Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/28

This page has been validated.

regard as rational, and that which we moderns regard as irrational. The former element needs little explanation; the latter has demanded explanation ever since human thought became comparatively instructed and abstract.

To take an example; even in the myths of savages there is much that still seems rational and transparent. If savages tell us that some wise being taught them all the simple arts of life, the use of fire, of the bow and arrow, the barbing of hooks, and so forth, we understand them at once. Nothing can be more natural than that man should believe in an original inventor of the arts, and should tell tales about the imaginary discoverers if the real heroes be forgotten. So far all is plain sailing. But when the savage goes on to say that he who taught the use of fire or who gave the first marriage laws was a rabbit, or a crow, or a dog, or a beaver, or a spider, then we are at once face to face with the element in myths which seems to us irrational. Again, among civilised peoples we read of the pure all-seeing Varuna in the Vedas, to whom sin is an offence. We read of Indra, the Lord of Thunder, borne in his chariot, the giver of victory, the giver of wealth to the pious; here once more all seems natural and plain. The notion of a deity who guides the whirlwind and directs the storm, a god of battles, a god who blesses righteousness, is familiar to us and intelligible; but when we read how Indra drank himself drunk and committed adulteries with Asura women, and got himself born from the same womb as a bull, and changed himself