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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/73

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51
Presidential Address.

those beliefs find practical expression. Rites comprise forms of words and symbolic acts. The form of words, the liturgic chant may develop into a narrative, the symbolic act may require explanation and give rise to another narrative. As the intellectual and religious horizon of the worshipping race widens, these narratives are amplified, are differentiated, are enriched with new fancies and conceptions. In course of time the narratives crystallize around special divine beings; and as these latter develop and acquire fresh attributes, so their attendant narrative groups, their myths, may come to transcend the germ whence they have sprung, and to symbolise conceptions of such far wider scope as to obscure the connection between origin and completed growth. This happened in Greece with the Dionysus myths, but not until they had been noted at such a stage as to allow recognition of their true nature. Greek mythology conquered Rome, entirely driving out the old Roman myths (many of which had probably progressed little beyond the agricultural stage), although the religious conservatism of Rome maintained the rites in an archaic form, Rome conquered Southern and much of Western Europe and imposed Greek mythology in Latin dress upon these lands. But in Western Europe Ireland, wholly, and Britain, partly, escaped Roman influence. Celtic mythology, starting from the same basis as Greek Dionysus mythology, was left at liberty to develop upon its own lines. The Greek Dionysiac myths, expanding with the marvellous expansion of the Hellenic genius, grew away from their primitive rustic basis, and connection was broken between the peasant creed and the highest imaginative literature. Celtic mythology developed likewise, but to an extent as far less as the Celt had lagged behind the Greek in the race of civilisation. The old gods, themselves an outcome of the primitive agricultural creed, were transformed into the wizard champions and enchantresses of the romances, but they remained in touch with their earliest forms; the link between the fairy of the peasant and