An Introduction to Mythology
Page: 6Although the Vedas of India are 'sacred' works, principally repositories of devotional hymns, they bear traces of this barbarism which permeates all mythology. We find the deities in their pages comporting themselves as one might expect the lowest savages to do, although the whole religious sentiment of the work is opposed to these acts. The later Brahmanas, treatises on the intricacies of ritual compiled by a priestly caste of fairly exalted character, also teem with myths in which barbaric thought is encountered. Their pages, indeed, are the meeting-place of savagery and semi-civilization. In one myth the mother of Indra is a cow, Indra being represented as a drunkard who intoxicates himself with soma, and as a murderer who actually kills a priest. These circumstances in his myth are relics of an age when he was, although a god, regarded as man-like, and a savage man at that. This is due to the religious instinct called 'anthropomorphism.'
Nearly all the Greek peoples worshipped stones, some named after the gods—a relic of fetishism—and their later religion kept much of savage practice. Homer speaks of Athene as 'owl-eyed.' Was she once worshipped as an owl? The deities in the Iliad are extraordinarily human, not to say barbarous, in their propensities, and have a knack of transforming themselves into animal shapes when pursued or pursuing, loving or hating. They reflect the Greek idea of Homer's day, yet they are even older.
Enough has been said to illustrate the existence of the savage element in primitive myth. Not only do later myths account for the religious element in the more primitive examples,