into a quail or a ram, and suffered from the most abject physical terror, and so forth, then we are among myths no longer readily intelligible; here, we feel, are irrational stories, of which the original ideas, in their natural sense, can hardly have been conceived by men in a pure and rational early civilisation.
Again, if we look at Greek religions tradition, we observe the co-existence of the rational and the apparently irrational elements. The rational myths are those which represent the gods as beautiful and wise beings. The Artemis of the Odyssey, "taking her pastime in the chase of boars and swift deer, while with her the wild wood—nymphs disport them, and high over them all she rears her brow, and is easily to be known where all are fair," is a perfectly rational mythic representation of a divine being. We feel, even now, that the conception of a "queen and goddess, chaste and fair," the abbess, as Paul de Saint-Victor calls her, of the woodlands, is a beautiful and natural fancy, which requires no explanation. On the other hand, the Artemis of Arcadia, who is confused with the nymph Callisto, who, again, is said to have become a she-bear, and later a star; and the Brauronian Artemis, whose maiden ministers danced a bear-dance, are goddesses whose legend seems unnatural, and needs to be made intelligible. Or, again, there is nothing not explicable and natural in the conception of the Olympian Zeus, as represented by the great chryselephantine statue of Zeus at Olympia,
- Odyssey, vi. 102.
- ἀρκτεύειν; compare Harpokration on this word.