An Introduction to Mythology
Page: 65THE DISMEMBERMENT MYTH
It has been thought that such dismemberment myths as those of Osiris, Dionysus, and Demeter, the Algonquin Lox, and the Polynesian Tangoroa have their origin in a primitive custom, the dismemberment of a human victim, who was buried in the corn-fields and supposed to renew his life in the harvest following his burial. It is considered that such a practice gave birth to the myth of Osiris in Egypt and became symbolic of resurrection. The practice is probably connected in some manner with the almost universal savage custom of preserving the bones of the dead for the owner, who at some future period will desire to claim them.
Dualism is the belief in opposing good and evil deities, and is found in connexion (1) with such peoples as have advanced[Pg 144] far on the path of theological thought and progress, (2) with races whose original beliefs have been sophisticated by those of more civilized peoples. A good example of the first is the widely known Persian myth of Ormuzd and Ahriman. The second class is well illustrated by the myth of Joskeha and Tawiscara, already alluded to in dealing with sophisticated myths.
The following tables have been compiled for the purpose of bringing together the most important types of myth and indicating their geographical incidence. It is not pretended that these are in any way exhaustive, but much care has been taken in their compilation and it is hoped that they will assist the student of myth as a ready reference to parallels.
BIRTH OF GODS MYTHS
Agni, both son and father of the gods—son of Heaven and earth—begotten by the sky, the clouds, and the dawn—born among men, in Heaven and in the waters.
Algonquins. Manibozho, born of a virgin.
Hurons. Joskeha, born of a virgin.
Mexicans. Quetzalcoatl, born of a virgin; Uitzilopochtli (ball of feathers falls from heaven into his mother's breast).
Peruvians. Viracocha, born of a virgin.
Thlinkeets (N.W. America). Yetl's mother by advice of friendly dolphin swallows pebble and sea-water.
Uapès (Brazil). Jurapari (his mother drinks fermented liquor).
BEAST MYTHS. Beasts and birds are credited with divine or semi-divine attributes.
Caribs (Antilles). The ibis.
Chinooks (Colombia River). Blue Jay.
Aschochimi Indians (California). The coyote.
Thlinkeet Indians. Yetl the raven.
Australians. Pund-jel the eagle-hawk.
Ahts Indians (Vancouver Island). Tootah, the thunder-bird, universal mother.
Banks Islanders. Marawa the spider.
Tinneh or Déné Indians (Hare-skins). Miraculous dog is creator.
DUALISTIC MYTHS (the good god combating the bad god). This idea is very general, being found practically all over the world. The creator of all good things is constantly thwarted by the evil spirit or principle, who, for every good and beautiful thing that the beneficent god makes, produces a corresponding evil.
Osiris and Set or Apep. Ra (light and goodness) and Apep (darkness and evil).
Babylonians. Merodach and Tiawath.
Persians. Ormuzd and Ahriman.