Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/73

This page has been validated.

We shall see that part of the mythology of the Greeks or the Aryans of India is but a similar walpurgis nacht, in which an incestuous or amorous god may become a beast, and the object of his pursuit, once a woman, may also become a beast, and then shift shapes to a tree, or a bird, or a star. But in the civilised races the genius of the people tends to suppress, exclude, and refine away the wild element, which, however, is never wholly eliminated. The Erinyes soon stop the mouth of the horse of Achilles when he begins, like the horse in Grimm's Goose Girl, to hold a sustained conversation.[1] But the ancient, cruel, and grotesque savage element, nearly overcome by Homer and greatly reduced by the Vedic poets, breaks out again in Hesiod, in temple legends and Brahmanic glosses, and finally proves so strong that it can only be subdued by Christianity, or rather by that break between the educated classes and the traditional past of religion which has resulted from Christianity.

We have now to demonstrate the existence in the savage intellect of the various ideas and habits which we have described, and out of which mythology springs. First, we have to show that "a nebulous and confused state of mind, to which all things animate or inanimate, human, animal, vegetable, or inorganic, seem on the same level of life, passion, and reason," does really exist.[2] The existence of this condition of the intellect will be demonstrated first on the evidence of the statements of civilised observers, next on the

  1. Iliad, xix. 418.
  2. Creuzer and Guigniaut, vol. i.