Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/357

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of mythology. The lines of development in the primal conception of gods appear to run somewhat as follows:—The lowest shape of a belief in mythical gods is that which we find among Australians, Bushmen, Melanesians, natives of West Africa, Ahts, Cahrocs, Thlinkeets, and other American peoples, who habitually regard their gods as powers in bestial shape, with human attributes and passions, and with faculties which are supernatural, indeed, but not more supernatural than the magical gifts claimed, as we have seen, by living, and assigned to dead sorcerers. In many cases the zoomorphic characteristics of a god are probably carried on from the more ancient figure of a tribal totem. Many examples of such a process will be observed. These gods are seldom or never natural elements or forces. They are idealised and magnified men or beasts, with magical accomplishments. Perhaps next in the scale come the gods who are in essence great forces of Nature, such as wind, storms, and sky, and moon and sun. These forces are thought of as persons, and as persons either human or bestial in semblance, or capable of manifesting themselves in human or bestial shape. Sometimes they are fabled to have been dwellers on earth, who later betook themselves to heavenly and remote abodes. Gods of this kind are still found, for example, in the religion of the Maoris, and of other races in the same stage of middle barbarism.

Higher still in the ascending series, and more spiritual (though even yet addicted to appearing in animal avatars, or to assuming animal guises for the