Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/159

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manas[1] also tell us that Prajapati had an unholy passion for his daughter, who was in the form of a doe. The gods made Rudra fire an arrow at Prajapati to punish him; he was wounded, and leaped into the sky, where he became one constellation and his daughter another, and the arrow a third group of stars. In general, according to the Brahmanas, "the stars are the lights of virtuous men who go to the heavenly world."[2]

Passing from savage myths explanatory of the nature of celestial bodies to myths accounting for the formation and colour and habits of beasts, birds, and fishes, we find ourselves, as an old Jesuit missionary says, in the midst of a barbarous version of Ovid's Metamorphoses. It has been shown that the possibility of interchange of form between man and beast is part of the working belief of everyday existence among the lower peoples. They regard all things as on one level, or, to use an old political phrase, they "level up" everything to equality with the human status. Thus Mr. Im Thurn, a very good observer, found that to the Indians of Guiana "all objects, animate or inanimate, seem exactly of the same nature, except that they differ by the accident of bodily form." Clearly to grasp this entirely natural conception of primitive man, the civilised student must make a great effort to forget for a time all that science has

  1. Aitareya Bramana, iii. 33.
  2. Satapatha Brahmana, vi. 5, 4, 8. For Greek examples, Hesiod, Ovid, and the Catasterismoi, attributed to Eratosthenes, are useful authorities. Probably many of the tales in Eratosthenes are late fictions consciously moulded on tradtional data.