Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/355

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perhaps, not strictly human, this earlier race was capable of every kind of human intercourse, dwelt with man, instructed him in the arts, punished and tormented him, and beheld his daughters that they were fair. In both civilised and savage myths we find that the world, or that various things in the world, were made by this extra-natural race. Its members were gifted with precisely the same supernatural power as we have seen that the savage medicine-man or sorcerer claims for himself. They could assume animal shapes at will; nay, among the most backward peoples the beings of this powerful race were actually beasts, endowed with human attributes and with magical and supernatural powers. In savage and civilised myths they can raise the dead, can visit the dwellings of the departed, can convert men and women into animal, and vegetable, and mineral shapes, or raise them to be stars. These "dæmons," then, as Plutarch would have called them, these gods of Australian, or Greek, or Indian, or Finnish, or Scandinavian myths, are simply an idealised, non-natural set of sorcerers and magicians. Like the magicians and sorcerers and chiefs of contemporary untutored peoples, they can fly in the air, can affect the weather, can bring or avert rain and tempest. Such are their qualities; and yet so subject are they to mortal limitations, that they can be overcome by men in battle, can be imprisoned, reduced to servitude, and even put to death, though they generally attain a speedy resurrection. Their dealings with men are capricious; they are often represented as punishing his iniquities