Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/32

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and in the Brahmanas. The conduct of the earlier dynasties of classical gods towards each other was as notoriously cruel and loathsome as their behaviour towards mortals was tricksy and capricious. The classical gods, with all their immortal might, are capable of fear and pain, and are led into scrapes as ludicrous as those of Brer Wolf or Brer Terrapin in the tales of the Negroes of the Southern States of America. The stars, again, in mythology, are mixed up with beasts, planets, and men in the same embroglio of fantastic opinion. The dead and the living, men, beasts, and gods, trees and stars, and rivers, and sun, and moon, dance through the region of myths in a burlesque ballet of Priapus, where everything may be anything, where nature has no laws and imagination no limits.

Such are the irrational characteristics of myths, classic or Indian, European or American, African or Asiatic, Australian or Maori. Such is the element we find all the world over among civilised and savage people, quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. It is no wonder that pious and reflective men have, in so many ages and in so many ways, tried to account to themselves for their possession of beliefs closely connected with religion which yet seemed ruinous to religion and morality.

The explanations which men have given of their own sacred stories, the apologies for their own gods which they have been constrained to offer to themselves, were the earliest babblings of a science of mythology. That science was, in its dim beginnings, intended to satisfy a moral need. Man found that his gods