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- Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1 - 30/59 -


in a rocky part of the lagoon on the north side of Upolu."[7] Mauke, the first man, came out of a stone. In short,[8] men and stones and beasts and gods and thunder have interchangeable forms. In Mangaia[9] the god Ra was tossed up into the sky by Maui and became pumice-stone. Many samples of this petrified deity are found in Mangaia. In Melanesia matters are so mixed that it is not easy to decide whether a worshipful stone is the dwelling of a dead man's soul or is of spiritual merit in itself, or whether "the stone is the spirit's outward part or organ". The Vui, or spirit, has much the same relations with snakes, owls and sharks.[10] Qasavara, the mythical opponent of Qat, the Melanesian Prometheus, "fell dead from heaven" (like Ra in Mangia), and was turned into a stone, on which sacrifices are made by those who desire strength in fighting.

[1] See authorities ap. Dorman, Primitive Superstitions, pp. 130- 138.

[2] Dorman, p. 133.

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

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

[5] Dorman, p. 137.

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

[7] Samoa, p. 31.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] xxiv. 611.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.. p. 213.

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

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

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

[2] Myths of the Beginning of Things.

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

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


Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1 - 30/59

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