Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/60

This page has been validated.

Consequently no system could well be less "heretical" and "unorthodox."

The last advantage of our hypothesis which need here be mentioned is that it helps to explain the diffusion no less than the origin of the wild and crazy element in myth. We seek for the origin of the savage factor of myth in the intellectual condition of savages. The diffusion of stories practically identical in every quarter of the globe may be (provisionally) regarded as the result of the prevalence in every quarter, at one time or another, of similar mental habits and ideas. This explanation must not be pressed too hard nor too far. If we find all over the world a belief that men can change themselves and their neighbours into beasts, that belief will account for the appearance of metamorphosis in myth. If we find a belief that inanimate objects are really much on a level with man, the opinion will account for incidents of myth such as that in which the wooden figure-head of the Argo speaks with a human voice. Again, a widespread belief in the separability of the soul or the life from the body will account for the incident in nursery tales and myths of the "giant who had no heart in his body," but kept his heart and life elsewhere. An ancient identity of mental status and the working of similar mental forces at the attempt to explain the same phenomena will account, without any theory of borrowing, or transmission of myth, or of original unity of race, for the world-wide diffusion of many mythical conceptions.

But this theory of the original similarity of the savage