Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/337

This page has been validated.

was feared that Metis would produce a child more powerful than his father. Zeus avoided this peril by swallowing his wife, and himself gave birth to Athene. The notion of swallowing a hostile person, who has been changed by magic into a conveniently small bulk, is very common. It occurs in the story of Taliesin.[1] Caridwen, in the shape of a hen, swallows Gwion Bach, in the form of a grain of wheat. In the same manner the princess in the Arabian Nights swallowed the Geni. Here then we have in the Hesiodic myth an old märchen pressed into the service of the higher mythology. The apprehension which Zeus (like Herod and King Arthur) always felt lest an unborn child should overthrow him, was also familiar to Indra; but, instead of swallowing the mother and concealing her in his own body, like Zeus, Indra entered the mother's body, and himself was born instead of the dreaded child.[2] A cow on this occasion was born along with Indra. This adventure of the κατάποσις or swallowing of Metis was explained by the late Platonists as a Platonic allegory. Probably the people who originated the tale were not Platonists, any more than Pandarus was an Aristotelian.

After Homer and Hesiod the oldest literary authorities for Greek cosmogonic myths are the poems attributed to Orpheus. About their probable date, as has been said, little is known. They have reached us only in fragments, but seem to contain the first guesses of a philosophy not yet disengaged from mythical conditions. The poet preserves, indeed, some extremely

  1. Mabinogion, p. 473.
  2. Black Yajur Veda, quoted by Sayana.