Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/251

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ment of the clear French intellect on the wilfully obscure, tormented, and evasive intellect of India.

It would be interesting were it possible to illuminate the criticism of Vedic religion by ascertaining which hymns in the Rig-Veda are the most ancient, and which are later. Could we do this, we might draw inferences as to the comparative antiquity of the religious ideas in the poems. But no such discrimination of relative antiquity seems to be within the reach of critics. M. Bergaigne thinks it impossible at present to determine the relative age of the hymns by any philological test. The ideas expressed are not more easily arrayed in order of date. We might think that the poems which contain most ceremonial allusions were the latest. But Mr. Max Müller[1] says that "even the earliest hymns have sentiments worthy of the most advanced ceremonialists."

The first and oldest source of our knowledge of Indo-Aryan myths is the Rig-Veda, whose nature and character have been described. The second source is the Atharva-Veda with the Brahmanas. The peculiarity of the Atharva is its collection of magical incantations, spells, and fragments of folk-lore. These are often, doubtless, of the highest antiquity. Sorcery and the arts of medicine-men are earlier in the course of evolution than priesthood. We meet them everywhere among races who have not developed the institution of an order of priests serving national gods. As a collection, the Atharva-Veda is later than the Rig-Veda, but we need not therefore conclude that the ideas of the Atharva

  1. History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 556.