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Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1 by Andrew Lang

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is the natural judgment of the clear French intellect on the
wilfully obscure, tormented and evasive intellect of India.

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Muir, ii. 446.

[3] Ibid., ii. 448.

[4] Ibid., ii. 451.

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

[1] Muir, iv. 450.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Muir, v. 217.

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

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

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



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

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

[1] Bancroft, v. 162.

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

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

[1] Muir, v. 354.

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

[3] Ibid., x. 126.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 570.

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

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

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

As to the mention of the castes, supposed to be a comparatively
modern institution, that is not an essential part of the legend.
When the idea of creation out of a living being was once received
it was easy to extend the conception to any institution, of which
the origin was forgotten. The Teutonic race had a myth which
explained the origin of the classes eorl, ceorl and thrall (earl,
churl and slave). A South American people, to explain the
different ranks in society, hit on the very myth of Plato, the
legend of golden, silver and copper races, from which the ranks of
society have descended. The Vedic poet, in our opinion, merely
extended to the institution of caste a myth which had already
explained the origin of the sun, the firmament, animals, and so
forth, on the usual lines of savage thought. The Purusha Sukta is
the type of many other Indian myths of creation, of which the
following[1] one is extremely noteworthy. "Prajapati desired to
propagate. He formed the Trivrit (stoma) from his mouth. After it
were produced the deity Agni, the metre Gayatri, . . . of men the
Brahman, of beasts the goat; . . . from his breast, and from his
arms he formed the Panchadasa (stoma). After it were created the
God Indra, the Trishtubh metre, . . . of men the Rajanya, of beasts
the sheep. Hence they are vigorous, because they were created from
vigour. From his middle he formed the Saptadasa (stoma). After it
were created the gods called the Yisvadevas, the Jagati metre, . . .
of men the Vaisya, of beasts kine. Hence they are to be eaten,
because they were created from the receptacle of food." The form
in which we receive this myth is obviously later than the
institution of caste and the technical names for metres. Yet
surely any statement that kine "are to be eaten" must be older than
the universal prohibition to eat that sacred animal the cow.
Possibly we might argue that when this theory of creation was first
promulgated, goats and sheep were forbidden food.[2]

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

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

Turning from the Vedas to the Brahmanas, we find a curiously savage
myth of the origin of species.[1] According to this passage of the
Brahmana, "this universe was formerly soul only, in the form of
Purusha". He caused himself to fall asunder into two parts.
Thence arose a husband and a wife. "He cohabited with her; from
them men were born. She reflected, 'How does he, after having
produced me from himself, cohabit with me? Ah, let me disappear.'
She became a cow, and the other a bull, and he cohabited with her.
From them kine were produced." After a series of similar
metamorphoses of the female into all animal shapes, and a similar
series of pursuits by the male in appropriate form, "in this manner
pairs of all sorts of creatures down to ants were created". This
myth is a parallel to the various Greek legends about the amours in
bestial form of Zeus, Nemesis, Cronus, Demeter and other gods and
goddesses. In the Brahmanas this myth is an explanation of the
origin of species, and such an explanation as could scarcely have
occurred to a civilised mind. In other myths in the Brahmanas,
Prajapati creates men from his body, or rather the fluid of his
body becomes a tortoise, the tortoise becomes a man (purusha), with
similar examples of speculation.[2]

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

[2] Similar tales are found among the Khonds.

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

[1] Bergaigne, iii. 40.

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

[3] English translation, ii. 361.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Muir, v. 22.

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

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

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



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

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

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

[1] Odyssey, xx. 354.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Characters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Zweiter Theil, 1858.

[2] Areop., 30.

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

[4] Laws, v. 738.

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

[6] xiv. 2.

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

[8] Pausanias, i. 14, 6.

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Argonautica, vii. 197.

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

[1] Pausanias, viii. 2.

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

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

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

The Ionians near Anthea had a temple of Artemis Triclaria, and to
her it had been customary to sacrifice yearly a youth and maiden of
transcendent beauty. In Pausanias's time the human sacrifice was
commuted. He himself beheld the strange spectacle of living beasts
and birds being driven into the fire to Artemis Laphria, a
Calydonian goddess, and he had seen bears rush back among the
ministrants; but there was no record that any one had ever been
hurt by these wild beasts.[1] The bear was a beast closely
connected with Artemis, and there is some reason to suppose that
the goddess had herself been a she-bear or succeeded to the cult of
a she-bear in the morning of time.[2]

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

[2] See "Artemis", postea.

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

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

[2] Plutarch, Quest. Rom. 32.

[3] ix. 8, 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[4] Paus., viii. 2.

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

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

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

[1] Pausanias, ii. 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Scholiast on Iliad, xix. 119.

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

[4] Lucian, De Dea Syria.

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

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

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

[8] Aelian, xi. 8.

[9] Plutarch, Theseus, 14.

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

[11] [Canne on Conon, 28.]

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

[1] Aeneid, x. 187.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Cape Monthly Magazine, July, 1874.

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

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

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

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

[Greek text omitted].

[1] De Corona, 313.

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

[Greek text omitted].
Worse have I fled, better have I found.

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

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

[2] Eumenides, 273.

[3] Argonautica, iv. 693.

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

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

[6] De Superstitione, chap. xii.

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

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

[9] Brough Smyth, i. 60.

[10] Custma and Myth, p. 40.

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

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

[2] Pausanias, viii. 16.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Aglaophamus, i. 611.

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

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