In Australia the origins of nearly all animals appear to be explained
in myths, of which a fair collection is printed in Mr. Brough Symth's
Aborigines of Victoria.(1) Still better examples occur in Mrs. Langloh
Parker's Australian Legends. Why is the crane so thin? Once he was a
man named Kar-ween, the second man fashioned out of clay by Pund-jel, a
singular creative being, whose chequered career is traced elsewhere in
our chapter on "Savage Myths of the Origin of the World and of Man".
Kar-ween and Pund-jel had a quarrel about the wives of the former,
whom Pund-jel was inclined to admire. The crafty Kar-ween gave a dance
(jugargiull, corobboree), at which the creator Pund-jel was disporting
himself gaily (like the Great Panjandrum), when Kar-ween pinned him with
a spear. Pund-jel threw another which took Kar-ween in the knee-joint,
so that he could not walk, but soon pined away and became a mere
skeleton. "Thereupon Pund-jel made Kar-ween a crane," and that is why
the crane has such attenuated legs. The Kortume, Munkari and Waingilhe,
now birds, were once men. The two latter behaved unkindly to their
friend Kortume, who shot them out of his hut in a storm of rain, singing
at the same time an incantation. The three then turned into birds, and
when the Kortume sings it is a token that rain may be expected.

(1) Vol. i. p. 426 et seq.

Let us now compare with these Australian myths of the origin of certain
species of birds the Greek story of the origin of frogs, as told by
Menecrates and Nicander.(1) The frogs were herdsmen metamorphosed by
Leto, the mother of Apollo. But, by way of showing how closely akin are
the fancies of Greeks and Australian black fellows, we shall tell the
legend without the proper names, which gave it a fictitious dignity.

(1) Antoninus Liberalis, xxxv.


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

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

Reasoning in this wise, the Mundas of Bengal thus account for
peculiarities of certain animals. Sing Bonga, the chief god, cast
certain people out of heaven; they fell to earth, found iron ore, and
began smelting it. The black smoke displeased Sing Bonga, who sent two
king crows and an owl to bid people cease to pollute the atmosphere.
But the iron smelters spoiled these birds' tails, and blackened the
previously white crow, scorched its beak red, and flattened its head.
Sing Bonga burned man, and turned woman into hills and waterspouts.(1)

(1) Dalton, pp. 186, 187.

Examples of this class of myth in Indo-Aryan literature are not hard
to find. Why is dawn red? Why are donkeys slow? Why have mules no young
ones? Mules have no foals because they were severely burned when Agni
(fire) drove them in a chariot race. Dawn is red, not because (as in
Australia) she wears a red kangaroo cloak, but because she competed in
this race with red cows for her coursers. Donkeys are slow because they
never recovered from their exertions in the same race, when the Asvins
called on their asses and landed themselves the winners.(1) And cows
are accommodated with horns for a reason no less probable and

(1) Aitareya Brahmana, ii. 272, iv. 9.

(2) iv. 17.

Though in the legends of the less developed peoples men and women are
more frequently metamorphosed into birds and beasts than into stones
and plants, yet such changes of form are by no means unknown. To the
north-east of Western Point there lies a range of hills, inhabited,
according to the natives of Victoria, by a creature whose body is made
of stone, and weapons make no wound in so sturdy a constitution. The
blacks refuse to visit the range haunted by the mythic stone beast.
"Some black fellows were once camped at the lakes near Shaving Point.
They were cooking their fish when a native dog came up. They did not
give him anything to eat. He became cross and said, 'You black fellows
have lots of fish, but you give me none'. So he changed them all into a
big rock. This is quite true, for the big rock is there to this day, and
I have seen it with my own eyes."(1) Another native, Toolabar, says that
the women of the fishing party cried out yacka torn, "very good". A dog
replied yacka torn, and they were all changed into rocks. This very man,
Toolabar, once heard a dog begin to talk, whereupon he and his father
fled. Had they waited they would have become stones. "We should have
been like it, wallung," that is, stones.

(1) Native narrator, ap. Brough Smyth, i. 479.

Among the North American Indians any stone which has a resemblance to
the human or animal figure is explained as an example of metamorphosis.
Three stones among the Aricaras were a girl, her lover and her dog, who
fled from home because the course of true love did not run smooth, and
who were petrified. Certain stones near Chinook Point were sea-giants
who swallowed a man. His brother, by aid of fire, dried up the bay and
released the man, still alive, from the body of the giant. Then the
giants were turned into rocks.(1) The rising sun in Popol Vuh (if the
evidence of Popol Vuh, the Quichua sacred book, is to be accepted)
changed into stone the lion, serpent and tiger gods. The Standing Rock
on the Upper Missouri is adored by the Indians, and decorated with
coloured ribbons and skins of animals. This stone was a woman, who, like
Niobe, became literally petrified with grief when her husband took a
second wife. Another stone-woman in a cave on the banks of the Kickapoo
was wont to kill people who came near her, and is even now approached
with great respect. The Oneidas and Dacotahs claim descent from stones
to which they ascribe animation.(2) Montesinos speaks of a sacred stone
which was removed from a mountain by one of the Incas. A parrot flew out
of it and lodged in another stone, which the natives still worship.(3)
The Breton myth about one of the great stone circles (the stones were
peasants who danced on a Sunday) is a well-known example of this kind
of myth surviving in folk-lore. There is a kind of stone Actaeon(4)
near Little Muniton Creek, "resembling the bust of a man whose head
is decorated with the horns of a stag".(5) A crowd of myths of
metamorphosis into stone will be found among the Iroquois legends in
Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1880-81. If men may become stones, on
the other hand, in Samoa (as in the Greek myth of Deucalion), stones
may become men.(6) Gods, too, especially when these gods happen to be
cuttlefish, might be petrified. They were chased in Samoa by an Upolu
hero, who caught them in a great net and killed them. "They were changed
into stones, and now stand up in a rocky part of the lagoon on the
north side of Upolu."(7) Mauke, the first man, came out of a stone.
In short,(8) men and stones and beasts and gods and thunder have
interchangeable forms. In Mangaia(9) the god Ra was tossed up into the
sky by Maui and became pumice-stone. Many samples of this petrified
deity are found in Mangaia. In Melanesia matters are so mixed that it is
not easy to decide whether a worshipful stone is the dwelling of a dead
man's soul or is of spiritual merit in itself, or whether "the stone is
the spirit's outward part or organ". The Vui, or spirit, has much the
same relations with snakes, owls and sharks.(10) Qasavara, the mythical
opponent of Qat, the Melanesian Prometheus, "fell dead from heaven"
(like Ra in Mangia), and was turned into a stone, on which sacrifices
are made by those who desire strength in fighting.

(1) See authorities ap. Dorman, Primitive Superstitions, pp. 130-138.

(2) Dorman, p. 133.

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

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

(5) Dorman, p. 137.

(6) Turner's Samoa, p. 299.

(7) Samoa, p. 31.

(8) Op. cit., p. 34.

(9) Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 60.

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

Without delaying longer among savage myths of metamorphosis into stones,
it may be briefly shown that the Greeks retained this with all the other
vagaries of early fancy. Every one remembers the use which Perseus made
of the Gorgon's head, and the stones on the coast of Seriphus, which,
like the stones near Western Point in Victoria, had once been men, the
enemies of the hero. "Also he slew the Gorgon," sings Pindar, "and bare
home her head, with serpent tresses decked, to the island folk a stony
death." Observe Pindar's explanatory remark: "I ween there is no marvel
impossible if gods have wrought thereto". In the same pious spirit a
Turk in an isle of the Levant once told Mr. Newton a story of how a man
hunted a stag, and the stag spoke to him. "The stag spoke?" said Mr.
Newton. "Yes, by Allah's will," replied the Turk. Like Pindar, he was
repeating an incident quite natural to the minds of Australians, or
Bushmen, or Samoans, or Red Men, but, like the religious Pindar, he
felt that the affair was rather marvellous, and accounted for it by
the exercise of omnipotent power.(1) The Greek example of Niobe and
her children may best be quoted in Mr. Bridges' translation from the

     And somewhere now, among lone mountain rocks
     On Sipylus, where couch the nymphs at night
     Who dance all day by Achelous' stream,
     The once proud mother lies, herself a rook,
     And in cold breast broods o'er the goddess' wrong.
                         --Prometheus the fire-bringer.(2)

In the Iliad it is added that Cronion made the people into stones. The
attitude of the later Greek mind towards these myths may be observed
in a fragment of Philemon, the comic poet. "Never, by the gods, have I
believed, nor will believe, that Niobe the stone was once a woman. Nay,
by reason of her calamities she became speechless, and so, from her
silence, was called a stone."(3)

(1) Pindar, Pyth. x., Myers's translation.

(2) xxiv. 611.

(3) The Scholiast on Iliad, xxiv. 6, 7.

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

As to interchange of shape between men and women and PLANTS, our
information, so far as the lower races are concerned, is less copious.
It has already been shown that the totems of many stocks in all parts
of the world are plants, and this belief in connection with a plant by
itself demonstrates that the confused belief in all things being on one
level has thus introduced vegetables into the dominion of myth. As far
as possessing souls is concerned, Mr. Tylor has proved that plants are
as well equipped as men or beasts or minerals.(1) In India the doctrine
of transmigration widely and clearly recognises the idea of trees or
smaller plants being animated by human souls. In the well-known ancient
Egyptian story of "The Two Brothers,"(2) the life of the younger is
practically merged in that of the acacia tree where he has hidden his
heart; and when he becomes a bull and is sacrificed, his spiritual part
passes into a pair of Persea trees. The Yarucaris of Bolivia say that a
girl once bewailed in the forest her loverless estate. She happened to
notice a beautiful tree, which she adorned with ornaments as well as she
might. The tree assumed the shape of a handsome young man--

     She did not find him so remiss,
     But, lightly issuing through,
     He did repay her kiss for kiss,
     With usury thereto.(3)

J. G. Muller, who quotes this tale from Andree, says it has "many
analogies with the tales of metamorphosis of human beings into trees
among the ancients, as reported by Ovid". The worship of plants and
trees is a well-known feature in religion, and probably implies
(at least in many cases) a recognition of personality. In Samoa,
metamorphosis into vegetables is not uncommon. For example, the king of
Fiji was a cannibal, and (very naturally) "the people were melting away
under him". The brothers Toa and Pale, wishing to escape the royal oven,
adopted various changes of shape. They knew that straight timber was
being sought for to make a canoe for the king, so Pale, when he assumed
a vegetable form, became a crooked stick overgrown with creepers, but
Toa "preferred standing erect as a handsome straight tree". Poor Toa
was therefore cut down by the king's shipwrights, though, thanks to
his brother's magic wiles, they did not make a canoe out of him after
all.(4) In Samoa the trees are so far human that they not only go to
war with each other, but actually embark in canoes to seek out distant
enemies.(5) The Ottawa Indians account for the origin of maize by a
myth in which a wizard fought with and conquered a little man who had a
little crown of feathers. From his ashes arose the maize with its crown
of leaves and heavy ears of corn.(6)

(1) Primitive Culture, i. 145; examples of Society Islanders, Dyaks,
Karens, Buddhists.

(2) Maspero, Contes Egyptiens, p. 25.

(3) J. G. Muller, Amerik. Urrel., p. 264.

(4) Turner's Samoa, p. 219.

(5) Ibid.. p. 213.

(6) Amerik. Urrel., p. 60.

In Mangaia the myth of the origin of the cocoa-nut tree is a series
of transformation scenes, in which the persons shift shapes with the
alacrity of medicine-men. Ina used to bathe in a pool where an eel
became quite familiar with her. At last the fish took courage and made
his declaration. He was Tuna, the chief of all eels. "Be mine," he
cried, and Ina was his. For some mystical reason he was obliged to leave
her, but (like the White Cat in the fairy tale) he requested her to cut
off his eel's head and bury it. Regretfully but firmly did Ina comply
with his request, and from the buried eel's head sprang two cocoa
trees, one from each half of the brain of Tuna. As a proof of this be it
remarked, that when the nut is husked we always find on it "the two
eyes and mouth of the lover of Ina".(1) All over the world, from ancient
Egypt to the wigwams of the Algonkins, plants and other matters are said
to have sprung from a dismembered god or hero, while men are said to
have sprung from plants.(2) We may therefore perhaps look on it as a
proved point that the general savage habit of "levelling up" prevails
even in their view of the vegetable world, and has left traces (as we
have seen) in their myths.

(1) Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 79.

(2) Myths of the Beginning of Things.

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

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

We may be asked again, "But how did this intellectual condition come to
exist?" To answer that is no part of our business; for us it is enough
to trace myth, or a certain element in myth, to a demonstrable and
actual stage of thought. But this stage, which is constantly found to
survive in the minds of children, is thus explained or described by Hume
in his Essay on Natural Religion: "There is an universal tendency in
mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every
object those qualities... of which they are intimately conscious".(1)
Now they believe themselves to be conscious of magical and supernatural
powers, which they do not, of course, possess. These powers of effecting
metamorphosis, of "shape-shifting," of flying, of becoming invisible
at will, of conversing with the dead, of miraculously healing the sick,
savages pass on to their gods (as will be shown in a later chapter),
and the gods of myth survive and retain the miraculous gifts after their
worshippers (become more reasonable) have quite forgotten that they
themselves once claimed similar endowments. So far, then, it has
been shown that savage fancy, wherever studied, is wild; that savage
curiosity is keen; that savage credulity is practically boundless. These
considerations explain the existence of savage myths of sun, stars,
beasts, plants and stones; similar myths fill Greek legend and the
Sanskrit Brahmanes. We conclude that, in Greek and Sanskrit, the myths
are relics (whether borrowed or inherited) of the savage mental STATUS.

(1) See Appendix B.


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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Macrobius, Saturnal., i. xx.

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

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

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

In Southern Australia we learn that the Boonoorong, an Australian
coast tribe, ascribe the creation of things to a being named Bun-jel or
Pund-jel. He figures as the chief of an earlier supernatural class of
existence, with human relationships; thus he "has a wife, WHOSE FACE HE
HAS NEVER SEEN," brothers, a son, and so on. Now this name Bun-jel means
"eagle-hawk," and the eagle-hawk is a totem among certain stocks. Thus,
when we hear that Eagle-hawk is the maker of men and things we are
reminded of the Bushman creator, Cagn, who now receives prayers of
considerable beauty and pathos, but who is (in some theories) identified
with kaggen, the mantis insect, a creative grasshopper, and the chief
figure in Bushman mythology.(1) Bun-jel or Pund-jel also figures in
Australian belief, neither as the creator nor as the eagle-hawk, but
"as an old man who lives at the sources of the Yarra river, where he
possesses great multitudes of cattle".(2) The term Bun-jel is also
used, much like our "Mr.," to denote the older men of the Kurnai and
Briakolung, some of whom have magical powers. One of them, Krawra, or
"West Wind," can cause the wind to blow so violently as to prevent the
natives from climbing trees; this man has semi-divine attributes. From
these facts it appears that this Australian creator, in myth, partakes
of the character of the totem or worshipful beast, and of that of the
wizard or medicine-man. He carried a large knife, and, when he made
the earth, he went up and down slicing it into creeks and valleys. The
aborigines of the northern parts of Victoria seem to believe in Pund-jel
in what may perhaps be his most primitive mythical shape, that of an
eagle.(3) This eagle and a crow created everything, and separated the
Murray blacks into their two main divisions, which derive their names
from the crow and the eagle. The Melbourne blacks seem to make Pund-jel
more anthropomorphic. Men are his (Greek text omitted) figures kneaded
of clay, as Aristophanes says in the Birds. Pund-jel made two clay
images of men, and danced round them. "He made their hair--one had
straight, one curly hair--of bark. He danced round them. He lay on them,
and breathed his breath into their mouths, noses and navels, and danced
round them. Then they arose full-grown young men." Some blacks seeing a
brickmaker at work on a bridge over the Yarra exclaimed, "Like 'em that
Pund-jel make 'em Koolin". But other blacks prefer to believe that, as
Pindar puts the Phrygian legend, the sun saw men growing like trees.

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

(2) Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 210.

(3) Brough Smyth, Natives of Victoria, vol. i. p. 423.

The first man was formed out of the gum of a wattle-tree, and came out
of the knot of a wattle-tree. He then entered into a young woman (though
he was the first man) and was born.(1) The Encounter Bay people have
another myth, which might have been attributed by Dean Swift to the
Yahoos, so foul an origin does it allot to mankind.

(1) Meyer, Aborigines of Encounter Bay. See, later, "Gods of the Lowest

Australian myths of creation are by no means exclusive of a hypothesis
of evolution. Thus the Dieyrie, whose notions Mr. Gason has recorded,
hold a very mixed view. They aver that "the good spirit" Moora-Moora
made a number of small black lizards, liked them, and promised them
dominion. He divided their feet into toes and fingers, gave them noses
and lips, and set them upright. Down they fell, and Moora-Moora cut off
their tails. Then they walked erect and were men.(1) The conclusion of
the adventures of one Australian creator is melancholy. He has ceased to
dwell among mortals whom he watches and inspires. The Jay possessed many
bags full of wind; he opened them, and Pund-jel was carried up by the
blast into the heavens. But this event did not occur before Pund-jel had
taught men and women the essential arts of life. He had shown the former
how to spear kangaroos, he still exists and inspires poets. From the
cosmogonic myths of Australia (the character of some of which is in
contradiction with the higher religious belief of the people to be
later described) we may turn, without reaching a race of much higher
civilisation, to the dwellers in the Andaman Islands and their opinions
about the origin of things.

(1) Gason's Dieyries, ap. Native Tribes of South Australia, p. 20.

The Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, are remote from any shores,
and are protected from foreign influences by dangerous coral reefs,
and by the reputed ferocity and cannibalism of the natives. These are
Negritos, and are commonly spoken of as most abject savages. They are
not, however, without distinctions of rank; they are clean, modest,
moral after marriage, and most strict in the observance of prohibited
degrees. Unlike the Australians, they use bows and arrows, but are
said to be incapable of striking a light, and, at all events, find the
process so difficult that, like the Australians and the farmer in the
Odyssey,(1) they are compelled "to hoard the seeds of fire". Their
mythology contains explanations of the origin of men and animals, and of
their own customs and language.

(1) Odyssey, v. 490.

The Andamanese, long spoken of as "godless," owe much to Mr. Man, an
English official, who has made a most careful study of their beliefs.(1)
So extraordinary is the contradiction between the relative purity
and morality of the RELIGION and the savagery of the myths of the
Andamanese, that, in the first edition of this work, I insisted that
the "spiritual god" of the faith must have been "borrowed from the same
quarter as the stone house" in which he is mythically said to live. But
later and wider study, and fresh information from various quarters, have
convinced me that the relative purity of Andamanese religion, with its
ethical sanction of conduct, may well be, and probably is, a natural
unborrowed development. It is easy for MYTH to borrow the notion of a
stone house from our recent settlement at Port Blair. But it would not
be easy for RELIGION to borrow many new ideas from an alien creed, in
a very few years, while the noted ferocity of the islanders towards
strangers, and the inaccessibility of their abode, makes earlier
borrowing, on a large scale at least, highly improbable. The Andamanese
god, Puluga, is "like fire" but invisible, unborn and immortal, knowing
and punishing or rewarding, men's deeds, even "the thoughts of their
hearts". But when once mythical fancy plays round him, and stories are
told about him, he is credited with a wife who is an eel or a shrimp,
just as Zeus made love as an ant or a cuckoo. Puluga was the maker of
men; no particular myth as to how he made them is given. They tried to
kill him, after the deluge (of which a grotesque myth is told), but
he replied that he was "as hard as wood". His legend is in the usual
mythical contradiction with the higher elements in his religion.

(1) Journ. Anthrop. Soc., vol. xii. p. 157 et seq.

Leaving the Andaman islanders, but still studying races in the lowest
degree of civilisation, we come to the Bushmen of South Africa. This
very curious and interesting people, far inferior in material equipment
to the Hottentots, is sometimes regarded as a branch of that race.(1)
The Hottentots call themselves "Khoi-khoi," the Bushmen they style "Sa".
The poor Sa lead the life of pariahs, and are hated and chased by all
other natives of South Africa. They are hunters and diggers for roots,
while the Hottentots, perhaps their kinsmen, are cattle-breeders.(2)
Being so ill-nourished, the Bushmen are very small, but sturdy. They
dwell in, or rather wander through, countries which have been touched
by some ancient civilisation, as is proved by the mysterious mines
and roads of Mashonaland. It is singular that the Bushmen possess a
tradition according to which they could once "make stone things that
flew over rivers". They have remarkable artistic powers, and their
drawings of men and animals on the walls of caves are often not inferior
to the designs on early Greek vases.(3)

(1) See "Divine Myths of the Lower Races".

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

(3) Custom and Myth, where illustrations of Bushman art are given, pp.

Thus we must regard the Bushmen as possibly degenerated from a higher
status, though there is nothing (except perhaps the tradition about
bridge-making) to show that it was more exalted than that of their
more prosperous neighbours, the Hottentots. The myths of the Bushmen,
however, are almost on the lowest known level. A very good and authentic
example of Bushman cosmogonic myth was given to Mr. Orpen, chief
magistrate of St. John's territory, by Qing, King Nqusha's huntsman.
Qing "had never seen a white man, but in fighting," till he became
acquainted with Mr. Orpen.(1) The chief force in Bushmen myth is by Dr.
Bleek identified with the mantis, a sort of large grasshopper. Though he
seems at least as "chimerical a beast" as the Aryan creative boar, the
"mighty big hare" of the Algonkins, the large spider who made the
world in the opinion of the Gold Coast people, or the eagle of the
Australians, yet the insect (if insect he be), like the others, has
achieved moral qualities and is addressed in prayer. In his religious
aspect he is nothing less than a grasshopper. He is called Cagn. "Cagn
made all things and we pray to him," said Qing. "Coti is the wife of
Cagn." Qing did not know where they came from; "perhaps with the men who
brought the sun". The fact is, Qing "did not dance that dance," that is,
was not one of the Bushmen initiated into the more esoteric mysteries
of Cagn. Till we, too, are initiated, we can know very little of Cagn in
his religious aspect. Among the Bushmen, as among the Greeks, there is
"no religious mystery without dancing". Qing was not very consistent.
He said Cagn gave orders and caused all things to appear and to be made,
sun, moon, stars, wind, mountains, animals, and this, of course, is a
lofty theory of creation. Elsewhere myth avers that Cagn did not so
much create as manufacture the objects in nature. In his early day "the
snakes were also men". Cagn struck snakes with his staff and turned them
into men, as Zeus, in the Aeginetan myth, did with ants. He also turned
offending men into baboons. In Bushman myth, little as we really know
of it, we see the usual opposition of fable and faith, a kind creator in
religion is apparently a magician in myth.

(1) Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

Neighbours of the Bushmen, but more fortunate in their wealth of sheep
and cattle, are the Ovaherero. The myths of the Ovaherero, a tribe
dwelling in a part of Hereraland "which had not yet been under the
influence of civilisation and Christianity," have been studied by the
Rev. H. Reiderbecke, missionary at Otyozondyupa. The Ovaherero, he says,
have a kind of tree Ygdrasil, a tree out of which men are born, and
this plays a great part in their myth of creation. The tree, which still
exists, though at a great age, is called the Omumborombonga tree. Out of
it came, in the beginning, the first man and woman. Oxen stepped
forth from it too, but baboons, as Caliban says of the stars, "came
otherwise," and sheep and goats sprang from a flat rock. Black people
are so coloured, according to the Ovaherero, because when the first
parents emerged from the tree and slew an ox, the ancestress of the
blacks appropriated the black liver of the victim. The Ovakuru Meyuru or
"OLD ONES in heaven," once let the skies down with a run, but drew them
up again (as the gods of the Satapatha Brahmana drew the sun) when most
of mankind had been drowned.(1) The remnant pacified the OLD ONES (as
Odysseus did the spirits of the dead) by the sacrifice of a BLACK ewe, a
practice still used to appease ghosts by the Ovaherero. The neighbouring
Omnambo ascribe the creation of man to Kalunga, who came out of the
earth, and made the first three sheep.(2)

(1) An example of a Deluge myth in Africa, where M. Lenormant found

(2) South African Folk-Lore Journal, ii. pt. v. p. 95.

Among the Namaquas, an African people on the same level of nomadic
culture as the Ovaherero, a divine or heroic early being called Heitsi
Eibib had a good deal to do with the origin of things. If he did not
exactly make the animals, he impressed on them their characters, and
their habits (like those of the serpent in Genesis) are said to have
been conferred by a curse, the curse of Heitsi Eibib. A precisely
similar notion was found by Avila among the Indians of Huarochiri, whose
divine culture-hero imposed, by a curse or a blessing, their character
and habits on the beasts.(1) The lion used to live in a nest up a tree
till Heitsi Eibib cursed him and bade him walk on the ground. He also
cursed the hare, "and the hare ran away, and is still running".(2) The
name of the first man is given as Eichaknanabiseb (with a multitude of
"clicks"), and he is said to have met all the animals on a flat rock,
and played a game with them for copper beads. The rainbow was made by
Gaunab, who is generally a malevolent being, of whom more hereafter.

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

(2) Tsuni Goam, pp. 66, 67.

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

The social and political condition of the Zulu is well understood. They
are a pastoral, but not a nomadic people, possessing large kraals or
towns. They practise agriculture, and they had, till quite recently, a
centralised government and a large army, somewhat on the German system.
They appear to have no regular class of priests, and supernatural power
is owned by the chiefs and the king, and by diviners and sorcerers, who
conduct the sacrifices. Their myths are the more interesting because,
whether from their natural scepticism, which confuted Bishop Colenso in
his orthodox days, or from acquaintance with European ideas, they have
begun to doubt the truth of their own traditions.(1) The Zulu theory
of the origin of man and of the world commences with the feats of
Unkulunkulu, "the old, old one," who, in some legends, was the first
man, "and broke off in the beginning". Like Manabozho among the Indians
of North America, and like Wainamoinen among the Finns, Unkulunkulu
imparted to men a knowledge of the arts, of marriage, and so forth. His
exploits in this direction, however, must be considered in another part
of this work. Men in general "came out of a bed of reeds".(2) But there
is much confusion about this bed of reeds, named "Uthlanga". The younger
people ask where the bed of reeds was; the old men do not know, and
neither did their fathers know. But they stick to it that "that bed of
reeds still exists". Educated Zulus appear somewhat inclined to take the
expression in an allegorical sense, and to understand the reeds either
as a kind of protoplasm or as a creator who was mortal. "He exists no
longer. As my grandfather no longer exists, he too no longer exists;
he died." Chiefs who wish to claim high descent trace their pedigree to
Uthlanga, as the Homeric kings traced theirs to Zeus. The myths given by
Dr. Callaway are very contradictory.

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

(2) Callaway, p. 9.

In addition to the legend that men came out of a bed of reeds, other and
perhaps even more puerile stories are current. "Some men say that they
were belched up by a cow;" others "that Unkulunkulu split them out of
a stone,"(1) which recalls the legend of Pyrrha and Deucalion. The myth
about the cow is still applied to great chiefs. "He was not born; he was
belched up by a cow." The myth of the stone origin corresponds to the
Homeric saying about men "born from the stone or the oak of the old

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

(2) Odyssey, xix. 103.

In addition to the theory of the natal bed of reeds, the Zulus, like
the Navajoes of New Mexico, and the Bushmen, believe in the subterranean
origin of man. There was a succession of emigrations from below of
different tribes of men, each having its own Unkulunkulu. All accounts
agree that Unkulunkulu is not worshipped, and he does not seem to
be identified with "the lord who plays in heaven"--a kind of fading
Zeus--when there is thunder. Unkulunkulu is not worshipped, though
ancestral spirits are worshipped, because he lived so long ago that no
one can now trace his pedigree to the being who is at once the first man
and the creator. His "honour-giving name is lost in the lapse of years,
and the family rites have become obsolete."(1)

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

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

The original facts about religion in America are much disputed, and
will be more appropriately treated later. It is now very usual for
anthropologists to say, like Mr. Dorman, "no approach to monotheismn had
been made before the discovery of America by Europeans, and the
Great Spirit mentioned in these (their) books is an introduction by
Christianity".(1) "This view will not bear examination," says Mr. Tylor,
and we shall later demonstrate the accuracy of his remark.(2) But at
present we are concerned, not with what Indian religion had to say about
her Gods, but with what Indian myth had to tell about the beginnings of

(1) Origin of Primitive Superstitions, p. 15.

(2) Primitive Culture, 1873, ii. p. 340.

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

They recognise as the founder of their kindred a woman named Ataentsic,
who, like Hephaestus in the Iliad, was banished from the sky. In the
upper world there are woods and plains, as on earth. Ataentsic fell down
a hole when she was hunting a bear, or she cut down a heaven-tree, and
fell with the fall of this Huron Ygdrasil, or she was seduced by an
adventurer from the under world, and was tossed out of heaven for her
fault. However it chanced, she dropped on the back of the turtle in the
midst of the waters. He consulted the other aquatic animals, and one of
them, generally said to have been the musk-rat, fished(1) up some soil
and fashioned the earth.(2) Here Ataentsic gave birth to twins, Ioskeha
and Tawiscara. These represent the usual dualism of myth; they answer
to Osiris and Set, to Ormuzd and Ahriman, and were bitter enemies.
According to one form of the myth, the woman of the sky had twins, and
what occurred may be quoted from Dr. Brinton. "Even before birth one of
them betrayed his restless and evil nature by refusing to be born in
the usual manner, but insisting on breaking through his parent's side
or arm-pit. He did so, but it cost his mother her life. Her body was
buried, and from it sprang the various vegetable productions," pumpkins,
maize, beans, and so forth.(3)

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

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

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

According to another version of the origin of things, the maker of them
was one Michabous, or Michabo, the Great Hare. His birthplace was shown
at an island called Michilimakinak, like the birthplace of Apollo at
Delos. The Great Hare made the earth, and, as will afterwards appear,
was the inventor of the arts of life. On the whole, the Iroquois and
Algonkin myths agree in finding the origin of life in an upper world
beyond the sky. The earth was either fished up (as by Brahma when he
dived in the shape of a boar) by some beast which descended to the
bottom of the waters, or grew out of the tortoise on whose back
Ataentsic fell. The first dwellers in the world were either beasts like
Manabozho or Michabo, the Great Hare, or the primeval wolves of the
Uinkarets,(1) or the creative musk-rat, or were more anthropomorphic
heroes, such as Ioskeha and Tawiscara. As for the things in the world,
some were made, some evolved, some are transformed parts of an early
non-natural man or animal. There is a tendency to identify Ataentsic,
the sky-woman, with the moon, and in the Two Great Brethren, hostile as
they are, to recognise moon and sun.(2)

(1) Powell, Bureau of Ethnology, i. 44.

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

Some of the degraded Digger Indians of California have the following
myth of the origin of species. In this legend, it will be noticed, a
species of evolution takes the place of a theory of creation. The story
was told to Mr. Adam Johnston, who "drew" the narrator by communicating
to a chief the Biblical narrative of the creation.(1) The chief said it
was a strange story, and one that he had never heard when he lived at
the Mission of St. John under the care of a Padre. According to this
chief (he ruled over the Po-to-yan-te tribe or Coyotes), the first
Indians were coyotes. When one of their number died, his body became
full of little animals or spirits. They took various shapes, as of deer,
antelopes, and so forth; but as some exhibited a tendency to fly off to
the moon, the Po-to-yan-tes now usually bury the bodies of their dead,
to prevent the extinction of species. Then the Indians began to assume
the shape of man, but it was a slow transformation. At first they
walked on all fours, then they would begin to develop an isolated human
feature, one finger, one toe, one eye, like the ascidian, our first
parent in the view of modern science. Then they doubled their organs,
got into the habit of sitting up, and wore away their tails, which they
unaffectedly regret, "as they consider the tail quite an ornament".
Ideas of the immortality of the soul are said to be confined to the old
women of the tribe, and, in short, according to this version, the Digger
Indians occupy the modern scientific position.

(1) Schoolcraft, vol. v.

The Winnebagoes, who communicated their myths to Mr. Fletcher,(1) are
suspected of having been influenced by the Biblical narrative. They say
that the Great Spirit woke up as from a dream, and found himself sitting
in a chair. As he was all alone, he took a piece of his body and a piece
of earth, and made a man. He next made a woman, steadied the earth
by placing beasts beneath it at the corners, and created plants and
animals. Other men he made out of bears. "He created the white man
to make tools for the poor Indians"--a very pleasing example of
a teleological hypothesis and of the doctrine of final causes as
understood by the Winnebagoes. The Chaldean myth of the making of man is
recalled by the legend that the Great Spirit cut out a piece of
himself for the purpose; the Chaldean wisdom coincides, too, with the
philosophical acumen of the Po-to-yan-te or Coyote tribe of Digger
Indians. Though the Chaldean theory is only connected with that of the
Red Men by its savagery, we may briefly state it in this place.

(1) Ibid., iv. 228.

According to Berosus, as reported by Alexander Polyhistor, the universe
was originally (as before Manabozho's time) water and mud. Herein all
manner of mixed monsters, with human heads, goat's horns, four legs,
and tails, bred confusedly. In place of the Iroquois Ataentsic, a woman
called Omoroca presided over the mud and the menagerie. She, too, like
Ataentsic, is sometimes recognised as the moon. Affairs being in this
state, Bel-Maruduk arrived and cut Omoroca in two (Chokanipok destroyed
Ataentsic), and out of Omoroca Bel made the world and the things in it.
We have already seen that in savage myth many things are fashioned out
of a dead member of the extra-natural race. Lastly, Bel cut his own head
off, and with the blood the gods mixed clay and made men. The Chaldeans
inherited very savage fancies.(1)

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

One ought, perhaps, to apologise to the Chaldeans for inserting their
myths among the fables of the least cultivated peoples; but it will
scarcely be maintained that the Oriental myths differ in character from
the Digger Indian and Iroquois explanations of the origin of things. The
Ahts of Vancouver Island, whom Mr. Sproat knew intimately, and of whose
ideas he gives a cautious account (for he was well aware of the limits
of his knowledge), tell a story of the usual character.(1) They believe
in a member of the extra-natural race, named Quawteaht, of whom we shall
hear more in his heroic character. As a demiurge "he is undoubtedly
represented as the general framer, I do not say creator, of all things,
though some special things are excepted. He made the earth and water,
the trees and rocks, and all the animals. Some say that Quawteaht made
the sun and moon, but the majority of the Indians believe that he had
nothing to do with their formation, and that they are deities superior
to himself, though now distant and less active. He gave names to
everything; among the rest, to all the Indian houses which then existed,
although inhabited only by birds and animals. Quawteaht went away before
the apparent change of the birds and beasts into Indians, which took
place in the following manner:--

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

(1) Sproat, Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, pp. 210, 211.

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

The country of the Papagos, on the eastern side of the Gulf of
California, is the southern boundary of the province of the coyote or
prairie wolf. The realm of his influence as a kind of Prometheus, or
even as a demiurge, extends very far northwards. In the myth related by
Con Quien, the chief of the central Papagos,(1) the coyote acts the
part of the fish in the Sanskrit legend of the flood, while Montezuma
undertakes the role of Manu. This Montezuma was formed, like the Adams
of so many races, out of potter's clay in the hands of the Great Spirit.
In all this legend it seems plain enough that the name of Montezuma is
imported from Mexico, and has been arbitrarily given to the hero of the
Papagos. According to Mr. Powers, whose manuscript notes Mr. Bancroft
quotes (iii. 87), all the natives of California believe that their
first ancestors were created directly from the earth of their present
dwelling-places, and in very many cases these ancestors were coyotes.

(1) Davidson, Indian Affairs Report, 1865, p. 131; Bancroft, iii. 75.

The Pimas, a race who live near the Papagos on the eastern coast of
the Gulf of California, say that the earth was made by a being named
Earth-prophet. At first it appeared like a spider's web, reminding one
of the West African legend that a great spider created the world.
Man was made by the Earth-prophet out of clay kneaded with sweat. A
mysterious eagle and a deluge play a great part in the later mythical
adventures of war and the world, as known to the Pimas.(1)

(1) Communicated to Mr. Bancroft by Mr. Stout of the Pima Agency.

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

These semi-divine people were called Ulhaipa by the Chinooks, and
Sehuiab by the Lummies. But the coyote was the maker of men. As the
first of Nature's journeymen, he made men rather badly, with closed eyes
and motionless feet. A kind being, named Ikanam, touched up the coyote's
crude essays with a sharp stone, opening the eyes of men, and giving
their hands and feet the powers of movement. He also acted as a
"culture-hero," introducing the first arts. (1)

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

Moving up the West Pacific coast we reach British Columbia, where the
coyote is not supposed to have been so active as our old friend the
musk-rat in the great work of the creation. According to the Tacullies,
nothing existed in the beginning but water and a musk-rat. As the animal
sought his food at the bottom of the water, his mouth was frequently
filled with mud. This he spat out, and so gradually formed by alluvial
deposit an island. This island was small at first, like earth in the
Sanskrit myth in the Satapatha Brahmana, but gradually increased in
bulk. The Tacullies have no new light to throw on the origin of man.(1)

(1) Bancroft, iii. 98; Harmon's Journey, pp. 302, 303.

The Thlinkeets, who are neighbours of the Tacullies on the north,
incline to give crow or raven the chief role in the task of creation,
just as some Australians allot the same part to the eagle-hawk, and the
Yakuts to a hawk, a crow and a teal-duck. We shall hear much of
Yehl later, as one of the mythical heroes of the introduction of
civilisation. North of the Thlinkeets, a bird and a dog take the
creative duties, the Aleuts and Koniagas being descended from a dog.
Among the more northern Tinnehs, the dog who was the progenitor of the
race had the power of assuming the shape of a handsome young man. He
supplied the protoplasm of the Tinnehs, as Purusha did that of the Aryan
world, out of his own body. A giant tore him to pieces, as the gods tore
Purusha, and out of the fragments thrown into the rivers came fish, the
fragments tossed into the air took life as birds, and so forth.(1) This
recalls the Australian myth of the origin of fish and the Ananzi stories
of the origin of whips.(2)

(1) Hearne, pp. 342, 343; Bancroft, iii. 106.

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

Between the cosmogonic myths of the barbarous or savage American tribes
and those of the great cultivated American peoples, Aztecs, Peruvians
and Quiches, place should be found for the legends of certain races
in the South Pacific. Of these, the most important are the Maoris or
natives of New Zealand, the Mangaians and the Samoans. Beyond the usual
and world-wide correspondences of myth, the divine tales of the various
South Sea isles display resemblances so many and essential that they
must be supposed to spring from a common and probably not very distant
centre. As it is practically impossible to separate Maori myths of the
making of things from Maori myths of the gods and their origin, we must
pass over here the metaphysical hymns and stories of the original
divine beings, Rangi and Papa, Heaven and Earth, and of their cruel but
necessary divorce by their children, who then became the usual Titanic
race which constructs and "airs" the world for the reception of man.(1)
Among these beings, more fully described in our chapter on the gods
of the lower races, is Tiki, with his wife Marikoriko, twilight. Tane
(male) is another of the primordial race, children of earth and heaven,
and between him and Tiki lies the credit of having made or begotten
humanity. Tane adorned the body of his father, heaven (Rangi), by
sticking stars all over it, as disks of pearl-shells are stuck all
over images. He was the parent of trees and birds, but some trees are
original and divine beings. The first woman was not born, but formed out
of the sun and the echo, a pretty myth. Man was made by Tiki, who took
red clay, and kneaded it with his own blood, or with the red water of
swamps. The habits of animals, some of which are gods, while others are
descended from gods, follow from their conduct at the moment when heaven
and earth were violently divorced. New Zealand itself, or at least one
of the isles, was a huge fish caught by Maui (of whom more hereafter).
Just as Pund-jel, in Australia, cut out the gullies and vales with his
knife, so the mountains and dells of New Zealand were produced by the
knives of Maui's brothers when they crimped his big fish.(2) Quite apart
from those childish ideas are the astonishing metaphysical hymns about
the first stirrings of light in darkness, of "becoming" and "being,"
which remind us of Hegel and Heraclitus, or of the most purely
speculative ideas in the Rig-Veda.(3) Scarcely less metaphysical are the
myths of Mangaia, of which Mr. Gill(4) gives an elaborate account.

(1) See "Divine Myths of Lower Races".

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

(3) See chapter on "Divine Myths of the Lower Races," and on "Indian
Cosmogonic Myths"

(4) Myths and Songs from the South Pacific, pp. 1-22.

The Mangaian ideas of the world are complex, and of an early scientific
sort. The universe is like the hollow of a vast cocoa-nut shell, divided
into many imaginary circles like those of mediaeval speculation. There
is a demon at the stem, as it were, of the cocoa-nut, and, where the
edges of the imaginary shell nearly meet, dwells a woman demon, whose
name means "the very beginning". In this system we observe efforts at
metaphysics and physical speculation. But it is very characteristic
of rude thought that such extremely abstract conceptions as "the very
beginning" are represented as possessing life and human form. The
woman at the bottom of the shell was anxious for progeny, and therefore
plucked a bit out of her own right side, as Eve was made out of the rib
of Adam. This piece of flesh became Vatea, the father of gods and men.
Vatea (like Oannes in the Chaldean legend) was half man, half fish. "The
Very Beginning" begat other children in the same manner, and some
of these became departmental gods of ocean, noon-day, and so forth.
Curiously enough, the Mangaians seem to be sticklers for primogeniture.
Vatea, as the first-born son, originally had his domain next above
that of his mother. But she was pained by the thought that his younger
brothers each took a higher place than his; so she pushed his land
up, and it is now next below the solid crust on which mortals live in
Mangaia. Vatea married a woman from one of the under worlds named Papa,
and their children had the regular human form. One child was born either
from Papa's head, like Athene from the head of Zeus, or from her armpit,
like Dionysus from the thigh of Zeus. Another child may be said, in the
language of dog-breeders, to have "thrown back," for he wears the form
of a white or black lizard. In the Mangaian system the sky is a solid
vault of blue stone. In the beginning of things the sky (like Ouranos in
Greece and Rangi in New Zealand) pressed hard on earth, and the god Ru
was obliged to thrust the two asunder, or rather he was engaged in this
task when Maui tossed both Ru and the sky so high up that they never
came down again. Ru is now the Atlas of Mangaia, "the sky-supporting
Ru".(1) His lower limbs fell to earth, and became pumice-stone. In these
Mangaian myths we discern resemblances to New Zealand fictions, as
is natural, and the tearing of the body of "the Very Beginning" has
numerous counterparts in European, American and Indian fable. But on the
whole, the Mangaian myths are more remarkable for their semi-scientific
philosophy than for their coincidences with the fancies of other early

(1) Gill, p. 59.

The Samoans, like the Maoris and Greeks, hold that heaven at first fell
down and lay upon earth.(1) The arrowroot and another plant pushed up
heaven, and "the heaven-pushing place" is still known and pointed out.
Others say the god Ti-iti-i pushed up heaven, and his feet made holes
six feet deep in the rocks during this exertion. The other Samoan myths
chiefly explain the origin of fire, and the causes of the characteristic
forms and habits of animals and plants. The Samoans, too, possess
a semi-mythical, metaphysical cosmogony, starting from NOTHING, but
rapidly becoming the history of rocks, clouds, hills, dew and various
animals, who intermarried, and to whom the royal family of Samoa trace
their origin through twenty-three generations. So personal are Samoan
abstract conceptions, that "SPACE had a long-legged stool," on to which
a head fell, and grew into a companion for Space. Yet another myth says
that the god Tangaloa existed in space, and made heaven and earth, and
sent down his daughter, a snipe. Man he made out of the mussel-fish. So
confused are the doctrines of the Samoans.(2)

(1) Turner's Samoa, p. 198.

(2) Turner's Samoa, pp. 1-9.

Perhaps the cosmogonic myths of the less cultivated races have now been
stated in sufficient number. As an example of the ideas which prevailed
in an American race of higher culture, we may take the Quiche legend as
given in the Popol Vuh, a post-Christian collection of the sacred myths
of the nation, written down after the Spanish conquest, and published in
French by the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg.(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the gods we return later. The myths of the origin of things may
be studied without a knowledge of the whole Aztec Pantheon. Our
authorities, though numerous, lack complete originality and are
occasionally confused. We have first the Aztec monuments and
hieroglyphic scrolls, for the most part undeciphered. These merely
attest the hideous and cruel character of the deities. Next we have the
reports of early missionaries, like Sahagun and Mendieta, of conquerors,
like Bernal Diaz, and of noble half-breeds, such as Ixtlilxochitl.(1)

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

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

Both strata of belief are represented in the surviving cosmogonic
myths of the Aztecs. Probably we may reckon in the first or learned and
speculative class of tales the account of a series of constructions and
reconstructions of the world. This idea is not peculiar to the higher
mythologies, the notion of a deluge and recreation or renewal of things
is almost universal, and even among the untutored Australians there are
memories of a flood and of an age of ruinous winds. But the theory of
definite epochs, calculated in accordance with the Mexican calendar,
of epochs in which things were made and re-made, answers closely to
the Indo-Aryan conception of successive kalpas, and can only have been
developed after the method of reckoning time had been carried to some
perfection. "When heaven and earth were fashioned, they had already been
four times created and destroyed," say the fragments of what is called
the Chimalpopoca manuscript. Probably this theory of a series of kalpas
is only one of the devices by which the human mind has tried to cheat
itself into the belief that it can conceive a beginning of things. The
earth stands on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, and it is going
too far to ask what the tortoise stands on. In the same way the world's
beginning seems to become more intelligible or less puzzling when it is
thrown back into a series of beginnings and endings. This method also
was in harmony with those vague ideas of evolution and of the survival
of the fittest which we have detected in myth. The various tentative
human races of the Popol Vuh degenerated or were destroyed because they
did not fulfil the purposes for which they were made. In Brahmanic myth
we shall see that type after type was condemned and perished because it
was inadequate, or inadequately equipped--because it did not harmonise
with its environment.(1) For these series of experimental creations and
inefficient evolutions vast spaces of time were required, according to
the Aztec and Indo-Aryan philosophies. It is not impossible that actual
floods and great convulsions of nature may have been remembered
in tradition, and may have lent colour and form to these somewhat
philosophic myths of origins. From such sources probably comes the
Mexican hypothesis of a water-age (ending in a deluge), an earth-age
(ending in an earthquake), a wind-age (ending in hurricanes), and the
present dispensation, to be destroyed by fire.

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

The less philosophic and more popular Aztec legend of the commencement
of the world is mainly remarkable for the importance given in it to
objects of stone. For some reason, stones play a much greater part in
American than in other mythologies. An emerald was worshipped in the
temple of Pachacamac, who was, according to Garcilasso, the supreme and
spiritual deity of the Incas. The creation legend of the Cakchiquels of
Guatemala(1) makes much of a mysterious, primeval and animated obsidian
stone. In the Iroquois myths(2) stones are the leading characters. Nor
did Aztec myth escape this influence.

(1) Brinton, Annals of the Cakchiquels.

(2) Erminie Smith, Bureau of Ethnol. Report, ii.

There was a god in heaven named Citlalatonac, and a goddess, Citlalicue.
When we speak of "heaven" we must probably think of some such world of
ordinary terrestrial nature above the sky as that from which Ataentsic
fell in the Huron story. The goddess gave birth to a flint-knife, and
flung the flint down to earth. This abnormal birth partly answers to
that of the youngest of the Adityas, the rejected abortion in the Veda,
and to the similar birth and rejection of Maui in New Zealand. From
the fallen flint-knife sprang our old friends the magnified non-natural
beings with human characteristics, "the gods," to the number of 1600.
The gods sent up the hawk (who in India and Australia generally comes
to the front on these occasions), and asked their mother, or rather
grandmother, to help them to make men, to be their servants. Citlalicue
rather jeered at her unconsidered offspring. She advised them to go to
the lord of the homes of the departed, Mictlanteuctli, and borrow a
bone or some ashes of the dead who are with him. We must never ask for
consistency from myths. This statement implies that men had already
been in existence, though they were not yet created. Perhaps they had
perished in one of the four great destructions. With difficulty and
danger the gods stole a bone from Hades, placed it in a bowl, and
smeared it with their own blood, as in Chaldea and elsewhere. Finally, a
boy and a girl were born out of the bowl. From this pair sprang men, and
certain of the gods, jumping into a furnace, became sun and moon. To the
sun they then, in Aztec fashion, sacrificed themselves, and there,
one might think, was an end of them. But they afterwards appeared in
wondrous fashions to their worshippers, and ordained the ritual of
religion. According to another legend, man and woman (as in African
myths) struggled out of a hole in the ground.(1)

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

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

As to the institutions, myths and religion of the empire, we have
copious if contradictory information. There are the narratives of the
Spanish conquerors, especially of Pizarro's chaplain, Valverde, an
ignorant bigoted fanatic. Then we have somewhat later travellers and
missionaries, of whom Cieza de Leon (his book was published thirty years
after the conquest, in 1553) is one of the most trustworthy. The "Royal
Commentaries" of Garcilasso de la Vega, son of an Inca lady and a
Spanish conqueror, have often already been quoted. The critical spirit
and sound sense of Garcilasso are in remarkable contrast to the stupid
orthodoxy of the Spaniards, but some allowance must be made for his
fervent Peruvian patriotism. He had heard the Inca traditions repeated
in boyhood, and very early in life collected all the information
which his mother and maternal uncle had to give him, or which could be
extracted from the quipus (the records of knotted cord), and from
the commemorative pictures of his ancestors. Garcilasso had access,
moreover, to the "torn papers" of Blas Valera, an early Spanish
missionary of unusual sense and acuteness. Christoval de Moluna is also
an excellent authority, and much may be learned from the volume of Rites
and Laws of the Yncas.(1)

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

The political and religious condition of the Peruvian empire is very
clearly conceived and stated by Garcilasso. Without making due allowance
for that mysterious earlier civilisation, older than the Incas, whose
cyclopean buildings are the wonder of travellers, Garcilasso attributes
the introduction of civilisation to his own ancestors. Allowing for what
is confessedly mythical in his narrative, it must be admitted that
he has a firm grasp of what the actual history must have been. He
recognises a period of savagery before the Incas, a condition of the
rudest barbarism, which still existed on the fringes and mountain
recesses of the empire. The religion of that period was mere magic and
totemism. From all manner of natural objects, but chiefly from beasts
and birds, the various savage stocks of Peru claimed descent, and they
revered and offered sacrifice to their totemic ancestors.(1) Garcilasso
adds, what is almost incredible, that the Indians tamely permitted
themselves to be eaten by their totems, when these were carnivorous
animals. They did this with the less reluctance as they were cannibals,
and accustomed to breed children for the purposes of the cuisine from
captive women taken in war.(2) Among the huacas or idols, totems,
fetishes and other adorable objects of the Indians, worshipped before
and retained after the introduction of the Inca sun-totem and solar
cult, Garcilasso names trees, hills, rocks, caves, fountains, emeralds,
pieces of jasper, tigers, lions, bears, foxes, monkeys, condors, owls,
lizards, toads, frogs, sheep, maize, the sea, "for want of larger gods,
crabs" and bats. The bat was also the totem of the Zotzil, the chief
family of the Cakchiquels of Guatemala, and the most high god of the
Cakchiquels was worshipped in the shape of a bat. We are reminded of
religion as it exists in Samoa. The explanation of Blas Valera was that
in each totem (pacarissa) the Indians adored the devil.

(1) Com. Real., vol. i., chap. ix., x. xi. pp. 47-53.

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

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

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

Of the Peruvian myth concerning the origin of things, the following
account is given by a Spanish priest, Christoval de Moluna, in a report
to the Bishop of Cuzco in 1570.(1) The story was collected from the
lips of ancient Peruvians and old native priests, who again drew their
information in part from the painted records reserved in the temple of
the sun near Cuzco. The legend begins with a deluge myth; a cataclysm
ended a period of human existence. All mankind perished except a man and
woman, who floated in a box to a distance of several hundred miles
from Cuzco. There the creator commanded them to settle, and there, like
Pund-jel in Australia, he made clay images of men of all races, attired
in their national dress, and then animated them. They were all fashioned
and painted as correct models, and were provided with their national
songs and with seed-corn. They then were put into the earth, and emerged
all over the world at the proper places, some (as in Africa and Greece)
coming out of fountains, some out of trees, some out of caves. For this
reason they made huacas (worshipful objects or fetishes) of the trees,
caves and fountains. Some of the earliest men were changed into stones,
others into falcons, condors and other creatures which we know were
totems in Peru. Probably this myth of metamorphosis was invented to
account for the reverence paid to totems or pacarissas as the Peruvians
called them. In Tiahuanaco, where the creation, or rather manufacture of
men took place, the creator turned many sinners into stones. The sun was
made in the shape of a man, and, as he soared into heaven, he called out
in a friendly fashion to Manco Ccapac, the Ideal first Inca, "Look upon
me as thy father, and worship me as thy father". In these fables the
creator is called Pachyachachi, "Teacher of the world". According to
Christoval, the creator and his sons were "eternal and unchangeable".
Among the Canaris men descend from the survivor of the deluge, and a
beautiful bird with the face of a woman, a siren in fact, but known
better to ornithologists as a macaw. "The chief cause," says the good
Christoval, "of these fables was ignorance of God."

(1) Rites and Laws of the Yncas, p. 4, Hakluyt Society, 1873.

The story, as told by Cieza de Leon, runs thus:(1) A white man of great
stature (in fact, "a magnified non-natural man") came into the world,
and gave life to beasts and human beings. His name was Ticiviracocha,
and he was called the Father of the Sun.(2) There are likenesses of
him in the temple, and he was regarded as a moral teacher. It was owing
apparently to this benevolent being that four mysterious brothers and
sisters emerged from a cave--Children of the Sun, fathers of the Incas,
teachers of savage men. Their own conduct, however, was not exemplary,
and they shut up in a hole in the earth the brother of whom they were
jealous. This incident is even more common in the marchen or household
tales than in the regular tribal or national myths of the world.(3) The
buried brother emerged again with wings, and "without doubt he must
have been some devil," says honest Cieza de Leon. This brother was Manco
Ccapac, the heroic ancestor of the Incas, and he turned his jealous
brethren into stones. The whole tale is in the spirit illustrated by the
wilder romances of the Popol Vuh.

(1) Second Part of the Chronicles of Peru, p 5.

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

(3) The story of Joseph and the marchen of Jean de l'Ours are well-known

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

Athwart all these lower myths, survivals from the savage stage, comes
what Garcilasso regards as the philosophical Inca belief in Pachacamac.
This deity, to Garcilasso's mind, was purely spiritual: he had no image
and dwelt in no temple; in fact, he is that very God whom the Spanish
missionaries proclaimed. This view, though the fact has been doubted,
was very probably held by the Amautas, or philosophical class in
Peru.(1) Cieza de Leon says "the name of this devil, Pachacamac, means
creator of the world". Garcilasso urges that Pachacamac was the animus
mundi; that he did not "make the world," as Pund-jel and other savage
demiurges made it, but that he was to the universe what the soul is to
the body.

(1) Com. Real., vol. i. p. 106.

Here we find ourselves, if among myths at all, among the myths of
metaphysics--rational myths; that is, myths corresponding to our present
stage of thought, and therefore intelligible to us. Pachacamac "made the
sun, and lightning, and thunder, and of these the sun was worshipped
by the Incas". Garcilasso denies that the moon was worshipped. The
reflections of the sceptical or monotheistic Inca, who declared that the
sun, far from being a free agent, "seems like a thing held to its task,"
are reported by Garcilasso, and appear to prove that solar worship was
giving way, in the minds of educated Peruvians, a hundred years before
the arrival of Pizarro and Valverde with his missal.(1)

(1) Garcilasso, viii. 8, quoting Blas Valera.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

(2) Ibid., p. 86.

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

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

Between the Vedas, or, at all events, between the oldest of the Vedas,
and the compilation of the Brahmanas, these "canonised explanations of
a canonised text,"(1) it is probable that some centuries and many social
changes intervened.(2)

(1) Whitney, Oriental and Linguistic studies, First Series, p. 4.

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

If we would criticise the documents for Indian mythology in a scientific
manner, it is now necessary that we should try to discover, as far as
possible, the social and religious condition of the people among whom
the Vedas took shape. Were they in any sense "primitive," or were
they civilised? Was their religion in its obscure beginnings or was it
already a special and peculiar development, the fruit of many ages of
thought? Now it is an unfortunate thing that scholars have constantly,
and as it were involuntarily, drifted into the error of regarding
the Vedas as if they were "primitive," as if they exhibited to us the
"germs" and "genesis" of religion and mythology, as if they contained
the simple though strange utterances of PRIMITIVE thought.(1) Thus Mr.
Whitney declares, in his Oriental and Linguistic Studies, "that the
Vedas exhibit to us the very earliest germs of the Hindu culture". Mr.
Max Muller avers that "no country can be compared to India as
offering opportunities for a real study of the genesis and growth of
religion".(2) Yet the same scholar observes that "even the earliest
specimens of Vedic poetry belong to the modern history of the race, and
that the early period of the historical growth of religion had passed
away before the Rishis (bards) could have worshipped their Devas
or bright beings with sacred hymns and invocations". Though this is
manifestly true, the sacred hymns and invocations of the Rishis are
constantly used as testimony bearing on the beginning of the historical
growth of religion. Nay, more; these remains of "the modern history of
the race" are supposed to exhibit mythology in the process of making, as
if the race had possessed no mythology before it reached a comparatively
modern period, the Vedic age. In the same spirit, Dr. Muir, the learned
editor of Sanskrit Texts, speaks in one place as if the Vedic hymns
"illustrated the natural workings of the human mind in the period of
its infancy".(3) A brief examination of the social and political and
religious condition of man, as described by the poets of the Vedas,
will prove that his infancy had long been left behind him when the first
Vedic hymns were chanted.

(1) Ibid., Rig-Veda Sanhita, p. vii.

(2) Hibbert Lectures, p. 131.

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

As Barth observes, the very ideas which permeate the Veda, the idea of
the mystic efficacy of sacrifice, of brahma, prove that the poems are
profoundly sacerdotal; and this should have given pause to the writers
who have persisted in representing the hymns as the work of primitive
shepherds praising their gods as they feed their flocks.(1) In the Vedic
age the ranks of society are already at least as clearly defined as in
Homeric Greece. "We men," says a poet of the Rig-Veda,(2) "have all our
different imaginations and designs. The carpenter seeks something that
is broken, the doctor a patient, the priest some one who will offer
libations.... The artisan continually seeks after a man with plenty of
gold.... I am a poet, my father is a doctor, and my mother is a grinder
of corn." Chariots and the art of the chariot-builder are as frequently
spoken of as in the Iliad. Spears, swords, axes and coats of mail were
in common use. The art of boat-building or of ship-building was well
known. Kine and horses, sheep and dogs, had long been domesticated. The
bow was a favourite weapon, and warriors fought in chariots, like the
Homeric Greeks and the Egyptians. Weaving was commonly practised. The
people probably lived, as a rule, in village settlements, but cities or
fortified places were by no means unknown.(3) As for political society,
"kings are frequently mentioned in the hymns," and "it was regarded as
eminently beneficial for a king to entertain a family priest," on whom
he was expected to confer thousands of kine, lovely slaves and lumps of
gold. In the family polygamy existed, probably as the exception. There
is reason to suppose that the brother-in-law was permitted, if
not expected, to "raise up seed" to his dead brother, as among the
Hebrews.(4) As to literature, the very structure of the hymns proves
that it was elaborate and consciously artistic. M. Barth writes: "It
would be a great mistake to speak of the primitive naivete of the Vedic
poetry and religion".(5) Both the poetry and the religion, on the other
hand, display in the highest degree the mark of the sacerdotal spirit.
The myths, though originally derived from nature-worship, in an infinite
majority of cases only reflect natural phenomena through a veil of
ritualistic corruptions.(6) The rigid division of castes is seldom
recognised in the Rig-Veda. We seem to see caste in the making.(7)
The Rishis and priests of the princely families were on their way to
becoming the all-powerful Brahmans. The kings and princes were on their
way to becoming the caste of Kshatriyas or warriors. The mass of the
people was soon to sink into the caste of Vaisyas and broken men.
Non-Aryan aborigines and others were possibly developing into the caste
of Sudras. Thus the spirit of division and of ceremonialism had still
some of its conquests to achieve. But the extraordinary attention given
and the immense importance assigned to the details of sacrifice, and
the supernatural efficacy constantly attributed to a sort of magical
asceticism (tapas, austere fervour), prove that the worst and most
foolish elements of later Indian society and thought were in the Vedic
age already in powerful existence.

(1) Les Religions de l'Inde, p. 27.

(2) ix. 112.

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

(4) Deut. xxv. 5; Matt. xxii. 24.

(5) Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, i. 245.

(6) Ludwig, iii. 262.

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

Thus it is self-evident that the society in which the Vedic poets lived
was so far from being PRIMITIVE that it was even superior to the higher
barbarisms (such as that of the Scythians of Herodotus and Germans of
Tacitus), and might be regarded as safely arrived at the threshold of
civilisation. Society possessed kings, though they may have been kings
of small communities, like those who warred with Joshua or fought under
the walls of Thebes or Troy. Poets were better paid than they seem to
have been at the courts of Homer or are at the present time. For the
tribal festivals special priests were appointed, "who distinguished
themselves by their comprehensive knowledge of the requisite rites
and by their learning, and amongst whom a sort of rivalry is gradually
developed, according as one tribe or another is supposed to have more or
less prospered by its sacrifices".(1) In the family marriage is sacred,
and traces of polyandry and of the levirate, surviving as late as the
epic poems, were regarded as things that need to be explained away.
Perhaps the most barbaric feature in Vedic society, the most singular
relic of a distant past, is the survival, even in a modified and
symbolic form, of human sacrifice.(2)

(1) Weber, p. 37.

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

As to the religious condition of the Vedic Aryans, we must steadily
remember that in the Vedas we have the views of the Rishis only, that
is, of sacred poets on their way to becoming a sacred caste. Necessarily
they no more represent the POPULAR creeds than the psalmists and
prophets, with their lofty monotheistic morality, represent the popular
creeds of Israel. The faith of the Rishis, as will be shown later, like
that of the psalmists, has a noble moral aspect. Yet certain elements of
this higher creed are already found in the faiths of the lowest savages.
The Rishis probably did not actually INVENT them. Consciousness of sin,
of imperfection in the sight of divine beings, has been developed (as
it has even in Australia) and is often confessed. But on the whole
the religion of the Rishis is practical--it might almost be said, is
magical. They desire temporal blessings, rain, sunshine, long life,
power, wealth in flocks and herds. The whole purpose of the sacrifices
which occupy so much of their time and thought is to obtain these good
things. The sacrifice and the sacrificer come between gods and men. On
the man's side is faith, munificence, a compelling force of prayer and
of intentness of will. The sacrifice invigorates the gods to do the will
of the sacrificer; it is supposed to be mystically celebrated in heaven
as well as on earth--the gods are always sacrificing. Often (as when
rain is wanted) the sacrifice imitates the end which it is desirable to
gain.(1) In all these matters a minute ritual is already observed. The
mystic word brahma, in the sense of hymn or prayer of a compelling and
magical efficacy, has already come into use. The brahma answers
almost to the Maori karakia or incantation and charm. "This brahma of
Visvamitra protects the tribe of Bharata." "Atri with the fourth prayer
discovered the sun concealed by unholy darkness."(2) The complicated
ritual, in which prayer and sacrifice were supposed to exert a
constraining influence on the supernatural powers, already existed, Haug
thinks, in the time of the chief Rishis or hymnists of the Rig-Veda.(3)

(1) Compare "The Prayers of Savages" in J. A. Farrer's Primitive
Manners, and Ludwig, iii. 262-296, and see Bergaigne, La Religion
Vedique, vol. i. p. 121.

(2) See texts in Muir, i. 242.

(3) Preface to translation of Aitareya Brahmana, p. 36.

In many respects the nature of the idea of the divine, as entertained
by the Rishis of the Rig-Veda, is still matter for discussion. In the
chapter on Vedic gods such particulars as can be ascertained will be
given. Roughly speaking, the religion is mainly, though not wholly,
a cult of departmental gods, originally, in certain cases, forces of
Nature, but endowed with moral earnestness. As to fetishism in the Vedas
the opinions of the learned are divided. M. Bergaigne(1) looks on
the whole ritual as, practically, an organised fetishism, employed
to influence gods of a far higher and purer character. Mr. Max Muller
remarks, "that stones, bones, shells, herbs and all the other so-called
fetishes, are simply absent in the old hymns, though they appear in more
modern hymns, particularly those of the Atharva-Veda. When artificial
objects are mentioned and celebrated in the Rig-Veda, they are only
such as might be praised even by Wordsworth or Tennyson--chariots, bows,
quivers, axes, drums, sacrificial vessels and similar objects. They
never assume any individual character; they are simply mentioned as
useful or precious, it may be as sacred."(2)

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

(2) Hibbert Lectures, p. 198.

When the existence of fetish "herbs" is denied by Mr. Max Muller, he
does not, of course, forget Soma, that divine juice. It is also to be
noted that in modern India, as Mr. Max Muller himself observes, Sir
Alfred Lyall finds that "the husbandman prays to his plough and the
fisher to his net," these objects being, at present, fetishes. In
opposition to Mr. Max Muller, Barth avers that the same kind of
fetishism which flourishes to-day flourishes in the Rig-Veda.
"Mountains, rivers, springs, trees, herbs are invoked as so many powers.
The beasts which live with man--the horse, the cow, the dog, the bird
and the animals which imperil his existence--receive a cult of praise
and prayer. Among the instruments of ritual, some objects are more
than things consecrated--they are divinities; and the war-chariot, the
weapons of defence and offence, the plough, are the objects not only
of benedictions but of prayers."(1) These absolute contradictions on
matters of fact add, of course, to the difficulty of understanding the
early Indo-Aryan religion. One authority says that the Vedic people were
fetish-worshippers; another authority denies it.

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

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

A few examples of invocations of the ancestral spirits may not be out
of place.(1) "May the Fathers protect me in my invocation of the gods."
Here is a curious case, especially when we remember how the wolf, in
the North American myth, scattered the stars like spangles over the sky:
"The fathers have adorned the sky with stars".(2)

(1) Rig-Veda, vi. 52,4.

(2) Ibid., x. 68, xi.

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

Important as is the element of ancestor-worship in the evolution of
religion, Mr. Max Muller, in his Hibbert Lectures, merely remarks that
thoughts and feelings about the dead "supplied some of the earliest and
most important elements of religion"; but how these earliest elements
affect his system does not appear. On a general view, then, the
religion of the Vedic poets contained a vast number of elements in
solution--elements such as meet us in every quarter of the globe. The
belief in ancestral ghosts, the adoration of fetishes, the devotion to
a moral ideal, contemplated in the persons of various deities, some of
whom at least have been, and partly remain, personal natural forces, are
all mingled, and all are drifting towards a kind of pantheism, in which,
while everything is divine, and gods are reckoned by millions, the
worshipper has glimpses of one single divine essence. The ritual, as we
have seen, is more or less magical in character. The general elements
of the beliefs are found, in various proportions, everywhere; the
pantheistic mysticism is almost peculiar to India. It is, perhaps,
needless to repeat that a faith so very composite, and already so
strongly differentiated, cannot possibly be "primitive," and that the
beliefs and practices of a race so highly organised in society and
so well equipped in material civilisation as the Vedic Aryans cannot
possibly be "near the beginning". Far from expecting to find in the
Veda the primitive myths of the Aryans, we must remember that myth had
already, when these hymns were sung, become obnoxious to the religious
sentiment. "Thus," writes Barth, "the authors of the hymns have
expurgated, or at least left in the shade, a vast number of legends
older than their time; such, for example, as the identity of soma with
the moon, as the account of the divine families, of the parricide of
Indra, and a long list might be made of the reticences of the Veda....
It would be difficult to extract from the hymns a chapter on the loves
of the gods. The goddesses are veiled, the adventures of the gods are
scarcely touched on in passing.... We must allow for the moral delicacy
of the singers, and for their dislike of speaking too precisely about
the gods. Sometimes it seems as if their chief object was to avoid plain
speaking.... But often there is nothing save jargon and indolence of
mind in this voluntary obscurity, for already in the Veda the Indian
intellect is deeply smitten with its inveterate malady of affecting
mystery the more, the more it has nothing to conceal; the mania for
scattering symbols which symbolise no reality, and for sporting with
riddles which it is not worth while to divine."(1) Barth, however, also
recognises amidst these confusions, "the inquietude of a heart deeply
stirred, which seeks truth and redemption in prayer". Such is the
natural judgment of the clear French intellect on the wilfully obscure,
tormented and evasive intellect of India.

(1) Les Religions de l'Inde, p. 21.

It would be interesting were it possible to illuminate the criticism of
Vedic religion by ascertaining which hymns in the Rig-Veda are the most
ancient, and which are later. Could we do this, we might draw inferences
as to the comparative antiquity of the religious ideas in the poems.
But no such discrimination of relative antiquity seems to be within
the reach of critics. M. Bergaigne thinks it impossible at present to
determine the relative age of the hymns by any philological test. The
ideas expressed are not more easily arrayed in order of date. We might
think that the poems which contain most ceremonial allusions were the
latest. But Mr. Max Muller says that "even the earliest hymns have
sentiments worthy of the most advanced ceremonialists".(1)

(1) History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 556.

The first and oldest source of our knowledge of Indo-Aryan myths is the
Rig-Veda, whose nature and character have been described. The second
source is the Atharva-Veda with the Brahmanas. The peculiarity of the
Atharva is its collection of magical incantations spells and fragments
of folklore. These are often, doubtless, of the highest antiquity.
Sorcery and the arts of medicine-men are earlier in the course of
evolution than priesthood. We meet them everywhere among races who have
not developed the institution of an order of priests serving national
gods. As a collection, the Atharva-Veda is later than the Rig-Veda,
but we need not therefore conclude that the IDEAS of the Atharva are "a
later development of the more primitive ideas of the Rig-Veda". Magic is
quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus; the ideas of the Atharva-Veda
are everywhere; the peculiar notions of the Rig-Veda are the special
property of an advanced and highly differentiated people. Even in the
present collected shape, M. Barth thinks that many hymns of the Atharva
are not much later than those of the Rig-Veda. Mr. Whitney, admitting
the lateness of the Atharva as a collection, says, "This would not
necessarily imply that the main body of the Atharva hymns were
not already in existence when the compilation of the Rig-Veda took
place".(1) The Atharva refers to some poets of the Rig (as certain
hymnists in the Rig also do) as earlier men. If in the Rig (as Weber
says) "there breathes a lively natural feeling, a warm love of nature,
while in the Atharva, on the contrary, there predominates an anxious
apprehension of evil spirits and their magical powers," it by no means
follows that this apprehension is of later origin than the lively
feeling for Nature. Rather the reverse. There appears to be no doubt(2)
that the style and language of the Atharva are later than those of
the Rig. Roth, who recognises the change, in language and style, yet
considers the Atharva "part of the old literature".(3) He concludes that
the Atharva contains many pieces which, "both by their style and ideas,
are shown to be contemporary with the older hymns of the Rig-Veda".
In religion, according to Muir,(4) the Atharva shows progress in the
direction of monotheism in its celebration of Brahman, but it also
introduces serpent-worship.

(1) Journal of the American Oriental Society. iv. 253.

(2) Muir, ii. 446.

(3) Ibid., ii. 448.

(4) Ibid., ii. 451.

As to the Atharva, then, we are free to suppose, if we like, that the
dark magic, the evil spirits, the incantations, are old parts of Indian,
as of all other popular beliefs, though they come later into literature
than the poetry about Ushas and the morality of Varuna. The same remarks
apply to our third source of information, the Brahmanas. These are
indubitably comments on the sacred texts very much more modern in form
than the texts themselves. But it does not follow, and this is most
important for our purpose, that the myths in the Brahmanas are all later
than the Vedic myths or corruptions of the Veda. Muir remarks,(1) "The
Rig-Veda, though the oldest collection, does not necessarily contain
everything that is of the greatest age in Indian thought or tradition.
We know, for example, that certain legends, bearing the impress of
the highest antiquity, such as that of the deluge, appear first in the
Brahmanas." We are especially interested in this criticism, because most
of the myths which we profess to explain as survivals of savagery are
narrated in the Brahmanas. If these are necessarily late corruptions of
Vedic ideas, because the collection of the Brahmanas is far more modern
than that of the Veda, our argument is instantly disproved. But if ideas
of an earlier stratum of thought than the Vedic stratum may appear in
a later collection, as ideas of an earlier stratum of thought than
the Homeric appear in poetry and prose far later than Homer, then our
contention is legitimate. It will be shown in effect that a number of
myths of the Brahmanas correspond in character and incident with the
myths of savages, such as Cahrocs and Ahts. Our explanation is, that
these tales partly survived, in the minds perhaps of conservative local
priesthoods, from the savage stage of thought, or were borrowed from
aborigines in that stage, or were moulded in more recent times on
surviving examples of that wild early fancy.

(1) Muir, iv. 450.

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

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

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

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

To take another example; we open Mr. Max Muller's translation of the
Rig-Veda at random, say at page 49. In the second verse of the hymn
to the Maruts, Mr. Muller translates, "They who were born together,
self-luminous, with the spotted deer (the clouds), the spears, the
daggers, the glittering ornaments. I hear their whips almost close by,
as they crack them in their hands; they gain splendour on their way."
Now Wilson translates this passage, "Who, borne by spotted deer, were
born self-luminous, with weapons, war-cries and decorations. I hear the
cracking of their whips in their hands, wonderfully inspiring courage in
the fight." Benfey has, "Who with stags and spears, and with thunder and
lightning, self-luminous, were born. Hard by rings the crack of their
whip as it sounds in their hands; bright fare they down in storm."
Langlois translates, "Just born are they, self-luminous. Mark ye their
arms, their decorations, their car drawn by deer? Hear ye their clamour?
Listen! 'tis the noise of the whip they hold in their hands, the sound
that stirs up courage in the battle." This is an ordinary example of the
diversities of Vedic translation. It is sufficiently puzzling, nor is
the matter made more transparent by the variety of opinion as to the
meaning of the "deer" along with which the Maruts are said (by some of
the translators) to have been born. This is just the sort of passage
on which a controversy affecting the whole nature of Vedic mythological
ideas might be raised. According to a text in the Yajur Veda, gods, and
men, and beasts, and other matters were created from various portions of
the frame of a divine being named Prajapati.(1) The god Agni, Brahmans
and the goat were born from the mouth of Prajapati. From his breast and
arms came the god Indra (sometimes spoken of as a ram), the sheep, and
of men the Rajanya. Cows and gods called Visvadevas were born together
from his middle. Are we to understand the words "they who were born
together with the spotted deer" to refer to a myth of this kind--a myth
representing the Maruts and deer as having been born at the same birth,
as Agni came with the goat, and Indra with the sheep? This is just the
point on which the Indian commentators were divided.(2) Sayana, the old
commentator, says, "The legendary school takes them for deer with white
spots; the etymological school, for the many-coloured lines of
clouds". The modern legendary (or anthropological) and etymological (or
philological) students of mythology are often as much at variance in
their attempts to interpret the traditions of India.

(1) Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., i. 16.

(2) Max Muller, Rig-Veda Sanhita, trans., vol. i. p. 59.

Another famous, and almost comic, example of the difficulty of Vedic
interpretation is well known. In Rig-Veda, x. 16, 4, there is a funeral
hymn. Agni, the fire-god, is supplicated either to roast a goat or to
warm the soul of the dead and convey it to paradise. Whether the soul
is to be thus comforted or the goat is to be grilled, is a question that
has mightily puzzled Vedic doctors.(1) Professor Muller and M. Langlois
are all for "the immortal soul", the goat has advocates, or had
advocates, in Aufrecht, Ludwig and Roth. More important difficulties
of interpretation are illustrated by the attitude of M. Bergaigne in
La Religion Vedique, and his controversy with the great German
lexicographers. The study of mythology at one time made the Vedas its
starting-point. But perhaps it would be wise to begin from something
more intelligible, something less perplexed by difficulties of language
and diversities of interpretation.

(1) Muir, v. 217.

In attempting to criticise the various Aryan myths, we shall be guided,
on the whole, by the character of the myths themselves. Pure and
elevated conceptions we shall be inclined to assign to a pure and
elevated condition of thought (though such conceptions do, recognisably,
occur in the lowest known religious strata), and we shall make no
difficulty about believing that Rishis and singers capable of noble
conceptions existed in an age very remote in time, in a society which
had many of the features of a lofty and simple civilisation. But we
shall not, therefore, assume that the hymns of these Rishis are in any
sense "primitive," or throw much light on the infancy of the human mind,
or on the "origin" of religious and heroic myths. Impure, childish
and barbaric conceptions, on the other hand, we shall be inclined to
attribute to an impure, childish, and barbaric condition of thought; and
we shall again make no difficulty about believing that ideas originally
conceived when that stage of thought was general have been retained and
handed down to a far later period. This view of the possible, or rather
probable, antiquity of many of the myths preserved in the Brahmanas
is strengthened, if it needed strengthening, by the opinion of Dr.
Weber.(1) "We must indeed assume generally with regard to many of those
legends (in the Brahmanas of the Rig-Veda) that they had already gained
a rounded independent shape in tradition before they were incorporated
into the Brahmanas; and of this we have frequent evidence in the
the rest of the text."

(1) History of Indian Literature, English trans., p. 47.

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


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

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

(1) Bancroft, v. 162.

(2) Sacred Books of the East, i. 216.

The question now to be asked is, do the traditions of the Aryans of
India supply us with myths so closely resembling the myths of Nootkas,
Maoris and Australians that we may provisionally explain them as
stories originally due to the invention of savages? This question may
be answered in the affirmative. The Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas
contain a large store of various cosmogonic traditions as inconsistent
as the parallel myths of savages. We have an Aryan Ilmarinen, Tvashtri,
who, like the Finnish smith, forged "the iron vault of hollow heaven"
and the ball of earth.(1) Again, the earth is said to have sprung, as
in some Mangaian fables, "from a being called Uttanapad".(2) Again,
Brahmanaspati, "blew the gods forth like a blacksmith," and the gods had
a hand in the making of things. In contrast with these childish pieces
of anthropomorphism, we have the famous and sublime speculations of an
often-quoted hymn.(3) It is thus that the poet dreams of the days before
being and non-being began:--

(1) Muir, v. 354.

(2) Rig-Veda, x. 72, 4.

(3) Ibid., x. 126.

"There was then neither non-entity nor entity; there was no atmosphere
nor sky above. What enveloped (all)?... Was it water, the profound
abyss? Death was not then, nor immortality: there was no distinction of
day or night. That One breathed calmly, self-supported; then was nothing
different from it, or above it. In the beginning darkness existed,
enveloped in darkness. All this was undistinguishable water. That One
which lay void and wrapped in nothingness was developed by the power
of fervour. Desire first arose in It, which was the primal germ of mind
(and which) sages, searching with their intellect, have discovered to be
the bond which connects entity with non-entity. The ray (or cord) which
stretched across these (worlds), was it below or was it above? There
were there impregnating powers and mighty forces, a self-supporting
principle beneath and energy aloft. Who knows? who here can declare
whence has sprung, whence this creation? The gods are subsequent to the
development of this (universe); who then knows whence it arose? From
what this creation arose, and whether (any one) made it or not, he who
in the highest heaven is its ruler, he verily knows, or (even) he does
not know."(1)

(1) Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., v. 357.

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

What is the relative age of this hymn? If it could be proved to be the
oldest in the Veda, it would demonstrate no more than this, that in time
exceedingly remote the Aryans of India possessed a philosopher, perhaps
a school of philosophers, who applied the minds to abstract speculations
on the origin of things. It could not prove that mythological
speculations had not preceded the attempts of a purer philosophy. But
the date cannot be ascertained. Mr. Max Muller cannot go farther than
the suggestion that the hymn is an expression of the perennis quaedam
philosophia of Leibnitz. We are also warned that a hymn is not
necessarily modern because it is philosophical.(1) Certainly that
is true; the Zunis, Maoris, and Mangaians exhibit amazing powers of
abstract thought. We are not concerned to show that this hymn is late;
but it seems almost superfluous to remark that ideas like those which it
contains can scarcely be accepted as expressing man's earliest theory
of the origin of all things. We turn from such ideas to those which the
Aryans of India have in common with black men and red men, with far-off
Finns and Scandinavians, Chaldaeans, Haidahs, Cherokees, Murri and
Maori, Mangaians and Egyptians.

(1) History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 568.

The next Vedic account of creation which we propose to consider is as
remote as possible in character from the sublime philosophic poem. In
the Purusha Sukta, the ninetieth hymn of the tenth book of the Rig-Veda
Sanhita, we have a description of the creation of all things out of the
severed limbs of a magnified non-natural man, Purusha. This conception
is of course that which occurs in the Norse myths of the rent body
of Ymir. Borr's sons took the body of the Giant Ymir and of his flesh
formed the earth, of his blood seas and waters, of his bones mountains,
of his teeth rocks and stones, of his hair all manner of plants, of his
skull the firmament, of his brains the clouds, and so forth. In Chaldean
story, Bel cuts in twain the magnified non-natural woman Omorca,
and converts the halves of her body into heaven and earth. Among the
Iroquois in North America, Chokanipok was the giant whose limbs, bones
and blood furnished the raw material of many natural objects; while
in Mangaia portions of Ru, in Egypt of Set and Osiris, in Greece of
Dionysus Zagreus were used in creating various things, such as stones,
plants and metals. The same ideas precisely are found in the ninetieth
hymn of the tenth book of the Rig-Veda. Yet it is a singular thing that,
in all the discussions as to the antiquity and significance of this
hymn which have come under our notice, there has not been one single
reference made to parallel legends among Aryan or non-Aryan peoples. In
accordance with the general principles which guide us in this work, we
are inclined to regard any ideas which are at once rude in character
and widely distributed, both among civilised and uncivilised races, as
extremely old, whatever may be the age of the literary form in which
they are presented. But the current of learned opinions as to the date
of the Purusha Sukta, the Vedic hymn about the sacrifice of Purusha
and the creation of the world out of fragments of his body, runs in the
opposite direction. The hymn is not regarded as very ancient by most
Sanskrit scholars. We shall now quote the hymn, which contains the data
on which any theory as to its age must be founded:--(1)

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

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

The myth here stated is plain enough in its essential facts. The gods
performed a sacrifice with a gigantic anthropomorphic being (Purusha =
Man) as the victim. Sacrifice is not found, as a rule, in the religious
of the most backward races of all; it is, relatively, an innovation, as
shall be shown later. His head, like the head of Ymir, formed the sky,
his eye the sun, animals sprang from his body. The four castes are
connected with, and it appears to be implied that they sprang from, his
mouth, arms, thighs and feet. It is obvious that this last part of the
myth is subsequent to the formation of castes. This is one of the chief
arguments for the late date of the hymn, as castes are not distinctly
recognised elsewhere in the Rig-Veda. Mr. Max Muller(1) believes the
hymn to be "modern both in its character and in its diction," and this
opinion he supports by philological arguments. Dr. Muir(2) says that the
hymn "has every character of modernness both in its diction and ideas".
Dr Haug, on the other hand,(3) in a paper read in 1871, admits that the
present form of the hymn is not older than the greater part of the hymns
of the tenth book, and than those of the Atharva Veda; but he adds, "The
ideas which the hymn contains are certainly of a primeval antiquity....
In fact, the hymn is found in the Yajur-Veda among the formulas
connected with human sacrifices, which were formerly practised in
India." We have expressly declined to speak about "primeval antiquity,"
as we have scarcely any evidence as to the myths and mental condition
for example, even of palaeolithic man; but we may so far agree with
Dr. Haug as to affirm that the fundamental idea of the Purusha Sukta,
namely, the creation of the world or portions of the world out of the
fragments of a fabulous anthropomorphic being is common to Chaldeans,
Iroquois, Egyptians, Greeks, Tinnehs, Mangaians and Aryan Indians. This
is presumptive proof of the antiquity of the ideas which Dr. Muir and
Mr. Max Muller think relatively modern. The savage and brutal character
of the invention needs no demonstration. Among very low savages, for
example, the Tinnehs of British North America, not a man, not a god, but
a DOG, is torn up, and the fragments are made into animals.(4) On the
Paloure River a beaver suffers in the manner of Purusha. We may,
for these reasons, regard the chief idea of the myth as extremely
ancient--infinitely more ancient than the diction of the hymn.

(1) Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 570.

(2) Sanskrit Texts, 2nd edit., i. 12.

(3) Sanskrit Text, 2nd edit., ii. 463.

(4) Hearne's Journey, pp. 342-343.

As to the mention of the castes, supposed to be a comparatively modern
institution, that is not an essential part of the legend. When the
idea of creation out of a living being was once received it was easy
to extend the conception to any institution, of which the origin was
forgotten. The Teutonic race had a myth which explained the origin of
the classes eorl, ceorl and thrall (earl, churl and slave). A South
American people, to explain the different ranks in society, hit on the
very myth of Plato, the legend of golden, silver and copper races,
from which the ranks of society have descended. The Vedic poet, in our
opinion, merely extended to the institution of caste a myth which had
already explained the origin of the sun, the firmament, animals, and so
forth, on the usual lines of savage thought. The Purusha Sukta is the
type of many other Indian myths of creation, of which the following(1)
one is extremely noteworthy. "Prajapati desired to propagate. He formed
the Trivrit (stoma) from his mouth. After it were produced the deity
Agni, the metre Gayatri,... of men the Brahman, of beasts the goat;...
from his breast, and from his arms he formed the Panchadasa (stoma).
After it were created the God Indra, the Trishtubh metre,... of men the
Rajanya, of beasts the sheep. Hence they are vigorous, because they were
created from vigour. From his middle he formed the Saptadasa (stoma).
After it were created the gods called the Yisvadevas, the Jagati
metre,... of men the Vaisya, of beasts kine. Hence they are to be eaten,
because they were created from the receptacle of food." The form in
which we receive this myth is obviously later than the institution of
caste and the technical names for metres. Yet surely any statement that
kine "are to be eaten" must be older than the universal prohibition to
eat that sacred animal the cow. Possibly we might argue that when this
theory of creation was first promulgated, goats and sheep were forbidden

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

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

Turning from the Vedas to the Brahmanas, we find a curiously savage myth
of the origin of species.(1) According to this passage of the Brahmana,
"this universe was formerly soul only, in the form of Purusha". He
caused himself to fall asunder into two parts. Thence arose a husband
and a wife. "He cohabited with her; from them men were born. She
reflected, 'How does he, after having produced me from himself, cohabit
with me? Ah, let me disappear.' She became a cow, and the other a bull,
and he cohabited with her. From them kine were produced." After a series
of similar metamorphoses of the female into all animal shapes, and a
similar series of pursuits by the male in appropriate form, "in this
manner pairs of all sorts of creatures down to ants were created". This
myth is a parallel to the various Greek legends about the amours in
bestial form of Zeus, Nemesis, Cronus, Demeter and other gods and
goddesses. In the Brahmanas this myth is an explanation of the origin
of species, and such an explanation as could scarcely have occurred to
a civilised mind. In other myths in the Brahmanas, Prajapati creates men
from his body, or rather the fluid of his body becomes a tortoise,
the tortoise becomes a man (purusha), with similar examples of

(1) Satapatha Brahmana, xiv. 4, 2; Muir, 2nd edit., i. 25.

(2) Similar tales are found among the Khonds.

Among all these Brahmana myths of the part taken by Prajapati in the
creation or evoking of things, the question arises who WAS Prajapati?
His role is that of the great Hare in American myth; he is a kind of
demiurge, and his name means "The Master of Things Created," like
the Australian Biamban, "Master," and the American title of the chief
Manitou, "Master of Life",(1) Dr. Muir remarks that, as the Vedic
mind advances from mere divine beings who "reside and operate in fire"
(Agni), "dwell and shine in the sun" (Surya), or "in the atmosphere"
(Indra), towards a conception of deity, "the farther step would be
taken of speaking of the deity under such new names as Visvakarman and
Prajapati". These are "appellatives which do not designate any limited
functions connected with any single department of Nature, but the more
general and abstract notions of divine power operating in the production
and government of the universe". Now the interesting point is that round
this new and abstract NAME gravitate the most savage and crudest myths,
exactly the myths we meet among Hottentots and Nootkas. For example,
among the Hottentots it is Heitsi Eibib, among the Huarochiri Indians
it is Uiracocha, who confers, by curse or blessing, on the animals their
proper attributes and characteristics.(2) In the Satapatha Brahmana it
is Prajapati who takes this part, that falls to rude culture-heroes of
Hottentots and Huarochiris.(3) How Prajapati made experiments in a kind
of state-aided evolution, so to speak, or evolution superintended and
assisted from above, will presently be set forth.

(1) Bergaigne, iii. 40.

(2) Avila, Fables of the Yncas, p. 127.

(3) English translation, ii. 361.

In the Puranas creation is a process renewed after each kalpa, or vast
mundane period. Brahma awakes from his slumber, and finds the world a
waste of water. Then, just as in the American myths of the coyote, and
the Slavonic myths of the devil and the doves, a boar or a fish or
a tortoise fishes up the world out of the waters. That boar, fish,
tortoise, or what not, is Brahma or Vishnu. This savage conception of
the beginnings of creation in the act of a tortoise, fish, or boar is
not first found in the Puranas, as Mr. Muir points out, but is indicated
in the Black Yajur Veda and in the Satapatha Brahmana.(1) In the
Satapatha Brahmana, xiv. 1, 2, 11, we discover the idea, so common in
savage myths--for example, in that of the Navajoes--that the earth was
at first very small, a mere patch, and grew bigger after the animal
fished it up. "Formerly this earth was only so large, of the size of
a span. A boar called Emusha raised her up." Here the boar makes no
pretence of being the incarnation of a god, but is a mere boar sans
phrase, like the creative coyote of the Papogas and Chinooks, or the
musk-rat of the Tacullies. This is a good example of the development
of myths. Savages begin, as we saw, by mythically regarding various
animals, spiders, grasshoppers, ravens, eagles, cockatoos, as the
creators or recoverers of the world. As civilisation advances, those
animals still perform their beneficent functions, but are looked on
as gods in disguise. In time the animals are often dropped altogether,
though they hold their place with great tenacity in the cosmogonic
traditions of the Aryans in India. When we find the Satapatha Brahmana
alleging(2) "that all creatures are descended from a tortoise," we seem
to be among the rude Indians of the Pacific Coast. But when the tortoise
is identified with Aditya, and when Adityas prove to be solar deities,
sons of Aditi, and when Aditi is recognised by Mr. Muller as the Dawn,
we see that the Aryan mind has not been idle, but has added a good deal
to the savage idea of the descent of men and beasts from a tortoise.(3)

(1) Muir, 2nd edit., vol. i. p. 52.

(2) Muir, 2nd edit., vol. i. p. 54.

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

Another feature of savage myths of creation we found to be the
introduction of a crude theory of evolution. We saw that among the
Potoyante tribe of the Digger Indians, and among certain Australian
tribes, men and beasts were supposed to have been slowly evolved and
improved out of the forms first of reptiles and then of quadrupeds. In
the mythologies of the more civilised South American races, the idea
of the survival of the fittest was otherwise expressed. The gods made
several attempts at creation, and each set of created beings proving in
one way or other unsuited to its environment, was permitted to die out
or degenerated into apes, and was succeeded by a set better adapted for
survival.(1) In much the same way the Satapatha Brahmana(2) represents
mammals as the last result of a series of creative experiments.
"Prajapati created living beings, which perished for want of food. Birds
and serpents perished thus. Prajapati reflected, 'How is it that my
creatures perish after having been formed?' He perceived this: 'They
perish from want of food'. In his own presence he caused milk to be
supplied to breasts. He created living beings, which, resorting to the
breasts, were thus preserved. These are the creatures which did not

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

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

The common myth which derives the world from a great egg--the myth
perhaps most familiar in its Finnish shape--is found in the Satapatha
Brahmana.(1) "In the beginning this universe was waters, nothing but
waters. The waters desired: 'How can we be reproduced?' So saying, they
toiled, they performed austerity. While they were performing austerity,
a golden egg came into existence. It then became a year.... From it in
a year a man came into existence, who was Prajapati.... He conceived
progeny in himself; with his mouth he created the gods." According to
another text,(2) "Prajapati took the form of a tortoise". The tortoise
is the same as Aditya.(3)

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

(2) Satapatha Brahmana, vii. 4, 3, 5.

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

It is now time to examine the Aryan shape of the widely spread myth
about the marriage of heaven and earth, and the fortunes of their
children. We have already seen that in New Zealand heaven and earth
were regarded as real persons, of bodily parts and passions, united in
a secular embrace. We shall apply the same explanation to the Greek
myth of Gaea and of the mutilation of Cronus. In India, Dyaus (heaven)
answers to the Greek Uranus and the Maori Rangi, while Prithivi (earth)
is the Greek Gaea, the Maori Papa. In the Veda, heaven and earth are
constantly styled "parents";(1) but this we might regard as a mere
metaphorical expression, still common in poetry. A passage of the
Aitareya Brahmana, however, retains the old conception, in which there
was nothing metaphorical at all.(2) These two worlds, heaven and earth,
were once joined. Subsequently they were separated (according to
one account, by Indra, who thus plays the part of Cronus and of Tane
Mahuta). "Heaven and earth," says Dr. Muir, "are regarded as the parents
not only of men, but of the gods also, as appears from the various texts
where they are designated by the epithet Devapatre, 'having gods for
their children'." By men in an early stage of thought this myth was
accepted along with others in which heaven and earth were regarded
as objects created by one of their own children, as by Indra,(3) who
"stretched them out like a hide," who, like Atlas, "sustains and upholds
them"(4) or, again, Tvashtri, the divine smith, wrought them by his
craft; or, once more, heaven and earth sprung from the head and feet
of Purusha. In short, if any one wished to give an example of that
recklessness of orthodoxy or consistency which is the mark of early
myth, he could find no better example than the Indian legends of the
origin of things. Perhaps there is not one of the myths current among
the lower races which has not its counterpart in the Indian Brahmanas.
It has been enough for us to give a selection of examples.

(1) Muir, v. 22.

(2) iv. 27; Haug, ii. 308.

(3) Rig-Veda, viii. 6, 5.

(4) Ibid., iii. 32, 8.


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

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

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

(1) Odyssey, xx. 354.

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

The correctness of this explanation, resting as it does on the belief
that the Greeks were at one time in the savage status, might be
demonstrated from the fact that not only myths, but Greek life in
general, and especially Greek ritual, teemed with surviving examples of
institutions and of manners which are found everywhere among the most
backward and barbarous races. It is not as if only the myths of Greece
retained this rudeness, or as if the Greeks supposed themselves to have
been always civilised. The whole of Greek life yields relics of savagery
when the surface is excavated ever so slightly. Moreover, that the
Greeks, as soon as they came to reflect on these matters at all,
believed themselves to have emerged from a condition of savagery is
undeniable. The poets are entirely at one on this subject with Moschion,
a writer of the school of Euripides. "The time hath been, yea, it HATH
been," he says, "when men lived like the beasts, dwelling in mountain
caves, and clefts unvisited of the sun.... Then they broke not the soil
with ploughs nor by aid of iron, but the weaker man was slain to make
the supper of the stronger," and so on.(1) This view of the savage
origin of mankind was also held by Aristotle:(2) "It is probable that
the first men, whether they were produced by the earth (earth-born)
or survived from some deluge, were on a level of ignorance and
darkness".(3) This opinion, consciously held and stated by philosophers
and poets, reveals itself also in the universal popular Greek traditions
that men were originally ignorant of fire, agriculture, metallurgy and
all the other arts and conveniences of life, till they were instructed
by ideal culture-heroes, like Prometheus, members of a race divine
or half divine. A still more curious Athenian tradition (preserved by
Varro) maintained, not only that marriage was originally unknown,
but that, as among Australians and some Red Indians, the family name,
descended through the mother, and kinship was reckoned on the female
side before the time of Cecrops.(4)

(1) Moschion; cf. Preller, Ausgewahlte Aufsatze, p. 206.

(2) Politics, ii. 8-21; Plato, Laws, 667-680.

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

(4) Suidas, s.v. "Prometheus"; Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xviii. 9.

While Greek opinion, both popular and philosophical, admitted, or
rather asserted, that savagery lay in the background of the historical
prospect, Greek institutions retained a thousand birth-marks of
savagery. It is manifest and undeniable that the Greek criminal law,
as far as it effected murder, sprang directly from the old savage
blood-feud.(1) The Athenian law was a civilised modification of the
savage rule that the kindred of a slain man take up his blood-feud.
Where homicide was committed WITHIN the circle of blood relationship,
as by Orestes, Greek religion provided the Erinnyes to punish an offence
which had, as it were, no human avenger. The precautions taken by
murderers to lay the ghost of the slain man were much like those in
favour among the Australians. The Greek cut off the extremities of his
victim, the tips of the hands and feet, and disposed them neatly beneath
the arm-pits of the slain man.(2) In the same spirit, and for the same
purpose, the Australian black cuts off the thumbs of his dead enemy,
that the ghost too may be mutilated and prevented from throwing at him
with a ghostly spear. We learn also from Apollonius Rhodius and his
scholiast that Greek murderers used thrice to suck in and spit out the
gore of their victims, perhaps with some idea of thereby partaking of
their blood, and so, by becoming members of their kin, putting it beyond
the power of the ghosts to avenge themselves. Similar ideas inspire the
worldwide savage custom of making an artificial "blood brotherhood" by
mingling the blood of the contracting parties. As to the ceremonies of
cleansing from blood-guiltiness among the Greeks, we may conjecture
that these too had their primitive side; for Orestes, in the Eumenides,
maintains that he has been purified of his mother's slaughter by
sufficient blood of swine. But this point will be illustrated presently,
when we touch on the mysteries.

(1) Duncker, History of Greece, Engl. transl., vol. ii. p. 129.

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

Ritual and myth, as might be expected, retained vast masses of savage
rites and superstitious habits and customs. To be "in all things too
superstitious," too full of deisidaimonia, was even in St. Paul's time
the characteristic of the Athenians. Now superstition, or deisidaimonia,
is defined by Theophrastus,(1) as "cowardice in regard to the
supernatural" ((Greek text omitted)). This "cowardice" has in all ages
and countries secured the permanence of ritual and religious traditions.
Men have always argued, like one of the persons in M. Renan's play, Le
Pretre de Nemi, that "l'ordre du monde depend de l'ordre des rites qu'on
observe". The familiar endurable sequence of the seasons of spring, and
seed-sowing, and harvest depend upon the due performance of immemorial
religious acts. "In the mystic deposits," says Dinarchus, "lies the
safety of the city."(2) What the "mystic deposits" were nobody knows
for certain, but they must have been of very archaic sanctity, and occur
among the Arunta and the Pawnees.

(1) Characters.

(2) Ap. Hermann, Lehrbuch, p. 41; Aglaophamus, 965.

Ritual is preserved because it preserves LUCK. Not only among the Romans
and the Brahmans, with their endless minute ritual actions, but among
such lower races as the Kanekas of New Caledonia, the efficacy of
religious functions is destroyed by the slightest accidental infraction
of established rules.(1) The same timid conservatism presides over
myth, and in each locality the mystery-plays, with their accompanying
narratives, preserved inviolate the early forms of legend. Myth and
ritual do not admit of being argued about. "C'etait le rite etabli. Ce
n'etait pas plus absurde qu'autre chose," says the conservative in M.
Renan's piece, defending the mode of appointment of

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

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

Now, if the rites and myths preserved by the timorousness of this same
"cowardice towards the supernatural" were originally evolved in the
stage of savagery, savage they would remain, as it is impious and
dangerous to reform them till the religion which they serve perishes
with them. These relics in Greek ritual and faith are very commonly
explained as due to Oriental influences, as things borrowed from the
dark and bloody superstitions of Asia. But this attempt to save the
native Greek character for "blitheness" and humanity must not be pushed
too far.(1) It must be remembered that the cruder and wilder sacrifices
and legends of Greece were strictly LOCAL; that they were attached to
these ancient temples, old altars, barbarous xoana, or wooden idols, and
rough fetish stones, in which Pausanias found the most ancient relics of
Hellenic theology. This is a proof of their antiquity and a presumption
in favour of their freedom from foreign influence. Most of these things
were survivals from that dimly remembered prehistoric age in which the
Greeks, not yet gathered into city states, lived in villages or kraals,
or pueblos, as we should translate (Greek text omitted), if we were
speaking of African or American tribes. In that stage the early
Greeks must have lacked both the civic and the national or Panhellenic
sentiment; their political unit was the clan, which, again, answered
in part to the totem kindred of America, or Africa, or Australia.(2) In
this stagnant condition they could not have made acquaintance with the
many creeds of Semitic and other alien peoples on the shores of the
Levant.(3) It was later, when Greece had developed the city life of the
heroic age, that her adventurous sons came into close contact with Egypt
and Phoenicia.

(1) Claus, De Antiq. Form. Dianae, 6,7,16.

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

(3) Compare Claus, De Dianae Antiquissima Natura, p. 3.

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

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

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

In proof of this local conservatism, some passages collected by K. F.
Hermann in his Lehrbuch der Griechischen Antiquitaten(1) may be cited.
Thus Isocrates writes,(2) "This was all their care, neither to destroy
any of the ancestral rites, nor to add aught beyond what was ordained".
Clemens Alexandrinus reports that certain Thessalians worshipped storks,
"IN ACCORDANCE WITH USE AND WONT".(3) Plato lays down the very "law
of least change" which has been described. "Whether the legislator is
establishing a new state or restoring an old and decayed one, in respect
of gods and temples,... if he be a man of sense, he will MAKE NO
CHANGE IN ANYTHING which the oracle of Delphi, or Dodona, or Ammon has
sanctioned, in whatever manner." In this very passage Plato(4) speaks
of rites "derived from Tyrrhenia or Cyprus" as falling within the later
period of the Greek Wanderjahre. On the high religious value of things
antique, Porphyry wrote in a late age, and when the new religion of
Christ was victorious, "Comparing the new sacred images with the old, we
see that the old are more simply fashioned, yet are held divine, but
the new, admired for their elaborate execution, have less persuasion
of divinity,"--a remark anticipated by Pausanias, "The statues Daedalus
wrought are quainter to the outward view, yet there shows forth in them
somewhat supernatural".(5) So Athenaeus(6) reports of a visitor to the
shrine of Leto in Delos, that he expected the ancient statue of the
mother of Apollo to be something remarkable, but, unlike the pious
Porphyry, burst out laughing when he found it a shapeless wooden idol.
These idols were dressed out, fed and adorned as if they had life.(7)
It is natural that myths dating from an age when Greek gods resembled
Polynesian idols should be as rude as Polynesian myths. The tenacity of
LOCAL myth is demonstrated by Pausanias, who declares that even in the
highly civilised Attica the Demes retained legends different from those
of the central city--the legends, probably, which were current before
the villages were "Synoecised" into Athens.(8)

(1) Zweiter Theil, 1858.

(2) Areop., 30.

(3) Clem. Alex., Oxford, 1715, i. 34.

(4) Laws, v. 738.

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

(6) xiv. 2.

(7) Hermann, op. cit., p. 94, note 10.

(8) Pausanias, i. 14, 6.

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

In Christian countries, especially in modern times, the contents of one
church are very like the furniture of another church; the functions in
one resemble those in all, though on the Continent some shrines still
retain relics and customs of the period when local saints had their
peculiar rites. But it was a very different thing in Greece. The pilgrim
who arrived at a temple never could guess what oddity or horror in
the way of statues, sacrifices, or stories might be prepared for his
edification. In the first place, there were HUMAN SACRIFICES. These are
not familiar to low savages, if known to them at all. Probably they were
first offered to barbaric royal ghosts, and thence transferred to gods.
In the town of Salamis, in Cyprus, about the date of Hadrian, the
devout might have found the priest slaying a human victim to Zeus,--an
interesting custom, instituted, according to Lactantius, by Teucer, and
continued till the age of the Roman Empire.(1)

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

At Alos in Achaia Phthiotis, the stranger MIGHT have seen an
extraordinary spectacle, though we admit that the odds would have been
highly against his chance of witnessing the following events. As the
stranger approaches the town-hall, he observes an elderly and most
respectable citizen strolling in the same direction. The citizen is so
lost in thought that apparently he does not notice where he is going.
Behind him comes a crowd of excited but silent people, who watch him
with intense interest. The citizen reaches the steps of the town-hall,
while the excitement of his friends behind increases visibly. Without
thinking, the elderly person enters the building. With a wild and
un-Aryan howl, the other people of Alos are down on him, pinion him,
wreathe him with flowery garlands, and, lead him to the temple of Zeus
Laphystius, or "The Glutton," where he is solemnly sacrificed on
the altar. This was the custom of the good Greeks of Alos whenever a
descendant of the house of Athamas entered the Prytaneion. Of course the
family were very careful, as a rule, to keep at a safe distance from
the forbidden place. "What a sacrifice for Greeks!" as the author of the
Minos(1) says in that dialogue which is incorrectly attributed to Plato.
"He cannot get out except to be sacrificed," says Herodotus, speaking of
the unlucky descendant of Athamas. The custom appears to have existed as
late as the time of the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius.(2)

(1) 315, c.; Plato, Laws, vi. 782, c.

(2) Argonautica, vii. 197.

Even in the second century, when Pausanias visited Arcadia, he found
what seem to have been human sacrifices to Zeus. The passage is so very
strange and romantic that we quote a part of it.(1) "The Lycaean hill
hath other marvels to show, and chiefly this: thereon there is a
grove of Zeus Lycaeus, wherein may men in nowise enter; but if any
transgresses the law and goes within, he must die within the space of
one year. This tale, moreover, they tell, namely, that whatsoever man
or beast cometh within the grove casts no shadow, and the hunter pursues
not the deer into that wood, but, waiting till the beast comes forth
again, sees that it has left its shadow behind. And on the highest crest
of the whole mountain there is a mound of heaped-up earth, the altar of
Zeus Lycaeus, and the more part of Peloponnesus can be seen from that
place. And before the altar stand two pillars facing the rising sun, and
thereon golden eagles of yet more ancient workmanship. And on this altar
they sacrifice to Zeus in a manner that may not be spoken, and little
liking had I to make much search into this matter. BUT LET IT BE AS IT
IS, AND AS IT HATH BEEN FROM THE BEGINNING." The words "as it hath been
from the beginning" are ominous and significant, for the traditional
myths of Arcadia tell of the human sacrifices of Lycaon, and of men who,
tasting the meat of a mixed sacrifice, put human flesh between their
lips unawares.(2) This aspect of Greek religion, then, is almost on a
level with the mysterious cannibal horrors of "Voodoo," as practised by
the secret societies of negroes in Hayti. But concerning these things,
as Pausanias might say, it is little pleasure to inquire.

(1) Pausanias, viii. 2.

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

Even where men were not sacrificed to the gods, the tourist among the
temples would learn that these bloody rites had once been customary, and
ceremonies existed by way of commutation. This is precisely what we find
in Vedic religion, in which the empty form of sacrificing a man was gone
through, and the origin of the world was traced to the fragments of a
god sacrificed by gods.(1) In Sparta was an altar of Artemis Orthia,
and a wooden image of great rudeness and antiquity--so rude indeed, that
Pausanias, though accustomed to Greek fetish-stones, thought it must
be of barbaric origin. The story was that certain people of different
towns, when sacrificing at the altar, were seized with frenzy and slew
each other. The oracle commanded that the altar should be sprinkled
with human blood. Men were therefore chosen by lot to be sacrificed till
Lycurgus commuted the offering, and sprinkled the altar with the blood
of boys who were flogged before the goddess. The priestess holds the
statue of the goddess during the flogging, and if any of the boys are
but lightly scourged, the image becomes too heavy for her to bear.

(1) The Purusha Sukhta, in Rig-Veda, x. 90.

The Ionians near Anthea had a temple of Artemis Triclaria, and to her
it had been customary to sacrifice yearly a youth and maiden of
transcendent beauty. In Pausanias's time the human sacrifice was
commuted. He himself beheld the strange spectacle of living beasts
and birds being driven into the fire to Artemis Laphria, a Calydonian
goddess, and he had seen bears rush back among the ministrants; but
there was no record that any one had ever been hurt by these wild
beasts.(1) The bear was a beast closely connected with Artemis, and
there is some reason to suppose that the goddess had herself been
a she-bear or succeeded to the cult of a she-bear in the morning of

(1) Paus., vii. 18, 19.

(2) See "Artemis", postea.

It may be believed that where symbolic human sacrifices are offered,
that is, where some other victim is slain or a dummy of a man is
destroyed, and where legend maintains that the sacrifice was once human,
there men and women were originally the victims. Greek ritual and Greek
myth were full of such tales and such commutations.(1) In Rome, as is
well known, effigies of men called Argives were sacrificed.(2) As an
example of a beast-victim given in commutation, Pausanias mentions(3)
the case of the folk of Potniae, who were compelled once a year to offer
to Dionysus a boy, in the bloom of youth. But the sacrifice was commuted
for a goat.

(1) See Hermann, Alterthumer., ii. 159-161, for abundant examples.

(2) Plutarch, Quest. Rom. 32.

(3) ix. 8, 1.

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

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

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

The answer is less obvious than might be supposed. Sacrifice has two
origins. First, there are HONORIFIC sacrifices, in which the ghost or
god (or divine beast, if a divine beast be worshipped) is offered the
food he is believed to prefer. This does not occur among the lowest
savages. To carnivorous totems, Garcilasso says, the Indians of Peru
offered themselves. The feeding of sacred mice in the temples of Apollo
Smintheus is well known. Secondly, there are expiatory or PIACULAR
sacrifices, in which the worshipper, as it were, fines himself in a
child, an ox, or something else that he treasures. The latter kind of
sacrifice (most common in cases of crime done or suspected within the
circle of kindred) is not necessarily barbaric, except in its cruelty.
An example is the Attic Thargelia, in which two human scape-goats
annually bore "the sins of the congregation," and were flogged, driven
to the sea with figs tied round their necks, and burned.(1)

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

The institution of human sacrifice, then, whether the offering be
regarded as food, or as a gift to the god of what is dearest to man (as
in the case of Jephtha's daughter), or whether the victim be supposed to
carry on his head the sins of the people, does not necessarily date from
the period of savagery. Indeed, sacrifice flourishes most, not among
savages, but among advancing barbarians. It would probably be impossible
to find any examples of human sacrifices of an expiatory or piacular
character, any sacrifices at all, among Australians, or Andamanese,
or Fuegians. The notion of presenting food to the supernatural powers,
whether ghosts or gods, is relatively rare among savages.(1) The
terrible Aztec banquets of which the gods were partakers are the most
noted examples of human sacrifices with a purely cannibal origin. Now
there is good reason to guess that human sacrifices with no other
origin than cannibalism survived even in ancient Greece. "It may be
conjectured," writes Professor Robertson Smith,(2) "that the human
sacrifices offered to the Wolf Zeus (Lycaeus) in Arcadia were originally
cannibal feasts of a Wolf tribe. The first participants in the rite
were, according to later legend, changed into wolves; and in later
times(3) at least one fragment of the human flesh was placed among the
sacrificial portions derived from other victims, and the man who ate it
was believed to become a were-wolf."(4) It is the almost universal rule
with cannibals not to eat members of their own stock, just as they do
not eat their own totem. Thus, as Professor Robertson Smith says, when
the human victim is a captive or other foreigner, the human sacrifice
may be regarded as a survival of cannibalism. Where, on the other
hand, the victim is a fellow tribesman, the sacrifice is expiatory or

(1) Jevons, Introduction to the Science of Religion, pp. 161, 199.

(2) Encyc. Brit., s. v. "Sacrifice".

(3) Plato, Rep., viii. 565, D.

(4) Paus., viii. 2.

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

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

When his curiosity about human sacrifices was satisfied, the pilgrim in
Greece might turn his attention to the statues and other representations
of the gods. He would find that the modern statues by famous artists
were beautiful anthropomorphic works in marble or in gold and ivory.
It is true that the faces of the ancient gilded Dionysi at Corinth
were smudged all over with cinnabar, like fetish-stones in India or
Africa.(1) As a rule, however, the statues of historic times were
beautiful representations of kindly and gracious beings. The older works
were stiff and rigid images, with the lips screwed into an unmeaning
smile. Older yet were the bronze gods, made before the art of soldering
was invented, and formed of beaten plates joined by small nails. Still
more ancient were the wooden images, which probably bore but a slight
resemblance to the human frame, and which were often mere "stocks".(2)
Perhaps once a year were shown the very early gods, the Demeter with the
horse's head, the Artemis with the fish's tails, the cuckoo Hera, whose
image was of pear-wood, the Zeus with three eyes, the Hermes, made
after the fashion of the pictures on the walls of sacred caves among
the Bushmen. But the oldest gods of all, says Pausanias repeatedly, were
rude stones in the temple or the temple precinct. In Achaean Pharae he
found some thirty squared stones, named each after a god. "Among all
the Greeks in the oldest times rude stones were worshipped in place of
statues." The superstitious man in Theophrastus's Characters used to
anoint the sacred stones with oil. The stone which Cronus swallowed
in mistake for Zeus was honoured at Delphi, and kept warm with wool
wrappings. There was another sacred stone among the Troezenians, and
the Megarians worshipped as Apollo a stone cut roughly into a pyramidal
form. The Argives had a big stone called Zeus Kappotas. The Thespians
worshipped a stone which they called Eros; "their oldest idol is a rude
stone".(3) It is well known that the original fetish-stone has been
found in situ below the feet of the statue of Apollo in Delos. On this
showing, then, the religion of very early Greeks in Greece was not
unlike that of modern Negroes. The artistic evolution of the gods, a
remarkably rapid one after a certain point, could be traced in every
temple. It began with the rude stone, and rose to the wooden idol, in
which, as we have seen, Pausanias and Porphyry found such sanctity.
Next it reached the hammered bronze image, passed through the archaic
marbles, and culminated in the finer marbles and the chryselephantine
statues of Zeus and Athena. But none of the ancient sacred objects lost
their sacredness. The oldest were always the holiest idols; the oldest
of all were stumps and stones, like savage fetish-stones.

(1) Pausanias, ii. 2.

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

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

Another argument in favour of the general thesis that savagery left
deep marks on Greek life in general, and on myth in particular, may be
derived from survivals of totemism in ritual and legend. The following
instances need not necessarily be accepted, but it may be admitted that
they are precisely the traces which totemism would leave had it once
existed, and then waned away on the advance of civilisation.(1)

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

That Greeks in certain districts regarded with religious reverence
certain plants and animals is beyond dispute. That some stocks even
traced their lineage to beasts will be shown in the chapter on Greek
Divine Myths, and the presumption is that these creatures, though
explained as incarnations and disguises of various gods, were once
totems sans phrase, as will be inferred from various examples. Clemens
Alexandrinus, again, after describing the animal-worship of the
Egyptians, mentions cases of zoolatry in Greece.(1) The Thessalians
revered storks, the Thebans weasels, and the myth ran that the weasel
had in some way aided Alcmena when in labour with Heracles. In another
form of the myth the weasel was the foster-mother of the hero.(2) Other
Thessalians, the Myrmidons, claimed descent from the ant and revered
ants. The religious respect paid to mice in the temple of Apollo
Smintheus, in the Troad, Rhodes, Gela, Lesbos and Crete is well known,
and a local tribe were alluded to as Mice by an oracle. The god himself,
like the Japanese harvest-god, was represented in art with a mouse at
his foot, and mice, as has been said, were fed at his shrine.(3) The
Syrians, says Clemens Alexandrinus, worship doves and fishes, as the
Elians worship Zeus.(4) The people of Delphi adored the wolf,(5) and the
Samians the sheep. The Athenians had a hero whom they worshipped in the
shape of a wolf.(6) A remarkable testimony is that of the scholiast on
Apollonius Rhodius, ii. 124. "The wolf," he says, "was a beast held in
honour by the Athenians, and whosoever slays a wolf collects what
is needful for its burial." The burial of sacred animals in Egypt
is familiar. An Arab tribe mourns over and solemnly buries all dead
gazelles.(7) Nay, flies were adored with the sacrifice of an ox near
the temple of Apollo in Leucas.(8) Pausanias (iii. 22) mentions certain
colonists who were guided by a hare to a site where the animal hid in a
myrtle-bush. They therefore adore the myrtle, (Greek text omitted). In
the same way a Carian stock, the Ioxidae, revered the asparagus.(9) A
remarkable example of descent mythically claimed from one of the lower
animals is noted by Otfried Muller.(10) Speaking of the swan of Apollo,
he says, "That deity was worshipped, according to the testimony of the
Iliad, in the Trojan island of Tenedos. There, too, was Tennes honoured
as the (Greek text omitted) of the island. Now his father was called
Cycnus (the swan) in an oft-told and romantic legend.(11)... The swan,
therefore, as father to the chief hero on the Apolline island, stands
in distinct relation to the god, who is made to come forward still more
prominently from the fact that Apollo himself is also called father of
Tennes. I think we can scarcely fail to recognise a mythus which was
local at Tenedos.... The fact, too, of calling the swan, instead of
Apollo, the father of a hero, demands altogether a simplicity and
boldness of fancy which are far more ancient than the poems of Homer."

(1) Op. cit., i. 34.

(2) Scholiast on Iliad, xix. 119.

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

(4) Lucian, De Dea Syria.

(5) Aelian, H. A., xii. 40.

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

(7) Robertson Smith, Kinship in Early Arabia, pp. 195-204.

(8) Aelian, xi. 8.

(9) Plutarch, Theseus, 14.

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

(11) (Canne on Conon, 28.)

Had Muller known that this "simplicity and boldness of fancy" exist
to-day, for example, among the Swan tribe of Australia, he would
probably have recognised in Cycnus a survival from totemism. The fancy
survives again in Virgil's Cupavo, "with swan's plumes rising from his
crest, the mark of his father's form".(1) Descent was claimed, not only
from a swan Apollo, but from a dog Apollo.

(1) Aeneid, x. 187.

In connection with the same set of ideas, it is pointed out that several
(Greek text omitted), or stocks, had eponymous heroes, in whose names
the names of the ancestral beast apparently survived. In Attica
the Crioeis have their hero (Crio, "Ram"), the Butadae have Butas
("Bullman"), the Aegidae have Aegeus ("Goat"), and the Cynadae, Cynus
("Dog"). Lycus, according to Harpocration (s. v.) has his statue in the
shape of a wolf in the Lyceum. "The general facts that certain animals
might not be sacrificed to certain gods" (at Athens the Aegidae
introduced Athena, to whom no goat might be offered on the Acropolis,
while she herself wore the goat skin, aegis), "while, on the other
hand, each deity demanded particular victims, explained by the ancients
themselves in certain cases to be hostile animals, find their natural
explanation" in totemism.(1) Mr. Evelyn Abbott points out, however, that
the names Aegeus, Aegae, Aegina, and others, may be connected with the
goat only by an old volks-etymologie, as on coins of Aegina in Achaea.
The real meaning of the words may be different. Compare (Greek text
omitted), the sea-shore. Mr. J. G. Frazer does not, at present, regard
totemism as proved in the case of Greece.(2)

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

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

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

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

First, as to the mystic dances, Lucian observes:(1) "You cannot find a
single ancient mystery in which there is not dancing.... This much all
men know, that most people say of the revealers of the mysteries that
they 'dance them out'" ((Greek text omitted)). Clemens of Alexandria
uses the same term when speaking of his own "appalling revelations".(2)
So closely connected are mysteries with dancing among savages, that when
Mr. Orpen asked Qing, the Bushman hunter, about some doctrines in which
Qing was not initiated, he said: "Only the initiated men of that dance
know these things". To "dance" this or that means to be acquainted with
this or that myth, which is represented in a dance or ballet d'action(3)
((Greek text omitted)). So widely distributed is the practice, that
Acosta, in an interesting passage, mentions it as familiar to the people
of Peru before and after the Spanish conquest. The text is a valuable
instance of survival in religion. When they were converted to
Christianity the Peruvians detected the analogy between our sacrament
and their mysteries, and they kept up as much as possible of the
old rite in the new ritual. Just as the mystae of Eleusis practised
chastity, abstaining from certain food, and above all from beans, before
the great Pagan sacrament, so did the Indians. "To prepare themselves
all the people fasted two days, during which they did neyther company
with their wives, nor eate any meate with salt or garlicke, nor drink
any chic.... And although the Indians now forbeare to sacrifice beasts
or other things publikely, which cannot be hidden from the Spaniardes,
yet doe they still use many ceremonies that have their beginnings
from these feasts and auntient superstitions, for at this day do they
covertly make their feast of Ytu at the daunces of the feast of the
Sacrament. Another feast falleth almost at the same time, whereas the
Christians observe the solempnitie of the holy Sacrament, which
REPRESENTATIONS."(4) The holy "daunces" at Seville are under Papal
disapproval, but are to be kept up, it is said, till the peculiar
dresses used in them are worn out. Acosta's Indians also had "garments
which served only for this feast". It is superfluous to multiply
examples of the dancing, which is an invariable feature of savage as of
Greek mysteries.

(1) (Greek text omitted), chap. xv. 277.

(2) Ap. Euseb., Praep. Ev., ii, 3, 6.

(3) Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

(4) Acosta, Historie of the Indies, book v. chap. xxviii. London, 1604.

2. The Greek and savage use of the turndun, or bribbun of Australia in
the mysteries is familiar to students. This fish-shaped flat board of
wood is tied to a string, and whirled round, so as to cause a
peculiar muffled roar. Lobeck quotes from the old scholia on Clemens
Alexandrinus, published by Bastius in annotations on St. Gregory, the
following Greek description of the turndun, the "bull-roarer" of English
country lads, the Gaelic srannam:(1) (Greek text omitted)". "The conus
was a little slab of wood, tied to a string, and whirled round in the
mysteries to make a whirring noise. As the mystic uses of the turndun
in Australia, New Zealand, New Mexico and Zululand have elsewhere been
described at some length (Custom and Myth, pp. 28-44), it may be enough
to refer the reader to the passage. Mr. Taylor has since found the
instrument used in religious mysteries in West Africa, so it has now
been tracked almost round the world. That an instrument so rude should
be employed by Greek and Australians on mystic occasions is in itself a
remarkable coincidence. Unfortunately, Lobeck, who published the Greek
description of the turndun (Aglaophamus, 700), was unacquainted with the
modern ethnological evidence.

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

3. The custom of plastering the initiated over with clay or filth was
common in Greek as in barbaric mysteries. Greek examples may be given
first. Demosthenes accuses Aeschines of helping his mother in certain
mystic rites, aiding her, especially, by bedaubing the initiate with
clay and bran.(1) Harpocration explains the term used ((Greek text
omitted)) thus: "Daubing the clay and bran on the initiate, to explain
which they say that the Titans when they attacked Dionysus daubed
themselves over with chalk, but afterwards, for ritual purposes, clay
was used". It may be urged with some force that the mother of Aeschines
introduced foreign, novel and possibly savage rites. But Sophocles, in
a fragment of his lost play, the Captives, uses the term in the same
ritual sense--

    (Greek text omitted).

(1) De Corona, 313.

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

     (Greek text omitted).
     Worse have I fled, better have I found.

That this was the significance of the daubing with clay in Greek
mysteries and the subsequent cleansing seems quite certain. We are led
straight to this conclusion by similar rites, in which the purpose of
mystically cleansing was openly put forward. Thus Plutarch, in his
essay on superstition, represents the guilty man who would be purified
actually rolling in clay, confessing his misdeeds, and then sitting at
home purified by the cleansing process ((Greek text omitted)).(1) In
another rite, the cleansing of blood-guiltiness, a similar process
was practised. Orestes, after killing his mother, complains that the
Eumenides do not cease to persecute him, though he has been "purified
by blood of swine".(2) Apollonius says that the red hand of the murderer
was dipped in the blood of swine and then washed.(3) Athenaeus describes
a similar unpleasant ceremony.(4) The blood of whelps was apparently
used also, men being first daubed with it and then washed clean.(5) The
word (Greek text omitted) is again the appropriate ritual term. Such
rites Plutarch calls (Greek text omitted), "filthy purifications".(6) If
daubing with dirt is known to have been a feature of Greek mysteries,
it meets us everywhere among savages. In O-Kee-Pa, that curiously minute
account of the Mandan mysteries, Catlin writes that a portion of the
frame of the initiate was "covered with clay, which the operator took
from a wooden bowl, and with his hand plastered unsparingly over". The
fifty young men waiting for initiation "were naked and entirely covered
with clay of various colours".(7) The custom is mentioned by Captain
John Smith in Virginia. Mr. Winwood Reade found it in Africa, where, as
among the Mandans and Spartans, cruel torture and flogging accompanied
the initiation of young men.(8) In Australia the evidence for daubing
the initiate is very abundant.(9) In New Mexico, the Zunis stole Mr.
Cushing's black paint, as considering it even better than clay for
religious daubing.(10)

(1) So Hermann, op. cit., 133.

(2) Eumenides, 273.

(3) Argonautica, iv. 693.

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

(5) Plutarch, Quaest. Rom., 68.

(6) De Superstitione, chap. xii.

(7) O-Kee-Pa, London, 1867, p. 21.

(8) Savage Africa, case of Mongilomba; Pausanias, iii. 15.

(9) Brough Smyth, i. 60.

(10) Custma and Myth, p. 40.

4. Another savage rite, the use of serpents in Greek mysteries, is
attested by Clemens Alexandrinus and by Demosthenes (loc. cit.). Clemens
says the snakes were caressed in representations of the loves of Zeus in
serpentine form. The great savage example is that of "the snake-dance
of the Moquis," who handle rattle-snakes in the mysteries without
being harmed.(1) The dance is partly totemistic, partly meant, like
the Thesmophoria, to secure the fertility of the lands of the Moquis
of Arizonas. The turndum or (Greek text omitted) is employed. Masks are
worn, as in the rites of Demeter Cidiria in Arcadia.(2)

(1) The Snake-Dance of the Moquis. By Captain John G. Bourke, London,

(2) Pausanias, viii. 16.

5. This last point of contact between certain Greek and certain savage
mysteries is highly important. The argument of Lobeck, in his celebrated
work Aglaophamus, is that the Mysteries were of no great moment in
religion. Had he known the evidence as to savage initiations, he would
have been confirmed in his opinion, for many of the singular Greek
rites are clearly survivals from savagery. But was there no more truly
religious survival? Pindar is a very ancient witness that things of
divine import were revealed. "Happy is he who having seen these things
goes under the hollow earth. He knows the end of life, and the god-given
beginning."(1) Sophocles "chimes in," as Lobeck says, declaring that
the initiate alone LIVE in Hades, while other souls endure all evils.
Crinagoras avers that even in life the initiate live secure, and in
death are the happier. Isagoras declares that about the end of life and
all eternity they have sweet hopes.

(1) Fragm., cxvi., 128 H. p. 265.

Splendida testimonia, cries Lobeck. He tries to minimise the evidence,
remarking that Isocrates promises the very same rewards to all who live
justly and righteously. But why not, if to live justly and righteously
was part of the teaching of the mysteries of Eleusis? Cicero's evidence,
almost a translation of the Greek passages already cited, Lobeck
dismisses as purely rhetorical.(1) Lobeck's method is rather cavalier.
Pindar and Sophocles meant something of great significance.

(1) De Legibus ii. 14; Aglaophamus, pp. 69-74.

Now we have acknowledged savage survivals of ugly rites in the Greek
mysteries. But it is only fair to remember that, in certain of the few
savage mysteries of which we know the secret, righteousness of life and
a knowledge of good are inculcated. This is the case in Australia, and
in Central Africa, where to be "uninitiated" is equivalent to being
selfish.(1) Thus it seems not improbable that consolatory doctrines were
expounded in the Eleusinia, and that this kind of sermon or exhortation
was no less a survival from savagery than the daubing with clay, and the
(Greek text omitted), and other wild rites.

(1) Making of Religion, pp. 193-197, 235.

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


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

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

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

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

We must remember that it does not follow that any mythical ideas are
later than the age of Homer because we first meet them in poems of a
later date. We have already seen that though the Brahmanas are much
later in date of compilation than the Veda, yet a tradition which we
first find in the Brahmanas may be older than the time at which the Veda
was compiled. In the same way, as Mr. Max Muller observes, "we know that
certain ideas which we find in later writers do not occur in Homer. But
it does not follow at all that such ideas are all of later growth or
possess a secondary character. One myth may have belonged to one tribe;
one god may have had his chief worship in one locality; and our becoming
acquainted with these through a later poet does not in the least prove
their later origin."(1)

(1) Hibbert Lectures, pp. 130, 131.

After Homer and Hesiod, our most ancient authorities for Greek
cosmogonic myths are probably the so-called Orphic fragments. Concerning
the dates and the manner of growth of these poems volumes of erudition
have been compiled. As Homer is silent about Orpheus (in spite of the
position which the mythical Thracian bard acquired as the inventor of
letters and magic and the father of the mysteries), it has been usual to
regard the Orphic ideas as of late introduction. We may agree with Grote
and Lobeck that these ideas and the ascetic "Orphic mode of life" first
acquired importance in Greece about the time of Epimenides, or, roughly
speaking, between 620 and 500 B.C.(1) That age certainly witnessed a
curious growth of superstitious fears and of mystic ceremonies intended
to mitigate spiritual terrors. Greece was becoming more intimately
acquainted with Egypt and with Asia, and was comparing her own religion
with the beliefs and rites of other peoples. The times and the minds of
men were being prepared for the clear philosophies that soon "on Argive
heights divinely sang". Just as, when the old world was about to accept
Christianity, a deluge of Oriental and barbaric superstitions swept
across men's minds, so immediately before the dawn of Greek philosophy
there came an irruption of mysticism and of spiritual fears. We may
suppose that the Orphic poems were collected, edited and probably
interpolated, in this dark hour of Greece. "To me," says Lobeck, "it
appears that the verses may be referred to the age of Onomacritus,
an age curious in the writings of ancient poets, and attracted by the
allurements of mystic religions." The style of the surviving fragments
is sufficiently pure and epic; the strange unheard of myths are unlike
those which the Alexandrian poets drew from fountains long lost.(2) But
how much in the Orphic myths is imported from Asia or Egypt, how much is
the invention of literary forgers like Onomacritus, how much should be
regarded as the first guesses of the physical poet-philosophers, and
how much is truly ancient popular legend recast in literary form, it is
impossible with certainty to determine.

(1) Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 317; Grote, iii. 86.

(2) Aglaophamus, i. 611.

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

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

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

After this brief examination of the sources of our knowledge of Greek
myth, we may approach the Homeric legends of the origin of things and
the world's beginning. In Homer these matters are only referred to
incidentally. He more than once calls Oceanus (that is, the fabled
stream which flows all round the world, here regarded as a PERSON)
"the origin of the gods," "the origin of all things".(1) That Ocean is
considered a person, and that he is not an allegory for water or the
aqueous element, appears from the speech of Hera to Aphrodite: "I am
going to visit the limits of the bountiful earth, and Oceanus, father of
the gods, and mother Tethys, who reared me duly and nurtured me in their
halls, when far-seeing Zeus imprisoned Cronus beneath the earth and the
unvintaged sea".(2) Homer does not appear to know Uranus as the father
of Cronus, and thus the myth of the mutilation of Uranus necessarily
does not occur in Homer. Cronus, the head of the dynasty which preceded
that of Zeus, is described(3) as the son of Rhea, but nothing is said
of his father. The passage contains the account which Poseidon himself
chose to give of the war in heaven: "Three brethren are we, and sons
of Cronus whom Rhea bare--Zeus and myself, and Hades is the third, the
ruler of the folk in the underworld. And in three lots were all things
divided, and each drew a domain of his own." Here Zeus is the ELDEST
son of Cronus. Though lots are drawn at hazard for the property of
the father (which we know to have been customary in Homer's time), yet
throughout the Iliad Zeus constantly claims the respect and obedience
due to him by right of primogeniture.(4) We shall see that Hesiod adopts
exactly the opposite view. Zeus is the YOUNGEST child of Cronus. His
supremacy is an example of jungsten recht, the wide-spread custom which
makes the youngest child the heir in chief.(5) But how did the sons of
Cronus come to have his property in their hands to divide? By right of
successful rebellion, when "Zeus imprisoned Cronus beneath the earth
and the unvintaged sea". With Cronus in his imprisonment are the Titans.
That is all that Homer cares to tell about the absolute beginning of
things and the first dynasty of rulers of Olympus. His interest is all
in the actual reigning family, that of the Cronidae, nor is he fond of
reporting their youthful excesses.

(1) Iliad, xiv. 201, 302, 246.

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

(3) Iliad, xv. 187.

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

(5) See Elton, Origins of English History, pp. 185-207.

We now turn from Homer's incidental allusions to the ample and
systematic narrative of Hesiod. As Mr. Grote says, "Men habitually
took their information respecting their theogonic antiquities from the
Hesiodic poems." Hesiod was accepted as an authority both by the pious
Pausanias in the second century of our era--who protested against any
attempt to alter stories about the gods--and by moral reformers like
Plato and Xenophanes, who were revolted by the ancient legends,(1)
and, indeed, denied their truth. Yet, though Hesiod represents Greek
orthodoxy, we have observed that Homer (whose epics are probably still
more ancient) steadily ignores the more barbarous portions of Hesiod's
narrative. Thus the question arises: Are the stories of
Hesiod's invention, and later than Homer, or does Homer's genius
half-unconsciously purify materials like those which Hesiod presents
in the crudest form? Mr. Grote says: "How far these stories are the
invention of Hesiod himself it is impossible to determine. They bring us
down to a cast of fancy more coarse and indelicate than the Homeric, and
more nearly resemble some of the holy chapters ((Greek text omitted))
of the more recent mysteries, such, for example, as the tale of Dionysus
Zagreus. There is evidence in the Theogony itself that the author was
acquainted with local legends current both at Krete and at Delphi, for
he mentions both the mountain-cave in Krete wherein the newly-born Zeus
was hidden, and the stone near the Delphian temple--the identical stone
which Kronos had swallowed--placed by Zeus himself as a sign and marvel
to mortal men. Both these monuments, which the poet expressly refers to,
and had probably seen, imply a whole train of accessory and explanatory
local legends, current probably among the priests of Krete and Delphi."

(1) Timaeeus, 41; Republic, 377.

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

To Hesiod, then, we must turn for what is the earliest complete
literary form of the Greek cosmogonic myth. Hesiod begins, like the
New Zealanders, with "the august race of gods, by earth and wide heaven
begotten".(1) So the New Zealanders, as we have seen, say, "The
heaven which is above us, and the earth which is beneath us, are the
progenitors of men and the origin of all things". Hesiod(2) somewhat
differs from this view by making Chaos absolutely first of all things,
followed by "wide-bosomed Earth," Tartarus and Eros (love). Chaos
unaided produced Erebus and Night; the children of Night and Erebus are
Aether and Day. Earth produced Heaven, who then became her own lover,
and to Heaven she bore Oceanus, and the Titans, Coeeus and Crius,
Hyperion and Iapetus, Thea and Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys,
"and youngest after these was born Cronus of crooked counsel, the most
dreadful of her children, who ever detested his puissant sire," Heaven.
There were other sons of Earth and Heaven peculiarly hateful to their
father,(3) and these Uranus used to hide from the light in a hollow of
Gaea. Both they and Gaea resented this treatment, and the Titans, like
"the children of Heaven and Earth," in the New Zealand poem, "sought to
discern the difference between light and darkness". Gaea (unlike Earth
in the New Zealand myth, for there she is purely passive), conspired
with her children, produced iron, and asked her sons to avenge their
wrongs.(4) Fear fell upon all of them save Cronus, who (like Tane Mahuta
in the Maori poem) determined to end the embraces of Earth and Heaven.
But while the New Zealand, like the Indo-Aryan myth,(5) conceives of
Earth and Heaven as two beings who have never previously been sundered
at all, Hesiod makes Heaven amorously approach his spouse from a
distance. This was the moment for Cronus,(6) who stretched out his
hand armed with the sickle of iron, and mutilated Uranus. As in so many
savage myths, the blood of the wounded god fallen on the ground produced
strange creatures, nymphs of the ash-tree, giants and furies. As in
the Maori myth, one of the children of Heaven stood apart and did not
consent to the deed. This was Oceanus in Greece,(7) and in New Zealand
it was Tawhiri Matea, the wind, "who arose and followed his father,
Heaven, and remained with him in the open spaces of the sky". Uranus now
predicted(8) that there would come a day of vengeance for the evil deed
of Cronus, and so ends the dynasty of Uranus.

(1) Theog., 45.

(2) Ibid., 116.

(3) Ibid., 155.

(4) Ibid., 166.

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

(6) Theog., 175-185.

(7) Apollod., i, 15.

(8) Theog., 209.

This story was one of the great stumbling-blocks of orthodox Greece. It
was the tale that Plato said should be told, if at all, only to a few
in a mystery, after the sacrifice of some rare and scarcely obtainable
animal. Even among the Maoris, the conduct of the children who severed
their father and mother is regarded as a singular instance of iniquity,
and is told to children as a moral warning, an example to be condemned.
In Greece, on the other hand, unless we are to take the Euthyphro
as wholly ironical, some of the pious justified their conduct by the
example of Zeus. Euthyphro quotes this example when he is about to
prosecute his own father, for which act, he says, "Men are angry with
ME; so inconsistently do they talk when I am concerned and when the gods
are concerned".(1) But in Greek THE TALE HAS NO MEANING. It has been
allegorised in various ways, and Lafitau fancied that it was a distorted
form of the Biblical account of the origin of sin. In Maori the legend
is perfectly intelligible. Heaven and earth were conceived of (like
everything else), as beings with human parts and passions, linked in
an endless embrace which crushed and darkened their children. It became
necessary to separate them, and this feat was achieved not without
pain. "Then wailed the Heaven, and exclaimed the Earth, 'Wherefore
this murder? Why this great sin? Why separate us?' But what cared Tane?
Upwards he sent one and downwards the other. He cruelly severed
the sinews which united Heaven and Earth."(2) The Greek myth too,
contemplated earth and heaven as beings corporeally united, and heaven
as a malignant power that concealed his children in darkness.

(1) Euthyphro, 6.

(2) Taylor, New Zealand, 119.

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

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

Cronus wedded his sister, Rhea, and begat Demeter, Hera, Hades,
Poseidon, and the youngest, Zeus. "And mighty Cronus swallowed down each
of them, each that came to their mother's knees from her holy womb, with
this intent that none other of the proud sons of heaven should hold his
kingly sway among the immortals. Heaven and Earth had warned him that he
too should fall through his children. Wherefore he kept no vain
watch, but spied and swallowed down each of his offspring, while grief
immitigable took possession of Rhea."(1) Rhea, being about to become the
mother of Zeus, took counsel with Uranus and Gaea. By their advice she
went to Crete, where Zeus was born, and, in place of the child, she
presented to Cronus a huge stone swathed in swaddling bands. This he
swallowed, and was easy in his mind. Zeus grew up, and by some means,
suggested by Gaea, compelled Zeus to disgorge all his offspring. "And
he vomited out the stone first, as he had swallowed it last."(2) The
swallowed children emerged alive, and Zeus fixed the stone at Pytho
(Delphi), where Pausanias(3) had the privilege of seeing it, and where,
as it did not tempt the cupidity of barbarous invaders, it probably
still exists. It was not a large stone, Pausanias says, and the
Delphians used to pour oil over it, as Jacob did(4) to the stone at
Bethel, and on feast-days they covered it with wraps of wool. The custom
of smearing fetish-stones (which Theophrastus mentions as one of the
practices of the superstitious man) is clearly a survival from
the savage stage of religion. As a rule, however, among savages,
fetish-stones are daubed with red paint (like the face of the wooden
ancient Dionysi in Greece, and of Tsui Goab among the Hottentots), not
smeared with oil.(5)

(1) Theog., 460, 465.

(2) Theog., 498.

(3) x. 245.

(4) Gen. xxviii. 18.

(5) Pausanias, ii. 2, 5. "Churinga" in Australia are greased with
the natural moisture of the palm of the hand, and rubbed with red
ochre.--Spencer and Gillen. They are "sacred things," but not exactly

The myth of the swallowing and disgorging of his own children by Cronus
was another of the stumbling-blocks of Greek orthodoxy. The common
explanation, that Time ((Greek text omitted)) does swallow his children,
the days, is not quite satisfactory. Time brings never the past back
again, as Cronus did. Besides, the myth of the swallowing is not
confined to Cronus. Modern philology has given, as usual, different
analyses of the meaning of the name of the god. Hermann, with Preller,
derives it from (Greek text omitted), to fulfil. The harvest-month, says
Preller, was named Cronion in Greece, and Cronia was the title of the
harvest-festival. The sickle of Cronus is thus brought into connection
with the sickle of the harvester.(1)

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

The second myth, in which Cronus swallows his children, has numerous
parallels in savage legend. Bushmen tell of Kwai Hemm, the devourer, who
swallows that great god, the mantis insect, and disgorges him alive with
all the other persons and animals whom he has engulphed in the course of
a long and voracious career.(1) The moon in Australia, while he lived
on earth, was very greedy, and swallowed the eagle-god, whom he had to
disgorge. Mr. Im Thurn found similar tales among the Indians of Guiana.
The swallowing and disgorging of Heracles by the monster that was to
slay Hesione is well known. Scotch peasants tell of the same feats, but
localise the myth on the banks of the Ken in Galloway. Basutos, Eskimos,
Zulus and European fairy tales all possess this incident, the swallowing
of many persons by a being from whose maw they return alive and in good

(1) Bleek, Bushman Folk-lore, pp. 6, 8.

A mythical conception which prevails from Greenland to South Africa,
from Delphi to the Solomon Islands, from Brittany to the shores of Lake
Superior, must have some foundation in the common elements of human
nature.(1) Now it seems highly probable that this curious idea may have
been originally invented in an attempt to explain natural phenomena by
a nature-myth. It has already been shown (chapter v.) that eclipses are
interpreted, even by the peasantry of advanced races, as the swallowing
of the moon by a beast or a monster. The Piutes account for the
disappearance of the stars in the daytime by the hypothesis that the
"sun swallows his children". In the Melanesian myth, dawn is cut out of
the body of night by Qat, armed with a knife of red obsidian. Here are
examples(2) of transparent nature-myths in which this idea occurs for
obvious explanatory purposes, and in accordance with the laws of the
savage imagination. Thus the conception of the swallowing and disgorging
being may very well have arisen out of a nature-myth. But why is the
notion attached to the legend of Cronus?

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

(2) Compare Tylor, Prim. Cult., i. 338.

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

This peculiarly savage trick of swallowing each other became an
inherited habit in the family of Cronus. When Zeus reached years of
discretion, he married Metis, and this lady, according to the scholiast
on Hesiod, had the power of transforming herself into any shape she
pleased. When she was about to be a mother, Zeus induced her to assume
the shape of a fly and instantly swallowed her.(1) In behaving thus,
Zeus acted on the advice of Uranus and Gaea. It was feared that Metis
would produce a child more powerful than his father. Zeus avoided this
peril by swallowing his wife, and himself gave birth to Athene. The
notion of swallowing a hostile person, who has been changed by magic
into a conveniently small bulk, is very common. It occurs in the story
of Taliesin.(2) Caridwen, in the shape of a hen, swallows Gwion Bach,
in the form of a grain of wheat. In the same manner the princess in the
Arabian Nights swallowed the Geni. Here then we have in the Hesiodic
myth an old marchen pressed into the service of the higher mythology.
The apprehension which Zeus (like Herod and King Arthur) always felt
lest an unborn child should overthrow him, was also familiar to Indra;
but, instead of swallowing the mother and concealing her in his own
body, like Zeus, Indra entered the mother's body, and himself was born
instead of the dreaded child.(3) A cow on this occasion was born along
with Indra. This adventure of the (Greek text omitted) or swallowing
of Metis was explained by the late Platonists as a Platonic allegory.
Probably the people who originated the tale were not Platonists, any
more than Pandarus was all Aristotelian.

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

(2) Mabinogion, p. 473.

(3) Black Yajur Veda, quoted by Sayana.

After Homer and Hesiod, the oldest literary authorities for Greek
cosmogonic myths are the poems attributed to Orpheus. About their
probable date, as has been said, little is known. They have reached us
only in fragments, but seem to contain the first guesses of a philosophy
not yet disengaged from mythical conditions. The poet preserves, indeed,
some extremely rude touches of early imagination, while at the same time
one of the noblest and boldest expressions of pantheistic thought is
attributed to him. From the same source are drawn ideas as pure as those
of the philosophical Vedic hymn,(1) and as wild as those of the Vedic
Purusha Sukta, or legend of the fashioning of the world out of the
mangled limbs of Purusha. The authors of the Orphic cosmogony appear to
have begun with some remarks on Time ((Greek text omitted)). "Time
was when as yet this world was not."(2) Time, regarded in the mythical
fashion as a person, generated Chaos and Aether. The Orphic poet styles
Chaos (Greek text omitted), "the monstrous gulph," or "gap". This term
curiously reminds one of Ginnunga-gap in the Scandinavian cosmogonic
legends. "Ginnunga-gap was light as windless air," and therein the blast
of heat met the cold rime, whence Ymir was generated, the Purusha
of Northern fable.(3) These ideas correspond well with the Orphic
conception of primitive space.(4)

(1) Rig-Veda, x. 90.

(2) Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. 470. See also the quotations from Proclus.

(3) Gylfi's Mocking.

(4) Aglaophamus, p. 473.

In process of time Chaos produced an egg, shining and silver white. It
is absurd to inquire, according to Lobeck, whether the poet borrowed
this widely spread notion of a cosmic egg from Phoenicia, Babylon, Egypt
(where the goose-god Seb laid the egg), or whether the Orphic singer
originated so obvious an idea. Quaerere ludicrum est. The conception may
have been borrowed, but manifestly it is one of the earliest hypotheses
that occur to the rude imagination. We have now three primitive
generations, time, chaos, the egg, and in the fourth generation the egg
gave birth to Phanes, the great hero of the Orphic cosmogony.(1) The
earliest and rudest thinkers were puzzled, as many savage cosmogonic
myths have demonstrated, to account for the origin of life. The myths
frequently hit on the theory of a hermaphroditic being, both male and
female, who produces another being out of himself. Prajapati in the
Indian stories, and Hrimthursar in Scandinavian legend--"one of his feet
got a son on the other"--with Lox in the Algonquin tale are examples of
these double-sexed personages. In the Orphic poem, Phanes is both male
and female. This Phanes held within him "the seed of all the gods,"(2)
and his name is confused with the names of Metis and Ericapaeus in
a kind of trinity. All this part of the Orphic doctrine is greatly
obscured by the allegorical and theosophistic interpretations of the
late Platonists long after our era, who, as usual, insisted on finding
their own trinitarian ideas, commenta frigidissima, concealed under the
mythical narrative.(3)

(1) Clemens Alexan., p. 672.

(2) Damascius, ap. Lobeck, i. 481.

(3) Aglaoph., i. 483.

Another description by Hieronymus of the first being, the Orphic Phanes,
"as a serpent with bull's and lion's heads, with a human face in the
middle and wings on the shoulders," is sufficiently rude and senseless.
But these physical attributes could easily be explained away as types of
anything the Platonist pleased.(1) The Orphic Phanes, too, was almost as
many-headed as a giant in a fairy tale, or as Purusha in the Rig-Veda.
He had a ram's head, a bull's head, a snake's head and a lion's head,
and glanced around with four eyes, presumably human.(2) This remarkable
being was also provided with golden wings. The nature of the physical
arrangements by which Phanes became capable of originating life in the
world is described in a style so savage and crude that the reader must
be referred to Suidas for the original text.(3) The tale is worthy of
the Swift-like fancy of the Australian Narrinyeri.

(1) Damascius, 381, ap. Lobeck, i. 484.

(2) Hermias in Phaedr. ap. Lobeck, i. 493.

(3) Suidas s. v. Phanes.

Nothing can be easier or more delusive than to explain all this wild
part of the Orphic cosmogony as an allegorical veil of any modern ideas
we choose to select. But why the "allegory" should closely imitate the
rough guesses of uncivilised peoples, Ahts, Diggers, Zunis, Cahrocs,
it is less easy to explain. We can readily imagine African or American
tribes who were accustomed to revere bulls, rams, snakes, and so forth,
ascribing the heads of all their various animal patrons to the deity of
their confederation. We can easily see how such races as practise the
savage rites of puberty should attribute to the first being the special
organs of Phanes. But on the Neo-Platonic hypothesis that Orpheus was a
seer of Neo-Platonic opinions, we do not see why he should have
veiled his ideas under so savage an allegory. This part of the Orphic
speculation is left in judicious silence by some modern commentators,
such as M. Darmesteter in Les Cosmogonies Aryennes.(1) Indeed, if we
choose to regard Apollonius Rhodius, an Alexandrine poet writing in a
highly civilised age, as the representative of Orphicism, it is easy
to mask and pass by the more stern and characteristic fortresses of
the Orphic divine. The theriomorphic Phanes is a much less "Aryan" and
agreeable object than the glorious golden-winged Eros, the love-god of
Apollonius Rhodius and Aristophanes.(2)

(1) Essais Orientaux, p. 166.

(2) Argonautica, 1-12; Aves, 693.

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

In studying the various Greek local legends of the origin of Man, we
encounter the difficulty of separating them from the myths of heroes,
which it will be more convenient to treat separately. This difficulty we
have already met in our treatment of savage traditions of the beginnings
of the race. Thus we saw that among the Melanesians, Qat, and among
the Ahts, Quawteaht, were heroic persons, who made men and most other
things. But it was desirable to keep their performances of this sort
separate from their other feats, their introduction of fire, for
example, and of various arts. In the same way it will be well, in
reviewing Greek legends, to keep Prometheus' share in the making of men
apart from the other stories of his exploits as a benefactor of the men
whom he made. In Hesiod, Prometheus is the son of the Titan Iapetus, and
perhaps his chief exploit is to play upon Zeus a trick of which we find
the parallel in various savage myths. It seems, however, from Ovid(1)
and other texts, that Hesiod somewhere spoke of Prometheus as having
made men out of clay, like Pund-jel in the Australian, Qat in the
Melanesian and Tiki in the Maori myths. The same story is preserved in
Servius's commentary on Virgil.(2) A different legend is preserved in
the Etymologicum Magnum (voc. Ikonion). According to this story, after
the deluge of Deucalion, "Zeus bade Prometheus and Athene make images
of men out of clay, and the winds blew into them the breath of life".
In confirmation of this legend, Pausanias was shown in Phocis certain
stones of the colour of clay, and "smelling very like human flesh"; and
these, according to the Phocians, were "the remains of the clay from
which the whole human race was fashioned by Prometheus".(3)

(1) Ovid. Metam. i. 82.

(2) Eclogue, vi. 42.

(3) Pausanias, x. 4, 3.

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

We saw that among various rude races other theories of the origin of man
were current. Men were thought to have come out of a hole in the
ground or a bed of reeds, and sometimes the very scene of their first
appearance was still known and pointed out to the curious. This myth
was current among races who regarded themselves as the only people whose
origin needed explanation. Other stories represented man as the fruit of
a tree, or the child of a rock or stone, or as the descendant of one of
the lower animals. Examples of these opinions in Greek legend are now to
be given. In the first place, we have a fragment of Pindar, in which the
poet enumerates several of the centres from which different Greek
tribes believed men to have sprung. "Hard it is to find out whether
Alalkomeneus, first of men, arose on the marsh of Cephissus, or whether
the Curetes of Ida first, a stock divine, arose, or if it was the
Phrygian Corybantes that the sun earliest saw--men like trees
walking;" and Pindar mentions Egyptian and Libyan legends of the same
description.(1) The Thebans and the Arcadians held themselves to be
"earth-born". "The black earth bore Pelasgus on the high wooded hills,"
says an ancient line of Asius. The Dryopians were an example of a race
of men born from ash-trees. The myth of gens virum truncis et duro
robore nata, "born of tree-trunk and the heart of oak," had passed into
a proverb even in Homer's time.(2) Lucian mentions(3) the Athenian myth
"that men grew like cabbages out of the earth". As to Greek myths of
the descent of families from animals, these will be examined in the
discussion of the legend of Zeus.

(1) Preller, Aus. Auf., p. 158.

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

(3) Philops. iii.


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

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

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

(1) M. Knappert here, in a note to the Dutch translation, denies the
lowest mythical element to the Hebrews, as their documents have reached

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

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

That theory takes varying shapes. In the philosophy of Mr. Herbert
Spencer we find a pure Euhemerism. Gods are but ghosts of dead men,
raised to a higher and finally to the highest power. In the somewhat
analogous but not identical system of Mr. Tylor, man first attains to
the idea of spirit by reflection on various physical, psychological
and psychical experiences, such as sleep, dreams, trances, shadows,
hallucinations, breath and death, and he gradually extends the
conception of soul or ghost till all nature is peopled with spirits. Of
these spirits one is finally promoted to supremacy, where the conception
of a supreme being occurs. In the lowest faiths there is said, on this
theory, to be no connection, or very little connection, between religion
and morality. To supply a religious sanction of morals is the work of
advancing thought.(1)

(1) Prim. Cult., ii. 381. Huxley's Science and Hebrew Tradition, pp.

This current hypothesis is, confessedly, "animistic," in Mr. Tylor's
phrase, or, in Mr. Spencer's terminology, it is "the ghost theory". The
human soul, says Mr. Tylor, has been the model on which all man's ideas
of spiritual beings, from "the tiniest elf" to "the heavenly Creator and
ruler of the world, the Great Spirit," have been framed.(1) Thus it has
been necessary for Mr. Tylor and for Mr. Spencer to discover first
an origin of man's idea of his own soul, and that supposed origin in
psychological, physical and psychical experiences is no doubt adequate.
By reflection on these facts, probably, the idea of spirit was reached,
though the psychical experiences enumerated by Mr. Tylor may contain
points as yet unexplained by Materialism. From these sources are derived
all really "animistic" gods, all that from the first partake of the
nature of hungry ghosts, placated by sacrifices of food, though in
certain cases that hunger may have been transferred, we surmise, by
worshippers to gods not ORIGINALLY animistic.

(1) Prim. Cult., ii. 109

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

In the first place, the original evolution of a god out of a ghost
need not be conceded, because in perhaps all known savage theological
philosophy the God, the Maker and Master, is regarded as a being
who existed before death entered the world. Everywhere, practically
speaking, death is looked on as a comparatively late intruder. He came
not only after God was active, but after men and beasts had populated
the world. Scores of myths accounting for this invasion of death have
been collected all over the world.(1) Thus the relatively supreme being,
or beings, of religion are looked on as prior to Death, therefore, not
as ghosts. They are sometimes expressly distinguished as "original
gods" from other gods who are secondary, being souls of chiefs. Thus all
Tongan gods are Atua, but all Atua are not "original gods".(2) The word
Atua, according to Mr. White, is "A-tu-a". "A" was the name given to the
author of the universe, and signifies: "Am the unlimited in power," "The
Conception," "the Leader," "the Beyond All". "Tua" means "Beyond that
which is most distant," "Behind all matter," and "Behind every action".
Clearly these conceptions are not more mythical (indeed A does not seem
to occur in the myths), nor are they more involved in ghosts, than the
unknown absolute of Mr. Herbert Spencer. Yet the word Atua denotes gods
who are recognised as ghosts of chiefs, no less than it denotes the
supreme existence.(3) These ideas are the metaphysical theology of a
race considerably above the lowest level. They lend no assistance to a
theory that A was, or was evolved out of, a human ghost, and he is not
found in Maori MYTHOLOGY as far as our knowledge goes. But, among the
lowest known savages, the Australians, we read that "the Creator was
a gigantic black, once on earth, now among the stars". This is in
Gippsland; the deities of the Fuegians and the Blackfoot Indians are
also Beings, anthropomorphic, unborn and undying, like Mangarrah, the
creative being of the Larrakeah tribe in Australia. "A very good man
called Mangarrah lives in the sky.... He made everything" (blacks
excepted). He never dies.(4) The Melanesian Vui "never were men," were
"something different," and "were NOT ghosts". It is as a Being, not as a
Spirit, that the Kurnai deity Munganngaur (Our Father) is described.(5)
In short, though Europeans often speak of these divine beings of low
savages as "spirits," it does not appear that the natives themselves
advance here the metaphysical idea of spirit. These gods are just
BEINGS, anthropomorphic, or (in myth and fable), very often bestial,
"theriomorphic".(6) It is manifest that a divine being envisaged thus
need not have been evolved out of the theory of spirits or ghosts, and
may even have been prior to the rise of the belief in ghosts.

(1) See Modern Mythology, "Myths of Origin of Death".

(2) Mariner, ii. 127.

(3) White, Ancient History of the Maoris, vol. i. p. 4; other views in
Gill's Myths of the Pacific. I am not committed to Mr. White's opinion.

(4) Journal Anthrop. Inst., Nov., 1894, p. 191.

(5) Ibid., 1886, p. 313.

(6) See Making of Religion, pp. 201-210, for a more copious statement.

Again, these powerful, or omnipotent divine beings are looked on as
guardians of morality, punishers of sin, rewarders of righteousness,
both in this world and in a future life, in places where ghosts, though
great grandfathers being forgotten, ancestral ghosts can scarcely swell
into gods. This occurs among Andamanese, Fuegians and Australians,
therefore, among non-ghost-worshipping races, ghosts cannot have
developed into deities who are not even necessarily spirits. These gods,
again, do not receive sacrifice, and thus lack the note of descent from
hungry food-craving ghosts. In Australia, indeed, while ghosts are not
known to receive any offerings, "the recent custom of providing food
for it"--the dead body of a friend--"is derided by the intelligent old
aborigines as 'white fellow's gammon'".(1)

(1) Dawson, Australian Aborigines, p. 51, 1881.

The Australians possess no chiefs like "Vich Ian Vohr or Chingachgook"
whose ghosts might be said to swell into supreme moral deities.
"Headmen" they have, leaders of various degrees of authority, but no
Vich Ian Vohr, no semi-sacred representative of the tribe.(1) Nor are
the ghosts of the Headmen known to receive any particular posthumous
attention or worship. Thus it really seems impossible to show proof that
Australian gods grew out of Australian ghosts, a subject to which we
shall return.

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

Some supporters of the current theory therefore fall back on the
hypothesis that the Australians are sadly degenerate.(1) Chiefs, it is
argued, or kings, they once had, and the gods are surviving ghosts of
these wholly forgotten potentates. To this we reply that we know not the
very faintest trace of Australian degeneration. Sir John Lubbock and
Mr. Tylor have correctly argued that the soil of Australia has not yet
yielded so much as a fragment of native pottery, nor any trace of native
metal work, not a vestige of stone buildings occurs, nor of any work
beyond the present native level of culture, unless we reckon weirs for
fish-catching. "The Australian boomerang," writes Mr. Tylor, "has been
claimed as derived from some hypothetical high culture, whereas the
transition-stages through which it is connected with the club are to
be observed in its own country, while no civilised race possesses the

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

(2) Prim. Cult., i. 57, 67.

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

The Australian people, when discovered, were only emerging from
palaeolithic culture, while the neighbouring Tasmanians were frankly
palaeolithic.(1) Far from degenerating, the Australians show advance
when they supersede their beast or other totem by an eponymous human
hero.(2) The eponymous hero, however, changed with each generation, so
that no one name was fixed as that of tribal father, later perhaps to
become a tribal god. We find several tribes in which the children now
follow the FATHER'S class, and thus paternal kin takes the place of the
usual early savage method of reckoning kinship by the mother's side,
elsewhere prevalent in Australia. In one of these tribes, dwelling
between the Glenelg and Mount Napier, headmanship is hereditary, but
nothing is said of any worship of the ghosts of chiefs. All this social
improvement denotes advance on the usual Australian standard.(3) Of
degeneration (except when produced recently by European vices and
diseases) I know no trace in Australia. Their highest religious
conceptions, therefore, are not to be disposed of as survivals of a
religion of the ghosts of such chiefs as the Australians are not shown
ever to have recognised. The "God idea" in Australia, or among the
Andamanese, must have some other source than the Ghost-Theory. This is
all the more obvious because not only are ghosts not worshipped by the
Australians, but also the divine beings who are alleged to form
links between the ghost and the moral god are absent. There are no
departmental gods, as of war, peace, the chase, love, and so forth. Sun,
sky and earth are equally unworshipped. There is nothing in religion
between a Being, on one hand (with a son or sons), and vague mischievous
spirits, boilyas or mrarts, and ghosts (who are not worshipped), on the
other hand. The friends of the idea that the God is an ancient evolution
from the ghost of such a chief as is not proved to have existed, must
apparently believe that the intermediate stages in religious evolution,
departmental gods, nature gods and gods of polytheism in general once
existed in Australia, and have all been swept away in a deluge of
degeneration. That deluge left in religion a moral, potently active
Father and Judge. Now that conception is considerably above the
obsolescent belief in an otiose god which is usually found among
barbaric races of the type from which the Australians are said to have
degenerated. There is no proof of degeneracy, and, if degeneration has
occurred, why has it left just the kind of deity who, in the higher
barbaric culture, is not commonly found? Clearly this attempt to
explain the highest aspect of Australian religion by an undemonstrated
degeneration is an effort of despair.

(1) Tylor, preface to Ling Roth's Aborigines of Tasmania, pp. v.-viii.

(2) Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 231.

(3) Kamilaroi and Kurnai, pp. 277, 278.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hypothesis of borrowing admits of only one answer, but that answer
should be conclusive. If we can discover, say in North America, a single
instance in which the supreme being occurs, while yet he cannot possibly
be accounted for by any traceable or verifiable foreign influence, then
the burden of proof, in other cases, falls on the opponent. When he
urges that other North American supreme beings were borrowed, we can
reply that our crucial example shows that this need not be the fact. To
prove that it is the fact, in his instances, is then his business. It is
obvious that for information on this subject we must go to the reports
of the earliest travellers who knew the Red Indians well. We must try to
get at gods behind any known missionary efforts. Mr. Tylor offers us the
testimony of Heriot, about 1586, that the natives of Virginia believed
in many gods, also in one chief god, "who first made other principal
gods, and then the sun, moon and stars as petty gods".(1) Whence could
the natives of Virginia have borrowed this notion of a Creator before
1586? If it is replied, in the usual way, that they developed him
upwards out of sun, moon and star gods, other principal gods, and
finally reached the idea of the Creator, we answer that the idea of the
Maker is found where these alleged intermediate stages are NOT found, as
in Australia. In Virginia then, as in Victoria, a Creator may have been
evolved in some other way than that of gradual ascent from ghosts,
and may have been, as in Australia and elsewhere, prior to verifiable
ghost-worship. Again, in Virginia at our first settlement, the native
priests strenuously resisted the introduction of Christianity. They
were content with their deity, Ahone, "the great God who governs all
the world, and makes the sun to shine, creating the moon and stars his
companions.... The good and peaceable God... needs not to be sacrificed
unto, for he intendeth all good unto them." This good Creator, without
sacrifice, among a settled agricultural barbaric race sacrificing to
other gods and ghosts, manifestly cannot be borrowed from the newly
arrived religion of Christianity, which his priests, according to
the observer, vigorously resisted. Ahone had a subordinate deity,
magisterial in functions, "looking into all men's actions" and punishing
the same, when evil. To THIS god sacrifices WERE made, and if his name,
Okeus, is derived from Oki = "spirit," he was, of course, an animistic
ghost-evolved deity. Anthropological writers, by an oversight, have
dwelt on Oki, but have not mentioned Ahone.(2) Manifestly it is not
possible to insist that these Virginian high deities were borrowed,
without saying whence and when they were borrowed by a barbaric race
which was, at the same time, rejecting Christian teaching.

(1) Prim. Cult., ii. 341.

(2) History of Travaile into Virginia, by William Strachey, 1612.

Mr. Tylor writes, with his habitual perspicacity: "It is the widespread
belief in the Great Spirit, whatever his precise nature and origin, that
has long and deservedly drawn the attention of European thinkers to the
native religions of the North American tribes". Now while, in recent
times, Christian ideas may undeniably have crystallised round "the Great
Spirit," it has come to be thought "that THE WHOLE DOCTRINE of the Great
Spirit was borrowed by the savages from missionaries and colonists. But
this view will not bear examination," says Mr. Tylor.(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Relations, 1633, 1634.

The obsolescent Atahocan seems to have had no moral activity. But, in
America, this indolence of God is not universal. Mr. Parkman indeed
writes: "In the primitive Indian's conception of a God, the idea of
moral good has no part".(1) But this is definitely contradicted by
Heriot, Strachey, Winslow, already cited, and by Pere Le Jeune. The good
attributes of Kiehtan and Ahone were not borrowed from Christianity,
were matter of Indian belief before the English arrived. Mr. Parkman
writes: "The moment the Indians began to contemplate the object of his
faith, and sought to clothe it with attributes, it became finite, and
commonly ridiculous". It did so, as usual, in MYTHOLOGY, but not in
RELIGION. There is nothing ridiculous in what is known of Ahone and
Kiehtan. If they had a mythology, and if we knew the myths, doubtless
they would be ridiculous enough. The savage mind, turned from belief and
awe into the spinning of yarns, instantly yields to humorous fancy. As
we know, mediaeval popular Christianity, in imagery, marchen or tales,
and art, copiously illustrates the same mental phenomenon. Saints,
God, our Lord, and the Virgin, all play ludicrous and immoral parts in
Christian folk-tales. This is Mythology, and here is, beyond all cavil,
a late corruption of Religion. Here, where we know the history of a
creed, Religion is early, and these myths are late. Other examples of
American divine ideas might be given, such as the extraordinary hymns
in which the Zunis address the Eternal, Ahonawilona. But as the Zuni
religion has only been studied in recent years, the hymns would be
dismissed as "borrowed," though there is nothing Catholic or Christian
about them. We have preferred to select examples where borrowing from
Christianity is out of the question. The current anthropological theory
is thus confronted with American examples of ideas of the divine which
cannot have been borrowed, while, if the gods are said to have been
evolved out of ghosts, we reply that, in some cases, they receive no
sacrifice, sacrifice being usually a note of ghostly descent. Again,
similar gods, as we show, exist where ghosts of chiefs are not
worshipped, and as far as evidence goes never were worshipped, because
there is no evidence of the existence at any time of such chiefs. The
American highest gods may then be equally free from the taint of ghostly

(1) Parkman, The Jesuits in North America. p. lxxviii.

There is another more or less moral North American deity whose evolution
is rather questionable. Pere Brebeuf (1636), speaking of the
Hurons, says that "they have recourse to Heaven in almost all their
necessities,... and I may say that it is, in fact, God whom they blindly
adore, for they imagine that there is an Oki, that is, a demon, in
heaven, who regulates the seasons, bridles the winds and the waves of
the sea, and helps them in every need. They dread his wrath, and appeal
to him as witness to the inviolability of their faith, when they make
a promise or treaty of peace with enemies. 'Heaven hear us to-day' is
their form of adjuration."(1)

(1) Relations, 1636, pp. 106, 107.

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

The debatable question is, was the "demon," or the actual expanse of
sky, first in evolution? That cannot precisely be settled, but in the
analogous Chinese case of China we find heaven (Tien) and "Shang-ti, the
personal ruling Deity," corresponding to the Huron "demon". Shang-ti,
the personal deity, occurs most in the oldest, pre-Confucian sacred
documents, and, so far, appears to be the earlier conception. The
"demon" in Huron faith may also be earlier than the religious regard
paid to his home, the sky.(1) The unborrowed antiquity of a belief in
a divine being, creative and sometimes moral, in North America, is thus
demonstrated. So far I had written when I accidentally fell in with
Mr. Tylor's essay on "The Limits of Savage Religion".(2) In that essay,
rather to my surprise, Mr. Tylor argues for the borrowing of "The Great
Spirit," "The Great Manitou," from the Jesuits. Now, as to the phrase,
"Great Spirit," the Jesuits doubtless caused its promulgation, and,
where their teaching penetrated, shreds of their doctrine may have
adhered to the Indian conception of that divine being. But Mr. Tylor
in his essay does not allude to the early evidence, his own, for Oki,
Atahocan, Kiehtan, and Torngursak, all undeniably prior to Jesuit
influence, and found where Jesuits, later, did not go. As Mr. Tylor
offers no reason for disregarding evidence in 1892 which he had
republished in a new edition of Primitive Culture in 1891, it is
impossible to argue against him in this place. He went on, in the essay
cited (1892) to contend that the Australian god of the Kamilaroi
of Victoria, Baiame, is, in name and attributes, of missionary
introduction. Happily this hypothesis can be refuted, as we show in the
following chapter on Australian gods.

(1) See Tylor, Prim. Cult., ii. 362, and Making of Religion, p. 318;
also Menzies, History of Religion, pp. 108,109, and Dr. Legge's Chinese
Classics, in Sacred Books of the East, vols. iii., xxvii., xxviii.

(2) Journ. of Anthrop. Inst., vol. xxi., 1892.

It would be easy enough to meet the hypothesis of borrowing in the case
of the many African tribes who possess something approaching to a rude
monotheistic conception. Among these are the Dinkas of the Upper Nile,
with their neighbours, whose creed Russegger compares to that of
modern Deists in Europe. The Dinka god, Dendid, is omnipotent, but
so benevolent that he is not addressed in prayer, nor propitiated by
sacrifice. Compare the supreme being of the Caribs, beneficent, otiose,
unadored.(1) A similar deity, veiled in the instruction of the as yet
unpenetrated Mysteries, exists among the Yao of Central Africa.(2) Of
the negro race, Waitz says, "even if we do not call them monotheists,
we may still think of them as standing on the boundary of monotheism
despite their innumerable rude superstitions".(3) The Tshi speaking
people of the Gold Coast have their unworshipped Nyankupon, a now
otiose unadored being, with a magisterial deputy, worshipped with many
sacrifices. The case is almost an exact parallel to that of Ahone and
Oki in America. THESE were not borrowed, and the author has argued at
length against Major Ellis's theory of the borrowing from Christians of

(1) Rochefort, Les Isles Antilles, p. 415. Tylor, ii. 337.

(2) Macdonald, Africana, 1, 71, 72, 130, 279-301. Scott, Dictionary of
the Manganja Language, Making of Religion, pp. 230-238. A contradictory
view in Spencer, Ecclesiastical Institutions, p. 681.

(3) Anthropologie, ii. 167.

(4) Making of Religion, pp. 243-250.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While offering no hypothesis of the origin of belief in a moral creator
we may present a suggestion. Mr. Darwin says about early man: "The same
high mental faculties which first led man to believe in unseen spiritual
agencies, then in fetichism, polytheism and ultimately monotheism, would
infallibly lead him, so long as his reasoning powers remained poorly
developed, to various strange superstitions and customs".(1) Now,
accepting Mr. Darwin's theory that early man had "high mental
faculties," the conception of a Maker of things does not seem beyond his
grasp. Man himself made plenty of things, and could probably conceive of
a being who made the world and the objects in it. "Certainly there must
be some Being who made all these things. He must be very good too," said
an Eskimo to a missionary.(2) The goodness is inferred by the Eskimo
from his own contentment with "the things which are made".(3)

(1) Darwin, Descent of Man, i. p. 66.

(2) Cranz, i. 199.

(3) Romans, i. 19.

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

What the Greenlander said is corroborated by what a Kaffir said.
Kaffir religion is mainly animistic, ancestral spirits receive food and
sacrifice--there is but an evanescent tradition of a "Lord in Heaven".
Thus a very respectable Kaffir said to M. Arbrousset, "your tidings
(Christianity) are what I want; and I was seeking before I knew you....
I asked myself sorrowful questions. 'Who has touched the stars with his
hands?... Who makes the waters flow?... Who can have given earth the
wisdom and power to produce corn?' Then I buried my face in my hands."

"This," says Sir John Lubbock, "was, however, an exceptional case. As
a general rule savages do not set themselves to think out such

(1) Origin of Civilisation, p. 201.

As a common fact, if savages never ask the question, at all events,
somehow, they have the answer ready made. "Mangarrah, or Baiame, Puluga,
or Dendid, or Ahone, or Ahonawilona, or Atahocan, or Taaroa, or Tui
Laga, was the maker." Therefore savages who know that leave the question
alone, or add mythical accretions. But their ancestors must have asked
the question, like the "very respectable Kaffir" before they answered

Having reached the idea of a Creator, it was not difficult to add that
he was "good," or beneficent, and was deathless.

A notion of a good powerful Maker, not subject to death because
necessarily prior to Death (who only invaded the world late), seems
easier of attainment than the notion of Spirit which, ex hypothesi,
demands much delicate psychological study and hard thought. The idea of
a Good Maker, once reached, becomes, perhaps, the germ of future theism,
but, as Mr. Darwin says, the human mind was "infallibly led to various
strange superstitions". As St. Paul says, in perfect agreement with Mr.
Darwin on this point, "they became vain in their imaginations, and their
foolish heart was darkened".

Among other imaginations (right or wrong) was the belief in spirits,
with all that followed in the way of instituting sacrifices, even of
human beings, and of dropping morality, about which the ghost of a
deceased medicine-man was not likely to be much interested. The supposed
nearness to man, and the venal and partial character of worshipped gods
and ghost-gods, would inevitably win for them more service and attention
than would be paid to a Maker remote, unbought and impartial. Hence the
conception of such a Being would tend to obsolescence, as we see that it
does, and would be most obscured where ghosts were most propitiated, as
among the Zulus. Later philosophy would attach the spiritual conception
to the revived or newly discovered idea of the supreme God.

In all this speculation there is nothing mystical; no supernatural or
supernormal interference is postulated. Supernormal experiences may have
helped to originate or support the belief in spirits, that, however, is
another question. But this hypothesis of the origin of belief in a good
unceasing Maker of things is, of course, confessedly a conjecture, for
which historical evidence cannot be given, in the nature of the
case. All our attempts to discover origins far behind history must be
conjectural. Their value must be estimated by the extent to which
this or that hypothesis colligates the facts. Now our hypothesis does
colligate the facts. It shows how belief in a moral supreme being might
arise before ghosts were worshipped, and it accounts for the flaw in the
religious strata, for the mythical accretions, for the otiose Creator in
the background of many barbaric religions, and for the almost universal
absence of sacrifice to the God relatively supreme. He was, from his
earliest conception, in no need of gifts from men.

On this matter of otiose supreme gods, Professor Menzies writes, "It is
very common to find in savage beliefs a vague far-off god, who is at the
back of all the others, takes little part in the management of things,
and receives little worship. But it is impossible to judge what that
being was at an earlier time; he may have been a nature god, or a spirit
who has by degrees grown faint, and come to occupy this position."

Now the position which he occupies is usually, if not universally, that
of the Creator. He could not arrive at this rank by "becoming faint,"
nor could "a nature-god" be the Maker of Nature. The only way by which
we can discover "what that being was at an earlier time" is to see what
he IS at an earlier time, that is to say, what the conception of him is,
among men in an earlier state of culture. Among them, as we show, he is
very much more near, potent and moral, than among races more advanced in
social evolution and material culture. We can form no opinion as to the
nature of such "vague, far-off gods, at the back of all the others,"
till we collect and compare examples, and endeavour to ascertain what
points they have in common, and in what points they differ from each
other. It then becomes plain that they are least far away, and most
potent, where there is least ghostly and polytheistic competition, that
is, among the most backward races. The more animism the less theism, is
the general rule. Manifestly the current hypothesis--that all religion
is animistic in origin--does not account for these facts, and is
obliged to fly to an undemonstrated theory of degradation, or to an
undemonstrated theory of borrowing. That our theory is inconsistent with
the general doctrine of evolution we cannot admit, if we are allowed to
agree with Mr. Darwin's statement about the high mental faculties
which first led man to sympathetic, and then to wild beliefs. We do
not pretend to be more Darwinian than Mr. Darwin, who compares "these
miserable and indirect results of our higher faculties" to "the
occasional mistakes of the instincts of the lower animals".

The opinion here maintained, namely, that a germ of pure belief may be
detected amidst the confusion of low savage faith, and that in a still
earlier stage it may have been less overlaid with fable, is in direct
contradiction to current theories. It is also in contradiction with the
opinions entertained by myself before I made an independent examination
of the evidence. Like others, I was inclined to regard reports of a
moral Creator, who observes conduct, and judges it even in the next
life, as rumours due either to Christian influence, or to mistake. I
well know, however, and could, and did, discount the sources of error.
I was on my guard against the twin fallacies of describing all savage
religion as "devil worship," and of expecting to find a primitive
"divine tradition". I was also on my guard against the modern bias
derived from the "ghost-theory," and Mr. Spencer's works, and I kept an
eye on opportunities of "borrowing".(1) I had, in fact, classified all
known idola in the first edition of this work, such as the fallacy of
leading questions and the chance of deliberate deception. I sought the
earliest evidence, prior to any missionary teaching, and the evidence
of what the first missionaries found, in the way of belief, on their
arrival. I preferred the testimony of the best educated observers, and
of those most familiar with native languages. I sought for evidence in
native hymns (Maori, Zuni, Dinka, Red Indian) and in native ceremonial
and mystery, as these sources were least likely to be contaminated.

(1) Making of Religion, p. 187.

On the other side, I found a vast body of testimony that savages had no
religion at all. But that testimony, en masse, was refuted by Roskoff,
and also, in places, by Tylor. When three witnesses were brought to
swear that they saw the Irishman commit a crime, he offered to bring
a dozen witnesses who did NOT see him. Negative evidence of squatters,
sailors and colonists, who did NOT see any religion among this or
that race, is not worth much against evidence of trained observers and
linguists who DID find what the others missed, and who found more the
more they knew the tribe in question. Again, like others, I thought
savages incapable of such relatively pure ideas as I now believe some of
them to possess. But I could not resist the evidence, and I abandoned
my a priori notions. The evidence forcibly attests gradations in the
central belief. It is found in various shades, from relative potency
down to a vanishing trace, and it is found in significant proportion
to the prevalence of animistic ideas, being weakest where they are most
developed, strongest where they are least developed. There must be a
reason for these phenomena, and that reason, as it seems to me, is the
overlaying and supersession of a rudely Theistic by an animistic creed.
That one cause would explain, and does colligate, all the facts.

There remains a point on which misconception proves to be possible. It
will be shown, contrary to the current hypothesis, that the religion
of the lowest races, in its highest form, sanctions morality. That
morality, again, in certain instances, demands unselfishness. Of course
we are not claiming for that doctrine any supernatural origin. Religion,
if it sanctions ethics at all, will sanction those which the conscience
accepts, and those ethics, in one way or other, must have been evolved.
That the "cosmical" law is "the weakest must go to the wall" is
generally conceded. Man, however, is found trying to reverse the law, by
equal and friendly dealing (at least within what is vaguely called "the
tribe"). His religion, as in Australia, will be shown to insist on this
unselfishness. How did he evolve his ethics?

"Be it little or be it much they get," says Dampier about the
Australians in 1688, "every one has his part, as well the young and
tender as the old and feeble, who are not able to get abroad as the
strong and lusty." This conduct reverses the cosmical process, and
notoriously civilised society, Christian society, does not act on these
principles. Neither do the savages, who knock the old and feeble on the
head, or deliberately leave them to starve, act on these principles,
sanctioned by Australian religion, but (according to Mr. Dawson) NOT
carried out in Australian practice. "When old people become infirm... it
is lawful and customary to kill them."(1)

(1) Australian Aborigines, p. 62.

As to the point of unselfishness, evolutionists are apt to account for
it by common interest. A tribe in which the strongest monopolise what is
best will not survive so well as an unselfish tribe in the struggle for
existence. But precisely the opposite is true, aristocracy marks the
more successful barbaric races, and an aristocratic slave-holding
tribe could have swept Australia as the Zulus swept South Africa. That
aristocracy and acquisition of separate property are steps in advance
on communistic savagery all history declares. Therefore a tribe which
in Australia developed private property, and reduced its neighbours to
slavery, would have been better fitted to survive than such a tribe as
Dampier describes.

This is so evident that probably, or possibly, the Dampier state of
society was not developed in obedience to a recognised tribal interest,
but in obedience to an affectionate instinct. "Ils s'entr' aiment les
une les autres," says Brebeuf of the Hurons.(1) "I never heard the
women complain of being left out of feasts, or that the men ate the
best portions... every one does his business sweetly, peaceably, without
dispute. You never see disputes, quarrels, hatred, or reproach among
them." Brebeuf then tells how a young Indian stranger, in a time of
want, stole the best part of a moose. "They did not rage or curse,
they only bantered him, and yet to take our meat was almost to take our
lives." Brebeuf wanted to lecture the lad; his Indian host bade him hold
his peace, and the stranger was given hospitality, with his wife and
children. "They are very generous, and make it a point not to attach
themselves to the goods of this world." "Their greatest reproach is
'that man wants everything, he is greedy'. They support, with never
a murmur, widows, orphans and old men, yet they kill hopeless or
troublesome invalids, and their whole conduct to Europeans was the
reverse of their domestic behaviour."

(1) Relations, 1634, p. 29.

Another example of savage unselfish ethics may be found in Mr. Mann's
account of the Andaman Islanders, a nomad race, very low in culture. "It
is a noteworthy trait, and one which deserves high commendation, that
every care and consideration are paid by all classes to the very young,
the weak, the aged, and the helpless, and these being made special
objects of interest and attention, invariably fare better in regard to
the comforts and necessaries of daily life than any of the otherwise
more fortunate members of the community."(1)

(1) J. A. I., xii. p. 93.

Mr. Huxley, in his celebrated Romanes Lecture on "Evolution and
Morality," laid stress on man's contravention of the cosmic law, "the
weakest must go to the wall". He did not explain the evolution of man's
opposition to this law. The ordinary evolutionist hypothesis, that
the tribe would prosper most whose members were least self-seeking, is
contradicted by all history. The overbearing, "grabbing," aristocratic,
individualistic, unscrupulous races beat the others out of the field.
Mr. Huxley, indeed, alleged that the "influence of the cosmic process
in the evolution of society is the greater the more rudimentary its
civilisation. Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at
every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called
the ethical process.... As civilisation has advanced, so has the extent
of this interference increased...."(1) But where, in Europe, is the
interference so marked as among the Andamanese? We have still to face
the problem of the generosity of low savages.

(1) Ethics of Evolution, pp. 81-84.

It is conceivable that the higher ethics of low savages rather reflect
their emotional instincts than arise from tribal legislation which is
supposed to enable a "tribe" to prosper in the struggle for existence.
As Brebeuf and Dampier, among others, prove, savages often set a good
example to Christians, and their ethics are, in certain cases, as among
the Andamanese and Fuegians, and, probably among the Yao, sanctioned by
their religion. But, as Mr. Tylor says, "the better savage social life
seems but in unstable equilibrium, liable to be easily upset by a touch
of distress, temptation, or violence".(1) Still, religion does its
best, in certain cases, to lend equilibrium; though all the world over,
religion often fails in practice.

(1) Prim. Cult., i. 51.

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