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- Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1 - 10/59 -


ahana) pursued by the rising sun. But as the original Aryan sense of Dahana or Ahana was lost, and as Daphne came to mean the laurel-- the wood which burns easily--the fable arose that the tree had been a girl called Daphne.[3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER II.

NEW SYSTEM PROPOSED.

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

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

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

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

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

Fontenelle in the last century, stated, with all the clearness of the French intellect, the system which is partially worked out in this essay--the system which explains the irrational element in myth as inherited from savagery. Fontenelle's paper (Sur l'Origine des Fables) is brief, sensible, and witty, and requires little but copious evidence to make it adequate. But he merely threw out the idea, and left it to be neglected.[1]

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

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


Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1 - 10/59

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