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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/71

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Presidential Address.

back held to be of immemorial antiquity. Historical mythology and current tradition confirm and interpret each other. Yet it would, I think, be an error to regard the persistence and wide spread of the story as due to the impression made upon the popular mind by the fierce and dark rites of which it is an echo. Rather has it survived because it sums up in one vivid symbol so many aspects of the fairy world. It not only kept alive a memory, it satisfied a psychological demand.

Indeed, when an incident has become an organic portion of a myth—and to do this it must fulfil logical and psychological requirements which are none the less real because they differ from those we should frame—the connection persists so long as the myth retains a spark of life. We saw that the deities which were gradually elaborated out of the primitive spirits of vegetation are essentially amorous and endowed with the power of transformation or reincarnation. A vivid form of expressing this idea is to represent the god amorous of a mortal maiden, and father by her of a semi-divine son whose nature partakes of his own, and who is at times a simple incarnation of himself. What further contributed to the vogue and persistence of this incident was that it lent itself admirably to the purposes of heroic legend; the eponymous founder, the hero par excellence of a race could always be connected in this way with the clan of the immortals. We meet the incident at all stages of development. At times, as in the case of Arthur, or of Cuchulinn, son of Lug, the Irish Apollo-Dionysus, it has become wholly heroicised, and the semi-divine child has to conform to the heroic standard; at other times, as in the case of Merlin, or of Mongan, son of Manannan mac Lir, the Irish sea-god, the wonder-child manifests his divine origin by craft and guile rather than by strength and valour; in especial he possesses the art of shape-shifting, which early man seems to have regarded as the most valuable attribute of godhead. There exists a tract entitled, Robin Goodfellow; His Mad Pranks and Merry Jests, &c. The