Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/354

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This brings us to the point we would be at. The gods of myth, above all among the lower races, answer to the dæmons of Plutarch's argument. In highly uncivilised fashion, the myth-mongers attribute to them abominable and incredible adventures. These adventures survive in religion, till the worshippers of a comparatively lofty Zeus or Indra find themselves expected to believe that their gods are often in animal form, are almost always wizards, adulterers, murderers, are frequently placed in ludicrous positions, and even die "as if they were mere men." A proper study of the evolution of the gods of myth will lead us up from beings more frequently bestial than human in form to the half-anthropomorphic deities of Egypt after the ancient Empire, and finally to the gods, usually anthropomorphic, of Greece and India. To the very last, however, the old stuff of savage fancy,—fancy like that of Bushmen and of Murri of Australia,—will be found persistently surviving in the temple legends, mysteries, and rites even of Greece.

Our working hypothesis thus stated, the next step is to examine the common features in the extra-natural beings or gods of savage and civilised myths. A brief general summary must first be given, and that will be followed by the evidence of a cloud of witnesses. Both savage and civilised myths agree in alleging that a strange and powerful race were long on the earth before the making or the evolution or the emergence of man, and that for many years after the appearance of man these extra-natural characters were actively concerned with his fortunes. Though,